31 Dec 2011

Who Stole The Good Vibe Potion?

I like to think of myself as a "glass half full" kinda guy, but 2011 has tried its damnedest to not only empty the glass, but send it crashing to the floor. Not necessarily on a personal level, although it has been a very poor year business-wise for me, as my income continues to shrink, but seeing close friends struggle with cut backs and redundancy while all around the Western World as we know it seemed to be heading down the plughole was enough to dent the cheeriness in adversity of even the most insanely optimistic loon, which I ain't.

Probably the low point of a thoroughly depressing year was the nationwide August riots, which still struggled to be explained in a cogent manner. Sure, the disenfranchised had every reason to take to the streets, but in search of a new pair of trainers or a flat screen telly while destroying their own backyard? England has a long history of riots, but they nearly always had an easily identifiable political objective. The only purpose of these uprisings seemed to be to acquire more tat that no-one actually needs.

The economic outlook here in Europe in 2012 does not really bare too much thinking about, as even the best case scenarios look pretty grim from where I'm standing. I can't recall a New Year's Eve where the future looks so uncertain, but let's hope we can make some success out of it!

If I expect my football teams to cheer me up, then I might as well give up now. Everton continue to struggle against the rising tide of avarice that is the Premier League, having been knocking on the door of top dining room only eighteen months ago, while even more worryingly the Cobblers end 2011 propping up the Football League. If they go down they could well go the way of Rushden & Diamonds....remember them? Ho-hum.

Going back to the personal if I may, my unpaid weird music scribbling has seen shelf loads of wilfully obscure CDs arriving chéz moi, much to B's disdain, and I commend her for putting up with what for her were some nigh on unlistenable rackets while I struggled to go beyond the usual five adjectives my shrinking grey matter usually comes up with when describing said noise. I also got my first "press pass" to a gig, which was quite a feather in my cap, albeit almost dislodged by the actions of some Neanderthals on the door of Camden Underworld. No doubt this is something I'll have to get used to!

I've also had two more operations on my gnarled digits this year, one successful, one less so. Hopefully no more calls will be made on the very wonderful NHS in 2012 in this respect, although I think it's probably time I availed myself of that licence to print money, the dentist. It has been fifteen years, possibly more, but I've always reckoned that teeth are like car engines - if they're working ok, leave them well alone. Yes, I know nothing about car engines I'll admit, and even less about teeth.

One thing I did in 2011 that I haven't done in decades is to sit down and write a letter - you know, pick up a pen and some paper and commit some strange hieroglyphics to parchment. A now ageing aunt always sends us a kind of personal year review with her Christmas card, hand written of course, so this year I thought I'd reciprocate. Like most folk I rarely actually write more than a couple of lines at a time, 99.99% of work and personal scribbling being done, as this is, on a keyboard sat in front of monitor.

By the time I had written about half a page of A4 I noticed two things. One, my handwriting now resembles that of drunk crab fighting a spider, and two, those twenty of so lines had given me writers' cramp! I persevered though, I hope she liked it.

Time passes like a runaway train, not that trains in the UK ever go that fast. My niece is well into her new working life and gets married in 2012, and my nephew is well into dissecting bodies or whatever it is that medical students get up to, all of which is kind of hard to believe when only yesterday they were knee high!

Whatever you do in 2012, I hope it brings you health wealth and happiness, and if you're lucky, all at once.

Keep on keepin' on.....

27 Dec 2011

Gazapacho Soup - Part Sevenish - Christmas at War

Sir Archibald Thrieves snuggled the butt of the blunderbuss into the crook of his shoulder, took aim and fired off several ounces of grapeshot after the retreating derriere of his nephew Ranulph as the latter attempted to scale the southern wall. Ranulph let out a yelp and then started whimpering like a chastised puppy as the lead shot settled nicely into the copious flesh of his more than ample arse.

"I told the inbred ingrates two days ago - if I invite the buggers to the annual Thrieves family Xmas excesses then any attempts at escape will be met with the severest punishment" said Sir Archie to no-one in particular. "Clegg, go get Ranulph and tie him to a tree so that Gloria can thrash 'im with a birch. She seems to take great pleasure from that, bless her prejudiced and diminished soul" spoke Sir Archie lovingly of his dear wife of 47 rain-soaked miserable summers.

