Tuesday, January 26, 2010

From Therapy to the Chorus

Started the day in Brick Lane today.  I was doing a market research interview about what would make me (as an business IT purchaser) feel inclined to choose one of the Linux brands over Microsoft.  These sessions are often interesting not because of the product they’re having me look at but because of what the questioning reveals about the way I think – or rather don’t think, but react.

Today has brought forth from my subconscious the fact that I perceive Linux in all of its various flavours (and by extension probably all open-source software) as of dubious quality because I feel it’s built by an undirected group of people; imagine a loose coalition of do-gooder  programmers, each with their own agenda, pulling it in their own direction, decisions taken by a big committee and you’ve got the idea.  That seems to be what was lurking underneath my conscious belief that Linux wasn’t really worth considering as a business system.

At the end of the session, I mentioned to the interviewer that I was really surprised that this seems to be what I believed and she observed that these interviews can be quite like therapy.  I’ve never had a problem that I’ve needed or wanted to see a psychologist (psychiatrist?) about, but now I’m curious.  It might be rather interesting to have someone poke around in my subconscious for a bit and see what other gems they come up with!

Having that interview first thing though meant I had a mountain of stuff waiting for attention when I got into work though, even with clearing some of it down through my PDA.  The rest of the morning was busy.

I had my second appointment with Lee S today.  He worked me quite a bit harder than he had on Friday and at the end of it I really felt like I’d had a workout.  So far though, no excessive aches or pains as a result…

After a busy afternoon, I walked across the river into Westminster where the Chorus’ Steering Committee was due to meet.  Ciaran M, the Chorus Secretary, had recently resigned and I’d been approached about being co-opted onto the committee to cover the role until the AGM.  The meeting was remarkably civilised, a vast improvement on my last participation and, while it ran long because some (many) members can be quite verbose, it felt productive and professional.  I won’t go so far as to say I enjoyed myself, but I certainly felt it was worthwhile.  Now it’s a case of seeing how great the workload is and deciding if I want to stand for a two year term at the AGM in April.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Brief Monday

Productive day at work today; got lots of stuff done on the Windows 7 Roll-out Project.

Had Sectionals tonight for Chorus so it was a pretty intense rehearsal.  Still loving Dies Irae, but finding Carousel a bit repetitive now.  Didn’t get to sing the Money Song though.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Linda Lovechunks’ Round-Up

Not many notable points in the remainder of the week.  It turns out that RADA’s production of Company is already sold out and I’ve had to put my name down on the waiting list for us to have a hope of getting tickets.  Since when do student shows sell-out a month in advance?  Since the Sondheim Society got wind of it I suspect!

Met with Lee S, my new personal trainer, on Wednesday for a discussion and then again on Friday for my first session.  As expected my legs are in good condition but my upper body is pretty much all jelly.  After the pro-forma medical baseline was complete, the actual workout bit was quite good fun.  He’s not a fan of the weights machines and instead had me balancing on air-filled plastic domes and high-kicking in front of the mirrors.  He even had me do a bit of sparring with him.  I was a bit dubious at first but it was actually quite enjoyable.  I came away feeling exercised, but not overstretched and am looking forward to my next session on Tuesday.

This weekend has been busy – and is only the start of a hectic week to come.  Friday evening I was in a pub with the folks from work as we said farewell to Mike G, an Associate of our company, a host of many a good summer barbeque and all-round good egg.  For once I got there before they served the food, so was able to eat my fill, and had a really nice evening chatting to everyone.  Plus I discovered unexpectedly that another of my colleagues is gay (there’s actually quite a number of us when I think about it!)

Saturday morning started slowly as a result of the Friday-night alcohol, but I eventually got my act together enough to head into town for a demonstration against the police’s random stop-and-search power and its use against photographers of all types for no readily apparent reasons.  There have been a number of patently stupid cases recently where police have used the antiterrorism law to harass someone taking photographs.

The demo was in Trafalgar Square and there was a reasonable crowd populating the steps in front of the National Gallery and the area in front of them, lots and lots of cameras in evidence but for the most part no police officers.  (Some did show up later on – a couple of very young and nervous looking constables who were later joined by a couple of PCSOs, but on the whole quite a reduction in normal police manpower for Trafalgar Square on a Saturday afternoon!)

The demo only lasted an hour or so and I headed back home afterwards to chill some more before the evening.

Saturday evening was the LGMC’s annual party (aka the Christmas Party or the Awards Party.)  This year there was a meal beforehand in Chalk Farm.  Thanks to various transport tribulations we arrived an hour late – but still in time to eat the entire meal with the group.  Well, actually, because we’d arrived late we were at the end of the table but we had a pleasant time chatting to Marc A and one of the new guys, Mark K, and Sacha K when he arrived after us.

