Monday, October 29, 2007

Musical Monday

It was something of a mad weekend, and one that was indicative of how little time I have these days... to wander around with my camera, get myself to the gym... or just do nothing at all. Anyway, Saturday morning I was at football training with Sam, followed by some food shopping in the afternoon in preparation for a couple of friends coming round for dinner in the evening. Has anyone ever cooked on a raclette? If not, try it – its messy, and its fun, especially when copious amounts of wine are flowing… we had a kind of charcuterie thing going on, with melted swiss cheese, some chicken and vegetable kebabs, baby new potatoes, fresh baguettes... mmmmm! All followed by fresh fruit salad and lots of ICE CREAM!

Then on Sunday morning it was time for Sam’s second competitive match for S* A****** Rangers and this time they reversed last weeks defeat in winning 10-2!!! Sam played in midfield this time, but some of his touches, and his passing & dribbling generally, were sublime and he was delighted afterwards (well, who wouldn’t be?). So was I, naturally.

Later it was off to Tottenham for the latest saga in a very sad season to date… but with a bit of luck the dream ticket of Juande Ramos and Gus Poyet as head coach and first team coach respectively will give us a bit of hope for the season and put us back where we belong next year. I'm not going to get melodramatic over our horrendous start to the season and say that it feels like my life has come to an end... but I must admit, it feels like my life has come to an end. (It was the great Bill Shankley who said "Football's not a matter of life and death. Its more important than that"!)

Musical Monday

I was challenged indirectly last week by the rather cheeky Jay, who suggested that I wouldn’t know an up to date track if it hit me between the eyes!

I almost rose to that challenge too, until I played an album that dates back to 1972. Then, with a sigh, I bowed to the inevitable, knowing that this week was destined to be like so many others… what can I say? I’m just a musical dinosaur!

Anyway, a few years ago I went to see a Lou Reed gig at the Royal Albert Hall. He was excellent, but I left thinking that Transformer was still his best album. I think, after listening to these two gems, that you might just have to agree with me.

Perfect Day

Walk on The Wild Side

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Friday, October 26, 2007


I went to see Mum on the way to football last night. She’s recovered well from the recent operation on her ankle and – although she’s presently walking with the aid of a frame – the plaster comes off her leg in three weeks and she’ll be better able to get around than she has been for years.

All things considered, things have been pretty good between us over the last few years. I say “all things considered” because my relationship with my parents was always difficult. In fact, difficult is something of an understatement… when my father was terminally ill in hospital a few years ago I went to see him, seeking a reconciliation after an estrangement that had lasted six or seven years. He sent me away with the words “You’ve never been a proper son, so don’t try to be one now”. He died shortly afterwards, and the ambivalent feelings towards him from which I seem unable to escape have been a constant in my life both before and since. Not necessarily an issue that anyone else would be aware of, but one that nags away in the shadows nonetheless.

Yesterday, Mum wanted to talk to me… to explain that – even though it might not seem like it sometimes – she loves me as much as she does my brother and sister. I didn’t ask for that conversation to take place but it was the culmination of a few painful exchanges this week. And I was asking myself, as I lay in bed in the early hours this morning, why a guy of 47 is still seeking answers to questions that stretch as far back as his childhood. I know I’m not unique in this respect, but I find it unsettling. As if it's indicative of some kind of failure in my life.

Sometimes, I try to analyse the way I am with my own children, and to determine whether the mistakes my parents made with me are mistakes that I’m now repeating myself. It’s a useful benchmark, I guess, albeit a negative one. And I know that being a parent is never easy, and that it doesn’t really get any easier. Maybe all that really matters is that your children know you love them.

And maybe that’s what Mum was hoping I'd understand last night.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


I was on my own in the lounge with Sam on Sunday afternoon, watching yet another debacle for English sport as Lewis Hamilton’s gearbox problems cost him about 12 places in the field during the course of the Brazilian Grand Prix and – ultimately – the F1 World Championship. Anyway, for some reason my eyes were drawn to the new and unused 3-wick candle (still wrapped in cellophane) that’s sitting on the hearth in front of the fireplace.

