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>Sunday Easter Sunday (T – 15)

5 April, 2010 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack:  U2 – War

Busy day today, motor racing and football to watch, with a family get-together sandwiched in the middle.

It was a bit of a procession at the front of the Malaysian Grand Prix, with the two Red Bulls pulling away in the first two slots and staying there for the rest of the race.  Consequently the action was all towards the back of the field, with the McLarens and Ferraris trying to make amends for their abysmal performance in qualifying.  And for a while it was genuinely exciting, as Lewis Hamilton, in particular, carved his way through the back markers up into a respectable position.  Jenson Button also made progress, albeit less spectacularly, largely due to an early tyre change that gave him acres of free space to drive in for a large part of the race.

Ultimately though, the race fizzled out as a combination of tyre wear and a wall of slightly quicker cars halted the charge.  Oh for a thunderstorm in the last ten laps!

Then it was out for Easter lunch with the family – a carvery at the Village in Bromborough, and very enjoyable it was too, despite me making my usual schoolboy error of eating far too much (did I really need those last three profiteroles?) and feeling decidedly uncomfortable at the back end of the afternoon.  So rather than sit there feeling bloated, we beat an early retreat back home – where the Everton game was being Sky-plussed ready for viewing.

And I wished I hadn’t bothered, really.  A lethargic performance against a West Ham team that had more to play for, and who deserved their draw, even though the ever-erratic Howard Webb denied Everton a cast-iron penalty.  Sadly, it looks as though eighth is the best the club can aspire to this season – when a decent European slot was there for the taking.  We are definitely missing the guile and craft that Mikel Arteta brings to the team, and the game against Villa on Wednesday is really our last chance of pushing on for the final European place – a must-win game by any standards.

Sadly let down by Son No 2 today, who gleefully announced that the Pixies were playing Glastonbury this year, only to find he’d been April Fooled (and not for the first time this year!)  Still, with confirmations from The Gaslight Anthem and the likelihood of The Hold Steady and The Courteeners confirming soon, I don’t think we’ll be struggling for things to do and see.

U2 are, of course, already confirmed, and it is ‘War’ that has come up on the soundtrack today.  Their third album, released well before The Canonisation Of Saint Bono, it’s not their best work by a long stretch.  But it does include New Year’s Day and Sunday Bloody Sunday, and generally chunters along quite inoffensively.

Here’s a young-looking U2 performing ‘Two Hearts Beat as One’.  Nice mullett, Bono!

Categories: Easter, Everton, Formula 1, U2

>Sympathy for the Journo (T – 16)

3 April, 2010 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack:  The Stranglers – The UA Singles 1977 – 1982

Just finished reading Nick Kent’s memoirs of the 1970s, ‘Apathy for the Devil’.  The name might not mean a great deal to you, but Nick Kent was a music journalist back in the seventies, and along with his colleague at the NME, Charles Shaar Murray, pointed me in the direction of most of the great music I listened to in that decade.

Nick was also – for a few weeks – an early member of the Sex Pistols, as well as being Chrissie Hynde’s lover and a fully fledged junkie.  He was also one of the best writers about rock music ever to have put pen to paper.

Apathy for the Devil has come in for some criticism from some quarters, but I enjoyed it.  Whilst Kent doesn’t write about himself as well as he does about his musical heroes, reading the book took me right back to my adolescence, and reminded me of the time when the NME formed the centrepiece of my week – I couldn’t afford too much of the music it wrote about, but I still devoured every word of every issue, vicariously living the life of its writers, who were, to many of us, stars in their own right.

Today’s NME is a pale shadow of the magazine that existed in the ’70s and ’80s and it’s a real shame.  There is still plenty of quality music journalism out there – in the pages of Word, Mojo and Uncut, and in the writings of Peter Guralnick, Mikal Gilmore and others – but you won’t find it in the pages of the NME any more, sadly.

A very pleasing thud on the doormat this morning – my contract of employment!  So I’ve now got written confirmation – I’m back on the gravy train again.  Happy days.  Just got to fill in a few forms and wing them back to Preston, and then I can enjoy my last couple of weeks of leisure.

