Thursday, September 28, 2006
This comes two months after a 17 year West Indian boy was shot in the chest at point blank range and died at the end of our road and one month after a car had it's tyres shot out again at the end of our road.
There's a gang war going on all around us and no one's talking about it. Sorry, everybody round here's talking about it, but nobody important. Why? They're closing down schools because of this shit.
Withnail and I is 20 years old next year. IMO still the finest British comedy of all time and without a shadow of a doubt Richard E Grant's finest performance. Playing an alcoholoic smoker when you're allergic to alcohol is a pretty tough call, but Grant did it with aplomb. As a celebration they're bringing out an anniversary DVD. Get it.
My office is 2 minutes from Tate Modern and normally people in ties round these parts get poked with sticks and pointed at. Unless of course it's some sort of eccentric cravatt, in which case they get asked their opinion about Mark Rothko.
However, cross the Millennium Bridge and you wade into a sea of suits and ties. It's quite extraordinary and strangely bizarre. I used to have a few finance clients, but it's been years since I've worked in the sector and I'd forgotten how it was. I basically now have gaming and software clients and on the whole those guys work in offices where you're lucky if the personnel have washed their clothes, let alone wear a tie.
One thing did strike me though, having been out of the suit and tie game for a wee while. I've fallen behind on what people are wearing these days. It would appear that the main fashion sweeping the city is shirts and ties that should never ever be in the same room together, let alone worn by the same high flying, pond-hopping finance exec. I'm sorry, but wearing a white and blue striped shirt with a gold and black striped tie, looks shit. Please don't try and persuade me that it's fashionable, because I know that at the weekend you climb into a wardrobe that was all bought at Boden and the Salcombe Clothing Company by your long suffering wife and you rebuy brown leather boat shoes every 4 or 5 years, because your previous pair has a hole in them.
I'm a huge advocate of the BBC. I think £140 for the quality of programming we get in the
However, watching the BBC 10'o'clock news last night, Nic and I spent most of the time open mouthed. I'm not sure I've ever watched a more emotive bulletin in my life.
First up organ donation in
Huw Edwards then went on to interview the correspondent saying. ''What many of the viewers will be horrified at tonight, is the amount of executions that are occurring in china'' WTF. Yes I am horrified Huw, but please don't make the assumption on my part, I'm sure there are some veiwers who think it's great and you know what they now hate you for assuming they're horrified.
This was Auntie Beeb at it's worst, telling the viewing public what they should feel. It was agenda setting propoganda, not public service. 'You sit there and we'll tell you what's what'. It left both of us wondering what the agenda was, for the first time ever. You expect this from Fox or CNN, but not the beeb.
Next up we had the report on the leaked War on Terror documents in the
Then cut to the war on the ground in
Third up was Brazilian cleaner Roselane Driza, found guilty of blackmailing a high court judge over a sex tape he'd made with his high court judge lover. If 'Heat' had a TV channel they couldn't do a better job than this sensationalist nonsense.
The whole thing from beginning to end has rather rocked my faith in the neutrality and quality of the BBC. One half an hour programme has done an awful lot of damage.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
I thought I'd include the image because it made me laugh. I google imaged 'compensation man' and this is what I got. It is contained on the website of 'access2compensation'
Anyway, I'm not physically injured, although I'm quite surprised I'm not. I was cycling along the A3 as normal this morning. I'd stopped, behind a bus at some lights and on turning green, I headed off behind the bus and up the cycle lane, I kept pace with the bus for about 50m and then all of a sudden I hit the mother of all potholes. The bus had gone straight over the top of it and as I wasn't able to see it, I just rode straight through it.
In so doing, both my front and back lights popped out of their housings and both smashed on the cycle lane. Actually, I tell a lie. The back one popped out completely, the front one stayed firm but the front of it literally ripped off and just left the bit of black plastic that constitutes the back of the light. Amazingly I didn't pop a tyre and my wheels remained unbuckled. I'm not sure how, as this thing was about 75 cm across and about 20 cm deep. It baffles me, how something like this can suddenly appear out of nowhere and not be spotted because as far as I remember I don't recall seeing it yesterday or the day before.
