Saturday, June 30, 2012

2012 - 43

Miss Anne Thrope

I had a period during the 1990s, when I became a touch agoraphobic. When I say 'a touch', what I mean is my close circle of friends all thought I'd lost it - big time! I chickened out of two Northampton Town football club play-offs because the idea of going to Wembley and sharing an area of space with 70,000 stinky smelly people sort of did my head in. In fact, thinking back to a large part of the 1990s, the only events I ever went to were comics things and that was largely down to my feeling of complete superiority over 99.9% of them.

I suppose I had a period where my 'comfort zone' was very small. This might be summed up by the fact that my 'office' back in those days was a 'room' smaller than a downstairs toilet in a starter home. It was essentially a storage cupboard, with a desk, a PC and me - anything else and you were in danger. However, I got better and during the first decade of the 21st century I got out more.

The strange thing is I'm actually quite a sociable animal, but catch me in 'a mood' and you see a completely different side to the normally gregarious and affable persona most people now associate me with (hopefully). I was in such a mood on Tuesday, at the pub quiz, and this was reflected by my incredibly misanthropic humour and my astonishment that so many ugly women could fit into one pub without a health warning. We even won, and got the jackpot, and yet I was still largely unmoved by my fellow human beings. On Tuesday, I hated the world and everything in it.

But did I really?

When we got home, after dropping everyone off, the wife suddenly stopped and stared at me, as I was merrily chirping away while making my egg and cress sandwich for lunch on Wednesday. I knew what was going on in her head; 'he's been a miserable bastard all evening and look at him, skipping around the egg slicer with gay abandon'.

"I'm not actually in a bad mood, you know?" She looked a mixture of bemused and confused. I wasn't. I was actually quite upbeat; it's just that I've worked out that when I'm in a misanthropic mood I'm actually at my most acerbic - the shame of it being that to be acerbic you have to copy Jack Dee's stage persona. Yes, the humour is often cruel and uncompromising, but we are only human and being human is the reason why communism is only a brilliant concept.

Frowning takes up more muscles than smiling, yet we find it much easier to look like a slapped or mildly peeved arse than look happy and as I've grown older and my face has become more... interesting, the frowning slightly perplexed look has become my trademark (even my colleagues no longer ask me in concerned voices what the matter is, as most know that's what I look like most of the time).

However, and I don't know if it's a general nationwide malaise or just me, but the last three or four days I have felt genuinely misanthropic. I have really, genuinely hated everybody (well, almost everybody). This was perfectly illustrated yesterday by one of my young charges when he said with real emotion in his voice, "Sir, I hate you!"
"Good," says I. "I'm earning my money."

Comfort Camping

Apropos of nothing; I have this friend called Ged who is a camping enthusiast. She (and her husband) have been fans of the outdoor life for donkeys years and nothing puts them off spending a week in a muddy field under canvas.

She was telling me that their usual Easter camping break was the first time they'd ever been camping and had to scrape frost off the inside of the tents 'windows'. They spent a week in Cornwall a few years ago at roughly the same time as Boscastle happened and regularly sit huddled around a fire or heater trying to keep warm. You could say she's a bit mad.

I'd say she's raving bonkers. Ged doesn't go camping; she moves the entire contents of her house into a massive King-sized tent and has everything from a Calor-gas run 'proper' cooker, with oven and four rings; carpet, a gas powered fridge and even a small port-a-loo. She replicates almost her entire home inside the four rooms of her massive tent and has everything she ever needs for camping stored in her garage - including a roll of carpet, mats and the tents stereo system. She has more 'camping' equipment than some people have brain cells. I sometimes have asked her in the past why she even bothers to go camping and her reply has always been something along the lines of 'you can't beat the outdoor life', which I could understand if she had a tent, a small gas burner, a torch and roll of bog paper; but when you have your house transported into a field for the week, it's hardly an inconvenience; unless of course they run out of wine or herbs for the 4-course Sunday dinner.

Och Aye the Noo

Ged's camping segues nicely into the announcement that we're actually going on holiday this year, the first time in 3 years!

I'll tell you about our holiday to Ballantrae, a holiday where we vowed we'd never set foot in that part of Scotland again. Yet, at some point in August we're off to Dumfries and Galloway again. Hopefully it will be a better week; but frankly, it couldn't be much worse than the first time.

We're going to Wigtown, which was possibly one of the most intimidating small towns I've ever been to. This might have been because we got there on a Sunday and it was shut, but Roger and I, while searching for a decent pub - not found - got the distinct impression we were being watched from behind twitching curtains, by locals with pitch forks and torches.

To be fair, the Whithorn Peninsula, where we're going is lovely. It is close to the Galloway Forest and some nice coasts, that will probably be dog friendly as they're not particularly human friendly and we know of a pub that sells real beer. Actually, we know of two in that area, but t'other one is near Stranraer and, to be perfectly honest, I wouldn't send my worst enemy to Stranraer. It is a horrid little town, about as confusing as it gets and full of dour people with long faces. However, the further you get away from it, inland, the better it gets and I expect that we'll find plenty of places to take the dogs and not have to mingle with those horrible things that blight Scotland every summer - children!

Stuff
  • This week, for my guilty pleasures, I have been listening to the fabulous new Axess/Maxxess album - Impact. It is a sequel to their awesome debut album Contact from eight years ago. Axess is Axel Stupplich and Maxxess is Max Schiefele. The former is a German ambient musician, specialising in chill out and mellow grooves; the latter is a Joe Satriani cum Steve Vai guitarist who has a very European feel to his music - stunning guitar solos with multi-layered backing tracks. The two together produce a kind of music I doubt any of my friends would warm to, but I love it. It's a like a sex union between a dwarf and a giant using a sheep as a sex toy - Mysterious Time, the 13 minute closing track makes you want to head bang and dance at the same time!
  • My other musical delights have been similar to the previous week, with me subjecting my charges to all kinds of bizarre noise in the name of education. However, one of my kids admitted to liking Boards of Canada creating a bit of a dilemma.
  • I am finding The Guardian is being read I considerably less time than it used to.
  • It only seems like yesterday I was picking raspberries in December. I'm picking them again! We are going to have so many, I might have to get creative! Incidentally, the only difference between then and now is there are more leaves on the canes; the weather is pretty much the same.
  • Roger berated me on Tuesday night for my excessive; use; of; semi-colons; which I think is a bit rich coming from an accountant. I did explain to him that this wonderfully underused bit of punctuation, along with the more modern - is really a brilliant tool to use for long rambling vaguely related sentences. However, I then got onto talking about hard and soft commas; soft full stops and hard full stops; periods; Oxford commas,; my constant tense problems; prostates; lamb ice cream; whether or not Cesc Fabregas might be gay; the dream I had about ocelots; his wonky fingers; the hermit who lives down the lane and soap.
  • Crippled by stippled nipples.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

2012 - 42

Orthopaedic Worm volume 1

I got to the point in my playing of the 147 compilation discs I have accumulated where I found the oldest one - the one that has survived the longest. It's a strange and eclectic mix of music and reflects what I was into back in the mid to late 90s when it was made.

