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>Day 178: Grin and Bear it, Paul…

9 September, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Elton John – Madman Across The Water

Jobcentre day today, signing on augmented by an ‘interview’ with a consultant to check that I’m doing all I can to get a job. This is my second such interview, and means that I’ve been on the job hunt for just about six months now.

Six months! Where has the time gone?

Anyway. As always, the Jobcentre staff have treated me with the utmost courtesy and respect, but it’s a painful process. There’s never been any suggestion that I’m doing anything less than I ought to on the job hunt, but there are certain things they have to push my way to ‘encourage’ me to get a job. This time, there was some (quite useful, actually) information on becoming self-employed, and some (probably counterproductive) financial ‘inducements’ I can offer to potential employers to persuade them to employ me. Five hundred quid up front if they offer me a job! Another five hundred quid if I actually stay in the job!! A contribution to any LSC retraining costs they may incur in training me up to do the job!

I know it’s easy to be flippant, but we all know that five hundred quid from the Jobcentre is not going to swing any job decision at my level my way. And to be fair, they know that as well. But they have to follow the rules and offer it to me. Fair enough, I suppose.

One thing rankles, though. One of the other ‘opportunities’ offered to me today was a workshop, to advise me on the quality of my CV and my interview technique. Which, of course, I have agreed to undertake. Whilst it’s presented as optional, I suspect I would have to have a pretty good reason not to accept. And you never know, there may be stuff I’m missing, that could help.

But that’s not the issue. My interviewer called the agency running the workshop to arrange my attendance, and referred to me as one of her ‘customers’.

Sorry love – whatever I am, I’m not your ‘customer’. You’re not selling anything, and I’m sure as hell not buying.

Now I’m sure it’s terminology that all Jobcentre staff have been told they must use in referring to us doleys, but it’s just wrong on so many levels. And it shouldn’t annoy me – but it does.

Rant over.

Following the above shenanigans, I strolled over to Homebase and picked up some basic tiling kit, and a batch of mirror tiles for the bathroom. Now I’ve spent the money, I’m committed to doing some DIY – but not today, I feel.

More adventures with the pussycat today – rescuing the bird he dragged into the house today. Thankfully this one was sparrow- rather than pigeon-sized, making it easier to separate cat from bird and to free the bird.

Catching the bird was made a lot easier by its apparent deadness, although when I took it outside it perked up suddenly, and after a few seconds flew off of its own accord. Presumably it was only playing dead, hoping Pedro would lose interest and go.

A tricky one, this. Pedro goes out to play. If we leave the back door open, as often as not, he’ll bring a bird or a rodent into the house. If we don’t, he can’t. But he tends to bring them in alive, meaning I’ve got a chance of catching the thing and releasing it, still alive. If he can’t bring them in, then we don’t see them, and they’ll invariably end up dead. What’s better?

A moral maze, that one.

A bit of Elton John today. Now most of you, when you think of Elton, will think of the ‘flamboyant’, hissy-fit queen, conspicuous overconsumption and over the top Vegas-style shows. Not the music, so much.

But there was a time when Elton was a very hip, credible performer, seen as a sort of English Randy Newman. And he produced a run of albums in the early Seventies that are worthy of anyone’s attention, and are as good an example of piano-driven singer-songwriter material as anything produced by anyone in the last forty years of so. I’m talking about Madman Across The Water, Tumbleweed Connection, Honky Chateau in particular.

When Elton was good, he was very, very good. And this track is one of the best. The lead-off track on Madman, Tiny Dancer is just sublime. You may know it from the film ‘Almost Famous’, or from the Ben Folds version, but Elton’s original performance is the best.

Categories: Elton John, jobcentre, Pedro

>Day 145: RIP Willy

8 August, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Mink Deville – Cabretta


I learnt today that Willy DeVille, the driving force behind Mink DeVille, had died yesterday of pancreatic cancer. Willy who? I suspect many of you are saying. Who indeed. Mink DeVille were one of the original New York CBGBs bands, but a more different band to The Ramones and the like you would struggle to find. They played bittersweet tunes with a latin flavour, more soul than rock. Doc Pomus said of him:

“Mink DeVille knows the truth of a city street and the courage in a ghetto love song. And the harsh reality in his voice and phrasing is yesterday, today, and tomorrow — timeless in the same way that loneliness, no money, and troubles find each other and never quit for a minute.”

