Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Day 199: Multitasking...who says it's a woman thing?

Today's soundtrack: Yes - Fragile

There is a school of thought that men cannot multitask - that it is a uniquely female ability. I dispute this theory.

Think about it gents. On the odd occasions when the GLW* (or equivalent) is away and you have the house to yourself for any length of time, what do you do?

I'll tell you. Everything. At once.

Mark Ellen talked about this some time ago on The Word podcast, and it certainly resonated with me. When alone, you may find him cooking in the kitchen. With a guitar around his neck. Music will be playing in the background, and the television might be on, or a DVD playing, with the sound turned down. It is possible that a book or magazine will also be being read at the same time.

Basically, when we are alone, we want - actually need - to be doing everything we normally can't do - and to be doing it all at the same time. Because you never know when you'll next get the chance.

Or is it just me then?


Whatever, it was certainly me today. I had the ironing to finish, so that was my primary task. Although while I was ironing, I had a pot of soup on the stove that needed attending to on a regular basis. The TV was on, so I could watch a New Order documentary on DVD whilst ironing/cooking. Oh, and I was also checking my emails on a regular basis, in between keeping a game of Football Manager on the go.

The difference between male and female multitasking probably comes down to the sheer pointlessness of the male version. There was absolutely no need for me to do so much at once - it just felt like the right thing to do...

Anyway, the soup was/is delicious. We are back on ham and lentil after last week's red pepper and tomato, and I am going to re-recommend the recipe to you, which is here.

And the ironing is done. For another forty days.

Earlier, I spoke to the FD of the business in London about the potential contract work. Both parties very interested, but we agreed to hold fire for a week to see where we got to with the permanent role in Preston.

Spaghetti Carbonara for tea tonight. I know we've done this one before, but the search engine at the top of the blog is a touch inconsistent, I've found. Despite it telling me that no posts match my query for 'carbonara', it's all there for you on Day 39.

I need to come up with some new recipes for you!

I'm showing my age today, with the music selection that iTunes has thrown up. When I was in my early teens, once I was over my 'Glam' phase, 'Prog' was where it was at - mainly that provided by Emerson, Lake & Palmer - and Yes. We dabbled in King Crimson and Genesis, but ultimately we were either in the ELP camp or the Yes camp. A bit like having favourite football teams, really.

Fragile is actually still a very listenable album - in parts. The album is bookended by the two 'big' tracks - 'Roundabout' and 'Heart of the Sunrise' - but is let down by the inclusion of short, semi-solo pieces composed by each of the band members. A bad idea all round.

Anyway, here's 'Roundabout' in all its pomp and glory - Capes! Hair! Incomprehensible lyrics!

You can't beat a bit of prog.

*GLW = Good Lady Wife. But you all knew that, didn't you?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Day 198 - 5,000 up!!

Today's soundtrack: Soft Cell - The Twelve Inch Singles

Oh my - Check out the little counter thing at the bottom of the left hand column of stuff - at the time of writing it says '5,033'. That's over five thousand 'hits' on the site since i started this thing, oh, 198 days ago.

A rough bit of mental arithmetic makes that an average of around 25 'hits' per day. Not quite up there with the BBC or Google, admittedly, but I am quietly impressed, I have to say. Impressed (and slightly concerned) that there are around 25 people who are interested/bored/sad enough to read my daily ramblings.

Of course that's a bit of a sweeping assumption. It could be that it's a different 25 people every day who come along once, say 'what is this rubbish' and never come back again. But no, it looks like I've got a bit of a hard core following out there, who keep me doing this every day. What will you do if/when I ever get back into gainful employment? Expect me to carry on on a daily basis?

You would, an' all.

But without coming across all Simon Bates, I'm glad you're out there and - whether you like it or not - I'll keep this going as long as I realistically can.

Some progress on the job front today - I gave my feedback on Friday's interview to the recruitment consultant for follow-up, and got in touch with the business in London about the contract opportunity passed on to me by my former colleague. At this stage I just wanted to put them in the picture about my availability, as well as expressing my definite interest in the role if circumstances allow. It would not be fair to agree to the role, then try and wriggle out of it half way through because I had a permanent role to go to.

Although chance would be a fine thing.

Anyway, we are to continue talking - an initial phone call tomorrow to talk about the role and firm up on interest, if circumstances allow.

After a bit more internal admin-type things (audit committee expenses, house insurance, updating my jobseeking activity and the like) I forced myself to get the ironing board out again. Looking back, it was day 157, the last time I blogged about ironing - and looking even further back, ironing seems to rear its head every forty days or so.

So. Forty days worth of ironing. That's a bloody big pile of ironing.

This time, rather than do all the ironing in the kitchen, I thought I'd lug it all up into the lounge and do my ironing up there, catching up on the DVD pile while I did so.

Which would have been fine, apart from two things.

Firstly, I discovered very quickly that my multitasking skills do not stretch to ironing and watching TV at the same time. This slowed things down considerably.

Secondly, the plug sockets in the lounge forced me to iron right handed instead of left handed. Now I do have a degree of ambidexterity, so this was not impossible, but it did slow me up even more.

But no matter - it was a lot more entertaining than standing in the kitchen doing the ironing.

So what did I (try to) watch while smoothing away? Two things - secondly the DVD of Magazine performing in Manchester that I mentioned recently, but I started by watching the recently-released Stones film, 'Gimme Shelter', about the performance at Altamont that ended with the death of Meredith Hunter, murdered in front of the stage (and on camera) while the Stones were performing.

I'd not seen it before - it is a very powerful film, particularly the moment when Hunter draws a gun in front of the stage, before being stabbed in the neck and dragged away by the Hell's Angels who were notionally responsible for security on the day.

How could such a thing happen? Or rather, how could the event have been organised in such a way that the possibility of such a thing happening could arise? I think Altamont has to be viewed in the context of the times. Earlier that summer, Woodstock had taken place and - chaos and disorder notwithstanding - had passed off entirely peacefully and calmly. This gave rise to the feeling that such behaviour was the norm, rather than the outcome of a relatively unique set of circumstances.

The Stones, who had missed out on Woodstock, clearly felt the need to have their own, mini-Woodstock in San Francisco, as the climax of their 1969 US tour. Working under the naive impression that it would all just come together and be groovy, man, such fundamentals as finding a safe, appropriate venue, with a full infrastructure including - crucially - security, were glossed over, rushed, and subject to some very bad decision-making.

The worst decision was to entrust security to the local Hell's Angels - a completely different organisation to the 'weekend Angels' entrusted with a similar role at Hyde Park in London earlier that year. The San Franciscan Angels came fuelled with strong drink, armed with weighted pool cues that they were keen to use, and prepared to 'own' their territory in front of the stage, regardless of the bands and their fans.

Watching the film, in the context of festivals I have been to myself, the most striking thing is the height of the stage, and the lack of distance between the band and the crowd. No real secure area in front of the stage, which must have been a maximum of four feet above ground level - this to serve an audience in excess of 300,000 people.

It is clear from a very early stage that the Angels are out of control and are uncontrollable. The violence meted out is shocking, as is the bands' and organisers' inability to cope with it. Eventually everything descends into anarchy and mayhem.

The end of the Aquarian dream, the Woodstock era? Maybe. The inevitable consequence of a badly organised, naively controlled event, inappropriately policed? Almost certainly. Whatever, 'Altamont' will forever be remembered as one of the days the music died.


