Monday, August 31, 2009

Day 169a: God Bless Peter Wylie

Who once said...

"...well that's my story and i'm sticking to that. So let's have another drink and let's talk about the Blues.

Blues is about dignity, it's about self-respect, and no matter what they take away from you - that's yours for keeps. I remember how it was, how every medium - T.V. and papers and radio and all those people were saying: 'You're on the scrap-heap, you're useless', and I remember how easy it was to start believing that. I remember how you'd hear people take it for granted that it was true - just 'cause someone with an ounce of power said so. And that's a problem now, too many oddballs, too many pocketbook psychologists and would-be philosophers with an axe to grind. But there's a solution, it's not easy, but it's a matter of coming to terms in your heart with the situation you're in, a matter of choosing how things go for you and not having things forced upon you. There are plenty of forces against you, forcing you against your will, your ideals - you've got to hope for the best, and that's the best you can hope for - you've got to hope against hope...

I remember something Sal Paradise* once said, he said: 'The city intellectuals of the world are divorced from the folk-bodied blood of the land and are just rootless fools'. So listen, when the smile, the condescending pat on the back comes and says: 'We're sorry, but you're nothing, you've got nothing for us and we've got nothing for you', you say: 'No', and say it loud: "NO!", and remember, people who talk about revolution and a class struggle without referring explicitly to everyday life, without understanding what is subversive about love, and what is positive in refusal and constraint...such people have a corpse in their mouth..."

The Story of the Blues. Never forget. Say it loud - "NO!"

*actually it was Jack Dulouz, not that it matters much.

Day 169: The Season Starts Here!

Today's soundtrack: The Sundays - Blind

Off to Goodison today, for my first home league game of the season - a season that has started disconcertingly poorly, with defeats to Arsenal and Burnley (Burnley! Bloody Hell...) and the grand total of nil points so far. Despite our success so far in Europe, back home we started the day propping up the rest of the Premiership.

So Wigan. Surely to God we would get something out of this one? Well, we did, but oh so nearly slipped up again.

A new look defence for Everton, with Sylvan Distin making his debut alongside Joseph Yobo. His introduction meant Phil Neville moving back into midfield, and Fellaini dropping to the bench, along with our other new signing Diniyar Bilyaletdinov (henceforth to be referred to as 'Billy'). Wigan lined up in a disconcertingly dayglo orange kit, and looked like a mean bunch of buggers. And so it proved, as they adopted a very physical approach to the game that knocked us out of our stride somewhat. We struggled to create chances, they didn't look interested in creating chances, and so nil-nil at half time was not really surprising.

After the break, we continued to press forward but to little real effect until, on the half hour, the inevitable happened and a Wigan break ended up with Scharner (again! He always scores against us!) bundling the ball in, unmarked, at the far post.

Happily the goal seemed to spur us on and we equalised shortly afterwards, although not before another scare when Wigan hit the post on another breakaway. Our goal came from a corner, Louis Saha heading home despite being surrounded by Wigan defenders. A fit Louis Saha will be a potent weapon for us this season, I'm sure - he's looking sharp and strong, although he did fade badly with around fifteen minutes to go.

At 1-1, we pressed harder and harder, going close on a number of occasions although again, we nearly got caught out on the break, when Wigan broke in numbers (7 vs 2!) after a succession of Everton corners. We kept pressing though, and got our reward in the third minute of injury time when Jo (on for Saha) was brought down in the box. Penalty! Up stepped Leighton Baines, against his old club, to score (just) and give us our first win of the season.

Deserved, if hard fought, and hopefully we can kick on from here. Distin settled in immediately and could be a great buy for us. Fellaini looked sharp and motivated when he came on, and Rodwell continues to improve at an exponential rate.

A few more signings before deadline day, and who knows?

In other news, the Grand Prix ended in tears very early on for both Button and Hamilton, both shunted off the track on the first lap. Kimi Raikkionen eventually won, with Giancarlo Fissichella's Force India in second place. None of Button's championship rivals were able to do too much to dent his lead in the Drivers' Championship, which he looks like winning more and more by default.

The Sundays on this Sunday's soundtrack, with 'Blind', their second album which, although ok, is not a patch on their marvellous debut, 'Reading, Writing and Arithmetic'. Never heard The Sundays? Imagine a cross between The Smiths and the Cocteau Twins, and you'll be reasonably close. Jangly Marr-esque guitars courtesy of Dave Gavurin, dreamy female vocals from Harriet Wheeler (surely the only Harriet in rock?) and Morrissey-esque lyrics and song titles ('I Kicked a Boy', 'My Finest Hour', 'Here's Where the Story Ends').

This track is a bit of a departure for the band, being a cover, but it's such a good version you deserve to hear it. It's the Sones' 'Wild Horses' and it's beautiful.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Day 168: Paperboy

Today's soundtrack: Eli 'Paperboy' Reed and the True Loves - Roll With You

A quiet one today, with all the chores done in the week and no shopping to do. I sent Mrs W down to the village store for one or two things needed for tonight's tea, then settled down with the Saturday paper for the morning. Time was, Saturday's paper resembled the rest of the week's editions with the Sunday behemoth being the one with all the extras. Nowadays, both weekend papers are stuffed to the gunnels with gubbins and, if anything, it's the Saturday edition that appeals more. Especially when Sundays are taken up more and more with football, delayed from Saturday because of European commitments or Sky requirements.

With it being the bank holiday, the paper had extra puzzle supplements which might while away another few hours in the week - especially now the nights are drawing in!

With the paper open, I only kept half an eye on the GP qualifying, which seemed to turn accepted wisdom on its head - both Button and Hamilton failing to make the top ten and the Red Bulls struggling. A Force India on pole? What's that all about? Maybe it's now time for Rubens Barrichello to make a charge for the championship - anything is possible in this topsy turvy year.

I caught bits of the ManYoo/Arsenal game on the Sky Player on the computer. Unfortunately the feed got worse as the game continued, constantly buffering, so I pretty much gave up after the first half and concentrated on the evening's culinary exploits. Never get this problem with my snide Asian feeds!

Back on the cottage pie tonight, stuffed full of mushrooms, carrots and celery alongside the meat, with a healthy topping of cheesy mash. You've already had the recipe on Day 54 so I won't repeat it here - just gaze upon its majesty opposite!

Very nice it was too.

While I was cooking, with Mrs W happily ensconced in the lounge watching the X Factor, I watched a bit of the day's Reading coverage, confirming that a) despite his general aceness, Ian Brown couldn't carry a tune in a bucket and b) Enter Shikari are awful beyond compare. Then I chanced upon a Seasick Steve documentary on BBC4, which was worth the price of the Freeview box alone.

We watched The Reader tonight - a bit worthy for us, given our normal film selection, but very good. At least it was until the lights went out - I missed the last half hour or so due to excessive sleepiness, no doubt brought about by excessive drinkiness!

Eli 'Paperboy' Reed on the soundtrack today - if you've not heard him, you should seek him out. A young white American boy, with the voice of an Otis or a Wilson. Retro soul stylings, but done well and with an understanding of the music that Amy Winehouse could never hope to achieve.

