Tom Baker

Richard mentioned my recent TV post, and covered one of the shows which I didn’t, but which I should have; Little Britain

I wasn’t keen on the previous Rock Profiles” show that Matt Lucas did, but “Little Britain” is wonderful. I’m particularly fond of the narration done by Tom Baker, which is completely off the wall and bizarre.

Tom Baker is an interesting character. For years after finishing his stint as Doctor Who, he’d have nothing to do with the show, but more recently (well, the last 10 or so years) has softened to the love that fans have for his portrayal of the Doctor.

Tom Baker

He’s also written a very peculiar book, called The Boy Who Kicked Pigs.It’s styled as a book for children, but has many knowing asides, and as the story proceeds it becomes darker and more twisted, with some very gruesome bits. It’s quite a short book, and every other page is taken up by an illustration.
Very interesting and very, very funny.

He also wrote an autobiography Who On Earth Is Tom Baker (clever title, huh?) which sadly seems to be out of print. I’ve heard that it’s well worth getting hold of so I’ll see if I can hunt a copy down.

I once had the pleasure of meeting Tom, at a signing for a Doctor Who DVD, and he was a very friendly and BIG man. As Richard mentions, he was also in Black Adder, Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) and has probably done more advert voice-overs than anyone else.

A funny, great and interesting man; a national treasure, in fact.

And he’s got his own website – Tom Baker

I’m A Winner


I entered a competition to win copies of the two new Was (Not Was) releases from “ZE Records and apparently I won. Hurrah! I had, however, already ordered copies from which have now arrived. I think I know someone who’d appreciate the other copies though (when they arrive).

“Shameless” finished its first series with an excellent episode based around Frank (David Threlfall pretending to be dead in order to escape his debts. I know a few people who should probably consider that.

Next week, in the place of Shameless, we have No Angels which has been very heavily trailed by C4 Let’s hope it lives up to the trailers which have been pretty funny. It’s being called a drama, just as Shameless was, but from the trailers it looks to be funny.

For those who missed Shameless, it’s being shown again on C4 at 11.05 on Tuesdays starting next week, straight after “No Angels”.

The BBC has been heavily trailing a few shows too, including Hustle and Vic and Bob’s Catterick Both have these have been weak at best, and the constant trails are very wearisome. The BBC would be better putting more effort into promoting 15 Storeys High the third episode of the second series airs on BBC 3 at 11pm tonight. The first series is available on DVD and is well worth catching up with.

Painted a few bits of wall and ceiling yesterday, need to do another coat today, and buy some more paint (got the wrong sort for one room, how annoying is that!)

TV and decorating… I need to get out more!

Weekend in Cleethorpes

No blog post in ages, sorry about that. We’ve been away for a few days.

On Friday, we went to the Business Design Centre in Islington to attend the Independent Travel World show. The show was okay, not terribly exciting but we picked up some brochures for ideas etc. After lunch there, we caught the train from King’s Cross to Cleethorpes to visit my parents. We’ve not been up to Cleethorpes since the wedding, as we had only just returned from Australia at Christmas when we’d usually make a visit.

Saturday was spent looking round the shops in Grimsby, including our traditional visit to TK Maxx . I didn’t spent much there this time, just bought a pair of zip-off Crag Hopper travel trousers. They’re mosquito repellant (like most of the Crag Hopper stuff) so should be useful on the travels.

After lunch on Sunday we headed off to Cleethorpes beach for a walk. It was pretty cold out there and as we walked it started to snow and hail, with the wind whipping the hail horizontally into your face as you walk along. Refreshing, is the word, I believe. The pictures I took on Cleethorpes beach don’t really convey quite how bleak it was.

Cleethorpes - It's bracing

On returning home to Brixton (the trains gave us very few problems for a change), we found that the wedding photos I’d sent off last week had arrived back. They’re taken from the disposable cameras we had on the table at the wedding reception. I’ve filtered through and put the best of these additional wedding photos online.

Happy Couple

Lick Clean By Unicorns Only

Washing Instructions: A mystery if there ever was one.

