May 3rd 2010
Well, and what a Bank Holiday weekend I've been having. Let's get chronological, folks.
On Friday night the actuarial students - and a few people who pretend still to be actuarial students on such occasions - went out to celebrate the end of exams. A good time was had by all, especially since the location (Bar Ha Ha) was five minutes' walk from my house - as usual, I backed out before the clubbing began. I'm not, as my closer friends will tell you, a clubber, except on very special occasions. Anyways, on Saturday Matt and I welcomed James and Steve over for the weekend, so we engaged in manly activities like watching football, eating curry, playing Fifa and engaging in what can only legitimately be referred to as 'banter'. James and Steve are two of my favourite people in the world (former Wolves strikers excepted, naturally) so it was a great time, and one that I hope will be repeated afore too long. Speaking of my favourite people in the world (and breaking chronology horribly), today I received a rather exciting email from one of them. But, like the tease I am, I'll come back to that on another day.
While we had our mini Uni reunion, we had an exciting Fifa 10 tournament, entitled "James Lee's Official Bristol 2010 Fifa 10 Le Tournoi De Umbro Cup Champions Sponsored by Cobra Beer, Tesco Value Gin and Colin's Face" - much fun was had, even though I lost every game. Steve triumphed, since you ask.
On Sunday, after Steve and James had left (and I'd watched Doctor Who - Amy Pond, I love you still, but what are you doing?), I headed off to a hustings at Christ Church. I may have mentioned my intention to vote Tory, and that hasn't changed, even though I thought the sitting Lib Dem came off as the most self-assured.
Some of the questioning seemed a little pointless - as it was a largely Christian audience, there were certain questions where the three main candidates (all non-Christians) were never likely to agree with the majority of us - e.g. homosexuality and gay marriage, which came up once or twice. On other points, the candidates tended to fall in with the party line, which was to be expected, I suppose.
I may write more about Christians in government at some later date (though, then again, I may not), but I should carry on with telling you about my extended weekend. Today I paid a lot of bills that had somehow piled up, and wondered a little what I should do about the fact that a lot of post I'm expecting hasn't turned up. Maybe Mr. Post Office will be my friend. This is the end of my diary entry, it was very nice to write to you.
That was a disaster. Should never have put me with these readers. Whose idea was that? Sue’s, I think. Just ridiculous. They’re just these sort of bigoted people who say they used to be blog readers. Ridiculous.
May 6th/7th 2010
Today is polling day, and I cast my vote before work at about 7.45am (since you ask, yes, I did vote Tory, hence today's background). The polls close at 10pm, and from 9.55pm till 6am the BBC is showing its election night coverage - which I intend to watch as much of as I can manage. Not only that, but I'm going to try something new on this page, and give you my live-ish thoughts throughout the night - so if you're watching too, you'll be able to read my periodic updates on this page (though you may need to clear your cache occasionally). Obviously I welcome your comments, as ever, so you can email me through the link above (email@example.com). Apologies for not mentioning this a few days ago, but I only thought of it while walking home from work...
5.44pm - in order to be wide awake for as long as possible throughout the coverage, I'm going to try and get a couple of hours' sleep now. I'll be back when I'm awake, and I think I can promise that I will be raring to go.
9.52pm - we're very close to kick-off, and I'm eating a peanut butter sandwich. Yum. I've got the TV on BBC 2, as I don't want the end of Outnumbered spoilt for me on BBC 1, but it's going to be time to switch back soon. No sign of Matt yet.
9.57pm - BBC is using virtual paving slabs to the door of No. 10. Can Cameron 'pave his way' to leadership? Only Jeremy Vine and his CGI can tell us. But Jeremy Paxman has a 'naughty step.' The first bad news of the day is that Piers Morgan is first on the list of people speaking to Andrew Neil.
10.00pm - Big Ben strikes! The exit poll is in as a hung parliament, Tories short by 19 seats - and Lib Dems losing seats! I should come out now and say that I predict a very narrow Conservative victory.
10.02pm - Nick Robinson: the man who tells us what we already know, at length, while falling just short of a Harry Hill impersonation.
10.07pm - Harriet Harman! This woman might as well be a big Conservative rosette. I'm not convinced that Michael Gove's microphone was really broken (even though we seemed to get Ian Hislop's voice for a moment, there) - he just thought that Harman speaking is a much better advert for the Tories than he ever would. She told us that the votes need to be counted which is pleasantly uncontroversial. She also, with a characteristic lack of accuracy, suggested that a 97 seat swing to Conservative (in the exit polls) does not represent a large one.
10.13pm - Jeremy Vine is now in the House of Commons! Virtually, of course. He almost makes it look sensible to be doing so. The BBC really has a crack team out tonight, marking them out against their rivals - Dimbleby has been around far too long to get too melodramatic, and he manages to make nonsense about pupils from Sunderland weighing paper 'so it's quick to count' sound interesting. Though if someone else tells us that it's just an exit poll, I'm going to grumble a bit. I'm actually a bit confused about Sunderland South, because the Times told me today that the constituency didn't exist any more... but Sophie tells me there are 233 counters, and I'll take her word for it.
