Monthly Archives: December 2003


With only hours to go before reaching a very familiar point on the cycle of life it should be a time for thoughtful reflection on the past year. But I’m buggered if I’m going to bring myself down in such a predictable way. Instead, a shallow thoughtless reflection on the past 48 hours.
After vegging around with Tony and Humph for a day or so, Tony and I went up to Camden and met Andy. We went for some sushi and Tony wanted to eat some “weird” food. It’s been a while since I had sushi and afterwards I remembered why. Delicious food certainly; in harmonious, beautiful, artistic, tiny quantities that cost a shocking amount of money. But you’re also paying for the smug feeling of wellbeing and sophistication that swells in your stomach afterwards I spose. After this we had a pint in “the black cap” and flicked through QX which is a good way to make even the most well endowed heterosexual man feel inadequate…. I also remembered that I was in loco parentis to a ball of feather so went back home and watched BBC2’s selection of late night excellent comedy programmes.

The next day started of very productively – cleaned out the bird, did some washing up, washed a load of clothes etc etc etc. After such a lot of worthy productivity I went out with Mod and Ian to the Tate Modern. I’ve always wanted to go but never got round to it. If you’ve neever been, then go! No, just go! Go! OK there are plenty of opportunities for thinking things like “this is simply shit”, “a five year old could do better than that”,” this guy’s taking the piss” and “I don’t know about art but I know bollocks when I see it”, but you’ll also find things that really do make you stop and stare. Some of the stuff there is truly disturbing and even awe inspiring. Mod deliberately took us through the entrance in the “turbine room” where there is currently an installation called the weather project. This is what it looks like as you walk in. The room is indescribably large and there’s a layer of mist floating half way up. The entire ceiling is mirrored make the place look even more voluminous. Th e only light comes from the huge half sun at the end of the hall which, as a result of the mirrors, looks like an upside down sunset shimmering. It really made me short of breath. The scene was like something out of close-encounters with an army of open-mouthed people and childrens slowly walking towards the sun like possessed zombies. As you get deeper into the room people are sitting and lying down – a most bizarre sight, like a surreal silent festival. But when you lie down and see yourself hundreds of feet in the air, looking down from the mirror at all feels a little strange. There’s a shot of Whisky to for the person who find me in either of those pictures.

After about half an hour of lying on the cold floor waving at a reflection 100s of feet away we had a look at a few exhibits and tried to say “that’s the perfect space for an installation like this” about everything we saw and eventually wanderd off spending the rest of the afternoon/evening in the pub. Mod and Ian truly regretted persuading me to stay until the end because I launched into a series of rants….sorry guys.

So this is christmas

Like all of the christmas festivities this year, christmas itself was quiet and a little down. OK it could just be perception but there are some objectively crappy things that are probably more likely culprits:

  • My dad has Shingles and spent christmas in quite a bit of pain
  • There were only four of us – mainly due to my dad having shingles
  • The week before Christmas I had an argument with my sister – she got the right hump and I think she’s avoiding talking to me
  • Work has begun to intrude into my personal life yet again….forcing those scary long-term existential thoughts into my head
  • Batly has flown off to the States for 10 days. This blighted the last couple of days because I was thinking about it.
  • Denzil – the server on which my sites are hosted – crashed on saturday night, and that means it didn’t come back up until this morning 🙁

As Tony has pointed out, these are not really anything serious to worry about, but nonetheless they’ve taken their toll on my mood. So, I’ve been down, miserable and moody which has been rubbing off on other people and feeding back into a spiraling vortex of greyness.

So, in an attempt to sort out my mood, I’ll list some good things about this Christmas:

  • Michele got me some excellent presents: A book of card tricks, a book called 50 things you’re not supposed to know, and Schotts Original Miscillany. All great toilet books
  • Nice Christmas day dinner and my mum and dad seemed to like their presents
  • Good Christmas telly – we were both overjoyed to see Dawn finally come to her senses and also see David Brent tell Finchy to Fuck Off. Also BBC4. This channel is so righteous – not only did they show the entire “house of cards” on christmas eve (all 3 and half hours of which I sat through) but they also decided to repeat “a very peculair practice”, which really cheered me up. Despite being 15 years old, it is still as accurate about higher education establishments as it was then. BBC3 also showed the entire second series of Monkey Dust in one go too! Well worth a digibox
  • I got to see Tony and hopefully various other people that I don’t get to see often enough
  • Got to spend a couple of days doing nothing but veg about
  • Had some nice Wallies
  • I’ve still got a week off work
  • Dave H gave me his half finished PIC programmer kit – that should prove quite fun

There, that’ll do for now – I feel better already.

