Monday, November 28, 2005

Love And Joy Come To You

Today started well; I was up and sorted in good time and I got to work on time. Then it was all downhill from there. The server in our main branch office was not responding so no-one there could do any work. That took us an hour or so to sort out, but at least it turned out not to be the total disaster it had looked at first.

By then, an external training consultant had been hanging around waiting for us for most of the hour, so we spent the rest of the day trying to catch up. (He was training us on supporting the new Management Information System the company is implementing. We’ve already found one glaring security hole in their recommended implementation so I think we’ll be going over it with a fine-tooth comb before we put live data in there!)

The training day was otherwise dull, although I came away with an armful of branded goodies. I’m keeping the key-ring and luggage tag, but if anyone wants a cheap mouse-mat or a pen, let me know…

The other downside was that it finished late, so I was rushing to get to Chorus. In the end it didn’t matter though, as I was in good time to both eat and make the venue. Tonight we were rehearsing In Terra Pax with our (imported) Baritone Soloist for the first time. (It went fairly well.) Then it was staging; basically getting us into our line-up for the stage and planning the entrances, exits and movement between pieces. For the first time with the Chorus, I am on the front row. Great for the ego, but bad for the karma; I have to be really strong on both my words and the choreography and right now, I’m not.

The Christmas CD that we recorded at the start of the year had finally arrived tonight, so everyone was snapping them up for stocking-fillers. Richard B had it on in the car on the way home and it was quite good – although definitely not background music for your Christmas dinner! I fear I’m going to bore my team to death with it tomorrow…

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Another Weekend At The Hermitage

We are become homely people.

I say this because this weekend we have hardly left the house. Such communication as we have had with the outside world has mostly been digital.

We had Scott L over on Friday evening and downed a few bottles of wine and ate junk food – I’d been out and shopped for wine but wandered straight past all the fresh food in my desire to get to the alcohol. (Well, I was a bit rushed as Waterloo Tube had been closed, so the trains were hugely overcrowded and delayed…)

After a late start, Saturday was laundry day. There’s something in my makeup which just won’t allow me to pay to have all the washing done at the laundrette, despite Brett’s urging. Somehow it just seems a needless extravagance when we can so easily do it ourselves. I don’t mind him getting his work shirts done, as that saves a huge amount of time ironing, but paying to wash t-shirts, shorts and socks is just a waste.

In between times, I also did some pushing of numbers around on a spreadsheet trying to make them look like the deposit for buying a house (but they didn’t, no matter how I tried.)

The realisation that the year is nearly over made me think about end-of-year stuff; resulting in much tidying up of files on my laptop and a decision to replace one of the backup drives in the server which is too small to handle the amount of data we now need to backup. In the process I also realised that there were a number of picture galleries on my website that weren’t actually linked from anywhere, (they were ones I’d put up in a hurry and had just sent out a direct link to), so I spent a while tweaking my site. I also added a couple of new(ish) photos to my ‘exhibition’ gallery, where I show the pictures I think are better than average. (So far there are only about twelve from the several thousand I’ve taken since I got the digital camera. I am reminded of the quote about monkeys, typewriters and Shakespeare…)

Finally, as I was contemplating my diary and the snowballing of events towards December 25th, I realised that not only was there limited time for shopping (Brett promises me he’ll update his Amazon Wishlist today!) there was even less time set aside for seeing everyone before we (and they) head off for our family Christmases, so I did my typical last-minute organise-an-event thing and invited them all to dinner at a date to be determined in about a fortnight.

Today, Sunday, has been in a similar vein; somehow the morning slipped away browsing the web and suddenly it was midday. We headed down into Wimbledon town for lunch and set ourselves the goal of buying Christmas cards

Now buying Christmas cards might not seem like a big deal but for me it’s one of the early stresses of the festive season as I want cards that are (a) attractive, (b) not excessively religious, (c) not excessively cheesy and (d) decent quality. Sometimes that can be a real challenge. This year however, it was straight forward; we found a variety of Christmas Carol-themed cards in WH Smith which seemed appropriate (since we have festive songs going round and round in our heads at the moment.) Now all we have to do is write them and get them distributed in good time.

Yeah, right!

This afternoon I popped into PC World to pick up a new hard drive for our server (did you know you get about 10% off if you select the product at their website and then go and collect it from the store an hour later, rather than going straight to the store. I don’t know how the economics of it works for them, but they certainly work well for me!)

