Blog characters

Every so often I find myself needing to refer to somebody – a friend, work colleague etc in these pages. The difficulty is I can’t just refer to them in passing, as that would assume prior knowledge of them by you, my loyal readers. And nobody likes reading things which are littered with in-jokes that they don’t get.

It occurs to me now that both of the readers of my blog actually know each other, so perhaps all of this is unnecessary, but I have to consider my roadmap towards world blogging domination and online superstardom. It is surely only a matter of time.

So, anyway, in order to avoid confusion from people who don’t know my friends well, I have to introduce said friends carefully to give a little context so that everyone gets the joke.

However, I have a cunning plan, which as well as addressing this thorny issue might also serve to make the blog slightly interesting as well. The idea is, I will create a page for each of the characters/reprobates that seem to keep cropping up in these pages, which will include a brief description of their character (defects) and a photo. Each time I refer to them you can click on their name to view their character page. You will also be able to access their pages from a list on the right hand side. I would like to say now that I can’t necessarily promise to provide a well-rounded description of their character, it being my own subjective assessment.

Will be happy to receive photographic contributions of these characters when they begin to appear, either from the characters themselves or others… also you are welcome to enhance my descriptions, although they won’t be editable, so you’ll have to send your thoughts to me…

Wiseman, being the most frequently name-checked person on this blog, is first up.. check him out!

Adventures in the mountains

The Trossachs were shrouded in thick black cloud and reeked of menace this morning as I headed up the M9. (Bear with me, I’m warming up for my Australian travel writing). Was on my way to see a customer who lives just outside Callander, in a truly remote location high up in the hills. Realistically, it’s not truly remote, as it is really only a few miles from Callander, but it feels genuinely remote. After leaving the A84, I drove for a couple of miles on single track roads/farm track, and through somebody else’s farmyard, before reaching his house. Halfway up I encountered a flock of sheep guarding the upper reaches, one of which remained quite stubbornly in the middle of the track. Things could’ve got tricky here, but I mentioned that I knew Doug Smith well, and was immediately accorded the VIP treatment. Doug is a friend of mine with well-established links among the sheep community. I’d better say no more.

I made better time on the road up to Callander than I’d expected, and was considering a visit to a local coffee shop. In fact I have to confess I not only considered it but attempted to act upon it (I can hear the tuts of disapproval from all you Standard Life employees with your strong work ethic) by making a sortie into Doune. Given Doune’s location and size and everything you would really expect it to have at least one legendary coffee shop, but alas the only thing I could find was a stand on the street advertising a deli (I mean, come on, a DELI in Doune?) which professed to sell tea and coffee. Unfortunately I couldn’t locate the actual deli, just the stand advertising its presence. So I beat a hasty retreat from Doune, shook the dust off my feet as I left, etc etc. A cup of tea to perk me up would’ve been just the ticket, as sleep has been a little elusive of late. Last night this could be put down to the fact that my neighbours in the flat above me appeared to be trying to drill through my ceiling. Disturbed by the racket, I wandered out of my bedroom into my hallway at some late hour of the night, half expecting to find said neighbours parachuting down through a gaping hole above. However, they never materialised, which is a mercy, as I was in no state to receive visitors, and I managed to crawl back into bed and get some sleep.

So, the timer on my desktop informs me that it’s just over 42 days until the Ashes. Gosh it’s exciting. I do hope you’ve been keeping up to date with all the hype. More here. The other timer on my desktop is counting down the days to my holiday…

Anyway, time to seek some more of that elusive sleep.

Alternative ending for those with a passing interest in cricket:

Michael Vaughan has been making noises in the press recently about perhaps being fit to play in the 4th and 5th Tests at Melbourne and Sydney. These are, as it happens, the ones I’m going to. While it would be great to see Vaughan back in action, I would wonder at the wisdom of reintroducing him to what will hopefully be a settled team at what may be a crucial juncture in the series. Unless Australia have won the first three Tests (or indeed, England have) then the series and the Ashes will still be up for grabs come Melbourne. In addition, Vaughan, prior to his injury, has been out of nick with the bat for quite some time. His principal contribution (and it was a weighty one) to the Ashes win last year was as captain, apart from one solitary century at Old Trafford (which was laced with a fair bit of good fortune). I can’t see them bringing him back as captain for the last two Tests, unless Freddie has made a right meal of it and lost the first three disastrously.

