Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Begins

We’re at my parents’ place now and doing our best to relax. The drive up was long, but we managed to avoid the worst of the stationary traffic (and it looks like things would have been a worse if we’d travelled yesterday as the roads are badly overcrowded as a knock-on from so many airports closing due to the fog!)

Instead, yesterday I was up surprisingly early and took a stroll around the park. I did some snapping of the birds on the lake and came away with a usable shot of one of the mute swans. After breakfast Rosie and I headed into town with my dad (poor Brett was still bed-ridden with a stomach bug) to shop for the weekend. Rosie and I had a look at some lenses for my camera but didn’t buy anything.

The bulk of the weekend shopping was for a get-together we are organising on Sunday for a few of our old friends from school. In previous years we’ve spent several days of the holiday period trying to visit everyone we know and we inevitably only ever get to see a few. I really didn’t fancy all the time and travelling this would involve this year (I really AM after an easygoing holiday!) so instead we invited people over to the parents’ place for lunch; we’ll lay on a buffet, everyone will come to us and we can catch up with everyone at once, they can all catch up with each other too, and everyone should be happy.

Well, I say everyone should be happy, but once again we seem to be having difficulty reaching Jon A. I’ve now left two messages on different phones trying to reach him and haven’t had a reply from either. Conventional wisdom is that he has a very controlling wife and that seems to fit with the observable facts; whenever Jon runs into someone in town he is always very chatty and wants to spend time with you, but usually gets told that he has to leave by Ann (his wife). Ann seems not to like any of his old friends very much; she is always quite short, verging on the abrupt, when talking to any of us and seems to try to prevent any contact with the old gang, or to limit it as far as possible when it is inevitable. It is rather sad, but that is the way it looks and, yet again, events are bearing out the theory.

I spent yesterday evening mucking about with my websites; I’ve now got my photographic domain name pointing to the commercial site where I’m putting up the stock photos for sale. I got those few (four actually) of the photos I’ve taken with the Nikon to date uploaded and available. I’ve also put a few more into circulation on Flickr to hopefully get some feedback from other photographers.

Today? Who knows? Probably a run out to Billinge Beacon to see how the view has changed. Maybe another walk into town. This evening drinks at Chris and Michelle’s place.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas at the Barbican 2006


Exhausted is the only word I can think of to describe how I feel right now. It’s a good feeling though; feedback from tonight’s Barbican show was good and I’m now in bed and don’t have to get up in the morning…

Hooray for Holidays!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmas Spirit

Sunday was a busier day.

Up earlyish (for a Sunday) for brunch with Brett in the Village and then straight on the train to work to upgrade some switching firmware. (Our London Office network is now reaching a size where it becomes an entity in itself and in need of more care and attention than in the past, and this was the first stage of that.)

Around 2pm I set off for Islington where Jim G was hosting a farewell get-together for his friends before finally leaving the UK to move back to New York next week. The venue was The Green, a long and narrow but bright and comfortable pub. It turned into a bit of a meeting of old friends too, as John Mc, Richard H, Shane C & Joe R were all along too.

By coincidence, the Chorus was also doing a gig there in aid of the Terrence Higgins Trust, so I indulged in some charitable mince pies and listened to their set…

Unfortunately, we don’t often rehearse these ad hoc small groups before gigs like this one and in this case it showed rather; very shouty singing, forgotten words, dodgy tuning and no-one smiling. Most of the audience didn’t seem to mind, although I did wonder what Shane C (a musician and composer by trade), who was sitting less than five feet in front of the group, must have made of it all…

Alas I didn’t get a chance to ask him as, shortly after the first set was completed, I had to move on. The next venue on my list was Southgate in the Northeast of London where I was to meet Brett and his musical company.

