Thursday, 3 December 2009


Diarist, sports correspondent, current affairs commentator and now music reviewer. I can do it all.

Album Review

I Dreamed A Dream - lovely Susan Boyle

Lovely, lovely, wonderful Susan. I have mentioned my admiration for lovely Susan Boyle in passing to a number of people, and for some reason they generally seem to think I'm joking. Let me declare, with as much seriousness as I can muster, that lovely Susan Boyle's uniquely rapid rise to world dominance is in my belief a genuinely heartwarming story. Admittedly, there are bound to be those in the background leeching money from the mind-boggling album sales, upcoming US tour and numerous public appearances, but at the root of it all is the story of a woman blessed with a voice of the purest crystal, yet denied the chance to share it on any significant stage until not far off the beginning of her sixth decade. And she's bloody lovely.

Track 1 - Wild Horses
I am not overly familiar with this as a Rolling Stones song, which is perhaps why it grabbed me so powerfully when I first heard lovely Susan's rendition on the radio. A gentle piano accompaniment leaves plenty of space for Susan's elegant tones to reverberate through what is an enchanting, catchy and very strong opening.

Track 2 - I Dreamed A Dream
Indeed you did Susan. Indeed you did. I think we're all familiar with that remarkable first audition, a moment which will no doubt remain career-defining no matter how many concerts or album sales are racked up over the coming years. I don't even need to go on YouTube any more it's so clear in my mind. Can't talk any more...tears welling in eyes... I LOVE YOU SUSAN!

Track 3 - Cry Me A River
Apparently a Boyle favourite from her limited early performance and recording career, and clearly a song she has an affinity with. Soulfully delivered, and without a trace of the schmulziness which can seep into the vocals of several contemporary male crooners I can think of.

Track 4 - How Great Thou Art
Eclectic old mix, this, but none the worse for it. Okay I'm no hymn lover, and in all honesty this isn't one of my favourites, but despite being little more than a repetition of the chorus gradually increasing in volume, this somehow doesn't turn into the droning dirge one might expect. It is a pleasant interlude between more meaty tracks, and provides some uplifting vocal arcs from lovely Susan, even if the lyrics are essentially religious claptrap.

Track 5 - You'll See
Poor, poor Madonna. Not only does lovely Susan waltz along and become the fastest selling female solo artist of all time (over 2 million albums worldwide in WEEK 1, for goodness sake), she also out-performs Mads at her own game. This song has never done that much for me, until now. Susan brings an integrity and operatic depth of which the queen of pop could only dream.

Track 6 - Daydream Believer
Perhaps the surprise track of the album, lovely Susan dusts down this Monkees singalong classic and gives it the West Lothian treatment. As big a fan as you probably realise by now I am, lovely Susan's versatility here caught me off guard. It's fresh, and stripped back, but doesn't neglect the essence of what is a joyful song.

Track 7 - Up To The Mountain
It's soul, it's gospel, it's solid gold. I haven't seen Kelly Clarkson's well-received American Idol performance of this Patty Griffin tune, but I feel safe in saying lovely Susan surpasses it here by several million miles.

Track 8 - Amazing Grace
Yeah, yeah. Predictable as hell, but you can't knock the tune, or John Newton writing something that appears on a contemporary album 230 years after he wrote it. Frankly I could listen to lovely Susan sing the yellow pages, so it may as well be this instead. Why does nobody ever record He Who Would Valiant Be?

Track 9 - Who I Was Born To Be
The only original composition on the album, and a little unfairly hidden away down here at Track 9. Presumably chosen as much for it's lyrical poignancy as much as anything else, a track which continues to grow on me after ten or twelve plays. I look forward to more songs written especially for lovely Susan on her next album. Maybe I'll write her one. Royalties? You keep them all, Susan. It's the least I can do.

Track 10 - Proud
We love you Susan, we do
We love you Susan, we do
We love you Susan, we do
Oh Susan, we love you
Sorry, got distracted there for a moment. Good track.