10.22pm - 'if the exit poll is accurate' (ITEPIA), it's the biggest swing since 1931[more than 1997? really?], according to Andrew Marr, who has used the 'I agree with Nick [Robinson]' gag already. Is John Simpson really standing in the Browns' garden? Anyway, Paxo is already grilling Lord Mandelson - "you're not really going to hold on to power, are you?" - but at the breakneck speed Dimbleby's jumping around the country, he's not going to get much time for an in depth confession. No Michael Howard moments. Mr Lib Dem has hit back at Paxo by pointing out that 1992's exit polls were miles out.
10.32pm - Piers Morgan and Clive Anderson are sat side by side (well, amost - Jane Moore, whoever she is, is between them) with Andrew Neil. If HIGNFY's anything to go by, they hate each other. Anderson has made a few digs already about Morgan's interviewing style. Morgan is sticking with the ITEPIA line. Er... we now have Ben Kingsley and Bruce Forsyth. This seems odd. Forsyth thinks the turnout will be high.
10.43pm - Alan Johnson (new Labour leader, for my money): ITEPIA. Also, he's in Hull, with an amusing five second delay on the link to Jeremy Paxman. Cue jokes about Hull normally being a lot more than 5 seconds behind the rest of the country. Johnson's rosette is so large that it's actually standing as an independent. And if you were wondering just how slimey Lord Mandelson is, this just in: "Without wishing to sound glib, the public has won this election." But then, what do you expect when you ask: "So, who's won this election?" at 10.40pm. It's intriguing to see how much Theresa May doesn't like Mandelson. Just to warn you, she doesn't spell her name 'Teresa' - I checked that for you on Google, and it turns out that Teresa May is... er... an 'actress and glamour model'.
10.53pm - Houghton & Sunderland South is in! BNP: 1,961; Lib Dem: 5,292; UKIP: 1,022; Conservative: 8,147; Labour: 19,137; Independent: 2,462. Only 55% turnout, though.
11.02pm - Apparently there's nothing from the first seat to suggest that the exit polls are 'wildly wrong'. That's some good analysis. Can someone explain how the swing is actually calculated? In H&SS, Labour were down 12% and Tories were up 5%, which is apparently an 8.4% swing - er, what? Maybe I'm just tired, but I don't understand that one. To keep you updated on my legions (ahem) of readers, I've received early encouragement from Jay and word from Dad, who predicted, fairly accurately, an 11pm first seat.
11.19pm - it's 'third world politics', according to Dimbleby, as queues of people in Leeds haven't managed to vote. He wants an inquiry. It might make more sense for them to turn up at some point between 7am and 9pm, rather than turning up in the last hour. In other news, Hislop is "barely in the closet", David Baddiel seems fairly drunk, Kelly Holmes is talking about sport & Tesco and Dom Joly wants to know where Lembit Opik is. Also, Nick Robinson is still trying to analyse how H&SS, which we always knew was going to be Labour, can be extrapolated to the nation. Speaking of which, Dad has explained the swing for me (and has more decimal places than me): "11.7 + 5.2 = 16.9 divide by 2 = 8.45". Thanks! Pertinently, Jeremy Vine has just knocked over virtual expense dominos. Twice. He's actually leaned into it, and still doesn't look embarrassed.
11.25pm - Nick Clegg has gone to Sheffield to apologise personally to voters, as they've not been able to vote (see previous comment). Presumably Gordon Brown will be going round every polling station to apologise for being useless. My ITV correspondent, Simon, tells me that Kirstie Allsopp (his 'surrogate mother') is discussing the election over there. No word on what her exact thoughts are, though.
11.33pm - apologies for misleading you earlier: Andrew Marr didn't really say that this is the biggest swing since 1931. I think he may have said that (ITEPIA) it's the worst Labour result since 1931. Oh, I don't know. Anyway, it's two constituencies in and 100% Labour seats so far, but with a massive swing towards Conservative. Forgive me if I over-analyse as much as the Beeb is doing. I'm more intrigued by the rather odd behaviour of Mandelson, who is pretending he doesn't have a phone in his pocket. Paxman: don't rest till you've got a flat confirmation or denial!
11.51pm - I can't help but notice that Dimbleby's tie has swung to the right. George Osborne clearly wasn't expecting a question about the world markets, but he managed an answer with rather less economic content than even I could manage (though, admittedly, I did pass CT7: Economics about a year ago). Essentially, he feels that the Conservatives would do better than Labour. Sunderland Central is in, and a 4.8% swing wasn't anywhere near enough for the Tories to steal the Labour seat. Osborne now suggests that, ITEPIA, Labour has been rejected by the people. Er... apart from the seats they've just won. Speaking of ITEPIA, I should tell you that it's now changed to Tory: 305; Labour: 255; Lib Dem: 61 (swing of two from Tory to Lib Dem). I'm not sure why they changed it. The big story still seems to be the people who didn't make it to the polling booths in time for the 10pm deadline ('extraordinary scenes' of queueing, according to Fiona Bruce), with certain stations extending their deadlines by ten minutes, and Harriet Harperson suggesting a legal inquiry. In the court of public opinion, presumably. Dimbleby has just talked about the BNP as a party with 'racist views' - true, I suppose, but it would be nice if he could pretend to be objective.
