Monday, 21 July 2014

closed doors...

There was another article in the Guardian the other day about boarding schools.  "The damage boarding schools do".  It's a follow-up piece to something published a few months ago, where journalist Alex Renton wrote about the abuse he suffered at boarding school. As the introduction to this new article says, "Among the hundreds of emails he received from men wanting to share their experiences, there were others from women – wives, mothers, sisters - who have watched in horror as the men they love struggle with their demons. Here, he tells some of their stories"

I think I've written about this before somewhere, but I was sent to boarding school when I was seven years old, and I never really lived at home properly again afterwards.  I was never sexually abused at school or anything like that, and I wasn't even terribly homesick; I just adapted and survived.  It's what most people do.  I read some of the stories in that article, and it's eye-opening to see quite how massive a part school had in the lives of some of these people, and the real and lasting damage they think it caused them and the people around them.

I don't think I harbour any resentment towards my parents for sending me away when I was so young.  My dad was a GP, and we weren't wealthy by any stretch of the imagination.  My parents scrimped and saved to be able to send me to fee-paying school.  We spent our holidays with my grandparents in Plymouth and the only time we ever went abroad was when we went camping in Brittany when I was about fifteen.  If I feel anything, I feel humbled by their sacrifice; they clearly wanted the best for me and for my brothers and felt that this was the best.  Can you imagine how hard it must have been, especially for my mother, to send their seven year old son away?  How could I resent that?  My mum once asked me if I would ever send any children of my own to boarding school, and she got quite upset when I said no.  That no is an implicit criticism of her decisions, I suppose, but I've honestly never harboured them any ill-feeling for their choices.

That said, I never would send any children of mine to a school like this. They've changed out of all recognition, I'm sure. They have girls and everything now.... but I still wouldn't do it.  I boarded between the ages of 7 and 18 and, by the time I went off to university, my personality had been formed and shaped by the experience.  It wasn't until I got to university that I began to notice the differences.  I went to Warwick University, and the majority of people there had not been to fee-paying schools.  I was massively self-confident in some ways - for many people this was their first real time away from home and they revelled in the freedom; for me, this was old hat - but in other ways I was almost terrifyingly ill-formed.  Girls.  I had absolutely no idea.

Whilst I don't feel that my school experience has formed a huge, ever-present shadow over my life like some of the guys in that article, it definitely left its mark.  I find it hard to express or respond to emotions; I think I'm quite a closed person and I definitely bottle things up and clam up, putting my head into the sand and waiting for the storm to break around me.  It must be infuriating... but I'm trying.

Of course, all the best insight on an article in the Guardian can be found in the comments.  My favourite here is this one:

"Emotional damage caused by these schools is a feature, not a bug. It's meant to produce cold, heartless, emotionally stunted and cruel Tories like the ones running the country right now. It works quite well."

How dare you: I will never be a Tory.  I may be cold, heartless, emotionally stunted and possibly even cruel, but NEVER Tory.

Friday, 18 July 2014

the sun is out, I want some....

Earworms of the Week

Spring-Heeled Jim” – Morrissey

Apparently, Morrissey has just ranked his discography in order of preference. Being the contrarian that he is, he hasn’t put anything by the Smiths anywhere near the top, and has instead decided that his most recent albums deserve places in the top three, with his current album being his favourite. Well, I suppose that’s his prerogative, but he’s wrong. I listened to “Vauxhall and I” this morning, and it’s a lovely album with some brilliant songs on there – this one is hypnotic, but I could equally have picked “Now My Heart Is Full”. His voice has rarely sounded better than it does here. Sure, it lacks the lightness of touch and the deftness of Johnny Marr, but it’s a strong record. By coincidence, I heard “Istanbul” from the new album playing on the radio this morning. I won’t comment on the quality of the lyrics, but the instrumentation was just awful, lumpen, clunking rubbish. Mediocre at best. Quite why Morrissey has put up with such sub-standard backing for so long is a mystery. Perhaps he’ll never find a Johnny Marr, but his refusal to work with an equal partner in song-writing just seems self-defeating and wilfully perverse. Yeah, that pretty much sums him up though, doesn’t it?

