Thursday, October 31, 2002
The best of October
TV programme of the month: The Office. Just reminds me how lucky I am to work in a decent office, and not a normal one. Ok, who's hidden my stapler?
TV programme nearly-let-down of the month: League of Gentlemen series 3. Episode 4 was hilarious. Episode 5 was ok. Episodes 2 and 3 were highly disappointing. Thankfully episode 6 tonight has just tied up all the loose ends and rescued everything. Or at least I think it did - I could barely see a picture given my TV reception. You're my elephant now.
Football result of the month: Erm, if I look back far enough I'm sure I'll find at least one result that went Arsenal's way. Erm, we did thrash Sunderland a lot earlier in the month. It all seems so long ago now.
Film of the month: Donnie Darko. It's a film about a schizophrenic teenager seemingly stalked by a 6 foot alien rabbit. It's either Back To The Future updated for the 21st century, or else it's Buffy crossed with the Lost Boys but without the vampires. It's wonderfully leftfield for an American movie, which is probably why it wasn't a big hit over there. It's one of those very rare films that I could actually watch again soon.
Film soundtrack of the month: Donnie Darko ends with an atmospheric cover version of Tears for Fears' Mad World that had everyone in the cinema turning to their neighbour and saying "That's excellent! Who the hell is it by?" Turns out to be by an American folkie called Gary Jules. He's dripped every ounce of melancholy out of a great 20-year-old synth tune, and it sends shivers down my spine. Somebody release it please - it could be huge.
Album of the month: Lost Horizons by Lemon Jelly. Read about it on a blog somewhere on Saturday morning. Bought it Saturday afternoon. Still in my CD player days later. A blinding and very English album, located somewhere between Air, a 1970s public information film and the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band. Perfect, so I went out and bought the entire back catalogue two hours later.
Compilation album of the month: Forever Delayed by the Manic Street Preachers. I don't buy compilation albums because they're all rip-offs of music you already own, just in a different order. However, I didn't own any of this in any order, so I was pleasantly surprised by the relentless succession of excellent singles on here. All this and a free remix album thrown in for good measure - it's a design for life.
Re-discovered 90s band of the month: Denim. How did I ever miss this band first time round? How could anyone fail to fall for a group with songs called Ape-Hangers, Granddad's False Teeth, Wear Your Foghat With Pride and Ankle Tattoos? Not forgetting the utterly enchanting Internet Curtains? It's wonderfully tongue-in-cheek, a sort of Half Man Half Biscuit with synthesiser backing. Well, you might not be impressed, but I'm hooked.
Gig of the month: The Buffseeds and Vega 4 at the London Barfly. Went specifically to see the excellent, unassuming Devon lads. Ended up being very impressed by the big-on-the-continent done-nothing-here showmen from across the Commonwealth. That's the lovely Neil from the Buffseeds, by the way, in miniature. Neil says hello. Well, he said hello to me anyway.
posted 23:44 :
Hi Mum :)
posted 21:44 :
Wednesday, October 30, 2002Freeview
If there's a God of TV Reception, then he (or she) really has a major grudge against me. (If there is a Goddess of TV Reception, she would have to be called Ariel, of course.)
Ever since I moved into my flat in London I've been plagued by the most appalling TV reception problems. My current level of reception is undoubtedly worse than that experienced two-thirds of a century ago by the first TV set pioneers receiving 405-line black and white pictures from Alexandra Palace.
The letting agents never told me my flat had dodgy TV reception. Once I moved in I found out soon enough, and I discovered that no amount of retuning, signal-boosting or fitting an internal aerial was going to make a blind bit of difference (with blind being the crucial word). Overnight, in moving from backward Suffolk to modern London, I had lost picture quality, teletext and the ability to videotape anything. I was most disappointed to discover that nobody had any interest in upgrading our communal aerial. I immediately enquired about cable but found that this wasn't an option, which seemed astonishing now that I was living in the middle of the nation's capital. And then, because I live in a listed building with walls that only face North, I found that satellite TV was a dead option too. I was stuck paying my TV licence for the privilege of watching blurry snow.
Five months later someone finally fiddled with my aerial, and at last I discovered what all those new voices in EastEnders actually looked like. This was my cue to rush out and buy an ITV Digital box, alas during the one six-week period when they weren't giving away free Monkeys. My multi-channel world lasted 18 days, at which point it got a bit windy, the aerial moved, and I lost everything again. This happened a further three times, after which ITV Digital went bust and all the decent extra channels disappeared anyway. Three days later a very large crane was erected near Rotherhithe which blocked the signal from Crystal Palace just enough to knock out all my remaining digital transmissions. And then, finally, last weekend's gales have knocked the aerial totally out of position again, so I'm back to watching 1936-quality TV on all channels. Again. Bugger.
Today saw the launch of Freeview, the brand new replacement for ITV Digital. Freeview promises stronger signal strength and, more importantly, not to go embarrassingly bust dragging ten Nationwide League teams down with it. I've already tuned in my old ITV Digital box ready, eager with anticipation to watch BBC Parliament, The Community Channel and TV Travel Shop. However, until someone reinstalls my aerial, I'm having to survive without these undoubted cultural highlights. Even then there's still the additional problem that all the sound coming through my digital box seems to have permanently disappeared...
If there's a God of TV Reception, then he (or she) really has a major grudge against me. In the meantime, can I come round to yours and see what I'm missing?
posted 23:07 :
Tuesday, October 29, 2002Do check out your daily horroscope with Pessimystic Meg.
Here's mine for today: If I were you, I wouldn't leave that there. You know it'll get knocked over. Unlucky paper size: A4.
