1000 Shades of Grey
Friday, August 27, 2004
The small print
I've just gone out and bought a new fridge, freezer and washing machine from John Lewis.

Now, knowing that they are "never knowingly undersold" I did a bit of checking around, and found the fridge and freezer cheaper elsewhere. So today, armed with my information I strolled confidently to the Electrical department and informed them of my desire to spend a lot of money.

Having pointed out the items that I wanted, I then started to try and knock down the price.

This wasn't as easy as I'd thought it would be.

Having taken the prices I'd found elsewhere my technophobic (Her: "I hate computers.", Me: "But you work in Electricals!?!") helper proceeded to check out my claims.

Sadly, the price I copied down for the fridge was for a display model only (didn't say that when I checked last night) but at least the freezer was cheaper. However, she then factored in the fact that whilst John Lewis offer free delivery to my home, the other retailer would charge me for the privilege of having my purchase delivered to my home.

Nonetheless, I still managed to knock a whopping £14.05 off my total spend, and still get a better guarantee than I would have got had I shopped elsewhere.

Astonishingly, I feel quite pleased about this - it's the equivalent of getting a free crate of beer!

As the saying goes: "simple things, simple minds."

Thursday, August 26, 2004
Bi-furcation's what you need
Picking up on the fact that a lot of you don't actually care as much as we do about Newcastle Utd's fortunes, Ben and I have decided to separate the football from the non-football sides of our lives, and devote a new blog to our shared passion.

Please feel free to come and have a read, leave a comment and blogroll us - you know you want to.

The hairball
The carpet cleaner is coming today!

Hopefully he can get rid of the stench of dog that is still emanating from our lounge despite our efforts to the contrary. Happily the rest of the house is starting to appear habitable, and credit card company permitting we should have a new fridge, freezer and washing machine next week. Then it'll be off to Ikea, Homebase and B&Q in the desperate hope that they'll give us some paint and furniture for free and we'll be more or less sorted.

This week has seen us spend a couple of nights scrubbing areas that the previous owners apparently believed were self-cleaning. The hair ball I collected from the bathroom floor was the size of a golf ball, and the pile of ash in the fireplace suggested a fundamental lacking in their concept of what happens to something when you burn it. However, both are now much improved, and the house is now almost ready for us to right some of the decorating crimes it has been forced to endure. ("Hmm, this border paper is nice, I know, I'll make a square out of it on the chimney breast, so it will act as a frame...")

I say almost, because there appears to be a water coming through into our bedroom from above the bay window. This has obviously not been helped by the recent unseasonal rains which have caused our already clogged gutters to overflow badly. If it could only hold off 'till after the weekend we'll have cleared them by then - hopefully that will solve part of the problem.

That said, if anyone can recommend a good builder in the Nottingham area, I'd be very interested to hear from you.

I'm not laughing
"Robson should be sacked, his substitutions are abysmal. Dyer playing. Bowyer on bench. Shearer should be dropped. Kluivert must be regretting signing. A joke."

So sayeth the text message I got last night from someone who was at the latest installment of our traditional crap start to the season.

Now I'm fairly sure that if Bowyer had been fully fit, he would have started ahead of Dyer - which would see Kieron drop to fourth in the pecking order for a central midfield birth. So hopefully he'll be in a bettor state and can start on Saturday, but Dyer hardly looks a player in a mood to make up for his shoddy approach of late by performing well on the pitch. Did anyone actually see him do anything good last night, if so what?

As far as Bobby's substitutions are concerned, I thought Shola looked lively when he came on, but he isn't a right winger, so either we need to get a better range of players on the bench (2 strikers last night) or we need to bite the bullet and chuck on a striker for a forward who is not playing that well.

To that end, I'd agree with the message - Shearer has looked out of touch of late and either playing Kluivert or Ameobi from the start would probably be a good idea. It should also give us a bit more variety in our play, as the need to swing balls into the box from out wide for Shearer to head in/knock down wouldn't exist.

The problem with sacking Bobby (aside from the PR disaster that would follow as everyone who is not a Newcastle fan would be up in arms at this apparent mistreatment of the old man - if he can't do the job he should go simple as that, just ask Paul Sturrock) is who to replace him with?

