Sunday, February 27, 2005

Dim Sum

I never fail to be impressed by the beauty of the Docklands area of East London. Thirty years ago it was mostly industrial slums. Since then it’s been redeveloped into a major new business district with some stunning architecture along with hundreds of new riverside flats and leisure facilities. Walking through Docklands today makes me think of how it must have been to walk through Ancient Rome, when the Coliseum and all the great monuments of the Empire were newly built and pristine.

Today we happened to be walking through all the grandeur to get to the Royal China restaurant, on Canary Riverside. This was the venue of today’s brunch. To celebrate the Chinese New Year, Ping had organised a Chinese Dim Sum meal. Dim Sum is the Chinese equivalent of Spanish Tapas or Turkish Mezes: A variety of small dishes for you to mix and match into a meal. It was rather a stylish restaurant, with lots of colourful, stylised decoration over (presumably fake) black lacquer. The food was quite tasty, but nothing exceptional.

Ping can be quite sweet sometimes. He was handing round a book published by some literary society which is serialising the diaries of a friend of his and in which he is mentioned on occasion. Apparently the book is held on file in the British Library, so he is feeling as if he has been entered into the history of the nation – even though he thinks the portrayal of him in the diaries is unflattering. We each had a read of the relevant paragraphs and had to agree that it actually summed him up quite well. I’m not sure he was impressed.

After dinner Brett and I went with Jeremy F to take a river bus back towards the West End. I don’t think I’ve ever taken a river bus before; only the big tourist things with running commentaries. I was very pleasantly surprised by a large, comfortable, clean and fast boat. It’s really not a bad way to see the riverside sights, especially if you already know (or don’t care about!) the historical trivia along the way.

Spent the evening on the sofa with Brett catching up on our TV. The O.C., Desperate Housewives and then the final half of The Return Of The King (which strangely doesn’t seem nearly as long when you watch it in two halves.)

On a course this coming week, so I have to be up early tomorrow to get into the City for 9am. Ugh! That means commuting on the Tube at rush hour.

Poker Loser

OK, so I took yesterday off when I maybe could have gone into work - but then I always go into work rather than rest and then end up coming home absolutely feeling dead on my feet and having a terrible weekend. I slept through a lot of Friday and lay in bed or on the sofa most of the rest of the time and by lunchtime today, I was feeling more reasonable. I’m still popping the odd Vitamin C tablet, but I think I’ll be in good shape for next week.

Today we slept late and then had lunch at Café Rouge. Brett read his comics while I watched the world go by. After lunch I had a pile of Chorus stuff to catch up on that had been put off while I dealt with the trauma of the last few days (which is STILL dragging on, by the way!) Before I knew it, it was 7pm and John and Rich were arriving for a games night. We had a lovely evening, chatting away about life (and the Chorus) before ordering pizza and then settling down to play poker. John eventually won. I think I only won one hand all evening, so I came a clear last and would have been out altogether if Brett hadn’t been paying me to fill his wine glass! We emptied a good few bottles of wine before giving up for the night.

Rosie had arrived around 9ish. She had called me yesterday to say she was coming, but I was asleep when she rang and only remembered the call this morning after we’d offered her bed to John & Rich. Whoops! John and Rich were very decent though, agreeing to sleep on the lounge floor. Rosie was a bit jetlagged still (having flown back from New York earlier in the week, driven cross-country in the snow and then gone straight into her teaching schedule) so she had an early night.

We’re all off for lunch with the Brunch Club tomorrow. Some Chinese place (in honour of the New Year) on Canary Riverside.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

A Life in the Theatre

I shall blog now, just in case my suspicions are confirmed tomorrow morning and I have ‘flu. Spent most of the day struggling with a particularly persistent adware trojan in Madrid: Unsuccessfully as it turned out. I swear I have never been a great supporter of the death penalty – even for crimes such as murder – but the people who write these software parasites I would happily kill slowly and painfully with my own bare hands.

The storm of chorus politics has now passed through the high fever and is into the slow recuperation phase I think, with more balanced emails on both sides this afternoon.

This evening I met Ping for ‘dinner’ at Ed’s Diner in the Trocadero and we caught up on his trip home to see his family and moaned a bit about Chorus politics. Brett arrived in due course and had a burger too before we went on to the Apollo Theatre to see A Life in the Theatre.