And tomorrow: Due to an error in the supermarket, your breakfast contained heroin, to which you are now addicted. Unlucky arachnid: daddy long legs.
And the day after: The good news is, you look pretty good with a raincoat over your head and your hands bound by cuffs. Unlucky font: Arial.
posted 07:12 :
Diamond Geezer's not yet 2 months old, but I'd like to take this opportunity to name and thank just a few people who've already noticed me and linked here.
Thanks to those who've linked to me:
• bitful, particularly October 14th
• arseblog, particularly November 1st
• burnt toast, particularly October 22nd
• spindled brocade
• a large mango
And thanks to those who've mentioned me:
• swish cottage, on October 10th
• big man restless, on October 5th
posted 00:08 :
Monday, October 28, 2002Wind up
Score 20 points today every time you hear someone say one of the following:
• Wasn't it windy yesterday?
• That used to be such a beautiful tree.
• It only just missed the greenhouse you know.
• If I'd been driving down that road 30 minutes earlier I might have died.
• And then my train/plane was cancelled - it was so inconvenient.
• I had to spend all afternoon clearing up the garden.
• There were branches everywhere!
• It was so much worse than that earthquake last week.
• Of course, I blame global warming.
• It was just like the Blitz...
• Bloody shut up about the storm will you?
posted 01:03 :
Sunday, October 27, 2002Spring forward, Fall back
If it's the early hours of the last Sunday in October, then it must be time to put the clocks back an hour to Greenwich Mean Time. British Summer Time is over for another year, even though you'd have been hard pushed to describe any of the last month as Summer. Suddenly it feels as if Winter is on the way, which can make a lot of us feel SAD.
The concept of Daylight Saving is more than 200 years old, being yet another idea from the brimming head of American genius Benjamin Franklin. The UK first introduced BST in 1916 during World War One, and we've even endured Double Summer Time during World War 2 and between 1968 and 1971.
Summer Time could be seen as an elaborate con trick by Her Majesty's Government, hoodwinking the entire population of Britain into getting up an hour earlier than usual for seven months of the year. In March we go to work at 9am, and then suddenly in April we all go to work at 8am instead. And let's not forget that the extra hour makes October the longest month of the year, which is clearly not ideal.
Daylight Saving starts and finishes on different dates in different countries around the world, just to confuse air travellers. The European Union's obscure 9th EC Directive declares that our Summer Time will last from the last Sunday of March to the last Sunday of October, whereas the USA chooses to start on the first Sunday of April. The state of Arizona and the Canadian province of Saskatchewan choose not to recognise Daylight Saving at all, and in Australia Daylight Saving starts today on the day we finish and finishes in March on the day we begin.
Today in the UK is exactly eight weeks before the Winter Solstice, or shortest day of the year. The days get shorter for just eight weeks, and then longer again as the Spring draws near. I've never quite understood why we then have to wait another fourteen weeks after the shortest day before we're allowed to put the clocks forward again. All March evenings are an hour darker than they need to be, and Spring is held at bay for an unnecessary extra six weeks.
The extra hour this morning is good news for anyone who's out on the town clubbing it on a Saturday night, as you get an hour's extra hedonism for your money, but it's bad news for insomniacs, night watchmen and bar staff. For most of us it's great to have an extra hour in bed, but then we're forced to waste most of that hour later in the morning going round the house resetting clocks, watches, microwaves, hi-fis, video recorders, central heating systems, mobile phones and a few more clocks we forgot about the first time round.
Our UK clocks go back one hour at 0200 BST to 0100 GMT, so those of us who are awake get to experience 1am-2am twice. It's therefore possible to leave a nightclub at quarter to two and arrive home at quarter past one, half an hour before you left. Maybe time travel is indeed possible after all.
I'll leave you to guess which one of the two 01:00s I posted this at...
posted 01:00 :
Saturday, October 26, 2002It appears that children's reading books have moved on somewhat from the innocent days of Peter and Jane, Enid Blyton and the Mr Men. Judge for yourself here.
posted 18:11 :
Search engines are wonderful things, and their ability to uncover information on diverse subjects is one of the genuine wonders of the internet age. However, some people type very odd things into search engines in order to hunt down what can only be described as dodgy and disturbing material. A number of these people have accidentally found my diamond geezer website by mistake instead. I fear for their sanity, but I can't deny that all the words appear in my blog somewhere.
Here are my five favourite unexpected search engine visitors to date:
• beatles fluoridation song: diamond geezer comes 1st in this search
• Paul mccartney bali victims: 5th in this search
• photos of lesbians snogging: 7th in this search
• s club juniors poppy appeal: 7th in this search
• marilyn monroe + sacked + blue book: 10th in this search
posted 10:51 :
This link is a great online version of the legendary Rubik's cube. Twenty-one years ago we all had one, and every school had one spotty geek who could put it back together again in under a minute, without pulling all the blocks apart or just peeling off all the stickers like the rest of us. The geek's moment of playground glory was short-lived of course, and he went back to being the playground's sacrificial kicking-object a few days later, but today he's almost certainly running a hugely profitable IT company with a beautiful twenty-one year-old wife, two Rolls Royces and a ten-bedroom mansion just outside Reading.
posted 10:16 :
Thursday, October 24, 2002Sticky back
What tawdry and disgraceful things have Blue Peter presenters done after leaving the show? Allegedy.
Richard Bacon (1997-98): left the show under a cloud - a very white powdery sort of a cloud.
Janet Ellis (1983-87): left the show to have a baby out of wedlock, though that wasn't our Sophie.
Michael Sundin (1984-85): left the show in a blaze of unpublicity to die from a mystery illness.
Anthea Turner (1992-94): left the show to become the career sacrifice on Celebrity Big Brother.
