Monday, 24 August 2009

Sing Our Own Song

About a week before our penultimate gig my brother’s keyboard stand collapsed. Due to one of those boring facts about maths that says we can’t work out trigonometry, and yet we can do the maths to catch a ball, my brother was able to catch his synthesizer – but the second, higher, keyboard crashed down and made a nice solid sound as it connected with the floor.

That, as it turned out, was the last sound it made that day – repeated attempts to turn it back on failed miserably. We were well and truly shafted. In less than seven days we were due to play our second gig at a local pub, having sent off a tape to the events manager about a month previously.

Back then I was mostly playing songs with my brother – highly keyboard based songs that were sub-Pet Shop Boys with the occasional New Order bass line thrown in for good luck.

At the time I still owned a car and lived at home – so we drove 20 miles to the only music repair place we knew and left the keyboard with them marked “urgent”


We owned two keyboards – a Yamaha SY85 synthesiser (which I still have) and a smaller Yamaha keyboard (since replaced with a Korg). The SY85 was a slightly unreliable studio tool – in that you had to pre-program all the songs and if you tried to play anything live over the top then most of the sounds would cut out: the 2nd Keyboard meant that we could just use the built-in rhythms and be a bit more “loose” during some of the songs – using the superior tones of the Synth on the non-programmed songs. Also you had to watch the disks on the SY85 as they had a habit of not writing properly and producing a sound not unlike a snail on acid.


A quick call to my Uncle and we picked up an even smaller keyboard with cheesier drum patterns and sounds and began praying to any higher power that would listen that our own 2nd keyboard would be ready in time.

Fortunately it was – and we found ourselves playing our songs to a drunk, dis-interested crowd who were only there for the main event. Half-way through my guitar solo a drunk bloke came up onto the stage and started trying to talk to me. I don’t know what it is that attracts drunk men to me, but this was not the first time (the first time being in a strange town when a man in a car pulled up and asked me to go home with him – I declined). I can’t remember what he said, but it was something about some guitarist or other. If you’ve never been approached by a drunk whilst trying to concentrate on something and in a position where you can’t immediately leave then I can tell you that it’s very unnerving. A similar thing also happened the one time I went busking with my brother. We got there, realised we only knew three songs that we could both play and managed five minutes before a Born Again Christian joined us with his guitar and promptly started trying to convert us.

Back to the night at the pub - I went home thoroughly disheartened at the crowd’s response, having decided to never again perform in public – and then stupidly allowed the event organiser to convince me to play again the next week. The upshot was that he’d just had another act cancel and he wanted to make sure he still got paid. I never should have said yes – it was far too short notice for any of my friends to attend and we started the evening with an audience of one person – who promptly got up and left after the first song.

Afterwards backstage the manager of the pub grimly handed me my £30 (which barely covered the costs of the keyboard or I wouldn’t have taken it) and suggested I leave a long gap before thinking about coming back again.

And that was when it hit me – truly hit me – that we were well and truly fecking awful. It was two years before I even wrote another song.

So cut forward a few years and I’m working in this call centre doing Communications (a thankless task, as the one thing people don’t like to do in business is talk to one another) – the Christmas party was coming up and I was dreading it. I don’t really like parties at the best of time – you can always tell me by looking for the one in the corner with a book.

And I decided it would be a good idea to try and put a band together for the night out of staff (inspired by another contract elsewhere where 9 staff had put together a Blues Brothers band). I approached the “Fluffy” Team (every works has a fluffy team – they don’t actually do anything much and appear to be there only to put forward the kind of daft ideas that eventually convince you that everyone in the company is insane – most recently a High School Musical themed party) and got consent to go ahead and promises of funding.

So I advertised for members and got three responses: one from a Call Centre agent who claimed to be able to sing (we will call him K) and could provide us with a drummer from the same department (we will call him S) – the second response was from a guitarist (NR) and most importantly I had a response from a woman whom we shall refer to here as Argent.

And so Argent, myself and NR turned up at the rehearsal room – with no sign of K or S, but decided to go ahead anyway. I don’t know whether any of you have ever hired a rehearsal room, but whenever I’ve hired one I’ve always found myself practicing in a room next to a singer who sounds like he’s having a painful bowel movement – this was no exception (for anyone interested I have christened such bands The Sons Of Mu – based on the fact that the singer always seems to be grunting Mu mu mu)

About half way through the first hour K turned up, fashionably late with a small entourage of females who sit in the shadows looking vaguely embarrassed as we set up and performed a version of Mustang Sally. It went reasonably well by the end of the session.