It turned out that I got to the station where we were to meet up about half an hour before they did and I spent a while lurking around the ticket hall waiting. It’s a circular building built probably early last century and with quite a few of the original Art Deco features still remaining. Unfortunately it’s very run-down and grubby now and looking at it I was reminded of the scene from the start of the movie Titanic, where the camera is moving along the deck of the sunken liner when suddenly the music picks up and the murky grey decay dissolves into the clean new lines of the same deck back at Southampton docks before the ship sets sail. I wished I could do the same to this station, even for just a few minutes, so that I could see it as the clean and bright Edwardian original that it must once have been.

Anyway Brett and his crew turned up eventually, I was introduced around and we walked the few hundred yards to the home of Jo where dinner was to be served.

The evening was absolutely lovely; I felt rather like Scrooge enjoying Christmas dinner with his nephew’s family and suddenly seeing all the best aspects of the Christmas spirit laid out before me. To start with there was good company; all of the group were easy going and fun to talk to. There was none of the group politicking that tends to go one when two or three Chours members are gathered together! It was all good natured banter and talk. Then there was the food; beyond plentiful, there was turkey and pork with quite literally ALL the traditional trimmings and no less than three varieties of stuffing, the main course was followed by a choice of Christmas pudding (topped with single-, double- or single-with-brandy-cream), two Christmas cakes to different recipes, a table full of chocolate crispies, meringues, mince pies and sweets and a massive cheese board. There was mulled wine and regular wine aplenty with which to wash it all down. Truly a tremendous table.

The meal was then followed with coffee and brandy and singing. The group are rehearsing the Sondheim show Side By Side, so there were a fair number of his tunes played (and Brett does such a gorgeous rendition of Being Alive!) but we also culled the best of Lloyd-Webber, Kander & Ebb, Abba and (ahem!) Barry Manilow, not to mention plenty of Christmassy songs.

By the time we came away I’d had a wonderful evening, really enjoyed the company and was feeling in good spirits. Even another nightbus journey (this time far less crowded) didn’t dampen them.

I think I’m just about ready for Christmas.

Now I’m looking forward into next week; tomorrow I have our team's Christmas lunch at work and later the dress rehearsal for the Chorus’ Barbican gig. Tuesday night is our company Christmas party, where I have to see if I can still fit into my kilt (as I don’t have anything else to wear) and stay relatively sober because Wednesday night is our big Christmas show. Once that’s done we’re off up north for Christmas week and then back to host as many of our friends as are around for New Year. As they say; a packed programme...

Saturday, December 16, 2006


Well it’s actually been a lovely weekend; a couple of very late nights, but definitely worth it.

Saturday was pretty lazy – I spent most of the day sorting out how my email accounts are organised. (My domain name has been used by someone for generating spam email addresses so I’m getting dozens of non-delivery reports and out-of-office replies each day which are irritating and take up time and space.)

Once that was done, we were into town with Rosie to meet up with Rich (Brett’s former roommate from Austin) and his partner John. We started out with dinner at The Chinese Experience on Shaftesbury Avenue which provided a nice intimate booth for us to chat away. The food was very good Chinese fare and the service friendly and fast.

Then we were on to the Palace Theatre to see Spamalot, the musical written by one of the Monty Python team (and drawing heavily on the Python canon and style.) I had heard the soundtrack a few times and failed to be terribly impressed, but the stage show was quite a revelation and had me laughing out loud on many occasions; not quite your regular musical theatre experience, there were some of the better aspects of British pantomime in the mix as well as the zany humour of the Pythons.

After the show, which we all enjoyed, we did our usual ‘showing guests around London’ trick of wandering from one place to another in search of somewhere to have a quick drink and finding none of the places quite adequate for our needs and then ending back pretty much where we started an hour later. Rich was looking pretty worn-out by the time he settled into one of the deep sofas at Kettners for a few beers before parting.

Unfortunately we had left it rather late and by the time we left the comfort of Soho we had missed the last train and were reduced to the nightbus. Fortunately we found a seat fairly early in the journey. I spent most of the trip listening-in on the conversation of four students who were sitting next to us; two locals from London and two down for the weekend from Leeds. The two pairs of friends hadn’t met prior to this journey but they instantly fell into friendly conversation about all things studenty and/or Londony and chatted all the way through the forty-minute journey to Wimbledon (and presumably on to Kingston were they were heading!)

