Saturday, October 24, 2009

Welcome to the Working Week!

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

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

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

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

But I'm still knackered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 19, 2009

Day 218: Signing Off...?

Today's soundtrack:  Various Artists - True Romance Soundtrack

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

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

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

Course I bloody can.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 18, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, how we laughed.

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

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

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

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Day 216: Shitshitshitshitshit....

Today's soundtrack:  Kasabian - Empire

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

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

Cue panic.

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


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

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

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

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

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

"Sorry, we need that number".

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

"Because the club told me to".

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

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

To be continued....

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

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

Friday, October 16, 2009

Day 215: Out on the Tiles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Thursday, October 15, 2009

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

Today's soundtrack:  Porcupine Tree - Coma Divine, out, in, out....and continue for the next 70 discs.  All day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here they are - Arriving Somewhere But Not Here!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Day 213: Drum....

Today's soundtrack:  Angelo Badalamenti - Twin Peaks Soundtrack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not literally, of course.  That would look messy.

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Day 212: Head out on the Highway

Today's soundtrack:  CSS - Cansei De Ser Sexy

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

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

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

Which is nice.

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 12, 2009

Day 211: What happened there?

Today's soundtrack:  Randy Newman - Lonely at the Top:  The Best of Randy Newman

So where did Sunday go?  It's now Monday, and I can't remember a single constructive thing I did on yesterday.  Must have achieved something, surely?  No?

I guess we all have days like that occasionally.  And I bet they are usually Sundays, too.

But you must have done something with the day, Paul - it can't have been completely empty?

Well, no, it wasn't.  I read for a while - the music mags have been piling up for a few days and I finally got round to finishing this month's Word, the one with Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips on the cover.  Now there'sa Marmite band if ever there was one - those who love the group really evangelicise them, whilst those who hate the group do so with a passion.  There seems to be very little middle ground, as evidenced by a big debate on the Word blog this week.

Me?  Not my cup of tea at all I'm afraid.  I like the idea of the Flaming Lips, but I can't get past Wayne Coyne's terrible singing voice.  Thin, reedy, out of tune more often than in - no redeeming features at all, I'm afraid.  Now don't get me wrong, I do like singers who can't sing - I give you Bernard Sumner, Mark E Smith, Neil Young, Ian Dury, Joe Strummer for starters - but it just doesn't work with the Flaming Lips, whose material is crying out for a singer who can actually sing.

I also dabbled with Skype as well, and - I think - got it working reasonably well on computer and netbook (although I'm struggling with the microphone levels on the netbook) - might come in handy if I'm working away for a stretch.

Speaking of which, the other important thing I did was to get myself prepared for the long drive down to Staines, to scope out the contract work that *might* come my way shortly.  It would definitely help, but I need to be sure that I'm not cutting my nose of to spite my face from an insurance perspective, and in the context of any permanent work (are you listening, Preston?) that might come my way.

More on Staines tomorrow!

Oh, and we ate, of course.  Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon on toast for lunch, and Aussie steak combos for tea.  Very nice too, but not hugely complicated - and I'm sure you've had the recipes before too.

So all in all, not that unproductive a day really I suppose.

Some Randy Newman on the soundtrack as I type.  Randy's another one with possibly not the strongest voice around, but his loose, sardonic delivery fits his material perfectly.  Randy's one of the greats - hugely underrated, very intelligent - and if anyone tells you that Americans don't get irony, point them in the direction of Randy's material.

Lonely at the Top is as good an introduction to Newman's work as you could ask for - definitely a good leaping off point for anyone wishing to explore further.

Here's 'Political Science' - as relevant to American foreign policy today as it was in 1972?  You decide...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Day 210: Footy on the box...

Today's soundtrack: The Rites - Downloaded tracks

Out early this morning, to pick up a few bits and pieces to see us through the weekend.  Picked up The Times too - it's not often these days I bother with a newspaper, but I fancied a long, leisurely trawl through the paper today for some reason.  Oh, and there was a code to download a raft of live REM tracks as well - which probably made the difference between picking up The Times or The Guardian today.

I'm easily bought.

Then back home, to an empty house, Mrs W. Pilating at the gym.  So a quick blog, then a comfortable few hours with the newspaper, with one eye on Soccer AM on the TV.  Multitasking again, you see.

Lunch was a delightful BLT on freshly baked bread - one advantage of The Hunter's early morning runs dragging me out of bed is the ability to get a loaf on good and early, so that it is baked and rested in time for lunch.  Watched the last Masterchef quarter final in between mouthfuls of BLT.  A couple of very competent chefs going through this round, especially young Ryan, a very serious young man with an air of quiet confidence about him.  Semi finals next week - who needs Strictly X Factor when you've got excitement like this?  Well, Mrs W. for one, I suppose.

