Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Where I Talk At Length About Clothes Sizing. Again

Where I Talk At Length About Clothes Sizing. Again.

There's no point me even attempting to deny the fact that I like shopping. Not food shopping, I would hasten to add; had Dante been writing today then supermarket shopping would have featured in one of the levels of hell in Inferno. But clothes shopping. Oh yes. Even if I know that I don't need anything, even though I've been through the sales racks at least seven times now, on my way home from the station I have to pop into the two clothes shops I pass. There's some invisible magnet pulling me in. Ditto with the shoe shop just as I'm leaving the shopping centre short-cut. But there is one blip on my radar when it comes to clothes shopping. And it's rather a big blip.

Trousers.

Some girls are trousers, some are skirts. If I were to come back as a piece of clothing (thereby cutting out the possibility of reincarnation into a Mulberry Phoebe or a pair of Jimmy Choos) I would come back as a skirt. I love skirts. You can swish them and wear them in hundreds of different colours, styles and patterns. I short you can have fun with them. And as my pink wellies will testify, I like fashion to be fun. I cannot get excited about a pair of denim jeans. Where are the fancy colours, the sequins, the resembling a fifties starlet?

If I'm honest then there is a problem beyond the fact that trousers - or at least ones that it is prudent to wear (I did have a pair of tartan ones when I was younger and going through the wilderness years) - are boring. Trousers are not made on the highstreet for women of my size. I have short legs and yet, shock horror, I still have a bottom. Yes, it came as a surprise to me too. So the chances are that getting something that fits both my slightly stunted legs and my middle bit, even in its slightly reduced post-finals state, is something of a problem (and no one say elasticated waist). So I do not enjoy trouser shopping, it being the only form of clothes shopping that has the double bind of making me seem short and slightly podgy. It's probably the combination of the boring and the podgy bit that means that I have only four pairs of trousers in circulation at the moment. I can't say how many skirts in comparison that I have whirling round, but definitely well into double figures. Even dresses, which have a macbre fascination for me because of my mis-matched body sizing, have crept up to seven in recent months.

But sometimes, be it when you're watching an outdoor Shakespeare or stalking a minor popstar around radio stations at the beginning of March, there remains the fact that trousers, for all their lack of swishiness, are the more practical solution. And almost as soon as I'd gotten over being pleased that I have my first paying job in a theatre, was the realisation that come December my legs will be crying out for a pair of black trousers. I'm not sure the glow of a WYP t-shirt will last long enough to prevent my legs turning to ice blocks when I'm leaving the theatre at 10:30pm. Leeds is cold. And I don't do cold. So I realised that I needed a pair of black trousers that didn't fall round my ankles when I wore them. Seriously the pair I currently have haven't dealt with my slight shrinkage very well, when I put them on for my second exam I had to go and find a pin to keep them at a suitable point around my middle. I'm sure visible knickers are not subfusc.

An hour after the realisation I was still looking (albeit after a brief trip to the new Primark which didn't have any black trousers but did have some very cool black waistcoats). I can't understand how difficult it is to make a pair of size ten trousers in a 30" leg. Really, that's not asking much. 32" is regular, so I'm not that much of a freak. But, apparently, size eight people have 30" legs. Size ten people do not (though they seem quite happy to understand that some size ten people have 34"). One hour later and I'm still looking. When I found a pair of trousers that fitted - and I nearly fell over in the changing room at this point (though that could have been the combination of the fact that New Look stores never seem to have air conditioning and they were playing Girls Aloud on repeat) - I bought them without a thought to their make, style or cut. They fit. They're black. That WYP t-shirt had better be nice.

Five minutes after this I'd bought two skirts (officially for the work that gave me a free day-glow orange jacket and hard hat rather than a t-shirt) for a bargainous five pounds each in the Pilot sale, proving that you can give a girl a pair of trousers but it doesn't mean she'll wear them.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Coza The Builder

Coza The Builder

I stepped into the shop in the entrance of legoland and suddenly I was ten years old again. Because, for all my apparent cultivation of the fact that I am thinker rather than a doer, it's not something which is backed up by my lego construction tendencies*. I spent vast chunks of my childhood creating a variety of increasingly complex lego models, each one painstakingly built, often complete with my own modifications from the vast lego bucket that lived in my room. Obviously I was always fated to work for a building company. It's also the reason that I have no time for the 'girls lego' range that is very pink and devoid of any obvious building. Where's the fun in that? Just because I have two X chromosomes doesn't mean that I don't want to build a pirate ship thank you very much.

I really don't need an excuse for whipping out a lego model, even now I'm far past the age when that is decreed socially acceptable. So legoland. Paradise in a little plastic brick house. And I can't quite get across just how jealous I am that someone, somewhere spends their working day constructing lego models for mini land. I was particularly taken with their 'Angel of the North', thankfully I hadn't drunk any tequila so wasn't tempted to pick it up and leave the themepark with it.

But it was in the shop that legoland reached its peak. Because I managed to find an something that I don't know how I've managed to live without until this point. Yes, my life must have been a barren wasteland before I spent three pounds on this item.

The reason for this excitement?

Lego Snape on a keyring.

Does life get better than this?

*See also my residency as Furness household flatpack expert and year long reign as Wolfson Block Computer expert.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

We All Live In A Yellow Submarine

We All Live In A Yellow Submarine

I don't know that much about school tie networks, not least because my school didn't have a tie, let alone a network to go with it. And I'm not sure how much I subscribe to an Oxonian equivalent - despite that rather pointed suggested of such a thing in my college alumni society membership information. This, of course, does not exempt my defending Richard Curtis on fellow Oxonian grounds. But that's not a network, that's blind, unquestionable solidarity which becomes expected of you from about the point when you promise not to burn the library down. But if I haven't really seen the network in evidence (possibly because I'm not stretching my legs in the houses of Parliament or the civil service it must be said) then I've come to expect that Oxonians pop up in the most unexpected of places (if that isn't an oxymoron). My winner so far? On a tube in Budapest I bumped into a fellow Stanner. Budapest. That's a whole other country and on one of hundreds of trains (and carriages).

So maybe I shouldn't have been as surprised as I was when the panel entered the lecture theatre at Nottingham University last Friday and I recognised one of their midst. Maybe it shouldn't have been as much as a surprise as the Budapest thing, Oxford drama circles aren't huge and - let's be realistic - British theatre circles aren't much bigger. It soon emerged that the girl who I recognised was now Assistant Literary Manager and Writer on Attachment at the Liverpool Everyman Theatre. In short she has my career. Not the Liverpool bit - I've no pressing desire to move to a city which every time I have visited I have been rained upon - but the rest of it. Oh yes. And if I did feel a teeny tiny bit jealous, it did provide a little bit of encouragement. Because the girl in question was a Cam Mac finalist the year I was on OUDS committee, only her play was a bit lower down the pecking order than SSoB was. Which does kind of point to the fact that there is no reason why I can't aspire to at least a similar level.

