Sunday, December 31, 2006

Here's to the New Year...

So tonight sees 2006 come to an end and in keeping with tradition, I'll be having a quiet night in. We had a good session yesterday courtesy of several pints of Hobgoblin (from the same people who are responsible for the Father Time picture above) and a dubious "jaffa cake" concoction of vodka, tia maria and orange.

I've managed to stick to my resolution of staying off the cigarettes for another year and I did lose weight, although the bathroom scales this morning would indicate that I've managed to find it again so there's one for next year already. Other than that I've a trip to Toronto planned and I'd like to head south to St Louis again while I'm that side of the pond. There's the second tattoo design that's been in my jacket pocket for long enough and ought to be on my arm by now and I've a room full of musical equipment that deserves a bit more attention. That should be enough to keep me out of mischief for a while.

Anyway, here's wishing you all the best for 2007 and I hope that you enjoy yourselves this evening, however you choose to celebrate...

Thursday, December 28, 2006

A little entertainment...

Well that's my entertaining complete for a little while with the family all gone home again after a truly enjoyable Christmas for all. Everyone seemed pleased with their presents, I was certainly pleased with mine and they've all left with wider waists and fuller bellies than when they arrived.

Santa and Rudolph cleared their plates of sweets, mince pies, sherry, carrots and water. In fact, an empty Jack Daniels bottle mysteriously appeared at the scene, but I'll not deny the big man that.

Christmas dinner went exactly to plan and if I say so myself, turned out better than last year. Boxing Day buffet has almost gone although we did all have our traditional big cooked breakfast that morning for which I continued my on-going battle with home-made hash browns. Despite suggestions of "just go out and buy McCains", it has now become a matter of principal - how difficult can it be? Grated potato, onion a bit of seasoning; grilled, baked, or shallow fried, they never seem to come out looking right (although they actually taste ok). I suspect I'm leaving too much moisture in the potato, but I'll keep trying, refusing to give in and buy them.

The family film of choice this year was Elf which was every bit as funny as the trailer had me believe. More importantly (for Uncle Seany's benefit), it features the beautiful Zooey Deschanel who it turns out has a voice that is as enchanting as her appearance.

Continuing with the subject of entertainment, I heard something new on the car radio during the pre-Christmas to-ing and fro-ing which I feel duty bound to tell you about. It's a very talented young fella called Mika who's new single Grace Kelly is to be released next month. Difficult to describe, it's a bit of Freddie and Elton with a hint of Robbie, wrapped up in a 70s glam rock kind of sound. You can hear the full single on his MySpace site and see him sing it live here on "Later with Jules Holland". It's a great song and I'm sure he's destined for big things in 2007.

Not sure about my destiny in 2007 yet although I guess it's time to start thinking about resolutions again...

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Ho Ho Ho...

I know I wasn't planning to post anything over the festive period, but I took some time out this morning and found something that I just had to share with you all.

Most of us will have used Microsoft Word at some point and been infuriated by this little fella and his feeble attempts to help

Well here's someone who's taken it a step further:

The second to last comment from the woman at the ticket machine said it all for me...

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Merry Christmas Everyone...

A little early perhaps, but try telling that the the crowds at Tesco at 8:30 this morning. It's madness I tell you. I really pity anyone who hasn't started at all yet.

Anyway, almost everything is bought; would have been everything but for a last minute change of plan for Christmas Eve meal arrangements. A five minute return trip (ok, wishful thinking perhaps) should sort that one out after which I think I'll go into hiding until the family arrives on Saturday.

The lovely people who work for me clubbed together and bought a much appreciated bottle of Jack Daniels, the bottom of which may well provide a very good place to hide.

I suspect it will be a few days before I get back to the blog so I hope you all have an excellent Christmas (or whatever alternative holiday you choose to celebrate) and that Santa is as good to you as you deserve.

There's a little bonus greeting if you click the picture below, although you will need Windows Media Player (available here) and your sound turned up.

'ave a good 'un!


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Joy to the world...

Well certainly joy to me right now - I left work last night for the last time this year (hopefully). I'm on call for three days next week but beyond that I'm pleased to use up the last of my holidays and forget about the place for a couple of weeks.

Better still, I went out last night for my first midweek pint in a very long time and had a great time at the Christmas Acoustic Culture night at the Tap. When it's on the form that it was on last night, it's a hard night to beat; a great variety of festive music, all played live and plenty of sing-alongs.

