Friday 21 December 2012

Drumming on a bit

I had a grin wider than my face when we donned our 'Working Men and Women' outfits again yesterday.  A big song and dance at St Pancras with us, the Pandemonium Drummers and even some Gamesmakers to raise funds for Mo Farrah's Foundation.

Thursday 20 December 2012

Oh no...the office party...

Do you bank with Lloyds TSB?  Have you had one of these?  It's the second one I've had in the space of a fortnight...and I've had plenty before.  To save you the bother of reading it, I'll just say that it's a letter that explains they've had trouble reaching me, and would I get in touch.  They're easy to ignore, and easy to chuck in the bin.

But for me they're quite important.  Because they mark the bank out as liars.  When I've questioned why they have not been able to get hold of me, they've not been able to explain.  In fact it's fair to say, they're just about the only organisation that can't get hold of me.  And I know exactly who I've had missed calls phones are wonderful data recorders.

So there are only two possible answers.  Either the bank are ringing the wrong number which makes them stupid, because they have been given the right number plenty of times before, or they're lying and they have not tried to contact me and they're just trying to make me pay for their tele-marketing activity.  What do you think?

So yesterday we were all sat around in the office with most of our clothes removed.  

It was the day of the office party.

Actually the two events are unrelated.  As these things do, the heating thermostat had chosen to break just before Christmas, with the result that we felt the heat.  It wasn't until the temperature reached 26 degrees and sweat was dripping off our foreheads that we realised something was wrong.  The only solution was to switch the whole thing off.

Fortunately, Christmas lunch started shortly afterwards, so we were able to make merry elsewhere....and problems like that can wait until the New Year before they get sorted

Wednesday 19 December 2012

It's OK to hit a woman (I'm joking)

There is triumph in the house, which is better than a Triumph in the house (that's a car joke).

The Boy was awarded 'colours' for his part in The Edinburgh award well deserved.  The Cat has passed her driving test...first time -she will be driving The Cat's Mother's Yaris, we don't own a Triumph.
Last night The Opening Ceremony was voted "Most inspiring TV moment ever"...which is a relief because it could have been Anna Friel's lesbian kiss in Brookside.  Here's the article.

I'm reprising my performance in my costume at the OOC with some others including The Pandemonium Drummers tomorrow evening at St Pancras between 7 and 9 pm.  If you're passing, do give us a wave...and chuck some money at us as we're raising money for the Mo Farah foundation and NUPAC for kids who have been abused.

Last night I met up with a group of fellow OOC performers - I hadn't been able to go to the event organised by our small group, so this one was full of people I hardly knew or recognised.  That didn't stop us all having lots to say to each other...a common bond has been formed..I feel we will be able to do this far into the future...what a wonderful thing that is.  I also discovered that one of the performers was the Falkland Islands Harbour Master, so I guess the Argentinians missed an invasion opportunity this summer.

The other night we were watching the BBC's Top 50 Olympic moments.  It was full of wonderful moments, and some rather sorry commentary from celebs including Jimmy Carr.  At the point the Beeb showed Nicola Adams who won Boxing Gold - the first woman to do so, Jimmy popped up and said it reminded him that "Sometimes it's OK to hit a woman".  It's a sign of the times that he then paused and added..."I'm joking".  Well obviously he was wouldn't have been funny if he was being serious.  Should he have joked about it...well in my mind absolutely yes, because the joke itself reinforces that it's wrong to hit a woman (or anyone come to that).  I laughed, as did The Cat's Mother.  By unfortunate coincidence as I rolled over in my sleep last night, arms flailing around I managed to clobber The Cat's Mother in the face.

Complete accident. Honest. Not funny.

Tuesday 18 December 2012

We should be told

Did anyone else see The Killing?  Those Nordics are an odd bunch, but they do make great TV.  I was so completely engrossed that the only time I noticed there were sub-titles was when I looked away from the screen and thought I'd gone deaf.

Apart from a few absurdities (it never does to think too much about these things) it was a great programme, and it's just a shame we've only discovered it in the third and final series.

I've been so all over the place that I've forgotten what I've written up, and what I haven't.  If you like Steven Sondheim, go and see Merrily we roll along, which is both quite sad and poignant, and fun at the same time.

If you're employed, you may like to know that the notice that your employer has to give you for redundancy has been reduced from 90 to 45 days.  According to the Government this is something that workers will be pleased about.  Yep we all want to rush into being made unemployed when there are no jobs around.