Then in the afternoon I watched the England game on the computer.  This is the match that no-one wanted to televise, so it ended up being broadcast on a 'pay per view' basis over the internet.  Now it may have been 'pay per view' in theory, but of course in practice there were any number of, er, 'unofficial' streams out there, were you of a mind to explore.

Which I did.  However I actually ended up watching on an official stream, albeit free of charge.  Bet365 were streaming the match on their site, free to anyone with funds in their account.  So I deposited ten quid, watched the match, withdrew ten quid, everyone happy.

Except Robert Green though, I should think.  Let down by Stevie G not letting a ball go out for a throw, and by Rio failing to judge a hopeful long ball, his bid to keep the green jersey lasted about fifteen minutes before bringing down the Ukranian forward and earning an early bath.

Perhaps he just wanted to avoid being pelted with flares.

Penalty missed, England were coping with the pressure up to a point - that point being Cashley's inability to defend compounded by an attempted header away that merely succeeded in diverting a shot that David James probably had covered into the corner of the net.  After the goal, a combination of fine goalkeeping and decent organisation kept the scoreline at 1-0 to the end, without ever really looking like England would get back into the game.

Good job it all counts for nothing, qualification being achieved before kick off.

Tonight's tea was a fairly decent prawn stirfry - spring onions fried off with some fresh ginger and chilli, fresh prawns added to the mix until they were properly coloured, then a combination of red pepper, pak choi, button mushrooms and baby corn added to the mix and cooked through.  The whole thing then dressed with some nam pla, soy sauce, lime juice and zest and finished off with a sprinkling of fresh coriander and served on a bed of noodles.  Lovely!

I'd love to tell you all about today's band on the soundtrack, but to be honest, I know nowt about them.  The eight tracks I have on iTunes were downloaded from the band's website, but I can't recall what directed me to their website in the first place.  Must have been on someone's recommendation, but I can't remember who or when.

What I can tell you is that they are hard rocking in a no-nonsense way, they are Scottish, they have no Wikipedia entry and they are the third of three bands called The Rites listed on  They do have a MySpace page, which hasn't been updated for months, and it looks like they split up a while ago but are playing some reunion gigs shortly.  Nothing on YouTube that I can find.

Oh no! no music for us today Paul?

Would I let you down?  Of course not!  I mentioned REM at the top of the page - lets have some more REM!  And some monsters!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Day 209: Let's Get It On!

Today's soundtrack:  Marvin Gaye - The Very Best Of

A bit of a flat day today, if I'm honest.  I finished yesterday absolutely bushed, and I'm not sure why.  Spent most of the afternoon sat in a car on the Huddersfield run, but that shouldn't really wear me out.  I did eat too much tea - chippy tea on the way home which, if I'm honest, was piled up on the plate a bit and did sort of over-calorify the back end of the day...if I said fish and chips, the latter covered in spicy chippy curry sauce, with a big fat scallop on the side, you'd have to agree it was a bit over the top.  No marks from Gregg or Chef Michel for presentation, certainly - and they might have blanched at the seasoning, as well.

But when it's what you want - it's better than any fine dining experience - ever.

So to bed with what felt like a lump of concrete slowly setting in my belly, giving me one of the less sleepful nights I've had.  Not helped, of course, by the furry alarm clock, who has decided that 6:15am is the optimum 'killing time' and yowls until he is released into the early morning mist.  My job to let him out - only fair, since Mrs W is the one going out and earning a crust just now, I guess.

Progress on the job front is pushing forward quite nicely in two directions at the moment - today we moved the London contract on a bit further...Monday I'm going down to Staines to meet the finance team and to do some serious scoping of the project.  This looks like a goer, irrespective of what happens on the Preston front.  Just need to make sure that timings don't upset the big prize, which is, of course, the permanent job!

Trains to Staines are a pain, though (you see what I did there?  I don't just throw these words down, you know) - so I think I'll drive down on Monday - early start to avoid the Birmingham rush, and I'll be fine.  It'll be nice to get a suit on and to get back to the day job, if only for a while.  Like riding a bike - hopefully! - it's been a while since I've done any serious job speccing, but once you've got it...

Speaking of Birmingham reminds me - Kevin got in touch this morning to share his 'Eureka' moment with me. He thinks I should write seriously - fiction, or some sort of autobiography based upon this here blog (but with less cooking).  To be honest, I'd love to - if I had the inspiration, the subject to write about.  I know that this stuff keeps me entertained - and about 25 of you out there - but would people really pay for a book based on all this stuff?  I have my doubts.

Anyway, how do you embed a YouTube clip into a book?

We'll see - I'm sorely tempted.  Perhaps I'll just print the lot off and send individual volumes out to you all.

Actually, scratch that, print it out yourselves.

