Saturday, 31 January 2009

Day two of a three day binge

The severity of my hangover demanded that I bandage on a fry-up with brutal urgency. I’d braved the mystery of the meat slices at the Chorlton Café before, so I figured I’d opt for the vege breakfast to try it out too. The fried bread was heavy-duty, but otherwise it hit the spot. The rougher the hangover, the rougher the breakfast solution, so they say.

I bumped into Chaw’s friend that I’d watched the football with once or twice on the way home. Unfortunately, I didn’t remember his name.

“Are you watching the United game later on DTRMCR?”
“Erm… yes, I think…mate. Are you?”
“Yes, somewhere round here. Do you want to meet up?”
“Okay er… mate…”
“Do you want to take my number?”

I gave him my phone to put the number in. He didn’t put in his name. The fucker was testing me. I smiled, and just put “Chaw’s Friend.” As soon as I got home, I texted Dunk, who thankfully was able to rescue me. Phew! Watching the football with John, as it happens, was a much better experience than I’d imagined. I always found him a bit smug, but once we got talking, it wasn’t as bad. His family are from Gleadless in Sheffield. I warmed to him by the third pint.

Hi remember me? I’m your hangover! Bleugh! It felt lethargic, so I went for a cider instead of a lager. The sugar pepped me up. If anything, it pepped me up too much. It was Pervy’s birthday, and – despite the fact that Sonicka was encouraging me – I fear that my bodypopping could have been out of place in the Met. I had a brilliant evening with Liz, her housemates, and some of her Uni friends. Lucinda’s hair was outstanding. She and I had an interesting chat in the garden after the pub had closed. I didn’t learn anything new from it, but it was important nonetheless.

Friday, 30 January 2009

Work and West

I don’t really like my work nights out. There’s something about them that is inescapably un-classy. The price of every round is the topic of conversation for at least half of the depth of the glasses it’s paid for. And when the glasses are half-empty (for in this company, they’re rarely half-full), and the bubbles of chat can’t cling to the sides of what we have in common, the whole party suddenly seems quite flat. We went to the Rain Bar. I had four beers pretty quickly, and got out as early as possible.

After my second Wilmslow Road bus of the week, I met Liz strolling around the corner just as I arrived at the Railway. We hello-ed, and sat down for a drink. Onwards, to Folk, the former Deli on Burton Road, and then Silver Apples, the former West, and beyond to The Drawing Room. Of the current version of West Didsbury Wanky-opoly, we were only The Metropolitan away from being able to build a whole chain of hotels. I love West Didsbury, don’t get me wrong, and its wankiness is one of the reasons why. And after all that booze, what’s not to like?

Thursday, 29 January 2009

There are places I remember…

I went round after work to help Pip with an application form for a new job. Catching the Wilmslow Road bus rather than the Chorlton bus felt strange – familiar, but not quite right at the same time. It isn’t that long since I rode that route twice a day. I struggled to think of when I was last at Pippa’s house – apart from delivering her Christmas card – was it when I first met Bruce? Did we eat a cheesecake that day? Did we go to the Friendship? Most of the form was covered by what we’d written before, so it didn’t take too long. Afterwards Pip drove me back through West Didsbury, past my old house, and past hers too.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009


Ryan came to look at the spare room. He's a vegan, and works in law that's related to immigration. Liz popped over around the same sort of time, and we were quick to knock up some joke about her being a spy because of her work. He liked the room, Becky liked him, and I liked him too, so I texted him from the pub later on to tell him that we'd love it if he moved in. He texted the weirdlord. So it's all go, fingers crossed!

Liz and I bumped into her friend Maria at Pi. We waited longer than we expected to for our food and ended up with a free beer with the meal. So much for a quiet couple of beers, eh?

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Jacqui and Sam

I love Sam, and I love Jacqui. Jacqui and Sam were my last-but-one and my last-but-two bosses at work, and I got on with them better than anybody else I've ever worked with. Well, there's Tracy, Robbie, Tariq, Liz Vaughan... but Jacqui and Sam are up there on the hit-list certainly. We went to the Marble Beer House up the road, and it was brilliant. We chatted about how poor my current boss is, and about how bad my last boss (their current boss) is now, and argued about whether she'd got worse since I'd left. I was sad to learn that Jacqui's leaving Chorlton, and smiled at the irony of circumstance which unfolded: she's moving just down the road from the house I was going to move into in Levenshulme. Weird huh?

