Sunday, October 30, 2005

Huh? Happy Halloween?

Not much can be said about today really. We sorted, tidied, shopped and washed.

I did wander though, looking at all the orange and black advertising and merchandise around, exactly how Halloween came to be such a big deal. When I was young, okay it was kind of spooky; we’d stay indoors, with our hollowed-out turnip lantern to frighten away the ghosts, the parents would maybe turn off the lights and just have a few candles lighting the house and we would duck for apples.

Nowadays it seems as if it’s all about going out, wearing cheap costumes, which often aren’t even ‘Halloweenish’ and extorting sweets and money from nearby householders. Why? What are we celebrating? How did the Celtic New Year festival, or indeed the preparation for All Souls’ Day, get turned into this meaningless circus of Disneyfied ‘horror’? It’s not tradition. It doesn’t appear to serve any purpose. Okay, so I’m a sourpuss, but it just seems such a bizarre, round-about way of finding an excuse to go out and have fun…

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Spring Cleaning in October

Today we started sorting out our junk.

The flat is pretty much full of stuff. Some of it is stuff we haven’t looked at or used in years. We have too many clothes for the wardrobes and not enough cupboards for everything that needs to be stored. Today we started to thin it all out. We’ve made good progress so far and plan to continue tomorrow.

This evening we had dinner with Rod & Jess in the Chinese restaurant up in the village. Great to catch up with them again – it must have been going on for six months since we’ve seen them… although partly that’s due to constant diary conflicts; tonight’s dinner was actually arranged back in early September and this was the first weekend when we were all free!

Looks like Rod is up for joining the poker group; must get another date in the diary!

Friday, October 28, 2005


Being sick is boring. Yesterday I got out of bed, went to the bathroom and couldn’t muster the willpower to get in the shower. I went back to bed and slept for another four hours. Somehow, I’m suffering with the same symptoms as last time and about six months ago; nausea, severe fatigue, headache, dry mouth, temperature sensitivity. I went to see the doctor today and while she thought it was odd, she didn’t have an immediate solution. I’ve got some migraine pills and instructions to take one if the problem reoccurs as the first option elimination. I also have to go back next week for more checks.

The practical upshot of all this is that as well as whatever else I’ve got, I’ve got cabin fever; two days stuck in the house and I’m going slightly crazy. (I should point out at this point, I don’t mean really crazy! Chris C rang me up this evening and, whilst organising his trip to London next week, expressed some concern that I’d been blogging about being depressed and then gotten on to the subject of religion, so let me reassure you that my marbles are all accounted for and I’m not about to run off to the Moonies!)

So anyway, I got to do more surfing than usual in between long periods of sleeping and watching TV and I found some knowledge quizzes on the BBC news site. I think they are based on the current National Curriculum but I gave them a go anyway and, apart from History (where I only got a disappointing 7/12) I think I did okay.

See how you do. You can test yourself on:

History – I got 7/12 right, so surely you can beat that.

Physics – 8/10 right, when I actually thought I would do better.

Maths – 19/20, which I was quite happy with.

English – 20/20, read it and weep!

French – 7/12, which I thought wasn’t bad since I haven’t practiced in twenty years.

Geography – 11/14, was respectable enough, I thought. A UK-biased test though.

This evening we ventured out for a walk down to the cinema. We went to see Wallace and Gromit and the Curse of the Were-Rabbit. It was very entertaining and I enjoyed it, although by halfway through I just wanted to lie-down again. And that’s what I think I’m going to do now.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Bonfire Nostalgia

[Readers from overseas should probably check out this link before proceeding.]

This morning the air was lovely and crisp and, as I rode towards Earlsfield, there was a hint of wood smoke in the air. It reminded me that Bonfire Night is just around the corner.

I have many fond memories of Bonfire Night when I was young. When I was a child our house backed on to some substantial waste ground which, back in the days when children were allowed to be children, get dirty and scrape their knees, was the site of many imaginative adventures. Actually to call it waste ground perhaps gives the wrong idea, think more like unmanaged common ground; it wasn’t an industrial tip, it was green and there were trees and lots of grass and a disused canal running through it, where you could catch sticklebacks at certain times of year. Children would play, people would walk their dogs and it was a shortcut between several surrounding suburban areas.