Track 11 - The End Of The World
You come across a song you've never heard before, only to find out it was written in the early sixties, and has been covered by (amongst others): The Carpenters, Herman's Hermits, Brenda Lee, Bobby Vinton, John Cougar Mellencamp, Johnny Mathis, Nancy Sinatra, Sonia, Twiggy and Agnetha from ABBA. How has something so delightful eluded me for so long? Thankfully, it has not eluded lovely Susan.

Track 12 - Silent Night
Takes me back to GCSE German lessons around this time of year: Stille nacht, heilige nacht, o tannenbaum o tannenbaum - no, that's wrong. Three hymns in twelve tracks is acceptable I suppose - there are grannies to be catered for, after all. The singing, as it is all the way through, is monumental; the song a tad dreary and not the way I would have ended the album. I'm prepared to blame some faceless executive if you are?

And there you have it. Utterly biased confirmation that this is the album for you, no matter who you may be. Lovely Susan can turn her vocal chords to a fair few genres, it would seem. Despite the relatively short space of time between lovely Susan's 'discovery' and this album release, it in no way feels thrown together. We have elements of pop, soul, country, jazz, musicals, opera, gospel, hymns and many more things in between. If there's nothing for you in that little lot, then you are a fool, sir (or madam).

Thursday, 19 November 2009


This is going to be a post about football. I know that's not necessarily an interesting thing to talk about, but to be fair I haven't done it before, and one post in a year is quite forgivable I think. Whilst my passion for football has become a subtler, quieter one in recent years, in many ways it burns at least as brightly as it ever did. For some reason the sport retains the ability to generate within me an enthusiasm that I've found impossible to recreate elsewhere. That's not to say it's the most important thing in my life, but it's certainly where I feel most free, most expressive, most competitive, yet paradoxically, most in control. The absurdity of attaching meaning to anything in life is never more heightened than in the pursuit of a small round leather-coated balloon, yet somehow it's that knowledge that none of it matters that makes it matter so much, that allows me to lose myself almost completely in the immediacy of two teams on a medium-sized patch of grass.

I'm talking there specifically about playing the game, but I still watch a reasonable amount of football too, and can identify somewhat with the tribalism that supporting a club or national side tends to engender. I have a favourite team, and sound reasons for favouring them. My bias at times knows fairly distant limits, but it is by no means an unconscious bias, and my partisanship is never without at least a trace of irony.

Characteristically, I find myself two paragraphs into a post without having come close to the specific issue I set out to discuss, which is Thierry Henry's 'controversial' handball versus Ireland. To summarise the incident, the game was decided by a goal precipitated directly by this clear example of foul play, and allowed France, the home side, to qualify for the World Cup Finals in South Africa next summer at the expense of The Republic of Ireland. Had the goal been disallowed, either team would have had the remainder of extra time to score and win the game outright, or failing that, emerge victorious through the relative lottery of a penalty shootout. Instead there was anti-climax, disappointment, outrage, vitriol, a formal complaint, shrugging of shoulders, and general disillusionment.

There are several facets of this debate which seem to demand comment. Firstly, on a cheatingness scale of 1 to 10, Henry's act probably rated around 4. There are a couple of such incidents in most games. I don't think it was premeditated. It is unfortunate that it was allowed to go unpunished in such an advanced area of the pitch at such a vital moment, but in itself as an isolated occurrence of law transgressance it was neither malicious nor dangerous nor petulant.

Secondly, I do not believe that this injustice strengthens the case for using video replays to assist refereeing decisions. There are many incidents in matches which can be interpreted questionably by a match official, or missed by a match official. Offsides, foul tackles, shirt pulling, handballs, ball in or out of play, foul throws, the whole obstruction vs shielding the ball debate, the list goes on. Any of these can lead directly to a goal. I cannot see how it would be fairer to treat selected categories of these differently from the remainder by allowing an extra official, located in front of a TV screen, to tell the referee what his decision should be. To complicate matters, many such incidents can be interpreted in quite different ways even upon second and third viewings, in slow motion, from multiple angles. There is a real danger that an incident could be referred only to result in a delay of two or three minutes whilst the TV referee ponders over inconclusive footage, under unbearable pressure to come up with a decision which cannot reasonably be reached. Surely, the least unsatisfactory way forward, and fairest way forward, is to allow the on-field officials to retain total control of what goes on between the white lines?