Why is it that 95% of men’s clothes can be machine-washed, tumble-dried and generally beaten with a stick, whereas 95% of women’s clothes are “Dry Clean Only”, or at very best, hand-wash only. You can never tumble dry any of it. The other 5% of women’s clothes have the aforementioned “To Be Licked Clean By Unicorns Only” label.

Vic once bought a burgundy velvet hat. You know, “hat”, goes on your head, sort of thing. “Do Not Get Wet” were the instructions inside. So if you’re wearing the hat, and it starts to rain, you’re supposed to take it off? Great! As for washing the hat, fuhgedaboudit. There’s probably a market for soluble raincoats if you stick a “Coast” label on ’em.

Why do I keep all this stuff?

Going through my old gallery a few days ago I realised that a load of the pictures on there were just clutter.

I had a page of pictures of an ex-girlfriend, pictures from the Bravo TV Dolls House webcam site, poor quality photos from a holiday in 1999.

I cleaned them out as I never look at them myself, and I doubt anyone else is interested either. Not that any of the rest of it is of much interest to other people anyway.

Why had I kept them? Some kind of insecurity about losing hold of the past, possibly. Frankly, the past wasn’t always that great, so better to let it go.

Memories will stay even if the digital images go away, and I’ll keep a lot of my old pictures as they have good memories, and some provide a useful way of people who knew me, finding me on the net.

My flat does tend to have rather a lot of clutter too. Old t-shirts from gigs that I really enjoyed, vinyl records that I never play, clothes that I don’t wear, videos that I never watch and books that I never read. I suppose that’s what ebay is for… to transfer some of this clutter into other people’s lives.

I’d really like to get by with only the stuff I really need (no one really needs five PDAs), but it’s such a wrench to get rid of things.

Maybe the whole “selling up and travelling” thing will break me of my hoarding habits.

I’ll certainly have to be careful about what goes into my rucksack. Electronic gizmos seem to be one area of concern:

* MP3 player spare battery and charger
* Digital Camera and charger
* PDA and charger
* Memory Stick USB adapter
* Gameboy SP games and charger

Naturally, every manufacturer makes their power connector different; only the MP3 player has anything like a standard connector on it, so I have to take a charger for each item. Fortunately, many now have chargers that connect to a 2-way figue-8 power cable, so I’ll be able to change plugs easily.

I suppose I should probably take some clothes, books and “useful items” (torches, Swiss Army penknife etc) as well.

Beer and Food

Two of my favourite things.

On Friday evening, four of us went to the Battersea Beer Festival in the Grand Hall next to Battersea Arts Centre Although it was the last night of the festival there was still a wide selection of beers to try out. Unfortunately the cider (favoured by the ladies in the party) ran out quite early, but there were enough light beers available to keep everyone rather happy for the evening. As far as I can remember, I tried Sulwath Galloway Gold Grand Union Old Ale Ballards Trotton Ale Dark Star Hophead and a cider which I don’t recall the name of. Foodwise, I had an excellent meal of mutton with olives and cider, with some chips.

Everyone seemed to have a great time, and the atmosphere was really relaxed. It wasn’t as manically busy as the Great British Beer Festival, but still big enough and busy enough to have a bit of a buzz. The great thing about beer festivals, is that they are completely unpretentious. No one is out to impress people with their job, money or clothes. No one is there on the pull. The next London beer festival would appear to be the 2004 London Drinker Beer & Cider Festival on 17th-19th March.

For Valentine’s Day, Vic booked us into a restaurant in Islington called Morgan M”. It’s had very good reviews from “The Guardian The Independent London Eating and The Times For Valentine’s Day they were offering a special 6 course menu for £48 per person. Obviously, that isn’t inexpensive, but we don’t go out to posh restaurants that often so we thought we’d give it a go.

The restaurant is on Liverpool Road in Islington, so we got the Tube to Highbury and Islington and walked up from there. We arrived for our booking at 6pm, and the restuarant was still quite empty. The tables were a little too close together for Valentine’s Day, so that you could eavesdrop on your neighbours should you want to.

