Friday, May 29, 2009

Day 74: Meet Pedro

Today's soundtrack: Super Furry Animals - Songbook

Sorry Kev, but it's not Depeche Mode on the soundtrack today either!

But I have to say that having the Super Furry Animals serenade us today (and they are good, really good) is incredibly appropriate, as we have our very own Super Furry Animal to introduce to you!

His name is Pedro, and he's the happy outcome of our search for the 'right' pet to brighten up our lives. Again, he's a rescue cat, resident at Paws Inn, the sanctuary I've mentioned before. Mrs W spotted him earlier this week when she went to visit, and after a quick exchange of emails and a long chat with Pedro's vet, we agreed to give him a home and I picked him up today.

Pedro will need plenty of TLC - he's got a bowel complaint that means he needs to eat a special diet, and we'll need to keep a close eye on his bowel movements to make sure they are regular and of the right consistency.

A job for Mrs W I feel.

Apart from that, he's a lovely boy who is currently coming to grips with his new environment. This currently involves living behind the sofa - but in a couple of days he should be fine. Actually, when we first arrived, his first reaction was pure curiosity as he sniffed around the hallway and up the stairs. It was only after about ten minutes he had an OMIGOD WHEREAMI moment and got a bit agitated, eventually finding his way behind the sofa by way of 'behind the telly' and 'behind the door'.

Another factor that swung things in his favour is that he is (or has been, so far) very much a housecat - very important to us with the busy road outside.

So will keep you posted on Pedro's progress over the coming weeks!

In other news, some progress on the job front as I have a meeting with one firm now arranged for mid June, and a 'coffee and chat' confirmed with another firm in the next week or so. I would not class either of these as 'interviews' at this stage - any opportunities in the profession will be 'slow burn' as business cases and recruitment freezes need to be negotiated - but they are the first positive moves for some time and I'll be giving them my all.

More good news on the cup final front as our kid has managed to track down an additional ticket for Son No 2, so Team Waring will be nine strong on the day. The build up, day and fall-out will inevitably have an impact on posting, so there may need to be a bit of catch up early next week!

So the other Super Furry Animals. I like the SFAs more than I think I do, if that makes any sense. No? I think what I mean is that whilst I rarely actively seek them out to play, when they do come on the playlist (generally randomly, like today) I am always pleasantly surprised by just how good they are. They are very Welsh, and a bit unselfconsciously 'wacky', but in a good way.

Don't believe me? Check this out.....

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Day 73: Italian flavours

Today's soundtrack: Secret Affair - Time for Action

Double Italian today, with the action in Rome (of which more later) combined with today's culinary delights. Yesterday's bread rolls were merely a prelude to today's efforts, which involved the construction of home-made pizza - from base to topping (well, ok, I didn't cure my own sausage, but be fair...)

So while I finished the ironing, the breadmaker kneaded the dough for the pizza bases. My task, when the breadmaker had done its bit, was to convert the sloppy lump of dough into a pair of 12" pizza bases. Which I (just about) managed. The first took a bit of work, but the second stretched itself into shape relatively easily. The trick seems to be to handle the dough as little as possible - the more you wrestle with it, the harder it gets to make it go where you want. I didn't (quite) get to the stage of chucking the dough up into the air, spinning it into a disc, but that will come, have no fear.

Once the dough had risen in the (now empty - apart from the towel collection) airing cupboard, it was time to get topping. Passata (note for next time - rather too much passata), mozzarella, salami, pepperoni, mushrooms, garlic, basil and parmesan, and we were good to go. And my, it was good. A bit sloppy (but not in a bad way) due to a surfeit of tomato sauce but very, very tasty without the cardboardy, processed taste that often comes with shop-bought pizza. I'd say healthy, if that was not an outright lie. But certainly the difference made by using fresh dough and quality ingredients was evident in the taste. Even if I say so myself!

So while we were tucking into us pizza, we settled down to watch what was happening in Rome. I'd turned down a couple of generous offers to head into Manchester to watch the match in the pub, on the basis I wasn't sure which way my affections would lie. Always had a soft spot for Barcelona, for personal as well as footballing reasons, and still have a couple of replica Barca shirts in the wardrobe. I did resist the temptation to wear one, though. By the same token, I am probably better disposed to ManYoo than many other teams. They did provide us with the spine of our team, after all, and now I'm over the departure of The Boy, I'm keen to see him do well. Especially following his pre-match interview where he confirmed his ongoing support for Everton and his intention to bring his kid up with two loyalties. Nice one, Wayne.

So I watched the match pretty much as a neutral. Early on, it looked like United were going to rip Barca apart, and very nearly opened the scoring though Park. How different the match might have been had they scored then. As it was, Barca scored with their first attack and, from then on, the complexion of the game changed dramatically as Iniesta and Xavi took a grip on midfield. United battled to no great effect, and Barca continued to grow in confidence.

A bit of a rally at the beginning of the second half following the introduction of Tevez for the ineffectual Anderson, but once Barca had scored their second (a fine cross and header by the totally unmarked Messi) it was to all intents and purposes over.

In the end Barca were clear (and worthy) winners. At this level, United need to do something about central midfield, stop wasting The Boy out wide and decide whether Vidic has now been 'found out' for his lack of pace. Of course, even an average ManYoo are better than 99% of the teams out there - but Barca were, eventually, streets ahead in this final.

Anyway, the Big Game is coming up this Saturday...bring it on!

Bit of nu-Moddage on the soundtrack today, from Secret Affair, probably one of the best of the second wave of Mod bands that surfaced in the late '70s/early '80s. 'Probably one of the best' actually equates to one or two half decent singles, but 'Time For Action' and particularly 'My World' were slightly better than half decent.

