Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Microsoft Jobs-Worths!

Monday didn’t turn out to be the disaster I’d feared. Rob had managed to get the email database restored to the point of last Monday evening’s backup, so only messages sent and received between then and when it failed on Tuesday were missing. In theory, because our email system is transaction-based, we should have been able to just replay the logs from that period and, hey presto!, everything would be back to how it was the moment before it failed.

Unfortunately theory and practice are two different things; the system was refusing to read the logs into the database. Microsoft were being “jobs-worth” about the whole thing, refusing point-blank to support us because we were running the system on a (industry-standard, but non-Microsoft) virtual server platform. In the end we had to make do with that and Gavin and I spent the day recovering the missing mail from our seperate message archive; a very repetitive and laborious process, but at least we got it done and things are working again now.

Apart from that the day was very quiet; most people aren’t working this week, so I did a bit of paperwork and spent the rest of my time contemplating biking holidays.

Spent the evening on the sofa watching TV and reading after a lovely lamb steak which Brett magically had ready for me the moment I walked through the door. The man’s a domestic goddess! ;o)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas - Past.

Another late start and then fairly sharply on the train to town with the bikes. Had to drop them into Evans for a service. After that Brett went off to the gym and I headed off around town with my camera.

It was supposed to be a day of relaxation but a conversation with Rob S on the train left me with a lot to worry about; the mail server problem which started last Tuesday had still not been resolved and people will be back at work tomorrow. Gavin W was going straight to voicemail, so I assumed he wasn’t back in the country yet. I left him a message to call me... and that was about all I could do. I left Rob working on it.

I spent the afternoon strolling around the West End and the riverside snapping away with the Nikon. I was mostly just experimenting with the graduated filters I’d bought for bringing out texture in the sky and I got some half-decent pictures out of it.

Around five, I headed back to The Cut and picked up the bike, a book of rides around London and some waterproof overshoes (when commuting there’s nothing worse than waterlogged shoes that don’t dry out before home time!)

Train home, more positive call from Rob (some hope for tomorrow, then!), ambivalent evening on the sofa. Back to work tomorrow - and it's showing in my mood. Bah!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

La Cage aux Folles & Twilight

Had an all-round good day today; we’d tentatively agreed with Rosie to spend a few hours in the National Portrait Gallery before going on to the matinee of La Cage aux Folles. I called up Ping and Mikey as I thought they may be interested in joining us. Ping was still feeling solitary after Christmas, but Mikey was up for it.

When I’ve done the NPG exhibitions in the past, I’ve usually done them with Ping and we challenge each other to pick two pictures from the exhibit; one that we would give a prize to as ‘Best in Show’ and one that we would like to have hanging on our wall at home. I wanted to do the same today at the Portrait Photography Prize Exhibition. This was my second time around this particular show and it rather reinforced how melancholy the entries were this year; there were very few smiles, very few bright colours. There were several pictures I’d award a prize to as technically excellent or as telling insights into the world today, but nothing that I’d want to look at day in, day out.

By the time we’d finished that gallery, Mikey had made it into town and we went into the Annie Leibovitz exhibit. It was a great show, mingling her commissioned work with her private snapshots – many of which were just as striking as the paid stuff. Unlike the Portrait Prize, there were plenty of pictures here that I would have loved to take home – although ironically not that many smiles or bright colours either! I’m already toying with doing the exhibition again or, more likely, splashing the cash on the book of her work.

Once we’d finished at the NPG we wandered around into Trafalgar Square and spent a few minutes revelling in being in London before nipping down to the café underneath the terrace for a light lunch. Then Brett, Rosie & I headed down Northumberland Avenue to the show whilst Mikey headed home to catch some sleep ahead of his shift at the homeless shelter tonight.

The show was late starting, as it turned out that not only was the guy playing Albin sick, but his first understudy Adrian (Maria Friedman’s other half) had succumbed too, so they were busily preparing the second understudy who had never actually played the role in a performance before. In the end the show was still very enjoyable and quite touching. We bought the soundtrack and will probably go back when Graham Norton takes over as Albin in the New Year.

Dined at the Texas Embassy after the show and quaffed a few margaritas (which may have led to a few outbursts of song afterwards – mostly Phantom of the Opera highlights, strangely…) We wandered up to the Trocadero in search of a movie to watch and from there on to Leicester Square, settling on Twilight at the Vue.

I had dithered about seeing this previously, having been intrigued by the advertising but somewhat put-off by the trailer. In the end it was entertaining enough, although a little slow in places. Very much the brooding, angst-ridden impossible-love story all set in a somewhat noir-ish high school in Washington State; lots of repressed passions, rites of passage and meaningful glances.

By the time we were done and gotten home it was 23:30, so it’s time for bed!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Hansel & Gretel at Stratford East

An unpressured day, but got more stuff done than yesterday. The morning was lazy, then Rosie headed off to watch a movie with Ruth & Chris. We declined as there was cleaning up to be done and I wanted to give my bike a once over to see what it needed doing. The cables need replacing but the chain and gearset were all in good order. I’ll see if Evans have a servicing slot open tomorrow before the rush starts in the New Year.

This evening we were in Stratford for Hansel & Gretel; a trip organised by Ruth. It was billed as a modern pantomime so I’d been expecting it to be set on a Council Estate or somesuch. Turns out it was a very traditional style, but a lot of the underlying messages were for the children of today. It was well acted and sung and a very impressive production; the witch’s forest was made out of fabric socks which allowed lots of flexibility in staging as they stretched as the stage rotated. They even flew the witch’s house up one to reveal Hansel trapped in its root system; excellent stagecraft!

Had dinner with everyone at the local Pizza Express afterwards. Ruth was her usual self but Chris was very withdrawn. He claimed he was just tired but it didn’t rang true. Wasn’t in a position to really probe too deeply though; I hope he’s alright.

Lots to do tomorrow; got La Cage aux Folles in the afternoon and we’re meeting Rosie to do the Portrait Gallery again beforehand. More bike maintenance if I get my act together too.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Day

Well, we managed to have a relaxed and luxurious day without the excess that seems to exemplify Christmas these days. A lazy morning, Rosie arrived around 11. We cooked lunch (mostly from M&S); a lovely joint of beef with roast vegetables. There was a choice of dessert but we just had pecan pie, saving the pudding and mince pies for later. We watched Mamma Mia and then took a stroll around the local park.

Now settling down to an evening of Doctor Who and (if we can find the DVD!) The Devil Wears Prada. One day is probably enough though; tomorrow will be more active.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve Ramblings

The commute this morning was very quiet. Looks like most people have taken Christmas Eve off. Ironically, as I chose my seat in the half-empty carriage, my MP3 was playing Another Hundred People (Just Got Off Of The Train) from Company.

Work proved less relaxed. The mail server problem that began yesterday dragged on right the way through today and is still ongoing as I write. Luckily it’s not me who is responsible for troubleshooting it (that would be Rob S) so I only had to deal with the stress during the day. I feel somewhat bad about Rob having to take care of it – he has two young sons, has just (last week) moved house and I suspect he’ll be working from time to time on Christmas Day – but conversely it isn’t really my job any more and he has the better skillset to get it done.

The FTP problem turned out to be a bizarre (read: Microsoft’s over-engineered handholding!) quirk of IE7 and was duly noted for the future. (It turns out that the client accepted our submission in the end. Phew!)

The commute home was even more deserted than on the way in. The Waterloo area felt like some post-apocalyptic movie; roads that are normally nose-to-tail were totally empty of traffic. Even more ironically I thought, as I walked through all this strange emptiness, I was listening A New World (Songs For a New World) and Sunday (Sunday in the Park with George). The former is a very upbeat, uplifting song about how life changes on you when you least expect it and the latter evokes the pleasure of strolling through a small French park on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Between them they nicely captured both the unexpectedly empty streets and my sunny disposition at walking away from a stressful day at work into a four-day weekend with nothing that I really have to do.