We chose the option of a glass of the recommended wines with the second, third and fourth courses. The wine was £6.50 per glass.

After an optional aperitif of champagne with strawberry coulis, the first course arrived. We were a little surprised to have a plate containing a single bean, a dab of sauce and a few strands of grated carrot placed in front of us. Fortunately this was quickly covered with a warm bean soup which turned out to be very pleasant.

Next came foie gras with fig caviar (or fig sauce as we might call it) on toasted brioche. Nice enough, but I’m not a big fan of foie gras (even less so of the alternative which was seafood). This was accompanied by a glass of sweet white wine which complemented it nicely.

Two down, four to go. The third course was seared sea bass with lobster on spinach and potato puree. This was very well presented (as were all the dishes) and tasted wonderful. The fish was beautifully cooked and the dish was accompanied by a very well-suited glass of chillled Chablis.

Onto the main meat course. This was slices of venison, topped with a ravioli of hare on spiced red cabbage with chestnuts, chestnut puree and a slice of spiced apple. This was definitely my favourite dish, the venison was beautifully tender and the flavours all went together tremendously well. A glass of red wine (I forget which) helped wash this all down.

For dessert, Vic had opted for an amazing chocolate concoction of baked pudding with hot chocolate sauce inside, and a gorgeous caramel ice cream. I went for a Blueberry souffle with a blackcurrant sorbet. Perfectly light and delicious, I’d definitely recommend anyone who gets the chance should try it.

Petit Fours followed, and we opted for a couple of additional espresso’s to finish off. Although there were a lot of courses, all of them were fairly small so that you didn’t feel you were struggling to complete any of it. A wonderful mixture of flavours, textures and food, all served in a relaxed but smart dining room. The usual prices are quite a bit lower than the Valentine’s special, but you do have to book early (as much as a couple of weeks, I believe).

Country Girl

Back in the days of the Telecom Gold Noticebd there was a user on there who named herself “Country Girl”. She was a deaf-blind girl who lived in Peterborough and used a braille-based system to read the messages. Her real name, at the time, was Julia Gates, and she was certainly a feisty one. Julia always held her own, both on the board and in real-life at the many eye-ball meets we had.

Around that time, I was living with a girl (Kirsteen) who worked for Sense a deaf-blind charity, and Julia came to stay with us before an appearance on BBC’s Tomorrow’s World programme. In order to give Kirsteen a break, I spent the evening chatting with Julia. Chatting involved spelling out each word you wanted to say, by touching different parts of Julia’s hand It must have been incredibly frustrating for Julia to put up with my fumbled attempts at finger-spelling, but she was very good about it and we had a good evening.

Several months later Julia became pregnant, and Kirsteen helped out with the translating at the birth (something which made my evening of finger-spelling seem like a walk in the park, I’m sure). There was a TV programme made about Julia, her pregnancy and the birth, called “Julia’s Baby”. A year or so later, a follow up was made to show how she had got on.

Before that, Kirsteen and I had gone out separate ways, and I lost track of Julia.

Today, I used the magic that is Google to find out what had happened since and here are the results.

She’s now Mrs Julia Kimbell, and still living near Peterborough, with her husband and 3 children. She writes a regular column, “Julia’s Jottings” in “Our Special”, an American braille magazine written by and for blind women. There is a sample issue online (search the page for “Peterborough” for Julia’s column). Her email address is on there too. Last year, Julia completed the London Marathon, which you must admit is pretty impressive! There’s also an article from The Times Educational Supplement about Julia visiting a school in Peterborough.

Another deaf-blind girl used the Noticebd. Her name was Lauren Revell, and she later married and became Lauren Cooper. Unfortunately, I can’t remember her online name, maybe someone else could remind me? I helped her a little bit setting up a bulletin board in the early 90’s but hadn’t kept in touch.

While looking up Julia, I found some info about Lauren. Lauren has a website hosted at the ISP I used to work at, but that was last updated in 1997. Digging further I found a collection of poems some by Lauren, along with a page indicating that Lauren had passed away. Eventually I found a page on a solicitor’s website about the inquest into Lauren’s death. It makes very sad reading; she died on 12th May 1999, from very extreme brain damage.

