Wednesday, November 30, 2005

you have to copper up if you want to get down

Soundtrack: Neil Young - Harvest Moon

Yesterday I went for leaving drinks (not my own), and when I was told it would cost me £17 for half an omelette, three chips and three small glasses of wine, I claimed I'd need to 'copper up'. This caused quite a commotion. Absolutely no one had heard the phrase 'copper up', even the other North Westerner there, although it was thought to be a quaint turn of phrase.

A google search doesn't bring back anything. Even my beloved slang dictionary has let me down. Have I created the term 'copper up'? Have I been mishearing 'cough up' all these years? To 'copper up' is to scrape together all your change to be able to afford to buy something, so it's quite different to cough up.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Queen is watching

Soundtrack: Air - The Virgin Suicides

That was a good weekend. A nice combination of the relaxing, the doing, the drinking and the cooking.

Thom was a bit impatient on Saturday and went into town, but sod that, it was my first day off, so I just stayed in bed knitting my clapotis and dying my hair (in the bathroom, not bed). It's a bit cold in our house, which is my excuse for staying in bed and not getting dressed. The clapotis is my current home project, and it's going really well. I love the yarn I'm using - Noro silk garden. Getting splinters from the yarn is particularly amusing. It's not that boring to knit as there's a rigid pattern that I need to remember every other line, so I just sit there thinking 'ooh, I'll just do row 6' and before I know it I've finished a whole pattern repeat. And I have to concur with Crazy Aunt Purl, the coloured striping is enough to keep you entertained. Just as you get to some shitty grey and you think it's time to peel a potato, a pretty pink bit starts being introduced.

I've finally got to the stage where I'm dropping stitches. It feels very naughty, yet it's not quite as gratifying as I expected. Although I haven't been splitting the yarn whilst knitting, there are lots of irritating little strands that get wrapped around the stitches, so I almost find myself ripping the yarn when trying to make a ladder. It will be worth it in the end though. I can't wait to wear it as a seasonal transition wrap!

We played a gig in Hythe, Kent on Saturday night. It was an odd venue - the British Legion. To move from the standard gig circuit in London to some seaside town cabaret club felt odd, but it was worth it for all the nuances it offered. We arrived at the venue to be greeted by a Union Jack, but the pi├Ęce de resistance was a painting of The Queen that hung over the stage. It all seemed worthwhile when we knew Her Maj was watching. I'll put photos up as I get them.

Half of Sunday was spent in bed watching Hollyoaks/keeping warm/knitting. At lunch I thought I should probably leave the pit, and so headed into Windsor to try and spend my high street vouchers. This is an impossible task though; despite Windsor being quite a sizeable town centre, it only caters for tourists or posh people. Heaven forbid I should want your bog standard Dorothy Perkins. Not that I can spend my vouchers at any decent shops anyway, it seems. I did a bit of research and found that only classy establishments such as Iceland and Ethel Austin take the vouchers.

I still managed to spend a fortune on underwear and hot chocolate, and I bought these GORGEOUS shoes from Marks + Spencer. Look! Gold hearts!

Sunday night was finished off down The Stag, revelling in the novelty of a pub being open until midnight on a Sunday, but still getting to bed by 10.30 (with an orange hot chocolate).

Friday, November 25, 2005

I hope I die before I get old

Soundtrack: Stephen Stills - Stephen Stills

More absurdity this week, but not necessarily in a good sense.

Since my uncle died, my grandad (who lives with my auntie Carole) has taken to not leaving his bed and not eating. I won't go into too much detail, as it's a long and emotional story, but he basically said he was waiting to die. Being 82, a chain smoker and suffering from emphysema doesn't seem to be helping him along, and his demanding self-pity has literally taken my aunt to breaking point. After quite a rigmarole, he's been placed in a residential home. We all think it's the best thing for him - mixing with people his own age, social events, and possibly more freedom than he had at home, if that makes sense.

My dad told me all this on the phone last night. I wasn't aware of it all, because he didn't want to worry me while I was in Berlin. So I was quite amused when he dropped into the conversation that the infamous 'Uncle Phil' had returned. Phil is an alcoholic who lives homeless in France, and I haven't seen for around 15years since my dad chased him out of our house where he ran down the front garden and hurdled the 6foot fence into the sunset. My memories of him are that he bought me a globe, and we used to play Connect 4. A few years ago he was mugged and had his passport stolen. Phil made his yearly phonecall to Carole last week, in which he found out her husband had died and he rushed straight back (via the British Embassy who had to issue him emergency access over the Channel).

