Monday, July 30, 2007

Red sky at night

Shepherds talk shite.

Hibernation to Hibernian

Having been deprived of any football-based titillation or, more commonly, consternation since mid-May, it's (almost) a pleasure to report my first football fixture attendance of the new season. I went up to Edinburgh on Saturday to see Boro take on Hibernian in a pre-season friendly at Easter Road, where we lost one-nil thanks to a late - nay, last gasp - goal. Not that it really mattered. These are generally dull and lacklustre affairs, with the main purpose only really being a stretch of the legs for the players who've no doubt spent their entire close season awkwardly hunched over Scrabble boards. Maybe. Plus, pre-season friendlies mean us fanatics get to see some of Boro's summer acquisitions in action for the first time, particularly our tantalising Turk Tuncay (pron: Tun-chai, pronunciation fans). He looked pretty good from what we saw of him, since you asked.

I was accompanied by Dan, Edinburgh resident extraordinaire and fellow contributor to intrepid Boro fanzine Fly Me To The Moon. Despite the fact we'd only met once previously in a face-to-face/tête-à-tête manner, he was kind enough to agree to let me linger overnight on the favourably long sofa in his living room. It was long enough that I didn't need to dangle my handsome calves over an arm rest, and could actually lie straight, as if in a coffin. But one you wake up again in. Great hospitality from the host (rather than hospitalisation, which befell the host for my last trip to Edinburgh). I found out on Friday night that Foz from down this way was also up that way for the weekend, and we met up with him and his decidedly Scottish uni friend, Ewan, inside the ground. Very nice chap wearing a good jumper. Over the course of the day and night, many public houses were frequented and many pints of ale and bitter consumed. I won't bore you with the details - except that it was a delightful experience - or I'll begin to resemble William Hague and his dubious, drunk-demographic-targeting claims all those years ago. It wasn't like that: I'll never be as hardcore as Hague. We did visit a pub called John Leslie's though. Although, sadly, it was neither owned nor frequented by the celebrity Hibs fan and woman-botherer. Maybe they named it that in a bid to attract that vast, marketable drinking group - the accused (hello, lawyers) rapists. Didn't see The Proclaimers either. Not that they're rapists.

Here's another picture of a football ground to look at, since that's been the most telling function of this blog since its inception. I know it's what keeps the reader (singular) coming back time and time again, rather than all this lexical gibberish.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Listen to this, right

This isn't necessarily news to anyone, but the human design - especially from a physical and bodily perspective - is ultimately flawed. This was confirmed to me earlier today when listening to the local radio news bulletin and finding myself staring at the apparatus commonly used to receive radio signals (i.e. the radio) when they played interview snippets from new Boro signing Luke Young's unveiling before the press. Actually looking at the radio, while listening: as if doing so would increase Luke Young's audibility. This is, frankly, nuts.

It's a telling example of how the body's sensory system can go haywire. And it can happen to anyone - this is not a matter of stupidity, for once. I've previously seen supposedly fiercely intelligent people doing the exact same thing: looking at radios, when there's absolutely nothing to see of any note. It's like people who try to eat perfume and listen to flowers. I suppose we're a bit like when WindowsXP was first launched and was full of bugs, but was increasingly fixed as they updated it and stuff. Human evolution is just the same process: weeding out errors in our sensory system and gradually adapting so that such absurd actions can be avoided by future generations. This kind of stuff can often be quite unsettling as it throws the understanding of our capabilities into great tumult and means we begin to question our self-proclaimed human intelligence. I can smell uncertainty.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Camera ObsCuba

After being cajoled into lending my four month old camera to the mother figure for her holiday to Cuba last week, she returned yesterday morning and informed me she'd lost it through, of all places, a hole in the floor of a Cuban bus. Never in all my life. Naturally, I threw a minor hissyfit (it hit her in the face - fnar) before eventually seeing sense and bellowing "it's OK, mother, the best things in life aren't things." [interlude] "You can buy me a new one".

