Sunday, December 31, 2006
For those of you who don't move in the right circles, the Christmas 'Billifest' (with French Market) apparently offered, amongst other things, Santa's Grotto, Live Bands, Christmas Carols, competitions and special offers from local shops. The most important aspect however, and probably the reason for the event was the High Street Opening Ceremony, following months of 'improvement work'*. The French Market necessitated closure of said High Street however, so it appears that one would have had to have headed to the adjacent shopping precinct to witness this momentous occasion.
Did anyone make it to the 'Billifest'? Was it as good as the flyer would have you believe?
*There are some new benches should one wish to sit and watch the cars go by on the new smooth surface, and the new pavement looks rather nice. The new mini roundabouts are (seriously) a good thing though.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
I'm not suddenly going to claim royal blood, but it is the next best thing to point out that the conductor of the choir was indeed Cousin Dave. If you saw it, and know Cousin Dave, I hope that you were suitably excited. If you saw it and don't know Cousin Dave I hope that you are now suitably impressed. If you didn't see it, you missed out, but thanks to the wonders of modern technology you can just follow the link above.
Of course, I think that the speech itself is worth a listen. I'm a fan of the Queen and once again I feel that she definitely had some wise words to say.
Sunday, December 24, 2006
*as I get older and people pair off, I can't decide whether I am a fan of the joint Christmas card or not. Do the advantages of having to write less cards outweigh the disadvantages of receiving less cards? Not, I feel, a terribly important conundrum. If you sent me a card, thank-you, I really appreciate it. If you were expecting a card from me and didn't get one, I'm sorry.
Anyhow, I digress. All that remains is to wish you a very Happy Christmas.
Friday, December 22, 2006
Oh, and I got to land an Airbus A380. Bring it on.
Originally uploaded by JP1984.
Trafalgar Square with its Christmas Tree, Regent Street with its lights (the 'must-do' classics). The Millenium Bridge and the London night-time skyline (awesome scenes). Evensong at Southwark. Dinner for two in a Soho Bistro (definitely heterosexual, in case you were asking). Leicester Square. Banter. Hot drinks at the station (JP now recommends the Chai Latte).
Christmas wouldn't be complete without a visit to our capital city, and 2006, fortunately, was no exception. I was worried, given my state this week, that I wasn't going to make it, but despite being not-with-it and feeling a bit down on the train on the way in I did (a good cuppa works wonders). And I had an excellent, really enjoyable evening.
It was a really enjoyable evening, and yet the sound-track to my journey home was once again left to Snow Patrol, and Supertramp, whilst I contemplated the fact that the bloke opposite looked like someone I once knew. I think he was foreign though.
Incidentally, I was most pleased to note that Trafalgar Square once again sports a nativity scene, and a rather good one at that, despite the oversized sheep.
Today's musical reference bears no resemblence to what I am about to say, but should you have nothing else to say about this post you can name the artist anyway, in the usual fashion. Come to think about it, I know nothing about said artist, so if anyone has anything useful or interesting to say then that would be great.
Anyway, I'm currently kicking back, enjoying a glass of wine and reflecting on the past few days. It's been a strange week; I've had very little voice and whatever it was that knocked me back last week has left me lethargic and lacking energy. Disappointingly, my voice has not even gone sexy and possesses no deep or husky tones. 'Prepubescent' was how my friend helpfully described it yesterday. Score.
I've not even had the voice for my usual musical interludes - there's been no "suscipe" and no random repeated snippets from songs or jingles. Alas (he says, knowing that some of you will not share my sorrow in the slightest).
However, despite not being able to go carol singing this week has certainly had some high points. I enjoyed the carol service very much on Sunday; it was nice to be in the congregation and not the choir for once, even if I did feel like Scrooge in my 'unable to sing' state. The church looked beautiful and the copious amounts of rather good wine I was served by some neighbours afterwards sorted me out a bit.
Cousin Dave provided us with the pleasure of his company on Tuesday and I thoroughly enjoyed sampling one of the local Indian Restaurants with him. You can't beat a good curry and I feel that Tuesday night was well spent enjoying the hospitality of Monsoon (with an obligatory trip to the Bells afterwards, of course).
Wednesday saw the Infant School Carol Service in church, which was fun, and I enjoyed a brief visit to Chichester in the afternoon. I sort of floated around but was able to appreciate the beautiful Cathedral and quaint surrounding streets.
Yesterday I was a bit lethargic and not-with-it in the morning but I did get my act together for a trip to London in the afternoon/evening. That deserves its own post, I think, but suffice to say that it was fun.
Today I had a fascinating morning exploring the world of aircraft simulation and this afternoon I just about managed to round off my Christmas shopping and collect kindling for the log-burner with my dad.
And now I have collapsed in to a chair enjoying the opportunity to veg out completely and share my musings with anyone who cares to read them. Mmm.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Overtiredness at the beginning of the week gave way to a high temperature on Thursday and I was confined to bed for a large part of the day (and I don't admit defeat easily).
I have since floated vaguely through the last 48 hours, and am pleased that somehow I did manage to complete my coursework. I am also indebted hugely to my little brother who helped me move a lot of my things out and drove me home last night.
It's great to be home, if a little weird having been away for two months. Given that I have unexpectedly had to find somewhere else to live in Bath as well, I feel like some sort of nomad.
I am currently bemoaning the fact that I have lost my voice completely and am unable to sing with the choir in the carol service at church later. Gutting. I was really very much looking forward to it and I am really annoyed that I've let myself end up in this state.
Hopefully though I might just have enough energy to make it to the church anyway, where I shall croak away in the congregation and enjoy a bit of much needed festive cheer.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
She wanted to see my ticket (which was in my wallet) to check something because the details on her ticket didn't match up with what was displaying on the departure boards. Of course, she found quite quickly that my ticket didn't tell her anything bar where I was travelling from and to. I did see her ticket though, which was one of the advanced ones and was able to point out that she'd bought a ticket for the day before. Gimp.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
The people in church behind me tonight were drunk. One of them even answered his phone during the prayers. I was having another bout of said tired daze by then and concentrating on praying was hard enough as it was without their antics.
I already feel the need to do another Sunday lunch in Oxford's finest establishment. Any takers?
I also met some bird at Didcot station and for some unknown and unfathomable reason(s) I fleetingly flashed my wallet (and thus the Provisional License therin) at her in the course of the conversation. I hope that she was suitably embarrassed when her snide "oh you've not finished learning to drive yet" was met with my curt "I would if I didn't have an eyesight issue preventing me from doing so".
The concert itself seemed to go well. Punctuated by readings and poetry (making me feel very cultured) we sang a suitably festive set, including a couple of great carols for which the audience joined in. The acoustics in the chapel were excellent - a world away from the very dead Arts Barn we rehearse in, and without wishing to blow my own trumpet (so to speak) it really made me realise just how good the choir can sound.
Concert dress includes a hood if applicable, and I discovered to my delight that said hood being very furry resulted in a queue of people (mainly of the female persuasion) wishing to stroke it. Even if a rabbit did really die in the making of this production, it was worth it.
Once again, David Cameron has failed to impress. Well, almost. The fact that he is ex-Brasenose and leader of the Tory party and still fails to be in my good books is in itself quite impressive.
I know this is probably old news but my complaint centres around the Tory party video campaigns. The BBC Breakfast newsreader was right when she told Mr Cameron that some people find the term 'tosser' offensive, and although I've not bothered watching the whole video it seems a bit pointless given the current lack of Tory party policy on anything much. Coupled with the fact that the new logo apparently cost a whopping 40 grand, one wonders who the tossers really are.
That would be scathing enough without the revelation that I went to hear Paddy Ashdown speak and thought he was excellent. To be fair my expectations were quite low, but his talk, based around the reconstruction after the war in Bosnia and "why Iraq is a failure" was interesting, thought provoking, logical and well delivered. He even took questions well, being honest when he didn't know the answer.
Fear not, however, my opinions of the current "Lib" Dem party and their backstabbing ways has not improved.
Worryingly however, my opinion of Tony Blair has - fleetingly at least. I still think the man's a weasel, but his statement on 'British tolerence' and "conform or don't come here" was one of the best things he's ever said.
