diamond geezer

 Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Diamond Geezer - the 2003 index

A advent crown, adverts, American food, Amsterdam, annular eclipse, Anthroblog, April Fool, art, Audio Bullys
B bananas, BBC Three, Becks, bedtime, Big Breakfast, birthday, Bloggies, blogging, blogday, blogs, Boat Race, boredom, Bow Road, Bridget Riley, Brit awards, broadband, broken links, Brookside
Big Brother old house, jontical, sewage, Day 1, Day 5, Day 8, Day 12, Day 21, Day 44, Day 51, Day 60, Day 64, the end,
C calories, Capital Numbers, cards, census, chess, children's TV, Christmas number 1s, Christmas story, Christmas TV, Chuckie Egg, cigarettes, cinema audiences, Circle Line party, classification, code-breaking, coin-tossing, colds, Comic Relief, comments, Concorde, Congestion Charge, coronation, the Count (continued), Creme Eggs, cricket, Crossrail, Crossroads, cryptography
Cube routes introduction, 1, 8, 25, 64, 125, 216, N343
D Delia, derailed, diamond links, Dice Man, digital radio, digital watches, Disco 3, distance, Dizzee Rascal, Doctor Who, driving tests, drought, Dynasty
E East End, Easter, East London line, Eastside, Ego War, elements, elgooG, the End, enneagrams, equinox, Eurovision, Everest
E3 Abbey Mills, Big Breakfast, Big Brother, Block, Bow, Bow Bells, Bow Church, Bow flyover, Bow Street, Bryant & May, canals, Crossrail, Gandhi, Gladstone, Greenwich meridian, Krays, Mile End Park, River Lea, Roman Road, Stratford, Sylvia Pankhurst, Three Mills, Victoria Park, Walford East
F FA Cup, family planning, famous people, fashion, fat, favicon, Fenchurch Street, Feng Shui, film quiz, films, flash mobs #1 #2 #3 #4, flight, flight time, floods, flying, Friday 13th, friends, frontline
G geezers, George Orwell, ghost trains, giraffes, Grange Hill, Great Storm, Greenwich, gridlock, Guinness Book of Records
H Hallowe'en, Haloscan, hard drive, Harry Potter, health, Highway Code, homepage, h2g2, Hull
I iced tea, ID cards, interview, introverts, iSketch, ITV Digital
J jury service, jumping to conclusions
L latitude, league tables, leap year, lessons learned,lifts, links, London first, London Underground, London walk, Lotto, lunar eclipse, lunch
M mafia, marathon, Mars, Matrix Reloaded, mail, medical conditions, Mercury, metric measures, Michael Jackson, microwave, Molesworth, Mondays, music
N names, Nectar, neighbours, New Blogger, newspapers, New Year, New Year's Eve,nightbus, numberplates
O Old Buckenham, olympics, Olympic stadium, 118, one year, Open House, Our House, oxymorons
P pantomime, parental advisory, pastimes, percent, perfection, phenology, phrases, pleasant, Polyphonic Spree, population, pop quiz, postcodes, pressing buttons, pre-technology, prime numbers, Prince Charles, Prince William, protect and survive, psychopaths
Puzzles [1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11]
Q Queen's day
Quizzes [Africa, books, broccoli, carols, Central line, counties, Mondays, musical numbers, Northern line, rivers, trees, USA, weather, words, Yorkshire]
R Radio 1, rail travel, rain, remembrance, resolutions, restaurants, retirement, ribbons, Richard Herring, ringtones, Robbie Williams, Rockall, royal family tree, Rugby World Cup
Retail therapy introduction, phase 1, phase 2, phase 3, result, commentary, conclusion
S St George, Salford Quays, San Francisco, Saturdays, Saturn, school holidays, search engines, single life, situation vacant, six degrees of separation, skyscrapers, Smash Hits, Smoke, smilies, snow, space shuttle, spam, Spiritualized, sprouts, Star Trek, Star Wars, Statement of whereabouts, Stop the war, the Streets, Summer sport, Summer time, sun, Sunday papers
T Tate, television, temperature, textmap, Thorpe End, three, Thunderbirds, Top 40 show, Top of the Pops top ten, tourists, toys, trackback, train carriages, Trumpton, tube maps, tube records, TV hosts, TV nostalgia, twenty questions, twenty million seconds, typography
U umbrellas, Underground, university, unpleasant
V Valentine's day, Vision On, visitors
W Watford, Wanted, Wayne Rooney, weather, weddings, what happened next, what the papers say, wheelie suitcases, White Christmas, woolly hats, Word magazine, World War 1
X X-men
the best of January, February, March, Jan-June, July, August, September, November, 2003

