Wednesday, 17 September 2014

My musical take on the Scottish Referendum









Any other suggestions?

The United Kingdom is a powerhouse on the world stage. Our athletes rake in medals at the Olympics, and in particular our boxers and martial artists have succeeded brilliantly in recent years- Scots won 7 out of 29 gold medals for Team GB in the 2012 London Olympics. Their whisky industry has a £4 billion turnover. Yet as it stands, the UK is already the 22nd smallest country in the world.

Our armed forces are and always have been one of the best in the world. Losing Scotland would mean losing not a third but HALF of our military might. Don't boot yourself out of NATO, guys. 

Great Britain is stronger together. Please keep it that way.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Absolute drunken hysteria in Newcastle


Went to Geordie Land for a stag do. Started in Florita's bar (recommended)





We had a VIP table booked in House of Smith next door, a smart, classy club featuring stage shows including fire-breathers and a zip-wiring dwarf in a cape. We booked a VIP booth, with table service provided by the lovely Christie


The only downside was drunkenly pouring Woodford Reserve into my eye.














We were (or, more “I was”) too wasted to get into Lap dancing club Blue Velvet, where the doorman told us we'd missed local model / page 3 girl / famous-on-twitter person Chelsea Ferguson

Saturday: we dressed the stag in a gimp suit and took him through the city from pub to pub, parents shielding their children's eyes as we led him through the high streets. We sat him on a park bench next to a tramp, who woke up in a state of paralysed terror, the whole scene making a great photo. We settled in Players, a male-orientated sports bar where short-but-big-boobed girls in Newcastle football tops danced on podiums. The DJ unceremoniously bollocked me over the mic for taking this picture


It took me a second to realise I was the “Cliff Richard” he was referring to, and that everyone in the bar was staring at me. It's not that kind of bar, if you get me. Suffice to say, I did not pull in here.

We sat the stag in the “dentist's chair” and plied him with booze, cream and cranberry juice. He was a warrior and skulled the lot of it.


(Not our stag)

There was a refrigerated metal bar fixed into the floor on supports, coupled with an LCD display. The DJ was challenging people to hang off the bar, testing their grip strength. I managed 1 minute 14, better than some.

We'd scouted out a row of trendy bars for the evening. I went on soft drinks from hereon in as the previous night had hit me hard. We started with Madame Koo


where old-skool dance set the scene, and rolled on to Perdu


where I got stalked by some weird Liza Minnelli lookalike. I recommend Perdu but I was out of steam by the time we got there.

So, Newcastle: the clubs are smart, the people are friendly and the women are damned good-looking. For away legs it's worth trying.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

What Isn't Online?


Instagram and Facebook now have a popular trend in common: #tbt, otherwise known as Throwback Thursday. Each week millions of people will dig out their old pictures to upload to social media and embarrass their friends, relatives, but mostly themselves.

The #tbt trend, however, can be really helpful for encouraging people to upload more than old pictures of themselves. Every piece of contemporary information- every current news topic, every photograph shot today, will more than likely be uploaded to the net within hours of its creation. Older material, however, may not have been and hence wouldn't have been unless someone decides to. Whether it's an old article from a newspaper, a photo, a painting or something shot on VHS-C back in 1998- there could be something in a corner cupboard or attic that might interest or assist someone somewhere in the online world.

The #tbt trend is great for encouraging web users to dig around and find archive material, whether it's Leeds Rhinos captain Kevin Sinfield playing Joseph in a school play, or Mark Zuckerberg in 2005, describing his new application called “The Facebook”  . (Not that the Zuckerberg video was necessarily attached to the #tbt trend, but you see what I mean.)

The majority of retro finds, like the majority of internet content of any age, won't be particularly important. But it doesn't cost anything to put it out there, and once in a while somebody is going to unearth a gem.

One organisation that has uploaded more than a few gems- an entire goldmine of archive footage- is British Pathe. Their Youtube account has more than 85,000 videos featuring funerals, wars, weddings, disasters and plenty more besides. I know nothing about digitising film reels, but old film footage is a fascinating contribution to the web. History nerds could spend their life on Pathe's Youtube page. Other hoarders of footage may soon follow suit and share what they have.

Why not join me and millions of others in digging out retro material every Thursday? You just don't know what people might want to see...

Monday, 1 September 2014

So.

I want to show you something. It may mean nothing to you… it may not. I don't know. I don't know anymore.
-Ricky Roma (Al Pacino), Glengarry Glen Ross

GGR is one movie you need to see. Al Pacino. Alec Baldwin. Ed Harris, the director guy from The Truman Show. Kevin Spacey. Jonathan Pryce. Jack Lemmon. Alan Arkin, the psychiatrist from Grosse Point Blank. It's a masterpiece in acting.

