Friday, December 31, 2004

Ruffles music top 10 of the year

1. Felix Da Housecat - Devin Dazzling and the Neon Fever
2. Burgess, Tim - I Believe
3. Spinbad, DJ - Frabriclive 14
4. Orbital - Blue Album
5. Armand Van Helden - A New York Mix Odessey
6. Jurassic 5 – Power in Numbers
7. Krafty Kuts and Yousef - Circus Meets Chibuku
8. Basement Jaxx - Kish Kash
9. Kasabian - Kasabian
10. Goldie Lookin' Chain - Greatest Hits

Tuesday, December 28, 2004


My best ever Christmas haul was the year I got a six foot snooker table, it was complemented by a number of other presents including Subbuteo, Lego, portable radio and the Roy of the Rovers annual to make it the best ever. This year, I reckon was the best since then.

Amongst the booty was a juicer, perfect for my attempt to become healthier through the aid of kitchen appliances alone. I got some diddy Altec Lansing speakers for my iPod from Emma. There was a didgeridoo from Kirsty, allowing me to finally fulfil my ambition to play an acoustic version of Aphex Twin’s techno classic, one of my all time favourite tunes. Talking of which, Spanx tracked down a mint and rare as hen’s teeth vinyl copy of Tricks of the Shade by the Goats – a favourite album (3rd in fact, but more of that later).

It was comic strips ahoy as I got a full set of Boondocks books and one of Matt Groening’s Big Book of Hell. If that wasn’t enough, I also got The Snow Patrol mix CD The Trip, with Freelance Hellraiser on the knobs, Hot Fuss by the Killers and Medulla by Bjork.

Along with some cool Christmas knitwear, a t-shirt with a lego version of Mr T on it and a copy of Top Spin, sometimes receiving is better than giving.

Monday, December 27, 2004

If you can't stand the heat

I wouldn’t say that Grandma’s house was hot on Christmas day, but mum did tell dad to put the leftover turkey in the car so that it wouldn’t over cook in the central heating. F'real.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Return to Scuff

One of my biggest regrets is that I don’t see enough of my friends. It’s not that we make it easy for ourselves, Katie and Australia Jo live in Australia, Penny and Mike are in Jersey, Jules has spent the last couple of years shuttling between Nottingham and New Zealand. Everyone is busy, so it usually takes a wedding to get everyone in the same room at the same time.

Worryingly, Scuff 2’s main room was empty for quite a long time. But at least it was occupied by those I most wanted to see. We hadn’t seen Penny, who for the second year running turned up as a surprise, since the 24-hour mercy dash to Russ and Sam’s wedding in July. We hadn’t seen Willy and Leo since their housewarming, and we hadn’t seen Jules since she helped me with my foot at The New Year hideaway in Derbyshire. Nobody had eyeballed Andrew for over a year.

I kept reassuring myself that as we’d managed to get nearly everyone in the same room and that this was the success we were looking for. Penny, suffering from a dose of trapped wind, was able to get down on all fours and rock rhythmically to release the discomfort in the middle of the dancefloor with nobody noticing. The party wasn’t rocking quite how we’d envisaged.

It was kicking off on the ground floor, people were getting stuck in the bar – and damn them – enjoying themselves too much to explore the rest of the venue. Then the evening pitched down a notch as a kerfuffle involving a lost sister driving around London aimlessly unfolded. The whole thing was turning into a nightmare.

But, one thing my How To DJ Properly book talks about is patience, soul destroying though it was we kept cool and cranked the music up slowly from a bit of 60’s funk and disco, to some hip hop, a Spankee deep house set, a Ruffles slightly bigger house set. As the nonsensical breakdown for Felix Da Housecat’s Watching Girls Go By wound its way up, I looked up to see the room had suddenly become pretty full.

Someone came and asked to help us dig out some records – thanks, we said, but there wasn’t enough space. There are some people here “desperate to dance to Hey Yah by Outkast”. We’d play it, we said, he wanted to know when, where, how, why. We were on a role, and back in control of the night, I rebuffed him and he retreated.

Then Spanx called it, the time had come, it was time to make people dance. I pulled out Lose My Breath by Destiny’s Child, a gargantuan tune, a sign to say that we were onto a new level. Clearing the palette with Tipsy by J-Kwon we introduced some floor slaying Beyonce.

Thousands of pounds of investment in music and music playing paraphernalia, hundreds of hours perfecting our laughable mixing skills and it took Beyonce, Wham Rap, Deee Lite and, of course, Outkast to set the party alight. But that doesn’t matter when you’ve got the whole room smiling. People were dancing, standing on chairs, and erm, doing press-ups. We mixed up Wiseguys and Sugarhill Gang, sampled and looped up the opening refrain of House of Pain’s Jump Around so it opened with a 10 second screech of horns. At one point Spanx simply got bored of a tune, stopped it and put on something new. Liberation!

The tunes pitched up to Do Your Thing by Basement Jaxx as the witching hour approached. There was time for one more tune, and it was obvious which it was to be. I sampled up the opening blast of Beyonce, introducing it in time with the final thuds of the Jaxx. There was a whoop of delight from the dancefloor, somebody recognised a tune coming in. The Jaxx closed out and Beyonce, for the second time, went back on and everyone wigged out.

The landlord said we had two more tunes before he’d have to turn us off. But that was it, that was the peak, people may have wanted more, and we could have given them more, but they weren’t getting it.

We won.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Only Londoner in the village

When people ask where I’m from I say Oxford, even though I’ve never lived closer than 15 miles from the city. If pushed, I’ll say I’m from Thame, where I’ve lived longest, even though I’ve lived in Aylesbury for about five years. Most people have heard of Oxford, some of Aylesbury, few of Thame. Oxford is convenient shorthand for the region I’m from.

I find visiting Thame an anxious affair, walking down the High Street (the widest in the world, or something) is a rat run through the past. I find myself staring into the eyes of people my age trying to peel back about 15 years, through the wrinkles, fat and babies, to work out whether I went to school with them or not.

Not that I’ve ever bumped into anyone. What would I say if I did? Do I give bland platitudes? Potted histories? Reminisces? Or is it time to deconstruct shared pasts and really get down to it. I’m more confident, outgoing and, obviously, funnier than I was at school, do I return to the ‘type’ they once knew? I’m reasonably successful in what I do; do I tell these people? If I do, then will they think, as I do, how the bloody hell has he getting away with that, unless they’re proportionally more successful than I am, which they probably are. And what if they read this site… which I know some do.

Christmas, of course, increases the likelihood of an encounter as people return home to their family. Jacques Perretti’s article in The Guardian’s Guide on Saturday promised to empathise with my predicaments as he described what it was like to return home for Christmas. What’s more, Perretti is from Beaconsfield, not that far from where we live.

What started out with me thinking that I could just post the link and tell people that this was how I feel, ended with me wanting to hunt the dog down. Perretti paints an utterly fictitious picture of his home town. He has to give his train ticket to a ticket inspector “BY HAND”, he gets into a Nissan Micra Mini-cab driven by an old school chum (whose life consists of three marriages and a burnt down hotel, allegedly). He makes claims about people driving around in White GTi’s, that Christmas in the Home Counties is stuck in the 50’s and that the in-town entertainment consists of fighting and setting fire to each other. His final claim is that on returning to his local pub, the answer his old school mates give to the question how are things round here is “Alright if it weren’t for the Pakis.” The article was illustrated with a cartoon of three men drinking pints in Ku Klux Klan hoods.

I don’t know which train Perretti caught to get to this version of Beaconsfield but if it departed from platform 9 and three-quarters I wouldn’t be surprised. Beaconsfield is very much like Thame, a beautiful town, affluent, prime commuter belt. Broadly speaking the inhabitants are well travelled, educated, and liberal. These are all luxuries a town’s affluence affords, sadly this doesn’t satisfy Perreti’s jaundice view. There may not be the ethnic mix of, say, Brixton but the reasons are economic, not social. OK, so it hasn’t got a gay fetish Grime Garage club night, but it really isn’t the other world he paints.

Perretti paints a fictitious world – stations have automatic barriers, the mini-cabs outside the station are identical to those that sit outside every London club on a Saturday night. I’ve not seen a white GTi in years, nor a fight or fire. As for overt racism, I’m not naive enough to think that it doesn’t happen, but I live in the region, and don’t see it. He was either unfortunate… or lying.

Presumably this distortion is hiding the subtext that he wants everyone to know that he must be cool because he’s living in London. The kind of person who gets excited by going to work in his jeans, and living next door to black people (they’re so real… and nice…), he’s a Londoner because he can describe the tube map by the name of the line, not its colour on the map. Perreti wants us to believe he’s escaped from some middle class ghetto, forgetting that it’s he’s a product of the town. It seems that home is where the heart is, but not, necessarily, where your brand is.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

A Christmas carol

The audience in the Creation Theatre Company’s version of A Christmas Carol was resolutely drawn from the Oxford boho elite, and us. The company have carved a neat niche for themselves by placing an ornate mirrored tent in the car park of Cowley’s BMW plant, some kind of post-modern art meeting commerce type statement, perhaps.

The tent is small and intimate; the cast charge around the packed audience. As Ebenezer is lead through his Christmas nightmare rain pounds down on the canvas giving the whole thing a highly atmospheric charge.

Good though it was it did feel like I was watching the DVD of the show, stuck on one of the special additional feature commentaries. At every turn Emma would lean over and whisper in my ear the equivalent movements from the Muppet version of the tale.

Friday, December 17, 2004

The Phantom of the Opera

To prefix The Phantom of the Opera with the chillingly exacting qualifier ‘Andrew Lloyd Webber’s’ is not a good start for the ‘lavish film production of the smash hit west end snore’, but it is particularly difficult to articulate the a-b-s-o-l-u-t-e g-a-r-b-a-g-e the film turns out to be.

Of course, I should have known, I’ve seen Starlight Express, but with a clear blue print in Moulin Rouge, it surely isn’t that difficult to produce a modern musical film which is, at least, a decent waste of time.