Nextly, there is scope for improvement. Micro-chip technology may soon be used to notify a referee immediately when the ball crosses the goal line. No delay; no controversy; no problem. We may see additional officials behind each goal in selected competitions before too long. This should all but eliminate goalmouth incidents where the referee's view is obscured (though I maintain the linesman should have seen Henry's misdemeanour in this instance). There is certainly a case for younger, fitter match officials. We currently have men in their forties trying to keep up with professional athletes half their age. I appreciate that life experience may bring with it greater calmness and objectivity, but this is of limited use if you are 60 yards away with an obscured view. In this country, all top-level officials are now fully professional, but all the FA did to achieve this was to pay the existing, amateur referees more. An intensive, fast-track system is required to train promising young referees to officiate in top level games within 2-3 years.

And finally, isn't injustice exhilarating? Football, and (reluctant though I am to use a ball game as an analogy for life), perhaps life, would be very dull indeed if everyone got exactly what they deserved, all the time. If the virtuous people always won out, and the lazy, selfish, rule-breaking, deceiving, scheming, cowardly, jealous, greedy people were always found out, punished, and corrected. A large part of football's appeal, to me at least, is the opportunity to triumph in unfavourable circumstances, to pick myself up off the floor and hurtle into the next tackle, to chase an unlikely dream in spite of a muddy pitch, a howling wind, a dirty kit, a cheating opponent, and an incompetent bloody referee.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009


I'd like to state at the very top of this post that I did donate to Children in Need the other week, and I did buy a poppy earlier in the month. I also bought a raffle ticket in aid of RNIB only this morning.

In general, however, and particularly where people are concerned, I don't regard myself as a very charitable person. It's not compassion fatigue (love that phrase) either. If I'm completely honest with myself, I'm not sure that charities that help people are great causes. Try as I might, and believe it or not I really am trying not to sound utterly heartless, I think there are far too many human beings in the world, and we've become a bit of a nuisance. It seems more worthwhile to me to contribute to organisations who make it their business to clean up the mess we as a species have made, and continue to make, in the name of covering the face of the Earth with yet more of us.

It's important, yet somewhat difficult, to separate the real compassion I feel for people around the globe who suffer from various types and severities of physical and/or mental impairment, and for those whose lives have been blighted by war, famine, drought, crime, extremist political regimes and natural disasters, from my belief that there are more serious issues for this planet and its inhabitants. Whilst I accept that there is a vast number of people with no option but to exist in horrific conditions, it's clear that Homo Sapiens is not about to die out. Quite the opposite - the latest estimates are that there are 6.9 billion of us, and by 2050 this is due to increase to approaching 9 billion. Set against no more than 200,000 gorillas (in the wild), around 20,000 rhinos, and fewer than 5,000 tigers, this hardly seems fair.

It's quite a philosophical wrestling match. Whilst indivuals may well merit and deserve our help and love, as a species we're fairly obnoxious. On a personal level, whilst I would certainly accept charity were I to find myself in need, how should I reconcile this with believing that we/I are/am not a worthwhile cause?

Furthermore, when should I put up my Christmas Tree?

Monday, 16 November 2009


Last evening I and the man who continues to defy logic by loving me and living with me went to see the new show of Mr Stewart Lee: "If you prefer a milder comedian, please ask for one". Having enjoyed his recent BBC2 series, I was expecting something quite special, and I was not disappointed.