10 ways to see out New Year's Eve

1) Stand in Trafalgar Square
Every year tens of thousands of New Year revellers are drawn mysteriously to Trafalgar Square as midnight approaches. They stand around beside the boarded-up fountains, just out of earshot of Big Ben, and nothing happens. Even in 2003, with the area rejuvenated as a semi-pedestrianised 'World Square', nothing will happen. The Mayor may have staged all sorts of diverse events here during the rest of the year but tonight he admits "The only thing to do in Trafalgar Square will be to get cold and wet". Cheers Ken.

2) Stand by the River Thames (dg's choice 1999/2000)
Westminster Bridge, that's the place to be. Right beneath Big Ben chiming twelve, and a grandstand view of Mayor Ken's real Hogmanay treat - a riverside firework display. Except that he'd rather you weren't here either. This brief display beside the London Eye is meant for global viewing, not for real Londoners standing out in the cold, so the police would much prefer you to stay home and watch your council tax going up in smoke on the telly instead. Cheers Ken. Let's hope it's more impressive than the 'River of Fire' four years ago.

3) Stand in a Circle Line train
Ken's got one thing right this New Year - the tube will be running all through the night. This means you can attend any of the non-events in Central London and still get home without having to cram into a drunken nightbus. Instead you can allow the police to shoehorn you slowly onto an overcrowded platform waiting for a train that may not arrive until next year. Just make sure you're not under the Embankment at midnight rather than on it.

4) Stand inside the Dome
Is it really a century since the eyes of the world nation taxpayer were trained upon this upturned bowl by the Thames? Yes it is. Who could forget all those unfortunate celebrities stuck queueing at Stratford station, or the Queen trying to look excited as she shook hands with Tony Blair's vanishing credibility? I must admit I still rather like the Dome, sitting there spikes-to-the-sky at the tip of a desolate peninsula, doomed to an afterlife as the world's only billion pound bus station. But I have no plans to be there tonight for the last gasp of Winter Wonderland - an underpatronised overpriced fairground. No change there then.

5) Stand in a pub
Any other night of the year you can stand in a pub for free. On New Year's Eve you have to pay £10 for the privilege, surrounded by a bunch of losers from your local neighbourhood eating mini sausage rolls from a luke-warm buffet. At midnight some greasy no-hoper will take advantage of the national thirty-second groping amnesty and plant a wet kiss on your unwelcoming cheek. The pub should be paying you.

6) Stand in a club (dg's choice 2001/02)
If you thought the pub was expensive, wait until you see what your favourite club is charging. All that ready cash is presumably essential to pay for DJ overtime and the twelve o'clock balloon drop. Try to spot the clubbers who've perfectly timed their pill-popping for a midnight high, and don't forget to feel sorry for the crowds still patiently queueing outside as the techno version of Auld Lang Syne bleeps out onto the pavement.

7) Stand around at a mate's party
Accepting an invite to a New Year party always sounds like a good idea, particularly if you're getting desperate for at least some social contact this evening. Unfortunately the party will be attended by people you don't know who've only brought cheap booze and then insist on playing the naff compilation CD they've brought with them so that the TV's off when midnight comes round and you miss the chimes of Big Ben altogether, forcing everyone to raise an anti-climactic glass of sparkling wine five minutes late. Cheers.

8) Get out of London altogether (dg's choice 1998/99)
Hide away in a country cottage on a New Year break and you can miss all that unnecessary hubbub in the capital. There again, you do have to sleep under floral duvets, shiver with coin-in-the-slot Economy 7 heating and discover that all the tourist attractions in the neighbourhood have shut down until Easter.

9) Get out of the country altogether (dg's choice 2002/03)
Fly away, say, 6000 miles to the west and you'll find yourself in a totally different time zone. This means that midnight GMT will pass unnoticed by the locals somewhere mid-afternoon, and then you'll end up celebrating New Year somewhere around what's really breakfast time. It may be unnatural, but the firework display will be considerably better.