Likewise, I have no idea myself whether what I'm about to show you will mean anything, but show you I will.

Here's my Ice Bucket Challenge video.


Continuing the Throwback Thursday online trend, I dug out not a picture but a cutting from a university newspaper that I was featured in 11 years ago. This blind date article appeared in Student Direct, the university newspaper. Check out how she graded me!


Celebrity gossip email Popbitch linked to my blog after years of me sending them tidbits. “Kevin Sinfield Playing Joseph” was intriguing enough to get linked up, raking in over 6400 hits, smashing the whole blog past the 300K page view mark. I'm very happy about this. Whether Sinfield MBE himself is equally pleased by it, no word yet. Strangely, a matter of days after this was published, Sinfield announced his retirement from international Rugby. I deny all accusations.

I also went on a stag do to Newcastle. Full post to follow. Like Roma, I don't know any more.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Doing the Splits with Arnold Schwarzenegger


Earlier this month I spent some time practicing flexibility in my lower body. I did this whilst reading the shortest book in a huge pile of books that I haven't got around to reading yet. This book was the James Bond novel On Her Majesty's Secret Service. 

I made a fair bit of progress with the splits, although it will take some time before I have Van-Damme-like agility.

 

Well, you never know when it'll be handy, do you? Hence, I'm going to dive straight back into flexibility- only this time I'll turn to another muscle-bound action-movie icon. The largest book in my to-read pile is Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story, the autobiography of Arnold Schwarzenegger. I found it in The Works bookshop for £2. Bargain!


20 minutes or so a night should set me in good stead.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Gammon and Parsley Sauce


One of the things I find difficult to convey to people is that when you have memory difficulties, it isn't just “forgetting things” that is the problem- it's sometimes plain “not thinking of things in the first place”. This particularly happens when there are a number of stages to a set task like, for instance, cooking a meal.

My advice if you're in the same mental boat as me: read the instructions from beginning to end before you go to the shop. You'll notice that not every cookbook author thinks through what they're instructing. In their book The Hairy Dieters, Si King and Dave Myers serve their gammon with potatoes- a staple part of most healthy meals- but as they didn't include it in the ingredients list, I didn't write it down. They mention veg right at the end of the recipe, so I bunged on some frozen veg, meaning I had to turn the heat right down on the gammon and simmer it for a ridiculously long time.

The recipe serves 4, but as I was eating alone I figured I could half that and eat it over 2 days. That didn't happen. I halved it and mullered the lot, drowning the gammon in sauce.

The recipe recommends serving with fresh parsley. Tesco's parsley comes in a packet that I knew I wouldn't get through, so I bought a pot of the dried herb and sprinkled that on. Probably not as healthy.

I'd recommend not being a tight bastard and not buying value gammon from Tesco. You'll just end up cutting off the stringy fat. You get what you pay for.

After all that, though, the meat and the sauce tasted quite nice.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Doing the Splits with James Bond

This month I decided to work on flexibility. I wanted to attempt the splits over the course of a few days, and whilst sat with my legs out and open in front of me. I also wanted to get some reading done. I picked out the smallest book out of a pile of unread books: On Her Majesty's Secret Service, a James Bond novel by Ian Fleming.

I've read a couple of Bond books, so I knew what I was in for. And I've seen the dodgy movie adaptation starring the forgettable George Lazenby.


More of the same from Fleming: a professional killer, heartless and chauvinist, tries to look after a beautiful but reckless young woman under orders of her gangster father. She leads him to a criminal mastermind who threatens the world. It's an entertaining read, though, and more believable than a few others. It's also the book in which we see Bond's icy persona- unlike the backdrop of the wintertime Alps- start to melt.

To do this project properly, you will need a doorway with enough wall space on either side of it to place your feet. Sit with your knees straight and feet apart, point your thumbs down and grip on to the door frame. You'll also need a cushion under your backside unless you have an incredibly thick, soft carpet. Wear socks so your feet slide against the gloss of the skirting board. Butt-scoot in as your flexibility increases.

I started at 150cm (4'11) between my heels- the exact distance that I ended up with the last time I attempted the splits. This time I stretched to 158cm (5'2) at the peak of my ability. This was maybe half way through the book. So. If I can stretch 8cm every 250 pages (the length of On Her Majesty's Secret Service), reading another book the same size would give me- in theory- the extra 8cm (3 inches) I need to do the splits fully. But only if I continue practicing with no break...