Monday, 15 December 2008

Dean Spanley

Dean Spanley is a delightful film. It is truly one of the best films I've seen in a long time. Last night we sat in Cinema City, transfixed and transported into this marvellous film. It was a most enjoyable evening.

You would imagine that a film based around the notion of re-incarnation would not be a barrel of laughs, but how wrong you would be. This joint New Zealand/British production has a weighty cast headed up by Peter O'Toole. You just can't go wrong with an actor of O'Toole's stature. The man has you entranced, metaphorically filling the whole screen with his presence. This giant can act just with his eyes. Add to that a great performance from the antipodean thespian Bryan Brown, someone who deserves greater international acclaim, and you have yourself a film not to be missed.

I suspect that this film is the sort that is not going to be widely accessible. That's to say that it will be a rare commodity in large cinema chains and smaller towns. That is a shame as it is infinitely better than any Hollywood offering, and at the same time could easily be appreciated by the masses.

Set in England, just after the Boer War, its two main themes are dogs and re-incarnation. I loathe dogs and dismiss re-incarnation as mumbo jumbo (or mumble jumble as Peter O'Toole says in the film), but despite that the film does not suffer one jot.

This is a thoroughly enchanting, very funny and touching film, which I commend you to watch given the opportunity.

Monday, 8 December 2008

It's snotty by train

I’ve been ill for two weekends in a row. I currently have a cold which broke out on Saturday morning, and the weekend before I had some flu-like bug that kept me in bed for a day and a half.

One of the joys of public transport is you get to travel with members of the general public and all their faults, their inconsiderate manners, their disgusting habits and their germs. I’m convinced I picked these two illnesses up travelling by train. Those over hot or freezing cold contraptions that claim to offer a transport service for the masses. With the extreme changes in temperature and the way you are often packed in it is no wonder that trains are a breeding ground for illness. And by way of an added bonus they transport these unwell people to so many places, spreading diseases far and wide.

I hate public transport, sniff!

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Council Houses

I’m no economic expert, and I’m most aware that there are never easy answers to economic crises, but I am concerned that the government are being awfully quiet about something that I feel could make a bit difference.

I think that it is well accepted that the current woes have been brought about by personal debt, in the western world, being out of control. Fuelled by property prices and people’s desire to own, banks and other lending institutions have sort to make huge profits by making credit easier to access. Thus helping to maintain the upward movement of property prices a Catch 22 situation! That is until it all came crashing down around everybody’s ears.

Given that, in our present system, housing is the principle driver in economic growth, I would have thought that a house building programme was essential at this moment in time to stave off the worst of the effects of the recession. Also given the current shortage of mortgages and the reluctance of people to borrow we can in no way rely on private house building to make much of a contribution. There are, as far as I can see, three very good reasons (I’m sure there are many more actually) for increasing the number of houses built. These reasons are both moral and economic, and they are:

There is a housing shortage
It would keep building workers in employment and retain those skills in the system
New homes means that people by new things to go in them, thus upping consumer spending.

If the private sector can’t deliver on housing what would be so wrong with the government financing a major council house building programme?
They are throwing money at so many other things and they have stated that they intend to fund public projects, so building houses would have such a beneficial effect on the economy. Schools and hospitals are important and I wouldn’t want to give the impression that they should not be built at all, but I do think housing should be at the very top of the list. I also believe that we should not be spending money on building offices or new council chambers or any other so called 'prestige’ projects.

A return to having a decent council housing stock, as well as having economic benefits, would also have social ones. If you treat people well they will respond to that treatment. It won’t be a universal panacea. You can’t solve society’s ills with just one initiative, but it would be a good start. Society, broken by Thatcherite policies, will take a long time to heal. This could help with repairing the damage.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Classical gas

I get quite irritated by talk of energy shortages and price rises. It was known when North Sea gas first came ashore that it had a finite lifespan. In fact it has lasted a bit longer than 'the experts' said it would. So why the fuck haven't successive governments planned for it?
I suppose the answer to that is easy. Thatcher!

When I was a lad we produced all of our own gas. Town gas it was called. It was made from coal, and the wonderful ventricle-clearing smell of coal tar hung in the air around every gas works. Now I’m not suggesting that we return to those heavily polluted innocent days. But is it that difficult to make gas?

Why aren’t we producing our own natural gas?
Natural gas is essentially methane, and it's all around us emitting from our compost heaps, from rubbish on our land fill sites, from farms and from sewage works. I'm sure that human crap alone would be enough to cook the nation's dinners and that's before we've even scratched the surface of bovine flatulence.