I had to miss one of the Olympic get togethers because it clashed with the last ever School Carol Concert that we would attend.  I love a good Carol Concert, and love to join in.  Once before at a different one, my girlfriend got slapped round the head by a government minister for joining in...these days, that would be front page headlines, and the man would be in court, resigned and shamed.  This time, UP told me off for joining in, but that may have been because I was doing 'yeehas' as the choir did what seemed to be a country and western version of the holly and the ivy...

...The Boy was in disgrace.  It had been the rugby team dinner the night before, and true to tradition, 40 or so of them streaked up the high road.  The Deputy Head Master was not amused, the rugby trip to Wales was cancelled, and all were threatened with losing their School Colours (award).  And there we have it...a clash between tradition and the modern world.  I think the school vastly over-reacted, I think the boys should have adapted their tradition so they streaked inside the school rather than outside.  And I giggled behind my hands.

I woke up to a Facebook message this morning to find that one of my oldest friends had died...cancer got her.  When I say she was one of my oldest friends, I had known her for thirty years, but hadn't spoken for a long time after a misunderstanding.  Much as I had tried to reconnect with her, it hadn't happened, but she had remained one of the people that I had retained deep feelings for.  So two lessons careful with your friendships for they are precious, and secondly we all grow up expecting that we and our friends will live to a ripe old age...and many won't.  If only I'd been told both those things when I was young and full of fire.

Time passing

A bit stretched for time at the moment...but there's always time for a good YouTube oldie, but a goldie

Friday 14 December 2012

It may be fake...but it will make you laugh...

After the usual marathon, the last of the Christmas cards will be posted this weekend...rumour has it that even Grandma in Cyprus will get hers on time.

In the meantime, this video of the Brighton Christmas lights made me laugh out loud...hope it brings cheer on you Friday afternoon

Wednesday 12 December 2012

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Christmas near London Bridge

It's war

I guess that like most people, my heart missed a beat when the news of Jacintha Saldanha came through last week.  It was a stupid, mindless prank, but it is a sign of the times that these things goes on without a care or a worry for the 'victims'.

This last Sunday The Times' magazine carried its annual review of the year...which is odd given that there was still 8% of the year to go.  One of my pleasures in years gone by was to sit and read these things in those timeless days between Christmas and the New Year.  It seems so odd that now, newspapers just cannot would be wonderful is something amazing happened in the next three weeks which completely re-shapes our view of the year...perhaps that would teach the media to just wait a little.

One of the many highlights of the summer for me were the Wenlock and Mandeville sculptures which were displayed around London.  They were decorated by artists, and it was fun following the trails around the city to find them...we managed a few, but were a long way from seeing them all.  Since the Games finished , the sculptures have been sold off along with much other Olympics memorabilia here. The money is going to charity.  We've hummed and haahed as I've really wanted to get one, but the prices some have gone for is unbelievable...some of that Olympic tickets madness still prevails.  But on Friday there were still a few up for grabs, and the prices had remained low.  There was one I really fancied....a red cycling Mandeville.  Finger at the ready, I clicked away as the auction was coming to a close.  The price rose rapidly, and in the heat of the moment, encouraged by The Cat's Mother, I kept bidding.  Auction madness had set in.  Then just as I thought I'd made a winning bid, the site told me the auction had closed and I'd been outbid.  For a moment I was  distraught.  Then the adrenaline went and I realised what a lucky escape I'd had....but don't be surprised if I weaken should more become available...

Enough is enough.  For months now I have battled with the squirrels stealing the birds the warmer days, they gave up when we switched over to dried mealworms, presumably because they didn't like them, whilst the birds adore them.  But now it's turned cold, there's no holding them back, they're like locusts.  Putting vaseline on the pole doesn't seem to make a difference as they have found a way round that.  Worse still, they have taken to chucking the big glass dome that covers the food off the pole...sooner or later it will smash.  I've had enough and have started chucking heavy objects at them.  Next thing I'll be buying a gun...and that from someone who can come over all Budhist about killing creatures.

And I've come to the very firm conclusion that Rog was right by suggesting it was a waxwing in this post

Tuesday 11 December 2012

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Colourful balloons in the sky

Living in fear

If you happened to watch the Channel 4 mini series The Fear last week you will have seen where we live on the south coast.  The programme was set in and around Brighton, and the main setting, one of Brighton's regency squares is where we live.  I would like to be able to tell you whether it was good, or not, but I was so overcome with excitement to see the place on TV so much, I couldn't pass fair judgement.  As ever, Brighton was portrayed as slightly seedy, down at heel and the scene for squabbling gangsters.  The place has never recovered from Brighton Rock.  It was funny seeing car journeys being made across the city knowing that it was jumping all over the place.  And I wish I'd been there when the blew up a car in our wonder we'd had warning notices put through the door! It's still on 4oD if you want to watch it

Apart from the location, I think the programme resonated with me because the main character suffers from alzheimers, and I could see similarities to the deterioration of my father as Parkinsons took a hold of him (not the violent outbursts, but the fear it induced). Horrible and sad.