Here he is on Jools last year, giving it some welly. Beyonce's sister on backing vocals, celebrity spotters!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Day 167: Holiday - Let's Celebrate?

Today's soundtrack: Shelleydevoto - Buzzkunst

Mayhem at Waring Towers this morning, as our normal Friday morning awakening was augmented by a giddy bunch of holidaymakers looking forward to a week of sun, sand and general frolicery. Not for Mrs W and myself just yet though, although Mrs W has taken next week off , so today was her last day at work for a while. Me? Every day's a holiday for me.

I was designated driver for the day, so after a quick breakfast for the troops (having convinced our four year old guest that 'blue' milk and 'green' milk were essentially the same thing), the wagon was loaded and we set off for the airport. Terminal Three, as Mrs W had reminded me. Once or twice.

After dropping family and cases off at the airport, I headed off to the Trafford Centre. It was my mam's birthday today, so I needed to sort out card and presents for her. One of the joys of having workdays free is the opportunity to get to the shops at less busy times, although on the Friday before a bank holiday in the middle of the summer holidays, the shops were not as quiet as I would have liked. Still, I managed to get what I needed - plus a new clock radio for the bedroom - DAB, don't you know, with an iPod dock as well. Since getting my iPhone, my older iPods have been somewhat neglected so I though this would be a good way of getting some use out of the thing. Oh, and I also did a quick Markys run, stocking up on tasty ready meals for the Bank Holiday.

Marks and Sparks is a strange shop in the Trafford Centre - they seem to have squeezed three floors into the space of two, and the whole store feels cramped and overcrowded rather than light and airy. It's not actually that pleasant a shopping experience, I have to say.

Back home, to spend a nice gadgety hour or so setting up the radio, finding new radio stations and allocating preset slots. Pleased with it, it sounds good and isn't overcomplicated (it's a Roberts, by the way - there is a similar model made by Pure but that's ten quid more expensive and doesn't look as robust). Not tested the alarm yet - but one nice touch is that the alarm can be set separately for weekdays and for weekends, so no need to reset for Saturdays and Sundays. The things they can do, eh?

Then I spent a ridiculous amount of time emptying and refilling my old iPod. Initially it was confused by the fact that I'd changed computers since I last used it, but a factory restore sorted out that confusion. Deciding to fill the thing manually rather than automatically (why, Paul, why?) I then spent a couple of sessions dragging and dropping albums and tracks from iTunes to iPod. Finally finished at about two thirty in the morning, on the back of a bottle of red and a little whisky, so God only knows what stuff I decided to copy across in the early hours!

Touch more Trafford before I sign off - Howard Trafford, to be precise, who became Howard Devoto, originally a Buzzcock, latterly (and most recently) a Magazine. Six or seven years ago, well before the current Magazine reunion, he orchestrated a mini-reunion with his old Buzzcocks mucker, Pete Shelley under the inspired moniker Shelleydevoto. They released one album - Buzzkunst (see what they nearly did there?) - that received some critical acclaim and sold about thirty copies, I think.

Keyboard rather than guitar-driven, the album's a slight departure from the norm for both Shelley and Devoto, but as a fan of both, it's a neat little curio that deserves to be dusted off once in a while.

This is 'Til The Stars in His Eyes Are Dead, performed live - on a video clip that actually appears on the CD release as a 'bonus' video file. Howard manages to convince during the course of the video that shorts on a middle-aged man are a definite no-no!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Day 166: Clean Up Man (Will Wipe Your Blues Away)

Today's soundtrack: The Undertones - The Sin of Pride

Now I wouldn't want you to get the impression that we live in a house that is in less than pristine condition at all times, but I am sure it is no coincidence that whenever we have guests to stay, their arrival is generally preceded by a whirlwind of cleaning activity that just doesn't happen when it's only the two of us.

And so it was today. Mrs W's bessie mate from Birmingham was coming up to stay overnight, with her bloke and two kids. Mrs W was at work, so I was given my list of chores. Up early, washing machine on. Two spare beds made up, clean sheets, duvet and pillow cases. Kitchen floor swept and mopped. Washing on line, dried in the tentative August sunshine and finished off in he dryer. Spare sheet taken from the dryer and used to finish off the bed-making. Clean towels in the bedroom.

And after all that, I mowed the lawn as well! Phew!

All finished by five, at which time I was able to flop down in front of the telly to watch the (not so) mighty Blues in action in the Czech Republic, the second leg of the Europa League qualifiers. Going into the game with a 4-0 lead, you'd expect it to be plain sailing. And, ultimately, it was. But Everton being Everton, we had to make it difficult for ourselves along the way. This time, by contriving to get Tony Hibbert sent off after seven minutes, leaving us with 10 men for the bulk of the game. Happily, after the inevitable wobble, we took advantage of the aggregate cushion to sit back and invite Sigma onto us, soaking up the pressure relatively easily and, eventually, taking the lead just before half time. 5-0 on aggregate, an away goal, leaving Sigma to get 6 goals from somewhere if they were to go through. Happily, Sigma are not Arsenal, and the rest of the game was played out like a training match, Moyes taking advantage of the lead to give two of the kids (Baxter and Wallace) a run, and even giving The Yak a late stroll to help shake off some rustiness. Sigma got an equaliser from a well-worked free kick, but the game had been over as a spectacle for a long while by then.

Job done, draw for the league stage tomorrow.

Oh - and Sylvin Distin + £18m for Joleon Lescott - a hell of a good bit of business, Everton! (Sorry Stu!)

Elaine and Billy did not turn up until about half eight, so we managed to squeeze in yet another Shield before they arrived. Off to bed after a bit of chit chat, airport run tomorrow!

The Undertones started off as a bunch of skinny, feral kids from Derry, churning out some of the catchiest, poppiest, punkiest songs of the late seventies. Teenage Kicks obviously, but also Get Over You, Mars Bars, Jimmy Jimmy and My Perfect Cousin were all pure pop music with a touch of bite. Over the course of their four albums however, they matured and developed dramatically as a band, losing most of their audience in the process but still producing some magical stuff. The Sin of Pride was their final album, by which time they'd adopted some soul stylings and started writing about more than Chocolate and Girls. And a fine album it is too, possibly their best. Love Before Romance, Got To Have You Back, Chain of Love and the marvellous Love Parade hinted at a group just discovering their potential. Sadly there was to be no more from the original Undertones, Feargal Sharkey going solo before becoming an important record business executive (really!) while the O'Neill brothers formed That Petrol Emotion, adding a harder, political edge to their music.

Here's the video for The Love Parade, a great song by any standards.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Day 165: Nothing (much) Ever Happens

Today's soundtrack: Leonard Cohen - Songs of Love and Hate

After the excitement of the last couple of days, today was a relatively quiet one and nothing (much) did indeed happen. But no mind - not every day can be a whirlwind of event and happening. So let's talk about what did happen today, then let's find something more interesting to talk about.

