Friday, December 22, 2006

Review of the year


A lot of the albums I bought this year weren't released in 2006, however of those I did buy that were released this year here are my top 5:

1. Bright Carvings - Monkey Swallows the Universe
This album is quite superb and deservedly takes the honour of album of the year. I can remember the first listen like yesterday as it broke into Sheffield Shanty I thought this sounds like Twee nonsense trying to appeal to Sheffield sensibilities. But then on the second listen I realised that I had been fooled and that this really was a work of musical and lyrical genius. Clever stories told over beguiling music played with such delicacy and simplicity that it's myriad layers come together in a delightful way. You need to own this record.

2.CSS - Cansei de Ser Sexy
Tremendous bubblegum punk record, at 35 minutes, there is no room for dull tracks. Unlike MSTU it's merit is not on musicallity but on fun. This record oozes cool, vibrant tunes matching Lovefoxxx's astute and cheeky lyrics. Art Bitch is the highlight, though it is the live performances where these songs come to life.

3.Mr Beast - Mogwai
Probably their poorest album to date, but with few records to choose from I'll put this in the list. Probably only half of the tracks are great on this offering, however it does have the magnificent 'glasgow mega snake' which packs Mogwai at their most ferocious into a delightful 3min track.

4.Love and Other planets - Adem
Another up and down album, however his ability to create music using a variety of borrowed sounds makes this album worthy of note. Some beautiful tunes and allogories of love. Perhaps my love of his first album, homesongs, sets a standard that just can't be matched.

5.Campfire Headphase - Boards of Canada
Back to their best after their mediocre last album. Beautiful melodic electronica that is perfect for ambient surroundings. Lacks the odd sampled vocals of previous albums.

Must also mention the superb double album of Peel Sessions by the delgados, not included in the list due to being a compilation album. Superb music as always and the added bonus of mentioning me in the sleeve notes (i'm the moog). arab strap sadly split up this year and also released a compilation of rareities and hits.

Albums I bought this year worthy of note:
Clap your hands say yeah
Belle and Sebastian - Life Pursuit

My top singles of the year with links to youtube videos

1 when the sun goes down - Arctic Monkeys
At the start of the year I hailed this as single of the year and I wasn't wrong, though the next few tracks made it a close run thing. Perfect single material that just makes you want to bounce along. Shame the album fell a bit flat after a few listens.

2 boy at school - Hot Chip
Not only is the tune great but the video is superb. I love the harmonies over the simple electronica. Just need to get the album now

3 alala - CSS
There's another video too. When I heard this on the radio I liked it straight away. It's got perfect pop elements, driving beat, makes you want to dance.

4 Monster - The Automatic
I love the shouty vocals on this, though it sounds very much like Seafood.

5 science - Monkey Swallows the Universe
You'll have to go to theur website to see the video. Following on from their superb album comes this beautiful tune about losing faith in the 'truth' of science.

6 Us - Regina Spektor
Wonderful piano playing from the anti-folk queen. Using vocals to create unique sounds, the video is wonderful too.

7 Maneater - Nelly Furtado
The best pop record of the year from the crazy nelly furtado. Shame the video is a bit lame.

8 Yeah Yeah - Bodyrox
A nod to a dance tune that couples simple beats with great shouty vocals sung with attitude.

Live gigs of the year

CSS - Leadmill
Adem - Boardwalk
Monkey Swallows the Universe - Boardwalk
Mogwai - Plug
Regina Spektor - Leadmill
65 Days of Static - Leadmill
Belle and Sebastian - Octagon
Emma Pollock - Leadmill
Radiohead - Blackpool
Broken Social Scene - Manchester Academy

Best book I've read this year:
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, I reviewed in some depth a while ago, you can search for it if you're interested!

I'm sure there's more stuff, but that'll do.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Turn off those lights..

Been up to the nursing home to do a bit of carol singing which I think the residents quite enjoy, though it is always the ridiculously high songs, usually written for children, that seem the most popular. Anyway, on my way up I went the back way out the bottom of my garden where I passed this house. Every year the light show is more and more over the top. It's the first time I've passed it in all it's resplendant glory this year. I'd noticed the sixty foot santa had disappeared from it's yearly resting place in the back garden. It's awful, really awful. This year alongside the myriad santas is a giant igloo from which a snowman moves up and down in an eerie mechanical manner. A giant translucent sphere which contains something, though I didn't venture close enough to find out exactly what. Possibly an elf or a bear - who knows. Goodness knows how much energy it utilises, and what drives people to such efforts to luminate their houses. I'm sure it's some kind of pitiful cry for attention. But back to the energy wastage not to mention the kilos of carbon dioxide pumping into the atmosphere as a result. I'm with dave walker on this one, turn off the lights before they kill us all!
cartoon from

Cartoon by Dave Walker.

Lights cartoon

Cartoon by Dave Walker.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


My friend and fellow blogger has taken part in the blog posada, it's well worth visiting here.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Holy Space

Had a bit of a lie in before finishing off the last few bits and pieces for the stations I was preparing for Holy Space. Spent a couple of hours getting the last things in place and the image loops on the data projects running. The event opened at 2, and people started coming in almost straight away, which was encouraging, cos we've had almost no time to advertise the event, we didn't even know exactly what we'd be doing until a couple of weeks ago. There was a steady flow of people throughout the afternoon and it seemed to be well received. I had a wander around all the stations, but didn't really spend the time I would've liked to due to keeping a 'watchful eye' on the stations. But I think it made a nice alternative to the general christmas services, each station had some personal challenges and then ideas for prayer with creative options. Some delicious fair trade refreshements were served in a separate room where people gathered to chat and enjoy some company. Sadly, like a mayfly it's time was over and the church had to be returned to it's former layout, ensuring headence was taken to the floor plan for the setting out of chairs. Woebetide anyone who returns a chair at the incorrect position or angle! And in two hours no-one would know that we'd been in at all.
Photo set available of holy space on flickr

Friday, December 15, 2006

Not again!!

Traffic chaos again

Two nights running

Unbelievable. This time coming in and leaving sheffield. Traffic accidents probably caused by the terrible driving conditions, rain and spray. This time I managed to turn off and roam around some back streets whereup I eventually emerged somewhere I knew. Only 2 hours to get home. Yet again thwarted from preparing the last few things for holy space as we were meeting at the church at 6:30, I was 30min late. The rooms soon began to take shape as we prepared the various stations that we had been given to prepare. Fish and chips was shared and the rooms were left 85% complete before we retired for the evening aroun 11pm. Got home and printed off some images and managed to finally get chance to chat with v, we'd not managed to chat since sunday with one thing or another.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Monkey Swallows the Universe - live

After finishing my pizza I headed up to the Boardwalk to watch monkey swallows the universe their final gig of the year, and it was the best performance I have seen by them. During the support acts members of MSTU came round and handed out festive treats to eat, and with just a few hundred in attendance it made for pleasant intimate surroundings. The set was superb, this time none of the sound problems that have blighted other performances this year, what a difference being the headline act obviously makes in this regard. Each tune was played with the usual beauty, showcasing a new tune about a ghost in a graveyard which sounded very promising. Before the set I'd been chatting with Nat about the earlier traffic chaos and she was retelling her 2 hour journey across the city to the venue making them exceeding late to meet one of the support acts who had come on the train from Norwich. During the inter song banter Nat once again vetted her frustration at the traffic causing idiot. At the end of the set they were warmly encouraged back on stage for an encore. Kev played Groucho, a song with lyrics like: you love me like an existentialist loves an empty room that no-one can see inside, or you love me like a nihilist loves absolutely nothing at all. Today he created a new line: you love me like a four by four drive loves to cause traffic chaos (or words to that effect) Brilliant! It was so good to go from feeling incredibly annoyed to enjoy listening to one of my favourite bands and then hear them sing about that very same frustration!