It means there's a Cuban peasant child (though relatively poor, also highly literate and comprehensively vaccinated) playing about with my camera somewhere. It's still got the photo of me and Joe Mangel (a.k.a. Aussie Oaf Mark Little) taken at All Tomorrow's Parties on it, because I 'protected' it so I could have it in a portable format for occasional screen caressing and whatnotwhat. They're probably thinking: "Who IS this guy, hanging around with charismatic international superstars just for fun?" And then they'll probably be doubly impressed when they find out Mark Little is an international superstar aswell.

On the one hand I should perhaps commend the mother figure for the enthusiasm with which she entered into the spirit of all things communist-Cuban, stripping herself of needless personal property and laying it down for use by the state as a whole. But on the other hand, I'd confidently say that if I was ever to get on a public bus and notice a gaping hole in the floor, I'd say to myself: "I shall make it my mission, for the duration of this journey, that nothing falls out onto the road, PARTICULARLY my son's Sony Cybershot W-50." Never mind though; I replaced it in Middlesbrough yesterday afternoon with a Cybershot W-80. They've stopped making the W-50, and the W-80 is it's improved replacement boasting a "face recognition" feature, whatever that means. Sounds a bit Orwellian to me, I think I'll turn it off. Anyway, during a barbecue at Lav and Laura's earlier today I put it to good use with a photo of a great set of baps. *snort*

What's love Yacht to do, Yacht to do with it?

It was Lav and Laura's engagement do at Sunderland Yacht Club last night. When everyone got their invitations I was slightly shocked that Sunderland should boast a yachting establishment, but that shock quickly turned to saliva-strewn anticipation when I was told we'd have (/get the chance) to wear sailor suits, and thus I'd finally have an excuse in this life to pay a little Holy Bible-era James Dean Bradfield homage. Turned out to be a savage joke though - more's the pity.

I drove up with Jimi on the afternoon and we were later joined by Jen (all the way from France), Welford and Sophie to complete the entourage originating from our neck of the woods. It was a fine evening of jovial spirits, good music and an extremely well-timed finger buffet. I found the chicken legs to be particularly scrumptious. Perhaps the only minor glitches of the night surrounded the administering of audio titillation via the PA, where anyone could wander over to the laptop and line up the songs from Lav and Laura's carefully selected DVD of tunes. Unfortunately, on one of my visits I hit the wrong thing at the wrong time in Windows Media Player and a painful silence filled the room. Worse still, the Lovejoy theme tune - arguably the finest TV theme in existence - was somehow omitted from proceedings. But this wasn't about negativity and it certainly wasn't about Ian McShane (just imagine if it was...), it was about Lav and Laura and their joyous engagement. It's alien territory for us to be seeing the first of our flock taking the steps towards officially nesting up elsewhere through the sacrament of holy matrimony, but if the chicken legs can be as tasty at all these engagement shindigs then the more the better.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Permitgate: The Appeal

In more car news, today I posted off my appeal for a parking ticket I got in Nottingham last weekend. Despite us actually having two visitor's permits for mine and Anna's cars, I left mine outside for about fifteen minutes permitless because we weren't sure where one was and I'd handed the other one over to Anna when she arrived. "It'll be OK for ten minutes," we said. It was extremely unfortunate that an over-zealous parking attendant had the temerity to do his job properly in that short space of time. So it's a £60 fine, or £30 if I pay it within 14 days, if the charge stands. Hopefully my hastily penned and slightly economical-with-the-truth appeal will do the trick and end this sorry mess though. I shall fight on the beaches, I shall fight in the streets and in their respective council-maintained parking bays; I shall never surrender:

Notice Serial No.: NG70225541
Vehicle Registration: P730 JOX

Dear sir/madam,

I am writing regarding the parking ticket attached to my car windscreen on Saturday 14th July just minutes after arriving to visit friends who live in Harrington Drive, Nottingham. Upon arriving I went inside the house to greet my friends and was told I needed to display a visitor’s permit, so they went to find it. Although it wasn’t found immediately, it was less than ten minutes later that I went back outside to display it, only to find a penalty charge already on my screen. Please find enclosed a photograph of the valid visitor’s permit in my possession for the weekend.