And every Guy Fawkes Night, the entire street would congregate there to light the bonfire that the children had been building up, often for a couple of weeks, from old furniture, off-cuts, broken pallets, etc. I don’t remember it, but I’m sure the adults had beer while the children played with their sparklers. We’d watch the Guy burn, then later we’d set off the fireworks; little rockets launched from milk bottles held in place with bricks, Catherine wheels pinned to somebody’s back fence and even when they fizzled it didn’t really matter because there was always another firework in the box! By the time the fireworks were done the food would be ready. Usually each family would bring a dish, but the real fun was recovering the foil-wrapped potatoes and chestnuts from the fire! Happy days.

I haven’t been to a Bonfire Night in years.

Nowadays parents shriek in horror at the thought of letting their precious ones near an open fire – let alone fireworks. Burning effigies is no longer politically correct. Eating food which hasn’t been prepared in a sterile environment is seen as unhealthy. Most people don’t know their neighbours anyway, so if they do anything, they’ll take their kids to a firework display at the local sports stadium. It’s just not the same.

So this morning I was thinking that I would like to organise a proper Bonfire Night; Brett has never experienced one and it would be a good excuse to get our friends together for something other than brunch. This evening I sat down to write an email to the people I would like to invite but the more I wrote, the more fanciful it sounded. In the end, the message didn’t get sent. It didn’t even get finished.

As I was phrasing the request for someone to offer somewhere to hold the party, I realised that those of our friends who have a garden all have relatively small and reasonably well manicured gardens. Nowhere really they might want to hand over to scorched earth for the next twelve months. There was also the question of where to find the fuel. I don’t have anything I want to burn and given the minimalist, bijou norm for London residences I didn’t expect many others would be burdened down with lots of kindling.

So a winter barbeque would have to do – we could do the baked potatoes in the oven and all huddle round the barbeque… no, actually that didn’t sound like nearly as much fun as huddling round a bonfire.

The fireworks were another question… I was happy to organise the purchase and lighting of, but the actual cost of the things can be quite hefty – particularly if you want to do a half-decent display. Asking people to stump up cash for a contribution rather took the fun out of that too.

So here I sit; misery guts, bemoaning the loss of my youth and blaming obstacles for stopping me enjoying myself. Sod it. As I’ve been writing this post I’ve decided that I shall organise a party. Cinderella shall go to the Ball even if the dress turns back into a ragged apron. Let’s have a party. It may not be the lost hazy joy of my youth, but it will be friends, it will be company, lots of company (cue the Sondheim!)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Twisted Hug

It’s been a pretty good day. For once, I was out of bed in plenty of time – so much so that I even had time to blog before leaving for work. The ride in to work was a dream as I powered effortlessly up the hills (although that may have been due to the following wind which, on the return journey this evening, made the ride a real workout!) and I’ve had a very positive, successful day at work. Scott L even wrote to tell me how hot he thought Brett looked at rehearsal last night!

Hoping to get another good night’s sleep and wake up for more of the same.


God, the Universe and The Meaning of Life

This post is a pretty wide ranging philosophical/religious one I wrote for this thread on The Deep Freeze blog, which I read occasionally. While my own blog tends to be pretty mundane journalism of my pretty mundane daily life, I like surfing other people's – particularly the more outspoken ones – as I enjoy the debates I can have with their authors through the comments sections. I thought, as I’d gone to the effort of preparing this summary of my beliefs, that I would post it here too to see if there was any interesting debate to be had with my own readers.

So here goes. The post is essentially my answer to the questions: “What do you think about God? What do you think about the Universe? Why are we here? Where do we go when we die?”

My basic principal is trust in rational thought rather than faith. I cannot believe in something just because somebody else says it is so. I will believe in something if it can be demonstrated to me, or (for the pedants among you) if sufficient hard-science, peer-reviewed literature states that it is true. (Although I would allow there should always be a small element of doubt; always keep an open mind. Major thoughtquakes can rearrange the scientific landscape dramatically; Galileo said that the world was a globe orbiting the Sun, in contradiction to the accepted thinking of his day; Relativity and Quantum Mechanics upset the belief that the Newtonian Laws of Motion were absolute.)

My view on God is different from the mainstream religions. I think it lies somewhere between atheist and spiritualist. Does any god exist? My most simple answer is; I don’t know.