Lesley Judd (1972-79): left the show to become the 'Mole' on the Adventure Game.
Peter Duncan (1980-84) (1985-86): left the show to feature in a number of very dodgy videos.
Valerie Singleton OBE (1962-72): left the show to have absolutely no boyfriends, infamously.
Diane-Louise Jordan (1990-96): left the show to give Aled Jones a run for his money on Songs of Praise.
Peter Purves (1967-78): left the show to foist Junior Kickstart onto an unsuspecting audience.
Katy Hill (1995-2000): left the show to drag Saturday morning telly into a chasm of bland despair.
John Noakes (1965-78): left the show to give Magpie a chance to succeed in the ratings war.
Sarah Greene (1980-83): left the show to face mortal danger from Mike Smith's chopper.
John Leslie (1989-94): the odd one out here - has clearly done nothing tawdry and disgraceful at all.
posted 22:53 :
Hmm, I posted Wednesday's blogs here hours ago, but they've only just appeared on this page. Very strange. Normal service is now resumed, I hope.
posted 06:44 :
Wednesday, October 23, 2002Coping with loss
So, Arsenal have lost. And not just lost once, but lost twice. Overnight the Gunners have been transformed by the media from an invincible team storming towards global domination into a tired bunch of no-hopers well past their best. It's clearly the end of the red-and-white world as we know it, and an excuse for acres of negative newsprint.
I'm always disheartened by the way in which the media portray football teams to be only as good as their last game. Win your last game and the world loves you. Lose and the manager's job is on the line, the goalkeeper is past his prime, relegation is in prospect and there are mutterings that even West Ham could beat you. In Arsenal's case the record-breaking triumph of thirty Premiership games without defeat is forgotten overnight, purely because the thirty-first wasn't quite so good. It seems that too many football pundits have the short-term memory of a goldfish.
This negativity in mood and reporting extends into many other areas of football. Back in the summer England were knocked out in the quarter finals of the World Cup. And were the media impressed? Oh no. There was national gloom and depression at losing against Brazil, rather than rejoicing at the genuine success of being one of the top eight footballing nations in the world. All knockout tournaments run like this - if you're the one team that eventually wins the final then that's fantastic, but otherwise you end up dumped on the scrapheap somewhere along the way as one of the thirty-one teams that 'lost'.
I've been a fan of Arsenal for more than thirty years, ever since the glorious day of the Double-winning FA Cup final of 1971. OK, so I may have been at infant school at the time, and I may have been swayed by Arsenal's kit being better looking than that of Liverpool, and my brother may have chosen to support the wrong team in that particular match and cried for the rest of the afternoon, but it's good to know that I picked a winner. And the kit still looks great too :o)
So, Arsenal have lost. So what? They're still a bloody good team and they'll win again, frequently. It's this recognition of the past and an optimism for the future that provides comfort and hope for all genuine fans of Arsenal, and indeed of all other football teams. Get real - not every team can win all the time. Not even yours. And sadly not even mine.
posted 23:55 :
Today - arrived in office at three minutes past eight, left office at three minutes past eight. I suspect I may be working too much...
posted 20:53 :
Tuesday, October 22, 2002The A-Z of Technology
Aluminium micro scooter: silver version of a naff toy that even 4-year old girls now consider to be uncool.
Biro: a 20th century invention that’s much quicker than getting your palmtop computer out, logging in, trying to write something and printing it out.
Blog: website written by someone in the misguided belief that they have something to say.
Camcorder: a device for recording tedious family holidays for playback to a captive audience.
Dotcom: the way to make virtually no money.
DVD: a sly attempt by big business to make you fork out again for a film you already own on video (see also Compact Disc, Audio Book)
E-mail: means of online communication that takes 20 times longer than a phone call of the same length.
Free unlimited net access: fat chance.
Hacker: a spotty teenager from abroad who uses your computer more than you do.
Internet: an infinite number of monkeys at an infinite number of keyboards, but no sign of Shakespeare yet.
Keyboard: a drip tray for collecting spilt coffee and biscuit crumbs.
Mobile: the phone you can use anywhere, lose anywhere, and annoy other people with everywhere.
MP3: a toss up between John and David, after Tony (MP1) and Gordon (MP2).
Off-peak: only 37p a minute, rather than 65p.
Surf-bored: tired of using the Internet.
Text messages: the only thing children still write in class, but under the desks, not on them.
Upgrade: essential extra purchase to prevent your PC going out of date a week after you buy it.
www: the only known abbreviation that is six syllables longer than the phrase it replaces.
Zapper: one of the five, soon to be 13, identical black control units lost down the side of your sofa.
Any further contributions welcome, especially G, J, L, N, P, Q, R, V, X, Y...
posted 00:34 :
Monday, October 21, 2002Open wide
I visited my dentist this afternoon, combining the need for two fillings with a visit to the hygienist. I can't say I was looking forward to going, but it still was good to leave work at lunchtime, seven hours early.
Many modern dentists appear to be little more than cosmetic surgeons, offering a complete tooth-whitening service to the orally vain. I've managed to keep on the books of the old-fashioned NHS dentist I first used twenty years ago, despite having lived at ten different addresses around the country over that period. I may now have two extra slabs of Alzheimer-inducing amalgam in my mouth, but at least they only cost me £5.64 each. I suspect that I belong to the last generation with fillings, growing up before the advent of fluoridation and toothkind Ribena, and as a result my teeth probably have as many holes as the average golf course. A young person today does of course generally have just as much metal in their mouth as I do, but it tends to be in one lump through their tongue instead.