The show was not what I expected. It was a series of many (sometimes very) short scenes – almost like sketches in a variety show, just Joshua Jackson and Patrick Stewart on stage. As Ping observed: the story didn’t build to anything; there was no drama so there was no climax. However through the course of ninety minutes, there was a subtle but continuous shift in the relationship between the two characters as Jackson grew from the awkward beginner to the confident performer and Stewart declined from master of the theatre to a relic.

Came straight home from the theatre, through a rather pretty but cold snowstorm, as I was feeling all the symptoms heralding the onset of ‘flu. Have taken some Vitamin C and drunk a fair bit of water and am now going to get an early night.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Hobbies and Pastimes

So today wasn’t much to write about. Had a pleasant lunch with Owen. The snowflakes blowing in the wind as I crossed Blackfriars Bridge were picturesque (and didn't stick!) Work was okay. The last half-hour and my evening were spoilt by an email eruption of personal politics with some members of the Chorus committee. I was so wound up I fired a salvo back by email when I got home – which is unlike me; usually I am the one advising people against heated replies by email. I guess I’m getting to the end of my tether with it all. How is it that a hobby we do, ostensibly for the enjoyment it brings, can generate so much negative energy? Human beings are strange creatures.

Once I’d done my e-bitching I closed down my email and watched the remake of the Thomas Crown Affair which is enjoyable and undemanding enough to take my mind off most troubles.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Winter Wonderland?

Just made a tweak to the blog: I’ve switched the RSS feed down to ‘short’ for egotistical reasons (i.e. I need you aggregators to hit the actual home page of the blog for my site counter to register you. Go on, it’s only one extra click!)

So how was Monday? First day of the week, so naturally it was a major test to get out of bed on time. I failed the test and ended up going to work unshaven and unfed. (What an example I set to my team…)

Mid-morning I got a request to restore some data from one of last week’s backups. The tapes for this job were offsite (for Disaster Recovery purposes, we keep the most recent set of backups away from the office) so I had to go and collect them. Off I headed, collected the tapes and then came back to work… to discover that I’d misread the email and the tapes I needed were actually in the cupboard next to my desk. Doh! Still I got to read my book on the train for 45 minutes.

Chorus rehearsal this evening went well. We were doing the interesting stuff ready for the next recording session because we had about fifteen prospective members attending rehearsal to see what we do.

It was snowing on the way home and Brett was singing ‘Winter Wonderland’ as we trudged through the dirty slush. Far too cheerful for a Londoner when it’s snowing. I’ll have to up his dosage of Scrooge tablets.

Sunday, February 20, 2005


So on Saturday we were up earlyish - and I really did not want to be. Saturday was our second recording session for the Chorus' Christmas CD and we had to be in town by 10:30 - which translated into almost as early a morning as we get during the week.
Anyway, we grumped our way into town and did eventually get energised by it all and got through the whole session in good time. The venue was good: The Henry Wood Hall. In beautiful condition and complete with on-site restaurant.
We finished around five and trouped en masse into a local gay pub, which coped admirably with the ten-fold increase in Saturday afternoon trade. After a few pints with the boys, seven of us headed on to Tas for dinner. A very pleasant dinner which ran on until gone ten.
We were pretty worn out when we got home, so went straight to bed.
Today has been domestic stuff all round. No news there. What's happened to the weekend? Where's it gone?


Over dinner last night we were discussing why the US series of Queer As Folk made so much more of an impression on the local popular consciousness than the UK version did. It may seem strange at first but it shouldn’t really. America is the country where you can buy hardcore pornography quite legally and openly but where a bared-breast on national TV results in a political lynch-mob.

America is a slightly schizophrenic country – with one personality in the heartlands and a different personality on the coasts. I wasn’t surprised to see this article from one of the BBC’s resident correspondents about the introspective, more moralising direction that the USA is increasingly taking. This one did surprise me though: The next generation from the self-styled Land Of The Free would seem to believe that the land is too free and should be less so. Not an attitude I care for from ‘the Leader of the Free World.’

Justin Webb observes in his article that Americans generally see Europeans as decadent and to be honest they are not far wrong. Europe is a collection of small ‘faded empire’ nations and ex-Soviet satellite states, struggling to find a place in the new global economy. I don’t have figures for other European states, but for the UK I can say that only 18% of our workforce actually produce tangible goods (less than 1% are farmers!) – which leaves over 81% employed in the ‘Service’ industries. Even the USA isn’t that bad (26% and 73% respectively!)

It seems that Europe can agree on the nobler things, such as pollution and global warming, even though we cannot agree how to govern the continent. So where does that leave us?

