Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Buggeration

Tonight, I am going to get slightly squiffy. Possibly majorly squiffy. I might even get drunk.

I've just been officially made redundant and that means 5 weeks notice and then I'm facing my first major period of unemployment since 1989. The reason I'm being so pessimistic is because, this time, I'm one of many and all of us can't be guaranteed to get a job.

In many respects, I only had myself to blame. I didn't do enough research on the two jobs available at work; because I expected it to be based on our experience rather than quoting legislation; but I suppose getting people to quote bits of legislation allows them to sort the wheat from the chaff. To employ those people that, perhaps, had already been pencilled in.

I could go into this a lot deeper and one day, probably at the end of May I shall, but I will say that the previous statement was supported by there not being an independent 3rd person on the interview panels. Not having someone independent means that its easier to score the 'right' person for the job and if I suggested that the positions were a fait accompli then I'd be wrong, probably. But it does make me (and maybe you) think.

In the future I might bleat about some things, but just to level this a little - I didn't have very good interviews; it was a mixture of strategically placed questions and a lack of confidence on my part. I have no complaints about it at the moment; any recriminations are sure to come as i face an uncertain future...

At the moment, I'm a little numb and fancy a big fuck off spliff. So a few pints will more than make up for that!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Onward TUC Soldiers

A few observations about yesterday's massive march in London.

I think there were more than 250,000 people there. We only managed to cover two thirds of the route before we had to turn around and head back to the coach. There might not have been the million I was hoping for, but there had to be half a million bodies there.

Some people are as witty as hell!

Whistles should be banned.

The arseholes who acted illegally were nothing to do with my union and nothing to do with your one either. The conspiracy theorist in me would like to say that the idiots that cause trouble at these events are actually paid by the incumbent government to ensure that the outbreaks of violence overshadow the big picture. I accept how tenuous that theory is, so therefore I'd like to suggest to UKUncut and the number of so-called anarchists who fell on the capital yesterday to fuck off and do what they want to do without using 250,000+ innocent protesters as cover!

Physically I was a complete wreck by the time I hobbled back onto the coach at 5.10. I had taken my walking stick and wore my walking boots, but I neglected to take any painkillers and then embarked on the longest walk/standing up session I have undertaken since September 2010. It was all worthwhile though because I contributed to my first ever march and felt solidarity with my fellow campaigners.

Is there an alternative to all the cuts? Well, of course there is, the problem is that Osborne seems intent on making his plan work and won't accept that it won't. The real worry for me, who might be redundant by Tuesday evening, is that if it does go wrong - and let's face it at the moment it looks highly likely, how do we salvage anything from it. The cabinet will be okay, they already have bucketloads of money. A large majority of us don't.

Walking over Westminster Bridge with my good friend Martin Shipp, who I just don't see enough of, we were talking about what an incredible city London is and how, as much as he likes coming up here to Northampton, the city is in his blood and it is architecturally splendid and socially invigorating. It's a long time since I ventured into London of an evening; when I did it the place still shut at midnight, even in the real sordid parts. But on a passable spring day in March yesterday it really did look like a rose. My biggest complaint about London is that there's not enough good pubs with excellent real ales.

My legs ache...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Yet More Words about Association Football

Tottenham fans are pessimists. At least, that's the impression you get when speaking to some of them. They have suffered so many years of dashed expectations that optimism is usually greeted with screams and mass exoduses - to suggest Tottenham could actually win something is incredible; most fans are loathe to even suggest we could draw something.

Of course, in this new world order of professional football, finishing 4th is tantamount to winning. The English Premier League is such a bizarre place, but no less bizarre than European football, where a team that finishes 4th in a league can enter in and potentially win a competition called the Champions League. In fact, a team lovingly known in these pages as the Red Shite have done just that in the last few years. The irony of the Premier League is now that there are 6 teams that reckon they deserve to be in the Champions League, but there are only four spots, which means that two of them end up having to play in the Europa League; which is (for football fans) the equivalent of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy of European football. Don't get me wrong, Fulham would have liked to have won it last year, but Aston Villa have treated it with a certain amount of contempt in recent years, because, frankly it doesn't offer the money or the prestige that the top table competition does.

Which brings me nicely to the end of the current football season. The sun is shining; girlies are out exposing masses of delectable flesh and there's less than 10 games left to decide which teams will be playing for glory and millions of quid next year and the two other teams who will contemplate fielding B-teams and wondering if a serious attempt at winning the league is possible (but without Champions League football, they can't guarantee signing any world class footballers, as they tend not to want to play for teams that aren't in the Champions League).

