Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Nan pities fool

The woman ahead of me at the checkout, fake-tanned fifty-five, was with her two grandchildren; boys aged four and five with almost matching outfits. The bigger kid asked for sweets from the checkout display, and Nan said yes. After grabbing some Smarties, the kid was transfixed by a POS ad for Snickers.

“Nan, Nan, who’s that?”
“That’s Mr T.”
“You know, Mr T - ‘I pity the fool, I pity the fool, I pity the fool, I pity the fool’“

She affected an accent, so each ‘I pity the fool’ became ‘Ah pity tha fooo,’ and used a gruff Mr T voice, getting deeper and louder each time.

The smaller kid clung to Nan throughout.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Lucy and the Caterpillar at Cup

Tracy and I met after work. We had a pint in Odd (Kate was working), and then went to Cup to see the Lucy and the Caterpillar's single launch show. Everybody was dead trendy, Woody would have felt like a sore thumb again, I reckon. There were three acts.

Josh Weller had ridiculous hair, but some quite good songs.

Petty Thief was excellent. Some things reminded me of Dylan, or of Badly Drawn Boy. I'd definitely go and see him again. I'm sure - from his accent - that he's from round here.

Lucy and the Caterpillar were oddly disappointing. Musically, her band were more than competent, and Lucy has an amazing voice - Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music in one breath, Regina Spector in another - but there's something about the scope of her songs that lacks ambition. With her talent - not only can she sing and play, but she can really perform (Rachael Kichenside take note!) - she has a lot of potential, but the subjects of her songs - wanting to be a bumblebee; beans on toast; being best friends with a handmade doll - was better suited to a nursery school than to a gig for grown-ups. Structurally, again, they were overly simple - verse, chorus, verse, chorus, "thank you," giggle. Is a middle eight be too much to ask? She was punching far below her weight, in my opinion.

Lucy and the Caterpillar are not amongst my army of loyal readers, but if they were, I'd offer this advice: ditch the milk teeth, and put some snarl and some sexiness into your music - especially your words. Give us something in the words to get us thinking and reacting. The music can stay more or less the same, but there is no need to fear being psychologically sophisticated. The example I'd give of how that might work is the opening line of Venus as a Boy by Bjork.

His wicked sense of humour, suggests exciting sex.

From here on, it's clearly a song by an adult, for adults. If Lucy and the C can make that kind of developmental step too, I'd be very happy. Maybe Lucy needs to get in with a bad crowd? I want to send her If You're Feeling Sinister and The Boy With The Arab Strap and Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like A Peasant to show her that you can be twee and adult simulataneously.

Tracy had some interesting opinions on the draft of the Fun Things To Do For Free project, and its context. I'll have a think about what she said.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Conservation, conversation.

With the new job, and associated drama I'd let the bigger picture career-wise slip out of view until today.

I had my first go at conservation volunteering today. In the morning we erected a fence around a bank in the lake at Chorlton Water Park. The fence was designed to keep waterfowl from eating the plants we put in. The roots of the plants will make the bank more resistant to erosion.

In the afternoon we thinned (non-native) Norway Maple saplings from a patch of woodland so that the indigenous flora could thrive, and planted bluebells. The group is made up of some nice people, and I had a brilliant time. Five hours on volunteering doesn't sound like much, but the satisfaction that I got out of it was reassuring - I'm making the right move, I can tell.

Pepe came round for some help with what we've dubbed testa merda - the shit test - a fiendishly difficult listening paper for his non-native English Speaker examination. It's bitchingly tough! Even Louise, who speaks several languages, thought it was hard. Once we'd nailed testa merda, we went on to some tasks for the speaking exam, in which Pepe gives a few short talks / speeches about various parts of his life. We talked about his home village, Montecalvo, and about his twenty-two years of naval service. He told me about his trip to South America, about his time in the Med after 9-11, about boats he'd sailed on and women that he'd known. It was fascinating. Five hours flew by.

Ten hours of work on a Sunday wore me out. In a good way.

Saturday, 26 April 2008


Friday Haiku

Sixteen fingers touched, four thumbs, four eyes almost met. Two hearts, souls, apart.

Friday, 25 April 2008


1 - What rhymes with 'plinth?'