So, he's back. My dad says he's been very helpful to Carole and he seems to be doing well. He's tackling his alcoholism 'I used to drink 12litres of wine a day, but now I only drink 8!', and he told my dad that he really enjoys his life. Don't we all try and achieve that? I mean enjoying life, not 8litres of wine a day. He's going in a couple of days, and said to my dad yesterday 'A loaf of bread, a bottle of wine, some cooking oil and no change from a fiver? And you wonder why I don't want to live in Britain?'.

So after my grandad's first day, my dad relayed the feedback from the residential home last night: 'He's had a full meal, a shit and shower. He's having a fag and entertaining everyone with his stories. He'll be on the karaoke next - they have more going on there than at Kirkholt Club'.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

the lurgy

Soundtrack: The Byrds - The Notorious Byrd Brothers

It's been very quiet in blogland this week. It seems everybody has come down a cold and taken time off work.

I've been under the weather since last Wednesday. I thought it would spoil Berlin, but I managed to get over it. Yet here I am, still ill. It won't blow up into enough to take the day off (and I've said before I find it hard enough to take sick days), but every morning I feel like I'm waking up with the worst hangover. And I'm also going through tonsil stone hell right now, which is just aggravating all my other symptoms.

We had our first band practice in a month on Monday, as everyone's been on holiday. By Tuesday morning I felt absolutely rotten. I'm really worried about this not sorting itself out by our gig in Hythe on Saturday. I could barely sing a note in rehearsal, or rather, I was singing worse than usual... I have lots of strepsils, tissues and homemade vegetable soup to get me better, so wish me luck. :(

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

adventures in knitting

Soundtrack: John Martyn - Solid Air

It seems John Martyn is quite a productive soundtrack to knitting. In my time-consuming secret project, I usually complete 1 row from Datchet-Staines, 1 row Staines-Twickenham and 1row Twickenham-Waterloo. Today, with the relaxing confines of a first class carriage sweeping through the foggy plains and Martyn twanging away in my ear, I managed 6rows!

In sudden contrast to the past couples of weeks, I'm having a quiet spell again. When it's like this someone really should take my visa away from me, because I only end up buying yarn. I wasn't quite so naughty this time, as 2balls were for a present, and I was sensible enough to take the 20mm needles out of my basket. My desire for a chunky moss-stitch scarf can wait.

Yellow seems to be my mum's favourite colour at the moment, so I bought a ball of Cashcotton 4ply in cream and limone. The aim is to double up the yarns and knit the cable-esque scarf in Stitch'n'Bitch Nation. I haven't used the yarn before, but it's 57% extra fine merino and 10% cashmere, so it should be lovely and snuggly. It's also machine washable which is a bonus! For myself (naughty) I bought a ball of Kid Silk Night in Starlight. Again I've bought yarn that doesn't help my metal allergy much, but I would only wear this on a night out, with it being slightly metallic and white. And this will be my first venture into the world of curly whirlie scarves!

In a Christmas present dilemma my sister's asked for some gloves. I'd love to knit her some, but I can't find any patterns that don't require a million double-pointed needles. I'd rather not have my first experience of double-points in an urgent knit-out. I have my pattern for fingerless gloves that could probably be adapted, but I just don't know where to start. And I'm so scared about the gauge issue, it may be better to buy some gloves for the time being.

Which leads me onto taking my knitting to the next level! I've been trying to find a knitting group. There's loads in London, but they're a bit of a trek home on a weeknight. I posted my request for a Berkshire one on the UKHK group, and was emailed back by a lady who runs a group in Reading on behalf of the Knitting and Crochet Guild. Saturday afternoon once a month sounds good, but I'm not entirely sure if it's the kind of knitting group I was looking for. It seems a lot more organised and planned, rather than turning up and just knitting and chatting. And while this is obviously a rewarding and educational aspect to the group, it might not always satisfy my social needs, so I don't know whether to go along. Does anyone out there have experience of knitting groups?

I'm also considering signing myself up for a New Year knitting workshop. It's proper learning of a few things I've scraped through, and it should conquer my fear of gauge! In terms of learning I need a combination of preparation and visual. I always read through a pattern first, but it's only when I see the project forming on my knitting needles that I begin to understand why certain stitches are used, and how to take the next step. So a workshop environment could be good for me.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

the x-files

Soundtrack: Electrelane - The Power Out

It's been another week of the weird and the wonderful.