After some ringing round, I eventually got through to TFL who are responsible for the maintenance of the 220km of bus lanes in London and lodged the report of the pothole and then asked whether I could claim for my damaged lights. The customer services representative said certainly and put me through to a firm of what I assume are solicitors, that deal with compensation claims of this type. The guy I spoke to said he would send me out some claim forms, do some further investigation and then come back with a response to my request, but he said it sounded fairly straightforward and on that basis, he didn't think it would take very long.
Am I right to complain? To be honest if I hadn't bought the lights just 2 weeks ago I'm not sure I would have bothered, but the set cost me £35 and although it's not a huge amount of money, I think it's worth claiming for, if it's possible. After all there was nothing I could have done to avoid it (cue, lots of people saying, I should have been watching where I was going). Incidentally, I was recounting the tale to a work colleague who cycles the same route as me and he said 'Oh yeah, I saw that this morning and did think someone ought to ring the council and tell them about it' so I feel slightly vindicated and not completely mad.
So whaddya reckon. Am I just fuelling compensation culture, or am I fully justified in making my claim? Answers on a postcard please (or an online comment if you must).
Friday, September 22, 2006
He still only watches videos (yeah remember them) and DVDs and even then only about 15 or 20 minutes a day. OK so it was about 2 and half hours at the weekend when we were hungover.
But in the main we've kept it very low key and until the last couple of weeks we haven't had any telly tantrums.
We recently had some neighbours move out with their 15 and 17 year old kids and became the inheritors of the kids' videos. Then when our new next door neighbours arrived we inherited their 13 and 15 year olds' videos. Flicking through we actually got some crackers.
Anyway we started off with a revisitation of Jungle Book, which in my opinion is possibly the finest Disney movie ever made, it's definitely got the best score and Eben loved it, but last weekend we thought we'd take a look at Dumbo.
Neither of us had seen Dumbo as kids, so we were watching it for the first time ourselves. What a crock of disjointed crap. It's bloody awful. Both Nic and I hated it. Problem is Eben loves it and this morning I had a proper huff when I wouldn't let him watch it. Yes I would rather he was doing a jigsaw, but more selfishly, I didn't want to sit through the interminable mess of a movie.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Iain Dale , Ros Taylor and Guido Fawkes have started fighting. I'm not sure I believe a lot of what the political commentators are writing at the moment. Dale is a big head of the smuggest kind, Taylor is a luddite and Guido's basically just a troll.
It's all so much vanity in one place. Lol, I know it's all vanity, but the worst thing that can happen to some bloggers is they start getting hits. Dale's become almost unbearable since his 'success' on the Prescott scandal.
This bloging lark's getting out of hand.
...I always watch the Ryder Cup, or at least the singles on the final day. There's something about the drama of the Ryder Cup that is utterly compelling. Bring it on.
You may or may not have noticed what had appeared to be, early autumnal onset for the Horse Chestnet tree. Long before all the other trees started turning this year the 'conker' trees were going brown.
My initial reaction was to think that there was a weird onset of early autumn. What with the late spring, the record breaking hot July then the absurdly wet August, I didn't really think that the conker trees trurning brown was that odd. However, the horse chestnut is under attack from the worst tree blight seen since Dutch Elm disease wiped out the entire population back in the 70s.
The trees are under three pronged attack from drought, moth larvae and disease, and thousands of trees are literally dying where they stand. Many trees have failed to produced conkers this year and as many as 10% may be under threat this year.
However, as these are very much an urban tree and effected trees may lose branches, even if unlikely to die many may be felled for traffic and pedestrian safety reasons.
At present there is no way of knowing how this will effect the population. I for one am hoping they make through, I'd love my boys to waste the amount of hours I did throwing sticks in to the higher reaches of treetops.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Oh and my wedding anniversary. Ahhhhhh flowerz tis then aha.
