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Who Links Here

Male/36-40. Lives in United Kingdom/Oxford, speaks English.
This is my blogchalk:
United Kingdom, Oxford, English, Male, 36-40.

Most of the photographs are taken on a Nikon D70, an Olympus Camedia C-3030 Zoom, an Oregon Scientific CardCam, or a Sony CyberShotU.

Image Manipulation using Microsoft Digital Image Pro.

I would also like to thank my Director, the Producer, my family, my God, all the little people who I didn't even dain to speak to while working with them and finally to the voices in my head who tell me what to type.

Friday, March 28, 2003

Japanese English - Janglish?

Ever since visiting Japan on business I have been fascinated with the country's use of English words when naming products. It seems they use English to give the product a certain style or class. From my personal observations the name doesn't even need to make any sense it just needs to sound "cool" to the Japanese ear. A good example of this was a combined mobile phone and mp3 player product called "Beat Carrots".

One of our pastimes on taxi rides through the chaotic streets of Tokyo was to spot the brand names of the cars. Examples included the Toyota Windom and several from Nissan who have the Prairie Joy the his and hers named Cedric and Gloria the elegant Fairlady and the honest, but hardly appealing Cube. I am still to this day trying to work out what the Bluebird Sylphy is all about.

This seemingly random selection or jamming together of English words can be odd to those of us who speak the language natively, but it Japan is seems to have become a very successful way of giving a product or service that allure of Western sophistication. Sometimes they can get it right. Often the result is a cause of occidental hilarity. For example there is a toilet paper called "My Fanny", and beverages called "Pocari Sweat" and Mucos- hmmm, imagine chugging back a refreshing glass of that. There are also a couple of cosmetic products with don't quite hit the mark "Cookie Face" and "Salad Girl".

Then as often as it is funny, it can be disastrously wrong. The best examples I can think of at the moment are one from Sanrio, the makers of Hello Kitty, who might have invested a bit more time in checking thoroughly on the possible meanings of name of their new character. There is also a Japanese pharmaceutical company with a whole range of skin care products prefixed with the word Skina. Not bad you might think, even appropriate, but what exactly are we to make of "Skina Babe", and Skina Fukifuki"? Apparently the former is a Baby Oil - one hopes for putting on baby and not made from the pressed contents thereof - the latter is a skin cleanser. However one wonders exactly what image the brand manager was going for in this choice.

Do you have any good examples of the weird but wonderful world of Japanese brand names?

Finding the right word.

The difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.
Samuel Clemens (aka: Mark Twain)

Meme Churn

Sad(ish) news today that Janet Powell has announced that she is no longer accepting submissions for the Shadow Project. The page is therefore frozen in time but, as luck would have it, my photo is on the front page and probably will remain so until Janet removes the page, restarts the project, or can find someone who wants to take over the responsibility for the project on her behalf.

Janet, who has been running the Shadow Project since 2001, has said she is moving onto other things. A look at her Candid Colors website will show she is a keen photographer with a fine eye for composition. Let's hope she comes up with a new meme for us.

Oh, and while we are on the topic of memes I now have two pictures accepted for the Mirror Project. They are from pictures taken on my travels to Berlin and New York.

I am in the process of starting my own meme. I have the idea very clear in my mind, I am now just looking for a few images to start the ball rolling. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

New Look and Feel

I was stood-up for a date tonight, so instead I sat in and finally completed the refurbishment of my blog. I hope you like it. I have also taken the opportunity to upgrade to Blogger Pro, although I am still not convinced it is significantly better for the money.

The major change to he layout is that I have now got rid of the Blogger supplied template and have gone for a cleaner, simpler look. One big improvement of this layout is that I can now wrap text around the images I insert. The old CSS template could never quite handle that and it really used to annoy me.

I am sure I will continue to tweak and twiddle over the coming days, but this is getting alot closer to the design I originally envisaged.

Iraqi Song Book

Whilst having a drink last night a friend and I were playing a word game; the sort they have on BBC Radio 4's panel game "I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue". We were trying to come up with song titles for an Iraqi Songbook.

We both know that the war isn't something to be light-hearted about, but a little bit of humour sometimes helps. Therefore in an attempt to cause you to smile here are the results of our labours. Hopefully, you aren't offended by any of these. If you are, that is what the Comments link is for. It is also there for you to add a few of your own.