Whilst I imagine Bruce, Curbishly, Allardyce and McClaren would all relish the opportunity to manage a club with a bit more money and a bigger gate I'm not sure that they'd be banging on our door. O'Neill would have to sacrifice his Champions League campaign with Celtic, and any foreign manager with proven experience has already been snapped up (Benitez, Mourinho, Santini, etc.)

So we're stuck with Bobby until he departs for Clacton-on-Sea next summer. I only hope it won't be too late by then.

On The Rooney front, I'm curious as to why we'd make our bid public? Surely that's only going to start a bidding war which, given Man Utd's Champions League qualification, we are unlikely to win. Yes Shearer turned them down, but he's a Geordie, Rooney won't have the same lemming like urges to commit career suicide ( 1 Premiership trophy and a couple of FA Cup runners up medals is a sad return for a player of Shearer's undoubted talent - particularly as the Premiership was before he joined us.).

Hopefully, Wayne will foolishly sign the wrong contract and join us, and come and play at the tip of a diamond midfield (he's got to be better than the king of bling for a start) breaking forward, creating and scoring goals for fun a la Peter Beardsley in his pomp.

But somehow I doubt it.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004
Got my number
My number come up today.

Well, truth be told it landed on my hallway this morning after the postman pushed it through the letter box.

Since we rather foolishly decided to run a half marathon at Christmas, the Mrs and I have been training, and now the day of reckoning draws near. Unfortunately, whilst I've had spells when I have diligently applied myself to training for the longest foot journey of my life, lately I've become somewhat slack in my approach, and with the event drawing ever nearer I'm slightly concerned that I may end up doing a Paula.

This became particularly apparent when I saw the elevation profile of the course, and the steady two mile climb that comes between miles 3-5 looks decidedly unpleasant on paper, never mind how it will feel in the flesh.

Nonetheless, I feel certain that on September 26th, I'll be stood surrounded by throngs of people, all of us making foolishly bravura claims about how we regularly run 7 minute miles (rather than my usual 10).

The Great North Run is something I've grown up with, and wanted to do for a number of years, only to be held back by my own lack of fitness and apathy. Well not any more. This year is the year when I stand up to be counted.

I'm number 24355 and I'm proud of it.*

*I just wish I didn't have to run 13.1 miles to prove it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004
Loony Toon bid for Rooney
"We've also been linked to Rooney, but as we don't have the 30 million Everton would want (or even half of that) I'll presume that's just the wanderings of some journalist's addled mind. It'd be nice, but it isn't going to happen.

Of course, if the club would like to prove me wrong..."

I wrote this on July 12th thinking it was rubbish. However, flush with Real Madrid's money for Jonathan Woodgate we've lodged a £20 million bid with Everton, which they've rejected. Whether we go on to up the bid, or they find that they need the money and so take it, only time will tell.

On a personal level, I'm excited about the prospect of signing a player with phenomenal talent and potential. However, I'm slightly concerned at the fact that we would have an even bigger pool of strikers sulking because they aren't playing every game, and also concerned by the fact that we badly need at least one top-class, proven, centre back to replace Woodgate and organise our defence, which Rooney obviously isn't.

Still, we've got until next Tuesday to sort it out, and if we haven't signed anyone by then, we'll be in a bit of a mess (but we will have a very happy bank manager).

Monday, August 23, 2004
Willy = Morgan
This weekend the Mrs and I spent Saturday in the company of some friends of ours, who were kind enough to give us some furniture and put us up for the night. Now, these friends of ours are a few years older and have a bit more money than we do, and consequently their home is packed with loads of wonderful toys. I was therefore able to listen to a Linn stereo, and marvel at the clarity of sound that comes from spending a foolish amount of money on a music system.

However, the crowning glory of the weekend, was the moment I was taken for a drive, and then allowed behind the wheel myself of this car. Figuratively speaking, this is the automotive equivalent of another man not only allowing, but actually encouraging, me to touch his penis.

I've always looked at cars with a degree of appreciation, but never been a massive petrol-head. However, I can honestly say that I'm in love with someone other than my wife, and his name is Morgan, and my Dad is (British Racing) green with envy.