Disposing of all our garden waste, rubbish and shit is a major problem, but it wouldn't be if we treated them like the valuable resources that they are. I suspect that costs involved in developing the technology and setting up the plants is currently what is holding things back, but if the government can rescue the banking industry it can surely subsidise the investment needed for natural gas. Or better still force the energy companies to invest in such projects as with the energy efficiency initiative.

I can't believe that it would be that difficult to return to the days when we were self-sufficient in gas. After all it's not rocket science!

Classical gas

I get quite irritated by talk of energy shortages and price rises. It was known when North Sea gas first came ashore that it had a finite lifespan. In fact it has lasted a bit longer than 'the experts' said it would. So why the fuck haven't successive governments planned for it?
I suppose the answer to that is easy. Thatcher!

When I was a lad we produced all of our own gas. Town gas it was called. It was made from coal, and the wonderful ventricle-clearing smell of coal tar hung in the air around every gas works. Now I’m not suggesting that we return to those heavily polluted innocent days. But is it that difficult to make gas?

Why aren’t we producing our own natural gas?
Natural gas is essentially methane, and it's all around us emitting from our compost heaps, from rubbish on our land fill sites, from farms and from sewage works. I'm sure that human crap alone would be enough to cook the nation's dinners and that's before we've even scratched the surface of bovine flatulence.

Disposing of all our garden waste, rubbish and shit is a major problem, but it wouldn't be if we treated them like the valuable resources that they are. I suspect that costs involved in developing the technology and setting up the plants is currently what is holding things back, but if the government can rescue the banking industry it can surely subsidise the investment needed for natural gas. Or better still force the energy companies to invest in such projects as with the energy efficiency initiative.

I can't believe that it would be that difficult to return to the days when we were self-sufficient in gas. After all it's not rocket science!

Monday, 10 November 2008

My poor old back



A couple of weeks ago I hurt my back. I know exactly how I did it. I did it carrying my work-provided laptop. And before you all think what a wimp I am I’ll explain. I've had the laptop, from new, for about two years or so. It is a Dell of generous proportions, so a somewhat weighty beast. The case that it was provided with could be described as robust. I think it's been designed to withstand nuclear fallout. As a consequence the combination of bag and computer make their presence felt. Now, enter the need to get to the railway station in limited time and you have the makings of a disaster waiting to happen. Well it did, albeit in a perhaps more subtle way than you might imagine. Picture this. The strap was on my left shoulder and the bag itself was resting around my right hip area. This is all very well when you are standing still or even strolling along minding the view. But when walking a pace to catch a train Newton's law of motion comes into play. Your striding motion causes the bag to bang on your hip and then fly out side wards, a process that repeats continuously as you rush. To counteract this process I held the bag against my body to stop it flapping about. At the same time I must have braced myself in such a way that the whole process pulled a muscle or strained my back in some other fashion. All I know is that by the time I got home I was in agony. East Midlands' trains don't help of course with their ancient cattle-truck-carriages designed for short-arsed fuckers with 25" inside leg measurements.

After a night's sleep my back felt marginally better, so I went off to work, but as the day wore on it got more and more painful and started to stiffen up. That evening I had arranged to meet a friend at the Norwich Beer Festival. The venue is St Andrew's hall, an old church. We sat in the cloisters drinking our ale. I must say that the alcohol helped to deaden the pain, but at the same time the draft passing us where we sat was weaving its own spell. I arrived home and sat down for a while with a nice cup of tea. It was when I tried to get up that it hit me. I couldn't. I crawled to bed on my hands and knees in the most excruciating pain, and that's where I stayed for the next twenty-four hours, only moving to go to the toilet.

Sitting on the lavvy was the worst thing. No, I take that back. Getting up from sitting on it was what was really bad. Straightening up was just so painful. Standing up or lying out flat were fine, just anything in between didn't work quite so well.

After two weeks I’m still in some pain, but it is getting better. One of the joys of getting older is that defective parts of your body take a damned sight longer to repair than when you are young and supple. And sometimes they don't always fully repair. Who said that fifty was the new thirty?

Friday, 24 October 2008

Burn After Reading

We finally got to go to the arts cinema, Cinema City, in Norwich the night before last and it was a pretty good experience.
 
We went to see Burn After Reading, the latest Coen Brothers film starring George Clooney and the enigmatic John Malkovich. I don’t think it was quite as good as No Country For Old Men and it certainly wasn’t quite as blood-thirsty but a good film all the same. There are some people that would claim that ‘American Intelligence’ is an oxymoron and having known someone that worked ‘in intelligence’ for the USAF I would subscribe to that view wholeheartedly. The film’s blurb claims that ‘Intelligence is relative’ and the film starts with John Malkovich’s character being ‘offered’ a demotion within the CIA. The demotion is brought about due to his alleged ‘drink problem’. There’s a great riposte from John’s character at this point when he says to his accuser, “you’re a Mormon. Against you everybody has a drink problem!”


