Thursday, July 25, 2002

Things my girlfriend and I moan about

A friend who I seldom see anymore has a rule: when somebody calls him from another room he doesn't answer because he thinks the caller is being lazy. I like this rule, it's a principle in practice. I'd love to think I'm as assertive with my principles, so when Emma phones me up whilst I'm ambling down Oxford Street looking for a suit for Penny's wedding and asks me to get a pint of milk from the Tesco 45 miles from where I stand, and not 150 yards from her, why do I do it?

Emma is on school holiday, she gets a lot of holiday a year. If I put this to her, she says that a. she deserves it and b. what is she supposed to do? teach an empty classroom? My answer to this is a. yes she does, she works exceptionally hard and is very good at her job, I want her to have a nice time on holiday and b. no of course I don't but I would like her to do a few house chores as well as shopping, and making grand interior design plans. She tells me how unreasonable I am, and looks at me like I am not a liberal happy go lucky chappy, but a miserable sexist misogynist who doesn't want a girlfriend but a slave. Then I feel bad and travel 45 miles to get a pint of milk, but consider this...

Emma works approximately 1290 hours a year, and has 390 hours of holiday, she therefore needs to work 3.3 hours for an hour of holiday. I work 1680 contracted hours a year, and have 154 hours holiday, I have to work 15.3 hours for an hour of holiday. Emma justifies her 390 hours holiday by saying that the extra hours she puts in during term justifies the extra holiday. We can therefore assume she is working, like me, 15.3 hours for every hour of holiday, which nobody sees because it's done at home, for each of the 390 hours of holiday, she works an additional 12 hours outside her contracted time or, an extra 4,680 hours a year. Now if she works 1290 hours a year, or 215 days, that means she's doing 21 hours overtime every day, working 27 hour days. She gets to work by 8am, which means she's working until 11am the next morning. Emma stops working on the previous day three hours after she gets up for the next day! In her career so far she's worked five months more than she's actually lived, in her mind it's Christmas! So where are my presents?

Now, she's not currently wearing Christmas knitwear and singing carols so am I really being unreasonable to ask her to dedicate some of the 13 weeks of holiday to the tedium of chores?

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

People Are Nice

I have a theory that I am not a gregarious person because my first primary school, Burnside, was a school opened to cope with kids not able to go to the areas overfull school. I lived miles from most of my friends, so my friendship making skills were hampered by my lack of interaction with people out of school. I was far from a lonely or unhappy child, but I'm sure this had an effect. This kind of pschological analysis deserves me a spot on Big Brother I think.

Despite this I have now got the most fantastic bunch of friends. On Saturday, as an honoury girl at Penny's Hen Weekend, I had the rare opportunity of taking a step back to enjoy some of the friendships I have. I drove away feeling refreshed and full of energy. Centre Parcs creates an unerring sense of Stepford evil as blissed out nuclear middle class families ride around on bikes worshiping in a central glass dome protruding menacingly out of the conifers. You can feel its seductive presence that convinces you that the outside world is a terrifying prospect. I dwelt heavily on the right adjective for the next sentence, but couldn't come up with anything more fitting than lovely. I had a lovely afternoon with a group of lovely people, some are friends I've known for years, some I didn't know at all, but all were lovely.

Saturday night was Paul's 30th in Reading. I've known Paul, Pete, Ian and Richard more than 20 years. They've remained close since school but I've drifted. It's partly my fault, but it's as much to do with circumstance than anything malicious. The debut of Pile of Wank, the band formed for the party was analogous of my position within this group. Whilst the band played on, I stood on at the back watching. When you grow up with someone, as Paul and Pete have, you create a friendship that means you can play "I Will Survive" on wah wah guitar and Kazoo in front of 80 people. When you don't, you cling slightly to the sidelines hoping to get a bit of that inspiration, but it takes very little to cut you adrift. I enjoyed the night, but was left with a sense of melancholy as I dabbled on the margins of the party. I accept this fate, it's the result of my tardiness towards friends, and Burnside school. I will try to do better in the future, but I suspect circumstance will have me again. The band were fantastic, Paul's punk pop baritone Fergal Sharkey Undertones vocal is a demonstration of an untapped talent, Pete's immaculate lead guitar provides a polish that all great bands need, and Richard and Ian's rhythm section is tighter than a g-string on a fat bird. Fantastic.

Sunday I saw the little bag of crying that is Sophie, how can someone who farts so much, pulls the most gruesome of faces and makes the ugliest noises be so cute?

