Friday, 24 October 2014

you can hear her hum softly....

Earworms of the Week

"Do I Wanna Know?" - Arctic Monkeys

AM is an absolutely fantastic album; it rumbles with both menace and with melody.  They've come a long way as a band since their smash-bang debut album, but the Arctic Monkeys are also still completely recognisable as the same band.  This song is almost primal and it's absolutely brilliant.  C doesn't often express a like for music from my collection; she tolerates much of it, but can take or leave it in the main.  She likes the White Stripes, and I think she's a fan of early Kings of Leon.... and she loves this song.  

"Wonderful Christmastime"- Paul McCartney

I'm sorry, but here it is.  I don't know where it's come from, but it's a highly toxic earworm.  Approach with extreme caution... not least because it's only bloody October.

'Bootylicious" - Destiny's Child

I may have voted with my feet at Glastonbury and watched Queens of the Stone Age when Beyonce was headlining the Pyramid, but that doesn't mean I'm not ready for the jelly

"Gangsta's Paradise" - Coolio

My team found it a little hard to believe that I knew the lyrics to the start of this song.... but, to be honest, doesn't everyone?

As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I take a look at my life and realize there's nothing left

Of course, we were all thrilled to discover that, when we tried to find out what had happened to Coolio since this record, apparently he's branched out into cookery.  Cookin' With Coolio.  As the man himself says:

"Everything I cook tastes better than yo' momma's nipples."

Who could argue with that, or with the replacement of normal measures like tablespoon and teaspoon with "dimebag" and "nickelbag"?

"Rivers of Babylon" - Boney M

Impromptu team sing-a-long to a song that was released in 1978 before most of them were born and before I was really old enough to listen to music?  Why the hell not?  It was Friday, after all.

"Human Again" - Young Knives

The Young Knives popped up on my shuffle this week and, as happens every time I listen to them, I was struck by how good they are.  Their tunes are punchy and melodic and why they haven't been more successful beats the hell out of me. I suppose I should just be grateful that they're still finding ways to make and release music at all in the face of indifference.  Still, I imagine they're still pretty much the best thing to have ever come out of Loughborough.

"You Better You Bet" - The Who

Perhaps not from their golden era, but a cracker nonetheless.  I can never quite escape the feeling that Roger Daltrey is a shouty man who bellows a lot and basically just got lucky, but I suppose you can't argue with the record sales, can you?  I'd rather have a pint with him than Townshend, anyway.

"Man Smart, Woman Smarter" - Harry Belafonte

Listen Mike Read, you ignorant cockwomble, this is what a calypso is supposed to sound like.  Honestly,  you couldn't make UKIP up and making jokes at their expense is like shooting fish in a barrel.  It's just a shame they have a seat in Parliament and may win more at the next election.  I'm ashamed and embarrassed that apparently casual racism is okay now in this country.

"Big Louise" - Scott Walker
"Brando" - Scott Walker and Sunn 0)))

Superficially, you might think that there two songs from opposite ends of Scott Walker's career have very little in common beyond the singer.  The first is from Scott 3, pretty much at the absolute peak of Walker's golden years when his honeyed baritone was singing achingly beautiful, lushly orchestrated ballads.  The second is from his new album in collaboration with experimental drone metal band, Sunn 0))) and is very much at the avant-garde end of the spectrum, albeit without a percussionist slapping a side of pork.  Actually, if you listen to the lyrics of "Big Louise", you'll see that already it was clear that Walker wasn't just another just-starting-to-fade teen idol:

She stands all alone
You can hear her hum softly
From her fire escape in the sky
She fills the bags 'neath her eyes
With the moonbeams
And cries 'cause the world's passed her by

Beautiful.  Alright, so perhaps "Brando" is a bit more of a challenging listen, but you can hear the roots of where Walker was going very early.  It's not such a big leap from "Big Louise" (1969) to "The Electrician" (from Nite flights in 1978) and from there through to Walker's most recent albums, "Tilt", "The Drift" and "Bish Bosch".  A couple of listens in, and the new album seems a little more accessible than perhaps Walker has been recently, and is really very interesting indeed.  My favourite artist.  More than 70 years old and still endlessly interesting.

That's your lot.  Have a good weekend, y'all.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

a little bit taller....

