EDitorial ± 31-Mar-2003

Life During Wartime

Careless talk costs lives. Be like dad: keep mum. It's a long way to Tipperary. Tally-ho! Dig for victory. Your country needs you. It looks like you will see Berlin before I do. Put that light out!

You may not have noticed, but there's a war going on. And war, a bit like love, changes everything. Attached are some top-of-the-head ramblings:

  • forces from the "coalition" were reported to have reached the outskirts of Basra earlier today, but were disappointed to find the park-and-ride closed due to bomb damage
  • vital to maintaining any semblance of cleanliness in the desert is a supply of baby wipes
  • any mention of the port of Umm Qasr goes straight round my reflex arch and causes me to quietly sing the Oom-Pah-Pah song from Oliver
  • troops are always 50 miles south of Baghdad
  • Guardian mentioned the Gulf War Drinking Game: eg have a sip every time Bush uses the term "cradle of democracy" (cf Withnail & I)

War on TV   More war on TV
Yet more war on TV   And still more war on TV
A bit more war on TV   Finally some war on TV

  • used to be lots of A10 Thunderbolt aircraft stationed here in sleepy East Anglia; now, like a JG Ballard short story, the base is abandoned and the runway covered with weeds
  • gotta have a lyric:
    This ain't no party, this ain't no disco
    This ain't no fooling around
    — Talking Heads, Life During Wartime
  • a handy cut-out-and-keep super-succinct timeline from the BBC's website:
    • March 20 - war begins
    • March 21 - war protests / UK forces
    • March 22 - bombing
    • March 23 - resistance
    • March 24 - Iraq suffers
    • March 25 - advances
    • March 26 - market hit
    • March 27 - UK forces / a week on / protests
    • March 28 - anguish
    • March 29 - market blast
  • thank goodness for local news - no Iraq heading on the Evening Star posters this evening, only the fact that George Burley has landed the manager's job at Derby County
  • I'm told that Saddam has his breakfast when Tariq Aziz

Can't be long until VI Day, can it?

Be seeing you!


EDitorial ± 24-Mar-2003

Total Cycle Path

In EDitorial number 3 (from October 2000, a world that knew nothing of Gareth Gates, Wayne Rooney and shock 'n' awe), and already showing clear signs of running out of ideas, I started with the words "I bike to work". Which was true, and which continued to be the case for the next 26 months, come rain or snow or ice or shine. Apart from when the mean machine was at the mender's to replace all the rusty bits.

I was the easy rider: the trip took all of ten minutes door-to-door, and that included time to fumble with my over-the-top Krypton lock. Apart from the time I arrived in the cycle park area to discover that my twenty quid security device had fallen off en route. Bottoms.

Biking to this side of the town centre was lemon squeezy. However, new job, new office seven or so miles out of town. Cue the car. Hop in, on goes Radio 5 Live, foot down, see ya see ya b-b-be ya.

St Matthew's Parish, Bury 25, Ipswich 1   J Garrett, Iron Founder, St Margaret's, Ipswich, 1818: Rushmere to London 71, Yarmouth 52, Woodbridge 5, Ipswich 2, Colchester 20   Kesgrave to London 72, Yarmouth 51, Ipswich 3
Milestones passed biking to Martlesham

In my decade of previous permanent employment at the ultra-tech boffinville of BT Labs, I'd travelled by pedal-power, on average, less than once a year. Have you seen that Valley Road incline? Goes on forever!

Finally, Friday just gone, time had come to re-apply some 3-in-1 (to the chain and my knees) and re-don the silver go-faster cycling helmet. First half of the journey was the worst part: round the unforgiving ring road, all too aware of the gradients and road surfaces that you happily ignore in the motor.

Second half was great! Weaving its way through the estate that's sprung up in the last ten years is a series of purpose-built cycle paths, vaguely reminiscent of the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway's route down to Dungeness. There are underpasses, narrow lanes, a gravelly bit to worry non-mountain bike riders, and even a 90 degree bend between six-foot high fencing. Top fun.

If You Take Away With You Nothing Else

Go to work on a bike:

  1. you'll feel better, eventually, once the sweating subsides
  2. two words: cyclists dismount - I think not
  3. very old joke: Norse god of thunder is out riding across the plains, and shouts to the sky, "I'm Thor!" - horse turns around and says, "You forgot your thaddle, thilly"

Be seeing you!


EDitorial ± 17-Mar-2003

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Badgers

Alternative (not alternate, note, 'cos we're not quite the 51st state yet) titles for this week's musings included King Of The Hill - I sell propane and propane accessories - and The Trouble With Harry - a minor Hitchcock film about a corpse, most noteworthy for being Shirley "Crystal" MacLaine's debut. If my chosen title means nothing to you, I'd strongly advise following the link on the right.

Last night Mr Harry Hill, direct from ITV1's Harry Hill Show, was good enough to pay sleepy Ipswich a visit. And the royal we was there. Pre-show announcements included:

  • souvenir programmes were available and "priced according to the prosperity of the region"
  • no badgers would be appearing since they were busy forming a badger shield around an Iraqi palace

Oddly, the last time I was in the Corn Exchange (a venue for the exchange of corn, explained HH) was for a kids' show called Bodger & Badger, featuring a talking nocturnal mammal with a passion for mashed potato. I took my eldest along, you understand. Fortunately yesterday's crowd were not to be disappointed since a martial arts badger popped up late in the performance to aid the karate demonstration.

Harry has recently changed his signature rendering all previous autographs invalid

Harry Hill's humour covers many bases, from Steven Wright-style one-liners (I went to see some go-go dancers but they'd gone), through clever running gags (there's one involving Madonna, Missy Elliott and Lil' Kim), to outright slapstick (being chased by his drummer having knocked out the pianist). I'd guess, as well, that there'll always be comparisons with Vic & Bob with some of the more way-out material. Funny that both acts have left "alternative" Channel 4 to be embraced by the more mainstream BBC2 and ITV.