An early shopping trip was required - ostensibly to pick up one or two ingredients for tonight's tea (another Aussie Steak Combo, if you're interested - Mrs W's latest foodie craze). Not that I'm complaining - what's not to like about a baguette, stuffed with steak, bacon, cheese and fried onions? Nothing - that's what! It's not quite enough, on its own, to commend the festival lifestyle to Mrs W, but it's doing its bit! Anyway, the shopping trip turned out a bit more expensive than anticipated, as I spotted a particular Sauvignon Blanc that Mrs W likes on the shelf (Montgolfier) so a couple of bottles found their way into the trolley, as did a digital set-top box for the portable telly in the kitchen.

Back home, and the set top box was duly installed with surprisingly little fuss. So we can now watch over fifty channels of crap in the kitchen, instead of the previous five. And listen to the radio, if we are so minded. Mrs W, as I knew she would, had a few words to say about the thick black lines that have now appeared at the top and bottom of the telly as our old analogue box struggles with a widescreen feed, but hey, that's progress, honey.

And that was really as exciting as it got all day, I'm afraid. A bit of housework, stripping beds prior to the arrival of some houseguests tomorrow and that's yer lot, really. A bit of blogging, a bit of surfing, a bit of reading.

The Aussie Steak Combos were, of course, to die for. Ribeye rather than Sirloin, I would suggest.

So what else shall we talk about today?

I did place a cheeky order with Amazon for the final series of The Shield (that would be Series 7 -we are halfway through Series 5 at the moment and Series 6 is waiting on the shelf, but best to be prepared) and the new Arctic Monkeys album (and you can read what Son No 2 has to say about that album right here), as well as the DVD release of Tutti Frutti, which you may remember from back in the 80's...Scottish Rock & Roll Band? Robbie Coltrane? Emma Thompson? A pre-Victor Meldrew Richard Wilson? Well you should - very good it was too.

So what's been happening in the real world then? Well, it was Back To The Seventies in the East End last night, as football hooliganism reared its ugly head again. I'm old enough to remember (but far too wimpy/sensible/whatever to have ever been involved in) the regular outbreaks of trouble home and away, that led to fences - and that ultimately led to the tragedy of Hillsborough as those very fences pinned in people trying to escape the crush behind them. So it pains me to see such scenes all over again - we can just hope it is a one-off incident. I suppose if it was going to kick off anywhere, West Ham vs Millwall is as likely a place as any. Wonder if Harry The Dog is still out there, leading from the front?

Continuing the Seventies theme, I have started reading David Peace's 'Red Riding' quadrilogy that was recently filmed and shown on TV. I deliberately didn't see the series, wanting to read the books first. I'm most of the way through the first of the four (1974) and it's a dark old read for sure. Was the Seventies really as grim as it's painted? It didn't feel that way at the time to me.

All this talk of grim miserablism brings us neatly to today's featured artist, Laughing Leonard Cohen. I don't just throw these blogs together, you know. However much it might look like that.

Sadly, I missed Len at Glastonbury the other year - his performance there, and his subsequent shows, have firmly cemented his reputation as an international treasure, and seem to have given the lie to the cliche'd picture of him as a performer of miserable dirges, consumed by self-possessed students in their solitary bedsits wallowing in self-pity. Turns out he's actually quite a chap, and the miserablism is a bit of a myth.

Songs of Love and Hate was his third album (look! He's smiling on the cover!), with a 'Love' side and a 'Hate' side on the original vinyl. The album is probably best known (and loved) for its inclusion of the original of 'Famous Blue Raincoat', one of Len's most covered songs.

Here's Len performing Famous Blue Raincoat back in the Seventies (that decade again!) - on German TV, I think. Great performance with a nice sax solo about half way through as well.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Day 164: Interview Day!

Today's soundtrack: Elvis Costello & the Imposters - Momofuku

Up early then, to avoid any traffic problems on my way into Manchester. These initial interviews were being held at the agency's offices, rather than on the company's premises. I parked up in my old parking space in plenty of time. A quick wander around the city centre to gather my thoughts, then into the offices where a quick glance at the signing in book suggested I was second on. Didn't recognise the name of number one candidate!

After a quick coffee, I was escorted into the office occupied by the company's FD. And for the next hour we had what I felt was a good, informal chat around the company, the role, my background and 'fit' for the role. At the conclusion of the interview, he said he'd 'enjoyed' the interview (hopefully a good sign!) but had two 'questions' (potential concerns, I suppose) about my suitability for the role - one concerning my seniority (essentially my willingness to roll my sleeves up and get my hands dirty) and the other concerning the acceptability of the proposed package (which is significantly more than £64 per week, but less than I have been earning). I answered the questions as best I could, then went out for a coffee with the consultant handling the appointment from the agency's perspective for a debrief.

With the promise of a phone call at the end of the day to update me on progress, I headed off back home. From my perspective, the meeting had reinforced my belief that there was enough 'meat' in the role to interest me, that this was a company I could see myself working for, and that, importantly, the FD was someone I would be happy to work for.

After a quick change out of my suit, it was off to Warrington to remind myself just why I need to get back working as soon as possible. Yes, it was signing on day! Nice to be able to tell them I'd been for an interview that morning, they do like to hear of some - any - progress, and it tends to stop them pushing accounts assistant roles in my direction.

Back home, and pretty drained after the morning's activities, a spot of baking and reading was in order. It looks like the Lescott deal has been concluded - finally - with Everton splashing some cash on Diniyar Bilyaletdinov, a left winger from Lokomotiv Moscow. Who he? You might well ask. Can he play centre back though? Hopefully rumours that Sylvain Distin is on the way are well-founded as I could see him doing a good job for us.

Six-thirty and the all-important phone call came through - and it's looking positive. Of the five candidates interviewed today, two have been 'dropped' - and I'm not one of the two! The FD is sleeping on the way forward - which might involve a further pruning of the three still in the race - prior to further meetings, probably with the Chief Exec and the Chair of the Audit Committee. But as it stands, I'm still in the game.

Elvis on the soundtrack, from one of his more recent albums. A glance at the 'top artists' to the right of all this guff will show just how much regard I have for the former Declan McManus, either solo or in collaboration with others. Ever since 'My Aim is True' in 1977, I have as a matter of course bought all his work, including re-releases, deluxe editions etc. It's not quite an obsession, but it's not far off.

Momofuku is Elvis's last but one album, and is rockier than some of his more recent efforts. Which is not always a good thing with Elvis, particularly as he has aged - sometimes the rockiness feels a bit forced. For me, the more mature Costello is better suited to working with the likes of Allen Toussaint and Burt Bacharach in a more 'mature' style. That said, Momofuku (awful cover apart) is one of his better recent efforts and well worth a listen. The title is a reference to Momofuku Ando, the inventor of instant ramen noodles. Make of that what you will!

Here's a good one. It's Elvis and his missus, Diana Krall, alongside Willie Nelson, singing Willie's classic tune 'Crazy'. Doesn't get much better than this. Nice head of hair for a mature gentleman, Willie!