On Sunday morning, my very busy wife left for a week long business trip to Beijing.  I had idly planned a day of doing nothing much more than watching films, but then chance intervened.  LB had mentioned the Hockley Hustle at Parkrun the day before, and now a flyer for the festival fell out of the copy of Leftlion that I picked up on Friday night.  It's a multi-venue, single day event with more than 400 artists performing on 40 stages around the Lace Market area in Nottingham town centre.  It's mostly local bands with the money raised going to local charities.

Looking at the running order, I could see that lots of the bands that I have reviewed for Leftlion over the last couple of years were playing: Band of Jackals, Bus Stop Madonnas, Captain Dangerous, The Golden Troubadours, Ropewalk....

Well, why not?  LB had asked if I fancied tagging along, and so I gladly took him up on his kind offer.

It was great fun.  I didn't tick all of those bands off my list, but I did see several of them, and I also saw fantastic sets by Gallery 47 at the Contemporary and Kane Ashmore at Antenna. I also got to meet the (new-ish) editor of Leftlion, a magazine that I've been writing music reviews for now for a little while now.  She recognised my name when we were introduced, frowned slightly and said:
"You're taller than I imagined".

Um.  Taller than average and therefore taller than you were expecting, or taller than you had imagined from reading my reviews of albums and EPs by local bands?  Is there something about the music of Nottingham's punk and metal bands that encourages fans of a smaller than average stature? Or is it perhaps my writing itself?

Be honest: do I write like a much shorter man?

It was a good day.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014


I've started running a bit more with my wife.

It's not like we never ran together before, because we did. We do.  When we are travelling or staying somewhere, we'll often take our running kit and go out together and it's really not that big a deal.  It's not something we do very often though, mostly for the very simple reason that we don't run at the same speed.  Let me give you a Parkrun 5km comparison: my best time around Colwick Park is 22:48.  My wife's PB is 28:56... and that was when I towed her around a couple of weeks ago and she broke her previous best by more than a minute.  That's quite a big difference in speed.  She's not running at her absolute fastest at the moment.  Her half marathon PB is something like 2hr 2m, and I'm pretty sure she's got a sub-2 hour race in her, but even so, there's more than a minute a mile difference in our pace.

I think the furthest we've ever run together is about 9 miles around the lake in Zell am See a couple of years ago, and I found it quite tough.  C's natural speed is a little between gears for me.... slower than my normal pace, but also quicker than my slower pace.  It's awkward for me and actually pretty tiring and I'm sure it's annoying for her too.  As we're going to be running the London Marathon together next year, I suppose we'd better both be getting used to it.

We've run together for the last couple of Parkruns.  On the whole, I've found it pretty liberating to be able to just enjoy running without feeling the need to kill myself every week looking for a PB.  I think C has found it nice running with me too, partly because we don't see each other all that much during the week and we get to spend some time together, but also because I help her to run faster.  She's finding her form and just starting to try and up her mileage, but she's been finding it tough: she has a very demanding job that takes up a lot of her time and energy and she's also getting over a cold.  At Parkrun on Saturday, she just didn't have anything in the tank and actually stopped a couple of times to catch her breath.

Now, I find stopping harder than running slowly.  My own personal approach to running is to flog myself unforgivingly: however I feel, whatever the weather is doing....I'll be out putting the miles on the clock.  I'm reluctant to stop because I'm afraid that one day I will be forced to stop for good.  I don't even really like to stop at traffic lights because it always feels harder to get started again than to just keep going.  I don't respond well to stopping. when my wife stopped at Parkrun on Saturday, the first time I just stopped and made sure she was okay, resuming when she was happy to start running again a few seconds later.  The second time, I tried to encourage her and tell her that she had less than a mile to go and suggesting - jokingly -  that we weren't walkers.  I was trying to be encouraging.  Apparently this didn't work.  She turned on me and snarled: "This is your mania, Tim.  Not mine".

At that point, I nearly ran off on my own at my own pace.  Fuck it.  I'm not giving up my own run to be spoken to like that and it wasn't even my idea to run the marathon together in the first place....only to enter and run myself.  It might be my mania, but I never asked anyone else to come along for the ride. Fortunately, I resisted the urge and we finished the run together.  Even with an empty tank, C managed a sprint finish, before bursting into tears.