Here's the track listing:
Out There Somewhere - Orbital
Lifeforms pt 4 - FSOL
Melt - Leftfield
Papua New Guinea - FSOL
Beautiful Mind - (the) Verve
Arcs of Light and Dew - Levitation
Love in a Car - House of Love
Temple of Everlasting Light - Kula Shaker
29 - Lloyd Cole & the Commotions
Velvet Morning - Verve
In a Room - House of Love
Time and Space - Verve
LA Boost - Lotion
I was obviously heavily into indie and electronic instrumentals back then as well. The CD it's packaged on looks really archaic, like those really shit old cassettes before they discover clear plastic. I expect most people will have heard of most of the stuff on this disc, but what about Lotion? A vastly under-rated band from the USA, whose contemporaries stole their sound and made money from it.

Incidentally, back in the days when I used to do loads and loads of mix tapes, I always gave them names and rarely did these titles make any sense (but I knew what they meant...) and the title of this segment is the title of that CD. The self-produced cover art is also a mystery (but I know what it is...).

More Mushroom Madness

I fully expect a very dry autumn and another poor mushroom season. The reason for this is that most of our autumns are dry now and we're getting so many autumn shrooms appearing all over the place that the poor blighters' internal seasonal clocks must be shot to ribbons.

I now have two storage jars full of what I believed were Horse mushrooms, but have since changed my mind; the pounds of agaricus I've been picking for the last couple of weeks are actually Wood mushrooms - same genus and virtually the same mushroom, but they grow in thickets and woods and not at the edges of fields, and they also have a much shaggier membrane (which might sound a bit icky, but is just that veil that protects the gills from the elements until the mushroom has blossomed).

I found Russulas yesterday; which is far more unusual than finding agaricus - because they really do tend to be an autumn shrooms that prefer it very wet and almost mild (oh, the conditions we're currently having). This is reflected by such names as yellow swamp russula and the lesser known evil dank stinking russula (which obviously doesn't exist).

There's puff balls by the truck load, I've seen some Fly Agaric already (the red ones with white spots on them that get reindeer stoned and then Laplanders subsequently drink the reindeer's piss and get a second hand high - really!) and as I mentioned almost a month ago, there has been parasols and they also don't tend to appear until the weather gets really crappy (oh, just like it is at the moment).

That said, we're going to take the dogs for a Sunday mega-walk in a little over two hours, to Harlestone Firs. This is a place where I have found mushrooms in the past, but considering what it is and the different kinds of terrain and soil it has, pickings have generally been poor. However, if you ever need ants, this is the place to go!

TV Dump Addendum

Watch The Innkeepers. It's a cracking little horror film that feels far more like a slacker indie movie and keeps you guessing right up to the last scene. It's the second film in the last couple of months where I have been at risk of injury by the wife, she spent the best part of the last half of the film gripping my arm, burying her head in my back and generally being freaked out by this very excellently understated film.

Ti West, who wrote and directed it, has already been slated for future success and I can understand why. There is definitely something odd about this film; the dialogue is superb; there are very very few moments that fall into the stereotypical horror film model and there's one scene that will have you jumping out of your seat - all in all definitely a post modern horror movie. Apparently, West's House of the Devil is also supposed to be an excellent low budget shocker - might have to check that one out too! Highly recommended.

Bonus

For the last umpteen years (or so it seems), every time I go to Morrisons to fill the car up with fuel, I give over my Morrisons Miles card. There have been many times when I just couldn't work out how it worked - no one asked me to register it; I was just given it and told to hand it in every time I got fuel from them. So, dutifully, this is what I have done.

Today, I got an anonymous £5 voucher.

Can't help thinking it's a bit like the old Green Shield Stamps - remember them? You'd collect 250 books of stamps, take them into the shop and exchanged them for a Tupperware Salad Bowl or a Fish Slice and the real cost for these pound shop items probably reached into hundreds of pounds; but you felt you'd earned it, even if you didn't...

It Wouldn't be a Proper Blog Without a Mention about the Weather

Apparently we might have another little taste of summer this week. The papers and forecasters reckon Thursday might be a very warm day and Tuesday might be a really pleasant day. They seem to think Wednesday and Friday will be a return to more monsoon conditions.

Now, I'm one of those people who only really takes stock of weather forecasts when they are right (and even then I'm not necessarily happy) and considering the dopey weather girl on BBC News this morning claimed that the sun will come out today - Sunday - and it's 1pm and it looks more like thunder storms than a balmy day off, then I shall take what is allegedly going to happen later on in the week with a pinch of salt.

Huzzah

Talking about BBC News; the last few years, either through injury or just good planning, I had become a fan of the BBC News channel between 8.30am and 11am. It was a great antidote to BBC Breakfast and usually this 2½ slot was helmed by Simon McCoy and Carrie Gracie - the dream team of BBC News in my sad and humble opinion. McCoy (albeit obviously a Tory leaning fascist) is one of the funniest news presenters on TV and he's especially relaxed and full of witticisms when he has the strangely attractive Gracie by his side.

But the new job meant that I only ever got to see this particular section of BBC News when I was on holiday and while McCoy is still there, mostly, he's been paired with a line of exceptionally dull co-presenters, who don't seem to get his rather unique and slightly ironic delivery the way Carrie Gracie does. Subsequently it slipped from my radar and I didn't even tune in during the last half term break. But Tuesday, I was off, and was up eating my breakfast a little after 8.30 and there they were - the dream team - reunited on BBC News and god it was good. McCoy had that knowing smile on his face again and Gracie was basically doing her usual job of keeping his slightly anarchic delivery (at times) in check. jokes and bon motts were flowing thick and fast and I can't understand why the BBC doesn't keep these two together more often. Yes, they're probably not BBC Breakfast material, but they are head and shoulder better than any other news anchor team on 24 hour news TV. So there!

Other Stuff
  • Melanie's Ruby Tuesday is a really great cover version. In fact, if Melanie was successful today, she'd probably have the press falling over themselves to interview her.
  • As reported yesterday, the Sexually-Explicit Family have a huge F-off skip sitting on their front garden. Most of the afternoon was spent with a bunch of burly blokes carrying all manner of stuff from their back garden; all of it went into the back of a van and was driven away. The skip has some concrete in it and what looks like some rubbish, presumably dumped by an opportunist walking passed it. By the looks of the amount of building materials, they are planning on building another house (or two).
  • I am amazed that there are so many ignorant and rude drivers on the road today. Seriously, do our driving instructors teach people the right way?
  • Christ - that forecast sun has just appeared; I must go and get some benefits from it!
  • Loose shovels.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

2012 - 41

D'oh

Having a memory like a sieve has meant that I put myself in an awkward position last night while walking around Sainsbury's in Wellingborough. "Are we still doing *blah* on Sunday night?" Asked the wife as we neared the diary aisle.
"Huh?" Says I, paying more attention to the milk than my wife's questions.
"Sunday night. You haven't forgotten that I'm not at work on Monday, have you?"
"No!" Of course I had.
"Good."
What the fuck did I say we'd do on Sunday?
Without thinking, "You do know that England are playing Italy on Sunday?" I saw her body language visibly alter. "I was going round Roger's to watch it." Oh dear...