I don’t think that, even as a I student, I was ever that gregarious and I spent a while wondering at what formative experiences they had had that I had perhaps missed, or vice versa. Inevitably, at that time of night and with my slightly alcohol-befuddled brain, I couldn’t reach much of a conclusion and ended up merely mourning the lack of something I never had to begin with.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Because I can't sleep

Have a read of this:

Maybe it just caught me off guard, but it had me laughing out loud in places. It looks like a rewrite of a cut-and-pasted Wikipedia article. Either way it amused me. Hat-tip to Slightly Lost for bringing it to my attention.

In other news; work remains busy but interesting; I'm worried I may not be up to scratch for performing with the Chorus next Wednesday evening - am planning on spending my saturday afternoon going over all the material with the rehearsal aides. Christmas still isn't even on the radar; no cards written or presents bought. Christmas will start next Thursday when I wake up on the morning after the show and realise I don't have to go into work.

Further highjinx can also be found here on my photoblog.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Watch This Space

OK, I know I haven't posted in a week, but life has been hectic so I haven't really had time to journal it. My sister has moved in with us again this weekend, resulting in a great deal of clearing out getting done which, while it's necessary and good, has also been hard given my waste-not want-not psyche.
Looking at my diary I doubt I'll be writing much here before I reach my parents' place on the twenty-first of the month. That's when I can finally relax and begin to enjoy Christmas. I haven't bought any presents - nor even given much thought to what presents I might want to buy - nor have I written any Christmas cards. The joy of the season this year is simply going to be a week or so with nothing to do but enjoy the company of friends and family.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Expecting A Bumpy Ride

Nature is really flexing its muscles tonight. I’m sitting in the corner of the BA departure lounge at Glasgow Airport and the wind is howling around the building – and into it! The door at the apex of the corner is rattling and occasional gusts are somehow finding their way through the ceiling to pick at the pages of my magazine and the napkin under my coffee cup.

To one side of the building, through the wind-blown rain streaming down the glass, I can see the wing of a turbo-prop bouncing up and down and to the other under the yellow sodium lighting the external ladder leading up to our jetway is rattling and swaying. People boarding the small plane at the next gate were having to lean into the wind as they crossed the tarmac to board their plane.

The landing here on Thursday was one of the bumpiest I have experienced and the weather has been very wet and windy all weekend. Sitting in the taxi on the way here, I didn’t miss the irony of the radio playing ‘Why Does It Always Rain On Me?’ The cabbie assured me that this was excessive weather even for Glasgow! I wonder what our take-off is going to be like tonight…

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Glasgow Again

Yes, I’ve decided I do like Glasgow more than Edinburgh. It has at least as much great architecture but it has much more vivacity, much more atmosphere.


So the work in Glasgow went well; for once everything went smoothly with no unexpected problems. All I had to do was plug everything in and we had the link to the rest of the corporate network. After that all the pieces fit together seamlessly.

The hotel I’m staying in is a bit of a comedy of errors though. I’d booked a suite with a king size bed and requested an upper floor. I was given the key to a twin-bedded room in the basement. When I reminded them of what I booked they put me in the right type of accommodation, but one so far from reception that I couldn’t get a signal from the free wi-fi Internet which the hotel offers, so I moved again. The final offering was a room, rather than a suite, but it’s quite large enough for our needs.

The free Internet kept me entertained on Thursday night, but on Friday it had stopped working and it took until Saturday evening for me to bludgeon the staff into believing that the fault was with their systems rather than my laptop. Sure enough an half-an-hour later the problem had been fixed.

Brett arrived in Glasgow on Friday afternoon, having had to stay behind for a rehearsal of his show on Thursday, and today we’ve been exploring Glasgow some; mostly riding the tour bus and then stopping off at a couple of points to take photographs. The city is quite photogenic, but I fear it was not shown off at its best today, which was grey and showery. We both agree we should come back for another long weekend sometime in the Spring, when the weather will hopefully be brighter.