Before they were Secret Affair, they were the New Hearts, a slightly punky band who supported Johnny Thunders' Heartbreakers in 1977. 'Just Another Teenage Anthem' was their only non-hit, but again, not a bad slice of punk-pop in a Gen-X ish sort of way.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Day 72: Domestic Bliss?

Today's soundtrack: White Denim - Let's Talk About It

Back to the daily grind after the Bank Holiday weekend today - which for me meant catching up on the domestic chores - including the sodding ironing.

Now I am sure the domestic goddesses (and gods - there must be one or two) would tell you that the trick is to do it 'little and often' so it becomes less of a chore. I am more of the 'let it mount up until you've got nothing left in the cupboards to wear' persuasion. Which is fine for about three weeks, but then you find that the door to the airing cupboard is starting to bulge at the seams.

So I got to it. In any event, I needed to free up some space in the airing cupboard for today's little 'experiment' - more of which later.

Again, I suspect the expert ironers amongst you would suggest organising the pile into some form of order - so that you do all the shirts together, then all the trousers, then tops and t-shirts? No? I prefer the element of surprise in my ironing - possibly less efficient, but maybe more fun?

In any event, I didn't finish, so the joys spill over into tomorrow.

At least my innate ability to multi-task (are you reading this, potential employers?) allows me to iron and listen at the same time, ironing to a very 'up' setlist comprising Hayseed Dixie (bluegrass versions of the classics - Whole Lotta Love, War Pigs and This Fire on fiddle...), The Chieftains (more fiddle, and lots of Irish jiggery) and a compilation of '80s 12" singles (slightly fewer fiddles, rather more synthesisers, makeup and archness).

So the ironing wasn't all bad.

So why did I need to make some space in the airing cupboard, readers? Well, to help my dough rise, of course. And I mean that quite literally, it's not a crude sexual metaphor. Would be a bit sad if it was.

Today, we move to Advanced Breadmaking, by not letting the machine do all the work - actually taking the dough out after the initial rise, and shaping and baking by hand (well, the baking is done by the oven, but you know what I mean). Why? You might ask. Well we needed some bread rolls to be filled with sausage and onions, but I also wanted to do a dry run for tomorrow's slice of culinary experimentation. No, I'll tell you tomorrow.

So did it work? Yes, it did, actually - see the evidence opposite. I have to say the round rolls were somewhat easier to shape than the 'finger' rolls were (unless the fingers in question are particularly fat and arthritic) but ultimately they smelt, and tasted, exactly as you would want. And the sausages did fit quite snugly into the finger rolls as well, with room for a spot of onion and some brown sauce.

Today's soundtrack comes from White Denim, a trio from Austin, Texas who made a few ripples last year with this album, 'Workout Holiday'. Very difficult to classify them other than as 'indie', which they undoubtedly are, or were, this and their previous album originally being self-financed and issued. If that makes them sound a bit amateurish and ramshackle, that does them a bit of a disservice really. They are good fun and worthy of a minute or two of your time. Sadly in pulling this blog together I note that they were playing in Liverpool seven days ago and I missed them - also that they are not doing the UK festival circuit this year. Ah well, never mind, Let's Talk About It instead....

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Day 71: Dadtastic Glastonbury?

Today's soundtrack: Toni Braxton - Secrets

Well it'll do for me. Son No 2 is less than happy with the Glastonbury lineup, but there's plenty there to keep me happy. If I've got a complaint, it would be that there seems to be a big focus on the Pyramid Stage this year, with pretty weak lineups on some of the other stages - the JazzWorld Stage in particular is a disappointment compared to some of the great performances on that stage in recent years - Solomon Burke, Candi Staton and Buddy Guy last year alone. Rolf Harris this year just doesn't compete.

Click on the link or the image above for the whole kit and caboodle!

So who to see? All the big hitters I suppose, including Neil Young, Broooce and Blur, CSN I guess, and Tom Jones is a cert for the 'Sunday afternoon bag of wine' slot. Tinariwen and the Easy Star All Stars for a bit of 'World' at some stage in the weekend, Steel Pulse, The Gaslight Anthem (who could be this year's Hold Steady), White Lies. Spinal Tap (oh yes) and the Eagles of Death Metal . Everything else will depend on a combination of timing and whim, I guess.

It will be a shame to miss the Bunnymen, Tindersticks and Roger McGuinn, but I can't be everywhere unfortunately. Nick Cave and Doves can be sacrificed if necessary as I'll be seeing them elsewhere this summer.

Having said that, I guess the only guarantee is that I'll end up doing something entirely different come the moment (am I going to brave the Dance Village this year? At my age?). Maybe The Glade? Gong and Steve Hillage on Sunday night? Animal Collective in The Park instead of Neil Young??

And what to buy? Last year's drunken ukulele purchase (that was me drunk, by the way, not the ukuleles) will take some beating, but the drums, the drums... Oh, and the food. I'll need to get down to JazzWorld, if only for the Goan Fish Curry and the Brothers Cider. Inappropriate headgear is always likely to be high on the list and of course lots of beads and stuff...

Bring it on. I'm ready now!

In other news, congratulations to Burnley, who won the Championship playoff today. Great news for my Burnley-supporting mates and great news for Everton - there's six nailed-on points already for next season (only joking, Dazza). The goal that won the match was a fitting winner, a great instinctive shot 'passed into the goal' from outside the area from the excellent Wade Elliott. Glad to see Burnley up there though - a 'proper' football team, tidy ground and great fans.