Monday, 26 January 2009

A lamp?

My landlord texted. We've got someone viewing the spare room on Wednesday. Can I show him round? Yes, of course I can.

"Super thanks DTRMCR. I might bring a lamp round to brighten up the room and make it more appealing."

What? How about a carpet instead. Or a decent bed. He's putting a lot of faith in the quality of this lamp. Unless the lamp is a pretty fucking special lamp, his faith is sadly misplaced.

I marvel at how his tiny mind works.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

What a good Sunday!

Yet another shocking hangover greeted me this morning. Dr Jim and I enjoyed scrambled eggs, then went for a nice, gentle walk down Beech Rd, past Chorlton Ees and along the Mersey to Chorlton Water Park. I chose to wear my trainers for the walk, even though I’d worn my walking boots for the night out. How stupid! Avoiding puddles because of the wrong shoes isn’t really in keeping with the spirit of a country walk.

The Southern Cemetery is vast, with different areas reserved for different faiths. We looked at grand Victorian constructions, like the grave of John Rylands and his wife, and we looked at headstones smaller than a cereal packet, simply labelled with a name. We saw Polish graves, Turkish graves, graves of soliders, pilots, and sailors. We pieced together family stories. The graves in the Jewish section almost without exception listed not only who was resting beneath them, but also who had survived to mourn each grave’s occupant. One husband and his wife were separated in death by ten years. The wife, the first to die, was “deeply mourned by her husband, son, daughters and friends.” The husband was “deeply mourned by his son, daughters, daughter-in-law, sons-in-law, grandchildren and many friends.” In that ten years without her, he had seen all of his children marry, and had known at least two grandchildren. But without the wife he cared for so dearly. Bittersweet. So it goes.

Another grave seemed to tell an interesting tale. It was the last resting place of one man and his two wives. He was born in 1898, and died in 1955. The first wife was born in 1902, and died in the early 1970s. The second wife was born in 1936, and died in the mid-1990s. He lived to the age of fifty-seven, the first wife to around seventy, and the second wife to around sixty. He was four years older than his first wife, and thirty-eight years older than his second wide. His second wife was only nineteen years old when he died. How long had they been married at this point? Three years? Perhaps even less. How did the first wife feel about the second? What was the relationship between these women like, who were separated by thirty years, but bound together by one man so strongly that they were both buried with him? Did his first wife wipe away the tears of his second on the day that he died? Did they spend time together, even as the second wife grew into a woman, and the first grew into an older woman? Did the second wife help to bury the first, throwing a second handful of dirt into the grave her husband occupied, fifteen years after the first, the very grave that she would go on to rest in herself?

After the football in the Famous Trevor Arms, I went to the Cornerhouse to meet Liz and to drop Jim off at the station. I was glad to see him and Liz cross paths again. They got on so well last time he was here. That feels like a very long time ago now. So much has happened since then, I thought, looking at them both. It was brilliant to spend the whole weekend with this old friend. And I was looking forward to ending my weekend with Liz.

We had a lovely evening. We ate at Pearl City, then watch The Wrestler at the Cornerhouse, which was sad, funny, sad, uplifting, sad and heart-breaking at moments throughout. Afterward Liz drove us home.

Friday, 23 January 2009


Last week’s after work pints went so well that we decided to make it a regular thing. On Thursday, so as to broaden the scope of the attendees, I’d written the following notice…

Very Important Notice!
The next meeting of the Friday Pint After Work Club* will take place on Friday 23rd January at the Lass O’Gowrie from half past four onwards

*The Friday Pint After Work Club has no membership fee, constitution, rules or aim, other than encouraging people to have a social pint or two after work on a Friday. There’s no need to book, and no form to fill in. Just come to the pub.