Although I appreciate the technicalities of the situation and must commend your parking attendant for their admirable efficiency in the workplace, I would ask that you rescind the penalty charge. It was merely an unfortunate coincidence that the attendant arrived within the short period it took my friends to find the permit. It was displayed for the rest of the weekend until I returned home. As a visitor to Nottingham, the incident put a dampener on my trip and leaves a negative impression of your city. I hope that you will recognise the basis for my enquiry and look forward to hearing of the fine's cancellation.

Yours faithfully,

P. Dillon

To be continued.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Great Carwashed

It's not that I want to constantly bore all blogees with the mundanities of my everyday life, but yesterday I went to the carwash. And pleasantly, what could be considered an obligation or possibly even a chore turned out to be quite a therapeutic experience. Come on down to the next paragraph and I'll tell you all about it.

I like the way you have to completely seal yourself away inside your car when you go in these things. Making sure the doors are closed properly and that the windows are fully wound up, cocooning yourself away from the world. You're effectively doing the same things you'd do if you noticed a masked band of hooligans and scallywags charging towards you, or if a friend you didn't really want to speak to was knocking on the offside front window. Once I'd entered the activation code and then proceeded forward to the correct position below the vast veranda of vehicular cleanliness, I turned off the engine and put the iPod onto 'shuffle' while I waited. The first song to come on was the exceptional Red Right Hand by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Truly a song to bring the carwash experience to life; those dark vocals and terrifying stacatto keyboards along with the stark tolling bell throughout combine very effectively with the windscreen blackouts and constant turbulence provided by your average 360° hydro-dynamic brush wash. I think taking the Padmobile through the carwash is the closest I'll ever get to going through rehab. I felt cleansed when it all ended, and I think it was all the better for the fact it was actually really sunny behind those big black brushes.

He's a ghost, he's a god, he's a man, he's a guru
You're one microscopic cog in his catastrophic plan
Designed and directed by his RED RIGHT HAND

Monday, July 16, 2007

Much Ado About Nottingham

I had a nice weekend returning to Nottingham as part of what will no doubt be termed in history as Unibond '07 v1.2. I hadn't seen most of the university crowd since January, so it was about time we reacquainted ourselves. It also meant I got a chance to formally reacquaint myself with the fine Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem public house and its Hardy & Hanson's Olde Trip ale on Friday night, which was nice. I needed a decent pint after a bit of a nightmare journey down in the Padmobile with the M1's rush-hour traffic and wet conditions. But not before devouring the tasty fajitas (pronounced: 'fadgy-tas') presented before me upon arriving at Orla's house, where her and Mark had invited the non-Notts lot to stay. We had a nice night just going around a few pubs along with Toby, Deano, Adam and Stu (plus at one point we were joined by some of Orla's friends, and one of them apparently said "who's he? He looks elusive" about me. I liked that).

On Saturday Anna and Tom arrived and we spent the afternoon in the baking heat at Wollaton Park, attempting to play football but not doing very well. When I suggested an easy-going game of heads and volleys I made the mistake of inserting the rule that anyone who concedes five while in goal must submit to a firing-squad situation whereby they turn around and let everyone else have a free shot. I was the first to let in five. However, amid a dispute over the exact terms of the rule (it should be five in one continous stint in goal, plus no yardage was agreed anyway) I managed to get away with restricting them to shooting from about fifteen yards away and nobody got me. It might not be in the spirit of the game, but such gamesmanship was absolutely necessary. Some of this lot can be quite sadistic.

The evening plan was to do something a bit different to the usual routine and go and see some outdoor theatre at Newstead Abbey, where Much Ado About Nothing was on. I've never been a fan of Shakespeare ever since having to tortuously study it for GCSEs and A-Levels, but with a picnic and a nice night in store it was a nice idea in theory. The actual performance passed me by somewhat, mainly because we arrived a bit late and I was kneeling behind a bench at the back and trying to open the sausage rolls quietly. But also because it wasn't very interesting. Tom spent most of the first half lying alongside me playing Lemmings on his mobile phone. We can be quite the philistines, but proud of it when it comes to Shakespeare. Seriously, as 'comedy' goes, Much Ado About Nothing seems on a par with Dinnerladies or Lee Evans. It was still nice to be out in the fresh air on a fine summer's evening though, just eating stuff.

