Sandy speaks on matters of life and mirth.
Monkeys are seldom present.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Thoughts and Musings

So we're getting closer and closer to W-Day. Today marks 3 months and 3 days until we walk down the aisle, with the betrothed walking down a little after me. Today we were considering music to accompany this exciting event. My suggestion of the theme from James Bond was not met with widespread approval.

We're very privileged that some of our friends are going to be playing the music, and even more so that one of the best men is going to be writing it, but this has produced some extra difficulties. He's asked us to put together a playlist to give him some inspiration about what kind of things we like. Apart from some of the things being wildly inappropriate - Baby Get Back is apparently not suitable, despite providing excellent strutting opportunities; it turns out that most of the things we like aren't particularly instrumental, or, you know, good.

We've put something together using the magnificence of Spotify, which mainly consists of Sufjean Stevens, Coldplay and some Divine Comedy, but it's amazing how indecisive we can be when faced with something of this importance. We figured that it would be easy - I've been listening to music for most of the past 23 years, you'd think that I could decide on some favourites, but apparently not.

While in the gym yesterday morning, I totally invented a new just needs a name, because "Listening to the audio from BBC News 24 while watching pro-wrestling" is a bit clunky. I love watching the television banks at the gym - it makes me feel like a jogging Ozymandias. Their choice of channels is...interesting to say the least. Yesterday, aside from the wrestling and news that I mentioned earlier, they also had a football match between Paraguay and Ecuador (making me think of this clip), Good Morning (or This Morning, or GMTV or UNIT, whatever it's calling itself these days) and what appeared to be a music channel entirely devoted to Miley Cyrus.

Today we're heading down to Dalkeith, which may actually be in the middle of nowhere - we're going to go look at samples of A6 card for the wedding invitations. We had considered just making paper aeroplanes and throwing them in the general direction of our friends, but the prevailing winds were too strong.

OK, that's all for now - I have to go figure out where the heck the Hardengreen Industrial Estate is. It sounds like somewhere they should be using as the set for a Doctor Who episode.

By the way, I've decided to give this newfangled 'Twitter' thing a try. I'll give it two weeks. If, after that, I don't feel that my life has been revolutionised, I'll return to being a hermit on Facebook. (Wasn't that a rock album?)

Friday, May 22, 2009

In The News This Week...

So just some quick-hit thoughts on this week's news - me and the beloved are off to a wedding in about an hour. This is the last milestone before our wedding, and so we're doing our best not to be in a constant state of freaking out.

For those of you who enjoy schadenfreude (something of a tautology there), our flight back to Edinburgh is smack-bang in the middle of the Newcastle/West Ham match. I couldn't have actually planned it any worse. I'm trying to figure out if wearing my scarf while watching the recording will give them retroactive good fortune. Anyway, on to my thoughts (apologies to Facebook readers if the links don't work - you'll have to check out the original):

So this week, Joanna Lumley single-handedly secured the right to settle in Britain for any Gurkha who retired before 1994. I mean, there might have been some lawyers involved at some point, but I'm pretty sure they were just window-dressing. It was clearly dear Joanna who did all the hard work.

It probably had a lot to do with the way they protested, too. One of their signs read "Please do not Discriminate Gurkhas" This tells me that these chaps truly are British - nice and polite. After the protest, they probably all had a nice cup of tea.

Another day, another hundred ridiculous expenses claims. My fiancee suggested that instead of a second home in London, Parliament should just have a big dorm that all the MPs could stay in when they were in town. I couldn't think of a good enough argument against it. The only potential difficulty is that MPs might actually spend some time in their constituencies, and we'd all realise what useless layabouts they actually are.

This story is pretty interesting, not least for the fact that according to the BBC news story, 30 medical staff were involved in the delivery, which took five minutes. How did they all fit around the bed?

Aside from the terrifying fact that a three-year-old is better at using eBay than I am, the really upsetting part of this story is that the parents aren't actually going to buy the digger - poor wee girl. We're hearing more and more stories of children using technology they shouldn't. There is clearly only one possible outcome here.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Grading MPs' Expenses Claims

With all the row over recent expenses claims, it's my belief that people are missing the real point - what's matters is not whether claiming the expenses was justified, but whether or not they got cool stuff with the money. I am perfectly willing to accept an MP claiming £40, 000 on expenses if he spent it on a jet-ski, but £2,000 on carpet cleaning? What a waste.

