June 2004 Archives


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I picked up the keys for my new flat today. Afterwards I sat alone in it for a few minutes, considering the fruits of my machinations. It's strange to think that I've never lived alone before, especially given how zealously I guard my privacy, space and time. My excuses for not doing it sooner were largely fiscal in nature, which worries me now I think about it. I dislike that money, or worries concerning it, should exert such a large influence on my life. I realise (and perhaps accept) that money is an evil inherent in the society in which I choose to live, but I suppose, at heart, I'm still hoping to find a better way.

Anyway, the flat is not home and I refuse to call it such - there's some truth to be found in the old adage of homes and hearts, and I've yet to decide where my heart doth lie. For the moment I content myself with the realisation that it's not here. But I now have a place of my own and it's mine. It's naturally a little spartan, since I've yet to move any of my possessions into it (that comes tomorrow - it's going to be a long day...), but sitting there on my bed I realised I was happy. Happy to be there and content with my new lot. I'd feared the flat would appear even smaller in real life than I'd been imagining it for the past few weeks, but no, it was just as I'd recalled. Small, but just right, somehow. Or just enough.

I've been unable to have a phone line installed yet, due to a few minor - though thoroughly irritating - annoyances with the lettings agency, but I hope to have things sorted out early next week. Until then however, my blog postings may be a little sporadic.

Promise you'll miss me.

We want information

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You won't get it.

By hook or by crook, we will.

Oh, all right then, despite the fact it's late and I'd really rather be in bed. I just returned from dragging Simon along to a concert by Ladysmith Black Mambazo, which took place in St Pauls Catherdral. I much enjoyed it.

There. Happy now?

Good. And good night.

Was I ever so young?

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Found today: An old id card featuring a photograph of myself at age 18. It's strange, I know what I look like - my reflection does it's best to keep pace with me each day - and that's not it. Not now certainly, and I have a hard time believing that I ever appeared such.

I feel old.


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'Tis late again - the witching hour is near upon me and sleep gently beckons. However, before I succumb to somnolence, may I just say this: In the dark and dreary depths of hell a special circle should be reserved for those who talk in theatres during performances of films and plays. Tonight I sat in front of a couple who nattered incessantly during a film. Naturally, suffering as I do from innate British reserve, I couldn't just turn around and ask them to be quiet, so I simply glanced over my shoulder at them. As all Brits know, this is tantamount to a harsh rebuke. It did no good - their confab continued unabated. I decided to up the stakes a little, and turned around, not merely to glance this time, but to stare. I may not have the most intimidating of stares, but it's still the principle of the thing - a stare in a cinema is practically the equivalent of shouting "please be quiet" . Again, they carried on their conversations. Finally I turned around and did the unthinkable. I made eye contact. And held it. And believe it or not, the woman I made eye contact with continued talking even as she looked me in the eye. Quite frankly, I was lost as to what the correct course of action was after that. And it didn't get any better. Their mobile phone went off a short while later, rather loudly playing "Under The Sea" from Disney's Little Mermaid.

They were a rude and frustrating couple. They complained loudly at the end about how terrible they thought the film was, and how pointless. I snarkily interjected: "Perhaps the point was to keep quiet so other people around you could enjoy the film." Not the greatest of put downs, mayhap, but I felt they deserved something for their callous disregard towards others.

That particular brand of ignorance really gets my back up.


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Happy summer solstice everyone.

Pretentious? Moi?

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The great clear out continues apace. So much media, so little time. This time around I turned my attention to the books I've gather during times past. It's an easier task for me, fortunately - for some reason I don't feel the same emotional attachment to books that I do to cd's. Perhaps it comes from spending too much time in the library as a youth (I spent a lot of time in the library - it was my sanctuary during school holidays). I developed the viewpoint that books are there for everyone, to be shared and passed on, not hoarded. Those books I've most enjoyed I have no hesitation in giving to someone else. It seems a shame to leave them gathering dust on a shelf where they can do no good for anyone.

That said, I've still kept about half of my books. I do find some comfort in having lots of books on my bookshelves, quite possibly in a "look at me - I've read lots of books, I'm worldly" sort of way. And if I'm honest, those I've kept can be divided into two distinct categories. The largest of these contains those books I've read, enjoyed and which I intend to sit down with again at some point in the future. However, the other section is something of a guilty secret, in which you will find several books generally deemed "worthy" by the lit crit crowd, but which I really didn't appeal to me. I keep them simply as proof I've read them. I mean, quite honestly, I thought Don Quixote was a potentially appealing tale, and it may well be if you can wade through dense, dull and convoluted prose which constituted the translation I read - slogged through even (look, I studied computer science, not English - feel free to jump in and defend Cervantes. I won't stop you). I may not have particularly enjoyed reading it, but I did and I'm damn well going to let people know about it! Hence it shall remain on my bookshelf for now and evermore.

