Saturday, April 30, 2005

(Is this the way to) Whitby?

(Is this the way to) Whitby?

When I was twelve or thirteen my tutor group, under some notion of a bonding exercise, were made to sit in a circle with a little tub in the middle of us. In that tub - and it may not have been a tub as I can't quite remember, but we'll go with a tub - were various descriptions. These descriptions were to be picked out - first person to do so chosen at random - and then had to be attributed, with reasoning, to someone in the group. Now there are lots of labels that you'd think I might get. But there wasn't even a whiff of fashion guru heading in my direction*. Or indeed most studious. And even if there had have been a 'most likely to end up stalking minor popstars' I'm convinced that I wouldn't have gotten that either**. No. What I ended up with was 'most likely to try anything once'. I was a little shocked, visions of me snorting the gross product of a third world nation up my nose immediately springing to mind and being distinctly unappealing. Given that I was one of the few who wasn't sneaking off behind the technology block at break time for an illegal cigarette I found this rather odd. But if they weren't exactly right then maybe it was more about a general spirit. That, if I think about it, there are lots and lots of things that I'd like to do before I end up arguing with Sir Philip Sidney in a taxi rank. So, maybe, it was more about aspirations than dancing naked in Ibiza.

But the fact remains that there are still lots of things that I haven't even tried once. And, with some skill and undoubtedly some good luck, I managed to get to 21 without ever having been camping. And that includes pretend camping in someone's garden. For all 21 years of my life it had never bothered me that I hadn't been camping. I don't think I'd even thought about this gaping hole in my outdoor life. All that changed rather radically a year ago today. For what remains the first - and so far only time - I ended up in a muddy campsite in Whitby sitting on a tent as the wind attempted to blow it away from the group attempting to assemble it. It was, I can safely say, a baptism of fire. And then some.

Some time during the winter it had been mooted that a trip to Whitby over May Bank holiday weekend, with a nod to what would be Griffin's half birthday***, might be something fun to do. I'd immediately agreed. When the possibility of camping had been suggested I'd been more cautious. With arguments to cost and practicality all shouting loudly towards a campsite I'd nodded my head in agreement and accepted the fact that I was going to lose my camping cherry. What I probably hadn't factored on was how cold and muddy the reality of camping in Whitby at the beginning of May was going to be. When we arrived at our campsite of choice it was closed due to flooding. That was the amount of rain that had fallen in the 24 hours prior to our arrival. Five minutes later we were at the next campsite and starting to set up - strangely being confused by the level of mud. With the rain, the wind and the mud (did I mention the rain?) it took us the best part of the afternoon to put up everyone's tents. But, were we proud of our efforts:

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That would be the tent we affectionately name Little Alistair****. And that would also be a doctored Middlesbrough flag on it. If you look at the top you'll also notice that it's missing a piece of covering to stop the rain getting in. We didn't notice that until we'd come back from the pub, past kicking out time and slightly tipsy, to be confronted by the fact that Little Alistair had flooded. And because there is nothing to do in these situations but laugh, I laughed. So much that for about five minutes I couldn't stand upright. The result? We turned Little Alistair into the bar. Well, it works for us.

The next couple of days were spent doing numerous things that still make me want to ache with laughter. By the Saturday afternoon even the weather seemed to have cleared up - though you still needed to roll your trousers up on the campsite - and we ended up on the beach, posing for Grattan catalogue pictures and me refusing the invitation to paddle in just my 'bring it on' knickers. On the Saturday evening, after a barbecue and vodka, we ended up the campsite club. We'd been expecting 'Name That Tune' - well you know I like a good quiz - but instead were presented with Peter La Scala. No, I'd never heard of him either. But if the club house with its gold lame curtains and heating provided anything it was the opportunity to drink without fearing for your nose falling off. I also had another first at this point - I got ID'd at the bar. Clearly the trauma of the cold had taken years off of me. Around the table, very loud and very giggly we had a night that may live on in legend. We wrote Griffin and Fox postcards. And it should be noted that at this point none of us really knew Fox. I'm surprised that he didn't get a restraining order the moment that he received the postcard. We danced to Abba and got the DJ to play Griffin. Needless to say they thought we were a bit odd.

After the club had closed and we'd had a chance to play in the deserted children's playground we decided that a trip to the beach was in order. Only we wanted a short cut. Cue us being led down the side of a cliff by Ali. And Ali's good at a lot of things, principally it would seem leading people to their deaths. When she reached part of the path that had given way her response was to raise her arm in the air and shout 'We have a problem!'. Clearly my survival instinct had kicked in and I decided that I didn't really want to feature in a future episode of '999- the ultimate rescues' so up we went again. When we finally got down to the beach we ended up singing songs - and talking about pile cream - around what is generally accepted to be the most rubbish campfire in the history of campfires.

The next morning we awoke to the heatwave that Cat had been forecasting the entire time we were there. And we made our pilgrimage to one of Griffin's professed loves - Arnold Palmer's Crazy Golf Course. And we even had a cake:

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I also managed to prove that crazy golf is not one of my lifeskills. I ended up getting my ball stuck under the windmill that you can see in the picture, and when your ball gets stuck under it there is only one way to get it out. That'll be me laying flat out on the green snookering my golf ball***** then.

I did, however, manage to redeem myself slightly on the nearby canoes. Ali, Nik and I chose them because we thought that they'd get us less wet that the bumper boats. We were, predictably, very very wrong and I spent most of the day with a wet bum to prove it. But we did look like Charlie's Angels:

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So all was right with the world.

Obviously this year I'm spending May Bank Holiday weekend in a slightly dryer, less drunken manner. With added Chaucer.

Erm, how long would it take me to get to Whitby?

*To be fair I wouldn't have given myself that label either. 12-16 was my experimentation phase. Otherwise known as the wilderness years.

**There was a girl in my class who not only dyed her hair odd colours she also used to occasionally go and stand outside Radio Aire when certain popstars came. And I didn't do that until I was 20.

***Sad or sweet. I'll let you decide.

****Courtesy of Claudia Winkleman, from her comment on Griffin's face when he saw the naked pictures of Rachel Hunter on live television.

*****'snookering' copyright Griffin. I suspect I may not have been the only one to have had that problem.

The Problem With Renaissance Man?

The Problem With Renaissance Man?

He knows too much.

And what does he do with this knowledge? Writes sonnets.

If there is an afterlife and I end up meeting Sidney, say in a taxi queue or something, I will be having serious words with him.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Much Ado About Revision

Much Ado About Revision

The wave of exhaustion that was being put off courtesy of free theatre tickets and being metres away from Paddy Marber now seems to have hit. Not really physical exhaustion, though the aching arms do seem to have reappeared, but more mental. In that there really is a limit to how many days running you revise for eight to ten hours a day with total involvement. Since Sunday I've covered Shakespeare's Comedies (AYLI, A Dream, Much Ado, Shrew,TN), Tragedies (Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Lear, Macbeth, Othello) and Late Plays (Winter's Tale, Pericles, Tempest), gone through four different topics for my language paper (including deciding in the library on Thursday morning that the way forward was to abandon media language for the 'code' and 'register' section because everyone does it and, in light of all the who-ha at the moment, focus in on political code and register because very few people do. And once you're in a field of four rather than 34 the odds of getting a good mark start looking much better) and today I covered 15 mystery plays and their historical background. In the case of the Ludus Coventraie Passion Play seeing Jesus Christ Superstar on repeat seems to have aided the memory process. I also re-read Examination Reports in the light of what I now know about my subjects. I felt smug until I got to paper three of seven. After which I wished that I hadn't started reading them in the first place.

Tomorrow? Sidney and other Renaissance poets. Sunday? Re-read Troilus and Criseyde for commentary paper and then learn all of its sources. Monday? Canterbury Tales. Tuesday? Renaissance Comedies. Wednesday? Political language and my ever favourite Trotsky's dustbin topic, Rhetoric. Thursday is officially my day off, but as of Friday (Shakespeare plays that I haven't yet covered) I'm back on the treadmill. Which doesn't stop until 12:30 on the 26th of May when I come out of exam schools. And promptly fall in a heap in the midst of the high street and am fined by the Proctors* for cluttering up the pavement**.

The odd thing seems to be that I'm not panicking. Which given that the college is fast becoming filled with headless chicken third and fourth years seems strange. But, examination reports aside, I'm strangely calm. Maybe I'm doing that whole detached from my body thing. Maybe I'm too tired to have the energy required for all out panic. The problem here? Because I'm doing my revision, ticking off the boxes and feeling fairly confident once I've covered something the nasty voice in my ear - much like Satan in the mystery plays - starts whispering about Firsts. Which is not a way to go. Realistically I haven't done enough work to get a First. But then Mr Satan notes that I've gotten firsts on all my essays in the last two terms (rhetoric, of course, excluded). My sensible head points out that I didn't get firsts on the majority of essays in my second year. Mainly it must be said because I wrote a worrying proportion of them at five in the morning. If I'm honest my competitive streak is kicking in, even with the tiredness. Statistically two people at St Anne's are going to get firsts in English. I'd like to be one of them. I think on this score I have to stop replaying the maths in my head. So if Mr Satan could return to annoying Jesus in the Chester cycle and let me get on with finding out what the heck the difference between Classical and Renaissance rhetoric is, I'd be much obliged.

