Sunday, 24 July 2011

An everyday tale of a revengeful phone, a view from the gods and a wired acoustic Athlete

If you read the saga of Stinky Phone (SP) a couple of weeks ago, I maintain that SP took a swan dive into a gutter while on the way to see the Barenaked ladies.

It would appear that SP has taken a different view on the whole incident and blames me for throwing him into the gutter and then further upsetting him when I put him in the freezer overnight to resurrect him – I don’t know what he has to complain about, he had the lawn mower battery to keep him company…

Since Mrs B was meeting me in the Union chapel, Islington to see Athlete, and there was no reserved seating, it was imperative that I had a phone with me. I can imagine some of you thinking why didn’t I arrange to meet Mrs B at a set time and a set place. You are clearly not familiar with Mrs B’s lack of work life balance (You probably need to read …. Mrs B’s pitiful attempts to see Kylie to get an idea).

There was no point taking two cars to Islington, so I was dropping Mrs B off at the station, which introduced train time table pressure to the usual  rush to get out of the house.   I was having difficulty tracking down SP, I had seen him just as we were leaving but a quick check of my bag told me I didn’t have him…. I even got Mrs B to use her phone to ring SP to see if we could track him down. The phone rang through the Stereo, confirming that he was somewhere on board so I relaxed a bit. It was only after I had dropped Mrs B off I noticed that the phone connection was no longer showing. SP had somehow managed to end up in Mrs B bag, she now had 3 mobile phones with her to my none….Eeek, meeting up in the venue was going to be a nightmare.

After an initial bit of panic and some swearing I calmed down and then had a genius idea – I just need to find someone at work who has an old phone that they don’t use and I could then pick up a Pay as You go SIM  and voilĂ  communications would be restored.

As luck would have it the second person I asked - Mike (while he probably does not read the  BlackLOG I’m sending him lots of good vibes for getting me out of a hole) - had an old phone actually sitting in his desk draw and despite not being used for a few months it was still almost fully charged.*  Being a basic model worked in its favour, no apps running in the background whose main function seems to be to run your battery flat..

* . Ha!  To those of you thinking what an idiot, who on earth keeps old phones at work….?  Well, Mike clearly does actually.

So it was off to the local Phone shop at lunchtime

Vodaphone Shop
Me -  “I would like to purchase your cheapest Pay As You Go option please”

Sales staff  - “That would be £5 for a Pay As You Go SIM” 

Me – “Excellent, I’ll take it”

Sales staff – “Would you like to purchase a £5 top up?”

Me – “Do I need it?”

Sales staff – “No….unless you want to make any calls.”

Me – “OK……….then I’d better have the top up.”

I handed over 2 crisp £5 pound notes

Sales staff – “It’s only £5, Sir.”

Me – Quickly doing some basic maths in my head (where is my phone when I need it?) “Doesn’t £5 for the SIM and £5 for the Top up card make £10?”

Sales staff looking at me like I was an idiot – “If you purchase the top up when you buy the SIM you get the SIM for free.”

Me – “Why don’t you just offer the SIM with £5 worth of calls?”

Sales staff – “You might not want to make any calls.”
I sure  could have had some fun with that statement in a phone shop but having retrieved my diplomatic hat on my way out from Kew…

Me – “I feel like I’m entering into a Monty Python sketch!”

Sales staff  - just looked blankly at me

I decided to pay the £5 and get out before I ended up paying £20 for no calls and no SIM card 

Is it just me that gets into these stupid situations?

The action moves to the Union Chapel Islington later that day
I sit motionless in the car (so to be honest not a lot of action), while torrential rain bounced off the car, the various drenched people drifting passed, doing remarkably good impressions of drowned rats.  After 20 minutes and with no sign of the rain abating any time soon, it was my turn to do a drowned rat impression.  I had spent the time contemplating whether to attempt to try and get The Beast into the venue…I finally decided as it was so wet that the chances were that security would not be too draconian as dripping wet people queued to get in.  My assumption proved correct and what security there was were keeping well away from the entrance - I barely needed to show my ticket. 

