Saturday, 3 October 2009

Part of the Network

Welcome to my first blog post in a Blue Moon.

I've had a few things going on in my life since my last posting; some good, some bad. Much of this would provide good material for a blog, but there are some things that I prefer to keep personal - which brings me nicely onto the paradox that is Social Networking.

For me, Social Networking is all about connecting with people, so in some respects it's a bit hypocritical of me to open up on some issues and keep schtum on others. That's the beauty though of Social Networking - you can be as open or as closed as you want to be. You could dip your toes in the shallow water or dive in at the deep end. Me, I prefer doggy paddling in waist high water (perhaps with a pair of water wings).

There are some people I follow on twitter/read blogs of, who are refreshingly candid. I love this, and wish I could have the bollocks to be as frank, as it makes for entertaining reading. I try to be honest though on the topics I do blog / tweet about.

Part of the reason for starting this blog was so that I could air my views anonymously online, though this has been diluted since a lot of my friends now read this blog, and also since *someone* leaked it to my workmates last year! And yes - I do recognise the irony trying to hide behind your PC in such a public forum like the Internet. I've toyed with the idea of starting a new totally anonymous blog elsewhere, much like Manuel The Waiter's - but I fear the insights into the life of a 30-something singleton toy production planner living in West London just might be too much too soon for the interweb. When I was young I had aspirations to be a journalist - sites like blogger have at least opened up the net to wannabe journos & writers who would have otherwise remained unheard.
Anyway, for the benefit of my regular readers, yes, all two of you, I'll try to persevere with this blog a bit more from now on. Look out for more regular updates!

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

You Mugging Me Off?

Up until the middle of the nineteenth century, mounted robbers in masks used to rob wealthy people travelling in stage coaches on the highways of Great Britain.

These days ticketing agencies do the job just as well, but they hide behind legal jargon and T's & C's.

I've recently been royally ripped off by Ticketmaster. Not once, but twice.

I bought tickets for myself & workmates for the recent England vs. Italy 6 Nations rugby at Twickenham. I've been desperate to see an England rugby game, and was pleased to hook into the public sale. I booked the tickets and went to the confirmation page of the sale. The face value of the tickets was £60 a hit. I was charged £3.25 postage, and, as I breezed through the confirmation process, I clicked OK for the £4 "service charge". £4 per transaction I thought was quite reasonable, but to be fair, I was half asleep at the time.

STAND AND DELIVER! £4 per f*cking ticket = £28. What a rip off! I rang to query why the fees were so high, and spoke with a lady who politely explained that their fees were charged as a % of the ticket price. So the higher the price of the ticket -> the higher the fee charged by Ticketmaster.

Why this is, I don't know. Whether you buy a £120 corporate package, or the £35 cheap seats, it's still the same monkey at Ticketmaster processing your order. And the fact you're charged for one ticket or 7 tickets is irrelevant; you get charged per ticket not per transaction, which is fundamentally wrong, and a rip off. When I got the tickets through in the post all 7 tickets were joined together in a perforated strip, so it was just as easy for a Ticketmaster monkey to put 1 ticket into an envelope as it would do for them to put 7 in.

The helpful lady also pointed out that I had the choice to decline the transaction before clicking the button marked "yes please mug me off". What choice though - (a) pay Ticketmaster's exorbitant fee .... or (b) pay a tout outside the ground much more?

It doesn't end there. Last week I booked tickets (face value £65) to see U2 at their forthcoming Wembley gig. I can't wait to see them play live for the 4th time in my life. I've been lucky to see them twice at the "old" Wembley, and once at their 2001 Homecoming gig at Slane Castle. For this privilege, Ticketmaster charged me £7.50 per ticket. Plus a one-off £3.25 delivery charge. YOUR MONEY OR YOUR LIFE.

It's money for old rope. Someone in a position of authority needs to look into this practice of ripping off sports & music fans. Monopoly at it's worst.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Waxing Lyrical

I was looking for the meaning of a song and stumbled across this great little website.

It does exactly what it says on the tin - it has the lyrics of nearly half a million songs, by tens of thousands of different artists, and basically allows Joe Public to post comments about the songs.

I absolutely love music, but it's strange how often I'll hear the music but not listen to the words. A reminder to slow down and enjoy the ride.

A lot of songs are open to interpretation by the listener - a quick random scan of the website shows many differences of opinions over the meanings of certain songs. But hey, isn't that the beauty of the English (and other) language(s), and of music in general?

I've added this site to my favourites, it makes for a great wasted afternoon.

By the way, I was looking for an explanation of La Tristesse Durera (Scream To A Sigh) by Manic Street Preachers. I never really paused to think about this song's meaning, but it's become a little clearer now.

