Friday, January 30, 2009

Work Sucks. Social Life Mitigates.

Wednesday was another tedious day at work. In the evening I was along at the Gay Photographers’ Network – at a new spot near Vauxhall, just fifteen minutes walk from work. It’s a lovely venue; an LGBT community centre with a café on the ground floor and lots of brightly-lit space downstairs. The group’s organiser Dave had brought his home studio kit along and set it up downstairs and persuaded one of the centre owners to model for us. The idea was for everyone to have a go using the flash units and working with a model but less than half of the group took advantage of the opportunity.

The owner/model was a well-built chap called Max who needed no encouragement to get his shirt off and spontaneously shucked his trousers too a few minutes later, so he did most of the evening in a very loud pair of snug boxer briefs. Judging by his posing I suspect he wouldn’t have objected if someone had asked him to take them off too, but nobody took the chance. I took the last session with him and got a few passable shots out of it.

Max handed round his email address afterwards for everyone to forward him their photos. His card listed him as a café owner, nightclub promoter, removals logistics and adult film producer…

Thursday I was working from home to try to break the back of my strategy paper, but I was still unenthused by the whole process and found it a struggle to make headway. I achieved some of what I wanted but now have to edit it down to just the key strategic points as, right now, it reads more like a complete business plan for the next three years.

Friday was more of the same. Finally met my boss to go over the draft budget and got lots of grief for one of the storage items; that’s going to cause me headaches on Monday. It was also the last day for Jon M, the last guy to be made redundant, so there was a bit of a do after work. I went along as a pro forma but wasn’t really in the mood to party – which was a shame because a lot of old faces were there too.

While I was fairly upbeat at the start of the week, it seems to have worn me down quite a bit. I’m at a pretty bad level of can’t-be-botheredness right now – although I suppose not quite as miserable as I was last week. We’ve got a fairly social weekend planned though, so hopefully that will revive my flagging enthusiasm…

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Strategy, Servers, Singing & Surreal Shirt-Washing Moments

Work on Monday was frustrating. Firstly I was meant to be meeting my boss at 3pm to go over the first draft of my budget and the notes I’d developed on the strategy paper I’m supposed to be writing. The budget is reasonably in hand but the strategy definitely isn’t, so I spent a lot of the day trying to knock my thoughts into some kind of coherent shape. I got to somewhere approaching presentable in time for the meeting, went along to find him and discovered he was off sick for the day. Bugger – if only I’d thought to check earlier!

The other hassle that day was problems with getting our new team in Boston up and running; the server configuration hat should only have taken a couple of hours to complete wasn’t complete when I left for Chorus (late!) and I ended up with the Boston IT guys on the phone during the rehearsal which pissed me off somewhat – but at least they are keen to get their new system in place.

The rehearsal itself wasn’t bad; we pretty much completed work on a new song to the repertoire; Waterloo Sunset. The Baritone part is dead easy, so it wasn’t much of a learn. We also did some more note bashing on the older repertoire which was very useful. I hadn’t realised quite how badly we butchered Keep It Gay last time around; there are parts where what I remember bears no resemblance whatsoever to what is printed on the page.

Had a worthwhile chat with Mikey in the break; last season our sitting together at every rehearsal became a bit of an institution and I wanted to make sure he wasn’t feeling constrained by that. He wasn’t and took the question in good humour, so all was good.

Brett had sent me a link to a round the world yacht race that anyone can sign-up for as an idea to get me out of my rut. We’d actually talked about it a while ago and not followed up but, in the spirit of doing new things, I filled in the brochure request and also forwarded the link to a few of my friends to see if they were up for it too. The replies ranged from “Not my thing, thank you,” to, “Are you mad?!? Look how high those waves are!” As it turns out, I was mad; Brett had already received his copy of the brochure and spotted the fact that to sail the whole race would cost roughly £32,000 per person – on top of the nine months off work it would take to complete!

Probably best to shelve that idea pending my lottery jackpot win.

During the rehearsal though I did get reminded about my desire to learn to play the piano. That is probably a more achievable goal. This time though, I’ll sign up with a private tutor rather than take a class, so I’ve got more actual tuition time and can go at my own pace. Maybe this time… it’s gonna happen.

