Monday, 30 March 2009

The Wire – On BBC2 All Week

I have posted about this great TV series before and have nothing but praise for it's gritty depiction of modern urban life in the US.

Tonight the BBC start showing Season One on BBC2 at 23:20 and then every week day night at the same time.

If you have not caught it on satellite or DVD, tune in or set your recorder – if you enjoy intelligent writing, great acting and TV that forces you to concentrate all the time while not assuming that you have the IQ of a flea then you will not be disappointed.

Saturday, 28 March 2009


Monday found me travelling by train from local big city to Newcastle Upon Tyne, one of my favourite cities in the UK. This is a work trip as it was considered more cost effective for me to travel North than have the 5 others on the course head South.

Journey was enlivened on the tube by an encounter with 4 Italian lassies who were very stereotypical; lots of volume, exaggerated hand gestures and one of them even exclaimed “Mama Mia” - luckily the carriage did no burst into spontaneous singing of the Abba song.

Hotel is fine (carefully selected as being the only one in the area with smoking bedrooms), there was almost a cluster fuck at reception when he offered me a non smoking room. Fortunately I had rung central booking the day after the reservation had been made and confirmed that a smoking room had been allocated for me.

Only hassle is that internet access from the bedroom or wi-fi comes in very expensive; £15 for 24 hours, £3 for 15 mins or £8 for an hour; I did find a pub nearby with free wi-fi but the one time I tried it there I was in the wrong part and could not get a signal.

Still I do have a view of the river and the Tyne bridge from my bedroom window, tried taking some photos through the glass but they did not come out too well.

Very pleasant 25 min walk to the office on a footpath next to the river made for a good start and end to the day – stopping at the pub on the way back for a great pint of ale and a smoke in the patio area at the front looking across the river. You can see my hotel between the 2nd and 3rd pillars of the High Bridge in this picture taken outside the pub, it also gives a feel for how steep the path up to the hotel was as the High Bridge comes in at the same level but I crossed at river level and then had to trek up the hill.

Learned a lot on the course and was impressed by my colleagues mental agility as we romped through what used to be a 3 and a half day syllabus in 2 and a half days; we then cherry picked 5 modules from another course to complete the day. Went out for a few beers and a fine Italian meal on Wednesday night with my new friends and ended the night in a bar which had this amazing stained glass object in the ceiling.

The strange looking building behind the Tyne Bridge is the Sage Gateshead which opened in 2004 and is a venue for all types of musical styles and workshops; not sure that I like the look of it but it sure stands out proudly by the river.

Sunday, 22 March 2009


The ISS has finally after 10 years reached it's maximum power capacity with the unfurling of the last set of solar panels, should make the big bird even easier to spot in the night sky.

Our one day cricket world champions are to be congratulated, pity it is not the full time professional men's side but the part time ladies team. While the men's side have been traversing the globe all winter in search of a win; finally getting one on Friday but only because the other team's management could not get the complicated formula for adjusting the winning total right – have these people never hear of spreadsheets?

Meanwhile in Cardiff the Irish rugby union team made history by achieving the grand slam – victory in all 5 matches of the six nations tournament – for the first time in 61 years.

Sunday, 15 March 2009


Thursday lunchtime I amble out of the office and pop in to a branch of my bank to hand over a cheque for £1,000 from my current account to pay my credit card bill – this is with the same bank. I am told by the young lady behind the counter that as they do not have my signature on file do I have any form of ID on me, passport or driving license? As we do not live in a police state – well not just yet but the government keep trying to nudge us in that direction – my answer is no.

WTF, it is my money going from one account to another at the same bank. Things go downhill from here, after checking with her manager she starts asking me security questions and I fail at the first fence – date of birth? Well that is not what they have on record for me I am told, now when using telephone banking over the last couple of years it has never been a problem.

The whole thing took around 15 minutes and left me feeling like a petty criminal – those fecking banks lose billions of pounds through management incompetence and treat long standing customers in a pretty shabby way.

Unless I receive an explanation and apology I will be taking my business elsewhere (already have a current account with a building society) – not closing the account though, just leaving it with £2.50 in it. That way it will cost them to administer it each year, posting out statements etc – and I will get the satisfaction of sticking it to them!

Friday, 13 March 2009


Hard to believe that I have been posting now for 18 months and I have never put one up on Frank Zappa; erudite, eccentric, humorous, opponent of censorship and organised religions, fantastic guitar player, great songwriter and all round good guy.

You can tell that I am a huge fan, but enough of my ramblings the following paragraph is a quote from an interview he did back in '68 and the video following it shows that he came “close” to his ideal.