Day 163: Research Day

Today's soundtrack: Radiohead - Hail to the Thief

Busy day today, I needed to get myself ready for the interview the following day - which meant finding out as much as I could, from as many public sources as I could, about the company interviewing me. Which, essentially, means trawling through all the information on their two websites - the 'public' website which is the link between the company and its customers (real and potential), and more importantly, the 'investors' website, which includes more formal and statutory documentation including press releases and full/interim reports and accounts.

So the day was spent surfing, reading, downloading and putting a few thoughts/summaries down on paper. How did we do all this before the internet? With a lot more legwork, and a lot more lead time, to track down, order, receive and review what information we could.

In one sense it's great, because all the information you should need is readily available (to anyone with access to a computer and a broadband connection) but it does mean that there is no excuse for going into the interview room underprepared.

So I read, and thought, and read some more.

The other advantage of there being so much information readily available is that it allows me to make an informed decision as to whether this is the sort of company I'd be happy working for. And so far, the signs are good. Yes, they've had a rough twelve months or so, but so have most organisations. It is clear they have acted decisively to address the issues brought about by the credit crunch, to ensure they are positioned as well as they can be to take advantage of the opportunities that will arise post-recession. They have a clear commitment to corporate responsibility, to the health and safety of their workforce and their customers, and it is clear that they are a business with a well-defined long-term strategy that is still in place, despite the need to address short-term pressures.

All well and good, but what is really important (for me, at least) are the people. And I get my chance to meet the Finance Director tomorrow. Of course, he's got to like me as well...

Son No 1 headed back down south after lunch, leaving me and the cat to our own devices. Which in his case, meant doing a touch more hunting. I was on the phone to the recruitment consultant, talking about tomorrow's interview, when I spotted the Hunter crossing the lawn with something small and wriggly between his jaws. Which was a bit distracting, to say the least! Luckily I got through the call quickly, and managed to corner the Beast before too much damage was done. Vole and Cat were separated and each went their separate ways, cat indoors for another 'grounded' session!

In other recruitment news, I took a call from another agency about some contract work which sound quite interesting. Not so interesting as to distract me from the interview tomorrow, but definitely something to consider if this role goes nowhere.

Finally some Radiohead on the soundtrack. Hail to the Thief is the third of the 'difficult' albums (following Kid A and Amnesiac) that the band released after the "Greatest Album Ever" that was OK Computer. Hail to the Thief represents a slight return to the rockier end of the Radiohead scale, and is less wilfully 'difficult' than its two predecessors. Nevertheless from my perspective it's an album to be admired rather than adored.

Here they are performing the album's opening track, 2+2=5, on Letterman. With loads of guitars and real drums!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Day 162: Great Sport (and Everton...)

Today's soundtrack: Catatonia - International Velvet

A day to feast on the best sport around - oh, and to catch the Everton - Burnley game as well.

Firstly the European Grand Prix, which took place around the back alleys of an industrial estate between the beach and the docks in Valencia, so far as I could make out. Jenson Button continued his one-man effort to throw away the most commanding lead in the driers' championship in Formula One history, whilst McLaren contrived to chuck away victory by getting the tyres out for Lewis Hamilton five seconds later than they should have done. Millions of pounds of investment in the best technology money can buy, and the race is lost because they can't have the tyres ready when they are needed.

Which all contrived to give Rubens Barrichello his first win in five years, and he looked like he enjoyed it a lot. I especially liked his jerky little dance when he got out onto the podium. There should be more silly little dances by obscenely wealthy sportsmen and women.

A quick dash from the TV to the computer, to watch Everton play Burnley on Shanghai Sports with some flavour of Chinese commentary. Everton continue to press the self-destruct button by a) defending like twelve year olds in the first half and b) missing the penalty they were gifted that would have brought them level. I hate it when we have to play the newly promoted teams early on in the season, when they are still fired up and believing anything is possible. Can we bounce back in a ManYooesque fashion at the weekend? Don't bet on it.

After a detour to collect Son No 1 from his Skye trip, I caught the tail end of the Ashes. And at last there was something to cheer about, by virtue of the Aussies being even worse than we are and shooting themselves in the foot just when it looked like they were possibly going to pull off an unlikely upset.

Called Son No 2 on the phone, to discover mid-conversation that The Hunter had cornered another bird, this time outside, beneath the kitchen window. Managed to get the cat indoors, although the bird (which was clearly still alive and, as far as I could tell, unharmed) didn't seem inclined to move anywhere. A few hours later, the poor thing was still there, and it became increasingly obvious that the trauma was going to do it in, even if it was physically undamaged.

Very sad, but the poor thing's catatonia does give me an-in-no-way contrived link to today's soundtrack, the first album by the Welsh funsters' first album. A patchy affair, rescued by the wonderful 'Mulder and Scully' and 'Road Rage' - and, of course, Cerys' accent which comes deep from the valleys.

Here's Mulder and Scully at Netaid in 1999. Does your mother know you've gone out dressed like that, Cerys?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Day 161: Chapati Party!

Today's soundtrack: Various Artists - The Best Disco Album in the World...Ever!

Some more minor culinary triumphs today, again involving the breadmaker - the invention of which must be the best thing since, er, sliced bread, and which clearly represents the pinnacle of human achievement. Apart from the iPhone, of course.

Highlight was probably luncheon, BLTs made with grilled back bacon, iceberg lettuce and vine tomatoes on freshly baked bread spread with mayonnaise - bread so fresh it couldn't be cut with an ordinary bread knife, only an electric knife was capable of dealing with the loaf's combination of crustiness and squishiness.

BLTs were eaten whilst watching qualifying for the European Grand Prix. It should be an interesting race tomorrow, Hamilton on pole in a McLaren that now appears to be competitive again. The Brawns and Red Bulls are there or thereabouts, with Button a rather lacklustre fifth on the grid, behind Vettel. The resurgence of McLaren is probably the best thing that could happen for Brawn, if it stops Red Bull from dominating the second half of the season. McLaren are too far off the pace to catch Brawn themselves, but they could do enough to stop Red Bull gaining the points they need to overhaul Button. It should be a very interesting second half of the season!

My second minor culinary triumph came at teatime. Not so much with the main meal itself, a Sainsbury's curry just flung into the oven (hugely tasty though said curry is), rather with the accompaniment - the chapatis. I realised that I'd forgotten to buy any chapatis so, if our feast was not to be chapati-free, we either had to haul ourselves down to the supermarket to buy some or - genius! Make our own!

So that's what I decided to do. The breadmaker could take care of the messy mixing stuff, and I would do the rolling and cooking. I eventually found a recipe on t'internet since my own cookbooks were silent on the subject - no easy task since most recipes were either American (measuring quantities in 'cups' - no use to me) or were vague about quantities. No use for me - it was only the quantities I was interested in, there's hardly a massive list of ingredients for a chapati (flour, water, salt, if you're interested).

So everything got chucked into the breadmaker and I decided to go with the pizza dough programme. No rising to worry about, just mix it all up and give me a lump of dough to play with. While all that was going on, I got chatting to my old colleague Noordad on this new-fangled Windows Messenger thing I'd decided to switch on today - he kindly offered advice if I needed it, but thought I'd best make my own mistakes first. I may be wrong but I think it's Ramadan at the moment, so it was probably a bit cruel to be talking food with the lad while it was still daylight!