…and I’d stuck it up in a few strategic locations around the building. When I arrived today, there had been a few mumbles about it. One person had put up another notice by mine that said, “Who are you? Do I need to wear a red rose in my lapel?” Someone else had complained about the inherent sexism of asking somebody to come out for a manly pint rather than a gender neutral drink. Seriously. The same complainant had, it turned out, moaned about how much notice was given, and had said that it would “never last,” until her team were free to attend. Imagine living with such a negative worldview! I felt quite sorry for them.

Dr Jim breezed into the Lass, looking very well. We had a couple more beers then headed out towards the Winter Ales Festival. The queue was enormous, over an hour, said the warden. No thanks! To Sinclairs! To the Wellington! To a 16oz Aberdeen Angus Burger for a tenner! And then home, listening in rapt silence to a Radio 4 documentary about the American Civil War in the back of the cab.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Objects in the rear view mirror

Becky had some bad news about the flat she was going to buy which means that the deal might fall through. It’s complicated, but she might end up staying in the house. Would I have chosen the house if I’d known that was the case? Probably. And I was told she was moving out in good faith, not as a trick! I listened to Becky explain her worries, and tried to offer what support I could. Later on, Kate came round for dinner. We had a mushroom stir-fry, a pear tart, and four bottles of wine. Her photos from Budapest are amazing - the memorial to the Jews killed on the side of the Danube especially touched me: cast iron shoes stretching along the bank. It was overwhelmingly sad. We compared the differences in artwork between the Meat Loaf albums Bat Out Of Hell and Bat Out Of Hell II, Back Into Hell. When Becky came back from capoeira, she joined us for a slice of pear tart and a glass of wine. Becky has really thawed out lately – I suppose we know each other much better now.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Obama’s Coronation

I left work early to get home in time for the inauguration of the next President of the United States of America. Barack Obama is so cool! He strolled to the platform, looking relaxed and at ease. He was sworn in, without any major problems, and then he gave his address. The speech was ace. I hung on every word. Becky seemed quite beat when she came back from work, so I made her a cup of tea and offered out some biscuits. We chatted for a while about how excited we both were about Obama, and what he could mean for the world.

Later on Liz came round for tea, and we watched the world change over tortilla chips and chicken fajitas. The parade was slow, but thrilling at the same time. Twice along the way, the new President and his beautiful wife got out of their car and waved to the crowd. They even wave in cool way! I felt very optimistic.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Holly Wong, 9, knows the truth.

Today was, so the papers said, the most depressing day of the year. Coincidentally, as a good way to tackle this, Louise and I had half-planned a cultural outing. We discussed it last week.

“Would you like to go and see this exhibition at Urbis on Monday?”
“Isn’t Urbis closed on a Monday Louise?”
“No, no it isn’t – I’ve checked the website.”
“You’re certain?”
“Yes. 100%”

We got there. Closed. I gave Louise a look. She knew exactly what it meant.

Later on, Dunk invited me round to his for the Liverpool derby. I thought I’d pick up some beers from Carrington’s. Closed. What is it with Mondays? The game was okay, a 1-1 draw that didn’t make either team look particularly good. Dunk showed me this brilliant article (click here) from the International Herald Tribune that collected children’s advice to Barack Obama following his election. Charming stuff. My winner is Holly Wong, aged 9, from San Francisco, who wrote…

Dear President/Mr. Obama,

The best thing about living in the White House would be running around like a maniac. The thing I would like least is the work.

- Holly Wong, age 9, San Francisco

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Weirdlord and Bruce

My landlord is weird. He arranged a viewing for the downstairs room, so I made sure that I was going to be in to meet the person. Fifteen minutes before the person arrived, there was a knock at the door. The landlord.

“Hello DTRMCR.”
“Hello Ben. I’m a bit surprised to see you here.”
“Why’s that?”
“Well, I said that I’d happily show around any prospective tenants.”
“Really DTRMCR? That’s unusual…”
“In my experience, that’s pretty standard. When I was looking at houses, I wanted to meet the people that I might end up living with, as well as see the house. And I wanted to ask questions that I wouldn’t ask the landlord.”
“Like questions about how good the landlord is. For example.”
“Oh… oh… right. Well if you’re happy to show people around, DTRMCR, then that’s great. I’d really appreciate that.”
“No problem.”
“Right, well I’ll just hoover this room out and get off, and you can show Bruce around.”

