Tuesday, 30 December 2008

What I have achieved this year

The time between Christmas and New Year is a strange one. There is a definite lull in my energy and there is always far too much food. It is the time of year to think back over the past 12 months and what I haven't achieved. Yes, that is a negative way to look at it, but that's just how I tend to feel at this time of year - but I know that there are many positive things. The worst part of 2008 was my job - boring, not challenging, not busy enough etc etc. I tend to lack motivation unless I am challenged and busy and that's certainly been a problem lately.... that must change! I'm not saying that 2008 has been a failure though and I've had a pretty fun year!

What I haven't done...
  • I didn't lose weight or gain any fitness
  • Didn't find a new job or enjoy the one I have
  • Didn't keep in touch with friends enough
  • I failed to say 'no' when I wanted to and ended up saying 'yes' instead
  • Didn't visit Jan in Holland, Dom in Austria or Donna in Spain
  • Didn't take and pass any exams (as I work in Financial Services, these are CII exams)
  • Didn't make an impact on the house "to do" list
  • Didn't buy the guitar I wanted
  • Only ticked off a couple of my list on 43things.com
  • Didn't drink enough juice
I could go on and on as I'm in a groove now! It isn't all negative though and there are some things I can list that I have achieved and shouldn't dwell too much on the list above (just get them done Stephen!)

Some achievements...

  • Paid a good amount off the mortgage
  • Started and maintained this blog
  • Started and completed my macro photography project (The next project is a 2008 photo book)
  • Saw some good concerts
  • Did a little work on the house (mainly painting)
  • Had a couple of fun holidays, weekends away and other events
  • Heard some great new music*
  • Took some good pictures and have them listed for sale
  • Visited Sicily
  • Saw many good films making use of Lovefilm.com and Sky+*
  • Did as little work as possible and got paid for it!
  • Was generally helpful to those around me!
* See my best of 2008 blog entry

Maybe the little things such as doing someone a favour, clearing out all my old clothes or cooking a good meal for friends can count as well. Just having a lovely home and partner (and not killing him in 2008!) should be sufficient of course and I should count my blessings.

So... in 2009 I fully intend to make this list twice as long and meaningful - watch this space.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Matthew (Mattie) Mitcham.... again

For the emailer who wanted to see a new picture of Matthew Mitcham in my "best of 2008" blog entry, here he is looking great in two kinds of suit...

It's strange, but on my blog that is a varied mix of postings, Google Analytics tells me that the most common search phrase used to bring people to my blog is "Matthew Mitcham Naked".

Hmmmmmmm

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

The best of 2008

Here is my selection of some fave's from 2008... feel free to add comments with your own highlights. Happy Christmas (or insert other relevant religious festival) to everyone!

Top CDs I've heard in 2008 (but not necessarily released this year):

R.E.M. - Accellerate [best track: Supernatural Superserious]
Noir Désir - Des Visages Des Figures [best track: Le Vent Nous Portera]
Death Cab For Cutie - Plans [best track - Soul Meets Body]
Les Doigts De L'Homme - Les Doigts Dans La Prise [best track: La Doublure]
Neil Young - Live At Massey Hall 1971 [best track: Dont Let It Bring You Down]
And all the individual tracks I bought through iTunes!

Top films I've seen this year - in no particular order:


Arlington Road
Atonement
The Edukators
Flashbacks of a Fool
Hallam Foe
Hot Fuzz
Stardust
In Bruges
Persepolis
In Search of a Midnight Kiss
The lives of others
Magnolia
Paris
Control
The Godfather: Part II

All of my IMDB ratings can be accessed via my website.

Some top events:

R.E.M. live at the
Royal Albert Hall
Brussels Jazz Festival in May
Weekend in London over August bank holiday weekend

Being less than 2 yards away from Daniel Craig
Birthday at West Lodge Park hotel including a great massage
Free weekend in London
Nice/Monaco/Cannes (which was good and bad)

Top totty:

Fernando Torres
Novac Djokovic

Danny Cipriani
Ben Barnes
David Bentley
Amir Khan

Matthew Mitcham (no pic - just link to this posting here)

Monday, 22 December 2008

Bon Weekend

It was a busy week up to Sunday. The Edinburgh trip involved a very silly meeting where we had serious discussions and then an office Olympics. Showing off with colleagues is not really my thing. In the evening, I was wasted in the Voodoo Rooms. Friday was hangover hell, Easyjet delays, then a drive to Kent.

On Saturday, Pete and I went to France (our annual Christmas trip) to get some shopping. My mum added her things to the list - roughly 300 bottles of wine and 200 crates of beer. Well, maybe not quite that many, but it felt like it.

We went into a bar to find a group of drunk English lads dressed as old ladies - not a fetish thing, a stag event. They were an embarrassment to England - one even asked the barman "where is the whorehouse? I'm gagging for it" - he was being serious. In the evening, you see French guys out for a small drink, maybe just a coffee or a meal with friends - and you see drunk English tourists. Why is it that the English need to get drunk to have a good time?

At least the French guys are excellent "bonbon pour les yeux" and Pete bought his favourite calendar from Stade Français who wear the craziest shirts.

As usual, we ate too much - I need to lose some weight in 2009. The Holiday Inn is too expensive now, so we stayed elsewhere and it was very poor. We won't be staying there again.

These shots were taken with my crappy little mobile phone or Calais beach and also Wimereux. For the first time in years, I didn't take my camera!

The next blog entry has already been written and will be posted on Christmas Eve - it's my "best of 2008" posting!