2 - I think that the plinth that Abel Heywood is leaning on must be a structural feature. The marble statues in Albert Square all have them (Albert has a cape which serves a similar function, I think) but the bronze statues don't.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

I've been seeing somebody else...

...well, working on a side project, as it happens. I'm sure my army of loyal readers will both be able to forgive me for this flittiness. I'd said that I'd come up with a list of fun things to do for free for a friend who was feeling glum, but the list grew and grew and grew, and it's now taken on a life of its own.

It can be found at

It's upside down, just like a regular blog, but the sidebar should make it pretty easy to navigate - there'll only be ten posts, if all goes to plan.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Start date

The start date for my new job has been confirmed as 27th May. Finally!

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Scootabout Sunday

Today I visited these places:

The Olive Press, Withington
Fuel, Withington
Unicorn Grocery, Chorlton
The Marble Beer House, Chorlton
Dulcimer, Chorlton
The Polar Bar, Chorlton
The Railway, West Didsbury

I ate at three of those places. I drank beer at three of them. I drank a G&T at another of them. Clare came to all but one of them. The best one was The Marble Beer House.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Polytechnic Clam

Tom and I went to see Polytechnic at Chorlton Irish on Friday. Tom’s a drum and bass head first and foremost, and has gotten into guitar music reasonably recently. This night at the Irish is very trendy, in a way that means pork-pie hats and facial hair for the guys, and Alice bands and hair-grips for the girls. He didn’t feel particularly comfortable. It’s funny how an ‘alternative’ crowd can be so homogenous.

I met a beautiful girl called Helen, who works near me, and is also studying for a Masters in textiles. She was articulate, intelligent, and very indie. But I clammed up, and didn’t know what to say. When the band started, she edged away, and I didn’t see her again that evening. I want to have a look for her on Facebook, but I got the vibe that she wouldn’t be that interested.

Maybe I’m not indie enough to appeal to the kind of girl that I fancy. Maybe I should buy some new shoes. Brown shoes.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Imaginary girlfriend

The formal offer of employment from my new job came today by email, so I formally handed in my notice shortly afterwards. It was a mild anticlimax, but it felt good to have put the wheels into motion. A little later, there was a meeting scheduled about how things would run next year. In advance of it, I was asked into the office of one of the senior managers in the team. He started to explain how the job I’m leaving is going to change quite drastically: more publicity and PR; less data handling; increased front-line involvement with communities; and much less time behind a desk. Whilst he didn’t say so directly, he was heavily suggesting that the work of my job would change in such a way that I’d find it much more rewarding than I do at present.

I felt confused, and a little angry. The impression I got was that if I hadn’t have handed in my notice, then the job wouldn’t have been redesigned. I felt I’d been mismanaged, as the changes that were made, if needed, should have been spotted and acted upon before now. I felt undervalued, in that I wasn’t asked about the proposed changes, even though they were to a job that I was doing. I felt really angry that they’d waited until I’d said I was leaving before they set about addressing how shit my job is. I felt even angrier that they’ve made it quite a good job. I feel like I’d planned to leave a party, and, as I’d put my coat on, the music started to get better. I feel like I’d planned to break up with an imaginary girlfriend, only for her to appear at the door that day looking drop dead gorgeous.

I was subjected to a barrage of bodily noises during that meeting, and it really distracted me. On one side of me, there was a guy with a gurgling tummy and a consistent accompanying refrain of “Excuse me,” or “Pardon me.” I didn’t particularly mind, except that every word that the gurgler said in the meeting was in response to his rumbling gut. Lunchtime meetings suck. One the other side of me, one of the attendees made it her business to communicate her agreement with the speaker with a loud “MMMmmmm!” or a “Yes, yes,” or a slow groan. The more she agreed, the more often she groaned. The more often she groaned, the more sexual it sounded, like an office-based When Harry Met Sally. It was gross, and it really put me off. I’m glad I’m leaving.

I quite like some of the work that my job involves, but I don’t like my working conditions, which I express by saying, “I don’t like my job.” Even though the work of my job is going to change, my working conditions won’t. So I’m still getting out as soon as I can.

The imaginary girlfriend still gets the boot too.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Negotiations and Milk thefts

My new boss called today to negotiate the new salary for my new job. His approach was very direct. “You’ve asked for the middle of the salary range, which is fair given what you’re on now, so I’m happy to offer you the job at that wage. What do you think?” We agreed.