Inevitably, the law of averages means that one of Mrs W's albums will come up on the soundtrack from time to time and so it proved today. I don't know an awful lot about Toni Braxton, apart from 'Unbreak my Heart' which appears on this album but, of its type, it's a pretty good album in my humble opinion. That's not to say I'd be hiking the length of Worthy Farm to go see her, but it makes quite a pleasant change from some of the stuff I listen to from time to time....

Monday, May 25, 2009

Day 70: Sunday Sport

Today's soundtrack: Buzzcocks - Love Bites

Well, Plan A for today didn't happen, so we reverted to Plan B.

Which was fine by me, as Plan B involved sitting in front of the telly all day watching the sport.

First off though, there was a loaf to bake, so we had some fresh bread to eat at lunchtime with our bacon and sausage. White loaf with added wheatgerm, since you ask. Very tasty and crusty, but perhaps a little heavy? No matter - stuffed with Lincolnshire's best, a couple of of rashers of back and a drop of HP, it really hit the spot.

I'll bet they weren't eating sausage and bacon butties in Monte Carlo today, though. Their loss, if you ask me. For all the glitz and glamour, the race can often be a bit of a let-down as the lack of overtaking opportunities can turn things into a procession. And, barring a bit of excitement around tyre wear and a couple of brushes with the Armco, that's what we had. Jenson Button won't be complaining, though. Despite the fact that the racing feels more competitive this season, Button has still won five out of six and the World Championship is looking more and more likely for the lad. Which is nice, actually. whilst he might have 'lucked into' a competitive car this year, he still comes across as a nice lad who, having served his dues over the years in a series of ordinary cars, is now proving to be a very smooth - and fast - driver.

But the motor racing was really just an aperitif for the main event, the final matches of the football season. For once, I chose not to trawl the internet for a snide feed of the Everton game. Instead, I settled down to watch the Villa - Newcastle game, with scoreflashes from Craven Cottage coming on my phone.

And all the results went the right way, too. We won - comfortably - at Fulham with Leon Oman scoring both goals and apparently benefitting from being rested. Slightly worrying to hear that Phil Neville and Stephen Pienaar came off 'feeling their hamstrings' - let's hope they are both ok for the Cup Final next week. So that's fifth place - best of the rest - for the second year in succession and top six for three years on the trot. We continue to overperform, but the worry is that Moyes thinks this is as good as it can get and moves on. Which would put us right back in the shit.

Oh, and speaking of which, Villa beat Newcastle to send them down to the Championship. Thus demonstrating that you can spend loads of money on high salary, big-name players - but without managerial integrity and stability (and ability) it will all be a complete waste. Despite what was at stake, Newcastle seemed unable to rise to the occasion and struggled against a Villa team that has also been underperforming for weeks. Passion and spirit are overrated qualities in football, but you do feel that just a hint of desire could have made the difference. Still, the Premiership will not be the poorer for their relegation.

Buzzcocks on the soundtrack, their second album, 'Love Bites' which I think is very underrated compared to their first and third albums. I loved it when it came out, and in its reissued guise comes with a set of Peel sessions, live tracks and demos. However it's the quality of the original album that shines through. Ever Fallen in Love was the hit, but tracks like Sixteen Again, Nostalgia ("for an age yet to come") and ESP add a pop twist to their essential punkiness.

Here's 'Sixteen Again' from the Whistle Test in 1978. Fantastic.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Day 69: A Dog's Life

Today's soundtrack: Otis Redding - Otis Blue

Oh, before we get into today's business - this is what the raw meatballs pictured yesterday turned into...yummy!

A busy day today - we'd arranged to meet Son and Girlfriend in Manchester for a spot of lunch, and then over to Leeds to visit the Dog's Trust with a view to having a new pet in the house. So it was an early(ish) start to the day, out of the house and over to the Big City.

As is traditional, met up with the kids outside Fopp. Even though it's now owned by HMV, this little store is still a goldmine for all sorts of gems (Can you have a goldmine for gems? Thought not. But you know what I mean.) at ridiculously low prices. So it was that I came away with a couple of Doves albums to fill the gaps in the collection, a couple of discs by Tokyo Police Club (Canadian, not Japanese) and an Aztec Camera album I never knew existed. At a mix of £5 and £3 each, it would have been rude to leave them there.

Then across to the new HMV in the Arndale that replaced the hapless Zavvi, but failed to be tempted by anything in there. The existence of Fopp (and, it has to be said, the internet and Rapidshare) make it difficult to be tempted by CDs at a price point above a fiver these days. Which means that, eventually, there will be no record stores in the high street to browse. Which will be a real shame.

Met up with Mrs W, then off to the Slug & Lettuce for a spot of lunch. A private party in the main eating area meant we were perched on the high stools in the bar, but that was fine. It's ok, the Slug & Lettuce. Clean, airy, tasty uncomplicated food and a decent selection of drinks as well.

We left the kids (Kids! They're 19! The same age as me - in my head, anyway) to continue wandering the streets of Manchester (off to Affleck's Palace, I believe) and we headed off to Leeds. Right to the very far side of Leeds - a bit disconcerting when I reached my usual Leeds turn-off on the M62 to have the Satnav tell me there was another 30 miles to go. But we got there in the end, having sat in the inevitable traffic jam for a while, an agonising two miles before our turn off.

The Dog's Trust centre in Leeds is a very attractive, modern facility and if anyone is looking for a canine companion I would urge you to pay them a visit. They are very careful about the families they re-house their 'tenants' with, and their particular circumstances and experiences. Which must be a good thing. Mrs W confirmed our on-line registration with them, and then we went to have a look at the pooches.