I wish I had a bulldozer

Cos today I would've used it to create a path home. It was absolute traffic chaos tonight on the way home. Bear in mind that on Tuesday I stayed at work till 6pm and got home in 40min. Today I was making good progress and just past the Atterclif turning on the parkway when I hit the queue at 5:10, I'd already been driving 30min and at this point am about 2.5 miles from home. I listened to Chris Evans on the radio, I was enjoying it, but then iot was 5:30 and I'd moved a matter of metres. Right I want to be home now as I've got stuff to prepare for the Holy Space event before heading into town for the MSTU gig. It's then 6pm and I even resort to tuning into Hallam Fm to find out what the cause of the delay is, and whether there alternative routes I could attempt on reaching the parkway roundabout. Turns out there's gridlock all round sheffield, all routes are backed up, traffic chaos. And the cause, yes the cause is some idiot who had broken down on west bar and left his car with steering lock in place. This vehicle was of course immovable by the services trying to free up the roads. Was I getting irate, I had to ring people up on my phone just to moan about how bad it was being stuck in traffic. I got home at 7:15 and decided to call for a pizza. Guess what - that was late too, I had to wait for ages, but they did give me a free can of pepsi. Still it shows how finely balanced sheffield road network is, one car on one part of the ring road system causing huge delays from all directions into the city.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Monday is gig-day

Went to Manchester to see CSS again last night. Arranged to meet up with Jonah and his friend at MacDonalds, just opposite the venue. However, they were running late, and I had to make my drink last about an hour. I'd brought something to read whilst I waited, but I could sense that Ronald wasn't his usual jovial self and was directing stern frowns in my general direction. Eventually I left, so Ronald could turn his attention to other worries, like the Hamburgler. We arrived at the venue in time to see the 1990s, who I've seen 3 times in the last few weeks in support slots. I'm not that keen on them to be honest. Started to get quite excited waiting for CSS to take the stage, but I was disappointed during the first couple of songs. The mix was terrible, and it sounded dreadful, I think it was the output from the sequencer that was having the effect. Thankfully this technical problem was sorted and the gig improved greatly. Lovefoxxxx continued her flamboyant performance and stage diving antics, which really adds to the live experience. They will definately be featuring highly in my end of year review. Go see them if you can, they are touring extensively and should be playing at a stage near you!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Arthur and George

Picked up this book the other day because I liked the look of the cover and the synopsis on the back seemed intriguing. Started reading it last month and I have gone through periods of reading it a lot and then just the odd page here and there. Is it any good? Well, I'm not sure, it's interesting as it is based on historical figures and is a fictional account of something that actually happened. The imprisonment of George for a crime he did not commit and the subsequent campaign to clear his name led by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It starts well as we are introduced to the characters, but I found the court case of George rather tedious. I'm not a fan of courtroom literature, and as the result is obvious from the outset, it seems overlong. It then progresses from courtroom drama to who-done-it mystery and the interest levels are raised. Unfortunately there are then reams of pages given to the story of Arthur's love of another woman and all the complications that that brings. So in all I think this book is fairly average, and fails to engage and grapple with the institutional racism of the time and the pre-conceived opinion of 'half-caste' people. Still, it's well researched.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Holy Space

Awe and Ultraviolet are putting on a special reflections on Christmas event at Broomhill Methodist church on sat 16th Dec. The space will be open from 2-8pm for people to drop in and utilise the various interactive stations that will hopefully aid a time of quiet and contemplation during this busy period. If you're in the Sheffield area I'd recommend you drop by. Click on the image for full details.

It's a Carol free zone!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

London calling

Went to London yesterday as i had to attend a training course for this document management system we use. It was a fairly brief, but very useful course held at their head office. I'd got the directions to the venue, but when I reached the correct road I scouted up and down it about twice but could not locate number 18. Perhaps, I thought, you have to know the correct brick to tap with your wand to make it appear, a bit like Diagon Alley. However, after I rang up it turned out that the street I was on actually carried on on the other side of the crossroad. Taking advantage of being in London I decided to do a bit of wandering around after the course, calling in at the National Gallery where they had a nice Cezanne exhibition. There was also a Hockney exhibition on in the portrait gallery, and upon entering the gallery I executed a perfect 180 degree turn upon reading the entry fee, £9! Wandered around Oxford Road, first time I've seen it lit up for Christmas I think, not that impressed. Met up with C for a meal and a chat, it's always good to meet friends, we went to yo sushi, which I enjoyed. Trying to intercept food items as they flowed around on the conveyor belt. Late train back and I've almost finished reading my book, if only work was like this every day.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Time for blogging

So it's been a while since I've had opportunity to update this blog and I think I'll undertake a bit of back blogging. The other day I chanced upon an email from john as I was glancing through my old fish email account as I knew someone had sent me an email to that account by mistake. It turned out that he would be passing through sheffield today and wondered if we might meet up at the train station before he caught a bus for his onward journey. After work I headed up to the station and had just got into the foyer when I bumped into another friend, steve, who I'd not seen in about 8 months. Then john appeared, quite strange to have just stood in one spot for barely a minute and have met up with two friends. Turns out that as I had got john's email late he had not received my reply so my presence was a bit of a surprise for him. He had in the meantime organised a lift for his onward journey, so we had very little time to catch up. In fact no sooner had we sat down with a cup of tea then his lift arrived. Despite the meeeting being brief it was good to see him outside of the blogging hemisphere.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The name's Bond

DP cooked a delicious meal for a group of us and I got to sample some of his superb home brew, a blend of a couple of kits that gave a wonderful flavour. Enjoyed the company and the meal, afterwhich we headed to the cinema to take advantage of orange wednesday and watch the new bond film. This, believe it or not, is the first time I've ever seen a Bond film at the cinema. I think I must've have seen all the bond movies by now thanks to bank holiday tv watching and in my opinion this episode doesn't rate amongst the best of the genre. It starts really well with some fantastic stunts in a 'jump london' style. In fact the stunts at height were making me feel quite giddy, but it slowly went downhill from there. The turning point of the movie is a poker game and I don't suppose I need to give any spoiler warnings about who wins the contest. There's no suspense during the game it's so cliched. Oh no james, you've lost all your money, what are you going to do now?! Then there are the necessary plot twists just when you think the movie has finished, and then when you think it's finished, and then when you think surely this movie is finishing soon, and then when you're looking at your watch thinking surely that must be it! Not that the action is bad, it's all the laboured dialogue inbetween. Daniel Craig makes an interesting Bond, very heartless and someone you can believe is a fighter. He doesn't have the charm and charisma that previous incarnations have had, though still manages to have his way with the ladies. Nice bond girl, so it's not all bad ;) You can also play 'spot richard branson'

I went to the post office and bought a...

You never know what you'll come back with if you go to the post office. During work I took some post down to the local post office and happened to walk past a house which had a hand written note pasted on the gate. Not a very obvious note and hand written in biro, but as I passed something must've caught the corner of my eye and I back tracked to get a better look. The house had recently been sold and some furniture was for sale, including a large TV for £30. My TV is pretty old and for about the last year needs a bit of coaxing to display any picture. In fact if you want to watch a programme it's wise to turn it on at least 10min before the programme starts in order for the picture to appear, and even then it has a tendancy to just go blank requiring a turning off and back on again ritual, which seems to please it, allowing it to spring back into life. It had been my plan to scour ebay etc after christmas for a second hand set as I figured there would be plenty of people receiving new wide screen, high definition, flat screen tvs. So £30 an offer not to be refused. Knocked on the door and someone was in, I said I was popping to the post office and would be back soon and would like to see it working. Got to the post office and a queue was wending itself back and forth up and down the length of the waiting room, a quick calculation and I judged I'd probably have to wait about 30min to get to the front of the queue with the two serves on duty. No time for that so headed back to the TV seller who demonstrated it working, it had scart and s-video inputs so it was looking better all the time. Picked it up on my way home from work and headed down to DPs house for tea.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


Awe was interesting on sunday, again short in numbers but I guess that's not a measure really, quality not quantity. The advent prayer worship trick worked quite well. Numbered envelopes were adhered to the wall, so that cards could be dropped in place and attenders were asked to write a prayer of intercession in a card and place into an available envelope on the wall (we were then supposed to use this as a prayer station later in the service, but ran out of time). JT then led a discussion around advent, looking at the 'hope' aspect of the advent season. The hope of the coming saviour in christ a couple of thousand years ago and the hope of the church for his return however we might imagine that. We were then asked 'what do you hope for' and I really struggled, what do i hope for? I couldn't think of anything that sprang straight to mind, JT spoke of issues like apartheid that as a student he had hoped would be abolished, and we talked about social justice 'hopes', but they didn't really seem realistic. Even though the abolition of something as huge as apartheid would've been unthinkable a few years before it actually happened, when I look at things like sustainable energy I find it hard that people could take on such a vision without any financial gain. For instance in these health centres we are building at work we have had these sustainabilty surveys carried out on the design showing how solar panels and wind turbines can be incorporated into the design, but when these things are put through the financial models the energy saving is not cost effective against the installation and maintenance of the energy producing devices and therefore they won't be included in the final building. However, I'm digressing, but you can see the kind of 'hopeless' air I have around things, and trying to think of a personal hope was still not forthcoming. Then a little glimour of a thought appeared and that was the kind of idea from 'it's a wonderful life where george bailey gets to see a vision of what life would be like for his family and friends if he hadn't been born. That idea that you can have some kind of positive effect on people and their lives is something that I guess I hope for. In someway I hope that not only have I made an impact as a friend, but that through me a glimour of the love of christ and the nature of god has also been revealed. Later in the service as we meditated on the question what would you do/pray if you knew there was 5 days to christmas/christ's second coming/your death, these ideas began to crystallise, if I had a short time I would want to spend time with those people who I wanted to leave an 'impression' on, my friends and family that in someway I would live on in their memories and leave a 'footprint' of christ.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