Since it looks like more and more Americans are expecting the Biblical Apocalypse to start any day now I guess they don’t feel the need to worry about greenhouse gases. In fact, since the trends mentioned here are hardly likely to appease Islamic Fundamentalists, maybe in some bizarre Dr Strangelove fashion, they will actually bring about the end of the world while trying to remake it in their own image!

So you’d better hope that there is some future in closer European integration, because somebody’s going to need to pick up the pieces when America finally disappears out of sight down that ‘road less travelled.’ But then again who says it has to be any of the current field leaders? Maybe China will beat us all to the punch.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Bonus Dinner

Only two things remarkable about today: One was hearing that I was getting a special bonus for ‘outstanding’ performance in moving our Leeds Office to their new building. The other was a quite special dinner this evening at a local restaurant.

The bonus was a total surprise, but apparently three or four people in Leeds had nominated me because the move was so flawless. I’m surprised as there wasn’t really anything to it from an IT point of view, although I suppose it’s proof that thorough planning is what makes a successful operation. Thanks should probably go to Saga for teaching me that.

Dinner tonight wasn’t a surprise; I’d kind of got the idea last night watching TV. I suddenly realised that we hadn’t eaten out in a while and I fancied a bit of a nice meal with a good bottle of wine and some good company. I did a bit of hunting online today (since our previous strategy of wandering into any restaurant that looks nice hasn’t really worked well) and managed to get us a table at The Light House in Wimbledon Village.

It was a good choice. Each course was melt-in-the-mouth delicious. The service was attentive, friendly and relaxed. They had an extensive wine list and the Rioja we had was very drinkable. I would heartily recommend it to anyone looking for somewhere to dine around the Village.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

It's Showtime!

Work is picking up again. I’m having lots of fun tuning the Print Accounting software and planning the roll-out. My techno-geek side is in full flow. Actually having real work to do means I’m not spending nearly so much time reading the news wires, so I guess I’m not going to be ranting too much in the near future.

I also spent a fair amount of time helping my boss get to grips with how firewalls work and setting up a little test network for a project we’re going to be starting shortly. Oh yes, geek heaven!

Cycling home from work was a bit miserable. It was somewhere between mist and drizzle in the air. It was condensing on the inside of my visor which reduced visibility. The fact that the batteries in my front light were on their last legs didn’t help matters. I almost ran into a parked car coming into Wimbledon!

I survived the journey though, albeit cold and soaked through. Brett made my day by having dinner ready for me when I got out of a lovely hot shower. So it’s been a night on the sofa since then: First Huff, then The O.C. and lastly Desperate Housewives. Now it’s time for an early night.


Hah! Looks like I spoke too soon about stopping ranting. I’ve just googled Huff, looking for a link to include so you can see the official site for the show. When I went to the page, part of Showtime Networks website, I get a message which reads “We at Showtime Online express our apologies; however, these pages are intended for access only from within the United States.” In fact I get the same message for the whole site. What the f**k is that all about? Haven’t they heard that it’s called the Worldwide Web? If one of my American readers would be so kind as to go to the site and look up the email address for their Customer Service department, I’d be very grateful if you could forward it to me or post it in a comment to this entry. Cheers, L.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Chorus

It occurs to me that I’m always mentioning The Chorus in my blog and some people may not know what I’m on about. Well, I’m on about the London Gay Men’s Chorus, a group of (fairly) high renown both at home and abroad.

There are over 150 members, although not all of them sing and of those who do sing, not everyone performs at every concert. We do a wide range of shows: At Christmas we were doing a blockbuster Christmas show which filled the Barbican Hall. Shortly before that we’d performed in the Parish Church in the town of Pinner.

We also do all sorts of ‘community’ events too. These are usually smaller, more intimate and often moving events. The Chorus sang at the memorial service for the bombing of the Admiral Duncan Pub in Soho and more recently at the Holocaust Memorial Day. Often these events have some gay relevance, but that isn’t always so: In 2004 we were asked to serenade a young man and his fiancé in Trafalgar Square as he asked her to marry him! We just love that kind of thing!

The music we sing is very varied. I think that most people’s expectations when they hear that we are a gay choir are stereotypical: Abba, Cher, Barbara Streisand, gay anthems and lots of Show Tunes. Don’t get me wrong, there are elements of most of those in our repertoire somewhere, but we also have a range of classical music and more diverse contemporary pieces which we enjoy singing just as much. Doing something unexpected can often have a bigger impact on an audience than turning up in a sequinned costume and singing It’s Raining Men.