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Seaside Rendezvous

Four years ago we went to 'Skint on Fridays' the London residency of mid-league DJ Norman Cook. We'd been before, and seen Norm play slots at a couple of festivals. We were fans, and, though it's hard to believe now, it was nice to be part of an 'underground'. Norman was about to release a new single, The Rockerfellar Skank. Simon had 30 friends there, including Her, it was a warm spring evening and there were good vibes all round. Norman's set took the roof off, it had everything, Run DMC, Blur, Prodigy, Young MC, Deadly Avenger. He dropped Rockerfellar Skank and during the proposterous break down he stood and grinned with his patented finger waggling in the air. We all stopped and applauded, he then proceded to drop Out Of Space and we all sang along. It was a 'moment'.

If I've had better nights, but I don't remember them. Since then we've seen Norman play Fabric and Brixton Academy and Homelands and, now, Brighton Beach in front of 250,000 people.

The organisers couldn't have predicted a 700% growth on last year's crowds, so there can be no criticism of the fact the sound system was inadequate, nor the way the event stretched the Brighton infrastructure to its limits.

Like The Beatles at Shay Stadium, this wasn't about the music or the performance, which was OK. This was about the defining moment, a higher gear that Norman couldn't have imagined he had. But it was also about the chaos, which was friendly and unthreatening always, the boats in the sea, the police helicopter hovering above the crowds, getting onto the beach and seeing the heat haze distorting the distant stage, it was the enormity of the event and knowing also, that nobody was in control. This wasn't corporately constructed, you didn't go down there thinking that you were going to be part of history, like attending a royal funeral, it was an exciting accident, you had no idea how it would turn out. Because it was so far out of my sphere of normalcy, I now can't believe I was there, it was superbly exciting.

Despite all the chaos, we were eased through without a care, we got steak and chips in the Laines, and got to the beach about an hour before he went on. We missed Midfield General because we were stuck in traffic. What we saw of Diggers was excellent - Leftfield, KLF, er, U2. We could pretty much hear everything and had good-ish views. When they pulled the plug on Norm, we hiked back to the car, and were home by 1am. So whilst the whole place apparently collapsed, we had a rather easy ride.

Saturday, July 13, 2002

I'd Love To Be Proved Wrong

Whilst reading the Oxford United discussion forums on This is United I have found an equally useful licence to have; "I'd Love To Be Proved Wrong". Oxford is owned by Firoz Kassam, he built a stadium against almost insurmountable odds and funded the club for three years, however the club have dropped two divisions in three years. The blame for this slide is regularly placed at Mr Kassam’s door. You see Mr Kassam is planning, apparently, to run the club down and make millions of pounds from (now take your pick here).... professional rugby, a motel, a cinema, or fiendishly cackling whilst wearing a cape tying Penelope Pitstop to some train tacks.

The nightmare scenarios described by the contributors to the forum regularly preclude the phrase 'I'd Love To Be Proved Wrong But'. This licence absolves you from responsibility for what you’re saying. Why would you love to be proved wrong? Wouldn’t you prefer be proved right? Wouldn't it be gratifying to have the satisfaction of knowing you’ve read the situation correctly. "ILTBPW" allows you to sit on both sides of the fence at the same time rather than contribute to something. In footballing terms, it's a licence to moan and not go to games, but leaves the door open for you to return when things get better. This absolution of responsibility is what many Oxford fans want; it gives them the freedom to moan about things that they refuse to take any responsibility for their part in the sorry situation.

Justin Ruffles… Licensed To Take the Piss

Some years ago whilst sitting in the gardens of a small Oxfordshire publisher enjoying one of many sunny lunchtimes, my venerable friend Dave aka Rave, an altogether brighter, and more successful chappy than I, but prone to a bit of pisstake began to recieve his daily dose, my particular gambit opened with "Rave, with all due respect..." to which the young raver retorted with, "With all due respect, yeah, a fucking licence to take the piss". Proving fundamentally that three years at Cambridge weren't wasted on him.

It wasn't that I was impressed by Dave's eloquence, but by the identification that "With all due respect" is a particularly useful licence to own. The key to the phrase is, of course, "all due", referring to the fact that respect is pending and that it will be delivered in full. The downfall is that what remains un qauntified is how much respect there is in the first place. It's like going into a pub and asking for a full glass of beer, handing over your money, then the barman pulling out a thimble filled to the brim. The pisstaker, like the barman, retains the knowledge on how much respect, or beer, is about to be given. The pisstakee expects more respect than the pisstaker is likely to give, so when the pisstake is delivered, with the respect still undefined, it is delivered with less respect than the pisstakee ever expected. This works particularly well with more subtle criticism, i.e. "With All Due Respect, I think you may be misguided" really means "The amount of respect I reserve for you equates to wiping shit off my shoe, and from what you've just said, proves you are not only shit off my shoe, but shit off my shoe that is wrong."

