Showing posts from September, 2008

Friday Blues

I feel like crap! Sorry to be blunt and sorry to foist this upon you. Mind you, saying that, I am under no illusions that people actually read these blog entries. I write them for little more than cathartic purposes - a way to get things off my chest.

Okay maybe I am being a bit of aman complaining about a little cold, but to be honest it's not the cold that's getting to me. I'm just tired. I'm working too much. I need to do it and I want to do it. I enjoy the job I have now and I believe in it. But I am hoping that the long hours are only short term.

It feels too long since I've had a serious break, a chance to recharge.

I know things just went this way. My wife lost her job and so the summer holiday had to be cancelled. Plain and simple - happens to a lot of people.

So I worked long hours in the last weeks at my previous job - including weekends to make some extra money. And then I cashed in my holiday days remaining to help the family finances. End result by year…

Thank you Desmond Carrington (I Never Thought I'd Say That)

My musical tastes are a little diverse. However I never thought I would ever find something on Desmond Carrington's show on BBC Radio 2. He plays oldies usually - fifties crooners and show tunes. I don't even listen to his show normally.

Today though I did by mistake. I left work late (go live - different story) and switch on the radio. I listen to BBC Radio 4 a great deal. When I left work today I was listening to Front Row - the station's nightly culture show. Well I was briefly, as I switch on it finished and it was about to go into the nightly serial. That didn't sound interesting so I switched to Radio 2 wondering if tonight was the night they have a Blues show - that's usually quite good.

It wasn't - I missed that by a day. It's on Mondays. However when I clicked over I heard some very pleasing Irish folk music with female vocals. I'm a long time Clannad and Maddy Prior fan so it instanly appealed. What he was playing was a song by American folkies …

Lincolnshire Plum Bread

This weekend I went to visit my mother. She lives in Lincolshire - about half way between Skegness and Grimsby. We popped over to Alford whilst we were up there with the intention of picking up some lavender oil - my mother likes scenting her house with lavender. Unfortunately the shop where we used to buy it is closed and seems to have been closed for a long, long time. It had been a while - last time we bought her a large bottle of the stuff and it lasted over two years.

Fortunately though just around the corner from where the oil shop used to be is a deli, one that sells some of the most wonderful things - cheeses, pastes, oils, james, meats (the in-laws are carnivorous after all) and breads. And oh, the breads. Wow! Lincolnshire Plum Bread is absolutely heavenly. If you ever in that part of the world try to find some. You won't regret it.

What's the point of blogs?

They're odd things. I guess a lot of people just use them like diaries, or maybe to keep family members up to date with events and the like. Some people use them to put forward outlandish thoughts - conspiracy theorists and the like.

(As a side thought I never overly get conspiracies. Not that I don't believe that conspiracies never happen, just the at the popular ones seem unbelievable to me - Marilyn Monroe, President Kennedy, Diana, Princess of Wales, the "fake" moon landings and Roswell. I just can't fathom them. There are times when the obvious reason to me is the right one. Just because you don't like the official version of things don't mean they are wrong. I digess anyway - back to blogs.)

Others use blogs to highlight their point of view. And they are becoming increasingly listened to.

I mean the US political parties are allowing some bloggers access to their candidates during this election campaign. This new media is becoming very important.

So shou…

Age Darkens

I know tastes change as you age. I accept this - in many ways I look forward to it. I have always enjoyed new things - okay new to me might be a little more accurate, this can involve discovering musical artists I'd previously overlooked, old films, re-runs, classic novels and the like.

But one thing I have noticed recently is that my tastes have edged darker and heavier. In many ways they've gone back to the type of things I used to watch and listen to when I was a kid. Musically my favourite bands at the moment are Metallica, Rush, Iron Maiden and Dream Theater. I still like The Who, Yes, Pink Floyd, Suzanne Vega and the like. It's just I prefer something a little heavier these days. When I feel like some music I'm more likely to put on Nick Cave, Disturbed or Stonesour than REM or U2.

My reading tastes have darkened too - I'm reading horror as the norm, rather than sf. I'm watching horror films and crime and horror TV shows like Dexter and Bones and my old fav…

Bernard Hamandcheesetoastie

This is cathartic. It's a chance to remind myself that I want to be a writer. I've done. I've sold eighty pieces - heavily weighted though that number is in the direction of reviews. But I've not done any real writing for a little while. I've tried. I've half started a number of reviews - for Kevin Anderson's The Ashes of Worlds, for Thomas Disch's The Word of God, for Mike Resnick's Stalking the Vampire, for Nigel Suckling's The Book of the Vampire and for Tim Lebbon's The Reach of Children. I guess I can add Brian Keene's Ghost Walk to the list too as I finished reading it last night.

