Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The one which starts as a chat and ends in a rant

It's clearly rock-u-mentary time on telly at the moment, with BBC, ITV and Channel 4 all screening big behind the scenes documentaries of three of the big pop music stories of the year.

First up was Madonna's 'I going to tell you a secret' all exquisitely shot in black and white real-o-vision. Aside from the introduction of the children Lourdes and Gastap, she rather neglected to tell any of her secrets. In fact it was basically a complete re-run of her previous backstage documentary; Truth or Dare, albeit with a Guy Ritchie cameo replacing Madonna deep throating a coke bottle. We pretty much learnt that she still hangs out with greased up gay teens and burlesque dancers, she still does a silly prayer before each show "Please let God protect our hairstyles whilst we fornicate and blaspheme on stage", and that's pretty much it. Although you can't deny she puts on a good show for an old bird.

The jury remains out on whether Take That can recreate the magic as a foursome without the charismatic one. It's a shame they feel the need to reform because they carry the grace of people who have been there, done that, and moved onto other things. Recreating teen pop magic seems all a little tragic. On the other hand, the one who won't be there, Williams, is a desperado when it comes to being loved by crowds of 30 somethings. In response to the question 'are you jealous of Gary Barlow' he responded with "14 Brits? Fuck off", because that's how he values his life it seems. Barlow's life nowadays revolves around his mansion, home studio where he still make diabolical MOR pop, his beautiful ex-dancer wife and his three year old daughter. Their former manager, Nigel Martin Smith nailed it when he said that Williams' obsession with discrediting Barlow after the split did Barlow a favour; it drove him off the popstar treadmill away from all the paranoia, obsession and isolation that fame provides.

Then there's the story of Live8; or, the story of how Richard Curtis, Bono and, of course, Bob Geldof slipped from a good cause into narcissism. Geldof's contradictions were writ large; whilst trying to convince people that Live8 had nothing to do with a rock show, he was also obsessional about avoiding being viewed as naff. Curtis and Bono, who have made careers out of naff-ness, had no such pretensions. They wanted to recreate Live Aid for their nebulous 'poverty' cause (poverty is bad, bad things are bad, bad things shouldn't happen, let's stop bad things), and slide into the history books whilst they were at it. To his credit Geldof's resistance was fierce; he wanted "something different" eventually caved-in when Bono painted his 'different' vision. 63 year old Paul McCartney on-stage with 45 year old Bono and U2 who released their first album in 1979, singing the 1968 hit Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band. Fuck yes, that's different.

Once Geldof was on board however, his obsessional induglencies took over. It was all wrapped up in a fiery exchange between Geldof and Harvey Goldsmith. Goldsmith was sitting with a list of bands that looked like one of those GQ greatest ever trad rock band lists. Geldof was insistent that The Killers had to be fitted in somewhere. They couldn't, it was a physical impossibility. They had to, said Geldof, The Killers are the coolest band on the planet (really?), Goldsmith said that something had to give, suggesting The Cure or UB40 could make way. Geldof obsessed that both bands we integral to the whole plot. I wouldn't like to underestimate the power of the cod reggae massive or the balding goth community in making poverty history, but surely Geldof had to get real. "we can create our own reality" he said. If you like, Bob.

So, how come the three biggest events in pop last year involved a 47 year old mother of two, a band reforming after 10 years and the most middle of the road social protest in history (backed by the prime minister for christsakes)? Music and television needs to constantly evolve. That means people with new ideas need to come in all the time. The problem is that the people who were the cutting edge in the mid eighties, early nineties are now 30 and 40-somethings with kids and mortgages. So no longer do you get programmes like the Tube and The Word, you get Location Location Location and House of Tiny Tearaways. Interesting to adults trying to bring up their kids and move up the property ladder. Dull as ditchwater to teenagers. There's no chance of another Acid House or Madchester because we're too busy re-inventing the last 10 years and presenting it to the Kids as something new. The drive to eradicate poverty is being done in a thoroughly sensible way, Pink Floyd and The Who and Madonna and Take That are the kings of pop and rock? How can I think differently if all I'm hearing and seeing is the same old stuff. I don't want to understand today's music, I want it to be noise, but it's all so lovely and palatable, how will we ever progress if everyone is so bloody nice about it.

And breathe.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Ker-ha-boom shanka

I was the only person in the south of the country who didn’t hear the oil explosion at the Buncefield Depot. Emma remembers hearing what she thought was thunder. Otherwise, all was quiet in our house.

Although I do feel I’ve missed out, I’m pleased so many other people around me experienced the blast. Listening to their harrowing stories brings a chill to my bones. Their graphic accounts have given me the feeling of almost being there. They go a little something like this…

“I woke up and I thought a plane had crashed, I turned to [insert partners name here] and said ‘what’s that’ and they said ‘I dunno, what do you think it is’ and I said ‘I dunno’ and I got out of bed to see what I could see and I couldn’t see anything. So I went back to bed, but in the morning I saw [insert name/relative or neighbours name here] and they said did you hear that explosion last night, and they said ‘yeah, what was it?’ and I said ‘I dunno, what do you think it was’ and they said ‘I dunno’.”

This type of story goes on for a while before concluding with a few tasty facts plagarised from the BBC’s new coverage (they heard it in the Netherlands, the atmospheric conditions are making it a nightmare, they need 32,000 litres of water per minute to put it out). I don’t know, surely everyone knows the way to put out a oil fire is to place a damp tea towel over it.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Pride before a fall

The Thatchers, a summary: Denis, the father, self made multi-millionaire. Margaret, the mother, iconic global figurehead, an idealogue who left an indelible mark on British culture and world affairs.

Mark, the son, arrested for his part in planning a military coup. Carol, the daughter, winner of 2005 I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here reality TV show.

If I were their parents, know how proud I'd be.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

And finally, here is the news

Having put the test in her “urine flow” as the instructions so quaintly put it, we waited four minutes. I flicked through teletext whilst keeping an eye on the clock, rounding it up to the next minute to be certain.

We shook hands, turned the stick over and it was positive. Within the next hour both sets of parents, Emma’s sister and best friend were all on the phone asking about the holiday we’d just got back from. Emma bit her lip and kept a straight face. She spent the rest of the day reassuring herself that she was “having a baby” by imitating what it'll be like to stroke the cat when it sits on her tummy eight months from now. We order the Rough Guide to Pregnancy (and a copy of Bloc Party’s remix album for good luck); the Rough Guide served us well in Cuba and Vegas and Toronto and Boston and Florence and Dubrovnik and New York. It's rubbish, of course. We decided the next step was to get everything confirmed and checked out with the doctor. We also decided we need plans for money, the house and who we told and when. Then we got on with today's life.

That was the end of August, we'd just got back from Havana, we'd sat for nearly 36 hours in a terminal full of cigar smoke where the rain was coming in through the light fittings. Unbeknown to us, Emma was 5 weeks pregnant; it would have been safer if she'd injected MRSA bug in her eyeballs.

Telling people has been a long process; it's hard, we've waited for the conversation to come around, we've stopped other conversations mid-flow, we've tried being direct, we've tried being cryptic, we've even told people straight away to avoid "spoiling a perfectly good night out". We've tried telling people face to face, by email, by telephone. In groups, one to one. Over Thai food, Italian and good old fashioned English pub grub. We had to delay telling the people who we knew couldn't keep a secret until we'd told the people who could. Eventually we got everyone; not always how we wanted to, but we did it.

The technicalities; 20 weeks gone, due 22nd April, Sex: unknown (we both thought we'd spotted some boy-like elements on the scan, but it turns out it's the umbilical cord - like a bad joke, but true). We've had 2 scans and everything is going dandy. Emma's in excellent shape. She's developed a multi-dimensional sense of smell and sleeps a lot. But she hasn't been sick. There's already a wardrobe full of maternity wear from Isabella Oliver and La Redoute, not that any of it is needed at the moment. Her initial concerns that she'd lose her shape have been replaced with the realisation it offers a whole new set of shopping opportunities.

Me? Well, apparently I'm instantly more attractive to woman, my evident virility releases chemicals that make me a more appealing catch. Apparently, I'm more likely to spread my seed (done it once, can do it again, see?). The truth is more prosaic, we're hurrying along a few outstanding jobs, we're getting a bigger car, we've got a baby bank account. And then we wait; we wait for the baby to grow. I go to football, we've got tickets for Depeche Mode 2 weeks before the due date, we carry on doing what we're doing. To quote my dad; "You need to be ready because nothing can prepare you". And nothing can, so I won't be ready, I'll just be there waiting for it to leap on me. I can't wait.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Not the best

I seem to have caused some consternation around the office with my reaction to George Best's death. I expressed my relief at his demise; pleased that his ugly tawdry story had come to an end. When Princess Diana died, her beauty excused her of her indulgences and flaws. Best's footballing talents have excused him of his. The common premise seems to be that to be a genius, you have to be slightly unhinged, mentally ill even, cursed with inner demons. Look at Paul Gascoigne and Diego Maradona and... erm.

George Best can be ranked amongst the best players the world has ever seen, but to say his drink problem was an inevitable consequence of his genius is utter rubbish. Pele never had it, Johan Cruyff, Franz Beckenbauer, Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton, Zinedine Zidane, Thierry Henry, Ronhaldino, Eusebio. The list of great players whose lives haven't descended into a farcical pantomime is far longer than those who have.

So Best has been excused his self-indugance in drink because of a fleeting, wasted talent at football. In the end his slow, painful and ugly death was the result of his own actions. A suicidal addiction to drink. He had every chance to get out of it, more chances and support than most. In the end he chose to abuse the help that was offered to him. He deserves to be ignored in the same way he ignored the endless warnings about what he was doing to himself. At least now we don't have to endure this endless tabloid voyeurism anymore, that should be a relief to us. And him.

