Friday, February 24, 2006

Columbia records are stupid

After a day of not doing that much but still seeming quite busy, it's finally time to go skiing. I'm leaving on a jet plane. Well, technically, I'm leaving on a taxi, a minibus, a jet plane and a bus. But you get the picture.

My bags are packed, the only things I have left to put in are things like phone chargers, iPods and last minute rememberances of which I hope there will not be too many. It's always tricky, when going somewhere for the first time, to know whether or not you have packed all the right sorts of things. I think I'll be ok (or at the very least, warm).

On a completely unrelated note, I'd like to make a complaint about Neil Diamond's record label, Columbia. He has a new album out called 12 Songs. An appropriate title because it has 12 songs on it. This is two more than Leonard Cohen managed on his last album, Ten New Songs - I'm not sure if the two of them are engaged in some kind of song counting competition. If so, Neil's in the lead.

But there's a problem. If you look on the back of the CD, it lists 12 songs. They are numbered 1 to 12. And then it says below "with two additional songs" and lists two more without numbers! Outrageous. I'm not sure how they get away with this madness. The way I see it is that if you're going to have an album called 12 songs, it should have 12 songs on it. Not eleven. Not thirteen, and certainly not f***ing 14! They're not even "bonus songs". They're additional ones. Implying you should do some addition and add 12 and 2 to get... 14.

If they really, really had to put the two extra tracks on, why not call the album "14 songs" or "12 songs plus 2 additional songs". At least that would be honest.


I've a good mind to write to them. Maybe I will when I get back home.

So anyway, I'm off and it's likely to be quiet round here for a week or so. See you all soon!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Wine v Head

I'd forgotten I'd taken this at the weekend.


I like the way the wine glass is bigger than my head. In reality, outside of photos, my head is in fact bigger than most wine glasses. See how photos can be deceptive?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Cutting Edge Hardcore

I heard a song on the radio for the first time last night and I thought it was fantastic. Cara Dillon's Never In A Million Years. It sounds like distilled Dawson's Creek. Which is, bizarrely, a good thing.

If you hear it and don't like it you must be half dead already.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Go with the flow

I was out in town on Saturday night. In Bar Ha Ha there was a man doing magic tricks in the gents toilet. Is that normal? I didn't think it was normal. I asked him why he was doing card tricks in the toilet. He said that he didn't really know. It had just started and he'd carried on. I think he then felt a little embarrassed and left.

Later on I spilt a large drink all over my legs. I'm pretty sure that this was unrelated to the magician and he hadn't cast a Level 3 Spell Of Spillage to get revenge on me for embarrassing him out of his favourite toilet. But he might have done. You can never tell with wizards. They are quick to anger.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Mountain Survival

I've just been watching Ray Mears' Extreme Survival which tonight was all about surviving in the mountains after you've been a bit unlucky or done something idiotic (like skiing).

The key things I have learnt are:

1. If you get buried in an avalanche, make sure that as the snow starts to slow down that you make as much of an air pocket as possible.
2. It's then really helpful if you have an avalanche transceiver about your person.
3. It can be really cold.
4. Ski boots make a convenient water receptacle.
5. Wear Layers. Lots of Layers. Don't go out dressed just in a bikini.
6. You can make a T-shaped snow cave/shelter using a spade and lots of snow. Having a saw helps too. You need to make sure you include an air hole. And a cold sink is useful too.
7. It can be really, really cold.
8. Take things with you like dry matches, food, signal flares, cyanide and portable DVD systems. And lots of batteries. You might be bored for a long time.
9. You get blisters if you thaw your frostbite. This makes it hard to walk. Possibly better to just leave your bits frozen until you are rescued (or until you die).
10. If you start to feel you might be lost, DON'T KEEP GOING. Stop and either retrace your steps or bed down where you are. Otherwise They will never find you.

Polar Bears do not seem to be a problem or a danger in mountainous areas of the world. This is a good thing I suppose. If you put penguins and polar bears in a skiing race, who would win?

My survival training is now complete.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

This isn't very interesting. Sorry.

I went to the haircutters today and for the first time (that I can remember) the little man remembered what I normally have done and didn't have to ask me. He did try to make conversation a few times though. I wasn't having any of it. I wanted to be quiet. He gave up eventually and cut my hairs. All of them.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Great North Run: Entered!