Oily Autumn
Kuwait Till You See Her
This Scud Be The Start Of Something New
Blame It On The Basra Nova
The Amman I Love
Papa's Got A Brand New Baghdad
Saddam Of These Days
Yassir, That's My Baby
Moon Over My Army
Allah Be Around
Tanks For The Memories
Dahran That Dream
Ruyadbird Suite
Muscat Ramble
Oman The Range
Here's That Irani Day
A Sleeping B-52
Little Nile
Long Ago And Fahd Away
For Oil We Know
In A Mullah Tone
Marine, (The Dawn Is Breaking)
I Love A Brigade
Dancing Sheik To Sheik
P.L.O. Young Lovers Wherever You Are
Bedouin The Beguine
I've Grown Accustomed To Her Fez
Saddam, You're Rockin' The Boat
As Saddam Goes By
Three Little Kurds From School
I Want To Hold Your Land
I Can't Get No Saudis' Faction
Who Put The Bomb, In The Bomb, Bomb, da-Bomb
It's A Sin To Tel Aviv
Mother Of All Machrees
Boulevard Of Broken Pavements
My Life Iran You're Making
Hussein, We've Stood And Talked Like This Before
These Fuelish Things
If You Knew Saudi Like I Knew Saudi
Cairo Mubarek To Old Virginny
Alexandria's Ragtime Band

Alfresco Driving

As reported yesterday afternoon I drove into London last night to meet a friend and on the way back, after mid-night, I had the roof down as I sped along. Motoring on a warm, calm evening one's progress is marked by fragrances - smells as landmarks. As I glided along almost empty roads, through the sleeping suburbs, I smelled the Guinness Brewery at Old Oak, roasting Coffee at Greenford, fresh grass along the M40 and - most pleasing - the bakery in Thame!

There is a special olfactory dimension to night-time open-top motoring that is extremely pleasurable. However that might all change later in the spring when the farmers begin to spread fertilizer on the fields.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

I'm in love with my car

Quite apart from being the embarrassing, Roger Taylor composed, flip-side of the Queen hit Bohemian Rhapsody, the phrase "I'm in love with my car" was what I found myself saying as I was driving over to my Accountant's office today. The sun was shining, the air was warm, I had the roof down and I was speeding along the empty Oxfordshire lanes, the pinks and yellows of spring blossom blurring past me.

I have never really been a car person; anyone who knows me will attest that I have, in a driving history spanning 22 years, owned some of the un-coolest cars on the planet.

When I was at school, there used to be a rush for the library every Thursday lunchtime. It is not that I went to a particularly swotty school, but Thursday was that day that the magazine Autocar arrived on the library shelves. You could see boys bolting their food in the canteen so they could be the first to get to their hands on its glossy pages. By the end of a Thursday the school's one and only copy of Autocar had been pawed over by hundreds of sweaty schoolboys all ogling the pictures and comparing statistics muttering an alphabet soup of BHP, MPH, CC, MPG and others. The way they carried on you would imagine it was more potent than pornography to them. This was probably true, because although it was a progressive school the library did not carry Fiesta, Parade, Electric Blue, or the other titles emanating from the David Sullivan Empire.

I never found Autocar that interesting which probably explains my litany of automotive purchasing disasters.

My first car was a Triumph Herald - not bad, but it spent more time in the garage with the bonnet open and my father and I sat on the wheels stripping the engine down, than it did on the road. From the Herald, which eventually disintegrated due to advance rusting, I spent all my savings and took out a huge loan to buy a Vauxhall Chevette. Probably the worst purchase I have ever made - and hopefully will ever make. Twelve months, one engine, a gearbox, an exhaust system and a transmission shaft later I bit it an unemotional farewell when I part-exchanged it for the first in a series of Volvo Estates.

The advantage with Volvos was reliability, and goodness knows I needed that! Oh, that and the safety features. Like all Volvos of that era they had sidelights which remained on come rain or shine, on the basis that it was easier for other motorists to see you coming and thus move aside for the mighty Volvo. The other great feature of the 240 Estate was it had a really long bonnet and extra large thick bumpers. It did not stop you having accidents, but if you did the collision seemed to be happening such a long way away. It was akin to watching the War on TV - the accident was something happening to someone else and did not really involve the occupant of the Volvo. But when all is said and done a Volvo estate is really just a great lumbering leisure lorry. However, in my early dating forays the ability to put the back seats down and spread blankets all over the double-bed sized luggage space was a distinct advantage!

For a brief period I also drove a white Ford Sierra saloon. Urgh! Not my choice at all, but it was a company car so I couldn't complain too much. It ran quite well until a sleeping motorist drove into the back of me on the M40 at what felt like 90 mph. Fortunately both he and I were OK but the Sierra was a gonna. It was replaced by a Vauxhall Cavalier. Quite nippy really and probably the first car I ever owned that had a scintilla of style. I decided to change employers about six months later so that was the end of that.

My new job afforded me company financed BMW 5 Series and it was this that gave me the bug for German engineering. After four years it was the only thing I really missed when I left the company.

Then I became self employed and I replaced the BMW with a used Vauxhall Frontera, a wonderful Tonka Toy, but hardly a head turner. It is noisy, has the steering responsiveness of an ocean going liner, and drinks petrol. Despite this I have run it up to 190,000 miles since 1998 and I decided if it was to last me much longer it was time to reduce the mileage I was piling onto it.