You can pretty much bet your house on ManUre, the Arse and Chelski filling three of those four places - while neutrals would love to see four different teams representing England, there's as much chance of that happening as there is of buying a really unhealthy sandwich from Subway. The other place is a real battle; Man Citeh will believe that owning more multi-million pound footballers means they deserve it; Spurs will argue that they've been the best entertainment in this year's Champion's League so they should get another crack at it and the Red Shite, despite having the double done to them by Blackpool, will feel that King Kenny has changed the club's fortunes enough for them to win all 8 matches they have left and Citeh and Spurs to drop masses of points. The best the Red Shite can seriously hope for is 5th and another season wiping the arses of Europe's elite. But have spurs got what it takes to usurp Citeh and get that elusive 4th spot for the second season on the trot?

The pessimist in me says that we'll end up finishing 6th and I'll have to suffer the humiliation of Red Shite fans texting me and calling genial Harry Redknapp a rubbish manager; but the optimist that hides deep in my psyche reckons that we can do it again. Yes, we have 4 massive games lying in wait - Citeh, Chelsea and the Red Shite away from home, a possible 0 points from 9; we have to play the Arse at home and achieve the first double over them since dinosaurs ruled the Earth and we have 4 other games that could end up being banana skins - Wigan away, but WBA, Stoke and Blackpool at home. We have revenge to get over Wigan and Blackpool and points to prove over WBA. Stoke's away form is dodgy, so that could go horribly wrong as well. Then there's Birmingham at home; another club we have a score to settle with ourselves over. 1-0 up from the 8th minute at St Andrews, Spurs managed to manufacture a draw by gifting Brum a goal in injury time and prevent us from a deserved 3 points.

If Spurs can win the five easy games, that's 15 points. If they can do the double over Arsenal that's 18 and a total of 67 points. Any dregs from the other three games will go a long way to ensuring a top 4 finish. It's not a huge stretch to expect them to get something at Citeh; the Manchester team have only managed to beat us once in the last five years and we have become a bogey team for them at Eastlands. The Red Shite tend to always beat us at Anfield, but by the time we play them they'll probably be resigned to Europa league obscurity and it'll be the end of a long and crappy season for them; pride might have something to play, but I fancy a point from this encounter, especially if we need it!

So, is 68 points enough this season to qualify. Let me go and play Predictor on http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/eng_prem/predictor/default.stm and see what that says...

The Red Shite, even being optimistic really don't stand a chance. Citeh hit 67 points and that's after beating Spurs, which means that despite the bookies making them favourites to finish in the last Champion's League spot, Spurs, if they play to their potential could pip them to it again and subsequently ending Roberto Mancini's tenure as boss and causing Arabs to have palpitations as their money hasn't done a Chelsea and won them anything. They might, however, do United and get through to the FA Cup final.

So, to fly in the face of my fellow pessimistic Spurs fans; I think, given the indifferent season Spurs have had, that they can qualify for Europe's top table on merit, yet again, and if that happens, then expect a few really world class players to join and a concerted effort by Redknapp to challenge for the league next season.

Or it might just go horribly wrong and I have to eat humble pie and suffer the taunts of people with no footballing pedigree...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Oscillate - A Music Review

North Atlantic Oscillation
Grappling Hooks
on KScope/released March 2010

What have The Beta Band, Pink Floyd, Madness, The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, Genesis, Flaming Lips, Gary Numan, Porcupine Tree and the Knack got in common? They appear to be just some of the influences that North Atlantic Oscillation have allowed into their music and all I can say is - WOW!

This is possibly the most amazing thing I've heard in months. It's like dreaming about all my own personal musical favourites having a jam session. From the opening track all the way through to the end it's just a melange of superlatives and from a three-piece to boot. There's something about trios that appeals to me, especially in rock circles, and this just lifts you up, smashes you about and then throws you into the earth at a million miles an hour. It's prog, post pop rock, ska bananas with a touch of weirdness and wibbling thrown in for good measure. It reminds me of drugs - good drugs; the kind of drugs that leave you in a corner having the time of your life with the sound of a microwave and a fridge.

They're from Scotland. This album came out a year ago. I'm really angry I didn't check it out sooner. They're on the same label as Porcupine Tree, Engineers and a host of other bands you should have in your record collection. Grappling Hooks could be the best album you buy this year. NAO could be your next favourite band.

5 out of 5

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Trampled Vague Rant

BOOM!

Will you look at that. Not a cloud in the sky. Temperature on the patio up to 14ยบ and despite being a 15 stone plus lard arse at the moment, I feel full of the joys of spring! It's amazing what a bit of warm sunshine will do even if the country is going to a Cameronian Hell in a devalued hand basket!

***

I appear to have been in the news this week. http://www.bleedingcool.com/2010/03/08/phil-hall-is-back-someone-please-pay-him-attention/ is nice, even if the facts are slightly wrong and the title makes me sound like someone with ADHD. Considering I've had a tendency to be less than charitable to the author of this piece and his myriad other comics pieces, it's nice to feel, for a day, like I once meant something.