Panic Station” – Muse

I often say that I can’t listen to classical music because it seems to very quickly make my head hurt. In the nicest way possible, Muse affect me like that a little bit too. Their particular brand of symphonic rock is fantastic, but I often struggle to listen to an album all the way though. Still, they’re a fantastic band and one of the best live acts I have ever seen. I could probably live without the Queen impersonations, but otherwise they’re great.

“Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon” – Neil Diamond / Urge Overkill

I watched Pulp Fiction on BluRay about a month ago. It was great. When this song popped up in my head the other day, I had to stop and think whether I was earworming the Neil Diamond original or the Urge Overkill cover from the film. In the end, I couldn’t decide, so I’m listing them both. My colleague were, I think, pleasantly surprised… I often sit at my desk humming “doobie doobie-doo” in idle tribute to the Sinatra version of “Strangers in the Night”…. Not this week. This is an altogether different class of in-office, at-desk singing material, isn’t it?

Sympathy For The Devil” – Rolling Stones


Bring it All Back” – S Club 7

So, you know what I was saying about shit songs I sing when I’m sitting at my desk, much to the amusement of my colleagues. Yeah. That. With this. Yeah. I KNOW.

New England” – Billy Bragg

This song – like a lot of songs by Bragg – means so much to me that it actually brings a tear to my eye. He’s often thought of as a political singer, but basically all of his best songs are about girls, aren’t they?

The Guns of Brixton” – The Clash

I heard a reggae cover of this on the radio as we took the cat to the vet the other day.  Not Jimmy Cliff or Nouvelle Vague.  Female singer.  Pretty good. It took me a few moments to recognise the song, and it’s hardly a surprise that it sounds good when played in this style, but it’s just goes to show that it’s hard to ruin a properly good song, isn’t it? Actually, that’s probably nonsense, isn’t it? As Billy Bleach said on the Fast Show when referring to “Billy, Don’t Be A Hero” by Paper Lace. One day someone will cover that and ruin it.

Psychotherapy” – The Ramones
Rockaway Beach” – The Ramones

Johnny Ramone was the last of the originals. I know they’ve sold a lot of t-shirts (and I wonder how much money any of them actually made from those…. Not much, I would bet), but people forget what a good band they were. My favourite is “Rockaway Beach”, which is practically a 1950s rock n’roll song, but the song that introduced me to the band (via Skid Row) was “Psycho Therapy”. I actually started learning that on the ukulele. I should pick that up again. The Ramones and Johnny Cash on the uke. Yeah, I like the sound of that.

Intense Humming of Evil” – Manic Street Preachers
The Everlasting” – Manic Street Preachers

I’ve listened to an awful lot of Manics this week, both old and new. I’ve written about them here already this week, so I won’t labour my point too much here. Suffice it to say that they’re a bloody excellent band. There was an article on the Guardian the other day about great albums with one duff song. I would nominate “SYMM” from “This Is My Truth Tell Me Yours”. It’s a horrific, clumsy song that jars appallingly on an otherwise excellent album. My good friend Flash would actually nominate “The Intense Humming of Evil” from “The Holy Bible”, which just goes to show that his ears are painted on.

Right. That will do. Have a good weekend, y’all.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

fall into me, the sky's crimson tears...

I like t-shirts.  I have a lot of t-shirts.  Too many, my wife would tell you.  As habits go, I reckon that you could do a lot worse than collecting t-shirts.  I wouldn't say that it is a compulsion, but there is something appealing about being able to display your taste quite so obviously to everyone else.  I read some really cool books and have astonishingly good music taste, but you'd probably have to know me a little bit to be aware of that.  Your t-shirts, however, are a very public form of display.  Just as life is too short and too precious to waste eating crappy food, I feel much the same way about the t-shirts that I wear.

