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Thursday, January 31

Under Pressure

I hadn't had time to pack my car for the trip I was planning up north. I had also overslept. Quite frankly, the journey to work today was not one of lightheartedness. To top it off, I was nursing a minor hangover from the single bottle of cider I'd drunk before going to sleep. Ok, so I drank it at about 3.30am, but still...

I had lots to worry about. Work, as ever, requires me to do stuff, and I had a meeting at 10am. Also, I had a gig tonight in Richmond, to be followed by a journey to Newcastle to be there for a plumber to inspect my boiler, some DIY and a musical I was going to see.

In short, there was no time to do all of this stuff, especially with a car that wasn't packed.

A few things changed the state of play of the day.
  • The meeting turned out to be at 11, which gave me more time to prepare (I didn't quite get motivated for an hour, though)
  • I managed to finish my day's appointments by lunchtime, and I got to go home for lunch and packing for the trip
  • I found out that my gig was cancelled - joy of joys
My going home for lunch was followed by going to the other office I work at for the afternoon. I worked until early evening and then headed to Leeds where we went and got food - we being me and a Leeds-based friend.

I like chatting to folks while I'm making car journeys. I tried ringing my grandma up on the journey to Leeds. That worked quite well.

After Leeds based food, I drove up North and got to Newcastle for a healthy 2am. The house was deserted and I made myself at home in one of the spare rooms. If this house had proper tenants - rather than A proper tenant - I wouldn't be able to stay here... but I'd have money. At least this way I'm getting some use out of the place.

Wednesday, January 30

Double Header

"I know what I'll do" I exclaimed one day at work on the toilet - in my mind at least. "I'll organise a comedian to come to the office and entertain people." This was inspired by a book which we were told to read. There then followed a lot of planning. In the end, I managed to get my comedian to the office. It was Norman Lovett, who I knew as a stand-up before he went into Red Dwarf as the computer - Holly - but who I best know from that role.

I'd gigged with Norman during the fringe, and I had the pleasure of MCing him onto the stage in November, where I asked him if he'd consider doing a work gig. As it happened, he would consider it. So we booked him.

I was worried about a gig in the presence of my work colleagues. I decided to MC it straight, allowing humour to arise if necessary. This proved a formula I was comfortable with. All I had to do was introduce the act, then sit back and worry lest they didn't find him funny. After about 90 seconds I relaxed. This gig was going to fly. The room filled with laughter and the show was great fun to watch. He was doing his Edinburgh Fringe show for us and it was worth watching a second time.

After all was done, I helped pack up and then got my own stuff together and zoomed (legally - I'm not risking my licence for anyone or anything) to Kidderminster where I was due to close a gig.

On the journey, I spoke with a friend whom I've always got time for a long chat with. We set the world to rights as I drove into the heart of the midlands and she wandered over to a shop to buy some snacks. I think my journey was longer, but hers was colder. Mobile phones are ace!

The Kidderminster gig is one I've played before. It's not a paying gig and first time I went there I planned to just try out some new material. However, seeing that crowd made me want to bring out the big guns. So, my last visit there was a highlight. This time I had some new material I wanted to try out and I also wanted to do my usual stuff. When I hit the stage it was quite late. After a 30 minute set, it was 30 minutes later. However, I'd had a really comfortable half hour with the audience, during which I'd first-timed a new song, which I've written and even done a studio recording of, but had never heard an audience react to. Their support made the song work. I guess I'll get to see whether it was a one off when I next try the song.

I had a really good gig and I even listened to the recording of that performance a couple of times on the way home, gleefully recalling some of the stuff that just spilled out of me during the blether I do when I'm off script.

Before I left the venue, the landlord, a very pleasant man, who is a big laugher, and also techs the show, offered me a drink. He knew I was leaving, but was offering me something to take home. A lager, cider, or maybe a glass of whisky with some clingfilm over it. I was touched and agreed to the bottle of Magners. This accompanied me home for later consumption.

What with two gigs and a busy day, I'd not had time for an evening meal. The plan was to get home, park, and then make some food. When I arrived home, though, the parking plan had a problem. The nose-to-tail parking outside my house can make getting into the drive quite tricky. It's even trickier when there is no more than the width of a car between the nose and the tail of the cars covering your drive. With my housemate's help, we proved that neither of our cars could fit through this gap. In the end, we devised a system for driving along the pavement, into the garage, and then reversing into this gap so that one of our cars could get onto the drive. It was very hard work, but both of us got a parking space on site that night. Lucky that he was up, really.

I had my food and I had my cider. Then at a ridiculously late hour, I got to bed. I'd crammed too much in!

Tuesday, January 29

Why not to speed


Monday, January 28

The Odyssey

Well well well. I'm back in Reading after my trip to Rotherham to face the music. It's been a hell of a day. I'll take you through it.

Morning
First of all there was the wake up call, which ultimately required me to put on a new suit and get ready for a day of waiting for justice to be served. There was coffee as a chocolate brioche for breakfast, though, so it wasn't all bad.

Then I was taken near enough to the railway station to walk there. I bought my ticket, deciding at the last minute to pay the extra £6 for a first class ticket. If I'm going to go to court, I may as well go in style.

Ironically, there were no first class seats on the train I took. Pointless. There were some whittering women on there, replaced by some annoying get-a-job-you-pointless-wasters young women, one of whom had an annoying child in tow and clearly needed to look after it.

A Few Words On The Subject of Authority
Reading The God Delusion helped. It resonated with a bunch of ideas that I've either had, or half had. It presented some theories which made sense to me. It blew religion as far out of the water as I'd like religion to be blown. Overall, I already had the conclusion about the underlying fallacy of religion, but I still entertained some of the bizarre tolerances relating to the expression of faith which are endemic in our culture.

The book helped me put a name to some of the phenomena, and helped me see the things that I've been thinking put down more clearly. Don't get me wrong, some of Dawkins's prose is hyperbole and rhetoric, but he can back it all up with logic when you get down to the root of the argument. Religion has to step back going "wooooh" when you mine it too deeply. And that's the point.

One of Dawkins's theories is very convenient and maybe helps explain some of what was bothering me over the course of today. I was very crushed today. Looking around the Magistrates' Court, I was surrounded by people who break the law quite easily, and yet for me the process I was going through would totally change my life if I were given a driving ban, since I couldn't conceive of getting a car second hand, giving false details and driving it uninsured for a few months until I was road legal again. Even though this would solve the problem quite easily... I say I couldn't conceive of it. I obviously could think of the plan, but I don't think I could follow it through.

Why did the atmostphere in the court room and the occasion itself have the power to crush me so much? Well, Dawkins suggests a theory whereby it is a human instinct, an evolved trait, to respect authority from youth. Why? Well, because as defenceless children, we need to learn a lot about the world in order to survive in it. We rely on parents to say "don't go there" and "be careful of the..." in order to learn how to cope with the world. This inbuilt respect of authority figures is innate.

Well, maybe it's not. Maybe it's learned. Maybe I feel the crushing weight of genuine authority because I learned it as a child.

Either way, I was to have a day under authority's thumb.

Rochdale
I was not in Rochdale. I could have gone to Rochdale. I even nearly asked for a ticket to Rochdale. It was the wrong place.

Rotherham
I got to Rotherham for about 11am. I quickly found the courthouse and then basically had to kill time until my proposed arrival time of 2pm. I thought I'd find a coffee shop. Maybe a nice Costa, Nero or Starbucks. Hey, maybe they'd have WiFi. Maybe I could plug my laptop in and do some surfing, take my mind off things.

Not in Rotherham. After a wander around their town, I found a Baker's Oven. Yes. A Baker's Oven, where they sold me a capuccino and a sandwich. Not impressed. Luckily I'd had a Starbucks while waiting in Leeds station for my non-first-class-equipped train to bring me to this place. I felt like I was on some sort of middle-class outreach programme. Just a few dozen more be-suited motorway speeding people can bring proper coffee to this backwater.

Anyway, I eventually took Dawkins onto a bench outside of the "coffee shop" and read for a couple of hours while old women came along and smoked at me. Also, some fat people came past talking of the opportunity that buying chips for themselves and their fat children might offer.

