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White Riot .. March 31, 2006

Posted by stagedive in Idle Thoughts.
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Aside from attending football matches and being herded from one part of the ground to another, I have never really witnessed full on police presence. The line of alsatians in Moscow was one to remember, but it passed without a full on attack. This might all be due to a sheltered upbringing or perhaps it is the desire to be a honest John <adjust halo>.

Last night, Michaela and I were out for the evening and ate some good food, drunk a few beers and returned home to her house, which is located in, it has to be said, not the most desirable area of Ipswich.

On approaching her road, we passed a police van with 8-10 police types descending from the back in somewhat of a hurry and being issued with riot shields. Nothing untoward there then!!!!! Our pace slowed & the situation took a while to compute, but the thought process was compounded as we rounded the corner to see 10-15 additional police vehicles, lights flashing, dog units, people running around waving things and the whole area swarming with uniforms.

It looked like a raid of some description, but I can't work out why they needed such a presence. They had a line of 7 or 8 people against a shop front, but I wasn't sure if these were plain clothes police or nasty robber types on the wrong side of the law, either way, I was glad I wasn't one of them. How many police would it take to raid someone's house?

In the words of Green on Red, I probably couldn't get arrested if I tried, but in that situation I suppose taking my clothes off and running down the middle of the street might have brought me close.

More bizarre, I can't see anything in the local press about the 'incident', maybe they were just practising, in case there were to happen to be the need for a major raid in that area ??!! The top news item in this evenings paper being Joe Royle stating that Ipswich Town will perform better next year .. what a revalation .. there is obviously little news to tell, or at least little news they are allowed to tell ..

I predict a riot.

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Long live the goldfish .. March 31, 2006

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It was an emotional moment .. I got back from the gym and had a half hour spare so thought I had better take the bull by the horns (hamster by the claws) – or something similar ..

The dark perspex hid the true horror, sure enough, the poor little lady was neatly curled up in her bedding, motionless & looking a little bloated. She looked so small and lifeless & jerked rigid across the cage when some of the shredded paper got caught in the lid.

I made a cardboard coffin out of an amazon delivery box and, with delicate ease, when it came to it, lifted her out with my bare hands (exhale with pride).

There is little soil space in the back garden and as I am about to landscape it, didn't think she deserved to be part of a future water feature .. so I dug a neat hole on the front lawn where the builders had destroyed the grass. 

I didn't know the tune to the last post, nor did I know the correct words for a christian burial .. so I lent on Bowie and sung the chorus to Ashes to Ashes. I sung it out loud and the neighbors didn't bat an eyelid.

She had a good life & apparently lived to the life expectancy .. the hamster is officially no more .. long live the goldfish

NB : thank you for the kind words, I will resist opening a book of remembrance, but I am sure Twirly would appreciated it none the less?!   

Twirly RIP (I think) March 30, 2006

Posted by stagedive in Idle Thoughts.
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Are you a man or a mouse? (Rhetorical)

I have long had a fear of birds, in that if one ever flies into the house I just open the door & run and hide.

I also get a seriously cold shiver if ever I see a dead bird on the verge .. I know this part is from a primary school experience when I accidentally squashed a dead bird in the playground and it took days to wear all the entrails off the soles of my shoe.

I know it is irrational, the little flapping feathered fella is 100th the size of me, but I don't have wings and feathers and smell (well not most of the time).

This aversion also stretches to other animals and in particular, dead pets. I can recall when one of our cats died many years ago, and Donna (whom I was with at the time) in floods of tears and unable take on the macho 'don't be so stupid' role, I had to get a shovel and transport the stiff corpse round the back of the house and try bury him – made worse by the fact that he had decided to stretch his legs out at the time of death, and I certainly wasn't going to touch them! The hole was about 8ft square by the end of it!

Fast forward a few years and here we are again. Xmas 2004, Michaela kindly bought the kids a hamster. It's a lovely little thing, only bites occasionly and is no real company what so ever, but I have grown to like it. The kids liked the idea of pet ownership too, and I didn't manage to convince them that the goldfish bowl would suffice so we got 'Twirly' .. stupid name, I know, but I'm not 6.

