Thursday, April 30, 2009

Day 46: Prep time

Today's soundtrack: The Style Council - The Complete Adventures....

Ok, so it's obviously Weller Time in Waring Towers today - there's plenty on iTunes for it to chance upon! Back a few years from Heliocentric, this is a Big Box Set with everything Weller ever released during his Style Council phase - a phase in his career that I think is much maligned and includes some of his best, and most diverse and 'experimental' work. People forget that the first Style Council LP was genuinely groundbreaking at the time - instrumentals, guest singers, complete re-workings of previously recorded songs...ok, not all of it worked, but at the time Weller was pushing back the boundaries of what was expected from a 'pop star' - and to chuck it all in with The Jam to do this, at a time when they were probably the biggest band in the country, was a very brave decision.

Hence my disappointment with the 'sausage machine' of identikit albums released in the 2000's.

Spent today preparing for a full day's worth of assessments for a new job that's taking place tomorrow. Don't want to say too much, will update when it's all over. Luckily there is a wealth of publicly-available information on t'internet to trawl through - some of it quite interesting and enlightening. Two sets of interviews, a written exercise and a presentation to get through tomorrow....bring it on!

So it looks like a chippy tea tonight - no time to cook and certainly no intention of drinking before such a busy day. There will - naturally - be freshly baked bread for chip buttyage! So the big question is whether to go with the spicy curry sauce as well...not that tough a decision really, I have to say.

We've only a couple of chippys in the near vicinity, both a drive away, and the quality can be variable. Chips tend to be a touch underdone when they are busy. Mrs W has been known to return chips not done to her satisfaction - but I find the application of curry sauce is enough to disguise the most anaemic of chip.

With the football out of the way for this week, we'll be settling down with a CSI tonight I feel. It's not quite The Wire, but it's a pleasant way to spend an hour or so. We came to CSI very late, and are working our way through the early Las Vegas box sets at the moment. Loads more to go at, and Miami and other flavours to try out as well!

What did we do before the existence of the DVD box set?

Back to the Style Council and my favourite track of theirs - Long Hot Summer. Takes me back to those lazy '80s - espadrilles, sweaters flung over shoulders, homoerotic videos...happier, simpler times! Reminds me - I saw Mick Talbot last year, playing keyboards for Candi Staton. Still got the Hammond and the chops, but the curls are long gone! And just how skinny is Weller?

Quick post tonight - must dash....wish me luck for tomorrow!

Day 45: The Playoff!

Today's soundtrack: Paul Weller - Heliocentric

So tonight it was the 3rd/4th place playoff game for the FA cup I believe...although there might have been something else at stake as well from what I hear. We were hoping for a bit more action than there had been the previous night in the Chelsea - Barcelona game...and there was, although the game was by no stretch of the imagination a classic. Arsenal will probably feel the happier of the two teams, in that ManYoo should have been out of sight by half time, so getting away with a 1-0 defeat keeps them in with a reasonable chance of making the final. They'll have to play an awful lot better than they did last night though, particularly in the final third of the pitch.

Manuel Almunia kept them in the game in the first half, although there was little he could do about the goal, scored by the much maligned John O'Shea at the far post with the whole of the Arsenal defence pulled out of position.

So after the first legs, both Champions League semi-finals are nicely poised, all four teams in with a chance of progressing through to the final. Which will make for entertaining viewing next week, hopefully.

In other football news, the application for FA Cup final tickets has gone in. We may suffer due to the fact that some of the tickets applied for have less qualifying games than others, but at least the application is in (thanks, Keith!) and we'll find out in a couple of weeks time how successful we've been.

Out first thing in the morning to do the weekly shop. Sainsbury's at Cheshire Oaks got the nod this time as my Helsby Tesco protest rumbles on, and a mighty fine experience it was too, insofar as any trip to the supermarket can be 'fine'. But the place was empty (one of the advantages of being off work is the ability to get to the shops in off-peak times), everything I wanted was there and the whole palaver was over and done (home and unpacked) before nine.

Rest of the day was spent in front of the computer, looking through the jobsites and smiling wryly at the growing fuss over the latest health scare to drive us towards the apocalypse. Unfortunately for the newscasters, not that many people are actually dying yet, and no doubt this scare will go the same way as the avian flu scare a couple of years ago - quietly dropping off the radar as the next Big Issue comes in to take centre stage. Simon Jenkins in The Guardian pretty much nails it I think.

Oh, and there is no way I am going to post the 'swine flu hits Liverpool' picture that my lovely wife has just emailed to me!

Other than that, the day was largely frittered away playing computer games. My mission to save the world(s) continues apace, and I am currently at sea with a mildly disinterested crew, heading towards a shoal of cannibalistic mermen and a tribe of flying creatures who are in some way critical to my task.

No way for a grown man to behave, I know. Especially in the guise of an 18 year old girl!

Playing in the background is Paul Weller's 'Heliocentric', one of a succession of interchangeable albums released by Weller in the early 2000's. I've been a fan of Weller's from his beginnings in The Jam, through the Style Council years and his later days as a solo performer, and there is always some quality in his work - when he is good, he is very, very good indeed - one of the UK's best and most consistent performers of the last 30 years.

However there was a spell from Heavy Soul in 1997 onwards where Weller seemed to be going through the motions - a spell that was only halted by the release of '22 Dreams' last year where he seemed to recover his muse and, more importantly, his fire and drive. This followed his performance at Glastonbury in 2007 that I thought was really disappointed. I've seen Weller live countless times over the years, but I'd never seen him on autopilot before.

This is Weller on far better form, a rare clip of him performing Weaver and Town Called Malice back in 1993 on the Jonathan Ross show. Shame about Mr Ross's contribution though...

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Day 44: Nunsmere Revisited

Today's soundtrack: Leonard Bernstein - West Side Story

Had an early evening out with Mrs W today - the company she works for uses Nunsmere Hall in Cheshire on occasion for functions and meetings, and she'd been invited along (+ guest) to see the result of a major refurbishment of the Hall, along with a couple of her colleagues. So I went along as Mrs W's '+ guest'!

Nunsmere holds one or two memories for us - not least because it's where we got married! It's a delightful old hall set in its own grounds on the edge of Delamere Forest, with a top restaurant and some very comfortable bedrooms. We really enjoyed the wedding there, the staff made us feel very welcome and comfortable and we promised to go back there.