So nothing random about today’s soundtrack – Cabretta was their first album, containing Spanish Stroll, their ‘hit’ – along with nine other sweet songs. Here they are performing Spanish Stroll on Top of the Pops back in ’77.

Think you’re so slick? Well all right…

A busy day today, with one thing and another. Had to take Pedders to the vet today for his boosters and a general health check. In the past, with our other cats, the big problem has been getting them in the cat basket in the first place – always involved a fight, scratches and yowling. Pedro? I opened the door of the basket and he just walked straight in. Bless him.

Because of his bowel problems (already discussed on here in far too much detail) he’s a bit of a celebrity in the vets, and they all seemed pleased to see him fit and well. Got a bit of Pedro’s history from the vet as well – don’t think we really realised just how poorly he’d been, that it was touch and go as to whether his bowel operation would work at all – happily it did, and his checkup confirmed he’s fine, although we do need to watch his diet carefully.

Then in the afternoon it was off to the Job Centre for my 13 week ‘interview’, which was with a nice lady who went through my ‘Jobseekers Agreement’ with me. This is the point where I am supposed to face facts, and recognise that I’m not going to get the highly paid job I’ve been looking for on my doorstep and reassess my job-searching parameters. Basically, reduce your salary expectations, widen the type of job you’ll consider and the distance you’ll travel to get there.

Fine in theory, but in practice is likely to lead to lots of pointless applications for jobs I’m overqualified for, or for which there will be far better candidates out there. Yes, in theory I am perfectly qualified to apply for financial controller roles paying £25k a year, but no-one in their right minds is going to actually employ me to do that! Luckily the lady I was interviewed by was sensible enough to understand that so we did what we had to do for the ‘system’ and that was that. We discussed the need for a further meeting in a couple of weeks time and agreed there was no point in having such a meeting – very sensible.

In better news, I had a call from the agency regarding one of the jobs I’ve applied for recently, and I’ve been selected for interview in a couple of weeks’ time. Still a long way to go, but definite progress!

Everton’s final pre-season friendly this evening, home to Malaga. Couldn’t raise the enthusiasm to actually go, but apparently they performed very creditably in winning 2-1. Joleon Lescott played, and it now begins to look like he’ll be staying, which would be good news. Goals below – look out for Malaga’s consolation goal – a cracking free kick!

>Day 135: Pane Italiano!

29 July, 2009 4 comments

>Today’s soundtrack: Various Artists – Pretty Woman Soundtrack

Oh dear. Before you say anything, it’s not mine. Honest. There are nearly four and a half thousand albums in my iTunes collection. Around 4,400 of these are mine. Probably less than 100 belong to Mrs W. This is one of those albums. But, in the spirit of taking things as they come, the soundtrack to Pretty Woman is what I have to listen to today whilst typing this blog.

It will be a short one today, I promise you.

To be fair, as I peruse the tracklist, I can see Roy Orbison, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, David Bowie and Robert Palmer. But then I can also see Roxette, Go West, Peter Cetera and Lauren Wood. And the unsettling image of Julia Roberts is hovering eerily at the back of my mind. What is it about Julia Roberts? I have severe doubts about her acting ability and find her singularly unattractive, yet she can apparently command higher fees per film than just about anyone out there. Is it all down to a big mouth and a set of shiny, even teeth? What am I missing?

Anyway.

Signing on day today, so off to Warrington for the fortnightly reminder of why I have to get a job sooner rather than later. Bit of a trial today, no fights to avoid, but for some reason they were heavily understaffed and those staff who were signing on us ‘customers’ also appeared to be training other staff – and taking twice as long as they normally would as a result. But after about a half hour wait, and being mildly patronised by a fourteen year old (possibly) member of the Job Centre team, I made good my escape.

At least things seem to be progressing with yesterday’s headhunter – although holidays are holding back one of the opportunities, it looks like I might be getting an interview with the firm of accountants I mentioned yesterday. Will keep you all posted.