Minnie Driver’s histrionics as diva Carlotta and Jennifer Ellison’s girly charm aside, the entire cast have been painted grey, unlike La Rouge which is spectacular in pace, rich in colours and bold in characters.

Most unforgivable is the appalling technical production – the dubbing and sounding mixing makes the songs flat and distant. The signature song – The Phantom of the Opera – should be a journey of horror, love, lust and beauty taken by the virginal soprano Christine into the menacing Phantom’s lair. Whilst the rest of the orchestration is classical, this song switches to a vague mid paced electroclash soundtrack which reaches its crescendo with a god awful pomp rock guitar solo. I found myself involuntarily crying ‘Oh God no’ at every agonising turn.

The director can’t decide whether the narrative should be played through song alone or with a mixture of speech included. It switches between the two approaches throughout finally deciding, wrongly, that the whole thing should be done sung. The story gets lost (you can’t hear the lyrics) and the supposedly touching, tender moments are more painful than having your testicles pulled. It makes you prey for double DVD box sets of extended versions of Scooby Doo 2 and Barbed Wire for Christmas.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Love is...

Getting home from a hard day’s work and serenading your girlfriend with poetry.

OK, so the poet was Jay Z and the verse was “If you’re having girl problems I feel bad for you son, I got 99 problems but my bitch ain’t one”.

But you’ve got to say the sentiment is there.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Usted, mi amigo, es un moron

Inexplicably, Oxford have recently appointed ‘The World’s Third Best Coach’ Ramon Diaz as their new manager. Whilst this claim is dubious there is no doubt he’s a big name having managed River Plate, winning the Copa Libertaros and the Argentine league title five times. It wouldn’t be that much of an outlandish claim that he was the South American equivalent of Arsene Wenger… only more successful.

Anyhow, he doesn’t speak English, so Radio Oxford (who now insist on playing Ricky Martin’s Living La Vida Loca every time his name is mentioned) were running the equivalent of a caption competition for him, playing one of his Spanish quotes and asking people, hilariously, to guess what he was saying.

Tony from Kidlington came on, the last caller on the show, he’d had a couple of hours to think up his answer, a wicked play on words, and now his time had come. Tony, the county is listening, you’re on.

“I thought that because Oxford haven’t scored many goals this season that he’s talking about scoring more goals, but it’s being misinterpreted as scoring more own goals, because, like, we scored, you know, an own goal against Rochdale a few weeks ago.”

It was, at best, a work in progress, Tone’s suggestion was conceptually sound, but lacked the clever interplay of words and puns that would have made him a winner. Still, you’ve humiliated yourself, time to get on with your weekend, eh Tone? … Tone?

Tone hadn’t finished, talking over the presenters attempts to move on and finish the show…

“…yeah I think there could be quite a lot of misinterpretation, that’s my main worry, he’s clearly a good coach but…”

The show’s end music began to wash over Tone as he expanded his concept to encapsulate the three strategic pillars of his answer which were underpinned by sound philosophical constructs drawn from the great thinkers of Ancient Greece. He’s probably still talking now.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

This is the BBC

The best quote from BBC Three’s ‘Story of Bohemian Rhapsody’ has to be Bob Geldof’s…

“’Mama, just killed a man’, wow, really I’m there, so what happened?… well nothing happens we just go off and sing a load of rubbish for seven and a half minutes.”

Best bit of BBC One’s ‘Story of Band Aid 20’ was the exchange between Joss Stone, who thought the guru behind the idea was Bob Gandalf, and Justin Hawkins of The Darkness…

JS “So where are you from?”
JH “Lowestoft… Home of rock, what about you?”
JS “Cornwall, home of soul”

And, on Radio Five, did I really hear the spokesman for the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution explain the need for a drastic cut in commercial fishing using references to The Blue Planet and Finding Nemo?

Monday, December 06, 2004

She's a celebrity, get me in there

Nina is the disembowelled spelling dominatrix on Hard Spell, BBC’s new prime time Edutainment show (Christ, I didn’t realise edutainment is actually a word). She is also a news reader on ITN. She is also friends with Vixstah.

Last week whilst having a curry with Gill and George, some old University buddies, the subject of Hard Spell came up. “I know the woman that announces the words” I said in a ‘I’ve been to one more wedding, one more baby naming party and been out to dinner with her one more time than you’, kind of way.

George’s eyes lit up, suddenly he was exalting her radiant beauty, fantasising about dates with her, daydreaming about articles in Hello in their ‘beautiful home’ together, and what it would be like going out for dinner with Ulrika Johnson and her husband.

Such is the seduction of fame, Nina’s new profile which, let’s face it, is not yet on Elton John’s level and our very distant association with her really seems to generate a unnatural reaction in people. A couple of days earlier, Emma was discussing the show with people at work. It’s the talk of the school staff room. Emma threw in that she knew Nina, suddenly whenever the programme is mentioned, rather than questioning the relative merits of humiliating children who can’t spell ‘emollient’ someone will breathily pipe up that Emma has a connection with fame. It’s got to the point where she daren’t explain that the link is tenuous for fear of a lynching.

Just wait until I tell people that my dad is friends with SKY Sports newsreader Dave Bobin, or that I went to school with stand-up comedian and Challenge TV regular panellist Rob Deering.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Ne'er the twain

On Tuesday night Alex Ferguson celebrated his 1000th game in charge of Manchester United with a Champion’s League win over Lyon in front of 67,000 fans. His two strikers cost a combined £40 million.

Alex Ferguson’s first game in charge was a 2-0 defeat against Oxford United in November 1986.

Since that day, Ferguson has won one Champions League title, eight Premiership titles, five FA Cup’s, one Cup Winners’ Cup and one League Cup. He has also been knighted.

Since that day Oxford United have slipped down the leagues and are now 21st in the bottom professional league in the country. On Saturday they were beaten 1-0 by Rochdale with a last minute goal which came off the back of the goalkeeper’s head.

Go fig.

Tonight thank God it's them instead of you

Musically, I wasn’t mad keen on the first Band Aid record. I’m pretty sure the family had a copy or two and I wouldn’t ever try to deny its impact just because the participants weren’t very cool. I just didn’t like it. I always preferred USA for Africa’s We Are The World, though it still teases my sensibilities to admit it.

We Are The World? Let’s face, you’re not, are you?

The new version’s OK, a marginal improvement bar the Dizee Rascal bit. Sadly it’s the want of fifty-something year old men to think the way to modernise and update music is to introduce ‘rap’, because after all it is a genre that is only, at least, twenty-five years old. That, or lay a 4/4 house beat over the top (See: The recent remix of Lou Reed’s Satellite of Love).

Along with the song, the history of the whole event has been re-written. Firstly, the original concept actually wasn’t that high profile. First I remember of it was an afterthought announcement at the end of a local news bulletin. There was no precedent to it, so nobody really knew who or how many stars would turn up to the recording. Geldof was a has-been punk and the Boomtown Rats were a distant memory. As a spectacle it had little more impact than a Radio 1 Roadshow. It was only afterwards, when Geldof had pulled it off, that the impact started to hit.

They’ve also largely ignored the fact that a remake has already been done by the Kylie and Jason era pop clan. There was nothing wrong with that version, but the participants weren’t that cool and the fashions not as retro as the original.

The thing that’s really bugging me, however, is Bono and That Line. No mention of the new version is complete without a mention that Bono has recreated “His famous line”. In 1984 U2 were very much at the edgy end of the pop spectrum. The omnipotent rock giants of 1984 were McCartney, Queen and Elton John, the Blues, Girls Alouds and Westlifes were Duran Duran, Wham and Bananarama. U2 were the Franz Ferdinand of their time, local pockets of fervent support, bags of potential, but nowhere near the real major league.

Bono’s Line had no more, or less significance than Simon Le Bon’s nasally whine or Paul Young’s tissue thin vocal croak. It was U2’s performance at Live Aid that started to join the pockets of support for the band and turn it them into a global phenomenon. Now they are these rock behemoths, the line has acquired a significance it never had before. Not that the whole thing needs any hype or angle, it was one of the most significant events of the decade, and perhaps the only time the whole world has been united against one cause. Oh how I loved when they cut to Live Aid Russia and the poor soviet techies had managed to plug the sound into one TV channel and the pictures into another meaning we listened for ten minutes to appalling soft rock whilst watching old women picking cherries on a farm.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

When focus groups attack

A genuine conversation from a re-branding workshop we’ve just done at work.

“We want to be all things to all people.”
“Yes, so perhaps our logo should be lots of different colours, like a kaleidoscope or a rainbow”
“And we want to be approachable, but credible. We want to give people a warm fuzzy feeling, but know they are going to get good service”
“Maybe we need an icon or figurehead, a friendly face?”
“What? Like Mickey Mouse? He’s warm and cuddly.”
“Yes, an animal would be good. Ooh what’s that animal that always changes colour”
“A chameleon?”
“Yes, that could be our figurehead”
“But they’re not warm and cuddly”
“Well, we could make it more cuddly, ooh, how about putting a chameleon in a waistcoat?“

Monday, November 15, 2004

The freaks come out

The Northern Line was an interesting place to be on Saturday afternoon. Sitting opposite me was a battered vicar in his eighties talking to a scrawny man with a regulation Marine’s flattop crew cut wearing a blue uniform, white gloves and holding a bugle.

Amongst the smattering of Arsenal and Tottenham fans returning from the North London Derby were a gaggle of Arsenal stewards straight from the 1950’s in red and white ties and thickly greased hair. Sitting amongst them were blue rinsed old ladies and nice girls who do well in their studies clutching union jacks returning from the Lord Mayor’s Show.

Dominant, however, were about 20 kids talking loudly and animatedly amongst themselves. At Archway the doors opened and the Vicar bade farewell to the bugle man and made for the door. He signalled to the kids who were clearly in his charge. The battalion of twenty North London Boys Brigade plus all their marching band paraphernalia, made for the exit. Ten made it through before the beeps threatened to close the door. The frail vicar valiantly stood in front of the door preventing it from closing. The rest of the battalion piled through the gap he created (and partly filled). For a moment, the vicar, disappeared under a flurry of teenagers, drums, and twirling batons. Eventually he regained his composure and with a bony hand directed the boys to the exits.