The diary aisle is about half way through that specific supermarket and we were nearing the end of our shop and the only noises that emanated from the wife were a series of short sharp grunts. I was still trying to remember what I'd agreed to do. I figured the best way to deal with this was meet it head on and bluff it. "What time do we have to go?" She looked at me like I was asking her what my own name was.
"You know better than I do." Oh double shit with pooh on it... Then the penny dropped.
"It starts at 9."
"What time is the football on?"
"7.45." She nodded, but she might as well have said 'oh'.
"Look, I'll watch the first half and then we'll go. I'm sure we'll probably lose." (I actually think we'll win, so perhaps missing half the match is for the best, I won't be so crushed at the final whistle). She took on the role of injured martyr and I knew that all was lost. It's not like she'll hold a grudge against me for weeks or withhold sex and stuff; but I knew that her weekend - of which she is working today - would be rather spoiled.

I couldn't do that. It's only a game of football and my wife's happiness is far more important. Besides, I've told her that she has to watch the England v Germany semi-final (if it happens) with me in return. She blew a raspberry at me and effectively told me to go fuck myself. See, marriage is always fair!

Disturbing

Humans are horrible, but kids are even horribler. I hear about events that are trending at other schools now - there's a network between schools for sharing information, which is a good idea because you get to hear about trends and organised stupidity before it reaches you, so you can try to prepare for it or at least be aware of the latest craze (most recently these included the salt and ice challenge - look it up - and the Scotch Bonnet challenge; which is where kids eat an entire scotch bonnet chilli - which is a bit like putting an acid covered starving wolverine in your mouth and then calling its mother a whore).

Most of these fads are stupid, can cause injury and makes you question the sanity of those doing it. However, I was aware that not all of these fads and trends involving kids are based around pain or ones ability to tolerate it; some trends are devious and evil...

An area in Lancashire has experienced a spate of extortion plots aimed at sole traders and small shops. What girls aged between 12 and 14 are doing is visiting a small clothes shop or something similar, decide what they want and then tell the single male owner or shop assistant that if they don't give them the goods they will go to the police with allegations of sexual impropriety. Obviously some shopkeepers are telling the girls to sod off, but some have been extorted of hundreds of pounds worth of goods because they are frightened that they might get a reputation; because, you know, there's no smoke without fire. Nice, huh?

Personally, I blame two people - obviously I blame Margaret Thatcher, because I blame her for everything and either John Hughes or Macaulay Culkin, because one wrote the line and the other delivered it. That line, which I know so well I can't quite remember it, was something along the lines of "I'm a kid, that's what kids do." I have said that we don't give children the credit they fully deserve sometimes, especially as every human being is born a psychopath and we learn about all the laws of life and society as we begin to grow up. As everyone knows, psychopaths are all really clever (and bonkers) and if a kid is essentially born one, unless they really are as thick as pig shit, then they have the ability to outwit us all. Coming up with a scam like the one above doesn't surprise me in the slightest.

Music is My First Love

Something I usually do in the Stuff section of my blogs is to talk about the music I've listened to this week, but for one week only I must make a bigger thing of it.

My job, because I don't think I've ever really full explained it, is essentially to babysit and re-educate the badly behaved kids in the school and help them to stay in general education. In my youth, if you were a little shit you got expelled; nowadays you get a series of escalating sanctions that include spending time in something called Internal Exclusion and I'm the manager of this section. I get a select bunch of students on a daily basis who are not allowed to be in the main school for whatever reason and they have to put up with me all day.

Now, something like music isn't allowed in my room; these kids are isolated so therefore they don't get any of privileges other students get. But this isn't really fair on me; I have to sit there and get a bit bored at times in the silence; so when my computer was upgraded a few months ago, I discovered it had a speaker and I started to listen to music when the kids weren't with me. One day I forgot and when the little blighters arrived one of them asked me to turn that horrible noise off. It gave me an idea.

With the backing of my boss, I started playing the students classical music and they hated it. The problem was after 30+ hours a week of listening to every bloody composer I could think of, I started to run out of things to play and the kids were beginning to get used to it. In fact, because they're kids, they started to play it around and when I got to playing movie soundtracks they almost began to like it. So I moved into jazz and they began to hate me again. The problem was the jazz was so fucking awful I couldn't concentrate on my work, so I started to get creative. The last couple of weeks I've dabbled in opera and that really grates on them. I have to admit that I've even started to like some operas (but La Boheme really is hard work). But still it lost its edge really quickly, because kids get melodies. So I thought, 'hang on a minute; my boss said I could play anything I thought would essentially annoy the kids, just so long as no one could construe it as popular chart type music.'

Sigur Ros went down a storm. At one point one of my students said he thought his ears were going to start bleeding. Jon Hopkins actually calms them down. Ulrich Schnauss is pretty much ignored; it has all become background noise to the kids and as a result there is a edict that has circulated the school - don't complain about Mr Hall's music or he'll put something worse on!

I feel as though that part of my work is now complete.

This week I have subjected them to lots of Scandinavian instrumental music; I sampled some Finnish acid folk, which is pretty fucked up and weird; Explosions in the Sky just got looks of horror; Acid Mothers Temple was a bit too much even for me at times - perhaps I should play that early in the morning. Mogwai were a bit too lively and Last.FM gave me a selection of things that I was completely unaware of (and quite grateful of that I am). Honeyroot - Falling was quite good, so I made a note of it, as was Ben Woods - Lights of a Tired City, but most everything else that was played made the kids want to cry and curl up in a foetal position with their mothers. So, I'm now looking for inspirational instrumental or limited vocals music that is likely to make me even more unpopular! Plus it's educational - they need to experience real music not this dubstep bollocks they all listen to.

Quote of the Week

Former head of HSBC, Dennis Turner: "David Cameron said if you voted labour at the last election we'd stay in recession and things would get worse... he was right. I did vote labour and things are now worse." That works on so many levels.

Another FB Rant

A good friend of mine is on Facebook. She's not your typical FB participant; she admits that she checks the social networking site out almost as an afterthought and doesn't really spend any time on it at all. So I was quite taken aback when she appeared in my news feed having played some game called Bubble Safari and recommending it to me.

This prompted me to send her an jokey email about finally succumbing to the addictiveness of Facebook. Her reply was one of puzzled bemusement. I explained that she'd popped up in my news feed, etc and she was horrified. She says she has never played Bubble Safari, in fact she's never played any game on it, ever. A bit of investigation and she came back and said that she has about 50 invitations to play the game, but she didn't even realise that she had a games invite section. Curious. So, I opened up my phony second account, the one I rarely even think about nowadays and as that account has very few 'friends' and I'm about the most prolific of them for posting stuff, I was quite pissed off to see that my daily excursions into the world of Scrabble and Bejeweled Blitz were all over other people's news feeds.

Despite going into my FB settings weeks ago and basically stripping it down to nothing - unliking everything, leaving groups and removing all my personal information; I'm still being used as an advertising tool by the companies that produce the games that I like to play. yeah, it's free (apart from the advertising), but I really think it's an invasion of privacy.