00:08am - David Miliband might actually be a very impressive, politician, you know, if he didn't walk around with bananas and look like a permanently startled Mr. Bean. I've already mentioned that I think Alan Johnson may be the next Labour leader (though, having said that, it could be Jack Straw), performing a Michael Howard kind of role, but I reckon it could be Dave Miliband after him. In journalist news, Paxman really should stop asking people who's won the election - it's making him look silly now - and Jeremy Vine has just climbed the virtual stairs within virtual 10 Downing Street. Andrew Neil seems to have been lost; about 45 minutes ago the screen went purple, and we haven't seem him or his curious array of guests since. Some professor-ish professor has said that "the Queen's government must carry on", and Matt has urged me to "put that in your blog and smoke it".
00:20am - Andrew Neil is back! Joan Collins is chatting to Richard Wilson, and claims that she doesn't know what's happening, but likes David Cameron because he is 'serious'. Martin Amis "wouldn't know", and I think I saw Heston Blumenthal doing a Nick Robinson / Harry Hill impression. Apparently the winner of the first Apprentice could be there, according to Matt, but he doesn't seem certain. Eric 'John Prescott, but Tory' Pickles has left the studio, and Jeremy Paxman doesn't seem overly disappointed. Ken Clarke's making his first appearance of the night.
00:28am - Ken Clarke is not at all happy about being cut off in order to go to a clip of Brown arriving at Kirkcaldy. He's also corrected a quote from Paxman as 'a rather improved version of something I said before the election', and mocked the excitement over footage of Cameron leaving his house - Paxman's pretending to be annoyed by Clarke's comments, but is laughing too much to worry anyone. In fact, he's going for a rather chummy double act with David Dimbleby which I'm enjoying more than his usual impatient headteacher persona. Speaking of Dimbleby, he doesn't seem entirely sure of himself when chatting to a colleague who has been 'looking at Twitter', but it looks like @gitfinger isn't happy, and the Tories are claiming Battersea already. I apologise for mentioning Joan Collins earlier and not making a plastic surgery joke - this may the first time that anyone has ever done this. I'll make up for it with a cheap "Barking: Nick Griffin" reference.
00:44am - I've just flicked over to ITV, and Mandelson has made his way over there from the BBC studio. He's chatting at length about constitutional regulation - Paxman would have cut him off within seconds, but ITV lets him ramble. A blonde in Hackney didn't get to vote, and Mandelson reckons it isn't good enough, and voters should, apparently, have been insulated from election paraphernalia. You may not like the guy, but he's got a way with words, hasn't he? Anyways, Matt & I have just switched to BBC HD (previously it looked like the HD wasn't available, but now the definition is as high as you like), to find that Sinn Fein and the DUP have each won a seat.
00:58am - Peter Robinson, former first minister of the Northern Ireland Executive, has been defeated in Belfast East with a 22.9% swing (and he's come out and said that he didn't actually want to stand). The first big news of the night. Alastair McGowan, Toby Young (not Heston Blumenthal, after all) and Maureen Lipman are with Andrew Neil... McGowan has done an Andrew Neil impression, which Neil didn't realise was supposed to be him, as well as Nick Clegg, David Cameron and, for some reason, Eddie Izzard. He can't do either Miliband, though, apparently. We are getting repeated references to the 1992 exit poll mistakes, and now we have Peter Snow - representative of those mistakes - betting on Cameron failing to get a majority. Good news in Thornbury & Yate, where good Christian chap Steve Webb has won with a 7,116 majority, on a 75% turnout. Still no Conservative seats yet.
01:09am - the first Conservative victory! A Kingswood gain from Labour for Chris Skidmore, with a 9.4% swing - in the Tories' list of target seats, it came in 135th (116 being the number they need). If the Conservatives can grab the marginals, we're looking good for Blue Britain. Excitement is rising in the studio, though Dimbleby is remaining relatively calm - sadly, the same cannot be said for Paxman, who has just asked if Tory victory has come about due to 'Ashdown money'. I'm sure Lord Ashcroft will be happy with the limelight being moved elsewhere, but Paddy Ashdown was sat only three feet away, and was less than impressed. Indeed, Lord Ashdown - with whom I've been carol singing three times - has declared that the exit poll is 'rubbish'.
01:17am - technical issues hold sway in the BBC studio, with malfunctioning kit and cameramen who can't work out who's talking. I'm sure it's worse on the other channels - we flicked over to Channel 4 briefly, but the adverts were on, and we haven't tried Sky News yet. We've had the first evidence of tactical voting, as Torbay's been held by the Lib Dems (indeed, with a 1.1% swing in their favour), with a very low Labour vote. It was one of the seats that the Tories had been hoping to grab, so it looks like Labour supporters may have been voting Lib Dem - will we see that repeated elsewhere? We shall see. Better news in Putney, which has been held by the Tories with a 9.9% swing. Jeremy Vine is on a virtual map. I preferred the paving slabs.