The film revolves mainly around Clooney and Malkovich who could well be described as ‘rivals in love’, but as with all good Coen Brothers films there are several plots and sub-plots intertwined. It’s an amusing film with some well written comic moments, and of course there are the surprises, their stock in trade.
I’d recommend going to see it if it comes to a cinema near you. If you’ve never seen a Coen Brothers film it’s about time you did!

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

The world turned upside down

I remember a time when the Labour Party was very keen to nationalise the banks. Of course the right-wing press (most of it) would have branded it as left-lunacy at the time. Now that capitalism is in deep shit I suspect there would be few complaints if and when the banking system is nationalised. And I for one I hope it is.

I don’t care much for the markets or the capitalist system in general, so there’s a part of me that thinks the whole bloody lot should be left to the market and their own devices to sort themselves out, which in essence would mean capitalism imploding, but as per usual it would be the ‘little people’, us proletarians that would inevitably suffer.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Blickling Hall

The other day we went to Blickling Hall in Norfolk. I can't be arsed to write too much about it so I'll let the pictures tell the story:

















Sunday, 21 September 2008

Gordon isn't a moron

Seeing Gordon Brown on the Andrew Marr show this morning made me realise what an asset we have in our prime minister. I didn't much care necessarily for many of the policies of Tony Blair and I certainly didn't care for the spin or the celebrity persona, but I do thank him for delivering us from conservative immorality and government. I feel much happier that we have someone who's strong and unflappable like Gordon running the country now. He came across very well this morning as someone is determined to do the right thing and to continue with socially just policies. He’s not flash, he’s not smarmy, and he cares about this country and all the people that live here. I think this last week has proven that the current economic problems are not of his making, but with him at the helm I firmly believe that we are better placed to come out of this with less pain than if the Tories were in charge. I lived under too many Tory administrations where they just piss away the economy, give loads of dosh to their cronies, and make the working people that suffer. We don’t need the return of spin; we have a good prime minister, let’s not desert him now!

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Badly mismanaged

Over the last week I’ve heard the phrase ‘badly mismanaged’ used twice on the BBC. Once on Radio 4 of all places, and once on the East Anglian news programme Look East. Standards continue to fall at Auntie!

If something is well managed then it could be said to have been ‘badly mismanaged’. I don’t think that this is what each reporter meant to say on either occasion. What they should have said was either ‘mismanaged’ or ‘badly managed’.

It is little wonder that western civilisation is going down the proverbial plug hole when standards at the Beeb are slipping like this!

Friday, 12 September 2008

Grounded

If The Lady hadn’t broken her ankle we would have been looking forward to flying off to Cyprus tonight. Well actually we wouldn’t. Guess who we’d booked to fly with?

Yes, you guessed it. XL.COM.

I feel for the poor sods that have had their holiday dreams shattered or are stranded in some foreign land. I also feel for the poor sods that will no doubt lose their jobs. You do kind of think that this will not be the last airline to go down due to the current economic climate.

Shit most certainly does happen.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Religious Truths

TAOISM
Shit happens.

BUDDHISM
If shit happens, it isn’t really shit.

HINDUISM
This shit has happened before.

ISLAM
If shit happens, it is the will of Allah.

CATHOLISISM
Shit happens because you deserve it.

PROTESTANTISM
Let shit happen to someone else.

JUDAISM
Why does shit always happen to us?

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Shit Happens

For our holiday this year we planned to go to Cyprus. Some friends of ours have a house out there, so all we needed to do was buy the plane tickets, which we did in plenty of time. Unfortunately last Thursday The Lady broke her ankle. She now has to wear this large Goth-like black boot for six weeks and hobble around on crutches. Because she is a diabetic the doctor has said she can’t fly. Cyprus is cancelled!

Needless to say I’m crying into my beer.

Oh well,shit happens.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Last Friday

I’d never travelled first class by train until last Friday. I liked the experience. Mustard City is at the end of the line. So a visit to London is great you get on at the start and get off at the end. Fantastic!

We were heading down to London to experience a Christmas present. It was a Thames lunch cruise. When we arrived at the pier where the boat was moored it seems that our worst fears were recognised a conservatory on top of a barge containing regimented tables. As it turned out it wasn’t too bad. We chugged down and then back up the Thames, eat a passable meal considering that it was mass catering and saw some interesting sites on the way. The only real naff thing was the classical music with a disco backbeat background music which was a bit too loud and rather nauseating.