Today's actual soundtrack comes from Soft Cell, Leeds synth-poppers who come with ladles of camp and buckets of sleaze. 'Pop' is probably an unfair epithet to bestow upon them, because whilst they were certainly popular, their music and subject matter is as far from mainstream pop as it's possible to get - stalking a seedy underworld of freaks, sordid and extravagant sexuality and misery.

The duo were at their best on the twelve inch single, as this collection shows. They were able to stretch out, turn their songs into extended vignettes on the sleazy underworld they took as their subject matter.

This was as good as they got - Say Hello, Wave Goodbye. It lacks the extended intro that comes with the twelve inch version, but does get straight into the meat of the story.

Day 197: Under the Lights

Today's soundtrack: Joy Division - Closer

A quiet day today, following last night's excitement - just a bit of shopping, baking and car racing.

It was the Singapore Grand Prix today, played out at night, under the lights around the city streets. Very spectacular, the lighting and scenery making the event look more like a video game than a 'real' race.

It was at the corresponding event last year that the Renault team took matters into their own hands by instructing Nelson Piquet Jr to deliberately crash, thereby handing victory to his teammate, Fernando Alonso. Piquet, no doubt 'piqued' (you see what I did there?) by his recent dismissal from the Renault team, grassed up his ex-team, causing Flavio Briatore to be banned from racing forthwith and another senior team member to be banned for five years. Renault itself received a suspended sentence but, more damagingly, saw its major sponsors distancing themselves financially from the team which may ultimately cause them to leave Formula One next season.

And a good thing too, I say. It is inconceivable to me that you can 'engineer' a crash in a Formula One race - especially on a street circuit - that you can guarantee will not endanger the lives of drivers, stewards and the general public in some way. Luckily, no-one was injured in Singapore last year - but that was by no means a foregone conclusion.

And so to this year's race. Hamilton on Pole, the Red Bulls not far behind, the Brawns nowhere. And yet again events transpired to keep the Brawns - and Jenson Button in particular - way out in front of the Championship. Having established a big lead in the first half of the season, it seems that even if they were to wilfully try and chuck away the title, it's still Brawn's almost by default, as the other teams continually fail to capitalise. Vettel gained a couple of points on Button and Barrichello, but it's all too little, too late.

Breadmaker in overdrive today - a sandwich loaf (with added wheatgerm) for Mrs W, than a series of pizza bases for tonight's tea - a pizza each, with a shared garlic bread.

I've got the pizza down to a fine art now. Dough mixed, rolled and rising on pizza trays, toppings sliced and set out in little bowls to be added according to personal taste. We seem to have settled on passata and mozzarella, with a selection of spiced meats, red onion, garlic, mushroom, sweetcorn - and chillies for me. Oh, and the garlic bread improves with each baking, too. Butter and crushed garlic combined and malted in the microwave and spread on the pizza base, then topped with copious herbage and more mozzarella. Delicious!

Oh, and Pedro has developed a taste for pizza crusts. Crispy, probably good for his teeth, and I can't see how it would hurt his tender bowels either. Keeps him quiet while we're eating, anyway.

So to today's soundtrack. Joy Division - for the first time, I believe. I came to Joy Division quite late - really following Ian Curtis's death - and to my eternal shame and regret, I missed seeing them when they supported Buzzcocks back in 1980. A couple more pints in the pub was more appealing than the support act. We'll see them next time, we said. Well, next time, Ian Curtis was dead, and Joy Division had become New Order.

I got a bit obsessive about Joy Division in the early eighties - as did many people I suppose. I'm sure a lot of this was due to Curtis's suicide and the myths that sprung up (and were manufactured) around that - and the re-interpretation of his lyrics in the context of his suicide.

However even now, nearly thirty years after the event, I'm still mildly obsessed with Joy Division, snapping up films, documentaries, books and reissued CDs as they become available. Why so? Well, it's a classic rock and roll story, isn't it? But ultimately, the music demands it. Brooding, layered and produced with feeling and depth by the (also doomed) Martin Hannett, the music moves me now as much as it did then.

Closer was their second - and final - album, and it still retains an air of mystery about it. Even the title. Is it 'Closer' - as in 'nearer'...or is it 'Closer' - as in the opposite of 'Opener'? I don't know - and I don't really care that much. I like the ambiguity.

And I love the music. I love the early use of synthesisers, the power of the bass lines, the weariness to Curtis's voice.

Most of the video evidence out there comes from Joy Division's earlier work - there don't seem to be many films of them performing 'Closer' material. But to appreciate Joy Division, you need to see Ian Curtis perform. Lost in the music, carried away in his strange, air-drumming, butterfly-winged dancing, you can see what lies behind the myth.

This is Transmission - with added John Cooper Clarke at the beginning and end - in the Arndale, if I'm not mistaken!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Day 196: Friends Reunited

Today's soundtrack: Shostakovich - Symphony No 7 in C Major

What's with all the culture, Paul? Can we not have some glam or some reggae? Even some ska?

Well, it's the weekend, and I have to give you what iTunes gives me. And today it's giving us some Shostakovich.

And easy listening this ain't. 'Challenging', I think is the word, even for classical music buffs. Believe it or not, I actually went and sought out this disc, in the rapidly-shrinking classical section of HMV, after seeing the work performed at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, as part of the celebrations of the RNCM opening its new wing some time last year.

It is a powerful piece of work though, and not for the fainthearted. The work was written in the 1940s, as a condemnation of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, and specifically the siege of Leningrad in 1942.

You don't get that from Beyonce!

Anyway, on to more interesting things. And speaking of sieges, in one of the most lumpen, forced and over-trivialising links I have yet done, it was very painful watching Portsmouth lay siege to the Everton goal in the second half of today's game at Fratton Park. Thankfully, we'd done (just) enough in the first half to have a one goal lead to defend, which we did - more by luck than judgement on this occasion though. A class piece of finishing from Louis Saha (again) giving us a lead we deserved at the time, having missed a couple of gilt-edged chances previously.

However in the second half Portsmouth came out fighting and could (and should) have at least tied the match - a combination of poor finishing and both excellent and flukey defending kept them at bay until the final whistle. Yes Stu - Lucky, lucky, lucky...

Sadly, Stephen Pienaar now seems to be the latest victim of the Everton Freak Injury Syndrome, picking up a knee injury when one of the Portsmouth defenders decided to 'head' his knee.

Oh dear.

And so to this evening - a surprise party in Hooton for George, a very close friend from way back, who I see far less often than I should. We met up with a lot of good friends from way back, when all our kids were growing up together. Some of the kids were there - and my, have they grown up! The kids I used to tease and play with when they were at primary school have now turned into strapping, handsome young men - and quite gorgeous young ladies!

My, that makes me feel old!

George was properly choked I think by the occasion. Knowing Michelle as he does, I think he was expecting some sort of surprise to celebrate his birthday - but not today, and not like this!

We left relatively early, as Mrs W's homing instinct kicked in, leaving the party to continue, no doubt into the early hours. But we're too old for that now! Oh dear.

Naturally, a lot of friends, keen to catch up, were asking me about work - so I spent a lot of time ploughing through my current situation, which I'd king of been dreading - but it was actually quite good to talk about it - and understand that it's not just me suffering - even some people still in work are finding the current situation is making their day to day jobs more difficult and intolerable.

Tough times - but what I need to remember is that there are people - friends - out there I can talk to, who will sympathise and empathise - and that sometimes it is, indeed, good to talk.