I'm typing this on a quiet Saturday morning, with a full pot of coffee on the side, Mrs W. out at Pilates and Pedro bown the banks - and Marvin 'getting it on' in the background.  Not literally, obviously.  His 'getting it on' days were sadly cut short by his old dad a good few years ago now.

But - late night or early morning, when the mood is right - is there anyone else who can caress your eardrums as well as Marvin?  Effortless singing, a huge range of upbeat and downbeat material, classic duets with Tammi, Diana and Kim.  Songs to move you and groove you.

Is there a song out there as lusty as 'Let's Get It On'?  Only one - Sexual Healing - and that's one of Marvin's as well.  Social comment?  What's Goin' On is the template.

Marvin - along with Smokey and Stevie - took the Motown template and raised it way beyond boy band/girl band stuff, helping create a whole new sound (the Sound of Young America!) that complemented the deeper soul coming out of Memphis at the same time -and soundtracked the Sixties into the bargain.

Music that is sprinkled with genius.

Let's get it on people.  Ow!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Day 208: Not Nineteen Forever

Today's soundtrack: Little Man Tate - Nothing Worth Having Comes Easy (with a side order of Courteeners)

So - The Boy turned twenty today. That's a bit of a worry that is. On two counts - firstly, I can't conceive of my No 2 Son being anything other than a teenager...and secondly, I can't conceive of myself being someone with two sons who are both in their twenties.

I can remember when I turned twenty - like it was almost yesterday. Living in Sheffield in a student house very similar to the one Matt lives in (albeit with no girls living in the house - that would just not have occurred to us!). Me, Alan, Steve, Big Paul and Little Paul. I recall vast quantities of drink being consumed, and some jape involving an alarm clock under my bed taped inside a biscuit tin - and bag of flour positioned over the bedroom door. None of that seemed to bother me too much - and the depth of my drunken stupor rendered the alarm clock jape pointless anyway!

I do remember we played The Undertones' 'Teenage Kicks' more than once - no more Teenage Kicks for Paul, you see - but I don't remember turning twenty having any discernible impact on my life in any way - I didn't suddenly grow up or put away childish things.

In fact, I still haven't.

But we are Not Nineteen Forever, as the Courteeners never fail to remind us. Here you are Matt - just for you. We were in the middle of that lot somewhere...and I expect you to still be in the middle of the equivalent crush in thirty years' time! I know I will be...

Drove over to Huddersfield today to give The Boy (can I still call him that?) his birthday presents and to run him over to Leeds to pick up a parcel from the City Link depot there. The plan was to fit in a pint or two as well, but a big holdup on the M62 put the mockers on that, and we just about got back in time for his radio show (Good Tunes For People Who Love Bad Tunes - got it right this time) on student radio, after which he was out on the splodge with his mates.

What a life eh?

Earlier in the day, I'd got the call I wanted from the recruitment agency - I've blown yesterday's candidate out of the water and am still their 'preferred candidate' - but they are seeing one other - Friday or Monday - before moving to the next stage, involving meeting senior management and the Audit Committee. So still in there fighting.

And getting quite tense too - there's a John Cleese quote from 'Clockwise' that fits exactly how I feel at the moment...

"It's not the despair... I can take the despair. It's the hope I can't stand."

Little Man Tate playing away in the background. LMT are/were a Sheffield band who came through at the same time as the Arctic Monkeys, Milburn and Reverend and the Makers. A great little band - The Boy introduced me to them and we saw them in Liverpool a couple of years ago. After a few years of middling success, at best, they have decided to call it a day and move onto other things. Matt went to one of their farewell gigs last week - his review is here. A shame they are splitting up, they had a way with a lyric and a tune that is in short supply these days, all laced with a sly humour.

Nothing Worth their second (and final) album, and very good it is too, easily the measure of their first album, About What You Know. Both well worth seeking out.

This is 'Hey Little Sweetie' from 'Nothing Worth Having...' Naughty little girl!

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Day 207: Anniversaries old and (relatively) new

Today's soundtrack:  Bruce Springsteen - We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions

Out and about today - I needed to go and visit the aged parents, to pick up a birthday card for Son No 2, who turns twenty tomorrow (Twenty!  Where did all that time go?).  Oh, and to swap soup - I took some of my ham and lentil down for them, only to be given some of her broccoli soup in exchange...which Mrs W immediately earmarked for her lunch at work tomorrow!

Mum and Dad are in the middle of celebrating some remarkable milestones amongst their friends and relatives at the moment - they were at an 80th birthday party over the weekend (at which my dad, like a naughty schoolboy at a wedding, gorged himself on all the food on offer and ended up awake all night with chronic indigestion) - and, more impressively, they are going to a 70th wedding anniversary in a couple of weeks.  Married seventy years!  It doesn't bear thinking about, does it?  My Aunty Edna and Uncle Teddy - must both be in their nineties by now, unless Edna was a child bride.  Married before the outbreak of the Second World War, and still both sharp as a new pin.  God bless them.