Bugle man stayed on for the next stop, when his cue to exit came, his afternoon’s bugling done, he ambled off to who knows what. A wife? A cup of tea? A disturbing obsession with paramilitary organisations? An imprisoned Danish student?

The rich tapestry of London.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

From the sublime to the ridiculous

Guy Fawkes night is a big night at Emma’s school. The whole village congregate for a music and fireworks spectacular. Emma is usually followed around the muddy field by past and present pupils demanding her attention and pointing at me. Friday was no different; she was quickly surrounded by a swarm of last year’s class who have been scattered to the four corners of the local secondary school world. From the gloom appeared two former pupils, Anna, and Jeremy, a plump mildly autistic boy, dressed in a red and yellow Harry Potter jumper and scarf. Emma greets them.

“Hello Anna, how’s St Joseph’s? and Jeremy, have you come straight from Hogwarts?”

Then on Saturday, Emma was looking at the TV listings and complaining that BBC were dedicated two and a half hours Paula Radcliffe’s next race; entitled “Paula’s Return”. ‘How can they justify that amount of time just on one race’.

I explained that the New York Marathon would be very difficult to complete it in any less time.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Tales from the Perfumed Garden

Having bought it religiously for years, I rarely buy the NME now. I’ll buy the Christmas special or the issues when they do the best 50 LP’s of all time etc. I gave up when I realised their understanding of ‘dance’ music stretched little beyond Trip Hop and no hip hop artist could escape without a comparison the De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising. I also sussed the editorial style, which, when assessing a new band’s style always listed two peers that you had heard of (to help you) and one that you hadn’t (to make them look cool).

“Gobstopper’s sound is not unlike early Joy Division, Blur and Flungebuckets Christmas Retention Programme”

I decided I didn’t want to read a magazine written by isolationist sixth formers dressed like Robert Smith. I’ve never regretted the decision, in fact whenever I’ve bought it I’ve found it as informative as the Tesco top 100 CD chart. Ooh the coolest bands on the planet are The Strokes, The White Stripes and, crikey, Nirvana.

I bought it this week for the Peel tribute, in which it praises his style of playing records in their entirety without speaking over them because it “allowed people to tape the songs off the radio, which is what people used to do before file swapping” Jeez where’s my Zimmer frame?

Anyway, here are my favourite Peel facts from their list of 50: -

• A massive Captain Beefheart fan, in 1969 Peel volunteered himself to chauffeur him around the Midlands gig circuit. At one point, Beefheart, ordered Peel to stop the car with the words “John I want to hug a tree”.
• Ater giving The Damned exposure on his show, he received a letter from the drummer’s mum thanking him for “helping Christopher’s career”.
• Part of his show was The Pigs Big 78 which involved his wife choosing a 78rpm record for him to play.
• He hated Essex drivers so much he’d drive around the county to avoid them.
• With the wide range of music played, Peel would get annoyed when his Festive 50 were always made up of white boys with guitars. When Nirvana topped the poll in 1991 with ‘Smell’s Like Teen Spirit’ he cancelled the poll altogether. A Phantom 50 was later broadcast through the year, one a week.
• In 1997 he ran a Festive 31 due to the paucity of votes
• He deleted the first 5000 words of his autobiography by mistake
• The only band ever to be bumped down the Festive 50 were The Dawn Parade who had something like 20 times as many votes as anyone else due to Internet vote rigging. He let them be Number 50 for sheer cheek.
• At you can find the John Peel Sweet Eating Game. It involved eating a sweet whenever he played a record at the wrong speed, mumbled incomprehensibly about a family member, was caught by surprise by the end of a track or played a record so obscure it’s only available at one shop in Oslo.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Old school to New FADS and beyond

The thing about John Peel was his relevance, whether it was dad’s Elvis and Beatles generation or my indie pop and acid house generation Peelo was all over it. The announcement of his death appears to have been greeted with uniform shock. Peel was hardly old, but he wasn’t young either, he was omnipotent in music terms and rather like the music he championed, I suppose we all assumed he would last forever.

Peel was unique, able to traverse the musical generations without effort or embarrassment. The musical tastemakers of today – Pete Tong and Tim Westwood, for example, have had their moments, but as their favoured genres become marginalised, so will they. This never worried Peel, his ability to avoid getting sucked into the industry side of music (and it’s inevitable trends and fads) meant it’s always been about the music. The industry outputs may dip and peak, but there is always good music available somewhere – Peel knew that and had a voracious appetite for finding it.

The news was broken by our Nervy Cerebral Manager who had heard it on the radio in the car. He, like everyone reacted by positioning himself in a Peel context announcing that he was a punk at University (one, we teased, who supported Anarchy in the UK as long as it was within a structured community and observed the rule of law – “Of course” he replied going crimson). In tribute, he then burst into a chorus of Uptown Top Rankin’.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Go Sox!

My dad and I agree about “one thing” apparently; that George Bush is evil. A victory for Bush endorses his right wing Christian radicalism, further polarising global politics, legitimising the ‘affirmative action’ of those disenfranchised by his aggression. His “You’re either with us or you’re a terrorist” attitude creates a vacuum in the middle where liberalism perishes and his ideological war is accelerated. Or as dad says; he represents everything that is wrong about America.

On the other hand, baseball represents everything that is right about America, and the Red Sox winning the World Series represents everything that is right about Baseball. The sport is resolute about its traditions and history which are involved and romantic. Major League Baseball is wholly democratic, players negotiate salaries and terms collectively, it preserves individual liberty – it’s a team game but you are judged on your individual merits. It is international and multicultural – it’s not unusual to find Japanese, Ecuadoreans, and Cubans in any team and I don’t mean Ecuadorian-Americans, I mean Ecuadorians who were born in Ecuador.

Why do Americans deny their own national identity by authenticating themselves with claims of being Irish or African or whatever?

Anyway, the great thing about Baseball is that no matter what level you watch, it always looks like its being played by pub players in the park on a Sunday. Most of the time the ball flies off the top of the bat and into the crowd, or scuffs along the floor. You can be rubbish at Baseball and still look like a pro (although, unlike you, they do occasionally throw the ball at 100 mph or welly it out of the ground). The great thing about the Sox though is that they are, almost to a man, shaggy barrel chested barflies which, despite the rampant modernisation of sports science today (coupled with the fact they wear almost identical uniforms) means a modern baseball professional looks no different to the hard drinking hard living players of the twenties. Football fans who hit their early thirties must come to terms with the fact they will never play professionally, a baseball fan reach his late forties before that happens.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

To coincide with the DVD release of Fahrenheit 9/11 a post written… months ago

Regular readers will know of my love hate relationship with Michael Moore. Something that will make the man himself sit up and think, when you’ve got a Ruffles on your tail it’s got to be a worry. I loved Bowling for Columbine, but thought Stupid White Men was, generally, pish. So it’s one-all with Moore’s latest venture in the cinemas.

Moore’s central argument in Fahrenheit 9/11 still makes a lot of sense, America is built on rampant capitalism, capitalism’s central theme is greed, and those who are more successful at being greedy use corporately funded fear and alienation (or more specifically, the fear of being alienated) to maintain their position. I agree with all this, although you could argue that the land of the free, means you are equally free to succeed and fail by any means necessary and it’s just that Bush and his cohorts are better than most at succeeding. Perhaps the true argument should be that the model of the American Dream is fundamentally flawed, for which all Americans must take responsibility – but Moore isn’t brave enough to make that kind of accusation.

Fahrenheit 9/11 isn’t a great documentary in itself; it’s a bit one paced and his central argument barely develops as the film progresses. Moore’s clearly struggled to get together decent footage to support what he’s saying (either that or his deliberately used grainy TV footage to give it that gritty ‘urban warrior’ feel). His interviewing style is frustratingly leading, expressing his own personal feelings as questions that his hand picked acolytes are happy to agree with.

It’s difficult to know what Moore’s objective truly is; this isn’t an intelligent commentary on the state of America and therefore the world post 9/11. If that’s what it’s supposed to be then it will fail to rouse the chattering liberal middle classes. If it’s a wake-up call or call to arms to America’s great unwashed, then the message itself is sound (watching the aggressive recruitment of troops for Iraq in mid-America shopping malls will raise a few eyebrows) but its stylistic execution is unlikely to draw people away from Spiderman 2. If it’s simply a historical social documentary, it’s really quite poor, but if it’s just another voice to add to the anti-republican cause then I suppose it’s sound, if undeserving of the publicity it’s had.

Monday, October 18, 2004

The great G-Man fridge yarn

“i am working at 8, g is out with the lads and i don’t want him wakin me up at 3”

So said the text message from Sara, explaining why she was staying over on Saturday night. At midnight, I retired to bed having fallen into a takeaway induced coma.

The phone rang.

Gareth was on the other end slurring that he was in “A whole world of trouble” – I thought he’d been arrested. He hadn’t as it happens, he’d caved in under intense drinking pressure and decided to make for home. Once in the taxi he either threw up in it, or got the driver to stop so he could. Either way the driver wasn’t prepared to take him any further and kicked him out on the edge of Oxford.

Detached from his friends, miles from a taxi rank, freezing to death, he was stranded. We were his only hope a mere 25 miles away. When I eventually reached him he told me the story rather like a tatty flick book which plays out a few pages before jumping to another section then ending abruptly (he was asleep within a mile of me picking him up).

At exactly the same time Gareth phoned, Sara’s mobile went off. It was from Waitrose (where she works – it wasn’t extended customer service). Now check this… the temperature in one of the fridges in the shop was going up, so the fridge phoned up a control centre to tell them it wasn’t feeling well. The control centre called Sara – who was on call – to go and sort it out.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Taking the rough with the smooth

Sunday: Help two year old niece look for cat, soak people with a hose, jump as 'high as the sky' and, ulp, fall into a pile of stinging nettles.