Doesn't matter how sophisticated your weaponry becomes, operating in a country that essentially lives with a stone age infrastructure is not going to be a quick jaunt.
Anyone who grew up in South London during the past 150 years will have been aware of the Youngs pub. It's an institution. If you lived in Wandsworth and it's environs you'll also be aware of the Youngs horse and cart that took beer from the Ram brewery in Wandsworth Town Centre to the local pubs.
I've never been a huge fan of bitter, but Youngs has always been different. It was something I grew up with and it's the first pint my dad ever bought for me in a pub (pint of mixed - half ordinary, half special), so it has a special place in my heart.
John Young upheld the Young family tradition by dogmatically standing by bitter in the face of the onslaught from lager brewing. Long before CAMRA became the force it is now he was standing firm for bitter and he won, he maintained the brewery in Wandsworth and grew the business.
My personal contact with John Young was via the County Arms on Trinity Road. The pub is cavernous and up until 2003 it had this amazing smokey, junk shop feel to it, hung with huge chandeliers throughout and a cubby hole around every corner, it had a real feeling of South London about it. It was a favourite hang out of the guards at Wandsworth Prison which stands just 200 yards away and come friday night you could be assured of a nasty brawl.
However, give the areas demographic these days the gastro makeover was inevitable. The brewery poured £600,000 in to the refit and it is now a much more sanitised place. Nice, but not nowhere near the character.
Anyway it would appear that the brewer may have invsted the money for their own purposes, you would regularly see them come in for board lunches, chaired by John Young. He cut a frail figure, but would head the table and make the speech and on deliberately overhearing him was a very engaging orator.
Rather sadly the share price has risen following Mr Young's death, fuelled by rumours that the brewery is ripe for take over. His two sons who are the 57% majority shareholders, do not have a direct interest in the business, so it is likely they will be swallowed up by one of the big breweries. Youngs have already moved their brewing to Bedford following a merger with Charles Wells a couple of months ago. My hope is that Youngs pubs retain their character.
Times obituary here
Rather interestingly the episode was all about the introduction of special measures that would effectively abolish the need for parliament and introduce a full dictatorship to Britain.
The fictional name for the bill that would allow this transition to dictatorship was 'the Executive and Regulatory Reform Bill' and it was supposedly being introduced to safeguard the British people from terrorist threat. Of course as with all great conspiracy theories the terrorist attrocities that were occuring were being undertaken by government themselves to smooth the transition of the bill.
You may remember a post I wrote back in May about a bill that was currently before the lords under the 'spookily' similar name of the Regulatory and Legislative Reform Bill. Rather interestingly this bill was introduced under nothing so high profile, or dramatic as safeguarding against terrorism. Nope this was being brought in according to Daniel Finkelstein in The Times as follows:
''The Government claims that it has no malign intention in introducing the reform to parliamentary procedures. It is just that it has such ambitious plans for deregulation — or “better regulation” as it rather suspiciously calls it — that Parliament won’t be able to cope. The previous Regulatory Reform Act, passed in 2001, was so hedged around with conditions and safeguards that it took longer to produce a regulatory reform order than it did to produce a Bill. So this time, the Government wants more sweeping powers.
During future detailed Commons consideration of the Bill, restrictions on the terms of the new orders will be resisted using the argument that business wants deregulation and government has to get on with it.''
So it's all about business deregulation however read between the lines and the introduction of the bill would in fact:
'' grant[s] any minister the ability to amend, replace, or repeal existing legislation. The frightening thing is this: they would be able to make major changes to the law without Parliament being able to examine it properly, taking away the ability of Parliament to meaningfully represent the citizens of this country.''
For obvious reasons this has variously been called 'The Abolition of Parlaiment Bill' and 'The Stop Parliament Bill' and has caused widespread concern in small corners of the media, judiciary and business.