Anyway. The dough came out a bit too sticky, but with a bit more flour I got it into a manageable state. Breaking off golf ball-sized lumps, I rolled out a batch of very thin circles and dry-fried them in the frying pan. And they were pretty good, actually. I thought they'd puff up more than they did, but what came out of the pan was recognisably chapati-ish and did a grand job of mopping up the curry sauces. Typically, Mrs W preferred the ones I'd cooked for slightly too long and had gone a touch crispy in places, but I think I got the balance right with most of them. No pictures, I'm afraid.

Mrs W has regained the will to live, with the return of X-Factor. I remain unmoved. For the first few weeks we are in the 'care in the community' phase of the competition, which I am always slightly uncomfortable with. It's the modern day equivalent of going to see the inmates at Bedlam, in my view. At least child abuse is less of a concern here, unlike Britain's Got Talent, as there are some age guidelines in place to prevent really young competitors being traumatised by the stress of the competition and the bullying of their parents.

Ahem. Rant over.

Bit of disco on the soundtrack today. I've got quite a few of these "The Best......Album...Ever!" compilations and the hit to miss ratio is actually pretty good. And there's nowt wrong with a bit of disco, whatever I might have thought back in the day when I was busy fighting the Punk Wars.

The highlight of this album for me is the wonderful Candi Staton's "Young Hearts Run Free", which I secretly liked when it was originally released, although I'd never have admitted that to anyone.

I saw Ms Staton at Glastonbury last year and she was ace. Me standing at the front grinning like a loon and singing along like a good 'un. I had a horrible feeling I was captured on film doing this, but luckily the BBC chose to spare the nation the sight of me, unwashed and hirsute, giving it large on the big screen.

I can't find any original clips of Candi doing 'Young Hearts', but here's her re-recording of the track back in 1999. Still a very fine version sung by a very classy, sassy lady.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Day 160: Party Party

Today's soundtrack: Beethoven : Symphony No.6 in F major Op.68, 'Pastoral'

Ooooh look! We've gone all cultural today! I like this one too. What did they advertise with this one?

I have to say, it's a lot more relaxing, typing to a spot of Beethoven rather than to, say, The Rezillos. Time and a place I guess.

Anyway - what have we been up to today?

Out early to do the shopping - just a quick one as we aren't planning any major culinary activity over the weekend, and - remarkably - the booze cupboard is reasonably well stocked just now.

No household chores today either - I've done enough this week to set male emancipation back decades so the rest of my chores can wait awhile.

All in all then, it was a bit of a lazy day really. Caught up on the football gossip - all is remarkably calm in the Everton camp at the moment, it's remarkable how one good result can turn things round quite quickly.

No job activity to report either, other than one phone call from my favourite consultant, who is trying manfully to get me in front of another firm of accountants - despite a series of delays, it now looks like something might happen in the next couple of weeks. Just a chat, not an interview, but the more people I can get in front of the better.

The Hunter brought another little critter in today, unfortunately I didn't get there quickly enough to rescue this one but I think its despatch was swift and unmessy at least.

Tonight though, we partied like it was 1999 in Runcorn! Well, we sat quietly eating and drinking in a corner for a few hours like it was 1999. Our 'partying' days are a bit behind us now I fear. That said, it was a really nice night - one of Mrs W's work colleagues was celebrating her 30th birthday and we'd been invited along.

Big mix of ages - full family affair with friends and a few work colleagues - the sort of do Peter Kay built a career poking gentle fun at. We settled down with a few of Mrs W's workmates for a drink and a chat, then weighed into the buffet before the band came on.

Yep, we had a band! And they were pretty good too. Not your typical party band, they rocked too much for that! I recognised some Foo Fighters and QOTSA in there, and one other song that is still bugging me - a 'tip of my tongue' tune that I just can't place. It'll come to me. Eventually.

Before it got too late, Mrs W's homing instinct kicked in and we left quietly. Not before spotting that our hostess, who had been fretting early on about how it would turn out, looked to be perfectly relaxed and happy on the dancefloor. Which is as it should be.

The buffet had been more than good enough to put the kibosh on Mrs W's plan to drop in for a kebab on the way home, so we got straight back, uncorked the wine and flopped in front of the telly.

God, we're getting old.

After Mrs W admitted defeat, I took the rest of the wine into the study, stuck the headphones on and played some choons loudly until the early hours. Normally when I do this, the whisky gets opened at some stage and I wake up in the study chair at around 4:30, head flung back, slobber dripping from the corner of my mouth and a slightly tickly throat from all the snoring I've been doing. This time however sanity prevailed and I remained compos mentis until admitting defeat myself around half two.

The evening's soundtrack included a lot of Prince - and just how talented is the fun-sized popster from Minneapolis? Great songs, fantastic virtuosity on a range of instruments and despite being about three feet tall, a bit of a hit with the ladies, I gather.

And why not, when you can churn out stuff like this? This is from the 2004 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame concert, a tribute to George Harrison featuring Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, Steve Winwood, George's lad Dhani - and Prince, performing an amazing bit of guitar playing that any of the greats would have been proud of.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Day 159: That's more like it!

Today's soundtrack: The New York Fund - Guns EP

My first appearance at Goodison this season, having missed the debacle on Saturday. The rest of the team had bailed out of the pre-booked cup ticket programme so I was by myself, so got there in plenty of time to chow down on a meat & potato pie (but no beer - none for sale tonight - is this a European thing? Don't remember it from last year).

Most of the 'regulars' were there, although the seats next to me were taken up by four Czech supporters who were very pleasant and well-behaved all game. Better than I would have been, when they saw what looked like three stonewall penalty appeals turned down by a referee even I have to admit was a bit of a homer.

But that was still to come. A few boos and chants about Joleon, which - given he was watching from the stands - will have done nothing to make him want to stay, although the rumour mill suggests Steven Taylor from Newcastle may be on his way soon. Sooner the better really, because for all his skills, Phil Neville is not a centre-back. He replaced Joleon, with Jack Rodwell coming into midfield and Saha starting up front in place of Jo.

First half hour, we were awful. Two very strong penalty appeals against us, Howard forced into a spectacular one-handed save and Sigma were cutting through us at will. The midfield looked like strangers, Saha was isolated up front and we were gifting posession and second best in the tackle everywhere.

Then we scored. A neat near post dink from Fellaini, and Saha scored a real poachers goal just in front of his defender. Five or so minutes later it was 2-0, Rodwell picking up a rebound from a Baines free kick and drilling home a shot from around 25 yards. The goalkeeper 'will think he could have done better' as they say.

Immediately the whole game dynamic shifted as the team relaxed and started playing with some confidence. Cahill pushed further forward to support Saha, passes started finding their man and we used the flanks to far better effect.