Once inside the church I went straight upstairs (as was pointed out by Athlete frontman Joel Pott, when he came on stage.  The seats truly were in the gods…) and found a position in the front row dead centre and secured three spaces, Mrs B myself and the Beast.  I sent a text to Mrs B, explaining where to meet and sat back to wait for her arrival.  The two support acts were OK but did not appear to be anything special “Robot Heart” & “My First Tooth”.  The latter being a sort of  “Noah and the Whale” clone with a female lead singer. Mrs B was not going to have a problem missing them, she’s not a big “Noah and the Whale” fan…

All that waiting around on your own can get quite lonely, so I’m grateful for the couple who sat down beside me.  While I had an interesting chat with a couple called Lee and Nicky, making me feel a little less like “Billy no mates” , Lee and Nicky sat traumatised by the strange bloke who accosted them as soon as they sat down…. We talked about groups we had seen, the Olympics and how hardly anyone got any tickets,  I even discovered that Nicky’s brother had just purchased a flat in Bishops Stortford, just around the corner from us, what a truly small world we live in….

I got a text from Mrs B about 9pm, just as Athlete hit the stage, saying that her latest work crisis was over and she was on her way….about halfway through Athlete’s set Mrs B made her appearance.  I was relieved that Mrs B saw at least a bit of the concert but also that Lee and Nicky weren’t left with the impression that I was a total nut job with a made up wife…..

I really enjoyed the Athlete performance which had been billed as a stripped down tour, i.e. acoustic (well sort of acoustic as the guitars were all amplified, I always thought acoustic meant not amplified), which was ideal for the wonderful sound that echoed around the old church building. My only issue was that it was quieter than the average gig and the sound of The Beast:

Click Click Click  Click  Click
Click Click Click  Click  Click
Click Click Click  Click  Click 
Click Click Click  Click  Click 
echoed around the building and proved hardly conducive to my clandestine attempts to sneak a few concert piccies….About as subtle as a British MP with a blank expense form .…

Mrs B asked me to turn the sound down...

Me - "What?"

Mrs B - "Turn the shutter sound down"

Me - "That's the mechanism working, it doesn't come with a volume setting"

What can I say, The Beast likes to roar like a lion not whisper like a chocolate bar….

Joel Potts - Looking up to the Gods
 Miss Winehouse
What a sad and tawdry tale of wasted talent. While she represented many of the things that I dislike, Tattoo’s, Smoking, excessive drinking and drugs, she had such a wonderful voice.  We were lucky enough to see her at the Cambridge Junction about 4 years ago, when she could still perform. We saw her briefly at V a couple of years ago when she came on stage with The Specials to do one song.  She barely managed that, a shadow of what she had been… Yet another one of life’s flawed talents….
Show me the sunny
Monitoring our way to a fortune (or not) with our Solar Panels

KW Produced so far –  2131

KW generated in the last week – 90

This has earned us approximately – £1065
Record of the week
Wires by Athlete - I knew it wasn't proper acoustic gig....

The Outsider by Athlete -

 Rehab by Amy Winehouse - Amy really should have gone to Rehab

What a waste by  Ian Dury and the Blockheads- Ian sums it all up

Watch of the week
The regular section in support of Joe (Stunt Cock) and his growing watch business

Xupes has been trading for over 2 years and  Joe has recently developed some great contacts in the trade which enables him to pick up surplus stock and sell them at great prices. Mrs B is a regular purchaser from his jewellery section, going self service once she finally realised that her husband is not the jewellery buying type….
Xupes price  £650.00 
RRP         £1,350.00
Saving        £700.00 
Photo Finish
All shots taken with The Beast of Athlete at the Union Chapel Islington
You've got wires going in
you've got wires coming out...
So probably not proper acoustic..

Carey Willetts Bass Guitarist and chief water drinker....

Athlete - not a bad little backdrop....

Tim Wanstall - keyboards

Well Joel Looks like he had a good time and
so did the audience....
Till next week...

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Don’t mention the war – I mentioned it once but I didn’t get away with it

It was a busy week this week, mainly due to some extended birthday celebration

Saturday – Kew gardens -  Sophie Ellis Baxter supporting Bryan Ferry
Sunday - Birthday BBQ
Monday – Kew Gardens again this time for Blondie
Tuesday – actual birthday and a trip to see Much A Do About Nothing
Wednesday -  back to work for a much needed rest 

In random order for more dramatic effect– What do you expect? this is the BlackLOG it doesn’t really do Linear…

Blondie - Born 1st July 1945 (age 66)
She certainly is a game old bird and at 66 cast a very impressive figure for her age – Her legs remind me of Tina Turner’s, when she was in her mid sixties and you have to wonder if they use the same leg supplier….  My concert companions complained that Debbie was sounding flat – but in truth I always felt that she sang flat, which was very much part of her charm. The problem I felt was more that if this had been a high jump competition Debbie would have failed to clear the bar, even at the lowest setting.  In fact I fear she would have struggled to get over it if it had been lying on the floor. It was not just the high notes but the medium height ones that were being crucified…Now before you start thinking that this was a stinker of a concert I can assure you that it was not, the songs are just too good even if the wigs are not….  

