Friday, November 30, 2007

The Job That Wasn't

For the last couple of days, I have been happy and secure in the knowledge that I'll soon be back in gainful employment. I have been cheerily turning down offers of interviews.

Then last night, I got a call to tell me that the job I thought I had was no longer available, largely because the person who had offered it to me had been summarily dismissed from their role in the company, and everything else had been put on ice. And that situation isn't likely to change any time soon.

So, back to JobServe to get on with the hunting, I guess. Doh!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Many's a true word ...

... spoken in jest. Not ingest. That's eating.

And indeed, many's a true word spoken or sung in lyric form. Sometimes only hinting at a subtext that, from time to time I just yearn to tease out.

I have no idea why today is going to be the day that I do this, but here goes.

Oasis. I was never a big fan. I hear them sing:
There are many things that I would like to say to you, but I don't know how
My brain automatically adds, sotto voce:
because I'm an inarticulate oaf
Call me judgemental. (He used to hang out with Judge Dredd, so he gets to wear that rather sexy uniform. Sexy in a fascist bully-boy sort of way, alas, but sexy nonetheless.) Oh, and feel free to swap "boor" for "oaf" if you'd rather.

Oasis. A pair of walking Klein bottles.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Jerry In The Linen*

In many respects, I think the normal, everyday people of the UK have much more in common with the normal, everyday people of Germany than with any of our other European neighbours. We aren't haw-hee-haw-hee-hawn like the French. We're not all ai-yay-yay-yay-yay! like the Spanish. And I won't even try for a crude Italian stereotype because I'm not sure how to spell it convincingly. No, if anything, we're much closer to slightly plodding but jovial hurdy-burdy-hurr of the lovely German volk.

This was brought home to me with some force at the weekend when our trip to Manchesterford threw up a totally unexpected delight. There is a huge - did I say huge? I meant huge! - Christmas market in the middle of the city that runs from mid-November all the way up to the festive season. The preponderance of the stalls seem to be German, although Holland and the Scandinavian countries are also well-represented.

Lots of stalls serving hot mulled wine, great big wursts in a bun (and we all like a nice big sausage in between the buns, innit?), sweets, cakes, candle-powered glockenspeils ... marvellous.

In addition to a couple of big sausages, plates of lovely, warming stew (and heaven knows, the warming was much needed - it was perishing cold!), and the odd tumbler of hot, spiced wine, we also picked up some marvellous spongiform puppets as presents.


I saw an ad for Borders, who are giving away a seasons greetings card to everyone who buys a copy of Richard Dawkin's The God Delusion. The card reads "O come, all ye faithless". I like it a lot - I know a few people who would probably appreciate them, too. But as I was writing this, it struck me that I want a word to use instead of "the festive season", "yuletide", "xmas" (which isn't really fooling anyway, and besides, the x is just shorthand), or worst of all, "the holiday season". So, here it is ... (drum roll) ...
I like it, although I have to admit that if you use it, you might just sound like you have a speech impediment.

*** End of NEOLOGISM FLASH ***

Anyhow, to get back on topic, the markets were great, and the German people who come over to get involved in them seem friendly, jovial, and lovely, and just keen to get along with everyone. It was really lovely. This kind of thing is when the whole European experience works well.

Incidentally, we hadn't heard of this market thing at all before, but apparently it has been going on for a few years now. If they had such a thing in London, we'd know all about it. As it is, we're going to the Winter Wonderland, as previously mentioned, and we're now expecting to be a bit underwhelmed after our Manchesterford experience. But we'll see.

Watch this space (as the gynaecology lecturer said to her students).

*One of the curious things about New Zealand is that they refer to bed sheets, towels, and things of that ilk collectively as "Manchester". I imagine it's a reference back to the days when such products were made in that city, although I would have thought Birmingham would have been a more obvious choice. It also makes me wonder why they don't refer to cutlery as "Sheffield". An ex of mine had a grandmother who insisted on referring to the crockery as "Delft". Even when none of it had come from there.

Monday, November 19, 2007

How Not To Save Money

We went to Manchesterford this weekend, mainly because I was performing at The Gay Wedding Show. Unfortunately, I made a major error in booking accommodation. I looked for gay-friendly hotels and B&Bs. I ignored some of the results - the places actually on Canal Street (too noisy!) and the big chains, and went instead for a B&B that claimed to be a couple of miles away from the Gay Village, but not very far.