Once I'd gotten over the general weirdness of the encounter, the discussion proved to be interesting if not mindblowing. It was presided over by a man from the Writers' Guild who shared the same name as a particularly useless England goalkeeper and who could have out-camped the entirity of this years Big Brother cohort. His reason for not being able to remember the other panelists names? "I took a lot of drugs in my youth". At least you can't fault his honesty. He also managed to get an almost obligatory David Hare dig in as "the famous leftie" isn't part of the Writers' Guild. I wish people would stop doing this. I love Hare's plays. And I don't think I can over emphasise just how much love I have in the Hare room. But people kee talling me what a horrible person he is. The tutor who commented of my Paddy encounter "of course he was charming but did he say anything useful?" had Hare round for tea once and consequently developed a lifelong dislike of his work. Good writers give you a little bit of themselves in their work, you get to peak into their souls, and in turn comes the possibility that you fall a little bit in love with their created, hazy self. And I'm definitely in love with Hare's. So I'm going to have to make a stand and live in ignorance about how much of a cranky old man he may now be. I'll be sticking my fingers in my ears from now on.

Obviously, for all the impression that I'm giving, the focus of the talk was neither David Hare nor former Oxonians. 'Making A Living In Drama Writing' it was titled. I suspect that it really should have been subtitled 'You can write exclusively for the theatre but you will most likely be very poor so don't knock a side job of writing for Holby City'. Which, realistically, wasn't something that I needed to be told. I know Paddy still gets a large chunk of his money from Alan Partridge, it's certainly not from Howard Katz. What was nice to hear, however, was the undiluted enthusiasm which all the panellists had for new writing. Both the BBC's writersroom representative and the guy from the National were unashamedly interested in developing writers. National Guy put it rather nicely in that he said his job was like being an elephant's midwife, the gestation period isn't short.

Maybe the most telling comment, however, was a remark National Guy made very early on in the discussion: "you don't want to be the person who missed the Beatles". Maybe you've just got to go into the whole experience believing that you are going to be the Beatles. Maybe that's what everyone who chases their dreams, all those boys I affectionately call my minor popstars but who in reality I have overwhelming respect for, believes.

It's rather Byronic, I think we can agree.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

So Long, Farewell

So Long, Farewell

Not, I would hasten to add, for a long time. You can't get rid of my egotistical and overwhelming need to blog that easily. Just that this is my blog equivalent of leaving a note out for the milkman saying 'no milk today'. Or indeed for the next few days. Tomorrow I'm stalking various literary Managers at a Young Writers' Festival in Nottingham and on Thursday morning I leave for a trip that will eventually wind up with me surrounded by lego bricks trying to construct a fully working pirate ship. Which all means that I'll be away from a computer until Sunday.

Unless, of course, I can build one with lego. As a certain Mr Will Young once said, anything is possible. Including lego computers. Ok, Mr Young didn't add that. But I'm sure he was thinking it.

The JCS Guide To Interviews

The JCS Guide To Interviews

I was sitting in the middle of a semi circle in the bar at the WYP and the group interview lark - not too bad. Quite amusing actually. If not for the fact that the five other interviewees in my group are making me feel old. They're all fresh-faced and shiny, two of them even collected their A Levels last week. I'm willing to wager that there isn't a grey hair amongst them. Me? I've just added to my grey hair count by spending a morning sending a fifteen page fax through a fax machine that refuses to send faxes of more than a single page long. ALL MORNING. Even if I didn't before (and I kinda did), I now have grey hairs to spare.

But we're in the semi-circle, I'm wondering when they're going to give me a bus pass, and then we're asked to each talk a little bit about play we've seen recently that has interested us in some way. A number of plays rattle through my head. Because I am doomed and may never be able to look at musical theatre in the same way ever again, Jesus Christ Superstar pops into my head. Not just a little bit, oh no. Suddenly it's full blast 'Superstar' in there, complete with hand movements. And I know I'm going to laugh. I can even see Dom running about. And this is, I think it's safe to say, not something that would endear me to the great Rep theatre of the north. Not even Dom. They haven't met him afterall. They don't know how lovely he is. And I don't think laughing when my fellow interviewee is talking about Hamlet would go down well either.

When it gets to me I push JCS to one side and before I realise it I'm talking with my hands about t Talking To Terrorists.

Afterwards we're all taken into the quarry theatre which is devoid of scenery and people. We're asked if we have any questions. I have to hurriedly swallow 'can I move in?'.

Monday, August 22, 2005

BOO!

BOO!

There would be a review here were it not for one thing: my hiccoughs.

Yes, hiccoughs. And I know that doesn't sound like some great trauma but the cumulative effect of having had hiccoughs for the best part of today is driving me insane.

I hiccoughed my way through typing, through photocopying, through lunch and through dinner. I even found myself hiccoughing whilst on the phone to the West Yorkshire Playhouse*. As son as I think that I've got the all clear and I've finally stopped, they break out again. Hic.

And boy do they seem loud, I can't even begin to disguise them. I am the incredible hiccoughing girl. If I were a superhero I clearly wouldn't get any of the cool powers like flying or being ivisible or stretching my limbs to incredible lengths. No, I'd put down all opposition with the power of my hiccough. HIC!

Scared? No, I didn't think you would be. Me? I'm terrified.

*Advice from the great Paddy Marber: see lots of plays. This is, obviously, expensive and I already have the somewhat expensive hobby of stalking minor popstars, not to mention my prediliction for shoes. Hence I'm considering taking up that stalwart of my middle Uni year again - front of housing.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Bronte Balti House - And Beyond

Bronte Balti House - And Beyond

Since we last spoke I've eaten hot doughnuts by the sea in Wales, spent a morning picking out comedy business names with Bronte in the title in Haworth* and seen a truly comic Comedy of Errors**. I've also managed to try on four dresses, two skirts, one pair of ridiculously tight trousers and a pair of shorts that I suspect qualify more as cropped trousers than shorts. And despite taking half of the content of Top Shop into the changing rooms I've come back in the posession of nothing more than some half price plastic wallets from W H Smiths, though I'm now in the knowledge that I will never find a dress in the aforementioned establishment (that would be Top Shop rather than W H Smiths, I already knew that I wouldn't find a dress there). Naturally their size ten trousers were unattractively tight but their size ten dresses were too big. No it makes no sense to me either. I know I'm weirdly shaped but that can't just be down to me. I'm not that odd. I'm going to put it down to being in Wales. I'll have to enquire of Fox - when I get to see him at some point during the next decade*** - as to whether he has a similar problem. Not with dresses, I don't think that's a conversation we need to have, but with clothes in general.

I could also go into detail on my quest**** to find shoes to match the Bag and my Mischa Barton dress. But unless you want to hera about ankle straps making my legs look shorter or shoes which cost more than bag and dress put together I'll leave that to one side.

* The word you're looking for? Iconic.