So last spring I achieved a long held ambition of purchasing a sports car. Something that would turn heads, feel comfortable and be a joy to drive. I chose a BMW Z3 Roadster. I spent the summer of 2002 cruising round the lanes. Whenever I go out now I have one basic principle for choosing between the Z3 and the Frontera - I only take the Z3 if the weather was good enough to drive it with the roof down. As a result it didn't get much use over the rainy and cold winter but fortunately the weather in the past two weeks has been fantastic and so I have been in the BMW nearly every day. In the past fortnight I have renewed my acquaintance with open top driving.

I am off to London tonight, a journey of 60 miles each way. I think it is a job for - Z3 man!
Which Wendy?

Don't ask me why, but whilst surfing this evening I stumbled across a page dedicated to Wendy Richard - the comedienne and actress, currently best known for her portrayal of Pauline Fowler on BBC's EastEnders.

The whole page is incredibly detailed with information about personal appearances and entries of all her press cuttings going back to 1962. This page has clearly been put together by dedicated fans. The site proudly announces that Wendy Richard fans have visited the site 82,353 times since 7 Oct 97.

So am I the only person in all that time who has noticed that they have a photograph of Wendy Craig at the top of the page?

Monday, March 24, 2003

Terrible Temptation During Lent

It has arrived - the latest girth-challenging goodie from McDonalds - the Cadburys Creme Egg McFlurry.

Whilst I am sure it tastes yummy, the ingredients are probably all less than wholesome and therefore the self enforced limitation of its availability for only another two weeks saves British youngsters from accumilating a toxic buildup. I can just imaging the nation's youth going through a sugar cold turkey withdrawal and entering a period of rehab for the whole of May.
A New Friend

Have you ever had the experience of meeting someone new and within the first hour of talking to them you just know that they will become a significant person in your life?

It happened to me yesterday.

Now all I have to do is work out how we overcome the 150 miles distance between us. While I do that I suppose there is always the phone, email, and Instant Messaging to keep us in touch.

Isn't technology wonderful?


The Union Jack is flying at half mast on the village Church today in respect of those killed in the War on Iraq.
Some things are worth celebrating.

I just wanted to take this opportunity to remind you all that, according to Holidays on the Net, the week of March 24th is Anonymous Giving Week.

Don't hold back!
War is a messy business and in the heat of battle nothing is sacred.

Only three days into the conflict and the hyenas, swept along by the killing frenzy, turn on one of their own to feed. Yes, today the UK press pack decided that the plight of the missing ITN News Crew was a story worth covering from every possible angle and as a result we have had representatives from the least attractive end of the journalistic spectrum (including Clodagh Hartley of the soaraway Scum!) snooping around the village to door-step the unfortunate family of Terry Lloyd. Even as ITN was putting out a statement speculating that their star reporter was missing and suspected dead, these insensitive hacks were trying to capture on film the grief of his nearest and dearest. What public interest (their usual defence) such photographs can possibly serve I do not know.

Suddenly I hear shouting across the village green. A well dressed man, not a local, is berating the prying photographers. Then shortly after they all gather around him just outside the pub car park. I hear (through my conveniently open window) snatches of their conversation and deduce that the hero of the hour is an ITN colleague and friend of Mr Lloyd and he is giving the assembled pack a lecture on professional courtesy which concludes with him asking them to destroy their films and leave the village - good for him! I doubt very much as to whether his request will be respected as this minor professional huddle is then followed but much muttering into mobile phones. I can imagine the reaction of hard-nosed picture editors.

On the basis that the pictures will appear in tomorrow's less respectable papers, and in the interests of balance, here are some photographs of the journalists and photographers who were "just doing their jobs" outside the home of a grieving family, in a quiet village, on the Sabbath!

Saturday, March 22, 2003

I'll name that tune in 30 seconds.

I am not sure if I am the first to blog this, but I am absolutely certain I wont be the last.

A couple of weeks ago, while attending a trendy communications industry drinks reception, I met a gentleman who is CTO and Head of Engineering for Shazam Entertainment Ltd. His company has developed possibly the coolest, and certainly the most innovative technology to date for the mobile phone. Forget texting, games, snazzy ring-tones and all the other gimmicks; this is real utility in your hand.

Have you ever been anywhere where you heard some music, really really wanted to know what it was and never got to find out? This often happens to me when I am in a bar, or when I have just switched on the radio and the DJ is one of those purists who does not believe in back-announcing the track just finished.

Well, the service which Shazam have developed is here to help!

Just dial 2580 on your mobile phone (all UK networks), listen for the tone and then hold the microphone of your mobile toward the music for 30 seconds. Shazam will then search through it's database of over 1,500,000 tracks and can tell you the artist and track title. All of this information arrives in the form of a text message so you won't lose the information again.