I am exhausted beyond belief but it was so good to take a break. Oxford at this time of year is very pleasant and I enjoyed a wonderful lunch of Cumberland Sausages, followed by Sticky Toffee Pudding and washed down by Mulled Wine, all in the atmospheric surroundings of The Turf, sat outside with the warm braziers. And all in the presence of top quality company, of course.
I've not blogged for a while - I've had a lot going on, and a lot to deal with - but in true JP tradition I am going to use my time on the train productively. Prepare for the usual splurge of posts as I collect my thoughts.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
So I went in this morning to see if I could renew it and pay the fine. Unfortunately because I didn't have the book with me the librarian was unable to check my record and see if I was able to renew it. So I've now had to go online and sort it out myself.
There is no logical reason for this inefficiency.
Oxford's Library system may have done without a graphical interface, but at least it did its job efficiently.
Sunday, December 03, 2006
I have some friends who sing in GASP and they were amazing. The two Bath choirs combined on stage made a huge sound.
London City Gospel Choir were great as well. Led by the Revd. Bazil Meade (legend) they performed a long set and at times virtually all of the audience (~1500 people) were on their feet throwing some Gospel shapes.
Saturday, December 02, 2006
1) One of the reasons that the RNLI doesn't qualify for huge amounts of lottery funding is to do with the fact that as an organisation it doesn't deal with enough ethnic minorities.
Whoever is responsible for allocating the funding presumably thinks that if the person drowning is not white then lifeboat crews turn around without picking them up. Or maybe it's to do with the fact that the proportion of people from ethnic minorities who volunteer for the RNLI is too low. This, I would imagine, is largely because there is a low proportion of people from ethnic minorities living in some coastal areas. I wonder how the one such family living in one such village feels about the implication that by not volunteering for the lifeboat station they've ruined the statistics and denied the RNLI funding.
2) Scottish Universities don't charge fees for Scottish students. English students attending Scottish Universities have to pay fees as per the system in England. However, under EU law, other EU students must pay the same as Scottish students, i.e. nothing. So if I happened to be French I could attend University in Scotland for free (doubtless at the expense of the British taxpayer). It might help compensate for the fact that my wife would have hairy armpits, but honestly...
3) People with diabetes must now be called just that and the term 'diabetic' has been outlawed. I wonder how much NHS funding it took to implement that decision.
Can anyone confirm these stories?
I've been away from the blogosphere for a while because I've had a lot to deal with, not least on the work front. I'm really struggling with a piece of coursework at the moment, and it's got to the stage that upon reading "we say that f is globally Lipshitz if..." I feel that it's all Lipshitz to me.
If this post hasn't given you enough to comment on already may I suggest you name the *artist* whose song I took today's title from. It'll be interesting to see what people come back with...
Thursday, November 23, 2006
The Cartoon Church contains some interesting comment on the matter, and thie article in The Times is well worth a read.
I particularly like this paragraph:
'It is bad enough that university students are anxious to censor others and deny them access to proper debate. That is to undermine the very nature of a university, a place where people can think and discuss the unthinkable.
What is worse is that the repression of Christian groups is the height of hypocrisy. For the most unacceptable of what many Christian students believe is pretty much what many Muslims believe, only Muslims go much further. There are plenty of Muslim students, not least among the activists that so alarm the government that it is asking university authorities to spy on them, who believe not just that homosexuality is an abomination but also that women and infidels are inferior. Yet can anyone imagine that any student association would suspend a Muslim group for its homophobia, exclusivity, discrimination against women and infidels.'
The comments at the bottom of the article also make interesting reading. Never being one to keep my opinion to myself I wish to make some observations about such comments as this one from Jordan Gray in Coventry.
'Also, since this is a current talking point on the internet, can I just expose what I consider to be a disingenuous attitude: "I personally believe that sex outside of marriage is not the way that God intended us to live - whether this is homosexual or heterosexual sex is immaterial." That's permissible—you and any other Christian can believe and voice whatever beliefs you wish. If, however, your society wished to lead a course which expressed these beliefs, or endorse such a course, those leading it would also need to support some provision for homosexuals to marry members of the same sex. Otherwise, they are saying that there is no acceptable recourse for the expression of homosexual attraction, which is correctly (if starkly) described as discriminating against homosexuals. If a society (Christian, Muslim or otherwise) believes it cannot, in good conscience, agree to this, the only honest thing to do is to leave the SU or openly petition them to provide a platform for homophobia.'
He seems to be making the assumption that if such a course is run then people must be forced to attend it, and agree with everything it teaches. This does not seem reasonable to me. On the basis that there are plenty of courses on offer in all walks of life and voicing all sorts of opinions, to demand that Christians (or Muslims) cease to offer their courses because some people disagree with their viewpoint is a breach of freedom of speech. One could even go so far to say that to be prevented from voicing an opinion is a breach of human rights, and I am sure that Mr Gray would be one of the first to condemn such a thing if the subject matter were not 'religious'.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
I wanted to log-in remotely to the Linux computers in the office, and decided that I would try the Mandriva Linux Live CD which came with a computer magazine.
In one sense, it did exactly as it said on the tin - it ran Linux without any installation. However it would not use my wireless card (the files needed were not included in the free version, something which I think goes against the grain of OpenSource software). I could download them, but having found a wired network connection I was unable to save the files (it hadn't mounted my hard-disk).
I then tried installing the distribution, but having partitioned my hard-disk and made a fuss of copying files across it installed nothing in the way of a bootloader. So there was no way of actually running my shiny new Linux.
I then decided to download Ubuntu. Not only did it run successfully from the CD, identifying my wireless card and all, but when I opted to install it it turned out to be the easiest and quickest installation of an OS I've ever actually done. Everything works, and it's not messed up Windows either.
The only mystery is that it did not need my encryption key to log on to the wireless network; the only explanation I can think of is that one of my neighbours has an unencrypted network and I was inadvertantly piggy-backing it.
I said that this post was for the computer geeks, so don't say I didn't warn you.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
After a largely pointless non-story, I feel the need to follow up the last post by talking about my day yesterday. It was great.
After a short but sweet visit to the East End I went to meet another friend in the centre of England's greatest city. We visited a mutual friend in Waterstones and didn't understand what epicurious* meant. We headed to the Strand, via Whitehall and the legendary Horseguard in search of a Starbucks** and what turned out to be a rather good Gingerbread Latte. We went to South Bank, and enjoyed the stunning views of the London skyline, the clear sky and the autumn colours. We saw a stack of unbelievably cheesy (and overpriced) postcards, some lads drumming effectively on some upturned buckets and baulked at the queue for the slides in the Tate Modern (another time, methinks...). We saw Southwark Cathedral and passed the London Dungeon. We had lunch by the river and bought some random fruit*** in the Borough Market. Before heading on for a much needed cuppa we took in the view to Tower Bridge and saw a shop with the slogan "cheese never sleeps".
And if that wasn't enough excitement, I bought myself an Oyster Card.
*Epicurism, apparently, is the "pursuit of pleasure" or "fastidiousness in luxury".
**You'd never think one would have to look far for a Starbucks, let alone admit to searching for one. The only possible consolation (apart from the fact that the drink was good) is that we ended up in the one I believe Danny Wallace mentions in his book.
***A custard apple, which we had to ask how to eat (but was nice nonetheless) and some passionftuit.
Although the train terminated at Whitechapel, this was perfect. Coincidentally, my friends from Bath who were attempting to break the record for visiting all of the Underground stations in the fastest time were also headed for Whitechapel. I was on course not only to be on time to visit my friends in the East End, but also to say hi to the attempted record breakers as well. As I passed through Farringdon, a text from the guys from Bath confirmed that our paths would indeed cross...and then the train ground to a halt.
Eventually, citing "signal failure" the train was terminated at Moorgate. Nothing was heading east and I had to head to the Northern line and change. The platform was rammed and as I waited seven whole minutes for my train I felt the whole plan crumbling.
We could have instead coincided at Bank/Monument but didn't. I was late arriving in the East End.
Thankfully a man on the District Line brightened up everyone's day by boarding the tube carrying a massive plant. I'm not sure what it was; breaking with tradition it had black leaves rather than green ones, and being straggly and prickly, the guy needed to warn people to "mind their eyes". Maybe you had to be there but it was quite comical.