Soon it was 3-0, with Rodwell scoring his second goal, and the pick of four very good goals on the night. The ball was fisted out by the keeper to Pienaar, who squared it to Rodwell, who again 25 yards or so out blasted a fierce shot into the net off the underside of the bar. Good to see us shooting from distance more - the boy has certainly got a shot on him and he can keep thing thing down, as well. He nearly got his third from a quick free kick a few minutes later - firing about a yard wide with the keeper beaten.

The fourth goal was Saha's second, a lovely shot into the corner from the edge of the box. By now the team were playing more like last season, with confidence and accuracy in their passing and a desire to show for the ball. Sigma still threatened on occasion - they are no mugs and I'm delighted we're going over there with a decent cushion - we might need it!

Burnley away at the weekend -not looking forward to that, especially off the back of their win against the Mancs yesterday - but if we play like they did in the second half tonight, we'll be all right.

If we play like we did in the first half hour - we'll get battered!

In other news, my interview details have been firmed up for next Tuesday, so plenty of time to do my research and preparation. First on, I suspect, so I need to put a real marker down for the other candidates to (hopefully fail to) measure up against.

Spent the rest of the day cleaning the en-suite shower room off our bedroom. Smallest room in the house, but the muckiest. No longer, thanks to a couple of hours of elbow grease, limescale remover and general scrubbage. I'd show you a 'before and after' picture but I'd be too embarrassed.

Delighted to hear The New York Fund coming up on the soundtrack today. I wrote about them at length recently on my Latitude blog - the Guns EP represents the sum total of their purchasable work, I think - via iTunes or eMusic anyway - and very good it is too. Remarkably there is loads of their stuff on YouTube as well - right here.

Buy their stuff and give money to this band - they're saving up to go to New York!

Here's the video for 'The Guns of Camden Town' and mighty fine it is too.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Day 158: The 'Great' Partition?

Today's soundtrack: They Might Be Giants - Flood

Just finished reading Yasmin Khan's account of the 1947 post-independence partition of India and Pakistan, 'The Great Partition'. It's an area of 20th Century history that I was generally aware of, but had no real knowledge of beyond the fact that it was hugely traumatic and cost the lives of (probably) millions of ordinary people. My interest was piqued by reading Sanjeev Bhaskar's book about India, particularly his return to his ancestral home in present-day Pakistan, where he touched on the horrors of Partition but without going into detail. So I wanted to read something more in-depth on the background to independence and Partition, the human impact and the aftermath.

So what have I learnt? Not as much as I thought I would, actually. That's not the fault of the book, which seems to be well-researched and well-written, more my inability to get my head around the scale of the upheaval and the attendant tragedy. It seems clear that, post WW2, Britain simply wanted to get out of Asia as quickly and as painlessly (for Britain) as possible - almost 'you want independence, you've got it - now you deal with the fallout'. Hence independence was rushed through and the key issue of multiculturalism was not really thought through. In the early stages, the concept of 'Pakistan' was more amorphous than it became, referring more to protection of minority Muslim rights than creation of a separate country/countries - although inevitably as tensions and violence erupted, partition seemed to become the 'least worst' solution to the problem. Incredibly (with hindsight) no-one seemed to recognise that the creation of separate Hindu and Muslim states would inevitably lead to mass migrations as people moved (voluntarily or forcibly) to 'their' state. States with hastily-drawn boundaries, drawn up hundreds of miles away by Britons with no understanding or feel for the real issues in existence along the proposed boundary line.

Something a touch lighter for my next read, I think.

On the job front, I applied for a couple of jobs on-line today - one in the Midlands (one you tipped me off a while ago, Kevin, I think) and one Darn Sarf. Spreading my net ever wider, you see.

With music on shuffle while finishing the ironing, I had the dubious pleasure of listening to 'Frances the Mute' by The Mars Volta. My God, that was hard work! Back in the day, this music would have been described as 'prog' along with ELP, Yes, King Crimson and the like. But this stuff has the prog dial turned all the way up to 11. Difficult time signatures - check! Indecipherable lyrics and song titles - check! Hipgnosis cover art - check! Tunes - er, no, sadly.

Two random song titles:

Miranda That Ghost Just Isn't Holy Anymore: C. Pisacis (Phra-Men-Ma)

Cassandra Geminni: B. Plant A Nail In The Navel Stream

That should tell you all you need to know about The Mars Volta!

Phew! Heavy heavy blog today! Luckily the soundtrack is a lot lighter - arch American funsters They Might Be Giants today, with their 'hit' album Flood. Short, snappy songs, melodic but generally a bit too pleased with themselves for my taste. A little bit 'look how clever we are', if you know what I mean.

Their 'greatest hit' was 'Birdhouse in Your Soul', performed here on TOTP:

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Day 157: Letting the Side Down

Today's soundtrack: The Long Blondes - Someone to Drive You Home

You may not be aware, but I receive occasional correspondence from the regular readers of this blog. Now the bulk of such correspondence is generally positive. However there is a clear feeling from certain (male) correspondents that I am letting the side down a touch - or, at least, setting a dangerous precedent - by describing my adventures in the kitchen with such relish.

"Women's Work!" I can (almost) hear them saying. "Don't be giving them ideas, Paul!" they (might) be thinking.

Well sorry chaps. It gets worse. I spent most of today doing the ironing. And will be doing the same tomorrow, as well as pegging out the washing and attacking the shower with bathroom cleaner.

Best keep all this between us, eh? If it's any consolation, Mrs W cooked the tea tonight.

And very nice it was too, dear.

(You might be thinking, how slow is he, taking the best part of two days to do the ironing? Well as I might have suggested previously, it's volume, not speed, that's the problem here. If I hadn't started ironing today, I'd have been walking round in work shirts and swimming costumes, since they're the only things left in the wardrobe).

I wasn't expecting to have the day clear, but unfortunately a meeting with a firm of accountants in Manchester was postponed at the last minute - will now happen in early September. A shame, but at least the meeting hasn't gone away, and was rearranged very quickly and efficiently. I also got a call from another old mate today, checking up on things and suggesting a few people I could contact in the drive to get back to work. Good to know that people are out there, thinking about me and trying to see me right.

The Long Blondes were an indie band from Sheffield, who produced two very good albums in the last couple of years and then split up suddenly, apparently due to illness in the group rather than the usual 'musical differences' (unlike The Housemartins, who split up due to 'musical similarities', according to the press release).

I saw The Long Blondes for the one and only time at Glastonbury in 2007, on the Other Stage in the pouring rain and about three feet of mud. Despite the inauspicious surroundings, they brought a little ray of sunshine to a quite dispirited crowd and I enjoyed them a lot. Sounding like a cross between Pulp and Blondie, their songs are mostly about relationships, either failing or failed, and are peppered with music and film references. And they have tunes, which is always a good thing in my book.

All that's good about them is encapsulated in four minutes below - "Weekend Without Makeup".

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Day 156: Lazy Monday

Today's soundtrack: The Rezillos - Can't Stand The Rezillos

After our busy weekend, it was time to kick back and relax a bit. Mrs W had the foresight to book the day off work and, with it being our wedding anniversary tomorrow (Eight years! Who'd have thought it?) we decided to have a nice lunch at one of our local pubs.

