November 2003 Archives

All good things...

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I had a good weekend. I'd tell you all about it now but it's late and I need to get some sleep so I can go into work tomorrow, bright eyed and bushed tailed, and have considerably less fun. I'll try and scribble it all down tomorrow, promise.

In the meantime I extend my heartfelt gratitude to those of you I caught up with today and yesterday. And also to those of you whom I didn't catch up with I promise I'll see you again soon!

It's only a day away

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I'm off to Glasgow for the weekend. Much catching up with old friends to do.

Back tomorrow...

My name is Inigo Montoya...

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Well, ok it's not really. But it could be. Deed poll and all that...

The Princess Bride is on tv on Sunday. It's easily one of my favourite films of all time, for reasons that are entirely transparent to anyone who knows me. Oddly enough my first encounter with the film, a little over a decade ago now, came through a case of mistaken identity. For reasons that I now can't entirely remember I had a snippet of dialogue stuck in my head: "The potion with the poison is in the vessel the pestle, the flagon with the dragon holds the brew that is true." and someone told me that it came from The Princess Bride. I went on a hunt to find the film in question and eventually tracked it down. I should have been mildly disappointed by the fact that it was the wrong film entirely (I'll hazard a guess that most of you have already identified the correct source of the quote as Danny Kaye's rather wonderful The Court Jester), but I wasn't. Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, True Love, miracles and maybe the odd kiss or two. Not to mention some inanely quotable dialogue:

"We'll never survive!"

"Nonsense, you're only saying that because no one ever has."

Who could ask for anything more? Oh, and I haven't even mentioned that it contains perhaps the single greatest swordfight in the history of cinema. Yes, that sword fight. And yes, I am left handed.

I only bring all this up, because I won't be watching it on Sunday afternoon (although if you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it - Channel 4 Sunday 3:30pm - be there). Not because I wouldn't like to, but rather because I'll likely be busy this weekend. If I wasn't then I'd happily sit down to watch it, regardless of the fact that I own it on dvd and can thusly watch it at pretty much any time of my choosing. Why? For the same reason that I choose to watch 24 on terrestrial channels rather than on digital which is a week ahead - namely because I've come to realise that watching television is strangely social phenomenon, even if you happen to be watching alone. Partly it's because it provides something to discuss with friends at work - my social skills being what they are I'll gratefully accept anything that provides a common frame of reference for a discussion (and by golly it beats having to show an interest in football), and partly it's because there's something comforting about the realisation that other people, in their tens of thousands or perhaps even millions, are experiencing near exactly the same thing you are. I'll admit that both instances only provide a poor sort of connection, but it's still a connection of sorts. And from little acorns do mighty oaks grow.

Although I'm still waiting for my acorn to sprout...

About last night

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I don't feel guilty about not posting anything last night. Not me. Oh no, no siree. It's not like I have to post something every day after all. It's not as though some strange compulsion forces me to lay my thoughts out for all and sundry to see (despite what the doctors may say). I can give up any time I want to. Any time. That I want to. I just don't want to right now.

Last night I went to the Barbican with Amber, who had free tickets for a classical concert featuring a pianist of great renown whose name I can't quite remember right now. Amber, being the classical pianist that she is was obviously rather keen to see him (who ever he was. Hmm, hang on a moment, this is what google was invented for... ah, there we go Murray Perahia), whereas I was merely along for heck of it. What struck me afterwards when Amber was discussing the performance with some of her more musically inclined friends, was that this must be what it feels like when a group of computer geeks are discussing computer matters around the less technologically inclined. Or indeed when any group versed in a particular discipline gather to talk about it in the presence of those less versed. Whilst I could grasp the general gist of the conversation, it was really from the perspective of a near complete outsider. It's one of those things that should be immediately obvious and yet somehow it's easy to get caught up the moment and unintentionally exclude people. To anyone that I may inadvertently done such to I offer my sincerest apology.

I naturally declined the chance to follow the conversation further and decided to make my way home instead, not least because the hour was getting late. One strange thing about the Barbican is that it's conveniently located in the middle of nowhere, which is rather odd, since I didn't realise that it was possible to have a middle of nowhere in the center of a large city. But it is. I suspect the problem lies with the City Of London (or "The City" as it's denizens more commonly refer to it) where the Barbican is found. The City is noted for it's area, which is said to be a square mile. It's not a part of London I often frequent and, as I found out last night, it appears to be a rather geographically dense area - which is to say that for one square mile there seems to be rather a lot of it. That's not to say that I got lost last night. On the contrary, I had a very good idea where I was at all times. I just didn't have a clue where any of the tube stations in the area were found and ended up on a forty minute walk/jog/sprint (in that order) to Waterloo to catch my train. Curiously the route I took (which was the most direct possible for those of you who still think I was lost) also passed by the armed trees that seem to have formed a running theme this week. There were no tourists around to spray with water that late at night but the trees seemed content to wait, happy with their new found purpose in life.