But then a strange thing happened. Or rather, didn't happen. I fully expected Mrs W to fall in love with most, if not all, of the dogs and for the difficulty to be deciding which one we tried to form a bond with. But for whatever reason, the spark wasn't there. So we came away dogless. Now it might have just been the day, the dogs on offer, or it might be that there really are 'dog' people and 'cat' people - and we're on the side of the feline - I don't know. Now never say never, things may change in the coming weeks, but for the moment it looks like we won't be going back.

Anyway, long journey home to discover an intriguing envelope lying on the mat. Opened it to discover Everton had sent me a concertina'd cardboard 'clappy' thing to take to Wembley next week. Which is nice, if a little bit 'nu-fan' - what's wrong with the old wooden rattles? Still, it is a nice touch by the club and the kids'll love it.

Well, I'm spoiling you with today's soundtrack. Otis Blue is one of the greatest soul albums ever released - no, scratch that, one of the greatest albums ever, in any genre. It catches Otis at his peak and every track is a gem - the covers (Satisfaction with horns - the way Keith Richard always imagined it), the originals (Respect - only bettered by Aretha's version) and some great versions of Sam Cooke songs, Otis acknowledging his great hero. Clocking in at just over half an hour, the album doesn't outstay its welcome, but not a second of its 32 minutes is wasted.

Here's Otis at Monterey - possibly his finest moment, playing to (and toying with) the 'love crowd' with I've Been Loving You Too Long and Satisfaction. Pure gold.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Day 68: Where did today go?

Today's soundtrack: Van Morrison and Linda Gail Lewis - You Win Again

Doesn't time fly when you are enjoying yourself? Although I'm not sure what I did that I enjoyed so much - today has just flown by for some reason.

Started by getting myself off to the favoured supermarket for the bank holiday shop. Nice and early, nice and quiet and back home before half nine. Had to buy a copy of 'Cheshire Life' (Sainsbury's having cunningly shrinkwrapped this month's edition to stop me flicking through in store) to see if the girls were in - see Day 44 for details - but unfortunately in what is obviously a bumper month for the social whirl they failed to make the cut.

Their loss.

Unpacked the shopping and checked the post. Confirmation of no claims bonus had arrived, so I wrote to the new insurers as requested and wandered up to the post box.

Engaged in some gentle banter with ex-colleagues over email regarding a little quiz I'd set them (What are the names of the eight footballers who have won both the Premier League and Champions League but have never played for ManYoo?*).

Logged on to Middle Earth, killed a few more goblins and orcs, and all of a sudden it was lunchtime.

After lunch, fannied around with Windows 7 for a while (it really is very good I have to say, even on a pretty underpowered netbook. Video and audio performance much better than when using Ubuntu). Downloaded lots of free, (and legal!) software, set up and tested email and Skype and generally tinkered.

No wonder the day flew by.

Then started preparations for tonight's tea - spaghetti and meatballs.

Ooooh! You'll be wanting the recipe, then!

Ok - here you go. Take a pound of mince (500g if you want to be all metric) and stick it in a bowl. Add seasoning and dried herbage. A dash of Lea & Perrins. Grate in a small lump of parmesan (this is a new variation - not done this before). Using a whizzy choppy thing, finely process a small onion and a couple of cloves of garlic. Add to the bowl and mix thoroughly. Whizz up a slice of bread into breadcrumbs and add this to the bowl and mix again. Finally add a raw egg to the bowl and mix thoroughly. You should now have a sticky meaty paste. Using (clean) hands, pick up small lumps of the paste and roll into balls - try and get the balls about an inch in diameter. This should give you around 20 meatballs.

Stick them on a tray, cover in clingfilm and leave to chill in the fridge for a couple of hours. This should stop them falling apart when you cook them.

When you're ready to cook, bit of olive oil in the frying pan and heat up to very hot. Add your meatballs in batches so they can move around the pan easily. When cooked. return to the baking tray and keep warm while you cook your sauce.

Using the same frying pan (thus cooking in the juices from the meat) fry off some more chopped onion and garlic. Add some bacon or pancetta if you want. Then add some passata and chopped tomatoes (tinned or fresh) to the frying pan and simmer until the sauce reduces to a nice, sweet, thick consistency. At this point stick some fresh basil leaves in the sauce, add your meatballs and heat through on a gentle heat while you cook your spaghetti.

Spaghetti cooked, stick yer balls on top and add sauce to taste. Grate more fresh parmesan on top, grind some black pepper on top and serve with garlic bread (it's the future) and a lovely drop of red.

Although he's a curmudgeonly old bugger, I really like Van Morrison. Famously erratic live, I caught him on a good night a couple of years ago and loved every minute. As well as his solo stuff, he occasionally collaborates (his album with The Chieftains is fantastic) and this album is a duet with Linda Gail Lewis, sister of Jerry Lee Lewis. Its a good (if not great) album, mainly covers (only one Van original) and sounds like it was bashed out in a series of single takes. Which is actually a good thing in this case, giving it the air of a live performance. Not essential by any means, but Van and Linda sound like they are enjoying it, so why shouldn't we?

All Van's stuff on YouTube seems to be locked down and watermarked by his record label so no videos today, I'm afraid. Not like Van to try and control all his output, now is it?

(*Ferreira, Carvalho, Overmars, Anelka, Von Bronkhurst, Makelele, Geremi and Kanu, if you're interested...)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Day 67: Back to the '50s

Today's soundtrack: Tony Bennett - The Essential Tony Bennett

Well, there's a coincidence for you. I decide to title today's blog as above, and then iTunes decides to accompany the blog with a spot of croonin' from the swingin' Mr B.

And there's nowt wrong with a spot of easy listening every now and again - especially when the voice is this good, and the selection of songs is so strong. And me mam likes Tony Bennett, so that'll do for me.