I've only ever visited a hygienist once before, and I absolutely hated it. The brushing, poking and scraping made my stomach turn and my teeth wince, the so-called-health-advice I was given would have been patronising even to an eight-year-old, and I swore I'd never go near the bloke again. Other people then told me that this was a very unusual reaction and that their hygienists were lovely people - none of which corresponded at all with my first traumatic experience. Then, at my most recent check-up back in August, my dentist instructed me to book another appointment with the hygienist from hell. I tried hard not to appear a big wuss, but I told her there was no way I was allowing that devil in my mouth again. "Ah yes," said my dentist, "a lot of people thought that, and so we sacked him."
And so this afternoon I braved the new hygienist, who thankfully turned out to be competent, calm and not just another oral sadist. I won't mind going back next time, even if she does insist on saying "...and don't forget to floss!" as a parting comment, but now I wonder if I have a case for suing my dental practice for the incompetent treatment I received last time.
Anyway, I'm home now and I've treated myself to one of Tesco's finest Sticky Toffee Puddings as a reward. Just as long as I can get the left hand side of my mouth open wide enough.
posted 19:29 :
Sunday, October 20, 2002When I'm 64
My Dad was born on this day in 1938, which makes today his sixty-fourth birthday.
I decided to burn him a CD for a birthday present, not just because it's cheap to post but also because a compilation album based on the Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band seemed a very appropriate gift. There were a couple of scratchy vinyl Apple albums in my family's record collection while I was growing up, but never this one so I was definitely onto a winner.
Track two on side two of Sgt Pepper is the wonderfully catchy When I'm 64. As with so many Beatles songs, the tune is disarmingly straight-forward, has a hook as sharp as barbed wire, everyone in the country knows the song off-by-heart, and there's a sting in the tale if you actually stop and listen to the lyrics.
Will you still need me, Will you still feed me, When I'm sixty-four?
You'll be older too, And if you say the word, I could stay with you.
My Dad would have been approaching 30 back in June 1967 when Sgt Pepper was released. I'm sure old age was the last thing on his mind at the time, but here he is now having reached the actual day that Paul McCartney was singing about. He's lucky enough to be in a happy marriage of exactly the kind referred to in the song, and has been since well before the album was released. Today has indeed seen him doing the garden, digging the weeds, who could ask for more? and with grandchildren on your knee, just as the song said. I realise I've been very lucky too, raised and brought up in an ordinary loving stable family, the type that's so ordinary that I often forget how extraordinary it actually is.
Anyway, my dad liked the CD and he's promised that, when he's in his nineties, he'll send it back to me for my 64th birthday.
When I get older losing my hair, Many years from now.
posted 17:08 :
I've been to see the film xXx. It's easily the lamest film I've seen all year, merely a series of unbelievable action sequences linked together by wooden acting and an exceptionally tenous plot. It's unintentionally hilarious, but it only merits o0o marks out of 10. I fear that Hollywood may already be planning a sequel, in which case I'd like to suggest that they call it yYy.
posted 02:29 :
Saturday, October 19, 2002Three more online games brought to you by warped minds (and spotted by the excellent b3ta)
(1) Name that Beard: It's totally beyond me why anyone would want to grow a beard, except in order to give anyone they're snogging friction burns and the remains of last night's dinner. Goatees I can almost see the point of, except for those stupid tufty bits below the lip that make the wearer look like rather too much like an old goat themselves. Alas, all goatees take fifteen minutes to trim into the right shape every morning, time which could be far better spent in bed asleep for thirteen minutes and then clean-shaving with a razor for two. Thankfully I have no chance of ever growing one myself.
(2) Simon Swears: Remember Simon, a circular slab of black plastic with four coloured lights repeating in an ever-extending sequence for you to attempt to memorise? It came from the 'golden age' of electronic games, the days when you'd be opening your presents on Christmas morning only to discover that a relative had spent £25 on a plastic box with a few cheap-looking LEDs on the front. This purported to be some sort of futuristic and exciting game for all the family, but would in fact be discarded through boredom well before the batteries ran out, only to be uncovered from the loft twenty years later destined for a car boot sale with a 30p price tag. Sadly my family never ever bought me a Simon, but this was probably because they knew I'd have totally thrashed the rest of them at it.
(3) Kittyflip: I never understood the attraction of kittens, especially after living with one for two months. They look perfectly endearing for at least three minutes, after which they dig their claws into your leg, they jump up onto table tops they shouldn't be able to reach and lick all the food you're preparing for dinner, they wake you in the middle of the night when you'd rather be asleep, they hide in the cupboard under the sink for an entire afternoon making you think they've run off and you'll never see them again, they need feeding with nasty smelly tins of something that looks almost like meat but smells too much like fish, and they shit in the corner of the kitchen into a tray that nobody ever wants to clear up. And then, after all that care and attention you've given them, kittens grow up into cats and bugger off out of the house all day, only returning for food, if you're lucky.
posted 10:21 :
posted 00:02 :
Thursday, October 17, 2002Mobile good: Much as I love using predictive text to send messages from my mobile phone, it's always unnerving when other people fail to use the feature properly. When dashing off a quick text message it's all too easy to type in one word only for the phone to think you meant another. Before you realise it, a totally cryptic message has been sent on its way. You thought you said you were going home, but the phone thinks otherwise and I'm left wondering why you're telling me you're going good. So, my message back to all you text criminals can only be he you foot type proper to of them hue on blue you you mean
posted 21:35 :
Peer Pressure: The House of Lords has voted to maintain the ban on gay partners adopting children. Whatever next? Are they planning further legislation to allow married couples to return adopted children to social services should they turn out to be gay? What our bigoted peers appear to have forgotten is that gay children can only be conceived by heterosexual couples. If homosexuality is indeed a disease, then it could be easily stamped out by banning straight couples from having sex.