After dinner we strolled down to Camden and the Black Cap.  The format was the same as in previous years; there was some cabaret (Alisdair L dragged-up as Linda Lovechunks, the Chorus Cleaner and did an amusing recap of the year, and Mikey did himself up as a kind of TinTin-like schoolboy and sang ‘Grandma’ to Anthony F.)

The cabaret was followed by the Annual Awards, recognising the best and the worst of the year gone by.  I got nominated for both cutest couple (with Brett) and most nauseating couple (with Mikey.)  He (Mikey) was a bit uncomfortable with that I think, but I am quite sanguine about it.  There seem to be a few choristers who have decided that Mikey and I are so close that we must be sleeping together and nothing will convince them otherwise.  To be honest, so long as Brett knows what is (and is not!) going on, then I’m quite flattered that some people believe I have it in me to attract and keep the attentions of a good-looking, energetic seventeen-year-old!

After the awards the music came on and I spent the rest of the evening drinking and mingling.  Quite a few of the new guys were there; Mark K (from dinner), Freddy C, Adam KS and Kevin P were the ones I recognised and Sean H arrived later on.  Mark C got really quite pissed (and apparently lost his coat with his flat keys in and ended up sleeping in the hallway outside his flat!)  Richard VL was trying to attract the amorous attentions of one of our fellow baritones but wouldn’t tell me who – and by then it was so late in the night that there wasn’t time to keep an eye on him to work out whom.

We left shortly after midnight though as I had to be up the next morning to get ready for a photoshoot with another guy from Out.

Ewen (the guy in question) was quite a nervous subject to begin with and seemed convinced that it was impossible to take a good photograph of him.  Once he got relaxed though he was actually quite a good model, keeping himself moving and coming up with plenty of ideas.  We worked for about two and a half hours before calling it a day.

Sunday evening was spent processing both the photos from the party and then beginning work on Ewen’s shoot.  Facebook was rather intransigent tonight; you just could not get some links to open.  The problem seems too specific to be the fault of our internet connection and has been happening a lot recently.  I wonder if they are maybe a victim of their own success and having difficulty keeping sufficient computer power online to service all their users during peak times!

I’ve got a busy week ahead of me.  There isn’t one night this week when I don’t have something on in the evening.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Seven Deadly Sins – First Impressions

Last night was our first look at the new repertoire.  This season’s Chorus show is themed around the Seven Deadly Sins and it is promising to be quite exciting.  It will certainly be an interesting sing as the music is both varied and challenging; ranging from The Drinking Song from La Traviata and Verdi’s epic, apocalyptic Dies Irae, through Kander and Ebb (Money Makes The World Go Round, All I Care About Is Love) to Kylie (Confide in Me) and Lily Allan (Fuck You)!

After being in a really bad mood all day (see yesterday’s entry), the rehearsal totally turned me around.   I had been looking forward to singing the Verdi and we got our first go at it today and even at a first attempt, the section we did sent shivers down my spine.  Once we master the piece it has the potential to sound magnificent.

One of the new members Adam KS was looking a bit overwhelmed as he first flicked through the twenty-five-page score, but he very quickly got into it and was soon belting it out with the best of us!

We also got to try out the Money Song from Cabaret and the song, Carousel, which is actually quite sinister.  Both of them were more enjoyable sings than I’d expected.  I came home really energised and with the lyrics of the latter going around (and down again around and up again around!) in my head.

I’ve already downloaded the rehearsal tracks to the iPod.  That’s the first time I’ve bothered with them for several seasons, so I reckon I’m feeling pretty inspired.  Let’s hope it lives up to expectations.

Piano lesson this evening also went really well.  I’d managed to get some practice in this week and it showed.  Now got to keep it up!

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Weekend

Saturday was a mostly domestic day, with shopping bought, dishes washed and laundry done.  I also picked up a copy of Attitude as I’d been tipped off that the BBC Weatherman, Tomasz Schafernaker, looked better than the average meteorologist in a pair of AussieBums on the cover.  And indeed he did.

Coincidently on the front cover was Gareth Thomas whom, if I hadn’t seen him on the cover, I probably would not have recognised when we ran into him at Mike T’s 60th birthday party later that evening!  We didn’t really get to chat to him as he was being monopolised by a couple of Welsh bears, but I did get to shake his hand and congratulate him on coming out.

The party was held in the upstairs room of a pub just off Tower Bridge.  As ‘upstairs rooms of a pub’ go, it was pretty classy.  It looked like it might serve as a smart restaurant during lunchtimes.  There were the usual Chorus suspects plus a selection of Mike’s bearish friends.  Both the food and the atmosphere was good and both Brett and I had a good time.

