Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Guess where

Not some central European city but Halifax. The one in England. A lot of my London friends ask me whimsically what it's like up north. I'm often surprised but not nearly as much as they'd be if they ever came up this way.

London Parking

Went to the South Bank with my girl on my birthday. We drove around a bit until I spotted a metered parking space. I pulled over to the other side of the road only to see a bloke 'park' his suitcase there. 'Kindly remove your luggage good sir!' I said.
' I saw first, big van come, you not park here.' I deduced from the frailties of his vocabulary that he was not from these shores. Resorting to stiff upper lip I hurriedly reported him to the Home Office, anti terrorist squad and the home guard.

Eventually we came to a car park that charged a mere £8 p.h. Later, on the way out, I had to photograph this sign. You can imagine the trouble I had following the signs to the exit with my car facing backwards. I know I don't need to say it but, How is it possible that someone can come up with sign like this? It's not like they're short of money: They could spend the 24 quid I gave them for a start.


My mum usually leaves the price on stuff but her card to me this year was a bit special. I know I am valued. Finally I have a specific price though and that helps.


Lidl and the like are cheap supermarkets because (it is said) they stick two fingers up to merchandising and simply bung the stuff they got from some bloke in a warehouse in Germany directly on the shelves without all that dressing up. No carefully sculpted stacks of beans for them. There are always limits though and the laziness of this sign must surely put people off picking up this item. The boy spotted this one. Chip off the old block.

The true meaning of Christmas

When I was a kid I never understood how Jesus managed to get so much done seeing as he was born at Christmas but then died at Easter (thinking about it, Easter is resurrection time isn't it?). As an adult, I still don't get how come Easter moves. Anyhow, Western decadence means that for most people Christmas is a time to shout at your family and fill your house with crap. This frenzied and illogical behaviour surely suggests that Armageddon is just around the corner. I think that Wizzard's wish of 'Christmas every day' would bring us that much closer to judgement day. I doubt very much you'd find kids willing to start singing and bands beginning to play 24/7, 365 days of the year. More likely would be economic collapse due to excessive borrowing and people never going to work. Turkey shortages would lead to riots outside Bernard Matthews battery farm in Norfolk and rapid deforestation due to demand for Christmas trees would increase levels of CO2 and accelerate global warming to the point where most of the UK would be under water within a couple of years as the ice caps melted. Roy Wood may have considered these possibilities but I have to acknowledge that they don't scan nearly so well and what the hell rhymes with 'excessive borrowing'? And another thing: Santa would need time off for stress due to a massive increase in workload. No doubt he'd have to get Parcelforce to take on some of his deliveries and, as a consequence, stockings would be found limp and empty each morning as countless thousands of posties' sat navs misdirected them from one chimney to the next. Or they just nicked the stuff or threw it away or whatever else it is they do.

Having said all that, I had Christmas dinner yesterday with all the trimmings (except Turkey or the pudding) with best mate and my girl. It was great. Also, I got a Powermonkey. How did I ever get along without one of those?

yey for counting

The hit counter at the top of this blog has topped 1,000. I know that doesn't mean avid readership or anything but it does mean that by some quirk of virtual fate people are happening across these pages, even if it is with tut and 'what the...?' before navigating away to something much more interesting. The World Map thing also shows that, like bird flu or bubonic plague, I am gradually spreading worldwide.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

we've only got ten men

Eastlands is a bit cartoony. It's OK on the inside but outside it has all these spiral ramps and neon lights announcing 'MANCHESTER CITY' and looks like something a 9 year old boy would draw. You still get a feel for the wasteland I'm guessing it was built on as the car parks are rubble and the surrounding area is inhospitable to say the least. The unfinished feel is certainly reflected in the lack of thought that's gone into road and transport infrastructure and could even act as an analogy for Sven's team. Ten home victories on the trot did not bode well for the stuttering Spurs but it was like someone had slipped Juande a slip of paper (written in Spanish) which explained very clearly Sven's secret. Even after Zokora was (harshly I'm told) sent off Spurs controlled most of the game, albeit from a defensive position. Defoe's goal after 5 or 6 minutes shocked even the most optimistic Spurs supporter. In fact I had the most pessimistic supporter behind me. As the packed Spurs end gleefully taunted the City fans with 'We've only got ten men!' he was singing 'We've only got one goal' whilst tutting and shaking his head.