Sunday, 21 December 2008

X Factor ruins Christmas shocker

Back from a weekend in France (which followed 3 days in Edinburgh and 1 in London) and I have heard the news that reality TV has brainwashed a nation once again.

Thanks to the X Factor, we no longer have the excitement of seeing which single will be number one this Christmas. The "series" is just one long advert and it's just one more representation of how British TV is dumbing down to the lowest common denominator.

The race for the UK number one has been a tradition for decades and it's been stolen from us by a simple talent show. This is a programme that has managed to con a nation into thinking it's something really special! I have no idea how it has done this so successfully.

And to those who ran out to buy the third best version of Hallelujah in the charts this Christmas, I pity you sheep. Listen to the original and Jeff Buckley's version and you will see what I mean. I don't mean any bad feeling toward the prize winner - it's not her fault that we encourage people to become stars in this way - I blame the TV execs.

So, Mr Cowell and Co., thanks for taking all the fun out of the Christmas single.

Friday, 19 December 2008

My favourite jokes (part 1)

Some jokes make me laugh time and time again. I doubt you will agree that they are that funny, but here goes anyway...

Two cannibals are eating a clown. One turns to the other and asks, "does this taste funny to you?"

this one will only work with readers in the UK:

An Eskimo and his son are walking across the snowy tundra
The son turns to his dad and asks “what are we having for dinner tonight dad?”
His father replies: “son, we're having Vera Lynn”
The son looks disappointed....

“Oh no whale meet again!”


Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Views from a train

I am currently sitting on a train from London to Edinburgh. Over the next couple of days I have end of year meetings and one of those “oh so much fun” Christmas parties for our team. I am surprised my employer is paying as I understand that most departments were given zero budget. I am on a train rather than the usual Easyjet flight as I stayed in London last night – more about that in a moment – and it was easier to use rail.

The ticketing for rail in the UK is still ludicrously confusing and, despite buying a First class ticket for nearly £60, it didn’t give me the right to use the First class lounge at King’s Cross because it wasn’t the right kind of First class ticket. Hmmmm.

Last night Pete, myself and 20,000 others saw Coldplay at the O2 arena in London. The performance was excellent and they played all of the hits, but there were 3 negatives I just have to share with you (because I just want to rant a bit):

1. The show started too late at 9.20. Not because I need to be in bed, but because I knew that the last tube is around midnight. So when they stopped playing at gone 11, it took over 20 minutes to get out of the building and only then could we join the queue of many thousands wanting to get on a train.

2. The only screen was half way down the arena hanging from the ceiling and as we were sitting up high about a third of the way back, we had no screen and could see little people on the stage.

3. Their front man, Chris Martin, is a great singer and musician, but he is extremely annoying in that he skips everywhere. He can’t walk or run – he has to skip. He also skips very fast to the edge of the stage then pretends to hit a wall or an explosion forces him back. He only did this about 50 times.

Anyway, even with these little moans it was a good show and I have learned that their bass player Guy Berryman is very cute. I took this slightly blurred picture on my mobile at the O2 looking down on an escalator reflected in the glass.

And to end with, here are some things I have learned this week…

- In the UK, only 45% of children under 16 have been to an art gallery. That is a crime.
- The computer mouse is 40 years old.
- The team of President elect Obama has employed 8,000 people to run the White House.
- 130,000 false breasts destined to be given away in an Australian Mens magazine have been stolen.
- That actress, Eva Longoria Parker from Desperate Housewives seems to be trying to appear in every TV advert.


Sunday, 14 December 2008

The gay questionnaire

Name: Stephen
Country: United Kingdom
Age: 38
How old were you when you first realised you were gay? I think I've always known I was gay and really fancied a couple of guys my age on TV (and at school) when I was about 12. That was a defining moment for me.
Do you have more gay friends or straight friends? Straight I suppose. I don't tend to categorise people and would question why anyone would.
Biggest turn on? Porn!
Biggest turn off? Fat people
Ever been harassed due to your orientation? No, but I may have been lucky so far.
Have you ever been surprised at the reaction of people who know you are gay? Yes - a couple of guys I used to work with had no issues at all and I thought they might have. In fact, they were very supportive.
What is the worst gay stereotype? Camp guys who think they are being original. I think much of it could be an act.
Are you a stereotype? No I am not. I don't tick many gay boxes at all.
Ever been to a pride rally? No, but might go one day.
Do you go to gay bars? Rarely - in fact, I can't remember the last time. I don't see why I would want to limit my choice to gay only bars.
How old were you when you first told someone you were gay? About 20 - but wish I done it earlier.
Did you plan it? If so, how? I was drunk and it just sort of happened. I said "I like guys"
What made you choose that person to tell? I trusted him and NEEDED to tell someone.
How did you feel? Felt like a weight lifted off my shoulder.
Have you ever been snubbed by someone after coming out to them? Yes. An ex-work colleague was very uncomfortable and avoided me from that moment. Sad ****er.

Have you come out to your family? Yes - but way too late. They couldn't have cared less - much to my surprise!
Why did you come out at that point? I had had enough of telling lies and it was getting me down. Also, 2 guys I knew had just come out and their experience helped.
Are you out at work? Not my current place of work, but have been in previous jobs.
If not, why not? I am not that close to my colleagues and
there's not really been a suitable moment to talk about it. I really don't care one way or the other though.
If you’ve been outed unwillingly, who did it? It's happened, but I didn't mind - it can be useful actually.
What does being out mean to you? Not having to lie about pretty much everything.

What advice would you give someone wanting to come out? Do it as young as you can.
If you could do it all again, would you do it any differently? If so, how? I would have come out
about age 17/18 and this would have made me far more confident, I have no doubt.