So Ben scurried into the downstairs front room and he turned on the hoover. It was 4.50 at this point. I read the paper. Hoover hoover hoover. Paper paper paper. Tick tick tick. 4.55. It’s a smallish room. It doesn’t have a carpet. What was taking so long? Hoover hoover hoover. Read read read. Tick tick tick. Moment. Of. Realisation. Ben was stalling so that he could show the person round the house. Ben had said yes, but then he had gone and acted in entirely the opposite fashion. What a dick! Knock knock knock!

“Oh, it looks like they’re here. I’ll show Bruce round, and you can show the next guy round okay?”

Thanks Ben, you sneaky liar. So Ben showed Bruce around the house, and I sat in the living room with the paper. Bruce was 38 years old. Fully ten years older than me. Bruce likes television, and has lived at home in Aberdeen with his parents for the last year. He’s unemployed. Ben was like an uncool mate all the way through the chat. He bigged up Chorlton despite not really knowing what he was talking about.

“Chorlton has its own folk bar, you know. You see some real characters in there!”

Dulcimer is just a bar, you dick, not some mystical realm of elves, lutes and lyres. I couldn’t wait for the conversation to end. It didn’t. Knock knock knock! The second guy arrived. Bruce left. Ben looked at me. I looked back sternly. He went to answer the door. There were voices down the corridor, I think I heard them say…

“Hi, I’m the landlord. I’m just on my way out, actually, so DTRMCR will show you round.”

At last!

Later on Bruce called. Ben hadn’t actually shown him the kitchen. Sheesh!

Friday, 16 January 2009

Post-work pints

For the first time since I’ve worked in my job, a gathering of more than two people went for impromptu post-work pints this evening. Mike, Lindsay, Jenny and I slipped downstairs to the pub under our office, and had a quick couple of drinks and a chat. We talked broadly about Gaza, about shopping, about work. I found out about “Oh Baby” Barry from downstairs, and spilled the beans about the Mystery Can challenge I’m doing with Steve. I was impressed to find out that one of my colleagues has been eschewing supermarket shopping for more than a year, preferring local shops all the way. Good effort!

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

Danny Boyle’s films and I have an odd relationship. I loved Shallow Grave and Trainspotting, but I wasn’t that impressed by either a Life Less Ordinary or The Beach. I enjoyed 28 Days Later, but I loathed Millions. Most of all I loathed Millions - its sugariness stuck to the roof of my mouth. So when Slumdog Millionaire’s bus advertising campaign described it as “the feel-good film of the decade,” my heart didn’t exactly race. Not for me, I thought, not that film.

Che wasn’t showing in the 6pm slot at the Cornerhouse, so Liz and I considered our options: The Reader, starring Kate Winslet or Slumdog Millionaire, by Danny Boyle. I was all for the erotic psycho-drama*, but Liz was more in the mood for the feel-good film. Slumdog it was.

Wow! I was really impressed. I liked story and I enjoyed the way in which it was told. I thought of City of God, only told with the interrogation structure of The Usual Suspects. The story was a feel-good story, but not in a schmaltzy way. The poverty and brutality of the slums, and the savagery of some of the criminals were a tangy pickle that offset the cheesiness of the central premise, and led to a balanced flavour overall. I loved the look of the film, and its music. I loved its acting, in particular Anil Kapoor as the gameshow host. But most of all I loved the story. Excellently written – well done Simon Beaufoy! – and superbly told - well done Danny Boyle!

After the film, we went to Kro2 for some food, some wine, and an acoustic guitar duo serenade. I think next time I go to Kro2, I’m going to have the ribs that decorated the plate of our neighbour. I had massive dinner envy. We finished at the Railway, passing through Withington on the way. Oh Withington, old friend! When had I been there last? Well, last Saturday for the Liverpool match, as it happens. But it felt like I’d been away longer. A lot happens in a month, I guess.