Took the opportunity today to clog up the new computer with all manner of games I had lying around today, so prepare to be regaled with stories of my attempts to manage Everton to a respectable position in the league soon. Whilst doing so, I found an old version of Microsoft Office that I managed to register and install. Spent a frustrating hour or two trying (and failing) to import my calendar details from Thunderbird into Outlook until I gave up and re-entered everything manually. I only bothered because my iPhone will only recognise, and sync with, the Outlook calendar. Still, I now have all my appointments (such as they are) in my iPhone, which should be convenient.

Mrs W is currently enjoying the renewed vigour that comes with recent gym membership, and translating that into a desire for healthy food in the evening rather than a plate of stodge and a bottle of wine. As a result, we had one of my Carrot and Coriander soups for tea tonight (recipe here) – but accompanied by some home-made Foccacia. This basically uses the pizza dough recipe I’ve been using for the home made pizzas I’ve been raving about here, but this time rolled and shaped into a rectangle, and sprinkled with garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, olive oil, and rock salt and crushed peppercorns.

I’d show you a picture but it didn’t last long enough. Very yummy, but the rock salt did give us both a raging thirst which, to our credit, was not slaked with a liter of sauvignon.

Right, I might have to listen to some old squit today, but I’m not going to impose the same rubbish on you. Instead, have some of this – it’s the video for ‘Just a Day’ by Feeder and is possibly the most joyous thing on YouTube. Pulled together using footage of fans miming in their bedroom to the track, it cracks me up every time. Check out the two Japanese lads about thirty seconds in!

>Days 120 – 121: Pre-Latitude planning

21 July, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Various Artists – 12″/80s/2

Final ‘merged’ post, I promise – and a quick one, as there are some full-length daily Latitude reports to come shortly for your entertainment.

Monday started with a bit of a shock – a call from my mate in Southampton, Simon. Simon’s coming to Latitude with me and my first reaction to his obviously subdued tone was that he wouldn’t be able to make the festival. If only that had been the reason for the call. Unfortunately he was calling to let me know that he was being ‘let go’ by the firm along with around 30 other partners. Yet more fall-out from the economic environment. Latitude might just have come at the perfect time for him then – a chance to get away, drink, be distracted by some quality music and ‘chill’. Here’s hoping.

Following that bombshell, it was off to the hairdressers for a light trim. Alison rather than Debra today, which has its plusses and minuses. Alison probably gives me a better haircut than Debra – but at the end of the day it’s about more than just the haircut, isn’t it? No? Oh. Anyway, we had a good old chat about festival experiences (Alison’s not long back from Download – rather her than me) and, with a head massage and coffee thrown in as well, it’s a nice way to spend half an hour or so. I should go more often.

Out of the hairdressers, and into the butchers, for pies. Pie, chips, beans and gravy for tea. Doesn’t get better etc…

Thence to Tesco’s, for last minute festival provisions. Given my poor experience at Glastonbury, the own brand Red Bull stayed firmly on the shelf, to be replaced by a gallon of Lucozade. And some cider. And white wine. Not, I should stress, to be drunk simultaneously. I also got some tomato juice and cranberry juice, to keep my vitamin C levels up. And to mix with the vodka, of course.

So to Tuesday. Off early doors to my parents, who had cards and gifts for Son No 1 and Wife No 1, who I was seeing the following day (more details to come above shortly!) And then to Warrington to sign on – and to make my excuses for my 13 week pep talk, which had been arranged on my behalf for the Thursday I was away down south. This is the one where they tell you to start spreading the job net a bit wider, and accepting that you ain’t going to earn what you want to earn, I think. I’ve also got to provide evidence that I’ve been actively looking for work, and not wasting my time sat in front of a computer screen typing pages of rubbish. Hmmmm.

Then back home, for my farewell meal of yet more homemade pizza before leaving Mrs W to her own devices for five days.

Did I mention yet that I am SO the daddy of homemade pizza? That I absolutely OWN this particular dish? Oh yes.

Today’s soundtrack – before we start getting all Latitude-specific – is from a 3-disc compilation of ’80’s hits released on 12″ vinyl. It is the second of two such compilations, which I hope explains the somewhat obscure title of the compilation. Anyway, it’s got some good stuff on it, including the Associates, Human League, Heaven 17 and Lloyd Cole, amongst others. It’s also got a track by Belouis Some, but we’ll gloss over that one, shall we?