One of my favourite recollections of this is the opening of our performance at the GALA Festival in 2004. (GALA is a gay choirs association, so we were performing in front of several thousand of our peers.) We were waiting off stage as the host gave us a very witty, but undeniably camp introduction. Then, as the piano softly played our introduction, we walked slowly onto the stage, heads bowed, to begin singing almost sotto voce, the reflective opening of Verdi’s Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves. It was a very powerful moment. It caught the audience totally by surprise. Personally I think we performed it as well that day as we ever have and as the last notes died away, there was a beautiful moment of silence before the whole place exploded into cheers and applause.

I joined the Chorus a little over two years ago, in January 2003, almost by accident. I had been bemoaning my lack of any gay social life and how I hated the gay ‘scene’ over the New Year. When I got home I noticed an advert for the Chorus, saying they were having an intake evening the following day. So I went along, very nervous, and haven’t looked back since. Sure enough, I now have a wider social circle, I’ve rediscovered the joy of performing generally and singing in particular. Best of all I met Brett, my partner, through the Chorus.

So if you haven’t already, check out the Chorus website to see when our next gig is. You could also buy a few CD’s while you’re there! (I performed on the Showtime album and the forthcoming Christmas CD.)

The LGMC: Well worth coming out for!

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Valentine's Humbug

Tempus fugit! It only seems like yesterday that I was reading the Magistrate’s blog about Identity Cards. I’d spent Sunday morning and early afternoon in work applying patches to servers. After that the evening just seemed to disappear while I kept up with my Chorus emails and a couple of TV shows.

Monday was a frustrating day at work. I spent a lot of it helping an engineer install some software which will control our photocopiers and, in due course, allow us to track each print and copy job back to a user and/or a project number so we can charge it back to a client. This is long overdue for our company, but the process of getting it installed is tedious. The day wasn’t improved by a user arriving half an hour before we were due to leave wanting a new machine to be configured (from scratch) for them by the following morning. Dream on!

As a result I went into the regular Monday night Chorus rehearsal with less than enthusiasm, but I got through it and even managed to enjoy it somewhat – even though we are still revising the Christmas carols ready for our next recording session.

Yesterday was also Valentine's Day. I’m happy to say that I didn’t send or receive any cards. Nor did we go out to an overcrowded restaurant and pay an inflated price for a meal. I did tell Brett I loved him though – but only after midnight had passed! Maybe you can tell that I think the whole concept of Valentine’s Day is a con? I feel demonstrations of one’s love should be more spontaneous. I’m certainly not going to be pressured into it because of an obscure, possibly non-existent, Catholic Saint whose feast day is no longer actually celebrated by the church itself! The whole event is feeling increasingly like the commercialism of Christmas. Bah, Humbug!

Anyway, today was more interesting. Now that this new software is installed, I get to design its configuration (translation: muck about with it lots) so that it best suits our purposes. There were also interesting discussions between our Italian office and the corporate marketing team about how we present ourselves to international clients. That led to me being tasked with some interesting research and testing which should keep me occupied for a few days.

Tonight, Brett is at a Chorus meeting and I’m just catching up with more email. The Chorus is creating a GLBT Youth Choir as one of its community outreach projects and I, by virtue of being the Membership Committee Chair, am responsible for overseeing it so there has been lots of verbiage about budgets and publicity and background checks. What better way can you think of to spend your Tuesday night?

That was sarcasm by the way.

In other news: I made time to go to the gym yesterday afternoon and cycled to and from work today so I’m feeling pretty worthy right now. I even managed to stay out of the biscuit pool at work – which means I’m committing not to eat any biscuits with my tea for the next few days. How good is that for a weak-willed, sweet-toothed gastrophile like me?!

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Identity Cards

This from the Magistrate's Blog which I read regularly. All I can say is: Hear, Hear!

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Et In Terra Pax Hominibus

Friday was an interesting day. At work, everything was quiet again on the ‘real’ support front, but we did get no less than three ‘personal’ calls, of the ilk: “I’ve just bought a new computer and I want to do [this] with it.” We try to be as helpful as possible without actually volunteering to do any of the work ourselves…

There was also a bit of an explosion of Chorus politics at one point, where I was being accused of all sorts of wicked deeds. By the end of the day though I was receiving profuse apologies from my accuser talking about pressures of work and being caught at a bad moment. So we had a happy ending and peace was restored.