I think that if they'd asked her, The Cat's Mother would have organised the Olympics single-handedly.  she has that mind and that ability.  In our house, we undergo a complete and utter transformation.  Not one single room goes untouched.  Christmas Lego in the bathroom (calm down Steve). Christmas mugs in the kitchen. Christmas toilet role in the loos.  Not one ornament is not replaced by a Christmas equivalent.  Everything is stripped away and replaced by something with a seasonal tint.  We have enough decorations to stock Harrod's Christmas Department.  The preparation of our Christmas wonderland takes a week of hard labour.  We even have four Advent calendars, if you count the Advent candle.

One made by The Muffins - every day is a clue for us to guess, hidden under an icicle. H is wrong...answers on a postcard, please.  And don't mention E.  We all love this one

One for The Cat plus the candle

And then there's my favourite - mine - just a tot a day to keep me going until the Christmas break...this is indeed the finest Scottish whisky

Thursday 6 December 2012

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OK I know this isn't a great picture technically, but I just love the expressions on the faces...especially the guy in the middle, who I'm pretty sure I know exactly what he would be like to speak with....

Death and the rest

Well yesterday was a busy day for dying.  Rupert Murdoch is in mourning today for his mother...and frankly if you reach his age and your mother is still around, it must be an odd feeling (apart from being sad).  She was quite the philanthropist, and had a good run.

In my world, Oscar Niemeyer, the Brazilian architect died.  He too was an oldie...a real oldie - he was 104 and had designed Brasilia, the modernist capital of Brazil fifty or so years ago.

And then Dave Brubeck, the brilliant jazz pianist best known for performing Take Five.  I used to listen to him when I was much younger.  Anyway, today would have been his 92nd birthday.  That's not too bad an age is it?

Jamie Oliver has come through for me....after the debacle on the boat last week, we got half our money back and a voucher for a meal at one of his restaurants.  It's good they are so responsive - I had a phone call from them within a few hours of sending an e-mail.

We had an interesting bird in the garden this morning...I'd loaded up the bird feeder yesterday after the snow fall, and had managed to get some dried meal worms - the birds love them...the squirrels don't, so it's the best.  This morning there was a real scramble for food, with loads flying in for their share, including one we didn't might have helped if I'd had my glasses on.  Anyway, my research has thrown up two possibilities - I hope it was this one:

Hoopoe (illustration)
The head, body and tail feathers were right, but it was the wrong time of year for a Hoopoe (which I'd never heard of), so perhaps it was 'just' a turtle dove...but I don't think so
Turtle dove (illustration)

Any alternative suggestions would be much appreciated....

Wednesday 5 December 2012

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Shunt/Not Shunt

So the snow came in bucket loads early this morning.  We're at the top of a hill, and the top 200 yards are steep by any standards.  Fortunately I have a Jeep...a big, heavy, fat Jeep which makes itself invaluable at times like this.  There are only two things which defeat the Jeep - other road users and sheet ice.  As I swung out of the drive this morning, I could see the scene below - various cars stuck at the side of the road, one across the road near the bottom of the hill, and another one firmly embedded in the bushes plus the blue flashing lights of an ambulance.  I gently touched the brakes to find the Jeep beginning a slide....fortunately after 20 yards of releasing and re-engaging the brakes we managed to stop, alongside a shiny Jaguar.  And there we stayed for the next forty minutes as The Boy and I shovelled load after load of grit over the road in front and behind the Jeep.  Eventually we were ready to move it...but not before several other cars had come along over the hill and tried to go down...why they thought they could when it was obvious that if the Jeep couldn't make it, nothing would.  Without too much difficulty we managed to get the Jeep up the hill and back in the drive....and I then spent another half an hour helping the driver of the shiny Jaguar whilst the Teens trotted down the hill to catch the bus to school...which really should have been what happened in the first place.  An hour later, it had warmed up so much that the snow and ice had all but disappeared.

