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…

Room 65 & RSS

Well, this week has been somewhat busy, principally due to the aforementioned Room 65. Which is a café, held at Carrubbers Christian Centre on the Royal Mile for the duration of the festival. Runs from 8-11pm Monday to Saturday, should you wish to drop in. Bit more information here. There is a fair bit of live music involved, and although I don’t normally attend Carrubbers myself, they roped me in to play piano with the main band. I must say it was very gracious of them to involve me, and I’ve had a lot of fun, despite having strong feelings at times that I am single-handedly destroying the musical integrity of the ensemble…

Now, the bright ones amongst you who earlier spotted that I am not actually in Australia yet despite my blog purporting to be purely about that trip, will probably have observed that the festival hasn’t actually started yet. Interestingly, I am only playing until Saturday night, after which one of the regular Carrubbers pianists will take over. Which makes me wonder idly if I am actually part of an elaborate warm-up routine for the main café starting next week… however I’m sure that’s my paranoia going into overdrive… 😉

So, onto RSS… which might well be of interest to those of you who are bored enought to read this blog from time to time. Basically, RSS allows you to monitor when a site (in this case, this one) has been updated, without actually visiting it and risking the crushing disappointment that would ensue if there were no new posts to read. This is an infinitely useful feature, especially as, unlike some of my friends, my life isn’t interesting enough for me to post things up daily, and so the aforementioned crushing disappointment could be experienced regularly by the particularly bored amongst you. So, at this point, I should tell you how it works, except that I really have no idea. This is the kind of thing that I should have researched before actually starting to type all of this. I use a browser called Safari, which shows an “RSS” symbol in the address bar whenever a site is RSS-enabled, or whatever you call it. When you click on this, it takes you to a page which shows a couple of lines from each post. If you bookmark this summary-type page then when the site has been updated since your last visit it puts a “1” in brackets after the name of the bookmark, or however number of updates there have been.

Right, so that’s all great, but most of you don’t use Safari, because you’re under the influence of the Evil Empire. Some of you will probably use Firefox… Firefox has a little orange symbol which looks a little like a radio broadcast on sites that support RSS. Clicking that adds the site to your bookmark menubar, and clicking that bookmark then provides a drop-down menu of all the posts on that blog. However, for those of you using Int***** Exp***** I have absolutely no idea how RSS works. Perhaps one of my more clued-up geeky friends, like the honorary Mac Genius Alyn Jones, will be able to shed some light on it. And provide a more concise explanation of how to use it to your benefit. In fact, I was sure that he explained it all in a post on his own blog ( some time ago, but unfortunately there are 3 years’ worth of posts on there and I couldn’t find it…

For those of you who have persevered in scrolling down and reading all this, well done. I feel embarrassed. In case you thought you were getting a whole post without cricket getting a mention… I finally return to cricketing “action” this Saturday, weather-permitting. Holy Cross 2nds take on Murrayfield Dafs 2nds, and we really have to win. Otherwise relegation is staring us in the face… Come on the Cross!

Manchester, Day 3

Pakistan 119 & 222, England 461/9 declared. England win by an innings and 120 runs.

The bars at Old Trafford opened at 11am. This photo was taken at 11.05am, and neither of these beers was for me. The man has an enormous capacity for beer.

So, England wrapped up the 2nd Test today with a fine bowling performance, ending up winners by some distance. Great result. Mercifully, the sun only made brief appearances during the day, otherwise my arms would have been in severe pain. The rain also came, but didn’t stay for long, and not much play was lost.

My enjoyment of England’s success was tempered slightly by the presence of two young lads to my left, who meticulously tore up a newspaper into tiny pieces between wickets falling, and then threw them about a foot into the air when a wicket did go down, so that the vast majority of them landed on my head. I felt like I’d just got married.

Speaking of which, myself and Wiseman were reflecting on our friendship on the way back up the road (actually at our obligatory stop-off at Annandale Water services). Being sans girlfriends at the moment, it occurs to us that one of us ‘plays the woman’ from time to time. By that I mean, changing our mind frequently and without warning, avoiding making decisions and then complaining at the decision the other made, this type of thing. We’ve yet to adopt the classic “What do you mean you don’t know why I’m upset?” behaviour but I can feel it coming. It’s like having a relationship without the good bits… 😉

Today, 29 July 2006, is significant not only because England romped to victory against Pakistan in t’cricket, but also because it marks 10 years to the day since I started work at with my current (and, to date, only) employer. No doubt if I was working for a recently de-mutualised company I would gain an extra 3 weeks’ holiday and a large TV to mark this milestone, but I daresay I’ll just have to settle for the kudos… 🙂

Manchester, Day 2

Pakistan 119 & 12/0, England 461/9 declared

It’s been a long day in the sun. Top, top weather, and great cricket. England, revelling in the sunshine, batted very well today, and really should win the game from here. After Pietersen unfortunately got out in the first over of the day, we saw Ian Bell play an outstanding knock to finish on 106 not out, some great shots from Collingwood and Alastair Cook complete a fine century. On a more personal note, my arms and knees are on fire. Could have made more judicious use of the sun lotion.

