You’ve got it all, but it’s still not enough..

I haven’t really taken any ‘before and after’ pictures, but here’s a recentish image of a svelter me with a charming show-home ornament.

There seems to be three recurring themes running through the blog at the moment, and it seems likely I’ll touch on all three of them.

First up is a check-in with project fatty.  I seem to have plateaued in weight having lost two and a half stone – the reaction I’ve had from folk I’ve not seen much in the transition period has been astounding.  I guess seeing myself daily lessens the impact.  I’ve dropped down from sixteen and half stone to fourteen, and seem to have been hovering at that weight for a while, I must admit though that a combination of laziness and other plans has cut down my exercise in the last couple of weeks – although my diet remains sensible.

So next up I probably need to think about is varying the exercise I do a bit – I tend to focus on football and walking, which somewhat neglects my upper body.  A friend of mine also just alerted me to this scary looking event which the more I think about it, the more tempted I am to give it a bash – although December is probably not the optimal month for having folk running through a mud bath!

The next recurring theme is my switch to Giffgaff from O2.  After a considerably tricky start I’ve been pretty impressed – the transfer of my number went flawlessly and the service since then has been absolutely fine.  I’m basically treating the period from now until when the new iPhone comes out as a trial.  The only pitfall I didn’t foresee was the lack of tethering support on the cheaper deals (understandably, I guess), but to be frank – I don’t use it that much anyway, so I’m not really that bothered.

Finally on the recurring theme front, I’ve booked tickets to see The Levellers in Lincoln and then Nottingham, and am planning an overnight stay in Lincoln, so that should be good!  I’m still absolutely hammering Static on the Airwaves (which hit 36 in the Album Charts this week) and loving it – I’ve plumped for Mutiny as my favourite track, which is inspired by the story of Jesse Robert Short, a Corporal from the Northumberland Fusiliers who was shot as a mutineer at the barbaric Étaples ‘refresher’ training camp in 1917 (he had been wounded having spent two years at the front).

With another song on the album covering the rather grim event of the Raft of the Medusa, it’s been an educational as well as enjoyable experience getting to grips with their latest album.  Here’s Mutiny with a fan-made accompaniment of imagery… it’s lovely, harrowing and brilliant all at once.

I must plan some more exploring then I could’ve had a clean sweep of topics in one post!

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I’ve got a fever inside of my soul..

I don’t usually bother going out on my birthday, but as a friend informed me his all time favourite artist Jason Pierce was bringing his latest incarnation of Spiritualized to Nottingham, it seemed rude not to go and check it out at The Rescue Rooms.  Really enjoyable, although with his notorious lack of crowd interaction and a not exactly lively stage persona (coupled with me becoming an old duffer) I can’t help but think it would’ve been better in reclining chairs!

Definitely worth checking out.  Celebrations ended with a couple of cheeky drinks in The Bell which was surprisingly busy.  Today I’m meant to be on an all-dayer to signify Andy’s stag do.  Think I’m going to have to take it quite steady!!

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Do something amazing today..

I’ve weened myself off media whoredom (or the media has weened itself off me I suppose – since I never really go out looking for it..) of late, particularly on the Forest front at least – which is a blessing as there’s been little to talk about that isn’t bleak there.  Okay, I did talk to the lovely folk at Radio Nottingham to offer my thoughts about Nigel Doughty upon the news of his passing.

However, I’m sure you’ll forgive me the indulgence of accepting the approach from the local BBC team to cover my stem-cell match as part of the local ‘Join for Joel’ campaign to recruit potential donors for the Anthony Nolan Register.  If you’ve not heard Joel’s story, then click this link and read some more about him, because he was a really inspirational young man who was taken from the world far too soon by Leukaemia.

If you are 40 or under and fit the other criteria set out by Anthony Nolan, then do register – you don’t know who might be out there desperately hoping for a donor to materialise who happens to match your stem cell characteristics.  If I can’t convince you in writing, then maybe Joel, his Mum – Anne-Marie and I can do so through speech…

The odds of finding a stem cell match are one in tens of thousands – the more people who register to be a donor the better the chance sufferers of Leukaemia or Lymphoma have of finding what might be the vital ingredients for a transplant.

Go on, be a hero – it takes less than ten minutes.