Mike told me it works using some very clever mathematics by which it matches the noise patterns of the sound you capture with patterns registered on the Shazam database. The algorithm is so accurate it can even tell the difference between singles and album tracks, remixes and covers. I didn't believe it could work as well as Mike had described but while I was out today I tried it myself and it actually works. At 50p a pop it is also great value.

So next time you hear a song on the radio, in the car, at the pub or anywhere the music is loud enough you can prove yourself to be a musical guru with the help of those wizards at Shazam. As it says on Mikes business card - if it sounds good, tag it.

Of course if it is music on a UK TV advert you are listening to and wondering what it is, there is the brilliant and zero cost option of looking it up manually using Commercial Breaks and Beats - the UK TV Advert Database.

Clear Night

My neighbour is missing!

Yesterday afternoon I was worried about the proximity of a BBC news crew to some aerial bombardment in Baghdad. It seems my concern was slightly misplaced and should have been much closer to home.

Whilst having lunch with a friend in Oxford today my eye caught the TV playing in the corner of the bar where we were sitting. The screen was briefly full of the face of ITN's Terry Lloyd who just happens to live on the other side of the village green from me. At first I thought little of it. I know Terry is a reporter, and a good one at that, and so it would not be unusual in the least to see him on a TV. It is even less surprising right now as we seem to exist in a world of wall to wall news. However two things suddenly occurred to me. Firstly we were watching Sky and Terry works for the opposition at ITN. Secondly the picture was one of those formal head and shoulders, suit and tie shots and not the less posed ones normally used by TV stations when relaying a sound only report because for whatever reason is not possible to get a live video feed to accompany a story.

I urgently wanted to know more.

As soon as I got near to a PC with an internet connection I went straight to the BBCi site - perhaps the world's foremost news and information resource - and found a story telling how Terry and two other members of his crew are missing in Iraq after their vehicle came under heavy fire at Iman Anas, near Basra as they drove towards the city in two vehicles.

Suddenly the man who presents the news is the news. 

Terry Lloyd - missing in IraqI cannot lay claim to be anything other than a nodding acquaintance of Terry's. He and I have been close neighbours since I moved to the village in 1998. We both effectively work from home and often see each other about in the daytime. When we do we exchange a cheery "hello" to each other but nothing more. I do know that Terry is greatly liked and admired by all those who know him in the village and most specially by those who frequent the social nerve centre of any rural community; the village pub. Terry has a grown-up daughter and young son of about 11 who attends a local school.

I do hope Terry and his colleagues are safe. The perils which might befall him if he has ended up in enemy hands are too horrible to contemplate. It seems that there is a full scale search out for him and I will be watching this particular story of the Iraq War coverage with particular interest.

Friday, March 21, 2003


I am watching the BBC coverage of the "Shock and Awe" bombing in Baghdad.

Shock and Awe

Rageh Omaar, the BBC's World Affairs Correspondent, is standing on his hotel balcony calmly reporting, and sending live TV pictures, of the massive explosions as targets in the city are hit by the weapons of the aerial bombardment. What is most alarming is that these conflagrations seem to be happening less than 100 yards from where he is standing.

Rageh Omaar, BBC World Affairs Correspondent

I am thinking that Mr Omaar is either very, very brave or supremely confident in the aiming abilities of the US Airforce. Then, just at the end of his report, his voice cracks and I hear the fear.

"Take Care" says George Alagiah, the news anchor.

"Get Out Of There!" I shout at the TV set.

It seems weblogging has become a legitimate way to record and publish news with the BBC using the web-log metaphor to collate and display the disparate tit-bits of Iraq War news being filed by their reporters.


"There are only two forces in the world, the sword and the spirit. In the long run, the sword will always be conquered by the spirit."
Napoleon Bonaparte

Thursday, March 20, 2003

My tickets have just arrived for the Oxford Literary Festival which takes place in the first week of April. I am going to attend lectures by two of my favourite authors - Graham Swift and Yann Martel. I have read Mr Martel's latest work - The Life Of Pi, and I have read two of Mr Swift's previous works (Last Orders and Waterland) but he has recently published The Light of Day and I am wondering if I should suspend my reading of Atonement and try to get and read a copy of The Light of Day before I hear Mr Swift speak.

Actually this is more an excuse than anything else because I have just reached the part of Atonement where one of the characters is up to his knees (literally) in the dismembered bodies of a war. I don't particularly want to be reading about this gory detail while real people are being bombed, apparently on my behalf, in the name of democracy and freedom.