There are three or four basic themes in the show, skilfully interwoven and layered with callback references, pointed comments on current affairs, some improvised elements and a great deal of irony. Whilst this is week 6 or so of the tour proper, and the bulk of the material has been kicking around for 6 months or more, it's obvious that the performance itself is a living organism, flexing and developing according to the dynamic between Lee and each audience. This freshness of delivery is vital to good stand-up, and can at times result in the routine suddenly darting down an obscure and apparently unconnected rabbit warren. Lee basically allows himself to go wherever he feels is necessary in order to drive home a point. Read interviews with him and it's evident that he's conscious of his at times repetitive style. The decision he seems to have made to indulge this side of his performance speaks volumes for his maturity as a performer, for it is in these passages of absurdity that Lee shines brightest. It takes a certain level of confidence to repeatedly (I'm talking about twenty times) shout the phrase "MASSIVE PRAWNS" at the climax to a rant against people who emigrate from the UK for a better quality of life. Never, ever, ever have I laughed harder. Ever.

The real beauty of the set is the way it allows for these excursions of varying lengths from the basic script, yet still comfortably sits within a framework of just that handful of overall themes. The thought which must have gone into the construction of the routine is evident throughout. Changes of pace, volume and tone - some subtle, some abrupt - put me in mind of Dave Allen, in style if not content. Most of all the slow and elaborately detailed build-ups to climactic outbursts give the show a tremendous sense of connectedness, despite a myriad of asides.

We were barely ten feet from the stage. And all for well under £20 apiece too. A resounding 10/10 rating from me. SEE THIS SHOW!

ps - Richard Hammond fans, it may not be for you.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009


I don't have many friends. By some people's definition I don't have any friends. I don't go out for 'a drink with the lads'. I don't drink. There are no 'lads'. I didn't keep in touch with anyone from school, and never planned to. I didn't go to university. I keep in touch with a handful of past colleagues, but diminishingly so. I socialise with sporting acquaintances, but unlike most of them my focus is firmly on the sport. Aside from this blog, the concept of being sociable in a virtual environment is as alien to me as it is in real life. A search of my name on line results in little more than some golf and football results.

Some people think I'm shy. I daresay some people think I'm ignorant. It's probably an unhealthy mix of the two with some social awkwardness thrown in. Part of the trouble is that whilst I can certainly empathise with people, I rarely imagine that I can contribute in a meaningful way to their day/life, or for that matter they to mine. Conversations with me are punctuated with silences which, whilst not at all uncomfortable to me, I am conscious that others may feel uncomfortable with, or at least feel as though they are making me uncomfortable. In actuality, during the silences I am simply sifting out flippant, childish and sarcastic responses which I deem inappropriate for the weighty matters at hand like work, current affairs, football, and The X Factor. We all do this of course, but it seems comparatively rare for me feel familiar enough with someone to switch off the filter and expose them to the first thing that comes to my mind. Looking back at the early stages of some of my more successful relationships, I have been told that I can appear cold, disinterested and even unfriendly when, in fact, my intention is quite the opposite.

In fact, since this self-indulgent nonsense is leading nowhere fast, let's look at one such instance right now. I have never told this story to anyone. God knows why as it hardly lays my soul bare, but please treat it as confidential (in an available-to-the-whole-world type way) nonetheless:

To set the scene, it is early 2002. I am 25 years old, and have relatively recently abandoned a semi-conscious policy of emotional isolation. I am close to my family, but have never attempted anything approaching a romantic relationship. I genuinely haven't felt the need (what can I tell you? I'm a late developer). The turning point, looking back, was a serious ankle injury sustained in late 2000. I had been playing football four or five times per week prior to that, and suddenly had so much free time on my hands that it quickly became obvious I would need something else to do. I am only too well aware how ridiculous that sounds, but I swear it's true.

Hmm...this is sounding like a coming out story, which is odd, because I really don't have one to tell.

Fast forward through a mini flurry of meetings with potential suitors (a more candid blog might categorise these as 'hook-ups') in 2001. By the turn of that year I have pretty much made up my mind that some lucky individual deserves to be with me on a more permanent basis. And so fate brings me to a local toy shop one day in February 2002, where I am looking for a playful birthday present for a colleague. I don't find one, but decide to purchase a small moulded plastic polar bear merely as an excuse to talk more with the charming young gentleman behind the counter, who has already approached me whilst I am browsing to enquire as to whether I need any assistance, an enquiry I meet with a polite "no thanks, I'm fine". Idiot.