If you want to answer some of these questions yourself or ask me any new questions, feel free to post a comment.

And some humour to end...





Friday, 12 December 2008

Full moon

The full moon has always fascinated me and in case you didn't know, tonight is a full moon. I have no knowledge of astronomy (or astrology for that matter), but thought I'd find some moon related facts to share with you...

To get technical, a full moon is a lunar phase that occurs when the moon is on the opposite side of the earth from the sun. The phase is said to be linked to crime, suicide, mental illness, accidents, birthrates and fertility. Such correlations haven't been fully proved but do have a name. Lunar effect is a theory which suggests that there is link between the lunar cycle and behavior in humans. A spokeswoman for Sussex Police said: "Research carried out by us has shown a correlation between violent incidents and full moons". Strange eh?

Full moon to full moon takes 28 days to complete which is directly related to the fact that, on average, a woman's menstrual cycle is 28 days.

The moon has a role to play in the tides - though that's incredibly complicated.

By coincidence, one of my favourite films is An American Werewolf In London which obviously has links to the moon. A interesting fact about the film is that every song featured has moon in the title including Blue Moon, Moondance and Bad Moon Rising.

I have tried to take a few photographs of the moon, (see above pic) but it's actually very difficult thing to do. And now for the dull part... as you have to keep the shutter open for a while to capture enough light (maybe half a second), the moon moves across the sky just enough to blur the picture. However, this picture is one of mine... taken with a Pentax K100D with a 300mm zoom lens and x2 adapter. I aim to get a better zoom lens or even a connection to a telescope to improve the quality. Yep, I told you it was boring.

And one of my favourite musicians, Peter Gabriel publishes a video blog every full moon.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

RIP Oliver Postgate

I read the sad news today that Oliver Postgate has died aged 83. For readers not in the UK and for many younger readers, the name may not mean much.

However, he created many of the TV programmes that I enjoyed when I was small (and secretly love catching on the kids channels today). Two that bring back great memories are
Ivor the Engine and The Clangers (I have a Clanger sitting next to my TV at this moment in time). However, my favourite has always been Bagpuss. I have seen every episode! For those who missed out on this classic series, I pity you.

Thanks Oliver, for so much.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Ten steps of Wikipedia (copyright Stephen Chapman 2008)

I'm trying to be clever with this posting - it's actually Saturday afternoon, but I am going to pre-publish so that it appears on Tuesday, while I am on a course in Edinburgh... so here goes....

When I first looked at Wikipedia, I found clicking on links and seeing where they took me could be enlightening. So I thought I'd make a game of it and I have therefore just invented Ten Steps Of Wikipedia. You start and finish with chosen words or names or things and have to follow links on the wikipedia entry to the next entry.

On my shelf is a DVD of Harry Potter, so that can be number 10.

The starting point is a random word generated on this site - and the obscure noun produced is (1) Panguingue - which is a gambling card game similar to rummy particularly popular in (2) Las Vegas - the most populous city in Nevada and an internationally renowned major resort city for the gaming, shopping and entertainment and was named by (3) Antonio Armijo who found it after following a tributary up the (4) Colorado River - which features a dam finished in 1936 called the (5) Hoover Dam. The first concrete was placed in the dam on (6) June 6, 1933 - the 157th day of the year , and the day in 1906 that (7) Paris Métro Line 5 was opened. One of the metro stations on the line is (8) Gare du Nord. This is the terminus where you can catch a high speed Eurostar train to (9) St Pancras International station which is used for the exterior shots of King's Cross station (which is actually next door) in the (10) Harry Potter films.

And that's how you go from Panguingue to Harry Potter in 10 steps!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Wordle

It's a frosty Sunday morn' in England, but the sun is out and it's going to be a lovely day. Later this afternoon I'm off to Scotland for a couple of days - work related unfortunately. I've been to Edinburgh dozens of times and really like the city - it has everything you want and is nice and compact. Here's a picture I took last Christmas when I was there - it's looking down Princes Street through the big wheel.

I found a link to the site Wordle on another blog and I think it's brilliant. It allows you to produce art from words and I fully intend collecting a load of words together and producing some art for the living room. You can change fonts, layouts and colours to suit your mood. Here's an attempt using the words from the last blog entry, with all the numbers taken out...

Friday, 5 December 2008

100 facts about me - 11 to 20

Here's the second installment of 100 facts about me - the first part can be found here.

11. Until I was 32, I had never lived without having a dog or cat in the house.
12. I feel that I appreciate all music, with the exception of rap. I just don’t get it.
13. I stopped biting my nails when I was 20 so that I could go to guitar lessons without being embarrassed.
14. Barenaked Ladies are the best live band I have seen.
15. I believe that the concept of a Royal Family is simply weird.
16. I take a multi-vitamin pill most days.
17. I don’t like people who shorten names and titles to try to sound cool and trendy e.g. ‘Joburg’ for Johannesburg or ‘Pepper’ for ‘Sergeant Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band’.
18. I have never walked out of a cinema in the middle of a bad film, though I have been tempted. (Gerry is the worst film I have ever seen...by far!)
19. I think that organised religion causes more problems than it solves.
20. I don’t like dancing.


Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Dutch courage

This Christmas, a friend of mine is coming back to the UK from Holland where he now lives. He emailed me today with his plans - the dates, the presents, what he's bringing etc - and ended the email with a question...

Do you fancy anything from The Netherlands?