Captive audience (copyright Mark Booth)

Sunday was rainy and any outdoor plans were somewhat squelched, so we spent most of it in the living room having cups of tea and watching 'When Sport Goes Bad' and 'Sports Disasters' on Bravo. As a more accurate microcosm of our time at uni, that was truly just like the old days.

Monday, July 09, 2007

True lefties do not exceed walking pace

I quite enjoyed the story last week about French President Nicolas Sarkozy being criticised in sections of the French media for his 'right wing jogging'. He's supposedly the first ever French head of state to exercise publicly, with previous incumbents having generally only indulged in a dignified pavement shuffle. If we think of jogging as right wing and the speed of our movements as a theoretical sliding scale of socio-political standpoints, just imagine the amount of ground to be covered in a twenty minute bleep test. You start with a kind of libertarian, intellectual stroll that combines elegance but also a little bit of swagger in the hips. Then you break into a slightly faster walk that suggests you have something to do and you'll be damned if anyone's going to stop you (sign of a determined leader). As the beeps gradually speed up you break into the aforementioned 'right wing jog'. Then things really get urgent and you progress through 'authoritarian running' and then onto 'outright fascist sprinting'. Fascist sprinters are nothing new mind you. So now you know the real reason for the acrimonious denouement to Linford Christie's athletics career. And of course it's no surprise to see Kriss Akabusi making a living on the 'motivational speaking' (read: neo-fascist monologues) circuit these days.

News of some French people saying jogging is right-wing has inevitably attracted scorn and giggles from around the world, but I can see where they're coming from. I've always been deeply suspicious of individuals who deem it sensible to parade themselves up and down our fine streets in their despotic fluorescent thigh-flaunting shorts, theocratic headbands and dictatorial headphones. We should introduce some kind of Jogging Police to stop these bad bastards in their tracks and take them off our streets. That'll show them who's right wing.

Saturday, July 07, 2007


The past few days have provided some animal-based torment while driving the Padmobile. I've had two separate ordeals of distress whereby everyday creatures have thrown themselves before my bonnet in apparent suicide bids. Yesterday morning I was driving down the A19 when, out of the corner of my left eye, I saw a pigeon flying up from the side of the road. That happens all the time with birds, and usually they're perceptive enough to fly high enough and avoid a collision. This slightly portly pigeon didn't manage it though. I tensed my shoulders and squinted as it went straight into the front of the bonnet with a horrific clunk. I glanced out my rear-view mirror to see the car behind being showered in more feathers than you can imagine. It was like the Padmobile had carried out some magical act upon the piegon's person, dispelling it in a puff of feathers. In fact, that's exactly what had happened.

Nobody cares much for pigeons (and Patrick Suskind's excellent novel, 'The Pigeon', documents why expertly). But this next story is bound to get the tears flowing. On Wednesday I was driving along a country road, music on loud, the wind in my hair, drumming the circumference of the steering wheel. A picture of urban cool. Then I spotted the little rabbit (everybody likes rabbits) about twenty yards ahead, toing and froing in the middle of my lane. I applied the brakes in an urgent yet safe manner, but it was too late for me to do anything - it was all up to the rabbit now. It hopped a couple of steps towards the middle of the road (good idea), but then stupidly turned back (bad idea). I looked up to the sky and waited for the inevitable thud of its head being separated from its neck by the underside of my engine. I'll admit, at this point my eyes had slightly moistened. Time was moving in double slow motion. An orchestra piped up in my left ear with strings at a fearsome pitch, just waiting to break down to a mournful diminuendo when the carnage materialised. The rabbit disappeared from view beneath the car. Now was the time - I tried not to listen.

But nothing. A startle only as I woke from my momentary slumber at the wheel and looked behind through the mirror. There it was. Alive, hopping to the safety of the grass verge, flicking a 'V' at me. It was like a scene from a film, or an episode of the Animals Of Farthing Wood. I cried all the way home.

