Monthly Archives: February 2005


We’re back home after a surprisingly enjoyable journey to a surprisingly enjoyable place for a surprisingly enjoyable wedding. Not that we expected any of the above to be anything less, but they were even better.

It was the wedding of Dave and Sharon and it was in Glasgow. Failing to find a train fare that was anything less than fucking outrageous I managed to find a flight/hotel package from that looked ok: it was a night flight to a 3-star hotel for a couple of nights. Dave had managed to scare me by pointing out that the hotel was in a “dodgy” part of Glasgow called “the Gorbels”, and as we were “the two most hated racial groups to the Scots (English and American)” we might get in some trouble. Not only was he merely joking, but it also turned out that everyone in the vicinity we met, including the little scally neds, were all really friendly. So far removed from the arsey attitude-disabled geezers in the Eltham->New Cross belt (ie my life). In fact, from the moment we stepped off the plane the whole experience was like an advert from the Scottish tourist board!
Overhearing a bloke booking a cab, I waited until he had completed the transaction and asked for his cab tip. He turned out to be a lovely bloke and only too keen to help us out. He also turned out to be an HP employee so skilled that they happily paid for him to work in Paris and live in Glasgow!
The cab he had recommended to us arrived so quickly it felt like a chauffer-driven car, and the driver was such a genial guy that once we’d arrived at the hotel he presented Michele with a tartan umbrella “to remember Glasgow” by….albeit in a slightly scary way…and albeit an unbrella with a peculiar white stain on it…hmm.
Anyway, we went into the hotel to find the bar was not only still open but would remain so until 4am! It was like heaven! A lovely warm room, telly, luxurious bathroom, tea/coffee making facility and corby trouser press (natch). We threw down our bags and went down to the bar for some nice red wine and to order a take away.

The next day, after my expensive but very filling Scottish breakfast, Tony came round so that we three could all go to the wedding together and diffuse any embarrasment we may generate. I know I’ve already said it, but everyone we met during this weekend would have made excellent ambassadors for Scotland.

We got to the University (where the wedding was to take place) early, and after bumping into Dave and Andy (best man) having their photos taken under the noble arches of the university we ran, very quickly, to the Student Union for a stiffner. Michele amused herself looking at the beautifully painted list of previous winners of the GUU drinking competition whilst we sampled a couple of gorgeous local brews. I couldn’t resist trying one of their malts and for a stupidly small amount of money I experienced possibly the most delicious-smelling whisky of my life. Googling for “highest distillery in Scotland” reveals the mystery brew to be “Dalwhinnie”. Gorgeous.

Seeing Dave get married had an odd effect on me. For some reason I realised I was crying. They both looked so happy.

To cut a long story short and a short cliche long, we had a lovely meal, and a superb reception in “The Winter Gardens” which is a hugh hot-house. There was a pretty damned good live band too, and plenty of dancing.
After witnissing the “Gay Gordens” and taking part in a ceilidh, I’m amazed that there is anyone in Scotland who isn’t either slim and super-fit, or dead. It nearly killed me! Especially after the “traditional Scottish Breakfast” which was essentially a collection of different preparations of fried lard. Lovely too 🙂

There’s loads more to say about Glasgow, but I really don’t think I can do the topic justice, so rather than blog it I’m going to hope that my memory allows it to become the material for future anecdotes. For my own memory, here is a brief list of the key points:

  • Liz
  • Kaneshka
  • The hotel on the leaving day
  • Tony and O’Brians
  • Sharon, the Science Centre and the Planetarium
  • The bus drivers
  • Uncle Andy
  • Uncle Duncan rules!
  • The Glasgow Underground
  • The Gorbels
  • Harrison and the other kids