*A friend later told me, “Kate Winslet spends about half the film [The Reader] with her tits out.” Delicious as that sounds, I’m still glad we chose the film we did.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Another heart attack

My dad called today. He's had another heart attack. He came off the blood-thinning tablets a couple of months ago, and the stent couldn't handle it. They've upgraded his stent now, and put him back on the drugs. It was on Monday, and he's home now.

He seemed oddly chipper about the whole thing, which made it quite difficult to guage my own feelings - he didn't really exhibit many. I don't quite know how I feel yet. It might take a little time to sink in.

The strangest thing is that on Monday I wrote a letter to Zoe, an old friend who I didn't manage to catch up with over Christmas. In the letter, I wrote, "my dad hasn't suffered any relapse of the heart trouble that he went through this time last year." I wrote it on the day of his heart attack. Erie, huh?

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Mystery Can - the challenge is laid out

January 13 at 11:01pm

Hello mate,

I saw this online, and thought it was stupid, so I want to copy it.

I need to find another numbskull who'll be brave enough to eat anything I throw at him, and imaginative enough to make it interesting at my end too. You're witty and articulate, and you've got a cameraphone, so you could be relied on to keep a good and humourous record of your culinary journey.

What do you say? Fancy it?


Steven Cook
January 13 at 11:18pm

Yeah fuck it, that looks like a laugh!

So same rules as them? or as we aint veggies are we going to allow meat? (No pet food obviously!) wht you wanna do? How long do you want to collect the stuff and what week to eat it? I'm away the 5-8th of feb and the 20-22 of feb, maybe first week in March? Give us a bit of time to collect stuff?

It's on. First week of March. Cook, eat my scum!

Letter stuffing

This amazing machine folded and enveloped 450 letters for me today, in the space of about fifteen minutes. Brilliant!

Monday, 12 January 2009

Emma H-S

Avid readers will remember that I almost moved into a house in Levenshulme back in November. It fell through, as you're bound to recollect. Emma, whose house it was, had said that we should hang out even though we weren't going to live together. And tonight we did.

We arranged to meet in the foyer of Morrison's, as it was "more informal," then scooted up to Pi for a pint. Emma recommended five films that I ought to watch. They were:

1 - The Edukators
2 - Two Days in Paris
3 - The Science of Sleep
4 - Delicatessen
5 - The Shining

I let her borrow The Dark Knight. I think she came out on top, but not to worry. Emma has moved to West Didsbury, so I'm sure I'll see her around and about. The Chorlton wave of new friends continues.

“You really need to work on your presentation skills.”

My team has been asked to deliver a presentation at a conference in London. My boss isn’t very warm towards the theoretical background that the conference is themed around; as an established expert in her field, she can afford to shrug off approaches she doesn’t agree with. I could see she wasn’t keen on going.

“I could go and do the presentation.”
“If you’re not that into [that theory], and don’t want to spend time on it, I can go instead. If the [national authority in our field] think [that theory] is really important, we should do something.”
“I think you really need to work on your presentation skills.”

Ouch! What a sharp comment! She could tell that I was shocked, and she backtracked clumsily. But the damage was done. The severity of her words stung me. I don’t think my boss has ever seen me giving a presentation, as it happens, which means that she just thinks I’m not good enough, rather than knowing from experience.

How I feel about work: two steps forward, one step back.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Cellar time!

It was too cold to dig, so Durex postponed our fixture. I got on with clearing out the cellar. It was a tip, full of old cardboard and bits of polystyrene that once kept stereos secure. I found letters dating back to 2004, and empty Space Raiders boxes. It took a few hours, but it was totally worth the effort. I managed to get most of the junk into one half of the cellar, and to leave the other half quite pleasant. It’s a good place to store the chairs that go with the new table.

Liz picked me up from the Vic after the deathly-dull Stoke Liverpool game, and drove round to my house for tea. We had mushroom and chicken risotto, served with lashings and lashings of white wine, then cheesecake, and later crackers, cheese and port. The table performed well on its debut, and then we settled down with “The World is Not Enough.” What a ludicrously bad film, but that isn’t important; I really enjoyed myself. I’ve missed Liz so much in the last couple of months, so it was great just to spend time together. James wasn’t the only Bond I enjoyed tonight.