Of course, if I continue giving away all the titles I've taken particular delight in I could conceivably end up in a situation where my bookshelves contain nothing but the books I've disliked. I may need to rethink that plan...

"Wants" never get

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I want to see the world.

Starting now.


It's been an wistful sort of experience sifting through the music I've accumulated over the last dozen years (such a long time, such a very long time). I didn't count all the cd's I own, but I'd hazard I there were approximately 270 albums, of which I've chosen to discard about thirty or forty - most of those were impulse purchases I later discovered I didn't much care for. Looking at the remainder and trying to group them into some semblance of order it appears that my tastes are even more eclectic than I'd have hazarded. Not necessarily in a good way, but that I'm not going to worry over that too much.

It was a quietly emotional experience handling each cd (wrenching them from their translucent acrylic homes only to bury them in the anonymous black cases where they shall live out the rest of their days in darkness. Don't even get me started on those I'm consigning to the charity shop - I may never forgive myself), recalling where I was when I bought each of them (more easily done than you might imagine - I kept all the receipts in the cases), and what events were going on in my life at the time. A swell of happy remembrances, tainted by the occasional pang of regret or loneliness - twelve years worth of memories with the score of my life playing quietly in the background. Even now the air remains thick with the heavy musk of nostalgia. There's a chart of my life tangled in there, describing how my life has changed over the years, and of course, how I've changed - if only I could work out how to read it. Change is something I don't always perceive until it's pointed out to me - my tendency is to imagine myself resolutely constant in the swirling sea of chaos that everyone else inhabits. Stuff and nonsense of course, but our perceptions of ourselves (should be myself, really, but I'm dragging you all down with me) aren't always grounded in reality.

Perhaps quite naturally, after glancing at so many cd's I've had numerous songs running through my head over the last few days. Curiously, the one that's come to the fore most often is "Doll On A Music Box" from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (the least of the horrors that lurk amongst my collection I assure you). It's a sad little tale of longing, which may or may not be entirely appropriate for the mood I'm in at the moment...

What do you see
You people gazing at me
You see a doll on a music box
That's wound by a key
How can you tell
I'm under a spell
I'm waiting for love's first kiss
You cannot see
How much I long to be free
Turning around on this music box
That's wound by a key
I'm turning around and around
What do you see
(Truly Scrumptious)
You people gazing at me
(you're truly truly scrumptious)
You see a doll on a music box, that's wound by a key
(scrumptious a...)
How can you tell I'm
Under a spell I'm
Waiting for love's first kiss
(honest truly, your the answer to my wishes)
You cannot see
(Truly Scrumptious)
How much I long to be free
(though I may seem presumptuous)
Turning around on this music box that's wound by a key
(my heart beats so unruly)
(because I love you truly)
While I'm turning around and around)
(honest, Truly I do)

Music and lyrics by Richard M. Sherman & Robert B. Sherman

How quickly they grow

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The gosling I've been watching is very nearly a goose. It's almost reached the end of that awkward transitional phase where it hasn't quite lost all the fluffy feathers of it's youth (puppy feathers?), but is mostly goose coloured and shaped now. Hmm, I can't keep calling it an "it" - seems to distant somehow, especially for the purposed of story telling. We need a name for the not-so-little gosling, and since I doubt anyone else has made the effort I may as well christen it. I suppose the first thing I need to do is determine it's gender. I've no idea what how you go about telling goose genders (both it's parents look worryingly identical to my untrained eyes) so I hope geese everywhere will forgive me if I flip a coin to randomly choose a sex. Heads for a girl, tails for a boy. Here goes... and tails. A boy it is. Now as for a name... hmm, he rather looks like a Cedric I think. Cedric the goose. Yup sounds about right to me.