It turned out to be further away than the proprietors made out. Much further. And it was horrible! The room looked like it had last been decorated in the 70s, and I suspect that was when the mattress was last replaced. What furniture there was seemed to have been reclaimed from skips, or possibly auctioned off when an old folks home was closed down. And for the distance from town, and the low quality, it wasn't that cheap either. The couple whose place it is were very friendly, although I don't think they have a great grasp of English. For example, their web site explains how the prices are charged on a per-room basis rather than per-person. It then goes on to explain that a double room is £x per night, but if two people are staying in it, it's £x each. Breakfast is extra.

It was so bad that, after popping back into town and spending some time enjoying Manchester, we checked ourselves in to a lovely, fancy and very expensive hotel, went back to the B&B, picked up our stuff, dropped off the keys, and fled. I had paid in advance, so we weren't doing them out of any money or anything.

Given the cost of taxi fares between the city centre and the B&B, and how much we would have shelled out if we had stayed there (which would have required another two cab rides), the total cost would have been not very far off what we paid for the posh place we ended up in. As it happened, we ended up spending most of what it would have cost us, plus the fancy place on top of that. But at least we got to stay somewhere pleasant, and didn't feel like we were spending the night in a borstal.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Getting In To Gear

When he arrived home from work last night, my Lovely Husband™ was immediately put on the spot as I demanded that he stroke my hard, shiny helmet. For I'd been to a motorbicycling shop and bought myself some accoutrements for use in a new and rather exciting part of my life: being a biker.

I don't think I'll go for the long hair and skull tattoos look, although my experience to date is that most of them aren't like that anyway. And they're all very encouraging. They like people to take an interest in their bikes. There's a very strong community spirit.

Anyway, I am now the proud owner of an Airoh helmet (which I got for a little over half price, and which doesn't really look anything like the Optimus Prime helmet in the picture), some Oxtar boots and a rather marvellous pair of Halvarssons gloves. The Lovely Husband™ tried them all on, and was most taken with the boots, which made him feel like Spiderman. (I had wondered about the sticky white goo on his hands :) And somewhat ironic, given his arachnophobia.

Actually, the way he wore them reminded me of how he is when he's wearing the fluffy white boots I got him a few years ago. He loves them - he gets to recreate S-Club 7 videos as often as he likes. And I believe he's planning to wear them when a crowd of us go along to the Winter Wonderland in Jekyll Park.

So, now I have to sign up for a few lessons on the bike, and hopefully I'll get my full licence within a few weeks. Then I'll be able to get a bike as big and as powerful as I like. Can't wait!

I don't know why this has come upon me, although I have fancied the idea for quite a few years. My Lovely Husband™, my dad and my mother in law have all expressed doubt, concern, fear, and worry at the thought of me going around on a bike. However, I have stressed to them that, for one thing, I am a very careful driver. I am routinely mocked by members of my family for driving like an old woman. That would be an old woman who doesn't have any points on her licence, isn't prone to speeding, and has an impeccable no claims bonus. I'm quite happy to continue in the old lady mould, thank you very much. Another thing that I point out is that I'm not some wild and wicked teenager who is out to prove what an enormous manhood he has by driving into a tree at high speed. I'll be 40 in a couple of years, for goodness sakes! I don't feel the need to prove anything by going too fast, showing off or riding dangerously. However, I do find riding a bike really quite exhilarating.

It's also true that, having spent some time on a bike, I know that it will take a while before I feel fully confident and in control of the thing. There is zero risk at the moment of me being anything other than completely focussed on riding safely any time I'm in the saddle.

My dad tried to persuade me to consider a scooter instead. My lesbian sister has one, and although I'm not convinced that it qualifies her for Dykes On Bikes, she loves it so much that she's hardly been off it since she got it (last month).

When that persuasive attempt failed, my dad pointed out that if he didn't want me to do it, and my Lovely Husband™ didn't want me to do it, and my mother in law didn't want me to do it, but I was going ahead and doing it anyway, then that was really selfish of me. It was a clever route to go down, but it didn't cut any ice with me. I agreed. It is a selfish thing, but dammit, I work hard, I bring in a good income, and it really isn't very often that I do something just for me. So yes, it's selfish, but I don't feel bad about that.

Besides, although my Lovely Husband™ has expressed concern that I might end up in some horrible accident, he does acknowledge that I am very safe driver, and I think there is a part of him that finds the whole idea quite sexy. I'm sure it will only take one or two turns around the block on the pillion to convince him. Or perhaps a sidecar, which is what my mum would like.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Interpretation And A Mare's Cock

Increasingly, I see situations in my own life or in the lives of others, when much pain, outrage, indignance (if there is such a word), anger, hostility - I could go on, but I can't be bothered reaching for my word dinosaur (thesaurus) - could have been avoided if someone first stated their intention before going on to say (or write) whatever they were going to say (or write).