As the planes climb high into the night, on their way to spread death and destruction on Baghdad I have just discovered a blog coming live and direct from the very centre of what will soon become a battlezone. The author is Salam Pax who reports that the satellite television service available in the country has already been stopped or blocked by the government and he anticipates that the internet will be next. I wonder for how much longer Salam will be able to continue posting? Until such a time as he is prevented from blogging it makes compelling reading and I have added it to my feedreader.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Misty Night

I recently turned the final page of The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn. It was given to me by a friend of mine who lives in New York because I had asked him to recommend a book set in the city. The main premise of the novel is that of a designer drug which temporarily enhances the mental capabilities of the ingester enabling them to achieve incredible things. The book touched on many of the issues surrounding the use of recreational pharmaceuticals - the ups, the downs, the need to beg, borrow or steal the finances to ensure a continued supply, and the certainty of a long and unpleasant rehab. The twist with this story was that there is suddenly no more of the drug to be had anywhere, and everyone who had ever taken and is suddenly forced to stop and endure involuntary cold-turkey seems as a result to be dying or becoming irreparably damaged. The central character, Eddie Spinola, becomes aware of this and tries to trace the original source of supply.

The plot comes very close to the beginning of conspiracy theory thread, but disappointingly the author resists the temptation to pull on that particular loose end. I for one would like to have read more about this. Perhaps the fact he didn't is more true to real life, where people believe there is a conspiracy, feel that they are the victim of it, and yet are powerless to discover its full extent or true purpose. Anyway, it is an easy and enjoyable read, and one which made good use of New York in the late nineties as its geographical and temporal setting. As the story raced to its conclusion the protagonist moved through many parts of New York I visited on my walks over the past weekend. In that respect it was the perfect recommendation.

Next up is Ian McEwan's Atonement which has been working its way inexorably up my stack of books to be read.

Misty Night

Hot News from the world of pop!

To try and offset some of his recent financial troubles, Michael Jackson, who shares rights to The Beatles' song catalog publishing with Sony, is reported to have re-recorded their greatest hits and overdubbed his own voice on the original tracks. He has also produced a mock-up of the proposed album cover.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Clear Night
So our Parliament has voted to go to war on Saddam Hussain. Now the Americans have no excuse to back down.

It was interesting that all the New Yorkers I met over the weekend are all big fans of Tony Blair - he is becoming a folk hero in the USA, an embattled crusader for good against an unsympathetic British Public. But then these are the same New Yorkers who support the oppressed peoples of occupied Ireland through Noraid to arm the IRA in their fight for freedom. I decided to opt for the quiet life, avoided all talk of politics and chose not to disabuse them of their fantasy.


New York!

JFK, Grand Central, Central Park, Park Avenue, The Oyster Bar, Times Square, MTV Kids, TKTS, Europa Cafe, Carnegie Hall, Columbus Square, Lincoln Centre, Dakota Building, Strawberry Fields, Tiffany's, Martinis at Sam’s, Take Me Out, dinner at Vintage, Stella’s, no sleep till the Helmsley Hotel, Tudor City, breakfast at Blooms, United Nations, Hell’s Kitchen, The Dish, pork chops, politics, after dinner mince, Yoko Ono, Greenwich Village walking, walking, walking, blisters, Urge Lounge sundowners, happy hour, Mr DJ, Mr Jide, Calvin Klein, yellow cab, pre-disco nap, post-nap disco, SBNY, lox & bagels, Flatiron, Andy Warhol, Chelsea, The Big Cup, Soho, Tribeca, Keith Haring, Eddie Bauer, DKNY, acapella singers, Blades, Mona Lisa, Coffee Factory, Empire State, Chrysler Building, apartment living, receiving and giving, Tagine, Prince Said, minty tea, tasty Bastilla, dijereedoo, Big Apple, Queens Bridge, JFK.

What a blast. Big thanks to everyone I met, and all the potential muggers I mercifully didn’t, who collectively made my weekend so enjoyable!

Monday, March 17, 2003

Look what I missed while I was away, the Circle Line Party Mk 2. It is things like this that make London the coolest city on the planet.

Friday, March 14, 2003

Guess what I did today?

Twice the speed of Sound!!!

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Some Clouds

With only 17 hours to go. I will not be filing any further Blog entries before completing my long held ambition. Wish me well and watch out here for a full report somtime over the weekend.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Something to add to the list of "Things we don't need to see."

I am in London today and I have just passed a poster for Time Out which features a picture of Graham Norton nude (well almost). It is quite arresting - in the same sense as a coronary arrest! I can't think that anyone would want to be seen reading a magazine with that on the front. Still I suppose if you are reading the inside you are saved the unpleasant experience of looking at the cover. If you really, really want to see it, click here- but you have been warned.

Meanwhile I am just off to find a sickbag.


Two days to go. Oh my goodness, I can now start counting it in hours.

48 hours to go!

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Its official - being asked to wear a tie at work is a form of sexual discrimination. At least that was the decision today.