God has never been demonstrated to me and I find the beliefs of most people in this regard highly unlikely when you consider, amongst other things, the sheer amount of time and space in the universe which is not occupied by mankind, the supposed pinnacle of creation. An anthropomorphic god simply does not make sense to me. Even the biblical stories portray inconsistent versions of God. In the early books, he is simply a being with power over the world, which he uses inexplicably in the cause of one particular tribe (why only one tribe when the whole of humanity is his creation?) against other tribes and their (different!) gods. Yet in the later books he is the only god – there are no other gods now!? – and he is all-knowing and all-present, which begs the question; why bother with all the earlier mucking about? Why not just arrange things to your liking in the first place – you are, after all, the one and only god?!?!

And I know that all the believers out there are currently exclaiming ‘God moves in mysterious ways’ but I’m sorry guys and gals, Occam’s razor tells me that a being who is omniscient and omnipotent would not be inconsistent. Thank you for playing but ‘no cigar.’

If there is any kind of higher power above us, I believe it is a totally impersonal power which either has no interest in humanity at all or would possibly see us as microbes on a pinhead. That is the scale of our place in the universe – and even that I think is a generous allowance.

As for the Universe itself, I don’t believe in the Genesis story; I do not believe that a biblical God created the world. I believe that the world evolved over billions of years and that all life on earth is the product of evolution.

(A side note on Intelligent Design: As far as I can see believers in ‘Intelligent Design’ tend to avoid the question of who designed the designer. The so-called theory isn’t internally consistent as it claims that all complex things must be the product of an intelligent designer. If the world was created by such a designer then surely that designer is the most complex thing around and so must himself (itself?) have been designed by a higher designer. This leads to an infinite chain of ever more complex designers being required. Evolution on the other hand explains how complexity can arise from simplicity over time without any such ‘design’ intervention being required; a simpler and more internally consistent theory is, to me far more believable.)

Where my atheism wavers into spiritualism is at the very start of the universe; at the Big Bang. I am quite happy with the scientific explanations of events after the Big Bang, but the event itself is something which science has yet to satisfactorily explain to me. I can conceive of everything in the entire universe being compressed into a super-dense singularity but what I cannot conceive is what might have caused it to explode. What was the ‘prime mover’ which tweaked this state of absolute stasis and resulted in the creation of time and space? As far as I can see, the singularity itself is too dense to have any internal inconsistency, so the prime mover must have been external to it which, in my understanding, is contradictory.

At the moment, science has to put up its hands and say ‘I don’t know’. One of the reasons why I prefer science to religion though, is that science is still looking for the answer whereas in an equivalent situation religion just makes a statement true ‘because I say so.’

So, that is my view on God and the Universe. As for why we are here and where we go when we die, well as you might expect, my disbelief in the main organised religions results in pretty simple answers to those questions: I don’t believe mankind is here to achieve anything particular. We should set our own goals to strive for. I believe death is the end of life, full-stop. There is no Heaven to strive towards or Hell to fear. If the worthiness of our lives is to be judged at all, it should be by our peers on the basis of what we have contributed to humanity during our lifetimes.

Humanity constantly strives to better itself. We are trying our best to outgrow the species’ selfish, pack-based animal past of survival of the fittest. Human civilisation is something we can be proud of and work towards improving. We can aim for ever greater compassion for our fellow men. That is what I believe we should be doing here.

What do you think?

Tempus Fugit

Is it Tuesday already? Sunday was a strange day. I did pretty much nothing but was totally exhausted by the end of it. We went up into the village to have brunch mid-morning and then I got dragged out to Sainsburys with the parents to help Rosie shop for her birthday party.

After that I got some time to myself relaxing at home. Rather than doing any chores I spent an hour or so finally preparing my views on God and the Universe to add to a thread on one of the blogs I read occasionally. I’ll put it up as a separate post here shortly as I’d be interested to see what the views of my few readers are in comparison to my own.

Later in the afternoon the parents arrived back from helping Rosie tidy her flat and Brett arrived back from picking up his new suit and his comics. We sat down and watched a couple the new episodes of the West Wing. (I have a sneaking suspicion that the Republican candidate wins in the end, but Brett won’t believe it…)

Rosie’s birthday party was not quite as big an affair as she had planned (quite a few people called off at the last moment pleading fatigue) but I think everyone still had a good time; it was a sit and chat kind of party (which was all I could handle actually!) Bruce and I caught up in a corner; we haven’t seen each other in a couple of months it turns out.

It being Sunday night, the party was over by midnight and I was in bed and almost instantly asleep.