My reason for harking back to the fifties today really comes from the book I'm currently reading, Andrew Marr's 'History of Modern Britain'. I'm still reading the early chapters, which start from the end of the Second World War, and I'm finding the book absolutely engrossing. I've not yet got (quite) to things that happened in my lifetime, but essentially I am reading about the world that I was born into. A Britain struggling to remain a world power in the nuclear age, defining its role with the USA on one side and Soviet Russia on the other, unwilling to align itself with Europe yet presiding over the break-up of the Empire.

The Suez crisis is particularly fascinating - I'd never fully realised or understood the extent to which we were completely shafted by the Americans, who unwittingly precipitated the crisis in the first instance, and then actively hindered the (admittedly underhand) military action the Brits instigated alongside the French and the Israelis. The humiliation of the British at Suez seems to have confirmed to all that our time at the top table was coming abruptly to a close.

Similarly I had never really understood the implications of the Korean War either - a little skirmish that predated the far more bloody and important Vietnam War? Not really - it would appear that we came far closer to a full-scale nuclear conflict (involving the Chinese) than we ever did before or since - Bay of Pigs crisis included. The picture is of the Korean war memorial in Washington DC - not as immediately impressive or stark as the wall of names in memory of the Vietnam War but still deeply moving in its own right.

The book has so far had little to say about the partition of India, but I have a whole separate book to read on that subject in the 'pending' pile. My interest in this subject was piqued by another book I read on holiday about India that again touched on the tragedy of partition without going into detail - again, a subject I'm interested in understanding a lot more about.

Really interesting stuff, especially when placed in the more familiar context of social life in the fifties - the growth of car ownership, of immigration, the end of rationing and of National Service.

So that was this morning. This afternoon I've been dealing with the here and now - the cutting edge, indeed - experimenting with the latest flavour of Windows, Windows 7, which is available in 'Release Candidate' flavour free of charge until its official launch later this year or early next. So I've replaced Ubuntu on the netbook (for the time being, at least) and have been busy tweaking and downloading onto the new operating system. As it's still essentially work in progress, I've kept it well away from the desktop!

And first impressions are pretty good. I needed to reformat the netbook's hard drive from FAT32 to NTFS, but having done that it loaded quickly and easily, picked up the wireless network straightaway and (so far) hasn't crashed once. Performance on sound and video seem no worse than under Ubuntu - possibly a bit better - and it all looks suitably pretty and flash. Will keep you posted as I get to grips with it!

So back to Tony Bennett. There was a time when I would have dismissed this sort of music completely out of hand, but (no doubt as I get older) I can appreciate the talent and the craft involved in producing these songs, that are now essentially timeless. Tony Bennett did his profile no harm by appearing on MTV's 'Unplugged' with kd lang and Elvis Costello, and I would recommend both that album, and the album he did with kd lang (called A Wonderful World) to you. Ideal for those late, quiet nights with a single lamp and a single malt. Oh, and for crooning along to in the car - preferably when you're by yourself!

Here's Tony with the one you'll all know, performed 'Unplugged' back in 1994:

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Day 66: Shave and a Haircut - Two Bits

Today's soundtrack: David Bowie - Bowie at the Beeb Bo Diddley might have said, once upon a time. 'Shave and a haircut - two bits' is, as you might know, the classic chugging 'Bo Diddley beat' that he used in the majority of his songs, and that can also be heard in Eric Clapton's 'Willie and the Hand Jive' and The Smiths' 'How Soon is Now' amongst others.

And today's tenuous link comes down to the fact that, yes, I had a haircut this morning. And a shave, come to that, although I managed that myself. For the haircut, I took myself off to see Debra and enjoy a bit of pampering. It's a lovely experience, the haircut - especially nowadays when the hairwash includes a head massage, and I get my own little cafetiere of fresh coffee. And a bit of girly chat, of course.

And given the proximity of the hairdressers to the local quality butcher, it would have been extremely rude not to pick up some pies for tea tonight. Steak for Mrs W, Steak and Ale (natch) for yours truly. To be served with chips and beans. And, in my case, a litre of gravy. Mrs W, not being a Northerner, does not fully understand the concept of gravy - the need for summat 'moist' (copyright Peter Kay) with one's tea. Sadly the delicacy that is the 'dip butty' is also not on the Mrs W menu.

Made a loaf with oat and bran in it yesterday. Very tasty for breakfast, especially toasted, but unwise to eat before leaving the house. The bran content has an unnerving effect that I barely managed to contain at the hairdressers. Too much information, I know.

Had a nice email exchange with a friend this morning re Glastonbury. She's going for the first time (a Glasto virgin, if you will) and is sorting out the necessaries for camping. She's fretting a bit but she'll love it. Even if it rains. Probably. Had a quick look through my list of essentials today and decided to invest in a big waterproof army surplus poncho via the web. Just in case, you understand.

Bit more progress on the job front - there's a meeting coming up with an organisation in the near future, when diaries can be co-ordinated (not that my diary takes an awful lot of coordination at the moment). Bit of a flyer, but they are happy to talk to me, which must be a good thing. There are one or two things that I bring to the table that might be of interest to them, and I know a couple of people already in the firm who would (I think!) say nice things about me if let's see!

Watched 'Waiting for Guffman' last night whilst Mrs W was convalescing with the bad back. Nice film from the Christopher Guest stable of semi-improvised films. Whilst it doesn't quite hit the heights of Spinal Tap (playing Glastonbury - Yay!) or Best in Show, it's still a good 'un with some nice moments. It helps I think if you've ever been involved in amateur dramatics of any kind, as indeed I have, a loooong time ago! It's currently dirt cheap in Fopp, about three quid I think - impossible to leave it there!