Every single one tells a story, whether it's of a great gig that I attended, a band or film that I love or just something that makes me laugh.  A quick peak into the sports section of my collection and I have souvenir t-shirts from two Olympics (2004, 2012),  celebrating rugby, skiing, running, cricket, ice hockey, scuba diving, sky diving...; I have a burgeoning geek section (Ghostbusters, Anchorman, Alien, the Incredible Hulk, Superman, Rocky, Star Wars....); bands (Metallica, Iron Maiden, Madness, Billy Bragg, Scott Walker, Led Zeppelin, Young Knives....)

Yeah.  I've got a lot of t-shirts alright.

But I don't have a t-shirt of a vampire cat wearing a cape and bow tie, standing in front of a blood moon.


Behold Catula!

I first saw this t-shirt in a shop window in New York in January and I was so taken with it that I nearly bought it on the spot.   Foolishly, I walked away and regretted it almost immediately.  Seven months later, something made me think of it again, so I actually started looking for it in earnest on the internet.  Google is amazing, isn't it?  But honestly, using search terms like "vampire cat red bow tie moon" brings you back a surprising amount of results to wade through.

... but I got there!  You can buy it here (along with some other cool looking shirts).  I ordered it last week, and it arrived today.


Wednesday, 16 July 2014

agony's last edge

I’ve been listening to Manic Street Preachers a lot this week. They’ve just released “Futurology”, their 12th studio album and it’s really very good (although I actually like the demo versions of the album that were included as a bonus with the download even more).

They’re one of those bands that I’ve followed almost since the very beginning, listening to “Generation Terrorists” and listening to the likes of “NatWest-Barclays-Midland-Lloyds”, “Slash and Burn” and “Motorcycle Emptiness” as a teenager with my best friend at school. Unbelievably, they’ve been together now for twenty-five years and have made many more albums without Richie Edwards than they ever did with him (he disappeared, presumed dead, in 1995).

They’re not the band they were back then, and “Rewind the Film”, their album from last year, was positively elegiac, the sound of a band reflecting on the past. It wasn’t to everyone’s taste, but I loved it. Then again, I’m not quite the same person as that awkward teenager either.

For me, their absolute high point (so far) was their third album, “The Holy Bible”. I saw them performing songs from it at the Reading Festival in 1994, and actually stopped at Milton Keynes shopping centre on the way home to try and buy it. Back then – and readers under the age of thirty may struggle to believe this – although the album was released that Monday, it was a bank holiday and literally all of the shops were shut and I had no way of making the purchase. Amazing, eh? Imagine that.

It’s incredibly bleak and unflinching in its examination of some of mankind’s darkest moments and urges. It’s not always an easy listen, but in twenty years of listening, I’ve never grown tired of it. I was studying in Venice for a few months from September in 1994, and I often listened to a cassette of the album as I walked back through the deserted city in the small hours of the morning. Some of the lyrics are remarkable. How about this, from “4st7lb” as a description of anorexia:

I want to walk in the snow and not leave a footprint.
I want to walk in the snow and not soil its purity

Or this from "The Intense Humming of Evil":

6 million screaming souls
Maybe misery - maybe nothing at all
Lives that wouldn't have changed a thing
Never counted - never mattered - never be

I’ve always been a lyrics man, but that’s in a different ballpark to some of their contemporaries, isn’t it?

What a life it would be
If you could come to mine for tea
I'll pick you up at half past three
We'll have lasagne

Wow. Deep, Noel. Deep. Mind you, I’d rather Oasis wrote songs on inconsequential subjects as, to be honest, I’d rather not hear them attempting to tackle the Holocaust.  Can you imagine?

The Manics have been playing material from the Holy Bible in their live sets recently- they played a couple at Glastonbury – and there’s talk that they might take a 20th anniversary tour out onto the road in the winter. I’m all over that, if it’s true. What a band.

I wonder if they took their own toilet to Glastonbury this year?

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

don't stop, it'll soon be here...