After failing to secure a place in The Great North Run through either the preliminary or main ballots, I had no choice but to throw myself at the mercy of charity. On Tuesday morning I phoned Cancer Research UK and pleaded with them to let me have one of their guaranteed places. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do and my powers of persuasion were tested to the hilt:

CR-UK: Hello, Cancer Reserch UK running line - how can we help you?
Me: I'm after a place in the Great North Run.
CR-UK: OK, we have some guaranteed places left.
Me: Excellent.
CR-UK: Will you be able to raise at least £400 for us?
Me: Yes, that should be no problem.
CR-UK: OK, let's just take your details then.

See, really hard! I didn't bother to mention the whole Run-a-thon 500 thing though. I thought it would just confuse matters. I'm sure they won't mind that I'm planning to do an extra 487 miles more than they are expecting me to.

They're going to send me a t-shirt with my name on it. That's like the coolest thing ever. Don't expect I'll wear it though.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Avast - New Clothes

Right, enough about skiing. I got given a Polar Buff for Valentine's Day yesterday. I had absolutely no idea what it was at first. Because it was wrapped up.

Once unwrapped, I still had no idea what it was, but quickly worked out that it was some kind of headwear. I was able to do this because the cardboard it came on said "The Original Multifunction Headwear". "A-ha!" I thought, "This must be some kind of multifunctional headwear!". And I was right, it is.

So in case you are also ignorant of the Buff, it is a kind of tube of material. You can wrap it into several configurations, including headband, scarf, cap, balaclava, ski-mask and most excitingly... Pirate! It turns into a proper pirate scarf/hat thing like they wear on telly. When I saw that I was happy.

Now a Polar Buff is like a normal Buff but it has a fluffy fleecy bit on the end so that you can line your hats with warmth.

It took me a while to get to grips with using it - you have to do some odd things to get it into some configurations, but I think I have the hang of it now. Oooh-aaarggh, me hearties.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Not allowed to fall down a hill

I went out to Xscape at Castleford last night for some "skiing practice" with the guys I'm going skiing with later in the month. The idea was that we'd have an hour of practice on real snow to aid our transition from the dry slope skiing of the weekend.

(Can I just say here that I've always thought "skiing" is a ridiculously spelt word. Those two i's don't work for me)

I was a bit worried about this as I'd never been on a slope bigger than a nursery one before and I wasn't sure how I'd cope with the change. Especially since I was crap on the dry slope. I was hoping I'd be able to have a go on the indoor training slope to get some more basic practice. Unfortunately, they only allow you to use the training slope if you're having a lesson. If you're just there for general practice you have to use the main slope (which is quite big).

Rules for going on the main slope are:
1. You must be able to control your speed (I can't very well)
2. You must be able to do linked turns (sometimes I make turns by accident)
3. You must be able to use the button lift (never even seen one before)

So I wasn't doing very well there. I figured I'd have a go anyway though. You can go up and just get off halfway rather than going all the way to the top. How hard can it be from there?

I think I first raised the suspicions of the staff when I fell off the lift after about a metre. She asked if I'd ever used a button lift before. I said no (strike rule number 3). She asked if I'd ever skied before. Now I knew that the answer I needed to give in order for her to let me up the slope was "yes". So I said yes and then she showed me how to use the lift. I then made it up halfway and dismounted without major incident.

Once there I had to work out how to get down. My plan was to go as slowly as I could and maybe try a turn. Somehow I managed to avoid the fence that was in front of me at the start and make it relatively slowly down to the bottom. I must have done something wrong though because when I returned to the ski-lift the lady asked me to do some turns across the slope this time. I don't think she wanted to just admire my skills. She instead wanted to see if I was competent enough to stay on.

I didn't fall off the lift the second time, but that at least was an improvement. When I got off half way though I moved away from the lift and after a while found myself starting to slide downhill. I tried to stop and didn't so figured I'd make the most of it and just get going. I avoided the fence somehow but then failed to make any other turns for the rest of the way. Also I went (unwittingly) quite a lot faster than the first time. Strike Rules 1 and 2.

The third time the lady said she wouldn't allow me to go up again because I was rubbish, incompetent and a danger to myself and others - my words, but that's what she meant. Hence I found myself, for the first time in my life, banned from the slopes.

She had a point though. So all I could do for the rest of the hour (about 45 mins or so) was wait at the bottom, watch the others, smile a lot and try not to cry.

