Sunday, December 31, 2006

on not keeping pace with the 'village' calender

When I was having a bit of a sort out yesterday I found a flyer for 'Billifest', which must surely have been one of the events of 2006. I was packing up and finishing some coursework some 100 or so miles away at the time, and I can't believe that I missed it. What a silli billi.

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

procrastinating?

A message is for life, not just for Christmas

famous relations

I am pleased to be able to claim that I am related to a star of the Queen's Christmas broadcast this year.

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

On the Eve of the Feast of the Holy Nativity 2006

The presents are wrapped. I've just hung up my cards* and decorated my room with some paper chains. Dinner is cooking and I am looking forward to an evening with the family before nipping to church for the Midnight Communion. I might need a whisky beforehand, but I am looking forward to croaking away in the choir (as a bass - my voice has at least regained a shred of masculinity in the last couple of days).

*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.
God so loved the world that he sent his only Son
-John 3:16

Give it some thought, folks. Behind the gifts, the celebrations, and even the well behaved baby in a crib lies an important message.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Boys Toys

I was fortunate this morning to have a meeting at a company responsible for making aircraft simulators. I had a fascinating time learning about the capabilities of the simulators, the techniques used to design and build them, and the production and certification process.

Oh, and I got to land an Airbus A380. Bring it on.

Christmas in The Capital


Christmas 2006
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.

Robin...

...The Hooded Man.

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

home, but exhausted

I feel as though I now very definitely know what the phrase "burnt out" means. I am so exhausted that it is debilitating.

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

Addendum to the Addendum

I have now remembered why the girl on the station platform saw my wallet (as the actress said to the Bishop).

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

Addendum (II)

I think I spent too long today being in a tired daze. It's funny how silly insignificant things can dominate my thought process, whilst other things just float on by.

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?

Addendum

When I was on the train earlier expressing my contentedness I forgot to mention that I was also in possession of a quiche. I wasn't eating said quiche but I thought that as a travelling accessory it was worth a mention. Of course ultimately it had more purpose than a travelling accessory as we had a buffet meal at church tonight and I figured that for my contribution there was no harm in sticking to that classic Christian cliche.

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".

"io, io, io, by priest and people sungen"

Last night the Bath University Chamber Choir had the privilege of singing at Bowood House for a charity concert in aid of Headway. Like any stately home, Bowood House is impressive. I loved the busts of famous people and the beautiful paintings which dominated the hallway, and whilst it was still light the view from the front was quite something. One could not see any other sign of human habitation from one's window.

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.

Political Splurge

Left wing readers might find this post pleasantly surprising. The rest of you probably need not worry too much however, I'm not losing the plot completely.

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.

Being Reflective

I am currently sat on a train, feeling contented having consumed a delicious hot apple drink and reflecting on an excellent day in Oxford.

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

I miss OLIS

I'm annoyed with the Bath University Library. Firstly they don't send reminder emails just before a book is due, though they clearly have the facility to do so because the moment my book became overdue I got a terse automated email from them informing me of that fact.

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

Happy are the people whose God is the Lord

Last night I went to hear London Community Gospel Choir, supported by Bath Community Gospel Choir and the University GASP Choir at The Forum.

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

"I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad..."

I've heard three ludicrous things recently which, if true, make me wonder about the sanity and the priorities of some of those in authority.

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...