Of more significance, in my mind, would be the return to the team of Simon Jones. I watched some of the Ashes 2005 DVD the other day, and was reminded of just how often he chipped in with crucial wickets. I would dearly love to watch him steaming in at the MCG and SCG in a few months’ time, but sadly I think those matches will come too soon for his recovery from injury. Pity.

From the Aussie point of view, it will be interesting to see how Michael Hussey performs – he’s been getting rave reviews, but then so did Michael Clarke in his initial Tests before hitting something of a slump in form. Hussey, by all accounts, is the real deal, and sounds like he might cause England a few headaches this winter.

Anyway, time to seek some more of that elusive sleep.

Forum, singleness and graffiti, pt II

Ok, Part Two follows. Alyn Jones isn’t the kind of man you keep waiting. Alyn and his wife AJ have just announced they’re having a baby… Alyn bet you’re wishing there was a “Buy it Now” button à la ebay… only another 8 months to go mate, hang in there. Just for you and anyone else who found the second paragraph of my last post befuddling, the post ‘Ovalgate’ might help explain it.

Singleness. I’ve just recently finished reading a book on it – The Single Issue – which is excellent. In it the author explores what it means to be Christian and single, and develops what he calls a ‘practical theology of singleness’. This is much more interesting than it sounds 🙂 He encourages a view of singleness as equal to marriage, in that both have their advantages and disadvantages. He highlights the opportunities available to single people to travel freely and serve God without having to worry about their spouse or family, douses dreams of perfect romantic relationships with a large bucket of water, and revels in the freedom which having no children brings. He also observes that the church is generally more predisposed towards families, and in particular the ‘nuclear family’ which he considers misguided. He talks through the opportunities that a church singles group can bring, while acknowledging the pitfalls and problems associated with them. He himself heads up the singles group at his church.

I was so encouraged by reading the book that I considered writing to him to thank him. So I googled his name, Al Hsu, and up came his blog… complete with a soft focus photo of him, his wife and two children… the Nuclear Family no less… 🙂

What a betrayal. How could he?! Realistically, although this is mildly amusing, it doesn’t dilute the effect of his book at all. (I should probably point out that he was single when he wrote the book!) At no point does he denigrate marriage, he simply encourages a more positive view of singleness than us singles are liable to take left to our own devices. Well, I speak for myself. The book left me enormously encouraged and able to view my own singleness in a much more positive light than I have for years now. I’m sure you’re all delighted for me.

Someone who isn’t particularly delighted with me, for some reason, is the person who’s been leaving messages on my car windows. This began some time ago, when I arrived at my car one morning to find “I LUV U” on the passenger window, written with some unidentifiable substance. Not long after I’d washed that off, it was replaced with a four letter word that you wouldn’t describe as a term of endearment. I washed that off immediately, and just yesterday discovered my car with almost all the windows scribbled on. Bit less legible this time, but I think I made out a five letter term of non-endearment. Please don’t think too hard about these words… Anyway, suffice to say it’s growing a little tiresome. I don’t know whether it’s someone who actually knows me or just has taken a strong dislike to my car. In which case I’m grateful that they’re restricting themselves to plastering the remains of their kebab (or whatever it is) on my windows and not etching the words into the paintwork!

Time for bed. Alyn, let me know if there are any paragraphs here you don’t understand 😉

Ovalgate

During England’s second innings of the 4th Test at the Oval, on 20 August, the following happened…

• The umpires Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove confer and decide to change the ball that Pakistan are bowling with. England are awarded 5 penalty runs and the two batsmen at the crease get to choose a replacement ball. The only infringement of the Laws which could lead to all this happening is if the ball has been tampered with.

• Some brief history. Pakistan have been accused of, and sometimes found guilty of, ball-tampering in the past. Therefore they are rather sensitive to the issue. In addition, they have issues with Darrell Hair, who is a ‘no-nonsense’ Australian umpire. This is because he has called some of their bowlers for ‘chucking’ (illegal bowling) before. They have previously asked the ICC (the governing body) if they would mind not appointing Mr Hair to officiate in games involving themselves. The ICC refused, and in fact appointed him for four consecutive series involving Pakistan in one year.