Nicola’s wedding

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Ironing is a pointless, time-consuming and soul destroying experience. For god’s sake people stop wasting your lives and refuse to wear clothes that need it. Cotton t-shirts and jeans do not need this bloody stupid attention and you’ll all get used to the world without shirts, ties and trousers. It’s the only way forward.

Anyway – suited and booted (a pair of black, suede shoes I bought with Adrian when I was about 16) I walked to Brockley with Michele where Nicola was getting married. Nicola looked great; a lovely, if impractical, dress and the biggest smile I’ve ever seen her wear. I don’t really dig weddings, especially Christian ones, but she looked so happy as she was reading her vows that I was welling up…really. Luckily it wasn’t a Catholic ceremony so it was over pretty quickly and one of the hymns was Jerusalem so I even joined in – aided by a small hip-flask of Famous grouse.

The reception was in New Eltham in a restaurant called the Acropolis. New Eltham is a fair distance from Brockley, but nowhere near as far as the coach journey from the Church took us. The driver took us on the most insane, surreal, route, managing to take in all 10 of the top 10 most congested roads in south east London on the way. It took so long, one of the people at the back of the coach was heard asking if the restaurant was in Birmingham.

Once we got to the restaurant things were great. There were lots of people I haven’t seen for years, endless bottles of wine. I like my meat, but there was so much of it that I had to stop….lamb, pork, sausages, meatballs, bacon…oh my god. Michele and I left early – on the basis that it’s better to leave wanting more than less…and also I have to work today….oh and Humphrey needed tending to…A good day tho’. Here are a couple of dodgy pictures from the day.

On the approach

Still not christmas, still haven’t finished work. However, today is Nicola’s wedding day and so I’m off work anyway. The dread of the impending suit is upon me and eased only by the thought that the reception is in a really excellent Greek Taverna in New Eltham.

Yesterday I met up with Brodie, wee John, Millwall Paul, Steve the Copper and a bloke called Bill to whom Steve referred as “Kaiser”. Even though much of the day involved watching football – something I’m really not into, it was an excellent afternoon. Firstly it was my first visit to the Forest Hill Wetherspoon’s. This place is incredible. It’s a pub converted from a massive victorian cinema. The adjective “massive” really doesn’t accurately convey the true massiveness of massivity of this place. You could comfortably land a jet there. Weirdly, not only is it BIG but it was packed -so it didn’t seem like it was huge and empty. Admittedly most of the customers were there because you can buy 6 pints for less than a tenner and eat a resonable meal for a fiver, but hey – it was a good atmosphere.

Later, Mod came round ours so I staggered home and we ordered Pizza. For some reason I was very weary by this time, and so Michele and I ended up going to bed at about half eight. Oh well – time to get in the bath.


Michele and I have just returned from a bizarre but entertaining evening.

Earlier today I got a call from an old friend: Tina. She’s back in London after living in France for the past few years and we agreed to meet up in Eltham, our home town, partly to catch up and partly so I could go round and help sort out her Dad’s PC…it was great to see her again and gave me the perfect opportunity to go to the Eltham grill 🙂

By all rights her dad and I shouldn’t get on, but we seem to – and he rewarded my work on his PC by sharing some of his 12 year old scotch with me and Tina, together with a bowl of bombay mix. We’d arranged to meet up with Michele in Lewisham for a meal at Hunkarim.

Now, Michele and I have been to that place many times, but never on a saturday. Initially it seemed like a busy version of the weekday experience except that the music, Dread Zone, was playing louder than usual. As we chatted, drank and ordered our food the music got louder and louder and the place started to get more and more busy. Tina pointed out that that the patrons were almost exclusively women but we just assumed it was a bunch of hen nights.