The passing movement when we did go on the offensive was startling and only impeded by something of a tendency to go one pass too many and by Steve Bennet's (the Ref) whistle blowing and poor decision making. The harsh sending off and a number of decisions that went against Spurs led to some pretty vitriolic anti-Bennet chants which accused him of being female genitalia and in the habit of playing on his home turf a lot. When he failed to award City what looked like a clear penalty in the second half the chants instantly became: " We love you Bennet, we do!" proving that Londoners have a fine sense of humour when they're winning.

Malbranque's goal around 8 minutes from time was the best. I got hugged by a lot of people. I didn't need reminding how important it all is but if I did, that emotional explosion would have done it.

I have to say that as I made my way back to the car park on the other side of the stadium, I began to regret some of the taunting chants and the bloody grin on my face (oh and the Spurs shirt and the clean and bright- and now officially lucky- bar scarf). It was OK though. I made it to the car just in time to sit in it for a full 90 minutes waiting for the traffic to get moving. It's funny how time works; those 90 minutes went much faster than the ones where we were waiting for the final whistle to blow.

vive la difference

We got this e mail at work from our diversity manager reminding us about Eid. This is useful and relevant as I'm teaching today and it may have an impact on turnout- as it was I had everyone there so either the course really floats everyone's boats or they used it as an excuse to get away from their relatives and a mountain of samosas.

The reminder about Christmas did seem to be a little superfluous. I myself will be preparing for the festivities on 22nd December. I have to nip out now and buy an inflatable sun child.

"Eid al Adha will be celebrated over 3 days starting from tomorrow Wednesday 19 December until the 21st December 2007.

A reminder of the other religious celebrations taking place this month: 5-12 December : Hanukkah was celebrated by our Jewish students and colleagues marking the festival of lights.
22 December: Winter Solstice- Yule will be celebrated by Pagans to mark when the Sun child is reborn; regarded as the New Year in the Northern Tradition Yule.
24 December Christmas Eve: Celebrated by Christians to mark the preparations of the birth of Jesus.
25 December Christmas Day: Celebrated by Christians to mark the birth of Jesus.
26 December Boxing Day: Celebrated by Christians, traditionally the opening of church poor boxes.
26 December: Zarathost Diso, marks the birth of the prophet Zarathushtra within the Zoroastrian religion.

May I take this opportunity to wish you Eid Mubarak a Merry Christmas, Best Wishes for Yuletide and Zarathost a peaceful break and a Very Happy New Year."

I'll also be sending a complaint in after the holidays that there is no mention here of the festival of Z'AAGHTH which, as some will know, is on the 23rd December this year (Terran Calendar) and is the Klingon festival of baby stabbing.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way...

...oh what fun it is to see Tottenham win away. It's rare that you hear that chant these days. I don't believe it. Pompey 11 unbeaten, Spurs without Dawson and most of the rest of the defence. Zakora plays out of his skin, a new boy bosses the midfield and Berba gets on the score sheet. things are looking up. A*****l at the Emirates next week and a trip to Man City in the Carling Cup. Hmmmm.... can feel my confidence waning.


Friday, 14 December 2007

on the plus side

I have made some inroads with the tidying and as a reward for my efforts I have found £2.62 in loose change, 12 Zloty, 25 American Cents and a sherbert fountain.

I was there

Still I haven't tidied up. Instead I have been looking to see what happened to Anderlecht after the lighter and metal rod throwing incidents in the UEFA cup last week (they were fined £12,000 which'll be a real deterrent). This led me to start looking nostalgically at stuff about the 1984 run. I still have my ticket from the away leg of the final and a scarf I got from an Anderlecht fan is hanging up in this room.