You would be if you registered, even if you are never a match.

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Greed is for amateurs. Disorder, chaos, anarchy: now that’s fun!

"You'd better hope and pray that you wake one day in your own world..."

Hmm, this intent to blog more often isn’t going so well.  Christmas is very nearly upon us – in truth, I’ve been pretty well prepared for ages anyway – so no last minute stressing for me.  Which is lucky as much of this week was taken out by illness – still feeling drained now, but glad to have had a chance to get into work before the festivities commence to leave the office with a clean slate – and obviously recover sufficiently to enjoy assorted celebrations too.

Speaking of celebrations, our work Christmas party was last week – as ever my esteemed colleagues didn’t let us down with a fine selection of finery on our fancy dress theme of ‘famous dead people’.  I elected to go as Brandon Lee, admittedly because I seem to have developed a penchant for white-and-black make-up based dressing up with Alice Cooper, Paul Stanley and now The Crow in my repertoire.  I was pleased with the result, even if I also looked a bit like the scary one from Shakespeare’s Sister (thanks for that spot, Mike!).  Amusingly one colleague arrived dressed as Bruce Lee, who is, of course, Brandon’s dad.

Forest have been continuing their desperate quest to not only reach the bottom of the barrel, not simply scrape the bottom of it, but to drill right through and strike out for the other side of the planet.  Frustrating, for sure.  That said, the subsequent lack of impetus to invest quite so much time in following the Reds away from home has saved me a bit of cash!  Always a winner.

Probably the highlight of the month so far though (our work party was close, but not close enough!) was seeing Rolf Harris at the Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham.  Having got a few of his live recordings, it’s amazing that he’s basically been doing a very similar set (including patter and jokes!) for about 40 years, but it’s still an engaging act – indeed, three generations of my family were there on the front row to enjoy a true entertainer strutting his stuff.  Better still my mate Alex, one of the didgeridoodling four from last year, loitered at the stage door and had his instrument (fnar) signed by Rolf.

I’m now off work ’til the 9th January which I’m quite pleased about – I could do with a rest, frankly, so don’t have masses of plans!  So, season’s greetings to all you fine folk, may you have a splendid Christmas and a prosperous new year – and I’ll leave you with this rather tremendous video of Rolf doing what he does best!

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A ménagerie à trois..

Nights like last night make me marvel that people at large will gladly elevate the turgid and passionless shit that fills the charts whilst ignore things on their doorstep that are, well, better.

A gig featuring 3 Daft Monkeys, along with support from 3 Eyed Fox and Ferocious Dog – hence the blog title, not just a reference to the three primate headliners, but three bands all featuring animal references!

It was the headline act speaking about their new single and the difficulty in getting national airplay because it ‘wasn’t mainstream enough’ – last time I checked mainstream music was mostly absolute shit.  Personally I don’t see why, if exposed to it, some good honest creative folk inspired music like theirs shouldn’t appeal to a wider audience than it is currently able to reach.

3 Eyed Fox got off to a great start by covering the Levs, the relatively obscure ‘Red Sun Burns’ too.  A three piece featuring guitar, fiddle and lead vocals – really enjoyable, I wasn’t aware they were playing ’til the night itself so I hadn’t got myself into position to record any vids, but they did have a dutiful friend camcordering the whole gig so I imagine they’ll surface on YouTube soon enough!

Whilst I was bang up for seeing the headline act, having not seen them live before (but possess quite a bit of their recorded material) it was really Ferocious Dog who were the reason for me going.  By god they didn’t disappoint.  The smaller venue than I’d seen them in before and the vantage spot I found at the back of the dancefloor gave me a great view of both the stage and carnage unfurling infront of me.

I have uploaded lots of videos of both Ferocious Dog and the headliners, but it seems only fair to embed their opener which they kindly dedicated to Linda who couldn’t make the gig (her ticket clearly cursed, as the friend I had given it to was also stricken by illness so it remained unused despite attempts to find a home for it yesterday), one of their newer songs called Lyla:

The stage is perhaps a little on the small side for a band of six – but they squeezed on and didn’t bang into one another so perhaps not.  The more intimate sized venue worked really well though.  Check out the mosh-fest to Mairi’s Wedding pt II:

Then on to the headline act – 3 Daft Monkeys (there are four of them with the addition of percussion) feature a twelve-string guitar, a fiddle, a bass and percussion – and they were bloody awesome too.  I like their recorded stuff a lot, but live it just comes to life in a way that is difficult to describe.