Friday night we went to see Sideways, which was a watchable enough movie. Can’t say I was overwhelmed by it, but it was an intelligent and subtle story and I was curious to see it, having read about it in one of the blogs I read.

Saturday, Brett was off to the inaugural rehearsal for the Chorus’ new Small Group. (One of the topics he was hoping they would discuss is a more interesting name!) While he was doing that I headed off into town to see the Turks exhibition at the Royal Academy.

The morning started off beautifully. We had a lie in and a lazy breakfast. The weather wasn’t unpleasant as I walked to the station and caught the train. When I changed at Waterloo for the Underground I had a rather surreal moment: I was listening to the opening [sample from here] of Vivaldi’s Gloria in D on my iRiver as I walked onto the main concourse and it felt so like the opening moments of a film: the titles have just faded away leaving the music still playing over a crowd scene. Any moment now, the camera will home in on the star and the story will be underway.

As it happened I didn’t go off on any adventures with the movie star of your choice, I just got on the Bakerloo line with the words ‘Soundtrack to your life’ ringing in my head, alongside Vivaldi. (That would have been such a marketing coup for whoever invented that slogan – if only I could actually remember the product it was used to advertise…)

Now you would think that the Royal Academy of Art would be pretty experienced at staging exhibitions. That’s what I had thought until I got there. In the courtyard there was the tail of a long queue and a girl wearing a Royal Academy sweatshirt chatting to people at the back of it. I asked if I had to queue to pick up pre-booked tickets and she said yes and then tried to sell me a membership of their ‘Friends’ society. (No thanks.)

Shortly after I arrived she disappeared and I realised the queue was very slow moving for people who were just collecting tickets. Unfortunately there was no signage, no-one around to ask and I was loathe to leave the queue as a group of about fifteen people had joined behind me. So I stuck with it. For half an hour. I was mildly relieved, once I made it into the building, not to see any signs saying ‘pre-booked tickets here’ and so I waited patiently to get to the desk. When I finally did, the attendant was most apologetic and directed me over to the Information desk which, on closer inspection, did have a (very small!) sign about collecting tickets.

I did look for the girl with the Friends leaflets so I could have words, but she wasn’t to be seen.

To cut a long story short, at the Information desk I enquired after my Internet-booked ticket but, in the words of Little Britain: “Computer says No.” It took them another twenty minutes of incompetence to find it (Safely printed out and in an envelope behind the desk!) by which point I was ready to commit GBH on anyone else who got in my way and I was more than an hour later than I had expected to be.

I went and found a quiet bench to sit down and unwind a bit before heading into the exhibition.

The artefacts and the information about them were excellent. I would recommend the show, even if you’ve only ever heard of Ottoman sofas and never of the Empire, I think you’ll enjoy it. The artistry and craftsmanship displayed, particularly in the later pieces, was stunning in its beauty and intricacy.

An good example would be an Imperial Monogram of one of the Ottoman Emperors on display. It was a large piece of paper (about twice the size of most movie posters) on which was inscribed the massive monogram (more like a logo, actually) of the Emperor, done in perfectly wrought lines of gold and aquamarine. The beauty though, was that in between the wide strokes of the monogram itself were hundreds of tiny flowers, branches, leaves and geometric designs, mostly no more than 5mm in diameter; each one, hand painted and perfect. It was awe-inspiring to contemplate how many hours must have gone into it and how carefully it had been done. The smallest slip of the hand could have ruined hundreds of hours of work.

The exhibits were rather poorly lit though – the overhead nature of almost all the illumination meant that it wasn’t hard to throw a shadow over an object if you tried to examine it at close range. The exhibition was also very crowded (Saturday afternoon. What did I expect?) – but I got around that by using the booklets they had by the door of each gallery which contained all the artefact information in large print. So long as you could glimpse the number of the object, you could look it up in the booklet and examine it from the back of the case, away from the press of the crowd.

It took me three hours to get through with the exhibition, by which time it was time to go and meet Brett after his rehearsal. We went out for a drink afterwards with the group and Charlie, our Musical Director. We pretty much took over the top floor of the pub. After a pint and a lot of chat, four of us headed off to Norbury to attend John and Nick’s housewarming party.

I’d been a little bit wary of going to the party following yesterday’s conflagration, but in the end it was a good thing as there were lots of hugs, kisses and apologies – and the peace was reaffirmed.

It was a good party too. Amongst other highlights, Paul A and I reminisced about our various experiences in Beijing and I met somebody else (One of Nick’s ex-boyfriends) who had dumped their boyfriend (Nick) on Valentines Day. We decided we should probably form a club.

