Thursday, 17 April 2014

Double double



Here's a couple of pictures.  One is a screen shot from the Danny Boyle film Trance (a sort of low-rent Inception...sorry Danny), and the other one I took three years ago.  I quite like that we both had an eye for the same shot.  You too can take the same picture at Southwark tube station





Last night we went to see The Double, another Richard Ayoade creation.  We (as in I) thoroughly enjoyed his first film Submarine and so we (as in we) have been very excited at the prospect of this film.  He's a remarkably talented man.  So having seen it, opinions are split:  me vs everyone else in the house.  It's based on a Dostoyevsky book of the same name so was never going to be an easy watch.  But for me it was brilliant.  It had all the characteristics and hallmarks of a short (I love watching short films) and managed to maintain the emotional and visual intensity over a full 90 minutes.  Beautifully acted, beautifully filmed, it conjured up a stunning environment (reminiscent of the best of Terry Gilliam) which conveyed the protagonist's descent into madness.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Full of gas

The nightmare that is British Gas and National Grid has continued.

The boiler installation was finished on Friday.  By Saturday it wasn't working.  The engineer who was called out made it very clear that he wasn't happy to come out.  Essentially he did a Bill Gates...switched it off and switched it on again before he disappeared into the night.  When it stopped working again on Sunday, he refused to return.  The woman at the end of the line at British Gas claimed that as they'd used a sub contractor, it wasn't a British Gas problem.  Fortunately it was The Cat's Mother who was talking to her as my reply would have referenced her parentage.   Monday morning was spent sending e-mails to various British Gas employees who to a greater or lesser extent have contributed to the debacle of the last few months.  I included the CEO just for the hell of it.  Of course I don't expect a reply.  I did get various replies on their Facebook page...such is the power of social media.

First there was the man who patched the pavement, then the man that patched the road, then the man that took away the road signs, then the man that filled in the trench, then the man sent to remove the safety barriers.  He noticed that the paving had not been replaced so took only the barriers on the drive.  National Grid are *required* by their own rules to complete the restoration within five days of completion of work. So in a classic case of 'double plus plus speak', they sent a second notification of completion six days after the first to give themselves a further five days.  Orwell would be proud.

Friday night was a charity whist drive which just feels like the sort of things my parents would do.  I might have enjoyed it, but that doesn't stop me feeling conflicted.  What made me giggle was just how competitive some people could be...me I just put down one card after another not caring whether I won or lost, but that did seem to hack some people off...you could tell the competitive ones by their steely looks and how closely they held their cards to their chest.

An interesting dynamic this week as The Cat has brought her boyfriend home for four days.  We'd have liked to have been introduced to him before he was imposed on us almost a week, but young love is particularly self-centred.  He was squirreled away upstairs when he arrived without a 'hi', brought down to meet and greet The Cat's Mother whilst I was elsewhere for half an hour and then he re-materialised an hour or two later for dinner.  I met him for the first time over a nice piece of beef and some brussel sprouts.  He's a pleasant enough fellow which is good.  Your offspring's choice of partner is always interesting.  The Boy always assumes I'm opposed to whoever he has turned his fancy to...not at all...I'm happy if he's happy. But I doubt he'll ever believe that.  This is the first time The Cat has brought a boy home, so I do wonder what thought she has put into it...or whether she hasn't felt the need to.  The Cat's Mother has been on tenterhooks all week about the whole thing.  The Family all expect me to exploit her nervousness, but I can see she's fragile.  So much as it goes against the grain my sense of humour has been kept firmly to myself.

Back in the USSR, it's quite sad to see the instability that has enveloped the Ukraine.  Some of this has undoubtedly been brought about the corruptness of the Ukrainian political class, but some of it clearly comes from Mr Putin and his henchmen, and yet another part of it certainly comes from the expansionist policies of the West.  What seems completely unfortunate is that we are moving back to an age that I am sure we had all hoped was history.  West vs East, the Iron Curtain, the Cold war.  It does feel that the greed and ambition of the politicians is once more taking us a long a difficult, dangerous path.  My best guess is that some or all of eastern Ukraine will fall to Russian control leaving a legacy of mistrust and antagonism that will continue for decades.  Does anyone remember Sochi?  Yes, the winter Olympics were supposed to be a show piece for the modern Russian state...but instead is more likely to be compared to Berlin 1936.  In the twenty-first century that does seem a bitter pill to swallow.