Now I've had a good look for updates on where we are with the review in the Lords to this bill and the trail has gone very dead. It would appear from Mr Hill's comments that a major rethink has been sought, but nothng appears to have moved on since May. However, these things do have a nasty habit of popping up from nowhere. It's very important we do continue to pursue this and ensure that the bill doesn't simply slip under the radar unchallenged. Keep vigilant people. I will keep you updated.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
We'd annihilated- yes annihilated, hard to believe eh - the Indians in the first test, bowlng them all out twice out for a little over 200 each innings. However from the debris that was their batting line up one figure stood out like a diamond. Sachin Tendulkar had made 122 from a total of 219 with the second highest score being 18.
He was arguably at the height of his powers at the time. At 23 he'd already been playing iternational test cricket for 7 years and averaged around 50. He's only about a month younger than me, so here was a man who had done it all already, when I'd only just got a proper job.
The Indian's were in bat first and halfway through the morning we had them at 30 odd for 2, which brought Mr. Tendulkar together at the crease with Sourav Ganguly. On a fairly benign pitch they tore the bowling apart. Ganguly made a ton but at the other end stood a tiny elfen genius. I've never seen strokeplay live, as good as Sachin's that day. He's a small man but he timed it so well that the ball was unstoppable off the bat. At the end of the day he remained unbeaten as did Sourav and both looked well set to bat for as long as theywanted. Tendulkar was eventually out for 177, but it is a day I will always remember.
He's suffered in the past couple of years with injury and a simultaneus and probably related drop in form which has prompted some to question how long he would keep playing for, but today after a long lay off he played one of the classic innings.
Opening the batting against West Indies he scored 142 NO, including 5 sixes. A paced innings that accelerated towards the end with 4 of the 5 sixes in the final 5 overs. It's good to see him back. In my opinion he just eclipses Lara as the best batsman of my generation.
Hats off Mr Tendulkar.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
2. Never turn round and tell your 3 year old off for hitting his brother until you've taken aforementioned 6 month old off the changing table. The littl'un will roll off and land flat on his back
3. Never say 'yeah that sounds like a corking idea', when asked 'I think we should all have a yard of ale with a port and amaretto depth charge?'.
4. Never accept an invite to your boring mate's caravan. The weekend will be forever lost and worse than that, you won't be able to talk to each other when you go to bed, because the walls are too bloody thin.
5. Never make friends with Polish people in nightclubs. They will hound you for months.
6. Never wear a sombrero in Nottingham town centre on a Saturday night. Every nutter and their dog will try and start a fight with you.
7. Never work for Finex Communications
8. Never ever strain too hard on the first day of a music festival. No one wants piles on the first of a 3 dayer.
9. Never try and have sex with your first girlfriend in her parents back garden. Especially if they have security lights.
10. Never let your mates sleep in your parents bed when they're away, however well you clean the house up and wash everything thoroughly, you can be assured you will put the duvet cover back on inside out.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
So why make him captain this time round? It is not possible for a man to be a more galvanising influence than Flintoff already is. He can't gee the players up more, make them more up for it than he does, so why make him think about it. His form can only be adversely affected with the captaincy around his neck.
Give it to Strauss, he's proved he can play the big innings whilst captaining the side. He may not be the tactical genius Vaughan quite patently is, but he has captain written all over him.
I can't help thinking they've made the wrong decision.
Everywhere we looked we were met with the stoney looks of a people in shock. Commuters that were even more silent than normal. Confused punters who had seemingly woken up to a different world. Just like we had that morning.
Our new world, should have been bright and exciting and new. It was something we desperatly wanted to share with anyone who'd listen, but instead the world was grey. The newspapers' shouted the new world order from both front and back pages. The indicator stick, that had been so positive earlier that morning suddenly seemed overwhelmingly negative.
What had we done? No new child should be born to this? No one asks to be born certainly not into a world that can be destroyed in an inkling. Our whole world seemed to be skewing on it's axis. The certainty with which we'd approached life was gone. Our need and want to be parents was being destroyed. Unknowingly we'd set in motion a process that could only end in one conclusion. Or, so we thought.