And now it seems I will have to endure a minute's pious silence at the football tomorrow. Gadzooks.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Story from two weeks ago: Man loses keys

...Is probably not a headline recently featured in the Jersey Evening Post, but it is that kind of place. Like so many others, we'd have overlooked Jersey if it wasn't for the fact Penny and Mike live there. It's got a kind of parochial, old persons holiday vibe about it (underpinned by unfathomable amounts of bankers' gold). The truth is, of course, very different. Penny and Mike, like their friends, are comfortable and confident people, the kind of comfort and confidence that is bred from health, (relative) wealth and the obvious safety of a small island.

It's an odd place (that's odd as in, not like most places), the island is a myriad of roads and it takes an age to get anywhere, you sometimes feel that you're being drive around in circles whilst someone sets up the next destination - "OK, they're gone, take down the beach front surfers cafe, and put up the sports centre". On Saturday I sat in a pub all afternoon with Mike's Hockey buddies, old school friends of his, one of whom I met three years ago, the others I didn't know at all. On paper an afternoon with strangers would have filled me with dread, but we sat discussing the nuances of their five-a-side league and the politics of Jersey hockey. They bantered about the old days, less a series of jokes, more keywords about the past to trigger various guffaws - "Biology" [pause] "Ha Ha Ha". It's great that people can have friends like that, they're just like me and my friends, but whilst I was clearly the interloper, it never felt exclusive, there was no pretence or performance, they were just hanging out (though they admitted with a wry smile that Saturday afternoons down the pub after Hockey were unheard of).

The rest of the weekend; a party for Mike's birthday, a coastal walk, breakfast a Big Vern's, Blow Karting on an isolated golden beach and of course, simply hanging out with some of our oldest friends (and Penny's recently grown bump) left me feeling that all was well and good in the world. We flew home relieved of the stresses and hassles of our everyday world, and for a few days at least, it was like we'd left the hassles behind permanently.

Story from one weekend ago: schlep

So I decided that regardless of where it was in the country, I was going to watch Oxford in the 1st round of the FA Cup. When the draw came up as Eastbourne Borough away, it seemed almost perfect. An unusually early 12pm kick-off was the final building block of my plan. It was the pointlessness that appealed - a game a very long way away; if Oxford won nobody would would have blinked, if they lost, they would have been ultimately humiliated. I couldn't leave the game feeling satisfied, apart from, of course, the satisfaction of knowing that I had done it. The pointlessness protected it from being no one else's triumph but mine.

Having practically circumnavigated the M25 I joined the A22; almost imediately I lost Radio 5 Live in a swirl of interference just as Michael Howard was expounding his fanatical support for Liverpool, Swansea City, Welsh rugby and Folkstone Invicta. I tuned into 3 Counties Radio and warnings about traffic around the Lewes fireworks display. Lower Dicker was less eventful than it's name promised, Upper Dicker may have been a different story, but it was a couple of miles up the hill. The ecclesiastical dyslexia of Boship's Roundabout made me chuckle.

I stopped in East Grinstead to get a sandwich, two women, one in a blue mac and lime green beret, talked in some hurdy gurdy Dutch hybrid language, maybe I'd drive too far. Eventually I reached Eastbourne, Eastbourne Borough have a neat, compact ground and is "run like all non-league clubs should be" according to the radio. We were repeatedly informed of the fireworks display that night and the "top cabaret duo" Just A Chance (you suspect that one of the duo is called something like Justin Adams, the other Gary Chance). Once I was in the ground I was sold a poorly printed programme full of typos and three tickets to the half time draw. Still, everyone, including the turnstile operators hoped that I'd enjoy the game. At half time the stadium announcer apologised that the stadium clock was broken and that we should time the game "using the stopwatch on your mobile phone", blimey they think of everything.

The atmosphere was great, 3,800 fans packed the ground, 2,000 more than they'd ever attracted before. They had horns and drums, wracking up a raucous noise. Every time their strikers got over the halfway line you could hear the shrieks of people who had been to as many Borough games as I had (i.e. none). Oxford were the better team throughout, if a little un-inventive, Steve Basham's goal was quality. Then in the last minute, the Eastbourne striker, a little bundle of energy with a low centre of gravity, who was quick but generally useless was bundled over by Oxford's titanic centre back Chris Wilmott and it was a penalty. They scored and the place erupted. Despite the half hearted catcalls of displeasure, most Oxford fans, like me, enjoyed the drama of the whole thing. After all they were on a pointless jaunt themselves, and this was great entertainment. We should tank them in the replay.

1-1 was fittingly inconclusive for my pointless venture, it took two and a half uneventful hours to get back, perfect really.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Fireworks are ace

Having inherited pyromaniac tendencies of my dad, I have come to the conclusion that fireworks are ace. They’re great when you go and see them in an organised display, but even better when you do them yourself.

Emma won’t let me do my own displays. She’s seen my dad idly sling a dud firework into a lit incinerator and seen me accidentally light a rocket upside down causing it to bury into the ground before resurfacing and launching at a jauntier angle than intended onto some dry bracken on the garage roof.

As a family we’re generally hopeless and unsafe when it comes to fireworks, we’ve regularly had temporary deafness foisted upon us as a rogue rocket bounces off the wall of the house onto the patio. When I was about 4 I picked up the wrong end of a recently extinguished sparkler burning my hand to a crisp… when I was 5 I did it again.

Most of all, I like the fact for this weekend, as a nation we engage in a low level, entirely sensible civil war. Kids let off fireworks in the streets, throw them at each other and neighbourhoods club together to bombard other neighbourhoods into submission. I know it’s wrong, but I love it.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The (in)credible opposition

On the first ever episode of The Young Ones, Rick insisted that he watch a programme called “Nosin’ Around” which was for young adults by young adults. It was all wobbly camera shots and snotty critiques of modern day living. One section saw a selection of disaffected youths explaining all the things you can do before you’re 18 (having sex with a partner of your choice, joining the army etc.) and the irony that, despite all this, you still can’t drink in pubs.

There was a debate on Radio 5 this morning about that reminded me of that sketch. It was about the banning of smoking in pubs. It degenerated into farce within seconds; the anti-ban lobbyist asking why we ban smoking when we still have people working in (dangerous) coalmines. His opposition claimed that there were many health and safety regulations regaring coalmines that protected miners, and there were none protecting non-smokers. This was quickly followed up with “I can’t BELIEVE he’s saying that coalmines are safer than pubs”. From here it basically became a debate on all the things that were more dangerous than smoking (bothering elephants, playing Netball on the M69, invading Iraq).

Eventually Nicky Campbell interrupted them; he asked the anti-ban lobby (a Tory) whether the government were screwing up on this issue. The bloke responded by saying “The Labour party are hypocrites, if they truly believed this they would ban all smoking and why don’t they do this? Because they make millions in taxes from smoking and because most Labour supporters in the north are smokers.”

You have got to love them, haven’t you?

Havana nice time (or what I did on my holidays several months ago)

The taps said it all. The hot tap in our hotel room turned clockwise, the cold, anti-clockwise. This is Cuba, a country pulling in opposite directions and yet, somehow, pulling together at the same time.

Take the Cuban economy, or should I say economies. Pesos for the Cubans and Convertible Pesos for tourists. There are separate shops for pesos and convertibles which work to different pricing structures. This is necessary because the average Cuban earns about £10 a month but the tourists can afford to buy a whole street at peso prices. Having two economies is the only way of getting in money and protecting against tourist driven inflation. The cheapest tickets for La Tropicana rock in at £40. The tourist industry is so potent within the Cuban economy that taxi drivers earn more than doctors. 3% of GDP is generated from US based Cubans sending home money.

The city itself is made up of perfectly restored colonial squares linked by wide leafy boulevards. These are punctuated within with slum-like alleyways where locals sit playing chess listening to loud salsa on poor quality stereos.

The streets are dark and could be perceived as menacing, but Cuba is surprisingly free of crime, especially violent crime. That said, you can’t walk down the street without a street hustler trying to sell you cigars, accommodation or prostitutes. Some simply shout at you (one broke off a date to try to talk to us). Others are more sophisticated spinning a yarn about needing milk for their babies. Apparently if you buy milk for them the shop will try to charge you about 6 pesos (£2). If you fall for that, the Jinetero simply returns the milk to the shop and splits the difference on the over inflated price with the shopkeeper. We were actually hustled by the same guy twice in two days; the first time we fell for it (he asked the time and said he had a friend in Cornwall; they all have friends in UK), second time we ignored him and he shouted “So you don’t speak to the Cuban people then?”.

The country is desperate for outside investment, and everyone is looking for money (the bellhop said he was quite happy to take our pounds when we arrived and our room cleaner told us that Friday was her day off, so we should remember to leave a tip on Thursday). Despite this, communism and Fidel is everywhere meaning the Americans and Japanese (the biggest source of tourist income) are notably absent. At the airport there are three TV’s showing departure times and 8 TV’s showing Fidel speeches. There are pictures everywhere that use brilliant revolutionary rhetoric of “glorious victories” and “gallant heroes”. Then is the CDR, a neighbourhood watch scheme designed to ensure that no Cuban gets too rich; anyone who gets above their station is reported to the authorities. Oh and there is an oppressive and pointless bureaucracy; 2 minutes per passenger going through customs (that’s 3 hours to process a jumbo jet of tourists).

Tell people you’re going to Cuba and they’ll tell you about the immaculate 1950’s vintage cars, the beautiful buildings, the salsa, the cigars and the rum. But this is re-branded Cuba and tells only part of the story. The real Cuba is sometimes like that, but the 1950’s cars are often seem held together with jam, the streets stink of diesel from the inefficient engines, the food is sometimes absolute garbage. These contradictions are what make it so interesting, it won’t last, the dollar is too seductive and the Cubans too desperate. When the US and Cuban governments finally grow up Cuba will undoubtedly become a more pleasant, but decidedly less interesting place to visit.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Cutting ties

We have recently employed a student on his year out to gain some work experience. His job is a slightly ill-defined admin role; not necessarily the best way of enriching your working experience. The thing is we’re busy, so he gets to do stuff that makes us less so. In fact, the hardest thing, he says, is the fact he’s supposed to work 9am-5pm, presumably without a nap, or a beer. Bless.