Bosch and Barley

“A bad workman allways blames his tools”. As a bad workman I regularly used to blame my pathetic collection of tools for my inability to do anything with DIY.
A year or two ago I picked up a brand new Bosch drill complete with bits and everything for about 35 quid from a superb DIY shop that was changing management. Today was the first time I have been able to use it for a legitimate purpose.
Let me tell you, if I’d have owned that drill 10 years ago I may well have been a much happier and more rounded individual. Using a drill that drills true, with a wide collection of bits and screwdriver tips is one of the most gorgeous thrills, particularly to a 30-something man feeling emasculated by current life events. Sad but true. Why am I now humming “satisfaction” by Benny Benassi I wonder ?
Anyway, something that would have taken me several hours of swearing, bleeding and frustration took less that 15 minutes: fixing the kitchen units that Michele previously kicked to shit. Not only did the drill-hole for the screw work perfectly but I used the drill to screw the screw into the wood with less effort than I imagine it would take to push a cocktail stick into Jack Straw’s eyeball.
I can’t wait to try out the masonry drills now. After years of using my dad’s Black and Decker, with its unique “vibrowobble” action maybe I’ll be able to put a shelf up without the raw plugs falling out 10 minutes later.
Maybe bad workmen are bad because they have shite tools, in which case their blame is well deserved.
Anyway – enough freudian rambling.
Nathan Barley started on C4 last night. As Charlie Brooker and Chris Morris are two of my all time heroes, and as Nathan Barley is a chracter beautifully crafted from pure bile, I was dead keen on watching it. Inevitably I got back from the pub, ate my pizza (from Planet Pizza – “for pizzas that are out of this woooorrrldd”) and fell asleep, waking just in time to forget watching the end credits. Michele confirmed my fears that it would be a let down and crap, and so I went to bed.
Today I looked-up a load of reviews and found a constant theme of people relaying the pre-broadcast press-releases followed by some very unimaginative insults that made my cynical side question whether they had ever watched it.
Joyfully, some lovely individual had ripped, encoded and seeded a juicy bittorrent this morning. Thank you, whoever you are, and I’m still seeding BTW.
So I watched it, and thought it was really excellent!
It’s certainly not a straight TV adaption of the original column. In fact I thought Nathan Barley was almost an incidental character. Perfect, because too much of that irritating wanker would result in even the most tolerant pacifist setting up a local extermination mob. Instead the protagonist, Dan Ashcroft, is a troubled cynical soul that really cheered me up. I don’t know why watching miserable, cynical TV cheers me up, but after the bloody awful week I’ve had, only Monkey Dust or this would have been able to make me feel better. Arseholes to the reviewers (especially that nob from the telegraph), this is top stuff.


Three things I’m always banging on about that I feel are now empirically correct:

  1. Trackback is a stupid idea and will backfire resulting in more spam for everyone
  2. TV is better now than ever before
  3. Since “streamlining”, the British postal service is now more shit than ever before and makes the US service look efficient and well designed

Item 1 above is self explanatory. Item 2 will totally bemuse the pretentious-middle-classes; they don’t watch TV so will never have seen BBC FOUR. But they lose: I’d love to be the sort of person who can say they honestly prefer the output of Radio 4 and BBC ‘FOUR’ to everything else…and amazingly, I genuinely do! Really! They’re superb! OK, they may well have dumbed down, and I wouldn’t know, but I really don’t think so.
Item 3, whilst being obvious to any current British citizen, may need expanding upon for overseas readers.
Ten years ago, Michele came to England and was shocked by how poor our expectations were with respect to public services. Understandable when you consider how service-centered US culture can be. However, one thing she couldn’t knock, because it was so impressive, was the postal service. At that time, the GPO was the best in the world. Super-cheap, super-efficient and super accurate. Nowadays, since the makeover, you are lucky if you receive 50% of your mail. It’s so sad to see. Today my dad received the second half of his birthday present: a DVD. It was supposed to arrive yesterday but the ‘110’ on the package, printed by a computer, in a very clear font, meant that the contractor-postie felt it really belonged to number 100…Luckily the people at 100 didn’t like 1950s French comedies and dropped it off to him.
The older I become, the more of an anarchist I become. The only way a service will not only become but remain efficient is if the people involved do it out of a sense of pride rather than a sense of duty. That won’t happen while you’ve got some useless tosser of a “team leader” breathing down your neck, because his/her manager is breathing down her neck, because…you get the idea.
Loyalty goes out of the window when your bosses start to treat you like shit. Therefore capitalism is doomed….but what will follow scares me. That too will fail, but not until a lot of blood is spilt. I don’t want that either.

Another thing that worries me is that in the past week I have encountered two, seperate, voice-recognition systems at the end of a phone-number. I always said that we would know for sure when a VR algorithm started working because the call centres would all close down. It seems that day is nearing. Bye Newcastle, Wales, Belfast, Bangalore. You’re about to be shafted. Not just yet – these systems are still way crap. But another five years and we may be there.

Shit wine

We’ve all had shit wine before, but tonight I’m drinking some “2 for a fiver” Vino Collapso with so few pretentions that they named it “Egesto”. If it was called “Excreto” no one would buy it. Odd really; would you rather consume something excreted or something egested ?
Tastes a lot better than the Tesco 2.99 screw-top vinegar.