I managed to miss my train home though. It was shorter than I expected and I was so engaged with my music and reading (OMG, I’m reading romantic gay fiction these days! Help, I’m turning into my mother/sister!!) that I didn’t notice it stopping further down the platform. Luckily Brett was able to pick me up at Lewisham to save me the bus ride with all the bounty I’d plundered from work – I’d taken mince pies and brandy cream in this morning which had only been half eaten, Rob had brought Danish pastries (ditto) and there were four pints of milk and a pile of fruit left over in our kitchen at the end of the day which wouldn’t survive the long weekend, so I brought them home.

When I got in and sat down to unwind I got chatting to Mikey F on Facebook, only for him to drop offline a few lines into the conversation. It’s not the first time he’s done it and it really annoys me. It is simply rude behaviour – something which I find strange coming from him as, in person, he is thoroughly polite – so I think that he and I will be having a little chat about online etiquette when next we meet.

Brett salvaged my mood with dinner. He’s been cooking lots of low-carbohydrate food of late to help with his exercise regimen and despite his continuous doubts he always manages to produce hot, tasty, filling meals. I think I enjoy eating this kind of healthily. Now all I have to do is get back on my bike before the New Year! (Can’t be doing it as a ‘New Year’s Resolution’ now, can I? People never stick to them!)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Eve Is Going To Suck!

After weeks of nothing much happening, the last two days seem to have been 'karma catchup' at work. Yesterday we had problems with a host server flagging a problem with one of its memory modules. We had to shut down a couple of key virtual servers to check and re-seat the unit. Then today a database became corrupt on one of our mail servers, taking out about 10% of the company’s mailboxes for the afternoon and evening while we recovered it. Tonight I got a call on my way home from someone trying to submit a project bid overseas via FTP. Turns out the client couldn’t connect to our server, initially because of a problem with our firewall (I need to discuss that with Gavin!) and later for no reason that I could see – although when I discovered he was using a Windows Vista client I pretty much despaired of getting it resolved. Luckily they managed to push the key documents onto a different FTP server with barely seconds to spare before the submission deadline. I’m going to have to do some investigating tomorrow I think. Bah! Between that and a possibly still corrupt mail database, I suspect Christmas Eve is going to suck!

That said, I plan to take in some mince pies and mulled wine for the team tomorrow: Give everyone a slightly warm fuzzy send-off into the holidays!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

For Christmas Sake (Part Two)

And suddenly it’s all over. The LGMC Christmas season is done with for another year and I can get on with my life. Despite Friday night’s blues, I feel fine about it today; somehow the extra two shows were enough and I feel that I’ve had a good return on the investment of time and energy in the rehearsal process.

Can’t be arsed to give a blow-by-blow critique of another two shows, so I’ll just mention the high points. At the matinee on Saturday, I had been expecting John G from work (and he’d brought along his friend Glen which was nice) but also in the crowd was Mauricio S (former work colleague) who I’d invited in a bulk Facebook message ages ago. I really hadn’t expected him to be there so it was a very pleasant surprise. He’s a lovely guy and it was great to see him again. Saturday night we finally did a reasonably moving rendition of Silent Night and David G had put a couple of slits in the back of his already very skimpy shorts for the finale dance number, just so you were in no doubt that he was going commando!

John Mc & Richard T were along too with various parents although we missed them after the show, they both messaged me later through various media to congratulate us. The parents and Rosie were there too, as was Ping. We had a few drinks at Cadogan Hall, then Brett & I adjourned to the (rather crowded!) Queen’s Head for more aftershow mutual-appreciation with the rest of the boys.

This morning we slept late before driving to Greenwich for brunch with Rosie & the parents, then a wander around Greenwich market. Headed home for a quiet afternoon, mostly spent uploading photos & videos of the last week’s activities to Facebook.

Friday, December 19, 2008

For Christmas Sake (Part One)

I have the post-show blues already and we’ve only done number one of three. It’s probably just fatigue, which I had expected, but it’s still pretty miserable. Not sure what state I’ll be in tomorrow.

The day started at work as usual. It was quiet as people mostly seemed to have had a good night at the company’s Christmas party the night before. [Brett and I had gone along after Selfridges feeling pretty worn-out and found that Marc D & Roddy were organising it for us. Enjoyed it for the time we were there.]

Around 11am I went off to get my hair trimmed and finally got most of the black dye out from Halloween, met up with Mikey for a lunch and managed to clear up an issue that had been on my mind for a while and also agree a rough outline of a training plan for the bike ride next year. Shortly thereafter, the call time rolled around and we met up with all the guys at Cadogan Hall. The Tech Rehearsal then followed its traditional pattern of running late from the start.

The show itself was a mixed bag; I enjoyed the first half a lot more than the second half. The first half has all the good singing music in it, while the second half is more fluffy Christmas stuff. Our rendition of Silent Night was decidedly uninspiring after a very promising run during the Tech. In the first half though we did a great Over the Skies of Yisrael and Ceremony of Carols. In fact I don’t think there was a first-half number that we did badly.

Anyway, after a brief foray into the bar after the show, we quickly determined that Ian B hadn’t stuck around (he’d sent me a text message congratulating on a great show, but pleading a long drive to relatives somewhere tomorrow morning.) So, after finishing the one drink we headed home to a well deserved bed.

Tomorrow we are expecting John G, John Mc and my parents and sister at various points. Hopefully having had a lie-in in the morning will leave me in better spirits after the (two!) shows. Either way, there is likely to be a late-night aftershow party with all the boys to fend off the blues I know I will be feeling.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Groundhog Day at Selfridges

Had a good day yesterday; started out feeling a bit rough (I keep getting
the 'first onset of a cold' symptoms, but so far nothing has taken hold) but
that cleared up by the time I got to Selfridges.

The gigs today were pretty much the same as yesterday except that in the
later ones we had a larger, more balanced group (more than one Tenor 1 was a
result!) and we included the a cappella Have Yourself a Merry Little
Christmas. I came away from it feeling good - which was fortunate because,
as soon as the final set finished, we went by taxi straight to the final
full-run of the main show.

That was not as much of a trial as I'd thought it would be, although I was
pretty much a zombie on automatic pilot by the end. Brett is worried about
his voice, he was struggling to sing towards the end at Selfridges and he
may duck out of today in order to save his voice for the main shows. My
voice seems to be fine (so far). I've been very careful not to over sing
and have taken full advantage of the microphone to do the work for me.

So today is like Groundhog Day for me; I get up and do almost exactly the
same thing as yesterday; up early to do a few hours at work and then off to
Selfridges to sing the same set another five times. Tonight though is a
change to yesterday; it's the Company Christmas Party... at which I won't be
touching the alcohol at all, so that should make for an 'interesting'
evening. I imagine we're unlikely to stay late either as Friday and
Saturday are going to be exhausting.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sisyphus Does Selfridges

An early start today; Rob is on leave today and tomorrow so I went in early to cover for him (and make it look like I was actually spending some time in work this week!) Nothing much happened.

Around 11am I headed off to Selfridges to join the boys singing for their customers. I wasn’t on the schedule to sing today but I know that sometimes people don’t turn up for these things when they say will, so it’s good to have people on standby. In the end I sang in each of the five slots. We were well supplied with Baritones, but had only one First Tenor for most of the day – a new guy, Richard Q, who held his own very well. The gigs generally went well; although we are crammed onto the tiny balcony halfway up the atrium again, it’s a good spot as you are seen by everyone on the escalators and the sound percolates through more of the store. Being mic’d also means you don’t really have to strain your voice. It’s hard to maintain focus over so many repetitive sessions though; there were a number of times when I was on automatic pilot and confused tune or lyrics with some different section of the song.