Today was unremarkable at work. Highlight of the day was definitely the evening. Theo D was hosting a Baritone social evening at his flat up in Angel. He’d offered to play piano for us to sing through his collection of sheet music. A dozen or so of us turned up and duly sang our way through a selection of Avenue Q, Cabaret, West Side Story, Moulin Rouge, Abba, Queen, Shirley Bassey and so forth. Theo had laid on a splendid buffet table; more quality than quantity, yet still enough for everyone.

Unfortunately some of the (actually quite a lot of the!) red wine selection ended up adorning my shirt, so I had the slightly surreal experience of standing in Theo’s basement kitchen in my undershirt, washing my shirt in an aromatic bowl of warm Liebfraumilch whilst listening to a slightly-drunken male-voice rendition of West Side Story’s I Feel Pretty; a moment that will stay with me for a long time I suspect!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Pictures at an Exhibition

I wonder sometimes whether it’s a wise policy to blog late at night. Is it just fatigue making me overly effusive or is it really my subconscious sneaking out to tell you things I would otherwise hold inside me?

Well whatever the depression was last night, I seemed to mostly pull myself out of it today. Activity was the key; I realised I hadn’t done anything with the photography for a while, so I dug out my lights and backdrop and ran off some shots on Brett which worked out quite well – although looking back on the final selection, he has the same smile in most of them, so I might go back and pick a few different ones. I also lined up the shoot I’d promised Rowan recently and set the date for next Saturday. Next I need to line up a few more.

Jess has given my details to a colleague of hers who needs some publicity shots for a play he's doing. It all makes work for the working man to do - and that's what I need right now; photography work!

Not a lot to show for an entire day but it felt productive, plus got lots of household stuff done. Let’s see how tomorrow turns out…

AWOL Ambitions

I had three things in the diary today. After a late start we headed to Greenwich for brunch (a very good one in the Organic Café opposite the Picture House!) before going on to watch Frost/Nixon. A compelling docu-drama that I’d not been able to get tickets for at the Film Festival last year. It’s well worth watching. I knew that the Nixon interviews made David Frost’s name, but I hadn’t realised quite what a lightweight he was back then. Strangely, I also felt myself identifying with Nixon; the man who doesn’t enjoy people much but ended up choosing a job where he had to be popular. I may not be President of the USA, but my job is much more about people than it is about computers these days and I can’t help looking at my life and wondering if I missed some opportunities to make it more what I wanted it to be when I was young.

The rest of the afternoon was spent roughing-out an itinerary and budget for our Sri Lanka trip in March and then sending it on to Ping (who’s coming with us) and Mark G (who’s our host and man on the ground.)

This evening we had tickets to see A Little Night Music at the Menier Chocolate Factory. I didn’t know the plot and Brett couldn’t remember it from the couple of times he’d seen it in AmDram, so we went along knowing only that it provided the world with the songs Send In The Clowns and You Must Meet My Wife. It turned out to be an excellent farce with some great music and razor-sharp timing from a solid cast… it also included a couple of pieces that I knew from YDFN; A Night Waltz and Perpetual Anticipation. A lot of ironic emotional resonance too.

In other news, I’m a bit of a headcase at the moment.

I’m hoping it’s just the winter blues, but of late I’m finding myself on an emotional rollercoaster. Being friends with a teenager is reminding me of a lot of the joys of youth and making me wonder how so many of them slipped my grasp. When I look at my life today and think back to the dreams and ambitions I had as a teenager I am horrified to realise how much I’ve become the man I always said I would never be. I have Brett to save me from insanity; the one thing that I can point to and say is a good thing in my life, but we have so little to talk about these days because we are both so settled in our respective ruts; there’s nothing new to say.

I can’t even remember what my ambitions were.

I feel the urge to escape from where I am but have no idea of where I want to go or what I want to do. Religious types can accept this kind of thing because they are certain if they are just nice people they'll get all the reward they could hope for in an afterlife. Atheists know that this is their only chance for fulfillment, so you've got to make the best effort you can.

Anyway it’s 1am and I’m tired – I have woken up in the small hours the last few nights, which I’m sure is another aggravating factor for my mood swings – so I’m just going to publish this whine to the blogosphere for those of you who, for reasons passing understanding, enjoy reading about my endlessly repetitious existence, then go to bed and hope that I can sleep well tonight.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Budgets and Role Models

In my diary at work, I have designated this as “Budget Week”. I’ve been doing the job for two years now and this is the first time I’ve really got down and dirty with my budget. Last year I was too busy with project work and left it mostly to the Finance department. Turns out that was a bad idea as they missed off a lot of overheads that we couldn’t avoid spending on and, as a result I am currently considerably over-budget.

