Tuesday, 28 October 2014

A complete family

I'm pretty upset to have been reading some statistics recently.  The average salary of a quoted company CEO is 130 times that of the average wage.  5 million people in the UK live beneath the official poverty line.  How can that possibly be?  What has happened to the concept of a fairer society.  One where we are all rewarded for our endeavours?  The poverty line statistic is utterly disgraceful, the CEO statistic is shameful.  How come 'Greed is good' has ceased to be a satirical line in a Hollywood movie and instead a life philosophy?  The salaries of top earners are way way beyond what they can spend in any way, let alone whether they deserve it or not.  I've often pondered what might be a reasonable annual salary for a top earner..one that allows them to live a luxurious lifestyle, but that does not represent exploitation...I rarely get above a few hundred thousand quids.  That's a massive amount by any standards, and beyond that it is just pure evil greed.  Having met and socialised with people whose wealth would make your eyes water, it never ceases to amaze me how clever, clever they think they are, how deserving they think they are and how resolutely detached they feel from the dreadful state that western societies are in.  The rapid concentration of wealth in the bank accounts of fewer and fewer people cannot be anything other than bad...and sooner or later it must bite back.

 I wonder if any of my Facebook friends have noticed that I've stopped clicking the 'like' button...I will comment on posts, or share, but not click like.  I saw somebody had suggested as a way of  'transforming my Facebook experience'.  I wouldn't say it's done that, but it does make me think a little bit more about what people are posting and why..so I'd say I get more out of it than I used to.

If you're wondering, and there's no reason you should be, I'm currently running about a fortnight, nearly three weeks in fact in fact make that four weeks), behind with my blog posting...so a bit like looking at a nebula, all the action happened a little while ago.

It was my brother's birthday in early October, and we always meet up for dinner. There's one thing he always is.  Prompt.  To the second.  He's never late.  So it was of some concern that we were sat in the restaurant for quite a while without him and his other half.  Eventually I texted, and a few moments later they walked in.  I'd say a little sheepishly; they'd deny it.  As it happens the reason they were late was because they'd been in the car park.  Not just sitting there.  They'd bought a new campervan...practically on the way to see us, so were excitedly exploring their new purchase.  No doubt they'll have many happy weeks exploring the English countryside...but hopefully not at the moment as we're currently enjoying the tail end of a hurricane the Atlantic has sent us.

The next day we jetted off to Cyprus for a few days to see Grandma and Grandpa.  It's a trip we've been promising for months, but it has proved difficult to juggle all our commitments...if only they lived just down the road we could drop in for a cup of tea and piece of cake every week.  A five-hour flight, and the clock being two hours ahead mean that flying out there effectively you lose a day.  So we left  comfortably in the morning and arrived in time for a late dinner.  A few days in Cyprus is lovely...enough to get some sunshine and a bit of relaxation and to catch up on how life is for Grandma and Grandpa in Cyprus.  My brother followed us a week afterwards...and even sent back a photo of the local launderette for the launderette blog





















Friday, 24 October 2014

Bloody immigrants

I can't believe we allow any damned foreigner to come into the country, steal our jobs, our food, our houses....and our women.  It's a disgrace.  They're just slackers.  I'd put them all back on a leaky boat to where they come from.

Anyway, here's a picture that's currently being used by the Tirolean Tourist Board to promote the region.  The skier on the right is McFred.  What a fine lad...and how adventurous of him to have got a job in Austria last year, found somewhere to live whilst he romanced the local girls and enjoyed the local cuisine.


Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Completely exhausted

I've somewhat lost the thread of this post which I wrote a week ago and then forgot to post...it may not be finished, but I don't have the energy to re-read it....

We had a somewhat eclectic weekend the one before last.

Friday night was high culture with a performance at the National of Ballyturk.  I hadn't been paying too much attention so had assumed it was a dance piece called Ballet Turkish.  We were four rows from the front which is normally good, but in this case it was a bit of a shame.  I have developed this incurable habit of dropping off during Act 1 of anything, and this was a one act play.  I'm sure it's the perfect actors play, and the parts were played very well, especially Stephen Rea who we last saw on TV in the Honourable Woman.  But, but, but you know it's emperors new clothes when even the programme says you don't need to understand it to enjoy it.  Essentially from start to finish it was two men screaming at each other.  That was the performance.  Two of us 'got it'...it was inside a traumatised child's head.  You may enjoy it, and I wanted to but no.