My friends did not, as far as I can tell, break the record but they did raise a lot of money for Children in Need.
I had a great evening with my friends in the Eat End, so all's well that ends well.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
I was reading the Metro on the bus this morning, and was amused by the article about the unemployed bloke who, having already fathered 15 children has two more on the way. Apparently he has just got both his wife and his girlfriend pregnant and is "annoyed with himself" for this. Charming.
Bizarrely he is said to live with both women. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't have thought that "unemplyed" and "father of 15" are the things which appeal most to women, and yet this guy seems to be holding down not one, but two relationships, and under the same roof at that.
Since living in Bath I have noticed a large number of Nissan Figaros about the place. I was under the impression that this cult Japanese import was quite rare, so it must be that everyone who has bought one lives in BaNES. Maybe it's got something to do with the fact that Danny Wallace, who comes from Bath, bought one accidentally once (read his book Yes Man, it's great). Talking of cars-which in case you thought I was talking about kettles or something, I am-I've also noticed a large number of classic VW Campervans about the place. I want one, despite the fact that I can't drive, and will accept applications from those who wish to chauffeur me around in one. As a word of warning, although I think the campervan is cool, the topless guy I saw driving one was not.
Also talking of cars, someone down my road has a Citroen CX. Hailing from the late 80s it was obviously well ahead of its time and I am now a big fan. Again, I will accept applications from potential chauffeurs.
Friday, November 10, 2006
Thursday, November 09, 2006
I've seen lots of strange people in the last 24hours, this time beyond the boundaries of the Maths Department.
Firstly I was in 'Spoons last night enjoying a much needed drink, and the table we occupied was adjacent to one populated entirely by people dressed up as Smurfs. They'd painted their skin blue and everything. I think that perhaps our table was previously unoccupied for a reason.
Then, this morning I needed some bread and decided to sample the produce of my local baker. As I was leaving, warm fresh loaf in hand, I was passed by a guy who went "oooh bread" in a really high-pitched voice.
I didn't pay him enough attention to work out if he was the same guy that I passed later on along the river. This time the strange voice was mocking another bloke who was walking on the concrete blocks right on the very edge of the bank. To be fair, he had a point...
Finally, as I arrived on campus I found that it was populated by people with bright orange helium filled balloons displaying the word 'banter'.
Incidentally, the bread I bought this morning is lush.
There is a bonus point for anyone who can name the artist and title of the song from which I took the title for this post.
Anyway, I promised you trains and people from Kazakhstan, so without further ado let's move on to my first railway rant since I've been in Bath. When I was in Oxford, a return to London was about £12, and a return to Bath was £7. So why is it that to go directly from Bath to London (and back) costs 50% more than Bath - Oxford - Oxford - London (and back)? Whatever the Department for Transport says, there is no logic or consistency to that whatsoever, and I am left mourning the fact that I currently can't justifably afford £30 to visit London. Grrrrrrrr.
Moving on, there are no prizes for guessing that I might be about to mention Borat. Alas I haven't seen the movie yet (it was sold out last night) but having seen the trailers I am very much looking forward to it. I do feel that some of the coverage of this much hyped film is blogworthy however. Someone on the BBC News page this morning used the word 'mockumentary' which I thought was great (and presumably extremely descriptive). My favourite though has to be the news item I saw the other day about the film, in which some Kazakhstanis were given the opportunity to air their views. I couldn't help but smile when the rather plummy English translation came across as "he's talking bull manure".
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Firstly there was the short guy with curly hair, big glasses and a handle-bar moustache. I think he might have been foreign, though he may just have a habit of looking bemused when someone holds a door open for him.
Then there was the bloke who looked just like Mini-Me from Austin Powers - I kid you not.
Alongside him the bloke in the bright purple jumper looked somewhat normal, so we'll gloss over him and move on to my final "character" of the week, who was tall, bald and had the coldest, hardest stare I've come across for a while. I could almost feel myself shrinking up against the wall as he passed. He was probably one of the invading Russians, and I thought it best not to mess with him.
Today is Weird Hat Wednesday, and I am loving it.
Monday, October 30, 2006
I was reading this article on the BBC News Page and learned that according to the Liberal Democrat MP Dr Evan Harris,
"Criminalising flag-burning would be an unacceptable restriction of freedom of expression".
I assume that Dr Harris, who obviously cares about freedom of expression, belongs to the same Liberal Democrat party who made these comments for The Telegraph recently:
"Last night the Liberal Democrats called for Miss Kelly, who is also in charge of Government policy on promoting equality, to resign on the grounds that her personal beliefs are incompatible with advancing gay rights."
The word "inconsistent" springs to mind.
I might not be David Cameron's biggest fan, but I still fail to see why on earth anyone would vote for the Lib Dems*. And let's face it, the comments about Ruth Kelly are neither "Liberal" nor "Democratic" so even the party name is a sham.
*Obviously people do vote for them, so if you are one such person I would genuinely like to know what your reasons are.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
I am however very much indebted to my non-gay gay best friend.
Saturday, October 28, 2006
I was also pleased to note that someone arrived here by searching for "he's got a dream about buying some land". Bring on the Shetland banter (and sorry for the in-joke).
Last weekend I was back in Oxford for my graduation, and I had a wonderful time. The ceremony was great, and full of the usual Oxford eccentricities.
For a start, it was all in Latin, with the exception of an introductory speech - explaining why the ceremony was in Latin. Even the Colleges were referred to by their Latin names. The degrees were presented in order from 'Doctor of Medicine' through to DPhil, Masters and BA and between each list of names we were treated to the 'Proctor's Walk'. This was not as exciting as it sounds , and consisted only of the proctors doffing their mortar boards and walking from one end of the Sheldonian Theatre to the other and back again. Apparently it provides an opportunity for people to voice their objections about someone being presented for a degree.
I really quite liked the way that we were presented for our degrees in our undergraduate gowns before processing out, putting on our BA gowns and hoods and processing back in again.
The thing that most amused me about the ceremony was the bloke giving instructions to the students in English. The Latin ceremony was punctuated at intervals by "rows of four" and "face the proctor on your right please" in a voice which would have suited a London Tube station far more than it did the Sheldonian Theatre.
Following the ceremony there was an excellent lunch in college and then in the evening a huge group of us went out for dinner and drinks. Some of us even made a stop at Medhis - who, amazingly, has a new van. His range of cuisine has possibly expanded as well, although disappointingly 'Vegetarians' no longer feature amongst 'Cold Drinks', 'Chips' and 'Burgers' on the list of items on offer.
It was really great to see everyone again. Sunday continued in a similar vein - I enjoyed attending St Aldates in the morning and I sang in the College Choir in the evening. Co-incidentally the one and only Nick Prozzillo was conducting for part of it, which was an added bonus.
The week since has been manic, with the first of many coursework deadlines. I am starting to see why people hate Matlab as well.
One highlight however was the 40th Anniversary service of the University of Bath, which took place in the Abbey. It was my first 'outing' with the University Chamber Choir, and I really enjoyed it. Fittingly hoods were worn by the choir (if applicable) and I was able to wear an Oxford BA hood.
Nim the brave has been bemoaning the recent lack of anecdotes on this site. I will try and rectify that in due course, but now I must get back to my maths. Yummy.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
In light of my opening gambit I shall have to avoid some of the events of the last week, but suffice to say it's had its moments. Fear not however, I have enough ramblings which are suitable for general consumption to be going on with.
Sam's Town, the new Killers album has so far not disappointed. As a random observation however I am still perplexed as to why my Friends' DVD Box set fitted through my letter box and the Sam's Town CD (both from HMV) did not. Fortunately the Post Office from which I could collect it is only a little way off my route in to uni.
I am starting to settle in to my course now, and although there is a
lot of work I am really enjoying it. My coursework is especially
enjoyable, though it is taking up a lot of time and I fear that I am
just sweeping my other modules under the carpet.
I did however get a good break at the weekend when I enjoyed visiting
some friends in South Wales. I watched some rugby, was well fed and
enjoyed some quality banter. What more can I ask for? This coming
weekend is also going to be spent away, for I am graduating (as you
do). I'm quite excited about it and I am really looking forward to
seeing friends and family and having some good times.
