Thursday, January 29, 2004

Damp Squib

Apologies for the lack of posting yesterday. We had a small fire in our server room on Tuesday night and, although there was no damage to anything beyond the air conditioning unit, everything was disrupted yesterday morning and internet access didn't come back until the afternoon, by which point I was too busy to write anything. I had planned to write something last night but the journey home put paid to any hope of that.

Anyway, has anything momentous happened since my post on Tuesday? Let me see...

Ah! Of course. Blair's week of crisis happened, didn't it? No? What do you mean, it never materialised? But, but... The tuition fees vote! And Hutton! Oh, he won the vote and was cleared by Hutton. I see. What an anticlimax.

Somehow I'm not at all surprised that Blair escaped from criticism in the Hutton Report. I don't think he'd have said his job was on the line if there was any chance of him actually losing it. What does surprise me is that the whole government has come out of it pretty much completely unscathed. Granted, it wasn't the BBC's finest hour but can the government be said to be completely blameless? From what I saw, I don't think so.

As for the tuition fees vote, the result was such that both sides of the house can claim a victory. Labour can say they won the vote, conveniently forgetting that 90 of their MPs (over 20% of the party) didn't vote with the government (71 voted against and 19 abstained) whereas the Conservatives can point to the number of Labour 'rebels' while conveniently forgetting they lost the vote (though, to be fair to the Tories, given the majority the government has, they couldn't have had much expectation of actually winning it).

So the net result of this week is: no real change. Sure, the BBC is in 'crisis' - the Director General has already resigned and others may follow - but no one is (seriously) talking about this being the end of the BBC and the public generally still has confidence in the corporation. It will survive with no more than a few cuts and bruises. The government, and Tony Blair in particular, come away with even less than that, just a slight slap in the face from its own backbenchers.

What might have been the defining week of the year, politics-wise, ended up just being a damp squib. Thoroughly disappointing.


I've spent quite a lot of the last 18 hours doing impressions of various things. Firstly, I did my impression of an Alpine Nordic Downhill Cross-Country Slalom Skier as I clumped home from New Southgate station in the snow (like last year, the buses couldn't cope with the state of the roads). It's about a mile and a half and I made it in 25 minutes, which isn't bad at the best of times. That was made possible by the fact that I'd made like superman and changed in a phone box (well, a bus shelter, actually) and put on a jumper and a pair of boots. By the time I got home I was doing an impression of a thermo-nuclear reactor. I was so hot I could feel global warming happening right around me.

I collapsed into the armchair and spent the evening being an old, arthritic man. Every time I had to get up I groaned as my joints and muscles protested loudly. I was very grateful this morning that the one impression I didn't really do with much success was that of the insomniac. I tried, waking up a couple of times during the night but in between I slept soundly. Like a babe, you could say.

It continued this morning as I became a sardine on first a WAGN train and then the northern line before finally getting to work two hours after leaving home (twice as long as usual). Hopefully that's the end of it now. I don't want to do impressions any more. I'm looking forward to just being me again.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004


I can't really think of anything much to say today. My mind is all taken up with problems at work and my inspiration and creativity (such little as I have) are running in that direction. So, instead of anything well thought out, I offer you a few random bits and pieces.

The packing did get underway over the weekend and we're right on track. One thing I'd forgotten was the number of empty boxes that we'd shoved up in the loft when we moved in. There seem to be more now than back then. Maybe they've been multiplying.

Also at the weekend, we went shopping for furniture and appliances. Wardrobes, drawers, cooker, fridge, freezer, washing machine etc. It's amazing how easy it can be to spend large amounts of money without really thinking about it, isn't it?

I've made up my mind about the tuition fees vote this evening. I've decided to go with the personal gratification of Blair losing the vote rather than seeing a policy I actually believe in get passed. Does that make me shallow?

Is everyone prepared for the impending cold weather? Hats, scarves, gloves and thermal underwear all laid out on the bed ready for going to work tomorrow? Be ready to wade through drifts up to knee height on the way to the station tomorrow. That's drifts of grit thrown down overnight by the local council because they're panicking after having got it so wrong twelve months ago, of course. What? You were expecting snow? Not likely.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Chill Wind

It was noticeably colder when we left the house this morning and it's going to be positively freezing in a couple of day's time. Snow is apparently on the way, too. Hopefully it will be nothing like this time last year when I had a three and a half mile walk home in the snow when the tubes and buses packed up.

Is anyone else suspicious of the timing of this little cold snap? Or am I the only person who thinks a certain someone was casting weather-related spells as the plane took off, headed for the warmer climes of the other side of the world?

I have to say, though, it would be nice to have snow on my birthday next week. You'd think that having a birthday early in February would mean having wintry conditions to celebrate in but I don't remember being able to throw a birthday snowball since I was very young. Maybe this year...