A woman was sitting on a bench trying to capture Cedric's attention earlier. He's still a suspicious little creature, wary of humans (and rightly so, given what we're capable of) and he circled around the woman refusing to get too close to her. The woman, anticipating Cedrics reluctance, had come prepared with bread, and she cunningly placed small chunks of this treat next to herself on the bench in order to lure Cedric closer. Cedric appeared conflicted. No doubt his parents, like so many of our own, had gone to great lengths to instill in the young bird the dangers of strangers and their treats, but on the other hand, there was food to be had and his beadly coal black eyes were fixed determinedly on the bread. Whilst still attempting to keep his distance, he tried to crane his neck towards the bread, but it remained elusively out of reach. I watched this peculiar vignette play out for a few minutes, as Cedric tried to find new ways to snatch a few breadcrumbs whilst maintaining his distance, until finally he realised that the only way to get the bread was to approach the woman (aren't we humans sneaky?).

I left the goose feeding contentedly from the womans hand and wandered away to ponder my own business...

It's only a game

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There might be something to be said for football after all.

England were playing in some competition or other this afternoon against... well, against another country I presume - the details are lost on me to be honest. It appeared to be a game of some import and since our MD didn't believe much work would be done whilst this game was taking place, he generously told everyone they could leave at 4pm. I wasn't certain if anyone would take him up on this offer until I turned around shortly after four o'clock and realised I was working in an empty office. The ensuing silence seemed quite conducive to my productivity and I was tempted to carry on working until a rare bout of common sense intervened and I decided to exit stage left immediately.

It's not that I dislike football, as such, it's just that I simply have no interest in the outcome. The same applies to virtually all competitive sports in fact. I just can't bring myself to care about who wins and who loses. I'm sure it's tied to my lack of patriotism - I just don't see things in terms of "them and us", my view point largely being: there is no them, there's only us. Of course, if I were prone to over-indulgent fits of self-analysis (which, wait a moment, I am), I'd likely realise that I do, in fact, divide the world in two, only the distinction I make is not "them and us", so much as "them and me". A subtle but important difference. Still it matters little when it comes to sports, unless of course, I happen to be playing - but there's a reason why I steer clear of participating in team games (put it down to enlightened self interested).

So, tomorrow I'll go back to work and feign interest in whatever the outcome of the game is/was. Don't worry, everyone knows I'm feigning - it's just a polite understanding we've arrived at. They know I don't care and I know they know I don't care, but since I work for a company with a vested interest in the game it's good to keep up appearances.

It's a funny old game, innit?


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I've started to compress my belongings into as small a space as I can physically manage, starting with my cd collection. I bought two large cd wallets and they arrived in the post about a week ago. I've sat staring mournfully at them since. But even I can only procrastinate for so long, and tonight I cracked and put my mind (and body) to shelling my cd's from their cases and arranging them in these binders. As I mentioned yesterday, I'm making a concerted effort to control my sentimentality when it comes to these matters - so I'm trying not to care as I throw out the cd cases (plus the back insert). They're of little enough use to me after all, and I gain nothing but the false comfort of familiarity by keeping them... but throwing out those back inserts is still getting to me. They're little more than glossy slips of paper with the track listings printed on one side. Sometimes they have some pretty artwork on the other to enliven otherwise dull cases. But they're nothing more than frippery. I still have the cd's themselves (and the music more importantly), and I've kept hold of the more substantial front inserts. I just need to convince myself that's enough.

I've filled one of the wallets and I should have enough cd's to fill the other. I've gained a considerable amount of shelf space as a result, though I'm not certain what the cost to my state of mind is yet.

Pragmatism is not fun.

My task over then next few weeks is to whittle away at my worldly possessions in preparation for moving into even smaller space. It's not a chore I'm in any way looking forward too. I've a long history of being a pack rat, and am descended of an ancient line of pack rats. That stuff was meant to be kept - not discarded like the rubbish it likely is - is deeply ingrained into my dna. It's why cupboards and attics and cellars were invented - so we'd have places to keep all the things we don't need so we never ever have to worry about throwing them away.

Going against this rule is decidedly uncomfortable for me. It's not the physical matter itself I'm attached to (at least this is a notion I comfort myself with. The truth of it is open to interpretation). Most of it is completely worthless, and more often than not utterly useless. But there are memories there, and I do so hate the thought of losing a memory. Memories are precious. Amongst the more pointless of my possessions, for example, I have a single piece of a jigsaw, the rest of which I never owned and which I suppose has long since been discarded. It's of no earthly use or value to anyone, but I hold on to it since the jigsaw it once belonged to was left behind on the sidewalk of a New York street as the crowd surged forward to the midnight opening of Star Wars Episode one. For a variety of reasons there are a great many happy thoughts connected to that lone piece of a puzzle.