One of the most unusual productions I've been to over the last few years was 'Money' by a company called Shunt - a collective of actors.  It's hard to explain the thing, but I'll try:  a commentary on the financial sector, it was performed inside a giant 'machine' built inside a warehouse.  As the performance progressed, the audience moved from one level to the next.  It may be best if you watch the video:

It was highly imaginative, and immensely exciting and interesting.

Last night we went to their latest piece - The Architects, which was also held inside a warehouse.  It was freezing cold. To get to the auditorium, you had to find your way through a labyrinth.  The story sort of revolved around the story of The Minotaur.  The auditorium was constructed like a large cocktail bar with a small stage for a band.  Through three large porthole windows you could see the sea.  Difficult to summarise, I would say it's about our inner turmoil, good versus evil, and how politicians pull the wool over our eyes.  It would have helped if The Boy had been with us to interpret.  Although we froze to the bone, it was again imaginative, immensely exciting and interesting.  Highly, highly recommended, but not for the feint hearted.  And continuing a previous theme...a naked man flashing his bits  Details here

Tuesday 4 December 2012

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Where would any parade be without the Salvation Army?

Chicken Poo

Well done Kate - perfect timing, if everything goes according to plan we will have a third royal celebration in as many years.  We may not get the extra bank holiday, but the feel good factor will be worth it.  And this from an avowed republican.

I see that we, the French and others have waggled our fingers at the Israelis for their decision to build yet more settlers homes.  It's a an easy lesson that whilst we take no action against this racist country they will continue to act illegally, consigning the Middle East to an eternity of turmoil....and yes, sooner or later someone will drop a nuclear weapon there.  And many will have missed that they are also witholding tax revenues due to the Palestinians who have done nothing illegal.  It really is time for change in the policies and actions of the world to help the Palestinian cause.

Did you know that The Bank of England has made cheap money available to the high street banks.  It's a clever scheme to get them back out there lending to help kick start the economy.  You'll be pleased to know that the Bank has lent over £4 billion.  Would you be surprised to know that of the £4 billion, just £4 million has been re-lent by the banks.  The rest is sitting in their vaults gathering dust until it can be handed out as fat bonuses and sky-high salaries to overpaid employees.  Yes, yet again you and I are subsidising the rich and undeserving.

We could have done with some advice in the office yesterday from John.  The Office Dog had been away for the weekend, staying at a farm 'Up North'.  He enjoyed his freedom enormously, and spent most of the weekend outside enjoying the fresh air.  Whilst no one was looking he took it upon himself to spend twenty minutes eating chicken shit.  I can't see the appeal myself.  Yesterday he suffered the consequences, and spent the whole day hiding under the desks, eating nothing and shivering.

So learn the lesson everyone - don't eat chicken shit, no matter how appealing it looks.

Monday 3 December 2012

Photo daily 135

 When I was at The Lord Mayors Show I took some pictures of people in the parade, so for this week I thought I would use those for the photo dailies

First up...


On paper, the last week has been a remarkable week of over-indulgence and organised fun:

Tuesday - Carmen at the ENO
Thursday - Ben Howard at the Brixton 02
Friday - Ross Noble at the Hammersmith Apollo
Saturday - Dining on the Thames with Jamie Oliver
Sunday - Cocktail Master Class at Harvey Nichols

At that level of ridiculousness, I realise I have no scope to moan or groan...for most people, doing that much in a year would more than enough.  We are lucky.  We live in a bubble, and the only worry is that one day someone might pop it.  So when I do moan and groan, it's within the context of knowing that if anyone should want to, please feel free to tell me to shut up.

Ben Howard was brilliant...really good, much more rocky, lively and interesting than I had hoped.  It's just that The Cat's Mother and I weren't speaking, having argued earlier.  For the first time, ever, we left before the encore.  It hadn't been much fun.  All self-inflicted.

Ross Noble should have been great...but I'm not a great one for watching stand up comedians, and he was off form...some problems with the microphone put him off his pace, and he didn't really seem to have any sort of a theme or a thread.  I went to sleep, much to the amazement of the couple sitting next to me.