*The Oxford University equivalent of the police.

**Not as far-fetched as it sounds. They have the 'fun tax'*** which means that they give on the spot fines for any type of pavement littering, splashing or covering during post-exam celebrations.

***Surprisingly that's not its official name.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Knowing You, Not Knowing Me

Knowing You, Not Knowing Me

The last time that Patrick Marber gave an official lecture here the lecture theatre in St Catz was overflowing, and primarily overflowing with women. It was just after the film of Closer had been released and undoubtedly the Pretty Jude Law connection wasn't doing Paddy any harm. This time, however, the lecture theatre, full but not quite crammed to the extent where you wonder at what point all of the oxygen is going to be used up, was overwhelmingly male. The reason? Rather than the joys of Closer, and the possibility of Pretty Jude anecdotes, Paddy had Steve Coogan in tow. A-ha.

On finding a seat I soon discovered that I was surrounded by the unofficial Coogan brigade. Even James, uber thesp, rated himself to be more excited about Coogan than Paddy. And it quickly became apparent that a nearby random, who felt the need to quiz me about the format of these events, had no idea of who Paddy was. But still took the cue from some of my detailing to make increasingly bad puns. I could have been sat near Partridge himself.

When Paddy and Coogan appeared there was, and i'm still in shock over this, whooping. And, even though I'm someone who has been known to whoop, I actually felt a little embarrassed. You don't whoop at Marber, he's a writer not a minor popstar*. But they weren't really whooping at Paddy, they were whooping at Coogan. He's been on telly after all. At Griffin's Gig in Ilkley when I'd been discussing my future plans with Nik, Willow and Sarah [including the hooker-line-dancing-Nik-snogging-Fox musical] and my status as a future famous person it had been questioned whether I wanted to be Griffin famous or Beyonce famous. I'd gone with Patrick Marber famous. Willow had responded with "Ah, cool famous". And I'd nodded and immediately agreed to get Clive Owen to appear in one of my plays. But, of course, the thing with "cool writer famous" is that it's an elitist fame. Possibly even more so that Griffin famous. "Cool famous" is not beamed into people's living rooms. It's not being Alan Partridge. And, if I do make it and get a little slice of Paddy famous, then this is my future. Hearing people whoop for the person sat next to me. If it's any consolation to Paddy, he looked far more dashing.

The talk itself, after a rather strained start from Coogan who seemed content to um and er for the first few minutes, proved to be both funny and amusing. It included Coogan telling the story of how when he was 12 he created a fake bullet hole in his head with stage makeup, laid on his sofa and pretended to be dead. As you do when you're 12. And derranged. Coogan also detailed what was one of the defining moments in his life; in his sixth form canteen as he pondered the current generation of British comedy he realised that there would be another generation emerge after this one. That around Britain there were people his age who didn't know it yet but who would become the comedy establishment. He then asked himself that all important question - why can't it be me? From this point in he decided to do everything he could to make himself one of that as yet nameless generation. If it didn't work, so be it. But he had to try. And I thought that that was rather beautiful.

And, if anyone's wondering - Paddy and Coogan are starting writing some more Alan Partridge. Mainly because they're haunted by the guy. Which sounds rather painful.

*No offence to minor popstars who are also writers. Paddy doesn't take his trousers off on national tv or pose for topless calenders. I'm sure you understand.**

** I love you both really.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

"I could have lived his life": Talking To Terrorists

"I could have lived his life": Talking To Terrorists

Because I think it's a good idea* I've decided that, from now on, I'm going review on here any plays that I see. Indulgent, ooops-I-might-talk-about-the-ending reviews, admittedly. But reviews nonetheless. So, with no further ado, I present my review of Out of Joint's production of Robin Soans's Talking To Terrorists.

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In 2003, in David Hare's The permanent Way, Out of Joint did the seemingly unthinkable and made the story of the railways post-privatisation into not only a critically acclaimed piece of theatre but also a resoundingly interesting one. Using the same techniques of personal testimony and workshopping they have now turned their attention towards a much bigger and infinitely more prickly subject matter - terrorism.

As the title would suggest talking to terrorists is both the origin and the substance of the play. Over a number of months Max Stafford-Clark, Robin Soans and a number of actors visited numerous people on both sides of the terrorism divide. Thus Patrick Magee, the Brighton Bomber, stands alongside a former member of the Ulster Volunteer Force, The Palestinian former head of the Al AQSA Martyrs Brigade with a child soldier of the Ugandan National Resistance Army. Beyond this come those whose jobs or lives have brought them into contact with terrorists - a spirited Lebanese journalist, a school girl in Bethlehem, even Norman Tebbit whose wife, the onstage counterpart of whom makes a brief and poignant appearance, was paralysed by Magee's bomb. It makes for both a diverse and at times shocking play.

With such a range of characters the emphasis undoubtedly falls on the actors to differentiate and grasp their stories and viewpoints, often with only minimal stage time. Put quite simply all seven actors are outstanding, however you try and divide it there is simply no weak link. Of particular note, however, are Chipo Chung and Lloyd Hutchinson. Chung's child soldier marches around the stage, filled with unabashed joy at something she perceives as being a game but which will prove to have consequences far beyond her expectations. Starkly she will later recount both the gruesome murders she was forced to take part in and her own rape. In this particularly demanding role Chung excels, capturing the full tenor of emotions and never letting the audience forget the innocence which has been destroyed. Hutchinson gives two stand out performances on either side of the terrorism spectrum, his understated and endearingly witty Envoy - based on Terry Waite - recounting his near execution provides one of the most heartrending moments of the play. It is Hutchinson's portrayal of the Former IRA Member - based on Magee - however, which lingers long in the memory. He is intelligent, articulate and painfully human, engaging the sympathies of the audience in the most unlikely of places. Balanced with this is the fact that Hutchinson never attempts to over-compensate for his undoubtedly horrifying actions. It's a difficult line to walk but Hutchinson seems to revel in it.

For all the multiple viewpoints, with the assortment of accents, colours, religions and clothes which pervade the play, Soans's script attempts to move towards unifying and creating connections. As the Psychologist states "The difference between a terrorist and the rest of us really isn't that great" and it is towards this that the play moves. Thus there are a number of recurring themes - children, mothers and fathers, food and eating, illness, colours, reading, captivity - which connect the characters. Of the numerous themes the two that resonate most throughout the play are violence and, conversely, laughter. The Former Member of the UVF comes to recognise that he has been both victim and perpertrator of violence and this holds true for many of the characters. Laughter, however, unites even more. Indeed for a play concerned with such a serious subject matter there are numerous moments of humour, noticeably in some of its darkest points. Thus the paralysed wife of the former secretary of state reveals how there was so much laughter in the spinal unit that she didn't have time to mourn what had happened to her, the Envoy laughs as he is unwittingly given a book about breast feeding by his non-English speaking guard, the Palestinian and his bodyguard end up laughing over the story of the Palestinian's near assassination. It is only in the final moments of the play when the laughter, devastatingly, stops. For the child in Bethlehem whose school friend has been killed by an Israeli sniper the situation is profoundly unfunny. And from this emerges a much more perverted laughter which points, not to reconciliation and hope, but to more devastation and destruction.

For all the exploratory and documentary nature of the play what emerges, much to the credit of both Soans and Stafford-Clark, is a profoundly theatrical production. Possibly the most effective moment comes when Hutchinson's detailing of his actions in planting the bomb at Brighton is intercut with the parallel narrative of the experience of the night the bomb went off by June Watson's Caroline. There are no dramatic stage effects or lighting, instead it depends simply on the juxtaposition of these experiences. It is devastatingly effective.

If the play has flaws then it is possibly in its intended scope. Every story heard in Talking To Terrorists is worthy of its own play and thus sometimes you are left with the nagging feeling that you haven't heard all of the story, that the need to talk which the play emphatically proclaims, isn't quite fulfilled. In these respects it leaves many more loose ends then either Hare's Via Dolorosa or Stuff Happens, both of which it shares ground with. In trying to eradicate differences it sometimes goes a little too far and over-simplifys what are hugely divergent and difficult issues. This does not, however, denigrate the depth of achievement or the epic scope which Out of Joint have aimed for.

Ultimately this is fast paced, emotional and complex theatre. As the actor Jonathan Cullen noted in the post-show discussion, it is not an easy play for an audience - it is as much about them keeping numerous balls up in the air as it is for the actors. This, however, is surely a compliment for the production and not something which the audience should be scared of. Talking To Terrorists displays some of the best aspects of modern British theatre. It is engaging, funny, often deeply moving and overwhelmingly relevant. It seems that theatre, more than any other medium, is embracing the idea of saying something important. Long may it continue.

Talking To Terrorists, Oxford Playhouse, 26/04/05.

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If it's not clear, I absolutely loved it. And not just because I got a free ticket and then got to hear Max Stafford-Clark talk after wards.

It would seem the rest of the audience loved it too. When it finished the mood was electrifying, there was even non-Fox inspired whooping.

And I cried. Keep your films and television, give me theatre any day.

*Put then I once thought that orange clothing was a good idea. Regardless of how much is currently in stores, for me (Dulex Shade: Translucent) it isn't. I know, I've still got the photos.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Competitive, moi?

Competitive, moi?