This evening has mostly been hardcore financial grinding. I used to be meticulous about my financial record keeping and budgeting, but when my PDA had problems around May this year it all kind of fell apart. I couldn’t enter the transactions immediately they took place and I inevitably forgot to do it afterwards, so the whole thing fell apart. Tonight I caught up. Luckily the version of MS Money we’re using has some rather smart import features, so I was able to import the last six month’s transactions directly from my bank and only had to manually enter about a month’s worth.

Once that was all complete I felt better about my money; I realised that my ISA was back in profit (I got into it just before the market fell away at the turn of the decade and was running at a loss for a year or two.) I also realised that the shares that the company paid me as part of my bonus this year are actually worth a decent amount of cash – albeit that I can’t realise it for a while yet…

Ah well, if I don’t die young I’ll live to be a reasonably well provided-for old man.

I should also make sure I get my beauty sleep so that Brett still thinks I’m a reasonably-cute well-provided-for old man! So, Goodnight!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Roll-on The Weekend

It is incredibly quiet today. Maybe people are already winding down for Christmas (but it’s still November!) or maybe it’s just because it’s Friday, but there has been sooo little going on in the office.

Having completed all the ‘big’ work I’ve got to do just now, I avoided the new projects (it’s Friday afternoon!) and have just spent an hour or so updating our network diagrams. It gives me a geeky kind of pleasure to know that our network has outgrown the two sheets of A3 we previously used for the diagrams and now requires A1 to include everything!

There’s not much going on this weekend and I at least have a quiet one planned. We have Scott L over for dinner tonight. Tomorrow Brett has yet another Chorus meeting to attend (he was only at one on Wednesday!) so I expect he’ll be preoccupied with that throughout. I need to do some maintenance on my bike; the chain is jumping again, which probably means that one of the links has gotten squashed and needs freed-up, so some of my Saturday will be spent doing that. Probably more of it will be searching out decent Christmas card designs; having put a list together already, I want to stay on the ball and get the actual cards done as soon as possible before everything else Christmasy catches up and overwhelms me. (I have no idea what presents to buy for my nearest and dearest and there aren’t that many openings in my diary for Christmas ‘browsing,’ looking for inspiration; it really needs to be targeted shopping as things are booked pretty solid between now and New Year…)

I’ll probably also spend more time on the Internet researching investment programmes, something I’ve been looking into since a conversation at work about the futility of playing the National Lottery (our team has a syndicate.) Apparently Barry has been investing for some time in a fund which returns a phenomenally high percentage every month. It seems that while there are a lot of Internet scams out there to trap the unwary or the credulous, there are also some relatively respectable, long-running private plans which still return comparatively good rates (1% per day usually.) The trick is to avoid the former and pick the genuine latter ones and that takes a fair amount of research and due diligence...

Here’s to the future!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Round-buying and Dinosaurs

Work was quiet today; the worst that happened was that someone’s emails were getting stuck in a queue in Adelaide and not getting to the recipients in London. It took me all of half an hour to sort out. I’ve also been installing a new PDF creation system on one of our servers. Our consultants prefer PDFs for sending documents to clients as it lessens the risk of Microsoft’s ‘Track Changes’ feature revealing embarrassing or sensitive comments written by our staff is a useful, portable format with a free reader available. So we have a system that works just like a real live printer but instead of spitting out paper, it drops a PDF file into a location on the network. We are moving the service from one server to another and upgrading it at the same time, so I’ve been spending time getting the new version to look as much as possible like the old version, while still being better and giving users more options.

There was an interesting conversation thread in our office today which ran, on and off, throughout the day. Gaetan was defending his view that people buying rounds in pubs and agreeing to split the bill in restaurants was a bad thing; peer-pressure run rampant, forcing people to eat and drink more than they want and/or pay for other people to eat/drink without necessarily getting anything in return. I’m not entirely sure whether it was a serious point of view he was defending – sometimes it’s difficult to tell when he and Jon get into discussion – but it was certainly an interesting diversion. The consensus in the office was that he was just being weird and seeing set-in-stone ‘rules’ governing rounds and bill-splitting whereas everyone else saw much greyer, fuzzier common-sense practices – although I must check this out with Brett and the other Americans I know, as Gaetan tried claiming that everyone in the States typically only pays for their own stuff …

The other thing which impinged on my consciousness today was monolithic companies reacting to sudden changes in their environment. It was brought on partly by seeing a Kodak brand-reinforcement type advert at the cinema last night and partly by seeing more column inches devoted to Sony’s recent dubious practices.