The negativity that surrounded that time, may or may not have been a contributory factor to the actual conclusion, we will never know. What I do know is had things carried on the way we believed they would, I wouldn't have the two boys I do now and for that I am truly grateful.
Monday, September 11, 2006
Well done Maria Sharapova for your US Open win. Finally the critics and advertisers might realise you're not just Anna Kournikova in disguiuse.
Then in the late 90s it seemed to disappear and was replaced with hour long dramas. Sporadically the comedy seemed to return, but normally you'd get something average and something bloody awful.
But that's all over for now. This Thursday sees the launch of what I'm hoping will be two absolute corkers, on BBC2.
At 9pm there's the second series of Extras . This as you'll probably know is Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais's follow-up to the huge international award-winning behemouth that was 'The Office'.
In many ways I liked 'Extras' more than 'The Office'. Don't get me wrong I thought 'The Office' was genius, but the duo managed to pull off something that was dramatically different with 'Extras', Something that is extraordinary given the former's success.
Quieter in both tone and somehow, it's critique. They managed - with Extras - the incredible feat of it not being blown out of the water, by acclaim before it was even launched. In retrospect they played it smartly and left it on BBC2 rather than BBC1 and quite rightly, it's a classic BBC2 comedy.
As with 'The Office' the characterisation is amazingly rounded and deep. By the end of the first episode you felt you knew Andy Millman and Maggie Jacobs, but still had tons to come. They also pulled off the rare feat of introducing huge, A-List guest stars without them dominating the entire episode in which they partook, partly as they persuaded those stars to drop the act and reveal a little of the absurd, partly as the focus of the plot remained with the central characters.
I'm hoping this second series will be as great as the first. The writing team has a track record of not getting carried away and staying true to the original idea. I caught Gervais on Jonathon Ross on Friday in which he managed to shut Ross up for 5 minutes while he explained the rationale for the series. I've not been a huge fan of the off-screen Gervais, but the interview he did was extremely enouraging. Here's hoping.
However, if 'Extras' is a let down, hot on it's heals is the (well my) long-awaited television adaptation of the radio show 'That Mitchell and Webb sound'. Rather aptly entitled 'That Mitchell and Webb Look' it is the brainchild of prolific writing team David Mitchell and Robert Webb.
Mitchell and Webb are no strangers to TV. They are regular panellists on all the big headline comedy panel shows over all channels, but more importantly have already turned in 3 series of the outstanding 'Peep Show' on Channel 4. Rather cruelly it was pipped to last years Best Comedy series Bafta by the woeful third series of Little Britain. However, some consellation came in the form of Ricky Gervais's comment that it was 'the funniest programme currently on TV'.
In many ways the series could appear to be a way of cashing in. 'That Mitchell and Webb Look' is a straight-forward old-fashioned sketch show. It doesn't have the surreal quirkiness of say 'Big Train' or the utter crappiness of recent Little Miss Jocelyn. Nope it's straightforwrd sketch comedy out of the 'Not the Nine'o'clock News' or 'Alas Smith and Jones' camp. However, the two writers are extremely quick-witted off-the-wall characters and you get the distinct impression, that they could reel off a six part series in a week, such is their ability to find laughs from anywhere. I however, couldn't care less these boys are absolutely hilarious. In my house, they have the rare honour of being the only people on radio to force me to stop driving my car, because I was crying laughing at one of their sketches. The Radio 4 to BBC2 comedy show transition has a long and susccessful tradition, I'm sure this will be no exception.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
They're a pretty reliable source and normally if it's libellous they'll couch it in non-libellous terms, but no, here's the text from the weekly Popbitch email in full.