Still, it’s been a great day, rounded off by a meal at a local establishment, as local as multinational chain restaurants get…

A word more about our hotel room. It’s got a disabled-access bathroom, which is fine except that there is no bath or shower cubicle to shower in. The shower head is simply fixed to the wall, and a very slight incline in the floor drains all the water away, provided you don’t turn the power up above 30% or so… Mark hadn’t worked this out last night, hence the flooded bathroom. Tonight we improvised some coastal defences with a couple of towels. He has just re-emerged after another visit tonight and reports that the defences have been breached, which is unfortunate… will have to check the tides before my next visit.

So, tomorrow beckons. Not sure how much cricket we’ll get tomorrow as the forecast is a little ropey. And I don’t have an umbrella or a raincoat. But that’s all for tomorrow. Meantime I’ll finish my cup of tea and settle down to watch the highlights of today’s play… night night

Manchester, Day 1

Well, after a longish drive down, Wiseman and I have arrived in Manchester, in anticipation of Days 2 and 3 of the 2nd Test against Pakistan. The trip was marginally longer than anticipated due to Mark’s insistence on having a large slice of cake after his meal at motorway services number ONE, and then further delayed by his demands to stop for a cup of coffee at motorway services number TWO. His strongly-worded coffee demands may have had something to do with the fact that I was nodding off at the wheel and he had to resort to conversing with me in order to keep us both alive.

Finally we arrived at the hotel, check in and make our way up to our room, only to be confronted by the immeasurably frightening vista of a room with a DOUBLE bed. Disaster. Nothing for it but to turn tail and head back down to reception, whereupon we engaged the intermittently helpful staff in a conversation which involved a lot of staring at the floor and mutterings that we didn’t want to share a bed. The upshot of it is that we’ve managed to score a TWIN room which someone hadn’t checked in to yet. Mark has just had a shower and flooded the bathroom. He is now typing on his laptop, and very helpfully sharing his internet connection to my Airport Express, which is broadcasting it to my laptop, (Jones are you impressed…?!) as for some reason I am unable to pick up the hotel’s wireless network anything like as strongly as him.

Wiseman has just noticed the tea and coffee making facilities and appears to be considering his second black coffee of the evening. There is no apparent limit to the man’s caffeine intake…

Mark gets a Mac

Well, it’s nothing to do with cricket, but today marks a momentous occurrence… my good friend Wiseman has taken the plunge and purchased a Macbook… it’s taken a good few years of hard evangelism but he’s finally seen the light 🙂

I was just lying on my mum’s sofa, concerned with nothing more than digesting another sumptuous lunch, when I asked Mark what he wanted to do this afternoon… to which he replied “I think I’ll buy a Mac”. About 20 seconds later I realised what he said and practically fell off the sofa. About 20 seconds after that we were on our way to John Lewis.

On Thursday we head down to Manchester to watch Days 2 and 3 of the Second Test v Pakistan. Now that Mark also has a laptop we will be able to stick to purely digital communication for the two days. We might never need to actually speak to each other again…

Here we go…

So, I thought I’d create a blog to document my adventures down under this winter. You will notice that it is not actually winter yet and I am a little ahead of myself, but might as well be prepared. The title of this blog reflects the fact that I keep finding myself explaining to incredulous friends that yes, I am going to Australia, the land of sunshine, beaches, world famous tourist attractions and the odd barbeque, purely to watch cricket.

However, in my defence, I imagine there will be a few barbeques involved along the way, and, in addition, the cricket will be awesome. That’s if England can avoid being 3-0 down in the series before I even get there…

Ok, on the subject of blogs. I’ve never been a big fan of the concept. Having the temerity to post one’s thoughts and musings online and expecting other people to read them has always struck me as outrageously presumptuous, possibly even delusional. However, I have one or two friends with blogs that I enjoy reading, and what’s more it occurred to me that it would be a good way to record my experiences, and perhaps even post a couple of photos, from my trip to Australia in December/January. I can always read them myself and chuckle at my own dry wit and keen sense of humour, even if no-one else wants to.

So here we go indeed. I imagine I will practise with a few more blog entries before the nights start drawing in properly. Until then…