We went on and partied for a couple of hours afterwards too, so didn’t get to bed until gone 3am.

Sunday was consequently a slow start.

We’d been invited to Luther G’s farewell lunch in East Dulwich.  As a way of bookending his stay, he was having his final UK lunch in the same restaurant where he’d had his first, so we had a curry buffet for Sunday Lunch.

The crowd was a small, but eclectic mix of Chorus bodies (Steven T, Sacha K, Gabriel C and ourselves) with his cousin and wife, a guy from Brighton (who’s name escapes me) and a lovely Australian chap called Glen.   After lunch most of us went on to CaffĂ© Nero for coffee and more conversation before eventually saying our final farewells to Luther and departing.  Brett and I had decided to walk it home as it was only two miles, so we had a bracing walk and made it in about an hour.

Sunday evening was my designated organising time.  It seems that now that Christmas is over, everyone’s having parties and organising events.  Added to that there are a number of promising shows we want to see, it all adds up to being almost non-stop socialites for the next month or so.

I got a lot of it done but unfortunately Mikey’s pathological reluctance to open his diary and organise himself meant I couldn’t finalise a couple of the things.  As a result I went to bed irritated on a bit of a slow boil, inevitably didn’t sleep well and was in an even worse mood when I woke up.

Work sucked.

The only redeeming feature was lunch with Ping who is recently back from an interesting-sounding trip to the States.

Friday, January 15, 2010

New Faces

Wednesday was another snow day; it came down suddenly over Tuesday night and by the morning, trains were few and far-between – and not even the station staff knew if or when.  I worked from home. Got stuff done but was getting cabin fever by the end of the day.

The piano lesson that evening was a bit of a pro-forma as I hadn’t done any practice since the last one.  It’s frustrating but I have no-one to blame but myself; for all that I really want to get good at this, I still can’t seem to drag myself off the sofa of an evening to put in a few minutes practice at the keyboard.  It’s amazing (and sad) how many of my aspirations get lost to laziness and lack of willpower.

Over the years I’ve developed a way of forcing myself into doing things that I want to do; usually it involves making an appointment with someone, as it’s much harder to let someone else down than it is to procrastinate on my own.  (Bizarre, eh, that I have to force myself to do the things I want to do?  Could do with some psychoanalysis on that one!)

In this vein, I am considering spending a large amount of money on working with a personal trainer twice a week when I really probably shouldn’t.  I want to get fit.  My doctor keeps nagging me about my weight and last year I did the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge (a 5km run) and it left me virtually immobile for days.  I want to be able to run 5km.  I want to be able to climb the stairs to Waterloo East without getting out of breath, or be able to carry my loaded bike up to the flat without it being an effort.

And I want to be able to play the piano at least passably well.

As I’m writing this I find myself wondering what advice I’d give to someone who brought me a problem like this and, looking at it like that, it’s quite simple; it’s Facebook and TV that keep me on the sofa.  I need to cut down on both.  It may not be the whole solution, but at least it’s a start.  There you go; a new-year resolution of sorts – even thought I’m generally sceptical of the concept.  Let’s see how far I can get with it.

The rest of the week seemed to be filled with meeting account managers from our suppliers.  Due to a couple of recent mergers and acquisitions we have new contacts in several of them and they were dropping by to introduce themselves and/or give me the spiel on the new organisation.  One of them was rather handsome and in very good shape; I shall look forward to those account review meetings in future!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Strangely Encoded Songs

So Monday was mostly about SharePoint and what we might do with it.  It was a freebie session with some consultants as the previous one hadn’t gone terribly well and we’d had words with the suppliers.  This one seemed more productive though.

In the evening it was the first LGMC meet of the year; tonight was an intake evening though, so I was on camera duty alongside the voice tests.  After a bit of the Rhythm of Life and Bushes & Briars we all headed down to the pub.  They all seemed like nice guys and we even got a few new Baritones out of the evening.

Today was a bit of a busy day.  It started with a progress meeting for the Windows 7 roll-out team; things seem to be going okay, with the exception of the VPN client.  It has the potential to be a show-stopper, but we still have time to work it out.  Here’s hoping!

From there I went on to lunch with other Corporate Heads.  It was a pleasant couple of hours down at EV, partly social, partly discussing how to oil the corporate wheels a bit better.  Didn’t overdo the wine or linger though, as I had a 2pm meeting with a guy about mobile phones.  He reckons his company can halve our roaming bill and, even though his product isn’t technically on the market yet, I think he probably can.  The question though is whether the cost of the product will be recouped by its savings.  Someone has a lot of analysis and modelling to do on a year’s worth of mobile phone bills!

