Thursday, September 27, 2007

The second coming

Two more days of madness. I’m not quite wilting under the pressure, and it’s true that I found the time to go watch Spurs win yesterday, but the demands of this week have been unrelenting. Anyway, you know what they say... when the going gets tough…

Things at home have been difficult lately, with Bea having had to work a couple of weeks of late shifts (which entails coming home at 3am, when I’m fast asleep and not easily roused) and me having had a bit of a cough and cold. This week, though, I’m better and we’re managing to spend some proper time together; consequently we’ve lived what feels much more like a “normal” life, and slowly but surely everything is falling into place again. For some reason, as I typed that sentence the words from that wonderful W B Yeats poem sprang to mind… you know the one.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Was that a little melodramatic? Probably, but I must admit it takes me back… A-Level English Literature, smoking behind the 6th-form block, those parties I was writing about the other day… 18 hour days seemed easy then!

I'll catch up with you all soon, I hope. In the meantime, the poem’s called The Second Coming. It really is one of my all-time favourites, by one of my all-time favourite poets... you could do worse than to check it out.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Musical Monday

So... the week of complete madness has started, and if I seem to be less visible than normal just blame the fucking ridiculous deadlines that I'm working to. Is it worth it? Ask me when I've banked the cheque!

In the meantime, let's seek solace in some music... this week, I've gone back in time again to an old staple from the days when the simple things in life were all we cared about... a few friends armed with a bottle and a spliff, some beautiful young thing for the night, and the next football match.

I have no idea why things become more complicated as we get older, but I wish they wouldn't, or didn't have to...

For those of you with long memories - or shorter memories but a taste for vintage music - how about some JJ Cale and, perhaps, a little... Cocaine?

If you want join in with Musical Monday, just stick this in your sidebar or on your post (by the way, this is the code if you want the new image link, i.e. the colour version. Go on, you know you want to change it…):

<a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" border="0" height="160" width="120" /></a>

Saturday, September 22, 2007

The one where...

…he moans about work.

It’s Saturday morning, and I’m working. There’s nothing unusual about this, as it happens, and I’ll no doubt work tomorrow too – the only difference this weekend is that Bea’s got her days off, and so I’ll feel a little guilty about it as well as being slightly more cross than I usually am that I can’t just switch off for a couple of days like most other people.

For the last few weeks, my work day has tended to start at around 6.30am and finish somewhere near 10pm… not every day, but most days. From Monday it’s going to get worse, because I have one project that’ll be hitting a peak and another (involving some work in Turkey) that’s about to start. The reality is that there’s no divide between my working day and whatever everyone else seems to have – I think it’s called “leisure time”. And it isn’t just me, I know, because a friend who’s running a similar business (another consultancy in the same sector) works longer hours than I do.

This year – from January to December – it looks like I’m going to bill double what I earned in my last year as a salaried employee. My costs (overheads and subcontractors) only amount to around 20% and I pay less in tax than I would have done as an employee, so I should be happy. But the truth is that any surplus income I have needs to be set aside in case next year is a quiet one; I don’t even feel like I’m reaping the benefits because the consequence of this constant uncertainly is that I don’t actually spend any more than I used to. I just don’t have any immediate financial worries like I might have done, and perhaps used to.

I’m sorry if this sounds like I’m complaining when, instead, I should be rejoicing in my good fortune. But I’m fed up with being tired, and I have a headache. My friend (who I referred to above, and who’s also effectively the subcontractor I mentioned) has let me down big time on a piece of work he was meant to be doing for me, and I’m probably going to spend much my day doing what I’ve paid him to do. And I have a headache - did I mention that?