I purchase the polar bear, and glance at the receipt, which helpfully informs me "you were served by X". Embarrassingly, considering the incident has otherwise remained clear in my recollection for more than seven years, I cannot remember the chap's name, hence the X. I certainly can remember how he looked - tall, dark, angular, well-groomed.

After a couple of days of plucking up courage, I resolve to call the shop and ask to speak to X. I have pretty much scripted what I am going to say, in order to avoid awkwardness. I'm about 70% sure that X is gay, but only about 25% sure that he would be interested in me, so it's a phonecall I make with some level of trepidation. Here is the conversation (not quite word for word, but pretty close):

X: "Hello, Bath Toyshop"
Me: "Hi, is that X?"
X: "Yes...who's this?"
Me: "You may not remember me, but I bought a small polar bear from you at the weekend"
X: "Yes I do. What's wrong with it?"
Me: "Nothing's wrong with it. I'm not actually calling about the polar bear"
X: "Oh"
Me: "This may be completely misjudged and inappropriate, but I wondered if you might like to go out for a drink some time?"
X: (Clearly taken aback but I guess flattered) "Oh!'re the blond-haired guy, right?
Me: "Yes, dark blond"
This is the bit of the conversation I remember least, but involves me confirming I am who he thinks I am, and him jogging his memory of our brief interaction.
X: "When were you thinking?"
Me: "Well I can be back from work anytime from about 5pm"
X: "Okay, how about this evening, around 5.30?"
Me: (Now I'm taken aback) "Ummm...yes that's fine. Where should I meet you?"
X: "I'll be outside the shop."
Me: "Alright. See you then. Bye."
X: "Bye."

For a few reasons (chiefly that I've not been single very much in the intervening years), this remains the only time I have ever asked anyone out. One hundred per cent success rate! I remember feeling rather proud of myself back then, and even now it doesn't seem like something I would ever have done. But I still have the polar bear to prove it.

We met, as arranged, and got on well, though I guess not quite well enough, because although I would happily have gone further than a friendly drink there was little interaction after the first couple of meetings. I would wander past the shop on my way into town from time to time and make a point of not noticing X, though I know he would notice me. After about a year I allowed myself to return a smile, but he must have moved away soon after that, because I have never seen him since.

Anyway, returning to the point I was ham-fistedly making earlier. It turns out that when X initially approached me in the shop to ask if I needed help, he thought my response hostile when, in actual fact, I had only remained in the shop in an attempt to find out more about him. I hope I have become better at first impressions since then. It's one thing to retain a faintly disinterested air of mystery, but quite another to give someone you find highly attractive the impression that you would happily stab them in the eye with a rusty pair of scissors.

Thursday, 22 October 2009


Since I know readers will be clamouring here to find out my opinion of Nick Griffin on Question Time this evening, here it is:

First off, I should clarify how I feel about the BNP, it's leader, activists, members and supporters. At best (and the charitable part of me wants to believe this applies to the majority of their voters) they are tragically misinformed and/or stupid. At worst (and this certainly applies to Mr Griffin and his cohorts in the party hierarchy) they are a vile and repugnant bunch of racists in suits, pedalling a thinly-disguised manifesto of jingoistic, hate-fuelled nonsense.

Do you feel a however coming on? Well there sort of is. What annoys me is the attack the mainstream parties have made on the BBC over this. I'm annoyed for a couple of reasons;

1. Ludicrous at it may seem, as it stands the BNP is a legitimate political party with elected representatives and, under our system of law, a right to be heard. Mark Thompson has correctly pointed out today that it is up to those elected to debate and introduce laws in this country to silence those it believes have forfeited their right to be heard, as happened with Sinn Fein in the 1980's. Growing up I thought Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness were highly accomplished ventriloquists. The point is it's not for the BBC to decide who the public should or should not be exposed to, and frankly if raising the issue as this whole episode has done leads to legislation banning the BNP from appearing on our screens in any official capacity, the BBC will have done us all a great service. Until that time the BBC has an obligation to give proportionate exposure to all political parties, and a single appearance on a topical questions and answers show after 30 years of broadcasting seems to me, if anything, rather like under-representation.