**Review coming tomorrow. Exciting, eh?

***See how well I'm hiding my bitterness that I'm not preparing to fly out to New York to smooze with Fox.

****And it is a quest, worthy of its own section Morte D'Arthur. I had thought that a pair of off-silver shoes I have would work, only to discover that they are ok, but not perfect. And this is my Mischa Barton dress. As a car advert once said, why settle for ok?*****

*****The word you're looking for now? Obsessive probably doesn't cover it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Isn't It Iconic

Isn't It Iconic

Two days ago, amongst the Shakespearian vomitting and prior to the swelling glands, I mentioned the word 'iconic'. And then I left it, hanging in the air, half uttered but never explained. Now that I can comfortably sit without having to poke myself in the eye or wonder if I'm going to have to rush off to the bathroom it's time to return to it.

I came to the conclusion some time ago that I fall hopelessly in love with things that are iconic. And my favourite branch of the iconic tree? Iconic writers. Just think about it. I love Ginny Woolf, the women whose face sells more postcards at the National Portrait gallery than any other, who is such a reference point that Albee could name his play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf and who, if any more proof were needed, has a glossy, several hundred page book about her entitled 'Virginia Woolf: Icon'. Then there's Shakespeare - the undisputed iconic English writer, Sylvia Plath - whose story is so iconic it has become almost mythical, Oscar Wilde - another whose life often eclipses his work and F Scott Fitzgerald - who with his wife was the celebrity equivalent of Posh and Becks in 1920's America. The fact that I can name recent films - or in the case of Fitzgerald a very badly reviewed musical - about all of the above either points to the fact that I need to extend my reading habits beyond the canon or that there's something about the twist of writerly fame that wraps itself around me.

But when we're talking about iconic writers who float my proverbial boat there's one a needn't look far from. A certain Byron. I'm obsessed with the Romantic poets in general but it's in the most iconic of them all - and in the first recognisable non-Royal media celebrity that Britain ever had - that my obsession peaks. From the moment I heard how this selfish, pleasure seeking, foolish, incredibly intelligent, not-so-little rich boy ended up dying - rather bathtically - in Greece for the most unselfish reasons possible, for a cause that wasn't his but which he vehemently believed in, I wanted to know this man. All great writers are, as cliched as it sounds, a ball of contradiction, it's undoubtedly why so many of my favourites had incredibly difficult lives, most dying tragically young. But I knew from Byron's contradiction so greatly embodied in the facts of his life, that I had to read him. I wanted to know what he had to say.

And whilst Byron's myth is still bigger than his work, what I found in his poems which are as far removed from Wordsworth's iconic daffodils as it is possible to be whilst still existing under the same blanket term fired every hope and thought I'd had about him. Because let's get this straight. Byron is funny. You read Don Juan and you'll laugh. And part of this charm is in how fearless he is. Manfred takes the Faust story but here, as the clock ticks down, it is Manfred who triumphs. He may not survive but he beats the spirits by dying on his own terms. Because Byron's writing is aspirational stuff. Most often aspirational failure - like the figure of Napoleon who so enamoured him - but aspirational nontheless. And there's a greatness about that, something about Byron's belief in the power of the individual which touched me, just as Byron's story touched me. This is not to say Byron is perfect any more than I think Ginny, or Oscar or - even - Will is. If you're new to Byron I'd suggest giving Childe Harold's Pilgrimage a bit of a wide berth for the time being. Sections of it sparkle and flash as all of Byron's writing - even his early stuff - does but my, does some of it drag. It seems to go on forever and beyond. But his failures make me love his writing even more. No one wants something pedestrian, least of all me and my clutch of icons.

So knowing all of this you may begin to see why my trip on Sunday to Newstead Abbey ,Byron's anncestoral home, is worthy of the 'iconic' word. Cat, Val and I had been intending to make, what is at least in my case, the pilgrimage for some time so I was a little over-excited about by the time it came around. Ok, for little read like a five year old on Christmas morning. What my desire to effectively stalk someone who has been dead for 180 odd years says about me I don't want to consider. Maybe that I could do with the therapist sooner rather than later.

Newstead, or Nu-stud as is the non-tourist way to say it, is vast. It's got grounds so big it's hard to comprehend that one person owned them all. As we soon discovered walking around the grounds getting lost is a very real and vivid possibility. Even in its now tourist state we hardly saw another person as we trekked through the undergrowth, round trees, over stepping stones down to lakes that will have you conjuring up Regency swimming faster than you can say 'Mr Darcy'. I would like to say that was the only thing I conjured up but that would be a complete lie. Within minutes of being in the gardens I was plotting where the marquee would go when I get married there. Look, I know that I'm not getting married next week and, more importantly, that Nu-stud don't let you have marquees but when has reality ever impinged upon me? After all we'd found the perfect spot for the marquee, naturally incorporating the memorial to Byron's dog Boatswain, and had to plan where the band would go. Priorities would be the word.

But if I could almost smell Byron in the grounds, it was in the house itself that I lost a bit of my heart to Nu-stud. I know the drill with these places. 'This is a pen that is like the one that so-and-so wrote with', 'this hat may have belonged to bla-bla'. But Nu-stud wasn't like that. To say that Byron had to sell the house a surprising amount of his belongings are still there, not least his bed which takes pride of place on the tour and which is so high that it has steps next to it. I only shuddered slightly at what that poor bed must have seen. When I discovered that they had first editions of all of Byron's publications in the library - devoted to to a follow the life story of Byron type display that was notable for the fact that it was littered with his belongings - I almost needed a paper bag. First editions. Do you know how much I would give for one of those? I wet myself enough when I was given an 1844 collection for my 21st. But a first edition of Don Juan? I'd need a supply of oxygen with it.

If the paintings, and his bed and books were not enough, however, there was something about Nu-stud that raised it even higher in my estimation. That rather than stuffy museum it had taken in something of the spirit of Byron. And I don't know what spirit of Byron means to you but to me it would definitely involve a clause about dressing up. I think even under normal circumstances Cat, Val and myself wouldn't need a second push to start donning dressing up clothing. And this time it was legitimised under the museum/educational tag. We could dress up as Byron (cue plans to steal the now-fashionable puffed white shirt) and then as Victorians. I was only a little - ok, a lot - thrilled to discover that, crappy material aside, I can work that regency, Jane Austen heroine look. Which means, with my rapidly decreasing grasp on sanity, that I could have been a Byron groupie. I bet they had t-shirts. With a tagline of 'mad, bad and dangerous to know', they're crying out for them.

Just when Nu-stud looked like it couldn't get any better it had one final trick. Its giftshop. I knew that I'd spend the gross national product of a small third world country in it, even before I'd entered, and when I finally got there it was clear that I'd be working three days this week. Not least because they had the same view of iconic as me - Ginny, Oscar and Will all got a look in on the gifts and I ended up spending twelve pounds on Byron tat. A bit more and i'm sure that I could have claimed a piece of Nu-stud in their 'adopt a stone' scheme.