And we did. We had a couple of meals in the restaurant, although one was slightly spoiled by the restaurant staff sitting us next to another diner - presumably stopping at the hotel by himself - who decided to turn our romantic twosome into a threesome. Nice guy, obviously lonely, but we didn't really go out with the intention of being chatted to by a stranger all night...

I know. Miserable gets, aren't we?

Anyway, this was the first time we'd been to Nunsmere for a while, so we turned up, not knowing what to expect. We got there quite early, just as other invitees were beginning to arrive, and helped ourselves to the pink fizzy stuff on offer. Soon after, Mrs W's colleagues turned up and we had a good old root round, helping ourselves to a touch more fizz and a few nibbles as well.

And Nunsmere's looking good, although a few more nibbles might have been in order. The girls were hugely impressed by the presence of a photographer from 'Cheshire Life', shamelessly trying to get their picture taken so they could appear along with the rest of the 'Cheshire Set' in the next issue. I of course was not in the least bit bothered, although they did get a shot of me 'posing' with the Nunsmere literature early on. Not that I'll be scanning the pages of Cheshire Life to see if I'm in. Not at all.

Luckily they took my picture before both my shoes decided to split right down one side - nice brown loafers, really well worn in and comfortable, too. So rather than hang around with flappy bits of leather hanging off my feet, we made our excuses and left.

Home in time to see Chelsea take on Barcelona in the Champions league. A pretty dull game, Chelsea parking the bus in front of the Barca goal and hanging on for the 0-0 draw they obviously went for. In fact, they could have won it, having as few decent chances as Barca. Hopefully the ManYoo/Arsenal game will be better...

In other news, my CV went in for another role in Cheshire that looks quite interesting - a bit of tweaking of my experience to highlight the relevant bits (and there are one or two) - and back to the agency for submission to the company concerned. Hopefully hear a bit more later this week.

Soundtrack today is a 'soundtrack' in the truest sense - the the film 'West Side Story'. Now those of you who know me will now of my instinctive aversion to the 'musical' - and know of my refusal to go anywhere near 'Mamma Mia' when it was on in Manchester last year!

West Side Story could well be the exception that proves the rule though. I first became aware of WSS - bizarrely - through Alice Cooper's 'School's Out' LP, which includes a piece of the 'Jet Song' in 'Gutter Cat Vs the Jets', and through The Nice's version of 'America'. So the soundtrack had its rock creds firmly established before I saw the film itself - probably in black and white on a Sunday afternoon - and I loved it.

Leaving aside the jokey 'gang' songs ('Gee, Officer Krupke!' for one), the quality of the soundtrack and the showcase songs is superb - Maria, Tonight and Somewhere are all fantastic ballads...what's not to like? Oh, and the Pet Shop Boys' version of 'Somewhere' is also camp cheese of the highest order and comes highly recommended.

You wanna live in this lousy world? Oh yes, when the quality of the music is this good!

Now you'll have to excuse me - just got something in my eye....

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Day 43: Brodsky Beat

Today's soundtrack: The Pogues - If I Should Fall From Grace With God

Out tonight to see Elvis Costello, performing with the Brodsky Quartet at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester. Over the years, Costello has essayed many different musical styles, collaborating with a range of different performers including Burt Bacharach, Allen Toussaint and Paul McCartney - however his work with the Brodsky Quartet is possibly his most challenging collaboration - former New Wave iconoclast meets classical string quartet! They produced 'The Juliet Letters' in 1993, a song cycle themed around a series of different pieces of correspondence - love letters, begging letters, suicide notes, even junk mail. Largely misunderstood and underappreciated by the rock fraternity at the time, the album stands as a curio in the Costello catalogue - but one that stands revisiting and reappraisal.

So 16 years after the album was released, Costello is once again performing with the Brodsky Quartet on stage, mixing highlights from the Juliet Letters with a number of rearranged Costello songs and covers. The Bridgewater Hall in Manchester is the ideal venue for such a performance - a classical concert hall that is finely acoustically tuned, allowing the delicate nuances of the performance to be captured and appreciated.

An unusual audience for an unusual production - a slightly older demographic dotted with younger 'rock' fans - but a mood more normally associated with a classical concert than your usual rock gig. Hushed and attentive - none of the underlying chatter that can blight the live experience these days. Perhaps a touch too respectful?

The performance was split into two halves with a short interval. Although the arrangements where largely for string quartet only, Costello did add acoustic guitar embellishments to certain songs, and performed a number of songs solo - including one new number performed at the front of the stage completely without amplification - the strength of his voice and the hall acoustics (and the hushed audience) allowing such a performance.

Not all the arrangements worked well - those written specifically for the quartet worked better for me - but a powerful reading of Shipbuilding and the Irish lament 'Raglan Road' were both incredibly moving and those arrangements did work well with the material. Costello was chirpy and entertaining throughout - explaining the background to certain songs and cracking jokes. Not so much the angry young man of the 70's any more, although a medley of 'I Thought I'd Write to Juliet' and 'Bedlam' more than hinted at the rage that still burns within Costello at the injustices he sees in the world. After over two hours on stage and a number of encores, the performance finished with a moving reading of 'The Birds Will Still Be Singing', described by Costello as "a song of condolence and renewal".

Earlier in the day I had to complete an on-line psychometric profile in connection with a potential new role - a task I found quite challenging, it being very difficult to pick the descriptions that 'best' and 'least' applied to me from a series of groups of four. I have found these profiles scarily accurate in the past, although completing them (and particularly with this one) I did feel that answering on another day, at another time, my answers might be completely different.

Ticket details announced for Wembley today - happily it looks like I have enough qualifying games along with my season ticket to guarantee a final ticket for myself - although I'm not sure that applies to the rest of the family. It all depends on whether the semi-final is a 'qualifying game' or not - sadly I suspect it is not.

Couple of calls from recruitment agencies today - one a 'holding' call in relation to an opportunity raised a week or so below, the other a touch more concrete, necessitating a bit of work tomorrow. Here's hoping!

Today's soundtrack comes from The Pogues, a group with some Costello connections - he produced their previous album (Rum, Sodomy and the Lash) and married their bass player, Cait O'Riordan. In fact, the last time I saw Costello live, the Pogues were the support band.