Half asleep and with only one eye open I found myself yelling at my radio: "but that's NOT A PRIME NUMBER".

The cause of this unscheduled outburst at a time when I was still in a messy-haired stupor?

Rob DJ's Monday Night Quiz on this morning's breakfast show on Radio One.

God, I love quizzes. Which is probably why I should be banned from doing them.

Monday, April 25, 2005

All The World's A Stage

All The World's A Stage

Or, at least according to one of my tutors in today's coffee and cream revision seminar, we should "think of the exam as a stage"*.

Other interesting snippets between all the cream and the biscuits?

"Don't do the 'Talk about: toothbrushes' questions. They're rubbish"**.

"Think of your revision as bits of lego"***.

And, my personal favourite and possible something I should live my life by:

"It's better to be interesting than right"****.

*Which does beg the question - if it's a stage, where is the safety curtain?

**As odd as some of the questions are I don't think they've ever, as yet, asked us to write an essay on toothbrushes in relation to Milton's Paradise Lost or something of that nature.

***Maybe I could build a pirate ship out of them.

****Except when you're challenged on what the word 'laconic' means. Then it's just better to be right.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

And The It Was Decreed That Burberry Should Not Be Worn On The Sabbath

And Then It Was Decreed That Burberry Should Not Be Worn On The Sabbath

This afternoon I had to go round to David's* flat to drop off some books. Before I get on to my story proper, as an aside I'll say that this is not normal practice. What if I was deranged and wanted to stalk the man? Or, at the very least, drop insults about Pinter into his letterbox? He'd be buggered given that he emailed me a step by step account on how to get to where he lives.

Sun shining down I set off with the books and the video of - you guessed it - Pinter and was halfway up Banbury road, just shuddering as I passed the building that houses the careers centre, when I realised that I'd gone the wrong way. Not hugely the wrong way, but wrong way enough that I was going to have to double back on myself at the next street. The hilarity about this? The fact that I went the way that you have to go when you're driving because of the one way system. But I was on foot. And, anyway, I don't even drive in the first place. Why, then, was I abiding by traffic laws? Really I don't understand myself at times.

On reaching the correct house I stepped into the porch and immediately heard a rather large and disconcerting crunch. The type of crunch that would worry you were you in your own house. When you've just stepped into your tutor's porch it's the type of crunch that has you on bended knee, asking for forgiveness. Bracing myself for what was to come - I looked down. And it immediately became obvious what I'd stood on in my flowered wedges. There, confronting me in a slightly mangled heap:

My sunglasses.

Or, to be correct, my Burberry sunglasses.

Now maybe this is a time to have an aside as to why I have Burberry sunglasses given that Burberry surely is up there with Von Dutch for being the Chav style staple. Well, I'd like to make it known that in the realms of the late nineties, when Burberry started moving away from stiff-upper-lipped gentleman to Kate Moss promoting clothing label, I rather liked Burberry. No, if I'm honest, I loved Burberry. Of course post millennium everyone and their pet dog - unfortunately literally in both cases - loved Burberry. And, however much you love something, when you see Daniella Westbrook wearing it from head to toe, especially something as distinctive as the Burberry check, you immediately have to banish it. But, just as I will never be able to entirely remove my love of ponchos despite events and the horror of mass poncho buying in 2004 , I still have a soft spot for Burberry. And, because it's not as obvious, I still buy their perfume in duty free. So, when I saw a ridiculously cheap pair of Burberry sunglasses, I bought them.

Now, however, the ridiculously cheap Burberry sunglasses had made contact with the bottom of my wedges after falling out of my coat pocket. I can but mourn their passing.

*Who's David?**

**Hilary Term's 20th century drama tutor if I'm honest. You don't get that in the Busted song.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

If Only I Were This Organised In Real Life

If Only I Were This Organised In Real Life

After five days of ten minutes here, ten minutes there, Distant Aggravation now has archives by topic as well as date:

Fox - Entries relating to my 'best friend'.

Griffin - Popstar-boy. I think I mention him ever so occasionally.

In My Head - General, everyday entries. Embarrassment factor probably very high. Mentions of cowboy boots probably higher still.

Literature - That'll be the blog equivalent of quoting Marvell in the shower, then.

Oxford - More pub quizzes and odd tutors than gowns and punting it must be said. To be avoided if finals panic is not your proverbial bag.

Riccardi - Small but perfectly formed archive for the Riccardi boys.

Some Sort of Beautiful - Since it's my blog, SSoB gets its own section.

Theatre - Hopefully to include more than the odd review for Jesus Christ Superstar.

In creating the topics I've discovered that it might be an idea for me to branch out in subject matter ever so occasionally...

And Your Starter For Ten

And Your Starter For Ten

Sitting near the open door of the dining hall, with the breeze wafting through, I opened the exam paper. I scan read it, stopping at the sections where I hoped to find a question suitable for all those quotes that I'd been reciting in the shower. And, when I'd read the questions that were directed towards the authors that I wanted to write about, I got that thrill that always shadows exams.

Shit.

What on earth was I going to write about?

It wasn't even obvious which questions I was going to have to answer. There was nothing that shouted "oh-look-at-me-I'm-your-shining-route-to-a-first"; at this point I'd even have taken "I-might-not-be-incredibly-shiny- but-I'm-a-low-2:1-and-that's-not-bad".

Faced with such a dilema there was only one thing that could happen. The adrenalin kicked in. And given that I have never panicked in an exam in my life, I didn't intend to start panicking in the dining hall over an exam which counts for nothing more than my getting to have an easy/less-humiliating half an hour when I go and discuss the results with Tony. So, armed with my shower honed knowledge, I began to blag. And the good thing about blagging literature essays is that once I start my mind tends to push me in other directions. By the time that I was halfway through the somewhat tortuous opening paragraph of my Swift essay I had the rest of that essay in my head. And by the time that I was on the conclusion to Swift I knew what I was writing for my Marvell essay.

The only downside was that, just after starting my Aphra Behn essay, the adrenalin cut out. And without any prior warning I should add. My brain was telling me that this was an exam that counted for precisely nothing. Why should I expend worring amounts of energy blagging my way through it? I kind of agreed. Internal broadband switched off, my brain's google machine slowed down. And I spent the last twenty minutes of the exam writing at a fairly sedate rate.

However grumpy I've been about this exam and the fact that it has screwed up my revision schedule*, it was kind of heartening to realise that, having not done an exam in such a manner since June 2002, I soon settled back into the blagging element. That I can still deal with being faced with a paper where it's not obvious what I'm going to write about. And given that I've seven papers to do, there's bound to be one stinker in there.

Just next time I'm rather hoping that I don't have to blag my way through an essay on Swift's use of personae when I cannot remember any of the names, other than Gulliver and Drapier, which he uses**.

*It is not a wise move at the moment to do that.

**The irony here? I came and looked up 'A Modest Proposal' and 'A Tale of a Tub' afterwards to discover that neither narrator is named. So I'd been worrying about refering to them a 'the narrator' instead of by name when I needn't have. Bah
.

Friday, April 22, 2005

It's maddness to resist or blame

It's maddness to resist or blame

The morning I saw the next month stretch out before me.

Y'know how normal people sing in the shower?

This morning I recited Marvell's 'An Horatian Ode in Honour of Cromwell's Return From Ireland' whilst in the shower. And when I'd done that I had a bash at my selected stanzas from 'Upon Appleton House'.

Maybe I shouldn't be telling people about this.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Future's Blog-Shaped

The Future's Blog-Shaped

You may or may not have noticed that I've recently updated my link section and it seems a shame for them to sit there without my elaborating on why I like them*.

Dooce

When my blog grows up it wants to be Dooce. Possibly with fewer mentions of poop, admittedly. But Dooce nonetheless.

The reason for this? As well as having a ridiculously cute daughter she makes me snort out loud more than any other blog writer. Snorting might not be pretty, but hey, in the comfort of your own room it's always a good thing. She's also a bit of a trail-blazer with the blogging thing have gotten fired for writing about her job in her blog. Can you hear 'R-E-S-P-E-C-T' playing in the back ground?

Election/Eurovision World of Chig


I stumbled upon Chig via one of the other blogs on my list and the clue as to why he's now firmly implanted on my list is in the very title of his blog. And as well as the Eurovision thing how could I not immediately bookmark someone who has the following sentence in their bog profile: "He meets minor pop stars for 5 minutes at a time, then pretends they are his friends".

And yes, for those readers who are joining the dots and getting excited**, it does mean that he's met Fox.

Green Fairy Dot Com

Articulate, funny and every now and then surprisingly delicate. Not sure that she'd agree with the large pile of glossy magazines that live next to my bed though.

Little Blue Teacup

Source of only a little bit, ok a lot, of 'oh that's odd' thoughts on my part. Not because of her blog, I might add, but because she's a finalist too. And called Corrinne.

There'll be enough of us for a whole Army soon.

My Boyfriend's A Twat

C'mon, with a title like that it was always going to be a brilliant blog, wasn't it?

Nothing More Than Me

People with blogs which are named after lines in the same song should stick together. And, anyway, there are suspicions that Nik and I are the same person. I wouldn't like to make a call on that either way. If you don't already, go read her blog and leave a comment with the word 'dubious' in it. She'll love you forever.