“Sam, why has my new candle got a big dent in the side and a piece missing?” I enquired.

“I don’t know” he replied. “That’s weird, though.”

Then, on Monday, I was in the kitchen with Bea. “WDKY, what’s happened to that lovely ornament that was on the mantelpiece in the lounge? The one Sue bought…” she asked (sorry Zooz – it was that one!). In a flash, the mystery of the dented candle was solved and all became clear.

“Hah!!!” I cried. “I told him about that bloody football…”

I called Sam at his Mum’s house. “Now listen carefully, Sam” I began, “You have one opportunity to answer these questions truthfully, and only one. I'm pretty sure that I already know the answers, so be very, very careful. Okay?”

“Errr… okay Dad…”

“Okay... 1. When did you break the ornament in the lounge? 2. Were you playing football? And 3. Where have you hidden it?”

“Don’t be cross with me, Dad…”


“I broke it yesterday – the ball came off the wall at a funny angle.”


“I hid it under my wardrobe. Sorry, Dad.”

“What have I told you about playing football in the lounge, Sam?”

“You said I’d end up breaking something.”

“And what am I going to say now?”

“No more football in the house, Dad.”

It’s good to have such a telepathic understanding with your children, don’t you think?!?

As an aside, Sam played his first ever competitive match on Sunday morning (other than for the school team) when he turned out for S* A***** Rangers Under 11's. Like any good kid who realised that his father was almost overcome with pride would do, he scored in the first few minutes with a cheeky volley from a corner that he skillfully sent over his shoulder and into the goal.

His team went on to lose.


Photos courtesy of Olivia...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Musical Monday

Musical Monday - Part 3 of 3

Well, as you can imagine things have been a bit hectic since Paris last week, and consequently it's been something of a struggle to get around my Blogroll since I got back (I'll try to do something about that, though). I also don't have time to post much more than my music selection today, which is the last in a series-style tribute to the great songwriting duo of Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

As it is the last, I've opted for two great tracks from two great singers, and next week will see something of a return to the present. It should be obvious that my taste in music is pretty eclectic, but I must admit that I sometimes listen to older tracks and sigh wistfully... even if some of them were from era's that were even before my time. (Shut up - I'm not that old!) Right - here you go then... and as always, enjoy!

Sandy Shaw - (There's) Always Something There To Remind Me

Bobby Gentry - I'll Never Fall In Love Again

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Saturday, October 20, 2007


Well, we're back, and what a wonderful few days we had. It didn't start as positively as it might have done, mind you... as soon as we arrived at the Eurostar terminal at Waterloo we were advised that the train and bus drivers in France were all on strike for pretty much the whole duration we were there. That meant no Metro (which was how we intended to get around the city) and a possible cancellation of the Eurostar we'd booked for the journey home.

Consequently, we did a lot of walking for a couple of days (and when I say a lot...) and then decided to stay an extra night to be sure we could get home when we wanted to. It all worked out pretty well in the end, actually - the extra night was perfect, and the Metro was operating again by lunchtime on our second day there. Which was just as well, as the city was slowly being invaded by English and South African rugby fans going for the World Cup Final this evening.

I've posted a few photos below, although many of them were just snapped as we wandered around. That said, there's some at the Louvre, Notre Dame, Sacré Coeur and The Arc de Triumphe as well as a number of general shots. And for anyone who hasn't had the joy of visiting Paris, I can only suggest that you do your damnedest to get there some time... it's the most beautiful city, and somewhere I'd live at the drop of a hat if I could. Everything centres around the bars and restaurants - it really is the epitome of café culture, no more than where we were staying... directly opposite the Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots - the two most famous in Paris and right in the heart of St Germaine in the Left Bank's Latin quarter.

And I proved one thing to myself... my French is a lot better than my Spanish. I can't say the same for Bea's, though ;-)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Musical Monday

Yes, I know… it’s actually Sunday over here, but I thought I’d get this post done and dusted (you’ll get that one later) because I’ve been a little excited about it since last week. And anyway, this will probably be my last post of any substance before we go to Paris for a few days in celebration of Bea hitting the big three zero!