Yesterday was Monday, so back to work. After last week’s misery it was a very bearable day and I got stuff done. This was followed by an evening rehearsing with the Chorus. Tonight was revising the choralography for one of the livelier numbers for our Christmas show. It was very energetic but also very enjoyable. For once, my exhaustion at the end of the day felt like it had a good cause and I slept like a log!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

What is a good man?

Found an interesting consideration of what constitutes a good person here. It seems to fit in with the comments I’ve made to Charlie Foxtrot recently about the nature of absolutes, following him slating Harold Pinter. I wish I had the time to write a decent treatise on the subject…

Saturday - The Lion King

Saturday was also a late start. Brett was off to an all-day Chorus rehearsal that I had somehow not put in my diary and so had double-booked with the parents’ visit. The parents (well, my mother) wanted to go to see Kew Gardens.

Kew is an interesting place, even at this time of year; there is a little train-bus which runs around the gardens and the driver gives a pretty decent commentary about the history of the place. The greenhouses contain a huge range of plant life from different regions and they are fascinating to see. My mother picked up a few Pitcher Plants to deal with the flies which tend to hang around all the bee-keeping equipment they have.

Tonight we were in town to see The Lion King. We had dinner at a nice little Greek restaurant called Beotty’s on St. Martin’s Lane before strolling around to the Aldwych and the Lyceum Theatre.

The Lion King turned out to be very entertaining. I hadn’t expected much in the way of depth of storyline, as it is a Disney show, and in that respect I wasn’t disappointed. The plot was no more complicated than a pantomime. The production and music, though, were excellent and very colourful. I thought the lighting was particularly well done; really creating a feel of the savannah at all times of day. I’d love to work on designing a show like this. I actually had a better evening here than last night!

Walking home, it was a lovely clear night as we crossed Waterloo Bridge and I really wished I’d had my camera with me. I determined to make an effort to get out on a good, clear night sometime soon with my camera to try and capture some of these beautiful scenes.

Friday - A Few Good Men

It hasn’t been a terribly active few days. Friday we got a late start then headed into London to do some shopping. Father wanted to visit Fortnum & Mason’s to see whether they had their rather good Christmas chocolate liqueurs on sale yet (they didn’t) and then we went on to the Apple shop on Regent Street to pick up an iPod Nano for my sister’s birthday present. (Unfortunately she has fallen fashion victim and wants one.)

It was a frustrating and embarrassing few minutes on the way to the Apple shop as we wandered up and down this street that the signs said was Regent Street, but clearly wasn’t. In the end we worked it out and I was amazed to discover (after four years living in London!) that Regent Street has two non-contiguous sections on either side of Piccadilly Circus.

Once the shopping was done we headed towards Upper Ground for lunch with my sister at the little bistro above the Mulberry Bush pub. (See here and here.)

After lunch we headed home for a break before the show. I had a nap and then we all had some of the cheesecake that my dad had brought with them. (He is a pretty good cook and had brought Rosie a chocolate cake for her birthday, so I’d asked him to bring me a cheesecake down while he was in the baking mood…)

Friday evening, we were off to watch A Few Good Men at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket. I wasn’t actually that impressed by it. They were cardboard characters reciting lines. Actually that’s not fair as there is a fair amount of character development of the lead character Kaffee during the story, but that just didn’t come across. I got very little feel for the actors being involved with their characters’ emotions. The worst one of all was Rob Lowe; I’m not sure whether it was because it was him playing the part, or because Aaron Sorkin wrote the dialog, but it felt like I was watching Sam Seaborn from The West Wing on stage! The two key emotional moments of the play, where Kaffee punches the marine he’s defending and when Jessup actually admits to ordering the Code Red, were almost cringingly badly acted.

I think we’ll be steering clear of ‘Celebrity Theatre’ in future unless something is getting really stunning reviews.

After the show we went on to the Texas Embassy just off Trafalgar Square to get a bite to eat before heading home (See here.) Quesadillas and margaritas abounded, all served by a delightfully polite waiter from Oklahoma, who called us all ‘Sir’ and ‘Ma’am’ all the time.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Lucy In The Sky With Risotto?

Just before I get over it, let me record one more Victor Meldrew moment I forgot to include in yesterday’s miserere; Owen and I had lunch together and, rather than eat in the expensive and pretentious gourmet sandwich shop, we thought we’d economise and eat from Sub-Way a little further along the road. As you know, I was feeling grumpy anyway, but ordering a sandwich from this soulless American chain made me understand how the guy feels in Falling Down! Talk about micromanagement!