My current job has a labelling-is-nine-tenths-of-the-law system of fridge security. It isn’t secure. My small team buy milk in larger bottles than anybody else, which seems to encourage theft. “They won’t notice, stealing some won’t hurt.” Paranoia, guilt and shame are the tools with which we intend to fight this theft. Oh, and Sharpie markers.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Southport Snapshot Showdown

Paul, Eileen and I went to Southport to take some photos. Organised fun was preferred, as always, so we set ourselves a challenge. Take two photos each that pertain to the following subjects:


*"Help" meaning "assist" or "assistance," rather than "Shit! Help me!"
** "Wind" as in "the wind blows" not "wind-up wristwatch."

Here are my twelve snaps.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Shakespeare Mafiosi

This came up when playing a spot of mafia on IRC last night.

10.31 USERNAME: Yorick: So are we playing mafia or what?

10.31 USERNAME: Vertice: I was once pretty close to someone called Yorick

10.31 USERNAME: Yorick: Here we go…

10.31 USERNAME: JDSpeeder: I knew him well

10.31 USERNAME: jman: I knew him well

10.31 USERNAME: Yorick: You knew him well

10.32 USERNAME: Vertice: He was a transvestite

10.32 USERNAME: Yorick: --- wtf?

10.33 USERNAME: Vertice: A lass

10.32 USERNAME: Yorick: fnarrr!

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Slow burner

In January I applied for a new job. After what felt like a pretty good interview, I was gutted to be told that I was appointable, but not the best candidate for the job. I was first reserve. I assumed that was the equivalent to going on a date with someone, and for them to say at the end that they liked you but only as friend - an okay outcome, but not the desired one.

Today I got an email from the head of the interview panel asking me if I was still interested in the role. Ten weeks down the line, and out of nowhere an offer of a new job. What a massive surprise, and what a welcome one too. I'm meeting someone from that team tomorrow to have an informal chat about the role, but I'm 95% certain that I'm going to take it.

I feel really excited - especially as the field I'd be moving into is much more closely related to the environmental side of things, which is where I'd like to end up in the near future.


When I’m having a dull day, I feel like this.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

More Padmore

Ed’s birthday party was excellent. Ozzie picked up a curry for the fifteen guests before the game. We all crammed into the lounge and watched the Liverpool Arsenal match, which was an excellent game. Ed opened some celebratory champagne afterwards, and we sat around drinking and talking into the early hours. The very early hours, I got home at 2am. (This post is backdated. Most of them are.) Ed and Thom’s friends are such pleasant people, Lee in particular is a gem.

Thom and his flatmate Owen support different football teams. To ensure that cordial relations between them persist after their teams have played each another, they’ve informally agreed a non-aggression pact. Only the supporter of the losing team can initiate a conversation about the match. It’s a mature and diplomatic arrangement, by which I’m very impressed. Owen didn’t come to the birthday party, a mature and diplomatic decision on his part.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Pip and Clare

I met Pip for lunch today. We went underground at the Pop Boutique, and the food was great. Pip said that she isn’t going to be able to see me as much as she has before. This is because her boyfriend doesn’t like Pip and I spending time together because of our history – we went out for six weeks a year ago. She doesn’t want to hurt his feelings. She thought she should explain why we wouldn’t be hanging out.

I felt upset.

I met Clare for six pints straight after work this evening. We went to the Briton’s Protection and Solomon Grundy’s, and the beer was soothing. Clare said that she thought Pip valued my friendship more than that, and that Pip was handling it in the wrong way. This is because Clare always supports me because of our history – we lived together for eighteen months two years ago. She’s doesn’t toil to read my feelings. She thought she should explain that we could always hang out.

I felt better.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Weekend free association

gay bar let down friday night no burlesque home truths home lies mum missed party disliked naked in the rain blue pearl alan moustache no stalling second clutch control ten pounds first time charity pip moan nothing bought liverpool arsenal 1-1 padmore rum cherry coke sleep woody moan old friends changing interesting revelation about the past snow fizzing on my tongue home walk brass eye paedogeddon ashley no glasto fry up peveril snow photos shit sunday lunch cake exploded in oven wine eileen orienteering wine overall w/e quality friday 2/10 saturday 4/10 sunday 7/10

Peveril of the Peak

Saturday, 5 April 2008

In the Mood For Love

In a moment eerily reminiscent of the Wong Kar-Wai film, I spent five minutes last night talking to a young lady who I developed a crush on when she worked behind the bar at my local. We were talking about the way that, in her new bar job, she has gotten quite good at giving overly amorous customers scathing put-downs. She asked me to 'test her' - to give her a chat-up line for her to demonstrate her proficiency at batting them away. Does she know that I like her? I think I've made it pretty obvious. So was she playing with me? Was it a twisted sort of flirting?