Then the turn came on: a keyboard player and singer. They cranked up the amp and played ear-drum-burstingly loud middle-eastern style music on a synth, while the singer sang a medley of dire pop tunes. Every now and then they gave our eardrums a break and played some CDs with no concessions toward subtle mixing. The CDs started off with some friendly ragga pop; Chaka Demus and Pliers etc, and moved up to some full-on dancehall crutch-rubbing ragga. The hen parties were in a frothy frenzy by this stage and we just sat there open mouthed. A 16 year old blonde girl at the next table was doing her best to “wine her body”, and when she noticed Michele grooving, obviously felt she had met a kindred spirit and invited her up to dance, which she did.

The evening went on and the place was rocking. By now we realised that despite the high quality of the food, Hunkarim on a Saturday was not a place for a quiet meal out. And then the belly dancer appeared. Instead of the flabster we were expecting, it was a young slinky woman who moved in a way I wouldn’t have thought was possible. All of the women in the place stopped screaming and everyone was transfixed. As she danced she invited other women to come up and dance with her – the first that accepted was Michele, who really knows how to move her hips.

To cut a long story short, it was a bizarre but spectacularly enjoyable evening and not at all like we’d planned. As we left, just about everyone in the place was up and dancing. It took us a while to sus that a large proportion of the all-female groups there were lesbians…I’d always wondered what sort of people were attracted to a place with a belly dancer.

Deja Vu

Another wednesday off work after a party. This time we had two days of party. Both seemed a little lacklustre and routine…and all in all a bit sad. Monday was the christmas lunch. It all started off quite well with the starters, wine and christmas crackers. Everyone was jolly and relaxed. But the main course took over an hour to turn up. The only reason this bothered me was that I’d organised it and was aware of everyone’s impatience, albeit due to pre-arranged meetings etc.
Poor Margot, the landlady, was almost in tears about it and it really wasn’t her fault. She’d never done a meal for so many people. Overall most people enjoyed it but the next day I had to deal with lots of tedious comments from people about waiting for food…everyone had heard about it. I also lost out financially. Oh well.

The next day was the IS christmas party, which is generally pretty crap but made pleasurable by being an afternoon off work and involving many bottles of wine. This year, there were only 2 wine boxes and everyone fucked off by 2 o’clock…apart from the hard-core of people that usually stick around. In my role as the Dead-Horse-Flogger General, I literally had to go round and persuade people to come back. Jesus I’ve got to leave this job…

But today is another relaxing day of listening to nice music (I’d forgotten how good Bongwater is) and writing loads of old crap like this. The birds eeking, a new hard-disk installed in teapot, nice cup of tea…ahhh…

Day off

As last night was the LRC (language resources centre) christmas drink I booked today off. Fortunate because I had one of the worst nights sleep ever. It was eight hours of unpleasant, scary nightmares. Bizarre, but not really relatable.

Today I got up late and spent the morning with the feathered chaps. Both came out today and they seem to be bonding – they spent a while on top of Humphrey’s cage preening – Tim even lowered his head – a sure sign of submissiveness and an invitation for Humph to preen him…which he didn’t. Meanie.

Michele came back early from teaching because the water was off there and so it gave me an excuse to go out and buy a couple of christmas presents. For dull reasons I went to Eltham, but I bumped into my dad and so we nipped into the the Bankers Draft for a couple of pints of Winter Warmer type stuff. The landlord really looked like he needed some warming up – miserable sod. Even though the place was almost exclusively populated by big fat eltham geeeeezahs it was quite mellow. Oh hold on.. maybe I’m a big fat Eltham geeezah myself ? Damnit!

Fighting off cynicism

[I do not own a single keyboard where all the keys work – excuse missing letters. I’d buy a new one but hey – this is a Sun keyboard!]
For most of my twenties I was very cynical about..well..just about everything. I’d sneer at people going on demos, been there, done that, people still voted Tory. People trying to help the environment – wasting their time – no point trying to help the environment while the world is frothing with capitalism – a clean environment just isn’t cost effetive.