After our lunchtime excursion we made our way to Borough, and the market there in particular. What an interesting and exciting place. A mass of wonderful food stalls all vying for you custom. It’s a shame that it was a hot day and we still had lots more to do as this prevented us making any purchases, but it was good to wander around drooling over the wonderful food. Edible erotica, you can’t beat it! As I’m no longer a vegetarian my world has been reopened to the delights of meat in all its forms. For me pork products, sausages hams etc are a joy to behold. That coupled with cheese and I’m in heaven. We plan to return to Borough market at a later date. If you’ve not been it is most definitely worth a visit. Being in Borough was a good excuse to visit a pub that I’d wanted to go to for a while. So we made for Tabard Street, home of a Harvey’s pub, the Royal Oak. I’ve blogged about it here.

Refreshed by ale we then headed to Tate Modern. I was keen to see the ‘Street Art’ adorning its walls before it is removed at the end of August. Great pictures, all quite different styles. My favourite, as I suspected it would be is this black and white one.



Even though it’s starting to peel it still looks good. At first you think that it is a man looking down the barrel of a gun until you see that it is really a video camera.

Here are some more pictures of the ‘graffiti’:





Unfortunate gonads!




Inside we went to one of the exhibitions. ‘Cy Twombly is regarded as one of the foremost painters in the world today,’ the introduction in the exhibition booklet tells us. Bollocks! I felt like the little boy in the Emperor’s New Clothes. The pictures are awful. Apart from some vaguely pleasing green efforts in Room 10 the rest is self-obsessed nonsense. Cy Twombly could well become a synonym for a mess. ‘It’s all gone Cy Twombly’, I can hear people crying in frustration as a culinary or diy creation goes tits up. My suggestion to you dear readers is avoid Cy Twombly like the plague!

We left the Tate feeling glad that we didn’t have to pay to enter the exhibition. As members we get in for ‘free’.

We had just enough time to pop into a Tiffinbites for a quick and jolly tasty bite to eat before catching the train home.

An exhausting but interesting day.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Chariots of smoke

Today at work the blokes in the factory organised their own alternative Olympics. See Great Britain keeping it's end up on YouTube by clicking below:


Saturday, 9 August 2008

Lost control

Mean moody melancholic Mancunian music. Perversely there is no better way to lift the spirits. A quick blast from Joy Division this morning got me singing at the top of my voice and cheered me up no end. My singing, like masturbation, is not for public consumption, but it amuses me.

Feeling quite happy I then went on to play something by The Smiths who are always guaranteed to send me to ecstatic levels of happiness. Vicar in a tutu anyone?

Music - the elixir of life!

Thursday, 7 August 2008

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Sunday, 3 August 2008

Goodtime Paul

Friday night saw me attending a concert at the Playhouse Theatre in Norwich with a friend. Rockin’ in Rhythm - Paul Jones and Digby Fairweather’s Half Dozen. And bloody good it was too!

I’ve been a fan of Paul Jones ever since 5-4-3-2-1. Yes I’m that old. I have seen him on a couple occasions before, with the Blues Band, he’s obviously known for his R& B background, but I’d never experienced him under the influence of Jazz.

Both halves of the show started off with Digby Fairweather and his Half Dozen playing a few tunes. I don’t mind a bit of Dixieland, with its foot-stomping rhythms. The only thing I object to with Trad is the persistent clapping that the audience expects and is expected to deliver at the end of each solo. I’m more than happy to clap enthusiastically at the end of a ditty, but not part way through. That said, I still enjoy Trad Jazz. This is more than I can say for its turgid Modern counterpart. Those nauseating noodlings by the likes of Theydon Bois and Brent Cross are not for me, even though Louis Balfour might think that they are great.

As soon as Paul Jones takes the stage the dynamic changes completely. Having seen him before, I knew he was shit-hot when it came to the gob-iron, but I really had forgotten how shit-hot he actually was. He didn’t need to sing. I could have listened to his harmonica playing all night long. But sing he did. Some obscure songs from some equally obscure Blues and Jazz artists, some of his own compositions the man’s a bloody good songwriter, and a few of his hits including Pretty Flamingo and Bad Bad Boy. Whilst Paul Jones had been the heart-throb of my companion in the sixties, Pretty Flamingo took me back to when, at the age of ten, I was desperately in love with Diane Evans. She was a pretty little nine year old who lived in the next close and would often wear a pink gingham dress. I would blush and go all silly whenever she came near. I never got to tell her how I felt about her, but that’s the story of my life. I wonder what ever happened to Diane Evans?