Iconic. And a little bit magic.

Some Jokes Never Get Old

Some Jokes Never Get Old

"Griffin's Head's got lots of pretty lights"

"Er, but half of them aren't working..."

"Well..."

***

"If anything's weird we can just blame it on the fact we're in Griffin's Head"

***

Cat: We're in Griffin's head!

Corinne: We are!"

Cat: But you've been here before!*

*But that would be a slightly different Griffin's head, with markedly less pub furniture and more missed apostrophes.**

**Don't ask.***

***Seriously, don't. It'll only make you more scared.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Choices

Choices

As it turned out I didn't make like a Shakespearian heroine and vomit but settled instead for waking up feeling like I hadn't had any sleep and with a strange pounding phenomenon taking place behind my right eye. I soon discovered that if I closed my eye and poked it a bit the pounding felt a bit better. So I took the heavy duty painkillers that I'm only supposed to take for my hip and poked my eye all the way to the train station. And I hope you're reading the subtext there. I went to the train station. Which translates as I went to work. And not just work, but the section of my work - building site, one of only two women in 140 + people* - that I like the least. And I'm an admin monkey, so this is saying something. I think I just passed my first test. Albeit whilst poking myself in the eye and willing myself not to come over all Shakespearian heroine on the train itself.

Once I'd gotten into Leeds, however, the poking in the eye thing seemed to be working (or it might have been the painkillers. But I'm sticking with the poking) and I managed to feel half human. Until I realised that along with the pounding on my right side the gland on my neck was protruding. I like to think that - blood poisoning from blisters aside - I'm not a hypochondriac. If I don't have a Northern response to temperature then I like to think I do about illness**. Except, that is, when it comes to swelling glands. I reserve the right to get tetchy and moan about my glands and any swelling they might decide to do. I know those pesky lymph nodes of mine intimately***, we have a love/hate relationship. And part of the hating part of this relationship is that they freak me out when any of them increase in size.

At this point I had two choices. I could either continue entering bricklayers names into the database or I could make a quick exit to the loo and check what my other lymph nodes were doing. The second option sounds a bit of a strange one, and even I admit it an irrational one. But then fear is never, ever rational is it? If it were why would I have had something almost amounting to a phobia of fish when I was younger? What was a goldfish ever going to do to me? Forget my name? And in my head I knew that I most likely have some sort of virus and my poor right-neck gland is working overtime to combat it. But there is still something irrational that curls its fingers around me. To be a little scared may be imperfectly human but its a bit of a bugger when there's databases to be maintained. And, if indeed there is anything more important in life than a database, I don't want to be scared.

I made my choice. I stayed at my desk.

*Until last week there was only me, but now I have to share the girls loo with one other. I can't say I've had to queue.

**I have a true Yorkshire response to that byproduct of temperature - tanning - though.

***Offtopic slightly but it's quite amusing to become acquainted with internal organs via the medium of hundreds of scans. For example I have an oddly shaped aorta (artery on top of your heart) and a collection of veins that I should have lost when I was an embryo. Seems even then I liked I hoard stuff.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Shakespeare's heroines Don't Vomit When They Die

Shakespeare's Heroines Don't Vomit When They Die

I may neither be a Shakespearian heroine or on the verge of dying [though I think my sense of the dramatic can easily straddle both camps] but the fact remains. I feel sick.

And this is diconcerting because alcohol or motion induced sickness excluded I cannot remember the last time I was ill. Flu, yes. You may even have read about it. But, becoming intimately equated with my bathroom sickness, no. I sense I'm on the cusp and, dear reader, it could go either way.

This is, I think, the part of the blogging experience where I need to stop sharing. But you're getting my general queasiness in lieu of a proper blog. Because I do have a proper entry to write. Indeed so huge is the entry in question that if it were a word it would be iconic.

But the iconic blog is going to have to wait. A least until I feel the desire to write a blog without the word 'vomit' in it.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Nothing

Nothing

You know those days when you get absolutely nothing done despite that fact that you apparently have all the time in the world to do lots of interesting/important/mundane [delete as appropriate] things? Today would be one of those days.

Given the discovery that smelly-work* really eats into your time, I refuse to have one of my saturdays go down as 'wastage'. So to combat the feeling that I-have-done-nothing-today it must be noted that I've gained a bottle of wine as a belated Graduation present and, courtesy of Obi 4's looming birthday, a ticket for Legoland. Along with knowing the names of various WWE wrestlers*** and having easy access to a playstation should the mood take you, free legoland tickets are one of the perks of having small brothers****. So not quite total, unmitigated wastage. But not far.

* Obviously my work doesn't actually smell.**

**Excluding the toilets on the building site. They smell.

***Look you never know when that's going to come up in a quiz.

****Not that either of them are actually 'small' in any technical sense any more. Obi 3's already bigger than me.

Friday, August 12, 2005

DA Is Mostly Not Supporting...

DA Is Mostly Not Supporting...

The man in front of me in the queue at the CD counter in my local Woolworths who managed not only to have a copy of Akon's 'Lonely'* in his hand but also started harranging the scarily-skinny-counter-guy because it was £2.00 more expensive than Akon's current release.

I rather hope he stood in something nasty on his way home.

*Also known as the song which all Radio One DJs greeted with the words "you can turn the radi off for three minutes now".

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

DA Is Mostly Supporting...

DA Is Mostly Supporting...

Today as I walked past a hairdressers in Skipton one of the photos in the window made me do a double take. There, starring back at me was a picture of the short-arsed-Geordie from Big Brother with the proclaimation that this chain of hairdressers was supporting him.

The reason that this made do a double take? Because I didn't realise that there was that level of interst in Big Brother this year. Especially given that the Producers have chosen a group of people whom it is impossible to like, let alone want any of them to win.

But it is a competition after all, and come Friday night there must be a winner. So if you've watched even a little bit of it you've probably got an opinion on whom the winner-by-default should be. And there really are only two options:

Nice-but-terminally-dull or short-arsed-Geordie. Scary-stalker-boy loses out because, well, he's a STALKER. I've never felt as downright uncomfortable as I did the night when he molested a drunk and incoherent short-arsed-Geordie. And the less said about the two girls the better.

In his favour nice-but-terminally-dull is , well, nice. He's been diplomatic, a team player and, seriously, his t-shirt tan when he entered the house in just those green pants was possibly the funniest moment that I've seen on this series. Against this is the fact that he provides the kind of humour where you want to curl up and die it is so cringe making. David Brent has nothing on his rolling-a-tv-down-a-hill stories. Plus you know that if he wins he will cry. And when he cries it's always awkward. Anyway the purist within me, a remnant of those summers when I did care, says that someone who is a late entrant shouldn't win the money. Don't ask me why, that's a fairly irrational belief but it's a belief nonetheless.