In Court
I arrived at the court at 1.30. I had already checked out where I was supposed to be. In some ways, my years of stand-up had prepared me for this sort of occasion. I've often arrived at a venue earlier than strictly necessary to reduce the stress of trying to get there. I've often scoped out the place and then gone for a coffee. I was about to defend my right to drive (privilege - whatever you want to call it) and this was going to be one of the most important "gigs" of my year.

Bizarrely, the whole thing seemed almost like a pastiche of a gig. There was a running order and everything. Interestingly, the running order was in alphabetical order of surname... a sort of dehumanising process, the likes of which I'd not really seen since school, where we sat in alphabetical order there - the school imposing arbitrary authority on us. We would have to cope with whomsoever the lexical circumstances of our names brought us in proximity with. This is why most of my friends have surnames beginning within two letters of my own (or 10, as we're also looking across columns).

And so I waited.

I finished Dawkins.

I started reading Starship Titanic a novel based on a computer game by Douglas Adams. It was written by Terry Jones and whipped along with amusement value.

They were still processing the morning's backlog of cases when I finished the novel.

I wasn't sure I'd even be seen.

You'll All Be Done
The usher of the court was asked by another person waiting whether we'd all get the chance to be seen, given that the afternoon (2pm) session still hadn't got underway by 4.15pm. She said "We won't finished until you've all been done." It was I who commented on the ominous undertone within this comment. "I don't want to be done" is what I believe I "quipped" to another person waiting in the eternal torment of waiting for authority to be asserted.

As despair was about to kick in, and as my muscles were tired of being so tense, they opened up a second courtroom for the driving offenders.

In and Out
I won't go into the details of what happened in the court room too much. I was guided through the process with respect and friendliness, coupled with austerity and solemnity. I said what I needed to say and put myself at the mercy of the court. I genuinely believed I could lose my licence and I'd pretty much put my driving affairs in order, assuming I'd not get to drive again for a few months.

Afterwards
After the verdict of the magistrates, I left the court to get a drink and change out of my suit. I found the Wetherspoons. I changed into my civvies. I went to the bar. I ordered a drink - a man, who was old and a bit mental and probably drunk, and who had been singing in the toilet, came up to the bar and I said "and whatever he's having". I think he was oblivious to this offer, but either way he stocked up on two muffins and 2 packets of biscuits. He accepted my insistence that these were on me, and I paid the bemused staff.

I was on diet coke. I was not on beer. I couldn't have a beer as I'd be driving later on. I was also celebrating. So I bought an old man his bar snacks - he already had a beer on the go.

Thank goodness, eh. I was punished with everything but a driving ban. I will be on no-leeway left for a good number of years (until April 2010 at the earliest) and there's no more room to use the defence I used to get away from a driving ban. But I'm still mobile.

Phew.

Getting back to Reading
I visited a Tesco for some food and some reading matter. I was out of books. I had three train journeys ahead. I bought "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak. It's going well, for a book set during the holocaust written from the point of view of Death.

It's worth pointing out that I can see the fallacy of a book written from the point of view of Death, collecting spirits, since it reflects a duallist view, that spirit and body are distinct, and I believe this to be merely figurative, rather than literal. However, I can still appreciate it as a fictional device. See, I'm getting Dawkinsian as we speak!

I read on three trains. Rotherham -> Sheffield, Sheffield -> Birmingham and Birmingham -> Reading.

Nothing happened.

Then I was given a lift to pick up my car and I'm back home and life can go back to some semblance of normality.

Final thought
Seriously. Don't speed. It's not worth it. I can't justify any occasion when I've gone over the speed limit. Being caught is a pain in the arse. Losing the use of the car would have destroyed my way of life.

Now I need to make the most of this year with what has been a 6 month ordeal, having the potential loss of licence hanging over me - afraid to make plans that rely on it, finally over.

Phew.

Sunday, January 27

Family First

A Family Day
Well, first was the sleeping. Lots of sleeping. I'd been up late the previous evening on MSN and writing scripts and generally being online. I needed to catch up on the Z's. There had been a fair amount of not getting much sleep all week, and I cannot be woken unless it's an emergency. Though I was vaguely aware at a few points over the morning, I was pretty much waiting for a cast-iron invitation to be awake, possibly in the form of a series of demands from my niece. Unbeknown to me, she'd taken one look at my sleeping form and decided that I should be left alone. This might have been fear, disgust, or pity. I doubt that the two year old mind can ever be understood enough to determine which.

After I eventually surfaced, I had a few moments to compose myself before we went out to a family event, which was the union of various cousins, uncles and aunts. I was definitely an uncle during the event, but I was also a nephew and cousin. It was getting tricky to keep track. I chose simply not to worry about it. I would definitely recommend this course of action. If in doubt, try simply not giving a shit, while simultaneously giving it your best shot. This is a great paradox, but it can work wonders.

Anyway, the family occasion ran its course when my niece's behaviour prompted a return to her home, where my parents are babysitting her while her parents (one of whom is my sister) are away on holiday. Does this make sense? Does it matter? Well, it matters enough to be remarked upon, but we'll stop there in case it stops being interesting.

Back at the house there was some food, there was some computer action and then the magic hour of 4 o'clock arrived. We were in Finchley. I had a bus to catch from Victoria Coach Station. Correction. I had a MegaBus to catch from Victoria. Apparently the most effective way to get to Victoria from Finchley is to take a number 82 bus from the end of the road. So, we went off with 2 hours to spare before the 6pm bus so I could be transported to Victoria, which takes about an hour, to be there in plenty of time for my coach, even if the bus there proved unreliable. There was also the factoring in of the waiting time for the bus to take me there.

As it was, I arrived at the bus stop, ably escorted by father and niece, as a bus arrived. I got on it, and the long journey to Leeds began.

Recap
I was going to Leeds in order to stay with a friend so that I might more easily make it to Rotherham to appear at the Magistrates Court to receive the necessary speeding conviction that I could not receive by fixed penalty since I'd managed to achieve 9 points on my license already and you can't get to 12 without a court appearance and a mandatory 6 month driving ban. Woohoo. The court appearance was to be 2pm in Rotherham and I didn't fancy my chances of getting there by that time from the South. Better to do it in plenty of time from the North. So, Leeds I needed to go to. I chose to go by MegaBus because it is cheap and because I would definitely arrive in the North feeling sorry, atoned and, more importantly, broken enough to be a sympathetic guy in the courtroom.

I suspect it was parsimony and atonement at the forefront of my decision.

Victorious
I arrived in the Victoria area of London in plenty of time. This gave me time to get to the coach station and assess the arrangements. It gave me time to seek out a Costa and have a coffee. I had time to stand around pondering the meaning of life. I also had time to read some of the very excellent God Delusion by Richard Dawkins while listening to my mp3 player. All of this happened before the coach started to be running late.

Then I had time to queue as the coach didn't appear and then queue after it had appeared. Thankfully it was a coach. I've heard stories of old fashioned double deckers being used for the London Leeds run. This was a real coach. It was cramped, but it was worth the virtually nothing that the ticket cost.

Then began the slow journey up north. After about 40 minutes, at around 7.15, we were in... yes, you've guess it... Finchley - the very place I'd left 3 hours fifteen minutes previously. I love public transport.

No I don't. But the purpose of this trip was to go up North to face having my private transport right revoked, so I had better get used to the idea of using public transport and adjusting to the vagaries of it. You can't get everywhere by bike and even if you could, it would take longer than even the MegaBus.

To Leeds
I'd like to tell some hilarious story of the difficulties of economy M1 travel (damn that M1 and its infernal speed cameras). The truth of the matter is that, aside from the drived making sarcastic pseudo-witty comments, we just travelled to our destination and, without any particular incident, got there.

There wasn't much comfort, and there were some people yattering a bit, but it was quite peaceful. I had Dawkins and instrumental jazz to listen to. Everything was tickety boo.

Moving In Together
Unknown to me was the fact that I would be staying with my friend in the first ever night of his living in his own house. I assumed we'd stay at his Dad's place, where he's lived for the lion's share of the last 12 months. No. We actually moved in together that night (I was to move out straight away). We celebrated this fact with a curry which we got from the takeaway, oblivious to the absence of cutlery in the house. Never mind. We ate our takeaway with chopsticks. This worked remarkably better than can be imagined and, though possibly never to be repeated, was a totally brilliant way of devouring a curry.

The new fridge was employed for bringing beer to an appropriate temperature and we shot the breeze until very late. I didn't want Sunday to end. After all. Sunday was the day before I had to go to court to face the music.