They are all good. I need to get them all reviewed. It's just my mind's been out of sorts. When I finally came to the conclusion I had to leave my last job it was a jolt. It threw me off balance. When I received the job offer (from my now employer) I bucked up a little. I began writing again - polishing off a couple more comic horror tales (which h…

Happy-slapping Eeyore

It's Tuesday - day two of my wife's new job. Good thing too - money is always helpful. Only problem is it's in Peterborough. Nothing wrong with Peterborough - except if you live in Ashby de la Zouch. It's a good two hours drive there and back so it means she is staying in a B&B nearby and is away between Monday morning and Thursday evening.

It has lead to odd conversations. We have them at times - most often when we are driving and just passing the time. So we have a new medium for them - the nightly telephone calls.

Tonight's conversation lead to one of the bizarrest concepts yet - hence the title. And all because of the need to buy a coffee cup. Her new employer has a coffe machine - nothing unusual so far. It dispenses plastic cups and my wife prefers real mugs and cups. So a quick visit to a supermarket and (apparantly - I wasn't there) the choice was between two - Tigger and Eeyore.

It came down to one thing - the fact that my wife always found Eeyore to …

100 Things to Do Before You Die

I am a sucker for lists - and UK newspaper The Independent has posted a list (with pictures) of 100 Things to Do Before You Die. Here's the link

And for the record - I've not done any of them - although I have been in Venice whilst the Biennale was on - but we didn't go anywhere near it as we wanted to see the town itself.
And we've not been there during the Carnivale either.

Detached from Reality

I've never been a fan of football (soccer to any Americans reading this). When it comes to sports I like rugby and cricket - and I will admit American Football. But for some reason soccer never got me. When I was a kid I never minded it all that much - although any attraction I had for it melted away as my childhood ended.But in recent years I've grown in despair more and more about it as a sport. And the reason for this is nothing to do with it as a sport. It's the fact that football seems to have become a glamour sport. From the outside it gives the appearance of being more about hairdos, tattoos and image. Oh, and money.And today I saw something that appalled me - and before anyone criticises what I am about to type I realise that the following is just a rumour. The BBC website is reporting that Manchester City's new owner will make an offer for their neighbour Manchester United's star player Cristiano Ronaldo said to be in the region of GBP 135 MILLION.This is …

Good Food - in Derby

Yesterday we went into Derby to take of the regular stuff - banking, picking up magazines etc. What we found there was a wonderful surprise. All through the middle of Derby was a market - lots of French/Italian/Greek/German food stalls (with some smattering of craft stuff).

Being a family full of avid foodies (or greedy types if you want us to be honest) this was something we simply had to indulge in. And the reason is simple. When it comes to it our European friends do the basics of food so much better than the English. That and there is not quite the culture of fast food over on mainland Europe. I've seen Burger joints in France and Italy but they don't seem to be as much in the mainstream of culture as in the UK.

I'm not saying saying that the English cannot produce great food, quite the opposite. The best of English food can be up there with the best in the world. The problem is that it is not all that good if you are a vegetarian (and I am).

However if you talk Mediterra…

One last though - Black Sheep

Before I head off to read my book I though I'd better just mention a truly wonderful (or awful, not quite sure which) movie. It's a spoof horror film from New Zealand called Black Sheep. It is the first film that has had me, my wife and both of her parents laughing out loud at. A truly rare thing.

It combines a bit of moralising (against genetic engineering in farming and various environmental issues) with a boy-comes-home tale, totally wonderful scenery, a love story and the most ridiculous horror imaginable. Great stuff - well worth a laugh.

Underneath it all

I am an intelligent and educated man. I studied astrophysics at University so I feel this boast is backed up by some evidence. I can speak Italian (reasonably well) and some French. I like theatre (although not musicals), I visit castles, cathedrals and country houses for fun - even venture into the middle of nowhere to see stone circles and other prehistoric sites. I have a fondness for cairns, dolmens and other stone age structures. I read science books, history books, archaeology, mythology, politics, art etc etc etc.