2. There is a very strong argument to be made that giving Mr Griffin a platform like this allows his co-panellists, the audience and the public at large the opportunity to see him and his party for what they are (see above for my opinion on that). I find it incredibly patronising that high profile MPs seem to believe that large sections of the electorate are gullible enough to be charmed by this utterly charmless individual. Or do they really have so little confidence in their own ability to offer reasoned and logical arguments against the type of measure that the BNP would introduce? I find it hard to believe that this evening will be the start of an explosion in the membership ranks of the BNP. Think about it: most people aren't that stupid; most people aren't that unpleasant; those that are probably don't watch Question Time; even if they did they wouldn't understand it.

I don't think I'm being over-optimistic or complacent when I say that no amount of publicity will bring the BNP greater influence or support. They could have their own prime time show seven nights a week and still receive a relative handful of votes in the General Election next year. The fact is the vast majority of people know exactly what the BNP stands for, and the vast majority will never vote for them, no matter what.

Friday, 9 October 2009


Yarks. So busy at work lately. I'm not used to that at all. There's always plenty to do, but normally it's quite possible to leave it til later or avoid it altogether, but this stuff is of the unignorable variety. I'm not complaining, incidentally, and it brings me back to one of the great paradoxes: given that I really don't mind work on those occasions when I get around to actually doing any, why is it that I dedicate so much effort to not doing any? Answers on a strike-delayed postcard.

Prospective parliamentary candidate visited the other day. I was non-commital and unenthusiastic, but in a way that was designed neither to encourage nor discourage the chap. I'm sure he means well. I just don't feel that political at this point in my life. Another paradox, since the election and some of the issues surrounding it are of some considerable interest to me, yet I feel no desire to take part, even if only to steal a pencil.

Weekend's are very nice I always think. I'm off to have one right now. Toodles.

Friday, 14 August 2009


Glory be! The Weekend approaches. It's been one of my more procrastinatory weeks, which is probably understandable given the time off I've had in the last month or so. As I settle back into a routine of work I'm sure I'll become gradually more productive. I'll pretend for a moment that someone is interested in what I do for a living: basically I work in the public sector, and sit in an office. There's obviously a little more to it than that, but talking about it in detail depresses me because it reminds me that I have yet to sign for a Premiership football club or win an Academy Award. Frankly my third ambition of becoming the first man on Mars is looking more unlikely by the day. Where was I? Ah yes, I have quite a lot to do at work just now, but progress has been frustratingly slow, and largely it's my own fault. The perfect antitode is of course a Saturday, followed by a Sunday, known around these parts as a weekend.

And what of it? The weekend, that is. Well, there will be competitive sports x 2 (one knee-harming, one non knee-harming), pub, family, another pub, takeaway food, chinchillas (we have three!), and the opening weekend of the Premiership football season. An attractive package, no?

Despite a background horror at the realisation that summer fun has come and gone, I'm holding up. Thanks for the imaginary comments, by the way. I'm really enjoying thinking about reading what someone reading this blog might actually think of me.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009


Let's talk supermarkets.


We shop there about 60% of the time. Solid performer on the whole, though I have to say we go there largely out of convenience. Bakery good, wine selection good (I don't drink, but I take an interest), fruit and veg average though improving. Decent offers. They lose marks for the missing apostrophe in the name. Clientelle quite wide-ranging, but certainly more bearable than those of other 'Big 4' establishments, which I will come to.

Score: 7/10


We shopped here last night, hence this post. We don't shop here very often (it's a good deal further away) - perhaps 5% of the time. Whilst I don't have huge issues with value, and even quality (though value brands are to be avoided (except 9p noodles)), I always leave the place feeling dirty. The bakery is average, fruit and veg seem to be quite good, but the giveaway about those who shop there is the whopping cider and lager section. There was a topless man there last night. I'm not kidding. Slogan: "Why pay more?" Answer: "Because I don't want to shop with scum." We only went there yesterday to get my imported tea bags and they didn't even have those. Never again. Well, at least not for a long time.

