Sunday, 29 November 2009

Monochrome Weekly #3

My contribution to the latest Monochrome Weekly is another sea inspired photo:




If you have arrived at this blog and like taking photographs - you are welcome to take part in "5 on the fifth"... see below:


Saturday, 28 November 2009

When the customer doesn't matter

Yesterday was a crappy day. I had to take my car for a service and the closest centre I was allowed to use was in North London. So I set out at 7am and dropped the car off at 8.30, with the understanding that I would on my way before 11am.

So I found a Starbucks and caught up on some work reading before heading back at 11 only to find that the owners of the car (it's a lease hire car) had been arguing with the garage about what can and cant be done to the car and it hadn't been touched. It was meant to be a 48,000 mile service... simple!

This went on for a few hours, including the garage insisting that I needed new brake pads and the lease hire company not sure whether they wanted to pay for them.

I spent time looking in the local shops, then checking out the computers and home cinema setups in Comet, reading newspaper and eventually I left the garage at 4pm having read all the documents I had bought with me at least twice and written up my end of year report (the only good thing to come from the day). A complete waste of time.

This shows poor customer service in action, not necessarily from the garage - though they could have been a bit more helpful, but more from the lease hire firm who took around an hour to make a decision each time they were asked a question! And there's nothing I can do about it.

Bad mood now.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Poetry in lyrics

I was listening to my ipod the other day and a song that I had heard hundreds of times came on and I noticed that one of the verses could be classed as more than just a lyric, it could almost be poetry:

Well it was kind of cold, that night she stood alone on the balcony,
She could hear the cars roll by out on 441, like waves crashing on the beach,
And for one desperate moment there, he crept back in her memory,
God it's so painful, when something that's so close, is still so far out of reach.


It may surprise you to learn that those words are from American Girl by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

Masters of poetic lyric writing, according to those that know are: Bob Dylan, Sting, John Lennon etc. One other example comes from Death Cab For Cutie (who I mentioned in this blog entry) and a song called Crooked Teeth, although I could have chosen a number of their tracks:

It was one hundred degrees, as we sat beneath a willow tree,
Whose tears didn't care, they just hung in the air and refused to fall.
I knew I'd made horrible call and now the state line felt like the Berlin wall,
And there was no doubt about which side I was on.
'Cause I built you a home in my heart, with rotten wood it decayed from the start.
'Cause you can find nothing at all, if there was nothing there all along.


I wouldn't include some lyrics that are well known as to me, they seem to try too hard to be poetic and whistful. But I'm no poetry expert on any level - I even decided to leave "Awop-bop-a-loo-bop-awop-bam-boom" off the list.

And what of today's musicians? - I am sure that there are many examples. Over to you readers - does anyone have any suggestions?

Monday, 23 November 2009

Stade Francais calendar 2010

Wow!

The tenth Calendrier Dieux Du Stade (or
Stade Francais calendar to you and me) has been delivered to our home and it's a great one (after a couple of years of maybe being a little too arty). Some images are subtle and some not so!

This marketing ploy by the French rugby club has certainly paid off and despite having the
worst rugby tops in history, they attracted a lot of woman and gay guys to start watching rugby. Although I doubt all attendees at the stadium were there for the game.

As with previous years, they have some non Stade Francais players making up the numbers including a few English players. Here's a small taster, with no dangly bits on show...

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Pasta pride

The weather in the UK has been awful in recent days with a lot of rain. On a rainy day like yesterday, there's not much to do other than watch TV, clean the house, surf the net and cook. So I made pasta for the first time and used my mum's pasta machine (which hasn't been used in a decade or more) to roll it into suitably thin strips. There is definitely a skill involved in the consistency and amount you put through the rollers. After making the dough and letting it rest, it then took me about an hour and a half to produce some noodles and cheesy ravioli!

Top: Noodles drying in the garage. Bottom: Experimental ravioli.


Saturday, 21 November 2009

Monochrome Weekly #2

My contribution to the latest Monochrome Weekly shows the pier that divides the beach and the port in Calais which is inhabited mainly by men fishing...



Thursday, 19 November 2009

Dreams

I spent the day in London yesterday with a meeting at lunchtime and an early finish. I even managed to plan a whole training day over a latte in a coffee bar after my meeting. The West End seemed to be packed with people (especially the Apple store on Regent Street) - it's strange how you can forget how busy the city can be. I met Pete and we went for a couple of drinks and then a bento box at a Japanese restaurant. We walked along Old Compton Street, i.e. the gay part of Soho - but I am not a fan of most of the bars, so it was an All Bar One pint as they have a wide choice of beers. I don't do "the scene" very often - I don't have any need to be with "my kind".