I was pretty much exhausted by the end of the day, so I’m going to really have to conserve my energies tomorrow when we go straight from the last performance onto a rehearsal of the full show; that will be a long day!

After the show Brett went to the gym and Feroze and I headed down to Green Park – him, to get his watched fixed at Cartier (!), and me to nip into Fortnum and Mason’s to pick up a few boxes of their Chocolate Liqueurs, which have become a Christmas tradition in our family of late.

Realising that I’d left my laptop at work necessitated a side-trip to the office before I could go home and put my feet up. Once home though, that’s exactly what I did and boy!, did it feel good!

Early night for me tonight and then up bright and early tomorrow to do it all again!

Discussion of Voltaire in n-Space Geometry

For once, yesterday was an interesting day at work. I talked to our license suppliers first thing about our Microsoft agreement, which is coming up for renewal. In the afternoon I spent a while with some guys from Boston whose function we are in the process of acquiring. It’s the first time I’ve overseen a merger of one company into another so there are new challenges to be had out of the experience.

The evening was another Chorus rehearsal; the Dress Rehearsal with the band this time. All went fairly smoothly but again highlighted areas where I need work. Today is the first day of Selfridges gigs. I haven’t actually been called to sing but, since I’ve already organised the time off work, I’m going along anyway as a standby. I can productively use the time to both brush up on my music and do a bit of blue-sky thinking for the strategy document I’m supposed to be preparing at work.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Blink and the Weekend's Over!

Friday ended on a sad note; the compulsory redundancies were announced at work and one of the secretaries who has been with the company forever was on the list. She seems fairly resigned to going but I expect it is a blow to her even if she was expecting it. She has always been close to the IT Team as she is great friends with Henri, who had brought in champagne and cakes to celebrate her birthday. It was a bittersweet toast we raised that evening.

The Centre Stage Christmas Party that evening was pleasant; it was held in the massive room above The Adelaide pub in Chalk Farm – a pub which looks way too upmarket for the area. There was a bar and lots of overstuffed sofas along with the chairs and tables littered with glowing nightlights. I chilled a bit and unwound from the emotions of work while Brett mingled. Things livened up around 9pm when the (somewhat overloud) karaoke kicked off. Most people had a turn and Brett even put us both down to do the old Chorus favourite, Seasons of Love. We didn’t stay too late though as we had a full-day rehearsal to look forward to tomorrow.

Saturday, we were up at 7:30 to get up to Downhills Primary where we rehearse on weekends. The rehearsal-proper didn’t start until 11am but the Baritones had scheduled an extra note-bashing & choreography session starting at 10. It was quite a useful session though, so I didn’t mind the earlier start.

The main rehearsal was a long day, but was likewise valuable. We have two more full runs of the show (Monday & Wednesday) before we perform to a paying audience and I am confident we will be in good shape by Friday. Lunched with Brett & Mikey at the local greasy spoon and was amazed to find out that Mikey has only been out to his family and most of his friends since he joined the Chorus in September. He’s such an outspoken, confident guy I hadn’t imagined he had ever really been in the closet!

After the rehearsal we headed down to Wimbledon. We’d been due to join Rod & Jess for a carol concert at the Wimbledon Stables but in the end we were too late for that. We got to meet Caspar (Jess’ horse) though and he’s a fine animal. Afterwards we headed into the The Dog & Fox for a bite to eat. We hadn’t been in there since it’s been refurbished and it was a very pleasant surprise; a classy and sharply decorated bar and restaurant. We had some really lovely food at reasonable prices and an evening of catching up. Amongst everything else, they told us about a 1920’s immaculate Deco flat on Wimbledon Hill which they’d viewed about six months ago when it was priced around £400k. Apparently the agent called them this week to see if they’d be interested in it at £310k. I was gutted: A spacious, period flat in excellent condition in Wimbledon is probably the closest thing to my dream home that I’ll ever find in London and with a bit of a stretch we could probably have afforded it! Other than that their main news was their own house move to Wimbledon next month.

Today has been mostly about domestic chores, but I did finally get down to processing the photoshoot I did with Graeme N a few weeks back. It was a bit of a struggle as I was coming down with a rather bad cold that day and eventually had to call it a day when the lemsip wore off. I managed to get a reasonable number of usable shots though and I’ll send them off to him tonight.

Friday, December 12, 2008


Slightly more focussed day at work yesterday. My head seems to be settling down again. About bloody time!

Got home to find that my studio kit had been delivered so set about testing it. All worked well, although the metal rods which give the softboxes their shape were each 1cm too long in one of the kits, so I had to get a hacksaw out before I could assemble it. Apart from that though, it all worked fine and I ran off a few effective shots of Brett.

Today has been much the same at work. This evening we’re off up to Chalk Farm for the Centre Stage Christmas Party, so the evening will be spent chatting with Brett’s former cast members whilst trying to not get too drunk before tomorrow’s rehearsal. Hey ho.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Maria Friedman Rearranged

Today seemed to be a day when nothing went according to plan. It wasn’t a particularly bad day; I just didn’t get to do any of the things I’d planned/wanted to do. Problems with the Glasgow phones following yesterday’s work on the London and Leeds firewalls occupied a fair portion. Mike G came to fill me in on what’s happening in the New York Office (it’s moving to Boston and growing) so there’ll be lots to do there next year and the day rounded off on an interesting meeting with Ian B (my boss) about strategic planning for the business.

This evening Rosie had arranged tickets to see Maria Friedman Rearranged. I’d not really heard of Maria Friedman before but Brett and Rosie are big fans. The show was a combination of showtunes and some rearranged pop music and she was certainly very good. Unexpectedly though, I was most moved by her rendition of a medley of Sunday in the Park With George; it was just well put together, conveying Dot's emotional journey through the show. Because Rowan had got the tickets through Maria’s niece (with whom she works), we were welcomed backstage after the show and ended up going down to the pub next to the venue with Maria and Andy (her MD), where we were shortly joined by Maria’s partner, Adrian, who’s currently appearing in La Cage Aux Folles at the Playhouse – a show which is definitely on our list to see. An enjoyable and interesting evening without doubt.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Quick Recap

Given that I only got about three hours sleep last night, today was remarkably alert. Still no sign of the missing mojo though.

This evening after a large helping of Brett’s finest enchiladas and watching the first episode of Little Dorrit on iPlayer, I splashed some cash on studio equipment essentials. Expect to hear whoops of delight and childish glee on Thursday evening.

(Repeat after me; it’s not how much you spend, it’s how many airmiles you earn that’s important! It's not how much you spend, it's how many airmiles...)

Sleepless in SE6

It was the Pringles wot dunnit!

I got back from rehearsal feeling peckish and dived into a tube of Pringles. Now I can’t get to sleep. Not sure whether it’s the sudden influx of sugars into my system or whatever E-numbers they use in the flavouring, but something is stopping me from slipping into sleep. Hence, here I am blogging at a ghastly hour of the morning when I need to be up for work in a few hours.

Work has been on my mind a lot lately. For some reason, for the last three or four weeks, I have been bored senseless by my job. It’s not that I don’t have anything to do; things have quietened down since the Financial Crisis, but there’s still lots of stuff I should be doing. I just can’t be arsed to do it.

Is it the winter blues setting in or is it some deeper discontent with my role? I’m still trying to decide. I could argue it either way. There is less work crossing my desk, so I’m not feeling as much pressure as previously. Maybe I need a bit of pressure to keep me focussed when there’s so much stuff going on outside of work to distract me. Conversely I’ve never been a great man-manager; is the ‘new’ of the job wearing off and I’m finally facing the cold reality that my job now requires me to do lots of stuff that I don’t find at all enjoyable?

Brett and I discussed it a bit in the car on the way home from rehearsal tonight and he asked me what I would want to do instead. It probably wouldn’t be staying in IT. The technical side of things was already getting repetitive and beginning to bore me before I got promoted, I don’t enjoy the management side much either, so in the long-term IT is a dead-end for me, I think. If I don’t do IT, then what else can I do to pay the mortgage?