The relatively ‘rooted’ stance of Tim Ashton on the twelve-string and lead vocals is juxtaposed by the always-in-motion and incredibly-expressive impish figure of Athene Roberts on fiddle and vocals.  Lukas Drinkwater manages to put across a ‘cheeky chappy’ image from the depths of the stage whilst poor Richie Mulryne is mostly hidden at the back playing a range of percussion with his hands (and feet in the case of the kick drums).

It’s an incredibly engaging live performance and delivers a lot more oomph than comes across on their albums.  A lot of the crowd were in for Ferocious Dog but they stayed with it and really added to a tumultuous atmosphere throughout the headline act too – and they seemed to genuinely appreciate the enthusiasm of the local crowd.  Hopefully that means they feel compelled to play here again soon, as I’d definitely go to see them again.

The highlight for me was the playing of current single ‘Days of the Dance’, which alas I didn’t manage to get a recording of (but you should buy the single, regardless – for 79p you’d struggle to find something better value!).  However, a close second was the excellent Social Vertigo which I did capture – and starts to show how performance and the crowd blend into an amorphous whole.  It also introduces the term ‘a Nottingham fuck up’ which I thought was the preserve of the football team in Red from the area!

Should you happen upon 3 Eyed Fox, Ferocious Dog or 3 Daft Monkeys on your local listings then you could do a lot worse than to give them a listen!

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All the pieces..

I’ve not long got in from seeing the excellent Mark Chadwick playing in the Rescue Rooms in my beautiful home town of Nottingham.

The evening started with my customary and infuriating habit of arriving at places at least 15 minutes before I need to, so I found myself nursing a coke (I had the car you see), near the door to the live music venue when the man himself walked past me and settled nearby – but looking ‘in the zone’.

I bottled it and didn’t go and talk to him and seek a photo, I was half kicking myself but half thinking I shouldn’t make a nuisance of myself when he’s got a show to do…. and of course I’m a massive coward.  People say you should never meet your heroes anyway, right?…

So, the venue opened and I found myself a decent spot and really enjoyed the support act – Dan Donnelly – who played a set on his own where he utilised lots of clever sampling of riffs and cunning percussioning on his guitar to put on an impressive one-man-band style show.  Very engaging, and as the venue started to fill up and show its’ appreciation of his efforts – which was good.  Below is a video of him covering ‘Plastic Jeezus’ which was suitably entertaining.

He probably played for no more than 35-40 minutes but it was good, it’s made me go and investigate his work.  Had I not been at the gig alone I’d have probably gone and bought a CD from the man himself as he manned the merchandise stall, but I didn’t want to lose my vantage point so missed that particular opportunity.  I shall retrospectively purchase some of his work though!

On to the Mark Chadwick who didn’t keep us waiting too long – best known of course for his work with The Levellers, I’ve been enjoying his solo album – it’s a bit of a grower.  Given the live treatment though it really brings it to life even more, Dan Donnelly returned to the stage to provide backing vocals and fill a variety of instrumental gaps along with a drummer, guitarist (Sean Lakeman) and a bass/double-bass player.

A mixture of mostly tracks from his own album (which is what he’s touring, after all!) but a few Levellers classics thrown in – I say classics, but not too many ‘well known’ songs of theirs (raucous encore of ‘Just the One’ aside).  My own personal highlight was ‘Maid of the River’ – a favourite Levs song of mine, an album track from Zeitgeist that I don’t think I’ve ever heard performed live before.  I loved it.

As with any phone-based videos the sound quality isn’t particularly representative of actually being there, but I’m glad I have been able to capture it nonetheless!  Even though he either deliberately or drunkenly mixed up the words – it seems somehow arrogant to suggest he might be an error when he wrote the song!  He had been quaffing a fair amount of red wine though, and it was quite late in the show… you never can tell with these things!

I’ve got a few songs on video but am not going to sit and upload them all tonight… so keep an eye on my YouTube channel if you really want to see them (all two of you who read this 😀 ).