You might remember my post about the John Peel obituary left on Thom's work desk... Well the strange incidents continue.

I was on a train to Preston this week, and whilst tucking into my apple and cinnamon muffin I thought I'd take a look at the onboard magazine. I open up to find the following message:

I turn to p.29 to find one of the most fabulous random acts I've ever come across!

This wonderful lad, Richard, decided to write his autobiography in the magazine. He said how he was a student who had broken up with his girlfriend of a couple of years. He's feeling better about that because he's met somebody else who has become his friend, but he thinks she is way to pretty and witty to ever consider him.

It was all very Belle & Sebastian, but it gave me the biggest smile on my face. I think I need to make an effort to leave random messages across the country, and spread the happiness myself!

Part 2 of the random incidents... Thom and I were in Berlin this weekend. Crikey, it was cold. Snow and everything! Lots of scarf inspiration too, but that's probably for another post. We came home last night and as I was trying to sleep I was thinking of all the things we didn't get to do, so I'll have to go back (when it isn't snowing).

Anyway, after walking all day on Friday, Thom and I walked into our hotel reception to find all of Architecture in Helsinki waiting around! It was the funniest double-take: look at band, look at each other, look at band. Thom went up to them to see if they were playing, and they said they were playing that night not too far away. So off we trundled to the Bastard Club in Prenzlauer Berg. It seemed rude not to see them again seeing as they were at our hotel!

I wasn't feeling too well at the gig, as I'd overdone it on the Gpoma at a Mumbai restaurant around the corner, but the band managed to clear that away. They were far better than when we saw them at the Scala on Sunday. They even performed 2 encores - the second one being a set of covers as they didn't have any songs left! After asking for requests (and denying my Dexy's request saying they could never do it justice) they launched into a very good take of Roxy Music's Love is the Drug. They are still 'bis does prog', but they improve with more listens.

So after that bizarre week we're going to go to the pictures to see the new Harry Potter. Yes, watching Jarvis Cocker play a Weird Sister should probably put my life back on the straight and narrow.

Monday, November 14, 2005

architecture and morality

Soundtrack: The Tax Evaders Isley Brothers

Well that was a busy weekend. Friday night was spent driving up to Rochdale (on a diet of M+S sweet potato crisps and Percy Pig & friends). We got to my dad's just gone midnight and caught the end of 'Later with Jools Holland'. I remember, back in the day, when watching Jools was a huge event. It was the only time you'd get to see your favourite bands on telly, and ok, the weekly selection was usually eclectic but you appreciated the contrast. It doesn't seem that way now, as Friday's guests were Santana, Sigur Ros and Paul Weller. We missed Sheryl Crow. Oof.Whatever's happened to the programme?!Looking at the link above, on this week's show is Sean Paul, Babyshambles and Texas. Hmmmm. I was sad about Sigur Ros' performance. They've changed the Later... set to what looks and sounds like an aircraft hanger. This did Sigur Ros no justice, and what is usually an evocative performace just sounded like mush.

Saturday was spent having lunch with the family. I was in Rochdale, so naturally I had cheese'n'onion pie and chips. Bloody London and it's inability to make cheese'n'onion PIES and not pasties. Then Thom and I trotted off to a party in Leeds, via Dewsberry. Thom's grandparents were from Dewsberry, and Thom hadn't been back since his grandfather's funeral so he wanted to look around (and to get some rare Ben Shaws). We arrived and Thom was horrified to find that the house had turned into a newsagents! We asked a couple of people 'Is this Leeds Road?', 'Aye'. Thom was devastated. And then we realised we were in the wrong town! Bloody West Riding or sommet. We eventually found Dewsberry, saw the old house was still in one piece and Thom was delighted to see Mrs D, the Polish shopkeeper on the corner (who was at least 100 3 years ago) was still alive, and she sold Ben Shaws in GLASS BOTTLES! In terms of Ben Shaws I-Spy, this is a thousand-pointer. So we bought a few bottles of yellow lemonade and headed to Leeds.