01:39am - Blunkett is predicting a Tory majority. That was unexpected. He wants to unite the 'anti-Conservative forces', and has criticised the 1992 'chatterati'... one can't help but feel that the pressure's getting a little much for him. Dimbleby, of course, is unfazed by pressure, but is getting grumpy with the people of Durham for being too slow - indeed, he's cut them off to jump to Kirkcaldy. Not exactly a shock result there, with Gordon Brown holding his seat, and the 'Land is Power' candidate only managing 57 votes. I feel the Kirkcaldy folk may be unique in electing Brown this year. Nick Robinson claims that Brown's eyes - and, indeed, those of his wife - spoke of defeat. In other areas, the Tories have nabbed Battersea, but Labour are holding a host of seats, now up to 20 against 5 for the Tories and 4 for the Lib Dems.
01:55am - Tooting has been held by Labour, with the winner being a chap called Khan - cue chants of 'Yes we Khan!' from his fans. Turnout was up 10% to 69%, so though my early prediction of 76% turnout nationwide is looking to be ridiculously high, numbers are certainly up. Guildford, which was the Lib Dem's chief target to steal, has been held by the Tories - interestingly, there didn't seem to be much in the way of tactical voting by Labour supporters, which could have swung it. Back in the studio, Paxman keeps asking all the Labour people if they can seriously try to keep Brown as Prime Minister, and each of them comes back saying that we don't know what the vote will be yet. Sometime soon we're going to get a Paxman question that deserves a sensible answer - perhaps we can get more than a sentence out of Paddy? Poor old Fiona Bruce seems a bit cut off from where the magic is happening, but pops up every now and then with the headlines as they stand. Which tends to be exactly as they stood two hours ago, and mainly centre around an angry woman in Sheffield.
02:05am - Andrew Neil remains the somewhat surreal highlight of the night. Kirstie Allsopp has made her way over to his boat - did I mention he was on a boat? - and tells us that she'd rather fly to the moon than take a government job. I'm afraid to say that the Times has been behind the action all night, currently claiming 63 seats have been won when in fact it's 69 - and that's the closest they've been for a while. The nation is asking: where are Jeremy Vine's paving slabs?
02:24am - Big news in Montgomeryshire - Lembit Opik has lost his seat to the Tories, with a 13.2% swing! Also Conservative gain in Loughborough; recount in Broxtowe. I've never heard of Broxtowe, but apparently it's been strongly affected by 'motorway man and motorway woman' - I don't know who they represent... people who use motorways? Long, flat superheroes? This night raises more questions than it answers, and I'm eating more sugar than is perhaps wise. ITV's version of the BBC/ITV/Sky exit poll remains unchanged from its initial stance, unlike the Beeb (as mentioned above), and curiously ITV is measuring the seat wins based on 'their people on the ground', rather than, y'know, actual facts. This puts them ahead of the BBC on numbers, but seems a high price to pay if they're just making stuff up. Dimbleby has just described the Glamorgan returning officer as 'fastidious', as she detailed the various reasons why ballots were rejected - I don't know about you, but I feel I needed to know that 4 people in the Vale of Glamorgan could be identified from marks they'd made on their ballot slips, and so had their votes rejected.
02:30am - Dimbleby is asking Sian Lloyd about Lembit Opik - unfortunately, it's the Welsh news presenter Sian Lloyd, rather than the weather presenter and former fiancee of Opik. I suppose that, as Dylan once said, 'you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows'. A couple more Tory gains have just come through, including Basildon South, where a party called 'None of the above' polled above 100 votes. I'm hoping that "Con Gain: High Peak" isn't an omen that Labour's revival starts now. Back to the studio, and Jeremy Vine is swingometering his heart out, but there's no sign of paving slabs as of yet.
02:41am - wasn't this supposed to be the first Twitter election? I've had a quick look through the people I follow on Twitter, and it's slim pickings, but I've got some highlights for you (the last one being a friend from Uni rather than a 1970s Christian songwriter): "If I was PM I'd take off the 0 and live at Number 1" (Peter Serafinowicz); "Worried if the Tories get in I won't be able to take my kid to Monkey Music cos it will be banned as part of their fun strangling iniative" (Simon Pegg); "At BBC election party. The lovely Jeanette Winterson just said, of Sir Ben Kingsley, 'Is that Bruce Forsyth's bouncer?'" (David Baddiel); "I'd rather a politician let them count the votes first. RT-> @Schwarzenegger: Just called @davidcameron to congratulate him on the victory." (Dave Gorman); "I mean, I absolutely know **** all, but the Lib Dems seem to be ******* tanking like a brick in milk" (Caitlin Moran); "In the warwick students union, watching the results slowly trickle in. Remembering proverbs 21: 1, politicians r not beyond the will of God" (Larry Norman).