Ramblings of A Writer

Billygean's a real-life friend of Nik. Not only does she love REM, she has legitimate reasons to get excited about tutus. I'm not sure whether she does get excited about tutus or not, but, hey, I do. Pity my first born daughter.

Petite Anglaise

A Brit living in Paris with Mr Frog and Little Miss Tadpole. I think that sentence sums up exactly why I love her blog.

Random Acts of Reality

Not only is this incredibly well written but it, erm, pushes the envelope of blogging better than any blog I've read. The list of ideas that I want to steal from it is endless.

Tequila Mockingbird

How, as an English undergraduate, could I fail to be moved by the title? And you know that thing where you feel stressed and want to get on a plane and fly out to a random destination? She actually does it. Can you feel the awe?

The Gospel According To Rhys

Now Rhys is another finalist who, when not at Uni in Liverpool, lives in Colwyn Bay. And you know what? I stayed in a cottage in Colwyn Bay with my parents when I was little. I even have a picture of me some years later in a very dodgy checked shirt taken at the Welsh Mountain Zoo. That, of course, is neither here nor there when it comes to Rhys's blog. Go read, just don't listen to what he says about the Boat Race.

This Fish

New York, Baby! Surprisingly wistful. And pink.

Troubled Diva

My God***, this man knows his music. Plus I feel educated now I know what a "kissing forest" is.

Way Off Loop

A real-world friend, Reina's LJ's largely dedicated to the reviews she's writing at the moment. Basically makes you - well me - feel extremely envious that Chicago isn't a possible commute for all the free tickets that she gets.

Welsh Girl In Leeds

The first time I read her blog I saw the phrase 'oop North'. After that I had to keep on reading.

*Humour me, it's this or I give you a list of all the quotes - and their corresponding mental images - that I've had to memorise today.

**For anyone else, I'm sorry. It's a disease.

***Yep, that would be a Rigsby joke.

Bop, indeed.

Bop, indeed.

Just to demonstrate the caring, thoughtful nature of second year students, here's part of an email from one of St Anne's Entz reps:
Dear The Masses,
Bad news: Collections. You're gonna get a third.
Good news: Collections are not finals.
Better news: Bop this Saturday night at Green bar.
Thank you for that. I feel much better now.

NB: I was going to footnote the words that might need explaining but it would have meant footnoting at least a third of this entry and let's face it, it's a rant not an entry, so it isn't worth the effort. So here's a miny glossary:
Entz: Entertainment. The definition of entertainment here being anything which involves copious amounts of alcohol and/or annoying emails.
Collections: Pre-term exams. So called because...erm...I'm not sure.
Bop: Glorified school disco. But with alcohol.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Crazy, Funny and Lovely Things

Crazy, Funny and Lovely Things

Despite the fact that I've spent the last 12 hours or so wearing a jumper with a playboy bunny on it* and a sock with a hole in**, today's been rather productive. I covered Aphra Behn, who rocks not least because I can legitimately mention Virginia Woolf when I talk about her. She rocks for other reasons too, but really the Ginny thing is more than enough for me. Between chunks of The Rover I also managed to sort out an entry for a playwrighting competition; I'm not providing any more details though given that I don't want you all to be able to point and laugh when nothing comes of it. And despite this activity I managed to limit my chocolate intake to one bar of Galaxy. Can you feel the smugness radiating from me?

The last couple of days in Distant Aggravation land, however, have been a little odd because of the blog I made on Sunday night. No, not the one about the ducks. The other one. Clearly whatever those blog writing guides say, the key to getting people to read and comment on your blog is to write something mildly controversial about A-G.co.uk. I don't know whether to be scared or amused that in just over 24 hours the word of the blog had spread far beyond its normal reach. It's also a bit off-putting to realise that for the word to spread as far as it did there must have been people reading, or at least checking, this blog who were a little pre-disposed not to like me. If that's you - hello. I'm a blog whore, I'll take whatever readers I can get. Plus it feels like some great rite of passage to have gotten my first insulting comments***. A sign of blog maturity at last. For anyone else who's come along to read the controversy bit, feel free to have a wander around. There are better written entries than the one you've come to read, there are even the odd one or two where I'm funny. You never know you might like it.

And, before everything returns back to normal here on DA and I return to blogging about cowboy boots, I should say a little thank you to everyone who expressed their views. It was lovely to read them all and a rather heartening reminder of why I used to be so proud to be part of the Griffin fan community. The title of this blog is, of course, for you all. Bring it on, eh?

*No, I didn't buy this myself and yes, I'm wearing it in a retro ironic fashion.

**Responsibility of the cowboy boots.

***On the sliding scale of rites of passage I'm thinking it tallies somewhere with getting your first bra. Or something like that.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

"I was in the toilet with Griffin!"

"I was in the toilet with Griffin!"

That title made you look. And it's true. You're just going to have to wait for me to explain it.

Before I had the incident with the car door and the oncoming bus, I'd been to see Riccardi at Bush Hall with Nik and Becky. And thanks to the Oxford Tube managing the unprecendented feat of getting me into London in the 1 hour forty minutes that they claim in their advertising and Becky's generosity, I ended up drinking Baileys in what can only be described as an Old Man's Pub. Indeed we were the youngest by a good three decades. But I haven't been drinking recently - despite appearances in my room and its collection of alcohol - and so I got giggly very quickly. Not drunk, but giggly. And I'm normally quite giggly. So you can imagine the situation here.

Thus having to wait slightly for the doors to open - basking in the glory of my geographical prowess that may not allow me to read maps but does seem to be spot on in finding random Riccardi venues - didn't bother me. Adopting a kind of dignified, but muffled, sprint to get a table near the front when inside didn't bother me either. And as people who know me will be aware - I do not run properly. I kind of mince. So I minced to the front in record time. As it turned out we didn't have long to wait before the boys were on. Their set was rather fab but also rather short too (cue Simon Guitar checking afterwards that we hadn't paid to get in) and, being first on, the audience hadn't built up. By the end of the evening, though, the venue was buzzing and when Nik and my favourite Scot, Posh Young Farmer Boy, appeared on stage, it was packed and rather loud. But Posh Young Farmer Boy was rather impressive too, though to say he's only 18 his songs really seem to have the weight of the world on them. Not, I guess as the author of SSoB, that I can talk much. In true About A Boy stylee, he also sings with his eyes closed. Which whilst I do sometimes listen with my eyes closed, I always sing with them open. So I can talk about that.

In between Nik and I pondered crucial decisions such as who was the best dressed of Riccardi. In the end Ricci Drums won through, mainly because he talked the right talk. And for the fact that Simon Guitar and Billy Bass were both disqualified, for a black and brown combo and really dodgy shoes respectively. I also discovered that as a venue I rather like Bush Hall; the bar was teeming with people who dress like I do - I stopped counting cowboy boots after the fifth pair - so I felt slightly more at home than I did eating my chips with a fork in the Old Man's Pub.

But I guess you're wondering about the toilets. Well, it seems that it is a habit of Bush Hall to have reviews of now-famous acts who have performed there. And in the cubicle I went into I was promptly greeted with a review for Griffin. Sadly, it was the wrong Griffin, not least because this Griffin was blonde and female, but as the review referred to her throughout as Griffin I got more than my fair share of comedy value out of it. I'm hoping there was no one other than Nik in the loos when I read out the choice snippets of the review, however. Or indeed when I loudly proclaimed that I been in the toilet with Griffin. I'm thinking that probably cancelled out the eating chips with a fork incident. Back to the Old Man's Pub for me.

No Giggling

No Giggling

It is not a good idea to open car doors when there is a big red London bus headed directly at you.

Nor is it a good idea to shriek about the fact that you nearly caused thousands of pounds worth of damage to a car that doesn't belong to you the moment that you slam the door shut.

I may have to walk from now on.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Coffee, Tea and a Distinct Lack of Sympathy

Coffee, Tea and a Distinct Lack of Sympathy

This morning my scout returned my lamp that had been missing. She also informed me that the house had been burgled during the vacation.

Let's just rewind that sentence for a moment.

We got burgled during the vac.

Now this fact does raise a few questions. Namely why anyone would go to the trouble of burgling an empty college house during a time when there is only beds and empty wardrobes in the rooms the students live in and white boards and marker pens in the seminar rooms. So I'm thinking that these people aren't necessarily conversant with how the system at Oxford works.

On discovering that there wasn't anything that they could steal it seems they settled for the next best thing - causing complete chaos. This consisted of them emptying all the food that we'd left all over the kitchen - and since this was stuff like coffee and sugar in my case and tomato ketchup in the case of another housemate this didn't sound pretty - and throwing our plates and cutlery around.

We now have to write lists of anything that is missing so that it can be replaced. Of the things that I'd left in the kitchen there were a number that, in the face of nothing electrical and expensive to take, might have disappeared. My boxed kettle, new toaster or new iron or, if they were desperate, a sandwich toaster. But no, they all remain. Instead it seems that I have lost:
1. A plastic jug.
2. A wooden spoon.
3. A pair of scissors.
4. Two tea-towels.
5. A cloth.
6. Sugar, Tea, Coffee and a box of cuppa-soup.
Most painfully, however, stands the next one:
7. A Bailey's Latte Glass.
And as I was composing the list it hit me that the buggers had probably broken my glass. Given that they broke New Housemate's door I probably got off lightly, but of all my glasses it had to be that one. And I can't even claim for it. Bastards.

