Friday, 22 February 2013

Independents Day

Last night Mrs A and I went out, sans enfants, to see a funny guy that I have laughed at for many years.

The guy in question is a chappy called Adam Buxton and it’s kind of hard to describe what he does – I guess he’d be best described as an indie comedian. He’s been in a few sitcoms, he used to have a TV show called The Adam & Joe Show back in the 90s, and hosts a show from time to time on 6 music. I guess you could say that what he does best is to find the quirks and oddities in the world (quite often via weirdness’ spiritual home, The Internet) and brings it to your attention. He quite often adds to the planet’s peculiarities with his own video and musical concoctions. His stuff quite often reduces me to tears of laughter.

I felt like I was out on a limb with this particular gig as Mrs A quite likes clever comedy and this is what I can only describe as ‘juvenile’. Which is just why I like it. But given how much I wanted to see him live and the fact that the tickets were cheap, I thought it was worth a punt.

The evening got off to an excellent start at a small independent restaurant. I had a steak which was delicious. Mrs A had a tian of Mediterranean vegetables, on the basis that it was the only choice on the menu for vegetarians. The waitress clearly didn’t know what the feck a tian was and the chef clearly didn’t know what the feck a Mediterranean vegetable was, so a bowl of carrots and green beans in tomato sauce arrived. To be honest I like my menus to be presented in a language other than Bollocks, but if they are going to insist on using £5 words they should at least ensure the staff understand them.

After that we headed off to the indie cinema for the show. We ambled in and found ourselves a couple of seats. Eventually the turn bounded onto the stage and started to chat about the show. He informed us cheerfully that this wasn’t going to be a stand up comedy gig as such, more a collection of music videos that he’d found and thought were interesting for various reasons.


Although I’m quite keen on finding new music I’m fairly mainstream in my tastes and the thought of sitting for two hours in a darkened cinema with a bunch of bearded 30-something hipsters all muttering approvingly about the ‘obvious influences of the late 90’s acid-rave-dub scene on the middle eight of this track, yeah?’ didn’t fill me with excitement. Also, I felt bad that I’d dragged Mrs A along to suffer such nonsense. Her view on music is quite binary:

  • She loves it


  • It’s unutterable shite.

I braced myself for an uncomfortable couple of hours. I needn’t have worried.

The show opened with a version of the Chanel/Brad Pitt advert that was pretty weird to begin with but had been doctored so that Buxton’s mouth had been blended in with Brad’s face. After a couple of minutes of watching Brad smouldering to camera whilst singing about poo the whole audience was giggling like schoolchildren. The tone was set.

From there we went through a rollercoaster ride of videos featuring gay virtual footballers, angry songs about having a beard, adverts for redneck taxidermists, white guys rapping whilst cooking pancakes and songs about mouse droppings in your cereal, periodically reading through the comments feed on Youtube in silly voices. Eventually, after the frankly obscene denouement to the Brad Pitt ad, we wandered out of the cinema still chuckling happily.

Although I have to say I was, like, totally disappointed by the complete lack of examination of the overarching themes of grimestep influences, yeah?


Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Days Like These

Today was a day that I was really not looking forward to. Really not looking forward to.  All the hallmarks were there - too many meetings this morning, spaced too far apart geographically, with (in one case) people I really don't care for.

but, as these things go, the Taoists were right as always. There was yin and yang all over the shop.

I had to drive to Slough, which is a bit much to ask of anyone to be perfectly honest, but my company provided a car for me to hurtle down the motorway in.

Some time ago I realised that I had two choices when getting cars provided for going out on business (I'm not enough of a bigshot to warrant a company car of my own). The route chosen by most of my colleagues (and indeed pushed quite heavily by the company) is that a hire car courtesy of Alamo is provided. This is invariably an Astra, or if you're lucky, an Insignia.

But there is another way.

If you're nice to the secretaries, if they take a shine to you, you can get access to the poolcars. These are cars that have been provided to erstwhile employees of the company who have now left. As a result of a fairly relaxed company car policy, it's quite a 'roll the dice' kind of strategy. there is a risk of getting a clapped out Golf estate that smelled like it had been driven for three years by a chainsmoking salesrep with poor personal hygiene (Manchester, November), but you just may get a shiny Jaguar in a jaunty colour (not managed that yet, but I live in hope). Today's car made my heart sink when I got the news. A Skoda.

The thing was huge. I grew to like it a lot as I hurtled down the M1. It had cruise control, a stereo that made my shirt sleeves vibrate in a most amusing way and a lovely sense of being at the bridge of a road-going container ship. But best of all was its Assisted Parking system. Basically you just have to get the thing alongside a space, press the button, stick it in reverse and let it do its thing.

Due to my absolute confidence in technology and the sure and certain knowledge that it wasn't my car, I used it to park with a speed and decisiveness that quite surprised a pedestrian and her small dog. As I whizzed backwards into the space at an alarming pace I sat and watched, transfixed, as the steering wheel span wildly, sensors chirped and The Barge parked itself.