02:54am - the Lib Dems have just won Eastbourne from the Tories, but lost Harrogate the other way; that's the Tories' 15th gain of the night so far. William Hague has just been on the big screen, batting away Paxman's questions like the pro he is. Is it wrong that I like him largely because (i) he was funny on HIGNFY and (ii) he wrote a great biography of William Wilberforce? Following Hague was Lembit Opik, who quite accurately described Paxman as 'superificial and patronising' for bringing up the Cheeky Girls in his first question... as this night wears on, I am coming round to the view that the sooner the BBC get rid of Paxman, the better. Curiously, his colleague Andrew Marr has been packed off to Witney to watch David Cameron waiting for the declaration there - surely Marr is too big a talent for that? If he must be attached to our soon-to-be Prime Minister, can't he do it from a distance and spend the rest of the night making himself useful? If nothing else, he could be in charge of telling Dimbleby not to demonstrate what a high five is ever again.
03:06am - there was a 389 majority in Broxtowe for the Conservatives, a gain from Labour but not, perhaps, by as much as could have been hoped. The narrowest of the night so far, I'll warrant. In David Cameron's constituency of Witney, an independent candidate was dressed up as Jesus with a sign round his neck saying 'Close Campsfield House', and a Monster Raving William Hill Party candidate somehow managed to stand next to Cameron, getting a handshake when his 234 votes were announced. David Cameron's first comments on returning to his seat were that changes will have to be made after the fiasco of people not getting to vote in certain polling stations this year - slightly unexpected, but at least it shows that he's reacting to what's happening. He looks a lot more Prime Ministerial when he hasn't slept for two days, y'know. At this very moment, the Conservatives have just pulled level with Labour for the first time, on 76 seats.
03:22am - did I mention that 326 seats are needed for an overall majority? Anyways, I note that the Tories have won Worcestershire West, and Dimbleby has at last decided that we don't need a running clip of Gordon Brown's plane rolling round the tarmac - when you're past 3am, things start to get a bit amateurish. I flicked over to ITV to see how they were getting on, but they went straight to the adverts, then I tried Sky News for the first time, and was pretty unimpressed - to steal from football parlance, they just don't have the strength in depth. Though I have to complain that we haven't seen Andrew surrNeil for a while, and Jeremy Vine's paving slabs are still very absent. Paxo is trying to push Liam Fox on whether the Tories will work with the Lib Dems, to no avail, and is suffering with David Miliband since the audio link is dodgy and the video link is broken ("because it's raining"). The more I see David Miliband, the more I like him - he's got my vote in 2020.
03:24am - the Tories are in the lead, and have broken 100 seats!
03:41am - Andrew surrNeal is back with Al Murray - a strong supporter of aircraft carriers, apparently - and Bill Wyman, who's unhappy that Labour didn't book the Rolling Stones for any gigs. I decided to contribute to the evening by standing on one leg while the Tories had 111 seats, in a cricket tradition that I don't quite understand. I think I have an Australian reader (hi, Pete), so that one's for him. In Jeremy Vine news, he's got a bit confused by his swingometer and is pointing in the wrong places, but doing so with an air of confidence. Kinda like Harriet Harman, I suppose. For some reason the BBC continues to insist on extensive footage of planes, trains and automobiles - this time it's Nick Clegg being driven off in a shiny black car - despite Dimbleby gently mocking it. Fiona Bruce maintains that a hung parliament is on the cards, thought I think she's still going along the lines of ITEPIA rather than judging by the 26 seat gain for the Tories so far. At least she has some new clips for her headlines - rather than the same two angry women complaining about not being allowed to vote, we have poor quality footage of a police officer in Sheffield pointing out that polling booths opened at 7am. He's got a point, you know.
03:51am - Bristol West (my constituency) has been held by the Lib Dems with 48% of the vote - Nick Yarker, the new Tory boy, came in third with 18%, down 8.9% from 2005. While the Times isn't being updated as speedily as it could be, it does have a very nifty map of constituencies that I recommend, hence the link. I only had one vote, I'm afraid, and I did what I could.
04:01am - David 'objective' Dimbleby has just referred to the BNP as the National Front, before correcting himself belatedly. Didn't he learn anything from the Question Time debacle when Nick Griffin was on the show? Speaking of said debacle, Jack Straw (remember him?) has just been re-elected - Hugo Rifkind, in the Times, has suggested that Straw may be lying low so that he can leap for the Labour leadership in the coming days without being tainted by association with Brown. Could well be true. In Warwick news, alumnus David Davies has been Paxman's latest interviewee, and Paxo is still trying to stoke up an argument where none can be found - but Davies, as befits someone who founded Radio Warwick, isn't rising to it.
04:11am - Wyre Forest, in Worcestershire, has gone to the Tories from the independent Richard Taylor, who originally fought to save the local Kidderminster Hospital and then, in 2005, became the first independent candidate to become re-elected since 1949. In Dimbleby news, he is now claiming that it's going to be a hung parliament "without a shadow of a doubt" - thought I'm not sure he's right, since as it stands, Tories have won 159 of the 330 seats declared, which is bally close to 50%. As we get yet more footage of someone driving down the road, the Great Dimble is reminiscing about the days of filming cars without the use of a helicopter. He should really be in bed. I should really be in bed.
04:12am - the Tories have now got 163 seats - halfway to the 326 they need. C'mon, you can do it.