We've always been great fans of Jamie Oliver, so Saturday night was a bitter disappointment.  In fact this was organised by his catering business, and the food was like school dinners.  Tasteless, badly presented.  hopeless.I don't think Mr Oliver had had any involvement at all, which wouldn't have been so bad if it hadn't cost an arm and a leg...not that everyone had paid that much - the couple sitting next to us had booked for afternoon tea(!) and had been upgraded to the full monty.  This couple should have been fascinating company - both Oxford graduates, one having studied English Literature - just what The Cat would like to do.  But they were dull beyond belief.  The guy was a civil servant and had worked for Tessa Jowell, so could have had all sorts of interesting stories around the Olympics, but we gave up.  His fiance, had been a theatre reviewer, but couldn't really remember any plays she'd been to see...and when we prompted her with 'The Browning Version' she admitted she'd walked out - remarkable given that the parallel performance was written by David Hare, one of the twentieth centuries greatest writers, who she had no awareness of.  We left early, as soon as the boat docked deciding that The Cat should breeze into Oxford at that rate.

And Sunday...well truth be told, this was a fabulous experience - it was a birthday gift to The Cat's Mother from her BFF, The Queen of Essex.  A dozen of us piled into Harvey Nicks, to learn all about the different spirits, and  how making a great cocktail is all about balance.  There's 5,000 cocktails, and we sampled a few of them.  On a Sunday morning.  Brilliant experience, really fun...but we were groaning in the afternoon!

Friday 30 November 2012

Picture Daily 133

Trees in the mist


We went see Ben Howard last night at the Brixton Academy.  It's amazing how buildings can be adapted to modern uses, and if you're interested, here's a potted history on Wikipedia.  It would be a good excuse to insert a video of Billy Ocean's Going Gets Tough, except I thought you might enjoy the first video that brought Ben Howard to my attention

Wasn't yesterday a big news day?

Leveson let us all know how the press should be controlled...does that include us bloggers?  Oddly, Cameron stood up and dismissed the recommendations almost before the ink was dry on the paper.  I can't think why you would set up an Inquiry, and then decide not to agree with its findings.  Having once had to go to the Press Complaints folks myself (they did find in my favour), I utterly support the concept of something with a bit more bite than we have now.  Newspapers are there to sell more and make bigger profits for their owners, so the temptation to bend the rules will always be there. Of course freedom of the press is paramount...but with that freedom must come responsibility.

In Egypt, the voting for the new constitution has been rushed through the Assembly.  Egypt has a pivotal role to play in the Middle East, so how it shapes itself for the future is vitally important.  You may be aware that the Islamists are in charge at the moment - not a problem for me, and nor should it be - the question though for the Egyptians themselves is whether they will end up with the political system they want?

And then there is 194.  It's a magical number which has been a long time coming.  It may just make the difference the region needs.  I hope so

Thursday 29 November 2012

Picture Daily 132

Winter tree

Photo competition

Just a short little note.  For my sins I run a photo competition, so if you feel you'd like to join in please click on the link here

The subject of the competition is 'leadership' sounds serious, and indeed it is a serious topic, especially when there seems so little real leadership in today's world...but all entries will be welcome.

Wednesday 28 November 2012

Picture Daily 131

A bum note

I'm a little angry today.  Foreign Secretary William Hague has announced that we  won't be supporting the Palestinian's bid for 'Non-member Observer State' at the UN.  This is the first step towards international recognition of a Palestinian State.  We're going to sit on the fence instead..  Whether you agree that Palestine should be recognised as a sovereign state or not, surely everyone must agree that the present situation cannot continue.  The desperate state of the Palestinians, especially in Gaza is criminal.  If the Israelis were bright enough to recognise that raising the Palestinians' living standards would undermine the extremists that deprivation encourages we might begin to see some peace and stability break out.

Stage nudity is not what it used to be.  I remember when I was younger, any hint on TV, film or stage was of the female variety.  As a full-bloodied teenager I regarded this as a good thing.  Not now though.  The nudity has changed.

The week before last we went off to Secret Cinema to be confronted by a guy being throttled in the shower room with his todger hanging out all over the place.  The Cat looked away, I suspect The Cat's Mother looked discretely as we tip-toed through the pools of water.

Then last week we headed to Cabaret.  If you've not seen this production, I'd get on down and enjoy it whilst you can.  Will Young is superb...absolutely made for the part, the set-piece choral sections are magnificent, although some of the other parts were weak.  The show closes with a line up of naked bottoms...not titillating given the way the story ends, but naked bottoms there were....mainly male.

And then last night we went off to The Opera, to see Carmen.  I like opera, although I pretty much realise that in between magnificent songs, you have crappy dialogue and hopeless plots.  Carmen is typical...I suspect that pretty much everyone (well not everyone) will know most of the tunes, even if they don't know where they are from.  You would expect that in the safety and security of a very, very middle class environment we would be spared male genitalia.  No chance.  The rather bonkers Spanish Director has seen fit to jazz it up and the leading man gets to wave his tackle in our faces.  Evidently it's a bullfighters tradition.