The day ended.

Saturday, January 26

Crazy Day

To say that today has been crazy would be unfair. It's been fairly full featured and I haven't really been on schedule for any of it. Indeed, I was expecting the schedule to sort of just emerge, and that's been a fairly optimistic plan. In fact, it's fair to say that I'm an optimistic planner. My expectations that my house would be sorted out by now have proved beyond blind optimism and into plain old blindness.

Anyway, my housemate had asked me if I would take him over to see a car today. I was told it was about 45 minutes away from home. It proved, and I'm not complaining, to be a good 70 miles and hour and fifteen minutes away. This was fine, as there was a chance to listen to the results of last night's recording session with a live audience as it were. There was also the chance to shoot the breeze and drink smoothies. Well one smoothie.

We had set off later than planned, though it was still fairly early in the day. The result of my current body clock, daily schedule, and probably also my poor recent eating habits, meant that I was very sluggish in starting the day.

The car was viewed. Then it was road tested. Then we went into the centre of Chippenham to have a think. In my view this was the perfect opportunity to sample the delights of Mr and Mrs Starbuck. So we did that. Eventually, we returned to the owner's house to put a deposit on the vehicle - a monetary deposit, that is.

Heading home was at about 1.15pm and we got the chance to listen to the Radio 2 comedy hour, which was half Arthur Smith and half Jammin'. I enjoyed both, because I'm a fan of comedy. I know. It's surprising to think that I might be a fan of comedy, but I am.

Back home and the plan was to empty the car out of the various worldly possessions I had in it and then take it to the office to leave it there. This was interrupted by a couple of missions. I had to deliver the road tax for the car I own to the location where it is kept, this will allow it to be used on the road without causing any alarm. I also had to drop my housemate off in town for him to get to the bank to get the remainder of his car fund together. Good times.

Back home, take two, and this time I did manage to depersonalise my car, with the exception of Sat Nav and mobile phone handsfree stuff. I bundled my bike into the boot and then headed to the office. I had an MP3 player with a very good comedy series loaded onto it, so I was sorted. I kept the comedy playing as I took my bike out of the car and started on what was to be an 11 mile journey back to Reading. The comedy kept me entertained, when I could hear it, and the journey passed under my wheels without any major event. I didn't particularly run out of energy or steam, though I failed in my mission to get any automated "slow down" signs or speed cameras to recognise me. I managed to hit a top speed of 26mph, but that's not enough.

All of this cycling and bidding farewell to the car is a measure of trying to come to terms with the court case on Monday. I may well leave Rotherham magistrates court with a driving ban. If I do, then my life will be altered in a way which can only be described as humungous. I needed today to prepare for this possibility.

Back in Reading, I took my bike in to be serviced. I'm always amused by bicycle servicing costs, since no matter what I ask them to do, it never costs anything like I'm used to paying for minor tweaks to my car. My last garage bill was non trivial, so I just told the bicycle people what was bothering me about my bike and left the shop confident that they couldn't shock me too much with the final price.

I then went for a haircut. I thought that the clean shaven version of me might look the most sympathetic in the suit in the courtroom on Monday.

After the haircut, I started preparing for the rest of the weekend. I'm going to a family event in London tomorrow and it's in the morning. I can't drive there. I now have no car for the purpose - the company car being at work, and my own car being on loan o someone else. Plus, I can't leave a car in London and I'm traveling up North tomorrow to go to the court case, and I can't take the car up North... so it's the train. I didn't want to get the train in the morning, so I had to get to London tonight.

Somehow, the process of getting food, ironing my shirt for the suit, getting washed (from the bike ride and the haircut) and then packing, seemed all to take much longer than expected. When I arrived at the bus stop with my three bags, with the aim of going to the station, I ended up deciding that I'd be better of just continuing the walk to the station. This I did and made my way onto the 21.29, bound for Paddington. This is the train which takes me away from my current life as a driver in Reading. I may return as a new-born driver, or I may return as a user of public transport.

Time will tell.

Crazy day.

I'll be picked up at the other end of the tube system and given a bed for the night at my sister's in preparation for tomorrow's day with the family. Tha's a good start to a new life.

Friday, January 25

Rushing Around

Another day of busy. I haven't been parking in the office car park all week. This is due to the recent change to the way the office car park is managed. It used to be the case that you double parked the place to hell and back when it was full, leaving your car keys at reception. Then, the double parked cars would be moved into spare spaces over the course of the day. This sort of worked. However, they were getting to the point where about 100 cars were being double parked and things were getting fruity. They've hit on a new system now. They close the car parks when they're a bit too full. This makes sense... but it also means that there's nowhere to park.

I discovered that I can park a little way down the road, and that has been quite effective. Today, though, I chanced parking in the actual car park, in one of my special "you can't get blocked in here" spaces. I reckoned I would be going back out about 90 minutes or so after I arrived. As it turned out, that's exactly what I ended up doing, so that was lucky.

I thought I've have various other demands on me over the morning, but I turned out to be free, so scooted over to another office to make a nuisance of myself in the name of being useful. This proved less destructive than it might have been.

I then had to rush back for a meeting which... predictably... well, let's just say that some preparation will have been in vain.

The day flew on by and I wanted to leave in time to pick up a friend from Reading station when she arrived for a night's comic writing and performance. Despite the failure of the microwave and Marks and Spencer microwave meals we bought to interact to perfection, we had a good night's writing and performance. This culminated in a recording that I've now listened to quite a number of times... and I still like it.

This has been an exerting week and I've now got a few hours tomorrow to prepare myself for going up North to Monday's court case... a court case that I was told today might actually end up being adjourned. Hooray for justice.

Thursday, January 24

Swings and Roundabouts

Swings and roundabout, that's the definition of playgrounds, I suppose, as opposed to gypsies and roustabouts, which is the definition of fairgrounds. However, I think we also use the expression swings and roundabouts to refer to some abstract quantity or other. Now I come to think about the expression, I've no idea what it means. Still, it's swings and roundabout isn't it... knowing what an expression means... not knowing... using it anyway... it's all swings and roundabouts. Yeah. Swings. And roundabouts.

In a roundabout way, I'm swinging towards some sort of reflection on today. I had work to go to. Of that there's no doubt. I attended and was in a working sort of a state for the whole day, with the bonus of getting to stay late so that I could attend a thank you dinner. I didn't have to stay late, but the dinner was at 7.30, so there was little point in going home only to come back out again. So I worked later than average - I've worked later than that, but I'm not going into that again.

I'm sure that arranging an evening dinner was not an excuse to get me to work late in anticipation of a few quid's worth of food, exchanged for the free overtime. I'm just messing about with this apparent cynicism. I had stuff to do and I was glad of the time to do it in. Having reserved the evening for work anyway, I had little to distract me, and I managed to pull together the last of the documents I'd been working on from the day. Hoorah for me and my typing.

The work day itself had been full of moments where I ponder what's actually going to happen. How is the year going to turn out? What are my responsibilities going to be? Will I indeed be able to rise to the occasion and meet these expectations? I guess 2008 is going to be a year in its own right, rather than a continuation of all the crap from the year before.

My process of sorting stuff out was in full swing. I feel like I'm getting about on top of things which are urgent and uber-urgent, with just the long-term stuff that's been off the rails for ages that's still sitting patiently off the rails. I'll have to work on that, eh?

If I compare where I am now to where I was last year, I guess January is a month of change. Last year I had just moved into this house, just broken up with my girlfriend, and was taking the challenges as they came. Two years ago in January, I was in the first month of my, then, new job. That was fun. Three years ago in January I was preparing for Guys and Dolls, unaware that I would find myself in a relationship within only a few weeks.

Life is swings and roundabouts, in that just when you're having fun, some bigger boys come along and give you a kicking. Nah. Life is just a lot of moving around and oscillating. And why not. It would be dull if it were static.

Dinner was fun last night. We didn't just talk about work and I stayed sober and cracked a handful of jokes. That's a good night for me.

Wednesday, January 23

Continuing the Theme

More sorting out today, though the office work became decidedly intense as we did various presentations and then replanning exercises and then... well... the day was gone.