She was less than a minute off her PB, even with the stops.  She made sure she finished in front of me too.  She always does.

I'm clear on my reasons for wanting to run 26.2 miles, but I think my wife's own motivations - even if she doesn't want to admit it even to herself - go beyond simply wanting to make sure that I don't break myself along the way.  Let's put it this way: my mania may well be my own, but I'm not the only one with manias in this marriage.

What a pair, eh?

I want to run the marathon with my wife and I'm actually looking forward to training with her because I like spending time with her and it will be wonderful to achieve this together.

....I think we might need to work on our teamwork though.

Monday, 20 October 2014

I'll see you burn...

I keep walking past a huge poster advertising Soltan. 

I don't generally scare easily and I'm not inclined to believe in the supernatural, but I've got to be honest with you here: this particular poster gives me the heebie-jeebies. If I was holding a casting call for an advert like that, I fairly sure that I wouldn't be looking for the spawn of Satan to stare demonically out of the poster, transfixing passers-by with that sulphurous gaze.  She's smiling, yes.... but she's smiling because she can see through you to your very soul and is planning an eternity of torture in the deepest circles of hell.   Look at how the sheer terror on the faces of the other figures in the poster; see how they're trying to pull away from this demon spawn but are held by some dark, diabolical force.

Soltan / Satan.   Even the product name is suspicious.  Hiding in plain sight, perhaps? Who really makes this stuff and what's their agenda?  Do they really want to protect our skin from the rays of the sun so that they can better roast it in the fires of the underworld for all eternity?

It's not just me, right?  It's all there in that poster.  Surely you can see it too?

No?  Look more closely.  Take a deep breath and let go your preconceptions.  Look behind the obvious and pierce the curtain of lies.

Don't just look, SEE.

Pretty freaky, right?


Friday, 17 October 2014

I'm easily ignited....

Earworms of the Week

Comfortably Numb” – Pink Floyd

I’m one of those people who is resolutely unexcited by the prospect of a new Pink Floyd album. That does not, however, mean that I’m not interested in Pink Floyd. I can’t remember the last time that I sat and listened to “The Wall” all of the way though, but I’m sure I’m hardly alone in finding it something of a slog. This popped on a playlist I was listening to the other day, and it’s an understated masterpiece. But of course, everyone in the world already knows that. As an occasional listener though, it’s good to be reminded of the fact from time-to-time, especially when you’ve been listening to a lot of metal….and that guitar solo is a delight.

Fire” – The Crazy World of Arthur Brown

I think I honestly would like this song played as the curtains draw in the crematorium and my mortal remains are turned to ash (I’d like to be dead before this process starts, ideally… so not like James Bond in Diamonds are Forever. No gay hit men either)

“Thank you Jesus, thank you Lord” – unknown

So, the lead developer on our project is a delightful Indian man. I like him, but I can honestly only understand about one word in four. Still, when he has this as his ringtone, an unbelievably cheesy sounding rendition of some devotional song or other, how could you not love him?  Great 'tache too.

Rattlesnakes” – Lloyd Cole

Shuffle is sometimes brilliant. Not so much when it coughs up something from one of the dustier corners of my 160gB iPod classic – frankly I daren’t listen to the “all songs” playlist on that unsupervised – but on a carefully chosen playlist, it can sometimes come up trumps…. As it did when I was a little over a mile into an evening run and just at the top of a long hill in the rain. [obligatory mention of the Tori Amos cover]

The Next Jet to Leave Moscow” – Manic Street Preachers

An old jaded commie walking in Red Square
With rediffusion eyes of yesteryear
I’m the biggest living hypocrite you’ll ever see
‘cos the market never lies and your conscience is so clear

So take your badges off
And do your show
Then catch the next flight to leave Moscow

So you played in Cuba did you like it brother?
I bet you felt proud you silly little fucker
And all the sixties dreamers called us English
Said we started something that they could finish

They might deny that "Take Me To The Bridge" is autobiographical, but this one seems seems fairly straight-forwardly about themselves, doesn't it?  "Futurology" is a superb album.  Superb.  So many years down the line and they honestly seem to be getting better and better.