Suitably humbled, I headed off to the shops to get my own birthday card for The Boy and to get some stuff in for tonight.  Steak, chips, mushrooms and onion rings tonight, watching The Shield and Professional Masterchef - which appears to have more rounds than an old school bare knuckle fight.  Which is a good thing, in my opinion.

Otherwise, it was a quiet day all told - no more news on the job front, although none was really expected today.  Still waiting for a date for my London trip, and the competition for the Northern job was being interviewed late this afternoon, apparently.  Might hear something tomorrow, although Friday might be more likely, I guess.  Was it so bad of me to be beaming bad thoughts up the M6 this afternoon?  On Mrs W's advice, I stopped beaming bad thoughts, and switched to 'positive' thoughts about myself instead.  Let's hope it does the trick!

Listening to The Boss as I type - The Boss, Jim, but not as we know him!  The Seeger Sessions see Bruce leaving the E Street Band at home, and performing a batch of 'Trad. Arr.' tunes (and a couple of originals) associated with or written by Pete Seeger, the aged folkie.  So no saxophones (Matt) but plenty of accordions and banjos instead.

'American Land' is the one track from the album that seems to have found its way into Bruce's regular setlist - currently as his final encore - and it's easy to see why.  It's a great tune, performed with Pogueish punkiness by Bruce and his cohorts and a great way to end a night out with The Boss.  See that crowd bounce!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Day 206: B'dum B'dum....

Today's soundtrack:  Buzzcocks - Time's Up

Stuck around the house for most of the day today, with only the joy of a trip to the dole to break up the day.  Boredom indeed, as our cover stars today might have said on occasion.

However there was some comeback on yesterday's jobseeking activities - most of it positive!  Firstly the bad news - the potential contract in Liverpool isn't going to happen - they want specific financial services experience - possibly the only thing in my CV that I can't point to directly, or manufacture from somewhere.  So discussed it with the recruitment consultant and decided not to push forward this time.

Better news from Preston - one other candidate being interviewed tomorrow, so some feedback by Thursday, hopefully.  Current vibes are positive, but the company do want to see someone else for comparison purposes, at least.  Recruitment consultant is upbeat, but then aren't they always?  It does look like it's a two-horse race though, so the odds are as good as they could be I suppose.

And still better news from London - I'm going down there next week to do some serious scoping of the project, with a view to kicking things off asap, if everyone is happy.  I quoted some daily rates that they accepted without question - so which are probably too low - but which from my perspective at least will give an acceptable return on the work done.

So it's a bit of a juggling act at the moment - keeping things moving forwards on all fronts, whilst keeping as many options open as possible.

One slight moment of panic at one stage today though - I emailed Mrs W. to keep her up to date with progress, copying in an email from London, to which she replied.  Not to me, but the the FD down in London.  Oh dear.  Luckily, she didn't say anything that was libellous, embarrassing or downright rude (for once!) so no damage done - but she was mortified, of course.  Naturally it was my fault - putting the email in an attachment rather than in the body of my email - how could I?  I was more amused than alarmed I have to say - at least after I read her reply!

How filthy was the weather today?  Where did that come from?  And aren't cats supposed to be extremely reluctant to get wet?

Not ours.

He insisted on having free passage outside all day, then coming in, sopping wet, at random intervals.  Then getting dry.

Getting dry involves jumping onto my lap and transferring wetness of fur into wetness of clothes.  Every.  Single.  Time.

Then going out and doing it all again.  Bless him.

Very early Buzzcocks on the soundtrack today.  Time's Up is (was) a bootleg of Devoto-era Buzzcocks, that - I think - eventually got an official release.  It includes the tracks that eventually found themselves onto the 'Spiral Scratch' ep with a mix of tunes that were released by Shelley-era Buzzcocks either as singles or on their first LP - plus the wonderful Beefheart tune, 'I Love You, You Big Dummy' that Magazine eventually recorded - and which they are still using today, in reformed guise, as their final encore.

Yes, it's lo-fi and messy, and all the better for it.  Bear in mind that this is the motherlode - the whole Manchester scene - Buzzcocks, Magazine, The Fall, Joy Division/New Order, Factory Records, the Stone Roses, Happy Mondays - and yes, Oasis - it all started with this band and this bootleg.

This is ace - filmed at the Lesser Free Trade Hall - the site of the famous Sex Pistols gigs that kicked the whole thing off.  If the date at the beginning of the clip is to be believed, this was actually filmed at the second of the two Pistols gigs and would have been Buzzcocks' first ever concert.  Obviously Breakdown is dubbed over the top - wouldn't it have been great to hear the actual audio instead?