I think it must have been the pint at the Black Cap beforehand that did me in, but by 9:30 I’d only had another four glasses of wine and was quite happily drunk. We made our excuses around 10:30 and were home an hour later. What a pair of lightweights!

Thursday, February 10, 2005


So it’s been another mundane day. Ping reports from Malaysia that his parent’s house may be structurally unsound, so visiting the family for New Year is proving more eventful than he had expected.

My sister is mailing me Valentine’s cards to post on her behalf.

Brett is struggling with various programming languages I’ve never heard of as he tries to develop a member’s website for the Chorus.

Work is incredibly quiet at the moment. The only sound to be heard is the slurping of tea and the crunching of biscuits and the occasional crunch of The Croc setting off another round.

Maybe tomorrow will bring fulfilment. Or at least something more interesting to write about…

Intelligent Design

So having only yesterday got on my high horse about Indonesia introducing Islamic Law, I am today wondering how long before the USA starts down a parallel path with a stab at implementing Christian Law. This story from the BBC today relates a school in Pennsylvania insisting teachers instruct students in ‘Intelligent Design’ alongside Darwinian Evolution.

Having read a little about the Intelligent Design theories they don’t impress me much. They seem to me to be a cop-out: Desperately trying to seek meaning in the complexity of life by saying it must have been designed by God or some hyper-intelligent alien. It fails to ask how the creator came into being. By failing to ask that question, it is simply avoiding the question of ‘how did life start’ rather than answering it. There is a more complete discussion here.

The Intelligent Design idea is just an attempt to put a scientific face on Creationism to make it acceptable to teach Genesis in non-religious schools. Promoting faith in unprovable ideas over empirical evidence and hard science is the path back to the Dark Ages.

I wonder how the people of Pennsylvania would feel if their courts started handing out prison sentences because Judges had faith in people’s guilt, even though no-one had presented any evidence to that effect. There is a reason why there is a burden of proof - in science as well as law!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Ballet and buzzing off

I haven’t blogged for the last couple of days as I’ve been busy with Chorus stuff. Monday’s rehearsal was long and dull. We are now preparing the next segment of the Christmas CD recording so we are revisiting jolly Christmas songs, bar by bar, to polish them up.

Yesterday was the Chorus’ Membership Committee which, while it was a long evening, actually felt fairly productive – although I did come away with a lot of action points.

Work is very quiet at the moment and I am quite bored. I think that taking on the new member of staff before Christmas has eased the pressure on me. However I’ve been under that kind of pressure for so long that now it’s gone, I’m completely lost: I’ve no idea what to do next. I guess I should be doing whatever managers do, or planning The Next Big Thing for our network. Hmmm.

Yesterday at work I spent my lunch hour booking stuff for Brett and me to do. I booked our train and accommodation for the Paris trip. I booked us tickets for Matthew Bourne’s Highland Fling at Sadler’s Wells and tickets for Brett, Ping and I to see Life in the Theatre.
I've never been to a ballet before (well except for the school trip to see Coppélia when I was about 9) but we heard great things about Bourne's Swan Lake and then couldn't get tickets, so this is our substitute.

Brett may be getting sent to Sweden for several months with his job. In fact there are a couple of possibilities in the offing with his job, but none of them seem to be any closer to London or any more enjoyable or challenging for him. Sweden probably isn’t the worst of them – and I’ve never been there so it I suppose it would be a good excuse to go visit it lots.

Over lunch with John M today the idea of bumming around the world came up. The way things are going at the moment I could well see us doing that in another year when the lease on the flat is up. Possibly earlier if we really get pissed off. Carpe Diem and all that!

God's Law?

I don’t have any problem with God. I don’t happen to believe in most religions’ idea of a God but I’ve never seen proof that one doesn’t exist, so I’m happy to give other people their room to believe. Religion is a personal thing.

Up to a point, I also accept organised religion: So long as it is voluntary. However when people start deciding what others should believe, when people start making statements and writing books, claiming they are the words of God, that is when my concern starts. It worries me greatly: Even the holiest men are still men. Men are fallible. Words are imprecise. The meanings of ‘holy’ scripture changes in translation and with time. And just how do you check the authenticity of the author’s claim to divine inspiration? Neither the Torah nor the Bible nor the Koran were faxed direct from God’s desk, with his signature at the bottom!