Beat on the Brat” – The Ramones

I tried to explain to a colleague at work today how I wanted to buy a spoof Ramones t-shirt.  Something like this.  Sadly, this led to an explanation of what an actual Ramones t-shirt looked like, followed by an explanation of who the Ramones were, followed by a quick sing of "Rockaway Beach", "Sheena is a Punk Rocker" and "Beat on the Brat".  She was none the wiser, but I felt a lot better.

Beautiful Day” – U2
Space Oddity” – David Bowie

Bono hasn't had the best of weeks, what with having to apologise for inflicting their new album on a billion people free of charge.... but he'll be gratified to learn that, at some point this week, one of his more memorable songs found it's way into my head.  I'm a bit ambivalent about his band, which is a step up from about a decade of positively loathing them, but I do like this one.  Their set at Glastonbury in 2011 resolutely failed to take off (with Bono wearing a fat person's leather suit), but they did have a "live" link-up to the International Space Station, which isn't really something most other bands are able to do.  The commander there actually recited one of the verses to this song, and it was actually really very impressive.  Certainly not something that you see every day, anyway.  Thinking of a link up to the International Space Station obviously then took my head to David Bowie.  That's a better song, isn't it?  Nothing against U2, but I think they'd probably be the first to agree.

Getting Away With It” – James
Curse Curse” - James

James must be one of the most successful bands to be overlooked.  They've sold a lot of records over the years, but steadfastly seem to have refused to be as big as perhaps they might.  Their new album, "La Petit Morte" is excellent throughout, and "Curse Curse" draws the unlikely comparison between two people making love in the hotel room next door and Lionel Messi scoring for Barcelona and sending 100,000 men into ecstasy.  Singer Tim Booth lost his mother and one of his closest friends in the making of the album, so it's shot through with themes of mortality.  Still, it's slightly disappointing to read lazy music reviewers literally translating the album title as "the little death" and failing to see the play on words that might see that translated as the french expression for orgasm.. which is a lot more playful and makes a lot of sense when you listen to this song.  James seem to have been on something of a publicity drive for their new album, playing at the Rugby League Grand Final and other unlikely venues.  I watched their performance at the BBC Maida Vale studios for 6Music, and as well as playing a couple of new songs, they also played a couple of classics, including "Getting Away With It", a song that's relatively recent but had for some reason had more or less escaped my memory.  I actually saw them playing to a half-empty Rock City on the tour for "Pleased to Meet You".  So soon after their massive selling Greatest Hits, and the moment already looked to have disappeared. No matter. They're a good, interesting band, and it's great that they're still producing such fantastic music.

Right - that's your lot.  Have a good weekend y'all and see you on the other side.

Oh... did I mention: I've got a new job?

Thursday, 16 October 2014

write me back...

Back at the beginning of August, I wrote a letter to my MP. It's not the first time that I've written to Kenneth Clarke: I wrote to him about the Iraq war, and he sent me a splendid, three-page typewritten reply.  This time around, I was moved to write to him by the shocking killings in Palestine.

It took him a fair while to write back.  In fact, I was only thinking this morning that I was a bit disappointed not to hear back from him.  It's his last term in Parliament, having been the MP here since 1970.  Forty-four years service.  Still, he's 74 years old now, so I suppose the poor old boy is due a bit of a rest after a pretty stellar career (although no doubt not quite as stellar as he might have at one point hoped).  I'm not a Conservative voter by any stretch of the imagination, but if you had to pick a Conservative to represent you in Parliament, then I would suggest that you could do an awful lot worse than Ken Clarke.

I should never have doubted him.

In case you can't make that out, here's what he says:

"I am sorry that I have not replied earlier to the email that you sent to me, expressing your distress about the civilians, in particular children, being killed in the violence in Gaza.  I am afraid that I dealt with urgent personal cases in the last few weeks before the House of Commons adjourned and then I went away for a holiday.  I am only now catching up with summer correspondance.

I share all your distress about the bloodshed in Palestine and I have been following events as closely as I could while I was away in France and since I returned. Fortunately, the bloodshed has almost ended for the moment, but the situation remains very dangerous.