Enjoy the weekend… those of you that have one. Normal service will be resumed shortly.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Love is blind

So... there you go, then. In all the excitement of the new dishwasher’s arrival and impending project deadlines, I would have forgotten if Bea hadn't looked at me earnestly this morning and said "Congratulations". I looked back at her quizzically for a moment, and then it dawned on me. I suspect that it would have completely passed me by in other circumstances.
I have a little bit of child-related drama going on with my ex at the moment, and its driven home to me yet again that she’s a woman full of anger and bitterness. She probably always has been - she certainly has a history of treating those around her (those that she purports to “love”) with contempt. Not always, but ultimately always, if you get my drift. Well, I don't often quote the Bible (Jewish atheists tend not to) but I'm bound to say... as you sow shall you reap.
Understandably I imagine, I’ve asked myself how I didn’t see all this from the beginning, and maybe the answer lies in some of the comments one or two of her oldest friends have made to me over the last few years… “This is the woman that we all know - the one you see now. The woman you thought you married was in temporary residence…” But actually, amongst all the bad there was a lot of good, and even a bit of great. And if ever there was a reason (well, two actually) not to look at those thirteen years of my life as a mistake... well, I'd better go and check their bolognese sauce.
Because if there's one thing they love it's their Dad's bolognese sauce.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Musical Monday

After all the soul-searching of late, I decided that I needed to get out and play more. What with one thing and another, though, getting out proved to be harder than anticipated so staying in and playing therefore became a slightly more viable option. Well, who would have thought that our friends at Blogger would be so helpful?

I was on my Dashboard yesterday (intending to try a template tweak or two) and stumbled across Blogger Play (in fact, that's quite an approriate expression because it's not dissimilar to StumbleUpon in concept). If I've got the tag right, clicking on the image below should take you straight there. The photos you'll see are uploaded by Blogger in real time - in other words, as they're posted to blogs you see them appear on the screen. And by clicking on them, you'll be taken straight to the blog post concerned.

Its intriguing. And its fun.

Musical Monday

For a while there I was stuck in a rut of my musical past, but you'll be impressed to learn that this week I'm not a great deal more than a decade from being up to date. And this track is one I heard a few weeks ago purely by chance, and I liked it so much that I did a Victor Kiam and bought the album. In fact, I bought two because it was 2 for 1 (give or take an extra 50p) on Amazon that day!

Anyway, a little about Fiona Apple, courtesy of Wikipedia... "Apple is a member of a family rich with roots in entertainment. Born in New York City, she is the daughter of singer Diane McAfee and actor Brandon Maggart. Her older sister, Amber Taleullah, sings cabaret under the stage name Maude Maggart. Her brother Spencer is a director and directed the video for her single "Parting Gift". Her half brother Garett Maggart starred in the TV series The Sentinel. In addition, her maternal grandparents were Millicent Green, a dancer with the George White's Scandals, a series of 1920s musical revues similar to the Ziegfeld Follies, and Johnny McAfee, a multireedist and vocalist of the big band era; her grandparents met while touring with Johnny Hamp and his Orchestra.

Hmmmm... quite the pedigree. In 1996 Apple's debut album, Tidal, was released by a subsidiary of Sony. The album went on to sell 2.7 million copies and was certified three times platinum in the U.S. My favourite track (and the one I was referring to earlier) is Shadowboxer, and that's what I give you today.

If you want join in with Musical Monday, just stick this in your sidebar or on your post (by the way, this is the code if you want the new image link, i.e. the colour version. Go on, you know you want to change it…):

<a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" border="0" height="160" width="120" /></a>

Friday, September 14, 2007

A question answered

I seem to be starting each of my posts lately with a reference to the one that came before, but on this occasion I felt that I had to acknowledge (and say thank you for) the comments that were left following - yes, you guessed it - my last post. I appreciated the sentiments expressed very much.