That isn’t going to happen next year, so I’ve been getting into the detail of it. It’s proving an interesting task as I’m having to look at what’s been charged to each code on this year’s budget to make sure I’m aware of everything that’s been spent in my name. There’s a lot of stuff that can be tidied up, but looking at my work to date I don’t expect I’m going to be able to bring it in at the 'x'-percent-less figure I’ve been asked for…

So that’s what I’ve been doing this week – and today was a particularly intense day of it. I gave up around 4pm, feeling totally exhausted and came home early. Brett and I ate an early dinner and then headed out to the cinema on a whim. We managed to miss Slumdog Millionaire again (I suspect this is a movie we are not fated to see!) and opted for Role Models instead which turned out to be quite entertaining; the premise was formulaic enough; a buddy movie about two guys who become friends to troubled children as community service to avoid jail and in the process help the kids and discover meaning in life despite themselves. Nevetheless it was really rather well done and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

In other news, we’re getting closer to the Sri Lanka trip so we’re going to sit down and do some serious Itinerary thinking this weekend. Got offered free accommodation for a long weekend in Andalucia by Rosie (who is using some of the parents’ holiday club points for a break) but decided to skip it as the flights weren’t as cheap as we’d hoped.

Lunched with Owen yesterday which was nice. We had skipped the last couple because of our various work commitments so we hadn’t seen each other since well before Christmas and there was lots of catching up to do. As an Ex-become-friend, he’s easy to talk to and doesn’t judge me in any way; a good counsellor when I need it… and all for the cost of a Subway and a Starbucks!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Schadenfreude: The A2, stationary traffic along most of its length with me zipping in and out of it along bus lanes.
"I feel better now!" :o)

Qui tolis peccata mundi?

Disillusioned with the world today. The news is full of the Coronation of King President Obama. It pushes to second spot the UN statement about the billions of dollars needed to rebuild Gaza. What do you think the chances are that Israel will be made to pay any of it? The collapse of the talks in Zimbabwe is even further down the list. And our major banks are on the verge of insolvency!

Chorus last night was all re-learning old repertoire. Most of the old-guard cleared off at tea break. Brett and I considered it but hung around. I spent a lot of the (many) boring bits mentally revisiting a couple of incidents from one of my more tortured teenage years. Bad idea!

Think it’s time to throw myself into my work to take my mind off the whole sorry mess.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Long Sunday Lunch

Had a very enjoyable day. Mikey & Rosie came over for lunch. Bottles were brought. Bottles were consumed – along with a tasty steak and ale pie, fruit crumbles, a sizable piece of blue stilton and a fair number of After Eight mints and chocolate liqueurs. There was some movie watching too (A Few Good Men) and a walk in the park. Perhaps a little bit more self-indulgent than the usual Sunday, but very pleasant nevertheless.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Making of Milk Watch

So Friday was all about Boston. As of today our company has formally acquired the Boston team. Lots of to-and-fro on Friday to get the last minute details in place and there will be more on Monday to make sure the transition is smooth and our new colleagues feel welcomed and included in the company. Oh, and I have to have the first draft of my budget ready to go by Friday. I could say it isn’t going to happen, but in fact it will, it’s just that most of the important figures in it will be wrong…

Anyway, today Brett and I were in darkest East London. The Chorus had agreed to provide extras for a short film being created for the East London Film Festival. It’s called Milk Watch and details how milkmen (the defenders of decency throughout the land, doncha know!) apprehend two villains. About thirty of us showed up at a house in Newham this morning ready to be made-up and outfitted with various milkman paraphernalia. It was all very pleasant (one of the crew’s mum making tea, coffee and toast and handing round biscuits for all and sundry) as we waited to troop to location at the appointed hour. The forecast had initially been for dismal weather but this morning the BBC was predicting sunshine through most of the daytime hours, and so it was.