Friday, January 23, 2004

Predicting the Future

They had an item on Breakfast this morning about how we'll all be staying in self-sustaining hotel 'pods' when we go on holiday in 2020. These pods would be multi-level buildings that sit on legs so they could be moved fairly easily if the need arose and wouldn't impact the local environment too much. I'm sure there were some other completely pointless reasons, too. Unfortunately, they don't have any details on the website so I can't tell you any more than that.

"What a load of crap", thought I. I mean, predicting the technological advances of the future has always been dodgy. Forty years ago, did anyone predict the internet? Or mobile phones? No, the imagined advances were always much more exotic than that. By the year 2000 we should have been living in space and have an artificially intelligent robot to do all the housework for us.

The people who said all these things can probably be forgiven for imagining them. After all, they had lived at the end of fifty years of fantastic technological advancement, with powered flight becoming common, the power of the atom having been harnessed and computers having been created. And they were just starting to explore space, too. It's hardly surprising that their thoughts ran in that direction.

But that's not how it turned out. And I can't see that this idea of hotel pods will be any different.

However, having said all of that, it can still be a lot of fun trying to predict what life will be like in 20, 30, 50 years time. And there's no reason not to use it as blogging material, so why not give it a go yourself? What do you think will be different in 2030? What will the greatest technological innovation of the next 26 years be? Will life be better or worse for it? Just post your ideas in the comments and I'll pick out the best ones at some point next week.

Then all we'll have to do is wait and see whether we are right.


We have a plan. It's not highly polished as yet and bits of it will probably remain of a 'suck it and see' nature but it is a plan. If we follow it, we should be all packed up and ready to leave the flat two days before we actually plan on moving. And, you know what? I think we'll make it easily. Writing it all down has shown us exactly how much needs to be done and, as long as we get on with it sooner rather than later, it'll be a breeze.

Essentially, the plan is to pack up all of the things that we don't see on a daily basis (everything in the spare room, in cupboards etc.) and leave the lounge pretty much as it is as long as possible. We want to be able to escape from Box City and have some semblance of normality. We also plan to spend quite a lot of time in the new place before we move in starting on the decorating and things so the sooner we get the packing underway the better.

We've already done a few bits and pieces but tomorrow we start in earnest with the spare room. Once we've cleared it out and packed it all up we'll be able to use it to store all of the boxes once they're full. Out of sight, out of mind, hopefully.

Like any mammoth task, it can be difficult to get started. You look at how much there is to do and can't see any way to make an impression of it and the next thing you know your motivation has disappeared. With luck, by the end of the weekend we'll have done a substantial chunk of it and it will just become easier after that.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Walking the Streets

Walking through the city during the morning rush hour can be a bit of a battle. I got out of Bank station and was about to walk up Lombard Street towards work when a dense stream of people appeared from the right. All of a sudden there was a solid wall of commuters crossing the road in front of me and disappearing again into an alley between a couple of buildings. Clearly I'd had the misfortune to time my arrival at Bank with that of a trainload or two of passengers recently disgorged from Cannon Street station. Bugger, I thought,and waded in. I had to fight every inch of the way through this ever denser flood of humanity lest I end up carried away by the flow and deposited somewhere on the other side of the Stock Exchange, not at all where I wanted to be.

I finally reached the far side, bruised and breathless and continued on my way to work. It got me thinking, however, of what it would be like to have an eagle eye view of the city and be able to see whether the view of how people walking along the streets interact with each other changes if you look at it at the macro level.

I know, I know, that sounds really sad but I'm afraid that sort of thing just fascinates me.

Marathon Effort

Last night, at about ten minutes to midnight, I finally finished reading Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series (at least, as much of it as has been released to date). It's taken me about six months to read the first ten volumes. All 8000+ pages of them. I've been so immersed in the world he's created that it's even intruded on my dreams. And now I'm going to have to wait at least 18 months for the next instalment and I'll probably have to reread the whole thing again before I get to volume twelve (that's the one problem with reading something so huge - it's impossible to remember every last detail 3 or 4 years after you read it and that can make reading any new books more difficult). For now, though, I can take a break from it all.

So, what's next? Well, I bought a few other SF/Fantasy books after Christmas and there are still some books sitting on my shelves that I want to reread so I'm well off for reading matter. First up is Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds. About as far from the Wheel of Time as you can get in the genre, which is probably a good thing. Reynolds' first book, Revelation Space was a masterpiece of original science fiction and I'm hoping that Chasm City lives up to it. The first couple of lines would appear to bear this out:

"Dear Newcomer,
Welcome to the Epsilon Eridani system.
Despite all that has happened, we hope your stay here will be a pleasant one."

It builds the intrigue nicely and makes you want to read on.

I think it will make a fresh change from my marathon effort.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Tuition Fees (Again)

I didn't see Newsnight on Monday when Tony Blair faced an audience of current and prospective students over his plans to introduce top up fees for university but on the news yesterday I did see the girl who is studying medicine who attacked Blair and his plans.

Her argument went something like this: "If a dustman has a heart attack and I save his life isn't it right that he should have paid towards my training through his taxes?" This argument is flawed in a few ways.

