Wednesday, February 20, 2008

An occassional list of people I don't know, but currently enrich my life

It's struck me that people that influence me at any given time can be completely different from one month to the next and perhaps therefore don't get the credit they deserve in shaping me as a human being. So I thought I'd note them down today because it'll be interesting in the future. So today they are, in no particular order and with reasons why:

1. Erick Morillo (despite my main love being progressive house and trance this man uses a mixer like no one else. Deep chunky, funky, house that is more than enhanced through the use of a mixer as DJ mag says 'Filters, delays, special effects and loops aren't just buttons for Erick, they are the tools of his trade'

2. Keith Allen (massively talented and lives life without compromise. But above all he's completely true to his instinct)

3. Al Green (Soul's greatest voice, nuff said)

4. Gregory Isaacs (Much more than just Night Nurse listen to this)

5. Barack Obama (currently raising $1 million per day through private donations, here is a man that is at least attempting to take politics back to the people. Time will tell whether this man changes world politics, but I'm backing him for now)

6. Rossini (because having achieved financial security by the age of 32 he pretty much gave it all up and ate caviar and drank champagne for the rest of his life)

7. Michael Parkinson (Lily Allen)

8. Jules Holland (The only man who's managed to avoid the musical purge that the television industry appears to be trying to execute. Here's to hoping he gets an earlier slot)

9. Admiral Lord Nelson (Brave and more achieved in an eight year period of admiralty than I could ever hope for)

10. Caitlin Moran (she always makes me laugh and it's how I'd like to write)

11. Tom Wates (No I haven't spelt it wrong. He's the bloke that invented the non-fall off chair. He makes the list today, because he found a direct solution to a problem that pissed him off, rather than moaning about it)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Inspirational man

I didn't know an awful lot about Keith Allen before Nic bought this book for me at Christmas. I knew him for his work on the Comic Strip and especially as the lead in 'The Yob' which I think has been largely forgotten as a great piece of comedy work.

Anyway I would heartily recommend a read, if you're looking for honesty from someone who has pretty much stayed completely true to his principles throughout his working career, preferring to walk away from projects rather than let their integrity be compromised by TV execs that were keen to keep the piece clean for TV.

It struck me that he could easily be one of the biggest stars on TV by now if he'd gone with some of the oppportunities that were presented to him, but no he stuck to his guns and as a result seems to be fairly happy with his lot. He admits to failings and some things that he feels guilty about, but considering how he chooses to do things without considering the consequences most of the time he displays few regrets. Some could consider it selfish and in many ways it is, but if his telling of the syory is to be believed you get the impression he's probably very much loved by most of those he's been involved with.

Here is a man that was asked to give the eulogy at Joe Strummer's funeral, has helped Damien Hirst learn how to be a better father, is rung personally by Harold Pinter to star in his new productions, was instrumental in Nellee Hooper's early career, was the Groucho clubs first lifetime member, was arrested during the Notting Hill riots in 1976 the list goes on and on and on.

It's a facinating break neck paced read (once you're past the first 100 pages or so which need to be rad to understand where he was coming from) and it's amazing he's managed to condense his unbelievably rich existence in to a mere 380 pages, he could have dragged it into 1000s and that's without the stuff he's obviously missed out.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

My job search

Something I haven't mentioned. I haven't worked since November 1st last year. I decided that life is too short to be doing something that you don't feel joyous about 80% of the time and if I'm going to have leukaemia and not know when I'm about to pop my clogs then I had better bloody well enjoy my working life.

So I took 2 and a half months off to cycle, be with the family, organise the preschool Christmas fair and little else. It's been uterly wonderful frankly.But now I've started looking for a new job.

I did do a careers counselling course while I was having time off which was great, it helped me to clarify exactly where my skills and aptitudes lay. No ones actually ever done an appraisal of me so I thought I should get someone to do one. It was a great process to go through. I talked to all my old bosses and a load of people who've worked for me over the years and asked what I was best at and happily my people management skills came out very favourably, but more surprisingly my creative abilities came out really strongly. I've never particularly thought of myself as a creative being, but I think what it is, is that I'm a decent conduit. What that means is I hate silences and en passes in meetings and I tend to be the one who pipes up and says, errrr have we thought about this direction. It means that while I don't come up with good ideas I facilitate them fairly well.

It's been quite hard work changing focus and I've been applying for all sorts of weird and wonderful roles, but I have my first interview tomorrow for a recruitment consultancy. To become a recruitment consultant.