It's just one of many oddments I've collected over the years and which I hold onto out of pure sentimentality. I rarely look at them or handle them, but the knowledge they exist occasionally brings a smile to my face, and so I keep them. But I am trying to come to terms with the fact that I can't keep everything (and nor do I really want to). So I think I've come up with a suitable compromise, namely to keep an inventory of everything I'm going to throw away (incidentally, lest there be any confusion I should point out that anything salvageable will be going to the local charity shop rather than to waste). I own a digital camera after all, so everything I choose not to keep will be photographed, inventoried and stored away in the depth of my laptop (and on suitable backups) where chances are it will soon lie forgotten until some dim point in the future where I'll accidentally stumble across it, wondering what on earth I was thinking of, and, for a few moments, smile as I revisit some old, but happy, memories.

It's doesn't begin to address my overwhelming sentimentality towards inanimate objects, but at least digital nostalgia requires far less real word real estate.

zzzzt, zzzzt.

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The fluorescent light on the porch needs to be replaced. I know this because it startled me when I walked into the darkened hallway and witnessed an eerie bluish flickering light emanating from around a corner where no eerie light should be flickering at all. The effect was similar to a television set that's been left on late into the night, when the world outside has dissolved into nothing but static and the silence that reigns is distinctly uncomfortable. My flickering light is not completely silent though - listen closely and you'll hear a faint buzzing beating a staccato rhythm as the light blinks on and off. It's not a reassuring sound.

The atmosphere immediately raised my hackles Likely I've been conditioned by a lifetime of cinema going to to believe that strange lights in peculiar settings coupled with darkened surrounds are far from being a good sign. Hopefully this will dramatically lessen my chances of perishing under mysterious circumstances in that old house deep in the woods where those unfortunate events took place so many years ago. Events which even now are recanted by children still too afraid to enter.

Of course, I naturally don't believe in any of that nonsense and have little fear for my safety in my present circumstances. But I've retreated to the relative safety of my bedroom until morning arrives and a new dawn dispels the encroaching darkness

Just in case.

Talk to me

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As a side note, I've been feeling a bit down in the dumps this week and, as I've come to realise there's no point in suffering in silence, I thought I might as well solicit for email, phone calls or any other form of human contact you're willing to offer. Anything to remind me that though the world might occassionally appear a vast and cold place, there remain pockets of warmth throughout it all.

Where was I?

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Ah yes. Friday. Derren Brown. Jolly good show.

If you haven't heard of Derren Brown before, he's best described as a magician, though one of the new breed, following more closely in the footsteps of David Blaine that of, say, David Copperfield or Paul Daniels. Like Blaine he's got his own particular shtick, though whereas Blaine typically performs relatively routine tricks albeit with his moody demeanour, Brown seems to be doing something wholly different, namely performing tricks with a decidedly psychological bent to them. Such as asking someone to concentrate upon an image from their childhood and then describing the scene in uncannily accurate detail, or asking someone to drawn an image at the same time he himself draws something - naturally both images are identical. He tends to eschew flashiness in favour of subtlety, which after Blaine's antics last year is something of a refreshing change. Having said that, Brown's career did threaten to go off the rails after he staged (staged being the operative word as several newspapers gleefully pointed out afterwards) a game of Russian roulette. I think he was humbled by the negative backlash that generated, and his current series on Channel 4 shows him in humbler, though still delightfully arrogant, form

As was already evident from his tv work, and as he ably demonstrated on stage, Brown is amazingly charismatic performer with great stage presence and the ability to charm the pants off the crowd (and unfortunately I mean that quite literally - a woman sitting behind me seemed frighteningly determined to bed the man). His show consisted of two acts, the first of which was largely humorous, whereas the latter part started to take itself perhaps a little too seriously. Most of what he did wasn't anything that he hasn't already done on television already, but it's still remarkable to see it happen in front of you. I think Brown is at his best when he doesn't overplay the generally spooky nature of what he does and this served him well in the first act, wherein he demonstrated that he has a fine sense of humour, occasionally at the expense of the audience, though without being mean spirited. Probably the highlight of this section was when he invited a woman on stage early on, and asked her to choose from two envelopes, one of which contained a cheque for £500 and the other a picture of his pet parrot (not worth £500). She picked one and returned to her seat and he placed the two envelopes at either end of stage, and told the woman that by the end of the act he'd persuade her to change her mind, constantly referring back to the envelopes to amusing effect as the act progresses. When the time came to open the envelopes, the woman finally wavered and changed her mind walking away with the picture of the parrot, as he'd so rightly predicted at the the beginning. His skills of persuasion are quite remarkable.