Kodak, a brand which in my mind is totally associated with photographic film and optics, was using an advert to associate its name with the digital creation, storage and restoration of images; the company would seem to be trying to adapt to the sudden obsolescence of its major product(s) by repositioning itself into the digital market.

Sony, on the other hand, needs to wake up and smell the coffee. They seem to be battling all-out to protect markets which I expect will have all but disappeared within a few years; CDs and DVDs are the media which currently bring us our entertainment. Cheap digital storage and transmission is making those media obsolete and, I strongly suspect, precipitating a revolution in the concept of intellectual property.

On the basis of just one advert, I wouldn’t really try to guess the future for the Kodak Group. However I have more experience with Sony (through several arms of its empire) and I’m afraid what I see there is a dinosaur that doesn’t know it’s extinct yet.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Armchair Sociology

It’s Tuesday night and for some reason, I keep thinking it’s Thursday tomorrow. I’m wishing my life away. Or maybe I’m getting an extra day free. Who knows??

Yesterday was fairly pedestrian at work; Boris (the old server) is now clear of user files. I just need to shift a pdf-creator service to another machine and I can switch it off for good. The super-duper colour copier/printers in our reprographics department are giving me a headache though; they keep going offline every time someone tries to print to them. I can’t work out what’s going on, neither can the Canon engineer so I have the constant buzz of users asking me what’s going on and when will they be fixed (not being able to print out sharp colour documents in quantity is a real problem when your business is delivering professional documents to a deadline!) but the honest answer is; I don’t know. It’ll get fixed as soon as we’ve worked out what’s going wrong!

(I usually phrase that last bit a little more tactfully when talking to the consulting staff…)

We had another positive Chorus rehearsal last night; we sounded really good on the songs we checked through and, despite a really dreadful first attempt, by the end of the evening we’d managed to remember the choreography for Let It Snow that we learned on Sunday.

Brett’s friend Rich was staying with us last night, so as to be convenient for Gatwick this morning. We met up in Belsize Park with him and Dan L and had a pizza before rehearsal. Then the poor guy had to sit and watch us rehearse for three hours, which he claims he found interesting but I suspect must have been tedious for him – he sings in a Chorus in Austin so, once you get over the stylistic differences, it was a kind of busman’s holiday.

When we got home after rehearsal though we sat and chatted for a while – the first time I’ve really spoken to him beyond smalltalk. He’s a bit of a poet (published, apparently!) and recited one of his poems from memory. He’s also written a new one while he’s been here, but it is rather bleak; comparing the words of a departing lover to the bites of a venomous snake.

One observation that made me think though was his description of our generation of gay men as ‘The Lost’ generation: The generation before us were totally closeted and dealt with it; they didn’t expect to be out and part of mainstream culture. The generation after us are virtually emancipated and don’t expect their sexuality to unduly affect their progression through life. Our generation, the thirty- to forty-somethings grew up in the in-between era, when it was legal to be gay but it still wasn’t widely acceptable. Rich’s theory, which I find myself largely supporting, is that as a result of being neither one thing nor the other, there is a lot of awkward emotional baggage being carried around. There certainly seem to be more emotional fuckwits in the people of my age than in the twenty-somethings age group.

It kind of meshes with my theory (which I think I may have articulated in a previous posting that I now can’t find) that gay men of my age were denied a proper adolescence by being in the closet; we didn’t get to do the ‘different-girl/boyfriend-each-week’ stuff that straight kids do, we didn’t get the chance to work out how to handle relationships and what we wanted out of them during the whirl of our teenage years. As a result you find middle-aged men still struggling to find the answers to those kinds of questions, and usually failing. Although my emotional balance isn’t exactly perfect, the more I see of the gay society of my generation, the more I think I’m doing okay with my man!

Anyway, enough of this armchair sociology. If you believe Bridget Jones, the straight guys are actually even worse at it than the gay guys, but that’s a whole other discussion..!