The only likely candidate at the moment is to develop the photography interest more seriously (= rapidly) to see if I really can make money there. In the current world of affordable DSLRs it’s a risky career path to set out on; everyone I’ve spoken to says it’s getting harder to make a living as a photographer, but at least I enjoy it, am passably competent and (I think) getting better as I practice. It’s not a decision I need to make now anyway; I need to build up my portfolio quite a bit first – and my inventory of equipment and skills – before getting anywhere near considering leaving work. Brett is also still in the start-up stage of his own business and we can’t both be doing that at the same time – at least one of us needs to have a reliable income!

By coincidence I was browsing the Calumet (= photographic supplies) website today and worked out that I could get myself a very basic mini-studio together for about five hundred pounds: Not a casual purchase, but still quite affordable.

Another coincidence had me commenting on a photo of Mikey F on Facebook; it was a typical scene of teenage high-jinks (sp?) but the moment captured bore more than a passing resemblance to some renaissance painting of Christ being taken down from the cross and it got me thinking about reworking familiar religious iconography (or even just familiar old paintings) from a modern standpoint. It’s a theme that’s certainly been done before – even very recently – but it would be an interesting project to do to challenge myself photographically.

Apart from the soul-searching, today was quite mundane at work. The only thing worthy of note was that Gavin made the transition from contractor to full-timer and brought in fresh chocolate croissants to mark the occasion. This evening’s rehearsal was productive; the Christmas show is getting there, but there is still work to be done – not least by me!

I’m planning to sign-up to do the Norwich 100 (a 100-mile bike ride around East Anglia) in June next year. I’ve been trying to get my act together and get back on my bike all year (and failing miserably) so hopefully having an event to work towards will give me the little extra push I need. The concept worked when I signed-up for the London-Brighton ride with Simon R at work a few years back; it got me out and about and it got me exercising and feeling good. Mikey (who is a keen cyclist himself) has agreed to do the ride with me and having a committment to someone else to do it should help keep me at it too. Brett wasn't keen on doing it himself – It would be a huge training commitment for him. I can put in a lot of time just by commuting by bike, whereas he doesn’t have that option – but maybe I can drag him along on a few weekend training rides to augment his gym sessions.

Okay, having successfully uploaded my latest mid-life crisis (and how timely is this one – I’m forty in three months (OMG!)) I’m going to go back to bed and try to get three hours sleep.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

John & Rich Get Married

The wedding yesterday was excellent. The weather was cold but clear and sunny, the ceremony was nicely brief and to the point. Afterwards there was a photo-call at a nearby Jacobean mansion which was lovely. Then we were on to lunch at a restaurant in Bexley which was better than most wedding breakfasts I’ve been to before. There were mercifully few speeches.

By the time we were finished eating it was around 5pm and the whole party walked back to the house, clutching glow-sticks and the chemical handwarmers that had been handed out with the sloe gin on the coach. There were a couple of stops to watch a firework display and to send up some heart-shaped mini hot-air balloons (very pretty in the sky, but a bit too romantically-cute for my tastes.) They had a snow machine blowing over the front door and the house continued the ‘winter sparkle’ theme of the wedding. The patio doors now led straight out into a white marquee with a mirror-ball and dancefloor and there was a life-size model of a young Fallow Deer doe (which inevitably got christened ‘Bambi’ by everyone) in amongst the snow-decked Christmas trees at the rear.

On the TV there was a continuous slide show of photos of both the happy couple and the guests, including some hilariously old shots of a few! I got off fairly lightly but there were older photos of Brett in there and a lot of John’s old friends in full 80’s teenagehood. They had caterers in to keep everyone topped up with food and drink, all of which was good quality nosh, and had a new version of their ever-popular chocolate fountain; a two-spume affair pouring milk chocolate down one side and white chocolate down the other.

Mid-evening a few of the guys got back from a Far From Kansas gig and that kick-started the singsong part of the evening; Simon S was pressed into service on the keyboards, songsheets were handed out to the guests and we mixed traditional Christmas Carols (including the audience-participation version of Twelve Days of Christmas) with Come What May and All That Jazz.

John & Rich did a speech of thanks to people, after which Rich surprised John with an early fortieth birthday present; he handed over a silver envelope which contained details of an arctic cruise that he has apparently booked for them both next March.

After that the evening continued with more drinking, dancing and chatting. I carried on as semi-official photographer of the day, making a record of some of the shenanigans. The best part of the latter evening was dipping my oar into a discussion between Martin K and Andy, Nicola K’s partner, who is a serving police officer. They were roaming freely over the topics of discrimination, equality and sexual politics. I hope I can catch up with Andy again in future – which I’m sure we will – as it was quite an engaging discussion and I should like to pick up some of its threads at a later date.

Having managed to remain remarkably sober myself, I poured Brett into a taxi with Nicola, Andy, all our gear and a mountain of wedding cake slices that Rich had pressed on us and we all headed home around 1am.

Today I spent a while picking out and processing the best of the pictures and then publishing them on Facebook before we headed off to Trevor G’s winter party. Sadly the party was poorly attended and didn’t reach critical mass while we were there so, as we were pretty weary anyway from the day before, we made our excuses after a couple of hours and headed home. Rather sad for Trevor and Kenny as they’d clearly done a lot of prep work and their summer parties are always fabulous.

Instead we came home and watched West Wing episodes after putting up the Christmas decorations.

One other thing to remember; John G suggested resurrecting the Brunch Club that Ping used to organise a couple of years ago. It’s rather fallen by the wayside since he’s been splitting his time between London and Kuala Lumpur and it was a great way to catch up with our friends. I shall try and book some dates for the coming year.

Friday, December 05, 2008

I Won't Send Roses

Am I up to it, do you think?

For someone who claims to be so busy, to start blogging again in the run-up to Christmas – one of the busiest times of my year – seems to be hoping for a little much. But then, I was surfing past entries this afternoon, reliving past glories and thinking how much of it you forget unless you write it down; those inter-neuronal links atrophy if they’re not fired once in a while.

Today at work continued the recent trend of me being uninspired and struggling to focus. Stuff happened; nothing exciting. Came home early as we had tickets to see Mack & Mabel at the Broadway Theatre this evening.

The show was up to the usual high standards of The Broadway, although with a somewhat sub-par band; good cast though, excellent production, excellent singing and choreography. I’m sorry we saw it so close to the end of its run as I’d probably have seen it again for the cost of the tickets.

Tomorrow is John W & Rich C’s Civil Partnership, so we’re spending the day in Bexley. Judging by the pre-event literature I think the event has been planned to the nth degree. If it goes according to plan it will be a fantastic day. I just hope the grooms are chilled enough to brush off anything going wrong!

Anyway, I’ve been roped-in to video the ceremony for them. I’m assured they’re not expecting professional output, just a record of events, which is good, since I’ll be working with a single camera and almost no chance to case the joint before the ceremony starts. (John described it as a conveyor belt at the registry office.) After the ceremony though I’m reverting to my preferred medium and just carrying my Nikon around.

Then Sunday all the old Chorus hacks have been invited around to Trevor G’s place for a winter party. Trevor always hosts a good party – although I’m not so sure the hot tub will be so popular at this time of year!

On the whole it should be a good weekend. Long may it last!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Chris' 40th and Batman

It’s been a sticky weekend. The flat seems to be a heat trap. It will be a bonus in the winter when it’s cold, but now it just means the house is stiflingly hot all day long.

Yesterday we slept late and did house stuff; still trying to organise all the square-pegs into round holes. In the evening we had been invited to Chris P’s 40th birthday party, so we went in to the City early to catch some dinner at Smiths of Smithfield. We ate in their top floor restaurant and had an excellent meal. I had probably the tenderest steak I’ve ever eaten; truly delicious. The bill was a stupendous £150 for the two of us though, so it’s not something we’ll do too often – although we rationalised it a bit because we hadn’t done nearly as much top table dining in Spain as we have in previous years at Sitges.