On the way into work, as in betwen the car and the office, I managed to sort out the gathering of some missing data from my mortgage company. On the way from the office to tonight's entertainments in Southampton (an Oscar Wilde play - ooooh!) I managed to sort out car insurance, ring round various places looking for things and speak to friends and work colleagues.

The previous day's Car Taxing fiasco was also resolved. I went to the Post Office yesterday to get my road tax, only to discover, while in the queue, that my MOT certificate, posted from the garage where my untaxed car is sitting off the road not hurting anyone, was for the wrong vehicle. I responded to this situation by not buying the road tax and, instead, posting the MOT back to the garage so they could give it to the right person. Buying the Road Tax online that night, I then, effectively, got myself legalled up.

The final piece of the jigsaw was when I contact the garage on the way home (having had a couple of calls from them thanking me for returning the MOT certificate) to arrange that they drop the car off at where it's going to live. Indeed, I insured someone to drive it, so it will be a working car very soon. I like that my car will get to be driven around again. I liked my car. It was a good friend.

Tonight's play was worth travelling to go and see, and it was followed by a group session in a curry house. That's a group session of eating, rather than anything naughty. Naughty reader! How DARE you!?

After the curry I retired to a friend's house for script reading-age and then again and then home before I turned into a pumpkin.

I think it's too late. The large squash-like shape of my body tells me it's way too late.

Tuesday, January 22

Headway

I definitely made some moves on my tax return tonight. I ploughed through a lot of numbers and collated a lot of data and I was quite surprised by the outcome. I still have more data to collect, but I'm confident that between myself and the online form I'll be able to get things sorted by the end of the month.
In the spirit of sorting out taxation issues, I also online-ly road-taxed my car, which is another weight off my overweight mind.

During the day at work, there had been a suitable quantity of trials and preparations for this week, which will be taxing in its own way. There are some weighty matters to be sorted and real-life is much harder to deal with than the sort of made-up stuff that I rejoice in when I spend my nights on a stage or scripting stage material.

Still, if this is going to be the week where I run round sorting my life out, prior to going to court for my driving licence/speeding thing on Monday, then so be it. I'm trying to make it all work.

Tomorrow I'm going to a play after work, but that's ok. You're allowed to go to a play. It's true.

Monday, January 21

Sorting Through

I've been through a mountain of paperwork tonight with Pink Floyds The Wall on and then Evita.

I also got quite hot.

I gave up with the paperwork after I'd corralled it into some sort of order but still hadn't reached any conclusion with it. However, I then went onto a script editing/writing/transcribing task which I think was very valuable in its own right.

Thankfully I've got tomorrow night at home to have another go at avoiding the procrastination!

D'oh!

Sorting Through

I've been through a mountain of paperwork tonight with Pink Floyds The Wall on and then Evita.

I also got quite hot.

I gave up with the paperwork after I'd corralled it into some sort of order but still hadn't reached any conclusion with it. However, I then went onto a script editing/writing/transcribing task which I think was very valuable in its own right.

Thankfully I've got tomorrow night at home to have another go at avoiding the procrastination!

D'oh!

Wanna Do Some Money Laundering

But it looks so official...


Sunday, January 20

Catching Up

Today was a day for catching up with friends. It started later than planned as a combination of over-sleeping, having to get fuel, getting myself motivated and getting onto the roads all took me to later than expected.

However, as far as friendship goes, the day was excellent. In my morning-voice state, I caught up with a dear friend who rang me and chattered excitedly about stuff, which is always nice. I like to hear about stuff, especially in an excitably chattersome manner.

About an hour later than planned - I'm nothing if not reliable, so I'm nothing - I arrived at the house of my Kent-resident friends and we caught up on what has been a very taxing interval. It has only been a six month interval, though, so at least it wasn't like the catch up I had with someone last weekend, where we hadn't seen each other for thirteen years and so the question "So, what have you been up to?" would have required the answer "Erm... most of my adult life".

I enjoyed today. My friends have a young child, who is at the sort of age where you can really play games and have innocent fun. All that you need is a little imagination and a desire to have fun. That's what I think I enjoy most of all in life in general, so to have someone of my mental age to enjoy it with is a real bonus.

We had lunch, a walk, plenty of chat, a little too much coffee, discussions about boilers and skirting boards, magic tricks, story time, songs and more stories.

That's a good day out in my book.

The homeward journey involved a detour to avoid the closed exit onto the M4, which expanded into a minor detour via the office to pick up my laptop for tomorrow's off-site meeting, which I'd forgotten about.

It all worked out rather nicely.

Saturday, January 19

A Range Of Distractions

There were many activities today. Firstly, I was woken up when a friend of mine got to Paddington station. I wasn't sleeping in the station at the time. I was sleeping in my own bed in my own house. However, he rang me, as agreed, to tell me that he was leaving Paddington. This would, in theory, give me the time to get out of my own bed, get to the Reading end of the station and pick him up in time to bring him to my house for recording fun.

In reality, the taxing night before - taxing in sleep terms, rather than morally or indeed, taxationally - meant that my ability to awaken was totally reduced and so I didn't make it out of my bed for a good slightly-too-long. However, when I rang him to let him know I was on my way to the station, he was comfortably inside the coffee shop and, thus, ideally placed to pick me up a cheeky coffee to have for when we got back to mine.

The purpose of his visit was to record some music. After the studio was reassembled, the piano being the element that needed reinstalling, we set about this task. Largely, it's a task that's about him and involves me listening and pushing buttons. However, most of the songs he writes seem to get me as the guess bassist, which is a bit of a joke since I don't play bass.

There used to be a joke when I did a couple of open-mic music jamming sessions in a small pub in Edinburgh, when I picked up the bass, that I'd exclaim "I don't even have a bass". The truth is, though, I do have a bass. It's a Precision Bass copy - the Precision bass being one of Fender's very specifically standard bass guitars. Indeed, it felt like a sign when I met the bassist from the Robbie Williams CDs (not in a showbiz way - he's a session musician who I once happened to strike up a chat with in King's Cross Station) and he told me that his bass was a Fender Precision Bass. It wasn't a sign, just a good bass. There's no point to this story about basses.

Recording was fun and then we had a subway. In between the recording was the quick 10 minute mixing session and mastering took a further ten. Anybody who worked in the music industry would scoff as such utter contempt for how to turn recorded music into beautiful soundscapes. I've no idea how to do that, so I didn't bother.

I drove my friend back to London as I had to go there myself to pick up a large TV. By this, I mean a 32" widescreen, not Lily Savage.

The TV went in the car and, since the location of the pickup - the house of the people who sold me their TV second hand - was near my sister's house, I thought I'd drop by. I don't think I truly had any idea of who would be at the house, but I had an hour to kill before my gig, so I reckoned anyone at the house would probably be good company for an hour. I hadn't grasped that my sister was out of the country and that my niece would be being looked after by her grandparents. Two of my nieces grandparents are, of course, my parents. However, I actually ran into the other two.

This proved to be a very positive encounter. I spend some time with my niece - the two year old child I've seen a handful of times in her life - and she proved to be on good form and very affectionate and appreciative of having her Uncle Ashley around. I also had a nice chat with my sister's parents-in-law, whom I'd only met once previously. Overall, it was a good way to spend an hour.

Then I went off to my gig, which was a fairly poorly attended thing in a small barn in a posh part of Surrey. It was a fairly uninspiring reaction I got, but I was in a comic mood and I made myself amused. I felt slightly ill-fitting with some of my material, but such things occur when you've not gigged to often for a bit and you're getting back into the spirit of the thing.

Returning home, late, I chatted late into the night with my housemate. Then I retired to my bed. Job done.

Friday, January 18

Bring On The Weekend

After the fairly taxing week and the particularly stretching last couple of days of it, I had to do something to celebrate being released from the office into the weekend. In fairness to myself, I had managed, on the last day of the week, to put some fairly troublesome issues to bed. These issues are not things which I feel like I am usually equipped to deal with, and there had been a significant quantity of guesstimating and assuming going on, but I'd done what I could and had nothing outstanding to worry about over the weekend.

I got into my car and set off. Within a few seconds, I was headed in a completely different direction to home. A friend of mine was doing a gig on the Isle of Wight and I didn't want to let geography and time stop me from being in the audience. So, I headed to Southampton (what is it with that place) and rang the Arts Cenre on the Island, as I drove (handsfree) to book myself a ticket for the show.