The walk/jog/sprint through the City was fairly pleasant, taking me along strange twisting raised walkways that passed by numerous tall buildings with twinkly lights that seemed a million miles removed from the grim grey concrete monoliths that inhabit the same area during the daytime. That night I dreamt of a tall skyscraper built of sparkling white plastic and ocean blue glass whose tip reached out into space. A troupe of actors performed A Midsummers Night Dream at its base. They were very good.

Please hang up and try again later.

We apologise for the inconvenience.

Normal service will be resumed shortly.

I went out to dinner with some friends tonight, celebrating a colleagues birthday (he's still younger than me, darn him). I ate much pizza in a rather decent little restaurant on the South Bank (where the trees are still spraying innocent tourists with water) and afterwards the group headed to a nearby bar where, during a lull in the conversation, I spotted a postcard containing the text that headlines this entry.

The postcard advertises book of supposedly equally useless facts, but I'm not convinced by the once they chose to present to the world on the postcard. For a start, it uses the word impossible. Whilst I don't deny that some things in the world may very well be impossible (several of them involving George W. Bush and a sensible foreign policy), I suspect that rather more are merely improbable. And whilst it's improbable that a ping-pong ball would easily flush down a toilet, I daresay that only a little bit of cunning and derring-do would solve that problem.

Points will be awarded for the most inventive way of discarding a ping-pong ball using a toilet. Extra credit will be given for the use of twisted ingenuity.

And why do I have the eerie feeling that at least one person reading this will at some point in their life have tried to flush a ping-pong ball...?

There's a windmill in Waterloo. I suppose if you want to be more exact, it's more of a wind turbine really. It's by the new Hungerford footbridge, just shy of the millennium wheel. When I first saw it the wind was blowing in a direction such that the windmill pointed right at the wheel. It looked as though the windmill was blowing the wheel around. The thought amused me a little.

Strangely there was no information around to say why the windmill there. Not a word of explanation that I could see. And I looked (although I declined to scramble over the tall steel fence with rather evil looking sharp pronged points on top that encircled it).

The next time I passed the along the footbridge a tree sprayed a thick mist of water over some Japanese tourists and flashed some pretty lights at them. The tourists looked rather confused. And wet. I don't believe the tree intended any animosity towards the tourists, although it was rather difficult to gather any information from the tree itself. It spoke very little, although it the noises it made were pleasing to the ear.

There is an explanation for all these events I discovered. I rather like the fact that the display is so poorly signposted. It gives the whole thing a charming mystique.

I hold a particular fondness for the tree that soaks unwary passerbys. I've often suspected trees to have more finely developed sense of humour than they are generally credited with and I'm happy to see them given the means to exercise it.

And so the increasingly oxymoronic deletetheweb community swells a little further as it embraces another member into its fold. Welcome to the flock Brother Simon. May you blog well and often and sing frequently the praises of our glorious founder and fearless leader (if only because it seems to embarrass him).

Alas, Brother Kevin seems lost to us still. The light, Kevin, walk towards the light...

It's de-lovely

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I tried to avoid it. Really I tried. Whilst I'm not proud to proclaim ignorance on any subject there are some things I just seem to be happier off not knowing anything about. Like sport. And on today of all days, rugby.

But some things, alas, are nigh unavoidable. Here's what I learned today:

1) England won an important rugby tournament

2) The England ruby strip has a mostly white top with some red and blue bits.

3) England supporters like to sing "Sweet Chariot" a lot. And I mean a lot. I don't know why but they do. Mostly it's sung rather badly, although in at least one case I heard a rather moving rendition of it.

Regardless, I decided to escape the seemingly all encompassing insanity and went off to see Anything Goes instead. It wasn't my first choice admittedly (that honour went to Jerry Springer The Opera which was unfortunately sold out), but it was still something I'd wanted to see and was the perfect way to get away from anything remotely relating to rugby for a while.

The show was thoroughly enjoyable. I can't say that I learned anything new about the human condition, but it wasn't that sort of show. It was particularly interesting to see/hear many songs that have long since filtered into the collective consciousness in their proper context at last - songs like "I Get A Kick Out Of You", "You're The Top" and, of course "Anything Goes" (which I remember from "Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom" and which is probably the reason why I wanted to see it). The cast were pretty good, but special mention must be made to Sally Ann Triplett as Reno who carried most of the major numbers and did so astonishly well.

Good clean rugby free fun for all the family.