• After the tea interval, the Pakistan team do not re-appear on the field. The umpires decide (within the Laws) that Pakistan have forfeited the game by refusing to play. After the umpires and the England batsmen have gone off the field, Pakistan’s captain Inzamam-ul-Haq leads his team back on to the field, but no-one else is there, so they troop off again.

• Play is abandoned, and eventually England are declared winners of the match due to Pakistan’s forfeiture. This is the first time in 129 years of Test matches that a game has been forfeited. Pakistan had been in a strong position in the match at the time it was abandoned.

• Pakistan are somewhat narked at Hair (and Doctrove) alluding that they’re cheats and various Pakistani cricketing dignitaries make noises about resigning, the subcontinental teams (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh) making a break from the ICC etc etc.

• The story makes the front page of two American newspapers, including the New York Times. This is possibly the most unlikely event of them all.

• Hair makes an ill-advised emailed approach to the ICC, offering to resign for a one-off payment of $500,000. The ICC describe it as ‘silly’ and make the emails public.

• On 28 September, Inzamam faces charges of ball-tampering (without a specific individual in the team being identified as culpable, the captain takes the rap) and bringing the game into disrepute (for keeping his team off the field). He is acquitted of ball-tampering but found guilty of the second (lesser) charge and banned for 4 One Day International matches.

• Pakistan are content with this verdict and decide not to appeal. However, they may press charges against Darrell Hair for bringing the game into disrepute himself…

• Darrell Hair is removed from his umpiring duties for the next major ICC tournament, the Champions Trophy, which starts next month in India. India had requested that he not officiate. For Hair the future is unclear. But he is bullish and upbeat, unusual behaviour for an Australian, as he has been throughout. He does not appear to suffer from low self-esteem.

• Excellent article on the current situation here

As I mentioned in another post, I think the judgement of the match referee yesterday was correct. I can’t see how ball-tampering could have taken place, but I do think Inzy was correctly punished for keeping his team off the field and causing the abandonment of the game. Such behaviour belongs in the playground, surely. No matter that Pakistan were aggrieved at the perceived injustice, it’s not like teams haven’t felt aggrieved at umpires’ decisions before, often with justification. Anarchy would reign if teams could on a whim decide not to take the field, and a lot of people pay a lot of money to see them play.

And that’s my view… hardly earth-shattering but there it is 🙂

Forum, singleness and graffiti, pt I

Whoa, it’s been a long time since I’ve written anything. Consequently I have a lot to write about, although whether any of it is of any consequence is another matter. I’m sure you’ll let me know if it’s not…

So Forum came and went in a bit of a blur 2 weeks ago. It was a truly mad week. Arrived Sunday to find that some of the PA gear (including the mixing desk) had been nicked from the tent the night before. Set up as best we could given lack of mixing desk, power and staging (the latter 2 because of ancient by-law governing grounds where Forum’s held prohibiting any work to be done on Sundays…), drove into Wrexham Sunday night and collected hire gear to replace stolen stuff. Monday evening students arrive, first session goes off ok, Nathan & Lou Fellingham and Jos (their guitarist) arrive and demonstrate much grace before I get their in-ear mixes approximately right. After hours session goes off ok… crawl into bed.. get up early.. spend next 3 days trying to work out why sound in tent is terrible, crawling into bed late and getting up early. Empire Biscuit stash runs out Tuesday, and have to make subsequent sorties into local village shop to get chocolate for sustenance. By Friday morning sound is still terrible but recordings of the open mic night on Thursday prove to be semi-decent and so I leave with some sound engineering pride intact. But not much. Crawl into work Monday morning more exhausted than when I left… yep I’ll probably be back next year. Mugs like me don’t grow on trees y’know…