in case you were wondering

i forgot to include anything about football in the previous post. Well that is in part because there really wasn't much to say. In fact scrappy goal, scrappy match pretty much sums up the chesterfield game. Watched brewster's millions on sunday, one of those classic 80s films you watch as a kid and think are amazing, but probably don't really stand the test of time. I'm happy to report that I think it did stand the test of time, whether or not War Games, Flight of the Navigator and DARYL do too, remains to be seen. Brewster's millions was also a film i remember chatting about with john on a journey to school as we both enjoyed it, I guess it also made me feel a bit like i was getting old too in a strangely nostalgic way. Church was better as there was quite a number in attendance and after the coffee morning it felt like the vision was beginning to become apparant. We've been joking along a 'pirate' theme in church meetings for quite sometime since steve had suggested we all came to a service dressed as pirates as some school kids were coming to film a methodist communion service for an RE lesson or something. The joke was to claim that this was the methodist way. For a while our minister wasn't sure if we were joking, and then with the recent 'international talk like a pirate day' I highlighted the youthblog post lamenting the lack of pirate liturgy. Well JT announced that he had been working on a pirate themed service and that he would be delivering it next sunday, so I'll look forward to that!
Awe planning meeting last night, and although I thought that it was a bit of an effort and that ideas weren't really flowing, when I wrote up the ideas today they did seem to be crystallising together. The theme is advent and we started by looking at some 'input' to the idea of advent:

  • eschatology
  • realisation of christ in us
  • when/do we expect christ to return?
  • what do we expect on christ's return?
  • does it make a difference to what we do/how we act knowing that He will return? eg jesus is coming - look busy
  • is advent and adventure?

and the train of thought took us into something along the temporal aspect, the waiting, the finite time we have on earth and how we use it. Hopefully itshould spark some intersting discussion.

grrrr my keyboard has had it, the space keeps sticking and it's making it difficult to post. I need a new o ne.

Monday, November 20, 2006

CSS review

CSS review on teletextHooray, another review on teletext. This time for the excellent Cansei De Ser Sexy gig from the other day, though I'm pretty sure I rated it at 9/10 - oh well. It's taken a while to be published and after contacting the editor I'm informed it is due to the fact that he has to limit pages to a maximum of 7 articals due to directives from his bosses. Booo I say, as it means much less space for the excellent reviews that appear on planet sound, and therefore less opportunity for live reviews from people like me. As always, click on the image to see it enlarged if you want to read it!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Beer, tea and football

Yesterday i went to the cask and cutler beer festival. It was, as expected, very good. I sampled quite a number of the beers on offer, and my favourite of the night was gaucho from the salamander brewery. Unfortunatley it had soon gone and replaced by another brew. When they have the festival they have a stack of casks in addition to the hand pull, and it amuses me when they go round with the watering can watering the towels draped over the top.
In contrast this morning was a church coffee morning round at Peter's house. He is one of our more elderly members, but is always very quick with his dry humour. Most people at our church are tea drinkers (maybe that's what makes us methodists!) and on asking what people would like to drink Peter said "would anyone like coffee, I guess I ought to make some with it being a coffee morning". There were a few takers, but the tea drinkers far exceeded them. It was also a good chance to talk about where we are going as a church, and how our thoughts might help in the current circuit review. The conversation was really useful and we plan to undertake some conversations within the circuit and also with neighbouring circuits. My feeling is that although we have a vision we want to offer the 'circuit - or whoever' and that there are probably people who would want to buy into that vision and help us attain that critical mass of people tomake it work, most people feel too committed to their own 'local efforts'. People are busy keeping their own walls from falling down without trying to build somenew ones, to use a metaphor. Perhaps this is true in general for methodism, instead of pooling circuit resources, individual churches are too busy maintaining their own local efforts, though i acknowledge in certain places these are working really effectively. But if we want to stop the decline in numbers then brave and difficult decisions need to be made on plant. There maybe less people, but these people are probably very passionate and unfortunately they probably become drained by the efforts of maintaining plant or church. These people should be freed to dream dreams and work in effective groups, without feeling obliged to maintain the status quo.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Booking tickets

I enjoyed the css gig so much on saturday I have bought tickets to see them in manchester next month and I'm looking forward to it already. Jonah and his friend are coming too, as they've heard good things. CSS are a brazilian band made up of a number of 'arty' friends who started the band as a joke, record producer, fashion designer, film director and fashion assistant. There's more info over at wikipedia if it takes your fancy.

Pretty polly is a pigeon

The last couple of weeks I've been finding church quite trying, it's not that the service is bad, it's just the effort in 'making it work' is spiritually unrewarding. I think we have dipped under the critical mass of people in order to make it work. It's really frustrating, cos I think we have something unique as a church of wide agerange, but all of a similar mind in terms of wanting to get something more from worship than compared to the traditional service. I just feel that we don't quite have the numbers to really grow these ideas, and then begin to focus on how we can share our faith with others. Particularly those dissatisified with traditional church, and those wishing to explore their faith. It is these latter ideas that would really excite me, but all efforts seem to go into hosting worship,and sometimes it just feels like putting on a performance. In fact the highlight of this sunday's service was when andrew discovered a pigeon had somehow managed to get into the community centre and was hiding in the office. i had to coax it outside using a cardboard tube and box lid, it eventually was coerced towards the door, which andrew opened and I edged it outside. I saw it later, pacing up and down the pavement!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Tired of being sexy

LovefoxxI've been admiring a song called 'alala' that has been on the radio a fw times. Earlier this week I heard it again, and this time caught the name of the artiste, so I checked them out on the web. They are signed to sub pop and you can download a couple of tracks on their sub pop site. I noticed they were playing the leadmill, so I bought an impulse ticket, and I'm pleased i did. What a superb gig. This band make music that has to be seen live, a blend of bubblegum pop and punk, played with such enthusiasm and passion, it really is infective. Lovefoxx, the lead singer, is not only attractive, but one of the greatest stage presence I've seen. Dancing around the stage, diving into the audience, and generally being fairly unhinged, makes for a fantastic spectacle. in fact before they came on, Lovefoxx could be seen taking photos with fans and dancing at the front along to the support act. I recomend seeing this band.


today was the debrief meeting for highway projects and it was an unusual experience. The last time I was with a large group of this team was whilst out in Israel, and for some reason it felt weird to be around them agian. Seeing photos of the people we were working with made me realise how I miss them, and although at times it was a difficult mission, I really felt I was part of something larger, something that I couldn't grasp, but knew it was of worth. So the reminders today made me feel quite down, difficult to describe really. The worship was good, but it lacked something that we had whilst worshiping out in israel. In fact some of the worship and singing times we had out in Israel were superb, you could really sense the closeness of god's presence. Today there wasn't quite that connection, and maybe part of me was hoping that that would be there. That meeting up with some of my fellow missioners it would recreate that experience, that intimicy with god, that relationship with people, but no, it just felt vacant. So i left the day, not feeling refilled and excited and with fresh understanding of the mission, but really rather weary and despondant.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Living in a material world

The collapse of fare pack shows yet again the importance of wise investment. On one hand it looks like a great scheme that encourages people, particularly those on low incomes, to save money towards the cost of Christmas. The media response has been quite surprising and I wonder why this investment collapse is more newsworthy than the many other collapses of pension schemes etc that have happened. The collapse must be most hurtful to those people who have encouraged their friends and family to use the scheme, under the impression that it was a safe means of saving. They must feel like they have conned their friends. The aspect of this story that really concerns me is the way in which it is portrayed that without money and gifts it will be impossible for these families to have a good Christmas. MPs requesting money to help families have a good Christmas, supermarkets (who will benefit from the shopping in their stores) offering to help out, just fuels this idea of a capitalist Christmas, a celebration of wealth and the giving and receiving of gifts. It really seems that this is now what the public’s perception of this traditional holy day has become. A pagan sun festival adopted for the celebration of the birth of a saviour now demeaned as a day which requires wealth to enjoy. I remember my friend telling of how as a kid during the minor’s strike his family really had nothing at Christmas, no means at all to purchase gifts. The only gifts he received were some donated by the salvation army, yet despite this situation and the hardship, it really was a Christmas to remember, about a steadfast community united in a cause and not about how many gifts he received.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Not making the grade

My reviews from the gig the other night didn't make the teletext grade :(

So I thought I'd post them here, seeing as I went to the trouble of writing them, I guess they aren't much good.