I think most people of reasonable sensitivity believe that Hamas should cease to fire rockets at Israel and Israel should cease to take military action that involves huge numbers of civilian casualties.  I very much hope that eventually some serious progress towards a negotiated peace and lasting settlement will take place.  Every outburst of violence polarises opinion and causes both sides and their supporters to become ever more entrenched and outraged by the atrocities of the other side.  I hope that the British Government will acknowledge the strength of feeling on both sides and will do all that it can, within our limited influence, to bring reasonable Palestinian and Israeli leaders to a negotiating table.

Thank you for writing to me and giving me your views, which I share completely, on this quite appalling tragedy.

Yours sincerely,

The Rt. Hon. Kenneth Clarke, QC, MP."

Maybe that's a boilerplate reply, at least in part, but you have to admire the man's style.

I rather fear that this constituency will be a UKIP target at the next election, without a well-established and well-loved MP in place to fight them off.  It's usually Ken first, and everyone else a long way back, with the Lib Dems the nearest.  Well, no one's voting for them next time around, and this constituency voted for UKIP at the European elections, so it's very possible we might be seeing a lot more of Nigel Farage (in spite of his Nottingham egging).  It's all too depressing for words.  I might have to get off my arse and help mobilise people to the polling stations.  If people are disillusioned and don't vote, they might as well be casting a vote for the idiots because they will surely benefit. As Edmund Burke wrote, 'All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.'


Wednesday, 15 October 2014

it's raining today...

I'm managing some testing at work at the moment.  As anyone who has ever done this before will know, this is often a very frustrating process.  I've had one of those days today where nothing really worked and I spent a lot of time running around from tester to tester, trying to help them to make their way through the testing.  It's not going very well, and by the end of the day, I had a dull ache behind my eyes and a strong urge to just go straight to bed.

I didn't go to bed, of course.  When do I ever listen to my body?  I went for a run, of course.

I knew I would be going out, and the very thought of it helped me to relax during the day because I knew that it would help to work the frustrations of the day out of my muscles.  In fact, I said to one of my colleagues during the course of the afternoon that I actually hoped it would start raining before I set off. I meant it too: I went running in the pouring rain on Monday night and it was a very satisfying experience.  You can only get wet once, so once you are wet, what's the problem?

I got my wish.  By the time I got on my bike to ride home, it was raining, and by the time I set off on my run, it was coming down in a steady stream.

Was the run easy? No.  Did I go very fast? Not really.  But I went out, and that's really what matters.  Another five miles in the bank and a good honest ache in my legs, not the weasel stiffness that set in this afternoon as I sat at my desk and was causing me to hobble.

Besides, what could be better than being completely alone with your own thoughts, running in the dark and listening to Scott Walker?

Tuesday, 14 October 2014


We popped to London this weekend.

We spent much of our time catching up with a pair of friends who were over from New York, but we did make the effort to get over to the Tower of London to check out this remarkable installation.

There will be 888,246 of these poppies by 11th November, each one representing a British casualty in the First World War.  Until I saw these with my own eyes, I'm not sure that I really understood how enormous a number that is.  The poppies just seem to spill out from everywhere and wash around the moat surrounding the Tower.  It's overwhelming and humbling.

I was very pleased to see that the installation seems to have generated a lot of interest and brought a huge crowd down to the side of the river Thames.  Less pleasing was quite how many of them thought that this would be the perfect opportunity for a selfie; some pouting and putting on their best seductive pose as they snapped a picture of themselves in front of a moving memorial to our War dead.  Right up there with all the selfies people were taking when we visited Ground Zero in New York.  People are weird and seem to have little idea of what might constitute appropriate behaviour in a place like this.  Still, they were there and perhaps they'll learn something.  You never know, right?

It's possible that I'm a crap citizen: I've never actually been to the Tower of London before, and we didn't actually pop in this time either.  We walked around the moat, admiring the poppies, the ravens and Traitor's Gate... but then left the crowds behind and headed off, via the unfathomable tunnels of Bank/Monument station (which are rumoured to be rearranged every night to make them more confusing).

The crown jewels can wait for another day: I had an appointment to get my beard pulled by a very precocious 4 year old, and who would want to be late for that?

Monday, 13 October 2014

time marches on...

I started the process for drafting a will this evening.  We've sort of been meaning to do this ever since we bought the house, more than a decade ago, but have only just got around to it.  Perhaps we're feeling a touch more mortal since we both hit forty.