I’m not sure whether that one post had any particular influence on my Mexican chick but whether it did or not she saw fit to ask me a question as part of a game of tag along the following lines (and I’m not being narcissistic in any way, just trying to adhere to the rules)… “You're also one of those bloggers who can string thoughts together in such a way that probes the deeper recesses of my mind. You make me think. Who or what inspires you to write like you do?” That’s some compliment – which I'll accept, even if I do so with a degree of embarrassment – and I think I’ll go back to the beginning in trying to formulate some kind of coherent response…

I think that I’ve hinted more than once before that I consider myself to have gone some way in terms of my… I don’t know. Let’s call it personal development. I certainly wasn’t always “the person that I am now” and some of that change has come about because I didn’t like what I saw back then. In fact, I’ll be more brutal with myself, and admit that I didn’t like some of what I did back then either. Can we all say that? Frankly, I don't know, and in any event I'm not sure that I want or need to benchmark myself in that way. But for me, it was true.

I guess, like for all of us, there were things about my childhood, my adolescence, my relationship with parents and other influential people in my life… I could go on, but what I’m saying is that there were things that played a part in shaping who it was that I was becoming. But somewhere along the way, I think that I realised (and accepted) that responsibility for who I was had to rest with me, and me alone; it wasn’t enough to be a passenger, and it wasn’t acceptable to try to reason away my behaviour when – deep down – I didn’t necessarily like that behaviour. I suspect that this thought process came to a head when I was in my late twenties and my first marriage ended, but the knowledge that in some way – in any way – I had to keep on looking at myself in the mirror (and questioning what I saw) continued as the paths I took in my life meandered in unexpected ways.

One of the things I strive for in trying to be the person that I want to be is honesty… in both thought and in expression of that thought - even if it hurts occasionally. Because, you know, it’s just as easy to be dishonest with ourselves as it is to be dishonest with other people. Perhaps I’m fortunate in being able to express myself in the way that I want to, at least most of the time, and that’s really all I try to do in this medium of ours. To express myself with as much honesty as possible.

Whether I succeed or not may just depend on how I feel about what I write. Or maybe its about how able I am to make some kind of connection with whoever chooses to read. Maybe its a combination of the two? And I’m not even sure if that answered the question, but I hope it was close enough as makes no difference! And apologies for making this a long and slightly rambling post... I wasn't going to, but it just happened that way (so shoot me...).

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The company you keep

Ever had one of those weeks when things just seem to… happen? The kind of things that halt you in your tracks for a moment. That make you stop and think for a second.

Anyone who’s been reading this blog since the early days will know that I’ve been separated from my ex for some time (in fact, it’s about four and a half years). Those days were not the most pleasant of my life… she was unfaithful and I went against every instinct in my body in giving her a second chance. It all became quite traumatic as the lies and deceit continued, and if I learnt one thing it was that second chances are not things that should be given without a great deal of thought! Anyway, I digress…

A few days ago, I received a letter from the solicitor who’s been dealing with my divorce proceedings (finally). It seems that the Decree Nisi is to be granted on 18th September; and thereafter, the Decree Absolute will be granted on 31st October.

I read the letter and then tried to determine what it was that I felt, and the conclusion was stark and mildly surprising. I felt nothing.

Then - yesterday - I was taking Sam to buy a new pair of football boots, and I decided to question him, subtly, about a text I received a couple of days ago that seemed slightly strange at the time. He was a little reticent at first but then gladly relieved himself of the burden of information that for some reason he'd been made to promise not to divulge; it seems that my ex – who’s now 40 and was sterilised whilst we were married – has successfully undergone IVF and is now expecting in February. In fact, she’s expecting twins (god help her!).

As we sat in the car, and indeed later that evening, I again tried to determine what I felt, and the conclusion was just the same. Again, I felt nothing… save for trying to ascertain how it would impact the precious time that I spend with my children.

We’re all shaped by the sum of our experiences. Those experiences can be hard to deal with but deal with them we must, because the alternative doesn’t bear thinking about… a life in which we deny ourselves the opportunity of finding contentment. Of being happy again. And I don’t mean happy with another person; I mean happy with who we are, as individuals. Because in a sense we have to get through life alone, whatever our circumstances.