Aside from the half-projects placed before him, probably the meanest thing we do is allow him to wear a suit. I don’t wear a suit to work unless I’ve something important on, but at least when I do I look like I should wear it.

Young men in their early twenties don’t wear suits well. They look all awkward, like they’re about to receive another ASBO. Part of the reason is economic; a lack of money means that they probably have only one, which is cheap, will get dirty and is probably slightly too big (they’ll grow into it). There’s also something about ties; young men don’t like wearing ties. I don’t like wearing ties. But, again, my cool, if I have any, is left at home; I am culturally indoctrinated to wear my tie, clean my shoes, tidy my hair, and make appallingly dull small talk with work colleagues. Doing my top button up and making sure the knot is straight is all part of Work-Me.

You don’t see people shopping on a Saturday wearing a suit and tie, a majority of people would not choose to wear one. You have to change your mindset, compromise who you are to wear one. Younger men have not been matured into this sad state of affairs. It is this, not the fact they’re brought in to enrich their working experience then left moving boxes and getting sandwiches, that makes internships most cruel.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Minor celebrity, get me out of here

Back when I worked for the Little Publishing Company on the Hill we were involved in putting on events about the Internet. This was before the dot-com boom, around the time when people knew that the web had potential but didn’t know how to realise it. It was all American gurus with pink hair, professors from NASA and loony Norwegian information specialists. Companies would try to sell technologies that nobody really understood. Unique selling points rarely featured anything to do with the product. Companies would turn up with Lamborghinis and Spice Girl look-a-likes to make themselves known; one woman enlisted the help of her friend Mick Jagger who wafted into our conference and became the most famous person I’ve seen at close quarters.

On occasions my job puts me in front of minor celebrities; Tony Hawks, Nicholas Witchell, Andrew Castle. I also come across senior professionals who seem to receive an even bigger celebrity treatment than Jagger did that day.

We were once visited at the Little Publishing Company by a big cheese from the company’s Dutch parent, we were given various instructions about how we should behave. In our youthful exuberance, we fantasised about running around the building riding a Bernie Clifton style ostrich outfit. In the end, the cheese was rolled in, and out. And nobody but the most important people saw him.

Last week I was at an exhibition, I was talking to someone on the edge of our stand. Behind me there was a flurry of excitement, flash bulbs and chatter. I turned around to see my Chief Executive shaking hands vigorously with a very senior civil servant who had been ushered in from a conference presentation he’d just made. He was a normal looking middle-aged man, surrounded by personal assistants and PR representatives holding clipboards. The photo opportunity over, he was ushered away, his team of six or seven moving as one choreographed unit with him. Assuming he can tie his own shoe laces and hold his winky when going to the toilet, you wander what all these people do. And then you realise; they spend an awful lot of time keeping their teeny weeny niche of responsibility clean.

In a separate incident, a couple of days later, we received a complaint about something that had been printed in our magazine. We’d put the word ‘terrorism’ in the same paragraph as the name of a senior bod in a major defence contractor. A hysterical press officer phoned up demanding a series of actions which would actually serve to draw attention to the piece. I tried to calm her down; I asked whether the bod had seen the piece. She assured me he would be apoplectic if he did. I asked whether it might be possible to talk to the bod himself, perhaps he would see the damage a page long retraction could do; “Further to the minor piece you probably didn’t read last month we would like to assure all readers that Big Defence Company thinks terrorism is bad and that this retraction should not be viewed as a company protesting a little too much”. I wasn’t going to talk to him; didn’t I know who this guy was? I didn’t, I suspected that he was, in essence, a logical and educated man, but to her he was God, someone who would share her panic and disgust.

Working in a big company, it seems, people are assigned jobs which allocate almost a binary set personal of objectives. You must achieve x, if you don’t, you have failed. The equivalent of employing a joiner to do nothing more than hit a nail into wood, if you miss the nail, you’re fired. Don’t think about it, just do it, your job is not to think about how your objectives relate to the real world, that’s someone else’s job. This woman’s whole job was to ensure that her company is only seen in a positive light, anything, however remote, that might suggest she hasn’t achieved that goal puts her in a flat spin. So specific was her goal that all her concentration was focussed on this one objective, she becomes detached from the real world and those around her. Her boss is an untouchable deity, a celebrity with which she has developed an almost personal relationship with through her single objective. To fail is to let him down. You wonder what would happen if businesses were run on normal human emotions and relationships.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Monday 5

Five football pundits were asked in the Guardian what five things they would do to improve football. Martin Tyler, commentator for SKY Sports, in a breathtaking degree of short sightedness or loyalty to the company who have caused a lot of the problems listed ‘reduce swearing’ as his number one priority. Still, it made me think, what my five things are:

1. Reduce ticket prices
Reduce tickets means increased demand. Whilst this is often cited as a mechanism for bringing back t’working classes to the game, my reasoning is a little more hard nosed. If a football stadium is simply a backdrop for corporate hospitality or TV entertainment, a full ground makes a much better product.

2. Limit squad sizes
If a club is limited to, say 24-26 players which can be changed and refreshed during the transfer window, a few injuries and suspensions for the top clubs will even things out. This will open up an element of luck to the season. It will also put more focus on managers because chequebooks will not solve all their problems. And it will prevent larger teams from negative buying i.e. buying up talented players to sit on the bench, depriving others from playing them, or buying to ‘enhance our global brand’.

3. Reduce live TV coverage
Or more specifically reduce the amount of Premiership coverage. There are four professional divisions in England, five including the Conference. One live game per division per weekend will allow a majority of games to kick-off 3pm on a Saturday, will increase the coverage of lower league clubs and enhance the build up to the big Premiership game of the weekend.

4. Only the champions get into the champions league
The Champions League has polarised football. Next season Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea will be in the Champions League. So will Real Madrid and Barcelona, AC Milan and Juventus, Bayern Munich, blah de-blah de-blah. The most interesting thing about European qualification is who will come fourth in the Premiership; and even that is getting predictable. Let the champions benefit from the Champions League.

5. Redistribute money throughout the divisions
Wayne Rooney, Michael Essien and Michael Owen cost a combined total of £71 million. Their combined weekly salary could easily top £180,000. Senior professionals in League 2 earn in the region of £40k a year and their clubs are struggling to stay afloat. Not so long ago Watford, Swansea, Oxford and Wimbledon all went from the lower leagues to the top division and did well. There is no realistic chance of that happening at the moment.

Monday, September 19, 2005


When England won the rugby world cup, after the game Spanx and I went to watch Oxford play, I think, Lincoln. At half time he phoned Baz, not a rugby fan, to see how Reading were getting on. “What did you think of the rugby?” Spanx asked, “It was OK, a bit gay.” said Baz.

That’s kind of how I feel about The Ashes. Like a lot of people, I watched and listened to more cricket this summer than ever before. And it was great, like a classic novel, which ebbed and flowed, from dark to light, despair to joy.

Not that I’m a particular authority on this analogy because I really don’t read enough. I wish I did, like I wish I was a cricket fan. But it just isn’t my sport; I would be a fraud if I were to nod sagely about ‘reverse swing’ and ‘playing for the light’. I know enough to see that Shane Warne is, perhaps, the greatest cricketer that ever lived, simply because he is so much better than anyone else and that Andrew Flintoff is a charismatic swashbuckling everyman. But I couldn’t be so bold to refer to him as ‘Freddie’.

I wish I was into Cricket, during the recent tour of the Windies, Spanx and I spent an afternoon hypnotised by England’s fierce attack which culminated in Matthew Hoggard taking a hat-trick. But I walked away, now, to care about it seems inappropriate, to get excited about something I didn’t care about 2 months ago doesn’t seem right.

It’s a shame, because my sport, football, is sliding into recession. Chelsea is making the Premiership a tedious procession; the premiership is widening the divide between the rich and the poor, so the 16 teams that could conceivably go down this season are more concerned about losing than winning, the roots are being ripped from the branches making dreams about taking clubs from obscurity to silverware obsolete. It’s no longer interesting to watch the giants of Europe clash in the Champions League, simply because they do it so often. Cricket will never overtake football as the national sport, but it does make for a more interesting spectacle, I just feel like I’m gate crashing someone else’s party.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Is it just plain mean or plain ironic?

The woman next to me in the gym was reading one of those magazines that promises to reveal the secrets behind Martine McCutcheon’s new bikini body. The page she was reading was a story of a woman who thought she was a man because she had no vagina. Having read that, she turned to an article on the next page on how to achieve the ultimate orgasm.

Monday, September 05, 2005

(Going) home is where the heart (ache) is

Dateline: Havana. Project: getting home from holiday. We woke and it was raining; raining quite hard. This was the outer edges of Hurricane Katrina that was sweeping across the Florida Keys. We checked out from our hotel, as scheduled at 12pm.

+1 hour – The rain means a trip to La Plaza de la Revolution is replaced with a trip to the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes

+3 hour – Back at the hotel, lunch

+4 hours – Walk to Parque Central Hotel to leave a message for a parent from Emma’s school that is in Cuba doing some work for Simply Red.

+5.5 hours – Bus picks us up; on the bus are Angharad and Drew. Angharad drives a drug education bus that visits Emma’s school every Summer. Not only is this slightly bizarre, it’s actually the second time this has happened; we bumped into them in Dubrovnik last year.

+6 hours – Arrive at the airport; informed that there is a four hour delay and the flight will not leave until 1am. We’re given lunch vouchers as compensation.

+7 hours – Go to the restaurant to get free lunch, turned away because of recently invented and obviously arbitrary rule that the free lunches were for the first 30 people only.

+8.5 hours – Go through passport control (two minutes per person). Drew is questioned as to why he has a British passport but was born in LA.