Arriving in Southampton, I took a free parking spot near the ferry and then bought a ticket for the ferry. The Red Jet is more of a big sitting room on water. We had quite a bumpy crossing, which was as much fun as it was slightly scaring. Then I took a taxi ride to the Arts Centre, while waxing lyrically philosophical with the taxi driver about getting out of your comfort zone and surprising yourself.

Then I breezed into the gig and said hello to my friend who was MCing and was also gobsmacked that I'd bother to travel all the way to the Isle of Wight just to surprise her. This was the friend that I'd randomly sent an Englebert Humperdinck CD to previously in the week, so she should really have been prepared for anything.

The gig was fun and we followed it with the ferry back to Southampton and then retiring to her place for Chinese food and chat. I left late in the night to get some sleep, ready for the next morning's recording session.

Rock and roll. In the case of the Red Jet, it was Rock, Roll, Lurch and Bounce.

What A Difference A Day Makes

You've got to admit it. Whoever wrote the lyric for 'What A Difference A Day Makes' was a wise person. The phrase feels very familiar. It has been used in adverts. It feels like common wisdom. It's a bunch of words, but the meaning behind them seems to be a universal truth, rather than just a tired old cliche. A day can change everything. Actually, it is probably one moment in a day which changes everything, but the fact that we arbitrarily divide time by days has a built in artifact that makes up notice something by day: Yesterday life was X but now it is Y. This is further compounded by the fact that we measure our own days according to when sleep. Sleep usually means 'I'll shut my brain down and wake up tomorrow'.

Knowing myself, which I do, I could quite imagine that I'd write the above paragraph if I'd just fallen in love. I haven't. Sorry. I wish I had. Life is different through the euphoric insane eyes of love. But that's not my life at the moment. I'm actually under a lot of pressures. There's work. There is my tax return. There is the house. There is my impending court case. I have plans for the Edinburgh Fringe to try to bring to reality. I want a busy and productive social diary. I have gigs to organise. In short, there is too much to do and not enough time to do it in.

I have some diversions, Scrabble being a good reason why this blog gets no updates from time to time. I also have occasional flashes of irresponsible behaviour. However, I feel like I can just about stay afloat in this whirlpool of oddness that is my life. Yesterday was a case in point, hence my somewhat indulgent start to this brain dump.

I had agreed to help someone out with something yesterday afternoon. To do this required full use of the flexible teleworking facilities that my job can allow me. However, I suddenly got landed with an urgent task that affects the course of all the work I'll be doing for the year and whether it will even be feasible. This shouldn't be delayed. I managed to get started on it, before I then had to scoot off to work remotely. Despite some less than ideal environments, I managed to clock up a good 10 hours' work yesterday, working until the wee small hours, with the live dvd of the War Of The Worlds playing through my stereo to keep me awake while I used my bed as a desk, from my new office chair, and marshalled two laptops to do my bidding as I crunched my way through some high level estimates and guesses. There's a lot at stake in my view.

The being at work while at home thing worked well for me last night, and I managed to sort out a number of other things I need to, including travel to and from my court appearance. I'll be on the megabus, so I'll arrive really sorry for my driving licence appeal thing. I also arranged some social meet ups and the like, one of which surprised me. You should always surprise yourself.

If I had a New Year's Resolution, which I don't, and which is most certainly not 'talk to more girls', then I'd feel like my current optimism would be a good thing for achieving it. That realisation is more than I day's work, but most of what I do in a day is more than a day's work.

Thursday, January 17

Highlights and Lowlights

The highlight of today was the ability to do remote-working and do a favour for some friends in the process. The low-light was the stress of the task I had to achieve concurrently with this, though I think getting out of the office probably helped me to look at the problem freshly and try to resolve it for real.

Working on an important problem was a difficult thing which took me out of my comfort zone, but it also took me into the whole late-night-at-university sort of a zone. I was doing a late-nighter with Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds and other music for company and it was almost fun. It was hard work, though.

A low-light of the remote working was when I had to do some Wi-Fi access in a Starbucks with an Australian girl who blethered her pointless drivel-of-a-conversation at a rate which made me want to turn to her and say "saying it faster won't increase its value, you're still at zero interesting-per-second, even though nobody can possibly listen at the speed at which you're yattering". However, a later highlight of cafe-wi-fi was when I found myself sat next to two beautiful actresses, who were talking about their auditions for West End musicals and singing bits of songs to each other. Then the really gorgeous one got out some sheet music and started sight reading it to her friend. I wanted to thank them both for being so gorgeous before I left... I didn't. That would have been weird.

The Return of Old Faithful

Yeah! I just got one of these in my mailbox:

From: Prof.Robert Clark [jszeto@ntlworld.com]
To: message@arthurcox.co.uk
BCC: [Me, I suppose]

Subject: HELLO!

Dear Friend,

I hope that this e-mail reached you in the right frame of Mind.
I am Prof. Robert Clark of Arthur Cox Solicitors, I have a deceased client, Late Mr. Williams Cole whose funds of £7,500,000 GBP deposited in a Bank in the year 2003 are to be confiscated by British Treasury. You will be entitled to 45% if You can help to receive these funds as the Beneficiary.

for further clarifications email: profrobertclakr@live.com

Sincerely,
Prof. Robert Clark (ESQ.)
Arthur Cox Solicitors


-----------------------------------------
Email sent from www.virginmedia.com/email Virus-checked using McAfee(R) Software and scanned for spam


Nice. Nice. I thought maybe I could help you decipher what it means.

From: Prof.Robert Clark [jszeto@ntlworld.com]
a.k.a... AN IMPOSTER! he emails from an address that's nothing like his name...

To: message@arthurcox.co.uk
ArthurCox.co.uk - perhaps a trusted company of solicitors? or maybe it's some random guys in dublin
BCC: [Me, I suppose]

Subject: HELLO!
What a very strident title - this can't be spam, surely!?

Dear Friend,

I hope that this e-mail reached you in the right frame of Mind.
Would that be a gullible frame of mind you were hopin' for there?

I am Prof. Robert Clark of Arthur Cox Solicitors, I have a deceased client, Late Mr. Williams Cole whose funds of £7,500,000 GBP deposited in a Bank in the year 2003 are to be confiscated by British Treasury. You will be entitled to 45% if You can help to receive these funds as the Beneficiary.
Entitled!? Entitled to 45%!? Who is ENTITLED to a dead man's money. And if I help to receive the funds, why won't I get it all!?

for further clarifications email: profrobertclakr@live.com
So, the from address, the fake to address, and now a new address to email - NOTE the surname on the fake address - "clakr" - who is a clacker? I reckon this man is a complete clacker!

Sincerely,
Prof. Robert Clark (ESQ.)
Oh! You're an esquire are you!?

Arthur Cox Solicitors
Sounds a bit frickin' dodgy a firm of solicitors if they use email to contact complete random strangers to give them a percentage of monies that are, apparently, not 100% theirs!

-----------------------------------------
Email sent from www.virginmedia.com/email Virus-checked using McAfee(R) Software and scanned for spam
Clearly not scanned hard enough Mr Virginmedia

Wednesday, January 16

I Got Bored

I was in the Post Office, posting off the DVDs I'd sold on eBay, along with some other things I needed to post. The queue was long so I looked around me. I started to wonder whether you could make enough from the items on sale near the queue, to put together a gift for someone. Of course you could. You need only buy a random CD - say Englebert Humperdinck, and something to mail it in - say a CD mailer - and you're in business.

As a result of this series of deductions, I sent a random CD to a dear friend of mine. I hope she enjoyed it. I explained the reason behind it on the box. Essentially I was bored. I'm dangerous when I have no fixed agenda. Stuff WILL happen.

Monday, January 14

Aftermath

I am presently in the barber's shop after what has been a fairly busy and taxing weekend. I haven't had a haircut since just before new year and I am itching around the beard region. It is time for the trim. That's all that needs to be said. However. . . I'll say a bit more.

I don't seem to have time for normal day to day things like personal grooming or getting my laundry done at the moment. The diy is on a bit of a go slow too. I shall, hopefully make some proper time for it this week, but then this week's plans have gotten into a state of flux as a result of the immediacy of my comedy mission, which may well have me running round frantically for the next 8 months. We'll see. I don't know how to run my life if I'm honest. I cram everything in, but it can get taxing and often lonely too. That's the price I pay for the ego boost I seem to need from the performing I do.