Those of you with your finger on the cricketing pulse will have noted that Inzamam-ul-Haq spent yesterday and today defending his honour (and, if you believe the rhetoric) that of the entire Pakistan nation in front of an ICC hearing in London. He was charged with ball-tampering (a murky, evil practice in the eyes of cricket’s administrators), and bringing the game into disrepute by refusing to bring his team on to the field after umpire Darrell Hair had penalised Pakistan for the same murky practice during the 4th Test at the Oval. Inzy was found guilty of the latter and innocent of the former. I happen to agree with this judgement – clearly, even as a former cricket captain of Bellevue, I have not been allowed to see the match ball in question, but the fact that none of Sky’s myriad cameras at the ground picked up on any malpractice by the Pakistani bowlers or fielders, and given that Hair would have been able to inspect the ball (as umpires always do at the fall of a wicket) a short time before he decided to change it and award 5 penalty runs to England, yet appeared not to have a problem with it at that point, make it unlikely in my view that the ball’s worn condition was due to tampering. For those of you without your fingers on the cricketing pulse and yet still reading, bowlers have been known to raise the seam of a cricket ball, or scratch it with bottle tops and the like, in order to make it deviate more in the air and off the pitch, and thus make it more likely to get the batsman out. This is ball-tampering. Now, whether a cricket match (particularly a Test match) is exciting or not depends heavily on the balance between bat and ball – e.g. if the bowlers are rendered ineffectual by a flat pitch then the batsmen will score mountains of runs, it will probably be fairly boring, and the game will most probably end in a draw. In order to actually win a Test match, a side has to bowl the opposition out twice – i.e. take 20 wickets. Personally I find cricket matches more enjoyable when the bowlers are marginally on top – by my reckoning this was the case for most of the Ashes series in 2005. Whether that was due to helpful conditions, great bowling, or lack of application from the batsmen is not clear. But it matters little. It was a great series, some say the best Test series ever. So my point is, why not let the bowlers modify the condition of the ball a little? There is a strong argument that says that all of the recent innovations in cricket have been to the advantage of the batsman. I am on the bowlers’ side in this one.

Still on cricket, sort of. Read a great article this week in the Telegraph. And another one in the Guardian, just to even things up politically. The last cricket side to visit Australia on tour was South Africa, earlier this year. The South Africans copped a fair bit of racial abuse from some of the Aussie supporters. In light of this, and in advance of the forthcoming Ashes series, Cricket Australia have been forced to consider whether the words “Pom” and “Pommies” could be deemed racist.. they have decided not. However, our genteel Australian counterparts “must avoid linking the P-word with anything “hurtful… racist, offensive or humiliating”. So “filthy Poms” will be considered unacceptable, but “whinging Poms”, and the outstanding phrase “dry as a Pommy’s bath-towel” presumably won’t…

Oh dear. I’ve only written about Forum so far before getting heavily distracted by cricket…. Part Two to follow!

Oh sweet Autumn

..with your dark surprise, and your short days all smudged with gold..

It’s September. It’s turned a little colder, I even had the heating on the other night, and the nights are fair drawin’ in. Autumn must be at least on its way, if not here already. And that’s bound to be good news 🙂

Possibly the only bad thing about Autumn, in fact, is that it marks the end of the cricket season, although that sometimes comes as a relief after a run of bad scores and being dropped to the 3rd XI for the last couple of games, to “strengthen their batting”. Not this year, however. I managed to post all of my bad scores in the 2nds this year. Apart from one duck earlier in the season. Anyway. While the cricket season here draws to a close, in Australia it is just starting, and eyes are beginning to turn towards the Ashes series which starts in November. At least, mine are. 23 November is when it all kicks off, in Brisbane. Mark R has already hinted at being willing to host all-night Ashes-watching parties (Mrs R, are you reading this?)… 18 December is when I fly out Oz-wards, although I won’t have to wait that long to get my passport out, as I discovered today I’m going to a German hearing aid conference in October. Not sure exactly where yet.

The times they are a-changing, at least in the Broughton area. Tesco, which is so close to my flat that I could probably hit the deli counter with a well-directed organic potato (given the prior removal of the roof), has been undergoing a radical facelift. Not least has been the arrival of Costa, that purveyor of over-priced coffee. Which in itself doesn’t affect me too much, as I’ve stopped drinking coffee, but it’s somehow sad to see the demise of the Tesco café. And it might lure the slightly pretentious coffee-drinkers (like myself, before I gave it up) away from Sandro’s top joint Caffelatte at the top of Logie Green Road – also a Costa outlet. Which would be a bad thing, as he makes fine pizzas, and I badly don’t want him to go out of business. Altruistic to the end, me.