+9 hours – Arrive in departures; the restaurant options are manky hotdogs, manky hamburgers or manky pizza. I have a manky pizza.

+9.5 hours to +15 hours – Rain. No flights. No seats. No news. Rain starts coming through the roof filling up bins. Rain starts to come through light fittings, lights start to short out. Bins fill up and flood the floor. Messages and rumours start to circulate; the airport has been closed for hours, no it hasn’t, yes it has.

+15 hours – Departure time. No plane. Rain.

+16 hours – London flight called to gate B1, passengers go back through passport control, reclaim their bags and their visas (Emma, in a moment of trickery Paul Daniels would be proud of, manages to somehow pick my visa up and then put it back in the pile causing a momentary panic that it’s lost).

+16.5 hours – 500+ passengers with associated luggage stand outside Havana airport looking at coaches.

+18.5 hours – a long charade of people getting on coaches, then off coaches, then on coaches again. All of which is punctuated by false alarms, stampedes and one man shouting “PRESENTE” every two minutes. Rain is now lashing down.

+19.5 hours – Eventually board a coach which takes us to a deserted resort in Kholey. One couple complain that the mini-bar is locked and unplugged; some of us are grateful for a dry, clean bed to sleep in.

+24 hours – Wake up, miss breakfast, wander around resort.

+28 hours – Lunch, due to awful selection I have a plate of rice and pasta. Drinks are extra; then they’re free and give everyone their money back.

+29 hours – Coach arrives.

+30 hours – Arrive at check in desk, check in desk is closed.

+31.5 hours - Check in, plane due to leave at 4pm, delayed until 6pm.

+33 hours – Passport control (2 minutes per person)

+37 hours – Plane delayed from 6pm to 9pm.

+38 hours – 9pm. Plane delayed until 11pm.

+40.5 hours – Man with his head wrapped in toilet paper, wanders around the airport with an empty bottle of rum and a sign saying ‘28 hours’. Whoops and cheers all round.

+42 hours – No announcement and the wrong gate is showing the London flight but the plane begins to board. Emma is so demoralised she seriously suggests we don’t get on, after all, “we’ll just have to get off again”.

+42.5 hours – Flight CUB400 for London takes off 27 hours late.

+51 hours – lands London Gatwick (although it’s announced by the pilot as Heathrow)

+52 hours – Passport control, bags.

+52.5 Coaches. Car

+54 Home.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Road rage

Do you know how to re-surface a road? Well, there’s a big machine that looks like a mechanical elephant that skims the surface off, then another machine with a big tray spreads out the new tarmac, then a big roller flattens it out, and a big sweeping machine cleans the surface and gets rid of any debris.

They’re re-surfacing our road at the moment, because it’s a busy road it’s being done overnight so not to inconvenience rush hour commuters (the poor lambs). We asked the burly workmen if we'd hear anything while they worked; “Not a squeak” said burly workman #1.

We certainly haven’t heard a squeak; probably because it was being drowned out by the thumping, roaring and banging noises.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Plan A to take over the world

Sam works for British Airways so she had a busy weekend. She was drafted onto the frontline to try and help stranded passengers. There are, as you might expect, lots of stories of daftness, like the man who ‘just wanted his four cases’ so he could pop over to Gatwick to catch an alternative flight. It’s difficult to describe to someone what 60,000 suitcases look like and how difficult it might be to locate the said baggage.

Another man only flew BA because they never served peanuts thus preserving him from an allergic reaction. Apparently even the peanut vapours can cause problems to the most afflicted.

This got me thinking; peanut allergies are a new and growing phenomenon. Soon everyone will have it. I, on the other hand, do not have a peanut allergy; I could conceivably take over the world simply by eating peanuts and then threatening to destroy everyone with the vapours that emanate from my pours. With Peanuts only 49p a bag from Morrisons, I think it might be time to start stockpiling.

Now, where’s my cape?

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Fishy tale

Ken Fish died last week. He was an Oxford United legend and, fittingly, there was an impeccable minute’s silence before last night’s game against Torquay. A brief eulogy was read out before the crowd fell silent; I’m not sure it was meant to come out like this… but it did…

“Ken retired from playing football at the remarkable age of 72, after which, unfortunately he had to have both his legs amputated.”

Presumably they’d worn out or something.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Friends like these

In the gym on Monday morning (another story) my iPod maintained its Kokomo and Clash fixation before finally choosing to play Snooks by Elbow;

Stuff was started
Things had ends
Stuff regarding all my friends
Some were married
All were fine
These are good friends these are mine

As I sprayed those around me with sweat and snot (why am I the only one?) I mused my fleeting weekend. The first time in two years everyone had been in the same place at the same time; from the moment Jo and Brian landed from Sydney on Friday afternoon until Katie and James departed for Melbourne on Sunday evening.

Willy and Leo’s wedding was a gently stylish affair. Sometimes with weddings you get to a point at the end of the evening when you’re too drunk, tired, exhausted or bored to keep going, but not this time. The ceilidh was frenetic, swinging the bride’s mother at 120rpm desperately trying not to fling her into the fiddle player with a beard the size of a nuclear winter. This was balanced against the serene surrounds of Ashfold School, sitting wearing balloon sculpture hats talking about Girl Guides and Hogwarts, the band apologising to the DJs (us) about the music they were about to play ‘oh yeah we don’t normally play this kind of stuff, it’s just a one off for the wedding’ and vice versa . I’m sure you can get bored of a cheese and crackers buffet, but it didn’t feel like it at the time. I could have lived there forever, cocooned from a world increasingly becoming a straight to DVD spin-off of 24.

Stuff is started, things had ends… conversations babble and blend about nothing and everything, about forthcoming children and existing mortgages, how to give a urine sample in three equal parts and how to make money from throwing people in the sea.

Blob, gloop, blob… a fluid interaction without edges or seams … Despite the time lags, everyone just gels back together as though continuing conversations held yesterday. …these are good friends, these are mine.

As suddenly as it began, it ended and the world and its woes returned. “…Bermuda, Bahama come on pretty mama Key Largo, Montego baby why don't we go…”

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


Aylesbury, of course, is now a hotbed of terrorist activity, apparently. Last week’s raid on a house (on the other side of town, I hasten to add, lord knows what this is doing to house prices) linked to the London bombings was, well, a bit of a surprise to say the least.

According another Aylesbury based colleague; the expectation is that Aylesbury is about to be hit by a firestorm of racial hate. Insurgents everywhere. A BACKLASH! Apparently it’s no longer safe to go into the town because of reprisals. All her friends say so.

Backlash? Against who? By who? Presumably the table of 10 white and Asians mingling happily at a table Pizza Express on Friday night were just taking a well earned break from Buckinghamshire’s micro-Jihad. I suppose it was the weekend, it’s not all work, work, work y’know.

My informed colleague also said that ‘at least’ fifty per cent of young Asians have it in them to be suicide bombers. Crikey.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

It's all Greek to me

In an unusual act of random kindness at work, we’ve been given a Red Letter Day voucher. Amongst the activities on offer is zorbing, whereby you are put in a large inflated rubber ball and thrown down a hill.

Also on the agenda, is hydro-zorbing. Which, to the untrained eye, may appear to be something like being put in a large inflated rubber ball on water. Read more closely, however, and it turns out that hydro-zorbing is, in fact, exactly the same as zorbing, expect you’re given a bucket of water to hold before being thrown down the hill.

Next week I’m going to go hydro-cycling; like normal cycling, but with a bucket of water on my crossbar.

Sunday, July 10, 2005


Feeling proud to be British is not very cool, is it? After all, people ‘proud to be British’ are members of the BNP or blue rinse royalists who keep their1981 Charles and Di Evening Standard souvenir pull-out in a special cellophane wrapper. Ain’t they?

This week, I’m proud to be British because London is going to host the 2012 Olympics. I don’t mean to be all Labourite about it, but part of what I loved about the bid is that it was built on a set of new British principles. The whole thing avoided the hackneyed images of Guardsmen in bearskins and the British bobby on the beat. Instead it focussed on our emergence as a progressive regenerated nation and a much more cosmopolitan and internationally integrated country. The masterstroke was Tony Blair’s final address delivered in French; this was Britain at its best.

This change in Britain has been ten years in the making, shifting from a paranoid, clunking, grinding, belching empire obsessed jalopy to a country which has had sustained prosperity with a refreshed culture. For the first time, however, the international community has endorsed and recognised the change.

When Sydney won the Games, Australia’s became the world’s utopian holiday home, but the Australians are still detached from much of the International community (perhaps life is too good in Australia). This is where Britain can prosper, as the barometer of the international community, the model of a modern progressive country. Delivering the Games means delivering the model.

There’s still a lot to do, delivering the Games, of course, but breaking down the barriers between us and Europe and getting out of the pockets of the US. We’ve been given the chance to prove that we can do it. The two weeks of the Games will be the party to celebrate the achievement. I for one, am all for it.

Postscript: this was written on Wednesday when the announcement was made. I’m still proud to be British as a result of the London bombings. Probably more so, the reaction all round has been another example of how strong this country has become. Nobody has made rash accusations, the city hasn’t collapsed and the world continues to turn. Bad things happen and bad people exist, but that doesn’t mean good things should stop and good people should go away. It’s been a great week to be British. Anyone want to join me in a verse of Jerusalem? No? OK then.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Love it or 8 it (extended mix)

I’ve read the reviews, seen the news and I realise that history will say that everyone on the Live8 stage was perfectly brilliant. This simply isn’t possible and just not true. I support the sentiment; I don’t understand the methods, I’m sceptical about the bullying tactics (both of the G8 and the general public). The belief that G8 will solve the problem is simplistic in the extreme. But, sod the politics, here’s the Ruffles opinion of each and every bloody act of the show…

U2 and McCartney
I don’t remember Quo opening Live Aid with ‘White Cliffs of Dover’, so why open Live8 with a song nearly forty years old? It’s been a while since U2 and McCartney were at the bottom of a bill, but as party starters, they’ve got a long way to go. Francis Rossi’s bugged eyed wonderment beats Bono’s self importance all hands down. Why did nobody tell me we can ‘cure AIDS with drugs’. Apparently ‘we’ve got those drugs’, although maybe he meant the band had the drugs, and we can’t have them. I dunno.