Saturday evening was spent in the company of John Richardson who is a very funny man indeed.  I'm not a great one for stand up comedy, but he pulled it off very well and it was a very enjoyable evening thanks to my friend Graeme and his girlfriend Vetty.  They enjoyed themselves too, but the evening ended badly for them when they returned to their parked car to find they had a flat tyre...and no spare.  We'd already left so didn't find out until later when we were cursing the rubbish Tube service.  We got home about 11.30, they finally arrived home at 2.30, short of £200.

That was unfortunate for Graeme, as the next day he was taking part in a 45 mile cycle from Palace (Buckingham) to Palace (Windsor) (Yes, I know it's a castle...don't split hairs.

I arrived nice and early at the start line clad in lycra...the penalty of being sponsored by a corporate.  Still I was able to take this view from Waterloo Bridge.  Glorious eh?

We all set off for a very, very pleasant ride through the south of and west of London...the absolute highlight for me was to see the stags in Richmond Park which were absolutely magnificent...I wish I could have got pictures.  Here are our team:





I was lucky enough to be caught by one of the professional photographers

I was pretty relaxed at the end as it had all been done at a leisurely pace...

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Complete nonsense

I may have suggested in my last post that I hadn't been up to much.  A quiet weekend?  Complete nonsense.  I have ants in my pants.  A couple of weekends ago we spent the Saturday wandering round the Henry Moore Foundation...I've mentioned it before, and then on the Sunday we spent most of the day wandering around the Olympic Park.  This was unfortunate as we'd left the lights on the car which meant we were left stranded outside the Aquatic Centre.  Fortunately I've always relied on the kindness of strangers, and sure enough one came along and agreed to let us jump start off their car.  The reason for our wanderings was my need to take some pictures for my photocourse...sadly the aim was not to make great works of art, but rather understand some technical challenges.



















Friday, 3 October 2014

Completely naked


I noticed the other day that any time I mention something in a post or in its headline that is even remotely sex related, my viewing figures go up immeasurably.  I actually can't think why...after all if you're searching for porn on the internet, there's so much around that it's hard to avoid....I started this paragraph a week ago and have struggled to remember why I started it...it was of course to ask you a simple question.  How many naked selfies do you have, stored on your phone or up in the cloud?  1,10, 100, 1000?  No, I expect like me it's a big fat ZERO.  What is it with 'celebrities' that they take these things...is it simply a case of narcissism extremis?  After all that is what drives many celebrities to pursue fame, regardless of talent.  Anyway, it seems a bit daft to me and I can't see the sense in it at all.

Anyway, I meant to write about the collapse of Phones4U only because it demonstrates how little we have learnt since the financial collapse of 2008.  Here venture capitalists have taken a profitable business and killed it.  They helped themselves to a £200 million bonus last year by taking out a £200 million loan.  Lo and behold the business became unsustainable when they couldn't negotiate with the networks.  So my heart goes out to the people who paid deposits and won't get them back and more importantly the staff who are currently sitting at home wondering how they're going to pay the mortgage...

I dipped my toes in the corporate world a year ago by taking on a very corporate client.  To start with it gave me sleepless nights, then it just started to make my blood boil...and now I'm glad to say they've gone.  I'm really so glad..it will make me a much better person to be around.

Summer is definitely turning to autumn...two punctures in two weeks...a sure sign that bits of tree are dropping all over the road and embedding themselves in my cycle.

Remarkably we went to just one party last weekend...I think our social life is slipping...but we did manage to dance until 3.30 am, so I guess there's still some fighting spirit in us!

This week we haven't been out at all...so far.  Thank heavens for the Great British Bake Off.  Only in Britain could this show possibly exist, and how sad it is when one of these talent people has to leave each week...looking forward to the final next week...except we won't see it because we're off to see Grandma in Cyprus...some late autumn sunshine and warmth.  It will be lovely to see her and Grandpa in Cyprus too.