Monday: Fend off questions about delays to re-branding and the building of a new website, check latest 'management metrics' and lose sleep about low bookings for conference.

Go figure.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Parity for charity

In a rare display of collective philanthropy everyone at work participated in Jeans for Genes Day, a neat idea where you pay £1 to charity to wear your jeans to work. Hell why not?

Naturally this caused quite a bit of discussion; from our immaculately tailored saleswoman turning out in her (immaculately tailored) Shakin’ Stevens bleached denim suit, to the big issue of the day was it just jeans, or could was it extended to general civilian garb.

One woman asked me whether we could wear trainers (why me, I don’t know) I told her no, she would have to wait for Pumps for Mumps Day.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

The reality of reality

Exhausted from mothering triplets, ravaged by years of low self esteem and married to a hopelessly dispassionate man, Sara thrust herself into the willing arms of Trinny and Susannah on What Not to Wear. The rejuvenating process was humiliating; they were uncompromising in their criticism highlighting her sagging TITS and at one point forcibly removing her knickers in a public changing room. Exercising, one assumes, some clause in the sexual assault laws which excuses attacks made on make-over TV shows.

Eventually she broke down and sobbed “But you’re fashion experts and I’m from York”.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Izzy or isn't she?

This blog is exactly the same age as Sophie, my niece; in fact one of my first posts announced her arrival. So I suppose it’s remiss of me not to mention the arrival of my second niece, Izzy, or Isabella Catherine, or if Sophie gets her way, Fizzy Bella La La.

Izzy’s arrival hasn’t really had the same fanfare that Sophie’s did. Kirsty has controlled the inevitable flood of visitors to the flat, Izzy didn’t put up much of a fight, arriving as she did after a few hours of labour (much shorter than Sophie’s [gulp] 23 hours). She’s an altogether quieter more chilled baby, which is probably the result of nine months of listening to her sister’s bonkers ways – who is JTT (Just Turned Two).

Last week, after running around, shouting, screaming and laughing for half an hour, Sophie finally spotted Izzy asleep in the corner of the room. At this point she turned to me wide eyed and concerned to inform me knowingly “The baby’s asleep, shhh, we have to be quiet or she might cry”.

It may be my imagination but I’m sure in response Izzy opened one eye and said “has she gone yet?”

Friday, September 24, 2004

The SKY's the limit

A week or so ago after England beat Poland the England team refused to talk to the media about the performance. The action was in response to fierce and personal criticism aimed at David James and David Beckham after the draw against Austria.

The response from the media has been a huge backlash against these ‘spoilt petulant millionaires’ because, apparently, they have a responsibility to the fans who pay their salaries (or more specifically, they have a responsibility to the media who, they claim, have put them where they are.)

The world’s hairiest sports presenter, Sky’s Richard Keys was apoplectic. He claimed on the night that the reason the players wouldn’t talk to Sky was because their quotes would have been used by the printed press – who were obviously the true villains – thus defeating the objective of the players’ protest.

Sky’s coverage of the game lasted for five hours; take out the game itself, leaves three and a half hours of airtime to fill. They had six goals from the other home nations’ games to show (which were all shown live on other Sky channels earlier in the evening), but apart from that they had to fill it with what they like to call ‘build up’ and ‘analysis’. This is the banal interviews with players, scrutinising and passing opinion on the minutiae of games and offering the same groundless critiquing the England players were protesting about in the first place. The idea that Sky are somehow different to the rest of the media is a joke, every night they show You’re On Sky Sports! (NB sensationalising exclamation mark) which is as bad as any tabloid.

What Keys knows as well as anyone is that TV programmes are simply the things that you make to put in between adverts. Stretching a programme about an hour and a half football match over five hours simply means more advert breaks and more money. Not only do they need players to speak to them to fill the time available, they also need to talk a heap of crap themselves to fill the space.

Sky were unrelenting. Prior to the following Sunday’s underwhelming live fixture between Spurs and Norwich they skirted around Wednesday’s lovers tiff by creating their own version of history (something they have done ever since they bought football ten years ago). Needing a hook when there really wasn’t one; Paul Robinson and Jermaine Defoe two stars of Wednesday night became the focus. But how could they reconcile their fawning over Defoe and Robinson, both of whom were party to the boycott that drew their vitriol? Well, according to Sky, they were victims of the more senior England players’ militancy, both were desperate to talk to the press, but they weren’t allowed.

Sky presenter Rob McCaffrey even claimed that the squad had “obviously been badly advised”. Obviously? So obvious that respected ex-pros like Gordon Strachan and Mark Lawrenson were clearly supportive, so obvious that a BBC poll did come out overwhelmingly in support of the players, so obvious that callers to Five Live’s 606 phone were in favour of their actions.

Sky seem to have forgotten that people are far more interested in the game than the media hullabaloo that surrounds it. If that circus didn’t exist, football would continue. Sky needs football much more than football needs Sky (this is different to the relationship between Sky and the Premiership; who do need each other). In fact the most intelligent analysis of David James’ performance against Austria (the thing that kicked it all off) came from David James himself. Asked about his terrible mistake on the second goal he simply responded “I’m an international goalkeeper, I should have saved it, and I didn’t”.

Nobody’s reading this are they?

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Semite illiterate

It’s strange how easy it is to get wrapped up in the safety of your own social norms. The code of practice you assume everyone, by and large, follows to make a harmonious and peaceful community.

This week I’ve heard a woman talk about “The bin Laden’s in our street” referring to Asian families who have all built brick out-houses at the end of their gardens to “Keep their families in”. I’ve also heard someone talk, openly about “Those Paki asylum seekers” without any consideration that they may be going well over the edge of social acceptability (or indeed the presence of an Asian student working for us in the next room).

Last night, on a work do, we were talking about a particularly cerebral manager at work. He has a slightly nervous disposition and will never use three words when two paragraphs will do. He’s the only person I know who regularly uses “productive social discourse” to describe a conversation.

Suddenly one of the women at the table piped up “He reminds me of those Jews in films”. “Those Jews in films?” I said wanting to protest without rocking the boat “Yeah he rubs his hands like one of them Jewboys”. A quick poll around the table of those who share a more liberal mind about such things revealed that the key Jews In Films were Oscar Schindler, Mel Brookes and Jesus of Nazareth. If anyone has any other suggestions, I'll gladly add it to the list to try and find out what she was on about.

Monday, September 13, 2004

The Ruffles guide to installing your iPod

1. See iPod Mini in Dixons Duty Free at Gatwick airport but decide against buying it on a whim
2. Decide after boarding the plane that actually you wanted it in the first place
3. Return from holiday and scope out iPods on Amazon
4. Employ rampant scope creep and move from possibly fancying a iPod Mini on a whim to desperately wanting iPod 20GB
5. Order iPod, receive it from Amazon
6. Install iTunes onto laptop
7. Find that iTunes can’t see the CD in the CD tray
8. Test CD tray, play CD through Windows Media Player
9. Install iTunes onto Emma’s laptop
10. Find that iTunes can see the CD in the CD tray of Emma’s laptop (woo hoo)
11. Plug in iPod to Emma’s laptop
12. Find that Emma’s USB is a slow 1.1 port rather than the required 2.0 port
13. Find that Ruffles’ laptop has a 2.0 port (but iTunes still can’t see the CD)
14. Gain advice from Spankee – Spankee tests all connections using MP3’s from King of the Boots –all works fine
15. Fill iPod up with hundreds of tunes from King of the Boots – mostly the rubbish ones
16. Gain advice from Spankee – download WinAmp to do the ‘ripping’
17. Decide not to wait until Monday to use company internet connection to download WinAmp
18. Decide instead to rip a few tunes from Emma’s laptop, put them onto CD and install them onto Ruffles’ laptop then onto iPod
19. Save 3 albums onto disk put them into laptop
20. Find that the 3 albums haven’t saved for some reason but that the files have deleted from Emma’s laptop
21. Repeat actions 19 and 20 again
22. Twice
23. Get into a mess and reset iPod to factory settings
24. Go to work and download WinAmp as suggested
25. Get home, rip four albums using WinAmp
26. Find that you’ve simply recorded over the same files four times
27. Start ripping with WinAmp again renaming each folder in turn ensuring there is no repeats of action 24
28. Plug in iPod, download tunes
29. Unplug iPod for hours of endless fun

Monday, September 06, 2004

Eternal dalmation

Stew. When we said we were going to Croatia on holiday some said we’d only be able to eat stew. Some questioned whether we’d be safe, after all hadn’t it been bombed to hell? Some read that it was the new cool place to go on holiday. Nobody actually knew what it would be like.

Dubrovnik was shelled into little pieces by Bosnian forces in 1991, apparently more to break the Croatian spirit than for any strategic reason. Despite months of siege, Dubrovnik didn’t fall, and when the war finished they embarked on an expensive rebuilding programme, which spiralled the country into debt, but revitalised the soul of its people.

Where most cities are in constant evolution, or in Vegas’ case; revolution, Dubrovnik is as complete a town as you could hope to see. The continuation of a seven hundred year old planning strategy means that even the most modern buildings use the same materials and are built in the same style of the rest of the town. The limestone streets have been polished to a shine over the years. The result is that the town always looks finished. Altogether it gives the place a magical feel, particularly at night. You can see why it is supposed to encapsulate the essence of the country.

Walking the city walls, or passing the [sigh] Irish pub, or talking to the sophisticated, cool, cosmopolitan Croats you forget its recent past. Anyone over the age of twelve was actually a victim, or even participant of the war. This was my first visit to anywhere that was a warzone in my lifetime (apart from the time I got lost in Manchester and skirted the edge of Mosside), I’m looking forward to a fortnight in Basra in a couple of years.