Monday, 2 February 2009

The Blues Are Still Blue

I've not been myself recently. Don't worry, I'm not gonna lay my soul bare on this blog, well not too much. But today in particular I had a dose of the February Blues.

Statistically, today was the day of the year on which most people "throw a sickie" at work. Ignoring the bloody awful weather we had today, the weather is generally shit this time of year anyway, the Christmas party season is a distant memory, every one's still skint, the days are still short, New Year's Resolutions have generally run out of steam, no imminent bank holidays to look forward to, credit crunch, need I go on?

Before you all start running a hot bath & open a packet of razor blades & crack open a bottle of strong vodka, I should point out that my New Year's Resolution this year was to Think More Positively. With this in mind I have dedicated this post to 20 Reasons To Be Cheerful (with apologies to the late Ian Dury, 1,2,3):

  1. The Ashes are round the corner. OK, England might not be in the best shape they've ever been in what with the Kevin Pietersen/Peter Moores shenanigans, but the Aussies are a team in transition, and the atmosphere will be electric.

  2. It looks like Kris Marshall is about to get back together with his MILF in the latest BT advert.

  3. England are on track to qualify for the World Cup. At last, a manager who is getting the best out of a mediocre bunch of overpaid, egotistical professional footballers. Keep up the good work, Fabio.

  4. Tabasco Sauce. It adds a kick to my Spag Bol.

  5. Life's Too Short. It really is. Go travelling. Learn to play guitar. Leave your job. Ask her out. Relocate. Quite apt that today is also Groundhog Day.

  6. The new Cadburys advert with the kids with the twitching eyebrows. Well, it makes me laugh.

  7. Six Nations. Yep, a poor substitute for football, and it's essentially a load of posh blokes chasing an egg. But the older I get the more I'm getting into it. And you can watch the game with a pint in your hand. And a good chance to beat the Scots/Welsh/French/Italians/Irish at something (tho not very likely with our current crop of players).

  8. However old or young you are, there's still a real thrill when building a snowman with fresh snow.

  9. QPR are on the up. Rich owners, building up the team slowly but progressively, bright young manager, even an outside chance of the playoffs & a trip to Wembley this season.

  10. Elisabetta Gregoraci.

  11. Solstice. The days are getting longer and summer's approaching. Yay!

  12. There's still loads & loads of good people on this planet.

  13. Twitter. The new facebook?

  14. Bon Iver. There's always good new music.

  15. Oasis - at long overdue last, I'm finally getting to see these dudes play live this year.

  16. Gavin & Stacey - feel-good and funny.

  17. New series of The Apprentice.

  18. A bit of grin and bear it, a bit of come and share it.

  19. Akos Buzsaky.

  20. If all else fails, just select Nina Simone Feeling Good on your ipod.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

The Crying Game

On Friday our department had a Christmas meal. During the course of the meal, one of the topics that cropped up was a movie called P.S. I Love You. I've not seen it, but a girl I work with was explaining the synopsis. It stars Hilary Swank & Gerard Butler, and is about a young couple living happily together in New York until he gets cancer and dies. Before he dies, he arranges for several messages to be delivered to her after his death, not to tie her to the past, but more to fill her with encouragement for her future and help her to have closure & move on. I look forward to watching it at some point.

Not surprisingly, the movie is supposed to be a real tear-jerker, and the topic of conversation moved onto other films which get you a bit emotional. I was a bit surprised though, when my contribution to the conversation was met with laughter & ridicule. I cannot get through The Railway Children without reaching for the kleenex - specifically the part when Jenny Agutter's character is reunited on the station platform with her father. In fact I can think of some more films that I can't get through without reaching for the kleenex, but that's a different topic altogether....

Anyway, to my surprise, not one of my workmates agreed with me; "You're having a laugh" and "You're a Homo" were some of the more kinder comments, but each to their own.

There are a number of movies that move me in different ways. Off the top of my head there are scenes in The Pianist, Notting Hill, Life Is Beautiful, The Killing Fields, Four Weddings & A Funeral that leave me with a big lump in my throat. Even Forrest Gump - I went on a date to watch this at the old cinema by the Harefield Road in Uxbridge, and I remember being sat in the back row & having to pull the hairs on my arm to stop me welling up like a big girl.

So, what movie can't you get through without blubbing?

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Jimmy Hill!

A few weeks ago I was watching Soccer Saturday, and they cut from the studio to Craven Cottage, where a statue of Fulham great Johnny Haynes was being unveiled. The irrepressible Chris Kamara was interviewing Jimmy Hill, who in turn gave a moving tribute to his former team mate.

Rather typically, Jimmy was involved in some controversy later that afternoon. Fulham were playing Sunderland that day, and Jimmy was spotted in the crowd by some Sunderland fans who hadn't forgotten Hill's role in Sunderland's relegation some 30 odd years ago.