04:23am - Alex Salmond - who, were it not for Harriet Harman, might be my least favourite politician of the night - has admitted things aren't going too well for the SNP. Jeremy Paxman mentioned Salmond's 'natural reticence', and the latter didn't even raise a smile - is that because he's tired, because he didn't find it funny, or because he's so self-unaware that he thought it was genuine? Who knows. The Tories have held Windsor - does the queen get a vote?
04:30am - Pete, my Australian correspondent, tells me that Basildon has been a bellwether since 1974, and it's been called Tory this time round (though it's now been carved into Basildon and Billericay). Esther Rantzen has failed to nab Luton South, taking only 1,872 votes against Labour's 14,725 - though far more than the many other independents in that constituency. Dimbleby has moved on to architectural critique, complaining about the Conservative HQ.
04:41am - a 9.2% swing in Redditch, meaning that Jacqui Smith has lost her seat to the Tories - not entirely unexpected, but still quite a scalp. Dad tells me that Simon's constituency has switched from Lib Dem to Conservative, and, without wishing to jeopardise the secret ballot, I believe that runs counter to Simon's vote. Dad also points out that 52 out of 59 Scottish seats have been declared, and there have been no changes... one place where there is a change is Worcester, which the Tories have taken, so they've now got over 200 seats.
04:53am - I have definitely had enough of footage of cars. Yes, if the car crashes it would be exciting, in a way, but otherwise it's just like Formula 1 but even more boring. Sadly the party on the boat seems to have come to an end, so we're not going to get much more of Andrew surrNeil - last time we saw him he was asking Ian Hislop to be 'Minister of Fun', and talking to two Apprentice winners. Making up for the lack of weirdness from Neil, we've just had Dimbleby directing us to the location of the largest fish'n'chip shop in the UK (Pudsey, since you ask), shortly after forgetting that the BBC has given up on making predictions this year. Too close to call, apparently. I can tell you that, right this minute, the Tories have won 49.77% of the declared seats, and have been hovering in the upper end of 49-50% for some time, but until we get more London votes in, that may not be totally relevant. The bad news is that Ed Balls has held his seat.
05:06am - Charles Clarke has gone, and now Lord Ashcroft is with Andrew Neil, chatting about his tax status - he's "joining Britain again" according to surrNeil ("you could put it that way" according to Ashcroft). That's even more unexpected than Kelly Holmes appearing alongside David Baddiel. I'm afraid that it's gone 5am, and it doesn't look like we're going to have any definite outcome before the BBC is due to go off air in less than an hour's time, so I'm going to go to bed. And I'll never get to see Jeremy Vine's paving slabs again.
May 16th 2010
After all the excitment of last time round, we have a new Prime Minister. Well, actually, we've had him for nearly a week now, but I was exhausted by writing such a long entry last time, so it took me a while to muster up the energy to come back. This isn't a political blog, so I won't play with your patience by talking more about politics, except to say that I welcome our new Prime Minister, and feel that this coalition might just be a blessing in disguise. We shall see.
In birthday news, it was half birthday recently, and only a few days beforehand on Star Wars Day (May 4th, as in "May the 4th be with you", for the uninitiated) that Dad and I went to see Don McLean, which was (a little belatedly, but we don't run Mr. McLean's tour schedule) for my 24th birthday. I am pleased to report that he was most excellent, with a very powerful voice despite his age, and as well as his own classics he sang songs by Elvis, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Buddy Holly and the Beatles. Among others, he played the title track from his most recent album, Addicted to Black, and it was just about as good as anything else he played (apart from American Pie, of course). A worthy addition to the small but growing list of artists I've seen live: Talon (an Eagles tribute band), Bob Dylan, Morning Runner, Casting Crowns, U2, The Illegal Eagles (another Eagles tribute band) and now Don McLean. Oh, and both Electric 6 and Bjorn Again at the Freshers' Fling at Uni... which means that, if you count them, a third of the acts I've seen have been tribute bands. Intriguing, no?
In further birthday news, my parents also got me The Gathering Storm, book 12 of the Wheel of Time, which I finally finished reading a week or two ago. I think I've probably mentioned it before, but in case I haven't: Robert Jordan was an American author who was still writing the epic fantasty series The Wheel of Time when he died in September 2007 of a rare blood disease. He had known for some time that he didn't have long to live, so he made notes and told his wife about the ending he had planned for WoT, so that when he did pass away someone would be able to complete the series. That someone was a fantasy author named Brandon Sanderson, picked by Jordan's widow, and The Gathering Storm is the first of the three books he will write to finish off this superlative series.
It is evident from page one - in fact, from paragraph two - that this is not Jordan writing, since Sanderson made no attempt to copy Jordan's style, suggesting that to do so would be a parody. I can fully understand why he made that decision, but it is a constant reminder that the book isn't Jordan's, and thus in some way not the 'real' ending. Yes, I know that none of it is real, but when, for example [x] kills [y] early on (this is a spoiler-free zone) you can't help but wonder if that's what Jordan intended, or whether it was a Sanderson invention.