With this in mind, I have set out to grade the various expenses claims offered by those who seek to represent us.

Alistair Darling - D
£2,339 on 'magnolia carpets'? Really? For that kind of money, you could have at least got an interesting colour. Unless you meant Magnolia as in the movie, in which case it's probably just an uninteresting mishmash of stuff that people pretend to like because it makes them look smarter than they are. Also, if you're going to spend £765 of other people's money on a bed, you could at least do better than Ikea.

Hazel Blears - C
£5,000 on furniture in three months - based on the apparent MP predilection for Ikea furniture, Hazel has probably bought 787 Jeff chairs.

Andy Burnham - B
Not sure how much he claimed for, but he did write a note claiming that a divorce would be imminent if his expenses claim was not processed quickly - probably because he hadn't bought enough chairs.

Paul Murphy - A
Spent £35 on a toilet roll holder. People say that this was an extravagance, but he had to make sure it matched his platinum towel rail.

John Prescott - A
Paid for his toilet seat to be repaired twice in two years. I don't need to add a joke here.

Bob Marshall-Andrews - A
I may have no idea who this guy is, but after he spent £1,300 on an intercom, brass name plaque and other 'entryway adornments', I do know that he has a nice door. By the way, what on Earth are 'entryway adornments'? A sign saying 'You don't have to be unethical to work here, but it helps!'?

John Reid - A+
Spent £29.99 on a 'black glitter toilet seat.' He's not planning to invite John Prescott round any time soon.

David Willets - C
Claimed for £80 to 'change light bulbs in bathroom'. Under this logic I recently claimed for £20 for 'Putting rubbish in the bin'

Douglas Hogg - A+
Spent £2,115 to have a moat cleared. Recently won award for 'Best Conformer to Conservative Party Stereotype'.

Nick Clegg - B
Claims for calls to Colombia and Vietnam may explain Mr Clegg's recent tendency to carry around large quantities of suspicious white powder, and his increased popularity in the Commons.

Chris Huhne - E
Regularly claims for milk, chocolate biscuits and 'fluffy dusters'. How often do you need a new fluffy duster? Either he has a very dusty home, or he is some kind of silicon-based lifeform that enjoys eating dusters. The jury's out on that one.

Sir Menzies Campbell - A+
Spent around £1,500 on a new king-sized bed. Are you taking notes, Alistair Darling?

Monday, May 11, 2009

90 Minutes of Madness

It's been a while since I last blogged, but in honour of perhaps the most important game on Tyneside in a long, long while, I decided to keep a running diary of my thought, emotions and musings during the game.

19:58 Right here we go, then. Blaydon Races has been sung, and despite a terrifying moment in which I couldn’t find my scarf, I am ready for the World Cup Final of relegation battles.

20:00 My thoughts on the pre-game adverts – The voice on the advert for the Fiat Panda definitely makes it sound like “Beer Panda”, which is my kind of endangered species. My sister sums up boxing as “Punch me, and I’ll punch you, and one of us will end up on the floor, yeah?”

20:04 Michael Owen bursts towards the box, and looks odds on to score…unfortunately, he’s forgotten to bring the ball with him.

20:05 My sister giggles about Nicky Butt’s name. As she does every single time I’m watching a Newcastle game. I’d like to stand up for him, but it is a pretty funny name.

20:06 Newcastle 0 – 1 Middlesborough

Oh for goodness’ sake! Of course, in a game where neither team has scored in a month, the first goal would have to be an own goal. Gutting that the players at fault were our best ones this season. Habib Beye, who is rapidly becoming my favourite Toon player c couldn’t have done much more about it, but still, stupid mistakes are why we’re in this predicament in the first place.

20:07 How on earth can 2.5 thousand Middlesborough fans make more noise than 50 thousand Newcastle ones? My sister sums up the own goal well. “It just makes me sad.”

20:09 How did Viduka not score there? The blandly named Brad Jones (Seriously, what is he, an Action Man doll?) was away with the fairies, and only the post saved Boro.

20:10 I remark that Kevin Nolan may have the most forgettable face in all history. My sister asks if he is the son of one of the Nolan sisters. My flatmate points out that if they’d got married, they would have changed their names, and so he probably isn’t. This is why I don’t watch football with girls.

20:13 Newcastle 1 – 1 Middlesborough

GET IN! An incredible header from Steven Taylor. That goal was as good as the last one was bad. I’m pretty sure he jumped around six feet forward and four feet up to get to that one. And he had a mean look on his face when he did it. Cracking goal.