It was my mother’s birthday today and, for once(!), I remembered to ring her to wish her well. Turns out she was at a funeral for her uncle, whom I didn’t know and certainly didn’t know was dead. Hey ho. Mum called back later to apologise for not being able to talk at the time: Apparently it was a very good day actually, as she so rarely gets to see most of her family that weddings and funerals are the only time they get together for a good chat…

Tonight we went to see Kiss Kiss Bang Bang with Ping and thoroughly enjoyed it. If you like Quentin Tarantino’s style of films, but would prefer less grittiness and more black humour you should go see this film.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

TopCats' Bitch Fight

Here’s an interesting article on the BBC website that had me chuckling. It’s about two cheerleaders for an American Football team in the USA and the dreadful shame they have brought upon both their home town and their profession by getting involved in a brawl in a nightclub. Amusing.

The article did make a couple of telling points though;

"In a country where prudishness is close to godliness, pouting cheerleaders in flesh-revealing outfits are held up as role models for young girls. This is the same country where women's equality is fiercely protected and a glimpse of a nipple on television can cause an outcry."

"Some have asked whether, if the football players themselves had been accused of similar misbehaviour, would they have been instantly sacked? In the past, several famous football players have been forgiven by their teams for minor crimes or lapses of chivalry."

Active Day

The day went better than expected. We had a six-hour rehearsal, primarily covering choreography but with a fair amount of note-bashing too. We seem to be in fairly good shape for still having four weeks before our first concert; both the movement and the music seemed to gel nicely.

Rula Lenska, our compère for the shows, was there today to rehearse her song and dance number with the Chorus; Let It Snow. Most of the rest of the time she was watching us rehearse and seemed fairly impressed; she made full use of her camera-phone to capture us in all our singing and dancing glory. I wonder whether that was because we were simply so fabulous, or so she could show her friends what a bunch of weirdoes she’s having to work with…

This evening we were mostly relaxing, although with a few tidying chores to do as we are hosting Brett’s friend Rich tomorrow night. I am still agonising over what to buy my mother for her birthday (Tuesday!) Rosie has already got her the killer gift; a session with a Life Coach, as she is recently retired and hasn’t really started living it up yet. I toyed with buying the parents a weekend break in Venice, but it turned out that I can’t really afford that at the moment. Maybe I’ll have to settle for sending her a copy of 1000 Places To Visit Before You Die, which I spotted in a local shop recently bur annoyingly can’t find on Amazon. Grrr.

A Winter's Morning

Regular readers will know I periodically stare out of my window and get all contemplative of the beauty of nature. Well, this morning was one of those moments; as I was eating my cereal, looking at the whited roofs across the way, with the steam rising from the chimneys and the brown leaves hanging frosted from the trees. I liked it so much I went and found a camera to take a picture of the view.

Current Nearest Observations:

Temperature: -2°C/28°F,
Westerly Wind (2 mph),
Relative Humidity: 95%,
Pressure (mB): 1033, Steady,
Visibility: Thick Fog

Christmas List

After years of scratching my head and saying I'll get back to you, whenever my mother asks me the inevitable question, I have finally managed to put my Christmas and Birthday Present wish-list on my website for easy reference by anyone feeling generous. There's not a lot on it yet, but I'll update it as my flights of fancy occur...

If you know me, you'll know where to find the site. The list is on the About Me menu.


So Harry Potter was good, if a bit long. Rather melancholy though, given the ending, plus the fact that halfway through the film I realised that Rupert Grint is beginning to remind me of Simon.

Really wishing we didn’t have an all-day rehearsal tomorrow. Really wishing it wasn’t just five weeks until Christmas. Really wishing lots of stuff, but wishing doesn’t make it so.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Pine Cones

On Friday evening a friend of Brett’s arrived from Austin for a few days. Another mutual friend (Dan) had arranged for us to meet up for dinner at a Soho restaurant and then to go to a few bars afterwards as Rich (the friend) was on the lookout for a new Brit boyfriend…

While Rich was pleasant enough, the evening was hard work. The restaurant (Busaba Eathai in Soho) was in the vein of Wagamama’s, but done a bit more pretentiously in dark wood and with incense in the air. You sit around closely-packed communal tables of ten with low-hanging lights; it’s also very noisy, so conversation across the table is virtually impossible. The food was decent though – although I inadvertently managed to eat a whole red chilli and suffered for a while – and cheap (£80 for five of us). It wasn’t a place to linger over coffee (which they didn’t serve anyway) so we headed on to a nearby bar.

