Monday, 31 March 2008

Eureka in three easy steps

I found out last week that my friend Lisa’s sushi bar has had to close down, which is a real shame because it did great food at a reasonable price, and just around the corner from where I work. On Friday, I left a note and some chocolates there to cheer her up. In my note I wrote: I hope this setback doesn’t stop you from taking risks in the future, for our dreams mean nothing unless we dare to chase them. This was the first of three things that combined.

I went to Sheffield on Friday to catch up with the good friend the Colonel, who I haven’t seen since Christmas. I’ve known him for four or five years, and I really value his friendship. He’s armed with razor sharp wit, tempered with no small amount of humility, and I admire his confidence to do what he wants to do regardless of the opinions of other people. Over a beer or two, he told me that he’d recently taken a week off work and trained in industrial abseil techniques. He said that he’d wanted to do it for ages, so he pulled out his finger and got on with it. This was the second of three things that combined.

Until today, I haven’t been in work since 18th March because of a variety of factors. I’d been away for my first aid course, off for the early Easter Bank Holiday weekend and using up the last of my annual leave before the end of March. As you’ll see from the ‘jobmoan’ tagged posts, I’ve not been much enjoying my work of late. On Saturday I started to get anxious about having to go back to work after a blissful period of absence. This was the third of three things that combined.

I dislike my job. Dreams mean nothing unless we pursue them. Re-training is a realistic and achievable goal. So I’m going to follow my heart and re-train so that I can change the direction of my career. It feels exciting and liberating, and at the same time scary. I feel hopeful.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Sweet potato and goats cheese mash

Chance dictated that my partner on last week’s first-aid course was someone that I got on with quite well. The physical intimacy of touching each other from head to toe each morning – to practice checking a casualty for injuries – was beyond that with which our nascent acquaintance ought to have been comfortable, particularly as my partner was a young woman my own age, Marianne. There wasn’t any romantic attraction between us, but I thought that we’d make good friends. After the course ended, most of us students took the same tram home. Marianne and I got off at the same stop, but we didn’t exchange contact details, we just said goodbye. I regretted it immediately, but didn’t do anything about it.

I’d arranged to go for a walk with Clare this morning, but I found myself awake long before I thought she might stir, so I decided to do two walks, one without Clare, and one with her. I set off on one of my standard routes - down Palatine Road, along the Mersey, and around the lake at Chorlton Water Park, listening to “Black Holes and Revelations” as I left the house, NWA and Rage Against the Machine along the back end of the river, and switching to something more jangly as I arrived at the lake, “Dear Catastrophe Waitress.” It was beautiful out - a clear, bright morning.

There was a pair of young ladies walking ahead of me on the path that I’d not really noticed. As I moved to overtake them, one turned and said, “Can I give you this?” It was Marianne.

“Hello! Sure, what is it?”
“It’s a leaflet. We’re Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses? The associations I immediately make when I hear that phrase aren’t positive – knocking on other people’s doors uninvited, not celebrating Christmas, something about refusing blood transfusions – but I think I did quite well at hiding my gut feelings and maintaining a smile. We chatted a little longer, and exchanged surnames – or rather I gave mine up to her – so that we could get in touch through the internal email system at work. Then I bounded off.

Fear crept over me, founded in my own ignorance. I’m not religious; in fact I’m slightly wary of those who are. Could I be a friend of someone whose values are so massively different to my own? I’m being presumptuous - being a Jehovah’s Witness is a particularly involved approach to religious practice, but I should judge people on their merits, not on my prejudices about their beliefs, shouldn’t I? I ought to be more concerned that Marianne reads the Times and doesn’t like the Guardian.

Of course, I don’t have her surname, so I can’t look her up on the internal email system. We’ll have to see what happens next.

I met Thom and Ed in the Vic for the Liverpool derby, with their friends Ozzie, Sam, Ali and a handful of others. After the game, Thom invited me to his house for Sunday dinner. This is what we had.
Roast chicken, in bacon
Roast potatoes
Sweet potato, mashed and creamed with goat’s cheese
Roast butternut squash, with cinnamon, five spice and star anise
Wilted spinach, with garlic and onion
Steamed green beans, with chopped tomato

Rhubarb, apple, prune, apricot, walnut and pecan crumble, with custard.