Stupid snow.

Oh well. As a plus point, I've had a small amount of experience now of skiing and attempting to move across flat snow in skis. That must be better than nothing. Shame I'm shit.

When I got home I had a beer and watched Prison Break and ate a bag of jelly babies. That made me feel a little better. Just a little.

Monday, February 13, 2006

As easy as falling down a hill

So yesterday and the day before, I was out at the Sheffield Ski Village, learning to ski (or at least attempting to) in preparation for my trip to the mountainous region of France later in the month. I'd never skied before so I was starting completely from scratch.

I found it pretty hard going. For some reason I have yet to determine, I was unable to go down the hill at a constant slow speed like everyone else could. I think my legs are the wrong shape or don't bend the right way or something. In addition, the skis generally refused to move as I wanted them to when attempting to turn a corner. This was really annoying. And my feet really hurt.

We were in a group of ten people and on the Saturday we all had one instructor. I was a bit rubbish. Too tense apparently. And too asymmetrical. Even when I fixed these though, it didn't seem to help much.

On the second day we were split into two groups. I was in the retards group, along with two friends. However, whilst later in the morning my friends had improved enough to join the grown-ups and have a play on the big slope, I didn't and stayed on the nursery slope. I didn't actually mind that though, as I'd rather be safe than lying twisted and broken.

I definitely made some progress over the weekend, but not as much as I thought I would.

Also my arms hurt.

Also my calves hurt.

Also my toes hurt.

Tonight I'm taking a trip out to the indoor slope with real snow at Castleford. Thankfully we're only skiing for an hour as I don't think my legs would bear any more than that.

I expect I'll hate it.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Too much exercise

This week's been/is going to be a bit crazy physical:

Saturday: Skiing Lessons
Sunday: Skiing Lessons + Bowling (separately)
Monday: Skiing Practice
Tuesday: Running
Wednesday: Dancing (Quickstep)
Thursday: Running
Friday: Drinking
Saturday: Drinking

On this list, I'm currently between Sunday and Monday. And I'm really quite tired (again). I'll try and write about learning to ski at some point. Summary: Ow.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Should have slept about a day ago

Tomorrow morning I have skiing lesson number one. I was supposed to have gone for a quick drink after work, then home to bed, sleep, zzzzz, sleep.


It's probably not too late. I'll go to sleep now. Zzzzz.


Thursday, February 09, 2006

The wrong trousers

At dancing last night (a mix of samba and quickstep, but not together) I realised I had a small hole in the arse of my trousers. I don't think it was noticeable. I noticed it though and then forgot all about it.

This forgetfulness turned out to not be one of my better ideas.

At work this morning I suddenly realised that I had put on the same trousers and that they still had a hole. This would have been bad enough, but the hole had now grown considerably - it was now about eight inches across. Once I discovered this I made a conscious effort to not leave my seat for the rest of the morning. It would be embarrassing to be walking around the office only to have somebody shout out "Look, you can see his pants!".

Now I know that girls will often walk around with the top of their thongs poking out of the top of their low-cut trousers - what is colloquially known as a "whale tail". They look ridiculous. Underwear is called underwear because it's supposed to be under what you wear. Not poking out of it. I, unlike an uncouth girl, don't wish people to see my undercrackers. Not that there's anything wrong with them, it's just that the office is not an appropriate place to reveal one's private glories.

I therefore decided that I had better head into town at lunchtime to purchase a new pair of trousers to wear for the afternoon. I do sometimes need to leave my desk and it would look a bit odd if I put on my long coat every time I went to the coffee machine or the toilet or the printer.

In Marks and Spencers, a girl approached me. I was looking at trousers so she'd clearly got me pegged as someone who knew a thing or two about clothes. Luckily, I was wearing my long coat so she was unable to catch a glimpse of my nethers.

She asked if she could ask me a personal question. I wondered what was wrong with "Hello!", but I guess people aren't as friendly as they used to be. She was holding two near-identical stripey jumpers. She said that she was buying a jumper for her "friend" and he was a similar size and build to me (ie he was also a tall lanky bastard). She wanted to know whether I normally wore medium-sized or large-sized jumpers. I wasn't really sure. I think I sometimes wear both sizes. I know I do with t-shirts. I explained this to her, but then in a fit of generosity let her measure the medium one against my arm. It seemed like it could be slightly short so she decided on large. Then she thanked me and went on her merry way.