10) Sit at home on your sofa (dg's choice 2000/01)
So, looks like it's just a can of lager and that dire Scottish Hogmanay TV special for company. Try to spot which of the featured celebrities has died or been involved in a terrible accident since the show was recorded back in November. Then text all your friends pretending to be somewhere else rather more glamorous, whilst bemoaning the fact that nobody appears to have sent you any messages in return. But, smile, because you're not cold, you're not wet, you're not on a train, you're not surrounded by drunkards and you're not fifty pounds poorer. Happy New Year!

 Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Lessons Learned Report 2003

Lesson 1) Health: Make the most of what you have - it may not last.
Thursday July 3: "I've recently had cause to reflect on my good health, fingers crossed. Over the last two weeks a disturbingly high number of work colleagues and members of my family have ended up in medical establishments being told things they really didn't want to hear. Good health is something the fortunate amongst us too often take for granted."

Lesson 2) Friends: Make the most of what you have - it may not last.
Tuesday March 4: "Situation vacant: Best mate (London/UK/Europe)
Reason for vacancy: Previous post-holder emigrated to America today, to take up leading role with partner in expanding small business."

Lesson 3) Work: Make the most of what you have - it may not last.
Friday March 21: "When the next spring equinox comes round I expect I'll have been moved to a different office, in a different building, on a different floor, with a different view of London, probably of a brick wall or a basement knowing my luck."

Lesson 4) Hardware: Make the most of what you have - it may not last.
Thursday November 27: "My computer's hard drive died totally and completely on Sunday night. The good news is that the hardware has now been repaired and is ready to collect. The bad news is that every single byte of data on the hard drive has been completely and irretrievably lost."

Lesson 5) Boredom: Make the most of what you have - it may not last.
Monday May 12: "Some people can fill their days many times over, never finding enough hours to get everything done. They wake up, the day passes in a blur of hyperactivity, and hey presto it's time to go to bed again. For other people each day is a potential avalanche of boredom. A featureless morning stretches out into an interminable afternoon, leading perhaps to a non-descript evening, this prescription to be repeated daily."

The 7am puzzle: What's the longest word chain of numbers you can make? Each number in the chain must start with the last letter of the previous number. For example: TeNinEighThree contains 4 different numbers.
Only one-word unhyphenated whole numbers are permitted, and no number may be repeated. In the event of a tie, the greatest number of letters used wins.

 Monday, December 29, 2003

The best of 2003

Top 5 albums

1) Audio Bullys - Ego War (reviewed June 4)
2) Buffseeds - The Picture Show (reviewed March 31)
3) Pet Shop Boys - Disco 3 (reviewed Feb 2)
4) Erlend Øye - Unrest (reviewed Feb 28)
5) Dizzee Rascal - Boy In Da Corner (reviewed Aug 31)

Top single
Mark Owen: Four Minute Warning
(reviewed Aug 31)
Yes, I know, I'm as surprised as you are, but it is.
Killer song, killer hook (killer subject matter).

Top 5 gigs (in chronological order)
Feb 7: The Streets (Brixton Academy)
Mar 6: Buffseeds (Metro Club)
July 4: Polyphonic Spree/Mull Historical Society (Brixton Academy)
Aug 2: Robbie Williams (Knebworth)
Nov 19: Audio Bullys (Astoria)

Top 3 books

1) Andy Miller - Tilting At Windmills (reviewed April 6)
2) Jake Arnott - Truecrime (reviewed Aug 31)
3) Artjaz - Urban Survival (reviewed Nov 30)

Top magazine: Smoke (reviewed June 14, November 7)
Top arty things: Bridget Riley (Sept 22) & the Weather Project (Oct 22)
Top West End show: Our House (reviewed Feb 3)
Top TV programme: Little Britain (reviewed Feb 9, Sept 30)
Top film: this category is discontinued

 Sunday, December 28, 2003

Pantowatch: Aladdin at the Theatre Royal, Norwich

Is there anything better you could watch on Boxing Day evening than a pantomime? Oh yes there is. Not to worry, I'd already set the video set to record The Office, so I was off to watch my 7-year-old niece starring in Norfolk's premier festive entertainment instead. Apparently there were some other semi-famous people in the show as well, although I never used to watch Bread so it was hard to be certain.

