1000 Shades of Grey
Monday, March 15, 2010
2. Down: New beginning (5)
I sit in the corner doing my crossword. It's late (well, technically, it's really early in the morning) and after little sleep and a drive across the city, it's nice to have some respite.

My wife's in the shower in the room next door, and the TV's on in the background.

Occassionally I look up to see a woman going on about how people with poor credit ratings get ripped off, but mostly I focus on the crossword. It's going rather well.

I call out to check my wife is OK. She let's me know she's fine and gets back to her shower.

Eventually, my wife emerges from the shower, but doesn't get as far as the bed before a contraction kicks in. She curls on to the floor and I put down my crossword and fetch a midwife.

Having only been in the building for about an hour, the midwife is somewhat sceptical when my wife tells her she wants to start pushing. However, on reflection (or should that be closer inspection) agrees that we might be at the pushing stage after all and frantically starts trying to open packets of stuff and get things in order.

My wife does some pushing, whilst remaining in what looks, to me, to be an uncomfortable position on the floor.

Having pointed out to the midwife that she really can't get on to the bed between contractions, my wife makes a Herculean effort to haul herself off the floor and into a better position.

She does some pushing, and the midwife looks busy. I stand feeling quite useless while my hands are squeezed quite hard.

With the midwife at the business end, and my wife's head at the other, I helpfully pass messages between the two like an arbitrator in the middle east peace process.

My wife decides that actually, on reflection, she'd quite like some pain relief. I pass the message to the midwife, making sure to say please.

The midwife says "it's too late for that".

I am left with the uneviable task of relaying this news to my wife. She is not amused. Helpfully another contraction kicks in at this point and the doubtless colourful reply to the midwife which she was formulating is lost.

On the television, the lady concerned about poor credit has given way to some American doctors, and my crossword remains unfinished on the chair.

Then, in the blink of an eye, there's another person in the room.

My wife collapses on the bed in an exhausted heap and my second son gives a small cry to announce his safe arrival to the world.

We can see clearly now
As a little update to my earlier post, I'm pleased to report that the independent TV man was able to fix everything without the need to destroy our house.

On an unrelated note, if anyone can help me work out how to turn blogger comments on - simply clicking "show" doesn't seem to do anything, that'd be very much appreciated.

Thursday, November 12, 2009
Poor reception
As you may have noticed, it's not often that I post stuff on here. The main cause being a distinct lack of free time (at least partly born of what happened two years ago! - 2 years, where did that go, eh?).

However, I do feel sufficiently riled by recent events to post something now.

We've just bought a new house. Abandoning our suburban home of five years (5 years, where did...) we've relocated to a shiny new house in the country.

The big reason for the move is that offspring # 2 is due to arrive before Christmas, and our old house had simply run out of space. So we bought a bigger house in the country. Not only is it bigger, it's also brand spanking new. Which is great - no need for immediate maintenance work, no bathroom tiles fixed to a wall by silicon sealant, no dodgy old boiler. Admittedly the house is rather beige - magnolia walls throughout, matching carpets, but at least it's a blank canvass we can decorate to our taste at our leisure without feeling the need to rapidly repaint some garish walls like last time.

However, because it's a new house, we're having to arrange for certain things to happen - rubbish collection, explaining to countless call centres that our postcode and house do actually exist even though their database is telling them otherwise, new TV aerial.

It's the last of those which is causing the biggest problems.

At our last house we had Sky+. A great system which caused us no problems whatsoever.

However, moving house meant a new dish. No problem though, as the builder has cunningly installed wiring for Sky+ into the walls of the new house, so all we needed to do was apparently get someone to stick up a dish and connect some wires and we were away.

Four weeks after moving in, we still don't have a fully functioning TV system.

The first Sky man refused to go in the loft, as it isn't boarded out. "Health & safety, innit"

The second Sky men did go in the loft (and didn't hurt themselves) and connected all the cables (which the cretin who installed them had cut off before they could stretch to go through the hole in the outside of the house), but according to the helpful Sky men, one of the cables is a dud.