A sweaty first hour included baiting any member of the audience on the first couple of rows with facial hair or glasses. Pointedly the guy with the beard who'd been picked on didn't return after the interval. There was also a killer joke in semaphore; words can't convey. Harry stormed straight into a David Bowie medley to kick off the second half, with all the hits: Ashes To Ashes, Ziggy Stardust, A Mars A Day, you name it.

All this and completely gratuitous mention of the A12 too.

If You Take Away With You Nothing Else

Other highlights:

  1. Stouffer made a welcome appearance courtesy of Harry's Bernie Clifton-esque arm device, and did an impromptu version of Liam Lynch's Whatever
  2. explaining the difference between overarm (hostile: squash ball!) and underarm (friendly: shuttlecock!)
  3. amusing Afghanistan crack: he was hoping the Northern Alliance would triumph since that was who he had his mortgage with

Be seeing you!


EDitorial ± 10-Mar-2003

Noise Reduction

Over the past few years I've been accused more than once of being stuck in the 1980s. I'd deny it if it wasn't true, but then anyone's teenage years are incredibly formative (Concise Oxford: "having a profound influence on a person's development"), surely. Locations, films, dress sense (!) and, last but by no means least, music, all play a big part.

So, Sunday early evening, throwing together some chilli (definitive '80s meal?), and, playing on the stereo, my favourite record, ever. Originally released in 1982, here's the title:

Lettering from the cover of The Golden Age Of Wireless

And here's who recorded it:

Cool name

Any the wiser? In the early '80s, watching telly after school, possibly Magpie, I remember seeing this eccentric looking bloke demonstrating his new Fairlight synthesizer. Included was a short clip from a video to promote his new single, a catchy little number called She Blinded Me With Science, with a cameo appearance by Dr Magnus Pyke (ask your dad).

Around that time Channel 4 started. Each week they'd show a long-ish video by a band of the moment - there was ABC's Mantrap, an Ultravox concert film, plus Live Wireless by Thomas Dolby, that quirky chap with the synths. There was footage of him with his backing band, and occasional cutaways to a backstage smoking projectionist, also played by Mr Dolby. It was oddly compelling. Plus he had that look: white suit, neat hair, little specs.

Thomas Dolby pictured on the cover of The Golden Age...

When I finally got hold of his debut LP, The Golden Age Of Wireless, I was totally hooked. Top tunes, weird noises, unconventional lyrics. Closing track was called "Cloudburst At Shingle Street", the name of a tiny place up on the desolate Suffolk coast. Little 'sis, also a fan, later found out that Thomas Dolby owned a house there, though he's been based in the US for years now.

Other good reasons to love him:

  • follow-up album, The Flat Earth, was also great
  • born in Cairo, a cool fact
  • he produced Prefab Sprout's fab Steve McQueen album
  • when Davie Bowie did Live Aid, Mr Dolby played keyboards
  • he was visited by Adam & Joe, who are obviously big fans

Two last things:

  1. I spent some time working in Glasgow in the early '90s; on my drive to Stansted I'd always listen to Flying North, especially for the lyric "down comes the landing gear, up goes a useless prayer"
  2. managed, through ebay, to get a copy of that long-deleted Live Wireless VHS tape about 18 months ago - worth every penny

Be seeing you!


EDitorial ± 5-Mar-2003

It's Good To Work

Fret no more. Despite that brave face you were adopting - the word stoic springs to mind - deep down you were beginning to worry about little ol' me's extended sabbatical, living in the land of Yosser Hughes (go on, gizza job). Concern yourself no longer, 'cos I'm done resting: as of this week I am re-turn-ed to employment.

I didn't foresee that when I jauntily left my former employer back in early December, it would be nearly Pancake Day before I worked again. But thanks to a friend-of-a-friend at a locally based major telecommunications company, the one that brought you Bob Hoskins, Maureen Lipman and Busby, my ninety days & nights in the wilderness are over.

The results produced so far have been of a very high quality for any person of his level, let alone someone of less than one years experience. Ed also works quickly. This applies to both code and documentation produced.

Actually, I've been here before. Those grainy scans are extracts from my very first appraisal in May 1988, having joined the mighty corporate behemoth straight from college in September 1987. That, in business speak, was my "substantive appointment date", coinciding with Rick Astley topping the charts. All together now: never gonna make you cry, never gonna say goodbye.

Ed has fit [sic] into the team well. He is a liked member of the team, and is becoming respected technically.

My seven year itch happened after ten whole years, and I plucked up the courage to leave in late 1997. Now, back at the same campus-type site after five and a bit years away, some things have inevitably changed:

  • a handful of futuristic buildings have sprung up with designs ripped from Moonbase Alpha,
  • there's a soothing water feature like Ground Force gone mad,
  • all offices are named after constellations,
  • and the management have been thoughtful enough to set up a new coffee bar to compensate for not being near the town centre

Ed has settled down well since starting work in BT. The main thing that he now requires is more experience, and a wide base of knowledge. I am sure that Ed will progress from strength to strength, in fact the overall assessment was border-line between the top two marks.

On the other hand, to quote Talking Heads, it's "same as it ever was". Already bumped into half-a-dozen or more ex-colleagues, and it took all of five minutes to catch up, around one minute per year. Also, it transpired that the employee number I'd been given over the phone this morning wasn't quite right, being my original one from '97.

Must get to bed soon, since my body clock is out of kilter. It happens that my new colleagues start the working day at 8am, and therefore so do I. Which comes as a shock to someone used to getting in around 9.15am. Feels like I'm working on central European time.

Au revoir!