Besides, Scrabble is okay, it makes me look intellectual; Bejeweled Blitz on the other hand...

Stuff
  • I've been at something of a musical impasse just recently. I've had 5Live on it the car; I've told you about work and at home I've been sifting through my thousands of CDs and just not getting any inspiration. So, I lifted the 147 compilation CDs I have - things made up of songs and bits of music since 1996 - when I started doing this with CDs rather than cassette tapes - and have been playing these (and skipping a lot of tracks). The last six decades are all accounted for and it has been a mixture of nostalgia and confusion (the confusion coming from me wandering why on earth I saved a particular track, especially if it was rubbish).
  • My week has been made up of data collation and trying to come up with some radical plans to be looked at for the next school year; because there's only three more weeks before the Monsoon Holidays - my new name for what used to be called the summer.
  • Speaking of education - isn't Michael Gove just a complete prick?
  • The Sexually-Explicit family have a building site sitting on their front garden; one suspects changes are afoot with their house. They probably want to move another 30 relatives in.
  • Speaking of neighbours; I came home for lunch on Thursday and noticed that Fuckwit and his partner Lard Arse Girl (or whatever I normally call her) were sitting in their new compact car listening to what sounded like Radio 1. 30 minutes later, when I re-emerged to return to work, they were still sitting in the car listening to music. I'm still trying to work out why.
  • Did you know that Scasty Vam is Good Luck in Ukrainian?
  • Gender biscuits.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The TV Dump (vi)

Carry on Vamping Part 5

Now that I've put Haven to bed, something had to come along and replace it. Quite why I'm still watching True Blood, or Carry on Vamping, is quite beyond me and if the first two episodes of the latest series are anything to go by, even the likeable characters have ridiculous stereotypes of themselves. This is a truly awful bit of crap TV; perhaps it should be Camping not Vamping?

It is poorly scripted soft porn that appears to have run out of ideas, so is resorting to the flashbacks and apparently fleshing out some of the peripheral characters and doing both badly. I think we're down to one half decent character left in this show and I can't even remember her name! The vampire manager of Eric Cartman or whatever his name is. But she's only good because whoever plays her seems to treat everything going on around her like an annoying dream.

There's too much going on, with too few interesting characters, inconsistencies abound and I think the wife is getting to feel the same way. This is piss poor TV and the actors all should know better.

Failing Skies

I hated this show first time and because I'm a twat at times, decided to see if any improvements had happened. The simple answer to that is no, and yes. Perhaps it's because I'm now more familiar with this band of freedom fighters, but it, Falling Skies, seems a little tighter; a little more urgent and there are even some characters who don't appear to have wandered in from a 2012 remake of The Waltons.

However, Noah Wyley is pretty much the most irksome and irritating morally superior self aggrandising c*nt who ever worked in TV and therefore his lead character in this series is someone you actually want to die; even his boys are more interesting than he is. Wyley is a producer, which explains a shitload. Spielberg is also an executive producer and this season has ramped up the special FX a notch; they're now poor instead of shit. The problem is it's a load of cock. It was during the first, scene-setting season, and it's just as fucking retarded now.

Go back and read one of the TV Dump Things from last year and I explain why, but this is like The Walking Dead but considerably worse and most everyone knows what I think about Egg of the Dead. I also get the horrible feeling that there's a slightly L. Ron Hubbard-esque story trying to burst through; like the creator of this series saw Battlefield: Earth and thought, 'Hey, I can do something like that as a cheap TV series'.

But, something happened in episode 2 that made me think. First off, you need to know that episode 2 features a really badly scripted exchange between father and son; some pious acting; a slightly illogical and crappy gung-ho scene; more evidence that they're making it up as they go along; lots of slightly awkward testosterone, an ending you could have sent a carrier pigeon with and it would still have reached us an hour before it happened and quite unexpectedly a couple of scenes that were really quite good and totally out of place: there was an Alien styled 'extraction' scene which made me think David Cronenberg had directed that one shot and some suggestions - albeit slightly fuggled - that the series, however implausible it is as a concept, might be veering off into a slightly odd direction.

That said, it's still the new Haven. True Blood is, I hate to say it, well acted and deliberately hammy; there is a production value about it, that while fucking annoying, makes Falling Skies look as though it was done by ITV circa 1999, which I regard as consistent with every other thing done by ITV throughout its life - shite.

The other problem I have with this series, apart from all the others mentioned here and in blogs passim, is now that I have seen the teaser glimpse of the rest of the season and it's obvious they've sown together the best 60 seconds of the next however many episodes and it looks like it has real potential. So, I should state publicly now that it won't and I will complain about losing a section of my life that I will never get back.

Mitt and Hiss

Good, bleak, sparse, rough and a bit grubby. All words to describe Hit & Miss, the Sky Atlantic drama with the strangely lovely Chloe Sevigny wearing a fake penis and balls and acting like she's been given lots of money and has dialled in her performances. That said, it's pretty good, even if it leaves you feeling slightly soiled at the end of each episode. My one big criticism of it is there are far to many fake cock shots; as an owner of one, it looks wrong; it's a clever likeness of one, but it looks WRONG.

Boo & Hiss

I cannot believe that the final series of Eureka is already 9 into around 20 or so. It's almost half over and I can't remember a series running so fast.

The current series is bonkers, as usual, and incredibly bad - as in pretty awful; but I just love the show and I will miss it because it has always been slightly unique, often very funny, poignant and tragic all at the same time. It has to be noted that it is also full of some of the most repetitive and silly stories ever imagined, but that doesn't matter, the majority of the characters are excellent and could probably do with more exposure - say 2 or 3 more series?

I still believe that the events at the end of series 2 (or was it 3..?) will - have to - play a part in whatever climax they have. I still believe that because they've altered time, they are, ultimately, going to have to fix it (and this is based solely on the theory that the writers are nerds and mostly all of the scientific stuff is theoretically possible and therefore it tends to stick within the laws of physics).

While Eureka is also rubbish TV, it is really really lovable rubbish. 42 minutes of watching the same story, every week, with slightly different characters. It's comfort TV.

Film Round-Up

What I've watched since the last time.
  • John Carter is pooh. 3/10
  • Chronicle is fun. 6/10
  • The Station Agent is quality indie stuff. 8/10
  • Safehouse is relentless and quite good. 5/10
  • Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows was too long, but fun. 6/10
  • Wrath of the Titans shite. 2/10

Saturday, June 16, 2012

2012 - 40

Palpable Relief

I don't have to worry about my job now. This is good. The day after everything was sorted, I wanted to leave. Friday was the day from hell...

Bleurgh

Most of the week I've felt like I've been living underwater. My chest has been so tight, I'd convinced myself it was more than just this protracted cough and cold. I've been using an inhaler for years now and I was almost out, so put a repeat prescription in last Friday, only to discover they had lost it. What made things worse was the receptionist wasn't the slightest bit interested; telling me that I'd have to request another one and call back Monday for it.

Can you guess what my reaction was?

10 minutes later, a helpful receptionist returned with a prescription - job done.