So my plea is not for less nudity...more is fine, just so long as it's the right sort.

And here is a picture of me taken last night by The Cat's Mother on the stage of The Colliseum in London after the performance of Carmen.  As you can see I've kept my clothes on, and even covered my head.

 And one of The Cat's Mother too

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Picture Daily 130

Prize Day

Among my many, many skills I have added to my repertoire is replacing false ceiling tiles, a task that I accomplished in the office this morning with aplomb (even if I say so myself).  It may not seem much to you, but I did have to cut them into shape and climb a step ladder - I am increasingly terrified of being more than six inches off terra firma, so for me this was quite an achievement.  Plus it provided much entertainment for everyone else in the office.

I am an award winner.  As you can see here

Obviously, there wouldn't have been room for all 10,000 of us on the stage to collect our award, so we sent Danny instead.  We're all quite chuffed.  Really.

By the way, if you are having a wedding, 18th birthday or bar mitzvah, you can hire the drummers from the Olympic Opening Ceremony, see here

And if you want a bit of Olympic Spirit in your Christmas festivities, you can buy the single from The Gamesmaker Choir, see here

These may be small things, but if it helps continue Our Greatest Ever Summer, then I'm all for it.

I shall be watching this with eager enthusiasm on 16th December

Monday 26 November 2012

Picture Daily 129

This isn't a new set of pictures I'm afraid, but my plans for some stormy pictures down in Brighton this weekend were somewhat drowned out by the torrential rain...cold and wind I can cope with, but getting soaked to the skin is beyond the call of duty...(I realise that there's a bit of a contradiction there)

Sunday 25 November 2012

Because you're worth it

There have been three deaths in our house today.  Very sad very tragic.  This is the time of year when the ceremony of the checking of the Christmas decorations take place.  Sadly three glass baubles couldn't face another year of being hung from the highest branch and leapt out of my hands, smashing into a thousand razor sharp splinters around my feet.  One of them may have been my fault, and I watched helplessly as it bounced across the wooden floor before submitting to the inevitable laws of physics.

Elsewhere, the Christmas tree is losing its needles.  As it's an artificial tree that's not a good thing. And one of the smoking Santas had lost an arm...soon sorted by a spot of super glue.  Yesterday whilst I pottered around the flat, too afeared to go out into the storm, I had the TV on, specifically 4 Music, kept me entertained.  Not truly, the music was dreadful, and I worried that I'd never even heard of this year's biggest selling artist - Flo Rida (pronounced Flow Rider), but I did enjoy hearing the Christmas adverts...not watching much TV usually, I realised that in their strange, odd little way they do a lot to fire up the Christmas spirit.

When I tried to post up yesterday's picture, I was told I'd used up my allowance, and if I wanted to do more I had to pay for the privilege.   So I stumped up.  A grand some of $2.99/month.  That's how much you mean to me...almost $36 a year.

Picture Daily 128

Friday 23 November 2012

Picture daily 127

Yesterday was a picture of Bluewater...the shopping centre for the likes of you and me; this is the stairwell at  posh people's supermarket Fortnum and Masons.  Lovely daaahling, luverly

Boney Mmmmmm

After the cataclysmic incident on Monday when The Spanish Girl arrived in the office on Monday in the same clothes as me...a bright blue cardigan and blue jeans, yesterday Gay George turned up wearing a pink jumper and black jeans...the same as me.  Something is going on here.  Actually the Spanish Girl isn't Spanish, and Gay George isn't gay (married with children).  It's just that we have completely politically incorrect nick-names for everyone here.  Is that wrong?  We don't think so...there's plenty of inappropriate banter around the office in this politically correct world.  But I do worry that we don't go too far...the question is always knowing when to stop.

Gay George's colleague, Gay John is not in today.  Last night he fell off a high roof whilst trying to recover a remote control helicopter that had gone off course.  You could ask what is a 36 year old man doing flying a remote control helicopter, and what was he doing climbing on a roof.  Well boys will be boys, and these days boys don't seem to become men until they're at least fifty five.  GG showed me a photo of the result - as horrific a picture as you'll see anywhere...his leg is broken and the bone was sticking out several inches.  Gross.  I will be all the more careful when i hop on my motorcycle home tonight.  A picture has been posted on Facebook, which I would reproduce here, but when I saw it, I felt sick for the next hour.