So the finalised band listing was K on lead vocals (and he actually had quite a good “rock” voice – i.e. throaty and powerful), NR on lead guitar, myself on bass and rhythm (depending on the song) and Argent on keyboard and backing vocals when she remembered.

And so we carried on for another couple of weeks with varying degrees of turnout – sometimes K & S would turn up, sometimes they wouldn’t – but we were certainly starting to sound pretty good. Having obtained the promise of funding I was paying for the rehearsal space on my own, but we had expanded our repertoire to include “Don’t Look Back In Anger” (song by Oasis) and were still trying to come up with a name for this fledgling group.

Finally we admitted defeat on names and simply referred to ourselves as The Band With No Name (turns out there was already a band called this – but what can you do?).

We were just discussing the option to make the rehearsals more frequent in time for the party when K dropped his bombshell – he was looking for another job, would be gone before the party but wanted to still be in the band for the gig.

I knew this was never going to happen (there are very serious cobblers reasons for non-staff members not attending parties) but asked anyway: the management promptly withdrew the support and the funding, leaving me heavily out of pocket.

Argent and I have remained good friends since and occasionally work towards what we are now calling “That Difficult Second Album” – which, co-incidentally, is due out at about the same time as the second coming, as well as rehearsing together whilst her husband and cats politely hide away elsewhere in the house.

I’ve only played once live since The Band With No Name – at an Open Mike night in my home town. Half-way through my first song a drunk got out of the audience and started asking me awkward questions (possibly about astrophysics for all I know)

Perhaps the universe is trying to tell me something?

Friday, 21 August 2009

No Direction Home

Miles of tarmac stretch out below my wheels. Trees flash by beside the side of the road.

The back of my right leg is starting to ache now as I push the accelerator down, indicate and move out past the lorry. The weather changes every few minutes: going from glorious sunshine to heavy rain and back. A rainbow hangs in the sky above.

Another junction flashes by and my partner adjusts the map

‘Next junction and we should get to a roundabout, then it’s over the M500 and onto the A469 – or is that under?’ She pauses, looks again, ‘No – it’s under – or is it round?’

I shrug my shoulders, unable to take my eyes from the road to offer assistance. She checks the “continued on page #” and turns over, following the line with her finger, ‘Sorry – it’s not the A469’ she says as we go over the M500 and approach the turn, ‘It’s the M469’

I adjust the steering wheel and turn onto the next motorway. We started out at 9am and now, nearly two hours later, we are making good progress. Most men would take their partners on a romantic drive to the countryside, or on a holiday to the seaside. I’m taking mine to the heart of our industrial heritage – and then I plan to leave her sitting in a car park when I get there.

She keeps commenting on the map for a few minutes as we negotiate a difficult junction and I comment that it’s a shame that SatNav’s aren’t like her – it would be more fun if they were programmed to say things like, ‘Well I’m stuffed if I know – take the next turn and we’ll find it again later’ or ‘No sorry – I meant to say turn right’ just seconds after you had obeyed the order to turn left.

Perhaps they could be programmed to imitate certain personalities: like back-seat drivers, constantly saying things like ‘Mind that plane – it’s flying awfully low’

Not that I’d be any better if I were navigating – as we find out when we consult the GoogleMap I printed and find the start location seems to have slipped 500 miles from where we were supposed to be. I claim the movement of tectonic plates as a reason and turn off the lights as the sun comes out again.

We arrive in our one-street-town destination a couple of hours early for the interview and decide to go and look around the shopping area. As this mainly consists of a chemist, two closed down pubs and a cemetery this doesn’t take long – but we find a Costalot Coffee shop and a place that does baked potatoes so we spend a bit of time in both,trying to explain to the nice Spanish (or possibly Greek) woman in the cafĂ© what Gluten is and why I cannot eat it.

Having failed spectacularly to do so we head back to the area where my interview is and I go in, still early, and mumble a lot of vague answers to their standardised questions:

‘Can you give us an example of a difficult situation you’ve had to handle?’
‘This job involves prioritising work as and when it comes, often on a “needs doing yesterday” basis – can you give an example of how you prioritise?’

I do the best I can – but to be honest all these interviews prove is that you can bullshit and I always struggle to formulate a coherent answer. Do they want me to give them a specific example of how I single-handedly averted nuclear disaster thanks to a well timed email?