I really like the whole process of making something and then sharing it with an audience. This is the satisfaction. There is additional satisfaction to be had when the creative process involves someone else. I last really had that pleasure back in the last days of The Musical!. Now it would seem that I am back into driving round with a keyboard in my car and with rehearsals and scripts running round my head. I have a gig tonight where we shall be performing two co-written songs to an audience. How they will react, I don't know. That's scary. The 'we' in question is me and another stand up comedian. She is good, and a good friend, but we have never faced an audience together. We have no idea where it will go. It should be fun though.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, I have my long term music and writing partner coming over to record some more music. He wants to talk about the possibility of doing another show in Edinburgh together. I thought that might mean I had two shows in Edinburgh this year to plan for. However, he is talking 2009! Amazing. So, it seems I have a large creative landscape ahead. Is that even a meaningful metaphor? Let's pretend it is.

So I have pleasant butterflies in my stomach. At some point in the next 9 hours or so, I will take to the stage with a new 8 minutes of material that is barely rehearsed and is just. . . Unknown. The fear and excitement of the unknown is very real. I like it. To make the pressure more palpable, there will be people we both know in the audience. That should up the stakes a bit. Nobody wants to look stupid in public, least of all in front of people they know. Still I've died on my arse in front of the girl I most fancied at that time and I survived. What's the worst that could happen tonight? Nothing big.

Every on stage experience makes you stronger. Bad ones are inuring and good ones increase your confidence. That said, I do have a bit of a sweat on thinking this evening through. It will be fine. I'm sure it will. Plus, if tonight goes well and if luck is on our side, there is the possibility of a gig doing more of the same on the Isle of Wight on Friday. All of this is really just the starter. Our session on Friday night, where we improvised our way through some interesting ideas, generated something which I think is absolutely hilarious. I'd like to try performing that sometime, so I hope we get some momentum up from this week. I like this creative stage. This year has promise already.

Meanwhile, having had a busy weekend with late nights, drinks, junk food, rehearsing and miles in the car, I'm exhausted already!

Note: this was the 2008th ever post... posted in 2008... what are the chances!?

Sunday, January 13

More Comedic Japes

I went to my comedy friend's place in Southampton today (what is it with Southampton?). We'd agreed to meet up so we could work on our double act, and that's exactly what we did. We took some of what we've previously written and rehearsed it. We took some of what we'd nearly written and finished it. Then we added a process of polishing and ended up with something akin to a 10 minute stand-up routine. Fresh stuff that we'd made together.

Scared about the prospect of performing it, I quaked slightly as my friend lined us up a gig for the following night. Zoiks!

Then I drove her to her gig in Eastbourne and had a cracking night watching comedy. I drove her home and drove myself home and then it was late. That's how to use a Sunday up!

Saturday, January 12

Late To Bed Late To Rise

After last night's comic jamming session, I couldn't stop myself from using the room we'd been messing about in for its proper intended purpose... well, my intended purpose for it - a recording studio. I'd had the idea for a particular comedy song brewing, and after a demo I didn't like, I thought I could maybe make a studio demo recording that I might like more.

So I did.

It took me until a ridiculous hour of the morning, but I'd made my recording. The highlight was definitely the creation of a rhythm instrument out of me rubbing my tummy. With a jumper on. I was pleased with it.

Anyway, all of this had caused me to wake up a little later than planned. I rushed out to the garage where my car was being fixed. I did this by bike. The car turned out not to be ready, so my cycling distance was doubled. I cycled into town, hoping to get some new shoes. This proved to be a futile act, since I arrived in town too late to have time to do any shoe shopping. I had a 4pm meet up with someone, and I didn't want to miss it.

I cycled home, got refreshed and then, with less time for getting to the station than I wanted, decided to cycle there. That took my cycle mileage to about 15 miles for the day.

Train to London, listening to last night's recording sessions, and then I met the friend I'd not seen in many years. The conversation was fun and philosophical in many ways. We caught up many years.

Then I went to see the people I'd seen back in Christmas when we did the voluntary stuff together. That was fun too.

Then I came home on the train, sneaking into First Class when my ex-girlfriend's sister turned up and led me astray. It was a fun train journey home and the breeze was well and truly shot.

A good day with a little too much cycling in it, as I cycled home... via Mr Cod - the late night fish and chip shop. Ooops!

Friday, January 11

A Tiny Summary

At the last minute, a friend of mine and I decided to hook up to do some comedy jamming and maybe write ourselves a double act. She came along on the train and I picked her up. I managed to cram in a trip to Staples for an office chair and a heater, along with a trip to Homebase so I could buy myself a new shelving unit for all the extra DVDs I'd found in my possession following the previous week's trip back to Newcastle.

I picked her up from the station and we got some food from M&S. Then it was back to mine to use one of my upstairs rooms for its intended purpose... well, my intended purpose for it - it's my wee studio. We messed about, made ourselves laugh, recorded ourselves doing it and, with a bit of luck, set the wheels in motion for what could easily colour 2008 with a lot of comedic fun. We'll see.

I dropped my friend back at the station in time to get home for bed myself.

I'm incapable, of course, of going to bed when I should.

Thursday, January 10

Keep It Interesting

There is a lot going on this month. I'm getting my car back on the road, and I may also be losing my driving licence. Oh the irony. I am decorating my house in Newcastle, but not managing to get very far with the one in Reading. Weird. I've got a lot of work to do and not enough gigs, but then I just cancelled a gig. I've got someone else's gig to tech for, and yet I'm organising a way of that not interrupting my working life too much. In short, it is all getting a bit weird. Well, a lot weird. I must must must sort out my taxes!

But I am having fun. I am making the most of the fun things I do. I woke up this morning with a sore throat, which is the sign of a good night before. Singing! Not smoking or drinking. I don't smoke and only drink occasionally. I will be imbibing a little on Saturday, but I cancelled drinks on Tuesday as I didn't feel quite up to it and felt like I ought to put some time in on the house.

I've felt richer than I do right now. I am particularly worried about house prices. If I am not careful, these properties could be my undoing. I can't stop the serious day job which pays for it all. So, it's just a case of making the most of it. So, I'll be organising a comedy event at work then. . . No. Already done it!

Wednesday, January 9

Back On Stage

It was only two gigs ago that I last did the venue in Kingston to which I returned tonight. I had a really nice time on stage tonight, using a set that had a few too many "B-Sides" in it, on purpose. As a result of doing more of my less usual material, I had a better time and was a slightly different sort of act than I normally am.

I also planned to perform a song I haven't finished writing yet. However, time did not permit me to achieve this ridiculous feat and I think I'm glad of that. There's not a great point in putting a song out there until it's ready, though I think that my idea was to somehow shock myself into working out how to finish it by finding myself in the middle of playing it in front of an audience.

I did manage to knock out a quick improvised blues to silence a heckler, which was fun, and which proves I can write lyrics on the moment. However, there's a difference between improvising an obviously improvised song and guessing one's way through something which looks prepared. So... I'll have to finish writing the song at home.

Losing my momentum

After a rather stressful day yesterday, I thought I might be able to go home and function well enough to do some painting. To be honest, my heart wasn't in it. I did some sanding and filling, but I ran out of energy and motivation and stopped. It's hard to believe that I'm the same person that single handedly tackled a much larger room only a couple of days ago. Still. I shall return to the task sometime soon and hopefully with more vigour. Sadly I was also in the moment a bit too much yesterday, which is why I think the day beat me. This month is a challenge for sure. However I have my first proper gig of the year tonight, and I hope I will get a handle on life from about 6pm!

Tuesday, January 8

Getting On With It

For anyone who's had the misfortune to read the last few blog entries, I apologise. They were somewhat cursory in their writing style. It was like I was just trying to get it over with, rather than make any sort of sense out of what I was writing about. I may well repeat some of the facts in the next bit as I try to make sense of the first handful of days for the year.

I finally managed to sort myself out with a copy of the Amy Winehouse album last night. This is not a major achievement. All I had to do was give Mr Asda, well Mr Walmart I suppose, a grand total of £9.77 and the disc was mine. The display in Asda promised CDs from £6.97 (a very Asda price) and the particular display with Amy's Back To Black had no individual price for it. Having said that, I didn't expect that even the massive buying power of Asda would have reduced this CD, which seems not to be for cheap anywhere - somehow they've kept the price up, which is probably the major reason why I've not bought it sooner. When I've been in supermarkets, I've known I could get it cheaper online and when I've been online, it's not been below my cheapness threshold - the threshold below which all prices seem so cheap that the process of making the decision whether I really want it seems more costly than the purchase.