So we got the electrician who installed the cables back. Turns out he is taking less responsibility than an MP embroiled in the expenses scandal:

"Hello, Sky are telling me that the aerial cable you installed is a dud."
"I'm not an aerial man"
"but you installed the cable, and it doesn't work"
"You need an aerial man"
"But it's just a cable, it runs from A-B and it doesn't work. This must be your fault."
"You need an aerial man"

The third Sky man refused to go in the loft on account of our old friends "Health & safety"

So on Monday, over four weeks after we moved in, an independent aerial man is coming out. Apparently we "wouldn't believe how much work he gets because Sky men won't go into people's lofts"...

Of course, when he turns up and tells us that the cable installed by the electrician is a dud and what needs to happen is that the cable needs chasing out, replacing and the house needs replastering, that's when the real fun will start.

Thursday, May 07, 2009
Shuffleathon 2008 - the review
As you may recall, I signed up for Swiss Toni's Shuffleathon at the end of last year. I duly made and sent out my CD, which got a mixed review from RussL, and I waited for my CD to arrive.

Then I waited some more, watching as everyone else in the draw received the CD's, whilst mine, which by process of elimination I knew was coming from Monogodo in the States, never arrived.

After pretty much giving up hope, I got home from work one day a couple of months ago, to find a jiffy bag sat waiting for me, and behold, my CD had arrived.

Now, I'll be honest, I was quite cheesed off that I'd had to wait so long for the CD, so have deliberately taken my time in reviewing the CD so that I can give it an honest appraisal without being coloured by my initial negative feelings towards Monogodo for the delay, and therefore the CD.

So this is it, review time:

Mahna Mahna - Mahna Mahna & The Two Snowths

Interesting choice to start - it's the song from The Muppets. In terms of message, this suggests that this won't be a serious album, but could instead be a lot of fun. However, there's a small part of me that is wary of novelty records. They are funny the first few times, but it always seems like the law of diminishing returns, and before too long the novelty wears off. Still, it's mahna mahna, and who doesn't like that, at least a little bit.

Ooh La La Summer Nights - The Wiseguys vs Olivia John & John Travolta

Oooh, a mash up. I've not really listened to too many mash ups, and certainly wouldn't have gone out of my way to find one. I quite like Ooh La La by the Wiseguys, and I've been spotted on a dance floor to Summer Nights. This is OK, but it just doesn't really wow me, although it sounds much better with the sun shining than it first did back in late February/early March when winter was still with us.

Bla Bla Bla Cha Cha Cha - Petty Booka

As far as I can tell, this is essentially a decent cha cha tune (think Hernando's Hideaway) which someone decided they would wittily put words to about the fact that nobody listens to the words of a dance. To be fair, I quite like the tune, with the cha cha rhythm proving quite infectious, but the lyrics are just a bit of a throwaway. Again, it's OK.

I Wanna Dance With Some Bono - Witney Houston vs U2

Like buses, you wait ages, and then another mash up comes along almost immediately. However, I like this one more. I think it works really well, with the U2 sound really underpinning Houston's vocals brilliantly. Ironic that it references Bono in the title, but we then don't hear his voice. Still, this is the best track so far.

Never Feel Good - Gorillaz vs Cake

Another mash up. This one isn't so good, and the novelty factor is starting to wear off now. Not helped by the fact that I really don't like the Gorillaz track. I think my view on mash ups is starting to equate to my view on wine. I like white wine and I like red wine. Problem is that I'm not sure I like them both at the same time.

Single Ladies (In Mayberry) - Party Ben vs Beyonce

Oh look, another mash up. Going back to my bus analogy, it's like being at a flipping bus depot now. This one features someone whistling a tune while Beyonce encourages men to marry their girlfriends if they want to keep them. I like the whistling, and it's an OK song, but I've had enough of mash ups now thanks.

Sammy Hagar Weekend - Thelonious Monster

Ah, something other than a mash up - hurrah! However, this sounds a bit like I'm listening to Kid Rock, which isn't a good thing. Hang on, what's that lyric: "We're going to drink some beer, smoke some pot, snort some coke, and drive". Well, that can't be wise can it? I know this makes me sound like an old man, but seriously: beer, pot, coke then drive?!?