Perchance to wake

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I remember a dream I had several years ago in which I found myself alone in a forest on a moonless, starless night. As is the way of dreams, I had no idea how I'd came to be there, or how I was going to get out. Or even where I was going to go. As I walked along I knew that I was being followed, though I couldn't see or tell by what. Even when I tried to stop and hide I knew that they were still there behind me, still hidden from me. I carried onwards until I realised that these things were all around me, and with that realisation they revealed themselves - a dozen or more hooded creatures clothed in black. Each had an animal like skull in place of a face and each carried a scythe. I ran and they pursued, though I still didn't know where I was running to. The creatures gave chase and with nowhere to hide I was soon caught. They held me down and began hacking at me with their scythes.

It tickled.

I mention it because it's probably the closest thing I've had to a nightmare - at least it's the sort of thing I can describe and which most people will automatically interpret as nightmare (at least if I leave off the tickling). Except it wasn't. I just don't have nightmares. Even dreams like the one I just described I view with a sort of bemused detachment, even contentment. I simply have happy dreams - I can't help it. This isn't a complaint by any means, but It does make me wonder how common nightmares are.

I suppose as a result of this my idea of a bad dream is something else entirely. My worst dreams are those in which everything is absolutely perfect. Where everyone is happy, where I'm happy and nothing will ever happen to change that. But sometimes there's a scrabbling realisation at the back of my mind that's telling me it's not real, that it is just a dream. I don't want to listen to it, but the harder I try to ignore it the more I know it's true. And then comes the point when I can't disregard it any longer and I start to wake up. And no matter how hard I try, no matter how I try to frantically cling to the dream, to stop it slipping away, there's nothing I can do to prevent it. And as I wake, there's a brief moment where it still seems it might be possible to take the dream with me, that by wishing hard enough, by hoping hard enough I can somehow make it real.

It never works.

I don't have a real nightmare to compare it to, so I don't know if it's better or worse or merely different. But it hurts all the same.

A couple of years ago there was a little bit of water damage to my bedroom and consequently it needed to be redecorated. Before that could happen, though, I had to move everything out of my room. "Everything" in this case consisted of that bulk of my worldly possessions, most of which I'd accrued in the preceding three or four years. Having moved it all I came to a very simple conclusion: I own too much.

The sheer volume of my earthly possessions came as quite a shock to me at the time. I came down to London with few belongings other than some clothes, a cd player and some cd's. And that was it. Everything else I accumulated in my time down here and there's simply too much of it. Whilst I still have an emotional attachment to a lot of it, a large part of me simply wants to be rid of it all. Perhaps it's another symptom of the trend my life is taking these days - my design tastes have definitely started skewing towards the minimalist and perhaps my new found asceticism stems from the same source. Whereever it comes from, I can't help but look at a lot my things and think what do I need it for? I own books, many of which I shall never reread. I own cd's and dvd's most of which I watch or listen to but rarely. I own... stuff.

Simply put I own too many things that I don't need.

But, on the other hand, I shouldn't over look that emotional attachment. Whether I need them or not these things do form a large part of my life. There are memories behind most of them, more often happier than not - reason enough not to dismiss them in so offhand a fashion. I think partly I'm concerned about (eventually) moving into my flat (it's compact and bijou, put it like that), which is silly, because I'll still have more room than I'll have ever had at any point in my life. And every once in a while I'll come across something I've tucked away in a corner somewhere, something that I haven't given any thought to in years, and smile. I think that's all it boils down to in the end.

The stuff stays.

In the still of the night

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It was going to happen eventually - there's a depressing inevitability to winter after all. I woke up this morning and, blinking blearily in the darkness, I drew back the curtains. Then I blinked blearily in the darkness some more as I realised that opening the curtains made no appreciable difference to the ambient light level.

I hold to simple definitions of the seasons. Spring begins when greenery starts sprouting. Summer arrives with the warmer weather. Autumn brings the foliage a wardrobe of scarlet and gold. And Winter is here when I look out of my window in the morning and see darkness before me.

Winter has by far the least auspicious start.

I don't mind winter itself, so much as I dislike dragging myself forth from my duvet/cocoon into a cold black morning when I find myself struggling with my natural instincts to hibernate. But that's not to say winter has nothing to commend it. Like all the seasons it has moments of extraordinary beauty. When it snowed in London earlier this year, I was amazed at how the city was transformed. Perhaps it's just a simple association of white with purity and cleanliness, but whilst the snow remained the city seemed to be an altogether more pleasant place to be.

Alas, I failed to take any photos of London in it's trappings of pristine snow and ice. Whilst I do regret that, I also hold out hope that the months ahead may bring a similar icy precipitation, in which case I will certainly bring my camera to bear. In the mean time, I've dug out some older pictures I had lying around that I took a few years ago near my home outside Edinburgh. There's a small burn that flows nearby, and at times it's one of my favourite places in the whole wide world. Enjoy.