So off to The Stretton Fox, at the end of the A49. A nice country-style pub, in a very quiet area (remarkably so, since it's right on the junction with the M56) that always seems empty, no matter how many cars are in the car park, due to the shape of the building (lots of rooms and nooks and crannies - which apparently makes it a good place to conduct a romantic tryst, not that I'd know about such things). I first went to the pub with work colleagues, when we were pitching for some work in Warrington, and I was struck with the quality of the menu - all good, quality, home-cooked fare. Imagine my disappointment a few weeks later when I was over in Bradford pitching for some more work, and went into another local country pub to find exactly the same menu in place!

Anyway, chain or not, the food has been consistently good there so what the heck. I ordered the 'Hunter's Chicken' - chicken, bacon, cheese, barbecue sauce and chips. And a couple of veg and something that might have been cabbage, might have been lettuce but which all went down nicely with a pint anyway.

Mrs W had the good sense to order the fish and chips, which should more truthfully been described as whale and chips. Not sure I've ever seen a bigger hunk of battered fish on a plate. Needless to say, she couldn't finish it, so the remnants got parcelled up for the Pedderoni to enjoy.

Replete, we then headed off to Sainsbury's for Mrs W to peruse the remarkably cheap but surprisingly smart clothes racks, and for Paul to wander round with the trolley doing the 'proper' shopping. It's another Aussie Steak Combo tonight, with new relishes enjoyed over the weekend and with different steak, Mrs W taking exception to the Sirloin that we bought the other week (Too tough. Obviously a problem with the meat, not the cooking. Ahem.) I went for some ribeye this time and despite her misgivings (it's got a big lump of fat in it!) the meat was perfect. Alongside the bacon, cheese and fried onions.

Bit light on the 'five a day' today, but never mind. There was some additional fruit in the cider I had with the Combo, to keep the scurvy at bay.

(As an aside, I knew someone who had caught scurvy once - a consequence of a student diet obviously lacking in anything resembling a vitamin. I was actually quite impressed - thought it showed real hardcore devotion to the student lifestyle! Not to be recommended though children.)

Had a very quick chat with Son No 2 in the evening, curtailed as we were halfway through an episode of The Shield (Series 5 now) when he called. He's gutted that his 'free' Reading ticket fell through at the last minute, but fairly committed to going next year. Where will this leave Glasto in his social calendar?

iTunes has obviously got a bit of a fixation with late '70s punk/new wave at the moment, throwing The Rezillos into the mix today. Firmly sat at the 'cartoon' end of punk, this bunch of Scots made a pretty entertaining noise and didn't outstay their welcome. 'Can't Stand...' pulls together everything worthwhile they ever produced together, alongside a few live tracks and other odds and sods. Led by Eugene Reynolds and Fay Fife (thirty years on, I finally realised her name was a pun on her home town...she's "fae Fife"...geddit? Oh please yourself...) the group also included Jo Callis, who went on to add a lot of the pop trimmings to the Human League (version two, that went stellar with Dare).

Here's Top of the Pops (albeit performed on shortlived pop show Revolver) back in 1978:

Monday, August 17, 2009

Days 150-155: That's Entertainment!

Today's soundtrack: The Clash - From Here To Eternity

Mrs W and I have spent the last few days as entertainers and entertainees, with family and friends up and down the country. Firstly, Son No 1 came up for a couple of days, en route to holiday with his girlfriend and family in Skye, then Mrs W and myself went darn sarf to stay with a friend in Titchfield, down Portsmouth way.

Got up to the usual stuff with Son No 1, generally involving visits to family, eating nice food and watching dodgy films. We let him sample the Waring Pizza Experience, this time with added Garlic Bread, made on an additional (home-made) pizza base, spread firstly with crushed garlic in melted butter, topped with mixed herbage and some mozzarella and cheddar. Very tasty indeed, although there was a bit of consternation in the cooking process as the 'bottom oven', which spends most of its life as a grill, got just a wee bit smoky at the high temperatures required. Mrs W took a fair amount of convincing that I wasn't actually trying to grill the bread - and I'm still not convinced she really believes me!

Anyway, come Friday, we dropped Son No 1 off at his meeting point (to be collected again in a week or so's time) and we headed off down the motorway to Robin's cottage in Titchfield. Using my iPhone's new Satnav application instead of the TomTom. It worked really well, only having a bit of a wobble at the A34/M3 junction.

Weather was fine, which was lucky because we were having a barbecue with some more old friends that evening. But not before a quick trip to the local pub - the dogs needed a walk, you see - to sample the local brews.

Back at the cottage, Gail and Phil arrived and we sat out in the sun and ate and drank. And talked and drank. Then we drank a bit more. Mrs W admitted defeat around midnight, just before Robin's neighbours joined us for a bit more chat and a bit more drinking. Eventually things wound up around half three/four.

Woke up the following morning feeling remarkably sprightly, considering the previous night's excesses. Unlike some others, I might add. Phil and Gail left (after promises of a repeat match at theirs in November, and Gail's commitment to a Glastonbury trip next year - I won't forget!) after breakfast (barbecued bacon rolls - yummy!) and we settled down to a lazy Saturday - we walked the dogs, bought the paper and kicked back.

Robin and Mrs W then went out for hair of the dog and I made the mistake of staying in to listen to the football.

Oh dear.

I suppose it might just be the kick up the arse the club obviously needs. If there was ever a game to miss, that was the one, I guess.

After a lovely tea of chicken cooked in garlic and coriander with new potatoes and salad, we settle d down to watch Indiana Jones on Robin's television. Actually 'television' sells his kit a bit short, being a 50" high def plasma behemoth that makes our ageing box look like a portable. When the ship eventually comes in, I think we may need to do something about our telly. But not just yet!

Up early on Sunday for the long drive home, which happily passed without holdup or incident, to be greeted like long lost family by an evidently puzzled Pedro (looked after in our absence by our wonderful neighbours - thanks Andrew and Natalie!)

Overall, a really pleasant few days both up here and down there. We should do this more often - although not too often, as I'm not sure my liver could stand it!

Given the blog title, you'd have hoped for some Jam on the soundtrack, but iTunes chose fellow punxters The Clash. From Here To Eternity is a live album, collecting together tracks from various Clash performances across their career. This gives the album a bit of a disjointed feel, but does not detract from their power as a live band. I saw them twice, I think, both times in Sheffield and they were superb both times. Possibly the most intense live experience I've had, and very difficult to capture on film.

Here they are in Manchester, back in 1977. Rough as old boots but full of passion and power. He's in love with rock and roll woah!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Break in transmission

Playing out with friends and family for the next few days - normal service will be resumed shortly!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Day 149: They Call Me The Hunter

Today's soundtrack: Wings - Wingspan

Well 'they' call him Pedro, actually, and this morning he completely surpassed himself in the hunting stakes. I was sat in the "study" happily blogging away, when there was a kerfuffle in the kitchen. On investigation, there was Pedro, astride the biggest pigeon in the world, in a cloud of feathers and flapping!