Confirmation this morning also, that Formula 1 is at its most interesting when it rains.  Ferrari and McLaren’s decision to gamble on the length and intensity of a rainstorm in Malaysia found both all four of their cars languishing at the back of the grid, which should lead to some interesting driving tomorrow morning.  The drivers seemed pretty philosophical about it, as well they might – it wasn’t really their fault that their teams misread the conditions.

One band who – perhaps surprisingly – don’t get much of a mention (if any) in Nick Kent’s memoirs are The Stranglers, who were there or thereabouts throughout the period Kent is writing about.  Maybe they were too far removed from the scuzzy drug scene that Kent was involved in at the time, and possibly too inauthentic as well – their punk credentials were indeed decidedly dodgy.  That said, they did release a string of excellent singles in the period from 1977 to 1982, the last part of which I am listening to as I type.  By this time, they’d ditched the casual misogyny that blighted their early years and were playing more melodic, conventional material such as Golden Brown and Strange Little Girl.

Whilst never one of my favourite bands at the time – they came across as too old and too muso for me, with their organ riffs and dodgy facial hair – they did release some canny tunes.

“Have you all got your Crackerjack pencils?”

>Day 218: Signing Off…?

19 October, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack:  Various Artists – True Romance Soundtrack

Right, it’s Monday morning, and tomorrow I start work!

On a contract basis, so come the end of November I might be right back where I started, but for the next few weeks I shall be spending my weeks in Staines, just outside London, doing an internal control review for a business linked with my ex-employer, who kindly referred the contract on to me.

All the planning is done, terms of reference have been prepared and reviewed – now it’s just a case of getting down there and rolling my sleeves up.  Not without a certain amount of trepidation – it’s been the best part of seven months since I picked up a calculator in anger – can I still do it?

Course I bloody can.

Spent Sunday frantically trying to finish off my chores – and finally got the bathroom finished, tiles grouted and cleaned.  A few scratches on the glass tiles I’m not too happy about, but otherwise a pretty decent job.  Then I watched a bit of the Blackburn-Burnley game, read the paper and watched the Grand Prix.  Nice to see Button finally sewing up the Championship – he gave up trying to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory with a super drive from the back of the grids into the points – and ahead of Rubens Barrichello, giving him the margin of victory he needed to make the final race in Abu Dhabi academic.

We also finished the final series of The Shield as well, which I wholeheartedly recommend to you.  As good as The Wire and The Sopranos?  Probably not, but not embarrassed in their company either.  The series cleverly has you rooting for the bad guys and is really well scripted and acted.  Not sure what we watch now though…

Today’s soundtrack is from the film True Romance, probably Mrs W’s favourite film, and certainly one of mine.  Written (but not directed ) by Quentin Tarantino, the dialogue is sharp, the acting superb, with some nice little cameos, and the storyline as touching as it is violent.  Go and rent it, now.

The music included on the soundtrack is a combination of ‘film’ music, with an eclectic selection of tasty tunes from the likes of John Waite, Shelby Lynne and Soundgarden(!)  The highlight for me though is Hans Zimmer’s theme tune, instantly memorable, played I believe on a vibraphone(?)




So, one and all, I suspect that might be the end of the daily blogs – at least for the time being – but keep checking back for at least weekly postings.

Take care – all of you.  I love you all.

>Day 204: T-Day!

5 October, 2009 2 comments

>Today’s soundtrack: ‘Til Tuesday – Coming Up Close – A Restrospective

Up early – very early – this morning, to catch as much of the Grand Prix as I could, then to sit at the computer pressing the F5 key until See Tickets coughed up a Glastonbury ticket for me.
Luckily, The Hunter was up for an early morning stakeout, so any chance of inadvertently oversleeping was removed. Six thirty, and I’m making coffee and watching cars driving round in circles.

The Grand Prix was a bit of an anticlimax really – missing the start didn’t help, and by the time I was watching the shakedown for the final positions was all but complete. A win for Vettel keeps the championship race interesting for a couple more weeks, although points for Button and Barrichello really means the inevitable is just delayed slightly.
So – in front of the computer by 8:30, ready for the ticket rush. Really, I wasn’t sure why I was bothering to get sorted so early – for the last couple of years, tickets have taken weeks, if not months, to sell out, and the level of ‘noise’ around ticket sales didn’t give the impression it was going to be an almighty struggle this year.