The venue for filming was a side-street/back-alley behind a pub near Manor House and we lounged around in the room reserved for us whilst awaiting our call. The pub was laying on catering which started well with a tasty selection of breads and a mountain of haloumi (which I love). The lunch turned out to be chips and sandwiches though – the sandwiches on white bread. I don’t remember the last time I saw that. [You can see that I am deeply embedded in the Middle Class these days.] It was a good chance to chat to such Chorus boys as were there and they were a nice mixture of the ones I like/time for and the newer ones that I would still like to get to know.

We were used in four different shots in the concluding scene of the film. The first one saw everyone clustered around a milk float, including myself (and several others) hanging onto the side for the half-hour it took to get the shot right while we sang, “We are milk distribution technicians, our mission’s to bring you the milk in the morning.” Hmm.

The later shots were easier on the biceps as we were standing around, rather than hanging on for dear life. As these things tend to though, it took an age to get each one right. By the time we were doing the last shot, where we crowd the baddies onto the milk float to be carted off to justice, we were literally huddling together to share body warmth in between takes; it’s not a lot of fun spending three hours outdoors in your shirtsleeves on a blustery January afternoon!

On the whole though, despite the cold, it was not an unpleasant way to spend the day; we were well looked after and the atmosphere was good and sociable. Sometime around April too, I expect I shall be dragging my friends to an obscure cinema in the East End purely for the self-gratification of elbowing them at the appropriate moments and pointing out the brief glimpses you will get of my face in the finished movie. If you want to see a few photos in the meantime, you can find them on my Flickr profile here.

Once all the excitement was over, we headed back towards Greenwich intent on seeing Slumdog Millionaire, but all the timely showings were sold-out, so we gave up and went home, watched TV and read the evening away. (Probably the best outcome actually as the rain is lashing the windows as I write!)

Friday, January 16, 2009


Felt quite rough yesterday. Apparently Mikey had some ‘flu-like symptoms after the other night so I think I might have picked up a bit of that, but so far am surviving it without too much pathos.

Had a reasonably productive day at work; another graduate lunch was the only remarkable event though and even that wasn’t as useful as the previous ones. Left work a bit early but had a reasonable, if leisurely, ride home. Lazed on the sofa all night reading.

Pretty disgusted with Israel these days but impressed with the survival of the US Airways jet that came down in the Hudson. I don’t recall a commercial jet that has successfully crash-landed on water before and there has always been a question about even the possibility of success. Probably the low speed of this incident would have helped the landing and survivability. All kudos to the pilot though for achieving it!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

There and Back Again

It’s hard to believe it’s Wednesday already. Work has been mundane mostly; a bit of bother about email monitoring, all kinds of minutiae about the Boston acquisition, that kind of thing.

Monday evening was the first Chorus rehearsal after Christmas. We were also doing an induction for new tenors, so I was on data-processing duty and taking their pictures. Because we were only after tenors though, the group was smaller than usual and didn’t take long to process. The rest of the rehearsal was starting the new season’s repertoire which is, so far, all old repertoire. We worked on Bushes & Briars and Keep It Gay, both of which I found I remembered entirely after just a couple of goes through the score. It had to be the easiest first-rehearsal-back ever!

Tuesday evening we were booked to see Avenue Q with Mikey, Ruth & Chris. (It had originally been Rosie & Matt instead of Ruth & Chris, but Rosie is steering clear of Matt (turns out he’s a married man) and didn’t want to come on her own.) After some faffing over who and where we were for dinner, Brett & I eventually met up with Ruth & Chris at Wahaca on Chandos Place and had some reasonable Mexican street food washed down with a fair amount of tequila.

The show was as enjoyable as ever. Daniel Boys was generally good as Princeton/Rod; he managed to slip in a few gay mannerisms for Rod but Brett didn’t think he did the voice too well. I rather liked Christmas Eve this time. I think she must have just taken over the part last time and was still trying to reproduce her predecessor’s performance. This time she was much more believable doing it her own way. There was also a new Gary who I liked too.

Afterwards though Mikey wasn’t feeling well and (literally) hobbled straight to the Tube to go home. Brett and Ruth both fancied a drink and Brett dragged us into Halfway to Heaven, which Ruth loved (as the only fag-hag in the room!) We only stayed for one though as both Chris and I had early starts in the morning.