Has the stage manager got his set list upside down? At this rate the show will be closed by Northern Line. Good old Coldplay, unremarkably mid-paced, Richard Ashcroft arriving holding his shoes above his head raises hopes for a moment but even Bittersweet Symphony is a bit dull. The same set, played as the sun goes down would have been a different story. Perhaps Apple, wearing an enormous pair of pink headphones, needs to get back for her tea.

Elton John
Thank god for Elt. His backing band is a tidal wave of mullets and orange silk shirts but he stands on his piano before playing his own brand of honky tonk piano rock like he’s back on the coke and booze. Pete Doherty appears for Children of the Revolution, he looks better than he sounds but the whole event is lifted by the skag junkie and the fat poof. Like Chris Martin, Elt thanks ‘Bob Geldof’; on stage Geldof mentions: 2 Poverty mentions: 0.

Billionaire Bill Gates of IT monoliths Microsoft comes on to chastise the world’s powerbrokers for exploiting the world’s poor for their gain. I think I need a cup of tea.

She’s funny Dido, she puts everything into her singing then nothing comes out of her mouth. It’s like they turned down the bass EQ on her voice. Youssou n’Dor comes on; all these surprise guests are making it feel like the Brits. They do Thank You; Youssou resists the temptation to do Eminem’s bits. Seven Seconds is good, finally somebody is on at the right time of day. Dido’s inoffensive mid-ranking pop on at an inoffensive mid ranking point in the bill. She also mentions poverty, 2-1.

You suspect that the ‘phonics are incapable of being smart-arses. So they strap on their guitars and play some ballsy rock n roll. They’re a bit like Makosi from Big Brother, you wouldn’t want to live with them but on telly, when you can switch them off, they’ll do. The crowd don’t seem that bothered, the BBC show close-ups of people going mental, but the long shots seem almost completely static.

Ricky Gervais comes on to fill with some distasteful jokes, I cringe, then realise it’s the sort of thing I’d say for a cheap laugh.

It’s difficult to play a twenty minute stadium gig, but REM can play stadiums, and Michael Stipe does all the big gestures and it all starts to come together. Just after they finish Everybody Hurts, the BBC cut to Fern Cotton interviewing Razorlight, presumably it’s what the nation was waiting for. When they finally cut back to the stage, Stipe’s got the whole place in the palm of his hand, but who cares about that when Razorlight are available to tell us that they’ve seen the Live Aid DVD because they missed the real thing.

Ms Dynamite
… is crushingly dull but she’s the first person to say that we all are responsible for creating world poverty (2-2, Bob must be worrying).

They cut to Berlin where a raven haired beauty is rocking out. “Is that Neneh?” says Ricky Gervais “If it is, she’s shaved under her arms” he’s then caught saying “this isn’t going out live is it”. The BBC is ragged; they cut to Paris to see Muse who sound exciting and noisy. Hyde Park may have the biggest stars, but they’re getting a rummest of deals so far. … and, oh god, it’s Keane on next.

Keane are sensible boys playing sensible music at a sensible time to people with sensible haircuts. The crowd response is weirdly Pavlovian, when thingy (Tarquin? Giles?) tells them to make some noise they do, then they shut up very quickly. There’s nothing wrong with what they play (something strangely familiar yet equally anonymous). As a musical event, this needs a raging bender in a white t-shirt with a poodle permed guitarist in clogs.

… or a androgynous man in a powder blue suit with different coloured eyes. Travis’ pop is vanilla even if it is made with good ingredients. I like Fran Healey, he crafts good pop songs, but the article in When Saturday Comes about Stirling Albion’s 1984 cup game against Selkirk was more interesting.

Bob Geldof
Geldof was brilliant at Live Aid. The Boomtown Rats were well past their best but Geldof came on like a snarling dog, seething with anger and passion. This time he’s soporific, they roll out Midge Ure. Fern Britton tells us that it was an ‘amazing historic event’ it was Midge says he can’t believe how bad it was. Good old Midge, somebody who is aware that a good cause does not necessarily make a good concert.

Annie Lennox
Venus Williams wins the woman’s Wimbledon crown and I realise I’ve sat on the TV control. Then I see that I can go Live8 interactive, Lennox is doing her yummy mummy dancing to Little Bird, but in Philly Bon Jovi are doing Living on a Prayer and Ricky Sambrosa is playing a double headed guitar. In Toronto somebody is playing some great soca. I didn’t buy the whole racist thing to do with Live8’s line up, but the Eden project gig looks very black, and empty. Back with Annie, she’s doing Sweet Dreams, the BBC manage to cut to the only person in the crowd who doesn’t know the words.

They show Green Day in Berlin, the German’s are having all the fun. Billy Bob what’s-it says “Fucking” during American Idiot, then does a Freddie Mercury call and response. People are slam dancing and crowd surfing. They cut back to Jonathan Ross who tells us that UB40 are on next. Why does everyone keep saying what an amazing day it is? If I was Wolfgang in Berlin I’d believe you.

At Live Aid Queen were a fading rock band with a tea time slot. They came on stage and walked straight into pop cultural history. UB40 are a fading band with a tea time slot. Well, I suppose Red Red Wine and Radio Ga Ga are songs which have the same word twice in the title.

Annie Lennox unleashes a brilliantly impassioned tirade about the AIDS epidemic, she’s seething with anger, I stop and listen. Making poverty history might start sort AIDS out, but the Catholic Church and the trucking industry have a lot more to answer for. I suspect Annie knows that a big gig in Hyde Park might not be enough.

Snoop Dogg
Snoop’s so good he should be in Berlin. It’s a twenty minute showcase lauding the “Mother fuckin’ DRE” and dropping bitches like they’re hot. Snoop knows his job, like all the great acts, they perform first, which is what they do best. Leave the messaging to the video screens. Snoop is straight up gangsta, he just never flinches, and for that he deserves to join the top table. Coldplay seem like a long long time ago.

Whilst all the songs sound the same, Razorlight play a furious rock-a-billy. They don’t quite make the career defining statement they clearly hope to make, but it’s all starting to come together. I check Berlin on Interactive, they’re not having as much fun.

Bob’s back, introducing that Cars video, Geldof’s problem is that we’re not allowed to question him. He’s self righteous and pompous. Annie Lennox, of all people, starts to give me a degree of belief, then Geldof comes on to show how much angrier and cleverer and more informed he is than me. Religious zealots are like this, tripped out by their own self worth. He’s been on stage about six fucking times telling us the same fucking thing. I’m getting the principle, but Geldof chooses not to tell us how this is going to happen. All we’re supposed to do is text and he’ll do the rest like we’re a bunch of dumb-asses. Geldof is the one who’s spoiling it. Presumably everyone is too scared to tell him.

Madonna has the songs to choose from, not that she chooses her best, but the performance is top notch, slick, professional and tightly choreographed. Because it’s Madonna, and she’s built a career on cold professionalism, you got to love her for that.

Snow Patrol
Are brief, but they seem so happy to be on stage. Their songs don’t reflect their bon viveur. They play two, the second I recognise, although if you’d have played it to me yesterday, I’d have told you it was Embrace.

In the Reading Festival phase of the concert The Killers are excellent but they only do one song. You feel that if they’d been given twenty minutes like other bands they could have been a bit special.

Joss Stone
I like Joss Stone the kooky teenager with a powerful voice, but she plays the kind of music I absolutely detest. It’s noodly soul which never had its moment, but seems to have been around for ever. The drummer appears to be behind bullet proof glass, he so fat it looks like he’s just part of the kit. Perhaps he’s stuck and lives there, maybe the glass acts like a shower cubicle. Why does she get to do three songs and the Killers just one? It’s no fair. Joss asks who loves Bob Geldof, there it is, confirmed, pop stars really don’t understand why they’re there.

Scissor Sisters
You suspect that all the Scissor Sisters’ songs are about snorting cocaine off dwarves’ bumcracks, but they still sound like Supertramp. They play a song no one has ever heard before, it also sounds like Supertramp. This is very perceptive of them, great moment for a toilet break.

I might be the only one who sees the irony that Joss Stone and the Scissor Sisters have a lot to thank the poverty industry for. The big multiples (supermarkets) have the buying power to drive supplier costs down below the cost of production; this means they offer great value for money, which means demand, which means massive buying power, which means they can sell CD’s for under a tenner. This is where a majority of Scissor Sisters and Joss Stone fans (thirty something families) buy their music.

Velvet Revolver
On the TV its obvious that this is Slash from Guns and Roses new band, but if you’re at the back of quarter of a million people, it’s possible you might be feeling a bit bemused. They do three songs; The Killers could have done their whole album. Who says nobody is on the bill trying to promote their records? It’s not that they’re bad; it’s that they’re the Velvet bloody Revolver, whose hits include… erm.

You just know sting lies awake at night wishing he’d thought of Live Aid. In supporting de-forestation he backed the wrong horse in terms of beatification. Still he’s not burdened with his own self-worth (that much). He plays a solid set that’s all very Sting, he’s the consummate professional. Earlier in the day he says he’s not nervous, well, he’s just doing his job.

Mariah Carey
A woman who has managed to have a very long career without ever having a song of note.

Robbie Williams
Robbie is the only person here who was not at Live Aid who seems comfortable at this level. He’s a composite of all great performers over the last thirty years, which either makes him supremely post modern, or a big fraud. It’s a damning indictment of our cultural development that it’s a relief to see him on stage. Either that or a clear indication of Geldof’s myopia.

The Who
Are lardy and dis-engaged, they play the same set as they did at Band Aid, which says it all really. During the big interlude during Who Are You, Pete Townshend spends his time pulling at his t-shirt to stop his man boobs showing.