David Bowie on the soundtrack today - at the Beeb. This is a three-disc CD set that includes two discs of archive material, from early 'Laughing Gnome' era Bowie through the Ziggy years. The third disc however, that I am listening to now, is a one-off concert recorded for the BBC in 2000, covering the breadth of his career - and it's an absolute cracker! Unfortunately, despite virtually every other note the man recorded being on Spotify, I can't find the BBC stuff. Must be a licensing thing.

However the whole thing would appear to be sat there on YouTube - so as a sampler, here's The Dame performing 'Wild is the Wind'. Someone else in need of a haircut I think, David!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Day 65: Pilton here we come!

Today's soundtrack: Aimee Mann - Live at St Ann's Warehouse

Hot on the trails of the Wembley ticket confirmation, today saw the arrival of this year's ticket for Glastonbury! Hurrah!

This seems very early to me - the festival still seems a mile off, and I'm sure in previous years the tickets have been much later arriving - long after the full lineup has been announced. Still, I'm not complaining, it's one less thing to worry about in the lead-up to the festival.

What's to worry about anyway? I think I've got things down to a fine art now - although I still take far too much stuff (thank heaven for sack trolleys!). I will try - as always - to take less stuff but it just never seems to happen in practice!

So what's to do? I still need to repair the boy's tent following the unfortunate wheelbarrow incident last year (don't ask) but I've got all the bits - quick and easy job I think. Big shop for booze and other essentials...and that's it, I think.

Oh, and I need to make sure that there's an empty fabric conditioner bottle (with lid!) to take along as well. Possibly the most important piece of kit of all! And if you have to ask, you really don't need to know...

The lineup this year is still largely to be announced, but I think it's fair to say there's more to grab my attention than there is for the boy - it's all a bit 'for the Dads' this year. Still, I'm sure that there'll be plenty going on in the John Peel tent and on the Other Stage to keep him happy. As always, it's not about the big names, it's the unexpected moments in out of the way places that make Glastonbury the adventure that it always is.

Like seeing the Hold Steady in 2007 and falling in love with them immediately. 'Secret' performances from Franz Ferdinand and The Last Shadow Puppets on the Park stage last year. Seasick Steve in Leftfield, two days before appearing on the Pyramid Stage.

Looks like I'll be spending more time than usual at the Pyramid this year. All three headliners are likely to get a viewing (for the first time) and there are plenty of other acts confirmed or rumoured that will keep me happy. My main problem is going to be dealing with clashes, although as always the golden rule applies - enjoy what you are seeing, don't regret what you're can't see everything so don't try.

And hopefully the weather will sort itself over the next month or so. The difference the sight of the sun (and the lack of mud) makes to the Glasto experience is phenomenal.

In other news, I finally received the paperwork confirming my car is now mine, so Captain Paranoia can get back in his box. I've had this irrational concern that the leasing company was about to go bust in between getting my cash and transferring ownership, leaving me significant quids out of pocket. Need to find something else to worry about now!

Went to the job centre to sign on again today, buoyed by another phone call from my Leeds consultant updating me on things. Another firm appear to be happy to have a conversation - which could be quite an interesting conversation (for reasons I can't go into) and there are still a couple of other irons in the fire. But more importantly, it feels like things are moving!

As far as I know, Aimee Mann is not appearing at Glastonbury this year - be nice if she did, though. The former leader of another 'seminal US Power Pop band', 'Til Tuesday, she is one of my favourite female singer/songwriters. Her first solo album, 'Whatever', doesn't have a duff track on it. The work she did for the soundtrack of 'Magnolia' (a great film, by the way) is also superb and the soundtrack album is great even despite the appearance of Supertramp!

'Live at St Anne's Warehouse' is an iTunes download that I've never seen on CD in the shops, although the Album Art would suggest that it's actually the soundtrack to a live DVD. In any event, it's a good solid performance of some of her best songs and well worth investigating.

Here's Aimee performing 'Save Me' on the St Anne's DVD. Save Me also is the standout track from Magnolia.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Day 64: Wembley here we come!

Today's soundtrack: The Plimsouls - The Plimsouls...Plus!

Well, final confirmation today that not only have I got my ticket for the Cup Final sorted, but that the whole of Team Waring is also sorted - the latest ticket announcement by the club made it clear that all the tickets we'd applied for will come through, the 'selection' criteria having been relaxed sufficiently for us all to go. We may even be able to get hold of an additional ticket for Son No 2 to come along as well - fingers crossed!

Actually having a seat specifically allocated (and being able to pick out the seat in the Wembley plan) makes it all seem very real now...cup final! At Wembley!! The only stumbling block is we've got to beat Chelsea once we're down there, but that's just a detail, really. A very minor detail.

Spoke to my Leeds recruitment consultant again today, and some pretty positive noises coming out of there at the moment. Nothing concrete, but a willingness on the part of the organisations they are speaking to, to at least consider me for potential roles - and largely on a personal basis, rather than as one of a number of potential candidates. I do think that if I'm going to get sorted sooner rather than later, this will be the route by which I'll get sorted.

Finished my Johnny Cash biography today. Not a bad book, but it all seemed a little bit superficial, hinting at the complexity of the man rather than really getting beneath the surface. Cash is a character crying out for a real in-depth biography to be written, by a Peter Guralnick-type biographer along the lines of his two excellent Presley biographies. It may be that such a book is already out there, but if it is, I've not come across it. Might check with the 'Word Massive' on their website - it's the sort of question that would be right up their street.

So with the Cash out of the way, what's next up? I'm about to start Andrew Marr's 'History of Modern Britain' which I've heard plenty of good things about. Hopefully a touch more accessible than Simon Schama's three volume history of Britain, which sits accusingly in hardback on my bookshelves. One day....