Ranulph had earlier lost a bet with his cousin Piers that he couldn't get over the wall, make way to the village pub two miles down the lane, get completely bladdered and return from The Hairy Wench in time for breakfast. Piers was a peculiar cove, forever making eyes at his buxom if somewhat hirsute sister Nigella. It was quite unsettling the way he started dribbling whenever his sister got within six feet of him. Nigella professed to be a socialite with many friends but no-one had ever seen her with anyone that hadn't been paid to be there. It was also rumoured that she had vampire blood.

Archie's guests were his sister Pru's family, headed by The Hon. Rogers Wintington-Smythe MP, DSO & BOC, whose unwashed loins had brought forth Ranulph, now 27 both in age and in stone, Wisteria, his stick-thin and strange-smelling sister, 31 and untouched, and Hague, his stupid and dribbling older brother, 41, who had a job in Cabinet dreaming up new ways to persecute the proletariat for Gideon's newly elected Tory majority Government. Rogers always used to declaim in a perversely proud manner, that having had "trouser relations" as he put it with Prudence a mere five times in 35 years of trouble-free marriage, largely because they rarely met, that "three mewling and dribbling sprogs ain't a bad result, old bean." Indeed he often had to remind himself who this oddly proportioned female of the species was on the rare occasions they crossed paths at their sprawling pile of decay, Dalmellington Mansions, left them by Pru's barking mad and gratefully for all now departed father, Winston O'Bogie. He knew John Lennon you know, John never was godd at speling.

Christmas dinner had been interesting. Archie's loyal but sadly idiotic manservant Widdecombe had been well into his stride, plucking the goose ready to extract the shot from its massacred body, when he sneezed violently, the feathers and airborne pluckage irritating his sinuses to the point of no return. Having hardly any septum at all and a small but growing hole in the base of his skull just above where the diminshed septum hung, all this arising from decades of cocaine abuse, his nasal discharge also included parts of his frontal lobe, rendering him worse than useless for the duration. Archie locked him in the barn with the sick goat, sick ewe and sick cow where together they cooked up a virus so strong a team from Pilton Down had to be called out in the New Year to torch the place to the ground.

This unfortunate episode meant that Archie had to find another head servant to abuse, beat, and generally treat like a disenfranchised voter. This being Christmas Eve that was easier said than done, but luckily brother-in-law Rogers came to the rescue. "You can borrow the fawning and obsequious Clegg orf me if you want. I did give him Christmas Day off for the first time in 23 years so he could go visit his dying mother, but sod it, needs must." And so it was that Clegg saved the day, understandably an emotional mess, which added to the fawning and obsequiousness led to a sum of frankly unpleasant human characteristics, so much so that most of the inmates avoided his gaze whenever he was around, simultaneously rubbing his hands together, bowing, scraping and copiously blubbing, tears falling onto his ancient yellowing tux.

Next - Christmas dinner ends in a murder and a prolapse, not necessarily connected, and the entire Uruguayan nation go to Jamaica on holiday and shout the "N" word at the top of their collective voices in the middle of Kingston, claiming it is a cultural thing, you know, like. Luis Suarez is 13 and 3/4.

25 Dec 2011

Xmas Log, Stardate wibble wibble .157

When I got up today I vowed not to go near the 'pooter at all today, but alcohol has got the better of me and here I am while B watches Downton Abbey. Well, I lasted nearly 12 hours which is something of a record, and B was actually online before me, a rare thing in itself.

So, that's that over for another year then. It's remarkable how eating too much poultry'n'stuff at the wrong time of day, and after having watched too much naff TV one feels completely knackered by the time Dr Who comes on. Ah well, DW was always good for a snooze anyway, or so I thought, because the stream of bollocks that usually constitutes a DW script normally has a soporific effect on me. Not this time though, given that the supremely daft intro allowed one to suspend disbelief almost instantly as the good Doctor survives the vacuum of space, atmosphere re-entry burn up wearing nothing but a space suit he somehow put on in said vacuum, and to cap it all he survives an impact so hard he made six foot crater! After that it was really enjoyable and was actually a good fairy tale for the kids, which is exactly what it should be.