Friday, 9 January 2009

What a good day! Two reasons!

1 – I bought a table! A folding dining table! With four chairs! For forty-five pounds! The couple I bought it from delivered it! It’s lush!

2 – My boss said she’d like to send me on a course to do with research methods! Yes! So the job that I’ve not much enjoyed for a while might be going to get me qualified in something? Hooray!

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Salford Mists

I met some really nice people from downstairs on my brilliant GIS course. Work took a turn for the better today as a result. Then I met Paul in the King's Arms for a pint. He seems well, if you exclude his toe. Later Becky and I watched Fellowship of the Ring in the lounge, my first movie in the new flat. It was good to hang out with her.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009


I exchanged a volley of texts with Guardi.

Guardi: Where’s my mention in your blog bor?
DTRMCR: Under June probably mate, I’ve not seen much of you really
Guardi: I saw you at new years
DTRMCR: I found a photo with you in it, you’ll be on later on
Guardi: Yer I better and you better say something nice

Tuesday, 6 January 2009


So much has happened since Liz and I last saw each other, good things, tough things, fun things and things we’d never have imagined. We went to the Lass, to Kro2, to Odder, and we talked and talked and talked. To me it felt very normal, very natural, to sit together in a pub, talking over a drink. We drank rather a lot, which felt quite normal too. It was lovely to catch up.

Monday, 5 January 2009

Jam St Café

I woke up to the sound of Lump by PUSA on Rock Radio, and heard the same song last thing before leaving Pi. Kate and I went to the Jam St Café for something to eat. The offer for Monday and Tuesday nights is two main courses and a bottle of house wine for £22, which we snapped up. The salad included orange and rocket, which went together very well. Liz texted. We’re meeting tomorrow, and I’m really looking forward to it.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Pumpkin risotto with crispy sage

Hugh's Recipe


For the pumpkin risotto

570ml/1 pint vegetable or chicken stock
1 small onion, chopped
12 fresh sage leaves, chopped finely
2 tbsp olive oil
170g/6oz arborio (risotto) rice
250g/9oz pumpkin or butternut squash, diced small
50g/2oz butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the crispy sage

12-16 fresh sage leaves
2 tbsp sunflower oil

For serving

piece fresh parmesan, or vegetarian parmesan-style grating cheese


1. Heat the stock until almost boiling and then keep over a very low heat. In a separate heavy-based saucepan sweat the onion in the oil until soft but not browned. Add the chopped sage and cook for a couple more minutes.

2. Add the rice and mix well for a few seconds to coat the grains with oil, then
pour in one-third of the stock and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook until almost all the stock is absorbed. Add the pumpkin or squash and a little more stock, and continue to simmer gently until the stock is absorbed.

3. From then on add more stock a little at a time, until the pumpkin is soft and the rice nicely al dente. You may not need all the stock, but the texture should be loose and creamy.

4. When the risotto is almost ready, heat the sunflower oil in a small pan and quickly fry the sage leaves until crispy - it takes a matter of seconds.

5. Stir the butter into the risotto, and season well with salt and pepper. Divide into four servings and throw a few crispy sage leaves over each portion. Bring the cheese and a grater to the table for your guests to serve themselves.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

New projects 2009

How about some new projects for 2009? Why not?

1. This diary will change your life 2009

Kate gave me this wonderful diary for Christmas. Each week has an instruction or task to follow that will make life “more interesting for you than for other, lesser people.” What a thoughtful and well-chosen gift – I love this kind of thing. Remember Challenge Tennis? My first online project of the year documents my experiences with this diary, and can be viewed here.

2. Photo 365

Take a photo every day and upload it. View it here. That’s online project two.

3. Letters

My new year’s resolution is that I will write and post a letter for every fifty text messages I receive. Online project three is a record of this resolution – of who I’ve sent letters to, and whether I’ve had any replies. I’m still sketching out the details about including their content – some letters might be very private, for example. I’m expecting to have to write and send a letter every six or seven days, so around fifty or sixty as the year goes on. Letter writing is something that I want to be good at so I’ll do it more. See here for more.