Monday, August 30, 2004

I know you got soul-ed out

For my birthday (which was now three weeks ago) Emma took me to Dublin for the day, flight out at 10am, back home by midnight. In between Trinity College, Grafton Street, Temple Bar, and all the other delights Dublin offers. It was a brilliant way of spending a day. Our mid-afternoon break saw us visit Bewley’s Café. According to the Rough Guide, Bewley’s is so much of a Dublin institution, when it ran into financial trouble the Government had to step in amidst public pressure and prop it up until new investors could be found.

I can’t deny that Bewley’s is one nice café; its labyrinthine layout hides a myriad of mezzanine floors and hidden rooms. Nice though it was, I didn’t I feel the magic that whipped that national fervour. My Fanta and pink iced bun were very nice, but it didn’t stir my spirit.

Well of course not, I’m not a Dubliner; Bewley’s has no history with me so it doesn’t exist in my soul. To get to the soul of something, you have to absorb it as much as possible. If I’d been visiting Bewley’s with my friends for years, and shared thousands of hours of laughter and sadness and drama, I’d have a connection that would stir me into action.

It takes years to get a connection with any city, but I can’t get anything at all just by turning up. For this reason we walked the Dublin sites rather than take a bus tour. I’m averse to bus tours or anything that reduces the meaning of visiting a city down to a tick list of ‘things to see’. It separates you from the true soul of the place, you may not really ‘get it’ in a day, but by sitting on a bus you’re guaranteed not to.

Likewise, people love Bar-b-que-ing because it makes a connection with their inner spirit to fend for themselves. It makes little sense on a practical level; you can’t guarantee the weather, it takes much more effort than regular cooking, it’s messier and less hygienic, but people love it. Making the oven, lighting the fire, nurturing it, and cooking it. Bypassing any element of the true bar-b-que-ing process releases another finger from that connection. That’s why I resist the pressure to buy a gas powered bar-b-que. I know they’re more convenient, I can’t deny that gas-powered bar-b-queing tastes exactly the same as proper a bar-b-que. But by rationalising the process, all in the name of convenience we will eventually get to the stage where we won’t bother doing it at all.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

The marvel and subsequent expense of modern technology

[Phone rings]
"Hi, it's Nobby I'm at the game so I thought I'd give you a wave, where are you sitting?"
"In Croatia eating an ice cream"

Friday, August 20, 2004

Make sport not war

Overnight bombardment hits Najaf, Yngling crew win gold, US army medics accused over abuse, Robertson/Emms take silver, Vietnam dominates Bush-Kerry fray, GB Canoeists Progress, Paris court weighs Arab hate TV …

This is a selection of headlines taken alternately from the international news and Olympic sections of BBCi. The first week of my holiday has coincided with this first week of the games. BBC’s coverage has a brilliant, hypnotic quality about it. Hours can be lost lilting from the archery to kayaking to badminton before racing back to the pool for the much-anticipated final of the 100 metres doggy paddle.

I’ve also been reading Michael Moore’s Dude Where’s My Country, which is much better than Stupid White Men. Moore links the ‘opportunities’ presented by 9/11 to the evils of corporate America. His argument has been galvanised by 9/11 and the Iraq war so he no longer sounds babbling and paranoid.

With these two things occupying my time simultaneously, it strikes me that getting 11,000 people together in a country to compete against each other in a variety of sports is far better than sending 150,000 people to a country to kill defend people.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Shall we just get on with the business at hand?

It’s as if some artistic director spent a few hours dancing around his studio spouting whatever came into his head, and nobody had the heart to tell him no. “Yes, I can see it now, Bjork…. on a forty foot pedestal… surrounded by a million square metres of silk… with DJ Tiesto…. playing trance music… in a cow’s udder….”

Is it me or does ‘Spectacular Opening Ceremony’ actually mean over long fragmented corporate performance art installation? Do we really need to see ‘ancient sport elves rising from the ancient seas surrounding Olympia’ (three hundred children dressed head to toe in lycra body suits and massive papier-mâché heads crawling out from under a parachute) just to kick-off the world’s biggest sports day?

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Witty wag

I was drawing a table on the whiteboard in our meeting room. Anticipating that there would be much to write I used the full extent of my 6’ 3” frame to start at the top. Whilst I did, others in the room gave me sarcastic encouragement as they filled the time before the meeting started.

Through the melee someone said “It’s a good job you’re so tall”. To which I turned, bowed deeply, removed my three peaked hat with an extravagant flourish and retorted; “But madam, if I was shorter, I would have started much lower”.

Smug in the satisfaction that I am the funniest person in the whole world, even if nobody laughs, I turned to complete my task.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Under pressure (dum dum dum diddle de dum dum)
Under pressure (dum dum dum diddle de dum dum)
Under pressure (dum dum dum diddle de dum dum)

Other people have bigger jobs than me, more pressure, work longer hours, but I’ve only ever been me and I’m feeling stressed. After work on Friday I found myself barely able to contain a mix of emotions; I wanted to laugh hysterically and cry and shout and keep quiet all at the same time.

Since moving jobs eighteen months ago the pressure has undoubtedly increased, however until recently there was just too much to do in too little time. It was fairly easy to rationalise, if not cope, with. Whilst it’s hardly a stroll in the park, there’s less to do now, but I want to do it better. I’m putting this pressure on myself; our often chaotic management could allow me to cruise. But I’m not like that I have a very clear and genuine desire to make a significant impact on the company. This may be irrational and you could argue that a job is simply a mechanism for getting paid and there are more important things in life, which there are, but that’s not me.

The pressure does manifest itself physically, I have what feels like a ball of nervous energy hovering below my ribcage, my emotions are pulling at it in one direction then another, and if it tugs too far in one direction it feels like it will implode. What the consequence of the implosion will be, I’m not entirely sure.

Sounding much more melodramatic than it really is, I can see how people are tempted to relax this tension through drink because it’s an easy short term option. Whilst I’m far from the point of drinking lighter fuel hidden in a plant in the corner of my office. One of the reasons for writing this is to acknowledge the existence of this pressure so that I can manage it better.

Our holiday can’t come soon enough.

Friday, July 30, 2004

These things I should worry about

Emma believes Rachel Stevens has sold out since leaving S-Club 7
Emma thinks she’s a bit more Fraser than Niles
Emma thought twice when responding to the question ‘are you a bit more Barbara or a bit more Margot?’

Tuesday, July 27, 2004


One element of office culture I have yet to fully understand is that of Coffeequette – the art and science of getting hot beverages for work colleagues. 

Firstly, you can tell a lot from how people order their coffee and tea at work. Where you hear the refrain “coffee, white with one” or “tea with a splash of milk” you can be safe in the knowledge that you work for a friendly, probably small, company equipped with a kitchenette. There’ll be short momentary bouts of anger related to people not rinsing their spoons, but the people around you are your friends, feel safe.

However, where you hear the words “Mine’s a 21” you’re in a big ugly corporate with a Nescafe drinks machine on each floor that spits its insipid venom into a small plastic cup. It will peel a couple of layers of skin from your fingers as soon as you pick it up.

If you hear the term, “Tea, nine sugars” you work on a building site.

More complex is the fetching of coffee. There are approximately three schools of thought employed here: -

1. The each to their own school of thought focuses rather firmly on the self. Quite simply when the need takes you, you glide to the beverage paraphernalia and fill your boots without a thought to those around you. This has the distinct advantage of efficiently satisfying your personal needs. However it is at the expense of others. This is a particularly acute problem first thing in the morning when you’re often found tangoing with others who are trying filling their own boots. This results in awkward questions such as “Do you want me to put a bit more water in for your cup” or “Can you throw a teabag in there please” which simply highlights the selfishness of it all.

2. The close community shuffle is a means of engaging with those around you, offering your more caring inclusive side. It means that you are expected to take your turn in making teas and coffees (and always ONE hot chocolate). The upside is that, of course, you are part of the group. The downside is that these groups tend to be like a disorganised peloton, never knowing who’s next to take the lead. I used to work in a department of ten; each person would take their turn in getting the drinks. By mid-morning, and six coffees down the line, I was spent. I could either get a round in for the good of the group, or refrain completely which would leave me getting more than I gave (this would result in extreme agitation amongst others because you hadn’t taken your turn, and because they were going cold turkey). I would simply live off the caffeine for the rest of the day. The next morning the cycle would begin again, meaning I never reached my turn. 

3. The inevitable end to the close community shuffle is the drinks are on me drift. This is where slowly but surely, the close community involve more and more people in the round. Soon enough people are getting drinks for whole floors of people and you’re drinking eighteen gallons a day, you can’t focus on your computer screen because you’re eyeballs are shaking. The collective coffee craving grows and grows and the cycle gets tighter and tighter. Soon you’re getting in nine rounds of forty cups of coffee all by yourself, and everyone else is doing the same. Productivity plummets and you’re made redundant. You can’t keep up your mortgage payments, and you’re thrown out on the street where you freeze to death. Alone.

No, really, my advice is when you flick the kettle on… think.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Nothing TV

So, this year’s Big Brother has been punctuated by moments of violence and farce. This is surely one of the beauties of the show. The accusation is that Big Brother is just a bunch of stupid, attention seeking wannabes being boring. Well, now they’re destroying each other, isn’t this what the detractors want?

The ‘drunken brawl’ in the house a couple of weeks ago lead to the live feeds being cut from E4 for an hour. Sixteen people watching at 3am on a Thursday morning actually called the police in response to the argument. Que?

I find the live feeds surprisingly resting, on Tuesday I was watching them all doing nothing very much and started to surf the channels. I wasn’t aware, but I was actually on E4+1 (watching the re-run of nothing very much happening an hour earlier).

From channel 164 I moved to 166, which is Overload, a teleshopping channel. At night they show Babestation, a show with a format that is replicated throughout satellite TV after 10pm. The screen is split into four; in each window is a ‘glamour’ girl apparently on titillating callers on premium rate chat lines.

Anyway, I inadvertently tripped over Overload (you can throw in a few “Yeah Rights” in here if you want). Except were no girls to be seen. The bar at the bottom showing the text messages was gently ticking over. The four windows were there, the beds they normally sit on were there. But the people weren’t there.