I think we're looking at a Spaghetti Carbonara for tea tonight - have I already given you a carbonara recipe? Pretty sure I have, you know....yep, there you go, Day 39 if you're interested!

Plimsouls on the soundtrack today. Not that well known in the UK, but a lot bigger in the States back in the day. They are (were) what used to be known as 'Power Pop', ie slightly punky, very melodic and catchy tunes, narrow ties etc. Difficult to think of a mainstream UK equivalent you'll have heard of - maybe The Motors or The Records, although again hardly household names. Peter Case, lead singer, went on to establish himself as a solo artist of some quality in the mid-'80s - his first album in particular is a thing of some beauty. The band re-formed recently and toured, although not sure if they recorded any new stuff or not.

And here they are performing on that reunion tour - see what you think..

Day 63: Baggie - Trousers!

Today's soundtrack: Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Fever To Tell

The title for today's blog is possibly the most painfully tortuous pun I could have come up with and I apologise to you all. It's staying though. The more astute amongst you will recognise the reference to West Brom - The Baggies - who were, indeed, 'pants' today and got the relegation that had been on the cards for so long.

Sorry Elaine!

When you are adrift at the bottom of the table, but two wins have given you a sniff of a potential escape route, the last thing you need is to be presented with is a home game against Liverpool, a team who have beaten you 6-0, 5-0 and 3-0 the last three times they have played you at home and who you have never scored against in the Premiership era. Still, hope springs eternal and there was always the possibility that Liverpool would switch off having lost the mathematical possibility of winning the title.

So after a typically graceless interview with the FSW, we were off. And it all looked so promising for a time. Driven on by Jonathan Greening, the Baggies had a couple of excellent chances to take the lead. Unfortunately some comedy defending that possibly encapsulated West Brom's season in an instant, allowed Gerrard in. 1-0, game probably over.

A couple more chances spurned, some comedy attacking and a very good shout for a penalty turned down, and Liverpool broke with pace and Kuyt made it 2-0 and the game really was up now. A touch more entertainment value came from Carragher squaring up to Arbeloa but ultimately that was it.

A shame really. I've a soft spot for West Brom, who do try and play football and, in patches, looked very good indeed. But ultimately it looks increasingly like the way to come up and survive in the Premiership is by playing ugly, stifling football and the Premiership will be the poorer for losing the Baggies. They seem doomed to be the ultimate yo-yo club - too good for the Championship, not good enough for the Premiership.

The lousy weather put the mockers on any thought of going out, so the day drifted involving, as it normally does, a lot of internet-related timewasting. Which is alright for me, with plenty of time to waste just now, but not so good for you wage slaves out there who need to fill your precious few hours of leisure time with quality activities!

Sorry. I can't offer quality today. Facebook provided, oh, minutes of mindless entertainment with a new game called 'Chain Rxn' that seems to be 'sweeping the nation' as they used to say. Worth a look if you are dabbling in the Facebook universe. I wouldn't be so crass as to invite my Facebook buddies - I always skip that option on your behalf!

Youtube also provided a moment of light relief - you remember me going on about Snatch the other week? Well some bright spark has extracted Bricktop's (somewhat fruity) dialogue from the film and used it to replace Darth Vader's dialogue in Star Wars. Hilarity ensues! Well, it tickled me in places.

Warning - this is definitely not appropriate to play through your laptop speakers in a work environment.....

In other news, no culinary delights to regale you with today, other than the delightful bacon butties made with freshly baked bread at lunchtime. Tea was the meal that might be politely referred to as 'finger food' but is generally described as 'fried shite' in Waring Towers. This normally comprises potato skins, southern fried chicken and breaded mushrooms with a selection of dips and sauces but may occasionally be varied by the inclusion of spare ribs or other such nibbles. All heated in the oven rather than actually fried, but you get my drift. Anyway, regardless, when it's just what you fancy (and it was) it is unbeatable.

Soundtrack today comes from New York's own Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and the punky first album. Fun band who don't take themselves too seriously - guitar, drums and singer (The hugely charismatic Karen O). None of the songs outstay their welcome and if you don't like this one - well, there'll be another one along in a minute.

This is 'Y Control' from Fever to Tell. Think it must have been a bit cold onstage...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Day 62: End of Season Blues

Today's soundtrack: Various Artists - Concert for George

Off to Goodison then, for the last home game of the season, against West Ham. The last couple of home games have been a touch frustrating - one eye on the cup final I think - but West Ham have always been the sort of team to allow you to play a bit of football so I was hopeful of a good game and a couple of goals as well.

Earlier, ManYoo did just enough against Arsenal to win the premiership for the 18th time, thereby equalling Liverpool's record. They will be upset!

The game started well, with plenty of neat passing and Fellaini imposing himself on the game more than he has done recently - he seems to have got the silly fouls and bookings out of his system now, and is beginning to settle into his advanced role in midfield. We had loads of possession but lacked the 'killer' ball into the box to capitalise. Then, out of nothing, West Ham scored with a rocket of a shot from way outside the area. A suggestion that Howard could have done better but it was an excellent goal, right out of nothing.

Pleasingly, we did not panic (at this stage, anyway) and kept pressing. Got our reward before half time when Tim Cahill was tripped in the area when through on goal. Last man, red card. I know it's the letter of the law, but it did strike me as harsh. Saha converted the penalty and we went in at half time level, and deservedly so.

Then, a few minutes into the second half, we were ahead, Joe Yobo drifting in at the back post to shoot through a crowd of players from a Pienaar corner. Should be game over, against ten men, but then we did let West Ham back into the game a touch on the break, and they had a couple of very decent chances to pull level. Luckily, Howard was equal to the task and the score stayed at 2-1.