A bad spell

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It's been pointed to me once or twice or more by a certain nameless someone (you know who you are ;) that I can't spell for toffee. That is of course completely untrue. I can spell for toffee, it's just that no one has tried to bribe me with the stuff yet. Anyway, said comments inspired me to run off and hunt down a new toy to play with - w.bloggar. It's a rather neat little blogging application which amongst it's many and varied features incorporates a spell checker. It's Windows only I'm afraid, although I'm sure the small but friendly coterie of Mac users who number amongst my small but friendly readership will be delighted to suggest an alternative.

You can rest assured that any spelling mistakess from here on in are purely there to annoy you ;)

Fellowship of the pizza

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I seem to have organised a movie night at work. I'm not entirely sure how, as is my way, but I have. It all happened after I discovered that the boardroom, which I don't have access to, has a large projector coupled to a dvd player and what appears to be a reasonably decent sound system. And there are comfy chairs in there. The comfy chairs are very important. Not that I know any of this, not having access to the boardroom as I do.

I then commented to our MD in passing that it was a shame we couldn't use to boardroom after work to show dvd's or play console games and much to my surprise he enthusiastically supported my proposal. I either didn't have the heart or else valued my job too much to point out that it wasn't a proposal or a suggestion, merely a comment... hence my new found and rather unlikely position as social coordinator.

Not that I'm complaining about the end result. We're not a terribly social group at work, not because we aren't friendly people or don't enjoy each others company, but rather because everyone can't wait to get out of Feltham once the working day is done. Feltham, for those of you who have so far remained blissfully unaware of it's presence, is home to the largest young offenders institution in Europe and... not much else really. Except for us. Consequently it's rather hard to enthuse people about the prospect of a night out in Feltham. Still the idea of hanging around after work consuming copious quantities of pizza and watching a good film seems to be have tempted a few heads.

The first film on the schedule is, by popular demand, The Fellowship of The Ring (the extended edition obviously). If all goes well, I'll follow it up with the Two Towers in a few weeks and then make a final push to get people to actually venture outside to see Return of The King when that's released.

Now I just need to work out a way to organise that without ever giving the appearance of being in charge of anything...

Not about my flat

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I know I've developed something of a habit of droning on in dreary detail about my flat in Edinburgh, the one that I one day hope to find myself living in. And I also admit that for people who are not me, it's probably not the most interesting subject in the world. So today I thought I'd direct attention away from my flat to, say, this flat instead.

It's the one next door to mine - I confess that I can only direct my attention so far way.

Seeing this flat for sale did bring one bit of good cheer - I admit that after signing numerous dotted lines and then handing over a bankers draft for a sum of money I even now can't quite believe I ever managed to save in the first place, I did panic a little over whether I'd paid an appropriate amount for my flat. Or rather panicked that I'd paid to much. I think I got over it reasonably quickly, but it's still somewhat reassuring to see the property next door on the market at a higher price than I paid for mine.

So, anybody want to be my next door neighbour?

You would have loved it

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I had a great idea for a Christmas present a few days ago, so today I went looking for it. I like to put at least some thought into most of the presents I hand out, but I will confess that every once in while, out of desperation as much as anything else, I fall back on that worst of Christmas tide habits, handing out what my younger brother Nicky has termed "Gifts" (you have to pronounce the capital "G"). "Gifts" (you don't have to pronounce the inverted commas, but I find it helps) are those things that start to appear in shops in the three months before Christmas which no person in their right mind would ever buy for themselves. You know you're in trouble when you start to look at that miniature table football kit and try to persuade yourself that Uncle Bob really will appreciate it, when you know in your heart of hearts that it's going to find it's way into the deep dark recess of Uncle Bob's house that he set aside years ago to specifically house "Gifts".

Anyway, the idea I had was entirely the opposite of a "Gift" - it was a present to touch the heart, a gift that would be appreciated for years to come. Knowing what I wanted I set out to try and find it. It was only when I reached the middle of London that I realised that I didn't have a clue where I was going to find the item I wanted, since to be honest, it was a slightly obscure and arcane object. So I did what seemed to be the best idea in such circumstances - I went to nearest shop at hand that appeared as though it might purvey strange and arcane items, looked in the window and saw it right there in center of the display. You'd be amazed how often that works...

Unfortunately this tale does not have a happy ending. I had no idea how much the thing I was looking for would cost when I set out. It turned out to cost approximately 24 times what I'd hoped to pay for for it. I'll admit that I considered it for a second, but alas, however much it's eventual recipient would have dearly loved it (and they would, they really would), I couldn't in good faith have paid so much for it.

Now I know that by this point you're probably wondering what on earth it is that I went seeking, but I'm afraid I'm going to leave you wondering. Since I saw Neil Gaiman yesterday, I may as well offer a quote of his to end this: "It's the mystery that endures, not the explanation."

Good night.

