Just The Thing


Sunday – the ancient Greek word for “sitting on one’s arse, doing nothing of any consequence whatsoever and not feeling at all bad about it”. That’s the theory anyway. Usually, it’s a matter of trying to do all the things you didn’t have time for during the week in a mad rush before Monday morning arrrives again.

My plan for this Sunday was to finally start the Xmas shopping. I can tell it’s time for that when i start seeing messages from people saying they’ve FINALLY finished theirs. Never the most most punctual, me. Unfortunately, circumstances dictated that I was sadly unable to do it today as I couldn’t be bothered.

Much as I love Xmas and the excuse to go crazy buying silly trinkets and elegant objets d’art for the people I care about, I am very poor at actually getting started. When panic finally sets in and I head for town, the initial trips are to Fopp, Waterstones, HMV, Virgin and a variety of music shops (in case I can think of someone who needs a ukelele, you understand). These, as you may guess, are mainly about getting presents for one person in particular … on his own credit card.

When I finally have to knuckle down, I give praise for the mobile phone, without which I would be unable to quiz members of my family about whether other members of my family might like whatever-it-is I have in my hand and how likely it is that I’ve bought them it previously. Having once given my dad a novelty mouse mat (an admittedly poor present to start with) two years in a row, I resolved never to see That Look on a loved one’s face ever, ever again.

Once I actually get started, and have a reasonable present for everyone, it actually starts to become fun. I love finding stupid extras and novelties and things I know will make them laugh. The Xmas markets in Manchester are worth a look for that Kind of thing. There’s usually at least one stall with something interesting on it, although they are starting to suffer from the same problem I ranted about before and shopping in the markets means there’s always the bonus of finishing your shopping with a well-earned gluhwein …

Hmm, gluhwein. Maybe it IS time to start shopping

X Marks The Grot


Saturday night and the negotiations begin. Apparently, sitting through Strictly Come Dancing and the X-Factor is a fair trade for half of Harry Hill and most of Have I Got News For You. Clearly, my haggling skills need some work.

I have a number of issues with X-Factor. In simple terms, I loathe, hate, detest and despise it and everything it represents. Music is important to me. Of all the art forms, it’s the one I understand best – the one that speaks to me most, the variety of expression I most aspire to. X-factor is like an amateur chef trying to recreate a cordon bleu meal using a cheap supermarket’s version of the ingredients. Sort of the same but without the subtlety or the originality. Nothing too exotic or spicy, all the interesting touches removed, everything bland and uniform. In the end, instead of chilli con carne, you just get a load of mince*.

But what bothers me most is how easily you get sucked into it. Frou-Frou for some unfathomable reason, loves it which means I end up watching it too. For the first few episodes, I remain cynical and grouchy and spend the whole time bitching about how poor the singing is, how inane the comments are, how deluded the contestants are. A few months down the line, and i’m comparing performances, rating chances and ranting about outrageously unfair decisions.

I hope that for the majority of its viewers the same is true, that they’ve lost sight of the fact that the singing is dull, the arrangements mediocre and the whole thing is a massive excuse for Simon Cowell to promote his cash cows purely because they’ve become used to it. But I suspect that, as per usual I’m just playing along a little bit out of tune and behind the beat.

*With a nod towards one of my FAVOURITE poems

“insert interesting stuff here”


The worst part of this daily blogging lark is realising just how DULL the majority of my life is. Get up, run for bus, get to work, find things to do for a bit, have lunch, find more things to do, bus home. I’m struggling to make that sounds interesting. I think two geek posts in two days is more than anyone should have to deal with.

The only creative elements of the day have been reading my book about the making of blade runner and a quick noodle about with the guitar earlier. My sleeping habits are not good – late nights and early mornings. Apparently, creative people are more effective when they get up early and go to bed accordingly. I’m not sure where Keith Richards and Andy Warhol fit into that but i read it on the internet so it must be true.

Tonight is finishing on a wave of Leonard Cohen and Brian Eno on BBC4. I’ll try to get up early tomorrow and spark some creativity, other wise i’ll have to subject you to the blogger’s last resort – talking about the cats.

Geeking Out


I’ve been feeling oddly cheerful today. As an unashamed geek, i’ll confess this is largely due to being allowed to play with interesting software at work. For once, I’m looking at stuff I’d be interested in looking at in my own time. For the geeks among you, I’ve been asked to look at setting up a php forum and group blogs for the department and been given free reign to play with it. This is fun in my book – interesting software, with plenty of scope to tinker and tweak and no actual deadline. bliss. Of course, i have to fit it in around my other work but you can’t have everything.

In fact, it’s spilling over into my own time. I’ve spent the evening installing a similar set up things at home. Having spent this month blogging every day (you HAD noticed, hadn’t you?), I’m keen to soop up the web site
a bit, just for the hell of it. Going to the Frankophilia do the other night left me feeling creative and eager to make something. As i can draw, sculpt, animate, or paint to save my life, web site design is about the best i can do.

Usually, tinkering with the website is what i do to avoid doing anything constructive but given that i’ve managed to keep up with the daily posts, i can probably justify it.

I’m a hopeless case, aren’t i?

For Better Or For Worse


I am struggling to find words to express exactly how much I absolutely, totally, completely and utterly Do Not Care about the royal engagement. Not at all. And yet it’s already interfering with my life. My day usually starts with the Today programme, Humphries et al telling me whats going on in the world and with any luck, getting stuck into some pompous politician or fat cat. This morning, I stood about 10 minutes of wedding plans, wedding implications, wedding memories, wedding waffle before I had to get up.

Every newspaper headline, every overheard chat on the tram. At least when I finally got to work the discussion was brief and entirely focussed on whether we would get a day off for it. The Daily Mail website is like an orgasm in HTML form. Having never quite accepted that Diana was dead and never coming back, they’ve finally found her replacement. She’s even wearing her ring! Maybe that’s just necessity – wearing a second hand ring, rather than splashing out 50 quid at Elizabeth Duke in Argos is just good sense, financially.

Ahhh, finance. My cynical senses started twitching almost immediately. Just how much is it going to bloody cost? In terms of policemen, nurses and libraries, I mean. Obviously, as we’re “all in it together”, I’m sure the entire cost will come from the combined earnings of Wills and Kate and their family and not a penny from the public purse. Surely?

Doubtless, over the next few months, the likes of me will be shoved into our own grouchy, grumbling corner while the rest of the populous start to celebrate so before I’m marched off, let me just point out that there are more important things to worry about. The Irish economy is collapsing and might take the EU with it, an incompetent Alaskan housewife is about start running for the US Presidency and people are still dying for “Queen and country” in the Middle east every day. In the greater scheme of things, one family’s nuptial celebrations should be small beer to everyone but them.

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