Back in the UK, evidently schools in Birmingham and Bradford are all coming under influence and control of Muslims who are imposing Muslim values and Islamic teachings rather than British values.  Well of course, that is wrong.  But the question is what are British values?  I've long said that we have been failed by politicians who have failed to create a vision of Britain now and for the future.  At best the waters are muddy...too long as the liberal approach taken hold without recognising that most people want to live within a clear set of rules, regulations and cultural values. This sort of thing is bound to happen when large parts of our society have stronger allegiances to their own value set because they down have something else to focus on.  I expect this particular problem will be dealt with whilst the bigger issues continue to be ignored....

Friday, 11 April 2014

Monopoly on incompetence

It was a real pleasure to squirrel away some time and catch up on some of the blogs I've missed reading over the last couple of weeks.

Some of you may know that we've been having a new boiler installed this week.  It's almost too painful to recount the tale of this process, because it would become a 1000 word Kafka novel.  But you can have some highlights.  When we decided on a new boiler from British Gas, this had to come from the commercial division, because we have a large house.  It's not a mansion or a stately home, it's just slightly larger than the average home.  We had to have a new supply which involved National Grid who sent two surveyors several weeks apart.  The second one informed us that our supply was insufficient.  We already knew that and that's why they had been commissioned to upgrade it.  Even after two surveys, the guys who turned up didn't know what they were supposed to be doing, so quickly disappeared again to get the right equipment - an excavator.  They did their work in the two days allotted and disappeared leaving a trench in the drive.  A new team was sent to re-tarmac the pavement.  Another arrived to retarmac the road.  Another arrived to remove the bollards.  Another arrived to fill in the trench.  And a final team arrived to remove the safety fencing.  Although the boiler had been on order for three months, some parts hadn't been delivered, and didn't arrive until Friday morning.  This for a job that we had been told would be done in two days.  I can't talk about the British Gas metering department which refuses to talk to either the rest of British Gas or National Grid.  Nor can I talk about the outside meter housing which National Grid described as hideous and told us to get a nice one elsewhere, only for us to discover you really can get them only from National Grid.  Between us, The Cat's Mother and I have quite a high IQ, yet we remain completely baffled as to how this system can survive in the 21st Century, and how these two organisations think it is an acceptable way to behave.  Our only possible answer is that the stress is so much that we've both aged into senility since we first started thinking a new boiler would be a good idea.









On a happier note, The Cat has been home for the Easter break to keep her Mother company.  The only shock will be the arrival of her boyfriend on Sunday.  He's staying until Thursday.  Neither The Cat's Mother nor I have met him before, so those few days will be interesting.  Indeed.

The Boy has just returned to Kitzbuhel after his few days in Amsterdam...he seemed to split from his Dutch girlfriend around about the time he arrived...or may be just before so he probably didn't get the experience he was expecting, but I think he had fun at least when he was cycling not knowing which way to turn on continental roads.  He's hoping for a summer job in Kitz and I wish him all the luck in the world, although I miss him desperately.

I meant to mention, but think I forgot, that it was Grandad in Cyprus' 70th and he had a celebration dinner for family in the UK just before I went off skiing.  There were people there I hadn't seen for nearly forty years...but it was easy to see they are the same now in their hearts as they were in the olden days.  I very much enjoyed spending the evening my brother who continues to have some serious health problems...he seems to have worn his body out quicker than most, but I suspect his cheerful visage will see him through for very, very many years yet.  The outdoor gardening job he has seems to give him enormous satisfaction...more than I've ever known and I'm sure all the exercise can only be good for him.

We went to see 'Another Country' which remains an utterly absorbing play.  I find it a fascinating story of how the establishment does down those that are not 'one of them'.  I think it still has the same impact, given that the cabinet is stuffed with Etonians, as it did when it first appeared.  The performances were not amazing, but then the original run included the likes of Kenneth Brannagh and Rupert Everrett...so it had a lot to live up to.  I was somewhat shocked when The Cat's Mother insisted we stop off for a donner kebab on the way home.  After all we were stone cold sober.  No idea what was going on there.  It was delicious.

And last night we headed off to another Secret Cinema which was splendid.  It took place in a north london town hall from the 1930's which suited the film down to the ground.  The actors who added the 'experiential element' were as superb as always and we came home feeling it was an evening well spent.

I now have one of the videos of my bobsleigh run, so I suspect my next posting will simply be a link to a youtube of that....call me lazy if you like!




Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Up the Alps

I like CDs, I don't like downloads...it's nice to have something to have and to hold, look at the artwork and sometimes I even read the lyrics.  The same applies to DVDs...much better than downloads, but, as I was taking the train from London all the way to the Alps for my holiday, I thought it would be a good idea to download a couple of movies for my viewing pleasure.  I tried with Blinkbox, but try as they might and try as I might we couldn't get them to download on to my shiny new computer.  So it was back to Apple, who offer the same service, at the same price it seems, and no hassle.  I'm not a great fan of Apple, but needs must.

I hadn't thought it through though.  If you're watching a film in public, you need to think about the people around you...especially children.  So when I started watching Riddick, I quickly realised that the monsters, the blood, the gore and the violence were totally inappropriate.  I had to shield everyone from the horror fest.  The same applied for my next selection, Filth.  Sex, drugs, transvestites, violence.  The perfect family viewing on Eurostar.  I was sat next to a Muslim, and felt awful.  Oops.

I didn't plan things too well, and when I arrived I realised that I hadn't packed either toothpaste or deodorant.  The local shop stocked only women's deodorants, so I pranced around the slopes smelling like a bunch of flowers all week.  The same shop sold me a tube of toothpaste for £10....

Apart from that, the holiday was a gem...still loads of snow for the skiing antics, and loads of sunshine too. No more holidays for me this year...I've been away so much this year that Easyjet has categorised me as a frequent flyer.

The Cat and Cat's Mother seem to have enjoyed themselves in my absence...I'm sure quality time together was very welcome for the both of them.  I thought it would be fun to text The Cat's Mother only in French...she obviously liked the idea so much that she would ring me back and speak in English...may be it was because my texts were based on 'O' level French of some 35 years ago...

The Boy is in Amsterdam for a week with friends...staying on the Boatel.  I'm sure that it won't be the sea that gives him sickness this week.

A little harsh...just because I didn't follow the instructors lessons....







 Google invited the Hoff along...I am lost for words....



Monday, 31 March 2014

They made a film about my holiday

I'm in St Nicholas La Chappelle for a final week of skiing.  I've abandoned The Cat's mother at home with The Cat.

The first morning was very exciting as they were just launching hot air balloons...most of which seemed to spend their time crashing into each other, houses and parked cars




Amazingly even before my holiday has kicked off, they've made a film about it


Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Short stays

Well, it was lovely to see the two teenagers again albeit only for just 48 hours.

It was 'Concentrated Offspring'  And as with concentrated washing up liquid, a little goes a long way.

The Boy was in a grump for the entire time, except when he could flash his smile and charm momentarily when it suited.  He didn't want to be back and who can blame him?  I wouldn't have come back for the wedding of people I barely knew.  But he did it, if only he had done it with good grace.  His journey had been a long one...Vienna (where he flew from) was more difficult to get to than he thought, and he'd spent a good part of the day getting his phone fixed before flying.  He certainly wasn't looking forward to the long haul back to Kitzbuhel.

The Cat had been less than communicative about when she'd be arriving than expected, and The Cat's Mother didn't want to chase her...meaning we spent an evening in limbo. Then the next day, a hair appointment took an hour longer than expected, meaning we left later than we had planned.  The Cat and Cat's Mother are hopeless timekeepers, where as I like to know when I'm leaving and when I'm arriving.  I buried my head.  Apart from that The Cat was on top form which was lovely.

Love them both, but I suspect they found coming home as challenging as we (or maybe just I) found it. Can't wait for their return though....I suspect a longer run at it will give everyone more time to adjust to their surroundings.  I suspect I'm not being fair to either of them...

As for the wedding they'd returned for, it was in Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh's former home. Splendid. But more and more I don't enjoy weddings, which seem to be signifiers of another stage in our lifecycle. Now that I've moved from being part of the younger generation, I find them depressing.  Conversation with mainly strangers over several hours is hard work, and the father of the bride gave a problematic speech which lasted almost 45 minutes.



So thank heavens on Sunday, The Cat's Mother and I went to see The Grand Hotel Budapest which was a spritely tale, lightly told with as much depth as a Tom and Jerry cartoon.  I dozed off a couple of times...I'm not sure why as I was quite enjoying it




Sunday, 23 March 2014

Picture post

Some recent pictures of the London skyline...I was lucky enough to have been given access to the building site that is London Bridge station, so was able to take advantage of the views





And a few (I managed to take 1200 in three days, so whittling them down has been quite a challenge!) from the bobsleigh track at Igls