So, the Amy Winehouse disc is something I've been wanting for a while but haven't actually let myself have. As a result there's been a certain amount of hankering. My hankering was finally sated last night as the bags full of shopping, largely containing the ingredients for the lasagne I was due to cook for my friend, along with a dish in which to bake the aforementioned treat, also contained Miss Winehouse, who was put on in the background as I did my focused bout of high-velocity cooking.

The process of doing some cooking, especially with a time budget, was quite rewarding. I was focusing on doing those tricky tasks, like slicing members of the onion family, or whatever, while thinking about the various pans on the go and also asking my sous chef to prepare things I would need soon. I also had half a mind on the washing up. This was more fun than it sounds. In fact, it was a huge amount of fun. Fun fun fun.

I like working at high speed. I like the challenge of intense working. It has to be stuff that is achievable and rewarding. This is one of the reasons why I like writing computer software - you're making stuff quickly. I also like writing quickly, though last night's efforts were somewhat stilted by exhaustion and an attempt to cover a lot of stuff that happened so quickly, I could barely remember any of the interesting details, if, indeed, any of the details were remotely interesting. My friend commented that my persistence and focus, preparing last night's food, were similar to how I behave when I'm rushing us to a gig where we've got to arrive just in time. I keep calm, but I'm totally tunnel visioned on the target.

This sort of behaviour can be fun. However, it can lead me into trouble. Last year, with a particular tunnel vision on an end goal, and a bunch of obstacles turning up out of the blue and a bunch of curved balls being thrown at me, I managed to stress my way into an awkward moment. However, I managed to dig myself out of that moment at just before breaking point. The technique I used was interesting - I've never used it before, but it occurred to me and I think it could be used by other people. My body was racing and things had gotten out of hand. Rather than hit rock bottom, I went with the other person involved into another room. I asked if we could step "outside the moment". I then, in the third person, related the story of what had just been happening. Well, not quite in the third person. I didn't say "Then Ashley did this". I simply told the story from the outside of it. So, having described what had happened, rather than put my own position forward or try to change the situation, I was no longer being affected by it, I was merely talking about it. This allowed me to see it from the outside and think of ways of dealing with what I had seen as an observer.

I think that's perhaps how I feel this year about some of the events of last year. Although some of the things which bothered me last year still have in them the power to upset me, I can talk about them with the distance of the arbitrary border between years. So, I could say that I was doing a job which was driving me nuts, but that was LAST YEAR. So, it's not something which I can reasonably be expected to feel right here right now. As a result of stepping outside the moment, you can be cleansed of some of the feelings.

On the stand-up stage, there's a strange combination you need of being in and outside of the moment. You need to be spontaneous and thus in the present tense when performing. However, you need to be disconnected from the insecurities and fears that can affect the performer. I think I switch between modes when I'm performing. I have the voice of my internal "director" tuning my performance from the outside as I go along. However, the good gigs involve me just letting go and seeing what happens.

Last night's performance was largely a directed one. However, I enjoyed the moments during the song as I hit the various corners of the lyrics and musical structure. It's a song I quite like doing. It has enough surprises in it to keep me interested as a performer, and I know some of the audience at last night's gig were laughing at it. It didn't make room sized laughs, but then I just went along to watch and was on stage within about 2 minutes of arriving in the room, for one song, so I hardly had chance to set the scene, let alone get up to full funny factor.

If you want to hear "Beautiful Girl In A Coma" then here is a link. It's not Amy Winehouse, but it is me.

The Amy Winehouse album is very good. It will undoubtedly get a lot of airplay in my car and on my work computer, while I try to get through the various things I need to do in the next week or two. I like the way that music can be an accompaniment to work. I had the radio on on the weekend. So, I was actually able to remember which bits of decorating I did and how long they took by using my memory of which section of the room I was when which radio programme was playing. For instance, I was painting the emulsion paint around the shelves area of the room while Richard Herring's "That Was Then This Is Now" programme was playing on Radio 2 on Saturday lunchtime. I was painting the second coat of that emulsion about 8 hours later when I managed to last an entire show's worth of Russell Brand on the same station.

I think I have a spatial element to my memory. I often remember where something was in relation to something else. Like if there's an interesting page in a book, I'll remember if it was on a left- or right-hand page.

Is this interesting?

Probably not.

Finally, it would appear that I'm going to court. Hurray. I have a date for my appearance at Rotherham Magistrates' Court. Apparently I was speeding when they took a nice picture of my car from overhead. Here was me thinking those cameras were like those ones on the rollercoaster's at Alton Towers. I had my arms in the air and I was screaming on the photo and I assumed that, when I got to the end of the M1, they would be on a big board, for sale for £4. Apparently not. Apparently, the cameras are used to help them identify if you were going too fast and, if you do, apparently it's against the law and you need to go to court.

I'm so very naive.

I'm so very sorry too. I really don't want to lose my driving licence. I shall be saying that in the court and we'll see what happens. I'm taking the train to the court. That should be fun.

2008 is the year when it's all going to happen.

By the way, this blog is now up over 2000 posts!

Monday, January 7

Can't Say It All

Quick summary of the day:

Went to work. Then rushed from work to a friend's house, some 50 or so miles from the office. We went to the supermarket, in a rush. I bought ingredients to make my signature dish - lasagne. We returned to the house, with Amy Winehouse (in CD form) and I made this dish. I've not cooked in over a year. I ended up stirring three pans simultaneously and sloshing liquid all over myself. However, it was fun. Odd that I should end up cooking in someone else's kitchen when mine is just about ready to be cooked in.

Anyway, the lasagne, despite making a number of errors along the road towards finishing it, turned out really well. I was pleased. My friend's housemates were also impressed at someone turning their kitchen into a centre of nice smells - and I don't mean my squeaky bum bum.

Then we went to see another friend.

With the time at 10.45, we rushed to a gig round the corner to see another friend, but missed her. However, I then ended up being asked if I would go on stage. The answer was not so much "yes" as "what would I sing? and do you have a guitar?". I ended up on stage as the last act, performing one song. I didn't care if the audience enjoyed it or not, I did it for the love of doing it. I do care if an audience enjoys it, but I wasn't doing the "I need you to love this" bit. I just sang my song. People laughed. It's a comedy song, so that's good.

Then I drove my friend on to the club where partying may still be going on.

Me and Amy drove home.

Not bad for a Monday night.

Sunday, January 6

And I'm Out

Woke up around 9am. I was cold and I couldn't really get myself moving. However, I was back in the room with paintbrush in hand around 10am. I'd eaten and dressed and just forced myself to get going.

I painted the ceiling and frieze again. This wasn't fun. It's a lot of effort to swing the ceiling roller around.

Then I set about painting the skirting boards and other bits of woodwork in the room, touching up some bits I'd not noticed doing a bad job of in the dark of the previous night. The bathroom got a fresh coat of gloss on its windowsills.

I finally accepted that the tumble dryer was bust and, therefore, my chances of a shower, were gone completely. The towel in the dryer was still wet from its post-purchase first wash, it would come home with me.

I stopped painting when the last section of skirting board was done. I stripped the dust sheet from the floor, vacuumed (a nice way to get crud onto fresh paintwork - D'oh!) and then brought in the bed, which I assembled.

Then I did the packing. All the DIY stuff got put away and I did a raid on my loft. There's a load of crap up there and I really do need to bring it to Reading or bin it. However, I could only be bothered to rescue my DVDs (too many CDs and I couldn't bring them all, so I left them all - rather than go looking for ones I might like). I also liberated some old sound equipment that may be useful in Reading.

I was packing the car and spotted the neighbours, so I went over to theirs and had a chat-cum-being-cooed-at-for-losing weight.

Then I drove to Leeds.

Then we had some mediterranean food.

Then I drove to Reading.

I arrived, exhausted around 1am. That was the weekend. Blimey.

I didn't manage to finish the painting I'd planned. This was due to the sheer quantity of surfaces that needed paint. I totally overestimated how much I could achieve. However, I slogged hard and achieved loads. I'm due to revisit the house again at the end of the month and I should be able to finish and re-do bits as necessary.