Chris’ bash was very pleasant as we spent the evening outdoors. Admittedly it was mostly chatting with people with whom we’d spent last week, but there were also a few faces we hadn’t seen in a while; Stuart B, Marc D & Roddy, Russell E, Paul L & Martin K were all there too which added to the enjoyment.

Today I spent sorting out the photographs from the Spain trip; putting the last tranche on Facebook and uploading the lot of them to a collection on Flickr. This evening we went into Beckenham for (unremarkable) Tex-Mex at Dos Amigos before going to see the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight.

The cinema was stifling hot; no air conditioning and pretty much no ventilation. It was like watching a movie in a sauna. The movie was too long and had too many villains in it; the Joker would have been big enough and kept the movie to time. Adding Two-Face just dragged it out when really it didn’t need it. I have to say also that some of the stunts/plot devices the Joker pulled were just too implausible for me. [Spoilers follow!] Wiring a hospital for complete demolition in the space of sixty minutes whilst avoiding notice with a face like that? Yeah, right! And the business with the ferries at the end; all those barrels and detonators – and nobody noticed? And such an immaculate moral dilemma to go with it! If you haven’t seen it, wait for the DVD.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Art and Work

Well, it was a short week at work, but it was certainly eventful.

The course I had been on for the first half of the week finished around 4pm on Wednesday and I had a couple of hours to kill before the company’s Summer Party so I took myself off to the nearby Tate Modern to see what was new in art. I must be getting old because pretty much everything I saw was dreadful (in my humble opinion, at least.) And they didn’t even have any big installations to marvel at in the turbine hall!

The company party itself was quite pleasant; free drink in quantity, free food of reasonable quality and a chance for lots of informal chatting with people I don’t see so often around the office. I left early though (which was probably no bad thing given how much I’d drunk) because we had tickets to see the ‘Shitty Deal Puppet Theatre’ show at the Battersea Arts Centre Comedy Festival. In the end, the name turned out not to be ironic and the show was totally unremarkable. Maybe, as with modern art, I’m not in the avant garde, so I wish them well at the Fringe.

Thursday was my first day back at work and was inevitably busy with ten days worth of mail and other catching up to do. One of my team handed in his resignation which, while not wholly unexpected, felt a little surreal in the moment and added to the business of the day.

Today was consequently also a busy day. I needed to get the recruiting cycle underway but also think this may be a good opportunity to re-jig the team slightly, so needed to consult with various people to make sure that (1) I had my head screwed on right and, (2) that the powers-that-be would buy-in. My concentration wasn’t helped by a failure of our external telephone lines in the London Office in the early afternoon (a major BT outage, apparently affecting roughly ten-thousand of their customers in the SE London area!) which classed as a potential major incident for us and so needed managing. In the end though I got the first draft of a Job Specification written and off for review. Hopefully we can advertise on Monday.

Tonight we had a lazy night. Brett cooked lamb (yum!) and I discovered a mini-mart on the way home from the station that does a big selection of Greek desserts (more yum!!)

And so to the weekend…

Monday, July 21, 2008

Naked in the Leaves

The Thursday night in La Garriga will stay with me for a long time. It’s a small provincial town with some lovely architecture and a small, neat auditorium where the chorus sang with a local male-voice choir who I swear did not have a member younger than 50. They were more tuneful than the ladies had been the previous night, despite clearly lacking any true top tenors. The memorable thing about the night though was just how lovely the people were.

They gave us a tremendous standing ovation, bought all the CDs we had on sale (even our stock of Christmas ones!) and then hosted us to a delicious open-air buffet of local pastries and sangria. As the post-show party got underway, the choirs came together to sing the Catalonian favourite Les Flors de Maig, then they sang us a welcoming song in Catalonian and we returned the favour with a stirring a cappella rendition of Jerusalem. The atmosphere was warm and convivial and my heart really caught in my throat as I listened to them sing; this is what we are about.

The Friday concert was a successful night, although less so, and also very late – a three-hour trip to and from the venue meant we didn’t get to bed until 3am! Even so, on Saturday after packing and checking out, we felt we had to do something other than sit around the hotel, so we spent a few hours in the nearby Blanes; a seaside resort which had the good sense not to run a railway line between the hotels and the beach.

When we finally left for home a chaotic check-in process left me in a grump for the evening but a couple of tunes kept running through my head and tempered my bad mood somewhat; one was the climax of the duet Naked in the Leaves; where the chorus comes almost out of nowhere to a great crescendo in a sequence of beautiful chords, “Impassioned lovers, unafraid, lying naked in the leaves…” The other tune was the trill that seems to have stuck in everyone’s head from Les Flors. All the locals recognised it and, despite the song being a real trial for the boys to learn, they kept bursting into the “Tra la la’s” – even as a group of them were disembarking at Heathrow.

So anyway, I’m almost back to normality (on a course for three days rather than straight back into the office) but am suffering somewhat from the post-holiday blues; missing the camaraderie and the music of the tour.

On the upside we went up to Angel tonight to hear Far From Kansas do the show they are taking up to the Edinburgh Fringe; There’s No Place Like Homo. It was both funny and well sung and, while I do have a few notes to offer to the performers, I shall do it in private having learned from the storm that developed the last time I reviewed an FFK show!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

More Laziness, Less Drinking

Wednesday was another slow starting day. Nothing noteworthy until we got to our evening venue, Castellar del Vallés. There we were met by representatives of the ladies choir with whom we were sharing the show; a lovely bunch of ladies wearing shocking pink blouses which perfectly matched the pink polo shirts worn by a portion of our boys. A photo-frenzy developed once this was noticed.

The venue was an open air stage outside the local town hall. It was a bit worrying when we arrived to see only about forty chairs laid out, but in the typically relaxed Catalonian fashion that I rather like, as the audience strolled in they each went and took another of the folding chairs from the pile by the wall and found themselves a space. I reckon we had over a hundred by the time we started to sing.

The Catalan ladies, lovely though they were, needed a bit of work on their tuning. They also had some interesting accents while they sang Edelweiss and O Happy Day, but I can’t be too disparaging about their pronunciation without wondering what they made of our Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien.

The audience was very appreciative though and our set was roundly applauded: Even the numbers that felt a bit more risqué, for what I suspect was a fairly conservative, older audience. The grand finale (My Way) went down a storm and brought a tear to a few eyes. The encore (the Piaf) brought the same sigh of appreciation from the audience as in Barcelona when we started, but I think failed to build to a proper climax and left me, at least, feeling underwhelmed.

After the show Simon was presented with another souvenir of our trip (we really ought to have something to give in return on these occasions!) and then there were nibbles and drinks with the ladies choir. The merchandising guys took €250 in CD and t-shirt sales, which was very good (and probably better than we did on those lines at Cadogan Hall!)

The trip back to the hotel was marked by lots of singing on the coach; for the most part the front of the bus seemed to be trying to outdo the back of the bus, although at times there were probably as many as five different songs being sung at once…

Caroline (our fly-on-the-wall documentary maker) took advantage of the ride to do some interviews, although I suspect the noise eventually forced her to give it up.

Back at the hotel we made the best of the ‘cold dinner’ that the hotel had laid out for us again before retiring to the terrace for a couple of beers before bed.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Laziness and Drinking

Monday and Tuesday were ‘free’ days; there was nothing scheduled as a group so people did their own thing. Brett and I had a long lie-in on the Monday morning, and then he sunbathed by the pool while I uploaded the previous day’s photographs to Facebook.