I replied...
Robin Van Persie


Sunday, 30 November 2008

Snippits for a another rainy Sunday

It's been a cold, wet and misty day and I've been tired after not enough sleep. Last night we (Pete, Sonny, Gavin and me) played poker and I did poorly... We played 3 games and I won nothing! I don't recall even having a good hand all night!

Here are a some snippits:

On Wednesday I went to see the musical Hairspray in London. I am not usually a fan of musical theatre, but Sonny has kept on about seeing this (as he's seen it many times it seems)! Do I relented and thoroughly enjoyed it. The actor who plays 'Link Larkin' was a runner-up in one of the crappy talent shows we have on TV - his name is Ben James-Ellis and he's extremely cute and he can actually sing and dance. Considering the stage moves he has to make, he must be really fit.

Talking of musicals, Pete bought the DVD of Mamma Mia and we watched it on Friday night. I must be one of the few people in the UK to think it was tripe, considering it's now the biggest earning film in UK history. The story was stupid, the acting mixed, the singing painful, the songs forced into the script and the ending silly. So, I admit that it could be fun, but it wasn't for me at all - and I do like Abba's music, so that's not the reason. I gave it 4 out of 10 on the Internet Movie Database - all of my ratings can be accessed via my website.

Also on my website is my Amazon wish list for Christmas...

I noticed a news story that made be laugh about "voodoo dolls" of French President Nicolas Sarkozy today. A court has said the dolls can remain on sale, but must carry a label saying they are offensive to him and some people say that using a pin in the doll could be an offence.

I have done some analysis and my most successful 2 blog entries were: the photo one and the light gay relief one. I received comments and emails about both - so thanks for your feedback. You will appreciate that the views were very different for the 2 topics!

And finally... coming soon: I have recently taken a Strenghfinder(R) test at work and thought I'd share some thoughts on that.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Guest Blog #2 - Oldies can be goodies

This is the 2nd in my series of guest bloggers. This blog entry is by Sonny, one of my oldest friends (in that I've known him many years, not that he is 79 years old). I have been looking forward to this contribution and I wasn't disappointed...

“Well my friends are gone and my hair is grey
I ache in the places where I used to play
And I’m crazy for love but I’m not coming on
I’m just paying my rent every day
Oh in the tower of song”

Last week I saw Leonard Cohen perform live at London’s Royal Albert hall; fulfilling, if not a lifelong ambition, then a very long held desire. I can almost hear the readers of this groaning with the thought of having to ‘endure’ this 74 year old curmudgeon, but please hold those thoughts. This man is maligned, he’s been know by various dark monikers – the suicide song-smith, the merchant of death and many more bleak titles. All of which are completely unfounded. Granted, he has a knack to the more melancholy but within his great emotional insights there is a delightful smattering of humour, and jotted amongst the more famous of his ‘dark songs’ are some very uplifting tracks (such as Independence has Come to the USA, Closing Time, and Ain’t no cure for love).

But I’m not writing here to wax lyrical about the man’s music, you can be the judge of that yourself – you’ll either like him or not, but either way, he’s most certainly worth an open-minded listen. What I want to comment about was the concert and specifically the man. The man is in his early to mid 70s, not that you’d know it from the way he ran onto and off the stage and performing for just over 3 hours. But what had me in my elements was not the music or seeing this legend in the flesh (though that was a huge plus), it was the unexpected presence he had on stage – he was at once charming, modest, and above all, he exuded humility. After every song, he removed his fedora hat, bowed down to ‘his friends (the audience), turned and bowed to each of his band members and then returned his, near tear-filled gaze back to the audience before continuing his performance.

It may seem like a minor thing to notice over and above the music and vocal performance, but in this day and age of self-pontificating, glory-seeking egoists that fill our screens and airwaves, the pleasure of seeing a performer to is so totally engrossed with his art and the delivery of that art to an audience was more than most of the audience could handle. He had us, all of us, in the palm of his hand – staring, puppy dog like at the stage hanging on his every word and movement. It was enrapturing. If some of the artists we admire today could put a tiny percentage of that honest into a performance, into delivering a heartfelt performance for their audience, well life would be so much more rewarding.

He’s still touring Europe and then going to the States around Easter… if he comes your way do, please do, that the time to experience Mr. Cohen… He may be at an age where he should have hung up his boots, but at the moment, he’s giving the greatest live performance of his life and probably of anyone performing today.
___________________________________________________

There will be another guest blog soon. If you are new to my blog due to Sonny's blog entry - please add a comment, subscribe (on the right of the page) and bookmark (see icons below)!

Monday, 24 November 2008

Podcasts

In a previous blog entry, I mentioned how must I like radio. I am also a big fan of Podcasts i.e. a radio programme / audio broadcast that you download to your computer and/or mp3 (mine's an ipod) often using suitable software. I use iTunes as is allows subscription, sorting and storage. By the way, I keep mistyping Podcasts as Podcats, whatever they are.

Despite being around for only a few short years, Podcasts are hugely popular now with tens of thousands available from the professional radio stations and newspapers to marketing people and amateurs. The content is as varied as the internet. I usually listen to them in the car on 107.5 Stephen FM (I have an ipod transmitter!).