So no Shostakovitch on the soundtrack, you'll be pleased to hear - instead, something about friendship. Joe Cocker, at Woodstock (40 years ago this year!) and A Little Help From My Friends.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Day 195: More Words about Music and Food

Today's soundtrack: The Smiths - The John Peel Sessions

Given today's blog title, the soundtrack should have come from Talking Heads ("...Buildings and Food"), or perhaps The Undertones ("...Chocolate and Girls") - but no, it's The Smiths (and about time!) instead. About whom, more later.

No, the title's a cheeky reference to my mate Simon's new blog, "Planes, trains & automobiles" which you can find here. It worries me that not are only are people choosing to read all the guff I post here of their own volition, but I'm now also inspiring people to start their own blogs! But you should read Simon's stuff - he's a top man and he knows how to write as well.

And badger him for recipes. You know he really wants to go there.

And speaking of recipes, I finally got round to the smoked salmon pasta dish I promised you a few days ago. Essentially a good way of using up some leftovers, it turned into a very tasty and filling (and calorific) meal.

No pictures, I'm afraid - it didn't stay on the plate long enough.

Start by chopping and frying off some shallots in some olive oil. Add some mushrooms and garlic to the frying pan to colour and soak up the oil.

While this is going on, boil up a big pan of salted water and add a bunch of asparagus (trimmed at the bottom to remove any woody bits) - boil for about three minutes, chop into bitesize chunks and add to the pan. Then add your spaghetti to the water you've just cooked the asparagus in to cook, for around ten minutes.

Whilst all this is going on, chuck the best part of a pot of double cream into the frying pan, having turned the heat down first. If you have a calorie/cholesterol concern, use some creme fraiche instead. Stir around, and let it all warm through - keep the heat low and don't let the cream boil. Cut your smoked salmon into strips, and add to the creamy mixture. Zest a lemon, and add the fine strips of zest to the pot. Finally grate a shedload of parmesan into the pot.

Season to taste with salt and black pepper. By now your pasta should have cooked, so drain and then throw into the pot as well. Stir it all round so the pasta and sauce are well mixed, then serve and enjoy with a crisp white to cut through the cream.

Stretch out on the sofa and expire.

But all that took place at the tail end of the day. The day started with a bit of necessary pampering at the hairdressers. I've gone to the same hairdresser for the last eight or nine years, with one of the same two girls cutting my hair each time. Imagine my dismay when I noticed they'd opened a dedicated Men's hairdressers in the same village! Would they now refuse to see me and pack me off to the men's bit? Happily no - I can still go and sit with the women, have a head massage and a coffee and have my hair cut by Debra or Alison.

It was Alison today - normally Debra cuts my hair and the original plan was for her to see me at two. However my interview (see below) had been arranged for four-thirty, so I was a bit concerned about rushing and being interviewed with an itchy neck - so I brought forward the cut, which meant going with Alison instead of Debs. And which felt awfully like cheating on your girlfriend, when I saw Debs in the salon that a normal reaction?

Anyway - the interview. Got there in plenty of time, and was there for a good hour and a half, interviewed by two senior members of the finance team. How did it go? Who knows. I thought it probably went well, and I think I got across all the points I wanted/needed to get across - but inevitably they have other people to see and who knows how I'll stack up against them?

Pretty well, I would hope. But now we wait.

As I said above, The Smiths today - an album pulling together all their Peel Sessions in one place. Don't look for it in the shops - it's not there. Some of the tracks have appeared on legitimate releases, including Hatful of Hollow, but you'll have to search the outer reaches of the internet if you want to find them all together in one place.

The Smiths are, of course, wonderful. You don't need me to tell you that. Accusations of miserabilism are just lazy cliché. Anything built around the wonder that is Johnny Marr's guitar could never be anything other than joyous.

This just might be my favourite Smiths song. 'There is a Light that Never Goes Out'.

"Take me out tonight - to where there's music and there's people and they're young and alive".

See? Pure joy. (We'll gloss over the rest of the lyrics, I think.)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Day 194: Universities present and past

Today's soundtrack: Cabaret Voltaire - Conform to Deform

Over to York today, for another Audit Committee meeting at York St John University. I'm glad I chose to retain the responsibility for my two Audit Committees when I left my last job - not only do they 'look good on the CV', but they do keep me involved in the sector and in audit work - and it does require me to use my brain on a regular basis as well. Not least, it gets me out of the house and into a professional environment again.

Another interesting and challenging meeting, but as usual, a high level of debate and engagement from all parties. Primarily internal audit work at this meeting - the external audit is in progress at the moment, and that will be the focus of the next Committee meeting in October.

On the way over to York, I took a call from one of my ex-colleagues, discussing the possibility of some contract work in London over the next three months. Interesting possibility and I shall be following it up, but need to ensure I don't compromise the possibility of the full-time role I am being interviewed for tomorrow if I am not as 'immediately available' as I currently am! That said, I think it is encouraging that my old firm are happy to consider me for such roles as they arise.

I finished in York at around six, and the plan was then to meet up with some old mates from the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, but sadly traffic on the way out of York and on the M62 put paid to that idea. A need to rearrange in the near future, I feel.

Back to Sheffield for today's soundtrack. The Cabs came through in the late seventies, coinciding nicely with my time at the University there. Sadly, I have no recollection of ever seeing them live - although I can't conceive that I didn't see them at some stage, if that makes sense - they were such an important part of the local scene at the time, along with Artery, Human League, ClockDVA and other such famous (and not-so-famous) bands.

The Sheffield Scene from 1976 through to 1980 was absolutely fascinating and quite unique. Whilst the rest of the country was wrapped up with three-chord guitar thrashes, the Sheffield scene was almost exclusively electronic - and Cabaret Voltaire were at the forefront of that scene. More difficult and challenging than the Human League (who were always popsters at heart) they progressed in the '80s as an industrial disco collective and, for a time, flirted with commerciality without ever really emerging from the underground.

The Sheffield Scene is very well documented in a book (with accompanying CD) called 'Beats Working For A Living' and a DVD called 'Made In Sheffield', both of which I would recommend to anyone who was there at the time.

This is 'Sensoria' - as commercial as the Cabs got. The number of bands that took this blueprint and ran with it - with all the money and success that evaded the Cabs - is legion. This is where it was done first - and probably best.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Day 193: No Fish Today

Today's soundtrack: Anton Kuerti - Moonlight Sonata/Hammerklavier Sonata

Actually, that's not true - we did have fish today - but not the fish we intended to have.

Left with some spare smoked salmon following our Sunday brunch, I was all prepared to whip up a creamy pasta dish with smoked salmon, asparagus, mushrooms, cream and fresh parsley, with a hint of lemon zest, when Mrs W got in touch to tell me she was a bit under the weather and not up for a 'rich' tea.

She required comfort food.

Which meant a quick run to the chippy in Frodsham, for a chippy tea. So our fish was battered, rather than smoked. And in my case buried under a mountain of chips coated in a spicy concoction described as 'curry sauce'.

Hardy fine dining, but it tasted pretty fine to me!

So pasta postponed, not cancelled - recipe to come later this week.

Spent an engrossing morning on, getting quotes for house insurance. Our current insurers had re-quoted at a ridiculous level for next year, and had chosen to charge me something called a 'pre-renewal charge' this month, without telling us, so far as I can tell. So for this unacceptable level of cheekiness and brassneck, they have been canned. Irrespective of the quotes received - just on principle! As it turned out, there are a range of insurers out there who are falling over themselves to quote us at significantly lower levels, so we win anyway.

Afternoon, and the postman decides to deliver all the post he's been storing up for the last few days, including a DVD of Magazine performing in Manchester earlier this year. Sadly, not the night we attended, but the setlist is the same and the band look just as cool as they did the night we saw them.

