Firstly, a public service announcement:
The Saints (true to form) made a slow start after Hurricane Katrina, with owner Tom Benson initially seeming to see it as an opportunity to carry out what has long been suspected to be an ambition of his: to relocate the team in San Antonio, Texas. (For those more familiar with the British sports scene, what happened to Wimbledon FC / the Milton Keynes Dons over here is a lot more common over there, where sports teams are privately-owned franchises at the mercy of an owner's whim.)
Things have stabilised somewhat after that sticky start, however, and the team belatedly set up a Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund. I emailed them a week ago, after making my donation, to ask if they had any graphics that could be used to link to it: no reply. Still, at least it exists and at least it looks like some of the home games will be played in Baton Rouge - I sincerely hope the Superdome is demolished and replaced. How could you ever celebrate a touchdown there again, knowing what was happening on the same spot in the aftermath of the disaster?
Anyway, here's a link. With a graphic adapted by myself from their site, since they couldn't be bothered to email back. Do donate - they take PayPal.
Now, other stuff.
I think I've figured out why I'm writing so much less in this journal than I used to. It's not that I can't think of things to say - I often think 'must blog that when I get a moment'. It's because the work I'm doing at the moment involves writing. In the same way that I lost the enthusiasm for browsing through shops while I was working in one, I can't really find a lot of fun in carefully-honed prose here when I'm doing it at work - even if it is only two days a week. Which is a shame. On the plus side, www.andthenhesaid.com advances in leaps and bounds, after stalling for more than three years while I worked on maintaining people's websites for them. Go figure.
I've been going to the gym most days, and enjoying it. Already I've noticeably lost a few inches, which is good. And I don't come back completely wrecked, unlike how I used to be wiped out for hours after I went running. We've also joined a dance class there, as astrofiammante brilliantly recounts. And I must remember to write a post about it all, provisionally entitled changing room buttocks and dance class Jezebels.
Actually, I fear a mid-life crisis may have visited me a few years early - not only have I joined a gym and bought an iPod, I have also been hoovering up the albums on the Mercury Prize shortlist. Surely there's no hope when you start getting into pop music at my age? (Actually, there's probably no hope when you still use phrases like 'pop music' - I'll be calling people 'daddio' next.)
Anyway, for what it's worth, here's my capsule reviews of the ones I've bought:
- Employment, Kaiser Chiefs
- Thumping great wodge of catchy noise - very difficult to avoid jumping up and down to, which is embarrassing on the Tube. Reminds me of when the Wonder Stuff first appeared. Brilliant.
- The Magic Numbers, The Magic Numbers
- A bit of a disappointment - a couple of strong songs but the rest start to sound the same and go on forever. Everything's written by the singer - I predict future court cases over royalties.
- Eye to the Telescope, KT Tunstall
- Her performance of Black Horse and the Cherry Tree on the awards show was mesmerising, and the rest of the album is nearly - but not quite - as good. Reminds me a bit of Tracy Chapman - I wasn't surprised to hear she'd lived in the US for a while.
- Arular, M.I.A.
- I can't stop listening to this - it's a mix of so many styles, the music is sparse but assured, and the vocals & lyrics stay just on the right side of cocky. Like hearing the Soulsonic Force for the first time, with everything from Kraftwerk to bhangra thrown in for good measure - all served up with an attitude that'll be instantly familar if you live in west London.
- X&Y, Coldplay
- A self-conscious, constipated dirge of an album. Speed of Sound is a great song, but that's about as far as it goes.
- Stars of CCTV, Hard-Fi
- Constantly surprising - gives the impression it'll be music by chavs for chavs, but there's a lot more to it than that. Sounds a bit like the Clash in places. A pleasant discovery and rather catchy, but the song called Feltham is Singing Out is factually inaccurate - Feltham doesn't sing, it whinges.
Looking ahead to November, when we plan to withdraw for the entire month and spend it writing, I'm starting to flesh out the plans for my NaNoWriMo entry. (National Novel Writing Month for the uninitiated - write 50,000 words in a month by ignoring questions like quality. You can always edit them afterwards, the point is to break the mental block about getting words onto paper by not worrying about whether they're any good.)
My effort's going to be about this guy who's on his way back from a fancy dress party, see? And he rescues this girl from attack, right? Only afterwards he realises he knows her and runs off all flustered without being recognised, as you do, but the CCTV and cameraphone pictures just show this mysterious masked man in a cloak coming to the rescue and leaving without saying who he is. So suddenly there's a huge media frenzy about superheroes and costumed crime fighters and the guy thinks, hell, that was kind of fun, why not do it again? But it all goes wrong, 'cause it always does in novels, 'cause otherwise there wouldn't be any point to them, would there? And then -
Well, and then I have to sit down and actually write it. I'm torn between two possible titles - Call Me Mr Happy and I'm Here To Make You Smile. Could be fun. Could be a nightmare, of course. But it could be fun. The possibility exists, right?
And I'll try to write more here, now I know why I'm not.
The new era has begun. Or something.
I'm just back from the gym after a three-quarter hour induction by a diminutive spiky-haired dry-slope skier, followed by a half-hour session on a variety of torture machines. I may have over-sold my general level of decrepitude to him, however, as the speed he set the running machine at wouldn't have challenged a blind 95-year-old, hobbling backwards.