Score 4/10


A store which knows how to correctly punctuate its own name. Good start. I suppose there's a little of the snob about me when it comes to brands, but a long and illustrious history surely counts for something? So the value isn't so good, and the quality isn't always any better than competitors, but Sainsbury's shopping somehow makes me feel a better person. The bakery is normally very good, likewise fruit and veg. They seem to clean the windows a bit more often. I like Sainsbury's. I'm not sure why we don't go there more often than around 10% of the time. Perhaps it seems frivolous to spend more than necessary. I suppose this is what keeps us from doing our food shopping at M&S or Waitrose. The quality of food at both those places is generally
way above any of the others I've discussed here, but so are the prices. It's not as though we couldn't afford to shop there, but for whatever reason we don't. Maybe it's a class thing. I like to think that in a few years we'll be regular Waitrose shoppers. The parking at our local one is expensive and limited though. I seem to have digressed from Sainsbury's a little...

Score 8/10


Hmmm. I tend to think of Tesco as a cross between Sainsbury's and Asda. I don't dislike shopping there, though we rarely do 'big' shops there. They have started opening 'local' stores and devouring the business of independent local shops, which is a nasty habit. Bakery is fine, fruit and veg okay. All in all a solid performer, but with this inescapable and rather alarming apparent intention to take over the world, or at least the UK. Moving into finance more heavily now, and rumoured to be interested in acquiring Northern Rock when it is released back into the wild. Not bad for a 90 year old surplus grocery stall - thanks Wikipedia.

Score 6.5/10


The Co-Operative is the venue for the remainder of our weekly shops. It's the largest consumer co-operative in the world, don't you know, and for some reason this makes me feel happy to pay prices which often seem to bear little resemblance to those in some of the above mentioned stores. My local Co-Op superstore is always alarmingly empty to the extent that one wonders how on Earth the place makes enough money to stay open. The answer I suspect is that it doesn't, but that 4.5 million members generate enough profit elsewhere in the various businesses to sustain the odd dead duck for a few years. I suppose the conclusion I've reached here is that, within reason, price is not the biggest issue for me when shopping. Quality, and nice wide aisles punctuated with a manageable volume of fellow middle-class shoppers are far more important, and when you couple this with the Co-Op's almost unrivalled (and I tip my hat once more here to M&S) commitment to fair trade, animal welfare, environmental friendliness and general all-round good-heartedness, it's a combination I don't think can be beaten.

Score 9/10

Monday, 10 August 2009


This is never going to work, yet still I persist. Am I waiting for something to happen?

Thursday, 30 July 2009


Tootling off to Cornwall for a wedding at the weekend. Not a fan of weddings on the whole - needless dressing up, boring ceremony, enforced talking with folks you've gone to great lengths to avoid over a number of years - you get the picture.

There will be fun elements to the trip though. There are those I will be pleased to see, those I have heard about but have yet to meet, and the chance to meander back slowly on Monday and take in some scenery. Who knows, perhaps the sun will shine? I'm not holding out much hope of that last one.

If nothing else, after a busy week at work (whatever next?), the distraction and alternative surroundings will be welcome. Just not the bloody wedding.

For the first time ever, I am approaching the status of regular gym goer. Not that I ever suffered from a lack of regular exercise. I just never used to get that exercise in a gym. I had always supposed that I would get horribly bored, but this doesn't seem to be happening so far. It's proved useful as a way to get some low-impact cardio-vascular exercise without aggravating my knee, which actual running and even swimming seem to do. Keyhole surgery is looking likely now. The sooner the better. The 5% loss of performance in the explosive and power elements of my chosen sport (football) which results from the various wear and tear issues within the joint is becoming more noticeable almost by the month. It's frustrating to know that I would be able to accelerate more quickly and kick harder, not to mention play more frequently, were it not for some minor damage and debris which can reasonably easily be remedied.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009


Summer has really grown on me in recent years. Like most people, I have fond recollections of endless summers comprised of unfeasibly long school holidays, weeks spent by the seaside, trips to the park and the like. But early adulthood brought with it a loss of affection for summer. Aside from the occasionally memorable holiday, the months of June, July and August became a meandering wilderness of unnecessarily hot days, high pollen counts and absolutely bugger all to do. Sports I liked to watch, and play, were replaced by those I wasn't so keen on. I wandered aimlessly around at the weekends, achieving nothing. I can't even remember what I did in the evenings, so it can't have been anything significantly life-enhancing.