As I alluded above, the second act discarded much of the humour and played as a darker and altogether more creepy experience. To Brown's credit, he always goes out of his way to debunk himself, swearing to the audience that there's not the slightest hint of the supernatural in what he does (which is probably just as well, since I'm sure there were a few people in the crowd ready to denounce him as a witch and begin the dunking). He implored the gallery not to reveal exactly what this act contained, and since I have a modicum of respect for the man I'll hold to his wishes. But I will say that it was an impressive display and I have no earthly idea how he could have pulled it off without the use of stooges in the audience. Naturally Brown swears that he doesn't use plants, but then he would wouldn't he? At the end of the show I noticed the volunteer he used for this finale heading around the back of the theatre to wait amidst the milling crowd that was rapidly gathering to accost Brown for his autograph. Out of curiosity, I waited along with them to see what this woman wanted to say, to see, perhaps if she was indeed a stooge. Judging from her still shocked reaction, she wasn't, but then of course, you really wouldn't put it past Brown to stage even this, such is the nature of what he does.

For my part, I hung around a little longer that I might otherwise have done for a chance to speak to the man. I turned down the opportunity for an autograph (I can thus add Derren Brown to my growing collection of people whose autographs I don't have, my favourite still being Neil Caiman's) and politely declined his offer to sign my forehead (which I don't believe he was entirely serious about, though I can't be completely sure). Instead I merely paid him a compliment and asked for no more than he'd already given. He replied that that was very sweet of me. Derren Brown said I was sweet.

How deeply disturbing...

Of course, when I mentioned yesterday that I'd give an more detailed account of the events of that evening, it had escaped my mind that I had plans for this evening too. Plans which, as it happened, saw an even later arrival home for me tonight. I'm tempted to deny you again, and drift sleepwards once more, but having done that already yesterday it hardly seems fair and I'm sure that too many denials can't be good for the soul..

Tonight's outing took me to Regents Park to witness "A Midsummers Night Dream" in the open air theatre that lies in the park's center. It's a play I have a particular fondness for, having seen a most excellent production of it last year (during which Simon Scardifield's thoroughly adorable Puck came ever so close to capturing my heart), and I could hardly resist an invitation to watch it again, particularly so close to the summer solstice and in such a fine location with twilight slowly descending as the play progressed. If you haven't visited the theatre it's an experience I'd recommend. It's cloistered away in the midst of a beautiful location (the rose garden looks quite spectacular just now) and has an ethereal, otherworldly air that's perfect for a play about the faerie realm Trees and greenery drape over the stage and form a lush background to the proceedings, with the actors appearing from and disappearing into (and occasionally being thrown into) the foliage. The atmosphere was marred only slightly by the occasional passing of an aircraft overheard or the buzzing of an irritatingly persistent helicopter.

I wasn't aware of the casting going in, so I was slightly surprised to discover the part of Bottom being played by Russ Abbott, an actor I'd already seen earlier in the year as Caractacus Potts (snr) in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He's not someone I'd immediately associate with Shakespeare, but I doff my cap to him, as his comic timing was beyond reproach and he managed to steal near every scene he appeared in, transforming the play within a play of Pyramus and Thisbe (the lamentable comedy thereof), which prior I'd regarded as unnecessarily overlong padding, into the highlight of the evening. I remember once being surprised to discover that Shakespeare's work could actually be humorous. Tonight I discovered that it can be side splittingly funny.

I'm going to have to leave it it that now as my body is beginning to rebel against this staying awake business, possibly as a result of my deciding to walk the 10 or so miles to the theatre earlier (it was a lovely evening for a walk after all). Sleep beckons.

Now as for Derren Brown... how does tomorrow sound?

It's another one of those evenings where I've returned home late and I'm tired to the point that I doubt I'd do justice to tonights adventure. Well, calling it an adventure is overselling the experience a little, but I ventured out to see Derren Brown, who's currently playing the West End as part of a tour.

How was it?

Tell you tomorrow.

I'm just cruel like that.

A little light reading

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One of the joys of being an adult is that I can indulge myself how so ever I choose.