My running club has a loyalty card: every week you turn up, you get a stamp.  It is valid for exactly a year from your first stamp.  After a defined number of stamps, you get some loyalty rewards.  Five weeks is a technical club running t-shirt; twenty-five weeks is a nutrition pack; thirty is a foam roller and fifty - that's attending at least one run a week for fifty weeks out of a possible fifty-three - is the big one. It changes from year to year, but last year it was a Garmin GPS watch worth more than £250, and this year it's £100 towards a pair of trainers.  Worth having, I'm sure you'll agree.... but it's quite a commitment to get that far.

I'm very proud of the fact that I got my watch last year.

Last week, the day I got back from Glastonbury, I earned my 50th stamp for this year and thus qualified for the trainers.  If anything, I was even prouder of my achievement this year because I have never been so injured and yet apparently I'm stupid/determined enough to keep on running.

I'm sure a psychologist would have a field day, but I'm determined to keep on running and there's very little that I will let stop me from achieving my goals: weather, injury, multiple sclerosis or anything else.

It's that last one that's probably the most significant: multiple sclerosis.  Although I'm relatively very lightly affected by my MS so far, it still triggers fatigue, pins & needles, numbness and - this year's discovery - muscle weakness.  My right leg is now apparently noticeably more muscled than my left.  When I get tired, my left side drags and I'm starting to pick up various niggles in my foot, knee and hip. One day, this might stop me running.  But not yet.... and whilst I can run, I damn well will.

I learned an important lesson at Glastonbury this year: the Festival is massive and you spend loads of time walking miles and miles around the site and standing up all day.  As if that wasn't enough, at the start and end of the festival, you lug enormous amounts of stuff around on your back to and from the car parks.  It's exhausting.

But you know what?  The six days I spent at the Festival were probably the longest amount of time I spent all year without going out for a run.  The festival wore me out, but in a very real sense was less taxing than the normal routine I flog myself with week after week.  As a result, all those annoying little niggles stopped hurting and then began to disappear altogether: my hip, my ankles and the plantar fascia in my left foot all stopped aching.  It was brilliant, and it also taught me that sometimes.... just from time to time... not going for a run can be a good thing.

So what did I do when I got back? I went for a run.  It felt good.  Nothing started hurting.  I went on several more runs, mostly between four and five miles.  They felt good too.  Resting is good!  Then, yesterday, I went out for an eight mile run with running club, the first stamp on my new card; the first stamp of what will probably be - come hell or high water - another fifty stamps.

I'd spent the five days before that sitting in the sunshine at Trent Bridge watching the cricket and drinking beer with my friends (well, with a short run thrown in on Thursday morning, obviously).  After all that, I was itching to getting out for a proper run.  Then about six-and-a-half miles into this eight mile run, I realised that I'd gone far enough.  Over the course of the remaining mile-and-a-half, my hip started to hurt again and I started to lurch as I began to drag my weaker left side.


So, after what I learned at Glastonbury, am I going to rest or take it easier for a while?  No.  Of course not.

I've run 417 miles so far this year.  A little over halfway through the year, and already 69% of the way towards my target of 600 miles by the end of December.

Rest?  Are you crazy? I should be well towards 800 miles if I carry on at this rate.

(Unless I break).

I think I'm going to try a marathon next year.

Monday, 14 July 2014

...and it opened up my eyes

My secondment in my current job role finishes at the end of September.  In the ten or eleven months that I've been doing the job, I've really rediscovered my enthusiasm.  I was a little bit reluctant to take up the role, oddly reticent to leave the IT department, but it's been brilliant.  I've loved having a role with a wider influence, working on a project I believe in, and I've especially loved having responsibility for a great team of bright young sparks.  All good things, it seems, must come to an end.