More change on the parking front as well. I am about to become a resident of N1 Zone, which means that our beloved Council now get to take £80 a year off me for the privilege of parking on a street that I’ve been parking on for free for 3 years. It all starts on Monday, and I received my parking permit through the post yesterday. Unfortunately the Council (May They Live Forever) sent me a permit for Zone S1, which entitles me to park in various streets in the Grange/Marchmont area. Which is rather flattering, but singularly unhelpful. Hopefully they will get the right one out to me soon, although as I am away (and will have the car with me) all next week, it’s not a disaster.

My sister Alison arrived up from London last weekend, and has been staying with the folks since then. This has worked well for all of us, shall we say, as the levels of care and attention in the parental home have shot skywards, and I have managed to get more sleep 🙂 My parents will insist on holding wild parties until the early hours, and still expect the porridge to be on the table at 7.30am. There’s just no stopping them.

Next week marks the start of Forum, a UCCF conference in Oswestry, Shropshire. I am going to be involved on the sound engineering side of things all week, and am looking forward to it very much, perhaps partly because it will be my first full week off work since August last year. Perhaps also because a week away from my flat will be good, as it appears that my rodent visitor, having finally attacked the pile of tasty poison like Anne Brown tearing into a stash of chocolate biscuits, is now decomposing slowly underneath my floorboards. At least, that’s what it smells like. The last time such an odour pervaded my kitchen I thought the carcass must be under the floorboards, having undertaken an extensive search of the kitchen and its environs. 10 days later I discovered the body right in front of my washing machine. I am convinced to this day that someone planted it there to make it look like I didn’t use my washing machine much.

Anyhow, Forum should be fun. Nathan and Lou Fellingham (of Phatfish fame) will be playing at the late night slot on Monday night, so it will be great to meet them. Slightly nervous about doing sound for them… Actually I’ve met Lou, kind of, at Alyn and AJ’s wedding in Toronto in January last year. I daresay she’ll be bursting to find out what I’ve been up to in the intervening period. Perhaps I should give her the address of this blog.

Speaking of celebrities, I scored a famous win over Slid in the first game of my ongoing series of Celebrity Spotting. Celebrity Spotting is a subject worthy of its own blog entry, but I haven’t had the time to do it justice yet. Suffice to say that eyeballing Sean Connery on Lothian Road was enough to wrap up Game One, and Game Two is now in progress. No score yet. Other contestants, should they be interested in joining, and subject to ratification by the Committee, are welcome to throw their hat into the ring.

Having given it some consideration, I think the deli counter might be just out of range (I don’t have a very good throwing arm) but I am confident I could take out one of the checkout operators. Not for a date, obviously….

The ageing process

Now, I know that we all get a little older every day. But whereas on most days this a fairly imperceptible process, today I think I aged 10 years in a matter of hours. Firstly I caught myself listening to Radio Scotland, to some programme where a panel of ‘old’ people were discussing what it was like to be ‘old’ and the things that annoyed them and made them grumpy. Things like people not talking properly and, like, using bad grammar lots. And not being able to remember what they did last week while being able to sing their school song verbatim, in Latin, at the drop of a hat. It was quite an amusing discussion, at least until I realised that I had, for probably the first time ever, deliberately been listening to a radio programme with people TALKING. No music. (Clearly football and cricket commentaries don’t count here). On Radio Scotland. And I was enjoying it. What’s more, I found myself agreeing with a lot of their experiences, especially the being-grumpy ones. These people were, on average, about 70 years old. I am 32. This is worrying.

It got worse. After this trauma I went to see a customer who showed me a photo of her new baby grandson. And I had to agree that he was cute. And then I experienced the sinking realisation that all babies don’t look alike after all. I have definitely seen a lot of babies that were uglier than this little kid. I am not going to mention any names. I have always thought that all babies looked the same. It is almost a defining characteristic of my bachelor-ness. This worries me. I think I may have got married and turned into a sap without realising it. Interestingly I had a dream the other night where I got married. My ‘wife’ started out as one person, and halfway through the dream morphed into someone else entirely. Once again I’m not going to print any names here. I think this was a visionary illustration of how women change dramatically in a relationship from the fun-loving game-for-a-laugh character they are when you first meet them into… well I’d probably better stop there.