My friend has recommended the job – she claimed at the time that there was a possibility of it being based closer to home than the 140 miles away as advertised and that you got travel allowance – but since I applied there has been a re-shuffle at the local office and now it looks ominously like neither is true.

Having just about managed to get my name right I go out to the car and interrupt my partner, who is studying her French translation book. We decide, as planned, to carry the journey another hour north to the area of the country where part of my family originate. My dad has loaned a couple of items to a museum (don’t get me started on this one) and they are now on display. It’s not yet 3pm so we think we have plenty of time and, having abandoned my rather useless Google Map, we turn straight into a tailback that takes us half an hour to escape.

Once we are out of this the road opens as we climb ever higher into the hills. The road narrows, and bends swiftly: signs warn motorcycles to go slow around the bend. Looking down into the valleys below its not hard to see why.

The land here is a mixture of verdant green and scraped-brown fields, waiting for new crops to be sown. We discus the heavy matter of how sheep climb hills so steep (I favour genetically enhanced sheep with one leg longer than others, she favours cable-cars). As we climb slowly towards the top and into the open countryside our ears fill like we are underwater, leaving both our heads feeling funny.

The top of the road: a cyclist has stopped on the other-side, out of breath. I take what time I can between the rain and the sunshine to admire the view, concentrating on steering us safely as we go.

We dive down again like Michael Phelps into the waters of the valley, the road slipping away beneath the wheels as the angle of descent increases. I change down gear to control the car and we coast into the core of the planet, finally straightening out as we cross the bridge over the water.

At 4:40pm we arrive at our destination and park the car behind the museum. As we dash inside out of the rain we hear an announcement that the museum will be closing in ten minutes.

We have just enough time to find the display in one corner: a single case containing the props that used to belong to my Great-Grandfather, a copy of his poster and some slides.

My Great-Grandfather was a magician here, back in the early 1900s – a story I have heard all my life. In the single case are some of his Punch and Judy puppets and his ventriloquist doll – a doll that I have known my whole life.

I don’t know how to feel looking at the display: I know that it has been sitting in a box in a cupboard for years and that it is safer on loan here – but I know that now no-one will ever hold it the way I did when I was a kid, slipping my hand into the gap at the back and operating the mouth controls – that never again will it be used for its intended purpose.

I know that I can’t give it a safe home where it will be protected, but it is a link to my grandparents and my heritage and having the glass between me and it leaves me saddened. Although it is currently only on loan to the museum I know that its survival probably depends on a permanent home.

And once the display is over, what happens if we give it away? Where will they be stored? Will anyone even be interested? Don’t get me started.

We have a few minutes to take a photo of the small corner of a very large room where the props are situated and then the museum guides are telling us its time to go. Outside the rain is still falling and we dash to the car – where my partner begins looking through the map again. Foolishly we decide to go against her gut instinct and end up doing a big circle around the city.

On the way home we listen to The Carpenters – singing badly out of tune as the miles slip away.

Monday, 17 August 2009

The Curse Of The Ging-Gang-Goolies

OK – so I urgently need your help. After the success of my first-ever speech at Toastmasters I have just found out that I have secured a space on the Humorous Speech Competition next week. So I’ve come up with a list of ideas and jokes to include and I need feedback on any that you think are too flabby or could be improved. Some of the really bad taste or daft jokes WILL remain in regardless, coz I’m stupid like that. Please bear in mind that much visual and audible bits will be added.

I may add translations here and there for the inter-continental audience and will refer back to any bits at the end:

“I suppose that every British boy wants to help his country in some way or other. There is a way, by which he can do so easily, and that is by becoming a Scout”

Master Toastmaster, fellow Toastmasters, most welcome guests: tonight I would like to talk to you about my time as a member of the Cub Scout movement and what that experience taught me, however you will be glad to know that there will be absolutely no jokes whatsoever about going out at night and scouting for boys (1) (pause) apart from that one obviously

As you may already know the Scout movement was started by Robert Baden-Powell after he was impressed by the actions of local boys in the battle of Mafeking. Baden-Powell was a bit of a strange person though and, in his book on scouting, said “Every boy aught to learn how to shoot and obey orders, else he is no more good when war breaks out than an old woman” – clearly he hadn’t met any of the handbag-wielding grannies round our way.