I'm not particularly worried about going back to the IT department.  My last eighteen months there were miserable, sure, and I only have to read my posts on the subject here at the time to know that it was a dark period for me.  In truth, though, that was mostly down to the man who was managing me through that time, and that man has now left the business under something of a cloud (caused by his own toxic incompetence, but there you go.  He's gone now).  There are good people working in IT, and I have a lot of friends there.  I have no fears about a return.... although I have learned in the last year that I should probably look for a job elsewhere because the things that I clearly find fulfilling are more easily found in other places.  It has to be the right job though, and there's no rush.  After all, it would be worse to jump into the *wrong* job than to return to my old job.  At least I can say that I know myself better and understand better what it is I want from a job.  The secondment has been worth it just for that.

That said, I had a meeting with my old boss today to discuss my return, and it is painfully apparent that he has done absolutely nothing to prepare for my imminent return and was distinctly diffident about the fact that I'm coming back.  I present him with a problem that he clearly doesn't want to think about: he didn't know what he was going to do with me and he even went as far as to say that he was worried that I would be bored, frustrated and would become a disruptive influence.

Well, I think that's a bit premature, to be honest, and more than a little unfair.

He's a decent guy and I like him, but the meeting was a reminder that he's not a good line manager, however well-intentioned he is.  He's well thought of in IT and is actually on a leadership development programme.  Good for him and good for them, but after fifteen years in the same department, twelve months working somewhere else has given me a fresh perspective on these things and I don't really like what I see when I look back.

I'll go back in the short-term if I have to, but how many more signs do I need that I ought to be doing something else?

Just any kind of sign. I'll keep on looking for it....

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

what a perfect waste of time.....

There have got to be worse things to be doing on a Wednesday, right?

.... and a Thursday.  And a Friday.  And a Saturday.  And a Sunday.

If there's a better game than cricket, then I don't know what it is.  There also can't be many better places in the world to watch a Test Match than Trent Bridge.

The first Test Match I ever attended was here in 1993.  It's not really a coincidence that, after I moved to Nottingham, I made sure that I lived within easy walking distance of the ground.  Fifteen years later, and I'm now a member and I'm getting into the habit of attending every single day of the Test here.  Every day is different: Wednesday and Thursday, I'm attending with my father-in-law.  After the success of doing the same thing at the Ashes Test last year. He loves cricket and lives in France, so it's really special to be able to spend time with him watching a game we both love.  He watched Dennis Compton batting here, you know....  The weekend is different, and I'll be watching with my friends and drinking beer and talking nonsense.  Various other people I know are up for the game too, and I'll pop out during the lunch and tea intervals to catch up with them and to have a drink.  You have to love a sport that stops for meals, right?

The best thing about being a member?  I get access to the pavilion and can have decent pint and a civilised toilet break away from the hustle and bustle of the hoi polloi.  At my age, it's the little luxuries like this that make life tolerable.

It's the Australians visiting for the fourth test of the Ashes series in 2015... so something to look forward to already.  Even if you don't particularly like cricket, then this is still a splendid way to spend a few days, sitting in the sun, drinking beer and chatting to your mates.  Perfect.

Who's in?

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

this mess we're in....

I had a coaching session with my boss this afternoon.  Not as painful as it sounds, it was actually okay and it's nice to work for someone who is genuinely interested in these things.  I was left entirely stumped though when I was asked for three words to describe how my team might describe me, three words for how my friends might describe me and three words for how my wife might describe me.

I honestly have no idea.  Er.  Loyal?  Approachable?  Annoying?

I scratched my head for a while and thought hard.  It's a difficult question to answer.  It ought to be a straightforward exercise, but I found it really difficult.

When I thought about the words that C. might use to describe me, I did have a flash of inspiration.


Mostly untidy though, I think.

Monday, 7 July 2014

it's the last time you will!

(Glastonbury) Earworms of the Week

Sorry to be predictable, but let’s put this year’s Glastonbury to bed in the traditional manner with a set of earworms. To be honest, it would be quite dishonest to pretend that I’ve been humming anything else (with the possible exception of Billy Joel….)

Also sorry to be late, but y'know.  Poo-based explosions, lost broadband and all that.