I’m not a bar-fly and it’s a while since I’ve been out in Soho so I was caught off-guard by the wall of cigarette smoke that hit us as we entered. It’s something you just don’t get that often anymore! We stayed for one drink, which we had agreed should be the pattern to give Rich experience of lots of different venues, and then went on to The Yard (which is more ventilated.) We followed that up with a cocktail lounge (where we couldn’t get seats for all of us) after which Brett and I called it a night; it was too noisy and too crowded to really relax and catch up with Rich, plus I was sick of carting my work bag around with me and we were both fairly tired.

I must admit, I came away from the evening thinking how much I remind myself of my parents these days; please, nothing too noisy or smoky; I like to be able to have a conversation without having to shout. Don’t rush me to eat, I want to enjoy my meal…

Today has been more productive though. I did some maintenance on my bike this morning; removing an old dynamo-driven light that doesn’t work any more, fixing a squashed link in my chain that had been causing the pedals to jump under pressure, and getting a new rear tyre to replace the balding one I’ve been riding on since I bought the bike. The old tyre has had two punctures in the last six weeks, so I figured I needed both a thicker tyre and one with more tread as we head into the wetter seasons. Both tyres now have fairly expensive and good quality tyres on them – although being stronger tyres makes them a real struggle to get on the hubs…

This afternoon we went down into Wimbledon for an Out Coffee Posse. (Out is a gay social website that Brett and I are members of and the ‘Coffee Posses’ are basically like coffee mornings for members to meet each other.) This one was in Ely’s, Wimbledon’s department store. I’d never been in the coffee shop (Café Nero) before and was surprised to see it’s probably the best one in town; good views, lots of comfy upholstered chairs and not too crowded.

The event itself was a little stiff at times. Although I like the idea of chatting to new people without having to be in a pub/bar setting, I think the lack of alcohol at the coffee posses means that people aren’t as relaxed as they might be. Still, it wasn’t too awkward and John M turned up too about half an hour after we did, so there was at least one familiar face I could turn to when I ran out of conversational gambits with the others.

We stayed a little over an hour before making our excuses and going to look at suits for Brett.

Wandering around town, though, I was reminded how horribly close Christmas is, so this evening I’m drawing up Christmas Card lists and trying to write down gift ideas to give to my parents. Hmm.

We’re booked in to see the new Harry Potter movie at 9:30 though, so that should brighten the evening somewhat.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

I had an appointment at the Dermatology Clinic this morning: A few weeks back, when I was being examined by my doctor, she spotted an oddly shaped mole on my side and felt I should get it checked out. She referred me to a dermatologist. Given all that you read in the papers, I’d expected a six-month wait to even hear about the date of an appointment, but to my surprise an appointment popped through the letter box about a week later. With it came very handy instructions on what would be required (undressing in the presence of a nurse) and how to get there (not by car unless you want to pay lots for parking).

And so it was that I hopped onto a bus, at a stop just down from the flat, which took me to the entrance of the hospital. The wait was short, the doctor friendly and the result (provisionally) positive; the doctor didn’t think there was anything malignant about the discolouration, but got it measured and photographed just in case and then booked me in for a check-up in three months.

I was on my way out of the hospital within fifteen minutes of my allotted appointment time. Maybe the NHS isn’t in quite the dire straits that people sometimes claim (although I reserve the right for my executors to sue if I drop dead of a malignant melanoma within the next three months!) Wink So I was in a good mood as I hopped on the train (from a station conveniently located five minutes walk from the hospital) and set off for work.

Ah, yes.


I think I jinxed myself yesterday by saying how quiet it was at work. Today was one long problem; not with the hardware, for once (!), but with the wetware. Everyone who rang me or came to see me appeared determined to disagree with me about something and/or generally give me stress. I was very glad when the day was over. Even though most of the ‘discussions’ were fruitful in progressing the stuff I’m working on right now, they still left me fuming at some people’s stubbornness. In the end, I decided to skip my piano course and come straight home. (I’m a bit pissed off now actually that I didn’t go, but at the time I was just so worn out I wanted to be home with my feet up.)