Which leaves short-arsed-Geordie. In his favour he has been entertaining. Not in the way in which hoards of BB contestants before him have been entertaining admittedly, but in relation to what else has been on offer. And I did go 'awww' when he was drunk and ill and asked for his mam. Plus he's done wonders not to have battered Scary-stalker-boy. I don't condone violence but in scary-stalker-boy's case, I'd overlook it. Against this, is of course, the fact that Geordie isn't exactly the sharpest tool in the box. Such pretty packaging but beyond that...not too much. But what can I say, he works it. And he's rather sweet.

So the Verdict from DA?

Anthony to win.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Google Season: Alistair Griffin (Part Two)

The Google Season: Alistair Griffin (Part Two)

Now to those googlers who know who Griffin is...

And I pondered for all of ten minutes today about what I could put in this second part. But then the answer became clear. I could do what I've always done.

So, limited only by the fact that most of my Griffin reports are on my non-interneted computer and a good chunk of them have been sent to the great AG.co.uk dustbin in the sky, I found three which give a little flavour of what I might want to write here. My only requirements were that the reports couldn't be on something I'd covered in detail on here already and had to have something that was special to me in them. Really there needs to be two more to tell the whole story in minature (I'm not saying what they are, I may well come back to them at some point) but one of those isn't written and the other, for various reasons, no longer lives on AG. But for now...

First up is, as promised, an Epsom annecdote. Griffin, and a clutch of other graduates from his series of the tortous-reality-tv show performed as part of the post-racing entertainment. I went, got day-glow orange teeth, came into far too close proximity to one of the graduates and ended up talking about Dolly Parton's breasts with Griffin. Really.

Next there's possibly one of the most special moments of the entire Griffin experience; the Bring It On single signings in Middlesbrough and York. Griffin signs, sings and breaks his guitar whilst I get interviewed (a lot), meet another Griffin and get stuck in a car park.

Finally my take on the event which, at the time, Griffin called a watershed in his career. I wouldn't know too much about that, but I do know that Nottingham Ice Arena proved to be a watershed for the army too. Just be glad that this one doesn't come with sound.

I've left all of the reports as they are, no tinkering or correctly of spelling, each being written in a 24-48 hour period of the event. For anyone who doesn't know me in my AG guise, Lady B would be shortened version of my forum name. There are a couple of others whose forum names are mentioned but most are self explanatory. Except 'AnnaB' which is actually Val. Oh, and during winter 2003 I wore a purple hat. I kind of became famous for it.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The Google Season: Alistair Griffin (Part One)

The Google Season: Alistair Griffin (Part One)

I was wondering if I was going to tackle the Griffin google because it's a bit of an odd one. Not that googling Griffin is odd, I did that myself a long time ago and the next thing I knew I was in a nightclub in Derby having my breasts signed by him. Well, there were steps in between those two events, but the fact that the initial google led to everything that followed can't be denied. But this isn't about my googling. It's about your googling. And unlike the people looking for information on tubicles or Gatsby the people who google 'Alistair Griffin' and end up here already know who Griffin is. And, I suspect, that a good proportion of my readership has come into contact with Griffin - if not literally, then through his music, or through people rabbiting on to them about him. But equally there's that small but significant proportion who don't know who Griffin is. And I don't want to short change either group, though the latter is undoubtedly easier to deal with.

Given that 'who is Al Griffin' appeared in my comments yesterday I'll tackle that in this first blog part. Griffin is better known under the moniker of Alistair Griffin*, or maybe - and unfortunately - the guy who came second in Fame Academy**. Which, for anyone who doesn't follow the ins and outs of British reality television, is basically Big Brother with a weekly singing competition***. Needless to say I got totally swept up in it back in the summer of 2003, possibly because Griffin spent a good amount of his time in the Academy without his trousers on.

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Actually as much as I'd like you to think that's true it's a bit of a disservice to Griffin. Being only human I'm not saying the lack of trouser thing didn't endear me to him, but what really hooked me was his voice. Even singing covers to karaoke style backing it managed to stop me in my reality tv viewing tracks. But then this isn't supposed to be about me, it's supposed to be about Griffin. So he did the reality tv thing, came second in what is widely acknowledged as being the most biased television final ever screened and was signed up by UMTV records. His first single, 'Bring It On' [voted second cheapest video on MTV Hits], reached number five. Then came the album of the same name which managed number 12 a fortnight later. The next single, 'You and Me [tonight]' [don't ask about the brackets, no one knows why they're there], hit 18. Less than two months later, with no fan fare, UMTV pushed Griffin overboard. So he was now an ex-reality tv star who'd been dumped by his record company. It's not the most glowing sentence I suspect I'll ever write about him.

I guess this is where the story should end. There haven't been any more singles or albums after all. But instead Griffin seems to have taken it down a knotch [if one can call supporting Robin Gibb in Germany taking it down a knotch], moving away from backing tracks and questionable childrens television and producing instead the acoustic, and utterly spinetingling, Live In Germany cd. There was also his own mini-tour complete with a dancing bear. Seriously. Which basically brings you up to date. As much as a couple of paragraphs ever can. Maybe I should instead just point you in the direction of what Griffin really should be known for - his music - and leave it to speak for itself.

But if that is Griffin then it certainly isn't the full story. I've covered some of my thoughts and experiences of ending up trailing around the country after Griffin in this blog, which you can read in the Griffin Archive but if I were to point you in the direction of the post that still sticks in my head it would be this one. I'm not sure how much sense it makes to anyone who doesn't know the back story or who doesn't know Griffin but it's the blog that probably says why I believe in him the best.

If that answers some of the questions of one group of readers then it's just rehashing familiar ground for another group. And I do wonder what I should offer up to you. I guess that all I've ever been able to offer is myself, with a few hasty snatches of Griffin in the middle. And, curiously, I can't do that tonight. Because, in as much as my blog can ever be about anyone other than me, this one should be about Al.

Tomorrow, however, I've an Epsom Racecourse story to tell...

*Though I don't think of him as 'Alistair', he's always 'Griffin' here in DA Land and since the first time I met him he's been 'Al' in real life. I reckon I'm allowed to mess around with his name, though, as he inadvertently saddled me with 'Coza' for life.

**Please be impressed at my desire to inform, given that's the only time the tortous-reality-television show has been given its correct name.

***So I have to confess to stealing that description from Griffin's reality tv cohort, James Fox. But I'm allowed to do that as Fox is my best friend.****

****He just doesn't know it.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Snape, Knickers and The Army

Snape, Knickers and The Army

Given my current google project I've been taking more notice than usual of my google visitors. And I'm quietly chuffed with some of them.

Take there's something about Snape for example. That's a quality blog right there and, even though I know that all but maybe four or five of my readers will be bashing their heads in despair and going off to find a new read where the writer doesn't have an unhealthy obsession with Harry Potter, it's one I'd quite like to write. After all - for all I'm giving the impression of democracy in this google project it doesn't change the fact that it's still a dictatorship here.