The last month or two have been kind of difficult for us in some ways. Bea’s hours have been rather anti-social and I’ve had a lot of pressure through work (and pig-headed clients). We’ve battled through, though, and this trip has been one of the things that we’ve been really looking forward to. The Eiffel Tower, Sacré Coeur, the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Arc de Triumphe, Champs Elysées (and yes, the Buddha Bar itself)… so little time and so much to see. I’ll be taking lots of photos, hopefully, and may well post some of them on here.

Musical Monday - Part 2 of 3

Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O'Brien's first professional musical experience came in 1958, when she joined the British vocal group the Lana Sisters and recorded a number of singles with them over the following two years.

In 1960 she left the Lana Sisters and formed the pop-folk trio the Springfields with brother Dion O'Brien and Tim Feild (the two of whom had been working together as the Kensington Squares). According to Tim Feild, the new trio chose "the Springfields" as their name while practising in a field in Somerset in the spring of that year. So Mary (who had been nicknamed "Dusty" as a child) became Dusty Springfield, and the rest is history.

Springfield had become a fan of Burt Bacharach in the early 60’s (largely influenced by Dionne Warwick’s collaboration with him, and later with Hal David), and recorded a number of Bacharach/David compositions including "I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself", which reached number 3 in Britain. She was chosen to record the original version of "The Look of Love" for the 1967 Bond movie Casino Royale and it was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Song of 1967. In 1968 a cover version by Sergio Mendes and Brazil 66 became a bigger hit than the original; however, the song has remained more closely associated with Springfield, whose interpretation is widely regarded as definitive.

Before releasing her final album, A Very Fine Love, in 1995, Springfield was diagnosed with breast cancer. She received treatment and, for a time, the cancer was in remission. Unfortunately, howver, it was detected again in the summer of 1996 and Springfield, after a spirited fight, was eventually defeated. She died, aged 59, just ten days before her induction into the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The day she died was also the day she had been due to go to Buckingham Palace to receive her OBE medal.

Right… here it is then – part 2 of my tribute to Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and The Look of Love. A beautiful song, delivered to perfection by the late Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O'Brien. That’s Dusty Springfield to you.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

More black ties and carriages

Well, I should probably apologies for not being around much this week. The project that I'm working on - and have been for the last few weeks - reaches a critical milestone tomorrow, when the pack of documents I've been putting together have to be issued to various parties who are still involved at this stage of the process. it's meant some very late nights and not much time for anything other than working. that said, everything seems to have come together over the last 24 hours and I'm reasonably sure that we'll avoid any last minute crises. Now I've said that, of course, there'll no doubt be some last minute crises.

The function I went to on Monday was unfortunately not open to partners to attend as well (boo), but all is not lost as there's another one tonight that is (yay).

This time it's in a castle that dates back to the 12th century, would you believe, and Bea - who's getting her hair done as I type - is coming too. She's a little nervous and will no doubt be on the look-out for these illusive carriages she keeps hearing about. If we see any, I'll be sure to take photos :-)

I think I'd better get back to these documents, as I only have until late afternoon before we have to set off. Hopefully I'll have an opportunity to be a little more sociable as the week draws to an end!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Musical Monday

Tonight I'm off to one of the nicest hotels in London for a black tie dinner. (I would tell you which one it is, but then someone else who's also going might do a search on it and end up here, so I'd better not. Because that would be... bad!)

Anyway, the dinner is work-related and I'm a guest on the table of a company from which I'm hoping to get a nice project at the end of the year, so I'll have to stay (relatively) sober and try to leave my bow-tie on at least until after dinner. I have been known to misbehave at this event in the past, as it happens (no, there's no surprise there...).

I was looking at the invitation earlier, and was laughing at Bea's face as she read the phrase "Carriages at 1am"... this country really is steeped in tradition, but the truth is that I like it. Tradition can be... well, comforting sometimes, and although I only go to two or three black tie functions in any year there's something about walking through the West End looking like a penguin that I enjoy.

