Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Phish Out Of Water

So I've had this amazing, never-been-done-before idea for a new TV show

It's called Phish Out Of Water.

The action revolves around former Submarine Commander Stephen Phish (pronounced Fisk for added comedy value when he has to constantly correct people) who, for various reasons, finds himself living in the heart of rural England, somewhere like Berwick-Upon-Tweed

Phish, with his militaristic ways, is a stickler for organisation and etiquette and can be seen as hard-to-get along with and often rubs people up the wrong way
So: sort of like Hart Of Dixie, Doc Marten, Monarch Of The Glen

Phish has saved up a lot of money via mostly living in a large sardine can underwater for the last 15 years or so and his new found wealth in a society of old money can be another bone of contention, especially when his navy mannerisms don't gell with his new financial status
So: sort of like Fresh Prince Of Bel Air, Monarch Of The Glen

There should be a love interest for Phish, with whom he sparks and argues with an ongoing "will they/won't they" storyline - preferably there should be some barrier to their relationship (she could be a married catholic or something)
So:  sort of like all of the above, plus Ballykissangel

Phish should find it hard to adapt to the new world and find the mannerisms and ways of the locals both quaint and frustrating and in total contrast to "life as he knows it"
So: like Hart of Dixie, Suburgatory, Ballykissangel etc

The locals should ascribe to every possible cultural stereotype for Berwick-upon-Tweedians.  Not sure what these should be, but if we shove in a "chancer" Irishman (or Oirish, as all Irish people on telly have the same accent, regardless of where they are from), a "delusions of grandeur/hell bent on etiquette" woman and a "wise mentor/soothsayer" pipe smoking tramp then we should be 90% of the way there
So: sort of like Ballykissangel/Heartbeat/etc

So there you go then: Phish Out Of Water.  An entirely new format for a TV show that we haven't seen a million times before...honest

(and ok, yeah - I admit to having watched all of the above examples on more than one occasion)

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Can You Sea Me Running?

For a brief introduction as to how this all started visit Weekends Collected for this related post, Rainy Days And Sundays.  You might even want to leave your own posts whilst there

It's four a.m. when the alarm goes off and I crawl out of bed.  My body goes through the motions of getting ready whilst my brain plays catchup, but by five a.m. I'm ready, after the usual visits from Captain Paranoia, to head off.

The sat-nav is switched on, with its heavy New Zealand accent forever telling me that there's a Bear left ahead: although for the life of me I never see the creature for myself.

I'm heading for the coast, for a meeting in one of our larger offices with a colleague and our clients.  If I were to go via train I would still have to leave this early, but wouldn't arrive until at least 11am - most likely missing the meeting.

After an hour and a half on the road, and just before I leave the motorway onto the smaller roads that will mark the rest of my journey, I realize that I am dangerously tired and stop at a soulless service station for a cup of bitter coffee served by an ever-so-slightly more bitter employee.

I sit in the car sipping the resultant brew and thinking about the Bruce Springsteen CD I've been listening too (Wrecking Ball - definitely a return to form, I decide) and briefly about the meeting ahead (like most sane people I try to spend as little of my free time thinking about work as possible) before finally switching Mr Sat-Nav back on.  The New Zealand accent is Herself's choice and is no more grating than any of the other options.  I've never really been tempted to change it, for example, to Mr T forever telling me to "turn left sucker" as I am under no illusions that such an option would cease to be funny after two junctions, leaving me forced to leave it switched on or admit that it really was a stupid waste of money.

The rest of the drive goes well and I arrive at the office in good time for the morning calls and meeting preparations.  It's a pretty enough site, set in a small town that could only be described as "pretty" if it were in comparison to a boil.  The grounds are big, with a huge lake built for natural coolant of the immense IT infrastructure stored inside.

At 10am when there's still no sign of the man I'm here to meet I venture downstairs to the other room we use and find that a) I've walked straight into the middle of a very important meeting and b) he's been there all the time.  We spend the rest of the morning and part of the afternoon discussing the tasks ahead and finally meeting with the client.