*based on true stories.

The Thick Of It

The Thick Of It is the best British comedy going at the moment. It's like a more modern and savage Yes, Minister, and the two 'specials' screened since the turn of the year have been a joy to behold. Last week's second part was a particularly telling and well-timed ode to the art of intra-party political gamesmanship, charting all the party figures as they shuffle about in a desperate bid to back the winner of the race to be the new PM, regardless of who it is. All for personal gain, and all completely engrossed in their own bubble. Hilarious, and also extremely realistic. Armando Ianucci is still excelling himself. The first series was brilliant too and I hope they make a second, but that all depends on the outcome of the charges against Chris Langham.

One of the series' main attributes is its breathtaking use of swearing. Not piss-poor, unimaginative swearing for cheap laughs, but superb, highly aggressive and imaginative swear-filled rants for erm, expensive laughs. The scriptwriters even have a 'swearing consultant' based in Leicester, who they send their scripts to for a bit more colour to be added. It's just got a great script in general actually. My favourite line the other night was "you're on the last chopper out of Saigon while I'm being fucked in the arse by Ho Chi Minh." Part One featured a mesmerising put-down by the new Press Officer (and Malcolm Tucker clone) Jamie based around operating an iPod Nano via a political advisor's penis [watch video clip].

Political comedy doesn't seem to be a ratings winner in this day and age, but this certainly should be. Then again, there's no tiresome catch-phrases and it's not Catherine Tate, so it's hardly a surprise that it's savoured by relatively few people. It's all repeated on BBC2/BBC Four at various times in the coming week though, so watch it if you haven't already. Anwyay, I think I've waxed lyrical quite enough. "Wake up and smell the cock!"

Monday, July 02, 2007

My latest work

I have never claimed to be a painter and never will. But as a one-off effort, I think its shortcomings can be excused. I was painting with my niece the other day and decided to copy an iconic photo of Boro cult hero - and probably my favourite player - Emanuel Pogatetz. Just look at the physical sacrifice the man is prepared to make for Middlesbrough Football Club. It makes him hard not to love.

The original photo is below. As you can see, I had alot of trouble with the referee's head (but at least it's not orange like it was at one stage). I can say with quite some confidence I'll never try painting a bald man again. A truly abysmal effort. In fact Pog is the only one I've vaguely replicated.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Smoking Ban

With today's arrival of the complete smoking ban in England's enclosed public spaces, I've been trying to think of ways around the ban for all of our unfortunate nicotine addicts who would rather stay indoors than venture out into the squally showers we've been experiencing recently (as an aside, I'm delighted to report the return of the oft-missed word "squally" to our national BBC weather forecast earlier today. I feared it was lost forever).

The best and most viable method for smoking inside pubs/clubs/libraries I've come up with is an adaptation of an idea by comic genius Chris Morris on Brass Eye. If you've seen it you'll know what I mean; the bit in the 'Drugs' episode where he fools Claire Rayner into believing people are taking drugs through dogs in Japan. Our smokers could simply substitute the cannabis for a straightforward cigarette and leave their dog to smoke it outside the door of the pub (or wherever) while they inhale at the other end of the device while propping up the bar. That way they get their fix but also retain the air cleanliness indoors. Admittedly, there will be a certain surreality in having to climb over hordes of smoking dogs just to get inside Wetherspoons for a pint, but it's a goer nonetheless.

If you haven't seen Brass Eye, this is the clip I'm on about:

I don't smoke, that much is clear, but I'm not particularly fussed about banning it in pubs either. In some ways I think it almost adds to the atmosphere, so long as it isn't too overbearing. Pints of ale, soggy beer matts, metal bars to rest a foot on while ordering, fruit machines, dark mahogany bar stools, smoke in your face... they all go hand in hand. But not no more they don't. I'm probably less bothered by it than most because I was used to people smoking around me as a kid. Which is less acceptable these days of course, but it didn't really harm me. Apart from not being allowed to take up the trumpet to add to my pianist and violinist repertoire as a child. It was no consolation to be told they had my interests at heart. I suppose nobody wants a miniature Roy Castle on their hands.