But still, better to be sure than sorry. Last year, See Tickets had sneakily opened sales a good hour before the ‘official’ time of 9:00, so I thought it was worth trying early again this year. And sure enough, I managed to get onto a live sales site by about 8:50. Worryingly, the website ‘fell over’ a few times as I was going through the booking process, but I got the successful transaction screen just before nine – and the official confirmation email about an hour later. Simple – sorted. No mad panic.
Sent a text to The Boy just to make sure he was up and about, and getting himself sorted, then logged on to the Glastonbury forums to see how the day was unfolding (and to soak up just a bit of early Glasto ‘vibe’, man). To my surprise, it looked like things were getting a bit tough out there as the day went on – half the tickets sold by 10:00, according to the official Facebook page, with no sign of sales slowing down.
A few other successes – The Boy got a couple of tickets, as did Timmy and Moggsy, then Rhys – but one other member of the Wells Massive was having registration number difficulties.
A few issues with confirmation emails coming through, but again, updates from the organisers confirmed that they were taking ages to get issued…so don’t panic, Captain Mainwaring! I was fine though, and could leave for the footy safe in the knowledge that I was sorted, at least.
And still the sales continued, and the website was rammed. Some early signs of mild panic on the forums, but no-one really believed they would sell out today, did they? Well – they did, apparently, ‘Sold Out’ notices going up at about 9:00pm.
Pleasing in one sense – it means that only the really committed will be there next year, not the people who decided to go on a whim – but also worrying that a good few mates might have been caught out by the rush.
Wonder who’s going to be playing next year? A minor detail, though.
And so the footy. Had to go by myself today, father out at a birthday party and nephew playing football himself. You would ordinarily expect to be beating Stoke City at home – but they are a big, physical team and not really the sort of team you want to be playing on the back of a long European trip in midweek. Given recent injury problems, we had a pretty decent team out – but no Yobo or Pienaar meant starts for Bily on the left of midfield and Johnny Heitinga coming in at centre back.
And the game panned out pretty much as expected – a tough, physical game with few chances. Those chances that did arise in the first half came mainly to us – unfortunately we didn’t put any of them away, something we would come to rue later in the game.
All square then at half time, but with us ahead on points. A situation that became irrelevant five minutes into the second half when Stoke took the lead from – inevitably – a set piece, Huth heading home from a corner.
Oh dear.

We continued to play pretty well, but with little penetration – but five minutes later we were level through a spectacular goal from Leon Osman. Captain for the day, and playing well, he exchanged passes with Johnny on the edge of the Stoke area before crashing in a left-footer from 25 yards off the underside of the bar. A lovely goal, totally out of character with the rest of the match.
After that, we kept pushing and should have taken the lead but Cahill’s header from six yards was straight at the keeper. We flung on Jo and the Yak to add to the firepower, but this seemed to unbalance the team (Moyes, to his credit, admitted this was his mistake after the match) and the game fizzled out to a 1-1 draw.
Disappointing, but the unbeaten run stretches to six games now, and with more games under their belts, the newer players are beginning to settle in. With injured players still to come back, I remain optimistic for the season ahead.
‘Til Tuesday on the soundtrack today. Mid ’80s powerpop from the band that gave us Aimee Mann, and although it all sounds a little dated now, there’s still some good stuff in there. They were never particularly successful in the UK – and not that much more successful in the States – but are worth seeking out.
Here they are performing ‘Voices Carry’ in New York back in 1985. Not convinced by the hair, chaps…

>Day 197: Under the Lights

28 September, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Joy Division – Closer

A quiet day today, following last night’s excitement – just a bit of shopping, baking and car racing.

It was the Singapore Grand Prix today, played out at night, under the lights around the city streets. Very spectacular, the lighting and scenery making the event look more like a video game than a ‘real’ race.

It was at the corresponding event last year that the Renault team took matters into their own hands by instructing Nelson Piquet Jr to deliberately crash, thereby handing victory to his teammate, Fernando Alonso. Piquet, no doubt ‘piqued’ (you see what I did there?) by his recent dismissal from the Renault team, grassed up his ex-team, causing Flavio Briatore to be banned from racing forthwith and another senior team member to be banned for five years. Renault itself received a suspended sentence but, more damagingly, saw its major sponsors distancing themselves financially from the team which may ultimately cause them to leave Formula One next season.