I am slowly getting used to the buses. I don't like them still, and I
have come across some very mean drivers. However as an evil necessity I am
coping with the concept of bus travel more than I was before. This
may or may not have something to do with the fact that I set a new
record on Tuesday and have had no irritating hold ups for a while.
Talking of buses, everyone's favourite bus geek had some interesting opinions on Christians and Catholicism when I logged on this morning.
I still like living in a proper house, with all that that entails. My
cooking skills are slowly improving (I enjoyed having some friends for
dinner last week) and the proper living room is still something of a
bonus. The problem with having a TV though is that you become
addicted to it. I have found myself absorbed with the new Robin Hood
series, for example. And the problem with having a video recorder is
that you miss it when it breaks. Couple the two together and it
becomes very traumatic when you realise that you might have to miss an
episode of something.
Back to doing something more useful than sharing my thoughts with an
eclectic online audience.
For me October 17th 2006 started at 7.30am when I awoke in a daze wondering who was ringing me at that time; but I then remembered that my phone is also my alarm clock and that was a more plausible reason for it vibrating on my bedside table. (Just to clear up any worries, my alarm does not make the same noise as my ring tone. However, I have no excuse for taking a while to notice this).
I didn't have time to mourn the fact that no-one was ringing me after all as it all came flooding back to me that I had planned to have a leisurely breakfast in front of the TV. My plan was foiled however when I realised that there was no milk. Bummer. Never one to be defeated though I headed off to my local convenience store, with a view to rectifying this problem.
Besides milk, I also purchased some apples and some bananas and some gum. Oh and I had decided that I fancied some eggs, so I carefully selected a free-range box, paying careful attention to the best before date (at that point I had no idea how long eggs keep for and I didn't fancy feasting on 6 in 24 hrs).
I couldn't resist the lure of the baker next door and purchased what later turned out to be a rather delicious iced doughnut. I was mildly annoyed that I was charged 60p when the sign quite clearly said 55p but didn't demand my 5 pence back despite feeling that it breached certain principles (it was, after all, only 5 pence).
So, with a bowl of cereal, a cup of tea, a fried egg sandwich and a glass of grape juice (which would have been orange had I not opened the wrong carton) I watched the video of BBC One's Robin Hood from Saturday.
Then just as I was leaving my housemate surfaced and we enjoyed a brief chat. I began to fear that I would be late for my lecture but I am pleased to report that instead I set a new personal best for getting in to the Uni. Ladies and Gentlemen, I made it in 17 minutes. This was more by luck than judgement given that each of the buses I needed to catch happened to be waiting at the stop when I approached, but it made me feel good nonetheless.
My lecture was a complete waste of time. I couldn't see the board, and despite having a note-taker to copy its contents down for me the lecturer spoke too fast about things I didn't understand.
I then headed to my office and ate my doughnut at my desk whilst checking my emails. I then made a lot of progress with my coursework before heading to the Chaplaincy for the ecumenical Communion Service and lunch. This week it was taken by a Methodist Minister. Given that I went to a Methodist Chapel on Sunday I began to wonder where my allegiances lay.
Lunch was nice, as ever in aid of Oxfam.
The afternoon was not blogworthy, consisting of four hours of lectures and computing labs.
After a quick bite to eat and a chat on the phone with a friend I went to the Chamber Choir Rehearsal, which I enjoyed. As an added bonus I found that I can wear an Oxford BA hood at the big service next week...so long, of course, as I can obtain one first (which, sadly, could be a mission).
Someone called Barry very kindly gave me a lift home, and threw some intelligent conversation in to the bargain. I conversed again with my housemate and watched the News. This was followed by an interesting program on C4 called 'the Holy Hottie' about an ex-porn star who set about making it her mission to preach the Good News to America's sex industry. It was a good program (save for a few dodgy puns) but I was too tired to see how it ended and opted for some sleep instead.
Friday, October 13, 2006
The lecturer in question is it has to be said something of a legend, with his sense of humour, and comedy accent. What really amused me last week however was an email he sent around - it turns out he writes like he speaks.
"[please attempt] Questions 1-4 of the Sheet 1. (If you've missed a shit a few more copies are in my doorfolder, 1W 3.18)."
So there you have it. Mathematics tuition and relief from constipation all in one.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Time to get in to uni this morning (including, it has to be said, a pleasant stroll along the canal): 45mins & counting.
Defined by user
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Nevertheless I did get to enjoy my free copy of the Metro. I learned today that the male Bridget Jones is a growing phenomenon, with lot's of guys wanting to find that special 'one for them' and no longer having the stereotypical fear of commitment. Fortunately though they manage all this without the need for big pants.
I also learned about the World Pea Throwing Championships - apparently the winner threw a pea 24.6m at the event in an East Sussex pub garden. And to think I missed it...
Saturday, October 07, 2006
Incidentally, the abbreviation of the society (BUSMS) sits well with that of Bath University Student Theatre (BUST) and juvenile though it may be, it did make me smile.
Friday, October 06, 2006
Yesterday I found myself unimpressed with David Cameron, and agreeing with Jack Straw (don't worry, I still chose to buy the Telegraph rather than the Guardian this morning). I think what Mr Straw said about women wearing veils is a fair point and I should probably get around to airing my views on the subject. In light of an article on Newsnight about troubles surrounding a dairy in Windsor run by a Muslim, the whole issue of Islam and relating to Muslims is fast becoming a hot topic.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Meanwhile, further to yesterday's post I skimmed this this morning, and thought it made for interesting reading.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
The article about the Conservative Party Conference was interesting. There is a lot of fuss about the "A-list" and having candidates who are representative of society, yet I worry that it is more political correctness gone mad. I thought a good point was made by Jacob Rees-Mogg about not discriminating against Oxbridge candidates - if as is claimed Oxford and Cambridge do attract some of the brightest minds in the country then this should be an asset, not a hindrance. After all, we are talking about people to govern the country and make important decisions.
One of the "A-list" candidates interviewed talked about the need for candidates to empathise with their consitutents and gave the example that some people just couldn't relate to working class families struggling to make a living and residing in a council house. This may be a fair point, and in theory it is good to make sure that all walks of life are represented. However, if an MP comes from a council house background he would find it just as hard to relate to the likes of Mr Rees-Mogg. So unless you have many MPs for one constituency it's never going to be the case that everyone is well represented in practise, and I think it is much more important that those who govern us are chosen firstly on their ability to do the job, and not on their background.
Meanwhile, I was greatly amused by the need for the press to follow Boris Johnson around, in case he "said something" (the conference being apparently un-newsworthy otherwise). The Newsnight coverage made me laugh, and as my title says: What a legend...
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
half of my bike-lock key remains in the lock leaving me in the unenviable
position of working out how to steal my own bike. Fortunately I was
visiting friends and the bike was not locked to anything fixed, but it is
still a big and quite depressing problem.
That aside however, life is good. I am starting to really like Bath. I
like the fact that I have a desk and computer in the MSc room. I like the
fact that the CU is lively and ecumenical. I like the 50m swimming pool on
campus, which is free for students. I like the way people put washing up
liquid in the fountain in Great Pulteney Street making it go all foamy.
I don't like the buses (and cannot therefore understand Mugford's love of
them) but I am slowly getting used to them. Slowly being the operative
I still miss poncing around in a gown.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
In some ways it is only now that it has hit me how much I miss Oxford and how much I took for granted, but life would be dull if it remained static. Life without formal hall and poncing around in a gown will take some getting used to, as will the fact that 10 minutes walk is no longer a long way. Some things on the other hand I will get used to too easily. Like the dishwasher, the proper kitchen and the TV. Nice.
Bath, like another great city I could name, is not short on hills. I might attempt to join the few who cycle on occasion but in the last couple of days I've had the joy of sussing out the buses. I hate buses, but some things I might just have to get used to. It could be easier said than done though - I found out to my cost yesterday that the X39 express bus stops at the number 14 stop I walked passed and then sailed past the number 14 stop I waited at.
Oh dear, I've started writing bus stories to complement my railway anecdotes. What's more, the above isn't interesting in the slightest (except perhaps to Mugford, for whom I shall resist the urge to delete it).