Two days a go I fed Twirly and we had a brief chat about life and how things were going. All seemed well and despite some wheel issues, she was in good spirits. I was a bit concerned Tuesday eve when I didn't get awoken by the aforementioned squeaky hamster wheel in the night, but thought little of it.

Yesterday I investigated further and scarily there was no movement in the cage and the pile of bedding wasn't moving with the deep breaths of the wee thing. I know she is in the 'sleeping compartment', it has dark perspex over it, but .. ahem .. I don't want to take the lid off! Again no noise last night either. I am fearing/concluding the worse, but her body might be all bloated by now, or worse still mushy and infested with maggots .. what is a boy to do ..

I've not seen Michaela since Sunday, but we are going out tonight, so a) do I wait until the brave medical type person with years of experience dealing with bodies and stuff, comes round to save the day, and I can use the excuse that I've been oh so busy, or b) do I build myself up into a macho rage and just bloody well do the deed?

I'm glad there's not voting buttons on this thing ..

Good Evening Estonia .. March 29, 2006

Posted by stagedive in Idle Thoughts, Music.
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I haven't had a PRScheque/statement in a long while. It used to be that you would register songs with them and by default you would receive some live performance royalties regardless of any radio plays, which on occasion pushed the balance up to three figures. The bi-annual few hundred pounds that these provided were once a great source of amusement/pride/absurdity. As soon as you stop releasing records though, this soon dwindles to pound and pennies & there only remain a few stragglers that haven't spotted that you gave up the ghost a long time ago .. so .. it was with some amusement that I opened my mail the other day to a statement* for royalties for an 'Estonian Jukebox' .. it was there in black and white on what looked like a dot matrix printout too, perhaps cunningly direct from the jukebox itself in a form of love letter. It was for pennies, but that's not the point – Estonia, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, long may your jukeboxes play my songs, may your EU membership be fruitful & may I get to visit you soon .. actually if the rest failed and I just visited you soon I would be happy ..

 * The ITFC Compilation album is now the biggest money earning music project I have ever been involved in .. perhaps the only money earning music project I have been involved in .. it's still selling some 6 years after the fact, they still count the sales (although not a full time job I suspect) & they still send me money .. oh .. and yes it is pennies, in fact the statement says that as the amount earned is less that their minimum threshold, so I have to wait until the cash mounts up .. come on kids, buy an out of date, second rate football compilation with a picture of a Newcastle player on the front to net me some cash <mental note : never try a job in sales> ..

We fight crime .. March 28, 2006

Posted by stagedive in Idle Thoughts, Music.
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TFCPROMO_027.jpgMy band are just about to release our debut album & all the excitement that goes with that. It's really very good and something that I am very proud of, despite, as with anything of this ilk by the time it gets released, you want to get to the next one. That said, do buy one .. please .. oh and we are playing this coming Friday in Ipswich – for all those in the vicinity ..

Whilst following the hoops and hurdles of this release, I came to a realisation on the changing face of music purchase. I was in a discussion with a friend who works at a music distributors regarding distribution of CDs in this day and age. For context, I used to have an account with Pinnacle (a fairly large UK independent distributor, One Little Indian etc) when I used to run a label, but as I stopped doing records, the account closed .. so anyway, way back in the day, it used to be a hobby horse to bemoan the lack of distribution across Indendent Record stores. On reflection it really wasn't that bad, it wasn't instant, but you could do it with some perseverance & getting people to ask for your releases in their local store. Then the 'Chain with No Name' and such other collectives were created, and in the UK at least, it was even easier to get your records out to wide market via such means, sometimes even with cheap/free advertising. In fact incredibly easy.

On occasion the big record stores such as HMV, Virgin, Our Price(?) etc would dip their toe in the water, and such great delight was had in going into Tower Records and putting your bands CDs to the front of the racks in place of Messrs Collins & Adams .. but all said and done, you still wanted people to visit record stores, ideally Independent Record stores & buy your wares.