Bryan Ferry - born 26 September 1945 (age 65)
Looking a little bit crumpled, more like Bagpus who has swapped his fur for a blue lounge suit, rather than the suave lounge lizard from yesteryear…. It seems odd that he is actually 2 months younger than a certain Miss Harry, I’m guessing that he has not had as much renovation work done, to his credit, although someone should tell him that so much black hair dye in your 60’s is not dignified.  One of Debbie’s awful white wigs would have looked more natural on him. 

Sophie Ellis Bexter - Born last Tuesday in comparison to the other two  
Now the youngster of the crew -  she’s tall and has cat like facial features and dances like a stick insect being electrocuted.  She also has a huge great tattoo on her arm which does nothing for her. She had a couple of good hits “Murder on the Dance Floor” and “If I can’t dance”….Isn’t it ironic that these hits seem to refer to a dance deficiency of the highest (sorry Blondie) order…

Sophie Ellis Bexter
"Put your hands in the air if you can't dance"
Don’t mention the war – I mentioned it once but I didn’t get away with it.
It would appear that Kew Garden’s music concerts are getting more popular each year - I don’t remember it being so busy for last year’s Bootleg Beatles concert. It was bad enough on Saturday night when we were packed in like sardines. Tourrettes girl had arrived early and staked out our pitch with blankets and although we had enough room,  getting in and out was a nightmare, groups were so close to each other that you had no option but to walk through their picnics….

For the Monday Kew trip there were just the four of us,  Teach and the Farmer having joined us from deepest darkest Lincolnshire. Having spent the afternoon wondering around Kew we were in a good position to get into the Kew queue and thus made it in time to create a little oasis for ourselves. We however made the fatal mistake of leaving a small corridor to our right to enable people to get through. Mrs B and I went off to stretch our legs leaving Teach and the Farmer to look after our empire.  Unbelievably a group of four people turned up and had starting pushing our blankets out of the way.  While the Farmer is used to dealing with trespassers he was so stunned by this brazen behaviour he was powerless to react and watched in horrified fascination.  By the time I returned it was a done deal and as we were surrounded by people it was not worth making a fuss. 

Things were fine until Blondie came on and two of the interlopers started to dance wildly but, since it’s a concert, it’s a bit difficult to complain. However they were attempting to drink at the same time, which resulted in anyone in close proximity being showered with the contents of their glasses. As no one else was doing anything about it I stepped forward and, risking life and limb, forced them to pause...

Me – “Excuse me, Dancing, I have no problem with you dancing”
Actually I did but I was trying to use my diplomatic hat...

Nuisance pair -  looked at me bleary eyed

Me  - “Drinking, I have no problem with you drinking”

Nuisance pair – still looking somewhat bewildered

Me – “It’s just the dancing and drinking together is not good for you, as you are spilling all your drink, or indeed the rest of us who are around you and on the receiving end of the contents of your glasses…..”
Female nuisance – sneered something in German to her companion before saying to me “OK”

Me – with my gander up “That would be excellent and in return I won’t mention the war.” My diplomatic hat must have been caught by a waft of sauerkraut infested breath and gone soaring high above the crowd and into the now darkening skies….

Female nuisance – “Vi vould you mention de Vor?”
I had already figured that she was German and please note I don't have a problem with Germany as a nation (other than frequently beating us on penalties) it is rude and ignorant individuals that I have a problem with and they can be from any nation, far too many of them being British for my liking....

Me – realising I had gone a bit over the top said “Sorry, it’s a bad English joke” I can’t help it I’m a big fan of Fawlty Towers and as non PC as it is, I don’t like to see people get away scot free for their loutish behaviour…

Unfortunately it was too late, strangely it did not appear to be a problem for our drunken neighbours, it’s just I could hear rumblings of discontent coming from beside me.