Fortunately, though it's not perfect, it is good to read - often compelling - and Sanderson seems to 'get' almost all the characters. Yes, there are one or two - Thom, for example - where his interpretation differs from mine, but who's to say mine doesn't differ from someone else's? This is particularly true for the side characters, who had not previously featured as much as the main ones - I have said before that Jordan's characterisation is second only to Jane Austen in my opinion, but there are necessarily characters who have not been developed as much as others.
You have to feel for Sanderson, as every review of the book - mine included - compares it to Jordan's work, and he was never likely to win that competition (especially since he's on Jordan's home turf). If you could ignore the circumstances under which it was written, it would be a very good book with strong and convincing plot development, at least one very unexpected twist and plenty of humour. I also enjoyed Cadsuane (my least favourite character the first two times I read the series, though I disliked her less the third time round) finally getting something of a comeuppance.
So, what of the weaknesses (other than not being by Jordan)? There are a couple of momentous scenes that take place 'offstage' (is there a novel equivalent of that?), and thus seem a little rushed over. Also, some references to the 'good old days' are a bit too obviously attempting to recapture the spirit of the earlier books in the series, as is Sanderson's decision to change points of view every chapter rather than devoting several chapters at a time to each plotline. But these are minor quibbles, and certainly I look forward to the next instalment (October this year) with just as much excitement as I looked forward to this one.
May 17th 2010
Oh, dear diary. There is nothing I can't tell you, dear diary; we have no taboos - I can tell you about my religious beliefs (I'm a Christian), my political beliefs (I voted Tory), my weight (I need to lose some) and my Woody Harrelson addiction (I don't have one). But there are these Others, who listen in - it's not just me and you, diary, because they read my words. Which is why I'm not going to be able to tell you this one.
Worry not, Others - I am not mentally unstable, grievously injured, dying or in love. I am not even planning a bank heist. In some ways I'm just killing time until I put some pasta on. Mmm, pasta.
Yesterday I wrote about The Gathering Storm, so it's only fair that today I give you an update on Orlando today (you'll notice on your right that I'm currently reading it) - I've previously said that it's not as bad as I expected, but the more I read it, the worse it gets. I long for the day it is finished like I used to long for Wolves to get to the Premiership (but, given my agreement with Simon, I have another Woolf to read after it...). If a book's value is inversely proportional to the number of other books read while failing to complete it, this is a pretty bad 'un. One of the Milibands said recently of his relationship with his brother: "We're not twins. We're not clones". If anything is proof that twins are not clones, it's Virginia Woolf. Or Steve Bull.
May 23rd 2010
Yesterday was the first of Steve's stag dos, and a merry time was had by all. We played 7 a side football (just about), which meant lots of running about in the hot sunshine, which I haven't done for a few years. We later made our way to the downs for some cricket - I am not good, but I was somewhere towards the middle talent-wise, in a bunch of frankly mediocre cricketers - before pubbing and currying. These last were done by Steve while wearing a bear suit, much to the enjoyment of passers-by and curry house staff (one of whom asked if he was a polar bear, despite the costume being almost all brown), though the heat did seem to get a bit much for poor Mr. Mellen.
I have sad news for archive fans, in that March 2008 is lost forever. I discovered recently that I messed up when copying the old pages across from Geocities (which is now defunct) so hopefully there was nothing of great value or scientific interest within my March 2008 ramblings... realistically, it's probably a safe bet.
In other news, it is always my pleasure to point y'all in the direction of blogs written by my various friends and relations, so let me guide you towards Pop Thy Collar, a relatively new blog by a friend of mine from church (which you may already have seen in my links section). I'm not sure how anonymous he wants to be, but since he generally steers clear of names in the blog entries, I'll do the same here. In his own words, the blog is about "a Christian young professional articulating his engagement with church, work and the pursuit of purpose" and, in my own words, it's a very thoughtful and thought-provoking look at what Church is, what it should be and what it means during the working week. Several of my readership are young Christian professionals, so I particularly recommend it to you, but others should take a look too.
I should point out, before I get back to studying, that Music and Lyrics (see right) belongs to Matt. Though he wasn't there when I watched it. It's not a great film, mostly suffering due to the fact that Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore are supposed to be an inspiring song-writing duo, while in fact his tunes are fairly poor and her lyrics are diabolical. Probably all right for the Beyonce Knowles generation, but not for anyone who's ever heard decent lyrics.
By popular request (kinda) I'm trying out the comment facility again, but this time in a more obvious spot. It would be far too much effort to try and get a new comment box for every entry - and I doubt it would be worth it - so you've just got the one below. Enjoy.
May 27th 2010
My esteemed friend and former Jack Martin 10.25-er Tim Jones has, over the months and years, put together an impressive collection of doppelgängers of his various friends and acquaintances. I feature in said collection twice: once alongside Simon, in what Tim admits was a lazy piece of casting, and more recently alongside Ben Croshaw. No, I'd never heard of him either, but the proof is below you (reproduced without permission. Whaddaya gonna do?)