Nowadays all that has changed. Independent record stores are in great decline .. and if they are still networked, the network is running seriously dry. I/We had a good local record shop in Ipswich, it was the backbone of my youth (and many others). I moaned and groaned the day it closed last year, but in reality I was as guilty as anyone for not having been in the place for months. I hadn't made a conscious decision not to go there, just slipped into Internet purchases and downloads .. <mental note : you sad yuppie loser>

The thrill of flicking through CDs and Vinyl is now a back street delight in major towns only, its a fix that High Fidelity captured & will die with my generation. It has been replaced with other things, but essentially it takes its place in history now, in the same way that people visit steam museums and antique shops. It is sad to think that Internet sites will never have the same smell as your local vinyl emporium, and never will there be the peer pressure, or sales staff pressure to buy the lastest hip DC hardcore seven inch .. but, regardless of whether in years to come we have re-enactments of the rush to buy the vinyl copy of the second Cockney Rejects album, it just won't be the same.

Now in addition to my buying habits, the big masters for distributors today are the Supermarkets. Sales are dictated by what middle aged adults buy along with their ready meals – hence the trend for 'everything sounds like Coldplay' CDs poking out of the metal squares of your shopping trolley, it's the compressed set of chart hits in big quantities. They now have the buying power and the influence and they dictate the rules – price and content, even over the great white Internet & the former lords and masters, HMV, Virgin etc. No chance then for the Indies.

Equally, a small record label cannot easily operate in this environment. The need to get to Indie shops is no longer secondary, but 4th or 5th on the list for distributors. It's no wonder bands are heading to the internet and myspace to get themselves across, the other options just won't get off the ground.

No conclusion, just a realisation (probably 4 years too late) on my part of the decline of music on the high street and the great rise in the power of the internet. Indie kids can now harness the web in isolation of whatever the record shop (supermarkets!?) recommends and as long as there is an alternative outlet, even if it is not a physical one, good things have a chance of happening .. Just give me Indie Rock ..

Back to school .. March 28, 2006

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Yesterday and today I walked with the kids to school and my eldest son rode his bike. A good way to start the day and the kids like it now too. The best part is that now I have joined a gang, and it can either be seen as regaining my youth or something more sinister ..

After arriving at school, I take my son's bike and cycle home, and the route home is along with the main flow of kids cycling to the local high school – and now I am one of them .. man I'm rad' .. two kids even said 'alrite' to me this morning in a solid form of solidarity to a potential new classmate. I had my ipod on low too, so no doubt I impressed them with my new headphones, one of them was carrying a skateboard so maybe it was the bike tricks.

I'm sure they'll miss me when I don't have the kids later in the week and most likely will come call for me to bike with them, or perhaps just to check to see if I'm alright.

All was well with todays new high school regime until I got home and checked out my timetable and saw that I have double spreadsheet tedium, followed by a corporate bullsh1t practical lesson. Whatever happened to PE and Media Studies?

Vespa GS March 26, 2006

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Vespa GSJust flicking through some pics on a Sunday eve and spotted this lovely Vespa GS from the design icons part of MoMa. It just makes you smile and wonder why any of those motor bikers cannot be inspired to sell up their leathers and get where the action is .. bite trenter bite

Giving not receiving .. March 26, 2006

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Just bought my brother his birthday present, he is 50 next week, and I can't stop grinning to myself (in that there is no one else here & I am grinning). I feel like leaping around the room and yelling about it in a child-like manner .. oh there you go, I just did ..

Fancy being 50 though! I had my family round for dinner today, Mother's day and all. it was lovely to see everyone .. well aside from my Sisters as they were on holiday and err, live abroad, respectively .. but all went like clockwork, me the masterchef, aided only by Mr Tesco's insistence that I simply unwrap packets and throw contents in the oven.