And a good thing too, I say. It is inconceivable to me that you can ‘engineer’ a crash in a Formula One race – especially on a street circuit – that you can guarantee will not endanger the lives of drivers, stewards and the general public in some way. Luckily, no-one was injured in Singapore last year – but that was by no means a foregone conclusion.

And so to this year’s race. Hamilton on Pole, the Red Bulls not far behind, the Brawns nowhere. And yet again events transpired to keep the Brawns – and Jenson Button in particular – way out in front of the Championship. Having established a big lead in the first half of the season, it seems that even if they were to wilfully try and chuck away the title, it’s still Brawn’s almost by default, as the other teams continually fail to capitalise. Vettel gained a couple of points on Button and Barrichello, but it’s all too little, too late.

Breadmaker in overdrive today – a sandwich loaf (with added wheatgerm) for Mrs W, than a series of pizza bases for tonight’s tea – a pizza each, with a shared garlic bread.

I’ve got the pizza down to a fine art now. Dough mixed, rolled and rising on pizza trays, toppings sliced and set out in little bowls to be added according to personal taste. We seem to have settled on passata and mozzarella, with a selection of spiced meats, red onion, garlic, mushroom, sweetcorn – and chillies for me. Oh, and the garlic bread improves with each baking, too. Butter and crushed garlic combined and malted in the microwave and spread on the pizza base, then topped with copious herbage and more mozzarella. Delicious!

Oh, and Pedro has developed a taste for pizza crusts. Crispy, probably good for his teeth, and I can’t see how it would hurt his tender bowels either. Keeps him quiet while we’re eating, anyway.

So to today’s soundtrack. Joy Division – for the first time, I believe. I came to Joy Division quite late – really following Ian Curtis’s death – and to my eternal shame and regret, I missed seeing them when they supported Buzzcocks back in 1980. A couple more pints in the pub was more appealing than the support act. We’ll see them next time, we said. Well, next time, Ian Curtis was dead, and Joy Division had become New Order.

I got a bit obsessive about Joy Division in the early eighties – as did many people I suppose. I’m sure a lot of this was due to Curtis’s suicide and the myths that sprung up (and were manufactured) around that – and the re-interpretation of his lyrics in the context of his suicide.

However even now, nearly thirty years after the event, I’m still mildly obsessed with Joy Division, snapping up films, documentaries, books and reissued CDs as they become available. Why so? Well, it’s a classic rock and roll story, isn’t it? But ultimately, the music demands it. Brooding, layered and produced with feeling and depth by the (also doomed) Martin Hannett, the music moves me now as much as it did then.

Closer was their second – and final – album, and it still retains an air of mystery about it. Even the title. Is it ‘Closer’ – as in ‘nearer’…or is it ‘Closer’ – as in the opposite of ‘Opener’? I don’t know – and I don’t really care that much. I like the ambiguity.

And I love the music. I love the early use of synthesisers, the power of the bass lines, the weariness to Curtis’s voice.

Most of the video evidence out there comes from Joy Division’s earlier work – there don’t seem to be many films of them performing ‘Closer’ material. But to appreciate Joy Division, you need to see Ian Curtis perform. Lost in the music, carried away in his strange, air-drumming, butterfly-winged dancing, you can see what lies behind the myth.

This is Transmission – with added John Cooper Clarke at the beginning and end – in the Arndale, if I’m not mistaken!

>Day 183: What Have I Done To Deserve This?!

14 September, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Prince – Emancipation

So after last night’s excesses, I was hoping for a nice, quiet morning to recover gently, before the double header of the Grand Prix and the Everton game.

Not a chance.

Just got myself settled, when I get the call that The Hunter has struck again, trotting past Mrs W in the kitchen with a mouse between his jaws. I finally cornered cat and prey in one of the bedrooms, where my efforts to separate the two were hamstrung by the bed itself, underneath which cat chose to base his feline activities. Eventually, after haring round the bed and crawling underneath it, I managed to grab the cat and persuade him to let go of the rodent, which I was then lucky enough to trap underneath the Tupperware box that doubles as a humane mouse trap.