So, here are just a selection of my favourites as at todays date, in no particular order:

1. Football weekly (Guardian newspaper) - twice weekly look at UK and world football, with a 'witty' twist.
2. Friday Night Comedy (BBC) - the best Radio 4 comedy from the Now Show to the News Quiz.
3. Front Row Highlights (BBC) - movies, music and art from across the week on Radio 4.
4. Get-it-Done Guy's Quick and Dirty Tips to Work Less and Do More (Stever Robbins) - a brief guide to working smart.
5. Mark Kermode's Movie Reviews (BBC) - Taken from the Radio 5 Simon Mayo programme.
6. All Songs Considered (NPR) - Does what it says on the tin. They also do a great live music podcast.
7. The Q podcast (Q 4 Music) - Various music related podcasts.
8. Stephen Fry's Podgrams (Stephen Fry) - Rants and wise words from a genius.
9. Coverville (Brian Ibbott) - Cover versions and much more on a podcast that used to be a little amateur but is now a slick production.
10. Rhinocast (Rhino records) - Great discussions on great music featuring Bob Lefsetz.

I also listen to Adam & Joe, 8 out of 10 cats, Money Box, In Business, Music Week, Look away now and many many more!


Does anyone have any suggestions? Please comment.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Things ain't what they used to be

Pete took his mummy on a shopping trip to Lille today, so rather than do my usual thing and laze around the house, I ventured down to Sarflundun (for those not in the know, that translates as South London) to watch my football* team, Crystal Palace, play Bristol City. It was a fine match with plenty of action and goals. I wont bore you with a full report and I wont bore you today with my views on why the club is failing... maybe another time. I don't really like going on my own, but my mate James was working so I decided to go anyway and travel to the stadium early for several reasons:

1. To buy a retro replica top from the 1990 season. This being the best season in the clubs history and the time that I really became interested in football.... and footballers.
2. To grab some junk food before and after the game. This ritual must be observed on pain of death.
3. To take a walk around the area my grandparents and parents all grew up in and soak up some nostalgia - and as we all know, nostalgia is not what it used to be.

Where the stadium sits is the border between London and Surrey - though it's all just one very crowded run-down hole. I walked to the small flat where my late grandparents used to live (my dad's parents) for over 40 years and a couple of things saddened me. Every Sunday morning, my Nan would polish the brass step and you could see your reflection in it. But now, that same step is tarnished and dull (like the whole road) - I would bet money that the last person to clean it was my Nan 7 or 8 years ago. The second thing was seeing that my Grandad's local pub, The Victory had closed down. He used to go in that pub every other day or so for 40 years, almost religiously, which is ironic as it's now the local Islamic meeting centre. The other regulars made him a t-shirt once with the slogan "Victory fruit machine instructor" as he loved playing the slot/fruit machine - it was the only gambling I ever saw him do.

However, the little house where my Mum grew up looks far better and is very obviously privately owned, but is still in an area that I would not walk about in after dark!

Large parts of South London are not nice - many areas are dirty, falling apart and don't feel safe. Of course, there are some nice areas - but not many. Perhaps it always was bad and my happy memories of long holidays staying with my Grandparents and playing with my cousins are clouding my brain a little.

I am tired now after a long day (as I dropped Pete and his mum at the station at 6.15am). So now is the time to laze...

* No matter how many times I hear or read it, I can never call it Soccer. It's just wrong to do so.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Selling pictures... or not selling to be precise

Over the past couple of years I have taken many thousands of photographs - it's one of the few pastimes I am really passionate about. Although I will take the camera to most places I will visit, I did this religiously for a year from my birthday in April 2006 to April 2007.... a year and one day in pictures.















It is actually very difficult to take a picture every single day that is worthy to be shown to the world - but I think I just about pulled it off. Via the link above you can see what I did each day for the year and one day. I eventually put the 392 pictures into a photobook (yes, some days I chose 2 photographs!) . Luckily, Pete and I were living in London at the time, so I think there were more opportunities then to take some good shots. We also went away at weekends quite often - I will tell you all about why that was the case another time.

Some of these pictures I love dearly and would like others to see them. So, a few months ago I decided to try and sell some of them - mainly to publications looking for stock pictures. There are hundreds of stock photo websites and I have since found that only a handful of my favourite pictures are suitable. Some are not large enough, some have slight blemishes, some have other 'faults'. Therefore, I have had to take some specifically to sell and hope to sell them through this site. But this site alone has 14 million pictures, so mine may well get a bit lost!

So, a little over 100 of my works are available, but no-one is buying at the moment. I will probably have to take some dull photos for corporate brochures, but my next step may be to target the needs of specific companies, for example there is one on there already featuring a Caffe Nero cup. If you have any ideas for required stock pictures, I would be grateful to hear your views.


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Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Germany 1 - England 2

England beat Germany?!?! Now that doesn't happen too often.

It was a good game to watch, plenty of action and that doesn't happen often with an England game either. The difference was that we didn't have the arogrant primadonnas as they are "injured". Yeah right. These players wanted to play wanted to show skills. It felt like a Premiership game - lots of closing down, a few long balls to use the speed of the forwards and good interplay between the backs and "wingers".

My ratings:
James: 6
Johnson: 7
Terry: 7 (made up for his defensive error
)
Upson: 7.5
Bridge: 7

Wright-Phillips: 6.5 (he still thinks he can run through people)
Barry: 7
Carrick: 7.5
Downing: 8
Agbonlahor: 7.5
Defoe: 6

Subs
Carson: 4
Bent: 7

Young: 6 (it's not a good idea to use a webcam if you are famous)

Maybe Postman Pat, I mean Fabio Capello has the skills to make England a winning team and worth watching.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Meh

During an episode of the Simpsons (Hungry, Hungry Homer), the word Meh was used by Bart and Lisa:

Homer: Kids, how would you like to go... to Blockoland!
Bart & Lisa: Meh.
Homer: But the TV gave the impression that...
Bart: We said "meh"!
Lisa: M-E-H. Meh.