I managed to set my alarm incorrectly, so was up late and had to compress my morning routine into a twenty-minute rush to make sure I got the train that would get me to Kings Cross in time. In the end I needn’t have bothered as the Leeds train was twenty minutes late. The journey was uneventful though and en route I finally began roughing out my strategy paper. I was mostly there to have a bit of a blue-sky talk about technology with our recent graduate intake, looking for their views on how we should take advantage of the latest tech trends. I’d had one with the London grads yesterday and it was interesting how they compared. Leeds still has a small-company feel; they turn to each other for answers before going elsewhere whereas in London they liked online self-help rather than having to ask someone a question. Apart from that the day was spent doing my usual job at a different desk and wandering around the office, networking with our Leeds staff whom I only rarely get to see face-to-face.

The train home was on time. I’m now dined, blogged and am just relaxing for the last half hour to Kings Cross. Should be back in Catford in an hour or so.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

News In Brief

It was a lazy day today and I was happy with that. John W came over after lunch to do some Chorus stuff and pick up copies of the photos I took at his wedding. Apart from that I spent most of the day alternating between reading (Bones, Rocks & Stars), surfing the web and watching a bit of TV (more of John Adams.)

The news today seems to have been dominated (rightly) by Israel in Gaza and (wrongly, IMHO) by Prince Harry’s home video.

The latest non sequitar relating to the Middle East came from the organiser of a rally in support of Israel’s current actions. According to the BBC they said, “they want people in Gaza and Israel to live in peace, but … Palestinians must accept some responsibility for the conflict,” which is fair comment, but then went on to add, “the number of Israeli deaths should not be considered disproportionate to the number of Palestinian deaths, because Israelis were lucky and escaped their houses before they were hit by Palestinian rockets. At the time of writing, 850 Gazans have died in the last week as a result of Israel’s actions, whilst 13 Israelis have been killed in the same period and 28 have been killed by Hamas rocket attacks over the last seven years. A ratio of 20:1? Surely you can see how that's not disproportionate at all!? (I don’t have details of the amount of Israeli property that has previously been damaged by Hamas rockets, as I'd be curious to calculate what an Israeli house is currently worth in terms of dead Palestinians.)

While the Middle East is kicking off again though, it inevitably draws people’s attention away from the ongoing disaster in Zimbabwe where President Mugabe has just returned from a four-week holiday, but the schools aren’t open because they can’t pay the teachers (or the soldiers who are now being fed on elephant meat because it’s cheaper than beef.)

Finally, it’s awful to hear of the death of Rob Gauntlet and his friend. The world has too few inspirational young people. Parents should never have to bury their children.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Dancing Through Life

Friday was a long day, a bit of internal politics erupted and resulted in me spending most the day researching legislation relating to email privacy alongside all the usual items on my to-do list.

Today I had arranged with Rosie to help her bring some of the stuff back from her office (she is beginning the clear-out in advance of taking up her new job) so I took the opportunity of taking another suit, some fresh toiletries and a few more shirts into the office. Once that was complete we met up with Brett, who’d spent the morning in the gym, and had lunch at Studio 6; a reasonably hearty meal, but in their conservatory-style addition which is never quite warm enough. As today was bitterly cold, with temperatures of several degrees below zero, this was an issue!

It was an even greater issue when we left the restaurant to head to the cinema (I’d wanted to go to the Byzantium Exhibition at the Royal Academy, but got out-voted by Brett & Rosie.) We staged the trip to involve a couple of stops for coffee to warm us up along the way; firstly at the National Theatre and then at the Waterstones on Trafalgar Square.

This latter stop was asking for trouble I suppose. I went in for a coffee and came out with three books; A book of Banksy’s art, which I like, a book on the American Presidency and Albert Camus’ The Fall. The books all came from the store’s ‘Recommended’ section, where the members of staff write their personal recommendations of particular works on little cards. One of them was rather bizarre though; Star of the Sea by Joseph O’Connor had a recommendation card which concluded thus, “Put simply: an amazing tale brilliantly told and the best novel on inadvertent incest you’re likely to read this year.” Which made me wonder how many novels on inadvertent incest the employee thinks most people read in a year… Maybe I’m just out of touch with the genre du jour!

The movie we were going to see was The Duchess at the Odeon Mezzanine, which was a film we’d all wanted to see but never got around to. It turned out to be worth the effort as it’s a sumptuous piece which seemed quite attentive to historical detail and had a realistic ending instead of Hollywood saccharin (much to Brett’s disappointment!)