I realised with a degree of certainty that was comforting that I now find myself in that position – happy with who I am. And it reminds me of a few lines from The Invitation, by Oriah Mountain Dreamer…

“I want to know if you can be alone with yourself
and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.”

I can, and I do.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Musical Monday

Well, there’s clearly no doubt that the BBC documentary (Guys and Dolls) featured in my last post was both fascinating and disturbing, and I enjoyed reading the comments that were left. Many of my own thoughts were expressed in those comments, and I was left with two overriding feelings after watching it. (Twice, I might add!)

Firstly, the objectification of women as sexually-compliant, non-thinking/speaking, commodities; available whenever required, never complaining, toys to be hung from a chain (like a carcass at an abattoir) until – or when no longer – required... well, it left me feeling that something here was very, very wrong.

Secondly, the rather sad and pitiful proposition that (most) of these guys believed that they were enjoying a “relationship” with their dolls… that is, a relationship with a piece of plastic (okay, plastic with interchangeable tongues and vaginas, but inanimate nonetheless). What on earth does that say about the parental and other role models/influences that have resulted in them being so completely unable to relate in a social context to REAL women? (And what about the guy with EIGHT dolls, all modeled in accordance with some sleazy, stereo-typical fantasy of woman-as-sex-toy?)

I don’t have any problem at all with sex-aids as masturbatory devices; in fact, I find the double standards thing that normally seems to apply in this area of sexuality (and which, ironically, are generally "in favour of" women) quite worrying at times. Neither do I have a problem in recognising that some people have severe social deficiencies, and that these deficiencies need to be recognised and – in some way – treated so as to ensure that no harm comes to others as a consequence.

But… I don’t know. Somehow, this just doesn't seem right. And I can’t really put it any more intelligently than that, I’m afraid.

Musical Monday

I’ve gone unashamedly commercial with Musical Monday this week, for three reasons…

Firstly, I think a lightening of the mood is in order, after all this talk of the objectification of women and men’s social inadequacies!

Secondly, I LOVE this song (it’s one of a very few that I’ve actually bought as a CD single).

And finally, these women are DAMN SEXY (shame the guys had to be in it, though!). So damn sexy, in fact, that I’ve posted the video as well as the music player so that you can all drool along with me. And I have only one more thing to say…


(And no, the irony wasn't/isn't lost on me, in case you were wondering.)

Liberty X - Just a Little Bit

If you want join in with Musical Monday, just stick this in your sidebar or on your post, but change ALL the brackets to the pointy ones first (by the way, this is the code if you want the new image link, i.e. the colour version. Go on, you know you want to change it…):

(a href="" target="_blank")(img src="" border="0" height="160" width="120" /)(/a)

Friday, September 07, 2007

Challenging convention...

Or, perhaps, challenging yourself...

There are times when all of us want to push back against the rules, regulations, expectations, moral values... the conventions that are forced upon us. And at the same time, we probably all think that the framework that we build around ourselves in order to give our own lives some kind of self-imposed order is the "right" one. But if we make assumptions in this respect, aren't we also guilty of imposing our own conventions on others?

Time and again I'm reminded that it's a strange, and often perturbing, world out there, and some questions don't have an easy answer. This video from a BBC documentary runs to about 46 minutes (yes, it's a long time, but its compulsive viewing so you may want to kick off your shoes...), and if it doesn't leave you with a slight feeling of unease I'll be more than a little surprised. And you tell me... where do you draw the line with regard to your own comfort zone, and does this fall outside of it? Are you disgusted, or did it give you cause to question yourself as to what's... "acceptable"?

As I said, you tell me...

"Guys And Dolls"

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Life balance

A while ago, I was talking to someone about the joys of running a business, and in discussing why I was actually happy to walk away from a relatively high – and secure – income I used the phrase “work/life balance”.

