Thursday, July 28, 2005

What a week that turned out to be! What a sad old test match. I don't really understand how the English bowling attack went from intimidating in the first innings, to rather less effective than an old blancmange in the second. And it seems we have just the one batsman in Kevin Pietersen. Surely we could have put up a rather better show than that.

Still, that seems to be the way of it when we play Australia - at pretty much anything, which is galling to say the least.

In the meantime I have become immersed in the intricacies of permaculture, an holistic approach to living on the planet, and I think that it will inform where we go from here in the rest of our lives. So once we return from Cumbria - where we are off to attend the wedding of a New Zealand friend - there will be an opportunity to start to look in detail where this approach might take us. Right now, however, planning and packing are the order of the day, and then we must go. So there'll be more next week.

Friday, July 22, 2005

What an extraordinary week. On Sunday we went to Doug's 50th birthday party, and that proved to be brilliant. Great weather, good company, and lots of fun and conversation.

During the week it has also become apparent that there have been late broods of Blue Tits and Sparrows, and one of Great Tits. This is becoming a remarkably productive year for our local feathered denizens. We are very pleased.

Giving up the Seroxat has been harsh. My brain has been short-circuiting to the extent that on several days I have not gone out at all, because it would have been dangerous to drive. However, the good news is that, as the days have rolled by, the frequency and intensity of the 'zaps' has slowly reduced. Now they seem to start later in the day, rather than the instant my eyes open, and are not as debilitating when there is a rush of them.

On the other hand I have been emotionally all over the place, veering from grumpy, to tearful, to broadly hilarious, and then effectively numb. The anxiety knot returned with a vengeance to start with, but is now just a quiet echo in the background.

So although I am not out of the woods quite yet, I appear to be heading in the right direction.

Yesterday, I managed something I have always wanted to do, courtesy of Jilly, and was able to spend the whole day in front of the television watching the opening day of The Ashes. It was a gripping day. At stumps, however, I had to ask myself whether the two teams realised they are playing a five day Test match. They went at it like it was a limited over one day game, so with 17 wickets having fallen already in the first day, I can't see this going out much beyond Saturday lunch time.

Then there was the attempted bombing of the Tube and Bus in London - including The Oval! How dare they attempt something like that on the first day of a Test match! It's enough to really piss one off. Argue amongst yourselves over religious beliefs, water, skin colour or whatever, but don't interfere with the cricket. Bloody poor show.

Jilly and I are also thinking of launching a whole new range of car paints. On the journey up to Doug's birthday party Jilly remarked on the 'hideous' colour of a car that we passed. On closer inspection of the other cars on the road it became clear that the one upon which she had remarked was not alone. And clearly they came in several ranges. We identified them as follows:

  • The Hideous Range - this appears to come as Truly Vile, Metallic Hideous, and Vomit
  • The Bowel Movement Range - with such notable contenders as Electric Bowel Movement, Frisky Faeces, and metallic You Can Probably Get Pills For That.

So with this market having been identified, we can get on and start some new options for the colour-blind and other unsuspecting victims.

But now I note that there is but an hour to go before the second, and at this rate, last day of the first Ashes Test commences. So I had better put this down and maybe report back later.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

I had a really neat e-mail today from Yvonne and Harry in Venezuela, just checking that none of us were involved in last week's bombing nonsense. It was forwarded on to me from a contact at work. In the process we have discovered that the commpany is actively blocking my e-mail address - in and out. How pathetic.

It's lucky my chum did this for me, since I lost all of my contact information when I was bounced out of the offices that fateful day. I wasn't able to download my addresses from work, and I was unable to collect the charger for my IPaq until a fortnight later. By then the bloody thing had run out of battery and lost its mind, so I was rather knackered for contacting anyone. Happily I think we may be able to start re-constructing things - and this time its going into a book so that there can be no issues of running out of memory.

I have now run down the Seroxat to nothing at all, and I am getting the neurological sequelae from that. This stuff really is poison. I feel mentally fine, but keep getting these 'zapping' sensations which render me momentarily out of control of my limbs. Most alarming. So I shan't drive at the moment, until this phase passes. But one thing is certain, I'm not having anything more to do with that stuff, or its relatives. Despite what they say, these things really can be addictive, because when you stop them you do suffer a form of cold turkey and there is a great temptation to restart to stop the symptoms. In my book that falls into the category of an addictive substance.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

I must say I am amazed with the progress the police appear to have made in such a short time in their search to find those responsible for the bombings last week. It seems that the perpetrators are spattered over bits of London. I suppose there is a kind of justice to that. But who recruited them, and why on earth did they sign up to be suicide bombers.