There are numerous books languishing on my bookshelves. I will get around to reading them sooner or later, but I just haven't been in the mood for most of them lately. Whilst books provide an admirable form of escapism, I seem to have a stack of weighty tomes piling up and I've felt in need of a more flippant form of entertainment, a change of pace if you will. With that in mind I delved into the children's section in the local Waterstones to see what I could see. I thought it rather odd that Bloomsbury took to publishing "grown up" editions of the Harry Potter books - differing only in the presentation - I tend to hold to the belief that good fiction is more than capable of appealing across all ages and demographics, as J.K. Rowling and Philip Pullman are admirably demonstrating and I see no shame in reading anything that others may consider childish.

Two titles caught my eye, largely because I've heard their titles bandied around recently and I've been curious to see what tales they contained. The first was Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events, a brief tome which you can easily skim through in an hour or so but which is no less delightful for it. The story concerns the fortunes (or rather misfortunes) of three Baudelaire children who are orphaned when their parents perish in a fire and sent to dwell with their nefarious relative, Count Olaf who is more intent on gaining control over the family's fortune than the well being of his new charges. Snicket appears to be the heir apparent of Roald Dahl and seems to delight in placing his plucky band of protagonists in ever more perilous scenarios. Whilst they triumph in the end (against overwhelming odds, if you can believe it), the book warns early on that it is not intended for those seeking the easy comfort of happy endings and this proves no idle threat as it finishes on a melancholy tone (though not, perhaps, without a hint of hope). Still it's an inventive little tale which I thoroughly enjoyed. Judging from the shelf on which I found it, it appears that the mishaps of the Baudelaire children have continued into something of a series - one which I may yet continue with.

The latter title is Artemis Fowl, which I shan't comment on too deeply as I've scarcely started it, but which has an intriguing premise: Artemis Fowl, you see, is the latest descendant of a long chain of criminal masterminds and may well be the greatest of them all. And he's only twelve years old. Recommended for all of you with budding criminal geniuses in the family (you know who you are :)

Moving on/in

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Idling along the high street on Sunday I stopped and gazed for a moment in the window of a lettings agent. In it I saw an advertisement for a small studio flat, and I briefly thought how pleasant it would be to have some space of my own.

I signed the lease the next day. From thought to action in one simple step.

It's a teeny studio flat and my own flat in Edinburgh is positively capacious by comparison. On the plus side, though, it's cheap and it's in a location that I'm very fond of (far more so than my current locale of Brentford, which is in the early throes of gentrification but has a long way to go yet). All the amenities I require are close at hand - the supermarket is just around the corner and the gym I attend is just a small step beyond. And I'll be near a tube station again. Two tube stations in fact - not having any other transport of my own, being in close proximity to a tube station is a huge plus.

The lease I signed is for six months. I originally wanted the lease to begin at the end of the month, but the lettings agent seemed terribly keen to persuade me to take it a week earlier. I doubted that his motives were entirely altruistic and I was tempted to stand my ground until I realised the start date he was proposing was June 25th. It ends six months later on December 25th. Christmas Day.

I will be home for Christmas.

Powers of ten

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On a remarkably hot day, I decided to escape from the office for a brief while and take some much needed time to myself to relax and ponder some recent events (what events I'll get around to tomorrow - nothing of terribly great interest to anyone other than myself though). I found a small grassy area, seemingly devoid of other people, and sat cross-legged in the shade of an adolescent sapling. I wasn't far from a busy road, and I could still hear the traffic in the distance, but looking around me all I could see was grass and trees and sky. It was a tranquil visage

Without closing my eyes I imagined myself, floating upwards, looking down at myself still sitting in the grass. I drifted higher and I could see the network of roads and offices blocks and houses. Higher still and countryside opened up before me. Then the country, and oceans, and continents. Then the planet, hung amongst a web of twinkling stars, until at last it became lost amongst them.

Then the scene reversed and I began to spiral downwards, rushing headlong back towards the small grassy area where I still sat until finally I was standing just behind myself. And then I uncrossed my legs, got up and turned around, as though some part of me was expecting to see myself standing there. But I looked around and realised I wasn't there at all.

Don't panic

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How do people deal with adrenaline? It doesn't appear to be something I cope with terribly well. Today at work I had to launch a minor but important project that I'd finished a couple of weeks back. I'd practically tested the thing to death, but I still had a horrible feeling that something was about to go horribly wrong. And such is the nature of my self-fulfilling prophecy that it did indeed go horribly wrong and I then spent the next four hours frantically scrabbling around attempting to discern exactly what had happened. Naturally it turned out to be a completely trivial problem to fix, but unfortunately I was misled by a error in the logs and had started chasing red herrings all over the place.

And all the while I was I becoming more and more stressed.