Baden-Powell was a very severe man who believed in the equality of all men: he believed this to the extent that it was rumoured that he wore underpants in the bath to stop him looking down on the unemployed (2)

But so it was that late one evening over cigars and sherry that Baden-Powell cleared his throat and announced his idea to his friends:

(CLEARS THROAT) “I say old chaps: I’ve had this rather spiffing idea!” (3)

Now his friends had long ago realised that Baden was a loonie, but decided to humour him and ask what the idea was:

“Well we take groups of young boys out into the middle of nowhere and teach them to tie each other up: the best one gets a badge”
“Err…I’m not sure that IS a good idea Baden…Social Services might have something to say about it”
“No no, it’s all perfectly legitimate: look – I’ve even got a song, it goes “Ging gang goolie goolie goolie wotcha…” (4)

Now: I joined the Cubs in Nineteen Mumble-mumble and the first thing you get is a uniform. You get grey socks and green garters that look like a snake’s tongue. Presumably the idea is to ward off anacondas – but it does mean you get nibbled to death by mongoose. Then you have grey shorts, a green jumper and finally, and most importantly, a neckerchief and woggle. (pause) ooh the hours I spent trying to lasso my rabbit! (mimes lassoing the rabbit and rabbit being caught) MEEP! MIP! MIP! (sound of Rabbit) No wonder it used to wee over my hand.

Once you had your uniform you were introduced to the leaders of the group – but we were never allowed to use their real names, because each of the adults took on the name of a character from the Jungle Book like Akaela and Baloo. Now, I don’t know what this was like in other groups – but our leaders took this so seriously that if they saw you down the local shops they would start using these names so as not to shatter the illusion:

“Hello Bagheera”
“Hello Shere-Khan, how the devil are you?”
“Not bad, not bad (PAUSE) I say, have you seen Mowgli recently?”
“Yes: she’s over there buying tampons”

Now every meeting would start the same way: you’d form a circle around Akaela, drop to your haunches (demonstrates) and shout: “Akaela: we’ll do our best!”

Akaela would then look around at us with a gaze that could melt plastic and demand: “Cubs: do your best”

…but we just said we would…

Now Akaela was probably younger than I am now, but back then we thought she was ancient and probably deaf, so we would dutifully reply “We will do our best”

Of course: when Baden-Powell started the cub-scout meeting he had high ideals of teaching boys army skills – but all we were interested in was collecting badges. Every time you achieved something in Cubs you got a badge to sew onto the side of your sleeve and when both sleeves were full you were supposed to transfer the old ones to your sleeping bag…(pause) only no one bothered to explain this to my mum and instead she sewed endless extensions onto the sleeves of my jumper…(pause) I ended up looking like a monster from Doctor Who or something.

We were very keen on collecting badges – couldn’t get enough of it and it became a competition to outdo every other scout group…in fact I believe that I’m correct in saying that we were the only cub scout group in the country to get the badge for Botchelism (pause). You should have seen the picture on that one.

Once you started getting badges you also had to progress in rank, and the group was divided into smaller groups of six with a Seconder and Sixer in command. The role of Sixer came with absolutely no responsibilities and no authority and was designed so that even the most inept boy could get the role if he stayed with the group long enough. I was 27 when I got mine.

So aside from collecting badges we would also go camping to Difficult Hill. Now Difficult Hill was a patch of land that our scout group co-owned…I say land, but what it actually was was four wooden huts, a rusty climbing frame and a swamp.
During the day we would arrive, set up our tents in the area where we were least likely to drown in the night and then play games like British Bulldog (5) – where the aim of the game was to kill the other team in the shortest time possible

Then at night we would get around the camp fire and sing songs until the early hours like “You’ll never get to heaven in Akaela’s Van” – well, not according to Miss Jones the Scout mistress anyway…

Mostly though we were involved in church activities and in fundraising to build a road to Difficult Hill and for other charities, such as Feed The World. This meant doing sponsored walks, helping at bring and buy sales and taking part in Bob A Job week (6)

Bob A Job week was when all the cubs would go around to their neighbour’s houses and offer to do small tasks for 10p: which was considered great value, because if you haggled you could get your whole house re-plastered for 10p.
(mimics someone who has hired a bob-a-jobber) “Get a move on with that grouting boy!” (7) My mum’s kitchen extension would never have been built without Bob-a-Job week.

We did so well at fundraising that our cub scout group earned a Blue Peter badge (8). Literally. One (pause) Blue Peter Badge (pause) between sixty of us: I saw it once from a distance of forty yards – and that was it.