I Predict a Riot” – Kaiser Chiefs
Hanging on the Telephone” – Blondie

The first two acts on the Other Stage on Friday lunchtime. The Kaiser Chiefs were the “Special Guests” and came on first. Well, I suppose it could have been worse: in 2013 we had Beady Eye in this slot and I was treated to the appalling spectre of Liam Gallagher’s sulky whine and brainless lyrics. Ugh. That day, we were rescued by the Hives. This time around, it wasn’t quite that bad. Perhaps wisely, they came on to “I Predict a Riot”, and within a few minutes the crowd had doubled. They weren’t terrible, but their earlier stuff is much better than their later stuff, and Ricky Wilson seemed determined to show off his newfound fitness by running as fast as he could all the way along the stage. A lot. Yes, yes. We get it. Blondie were on next and played to a predictably enormous crowd. They were pretty good. I’ve read some reviews that have suggested that Debbie Harry doesn’t have it any more, but I disagree: she was great. With songs like this, you can’t really go wrong can you?

Video Games” – Lana Del Rey

I didn’t pay a great deal of attention when she played on Sunday afternoon, but I was sat at the very back of the Pyramid arena enjoying the sunshine and just listened. She sounded good; icy cool. What came across most clearly to me is what a good song this is and how well she delivered it. Perhaps if I’d been paying more attention, I might have been bored… but as it was, this was just fine.

If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next” – Manic Street Preachers

The Manics are about to release the 12th album of their career, and they seem to be in rude health. They played on Saturday evening, just before the Pixies (and just before I left to watch Metallica), and they had an absolutely massive crowd. They seemed in good spirits too, and opened their set with “Motorcycle Emptiness” before playing a set heavy on the hits and including two songs from “The Holy Bible”, an album that they’re apparently thinking about touring on it’s 20th anniversary. Well, I’ll be all over that if it happens. I could have picked almost any song on the setlist, to be honest, including the new ones, but I’m picking this because it prompted an enormous singalong that brought a huge smile to Nicky Wire’s face. As he said at the end of the song, he’s so proud that they got a song with these politics to number one in the UK singles chart. Fantastic band. The new album is out on Monday.

Jolene” – Dolly Parton

Obviously. Was she miming? Perhaps, but she drew an absolutely vast crowd and was very, very entertaining. At one point, we were treated to her playing the theme tune to Benny Hill on a tiny, rhinestone studded saxophone. A little later on, just when I thought things couldn’t get any stranger, Dolly brought on Richie Sambora to play with her on a cover of Bon Jovi’s “Lay Your Hands on Me”. All very well, but this had to be the highlight, didn’t it?

The Devil Takes Care of his Own” – Band of Skulls

Until I saw Metallica, Band of Skulls were the rockest band that I saw. You can’t say fairer than that, can you? Not too shabby for a three-piece, either.

The Milkman of Human Kindness” – Billy Bragg

He’s a Glastonbury fixture, obviously. I didn’t spend all that much time at the Leftfield this year, but I did make a point of heading straight over there after Elbow finished their fantastic sundowner set to catch the Braggster. As we arrived, he was just playing “Sexuality” and from there on he was magnificent. He didn’t just sing, of course, but also took the time to preach to the converted. To my ears, he sometimes comes across as hopelessly na├»ve. When he talks about how we need to unionise so that someone can represent us to “the bosses”, I couldn’t help but wonder who he thought “the bosses” were. Still, his heart is clearly in the right place, and why would you want to criticise him for his perpetual optimism?

Buffalo Soldier” – The Wailers

I had been thinking about cutting my trip to West Holts short to get back across to the Pyramid stage to watch the Black Keys, but in the end, I’m really glad that I stayed. The sun was out, and how can you go wrong listening to Bob Marley’s band playing some of their hits? They had a pretty big crowd and we all enjoyed a lovely sing-song to some of the best songs ever written. I don’t spend enough time with my wife, but we did share this and it was lovely.