Musical Monday - Part 1 of 3

So, given that I'm a throwback to Victorian times, I decided that I'm going to do a Musical Monday series - reminiscent of some of my more popular HNT's - to demonstrate the fact. The next three weeks, therefore, are going to be a kind of musical tribute to two of the greatest songwriters of modern(ish) times. Burt Bacharach and Hal David, or just "Bacharach and David". If you fancy reading something about them and their amazing collaboration have a look at this article; otherwise just sit back and enjoy Dionne Warwick singing "Walk On By".

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Friday, October 05, 2007

You gotta love 'em

Clients, that is. After adding more than two weeks leeway at the tail end of a project I'm working on, I booked a short holiday in Tenerife so that Bea could see her family and we could unwind a bit. Safe enough? I thought so too, but now it seems that - because my client has failed to meet all his deadlines (his deadlines) for document approval and sign-off Bea will probably have to go on her own.

I know I've been moaning about work a lot recently, but this kind of thing fucks me right off. I could remain resolute in my determination to go, but if I do it will probably cost me about £2000 in respect of missed days when I'm needed over here. I'm tempted to cut off my nose to spite my face, but the truth is I doubt that I will. I can't write off that kind of money - I wish! - and I'll probably have to end up biting the bullet and smiling politely! (Update: he's been a star, and has insisted in reworking the programme around my holiday! There is a god)

To make myself feel better I went for a walk on my way back from a meeting yesterday, and took a photo of "The Gherkin", one of my favourite buildings in London . It's actually in the City - that's the financial district that originally encompassed precisely one square mile (although the boundaries long ago extended and have since become slightly blurred). Anyway, Wikipedia's take on the building itself...
30 St Mary Axe is a building in London's main financial district, the City of London. It is widely known by the nickname "The Gherkin", and occasionally as The Swiss Re Tower, Swiss Re Building, or just Swiss Re, after its previous owner but principal occupier. It is 180 m (590 ft) tall, making it the second-tallest building in the City of London after Tower 42, and the sixth-tallest in London as a whole. The design is by Pritzker Prize-winner Lord Foster and ex-partner Ken Shuttleworth and Arup engineers. It was constructed by Skanska of Sweden between 2001 and 2004.

It looks a lot more impressive when you click on the image and see it in it's true size. Actually, here's a much better one, although I didn't take it. It's the view from Bishopsgate, in case you're interested :-)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Spreading the love

Anyone with kids in their last year of primary school (no, I have no idea what that's called in the States - perhaps Junior High - but here they change schools after Year 6/aged 11) will appreciate what a difficult time it can be. In fact, its a bloody nightmare.

After watching Sam play football this afternoon, we're off for a tour of yet another possible destination although this time it's a single-sex school. I'm really not even sure why I'm taking him to see it (I'm much, much more in favour of co-ed) but in this area there's a real dearth of schools that meet the criteria were looking for - good results, state of the art facilities and decent kids - and we have to look at all the possibilities.

It's actually not that unusual for families to move simply to get inside the catchment area of a school they particularly like, and the whole process can end up being more than a little trying. All in all, then (what with client troubles, school angst and rather depressing football results) it seems like a perfect time to push all the problems of everyday life to one side and think about something altogether nicer...

Every now and again I post video on here, and there's always a good reason for my doing so. This occasion is no different, and the short movie below is well worth 8 minutes of your time. Because sometimes its nice to have a smile put on your face, and to know that there's a little love out there, isn't it?

(And this little gem has apparently won in the order of 35 film awards. Within that context... what's 8 minutes, eh?)

Monday, October 01, 2007

Musical Monday

Well, I got through last week relatively unscathed. Unscathed, that is, aside from a "difference of opinion" with the client for whom the work was being carried out that made me realise why so many of my friends in the same line of work as me refuse to go down the consultancy route... it's a fucking hard way to earn a living, and it can be soul destroying at times.

I felt better when I emailed my invoice, though. Much better, actually.

Musical Monday

I'm particularly pleased with my musical treat today. I imagine everyone knows by now that I love the Bristol music scene over here, of which Massive Attack is a major part. I also really do enjoy the music of José González, although I'd be the first to admit that they're poles apart. Well, how about a a José González cover of my favourite track by Massive Attack? "You're mad", I hear you cry, but I kid you not. This is Teardrop (live), and I like it. I like it a lot, in fact.

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