Uncanny, no? Tim also mentions that Mr. Croshaw cannot drive, lived in the Warwickshire area (I'm taking issue with whether I ever lived in Warwickshire, but that's merely a geographical nicety. The point is, I could have done, and there's nothing you could have done to stop me), loves the Beatles and speaks like me. If I wore a hat, we could be brothers (here I should confess that biology was never my strong subject at school).
I feel I should give you a progress report on Doctor Who, albeit a brief one. After a great first couple of episodes, a weak 'Daleks' instalment and some genuinely scary 'Weeping Angels', the series has continued to be very watchable, with characters hitting their stride and storylines remaining imaginative (particularly those by Stephen Moffat). The budgets seem to be a bit lower now, but this was no problem a couple of weeks ago in an episode where the doctor and his companions (Amy Pond & her fiance Rory) were repeatedly switched between two scenarios, not sure which was a dream and which was reality. It was clever stuff, well scripted and well acted, particularly Toby Jones' guest appearance as the Dream Lord, and arguably made better viewing than the impressive effects and incredible monsters that often pop up. The excuses for showing off Karen Gillan's legs are getting weaker - last week she was 'dressed for Rio' when the Tardis accidentally ended up in a Welsh village - but that's television, I guess. I've never been on it, myself, but I'm confident that if I were to be, they'd want me to don shorts and air my rather wonderfully hairy legs.
In other television news, I'm glad to see that How I Met Your Mother is growing in popularity. It was Rick and Jen who nudged me towards watching it, I've introduced Matt to it, and he in turn has encouraged James to watch it. Both Ant and Rob are viewers, I discover - though whether that began before or after I mentioned it here, I don't know - and so it goes on. Anyhow, series 5 starts on E4 tonight. Legendary - wait for it - dary.
Sometime soon I may tell you a bit about the actuarial Business Awareness Course I was on over the last couple of days (now, there's an enticement to keep reading) and life in general as an actuary. But not today. Instead, I shall leave you with some lines from Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run, for no reason other than I like them:
In the day we sweat it out in the streets of a runaway American dream
At night we ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines
The highway's jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive
Everybody's out on the run tonight, but there's no place left to hide
Together, Wendy, we'll live with the sadness
I'll love you with all the madness in my soul
Someday girl, I don't know when, we're gonna get to that place
Where we really want to go, and we'll walk in the Sun
But, till then, tramps like us; baby we were born to run
May 29th 2010
[Like the coward I am, I've decided to remove chunks of this post. What can I say? Better safe than sorry and all that.]
Not long after I started work, my good friend Rob (of wearing dressing gown and dyeing hair fame) warned me of the possible danger of letting my colleagues know about this site. While I've not written anything that would compromise my standing at AXA - I don't think - I could understand his view, though I didn't follow his advice. Perhaps if I had aspirations of being a well known man about town, a big cheese in the world of financial risk or any kind of public figure, I would try and remove all evidence of this page. But I don't. I know of at least half a dozen folk from work who have read this page, and may still do so, and it doesn't really bother me.
I mention this because AXA recently gave a warning somewhat similar to Rob's, with its newly refined policy for 'using social media outside of work'.
I am (to quote The Prisoner) a free man, belonging to no one except God, and certainly not to everyone's favourite French global insurance companies group.
I like AXA, and I will certainly remain working for them for the foreseeable future, so long as they want me - but when I leave the office, I switch off. As soon as I walk out those doors, I am no longer Colin Thomas: Actuarial Analyst. I'm just Colin Thomas. My old boss suggested that you 'live your work', but I disagree - my Dad, who is a vicar, lives his work. David Cameron lives his work. One of the perks of being an actuarial analyst (apart from the coolness, obviously) is that you don't have to.
Another reason why this has been on my mind is that I was on a Business Awareness Course this week, and part of it was on professionalism, in which we were told that, as members of the Institute of Actuaries, it's important that we don't bring our profession into disrepute. Personally, I would find it hard to bring into disrepute a profession that hardly anyone's heard of (there's a very real danger, though, that I could bring either the accountancy or the acting profession into disrepute), but there you go. What with both AXA and the Institute claiming that I represent them 24/7, I'm tempted not to go through with that bank heist I was planning. Not least because I'm a little shaky on the exact definition of 'heist'.
In other news, you'll have noticed that the iPad is now available in all good stores (or, at least, available for order when enough finally arrive). I've not yet seen one face to face, as it were, but I remain sceptical - I don't like Apple anyway, with their 'too cool for Microsoft' vibe, and I fail to see the point of a device that's too big to carry around and too small to use at home... so far the best idea seems to use it for reading newspapers (though this may just be a plug by the Times for their new 'app'), but it seems a lot of money to keep ink off your fingers. I was thinking it through, and I reckon that I would actually buy an iPad if they were going for £30. I might even stretch to £35.
Apparently you can 'Buy it Now direct from Apple. From £429.'
May 30th 2010
Is it Sunday already? I suppose that's what happens when you sleep for much of Saturday, then have a leisurely bath. I don't have a lot to say today, I just want to draw your attention to the best thing ever.
|what was I listening to?
Bat Out of Hell II - Meat Loaf
|what was I reading?
The Gathering Storm - Robert Jordan
|what was I watching?
The Time Traveler's Wife