By the end of the first half I was beginning to think that the concert was somewhat Melly-esque. During the second half Paul Jones explained why. Now I’d seen George Melly on countless occasions, always backed by the John Chiltern Feet Warmers, but what I didn’t know was that Digby and gang had backed George for about the last five years of his life. Apparently Paul Jones had compèred a concert in honour of George Melly, which took place just before the great man’s death. Paul had sung a couple of songs at the concert along with Digby Fairweather. When George died, the band were still contracted to perform some concerts, so they asked Paul Jones to take over the vocal reigns. Hence this tour.

It was a first class evening with the finale being an elongated but fantastic version of one of Manfred Mann’s 1964 hits, with audience participation. A few hundred middle-aged gits, including me, singing Do Wah Diddy Diddy was a bit surreal but very pleasurable all the same.

As we left the Theatre I had a big smile on my face. Testament to what a great evening we’d had.

Turtle-dove update

They've flown the nest, but are still hanging around the garden. They seem to be doing just fine.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Two turtle doves

A couple of weeks ago we discovered a nest in a grapevine that we have which grows close to the house. We've now got two juvenile collared turtle doves just about ready to leave home:


All together now, aahhhhhhhhhh!

Friday, 25 July 2008

Fashion statement

It was warm as I walked to the station this morning. Possibly one of the warmest we’ve had this year. The sun was shining, birds were singing, and a youth was dawdling in front of me. The afore mentioned spotty Herbert was wear a woolly hat, jeans that were falling down and shoes with the laces undone. Not a good look in anyone’s book me thinks. Why youngsters want to walk around with the waist of their jeans half way down their arse is incomprehensible. It shows off their poor taste in knickers (I suspect that they are rarely Marks & Sparks), and the leg bottoms of their jeans drag on the ground, consequently fraying the edges.

Haven’t the young heard of braces?

There is no way that this look can be comfortable, but of course when has fashion ever been comfortable?

On the fashion statement of life I’m well in the red. I’m just glad that I’m a grumpy old git!

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Alcohol ban

This week I will mostly be not drinking alcohol.

I’ve not had any alcohol since Saturday, and I plan to go without until Friday evening. In a normal week I like to have two or, preferably, three days without the stuff so as not to ‘overload’ my system. Of late I’ve not been having those days of abstinence. Hence it’s time to stop.

I firmly believe that it is not good for the body to consume alcohol every single day. I’m convinced that having some days without helps to detoxify the body. I suppose that it could be argued that having booze everyday helps preserve the body in a pickling sort of way, but I’m not prepared to risk that approach.

This week is not going to be easy as I’m partial to the odd glass of beer, as you may well know. I blog about real ale, and it certainly helps if you can drink the stuff. If nothing else it acts as inspiration.

My self-imposed booze ban is down to the fact that I’ve consumed rather too much recently and I’ve noticed my waistline disappearing under the dreaded beerus gutti.

Down with middle-age spread!

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Mint Monday in Mustard City

As the train approached Norwich station last night the carriage was filled with the effluvia of mint.

Guess what sort of sauce Coleman's were making yesterday?

Monday, 14 July 2008

Accident

As I was walking from the train station to work this morning, I came upon an accident. It was on the main road, in front of the trading estate that I work on. As I reached the scene the ambulance was arriving. It was hard to make out what had happened. Some poor soul was lying on the path, with another citizen crouched over him. In the road there was a two car shunt. A car, not sure what make, had run into the back of a Rover. Not wishing to intrude into other people’s misery I carried on walking, rather than stopping to gawp. It was not clear if the person lying on the ground was a pedestrian, a cyclist, or passenger in one of the cars. I suspect the former, but it’s so easy to jump to wrong conclusions. My immediate thought when seeing the Rover was that the accident was probably caused be the driver being the obligatory dozy fucker one needs to be when driving this make. And despite wearing tracksuit bottoms the injured bloke (I do hope he wasn’t badly hurt) is somebody’s loved-one, be it son, father, brother, husband or lover.

This comes on the day of the funeral of the daughter of a work colleague. She was killed in a car accident.

Events like this make you stop and think about your own life. Well they do for me. It brings home the fragility and precarious nature of life. It makes me reassess how I treat those around me. How I live my life. How I should do more to confront my own prejudices. The trouble is that for me, these feelings will no doubt fade, as they usually do, after a relatively short time. If only I could distil the compassion and appreciation that I currently feel, and place it in a phial. A phial to hang around my neck, to act as a reminder about the person I should be, and to use in times of need.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

A thought

”It should be your care, therefore, and mine, to elevate the minds of our team members and exalt their courage; to accelerate and animate their industry and activity; to excite in them an habitual contempt of meanness, abhorrence of injustice and inhumanity, and an ambition to excel in every capacity, faculty, and virtue.”