Monkey Swallows the Universe

Sheffield Foundry (student union) supporting Long Blondes 29/10

On the back of a highly rated debut album and acclaim in the Sheffield scene, mstu were given the opportunity to support the long blondes on their current tour. Distilling the folky pop sensibities of the Delgados through the ardour of Sheffield life, mstu produce a distinctive sound. Tonight the crowd are quickly wooed to the mix of guitars, recorders and strings accompanied by the beautifully beguiling voice of Nat Johnson. With performances like this it can only be a matter of time before their work is known more universally.


The Long Blondes

Looking back at times gone by it is easy to filter out all the awful foibles, fashion statements and Fame, and so watching the Long Blondes is like what you wish the eighties were really like when you reminisce. Power pop fused with punk served in retro-fashion splendour. In fact Dorian's haircut almost verges on 'Flock of Seagull' like majesty. The music could be dismissed as revivalist if not for the vocals and stage antics of Kate Jackson. Singing with the same passion as Poly Styrene from X-ray spex gives them an edge over their peers


Monday, November 06, 2006

Nice is nice

Alpes MaritimeJust spent a few days visiting my friend in Nice. It's still pretty warm out there, especially in the sun. Managed to fit in quite a lot of activities whilst there including a good deal of walking. Was chatting to my parents on my return yesterday, but they thought I'd been to Greece, not Nice, obviously some confusion!
So Nice really is nice, depite the upheval caused by the construction of some tram lines, the old town and market are pleasant to walk around. We also went to a nearby village, eze sur la mer, where we then climbed up the mountainside to the village of Eze, secluded atop the mountain with vast views across the sea. Being a sunny day we could see some bulges on the horizon which were quite probably the mountains of Corsica. In the afternoon we had a look around a museum dedicated to the biblical works of Marc Chagall, which I'd highly recommend, he has a very distinct style and there's some examples on flickr. Unfortunately the pics of the stained glass work did not come out. In the evening we went to the cinema and as Scoop was the only english film available that was not dubbed we settled for that. King David by ChagallIt was actually not too bad, though it was clear that a lot of the audience were woody alan fans as there were cheers when he appeared on the screen. You won't be surprised to find that he plays a bumbling neurotic character. Nevertheless there are the odd humourous moments, harmless fun. On the friday we took a train out to Saorge, a beautiful journey on a recently reconstructed track following an old important line bringing rocks, cement and salt. There are a number of villages dotted along this line, they are all built into the mountain side, high above the valley bottom. They really look incredible, and a feat of engineering, but I wonder how precarious some of the older buildings now are as they hover over these long drops. C has done many walks in the area, so we walked onto the other side of the valley to which she has previously walked. The paths are well marked with regular yellow rectangles to ensure that we are going in the correct direction. It was quite a challenging walk as we climbed up to 1300m above sea level, the views were incredible, seeing the border with Italy, the sea in the distance, and many more magnificent Alpine mountains. I do enjoy a good walk, though on the decent I realised that my wallet was no longer in my pocket. After first thinking that it had fallen out at the summit when we sat down to eat lunch, I decided it was more probable that it had fallen out in the train. At the end of the walk, we still had a couple of hours so we walked up to the village of Saorge, one of these mountain hugging villages. It was surprisingly large, with maze like narrow streets, quite picturesque. There was a wonderful shop selling cakes and nougart and a variety of incredibly tasty honey, sourced from various areas in the region. What an incredible array of flavours dependant upon the pollen used from the delicate acacia honey to the dark and nutty horsechesnut.I purchased a pot of high alpine honey with it's incredibly sweet taste and myriad of flavours. Fortunately someone had handed my wallet in to the lost property and we were able to retrieve it the following day, alas (that is probably the first time I've ever used that word, though I don't believe I've ever used it in conversation, or indeed ever heard it thus!) there was no longer any cash in it. On the flight back I got some good views of the alps with the moon above them. Photos can be found in my flickr set.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

It's been a week

SunriseSince my last post. I've just not got round to posting, despite doing quite a few things. My sister came to visit on wednesday eve and we were able to go out an enjoy a meal. Thursday was church council, quite a business orientated meeting this one, and therefore more odious than normal. Afterwards Dave came round to my house to sample some of my home brew and have a chat. It was a good chat actually, conversation about our faith and struggles with text and contextualisation, some thoughts that had been floating around a while and had re-surfaced after reading cait's recent post I shall let these thoughts crystallise and post on it soon. What else? Football matches, church, another teletext review, a gig. Oh yes, a gig, went to see Monkey Swallows The Universe again on sunday. They were supporting the long blondes. Coxon review on teletextAgain, there tunes stood out and the mix was much better, though still not up to scratch. Had a brief chat with Nat after the gig, and she was telling me how they are wanting to get some new material outand are looking for a contract with a record label. Hope they secure a good one. The Long Blondes were ok, though it was the lead singer's strong vocals and on-stage presence that made it. Reminded me of the vocal energy of Poly Styrene from x-ray spex. There's a set of pics of the long blonde set here, which i think are ok considering I was stood at the back for their set. Finally, there was a nice sunrise the other morning.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Chesterfield - headline makers!

Folan, from bbc websiteEvery now and again going to a football match is a magical experience. Tonight I went to see chesterfield vs premiership West Ham in the league cup. When me and Scott arrived the atmosphere was already electric, so much different from the slough of despondancy that is usually around the ground during league matches. Tonight there was a buzz, a chance to pit ourselves against one of the top teams. However the match couldn't have started worse, after a bright start chesterfield conceded a sloppy goal, hazel heading into the path of Harewood who volleyed a shot straight into the goal. Instead of opening the floodgates, west ham seemed to sit back, perhaps bemused and at a loss of what to do when leading in a match, being such a rare occurance this season. Chesterfield continued pressing forward, and winning the ball in midfield. Niven and Allott seemed to latch onto every loose ball, and some of the movement opened up the west ham defence with ease. Despite being 1-0 down at half time, I was feeling quietly confident with the performance thus far, and in the second half the persistancy paid off with a great goal made by Folan. Green managed to push his shot onto the post only for Larkin to latch onto the rebound and put chestefield level. Chesterfield continued to put west ham under pressure, and when the experienced sheringham came on I was a little wary. Sheringham is such a professional, you could see him organising the team and a passion to win, thankfully the rest of the team didn't seem to be sharing his vision. The crowd were superb, cheering every throw and corner, none of the usual beration of players, just a forward feedback loop of hope and belief in the players, which encouraged the players to perform better, encouraging the crowd to cheer louder, etc etc. Finally a ball broke loose from a free kick and Folan stabbed the ball home for Chesterfield to take the lead, looking at my watch I was astounded to see that it was almost the end of the match, the game had really sped by. A couple of nervous minutes were seen out as Chesterfield maintained the lead to record another famous victory. Into the last 16 for the first time in 41 years. A superb football night, though I fear my throat will be rather sore in the morning.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The best made plans...

I had been pondering whether to go to see doncaster vs chesterfield, but decided that I could do with a weekend to get some more jobs done around the house. I took the advantage of having a lie in on saturday and do some reading. I've just bought why don't penguins feet freeze a compilation of questions from the new scientist's last word feature. It's quite an enjoyable read, though I think some of the answers could do with a few mathematical equations. Often it is much simpler to explain things with a formula rather than text. Got a bit of a sore throat, which i put down to breathing through my mouth at night. However as the day proceeded it was clear I had a cold and my nose just began streaming. It made me feel really grumpy and lethargic. Such that I couldn't get on with the jobs I had in mind. So frustrating to have a weekend taken away by a stupid cold. Had some soup and garlic bread and watched the final korean movie that I'd recorded. This was the most commercially successful I think, it is called brotherhood (of war) and is a fairly graphic portrayal of the korean war from the perspective of two brothers. It is in a similar vein as 'saving private ryan' and highlights the attrocities of war and the effect that war has on the soldiers. In places it is over sentimental, but the ending scene is really quite moving as the younger brother finally finds the resting place of his older brother.
Didn't sleep well due to the cold and this morning I found setting up church quite exhausting. Not many people at church this morning, which is really frustrating, some times i wonder why i bother. I think we have a really interesting way of 'being church' yet it feels somewhat isolated.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Suppose you have to try these things

Must admit i didn't think much of the organ recital type thing. I think me and emma must've been a good generation or two younger than everyone else. Just didn't find the music particularly moving or engaging. Nothing like the vitality of a gig. There were pieces on the piano, sax and some woman warbling songs. All I could think of during the sax solos was 'i wonder if she know's the sax solo from baker street by jerry raferti" and then thinking that it would be such a culturally philistine thing to say. Which made me smile!

