Thursday 22 November 2007

'Tis nearly the season...

About now, there is a myriad of events to celebrate the festive season, and I’ve already done a few evenings, shaking hands (the active tense, not getting them…) eating lumps of unidentifiable pastry shaped like ear-plugs and loads of those miniature sausages, which are about the size of a baked bean. Also there are the drinks, which are pouring from huge industrial buckets suspended from the ceiling, and channelled constantly through the little hands of frighteningly young and very pretty attendants, with names which include at least three ‘Z’s and a couple of ‘XC’s.

So far, I’ve trodden on a very tall blond lady, so tall and lissom, that I couldn’t quite focus on her face! … Nobody knows I’ve been to a party, unless I’ve sent a tray of drinks crashing over the balcony rails at least once, or upset a pile of peculiar looking sushi all over the floor (best place for it at these events…or any other time for that matter…). Conversation goes something like ‘Oh Hi, …(Stamp) … Aaaaargh …Oh, I’m so sorry…What do you do…. Fantastic … Give me a call…etc etc… (Crash) ...Oooops... No problem; SIR...’

I’ve even spent a pleasant half hour discussing terrorism with a senior guy from the Met. (Why is it impossible not to keep on getting refills when talking with an officer of the law? I had about three more, and every tip I gave him, like getting nerds to screen world-wide emails for hidden clues on attacks, was pleasantly responded with a concise term, usually ending in ‘ics’, and a patient explanation as to how they do it. It was a fascinating chat, and of absolutely no use to me in my business.)

Luckily I’ve bumped into many old chums, and we’ve compared injuries, and promised to meet again next year; just like we said in 1987. Yesterday, I think I went to sleep listening to someone explaining Spanish pensions, which again was useless for me.

When I used to organise these bashes, I invented the ‘Three Pace Rule’. This involves making lapel badges with printing which is large enough to be able to read from ten feet. That way, you can cruise through the crowd, and approach the people you want to meet, like attractive ladies from investment banks or names from respected property organisations, but better, you can also avoid the ones with a company name like ‘Septic Drains’, which will not really do very much for one in the short term.

I do try and stick to the adage that I must be judged as capable of talking to anyone, irrespective of the value of the conversation, but when I’m only at an event for an couple of hours, I really must work the floor, and listening to someone describing a ‘soil back outflow’ he installed in 1990 is – well – not a good accompaniment to a wisp of smoked salmon and a chilled Sauvignon.

Another problem is that most of these parties are going on in almost complete darkness! I can’t even see where I’m going let alone read someone’s card, and if some girl band is shrieking rubbish from a speaker close by, it’s practically impossible to say or do anything except yell your name, completely misunderstand what the other person is saying, and wander off with a vague expression of ‘who the f*** was that?’

Actually, the evening parties have been enjoyable and useful for good business, but getting home late is not really what I like doing, and it begins to make the system creak when they’re back to back. Tonight, I have yet another binge to attend, but I’ve decided that I’d rather sit comfortably at home with Mrs S, than discuss bridge construction in The Andes with some wild-haired engineer waving his arms all over the place and dribbling design calculations and orange juice...

There’s just no contest!

Sunday 18 November 2007

Smug gits...

What really pisses me off these days is the smug glee with which the BBC is thriving on bad news. Why do I have to endure a grinning presenter glittering out of the TV screen at 7.00am with the news that more houses will be repossessed this year, and more families will have no credit to rely on?

It seems to me that they love reporting bad news. Presenters wriggle and squirm with delight at a tragic story while trying to put a concerned face on for the cameras. The BBC had a reporter in Great Yarmouth during the recent flood surge worry, and she was nearly wetting herself and dribbling with expectation while trying to make a catastrophic disaster out of what turned out to be a non-event to most people. Back in the studio, the ‘presenters’ were looking on with ‘concern’, and grilling the weatherman on the likelihood of the equivalent to a tsunami all over Norfolk. They were scrabbling after a disaster story which never happened.

The recent headlines on Radio 4 also included items about why we mustn’t drink so much, eat too much, use our cars so much, live too long, be ill etc.


This isn’t news; it’s re-peddling a few ‘government facts’ cobbled together to scare the shit out of most families, who are already only too aware that their homes and lives are at risk from far too many factors which are out of their control. Joe Public just doesn’t need reminding he’s in debt and will stay that way for years to come, he already knows. Still, he can be comforted that the top dozen or so people at Ofcom are taking home around £3m, so it’s not all bad is it?

And what is the really good news?

The Spice Girls had a reunion!


Thursday 15 November 2007

Lighten up now...

A man and his wife are awakened at 3 o'clock in the morning by a loud pounding on the door.

The man gets up and goes to the door where a drunken stranger, standing in the pouring rain, is asking for a push."Not a chance," says the husband, "It is three o'clock in the morning"!

He slams the door and returns to bed.