Afterwards we gave Rosie a lift home and spent the remainder of the evening watching most of a mini-series dramatisation of the life of John Adams, which was also rather good.

Thursday, January 08, 2009


The cycling is still going well. Another busy day at work. Problems with the other mail server this morning, plus an issue with the phones in Glasgow (thanks to the firewall again!). Lots going on with the imminent Boston Office too.

Lunched with Rosie at the Riviera on Gabriel’s Wharf. She didn’t have a lot to report; working hard trying to tie-up all the loose ends before she leaves next month. She’s trying to go ‘cold turkey’ on contact with Matt. Although I think it’s probably the right move, I’m not really sure it’s going to work out as there’s clearly a strong attraction there.

Apart from that I’ve been pitching-in on a few comment threads on Facebook discussing Israel’s current incursion in Gaza. There always seem to be so many civilian casualties every time Israeli troops report they’ve returned the fire of militants and Israel and its supporters think nothing of it. In any other conflict there would be cries of War Crime! Humans can be such hypocritical creatures when it suits them.

On a lighter note, the BBC reports that the British Humanist Society’s advert telling people, “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and start enjoying life,” has (unsurprisingly!) drawn complaint from Christian Voice. The thing that made me smile though was the comment at the end of the article about the Advertising Standards Authority having to rule on the probability of God’s existence. That will be one to watch!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Reality Bites Once More

The thing I forgot to note yesterday of course, was that I cycled into work for the first time in over a year. Despite a bitterly cold headwind driving sleet in my face, it was actually a fairly unremarkable ride – maybe I’m not as out of condition as I suspected. As I was out drinking last night, I rode home for the first time tonight. The climb out of New Cross was a bit more of a push than I’d expected but again, it was really quite straightforward. Probably one of the nicest things about the ride was that, unlike Wimbledon and Grove Park, living in Catford now means that there isn’t a hill up to our front door. Once I’m down Loampit Hill, it’s a flat ride for the last mile; absolutely what you want after a long day at the end of your ride home!

The pace at work really picked up today though; lots of stuff coming into my inbox and projects that had been in hiatus coming back to life. I think this is going to be a long week. The new North American Office was today’s headline; I finally got to talk to the IT Director of the company we are buying the function off and he confirmed what I’d expected regarding the transitional arrangements – which was all quite contrary to what we’d been hearing through the executive management channel. As it wasn’t wholly unexpected though, we were able to move fairly quickly to cope.

Now I need to go to bed and hopefully get a good night’s sleep (for some reason I woke up abruptly around 3:30 this morning and then couldn’t get back to sleep!)

Monday, January 05, 2009


So it’s back to the grind. Work was back in full swing today, but none the more exciting for it. The day went smoothly enough though.

No Chorus this evening but met up with Mikey for a drink. Ended up in The Lord Moon of The Mall again and had a pleasant evening polishing off a bottle of wine whilst bouncing rapidly from one topic of conversation to another.

Came home and ran off a few comments about the stupidity of Israel’s current incursion into the Gaza Strip before bed.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Eleventh Night Party

Not much to report today. I’m reading an interesting book about how things are dated (the development of calendars, carbon-dating, that kind of thing) and Brett was mucking about on his Mac desktop getting ready to install a couple of extra hard disks.

This evening we were over in Bermondsey for Eleventh Night/ Martin K’s 60th Birthday Party. I love his flat; it’s not a big space but it has something of a view and is very tastefully, quite eclectically, furnished. He has a beautiful collection of blown-glass artwork and his walls are adorned with everything from LGMC Posters (YDFN!) to expensive-looking abstract art, to pictures from the Vatican Museum (I was quite pleased with myself for spotting it wasn’t Egyptian; turns out it was Antinous portrayed as Osiris.)

Good food and drink was on offer and a selection of the Chorus old faces (Jim W, Chris P, Michael M, Neil H, Joffrey D) were in attendance, along with various of Martin’s work colleagues and neighbours. Ended up mostly chatting with Stephen H & Trevor A and latterly Paul L. Both Martin and Paul were flitting about throughout the evening being hostly though, so didn’t get much of a chance to catch up with Martin. It started early and wasn’t a late night; we were home by 10:30.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Saturday Summary

We were wide awake at 7:30 this morning, so we got to Homebase and back and had the first coat of paint on the bathroom by about 10am. It looks pretty good actually.