1984 UEFA Cup final
From a BBC report:

After beating Yugoslavian side Hajduk Split to reach the Final, Spurs travelled to Belgium to face the legendary Anderlecht, who were also the reigning holders.
The first leg was a strange affair, with the visitors standing firm against a side unbeaten at home in European competitions for ten years, much to the surprise of many who thought Tottenham's defensive frailties would surface from the beginning.
On the hour, the English side took the lead, Paul Miller rising above the defence to thunder a header home from Micky Hazard's corner.
Tony Parks was the hero of Tottenham's 1984 UEFA Cup success. A Morton Olsen goal five minutes from time gave Anderlecht parity, although Spurs had grabbed the crucial away goal.
A booking for Steve Perryman meant that the Spurs skipper missed the second leg, and manager Keith Burkinshaw was without the services of Glenn Hoddle and Ray Clemence while Argentine Ossie Ardilles was on the bench.
Clemence's replacement between the posts was an unknown by the name of Tony Parks. Neither he nor the Spurs faithful could imagine the fate that awaited him.
The Belgians took the lead after sixty minutes through Alex Czerniatinski. For the next fifteen minutes it looked as if Spurs were to lose, but things changed when Ardilles replaced Miller.
He instigated the move which led to Hazard crossing the ball to the centre and Graham Roberts emerging from nowhere to score the equaliser.
A goaless extra-time followed, and so it went to penalties. Parks saved from Olsen to give Spurs a lead in the shootout and after six straight successes, it was left to Danny Thomas to win Spurs the Cup, but he saw his kick saved.
The last of the ten penalties was taken by the Icelandic international, Gudjohnsen and Parks flung himself to the right to push the ball away and etch his name permanently in Spurs' history.


Actual mess seems to coincide with mental and financial mess in my world. I 'worked from home' today. The work I have to do will be done tomorrow though because I had to get my car serviced and wander around the shops buying things for Christmas. Neither of these things was either free or cheap. My to do list for work has been competing admirably in the World's longest list competition with my Christmas list. Of course neither of them are actual, tangible lists as such; they're more a swirling mass of vague and nagging imperatives in my head. When I have something on my mind it usually results in an inability to sleep. At those times the storm in mybrain is so disordered that I lay awake trying to think about what I need to think about. As Christmas approaches and I try to organise my visiting itinerary alongside the work and other stuff I get a kind of anxiety that stops me from efficiently doing any of those things and being able to cross them off my many lists. Nevertheless, one look at harangued faces on the other frozen people in Halifax today made me realise I am not alone. A quick chat with the woman selling 'Big Issue' did the whole salutary lesson thing too. I also saw Tiny Tim hobbling forlornly past the baker's window.

The flat is the biggest mess. I have spent the last two hours wandering from room to room picking things up in one place then putting them down somewhere else. If tidying meant doing that a lot I'd be the tidiest bloke on the planet. The boy's room isn't the worst but it is a bit of a tip. There are sweet wrappers all over the place, sometimes concealed by a stiff parody of a sock but more usually strewn in such a way that I imagine him discarding them like Henry VIII lobbing chicken bones over his shoulder. I considered venting a bit of steam over the phone but, luckily for him and for me, my sister phoned and reminded me of my would-be hypocrisy. As a (it has to be said) somewhat grubby teenager I got used to the distinctly malodorous fug in my bedroom and resented the complaints from sister and mum. I eventually found the energy (time wasn't exactly an issue then) to tidy properly. Under some paper which itself was stuck to the carpet under the bed I found some still soft centred crap (literal crap, not rubbish) that my dog must have left for me a couple a months before.

Time moved on and I now live in a worse world: I appreciate tidiness. I function well in an ordered environment. I can relax when everything is in its place. BUT... I don't have the tidy gene. My brain is wired in such a way that if it registers an empty surface, it will find a way to cover it with crap (the metaphorical stuff though so a small blessing). From where I'm sat now I can see loads of covered surfaces just by glancing over my shoulder. Actually, there's barely room for this keyboard on the desk upon which I am typing this tidy-avoidance post. Pens and some unpaid bills I understand but why is there hair gel, some plasters, some little stacking blokes, a banana and a three pairs of boxer shorts?