After the show I found a likely spot to finish my drink and reflect and got talking to fellow Levellers fans, Jen, Amanda and Brian.  They’d travelled from distance to see the performance, and Jen has been to no less than 179 gigs by the band in the last 8 years – and I thought I was  a real fan – clearly not!  She didn’t lack the courage I did before the gig so insisted we accost Mark after the show for a photo, which is on her camera so hopefully I’ll be able to retrieve it once she’s safe and home tomorrow.

I might also have bumbled some nonsense at the glassy-eyed singer about how happy I was I’d heard him sing one of my all time favourite songs live.. he was probably thinking “bastard! I did all this solo stuff and you’re still harping on about a Levellers song”… it reminded me of the time a drunken me decided to tell Colin Tarrant how moving I’d found his portrayals of Brian Clough… I guess it must be nice to get positive comments from people no matter how badly phrased!

A top night – I’m really glad I went even though I couldn’t manage to cajole anybody into coming with me… and at least if I’m left in a similar predicament with future Levellers related gigs I might’ve found a new friend or two who will be there!  As for meeting your heroes, Mark had clearly had a bit to drink and looked a bit bemused, but was very gracious so I’d say if you get the chance, you should do so!

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Airbag testing in Russia…

Boom! I bet he’s still regretting agreeing to sit on those tyres already, but thankfully he did as it makes for a hilarious video!  Thanks to Antonios Gubba on the LTLF forum for posting it, boy has it made us chuckle at work this afternoon!

In other news, since I’ve not blogged for a while about anything in particular, following on from my near-miss on applying to be part of Derren Brown‘s ‘Hero at 30,000 Feet‘ special (I made a fleeting appearance on the programme when they were discussing the audition process!), I’ve been lured into applying for ‘Total Wipeout‘ – which would be hilarious (albeit completely different, and not as exciting).

Still, if I missed out on a more high-brow mental challenge then I suppose a low-brow physical challenge might be a reasonable compensation.  There is a prize of £10k for winning, although that’s not really the motivation – I just think it would be a good experience.  Not least because it involves flying to Argentina (presumably due to more lax health and safety regs!) although the application made it clear there’d be no time for sight-seeing!

After much success with my biltong-making having conversed carefully with some of my favourite food-testers at work I’m considering a Guinness-infused variant for my next batch, although I might just wait ’til after payday before commencing that particular project.  My mate Phil has also made a biltong cabinet inspired my efforts – so I eagerly await the results of his efforts!

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Little pig, little pig, let me in!

I often wonder how my brain works, I think many people who encounter me do as well.  Yesterday a song called ‘Three Little Pigs’ by a fairly obscure band called Green Jelly popped into my head.  Why? I have no idea – this kind of thing happens to me often, indeed, a colleague said to me today “whenever random songs start running through my head it’s generally your fault.”

Combined with a labyrinthine ability to remember lyrics from things I’ve not heard in ages I can’t help but think I’ve somehow missed a trick with some part of my brain that hoovers up everyday trivialities instead of filing useful information in an easily retrievable fashion.  That said, a number of times in my daily doings I’ve stumbled upon techniques to harness this nature of the brain, but never mastered them.

This, for your delectation, is ‘Three Little Pigs’ by the formidible Green Jelly:

So yeah, whilst I can merrily recall artists, song names and lyrics from more than decade ago – that I suspect I’ve not heard since then – I quite merrily struggle to recall pieces of work I’ve been striving toward within a few weeks.  I suppose that’s some kind of insight into motivations, isn’t it?  Maybe.

In other news, meat-drying production has continued to be successful – although I’ve since discovered the bag sealer I was using perhaps wasn’t quite as airtight as I’d hoped so just had to consign an older batch to the bin disappointingly.  I have another load currently drying so it shan’t be long ’til I have meaty goodness available again.  Pissed off at the waste though, back to using takeaway boxes and refrigerating, methinks.

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I wanna rock and roll all night!

This is what we got up to at work a little over a week ago – it was fun, and as part of a day raising funds and awareness for the Boots Benevolent Fund, it was also for a great cause.

There’s some pics on my Flickr stream too, for your amusement.  It’s definitely amongst my favourite fancy dress shenanigans for a while, and I do think such things are generally enhanced by them taking place whilst you’re at work at being paid for it!