A lot of the rest of the afternoon was spent trying to get my point across without arguing too vociferously with one of our senior staff who feels a small change in our hardware purchasing policy may be the end of civilisation as we know it…

Gave up and came home around seven and somehow by the time I’d finished dinner it was 10pm.  Blah!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Week One

The first week of the year was all about bad weather.  Work started quietly but picked up as the week went on.  Midweek there was more snow and a cold snap.  The trains were trashed.  On Thursday they weren’t even keeping to the reduced timetable and I gave up and worked from home.  Friday, I cycled in and it was a dream; the roads were all clear.

Tuesday night we had a bit of a rude awakening; a little after 1am the shelves in the bedroom came off the wall and dumped their contents all over the floor.  We woke up thinking the world was ending!

There wasn’t a lot we were going to be able to do in our dressing gowns at that time of the morning, so we pretty much just went back to bed.  The adrenaline of the wake-up though meant I didn’t get back to sleep until around 4:30…

Friday evening was Tim R’s leaving drinks at work.  I didn’t get much time talking to him, but he was fine with coming into town for lunch from time to time.  Also had an interesting chat with Chris G.  Normally he’s really quiet and retiring but somehow we got onto existentialism and ended up discussing solipsism.  It was quite bizarre, but also really enjoyable.  I should organise lunch with him too and do some more philosophy.

Saturday I’d organised a photoshoot with a guy from OutEverywhere so the morning was spent tidying up.  The shoot went well enough, although I’m feeling a bit constrained by just working with the paper background and lights; maybe should use  more furniture or other parts of the flat.  Maybe look at renting studio space.

In the evening we were heading to Chris and Joffrey D’s post-Christmas party.  Were due to meet Mikey at Kings Cross for food and a catch-up beforehand, but he got held up on the tube by someone going under a train so in the end we were at the party ahead of him.

We’d been following Joffrey’s Facebook status updates all week as he prepared for the party and he’d certainly done a fantastic job of turning their apartment into a party space.  It was a good mix of people – not an entirely chorus affair! – and we both had a good time.

Jim N (one of my ex-boyfriends from university) was there as we have a mutual friend in Chris, so we had a brief catch-up and will get together for a beer at a later date.  Had a good catch-up with Mikey when he arrived, although we still managed to not cover half the things we should catch up on.  Mark A was on the prowl during the evening and there were plenty of good looking boys for him to choose from, but he ended up not having the confidence to introduce himself to anyone.  Had an interesting time chatting to Simon R later on.

There was talk of going on somewhere afterwards, but in the end we just night-bussed home.

Today was a lazy day.  Did the processing from yesterday’s shoot this afternoon.  Ruth came round this evening to watch the rest of the first series of Glee.

Got to be in work early tomorrow, got the SharePoint consultants coming back for another go.  Also got the chorus’ new intake in the evening.  No rest for the wicked!

Friday, January 01, 2010

New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve was a bit of a damp squib.  Brett was at work again and Rosie had managed to damage one of her teeth and had to go find an emergency dentist.   I watched the BBC’s retrospective on Not The Nine O’Clock News on iPlayer (great memories!) then headed into London.

Spent a while wandering aimlessly around the South Bank before retiring to the foyer of the National Theatre where I drank Earl Grey and thought deep thoughts for the most of the afternoon.

Eventually met up with Brett and Rosie and we made our way down to Wimbledon for dinner with Rod & Jess.  (Jess makes some splendid curries!)  One of the upshots of the evening was that they are coming to see The Magnets with us at the end of January!

Jess had a cold, so declined the chance to come with us into town to watch the fireworks on the river. Turns out it was probably the right move; we got there around 22:30 and the ‘Viewing Area’ around Charing Cross and Westminster was already full and closed-off.  A lot of the South Bank was also closed, so we ended up on the north side of Blackfriars Bridge, from where we had a reasonable view of The Eye.  The fireworks however weren’t anything spectacular from where we were, which was a shame given the hour we’d hung around in the cold to see them.

Rather than the fireworks, I suspect my enduring memory of the night will be the smell of frying onions from the street vendors and the noise of the others in the crowd – the crazy French girls who kept getting on each others’ shoulders to call (screech!) out to/for “Alex….” (again, and again, and again!), the mixed group of students who went into their own version of the Haka at the slightest provocation, or the girl departing after the fireworks who kept yelling out, “Happy New Year, you fuckers!”

The fact that it snowed for a few minutes almost as soon as the fireworks had finished was quite a nice finale though.  We lucked-out with the trains and found a Catford train was due within a few minutes of us getting to London Bridge.

It turns out that the fireworks looked much better on TV.  We watched the recording when we got home.