One of the other things I've been watching today while slightly drunk is the graduate University Challenge series. A recent episode had the Head of Music at Radio One, one George Ergatoudis on the Sheffield Uni team. He not only failed to guess Nashville from the clue Grand Ol' Opry, but also didn't recognise the fab Wake Up by The Boo Radleys. Obviously his job title is an oxymoron, or maybe it's because Radio One now plays wall-to-wall crap and wouldn't recognise proper pop culture or a decent tune if it was bit on its collective testicles by Paul McCartney? Me, I couldn't possibly comment.

What else did my increasingly square eyes observe...oh yeah, we watched Ratatouille which was enjoyable, the restaurant critic's speech near the end being particularly pertinent. Also rather fun was a recording of the film The Boat That Rocked, a comedy drama centred on the days of pirate radio up to its demise. A stellar cast including Kenneth Branagh as a self-important Government minister given the task of shutting down "Radio Rock" (they could have come up with something better than that, surely?), his deputy played by Jack Davenport, the coolest DJ on the planet played by Rhys Ifans to name a few. Star of the show was the inevitably louche performance of the utterly brilliant Bill Nighy as the station owner. This man is a National Treasure and should be knighted, no question.

Congrats to good friends Andy & Linzy who will become Grandparents in 2012. I will enjoy calling Andy "grandad!"

Our friends Phil & Christine looked to be having a bit of a nightmare start to their Xmas holiday in Bruges. They were to have left on Thursday last, but due to a public sector strike in the land of Hercule Poirot over that seasonal chestnut cuts in public service pensions found that their Eurostar train was cancelled. Frantic phoning by by Phil finally got them two last minute bucket seats on different coaches on the early Friday train. If you've ever travelled on Eurostar you will know that their standard seats make London Midland look like the height of luxury, with a lack of per-passenger space that Michael O'Leary would be proud of, so God knows what the bucket seats were like.

Not that they ever found out, as I got a text from Phil this morning saying they had been upgraded to first class and their hotel rooms had been upgraded too! I still have to find out the details, but if that was all down to Eurostar it goes to show that the term "customer service" does sometimes actually mean what it says on the tin.

Finally commiserations to Phill who seems to have had a really awful Xmas. I hope Mrs P has not suffered too much as a consequence, and B & I hope that you get better soon mate, we've got a date with a rather good curry house to look forward too after all!

Finally finally, something for the lads..yep, I know I already put it on FB but it deserves to be heard again!


5 Dec 2011

Very Very Black Mirror

Spoiler alert - If you have not yet watched Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror and intend to, don't read on...

Remember Chris Morris, doyen of bizarre ultra-black comedy on Channel 4 some 10 and more years ago? Well, Charlie Brooker, he of the acerbic put down of pompous and asinine TV has claimed Mr Morris' mantle and some with his new comedy (?) drama series Black Mirror, the first episode of which showed on Sunday night. National Anthem it was called and "comedy" in the trad sense it wasn't. Satire yes, but there were no laughs here that your conscience did not flinch at, apart from the splendid denouement.

PM Michael Callow, a great bit of acting from Rory Kinnear, obviously in the style of David Cameron, is blackmailed by what turned out to be a Turner Prize winning artist into having full sex on live national TV with a pig in exchange for the life of "Princess Susannah", the nation's darling. No prizes for guessing who that was meant to be!

Brooker manages to take swipes at modern technology, social networking, the machinations of politics, the sheep-like nature of the general public, cynical journalism, and self-important amoral "art" all in the space of 45 minutes. Utterly brilliant!

If you're reading this and have no intention of watching it, you really should, as it is rare to have such an illuminating, horrible, and at the same time darkly comic piece of TV to rave about. I can't wait for the next episode - go Charlie!