Pleasure Dog - SSQ

This kind of reminds me of the Sugar Hill Gang, only not quite as good. According to wikipedia, they were really a synth-pop band, so this probably isn't representative of their entire output. It's ok, if you like that sort of thing, but I'm a pasty white northern bloke, and Hip hop isn't really my bag.

Lovecats - Paul Anka

A change of pace - as Canadian crooner Paul Anka slips on to the stereo. This is OK, but I can't help think this is probably the song Austin Powers would put on his record player when trying to seduce someone. Unfortunately, once that mental image crops up, I can't shake it.

Without Me Nobody Listens To Techno - Eminem vs Party Ben

Another mash up. Seriously, enough now. This one isn't helped by the fact that I'm not a big fan of Eminem.

Ain't Talkin 'Bout Dub - Apollo 440

From the opening guitar riff, I'm hooked. I really like this - it's upbeat, it's rocky but with a dance fusion thing going on. This is great. Best song so far.

Don't Lets Start - Commotion Rotation

Slight change of pace, now it's all acoustic guitars and harmonising. Again, I like this. Two good songs in a row, things are starting to look up.

Take Me I'm Yours - Droyds

The Droyds (presumably learnt to spell at the same school as the Byrds). This is a piece of electronica, which to be honest, I really don't care for.

My Bike - Ghoti Hook

Starting with a little monologue about the fact that someone's nicked the singers bike, he then launches into a punky (i.e. slightly tuneless) rant about this fact. Don't get me wrong though, I actually like this - the energy and rage coming through in the slightly off-key lyrics, which a better singer wouldn't have been able to convey.

Condoleeza, Check My Posse - The Majestic Twelve

"I will rule the world forever, I'm straight, and white and male, American and free" Presumably written before Barack Obama's election, this is nonetheless a great record. It's got a great bouncy tune, and some pretty witty lyrics highlighting the massive disparity in American politics in which the WASPs are cared for, and anyone else is pretty much screwed.

My 16th Apology - Shakespeare 's Sister

I've never really been a fan of Shakespeare's Sister. I admit, I've not listened to much, but what I have heard always struck me as being a bit wet and moany. This has a backing track that sounds a bit like some form of elevator music, and also features a horrible spoken bit right at the end.

World With No Money - Ten Hands

This just reminds me of something that Sting or Bryan Adams might come out with - it's very eighties guitar rock with a preachy message. Not a fan, sorry.

It's Okay to Say Goodbye - Macavity

Nice guitar intro to this one, before the bloke starts singing. To be fair, he's not got the greatest voice in the world, but this is an OK track.

Say Goodbye - Cheap Trick

Again, this is OK - although it does sound a bit like some kind of eighties guitar based rock (think a quiet Bon Jovi number). Not bad, but equally not amazing.

So that's it. I hope I've been fair and honest. Unfortunately there were lots of tracks which weren't particularly to my taste (which is the nature of the Shuffleathon beast), and I've been sure to give them all a good few listens before I reviewed it, rather than rattle off a quick review after only one listen through.

I'd like to thank Monogodo for all the hard work in putting the album together (complete with cover artwork!). Unfortunately, I think it was largely a case of our tastes not being that similar (which I'm guessing may be partly born from an age gap between the two of us). That said, there were some tracks which I really liked, and have enjoyed listening to.

Also big thanks to Swiss Toni for organising the whole thing, and putting up with people like me taking forever to post their review!

Friday, March 13, 2009
I'm not really sure how I feel about turning thirty. On the one hand, it's just another birthday. On the other, it's a change in the first digit and a zero, which has rather left me taking stock of where I've been and where I might be going.

In the last decade, and in no particular order, I have:

Met a girl, got engaged and then married in 40 degree heat (in the UK!)
Visited Thailand, New England, California, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and a whole host of places in Europe
Graduated from university, passed two postgraduate diplomas and qualified in my chosen profession
Delivered my son
Grown a beard (and shaved it off again)
Made a whole host of new friends, and lost touch with some old ones
Run a half marathon
Moved house a few times, before eventually getting on the property ladder
Let my faith drift, only to find it again
Managed to finish the decade about two pounds lighter than when I started it - having had to shift about 3 stone to get to this point
Had a blog post published in a real book (thanks Mike)
Started playing competitive eleven a-side football
Got to know some of the homeless guys in Nottingham
Started a pension
Acquired a cat - my first pet
Through marriage I've been really fortunate to get more grandparents, and a sibling, as part of a brilliant extended family
Narrowly failed to win an episode of 15 to 1
Cooked one meal a month for 40 people for a period of 2 years
Owned a season ticket at Newcastle United
Been elected to represent over 20,000 students

So, all told it's been a pretty eventful ten years.