It actually went rather well, even though I arrived with the same sort of feeling that I normally turn up to the dentist with. There were quite a few people there, but the place is so large that there was still acres of empty space to hide in. And also, crucially, not many mirrors to be embarrassed by. So my main fear, of being noticed, didn't happen.
Actually, most of the people seemed to be there for a coffee, or were disappearing onto the golf course - because this, you see, isn't just a gym. It's a racquets and fitness spa, offering a programme for total wellness. Or some such bollocks. But around here the choice lies in one of three directions: Hampton Pool gym, full of smug marrieds and their frightful offspring: Feltham Airparks gym, which I've only ever been to for council meetings but strongly suspect is chav-central: and this place, which is posh and expensive, but also well set up, welcoming and professional. Easy decision, really.
So, something of a success then. But it appears, most unreasonably, that I have to go back and do it all again several times a week. This seems very unfair - I've paid the money, I've turned up once and sweated a bit - what more do they want from me?
Work, it would seem. And there I was hoping someone else could do that bit of it for me, while I watched and ate crisps.
- Nursed a migraine that began on Sunday and has been lurking ever since
- Bought an iPod
- Joined a health club
The health club is a scary thing, but I'm sick of being an increasingly fat bastard. Yes, I know, I have some way to go before I get anything other than excessively round, I'm not at the obese stage by a long way. I'm just a hell of a lot bigger than I want to be and it's getting worse. So on Tuesday I go have an assessment and sort out some kind of programme to go forward. I can't see myself using the squash courts or the golf course, but the gym's pretty state-of-the art and the spa looks fun - a sauna and all sorts of other stuff. The main thing is that I'll hopefully not have any motivation problems - it's so bloody expensive that with any luck that alone will get me going there even when I don't feel like it.
As a general rule, I like to waft gently through life in a pleasant sort of daze, without thinking too deeply about anything. I find this approach can generally be relied upon to reduce stress levels, although it was something of a disadvantage during my former career as a politician.
Regular readers will know that from time to time I can be a jolly deep sort of cove, fully capable of piercing analytical thought. But most of the time I prefer to write about toasters.
Today, to my increasing distress, the world has conspired to make me consider my place in the universe. Not 20 minutes ago Beloved Other Half, in a fit of high dudgeon induced by my near-terminal vagueness, demanded of me “what is the point of you?”
This was not a conundrum I felt equipped to tackle, but fortunately it was intended as a rhetorical device and I decided at once that an attempt to provide an answer would not be welcomed.
Not so the incident at lunch, when I paused over my noodles to see a hovering waiter with an unusual thorn-like thing stuck through his ear-lobe smiling encouragingly at me.
I performed a quick mental rewind, dragging the words he had just spoken up from whatever murky depths of my subconscious they were sinking into, and replayed them.
He had said: “Are you happy?”
Well, I ask you. What sort of a question is that to sling at a chap over a bowl of miso soup?
“Yes - as far as I'm aware - thank you,” was my cautious and rather startled reply, at which point he grinned broadly and bounced off to be cheerful somewhere else.
As he disappeared he fired a parting shot over his shoulder: “Oh! What a big question that was!”
Quite. It really is all too much.
Well, here we go round the bloody Mulberry Bush again - after 18 months away, I'm back working at the Royal Mail this week. Admittedly, it's only part of the week - I'm in Islington again for two days - and it may only last a week or two, but still it's going to be strange and deja vu-ish.
I hadn't realised how long it was since I last updated - I knew time was passing, but not to that extent. I've mostly been buried doing techy stuff, having finally found a content management system I can work with.
Ain't life grand?
Have got two days' work in Islington, today and tomorrow, so I'm back on the Tube for the first time since the bombings began. Will be heading into Waterloo, then to Bank via the drain, then up the Northern to Angel. Right now, taking all things into consideration, my greatest fear is the one that I normally have under these circumstances - worry about falling asleep at my desk due to an insomniac night. Not sure whether that makes me naive, stoic, delusional or practical.
It'll be good to get out of the flat and do some office-based work for a change - working from home is all very well, but you do tend to go up the walls after a while. Either that, or become the sort of recluse that shoots the postman.
A busy couple of weeks of work is now over - probably - as the project I was on seems to have collapsed, at least from our point of view. Such is life - at least most of it involved working at home for me, ideal in this weather. I'm not precious about my work, I have no problem with two weeks' worth of writing being wasted so long as I get paid, but I would object if two weeks of commuting went the same way. Even without the bombs.
Plenty of loose ends to pick up on Monday, but until then work goes on hold as we're off on a midnight rendezvous tonight, one which might tie us up for much of the weekend.
Yeah, I admit it, we're joining the middle-of-the-night bookshop queue to pick up a copy of Half Blood Prince. Have to say though, we're not terrible excited about it. Actually, we're very ho-hummish at the moment and if Beloved Other Half hadn't paid for it months ago we probably wouldn't bother.
Dunno why - maybe the bubble's burst?
You remember that bit at the end of the fifth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where the portal opens into the hell-dimension and there's these great flares of blue light and a whole load of eerie crackling noises and you think the world's about to end?
That was our kitchen earlier this evening, that was, when the grill exploded.