Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sleep with one eye open, gripping [my] pillow tight (Metallica)

I have had a recurring nightmare for the last two nights.

I'm sitting in the stands with people singing and chanting all around me. Everybody's having a great time. Everybody's happy. We are standing and waving flags and banners. Suddenly, I realise that it's raining. Dark clouds have rolled in and everybody looks at each other with blank stares. The sun undergoes an eclipse. Someone in a Manchester United shirt throws a tennis ball at me. Hard. I look away from the black sky. He grins and points to the scoreboard. I can't make out the numbers. It can't be. It's not possible. It reads Manchester United 8, Arsenal 2. Every hair on my body is standing up. A sound leaves my mouth that is pure animal. AAAAAGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH.

I wake bathed in sweat and wrapped in the sheets. It takes me a minute to adjust to where I am. Oh thank God, I think, I'm at home in Al Ain. It was only a nightmare.

A work colleague suggests that I develop sudden collective amnesia. What rugby? What football? Who are Arsenal F C?

I can't do that though. It's not me.

Instead I went out and bought this season's Arsenal away top and wore it around Al Ain. Sod it! They are my team. We press on. Hold on tight to your dreams says Jeff Lynne. Okey dokey.

But the loss still needs to be acknowledged.

I'm reading Andre Agassi's outstanding autobiography (Open) at the moment. It is a fantastic account of his life. It was published in 2009 but I've only become aware of it this month.

It's no holds barred, full on Agassi. I love the cover, I love the honesty with which it's written, I love the way he writes [ sidebar example - here he is writing about a post game shower, 'I sit in the shower for an hour. It's one of those showers that makes you think you should  write a check to several environmental groups and maybe plant a tree').

He says this about losing:

Let it be fast. Since losing is death, I'd rather it be fast than slow.

Okay! That's why this 8-2 disaster feels so bad - it was a slow death. The loss was expected as I wrote in my last post. We all knew it was going to be bad but this was slow torture, from the first goal and our penalty miss to their eight goal.

The next worst loss in Arsenal history was in 1896. Yes that's right - over a hundred years ago!

I don't mind if it takes another 100 plus to repeat it.

Swansea this week. Come on Arsenal!

Love and peace - Wozza

Sunday, August 28, 2011

It can't get much worse (The Beatles)

What a suckful weekend of sporting results.

All Blacks lose to Australia. Youch!

Barcelona win some supercup and Fabregas scores for them. Double youch!

Arsene has not replaced Fabregas.

Nasri goes to Man City and they win 5-1 (the only good news all weekend so far was that it was Spurs who got thumped).

He has not replaced Nasri. Getting the idea?

Now to top it off Arsenal play Man U at Old Trafford in a few minutes. Not only without Nasri and Fabregas but with injuries and suspensions they are fielding a make-shift defence and mid-field. Doom and gloom time my friends.

The game is about to kick off so I'll be back at half time with some dire predictions for the second half and so you can trace my despair in real time...

Oh mi God - it just got worse - the dreaded David Pleat is doing the commentary (an old Spurs foe and therefore he'll love putting the knife in for 90 minutes.

Half time and about what I thought. They get 2 early goals through sloppy defending and we miss a penalty. Half ends 3-1 but could have been more.

My prediction for the second half - we'll definitely lose but we'll play better in the second half. Maybe nick a goal late so a 4-2 or 5-2 scoreline (if we're lucky).

Full time (Thank God!!) and I was wrong by 3. 8-2 is a shock and a humiliation. I feel quite numb. Even I didn't think it was going to be that bad. We actually deserved to lose - yes - but 8-2?

Woe! The papers are going to have a field day.

I'm off to bed!

Wozza (not much love and peace on offer at present)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

I'm lost in my head (Teitur)

What's in my head right now:

Reading - PG Wodehouse Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves (page 83 -Bertie's sleep is 'much disturbed by dreams of being chased across difficult territory by sharks').

Viewing - Mad Men Season 5 (finished the last episode of Season 5 today)

Viewing - Aston Villa taking on Wolves (half time, still 0-0)

Listening - Dexter Gordon Darn That Dream (I'm not making this up - that's the track that is playing I swear)

Advice - Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching -

What is most important is what happens within:
       look to what is pure;
       hold to what is simple;
       let go of self-interest;
       temper your desires.

Love and peace - Wozza

P.S. Bizarre/scary bit: I went to the CD pile, picked one at random (Teitur), opened the lyric sheet at random and the first line was the one you see above!!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dancing softly for gold (Bambino/ Keegan)

It is said, that the beelzebub is in the detail.