So what did I gain from my time in cubs? What skills do I take with me through life? When foreign powers invade will the authorities remember my Chess players badge and call for my assistance? When Aliens land in a secret location will I be chosen as part of the delegation on the basis of my Orienteering, stage one?

Frankly no…but have no fear, for when the bombs start flying I will be there, ready and waiting, to start a good old fashioned sing-song as the mushroom cloud goes up!

Master Toastmaster – thank you.

(1) “scouting for boys” can now be suggestive in the UK as to looking to pick up young boys for sex.
(2) Underpants in bath – not my joke
(3) Spiffing – old style slang for excellent
(4) Again this whole conversation is shamelessly ripped off from an old Jasper Carrott (Birmingham comedian)
(5) British Bulldog – a particularly violent team game where opposing teams would link arms and attempt to stop “spies” getting through the line via any means possible (IE bashing them to the floor with all your weight). Health and Safety regulations would never allow it now.
(6) Bob a job – a “bob” is out-of-date slang for 10 pence in British money, but the term was still used in relation to Bob A Job week.
(7) Grouting – term to do with tiling. Don’t ask me what.
(8) Blue Peter – legendary children’s TV series which was big on fundraising – it should probably be mentioned here that former BP presenter Peter Duncan is the current Chief Scout of the Scouting movement.

NB: if anyone has a better title than “The Curse Of The Ging-Gang-Goolies” please do let me know! Comments, as always, appreciated.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Welcome To My World

Everything was a bit of a rush last night. Firstly I was late getting home, then I had to go and pick up my friend and then drive swiftly over to Toastmasters. Fortunately my partner was not requiring her car for work, but sadly was not feeling up to attending on this occasion. We had discussed this a few nights previously on a “see how tired I am” basis, so we barely had time to recognise one another before I left her to babysit the cats. Ironic, because it’s usually she that has to disappear back home or off to work!

As I believe that a related post will soon be visible on Delusions of Adequacy I might as well come clean and admit that myself and Argent have been friends for about four years now and, as some of you have already guessed, it is she that can be heard singing on “Bears”. We met when I advertised for band members in our company newsletter and I am very happy to call her and her husband friends.

As I knew that she was well versed and interested in words and language I had previously told her about Toastmasters - but this was the first week she had been free to visit.

So anyway, I picked up Argent and we got to Toastmasters just in time for the general chit-chat and perambulations that surround the start of the meeting. It was a slightly lower than usual turnout due to everyone being off on their Jollies (slang here for holiday – as in “aww eets a jolly ‘oliday wiv maaary’ – NB that was a feeble attempt to get Dick Van Dyke’s cock-er-ney accent from Mary Poppins in type) and, as usual the Ultra Keen President had volunteered for every empty job going.

We started with the warm up – which in itself was a bit odd, because the woman running this couldn’t have chosen a better week to ask everyone to sing a bit of a song that reminded them of summer. We had Summertime (and the livin is easy), In The Summertime (Mungo Jerry), Summer Holiday, Why Does It Always Rain On Me – and of course Argent with her amazing vocal abilities!

Next up were the pre-prepared speeches, with myself slotting in at the number two slot for my first speech proper – which is the Ice Breaker.

How Toastmasters works is that you have a booklet with ten speeches to perform. Each one has a different title like “organise your speech”, “using props” and “body language”. Within this arc of interest you can pretty much talk about anything you want as long as you meet the objectives of the speech.

Speech one – The Ice Breaker – has to be purely about yourself: something that I was dreading as I’m a fairly private person and tend to assume that other people would probably find my life quite dull (which is why I don’t ramble on about it too much on here)

Also – I have no memory whatsoever. So what I decided to do was to have a piece of paper with a series of one or two word prompts to remind me what areas I wanted to speak about – with three “definates” and a couple of extra bits if I was running ahead of time. I also wrote down a couple of reminders about jokes. I won’t repeat the whole thing here, but will provide you with a few of the highlights:

Intro: How did Darth Vader get planning permission for the Death Star? How does Prince Philip feel when he looks at a stamp? (This was meant as an overview of how my brain works)

On family: My granddad was a very talented piano player – he could play by ear…which if you’ve ever tried hitting a keyboard with the side of your face you’ll know is very difficult

On creativity: you can’t control when it happens – you can be in the middle of a field somewhere and suddenly think “why is abbreviation such a long word?” – what are you supposed to do with this thought?