On the upside, I’ve spent the evening browsing the web and also remembered to write to a couple of my friends too.

Brett was out at a Chorus meeting tonight and, judging by the fact that he’s not home yet, I’m suspect he stayed on for a drink (or two…) after the meeting finished. Ah, well, his loss; he’ll have to do without my cheery face and warm hugs when he gets back; I’m knackered and I’m off to bed.


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Richard II at The Old Vic

A good week so far. Work has been quiet; no fires to fight, so I’ve been getting on with productive stuff.

Monday’s rehearsal was fun. I’d been feeling pretty tired but it perked me up quite a bit. We seem to be making good progress on the repertoire and it is going to sound good.

Yesterday was the one day of the week when I could cycle to work and it was also the one morning where it rained. Actually it drizzled. The kind of heavy drizzle which soaks you but doesn’t wash off any of the road dirt from the bike. Still, it was a pleasant journey home…

Tonight we went to see Kevin Spacey in Richard II at The Old Vic. Despite other mediocre ‘Hollywood celebrity’ shows we’ve seen recently, this one was rather good. The production was laden with the symbolism of the play, which examines the Divine Right of Kings, from the regal Zadok, The Priest, playing during the opening robing of the King (very reminiscent of The Madness of George III!), to the Blair-esque Bolingbroke declining the crown but accepting the sceptre to the strains of Fanfare for the Common Man, to the final image of the Crown of State, spot-lit on the King’s coffin, as the rest of the stage faded into darkness. The cast was strong and Spacey held his own among them, far more than Sean Bean in Macbeth did a year or two ago. The production by Trevor Nunn was visually very impressive; simple sets which often blurred the distinction between the historic setting and the contemporary interpretation; the nobles who could have been the hereditary peer of your choice from the modern House of Lords, replete with appropriate regional accents, added depth and colour to Shakespeare’s endless succession of dukes and earls.

My only complaints were that the dialogue was taken at a fairly rapid pace, which sometimes made it hard to get your head around the nuances of the prose (although even going apace, the show still lasted over three hours!) Also, although the cast were strong, many of them didn’t seem to know what to do with themselves when they were bystanders in a scene and tended to desperately overact doing nothing.

Nevertheless: a play worth seeing and I’m glad we got to do it. It’s running until the 26th of November if you get the chance to see it.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Friday Night

Another busy week over. Friday was a very quiet day at work. The company had its AGM in the afternoon, so most people were at that. I stayed on at the office and did some tidying of my files.

We had a very pleasant evening though with Chris C and his wife Michelle. They are in town for a long weekend celebrating their anniversary and we arranged to have dinner together at The Laughing Gravy on Blackfriars Road. After the very tasty and convivial meal, we walked along the river to the Tate Modern and crossed the Millennium Bridge to St. Paul’s. Michelle seemed quite entranced and it reminded me yet again how easily you grow to take this magnificent city for granted. Then we cabbed it back to Covent Garden and on impulse took a tricycle-rickshaw down to Charing Cross. Our drivers got into the spirit of the evening and raced each other to see who could get there first; great fun (although hideously expensive at £4 per person.) By now, I’d taken on the mantle of Tour Guide, as Michelle seemed to be loving the sightseeing, and was planning to walk up through Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square into Chinatown and on to Soho before picking up a cab to the hotel.

In the end though, we only made it to Trafalgar as Brett was flagging considerably (it’s been a long week for both of us!) Chris & Michelle had invited us back to their hotel, so we hopped in a cab to Millbank where they were staying.

Chris had obviously spared no expense on the weekend; they were staying in a full suite on the twelfth floor overlooking the river, there was chilled champagne on the side and the maid had been in to sprinkle the bed with rose petals…

We all had a drink and admired the view (which from the twelfth floor is beautiful at night) but we didn’t want to outstay our welcome, so we only had the one before heading off. As we were pretty far west and pretty late (1ish, I think) we opted for a cab home and made good time.

A most enjoyable way to spend a Friday evening – and it reminded me how long it is since I’ve really visited home; the last time I saw Michelle she was pregnant with her third child, who is now two years old…

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Biology Test

You may recall a week or two ago I was testing myself on the BBC’s National Curriculum tests. Well here’s another one to try: this week it’s Biology. I scored ten of twelve (although a few of those were educated guesses…)

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Sponsored Strip-Poker

What a busy life. It’s Wednesday already and I don’t feel like I’ve stopped.