I watched; hypnotised at this totally dormant show, no test card, no announcement telling us that normal service will be resumed. Nothing. The unmanned fixed cameras just whirred away. It was like Big Brother with no contestants. I watched and watched and watched for maybe fifteen minutes longer than I’ve ever watched a Big Brother live feed.

Eventually, a girl appeared and picked up her phone. Slowly the vacant windows were populated and the show returned to normal. Perhaps there’d been a fire alarm or something.

Over stimulated by the movement on the screen I turned back to E4, never to return to Overload ever again. For the shortest period of time, they seemed to have stumbled on the perfect TV format.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

They're the boys to trust?

Things I learnt about Kwik Fit on Saturday…

Profitability –  “I don’t care (what price they sell my tyres at) as long as they get something in the bank who cares?”

Staffing – “We’re really busy ‘cause we’re short on staff, one of our blokes fucked off in a massive rage this morning, Ynarwumisayin?” – luckily I did know what he was saying.

Stock control – “I need to check whether your tyres are on the rack ‘coz the computer’s gone tits up”

Health and safety – “It’s been a bloody awful day; we nearly burnt the place down earlier coz a gas canister was leaking”

Monday, July 19, 2004

Her hair was never the same colour twice and she had a snake in her cupboard

Awash with the detritus of a typically modern life, there’s an undercurrent of things that I never get round to doing; paying bills, throwing out old clothes, setting up direct debits, paying people I promised to sponsor, it usually involves money, but the list goes on. It is to my eternal shame and disappointment that one of these things is not seeing or contacting family and friends as much as I’d want.

Grandma Ruffles is particularly neglected. When I wrecked my ankle at Christmas I had to cancel a visit, and when I did it a second time a few weeks ago it got me thinking that six months had passed and I still hadn’t fulfilled the debt. Hop the months slipped by, I simply don’t know.

It’s nothing to do with not caring; it’s just about life taking over. I’m not unique, nor is it an excuse; it’s just the way it goes.

So, I took the opportunity to go over the Grandma Ruffles’ crib last week. She’s getting more frail and hunched, but at least she’s still in her own home. When Grandpa Ruffles died about ten years ago the smart money was that the only practical solution would be for her going to go into a care home. A decade on and with the help of a not inconsiderable number of North African immigrant carers, she’s still in her own place.

The conversation, as always, was rambling and pointless; life experiences filtered by the television leave her world view somewhat narrow. Endless stories told as though they happened yesterday could easily have been fifty years old.

Never the less it was still an enjoyable couple of hours. Perhaps she thinks, like me of her, that it’s a case of out of sight out of mind and the time simply slips away unnoticed.

Or maybe not, her last, entirely fictitious story could tell another tale. Holding an arthritic hand up like a fist she started “Justin, I don’t know if you remember when you were little you were sitting in the back of grandpa’s car with me. We were practicing counting, I would say 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and you would continue, 7, 8, 9, 10. Anyway, we got up to eighty and you turned to me and said ‘Grandma, that’s when you’ll be dead’”.

Maybe a little reminder that, at 88, she wasn’t?

Friday, July 16, 2004

Hitched hike

After the debacle of Russ’ stag weekend, I suppose it was asking too much for the wedding (a couple of weeks ago) to go off without a hitch. Last year, on the morning of Australia Jo’s wedding, Penny drove to Heathrow to pick up Mike whose flight from Jersey was actually landing at Gatwick. What ensued was a breathless mercy dash from Heathrow to Gatwick, then to the church arriving with just seconds to spare (then I realised how long the service was going to be and made an even more breathless and sweaty mercy dash to the local pub for a wee).

On the Saturday before Russ and Sam’s do, Emma and I were discussing the logistics of getting to the wedding on Sunday. Penny and Mike would fly into Heathrow at about 9am, they would make their way to a local Travel Lodge and we’d pick them up on the way to Egham arriving in time for the kick-off at 3pm.

I joked, thinking back to Australia Jo’s wedding, “They’ll have loads of time, unless Penny’s booked them on a flight to Prestwick by mistake”. 9pm Saturday night, the phone rang. A tearful Penny was calling from Jersey. “We’ve got a problem” she said “we haven’t got a flight tomorrow”.

It turns out that they thought they’d booked their flight on the internet. Realising that they didn’t have a reference number, they phoned British Airways. But BA didn’t have any record of them booked on the flight.

We discussed the options. Ferry? Too long. Another flight to Heathrow or Gatwick? Too expensive. Could Emma’s friend who flies a Tiger Moth get over to pick them up? Possible, but not probable. Only one option was available, a flight to Coventry arriving at 9.45 on Sunday, with the return at 7am on Monday. So I had to pick them up at on Sunday morning, and for the second time in the Russ and Sam wedding preparations, we had a pre-5am start to get to the airport the following morning.

So Penny and Mike finally in situ, the wedding at the splendid Great Fosters Hotel went off with the elegant efficiency perfectly fitting for the bride and groom. Even if it was difficult to explain to the bride’s parents that the reason you’re there is because your oldest friends met them getting dressed in a toilet.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Sexual re-revolution

Liz came into the office this morning and told me she was on holiday for the next couple of weeks. As she was going to be away, she wanted me to get someone to take the tea towels from the kitchen downstairs to get them washed. I said I’d do it.

“…or you could get Tina or Susie to do it”

I looked up and reassured her that I could do it.

“Well” she said swatting the air dismissively as though I was joking “there are plenty of women up here who can do it.”

Friday, July 02, 2004

Lost in translation

Pele from The Hives was being quizzed on Popworld in a section called “The Big Ones” a series of irreverent questions about a range of things from ‘what was the last dead animal you saw’ to ‘when’s your new album out’.

“Have you stuffed a bird?” was greeted with the response “I’m sorry, that sounds like a question about sex”.

This would have been funny enough if he hadn’t, two minutes later, given the exact same answer to the question “Have you wormed a dog?”

Monday, June 28, 2004

Les deux oeuf

From Tribal Gathering to Homelands to Glastonbury to the Albert Hall to Somerset House to Brixton Academy. I’ve pretty much nailed every one of Orbital’s spiritual homes. Friday was their last headline show before splitting up, which, given they’re brothers, seems a little odd.

Then again Orbital aren’t just two brothers, they’re a big U-shaped machine made up of keyboards, sequencers, erm, other machines that go bing plus two humans in light specs. As if to prove it, Friday’s crowd went apoplectic when the podium, on which the equipment is placed, was simply rolled to the front of the stage. The Hartnolls are just part of that entity. I’m not suggesting their Roland 303 has decided to go solo, but the human/machine relationship is pretty symbiotic.

At Tribal Gathering they played in a tent which had a stage at each end. When they came on, the crowd cheered and started dancing, it wasn’t until the end of the first tune that people realised they were facing the wrong end and were actually dancing to the lighting technicians (who were also wearing light specs) preparing for the next act (and not very well, Prodigy went on, after two songs someone invaded the stage, tripped over a cable and ended the show on the spot).

It’s a funny crowd, at the Albert Hall there was a bloke in front of us with no top on, punching the air, wearing a crash helmet, backwards. Next to him was the archetypal big fat computer geek sitting expressionless with a notepad writing down the track listing. It’s a varied horde, and one that’s getting older and podgier every year.

Perversely there’s so little fat in the Orbital live repertoire that the set was becoming fairly predictable. Perhaps they’re quitting for fear of becoming the Rolling Stones or Grateful Dead of Acid House. They only played two tracks from the new album, the Halcyon ‘trick’ (where Belinda Carlisle and Bon Jovi morphs and twists around the tune as it reaches its peak) was enhanced with a Darkness sample. The rest was exactly what we expect; Lush, Belfast, Impact, The Box, Satan building to their cover of the Dr Who theme (geeks in the house?) and finally Chime, a tune I’ve never really loved but was simply different class.

It was simply the best gig I’ve ever been to; Rage Against the Machine at Reading Festival, Depeche Mode at Crystal Palace, Radiohead at South Parks, Fatboy Slim at Brixton, The End and Brighton Beach, I’ve seen some good stuff, but this topped them all. The Plump DJs followed, for whom we intended to stay, but we were spent emotionally and had to leave them to it.

They say that the only thing great bands should regret is that they never saw themselves live. In a world of Amy Whinehouse, Nora Jones, Jamie bloody Cullum (watched his awful ‘corporate enfant terrible’ performance Glastonbury on Saturday and felt ill) the departure of Orbital leaves the world a darker place.

By the way, read this and this, and you'd have thought I'd just copied my post from these alone, but I was there, promise.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Royle pain in the arse

If it’s possible to drone hysterically, Joe Royle managed to demonstrate the art form in all its glory on Monday night. England were in full control throughout their Euro 2004 4-2 win against Croatia. It might not have gone exactly to the game plan, but they carefully eroded the Croatian resistance with superior passing, technique and a variety of attacking opportunities. They never really looked like losing.

OK, so the Croatian’s one-dimensional approach was rewarded with a scrappy goal, and dominant teams do lose from conceding scrappy goals. But playing percentages, teams with better technique win more games than teams with poor technique. Fact.

When the Croats took the lead, Royle lost his head. England were flat, without spark or flair, he said. He ignored the fact there was eighty-five minutes still to play and England were pressing constantly for a goal. Why Royle, an experienced manager, started panicking I don’t know. If Royle had been the manager he’d have had England engaging in operation Alamo before ten minutes had elapsed.

He ignored wholly that Michael Owen was unlucky not to latch onto a couple of probing through balls, or that Scholes had a chance to break his three year duck long before he actually did.

Rooney added the second and Royle was suddenly beside himself “He could well go on and score a hat-trick” he said turning arse about face in spectacular fashion. Of course, his jitters returned when Croatia pulled it back to 3-2, but it was never as panicky as his sweaty palms would have us believe.

Mind you, I was getting the heebee jeebees, we’re off to see Orbital in Brixton on Friday and whilst Switzerland and France were drawing, England topped the group. This meant a quarter final with Greece. On Friday. Thankfully Thierry Henry pinged in a couple of goals and our attentions turned instead to Thursday and Portugal.

