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".


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
The Edukators
Flashbacks of a Fool
Hallam Foe
Hot Fuzz
In Bruges
In Search of a Midnight Kiss
The lives of others
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


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