The funny thing when looking back is just thinking back to what I was like when I was twenty - all the cocksuredness which comes with being a student, the youthful exuberance and fact that the world is at your feet.

Now, I'm older, a bit wiser, but equally with more ties. However, I wouldn't swap any of those ties - I've loved the last decade, I've loved the fact that I'm married to my best friend, and we have an amazing son.

For all the highs and lows that we've gone through, I'm looking forward to the fact that whatever is going to come our way in the next decade we'll go forward together.

Monday, December 08, 2008
One year on from a number of things
It's been a long, and unsurprisingly hectic, few months since I last posted anything on here. I'm pleased to say that our son has successfully survived the first year of his life with only one trip to hospital and no lasting damage (apart from the psychological harm inflicted by us as parents).

Anyway, not only is it one year on from the dramatic birth, it's also time for Swiss Toni's annual Shuffleathon. I've now, finally, completed by CD and sent it out in the post and the track listing is as follows:

1. Killing In The Name - Rage Against The Machine
2. Our Velocity - Maximo Park
3. Get the Keys and Go - Llama Farmers
4. Suicide is Painless (Theme from MASH) - Manic Street Preachers
5. Scooby Snacks - Fun Lovin' Criminals
6. How Come - Embrace
7. Set the Fire to the Third Bar - Snow Patrol (featuring Martha Wainwright)
8. Zuton Fever - The Zutons
9. In the Ghetto - Elvis Presley
10. The One I Love - REM
11. I Will Hold On - Trent
12. Half The World Away - Oasis
13. Wichita Lineman - Glen Campbell
14. Bitter Sweet Symphony - The Verve

It's taken a while for me to settle the order, not least because until Zane Lowe did the latest Masterpieces series on Radio One, Rage Against The Machine's self titled debut was sat gathering dust in a box, but inspired to dig it out, I think it's a great opening track.

Maximo Park get on, thanks to Cat's CD which I received last year, and there are reappearances by REM, FLC and Oasis (albeit different tracks).

I hope that the whole thing sits quite well as an album, and I'd equally hope that it takes the listener on a bit of a gradual journey without too many hard shocks to the system.

Hopefully, if you are the lucky recipient and you are reading this having listened, then you'll have found at least a couple of things to enjoy.

Thursday, June 12, 2008
Reasons why I stopped blogging seven months ago #1
"Things seem to have progressed slightly quicker than we anticipated", I say down the phone.

Standing over my wife, who is currently sat in the bath going through the second stage of labour (i.e. the bit where the baby comes out) I wonder whether we can still get to the hospital in time. We can't.

The midwife tells me she's sending an ambulance and a community midwife round. Which is nice. I run down stairs and make sure the front door is unlocked, before dashing back to my wife. I can see the baby's head.

The midwife asks if I can get my wife out of the bath - I can't. She then gets me to let the water out of the bath. Despite evil stares from my wife, I manage to pull out the plug.

My wife does some pushing - more head appears, and I pass this information down the phone, as though this will somehow be helpful.

Suddenly, the number of people in our bath increases by one. Picking up the crying baby, with generations of genetic training coursing through my veins, I pass it to my wife. The whole episode takes maybe twenty minutes, and then, in an instant our family has grown by 50%, all of us in the bathroom.

Thankfully, the baby seems well (in as much as you ever can do, having just experienced the miracle of birth from the perspective of the deliveree).

At which point the ambulance crew arrive.

They meander into the house, and I tell them that we've just had a baby. They ask what we've had, and I have no idea - the little one having kept its legs tucked up obscuring its genitalia from sight. To be honest, I don't care, my wife seems OK, and our child is clearly breathing.

Despite being awake at 3.30am, the world is all good as far as I'm concerned.