Across the threshold
Whenever I've left a property that I've called home, I've cleaned it. Perhaps this is because when renting you need to do this in order to recover the damage deposit that untrusting landlords demand from their tenants.

To be honest, it's only courteous to do so. Imagine how disgusting it would be to walk in to a property with thick layers of dust and rubbish remaining in it, as the previous occupants abandoned any semblance of hygiene before their departure.

Now that you've got that picture of filth and rubbish you should have a pretty good idea of the picture that greeted me when I walked through the doorway of my new house. Dust and animal hair matting the floor, the stench of dog hanging in the air, assorted items strewn around the house (arm chair, electric fire, empty beer cans, the list goes on).

Now we have to wait for our solicitor to try and insist that they at least pay for a skip for us to dispose of their many house warming gifts, whilst also devoting our spare time to scrubbing the place from top to bottom.

Funnily enough, the previous occupant has been too lazy to arrange for Royal Mail to redirect his post and subsequently had the gall to come round and put a forwarding address through our letter box.

I can feel a special delivery coming on...

Rowing four rowing for gold
Saturday morning, I stumbled out of bed at some ungodly hour of the morning, turned the kettle on and made myself a cup of tea, before depositing myself on the sofa to watch the Olympics. After warming up nicely with silver and bronze in the women's pair and double sculls the scene was set for the main event.

Hiding behind a cushion and with my cup of tea drained and on the floor beside me I rowed every stroke of the way with them (well, not really I'd only have slowed them down), and was delighted when Matthew Pinsent, Ed Coode, James Cracknell and Steve Williams did the business with 0.08 seconds to spare.

It made getting out of bed worthwhile.

I should also make a special mention of the Canadian crew who lost out, to be so magnanimous in defeat showed real class, and it wouldn't have been nearly as exciting without them.

Friday, August 20, 2004
What's a stop-cock?
Confirmation has been received. It's official. I'm now a home-owner.

I can't help but feel slightly scared by this prospect, it feels like I've lost some form of safety blanket and am now venturing out into the big wide world. No longer will my parents be forced to forward mail to me, I now have my own letter box that is mine to call my own.

I suddenly feel like a small boy in a grown up world - I'm not exactly the world's DIY expert (although I am something of the flat-pack shelving king, and I also fit a mean toilet seat) and will now need to learn about things like basic plumbing, tiling and wall-papering.

This should be an exciting time, and is, but also one tinged by the fear that for all my academic strengths, technology was a subject I was universally crap at when I was doing my GCSE's, and I doubt the intervening ten years have seen me magically improve.

In the coming weeks (and probably months) expect either countless tales of burst pipes and disastrous hole drilling, or long-winded tales about how I magically turned into B&Q's number one customer and a DIY legend overnight.

You have been warned.

Thursday, August 19, 2004
The hardest word
I see the King of Bling has apologised.

Well actions speak louder than words Kieron, so either start playing well or piss off.

Real deal for Woody?
From what I can gather, it's looking like Jonathan Woodgate will be sold to Real Madrid for somewhere in the region of £15 million. I'm not exactly thrilled at the thought, on the grounds that he is our best defender by miles, however he's also our most injured player, and that's a lot of money for someone better known to the physios than the fans.

Two points that this raises though are, firstly, who are we going to replace him with?

Secondly, can we suggest to Madrid that it's £23 million for Woodgate and Dyer, or no deal?

That'd certainly be worthwhile.

As it stands, I'll be sad to see him leave as I firmly believe that with him fit we can challenge for honours, but unless we find a replacement of equal ability we'll be as error prone as we ever are at the back, and have another season ruined by incompetent defending.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004
Urge to kill rising...
Today, I had to go and help the person whose desk I am currently occupying, and whose family I think are ugly.

To this end, I stood next to her and wrote "NLA" on a bunch of files.

I wouldn't have minded this vital use of my skills, but for the fact that we could have completed the task in half the time if she had firstly shut up and secondly not kept wandering off with one file in her hand, thereby leaving me with nothing to do.

I can honestly say that I have never felt the irrational urge to bludgeon a co-worker to death with a marker pen quite so acutely.