Would have been nice to spot me and The Boy in the audience though, jammed up against the barriers as we were.

Frustratingly, Everton's Carling (Milk? Littlewoods? League?) Cup game against Hull was not being televised anywhere in the world so far as I could tell, so I was reduced to reading the Sky Sports app on my phone while watching Masterchef on the telly (and filling my face with curry and chips). The corner continues to be turned, as the Blues put another four goals past the Hapless Humbersiders...that's eleven goals without reply in the last three games now - is that the corner turned?

A very cultural soundtrack today - Beethoven's version of the Shangri-La's 'Past, Present and Future'. Anton Kuerti (who he?) on pianoforte, and very good it is too.

But you don't want deaf composers - you want girl groups with big hair! And that's what you shall have. You shall also have one of the most moving, and creepiest, 'pop' tunes ever recorded. What - exactly - happened in the past? I think we can guess, and it wasn't nice.

Don't try to touch me. Don't - try to touch me. Because that will never - happen - again.

Shall we dance?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Day 192: Help The Aged (Professional)

Today's soundtrack: Pulp - This Is Hardcore

I had my 'Workshop for the Unemployed Professional' today, so it was up and out, to get to the Swan Tavern in Winwick for ten o'clock.

An upstairs room in a local pub, a couple of flipcharts and ten, mostly mature, 'professionals' from a range of backgrounds, sat round a table.

No coffee or tea.

The course was ostensibly there to talk to us about writing CVs, job searching strategies and interview techniques. In reality, it turned into a bit of a Samaritan session for a couple of the attendees (one poor, lonely bloke in particular) to get a few things off their chest in relation to the inadequacies of the Job Centre staff, the state of the economy and the foibles of recruitment agencies.

Oh, and the 'poor, lonely bloke' wasn't me. Honest. Although I was sat next to him.

In between the regular diversions, there were one or two useful tips that reinforced what I largely already knew, and a couple of hints about how to tweak my CV to better effect, but over the years I've heard these things time and time again. If nothing else though, it was a timely reminder of the basics. Which is no bad thing I suppose.

Then off to the Job Centre itself, to sign on for the next fortnight. 'Kev' (how can he get away with 'Kev' on his official namebadge? Surely 'Kevin', as a minimum? No surname, of course) and his trainee, Debbie, had the pleasure of my signature today, although I did have to justify why I'd not applied for a job they'd kindly told me about last time (the salary was less than half my last salary).

But no matter, I've got an interview for a proper job on Friday! A call from the recruitment agency about the role they told me about last week - my CV went in on Monday and they want to see me this week - first interview, well in advance of a full shortlist being drawn up. Got to be a positive sign I feel.

Back home, to scan some relevant pages on CV/interview presentation and send them down to Son No 1, who has an interview himself today. Hopefully they reached him in time, they may be of more use to him than to me.

I finished the fourth book of the 'Red Riding' quartet today. Four books spanning nine years, based around police corruption, child pornography and murder, with a barely fictionalised Yorkshire Ripper committing his crimes in parallel.

Life on Mars it ain't.

It's not an easy - or comfortable - read, and David Peace's stylistic repetition of key passages across all four books can get a bit grating at times, but ultimately it is a powerful piece of literature. You do need to read all four books, as it is only in the final book that a number of strands from the earlier novels are brought together into a form of resolution.

I'm not sure I'd recommend the books, but as someone who lived through the period covered (1974-1983) and lived in Yorkshire for a significant part of the period - and was thus acutely aware of the Ripper and his activities - some of them very close to where we were living in Sheffield - it did have some resonance.

But it won't be for everyone.

I've now got the three films to watch on DVD - they must have simplified the books considerably for them to make sense - but will let you know what I think.

Coincidentally, we have quintessential Yorkshire band Pulp on the soundtrack today, with an album that has pornography and exploitation as its core themes. Pulp were around in Sheffield for years without making any national waves - I remember hearing of them around the same time as the Human League, Heaven 17 and the Thompson Twins were having national success - Pulp stayed very much a regional secret until they finally hit the big time with Different Class, and particularly with Common People. The follow up to this vastly successful album was 'This Is Hardcore', a far darker and more cynical album. And far less commercial, with commensurate (lack of) commercial success. It's not an easy listen and the humour that was evident in Different Class is buried far deeper here, but it's still a good album.

'This Is Hardcore' on Jools back in 1998. Altogether now: "This is hardcore, you make me hard..."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Day 191: We're Swabbin'

Today's soundtrack: Various Artists - Tougher Than Tough: The Story of Jamaican Music

Back on the housework today, I've been letting things slide a bit, and that bathroom isn't going to tile itself!

So I spent half the morning attacking the 'rescued' tiles with a chisel, to remove all the old grout and adhesive. Still got a fair few to do, but I'm getting there - very slowly indeed! Managed to get through to lunchtime with a box of around fifteen tiles, and surprisingly with the same number of fingers and thumbs that I started with.

Chisels and Paul are generally a bad combination.

Not wishing to ride my luck any further, I put all the tiling stuff away after lunch and got on with the second day's major chore - cleaning the kitchen, most importantly the floor, which - due to a combination of Pedro waltzing in and out without wiping his paws and Mrs W doing much the same - was getting a bit skanky.

Now normally the floor just gets a quick flick that redistributes, rather than removes, all the muck - but this time I thought I'd do a half decent job. So all the furniture was shifted, worktops hosed down, floor Dysoned twice - firstly using just the Dyson, then going into all the nooks and crannies with the hose - before getting the floor detergent, mop and bucket out. I've been using this new stuff that you pour directly onto the floor rather than diluting in the bucket, but still ended up swabbing the whole floor with hot water as well.

It's a bigger job than you'd think, when its done properly, but at least the floor was sparkling - for about ten minutes, before Pedro recommenced his ins and outs and the night's cooking. I'm a good cook, but a sloppy one!

A quiet day apart from that - I pottered around t'internet for a while, caught up on the various blogs and the like that I contribute to, and decided my life needed a bit more Joni in it, following yesterday's blog. Got a few recommendations, and Amazon is doing the rest!

Today's soundtrack is hugely welcome - everyone should have some reggae in their lives, and Tougher Than Tough is probably the best one-stop reggae collection out there. A four-CD box set, it is light on Marley, but covers all other bases reasonably well. Add to this a good sprinkling of Bob Marley, the soundtrack to 'The Harder They Come' and some Dub compilations from Lee Perry and King Tubby, and you've pretty well all the reggae anyone could need.

I love this one - Young, Gifted and Black by Bob & Marcia. Your soul's intact!

And this - Two Sevens Clash by Culture. It dread!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Day 190: The Season Starts...Here?

Today's soundtrack: Joni Mitchell - Travelogue

After the 4-0 tonking of AEK in midweek, the prevailing feeling seemed to be that that was all well and good, but the real test of season corner-turning would come today, when Blackburn were likely to present a far sterner challenge to the semi-resurgent blues.

I have to say on the way up to Goodison, I was not that hopeful - we have always struggled at home to Blackburn, and any team managed by Big Sam is going to be ugly, in your face and always likely to threaten at set pieces. Not really what you need when confidence is fragile and half your defence is still getting to know the other half. On the other hand Waring Senior was full of confidence, looking for another 4-0 result. Daft sod.

Anyway, the daft sod nearly got it spot on, and but for some excellent goalkeeping by the much maligned Paul Robinson, it could have been more. In the end, 3-0 was a pretty fair reflection of possession and penetration over the course of the 90 minutes.