I can sort of understand the Palestinians doing it, given their appalling treatment at the hands of the Israelis, but guys from Leeds? There are clearly some sick and twisted bastards out there, beyond the ones in corporate boardrooms. But I guess that the second helps to beget the first.

Here we had fun and games on Monday when our neighbour Simon, who is a sad but large individual, prone to bullying all those that will allow it, decided to try and bully the MD of he local business park adjacent to us. When he became really threatening, the MD decked him. Respect!

Old Bill are not pressing charges. Quite right, because they wouldn't have a prayer of getting a conviction, given Simon's record of threatening behaviour. Now, perhaps, we can get him off the site, although his old man, who owns the site, is terrified of him, and afraid he will come back and murder the family. Simon has apparently threatened him with a shotgun in the past. He really does need help, but of course doesn't think there's anything wrong with him so will accept none. A shame for all concerned.

Meanwhile, we appear to have a second brood of Great Tits and Blue Tits with us, so this really is turning into a fantastically productive year.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Obviously we have been cursed by the Chinese, for we are surely living in 'interesting times'. The blood thirsty nutters of Al Quaeda murdered a 100 or so (which looks likely to be the final figure) innocent people on Thursday and mangled and maimed many more. Apparently this strikes a blow for the 'nation of Islam'.

However, it is clear to me that the majority of muslims want nothing to do with these plonkers. They would be more accurate if they were to say they had struck a blow for the tribe of islamic psychopaths, and not try and drag the rest in to their twisted view of the world.

I agree that the Iraq war was an equal travesty, but this sort of thing doesn't actually improve the situation, or address the central issues. I guess what needs to happen in the first instance is for there to be an Islamic Reformation, and a real shift towards democracy in the wider islamic world. In this latter, although it really pains me to say it, Bush has a point.

The G8 statement was a pretty limp affair, although many commentators seem to have welcomed it, and Tony Blair has gone up in my estimation for a number of reasons, the fact remains that the Americans have once again contrived to torpedo a wonderful opportunity to get things rolling for the benefit of all. But there we are, I would expect nothing less of the Americans. What a benighted country.

Here I had a farewell drink with the crew on Thursday night. They are a grand bunch and I miss seeing them each day. Since my summary 'execution' a new regime has been implemented, and they have been told that they must smile more, and if things don't 'improve' the whole department risks being wound up by Christmas.

What nonsense. This dictat comes from the US offices who in my considerable experience couldn't organise a piss up in a brewery if you gave them a can opener and a book of instructions. Because they are unable to sell effectively, or manage projects properly, it is apparently everyone else's fault. So, as the bosses seek to weasel out of the consequences of their own ineptitude, they have to make it look as if they are doing something to 'aggressively address' the problems. This means that senior management at PAREXEL doesn't get rid of them, well not yet anyway.

But it's only a stay of execution, because they have clearly destroyed the morale at Creative Services. In due course they will resort to more serious bullying tactics as things continue to go wrong and indeed get worse as people will not willingly go the 'extra mile' so get projects out of a hole. Then the experienced people will leave and the whole thing will collapse in blizzard of acrimony and accusation.

The whole thing is underpinned by some fundamental consequences of American corporate 'culture' (sorry for the oxymoron). A flexible labour market in their terms means being able to hire and fire people at the drop of a hat. This leads to a climate of fear and intimidation which leads to people always seeking to cover their backs and point the finger at others. This leads groups to shelter behind 'Standard Operating Procedures', and thus creativity is stifled since stepping out of the bounds of the prescribed way of doing things could mean going home unexpectedly early without a job any more. Thus the 'flexibility' in treating the work force ultimately backfires. And they want this imported into Europe! Bugger off, I say.

It was summed up for me a couple of years ago when I discovered that the Americans have an 'employee appreciation day'. What do you do the other 364 days, chaps? Every day should be an employee appreciation day, after all, who's doing the work?

Thursday, July 07, 2005

So London has won the bid to host the 2012 Olympics. I can't decide what I think about that, except to reflect that the amount of newsprint devoted to the Millenium Dome was extraordinary. Which means, given the relative size and complexity of that compared to the Olympics, Finland had better start planting a lot more trees for the extra paper that'll be required. It's a shame the French didn't get it. They could do with the work (ow, but it's irresistible to poke fun at the French, and in any event traditional).

Willem appears to be a happy chap and has a girlfriend. I hope it won't interfere too much with the work he's going to have to do over the next two years, but of course I know that it will. Being a dad proves to be much more tricky than one ever imagines, and I hear myself saying the same things my old man said to me. I know it shouldn't come as any surprise, but it brings me up short every time it happens, still.