I made the crumble.

These two jokers were there.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Pepe update

Pepe wrote:


How are you? I hope everything is ok! It has been a long time since I have heard from you. I think the main reason we haven’t seen each other is our jobs. I’m not too bad. Here in Rome I’ve the same usual life, only work!!! It’s (very) demanding and every day I finish work at 7:00-7:30PM about!!! (Now I remember the meaning of “about!!!!” can you remember? (it’s was your explanation/lesson) This word stays always in the middle) I’m feeling very tired.

Three days ago Martina sent me an e-mail. She told me a few things e.g. a few days ago you met her and then you have talked about “Giuseppe” (that sounds good, it’s a good news when a friend remembers me); she wrote to me that in her flat there is a room available and she has invited me to go back to Manchester. Now I’m thinking about it!!!!

Next Monday, when my boss comes back to the office, I’ll ask him if it is possible to take a 2 o 3 week holiday (still have to take 24 days of leave from last year!!!!)
Hopefully, I think it might be possible during the second half of April. I’ll get some days off.

Please give my best regards to Paul and all friends (Alison, Tom Wood, Steve, Holy etc. etc). Is Shit-man watering the plant???

Take care my friend

So he'll be back round here soon, excellent news. I think Holy is supposed to be Ollie Keck.


I made my first cake since my childhood at the weekend, here are the photos.

Things go from bad to worse for the Dazzler

Bad luck Darren. Get well soon.

The Guardian says

United suffered an injury setback yesterday when it was revealed that Darren Fletcher is unlikely to feature in the league again this season after damaging knee ligaments while representing Scotland in midweek. "It was a bad blow with Darren Fletcher, which to me just emphasises the futility of playing these friendly games. It's crazy. We have lost him for six weeks now," Ferguson said. But, while the recent losses of Eduardo da Silva, Tomas Rosicky, Denilson, Abou Diaby and Bacary Sagna have hurt Arsenal, Fletcher's absence will not impact on United in anything like the same way.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Things I find attractive in women.

Until reasonably recently, I'd absolved myself of all responsibility for not having a girlfriend by deciding that I didn't have a type, and that I'd judge every possible candidate that crossed my path on their individual merits. Such passivity also meant, naturally, that it wasn't down to me to do any form of looking, that it was down to Miss Right to fling herself in my direction, that doing nothing would result in the best possible outcome. Recently, I met Miss Wrong. The things about her that make her Miss Wrong have made me realise that I do have potential partner preferences. These are:

- I love mental agility, someone who is naturally comfortable with complex ideas and abstract concepts, which leads into...

Articulate conversation skills
- Not only someone who's smart, but whose sharpness shows through as they speak. Someone who can put forward their side of an argument convincingly, and can unravel someone else's. Again, leading into...

Strength of opinion and principles
- If being intelligent is a measure of the ease with which difficult ideas can be conceptualised, and if being articulate is a measure of the ease with which those ideas can be expressed, then strength of opinion is about why it's worth arguing. My principles and values are central to the way I live my life, and I'd want the same in a girlfriend.

Indie sensibilities
- Without meaning to sound superficial, this is mostly about personal style and look. I don't mean skinny jeans and backcombed hair necessarily, but that I'd like the kind of girlfriend that looks more charity shop than Topshop, more Hot Hot Heat than Heat Magazine. Indie as in indie music, but also as in independent from mainstream fashion. And not even necessarily an indie music scenester type, just someone who doesn't dress like an identikit High St mannekin.

- I can tell if I think a woman is sexy almost as soon as we meet. If she's intelligent, articulate, principled and 'indie,' then we're off to a good start. There must be physical attraction, but I can't specify how that manifests itself except that the prospect of making love should be exciting.

No fuss attitude
- I find someone who's willing to get their hands dirty, to put up with the cold for ten minutes of walking rather than seek out a cab, to clamber over the occasional fence much more attractive than someone who won't go out if it's raining.