Ever since then, Pete and I often use the word... followed by M-E-H of course. It's defined as being indifferent/not caring.

To really show how a TV programme can influence society, Meh has been selected for inclusion in the 30th anniversary of Collins English Dictionary. Hundreds of words were suggested by the public including jargonaut (a fan of jargon); frenemy (an enemy disguised as a friend) and huggles (a hybrid of hugs and snuggles).

So next time you are asked a question and your response is complete indifference, you know what to answer.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

You scummy people...

Last night, artist Adam Neate arranged to leave 1,000 works of art around London for people to pick up and keep. What an amazingly generous thing to do.

Volunteers took hours to distribute the works. You would think that the lucky people who found these often stunning pieces of art would be grateful for their lucky find and cherish the art. Most will, but some truly scummy people are looking to profit from the Adam Neates talent and personal gift by selling the items on Ebay.

You should be ashamed of yourself; you selfish, greedy people. You will try and justify your arrogance by saying that the artist gave the work away. That's right, he gave it away so that people could enjoy it - so why didn't you give it to someone who would appreciate it?

And for the record, the lottery experiment failed in a spectacular way!

Friday, 14 November 2008

Pick me a lottery number!

I think it's about time I won something significant on the lottery. So please feel free to post a number in the comments field between 1 and 47. I will pick the first 4 entries, plus my lucky number and my day of birth and a lottery win will come my way! Other suggestions will be used for another line, if I get sufficient comments posted of course.

The theory from the late great Willie Rushton for winning the national lottery is as follows:

Pick 6 numbers. As you rarely have a number come up, you can assume that they wont, so you can discard them! Do the procedure again and again until you have 6 numbers left and you enter those numbers - they are bound to make you rich!
Of course, any winnings from my strategy can't be shared, but you'll have a great story to tell your friends! So please leave a number in the comments and don't forget to subscribe to this crazy blog!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Some light gay relief

Although I have never seen High School Musical and never will, but I thought some of the stories about Zac Efron (see previous blog entry) have been quite witty - one headline in particular made me laugh:

Gay Men And 13-Year-Old Girls Unite In Protest Against Cut Zac Efron Shower Scene


A scene was cut from the film which sees Zac practising some moves. Dance moves I assume. For some reason, the producers felt that the scenes were a little too much for a teen film. One reviewer thought that the scene alone could change the rating! After seeing some of the pics, all I can say is.... Shame!


Back to more serious matters for the next blog entry.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Armistice Day

Today is Armistice Day. On this day 90 years ago at 11am, the guns went silent across Europe, with millions dead.

I had written a long blog about the horrors of the first world war and about the men who never had a chance to experience life. But I think it's better to simply say that, today we honour the young men who died, from many countries across the world.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

100 facts about me - 1 to 10

I was sitting at Edinburgh airport earlier this year and the flight was delayed, so I decided to make a list of 100 things about me. I stole this idea from another blogger and found that it's not that easy to do. Here are the first 10 - in no particular order. I may post the others as and when I feel like it!

1. My name is Stephen - not Steve, Ste, Stevie or Stevo.
2. I am concerned that I may be slightly dyslexic*
3. Over half of my clothes are blue.
4. I prefer red wine to white wine and lager to bitter.
5. I have been, and always will be, addicted to Sim City 2000, though Elite, Jet Pac and Manic Miner were fine games in their time.
6. The smell of cigars reminds me of sitting in the seats at Selhurst Park Stadium.
7. I have sold hundreds of items on eBay.
8. I suspect that I have a good singing voice, but don’t have the confidence to really try it out.
9. I believe that my mum’s spicy potatoes are a near perfect recipe.
10. I can always get to sleep by concentrating on an ongoing story I started a couple of years ago.


* Q: Did you hear about the dyslexic, agnostic, insomniac?
A: He lay awake at night wondering if there really was a dog.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

I'm still not sure whether this is a joke!

Have I gone through some kind of time warp? Is it April the 1st already?!

We've had loopy councils in England banny Christmas because it might offend people (it never has and never will), we have had councils wasting tens of thousands of pounds "refreshing" logos and now we have this...

Schools to give unruly kids foot massages

I'm really glad that I spend a good proportion of my income on council taxes! Here's a radical idea - why not show these kids that doing bad things means that you lose out in life rather than benefit?

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Can you guess what todays entry is about?!

So the USA has a new President in Barack Obama and I think he might be a little better than the last one (how on earth did George Dubya ever get voted in!?). It is great to see a black person in charge - but that is the last reason to support him; I think there are going to be a few changes, especially with regard to how the rest of the world see the USA. At the moment, the country is seen as aggressive and a bit of a bully. I personally can't wait to see the back of Bush.

And where has George been during the long campaign? I assume that the McCain camp wanted to distance themselves from the buffoon as much as possible.

News reports yesterday stated that a man had been seen climbing the fence at the White House. When apprehended, the security guards told George W Bush to go back inside.

And in Florida and Arizona they also voted to ban gay marriage. Doesn't it say somewhere about treating all men equal over the other side of the pond? Oh, except those gay people of course. The narrow minded people appear to have won. I find it sad that a country like the USA with its amazing diversity can sometimes show a lack of tolerance. The Californian vote to ban gay marriage hasn't been announced at the time of typing, but it doesn't look good.

An interesting statistic: If California was a country, it would be the 7th biggest economy on the planet.

Another amazing statistic: The average UK adult has 1 breast and 1 testicle.

And as today is an important day in the history of the United Kingdom, let me just say: "Remember, remember the fifth of November, The gunpowder, treason and plot. I know of no reason why the gunpowder treason should ever be forgot". Burn a Guy for me tonight.