The instrumentation of the ideal Mothers rock and roll band is two piccolos, two flutes, two bass flutes, two oboes, English horn, three bassoons, a contrabassoon, four clarinets (with the fourth player doubling on alto clarinet), bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet, soprano, alto, tenor, baritone and bass saxophones, four trumpets, four French horns, three trombones, one bass trombone, one tuba, one contrabass tuba, two harps, two keyboard men playing piano, electric piano, electric harpsichord, electric clavichord, Hammond organ, celeste, and piano bass, ten first violins, ten second violins, eight violas, six cellos, four string bass, four percussionists playing twelve timpani, chimes, gongs, field drums, bass drums, snare drums, woodblocks lion's roar, vibes, xylophone and marimba three electric guitars, one electric 12-string guitar, electric bass and electric bass guitar and two drummers at sets, plus vocalists who play tambourines. And I won't be happy until I have it. I think people are entitled to hear that kind of music live. Kids would go to concerts if they could hear music that knocked them out. If the concert halls would change to a more modern programming, they would find the place crawling with kids. Something like this won't happen overnight and I know it. But I've studied my audiences carefully enough to see that we're making some headway in that direction. Many people sit and listen to us because they pretend they can't dance to our music. That's total bull. I'm nearly an epileptic and I can make it. Those people don't sit because they enjoy the music. They're just waiting to find out if they like the music. It doesn't sound like what they've been used to hearing. They want to get their ears accustomed to it. It's not "psychedelic." I asked a nightclub owner what psychedelic music was. "It's loud out-of-tune crazy music," he told me, "You can't understand it." Our music is fairly logical.

And as a bonus here is a live version of Cosmik Debris from '73 which is double the length of the studio version at 8 minutes.

Monday, 9 March 2009


Saturday morning we went for a walk down the hill to the beach at Charmouth, the sun was trying to break through the clouds with some degree of success – although it had been shining brightly when we left. So much so that Ginge decided to take in some rays on the neighbours shed roof after wolfing down his breakfast.

The coast line around here has seen some pretty heavy losses due to land slips over the last ten years, when my friends first moved down here they were able to walk straight across here on the coastal path.

The mud at the bottom of the fall is very treacherous and my friend who volunteers for the local coast guard has had to help pull out several unwary visitors.

The landslip photos were taken from the top of this small rise.

After that it was time to head back to the house, which is outside the village and around 95m above sea level – steep walk up the village street but luckily there is a pub half way up and after a couple of restorative pints of the local brew (Palmers) we were able to complete the “ascent”.

Thanks to D for supplying photos 3 & 4.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Before & After

Have never been a big U2 fan but they have produced some nifty tunes over the years, watched a documentary about them last week which while focusing on the making of the new album also covered their back story.

Which leads us neatly to the two videos posted here, the first one is possibly their first tv appearance = good to see that Bonio's dodgy dress sense was apparent even from a young age. The second is the same song performed in what looks like the San Siro football stadium in Milan, a more polished performance but then that is hardly surprising after all those years of practice.

Off to Dorset in an hour, laptop is coming along so might post over the weekend.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Beer 119 – Young's – Special London Ale

Many years ago I came down South from the hills after graduating ro start work in the wonderfuel world of IT, I was a confirmed draught Guinness drinker and had not had a beer for several years. I had never tasted real ale before that time, my elder bro' introduced me to this fine brew and I have never looked back.

Still enjoy a good pint of the black stuff but great ales are easier to find down here. This is bottle conditioned for “a fresher taste” (according to the label) and has a light malty flavour without much hop taste coming through and could be described as an IPA; comes in at a stonking 6.4% abv and can sneak up on you as it is very easy to drink.

An American guy I was working with bought some shares in the brewery – not as an investment but to attend the Annual General Meeting which was followed by a drink as much as you like for free session at the brewery.

Monday, 2 March 2009

New Sidebar Link

Have been reading this young lady's blog for a while now and have always found good writing up there, especially enjoy her “Starship Tales “ posts; thought that it was about time I put up a link to Roberta X.

Another one of my links had not posted anything since July last year and I was starting to become concerned that she had been pushed from her blog perch by an over intrusive management. However she has returned and is in fine form; so to read some well written vitriolic rants about the crap that nurses in the NHS have to put up with from their management head on over to Nurse Anne's place.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

News & Olds

Highland council has reduced the number of snow blowers that it uses down to 5 from high of 19, and decreased the amount of rock salt that they use due to the warmer winters they have had recently. Bet they wished that they had them a couple of weeks ago when they had 3 feet of snow in two days.

Numpty is one of my favourite words and one that I frequently find a use for, turns out that I am not alone as a poll of my fellow countrymen in 2007 found it to be the favourite word of us Scots.

Talking of words scientists in Reading have been carry out research on the way words evolve in Indo European languages over time and believe that they have discovered the oldest words in the English language; I, we, two and three date back tens of thousands of years. Interesting stuff and you can read the whole story here.