A side note on matters in the Middle-East.  I bet the Israelis wish they'd agreed a truce the day before yesterday - the psychological impact of a bomb on a bus in Tel Aviv would be quite severe, and globally gives the impression they were beat...assuming you accept that one Israeli life is worth thirty Palestinians.  In Syria, it looks as though smug Mr Hague is edging ever closer to sending in some sort of military support...probably the bombers, rather than the foot soldiers who are lambs to the slaughter.  It remains beyond me why we can't keep our noses out and let other countries sort their own problems out.

On TV, we started watching The Killing, having missed the first two series.  Those Scandawegians certainly know how to pull these programmes together, although whether we'll manage to stay the course I don't know...thank heavens for iPlayer.

Tomorrow The Cat's Mother heads off for her annual girls trip to the mid-west country.  They will enjoy spa treatments and Christmas shopping.  That should leave me at home with the teenagers.  But I think I'm going to escape to the seaside, and enjoy the Brighton flat to myself.  I'm not sure about the ethics of that, even though they're both more than capable of looking after themselves/killing each other

Thursday 22 November 2012

Picture daily 126

As I said...after Autumn comes winter, and the highlight of winter is, of course, Christmas (sorry).  Christmas decorations at Bluewater, the shopping centre

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Picture daily 125

Last of the Autumn series...we must be heading towards winter by now

A Public Service

I read with fascination this article on the BBC News website

Oxbridge dominates list of leading UK people

By Hannah RichardsonBBC News education reporter

Eton College educated 330 people on the elite list

Continue reading the main story
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A third of the UK's leading people went to Oxford or Cambridge universities and four out of every 10 of them attended private schools, a report suggests.

Ten top independent boys' schools alone produced 12% of the country's professional elite, it indicates.

The analysis of the backgrounds of nearly 8,000 people was carried out by charity the Sutton Trust.

Its chairman, Sir Peter Lampl, said private schools should be open to all on the basis of ability not finance.

The educational trust, helped by an Institute of London researcher, looked at the backgrounds of 7,637 people educated in UK secondary schools who featured in the birthday lists of national and Sunday newspapers in 2011.

Out of these, some 31% went to Oxford or Cambridge and another 20% went to another leader university.

Continue reading the main story
Eton College - 330
Winchester - 92
Charterhouse School - 74
Rugby School - 71
Westminster School - 69
Marlborough College - 65
Dulwich College - 58
Harrow School - 57
St Paul's Boys' School - 57
Wellington College - 56

Overall some 44% of those on the list went to independent school, 27% to grammar school, 8% to a former direct grant school and 21% to comprehensives and other state schools.

And Eton College alone educated 330 leading people on the list - some 4% of the nation's elite.

The profession most dominated by Oxford and Cambridge graduates was the diplomatic service at 62%, followed by the law at 58% and the top echelons of the civil service at 55%.

Nearly half of the UK's top literary figures went to Oxford or Cambridge (48%) and 47% of those in financial services or the City.

The list features actors such as Jeremy Irons, Daniel Day-Lewis and Kate Winslet, all of whom were privately educated.

Who's Who

And it features broadcasters such as Tony Blackburn, Rory Bremner, Jeremy Clarkson and Jonathan Dimbleby, again all former independent school pupils.

The analysis follows a series of reports the Sutton Trust has published on school and university backgrounds of those in leading professions, including national news journalists, judges and MPs.

A recent study indicated independent schools made up 7% of school population yet had produced most leading news journalists, medics, chief executives and 70% of barristers and judges.

For this latest study the school and university backgrounds of leading people were obtained using a number of publicly available sources such as Who's Who, personal websites and by contacting them directly.

There are some absurdities in it...and I should declare an interest that both The Cat and The Boy are privately educated.

The first thing that struck me was Sir Peter declaring that private schools should be open on the basis of ability, not finance.  Perhaps he has mis-understood what a private school is.  But also worth noting is that I went to a private school under the direct grant scheme.  That means the state paid for my education.  I went there on the basis of ability, not finance.  It was the Government, and a Labour one at that, which stopped access to private education for the less well-off.

The second thing is that two occupations dominated by Oxbridge are the diplomatic service and the top echelons of the civil service.  So it is the state which is more biased than any other in favour of Oxbridge. I wonder what that says...if Government and the Civil Service wanted to make a difference they could.  They have chosen not to.

I know the arguments about (private) education are much broader but let's not get bogged down here, eh?