Rodent saved and released into the wild, cat grounded (again), Paul ready to resume the recovery position.

Not a chance.

One look at Mrs W’s face told me there was something else to deal with. Something quite bizarre – there’s been some sort of ‘explosion’ in one of the food cupboards. Tentatively opening the cupboard (How had this happened? Was there some sort of angry beast in here – chased in by the cat? What?) I discovered a spray of tomato salsa – everywhere. It looked, I kid you not, like someone had opened the cupboard and projectile vomited over every available space.

They hadn’t. Honest. I didn’t drink that much ouzo last night.

After a quick forensic review of the crime scene, this is what I think must have happened. Remember yesterday’s barbecue? It was accompanied by a range of relishes, including a squeezy jar of salsa that we’d had for a while. It was the contents of this jar that had emptied itself over the cupboard – unaided by human or animal. I can only assume that the contents of the jar were ‘on the turn’ and had started to ferment in some way – leading to a build-up in pressure that had relieved itself by forcing the lid of the jar open and spraying the contents over the cupboard. Is this feasible? Has this ever happened to anyone else?

It’s either that or we’ve got a poltergeist.

So, cupboard and contents cleaned and rearranged, I could now sit down and relax, no?

No.

Mrs W had retreated to the garden whilst the spring clean was under way, where she had discovered the remains of the squirrel who’d tangled with Pedro yesterday. Pedro (or maybe some other creature of the garden) had kindly dragged the stiffening beast up onto the lawn for us to find.

And for Paul to dispose of.

So, on with the gardening gloves, a couple of plastic bags, and Sammy Squirrel was given a rather undignified incarceration, leaving only the question of which recycling bin was designed for squirrels (no, he did not get a Christian burial I’m afraid). He ended up in the green one, largely on the basis that this was the next to be collected.

Finally, I got to sit down. For five minutes, before cranking up the barbie for the remaining burgers and sausages, not consumed last night.

Then it was time for the Grand Prix. An interesting race, the frontrunners risking a two stop strategy when a one-stop seemed to be the preferred option for most teams. And the one-stop proved to be the right one, with the two Brawns making the pace as the pitstop strategies unfolded. Hamilton, on pole and on a two-stop, pushed the two Brawns hard – too hard in the end, spinning off on the final lap. With the Red Bulls nowhere, the only twist comes with the finishing order, a resurgent Barrichello likely to push Button all the way to the end of the season.

And so to the football. We’ve struggled year after year at Craven Cottage, but a victory lat year had hopefully laid that bogie to rest. And that seemed to be the likely outcome after a first half in which Tim Cahill had given us the lead and we’d never looked under any real pressure.

Second half though, the gameplan unravelled as Fulham came out of the traps the stronger. After a very fortunate deflection they were level, and eventually took all three points following a fine goal from Damien Duff. Git.

We nearly forced an equaliser, but never really looked like we were going to come back into the game, resorting to hoofball at the death. So three defeats out of four, rooted in the bottom three and struggling.

But not panicking. Just yet. Despite a bit of knee-jerking on the forums and message lists, I’m not convinced we’re actually playing that badly now – the season is still there to be turned round, although Moyes could do with blooding some of the new boys to freshen things up a bit, I feel.

Final crank of the barbie this evening to finish off the meat (some nice rump steaks and lamb noisettes) with salad, before the early evening chill sent us indoors to watch the end of Series 6 of The Shield (just one more to go), and finally to bed.

And, finally, some peace and quiet.

Oh, some Prince on the soundtrack today, although not Prince at his most inspiring, I’m afraid. Emancipation is a three-CD set, released by Prince at the end of his ‘Slave’ phase (hence ‘Emancipation’ – you see what he did there?)

Freed from record company control, Prince chucked everything he had lying around onto this three hour set, turning what could have been a half decent single album into a bit of a sprawling mess. That said, even indifferent Prince has plenty to recommend it. This album is partially saved by a couple of decent tracks, including two excellent covers. This is the old Stylistics number, ‘Betcha By Golly Wow’ and (cheesy video notwithstanding) it’s ace. Enjoy.