My Radio Scotland experience occurred while I was parked in the car park of McDonald’s, having a McFlurry. This, in hindsight, seems like the behaviour of an ageing man desperately trying to cling on to his youth. Perhaps I’m overreacting. Perhaps I need to spend more time in the company of older people, which always makes me feel ‘current’.

Wiseman, where’ve you gone, m8…

Operations, pancakes, and cricket

Operations first. My mum went into hospital today in preparation for getting her ankle messed around with tomorrow, yet again. She’ll be in until Friday probably, at which point she will return home and start waving her sceptre about and issuing decrees. Until then, she has left dad in my care, which is possibly a little foolish, but I am family and so she has to trust me.

So this week I am staying with dad. We had some discussions at the beginning of the week about our likely diet. Beer and sausages were proposed, and I have to say the old man’s face lit up, but sadly mum has stocked the fridge with proper food, and we’ll just have to make the best of it. How we’ll get through the week on my cooking is anyone’s guess, my dad has a drugs supply that would land him in serious trouble in Singapore, but whether any of them will be strong enough to counteract the effects of my culinary expertise remains to be seen. Those of you given to prayer might like to send some up for us both. Those of you who aren’t, now might be a good time to start 😉

I got a phonecall from a nice lady at the Yorkshire Building Society today, explaining that my fixed rate mortgage was about to expire and that my payments would shoot through the roof. I have to say I was more concerned at the time with trying to keep the jam on my pancake (this sounds like it could be a euphemism but it was completely literal this afternoon) as it was threatening to slide off. However, mortgage payments are a necessary evil (for homeowners at least) that one has to give one’s attention to from time to time, and so I tried to carry out an adult conversation about discounted rates and fixed rates and the like, while pretending not to eat a sticky pancake. It was quite a long conversation so I think I managed to get through 3 pancakes. Regrettably I managed to land a fair amount of the jam on my tie, which lent me a certain gravitas during my subsequent appointment with a client.

Bellevue finally took to the cricket field again last night, and managed to defeat our old friends D Mains for the third time this summer. We won by 5 wickets, despite my clumsy efforts behind the stumps. More here. Holy Cross also managed to win on Saturday – we beat Dunfermline by 6 wickets, which was immensely pleasing. I chipped in with 26 not out at the end.

Right, better get off to bed. Mum has left a list of commandments which must be obeyed in the mornings, and the morning isn’t my best time of day, so I’d better get some sleep. Don’t think too hard about jam and pancake euphemisms, although any printable suggestions will be received with interest…

The exciting life of a single man

Allow me to introduce my good friend Paul. Paul has expressed an interest in hearing about the exciting life of a single man. This is because he is married, and life is, as you can see above, somewhat devoid of excitement. So much so, that for kicks he sometimes wears a Superman thong. On top of his trousers.

Admittedly, tonight I am not setting new records in Friday night excitement. However, sometimes a cup of coffee and an Empire biscuit are all that’s required. Add Van Morrison to the mix, chuntering away in the background about a throne of Ulster day, and Wiseman on the (other) sofa setting the world to rights, and … jings I could be married. I have served Mark his coffee in the mug with ‘BIRD’ emblazoned on the side. It’s good for the mug to get an outing every now and then, even if it’s not a real bird using it. I must get out more myself.

Last night I got out, although only as far as John Sneddon’s for tea. Johnboy is the King of blue. He owns more blue clothing than an acolyte of the Temple of Darkness. He is also an excellent cook, and treated me to a great meal, after which I availed myself of his blue bathroom. He informed me that he had recently had a clearing out of his flat, and ditched a couple of pot-plants that weren’t quite up to scratch. One suspects that their demise was hastened by an inability to produce blue flowers.

It’s been a relatively quiet week. Managed to get my car washed, visit Stephen and Louise for the first time since they got married (in April!), give blood, and put some poison down for the mice, since the little darlings have made a reappearance. It has remained untouched for the last 24 hours, which is unlike them, but am not too worried as on this occasion the mice have chosen not to run around under my floorboards in the middle of the night. Which makes for a more restful night.