And just to cement the problems of 48 Woodstock, as well as having no internet we now have no hot water either. They are apparently sorting the issue today, but if not I will be getting very stroppy in the Bursar's Office tomorrow morning. You'll probably hear me.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Giving Up

Giving Up

Dear A-G.co.uk,

When I fell in love with the idea of open blog letters I certainly didn't envisage writing one to a website. I believe Pretty Jude Law is still waiting for his. But, somehow, this is the only way that I can write something that I think I've needed to write for a while.

I think that whatever happens in the future I will always believe in the power that the internet has to bring people together. And not just in a two guys wanking in cyberspace type way either. On the night after I watched Griffin come second in the tortuous-and-by-this-point-highly-biased-reality television show I googled him. And stumbled on A-G.co.uk . And when I clicked that link it connected me to literally hundreds of others who'd i)been sucked in by reality tv and ii)had supported Griffin. There, all within contact, were all of these people who'd voted, who'd laughed, who'd cried, who'd believed. And I spent the weeks following Griffin's progress through the eyes of the site.

When it was announced that he was going to switch on Middlesbrough Christmas Lights I decided to go. I'd never been to Middlesbrough before and there was no one I knew who I could reasonably drag along. But it didn't matter. There were other people from A-G.co.uk going. And when I ended up backstage with some of the people who would a couple of weeks later become the Northern Division and we met Griffin, it lost some of its oddness and gained something of a connection because Griffin knew we were from 'the site'.

In the months that followed A-G.co.uk effectively became Griffin's fan headquarters. And as 'Ali's Army' marched on we forged a community. But there was rather too much at stake for everyone. Rather than uniting in the support of Griffin, it fractured into who could get a piece of Griffin. And if the fans who posted in the forum were fragmented by this desire, then it fragmented the site itself.

I'd have loved to have spent the last year entirely ignorant of internal politics but I couldn't. It pains me to see what has become of a site which once seemed such a vital part of Griffin's future. And even this time last year it was starting to look like it would be possible to pull the site round. I still believed, even when Griffin had questioned Nik, Becky and myself in the middle of a carpark about the state that it was in, that it would be ok. How could somewhere where all these amazing friendships started simply disolve to nothing?

But it has.

The deaparture of one of the Admin led to Griffin initially moving back into the orbit of the site, in a manner that surprised even me given his earlier comments. But that is rather emphatically no longer the case and although the pretence is made that Griffin is still onboard it hardly takes Einstein to work out that he has positioned himself away from it. So much so that when a competition for some signed merchandise came up recently I actually had to question whether it actually was Griffin's signature. It certainly didn't look like it. But, I suspect, that my disquiet over this was actually more of a product of how disgruntled I feel about other aspects.

There is, and has been for some time, distinct contempt for its members. People who were 'managing' Griffin at one point were allowed and facillitated to post under numerous usernames, largely to stir up trouble. Even when it became one of the worst kept secrets of the Griffin experience, A-G.co.uk refused to do that thing which might have aided the process of rehabilitation and hold up their hands and apologise. The silence was deafening.

And from this moment the contempt seemed to grow. Member's photos of Griffin appear on the homepage without permission. Important concerns are either ignored or swept away. I even remember one evening where what I considered to be highly invasive pictures of Griffin in the entrance to his hotel appeared and were allowed to remain on site until I, after going almost apoplectic in my search for a mod or admin, complained about them.

Now it seems that as well as haemouraging members and moderators, it's lost another Admin. Naturally it seems to be all cloak and dagger and I doubt that many members are aware of this. And I think it is this final silence that has forced me into writing this.

Griffin needs his fanbase more than he ever has. And that's why it hurts me to see A-G.co.uk implode. But I really can't see how it can continue for long in the manner which it is as it sprawls into an increasingly un-moderated mass of dwindling members and pretensions of connections with Griffin.

Maybe, in my heart, I can't quite let go. Certainly that's the reason that I didn't abandon the site entirely several months ago. And because I can't quite let go I'm writing this. Because I'd love A-G.co.uk to attempt to turn itself around. To admit the mistakes and the politics which have over-ridden everything else for so long. To pull together a new moderating team, to finish off what is a half-finished site and spectactularly amateur looking re-design. To give itself a purpose away from hanging on to Griffin's coat-tails.

I'm not foolish enough to think that we can go back to those heady days prior to the BIO release in 2003. But I can't give up the hope that we might still go forward.

In reality I suspect that the best I can hope is that Griffin puts up his own information site. I heard rumours a while ago that he was going to. I cheered in the middle of the street when I was told this. It hasn't, as yet, emerged. I don't know if it ever will.

If I can't quite say goodbye to A-G.co.uk yet I suspect that this blog letter may be the start of that process. At one point it would have felt like giving up on Griffin to have said that. Now they're so seperated in my mind that it no longer is. And maybe that's where the beginning of the end lies.

Corinne.x

Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs

Given that there are bears with sore heads who are marginally less tetchy than I currently am, and since my room has enough alcohol in it to provide more than ample scope for stomach pumping , I did what is the only solution to stress in Oxford.

I went and sat in the park near the ducks and within sight of the cherwell, just in case someone should fall into the water whilst punting*.

When you enter the University parks from the entrance opposite St Anne's you're immediately confronted with a choice. Left or right. Right places you firmly on the work track leading on to a large glass fronted building that houses some science subject and then, if you continue furthur down the dirt track, you hit the English Faculty. Given this I invariably turn right.

In Trinity, however, left becomes a proper option. Within seconds of taking the left path you seem to step outside the confines of the University. Students lazing on the ground or playing ultimate frizzbee disappear from the horizon and then, by the time that you hit the duck pond, that most rare of species has appeared - people who actually live in Oxford for 12 months a year. With its ducks and breadcrumbs this is one of my favourite places in Oxford.

Whilst I emphatically do not 'do' rural in any real sense - other than fleeting trips where I can wonder and then move on, hopefully in the direction of some nice country pub - I love sitting in parks. By their very design parks are nature for people who get excited about concrete slabs and city streets. And today as I sat, with the major works of Swift to hand, hearing various conversations brush over me I felt rather content.

*Unfortunately no one did.**

**Not that this was entirely unexpected, I've only ever seen one person fall in in nearly four years of going punting. But I still live in hope.

How To: Make Me Go Insane

How To: Make Me Go Insane

Change the codes for all of the buildings in college, including my house, and not tell me .

Really, I like standing outside of buildings wracking my brain for a code that I may or may not have forgotten during the vacation. I like having to trail through the building site to the lodge several times a day to get the right code even more.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

You don't get this in Waugh...

You don't get this in Waugh...

Having arrived back in Oxford this afternoon I am somewhat disgruntled to discover that I am not, as I expected, happily blogging from my room with the joys of broadband and a packet of jaffa cakes on hand after four weeks of exploding computer monitors and dialup. Instead I find myself in the computer room, next to a buzzing machine with not a jaffa cake in sight. It would seem that after many protestations that our housing issues of last term were part of the past, my internet has once again disappeared. And like Queen Victoria before me, I am not amused*.

Indeed I'm generally feeling rather not amused at the moment. For reasons known to no one, over the last month college have swapped my bed. Normally you would think that this would be for an upgrade. But that would be far too obvious an answer and I am instead presented with a bed that would not look out of place in any high-security hospital circa 1950. In a possibly even more soul destroying initiative my ill-gotten Baileys late glass has dissapeared from my cupboard. I believe that I've only drunk out of this glass once but it remained as a badge of pride and a momento of why I should be watched at all times in pubs. Since I was the last to leave the house last term and the first in this term I can only surmise that either i)my scout has reasoned that it was stolen from the college bar and has returned it along with all the pint glasses which occupied New Housemate's cupboard or ii)one of those sneaky conference guests has swanned off with it. And since there are very few legal ways that someone would come to be in possession of such a glass the number of enquiries I can make about it are somewhat limited. As some kind of swap bargain, however, I do seem to have gained a frying pan. How or why is again beyond me.

Just to add to my disquiet I have an exam on Friday afternoon, that counts for nothing other than a tutor's desire to frighten the life out of us. And mess up my revision timetable.

What can I say but - welcome back!

*Though I doubt that she uttered the statement in relation to internet access.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

I'll Go Back To Bed, Shall I?

I'll Go Back To Bed, Shall I?

As everyone knows there are days when you are the pigeon and days when you're the statue. Today my household was most definitely the statue.

I'd planned to start today with a lie in, a dance around my bedroom to envigorate myself,a quick blog to make up for not doing one last night since I'd been babysitting, some light lunch and then some gentle non-invasive packing. I managed to get up to the dancing round my bedroom part before I got a phonecall from my father saying that obi-3* was not in school. And that my dad had been pulled out of an important meeting to be told this. Cue my dad having to come home, my mum having to be found from the realms of Tesco and them having to go and search the local area for obi-3. And since none of us can get into the mind of a 13 year old boy and where the hell he would go in the pouring rain when he is supposed to be in school we couldn't find him. Really, we're all at a bit of a loss about this truancy lark, both myself and obi-2 sailed through school without any real problems and certainly none that required us to go and sit in a ditch with our friends for the entirity of a school day.