I might manage to cram one more night in the pub before Christmas, but I'm certainly not short of things to be getting on with in the meantime...

Sunday, December 17, 2006

On the cards...

It really is a time of year for cards.

Firstly the plastic kind which are subject to all kinds of abuse and I confess I've called upon my flexible friend a couple of times already this season.

Secondly, greeting cards which are a controversial subject for me. I have always believed that the purpose of Christmas cards is to send someone your seasonal greetings by post where you wouldn't be able to tell them personally. For years I spent far too long sat at home writing endless stacks of cards with "Best Wishes, Seany", "All the Best, Seany", "Merry Christmas, Seany"; firstly to friends, then acquaintances, then people I occasionally see around the office or in the pub and finally, people I barely knew at all but "felt bad missing them out". Then because I've sent one, the recipients feel obliged to return the gesture and before you know where you are, Hallmark cards have reported record profits again.

In the pub it seems that most people are happier to receive festive cheer in a glass rather than an envelope and I'm inclined to agree with them.

At work we just make a donation of the equivalent value of a couple of boxes of cards to a local charity and it seems to make a lot more sense to me to put the money to use where someone has a genuine need for it. Surely that's what Christmas is really about.

If you want to see something really impressive to do with cards, see what this guy does with them.

Or perhaps this has all been a distraction from the fact that I've missed the last airmail posting date again...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I don't understand it...

I got to leave work early tonight (and that doesn't mean less late)
It cost nothing more than around half an hour of my time
Most of that time was spent chatting with friendly nurses
They gave me a free drink and chocolate biscuit
Best of all, there's a very good chance I saved someone's life tonight

The only disappointment was how quiet it was- what do people want?
Tonight was my 34th donation which could account for 34 lives.
Or perhaps you'd rather think of it as more than:
The top three premiership football teams?
Three cricket teams?
A couple of rugby teams?
The artists in 9 of the current top 10 albums?
(No. 9 is a male voice choir)
What about a generously sized class of schoolchildren?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not looking for praise, I just want to stress how much real difference you can make to peoples lives without considerable sacrifice on your part.

Please give it some thought and click the picture of Billy for more information or details of the next session near you.

I make no apology for posting something similar every four months, next tattoo permitting of course...

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A week is a long time...

Well it may be in politics, but the week since my last post has absolutely flown past:

Friday: I was reminded that after three weeks on the wagon, it's more than a tad irresponsible to think you can still consume alcohol at the same pace as where you left off.

Saturday: After a morning of feeling rather unwell, I was back out in the afternoon for a top up to celebrate Nick's birthday the previous day and celebrate the arrival of the oncoming festive season. All followed by a taxi back to Em & Pauls to watch Grease & sing ourselves silly until the early hours.

Sunday: Slept. Lots. Felt better than I had the morning before. Tried to enter Woja's blogday competition but it closed early with comments disabled. Belated Happy 2nd Blogday Woja if you're looking in!

Monday: Worked. Lots. Until late. Slept.

Tuesday: Worked. Lots more. Only a couple of hours over then out with European colleagues for a meal in a local hotel. Conversation was interesting but it was a serious thumbs down for the meal, service, drinks (only one coke and a mineral water), clean glasses, prices, severe lack of parking space, etc., etc.

Wednesday: Worked. Even more. Late again. Got home too late & tired to make tea (aka good excuse to ring out for pizza)

Thursday?: Plenty of work still to do. Must leave on time tomorrow though - time to give a pint of blood again. In fact, forget the thought that this last week has flown by, I can't believe it's 4 months since my last donation...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

It must be a gift...

No, not any particular talent of mine, just that I was driving home this evening struggling for ideas for blog posts and tonight, as if it were a gift from the blog gods themselves, two great excuses for a post landed, the first one quite literally on the doormat.

You see it all started at the weekend when I decided I'd finally had enough of my knob falling off. (Sorry cheap gag there for the taking). I've only had my cooker for a year and have already had to call the engineer out on control knob/ignition issues, but having paid for 5 years extra cover, I'm determined to get my value out of it. In hindsight it perhaps isn't the most finely crafted kitchen appliance in the world but the service centre staff are very helpful and prompt when required. As I only needed a replacement control knob, I suggested that they simply post one out to me to avoid them sending an engineer out (and my needing to take time off work).