I was duly summoned to the front row of the upper circle to watch my niece take her very first faltering steps towards an Equity card. There she was milling around the streets of old Peking, folding clothes in Widow Twankey's laundry and parading sparkly treasure around the genie's cave. She was dead good, but then as an uncle I have to say that. She's also on first name terms with all the stars and a useful source of backstage gossip (last night Wishee Washee's trousers split on stage, so I hear). Thanks to her I was attending my first panto for almost 30 years.

Pantomime is a unique British experience. Nothing else mixes comedy, myth, romance and high camp with quite the same magic. If your career is on the way up, panto is something to fill in that worrying winter gap between Butlins summer seasons. If your career is on the way down, panto is a celebrity safety net, one last greasepaint refuge where you can still revel in audience adulation. Pantomime is also a very provincial artform. Nobody pantos in central London (hell, even Bonnie Langford can't get any closer than Guildford), whereas Norwich packs the audience in for a month.

From the poster outside you might have thought that the stars of the show would be the two actors from Bread and Corrie but oh no, the true stars of any panto are the dame and principal boy. Richard Gauntlett (Cannon And Ball, Time And The Rani, Beauty And The Beast) played Widow Twankey with camp aplomb, parading a series of outrageous dresses and winning over the crowd. Rikki Jay (Talking Telephone Numbers, Hamford County Primary School Nativity Play) as Wishee Washee combined an infectious cheeky grin with total audience rapport. The two of them wrote the show from scratch, ensured they got all the best lines and threw in deft ad-libs as required. Aladdin and his princess were merely sidelined romantic decoration. Perfect.

Highlights of the show included an acrobatic tumbling display, the lucky programme raffle and the finest Red Arrows formation display you'll ever see below 100ft. What's more there was actually a plot, never too far below the inventive silliness. Panto may not be high culture, but its enduring seasonal success provides provincial theatre with the essential financial lifeblood to survive. Long may it last. Me, I might even be tempted back next year, even if I don't get to hang around inside the stage door afterwards and accompany the star home.

 Saturday, December 27, 2003

The Daze after Christmas

12 unwanted presents
11 binbags of wrapping paper
10 toys without batteries
9 rainclouds drizzling
8 adverts for aspirin
7 furniture store sales
6 unopened boxes of chocolates
5 cold turkey dinners
4 extra inches on your waist
3 children playing
2 grandparents sleeping
and Aladdin at the Theatre Royal Norwich

 Wednesday, December 24, 2003

On the day before Christmas...
remember that Christmas is about The family

Mary leaned across the breakfast table. "I suppose we're going to have to stay with your family this year."

"Sorry," said Joe, "but Caesar Augustus has decreed that all the world should be taxed, so all us Davids are off to Bethlehem for the duration. At least we don't have to stay with your awful sister Elizabeth this year. She's been childless for so long that her so-called miraculous pregnancy is all she ever talks about now. And at her age! It's no wonder her husband's been struck dumb."

Mary looked down lovingly at the rounded bump bulging through her blue dress. "Well, this little one was a bit of a surprise too. I don't know quite how He got there, given that we've never, you know. I still reckon it might have been that Gabriel bloke who sneaked into my bedroom nine months ago, he could have spiked my drink or anything. It's conceivable, anyway. I shudder to think what your in-laws are going to think of you shacking up with an unmarried mother. Do we really have to go?"

"Afraid so," replied Joe, "there's no escape. It's the law, you know. Everyone must return back to their families this December, no matter how much they might not want to. My dad Jacob will be there, and all the grandchildren, and everyone else he's ever begat. You know you'll love it really, especially the big family meal. I'm looking forward to tucking into some ox and ass, or maybe a nice leg of lamb. Then we'll all sit round in the afternoon and listen to Herod's speech."

Mary shuddered. "I've heard terrible things about what Herod does to young children. I shan't be letting him lay a finger on my baby, that's for sure. Assuming He ever gets born, that is. The last thing I should be doing in my condition is heading cross-country on the back of a donkey. Why I ever agreed to marry someone who can't even afford a proper horse is beyond me. And everyone'll be out on the roads, heading back home to see the family, it's a surefire recipe for gridlock. By the way, did you manage to find anywhere for the two of us to stay in Bethlehem?"

