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October 8th 2008
Hello Mississippi!
I'm a little bit sad at the moment, since you ask. A week and a half ago, James left Bristol to take up a new job in the upper reaches of Scotland, and it's sad to see him go. In the safe knowledge that none of my housemates read this page, I think I can say that he was my favourite housemate (fear not, Iain, Dave, Tom, Ant and Rich - I should say 'my favourite housemate in Bristol'). But that's not the only reason I'm a bit sad right now. The other is that, after 13 months, I've just left the Model Operating Team and joined Wealth Management Pricing - it's all part of rotation at work, and it was time to move on, but I'll miss working with a great team. The work I'm going to be doing now is certainly more actuarial, which is good, but there's a feeling of having to start afresh again, which isn't particularly inspiring.
In happier news, I spent the weekend in Coventry staying at Ant's place, and getting to see lots of familiar faces, among them Rich, Becky, Adam, Jen, multiple Cairns Road people, Adam (different Adam)... anyhow, it was great, and I think Ant was glad of a temporarily even gender balance (though, in honesty, at 2-2 we don't stand a chance). Everyone's PGCEs seem to be going well, and Steve (Cairns Road & Jack Martin 10.25 being the connection) is off to become an actuary in the deep Southern reaches of Surrey - very difficult for someone from Middlesborough.
You may have figured out that I am an admirer of Kirsten Dunst, so it would be remiss of me not to point y'all in the direction of her latest film, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, which I've cleverly managed to persuade people to see with me by only telling them it's a Simon Pegg film. Oh, how I long for the day when Kirsten and Matthew Perry make a film together... though their respective ages make it difficult to see how this would work. Too far apart to be romantically involved, too close together to be father & daughter. Tricky.

October 16th 2008
Yesterday I did something that I'm pretty confident that neither of my parents will ever do (and probably have never done). In fact, I'd lay even money that Simon can be clumped in with the haven't-done and will-not-do brigade. I went to Alton Towers. Yes, it was the annual church home group trip to Alton Towers (only the second annual trip, but it's a tradition worth continuing), so I went with Olly, Becky, Jay and Jen to be flung in every direction known to man, and very good fun it was too. We all got horribly wet (Becky & Olly particularly so, though those of us who discovered gaping holes in the soles of our shoes were also a little unimpressed) on the log flume, and a ride known as Enterprise - involving lots of spinning round in a big circle - made me feel rather ill... but such is life. Oblivion (with its nothing-but-gravity vertical drop) is pretty astonishing. Anyhow, there may appear a photo or two here if I lay my hands on them.
Some time ago, Simon asked on his blog who people would choose as their favourite hero of fiction, and I think I plumped for Atticus Finch. And he is a fantastic character, for many reasons (read To Kill a Mockingbird now, if you have not already. Or, indeed, if you have); a great father, a principled man without being annoying (literary goodies tend not to be that appealing, in my experience) and a true gentleman. But, you know what? I think I'm going to change my choice.
Bertie Wooster is the man for me. And this is not simply because Wodehouse's writing is the funniest I have ever encountered (though I think it probably is), nor even that Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry's BBC series is wonderful. It's because Wooster himself is a deeply admirable chap; though not the smartest, he is by no means a fool (and, of course, is very well-educated), he is a loyal friend, a man with a deep sense of honour, always happy to be amicable towards all and sundry, and very much a gentleman. In some ways he's not a million miles away from the archetypal Jimmy Stewart character (see Harvey in particular), but he has a much greater sense of fun. Sorry Atticus; Bertie pips you at the post.
It would be remiss of me not to point out that Kirsten Dunst has a film out, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People. Despite starring Simon Pegg, who is a funny chap, it's not awfully good, but is probably worth watching if you don't mind excessive swearing and unnecessary scenes of nudity. Ms Dunst's smiling face filling the screen kinda makes up for it...

October 23rd 2008
I must apologise for not previously pointing you in the direction of the Malt Shovel, but I am happy to rectify the omission. It's a pub in Coventry, not terribly far from where Ant dwells these days, and during a pub crawl (of sorts) when I was up there a couple of weeks ago we had a drink there. Well, I say we had a drink - I had a very pleasant J20, but I'm afraid Ant managed to knock over his half-pint of... something, I don't know... and so had barely a sip. And, you know what? Nobody heckled. If that doesn't exemplify a good pub, I don't know what does (consider the fact that in pretty much all the previous pubs we'd tried, we'd either been ignored by the bar staff or Ant had been heckled for wearing a hat. Or both). The place was homely, had a general kindly feel to it - the lass who served me a drink did so without an expression of either contempt or boredom; instead she actually seemed pleased to see us - and there were no fewer than two roaring fires. I'm only sorry we didn't discover it earlier.
Now, speaking of Ant (and when am I not?), a while ago on his blog - see links page - he wrote in defence of our American cousins, suggesting that theirs is a different language to ours, and we should learn their variations rather than mock them. He is, of course, wrong. The language is called 'English', and anyone who doesn't put a 'u' in colour, an 's' on maths or a semblance of correction pronunciation on 'aluminium' should (to borrow a phrase from my first sentence) rectify their omission. But I would like to defend the USA on a different topic - that of irony. It is often said this side of the pond that the Americans don't understand irony, and I would like to point out how horribly untrue that is, calling as my first witness The Simpsons. Was there ever a programme more founded on irony? It's the staple. And while The Simpsons may be the most irony-y of American shows, it does not stand alone by any means... not to mention the fact that while the TV we churn out (and, sadly, export) in this country is as weak - and devoid of irony - as Little Britain, Pop Idol and Strictly Come Dancing, we should keep quiet. What's most embarrassing is that most people I've heard make the American ironylessness argument actually have no idea what irony is, thinking it is synonymous with sarcasm. Which is ironic.
In other news, I've recently built up a bit of a vinyl collection, since I decided that it would be nice to have certain iconic/very good/both LPs in their original 12" form, and frame 'em up. I've got six (which seems a good number, though there are one or two others I've considered adding), which are Abbey Road, Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Dark Side of the Moon, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Highway 61 Revisited. I would hope that most visitors to this site could immediately tell me the respective artists, but in case you can't they are The Beatles, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Elton John & Bob Dylan. The six - in varying states of repair - are currently sitting on my bed, looking great.
Anyhow, I must leave you now and go to bed. Sleep well.