I like listening to Neil Gaiman talk, not just for what he says, but for the quality of his voice. His is one of those rare voices that are just meant to narrate. He reminded me a little of a read-a-along story book I had many moons ago, when I was even shorter than I am now. Whilst that was read by a woman, the intonations and inflections still seemed familiar. Of course, since that was the only read-a-long story book I had (it was Jack and The Beanstalk, strange that I still remember it after so long), it could be that all childrens stories are read in such a fashion. I wonder if it's a skill they teach. I'd quite like to learn to talk in the manner of a narrator of childrens books. Anyway, he read the entirety of "Wolves In The Wall", much to the audiences delight. It's a charming little story, which he neatly summed up as being similar in style to "The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish" (don't go getting any ideas Fiona!) only creepier. I think my niece may be getting a copy for Christmas - I think I'll very much enjoy reading it to her.

It was a good evening all in all. Even the question session at the end managed to throw up some interesting questions and responses whilst avoiding the fawning adulation that I've witnessed before. Little facts cropped up, such as the time Neil visited Brian Henson's home in Hampstead and described it as "a strange house full of rotting muppets". That visit was related to a film written by Neil that is currently undergoing post production work called Mirrormask. It all sounds like a particularly bonkers project to produce a new film along the lines of Labyrinth or The Dark Crystal. Whilst the attempt isn't necessarily bonkers itself, the budget they're trying to do it with is - just $4million (a teeny tiny fraction of what it cost to make Labyrinth). Still, from what I heard today it sounds as though it's going to be a fascinating project.

I was tempted to stay at the end and queue so that I could not get something signed by Neil again. I already have several items that aren't signed by him, so I was tempted to add to my collection. However, when an announcer appeared at the end to ask everyone interesting in queuing to have things signed (or not as in my case), to line up in an orderly fashion she seemed a little perturbed by the ensuing stampede and by the time she'd gotten out what she had to say she pretty much added that it was too late. For me as well - I seem to have inherited whatever gene is responsible for ensuring that people queue in a dignified manner which means that when mass queueing chaos ensues I can usually be relied upon to find myself at the very end of whatever queue manages to form regardless of where I was previously standing. Whilst I did fail to get anything signed by Neil as a result, it was a little more impersonal than I'd hoped. I may have to try again next year...

I never find perfection?

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I first came across the Myers Briggs test a goodly while ago (over a decade now, scarily enough). I remember then that I came across as an INFJ, although these days I think I hover near the threshold of INFP too. Whilst I try not to place too much stock in these sorts of things, I do find they're often worth a look, especially since the descriptions of the different types are usually fairly flattering (it's not that I need to read nice things about myself, but it doesn't hurt every once once in a while either). Anyway, I was amused to come across an entire site dedicated not just to the types, but specifically to the types of bloggers. Whilst the site does smack a little of self obsession (but isn't that what blogging's all about? ;) it's still amusing to trawl through some of the other weblogs out there.

Presented for your amusement, because I'm too tired to put much thought into writing anything else just now.

Non sequitur

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A few months ago I went with some friends on a walking tour around a part of London known as Little Venice. It was good to see a part of London that I hadn't visited before, especially since the city seems to be in danger of becoming a little too familiar with me. Or vice versa. Little Venice itself, isn't quite the vision of Italy that it's name might suggest, but it as very pleasant place none the less, and surprisingly tranquil for central London too (I have a special fondness for quiet places in the city, since there seem to be so few of them). The tour itself was rather entertaining, and was led by a completely barmy old gent who had a penchant for bursting into song when the fancy took him. Much merriment was had by all. The tour ended in a small church whose name escapes me now (actually, it probably escaped me even then - I've never really given much attention to church names).

The reason this is on my mind is that the church, or at least a reasonable facsimile of it turned up in a dream I had last night. I know, it's another blog posting about a dream - the bit about the tour above was only there to lull you in a false sense of security. Now, are you lulling comfortably?

Last night's dream was slightly unusual in that it had a reasonably strong narrative train. Not so much a beginning, middle and an end as a middle and an end. Don't you just hate it when you walk in on a dream half way through? The dream began with me and several friends in the church I mentioned above, with the notable difference that the church had been relocated to a rocky beach by a high chalky cliff. The sky and the sea were both rather grey, and it wasn't the most inspiring weather in general. Anyway, the small group of us had somehow found our way into the church where the service was in full swing and a considerable congregation where singing.

All was well and good, except that after while we realised that the congregation wasn't singing, they were chanting, and which point it became obvious that were in fact in fact trying to summon and enslave and horrible demonic entity with which they would rule the planet (look, I said my dream had a narrative, I didn't say it a good narrative). I'm not sure where that particular piece of information came from, but it didn't seem like a good time to argue about it.