A few blasts on it and suddenly it was like the unblocking of a sluice gate. Great news for my breathing; but I woke up this morning with a shocking sore throat and the feeling that I'd rather be fucked by my back than spend many more weeks being the absorbent tissue for my work place's slew of germs. I might start wearing one of those surgical masks the Japanese wear when they go out in public.

Awful Brilliance

Apologies; an aside about football.

Last night England did what no one really expected and won a game. It was riveting stuff; end to end drama, played by probably two of the three worst teams at the tournament and while we ultimately triumphed; we were pretty much rubbish - fortunately Sweden were even rubbisher.

Ironically, it has boosted the expectations of England fans. More ironically, they all now seem to think we can win the competition. I thought football fans understood football?

I'm going to refrain from talking about Harry Redknapp and Tottenham. I'm still reeling.

Mushroom Madness

So, it's the 10th June and when we should all be sunbathing, swimming and thinking tennis, I was up in a special place picking about 6lbs of meaty horse mushrooms and reminiscing to 1997 when another shitty June produced one of the biggest hauls of shrooms I've ever seen or had.
I'm not surprised the mushrooms are up and in abundance; the weather has been distinctly autumnal. The good thing about early crops is the lack of bugs.

A week later, I fully expect to find more and the airing cupboard is now full of that deep, rich and almost dark aroma of dried shrooms - making it feel even more autumnal...

Mystery Solved

In November 2000, while my brother and dad were attending a Memorabilia fair at the NEC in Birmingham - incidentally the only one I ever attended on my own - my dad met a woman who specialised in Barbra Streisand rarities. At the same event, my dad apparently asked me if he could use my email address. I've since forgotten this, but Cathryn Draper, the woman who connected with my dad, didn't.

How, 12 years later, my email address finally surfaced on said seller's mailing list will probably remain a mystery. It, at least, solves the mystery of how my dad was getting email 9 years after he died...

Utter Bollocks

In this week's local paper there was a 'news' item about the improvement and success of the Northants Youth Offending Service, which passed its Government Inspection with a Good grade. This looks like a vindication of the staff cuts that happened last year and I'm sure everyone associated is puffing their chests out and hi-fiving each other.

What the newspaper fails to mention is that the 5 people who got made redundant last year saved the council £80,000; but for the YOS to be able to meet their targets they needed to pull in three agency workers - at the cost of £120,000 - to work almost constantly since last July.

These three agency workers (all friends of mine, so I don't really begrudge them) probably didn't do the amount of work the five who got canned would have done, cost the council an extra £40k and has left a few people with a really bitter taste in their mouths.

Stuff
  • I haven't really been listening to much this week. I've still got Sugar on in the car and I've spent the morning listening to Bob Mould's solo back catalogue. At work I've had a mixture of Last.FM and Grooveshark on. Mainly classical, some Rossini and Bach, but I've discovered that my charges really have a problem with opera (which, so do I), so playing La Boheme by Puccini has been fun. It's like allowable torture!
  • I have a little concern over the fact that a lot of my spuds have got flowers on them. this is about a month too early.
  • We lost a duck last week. Stiff as a porn star's erection. Burying it was not fun or easy.
  • Colloquial biscuits

Sunday, June 10, 2012

2012 - 39

The Clear Out Begins

That'll be 'junk' as in the junk that's been in my head and on my chest all week. As forecast, everything seems to be moving now that I'm mentally preparing myself for what is possibly a tough six week stretch or will probably be a one week damp squib followed by anxiety and despair. Stay tuned, because if things go the way of the pear then I'm going to blow some of your minds...

No Complaints

The desire was to have a week doing... what? I'm not totally sure I had a plan. Had the weather been remotely summer-like then I might have got a tan, done some writing in the garden, but I probably wouldn't have done much more than I have. If I get a summer holiday, I have essentially two of the six weeks accounted for - one is a week of remodelling and the other might be a week in Scotland, the other four? Probably wasting my time, procrastinating and complaining about the weather and getting depressed about how good September is going to be and I will be at work.

Also, the last couple of days I've been mentally railing against the gods at the prospect of next week defying the odds and becoming warm and sunny. It seems my fears were unfounded; next week is going to be worse than the one just gone. The gods are still pissed off with someone.

Footba'

Despite having the expectations of a Cobblers fan, I've been drawn to the Euro football competition and with the Danes beating Holland, it seems that we shouldn't take this tournament for granted. But... I really can't throw myself into supporting England. I feel that what is happening now is that expectations are being built up on the back of the lack of expectations. We're so potentially awful that a couple of good results will be fillip enough for the country's flagging spirits now that we haven't got the Jubilee to worry about and the Olympics are still a couple of potential waterlogged pitches away.

Tomorrow's game could end up being a real downer - what a great way to start the week; lose to the French. I obviously don't want it to happen, but it's the most likely thing; so just remember how much we really expected to do well when we don't.

Addict

So, on Wednesday, with a chest that felt weighted down with lead and the conviction that if I didn't have some horrible C word, then I was probably on my way to having the same thing that killed my mum, I decided that I had to knock tobacco on the head again. Obviously this was greeted by the usual scepticism and justifiably so. But by Thursday, I'd talked myself into it, figuring that all I needed was a hobby and something to stop me from eating everything within a five yard radius.

But yesterday, when the aforementioned junk started to move and my tubes opened up again, allowing me to breath and not feel suffocated after walking ten feet the idea of packing up smoking had rather receded. However, I'm looking at two rolls up maximum left and the planning for the next attempt has gone exactly how I planned it. I expect a week of frayed tempers, no sleep and extreme RAHHHHH. It's going to be like visiting an old acquaintance you really don't like but can't avoid.

I will obviously fail, but let's pretend for a while that I have a chance, eh?

Stuff
  • The last few days have been a mixture of the Forth Verve album; a selection of Husker Du albums and a selection of various artist compilation discs I've accrued over the last five years.
  • Watched the first two in the Punk Britannia series and kind of understand why I didn't have the same enthusiastic punk spirit that some of my peers had. I also, for the life of me, can't understand why The Clash are considered so ... iconic/brilliant/essential. But I feel the same way about The Smiths and quite a few other critically acclaimed artists.
  • Chatted with my godmother for a while yesterday; we came to the conclusion that madness is rife in our family.
  • Lager with the great taste of fish.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

2012 - 38

Zoned Out?

I'm not about to say I understand all the implications and political turmoil the Eurozone Crisis is causing, all I know is that over the last month, more and more citizens of Europe are quite rightly saying they are not going to put up with the austerity measures enforced by the leading governments across Europe. The people of Greece, Spain and others facing massive debts, are now saying, 'why are we paying for the mess created by politicians and bankers?' and do you know, they're right. Why are we all paying for something created by incompetent ministers and greedy bankers?

Let's also get something straight - the Eurozone Crisis has nothing to do with the UK's own debts; yes, they're linked and if one goes tits up the other is likely to become a pressing concern; but the mess the world economy is in has nothing to do with Labour spending lots of money rebuilding an infrastructure that the Tories neglected for donkeys years. The UK might be in a lot of debt, but we at least have new schools, hospitals and things which are not likely to crumble away in the next few years - I'd rather us owe money and pay it back slowly than try to clear it all up and royally butt-fuck 98% of the populace to do it. I think that is the way a lot of Europeans are thinking.