Late afternoon we took a walk along the promenade towards town with a few of the other Chorus guys. We were trying to find an old town for a bit of authentic Spanish culture but there wasn’t one. What the locals call the old town all looks to be twentieth century construction. In the end we had a few beers at a community centre/park and discussed Chorus stuff – most of our companions being relative newcomers, it was interesting to hear there perspectives on how we treat newbies and how they think the Chorus could do its stuff better.

Back to the hotel for another dismal dinner and then out onto the terrace by the pool for drinks. It was a very pleasant evening; pretty much everyone was there at some point and returners from Barcelona would join us as they got off the train (which stops across the road from the hotel.)

The bar staff at the hotel seem to resent the fact that we drink so much. The impression I get is that they normally have a much quieter time of it; most of the other guests drift off after the evening entertainment finishes, with just a few die-hards staying later. So by about 11pm they can start clearing up and slowing down. With a gay men’s chorus in residence though, the drinking continues in quantity until the small hours, which means the staff have to work through until closing time. Anyway, after the bar shut twenty or so of us made our way up to one of the hotel rooms where a few bottles of spirits and cartons of sangria had been collected and we carried the party on there.

I had been drinking Spanish brandy all evening which has a lovely flavour and didn’t seem that terribly strong. As a result I’d had five or six of them (continental ‘measures’!) by the time the bar shut but wasn’t feeling much the worse for wear. After we retired upstairs though there was only gin, vodka and sangria to choose from. I had a gin and tonic (in about a 50:50 ratio, it turned out!) and I think my second was a mix of gin and sangria. Within half an hour I was pretty smashed, but still having a good time. Much fun was had by all I think as the atmosphere was very convivial.

Brett and I left the party around 2:45 (but I hear it continued until they got closed down by Hotel Security at 3:30ish). My head was still swimming though when I tried to sleep which always makes me nauseous, so I ended up throwing up a couple of times before I could doze off. It seems to have been for the best though because I woke up clear-headed, if a little sluggish, on Tuesday morning.

It was a late awakening though, so we had breakfast at the café on the promenade. Shortly after getting back to our room Theo and Dennis called by to see if we were still up for a trip to Barcelona. We decided we were and headed out to the train with them.

We had an enjoyable, if tiring, day which can pretty much be summed up as; lunch, Sagrada Familia, bus tour of city, a bit of shopping and then home again. We were up for the bus tour as it had come recommended and we hadn’t done it before. For €20 it turned out to be reasonable value – although most of the things that I would have liked to have photographed were hidden by trees – it gave us a good idea of where we would want to explore more the next time we are back.

When we got back to the hotel Brett, who had been feeling increasingly like he was catching a cold, went up to bed while I went out for a late dinner with Theo D, Dennis M, Martin B & Nicola L. Ended up in a place just being vacated by another Chorus crowd who recommended the tapas and arroz negra. We took their advice and had a lovely meal.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Show in Barcelona

This morning was a welcome meeting for the group followed by a couple of rehearsals for the singers. I attended the welcome meeting to pick up my information pack, but ducked-out of the rehearsal; I was happy to wait until they performed it on stage to hear the Festival Anthem. Having some time on my hands also allowed me to upload yesterday’s blog entry and photos. After the rehearsal we went in for a late lunch of standard resort-hotel buffet cuisine and an hour or so later met up to board our buses into Barcelona.

When our guide on the coach told us some of the superlatives that had been used about the venue for the show, the Palau de la Musica Catalana in Barcelona, I was rather sceptical. When we got into the auditorium though, I changed my mind. I don’t know if I have the architectural background to describe it properly, but my impression was of a fusion of Catalan/Basque, Gaudi and Classical styling. There were ceramic fragment mosaics everywhere, the ceiling had a huge stained glass skylight which came down to a pendant central sun motif, there were full-size, full-relief winged horses flying out of the pillars on the upper balcony and the proscenium arch, such as it was, formed the meeting of sculpted riders and soldiers(?) on one side and a forest filled with the flowers of May on the other.

The stage itself was decorated with part-painted and part-relief sculptures of musicians looking down on the performers; all surmounted by a large organ and curtained galleries.

As there were four other choirs with numbers to rehearse, plus the combined choruses to rehearse the Anthem, ‘Les Flors de Maig’, stage-time was strictly limited and almost as soon as the rehearsal was over, we had to clear to let the public in.

The show went fairly well. Personally I think a couple of the earlier choirs were a little samey; a couple of long programs of similar music. The Bulgarian Boys Choir though had a fairly short repertoire which they performed beautifully – with a vocal precision that should make us weep! Our own slot went off fairly well; the audience seemed to like both the classical numbers and the more modern ones; they started applauding as soon as we started singing ‘Non, je ne regrette rien’! They were a bit bemused by ‘I Feel Pretty’ though (probably not a song with which they are that familiar) and given that the choreography for the number was so ragged, I would rate it the low-point of the set.

After the show, it was a fairly swift turnaround; we were out of the Palau in short order and after a bit of socialising in the forecourt we snaked our way back towards the coach, pausing only to rush into a small shop on the way and buy them out of cheap (and nasty!) baguettes for the journey home. Applause and congratulations from audience stragglers as we walked away from the venue!

Most of the chorus (those who hadn’t bought baguettes) hurried down to the dining room as soon as we hit the hotel as we had been promised a cold dinner. Having seen that ilk before I wasn’t surprised when it turned out to be plates of cold luncheon meat and processed cheese (turning a slightly funny colour for having been left out so long.) I supplemented my gin-and-tonic with a quarter of one of the sliced melons they had laid out for dessert. Afterwards there was a bit of a gathering around the pool as beer and cocktails were consumed by all.

It was all fairly tame stuff until Soon N arrived in the bar. Soon likes costumes; every week at rehearsal he comes as a different character, typically a uniform of some sort. This evening he was in full Leather Master drag. I didn’t see his entrance into the bar myself, but I know there were plenty of non-chorus guests left over from the earlier flamenco show. I am told that the expressions on some of their faces were priceless.

The show didn’t stop there though; he had brought a studded leather dog collar and lead which he attached to Stephen B (one of our newer Baritones) for a while. Due to a defunct battery though, I was on my way up to our room to pick up my other camera when the evening’s highlight took place. After letting Stephen off the lead, he then took Alisdair L, our illustrious Vice-Chair, for a walk around the hotel pool on all fours! It seems everyone in the hotel – except me – got photos of that…

After that things petered out; people hung around a while but after they closed the bar around 1am the remainder drifted off to bed.

The Journey

Holiday mode kicked-in as we were sitting on the car park courtesy bus. We’d arrived exactly on schedule and as we waited to be bussed to our terminal, my body finally gave in, started manufacturing endorphins again and I relaxed.

From there on in the trip was a breeze; we met up with the guys, checked-in (securing exit seats with lots of legroom), had an enjoyable flight (lots of chatting, some singing (uh-oh!)) and got to the hotel in good time. Our room is as expected and as far as I can tell is away from noise (bars, roads, service-areas) so it’s good. The hotel even has free wi-fi – although the signal doesn’t quite reach our room, so I’m going to have to lurk in the lobby to upload this post.

I’m taking lots of photos and, while it has it’s drawbacks, the little Canon point-and-shoot I brought is still able to take some good candid shots of the boys at play.

Highlight of the day: Sitting on the plane, sipping my second gin-and-tonic, resisting the urge to read, blog, listen to music, etc. in favour of just sitting there and enjoying having nothing to do and so, doing nothing.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


The waiting is always the worst of most things.

I woke up this morning not feeling terribly well rested and somewhat irritable and negative, which made the usual packing hassles even more of a trial for both of us. Now that we are packed and ready to go, there’s nothing really to do until the appointed hour, which I’m finding frustrating too.

Hopefully this is not prophetic of how the rest of the week will go; I am not sure I will be good company for anyone if it is. With any luck though, I will click into Holiday Mode when we meet up with the guys at the airport and none of us will look back.