Oh my.

What to do? well, obviously, separate cat from bird, isolate cat, dispose of bird as appropriate. But how? I soon realised that running around after the cat/bird hybrid shouting at it was not going to work, so steadily managed to shut doors, reducing the many bolt holes as much as possible, and eventually got the two creatures isolated in the downstairs loo. Next task was to separate cat from bird. Not easy, when cat is clinging onto bird by at least two sets of claws, plus mouth. Luckily, Pedro decided to try and approach the bird dismemberment task from another angle, and I managed to get hold of him and chuck him into the hallway, shutting the door behind me.

Which left the bird. Miraculously, it still seemed to be alive, if a touch catatonic. Catatonia was good though, if I was to have any hope of getting hold of the thing. Donning gardening gloves, I managed to pick the poor thing up with his wings pinned, and get him outside. Happily once it sensed the outside air and I loosened my grip, it took off, scarred and missing some feathers, but relatively unbroken.

The house of course now looked like there'd been a pillow fight - and the pillow had lost. Released Pedro from the hall, and he wandered out, purring and grinning like he was cock of the garden - which essentially he was (although he's currently drawing the line at badgers). "How clever am I?" His posture suggested. "And where's my bird gone?"

Gone, to live another day, as I hoovered (Dysoned, actually) the house.

Which made the excitement of my fortnightly visit to the Jobcentre pale in comparison, really. I managed to get them to sign off on my insurance claim, which Mrs W will be posting tomorrow on my behalf. Had to pick her up from work today - her car's been fixed, at the cost of a new radiator which was leaking onto a fan, which was then leading to the burning smell as the escaping fluid hit the hot bits of the engine. This might also explain why her radiator needed topping up with fluid more often than the average car? Hopefully that's that sorted then.

So Wings. The band The Beatles could have been.

Sadly Wings will probably be remembered for their 'slighter' material - Mull of Kintyre, Silly Love Songs, C Moon etc - and not for the rest of their material, which on occasion was very high quality.. I was never completely sold on Band On The Run, their 'classic', but when Wings were good, they were very very good.

Wings were actually very controversial at first - two of their early singles being banned by the BBC for political (Give Ireland Back to The Irish) or naughty (Hi Hi Hi) reasons. Unfortunately they turned up the saccharine and without the acerbic bite of a Lennon adding some quality control, they became a bit second division. While selling billions of records, of course.

But seek out good Wings - Jet, Live and Let Die, and especially My Love - as good a love song as he ever wrote in the company of Mr Lennon.

Dodgy mullet though, Macca.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Day 148: Well it felt like work!

Today's soundtrack: Anita Baker - Rapture

Well I spent most of the day working today - not working for money you understand, although I suppose I was in a way...we've got to the stage where the mortgage insurance kicks in, so I was preparing the first claim for submission. That involves a touch more than filling in a simple form, I have to provide clear evidence that I am not only still out of work, but that I am actively seeking work as well. So I spent the best part of the day collating and printing emails and application forms, rejection letters and the like, summarising all my recruitment-related activity onto three or four pages and cross-referencing the lot to the 'source documentation'. It was actually quite a satisfying exercise in that a) there is actually a lot been going on - a lot more than it feels like sometimes and b) it's brought a bit of order to what, i suppose, has been a pretty disjointed process.

If I was half as organised as I should be, then I'd have kept things in order as I'd gone along, but that's not really my style (out of the formal work environment anyway). I now need to get the paperwork signed off by the Jobcentre, then I can send it off to the insurance company, hopefully in return for a big fat cheque.

In the midst of all this I had a long chat with Simon down in Southampton, who called for a natter. We put the world to rights for a while, reminisced about festivals and swapped details of new music purchases. And I remembered that I still have to send him the photos and music from Latitude that I promised him! Good to catch up with him - it's a pig that he's in the same boat as me but it's good to have someone to compare notes and experiences with as well.

After all that exhausting labour(!) it was time to relax with a session of Footy Manager. To my delight (and to the indifference of the Board) I beat Chelsea in the final of the League Cup on penalties - so back in Europe next season, something that was never going to be achieved through my league placing!

Unfortunately reality intervened after a while, I had to go and 'rescue' Mrs W, whose car has been playing up for a while - a 'burning smell' that seems to appear when she uses the car, even on short runs. A strange one, in that no warning lights are coming on to suggest oil or water levels are low, and no evidence of any electrical faults. Anyway, we swapped cars, and took the poorly one to the garage for a check-up. Diagnosis tomorrow!

Rapture is one of my favourite 'smooth' albums, a combination of excellent songs, and wonderful, understated singing, delivering an album for those times when the mood is relaxed and the lights are low. Anita Baker really knows how to sing, in an understated way that the Whitneys, Celines and Mariahs could learn from - no vocal gymnastics, no desire to fit ten notes in where only one is needed - beautiful.

This is ace. This is how to 'emote', girls!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Day 147: And so it begins again...

Today's soundtrack: Tindersticks - Trouble Every Day

The footy season, that's what. It's been a long summer (summer? What summer?) but here we are, back at Wembley for the 'traditional curtain-raiser' that I shall always refer to as the Charity Shield. Manyoo vs Chelsea (oh, it could have been us), and a tasty fixture even though it is, nominally at least, a friendly.

Should be an interesting pointer to the new season's title challenge as well - how will the Ronaldo-less United fare, compared to the Hiddinck-less Chelsea? Will either be as strong as they were last season, and what does that mean for the likes of Big Red and Arsenal?

Anyway, some observations:

1. Nani is no Ronaldo. Excellent goal notwithstanding (helped by Cech and Terry getting in each others way) he still flatters to deceive and was totally culpable for leaving the hugely underrated Carvalho unmarked for Chelsea's equaliser. Also helped by being up against The World's Worst Right Back in the first half.

2. Ben Foster is no more England's next goalkeeper than I am. And I'm rubbish. Expect The Other One to be in goal for United next week.

3. Notwithstanding the inconsistency of refereeing surrounding the second Chelsea goal, play to the whistle!
4. At last United are playing The Boy in his natural position. The (offside) goal was reward for an excellent all round performance.

5. I've hit pass-backs more firmly than Evra's penalty.

6. I fancy Chelsea more than United this season.

Other than that, it was a quiet day, really. Got out into the sun in the morning, baked some bread, ate some bread (with some air-dried back bacon and pork, chilli and fresh coriander sausages), made a few phone calls and ploughed our way through a couple more episodes of The Shield (now approaching the end of Season 4).

Tindersticks were last on the soundtrack way back on Day 24, when the magnificent 'Hungry Saw' came up on shuffle. Trouble Every Day is actually a soundtrack album, to a French film of the same name that I have never seen, nor am I likely to given Mrs W's not unreasonable aversion to anything involving subtitles.

Most of Tindersticks' music seems to have cinematic overtones that make it appropriate for soundtrack work and the mood of the album does match the film's rather downbeat themes of lost libido and imprisonment. That said, it still works well as an album in its own right.

Here's the title track, played over the opening credits of the film.