Don't think I'll be rushing to another performance, it's just not my cup of tea. Wathced tell me something which had a very predictable ending, though it made the rest of the film quite confusing. Merely an average movie this one.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Graham Coxon

Graham CoxonWent to see Graham Coxon play at the leadmill last night with Andrew. I don't think he was as good as the last time we saw him. Took him a while to get warmed up and the crowd was likewise, subdued. However, about halfway into the set he previewed tracks from an upcoming 7" and all of a sudden began to spring into life. The bile that had been churning, was now beginning to burst forth in vitriolic rants. The music was equally passionate and suddenly the crowd began moshing. This was followed by perhaps his greatest post blur work, 'freakin out' which was greeted raptuously. Coxon's guitar work is fantastic, intricate and played with ease. The ease that he plays his instrument I think perhaps added to the mundane way in which the gig started, it's as if it is all to easy for him, just like another day in the office. The first encore saw the frenzied leaping guitar wielding Coxon, as the sweat dripped, the more ferocious the playing became. A very punky performance, no room for his more melodic tunes here, and an astounding number of guitars!

Tonight I am off to a very different 'gig' an organ recital, though I'm now having second thoughts about this, but we'll see.

Graham Coxon photo set on flickr

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Making history

I've just taken part in a one day in history blog for history matters. To preserve our mundane lives for students and genealogists of the future to get excited about our crazy day to day activities at the turn of the 21st century. I'm sure they'll find my entry a rich resource:

It's tuesday the 17th of October and I'm submitting a blog to the 'one day in history' project relating how history has impacted on me today. Though thinking back it is hard to think of exact historic events that have shaped my day in any way. However, I know that the history that is my 'nurture' has helped in part in shaping me into the person I am, and it is through these experiences that I have experienced and recorded todays events, not that I think that I've interpreted my mundane day in a particular biased form. Up a bit early in order to email a document that I'd collated for a work colleague the night before. Quite a bit of tapping on the computer and collating the electronic copy of the operations and maintenance manual for the new Thorne health centre that we have almost finished constructing. It's really quite a chore, and I'm fairly fastidious in the projects I undertake, and demand a high level of perfection from my work. Despite the fact that no one will actually read the document, though with this highly searchable and interactive pdf I've created all info should be there at a touch of a button. Dropped the documents off at site and went around the centre taking photos of the various rooms for the tenants at the next tranche of schemes, so they get an idea of the kind of equipment we install and maintain in the building. Stop off in Sheffield on my way home to go into boots and pick up my new pairs of glasses. I have an oridinary pair and some sunglasses too. It's taking a while to decide whether I like them or not, I've gone for a very different pair this time. Trying some of these half rimless ones, I suppose it'll take a bit of getting used to. Back home and I put together the agenda for the next church council meeting for crookes valley methodist and then email it to the members. Cook some haggis for tea and enjoy watching the man utd vs fc copenhagen match on tv. Just before I started writing this I spent a bit of time chatting with Victoria on the web cam, she lives in toronto, it's such a good way of communicating and it's free too. Well that's it, sorry for the lack of adjectives people of the future, and I'm sure you won't have found anything useful to go in your essay, or discovered that I'm some distant relative. Anyway, if our science fiction is to be believed and the evolution of the written english language over the last few hundred years you probably can't even read it!

To be honest, I was quite tempted to write a much more intersting fictional account of my day including flying cars and talking animals.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Busy sunday

Sunday was a fairly busy day, rushing around to set up church was pretty exhausting as there was only me and andrew around and it was communion. Setting out tables, sound equipment, making tea, practicing songs, fetching people, setting out communion elements, and then after the service putting everything back and moving sound equip to the car to take for the awe service in the evening. The service was interesting as we discussed the story of the 'rich young' man, the way that someone who supposes they have god all understood and then to be challenged in such a way that you realise that you haven't fully grasped god at all. Even the disciples must've been challenged at jesus' response to sell all your things and follow him. Not least cos this was a sacrifice that they had already made, but because to them 'wealth' was a sign of god's favour on someone. Again the 'upside down' nature of god's kingdom is revealed. There followed input from the minister about freudian ideas on personality and what gives us our 'moral' understanding, it was all really interesting. After lunch I spent a few hours trying to tidy my office, it's a tip, and a good few more hours are required to get things back in order. Set up for the alternative service went smoothly and was again an opportunity to enjoy each other's company as we played with gadgets! The subject was 'what is it to be human', which the speaker had wanted to expound in a sense to break the traditional 'what is it to be a christian'. We tried a new worship trick which seemed to work quite well. People were encouraged to write something good about being human on a piece of card and then be photographed holding it. These images were then later collated into a visual powerpoint meditation after some thoughts from the speaker about what was bad about being human. i thought it worked really well. The talk was particularly challenging with regard to the term 'inhumanity' and the labelling thus of someone as sub human and what that means, iving examples and readings from eye witness accounts of lynch mobs. What do we see when we look in a mirror, what if we reflected the nature of all humanity, what would that represent? Does the nature of god who became human shine through.

Yorkshire walking

After work on Friday I went to visit Jonah and after a tasty meal we spent the rest of the evening tasting beers around the village, and tere was certainly a huge difference in the ability of the pubs to keep the ale. The next day we went for a stroll around the area, it's incredible the scenery on his doorstep. As we ascended a nearby hill, we turned to see the view, which was obscured by fog and low cloud, but I could make out a smaller nearby hill which stood out due to a collection of odd looking trees on it's summit. Jonah informed me that this was 'Lady Hill' and the trees were scots pine, planted at the request of mary queen of the scots, when she was held captive at nearby bolton abbey. This was aparently done as it made he feel like being back in Scotland, and she often came to the hill. We actually circumnavigated this hill in our walk. Nice to enjoy the fresh air, chatting and walking. We saw some incredible lichen, ore stones in old mines and cray fish.

flickr photo set

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Korean cinema

a tale of two sistersIt's great that filmfour is now free as it's a source of great films. I noticed recently that they have been screening some critically acclaimed Korean films, so I have recorded them and am in the process of watching them. What is striking about these films, and I wonder if it is peculiar for korean cinema, is the method of storytelling. Not usually chronological and containing loads of scenes that seem to jump sporadically, making it hard work to follow the plot. I actually like this, a stark contrast to American cinema which always seems to aim to please the lowest common denominator, making sure everything is explained in detail. Here a lot is ambiguous and open to interpretation. The first two films I watched were part of Park Chan-wook's vengeance trilogy. These vengeance films are very 'film noir' and contain some horrific scenes, but the story lines are certainly novel.

Yesterday I watched A Tale of Two Sisters, which is my favourite so far, a psychological horror. A film that definately requires a number of viewings as it isn't until the story unfolds that you realise that it is being told from the perspective of an 'unreliable narrator' who imagines many things that are not real. It is on this epiphany that your mind begins retracing the story thus far and realising that a lot of what has happened is in fact a figmant of imagination. Unfortunately it seems that a big buck american remake is on the cards, as it seems to be all the rage these days to remake asian cinema after the success of 'the ring'. Which is a pity as this is a superb film as it is. The cinematography of these films is also very beautiful. So if any of these are repeated on filmfour, I'd recommend checking these films out. There is more info on the wikipedia links below, but they contain film plot spoilers.

A tale of two sisters
sympathy for Lady Vengeance

Sunday, October 08, 2006

On Beauty

On BeautyJust finished reading Zadie Smith's latest novel. i've enjoyed her previous work, though found white teeth the most slow going, and wasn't too sure what all the fuss was about. This novel on the other hand, is the most easily read, but I don't think that means it is a great piece of work. The story is interesting, and there are certainly insights into love and relationships, what it is that makes a relationship work, and why sometimes it goes a bit wrong. There are plenty of debates between conservative and liberal thought, but no direct engagement with them, there are some aspects of being in a mixed racial relationship and being the children of such a relationship. There's even some stuff about Rembrandt. But to be honest as I neared the end of the book, it just seemed to be written with a hollywood audience in mind. A nice story, almost challenging, but not, so leaving the reader/audience still content with their own worldview. Enjoyable but not fantastic, 8 out of 10.

You mean it's not me noggin - it's me peepers!