20:17 There is a LOT of space behind the back four, especially considering they’re not the quickest we’ve had. So far though, they seem to be quick enough…just about.

20:18 Mark Viduka somehow manages to head a ball that’s coming in at face-height straight up into the air. Surely the laws of physics should prohibit that. And just who the hell is that standing next to him? Oh, it’s Kevin Nolan.

20:20 I think Jonas Guitterez has the approximate stopping distance of that train in Goldeneye.

20:21 I think we’ve had more shots on goal in this half than we’ve had in the rest of the season combined. Not a lot of singing going on at the moment, which is a bet of a surprise given that we’ve had 75% of the possession in the last five minutes.

20:24 Bizarrely for Newcastle, we’re having quite a lot of success bombing down the flanks. We should make the most of this before Boro remember we don’t actually have any wingers. At all.

20:25 My sister and I discuss whether all the random people milling about the technical areas would be able to stop a pitch invasion should Newcastle win. We surmise that the stewards probably place lots of fat people in the first few rows to provide effective barriers. I nominate Mike Ashley.

20:27 Mark Viduka, buoyed by excitement over a bit of skill a while back forgets that he is not Leo Messi and attempts a bizarre curving lofted ball for Owen.

20:29 My sister and I are terrified when we see Ant at the game sitting on his own. What’s happened? Is Dec lost in the jungle? Has the cutest midget on the planet finally been subsumed into his own cheeky grin? Luckily the camera pans up to show him standing just behind. Crisis averted.

20:29 That’s more like it, Mark Viduka, kick the ball really hard and let Michael Owen flick it on. Clear handball on the corner, by the way.

20:31 And finally here comes the chanting. Newcastle, Newcastle, Newcaaaaastle! Whoever came up with that tune must be making a mint. Actually, music piracy has probably reduced him to living in a cardboard box. A mention of Juninho reminds me of the fact that when I was about seven, every time we played football, we’d all add ‘inho’ to our names because we thought it was cool. It stopped being cool after

20:32 Emnes goes on a brilliant run, only to remember that he left something in the oven just as he gets in a scoring position. Should have been 2-1.

20:33 My sister remarks on the ‘silly leggings’ worn by some of the Middlesborough players. I look up what they’re actually called and discover that ‘silly leggings’ is actually more sensible than their real name of ‘compression stockings’.

20:35 “I can’t really see anything. I don’t really know what’s going on. I’m not sure what’s happened.” Thank you, Craig Burley, don’t bother coming back.

20:37 Guttierez is clearly playing the ‘wandering minstrel’ position. If I didn’t know better, I’d say his mates had bet him he couldn’t touch every blade of grass on the pitch.

20:39 Huth gets a yellow card for giving up on tackling and just shoving Owen to the ground. We look dangerous from set pieces. Boro just aren’t marking well, and Danny Guthrie seems to have mastered the ball that looks like a strike but then drops just inside the six-yard box. Twice now we’ve come close to getting a header in the back of the net. We need to capitalize on this now before they wake up.

20:41 Michael Owen has seriously got into Huth’s head. He’s just got a free kick from him again. This is something we should exploit.

20:43 Yet another long ball that snuck just behind the Newcastle back four – they’re getting back for them in enough time at the moment, but we need to clamp down on this pretty quickly.

20:51 Halftime. Newcastle have looked significantly better than Boro, but they’ve stayed in the game, and look very capable of scoring again. Chances are this one will go down to the wire

20:53 Setanta shows an advert for a whole series of sporting events that no-one has either heard of, cares about, or indeed, knows what the hell their three letter acronym stands for, although I’m guessing they weren’t advertising the Navel Research Laboratory playoffs.

21:05 I missed most of the half-time show due to the fact that my printer went all Gutenberg on me and decided to print everything I own. Can’t imagine I missed anything worth watching.

21:06 I was right. Steve Mcmanamanamanaman has just continued the fine tradition of pundits mangling the English language by claiming that Newcastle were ‘quite’ dominant.

21:08 John Champion informs us that there’s a four foot slope on the field that is in Newcastle’s favour. Maybe we should just leave the ball and let it roll into Boro’s net – it would probably have a higher likelihood of producing a goal than any of our strikers.

21:09 Jose Gutierrez stays up when fouled and goes down hard when not fouled. How very Argentinian.