Pink Floyd
Are awful, their songs are crafted to within an inch of their lives. There’s no excitement, no engagement. It’s a self important set weighed down with its own falsely created gravitas… Let’s face it, because they couldn’t get the Spice Girls to reform, the Floyd were next best thing, then they pretended that all the Spice Girls stuff didn’t happen they bigged up the the Floyd reunion like this was what people really wanted.

Paul McCartney and the Finale
Macca does his thing. Like Madonna he’s earned his right to fix himself in time. George Michael comes on and is woefully underused. Then everyone comes on, Hey Jude is anthemic but brief and the cheering doesn’t linger quite as long as it seemed to at Live Aid. Perhaps everyone is tired.

So who won? Snoop was ace, Robbie knows what he’s doing. Elton John, Madonna and REM, Sir Paul do what they do. The Killers and Razorlight didn’t get enough airtime to really make a dent, but where good while they were on.

Who lost? Pink Floyd, The Who, Mariah, U2 and Coldplay

Only Robbie gave anything like a U2 or a Queen type performance. Overall it was a bit bland; where were The Darkness (who should have opened), Franz Ferdinand, Radiohead, Blur, Oasis (who according to Noel Gallagher wouldn’t bow to Geldof’s bullying) and why were Faithless ‘relegated’ to Berlin?

Monday, June 27, 2005

Wireless for sound

It felt like we were cheating, and looking at the cross over between the two line-ups at the Glastonbury and Wireless festivals, it was. Even the usually anodyne newspaper diary dates put apologetic inverted commas around the word festival when referring to Wireless.

Firstly, Wireless was in Hyde Park central London, it doesn’t run on concurrent nights and it was suffocated with corporate branding (02 and Nokia principally). Hell, we even had our dinner at a nearby Pizza Express rather than noshing on a hotdog made of lips, bums and chicken’s ears. Putting it on the same weekend as Europe’s largest (and most proper) of festivals left it feeling like Glasto’s evil deformed twin brother.

It is probably for this reason that we simply referred to it as ‘The New Order gig’. Rain meant we avoided the line-up’s very long tail… we caught Moby playing music from adverts, but missed the one single types; Graham Coxon, The Bravery, Fischerspooner et al for a Fiorentina and coke.

If you were to draw lines between Peter ‘Oooky’ Hook, Stephen Morris and the late Ian Curtis they would meet at Bernard Sumner. Sumner is Everyman, part poet, part posturing rock star, part plumber. Oooky has pinned his “Bass Mechanic” icon to the floor with six inch nails; he still plays his bass two inches from the floor – something he originally did because Joy Division’s equipment was so awful he could only hear himself if he played down where his amp was. He still has the straggly rock star hair, he’s still stick thin. He’s a little weather beaten, but he looks and acts pretty much the same as he ever did. “Fooking ‘ell, it’s a fookin’ forty year old mosh pit, fookin’ grow up” chastised the 49-year-old bass player looking down on the mass of middle aged men with Sumner-esque shot back and sides.

Like their crowd, Sumner has gain weight, got older and becomes an embarrassment to his kids. When I saw New Order about ten years ago he stood stock still as he has in all the other film I’ve seen of him. Part cool, part terrified. Now, however, his shackles are off and he puffs his cheeks out out, purses his lips, turns purple and dances like your dad at a disco.

Festivals are so prevalent nowadays it’s much easier for big bands to satisfy their album promoting commitments by shifting from one festy crowd to another (New Order played on Saturday at Glasto) rather than doing their own tour. It means, however, that there is more licence to play a greatest hits set. Play safe, not everyone has come to see you; hit, hit, hit.

This is not to criticise, you don’t get to see these bands often enough to risk an experimental jazz jam session packed full of rare b-sides. We’ll leave that to Babyshambles and the kids who go to see them. I’ve done that stuff; seeing Radiohead at Kingston University a week after their debut single was released, Oasis in Brighton shortly after Definitely Maybe was released (and the after-show party), but for every iconic moment there are ten Sultans of Ping, Scorpio Risings and Flook playing 10 minutes for Radio 1 before going off. Gimme good product.

And that’s exactly what we got, hit after hit after hit from both the New Order and Joy Division back catalogues. True Faith, Crystal, Temptation, Love Will Tear Us Apart, Transmission, Love Vigilantes. It was safe and predictable programming from a driving, varied and adventurous back catalogue.

They ended with a shambolic rendition of Blue Monday, fighting technical problems to ensure that all the important bits were included at some point though not necessarily in the right order. Bernard sang about ships in harbours and shallow bays three or four times as he tried to three point turn himself out of a tight cul-de-sac. Hooky just played on relentless waiting for others to catch up. Then they left, Hooky carefully placed his low strung base on its stand and made for stage right. His rock starring complete for another night, as he disappeared from view a little girl, his daughter, grabbed him by the hand and the two disappeared off, presumably for a story and bed.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Big spanx, little spanx, what a way to grow

Spankee phoned sounding tired... What did you do last night, I asked...

"I went to a party, I wore a salmon pink shirt, slacks and brown slip-ons. I felt smart, but it seems so wrong, I feel forty..."

There was silence, he spoke again...

"Ooh, Manimal is on Bravo!"

And in the twinkle of an eye he was back.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Wacko fanos

I’m not troubled by the Michael Jackson verdict; it probably worked out for the best all round. Jackson is free (er, -ish) to continue in his own strange way and the trial probably neutralised any threat he might pose. The authorities, on the other hand, don’t have the headache of putting a high risk inmate in the clink. However, that odd band of fans who camped outside the courtroom trouble me greatly. To all those people, consider if you will…

  • twenty year old sparsely adopted fashion fads – trilby hats, spangly gloves, white arm bands - are just twenty year old sparsely adopted fashion fads

  • there may be a relationship between a persistent addiction to plastic surgery and stunted emotional development
  • if your best work is fifteen years behind you, you’re probably not really the king of anything at all
    half hearted body popping is only one aspect of greatness

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Sophie and the City

Oh god, my sister has raised a two and a half year old urban sophisticate. Sophie’s first words to Emma when she came over the other day were “Oh Emma, I love your shoes”. She followed this, having terrorised the cats, by gushing “Oh, I love your stairs”. All very Sarah Jessica Parker.

All of this can probably be forgiven, however, when I asked where her new cousin Jessica lived (answer: Tamworth) she replied “London”. No she doesn’t, said I. She turned, looked me in the eye and replied “We all live in London”.

Oh yeah, the bloody world doesn’t exist outside Zone 6, I know her type. I tell you, she'll be double cheek air kissing and sipping Manhattans out of her beaker soon …

Monday, June 06, 2005


I won’t bore you with the minutiae of my deeply uninspired conservative party pleasing five hour set at Vibeke’s party on Saturday. In fact, my iPod made a better fist of ‘varied and eclectic’ as I tidied the kitchen on Sunday (Dionne Warwick, Orbital, Gorrillaz, Elbow, PJ Harvey).

Typically, I never seemed to be playing the right record at the right time. One girl came up to me and said “You know you’ve just played Crazy in Love (literally 2 minutes earlier), can you play it again, no one will notice” another said “Have you got any Jamiroquai?” to which I said no, so she wailed “You must have, because I love him”. I did tryto help the girl in the dainty wedged sandals who wanted “More reggae or hip hop… or The Killers”. It’s about par for the course for this kind of party, an occupational hazard if you like. Still, one bloke came up to check a Mint Royal tune I played (during my Ruffles pleasing early evening warm up) he also gave me a big thumbs-up for some Beanie Man, so that was nice.

It’s also nice to see beautiful people dancing and smiling to things you’re playing regardless of how tired the music feels to you. The party was noticeably full of beautiful people. Vibeke’s Norwegian and their was much Scandinavian vitality on show. However, it’s amazing how the beauty can fade when you’re presented in front of the decks with the same pristine smile for the sixth time in two hours. One girl repeatedly tried to explain in the most general terms imaginable, what she wanted to hear. The best she could do was “Less yo, more concrete”.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Big hit, album track, album track, bigger hit, biggest hit

Any bassline which makes your nostrils vibrate is OK by me. The Chemical Brothers used it repeatedly during their Brixton Academy set last Friday which made for an ace night out.

Due to the prevalence with which the music press use the term, it appears potentially illegal to review the Chems without saying things about their “Blockrockin’ Beats”. There’s more to them than Big Beat survivalists. Such a varied back catalogue sweeps from all the tracks with Beats in the title (Block Rockin’, Chemical, Chico) to their housier anthems; Out of Control, Hey Boy, Hey Girl, Star Guitar. Then there’s their epic Private Psychedelic Reels (one per album) and their serious collaborations (with the likes of Flaming Lips, Beth Orton, Bloc Party et al). On top of which they weave the new album.

The performance was OK; Ed coaxes complex textures from his bank of modules whilst Tom is detailed with volume controls and waving. Their timing was out throughout, running through track after track at a frenetic pace. With six albums to play from, it was like they didn’t want to miss anything out. Maybe they need to be a little braver and drop something, even the big hits.

All of which means the whole thing was a little stuck somewhere between regular gig and full-on rave. Frequently the night peaked, racing away at a pulsating house pace, before a retro break from Exit Planet Dust appeared. Huge roars. Then the beats were slowed to the requisite speed and the energy waned. It’s a shame, with better programming they could have built and built the night to frenzy.

None of which should take away from what was a good night out. Sara came with me; a veteran of Busted, Britney and Take That concerts. She seemed to enjoy the culture shock; the sticky Academy floors, the lack of foam fingers in the merchandise stand, the offers of drugs (easy to spot, black guys with no sense of rhythm).

And we parked two minutes from the venue, which was the best bit of all.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Taking the sith

Star Wars, even the original trilogy, wouldn’t have survived if it’d been launched today. We’re too prosperous and comfortable with the real world to accept innocent fairy tales based in galaxies far far away. Even The Invincibles was applauded because it dealt with the anonymity of suburban life and not because it was a cartoon about retired superheroes who return to save the world.