Fortunately I have decided not to ramble about my visit to the computing services earlier. It was probably only funny because I'd been queuing for so long that my brain had melted. Besides, it's late, and I need to get some sleep.
Tomorrow is course induction day. Time to get to grips with the main reason for being here. It is also time to find out if my eyesight will hold when it comes to reading and lectures, but at least if I get a timetable tomorrow I can set about making appointments with the specialist.
Incidentally I was amazed by the number of comments on my previous post. I wouldn't have had a clue about HMC Schools; I was going to suggest the H (that's "aitch" not "haitch") stood for Haberdashers but just as well I didn't. Sam would have disowned me and that would be that as far as further invites to the East India Club go.
Thank you very much for reading, bye for now.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
I was going to write about the Pope and his comments, about Richard Hammond and why I think that any suggestion of removing Top Gear is proposterous, and how actually I did not go to an HMC school.
However aside from using my time instead to see good friends and prepare for my move tomorrow I have been crippled by my eyesight. Those of you who know me (or who have read my profile) know that I suffer from nystagmus, and for various reasons it is currently causing me problems. I have however been referred to a specialist, which is good news.
Excuses, schmooses, but I'll be back. Maybe not for breakfast but smoke me another kipper if you feel like it anyway.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Originally uploaded by JP1984.
Ladies and Gentlemen, what you see here is part of the famous BBC Top Gear Track.
Being in the vicinity of the airfield on which Top Gear is filmed, Sam and I decided to spend our Sunday afternoon having a bit of a butchers.
There was - unsurprisingly - not a lot to be seen and there was a high level of security in place around the perimeter. At one point we were following a footpath, which was suddenly blocked by an impassable and unmarked gate. Remaining convinced that the path should have continued straight on we resorted to the only available option of turning right . However 100yds on we were bought to an abrupt halt by the resident of a massive house whose land were were evidently on. After concluding that we were ramblers (obviously she didn't see Sam's flip-flops) she escorted us back to the gate and let us through, pointing us in the direction of the path.
The gate is apparently across the path to alleviate a problem she has with deer, but given the views of the Top Gear track afforded from the next section of the footpath I beg to differ.
The next challenge is now to find a way in to the compound itself (legitimately, of course). Given that when I met the producer earlier in the year he gave me his mobile number I might, some might say, have a possible way forward. But should I ring him up I have no idea what I would say, or how I would go about wangling anything. Any ideas?
Saturday, September 16, 2006
between mine and his. I feel quite good after the 17 mile round trip,
though the pie, chips and beer for lunch probably negated some of the
The pub in which we ate and drank was quite funny. At first glance it
appeared closed, but I did find an open door. The landlady and someone's
granny seemed initially to be the only people inside but once my friend arrived
a couple of cars had appeared in the car park and it developed an element of
The food was delicious (mmmm homemade steak and kidney pie) but I was rather
perturbed to find that they closed the hatch to the kitchen the moment we
placed our order. I'm not dead or ill though, so it could just have been
About half-way through an older guy took over running the place.
Sporadically he would come and clear something from the table, saying "I'm
not trying to rush you" before eventually telling us that the pub was now
shut and that we would have to leave. Helpfully, upon asking where the
toilet was, he also taught me that "when you go through the door over there
you mustn't forget to open it, of course".
Bizarrely, after a walk and an ice-cream, we returned an hour later to
collect our bikes and found that the pub was more populated than before. As
a bloke came out of the door (having opened it first) carrying a pint, the
sounds of the social scene emanating from within made the pub appear the
least closed it had done all day.
Friday, September 15, 2006
Thursday, September 14, 2006
I'm thinking of upgrading to the new version of Blogspot with its new features.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Far from being 'gay marriage' in everything but name, this act was supposed to bring equality for all. I argued that if this truly was the case then steps should also be taken to improve the situation for other people for whom 'marriage' would be inappropriate; siblings who live together, for example.
I was shot down, but upon viewing this video on the BBC News Page, I developed the smug feeling that I might have been right after all. (If you are unable to view the video, it concerns two sisters who share a house. Even under the Civil Partnerships act if one of them dies the other will be forced to sell up and move to pay the inheritance tax).
It seems that the campaigners for the Act were wrong. It didn't bring 'equality for all', did it?
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Monday, September 04, 2006
1) I am not a fan of The Mirror
2) Eddie Izzard would not be my first choice of person to give me relationship advice, should I want it.
However, when I was on a train recently (all the best stories start that way) I picked up a Mirror supplement and read this article. I thought that it was rather interesting; perhaps because I found to my surprise that I identified well with a lot of what he said.
His point about finding it easier to get over someone if one decides to hate them is an interesting one. I guess most people (myself included) can empathise well with that, but at the same time it doesn't seem right. It certainly doesn't sit well with the Christian ethos of forgiveness, which thinking about it logically is a far better option, however hard it can seem.
The second point of his which I liked doesn't really need any expansion.
"All the girls at school liked the boys who didn't pay them any attention. They'd be like, 'Wow, he's nice', and I'd think, 'What the f*** is that?'"
I was chatting to someone about this the other day, and it seems that it's a fact of life that attempting to be a nice guy isn't necessarily a good thing. And some people think that women make sense.
Not that I am bitter or anything...
Moving on, I would like to say hello to John and the others who've left comments via the means of Facebook. I'll respond in due course, but I'll probably do so in the standard blogger way to make it accessible for all.
Friday, September 01, 2006
Unfortunately, it was yellow.
I think it was Jeremy Clarkson who once said "never go to bed with someone who has a yellow car. Anyone who went in to a showroom and from the vast array of colours available chose yellow is clearly not normal and should be given a wide berth".
I'm not sure how wide a berth I should have given someone who could probably have afforded an entire street of houses with the money they blew on this particular yellow car but as they were going the other way I didn't have much time to ponder it.
Now I am back in civilisation I can now get around to responding to the comments on the last post. Or at least I will eventually once I have done the other things I need to do now. Watch this space.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
Well actually I'm in West Wales. I'm not even sure where "the Zone" is but the title today is a quote from Monsters Inc which I watched last night (and enjoyed very much).
I've been rubbish at updating this blog recently, but hey it's August. Everyone's away and not much goes on anyway.
Earlier in the week I went househunting in Bath which was an experience. I saw a couple of houses and met some good people, but so far I've not got a definite place of residence for next year (though it's not without hope). Being new to Bath I don't yet know anybody, so it's all about meeting the people I might be living with as well. Placing an ad on the university forum and receiving various responses is worryingly reminiscent of how I imagine internet dating might work. The whole experience just lacks candlelit dinners though.
Whilst I was in Bath I also saw the most pregnant looking man I have ever seen and passed another guy whose response to my cheery "good morning" sounded as though his words were coming out backwards.
Though I am seeking a place to rent, I have it on good authority that letting a house can also be a minefield. It seems as though that a cardboard box is too good for some tenants (who ironically feel that reading and adhering to instructions is beneath them). If I had anything to do with it both tenant and letting agent would be strung painfully from the wrongly sited washing line.
Church at home (www.stmarysbillingshurst.org) is very exciting, and a new service pattern begins next Sunday. Less can be said about the church I went to this morning. The visiting vicar was possibly nuts, rambling on and on about China ("mother China") and not really saying anything worthwhile. He quoted a letter from the retiring principal of Westcott House Theological College about a generation of clergy 'who'd presided over a declining church' and I have to say he was the perfect illustration as to why the church had declined under his generation. I have a copy of Discworld Noir, a computer game based on Terry Prattchett's Discworld series which I used to enjoy playing and the vicar this morning bore uncanny resemblance to the priest portrayed in the Temple of Small Gods. That thought did at least provide me with some amusement.
Looking back to my God Slot post and the comments it generated I feel that if Dave's local church has missed the plot in a similar manner it's no wonder that the idea of God is a bit strange.
I do feel though, Dave, that in your last comment that you struggled to deny the existence of God completely, albeit that your "He's given me a wicked life" evidently contained some sarcasm. Still, if you wish to deny the existence of God and are content with believing that you are just part of a random chemical "accident" with no purpose then that's your choice. I cannot prove the existence of God but I look in awe at the natural world around me and definitely feel that there is an element of design and created order.