Most of the major religions in the world today claim to be the one true path to God/Enlightenment/Heaven. Since they each require different things from their adherents, they clearly cannot all be right and none of them can actually prove their claim. So, either none of them are correct or the one true God is actually a sadist, condemning the majority of his creation to damnation. (But then, would you want to go to a sadist’s implementation of Heaven anyway??)

You can understand then, that I am somewhat alarmed when religious morals are enshrined in a country’s legal code as Indonesia is doing and other countries have already done. What makes the Indonesia story even more disturbing is that, according to their Justice Ministry, the prohibited actions (kissing in public and unmarried co-habitation) are only crimes if the people observing them are not happy about it. That sounds like rule-by-lynch-mob to me!

Wikipedia has an interesting article on Sharia law and how it is interpreted but it also shows how the ‘law’, which in my mind should always be clear and unequivocal, is often uncertain because of differences in translation and interpretation. That is not a good basis for a legal system.

Not that Christianity is any better than Islam. If you read the Old Testament of the Christian Bible you get very different ‘law’ than if you read the New Testament… and that’s before you even consider the inconsistent behaviour of Christ’s ‘representatives’ on earth.

Law’s written to govern nomadic peoples in the Middle-East, 1500-3000 years ago, are mostly not relevant to modern society. Keep religion a personal matter. Just because you believe something strongly doesn’t mean that other people have to as well.

Sunday, February 06, 2005


OK, so if yesterday was ‘self indulgence’ then today has been plain sloth. Brett cooked pancakes for breakfast and all three of us (Rosie has been down for the weekend) wolfed them down. Rosie was out for most of the day with Linda and Mike as it was their last weekend in the UK before they move back to the US. Brett and I spent the day watching TV, napping, surfing and generally being totally unfocussed.

Made a few plans for doing things. Next week while Brett is at the Chorus’ Small Group rehearsal I’m going to go see the Turks Exhibition at the Royal Academy. We’re also planning to go see Life in the Theatre which is currently playing in the West End.

I pondered a bit more on my wacky idea. Decided that I’d need to give people at least something for their money, which would probably mean limiting access to the blog and gallery to just the people who’d paid toward them, so I’d only be able to use pre-existing ones to entice new punters. Had a read through my recent travelblogs and think I would need more detail and comment for them to be saleable. I’ll have to try and do that with whatever short-break we take in March and when we do Paris with the Chorus in May.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Self Indulgence

Very pleasant day today. Slept late. Had a leisurely brunch at Café Rouge in the Village. Came home, Brett worked on getting his finances straight and then sorted out his comics while I caught up on my blogging, browsed the net for a while and then did the last of the washing-up from last night.

Tonight we ordered Indian and are snuggling on the sofa, watching The Two Towers ready for the final part of the trilogy tomorrow. Self indulgence is the name of the game today.

Travel by proxy, anyone?

I had this crazy idea in bed last night.

I love to travel, but don’t enjoy doing it as a job. I want to travel purely for the experience, to explore the culture and history of the places I visit. But I can’t afford to travel like this unless I somehow come into a lot of money. Playing the lottery regularly isn’t proving to be profitable and I don’t have any rich relatives. It struck me, though, that if there are people gullible enough to spend a fortune on all the scams going around on the Internet (okay, so most of them play to people’s greed) then maybe there are enough philanthropic people out there who’d be prepared to donate a few pounds each to fund my travel. I wouldn’t be fleecing anyone. I could be quite upfront about it: Lot’s of people making a small donation could make enough for me to go somewhere, write about it and photograph the experience for the enjoyment of my sponsors.

I have thought about trying to become a travel writer – but that would be travelling for a job, to a deadline, with pressure behind it. It wouldn’t be travel purely to expand my mind and have the experience.

In the past I’ve had my travel blogs complimented and I wonder if people would be prepared to pay for me to write them – or at least pay to fund the travel that would let me write them.

I haven’t worked out the details yet – or indeed worked out whether I’ve totally gone off the deep-end and no one would be stupid enough to buy into it. But surely it’s worth a try. There’s an awful lot of vicarious enjoyment of other people’s lives on the Internet. I don’t have the body to do porn or fashion modelling. I’m not a movie star or a sporting idol. Maybe writing about far away places will be my thing.