In our hierarchy of needs we’re well beyond basic survival, we’re beyond needing comfort and escapism; we can buy all these things. Finding spiritual enlightenment trekking in Nepal costs about the price as a packet of Pringles. With all these needs satisfied, we’re obsessed with a need for credibility. This requires cynicism and intellectualism; all part of a process of modern self-actualisation.

The achingly credible and intelligent are wanton to dismiss Star Wars with their breathtaking analyses that the films are riddled with poor acting and telegraphed plotlines. In 1977, nobody went to see Star Wars for a religious experience, they were living in drab times and the cinema was a quick hit of fun.

All six films are silly, but they’re fun and exciting silly. Whilst I could do a few less robots saying “Uh Oh” before being smote by a Jedi, Revenge of the Sith is great. It pauses only to set up the arrival of Luke and Leah and the death of Padme. But the rest of it is loads of fighting, lasers going “peowm! peowm!” and lots of running around like a bunch of pillocks… like just like innocent games played in the playground.

It’s not a historical document; it’s not trying to say much more than good is good and bad is bad. It’s just trying to entertain two hours, if we really had anything to worry about, we’d appreciate it for doing just that.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Mersey beating

Is it just me but has Liverpool’s epic Champions League win been a rallying cry to all rubbish scousers? Phil Thompson waxed lyrical about how the club have the right to defend their title next season because there’s a magic surrounding them.

Some journo from the Liverpool Echo claimed that in heaven the famous Liverpool boot room (where a generation of Liverpool managers were schooled) got together at half time and conjured up a plan to get out of the 3-0 hole they were in.

My favourite was the fan BBC Breakfast followed to Istanbul. Billy, yes Billy, dressed in a vintage Liverpool shirt got to his hotel room and unpacked his Liverpool bedspread. He then pulled out his walkman so he could listen to his favourite song… “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.


Oh, and is it just me but do the words “Midge” and “Sting” actually want you to put in some effort into raising world debt?

Monday, May 23, 2005

Final analysis

Publicly at least, the Manchester United players were gracious in their Cup Final defeat on Saturday. This is despite all the TV pundits’ protestations that they had been robbed, having dominated throughout. The players themselves realise that there are two key elements to football, scoring goals and not letting them in. At no point did United have any disallowed goals which should have stood nor did Arsenal defend in any way illegally. In truth, Arsenal were better at not letting in goals than United were scoring them. Manchester United were unlucky if football is all about scoring goals, but that’s a big ‘if’.

The mooted protests from United fans over the Glazer take-over didn’t materialise because of, um, rain. Apparently about 100 fans marched towards the Millennium Stadium in protest, fractionally more than the number of Arsenal fans who dressed up as 1979 Cup Final hero Alan Sunderland. Unfortunately despite the hullabaloo it seems most United fans care as much about who owns the club as people who download Crazy Frog ring tones worry about the state of the British music industry.

The Not4Sale coalition, who have taken the fan responsible for resisting the take-over have been brilliantly blinkered in their approach to all this. For one, they are fourteen years too late, United have been for sale ever since they floated on the stock exchange… in fact many of the Not4Sale Coalition have taken full advantage of the fact that United are 4sale. They also think this is an issue of national importance. One claimed that all football fans should rally in support of United’s plight. Why, exactly? United have been an integral part, and beneficiary of, the Premiership, the Champions League, the European superclub alliance G14, snubbing, and therefore downgrading the FA Cup, belittling the League Cup by playing youth team players. Football competitions are now valued in money-terms. It’s made them a lot of money. This has not only made themselves very attractive to external investors in the club but they have raised the bar to the extent that in order to get in the Premiership/Champions League winning game you have to invest somewhere in the region of half a billion pounds to stand a chance of competing, for this read: Chelsea. In short they’ve deliberately polarised football, and now they’re upset about it.

Then there’s the tactical ineptitude in their protest. The plan was for fans to wear black at the Cup Final to signal the death of their club. The same colour the team wore on the pitch (United are innovators in global brand developing shirts which can be worn as fashion garments). Even if fans did fall in line, it wouldn’t have looked like a protest, it would simply have looked like thousands of fans supporting their team. It’s not a bad idea marking your feelings through thousands of people wearing a particular colour; a few years ago Rangers fans all wore orange to thank their Dutch contingent for a great season. It was so bright and obvious that they weren’t wearing their traditional blue; TV had to comment on it. If United fans really wanted to mark their anger at the situation, they should have worn sky blue, the colour of their arch Manchester rival City. Now that would have caused a stir.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Working my work

Work is potty at the moment, I don’t suppose I’m any busier than anyone else, but it seems to envelope my whole world at the moment. Things aren’t that bad though, people are very positive about what I’ve been doing and it is been recognised in cold hard money terms, which always helps.

There’s also a curious scenario where I’m easing into a position of some importance. This is not to gloat; it’s just that people seem to think I’m quite an important person to have on board when they’ve got things they want developed etc. I’ve tried analysing why this is; in my head I’m nine-years-old and hoping to play centre forward for Oxford United in the FA Cup final. Work is something I do until I get my call up. I’m never really sure about what I’m doing, I’m not particularly learned or organised. Usually, the things I say are backed up with analogies derived from football or the telly. So how does a big fraud like me get listened to? The traditional view seems to be “use management bullshit” and “be a big suck up”. I don’t think it takes you very far; The Ruffles Guide to Getting By is:

Say stuff like you know what your talking about, never say “I’m not really an expert in these things but…” or “I may be completely wrong but…” In the end, nobody really knows what they’re talking about, applying common sense without blinking usually wins.

Don’t be impressed by many people, but be impressed by some. I’m a pretty cynical bugger, so not many people get my worthless vote of confidence. But you have to selective. By not being impressed by many, but being impressed by some you’re effectively ranking yourself in the upper quartiles of the ability range. Amazingly, people seem to buy it.

... Oh, working hard and trying to be good at what you do also helps.

Monday, May 09, 2005

General erection

It’s difficult to know who won the battle of the Election coverage; I enjoyed BBC’s endless result analogies, especially the one where the three CGI generated main leaders were seen hobbling down Downing Street towards number 10.

Mind you, when flicking through the channels during a lull in the results I did stumbled across a serious contender for the title. Paramount were just introducing their next show “…and now, continuing our election night coverage, another edition of Badly Dubbed Porn”.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

The lost people of democracy

Who are the people that make an election happen? What do the people who stand outside the polling booths do for a living? Why do they insist on taking your polling card number? What do they do with the information? Who analyses it all? Who makes the rosettes they wear?

Where do the people who check your card come from? What do they write on your card? Why do they punch it with a five hole punch? Do people really pass the information onto MI6 to keep us in check? Who are you? Why are you here? Stop reading this blog. Go away.

Who organises the boxes to get to the place where they count the votes? Who does the counting? Where are the adverts for these jobs? Why would you want to do it in the first place? Do they get paid? Who do they vote for? When do they vote?

Why do Sunderland South care so much about returning the first result? Who cares? What are they trying to prove? Who is it impressed by this? Is Sunderland South overrun by short macho repressed homosexuals?

Do the Monster Raving Looney Party still think they’re funny? No, really, do the Monster Raving Looney Party really think they’re funny?

How many visual analogies does Peter Snow need to demonstrate the state of play? Does he think its real? Who creates all these effects? Why do ITN insist on calling theirs ground breaking when every other channel has exactly the same thing? Why does Jeremy Paxman think disagreeing with everyone about everything is probing journalism? Why has Natasha Kapinsky been relegated to do doing the human interest behind the scenes reportage? Why do I need to ask?

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Children are seen and not herd

I have another niece or nephew on the way in the next few days. This will be the third, Sophie was first then Izzy. Izzy is still a bit young, but Sophie has built up an impressive list of classic quotes in the last two and a bit years…

[on the telephone] “Hello can you see my candles they are lellow”
“Hello anybody”
“See you later see you Friday” [she has no idea what a Friday is, by the way]
“I saw a firework and I cried” [pronounced ‘twide’]
“Wow… and… wow”

All of these are in regular use around our house, whereas Gareth apparently has been known to eat his Frosties spluttering “Cereal… FOR BREAKFAST!?”

Such is the joy of a developing child. Farmer Jo’s little boy has just uttered his first word, and true to his family’s farming history … it’s 'loader'

Monday, April 18, 2005

As the actress said to the Ruffles

Talking to Polly, an aspiring actress about her fledgling career…

Ruffles “So what sort of thing have you done?”
Polly “Well in the last film I did, I played a woman stuck in a man’s dreams. He falls in love with her and kills himself to be with her, but when he does it turns out she’s real and in a coma”
Ruffles “Like Romeo and Juliet?”
Polly “Yes, a modern day supernatural Romeo and Juliet, or as it’s also known a load of old rubbish”

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The come over here, take our jobs and steal our milk

According to the papers, immigration is a key issue during the elections. Personally, it’s not for me. We live within a couple of minutes of a large Asian community, but it’s the Chavs who amble around the town who scare me most.

I have noticed, however, that in Tesco you often see Asian family’s buying gallons and gallons of milk. I did wonder what uniquely Asian phenomena caused this. Big families? High milk consumption in traditional Asian cookery? A thirst for Tesco Clubcard points? Apparently the big supermarkets hold such a strangle hold over the milk producers that the price of 6 pints of milk from Tesco is cheaper than from a cash and carry therefore Asian restaurant owners prefer Tesco to their traditional Cash and Carry to buy their ingredients.

However, it seems these Asians can’t get enough milk. Pat, our neighbour who calls her six foot square shed a ‘barn’ and the road we live on (colloquially known as the A41) as ‘the lane’, asked me to cut back a rosebush that was hanging over her side of the fence.