The meeting was OK, I drove home and got caught up in huge traffic jam which was a bit tedious, but I amused myself by playing I-spy with myself. I won a couple of rounds too, so I didn't feel my time was entirely wasted.

Last stop before getting home was a quick run through Sainsbury's to pick up some bread. It was made considerably better by listening to The Darkness as I wandered aound the aisles. I'm sure Justin Hawkins would've enjoyed the irony.

So a Yin & Yang kind of a day all round. Some things went my way, some didn't, but given how little I'd expected from today when I got out of bed this morning, I'll take today's score thank you very much.


Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Mr. Whitworth Was Right.

I love a bit of fancy design as much as the next man, I truly do. Even though my engineer’s outlook makes me fundamentally unskilled in producing things of beauty I can honestly be moved by good design. May I draw your attention to several Ducati motorcycles, an Aston Martin or two and most of the classical architecture of Glasgow.


However, much as I can appreciate aesthetic innovation, I worship at the altar of Good Engineering Practice and one of the most fundamental tenets of engineering is standardisation. Standardisation is, in its own way, beautiful too. It’s the reason that your USB stick fits any laptop you may need to use. It’s the reason that when you hop into a new car the brake pedal is just where you expect it to be. It’s the reason that soldiers look like soldiers and not Gok Wan.


Simple, functional beauty.


So why has nobody shared this wonderful principle with the people who design men’s pants?


Please consider Fig. 1. below:


I’m genuinely not worried whether they decide upon system A, B, or C for access to Stephen and the twins when I need a leak, but just pick one ferchrissakes. Great embarrassment can be caused to a fellow standing at the urinals, rummaging about in the trouser department trying to work out whether the access route is Vertical/Vertical (A), Vertical-Horizontal (B) or just hoik the waistband down (C). The situation is exacerbated by the very fact that you need to take a wizz and consequently;


i) you are time-limited




ii) Your concentration is elsewhere.


This would never have happened on Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s watch.



Saturday, 9 February 2013

Bread & Butter In The Gutter

Today is The Boy Wonder’s seventh birthday.

This year’s had a lot of change for him and he’s coped with it all incredibly well. I am constantly amazed by his capability to remember infinite detail about things that interest him and entirely forget the blindingly obvious if it doesn’t.

This year we have built volcanoes and rockets, we have constructed starships and huge robot warriors. We have fought battles as deadly ninja enemies and concocted secret handshakes known only to ourselves.

With every year that passes the achievements and goals become bigger and more exciting. I watch him grow in all senses with a mixture of pride and excitement and curiosity and trepidation. In that order.

Happy birthday Sunshine. We still have our appointment with mountains, figurative and real.


Monday, 4 February 2013


Back in the swirling mists of time, on one of our very first dates, Mrs A and I found ourselves in a cookware shop. I like to think of myself as a bit of a foodie and love such places. This one is a fine example of the genre, being located in the upmarket (for Leicestershire) town of Market Harborough and is choc full of food mixers in jaunty colours with heart attack-inducing pricetags, chef’s knives so sharp that they’ll relieve you of a finger faster than you can say “Ambulance please” and sufficient beautifully designed pointless gadgets in primary colours to fill the junk drawers of even the most spacious kitchens.

Middle aged women wandered hither and thither, fondling Cath Kidston teatowels and dreamed of their shabby chic kitchen in their seaside cottage, middle aged men stroked fancy coffee machines and wondered if their wives would look at them in the same way they look at George Clooney in the Nespresso ads if they bought one. The shop hummed with the hushed, polite exchanges of ‘excuse me’ and ‘oops, sorry’ that comes from having too many well-to-do folk in a restricted space.

And then I saw them.

Hanging from a wall at the rear of the shop were a number of designer teacosies. Something primal in my man-brain took over and I was drawn to them like a bee to nectar. I selected a particularly bright example, plonked it on my head and turned round grinning.

Mrs A looked genuinely horrified and thus I learned that her acceptable level for @rsing about in public was considerably lower than mine.

Fast forward to last Friday. I was sitting at my desk beavering away at high-powered stuff* when a picture message arrived from Mrs A. She was taking The Tall Guy to get some new clothes and was in M&S. The photo was taken in the swimwear department of M&S and depicted Mrs A wearing a surprisingly large polka dot bikini top. On her head.

I like to think that it’s a charming example of how close we’ve become, you may think that she’s been staring into the abyss for a little too long.

And me? How have I adopted Mrs A’s foibles? Moved towards her sensibilities?

Well, last night I signed up for a book group. Between my surprisingly short attention span and my reading speed in line with people who are likely to be aiming to finish the book to get a gold star from their teacher, I can’t see it ending well. But I bet it’ll be entertaining.


* - Probably drinking coffee and/or talking to my delightfully bonkers assistant.