“I hate it when people say that” she responded, “It’s about life balance, not work/life balance. Work is just one part of the whole, and shouldn’t be any more important than the others.” Now, it doesn’t matter whether you think she was right or not, but it is an interesting subject to mull over. I was thinking about it yesterday evening, in fact, because I was preparing some papers for a hastily-arranged meeting with a client today and had been rather put out at having to don a suit (although no tie, you can be sure) and get myself on a train a touch too close to sparrow fart for comfort.

In a (vaguely) similar vein, Bea’s struggling with one or two issues at the moment, having had to work until 1.30am for three days running; we’re also getting slightly pissed off about the fact that it’s impossible to plan ahead due to the uncertainty surrounding her days off and shift rotas. The job itself is great, but there’s a downside; it’s just affecting her life balance a bit (see what I’m saying?).

Anyway, more on this subject another time. The client I met today was actually my first for the business, and we’ve been working together for about a year and a half now. It’s something of a consultant’s dream because I’m regarded as an integral part of the internal management team these days, and that can be a hard thing to achieve. In fact, it can be an impossible thing to achieve. The offices are on the river, situated between London Bridge and Tower Bridge, and as it was a nice day when I left after lunch I decided to go for a walk.

Now, I didn’t have my camera with me, but even so decided to take a few shots on my mobile (that’s cell-phone to most of you lot!); the results weren’t so bad (they can’t have been, considering that I was pleased enough with them to give them names). Just cut me some slack, because I’ll be going back some time soon to give my Canon an airing.

And don’t take that the wrong way.


(Oh, and the mobile's a Nokia N95, for those that asked!)

Monday, September 03, 2007

Musical Monday

Well, here we are again. In reality its not quite Monday, but even so I find my thoughts turning to music; however, not before a bit of a ramble, as is my wont. Old habits die hard and, anyway, this is a habit I enjoy…

I seem to have managed to persuade one or two new readers to stick around lately; that being the case (and having had some messages expressing a degree of surprise on the matter) I should probably clarify that from mid-February '06 and earlier the original comments that were left on here have all disappeared. That’s because I switched to Haloscan at that time, and had to archive the Blogger comments to avoid having two platforms running simultaneously. It’s therefore always nice when people delve into the archives and leave a thought or two – thank you for those who have. Okay...

On Saturday night, we went over to Zooz for dinner (remember Zooz?), in celebration of one of her daughter’s recent graduation – with a First, I might add. And what a superb dinner it was, cooked and presented to perfection. As always, there were a liberal number of spliffs working their way around the table, and I must admit to being rather stoned by the time we left. Bea was more drunk than stoned, and had one of those “moments” on the way home, caused in the main by frustration at not being able to articulate herself in the way that she wants to and culminating in a few tears. And I’m sure that it is frustrating, but there’s no point in worrying about it. It just needs a little time, and a little patience… (Bea, everyone loves you, darling. Don't worry about it.)

Musical Monday (and my leg) now comes to you in glorious Technicolor. A while ago, we were in Brighton for the weekend. On the Sunday I was wondering around one of the little art & craft shops when this track came on the stereo and, not really concentrating, at first I thought it was Portishead (listen for the similarity). But it wasn't, as you'll have gathered by now.

If you can be bothered to follow a link, there’s some information about Björk Guðmundsdóttir (that’s Bjork to you) here but suffice it to say that she’s one of the most original, interesting, quirky and innovative artists around. And – let’s face it – Iceland isn’t exactly known for having a production line of original, interesting, quirky and innovative artists, is it? Anyway, this is from her album Homogenic, although it has to be said that she looks a whole lot cuter on the cover of Debut! It really is a near-perfect track...

Hunter. And, thinking about it, it's a perfect track.

If you want join in with Musical Monday, just stick this in your sidebar or on your post, but change ALL the brackets to the pointy ones first (by the way, this is the code if you want the new image link, i.e. the colour version. Go on, you know you want to change it…):

(a href="" target="_blank")(img src="" border="0" height="160" width="120" /)(/a)