I don't know who originally said it, but I received this quotation last week in an email from the CEO of our parent company. I'll leave it with you.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Communication breakdown

Isn’t e-mail a wonderful thing?

I’ve just received a reply to an e-mail I had sent to someone supporting them as they had asked me to do. They have replied rebuking me!

I’m confused, we are probably now both aggrieved, and neither of us probably knows why. The written word is my preferred form of making contact with people but it is oh so hard to make yourself understood without the emphasis and inflections that the spoken word affords.

It’s Monday morning and life seems far too complicated!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

(K)nickers off ready when I come home

You might have noticed that I’ve somewhat neglected this blog over the last few months. Life’s been quite hectic so something had to give, and this blog has been a casualty. I have been blogging, but only over on my RealAleBlog.

A couple of months ago we move to Norwich, a very fine city even though it is in Norfolk, and we are most certainly enjoying living there. Moving from a market town to the big city broadens one’s horizons, opening up a whole new world of choice. Norwich has an Arts Centre as well as an Arts Cinema. Masses of music events and more pubs than you can shake a stick at. Culture by the bucket full! I just hope that we can find time to avail ourselves of all these facilities. Something else that I’m not used to, and still can’t get over, is the fact that you have two or three of certain chain stores or restaurants. Having moved I am now able to go to work by train. A double edged sword if ever there was one. So it’s been change, change, change in the Of-Course household.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Life’s a bitch

Life’s a bitch and then you die", so the saying goes. Being someone that has been blessed with a lot of luck in his life, most of it bad, I have always found that two of the most important things to help you cope with the shit that comes your way are music and humour. No, make that three things, music, humour and the love of a good woman. Cancel that! Four things, music, humour, the love of a good woman and beer.

Out of those four the one that bemuses a lot of people is humour, and how when I’m seemingly reeling in the feculence of my or someone else’s latest disaster, I can often find something to laugh about. It’s my way of coping. Basically life is absurd, so why be miserable about it?

The Monty Python song Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life is a great little ditty to sing to yourself to remind you that perhaps life might not be as bad as it seems. If it gets to the point where you can’t stand the song going round in your head then replace it with Ian Dury’s panacea Sex And Drugs And Rock And Roll. Sorted!

Laugh while you can. You are a long time dead!

Friday, 14 March 2008

Update

I’m finding hard to find time to blog on Of-Course, as ever, most of my time is taken up over at RealAleNet central and my RealAleBlog.

We’ve taken our house off the market as we kind of think that it’s all a dead loss with in the current market conditions. Instead we are exploring other ways to move to Norwich. Work continues to have its ups and downs; some days are less painful than others. Thank goodness for beer!

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Russell Howard

Last night we took a trip over to Ipswich to see Russell Howard at the Corn Exchange, part of his sell out UK tour. What a fantastic comedian he is. He clearly enjoys what he does, you can tell that by his bouncy happy delivery. On stage he is quite an animated character. He makes it all look so effortless.

I often attend our local comedy club, where his 6Music sidekick Jon Richardson recently performed, but Russell is now in the big boys league. I was in tears for large parts of the performance, something that hasn’t happened since I saw Billy Connolly many years ago. In fact I think Russell has the potential to be as big as Billy.



If you get a chance do go and see him, you will not be disappointed!

Friday, 15 February 2008

No country for any men

I went to the pictures last night to see the latest Coen brother’s film, No Country For Old Men. If you are planning to go to and see it I’ll try not to spoil it for you, apart from to say that I think it has the highest body count of any of their films. If you’ve seen any of their films, apart from Oh Brother Where Art Thou, you’ll know that slaughter is their ‘stock in trade’. Tommy Lee Jones plays a blinding role, as he always does; Fantastic actor. And they have excelled themselves with the guy that could well be described as the main character; Joel and Ethan seem to celebrate the odd looking people of this world, and they have triumphed again with this ‘gink’ played by Javier Bardem. There is also a rather strange part played by Woody Harrelson.


Javier Bardem


All in all it’s a great film; A romp in blood and guts, so to speak. As long as you are not too squeamish I’d recommend you go and see it. At just over two hours it’s a marathon, but you’ll never get bored as whenever you think you know what is coming next you will invariably be proved wrong. Expect the unexpected.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Two for the price of three anyone?

There are some worrying noises coming out of the government at the moment on the subject of alcohol. The latest is about a crackdown on youngsters drinking in the streets; an interesting diversion from the usual binge drinking argument. The governmental solution would seem to be up the duty to such a rate that people can’t afford to get drunk. I also suspect that there are a few that would happily ban drink all together, although I don’t see prohibition being introduced here.