Finally we got the third, decisive goal. Made by the excellent Steven Pienaar, shimmying past the defender to the byline and squaring just beyond Green's lunge for Saha to score the easiest goal he'll ever score. Comfortable, and a chance to give some of the reserves a runout as Moyes looks to finalise his Cup Final team.

Lars Jacobsen will have done his chances a power of good with a composed performance at full back, and there was a good runout for Saha, who must be favourite to start up front with Vaughan on the bench. Excellent performances from Fellaini and Pienaar as well, and Phil Neville was very impressive in centre mid.

After the final whistle, the end of season lap of honour took place - nice to see Phil Jagielka out there, as well as the Yak and Victor. No Arteta, who is presumably back in Spain at the moment.

In other news, Newcastle got thrown right back into the mire, being beaten at home by Fulham. As much as I would love to see them go down, I have to say they were very harshly treated by their ref, disallowing what looked to be a perfectly good goal. Villa were held as well, which allows us to claim fifth spot, which we shall retain if we beat Fulham at Craven Cottage next week.

Then home, for Moroccan chicken wraps (yum!) and the new(ish) Guy Richie, 'Rock-n-Rolla'. Not a bad film, although by half-concentrating I didn't really keep up with what was happening and the film seemed to lack any particularly likeable characters to identify with. Nice to see Idris Elba in the film, although his English accent just sounded wrong when you're used to his Baltimore twang. And yes, I do know he is actually English!

The soundtrack today is from the tribute concert to George Harrison organised by his family and Eric Clapton, featuring Paul and Ringo, along with Clapton, Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty amongst others. The concert is out there on DVD and is well worth watching.

Two highlights for me - Macca starting 'Something' on solo ukulele, before being joined by Clapton and the rest, and then best of all Joe Brown - also on ukulele - performing 'I'll See You in my Dreams' as the final number.

For some reason YouTube seems to have no clips from the concert itself, so here's Joe performing the song on Jools Holland...

Friday, May 15, 2009

Day 61: Cash and Costello

Today's soundtrack: Elvis Costello - When I Was Cruel

Out early this morning to do Big Shop, picking up all the ingredients for the weekend's culinary adventures. It's (almost) a pleasure doing the shopping early in the morning - very few customers and freshly stocked shelves, and ladies on the till with time to chat and to help you pack your bags.

Tonight we're having a Beef Stroganoff, a really simple dish that's very difficult to get wrong. Although I have managed to get it wrong in the past, my enthusiasm for black pepper sometimes getting the better of me. Mrs W has warned me that she does not expect a repeat performance tonight...

The quality of your Stroganoff really depends on the quality of your beef. So don't skimp. Fillet is best, but any decent frying steak should also be ok. Cut your beef into thin strips and dust with flour that has been seasoned with salt and ground black pepper (but go easy on the pepper...). The easy way to do this is to stick your flour and seasoning in a plastic freezer bag, chuck your meaty strips in as well, twist the bag to seal and shake everything about until the individual bits of meat are coated and not sticking to each other.

Then fry off your seasoned meat very quickly on a very hot flame, in some olive oil. You want your meat to fry, not boil, so make sure it is as dry as possible before seasoning. You should also fry in batches if necessary - don't overload your frying pan.

Take the cooked meat out of the pan and put to one side. They fry some chopped onion - at least one medium onion, more if you want. Then add loads of mushrooms - whole button mushrooms for preference, but sliced if too big. Most recipes would pass on the garlic, but you won't go far wrong adding a sliced clove or two at this stage.

Fry it all up, then return the meat and juices to the pan. If you're flash, add some brandy and set fire to it. If you're not, don't bother! Finally stir in some cream - sour for authenticity but regular will be fine, creme fraiche if you're on a diet - and serve with rice. You could sprinkle a touch of paprika on top as well (or better still, add the paprika to the 'dusting' flour).

That'll be us tonight, with a nice healthy bottle of red and a crappy film. Tasty!

Bit of admin today - bought the car and was pleased to get a tax disc in the post which I'm not expecting to pay for. Also pleased to see that my final monthly lease payment was a month earlier than I thought, saving me a few bob too.

The agency I spoke to on Monday continues to pull out the stops as well - firstly contacting my ex-boss for a reference ('glowing', I'm assured) and then calling me about a potential project role. Got a good feeling about this bunch...

Having finished Human Traces, I needed to start a new book and at the top of the unread pile was a biography of Johnny Cash, the Man in Black. I'm not a great country fan, but have a lot of time for Johnny Cash's work - there are three key phases of his career that I really enjoy; his initial recordings for Sun (I Walk The Line, Ring of Fire, Folsom Prison Blues ("I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die")), his 'Prison' albums at San Quentin and Folsom (the audience reaction to the song 'San Quentin' at that prison is absolutely chilling) and finally the 'American Recordings' he did with Rick Rubin at the end of his career, particularly his reading of Nine Inch Nail's 'Hurt'.

Here's San Quentin and Hurt. If Hurt doesn't make your eyes itch, you've got no soul....

More Costello on the soundtrack today - it's probably fair to say that over the years, Elvis has given me more pleasure than any other artist and, although When I Was Cruel is not one of my favourite Costello albums, an 'average' Costello album is generally still miles better than most other peoples' best. When I Was Cruel is a 'rockier' album than most of his recent stuff, harking back to his Attractions days. If I could find it, I'd post it, but there is a great clip (from Jonathan Ross I think) of two of my favourite bands together - Elvis performing 'Tear Off Your Own Head' from this album, backed by Liverpool's mighty Amsterdam. I've got it on an Amsterdam DVD, but can't find it on YouTube, which is playing silly buggers at the moment...

Found it!