I've just realised, the bitch has turned me into a character in a Brett Easton Ellis novel.

Dyer straits
With the Kieron Dyer saga seemingly ongoing, I thought I'd stick my oar in and just say that whilst Ben may think Dyer remains an asset, I'm currently of the opinion that his selfish lazy attitude is a cancer that has grown within the club and needs cutting out as quickly as possible.

Either Kieron puts up, and justifies his place in central midfield by winning the ball and scoring more goals, or he should shut up and piss off.

I did like this novel approach to solving the problem though I'm not sure how successful it will prove to be.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004
The game's afoot
Slightly belatedly, here's my forecast of how the league will look by May 2005, and a bit of justification for my rationale.

1 Chelsea
Mourinho seems to be much more in control of his player acquisitions, and I think he's bought wisely, he also seems more astute and I think that should be enough to see Chelsea win only their second ever league title.

2 Arsenal
They can't go unbeaten again, and I just think Chelsea will go one better - any injury to Henry will seriously harm their chances.

3 Man Utd
Erring on the side of caution, I think Fergie is shrewd enough to get them to third, although I think they'll struggle to bridge the gap to the top two, and will be embroiled in a three-way fight for third.

4 Newcastle Utd
For once we've bought players with a view to the present, we've got a strong team and if one of two of the younger players perform close to their potential we could have a great year. (Selling Kieron "the king of bling" Dyer wouldn't hurt either.)

5 Liverpool
Owen will be a huge loss, and good though Cisse and Benitez are I think they'll need to have a blinder to undo some of the damage caused by Houllier's later years. Baros still hasn't done it in the Premiership either.

6 Bolton Wanderers
Jay Jay and Big Sam should continue to inspire them to overachieve. That said, an injury to Okocha would cost them dearly.

7 Middlesborough
McClaren's a good coach and as old and fat as Hasselbaink and Viduka are respectively one of them should get the 20 goals a season that Boro need to progress.

8 Charlton
Curbishly seems to have spent his money well, and provided they can learn to win in the last three months of the season they should do well. If Jeffers stays fit he could be a bargain.

9 Aston Villa
Overacheived a bit last season, but Solano is a class player and if they manage to sign Beattie he should score plenty for them.

10 Birmingham City
Heskey and Forsell could either prove a masterstroke or a disaster (I'm hoping it's the latter) but think the well organised if dour brummies will be in the top half again.

11. Tottenham Hotspur
It remains to be seen whether Santini is really that good a manager, but they should have the firepower to cause most teams problems. The question will be whether Robinson will be given too many opportunities to prove his goalkeeping credentials or will they finally master the art of the clean sheet?

12. Fulham
Coleman needs to continue to inspire his charges as much as he obviously did last time out, but the addition of Cole and Radzinski should do enough to keep them safely in the middle of the pack.

13. Southampton
Rat-boy Phillips will need to be back to his best if Beattie leaves, but if he stays the two of them should score plenty of goals. Doubts about the manager aside, I think they'll finish in the bottom half, but only just.

14. Manchester City
Shaun-Wright Phillips aside, the blue half of Manchester lacks quality players, but if Keegan can inspire them they should do better than last time. Yet another shaky England (soon to be ex) keeper may prove their downfall.

15. Blackburn
Souness strikes me as a manager who struggles with the fact that he was a better player than everyone under his stewardship. As such he asks too much of them, and they inevitably struggle under his shadow. If they start poorly and he falls out with too many of the playing staff it might just be P45 time.

16. Portsmouth
Keeping hold of Yakubu and Redknapp's wheeler dealer approach should be enough to keep Pompey up. They may be a premiership team, but their ground is an absolute shit-hole, they need to move if they are to have any long term future in the top flight.

17. West Bromwich Albion
Megson and his team have all been here before. They should now have enough experience to ensure that Russell Hoult gets to push his England claims for more than one season this time around.

18. Everton
If Rooney stays and regularly produces the goods, Everton will stay up comfortably. If he appears as disinterested as he was last season, or Everton's financial problems cause them to sell him, then they can kiss goodbye to their 100+ years of continuous top-flight football.