I consider myself a cultured fellow.

So why is it then that I have just watched, and thoroughly enjooyed, bull-riding on the TV. What gets me especially is that, on top of everything mentioned above, I'm English. I've never been to Texas (I know, I am implying this is a purely Texan sport - let me off on this one, I'm on a rant).

So bull-riding, hmmh! I might pretend to being all high-brow and superior (remember ranting, I'm honestly not too bad - I hope …

Wonderful pedantry

I am a pedant. Many of my friends would say it is one of my defining characteristics. I cannot help being pedantic. Most often I see it as an intolerance on my part to growing incorrectness.

It's a debate I have with myself from time to time - mostly when it concerns the English Language. I make mistakes in it, but I try not to do so. I know which is the correct version of its/it's to use. I know their vs. they're vs. there. I can differentiate between two, to and too.

I also have dislikes apart from simple misspellings (and I am not talking typos here - this editor doesn't spell check so some may get passed me).

My main bugbear is "try and". To me that suggests you are going to try AND you are going to do it. Surely it should be "try to". I am going to "try to" write grammatically correct English. Second in my pet-hates list comes "should of". I know it sounds like that but it's quite simply wrong. "Should have", &quo…

And talking of music

Back in the 1908s I watched, like many others, the mini-series "V". One of the characters (Robin) was played by a young actress called Blair Tefkin. That was that, so I thought.

Well Tefkin is also a musician. Or rather these days she is mainly a musician -I don't think she has acted in years. And I have a copy of her CD Shocked and Devastated. I love it, reminds me a lot of The Throwing Muses - another of those bands I liked back in the 1908s. S+D sounds a little out of its time when you consider it was released in 2000.

To me elements of it sound like 1960s early psychedelia era stuff, all jangly and upbeat. But more than this it sounds like the US-Indie stuff of the 1980s - hence the Throwing Muses reference.

All the same I think it's great and I wish she would release a second album.

Que Te Quiero

Talk about missing the boat (musically here).

I have always been a passionate fan of music - and not afraid to pick my tastes purely on the grounds that I like things. In fact I will always consider any person's musical taste to be equally valid compared to mine. That is, if they have a defined musical taste and don't just sheepishly follow a trend. I accept some people like the current club-scene dance music stuff. I don't but if they have a passion then that's all to the good. It's not having musical taste that I don't get.

Mine results in a core set of likes (NWOBHM, Prog-Metal, Prog-Rock, Folk, some rock - Springsteen end, etc) but it does mean I have odd bits thrown in to the mix.

Most of this comes from my formative years being at the very end of the 1970s and the first half of the 1980s. As a result I quite like some bits of 1980s pop. I like Ultravox, The Jam, The Style Council, U2, Simple Minds, Suzanne Vega etc. Nothing to gain me odd looks at all. But t…

One of those books

Every now and again a book clicks. It hits me at just the right moment. Often these are books I wold consider amongst the best ever written (Clifford Simak's City, Asimov's Foundation Trilogy, Ward Moore's Bring the Jubliee, Frnak Herbert's Dune etc etc etc). But as often it's just because the book is the right one for the frame of mind I find myself in.

This is where I am now. Although I would say the book is superb, there is more of the right timing about it than it being in the list of ultimates.

Anyway, enough procrastinating, the book in question is Kevin J. Anderson's The Ashes of Worlds.

This series started six years ago with Hidden Empire and right from the get-go I was completely and utterly hooked. It's odd in one respect. My normal tastes are for single volume short novels or preferably novellas. (And yes I realise Frank Herbert's Dune is not particularly short at 600+ pages and Asimov's Foundation Trilogy is, well, a trilogy.)

But Anderson&#…

It's Groundhog Day...Again!

I have a number of favourite films, one I can watch over and over. They usually fit into two categories.

The first type comprise the action films, the science fiction and horror films - the ones everyone would expect from me - Highlander, Terminator, Die Hard, Scream, Starship Troopers, Robocop, Star Treks and so on.

The second type seems to surprise a lot of people when they find out. I like sentimental and feelgood movies - It's a Wonderful Life, Love Actually, The Fabulous Baker Boys and Fried Green Tomatoes being typical examples.

But above all other films there is one I can watch over and over, and you could say it spans both areas. The film is Groundhog Day. It is simply wonderful, and always guaranteed to make me smile.

And yes I am watching it again right now!!!!