Cue much fleeing from the maddened crowd out over the beach, and up to the base of the cliffs, over which a large demonic creature was now towering. During my dream I would probably have described the thing as Lovecraftian monstrosity, although with the benefit of waking hindsight I would have to admit that it was probably closer to, well, a lobster. An enormous, fiery, demon lobster from the darkest recesses of hell, but a lobster never the less. Fortunately the chanting hadn't finished and so although the lobster had been summoned, it wasn't yet under their control. So I politely explained to the thing what was going on, and it took umbrage at the fact that anyone dare try to enslave it and went off and tore down the church and all was well again. Well, except for the fact that the lobster thing was now free to roam the planet, but the dream pretty much ended there so I didn't get a chance to find out what it's plans were. To be fair to it, when we did speak it seemed fairly reasonable as far as demonic entities go.

And the moral of this story? I'd hazard it's that reading an article such as this last thing at night before going to bed was probably not the best idea I've ever had.

Actually I should point out that the article (which came courtesy of Vinay has very little to do with my dream but instead tells an incredibly moving story about the tales and myths that have evolved amongst children in appallingly cruel circumstances in Florida. Much of the lore the kids repeat has become surprisingly sophisticated as it tries to make sense of senselessness which surrounds them. The story is fascinating and touching and not a little frightening.

Read it, please.

When my flatmate Kim saw me this evening she gave me an odd look and asked how I was. It turned out that she thought I looked as thought something was wrong. That took me aback a little, since I don't think anything is wrong. I will admit that my mind has seemed to be elsewhere over the last few days. I'm not sure where exactly, although sometimes I think I catch a glimpse of it out of the corner of my eye. When I turn to look, however, it's gone. I'm sure it will turn up in it's own good time anyway.

I'm not sure about the whys of it either. I seem to be accosted by a vague and non-descript melancholy. Nothing particularly noteworthy or severe, but it's there, scuttling around at the periphery of my consciousness. I think part of it comes from the increasing amount of time I seem to spend pondering the future and the end of my self-imposed exile in London. I'm not pondering in a bad way - on the contrary, I'm very much looking forward to the move - if anything I'm annoyed that it still seems so far off, like Christmas Eve, when the night seems to stretch out forever.

I'm not asking for much. I only want the future.


I wanted to like it...

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The Matrix Revolutions that is. Truely I did. How bad did I think it was? Well, let's just say that I'm temporarily putting my positivity mandate on hold for the duration of the review. Normal service will be resumed once I've gotten over it.

Spoilers ho...

I worked in Burger King once. I'm really not sure why I did and, with hindsight, I'd probably rather I hadn't. It was only by dint of fate that I came to be working there at all - my grandmother had a lodger who worked there and they happened to be looking for Christmas staff and, to be honest, there were things I wanted to buy that I couldn't afford without some sort of job. And so, through that minor confluence of events, I came to be working in a fast food restaurant.

I can't say that I took away a great number of happy memories with me when I eventually left (as is my habit, I stayed longer than I should have done, certainly beyond the point that the job had anything left to teach me - admittedly in the case of Burger King that wasn't really very long at all). Still, there are several memories that stick out.

The first needs a little background: The area behind the counter was tiled and my shoes had little or no grip on it. Whilst you might imagine this to be a problem, it wasn't it - rather it was a lot of fun instead, especially when I was working behind the til at the opposite end of the counter from the food (I know, food in this case should probably be in inverted commas). Naturally the fastest method of transport from the food back to the til where the hapless customer was waiting (don't look at me like that. It was Burger King - they knew exactly what they were getting) was to take a small run up and then slide the remaining distance. It was certainly the most fun, although experience quickly taught me that it was best to wait until the quieter times before trying it.

Bearing that in mind, the first memory relates to what is one of my favourite pratfalls, which was on a particularly quiet evening and I decided to take an extra long run up, for a particularly spectacular slide. Spectacular for all the wrong reasons in the end. With carton of chips in hand, I began to slide, and midway back to the til gravity got the better of me and I slipped on to my rear end, on which I was carried the rest of the way. The customer I was serving, watched me vanish before their eyes and then witnessed my arm popping up over the counter to present them with their purchase as I continued to lie there on my back.

Perhaps you had to be there at the time.

Other memories tend to relate to the people who worked there, who formed a particularly interesting mixture. Broadly speaking, these broke down into two categories, the students and people who were working there only in the short term, and everyone else. Or to put it more cruelly, those with futures and those without. I know that's a crass and horrible way of expressing it, and I chide myself for putting it like that, but please understand how true it is. Several of the managers (not all of them) were actually quite resentful of some of the staff because of it. However, there were also some people who straddled the divide and with only a little push could fall into either camp. People like Tracy.