21:11 Steven Taylor is suspiciously tanned for a Whitley Bay lad. We wonder if he is a cleverly disguised Brazilian. We decide against it based on the fact that he usually waits until he is in the opposition half before shooting.

21:13 Robert Huth levels a Newcastle player again. He does know that we’re not playing by Graham Poll rules, and it’s only two yellow cards to be sent off, right?

21:14 The biggest difference between our defence in the last few games and at the start of the season? Multiple bodies closing on unmarked players fast. Marlon King was completely open on the edge of the area, and as soon as the ball came near him, three black and white shirts engulfed him.

21:16 The Boro goalkeeper looks very nervous for someone with a name more boring than . If we can get some shots on target, I reckon he could bobble one.

21:17 Damien Duff just got fouled, fell to the ground and rolypolyed back into a dribble. Sadly, something else is taping on our Sky+, so I can’t go rewind to see it again. Reason No. 247 why I hate Project Runway.

21:18 Great save from Steve Harper. I’ve seen nothing this season to dissuade me from my belief that he was actually cloned from Shay Given in a secret lab. Perhaps the Naval Research laboratory.

21:20 Another "Who’s that? Oh, it’s Kevin Nolan" moment.

21:23 And another one, only this time he’s had a shot.

21:24 Seriously weird close-up of Gareth Southgate’s lips followed by a mercifully quick cutaway.

21:26 Lovenkrands to come on for Jonas Gutierrez. Fair enough, I suppose. Gutierrez has started to really sum up Newcastle in the second half of this season – lots of hustle, not a lot of end-product.

21:28 Shalky forgets what team he plays for, and passes to Lovenkrands, who has a shot - Newcastle have had a lot of opportunities, but just haven’t been able to make them count. This is starting to look depressingly like the Portsmouth game.

21:30 Aliadiere is warming up on the touchline – his new hairband makes him look a lot like the ‘sensitive’ member of a boyband. You know, the one that reveals his sexual preference after the break-up, and everyone pretends to be surprised.

21:31 Owen off? I guess I can agree with that. He gets applause for his efforts, but he hasn’t really produced anything, or indeed looked like he could, unlike Viduka.

21:32 Martins had slicked his dreads back. I can only think that it’s for greater heading ability, because stylistically he looks way cooler will all those fuzzy spikes on his head.

21:33 Newcastle 2 – 1 Middlesborough

MARTINS SCORES! He’s been on the field a total of fifty seconds, and he’s put the ball in the back of the net. I locate a bizarre feeling inside of me…is this what it feels like to enjoy watching a football match?

21:34 Newcastle need to be careful here, they need to just tighten up a bit. They look a little starstruck – your first lead in two months’ll do that to you, I guess.

21:35 Slow motion replay shows that there was an offside on the goal. I couldn’t care less.

21:36 Newcastle finally look like they’re enjoying their football. Passing the ball about, stretching the opposition – amazing what a lead can do for a team’s spirits.

21:38 Relief as we realise that John Champion did not, in fact, utter a racist slur, but referred to Adam Johnson as ‘Jinky’.

21:39 The Shearer chants have started. About time too.

21:41 Boro gets their first corner. Nerves are seriously present. Harper takes easily. This is weird. I can get used to Newcastle playing well, but it’s been a long time since they’ve looked so…well, competent.

21:45 A bizarre yellow card for the mysterious Kevin Nolan. Referee asks him for his name, and then promptly forgets he is there.

21:47 Martins is looking like the Martins of old – bristling with pace, demanding attention, and a threat to score at anytime…

21:48 Newcastle 3 – 1 Middlesborough

YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES! Peter LOVENKRANDS! I take it all back Kevin Nolan, you produced a beautiful ball in to Lovenkrands…who actually looks a lot like you. As in, even if you mugged me, there’s no way I could pick you out of a lineup.

21:52 There is no celebration like celebration after abject misery, and my goodness are we celebrating right now. You will never see anything like this Man Utd and Chelsea fans. You have to really walk through the wilderness to experience joy like this.

21:53 I think they just announced Mark Viduka as man of the match. Can’t say I really disagree, but this was a true team victory. A victory of grit, desire, and superior execution. Every man in black and white deserves the accolades. I can’t believe how much hyperbole this game has brought out in me, given my cynical, cynical start.

21:56 Fulltime. I couldn’t have asked for more.