Finally the day draws to an end and I pack up my computer and head for the little treat that I have promised myself.

Five weeks ago, as evidenced in the related post linked above, I took up running.  To be honest: progress has not been good.  I had been trying to follow a regime that I have downloaded from the internet, but have had several set-backs, including some trouble with my knees.  The upshot of all of which is: I am nowhere near as fit as I had hoped to be by now and still barely able to do more than 20 minutes worth.

Still, with our office so close to the coastline I haven't been able to resist the temptation to recreate a scene from Chariots Of Fire and go for a run on the beach.

I change into my running kit (grey shorts, grey vest-top, super-dooper expensive running shoes) turn the vehicle away from the route home and drive the extra five miles or so that it will take and soon enough I can see the pier and find a place to park.

The first problem with my vision of empty sandy beaches is that for the first time since I was last down at this office three months ago: the sun has come out.  This means that the walkways are full of young people who really should put a T-shirt on (please - no one wants to see an exposed beer gut, it puts you right off your stick of seaside rock), who seem to have reverted to the childhood communication method of forever shouting at someone standing less than three feet away.  This means that whenever I start running I am unable to continue for more than thirty seconds without risk of knocking someone over.

The second problem is even more vexing: no beach.  The sea is almost entirely in to the storm wall and where it has condescended to leave an open spot it does so only to reveal not the golden sands I had hoped for, but pebbles.

And so, having been forced to turn in-land from the coast, I give up running after less than five minutes and settle for a leisurely walk back with my camera

In the harsh light of the sun, and using my mobile phone, it's hard to frame a picture properly -hence the above "Wall With Thumb"

However - I did uncover evidence of the imminent return of Jesus, as evidenced by the man walking on water below...(erm...ok, so he was jumping off the landing bay, but that's what it looks like, OK??)

And of course, I got to see a hovercraft taking off - so the trip wasn't a total loss.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Sleep Patterns

In my experience the two times in your life you cannot sleep are when you have to get up early and when you do not have to get up at all.

When you have to get up early you will inevitably lie awake into the wee hours, desperately aware that if you don't get some sleep soon then you won't get any sleep at all: disturbed by every creak of the wind from outside and constantly yelling silently inside your head to just RELAX AND SLEEP - PLEASE!!

When you don't have to get up at all you will, of course, sleep through the night soundlessly - and be wide awake at 5am with nowhere to go for hours but downstairs to sit fuming in front of the telly about how good a nice lie in would have been, if only your brain had allowed you to do so.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Could Try Harder

Sometimes I think that my old gym teacher, evil sadist that he was, knew more about me than I would care to admit when he wrote in my annual reports "Pixie could try harder at games"

Of course: in reality the reason I didn't put much effort into Rugby, Football, 5 mile runs etc was not laziness but self preservation: IE i didn't fancy getting my head kicked in as part of a futile attempt to score a goal, try, home run (insert applicable sporting reference here)

In fact the only few weeks of sport that I enjoyed in five years of senior school were the ones where they took all the neanderthals off onto another field and let them beat each other to death for a while instead of us: leaving the weak and feeble kids like myself to play something that actually approached football.  (BTW the reference to neanderthals is not a humorous remark about my increasingly long years - they really were evidence of the missing link: albiet slightly worsly dressed than cro-magnon man)

But nonetheless "could try harder" will doubtless end up being my epithet as whenever I hit a problem my first instinct is to throw my hands in the air, declare that i will never get it and promptly give up.

The problem is that school very much installed the idea that I was extremely stupid: something that i still have to fight against mixed with the fact that I am not naturally particularly bright.  And before anyone that knows me says "oi" I feel this is fair comment - new knowledge is not something that comes easily for me and often has to be fought for.  Whether this is me being thick or the teacher just not being able to present the information in a way i can understand it is for greater minds than mind to decide.  Suffice to say: i nearly drove my maths teacher mad when i came to re-do my maths GCSE some years ago.