I'd love to be able to blog about the phoebe bag by mulberry but, short of an unexpected windfall, I'd falter at the fact that the closest I've come to a phoebe was looking at it in Grazia magazine. I suspect that I might fair better on the subject of the boho princess, even if I'm not one myself - future daughter watch out - I like to think I know my boho from my hobo.

I was not, however, impressed with this google. What kind of blog do they think this is?*

The whole google idea is undoubtedly fuelled by a desire to expand the DA conversation, but google - and my comments - are not the only place where that conversation has been going this week. On Monday I blogged about seeing Griffin and what the experience made me think about "the army" tag we gave ourselves back in the days of yore**. And it got a very thoughtful, interesting and - the biggest compliment I can give to a blogger - honest response over on My Secrets Inside . Which also made me think as to whether there are any other Griffin-fan bloggers out there...come on you know you want to...

*Maybe one that mentions knicker flashing, Glastonbury and Jo Whiley which, on reflection, probably isn't too far from the mark.

**Yore being winter 2003/04.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

The Google Season: Rhumble

The Google Season: Rhumble

Now I know I've never properly blogged about PJ and Duncan AKA, or even about Ant and Dec, but I'm guessing they've appeared in a footnote or an aside or two because I've had a steady stream of googlers looking for the lyrics to 'Let's Get Ready To Rhumble' almost since the beginning of this blog. So, to get the lyric bit out of the way. Surprisingly I could only find one set of lyrics, with very dodgy spelling, over two pages of google, so I've ammended the spelling and prhasing as best I can without i)turning James Blunt's album off and singing Rhumble or ii)going and finding my Psyche album and copying the lyrics out.

Let's Get Ready To Rhumble

Let's get ready ready, Let's get ready ready, Let's get ready to Rhumble.
Watch us wreck the mic, Watch us wreck the mic
Watch us wreck the mic..............Psyche!

Let's get ready ready, Let's get ready ready, Let's get ready, Let's get, Let's get, Let's get ready ready.
Let's get ready ready, Let's get ready ready, Let's get ready to Rhumble.

Strait up provin', We can get ya groovin'.
This track's boomin' It ain't no hype.
Watch us wresk the mic, watch us wreck the mic.
Watch us wreck the mic...........Psyche!

CHORUS:
Let's get ready to Rhumble (Let's get ready to Rhumble)
Get ready, Get steady, and Rhumble (Everybody Rhumble)
Let's get ready to rhumble (Let's get ready to Rhumble)
Get ready, Get steady and Rhumble (Everybody Rhumble)

Sit back, Rap attack, Don't take no flack.
Rhyme in time to the rhythm of the track.
I'm Ant, I'm Declan, A duo, A twosome.
So many lyrics we're frightnend to use 'em.
So many lyrics we keep 'em in stores.
We've even got 'em comin' out of our pores.
Ya father, Ya mother, Ya sister, Ya brother.
Everyone's got to be an A.K.A lover!

Give us the motivation, We can cause a sensation.
Give us the aspiration, We can cause a sensation.
Give us the girls top speed, Give us the girls stampede,
Stylin' Smilin', Everybody buck willin' .

CHORUS

Partners in crime, We'll never do time.
A sentence for us has to end in a rhyme.
Raw...And pure like sushi,
Don't try to do me, Use me, Or even try to sue me.
We lay down the law, We're quick on the draw.
We played it, We made it, The test don't score.
No jokes, no messin', We'll teach you a lesson.
A state of confusion, to keep ya all gussin' .

Freakin it, sweatin' it, busting the mic.
Slammin it', Jammin' it, Do what ya like!

Let's get ready ready, Let's get ready ready, Let's get, Let's get, Let's get ready ready, Let's get ready ready, Let's get ready ready. Let's get ready to Rhumble.
Watch us wreck the mic, Watch us wreck the mic.
Watch us wreck the mic.........Psyche!

CHORUS

Written by Lew/Olton/Graham.

A classic I think we can all agree (possibly for the sushi line alone).

But this would be something of a lazy blog if I were to leave the PJ and Duncan AKA at the, albeit thrilling, lyrics of their masterpiece. No, I suspect that a bit of an explanation my be in order.

Picture the scene. It's summer 1994, I've just left primary school, my bubbling obsession with Robbie Williams has already started but has been pushed to one side by a short lived and comically named boy band called Bad Boys Inc. Then those worryingly asexual bad boys split up because no one other than the odd 11 year old girl bought their records and suddenly there's a spot open in my favourite music department. And lo-and-behold I hear Rhumble on the radio. Or maybe I saw it on tv, for all a road to Damascus moment it was I can't remember it for love nor blog. But somehow I heard Rhumble and saw the artists now known as Ant and Dec.

Thus was born the most pressing and fondly remembered of my teenage obsessions. I devoured singles, albums, interviews and their faces peered back at me from my bedroom walls. The first piece of writing I ever had published, aged 13, was a poem entitled 'I know I'm mad but...' which detailed, even I acknowledged as being, my slightly obsessional focus on PJ and Duncan. By the time they'd become Ant and Dec and finished their surprisingly prolonged musical career I was ready to move on and their faces no longer peered back at me. But I still love them, the kind of love borne out of all that excitement and belief in them through what were - in retrospect - their wilderness years. And - had anyone been taking note - then my subsequent actions will Griffin et al once I had the time and - almost - money to push things to their logical conclusions would have come as little of a surprise after the PJ and Duncan years.

And I have to confess that Rhumble had its own way of cementing the Griffin experience. A week after my 21st birthday Griffin performed his first of a run of PAs at Zanzibar nightclubs. After the performance and signing a group of us were arranged haphazzardly on tables not oo far from Griffin. The Rhumble came on and I immediately started singing. When it came to the 'psyche' bit I looked up, performed the hand actions only to catch the eye of Griffin as he did exactly the same thing. I'd be lying if I said I didn't love him a little bit more after that.

Several months later, as Nik and I tried to coax Fox into a comedy 'psyche' photoshoot, Fox's reaction to the mention of Ant and Dec led me to hit him (thankfully not too hard) and led to my immortal declaration that I went to the Bedford, had an argument with Griffin* and hit Fox. In future years I'll be blaming everything on Rhumble.

*That's what happens when you bring my dictionary knowledge into question.

Friday, August 05, 2005

The Google Season: Secrets of Getting into Oxford

The Google Season: Secrets of Getting Into Oxford

Oddly, though this is the google which started my mini-season, I feel curiously out of my depth in sharing any of my so-called-knowledge on the subject. Because if there are lots of secrets about Oxford then I have to confess than no one divulged them to me. So really all I can say is, like the great Sunscreen speech, the following is based on nothing more than my own meandering experience.