I want a hole in the wall that I can fill up with secrets.


UPDATE 06-04-08:

1. I found my hole in the wall, up by the Peveril of the Peak.

2. It's stupid and unfair for me to be angry about the incident above. I've known for three months that the person I've got a crush on isn't available - in fact, she's got a boyfriend, and she's really happy with him. I'm far too cowardly to seek out a new target for my affection - it's so much easier to put energy into something that's never going to come off than to invest in something that might fail, because at least I know the outcome of running down the dead end. I wasn't being toyed with, I was being given an gentle reminder by my crush that she isn't really that into me and I should be grateful for the delicacy of the message, rather than angry at its content. Why have an unreachable dream? Because at least I know how it'll turn out.

A moment of realisation

To realise that something that you want is unreachable is an awful feeling.

Tonight I went out to a bar with a group of people that I've wanted to befriend for an age. Collectively, they are or were bar staff from my local. One of them is someone I've had a big old crush on for quite a long time. Maybe it was because I was the only bloke in the group (poor me, surrounded by twelve glamorous young women), maybe it was because I was the only sober one amongst drunks (I have a driving lesson in the morning), maybe it was because they were dressed to the nines heading for a burlesque night and I looked like some mid nineties dogshit indie band bass player in my tracksuit top, check shirt, jeans and trainers - but as I left I knew that I would never be part of that world. I never could. As I said goodnight, it hit me.

Our dreams are worth nothing unless we dare to chase them.

But what is the value of chasing something that can't be caught? When should I dare to let go of an impossible dream?

Friday, 4 April 2008


Out of my window today, lovely

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Rolls and Royce

Rolls and Royce met at the Midland Hotel in Manchester. There's a terrible sculpture inside the porch of this grand building. Considering that Rolls Royce is the epitome of slick engineering, the sculpture seems oddly shoddy. Beardy's eyes don't point in the same direction. They're not even looking at each other.

Is the sculptor:

a) trying to suggest Rolls and Royce didn't always see eye to eye

b) making an artistic point by subverting the concept of the looker and the look, a la Lacan

c) rubbish

Answers on a postcard please.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Coachloads of ideas

I spent an hour talking to a careers coach from Learn Direct this evening, and it was enormously helpful. I knew that I wanted to move into a career that was centred on the outdoors, but I wasn’t sure how to finds out more about it. My coach was very good at asking the right questions, and then pointing me in the right direction to help me to find my own answers to them. I’d loosely put together a plan in my head, and my coach helped me to put some flesh on its bones.

1 Research

- find out what types of employment opportunities exist in my sector, and of those which appeal to me, and discovering the specific requirements and person specifications of those jobs
- look into relevant local volunteering opportunities in the sector
- look into appropriate courses and other training that are relevant to those jobs

2 Resources

- save money to pay for the cost of courses and other associated expenditure
- devote time to volunteering, researching and studying around the subject
- specifically, save enough to learn to drive, and to get a car, and to cover other associated costs

3 Skills

- driving, which is vital
- GIS, (through work, if possible)
- environmental science level 1 or 2 OU course or courses
- through volunteering / short courses, job specific skills (eg dry stone walling)

4 Job Search

- this remains the loosest area of the plan, which makes sense because it should be fluid and open-ended until I’ve got a specific idea of what I want to do

I’d recommend Learn Direct to anybody. The number is 0800 100 900. I feel invigorated, enthused and excited about changing jobs. Feeling like I’m going somewhere makes every drab day at my desk more bearable.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Antarctic Animals

I was directed towards an awesome slideshow of animals found in the Antarctic by the wonderful Boing Boing site. I especially like the starfish, whose crenulated edges remind me of some of the dumplings at the New Hong Kong, my favourite Friday dim sum diner.

This isn’t an April Fool’s gag either.