Friday, July 11, 2008


I had a fairly therapeutic day at work today; things were quiet enough that I spent most of the day organising and managed to spend pretty much the whole afternoon clearing and tidying my desk. I feel I’ve left everything in order and under control and hopefully won’t have any nasty surprises waiting for me when I get back. It’s a good feeling to be going away on!

I ran into Damian F this afternoon; he got back from the Antipodes last night and had snuck in to organise his own desk in advance of his official return on Monday. We chatted a while but he had a fixed smile on his face throughout, and I had visions of him greeting an endless line of well-wishers that he really didn’t want to face, so I left him alone shortly, feeling like I’d intruded.

This evening was getting ourselves sorted for Spain; we leave for Barcelona tomorrow and are spending a week on the Catalan coast. Actually, so far we’re just doing a bit of ironing; we’re not due at LHR until 4pm tomorrow, so most of the actual packing is being put off…

I am really looking forward to it. Chorus trips are usually great social events. As well as the four shows the boys are singing for, we have two whole days and various half-days at leisure to do what we want. I’m going to photograph stuff – some of which will be the Chorus at work and play, but some of which will be for me: It’s a while since I’ve indulged my muse.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

I Made It Through the Rain

Tolerable day at work. The learning curve of some aspects remains steep.

Brett called me up late afternoon though; he was going to a marketing meeting for Various Voices and wondered if I wanted to come along and have a dinner out with him afterwards. I wasn’t feeling muchly sociable, but the meeting was in a pub so I figured I could sit quietly and read during the meeting and then head out with my man afterwards.

After leaving work roughly on time I walked up through Soho to find the place. The weather has been poor these last few days, with sunshine and showers alternating every few minutes, but today was just unresolved grey wetness. The air is pregnant with moisture and a fine mist blows on the wind, so it’s hard to tell sometimes whether carrying your umbrella is helping keep you dry at all.

I had trouble finding the bar where the meeting was being held and, given my already fairly tired and grumpy mindset, was pretty miserable by the time I got there. It was quieter than I’d hoped, so there wasn’t really any hope of me sitting inconspicuously in a corner and reading. Instead I was introduced to the lady leading the meeting (the only other people there when I arrived were Brett and German Martin B from the Chorus, although others arrived about an hour later) and I sat down and started quaffing the proffered red wine.

Actually the red wine was a bad idea; I had had an early lunch and no dinner and, despite snacking on some humus and pitta bread, the wine settled into my bones so I was feeble and sleepy throughout the rest of the evening and spent a fair portion of it dozing against Brett (which the other attendees claimed to find adorable…)

A curious coincidence though; a little way into the evening John Mc turned up at the bar with his friend Richard for dinner. It’s a small gay world.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Unpalatable Issues

An unsatisfying day at work. Didn’t really have that much to do, but having time on my hands underlined my natural tendency to shy away from issues which I know need addressing but which I don’t feel confident in handling. A long coffee break with Rob S, while partly very pleasant and sociable, also covered some of those issues and reminded me of my own inadequacies.

Work worries of a different sort too; Damian F came to mind again this afternoon when I had cause to deal with his project (one of our company’s largest). He was abruptly called home to New Zealand two weeks ago when his mother died of a sudden heart attack. Following the advice of the good Zinnia Cyclamen, I avoided the typical British response of saying nothing when you don’t know quite what to say and also exchanged emails with him last week. But email is a soulless medium and it is difficult to judge the worth of your words at such a distance, knowing virtually nothing of the situation at the far end. He is a good guy though and I hope he is coping with his loss, for he surely doesn’t deserve suffering.

On the (personal) up-side, while taking another break and enjoying a coffee outside our local branch of Eat, who should walk by but Him J from the Chorus. He sat with me and we chatted a while, which was pleasant and helped distract me from work worries. I think I knew he was a student, but hadn’t realised he was based so close by.

I am also beginning to really look forward to the Chorus’ trip to Spain which begins this coming weekend. As I am not singing this season I think I get the best of both worlds; I get the social enjoyment of a chorus tour without having to put in the work to rehearse and sing. I am not going as a total hanger-on though; having volunteered to be the ‘official’ chorus photographer I have some duties to perform, but as photography is really a hobby I don’t mind it so much.

I wonder though if I am looking forward to the trip so much because I am genuinely weary and need a break, or because it means I can avoid facing those unpalatable issues a little longer…

Sunday, July 06, 2008

View Across the Void

Okay, so it’s exactly five months since last I posted an entry here.

Shit happens.

Life has been busy; lots happening and various minor stresses. That seems to be lifting, or at least I seem to be coming back into a blogging frame of mind; I’ve been catching up on my various Bloglines subscriptions – even commenting on a couple.

No promises offered about continuity of service at this address yet though.

Let’s do a one-post catch-up on the life since February, shall we?

At work, February and March were very busy with work; I was managing the project to replace the telephone systems in our UK offices, which had all kinds of ancillary network requirements that needed to be met. I did some prodigious amount of travelling up and down the country and in the end it all came together quite nicely. Now that that’s over though, I need to get my teeth properly into being ‘A Manager.’ It’s a quite a steep learning curve for me; my people skills have never been the best, so that’s what I’m focussing on right now. It certainly isn’t easy, but I keep telling myself that nothing worth doing ever is and if I can reach a passable level of competence it will be a real feather in the cap of my CV.

Owen got a new job at one of our competitors. Luckily we’re both in support roles (he’s finally doing the Knowledge Management he loves) so there doesn’t look like there’ll too many conflicts of interest in us bitching about work over lunch!

Socially, I went to see the Little Women musical at RADA in February which I enjoyed a lot more than I expected. I shall have to keep up with their performance schedules in future.

In February we did some serious planning for our wedding, picking up catalogues and visiting a spot or two. It quickly became apparent that we could spend a lot of money very quickly and we scaled back our ideas somewhat.

In the end though the wedding got put on hold by force majeure; at Easter, our landlord wrote to advise that he wouldn’t be renewing our lease when the current one ran out at the end of May (it turns out he was selling the property.) We had to decide fairly quickly whether we wanted to go for another cheap rental property for six-to-twelve months to keep on building up our deposit, or to take a risk and stretch ourselves financially to buy now. In the end we decided to try to buy; the cost and hassle of moving to another rental for another short period of time were not attractive.

So Brett extended his contract in Stratford-upon-Avon to make sure we had a good cash-flow over the moving period and I dropped out of the Chorus’ show to have more time to spend organising. On the whole everything went smoothly and, in early June, we moved into a lovely first-floor flat in Catford. As I write we are all unpacked, but still in need of a few square pegs fitted into round holes and some general organising of stuff. Very happy with the place though and so glad to be owning our own at last.

The weekend after we moved in we had an invite to a wedding down in Canterbury. Paul C and Sue G, both former colleagues from my Folkestone days, were finally getting married and had invited me along to their reception afterwards. Paul, for all that he puts himself across as a clown, actually has one of the most sensible heads on his shoulders of anyone I’ve ever met. I have a lot of time for Paul and Sue both, so I was quite touched to be invited to their wedding. They also made a bit of a fuss of us for coming down to see them, which was sweet. We had a fine evening listening to the brief, but funny, speeches and then me drinking good cognac and Brett trying to work out the strange dancing customs of British weddings.

In other news, our friends Mark G & Chris Mc have moved to Sri Lanka; Mark works for the Foreign Office and it was time for his next overseas posting. It sounds like they’ve found themselves a lovely spot though and their friends (including us!) are queuing up to take advantage of their hospitality as a base to explore the tropical paradise. Before they went though, they had a leaving party which started respectably enough in a wine bar on Trafalgar Square but then went on to a Karaoke venue in Leicester Square. I had initially balked at the idea of karaoke but in the end thoroughly enjoyed myself – not sure that I convinced anyone that I am Britain’s next pop-sensation, but no-one seemed to mind my singing and everyone had a thoroughly good time.