I tried the new pedestrian crossing at Oxford Circus - how very exciting!.. yep, I need to get out more.

I had a dream the other night and it only came back to me yesterday when Pete and I went into The Vintage Magazine Shop in Brewer Street which sells old magazines (obviously!) and movie memorabilia. Some back story first... my first job (when I was 18) was at a Cable TV company based in Sittingbourne in Kent which managed 4 Cable TV networks across the north of the county. We had a small shop on the premises and it was my idea to fill one wall with images from the movies and I bought 8"x10" black and white photographs from this very shop in the early 1990's!

Back to my dream - in which I am employed once again at the Cable TV office with the same colleagues and it's highly stressful and very unpleasant - as it was all those years ago. I have the same desk, same huge computer and same posters around the walls of the TV channels on offer.

So I looked online this morning and very little is mentioned about the business I worked at - it's been replaced by a bigger and better Cable TV network and Sky satellite dishes everywhere. But I did find this image of my old office (I don't quite understand why someone would take such a photograph) and it really depresses me. The run down building and faded signs are so unlike the busy office and workshop downstairs that I remember.


I have dreamed about this a couple of times and each time I remember my bullying boss and the smoke filled office. It was a truly crap job and I stayed there at least 3 years too long before going back to college and then into financial services.

Dreams are strange things.

This morning, the nice Amazon delivery man has brought us the 2010
Stade Francais calendar. What a rather sexy start to a dull Thursday! A full review will follow in due course.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Ha, Ha, Shock, Wow #4

Following on from these previous postings, here are four more random items from the 'net for your pleasure and entertainment...

Ha


Ha
A Mafia Godfather finds out that his bookkeeper has cheated him out of $10 million bucks. His bookkeeper is deaf. That was the reason he got the job in the first place. It was assumed that a deaf bookkeeper would not hear anything that he might have to testify about in court.

When the Godfather goes to confront the bookkeeper about his missing $10 million, he brings along his attorney, who knows sign language. The Godfather tells the lawyer 'Ask him where the $10 million bucks he embezzled from me is.'

The attorney, using sign language, asks the bookkeeper where the money is. The bookkeeper signs back: 'I don't know what you are talking about.'

The attorney tells the Godfather: 'He says he doesn't know what you're talking about.' The Godfather pulls out a pistol, puts it to the bookkeeper's temple and says, 'Ask him again!' The attorney signs to the bookkeeper: 'He'll kill you if you don't tell him!'

The bookkeeper signs back: 'OK! OK! You win! The money is in a brown briefcase, buried behind the shed in my cousin Enzo's backyard in Queens!'

The Godfather asks the attorney: 'Well, what'd he say?'

The attorney replies: 'He says you don't have the balls to pull the trigger.'

Don't you just love lawyers?!


Shock
More than 2,500 left-handed people are killed each year using products that were made for right-handed people.


Wow
Alex Pettyfer (has grown up rather well!)

Monday, 16 November 2009

Lille weekend

Pete and I spent the weekend in Lille enjoying the French food and drink and the French guys too.

We travelled by Eurostar, which is always fun and I would recommend a visit to the city as it's only 1 hour and 20 minutes from London. We found a great market on Sunday lunchtime and sat drinking some wine and listening to a band play to the hoards of people looking at the stalls of organic everything.

Not much more to report at the moment so I will leave you with a picture of some graffiti I saw in Lille. I have no idea what it's about!


Saturday, 14 November 2009

100 facts about me - 81 to 90

Here is the next part of the "100 facts about me" list - previous entries can be found here:

81. I will keep trying to play the riff to "Message in a bottle" by The Police on the guitar until I get it right.
82. I regret not having learned another language... it's not too late though.
83. I could happily live without a mobile phone.
84. I once had a loving cat called Gnasher.
85. The art of Escher fascinates me.
86. I had my tonsils out when I was 10 years old.
87. I need at least 8 hours sleep a night to function properly.
88. I think that drinking espresso looks cool and hate is when people say "expresso"
89. I am angry at local councils for giving land to gypsies and may even write to my MP.
90. I go through stages of being addicted to checking my email inbox.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Success

The Christmas weekend was fun and despite it being a pseudo-festival, I still ate and drank plenty to keep up the pretence. For my Dad's 70th we (my brothers and I) bought him tickets to see Don McLean at the Royal Albert Hall next year. When I was very young, my Dad would play the album "American Pie" on rotation in the car, so it's ingrained in my brain. Pete and I will accompany my Mum and Dad to the concert.