The milkman couldn’t get down the side alley to deliver his milk. He delivers round the back because her milk sometimes goes missing from the front porch. Apparently milk stealing is a bit of a problem round Kings Road where…

And at this point she whispers and raises her eyebrows knowingly…
“A lot of Pakistani people live”.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Share price

On Friday Sara had bought some doughnuts, Emma said she didn’t want one because she was full from dinner. With a cup of tea arriving, I reached for the doughnut that was rightfully mine.

“Can I have just one bite?” said Emma, indicating the minute portion she had planned with her finger and thumb.

I passed the doughnut over to her.

“No you have some, I want a bite from the middle, that’s the best bit”

I refused; she could have the first bite or no bite at all. At this point, things could easily have escalated to a point where we were dividing up the possessions of the house. They didn’t, but my assertion that “Sharing wasn’t natural” didn’t help.

Then on Saturday there was a Friends rerun where Joey is driven mad by a date who insists on picking at his food in restaurants. Then, out with Lucy and Dan on Saturday a sharing platter was ordered as a starter.

“Oh Ruffles doesn’t share” said Emma as she insisted that I should have my own starter. She even gesticulated to the waitress, ‘A sharing platter for US THREE’ wafting an exclusion zone around herself, Dan and Lucy.

Right, firstly, sharing isn’t natural. No animal requiring sustenance actively shares their food, unless it’s with their offspring. That’s probably why sharing is such virtue amongst you humans, because in essence, it’s about your own depravation. To deliberately do this has to be virtuous.

Secondly, there’s the nature of sharing, why should I do the work on the sub-optimised sections of the doughnut, only to pass over the prime piece of the pie to someone else? Dan supported my sentiment, when he and Lucy are out, she will order a more experimental selection on the proviso that he has something she will definitely like. Therefore, if her dish isn’t to her liking, she can swap, passing her mistake over to him. And finally, there’s the dessert special, Emma will sometimes refuse a dessert because she is either full, or it is ‘naughty’. However, in order not to miss out, she will then suggest that she could have a bit of mine… if I agree to this, she will then decide what I am going to have. Sometimes providing, to the untrained ear, convincing arguments that I love dishes I positively hate.

“You love Tiramisu, you’re always saying it”

It’s not that I don’t share; I like to be as generous as possible. It’s just that the sharee must understand their role as grateful recipient and that the rules of the sharing are set by sharer. Otherwise the world will undoubtedly shift on its axis.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Spiritual rawk

Rather like an Uzbekistani Eurovision entry, whilst I don’t really understand a single word of what is being said, I am prepared to be swept up in the sentiment of the Pope’s death.

The Pope struck me as being a pretty nice old bloke, so that’s good. But on the other hand I find Catholicism quite scary. It all seems so mean. This could be irrational, I know.

What I really didn’t need was Bono to get involved. Much as he wants to be world ambassador for peace, like an octogenarian teddy-boy he’s desperate to continually remind us that he’s no square… He’s still a rock star, let us never forget. Did he really need to pay tribute by calling the Pope the ‘World’s Greatest Frontman’?

Apparently, he has also called him “The Funky Priest” as well. Reports that he said this straddled over a Marshall amp in a pair of wraparound shades remain, as ever, unconfirmed.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Rave degeneration

An email came through telling me that the Chemical Brothers gig I'm going to in May has had licensing problems. Say it quietly, but I'm quite relieved it's no longer going on 'til 3am... 1am is plenty late enough for me thank you.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Ignorance is bliss

Tonight I’m going out with George and Gill, some old MBA buddies. When I did the course I learnt but two things. Most interestingly, I found out that structured training is not as good as learning through shared experience. The principle being that those who can’t do; teach, and extrapolating that further, those who teach, probably teach things you shouldn’t do. This is born out in research; structured training is, by definition, sanitised and often promulgates outdated practice.

So, in short, people who have mastered bad practice are simply passing on bad practice badly. This is often legitimised by hackneyed theory straight out of the Idiots Guide to Management Bullshit.

On Tuesday, we had a meeting which was supposed to be answering a fairly fundamental question – why do we put so much effort into producing something which has no obvious benefit. It was, instead, hijacked by a facilitator hell-bent on ignoring the issue at hand. Instead he put us through as many mind and consciousness expanding exercises as the time permitted.

It’s very much in vogue to punctuate any group meeting with a series of exercises that take you ‘outside the box’ and get the left and right side of your brain working in tandem. First we did some collective self reflection. Where on Tuckman's model of team performance did we think we were? Tuckman invented four stages in team building – which are something like Forming, Norming, Yawning and pawning your awning – the point at which team performance collapses to such an extent that is becomes necessary to liquidate equity that may exist in any light weight canvas structure (including small marquees and bivouacs).

Following this, we indulged in some individual reflection, having to write on post-it notes (obviously) how we thought we were seen and, on a different colour, how we would like to be viewed. My temptation was to write “Likes to eat cheese” and “Likes to eat chips”. I bottled out, which was a shame, given my Chief Exec put “Change agent who doesn’t listen” and “Change agent who does listen, but ignores you anyway”.

Then we had lunch, then we discussed for the briefest possible time, the question at hand. Then we had coffee. That out the way, we did some more collective reflection (same exercise, to see whether things had changed – they hadn’t) followed by some more individual reflection (why our preferred and real perceptions were different – probably down to my relationship with my dad or something). Then we went home with the central question unanswered.

The second thing I learnt in my MBA? Don’t eat the canteen’s Cornish pasties.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

In a parallel universe not so far away

I used to write about the Little Publishing Company on the Hill. It’s where I spent nearly four years goofing around with a little gang of twenty something post graduates; Lizard, Ravey Davey, Catherine, Chuckles and Joella. I keep in touch with Chuckles, and Joella although that’s through her blog. Despite the passing years, I’ve learnt that Joella and I still have but one thing in common; we are both utterly indifferent to each others’ interests. She can’t be arsed with football, and I’m not bothered about Women’s issues. It’s probably why we got on. I remember her, the gang, our antics and our traumas with huge fondness. It was nearly ten years ago.

The Little Publishing Company on the Hill was a local company with local people having big international successes. Its success attracted a big ugly Dutch corporate who bought the place out, made its millionaire founder more of a millionaire and rolled in some big ugly corporate executives to run the place. The old directors; chancers, charlatans and lunatics the lot of them, were eventually run out of town. The corporate bled the place dry and closed it down.

The other day I was being harangued by a salesman who was trying to get me to spend £5,000 advertising on a website they hadn’t launched, couldn’t show me and had no marketing materials to support. I Googled my old boss’ name to see if I could find out what she’d up to… and whether she still had translucent skin and wears clashing primary colours in animal prints.

It didn’t take long to find her. She’s started up an event management company with most of the directors from the old charabanc. I looked up their website, and it turns out they’ve moved back into the Offices on the Hill. The circle is complete… perhaps somewhere there’s a next generation Ruffles mucking around writing inappropriate stories about staff members and trying to break email records.

Monday, March 21, 2005

I dig Marvel and DC, I dig Run DMC, Renegade Soundwave and AC/DC

I am not a little bit country, nor am I a little bit Rock n Roll. I am, however, a quite a lot Old Skool. People my age can start to get set in their ways. Often, it seems, they settle into a stereotypical social construct of marriage, kids, mortgage, country pubs, golf handicaps, Katie Melua, Joss Stone and Beau Vista Social Club as the beginning and end of world music chic. I don’t begrudge anyone who wants all that, but it’s not me (in the main) that said, I am becoming set in my ways, but my ways are Old Skool.

The greatest trainers ever are Adidas Superstars, the greatest football (let’s face it, we all have one) is either the Adidas Tango, or the Mexico 70 vintage. DJ’s use Technics 1200’s and vinyl, anything else is just cheating. Hip hop should sample James Brown and be funky. Football should kick-off on a Saturday at 3pm.

It’s not that I’m closed to new music, fashion, and football kick-off times, but I’ve experienced my best of breed, anything new has to fight hard to surpass it. I’m very comfortable with this.

On Thursday as I descended into Wycombe (topographically and spiritually) at some god-awful hour in the morning I was listening to James’ Gold Mother – a classic from my Sixth Form. I’d stumbled across it in my CD rack and thought it was worth a whirl.

I found that I was comforted by it, I remember Sit Down being played at parties and discos when I wore long sleeved Happy Mondays t-shirts and had floppy hair. There’s a live version of it on the CD (I originally had the tape, which didn’t have Sit Down on it, that was done after it became a hit, fact fans). At the end the band finish and the crowd just sing the chorus over and over again. It was like a lullaby, completely soothing.

Then I realised that the reason I’m so comfortable within being stuck in my ways, is that it’s safer there than it is in the real world. Five minutes later I was in the car park, first in, again, having been last out, again. It was like emerging from blissful hibernation, the stresses and strains returned like a mallet to the head.

Or a Mallet’s Mallet, if you’re really Old Skool.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

All celebrities are bastards

On the way back from Toronto we saw bugged eyed Arian German tennis playing legend Boris Becker careering down Terminal 4 departures towards a flight. This spot was all the more significant, according to Sara, because he was carrying tennis rackets.

Becker is a legendary tabloid bastard, doing something to some woman in some broom cupboard, or something. That shouldn’t make him special because all celebrities are bastards. Look at it, to be a celebrity you have to do something that distorts accepted norms; actors pretend to be other people, sportspeople play games for money, Jodie Marsh wears no clothes. Do these things in a normal job and you’d be fired.

To want to pervert a norm like this you have to have guts, you have to want to do something most people typically won’t do. You have to have an unstinting self-belief that people will want to pay you to distort these norms. You’ll have a belief that people will pay you to do something they actually want to do. More than anything they have to resist the immense social pressures that you’re subjected to whenever you step out of line form a social norm.

I recently saw Tony Hawks do a corporate gig, he turned up late, sat at the top table with all the VIPs, ate a £60 a head meal for free, did twenty minutes on stage in which he swore when he was asked not to, took the piss out of the main speaker and host of the evening and left several thousand pounds richer.

Funny bastard.

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