Creeping Death” – Metallica
For Whom the Bell Tolls” – Metallica

How could I write this list and not finish with Metallica? After a career of more than thirty years at the top, it seems odd to see them in the role of underdog, but they genuinely were. Anyone who’s ever seen them play live before would have been in no doubt about their ability to deliver…. Nevermind the press, even on the day of their set itself, we were sharing a table in the Tiny Tea Tent with a young couple, and both of them remarked upon my Metallica t-shirt, said it was the first they had seen and wondering if anyone was going to turn up to watch them. People turned up. Initially it was a committed crowd at the front, a bit of a gap and the curious-but-scared at the back, but it grew and grew, and by the time they played “Enter Sandman”, they a huge crowd eating out of the palm of their hands. I was in heaven throughout. I loved it all, but one thing that really stood out for me was the quality of the songs they played from “Ride the Lightning”. I’ve listened to “Master of Puppets” a lot over the last few months, but when the band came on to “Creeping Death” and “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, and later on played “Fade to Black”, it prompted me to dig the album out when I got home. I’ve also now downloaded the whole of their set from the website (they offer up high quality audio from the sound desk), and I’ve not listened to much else since. DO YOU WANT HEAVY? METALLICA GIVES YOU HEAVY!
(Do you think James Hetfield always talks in the third person? “Metallica wants a biscuit with their cup of tea….” I like to think so…
Word up here for Rodrigo and Gabriela, who were C's favourite band of the weekend and who rocked the Pyramid at lunchtime on Friday with their flamenco guitar cover of "Orion" *makes devil horns* (Metallica were her second favourite, and she's not even a fan!)

Oh, that’ll do for now. I’ve gone on about this enough. Test Match week in Nottingham this week! One of my favourites.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

I predict a riot....

At some point on Friday evening, there was an explosion and a burst of fire from a manhole cover underneath a West Bridgford street.  Shortly after that, Virgin Media lost coverage across this part of town.  For us, that meant we lost internet.

Service wasn't restored until around 10pm on Sunday evening.  That meant a whole weekend without broadband.  I know.... how did we survive, right?  It wasn't so bad when my phone had a 4G signal, but when service degraded to GPRS, it was like living in the Dark Ages.  I was a bit annoyed when Virgin updated their online status this morning to say that everything had been fixed, when clearly it had not.  I rang them to see what was going on and was immediately given a £5 credit to cover the loss of service... compensation that apparently I would not have received if I hadn't rung them up.  But, you know, these things happen.  There's not a lot even the best prepared company could do to counter an underground explosion that takes out their service right?  That might take a while to fix, no?

Apparently not everyone in this leafy, affluent suburb is as understanding as me.  Apparently, the engineers working on the problem were being abused in the street as they tried to restore service.  This was no laughing matter, according to commentators on a local newswire:

Mike Buckley said – “For those thinking this isn’t a big deal, you don’t have a house full of moaning kids or rely on the internet for work, or in my case both. Virgin have been appalling dealing with this and while I’ll not bash the engineers I can see why people are frustrated. I’ll be cancelling ASAP.”

Well, thanks for that insight, Mike Buckley.

1) Middle class problem.
2) Abusing engineers working on the issue doesn't help anyone
3) Really, what could Virgin do? How would Sky or someone else have been any different in the same circumstances?  This is actually the first sustained outage from Virgin I can remember in years.

Honestly, I know that it's annoying to lose internet and things for a couple of days, but really it just shows how much we all take the service for granted that we just expect it to be there.  I'm always reminded how good our fibreoptic broadband service is when I visit my parents in Northamptonshire or my friends in Oxford.  We have it pretty good.

How thin our veneer of civilisation is: all it takes is a broadband outage or a fuel shortage or something like that and within hours people are reaching for their pitchforks and flaming torches and forming lynch mobs.



Coverage has been restored, and the good people of West Bridgford have resumed the on-demand downloading of their favourite television programmes, but I don't think things cab ever be quite the same again.