So in tribute to the great Billy MacKenzie, here are The Associates performng ‘Party Fears Two’. Excellent beret sir!

>Days 107-111: The comedown

4 July, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Madness – The Liberty of Norton Folgate

Catch-up blog today – been busy busy since getting back from Glastonbury so there’s only time for an overall catch up this week – normal service to be resumed shortly!

Back to earth with a bump on Tuesday – the delights of signing on marred by a particularly nasty fight breaking out between two “customers” (and yes, us doleys really are referred to as ‘customers’ by the staff – what exactly is it we are supposed to be buying?) Not sure what triggered it, but all of a sudden these two blokes start tearing chunks out of each other in the middle of the office. Security nowhere to be seen of course, although eventually sufficient uniforms arrived to tear the two of them apart. Ten minutes later every copper in Warrington had arrived, by which time at least one of the protagonists had scarpered. It might have livened up an otherwise mind-numbing experience, but could have done without it, really.

Spent the afternoon sorting out Glastonbury pictures, all of which can be found here.

Wednesday, drove over to Huddersfield to help Son No 2 move out of Halls and into his new lodgings for next year. Can’t believe how much stuff he’s accumulated over the past year – or perhaps I can! Two full carloads later, everything was crammed into his room in the house, which is a nice little terrace walking distance from the town centre. I say little – it’s actually quite a decent size, and like all student houses, furnished with a strange mix of old furniture, some of which is quite decent. The kitchen looks ace, with a smashing new range cooker that I’m very jealous of – wasted on a bunch of students!

Spent most of Thursday getting the ‘Glastonbury’ element of the blog up to date. Also took Mrs W to Sainsbury’s in the morning, demonstrating yet again that I know how to show a lass a good time. I even let her pay!

Since Glastonbury I’ve been absolutely shattered – I must be getting too old for all this! Permanently thirsty as well – I think a combination of the weather and the exercise effectively dehydrated me and it’s taken all week to fully rehydrate my cells. It’s all worth it though! I need to recover quickly though – got it all to do again at Latitude in a couple of weeks!

Whilst it would be easy to fall into the trap of branding Andy Murray as yet another British nearly man in the Henman mould, I think that would be unfair – both on Murray, who surely has a major in him sooner rather than later, and on Roddick, who I thought was magnificent all game. A Wimbledon semi is no disgrace for Murray and ultimately the experience should bring him back stronger and more determined next year.

Fascinated by the Michael Owen thing. I might be in a minority, but I think it’s a cracking deal for United – no fee, wages heavily performance-based, and a player who is still scoring at the rate of at least one goal in three. The only disappointment is that I thought we’d get him and I think he’d have been an equally good purchase for us.

Madness on the soundtrack today – with their remarkably good new album. As previously reported, they were one of the successes at Glastonbury this year, even if I did only experience them from a distance, lounging round the campsite. The Liberty of Norton Folgate is, like much of their material, a love letter to London and even this provincial can sense the affection the band feel for their home town. Madness have matured over the years into far more than a novelty ska act, although they still do novelty ska better than just about anyone else when they want to.

Here they are on Jools, performing Dust Devil from the new album:

Categories: jobcentre, Madness, Matt

>Day 65: Pilton here we come!

19 May, 2009 1 comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Aimee Mann – Live at St Ann’s Warehouse

Hot on the trails of the Wembley ticket confirmation, today saw the arrival of this year’s ticket for Glastonbury! Hurrah!

This seems very early to me – the festival still seems a mile off, and I’m sure in previous years the tickets have been much later arriving – long after the full lineup has been announced. Still, I’m not complaining, it’s one less thing to worry about in the lead-up to the festival.

What’s to worry about anyway? I think I’ve got things down to a fine art now – although I still take far too much stuff (thank heaven for sack trolleys!). I will try – as always – to take less stuff but it just never seems to happen in practice!

So what’s to do? I still need to repair the boy’s tent following the unfortunate wheelbarrow incident last year (don’t ask) but I’ve got all the bits – quick and easy job I think. Big shop for booze and other essentials…and that’s it, I think.