I thought it may be fun to document the detail for once (and I promised pictures of the baking don't forget).

Some you'll get, some you won't. It just doesn't matter, it just doesn't matter, it just doesn't matter.

See - it really is like dancing softly for gold (which in itself is a detail from Keegan's extraordinary poem that Bambino set to music in a song called My Brother - see last posting for the link to it).

Love and peace - Wozza

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I saw a shadow touch a shadow's hand (Simon and Garfunkel)

There are some individual celebrations to note this week - the first hurrah is for the arrival of a baby girl, Ella, in the shire, thanks to Janice, and the second wahoo is for the release of Adam's new collection of music under his Bambino moniker. It's called Cold Wood Burn and you can download it here:


I urge you to take the trouble to download and listen. Here are some review comments from an unbiased source (i.e not me)

This new release pretty much refines the trademark ‘Bambino sound’ that was established on Monitors, covering some familiar ground while exploring some new directions as well.   

There is a good amount of variety in the tracks which makes for an interesting listen from start to finish. The range of vocal stylings (singing, rapping, speaking, sampled voice) give additional flavour to each track and deliver a sense of diversity that blurs the very definition of instrumental music where voice becomes simply another proponent of mood and/or melody. At first I thought this might make the changes between tracks seem a bit jarring but it’s all integrated quite seamlessly and bound together by the uniform production values. Overall there’s a lot of atmosphere, I like the deep reverbs and textures in parts. 

The speaking on ‘My Brother’ is really cool, normally I cringe a bit at spoken word in a New Zealand accent but this was perfect, intense but not over worked. I love the lyrics, made especially powerful by the dissonance of the (amplified/overdriven?) keys. Great track.Probably my favourite aspect of the album has been just putting it on and letting it run, there is a style and atmosphere to it which is not only enjoyable to listen to but above all, unique. 

There you have it - go take a listen!

Love and peace - Wozza

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Why would you deny yourself something you want? (Joy in Mad Men)

The end of the first week back at work has arrived. Phew. TGIT (Thursday being the final day of the working week remember).

The first week has been a series of professional development sessions. We have this for two weeks, then a week's holiday (Eid) to acknowledge the end of Ramadan, then a week in schools with teachers before students arrive around September 11. It's a pretty gentle start then.

The professional development? Well it wasn't too bad actually if you take away some posturing, a smattering of condescension, the misuse of English by educators in general and the fact we are working during Ramadan with the temperature in the high 40s every day. Coulda bin worse. Way worse! In fact I quite enjoyed a lot of it and feel more refocused than I did at this time last week.

These language issues have dominated my thoughts of late. For some reason educators feel the need to use verbose language, acronyms wherever they can, and complexity rather than simplicity.

Some recent (as in overused this week) examples that I propose we ban forever: early on we had a proliferation of 'roll out', the ever popular 'drill down', and the detested 'unpack'; a few 'reinvent the wheels' of course, and thankfully no babies in or out of bathwater.

So situation normal, but then a few new contenders entered the ring - 'agentive' seems the latest word to get a thrashing, thanks to NZ researcher - Russell Bishop, and lord knows where the 'give it some skin' expression came from but it quickly became a figure of fun by the end of the week.

Why do educators feel the need to misuse/overuse words  like these? And why do we have to over complicate everything?

Ah well, oh dear, how sad, nevermind.

Ramadan is tough for us western types. No food or drink can be consumed in public during the day between sunrise and sunset. That means no coffee bars or restaurants/cafes are open during this time. Foodmarkets are open though so you can buy food and drink but not consume any of it in public.

Generally the population stays away from roads and shops etc during the day. About 8pm they all come out having broken the day's fast (called iftar). So, in practical terms, shops and hospitals and other work places are closed from mid morning until about 8pm. Makes sense because the day is really hot.

So we have taken to napping in the afternoon and eating before going out about 7pm to do our shopping. I've also been rewatching Mad Men. As you may remember I bought Season 4 a while back and I've been working up to it. I've just finished Season 2.

It's a great show - even better than the first time I watched it. I've sung its praises before and I guess you're on board at this point or not. I'm reading a Mad Men primer called 'The Ultimate Guide to...' after I watch each episode. It is excellent in itself with a plot discussion, cultural notes and some selected comments from blogs at the time of the episode airing in the UK.

Next post - a report on Jacky's baking (yes children - you read that right!)