I scanned the menu above the counter and decided I’d quite like a Cheese Steak roll and ordered. That was when the Spanish Inquisition clicked in; What kind of bread did I want? Did I want a twelve-inch or six-inch roll? Did I want cheese on both halves of the roll? Did I want it toasted or microwaved? Which salad ingredients did I want on it? What sauces did I want? Did I want it as a ‘Meal’ for only 99p more? Did I want it to eat-in or to go?

I just want a f*cking sandwich for my lunch!


… And breathe.

We didn’t hang around for dessert; I couldn’t face another interrogation! Instead we went to Starbucks which, okay, is another soulless chain, but at least after a few years of acclimatisation to the British temperament, is capable of providing me with a grande latte without demanding I decide between a dozen different kinds of coffee bean and point at the particular cow, goat or sheep I want to provide the milk.

Today wasn’t too bad, although I was still in a ‘don’t mess with me’ mood. I spent most of the day pottering around the house tidying, doing laundry, working on some chorus stuff and generally not stressing. The parents arrived around 4pm and we spent a while hanging out before heading over to Putney to have dinner with my sister at a nice South African restaurant there.

It turns out that my mother has been inexplicably irritable and depressed all week too, which I think is too much of a coincidence to be accidental. It turns out that we had both had the wild mushroom risotto as an appetiser on Saturday evening in Threlkeld. My suspicion is that there was something wilder than usual in those mushrooms… (Or it could have been the full moon!)

At least I’ve got something to hang my moods on now – it’s not just me losing my mind after all.

Today Brett had a sudden fit of theatrical desire and he’s booked us tickets to go see ‘Sunday in the Park with George’ in December and then the musical version of Billy Elliot and The History Boys in January. I really need to sit down and get my diary sorted out!

Looks like I’ve got a day of shopping to look forward to tomorrow now; got to get Rosie a birthday present…

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Grump That Stole My Week

So what is going on inside my head?!? All week I’ve been totally f*cked-off with the world for no readily apparent reason; it’s all just been too much bother and I wanted out of it.

It started on Monday at work. I was tired and frustrated that I was having a totally reactive day when I wanted to get on with the proactive stuff, but that’s sometimes the way it is in a support role. I persevered and was looking forward to Chorus as that usually energises me out of a funk. But it was sectionals and, as usual, the Basses and Baritones were sent down to the small, dingy, stuffy room in the basement while the (smaller!) tenor sections used the main rehearsal hall. When I challenged Charlie about it, he just gave me his wide-eyed ‘No! Really??’ look and moved on. That pissed me off in a big way. The subsequent sweltering rehearsal had the effect you might expect.

Tuesday at work wasn’t much better than Monday; I just didn’t want to be there. I didn’t want to be helpful. I was clock-watching all afternoon, waiting for 5pm to tick around. Brett was at a meeting Tuesday evening, so I was ordering pizza but couldn’t find the menu for the place I wanted – normally we have three or four copies of that same menu, but I couldn’t find a one. I resorted to looking them up online. Then, after the guy had put me on hold (for a bloody pizza deliver order, I mean, COME ON!) they got my order confused and rang back to confirm whether I really wanted three pizzas and sounded very dubious when I told them that I had definitely only ordered the one.

Work today has been better I suppose – and I didn’t even mind cycling through the rain on the way home. What did get me down though was the movie. Brett, Ping and I went to watch Serenity tonight and it’s a good movie (no, really it’s a good movie – go see it!) but just when I could have done with a Hollywood Happy Ending, I got a more grittily realistic plot and it sent me back into my head.

I hope I’m just tired. I didn’t sleep well last night and I think possibly the weekend in the Lakes took more out of me than I realised.

The upside is that I have the rest of the week off work; the parents are arriving tomorrow evening to stay for the weekend, but it means I can have a long lie-in tomorrow. I don’t have to get up early. I can take my ease.

Please God let it cheer me up.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Walking Weekend

Just back from a great weekend in the Lake District. Ostensibly it was a walking weekend but in the end we plumped for a low-level, fairly relaxed walk; initially a circuit through the woods along one of the banks of Thirlmere and then, after lunch, we headed up on to the lower slopes of Helvellyn to do a more scenic walk back to the car park. The weather was good; a bit overcast but dry and often sunny. In fact the fast moving clouds made for some beautiful views as the sun streamed through a gap. (I managed to get a few nice pictures along the way and you can see them in the photoblog.)