More varied than their earlier work, IISFFGWG added Spanish and other ethnic flavours to the Celtic style they had shown on their earlier work, and with this album Shane MacGowan's lyrics and melodies probably peaked - showing a maturity and range that was not fully apparent earlier, and that had yet to be affected by Shane's punishing lifestyle.

And the album includes the song that Mrs W hates with a passion, but which nonetheless is the greatest Christmas song ever written - Fairytale of New York, Shane duetting with the wonderful Kirsty MacColl.

A great album, and one that every home should own. Wonderfully sweary in places, too!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Day 42: Lazy Sunday

Today's soundtrack: Heatwave - Dance Hits

More baking today, a 'Maple and Pecan' loaf made, remarkably, with the addition of maple syrup and chopped pecan nuts. I'm not quite sure about the blend - it's too sweet to be used for sandwiches and too 'bread-like' to serve as pudding - but spread with a little butter and honey, it'll do for me.

Despite the weather forecast, it stayed dry and sunny most of the day today - but a tad too cold to sit out and enjoy the weather. Mrs W persevered for a bit, wrapped up in a fleece like a pensioner on Southport beach on a dull bank holiday, but soon admitted defeat and came back inside, putting the central heating on for good measure.

No such problems in Bahrain, where the temperature was up in the high 30s for the Grand Prix. There was certainly no way this race was going to be rain-affected, although there were some concerns about sandstorms. Despite their excellent start to the season, the Brawn team had been off the pace a bit in qualifying, and there was a definite feeling that the other teams were steadily catching up with the early season pace-setters - particularly Toyota, who had both their cars on the front of the grid.

In the event, Jenson Button in the Brawn drove an almost perfect race to record his third win of the season. The win ultimately hinged on him getting ahead of Lewis Hamilton on the second lap, leaving other challengers stuck behind the World Champion for long enough for Button to challenge, and ultimately pass, the Toyotas at the first round of pitstops. After that, he was in total control of the race and - concerns about overheating notwithstanding - was able to stay in front for the remainder of the race.

Whether Brawn will be able to maintain this level of performance is debatable - the other teams are getting closer race by race - but their stunning start to the season has made this one of the most interesting (and competitive) Grands Prix seasons for a long time.

Other than that, there's not a lot to report about our Sunday - brought the blog up to date and did a touch more 'adventuring' on the computer - and settled down for a comforting dinner (chicken cordon bleu, since you ask) and the latest episode of Dexter. Series Two is getting better and better, a real improvement on the also excellent Series One, and it took a lot of self-discipline not to continue watching. In the event, the call of Hell's Kitchen (on Mrs W) was strong enough to persuade us to save the remaining three episodes for another time.

A touch of disco on the soundtrack today - the wonderful Heatwave. Fronted by Rod Temperton, the multinational/racial band brought a touch of intelligence to the late '70s disco scene - along with Chic, they were the disco band it was ok for the rock fans to like. Temperton went on to greater fame (and wealth) working with Michael Jackson on Off the Wall and Thriller, but made his reputation (and no doubt got the Jacko gig) on the back of gems like Boogie Nights, Always and Forever, Gangsters of the Groove and Mindblowin' Decisions.

Here's Boogie Nights from 1977. It wasn't all punk rock you know. Get your white socks and loafers on, and get down to Tiffany's, or Romeo's, and boogie on down. If you can't dance to this, then your guilty feet have got no rhythm, as someone once might have said...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Day 41: After the Lord Mayor's Show

Today's soundtrack: Massive Attack - 100th Window

After the semi-final last Sunday, and the creditable draw with Chelsea on Wednesday, it was probably asking too much for Everton to find the energy for a third fantastic performance in the space of a week.

And so it proved - despite ringing the changes again, resting Tim Cahill and Joleon Lescott, the team looked off the pace today and ultimately didn't deserve to get a result against a City side that is still struggling to establish itself as a team, rather than just a group of (admittedly talented) individuals.

The game started brightly enough, with a fair degree of possession but no real cutting edge. Saha looks far better coming off the bench as an impact player than he does when he starts, and he was not linking particularly well with Fellaini upfront. In midfield, Osman looks in desperate need of a rest and squandered a lot of possession today and while both Neville and Castillo looked neat and tidy, there was little incisiveness in their passing.

Baines and Pienaar continue to link well down the left, and this is where most of our attacking threat is coming from at the moment. On the right, Robinho gave Tony Hibbert a torrid time all game, and it is no coincidence that both City goals came from breakaways down their left wing, through Robinho, who scored the first and made the second for Stephen Ireland, having pulled four defenders out of position.

We were unlucky not to score early in the second half, when Fellaini had an excellent volley on the turn saved point blank by Given, but overall we had little attacking threat until Moyes made three substitutions with half an hour to go, bringing Cahill, Gosling and Vaughan on for Castillo, Fellaini and Saha.

Unfortunately any chance we had of salvaging something from the game disappeared shortly afterwards, when Phil Jagielka landed awkwardly and twisted his ankle. It was immediately obvious there was something very wrong and he was stretchered off - later it was confirmed that he'd ruptured his cruciate ligaments and would not only be out for the rest of the season (missing the Cup Final, sadly) but would also most likely miss the start of the next. Desperately unlucky for the lad, who has probably been our best player all season. Hopefully he will come back fitter and stronger next year, along with all our other long term injuries.

More immediately, having used up all our substitutions not five minutes earlier, we were down to ten men for the rest of the game. To the team's credit, they kept pushing right up to the final whistle, getting a consolation goal through Danny Gosling in injury time. Too little, too late though, ultimately.

The day had started badly as well, getting a letter from out insurance company confirming that whilst our claim for mortgage cover was progressing, it would kick in twelve weeks later than we had anticipated - the element of redundancy payment I received that was in lieu of notice causing the claim to kick in only when that notice period expires. We'd not anticipated that so we need to adjust our budgeting - downwards - accordingly. Bit of a shock to the system, but we'll cope - we'll have to!

Ah well - at least the food was good today. I'd got up early to bake a crusty white loaf, that we used straight from the oven to make BLTs. The new electric knife allowed us to cut the hot, squishy bread easily, and the combination of warm bread, salty bacon and crisp lettuce and tomato was to die for. And in the evening we had a Chinese meal courtesy of Mr Marks and Mr Spencer, accompanied by my own fried rice in front of another very dodgy horror flick made bearable by a very nice bottle of Rioja. Tasty!