Tracy obviously hadn't planned on eeking out a career in Burger King, but had somehow managed to find herself in such a position anyway (that darned Path Of Least Resistance strikes again). But unlike a lot of people who were stuck there, Tracy was a) a nice person, and b) had plans for her future - she wanted to join the Army, but couldn't at the time - I forget the exact reason why, but I remember that it was a temporary situation. It was obviously something she was keen on, and her face would light up when she was describing it. But whilst I was there she never managed to happen. And she was still there when I left, still talking about how much she was looking forward to moving on.

A few years later I passed by that Burger King again and peeked in the window. Tracy was still there.

Friends my destination

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After the previous nights dream, I looked up at the grey skies above me on my way into central London this morning and thought that I would really rather be somewhere else. Somewhere warm with white sands, blue skies and bluer seas. And sunshine, lots of sunshine. Rainbows are optional. It would also be blissfully quiet. Just the sound of the waves lapping gently over the sands and little else. London has that effect on me in general - nothing makes me pine for solitude more than having to fight through a seemingly endless stream of pedestrians that frequent/infest the center. Whilst my mental map of London includes a number of routes from points A to B avoiding the busiest areas of the city, it only goes so far at this time of year.

I think I want a holiday. Of course, I'm not about to take a holiday, the primary reason being that I have scant little holiday time left from work and what I do have I really need to save for Christmas.

But I'd like to.

But by myself?

It was one of those curious thoughts that I've always known but never articulated before, which is that I've never really ventured anywhere significant by myself. That's not to say that I haven't made small expiditions on my own, but rather that every significant bit of travelling I've done (say beyond a 15-20 mile radius of my natural habitat) other than for work purposes has either been with friends or family, or has had friends or family at the eventual destination. I've just never gone anywhere on holiday by myself. Really, I'm not even sure what I'd do on holiday by myself, although right now a week of sitting alone on the quiet beach of my dreams sounds positively idyllic - not something I would have imagined appealing to me, even just a few short year ago.

But however tempting that sounds to me (and right now it does sound very tempting indeed), I'm not sure I'd enjoy it. The trips I have made with friends/family or to friends/family in the past, well, what can I say other than such trips number as many of my most cherished memories. Looking back, there aren't any such holidays that I would trade, even for my beach, and truthfully sacrificing time with people I care about for more time with myself seems like a very poor bargain indeed.

However, should any of you have a hankering to find a quiet beach in exotic (yet temperate) climes feel free to give me a call. Sooner rather than later, if you don't mind.

I really wish I could take photographs of my dreams. Every once in while my sleeping mind throws up some really quite wonderful/beautiful/fascinating vistas. Last night I was sitting on a ruined wall, high on a clifftop on an island edged with white beaches and surrounded by deep blue ocean. I don't know where the island was exactly, but it felt slightly exotic. Days there were warm, but not oppresively hot and the island was dotted with lush greenery. The sun was shining at it's zenith in a clear blue sky, and though it hadn't been raining the sky was criss-crossed with rainbows - it was a remarkable sight, even if it wasn't real. It did strike me as slightly odd at the time that the rainbows were intersecting at 90 degree angles, but truth be told, I don't think I wanted to analyse it too closely - that way lies waking.

Though I love dreaming, the transition to wakefulness, watching all the endless possibilities of the dream slowly fade and become insubstantial and unreal, is a harsh price to pay for the experience.

More than meets the eye.

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It's a dalek in a padding pool wearing a sombrero.

Give it a moment. It's cleverer than it first looks.

I don't take any credit for this btw, it originates here

Now we are two

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I came across this story a while ago, but I stumbled across it again recently, and I thought I may as well bring it to your attention too, since it contains a couple of facts and figures that I found quite interesting. Like the fact that the majority of bloggers are teenage girls and 91% of weblogs are maintained by the under 30's. Being neither a teenage girl, nor under 30 (so close though, oh so very close), I had no idea that I was in such a minority.

I was also surprised to note that a vast number of blogs are abandoned after only a day (there, there blog, it's ok, I'm not going anywhere just now - you'll have to forgive my blog, it's still at little skittish). I realise my previous attempts at keeping a real diary were nothing to write home about (or even write at home about in the end), but in my defense I always managed to last for several days before ennui set in. That's the problem with teenagers today - no staying power ;)

Oh, I know this all falls under the category of meta-blogging again, but I think I may make an allowance on the 6th of each month, to give a sort of State of the Blog address as my blog celebrates it's birthday.

"You remembered?"

Of course. Happy birthday.

"Thank you."

You're welcome.

We're officially two months old today.

Always read the small print

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"I have to do what...?"

My little brother is getting married in September. He's actually my favourite brother, although I know it's not really fair to play favourites with family members (hello Nicky, btw).

And he asked me to be his best man. That was a couple of months ago, and I think I'm still wearing the smile from when he asked. Naturally I said yes, since to be honest I don't think anything would have given me greater pleasure. I've already started writing my best mans speech in my head (I should probably stop soon else it may be a little long by the time September comes around).