>Day 168: Paperboy

30 August, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Eli ‘Paperboy’ Reed and the True Loves – Roll With You

A quiet one today, with all the chores done in the week and no shopping to do. I sent Mrs W down to the village store for one or two things needed for tonight’s tea, then settled down with the Saturday paper for the morning. Time was, Saturday’s paper resembled the rest of the week’s editions with the Sunday behemoth being the one with all the extras. Nowadays, both weekend papers are stuffed to the gunnels with gubbins and, if anything, it’s the Saturday edition that appeals more. Especially when Sundays are taken up more and more with football, delayed from Saturday because of European commitments or Sky requirements.

With it being the bank holiday, the paper had extra puzzle supplements which might while away another few hours in the week – especially now the nights are drawing in!

With the paper open, I only kept half an eye on the GP qualifying, which seemed to turn accepted wisdom on its head – both Button and Hamilton failing to make the top ten and the Red Bulls struggling. A Force India on pole? What’s that all about? Maybe it’s now time for Rubens Barrichello to make a charge for the championship – anything is possible in this topsy turvy year.

I caught bits of the ManYoo/Arsenal game on the Sky Player on the computer. Unfortunately the feed got worse as the game continued, constantly buffering, so I pretty much gave up after the first half and concentrated on the evening’s culinary exploits. Never get this problem with my snide Asian feeds!

Back on the cottage pie tonight, stuffed full of mushrooms, carrots and celery alongside the meat, with a healthy topping of cheesy mash. You’ve already had the recipe on Day 54 so I won’t repeat it here – just gaze upon its majesty opposite!

Very nice it was too.

While I was cooking, with Mrs W happily ensconced in the lounge watching the X Factor, I watched a bit of the day’s Reading coverage, confirming that a) despite his general aceness, Ian Brown couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket and b) Enter Shikari are awful beyond compare. Then I chanced upon a Seasick Steve documentary on BBC4, which was worth the price of the Freeview box alone.

We watched The Reader tonight – a bit worthy for us, given our normal film selection, but very good. At least it was until the lights went out – I missed the last half hour or so due to excessive sleepiness, no doubt brought about by excessive drinkiness!

Eli ‘Paperboy’ Reed on the soundtrack today – if you’ve not heard him, you should seek him out. A young white American boy, with the voice of an Otis or a Wilson. Retro soul stylings, but done well and with an understanding of the music that Amy Winehouse could never hope to achieve.

Here he is on Jools last year, giving it some welly. Beyonce’s sister on backing vocals, celebrity spotters!

>Day 162: Great Sport (and Everton…)

24 August, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Catatonia – International Velvet

A day to feast on the best sport around – oh, and to catch the Everton – Burnley game as well.

Firstly the European Grand Prix, which took place around the back alleys of an industrial estate between the beach and the docks in Valencia, so far as I could make out. Jenson Button continued his one-man effort to throw away the most commanding lead in the driers’ championship in Formula One history, whilst McLaren contrived to chuck away victory by getting the tyres out for Lewis Hamilton five seconds later than they should have done. Millions of pounds of investment in the best technology money can buy, and the race is lost because they can’t have the tyres ready when they are needed.

Which all contrived to give Rubens Barrichello his first win in five years, and he looked like he enjoyed it a lot. I especially liked his jerky little dance when he got out onto the podium. There should be more silly little dances by obscenely wealthy sportsmen and women.

A quick dash from the TV to the computer, to watch Everton play Burnley on Shanghai Sports with some flavour of Chinese commentary. Everton continue to press the self-destruct button by a) defending like twelve year olds in the first half and b) missing the penalty they were gifted that would have brought them level. I hate it when we have to play the newly promoted teams early on in the season, when they are still fired up and believing anything is possible. Can we bounce back in a ManYooesque fashion at the weekend? Don’t bet on it.

After a detour to collect Son No 1 from his Skye trip, I caught the tail end of the Ashes. And at last there was something to cheer about, by virtue of the Aussies being even worse than we are and shooting themselves in the foot just when it looked like they were possibly going to pull off an unlikely upset.

Called Son No 2 on the phone, to discover mid-conversation that The Hunter had cornered another bird, this time outside, beneath the kitchen window. Managed to get the cat indoors, although the bird (which was clearly still alive and, as far as I could tell, unharmed) didn’t seem inclined to move anywhere. A few hours later, the poor thing was still there, and it became increasingly obvious that the trauma was going to do it in, even if it was physically undamaged.