Whilst my dad was searching for Obi-3 he'd noticed that the car was clanking a bit so, in fear of clanking when we he has six hours worth of driving to do on Saturday in order to take me back to Oxford, he decided to take the car to the garage since he was at home and clearly there was very little, other than running yelling through the streets of Crossgates that we could do about obi-3's continued absence at this stage. He arrived home an hour later to inform us that the clanking was largely due to the fact that the exhaust was about to fall off. And since this is Ford's satan car** it was going to cost over £500 to fix it. Which, given that he had to replace the battery two weeks ago when it conked out on a trip to the local skip, didn't please him greatly.

We were just beginning to see the morbidly amusing side of all this when the phone rang. Cue Obi-2 ringing to inform us that for the second time in under two months her phone had been stolen. The only reaction was one of utter disbelief and my mum questioning why Obi-2 has been at Uni for six months and has managed to have her phone stolen twice and I've managed three years without this happening to me. And the answer when it comes down to it? Sheffield. The underbelly of Yorkshire. I've seen the reports on Look North***.

When we'd managed to just about digest all of this, Obi-3 appeared, under the pretence of having been to school. The pretence lasted all of five minutes until I, reining in all urge to kick him back out of the door, was tasked with talking to him given that my dad's efforts were going nowhere. Twenty minutes later and it emerged that he'd spent the day -and indeed most of yesterday - with his friends at some as yet unspecified truanting location near to his school****. And, after much questioning as to the reason why the only answer was that he didn't like school. Or rather he liked school but not the lesson part. Which to a family who pretty much centres around education this is something of unchartered territory.

So now there's a big meeting with the school tomorrow morning, in a 'where do we go from here' kind of way. And, for once, I really don't know. How do you cure a thirteen year old of not liking school? In some ways I feel for him, school work is genuinely hard for Obi-3, in a way that I'll never quite grasp. And his school, which is different to the one I went to, certainly has very little to reccommend it. Possibly his recent actions lie with him having been quite seriously bullied at the beginning of the year; the school was, quite frankly, absolutely useless. The teachers are over-stretched, there are far too many pupils at the school and it seems that they're giving up on children far too easily. And I hate that. But whilst we want to solve the problem, and screaming and yelling at him isn't going to do that, he is old enough to know what he's doing. And old enough to comprehend the level of worry he causes when we don't know where he is. But we have to do something. It's just that we don't yet know what.

In contrast, however, I feel slightly calmer now. Obi-4 and I played Harry Potter on the playstation, I aced a particularly difficult section***** and then when we'd finished the 30 minute slot Obi-4 grabbed his Harry Potter wand and told me a story about Harry, Ron and Hermione. Complete with actions and sound effects. Which made me smile. If I could just arrange for tomorrow to go a bit smoother, that would be nice.

*When there are multiple children in a family it's a difficult one to remember all of the names so my dad had the theory that, almost like the Star Wars character we should each be Obi and then the number as to which child we are. Thus, under this system, I would be Obi-1 and my youngest brother would be Obi-4.

**Ford Galaxy as it is officially known.

***To be fair to Sheffield it probably isn't any worse than Leeds. It's just that it features more often on Look North. And indeed neither obi-2 or myself have ever had anything stolen whilst out in Leeds.

****When I was at school I didn't even know that such places actually existed. I thought they were simply mythic parts of school lore.

*****I know this is a kid's game we're tlaking about here but it was difficult, there was a fire breathing monster and everything.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Sunbeams and Cucumbers, Anyone?

Sunbeams and Cucumbers, Anyone?

Today I received my P60 from Holroyd Construction. Which would make sense, it being the beginning of a new financial year and all, were it not for the fact that I haven't worked for them in over a year. So all that this piece of paper could tell me was that they've paid me precisely nothing in the last 12 months. Which I was well aware of and didn't need another tree felling so that they could inform me of this fact. Really, if I squint, I can almost see the twisted logic.

What I can't see the twisted logic of, however, is Swift. I'm well aware that there are two major schools of thought on how to read his work and it may seem a little simplistic to subscribe to the one which paints him as a misanthrope, but I can't shake off the repeated and unrelenting view of humanity which his work creates. Gulliver's Travels seems to be underlined by an overidingly repulsive and beastial view of man. And maybe it's the result of reading the book in an unabridged one sitting, but I can't help feeling repelled by what Swift seems to be saying. Some of it's very clever satire, I'll give him that, but when you cut away the cleverness there's a level of disgust that I just can't relate to. And, it must be said, that if I read another sentence which makes some coarse, grotesque generalisation on women I may well throw the book across the room. I don't know which extracts of the story are published for the children's version [I'm assuming that it omits the overly talky book three and the frankly disturbing book four] but I know that I wouldn't want any future fancy-wellington wearing child of mine to read it. Or at least not until they've realised that there's much more to humanity than the workings of the digestive system. Maybe Mr Swift and I are fundamentally opposed; I think lots of things are beautiful, he thinks nothing is. It's a good job we'll never have to have dinner together.

Monday, April 11, 2005

I Have A Cunning Plan

I Have A Cunning Plan

I normally like to think that if I'm not exactly a seat-of-my-pants type of girl I can at the very least go with the flow. That I can decide on a train from Liverpool to Leeds that I'm going to go to Newcastle on the night of Johnny Wilkinson's homecoming later that evening. That I can get on a bus in Rome, not knowing where it's going, and get off wherever I fancy. That I can get a phonecall and a few hours later be in a pub in London drinking free beer. That I can decide that I want to visit Loch Lomand at night and, a couple of hours later, be on shore wondering if I'll get some disease if I have a paddle. I think that the last eighteen months, with its last minute twists and turns, not least rolling up to Blackpool at the beginning of March, has cemented in my head the notion that with a click of my fingers I can be anywhere and, within various legal restrictions, do anything.

Tonight, however, saw yet another indication that I'm not quite as free-rolling as I might like to think. I came online in order to blog, not quite sure as to what about, most likely something to do with Gulliver's Travels and why I think Swift really is a bit odd in the head, and discovered that I couldn't as blogger was down. Under normal circumstances the free-wheeling part of me should have come out and said ok, I'll go and do something else. But instead the schedule monster inside of me which seems to be breaking free at the moment rose up in immediate indignation. Blogger down? But I wanted to blog. I needed to blog. The monster needed to blog. What was I going to do? My schedule had been brought into question. And, at least at the moment, the only thing that I like less than my schedule being brought into question is people wearing ponchos. So I was in chaos.

And at that moment I realised that however last minute, let's go to Manchester and leave post-it notes for Griffin outside of the club where he's doing an interview, I am I like to have a schedule within the seat-of-the-pants stuff. When we hot-footed it up to Newcastle I not only had my toothbrush in my bag, we'd sorted out where we were staying before we'd even left Leeds station. In Rome I had a map. The pub in London required a quick google and a hop on the runs-24-hours-a-day. Even Loch Lomand required me to go and buy guidebook*. So if I like my freedom and the possibility that I might just fancy walking through the middle of New York on my own at night or randomly wearing a dress that I bought when I was 17 now that I'm in my twenties and have, not to put too fine a point on it, filled out slightly, then I still need to know what number bus to use to get back or what top and belt I'm using to deal with my differently proportioned body. As much as I might sometimes create the image that I joyfully operate in under-organised chaos, the reality is that its not true. As soon as the chaos approaches, the monster rears its head and I'm back on track. And, if I'm honest, I wouldn't have it any other way.

*There is a reason why I lost the ability to start sentences with anything other than the phrase 'According to my guidebook...' when I was in Budapest last year.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Dance - Even If You Have Nowhere To Do It But In A Metal Cage

Dance - Even If You Have Nowhere To Do It But In A Metal Cage

A year ago today I...

Went to Swindon for the first - and as yet last - time.

Bought the Daily Star for the first - and as yet last - time.

Went to a bar that charged two pounds for water for the first - and as yet last - time.

I also had it relayed on a train from London to Swindon that it had been printed in the Daily Star that Griffin had lost his record contract. Fox was quoted in the article. I, rather loudly, proclaimed him a twat for his comments. Nik and I then preceeded to clog up the aisle of a very full train as we talked the report over with Lisa and Erica. Fox had posted on his site claiming that the report wasn't true, Griffin had posted the more ambiguous 'Don't worry, be happy'. We honestly didn't know what to think. But, in my heart, I knew then that this was it.

We arrived at the Swindon Ibis to a sea of familiar faces, all hovering around the bar area, all not quite knowing what to make of the situation. Later we arrived at the Zu Bar to be confronted with a BOGOF drink offer and a large metal cage to dance in. We drank and we danced. And how we danced. ABBA, Irish jig music, all were hurriedly digested.

Slightly later Griffin came on stage with a copy of the Daily Star. We cheered him more than we ever had and maybe ever will. After a joke about a Victoria Beckham story in the paper, he announced with total contempt 'It's a load of bollocks!'. And we cheered again; deafening, all enveloping cheers. After the first song Griffin, feeling uncomfortable with the sound system, moved to the metal cage where we'd been dancing. There he continued where we'd left off, balancing himself, revealing rather more of his pants than I'd expected, and even getting us to join in with a Jungle Book singalong. He also started us chanting 'You'll Never Beat Al Griffin!' and the phrase reverberated through the night, pounded every surface, filled every pore in my body.