I think I’ll try and get a few of my friends along for the next one of these weekends, partly to make it a reunion for me and partly to introduce Brett to some of my friends from outside of London. (Brett and I also need to take a few more weekend breaks around Britain, as it emerged in conversation that he actually had no idea where to find the Lake District on a map!)

I’ve got to get him to pass his driving test before then though, as the driving at either end of the trip was a bit of nightmare. There was congestion at numerous points along the motorway both on the way out and the way back. Traffic is getting heavier in this country. It’s a fact. Brett did do some driving in the Lakes. Although, after me being petrified by him driving down the middle of the road on some of the narrow unclassified- and B-roads and urging him to keep left, after we got onto the main A6 heading south he managed to clip another car’s wing mirror and knocked the one off our car in the process! Doh! Maybe a bit more practice is required…

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

On the Upbeat?

Work seems to be on a more even keel now so I am able to turn my attention back to pro-active projects, which is a whole pile more interesting and less stressful than things have been recently. Today I’ve been working on configuring Microsoft’s latest updates management software and, in parallel, started a concerted roll-out of some client-side software that we need to have in place. The new updates management is reasonably smart stuff; as well as marshalling all of the updates for the Windows system itself it also tracks updates to the Office suite (Word, Excel, Outlook, etc.) and the main back-end server (Email and Database) systems. It’s a new gadget for me to play with anyway, so I’m happy…

After a couple of months away, the Chorus is looming large on my agenda again. Last night I was at the Membership Committee meeting and landed myself a number of action points, the most serious of which is doing some preparatory work for a ‘constitutional discussion’ we are going to be having next month; there are a number of problems with the way the Chorus is organised at the moment which we need to address. Last year I did a lot of work developing a fairly tight set of Election Procedures for the Chorus and found it all rather enjoyable – despite some of the rather vicious arguments which resulted. I seem to have some minor talents in the field of legal-thinking (and hope I know enough to know what I don’t know, so as to not be too dangerous with it!) so I’m quite looking forward to getting involved with reviewing how we are constituted and finding ways to improve it.

Watch this space though, as it is likely to be a lengthy, complicated and probably quite political task, so before you know it I’ll be using my blog to moan about it all…

I’ve also been spending some time in the last couple of days playing around with a new bulletin board system that Brett has been configuring for the Chorus to replace the rather restrictive Yahoo Groups that we currently use for discussion forums. I love being involved with the creation of new systems!

This evening, after chomping my microwaved chicken and rice dinner, I got down to practicing some of the piano pieces I need to work on for tomorrow night’s course. I am doing fine on most of them, but one of them starts on the upbeat (there are only three of the four notes you expect in the first bar) and I am having the worst time trying to get my head around it. I can play the tune (When the Saints Go Marching In) perfectly well if I start on the first beat, but that isn’t quite how it’s written and doesn’t sound the same and it’s doing my head in that I can’t get it right!

I am wondering if I made the wisest choice of course; by going for a night-school course I am in a class of fifteen with only two pianos to work on, so the one-on-one tuition and the opportunities to learn and practice new skills in the class are fairly limited; you have to manage these things by yourself, outside of class, without the benefit of the tutor giving you tips. Possibly when this course finishes at Christmas I’ll look for a personal piano teacher near work or here in Wimbledon. But would I be able to find a teacher of the same class as Haruko though? Hmm.

This weekend Brett and I are driving up to Keswick in the Lake District to join my parents and some of their friends for a walking weekend (well actually my parents aren’t doing any walking while we are there, they have one of their agricultural shows on the Saturday so will only be in the Lakes for the dinners on the Friday and Saturday evenings!) I am in two minds whether I want to go. I suspect I could do with a total get-away weekend and the fresh air and exercise would likely do me good, but at the same time I could also enjoy a couple of long lie-ins and doing some of the tasks I keep putting off ‘until I have time.’ At least the weather is forecast to be reasonable and I’ve finally found my own walking boots – last time I had to wear a borrowed pair which were slightly too small, gave me blisters and bruises everywhere and resulted in one of my toenails falling off!

I am missing Brett. I’d just gotten re-used to having him around to talk to and let off steam with and snuggle with and now he’s off in foreign parts again. At least this time it’s only for a couple of days every couple of months, but right now I really feel the lack of him.