After not getting much sleep at the weekend, it was straight into a full day at work on Monday, followed by a chorus rehearsal; we started a new piece called ‘Over the Skies of Yisrael’ which is simple but lovely.

Tuesday was similar, but the evening somehow got lost by the time we’d eaten dinner.

Today has been a good day, followed by a Chorus Membership Committee meeting where they were discussing the report on the last AGM’s elections, which for various reasons I wanted to be involved in.

The most interesting part of the meeting, though, came in the pub afterwards. Somebody mentioned the idea of ‘sponsored strip-poker’ as a fundraising opportunity and, wacky as it sounded, I liked the idea. Sex sells. There’s plenty of unresolved sexual tension floating about in the Chorus, so why not capitalise on it??

People can make bids to persuade the people they fancy to play in a game of strip poker. We charge spectators to watch the game. Players can pay money to buy back articles of clothing from the bank. The possibilities are endless. We’d probably have to limit the stripping, as actually expecting people to get naked would probably be too much for (most) people, but if we say they have to get down to a g-string that would probably work.

Everyone wins; the Chorus raises money, the spectators get to watch that hot guy they’ve been lusting after strip to his underwear, the players get their egos massaged by how much people are prepared to pay to see them get their kit off. It’s a great idea!

Well, okay, it’s a pretty dubious idea (probably immoral too,) but I think it might just work.

Maybe that’s the alcohol at work on my head though.

Maybe I should get some sleep and think about it again in the morning.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Fireworks Night

After all my worrying ahead of time, the party actually went quite well I think. Everyone who was expected showed up. The transfer of proceedings up to the Common went very well. The fireworks were actually rather good fun.

We were overshadowed initially by the climax (lasers, tonnes of fireworks and music!) of a display that I think was from the Dog Stadium on the other side of town, but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. The mulled wine and the liqueur coffee kept everyone warm and convivial as I dashed back and forth, part burying fireworks and then setting them off, dutifully assisted by the lovely Scott who managed to hold the torch steady for me even after the Tia Maria took effect.

Everyone lent a hand clearing up afterwards and then we headed back to the flat to carry on the party. Once I’d washed the filth off my hands and changed my sodden trainers, I could finally have a drink and got comfortable. We rolled out the food; chips and dips, smoked salmon, cream cheese and bagels, French stick and pâté, Melton Mowbray pork pies, that kind of thing.

I got a late-night call from Chris C to check that I had managed not to burn or maim anyone, so I reassured him all the guests survived the experience. He was, naturally enough, working last night and described the streets of Liverpool as comparable with Beirut. I was just glad I was sitting at home with friends, wine and food.

The evening went on until 1ish, when people started thinking about taxis. The first local minicab company we tried turned out not to be reliable so it wasn’t until approaching 2am that people got away. Scott LeG stayed over with us, but was away long before Brett or I surfaced this morning as he had to go meet his partner at something like 8am.

Today has mostly slipped by us. It’s been very rainy and windy all day, so there’s been no incentive to go out. We didn’t emerge from the pit until about 11am and so the day has entirely consisted of interspersing the cleaning up after the party with long intervals of sitting down reading and surfing. (My appointed task today was to research some investments that I’m looking at making in the high-yield markets. Brett, having had a bit of a heavy Chorus-politics day yesterday, has been relaxing with books and comics today, so he’s nice and chilled.)

Now if only it weren’t Monday tomorrow…

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Pre-Party Pondering

I started Friday a bit later than usual because of a doctor’s appointment. Last week, when I’d been in to see her about my malaise, my blood pressure was a little high and she wanted a second reading. She also wanted Brett’s opinion on how long a particular mole had been on the side of my stomach.

In the event, my blood pressure was fine and neither of us could remember whether the mole was a recent event or not, so I came away with a non-urgent referral to a dermatologist to have it checked out.

After that, the day was fairly mundane.

Today started off by feeling a little fraught, there was a lot of stuff still un-done for tonight’s Guy Fawkes party. In the end though it’s all worked out well; Brett and I rearranged some of the furniture in the lounge to get another piece of the suite in. (The new arrangement lets me exhibit my sculptures to better effect, too!) I got the extra shopping done; it’s a bit light on any healthy greens, but at least there should be enough to feed everyone through the night. I found time to drive up to the Common to pick out a spot for the fireworks tonight. We got the flat tidied, we got ourselves showered and changed and there’s still time for us to sit down and relax before the appointed hour. Excellent!