Monday, 3 November 2008

It was an interesting weekend...

Pete and I went to see Quantum of Solace at the local cinema on Friday night and it was packed (For the record, Pete is a little obsessed with Daniel Craig). I enjoyed the film as an action piece, but missed some of the Bond humour that we have come to expect. I also missed the famous line "the name's Bond... James Bond". To omit this is just wrong! The opening car chase is stunning and the action was pretty much non-stop.

And now the sports news:

The Stanford 20:20 cricket game in Antigua was played between England and an All Star team in which England were thrashed. I found the event to be an over-hyped, unnecessary game. Isn't cricket above this type of distasteful commercialism? We have managed to sell our national team for a few dollars (OK, quite a few dollars) - we wouldn't do this with football and that is certainly just a business these days. My Dad didn't enjoy the experience, shouting at the TV throughout. I like the idea of 20:20 - a quicker exciting form of the game which may attract more fans, but I don't think that selling out is the answer.

Some great news for Britain was that Lewis Hamilton (who comes from a few miles from where I live) is the well deserved Formula One world champion. I would ask Lewis not to leave it until the last mile of the last race to clinch the title next time - my nerves couldn't stand it and I was only listening on the radio! What I did notice, and I found it a bit sad, was that during the post-race press conference, Massa, Alonso or Raikkonen failed to congratulate Lewis. Are they bad losers, dislike him or just highly competitive? There is some criticism against Glock for allowing Lewis to get past, but I think that little piece of good luck balances out some of the bad luck that Lewis has had this season - what the doubters have to remember is that McClaren made a potentially risky decision to change on to wet tyres whereas Glock remained on dry tyres which meant that he had very little grip in the wet.

And finally... Pete and me bought some curtains (yep, we're getting old) and got a bargain.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Diamonds are what?!

You know what really grinds my gears? That awful TV advert from Armani in which Beyonce sings...

"Diamonds are a girls best feeerwwwwend"

No Beyonce, it's pronounced friend. There is no W in the word and you don't need the 'Fer' part at the beginning, 'Fre' will suffice.... friend!

It always reminds me of Only Fools And Horses when the cabaret singer is singing the Roy Orbison song Crying. Hilarious!


p.s. I wonder how many little Beyonces there are living in Essex council estates?

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Guest Blog #1 - Peter says Grace

This is the first in a regular series of guest bloggers. The inaugural entry is by Peter - my partner of 9 (count 'em) years. Pete has decided on a rather abstract blog entry...


Amazing Grace

Grace Jones is back and the world is a better place for it
Grace is infectious
Grace loves what she does
Grace has an amazing voice
Grace appears a little scary but fun
Grace and I have been on the same stage
Grace is a better singer than me
Grace has eyeballed me
Grace should be prescribed on the NHS to cheer up the world
Grace and Daniel Craig have shared a sofa
Grace Jones forever
___________________________________________________
There will be another guest blog soon. If you are new to my blog due to Pete's blog entry - please subscribe.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Insults towards the gay community?... or when a comment became a post

I was having a look at a few blogs and noticed a blog entry about a recent TV show in Australia where veteran US entertainer Jerry Lewis recently used the word "fag" as a descriptive word to show what he thought of cricket. He obviously doesn't like the game we English choose to lose at so often because, after making the remark, he mimed swinging a cricket bat effeminately. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the Australian Coalition for Equality have called for an apology - which I think is a little strong. However, the blogger couldn't quite understand why anyone should be offended. So I posted this comment:

I thought it was obvious why people have complained - he used the word "fag" as a descriptive insult towards cricket, as if "fag" was a suitable word to describe something that he saw as garbage, stupid and worthless.

Therefore, is it OK to use the word "fag" in this way and does it not then suggest that gay people are garbage, stupid and worthless? Or that is it that cricket, in his opinion, is only worthy for a "lower class" of people?

In the UK, a lot of young (possibly) straight guys say something is "gay" when it's not to their liking. It's immature and winds me up. One day soon, someone will lose their job from using language like that at their place of work.

However, saying all this, it's been blown out of proportion by the press (as they like to do) - he's an 82 year old man who comes from an age when being gay was something to hide. So, I don't really blame him.
________________________________

I am a pretty laid back person and I would like to think that Jerry Lewis was merely trying to get a laugh and misjudged his words. Though from the number of entries on the web about him putting his foot in his mouth, I'm not so sure! The word "fag" does have negative and insulting overtones in my opinion, so should not be used so freely.

Your comments are welcome...

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Snippits for a rainy Sunday

Here are a few entertainment related snippits...

The best album title of the year, so far, has to go to
Seasick Steve which is called I Started Out With Nothin and I Still Got Most of it Left.

I find the Sarah Palin really funny in the US election. So much of what she says make no sense! She appears to start a sentence and then forgets her point and just waffles with soundbites. And can you imagine a politician in the UK wanting the teaching of creationism in schools? I am sure she has many good points, but so far the opposition is highlighting her flaws very well.

Films watched in the last month or so from lovefilm.com and my ratings: The Chumscrubber (7/10), The Edukators (7.5/10), In Bruges (8/10), My Brother Is an Only Child (6/10), The Lives Of Others (8/10), 21 (6/10), Juno (7/10), Eternal Summer (7/10).

The latest series of Heroes (series/season 3) isn't very good.