posted 07:23 :
Wednesday, October 16, 2002Name that Premiership team:
1 Bum as well
2 Offally wet
4 Bloke together
5 Kid and bacon
6 100% pig
8 Modern fortress
9 Given priority
10 Dark fire
11 Harming IBM, re-formatted
12 Always 2240 lb
13 Down Court Palace
14 Martin's house
15 270° BA
16 Bloke conurbation
17 Separate country
18 Attach with nuts
19 Bobby and Jack are fit
20 Pig towards sunset
posted 07:03 :
Tuesday, October 15, 2002Gone in an instant
There's been too much senseless random violence in the world of late, including last weekend's bombing in Bali and the indiscriminate shooting of citizens around Washington DC. When lives are taken so randomly, I'm always struck by the stories in the news about how ordinary lives have been so suddenly and cruelly snuffed out. The victims' parents tell how these were happy good people who didn't have a care in the world. Work colleagues share everyday stories of ordinary people we've all met in our own lives. A row of photos in the paper can depict tens or hundreds of years of future lives snuffed out. Then there are photographs of orphaned children, and numerous sentences starting 'if only they hadn't chosen that moment to go outside...' It could, so easily, have been somebody else.
I do sometimes wonder what would happen if it was me. I'm not so much concerned by the death part of it, as by the fact that I'd be represented in the media by a small passport sized photo. There are no good small passport sized photos of me, especially not in my passport. I hate to think which photo the papers would select to represent me and my life. James Dean and Marilyn Monroe were lucky - their final photos are international icons. I'd be happy merely with a photo that looks as human as I do in real life. Even my mother dislikes the picture of me on my homepage, and has attempted to take better shots of me with her digital camera just so that she can bear logging onto the site more often. Alas, the batteries were flat the last time she tried, but it was a kind thought. So, in the meantime I live in fear of being gunned down, blown up or driven into... unless there are any other budding photographers out there with functioning batteries?
posted 23:33 :
I spent much of my working day yesterday in a hotel basement learning some new words. I learnt about project-scoping, I learnt about financial-visibility, I learnt about quality-assurance, I learnt about change-management, I learnt about bench-marking, I learnt to start with the givens and I spent some time discussing these in breakout-groups in team-space. Today I'm looking forward to going back to the office and doing some work.
posted 07:13 :
Monday, October 14, 2002With four weeks still to go before Remembrance Sunday, the Royal British Legion have already started their publicity campaign for this year's Poppy Appeal. I'm sure it wasn't many years ago that poppies were only on sale for one week, then it stretched to two, and now there are posters up a month in advance. We will remember them, and remember them we should, but mid-October is definitely overdoing it.
posted 22:26 :
It's wet, there's a chill in the air, and I've finally succumbed to wearing my coat to work. It can only be Autumn. That is Autumn by the way and not Fall, as the Americans would try to have it. Is it any wonder we write better poetry?
posted 08:02 :
Sunday, October 13, 2002Top 3: 13th October 2002
(1) Ketchup Song - Las Ketchup: it's this summer's novelty eurotrash record, it's already been number one in 14 countries, and sadly someone's brought it home and now this makes 15
(2) New Direction - S Club Juniors: a god-awful sub-teen band attempts to cross Five Star with the Spice Girls and fails miserably (except as a cynical marketing exercise, of course)
(3) The Long and Winding Road - Will Young and Gareth Gates: dire middle-of-the-road slush, that your granny would surely like if only she had one of those new-fangled CD players
Top 3: 11th October 1992
(1) Sleeping Satellite - Tasmin Archer: now that's a bit of class, and a staple of compliation albums for years to come
(2) End of the Road - Boyz 2 Men: if Simon Bates was still doing 'Our Tune', he'd still be playing this bland song far too often
(3) Ebeneezer Goode - the Shamen: really this wasn't about drugs, oh no, but a bloody excellent record all the same - sorted
Top 3: 12th October 1982
(1) Pass The Dutchie - Musical Youth: definitely the S Club Juniors of their day - thankfully they also had a career measured in weeks and not years
(2) Do You Really Want To Hurt Me - Culture Club: Boy George would have been even more shocking at the time if we'd known he was shagging the drummer
(3) Zoom - Fat Larry's Band: OK, so there was always some total rubbish in the chart, even 20 years ago, and this was drivel of the highest order
posted 19:53 :
Three questions spring to mind following a trip to the supermarket this lunchtime:
• To the supermarket manager: Whose idea was it to pump the smell of roast turkey around the store ten weeks early?
• To the wholemeal couple sneering behind me in the queue at the checkout: Yes, I know my trolley was full of the unhealthiest selection of food imaginable, but I like chocolate, ok?
• To the designer of your plastic bags: Any idea when I might be able to open one of your plastic bags first time, especially when there's a long queue watching?
posted 13:59 :
Saturday, October 12, 2002Dead centre
My Dad came down from East Anglia for the day (yes, I'm afraid his shoes lived down to all my expectations) and we spent most of the day amongst the dead.
First on our list was Paddington Cemetery (which is of course 3 miles away from Paddington) on a hunt for my great grandfather's grave. Edward was born the son of a tailor in South Molton Street, just round the corner from Bond Street tube station. He later moved out north-westwards to Maida Vale, but ended up being gassed on the battlefields of Belgium as a soldier in World War One, dying of respiratory problems two years later. We searched round the cemetery trying to find the right inscription on the right grave, but alas with no success. Knowing the family interest in horticulture, his was probably that grave with the small shrub planted on it 80 years ago, now grown into an enormous unkempt thorny weed, obscuring the entire plot and that of the two graves on either side.