Before I get into those, I'll just reiterate that I find myself in the unusual position of actually agreeing with Blair on this issue. Frankly, that just doesn't happen very often and it feels very strange. On the one hand, I'd love to see him lose the vote next week but on the other I want him to win. Very odd.

As for the argument above, firstly it should be pointed out that no one is suggesting that students should foot the entire bill for their university education. The government will still give grants to universities so the dustman will be making some contribution to his eventual saviour's training anyway.

Secondly, and most trivially, if you extend her argument she is effectively saying that she's only doing it as a public service; she's not going to get any personal gain or gratification from it. Fair enough, if she's not going to get anything from it on a personal level then she shouldn't pay anything for it. But I bet that's not true.

More importantly, though is that there is a flipside to the argument which she hasn't followed through. Or maybe she has since she chose another public sector employee as the example. I'm sure she wouldn't mind if I change the dustman into, say, a milkman, who works for a dairy, not the government. If she is saying that the milkman should pay for her training as a doctor then, surely she should pay for the milkman's, too? Even if it isn't a degree in milk delivery. Granted she may not actually get her milk delivered and so doesn't 'need' the milkman but how about someone equally 'menial' who works for a power company? Or a supermarket? Follow the argument to its logical conclusion and before you know it, all training would have to be paid for out of taxes.

And what about courses that aren't of such obvious benefit to others? Such as Media Studies or Paleontology or my own degree, Mathematics. Who pays for those?

Nothing I have seen so far has made me think that students shouldn't contribute to their own education. After all, a university education is not purely about gaining knowledge and it is not something that is available to everyone so why should those who have to miss out pay for those how don't?

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

New Inspiration

As I said on Friday, I have now moved offices and have had to become much more careful about my online activities. Consequently I have been writing most of my posts the night before I post them and have cut down on the number of blogs I visit during the day. The problem is, as a result of the move, I now have more to blog about than I did before. Annoying isn't the word for it.

The office I was in before was on a quiet little road just inside the East End and the windows were small and at normal height so when I was sat at my desk I couldn't really see anything of interest outside. Add to that the fact that the office was generally very quiet, because the business that we support was in an office 15 minutes walk away so no one ever popped round just for a chat, and you can see that it was very uninspiring as far as blogging went. Now I sit next to a floor to ceiling window on the first floor looking across a busy junction in the middle of the city. There are always people wandering by outside, providing me with material just when I can't blog it easily.

For instance, for the last couple of days the world's most disinterested leaflet distributor has been stood on the other side of the road. He has been sheltering in the fire exit of the building opposite, staring at nothing and only marginally waving the leaflet he's being paid to give out in the direction of every fifth person to walk by.

Your average city worker is very adept at avoiding anyone who looks like they might be giving out leaflets. It's a skill you learn quickly otherwise you'd never get to work in the morning what with the swarms of them descending on you from the moment you get out of the station. There's a certain look you put on your face that says "Look, just don't bother. I had a really shit night's sleep and the train was twenty minutes late. If you even think about approaching me with that leaflet for 25% off in Tie Rack I'll take it from you and ram it up your nose." You shove your hands deep in your pockets so they can't be tempted to take hold of something when they think you're not looking and you keep an eye on everyone just to deny anyone the chance to slip a 'Free Starbucks Coffee When You Spend Over £100 In Austin Reed' voucher in your bag or under your arm.

If you were walking past this guy, though, you'd be hard pushed to notice he was there, let alone need to avoid him. He's obviously not bothered about actually handing his stack of leaflets out so it makes you wonder why he just stands there instead of dumping them and spending the afternoon in the pub. I've thought about going over to him and asking for one of them but I think he'd die from shock so it's probably not such a good idea. On the other hand it might put him out of his misery.

Engineering Works

We went up to Stevenage on Saturday because it was my Dad's birthday. The train journey would normally take just half an hour or so but, due to engineering works, buses were replacing trains between New Barnet and Stevenage. We weren't in any great hurry so we didn't mind this too much but it reminded me yet again of how little the rail companies seem to think about their customers when it comes to rail replacement services. There were perhaps fourty-five people on the coach that left New Barnet at 11.30, bound for all stations to Stevenage. It took almost 90 minutes to get there, two to three times as long as it would have done without all the intermediate stops. And that's my point. The people who are inconvenienced most by these bus services are the passengers that don't want to get off at the intermediate stops. With a little thought the rail company could have laid on a two-tier system, using two smaller coaches instead of a single big coach with one doing the all stations bit and the other going direct to the final destination to cater for the through passengers.

It may cost a little more to do it that way but in the end, their passengers would think better of them for it.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Laughter Free Zone

I don't know about you but the first thing I look at on a Monday morning when I've not been on the internet all weekend is the Make Blue Witch Laugh Award for the previous week. Often with a little hope, I read through the nominations to see whether my name appears anywhere in it. It even has a couple of times, though I'm always just the support act; the straight man who sets up the laugh for the real comedians.