Of course, I am waiting with baited breath for the statement on climate change from the G8. Lord May from the Royal Society was fairly clear about what he thinks is required, which accords with the views of the Scientific Academies of all G8 nations and those of India, China, and Brazil. Naturally it is only George Bush and the pork barrel boys of the US Congress and Senate who say the science isn't there yet. A clear demonstration of the power of greed, good Christian boys and girls that they are. The spokesman for the Energy Agency is'very worried' for the future of the planet if urgent and immediate steps aren't started off right now.

And what happened to Summer? we are now in our eighth day of leaden skys and cold winds. It's costing a fortune in bird seed as the feeding stations in the garden have become the sites of frantic activity. Mind you we have contributed to the successful rearing of five or six Starling broods, three Blue Tit broods, two broods of Great Tits, one of Nuthatches, and four or five of Sparrows. A lot of the kids are still coming round even now. And then we have a pair of Goldfinches and a pair of Bullfinches. So it has been a successful breeding season for the birds, despite having, now, some dozen or more cats now living in the immediate vicinity.

The cats keep trying to sneak up on the birds, but letting the dogs out on a regular basis keeps the cats on their toes, and although they constantly try so far they have been unsuccessful in killing any of the kids we have helped rear. Long may we continue to succeed.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Well, the Live 8 at the Eden Project in Cornwall was just spectacular. I've been to a few gigs in the half century or so that I've been on the planet, but this far and away the best I have ever attended. It really was Africa talking to the 'West' (or however you choose to define it), and in my experience nothing matches it. The setting, the ambience, the energy, and the performances were, well, something like sublime. I can't find a word that really captures it all.

The people of the Eden crew, and Tim Smit, Peter Gabriel, and all the others who gave their time for free and created such a magnificent, evocative, mesmerising gig, are also true, professional performers. For what it's worth I congratulate them upon an extraordinary achievement which they contrived to pull together in just a fortnight (give or take). Unprecedented I am sure.

At the top is Geoffrey Oryema, who, according to Peter Gabriel, was rather nervous coming on because his band hadn't been able to get there so he was going to do a set with just acoustic guitar. I can't see why, he was terrific. Mind you, the Cornish are generally a friendly bunch, unless you're an arrogant shit in which case beware, and he got a seriously warm welcome, seemed to relax into it, and gave a brilliant virtuoso performance.

And when the crowd went nuts for more at the end of the set, he blagged Peter Gabriel to do a duet with him, which was inspired.

Meanwhile, I have heard from Nick in Oz and he's sent a whole bunch of pics, which I'm hoping he'll identify when he gets back because they're very intriguing.

Well after all this I do hope the G8 effectively address the questions posed because I suspect that the natives are going to get restless in due course and then the solids are likely to get fan driven if they try and ignore us again. The fun and games have now begun in Edinburgh, and apparently the demonstrators have been carrying stones, 'staves' and 'other' non-lethal 'offensive weapons'. That's according to the Police Chief in charge of security.

Well, if the BBC news is anything to go by the stones and staves came from the municipal flower beds when the demonstrators were baton charged. And the 'other' non lethal 'offensive weapons' were geraniums. What's with the batons and body armour guys? Geraniums do smell a bit, but really.....!

Friday, July 01, 2005

Well, there's going to be a small hiatus in this for a day or three, since I am off to Eden in Cornwall for the Africa Live 8 concert. My oldest friend snagged two tickets and his darling missus awarded me her ticket. I shall, of course report back. The question iswhat clothes to take, since this is England and the weather could therefore be anything.

I go with my heart singing, because I have heard from my eldest, Nick, who is in Australia and, being a bloke, is rubbbish at communication, so it's great to know that he is well. I suppose it's no worse than it ever was in the sense of not hearing so often from someone who is far away, but one becomes spoiled by e-mail and mobile phones, and the current ease of global communication.

The poor old spaniel has been suffering in the heat we've had iin the last few days, since his heart isn't working so well any more. So it's down to the vet before I head for Cornwall, for a second diuretic injection to try and lower the fluid load. The weather's much cooler now, and that is clearly helping.

Meanwhile our daughter, Cariad, has moved out for the fourth time, and we await to see how long she makes it this time. The situation is keeping us all amused, and I must say that she takes our ribbing in very good part.

And finally I note that the Italians are more than a little ticked off with the Americans, who have been practising their 'extraordinary rendition' in Italy (you know, where they lift some poor sod off the street and fly him or her out to some benighted ally that practices torture). They lived in expensive hotels and used ordinary mobiles and land lines to communicate, and then lifted this Imam from Milan and send the poor bugger to Egypt for torturing.

In the process they completely buggered up the Italian investigation and the cell they were tracking thus escaped. So they have issued warrants against 16 CIA operatives for kidnapping. The Italian government is seriously pissed off, not least at the sheer arrogance and unprofessionalism of those people.

Right. To eden and don't spare the hamsters.