However, it was also recently pointed out to me that it's amongst the responsibilities laid upon the best man is the duty to organise the stag party. This was something I hadn't counted upon. And to say that I don't have the faintest idea as to how to organise such an event is really an understatement of the most dramatic kind.

A stag party? If it was a party for stags I could probably cope a little better. But a stag party? Traditional scene of drunken debauchery and bawdiness? Not exactly my natural habitat by any stretch of the imagination. I just don't do bawdy. It's really not in my nature. Whimsical? No problem. Off the wall? Sure. Just plain odd? Why not. Bawdy? Ah, well, hmm...

Ironically Nicky is probably more like me than almost anyone else I know in a great many ways. Which is to say that we're entirely different, but with a lot of common ground. And so whilst I've probably got a pretty good idea of what Nicky would like, I'm really at something of a loss as to what his friends are expecting, not to mention the rest of my clan.

I guess what I'm really trying to say here is "Help...?"

It's following me

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My flat is following me. I keep looking up and there it is in front of me - I think it may be taunting me. And worse, I'm completely sane (well as sane as I ever was, which does throw the matter into question, I suppose). It's all MTV's fault.

The European music awards are being held in Edinburgh this year, you see, and MTV has been promoting the occassion quite heavily. One notable tv spot (notable for me at least) features the camera spinning around a quaint looking Edinburgh courtyard before stopping dead with the MTV logo whizzing onto the screen. Look past the empty banality of the logo for a moment and set your gaze instead upon the flat, lurking just behind it. It's mine! Mine I tell you.

Ironically, I deliberately avoided my flat when I was in Edinburgh at the weekend, lest I started pining for it, only to have MTV lording it over me on my return. Sigh. At least it confirms what I've always known, that my flat is in a ludicrously picturesque part of the city

I should probably point out that I'm not a huge fan of MTV (I'm fairly neutral on the subject really), but it's shown constantly at the gym which makes it a little hard to avoid when I'm there.

I want to live in my flat darn it!

Fallen at the final hurdle

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I wrote a little while ago that I try not to judge books until I've finished reading them, as an ending can often make or break a book for me. A little while later I wrote that I was enjoying Life Of Pi, but wasn't prepared to make a recommendation just yet. And then I finished Life Of Pi. This was a book I really loved, right the way through until almost the final chapter. And then I didn't love it anymore. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy it - I did, truely I did. But in the turn of a chapter it went from being a book I would have recommended unreservedly, to a book that a felt decidedly let down by.

The good stuff is pretty much as I said before. The writing was wonderful. I think I've started to appreciate the simple joy of a well turned phrase - of which there are many to be found here. And Pi's determination, spirit and intelligence make for a believable and charming protagonist. His tale is inventive and lovingly researched.

And the bad stuff? Towards the end, the book takes a slightly suprising, almost hallucinatory turn (a plot twist crops up that I remember from Blake's Seven - make of that what you will). This isn't necessarily bad, since it's easily explained by Pi's state of mind at the time, but the end that follows on from it disturbed me. Without trying to give away the ending, all I can really say is that it calls into question the events described in the book, and provides an extremely downbeat alternative explanation. An explanation I found wholly at odds with the entire tone of the book, which until that point could almost have been described as a celebration of human spirit.

Of course, again without trying to give anything away, it's not an explanation we're forced to accept, and indeed it's couched inside a suitably whimsical framing device that it's quite easy to dismiss - but since that's the case, why provide it to begin with? It seems jarringly at odds with the tone of the book until that point, and even with the authors introduction.

Perhaps I'm simply being overly negative (negativity bad! positivity good!), but whereas I'd like to remember the book fondly as a grand adventure, I simply find myself focusing one small part of it. On the other hand, at least the book gave me some food for thought, which is surely a positive thing.

It's always better to question and challenge than blithely accept, isn't it?

Well, I've made it back to the shores of old London town via what turned out to be a really quite torturous train journey. There were works on the line which meant that I had to catch a bus to Newcastle (much fun, really), and when we finally managed to catch a train, it decided to grind to a halt just outside Grantham. It was relatively dramatic, as the train ground to a fairly sudden halt and then the lights went out (train carriages have emergency lighting - I never knew that until now). The ensuing silence that occured as train, and air conditioning fell quiet was surprisingly dramatic, only to be shattered moments later as the passengers in seeming unison decided to use their mobiles to complain loundly to whatever friends/relatives they could reach. The train only stood still for about half an hour or so, but it was plenty. It's been a long day.

Sigh. Still I'm back now, at least.

"You're back?"

"Yes I'm back, but it's late now. You should get some sleep."

"Ok. But I'm glad you're back. Goodnight."