Plus points - in no particular order:
  • Johnny Heitinga slotted into the right back position early and well, doing the simple things well and keeping the daft things to a minimum. A dodgy two-footed tackle hinted at the yard-dog within, and on another day he might have walked, but overall a good performance. With Lucas Neill and tony Hibbert fit, and Phil Neville also available on return from injury, we seem to have a plethora of right backs at the moment!
  • The Distin-Yobo partnership is getting better with each game, seemingly helped by Joey getting the captain's armband. Joleon who?
  • Jack Rodwell is a proper footballer. No really. This kid - at 18 - is bossing the midfield, finding space and time at will, always unhurried. A run in the team, and maintenance of this high standard of play, and he could just be going to South Africa in the summer. And then to ManYoo next season...but hopefully not.
  • Stephen Pienaar just gets better and better. Taking on the mantle of midfield creator in the absence of Mikel Arteta, this lad is growing in confidence, willing to try more each game, and generally succeeding.
  • When clear of injury, Louis Saha is still one of the best strikers around. An eye for goal, capable of playing the lone striker role, winning and holding up the ball, putting a decent shift in - six goals in four games so far...if his hamstrings (and head) can stay together, he'll get twenty-odd goals this season.
  • All this is without Jagielka, Arteta and Yakubu fully in the picture. When they are all fit...
So - glass definitely half full this week - but this is Everton, remember, so my opinion may have changed dramatically by this time next week...

A shame that our Sunday game meant missing the Manchester derby, which sounded like a corker. Seven goals, two in injury time (or Fergie time, as I believe it is called at Old Trafford) and a smile wiped off Mark Hughes' face as well. That central defence is a bit leaky, isn't it, Sparky?

So, some Joni today. Another artist I have always admired rather than really loved, my Mitchell collection is limited to 'Blue' and this set, 'Travelogue', that I picked up cheap in Fopp some time ago. It's kind of a re-imagined greatest hits, and is very pleasant in a jazzy sort of way. Joni purists tend to dismiss it as a 'lesser' collection of the songs, not up to the standard of the originals, but it sounds fine to these ears. I really should invest a bit more time with Joni, to understand the fuss and the reputation.

Here's Joni performing 'Hejira' live in Japan. This is, in fact, very, very good indeed.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Day 189: At least we're not Portsmouth...

Today's soundtrack: Grateful Dead - Live/Dead

Up early this morning, as The Hunter wanted to go a-hunting, and today's bread needed to be baked in time for lunchtime's BLT. So I was out of my pit by around half six, ready for the day's travails, which amounted to - well, not much, actually.

Mrs W was out all morning at the gym, attending her first Pilates class. Not quite sure what this involves - standing up straight and breathing properly, I think - but she came back flushed and happy around lunchtime.

I think it's the gym she's going to.

Pedro was out all morning down the banks, happily any successful kills today remaining down the banks with him today.

And I stayed in, a-blogging and a-surfing for the most part, waiting for the bread to bake.

Lunchtime, of course, and everyone is back waiting to be fed. For the grown ups, it was a couple of hotly-anticipated BLTs, on the freshest, squidgiest white bread imaginable. This might just have to be my 'condemned man's meal', I think. Oh, and pizza as well. For the critter, it was cat food. In his little head, 'cat food' obviously included BLT as well, but we soon put the mockers on that notion - although not before he'd tried to climb onto our plates in his excitement.

We caught up with 'professional' Masterchef over lunch. I've already blogged about my addiction to this series of competitions, and this version is proving no different. The conceit this time round is that the competition involves 'professional' chefs who are already working in proper restaurants, rather than gifted amateurs or celebrities. You'd expect the quality of the cooking, the ability to work to a timescale and the techniques involved to be far superior to the amateur chefs - and they are, but only to a degree. What is slightly surprising is that the gap is far smaller than I would have expected. All four of today's quarter finalists cocked up to a greater or lesser extent, which was strangely comforting. Roll on next week's programmes!

Lazy day continued, sitting with one eye on the football scores whilst immersing myself in this month's copy of Word. Good reading as always, with a decent set of articles about David Bowie, including one written by Charles Shaar Murray, who is probably my favourite music journalist. At least until Son No 2 starts getting published!

One consequence of this year's European adventures is the slim chance of Everton playing at three o'clock on a Saturday. It still feels wrong not to be playing at the proper time, particularly when other games are on, but that's 'progress' I suppose. The hapless Portsmouth lost again - six games, six defeats. No doubt that will change next weekend - when we are the opponents...

Come the evening, I kept out of the way whilst Mrs W was wrapped up in the Strictly X Factor medley, before surfacing for curry, wine and crappy film. I had another go at producing my own chapatis, again with some real success. Masterchef? I've shit 'em!

The Grateful Dead were one of those bands that were always around while I was growing up, but were not a band that I ever consciously heard. Read about rather than listened to, they - apparently - epitomised the West Coast Haight-Ashbury scene of the sixties. I say apparently because I don't think I ever heard a note of Grateful Dead music until a couple of years ago, when I thought it was a gap in my musical knowledge that I ought to close. So I went out and invested in a couple of CDs - Workingman's Dead and today's selection, Live/Dead.

And for the most part I remain unmoved. Even now, I would struggle to name a Dead song other than Dark Star, and would struggle even more to sing, or hum, even a few bars of their stuff. I think you had to be there, if you were to become a 'Deadhead'.

Anyway, make your own mind up. This is 'St Stephen' performed on something called 'Playboy After Dark' (oo-er missus) in 1969.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Day 188: Ring, Ring...

Today's soundtrack: ABBA - The Complete Singles Collection

...why don't you give me a call?

As the Swedish popsters sang very early on in their career.

And the phone did ring, ring a couple of times today. Except it doesn't 'ring' as such. It plays a Hold Steady riff (the opening bars to 'Stuck Between Stations, actually) that I inevitably fail to hear immediately, however loud I've got the ringtone turned up.

First off, I had a call from Kevin in Brum, just catching up on this and that and tentatively arranging to meet up in Manchester next week. Kevin has - inevitably - succumbed to the iPhone revolution and is well enamoured of his new toy. He probably only called me to give him the chance to use his iPhone again, come to think of it!

Then at the back end of the day, one of my recruitment agencies called. Two pieces of positive news - firstly, one of the job applications that is currently 'in progress' is still working its way through the system and has not,as I had feared, 'gone away'. Hopefully some news next week. Secondly, another opportunity has presented itself which could be right up my street - very early days and very hush hush at the moment, but my name has already been mentioned in dispatches and I gladly agreed that they should push my CV in their general direction. They want to move quickly apparently, so hopefully some progress in the next couple of weeks!

In between the phone calls, I was out in the garden, mowing and generally tidying up. Getting towards the end of summer now, so only a few more mows to go this year I feel. No bad thing - it's not my favourite occupation and gardening is the last thing I wanted to be doing in my enforced spell of 'gardening leave'.

I was also out early getting the weekend shopping in. No fancy recipes I'm afraid - Mrs W has a hankering for some Indian food and some enchiladas over the weekend, so it's ready meals and packages for the next couple of days. I do have some chapati dough in the freezer but that will be the extent of my 'real' cooking this weekend I feel.

Mrs W took some of this week's soup to work today - the verdict? "Good, but needed more seasoning". Now bear in mind that Mrs W does like her salt - she'd put some on her cornflakes if she could - but if you're experimenting you might want to bear that in mind and up the condiment quotient a touch. I think she gets it from the telly - we're back into Masterchef (the professionals) at the moment and seasoning is a big thing for the judges. And hence I get told my soup needs seasoning. But I'm a professional. I can take criticism.