Bah. Time for an early night I think. I am not in the greatest of moods.

Monday, October 10, 2005

It never rains...

Well, after a quiet weekend the new week hit me full in the face. Henri, one of our Helpdesk staff was on leave today and at 8am Gaetan, the other Helpdesker, called me to say he had food poisoning and wouldn’t be in. When I got into the office, Rav & Barry were already mired in recovering from disk corruption on one of our servers, compounded by the fact that the data they needed had been laid down as we were changing backup systems and so wasn’t all on one format.

Basically today at work was one big, long stress. Fortunately the Helpdesk was quiet as it was really just me answering the phone.

The Chorus rehearsal this evening was compartively relaxing. The music wasn’t too hard to get my head around and we sounded pretty good by the end of the night. We’re into the Christmas repertoire now, so it’s folk carols and sacred music at the moment, plus one of the ‘carnival’ pieces we are doing so we can theme the show as a Caribbean Christmas…

For a while today, I thought I was going to be out every evening this week, but as it turns out I’d mis-read an email and there wasn’t actually an extra rehearsal on Wednesday, so I get one night’s relaxation. I still have a Membership committee meeting tomorrow night though, piano tuition on Thursday and then driving up to Keswick for the weekend on Friday. I’m not sure I’m going to be up for any walking – I’m going to want to sit on a sofa all weekend!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

It's In Your Eyes

It’s not a good sign I think when I have to look up my own blog to remember the last time I posted to it. I suppose my excuse is being 'time-poor' in the second half of the week.

The piano course is going well. My text book arrived from Amazon on Friday and the class on Thursday night was productive. I am still one of the more advanced of the beginners, although I have yet to convince myself that that’s because of any innate talent, rather than just my background experience getting me through the easier stuff. I need to put in some practice tonight really.

Friday’s various poker games were enjoyable. At work Gaetan and one of the consultants, Sid S, sat down with me over lunchtime and had a friendly game, mainly to teach Sid the rules. Then Friday evening, Brett & I hosted our monthly game at home. There were five of us this month (Scott L, who has always been doubtful, had called off at the last moment with a rather complicated excuse which resulted in him being stuck at Ikea for the first hour of the game…) so Brett, myself, John M, Rosie and a friend of hers called Andy battled it out in a lively game. The pot was eventually split 2:3 by Brett and John but I had an enjoyable evening, so I’d say it was worth it. Brett did give me some grief the next morning though for all the teasing I’d given my sister about Andy.

On Saturday evening we went to hear the Small Group of the Chorus performing at a music society event in Clapham. They did a huge range of repertoire, both old and new, and it was the first time I got to hear a lot of it as a member of the audience. The group performed excellently, looked very dashing in their black shirts and trousers and were technically almost flawless. There were a few points where the volume needed raising a little bit though. The most surprising part of the evening though was seeing Mary-Lou, (she of the 1950’s ingĂ©nue in You’ll Do For Now) being the most brazen tart in a cabaret routine, up and down the aisle of the church, singing ‘I’m Everyone’s Woman!’ My jaw was hanging at the contrast to how I’ve seen her before, but she was very good. Afterwards we went onto Clapham High Street to have tapas with John & Rich before heading home.

Today we got up mid-morning, did various laundry and chores around the house and then drove over to Richmond for lunch with the guys at Petersham Nurseries. We ate in one of the greenhouses and a lot of the menu was home-grown produce which was nice, albeit a little lacking in meat for my carnivorous tastes. Ping was organising as ever; Miles K, John W and Rich C were there from the Chorus. John B, a former chorus member, and a couple more of Ping’s friends made up the table. The service was quite leisurely and in the end lunch didn’t finish until gone 4pm so we felt very decadent. While I enjoyed the meal, I think a lot of that was the company; the menu was pricey and not entirely to my taste, plus the table we were sitting at was very low and left my legs very little room for movement.

Traffic was pretty appalling in the villages around Richmond both on the way out and the way back, but I think we avoided the worst of it by cutting through Richmond Park, where we got to enjoy the views over London in the sunshine and see both a herd of deer and a couple of roaming stags.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Sviatopolk, Prince of Kiev

This week is dragging somewhat. Yesterday I was mired in a pit of apathy; couldn’t give a French Connection all day long and got nothing serious done at work. (Although I did go out for a nice walk along the river at lunchtime and took a couple of reasonable photos on my phone.)