Love and peace - Wozza

Thursday, August 11, 2011

and so you're back from outer space (Gloria Gaynor)

...and so we're back from, well, not outer space...although, come to think of it, London is looking like it exists in a parallel universe at the moment.

Amazing scenes there - people jumping out of burning buildings, police running around like headless chooks wacking people, thugs in masks smashing windows and looting shops. Madness. Fran's partner, Nic, was alone in their flat above a Sainsbury's that was smashed up. He's okay but no doubt shaken by events. Some of Pat and Randy's friends (David and Presley) live close to the initial problem area in Tottenham and didn't hear a thing (their facebook message read, "Riot? What riot?"). It's been that kind of experience, I guess. London is huge and with 16 million people it's bound to contain a few nutters innit.

Anyway - we're back in sand land after an often brilliant three weeks away. I have downloaded all of the what-we-did-on-our-holiday snaps so here we go with the (Jacky approved and chronological) highlights.

We began our travels in London with some returns to old haunts like St Paul's Cathedral, the Tate Modern, and a river cruise along the Thames (that's why there's a picture of the river cruise boat we went on).

Wozza photographed by SWMBO, outside St Paul's.
Jacky with pashmina - not that warm then.

The one above of Jacky is from our first B 'n' B in Chester. The next day we continued the trek north for Irene's 90th birthday party - a true highlight. Irene looked fantastic and we loved being part of the day. The look of surprise on her face when I walked in the room was priceless!!

Fran, Tom and Lew model the three different plate balancing manoeuvers.

Jacky caught red handed feeding Samantha.

The moody magnificence of Lewis senior...

...and the there's-the-door hospitality of Tom junior.

Irene Purdy, 90 not out, with orange juice (yeah, right).
The gathering of the Purdy tribe.

The next stage of the travel north involved our first visit to the Lake District in general and Keswick in particular. Needless to say, like everyone else who visits this magical area - we fell in love with it. Dove Cottage was one of the many highlights. Another was finding a mint vinyl copy of 200 Motels by Frank Zappa in the Keswick Collectables shop! That thrill probably means more to me than you, I guess.

On the way we stopped off at Rishworth where Jacky took approximately 367 photos of cows - I have added one for the sake of historical accuracy. By the way this was the only place that we left stuff behind - dirty clothes! Somehow we both missed a bag of laundry in the smallest room we had all trip.

A scene we don't see much in sand land.
Our amazing B 'n' B in Keswick

Oh I spose another four poster would be okay.

Sorry - but I love the Hollies!

Keswick in blue sky finery.

The view from the four poster.

Dove Cottage.

William and Dorothy's view!

We reluctantly left Keswick and headed north to Scotland. That means going through Biggar - one of my favourite places on earth. In 2003 Jacky took a photo of me posting a letter from the post office - here's the 2011 version.

Onwards we travelled, to Edinburgh and a stay at the Hotel Ritz in the Haymarket - a 5 minute walk to town. I had booked the hotel and location by mistake it turns out. I had forgotten that Jacky loved the Grassmarket area - not the Haymarket. Oops! I couldn't believe my luck to find the cheap price at the Hotel Ritz in the area I though Jacky loved. Oops again!

On the southward journey to London we stopped off for a night in York and went to Castle Howard for a looksee. In this case, it's probably fair to say that the pictures don't do the place and the atmosphere justice, nor does the word breathtaking.

A very special place.

A brief return to London was followed by a trip to Paris on the Eurostar. 

Our digs in Montparnasse.

The view from our balcony.

Notre Dame and the Seine.

Look - it's a houseboat!
On our way to see Mona and some other girls.

Jacky considers the way forward to see Mona.

Post Mona come down drink at Arbucks.
Back to blighty and a nostalgic train trip out to Leigh-on-Sea were the final flings in terms of photo ops.

We did see a fantastic play with Randy on our last night with him - Rosencrantz and Gildenstern Are Dead. It was a great end to a great holiday.

Outside our old house in Victoria Rd.

Nick at work in Wimpy on our fine burgers.

Possibly the best independent music store in the world!!

The Leigh high street called The Broadway.

The view from the Grand Parade over to Kent and a place called Grain!

Katy and Jacky cooking a goodbye dinner (for us)
and welcome to the shire dinner (for Janice's yet to be born daughter)
on one of our last nights in the shire.

And that's it!!

I start work again on Sunday the 14th so I dare say that will feature in oncoming updates, inshallah. Until then...

Love and peace - Wozza