So many times, I have seen people respond badly because they misunderstood the intent, and reacted in ignorance of the fact that the person who was communicating was actually trying to help, wasn't looking to undermine, had put much thought in before opening mouth or putting finger to keyboard.

Unfortunately, it isn't always possible to second-guess where the dialogue is going to go once the emotional brain-stem takes over and everything starts being filtered and distorted through instantaneously created barriers of prejudice and assumption. It would be great to be able to say up front: "In saying this I don't mean ..." But that's a bit like trying to disprove a negative. You can't possibly cover all the things that you don't mean. You might be able to head off a few possible routes, but the chances of covering even a fraction of the likely candidates is slim, unless you are prepared to spend more time apologising in advance than you spend actually delivering your message.

The fault is usually with the receiver rather than the sender. If you hear or read something that causes you to respond in a strongly negative way, the sensible thing to do is to check with the sender whether you have understood them and their intentions correctly. That way, you can avoid misunderstandings before they arise. Few people are socially skilled enough to do this, though. Admittedly, it isn't always necessary. I could have started this blog entry by stating what my intention was, but that would have been more than a little facetious. Although on the plus side, it gave me an excuse to use one of only two words in the English language that features all five of the vowels, making one appearance each, in order. (The other is abstemious, in case you were wondering.)

Making my intentions clear is one of those things that I want to become better at. Then I can be smug, and look down on all those people who don't or can't do it :-)

There are other things I want to change about my own use of language, in particular, swearing, and using expressions originating from the west coast of the US. They are both things I want to stop doing, but it's just so frighteningly easy to slip into it. I was discussing this on Sunday with the ever-lovely Tickersoid, one of the easiest people on the planet to have a really good conversation with, and a man blessed with more charm than seven series of an Aaron Spelling show. He tells me he has given up worrying about the creeping west coastisms. I'm just not fond of how it sounds when I over-use the word "like".

On a tangentially related note, I was in a taxi this morning between Southampton train station and the office in which I can currently working. On the radio was what sounded like a standard talk-radio show. Interestingly, however, although the callers seemed to be the standard knee-jerk reactionaries, the host of the show seemed to be a very well-informed, liberal, thoughtful but practical type. The kind of person who can come up with really useful, good, workable solutions to social problems without dissolving into PC wrist-waving self-incriminatory ineffectiveness, and whilst avoiding anything that is genuinely discriminatory, mindless, misguided or based on prejudice.

At the risk of destroying what might otherwise have been an elegant narrative flow, I'm going to jump back a bit and explain how I came to be having drinks with Tickersoid. I was in Cardiff for the Gay Wedding Show. I'd arranged it some months ago. My reason for being there was to provide part of the entertainment, to walk around and perform magic to those visiting the show. In the event, I ended up having a table upon which I made a little display of some magic props and business cards. Although there was a steady trickle of people through the show, it never really got to the point where I could properly mingle and work the crowd, so I contented myself largely with nabbing people as they went past and performing for them. It was fun, but tiring,. One or two couples seemed very interested in hiring me, so that made it all worthwhile.

Shortly before the thing kicked off, the organiser (Gino) made a short, introductory speech, and then introduced the Mayor of Cardiff. She gave her speech (which I think was intended for visitors to the show rather than for the exhibitors, but hey), and then wandered around for a while. Now, at an event like this, where I was expected to mingle and entertain, one of the things that I like to do is having something that makes me stand out a bit so that people look, stare, or do a double-take, and I can use that as a way of breaking the ice and getting a performance starting. With that in mind, I was wearing a long piece of thin chain (actual chain rather than jewellery) around my neck, which had a very large cock ring on it. This allowed me on a few occasions to get the ball rolling by going up to people and saying "I noticed that you can hardly take your eyes off my enormous cock ... ring." I like to set the tone up front. I didn't notice the mayor had made her way around to my table until too late, so suddenly I find Gino introducing me to the Mayor of Cardiff whilst I'm sporting a very large cock ring. It only made matters worse when I apologised for the naughtiness of my accessory, because she didn't know what it was, but was angling for an explanation. I declined to oblige.

Incidentally, once or twice folks who read this blog have asked where they can see me perform. The Gay Wedding Show in Cardiff was one such rare opportunity. Another is coming up soon. I'll be doing the same thing for the Gay Wedding Show in Manchester, which is on Sunday the 18th of November.

Weighty Issues
I heard a parent saying this to a toddler today in Southampton:
You can have a doughnut if you eat this sausage roll first.
If it had been an apple rather than a sausage roll that the little nipper had been refusing to chow down on, I probably wouldn't have noticed.