Woodpecker! What a refreshing change!

In other news we spotted a woodpecker in the garden today feasting on peanuts with the usual woodpigeons, doves, sparrows, starlings and finches.  Quite exciting really, he was pretty brave too – only flying off when we lurked a little too close to the window, hence the shit quality of the picture.

We’ve also turned our bedroom into, literally, a bedroom – we’ve acquired a massive bed courtesy of my folks who didn’t want it any more which is ace.  So Friday evening was spent assembling that, then popping to Rich’s to reassemble our old bed at his place – which means nothing goes to waste!

In technology news Apple have acknowledged there’s an issue with the new iPhone and as such will issue refunds on request, or give people a free case which should negate the issue.  I must say I’ve not had too many problems with mine, that said, I get a poor signal at home anyway on O2 – and holding the phone in the ‘death grip’ does seem to be slightly worse, but well, meh.

I’m no Apple fanboy really, but it seems to me that people and the media seem all the too keen to try to knock the hitherto whiter-than-white company – and Steve Jobs – off the perceived pedestal, and taking great delight in it – rather than actually reporting anything that’s a general problem.  That’s my take on it anyway.

Naturally I’ll still claim a free case, though!

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World cup musings..

I keep thinking I should get back in to writing on here really, but then when it comes to it you’re faced with a massive blank white box.  There’s lots of interesting things going off – the World Cup is about to kick off, and that means there’s always lots of people getting offended that somebody might get offended by St George’s flags (in reality I suspect nobody does), largely thanks to the gutter press getting simple people riled up, and the people in questions being – frankly – morons.

Having said that, it’s helped me clear out my Facebook list – a useful filter was to delete people (and there was a depressingly large number of them) who sent me invites to groups devoted to “Stop pubs banning football shirts” or “Stop them foreigners stopping us put our flags up”.  It gets on my nerves something rotten – maybe it’s because I’m not especially patriotic – but then, I don’t begrudge those who are, and don’t think the average ethnic minority on the street does either.

Pah.  I like the World Cup but do struggle to motivate myself quite to the level I do for domestic football – certainly I’ll be watching England’s games and probably a few of the other tasty fixtures too, but, well… it’s just not Forest for me, I’m afraid.  Plus it’s a handy defence mechanism to limit expectations to avoid disappointment, something that being a Forest fan is perfect practice for.  Personally I don’t think England are good enough to challenge really – I predict the customary quarter final exit.

The other inevitable byproduct of an international football tournament is the endless tenuous advertising campaigns hung on the back of them, which is largely tedious and boring – however, the resurrection of the ‘John Barnes Rap’ from the 1990 New Order song ‘World in Motion’ for Mars is a stroke of genuis – although Barnsey perhaps should’ve held out for cash rather than being paid in Mars Bars!  See for yourself:

On the flip side, there has also been a significant crime against music committed by the third re-hash of the Lightning Seeds/Baddiel & Skinner song ‘Three Lions’ – I’m not even going to link to it, because it will make you want to stick knitting needles in your ears and take a cheese grater to your eyeballs.  Whoever thought that was a good idea wants locking up!

The final mood-getter-inner we’ve been indulging in at work – as well as the ubiquitous sweepstake (I got Germany) is collecting the Panini World Cup stickers.  There are 638 of these badboys to gather (might even be 640 if you count 00 and 000).  Six or so of us are sharing an album and having gone on a campaign of purchasing, we’ve entered the ‘swap phase’ and currently have only four stickers left to acquire (I believe – some are in transit).

I can’t say the experience has quite equated to my childhood memories but then I only recall having one domestically based football sticker album as a kid – amongst my peers the vogue was bizarrely World Wildlife Fund stickers, as well as Beano/Dandy ones.  Maybe Star Wars too.  Certainly Google Docs, Facebook and Twitter have made the experience a lot more efficient in tracking down swaps!

Other than that I can think of very little to write about aside from something I can’t go in to details over, but I picked up a phone call earlier in the week which was both a complete surprise and immensely exciting, but I’m sworn to a degree of secrecy about the details.  So, one or two readers who bother their arses to read these posts, you shall have to wait and see what I’m going to be up to…

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