It's simple really. If you make your money from the taxes people pay, then surely investing in jobs and the future is a good way to ensure that all these people pay tax and help stimulate the economy. No jobs for people means no incoming tax and also means outgoing benefits - regardless of how the government tinker with it to make it impossible for most people to get anything from it. Fuck about with peoples' benefits when there's a lot of jobs out there to fill; not when it looks likely that more people will be joining the dole queue.

The problem with the Tories is that they think all of the 2million plus unemployed people in this country are work-shy feckless bastards and therefore they should be forced to get a job rather than sponge off the rest of us.

While the government really needs to cut its spending deficit, it also needs to find money to invest in stimulating business and the sensible approach would be to manage the economy like most people manage their household debts. The problem is Cameron and Osborne wouldn't know a housekeeping bill if it bit them on the arse and gave them both rabies. All they are doing is surreptitiously altering things to make their aristocratic buddies a lot more comfortable. Arguably, they are doing very little to ensure that whoever gets in at the next General Election has a mountain to climb to try and halt ours and Europe's slide into Third World status.

Yesterday, I heard a story that kind of made me glad that I'm away from the Youth Offending Team. I got a run down of what's been happening in the 12 months since I got made redundant and it was painful to listen to.

The first thing that angered me was less than two months after making me and four colleagues out of work, the Service then spent more money than it saved employing three agency workers on £26 an hour. These agency workers are still there, 10 months later and the three of them have earned twice as much as the five redundant people would have earned. The reason was simple - they had an inspection and needed to pass it. They did, but at what cost?

Then to add insult to injury, the council are in the process of re-evaluating the jobs of the people who are contracted there. Unions are fighting, but it seems that all current employees are going to be faced with the prospect of either having their pensions obliterated or their conditions renegotiated to the point where they will all take a drop in position and money. You could say that this is a good thing and that everyone should tighten their belts in the current climate; but these are people who were pretty much overworked on a reasonably fair wage; now they are being asked to do more for less and I'm sorry, that just isn't fair, especially when bankers, pretty much responsible for the mess we're in, are still taking home 7 figure bonuses to go with their 7 figure salaries. In Phill's world, a person who stops a young thug from ending up in prison is as important as a banker who makes his shareholders an extra £1000 in dividends. Actually, in Phill's world, the former is far more important because he's saving the government money and possibly turning said young thug into a tax paying member of society - it's a small but priceless win win situation.

Today, there are protests in Spain. In France, the new president is talking about stimulating growth rather than stymieing it. Greece is beginning to rebel against the whole damned mess. Germany are nervously looking over their shoulders, because Angela is possibly beginning to realise that the big plan isn't going the way she hoped. An economist in the Guardian this week highlighted how austerity has always failed in the past and pinpointed the fact that the thing that often follows austerity is war, because wars tend to stimulate economies (and get rid of all those unemployed people either directly or indirectly). This time round the war might be civil rather than international. A friend of mine who has a Greek father said the feeling on the ground in Athens and major Greek cities is that if they are forced to take even more cuts to their lives then they will strike en masse; they will rebel against the sanctions; they will, effectively bring the country to its knees. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. What happens when the people refuse to do what their politicians want them to do? Do they send in the troops? And what if the troops actually agree with the people?

To have a job, I took a £6½k cut in money and a year after redundancy, we have had to tighten our belts even further. I can't give the wife as much money and we're having to scrimp and scrape to make some ends meet. Entertainment is the first thing that has suffered; we don't go out for a meal half as often as we did; depriving places we used to go to regularly of our income. I drink a third less than I did, which wasn't much in the first place. Luxuries are incorporated into every day things. I'll still buy cashews, but now to go in cooking rather than to sit and indulge myself while watching TV. I break the law by downloading TV programmes that I simply can't afford to subscribe to with Virgin or Sky and I do not see anything wrong with me not getting myself into debt to have 45 minutes of entertainment. I appreciate that some will reckon that if people can't afford something then they should go without; but hey, all work and no play makes Jack a rebellious anti-government protester.

I remember the saying that communism in theory is that all men are equal, but in practice some men are more equal than others and you can apply that to the 'We're all in this together' approach of Cameron. He's right; we are all in this together, just that some people are more in it than others.

Outraged

I might have spent a little time being harsh about one of my regular pub haunts in the last blog, but the main reason we go there is for my mate Phil, the quizmaster. We've been to a lot of quizzes over the years, but Phil's are far and away the best. He is the consummate professional; he's witty, amusing and the questions are a good mix of general knowledge and obscurity - not too hard, never too easy.

The only quiz that came near Phil's was the one that used to be on at the Malt Shovel, run by Norm and Jackie the landlord and lady of the place back in 2006. The place was heaving and you had to get there early if you wanted a seat. The quiz started at 8.30 on the dot and was all over by 9.30. It was a simple format; 3 rounds of questions, 1 picture round and a music round to finish off. First prize was £50, then £10 and £5 (sometimes £20 and £10 if it was really busy). We won it a few times; placed a few more. Then Norm and Jackie left; I spent a month agonising over whether to take my quiz idea to the new landlord and when I finally did, he'd just signed up an enthusiastic local to do the monthly quiz.

We stuck with it for a few months, but the man was awful and we weren't the only people to think this. Numbers fell and by this time we'd discovered the quiz at the Vic. Nearly five years down the line, we decided to go to the Malt Shovel quiz last night; Roger and I have found ourselves down there on a couple of quiz nights over the years and it had got busier again; the number of people there seemed to suggest that there was a prize worth winning. So, we turned up expecting not to find a seat and the place was nearly empty. This wasn't as bad as all that because the beer at the Shovel is from a different level of competence than it is at the Vic; so Roger and I were at least in our element.

To cut a long story short, we ended up coming 2nd of 16 teams; beaten by 1 point, but arguably should have been in a tie-break because the team that won it got a point for being close to an answer and we didn't. But, hey, 2nd is great for our first attempt in years. Even if it was just a tenner, it was a profit on the night and we figured we pretty much could win it most months. Roger went up and collected our winnings: a London Pride Tee shirt (medium), a key ring and a small bottle of 3% beer!!!!!!!!! I was APPALLED! I wanted Roger to leave this spectacular booty on the table; let some other poor schmuck have this paltry consolation prize. I wanted to go back to the quizmaster - still the most annoying of twats you could imagine - and shove the bottle of 3% beer up his arse and ram the tee shirt down his colloquial gob.

Un-fucking-believable!

Anyhow, Roger is convinced we can dominate there. The promise of perfectly kept beer is a real incentive, but I'll be buggered by the Colossus of Rhodes if I'm going to pay £1 for the chance of winning some promotional garbage.

And breathe...