On conversation: I’m actually quite quiet – even if our building had survived a nuclear attack I’d still come home and have the conversation:
“So how was your day?”
“Not bad”
“Anything much happen?”
“No, not really (pause) oh there was a nuclear attack”
“I bet that was interesting?”
“(shrug) Suppose”

On art: I bought a book in 2003 called “How To Draw Anything” – though really it should have been called “How To Draw Anything – So Long As You Like Sheep”

(sadly I forgot one of my jokes here, borrowed from Douglas Adams, that my recent painting was currently on display…

…at the bottom of a locked filing cabinet behind a sign saying “beware of the leopard”)

On photography: my dad is a professional wedding photographer…very reasonable prices if anyone is thinking of getting married…and built me a wooden winder for my first camera (a box brownie)

On writing: I once had a play performed, called “Murder In A Village Convenience” where a notoriously cheesy TV star got stabbed…it seemed fair at the time

During the speech you get three lights – a green one when you hit the minimum length for the speech (in this case 4 minutes), an amber one for the next marker (5 minutes) and finally a red one (6 minutes) – and finally, just as I finished speaking about photography I got the amber light: meaning that it was time to move onto my conclusion – a poem that I wrote some years ago (and have re-produced below)

Lacklustre Rebel

I think I missed out on my rebellious phase
A cause without a rebel, that’s me I’m afraid
No wild sex parties or all night raves
And my memory’s only slightly blurred with alcohol daze

My parents were helpful when I were a lad
My dad gave me pot, me mum sold me fags (cigarettes)
But I just wasn’t into the having fun scene
And as for all the sex, well I was never that keen

But now I’ve passed my sell by date without leaving the shelf
I wish I had done something that was bad for me health
I get pulled over by Police for not wearing my tie
It’s the best I can manage: my parent’s still cry

But I tried to rebel, honest I did
Missed out on school, hung around with Vicious Sid
Ended up at Tesco’s for a few lousy quid
Having rebellious tea-breaks with biscuits that I’ve hid

And that was it – I was back in my seat and the next speech went completely over my head. In the break everyone was very positive, calling me a “dark horse” and saying how much they’d enjoyed it – in fact the President suggested I should submit myself for the Humorous Speech competition in two weeks time.

I did enjoy it, but was aware I was rocking a bit on my feet and sometimes speaking too quickly – but generally it went well. I’m still thinking about the speech competition, because having only done one speech with the group I do feel like a bit of a newcomer/interloper and would prefer to earn my keep for a bit first.

The rest of the evening frittered away – Argent got picked on to take part in Table Topics (see her site for full details) and won a prize for Best Table Topic Speaker on her first visit (and here am I still to win anything more than a bottle of wine in a raffle!) – then it was back to our respective homes, partners and cats

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Hurdy-Gurdy Mushroom Man

I’m going to invent a disease. It’s called Hurdy-Gurdy Disease, or HGD.

HGD is spread by people humming off-key fragments of songs, by radio presenters playing naff music and by Simon Cowell. Symptoms include desperately trying to think of ANY other song than the one stuck in your head, finding yourself unable to remember anything more than the first line of the chorus and increased teeth gritting.

Experts will come on TV and state that they are expecting a pandemic of HGD during the summer around about the time that Novelty Hits like “the Macarena” are released and advise young children against downloading it to their mobile phones.

When symptoms turn out to be milder than expected they will attempt to compensate by claiming that there will be a second much stronger wave when the remix comes out.

Government advice will be confusing at best: some advising early treatment and that people with particularly nasty cases (IE anyone with Agadoo or The Birdy Song stuck in their head) should call their Doctor from home and seek advice. Scientists will rush to produce a vaccine and then produce conflicting information about its effectiveness.

Some hard put upon news presenter will be filmed standing outside Number 10 Downing Street in the rain, questions will be asked in the House of Lords. Analysts will strive to decide the effect that HGD has had on work productivity and the economy. Kylie Minogue’s back catalogue will do a nice bit of business and anyone with shares in Syco will make a fortune.

If it’s a particularly quiet news week Sting will be invited onto Question Time and asked to justify the lyrics to “Walking On The Moon” (come on: Giant steps are what we take/I hope my leg don’t break…). Madonna will promote Adopt A Child For HGD and come on stage shouting “wave your hands in the air if you hate annoying songs”. The irony of this question will be discussed for years to come.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown will discuss tactics with Barack Obama who, being sufficienly “down with the kids”, will have a copy of all the worst offenders on CD and tell Brown to get a life.