The drunken pair carried on their rampage of destruction, substituting cigarettes for the drink and now showered everyone with generous amounts of ash (how thoughtful). Which stuck to clothes that were still soaked from the alcohol abuse they had received moments before. I, however, was in no position to complain as I was suddenly involved in a secondary battle with an irate Mrs B as she remonstrated with me for the war remark and insisted that I apologise (clearly not having heard my immediate apology).

I dug my heals in and hostilities commenced on this unexpected second front, allowing the nuisance pair to hack off everyone around them. Even the friends that they were with were so embarrassed that they had left them. 

While I agree the comment was insensitive Mrs B had been shielded from the worst of the behaviour and I’m sure had not realised the extent of the problems the pair were causing. There was no way I was apologising any further – My feelings in life, I will put up with a lot but I will not allow people to walk over me or my friends and family.  I was reprimanded further when I attempted to move our cooler box in-between us and the wildly gyrating pair as Mrs B feared that the situation my escalate….. 

Although things were still frosty the second front was just about thawing when the male nuisance attempted to barge passed us and tripped, throwing a glass of wine into Mrs B’s face. I just about managed to keep a straight face but could not help uttering the comment “I’m saying nothing”*. Mrs B went off like Vesuvius and the verbal battle commenced between us once more, which took Mrs B almost 24 hours to get over, unfortunately this made for a particularly awkward birthday the following day (I’m thankful it’s not like the old days when a Mrs B sulk could last for weeks).  I tend to land verbal punches (create a bit of devastation around me), get it out of my system and calm down fairly quickly (and then wonder why everyone else is a bit grumpy), although, if severely pushed, I can get a good grudge going.

* As it happens I really should have said nothing
Mrs B erupted like Vesuvius
Little did the organisors know that
there would be two Firework displays
at the Blondie gig....
The only crumb of comfort I got was that the nuisance pair managed to fall over three times, tripping up over other people, chairs and themselves. They also attempted to sneak off and leave all their rubbish behind but was stopped by a severely hacked off gentleman (no not me this time I was still busy defending on the second front), who forced them to pick it up and take it to one of the many bins that are provided.

A Solar powered Birthday BBQ

Catering - how to make life easy….
Because we were booked solid with little time for preparation we had decided to let Waitrose take the strain and sourced all the salads, BBQ meat and other side dishes through their web site, to be picked up Sunday morning. We even took the precaution of checking with the store on Saturday evening that everything was booked and ready to go.

Imagine our delight when we rocked up at 10am to pick up our order, only to find out that less than 12 hours later they were now denying all knowledge of it.

With our guests due in just a few hours I think we did pretty well not to go off the deep end, especially as an hour later they were still denying any knowledge of ever having received our order.  Then suddenly it all appeared (Well almost all of it, a tomato and mozzarella dish went AWOL, we’ve put pictures of it on milk cartons and on lamp posts but almost a week later there’s no word…We are starting to prepare ourselves for a prospect of life without it).  It transpires that they had been looking at it under “click and pickup” rather than “pickup after you click” service,  or some such nonsense.  It sounds like they have made their service a bit too complicated. I’m not sure the £10 voucher went far enough to cover the distress they had put us through but I guess it’s better than nothing.    

Birthday presents
It’s a bit like buses, you get yourself a set of solar panels and suddenly the place is awash with them – this year I got a lot of solar powered items (Hmm….next year I’m putting solid gold tiles on the roof….) Some rock lights, some tree lights and a solar powered butterfly….Thanks to Teach and the Farmer for the butterfly, which hasn’t proved as naff as I first thought. I caught McG playing with it this morning - it’s the most exercise he’s had in years.  And I am particularly grateful to Tourettes Girl for the tree lights which stopped Mrs B investing in some ultra naff multi-coloured butterfly ones.

A new record is set
Our friend Ash managed to set a new record for himself, seeing him two days running with different dates… I reminded him that we had not met any of his dates for a second time. A fact which he disputed vehemently but after a fairly long reminisce he finally conceded that I was, indeed, correct.  

I have a new saying for him: Any friend of Ash’s will never be seen again….

Smoke gets in your eyes
On my birthday we were lucky enough to have tickets to see David Tennant and Katherine Tate in William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. We were even fortunate enough to get fourth row tickets. The play was funny and well acted only…..

Since when did a Shakespeare play require chain smoking? Not only that but chain smoking by almost all of the characters?

Is there some sort of conspiracy against me, I wonder, as the last play I saw in the west end “The Children’s Hour” had more smoke pouring out of it than a  1970’s diesel….