The Big One: Be passionate about your subject
Maybe a bit obvious but it should be noted. This is not to say that you can't get into Oxford with a bit of Machievellian cunning and a pragmatic attitude [I'll return to this later] but it's not one that I favour. For all that the newspapers stir up interview bias at Oxford, first against State school pupils and then against Public school pupils the reality is that for every place on offer there are often six, seven, eight candidates who'll be waving their 'A' grade A Levels. It was explained to me before I applied that Oxford wasn't simply looking for those who are academically gifted, they don't simply want good future doctors or journalists, they want the person who'll find the cure for cancer, the person who's going to win the Booker. Now this obviously isn't true for every Oxford student, only a small percentage will go on to success at that level, but it's the passion and drive which propels people to these feats that they want. You'll be surprised just how far genuine enthusiasm and spark can get you.

Oxford will propel you across a gamut of emotions, pushing you from extreme to extreme. It is anything but easy and I'd be lying by omission if I didn't mention mention the academic pressure. But if you've got that interest, that love for what you'll be doing then you've got the resources to cope. Oxford certainly isn't for the half-hearted and those tutors, in those interview rooms, will suss if you're half hearted.

So you've got the passion, but now you're wondering what use that is. Passion is a bit of a waffly term when you're looking for a key to bashing down the doors to those dreaming spires. Which is where the pragmatic bit comes in. I've known people use the pragmatic bit on its own, walk away with an Oxford first and seem quite happy but let me state - I do not like those people. I'd go as far to say that I don't think Oxford should be using its resources to fund the emotionally sterile. But if you've got that passion then it would be stupid not to add a bit of pragmatism to your approach. After all you show me an Oxonian who hasn't got a competitive, pragmatic streak and I'll show you a liar.

1. Choose your college well.
As it currently stands Oxford has a weird collegiate system when it comes to applications (on an undergraduate level at least). There is talk of this being changed so that addmissions are dealt with on a University wide basis to try and eliminate the quirks (I knew four people reading english at St Anne's who'd originally applied to another college, been turned down and then reapplied to St Anne's the next year. I think it's this sort of oddity they're trying to eliminate). But for now you've to deal with the collegiate system so use it to your advantage. Look at the number of people who apply per place in each subject at each college (they tell you in the back of prospectus) and take note of the number of places for each subject at each college (it varies slightly year to year but never by too much). I read English, a particularly oversubscribed subject and applied to a college that has 12-15 places a year for it, compared to other colleges that had only 4-7. You might as well make the odds work for you.

There is a wider issue about colleges that is not quite as pragmatic. When you read about/see them you might fall in love with one regardless of its place/application ratio. If this happens and you decide that you have to go to Magdalen because Oscar Wilde strutted his stuff there, or Queens because Gatsby did, then by all means go for it. Ultimately your life in college will affect you more than any prospectus ever tells you. The newer colleges tend to have less money and prestige, but also tend to be more forward, less oppressive and generally more relaxed. Older colleges have wonderful buildings and nice bursaries but the novelty might wear off when you've tripped over your hundredth tourist or had to wear your gown to dinner for an entire term. The urban-myth has it that no one outside of Merton actually knows anyone from there because all Mertonians work so hard that they never leave, that they hand out Conservative Society application packs with the freshers material at Oriel and that at the people's republic of Wadham if you aren't a bisexual radical when you enter you will be by the end. For my own college's part it was labelled by one Oxford guide as "looking like a polytechnic with students who act like they're at one". Needless to say I loved St Anne's and - dodgy sixties buildings aside - really can't envisage having spent my three years anywhere else.

2. Don't be scared of interview
This is not to say that interviews aren't scary. Being 17 coming up to Oxford to face interview opposite the people who made the t-shirt on your chosen specialist subject is not to be sneezed at. But everyone's in the same boat. And if they're acting cocky and couldn't care less then they're probably even more scared than you. The Oxford tutors don't want to pull you to pieces and leave you a jabbering wreck in the corner (they've enough opportunity to do that once you're actually here) they just want to poke you a bit and see how you react.

I don't advocate the intense coaching that everyone knows goes on in certain schools. The tutors aren't stupid, they can see a preprepared answer a mile away. But equally you don't want to be entirely unprepared. I had two practice interviews [one at which was by one of my teacher's brothers who was a lecturer at Leeds University. That was much, much scarier than my actual Oxford experience]. We didn't talk about anything that subsequently came up in my interview but it got me used to what would be expected of me. The only thing that is truly scary, afterall, is the unknown.

Interviews at Oxford vary according to subject/college and some subjects will throw in a few exams just to keep you on your toes but there are a few things that are probably universal. You're going to have to talk - on equal footing - with those t-shirt owning tutors. They're going to test your viewpoints and see what you do. They may even throw the odd curve ball in there. My most memorable interview moment came when discussing whether ET was a representation of Christ and whether this was deliberate from Mr Spielberg or not. Never having considered that the white-robed alien who brought love and joy before going home was anything else than a cuddly and tissue needing film I actually had to stop my tutor and tell him that I needed to think about this as "I haven't thought about this before". His reply was quite simply "good, we're here to make you think about things differently". Tutors don't expect you to have all the answers, they just want you to explore them. There's also that difficult line to be walked between being able to hold a position in a debate and being able to see the other side. They want you to be able to tread this line, even if it eventually ties you in knots. Possibly the best - and conversely the least helpful to those looking for the bullet point secrets - piece of advice I ever receieved was given to me just before my finals: "it's better to be interesting than right".

In honour of being taken outside of your comfort zone you've got to be able to talk about things that aren't on your syllabus. Nothing great and don't panic because you haven't read everything ever written, but the odd work or two that you can slip in always helps. It shows an enthusiasm that extends beyond the classroom. I studied The Waste Land at A Level and submitted my coursework on it to Oxford, knowing this and the fact that I'd become a little bit of a TS Eliot fan I went away and read some more of his work, culminating with my first stab at The Four Quartets. I didn't understand everything but it gave me an area to delve into when I ended up talking about Eliot in the second of my interviews.

There's also a lot of talk of value added extras when it comes to applications. Aside from academia Oxford really is thriving, in particular with sport, student journalism and drama. If you've got some great hobby - anything from watching films through being a grade eight pianist to collecting beer mats - be willing to talk about it and wax lyrical on the skills it has allowed you to demonstrate. They're not expecting Renaissance Wo-man but maybe her/his 21st century equivalent isn't exactly out of place. And it's another opportunity to display that passion and enthusiasm they're looking for.

3. Oxford isn't the be all and end all (and Cambridge definitely isn't)
I know this is easy for me to say, as someone who did get in, but it isn't the only place you can have a fantastic time and maybe a little piece of that attitude is good for you. I didn't realise just how much I wanted to go until I missed my offer by one grade courtesy of one of those great double bs: bloody biology. I was pretty sniffy for the two hours whilst I waited for my fate to be decreed it has to be said. But had things turned out differently and I'd ended up in Newcastle not struggling with Old English I think I'd have been happy. Probably with the added bonus of a more manageable ego if I'm honest. Because Oxford has to be kept in proportion. And maybe that's the biggest secret of all.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Beyond The Blog

Beyond The Blog

Let's get one thing straight. I like comments. If I didn't I'd be writing this in a leather bound diary, carefully concealed and far away from prying eyes. So I love opening my inbox to see that I've got some new comments. Normally I come here to read them but when I'm at work - because I do think there are barriers to be drawn when I'm not working on reception - I read them in my gmail home. And one of the comments that I received today from Aries327 got me thinking. Namely about the wonder that is google and how (and indeed why) some of my readers end up here.