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Day 205: Fr-fr-fr-Frustration!

Today's soundtrack:  Leftfield - Leftism

As Marc Almond once stuttered, albeit in very different circumstances, I would imagine.

It's frustrating enough being out of work and waiting for the phone to ring, or the emails to arrive, when things are quiet - but it's doubly frustrating when you are actually waiting for something tangible - in this case, some feedback and updates from an interview that took place over a week ago.  It's triply frustrating when the lack of that feedback is holding up another opportunity you are chasing!

So I spent the morning trying to get some arses into gear - and getting nowhere, quite frankly.  At least I've done all that I can do to push things on.

Taking a step backwards for a minute, I know - from being on the other side of the table - just how long these processes can take, and where they sit on the priority list when things are manic - but knowing that doesn't actually ease the frustration that much!

In better news, I took a couple of calls from one of my more reliable consultants, about another contract opportunity in Liverpool that might give me 3-6 months' work.  Just waiting to get some more details on that one - perhaps this is the one that will eventually come good?

Still, pointless fretting about it - you have to manage your impatience and continue to show a brave face.

So - how to fill the time?  Well, if in doubt - bake!  Two loaves today - a slightly off-the wall Spelt loaf for me, made interesting by the addition of milk powder, lemon juice and zest and poppy seeds, and a more mainstream rustic French loaf for Mrs W's sandwiches.

Oh, and I finished cleaning off the old bathroom tiles at last - after days and days of hacking away with a chisel at the old cement, my dad gently broke it to me that the cement would be water soluble - and so would wash off easily.  And it did.  How foolish do I feel now?

Unfortunately no excuses left for not retiling the bathroom now...

Having sorted out the Glastonbury ticket sales, the fun now starts trying to guess who the headliners are going to be for this 'special' 40th anniversary festival.  Current speculation has the Stones, David Bowie and Coldplay as favourites, closely followed by Bob Dylan and the Foo Fighters.  My money is on Radiohead - but as Son No 2 pointed out, my money is on Radiohead every year.  Got to be right eventually though...

I suspect Coldplay will be there though - in which case I shall be elsewhere.

Filled the rest of this loooong day by managing my football team a touch further.  As my young team of promising starlets have aged, matured and gelled, and buoyed by their success last season in the Europa League, they are now a fixture in the upper reaches of the Premier League despite a hideous lack of sensible funding from the Board.  Currently top of the league (in Christmas 2013) although an upcoming away match against a frankly unbeatable Man City might soon drop us from those heady heights.

The Boy went to see Little Man Tate in Sheffield  the other night - one of their final gigs before sadly splitting up.  His review is here, and you will note he is pretty disparaging about the support band, Artery.  A shame they were poor - back in the day - when I was his age, actually - they were one of the leading bands on the Sheffield alternative circuit, along with Cabaret Voltaire, early Human League, Clock DVA etc.  Looks like they've recently re-formed and are doing the rounds again - although I would suggest a gig supporting LMT is not the right sort of slot for them.  Now if only the Cabs would re-form and get out there...

This is what Artery were like back in  the day - somewhere in Sheffield, 1978.  I might even be in the crowd, somewhere...

In contrast, today's soundtrack features electronic noiseniks Leftfield, who are actually not all that leftfield, when you listen to them.

Leftism is their first album, and doesn't include Phat Planet, used in the excellent soundtrack to the Guinness advert with the surfers and the horses, but is still a pretty good collection of beats and techno, with a nice dubby companion disc attached for good measure.  Oh, and a good selection of guest vocalists, including John Lydon, who brings something a bit special to 'Open Up'...

Monday, October 05, 2009

Day 204: T-Day!

Today's soundtrack: 'Til Tuesday - Coming Up Close - A Restrospective

Up early - very early - this morning, to catch as much of the Grand Prix as I could, then to sit at the computer pressing the F5 key until See Tickets coughed up a Glastonbury ticket for me.

Luckily, The Hunter was up for an early morning stakeout, so any chance of inadvertently oversleeping was removed. Six thirty, and I'm making coffee and watching cars driving round in circles.

The Grand Prix was a bit of an anticlimax really - missing the start didn't help, and by the time I was watching the shakedown for the final positions was all but complete. A win for Vettel keeps the championship race interesting for a couple more weeks, although points for Button and Barrichello really means the inevitable is just delayed slightly.

So - in front of the computer by 8:30, ready for the ticket rush. Really, I wasn't sure why I was bothering to get sorted so early - for the last couple of years, tickets have taken weeks, if not months, to sell out, and the level of 'noise' around ticket sales didn't give the impression it was going to be an almighty struggle this year.