If you take a look at the MBWLA score sheet, you will see my name on it, with a single point against it. That point has been there, all on it's own, for months now, making it seem like I actually managed to Make Blue Witch Laugh, once upon a time. But even that's not true. I was given it just for being helpful. Is it too much to hope for another, properly gained point to keep it company through the long winter nights?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not in this for the mhoney so the points aren't that important to me. Really it's the glory I want. The chance to display the trophy here for a week. All I need to do is write something that will Make Blue Witch Laugh. Sounds simple doesn't it?

Now, though, there's an extra incentive. BW is going on holiday next week so the winner of this week's competition will get to keep the trophy for three whole weeks. Three weeks! Even someone as useless with web design as me should be able to work out how to display it in that time. Just. The only problem, of course, is the 'Ronseal' nature of the award - to win you have to Make Blue Witch Laugh and I just don't seem to do funny very well on this blog. Not laugh out loud funny anyway.

Maybe if I make myself sound pathetic enough she'll give it to me out of sympathy?

No? Oh well. ;-)

Sorting - Spare Room Shelves

The sorting continued yesterday afternoon with the last remaining area of general bits and pieces under the microscope, the deep shelves in the small gap between the end of the built in wardrobe and the outside wall in the spare room. We knew what was on most of them and mean to keep it all but there was a pile on the floor underneath them that yielded some things for the binmen and a few bits and pieces from the shelves themselves.

Because I was the first of the three of us (i.e. me and my two brothers) to move out of home and into my own flat, rather than one shared with mates at university, two years ago I was the recipient of various 'charitable donations' from my parents and grandparents of all sorts of stuff, mainly for the kitchen. (The same is happening now that we're buying our first home, instead this time it's furniture - thanks to them we don't have to think about getting a dining table or three-piece suite!) Most of it was old, practically worn out appliances; food processor, toasted sandwich maker etc, that we haven't used since we acquired them. Hence, once I was in my ruthless chucking out mood again, they all found their way into a plastic bin liner and into the bin.

They were joined by a collection of old offcuts of wrapping paper, some old photos that I'm never going to put into an album, two copies of Championship Manager, which I haven't played in two or three years, one of those funny little rugs that fit round the bottom of the toilet and an eight-foot square throw that I bought for £20 in my first year at university. I desperately needed something to cover the yellow-painted brick walls of my room in halls and this great big, dark throw with a huge sun in the middle of it and the various astrological signs arrayed around it fit the bill perfectly. It also covered the sloping roof in my second year room and made the round trip to Germany, too. But I haven't used it at all since I left university except to cover the unsightly double bed in the spare room of our first flat and I'm unlikely to use it again so it's got to go.

I also decided that I really don't need the 60+ copies of Web User that I've been getting for two and a half years so they've gone into the recycling bin.

I'm getting quite good at this ruthless stuff, getting rid of things I wouldn't have dreamed about losing the last time I moved. Maybe my priorities are changing now that we're actually going to own the place we live in.

That just leaves clothes and books to go through, I think. I somehow doubt that I'll get rid of much from those two categories, though.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

A Pleasant Thought

Isn't it amazing how quickly we forget? Two or three months of having the heating on and the windows closed against the cold and wet and it's difficult to recall the long months when the opposite applies.

The heating has been on this morning, the flat is warm but not hot and I have been sitting in the bay window of our living room, with the sun streaming in and a small window open. I was sitting there just now, reading and thinking about where to go for lunch, when a breath of deliciously cool, fresh air gently rolled over me.

"Ah! Summer is coming," I thought.

That may seem an odd thing to say in the middle of winter but it's true. That breath of air carried the promise of an end to the days of darkness and stale air and a beginning to those of light, warmth and blessedly cool breezes.

They're coming and they won't be too long.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Give us the Games!

New York, London, Paris, Madrid.
Everybody's talking about...Olympic bids

London's bid for the 2012 Olympic Games was officially launched today and I have to say I feel quite excited about it all. I know there's still 18 months until the decision is actually made and we face stiff opposition from Paris, Madrid and New York but it's difficult not to think of what it will be like if we do win. The Commonwealth Games in Manchester proved that this type of event can be made into a great success in this country and there's no reason to assume the Olympics would be any different in London. The city would be literally buzzing, I'm sure.

Listen to me, saying 'we' as if I'm involved somehow. I'm not, of course. I won't even be a Londoner by the time the decision is made, let alone when the opening ceremony comes along (probably) but that won't stop me acting like one where the Olympics are concerned. I'm even happy for the Government to use my hard-earned tax to pay for it.

The bid is, naturally, focused around the Olympic Park which is to be built in the East End. It will include an 80,000 seater stadium, aquatic centre and velodrome as well as accommodation for the athletes and general regeneration of a fairly rundown area. If it all happens it will be fantastic.

But I don't think that's what's won me over about the bid. What I like is the fact that familiar London landmarks will be used for some of the events, such as Hyde Park hosting the Triathlon and Archery at Lords. The best of these, though, has got to be the most unlikely pairing of Horseguard's Parade with Beach Volleyball. I mean can you imagine what that would look like? I think we should get the nod from the IOC just for coming up with that particular location!