What I find most interesting about this story is that the individual who brought this case against his employer clearly has no aspirations for career advancement. I mean who is going to promote, or even continue to employ a petty trouble maker like this?

I think the decision of what to wear at work will not be troubling him much longer.

Some Clouds
Without doubt, currently the coolest screensaver available for both PC and MAC is the one pictured below.

LemonJelly Lost Horizons Screensaver

It is an animated version of the Lost Horizons CD artwork and animates from day to night complete with a working lighthouse. Very restful and with a quality of art and richness of colours that will have your friends and colleagues wishing they had it too.

The screensaver can be found on the Download section of the LemonJelly website. It is a Flash site so it is hard to point you directly at the download URI but it is easy to find and you might even have fun on the way there.

Share and Enjoy!

Three Days and Counting.

Oh my, it is all getting very exciting. Final arrangements fell intro place yesterday afternoon for Friday's adventure. I am trying not to think about it at all but I am finding it very hard to remain focussed on work and to concentrate on the task in hand. Instead I keep thinking ahead. I am, however, sticking to resolve not to tell anyone but my immediate family. I was chatting to a friend last night and almost let it slip. I don't want to become a hermit till the weekend!

Monday, March 10, 2003

Cloudy Night

I was out for a meal with a few friends on Saturday night at a Tapas Restaurant in Henley-On-Thames. The place had been highly recommended and the food was divine. We had a great evening even though we over-ordered and had to leave food on the table - a crime at any time but especially when it is that good.

While we where there a group of about 20 people came in and sat at a long table next to ours. Twenty people, clearly well-heeled but the most striking thing was that all the men and women were clones of each other. It was incredible – the women were all blondes with shoulder length hair – some with partial perms – and all wore a little black number which showed off their perma-tan and gold jewellery. The men all were of the Rolex wearing, swarthy, square-jaw types wearing open neck tailored shirts and blue blazers. We were trying to work out if it was the local rugby club evening or maybe a rowing club dinner. We also spent quite a bit of time trying to match up the various Barbie and Ken pairs. In the end we gave up because it didn’t seem to make much difference anyway. Assuming that they ever did – erm – couple, we were sure the kids would be some ghastly combination of the two, with perfect teeth and accents that could cut glass.

I was thinking about this again today and I remembered a photography exhibition I had attended late last year. It was the work of one Martin Parr. One of Mr Parr’s projects was called Love Cubes; the idea of which being to look at the pictures of men and women each on a face of the cubes, and then try to match the couples. I went looking for the website of the exhibition and found an online version of the game called Interactive Love Cubes. It is great fun to play, mainly because you get to match up people who would seem to be unlikely couples and are surprised by how often you are correct! The other great thing about this game is that the photos were taken in the 1970’s and so it is a retro-journey back into the heady days of astrakhan coats, platform shoes, bum-freezer jackets, the mullet hair-do and bushy mutton-chop facial hair. I am so glad I wasn't trendy during that time. A result there are no embarrassing photos of me similarly attired.

Sunday, March 09, 2003

Cloudy Night

Parents can be such a worry.

They probably used to say the same about us children, but that was when we were young and naive, and before we grew up to be the age they were when us kids were grazing our knees and testing the boundaries of the nest. (Still with me?)

So what has prompted this feeling within me?

It all started while I was grooving along to the sublime sounds of LemonJelly on Thursday night. About halfway through the performance I had a nagging sensation that something was wrong somewhere. I glanced quickly at my mobile and saw I had a missed call. Since I was in the front row - and between me and the first oasis of quiet was about 300 people all dancing and generally getting-down-to-the-sound - I decided to wait until the end of the set before checking my messages.

Concert over I leave the Forum and begin walking back to my car. I remember my phone and call my message service. One message - left at 9:07pm. It is my mother, her voice slightly strained and her message, verbatim is:

"Oh hello I thought you might be home - erm - well - don’t worry I will - erm - I will explain in the morning."

Immediately a black-hole comes into existence within the pit of my stomach. There are four worrying auguries in this message.

1. It is very unusual for my parents to call my mobile in the evening.
2. The tenor of my mothers voice indicates stress
3. It sounds very like the message left for me when my Father was admitted to hospital in January.
4. Exactly what is it that needs to be explained?

Even though it is just after 11pm I decide to call them. No reply. I try my Father’s mobile. No Reply. OK now I am worried. It is just over a month since my Father was undergoing exploratory surgery on a heart condition and of course I have visions in my head of the worst possible kind. I decide my course of action - to drive home via my parent’s house, a small detour which will add about 20 minutes onto the journey. After a brisk drive along a deserted motorway I arrive just after midnight. The lights are on but no-one is home. Again I try their mobile – still no reply.

Now I am really worried - the black hole has started to swallow planets.