"No, sorry," said Joe, "the whole town is already jam-packed full. Sounds like a multitude of shepherds have flocked there for some major hillside gathering. I even called round all the inns down the high street, but there was no room. Never mind, I'm sure we'll be able to make some sort of stable living arrangements once we arrive. You'd better pack some nice warm swaddling clothes though, just in case we're caught out. Now, what are we doing about sending presents this year?"

"I'm sore afraid," said Mary, "that I missed the last post. Never mind, I've arranged for three couriers to deliver some gifts from the East instead. It's the usual tat, just something shiny and a couple of smellies, but it's the thought that counts. I just hope those men are wise enough to follow the directions I gave them - I only asked for the one-star delivery service."

Joe smiled. "I'm sure it'll all work out fine, for the sake of that baby you're carrying. It'll be His first Christmas and we want it to be special. God knows what we'll call the little devil."

"Jesus, I don't know," sighed Mary. "Just promise me we're not going to spend next Christmas with the in-laws as well. Maybe next year we should fly to Egypt instead..."

 Tuesday, December 23, 2003

On the 2nd day before Christmas...
it's time to eat, drink and be merry

Turkey: Why do we always buy giant turkeys at Christmas? We have to battle with mega-sized giblets, we're forced to get up at 5am to start them cooking, we can't fit them into the oven (especially at 5am) and we end up eating turkey in a variety of forms (curry, salad, pie, risotto, etc) right up until New Year. Why do we buy them? Because anything's better than nut roast, that's why.
Sprouts: There's never any room on a packed festive platter to push these tiny balls of concentrated cabbage to one side. Maybe you could hide yours under that raft of parsnips you're not going to eat either.
Christmas pud: After that enormous main course comes this flaming dessert...
Christmas cake: ...and then stodge covered in bitter paste covered with sugar. Please no.
Party nibbles: Ten years ago your visitors would have been happy with home-made sausage rolls and cheesy pineapple chunks on sticks. Nowadays anything less than filo-wrapped king prawns and spicy nacho cheese flavour bites is social suicide. Beware.
Christmas hamper: If you can't face crowding into Kwik Save on Christmas Eve, why not ring up one of those nice companies who advertise mid-afternoon on Channel 4 and pay over the odds for a selection of not-quite-brand-name foodstuffs instead?
Atkins Diet: No stuffing is allowed, but you are allowed to gorge on turkey, bacon, sausage, more turkey and a thick slab of lard. Dieters are advised that major weight loss may well follow, but generally only following your funeral.
Turkish delight: Delicious, but if an old lady pops out of your wardrobe and offers you some, just say no.
Creme Eggs: only 3 days to go :o)

The drinks cabinet: You'll need to buy one of everything, just in case. Apart from the wine, which you'll need just in cases. Don't scrimp, otherwise that neighbour with the unexpected rum fixation may never speak to you again.
Advocaat: Yes, sorry, there should even be one bottle of this right at the back of your drinks cabinet, just in case granny gets tipsy and wants a snowball. Maybe she doesn't realise that the bottle contains grape brandy and unpasteurised egg yolks as well as sugar.
Lemonade: No matter how well stocked your drinks cabinet, the one drink that's sure to run out first is the least expensive. Go on, buy six extra bottles this Christmas, it need only cost you a quid.
Champagne: If you're serving this at the start of your Christmas party, buy only the finest. If you're serving this at the end of your Christmas party, you'll get away with Pomagne instead.
Mulled wine: That's proper wine ruined by excessive spice and overheating. Nice though.
The pub: When you get tired of drinking at home, why not go out and drink the same alcohol at twice the price down the pub? The place is sure to be full of other people escaping from their families, so you'll have plenty to talk about.
The club: When you get tired of drinking down the pub, why not go out and drink the same alcohol at four times the price in your local nightclub? The place is sure to be full of other people going out of their minds, so it'll probably remind you of being at home.