According to the BBC, “the home secretary is also demanding that drink manufacturers do more to stop alcohol being sold to under-18s”.

Apart from the drinks industry pumping money into advertising/education about drinks awareness I’m not sure what effective measures they could take. As an industry they could get together and agree to up the price of alcohol, but that would constitute a cartel, which is of course illegal.

Whilst some off-licences, pubs and clubs are no doubt guilty of promoting ‘binge drinking’ with promotions of various sorts, by far the biggest culprit in the cheap booze stakes is the supermarkets. When they are selling lager or cider at less than the price of bottled water you know there is a problem. Alcohol has never been as cheap in living memory as it is now, I’m sure. If duty goes up supermarkets will still continue to be cheap in relative terms. I’m a great believer in the nanny-state, so for me the answer would be for the government to set minimum prices for all alcohol wherever it was sold. For example if beer and cider had a minimum price of around £2.00 per pint it might well slow people down a bit. As would comparable prices for wine and spirits. A fair price for alcohol would be so much better than the extremes we live with now. A radical idea, and for all I know currently illegal under EU law. But an idea that’s less crazy than a duty hike. Discuss.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

I fart your general direction

Apparently when the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, met his popeness recently he gave him a customary gift. The gift in question was a bottled beer, Holy Grail, a beer brewed by the Black Sheep Brewery in Masham, North Yorkshire.

Nothing wrong with that you might think, a York bishop taking local produce as a present. But wait a minute. Holy Grail is actually a tribute to 'Holy Grail' as in 'Monty Python and the'. Those lovable Oxbridge lads, who were near-excommunicated for the film The Life of Brian. I suspect the Archbish doesn't have a clue what he has done. It's effectively an insult worthy of the Knights that say Nee!

Friday, 25 January 2008

Dawn of the insomniacs

I think it must be a sign of getting old, because at weekends I now find myself waking up early, and not being able to stay in bed for that long after I wake up. Once upon a time in the not too distant past I could luxuriate beneath the quilt basking in the womb like environment. As a teenager I didn’t even know of the existence of Saturday mornings. Now as someone in their early fifties I’m not sure I will ever return to the great ‘lie in’, unless it re-manifests itself in my dotage. This getting old lark is a right bugger. Having said all that, the strange thing is that on a work morning it is all I can do to drag myself out of the sack. Ever since the age of five I’ve struggled to get out of bed on then school mornings, and now work mornings. This affliction must have a name. There must be a syndrome out there that describes my condition! Its compulsory these days isn’t it?

If there isn’t, I shall feel discriminated against, and probably cry.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Passed by the Management

It is strange how certain seemingly non-eventful things suddenly trigger a reminder of other non-eventful happenings from the dim and distant past. This morning at work, as I was leaving the loo, a colleague entered with a stash of papers complaining that there was nowhere to put stuff while you went about your business. I was immediately transported back nearly thirty years to the time when I was training to be a humble buyer at Swallow Manufacturing. My mentor, the long-late Mr George Blackmore, and the man I would eventually replace, had come steaming out of the toilet sporting a look that was both a smirk and a grimace. "You'll never guess what I've just seen", he announced in an indignant fashion, "I've just seen Charlie Farley standing at the urinal, pissing, and reading a price list. Dirty bugger!" With a sense of rage he went on, "It was quite embarrassing as I don't think he realised I was there at first. I didn't know whether to make my excuses and leave, or offer to hold his willy while he turned the page." Oh how we laughed. Well, chortled a bit. I sniggered to myself today about it. But then I'm easily amused.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Well it amused me!

Terry Wogan told a joke this morning that amused me. It's probably an old one, but I'd never heard it before. Anyway here goes:


Question: Who led the Pedants Revolt?






Answer: Which Tyler

Das Kinder

Just when I thought I had got the Christmas present buying nonsense sorted a month or so ago, the cold realisation that I had bought a selection box for a three month old Great Nephew dawned on me. Bugger! The replacement was easily resolved. I purchased a fluffy toy. But, I now had one Kinder Selection Box too many, along with a predicament. What to do with the surplus selection box?
When I was a lad, Kinder products either weren’t available in the UK, or they didn’t exist. When my son was growing up there were Kinder Eggs, but I don’t remember any other sweets from them. The Kinder selection box contained all manner of wonderful looking sweets. All on a similar theme, chocolate with creamy fillings.


I’ve now eaten the lot. My favourite was the Happy Hippo, a hippo shaped wafer with a milky white filling, and part dipped in either white or milk chocolate. The white ones had the edge. I might well succumb to a Happy Hippo next time I find myself in a sweet shop.


Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Stand Up Or Sit Down?

“A toilet which flushes to the sound of Italy's national anthem has been impounded by police in northern Italy, sparking great patriotic debate.”
BBC

Monday, 14 January 2008

I Laughed



Bury St Edmunds is often seen lacking in the quality entertainment department. It’s rare that you get interesting or well known acts performing in the town. One of the reasons for that, I guess, is the lack of suitable venues. Thankfully we are happily blessed with a pretty decent comedy club. It happens on the second Sunday of the month, which incidentally was last night.

Going to see an act or band that you’ve wanted to see for sometime can be a precarious business. If you are not careful you build up such high expectations that unless they are on tip-top 200% form you are sorely disappointed. Last Wednesday I discovered that Jon Richardson was headlining at the Fat Cat Comedy Club. I had to go, and I so wanted him to be funny.

Last night was a good night. I lashed into the beer. The compere, Rob Heeney, was unusually funny and quick witted. The support act, Stuart Goldsmith, was okay. Then it was Jon’s turn. There was a big build up from Rob Heeney, and on sidled Jon. He doesn’t look funny, just very ordinary. He picked on some people at the front who all happened to work at a fish and chip shop. Jon was in his element. If you’ve ever heard him on the radio you’ll know that he loves food and cooking. He describes himself as a pedant with OCD. An adlibbed conversation between him and the chip shop crew ensued for about ten minutes. Anyone who can get laughs from discussing Hake is a pretty bloody good comedian in my book and a laugh from brown sauce is no mean feat either. He claims to prefer ‘Daddies’, but buys ‘HP’ because the bottle is square shaped, thus fitting nicely in the corner of his cupboard. After that there was a tirade about speeding motorists. I’d like to see him matched against Jeremy Clarkson. I think Jon would easily be the victor against Motor Mouth. More banter with the audience. The time just flew by as we all laughed. And not a mention of the Dyson Airblade. Russell Howard has described him as an old man in a young man’s body. I think that’s why I like him so much, he moans about the same sort of things I moan about, and in a very funny way. He is definitely going places. Watch out for him. Jon Richardson is the thinking man’s* comedian.







*that’s man, as in homosapien, not ignoring the ladies

Friday, 11 January 2008

Fascists

You do wonder if the heart and soul has been ripped out of this country of ours when you hear about the likes of Ama Sumani’s plight.

Regardless of the rights or wrongs of our immigration laws, for the state to sentence someone to death is totally and utterly wrong. Ama is a 39 year old Ghanaian woman who had lived here for a number of years. She is terminally ill, and was effectively taken from her hospital bed and expelled from the UK. The immigration service claimed that she would be able to obtain the necessary treatment in her home country. It appears not to be true because she can’t afford to pay for that treatment. Why does it have to be so cruel and so despicable?

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Londinium

A week before Christmas a friend and I had an away day to The Smoke. It was an arty day. We planned to visit both Tate Britain and Tate Modern. The key exhibition that we went to see was the works of the Pre-Raphaelite artist John Everett Millais. Probably his most famous painting is ‘Bubbles’ a picture of his grandson purchased by and used as an advert for Pears Soap.


A lot of people with a broader than the norm disposition towards art might dismiss his pictures as twee or prissy, but I think that would be doing him a great injustice. It’s worth going to the exhibition for the intricacy of his painting alone. I particularly enjoyed his sketches and pen & ink drawings, which, in my opinion, are equally as absorbing and fascinating as any by Albrecht Durer. Hurry if you want to go and see this exhibition as it is only on until 13th January.

Whilst at Britain we also went into the Turner Prize Retrospective. This I would describe as a ‘bit of a curates egg’. It ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous. Disturbingly my favourite of this exhibition was a large 'tiled effect’ piece by Gilbert and George. Thankfully I found Damien Hirst’s cows in formaldehyde as offensive as I hoped I would.

Gilbert & George.

For those that don’t know, there’s a jolly nice boat service that runs between Tate Britain, Tate Modern and the London Eye. We took the boat between the two Tates. It is, the only way to travel!

Over at Tate Modern the emphasis was on looking around the Louise Bourgeois exhibition. She is a remarkable lady who has produced some wonderful sculptures, (Eat your heart out Tracey Emin) Big spiders, voluptuous amorphous phallic bobbly things and soft sinky fabric sculptures. Bloody good stuff!

What made the visit all the more special was that I’d been given membership to the Tate. This enables me and a guest to enter all the exhibitions for free, access to the member’s lounges and discounts on the boat travel, book shop and restaurants. Fan-bloody-tastic.

In between all the culture had some time to take a few photos as well:









It was a great day out. Must do it again soon.