McFred is slowly settling into his new life...I remember my first term at University being so tricky after a year in Germany, and I think he is finding it a small shock to the system too.  Funnily enough I'm more conscious of his absence now than I was when he was in Austria.  Perhaps it is really just me that's not yet adjusted to his new life....

Monday, 22 September 2014

Lack of Vision


I'm slightly irritated by a couple of things.  Actually most of my friends would tell you that I'm slightly irritated by most things.  In this particular case, I started to write a post, and it didn't save.  To anyone who dares to suggest that it was my fault, I say harrumph.

Anyhoos, I forgot that last week we went to see Streetcar named Desire live stream.  John at Going Gently reviewed it so well here that I won't repeat his words.  I wasn't so keen on Stanley, as he didn't quite manage the primitive animal that I remember characterised him from the days when I studied it for 'A' level.  Stella was terrific...sassy and smart and believable.  Blanche (Gillian Anderson) just got better and better, the more demented she became...the final scenes were just mind-blowing.  I didn't really like the set which failed to convey the hot, steamy, sultry atmosphere of the American South that adds to the play immeasurably.  But overall stunning.

What really interested me was that we had to 'make do' with pretty poor seats...our noses six inches from the screen because the cinema was full...It was showing over two screens and both were packed.  We hadn't even been able to get into our preferred Picturehouse because that was completely sold out.  The tickets were two and a half times the price of the normal mid-week cinema ticket price.  So the economics look outstanding.  Curiously in Exeter, The Cat was able just to waltz along and walk in...so perhaps culture hasn't quite reached the south-west yet.

I also forgot that I stayed up to see the results of the Referendum trickle in...I grabbed a couple of hours kip when it was all quiet and Huw, but essentially I saw the secessionists seen off. I'm actually quite angry about the whole Scottish referendum thing.  In posts past I've blithely stated that I hope they push off...really that's only because I can't bear that support 'Anyone Other than England' thing...even Scots living in this green and pleasant isle. But what has got my goat is that for months I've been saying that the wrong question is being asked of the wrong people....and I am being totally proved correct.  So let's forget that even now the pro-independents are asking 'How long before we can have another referendum?' - don't they get the vote has been taken and they agreed to abide by the decision, or do they think the Scots should keep voting until they get the answer right?  No, what's done it for me, is that Middle-Manager Camoron and his fellow Etonians alongside Nick Claggy and Ed Millerband now say we have to look at the rights of English voters, with some form of English devolution.  WE haven't been asked about that.  In effect it's the classic West Lothian question...the Scots have voted on something that the English should have no say in.  So the right question should have been "Would you like to see a devolved government with parliaments for England, Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland with a federal UK Government at Westminster?' because that is what is happening now is some botched/cobbled together form now.  That question should be asked of every British citizen...and not like the Scots referendum where anyone who'd lived there for more than five minutes could have a say (yes if McFred had gone up to Edinburgh a fortnight before he could have voted).  Anyway, another stitch up concocted by political pygmies who are interested only in their own careers rather than doing the right thing.  It's another example of politicos having No Vision.  I'm so angry.

Talking of no vision, this is what I could seee on Friday night

(ignore the slightly light target pattern you can see...it's the nearest thing to pitch black I have)
I agreed to go night cycling through the forest on a bike that is not a mountain bike, with tyres that are not meant for muddy paths and candles for lights.  I'm amazed I'm still here to tell the tale.  In the distance we did see a couple of antlered Stags...never seen them before in real life.  Magnificent. Truly magnificent, and truly the antlers looked better on their heads than any wall I know of...

Friday, 19 September 2014

How time flies when you're enjoying yourself


I've been gently scolded by one or two folk as my rate of post posting has fallen dramatically.  I suspect that one or two others may be grateful at my lack of productivity, and the rest give don't give a hoot.