We’d planned a ride to Greenwich with Mikey but he cried off when I called him so Brett and I went on our own. It was a very pleasant little run. We lunched at Tae Won Mein and then lazed a bit at Costas before heading back.

En route I got called by both Rosie and John W wanting to call by when we got home. Rosie was just coming to hang out. John & Rich were returning my tripod and wanting hi-res copies of the photographs I took at their wedding. We hadn’t had much time with them since before the wedding so it was a good chance to catch up.

After they left though, it was back to the bathroom for touching-up the pale patches and removing the masking tape. There’s a bit more cleaning and tidying of edges to do before it’s totally finished, but even now it looks better than it did with the yellowy magnolia. It’s kind of spurred us on to think about doing the lounge too.

Going to have a quiet evening tonight, maybe see a movie. Tomorrow we had an invite to Ruth’s birthday but ultimately decided to pass so we may do another bike ride instead since today was quite enjoyable. We have Martin K’s birthday party in the evening too. Could be a busy day.

Friday, January 02, 2009

The Day That (Felt Like It) Never Ended

A bit of a ‘stop-go’ day today. The office was very quiet as most people had taken the day off. Having idled away the morning, I had a meeting with Tim R (Operations Director at work) before lunch. We were doing some long-term thinking for IT and he asked a couple of questions that really kick-started some new thought processes. It was a long but productive meeting and helped round-out my thinking on the subject. As a result, I’m going to be inviting our crop of recent graduates out to lunch next week to see what ‘Generation Y’ makes of it all and probably reframing our relationship with Latin America.

After that though, things tailed off substantially. The remains of the day consisted of waiting for a phone call from a guy in Boston that never happened, and exchanging increasingly less intelligible emails with an IT contractor in Mexico who’s helping set up our new office there. In the end I asked him to repeat his last message in Spanish in the hope that I’d be able to fathom what he meant with my (rather rusty!) understanding of the language and a little help from BabelFish.

When I couldn’t take it any more, I came home, ate some lovely spag-bol courtesy of Brett, watched a bit of the opening of Celebrity Big Brother, got bored of Celebrity Big Brother and then started preparing the bathroom to be painted tomorrow morning.

Decorating? Blah! Is this the high-life one leads when you own your own place??

Thursday, January 01, 2009

One Hundred and Seventeen Points is Not Enough

Well, this afternoon we took a short trip out on our bikes; rode through the park to Ladywell and Lewisham and back. All was fairly smooth; the bike was like (to coin a phrase) a well-oiled machine and I didn’t forget I was wearing cleats and topple over at any point. I’m quite out of condition though, so will forgo commuting by bike tomorrow. Instead I’ll bike it in on Monday and (as I have Chorus on Monday evening) cycle home on Tuesday to ease into it.

This evening Rod & Jess were coming over for dinner to see the flat and discuss a walking holiday. Jess was impressed by the photos we have hanging on the walls – particularly the Whiterock Lake shot – and asked me for a copy of the one I have of the two of them at her fortieth so she can send it to her parents.

Brett had a stew in the slow-cooker which went down a treat. Then, between Rod, Brett and I, we demolished the Christmas Pudding and lashings of whipped cream.

The holiday idea is to walk the route of Hadrian’s Wall with them from east coast to west coast sometime in September (not at Easter after all, phew!) so we tossed around a few ideas and began to rough-out a plan.

Finished the evening off with a game of Scrabble where I got pretty well beaten by everyone. Ah, well…

"Up With The Bonnets of Bonnie Dundee"

I realised this morning that 2008 made it ten years since Simon died. I was so caught up in work around April that I didn’t even mark the day, let alone recognise that it’s been a decade without him. He was a good friend and the nearest thing I ever had to a brother and, while time may have dulled the sharpness of the pain, I still miss him deeply whenever I think of him.

“He died on a cold mountainside,
The city couldn’t hold him,
He lived just for the ride,
And he was a friend of mine.”

So far down the line, I can’t say what kind of person he might have been today, only that I wish he’d had the chance.