Later in the day we visited Highgate Cemetery, the final resting place of, amongst others, Karl Marx and hordes of European student visitors. The twin cemeteries were dark, mysterious and silent, crowded full of ostentatious Victorian monuments and featuring an amazing Egyptian mausoleum cut into the hillside. The whole place is now seemingly run by a crowd of ageing volunteer lesbians, no doubt drawn there by the body of Radclyffe Hall, early 20th century dyke icon authoress.
We rounded off our day with a trip to Body Worlds in Brick Lane, an anatomical exhibition of real human bodies, preserved after death by the mysterious German scientific process of 'plastination'. It was disconcerting to come face-to-skull with what I look like underneath, alarming to realise how much good meat I have inside me, and particularly unnerving to see how testicles dangle from the pelvis like a couple of deeley-boppers. On emerging from the exhibition the restauranteurs of Brick Lane stood in their doorways trying to invite us into their curry houses, but strangely enough we were no longer feeling hungry.
posted 22:53 :
I bought a danish pastry at Liverpool Street station this morning. Three questions struck me:
• Why, when I asked for a danish pastry, did they insist on giving me a danish pastry, a paper bag and three serviettes?
• Why, when I'd finished my danish pastry, did I discover that there are no litter bins anywhere on Liverpool Street station into which to dispose of my paper bag and three serviettes?
• Exactly how many years ago was the last time that a terrorist organisation actually placed a bomb in a litter bin in London, and how many more years will it be before anyone in London dares to put all the litter bins back? Please.
posted 22:10 :
Friday, October 11, 2002Is there anybody out there?
So, Brookside is to be 'axed', or at least heavily sidelined, because the Channel 4 soap is only getting viewing figures of 1.4 million. It used to be watched by 4 to 6 million people, and in its heyday with the 'body under the patio' storyline it was getting 9 million. It also used to be a great show, even if the plots were a bit far-fetched, but I stopped watching in 1999 after fifteen devoted years when I just didn't care about any of the characters any more. So, I'm one of those missing millions, wielding absolute power via the off-switch.
In the 21st century the media are clearly more and more obsessed by ratings, sales and viewing figures. Programmes live or die by their overnight ratings, and singles that fail to reach the number one slot, even midweek, are written off in the tabloids as career-ending failures. It's almost as if nobody is allowed to be almost-successful any more, because negative spin makes such easy copy for the papers. The Office on BBC2 may be being watched by 4 million people, but oh dear, that's down by a million on last week, and disaster, that means 55 million Britons aren't watching, etc etc. However, we should all still take joy in belittling Fame Academy's feeble prime time viewing figures - only 3.6 million last night. Hopefully we'll now be allowed to vote out all of the producers ahead of the contestants.
I must confess that when you write a blog you do start wondering about your own ratings. Is there anybody out there? I therefore invested in a web stats tracker, only to discover that on Tuesday I got a mammoth three visitors, and two of them were me. Then suddenly Google decided to add me to their search engine and, hey presto, now when you search for diamond geezer you find this site in 17th place. Definitely wasn't listed there on Tuesday. And then yesterday the excellent Swish Cottage blog expressed mild interest in my site, and all of a sudden on Thursday I get 72 visitors. Not that I'm obsessed by ratings you understand but, unlike certain TV talent shows, it is nice to have an audience.
posted 17:11 :
Thursday, October 10, 2002PSB in session: Blimey, the Pet Shop Boys are doing their first ever session for the John Peel show tonight, right now. And it's absolutely great. This is only to be expected from a band who've released loads of albums, every one of which lurks in my record collection and still gets played regularly. The only other artists I can say that about are Blur, Depeche Mode and, er, drat, hmm, the best dance album in the world... ever!. So that's my credibility destroyed then...
posted 23:33 :
Beeping Hell: I'm being stalked by fax machines. A company in Hackney has started ringing me up every evening around 9pm just to beep and burble at me down the phone. No matter how much I complain, argue, shout, yell or indeed swear at them, they just continue to make rude noises at me until I hang up. Then there's another company in West Norwood who ring me once a month in the early hours of the morning to leave Morse Code messages on my answerphone. This morning they chose to ring me 45 minutes before my alarm was due to go off, and so I shall no doubt be walking round the office like a tired zombie all day as a result. Please, fax off.
posted 06:51 :
Wednesday, October 09, 2002Takeaway
When you've spent nearly twelve hours in the office for the third day in a row, the last thing you want to do on getting home is cook, so the local fish and chip shop is a real saviour. I now have the luxury of two fish and chip shops located within two minutes walk from my flat. This is a big improvement on Suffolk, where it was probably quicker to drive to the coast and catch a fish myself, rather than wait til Monday for the chip van to turn up in the neighbouring village. One of my two local chippies is run by the mysterious 'Mam', a woman with over-starched red hair and a permanent bemused smirk on her face. Unfortunately on my last visit Mam kindly served me up with a newspaper full of food poisoning, which helps to explain why that was my last visit. So, tonight I visited chippie number two instead, which is basically one bleak white room next to the post office with a fish frier in the corner. I was served by an old trout (which I guess is only to be expected in a fish shop), who looked even older than the bottles of own-brand ketchup and no-brand vinegar substitute stacked on the shelves behind. Meanwhile her teenage son lounged menacingly at the end of the counter, no doubt ready to mug me of my change on the walk home. Most frightening of all, however - the menu board announced the sale of 'donor kebabs'. I shall definitely avoid the steak and kidney pies there in future, just in case they're from the same source, and stick to cod and chips instead.
posted 23:23 :
Tuesday, October 08, 2002Diamond Geezers
Perhaps I didn't select the name for this blog as carefully as I could, because it appears that certain other people have already dared to sneak onto the internet using the Diamond Geezer brand name:
• First there's Diamond Geezer, a "personal jeweller with over 35 years of diamond and jewellery experience and contact". You can tell he's high quality because he does gay and lesbian wedding rings and offers special concessions to British Airways employees.