A few of the family watched the Festival of Remembrance on the BBC on Saturday night. It's always a touching programme and I was surprised that two of my nephews watched it, when computers and iphones were an alternative. One nephew who is 13 understood the history behind the First World War in particular, but I was surprised that he had never been taught the Lords Prayer at school and didn't know the words to the National Anthem! Our schools appear to be actively avoiding anything too British and traditional and didn't even have a poppy sale. This is not acceptable in my view.

I also feel that all radio and TV channels and public buildings should take part in the 2 minutes silence on Remembrance Sunday. It's not too much to ask for 2 minutes of the nations time.

Also on the topic of teaching, a friend of Pete's has two children who go to a school in Milton Keynes where the children call the teachers by their first names. I think that this sets a dangerous precedent for children - you need the divide between teachers and pupils to install respect. The comment "Dave was OK when I said my homework would be in a day late" just didn't sound right. Pete's friend said it's great because the teachers are more like friends! They are not friends, they are teachers that should be respected and obeyed. The trouble that they have had in their school with children answering back, swearing at teachers and even violence has to be partly attributed to this laid back approach in my opinion.

On a lighter note, I heard that
Fernando Torres has a groin injury. I have emailed Liverpool FC to see if they need someone to apply ointment to the affected area.

To end todays blog entry, I thought I would provide some definitions for success:

At age 4 success is not peeing in your pants.
At age 12 success is having friends.
At age 16 success is having a drivers license.
At age 20 success is having sex.
At age 35 success is having money.
At age 50 success is having money.
At age 60 success is having sex.
At age 70 success is having a drivers license.
At age 75 success is having friends.
At age 80 success is not peeing in your pants

Monday, 9 November 2009

Songs you might like #3

This is the third post that highlights some rarely heard music - the other entries can be found here. These are songs that you probably won't know but I would like to recommend them. You may love them, you may hate them - the choice is yours, but at least you had the chance to hear them...

"Big Store" by The Devils

Pete is a big Duran Duran fan and this track is related to that band. The Devils was formed by Nick Rhodes and Stephen Duffy in 2002. Rhodes founded (and is still in) Duran Duran and Stephen Duffy was their singer before they were famous. The album features songs that Duran Duran recorded as demo's, but never recorded professionally (before Simon Le Bon came along).

"For What It's Worth" by The Cardigans

When I was on holiday a few years ago, I bought some dodgy random CDs including the album "Long Gone Before Daylight". Although it can appear a little lightweight at the first listen, this song is really catchy and has some great lyrics about the word love: "The four letter word got stuck in my head, the dirtiest word that I've ever said".

"Satellite" by Guster

I heard about Guster via the website of one of my favourite bands: Barenaked Ladies. So I took a punt on their album "Ganging Up On The Sun" and this standout track has an acoustic feel that I really like.

"Fuzzy" by Grant Lee Buffalo

I can't recall where I first heard this song, but I love its lolloping atmospheric style. It's a well produced track and one of those songs that is great to play at night with the lights down low. The band were close to one of my favourite bands, R.E.M. and toured with them a few times.

"Glastonbury Song" by The Waterboys

I'm not really much of a Waterboys fan and think that "Whole Of The Moon" is an annoying song! That being said, I like this track and it is also worth checking out the song "Fishermans Blues".

Here are some short samples of the tracks:
video

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Seasons greetings!

Happy Christmas to you all!

Has Stephen gone mad? Well, quite possibly, but not in this case.

As my Mum and Dad are off to their house in Cyprus for a few months, this weekend I am in Kent celebrating Christmas with the family - including a full Christmas lunch shortly! Not all of the family are here unfortunately, as Pete has taken his Mum to Montpelier for a long weekend for her birthday (you can see some pictures he took via "5 on the fifth #5").

I arrived last night for a small party to celebrate my Dad’s 70th birthday (which is actually at the end of the month) and we also watched the fireworks at the local pub. The village pub was packed last night, which was good to see and there was a band playing too. I thought the band was excellent, but my Dad said that they were far too loud!