Stuff
  • Stuck for inspiration it's been NAO again, mainly. I listened to a little Rossini. I really hate to say this but I got half way through Clockwork Angels, the new Rush album and I switched it off. There was a time when that would never happen.
  • It's November!
  • Think this June is bad? Last June was just as shitty. The highlights of last June were the 1st and 2nd and the 28th and 29th, the rest of the month was fucking abysmal.
  • I have been wondering if there is some way you could turn phlegm into a valuable commodity.
  • The weather has been so autumnal, I found a ton of horse mushrooms at one of my usual September haunts on Tuesday. Most of them were excellent and were eaten just hours later in a stir fry.
  • With the holiday almost over and me still feeling the effects of this virus, One El commented the other day that I would start to feel well again at about 6pm on Sunday evening. I just know he's going to be so right.
  • Rhubarb. I have so much bloody rhubarb. Does anyone want some? I can post it. I've got rhubarb prongs the thickness of baby's arms; leaves as big as dining room tables; it's bloody mutant rhubarb, powered by the magical properties of duck shit. If we get any more rain it'll be aquatic rhubarb - the sub-aqua adventures of a vegetable that thinks it's a fruit!
  • Rigid plastic containers.


Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Glass Onion (part G)

Been a long time... I haven't invented anything for a while, until today when the bag of spinach I was going to use in a saag paneer had gone south.

1 medium onion
5 cloves garlic
2 inches of ginger
handful of coriander
1 big f*ck off red chilli.

Blitz in a blender until really roughly chopped but not a mulch. Fry this in some butter/ghee until it's beginning to look cooked.

1 heaped tbsp coriander powder
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp salt
pinch of sugar
½ tsp Chinese five spice
2 tbsp Kasoori Methi (or if you have it a bunch of fresh methi - but it'll make your wee smell)

Add this to the fresh masalla and fry until well combined.

5 very ripe and juicy tomatoes, blitzed in the blender and added until well combined. Cook until the oil begins to separate. Then add

A selection of peppers - green, yellow and red
1 slab (or equiv) of fresh paneer, fried off in a little butter so it's a light golden brown and still relatively soft to touch.

Add a dash of fresh cream, yoghurt or creme fraiche and serve with garlic infused naan bread and some peas kaju rice (which is boiled rice with added fresh or frozen peas, a handful of broken up cashew nuts and some chopped fresh coriander).

It's hot, but more spicy than nuclear and very tasty. Try it; it'll probably work with chicken really well, possibly even a firm fish.

An Aside

This isn't a recipe, just an observation.

People with long memories might remember a Monty Python joke which ran through an entire episode of the 70s seminal comedy programme. The entire team (and a few unexpected guest stars such as news reader Kenneth Baker and a weatherman) all looked at the camera and said incredulously, 'Lemon Curry?'

I can sort of imagine how this came about. Having read a lot of biographies about the Pythons in the last couple of years, I noticed that a few of them were in the middle east (prior to Life of Brian), where things such as lemon daal and hot and sour curries originated, which use lemons a lot. In fact, lemons in curries are as common as potatoes used for chips; but probably during the 70s the only things we associated lemons with were lemonade and lemon meringue pies; so they probably thought the idea of a lemon curry a bit odd, therefore making it this strange running joke.

Possibly the same happened when Paul Whitehouse, Charlie Higson and co put the Fast Show out. Remember 'Cheesy Peas?' (Or even 'New Strawberry Flavoured Cheesy Peas). I'm sure they were in their local Indian and saw muttar paneer on the menu and saw that it was essentially a spicy mix of Indian cheese and garden peas and thought it was an unusual combination and their running joke might have come from that!

If you like curries, don't mind the Hairy Bikers and are not put off by vegetarian food, you should see if the episode on last night is on the iPlayer. it features a 10 minute segment about a Punjabi family that run a secret restaurant, introducing strangers to the delights of Indian vegetarian cuisine. They cooked this curry comprising of lotus root koftas, paneer, peas and a really interesting sauce. It's something I'll be having a go at the next time I see lotus root on sale in my local Asian shop.

Now, go, eat.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

2012 - 37

The Inanity Continues...

You'd think I'd have something better to do, wouldn't you? After yesterday's offering, you'd think I'd care more about quality than quantity. I have to do something and if it means filling up pages of blog entries with pointless drivel, then all you have to do is go somewhere else!

There's going to be a lot of repetition; like for instance, me whinging about my cold. To all the people who believe in God, let me just say that if there was such a thing (and there invariably isn't) then he fucking hates me. The worst thing about this repeating virus - which if anything is incentive to get a new job that is - is when you feel shit, you feel shit; when it stops making you feel shit, it leaves a legacy that makes you feel shit in different ways. My top lip is as sore as a whore's wares on a busy day - it's from constantly blowing my nose. My chest is sore because it's laden with unspeakable gunk, which is reluctant to move, regardless of how much I cough and said coughing has given me a headache; and subsequently I've put my back out because of all the coughing (although to be fair, I've had twinges of sciatica for the last week, so it might just be a coincidence) and the thing that ironically makes it much worse is that I don't actually feel bad. If it wasn't for the phlegm, I'd actually be feeling pretty good...

Chest Bursting

Okay, let's throw a Jones into the pigeons. I watched Aliens last night and a) can't believe how dated it looks and feels - even more so than Alien. b) there are at least four really bad plot holes.

For starters, quite simply, where did all the aliens come from? There were 158 colonists of which there was one survivor. That means a total of 157 aliens; there could not possibly be any more as there was nothing for them to gestate in.
Where did the queen come from?
Also, Ripley knew that the crashed spaceship had hundreds of those face-hugger eggs in it, so how come she ponders as to where all the eggs may have come from?
How come Michael Biehn's character knew Newt had the tracking device on that he made a big deal about giving to Ripley?
In Alien, the underlying thing about the monster was that it adapted and was clever; it knew the ship was going to self-destruct, so it sought refuge in the shuttle. At the colony, the entire base is going thermonuclear, yet the queen and all her aliens seem totally unaware that they're going to be blasted into oblivion.
The retro introduction of Ripley's daughter, makes zero sense to the first film and is a plot vehicle only to bring about the change from scared woman to superhero - it was far too heavy-handed. There's a truly awful line about promising to be home for her 11th birthday, yet considering how long astronauts spend in cryogenics, presumably she told her daughter this on said daughter's 5th birthday. Bad continuity.
The girl playing Newt can't act.
Bill Paxton has become really annoying.
John Reiser looked like he'd walked off the set of Mannequin.
In many ways it highlights the failings of both directors - Ridley Scott and James Cameron. Alien was Scott's 2nd film and it basically established him as an A list director. Aliens was Cameron's 4th film as director (the first two being B movie SF/horror, before Terminator, which made him an A list director) Scott made some passable movies after, but as one of my mates said, most were bogged down by his influence and demands. Cameron's oeuvre is in many ways more spectacular and yet most of his films, while technically brilliant, are massive piles of shit - Titanic, T2, Avatar, the Abysssssss.
I don't think Aliens is much above any of Cameron's subsequent stuff - it's all style and the substance has been tweaked to fit around what he wanted to do, rather than continue an already established story. He can be accused of doing exactly what Ridley Scott has been accused of.
Most of you fans probably feel Aliens is the best film of the four; I never did, but thought it a great addition, but it's been over a decade since I last watched it and now I have to re-evaluate my thoughts. Alien is still a much better film; it is a simple story, well told which resonates years later. Aliens will probably be best known for 'Game Over, Maaaan', dodgy perms and oblique vagina references - it's a good action adventure, but not a very good film!