Of course, this attention has come my way because I've started to serialise my 2005 autobiographical book about my life in the comics industry. There are going to be a lot of people reading it and many of them might get bored shitless by the time they even get a name drop. I'm not suggesting for a second that I think it's boring, but I know comics fans and a lot of them are just scanning pages to see if they or someone they know has been mentioned. The first dozen parts are largely very autobiographical and will reference a time when most of today's comics fans were either unborn or too young. Plus there's 150,074 words to get through, and that got cut down from 170,000+.

Oddly enough, talking to Roger about it over a beer on Thursday night, I realised there were at least two specific things I don't talk about - which considering the amount of words, is quite remarkable. One of them has been inserted into the rapidly expanding epilogue, which isn't due to be published until 10th February 2012. The other thing needs some thought (and we'll leave it at that...)

I've been going through that post-production flump. I'm aware that 'flump' isn't really a word, but it's a good description of how I used to feel when an issue of whatever magazine I was working on had finished. With me doing very little at work at the moment, while we all wait around for the grim reaper of redundancy, it's been a bit... flumpish. I've wanted to sit down and do something at a keyboard, but while the flesh has been willing, the mind has been farting at me - lots of hot air, but nothing more tangible than some bad smells.

I expect the attention I'm getting from the comics world again will die quickly and will almost be completely forgotten about until August, when people will begin theorising how long it is before I get a cease and desist letter. He has to find out where I live first, as I no longer live in the place he thinks I do... Plus, he has to prove that all the things I say about him aren't true.

My Monthly Curse - a Comic Book History is being published randomly and is available to look at http://alifeincomics.blogspot.com/ and is being simulcast at http://www.bleedingcool.com/

***

Sod this for a game of soldiers; I'm off to do something far more constructive in the sun!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bastard Broadcasting Company

Hello, I'm George Alagiah and this is the 6 o'clock news.
We're here in Sendai at your expense, flown over in specially commissioned aircraft, making a massive dent on the BBC's carbon neutral pledge, just to make sure that there is someone in Japan that you, the stupid members of the general public, recognise. There is no need for me to be here, nor is there any reason for half a dozen other known journalists to be here, but our bosses feel that you will be better informed if the A list journos are here, rather than the ones we pay a weekly wage to report from here normally, when something really horrible doesn't happen!

So that's why we're here, cluttering up the place where the earthquake and tsunami hit the worst; reporting to you while simultaneously getting in the way of the rescue operation; sticking our microphones into the faces of traumatised Japanese who just want to get over the most massive thing to happen to their country since the Yanks dropped a couple of atom bombs on them in 1945. We at the BBC like to pick over the carcass of human misery like zealous vultures; it's what you, the general public pay us for. We're not content with just having a group of journalists here, we want to make sure we have more than Sky, CNN, FOX, ITN and any other news service that are just getting in the fucking way of these poor unfortunate victims of one of the worst natural disasters ever to happen.

The BBC. Your licence fee spent by a bunch of worthless cunts!

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Juxtaposing Rhinoplasty

There's a real problem with being back at work and then coming home and spending a few hours a night editing my 2005 tome on comic books. Bugger all else happens in my life to be worthy of blogging about. Even the majority of the last few entries have seemed like my life is becoming increasingly mundane.

I mean, I could give you a run down of yesterday.
  • got up and had breakfast
  • spent two hours editing
  • two hours in the garden
  • took dogs for a walk
  • set fire to garden detritus
  • had a bath
  • had my dinner
  • watched TV - Being Human and an Eddie Izzard live set
  • did some more editing
  • went to bed
Don't get me wrong; it wasn't a bad day. The sun shone, the garden doesn't look like a post modern interpretation of the Somme and Being Human was mad telly, as was Mr Izzard. But it wasn't like, you know, WOW!

That said, I did spend a bit of gossip time with Fishwife's wife - who is always good for chinwag with. We have a habit of being both bitchy about our neighbours and setting the world to right. We discussed Fuckwit's lack of brain; how to approach about getting him to remove his fucking leylandii, which block out the whole sun and cast a shadow over most gardens. She told me about the Oxford couple that live on her side; he's been unemployed for 6 months - nothing strange about that apart from two specifically fucked up things: firstly she doesn't want him to get a job in Northampton because he could earn more in Milton Keynes! Um, excuse me, but he's sitting at home watching daytime TV, surely any form of income is better than none, especially as he no longer gets contributions based JSA. The second point is even more bizarre. They still pay £6500 a year to have their child go to day nursery; um, excuse me, but he's still sitting at home watching daytime TV, as the child's father you'd think he was more than capable of looking after the brat during the day, would you not?

Still, at least, Fishwife's wife can still have a semi intelligent conversation with them. My relationship with Fuckwit hit new lows last Monday. Fortunately, I achieved two things from it.