The party in Leeds was fine. Not very interesting if you don't know anyone, I suppose. But I did have my first experience of 80s karaoke on a playstation, and hung out with a few 18 year olds pretending I was a student again. It was good to catch up with a few friends, but a little strange on the whole. Mainly because the party was in a halls of residence. I just felt like a fraud. Best moment of the night for me was when sometime Sunshine Pop lurker JamieC told me how he woke up one morning with 'Shiftwork' in his head, and he just had to get online and listen to it. He might have used the words 'fucking superb', but he was drunk and so was I. (You can listen to it at The Gresham Flyers website or on myspace)

On our way back on Sunday we bumped into a random record and vintage audio fair. I found a couple of Beach Boys albums on vinyl, but spent all my money on the entrance fee. We drove back to King's Cross on a diet of peanut-flavoured crisps (a Spanish holiday present from my sister) to see Architecture in Helsinki at the Scala. There's 8 of them, they're Australian, they call themselves an 'avant-garde musical ensemble, influenced by the twee pop aesthetic' and they all change instruments mid-song. It was quite entertaining at first, and I particularly enjoyed their cover of Soulfinger, but on the whole they really irritate me. The constant 'percussion' (real percussion and lots of sieve-hitting) lost it's appeal after a while. But I finally put my finger on the main source of irritation - they don't have any choruses! Every song is in 6 parts; basically it's Bis doing prog. You could tell which were the singles (as those songs had less parts), but I just wanted one song following a semi-conventional structure. Bah, another sign I'm getting old!

Friday, November 11, 2005

I've got that Friday feeling

Soundtrack: Gather in the Mushrooms

I don't know what it is about Friday, but I'm completely incapable of working in the afternoon. It gets to 2.30 and I think, oh not long to go, I'll just check the internet. Before I know it, it's home time. This afternoon's procrastination has involved washing up, having a wee, making a brew, buying a twix, and now blogging. I deserve it though. It's been a busy week and I've barely been in the office. I love it when it's like that. I've been working with minor celebs, interviewing inspiring people, doing this that and the other. It's been requested that I didn't work on a project due to "inexperience" (I've only been here 5years), proved the bint wrong, and been awarded £100 of vouchers for the contribution I've made to another project. So yes, I deserve this slight break.

*bites twix*

Another form of my procrastination has been trying to find decent online travel guides. The internet doesn't have ANY good travel guides, it seems to me. I find the odd mini-guide associated with a travel agent, but nothing of substance. Fair enough I guess, as Rough Guide or Lonely Planet want me to buy their books instead, but how can I know where to go if I don't know anything about the place?!

I'm in a holiday frame of mind today, and I feel like I need to get something booked. I actually forgot I was going to Berlin next week, instead I'm working out what I want to do in the new year. Thom and I were thinking of Dubai, as his friends (our landlords!) live there now. I watched a programme about Dubai on BBC2 this week for inspiration, but instead it tried to sell me the idea of buying property over there. It seemed like a promotional video for whichever Sheikh it is trying to promote international investment, and all it showed was garish shopping centres the size of London, ugly apartment complexes and overweight sunburnt Geordies playing golf. This didn't sell it to me, so I wanted to look online to see if there were other reasons to go to Dubai, but I can't find any good sites. Any suggestions are welcome.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

the only way is up

Soundtrack: The Four Tops

Well after the stress of the photo below on Sunday, my hat has finally found it's natural position on my head! It looks pretty good, actually. It seems to make my hair flick out even more than it usually tries to, and it feels very comfortable. All this is incredible now I realise (although I already knew) that 2 of the main stitches in the pattern I knitted completely wrong! It was all the 'knitting through back loop' business that got me, and I did look online, and I did consult my knitting books, and I couldn't find anywhere that could demonstrate how to do the stitches. Yesterday I did manage to find some explanations on, which will put me in good stead when I attempt the infamous clapotis.

I've also realised another reason for my lacking knitting confidence; the yarn I've been using. No doubt I've made the mistake most novices make, in knitting the most attractive and fluffy yarns first... all that big chunky fluffy furry wool. This is all well and good, until you've had to rip the project up a few times, or until you've worn the item fo a week or two. Then you're just pulling fluff off all the time, and the item looks old and deteriorating. This week I've started knitting a present in Rowan wool cotton. Oh my god it's BEAUTIFUL! So soft, and such great stitch definition. I've even been doubling up my yarn, yet there's no split stitches, no dropped stitches - I haven't ruined it! And everything looks so neat and professional. Now I realise I CAN do it! :)

Monday, November 07, 2005

this one starts quietly

Soundtrack: Beach Boys - L.A. (The Light Album)

Last week Thom arrived at work to find a binder on his desk. With no explanation, someone left a binder of John Peel obituaries. There was no note, and no one is claiming responsibility.