Mind you, Russ and Sam must be wondering whether to hire a big screen TV for evening of their wedding. That’s when the final is.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Night at the Tower Hamlets finishing school

There are plenty of stories of great lives lived in London. From house parties in Clapham to Orbital at Somerset House there’s always something good happening. Medieval Night at the Ivory House is not one of them.

Out for a morale boosting company night out, we were served by wenches, entertained by jugglers and magicians, and greeted each course by banging on the table and toasting wildly.

I cannot describe how awful it was, the food was barely edible, there was endless free drink served in glasses the size of thimbles. I cannot count how many glasses I had, but the following morning I woke up with absolutely no sign of a hangover.

The place was full of hen dos, tourists and German families with their Augustus Gloop offspring gazing in disbelief at the proceedings. You suspect that the father’s last trip to London, as a back packer, was spent drinking in Raymond’s Review Bar and getting blow jobs from transvestites.

It was a forty minute tube journey back for the last train out of Marylebone. The last train out of town is a unique experience starting with lots of shouting and yelping, dieing down to silence punctuated by the odd bang and thump as people hit their heads trying to get comfy for a snooze or try to get off at a station which is three stops after the one they’re after.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Middle aged boy

It’s not often you meet a Viz character in real life. OK, so you’ve probably seen a few Fat Slags stumbling around provisional towns after closing time, but there aren’t too many half-men, half-fish goalkeepers outside Fulchester.

Last week I met a middle aged ten year old boy. Oliver is in Emma’s class at school, (Emma being a teacher, not an eleven year old girl, that would make this a very different site indeed). As part of some kind of national initiative they held a sleepover in the school hall.

The girls and boys, completely through their own volition channelled themselves down the gender stereotypes. The girls had a make-over with face packs and make-up, the boys played football. I went along to help out with the football (apparently my face pack making skills weren’t needed).

I wrecked my ankle, again, turning on it innocuously and feeling the unnerving crunch of the ligaments stretching in ways god never intended. So whilst Gareth dribbled his way through a forest of four foot tall Patrick Viera’s and Thierry Henry’s, I sat out and talked to Oliver.

The first thing he said to me was “I know I’m young but my favourite comedian is Lee Evans, he’s always got a joke to lift things when things are quiet” he followed that by telling me his favourite male pop star is Michael Jackson (I resisted a reaction). When I ventured that my favourite pop stars were Busted – figuring that Public Enemy, Depeche Mode, or even Polygon Window would be greeted with a blank face – I was told they were ‘so over’.

Hmm, it didn’t take long to get the conversation going again. Oliver scored two goals (his first for a year). I asked him why he didn’t keep playing to get his hat-trick. OK, here goes…

“I used to play for a boys team, years ago, but at the end of one game I got home and threw my stuff on the floor and said ‘I quit’. That was it; I didn’t want to play anymore. They wanted me to train all the time, but I practice with my brothers and I didn’t want to football to take over my life. I needed more time with my family.

You suspect he meant the wife and kids. Later he was seen wearing his dressing gown over his clothes, clearly resisting the temptation to bring his pipe and glass of cognac from his wood panelled bedroom at home.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Hi, I'm Pete Moss-Campion

You don’t know how pleased I am that conversations with my friends don’t circulate around our golf scores, expanding bald patches, or the relative loudness of my shirt.

Coincidentally, Spankee was on the same train as me last week, with barely a hello or how are you we embarked on a rambling conversation about everything from the origins of man and community to the perception gap of techno music (you always think it’s going to be loud, aggressive and abrasive, but it’s melodic, layered and emotional).

Spankee was slightly taken back by my uncharacteristic casual Gap work attire, and the fact I was working. I explained that was in full on crisis management mode at work trying to douse the flames of someone’s incompetence which threatens a fifth of our business. We mused about how our responsibilities had expanded, and how at work we’re almost entirely different people. “Perhaps we have working alter egos” Spanx suggested “Then I could be someone other than normal Graham Spankee”

He worked his way through a couple of monosyllabic American Christian names searching for an appropriate moniker: - Brett, Brad, Todd.

“I think I’m a bit of a people’s champion at work” I mumbled

“Yours is Pete Moss-Campion?”

We agreed that Pete Moss-Campion is a great work alter ego, then we giggled about it like twelve year olds for ten minutes.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Double maths, double Ninja

I lifted a heavy eyelid. In the half light was Emma looking out the window. It was 2am. She mumbled something and walked out of the room. I heard the front door open, then there was a slam and a clatter pierced the air.

As quick as she’d left, she was back, climbing into bed. I asked what she’d been doing. She’d heard some people outside taking the hub cap off her car, so she went to retrieve it before it was kicked into the road and destroyed.

Befuddled, I asked her how on earth she’d managed to hear it, recognise it as a hub cap being removed, identify it as coming from her car and how it all pierced through her normally impenetrable sleep.

“Teacher sleep with one eye open” she said seconds before closing that eye and snoring loudly.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Blinded by the light

Director Alfonso Cuaron has made a much better fist of Prisoner of Azkaban than Chris Columbus’ primary colouring of the first two Harry Potter’s. Banking left and swooping into the darker layered side of the story, Cuaron’s direction provides the texture JK Rowling surely envisages for the tale (and curiously, rarely captures in her books).

One notable technique he introduces is a series of analogies marking the passing of time through the school year. There’s the single leaf spiralling to the floor showing the onset of autumn, the owl swooping from an autumnal vista into a bleak snowstorm depicting winter, the snow melts around a snow drop portraying the oncoming of Spring.

The most intriguing of all, however, is in the opening scene. Harry, who in the film has just turned thirteen, is in his bedroom at the Dursley’s. He’s hidden under the sheets on his bed secretly playing with his wand, each time he successfully makes it light up he gives a satisfied smile. When he’s finished playing, he lies down and falls asleep with a grin on his face.

Now what in a young boy’s life could that be referring to?

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Wonder's stuff

Wonder (not real name) is our IT person, Emma calls her my stalker because she seems to have taken a shine to me. I shouted at her today and feel bad. I've got a new laptop, every time I go online it automatically synchronises all my files with those on the server, so I've always got an up to date set of files. However it doesn't synchronize my emails so the set of emails I've got offline, are totally different to the emails I have online.

So, I tell Wonder, and ask her to phone 'John' the IT bloke who set up the laptops with the synchronizing software. I describe him as "her man", we then have to go into a twenty minute jousting session about why he's 'her man'.

Her: "What do you mean, my man?"
Me: "Well, you were looking after him whilst he was here"
Her: "What do you mean?"
Me: "Well I don't mean you're his legal guardian"
Her: "Huh?"
Me: "Just go and call John about the synchronizing problem."

She disappears, I assume to contact 'John'. She reappears 5 seconds later and sits at the desk opposite reading the instruction manual for the laptop (it has nothing to do with the laptop, it's the software on it).

Her (reading): Have you been clicking the red cross at the bottom?
Me: No, that's when I want to dial in, it's nothing to do with that, it's to do with the synchronization.
Her: Have you made sure that you've changed the settings so it retains messages in your Sent Items?
Me: That's not the problem, the problem is that the emails don't synchronise, I've just said that.
Her: I know, I'm thinking of the bigger picture.

She then starts jabbering on about something or other. Next time her voice comes into focus she's talking about faulty printer drives downstairs.

Me: "Sorry, you've lost me what's that got to do with my problem?"
Her: "It hasn't, it's the printer drives downstairs, they're not working, it's not my fault don't complain at me"

I wasn't, I don't care about downstairs printer drives. I stare vacantly and she stomps off in a huff.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Tell it like it is

On Sunday, apparently, Panorama ran a programme describing the catastrophic consequences of a terrorist attack on London. I wouldn’t know, I was watching Bra’s Unpadded on Sky (Cue: editor of defunct mid-nineties Lad Mag telling us that “bras were, like, great, yeah”.)

This morning on GMTV my own personal hits generator ‘Big Titted’ Kate Garraway discussed the programme with one of those ‘former police terrorism experts’ light entertainment magazine shows roll out any time they want to scare the living beejesus out of moderately insecure and poorly educated readers of the Daily Mail. The programme on terrorism, she said searching the murky depths of her vocabulary, was ‘Terrifying’.

A true story

Albeit a very short one. Our cat, Waddle, won a prize in a ferret race on Saturday.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Lycra cat suit and bobble hat

Scarlett flares. You wouldn’t would you? You might, a dose of attitude and some self belief and you might. But what about putting it with silver moccasins and a brown batwing jumper. You wouldn’t then, would you?

You wouldn’t because people might laugh at you. Even those who would, do it because they want to make a statement, show their individuality, and push forward the boundary of fashion. All that jazz. We all fear being laughed at. That’s why you see so few people browsing the detergents in Tesco wearing a tiger stripe posing pouch, flip flops and an old school Nike windcheater.

The fundamental rule of clothes is to never buy anything that makes people laugh at you. Unless you’re a clown of course.

On Saturday this bloke called his girlfriend over after pulling out a t-shirt which had a MasterCard logo on it. It had the legend “No woman, no money, no job – Masturbation is the only answer”. They both laughed, “I’ve got to get this” he said before heading for the till.

It got me thinking, or at least noticing, that comedy t-shirts are a plague in British High Streets. Spearheading this is FCUK, who make millions from just one joke. Why? It’s a t-shirt which makes people laugh at you. Not with you, you didn’t write the joke, at you.

I don’t blame British men for adding this ill-advised flourish to their sartorial repertoire. The choice of men’s clothing is dire. Many women love shopping because they can browse shops knowing there’s a good chance they’ll find something which stands out. Blouse, t-shirt, jumper, vest, or the uniquely generic ‘top’. Skirt (mini, short, knee length, full length, fitted, full etc.), trousers (jeans, trousers, linen, three-quarter length, full length. Heals, flat, sandals, flip flops, trainers, boots (ankle, knee – hummana hummana). Suits, trouser, skirt. Linen, silk, cotton, wool. Neck lines… plunging, turtle neck, backless, collars, normal. Red, black, white, pink, blue, turquoise, mint, green, olive, yellow, lemon. Every colour and every shade of colour.