Talking of all things Christmas… At the moment, adverts are being shown for Disney’s A Christmas Carol. Now, I am no literary expert, but I’m pretty sure that the Exec’s at Disney did not write this fine tale and it was, in fact, the great Charles Dickens. It annoys me to hear such artistic deception.

The last posting “5 on the fifth for November” was pretty successful with the number of contributors creeping into double figures and providing some highly entertaining photographs. Hopefully next month I can get a few more people involved. A couple of names were missing this month - you know who you are!


I watched The Boat That Rocked the other night and was very disappointed. UK Pirate radio of the 1960's is an fascinating topic to base a film around and it could have made a classic comedy. However, it failed on so many levels, not least the fact that it was way too long and not actually very funny. The only good point was that one of the main characters was played by the rather-cute-posh-totty-actor Tom Sturridge. The radio stations back then had real personalities and played every type of music to an eager nation. I appreciate that music is now more readily available, but our radio stations are bland, with the same lacklustre playlist and derivative DJs. I wont start on this again as I mentioned this in a blog posting ages ago.

I am preparing another "Songs you might like" entry today, so watch this space.

So finally... seasons greetings to all my readers!

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Five on the fifth #5

Welcome to "Five on the fifth", a monthly posting that benefits from audience participation. You take 5 photographs on the fifth of the month and post them somewhere on the net - then post a comment here with your name, location and link to the blog/picasa/flickr site containing your photos and I will update the blog entry with your information. This month you can take your own 5 random pictures or follow my suggested theme of colour.

My own pictures are below the links of those who kindly contributed:

Made in Britain, Scotland
Marie, Stockholm, Sweden
Pete, on a TGV heading south in France
Stevie B, USA
Dit, Los Angeles, USA
David, Brighton, UK
Mannanan's Cloak , Isle of Man

Here are my own colourful choices:

1. Duck
2. Travel books
3. Leaves from the playing field
4. My computer screen
5. An autumn flower


Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Snippits and Monochrome Weekly #1

The Fleetwood Mac post on Saturday has become the most read single entry on my blog already, mostly thanks to a couple of sites linking to it. Two people emailed to ask if I mind them taking the photos I posted (they could have stolen them and I would never have known of course). Feel free to use and abuse any photo's on my blog - those pictures I sell commercially will not appear on here, at least not in high resolution format anyway.

Talking of well read entries, the one containing the "letter to my 16 year old self" has inspired my friend Andrew to produce his own version.

A week ago I mentioned that Starbucks were wasting food and I have now received a well structured reply. It basically says that the local branch should plan carefully so that they sell all (or nearly) all of their stock and not throw good food away - last weekend may have just been a slow sales day. Whilst Starbucks appreciate that food could be passed on to good causes, they would have to set up systems to do so and as previously stated, there shouldn't really be any food to pass on. I understand their position and mostly satisfied with the reply.

I want to mention a fun charitable event that my friend Sonny is taking part in this month. He is growing a moustache for charity and it's has the clever title of 'Movember" - you can read more on the Movember site and in this news article. I think he may well end up looking like a kebab shop owner by the 30th, we shall see. If you are feeling generous, you can sponsor Sonny here.

A big thank you to Marco for sending me a book called The London Collection that contains strange facts about London. It's actually very witty and even contains detailed instructions how to recreate the scene from American Werewolf In London at Tottenham Court Road underground station. For some reason, Marco thinks that I am pining for London life and therefore sent me the book (and included in the address on the package, the county was shown as "far far away" rather than Hertfordshire). For the record, I quite like living where the air is clean!

And I finish today (other than to plead for you to take part in "5 on the fifth" this week) is with a photograph. I have decided to contribute to a blog called the Monochrome Weekly where people post a black and white image each week. I will put something up every now and again I think, rather than each week. My first photo is of Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac taken last Friday that I think works well in black and white.


Monday, 2 November 2009

Five more in a few days

The next "5 on the fifth" is a few days away and you are very welcome to take part. You can either take 5 random pictures of anything that happens to you on the 5th of November or perhaps go for my suggested theme. This month, I thought it would be interesting to take 5 images with the same theme...

colour*

This could highlight some of the colourful items and places that catch your eye on the 5th. I hope that you will be inspired take part this month - you don't need a fancy camera, a mobile phone will be sufficient. If you are looking for a place to store your images, you can create photo folders via Hotmail or Google (called Picassa) for free.

* For my North American readers, the theme is Color!