Soundtrack today comes courtesy of Bristol's own Massive Attack. 100th Window is not one of their better albums, but an average Massive Attack album is still better than most. While Jay-Z was attracting most of the attention last year at Glastonbury, I was otherwise engaged watching Massive Attack on the Other Stage. Good show, if a little clinical, with an excellent light show and a succession of guest singers running through a 'greatest hits' selection, including this stunning version of Unfinished Sympathy...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Day 40: Out and About

Today's soundtrack: Queen - Live Killers

Grand tour of the North today, Chester in the morning to meet with a recruitment consultant and then across to Liverpool in the early evening to catch up with an ex-colleague. So a busy day and a couple of sound excuses to get out of the house and to interact with real people again!

A nice drive into Chester with the sun out and the sunroof open. The city was very busy though, for a school day. I know Chester is always busy, but moreso than usual today for some reason. I do like Chester though - the city has a style that has not been totally eroded by the prevalence of all the usual high street names. That is largely down to the continued existence of the 'Rows', the split-level shopping arcades that grace the main shopping streets of the cities. The Rows still accommodate a high proportion of independent shops compared to most high streets, and also reduce the prevalence (or at least the impact) of identikit 'big store branding' that makes most of our city centres look so similar nowadays. Sadly the signs of the recession are there - a number of the bigger shopfronts stand empty, and there are a number of discount/poundshops springing up alongside the designer boutiques.

The recruitment agency was based in one of the Rows, up a steep flight of stairs. Spent a good hour with the consultant, going through my CV and discussing my options going forwards, and I came out with a pretty good feeling. Yes, the job market is lousy, but I know I have good, wide-ranging experience and ability - I just need to find the right role. There are now plenty of people out there trying to help me find that role, I just need to hold my nerve and maintain my self-confidence and self-belief.

A quick trawl round the food shops in Chester to pick up some goodies for the weekend, then it was back home to find a couple of parcels from Amazon waiting for me. I guess it's a bit rich of me to bemoan the decline of the high street whilst at the same time ordering my stuff online, but times are tough and I've got to budget accordingly. And unfortunately if that means buying online for half the price I would pay in the shops, then that's what I'll have to do.

So we now have an electric knife capable of slicing through the freshly-baked bread in rather more efficient fashion than the manual variety, as well as a couple of cheap Siouxie and the Banshees CDs and the latest from Doves, which has been picking up solid reviews recently. Off to see Doves in Delamere Forest in June with Son No 2, and they are also playing Glastonbury and Latitude this year, so best to get familiar with the new stuff before seeing them I feel!

Then spent a couple of hours doing techy stuff with the netbook, downloading and installing the latest version of Ubuntu. The installation worked like a dream, until I tried to log in - the new version decided to ask me for a Username and Password that the previous version seemed to cope quite happily without. Well, I tried combination after combination of usernames and passwords, in upper case and lower case, but could I come up with the right combination? Could I buggery!

In the end it was back to the main computer to do a bit of googling, and then with a bit of jiggery-pokery 'under the hood', I managed to find the combination that the system was looking for. I still have no recollection of ever using this particular username, but I must have done, I suppose.

Then it was out to Liverpool to meet up with Kevin, my old colleague from Birmingham, who was up to see Gary Numan at the O2. In true Kevin fashion, he would have been driving round Liverpool in circles for hours had I not spotted him outside the Empire and managed to direct him to the car park. We found a bar and had a pleasant couple of scoops, putting the world to rights and picking up on the gossip from work, before I left him to meet up with his Numanoid mates and re-live his adolescence. I had gracefully declined the offer to join them at the concert a few weeks ago!

I shouldn't mock actually - I did buy the picture disc of 'Are Friends Electric?' when it came out (must be worth a few bob now?) and I do own Replicas. However I do have a long-standing jealousy of Gary Numan. My girlfriend of the time was a huge Numan fan - not least because he was the spitting image of one of her ex-boyfriends...the ex-boyfriend whose arms she hurled herself into when she decided to dump me.

Not that I'm bitter or anything. Or that I hold Mr Numan personally responsible.

Today's soundtrack also gives me little room to mock. I don't hold with the 'Guilty Pleasures' theory of music - I believe there is no 'bad' music, just music you like or music you don't like. However if I did have a musical 'guilty pleasure', then Queen would surely be it.

I saw Queen live once, at Liverpool Empire quite early on in their career, just before Bohemian Rhapsody went massive. Even at that stage Freddie really knew how to work a crowd, a skill he went on to refine and master at Live Aid and beyond. Freddie had not 'come out' at this stage, although the choice of Shirley Bassey's 'Big Spender' for an encore might have given us a few clues as to where his preferences lay....

'Live Killers' is a pretty good snapshot of the pre Live-Aid band, recorded in 1979 when they were still first and foremost a rock band, not yet a video-driven parody of themselves. As such it represents a good early 'Greatest Hits', with the added advantage of being recorded live, away from the studio trickery that was prevalent on their studio albums.

Queen really came into their own at Live Aid - this is how to work a crowd!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Day 39: Like Painting the Forth Bridge

Today's soundtrack: The Rakes - Capture/Release

Well I was supposed to be taking it easy today, after my exertions yesterday, but it didn't really pan out that way as my conscience got the better of me.

First things first though - I put in my application for the overseas job I mentioned yesterday - it might be a bit of a long shot, but having discussed it with Mrs W, we both feel it is worth investigating further. So the CV is in, let's see what comes back.

In other news on the job front, I took a call from another recruitment consultant, who is exploring something on a speculative basis and wanted to know if I was happy for him to put my name forward...yes please! And finally, one of my earlier applications has borne some fruit in that I'm through to the 'next round' of assessments, which involves some psychometric testing and a day of exercises and interviews on site. Unfortunately, the assessment day happens to fall on my birthday, which as some readers will know is a 'biggie' this year, which means rearranging plans Mrs W and I had to mark the day ('celebrate' perhaps being the wrong word...). Still, if I'm successful in the assessment process, that might be the best birthday present I could get?

The most satisfying thing is that, even some 39 days in, I am still getting contacted with potential opportunities and the phone is still ringing. We always accepted it was likely to be a long, slow process (and it may be that none of the things above come to anything) but at least there isn't a feeling that things are passing me by.

I took advantage of the continuing good weather today to get out into the garden and continue Operation Lawn Rescue, getting the 'Weed and Feed' down and spraying the weeds with weedkiller. I also planted a leafy thing that we've had sitting in a pot for a while - be interesting to see if I can actually get anything to grow out there!