Despite me doing this good deed for her, she didn't give me a reward, or indeed any form of payment at all, except for a smile. Not even a pound. Tight moo.

To be honest though, I was quite glad she had only asked me about the sizes. If she'd instead asked me whether or not I liked the jumper, I'd have had to reply that I really didn't, yuk. And that wouldn't have been polite.

So anyway, with my good deed done I found a pair of trousers (32" waist, 33" inside leg - not the easiest to find today) paid and left. Then, when I got back to work, I went straight to the toilet and changed into the new trousers. I'd had the foresight to take a pair of scissors into town with me to cut off the labels when I returned. I was able to do this because I do not pass through any airport metal detectors between my desk and the shops.

I've thrown the old pair of trousers away now. They are of no further use to me.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Asking for charity

I'm a bit pissed off tonight because my ballot application for the Great North Run has been unsuccessful (unlike every other single person I know). I'd been hoping to do the GNR as part of the Run-a-Thon 500, but now the only way I'll be able to do it is by getting a charity to give me a place.

I may have made it a bit difficult for myself here. Normally you can get a charity place if you get sufficient sponsorship for the race itself. I have however been getting sponsored for a series of runs which I ultimately intend to contain the GNR. So I'm going to have to try and convince Cancer Research UK that they should give me a place anyway.

So far, I've actually raised over £500 of which CR UK have physically already received over £400. There are still 8 months until the race. Hence if anybody who processes the applications there has any common sense they'll give me a place with no problems.

I suspect it won't be that easy though. These things never are.

Oh, well. It's all fun :-(

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

More complaining

I'm too tired to have inspiration. I'm too tired to have any good thoughts at all. Why is it that the only time I can get to sleep properly is half an hour before I need to get up? What's that all about? Bastard sleep pixies.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Scotland's For Me

I got a bit pissed off at work this afternoon (quite unlike me) so headed off into town for a little fresh air and a break. Also I wanted to buy the new Belle and Sebastian album and hadn't been able to get out at lunchtime. Three o'clock in the afternoon is a much more sensible time to go shopping than twelve o'clock. The shops are really quiet. Everyone else is working. Losers.

So I got myself the album - deluxe versiom wih bonus DVD that I'll probably never watch. It was two quid more but I had a voucher for two quid off so that all works out. Is a good album. You buy.

I also got a packet of jelly tots. They didn't come with a bonus DVD, but they were great all the same.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Does exactly what it says on the bottle

I bought a bottle of pomegranate juice earlier. It sounded exciting. It didn't taste very nice though. It tasted like pomegranates.

Last night we went out into York. We went for a Thai dinner and then headed into the town centre. Strangely York seemed much rowdier than Newcastle had seemed the previous week. That's not right. Once away from the river however the numbers of pissed-up idiots declined to a more manageable level.

After a spell upstairs in Victor J's, we headed to 1331 for Claire's 30th birthday party. None of us had the faintest idea who Claire was but we knew the DJ and this was just about sufficient for us to get in and not be evicted by the bouncers. The party featured a very entertaining, fine example of dad-dancing.

Then it was home time. Like we used to have at school, but later and a bit more drunk.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Toilet Photo

I've been to Fibbers a couple of times this week. The second was for FDH last night.

FDH Poster

We didn't have tickets so I started to get a little antsey when, whilst I was still in the pub, I spoke to a friend who had just got to the venue and found a largeish queue. Luckily, although there was still a queue when we arrived, it was not yet full inside and so we got in ok. Great gig but a little short.

The first time I went to Fibbers this week was on Wednesday night when my friend, Drew was supporting Jess Klein. Jess was very nice and signed a CD for me. Well, I think she signed it. She definitely wrote something and I assume that it's supposed to be her name.

I was chatting to Drew later and he asked what I thought of his (mostly new) set. I said I liked the Boo Hewardine cover. He said that he hadn't played a Boo Hewardine cover. Whoops.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Team Name

As a team name in The Punch Bowl tonight I went for If only all of Wales died in The Thames. We won no money and no beer.

Commiserations to the young whale wot died in London's big river. Idiot.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

I cna't tpye

Despite it being the thing I maybe type more than anything else on a keyboard, I almost always get my name wrong. Letters transposed, letters,capitalised when they shouldn't be, letters added, letters missed. All these and more. It's very annoying.