- Inspire me! Surprise me!

Shared values
- I couldn't be in a relationship with someone who doesn't believe in recycling, for example. Or with someone who steals. Or someone who's always smashed on drugs. I've laid out some of my values above, I'd hope that the things I've mentioned would be important to the sort of woman I'd fall for.

Miss Wrong does have some of these traits, but there is something about the overall package that mean that she just isn't Miss Right. I don't think I'm being too picky.

Garfield minus Garfield

This strip is mint. In its own words:

Who would have guessed that when you remove Garfield from the Garfield comic strips, the result is an even better comic about schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and the empty desperation of modern life? Friends, meet Jon Arbuckle. Let’s laugh and learn with him on a journey deep into the tortured mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness in a quiet American suburb.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Manga exhibition at Urbis

I popped down to the Manga exhibition at Urbis this morning, and particularly enjoyed this mural.

I met Kate, who said that she'd had an interview there that day that had taken the form of a 'why you shouldn't throw me out of the lifeboat' group exercise. She picked Ray Mears, good thinking!

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

The Dazzler suffers

Man Utd Star Darren Fletcher Knocked Out By Toilet Door

Mar 10 2008 Exclusive by Keith Mcleod

FOOTBALL star Darren Fletcher was left unconscious and bleeding when a toilet door fell on his head. The Scotland midfielder was revived in the Old Trafford dressing room after he starred in Manchester United's 1-0 Champions League win over Lyon.

As boss Sir Alex Ferguson was being interviewed yards away, Darren, 24, was being treated by club medics. He needed stitches in his gaping head gash. A club insider said: "It happened half an hour after the end of the match. It looked very, very nasty. I saw blood pouring out and the medical staff had to treat him there and then.
I know he got stitches. He looked pretty dazed and pretty shocked. You don't expect a door to just fall on you."

United reached the quarter finals with a 2-1 aggregate win.

The source said: "The dressing room was relaxed and happy after the match - it was a case of job done. It seems that there was something seriously wrong with the toilet door. I don't know if fittings had come loose or what - but when Darren went to open the door, it came away and clobbered him. It was a nasty wound but it could have been worse. The other players were looking about scratching their heads in disbelief but at least medical staff were right there on the spot."

Fletcher's mishap is the latest in a series of bizarre incidents around the Old Trafford dressing rooms.

In February 2003, David Beckham suffered a head graze after a flying boot hit him full on the face. It is believed the boot was kicked by an angry Fergie. In October 2004, there were reports of flying pizza following a bad-tempered match with Arsenal.

Other strange football injuries include Chelsea keeper Dave Beasant who hurt his foot after he let a salad cream bottle slip from his grasp. Leeds star David Batty hurt his ankle after a toddler drove over it on a tricycle. Midfielder Darren Barnard of Barnsley damaged knee ligaments when he slipped in a puddle of puppy urine. And Dundee striker Derek Lyle had to miss Saturday's 2-0 Scottish Cup defeat by Queen of the South after he fell through a coffee table and cut his stomach.

Daily Record article.

via the Fiver.

Cool Giraffe Mural

On the way to Heaton Park.

Monday, 17 March 2008


I came back to work after a week off sick, and found this unhappy face on a card in my keyboard.

On the rear of the card was this much happier face.

The energy management team had put out the cards. A smiley face means you switched your monitor off overnight, consuming less unnecessary energy and thereby saving the world. An un-smiley face means you left your monitor on standby overnight, using up limited energy resources and thereby dooming future generations to a life of leather, studs and Tina Turner. What a good idea.

What the energy management team may not have realised is that the faces cards have another function, and in my opinion a far more useful one - desktop mood indicators. A green smiley card displayed on one’s desk denotes goodwill, job satisfaction and contentment. A red un-smiley face depicts the opposite, grumpiness, dissatisfaction and ire. I’ve gone for a more nuanced three faced system.

Today I found out two things that placed me firmly in one of the two camps.