be Merry

 Monday, December 22, 2003

Celebrity Xmas shopping tips
Number 1
: Ricky Gervais
Seen buying: Crap Towns
Published by: Boxtree Press, £10
Where: queueing at Waterstones, Covent Garden (right in front of me)
Also buying: Dude, Where's My Country? (Michael Moore)
Paid with: a white credit card
Comment: he's a lot smaller in real life
Celebrity Xmas shopping tips
Number 2
: Dermot O'Leary
Seen buying: "A Killing In Paradise" 1000-piece mystery jigsaw
Published by: Lagoon Games, £19.99
Where: Purves & Purves, Tottenham Court Road
Also buying: a basketful of trendy goodies that took 5 minutes to pack
Paid with: a black credit card
Comment: my Christmas is complete

On the 3rd day before Christmas...
the arrival of snow is anticipated

How fantastic it would be to wake up on Christmas morning, pull back the curtains and see the landscape covered by a thick layer of snow. All those nasty concrete outbuildings carefully blanketed, the footprints of robins scattered randomly across the lawn and Aled Jones frolicking in the lane with a couple of snowballs. Picture postcard perfect. We love snow at Christmas because it's the one day of the year most of us don't have to travel anywhere. We're already where we want need to be, the entire public transport network has already been shut down for the day and we couldn't drive safely anywhere after that pre-lunch sherry anyway. Any other day of the year and we'd all be cursing the nightmarish collapse all all local services but, on December 25th, 's no problem.

Will there be a White Christmas this year? Well, no, sorry, there won't. Even this morning, when snow was actually forecast, the streets of London remain resolutely grey. Alas, a snowy Christmas Day in the UK is a rare event. Even rarer is a 'proper' white Christmas, rather than the 'a flake of sleet will do' travesty of a definition that the bookies now use. December's always been a bit early in the winter for snow (January and February are rather more likely), and global warming threatens to make the entire 21st century a bit late in the millennium for snow too. White Christmases were rather more common here during the 'Little Ice Age', back when the Thames used to regularly freeze over, but the last London Frost fair was held as long ago as 1814. In the future any light sprinkling of white across the capital is far more likely to be the result of terrorist-induced nuclear fallout.

Only ten of the last Christmases in London have been white. That'd be 1916 (sleet), 1927 (snow, falling and lying), 1938 (sleet, but 15cm of snow lying on the ground), 1956 (snow), 1964 (snow), 1968 (sleet), 1970 (snow, falling and lying), 1976 (snow), 1996 (sleet) and 1999 (sleet). You may also remember a white 1981, but that year doesn't officially count because no snow fell on Christmas Day itself. Me, I remember 1970 well enough, which may be just as well because if I were any older I probably wouldn't be able to remember a proper white Christmas at all. Alas, today's children have probably missed out on seeing one for good.

White Christmas links:
Detailed log of White Christmases across the UK since 1900
Snow at Christmas in the UK
The Met Office White Christmas page, complete with recent white Christmas events in London and 14 other locations around the UK
White Christmases in the UK between 1990 and 2002
London's Frost Fairs
3D snow forecasts for the UK
The origins of the 'White Christmas'
Particularly mild UK Christmases
Bing Crosby's White Christmas

 Sunday, December 21, 2003

On the 4th day before Christmas...
the Christmas number one is announced

Well, what do you know? The 2003 Christmas number one is Mad World by Gary Jules. Excellent! I was championing this audio jewel on diamond geezer as far back as October last year, noting "Somebody release it please - it could be huge." I'm well chuffed finally to have been proved correct. This spine-tingling Tears For Fears cover version first came to public attention over the closing credits of the film Donnie Darko and has been track 1 on my mp3 player ever since, but the song remained resolutely unreleased until this week. Gary has just beaten The Darkness into second place and (ha!) those bland Pop Idols into fifth. It's also the second time a cover version of a 1982 New Romantic classic has topped the charts at Christmas (see also Only You by the Flying Pickets in 1983). Mad.

To celebrate this rare triumph of taste over tat, here's the diamond geezer Christmas Number Ones Lyrics Quiz. Can you identify these Christmas number one records from their lyrics? Every Christmas number one from the last thirty years (1973-2003) appears once on the list. (Why not annoy the family and print out the quiz for use over Christmas?)
All answers now in the comments box, or by clicking on the question numbers.