It’s great to hear that Julia’s doing so well, but sad to hear about Lauren. Julia has certainly had a lot of hard times and trials, but circumstance and life obviously didn’t play in Lauren’s favour.

I’ve been very lucky.

Apple to open Store in London

The Times has a story that Apple will finally be opening an Apple Store in London. The store will be on Regent Street in the West End, and should be open in time for Christmas.

It’s about time Apple started opening stores in Europe, especially given that 17% of iPods sold over Xmas were sold in the UK.

At the moment, the best we get is the Micro Anvika dedicated Apple shop, and John Lewis and neither do a lot of promotion. The Apple Centres are almost invisible. You could walk past the one on New Oxford Street and not realise that it was a shop, let alone an Apple-specific one.

Late Night Shuffling

Being the impetuous fellow I am, noticing that Brad Choate had updated his excellent MT-Textile MT plugin, I thought I’d install it. In the process I removed the old version 1 plugin, figuring that the new one would replace it. Big mistake, and yes, I know I should have read the docs . All my old blog entries which had Textile 1 formatting now fell apart, leaving all my Textile codes in plain view.

Fortunately, Brad anticipated there’s be some right charlies like me, and posted a blog entry on how to fix it.

Fixed that and hope that no one was too disturbed by the strange codes that appeared in the meantime.

Did some more work on the Pigbag website, and spend a bit of time reading about Voice of the Beehive a band I used to love back in the 80’s. I found out that they reformed for a tour supporting The Wonder Stuff in December last year. Completely passed me by due to the quick succession of wedding/honeymoon/Barcelona/Australia, which is quite annoying. To make up for it, I pulled out the albums (Let It Bee Honey Lingers and Sex & Misery ) and listened to them. The first two are great happy pop albums, the third one I haven’t listened to much before and it’s still growing on me after my initial dislike.

Changed my default browser to the ever improving Mozilla Firefox now up to version 0.8 (and changed its name from Firebird). I’m using it as my standard browser on Windows and Linux, but sticking with Safari on the Mac. I’ve installed Firefox on the Mac too, but Safari fits the OS X style better.

The only issues I’ve come across so far have been a slight problem with dragging-and-dropping an image from a website into Music Collector and the fact that too many stupid websites (particularly banks) won’t allow you to access them just because you’re not using IE or some crappy old version of Netscape 4.x. Why do they do that? Were IE 4 and Netscape 4 really so secure that there is no risk using those browsers for secure transactions, but a real risk using a modern standards-compliant browser like Firefox? Some sites won’t even let you in with Mac versions of IE, ferchrissakes!

Finally, time for Barney!

A while ago, Amazon recommended the books of Douglas Lindsay based on my previous purchasing of all of Christopher Brookmyre’s novels, along with most of Charlie Higson’s books.

Being one who believes that Amazon sometimes knows me better than I know myself, I bought one of the books, A Prayer for Barney Thomson and really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the first book in the series, and the first book was no longer available, but I found the other Barney Thomson books on Amazon or in second-hand bookshops. The first book, The Long Midnight of Barney Thomson continued to elude me, but appeared on Amazon as “available in 6 weeks” about 6 months ago. I duly ordered a copy, and after numerous “Taking Longer Than We Expected” emails from Amazon, it finally turned up last month. It turns out that Lindsay’s previous publisher had dropped the books, so they’ve all been republished under his own “Long Midnight Publishing” imprint. He has an eager German publisher who is commissioning more books, including more Barney Thomson stories, so plenty to look forward to.

The stories are blackly entertaining and nicely twisted; the premise being that Barney (who is a barber) ends up being pursued by the police and accused of various murders that he may or may not have committed. Barney is a hapless victim of circumstance who is just trying to live a quiet life but life just keeps pulling the rug from under him.

Although Douglas Lindsay is from Scotland, he’s currently based in Belgrade, and wrote his first Barney Thomson novel while living in Senegal, West Africa. where his wife was working for the British Embassy.