19. Norwich
Huckerby may be a great first division striker, but he is a mediocre premiership one. Norwich will struggle to score goals, and talented though Green is in goal, he won't be able to keep them up on his own.

20. Crystal Palace
Lucky to even scrape in to the play-offs theirs will be a short-lived stay in the top flight. If they lose morale early they could challenge Sunderland's record number of consecutive defeats.

A message from St Hellier
Jersey, home of Bergerac, cows & the only part of the British Isles to be occupied during the Second World War is a lovely place for a holiday. Without wishing to sound like a representative for the Jersey Tourist Board, the Mrs & I have just enjoyed a lovely few days camping there, and taken in a myriad of attractions that the island had to offer. In no particular order, I'd recommend visits to Jersey Zoo (unlike some zoos I've been to, the animals all seemed happy with their lot, which is the best thing I think you can say about anywhere that keeps animals), Mont Orgueil Castle, the War Tunnels and Elizabeth's Castle.

Getting round the island wasn't a problem, with a combination of the buses and walking getting us anywhere we wanted to be. Despite some decidedly variable weather we were able to do and see pretty much everything we wanted, and even pick up something approaching a sun tan along the way.

I'd also recommend The Royal pub, if you happen to be in St Martins, the food and beer are both excellent.

I'm back
Hi folks,

I'm back from my holidays, so normal service will be resumed. Suffice to say that Jersey was lovely, despite some fairly mixed weather, and that I had to promise to buy my wife a car in exchange for her letting me sit in the pub on Saturday to watch Newcastle chuck away another lead away from home.

I'll probably get round to adding a slightly belated football season prediction/preview and also add some more thoughts on Jersey in a bit.

Unfortunately I have to do some work first.

Friday, August 06, 2004
I'm off on holiday tonight, and won't be back until the 17th. While I'm away please feel free to browse the archive or, for more up to date blogging, read the fine journals mentioned in my blog roll.

All being well, I shall return...

My head hurts.

Last night, I went out, had a cracking meal in Wagamama, and then met up with Ben and had several drinks. Now I feel like shit.

I try never to drink heavily on a work night, but last night the beer kept flowing and consequently my head is now throbbing away, and because I am in work I can't just curl up and go to sleep.

I yearn to be able to lie back between the sheets and just sleep for an hour or so, to get me through the worst of it, but no such luck. I have to work, and it's a real pain in the arse.

You said it George
The BBC website tends to carry a quote for the day, today's is this:

"They never stop thinking of new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we"

George W Bush talking about the threat posed to the US by terrorists (and seemingly its own government).

Thursday, August 05, 2004
Green is good
Last night the Mrs & I went to see Shrek 2 at our local cinema - taking advantage of Orange's 2 for 1 deal in the process. I don't think my mobile phone provider need anymore publicity than they already get, but suffice to say it made for a very good value evening's entertainment and is something we both intend to do again.

As far as the film goes, it certainly managed to keep us both entertained throughout, with its well written plot, and knowing film references (Spiderman, The Matrix, From Here to Eternity to name three) it provided a very pleasant way to spend an evening.

Antonio Banderas' Puss in Boots makes for an excellent addition to the cast, and his doe-eyed cat did it's best to steal every scene it was in.

If I was feeling harsh, I might pick up on the use of Kate Thornton to replace Joan Rivers in the UK release, or the fact that at times I felt the animators were showing off for the sake of it (Look we can do hair, rain, and reflections in water, aren't we cool?) But in all honesty, these are minor gripes in what was otherwise a worthy sequel to the original.

So it's the thumbs up for Shrek 2.

Go. See. It's worth it.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004
The blind leading the blind
I don't know what on earth is going on at Newcastle at the moment. Firstly, there appears to be a bout of conjunctivitis sweeping through the squad, which has forced the first team to use the Academy changing room. Presumably the academy lads are changing behind the bike sheds.

Secondly, rumour has it that Levante have made a bid for Alan Shearer which, given his hissy fit over the fact he might not play every game and the fact that we were apparently prepared to sell him to Liverpool last season, we might just accept. (Although how that would sit with his BBC contract I don't know.)