I was doing fine until I was asked about what funeral arrangements I wanted.  They didn't want a full service order or anything like that -- we're playing The Crazy World of Arthur Brown's Fire, right? We're all agreed on that much at least. Maybe some Maiden too -- but they did want to know the basic stuff: what kind of casket? cremated? That kind of thing.

Clearly, I'm not religious.  I also don't much care what happens to my corpse after I'm done with it.  That said, I'm keen not to make too much of a dent on the environment either.  No hardwood casket for me.  Cremation and a cardboard box will do fine.

Hmm.  I had an idea.

"Is it possible to make a provision in my will that my beneficiaries have to turn my ashes into some kind of jewellery and that they then have to wear said articles of jewellery for a set period of time if they are to inherit?"
"Yes.  That would be a little unusual, but it's certainly possible"

Is it bad that I'm now thinking of how tasteless I could make that jewellery? Some kind of massive, hideous ring? A broach? Earrings? A tiara, perhaps? Something to remember me by?

Why would I come up with an idea like that?  Well, I once killed a guy, captured his soul, resurrected him, killed him again and then enchanted his soul into a gem which I then gave to his girlfriend.

Oh no, wait.... that was in Skyrim.

I think this evening's will session was in the real world, but frankly I'm finding it harder and harder to tell.  I don't think it matters much, to be honest.

Friday, 10 October 2014

sick, sober & sorry....

Today, for the first time, someone told me that I was walking like I was drunk.

Sadly, I wasn’t drunk at the time, I was simply walking down the office. I thought that I was walking in a straight line, but I apparently looked like I was about to lurch off sideways into one of the meeting rooms off the corridor at any moment. I sometimes get a bit stiff-legged the morning after a run, after my injection, or when I’ve been sat at my desk for a whole. I also know that, when I’m tired, I sometimes start to drag the left side of my body a bit… but until now, no one has ever told actually told me that I was walking as though I was inebriated. The person who told me this knows that I have MS and took the opportunity the next time she saw me to ask how I was, which was very kind of her. Other people probably see and draw their own conclusions.

Apparently this is a thing for people with MS. Enough of a thing that the MS Society have felt a need to produce a load of products to put in their Christmas Catalogue with the appallingly passive-aggressive slogan “I’m not drunk, I have MS” . If you really want to, you can buy t-shirts, pin badges and pint glasses emblazoned with the slogan. Personally, I think that this is proclaiming and revelling in your victim status a little bit too much and allowing yourself to be defined by your condition, but each to their own.

I suppose that when an MS Society survey claims that 50% of people with MS in the UK have had their symptoms confused with drunkenness, it’s probably not that surprising that people are sensitive about it. Can’t you just imagine people tutting at you if they think you’re drunk first thing in the morning because you’re having trouble walking? Well, fuck’em, I say. Let the ignorant fuckers think what they want. If I’m walking like that, I’ve got enough to be worrying about without adding that to the pile. I’m certainly not buying a humorous t-shirt about it. What if I was wearing a coat or they weren’t close enough to read my pin badge? They’d still be judging me, wouldn’t they? (and I’m not sure waving my pint glass at them would help to change their minds, to be honest)

I’m generally fine: I’m running more miles at a faster pace than ever before. All the same, I’d be lying if I said that this wasn’t playing on my mind a little bit. I am sometimes stiff-legged and I do sometimes walk slowly and a little unsteadily. Part of this is because I’m 40 years old and I’m stiff from yesterday’s run… but part of it is also due to my MS and it’s worse now than it used to be and might get worse yet before we’re done. One day, I might well need a stick (or more) to help me. Is that a terrifying prospect?

Maybe a little bit (although it does give me a chance to get a cane with a hip flask or a sword in it or something) Does that mean that I want to dwell on it and to maybe buy a slogan t-shirt in the hope that it will help people to view my condition with a little more understanding? Not really.

Personally, I’m with Steve from It’s a Shit Business on this one: we should print up a batch of t-shirts that say “Yes, I am drunk AND I have MS – Let’s Party!” (It would work better on a pint glass than the MS Society slogan, that's for sure).

 Maybe I should wear one when I’m running.