I wonder, Dave (and anyone else reading this who has similar viewpoints) if you've ever considered praying. It's a bit odd to harp on about how God has no time for you if you have no time for Him. And as I have related here before, I have experienced answers to prayer in my life, often in the most amazing ways. So, prayer. Now there's a challenge for you...
I've come across several classic quotes this week but I am going to end this ramble with one I've just come across in a local newspaper.
"Neil also loves cooking and growing organic vegetables - chickens and pigs may soon be seen in [his garden]."
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Clearly the car was a substitute for something - he didn't have the guts or the ability to drive it well, and he evidently felt that being overtaken was not something he could cope with. Ironically however his behaviour just proved that he was small (minded) and rather than being impressed I would like to publically laugh at him for being such a gimp and evidently having more money than sense.
When you have finished joining me in mocking this person (who's silver Porsche was last seen heading in to Petworth) why not join the debate here?
Sunday, August 13, 2006
But come to think of it, I find it quite sad that 'seeking God' was not a big feature of some of my visits to Rome's many churches. In fact, I would go so far to say that St Peter's angered me somewhat. This is the centre piece of the Roman Catholic church, and yet rather than focussing on God the statues of the Popes seem to be more important. Rather than being welcomed I felt that I was ushered round aggressively. Rather than encouraging an atmosphere of reverence and worship, camera flashes and talking seem to be acceptable during the services. And rather than taking the opportunity to preach the Christian message in all it's simplicity it was acceptable - encouraged even - to queue and rub the feet of a bronze statue of Peter. Idolatory aside, what happened to John 14v6?
So the irony in 'going to Rome to seek God' actually stems from the fact that I noticed God's work more outside the walls of St Peters. Just in the way that things worked out, in the way that my tiny little prayers were answered. In the evidence of God's people - Christians - throughouut the ages, even if sometimes it is corrupt and misses the point (Christians are only human, after all), and in the beauty of His creation, especially along the leafy oasis of the Appian Way.
I have also noticed God at work without having to travel to Rome - see my posts about camp in Norfolk. In fact one of the clearest answers to prayer I've seen recently came last week, on a wet and windy morning as we gathered as leaders. Someone prayed that we would have good weather for the day ahead, and almost instantaneously (I kid you not) blue sky appeared on the distant horizon. The approaching rainclouds went along both sides, but not over, the campsite and before long the skies were completely clear and the day hot and sunny.
I think I shall end this God Slot by reflecting on the events of last Thursday, and the anti-terror arrests (news did eventually reach us in Norfolk). It's difficult to supress my anger towards the people (this is a family blog for family people, but insert stronger language here if you wish) who wish to cause such senseless death and disruption. Part of me would have them all locked up or deported without question. Part of me is angry that this country is so woolly that people like Abu Hamza can burn the British flag with hateful intent and still remain in residence here. I think that stronger measures are needed to punish these people, but at the same time that alone won't discourage other extremists.
I don't know what inspires these people. Jealousy of our tolerance and freedom? The Iraq war cannot be entirely to blame; 9/11 happened first and anyone with any sense would know that a lot of Britons voted against it.
It was quite comforting earlier to hear the Delirious? track I have mentioned before: Our God Reigns. He does indeed, and I hope that some of you will join me in using prayer as the way forward in this age of increasing terror threats.
Circus Mondao is a comedy name in itself, and we knew things would be bad when we saw the name of the venue (Cookies Car Boot Field) and the advertising lorries. Handpainted, they really did claim to have good 'press revues'. However on the basis that a) it looks so bad that it must be funny and b) a huge discount was wangled with ease (being ripped off became less of a concern) we took the kids anyway.
The big top was tiny, and the ringside seats we had bartered for were - I kid you not - plastic garden chairs. Some people would have paid £16 for the privilege of sitting in them rather than on some rickety looking wooden 'stalls'. Suckers.
The artists as it turned out were the same (badly) facepainted people who tried to sell us hamburgers, candy floss and 'circus novelties' incessently before the show began.
Most of the show was dedicated to horses and the sort of thing you might see if you went to watch a horse being trained. It did have the advantage of music, but it was badly DJ-ed and skipped from one track to another sporadically. The amazing 'counting horse' could have been a highlight, but scraped the ground 8 times when asked 'how many days there were in a week'. Having worked to prevent the poor horse scraping at the ground further the trainer passed this off with "of course we all wish there were 8 days in a week, don't we".
The pygmy goats were a comic addition who didn't really impress as they were dragged around the makeshift obstacle course, and during the interval it became apparent that no-one had paid the extortionate fee for a photograph with Shrek (and his sausage dog mutant horse) for a while. We watched as the polaroid camera was dusted off and an out of focus print was handed to the mother who had paid for her child's photograph. She didn't look impressed...
There were one or two 'good' acts, including the man balancing on a ladder, and the couple who did bicycle tricks. Even the woman with the hoops was reasonable until she dropped some of them. Personally I was gutted that there was not tightrope and no trapeze.
To be fair, the kids had a good time (on the whole) and it was a lot of fun, if not for the right reasons. And we didn't expect any more...
There will be no more gannets this year, not because there were some unwashed mugs left over this morning but because camp finished yesterday.
I arrived back in civilisation yesterday evening and was glad of a proper bed to sleep in. However I did have the most amazing time on camp, and I found it really rewarding.
I enjoyed taking part in all kinds of activities from Outdoor Pursuits (mmm Zip Wire) to swimming to playing chess (against some really talented people).
The spiritual programme worked well and I think that both the team and the campers got a lot out of it. For the kids, it gave them the chance in a low key way to learn about the basics of Christianity, and if they had a faith, to develop it. God was clearly at work throughout the week, and many of the kids developed hugely - not just spiritually, but in the way that they approached the activities and related to others.
I'll pick up on some of the comments I've received whilst I've been away in a later post, but for those of you who were wondering about the dress it was for a fancy-dress Narnia themed party. I had to find something to match the pigtails that I was given upon finishing finals...
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
This morning I enjoyed the hot sunshine, strolled in to town for a cafe latte and had the most amazing ice-cream. I may as well have still been in Italy, but a glance at the numerous chip shops and a realisation that cars actually stop at pedestrian crossings put paid to that illusion.
In this weather, Norfolk is not without it's charms. Aside from getting to walk back from town along the beach, I also enjoyed seeing a steam train and buying some delicious fudge. Mmm.
This afternoon I enjoyed a trip to Circus Mondao. My first circus experience didn't fail to amuse me, but for all the wrong reasons. Despite claiming "excellent press revues" and having some pygmy goats, I was not overly surprised to find that it lacked popularity. I did however very much enjoy it, and the 'never a dull moment' ethos continues to hold true.
Defined by user
Saturday, August 05, 2006
The afternoon started on an exciting note as it was, when I went in to town and bought myself a dress. I then went with a man who wants to earn a place in the Guinness Book of Records by getting the least votes in a General Election to 'collect some weeds as decoration for our Narnia themed party'. Said 'weeds' were 10ft tall ("tree" is a more appropriate term) and we had to ride home in the trailer to ensure that they didn't fall out.
Defined by user
Friday, August 04, 2006
On Sunday in Rome my lovely wife and I fancied some Anglican banter and set off early for the English church.
The said traditional service was not overly exciting, but the sermon was quite thought provoking. Starting from the feeding of the 5000 it focussed on God's abundant generosity and as the week has progressed I've really noticed it, even in the little things. Rome was awesome, and it all went better than I could ever have imagined. And now I've arrived to help on a camp in Norfolk. Despite terrible weather over the last week, everyone is generally in good spirits and there seems to be a really good group of campers. God has evidently been at work as well, which is exciting.
Anyhow, I have business to attend to. So from a field in Norfolk it's over and out.
Defined by user
Thursday, August 03, 2006
As the two of us raced towards the Dutch Church, however, we realised to our horror that the gate at the top of the steps was locked, and that getting in could be a problem. The sight of a nun the other side of the gate provided a glimmer of hope and we sprinted up the stairs...where we realised that we had no idea how to convey in Italian that the choir we were with was inside the church and that we wanted to join them.