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

Christmas and birthdays all at the same time

On Saturday we went on the London Eye for Penny's special birthday treat and, conincidently, a long held Christmas presents from Emma. Each trip is on the Eye is known as a flight, because, Emma claims, 'It's owned by British Airways', which would suggest BA are a little pre-occupied with reminding people they fly planes; no wonder they're losing £40 gazillion a day. This flight concept and the idea that we're going on a big ferris wheel provided the axes for jokes whilst we queued. Simon had forgotten his passport, I wanted to hang my legs over the edge of the carriage and rock it and where were the oily gypsies hanging off the carriages taking your fifty pences? All the while the meeters and greeters smiled, which is to be applauded.

The flight is a curious sensation. Because you are hermatically sealed in a pod it's difficult to get any sense of height because all the elements that make you aware of your surroundings are trapped on the outside. This seperates you from what you're seeing, like in a film, just with a very poor story, but great cinematography. On balance I prefered being trapped inside than feeling the wind in my hair. It's a great thing to do, and like everyone, I now want to go on it during dusk, night, rain, snow and armageddon to get the full effect.

Afterwards we went to All Bar One opposite the Angel tube, they ran out of bitter, which is surely a sackable offence for the bar manager. If anyone knows their name, let's dob them in. The bitter was a rather manky London Pride anyway, but the problem with having to switch to lager for me, is that the next morning I have a hangover and spend the rest of the day feeling headachey, paranoid and maudling. It only takes one lager to do it to me, I should learn I suppose.

I've Been Hustled

For years I've engaged in gentle and harmless sibling rivalry with my sister. Nothing serious, neither of us are competitive enough to be bothered about who is the more able plumber, or who would win in a pole vault competition (me, in both cases by the way). It's just all the normal stuff all kids do, little mickey takes and jokes, mucking around establishing a hierarchy based on some fairly sketchy criteria.

Anyway, all this time, I've sniffed the gentle aroma of victory... I've always been the witty one with the sharp comebacks, and the cooler taste in music (Duran Duran Vs Orbital) whilst she has adopted the endearing, slightly ditzy, girlie persona which makes you a lot of friends, but does jack-all in winning sibling jousting. And then sensing the big win, just as I slap the big double or quits bet onto the table, she only bloody goes and produces a baby. Eclipsing everything I could ever possibly hope to achieve. Not only that, she's coping with motherhood more naturally than she used to cope with going alone to the campsite toilets to brush her teeth on holiday... now how the bloody hell am I supposed to match that?

We saw Sophie on Sunday. She farts alot, but she's amazing.

Monday, July 08, 2002

Riders Ready... Peddles Ready... Go

Kirsty and SophieOn Friday I became an uncle for the first time. At about 11pm my sister, after a 23 hour labour that sound like nothing short of butchery, a little Sophie (name: tbc) finally popped out. I don't know the details of the birth, I know Kirsty was due to be induced, but don't know what that involves. I asked Emma's friend Jo, the mother to 9 month old Alice, Emma's goddaughter. She said something about knitting needles and used the word "Vaginal" and I had an involuntary loss of hearing for a while. My mum used words like "Suction", "Epidural", and "Stitches" referring to the labour. I chose not to listen to the detail. None the less, I don't think the induction was needed as things began to happen naturally on Thursday night.

My dad, who, as he approaches retirement is the quickest draw I know on work email, sent through a message on Friday morning saying the baby was due "About lunchtime". Lunchtime passed, and mid-afternoon tea... if you take mid afternoon tea, and past the end of work and on into the night. All the while there was no news. Funnily enough both dad and I independently came up with the same analogy of how that feels. It's like waiting for an Apollo space landing craft to re-enter the atmosphere and regain radio contact with mission control. I was a little more specific choosing Apollo 13 for my analogous reference point, dad chose the whole Apollo space programme and wasn't too discerning about which mission it was most like. Presumably, whilst we dreamt up clever analogies, Kirsty felt like she was passing the whole Apollo space mission, ground crews and all, out between her legs.

Saturday, July 06, 2002

Start at the very beginning

I thought I'd start a blog on the basis that during quieter moments I've been reading other peoples'. I don't really know where to start so I just thought I'd do what everyone probably does.... put up a test posting.

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