Firstly, there has been no development relating to the security of my current job role beyond the end of the current month, which is in two weeks. Grossly unprofessional email behaviour from my by-proxy line manager (the real line manager having left in June and remaining un-replaced even now, in March) has – if anything – unsteadied my nerves on this matter. I don’t think I was supposed to be copied into that email to Personnel.

Secondly, my overall boss, in whose ability I have little faith, has been appointed to that role on a permanent basis. Until now, she was covering somebody else’s maternity leave. Until now, I’d consoled myself with the thought that she wouldn’t be the best candidate to apply for the job permanently. I’d lived in hope, until now.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

An hour or two on Dave’s allotment

I helped Dave for a couple of hours this afternoon. We dug a couple of trenches, and sowed potatoes, then turned over the soil in a patch and planted 200 onions. We fashioned a net to protect the onions from hungry birds, and came up with a rudimentary scarecrow using a crowbar and a carrier bag. It looks bleak now, but – weather permitting – it should bear rewards, other than rhubarb, by the end of the summer.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Quite a precise message.

Quite a precise message., originally uploaded by ian boyd.

I saw this on BoingBoing tehehehehehe

Filesharing: don't do it

I love (Click to view bigger)

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

I rattle when I walk

Metronidazole 200mg - two tablets, thrice daily

Amoxicillin 500mg - one tablet, thrice daily

ibuprofen 200mg - two tablets, thrice daily

Multi-vitamin - one tablet, once daily

Daily total: sixteen tablets, 3.9g active ingredients (not including the multivitamin)

Monday, 10 March 2008

Monday's timetable, love from the NHS

0850: Check NHS website for opening hours of West Didsbury walk-in centre, and find them to be 11am until 9pm.

1030: Walk to West Didsbury walk-in centre, only to be told it's closed for refubishments until 4pm, and get advised to go to Burnage Walk-in centre instead.

1115: Arrive at Burnage walk-in centre, where a considerable queue has built up since it opened at 8am, and cheerily accept that there'll be a wait on the cards. Sit down, and get rather into Douglas Coupland's Girlfriend in a Coma.

1330: See a nurse at Burnage walk-in centre, who suggests going to A&E at the MRI to see a doctor.

1415: Arrive at A&E at the MRI.

1430: Triage. Tell the triage nurse what the nurse at Burnage walk-in centre has said. Retire to one's seat, with Douglas Coupland's Girlfriend in a Coma. Start to get frustrated at the contrived nature of the novel's plotting.

1700: Get called up, amongst a bunch of others, to follow the traige nurse through to... the MRI walk-in centre. Wait a second - couldn't I have come straight here at 8.30am?

1730: Finish Douglas Coupland's Girlfriend in a Coma in disgust. What a tacked-on ending, what a cop-out, and what a rip-off. What an unsatisfying deus ex machina. Feel glad that it only cost me £2, and in a charity shop too, as I'd have been disgusted if my money had gone on to line the pockets of the writer or the publisher of that toss.

1745: Breathe immense sigh of relief as Pippa comes to wait with me.

1825: Finally get to see... a nurse. Third nurse of the day, in fact. In a virtually word-for-word repeat of what I'd heard at Burnage walk-in centre, agree that it'd probably be a good idea to get a doctor's opinion on this.

1845: Having seen a doctor eight hours after turning up at my local walk-in centre, head home.

Monday, 3 March 2008

If I had a thought-hammer…

If I’d been successful with the last job I applied for, today would have been my start date. Instead, I’m burdened with handling the fears of a flappy, flustered senior manager who’s just not getting my point. If I’d got that job, today would have been a breeze, gliding around the new office, trying to remember new people’s names and faces, and being shown where the fire exits were. Instead, I’ve seriously been considering running for the fire exits here. What is it about bad news that inspires such disbelief? I’ve had to explain the same thing again and again and again. I wish I had a thought-hammer, with which I could drive in difficult concepts. It would have had a lot of use over the last few days.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Retire the jug

I finally bought the ladle that I’ve needed for ages. Serving soup will certainly be simpler now.