I drive directly to the local hospital and sure enough there is my mother's car, parked in pole position outside the door of Accident and Emergency. Meanwhile whole galaxies are being consumed within my bowels.

I enter the almost deserted A&E department to just catch a glimpse of my mother sitting on a chair by the door of one of the side rooms. It is a flashback to January. I am expecting to see my father lying on a bed, wearing an operating theatre gown, wired up to heart monitors and connected to various tubes delivering the gasses and fluids vital for the sustenance of the human life.

To my enormous relief I get to the door and push it open to see my father sitting on the edge of a bed, still fully clothed and having his hand bandaged by a nurse. They are surprised to see me and immediately give me the full rundown of what has happened. Father has been bitten by the dog - a story in itself which I will save for another entry. He is OK for now but must return in the morning for a consultant to look at the wound. For now the black-hole has closed up and I relax - just a little. I don’t get back to my place until about 1:30am on Friday morning, tired but too full of adrenalin to sleep.

Friday late afternoon I receive a call from my mother telling me that father has seen a consultant, they must operate and are concerned because his hand is showing signs of infection so he will be kept in hospital at least until Sunday. There began a weekend of visiting, and worrying and a return of the black-hole – smaller this time, but undeniably there again.

I write this on Sunday evening and I am pleased to say that Father is home again. He is not in any pain - although he is giving the dog a good deal of distance. I had a late lunch with them and we have discussed the biting incident and the future of the errant canine. Our conclusion is that the dog was not totally to blame, but is now living on borrowed time.

Friday, March 07, 2003

I am getting very excited.

By this time next week I will have realised an ambition I have held since January, 1976! I don't intend to reveal exactly what it is in advance, partially because I think that to do so will possibly jinx the chances of it actually happening. Those of an enquiring mind will just have to check back at the end of next week.

I have been very fortunate in my life to have achieved so many of my ambitions, and yet there are quite still a few to go. The one which is fast approaching is however by far the most expensive single experience on the list.

I went looking for ambition stuff on the web and came up with a site which suggests 50 things to do in a lifetime. I found quite a few of my existing ambitions on there (visit Machu Picchu, see the northern lights, spend Christmas in New York) and there are a few new suggestions too.

Do you have one wild thing you want to achieve? Tell me about it in the comments box. Or see if you can guess what I will be doing next Friday (no prizes!).

The countdown has begun – 6 days and counting.

Clear Night
Just got in from seeing LemonJelly at the Forum in Camden Town. Groovy!
Nearly There If you Leave Me Now
It is a challenge to put the output of a largely studio-based sound on a live stage and yet with clever use of sequencers blended with live performance of key parts, LemonJelly delivered new arrangements of some old favourites including Spacewalk, Closer, In the Bath, His Majesty King Raam, Homage to Patagonia, Return to Patagonia, Rambling Man, Page One, Elements, and a couple of new numbers which I am sure will appear on a future album or EP. To break up the relatively uninteresting spectacle of two guys in t-shirts running around pushing buttons and strumming the odd guitar, they also made creative use of lighting and projection screens which played animated artwork of their luscious album covers. Hit of the evening, without doubt, was Nice Weather for Ducks - with a funky video and the whole crowd singing along to Enn Reitel's 1950's style lyrical rendition "All the Ducks are Swimming in the Water, Falderol-de-di-do". A cool evening and to top it all a LuckyBag full of gifts to take home. Not bad for a Thursday.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

I keep getting pestered by the International Who's Who Historical Society.

Apparently I have been selected as a candidate for the coming edition of International Who's Who of Professionals. I wonder why they think I am worthy of inclusion in their little publication? Could it be that I have passed a rigorous vetting test and have been personally selected out of the millions of individuals worldwide to be listed in a book of weight and moment? Or could it be that they have just found my name on a commercially available email mailing list and think I am mug enough to pay to be included in a book no-one will buy? Well, I would be more impressed if they had actually sent the email to my work or personal email account (both of which are available to the people who really matter) but no, they write to a hotmail account I created specifically for use when I am ordering stuff over the internet and don't want to have my real inbox filled with marketing spam as a result.

Now the Who's Who people are hounding me because I haven't responded to their generous offer, thus compounding their spam scam.

Well, I look at this in the same way that Groucho Marx famously observed. "I don't want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member."

I have been surfing round a few Japanese sites tonight and found a site full of wuvable ickle puppies and kittens.

All the pictures were taken by owners of the pets using a fish-eye lens, and on the surface it all seems very sweet. What may not be apparent to those who don't read Japanse is that this is the owners gallery page of an animal ebay site and all these fluffy bundles are, or recently were, merely lots in an auction.

Well it could be worse - in some other countries it might have been a menu!

Ever wanted to have the Prime Minister hopping around like a puppet on a string? Want to make Tony Blair dance to your tune? Well now you can feel like you are George W Bush!