He also sang, fresh from his performance in France on the World version of the tortuous-reality-television-show, 'Everything I Do' and when he got to the 'I can't help it, there's nothing I want more' I thought that I was going to cry. It hurt me, because I sensed, just as I'd sensed the summer before, just how much Griffin wanted it. And then he did what in the harsh light of blog writing sounds rather glib but which still makes my heart soar; he sang 'I do it for you' whilst pointing at the crowd of bodies around him. And everyone in the room was united, everyone came together in a moment of total defiance.

After the performance Griffin signed whilst standing behind the bar. He also drank. Choked himself with a coke-spray. Danced on the bar to 'I Believe in a Thing Called Love' and started taking his trousers off. He was as manic and as angry as I've ever seen him.

When Griffin had finished behind the bar he dissapeared and we continued, talking, laughing, dancing. For the final song of the night they played Griffin's last single 'You and Me [Tonight]'. And, united by the emotion of the evening, we came together, arms around each other, swaying and singing to the song. Unbeknown to us, Griffin had come back into the room and we were standing swaying in full view of him. When I did finally clock him I made no motion to move, none of us did. We continued, linked together, and finished the song.

When the confirmation that it really was all over with UMTV came a little over a month later I felt a sharp sudden shock, but nothing more. I think we'd all said goodbye that night in Swindon. When I think about that night there's undoubtedly an odd combination of emotions. I've said before, and will probably say again, that everyone present should have been made to sign a binding contract saying that they would never show any of the pictures or talk explicitly about the night. Not because of us, but because of Griffin. It's odd to see pictures of him with his trousers undone, somehow I can't shake off just how vulnerable all the bravado now seems. I wouldn't swap the experience for anything and I'll never forget the sheer intensity of emotion but I never want to go to a gig like that again. I never want Griffin to have to go through a gig like that again.

I can't but help smile at the memory of the final song though.

Griffin and us against the world.

I'm just a jukebox dirtbag, baby

I'm just a jukebox dirtbag, baby

Yesterday, after literally months of waiting, I ended up in Evil Eye in York. Which is in itself a major event just for seeing the bewildering array of vodka which lines the shelves behind the bar. Rather than partaking in the vodka [I saved the Russian element for later in the evening], I had to what was to all intents and purposes a quite alcoholic chocolate milkshake. Which is a rather bizarre concept to get your head around. But with that much Baileys - and added cream - I was more than willing to attempt to get my head around it. Or more specifically my mouth.

Slug and Lettuce, Oscars and a detour to the Parliament street fountain* later**, Val and I found ourselves in The Star pub. Now I like this pub. They have cheap drinks, it's never too busy and I even once gained a Baileys glass from there. Their starring feature, however, is undoubtedly their jukebox. Or more accurately, their starring feature was their jukebox. When we rolled over to it last night it turned out that the good old fashioned Griffin and Busted playing jukebox had been replaced with a swanky new touch-screen version. And with the swanky new jukebox came a total lack of Griffin or 'Air Hostess'. I was, and indeed still am, quite disgruntled about that. Possibly some of my outrage was generated by the fact that my alcohol intake has been pretty low in the last few weeks and the Russian Strawberries at Oscars had made me giggly and willing to vocalise outrage. The rest of my outrage was probably due to the nagging factor that we'd possibly contributed to the jukebox's untimely demise - I suppose there really is only so many times that barstaff can deal with Busted medleys or marginally tipsy women yelling 'COME ON!' in the midst of their pub. Possibly the bingo-dirtbag version of teenage dirtbag was the final nail in the coffin.

But, goodbye bubblegum-pop playing Jukebox. I'll miss you.***

*Spurting status: impressive.

**With Val managing to lead us down dark alleyways and therefore potentially to our deaths only twice.

***Though this does mean the search is on to find a Griffin playing Jukebox.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Not The Chair!

Not The Chair!

It has to be said that I come from a family with a very well developed competitive gene. There are both pluses and minuses to this*, but one of the side effects is that we're all very much armcahir sport enthusiasts. You name a sport, we'll probably have watched and supported people in it. The Olympics is a time of wonder for us all and, if I'm honest, me in particular. Who would ahve thoguht that entire days would be spent based around the timing of badminton and three-day eventing?

But of all the sports that have their hold in my genes the one that probably had the biggest impact on my childhood was horse racing. My father is to horse racing what I am to Griffin and Fox**. As I sit typing now I can see on the bookcase nearest to me more books about racing than it is possible to count without either driving myself insane or spending much more time on this blog entry than it properly merits. And today is the day when even people who aren't interested in racing get interested - it's the Grand National.

And Grand National Day is something ingrained in my psyche. I can remember being little and sitting on my dad's knee pretending to be riding a horse, whilst we both shouted the grand national fences that the knee-horse had to jump. Sometimes we'd get through them. Sometimes I'd dramatically fall off. But most of all I can remember the thrill when when got to The Chair. For anyone wondering what I'm talking about here, The Chair is the biggest fence in the National. And thus the peak of the test for the knee-horse. Now it falls to my seven year old brother who sits on the sofa arm, with a empty kitchen roll tube which he uses as a whip, to go through the fences. And for us all to shout in unison 'Oh No! Not The Chair'.

It also falls to the annual sweepstake. Which amounts to us all picking horses from several different groups [graded according to the betting so that one person doesn't end up with a selection of comedy horses] and then waiting to see who will get the money that my father puts in the pot. My best chance this year? Forest Gunner. So if you haven't got a horse to cheer along, send happy thoughts to that one. Or, if you're after the comedy angle, Aston Vanilla, not because it's one of my horses but because, with a name like that, it's going to need it.

*Monopoly would be one of the minuses.

**So maybe there's also an obsessional gene there too.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Fashion Lesson Number 1:

Fashion Lesson Number 1:

Image hosted by Photobucket.com*

Co-ordinate with popstar-boy which one of you is going to wear horizontal stripes. Failing that, grab a pashmina and/or a SSoB flier [depending on preference/gender] and hope no one notices.

NB: There is a closeup of this where Griffin looks very smiley and absolutely gorgeous. I, however, look like a person who's just been traumatised by a dancing bear. Both counts may be true, but since this is my blog you're getting the one where I look better.

*Shamelessly stolen from Shona.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Byron and Boots

Byron and Boots

Learn about Wordsworth and Coleridge's Poetry with a little help from Byron:
There poets find material for their books,
And every now and then we read them through,
So that their plan and prosody are eligible,
Unless, like Wordsworth, they prove unintelligible.
Who says that revision is boring?


In other news, today was rather momentous for one reason - yep, you've guessed it, my cowboy boots came back from having been re-heeled. Oh, it's like having a new pair of boots all over again.


An award winning blog entry if ever there was one...

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

If I could, then I would

If I could, then I would

I would milk the possibility of a cliffhanger here but I may well have broken all such suspense with the Dancing Bear blog. It's a good job that I have something of a fondness for the ridiculous.

So, after all of the analytical thought of the last few days about Griffin and how we stand in relation to him now, last night I went to the gig. And by the time we rolled up fresh from singing 'Is this the way to Illllkley?'* I can honestly say that I felt a little thrill of excitement. Once inside the venue, which was rather nice in a ornate old hall esque manner my excitement did move in another direction, expressly the direction of the musical that I'm going to write - which to fulfil all of the requirements of those sitting near me needs to i)have hookers in ii)have line dancing iii)have a matinee so that Fox can be in it. Not that, in my musical aspirations, Griffin was overlooked as he was quickly pencilled in to write the music for my first film. Subject, of course, to him proving he knows a fourth chord and my having input on the second verse. Just as my plans for world domination were starting to settle in the lights dimmed and the thick red curtain began to rustle. And there he was.

Because I'm shallow my first thoughts were centred around the fact that Griffin had a lovely shirt on. And indeed that his hair was very long. Within seconds he'd made me laugh and then we plunged into the acoustic. I have had some of my most spine-tingling gig moments during Griffin's acoustic performances. I can still remember my body being constrained by sheer emotion the first time I heard Griffin sing 'Feeling Alive' in the midst of a shopping centre, with only his guitar and his voice. That day I realised all over again what Griffin was really about. In the summer, filled with cold, Griffin sang 'Fields of Gold' with his guitar and reduced me to an inarticulate puddle. Yesterday's stand out was undoubtedly 'More Than Me' which, not for the first time, brought me close to tears and I was more than a little pleased to see, for only the second time ever, Griffin sing 'Secrets Inside'. I even got a chance to get over-excited when he sung 'With or Without You'. He was, and here's my favourite word again, simply beautiful. And, whatever issues that I might have, as I commented during the interval, how could I not love it? Yet, and here's that big clunking yet, acoustics are a funny beast. For some reason they work in the most unexpected of places where they seem to silence everything around both singer and audience. They bind you both together. But last night I knew I wasn't spellbound. The sound on Griffin's guitar was rather dodgy throughout a lot of the set [he himself complained of feedback after the first song] and it bothered me. The flashes of cameras which seemed to be magnified in such a space bothered me. There were times, notably during 'More Than Me', when Griffin held me as he always has**. But at other times I was simply bothered about all the things that were bothering me. And though I loved him all over again when he ended up digging a particularly big hole for himself with a running joke about milking a cow, I went to the interval knowing that with all my botherings I was still battling with something that maybe had nothing to do with the acoustic I'd just seen.