A couple of years ago, a good friend of mine bought me a copy of “Reasons to be cheerful” by Mark Steel and it really caused me to reconsider the cynicism – I can’t really explain why, you’ll have to read it, but one important point that comes out of it is that cynical is what they want you to be. And didn’t the FoE save Oxleas wood from distrution ? So I’ve been on a lot of demos recently, and I’ve been arguing with Sun readers…something I never used to bother with.

However, I’m currently experiencing what the god-botherers call a “crisis of faith”.
We know someone who was clearly clinially depressed. He went to see his vicar who told him not to worry – Jesus was still there for him even though he was having a “crisis of faith”. Reassured and comforted by this helpful advice the guy went out got in his car, and shot himself in the head. As I’ve said before, God must be a bit of a bastard.

750,000 people turned up in Central London on a monday, in the cold, to celebrate a few blokes who managed to move a leather ball into the correct part of a field more times than another bunch of blokes. St George’s crosses everywhere. The news was/is choc full of footage, anecdotes and whimsy about the event. How many times do we have to hear about the joy of simple, honest patriotism. How great it is that people can feel proud to be English again. Look up the word “pride” in the dictionary to see why I find the whole concept of pride in a nation utterly bizarre and offensive. Look back at what acts of genocide, torture and destruction were commited under the shadow of our glorious flag and then we can start arguing about why I am utterly opposed to all forms of nationalism, jingoism and patriotism: three words for the same thing.

So – which way now ? Cynical ? Cop out totally, wear a suit and earn a fortune. Let the proles eat cake. Give them football, drugs and a police state to keep them happy and obedient while we sip the red wine in comfort with the rest of the inner party ?

Or carry on, going on massive demos that get almost no press attention and rarely, if ever, change anything. Living on the edge of an overdraft while working really hard. Help.

Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it
–George Bernard Shaw

He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would fully suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, senseless brutality, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be part of so base an action! It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.”
— Albert Einstein (1875-1955)

Love actually / The University of Shite

Last night we watched a ropey cam job of Love Actually complete with bad colour, audience noise and occasional fiddling with the camera. I know it got crap reviews but I’ve got this strange loyalty to Richard Curtis, the Vicar of Dibley notwithstanding. And as you’d expect it was a frothy, lighthearted tale of affluent middle class folk, including the prime minister, getting in dreadful pickles and awkward situations. Full to the brim with schmulz (sp?), cute kids who are wise beyond their years, and beautiful people, it should by rights have made me want to puke but, despite a couple of emetic scenes including a school nativity play, I loved it. There was a cynical undercurrent and a few really insightful ideas that I couldn’t possibly describe without risking an entry in pseuds corner. The opening scene is at Heathrow with a voiceover about how much love there is all around. OK, trite, but Michele and I have often talked about what emotional places airports are. In the back of both of our minds was the occasion when I had to wave good-bye to Michele when her visa was up, not knowing when or if I’d ever see her again. All around us were people overjoyed, or equally miserable with there own reasons for being there…and, of course, a load of blokes in suits looking round for their name on a bit of card so they can get driven to see another bunch of blokes in suits and smarm away while they burn lots of expenses on keeping the economy going…how this works I don’t know.
Bill Nighy was in it too – which is enough to make me go and see a film.

Friday evening we ended up in the SU chatting to a psychology student. He bestowed a few pieces of anecdotal information that, if true, indicate some serious problems in college infrastructure. Now, anyone that knows me will know that I can be ever so slightly cynical on the subect of contemporary Higher Eduction, but even I was amazed by some of this stuff. One thing that UBS has shown me is that the managerial problems in my particular workplace are not exclusive, in fact I doubt there’s an educational establishment in the country that isn’t permanently on the verge of ignoble collapse. But it’s obviously worse than I thought.


The postman rang the doorbell, woke us up and terrified the birds all at the same time this morning. Just before I woke up I was at a concert hosted by the little chipmunk looking one out of Hearsay. He introduced Kym Marsh who, after asking the audience how they were, decided not to sing and instead waved off her backing group, went over to some shelves and started filing books.