The one bit I don't really like is the poster campaign 'Leap for London'. A picture of a hurdler jumping over Tower Bridge just doesn't do it for me, I'm afraid.

Of course, even if the bid is successful, there will be several hurdles to get over to make the Games themselves a success. Not least of which is the development of Crossrail, which will play a vital role in transporting people between the Olympic Park and the centre of London. But winning the bid may provide just the motivation the project needs for it to be finished on time.

Overall I think London hosting the Olympics would be good for the country, great for our capital city and fantastic for the East End and I will support it wholeheartedly.

Friday Afternoon Lethargy

Well, I've got that ususal Friday afternoon feeling. I can't be bothered to do any work at all. Thankfully, I don't have to do much since I've got to pack up my desk in preparation for moving to a different office over the weekend. It shouldn't take me that long to do it but I'm sure I can stretch it out a little bit.

Unfortunately, it may mean my daytime blogging activities become somewhat curtailed from Monday onwards. I'll have a nice desk by the window so I can spend hours just watching people go by but my screen is going to be more visible to people who shouldn't see me blogging than it is at the moment so I'm going to have to be more careful.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

League Tables

The big news on Breakfast this morning was how comprehensive schools are now performing as well as grammar schools. Blimey, I thought, that's good news. Then, of course, I listened to the whole story and realised what a load of crap it actually is.

In the latest set of school league tables, comprehensives are getting results as good as or higher than grammar schools in the 'value added' part of the table. Essentially, it means that pupils at these schools have shown a greater improvement in exam results when comparing tests taken at age 14 with the GCSE exams two years later.

Well, duh! Why is anyone surprised by this? Surely it's obvious that a comprehensive whose pupils only do averagely well at age fourteen have a much better chance to get their pupils to improve than a grammar school where the pupils were already gaining excellent grades? The grammar schools are still outperforming the comprehensives when it comes to the grades themselves so what is there to shout about?

This obsession with league tables is not good thing. A school and the education that it provides cannot be adequately portrayed by the few measures that are included in the tables and yet people are mislead into thinking it can. When it comes to statistics like this 'value added' bit it gets worse. Here is a statistic that was designed to portray schools that struggle with exam results in a better light and now that that is happening, all we hear is how these struggling schools are now comparable to the high flyers.

What we really need is an objective view of how good a school is overall. How its facilities rate, how good the academic education is, how well-rounded the overall education is, what the atmosphere of the school and its classrooms is like, the quality of its extra-curricular activities and a whole host of other factors. The problem is, of course, that so much of that view is not measurable so a published document won't ever really have everything you need to make the decision over whether it is the right school for your children. The only way to find out the things you want to know is to listen to the pupils already at the school and the reputation it has in the community.

Which is how it has always been done.

Terror in the Skies?

Yesterday saw another indication of how the western world has gone security mad when a Sudanese man was arrested after he was found to have a few bullets in his coat pocket. The bullets hadn't been picked up by the security arrangements at Dulles Airport in Washington DC and now there is a big uproar about the whole thing.

What? Let's be realistic here, just for a minute. The man had a few bullets in his pocket. Surely arresting him under the Terrorism Act is just a little bit much? I mean, it's not as if he was a threat to the aircraft or its passengers and crew, was it? Unless he's the world spitting champion or something.

Has the whole question of airport and airline security been blown out of proportion to such an extent that something like this can be seen as a security threat? As much as I'd like to say no I fear that I'd be wrong.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Current Affairs

When I first thought about writing a blog, one of the things I wanted to do was set out my views on whatever was happening in the news. However, I've never really done that, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, as a result of the Iraq war and the Dr Kelly affair I was becoming less interested in current affairs anyway and stopped forming opinions on it. Secondly, I was having trouble translating those opinions from the vague thoughts and ideas in my head into words on the screen and so I didn't do it.

I'm going to try and change that over the next few days or weeks. If I ever want to take thoughts out of my head and put them in a book then I need the practice and besides, I think I should be more aware of what's going on in the world than I have been of late. So, starting tomorrow, I'm going to write some topical posts and see if I really can write what I think.

Freie Blaue Himmel

Thanks to this search hit from somewhere in Germany I have been able to look at Google's translated version of Clear Blue Skies. Freie Blaue Himmel is quite a good read (assuming you know German), even if I do say so myself. One problem with it, though is that certain words (e.g. festive, hectic, whoever) can't be translated by Google and hence are just left in English. So, Google isn't perfect, after all. It also doesn't seem to read the closing tag for italics so most of the page is on a slant.

Still, it certainly is interesting to see things I've written in a foreign language.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

New Links

As you may have noticed, I have added a few new blogs on my sidebar. They are blogs I've been reading for a little while now so I thought it was about time I put them up there. Let me introduce you.