But still, better to be sure than sorry. Last year, See Tickets had sneakily opened sales a good hour before the 'official' time of 9:00, so I thought it was worth trying early again this year. And sure enough, I managed to get onto a live sales site by about 8:50. Worryingly, the website 'fell over' a few times as I was going through the booking process, but I got the successful transaction screen just before nine - and the official confirmation email about an hour later. Simple - sorted. No mad panic.

Sent a text to The Boy just to make sure he was up and about, and getting himself sorted, then logged on to the Glastonbury forums to see how the day was unfolding (and to soak up just a bit of early Glasto 'vibe', man). To my surprise, it looked like things were getting a bit tough out there as the day went on - half the tickets sold by 10:00, according to the official Facebook page, with no sign of sales slowing down.

A few other successes - The Boy got a couple of tickets, as did Timmy and Moggsy, then Rhys - but one other member of the Wells Massive was having registration number difficulties.

A few issues with confirmation emails coming through, but again, updates from the organisers confirmed that they were taking ages to get don't panic, Captain Mainwaring! I was fine though, and could leave for the footy safe in the knowledge that I was sorted, at least.

And still the sales continued, and the website was rammed. Some early signs of mild panic on the forums, but no-one really believed they would sell out today, did they? Well - they did, apparently, 'Sold Out' notices going up at about 9:00pm.

Pleasing in one sense - it means that only the really committed will be there next year, not the people who decided to go on a whim - but also worrying that a good few mates might have been caught out by the rush.

Wonder who's going to be playing next year? A minor detail, though.

And so the footy. Had to go by myself today, father out at a birthday party and nephew playing football himself. You would ordinarily expect to be beating Stoke City at home - but they are a big, physical team and not really the sort of team you want to be playing on the back of a long European trip in midweek. Given recent injury problems, we had a pretty decent team out - but no Yobo or Pienaar meant starts for Bily on the left of midfield and Johnny Heitinga coming in at centre back.

And the game panned out pretty much as expected - a tough, physical game with few chances. Those chances that did arise in the first half came mainly to us - unfortunately we didn't put any of them away, something we would come to rue later in the game.

All square then at half time, but with us ahead on points. A situation that became irrelevant five minutes into the second half when Stoke took the lead from - inevitably - a set piece, Huth heading home from a corner.

Oh dear.

We continued to play pretty well, but with little penetration - but five minutes later we were level through a spectacular goal from Leon Osman. Captain for the day, and playing well, he exchanged passes with Johnny on the edge of the Stoke area before crashing in a left-footer from 25 yards off the underside of the bar. A lovely goal, totally out of character with the rest of the match.

After that, we kept pushing and should have taken the lead but Cahill's header from six yards was straight at the keeper. We flung on Jo and the Yak to add to the firepower, but this seemed to unbalance the team (Moyes, to his credit, admitted this was his mistake after the match) and the game fizzled out to a 1-1 draw.

Disappointing, but the unbeaten run stretches to six games now, and with more games under their belts, the newer players are beginning to settle in. With injured players still to come back, I remain optimistic for the season ahead.

'Til Tuesday on the soundtrack today. Mid '80s powerpop from the band that gave us Aimee Mann, and although it all sounds a little dated now, there's still some good stuff in there. They were never particularly successful in the UK - and not that much more successful in the States - but are worth seeking out.

Here they are performing 'Voices Carry' in New York back in 1985. Not convinced by the hair, chaps...

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Day 203: Sleepy Saturday

Today's soundtrack: The Cure - Faith

Brilliant! My Richard Hawley ticket arrived this morning!

Twenty four hours late. How rubbish is that? Still, as I said yesterday, I ended up being 'not that mithered' due to the sheer hassle of getting into the city around the Tory Conference. Coupled, of course, with the lure of a Friday night curry with the missus.

Saturday turned into a very lazy day all told. Up early to let Pedro hunt and to bake some bread, then a quiet morning with Mrs W out at her Pilates class. Missed the Grand Prix qualifying due to them all being in Japan and sorting it all out at six in the morning (Vettel on pole, the Brawns nowhere - is there still a twist to come this season?) and no footy until tomorrow - so what to do?

Cook up a storm in the kitchen - that's what! Mrs W came back from the gym ravenous, so it was on with the Formby, out with the frying pan, to deliver up a mountain of sausage, bacon and egg - all to be served up on the freshest of squidgy white bread, sliced with an electric knife as anything else would have caused the loaf to disintegrate.

Eaten in front of Masterchef Professional - now...fine dining or sausage and bacon butty? No contest! In the televised contest, the French Lad and the Scottish Lad went through quite easily, the Little Girl and Other Bloke falling by the wayside. I like the French Lad - bizarrely called 'Ludovic' - he's very laid back and has this strange accent that is a hybrid of French and Welsh. He can cook though, with one of the critics getting quite excited about him - although it might not have been his cooking that was exciting him, if you take my meaning...