And then the men; trousers or jeans, jumper, shirt, t-shirt, polo shirt, trainers, boots, shoes. Brown, blue, black, grey, white, green. Suit. That’s it. That’s what you’re average high street shop has on offer. It means that browsing for clothes is a fundamentally underwhelming experience so you adopt a more pragmatic approach to shopping. I need a pair of jeans. I will get a pair of jeans.

Men are hardly being encouraged to dress better, make more effort or innovate. David Beckham turns up in lemon, he’s laughed at. Turns up in a nice black suit? Woof woof. Sarah Jessica Parker wears trousers on her head? INNOVATION! INSPIRATION! WHAT A STATEMENT! She’s such a sassy, sexy and independent woman.

The reason men hate shopping for clothes because it’s as stimulating as buying petrol, give me some choice and I’m all over it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Police state

As I drive back from work during the winter it’s dark. Dark as, well, the night. Because it is the night. When nights draw in. Like they do. In the winter. The headlights of the car pick up the feint scent of a familiar route and lead me home.

The long winding country roads reveal nothing of what is either side of me, it’s a murderous murk punctuated by the occasional glare of an on coming vehicle, the twinkle of the eye of the local fauna startled by the snarl of my engine.

Spat out from the dowdy urban pit of Wycombe I’m quickly deep in the countryside, into a radio silence, a wilderness. After about fifteen minutes the tranquillity is pierced. In the distance my path is lined by red dots the size of pinheads.

I’m being watched; each dot marks the infrared night sight of a security camera prowling the perimeter of the Prime Minister’s country retreat Chequers. I know it’s Chequers, most people who drive the route will know. The concrete bollards lining the inside of the main gate are a dead give away, but the billion pound security system is well guarded and barely breaks the surface of the countryside idyll.

However, two fucking armed policemen with sub-machine guns wandering through the outskirts of the estate this evening started to break up the malaise I can tell you.

Monday, May 03, 2004

I'm just happy to be here, I'm Millwall

Things I have learnt from Annia’s wedding on Saturday: -

• “Comedian rare” is a great way of describing the quality of someone’s speech
• Even though I don’t know whether it’s a compliment or an insult
• Mad Dog Mickey Lewis needs space to dance to Baggy Trousers by Madness
• Regardless of its pressure, softened hotel water doesn’t give you the deep clean you need after three hours sleep
• Nobody knows the legal position if a baby shouts out when the registrar asks of any legal impediments to the marriage
• Boys and Girls by Blur into Euro trance is the single worst piece of DJ programming ever heard
• Star jumps are an entirely acceptable way of dancing to Common People by Pulp
• I’ve grown quite a lot since I was eleven
• It takes less time to forget it’s on than it takes for a hotel kettle to boil
• Saying goodbye to nineteen immediate family members on a Sunday morning is a long process
• Despite Sophie’s (pictured) insistence otherwise, there are no tigers or elephants at Bosworth Hall
• Or mice

Sunday, April 25, 2004

John Fulkes

John Fulkes, the head of sixth form at my old school, died of a ‘natural causes’ last weekend. He was a permanent presence at the school through several generations and seemed bullet-proof. I’ll leave the gushing praise to others, because I haven’t met anyone who didn’t have a beef with him at some point or other. When Emma took her A Levels they taught the wrong syllabus on one of the subjects. The entire group failed but JF chose to ignore the appeals and protestations. If you were a sportsman or had Oxbridge potential you would win far more attention than the vast majority of ‘normal’ students.

He did, however, create in his sixth form an environment that allowed me to develop friendships with some of my favourite people in the whole world. Something he did time and time again for thousands of people. If that’s his only legacy, then he did OK.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Capitalism isn’t perfect, but until someone offers me an alternative I’ll live with it – Graham Spankee

Bowling for Columbine identified the fear of failure is the lynch pin to dysfunction within American society. Stupid White Men is a naively irritating rant by comparison. Michael Moore’s central argument is that ‘Stupid White Men’ are ruling and destroying the world. A fair point. Amongst some fairly generic views on the environment (we should care for it more) and capitalism (it’s not fair) his central solution is to employ black people and let women rule the world. His proposed solution to Northern Ireland? All Irish Protestants should turn Catholic.

It starts promisingly with a chapter on George Bush engineering his presidential victory through the manipulation of the courts, the electoral register and the media. It ends well, questioning the relationship the Bush family has with the bin Laden’s (although even here it’s their relationship with the respected Saudi oil family not their enfant terrible Osama). The rest is as insightful as an A Level politics and economics essay. Moore reveals that big corporations don’t make people redundant because they’re losing money, it’s because they’re making less profit than they originally promised to shareholders. Greedy white men, says Moore, but anyone who didn’t realise that stock trading is a measured bet against a company’s future growth is more stupid than the stupid (but rich) white men Moore rallies against.

To a moderate liberal like me Bush is undoubtedly a scary right wing fanatic who believes in the power of the market (and the bible) to cure all social ills, but just because Michael Moore is a left wing idealist, it doesn’t make him look any less stupid.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Fields of dreams

Embarrassingly I compromised Russ’ political sensibilities on Saturday by naively assuming point-to-point racing was a charming countryside pursuit. I didn’t realise it’s organised by the same people who run fox hunting. Russ doesn’t like the merciless murder of foxes so he isn’t really into funding the hunt.

The first page of the race card said, “If the hunt it is made illegal this will be the last point to point meeting”. Whilst it has no obvious form of income, point-to-point racing has the entry fee, the betting, food and drink, sponsorship, and the other stalls. You suspect if it were the racing that was made illegal, the hunt wouldn’t survive, not the other way around.

If I were about to be pushed off a cliff for not having a view on fox hunting I’d say that I was against it. Pro-hunt arguments don’t seem sustainable; it’s a labour intensive way of ‘maintaining a happy and stable fox community’. However in the main, it doesn’t affect me on a day-to-day basis. For a good day out at the point to point, I’m prepared to turn a blind eye.

There was a heavy presence of the Countryside Alliance at the event. The CA is the largest pressure group dedicated to countryside living. This is not difficult when you have the ambiguous manifesto and over-simplified worldview they have.

The Alliance is an umbrella organisation supporting all country pursuits, this means 250,000 people joined its protest march a couple of years ago; pro and anti fox hunting groups, walkers and mountain bikers, farmers and city commuters.

So, how does the CA maintain any coherence? Well, their main thrust is that country people should be able to decide their own fate and city people should keep their noses out of business they don’t understand. They have created a conveniently polarised view that the world is made up of city people and country people – and never the twain shall meet.

Short of ring fencing cities and creating countryside border controls it is impossible to clearly define these two groups of people. The symbiotic relationship between the country and the city is conveniently ignored.

Because of the ambiguity, the CA is run by people tailoring the overtly quaint ‘countryside living’ manifesto to their own more radical one. They are also backed by people who support the quaint agenda without realising they are also supporting the radicals. The vast majority of people, who have more liberal yet complex views on the countryside, have no mechanism to voice their opinion.

We live four miles from Kimble, from the countryside, but we live in a rather large town. I work in a large town and regularly commute into London. My time is spent in mostly towns, but part of the appeal of the area is its proximity to open fields. Our friends live in cities, and on farms, and in villages and in large towns. I’m not a welly wearing country dweller, I’m not a world weary city slicker. I am, like most people, a person who lives in a country who doesn’t have a conveniently linear view of countryside living.

The Countryside Alliance conveniently ignores the complexity, choosing to propagate an ambiguous political agenda. As such they enjoy an unprecedented level of support, publicity and inevitably influence that they barely deserve.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Deaf jam

Did I really hear Arsenal football legend Ian Wright describe Robert Pires’ punch on Gary Neville during last Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final as “Nothing more than a beeatch slap”?

AND, did I really hear Lotus driving management consultant Cambridge educated middle class country boy Graham Spankee saying to the waitress reciting our order in the Thai resteraunt. “Yo girlfriend, yo’ll over that”?

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Last temptation of Ruffles

Some people have greatness thrust upon them, others have trite irrelevancies. I’m one of those people. Somewhere in the subtext of my story I have been given a heavy burden… of playing Steps bingo.

Steps’ appeal stretched little further than girls under five and gay men, but it still made them shameless millionaires. They were the cursed enemy of music until they grew up, wanted to be taken seriously and split. I saw Lee Latchford Evans on Oxford Street last week. Lee always looked slightly embarrassed by what he was doing. To him Steps was a pub bet that got out of hand.

Big deal, London is full of minor celebs. Have you ever yearned to see Ben Fogle and Dr ‘Foxy’ Fox on the same street? I did that the other day. The Lee spot was significant because a few years ago I saw fellow band member Lisa Scott Lee also on Oxford Street. My Steps bingo card has two names crossed off, is the significance of this starting to become clear to you?

Lisa was buying a suit for her male companion. Incidentally, if it was one of her brothers, that means I saw a member of 3SL, as well, BEFORE they were famous. Bizarrely Lisa was in the middle of a High Street store on Oxford Street dressed in a silver blue mini dress, a stage outfit, if you will.

Now, with Faye Tozer, it’s a case of so near yet so far. Penny’s friend from college is a friend of Faye’s. With some harmless obsessive stalking I could get Faye onto my Steps Bingo card.

I don’t currently have a lead on H although I’m pretty sure a quick tour around the nation’s Pontins resorts and gay bards will soon prove fruitful. Clare, I have no lead on at all. I’m not too worried as I plan for her to be last. When I do get to Clare, I shall stand in front of her with my Steps bingo card and a marker pen. I shall look her in the eye and with a slightly odd smile on my face I shall shout triumphantly...

“Clickety click big fat hips.”

Newer Posts Older Posts Home

Blogger Template by Blogcrowds