A quasi-random music selection today - I hit 'play' as usual, but since I turned 'shuffle' off on iTunes last night, the first album on the list came up - which, alphabetically, means ABBA.

But it may as well be ABBA as anyone else.

Despite my aversion to Mamma Mia! (I refused point blank to go along to the Manchester production on a works outing once), I do have a soft spot for the Honey Honey Hitmakers. They were a bit of a guilty pleasure back in the day, but over the years a number of very well respected musicians (Costellos and Gallaghers included) have come out of the woodwork to express their admiration for the group.

And what's not to like? Incredible melodies, a couple of pretty girls, bit of marital tension in the band, and a range of songs that include some of the most bitter break up songs ever recorded. Plus a fair bit of fluff as well, admittedly. But even the fluff is incredibly well-constructed and executed fluff.

This is my favourite ABBA song - 'The Day Before You Came'. Not one of their bigger hits, but one of their best lyrics and a song that builds gradually through the song towards the climax. Chorus-free, and no obvious hooks, but a song that demonstrates that pure pop music can be intelligent as well as fluffy.

Oh, and Agnetha does look gorgeous in the video as well...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Day 187: It's all Greek to me...

Today's soundtrack: Bruce Springsteen - Hammersmith Odeon London '75

Two bits of 'all Greek' today - later on it was the Europa League game against AEK Athens, but firstly I had some IT fiddling to do. Well, I didn't have to do it, but I had a bee in my bonnet that needed scratching. Or something.

Basically, home networking stuff. Wait, don't go, this is interesting. Honest.

It's been puzzling me for some time why I can use my home wireless network to access the internet from both desktop and netbook, but can't access files from each computer on the other, or share printers, like you can on any other network. Or perhaps I could, but had never worked out how to do it.

So I had a play. A looong play, that took most of the day. But at the end of the day, I ended up with a networked printer that I can use wirelessly, and two computers that can 'see' each other on the network. Oh, and a single iTunes library that is accessible by two separate computers.

I'm not quite sure how I did it, and there is still some tweaking required to get all my main computer files visible on the netbook (at present it's only 'Public' directories that are visible, which might be for best anyway) but the key change seemed to be giving the main computer and the netbook different names - originally they'd both been assigned the same 'identifier', if that makes sense.

So there you go. Told you it was interesting, didn't I? What? Oh.

Anyway, the football. Difficult to know what to expect at home to AEK - they have a long European pedigree, and we have been playing like dogs all season. With an injury list as long as a very long arm, coupled with suspensions and ineligibilities, it had the potential to be a difficult night.

No father or nephew with me tonight, so I could make my own way there, and pick up a cheeky chippy tea on the way in as well. I wore my snide Barbour tonight (£5 at Glastonbury) and was delighted to discover that the pockets are huge, big enough to accommodate Savoury and Chips, as well as a bottle of pop. I'm sure 'proper' Barbour pockets are designed to hold a brace of pheasants or something - but not many of them on the mean streets of Walton.

Chippys are ace, aren't they? And one of the few places where regional variations still exist and, indeed, flourish. For instance, I'll bet no-one outside of the Merseyside conurbation has a clue what I'm talking about when I talk about the 'Savoury' - I've never seen them anywhere outside of Merseyside. Anyway, a Savoury is basically mashed potato, flavoured with some fish (not much) and herbs, circular, around 5-6 inches in diameter and an inch deep, battered and deep fried. It's not a fishcake by any stretch of the imagination, but that's its nearest culinary relative, I guess.

Anyway, the footy. First start on the left wing for Diniyar Biliyanetdinov (hereafter 'Billy'), and Danny Gosling as an emergency right back. And a stroll in the park. Two quick goals from Billy corners - my, this lad knows how to put a cross in! and a phenomenal strike from Stephen Pienaar put us 3-0 up inside about half an hour, and thereafter it was training match stuff. Cahill substituted at half time after a daft booking, Billy worryingly limping off with what looked like a groin strain, and two sendings off (one each) - Saha walking in injury time for a daft flick at the shoulder of one of their defenders who went down clutching his face as if shot. A fourth goal from Jo gave us a comfortable win but really, AEK didn't turn up. Will be much tougher against Blackburn on Sunday.

Lucas Neill, signed on a free, introduced to the crowd at half time. Some mutterings on the message boards, but I think it's a good piece of business - a proven Premiership defender, no fee, one year contract, a bit more strength in depth. Wages will be obscene, no doubt, but that's a given anyway.

Oh, and top entertainment from the AEK fans, who didn't stop singing, dancing and showing off all game. Choreographed waving, bowing and jigging all match. Half of them probably won't know what the final score was, but probably don't care either. Top notch fannage.

The Boss on the soundtrack - for the first time? Can't remember. Anyway, this from the famously hyped London concert in 1975 where 'Rock 'n' Roll Future' was introduced to a sceptical UK. With the benefit of hindsight, Bruce delivered big style on the night - this is a rollicking set with some great tracks from the recently released Born To Run album and his earlier stuff, including a great (aren't they all?) 'Rosalita'.

After missing the Boss for years (I queued up for tickets at Manchester Belle Vue - or was it the Apollo? - in 1978 without success) I finally saw him for the first time at Old Trafford last year, when he didn't disappoint, than of course at Glastonbury earlier this year. A performance that might just have begun to remove Son No 2's 'Brucie Blind Spot' - even though he was too drunk to remember most of the set!

Bruce was, and is, an international treasure and should be cherished.

Rosalita - live in Phoenix 1978 - as one You Tube poster says, 'This nine minutes is more cool than my whole life'.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Day 186: Happy Birthday!

Today's soundtrack: Stevie Wonder - Hotter Than July

Son No 1 is 22 today, so a quick phone call to wish him a happy one - I couldn't get through to him initially, turns out he's been sitting (and passing!) literacy and numeracy tests as a precursor to an interview next week with the Civil Service. Good for him, at least one member of the Waring family is having some success on the job front!

I left him to ponder on his plans for the evening and turned my thoughts to the day's activities. However with a stone of tomatoes provided yesterday by the aged parents, I had some cooking to do - pay attention, recipe fans!

I'd already done a quick supermarket run first thing to pick up the other ingredients I wanted for today's recipe - a sweet pepper and tomato soup, basic recipe courtesy of the New Covent Garden soup company - included in their cook book, which Mrs W has kindly bought me at Christmas. The site's got plenty of recipes, but not this one - but no matter, this is how it breaks down:

Take six red peppers, cut in half and de-seed. Place cut side down on a baking tray (or probably two).

Skin your tomatoes by putting them in a bowl of boiling water for a minute or two. If you then pierce the skins with a knife, they will come away easily from the tomato. (Really - I had my doubts about this process but it does work like a dream).

Now the recipe calls for eight tomatoes, but I ignored that. Quite apart from the fact I had twenty-odd tomatoes to get rid of, eight tomatoes vs. six red peppers just didn't seem like the right ratio.

So all twenty-odd tomatoes went onto the baking trays with the peppers, cut in half with the cut side up, this time.

Splash of olive oil over the veg, spoonful of sugar too, salt and pepper. Oh, and a scant handful of fresh basil leaves and stems, chopped.

Stick in a hot oven (190 degrees C) for about an hour. Bits will go black but don't fret.

In the meantime, chop up an onion or two, a garlic clove or two, and fry gently in your big soup pot for about 15 mins. You want them to go soft, but not brown.