  1) any way the wind blows
  2) a ray of hope flickers in the sky
  3) look for a rainbow in every storm
  4) no dark sarcasm in the classroom
  5) the reddest rose I'll always bring you
  6) what about sunrise? what about rain?
  7) do the fairies keep him sober for a day
  8) it'll be cold so cold without you to hold
  9) digging and mixing, having so much fun
10) it's the season, love and understanding
11) with logs on the fire and gifts on the tree
12) nights when we sang like a heavenly choir
13) I want a man not a boy who thinks he can
14) the beat of the drum goes round and round
15) long time ago in bethlehem so the holy bible say
16) bittersweet memories, that is all I'm taking with me
17) throw your arms around the world at Christmas time
18) five years later on you've got the world at your feet
19) she always is a friend to you and she's a friend to me
20) I believe in angels, something good in everything I see
21) have you ever seen a girl for whom your soul you'd give
22) the dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had
23) wonder if you'll understand it's just the touch of your hand
24) candlelight and soul forever, dream of you and me together
25) little things I should have said and done I never took the time
26) now we have been through the harvest winter has truly begun
27) I'd like to go back one time on a roller coaster ride when life was just a game
28) don't you know we've come too far now just to go and try to throw it all away
29) although he's unconventional in hue his philosophy of life will steer him through
30) we drop into a quiet little place and have a drink or two and then I go and spoil it all

 Saturday, December 20, 2003

On the 5th day before Christmas...
it's the last posting date for first class mail

It's your last chance today to send a small piece of folded cardboard to somebody you've not communicated with since last Christmas. Better hurry then, because the last collection round your way is probably at noon-ish. Miss the deadline and your festive greeting will be stockpiled in a huge warehouse until mid-January, by which time the intended recipient will no doubt have crossed you off their Christmas card list for good.

It was Sir Henry Cole who sent the world's first Christmas card exactly 160 years ago, using the new Penny Post. Sir Henry thought his friends would appreciate a three-panelled card depicting a smiling family bearing the inscription 'A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You'. He did not, so far as we know, send them pictures of an obese Santa stuck down a chimney, a robin smothered in glitter or Homer Simpson pretending to be a reindeer. As a reward for his good taste, Sir Henry went on to become the first director of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The Royal Mail now moves over a billion Christmas cards each December. That's because there's still nothing to beat receiving a real card through the post rather than some feeble virtual greeting, not least because it's very hard to cover your mantelpiece with emails. And the annual Christmas card tally remains the indisputable annual barometer of your popularity and social standing. If you receive more cards than you send, your place in society is assured. However, send out more than you receive and the level of your insignificance is made explicitly clear. (Note to self: sent 67, received 23, give up now).

Each year friendships are extended by the exchange of Christmas cards. People we once knew, echoes of former lives, their continuing existence is confirmed by the arrival of a small envelope. If you're really lucky there's one of those thrilling "What a year it's been..." family newsletters tucked inside, full of births, holidays and operation scars. This means that you never have to pick up the phone and ring the other person because you know that everything you'll ever need to know will be safely documented in next year's missive. Of course, the other person's card always arrives the day after you sent yours, so the brief scribbled note inside your card (Congratulations!) can only react to last year's news (I became a grandfather...) rather than the latest bombshell (my wife left me and the doctor had some very bad news...).

So let's all remember Sir Henry Cole this Christmas because it's thanks to him that we remember everyone else. Although I suspect there'd be a whole load more forests still standing if he'd never bothered.

Congratulations, you are the 50000th visitor to this website...
...and number 50000 arrived from here, about half an hour ago. Fifty thousand visitors eh? Thank you all for coming, thank you all for reading, and thanks to all those of you who link here. Must be a good time for my semi-regular 'league table' of top linking blogs, ordered by volume of visitors clicking here from there:
  1) blue witch11) my ace life
  2) arseblog12) flashmob
  3) by a woman13) my boyfriend is a twat
  4) mad musings14) bitful
  5) samizdata15) route 79
  6) coopblog16) linkmachinego
  7) scaryduck17) naked blog
  8) swish cottage18) casino avenue
  9) troubled diva19) not you, the other one
10) big n juicy20) getting on
It's disappointing that three of the top 10 have stopped blogging, two very recently, but reassuring to see some fine new entries creeping into the top 20 (at 15, 18 and 19). A special hello to the blogs that appear in the list because their owners have been making regular daily visits here for months and months - thanks, much appreciated. And, if you're interested, here's how the chart continues: 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30. Point, click, and read. (No call girls knowingly featured)

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