Frittered away the afternoon with one eye on the football - Portsmouth won! Wow! - but with little interest, the Big Match being us up against Stoke tomorrow, of course. Then it was back into the kitchen to whip up a stonking lasagne...sorry Matt, it would never have kept through to Thursday and anyway, you've still got my single portion lasagne dish!

Very pleased with today's lasagne, I must say - the quality of the mince from our local butcher plays a big part in the success of the dish, but the addition of some fresh basil also helped, I think. I also got the consistency of the cheese sauce spot on - that can sometimes be a bit of a disaster, but not today. I'd give you all a taste if I could - but I can't, so you'll just have to look at it instead...

Mrs W. had 'Strictly' on while I was cooking. They seem to have interpreted the term 'celebrity' rather loosely this year - in the vast majority of cases, I couldn't have told you who was the celebrity and who was the professional. Even when they were dancing. The dancing partners seem, if anything, even more 'tactile' this year than they have in previous years - some lovely shots of wives in the audience with false grins frozen on their faces as their husbands and boyfriends are getting seriously touched up by some young totty wearing a few sequins and little else.

I predict a rash of divorces in Celebrityville following this series. Oh, and get Brucie lined up for the 2010 Dead Pool - it can't be long now...the brain has clearly gone, the body surely won't be far behind...

The Cure for your (and my) listening pleasure today. Quite early Cure too - Faith was their third album, when Robert Smith was still pretty miserable, experimenting with eyeshadow but well before the lipstick smear and the bird's nest 'do.

And all the better for it, I think.

Here's 'All Cats Are Grey' from Faith, with a quite evocative 'video' put together by someone on YouTube. Very nice too.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Day 202: Who Watches The Watchmen?

Today's soundtrack: R.E.M. - Reckoning

Me! I watched The Watchmen!

Finally - I bought the DVD some time ago, then put it to one side until I'd read the book. Then never got round to watching - until this afternoon, when a verrry slooow Friday afternoon needed something to fill it. I needed to find time to watch it by myself, because it is not a Mrs W type of film in any event, and especially with her being unfamiliar with the book.

And I really enjoyed it. Not entirely sure why they had to modify the ending in the way they did - you wouldn't have thought the CGI budget would have been a problem - but it still worked well enough. Inevitably huge chunks of the book were omitted, but nothing that had a significant impact on the main plotline of the book. In fact, I was impressed just how closely the film followed the book - right down to large swathes of dialogue - which makes it even stranger that they felt the need to play around with the ending in the way they did.

I do think familiarity with the book was important to be fully aware of what was going on - particularly the backstory about The Minutemen - and I think some of the plot leaps might have been a touch confusing for someone who didn't know the book.

So - the best film treatment of a comic book? Probably. Looking forward to the inevitable 'Director's Cut/Ultimate Version' though.

Today was a bit meh, all told. No news on the job front, which is a bit frustrating as I need to know what's what in the context of the contract work opportunity down in London. Emails over the weekend to chase up, I think.

I was also supposed to be seeing Richard Hawley in Manchester tonight, but that didn't happen either, as my ticket never arrived, despite Ticketmaster insisting it had been delivered. Probably a victim of the recent postal strike. In the end, I wasn't overly disappointed - I'm sure the chance to see Mr Hawley will come again (he said hopefully - I've got previous form in missing bands forever when I had the chance to see them, haven't I, son?) and it would appear the due to the Tory Conference being on in Manchester, parking around the Hall would have been a nightmare anyway.

So I stayed in with Mrs W and caught up on Masterchef. Pile of rubbish, the two groups of chefs we saw - I'd have done better than any of them - obviously!

In other news, I took a trip out to Blockbuster to get some rubbish films (and some good ones too) to watch over the weekend. They were doing a 'five films, four nights, a tenner' deal, so I stocked up, planning to rip a couple of them to the computer for 'personal evaluation'.

I'd downloaded some ripping software a while ago, and it seemed to work well with the first disc - 'The Damned United' - that is, until I tried to move it across into iTunes. Outside of iTunes, the film was just about an hour and a half long. When I copied it across - which it did, quite happily - the film suddenly doubled in length to over three hours. It seemed to have copied over twice in the same file so there were two 'showings' of the film one after the other - strangely, one with sound, one without. A quick trawl of the internet proved this was not an uncommon problem - but it was also a problem without an obvious solution! So I ended up getting the film across in two stages - ripping into .avi format in the first case, then converting the .avi file into an .mp4 file using a different piece of software.

That worked well, if a little inelegantly.

So - REM on the soundtrack today, a first, I think. Reckoning is their second album, when they were still very much a semi-obscure 'college band' beginning to make a few ruffles in the 'real' world. They had been critic's darlings from the release of 'Murmer', their debut album, but the heaps of critical acclaim they had was still to be turned into mega sales of their albums.