Last night I was at a market-research Focus Group discussing technology and mobile phones. There was quite an involved pre-task which we had to do, which you may be interested in. (See here.)

Today I had a bit more enthusiasm (and a bit more stimulation in the form of a couple of interesting meetings) and so managed to earn my pay a little more honestly than yesterday.

This evening Brett & I took Clare and Rosie out to dinner as a kind of farewell to Clare who moves out at the weekend. Tried out a new Italian on the edge of the village and it was nice enough.

Other than that, not much happening; the blogs I read are either quiet right now or pondering George Bush’s latest nomination to the US Supreme Court, which I find it hard to get excited about. I did find an interesting post on philosophy/religion on one of the ones I’ve started reading recently, although I haven’t had time to write my own contribution to it yet (and I suspect it will be lengthy when I do get time!) See here if you want to check it out yourself. I have a piano session tomorrow night and then a poker game on Friday. Actually, two poker games on Friday as a couple of guys at work wanted to learn how to play, so we are having a friendly game at lunchtime.

I’m also pondering whether I could organise a poker tournament to raise money for the Chorus. (On Monday night they handed round some fundraising targets for the members and it struck me this evening that that could be a fun way of doing it without too much effort.) Maybe I’m just going poker mad and need to go out and get myself a life. Hey ho!

P.S. Sviatopolk?? Go do the research yourself – it’s good to expand your mind in new directions!

Monday, October 03, 2005

Tick tock, tick tock

Today seemed to be the day of ‘things to do.’ I was constantly making notes to remind me to do stuff when I was in some other place or at some other time; mail instructions to Robin, send updates about the new members to the Section Reps, confirm who’s coming to poker, check progress on this, remember to update that… it’s never ending. When did my life become a constant struggle to fit everything in?

Ten days after I get back from one holiday, I’m already wishing for the next!

Saturday, October 01, 2005

God Save The Queen

Strangely HMQ featured in my life twice in rapid succession today. Firstly, I was reading The Times over lunch, which reported that an American news show will be presented next week from, amongst other regal locations, the Throne Room in Buckingham Palace, in an attempt to attract timid Americans tourists back to these shores with a bit of pomp and history. I can’t decide whether I think that’s a good idea, as the Monarchy is certainly one of the main tourist attractions in the UK, or whether it’s further catering to the lowest common denominator and turning our Head of State into a franchised brand. A sign of the Monarchy moving with the times? Hmm… I think I am just an old traditionalist at heart.

The second occurrence was rather less salubrious but no less surprising. When I had finished the paper I went to the toilet and, there above the urinal, the only piece of graffiti on the entire white-tiled wall read, ‘God Save the Queen.’ It was the only thing written there, so I couldn’t be sure whether it was a serious bit of devout patriotism or whether it was intended to be ironic or in the Sex Pistols vein. Even in the days of Cool Britannia patriotism was tacit and, in these ‘New Millennium’ days, I wouldn’t expect there to be many vocal patriots frequenting the gents’ toilets in the Burger King on Tottenham Court Road. If it was meant ironically I would have expected something more nihilistic to have been added alongside. I guess I will never know.

Anyway, we were in town because I needed to meet up with Simon S, the Chorus accompanist, to return some CDs he needs to do an arrangement, but while we were there we wanted to do some shopping as Brett needs to update his work wardrobe.

Today Oxford Street was closed to traffic for the first time ever, to try to encourage people back after the bombings in July. Personally I think pedestrianising Oxford Street is a great idea – the pavements are typically too crowded for comfort – but today was in fact a nightmare for people who actually wanted to shop; the party really got in the way. As we wandered westwards from Tottenham Court Road you kept coming across men on stilts, small music groups and people giving you leaflets about the event – all of which slowed you down. Erecting a couple of big stages in the middle of the road didn’t help either. After buying his suit, Brett and I stopped to listen to one of the acts; an arts school, doing a (long!) medley of showtunes. However several hundred other people also stopped to listen and Oxford Street was totally blocked and looked like becoming dangerously crowded until the police started turning people away at either side of the stage. So, on the whole, a good idea badly thought through.

Tonight we’re off to see A Chorus Line being performed by an amateur company at the local Putney Arts Theatre. Apparently Jonathan P, one of our new choristers and one of the dancers from You’ll Do For Now, is amongst the cast. Rosie is coming too so that should be fun as I know she has been busy at work lately.