It arrived today and I couldn't help but chuckle when I read the label (click on picture for clearer view).

Of course, now I'm worried that by installing the item myself, I may have invalidated my warranty...

So with supper duly prepared in my newly-repaired oven, I sat in front of the TV just in time to watch Nigella Bites on UKTV

Ahem. There are a couple of things I ought to point out here (now you're making up your own). Firstly, my interests in Nigella are not [entirely] as you may think - I genuinely enjoy her relaxed style of cooking and the fact that she cooks the sort of food we all like to eat. Secondly, for some reason my cable TV provider is transmitting audio descriptions for the visually impaired on her programme and I can't switch it off.

OK, not terribly interesting in itself, but the guy doing the descriptions clearly had a "less than culinary" interest in Ms Lawson and was hysterical to listen to:

"The luscious Nigella walks across the kitchen..."
"Earthy Nigella roughly chops herbs with a mezzaluna..."
"Curvy Nigella sashays towards the fridge..."
"Nigella casts a come hither look towards the camera..."
"Delicious Nigella takes the sticky mixture in her elegantly manicured hands..."

All genuine quotes, I promise. Now let's not kid ourselves, I'm sure that Nigella is perfectly aware of her ample charms and maybe does flirt with the viewer, but the commentary was bordering on audio soft porn.

Whatever that sounds like...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

In search of perfection...

At last I finally remembered to tune into BBC2 at 8:30 on a Tuesday night to marvel at Heston Blumenthal and his unique experimental culinary style. I'd heard plenty about the guy and his revolutionary menu at the Fat Duck, but to hear his down to earth approach, I would never have guessed who he was.

Tonight we were promised a roast chicken dinner and I sat, rivetted to the screen wondering at which point he would load it into a tumble drier with a few shovels of dry straw and a handful of lit fireworks.

In fact, on the surface he didn't appear to do anything overly extraordinary beyond taking rather longer than usual, swapping the chicken to and fro from boiling to iced water then roasting it at a lower temperature.

All of that said, he explained the logic behind everything he did with crystal clarity and a real passion for what he was doing and the end result looked a million times more impressive than anything that will ever leave my kitchen. Count me in as a fan there then.

So next week, I'll have the recorder set just in case I'm not home and I'll bet it's the last one in the series...

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The weather outside is frightful...

And so ends an afternoon of festive fun. Having finished wrapping the presents last night, today's contribution was to get the decorations up. A few trimmings and ornaments here and there, the tree's up in the hallway and there's a total of six sets of lights (all inside thank you very much) including the James and the Snowman ones that died last year. On reflection, I think I could be wise to leave that set switched off until the family arrives on the 23rd.

Everything is prepared for next week and I could almost be naive enough to think that ouside of work there won't be much to do for a few days. Except for the fact that there's a six foot fence outside the back door that's currently being thrown around like a rag doll...

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Shop til you drop...

With little free time on weekday evenings right now and still inspired by my achievements last weekend, today I tackled the food shop.

Another Friday night off the ale (!) meant I was up, showered, dressed and out to the local Tesco by 8:00 this morning in order to beat the crowds. At least you would have thought so - heaven knows how busy they must be this afternoon.

I approached it this year in my typically nerdy fashion; I'd prepared meal plans for the family's stay over Christmas and armed with the trusty shopping list, I was determined not to be as irrational and impulsive as last year.

With a trolley full to the brim, I was relieved that the young lady at the checkout was much more efficient at helping me pack than last year's muppet understudy. I wasn't particularly shopping to a budget, but that still didn't stop my thinking "no, I must have misheard" as I handed over the clubcard and flexible friend, only to be assured that I hadn't. Time to adopt my best fake "yeah, I knew it would be about that much" expression.

Back home then to wonder where on earth I was going to put this little lot:

For even greater comedy value, when I did get home I was delighted to see my clubcard vouchers still sat on the mantlepiece which would have saved me a few quid. What I hadn't realised until talking to Little Sis this morning, was that the vouchers have a ridiculously long expiry date on them and following my subsequent trawl through the pile of papers to file/shred, I've found over thirty quids worth!

Clearly, I won't need any food until the New Year (except for a few fresh bits) so I might have to buy a load of silly festive stuff instead. Like some more beer maybe...