The situation looked pretty desperate when hand gestures and "Cantare" (which, it turns out, may mean 'you sing') failed to get us anywhere, so I turned to the guide book in search of some useful phrases. 'Choir' would have helped, as would 'Church'. Under the C-Section however, only 'condom' kept popping out of the page. Somehow I cannot think of a less appropriate situation in which to use that word.
Fortunately, I resisted, and after a few more hand gestures it became apparent that we weren't going to leave and the nun relented and let us through anyway.
Originally uploaded by JP1984.
Ladies and gentlemen, I'm sorry, but this corner of the Blogosphere has just come over all Tabloid. Don't let the lack of (almost) topless totti and poor puns fool you. What you see before you is indeed a grainy photograph of a world cup footballer, and it can't be long before I've honed my skills enough to produce quality articles as informative as the one I recently spotted in the Daily Express.
FRANCESCO TOTTI-who scored against Australia-was spotted in the same restaurant as the BNC Choir. It might shock readers to know that he was seen EATING and drinking with his friends. Famous for SCORING against Austrailia, neither Totti nor his friends were available for comment.
Anyhow, I was indeed glared at by Francesco Totti. He was stood outside as I elegantly (her words, not mine) carried Miss Mugford up the street, and the look I got was priceless. I think it was one of my proudest moments.
Halfway through the first rehearsal, people started filing in, and a priest (not, notably, wearing a black shirt) attempted to converse - initially in Spanish I think - with our organ scholar. Evidently the people had turned up for mass, and assuming that the church had been double booked, we left.
Then as we were stood on the steps contemplating what the plan was, and when we would next reconvene, the people filed out of the church again. The reason? They'd come to the wrong church...
It's easily done in Rome I guess - there are churches everywhere - but it was very funny nonetheless.
So as I sat down with the group at a restaurant around the corner and tucked in to some authentic Italian pizza, my dinner was accompannied by some live music. We could hear the gig very clearly, and as the wine and conversation flowed it was surreal to think that "Summer of 69", "Run to You" and the other classics were actually being sung, right there, right then, by the man himself.
Following the meal we went off to our favourite Gelateria for some ice-cream (if you've never had proper Italian ice-cream you haven't lived). Miss Mugford and I then made our way towards the Colosseum as Billy Joel began his set. A walk around the Palatine (which masked the sound, alas) took us to the slopes of the Capitoline where we joined a crowd of people staring out across the forum. There in front of us was the Rostra from which Cicero delivered his speeches, the Temple of Saturn, the house of the Vestal Virgins, the Basilica Julia, and - lit up in the distance - the Colosseum. As we stared out across 2000 years of history and surveyed the beautiful scene, Billy Joel's soundtrack did not disappoint.
The final port of call was the Via Imperiali, where we joined many thousands looking towards the Colosseum and (importantly) stood beneath some big screens displaying the action from the stage. We were there for Billy Joel's encore, which was followed by a series of duets with Adams and another encore. I can't think of anywhere else in the world I would rather have been.
I was with a wonderful group of people, and with such good company in such a great place I really did have a good time.
I will get on with posting some thoughts, because - as ever - I have a lot to say. I'll try and break it down a bit though because the last Shetland post was admittedly a bit mammoth. (however, I'm sure you did read it all, Dave, and I had to leave enough for people to read whilst I went away again). You'll probably also be pleased to know that I don't intend to ramble as much as I did about Cyprus; though please do try and read those posts at some point (my ego will suffer if I don't think it was worth my effort).
For tales of Bryan Adams, Billy Joel, and a world cup footballer, stay tuned.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
But, as is always the case, the cliche "I'll be back" applies. So don't go away.
Thank you to those of you who left comments whilst I was in Shetland. I do now have my results (though I didn't when I composed the post) and I am able to continue my studies next year.
On the Cyprus front, the idea of 'ethnic cleansing' on behalf of the Greeks is not one I had come across (obviously in the Greek side) but a theory to be investigated. As ever, I will do my own research. Watch this space.
Thank you very much for calling, bye for now.
Monday, July 24, 2006
We have another winner of JP's Muppet Awards. This time it goes to the middle aged woman in baggage reclaim this morning. After waiting an age, the baggage eventually appeared on the conveyer belt, and her husband (or should I say 'Partner' to be on the safe side in this overly PC age?) collected their ridiculously heavy suitcase. He then tried to place it on the trolley she was holding, and despite requests to 'hold it still' she failed to notice, let alone use the big green brake lever and the trolley wobbled around like an excited dog, bashing in to those of us around her.
Worryingly, she probably holds a driving license :S
..He's gonna give up the booze and one-night stands.
It might come as something of a relief that today's chosen lyrics are not connected with me (though I do fancy a bit of land). In fact, the only connection with our trip is that they feature in one of the tunes which has accompanied us as we've been driving around. And what a tune it is. I wonder if someone with too much time on their hands can tell me which 70's classic I am referring to.
So, 5 days in Shetland. Aside from visiting random relatives, what have I been up to?
We spent a day exploring the north and west parts of the Shetland Mainland, which really does boast some stunning scenery. After the fog which dominated our first 24 hours or so, the weather cleared and we enjoyed hot sunshine. The weather was good enough in fact to enjoy spending time on one of the picturesque beaches, with its expanse of unspoiled sand and crystal clear waters. The water was so inviting that I donned my swimming shorts (not speedos, I hasten to add) and went for a bit of a swim. To say that it was not warm was an understatement (by the time I was in up to my waist I could have joined the alto section of the choir) but I was not the only one brave/stupid enough to take to the water and I very much enjoyed it. 'Refreshing'.
Our day in this part of the mainland also included a trip to Grobsness - a remote coastal settlement in which there is now only one occupied house - where we located the remains of the small dwelling in which my grandmother was born all those years ago. It was a bit of a mission, and was a very special moment when we found it.
By far and away the most beautiful settlement we visited was Voe, where we visited the local shop (as ever in these parts, quite a novelty) and procured some Shetland Bannachs. A bit like scones they were very tasty and went down well as we munched them sat on the harbour wall.
One of the funny things about Shetland is the extremely poor quality of the postcards which are generally available. Voe is a good example of this, with the only postcard I found shunning the attractive lower harbour for a photo of a generic war memorial on the bleak hillside above. Needless to say, I resisted the temptation to buy one.
Our day on the mainland ended up at the remote Croft/B&B mentioned in one of my previous posts. It was ocated on a peninsula miles from civilsation save for an antiques business at the end of the road, (how it gets any trade is beyond me), and a sinister looking B&B further south, and is certainly worthy of a mention here. Mein hostess agreed to put the three of us up (though the room was humourously cramped as a result, and I had to sleep on the floor) and she went out of her way to ensure a comfortable stay for us. She washed and dried my frankly rancid walking socks, ensured that the nearest pub would serve us an evening meal, booked our ferry to the northern isles and cooked us a delicious breakfast, Mmmm.
The use of the term 'nearest' when describing the pub in which we dined is a bit of a misnomer, as it was a good 10 or 12 miles away in Brae. Brae is one of the larger settlements on the map, but turned out to be disappointingly souless with no character and a fairly ugly waterfront. It did boast an impressive leisure centre though, and Skittles nearly burst with excitement when he saw that it had an Astro Turf pitch. Dinner at the Mid Brae Inn was delicious, and I enjoyed a sizeable portion of Shetland Lamb.
The next day we ventured north, crossing the island of Yell, which to be honest was quite bland. The title of 'second most northerly of the UK's inhabited islands' just doesn't quite cut it, and the scenery was less dramatic than the mainland. It did however boast some gorgeous beaches, and we enjoyed lunch on one, again in the hot sunshine. Unfortunately we didn't see any of the elusive otters said to inhabit the island.
After crossing Yell we ended up on Unst. The UK's most northerly inhabited island. Now that's more like it. Despite a population of just 600, it has a lot to offer. The main settlement has Britain's most northerly Post Office (and quite a large shop - by Shetland standards at least), and on the same theme Britain's most northerly church was to be found a little bit further up. Not much to look at from the outside, it was well worth a visit, as the inside was particularly striking. Unst was where we also found the famous bus shelter complete with sofa and TV. Very cool. It even has a visitor's book...