Thirdly, we've signed a promising young French player - so a big warm welcome to Charles N'Zogbia!

Fourthly, not entirely sure what to make about all the fuss that's been kicked up after Fat Freddie said Bobby wouldn't get a new contract, but it hardly reeks of tact and diplomacy does it?

Fifthly, we still haven't signed a bloody right-back.

No pity. No shame. No silence.
As a follow up to my earlier post, I'd like to draw your attention's to this and also to this. Both make for thought provoking and challenging reading.

It certainly made me think - and with every moment I feel worse about yesterday (even though I don't think I did anything wrong, she didn't know that I wouldn't).

I know people who have suffered sexual violence, and cannot even begin to understand what they have gone through, or what could possess someone to commit such a terrible act. Only through awareness can we truly begin to address this issue as a society and seek to stamp it out.

The site meter vanishes
Bizarrely my site meter appears to have vanished. It still seems to be appearing in my template, but not on my blog. Does anyone know why this has happened, or how I can bring it back?

Channel 4 are running a series of idents (I think that's what they are called - I don't work in TV) where various faces from the channel reveal something about themselves. One of them features a load of people explaining what makes them feel guilty. Answers range from "not calling my family" to "everything, I'm Catholic."

I don't know about you, but I always consider what my answer would be.

I can safely say that at the moment it would be scaring a middle-aged woman:

Last night I went for a run. I ran for a while, then got back to my car which I had parked on the University campus. When I got back to the car, I was hot, sweaty, out of breath and badly in need of a drink. Unfortunately I'd left my water bottle at home.

Luckily, I spotted someone stick there head out of a door to one of the accommodation blocks nearby; so I went over to ask them for a drink. When I got to the open door there was nobody there, so I knocked and put my head inside in the hope of finding someone to ask. At which point a small middle-aged woman appeared, and although slightly flustered showed me to the block kitchen. I had a drink and thanked her for her kindness, and then left.

I then went and stood by my car and proceeded to warm down.

At this point, the lady who had just allowed me to have a drink of water started scurrying about, and I could see her talking to several other women. Eventually, after I had finished stretching, she shouts over to me and asks "What are you doing?".

Fortunately I have now recovered my breath, and am able to talk clearly to her. I explain that I've just been for a run, and am now stood by my car waiting for my wife who has also gone for a run, but is a bit slower than me. She then tells me that I'm acting suspiciously, shouldn't go asking for drinks of water, am lucky she hasn't called Security and questions whether it is even my car that I'm stood beside.

At which point I feel very guilty.

All I wanted was a drink, I've acted completely openly, and certainly didn't take a drink without her approval. I've stood next to the car because I thought that a man sat in a parked car looks really dodgy and yet simply because I approached her I am apparently a criminal, intent on causing her some harm.

The thing is I can see her point.

Even though I consider myself something of a gentle giant, if I was in her shoes, I'd be wary of a 6' 5" man I'd never met before asking me for a drink.

I feel embarrassed and ashamed that I've unintentionally made someone feel scared and afraid, when all I wanted was a drink.

I'm saddened that we now live in a society which expects the worst of people, and curious as to whether I could have done anything differently (apart from remember my water bottle) which would have put the woman at ease. The thing is, I just don't know.

I'm angry at myself for scaring someone, I'm annoyed at her for suspecting the worst and making me feel guilty when as far as I can tell I've done nothing wrong; but nonetheless I still feel incredibly guilty.

Monday, August 02, 2004
29 minutes that changed my life
My morning:

6.30am Alarm sounds. Fumble for it. Hit snooze. Return to sleep.

6.38am Alarm sounds. Fumble for it. Hit snooze. Turn on radio. Return to sleep.

6.46am Alarm sounds. Easily locate it. Hit stop.

6.47am Get out of bed.

6.48am Pull on some clothes.

6.49am Leave flat and walk round corner to newsagents.

6.53am Buy copy of The Times from newsagent. Banter about the fact that it isn't my usual Guardian.

6.57am Return to flat. Get back in to bed. Open paper.

6.58am See name printed in The College of Law, Legal Practice Course, Pass List, next to symbol indicating Commendation.

6.59am Grin like moron.

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