I also took the opportunity to try and identify some of the many birds that are attracted by Mrs W's largesse on the birdseed front. Surprised (and pleased) to see that in addition to the bog-standard sparrows, pigeons and blackbirds, we have been visited by bullfinches, jays, jackdaws and even occasionally by a woodpecker.

Having finished in the garden (and having wolfed down some more of my ryebread housebrick) I finally attacked the pile of ironing that has been building up for a while now. I didn't literally attack it - although I felt like it - but now feel quietly satisfied that it's all done, folded and put away in drawers.

But it doesn't go away, does it, this housework? Bugger doing this full-time - I'd rather have a job!

Quietly satisfying night last night - I cooked a stonking Spaghetti Carbonara and sat down with a cheeky white to watch the Everton game. Coming hot on the heels of the semi-final, I fully expected us to get steamrollered by Chelsea, especially when I saw the changes to the Everton team. However the boys acquitted themselves really well and got a fully deserved draw - and with the bulk of the chances and a decent penalty shout, we were probably unlucky not to win. Particularly pleasing were the performances of Lars Jacobsen and Segundo Castillo, two players who have had few chances to impress this season but were given their chance last night - and both impressed with their application and tenacity. However the man of the match - by a country mile - was Leighton Baines, who was imperious both defending and going forwards. After getting very few chances last season to establish himself, he has taken his chance this year to become a fixture in the first team. A watching Fabio Capello, comparing Leighton's performance to that of Ashley Cole, will no doubt have been suitably impressed. On current form, there is no doubt who the best left back in the country is - and he's not married to one of Girls Aloud!

The Spaghetti Carbonara? Dead easy! In a big pan, fry up in some olive oil a decent chunk of bacon (4 or so rashers) that you have cut into small chunks. I actually prefer to use pancetta, but in deference to Mrs W's wishes, I stick to common or garden unsmoked back bacon. In the same pan, add a few cloves of finely sliced garlic - as many cloves as you can stand. When the bacon and garlic mixture begin to brown and crisp, add a decent glug of white wine and reduce over a medium heat.

Cook your spaghetti in a large pan of salted boiling water, and while the spaghetti is cooking, break four organic/free range eggs into a jug and beat thoroughly with some salt and black pepper. Add a similar amount by volume of freshly grated parmesan and blend thoroughly.

When the spaghetti is cooked, drain thoroughly, then add to the pan containing the bacon and garlic. Mix thoroughly, reducing the heat to the lowest flame you can. When the spaghetti is fully coated with the oily bacon/garlic mix and is heated through, add the egg and parmesan to the pan. Again, mix thoroughly until the pasta is coated with the sauce, and the egg is beginning to set. Don't allow the egg to set fully, you are aiming for a thick (but cooked) sauce, not scrambled egg or (God forbid) a pasta omelette!

Serve on hot plates with yet more grated parmesan and black pepper. Eat with gusto.

Oh, remember my cheeky bid for the Albertos singles the other day? I won the bid (at the outrageous sum of £1.99) and the singles turned up this morning. Result!

Today's soundtrack comes courtesy of The Rakes - an indie band formed a few years ago, who came into prominence around the same time as Bloc Party, The Futureheads and Maximo Park, and with whom they share a similar sound. Capture/Release is their first album and it's....ok, I guess, nothing particularly special.

Anyway, make your own mind up - here they are performing 'Retreat' on Jools Holland...

Right, I've a Cottage Pie to be cooking now (cooked with beef mince - it would be a Shepherd's Pie if I used lamb) so laters everybody...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Day 38: Breaking Eggs With a Big Stick

Today's soundtrack: Bob Dylan - Bringing It All Back Home

"Breaking eggs with a big stick" is one of my mother's expressions (she's got a few) that I have always taken to mean 'taking a lot on, getting loads done'. Which is what I've been doing today. I googled the expression though, just to see if I was right. Apparently it actually means doing things in a showy or ostentatious I've been wrong all these years.

I don't care. I'll carry on using it the way I've always used it.

So I've been breaking eggs with a big stick today.

Started out by taking myself off to Tesco to do the shopping. (In Northwich, not Helsby - I'm still boycotting that store until they revise their checkout policy. However I have to go to Tesco somewhere to get the points on the credit card!) That done, it was back home to clean the fridge out. Actually, I'll rephrase that. It was back home to disinfect the fridge, which had sadly degenerated into a state of some squalor. So it was out with the Mr Muscle, all detachable parts chucked into the dishwasher, and the fridge innards sprayed and swabbed. Happily our fridge is now so clean, you could store food in it. Safely.

Having got the fridge into shape, it was on with the (metaphorical) pinny to get some cooking done. " Yay!" shouts the Massive. "Recipes! At last!!" Well, ok then. Reflecting my current circumstances, it was bread and soup again.

But posh bread and soup. I have standards, you know.

Bread was (of course) made in the breadmaker, but this time with added seedy stuff. Linseed, poppy seeds, sesame seed, sunflower and pumpkin seeds all added to the regular white bread mix. And we'll be nothing if not regular with all that lot flushing through our system.

I know. Too much information.

So the soup - carrot and coriander today. With three separate coriander elements to consider. Firstly fry up an onion (or two, if they are little) in some oil, along with a teaspoon or two of ground coriander.

While the coriander and onion are frying off, dry roast some coriander seeds (again, a teaspoon or two) in a hot frying pan (just the seeds, no fat or oil) until they begin to brown. Using a pestle and mortar, crush the seeds until you have a fine powder and add that to the onion mix.

Take a couple of pounds of carrots and chop up into discs and add to the pan. I also added a couple of sticks of celery (to add some depth to the flavour) and a couple of peeled, chopped potatoes (to help thicken the soup) but these are optional - it's the carrots that are important (like, duh!). Stir them round so they are coated in the spice mix, then add some stock (again, I used chicken but vegetable stock would be fine) to cover the vegetables. Add some water if you need to to achieve coverage.

Bring to a boil then leave to simmer for as long as you like, but at least until the veg are tender. Whizz them all up with your whizzy thing until you have a smooth texture. Take a pot of fresh coriander, and snip the stalks into the soup. Stir this round and cook gently for a while. Then add the coriander leaves and stir gently. Your soup's now ready for freezing (and eating), although you might want to stir in some cream or creme fraiche before serving.