• Then there's a bunch of Harlequins rugby supporters who call themselves Diamond Geezers because they all wear brightly-coloured patterned trousers whenever they're out in public getting blind drunk, singing dodgy songs and eating pies.
• Remember Repton, the excellent low-res hi-strategy game for the good old BBC Micro? I wasted far too much of my life on that game. Now someone's come up with a similar online game called Diamond Geezer - takes ages to load but could be a good bit of nostalgic fun.
• "Diamond Geezer" also appears to be a sorely over-used newspaper headline, particularly when writing about salt-of-the-earth entertainers, but I'd rather be likened to Ian Dury than Pete Waterman.
• Should you ever feel the need to send me one of those tacky e-mail cards, then Diamond Geezer would have to be the one, even if it is a bit poor.
• There's even a Diamond Geezer picture logo for my mobile, if only I still had a Nokia, which I don't.
• And finally, here's a tongue-in cheek look at the world of the real Diamond Geezer. "Welcome to For Ladz Magazine - The magazine for Ladz. None of your poncy Esquire bollocks here neither, For Ladz Magazine is for real men only."
posted 00:17 :
Monday, October 07, 2002Small change
For some mysterious reason I tend to wake up bright and early on Monday mornings, so today I decided to head into work 15 minutes earlier than usual. All was going well until I stopped off to buy my newspaper outside the tube station. There was a queue, which is unusual, with three of us stuck behind some sad bloke trying to buy a tabloid with a twenty pound note. I eventually got to hand over my 50p, buy my Guardian and wander off, only to be called back to be told that the cover price had gone up 5p this morning and could I please pay up. Sadly this delayed me just enough to miss the train that I saw pulling away from the platform shortly afterwards. There then followed a ten minute gap before the next District Line train appeared, which is unusual, and when that did finally arrive the train was so crowded that there wasn't sufficient standing room left to be able to read the paper I'd just bought anyway. This delay then caused me to just miss another train later in my journey, so I ended up arriving at work exactly when I would have done if I'd left home at the normal time anyway.
I never wake up bright and early on Tuesday mornings, so tomorrow I'll spend that extra 15 minutes in bed, remember to take the extra 5p for the newspaper, and no doubt nobody at work will be able to tell the difference.
posted 22:44 :
Sunday, October 06, 2002hic I suffer from one very unfortunate medical condition hic namely that sometimes hic when I'm out drinking hic I'm prone to get a serious attack of the hiccups hic which then just will not go away hic This is especially true if I drink full pints of lager rather than bottles hic as then I drink twice as much twice as fast hic and a lengthy hiccuping session often follows hic Despite years of practice hic I've still not been able to perfect hic a 100% reliable method for getting rid of this evil curse hic
hic Last night I made the fatal mistake hic of allowing the barman to serve me one Grolsch hic in a glass not a bottle hic and I paid the price for this for the rest of the evening hic A sudden attack of the hiccups hic started about two hours later hic and lasted for over twenty minutes hic Despite the best intentions of those around me hic no amount of back-slapping hic drinking pints backwards hic sudden shocks hic or even slow deep breathing hic was going to make them go away hic However hic one good unscheduled burp hiiic did eventually clear them... at least until they returned hic for another twenty minute spell later in the evening hic Bugger hic
hic When the time came to leave the pub hic I was relieved that my gullet seemed to be clear once more... but hic alas hic the short walk to the nightbus then started me off again hic It's a forty minute bus ride home hic and I hiccuped roughly once every ten seconds hic for the entire journey back hic To say that this was embarrassing hic would be an understatement hic but I was reassured by the fact hic that I doubt I'll ever see any of my fellow passengers ever again hic and that most of them were in a far worse state than myself hic Needless to say hic my throat cleared the minute I got off the bus...
hic Next time you meet me in a pub hic please remember hic that mine's a bottle hic not a pint hic Cheers hic
posted 10:33 :
posted 03:22 :
Saturday, October 05, 2002Shoe shops
I ventured out this afternoon in search of a new pair of shoes for work, and a new pair of trainers that at least look as if they might have been bought this century. There are now very definitely two distinct types of shoe shop on the British High Street. The first type sells bargain basement lace-ups, usually in beige, of the kind that my dad would happily wear. The other type sells designer footwear at vastly inflated prices, safe in the knowledge that those of who don't want to look like our dads will have to pay up.
And so it was that I found myself in Covent Garden, rather than Stratford High Street, in search of my new size 10s. When faced by such a dazzling array of supposedly-fashionable shoes, it's a tough job to find even one pair that might look sort of vaguely acceptable. This is especially true of trainers, which now appear only to be available in technicolour designs with lemon stripes and moulded plastic spoilers. I eventually found a pair of trainers in blue and grey, convinced myself that despite being blue and grey my dad really would never wear them, and approached a shop assistant. "Got these in a size 10?" Silly question. The assistant disappeared into the bowels of the shop for five minutes before returning empty handed, and I left empty-footed. One day shoe shops will come up with an alternative stock control system whereby the size I want is in stock, or they can tell me otherwise before I get pissed off of waiting and walk out.
In the end I gave up on the office shoe hunt for yet another week, but I did manage to find those trainers on my fourth attempt. I am now the proud owner of a traditional, stable Heritage trainer for runners who require excellent support & cushioning. I shall wear them to the pub.
posted 17:35 :
Friday, October 04, 2002Fame Academy: It's the BBC's first venture into PopIdolBigBrother-type programming, it features twelve aspiring 'students', it starts tonight, it goes on forever, and it's dire. It's a sub-karaoke talent contest stretched out over ten weeks, it takes itself far too seriously, and even the members of Westlife have more charisma. The series features three Britney Spears wannabes, three Gary Barlow clones, two Bonnie Langfords, two Ronan Keatings, a Celine Dion and a Chesney Hawkes.