I was cooking. It was early afternoon. I needed some coconut milk and I didn't have any, nor did I have any money. This meant that I had to go to the ATM and then to our local Asian shop. My car was stuck in its usual place and Fuckwit's cars were both on his drive. I hopped in the car, went to the ATM, got my tin of expensive coconut milk and was back home within 12 minutes. During that 12 minutes, Fuckwit had managed to take his poxy P reg Rover off the drive and park it where my car usually sits. This is in a street with barely no cars in it at that point, if you even had to give him the barest benefit of doubt. As you might imagine, this got me rather angry and after parking my car over the road, ostensibly in someone else's place, I walked to my front door and noticed he was standing on his car pad. I don't know what he was doing, but knowing this fat wanker it could have been anything from screaming at the moon to peeling layers of fat off his arse with a sharpened spoon. I was still very angry.

"Fucking wanker!" I said to him in a loud voice and slammed the front door. 30 seconds later; yes, THIRTY SECONDS!!! He got into his car and moved it back onto his drive! We have now had 7 consecutive days where he has not parked his car anywhere apart from on his drive, which suggests to me that he was doing it either on purpose or to wind people up. On calling him a 'fucking wanker' he must have realised that my patience had evaporated.

Last night while watching the TV he was barking again. I turned to the wife and said, "Is that him barking?" She nodded, we chuckled and carried on watching the telly...

***

I have reached the point in the editing of my book where I know that I have to be very, very careful. I'm at the point where my life became both heaven and hell, in equal measure. I remember when I first wrote this autobiography; I felt that I'd skimmed over parts and missed other bits out completely. Approaching it 5 years later, I feel as though I can objectively include things I forgot and clearly state the truth, even allowing for my own shortcomings. When I start to serialise it on my other blog, the parts I'm at now won't appear for a good while; this will probably give me more than enough time to decide whether or not a certain arsehole in my former life has grounds to sue me. Or I have to decide whether or not I'd like to risk being sued for telling the truth.

We'll have to see what happens, won't we?

***

I was officially put 'at risk' last week. That means that my job is effectively redundant and unless I'm lucky enough to get one of the redeployment positions I shall be officially redundant by the second week in May. It's a bit of a frightening concept, but I'm a realist. It's not like I can do much, if anything, to alter the fact.

One of the wonderful things about my job in the last 12 chaotic months has been the organisation's new CEO. Jon has been a real pleasure to work with and I told him so at the end of our 1-2-1 session, last week. I wasn't creeping; I wasn't trying to put myself in a better position than my colleagues, I was being honest. He's about the same age as me, is interested in football - to a degree, but considering his Irish roots is a huge cricket fan, so the half hour session turned into an hour and twenty minutes, of which a percentage was taken up discussing the England v Ireland World Cup cricket match. He was truly divided in his loyalties, but in the end opted for the country of his father's birth, because as he is a Norwich city supporter, you have to root for the underdog. He sent me an email the next day describing Ireland's win as 'awesome'! He was certainly right about that!

The meeting, which could easily have been an upsetting, ill tempered and fraught session was actually really easy going, relaxed and left me with even more respect for the man, who has an awful job to do at the moment. However, the odd thing about the meeting was it took place in his office, which is on the top floor of our buildings. I've not been off the ground floor since I returned to work 8 weeks ago. My disability has meant that my own office is on the ground floor and I rarely venture up more than 3 steps. However, since my meeting with the surgeon, Mr Basu, a couple of weeks ago, I seem to have rediscovered my health mojo. Yes, I've had a shocking cold virus that lasted a lot longer than I expected, but for the first time in a long time I'm mentally kicking the arse of my back and leg problems.

A lot of the problems I've had over the last few years have been exacerbated by my brain's inability to accept that, yes I'm getting older and yes, I'm suffering a bit more than other people my age. but, hey, thems the breaks. Life isn't particularly fair, so we make the most of a bad lot. Jon and I spent a while talking about the fact that he thinks I look better. he actually said, 'you're looking really good' and the truth is that while I wake up in the morning with aching limbs and a psychological fear of my 60s and 70s, I've been getting on with life, it's been positive and by crikey I do look good. He isn't the only person who has said that I'm looking healthy and better than I have for a while. Yes, I'd like to lose the extra weight I've piled on as a result of eating too many munchies; but the bottom line is bollocks to the aches and pains! I even do stairs again and the pain management routine I'm on - a mix of painkillers, physio, beer and sex is quite enjoyable... Heck, I'm even getting the feeling back in my left leg; my ankle is strengthening up and my dentist reckons my teeth are doing really well since I packed up smoking.

Accentuate the positives. Ignore the negatives. Bollocks to the aches and pains the next day - carpe diem, baby!