Best TV programme in the past few weeks, in my humble opinion, was Britain's Got the Pop Factor... and Possibly a New Celebrity Jesus Christ Soapstar Superstar Strictly on Ice - a great sendup by Peter Kay of the crap reality TV programmes aimed at the masses. And the Winners Song by tranvestite Geraldine is sarcastic fun and very catchy.

An unusual looking guitar that I want to buy sometime is a "gypsy" jazz acoustic that has a distinctive tone and volume. A band that Pete and I saw play using similar guitars is called Les Doigts de l'homme - we saw them at the Brussels Jazz Festival earlier this year. Pete bought one of their CDs and it's excellent. You can see a clip of them on YouTube.

And finally... I have found 2 new great bands - Deathcab for Cutie and Noir Desir. The best thing about finding established acts is that you can buy tons of back material if you like them - I did the same for Fleetwood Mac back in 1987ish and Barenaked Ladies in 1998ish.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

It's only words...

I saw this article on the BBC website and it's language related, following on from a recent post. The article has gathered favourite words along with their meaning. A few of them made me laugh and all made me ask the question how and why did these words come about?!

Defenestrate - To throw something out of a window.
Omphaloskepsis - is self-absorbed, naval-gazing.
Mallemaroking - the carousing of seamen in icebound ships [how many jokes could I make about this one?]
Tmesis - To break one word with another. For example: dis-bloomin-graceful, un-flippin-believable.
Ischial callosities - refers to the leather-like pads on a monkey's bum.
Petrichor - the sweet smell of rain on dry earth.
Tintinnabulation - describes a sound made by the ringing of a bell.
Borborygmus - the rumbling sound that comes from an empty stomach.
Slubberdegullion - means a worthless person. [you could imagine Mr Burns in the Simpsons using this and, in fact, when looking this up on the net, he did use it!]


Friday, 24 October 2008

South African MP's chair mishap

A quickie post on a dark and rainy morning in Hitchin - with something that is simply funny.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/7685540.stm

p.s.
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Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Nice was nice but Cannes was not so nice

Well what an eventful few days it's been. Pete had to go to a sales conference in Cannes for the first 3 days of this week, so we used it as an excuse for a long weekend away... like we ever need an excuse.

Saturday 4.30am:
We got up very early and went to Luton Airport for the flight to Nice. We flew Easyjet as it was dirt cheap (less than £50 return) and arrived in a very warm Nice mid-morning. Using Priority Club points accumulated from our previous jobs, we enjoyed free 2 nights at the Holiday Inn (free upgrade too!). Although tired, we got a bus to Cap Ferrat and walked for a few hours looking at the multi-million Euro homes. We then returned to Nice, looked around the shops and had the odd beer, followed by a fine 3 course meal.

Sunday:
We got the train to Menton and had breakfast sitting in the sunshine, then walked around the town. There was a Triathlon event, so we watched the fit guys in Lycra for a while. After a beer (and Pete had tiramisu), we got the bus to Monaco. There was a major karting competition next to the main harbour - fast or what?! We had a good look around the Principality again and then got the train to Villefranche-sur-Mer which is a beautiful little town just down the coast where we had dinner - including more tiramisu for Pete. That night, I felt a twinge in my back top right teeth and within half an hour, pain had kicked in. I spent most of the night with my head against the marble bathroom wall as it was cool and soothing. I slept for around 3 hours and to my frustration, the various painkillers were not working!

Monday:
The toothache was now a dull pain and we got the train to Cannes. We were staying (courtesy of Pete's employer) at the extremely impressive 5 star Majestic Hotel on La Croisette. Pete was working from lunchtime - ha ha - so I got a train to Grasse, way up in the mountains. I had a good walk around this medieval town and realised the toothache was getting worse and worse. I bought more painkillers, some teething gel and some Ibuprofen gel. None made much difference. The only way to reduce the pain was to hold cold water, or sometimes beer, in my mouth. Had a pizza in the evening between Pete's obligations. I overdosed on painkillers and managed to sleep.

Tuesday:
I was flying at 5.50pm (Pete is coming back 24 hours later), so I had the day free. I'd intended to get a train to Les Arc, but the pain in my mouth was causing me concern now so I walked around Cannes, including up to the castle and the old town. At midday I had to go back to the hotel as the pain was too much. I was unsure whether to see a dentist then and there, but cold water was still keeping the throbbing pain at bay. I decided to fly home and see the dentist next day - the only problem was that I could not take water through customs and couldn't last 30 seconds without it. I was ****ed.

At 3pm, despite having to leave for the airport within the hour, I was sitting on the bathroom floor almost crying, so I called the Concierge and said "find me an English speaking dentist please!". Within 2 minutes, he called and said "come now, I have a map, they are waiting for you". I took my bag and ran to the dentists. 2 injections later, he found that a nerve that was touching a filling - no wonder the painkillers didn't work. The work hurt, but the injections were very welcome. At the end, the dentist shook my hand and said "why do you live in England where it rains so much and people work so hard? The sun will be shining here tomorrow - this is the place to live". He could be right.

I left the dentists 80 Euros poorer and got the bus to the Airport. The traffic was crap! Although I have my ticket, the gate was due to close at 5.20pm. I figured that I might just make it if the bus went to terminal 2 first. At 5.10 we encounter an accident - Police in tight trousers are everywhere, we are going nowhere fast. At 5.25 we get moving and straight to the other terminal!!! I arrive at Terminal 2 at 5.30 and run to departures. Luck was on my side for once today as the gate was right opposite the x-ray machines. I was the last passenger on the flight. STRESS!

Home in England, I manage some food for the first time since Pete stole a brioche for breakfast at the hotel. Slept for 9 hours solid.

All in all, an interesting few days...