I hadn't even realised it at first. I become very single minded when things aren't going my way, to the point that I'll ignore just about everything else that's going on, including myself. I worked straight through lunch without realising I was hungry. It was only when someone asked me to explain where matters currently stood and I noticed I was talking about twice as quickly as I do normally that I realised I was losing perspective.

It reminded of a time several years ago when I'd ended up in a similar situation, trying to fix a problem against a deadline that was approaching entirely too fast for my liking. I got myself worked up to the point that my manager took me aside and told me to take a few deep breaths and to relax for a few minutes. He was quite polite about it, but he was essentially telling me to calm down. I learned a valuable lesson that day, even if I do occasionally fail to put it into practice.

I think I managed to managed to calm myself down before I spun too far out of control , but I'm sure I inadvertently told several people to go away and leave me along (or words to that effect) without even turning to look at them or considering the tone of my voice. I suspect I shall have to make several apologies tomorrow...

I have another dental appointment tomorrow. For those of you keeping count, this is my third attempt to try and see a dentist and judging by the twinge in my tooth which is becoming ever more prevalent, I suspect my need is becoming increasingly urgent. Fortune and my own general incompetence intervened on previous occasions and, alas, it doesn't look as though I'll be able to make tomorrows appointment either. Lest you think I have some sort of phobia against men and woman in white coats (which may very well be true, but that's outside the parameters of today's discussion), I should explain that the present circumstances are entirely <adopt John Malkovich accent>beyond my control</adopt John Malkovich accent>. No, stop looking at me like that, there really are extenuating circumstances this time - it looks as though the dental practice burned to the ground this afternoon. And no, I wasn't any near the accident when it occurred.

The fire itself didn't originate from the dental practice itself, but rather from the shop next door. I was slightly curious as to why such a large area had been cordoned off (traffic had been diverted and there were a great deal of official looking people present), so I asked a nearby policeman what had happened. It transpires that the shop next to the dental practice numbered, amongst other items in it's inventory, a not inconsiderable quantity of gas cylinders.

I'll call tomorrow to double check, but I rather suspect my appointment should now be spoken of in the past tense. Along with the dental practice.

Ronald Reagan is no longer with us. I was slightly amazed to discover he was 93 years old, putting him in his seventies for the majority of his time in office. I suppose it says something of my knowledge of politics during his presidency that my primary memory of him during his term comes from a Spitting Image special. With the benefit of hindsight, I can't say I was a fan of all his policies (the Star Wars debacle springs to mind amongst others), but he did preside over a remarkable period of history (alright, technically he presided over America during a remarkable period of history, but I'm not certain there's much difference) and, together with Gorbachev, helped lay the foundations for the end of the cold war and shaped the current political landscape. Worthy achievements for which I'm genuinely grateful.

I've always been curious as to how much effect a single individual can have in these matters - does the momentum of society hold sway, such that events unfold along similar lines regardless of who's holding the reigns, or can one many really make a difference? It's largely a rhetorical question - I only ask as it seems difficult to tell in our media led society which seems to place as much, if not more, emphasis on personality than on policies. I'd cite an example involving George W. Bush, but I'm sure it's goes back much further still.

Anyway, another figure from my childhood is no more.

Danger Will Robinson

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I can't say I've much interest in spending time and money to see "The Day After Tomorrow", the latest in a series of loud (almost certainly), mindless (an assumption of mine, admittedly, but given what's gone before I think it's a relatively safe one) and occasionally entertaining (and by entertaining I'm thinking of Independence Day, which was rather fun, as opposed to Godzilla which was rather not) films from Messrs Emmerich and Devlin - either I've had my fill of mindless summer blockbusters already this year (from Van Helsing alone - never mind the rest of them), or else I'm saving myself for the arrival of Spiderman 2. Nevertheless, I was highly amused to note a small caption at the bottom of the tv trailer for the film: "Contains extended scenes of peril".

Almost enough to make me want to see it. But not quite.

I turned up at the train station this morning at the same time I do every day (I'm very much a creature of routine). Normally there are about a dozen or so other people standing on the same platform as me, with perhaps half as many on the platform opposite. The numbers fluctuate slightly from day to day as you'd expect, but there are always other people around. Except today. I found myself standing alone at a completely deserted station. I checked to make sure I was on time. I was. I checked that the train hadn't been and gone already. It hadn't. In fact the earlier train was late, so there should have been even more people waiting than usual.