It was all done so much better 20 years ago, with legwarmers:
• Fame costs, and right here's where you start paying - The BBC licence fee now stands at £112 a year, so I suspect a town the size of Wolverhampton has paid for this new rubbish.
• I'm gonna live forever - No, you're going to burn out in five minutes.
• I'm gonna learn how to fly - I do hope they learn how to sing first.
• Baby, remember my name - Not by this time next year darlings, remember Hear'say? :o)
posted 20:33 :
7 online games to help you waste your time away: 1) What's New Pussycat 2) Incriminati 2 3) Bookworm 4) Alchemy 5) John and Edwina 6) Suicidal Puppy 7) Soap Bubble
posted 20:26 :
Thursday, October 03, 2002How the other half live
After yesterday's journey into the parallel universe surrounding my local post office, I decided to experience the other end of the social spectrum by visiting the new Waitrose that's just opened up at Canary Wharf. It's huge. It's on three floors. The food mall sells every ingredient that Delia Smith ever put in one of her recipes. The select band of shoppers carry shiny new green baskets filled with aubergines, balsamic vinegar and organic vitamin supplements. Local business types can grab a quick lunch at the in-store sushi bar, or maybe dine out on steak and oysters instead. For anyone who's planning a dinner party for the boss and her husband there's a complete set of bone china and designer cutlery on sale, as well as a huge selection of quality Indian and Chinese gourmet ready meals. The lovely Jessica is on hand to pamper you with a manicure in the nail bar if the stress of shopping gets all too much to bear. It's dead posh, even for a Waitrose. But I bet not one person who uses my local post office will ever set foot in there.
posted 23:33 :
Wednesday, October 02, 2002Another tube strike
Week-day-world: Being at home today, it seemed a good idea to pop out at lunchtime to see what the world round here looks like during the daytime. I risked a trip to the post office across the road, in what used to be the local high street until post-war planners concreted it over. It clearly wasn't a normal day out there, with big queues at the bus stops and unusually heavy traffic, all courtesy of the tube strike. However, normal life was still going on for all the people round here who don't have anywhere to commute to. Our three local alcoholics sat on the brick wall by the shops, well into their third hour of lager drinking, heckling the passers by. An old man who hadn't washed either himself or his clothes recently walked past, just too close for comfort. A large group of spotty schoolchildren stood around outside the kebab shop eating their nutritionally balanced lunch of chips and more chips. In the post office an old lady in fully knitted costume spent unfeasibly long sorting out her pension in front of me, savouring her one social contact of the day before dragging her shopping basket back to the nearby block of flats. And when I finally got to the front of the queue the man behind the counter looked at me as if I was speaking in a foreign language, which of course I was, and I walked away empty-handed. Back home I was glad to be able to get on with some work - it's a different world out there for those who can't.
posted 19:18 :
Working at home: Thanks to the tube strike, I am today 'working at home'. This is great, because I don't need to stand on a crowded bus in a traffic jam for two hours, I can drink as many mugs of tea as I like, I don't need to go out in the drizzle, I can wake up at the time I would normally get to work, I can listen to daytime radio shows I don't usually get the chance to hear, I can open my windows and not have to suffer office air-conditioning, I can cook a decent lunch without having to 'nip out for a sandwich', I don't need to wear a shirt and tie, I can even sit here wearing my Arsenal kit without anyone complaining. However, I suspect that 'working at home' has one major drawback. The 'at home' part is easy. I really must try harder with the 'working'.
posted 12:37 :
Tuesday, October 01, 2002Splat
Unlikely as it may seem, in the year I've been in London I have yet to see one single traffic accident. I can't understand why I haven't, given that most car drivers in London appear to have a deathwish, and most pedestrians in London appear to have a deathwish too. Car drivers in London are speed-obsessed. This is odd, given that most of London has a 30mph speed limit, and even then drivers are lucky if they ever reach even 10mph in all the jams. Nevertheless, most drivers still love nothing more than to prove that that their car can still do 70mph, even if it means accelerating and braking like a maniac between two red traffic lights fifty yards apart. Pedestrians in London don't seem to have noticed this, however, and love nothing more than walking straight out into the traffic to avoid a thirty second detour via the nearest pelican crossing. Hence my disbelief that, so far, I have yet to see one of these blinkered pedestrians get mown down by one of those grand prix boy racers.
So, this morning, there I am crossing the busy red route just outside my flat - admittedly only thirty seconds from a pelican crossing, but there was nothing coming, honest. And then, following me across the road, came a little squirrel. It was a bit of a shock to see wildlife on the streets of the capital, but I hoped I wasn't about to see it flat on the streets instead. The squirrel scampered across the road, then stopped and turned to face the number 25 bus suddenly bearing down upon it. Time stood still - as did the squirrel. Then, at the very last moment, the little rodent turned and ran, alas right under the wheels of the the blue car now doing 70mph up the outside lane. Were I ever to witness a car accident, I suspect the police would be very disappointed at my descriptive powers when it comes to cars. "Make and model please sir?" "It was, er, blue, officer, and it had four wheels." There was another heart-stopping moment - for the squirrel, if not for me. And then, unexpectedly, a flash of grey sped out from under the chassis and into the nearby churchyard, back to safety. So, that's yet another accident I haven't seen in London, but I do hope my luck holds out longer than that squirrel will.
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