Been for an eye check this weekend, it's something I've been meaning to get around to since the beginning of the year. Specsavers were offering tests for £10, but I wasn't too impressed with their range of glasses, so on sat i popped into boots and found a pair that i liked that were in the sale. Writing down the frame name for later, as my appointment wasn't until the afternoon. Met AD in CLC where i came across the lion bible handbook that had been reduced so ended up buying that. Unfortunately the shop seemed to be full of anti-evolutionary propaganda, got me quite irate as anyone with any understanding of the theory could see it for the tosh it was. Some of the statements were so far from the truth, I won't even bother writing about them. Why is it such an issue? Actually I think that some of the aspects of evolution, especially evo-devo, is so spectacular and amazing that it fills me with awe and wonder of creation. Is the propogation of this material due to some fear that this one theory threatens in some way the word of god? I'd rather not take such a narrow view on a text, in fact in the past I've been guilty of so deconstructing the creation text, that I lost sight of the beauty of a story.

Afternoon I headed off for my appointment and it was a fairly quick test:
is it better with one or two, that's one or two?
I think one is better.
Now is it better with one or two, one or two?
Two is better.
Are the words better on the red or the green background?
The red is slightly better.
And now?
The green is much better.

And that's it.

Though a quick look in my eyes, which was done with a contraption I had to rest my chin on, to be honest I preferred this as it kept some distance from the optometrist. In the past when they've looked through that little torch affair they come so close to your face, invading that personal space that once I just couldn't stop laughing. All I could see was this face distorted and enlarged out the corner of my eye firing a strong light into it. It was embarrassing, i just couldn't stop giggling. Anyway, the frames are now ordered and should have my new look soon.

cv was intersting this morning, we had one of the elderly local preachers, and it was a more traditional service, though in our informal setting. It was actually a very interesting sermon drawing on his vast experience of working during the way in developing telecoms that were essential for the war effort. Using this experience and looking at the imbiguity of war and peace, reflecting on Christ's teaching of turning the other cheek and loving your enemy. Very informed as he talked of many recent conflicts and the awkward decisions of a war that will result in a loss of life, to hopefully stem a loss of life that could be greater still without intervention. Finishing with some text from john sentamu the arch bish of york:"Offering a vision of wholeness in a compelling and imaginative way that is so persuasive that would-be bombers would come to see this as their own vision.
"A vision that would turn them from outsiders, self-excluding and deluded despisers of others, into belongers.
"A vision which will help them to see that those they seek to destroy are their own brothers and sisters regardless of their religious affiliations.
"The way to do this is by drawing a large enough circle of love which includes them and us."

Thursday, October 05, 2006

A new record

Just got back from giving blood where I set a new PB. Walked up to the donation centre after work as they are open late on a thurs and a pleasant chap called Martin took my blood. Now I'm pretty sure my record was due to the expert way in which he put the needle in, and judging by the amount of metal work aroud his person, he obviously knows what he's doing when it comes to piercing. Once the blood was flowing he started attending another guy and I stared blankly at the wall wishing that I could at least hear the radio to pass the time. Then I started beeping, well not actually me, rather the blood collecting machine and I had to enquire if I really had finished. Yes that's it, and the time five minutes and twenty seven seconds. I usually take around 11-15 mins.

I've finished watching most of the stanley kubrick films that i'd recorded on the tv a while ago. His style is superb, the use of wide angled shots is compelling. I particularly like the way scenes appear unrushed, something I guess is as a result of the freedom he was given in his cinematography, no restraints from the people putting up the money. This is used exquisitely in 2001, a film containing little dialogue and is just spectacular, even today the special effects still stand out, and i doubt could be acheived any better with CGI.

The sets of Clockwork Orange are fantastic, this kind of surrealy retro seventies impression of what the future might be like. Despite it's violent subject matter the ideas it raises about free will and whether people should have the choice to do evil deeds is fascinating. If it is taken away from us, as it is from Alex DeLarge, does it make us less than human?

Not afraid to put controversial books on the big screen, Lolita is also remarkable, not least with the choice of using Peter Sellars, aiding the darkly humourous charcter of the film. Following Humbert's infatuation with an adolescent beauty, but his obvious frustrations at her immaturity could again raise interesting discussions about the nature of humans and their sexual desires.

Barry Lydon was another film I'd notseen before, and I did find the story line abit dull. But i won't be quick to judge as Kubrick's films tend to grow on me. There are again some wonderful shots and a quite moving scene after a horse riding accident.

Right, almost finished my bottle of irn-bru which I like to drink in account of all that lost blood. I know it really doesn't make a difference, but I like to think that it does!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


Today has been an emotional day, meeting rebek on the train and heading over to liverpool for John's funeral. Reminiscing of our old school days and how we three had managed to continue to keep in touch. Emotions ranged from awkwardness waiting outside the church not really knowing what to say, and then the sadness of seeing a very good friend encased within his wooden casket. Fighting back tears as he was carried out after the service, and spending a few seconds at the cemetry adding a handful of dirt. I've said farewell to John on many occasions, but always known we would meet up again. This time I leave him, as the father said, in the arms of god. I wish I didn't have to, but that is how this world is.

I'll miss you mate.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

It's just words

Went to the sheffield beer festival organised by sheffield camra on friday night. It was only £1 to get in, and absolutely incredible deal. There were a huge range of beers on offer, and i sampled quite a few, not too many, as I was meeting some friends from my uni days, and they were heading off for a curry at 7pm. My favourite of the night was bagpuss II brewed by abbeydale, if i recall I also enjoyed their bagpuss brew at the festival last year.
Today I attended synod, and it was the dullest ever, and my last for a while. I had been encouraged to take on a district role, but was feeling that I wasn't really getting anywhere with it, and to be honest I have no passion for the district, so I decided someone else migh be better suited. I think it works well as an administrative forum but that is all. It is far too large geographically and diverse for any district events to be attended. But I digress, the morning session was held jointly with the anglicans, and in fact as i was walking to the sports hall chatting with a women from network I knew from conference, we were accosted and asked were we methodist or anglican. I said it didn't really matter what we were, but it seems she needed to register the anglicans. Then I wondered if I should be offended at being mistaken for an anglican.....
Would you believe it - no tea or coffee at the start. If this is how the anglican methodist covenant is going to manifest itself, depriving the methodists of their cup of tea then I think we should retreat back to our dis-established and non-conformative ways. I don't know. We were then subjected to an hour lecture on some church sociology report called 'faithful cities', and my word was it dull. I'm sure there are probably some interesting points to be made, but it was delivered as if talking to a group of sociologists, rather than a mixed group of laity and ordained from various backgrounds. There followed discussions in groups about how the 'church' can impact the cities, but to be honest I thought it was just a load of words. It's so easy to go into huddles and write these reports and talk about the changing social attitudes and the diverse needs and recognise all these, but at the end of the day it doesn't help us engage with the message of christ. Maybe all these words make us feel better in the light of continued decline.

Monday, September 25, 2006


johnThis evening I'd planned to go and visit my friend in hospital, but unfortunately it was too late. The cancer that had been ravaging his body finally won it's battle. Expected since it's prognosis, it doesn't detract from the sense of loss and frustration, my friend a mere few months older and an ever present through my life. Gone. He was there when we watched the combine harvesters in the field that backed onto our houses, when we walked to school, when we played water fights with washing up liquid bottles, when we played lego, when we thought we were characters of star wars at school, when we played football. On going to secondary school I was so pleased that we were to attend the same school, and despite being in different houses, we were in gsce classes for english and maths, going to school together until we could drive ourselves in various embarrassing transport for adolescent lads, my parents temperamental vauxhall viva which required wd40 an overnight blanket on the engine to ensure it started, or traveling with rebek in her dad's skoda. Of all the people I went to school with, it is these two early friends of mine that I have kept in contact with. John and I would exchange letters at uni and then emails, occasionally meeting up when we were both around chesterfield. Whilst I was traveling John was one of the few people to whom I corresponded by postcard from every country I visited and he described me as being like uncle matt from the fraggles, sending postcards to gobo. When I started writing this blog he was one of the few early readers, and it was the knowledge that someone was actually reading and enjoying these witherings that inspired me to continue. When we met he'd frequently talk about it and laugh at the articulation of some of my teletext reviews. Meeting his fiance and future wife late last year, we talked of his recent promotion and of course football, and his beloved liverpool. It was in March that we last met before his illness had really taken hold, and I still owe him a drink from then! Since then each meeting has seen the ravages of his illness reduce his body to a shadow of it's former self, though I will remember our last hand shake as i left a few weeks ago, still firm in it's grasp as we bid farewell.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Monkey Swallows the Universe and other tales

It was the company golf day and I was granted half a day leave to avoid it which I used to travel to london. Went on the coach and it was a very grey journey, rain and spray and i began to wonder to myself how uncool I would look traipsing the streets of this chic city in my pac-a-mac. However it was a wasted worry as the sun sprang into action as we arrived in london. made my way to the hall of residence which I had booked for a night's accomodation in angel. This was chosen due to it's location, being just about 1 mile away from the Buffalo Bar which was my selected destination for the evening. After some fish and chips I made the bar for about 8:45 in time to see the majority of a set by the mary epworth band who I quite enjoyed. A kind of country tinged music, but with some really fine strong vocals. After the set I met john earls, who edits planet sound the teletext page that occasionally prints my gig reviews.