'You're fucking kidding me' I hear you say and yes that's what I would have said but damn they're a good company. Fabulous employer, the owner has won the Sunday Times small business leadership award twice in the last 4 years, the benefits are incredible. There is an option to take up to a 3 month sabattical every 4 years, half paid, half unpaid if you wish. The whole model works on a minimal commission basis so there's no cold calling or pushing people into the wrong roles to make your £500, it's a completely relationship led business.

So I'm going for a chat (interview) tomorrow. I had quite a long conversation with the owner at the beginning of this week and stated that the job sounds great, they're a company I'd love to work for, but the recruitment consultancy bit puts me off. She did laugh but said it's the best job she's ever had and she came from an agency background herself and I should come in and talk to a couple of the other business heads. I do believe her, well she's won those leadership awards hasn't she, she's good at persuading people.

Only problem is it's 9 years since I did an interview, so I'm slightly nervous. The nerves got to me a bit the other day and I went out and bought 2 new shirts and 3 new ties just to feel fresh. I didn't really consider that I can't actually wear them all at the same time.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Come on Amy!

So Amy Winehouse has won five Grammys. Go bird.

I'm not big into public displays of affection. I hate all that American style fakery, but if I'd been in the hall when her awards were announced I would have joined in chanting her name.

I've watched quite a few 'stars' blow up under the glare of the media, which has been omnipresent in my lifetime, but not until Amy Winehouse have I been moved to really care about them. I've always managed to see their problams as someone elses business, but Amy's different. Watching her get dragged through the papers, dealt so badly I feel like a blinded protective parent. 'Leave her the fuck alone. What's she done to you, you bastards?'.

For all those who say the grammy's are unwarranted because of her junkiness, it's a fools argument. She needs to know that it's her work she's known for first and that people love that enough to reward her for it. Take that away and all that's left is the condemnation of her drug taking and frankly why the hell should she care about that, she's at the bottom of a crack hole. Junkies are essentially reborn toddlers, entirely self absorbed and obsessed with one thing, the way you gradually change that behaviour is by praising the good things five times more than you condemn the bad things.

She's up there with Aretha for me in terms of my favourite singers and for me it's only 'I never loved a man' that tops Frank and Back to Black. I'm desperate for her to pull through her pain and come back fighting. I just can't stand watching her disappear into the crack hole she's dug around herself.

And I tell you what if she manages to come out of it, writes and records a third album, I've no doubt it'll go down as an all time classic.

Come on Amy! I know you don't know me but I'm pulling for you love. Take the carrot.


Seeing as we're having spring early we thought we'd put the bikes on the back of the car and drive up the hill to Mogador (In our house you can only say Mogador as if a character from Lord of the rings - so it's 'MogadorrrrrrrRRRrrrR'). Now it's a trick going for a ride with Eben and Louis. Louis's straightforward he can go on the back of Nic's bike.

Eben though is at a very difficult age. He can pelt along, but he's still on stabilisers, which makes it difficult on paths that are shared with horses and walkers and have got boggy over the winter.

The other thing that's tough is finding a flat enough run. We're right at the foot of the North Downs so it's pretty up and down everywhere round here, so while I can just hack straight into the hills in a couple of minutes from my front door, we have had to search high and low for some off road routes that are as flat as possible for us all to ride together.

Only thing is though, however flat the route, there is no way we can find something that doesn't go up and down a little bit and with the route we take it's mainly downhill on the way out and more uphill on the way back of a four mile circuit.

Now to us it looks like a lovely gentle incline and comfortable trundling freewheel on the downslopes. For Eben on his bike which is not too far off as heavy as mine and with no gears (and those stabilisers) it's akin to tour de france style climbs and we save it until the end when he's already tired.

I have this horrible feeling that it's something that will come up in therapy when he's on the couch at 30. 'My parents used to toture me on Sunday mornings - they said encouraging things and that I was trying really hard and all I can do is my hardest, but really they were just laughing on the inside'.

Before each of the last three times we've done it now, Nic and I have had the same conversation about 'not overdoing it this time' and 'making sure we don't quite go so far' and 'maybe we can find a slightly different route' and each time the last couple of hundred yards has had Eben crying, proper crying, and saying 'I can't do any more, I can't do any more'. Which is fair enough really, he's gone a bloody long way for his age and we have completely disregarded our earlier conversation because he seemed much better this time, forgetting that the worst bit was always at the end.

I can't help but think that if we get him a slightly bigger bike (his I think is a bit too small now), that's lighter, plus get him off the stabilisers in the spring that he may find it a million times easier than he does now.

For the time being we're hoping that the crisps and lemonade at the end may just keep him out of the psychiatrists office. Louis of course just gets to troll around looking at the horses and gourging on snacks at the end.

And as for Florence, Louis' raggedy cat. Well she always has the time of her life...