Phew! And if that wasn't enough, while all the cooking was going on, I tidied up my 'study' (my den, really), putting shedloads of free magazine cds into big storage boxes I bought at Homebase yesterday, and then I got out into the garden to tidy up some of the lawn edges, trim the plants around the border and re-compost the flower beds.

Not bad eh? I'm goosed now though. Oh, and I've also got a meeting in my diary with a recruitment consultant in Chester arranged for Friday morning as well. Also toying with applying for a job advertised on t'internet today, although as it's overseas we need to have a talk about it before I commit.

Postman delivered a CD today I've been waiting for for a while - it's a CD by Richard Hawley, recorded live at the charmingly-named 'Devil's Arse' cavern in the Peak District. It's been uploaded to iTunes, but I've yet to give it a listen. But you should investigate Richard Hawley anyway. The self-styled 'specky twat from Sheffield' has a voice like treacle and a delightful way with a lyric and a tune. I commend 'Coles Corner' to you in particular.

And apropos of completely nothing - have you ever wondered what Led Zep's 'Stairway to Heaven' would have sounded like if it had been written and recorded in 1964 by the Beatles instead? Of course you have!

Well wonder no more....

I've already written about Bob Dylan, and already written too much today, so I'll not dwell on today's soundtrack except to say that 'Bringing It All Back Home' is one of the greatest albums ever made - by anyone, ever. Recorded in 1965 and as relevant now as it was then, on the cusp of Dylan's switch to 'electric' music, it includes biting social commentary (Maggie's Farm, Subterranean Homesick Blues) beautiful love songs (She Belongs to Me, Love Minus Zero) and pure poetry (Gates of Eden, It's Alright Ma). Oh, and pop songs (Mr Tambourine Man) as well.

If you wish to understand why some believe Dylan to be a genius, you could do worse than start here.

You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.....

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Day 37: Gobbin' on Life

Today's soundtrack: Spiritualized - Songs in A&E

Right then. The rye bread. Despite the, er, pithy comments made by Mrs W when she saw the loaf yesterday (likening my creation to a housebrick - I mean, really....) I was up for a new taste sensation. And I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, it's a touch (just a touch) heavier than the bread I've produced so far, but sliced and served as an open sandwich with a smear of mayonnaise and some breaded ham, it made for a very tasty (and filling) lunch.

Just what I needed to set me up for yet another trip to the Jobcentre which, again, passed very quickly and uneventfully. Can't say I'll ever get used to the feeling I get signing on - an 'edgy' sort of 'what am I doing here?' feeling - but needs must. I'm there because I'm unemployed - just like everyone else who is there signing on next to me. We're all in the same boat.

I'd parked up next to Homebase before signing on, and called in on my way back. Not sure what possessed me, but I came out with all sorts of gardening-type stuff, including big bags of compost, lawn feed, weedkiller and grass seed.

What's happening to me? Is this middle age beckoning?

Before setting out this morning, I took a call from one of my contacts over in Yorkshire who had heard of my situation, and he mentioned some plans he and another contact had to set themselves up as contractors. He asked me if I would be interested in being involved, at least in some initial discussions to see just what the prospects would be for such an endeavour. I confirmed I'd be happy to talk things through with them - not totally convinced it's right for me yet, but it's certainly an option that I want to give some serious consideration to, and to do it with people that I know and respect. I'm also delighted that they think I'm the sort of person they'd want to involve.

Finished reading 'Anathem' yesterday (see Day 11 - so it took 26 days to get through - that's a long time for me!) and enjoyed every page of it. Not an easy read as I have said before - but all the more satisfying for that. Moving swiftly on from the sublime to the ridiculous, I have started reading 'When We Were Thin' by C.P. Lee, a veteran of the Manchester music scene and the man behind anarcho-funsters Alberto Y Lost Trios Paranoias, who shone briefly in the late '70s with their blend of comedy, musical pastiche and general mayhem. The Albertos (as we shall call them) were probably best known for their 'Snuff Rock' ep, which gently poked fun at the musical scene of the time through the medium of songs about death - 'Snuffin' in a Babylon' and 'Gobbin' on Life' lampooning reggae and punk respectively.

And through the magic of YouTube, here are the boys back in 1978 doing two of the 'Snuff Rock' tracks - Snuffin' Like That and Snuffin' in a Babylon. Note the inspired use of an old bobble hat and some twisty telephone cable to provide instant dreadlocks for the second number.

Oooh - just seen the Snuff Rock ep on eBay, along with the 'Heads Down No Nonsense Mindless Boogie' single - two hours to go, no bids yet...might have to have a cheeky punt...

Today we are listening to the sublime Spiritualized. Songs in A&E is their latest album, recorded when Jason Pierce (who to all intents and purposes is Spiritualized) was recovering from a serious illness. It's by no means their best album - that honour goes to the remarkable Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space - but it is still a very good album indeed. Spiritualized are playing at Latitude this year so - clashes allowing - I may well get to see them there.

This is the video for 'Come Together' from Ladies and Gentlemen... and a dashed fine track it is too.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Day 36: Back to Reality

Today's soundtrack: Puddle of Mudd - Come Clean

Well, after the euphoria of yesterday, it was back to the reality of the daily grind today, scanning the job ads and talking to recruitment agents. I had to resolve a little local difficulty relating to one application that involved two separate agencies, but think I managed to reach a suitable conclusion, helped by the fact I'd been up-front and honest with the second agency about my previous contact with the first. Just hope it has no implications for the application itself...

That aside, I spent a happy morning emailing various ManYoo and Liverpool supporters to have a gentle dig, catching up on the internet traffic relating to the game and re-running the penalty shoot-out on YouTube. The consensus appears to be that, yes, United should have had a penalty, both teams were pretty poor and Mike Riley might have been influenced by the pre-game 'mindgames' but that, on balance, Everton getting through to the final is a 'good thing for the game of football'. Some of the praise being sent Everton's way falls just this side of being patronising, but most appears to be completely genuine in its delight at the team's achievement on a relatively limited budget. A lot of positive comments about the quality and vociferous nature of the team's support as well.

Did I mention the penalty shoot-out? Apologies for the size of the clip, it doesn't seem to want to shrink...

But we've still won nothing yet....