We'd arranged to meet after I'd recommended mstu to him and he said that he'd probably go as there was another band he wanted to check out. He'd come to see the pocketbooks who were on next. I wasn't convinced, fairly average to me, girl vocals were either endearing or a bit rubbish, i tended towards the latter. You could tell it was an early gig due to confusion between songs and indifferent xylophone playing. The next band, however, were very good indeed. fanfarlo, based around a swedish singer songwriter who recently moved to london. A kind of avant garde rock style in the vein of arcade fire and clap your hands say yeah! I liked this a lot. Finally upstepped monkey swallows the universe and they did not disappoint. Their tunes won the hearts of the audience and even an encore was called for. John seemed to like it too, so hopefully there may be a review on a teletext screen near you!

Saturday was another gloriously sunny day and I spent a couple of hours wandering around the national gallery, thinking to myslef that it's great that some of my tax money goes towards making this fine museum free to all. I enjoyed browsing the paintings from the latter part of the 19th century and early 20th. As it had just opened there was plenty of time to admire works like 'sunflowers' by van gogh that are usually crowded out. Spent some time looking at the works of Degas, who is an artist I like a lot. Not sure exactly why, but I find his portrayals of women, especially the washing hair type scenes, really quite fascinating. I discovered a book about the artist in the museum shop and it was a mere £5 so I decided to invest in it. Met up with CEM for lunch and caught up with what we'd London eyeboth been up to the last few months. Then we spent some time wandering around the galleries of the Tate Modern. Unfortunately they were in th emiddle of installing a new feature in the turbine hall. But there's still plenty to see, and it was busy too. Great that art like this is popular. It garners so many different reactioins tho, over hearing two blokes exclaim "effin' hell" when confronted by a canvas coloured grey all over amused me. I then inadvertantly wandered into an art piece, with these modern affairs you are never quite sure of the interaction allowed, but the piece of mirrored cubes I was wandering between to admire the reflections was strictly out of bounds, and if I'd approached from another direction I would've seen the 'do not cross this line' warning! It annoys me a little that you aren't allowed to take photos of some of these works, they just cry out to be photographed, and I'm sure it would promote some of these works. I tried to take a few sneeky pics, but always come out shaky, with not using the flash and all....

pictures of the mstu gig
pictures in and around london

Friday, September 22, 2006

Football triumph

So on Wednesday, Chesterfield humbled Man City in the league cup, winning by a tremendous strike by Niven. Really superb esult, but I wasn't there to witness it as I'd decided to represent cvm at the student church search bbq. Oh well. Still the bbq was ok, though I don't know how successful it was on our part. When me and andrew arrived there were masses of people representing all manner of churches and christian societies and we felt a bit overwhelmed, so i don't know what the freshers felt like. There were people with fancy t-shirts and enthusiastic extrovert representatives who didn't seem to mind in butting into conversations. Me and Andrew decided that if we'd given this some more thought we could've grown those little chin beards sported by the more 'cool christian' characters and also devised tactical maneouvres in order to speak to students who weren't already affiliated. Pincer movements to catch students as the arrived, or at the end of the food queue where they could be ensnared food in hand with no way of escape!
Instead we spotted someone with one of our flyers and chatted to her with kevin from our circuit. James, our minister and uni chaplain also introduced us to a couple of other people interested in methodist churches.

The food was terrible too.

Quite excited as today I'm going to London to visit a friend and also see the superb monkey swallows the universe.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Jordan and spiders

Met up with helen yesterday on the way back from work. She has just returned from Jordan where she has been on mission with highway projects. It was good to hear her stories and to exchange our thoughts about mission and the middle east. You can read some of her initial thoughts on her blog here.

In other news I was almost attacked by a spider this morning. It is bin day and I had to go and put the bins out, for which I have to walk thru a gate and down a path at the side of the house. A spider had built a giant web spanning the gate at head height which I didn't see. So I inadvertantly walked into it, which gave me some alarm. When I turned round I saw a huge spider in mid air trying to repair the damage and blocking my route back with the bin. It took me quite some time to encourage it out of the way so that it wouldn't fall on me.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Circuit meeting and Stanedge

Stanedge EdgeSaturday was our circuit meeting and we continue with our experimental format of worship, business, workshops, free lunch and final business session. It was a chance to meet the new super intendent minister who had an air of a strict head master about him, it must be difficult in a new appointment trying to make sense of all the different characters. Especially when in a conversation about the correct method of listing local preachers I suggest that we could have a top ten and people could vote who they thought was the best preacher for the quarter. I'm joking of course, but then I wonder if he realises - I hope so. All the groups were discussing the same questions relating to where our circuit was at and where we felt we would be in 10 years and what we thought would be beneficial. Some useful discussion actually, and it reminds me that I ought to write up our groups thoughts to pass to the circuit review group. In this age circuits clearly do not opperate in a fashion for which they were designed, communities are different, people travel to church, people travel to work and therefore what a 'local community' is is very different. Discussions on buildings, worship styles, ageing congregations. Maybe if I'm inclined I may drop a few of the more intersting thoughts on here when I write up the notes. Sunday turned out to be a really nice day and we had a local preacher who hasn't been to cv for quite a few years. She really utilised our informal settings to advantage. Asking us to share our stories to what we had done in the past few years and challenging us on how we were no interacting with the local community. Quite pertinant really, as we are about to undertake a review on where we are at and how we should continue to develop - if at all. Redmires ReservoirThis was followed by the sermon which was then open for discussion before finishing with songs and prayers. Refreshing to order the service in this way. In the afternoon I took advantage of the warm weather to repeat a walk around Stanedge Edge that I did a few weeks ago, but this time i was able to take my camera round and capture some of the beauty. The recent rain had raised the level of redmires reservoir suffiently for it to pour down this weird overflow hole. It intrigues me to know where it goes! Does anyone know? There has also been a lot of stanley kubrick films on cable this weekend and I've been busy recording a lot of them. I really love his films and there are some that I have yet to see, so shall look forward to watching them. Perhaps a film orientated blog will arive shortly.

More photos from my walk in the stanedge edge photo set

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Twelve Baskets

There is this superb new site called twelve basketsthat has recently been launched to share worship resources. It is part funded by the methodist church and I heard about it at greenbelt.
You create an account and upload any powerpoint presentations or movies or images etc that you have created for worship. Add some tags and a description and upload the media. Then should anyone else be interested in using your work they pay a small amount of money to download said item. This money helps to pay for the site maintenance etc, 10% goes to charity and a proportion gets credited to your own account. You can either use this money to download other material from the site, donate to charity or have sent in cash when you accumulate £20. Sounds like a fantastic idea. Please share it if you think it would be useful. for more info.

The church using web 2.0 technology - whatever next!