The problem that I am currently having is with my saxophone.  I haven't touched the damn thing in nearly 3 weeks and have gone so far as to find excuses to do anything else but practice recently.

The problem is three-fold and none of them really counts as the main problem: they are all so fundamental with the art of playing the thing:

#1: Tuning
With a guitar you tune the thing with an electric tuner.  It then remains in tune.  If you put your fingers in the right place at the right time you will get the right note.  With a saxophone you can do all of the above and still get the wrong note if you do not apply the right reed pressure.

The problem is - that i just can't hear it well enough to know that it is sharp or flat.  My pitch just isn't good enough. Considering this is an essential aspect of playing the dratted thing...

#2: Improvisation
I just don't feel it.  Whenever I try I feel just like a pedestrian endlessly crossing and re-crossing the same zebra crossing with not enough imagination or creativity to go elsewhere -and since improvisation is mostly about feeling and i mostly feel like a berk when doing it - i mostly don't do it.

#3: Timing
I am aware that there are different dots, signals and wierd symbols that mean pausing for different amounts of time and holding notes for a different amount of time - but actually putting it into practice is another thing.  The worst thing, and here is the true confession chaps and chapesses: I just don't care enough to want to get it exactly as written.  I'm never gonna be good enough to play as part of the rhythmn section for the Memphis Horns and, truth be told, I'm not sure that I want to be.  As long as the song sounds good enough to fool Joe Public and to please me - well then: it's only me and the cats that will ever hear it.

This attitude is, of course, a major factor in my lack of significant progress and therefore, possibly, in my current state of disilusionment.

Finally of course there is a fourth:

#4: Progress
I must have played the 9-10 songs that I know well so often that their composers are ready to beat down my door and bludgeon me to death if I don't get them right next time - and yet no matter how many times i get a tricky part right I always manage to find Fresh And Exciting Ways To Make New Mistakes...

And hence, as with my writing, my enthusiasm seems to be out the back of the house having a quick cigarette and showing no signs of returning any time soon.

Still: should I ever get far enough to actually record my efforts I do at least have a working title for the resulting album...

Could Try Harder

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Caffiene Malfunction

The woman approaching me is beaming and deliberately being friendly at me.  As she approaches I can tell that she has honed her Friendly skills to a sharp edge and is not afraid to use them.

She is pulling a small trolley behind her, so my first thought is that she is lost and trying to find the local bus or train station – something which the local authorities, in their infinite wisdom, seem to have decided needs to be an exercise in Zen Navigation, as opposed to actually findable.  My brain is still trying to cope with the business of remembering my PIN for the cash point (note that I deliberately refrained from calling it a PIN Number, because of course the N stands for Number anyway)

“Hello” she says, her smile turned all the way up to supernova levels now, “I’m from local radio.  We’re just trying to find opinions of local people on the new restrictions on speed in the centre, and the decision to remove traffic lights – would you care to comment?”

I look at her through a thick dense fog of sleep, wondering how long it will take my brain to finish having its shower, eat its bowl of cornflakes, hop on a bus and catch up with my body.

Over the next few minutes as I find the nearest branch of Expense-o-Coffee and my brain finally reboots from the night I find myself responding that the decision is the latest in a long line of contradictory plans that seem to be wilfully designed to confuse and annoy in the manner that only “Town Planning” can manage – spending hundreds of tax payers monies only to change their minds six months later.  I decide that any decision to remove traffic lights, regardless of a decrease of speed, is an invitation to murder for all of the drivers that would happily run you over just to shave off thirty seconds from their journey.

I also decide that the recent decision to close one of the subways and put a pedestrian crossing across the busiest roundabout in 20 miles is so certain to cause death within 2 weeks that you’d never get decent odds at Vegas on anything else.

But at that moment, as my poor old sleep-addled brain stares at her from beyond a veil of morning fog, all I can manage to reply is “erm…..dunno”