The week before last was the last 'supermoon' of the year...that's when its a bit closer to the horizon so looks ginormous.  I practiced my photographic technique (put the light meter on centre spot, or stop-down - in this case by a massive five stops).  I'm supposed to be doing a photographic course, but of the twelve modules, I've completed just two, so David Bailey has nothing to worry about yet. Anyway, these were the two pics, taken a couple of hours apart


I also re-edited one of my Angel of the North pictures so that it actually looks as I want it to


We went to a friend's 50th last weekend, and in true Essex fashion it was elaborate...a fabulous quartet played on the balcony whilst we supped champagne and then moved into a giant marquee where we were entertained by a Beatles tribute band.  I was amazed at how many of their hits you can dance to.  It was fancy dress, with a 1960's theme, so of course, The Cat's Mother went to town and I did what I could

It was a memorable party, most enjoyable, but a terrible mistake to decide to walk home when the local council has decided that to save money it's OK to switch off the street lights....

I don't remember doing anything else this week, and as there's nothing in the diary I can only assume we had a quiet few days at home in the evening.  That seems most unlikely, especially as I know we missed The Great British Bake Off.  Of course, from a work point of view, it's been busy because it's The London Design Festival, so I went to various events that have been more or less inspiring.  A discussion about designer makers, a discussion about co-creation and co-design, and a reception for an exhibition for new designers.  No wonder I remain tired and exhausted...


Saturday, 13 September 2014

A marvellous fortnight

Over the last two weeks, it has been a game of two halves, with The Cat's Mother's birthday, and my trip to Edinburgh as the half-time snacks.

I am sure I've mentioned that our cultural tastes are different...complementary some would say.  By some coincidence, last week was all me, and this week have been all Cat's Mother.  So, I dragged her out on a guided tour looking at London lighting...no, not special lights, just how light is used in the urban environment, and the effect it has on the way we behave.  Our guide was a very mad American, who decided to describe herself as a night time designer.  In some ways that is a fair description, as without light, our night lives would be very much curtailed.  Light brings with it a sense of safety and security, as well as creating different shapes and shadows.  It was quite fun.  Really.














Then we went to Greenwich to see the new production by Shunt...the immersive theatre company. The current production, called The Boy Who Climbed Out Of His Face, takes place in a series of shipping containers, and essentially is a series of scenarios designed to discombobulate you.  I shouldn't say any more, as I'd hate to spoil it for you should you decide to go along, suffice to say The Cat's Mother came out with a face that said, "Really?" and I came out with a large grin.  Apart from the performance, there was a lovely bar serving delicious food on the side of the Thames, so we could both relax and enjoy that.












The Friday night was The Art of Dining as I mentioned.  It was fabulous with colour-coded food, cocktails and lighting.



This week, we went to the Art Fair at the RCA, with paitings and sculpture from £500 - £500,000. We do like to go because it was one of the first things The Cat's Mother and I went to went we became a couple.  Usually there's plenty of great stuff, and plenty of nonsense.  Much is over-priced and very little would I want on my walls.  The exhibition is full of a certain type....arty trustafarians who can make interesting viewing, but truthfully wouldn't be much missed if the RCA fell into a very deep pit.

The next night, courtesy of UP we went to late night Proms to see Rufus Wainright. I can't say I was much looking forward to it as he's not someone whose music I have much enjoyed in the past and I had a cold to boot.  But The Proms always sizzle, and I have to say the concert was fabulous...he was quite endearing, and his final song 'Somewhere over the rainbow' (Wizard of Oz is indeed on limited cinema release at the moment by coincidence) was mesmerising.  Lovely.



And then last night we went first to the Paramount restaurant - it's the one at the top of Centrepoint -to celebrate a 21st birthday and then on to see Once.  Views and food at The Paramount are stunning, so highly, highly recommended.  Once was also surprisingly wonderful.  There's the merest shadow of a story but some fabulous songs, beautifully sung, a terrific set and a very engaging performance overall.  Cleverly too, you can go up on stage at the interval where they have a bar...so that'll be the third West End stage we've been on...a lovely, lovely night out.






Father Muffin has read somewhere that we (that's you, me and everyone else) are using fewer and fewer words in day to day conversation.  The net result is that some words are becoming endangered, much like pandas (although there's some debate about whether we should bother with pandas anyway, as they are completely useless at everything, except looking cuddly).  Two of the endangered words are marvellous and fortnight.  I hope I have helped redress the balance and kept them alive for a little longer.