Actually the general trend amongst my friends does seem to be ‘moving away’ at the moment! Mark & Chris have gone ex-pat-for-pay, Joe R has gone into tax-exile in Eastern Europe, Ping is spending more time in Malaysia and John Mc has gone on sabbatical from his job (so I’ve lost him as an occasional lunchtime companion.) It seems to be all change. That said, we are now living closer to Rod & Jess in Forest Hill, and we hope to see more of them… before they sell-up and move down to Wimbledon.

Ah, well, such is life. I’ll have to make a few new friends to spend time with.

On the plus side, Chris C has been down a couple of times and we have found an agreeable routine of margaritas and Brazilian food at a South Bank restaurant to do our catching up. The last I heard, he was interviewing for an interesting-sounding new job which would have meant him spending more time in London.

Curtis also dropped me a line to say he was hoping to organise a trip to London in October; a couple of the great bands of his teenage years are doing gigs here over the same weekend and it sounds like an opportunity just too good to pass up.

After a fairly hectic few months, we are going to be spending a few weeks in Austria come September. My parents have rented a chalet there near Salzburg and Brett and I will be using one of their spare bedrooms as a base for a bit of rest and recuperation and then some serious sight-seeing.

Before that though we’re going to be spending a week in Catalonia with the Chorus. As I’m not singing, I’m going to spend my time documenting the trip photographically. (Partly because Michael C who is the Chorus’ usual photographer isn’t on the trip and partly because it’s so long since I did any serious photography myself!)

The parents came to visit last weekend to see the new flat and we had a pleasant time around Catford and the West End, caught a couple of shows (That Face & Avenue Q) and generally ate well.

Coming back to the present; last night was the second of the two concerts the Chorus are doing on the theme of Innocence & Experience, mostly based around William Black. Friday night was an okay show, but last night was really quite impressive – and fortunately was being recorded for the archive. Again, I wasn’t singing, so I volunteered to help with the front-of-house merchandising and spent a pleasant couple of evenings chatting to Geoff F, one of our latest new intake who couldn’t sing this concert and so, like me, made himself useful selling programmes and CDs.

So that’s the quick update. Let’s see what happens next.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Fact and Fiction

Is it just me or is truth mirroring fiction over in the States at the moment? The Republicans have a veteran, time-served senator whose views are out of step with a lot of the party base. The Democrats had almost anointed their establishment candidate, someone with previous time in the White House, but were surprised by the emergent campaign of a young Senator from an ethnic minority. Even Super Tuesday didn’t conclude the fight. With both candidates seemingly equally popular this contest could carry on all the way to the nominating convention…

All we need now is an aide in a chicken suit and a disaster in the Republican’s home state which reflects on some of his previous lobbying and we’d have West Wing, season seven, all over again!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Weekend of Song

After a long week I wasn’t really looking forward to a weekend packed with Chorus activity, particularly as the last couple of days of the week I had been plagued by some minor ailment that left me with a headache and feeling weary all day, so I rather fancied a weekend to indulge myself. In the end though – as I should recognise is almost inevitably the case – the singing was a tonic for me; whatever lassitude remained was banished and, despite the time and effort involved, I felt thoroughly perked up by the recording sessions.

The weekend started on Friday night with a 5:30pm call to the Barbican where we were being employed to do a couple of half-hour sets in the gallery hosting the ‘Final Seduction’ exhibition.

The music all went well enough but the exhibition itself was the remarkable aspect of the evening; all about the Art of sex, it rather left me with the impression that, at least of late, there wasn’t any (art, that is.) Some of the classical work counted as art; there were some lovely oriental miniatures, baroque oil paintings and ancient statues but, of the more modern contributions, there were very few that I’d consider hanging on my own wall.

Some of it was just plain bad; there were some highly ‘impressionist’ pen-and-ink scrawls, an installation piece which was basically a slide show of a series of couples living their intimate lives and, in another area, a wall-filling silent movie close-up of a woman pleasuring herself while Fauré’s Requiem filled the room. The gallery in which we sang had only three pieces on the wall; large explicit photographs which could easily have been stills from the porn movie of your choice. Erotica? Maybe. Art? Not in my view.

Anyway, after our second set was finished, I headed straight home and slept.

Saturday was an early start to be at the Henry Wood Hall by 10am. The Chorus is recording most of the repertoire from our recent Palladium concert, Accentuate The Positive, as a CD. Last time we did a recording we had trouble getting people to turn up, but this time was much more enthusiastic and we had almost the full choir there. Everyone also seemed to adjust easily to the differing requirements of a recording studio rather than a live venue; the Chorus does have a tendency to bellow when asked to sing loudly, but with sensitive microphones surrounding us we seemed to overcome the urge for once and mostly produced controlled performances. Things inevitably ran late though…

In any case I ducked out early as I needed to cross town and get on a train to Newbury with Ping. Brett had long ago organised us tickets to a production of Merrily We Roll Along at the Watermill Theatre. It was produced by the same guy who did the Company revival in New York that we so loved last year and the production style here was very similar. That said, this show didn’t grab me nearly as much as Company had; it was a professional production though, so well done in that sense.

The theatre on the other hand really did grab me; apparently an old converted mill-house with a hugely picturesque mill pond overhung by weeping willows. In fact it was all so perfectly beautiful that I wondered if it might not be partly artifice. Either way, it’s somewhere I’d like to go back to on a sunny Sunday afternoon to spend some time relaxing. The pre-dinner buffet in front of the open log fire was quite decent too!

The three of us then drove home again, which took a while longer than I expected. I hadn’t realised quite how far out Newbury was!

Today it was back to the CD recording – although only for an afternoon start which meant a bit of quality time with my man in the morning. Today it was the big showtunes; Being Alive, What I Did For Love, One Night Only, Seasons of Love as well as the beautiful Parting Glass and a re-take of Je Ne Regrette Rien, which had had technical difficulties yesterday. It was a second long day, but I still came away feeling buoyed. I am really looking forward to getting a copy of the finished CD now!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Joy of Song

Strange day today; felt washed-out and fucked-off through most of it, left work early to have a leisurely dinner and spend some time reading before the compulsory Chorus rehearsal tonight. In the end though the singing did me the world of good, it was the final rehearsal for the CD recording which we’re doing this weekend and also for the small gig at the Barbican tomorrow night. I hadn’t originally signed-up to do that one, but I had so much fun singing tonight I thought I’d go along and pitch in; there’s a much nicer feeling to singing in a group of fifty than in a group of one-hundred and eighty!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The One About The Chorus Party

After Italy, the rest of the week was mundane at work.

The only other event of note happened on the Thursday evening; I had a long standing engagement with Ping to go see the Photographic Portrait Prize Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. He had spent a lot of the day with his uncle and things overran a little, so I had dinner in the office and just met him at the gallery.

The finalists this time didn’t impress me as much as last year’s collection had and I was hard pressed to pick one that I’d want to hang on my own wall. Maybe it was just the fatigue dulling my senses or maybe their artistic vision extended along a dimension which I just couldn’t recognise. Perhaps next year…

Saturday was a lazy, non-productive day; my sole achievement being to send an email to friends telling them about a poker game I’m organising.

Saturday evening we went to the Chorus’ Annual Party (We typically hold it in January because we’re so busy performing around Christmas!) but it was all a bit formulaic; held in the long, dark downstairs bar of The Black Cap in Clapham, cheap food laid-on, a short chorus talent show followed by the Annual Awards (mostly light-hearted with a few serious.) We caught up with the people we know but didn’t stay very late.

Today I did some more shirt shopping, having not yet got enough decent ones to see me through a week, and also started looking at wedding venues again: At last night’s party we’d been chatting to John & Nick who got married just before Christmas and John & Rich who are planning theirs for next December and it got us thinking more about what we’d like to do. Watch this space; it may yet achieve critical mass!