1000 Shades of Grey
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Happy Christmas
Just a quick note to wish all of you a very Happy Christmas!

No Fairytale this year?
Now I accept that I don't listen to a lot of radio these days – what with me spending most of my time in work, however I've still not heard the Pogues this Christmas. Is it just me being in the wrong place when it's on, or has it just not been played?

I've heard the Waitresses, Slade, Wham and even Shakin' Stevens but still no Pogues.

What's wrong with radio people, it is THE Christmas record, so why is it not being played more?

Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Stop writing now please
The long awaited result has arrived.

It's official.

I've passed my last exam and need no longer submit myself to nights of cramming and hours of speed writing in the name of furthering my academic achievements or my career.

In actual fact, I've taken exams which I thought were "the last" on at least two previous occasions, but now feel reasonably sure that this is it, the Omega of my life in exam conditions.

The question that now bugs me is: how will I cope? Where will I get the same adrenalin kick, the slow come down of knowing an exam is over and the gut wrenching worry over results which fortunately has resulted in more euphoria than heartache over the years? Will I ever hear The Speech that has followed my through my life again?

"You have three hours to answer all questions on the paper. You are not allowed to leave in the first hour or the last thirty minutes. If you want to go to the loo or would like more paper, please raise your hand. Please do not start until I tell you, and Good Luck. You may start …NOW."

Whining and dining
Last night we went round to some friends' house for dinner – they would do the first two courses if we bought pudding and some wine. A quick trip to our local purveyor of groceries and it was on to the bus for the 30 minute ride to their house.

We arrived at about half seven, made the requisite polite noises about their decorating and had something to drink.

About half eight we sat at their dining table and enjoyed a very nice salady starter involving rocket, squash and pecorino cheese, and drank some more wine.

About half nine we were presented by a tuna, chilli, sweet potato number which was also very nice, and drank some more wine.

At half eleven we left to catch the bus, having had a lot more wine, but none of the dessert we brought with us.

Despite sitting down to eat a meal at half-eight, we still hadn't been offered any of the dessert we provided some three hours later.

We went home slightly hungry and somewhat tipsy.

Thursday, December 16, 2004
Having not been to the cinema for a long time, we finally went to see The Incredibles this week, and I must say it's a great film for everyone. It looks brilliant, with Pixar swotting aside any concerns about creating human skin easily, and has a cracking plot to boot.

Highlights of the film must be the wonderful fashion designer, who steals every scene she features in, together with Samuel L. Jackson's character arguing with his wife about priorities whilst the City is destroyed around them.

All in all, it's a brilliant way to spend a couple of hours, and certainly worth the admission fee.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the remake of The Stepford Wives which we rented from our local DVD emporium the other day. Despite starring Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) and the new Chanel number 5 girl (Nicole Kidman) it's absolutely rubbish. The film jumps about desperately and the ending is truly awful. Christopher Walken does well in his fairly limited role (but then he's always watchable), but otherwise it's definitely one to avoid.

Given the choice between the two, I'd pay the extra and go and see The Incredibles every time, and encourage you to do likewise, if you haven't already done so.

English cricket – it's on the rise, people are becoming interested again, the national team are winning, Twenty20 has revitalised the domestic game and from 2006 only those people with Sky will be able to watch it live.


Only the ECB could find a way of screwing up the most promising climate for expanding the cricketing fanbase for years. By restricting live coverage to Sky only those people who are established cricket followers will be able to watch. Gone will be the chance for bored children, or adults, to channel hop on to it and discover the delights of watching maiden overs bowled, or boundaries struck.

What this means for the future of the game, only time will tell, but it strikes me that the ECB have (once again) managed to shoot themselves in the foot when they had the chance to really raise the profile of the national game. They've taken the money and run, which is all well and good in the short term, but isn’t going to inspire the next generation of Andrew Flintoff's or Steve Harmison's to take up the game, and that is a disaster.

I thought the government had pledged to keep home test matches on terrestrial television? Or is that just another example of empty rhetoric from our leaders?

Ghost Town
Sat at my desk this morning, Irn-Bru in a glass to my right and surrounded by one colleague. (Well not surrounded, she's only slim, but you get the fact that there's only the two of us here, right?)