Do you think I could sell it? Travel – by proxy.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Curtis, Bruce, Rod & Jess

Today has been the day of old friends. It started with an email from Curtis. Curtis is a friend I met during my earliest days on the Internet. Before the worldwide web really made the news, when 28k modems were the fastest thing around, when it was still really quite exciting to be able to chat online to someone on another continent, Curtis and I started exchanging email through the Usenet newsgroup soc.penpals. We had a fair amount in common and have kept in touch over the years. Whenever we are within striking distance, we will pay a visit and catch up. It seems that Curtis has now bought himself a property – something which I am beginning to despair of ever doing again – although his job sounds a little unsettled at the moment. On the up-side, though, he’s off to Australia for a few weeks towards the end of this month and hopes to make a week in England in July.

Bruce, another old friend, had sent me an SMS message a few days ago and I was determined to reply today. We exchanged a few emails. He’s just bought himself a new bike and was suggesting we head out for some trips when the weather gets a bit warmer. He also sent me a recent picture of himself for my website which, in his own words, is ‘a cheesy, E.R.-look-alike shot’ of him in medical blues with a stethoscope slung around his neck.

Roderick and Jessica came over for dinner tonight as well: Both friends from my University days with whom I’ve managed to keep in touch. When I first came to London I lodged with them for almost two years before moving here to Wimbledon with Brett.

They both work in the House of Commons, Rod supporting the IT, while Jess is a Committee Clerk. They also run an online book shop in their spare time. Dinner was a little bit of an out-of-the-microwave affair, but we downed a couple of bottles of decent wine and had a good long chat about theatre, films and politics. It was a very pleasant evening and one that looks like it’s going to become a regular occurrence.

Another high-point was that they brought over a parcel for me from Amazon (I must update my Wish List delivery address!) which contained my Christmas presents from my parents: The Return Of The King extended edition DVDs, The Sundering by Walter Jon Williams (second book of a series I’m reading) and Monarchs of the Nile (a book looking at a number of ancient Egyptian rulers. I find the ancient Egyptians fascinating.)

So that was my day.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

DDoS and Debunking DaVinci

So what else has been happening? Well, nothing more seems to have made the major news sites about Tony Blair and Bill Gates’ graphology experiment. I am a bit of a sceptic anyway, who ranks graphologists not too far above astrologers in the great scheme of things.

We had an interesting afternoon at work today when we suspected we were the subject of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack from the Internet. In the end it turned out we probably weren’t and it was more likley that someone on our network was using illegal file sharing software, but we certainly had an exciting few hours working through the steps to combat the symptoms.

This evening we watched an interesting program based around the facts (and fiction) of the book The Da Vinci Code. I found it interesting because I am quite familiar with the background to a lot of the pieces of the mystery, having read Holy Blood, Holy Grail as a teenager. I’d like to check some of the information from the program for myself, but it was a fairly complete debunking.

The Croc

Our department is driven by tea and biscuits. I don’t drink much tea or coffee at home and when I do, coffee is usually my preference. At work, however I routinely get through five or six cups of tea a day. It’s not that I especially thirst for tea while in the office, but it is part of one of our rituals of office life: The Croc.

At some point in the past, someone bought a child’s toy. It is a small green plastic crocodile head and when you lift up its snout a semicircle of white teeth are revealed. The idea is that you randomly press down one tooth at a time. One of the teeth – and it changes each time – will cause the jaws to close with the crunch of a spring-loaded ratchet. It isn’t painful, it’s simply fun. It’s used to decide who makes the tea for the rest of the players: If you get bitten you make the tea

Over time a whole ritual has evolved around playing the Croc. There are rules for who goes first (the last player bitten, failing whom the one who suggested playing this round,) there are awards for successive wins (you progress from ‘Tea Boy’ to ‘Tea Boss’.) The Croc has occasionally been taken on holiday by members of the team. There are photographs of it drinking beer and swimming in Greece and enjoying a barbeque in Australia. One of the team even has it printed on a t-shirt in Warhol-esque pop-art style.

It is an object of curiosity among the other staff in the company, who seem to either make only their own tea, or to have some rota for sharing the duties within their team. But the Croc makes it fun and it’s an entertainment that we all take part in. I’m sure that on some psychological level, the Croc is a totem for our relaxed and happy work environment, but really we just enjoy it.

Although it does mean we drink a lot of tea.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Swallowed by the Chorus

The last couple of days have been constant work during the day and then constant Chorus stuff in the evenings. I participated in my first Steering Committee meeting last night. It ran until 10:30 - partly my fault because I caused a prolonged discussion about how to handle disciplinary matters relating to members of the Steering Committee. Ho hum.
Tonight has largely been spent doing follow-ups from last night's meeting. I need to stop doing this. I'm getting swallowed whole by my hobby!