Mrs B could tell I was fuming and suggested that I write to someone afterwards

I mulled this idea over and had a better plan.  At the interval I went in search of the Theatre Manager.  I failed to get hold of them but did manage to speak to the deputy manager.

Me – “I have a question for you about the smoking on stage.”
Deputy Manager – “It’s the directors choice and it has been cleared by Westminster Council”  

Me – “How can they justify sanctioning it?”

Deputy Manager – “They don’t use real cigarettes, they are herbal.”

Me - “So you don’t think it is going to be a bad influence on all the kids in the audience?”

Deputy Manager – “The production is an adult production.”

Me – “So you don’t think that having a very popular ex-Dr Who actor in the cast is going to draw in the kids?”

Deputy Manager – “That’s down to the parents to make the choice - there is a particularly explicit sex scene at the end of the first half”

Me – “Was there? I couldn’t really tell through the thick haze of smoke….”

Now I don’t know if I had any influence but during the second half of the play the smoking was dramatically reduced to just two cigarettes and the stage was clear enough to be able to see.  Possibly a little too clear, as I’m sure I received a  number of filthy looks from some of the actors….

Stinky phone update - Cryogenics
Due to the miracle of the freezer, Stinky phone (if you were reading last week he took a swan dive into a rancid puddle) is back in service….For those of you that are bemused by the last statement I’ll take you through it one more time but a little slower and with a bit more detail.

Something I learned a few years ago is that if one of your electronic items stops working stick it in the freezer overnight, thaw it out and often (not always, it’s not guaranteed to work) you will find the item works again. I think it has something to do with resetting over heated circuitry and resetting batteries.

I also managed to resurrect the lawnmower battery the same way this week. This proved a mixed blessing as it meant I had to cut the grass. 

Ironically I couldn’t use the  Freezer method to revive our ailing Icemaker, as it is too large to fit into the ice compartment….

Show me the sunny
Monitoring our way to a fortune (or not) with our Solar Panels

KW Produced so far – 2041

KW generated in the last week – 90

This has earned us approximately – £1020

Record of the week
Smoke gets In your eyes by Bryan Ferry -  Thanks Mr Tenant my eyes are still smarting after your red hot smoking performance...

Sunday girl by Blondie -

Murder on the dance floor by Sophie Ellis Bextor - it can be said Sophie truly is murder on the dance floor.

If I can't dance by Sophie Ellis Bextor - What does she mean if? 

Heart of glass by Blondie - No chance of shatteing any hearts of glass with her high notes

Watch of the week
The regular section in support of Joe (Stunt Cock) and his growing watch business

Xupes has been trading for over 2 years and  Joe has recently developed some great contacts in the trade which enables him to pick up surplus stock and sell them at great prices. Mrs B is a regular purchaser from his jewellery section, going self service once she finally realised that her husband is not the jewellery buying type….
Xupes price £  8,995.00
 Absolutely excellent condition Vacheron and Constantin Torneau shaped rare factory diamond 18k yellow gold watch on 18k yellow gold strap with deployment buckle. This is the ladies 25mm quartz model. The dial and bezel feature beautiful factory set diamonds. This particular model is now discontinued so set to be a collectors piece for the future. This is a lovely immaculate example. 12 months Xupes warranty included. The strap will fit up to a 6.00 inch wrist.

Photo Finish
To end this week there are some shots from Kew - The first two were taken with the Mega Mini Beast as we traipsed around one of the glass houses. The rest were taken with The Beast at the two Kew the Music concerts. 
A bit of horti-culture for you this week...
Hidden amongst the Kew’s foliage we
found Blondie’s stage equipment being
looked after by the Roadie-dendrons….
My Aunt Edith can dance better than that
and she's been dead 10 years...
"Is there a bad tattoo removal artist in the house?"
Bryan Ferry hoping that no one notices
the missing lorry load of dye hidden 
in his hair.... 
Bryan Ferry - "Hey Blondie this is a high note"
Bagpuss gets a much needed makeover....
Ash hides behind his first date for the weekend

Blondie - In the Flesh...

If you can't reach those notes, just
get your audience to do it for you...

Blondie proving that you don't have
to Die young to stay pretty
The Farmer planning better ways
of getting  trespassers off
his picnic blanket…. 
Teach shocked at the underhand
tactics of London picnickers..
Next week the BlackLOG should return to a less hectic pace.....