Crunchy Gusset's Finale

I have to say that Game of Thrones is entertaining TV, even if at times I'm left wondering what the hell is going on. There are so many stories going on at the same time that you, as I've said countless times before, need a scorecard to keep up with it.

The season finale, which was rather eclipsed by the series penultimate episode, offered more strands than a frayed jumper and proved to be a great mix of expectation and anticlimax. The series seems to be turning into a mixture of West Wing, The Walking Dead and Merlin.

[Here be spoilers]
Daenarys' story in Qarth seemed to end rather quickly, almost brutally, after much build-up. It has been like they've only had the Targaryan in it because she's obviously going to play a huge part in the future; but all the preamble ended up being a squib of the damp kind.
The aftermath of the battle of King's Landing left a few unanswered questions (fortunately cleared up by the message boards); such as how come Stannis Barathian was back in his castle with the red witch, when he apparently was captured by Lannister guards at the end of episode 9. Plus, something that will explained in season 3 or maybe even 4, was how Winterfell was burned to the ground and all inhabitants killed, when Theon Greyjoy and his army of motley rebels had already departed to face the music from the king of the Iron Islands.
The acceptance of Jon Snow (now a rebel rather than a news reader) into the Northmen, seemed a little convenient; almost staged (which indeed it was, but not in a good way) and while Ned Stark's offspring are the leading characters in this series; it's only really the youngest daughter's adventures that hold any real interest for me (and I can't even remember her name - see, you need a scorecard!)
The cliffhanger ending was, like series 1, the first real glimpse of interesting special effects; I was amazed that episode 9 had so much action in it, considering that the previous 18 episodes seemed to sweep over the battles and action in favour of Shakespearean soliloquies and long arduous speeches; so the final scenes of the season 2 finale will do one of two things for the casual viewer - get them moderately excited or have them considering finding something else to occupy their time. Let's just say that Ice Zombies appear to be on the march (confusing me even more, because there hasn't been enough explanation of what goes on oop north beyond the wall, anyhow).

If I had one major criticism of the series it's just what I said in brackets - there isn't enough explanation as to who the characters are or what their motives are. It seemed for weeks that you were just being constantly introduced to new people, almost because it was easier to muddy the waters than make it clear for all to see. A minor criticism is that it is more like a 18 rated soap opera rather than a series of arced stories: two seasons in and there has been little resolved, apart from the dead characters.

A for is Effort?

I'm risking something here. I'm risking ruining a good relationship, but I feel it's a necessity...

Getting on for five years ago, the Squonk quiz team was left with trying to find a new pub quiz, when their regular fortnightly Sunday night test of knowledge was abandoned. We ventured to the White Elephant and found that quiz a bit populist and aimed at a generation much younger than ours. We won it a few times, but generally it felt like a stop gap (and the beer wasn't up to much either).

We heard that the Vic on Poole Street had a popular Tuesday night general knowledge quiz and a Wednesday night music quiz - fancying ourselves as musical masterminds, we went to the Wednesday night a few times, but would never ever win it because our knowledge of lyrics was as vague as our knowledge of quantum mechanics; so we opted to do the GN quiz instead and we have established ourselves as possibly the most consistent team at the pub.

Early doors at the Vic saw the place being run by a guy called Gary, who seemed as dodgy as fuck and appeared to run a fencing operation for local criminals rather than a community pub and in the last months of Gary's reign there was a shortage of essentials you would expect any pub to carry. It all came to a shuddering halt one Tuesday when the pub was closed and all seemed lost.

But the following week saw the arrival of a young ambitious man called Al. Suddenly the Vic was fully stocked; had as good a selection of beer as it had ever had and Al had thousands of bright ideas. These were a return to halcyon days for this little pub on the corner of a cul-de-sac; it was on a par with the legendary days when Brian Clarke ran it. For almost two years, the Vic established itself as a great real ale pub with lots of variety; even if you had to believe that Al never stuck with one theme for very long. The joke started that he'd try anything to make money. The success of the Vic led him to buy the tenancy of the Bantam Cock; a pub with a chequered past that hadn't been a popular pub since the 1970s. He bit off more than he could chew and the place was cold, bleak and unwelcoming and while he poured his energies into that the Vic started to suffer.

Over the next year, at least two barmaids attempted to drag the pub back up to its peak, yet were forever stymied by what some classed as Al's growing flakiness. Instead of giving these two barmaids carte blanche to do with the Vic as they saw fit; he pissed them off; didn't pay them; argued over hours and effort and eventually lost them and, hot on their heels, was the Bantam - not even a heroic failure. Efforts were concentrated back onto the Vic; Al probably thought he'd neglected the place, so changes were made; all of which, like earlier experiments, failed. About 18 months ago, cracks began to appear - almost literally. The pub that boasted 8 real ales, rarely had more than two on at any time. It ran out of essentials like gin, vodka and rum; or it ran out of mixers, cider and even ice. The female members of our team started to feel slightly uncomfortable about the general grubbiness of the place and going to the toilet was an adventure in unhygienic circumstances. Things stopped working; the TV no longer was used (rumours abounded that Al couldn't afford the licence fee), the fans stopped working; the place began to look like a storage cupboard for Al's other half-arsed ventures and they began to run out of drink much faster.

I heard it on good authority that the landlord blames the brewery for not supporting him; but that begs the question of whether or not he blames the brewery for not cleaning the pub or the toilets; or fixing the pumps - he now uses two beer pumps and one of them produces beer that is lifeless and he steadfastly refuses to sparkle it up. As a son of a former landlord and friends with a few good cellarmen, I can only presume that Al rarely cleans his pipes (although, looking at the amount of women he hangs onto, they're his only pipes that don't get cleaned) and both Roger and I have got dodgy hangovers from three pints, where we'd struggle for one from four pints at any of the pubs in the town that knows how to look after beer. Our regular quizmaster, himself a cellarman, is in a precarious situation. He's never said this, but I reckon he'd love to say something, but the pub pays him for two nights of entertainment a week and in this current austere world, he can't afford to be seen as a dissenting voice.

The pub isn't recovering. It seems that Al has sublet the accommodation and I wouldn't be surprised if he had lost a lot of interest in this project. There can be no other explanation as to why there is a piss poor selection of beers, wines and spirits; why the place looks like it could do with someone taking a can of Pledge to it and why he offers nothing but feeble excuses for the declining standards and makes no effort to improve them.

Stuff
  • Today I have been listening to George Gershwin.
  • I cannot get over how chilly it is.
  • Read a very good article by George Monbiot in today's Guardian - just another example of how the aristocracy is becoming a major player in the country again thanks to Cameron and his posh twat friends.
  • I have been enjoying a lovely coconut cake cooked by my lovely wife. Not keen on her coffee and walnut cake though.
  • Will 50 gallons suffice, sir?