First of all we have Autoblography, written by Stuart. Does a very nice virtual coffee (or any other beverage under the sun, really) on a Monday so pop by next week and put in your order.

Then there's Not You, The Other One, posts on all sorts of subjects but most often about her (lack of a) sex life at the moment. However, she is trying to do something about that so keep an eye on developments.

Of course, Ron's World probably doesn't need any introduction for most of you but if you've never come across the phenomenon that is RW then think of a conversation you've had in the pub with a load of your mates that starts off all deep and meaningful but quickly degenerates into a series of smutty jokes and innuendo and you'll know what to expect from Ron's comment threads. I love 'em.

Last on the list is Tom Watson, MP for West Bromwich East. While I may not agree with his political affiliations, he writes in an open, honest and often amusing way and it is good to have an insight into the mind of someone within parliament. He doesn't just write about politics or tow the party line, either. Hopefully, other MPs, from across the political spectrum will take up his lead and start writing blogs, too.

So there you have it, four very different blogs, all of them (I believe) worth reading. Why not go along and see if you agree with me?


Why is it that people feel the need to press the button, repeatedly, at a pedestrian crossing when the fact that WAIT is lit is testament to the fact that someone has already pushed it. It's the same when you're waiting for a lift. You press the button to call the lift and then someone else will come along and press it three or four times in quick succession.

Why do they do that? Do they really think that the lights will change/lift will arrive any sooner because of their action? Why can't everyone just be patient and let things happen in their own time?


Going back to the subject of adverts briefly, I was watching Spitfire Ace on Channel 4 last night (which was very good, by the way) and saw one of the latest First Direct adverts, the one with the vicar and his wife, and I thought to myself "Blue Witch could do that" (advertise First Direct, not be the vicar's wife :-) ). That got me thinking about what products or services other bloggers would advertise.

Some are obvious. Elsie would probably endorse the products for sale at Italian Heels and for Annie Mole it would have to be London Underground (please note that Annie does not work for LU ;-) )

Diamond Geezer would advertise something to do with London, though I'm not exactly sure what and Stuart would front the campaign for Starbucks or some other coffee shop chain.

What about anyone else? Get your thinking caps on and let me know what you think you, or any other blogger, would advertise.

Monday, January 12, 2004


Following on from BW's post about blogland dreams, I had a blogging-connected dream on Saturday night. I don't usually remember dreams in vivid detail - more often than not all I can recall are vague sensations and perhaps the odd specific action - but this one was clearer than most.

I was walking with someone down the hill from my parents home in Stevenage towards the station when I suddenly became aware (whether by being told or what I don't know) that there was an awards ceremony for blogs taking place in a local theatre. The theatre, which doesn't really exist was small and called the 'Monty Python Comedy Theatre'. Inside it wasn't like any theatre I've ever seen. Instead it was more like a large, very brightly lit hall with a very long stage and the audience crowded around tables in front of it. There were a load of people on the stage, too but there wasn't a lot of award giving going on, just people juggling and fooling around, I think.

It was about this time that I realised that my companion was Charlotte from Sex And The City. But in my dream she was also a blogger and she had also been in Germany at the same time as me. It seems very odd now but, of course in the dream it was perfectly natural, though I was a little puzzled about why other people in the audience were looking at her a lot. We were stood at the back of the hall and I looked around wondering if I could spot Elsie in the crowd (because she's the only one of my readers I've seen a photo of) but I couldn't see her.

Then I woke up.

I know the root of the awards ceremony and the looking for Elsie thing, since on Friday I both nominated a couple of blogs in the Bloggies and saw Elsie's photo on Ron's World but as to the rest of it, I have no idea. Do you?

Sorting - Spare Room Boxes

I was going to post this yesterday evening but, although I could connect to the internet, I couldn't get any further than that - not even to my ISP's homepage. So, you get it as an extra post today instead.

On Saturday we continued with the sorting out and tackled three boxes of assorted stuff that have been carefully hidden away in the cupboards in the spare room since we moved in over eighteen months ago. One of them was half full of well preserved tissue paper that has been kept for the express purpose of wrapping all of the breakables when we move so that left two and a half boxes. I think we managed to part with about half of it and squeezed the rest of it into just one box. So we now have an extra two boxes to use for packing - a job well done, I'd say.

Amongst it all I have gotten rid of various old letters from various friends (including an old girlfriend). I knew the letters were there because I can remember reading one or two as I was packing them the last time we moved. I read a few more of them this time and I was struck by a touch of sadness because I'm no longer in contact with most of the writers. Life moves on and people drift apart, I suppose.

Along with the letters, I chucked out an alarm clock, 2 santa hats, a mapcase with holes in it (hence pointless for using to keep maps dry), a couple of pairs of mangy old hiking socks, my camera (it doesn't work and is now well out of warranty), my glasses (I never wore them and I probably need a new prescription by now), an Arsenal scarf and some reflective bands for cyclists (which were in a terrible state). Plus a whole lot of other, more non-descript junk.