Very sad, but the poor thing’s catatonia does give me an-in-no-way contrived link to today’s soundtrack, the first album by the Welsh funsters’ first album. A patchy affair, rescued by the wonderful ‘Mulder and Scully’ and ‘Road Rage’ – and, of course, Cerys’ accent which comes deep from the valleys.

Here’s Mulder and Scully at Netaid in 1999. Does your mother know you’ve gone out dressed like that, Cerys?

>Day 161: Chapati Party!

23 August, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Various Artists – The Best Disco Album in the World…Ever!

Some more minor culinary triumphs today, again involving the breadmaker – the invention of which must be the best thing since, er, sliced bread, and which clearly represents the pinnacle of human achievement. Apart from the iPhone, of course.

Highlight was probably luncheon, BLTs made with grilled back bacon, iceberg lettuce and vine tomatoes on freshly baked bread spread with mayonnaise – bread so fresh it couldn’t be cut with an ordinary bread knife, only an electric knife was capable of dealing with the loaf’s combination of crustiness and squishiness.

BLTs were eaten whilst watching qualifying for the European Grand Prix. It should be an interesting race tomorrow, Hamilton on pole in a McLaren that now appears to be competitive again. The Brawns and Red Bulls are there or thereabouts, with Button a rather lacklustre fifth on the grid, behind Vettel. The resurgence of McLaren is probably the best thing that could happen for Brawn, if it stops Red Bull from dominating the second half of the season. McLaren are too far off the pace to catch Brawn themselves, but they could do enough to stop Red Bull gaining the points they need to overhaul Button. It should be a very interesting second half of the season!

My second minor culinary triumph came at teatime. Not so much with the main meal itself, a Sainsbury’s curry just flung into the oven (hugely tasty though said curry is), rather with the accompaniment – the chapatis. I realised that I’d forgotten to buy any chapatis so, if our feast was not to be chapati-free, we either had to haul ourselves down to the supermarket to buy some or – genius! Make our own!

So that’s what I decided to do. The breadmaker could take care of the messy mixing stuff, and I would do the rolling and cooking. I eventually found a recipe on t’internet since my own cookbooks were silent on the subject – no easy task since most recipes were either American (measuring quantities in ‘cups’ – no use to me) or were vague about quantities. No use for me – it was only the quantities I was interested in, there’s hardly a massive list of ingredients for a chapati (flour, water, salt, if you’re interested).

So everything got chucked into the breadmaker and I decided to go with the pizza dough programme. No rising to worry about, just mix it all up and give me a lump of dough to play with. While all that was going on, I got chatting to my old colleague Noordad on this new-fangled Windows Messenger thing I’d decided to switch on today – he kindly offered advice if I needed it, but thought I’d best make my own mistakes first. I may be wrong but I think it’s Ramadan at the moment, so it was probably a bit cruel to be talking food with the lad while it was still daylight!

Anyway. The dough came out a bit too sticky, but with a bit more flour I got it into a manageable state. Breaking off golf ball-sized lumps, I rolled out a batch of very thin circles and dry-fried them in the frying pan. And they were pretty good, actually. I thought they’d puff up more than they did, but what came out of the pan was recognisably chapati-ish and did a grand job of mopping up the curry sauces. Typically, Mrs W preferred the ones I’d cooked for slightly too long and had gone a touch crispy in places, but I think I got the balance right with most of them. No pictures, I’m afraid.

Mrs W has regained the will to live, with the return of X-Factor. I remain unmoved. For the first few weeks we are in the ‘care in the community’ phase of the competition, which I am always slightly uncomfortable with. It’s the modern day equivalent of going to see the inmates at Bedlam, in my view. At least child abuse is less of a concern here, unlike Britain’s Got Talent, as there are some age guidelines in place to prevent really young competitors being traumatised by the stress of the competition and the bullying of their parents.

Ahem. Rant over.

Bit of disco on the soundtrack today. I’ve got quite a few of these “The Best……Album…Ever!” compilations and the hit to miss ratio is actually pretty good. And there’s nowt wrong with a bit of disco, whatever I might have thought back in the day when I was busy fighting the Punk Wars.