''US newspapers claim to have a story that Chelsea Clinton has been getting, er, serviced by her two Secret Service minders. At the same time. The man and woman appointed to protect the ex-First Daughter are said to be in trouble for taking that to mean they should get this up close and personal with their charge. So far the threesome are keeping quiet but with US service personnel getting blown up on a daily basis, shouldn't we just be happy that some of them are just getting blown?''
He's changed amazingly over the past few weeks, many of his previous nervous tendencies have become much less so. He was previously terrified by dogs, but is now happy to stroke them. He warms up to strangers far more quickly than he used to and his comprehension has come on in leaps and bounds, he's a total sponge at the moment.
As a result our worries that he'd find being left alone hugely traumatic appear to have been unfounded.
Nic stayed with him for around 40 minutes, day 1 and around 20 minutes, day 2. Although he appeared a little reticent about her leaving, he did happily go off with one of the members of staff and come Tuesday morning when I was getting him dressed he couldn't have been more excited. It's very reassuring, I'm glad we took the decision for Nic to give up work 18 months ago, it's turned, what was a very nervous little boy in to one with far more confidence.
He's come on and performed in virtually every England game he's ever played in, but as soon as Rooney's fit he'll probably get dropped. Why? He scores goals whatever the pressure, which is more than can be said of, Defoe (watch it sail over the crossbar from 10 yards) and in recent years Owen.
By all accounts he has the propensity to be absolutely dire. Ask Liverpool fans who watched the recent Hammers match, but lo and behold he popped up to score the winner.
He's slow, but he makes up for it with a disarmingly good feel for the ball and first touch considering his size.
I somehow think he'll remain a figure of fun. He'll never truly be taken seriously and maybe that dance was a very bad mistake. Had he not performed the robot, maybe people would have taken a better look. Who knows. Somehow I think he'll end up discarded. It's a shame.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
So, back to school today. For me all that means is a much slower cycle in to work. Far too many stupid car drivers zigging into bus and cycle lanes and making the cyclists life a nightmare. Not that I really care for the 85%ers - My pet name for the proportion of London cyclists that jump every single red light - but it does piss you off. Not a day goes by without some twonk cutting you up.
However one highlight of back to scholl is the reforming of the A23 peloton.
The inevitable traffic build-up means that by the bottom of Brixton Hill there are in the region of 30 to 40 bike riders bunched together. Pure numbers actually provide some protection from the huge mass of steel killers and it's a very reassuring and almost exciting feeling of community, as we all hammer round Elephant and Castle. Of course it'll start raining soon and get darker and then it all becomes dangerous again, but for now I'm going to enjoy it.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
And all I have to say is:
Who the hell really wants to be a proctologist? I'm sorry but how do you come to that career decision.
I've been fascinated by the news coverage of his death by Stingray barb. I genuinely hadn't realised he was anywhere near as big a star as he appears to be. However, in the past day, I've listened to Five Live's headline news. I've read John Howard's hushed eulogy. Marvelled at a statement from Africa's most successful croc. hunter Khalid Hassen:
''I know that he led a dangerous life, but it just doesn't seem right that a fish should kill him... It is an unfitting death for him'' Eh?????
Apparently if the family wish, Australia will bestow a state funeral upon him. Crikey. If I was his family I'd tell everyone to piss off and let them handle their grief privately. I guess his death during filming is something they must have grudgingly come to expect, but grief, is grief, is grief. Putting that up for public consumption would be a cheap end, if it isn't already cheap enough.
I thought the excesses of the affected music journo had died out in the 80s. Apparently I'm very wrong. Reading a review of Scritti Pollitti's recent album White Bread, Black Beer on Pitchfork.com I couldn't help but laugh at the following:
''What’s remarkable is the depth at which Gartside was able to absorb and recreate r&b and soul. The music wasn’t just an influence on him; he became a part of it, and even exerted some small vanguard influence on it himself. His band became the test lab for soft, swooning, upwardly-mobile 1980s fern-bar soul-- you know, the kind of complex, jazz-inflected blue-eyed r&b that strips out everything but the pure dreamy sweetness of the form.''
All together now. Deep breath...