Oh, and I need to make sure that there’s an empty fabric conditioner bottle (with lid!) to take along as well. Possibly the most important piece of kit of all! And if you have to ask, you really don’t need to know…

The lineup this year is still largely to be announced, but I think it’s fair to say there’s more to grab my attention than there is for the boy – it’s all a bit ‘for the Dads’ this year. Still, I’m sure that there’ll be plenty going on in the John Peel tent and on the Other Stage to keep him happy. As always, it’s not about the big names, it’s the unexpected moments in out of the way places that make Glastonbury the adventure that it always is.

Like seeing the Hold Steady in 2007 and falling in love with them immediately. ‘Secret’ performances from Franz Ferdinand and The Last Shadow Puppets on the Park stage last year. Seasick Steve in Leftfield, two days before appearing on the Pyramid Stage.

Looks like I’ll be spending more time than usual at the Pyramid this year. All three headliners are likely to get a viewing (for the first time) and there are plenty of other acts confirmed or rumoured that will keep me happy. My main problem is going to be dealing with clashes, although as always the golden rule applies – enjoy what you are seeing, don’t regret what you’re not…you can’t see everything so don’t try.

And hopefully the weather will sort itself over the next month or so. The difference the sight of the sun (and the lack of mud) makes to the Glasto experience is phenomenal.

In other news, I finally received the paperwork confirming my car is now mine, so Captain Paranoia can get back in his box. I’ve had this irrational concern that the leasing company was about to go bust in between getting my cash and transferring ownership, leaving me significant quids out of pocket. Need to find something else to worry about now!

Went to the job centre to sign on again today, buoyed by another phone call from my Leeds consultant updating me on things. Another firm appear to be happy to have a conversation – which could be quite an interesting conversation (for reasons I can’t go into) and there are still a couple of other irons in the fire. But more importantly, it feels like things are moving!

As far as I know, Aimee Mann is not appearing at Glastonbury this year – be nice if she did, though. The former leader of another ‘seminal US Power Pop band’, ‘Til Tuesday, she is one of my favourite female singer/songwriters. Her first solo album, ‘Whatever’, doesn’t have a duff track on it. The work she did for the soundtrack of ‘Magnolia’ (a great film, by the way) is also superb and the soundtrack album is great even despite the appearance of Supertramp!

‘Live at St Anne’s Warehouse’ is an iTunes download that I’ve never seen on CD in the shops, although the Album Art would suggest that it’s actually the soundtrack to a live DVD. In any event, it’s a good solid performance of some of her best songs and well worth investigating.

Here’s Aimee performing ‘Save Me’ on the St Anne’s DVD. Save Me also is the standout track from Magnolia.

>Day 9: Sign on, sign on…..

24 March, 2009 2 comments

>Today’s soundtrack: The Who – Quadrophenia

Well, that could have been an awful lot worse than it was. I parked up well in advance of my signing-on time (what happens if you’re late?) in the retail park over the road, and had a quick browse round Borders before heading across to the Job Centre (although mine is actually a Job Centre ‘Plus’, whatever that signifies). Pitched up ten minutes early, and to my dismay entered a crowded waiting area – it looked like a long wait was in order.

The system is a little bit Heath Robinson – basically everyone has a little plastic wallet with their paperwork inside, which you put in a box placed on the edge of a desk, then you wait until your name is called. It feels almost like a raffle – you half expect the wallets to be shuffled then drawn out with a flourish by a minor celebrity….but no. After being moved around by a security guard (“you can’t stand there, sir”) I eventually got a seat and people began to get ‘processed’. Whether by chance or design my name was called just about on the appointed time, and I took my seat opposite a very nice lady who asked me a few questions about my job search, apologised for the confusion around the waiting area (apparently they have recently changed systems so now people have appointed times to turn up – rather than just turning up when they felt like it on the appointed day).

So after about ten minutes of this, I got to sign my name on a slip of paper and that’s it for another fortnight. Still not a pleasant experience, but nothing like as bad as I was expecting.

Earlier in the day I finally submitted my application for a job over in the Leeds area, and spoke to a recruitment consultant about the possibility of some temporary work. The same firm had called me last night to talk through another opportunity but unfortunately the level is too junior to be of interest….yet! Still, they are happy to talk to me and do have me in mind for opportunities out there.