I'm given to preferring my own company to being in a crowd as a general rule, but it's an eerie feeling standing alone when you're expecting a crowd. I was reminded of one of the multitude of films (most recently 28 Days Later) which feature a lone person wandering through the empty streets of city which should be bustling with life. It felt rather like the world had ended and I'd failed to get the memo.

I hate it when that happens...

Don't I know you?

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I have an awful memory for faces in general, but in particular for people I've just met. As some people forget names after a few minutes, I can just as easily forget a face unless I put some effort into trying to shunt into longer term memory. This may or may not be unusual - I've not exactly polled many people on the matter.

I was watching Frasier tonight as it edges towards it's final episode. I haven't watched it much this season, since I fell out of the habit of watching it regularly sometime ago but I'm curious to find out how it concludes. I was pleased to discover it remains a finely written series, still capable of touching poignancy between some genuine moments of wit. It may not sparkle quite as brightly as in it's hey-day ("Two minute McSessions" heh) but it's far from being a shadow of it's former self. Tonight it featured an actor I was certain I'd seen somewhere before, but frustratingly I couldn't place where. I had to do a quick search on IMDB to discover that the gentleman in question is Aaron Eckhart and the reason why his face should be familiar is because I spent a couple of hours in his presence on Saturday when I went along to see Oleanna, a David Mamet play about a student and teacher who form a horrendously toxic (and non-sexual) relationship from which neither emerge unscathed. It's probably not Mamet's best work, since the dialogue is a little too highly stylised, even by his normal standards, but it's still a fascinating piece of theatre (albeit thoroughly unpleasant in several ways) . Eckhart was playing one of the leads, opposite Julia Stiles - it's a only two person play. I should probably have recalled his face slightly better that I did as he actually left quite an impression on me after play's emotionally charged climax. In the final scene Eckhart's character lets loose his repressed rage in an ugly display of misogyny which is frightening to behold and which visibly shocked the audience. The curtain call came just moments afterwards during which Eckhart stood on stage, fists still clenched tightly and visibly shaking from overwhelming emotion.

The image stayed with me, even though the face did not.

I'm quite a fan of bemani style games such as Dance Dance Revolution, with my personal favourite being Samba De Amigo (I can shake my maracas with the best of them. And no, that's not a threat...). I've got a reasonable idea how long it takes to get to a decent level with these sorts of games and it frightens me to think how much time (not to mention money!) this lad has invested. It's quite astonishing to watch (it's also probably an incredible waste of some awe-inspiring hand/eye coordination, but that's another matter altogether).

How long?

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I bought a bedroom today. Not the room itself of course - that I bought a year ago (it came with a cosy little flat attached) - but the rather lovely fitted bedroom suite that I witnessed in MFI a little over a week ago. Well, technically I didn't actually buy it, but I did put down a deposit on it and I've every intention of carrying on and paying for it in full. I'd set my heart upon the suite near as soon I laid eyes on it - some decisions I make entirely too quickly. Despite the fact I don't require it to be installed for a goodly while yet (have I mentioned 7 months recently?) I was tempted by a bank holiday offer which granted me a further 10% off. All I wanted to do today was pay for it.

I'm very uncomfortable when it comes to bargains and haggling and suchlike. I prefer to see a price, pay it and end the matter there. However, it seems the rule that the more expensive products get the more flexible the price becomes. I ended up inadvertently haggling over the price with the salesman in the store. I didn't mean to barter with him, but he seemed to mistake my natural air of indecision (some people have an air of authority, I make do with my air of indecision. It occasionally serves me better than I have any right to expect) for some sort of bargaining ploy (it wasn't - my intentions were quite set) and started to make a dizzying series of reductions. I realise that these reductions have already been factored in and are simply a device to encourage purchase, but I really just wanted him to arrive at a final figure. He did so eventually, but even then I'm sure he would have carried on making further concessions had I pressed him (or simply havered a while longer). However, by that point all I wanted was to do was to get as far away as possible from him.

But then he did something I found quite odd. As if to further reassure me (I didn't want reassurance, I was simply trying to retain the will to live by that point) he started extolling the virtues of the suite, including dropping in the horrifying fact that it has a roughly 20 year life expectancy (as opposed to some of the cheaper furniture whose lifespan is only half as long). I know, on an intellectual level at least,that long lasting furniture is a Good Thing, but the future is something I prefer not to think about unless absolutely necessary and resent being made to consider it at the drop of someone elses hat. I should probably just have walked away from the whole deal just then, but I carried on with it (after double checking that the deposit was fully refundable).

Today I bought a bedroom. And seemingly a large chunk of future.