At the end of the 1976-77 season, Jimmy, then managing director of Coventry City, ensured that their game against Bristol City, kicked off late so that they would know what relegation rivals Sunderland were doing in their game at Everton. When news of Sunderland's defeat filtered through to Highfield Road, Hill relayed the score over the tannoy the players proceeded to pass the ball around for the remainder of the game to achieve the draw that would mean Coventry & Bristol City stayed up.

Football fans have long memories - and on the day of the Haynes statue being unveiled, Hill was given some verbal abuse by Sunderland fans in the crowd. Hill's response in waving & blowing kisses, only served to inflame the situation, and Jimmy was led away from his seat by police for his own safety.

Anyway, the reason I posted this was because it reminded me Jimmy Hill's enormous chin, and the subsequent playground taunt to anyone telling a supposedly tall story. Not sure how it all came about, but the gist of it was that anyone telling an unlikely tale would be greeted with other children stroking their chins in response, saying "Jimmy Hill! Chinny reck-on!" As put-downs go, it was bizarre, but effective. As an example:

Child A: "Did you see that TV programme about Evil Knievel last night?"
Child B: "Yeah, he jumped all those buses on his motorbike"
Child C: "That's nothing - last night I was on my BMX and I went up the kerb and jumped over my Dad's Cortina"
Child A & B (stroking chins) "Yeah right! Chinny Reck-on! Jimmy Hill!"

So, I've decided to start a campaign to bring back this put down into the nation's vocabulary. My ultimate aim is for Jeremy Paxman to use it the next time he interviews Gordon Brown if Brown declares that the economy is in good hands - Brown would be finished. Next time you're in a meeting at work, and someone makes an exaggerated claim, look them firmly in the eye and start stroking your chin....

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Stan The Man

No, not Stan Bowles, although he's the undoubted original.

Just recently I've been catching a lot of Stan Collymore on various talkSPORT programmes. And it turns out that he's quite a decent broadcaster.

talkSPORT seem to have a penchant for the more controversial presenter. Off the top of my head I can name George Galloway, and to a lesser extent Terry Christian & Alan Brazil. You could add Collymore to that list.

Collymore made his name as an explosive striker, one of the most exciting players of his generation. He first came to my attention when he was at Nottingham Forest. I recall, randomly, one of my flatmates at Uni on the phone to Clubcall one night, trying to find out if Collymore would be fit to play for Forest against his team Wolves. They reported that he was still injured, so my flatmate gleefully went off to the game. Needless to say, Collymore played and scored.

Later came a big money move to Liverpool (a British record transfer fee at the time), and his debut for England. I remember watching him warming up as sub at Wembley, against Brazil in one of those tin pot end-of-season mini tournaments (the Umbro Cup), and thinking that this was the start of a really promising international career. He reminded me a lot of Paul Gascoigne; a fans' player, undoubtedly talented, but with a maverick streak about him.

As it turned out, the parallels with Gazza were apt. Both players with unfulfilled potential, beset with on & off field problems - trying to conquer personal demons off the pitch, whilst never fully recovering from bad injuries on it.

At least Gazza played a fair few times for his country. Collymore picked up only 3 caps for England - yep that's right, just three times - a surprising statistic when you consider some of the donkeys who have worn the 3 lions over the years. Stan's international career (1995-1997) was eclipsed by Gascoigne's (1988-1998).

Stan was a great player, but ultimately flawed. For every positive memory I can think of (e.g. scoring the winner in that famous 4-3 Liverpool vs Newcastle game), there is a negative - remember him doing his Harry Enfield scousers impression "calm down, calm down!" to the travelling Liverpool fans after he was sent off at home for Aston Villa? His red card in this game was the result of 2 yellows - a bad tackle on Steve Harkness (who had clashed with Stan in a previous game) followed by an off the ball shove on Michael Owen (whose emergence at Liverpool had accelerated Stan's departure to Villa).

It was downhill after that for Collymore - ongoing battles with depression, short spells at several clubs, his volatile relationship with Ulrika Jonsson, including punching her in a Paris bar during the 1998 World Cup, early retirement, and the dogging stories.

Stan started off as a decent match summariser on 5 Live, but recently moved over to talkSPORT where his broadcasting career has flourished. I listened to him earlier tonight discussing the Carlos Tevez affair and he was intelligent & insightful - better than some of the bumbling buffoons presenting on other sport programmes.

With his strong opinions & history he won't be every body's cup of tea, but he's refreshingly honest, articulate & interesting to listen to - I've been impressed with his media career to date. Better that he's remembered like this rather than for a group of bystanders watching him in the back of a land rover in a car park....