"Who was that"? asked his wife.
"Just some drunk guy asking for a push"! he answers.
"Did you help him"? she asks.
"No. I did not. It is three o'clock in the morning and it is pouring with rain outside"!
His wife said, "Can't you remember about three months ago when we broke down and those two guys helped us? I think you should help him,and you should be ashamed of yourself"!

The man does as he is told (of course!), gets dressed and goes out into the pouring rain. He calls out into the dark, "Hello! Are you still there"?
"Yes," comes back the answer.
"Do you still need a push"? calls out the husband.
"Yes! Please"! comes the reply from the darkness.
"Where are you"? asks the husband.
"Over here.... on the swing"! replies the drunk....

Monday 12 November 2007

Gorecki 3rd Symphony

Probably the most brutal depiction I have ever seen.


You may have to be enlightened by another part.

Sunday 11 November 2007

Odds on...

Iain Dale posted a nice story yesterday, about a chap in New York finding a girl he’d seen on the subway, by setting up a website. Link here :

Iain Dale's Diary: Warming the Cockles#links

Some years ago, I was working away from home in The Midlands during the week, and driving home through London (pre M25), every Friday evening.

Somewhere round The Aldwych, (I’d taken a different route through, and got slightly lost…), I was driving in the wrong lane to turn South, and found myself out in the middle of the junction with about nine thousand cars bearing down on me.

So I put my foot down, and tried to escape…

Even back then, cyclists were trying their luck everywhere, and a chap poked his front wheel out just a few seconds before everyone else drove forward, and I hit him, knocking him off his bike and damaging his wheel.

I stopped and went back to help, and immediately recognised him as a guy I knew well as I’d been working with him on a project just a few weeks before! So I had to say sorry; he accepted that; and I piled his bike in the boot and took him home to Kentish Town, where I bought him a new wheel.

What are the odds on that happening for God’s sake! In London; in rush hour too! Anyway, he was happy, I was relieved, and now, if anyone ever says to me that winning the lottery on the day the big Premium Bond pays out is never going to happen; I don’t believe them!

Thursday 8 November 2007

Tubular bells.

Because the sound system in the Scrobsmobile is a state of the art tape player and radio, (cds weren't invented when they built this car...), I have a lot of pleasure in grabbing a handful of tapes, and playing them when I get fed up with Radio 4.

The latest batch included Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells. I always like it - loved it even, from the very beginning, and may have mentioned before here, that I stayed up one night in 1973 to watch Melvyn Bragg introduce the music being played live by Mike Oldfield and friends. I was hooked thereafter.

Mrs S gave me a real copy soon after I had failed miserably to get a proper reel-to-reel tape made from a friend's album - well you did didn't you, microphone dangling from the curtain rail, tiptoing everywhere for an hour, no swearing!

On the Sevenoaks bypass yesterday, the whole piece thundered out and contentment was the norm, especially the thought that it was twenty-five years old! What a time; loads of years had gone by since we all listened in awe at one chap playing all those instruments. Even Viv Stanshall sounded quaint!

It took me a long, long time to realise, while mistily musing on the five-and-twenty years time warp, that it was in fact not 25 years but 35 years since we all gasped!

How long?

Thursday 1 November 2007

A place fit for...expenses...

Yesterday was a particularly fine day for getting around London on foot. I had a meeting in Cavendish Square, and another in Victoria, but some time in between when I had several phone calls to make and nowhere to prop up the briefcase. So I walked, and headed for park benches wherever I could, and felt pretty good.

It was heart-raising to see the milling crowds after the Duke of Edinburgh Gold Awards ceremony at Clarence House. Good Kids those, and the glowing faces and flashing cameras all around exuded well deserved acclaim.

Later on, the walk back to Trafalgar Square took me up Whitehall, away from the House of Expenses. Just before The Cenotaph, everyone was directed by the Long Arm of the Law to the east side, and I saw quite a few workmen preparing The Cenotaph for Remembrance Day. It seemed a bit over the top (wrong expression, but meaningful), that we all had to trudge around, but the real reason was that Downing Street was under siege...from visitors!

There must have been at least fifty policeman watching the crowd, presumably more milling around unannounced, a huge gaggle of senior figures just outside the gates, even more inside, plenty of blue lights, lots of very, very busy politicians urgently looking at their watches and about 200 spectators. I sat on the low wall opposite, made a few more calls, and waited.

Around 3.00pm, the gates were swung wide and a flotilla of big black staff cars carrying King Abdullah and the rest, came out and swooped north towards the Rich Precinct. There was not a sound from anyone, and within minutes, the area was back to normal. What an expensive fuss about coming to meet Ed Balls! I reckon that half hour cost around £60,000 in time spent, organisation, expenses for politicians, and more police than you can shake a stick at – well, not shake a stick at under the circumstances...

Meanwhile, the workmen putting up the barriers at The Cenotaph toiled on quietly and efficiently, preparing a place where real Heroes are remembered.