The daily trawl of the web produced little of interest, but there’s one other role that I’m going to go after that was advertised in the paper last week. Bit of a long shot, but still….

Loads of messages today from ex-colleagues up and down the country, which was nice. Well, better than nice, actually, good to know that I’ve not been cut adrift and that losing a job doesn’t mean losing friendships as well. It would also appear these daily ramblings are attracting some attention as well!

Initial lineup for the Latitude festival announced yesterday – well, just the headliners, really. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Grace Jones and the Pet Shop Boys, with Editors, Doves and Bat For Lashes also announced. Not one to immediately set the pulse racing, and I’m seeing the Pet Shop Boys in Manchester in June anyway (and saw Nick Cave in ‘Grinderman’ guise at Latitude last year) but still tempted. Can afford to wait, can’t see this being anything like an immediate sell-out. Latitude was superb last year, loads to do and an excellent set of bands right down the bill on each day so I might yet put my money down. Might be on my own though, the boy isn’t interested this year and my attempts to cajogle a couple of ex-colleagues along have been stymied by their general lightweightedness (you know who you are, chaps….). Still, done that before and it’s not a problem. In any event, Glastonbury is already bought and paid for, so the festival itch will still get scratched this year!

Yet to be let down by the random soundtrack to my typing (although since I’m only playing music I’ve chosen and bought myself, what would it tell you if I didn’t actually like what was playing?) I’ve liked The Who from way back – Who’s Next was the second LP I bought with my own money and I saw them for the first time in 1975 when Keith Moon was still alive (and no doubt before half of you were born). Quadrophenia is a particular favourite and is even pretty well served by the film of the album, even if it does have Sting in it. Excellent turn by the very young Phil Daniels, long before Parklife and latterly his stint in ‘stenders. Also a very young Ray Winstone and a pre-trout Lesley Ash. But however good the film is, it would be nothing without the music it was based upon (and the concept it was built around).

Toad in the Hole tonight, I’ve decided – and the batter is mixed and ‘resting’. Bit of an experiment, not cooked this before and the batter looks ominously runny at the moment (even after a flour top-up) but we’ll give it a go. I can always pull the sausages out and chuck the batter away. Oh, and onion gravy. Yummy! Mrs W will have a fit.

Categories: jobcentre, Latitude, Who

>Day 6: Gizza job eh?

21 March, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Curtis Mayfield – Superfly

Well the prawn stirfry was delightful, although the film (Saw V) left a bit to be desired. Not really concentrating to be honest, although gave myself brownie points for spotting Chloe’s husband out of 24 in the DVD menu before the film even started. Mrs W refusing to be impressed. I was convinced Mr Saw himself died in one of the earlier films, so slightly surprised to see him upright and, if not the picture of health, certainly alive. Still, it’s not unusual for supposedly dead characters to reappear in later films (or even in the same film) in the ‘splatter’ genre, so I shouldn’t be too surprised I guess.

So off to the Jobcentre this morning to go through the formalities of registration. And what a deeply dispiriting experience that was. Everyone involved was pleasant and couteous but there is a deep sense of being processed rather than being treated as an individual. And processed into a system that isn’t really designed to meet my needs – finding an equivalent job to mine on the system was a challenge, as was discussing and documenting the ways in which I will be looking to find work. At least the chairs aren’t bolted to the floor like they used to be back in the day. Anyway, the paperwork now disappears into the system – apparently it will take four weeks for the claim documentation to be processed, which reflects the recent surge in applications for benefit (sorry, “Jobseekers’ Allowance”) that are hitting the system.

In the meantime, I have to go back on Tuesday to sign on for the first time – can’t wait.

And then back home to watch the Everton-Portsmouth game. And what a deeply dispiriting experience that was. No Cahill, debut for Jacobsen (finally) and a start for Saha. Average age of the bench – 19. The game started well, Everton taking the lead through a Baines free kick and then dominating possession for a decent spell. Portsmouth then came back into the game with a Crouch goal from a corner erroneously given by the referee, seeing a ‘deflection’ that never happened. Be that as it may, the defending from the corner was pretty poor.