I have a son.

Thursday, October 25, 2007
Review Time
So, having dispatched my meagre offering to Threelight, I waited for my Shuffleathon CD to arrive in the post, and last Friday it plopped on to the doormat with a reassuring thud. Tearing at the packaging, I found a nice letter from Cat apologising for any technical difficulties I might experience, and proffering up the following track listing for my aural pleasure.

Girls Who Play Guitars - Maximo Park
Brassneck - The Wedding Present
No I In Threesome - Interpol
Half a Person - The Smiths
Echo Beach - Martha & The Muffins
Fortune Favours Only The Brave - Peter, Bjorn & John
First Day Of My Life - Bright Eyes
Hobart Paving - St Etinenne
Don't Falter - Mint Royale (Featuring Lauren Laverne)
The Golden Path - Chemical Brothers (Featuring Flaming Lips)
Once & Never Again - Long Blondes
Never - The House of Love

With no technical hitches whatsoever, I've now been playing it solidly for a week and my thoughts are as follows:

Girls Who Play Guitars - Maximo Park
I'm not sure if Cat thought to sway my affections at an early stage by introducing some fellow Geordies into proceedings, or just plumped for a thumping great tune. Either way it worked - a top song that really gets us off on the right foot.

Brassneck - The Wedding Present
Unlike the preceding number, this one took a few listens to before I really got into it. However, my perseverance was definitely rewarded, and it carries the momentum of the CD nicely.

No I In Threesome - Interpol
Consider the momentum well and truly carried on, as the lyric exhorting us to try new things could hardly ring truer for the whole Shuffleathon process. So far, so good.

Half a person - The Smiths
I realise that criticising Morissey for being a bit wet and whiny is considered sacrilege in some parts, but I've never really gotten in to the Smiths. However, in small doses and with the benefit of repeated listens, I really enjoyed this song, so thank you Cat. Really should give The Queen Is Dead another go...

Echo Beach - Martha & The Muffins
Still on a four song high, this carries on the euphoric wave with a bouncy paean to wanting to be anywhere but in the office, with a great bouncy tune evocative of all that is good about ska.

Fortune Favours Only The Brave - Peter, Bjorn & John
I always imagine Peter, Bjorn and John as a present day Rod, Jane & Freddie - something to do with the name I think. This song took a couple of listens to get into, but despite the fact that the singer (Peter, Bjorn or John - I'm not sure which, and a little too lazy to find out) sounds like his tongue is too big for his mouth as he splutters and slobbers his way through his F's, this is actually a top record.

First Day Of My Life - Bright Eyes
Changing pace, the CD slows down with the benefit of a bloke and his guitar singing about love in a really nice touching way. Seven songs, seven winners so far.

Hobart Paving - St Etienne
I've listened to this song quite a lot over the last week, and I'll be honest, I really can't stand it. It drags on, and doesn't really seem to go anywhere, and I just don't like it. Is this the start of a downhill trend?

Don't Falter - Mint Royale (Featuring Lauren Laverne)
Thankfully not! I remember really loving this when it first came out, and time hasn't dimmed my love of this brilliant bit of pop. A sparkling return to form.

The Golden Path - Chemical Brothers (Featuring Flaming Lips)
Perhaps not my favourite Chemical Brothers song, this is still a decent record, and provides an interesting bit of dancey variety to an otherwise largely guitar led album.

Once & Never Again - Long Blondes
Back to the guitars, and this again presses lots of good buttons for me.

Never - The House of Love
To finish - well, that'll be an extra helping of guitar to wash down the wafer thin mint at the end of the feast.

So, overall a cracking CD. I feel really fortunate to have received Cat's CD which (with one exception) I really enjoy and have continued to enjoy all week. I'll be sure to shift it on to my mp3 player, and will also be hunting out records by Peter Bjorn & John and Maximo Park to add to the collection. Thanks Cat.

Also big thanks to Swiss Toni, whose brain child this is - I'm delighted I took part, and have received a brilliant CD for my efforts.

I'm now off on holiday, so hopefully will return to find that Cat still speak to me, and Threelight liked at least some (well OK, one) of the tracks on my CD...

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