Now I can only hope that forcing everyone to trudge out into the night, an hour or so into the party, to watch me set off fireworks, doesn’t dampen the conviviality too much… hopefully the promise of thermos flasks full of mulled wine will keep it going!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Wednesday, Thursday, uninspired

It was a drizzly night last night. We had provisionally agreed to go to the cinema with Ping, but by the time we were ready to go out, there was only an hour before the programme was due to start, so we skipped the cinema and just went out for dinner instead. The restaurant we picked in the village turned out not to be great, but we got fed and had a pleasant time catching up with Ping. Watched the new BBC/HBO collaboration series about Rome while scoffing some delicious ice cream at home afterwards.

Tonight I had my piano course. I’ve not been to the last two but all I seem to have missed is the introduction of the sub-dominant chord and quavers. Quavers I already know about and the chord is just a case of practising a new fingering.

Brett rang midd-evening to say that his key had broken in the lock when he got home, so he called a locksmith out and visited with our downstairs neighbours for a while. The (rather cute!) locksmith was still there when I got home. It turns out our mortice lock was so old it didn’t meet current British Standards and hence would almost certainly have voided our home insurance if someone broke in through the front door. (I feel a sharply worded letter going to the letting agents in the morning…)

Anyway, we now have a shiny, BS-compliant, new lock on our door.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Commander In Chief

On the subject of the US Presidency, I’ve been watching the new TV series called Commander In Chief, which follows the fortunes of a fictional first female President. Apparently it was this year’s big hit in the States and somewhere in one of the blogs I've read recently they were decrying it as Hollywood blatantly warming up the public for Hilary Clinton to run for President next time around.

Well, to be honest, I think Hollywood could do a better job if they really wanted to campaign like this. The show is very formulaic, not at all challenging and has thoroughly one-dimensional characters (Donald Sutherland must really need the money; his character [the arch-nemesis of ‘our heroine’] is so irredeemably wicked and self-serving he could quite happily be the Evil Vizier out of Pantomime!) The West Wing it certainly isn’t! Unless the series pulls its socks up fairly soon, I’m not sure I’ll even make it through the first season, let alone watch out for a second.

As far as propaganda goes, it’s actually putting me off the idea of a female president. Probably a good job for ‘the Hollywood agenda’ that I can’t vote!

Bangs and Flashes

I really hope it doesn’t rain on Saturday.

Tonight I nipped over to Sainsburys after I got home from work to pick up the fireworks for Bonfire Night. I ended up spending rather a lot. It’s probably a good thing that my sister is out of the country for the party as I’m sure that that fact would provide a damning insight into my psyche.

Nevertheless, I’ve got what looks like a good amount of bangs and flashes – the rockets only just fitted in the boot of the car! I’m hoping they live up to expectations, but at the same time I’m nervous of having a wardrobe so full of gunpowder. I’m getting flashbacks of the advice from twenty years ago about metal boxes, arms length and electric torches. Need to do some revision of the Firework Code, I think.

Other than that, there’s not much happening in my life. Work has been going well so far. Monday was hectic, but I’m getting better at delegating so most of the reactive stuff was down to somebody else while I monitored and got on with my own to-do list. Today was a bit frustrating, in that the system I’m configuring at the moment isn’t behaving as expected, but otherwise quite smooth.

Chorus rehearsal last night was also productive – although it was a sectional rehearsal and, yet again(!), the basses and baritones were sent down to the dingy airless basement room. Not happy.

In the news David Blunkett is hanging onto his job for grim death when he should certainly have resigned already. How many cock-ups can the man generate before he finally does the honourable thing?

Then there was President Bush. I saw the CNN coverage of a speech he made today about an initiative to combat avian flu. While it’s certainly a good and worthy idea, seeing it televised and headlined like that I was half expecting him to declare the start of the Global War on Flu. (At least he’d have a reasonable chance of winning that one…) I suppose with his approval rating at an all-time low and with all the recent knocks he’s taken, he’s trying to make hay out of any positive thing he can announce at the moment.