Of course they became absolutely massive, although recent years have seem them fall away both in terms of critical and public acclaim. I went to see them last year at Old Trafford, not expecting much to be honest, but the really blew me away - a fantastic live band still.

Here they are, still young and spotty, when Michael Stipe still had hair (and a minor drug habit, looking at the state of him) performing '...Rockville' in someone's bedroom.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Day 201: Everton master BATE

Today's soundtrack: Stevie Ray Vaughan - The Essential Stevie Ray Vaughan

Ok, I know, it's childish and not particularly clever - especially when you know that 'BATE' is actually pronounced 'bar-tay'.

But who could possibly resist? It's a headline writer's dream.

And it's also the truth - a makeshift Everton team (ten - ten! - first teamers unavailable) came back from a goal down to beat the Belorussians in a very wet and windy stadium somewhere in Minsk, I think.

How makeshift? Well, Tony Hibbert - 5' 8" in his stockinged feet - was playing at centre-back for the first time. That's how makeshift. And - bless the lad - he played out of his skin as well.

As did the whole team really. We nearly took the lead when a wickedly curling shot from Diniyar Bilyaletdinov hit the post with their goalkeeper stranded, only to fall behind to a phenomenal goal - their man must have been all of thirty yards out when he hit an unstoppable shot into the top corner.

So 1-0 down, and on the ropes. We rallied, and probably played the better football, without ever really threatening. Second half, and we began to surrender possession to the Belorussians, and it began to look like 'one of those nights'. But then - a free kick out to the left floated long by Leighton Baines, to a ludicrously unmarked Fellaini, who headed down and across goal into the far corner. 1-1, and game on - although I'd have settled for that to be honest.

Eight minutes later, and our man Bily played a hopeful ball

forward to Tim Cahill, who I have to say looked yards offside. Sliding in, he scooped the ball up and over the keeper into the net. Design or accident? Well, if he meant it, it was an absolutely masterful lob. But he didn't, surely. He just got underneath it.

Anyway, no matter. He was clearly offside, wasn't he. Wasn't he? Not according to the officials, he wasn't! And replays would suggest he did spring the offside trap very cleverly. Canoe-style celebrations - apparently in remembrance of the Samoan tsunami victims rather than the monsoon-like conditions the game was being played in.
So - typical Everton - having got our noses in front, it was backs to the wall with some desperate defending to play the game out. A couple of scares, but that was it - 2-1 away from home, five wins on the trot and - even better - AEK beat Benfica to cement our position at the top of the group.

A good night's work, Blues.

Earlier today, it was out to the shops for food and stuff - and to pick up something for Son No 2's birthday next week. Not Nineteen Forever, young man, as someone once said! Picked up what I needed in HMV - and also picked up a box set of all ABBA's nine albums for fifteen quid. Couldn't leave it there.

It was also eMusic download day today, so I spent most of the morning (most of the day, actually) downloading and feeding CDs into iTunes. Pick of the eMusic downloads - the Speed Caravan album was finally available (Kalishnik Love) so that was first in the queue. I blogged about these back in July, in one of my Glastonbury updates, and have been waiting for the album ever since. The new Cribs album (featuring Johnny Marr) was also there, as was the 'Monsters of Folk' album. With some Black Crowes and a new album by flavour of the month 'Girl', it was a very successful day.

Just got to find time to listen to it all now.

And while on the subject of listening, a plug for Son No 2's radio show on Huddersfield's student radio. 6-8pm on Thursdays, 'Good Music for People Who Like Bad Music' [EDIT: see The Boy's comments below. I did know the Modest Mouse reference, of course - just too lazy to look up the title and quoted from (faulty) memory. I'm old, you know.] It's available on the web, but is password protected so you won't be able to listen unfortunately. I had a password, but still couldn't get on the site for some reason so will be picking up a download file next week.
But it will be good, I promise you.

I'm typing this today into Google Chrome, Google's new browser. After many years, I have fallen out of love with Firefox, my usual browser of choice, but which seems to have become slower and more buggy in recent months. So far, Chrome does seem to be a lot quicker and doesn't 'hang' on me the same way Firefox has been doing for a while, particularly when iTunes is on in the background.

And in the background we currently have Stevie Ray Vaughan, one of the greatest blues guitarists (of any colour) to surface in the last thirty years or so. Sadly no longer with us, Stevie progressed from being another Hendrix wannabe to one of the more original and tasteful guitarists around, more interested in feel and emotion than technical widdlery.

There's plenty of clips of Stevie on YouTube doing Hendrix and Stevie Wonder covers - but here he is with the old blues classic, 'The Sky is Crying'. Wonderful stuff.