Having regaled you for weeks now with the quality of the cooking at Waring Towers, I feel today I may have slightly overreached myself. Having exhausted the straightforward bread recipes, today I tried out the recipe for rye bread. Not some namby-pamby diluted loaf, with as much white bread flour involved as rye, but a full-on, hard-core 100% rye loaf. A loaf that feeds on almost three times as much yeast as a regular loaf. That needs its own, special mixer blade.

Anyway, the results are opposite. Hmmm. Now I know that rye bread does not rise as much as proper bread, but we appear to have achieved negative rise here. I'll tell you what it actually tastes like tomorrow.

In the meantime I have retreated, sulkily, back into my safety zone. The granary loaf is now sat resting in the machine, ready to bake and reassert my reputation.

And in some form of reputational double-whammy, my other (self-awarded) reputation for having impeccable musical taste is dealt a hammer blow by the soundtrack for today's piece of bloggage. For those of you who are unfamiliar with their oeuvre, Puddle of Mudd belong to the pack of shouty American bands with guitars and copious tattoos who emerged in the early 2000's, feeding off (and diluting) the grunge of Nirvana and Pearl Jam into a form more accessible to music television and to young male teenagers. Think Nickelback, Staind, and Creed and you'll get the picture. They are bands that Son No 2 listened to a lot when he was probably 13 or 14 - and did a lot to get him interested in music in the first place (along with the Gallagher brothers).

So why do I own this stuff, you might be asking? And well you might. To which I would say that whilst it's all a bit much to take at an extended sitting, a lot of it is right good fun. It sometimes takes itself a bit too seriously - but not all the time - and the bands do tend to have a nice line in the 'power ballad' a musical form that was hugely popular in the '80s (and still plays a big part in drive-time radio and 'Dad Rocks!'-type compilations). And I'm a big sucker for the power ballad.

Anyway, this is 'She Hates Me'....vocals not safe for work I'm afraid!

Day 35: Wembley Way

Today's soundtrack: Z-Cars - Johnny Keating and the Z Men

The day started early, doing my 'cutting-up' and getting across to the parents to be picked up for the drive down south. We stopped on the way at Warwick Services on the M40 and was staggered to see the place was almost wholly blue and white - where were the ManYoo fans? (insert own fanbase/location joke here).

We parked up at Hillingdon and got the Tube in to Wembley Park. Now I've been to the 'new' Wembley before, for a conference, and have passed it on the train into Euston numerous times, and an impressive sight it is too - but none more impressive than the first view as you reach the exit of Wembley Park and look straight down Wembley Way, with the combined voices of thousands of Evertonians all singing and chanting.

There was a real carnival atmosphere on the day, helped by the glorious weather, and the two sets of fans were getting on well together (although this changed a touch in the stadium itself - more later).

So the Waring clan congregated outside the station, and made the walk up Wembley Way, stopping off for flags, jester hats and programmes on the way. The obligatory Fellaini wigs had been pre-purchased. All for the kids of course....

Into the stadium itself, just as the Everton coach arrived and the players came out to inspect the pitch and sample the atmosphere. Our seats were in line with the edge of the penalty area, high up in the rafters. Oxygen almost required to get there. Despite the height, the view was fantastic and the atmosphere - even in a quarter-full stadium - was already intense. How much more intense it was going to get...well, we would find out a few hours later.

And so to the game itself. Black armbands worn by the players in recognition of the Hillsborough anniversary - but no minute's silence? Perhaps concerns over fans' behaviour, given the two teams involved? I hope not - and certainly the presence of banners in the Everton crowd and chants of 'Stand up, for the 96' should have allayed any concerns in at least half the stadium.

As an aside, it's a shame that a (very small) minority of our fans couldn't extend the same courtesy and respect to our opponents. Very sad to see some of the younger Everton fans responding to taunts with 'aeroplane' mimes and reference to Munich. But it was a minority, and did not lead to any serious trouble - at least that I could see from where I was sitting.

Anyway, the game itself. We knew there were going to be some changes to the ManYoo team, but even so, we were all surprised by the team put out by Sir Alex. Surprised and hopeful? Well yes, albeit with some reservations - the presence of Ferdinand and Vidic, and the knowledge that any team Ferguson puts out will have a chance against any other team.

Well, it wasn't the most entertaining of games for the neutral, I have to admit. Two strong (the strongest two?) central defensive pairings and two depleted attacks meant it was always going to be a game short on goalmouth action, and so it proved. Few chances of note, a couple of decent penalty shouts (for both teams - yes, the Wellbeck incident would be given more often than not, but Pienaar also had a good shout in the first half) and a breakaway by Tim Cahill that was brought back for reasons only known to Mike Riley.

Did David Moyes' mind games have any effect? Only Mike Riley knows that, but if they did - well, Sir Alex can hardly complain now, can he? (Memo to Rafa - that's how to do it, mate!)

When the game petered out to a penalty shoot out - well, was there an Evertonian in the ground who thought we'd win it? Especially after Timmy skied the first one high over the bar? Not me, for one. But then the comedy of Berbatov's penalty and the quality of Howard's save from Ferdinand offered a glimmer of hope. Our four other penalty takers showed their bottle and their quality by scoring and... there it was! We'd done it! We were in the final! Pandemonium in the stands, and a mass departure from the Red end of the stadium. The celebrations went on...and on...and on!

I know we've won nothing yet, but to get to a Wembley semi-final, to beat United (having already beaten Liverpool and Villa to get there) and to have a realistic chance of some silverware (Chelsea notwithstanding) is a good, good feeling. Just need to get tickets for the final now!

The journey home was uneventful, and I crawled into bed at about half past midnight, tired but happy.

It's a grand old team to play for, it's a grand old team to support...

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Day 34: Overwhelmed by Tweet!

Today's soundtrack: Happy Mondays - Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches

So there I was, happily Twittering along with the select few, when all of a sudden there was a massive influx of followers and following, courtesy of a whole bunch of Glastonbury-goers (yours truly included) using a 'mass follow' utility set up by the Glastowatch people.

So hello to any of you fellow Glastonbury watchers (and goers) who might have found their way to this cobwebby corner of the interweb - nice to meet you!

Hold on Paul, the rest of you are saying, what's all this Twitter nonsense? Does it have anything to do with that update thing on the side of the page? Well yes, it does actually. And where have you been for the past six months if you don't yet know what Twitter is? I described Twitter to a friend a while ago as being a combination of updating Facebook status, instant messaging and stalking. That sums it up for me.