Friday, February 08, 2008

I'm off to hospital on Tuesday

Haven't done this before, but wish me luck. It's my 9 month follow up since starting the Imatinib and for some reason I'm more nervous than I've ever been. I'm hoping to have fallen further towards remission. My progress so far has been:

Diagnosis 107%

3 months 8.75%

6 months 6.2%

If I'm honest although the last result was in the right direction I wanted it to be lower than 6.2%. I'll have blood taken on Tuesday so won't actually know the results until the end of the month.

Remember this?

Love this song. It's a bit light, but I did always like Belly.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

How come...

...however stylish someone's house is they always have 30 year old teatowels with pictures of National Trust buildings on them?

BBC iPlayer

Great just what I needed, more reasons to sit on the PC. Don't get me wrong it's great, but it's very bad.

Hey! Someone stole my angelic baby

For the first 18 months of his life Louis was that model baby, that before you're a parent you believe is the only thing it's possible to produce.

He was beautiful (this is independently verified, honest), smiled at everything, energetic, perfectly healthy (never had even as much as a cold), ate everything you put in front of him, slept the minute you put him in his cot at 7pm and woke again at 7am and chatted away to himself contentedly for ... as long as you'd let him, to tell you the truth.


...that baby was stolen and was replaced by the little boy we have now. Grumpy, clingy, bad tempered, not very nice to his brother, hitting everybody in sight, throwing his food, cutlery, crockery, drink anywhere he can.

In short he's absolutely lovely. God it's nice to have another little boy with such a strong personality. Louis couldn't be much different than Eben.

Louis's a real doer, Eben's a really cerebral child.

Louis's a naughty mischeivous little thing, Eben is a rule follower.

Louis's a charmer, Eben doesn't get away with a thing because he just hasn't got the cheeky smile.

Louis is funny, Eben is earnest.

Louis has to be the centre of attention, Eben is aloof (and boy does it attract the girls, if I'd known as a teenager that's all you had to do, I'd have done away with the being centre of attention nonsense)

Eben has always clung on to every last word of explanation you can possibly convey, Louis couldn't give a toss he's on to the next but one thing before you're even started.

The list goes on. The two of them make me extremely proud, Eben is an absolutely lovely child to be around (at the moment), polite, helpful, interested, excited, silly, energetic and a laugh when he lets go a bit.

Although Louis has developed a liking for pulling Eben's hair and hitting him they do actually get on very well. I have to keep remembering Louis is not quite 2 yet and Eben is still only 4.

Of course they have their moments...

Monday, February 04, 2008

Almost there, almost there

It's taken me nye on 3 months to digitise my CD collection. I bought an iPod about 4 years ago and got about 25 albums in and then got bored so am now very familiar with that playlist. For some reason I just never got my arse in gear to sort out burning the rest, I guess it was because in reality I don't use my iPod as much as I thought I would, I haven't had a typical commute as such, so there's been little opportunity.

However, I wanted to get rid of the CDs from view so slowly and methodically they've been going on to the hard drive. It's tken a bloody age, but it's paid huge dividends and has completely revitalised my passion for music, which kind of got put on hold when Eben was born. It's a crying shame because it means to date, there hasn't really been music in the house. However, with iTunes I just whack on shuffle and the whole collection gets dipped in and out of. It's fantastic and I've discovered that there are some albums I owned that I don't even remember, some that I'd forgotten how much I love and others that really should never have darkened my door 'Spiceworld anyone?'

10 things that have come to light since starting to burn my collection:

1. How much I've paid for music over the years looking at the price labels in comparison to how much you can buy music for now. Utterly depressing.

2. How Olympian by Gene is the best song ever recorded

3. How little reggae I had in my collection. Quickly rectified with one not so short visit to Amazon marketplace and £160.

4. How little classic soul I had in my collection. Quickly rectified by a not so...

5. How this seems to be costing me a fortune - but not as much of a fortune as it would have even 4 or 5 years ago

6. How crap the genre allocation on iTunes is. That reallocation job is going to take me years.

7. How I have to remember to switch off all electronica and dance when I switch on shuffle, otherwise I get shouted at by Nic.

8. How easily I've come round to the idea of flogging my CD collection despite saying I'd never do it.

9. How good my best mate from school's band really is now I'm listening to their albums again. 'Grand Drive' check them out, just not zeitgeisty enough to make it big and such a crying shame, because the world should listen to their music.

10. How much it's costing me in extras. £140 on a new hard drive, as I quickly ran out of space. £129 back up hard drive, so that if my computer craps out on me I don't lose everything. £3 per day in 'oh yes I can get that on iTunes'. £100 on a USB turntable (yes that pain is yet to come) and stupidly £369 on this - oh yes I've definitely got back in to music.