When your veg are roasted, throw the red (and black) gloopy mess on top of your onion/garlic mixture. Bring to the boil then take off the heat for a while. Whizz them up with your whizzy tool of choice into a smooth paste. Add a litre of vegetable stock (proper ready made stock please, not a couple of Vegetable Oxos) and stir thoroughly. Bring to a slow simmer and cook for a while and serve or freeze as you choose.

Some more fresh basil added at this stage would also be very nice.

Apparently you can serve this stuff cold, but really, it's crying out to be eaten hot, with lots of white crusty bread dipped in, isn't it?

There are very few people who really deserve the epithet of 'genius', but in my humble opinion, Stevie Wonder is one of the people who does. Almost twelve months ago to the day, I saw Stevie in Manchester. He was magnificent, as you would expect, despite a penchant for audience participation I could have done without. I came to hear you sing, Stevie, not 14,000 tone deaf Mancs!

Hotter Than July my be Stevie's last great album, coming off the back of a run of albums that just might be the greatest series of albums ever - from Music of my Mind through to Songs in the Key of Life. not quite up to that standard, but would be most other artist's best ever.

Master Blaster (Jammin') is the track the album is probably best known for, although every track is a winner really. However on my son's birthday, the only track I can really give you is 'Happy Birthday'. Credited with introducing a national holiday on Martin Luther King's birthday (and so not really that appropriate for a personal birthday celebration!) it is possibly one of the few songs that has actually had a real impact on the 'real' world.

But that's not all the Stevie you're getting today. I can't take the chance on 'Talking Book' coming up anytime soon on the soundtrack, so here's a bit of 'Superstition' for you.

Not just any old Superstition though. Superstition played live on Sesame Street. I came across this on another blog (the excellent Dust on the Stylus) some time back, and can do no more than copy the original poster's comments before playing you the track...

"It's the song as we know it but with - is it possible? - even more funk. Then it goes into an uber-funky jam for two minutes, then a false ending. Then - you fucking what? - a minute of Stevie singing 'Sesame Street'! Over Superstition! Bear in mind that, ten years into a career of classics, the guy was only 22 or 23 here; he has the kudos, the track record, the long-term immersion in music that make it seem to be something he breathes. Set free from the bonds of this earth, he's adrift in funk heaven. At the same age 'young' pop stars like Noel Gallagher and Morten Harket were still years away from making their first records."

Go on - play it - all the way through. It is the funkiest seven minutes you'll have all year!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Day 185: Know Who You Are At Every Age

Today's soundtrack: Cocteau Twins - BBC Sessions

Sound advice indeed for the birthday boys today and tomorrow, from today's cover stars the Cocteau Twins, about whom more later.

Spent most of today out of the house, finishing off yesterday's chores - but being a good son, I spent the first part of the morning slaving over the breadmaker, making a loaf of bread for my mum.

Showing off, basically.

Then it was off out, first stop the Post Office to post Son No 1's birthday card and to - finally - get my Latitude pics sent down to Simon. Got there in the end mate! I have such a busy life at the moment, as you'll appreciate...

Then back to Bathers, to collect my new tyres. Now I'm not one of those people who insists on using small independents to the exclusion of major high street chains, but it is nice to be able to support a small, long established local business - especially when they do offer a great level of service. I turned up, tyres were there, two guys working together replaced both front tyres, checked pressures in the back tyres and I was sorted and on my way within fifteen minutes. Coupled with a decent price for the tyres - still not cheap, but less than I've paid elsewhere - and I'll be back there next time.

After the tyre service, it was off to my folks, to drop off my nephew's birthday present (a new England shirt) and my freshly baked loaf, still warm from the oven. Naturally my mum had to cut the loaf for lunchtime sandwiches (method in my madness, you see!) and I came away with a big bag of home grown tomatoes, ready to be turned into soup of some kind (recipe tomorrow, foodies!)

Then back home to see what havoc, if any, the cat had wrought. Thankfully, no corpses or indoor interlopers that I could see. I think he saves up his naughtiness for the weekend, when Mrs W is around. He's good as gold with me!

And so The Cocteaus on the soundtrack today. Another group that helps put the lie to the notion that the '80s were a barren period for good music. Wispy, ethereal, unintelligible, but ultimately incredibly beautiful music with layers of guitars and effects, topped with one of the most idiosyncratic (in a good way) voices in popular music.

Today is yet another of my BBC session albums, but the quality is as good as on any of their wonderful studio albums. Cocteau Twins produced many good sessions for the Beeb, on Peel of course, but also for David Jensen and Richard Skinner, and this album perfectly complements their even more polished studio work.

Where to start with the Cocteaus? Probably 'Heaven or Las Vegas' is their most accessible album, although 'Treasure' or 'Head Over Heels' might be the better albums. The compilation albums are good, but really their albums sit better as complete works for me.

Here's 'Heaven or Las Vegas' - absolutely beautiful. And no, I've not a clue what she's singing about. And I don't care either.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Day 184: Tyres are Knackered, Knackers are tired...

Today's soundtrack: Lou Reed - Coney Island Baby

So, any chance of a quiet day today? Well, yes and no. I had a few things to see to that would keep me out of the house today, but I had no Exploding Plastic Inevitable in the kitchen to deal with today, and The Hunter spent most of the day in sleeping, rather than hunting, mode.

Even genocidal killers need their beauty sleep.

So it was out early, to pick up a birthday present for my nephew and birthday cards for him and for Son No 1. Their birthdays are a day apart, a source of great consternation to my Son just before Nephew was born, as he did not want to share his birthday with anyone! Luckily fate intervened and their birthdays are a day apart. Which also makes them easy to remember.

Birthday stuff sorted, a quick dive into M&S to give Mrs W a few options for tonight's tea, and after a very quick (and free) turn around HMV, it was off to Rock Ferry to sort out a couple of tyres for the car. I've been putting this off for way too long, to the extent that I'm pretty well driving round on 'slicks' at the moment, which is highly naughty and getting more unsafe by the day. Finally grasped the nettle and, eschewing the big tyre chains, took the car to Bathers, an independent (and cheap) tyre company that's been in business (although God only knows how) since I was a small boy, and probably for many years prior to that as well. They had to order them in, but they'll be waiting for me tomorrow at eleven.

Called in on the ageing parents since I was in their neck of the woods, but they were out...what's that all about? Turns out they were in my neck of the woods, over in Warrington - but hey ho. I'll call in tomorrow when I pick the tyres up.

So back homewards, but not before stopping off at the pet store to pick up some flea stuff. The animal kingdom is taking its revenge on Pedro by infesting him with a bunch of tiny critters dedicated to eating him. Fine, but not when the same critters think they can take chunks out of Mrs W and me as well!

So - Frontline for the cat, spray for the furniture and upholstery and - when the Frontline has worn off - a flea collar (plus bell!) for the beast. Maybe the merry tinkle of the bell will alert the frankly sluggish local wildlife that they ought to get their skates on if they don't want me chasing them round the bedroom with a Tupperware box...

A welcome spot of Lou Reed to listen to today. Coney Island Baby was released in 1976, and showcases Lou in relatively mellow mood, in stark contrast to the album that precedes it, 'Metal Machine Music', a contractual obligation album consisting of an hour of feedback and white noise. Coney Island Baby is a far more listenable piece of work, although some might find it a bit lightweight compared to the likes of Transformer, Berlin and Street Hassle. And they'd be right, but there are a few gems buried in the album, not least the title track.

Here's a stunning live version of Coney Island Baby, probably from the mid '80s. Lou's tinkered a bit - a lot more about the 'glory of love' than 'playing football for the coach' but some lovely guitar work towards the end.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Day 183: What Have I Done To Deserve This?!