Thom has a picture of John Peel on his booth (I imagine it comes second in importance to his Sharon shrine), and he likes his music so someone obviously put two-and-two together and decided to leave him this present. Thom doesn't work for the kind of organisation that would happen to have a binder of John Peel press clippings, which makes this all the more confusing.

I forgot all about it until Thom brought it home yesteday. I just expected a plastic wallet with a few newspaper cut-outs inside. But no, this is beautifully photocopied and well-presented. All clippings are referenced and chronological (obituaries first, tributes later). The person who created this has even thought about the front cover - a shadowed portrait shot of Peel.


Last night Thom dragged me to see The White Stripes. I would've been quite content to stay home to listen to the Vashti Bunyan special on the Freak Zone, as The White Stripes aren't one of my favourites, but I couldn't really get out of it.

The support band, The Greenhornes were ok, if delving into Ocean Colour Scene towards the end. The pre-gig music was an assortment of 60s bluesy psych-garage and Nuggets, and this was reflected in The Greenhornes set. But what started off promising actually went pretty dull. First I thought we'd be treated to a singing drummer, as he was placed front centre. He only sung backing, and although he was very skilled, he lacked the dynamics. He still had 100times more charisma than the rest of the band though. Dear god, bands should be forced to attend a stage craft course before they're allowed to play live, because I've never witnessed anything so lifeless. The lead singer/guitarist performed plenty of guitar solos, but I don't think I saw his body move once during the whole set. And he just kept his head down, with his baker boy hat covering his eyes.

So the lack-lustre support coupled with the fact that Ms Shortarse here couldn't see anything just made me just want the night to end soon. But The White Stripes won me over. They were so, so loud. I don't think I've ever been to a gig so top-heavy, so unrelenting, so euphoric and rapturously received, so chemistry-driven, so dirty.

They know how to give it to us. And my, they didn't half get our imagination running with their clothing so tight they must've jumped off a wardrobe to get into it. Jack's quite renowned for dressing to the right, but poor little Meg. She stood at the front to sing lead on a track, after the men's roaring died down I suddenly heard squealing from the girls. And then 'Sharon, you have to see Meg'. I stood on my tiptoes to be greeted by the most incredible camel toe I've ever witnessed.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

raspberry beret

It's been a busy week, and I'm feeling quite knackered today so this will be a short one.

I wanted to post the beret I've just knitted.

I can't actually seem to wear it properly at the moment, so the picture isn't great... I'm feeling a confidence crisis with it too, as usually I wear hats really well. Also, it was a bit of a swine to knit. I don't understand it, but I've ripped it up about 6 times, and I just couldn't get to grips with 'knit 3 through back of loop' and 'slip purlwise'. So it doesn't look how it's meant to, but at least it is 'textured' as it claims it should be. And it's beret-shaped, which is the most important thing. With this hat going a bit funny, and coming to a halt with my glittens (I'm having cast-on and continuation of ribbing problems) I'm going to knit something simpler next. It's for a present though, so I need to get my confidence back on track.

We had a work away day on Friday. Just as I get really busy, we're all dragged out of the office to talk about the work we should be doing. It wasn't all bad, as we got to go on the London Eye afterwards. I've been on before in the daytime, but it was dusk as we went on, and a beautiful clear night.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

one foot in the grave

Soundtrack: Roxy Music - Country Life

I'm such a miserable sod. It was Halloween last night, and on my walk home I passed FOUR groups of trick or treaters. You get the obvious tweenagers in their bin bags, and then there were the cute kids who were properly dressed-up and being dragged around by a mum.

So what did I do when I saw the cute ones opposite my house when I got home? Well I ran in, locked the door, drew the curtains and turned some lights off. There was the cutest and most apprehensive knock at the door, but I didn't answer. Thom even turned his Transformers DVD down. See! I'm Victor Meldrew before my time! It's not like we had anything to give them, and in this day and age you'd get a firework through your letterbox for refusing... Ok, so the cute kids probably wouldn't have done that, but I shouldn't feel pressured on my own doorstep!

Being a miserable sod is inexcusable seeing as I used to do the same as a child. I was that child who wore a bin bag and carried an up-turned umbrella to collect our treasures. I was the kid who dragged my sister out and walked around the houses playing Good King Wenceslas on my recorder. Eeee, them were the days. When did I turn so bitter and cynical?