I'm quite surprised by how ruthless I've been over it all. I mean, I've kept all of this stuff through two moves even though I knew I'd probably never use any of it again so why am I reacting differently this time? Maybe it's because we're now moving to our own place and I want to take more pride in it than I have in either of the flats I've lived in since I left home and that means not filling it with junk I'm never going to need. At least, not from the day we move in, anyway. ;-)

Friday, January 09, 2004

Sniff! Cough!

My head feels like it's full of mush, hence the lack of inspiration to write about anything so far today. However, someone at work has just sent round a link that I want to share with you all. I can't work out whether it's a spoof site or a real one (if it is real then it's highly disturbing) but if you want that special reminder of a loved one after they have passed away, you could always give Lifegem a go.


Thursday, January 08, 2004


The New Year is usually a very poor time for quality adverts on television. Practically every ad you see is for holidays, sales, credit cards or products to help you quit smoking. There are two ads in particular at the moment that I really don't like, though for different reasons in each case.

Firstly, there's the latest Capital One credit card advert. The premise is a couple of work colleagues at a restaurant. One says to the other "I'll get this because I've got a special low rate on my Brand X card." The other one says "Ah, but will it stay low?". "What do you mean?", says the first, looking worried. Then the voiceover man starts going on about how, with the Capital One card, you get a rate of 3.9% on balance transfers, for the life of the balance. Fair enough, you think, that's quite good. The problem I have with it, however is that the ad itself is misleading. Paying for a meal counts as a purchase, not a balance transfer and the small print on the ad says that purchases are 0% for six months and then rise to more than 13%, which you can hardly claim is a rate that stays low. Getting a credit card can be confusing enough without this sort of crap giving people wrong ideas. Grrr.

The second ad is the new Government anti-smoking one and I don't like it purely because it turns my stomach, which, I suppose is exactly the point. For those readers who don't live in this country the new campaign focuses on the fatty deposits that build up in your arteries if you smoke. Not only do the have a tube that look like an artery from which they squeeze some disgusting, off-white fatty gunge but it also has shots of various people smoking and the same gunge is dripping out of the end of the cigarettes. The bit that really turns my stomach is at the end when a woman brushes a blob of the stuff from where it's fallen on her trousers. Absolutely disgusting. As an ad with a message it is very powerful and works very well. Thankfully, I do not need to take any notice of it since I'm not a smoker.

Generally, I like ads that don't assume I'm as thick as two short planks and present themselves in a clever and/or funny way. Not that they make me buy anything but they do lift the drudgery of having to sit through three or four minutes of crap in the middle of your favourite programme. Let's hope we get a few more of them soon.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Sorting - Music

Well, the sorting out has begun. Last night, we looked over the CDs and tapes and picked out anything that we don't listen to anymore and aren't likely to ever listen to again. For me, that included CDs by Arrested Development, A Tribe Called Quest & Dizzy Gillespie, among others, along with a trance version of Pink Floyd's album Wish You Were Here, which I bought in a fit of madness while at university. I got rid of far more tapes though, either albums I'd bought in the days before I had a CD player or ones I'd recorded to take to Germany (since I didn't have room to take anything bigger than a cassette player with me). I'm getting rid of tapes by Bjork, the Crash Test Dummies, Bryan Adams, Monty Python, David Lee Roth (an album that cost me about 75p in a discount bin in a German department store while I was out there) and the Beautiful South, to name but a few. Something like 40 or fifty of my tapes are going in total. The few I'm keeping, though, contains the first album I ever bought, Sting's The Soul Cages, which even now, almost 15 years later, I still love.

Between us we have reduced our CD collection by around a sixth and our tape collection by about 80%. Anything that can be resold will go to the nearest charity shop and the bin men can take the rest.

Next up will probably be a few boxes of assorted stuff in the back room that have been hanging around since L and I moved in together two years ago. I've got very little idea what's in them any more so there should be plenty of things to throw away there.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Nearly there now

Well, yesterday we finally gathered together all the forms that needed signing and sent them back to the solicitor and we should be exchanging by the end of the week, with a view to actually moving into our first home in about six weeks time.

So, now starts an intense period of sorting and packing (and buying new furniture - that'll be the fun bit). We're not going to start the packing for another couple of weeks - we don't want to be living in Box City for too long - but the sorting out starts straight away. I'll run regular updates here on exactly how much we've sorted and thrown out. That way I'll have some sort of record of the amount of crap I've managed to hoard so far in my life. It'll start tomorrow with music...

Search Me

I've been keeping an eye on the search engine referrals that lead people here since I started this blog four months ago but have never had any search hits of great enough interest to warrant putting them together in a post. At least, never until now. Over the last three days the following five searches have led people here:

bare in the big blue hose - I'm 15th on the list for this one. I love the way that two simple spelling mistakes have turned this search request for a children's TV programme into a request for someone who's naked inside a big pair of trousers.

neptune diva tub new orleans - No idea what this one's about but I come in third.


drink guinness for lightheadedness - This one's close to my heart as a do like a good pint of Guinness so it's good to be up there at number 5.

sex alleys in the phillipines - And where in the list do I appear for this last one? Where else? Number 1, of course.