I sometimes wonder how I manage to hold down a job; You'd think the boxer shorts, plasters and little stackable blokes that are cluttering the surfaces of my brain would prevent me from even finding my way to work in the mornings.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007


It's rare that I receive anything in the post that doesn't make me wince. Like a lot of people I know I pick up mobile phone bills, gas bills and bank statements with little trepidation. The shock that hits me when I open them though -first with a quick double jab to my guts then floors me as 'my gorge riseth'- never lacks novelty, yet I have experienced it a thousand times. That eye widening moment when I read £576 on my phone bill or some similar stupid amount for heating when I never have it on and am hardly here is akin to those moments in my life when I have realised that I have done something very very stupid or bum clenchingly embarrassing. Why I haven't developed a keener sense of impending horror is beyond me. If natural selection processes are surreptitiously filtering out those ill equipped to deal with the lives we lead in the 21st century then I fear I'll be the first to go the way of the neanderthals.

Of course I have had a few pleasant things in the post: letters from my girl; packages with stuff I ordered off e-bay; a pack of stickers and a broken pen from the children with mortal illnesses campaign. You can imagine the lifting of spirits I felt when I received what was obviously a Christmas card yesterday when I got in from work. I savoured the hint of glitter on the envelope; I studied the post mark and wondered who I knew down there; I opened it carefully and appreciated the cartoon donkey on the front. I was a little disappointed when I read the greeting: "From everyone at your Hyundai servicing centre."

I shouldn't be churlish though. I don't do cards myself. It's as much as I can do to sort it for family birthdays. My colleague makes a charity donation equivalent to x number of cards and stamps. If I did that for all my friends it'd cost me nearly 2 quid. If anyone I know is reading this: Happy Christmas OK. In fact, happy Christmas and Eid to everyone. a robin yesterday

Monday, 10 December 2007


It seems to me after much shower and car time rumination that the amount of time I have available to blog is inversely proportionate to the amount of interesting things I do and would like to write about. The distinct lack of December entries has left me with that nagging feeling like I have forgotten to lock the front door or turn the gas off. Actually that reminds me of when I was working for a delivery company in London. One of the blokes that worked there (so I was told after his sudden departure into HM custody) was asked to work late and he said: 'Sure- Oh no- I forgot, I can't, I have to let my wife out.' Anyway, the suspicions were raised and police got involved and they discovered that he was in the habit of locking his wife in a cupboard before he went to work each day. How the hell she was sposed to get all the cleaning and cooking done from there I'll never know.

So, this last week:

1.I have driven fast round Silverstone in a Lotus Exige
2.been driven pant stainingly fast round same
3.worked a lot, putting in three evenings and forgetting to take off proportionate mornings
3a.marked two lots of assignments
4.dictated loads of stuff to my girl who typed it all up (OK, not so tough or time consuming that one)
5.been to a conference
6.been xmas shopping
7.seen Spurs win against Man City (yey)
8.sighed a very big sigh of relief
9.chuckled at the thought of A*****l losing to Boro
10.realised my brakes were dodgy and got them fixed just before the drive to London
11.did various things like food shopping, clothes washing, shirt ironing and tidying.

Some great stuff in there mixed with the not so great. I'd gladly do all the humdrum again if I could find a way to NEVER go xmas shopping again.

Monday, 3 December 2007

a day's work

In 7 minutes I am taking a class. They are presenting work that they have been preparing since last week. I will then sum up and give them a quiz. All pretty straightforward. However the rest of the day sums up what my job is really about. this morning I was wandering around a primary school playground looking for the classroom that an observation would be in. Interestingly, although I got some concerned stares, no-one actually came up to me and asked what the hell I was doing. The class itself was small and all the women responded to my presence by speaking in hushed tones and eyeing me nervously which must have really got up the teacher's nose. I came back and printed a billion things that I had been working on last week only to find that printer 1 was broken, printer 2 was occupied by an angry and flustered colleague covered in paper and printer 3 would only print one item before logging me out. Between that and photocopying reams of unnecessary bureaucracy I saw a student punched and dragged off by her 'boyfriend' so I followed him and challenged him, got subjected to abuse and in the end to rely on other students' support before he let her go. There was no way I was going to physically intervene having recently read up on what I am and am not allowed to do in conflict situations. I got two e mails from former students telling me about success in MAs and doctorates which cheered me up no end then another one from a student who i can't even remember which spooked me out cos it was so creepy. I taught an IT class that went well and had a meeting about re-structuring that i didn't understand. I then helped a colleague with an IT problem and quickly printed the stuff I needed for this evening. Now I am typing this. I need a cup of tea.