The highlight of this album for me is the wonderful Candi Staton’s “Young Hearts Run Free”, which I secretly liked when it was originally released, although I’d never have admitted that to anyone.

I saw Ms Staton at Glastonbury last year and she was ace. Me standing at the front grinning like a loon and singing along like a good ‘un. I had a horrible feeling I was captured on film doing this, but luckily the BBC chose to spare the nation the sight of me, unwashed and hirsute, giving it large on the big screen.

I can’t find any original clips of Candi doing ‘Young Hearts’, but here’s her re-recording of the track back in 1999. Still a very fine version sung by a very classy, sassy lady.

>Days 117-119: Slipping Standards

13 July, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: AC/DC – If You Want Blood, You’ve Got It

I know, I know, there’ve been rather a lot of combined days’ postings going on recently. So much for a single post every day, what happened to that? Well let me tell you, it’s not easy coming up with fresh stuff to write every single day – especially when one day is much like any other at the moment!

But I know I’m slipping – when I get Latitude out of the way, I promise to do better.

So Jayne won Masterchef then, as we thought she might. I won’t give you a blow-by-blow, it’s been done better than I could by Andrew Collins here – but once she’d got away from the pressure of the professional kitchen she managed to cook something that looked (and, presumably, tasted) better than anything the others could produce. Roll on Normal Person Masterchef!

While all that was going on, the footy pre-season started with Everton’s first friendly, away to the mighty Bury. Everton’s back four included three kids I’d quite literally never heard of, and while the rest of the team had some pedigree, it was no real surprise that they lost 2-1 in the end. Nice to see Jo back for a season-long loan, but that’s not really where I think our priority lies for strengthening this season.

In other sporting news, England managed the raggedy-est draw possible in the first test after looking dead and buried at the start of the final day. Not really a huge cause for celebration, we looked (and were) crap for most of the match and it is difficult to see where any improvement may come from. I remain distinctly underwhelmed by cricket as a spectator sport these days – years ago I would have watched test matches from first ball to last but now I just can’t maintain the enthusiasm. I did sit through the German Grand Prix though – it does begin to look like a Red Bull charge in the second half of the season will make things pretty interesting as Brawn go slightly off the boil. And whilst it was nice to see a competitive Lewis Hamilton come through qualifying in some style, it was disappointing (although massively amusing) to see him set off like a loon and blow (quite literally) his chances at the very first corner. Still, good to see Mark Webber winning his first race (from his first pole) – seems like a nice guy who, like Button, is long overdue some tangible success.

I spent a lot of the weekend trawling the Internet for snide downloads of Glastonbury performances, and hit paydirt with some decent recordings of Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen and The Gaslight Anthem. I even managed to find a video of the Springsteen guest spot with The Anthem (although I was unable to spot myself in the crowd). Converting them into iPod-friendly formats (and getting the right titles for the songs) took a bit of effort but we got there in the end. I also picked up The Sunday Times for the free Specials CD, which is also sitting proudly on the iPod now.

Culinary treat of the weekend was one of the simplest – toasted bagels with cream cheese. We don’t have bagels that often, and I’d forgotten just how much I enjoyed them. With some smoked salmon and a twist of black pepper, they’d have been even better. Next time.

The bagels were almost outshone by Saturday brunch though – just the thing to cure the marginally thick head I’d woken up with on Saturday morning. Between myself and Mrs W, brunch comprised the following:
Cumberland sausage x4 (healthily grilled in the Formby)
Back bacon x4 (cooked in the frying pan)
Black pudding x2 (cooked in the bacon fat)
Mushrooms (ditto)
Fried egg x4 (ditto)
Fried bread x2 (cooked in the juices saved from the sausages)
Plus brown sauce for me and red sauce for Mrs W.
Now if only we’d had some beans and hash browns in…
Finally a bit of heavy stuff on the soundtrack. And it doesn’t get much better than Bon Scott era AC/DC, does it? If You Want Blood… also has the advantage of being live, and includes the wonderful ‘Whole Lotta Rosie’, about one of Mr Scott’s more, ahem, Rubenesque groupies. 42-39-56, you could say she’s got it all!! Hell yeah!

And here they are in Colchester, of all places, back in 1978. Rifftastic!