But then the world could drown under the avalanche of ‘What Ifs…’ and ‘If Onlys…’ that surround our lives.

Edit: 02 Jan 09 10:45

I had a look at my webstats this morning and noticed that the most recent hit had arrived from a Google search for the phrase “The Bonnets of Bonnie Dundee”. I googled it myself and, sure enough, this post was ranked at No. 2 - even above Wikipedia’s article (which came in at No. 3). So, in case anyone else gets directed to this post by Google and wonders what the f*ck it has to do with Claverhouse, the Jacobites or Sir Walter Scott… well actually it’s got nothing to do with them at all, so you should try another link.

The connection is quite tangential and, to be honest, there are only two people I’m still in touch with who would stand a chance of getting the reference – and neither of them read this blog. For the rest of you, here’s the explanation:

Back in our student days, when Jess and I were running the Student Union, the accountant was a retired guy called Iain Thompson; a great character who came in a few days a week to do the clever stuff on the finances and produce our management accounts. He died a year or so after we left office and we were invited to the funeral by his widow.

It was the first funeral I’d been to of someone I’d known well and cared about and it looked like being an ordeal. However, in keeping with his character, the old goat had laid down quite a few instructions on how he wanted to be remembered and the whole affair was very cheery and positive. The recessional music was the jaunty tune of ‘Up With The Bonnets of Bonnie Dundee’ and I left with a smile on my face. Bizarrely it’s one of my most enduring memories of Iain and, to this day, the title of that reel has been a touchstone to remind me to look on the bright side and remember the good times.

Ring Out The Old Year, Ring In The New!

Haven’t written much over the last couple of days because there hasn’t been a lot to say; Work has been quiet, I’ve mostly been pulling together information for our new Boston Office and pushing ideas around on bits of paper for the strategy paper I’m writing. Evenings have been quiet, sofa-based things.

Actually that hasn’t been a problem because I’ve been fighting a cold most of the week, so watching the New Year arrive on TV worked out just fine. We watched television and surfed through most of the evening, watched Big Ben and the fireworks on the Thames at midnight, toasted the New Year with a good single-malt and then sent felicitous text messages to our nearest and dearest before turning-in around 12:30.

Today we’ve had a lie-in are planning to head out for a bike ride and then have Rod & Jess over for dinner. They’re coming over to organise a holiday to walk Hadrian’s Wall from end to end, something we expressed interest in when we discussed it briefly over dinner with them before Christmas. My only concern is that I can’t remember what dates they mentioned and suspect it may have been Easter – for which I have just recently pitched a cycling holiday idea at some other friends!


So here we are; 2009.

I’m not really inclined to make New Year’s Resolutions as these days the term seems to be a euphemism for ‘Never Going To Succeed’ in most peoples’ minds! The resolutions to do more with my photography and more cycling were made before the New Year anyway, so they don’t count. Looking back on last year’s January 1st entry, I was too preoccupied with being in Las Vegas to think much about plans for the year ahead, so there’s nothing to judge me on for last year either.

The year 2008 hasn’t been that bad to us really. We have finally bought a place of our own, so we now have a stable base for the foreseeable future. For all that the year saw a number of my friends departing the UK, I have met new friends and become closer to some I already knew, so I guess it balances out.

As for what 2009 will bring us, well I think I am quietly optimistic. The economy is in a bit of a state – and those in the know say it will get worse still – but so far we haven’t been severely affected and I’m hoping that remains true. Barack Obama as President of the USA sounds like its enough happiness for a lot of people – and following George Bush he doesn’t have to try hard to be wonderful in comparison – but he’s got a heck of a job on his hands clearing up the messes he’ll inherit, so I’m not expecting world peace and the brotherhood of man any time soon. I have no clue what’s the best way forward politically in Britain; if an election were called tomorrow it would be a vote for the lesser-of-three-evils!

Socially this year, I’m enjoying singing with the Chorus again and looking forward to Various Voices in May and then our trip to Helsinki in June. I have my fortieth birthday coming up in a few months, so there will probably be some kind of reunion party for all my old friends. I am SO looking forward to our trip to Sri Lanka in March; it’s been so long since I’ve been anywhere exotic and new. (I wonder if we can sneak in an autumn break as well, maybe a whistle-stop tour of Egypt…? Probably hoping for a bit much really.)

Qué sera, será!