Today's soundtrack: Prince - Emancipation

So after last night's excesses, I was hoping for a nice, quiet morning to recover gently, before the double header of the Grand Prix and the Everton game.

Not a chance.

Just got myself settled, when I get the call that The Hunter has struck again, trotting past Mrs W in the kitchen with a mouse between his jaws. I finally cornered cat and prey in one of the bedrooms, where my efforts to separate the two were hamstrung by the bed itself, underneath which cat chose to base his feline activities. Eventually, after haring round the bed and crawling underneath it, I managed to grab the cat and persuade him to let go of the rodent, which I was then lucky enough to trap underneath the Tupperware box that doubles as a humane mouse trap.

Rodent saved and released into the wild, cat grounded (again), Paul ready to resume the recovery position.

Not a chance.

One look at Mrs W's face told me there was something else to deal with. Something quite bizarre - there's been some sort of 'explosion' in one of the food cupboards. Tentatively opening the cupboard (How had this happened? Was there some sort of angry beast in here - chased in by the cat? What?) I discovered a spray of tomato salsa - everywhere. It looked, I kid you not, like someone had opened the cupboard and projectile vomited over every available space.

They hadn't. Honest. I didn't drink that much ouzo last night.

After a quick forensic review of the crime scene, this is what I think must have happened. Remember yesterday's barbecue? It was accompanied by a range of relishes, including a squeezy jar of salsa that we'd had for a while. It was the contents of this jar that had emptied itself over the cupboard - unaided by human or animal. I can only assume that the contents of the jar were 'on the turn' and had started to ferment in some way - leading to a build-up in pressure that had relieved itself by forcing the lid of the jar open and spraying the contents over the cupboard. Is this feasible? Has this ever happened to anyone else?

It's either that or we've got a poltergeist.

So, cupboard and contents cleaned and rearranged, I could now sit down and relax, no?


Mrs W had retreated to the garden whilst the spring clean was under way, where she had discovered the remains of the squirrel who'd tangled with Pedro yesterday. Pedro (or maybe some other creature of the garden) had kindly dragged the stiffening beast up onto the lawn for us to find.

And for Paul to dispose of.

So, on with the gardening gloves, a couple of plastic bags, and Sammy Squirrel was given a rather undignified incarceration, leaving only the question of which recycling bin was designed for squirrels (no, he did not get a Christian burial I'm afraid). He ended up in the green one, largely on the basis that this was the next to be collected.

Finally, I got to sit down. For five minutes, before cranking up the barbie for the remaining burgers and sausages, not consumed last night.

Then it was time for the Grand Prix. An interesting race, the frontrunners risking a two stop strategy when a one-stop seemed to be the preferred option for most teams. And the one-stop proved to be the right one, with the two Brawns making the pace as the pitstop strategies unfolded. Hamilton, on pole and on a two-stop, pushed the two Brawns hard - too hard in the end, spinning off on the final lap. With the Red Bulls nowhere, the only twist comes with the finishing order, a resurgent Barrichello likely to push Button all the way to the end of the season.

And so to the football. We've struggled year after year at Craven Cottage, but a victory lat year had hopefully laid that bogie to rest. And that seemed to be the likely outcome after a first half in which Tim Cahill had given us the lead and we'd never looked under any real pressure.

Second half though, the gameplan unravelled as Fulham came out of the traps the stronger. After a very fortunate deflection they were level, and eventually took all three points following a fine goal from Damien Duff. Git.

We nearly forced an equaliser, but never really looked like we were going to come back into the game, resorting to hoofball at the death. So three defeats out of four, rooted in the bottom three and struggling.

But not panicking. Just yet. Despite a bit of knee-jerking on the forums and message lists, I'm not convinced we're actually playing that badly now - the season is still there to be turned round, although Moyes could do with blooding some of the new boys to freshen things up a bit, I feel.

Final crank of the barbie this evening to finish off the meat (some nice rump steaks and lamb noisettes) with salad, before the early evening chill sent us indoors to watch the end of Series 6 of The Shield (just one more to go), and finally to bed.

And, finally, some peace and quiet.

Oh, some Prince on the soundtrack today, although not Prince at his most inspiring, I'm afraid. Emancipation is a three-CD set, released by Prince at the end of his 'Slave' phase (hence 'Emancipation' - you see what he did there?)

Freed from record company control, Prince chucked everything he had lying around onto this three hour set, turning what could have been a half decent single album into a bit of a sprawling mess. That said, even indifferent Prince has plenty to recommend it. This album is partially saved by a couple of decent tracks, including two excellent covers. This is the old Stylistics number, 'Betcha By Golly Wow' and (cheesy video notwithstanding) it's ace. Enjoy.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Day 182: Barbie Girl (and Boy!)

Today's soundtrack: The Waterboys - This is the Sea


I blame the Ouzo.

A long day today, but hugely enjoyable too. For once, the sun shone at the weekend so we decided to go ahead with the plans for a mini-barbecue in the early evening. Mrs W was up early to get the final few essentials - bread buns, spring onions for the salad - and lemonade for the Pimms!

While she was out, I knocked up a quick loaf for our brunch - BLTs on fresh squidgy white bread. Yum!

Mrs W then chased the sun round the garden, while I made a start on cleaning up the tiles salvaged from the bathroom. In the meantime Pedro launched a campaign of shock and awe on the neighbourhood's wildlife. Firstly, he managed to catch another small vole and disappear down the banks with it before we could catch it. This, however, was a mere appetiser for his piece de resistance.

I was indoors, updating this thing. Mrs W was outdoors, iPod on, eyes closed. Completely oblivious to the carnage happening but a few feet away. Pedro had - somehow - caught a squirrel and was busy going medieval on its ass. Now, to be fair, the squirrels in our garden are a cheeky bunch and have systematically taunted all our cats over the years, always escaping by the skin of their teeth.

But not today. Pedro got one back for the felines. Sadly, this state of affairs could not be tolerated by the grownups, so we chased cat and squirrel around the garden for a while and finally got them separated. Cat grounded, squirrel cowering under the ivy and ultimately disappearing under its own steam.

So no barbecued squirrel today, just some burgers, sausages and chicken. Happily the barbecue was in pretty clean shape, so it was just a case of chucking the charcoal on, getting it alight and cooking the food.

But first the Pimms. One big jug, sliced fruit and cucumber, loads of ice, Pimms and lemonade. The bottle suggests a ratio of 1 part Pimms to three of lemonade. Yeah right. Ours might have been a tad stronger, I suspect.

Slipped down nicely, neither of us feeling any pain.

That is, until I decided to fiddle with the flames. Now let this be a warning to you. Just because a lump of charcoal is sat away from the growing fire, and looks black and cold, do not assume said lump is capable of being picked up by hand and placed on top of the pyre. I did, and I have the blisters to prove it.


But anyway, food was delicious, as was the wine we drank while we were cooking and eating. The shadows lengthened, so it was back indoors for a spot of TV and a drop of Ouzo. At which point it all gets a bit blurry, as I settled down in front of the computer, headphones on, listening to Beatles and typing the rubbish you can see below. At some point Mrs W came down from the bedroom to complain about my singing, and later - much later - I turned off and crawled into bed.

But the Ouzo was to blame, not me.

The Waterboys were, briefly, one of the Next Big Things in the '80s. This is The Sea was their third album, and the last of their 'Big Music' phase, before they got all rootsy and raggle taggle with Fisherman's Blues.

'The Whole of the Moon' was the Big Track on the album, and it sounds as good now as it did then.