The 50 topic came up in conversation a few times though (I have 4 siblings, all considerably older than me), with both my two Sisters having reached the milestone. For me 40 is still a fair way off, but the mortality issue is well up on the radar now that my bro and sisters are heading that way – not in a morbid way, but the ageist cards that were oh so not all that funny a few years ago, now really start kicking into reality. Aches and pains are no longer the topic of choice for the Grandparents on the Xmas sofa (primarily because they are all dead?!) but now belong well and truly to us/me … ME!!!!

I think I need to mail a few of my younger friends and get down wiv da kids for a few days for re-assurance. Jeez I feel young, youthful and vibrant ..

Ever Fallen in Love .. March 25, 2006

Posted by stagedive in Idle Thoughts.
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An odd couple of days, with good, great and bad in equal measures ..

I had a work event on Thursday night. I didn’t take the train till fairly late in the day and had hoped to see the latest at the Photographers Gallery, but after getting into work I had everyone wanting me – oh its nice to be loved – so subsequently didnt finish work till late and had to move quickly to get to the hotel.

The Kingsway Hall Hotel is one of those that I have walked past on many occasions between Holborn and Covent Garden, it has a grand drive up entrance that makes you think, LA, movie stars and politicians .. In reality, once you are passed the entrance it’s a fairly sterile affair, pleasant enough, but doesn’t quite live up to it’s grandeous cover.

The guy standing next to me at reception was having a torrid time trying to get the room he thought had been booked for him – whilst I don’t think he ended up on the streets, he certainly raised his own stress levels and lowered life expectancy in a frantic (but mildly amusing) five minute period. I wish him well in any future career.

It was a really good bunch of people to hang out with. I hadn’t met a lot of them before, but as with any work event there are always people that don’t seem to want to be there – and there were a couple – and it makes you wonder why they bothered, stay home, make excuses .. but that aside it was a lively affair.

After food, we had Karaoke .. I was impressed when the music kicked in after food with a triplet of ‘Reel around the fountain’, ‘Love will tear us apart’ & ‘Ever Fallen in Love’ .. what ever happened to ‘We are the champions’, ‘Simply the best’ and other well known corporate rebel rousers .. and it only got better ..

My karaoke repotoire was enhanced with such gems as ‘William it was really nothing’, ‘Too much too young’, ‘Baggy Trousers’ (how is my dancin’? 0800 skankcity) and a full on 20 plus of us singing ‘Jilted John’ .. I really shouldn’t have started the ‘boots up side yer head’ acrobatics, but at that point it was the drink talking .. 

There is always one or two folks that think they can sing .. amusingly, or not, the one person most guilty of this also seemed to glue his hand to one of the mics .. it was a long night of bum notes and sweaty expressions.

Never have I seen such a rich vein of karaoke form, a really good library of stuff (Artic monkeys on karaoke already?!) and the two guys behind the desk were very accomodating. Oh and the drinks were free & food was pretty fine, that might have helped .. a good night all told ..

Last night I went to watch a couple of friends in an Am Dram play .. the Masque Players in ‘California Suite’. Always good value on laughs even if the topic isn’t comedic .. but this one was as it happens. A four story suite all set within the same LA hotel room. John and Jon did themselves proud, coming off as a Lennie from Of Mice and Men & a 70s scouse American tennis idol .. brilliant.

Not too much on the bad stuff, except the inept fools that asked me to take my car in to the body shop on Thursday only to tell me when I phone up the next day to pick it up that the parts aren’t arriving until Monday at the earliest .. It was booked a month ago and they knew the problesm & they are supposed to be professionals. Gggrrhh.

I’m being a family host tomorrow for Mothers Day, check me out and my culinary skills for large numbers ..

Lost a limb .. March 25, 2006

Posted by stagedive in Idle Thoughts.
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Two days without an Internet connection at home and finnaly we are back in business! It’s a modern addiction that we take for granted, legal granted, but can be a damn frustrating technology to get the better of when you don’t have a full quota of nerd stripes. By process of elimination the broadband filter is now sitting in the bin, a new one installed and the router has a few dents in it where I tried the obvious problem solving technique of hitting it.