People will come to work with their fingers in their ears noisily shouting “la la la la la” in a misguided attempt to drown out HGD. Employers will provide free Iron Maiden CDs to sufferers (to drown out the annoying song) and Earplugs to those who have not caught it to date. Takings on public transport will be sufficiently down.

Best advice is to catch it now and recover whilst the symptoms are still minor. Anyone wishing to get HGD and get it over with should watch the below video.


Thursday, 6 August 2009

Yet Another Movie

So just recently i've been playing around with my camera phone and trying to work out which way is up (more complicated than you might think) and I made a couple of videos for you which I wanted to share.

The first is an example of how close we are to somewhere beautiful if we just know where to look - either side of this road in the video are main roads with lots of houses...and yet here we are: in the middle of all this suburban drawl, with open fields and a downhill to die for.

Most people who go cycling complain about the uphills - I love them. Why? Because you always get rewarded for an uphill by a view you really feel you've earned and, sooner or later, by a freewheeling downhill. I'm going about 26 miles per hour here - so this should give you an idea why I love cycling

Secondly - for those of you in need of a moment of pure, unadulterated awwww factor - here is a cat that can ramp the cuteness meter up beyond eleven. Just recently Tiny has been steering clear of me. Might be because the last time she came looking for fuss I picked her up, stuffed her in a bag, took her on a bumpy journey and then handed her over to a strange woman who stuck needles in her. That kind of thing affects your relationship.

With perfect timing though she came looking for fuss this morning just as my alarm went off: this was taken before the Booster-Injection-Incident.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Is There Anybody Out There?

I can’t help but notice that, as of recent, my ratings have taken a dive.

If my blog were a programme in syndication I would certainly have been cancelled over the last month or so, as many of my regular readers seem to have drifted away.

Is this because I have ceased to be interesting? Is it just the time of year? Is it that blogging is now fading slightly from our consciousness or is it simply that other things are getting in the way?

And I feel like I do at work: where all but one of the people that used to make it fun have slowly but surely left for one reason or another.

Friendships can often be like that: they burn brightly for a time and you cling onto the light for all you can – just to remind yourself that you exist. And then one of you moves on and you promise that you will most definitely keep in touch…and then twelve months have passed and you’ve lost their number, or else your life is very busy and frantic right now…

When I first started work it was after a long period of unemployment and I was fortunate enough that there were two or three other people of a similar age working there. We hung out, went to nightclubs at weekends, loaned money that we really didn’t have…and one by one we all got different jobs and partners and got that bit older.

And although I still try and maintain contact with most of them it’s a one-sided battle: one never picks up the phone when I call – the other asks me questions via email and then never responds to the reply and you feel like you’re just beating your head against a wall and getting nowhere.

It’s sad to think that one of my oldest friends is someone that I have known since I was five years old, but in the last five or six of those years it always seems to have been me that made the effort: I’ve only seen his kid 2-3 times and he’s six years old now. But then families and work and problems take so much of your time and I can’t expect him to be constantly in touch – priorities change.

And I think that one of the most difficult things for anyone to accept is that we are not at the centre of our friends universes – like Buffy tells Jonathan when he goes into the tower to shoot himself: the reason no one noticed his pain was because they were too busy dealing with their own.

When you do finally pick up the phone, or drop that email, to an old friend they are usually pleased to hear from you and you can wonder “if they are so pleased to hear from me, why didn’t they call me?” Good point: answers appreciated on a postcard.

Just recently I’ve been so busy worrying about my life going nowhere and all the worries surrounding my current job that I’ve been guilty of it too – people I should have phoned or gone round to see have remained just numbers in my phone book – and you wait and you hope that maybe they’ll contact you…and you can end up feeling like you’re shouting into the void and no one is listening.

And sometimes I still miss those voices that we lost along the way: like it’s been over twelve months since A. Stageman posted on Eyes Closed, Jazzing – but I still check her site in the hope that one day…and in the hope that, wherever she is, she’s doing ok…

And then there are the days when you feel like you just can’t be bothered anymore and its time to walk away because you’re the only one whose making the effort.

So I’m setting you all some homework guys: ring (or mail) an old friend – someone who you’ve been meaning to call for a while, someone that you still care about but has somehow been pushed to the periphery of your life. Someone whose usually the first to contact you.

Remind them that you still care

Remind them that they still exist

Spread the love.