October 30th 2008
On Tuesday night we bods in Wealth Management Pricing had a trip out to Ashton Gate to see the mighty Robins (of the Bristol City rather than Cheltenham Town variety) take on Sheffield United - Rob, a blade, managed to persuade a lot of colleagues to turn up in the away stand, probably confusing the hardcore Sheffield fans with their Bristolian accent and distinct lack of enthusiasm for a solid goalless draw.
Anyhow, it was a bitterly cold night (a phrase confirmed in the next day's Times) and I decided to buy myself a jumper. Simon would be proud. I'm quite fond of it already (indeed, I'm wearing it now)... it's the kind of thing Gap was producing five years ago, if my fashion history is correct. Which is unlikely. Anyhow, it's very, very soft, which depresses me somewhat... what's the point of a soft jumper when there's no one to lean their head against it, and comment on the softness? True, the checkout lady in Sainsbury's commented, but I don't think it would have worked between us. She looked tied to the job. Maybe I should just buy a dog.
Time to wade into the Ross & Brand furore, I think - I have about as much right to as Gordon Brown, anyhow - which, if you haven't been reading the news lately, centres round messages the two left on Andrew Sachs' answering machine during a pre-recorded show. They were trying to contact him about an interview for their BBC Radio 2 show, and in the course of several messages, made mention of the fact that Brand had been rather intimate with Sachs' granddaughter. Cue uproar! Well, not quite. When the show went out originally, there were only two complaints, and one of them was from Sachs (in case you haven't placed him, he played Manuel on Fawlty Towers) - it was only when The Mail on Sunday (euphemistically referred to as 'a Sunday newspaper' by the News International-owned Tiimes) reported the story that people started complaining in their thousands. It all seems like a storm in a teacup to me. Ross is a very funny man who let himself get carried away; Brand is a man who let himself get carried away. On the face of it, it sounds like humiliation-for-entertainment, but in reality the two were not being cruel, they were just being thoughtless. And, while Andrew Sachs professes himself hurt by the situation, and his granddaughter claims that Ross and Brand are 'below contempt', one can't help but feel that, by forming part of 'Satanic Sluts' (let me break off for my customary sigh of relief that I no longer have Google Ads), the young lass causes rather more upset to her grandfather than the phone messages will have. Below contempt? I'm not sure the stones should be being cast, here. Surprise, surprise, she's sold her story to the Sun.
In other BBC (sort of) news, word is that Red Dwarf is making a two-part special comeback on Dave, sometime next year. At the moment I'm watching my way through series 5 and 6, so I'm pretty excited.

October 31st 2008
Hallowe'en makes me angry. It is nothing more nor less than a celebration of evil, and doesn't even attempt to conceal the fact - it is a horrible event, and a shame on our national character that the celebration of good (All Saints' Day) from which it springs is barely given a second glance. In fact, I dislike it so much that it bothers me even more than the fact that most signs relating to it miss out the apostrophe, and that's really saying something.
If you thought my comment on the Ross & Brand furore was the most stupid out there - and, judging from comments I've had, that's not impossible - you'll be glad to know I've found one that tops it. You see, it's all a sexism issue. Yes, I had difficulty seeing it at first myself, but some lass in the Times informs me that the pair would have been fired on the spot had they been female. I'm afraid I don't understand the logic of this one, and she didn't provide an explanation, so you'll have to work it out for yourself. I still reckon this has been blown stupidly out of proportion, and suspending Ross for 12 weeks without pay is pretty silly.
In other news - because I don't want to end on that paragraph, since it's all a little unfriendly - I claimed my first squash victory over Konrad last night! But before you go patting me on the back, I have to admit that he broke his glasses towards the end of the first game, and had to play without them for the remainder of our court time. A better man than me would have gone easy, but I sensed victory. Tainted victory, but victory nonetheless. I feel like Carl Lewis...
what was I listening to?
Californication - Red Hot Chili Peppers
what was I reading?
America Unchained - Dave Gorman
what was I watching?
The Notebook
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