Second half, Everton again started the brighter, but never really looked like scoring and eventually, the lanky streak of piss got on the end of another corner to make it 2-1. After that, we huffed and puffed but if anything, Portsmouth were the more likely scorers. Can’t complain too much – Portsmouth just wanted to win more than we did, and again we failed to impose ourselves on a strong, physical team. No doubt Crouch will get the overall Man of the Match award (although I was more impressed with Glen Johnson, who seems to be turning into a class act), but for Everton it’s difficult to call the best player. Pienaar played very well in patches and Baines again impressed, and Jacobsen did ok on his debut, but overall it was a lacklustre performance. Now in the unhappy position of looking for favours from Arsenal and Liverpool!

No music practice so far today, don’t want to upset Mrs W unnecessarily!

Nice to listen to Curtis, and the Superfly soundtrack is probably his best work for me, standing up as an excellent soundtrack to the film and a wonderful piece of music in its own right. iTunes has selected the second disc of the set to play, which means I’m listening to instrumental versions and demos of the centrepiece songs, along with instrumental versions and elements of the film score, but not once does the standard drop below excellent.

Off to the kichen shortly, to rustle up a pasta bake, which will give me the perfect opportunity to investigate the bottle of red that I managed to pass over on Thursday night. Think I deserve it!

>Day 3: First steps

18 March, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s Soundtrack: Aretha Franklin – Queen of Soul

Well, the Jobcentre called me today to complete the initial registration process, and to invite me to a meeting on Saturday morning at the Warrington branch to complete some further formalities. It seems a bit ironic that the one time I don’t actually need a weekend appointment, that’s what they give me… I would have thought the dole office was the one place that would be perfectly happy to insist on weekday appointments and to take the weekend off, but there you go.

The whole registration process seems a bit disjointed as well. Today’s phone call followed the submission of an on-line registration process that took some (but obviously not all) the information they needed from me – the questions the nice lady asked me this morning could just as easily been included on the on-line questionnaire, negating the need to wait 48 hours for a phone call at all. Be interesting to see what they ask me on Saturday and whether that could have been covered on-line as well. Mind you, I do need to see a real person at some stage as I’ve got a form for them to fill in relating to my unemployment insurance, so all’s well really.

Oh, and just to interject – Aretha’s version of ‘Young, Gifted and Black’ is surely a work of true genius!

While I was on the phone to the doley, I missed a call on my mobile. Called back and spoke to another very nice lady about a potential vacancy in the Leeds area – formal recruitment process to go through, but she sounded very positive so definitely one to push forward. But that’s a task for tomorrow I feel.

Gave the bass guitar (and my left pinky) a rest today (for now anyway – the day is still young) but in a bid to do something practical every day, picked up the ukulele for a spell. Yes, the ukulele. The uke came about as a consequence of a giddy spell on the Sunday at Glastonbury last year. The sun was shining, the music (including the mighty Amsterdam in the acoustic tent) had been wonderful and, yes, strong drink had been taken. It struck me that the one thing that would make the occasion absolutely perfect was for me to buy a couple of ukes for me and for the boy. And so I did. Not really sure (with the benefit of hindsight) that Matt was as keen on the idea as I was, but never being one to look a gift horse in the mouth, he humoured me. And so we got uke’d up. Bit of a waste of time, as we had no idea how to tune the buggers (or anything to tune them against) but we strummed happily if tunelessly until something else distracted us.

Anyway, it could have been worse. What I really wanted was a big fuck-off African drum to hit. Well, there’s always this year.

Just back from Tesco’s with the makings of a spaghetti bolognese for this evening – and a microwave. A nice, dainty, microwave to replace the stainless steel behemoth that has dominated the kitchen for the past few years. The old one will do for one of the boys if they need a microwave at any time. And if they don’t need a microwave, they could put some furniture in the thing and live in it.

And still no daytime tv.

Aretha got a bad press at the Obama inauguration the other week – and with good cause. But in her day she was untouchable. The present day selection of ‘divas’ (the Celines, the Mariahs, the Leonas) should be dragged into a room and forced to listen to Aretha non-stop for a month. To understand what constitutes a good song selection. To learn that just because you can stretch one syllable to include twenty-five notes, doesn’t mean you should. To realise that singing loud does not mean singing with emotion.

Aretha Franklin. Queen of Soul. Because she is.