Wednesday, March 05, 2003


"Have you been ill?"

As opening gambits go, it isn't one you want to hear on seeing a friend for the first time after a few months is it? But that is how she started our conversation.

Her: Have you been ill?
Me: No not recently why?
Her: Oh well you just look really thin, I thought you might have been ill.
Me: Actually no, I am fitter now than I have been for years.
Her: Oh!
Me: The weight loss was intentional, not to say damned hard work.
Her: Oh well it suits you.
Me: Hmmmmmm

So looking ill suits me, does it? It certainly isn't the image I was going for when, after 20 years of fairly sedentary life and eating rather too well, I decided get in shape and work off the insulation belt I had been cultivating around my middle. It has taken dedication, will power and a total change of lifestyle but I am now 2 stone (that is 28 pounds for our American viewers) lighter, I have developed muscle tone, and for the first time in my life I have a midriff where my abs are visible if not exactly worthy of the description "6 pack".

I have been following Bill Phillips' programme called Body for Life. It uses a combination of regular exercise and improved diet. The exercise element is simple to start, encourages the setting of achievable short term goals and if followed in line with the recommended adjustments to diet one really does see results. For example I lost 12 pounds of fat in the first 2 months.

The diet aspect on the other hand is slightly harder to follow, only because it requires one to cut out many things that are tasty, or act as comfort foods. These include chocolate, cakes, biscuits, anything fatty, and one is restricted to no more than 2 units of alcohol a week. Sounds pretty severe, but it works and after a while I got used to it, and with the results I am seeing I don't have any motivation to break the regime.

However there is one problem. I have cut out of my life up so much of that which I enjoyed, but was bad for me, (including sugar in my tea) that when it comes to this time of year, I have absolutely nothing indulgent to give up for Lent.

Monday, March 03, 2003

Cloudy Night
I just started getting hits from the Shadow Project so I went over there to find out why and Hey! it seems my picture is taking pride of place on the gallery.

Cloudy Night
See your name in lights!

LED Sign
A couple of guys in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada have set up a neat little web-toy for us all to play with. Seems there is not much else to do in Manitoba at this time of year. It is very simple - you enter your message through their web-page and then it displays a live webcam picture of the sign displaying your message. Your message stays on the sign until someone replaces it, or until the top of each hour when it automatically reverts to showing the date, time and weather in Brandon. Of course this is open to all kinds on (ab)use by the eternal smutty schoolboy or girl in all of us. Go play, have fun, and don't forget to post your message on your blog.

Great fun!

Partly Cloudy
So lucky Londoners are going to be subject to a large scale emergency exercise to see how the First Responder services would cope if it all kicks off in our nation's capital.

In America - the land of the free paranoid - they have been getting ready for a mass invasion for years. First it was Mars, then Japan, then Mars again, and now it seems there are eager hoards from the "Axis of Evil" massing at the borders of the nation. To help them feel more secure, big cuddly old Uncle Sam has prepared a little pamphlet called Are You Ready. It is full of helpful hints on how to cope with such natural disasters as earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunami, and of course the daily bugbear of western civilization, volcanoes!

The counsel offered on how to deal with terrorism is all dealt with in 20 pages of A4 and could apply to many instances in life. For example:

* Wherever you are, be aware of your surroundings.
* Take precautions when traveling.
* Be aware of conspicuous or unusual behavior.
* Do not accept packages from strangers.
* Do not leave luggage unattended.
* Be aware of suspicious packages and strange devices.
* Do not be afraid to move or leave if you feel uncomfortable or if something does not seem right.
* Be familiar with different types of fire extinguishers and how to locate them.
* Know the location and availability of hard hats in buildings in which you spend a lot of time.

Wise advice for many of the places I spend my leisure time. I am just off to find a hard hat!

Sunday, March 02, 2003

Clear Night
Today was one of those days which inspire people to get out and about. I went on my normal cycle ride this afternoon which follows a circuitous route around the country lanes of Buckinghamshire. For me these rides are as much about exercise as they are about enjoying the scenery but I still take time to say a cheery "Good Afternoon" to the large numbers of walkers, cyclists, horse riders and other fellow human beings* I passed on my way. Almost without exception each returned at least a nod or a wave. I say almost because there is one group of people from whom I never even get a response let alone recognition I have spoken to them. Who might they be? Well I shall tell you dear reader - they are Joggers!

Have you ever seen a happy jogger? I certainly haven't and it makes you wonder why not. Is it that you need to be a grumpy git to become a jogger, or does jogging turn you into one? In either case it is a good enough reason for me to never take up that particular method of keeping fit.

*Actually there is also a horse in a field to which I say hello every morning. Since I have been doing this it is at the gate waiting for me every day. I wonder what it thinks of me - and if it misses me on the days I am away.