Thursday, September 14, 2006


The alchemistFinished reading this book a couple of days ago. V recommended it to me a while back, and the title awoke a vague recollection, that someone else had also recommended it to me. I think it was HRK. When I was round at the minister's house I noted that he and his wife had a huge number of books and his wife had just finished reading 'on beauty' by zadie smith and she said she hadn't read 'autograph man'. When i was next up I took along my copy of 'autograph man' and I asked if they happened to have a copy of the alchemist, and they did. In fact they had a copy that had been read by madonna, or at least she had left comments on the cover. It's a short story and would probably be better read in one sitting, but I'm not on holiday, so that wasn't acheived. The writing style is very simplistic, overtly so in my opinion. It's a story about following dreams, becoming aware of creation around us and the creator speaking through that. It's a story of aligning yourself with your heart to find your desires. All wrapped up with biblical 'mythology' and mysticism. It's worth a read.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Garage junk

Another fairly busy weekend, and again no jobs acheived around the house. Though I had already got some things sorted during the week, mowed the lawn and tidied the lounge (which included sorting out my cds where I came across some cds that I thought had been mislaid, but they were just hiding in the wrong cd case). Highlights included watching chesterfield beating rotherham, not an especially good match but I got to meet a fellow blogger whose blog I have been following for a while. So I can now add phil to my 'blogger eye spy' book. Then in the evening I went to see this very enjoyable film, little miss sunshine. It's hard to describe this film without giving away plot details, basically it's a comedy looking at the fuitility of the success of winning.
Spent Sunday afternoon with Dave sorting out some of the stuff from cvm that has been stored in my garage since selling the old building. It has been decided that we no longer need the items, especially in light of having no place of our own, so we are now ebaying and freecycling the items. Another church in the circuit was interested in some of our items, including metal cupcoards, so we were able to get those delivered which made much more room in the garage. All other items were then re-packed into the garage with items we are freecycling near the front and stuff for skipping near the back. If anyone reading this is interested in having/making a donation for the following please contact me in the comments: rangemaster cooker (huge double oven type thing), old filing cabinets that fail H&S regulations, dining table and 6 chairs (ideal for 80s decor), drop leaf table, set of two drawers, ancient microwave, deepfat fryer, various flight cases.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Do you have a degree in incompetence?

are you being rude mr iddon?
no, i was asking a question, do you have a degree in incompetence, because your colleague clearly does.

Why am I so irate? Well nPower that is why. I have been using their electricty for about three years now and pay monthly, getting a statement every quarter informing me if I am paying enough/too much. This quarter I get a statement saying I owe in the order of £300, which is obviously concerning. It is an estimated reading, so i go and check the meter. The estimate is miles out, in fact it turns out their meter guy last read the meter in may, so four months ago, in which time their estimation algorithm has calculated that I have since used nearly twice as much electricity as I have ever used from them. In four months. So I rang and told them, and whilst I was at it I told them my gas reading too. As I had given them an accurate reading I asked them to update me on what my current account would be so that I could see if i needed to adjust my monthly payments. I'm sorry sir I can't do that. Why not, I've just told you the meter reading? You will get your statement in a few days. But I would like to know now whilst I am speaking to you. And so I have to work it out by hand with him, as all the required info is on the bill, price per kW etc. Why it can't automatically calculate it is beyond me. Well, I think that the whole charade is over.

Until today

my new statement arrives

Now it says I have used even more electricty, unbelievable, so hence my question today when the guy from nPower answers. In the meantime, whilst waiting on the phone forever, I realise that the idiot I was speaking to a few days ago has only gone and entered my gas meter reading in the electricity bill.

This isn't the first time nPower have shown incompetance, my friend changed his supplier to Southern electric, all sorted etc. Three months later he gets his bill from southern electric, then a week later gets a bill from nPower for the same period, despite the fact that he no longer uses them as a supplier.

So anyone googling for nPower, hope you come across this, their customer support is useless as they only hire people who are either stupid or don't listen properly, or both.

Utility companies - bah!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Teletext and visit

BSS teletext reviewGot another one of my reviews published on teletext yesterday, this is for the broken social scene gig I went to on Friday. I also went to manchester to see john in christie's. Haven't seen him since his wedding, and he is very much weaker as he undergoes his chemotherapy. He was quite tired and kept dozing off, but my presence allowed his wife to go and get something to eat, giving her a break. She really as been superb in supporting him through the illness.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

BSS, football and MSTU

Broken Social SceneAn eventful weekend, which is good, but not so good for getting jobs done around the house. So it started on Friday night when i went to the leadmill to watch broken social scene. This is a band from Canada that is a collective of members from a number of canadian indie groups, and they play some very fine tunes. I saw them earlier in the year in manchester, and again they put on a great show. They really seem to enjoy playing their tunes and there can be up to 9 people on the stage at any one time playing guitars, brass, strings, percussion or singing. It's a great spectacle. However, I do think that they enjoy themselves a bit too much and sometimes their tunes can become self indulgent as they repeat 'movements' from their songs endlessly. It can become tiresome.
Saturday I pop into Hillsborough to do a bit of shopping before heading to chesterfield to pick up scott. England vs AndorraIt's raining, quite a lot, and I get very wet. Before I return to my car I get a few things from the supermarket, on leaving the shop I put my hood up and somehow catch my glasses and my lens goes flying across the floor. I retrieve it and think, great, just what I need, cos I'm off to watch england, I can't see to drive to old trafford, let alone be able to see the match. There must be an opticians in Hillsborough, so back into the rain and I trundle along the street, but I can only really see shops on my side of the road, those opposite are not too clear. Thankfully I come across an opticians who fix the glasses, it's just the screw that had gone. Eventually at chesterfield I decide to print a map of the side roads around old trafford, so that I don't have to pay astronomically for car parking, using my dad's computer. He has dial up, it's slower than reading 'cartography for beginners' and drawing the map yourself. Eventually, map in hand I pick up scott and head for the match. I really enjoy it, despite it being a simple walkover. Andorra really are terrible, but watching the movement of top quality football players is a real joy, you just don't get the whole picture watching on tv, and you certainly don't see that movement at Chesterfield matches! It also amused me that the name of the Andorran 'keeper was Jesus. Jesus saves, or at least not in 5 instances here.
Leaving today, a nice service in the morning at church, where a hymnal error had the keyboardist literally playing from the wrong hymn sheet. We had H&P, he had SOF and starts playing 'o little town of bethlehem' Monkey Swallows the Universeonce the error is discovered the correct hymn is found, and no-one knows the set tune, but by some bizarre coincidence the tune of 'o little town of bethlehem' actually fits the words of the chosen hymn, it works quite well! This afternoon me and andrew went to listen to some sheffield unsigned bands playing a mini festival on devonshire green. monkey swallows the universe were playing, and they are superb. I can't praise their debut album highly enough. The set was unfrotunately let down by some really terrible mixing, throughout the enitre gig the cello was making horrible noises whenever a bass note was played amongst other levels being all over the place. That aside, the tunes still stood out as being spectacular. Hopefully they will merit a wider audience sometime soon. Check them out if you can.
Photos: football set
mstu set

Friday, September 01, 2006

Change of email

V is obviously as busy as I am when she is at work, and has put together this little picture of us both in a south park stylee.

This is just a quick post to inform you that I will be no longer using my fish email as they no longer support webmail, only as part of an ISP package, which I do not require. Which is a shame, however, it has caused me quite a lot of bother over the years and I have stuck with them as it is a christian aid account, and i was kind of advertising them indirectly. I now have a google email account which gives me gigabytes of free space, MMmmmmmmmmmm.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Emma Pollock teletext review

Emma Pollock Teletext reviewJust before we left to go to greenbelt on friday I had a chance to see my teletext review for the emma pollock gig at the leadmill. Emma sent me an email saying that she had seen the review too! I always find it exciting to see one of my reviews on the tv. In fact when i got back from greenbelt I had a letter from teletext as I had won another £10 gift voucher for 'review of the week' don't know for which review though. maybe it was this one, but the letter was dated 11th august, and my previous review to this was probably my adem one.
Just for your info, any further greenbelt posts will be dated retrospectively, so that those who aren't too interested in the minutiae of the details can skip them. My photos from the weekend are now uploaded onto flickr in my greenbelt 2006 set.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Greenbelt - Sunday

communion serviceA bit of a lie in on the sunday, despite being in a tent I am able to laze through to gone 9am, which makes a change for a sunday. It's the communion service in the morning and we congregate around the main stage, thousands of us. There is something quite special sharing communion with such large numbers, though in comparison to say a football match at old trafford, the numbers really aren't that large. There is definately something different to worshiping in a large number to supporting a football team in a large number. It is some sense of community, and that is one of the things that sharing communion signifies, the communion of us and the saints with god. The service runs smoothly and unlike previous years keeps to a reasonable length. Most of the songs are new to the people gathered, but I find it quite refreshing to use these songs from various worldwide traditions. Focusing on slavery and the liberation of the israelis from egypt, and it is quite poignant when the bible reading is read by Norman Kember. This is also a good time to meet new people as we gather in groups to share the elements. After the service h goes to meet jonny baker for a bbq where she engages in conversation about Bill Viola and why she My Morning Jacketthinks his art is manipulative, whilst me chris and andrew have a delicious meal of meatballs and potatoes. After eating I head down to purchase and get a signed copy of dave walker's guide to the church. It's a superb little book and I head back to the tent to read it. After a bit of a snooze I then get to meet some people whose blogs I have stumbled across since GB last year. Dave has organised a gathering of wibbers and hangers on. It's certainly good to meet some of these people in the flesh and also to meet a few more bloggers to add to my blog feed list. Meet back up with the guys in the evening and enjoy listening to My Morning Jacket.