3 Dec 2011

At least Morrisey's lyrics weren't inspired by a fascist writer and sung by a bloke who makes a noise like nails down a blackboard

Insolent, indolent, ignorant, aggressive, surly, arrogant, monosyllabic. These are just some of the more polite adjectives to describe London club doormen that Phil W and I have encountered on our recent trips to the nation's capital in search of musical entertainment.

PW's treatment at the hands of a real jobsworth of the species at the recent Steven Wilson gig you may have read about already, and last night it was my turn to suffer at the hands of a bloke with a thousand yard stare and a bad attitude. I had been given a press pass to go and take pics and compile a review of a gig by 70s obscure proggers Cressida (it's ok, I don't expect you to have heard of them), and I printed off a confirmation email from the band in anticipation of there being a right twat on the door. There was.

Arriving at the charming pit that is Camden Underworld I presented the email to Mr Vacant Eyes behind the reinforced glass of the ticket booth. The conversation went something like this:

Moi: Hi. I should be on the guest list, or there should be a ticket for me?

Mr Vacant Eyes: Giving a cursory glance both at my printed email and at his bit of paper with some names typed on it.."No mate, you're not on here"

Moi: Are you sure? Read the email, it says I've been granted a press pass.

Mr VE: Ignoring the email..."No, you ain't here"

Moi: Wanting to say "Read the bloody thing", but being aware I'm surrounded by three house goons sharing one brain cell and who are all built like brick outhouses, decide that discretion is the better side of being dumped on the pavement...."Can't you get one of the band or the promoter up here to sort it out?"

Mr VE: "No, we're the venue, don't have anything to do with the band, not my problem mate." By now another noob had appeared behind the glass, obviously Twatboy's immediate boss. He had the dead eyes of a killer. We'll call him Nutjob.

Nutjob: "We can't talk to the band." Followed by a hard stare.

Moi: "Right, I suppose I'll have to pay then. I'll be back"

Now inside the venue I seek the assistance of the promoter who was a good guy (thank God). "They made you pay? That's ridiculous, I put a small pile of tickets up there, one of them has your name on it." With that we both went back upstairs to the ticket office, the promo guy, after some nice dressing down of Twatboy and his boss points out the pile of tickets to Twatboy, who grunts something unintelligible, hands me my ticket and stares at me blankly.

Moi: "Well, let's have my money back then."

With an almost comical reluctance and more semi-audible grunting he hands me back my cash. In the interests of etiquette did I say "Thank you"? No, I didn't.

Speaking of slack-jawed imbecility, I had to laugh at an incident on the way to office slavery the other day. Walking along the busy main road into town, where the traffic was crawling to a standstill, I see a youngish chavvy looking bloke crossing the road, weaving between the now almost stationery traffic, followed about ten yards behind by his naturally overweight girlfriend, who although giving the appearance of looking where she was going, walked straight into the side of a car. This was followed by her making a noise that may be similar to a gurgling Orangutan, not that I would want to insult the Asian ape species. I think this strange guttural noise was Britney laughing at her own dumbfuckery. I too was laughing, hopefully like a homosapien.......that's sapien, you at the back.

Another quantum slice of life on my daily perambulation last week was hearing a dying example of local dialect. Now only spoken by those 50 years old upwards, a "real" Shoesville accent is a charming (non-sarcastic definition) mix of Yokel (East Anglian variety) and a soupçon of Midlands Brummy tinge, with liberal use of phrases like "me duck". They also "goo" to places.

Those younger than 50 born and raised here now talk in that ubiqui'ous Estuary English, glo''all stops aplenty. Listening to say, any 25 year old, who was born somewhere south of Leicester but outside of London, it's hard to pinpoint their birthplace as you can now barely tell from their accents. Is that good or bad? I've no idea.

Jeremy Clarkson, professional oaf and a bit of a twat, but funny all the same, or the end of Western Civilisation as we know it? Depends whether or not the recipient of his wit and wisdom has had a complete sense of humour bypass. There was some woman from Unison on the news commenting on Mr C's controversial statements that had you turned on halfway into her diatribe you would have been under the impression that Clarkson had denied the Holocaust. And she had a face like a slapped camel's arse.

Apparently Mr Hall can now hand out detentions. That's "Evil" that is....;)