I'm a bit overwhelmed by the sudden leap in the number of Tweets coming through though - need to start organising things I think. So I've downloaded Tweetdeck to see if that can help me make any sense of the deluge. Will let you know if it works.

What it does do is bring home the fact that Glastonbury 2009 is fast approaching, which is very much a good thing. Assuming the weather behaves itself. And even if it doesn't. With the lineup appearing to be targetted this year at the more, ahem, mature festivalgoer, it is bound to be Dadtastic! And there'll still be plenty on for ver kids as well.

So what's been going on today then Paul?

Well, the sun has been cracking the flags so, unable to put it off any longer, I've been out in the garden. Gardening. Yes, I know. Now Mrs W - I love her bones, and especially her desire to feed, and joy in feeding, the local wildlife - but it does cause a little bit of a problem under the
birdtable. You see, the birds and squirrels don't actually eat all the seeds that Mrs W puts out. What they do is chuck loads of them onto the ground underneath the table, where they tend to sit and rot. Impossible to shift them, other than to periodically dig out the steaming, pungent, fermenting and decaying glop that is produced. That was today's job. After mowing the lawn, it looked like we had a pitcher's mound under the birdtable. Still, the job needed doing, and this time it shifted reasonably easily. After spreading some of the muck around, and putting some edging onto one side of the lawn, things do look reasonably presentable now, although we are not talking bowling green standards here.

When all's said and done though, I'd far rather have the visits from the local badgers, squirrels and birds, than a pristine lawn and no wildlife. Oh, and a happy wife as well!

As I type, the FA Cup semi final is standing at 1-1, although of course the result is academic as the eventual winner of the cup will obviously come from tomorrow's game between the mighty Blues and that other lot. Team Waring is off to Wemberlee at 8:45 tomorrow morning, armed with a nice packed lunch, something 'nice' to drink and a mass of expectations, which will no doubt be smashed against the cold, hard rocks of reality at about six o'clock tomorrow night. Still, that's what they said in 1995 as well. Come On You Blues!

It looks like ManYoo will be fielding a somewhat 'weakened' team, and if the rumours are correct The Boy won't be playing, which should help the atmosphere to an extent. I'd say our chances hover around the 'slim' level, but if we get into them and don't try to sit back and sneak a winner you never know...

Full match report in the next blog post, which will in all probability be Monday morning, unless I'm too excited to sleep when we get back!

Monday morning then.

Hope it's not an omen that it's that archetypal bunch of Mancs, the Mondays, playing on the soundtrack as I type. Pills 'n' Thrills was the high point of their brief but meteoric career, and whether the creative spark came from the band, the production team or the addled mind of Mr Shaun William Ryder, it stands as a monument to the excesses and creativity of the time. A version of the band is doing the rounds this year, so if they turn up at Glastonbury they might be worth a punt.

Anyway, here they are at the G-Mex back in 1990 performing 'Step On'. Note Rowetta, later of 'X-Factor' fame, on backing vocals.

You're twistin' my melon, man!

Day 33: Bring on the weekend!

Today's soundtrack: Jimmy Page & Robert Plant - San Jose 1995

Well, with the boys back down south, it was back into the same old routine that I seem to have established since day one of this journey. Out shopping for groceries first thing - this time to the M&S food outlet at Cheshire Oaks for ready meals (look, even a budding chef needs a break from the kitchen sometimes!) although I did pick up a range of seeds to spice up the breadmaking still further. I also picked up a couple of picture frames, as I've been promising Mrs W that I would sort out some pictures of Katy for her - printing and editing job for next week!

Took a call from a recruitment agency on the way out, my details have been submitted for a role in the North-West that a couple of people have mentioned to me, so we'll see where that goes. Still very slim pickings out there - there may be a need to cast the net wider than we have done so far. But we'll see.

Also carried out a bit of IIA business this afternoon. Having left my job, I feel pretty disengaged from the whole Institute process at the moment, so looking to take a bit of a back seat while I get my head (and my career!) together. But still, I don't want to let anyone down, so spent some time bringing colleagues on the Committee up to speed with my plans for a particular event.

Other than that, I squandered the afternoon somewhat, trawling a few regular websites and catching up with the blog, although I did bake yet another loaf of bread - this a 'French' loaf, taking a remarkable six hours to bake from mix to table. Since buying the breadmaker, we've not bought a single loaf of bread - and the house smells absolutely gorgeous most of the time as well!

We then spent the evening watching one of the most preposterous films ever in slack-jawed amazement. The film is called 'Impulse' and the premise is basically as follows (don't worry about spoilers - you won't be renting this one anytime soon):

Pretty young wife married to older man. Sex-life non-existent. Whilst working away from home, wife sees husband in hotel bar. Believing this is an attempt to 'spice things up', she drags husband to hotel room for night of steamy passion. Repeat in another hotel room in another city. However (and here's the twist) this man is not her husband! He is a complete stranger, who happens to bear a startling resemblance to her husband, who has been sat at home the whole time, blissfully unaware of the shenanigans his wife has been getting up to.

It gets better though. Not only is our mystery man the double of the hapless husband, he is also a crazed psychopath!! So when pretty wife eventually finds out the truth and tries to drop the stranger, he follows her home and contrives an introduction to the husband, who he then abducts and - wait for it - swaps identity with. The husband gets committed to the actual psychiatric institution he works in, whilst the stranger replaces him both at work and in the marital bed. And still no-one notices, until one of the hospital warders eventually twigs and lets the husband out for the final showdown. Finally, pretty wife realises what is going on (stranger had plain rather than prescription lenses inserted into the replica spectacles he'd had made!) and husband and pretty wife are eventually reunited.

Bergman it ain't, and it didn't trouble the Oscars. However a bit of research reveals that pretty wife did win '13th best nude scene of 2008' for her troubles. That bit was pretty good, I must admit.

Soundtrack today is a bootleg of a live show in San Jose from May 1995. Very high quality recording, I think from a radio show, boasting a lot of Zeppelin material (including a remarkable sixteen minute version of 'Kashmir') and quite bizarrely, a version of The Cure's 'Lullaby' (prompted, I think, by the presence of Porl Thompson, once of The Cure, in the touring band). It's easily searchable on t'internet, sometimes called 'Second Flight' or 'Simple Truth'. Definitely worth looking out for.

And here are the boys performing 'Ramble On' later on in the same tour...