Only one thing can explain the ghost town atmosphere - it was the Christmas Party yesterday.

Cunningly, I not only convinced my wife to collect me and take me home, feed and water me, put me to bed, get up this morning, feed and water and drug me; but I also left at a sensible time.

Apparently people were still out, eating curry at midnight. It's no wonder the place is deserted.

Those of you who are concerned about such things - I feel OK thank you.

But that could be cause the hangover hasn't yet caught up with me, following my painfully early start this morning.

I shall just have to keep a low profile and hope it doesn't find me.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Right Holmes, but maybe some other wrongs
Watching BBC Sports Review of the Year on Sunday night, I couldn't help to feel slightly disappointed by those making the decisions. Don't get me wrong, I thought Kelly Holmes double Olympic Gold was the outstanding achievement of the year, and she thoroughly deserved her accolade. However, some of the other decisions left me somewhat bemused.

Firstly, Arsenal do something which has been done once in the history of football, and also set a new record for games unbeaten, and yet four blokes in a boat who won by 8cm got team of the year. This is not to disparage the achievements of the Olympic Coxless four, but simply to point out that they merely emulated the achievements of the GB team in Sydney, and countless teams before them. Arsenal did something unique, over a longer period of time, and unlikely to be matched in the next fifty years and didn't win. How does that work?

Secondly, how did Amir Khan not win the Young sporting personality? He's 17 years old, and has had such an impact that he was nominated in the main event. He won a silver medal boxing blokes older and much more experienced than him. Surely he is therefore the outstanding candidate for the younger award?

Thirdly, what was Amir Khan doing in the main draw – unlike cyclist Bradley Wiggens, he only one one silver medal at the Olympics (compared to Wiggens who won one of every colour)? Surely that is a more worthy achievement to make the shortlist.

Fourthly, if the whole of motor sport is hailing Valentino Rossi's achievements this year (moving to a poorer team to show he's the best motorcycle driver, and duly winning) surely he should be nominated ahead of Michael (best car, best driver, no surprise he wins) Schumacher for Overseas Sports Person?

I've always enjoyed spending a night watching Sports Review, ever since I was small, but surely the people voting should actually look past the popularity of various sports and examine the achievement behind them before they award greatness. The myopia of people in Olympic year to rowing never ceases to amaze me. Ask them about it at any other time, and the majority will just look puzzled, but once every four years, it's the source of our greatest team of the year?!? Do me a favour...

Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Anyone want to see my elephant impression?
Oblivious to the inevitable cool breeze, I have been happily strolling round my work place with my flies open for the last two hours.

I'm assuming that nobody noticed this flagrant disregard for social etiquette on my part, and also that my part didn't make a break for freedom and fresh air.

Fortunately, I have now reaslised the error of my ways, and taken the appropriate corrective measures.

Monday, December 06, 2004
First XV of DIY
Having become homeowners for the first time, it was inevitable that my wife and I would soon start putting our stamp on our home, and undoing some of the decorating wounds that scar our house in testament to the previous occupants' bad taste.

To that end, we've spent the last few weekends surrounded by sets of parents, cans of paint and power tools. Happily, we now have a much nicer lounge to sit in.

The great thing about decorating a room is that you can really see the results, and when people come round, they can also see the fruits of your labour and make appreciative noises accordingly.

I've also insulated our loft.

The problem with working in the loft is that it's cramped and has its own rules regarding light and temperature. The other problem is that nobody else is likely to see it and be appreciative anytime soon.

I can't really compel guests to climb a ladder to go through a hatch in our bathroom ceiling, just so they can admire the brilliantly laid cloud of orange insulation that now rests in our roof space – and marvel at the boards I've managed to lay over the top so we can keep stuff up there.

Working on jobs like that is the thankless side of DIY, which brings its own rewards (e.g. reduced gas bills) but doesn't allow you to bask in the praise of others, the way that the glory jobs do.

I suppose it is like a rugby team – the grunt and grind of the pack being the equivalent of the murkier side of DIY that goes unseen: be it loft-work, or just preparing a surface for painting. The backs, running in tries from thirty yards, are akin to the actual painting of walls, or positioning of pictures – they make it all look pretty, but without the hard slog they'd never have the chance to make things look so good.

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