Tomorrow, Dunfermline await the might of Holy Cross 2nd XI. We lost last week, I eventually discovered, by 10 runs or so. Must win tomorrow. Am also working tomorrow, in the morning. Feels like I’ve worked every Saturday in the summer, probably because I’ve been away a few weekends recently, and so whenever I’ve been in Edinburgh at the weekend I’ve had to work. Normally it’s one in three or so. Had a look at the diary this week and realised that I haven’t had a full week off work for over a year now. Still, my week off in September is looming larger on the horizon. I think I’ll be ready for it when it comes…

Scenes from an Italian restaurant


Well, I’ve made it to Sunday. Yesterday was another of those hectic Saturdays that seem to keep cropping up during the summer. Work in the morning, cricket in the afternoon and Room 65 in the evening.

It’s now Sunday lunchtime, and I am firmly installed in my favourite PizzaExpress in Stockbridge. The doughballs have arrived, and the La Reine-with-no-olives is on its way. Some days change is a good thing, but other days a well-worn routine is very reassuring…

Yesterday’s cricket followed another well-worn routine, in that I got out LBW (I can hear Mark Robson groaning all the way from Australia), which was frustrating because I was well set on 28 and could’ve gone on to make a biggish score. Realistically, 28 is a biggish score for me (!), going by the last few seasons’ form, but it was still disappointing to get out. Although also a slight relief, as I needed to be at the Room 65 café for 8pm at the latest, and sometimes our matches don’t finish until after 8… I had visions of me still batting at 7.30 and torn between staying in and trying to ensure a much-needed victory for Holy Cross, and honouring my commitment to Room 65. However, my inability to play the swinging ball ensured that I had no such dilemma in prospect.

For those of you who think that cricket involves a lot of standing around doing nothing and can’t be very energetic, I would like to point out that all my muscles ache today, and I have a bruise on both thighs where the ball hit me. Am grateful I am not facing 90mph bowlers.

It’s now 3.30pm and I’ve outlasted almost all the lunchtime diners in PizzaExpress. The tiramisu is settling in my stomach and I am pondering a cup of tea. I have now been here long enough to consider putting some of my own pictures up on the wall beside my table. Am looking forward to going to Bellevue tonight after sleeping through both morning services. As in, sleeping in and MISSING both services, as opposed to going to both services and falling asleep. After a non-stop week of work immediately followed by Room 65, I am savouring the chance to recharge the batteries today. Hopefully next week will be a little more restful too.

Last night was my last night playing at Carrubbers, although the café continues to run for another 2 weeks. It was great fun playing with their band, and I am sorry in many ways that it’s now over for me. We sat on the stairs in the hallway after clearing up and restoring the auditorium to look more like a church again in time for today’s services, ate chips (from the legendary Clamshell chippy on the High Street) and tried unsuccessfully to get the tune of “You raise me up” out of our heads… nice way to end the week.

Hopefully I’ll get a chance to pop in next week and see how it all sounds from the punters’ viewpoint.

There’s a buzz you get from playing with a band that’s hard to describe. Even the apparently simple task of all coming in together on the same chord, at the same time, is liable to bring a grin to my face. Perhaps that’s because, with me in a band, this doesn’t happen very often 😉 It was noticeable during the week how a slight change in personnel can make everything sound so different (at least on stage). I played with the same guitarist the whole week, but 2 different drummers, and 2 different bass players. Different bass players use different instruments, play the same songs in a different style and at different levels. Some drummers hit the drums harder than others, and some have more precise timing than others. For my part, I don’t think I played an intro to any given song the same way twice. Some of my intros were corkingly bad, which was amusing, at least for me. I also continued to display my penchant for playing a glissando and then landing heavily on the wrong chord 🙂 To their credit, the singers coped admirably and graciously with my idiosyncrasies. Perhaps I avoided too much criticism on account of being a ‘guest’ pianist, or perhaps they’re just an unnaturally kind bunch of people. Kind enough, in fact, to offer to fix me up with some of Carrubbers’ unattached young ladies, an offer which I politely declined. I was only there for the music, after all…