The interval continued in both normal and abnormal ways. Shona showed us some photos of the gig on her camera, and I rated them as to whether they made me want to have Griffin's babies [two out of three did, which isn't a bad ratio I think we can agree]. I accused Val of trying to make me cry. To be fair to Val she was simply articulating things that were already whirling in my head. And as I talked and analysed my way through the break I realised that the reason that I was bothered about all of these things, that I hadn't been drawn into the acoustic, was because -wrongly or rightly- I was upset over what we'd lost. And that we'd lost something and hadn't seen anything in return. Griffin was, after all, playing to the same people he'd been playing to five months before. In some ways everything had changed and in others absolutely nothing. And, as odd as that may seem, it hurt.

Prior to the start of the band set came our usual discussion on dancing arrangements. When I go to a gig I like to dance. I like to jump. I like to sing loudly with very little regard for tune or key. I've even been known to like to find my hand on Griffin's thighs. What can I say - if I do have a tendancy to over-analyse it doesn't mean that I abandon my shallow side. On the contrary, my shallow side distinctly needed a resurgence. At lots of gigs we wouldn't need to have this discussion. Griffin gigs, however, are different. Griffin fans being as they are, we're a relatively incestuous bunch. Most of us are internet based, and the vast majority are based around one site in particular. At first this gave us something of a purpose and a momentum. We were Ali's Army. Then, as with any such community, we imploded. The fallout has been rather spectacular. Standing up and having the timerity to do what you fucking should do at a rock gig has been loudly frowned upon***. And given that it is always us, the ND****, who start the standing up, we tend to be the unwritten subtext of any such comments. But, as ever, we'd decided that we were standing. Why shouldn't we after all?

We rocked in our seats for the first song, but as the opening bars to Oblivion started there was nothing to do but stand up. Within thirty seconds or so we'd started a wave of people and everyone was standing up. Another thirty seconds later we'd moved to the front of the aisle. At this Griffin noticed us and told us to come and dance in front of the stage. We didn't need asking twice and the next thing I knew I was front centre, with a somewhat pleasing view of Griffin's legs. The next thing after that was that I realised that Griffin's view, as he looked straight down at us from a stage that wasn't much less than five foot high, wasn't entirely disasterous*****.
From that moment in, nothing bothered me. I jumped, danced, sang and came into contact with Griffin's thighs. Such is stage positioning that you can fool yourself into thinking that the singer is singing for you. I will maintain for the rest of my life that I got a wink at one point, such is a gig that it could have well been aimed at the man behind me and I wouldn't know any different. If I'd been analysing everything during the interval then when 'Wherever You Will Go' started I realised something that I badly needed to realise. That I didn't care. And I think that I need to state that again. I DIDN'T CARE. And by that I mean that at that moment, in the midst of the song, there was nothing else. I was back to every Griffin gig I'd been to, every trip I'd made, everything which has been part of the story. And my own wherever you will go had never been conditional. If, God forbid, we're ever asked as fans to do something again, I'll be free to make my own choice based on my experience. But as I sang those words as loudly and as pointedly as I've ever sung them I realised that, if I'm honest, I still believe in everything that song represents. I've changed. Griffin's changed. The situation's changed. But I believe enough to sing those words. It would have been hypocritical of me to stand singing at the front of that stage if I didn't. But I could. And I can't say that everything's going to be alright for eternity, and I'm not even sure that it's going to be alright for everyone in our sweaty group picture at the end of the show. But for me, for now, it is. As if I needed any other pointer, for the first song of Griffin's encore he sang 'Is This The Way To Amarillo?'. Coincidence or predictability regardless, it was possibly a little marker that we might still be headed in the same direction.

By the end of the gig, as we attempted to get water off of Louis, I felt like I was nearing an asthma attack even though I don't have asthma. As Penny pointed out in a comment on my previous Griffin blog, atmosphere has been a problem. Ever since I saw Griffin perform in Bristol to a sea of cameras I've been radically aware of this. My answer? To do all the normal stuff I'd do at a gig but knotched up by at least ten. And since my only exercise has been turning over the pages of my books, I was a little out of breath at the end. After some disgustingly fizzy water, more talk with the ever lovely Riccardi boys and a quick trip to the loo, it seemed that we were about to leave. This was until Nik and I became part of the re-enactment of one of Griffin's videos in honour of one of our midst who is going to live in Germany at the end of this week. Once I'd gotten my award-winning acting out of the way******, we really were ready to go.

Until I realised that I'd wanted to give Griffin a SSoB flier. Griffin had been signing near to us when we'd been preoccupied with our fantastic 'people on a sofa' video pastiche. But, however odd the situation with Griffin may be, I did want to tell him about SSoB. Basically I'll tell anyone who'll listen and, really, I'm not even above telling inanimate objects. So I ended up signing a flier for Griffin and then, to much hilarity having my photo taken with my back to Griffin signing fliers. It was at this point of the evening that I had my conversation with the Dancing Bear. And then came the talking to Griffin bit. Which was, as I indicated before, interrupted. Now I know that I would probably be near the bottom on most Griffin fans lists for people who should get to speak to Griffin. There are times when you can see people mentally adding up either how long you've been talking to him for or how many other times you've spoken to him. And because of this it's been my attitude for a long time to stand back and wait. But this time it annoyed me. When I did get to speak to Griffin he was incredibly sweet, even if I did have an internal giggle when he said 'well done' since the last time he used that phrase to me it was in relation to my breasts. How times change. Cue Griffin being convinced that he'd heard of the play - I assured him he wouldn't have - and then him asking what it was about. I was just in the midst of telling him about the "implosion" when for the second time in my life, Val scared Griffin and I into a photo*******. I may be taking to the autograph bit with relish but I couldn't quite get the hang of the paparazzi line. Photoshoot over Griffin enquired if I was going to put SSoB on again and, since I'm not really sure of the answer to that yet - and it's probably out of my hands anyway, I responded with a gloss on the fact that I'm writing another play which I hope to get staged. Maybe I'll leave telling him the exact content for another day...

After popping party poppers in the middle of Ilkey with Billy Bass we were soon on the road back to Leeds. And, for the first time in quite a while, Nik and I spent the morning commenting on numerous things which Griffin had done that we'd found incredibly sweet.

Wherever you will go? Basically, as long as it's not Cambridge, the answer's still yes.

*It's the only way to make it fit.
**That'll be metaphorical holding. Unfortunately.
***It's a mixed metaphor, but I like it.
****Caught up in the heady days of the Bring It On single build up, on a train to Liverpool, we christened ourselves the Northern Division of Ali's Army. The name stuck and I'm incredibly fond of it. When they make a film of us, it'll be good for the merchandise.
*****Nik and I had quite low tops on. I'm sure you can work out the rest.
******I was playing disinterested blonde. And I'm not even blonde. That's how good my acting is.
*******I am of course joking, Val. ;-)

Movin' Out, Baby!

Movin' Out, Baby!

In a moment of true blog creativity Nik and I are both blogging at the same time*. The reason for this?

Fox's debut on Broadway which should be starting right now.

In the only words I can muster: COME ON!!!!!

[Oh, and as an afterthought, happy birthday!]

*Subject to various circumstances beyond our control. If you're interested I'm sure that Nik will blog about them in the next 24 hours or so...

How To: Make Me Freak Out

How To: Make Me Freak Out

Have the following conversation with me when we've never previously spoken:

Dancing Bear*: [having looked at me in an odd manner for a few moments] I know you from somewhere.

Headless Voice**: She's famous.

Me: Yes, I'm famous.

Dancing Bear: [looking as if he is pondering which lowbrow soap I'm in] I recognise you.

Me: [realising that I really shouldn't take the famous thing any further] Right.

Dancing Bear: You've changed.

Me: Aherm?

Dancing Bear: You've changed.

Me: Have I?

Dancing Bear: Yes. [ponders for a second] You go to Oxford.

Me: [Totally flabergasted and only a little worried that Dancing Bear knows that fact] Yes. How do you know that?

Dancing Bear: Oh, I've seen you around.

Me [internally]: What with a neon flashing sign above me head saying that I go to Oxford?

Me [out loud]: Ok.

The conversation momentarily stops as I exchange a couple of sentences with Griffin. Actually if I'm getting this right we exchange a sentence and a half, before we're interrupted.*** Griffin deals with the interuption which gives Dancing Bear his second opportunity to commence.

Dancing Bear: You've changed.

Me [interally]: Yes, I've changed since I left you. I've moved on.****

Me [out loud]: Erm, my hair's longer, I've lost a bit of weight...I've honestly not had any kind of radical plastic surgery.

Dancing Bear: You look like your younger sister.

I pull a clearly bemused face. I wasn't aware that Dancing Bear had met my sister too.

Dancing Bear: So to speak.

Me: Right. Thank you.

Griffin, unwittingly, saves the day by turning round again and Dancing Bear and I are parted.

*Somewhat thankfully no longer wearing his Dancing Bear costume.

**Not an actual headless voice, but the voice of someone nearby, the identity of whom I'm not sure of. Yep, the famous 'joke' has caught on.

***Read the subtext of my opinion on this one in how I phrased that sentence.

****So I watch far too much of Neighbours, and find that an amusing possible response.