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Tech stories

To be honest, I'm getting a bit fed up with this celebrity stalking thing. I mentioned a year or two back (wow...have I been tippy tapping for that long?) about how I "bumped into" Jeremy Clarkson in Zermatt, Switzerland only for him to "pop up" sitting behind me at the theatre in London.  Some wuld call that a remarkable coincidence.  Too remarkable for my liking if you ask me.  And now it is the turn of Rihanna.  First of all she gets herself involved in the Olympics by "performing", and then last night when I went to the Apple Store at Westfield in Stratford she is there "switching on the Christmas lights".  Again, some would say that is a coincidence too far...after all Christmas lights switching on is normally done by 'B' list or lower celebs.  I shall be contacting my lawyer later. Evidently things are not going well for her

My visit to the Apple Store is a sad tale.  The Boy was given an Apple laptop in January, but last week it died.  I booked into the 'Genius Bar' to get it fixed.  It started off well with a confident lad looking to get it sorted in a few minutes and gradually deteriorated as everything he tried failed.  The hard drive has to be replaced and everything on it is lost.  Photos and videos and everything.  Nothing backed up.  Let that e a lesson to everyone.

I've been conned by T-Mobile who have been my mobile provider of choice for the last several years....or perhaps I've been naive.  I decided that when my contract runs out I would move to GiffGaff until I was ready to take out a new contract with a shiny new phone.  It would be fair to say they were disingenuous at best...dissuading me from getting a pac code in October under threat of 'early termination' fees.  So I rang to get one a week before the end of my contract.  You have to give a month's notice I'm told.  So another month's fees for nothing.  I've noticed a change ever since they cozied up to Orange and the lovely friendly people I used to speak with before have all been replaced with operators who don't care, have no interest in the customer and lack any was partially this that made we want to leave. Originally I'd been due for a phone replacement in August, but mysteriously this suddenly became the end of October...they had no answer for that.   Ironically, I would most likely have signed up with them again next year, but now there's no way.  Their loss. I feel aggrieved.

Picture daily 124

Monday 19 November 2012

Nothin' happening here

We have a pretty busy life, so it comes as a blessed relief when we get a quiet weekend to ourselves.  This weekend we 'did nothing'.  This is what it consisted of:

Friday night - curry night with four friends

Saturday morning - up early to take The Boy to rugby; stay and watch the team lose 26-24

Saturday afternoon - off to Bluewater Shopping Centre returning at 11.00pm having exhausted wallets and energy.

Sunday morning - replaced light switch in bathroom, changed light bulb on landing by swinging out ofver the bannisters, fed the birds, went to Homebase

Sunday afternoon - off to Westfield...more Christmas shopping.

Sunday evening - massage followed by film

One day I hope that may read Friday night dozed in front of TV, Saturday got up at lunchtime watched a DVD, dozed, had dinner, went to bed.  Repeat Sunday.

Saturday I was up early because The Boy was playing rugby.  There are only three games left this term, and as he won't be on the field next weekend, this was his penultimate game.  I hope he takes it up at University, but if he doesn't then the next game will be his last.  There are a lot of 'last times' at the moment, and it makes me quite sad.  We're in quite a routine now for home games.  I drop him off early so they can have a practice and warm up, disappearing for breakfast at the local cafe before returning for kick-off.  Here was my breakfast, it may yet kill me

As you can see from the picture I was reading The Guardian, specifically the obituary of Fred Ridgeway. You may not have heard of him, and I only came across him once - he played a father in One Man Two Guvnors.  It was one of the funniest and best produced plays I have seen for many years.  It may have helped that it was partially set in Brighton with frequent references to Debden, which is just around the corner from where we live.  It was brilliantly clever, and a perfect way to enjoy an evening at the theatre.  What I hadn't realised was that Fred Ridgeway was suffering from Motor Neurone Disease, a terrible debilitating illness that has only one ending.  As his obituary says, he was so determined to play on that he employed an extra dresser to help him.  His obituary makes fascinating reading, because before he turned to the stage he was a successful banker who gave it all up to follow his passion.  Successful in two careers is something to be much admired.

Another great man I met this year was David O'Neale.  I've mentioned him before.  He was one of my fellow performers at The Olympics.  He, like thousands of others, auditioned and was surprised to get through.  It was only after he had been accepted that he was also diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease.  That didn't stop him, and he was always one the Group favourites.  David also helped organise the Jubilee celebrations in his local village earlier this year and has written books about his locality.  At the moment he is on a world trip...getting to see the highlights, and it's good to see his regular updates.  He is a man living life to the full....and is a lesson to us all.