Hermeness Nature Reserve occupies the northern most point of the island, and a trek across it leads to Muckle Flugga. Funky name, funky place; the lighthouse just offshore is the most northerly point of the British Isles. Our first attempt to get there was thwarted by the mist which rolled in, and though we once again enjoyed seeing some puffins it was disappointing to have to turn back. Happily the weather the next morning was better, and I am proud to say that we made it.
Overnight in Unst was spent at the very comfortable Youth Hostel, which made for a very sociable evening. Digressing slightly, two of us had made the most of being so far from civilisation and people we knew to have an informal facial hair competition, and with hindsight it was not wise to have 'styled' my beard without proper use of a mirror that morning. I don't think it looked too bad, and nobody commented; it's just that it hadn't occured to me that we might actually meet people that evening when I had made use of the razor blade (or not as the case may be).
The people at the Youth Hostel were great. The conversations included the usual "when I was in Zimbabwe waterskiing in a lake full of crocodiles..." anecdotes, but we had good fun, gained some local insights and met a Swedish guy who looked like McBain (The Simpsons) and tracked wolves for a living.
One of the guys was visiting for the Unst Thrash ("Britain's northern most track day"). Quality name, quality event - apparently. We didn't specifically look for it, but it was advertised as just being 'on Unst' and though our travels took us across the entire island and through all the main settlements there wasn't even so much as a sign for it. The only evidence was the plethora of chavved-up cars, with some drivers looking ever so slightly lost.
Tempted though we were by a bit of thrash,we ventured south. After some shopping in Lerwick we checked in at a B&B, enjoyed a quality meal in Spiggie, climbed Noss Hill with its eerie military ruins and made it to Sumburgh lighthouse. Northern most tip to southern most tip of the Shetlands in a day. And some more puffins. Nice.
And so after an early start we wound up at the airport, which is where I wrote my last post and began this one. As I wrap up this epic I am still travelling home, now on the final leg (the train from Gatwick). Ladies and gentlemen, I wound up on the boat. To be fair, it was comfortable, we got free meals, the transfers worked, and today's BA flight was excellent. I even qualified for entry in to the BA Lounge at Aberdeen, complete with comfy chairs, newspapers, free tea/coffee/croissants/cereal/soft drinks and booze should I have wanted it at 9am. Mmmmm.
I wonder if being almost 24hrs behind schedule still counts as fashionably late?
Sunday, July 23, 2006
The song title for this post is the most relevant yet; it describes my location well, and is by a Scottish group to boot.
This post was going to come to you a few days ago from a B&B/Croft on a remote peninsula on the Shetland Mainlaind, but the reliability of the Vodafone email server (poor, despite good GPRS coverage) coupled with days packed with better things to do than blog means that I've got a bit behind with my diary.
Anyway, I now have all the time in the world to ramble about my trip so far because I am fog-bound at Sumburgh Airport with no idea when and how I will leave the Shetlands. Apparently fog affects the flights here all the time in the summer, so I am a little bit annoyed that there were no warnings about this when booking, and no information on the Tourist Website under the 'Getting Here' section. The announcement has just been given that our flight is still delayed, with the next update due in an hour. At this rate I'll be on the boat to Aberdeen overnight tonight; and I could have planned to do that myself (probably) for less money than my flight and certainly I'd have been able to arrange my schedule better to suit my plans.
Hey ho. Once again 'In the Remote Part' feels quite apt.
On a more positive note, Sumburgh does have a 'prayer room' in which I have been able to catch up with my Bible reading and take some space . As a result I am feeling quite buoyant and I will now write another post reflecting on the highlights of the last week (which has just been fantastic).
Saturday, July 22, 2006
Another cue from a song; I think that there is a bit of a trend emerging. And this one is (possibly) more relevant than the last.
It turns out that my grandmother's 80 year old cousins are both in good enough shape to look after a few acres of land and keep sheep. As Skittles noted, the word 'legend' is often applied very liberally, but these guys certainly deserve the title.
Along with their nephew and his wife we enjoyed a wonderful meal, complete with home grown spuds. Conversation flowed as we traced family links, learned about Shetland and just made general small talk. The evening flashed passed, and as we took our leave at midnight it was still twilight. I'm thrilled to have completed another link in the family chain, and really hope that it will remain for years to come; "Shine on..."
Aside from meeting distant relatives, yesterday was filled with adventure. Despite the lingering fog, we opted to continue with plans to island-hop to Noss.
We started with the short ferry across from Lerwick to Bressay and after a brief spell in the interesting Visitor Centre we struck out across the island. The guidebook was wrong when it came to the distance-it was the longest 2 1/2 miles I've ever walked. However, punctuated near the beginning by a visit to the quaint little shop for supplies, our trudge through the fog peering at buildings and lochs eventually came to an end.
To cross to Noss there is a 'ferry' which runs in the summer, except in stormy weather when a red flag is shown. I wouldn't have seen a red flag at the end of my nose but some cyclists assured us it was running and we picked our way beyond the ferry sign and down the track amidst a few ruined buildings. It was surreal searching for a man in a rubber dinghy in such conditions but the makeshift jetty was pretty obvious. Joined by one other we donned life jackets and motored across the short stretch of water.
The fog was lifting all the time and as we stopped for lunch we had good visibility. Perched on the cliff above a stack we watched many seabirds, including puffins. Awesome (though smaller than you'd think).
Our return journey saw ever increasing visibility, so we enjoyed seeing where we'd been. The scenery really is spectacular, a point hammered home when we finally left Lerwick and set out en route to visit my distant relations.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
I attempted to post a photo of our successful rendezvous in Edinburgh, but so far it hasn't appeared.
Anyway, continuing without the need for pictures, we have arrived. The journey was pleasant and smooth and we docked at 7.30am this morning. Sadly the clear skies evident as the twilight faded near John O'Groats at 10.30pm had given way to mist and drizzle when I looked out at 4.30am and have not reappeared since.
Nevertheless, we've had a pleasant morning in Lerwick, finding our accommodation and indulging in a delicious and hearty brunch in a local cafe. Lerwick is fairly bustling, and does not feel that remote. Aside from a few Scandanavian influences in some of the buildings, we could be anywhere in the UK.
We've seen the impressive Town Hall and the local loch and later plan to explore further, maybe visiting the Up-Helly-Aa exhibition.
So what does the title of this post have to do with all this? It's a Kings of Leon lyric, quoted by Stan, and doesn't really relate to anything much. Except to say that the woman I feared I might have to kick out of my reclining seat on the boat was very definitely un-shaved and lacy.
I didn't-as it happened-have to kick Ms Whispy-Whiskers out of my seat but I do want to rant about some of the passengers on the boat. They had deemed it sensible to sleep on the floor in front of the reclining seats, blocking access to up to three in some cases.
One such selfish bint prevented me from reaching my (otherwise empty seat) but rather than giving her the kicking she deserved I occupied another seat and hoped I didn't get turfed out. Fortunately I didn't, but I was woken at 2am but an altercation caused by someone trying to evict a grumpy Scotsman from a seat that he probably wasn't meant to be occupying. Grrr.
Right, after a nice cuppa and a blogging session it's time once again to hit the UK's most northerly town. Planned highlights include dinner at Monty's Bistro.
Defined by user
Monday, July 17, 2006
Shetland: The Adventure Begins
Originally uploaded by JP1984.
After a pleasant journey north to York yesterday, I met with one of my travelling companions - Stan - and stayed with his brother. The sun was shining and it was great just to chill out.
And so, at a not uncivilised hour, the journey continues this morning. Flat and featureless scenery has given way to something a little more picturesque, and we have just passed Durham and its striking cathedral.
We change trains at Edinburgh, where we should be joined by Skittles, the third member of this intrepid trio. I say should, because he had to leave very early this morning, and matters were complicated yesterday by his realisation that he needed to arrive at the station in time to renew his YP railcard. Those of you who know him will know that the odds are not certain, but he should have been underway for a while now and no news, as they say, is good news. At least after yesterday's conversation he knows that it's Waverley and not Haymarket.
Will the rendezvous go to plan? Watch this space...
Meanwhile, we've just passed the Angel of the North.