My new perspective on summer has, I suppose, been influenced by having someone special in my life. Long days and clement weather now bring with them opportunity. Opportunity to explore, both locally and afar. Opportunity to be active, try new things and learn new skills. Opportunity to have fun. Citirizine even allows me to do it without sneezing (most of the time). As for the paucity of winter sports - frankly, nowadays I need three months to recover from the exertions of last season anyway.

Whilst I still prefer winter, I have to admit that summer has a lot going for it. Rejoice in the differences, as someone once said.

Friday, 5 June 2009


Election fever! Hardly.

Summer well and truly upon me. Mini fitness regime underway. Abbreviated sentences for no apparent reason.

I stayed in a very ordinary hotel this week. Being away always reminds me how much I prefer being at home. Not entirely because I am the sort of person who prefers to be at home. It has a lot to do with my home being such a great place. If it weren't, I'm sure I'd be a lot more inclined to travel.

Say hello, if you have the time.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009


Today will be about rain, work, omelettes, football.

Two of these I like. Two I'm not so keen on.

Summer-related excitement is now upon me, tempered by the fact that I now have five solid weeks of work, with only the occasional weekend distraction to carry me through to the second week of July, when the real fun can start.

I went to a gym for the first time ever at the weekend. There is some merit in it I suppose, though hardly any of the machines there offer something I can't achieve away from the place in a far more stimulating environment. I was quite taken with the rowing machine, so will probably start going a couple of times a week, at least until the end of the summer.

I fancy going strawberry picking soon.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009


What is the collective noun for a group of nouns?

Theatre Review: Waiting for Godot, Theatre Royal Bath.

Very good indeed.

Try keeping your vodka, whisky and brandy on a higher shelf. It lifts the spirits.

Friday, 27 March 2009


How do you know when a question is rhetorical?

Sun streaming through the blinds here today. I am making lots of typing errors (I correct them, or course). Just one of those days when I don't seem to be in full control of my fingers. Or is it my brain? Have been waking up early lately, but getting tired late in the day. I'd prefer to stay up later and wake up at a reasonable time, but I'm not sure how to readjust, since I wake up early no matter what I've done the night before. It's the lighter mornings, I think.

As comfortable as I am with the mundanity (non-existent word alert!) of it all, I don't think it makes for a very good blog. Maybe I should just make stuff up, or at least embellish the wholly non-newsworthy goings on which, erm, go on.

Is it just me, or are people driving more badly by the day? I cannot make the three mile journey to work these days without some idiot behind the wheel doing something illegal, stupid or just plain baffling. The worst piece of driving I ever saw was when a car in front of me pulled onto the other side of the road for about fifty yards, into the path of an oncoming vehicle, in the dark, on an unlit country road. Just before they collided, the offending car turned off into a driveway that was pretty much invisible. At no time did the car indicate. I actually found it quite funny, but the driver of the car coming the other way probably didn't share my amusement.

Looks like I'm getting gym membership. I've no intention of going, though I will probably swim a bit more. Sports and fitness activities without balls (well, at least one of them) just don't appeal to me.

Thursday, 12 February 2009


I can't seem to get the temperature right in this room. When you first walk in it's sweltering, but open the windows and there's a rather unpleasant draft at times. The answer would be to open the window slightly and wedge open the door, but it's too noisy in the corridor, and I don't want people to take it as an invitation to come in and start chatting.

Who'd have thought an ancient radiator would pump out so much heat? Hopefully when it is turned off it will be more bearable, though I can see it getting cold in here then as there isn't too much sunlight in this location.

New office, don't you know.