I wonder if they found what they were looking for on Clear Blue Skies.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Good Journeys

We set off from Finchley at about 10.00 on Saturday morning, hoping to reach Preston (given the usual state of the traffic on the M1 and M6) around 3.00. Zooming up the M1 towards Luton, the expected slow down between Junctions 9 and 11 never happened - we continued zooming north. Then, onto the M6 we went and decided to take the new M6 Toll instead of chancing the M5 junction. What a lovely, fast, practically empty stretch of motorway that is - so new the embankments to either side aren't yet covered by grass. Well worth a couple of quid. Back onto the M6 proper the traffic was still moving well. Even with about 45 minutes in service stations, we were at our hotel by 2.15. An amazing journeytime.

The evening went pretty much as expected. The bride, a friend of mine from university, looked fabulous in her wedding dress, which she was wearing for the second time (the first was last month when they got married in the Dominican Republic) and the groom was rarely without a pint in his hand. Speeches were made, food was eaten and beer was drunk (in large amounts). We left earlier than most but some people were still going until 4 in the morning.

Then, all of a sudden it was time to head back home and another 4 hour journey saw us back in North London again. Never before have I traveled up or down the M1 or M6 without getting caught up in some bad traffic somewhere so for it to happen twice in one weekend was pretty good going.

I just wish I'd been able to catch up on some sleep on the way!

Friday, January 02, 2004

Ooh, I feel a little faint.

No posts for eight days and then four come along at once. I think I need to lie down for a while. Oh well, this'll be the last one until Monday as L and I are going all the way up to Preston tomorrow for a wedding reception.

Have a nice weekend, everyone.

Open mouth, engage brain

One of the things I may use my little notepad for, once I've got it, is to note down some of the stupid things that people say on the television. Almost everyday I hear something dodgy; either terrible grammar or some thoughtless utterance that carries an implication the speaker was just unaware of. Normally, I've completely forgotten about it by the time I'm sitting in fornt of a computer.

Not today, however. Last night, watching the news, they had a few brief words from some of the neighbours of those who died in the terrible minibus crash in South Africa, yesterday. One of these neighbours said something along the lines of:

"You just don't expect people who live so close to you to die in that way"

So, in what way do you expect them to die? Or did you mean that you only expect people who live farther away from you to die like that?

If only he'd engaged his brain before he opened his mouth.

Top 100s

Well, thanks to Channel 4, we now know that the worst pop song ever is "The Cheeky Song" by the Cheeky Girls, the best musical is Grease (thankfully, Sound of Music was beaten into second place) and the top TV moment of 2003 was England winning the Rugby World Cup.

Casting my mind back over the last couple of years, I can recall similar countdowns of the 100 best films, scary moments, kids' TV programmes, movie stars and books. And I'm sure there were others.

And, if they weren't enough for you, the BBC will soon be doing a similar countdown of the Top 100 sitcom's.

If the trend for this sort of thing continue's, as I'm sure it will, it will only be a couple of years before they'll be able to do a show called "The Top 100 Pointless Top 100 Shows!"

I can hardly wait.

New Year Ramblings

Happy New Year to you all!

I know, I know, I'm a day late but I just couldn't be bothered yesterday, all right?

I trust everyone had a good Christmas, with plenty to eat and enough alcohol to keep you bleary-eyed until yesterday morning? Good.

I have to say, if L and I had been at my parents' instead of hers, I'd have eaten and drunk a whole lot more than I have over the last ten days or so (disappointingly, I don't think I've put more than a couple of pounds on - that's just not good enough). L's parents aren't heavy drinkers over Christmas. But we had a good time, despite the present-opening going on until getting on for 5.00.

The two days at Mum and Dad's last weekend was better. On the way there I saw a trailer in a farmers field alongside the M40 (I think) which had the words "We love our countryside. We fear our Government." emblazoned on the side, which really tickled me, for some reason. Once there, the wine was flowing much more freely, along with the traditional family aperitif, Trinity, which is absolutely gorgeous (as long as you like gin, that is). We went to see the Return Of The King on Sunday afternoon, which was just fantastic, and came back to Finchley on Monday.

Tuesday was spent lazing around the flat and on Wednesday we went into town and visited the London Transport Museum (very interesting, if you are nuts about the tube and stuff, like I am) and wandered over to Trafalgar Square just in time to see Japan celebrate their new year (about 3 in the afternoon). The evening was spent quietly at home, with a nice meal, bottle of wine and a dvd.

Have you made any resolutions? The only one I've come up with is to buy a small, pocket-sized notepad to carry around with me that I can write bloggable ideas in. There have been several occasions this last week when I've seen or heard something that I wanted to blog only to find that I can no longer remember what they were.

Anyway, I feel somewhat rested and ready to face work again (something that I most definitely wasn't just two weeks ago) so the break has done me some good.