Saturday, January 5

A Whole Sort Of Everything

I managed to wake up reasonably early - around 9am, in fact, and get started with the decorating. I also managed to get remarkably behind with it almost immediately.

Step one was removing door furniture and then sanding every bit of woodwork in the room. This also extended to filling a crack in the wall that I'd missed the previous night and then sanding the filler of the cracks I'd filled. I also discovered a bit of ceiling which disintegrated when I put my knife near it. So I filled that with some special bodgey stuff. This won't be seen - it's behind a pelmet. No problemo.

After a lot of sanding, done by hand to reduce dust and also because I was doing cursory sanding, rather than going mental over it. I then lay the big polythene dust sheet.

If I'm honest, I should have done that first, before the dust. Never mind. In fact, thinking about it. I think it got lain about half way through the process. I did most of the sanding with it down, but not the bits where huge chunks of plaster were coming out of the ceiling. No matter.

With dust sheet down, and the room clear, I could begin the serious business of painting. I did a coat on the walls - this took me beyond lunchtime. Then I stopped. I had about 3 hours out as a friend dropped by for a coffee and I went out for a coffee with another friend.

Then I returned home and did the ceiling and the frieze. Pure brilliant white.

Then, for a change. I did the walls again.

Then I started on the gloss paint. I did the picture rail, the door, the architraves and the supports for the book shelves.

By 2am, I was ready for bed. So I went to bed. A lot of painting had been done.

Friday, January 4

Newcastle

I woke up on a spare mattress in my Newcastle house and went to work. Literally. I was working from home. A curious idea when I wasn't in my actual official home.

Anyway, I did a day in the virtual office, with lunch taken out to go and buy a couple of bits of DIY supplies and some food for the weekend from M&S. I even bought a towel to shower with, as I'd forgotten mine. Life was good.

I was due to meet some friends in town that night, but between work and going out there was time for some DIY. No chance of a shower, since I needed to wash the towel before using it for the first time - it was most fluffy.

In the couple of hours before I went out, I managed to sand down the bust windowsills in the bathroom and prime them. I also managed to reseal the bath, which had sealant which was either not working or riddled with funghi - no longer. I also used some caulk on the cracks in the kitchen wall and sealing and some filler on the big crack in the wall in the bedroom I was due to paint that weekend. Not a bad use of a couple of hours.

The night out was nice, drinks, chat, pizza, fun.

I hit the bed relatively late with a big weekend's effort ahead.

Thursday, January 3

No Slow No Snow

I didn't get delayed by traffic or weather conditions. So, I delayed myself optionally by dropping in to see a friend's mid-project house on the way up North. Very impressive. Then I headed the rest of the way to Newcastle and got a late bedtime.

Such A Day

I may have a stinking cold, but I'm getting myself organised today. So far, I managed to come into work wearing a nice hat - thus keeping more heat in. Then I started the process of dealing with the backlog of stuff that's been mounting. I accidentally bought a TV - second hand, so reasonably priced - and started discussing the possibility of a mini tour - not to be confused with a Minotaur.

What else?

I had a roasted lunch. I figure that I'm probably going to end up stuck in a ton of traffic on the way up north tonight. I may aswell do it with a full belly.

Wednesday, January 2

Hitting The Ground Running

There's no time. The walls are not closing in, but they do need painting. I own two houses, both of which I need to get rented out in order to pay for themselves. The house in Newcastle is to be 100% rented. The house in Reading should have a few tenants in it, alongside my good self. At the moment, the Reading house is still quite a way off being ready for tenants - it's not even ready for the fridge to be put in the kitchen, yet. The Newcastle house currently has 2, soon to be 1 tenant.

D'oh!

So, this week is about doing some sorting out. I've no gigs to do, which is handy, since they would definitely get in the way. The plan is this. I'm driving up North after work tomorrow night. This should be a hell of a laugh, since the Newcastle house would appear to be some 5 or so hours up the road, the wrong side of a lot of snowy weather. The plan will leave me waking up in Newcastle on Friday morning to do a day's work from "home". That's the benefit of teleworking. I think.

I have an estate agent visiting on Friday to discuss helping me out with the rental of the property. That's, at least, something reasonably helpful.

Once the weekend arrives, I get out my tools and brushes and start redecorating the one room in the house which has never been decorated ever (in the years I've owned it - coming up to 10 at the end of this year). I would also like to give the kitchen (and possibly the utility room) a fresh coat of walls and ceiling paint. Freshening up the house is good for its future as a rental property and is also good for keeping it looking good for any possible valuations that may be required.

It sounds like a good plan, but the Reading house also needs attention. So, I emailed myself a plan this afternoon. I chose 4 "hour long" tasks. I didn't know that they would each take an hour, but I knew that they wouldn't take 2 hours each, nor would they take 10 minutes each. So, I chose 4 tasks. These were:
  • Preparing the kitchen skirting boards and other woodwork for painting by applying filler
  • Refitting the bathroom toilet roll holder which I'd done incorrectly first time - filling in the holes I'd leave, and then, as an encore, filling a few similar holes
  • Sorting out some bits of ceiling and wall where either damp penetration or holes are making a mess of the paintwork - requiring the use of filler and a special sealant for protecting paint from damp
  • Fitting an architrave and creating a nice frontage for the windowsill in the top bedroom
These tasks were themed according to the nature of the tool or materials required. As a result of these tasks, and the catalogue of painting tasks planned for Newcastle, I had a B&Q trip to make between work and home. While in B&Q I managed to add a fifth impromptu task to my list.

In general, I'm trying to get to a stage where I don't stock up too much stuff from B&Q that I buy and then don't use for ages. This means that if I buy a fitting, I have to be prepared to fit it right away.

This leads me onto the difference in my attitude between living with a man housemate as landlord and when I've lived with a lady friend as a couple. As a couple, you might look at an empty section of wall and say "mm - you could put a shelf there". Then there would be a lot of deliberation, vacillation and other messing about, probably culminating in an argument in Asda, of all places. At some point in the last couple of days, while we were using the kitchen, my housemate and I agreed that a shelf might be useful above the back door, on which to put the cookery books. I like floating shelves. I was in B&Q. I bought a floating shelf of "about the right colour". I went home. I put the shelf up. When my housemate returned, there was a shelf. One two three done. That's the difference. It's a good difference. Perhaps it's a difference in my attitude, rather than anything about gender roles.

My housemate helped me with the architrave and windowsill task, mainly because I promised him we'd be using "the most dangerous machine in the house" - the mitre-cutting circular saw. It's a beauty. We also cut bevels. There was much in the way of hammering and swearing at particular misbehaving nails. Oval nails are more sympathetic to the grain of the wood, but they bend like bastards!

After working until late, I packed my car with a whole bunch of materials and tools. That was the end of a very busy day back at the grindstone.

Tuesday, January 1

Finally

To regular readers, many apologies for not contributing anything to this blog for the last 11 days or so. This is what happens when things get busy. I reserve the right, however, to contribute retrospectively, thus making this "apology" look somewhat odd.

Anyway, today is the start of a new year. Let's be honest, giving an arbitrary start point to the year is just that, arbitrary. Today should be no different to yesterday. However, given that 2007, as a recognised period of time, is the year in which I suffered a great deal of disruption to my life, centred on getting over relationships, having a house that wasn't a home, sometimes without even sanitation or heating, dealing with stress at work and generally not being happy being me, I'm rather glad that the year can be called done.

2008 will, undoubtedly, have its own problems, but it may as well be the beginning of a year in which I take everything good that came out of 2007 and make the most of it. I'd like that.

I even went out last night to celebrate the turn of the year. I had a very nice time, which is totally unlike me for New Year's eve - usually it's an anti-climax. However, the company was good and I was pleased when we collectively put 2007 to bed and brought in a new year. I believe I showed this enthusiasm by popping a party popper. Rock and/or roll.

Of course nothing is simple in my life, so my night out was in Birmingham, despite the fact that there's a 2 hour drive between there and Reading. However, the company made it all worthwhile and we left Brum at around 4.30 (myself and my housemate, whose sister's idea it was for us to go where we went) and bedtime was achieved sometime before 7am.

Today has been a day of intentionally lazing. Tomorrow there'll be a lot of work to do, apparently.

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