Now I should note that I'm going into this blog with my eyes open. I know this is meta-blogging and talking about your stats is way, way up there in the stab-your-eyes-with-the-nearest-implement stakes. And if there's one thing that you apparently shouldn't touch with a metaphorical barge pole in the eyes of those hardened bloggers it's meta-blogging. But, and maybe this is a product of my relative newness, I don't have a problem with meta-blogging providing that it: i) is done well ii)makes me think and/or iii) maks me laugh. Obviously I'm not in a position to judge my own skills as a meta-blogger, but I do still think this is quite a good entry as DA blogs go. Plus we shouldn't be scared of something because of the term 'meta' where would all those Elizabethan and Jacobean dramatists - good and bad - be without meta-theatre? The answer is of course in the theatre without a metaphor. But I suspect that this is turning into one of those baggy jumper monsters of a meta-blog entry so I'll get back to where I was before 'all the world's a stage' started running around my head - my stats.

Not long after I started blogging I got the blogwhore disease. Because let's be honest it is a disease. Suddenly you've had the rush of people reading you blog and you want more. More. More. That I'd settle for 0.001% of the people who visit Dooce is neither here nor there. I like my readers, you're all the reason that I get that horribly guilty feeling in my stomach when I haven't updated within 24 hours. So I am a little interested as to where you come to me from. There are those of you who know me, who were forcibly given the address in the early days. then there are those of you who may know me by name or even sight who came my way from a link from one of the Griffin forums. There are those who come from one of the blogging communities [tip that I haven't read anywhere else, have a random interest listed, I get more from 'cowboy boots' and 'cocktails with odd names' than all of my other - distinctly sensible - ones put together]. My final band of merry wo-men come from the wonder that are search engies, predominantly from the people's republic of google. And it's this little lot that I'm going to concentrate on here. I can see why the others are reading, be it a chance click, a regular occurence or wanting to know exactly what cocktails with strange names I like. But the google group. Oh no. You're all special*.

To get the easy ones out of the way the majority of my google hits come from a certain Mr Alistair Griffin**, especially after a gig. At one point, when the Movin' Out Broadway shebang had just been announced, I got a lot from James Fox. I think I ended up in the Devoted Mod forum too, though since I didn't get any sarky comments after the stream of hits - I got a link to a selection of cowboy boots - so I don't think my ears are burning quite as much as when that happened over on AG. I've had a few from JCS googles and a more surprising one from Riccardi. My Bedford reviwes also garner more than the odd google hit, undoubtedly from fans of those I talk about. My Mel Blatt review was deemed good enough to make one of her forums. But those are pretty much the standard ones, the peasant skirts and low slung belts of the DA world. Gratifyingly, as I suspect these posts don't feature that highly with my regular readers, I tend to get a stream of hits to reviews I've written, undoubtedly caused by the fact that I caught Talking To Terrorists and The Fence early on in their runs. There's also a second batch of more troublesome posts that gain a disproportionate amount fo hits, the ones where I randomly quote literature. The worst offender is Gatsby's Green Light which gets what are clearly literature students looking for some information on Gatsby's dock light and instead they get something which doesn't even mention Gatsby. My own writing, yes. Tony Blair, yes. Gatsby, no. Maybe that just proves the point that those pro-bloggers make about targeting your titles. Get all artsy and thematic and you end up with googlers wondering how on earth they got here. I get a lot of Closer, Chaucer and even the odd old english*** hit this way too, but I feel less guilty about those because they're not quite as random as the Gatsby one. At least I do talk about the book concerned there.

But at least the literature ones are pretty sane and sensible. Every blogger must get their fair share of oddities and with a title that has "aggravation" in it I've had some weird ones. This is not even to go on about the rash of tubicle hits I got following an aside about them back in March. And today's oddest? Someone looking for electricution and motion sickeness. Which does boggle my mind somewhat.

But when Aries327 said that she'd come here from googling secrets of how to get into Oxford, it struck me that, tubicles and electricution aside, a lot of my google hits do come from things that I do know about, that I could write about if I wanted to. So in honour of all of those who've come looking for Gatsby and found Blair, Closer and found Paddy or tubicles and found, well nothing, I'm going to address the issue and write a series of blogs - let's call it the google season - on those topics that I keep getting hits for and yet don't talk about. God, I'll even tackle motion sickness if needs be. And given that Oxford does get me its fair share of hits and this was what started everything off, I'll write my own 'Secrets of getting into Oxford' without the ten pound price tag that you're usually charged for Aries327.

NB: So I'm not discriminating those of you who don't come to the wilds of DA from the people's republic of google if there's something that you'd like me to blog on that I've half mentioned, hinted at or just plain ignored leave me a comment or send me a gmail.

*Not special in the way that I was "special" when I did something slightly embarrassing whilst the tortuous-reality-tv graduate who sounds like a dolphin looked on. Just special.

**Not actually from Mr Griffin I'd hope. That would be odd. And more embarrassing than the last footnote.

***And because rhetoric should always come in threes, not from ye olde english.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Home Is Where Your Handbag Is

Home Is Where Your Handbag Is

I could claim that my unshakeably good mood this week, even in the face of the almost trip to Selby, is part of the after effects of Saturday's griffining. Maybe it is a little. But if I'm honest it has more to do with something much more concrete than the Griffin experience.

No, happiness it seems is firmly routed in my new handbag.

Given the size of the said handbag, purchased - thanks to some nifty personal shopping from cat - in an Oasis concession prior to getting a wet bottom on Saturday, it's quite possible that happiness is literally in there, located next to my diary and a copy of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The outside which conceals this Mary Poppins style vastness, is worn, distressed, squashy and silver. It is not just a bag. It is a statement. Possibly when I wear it - for it is a bag made for wearing not simply carrying - balanced halfway up my arm*, Coco sunglasses firmly on, it's a statement that I'm taking the future famous person thing a bit seriously. But it's a statement nonetheless.

And I sense - as you only can with handbags, boots and dresses - that this is the beginning of a very long relationship.

*Scientific term for your inner elbow anybody?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

All Rails Leave To Selby

All Rails Lead To Selby

Tonight was my turn at getting caught up in some of the effects post London bombing. York station had a bomb alert - and a subsequent controlled explosion - and though I don't live in York, wasn't going either to or from York the fact that I live on the route between Leeds and York meant that I was basically up the creek without a paddle. Or, to be more accurate, stuck at Leeds station with no clear indication of how I was getting home. They'd set on buses for the York people, but not for those in the stations inbetween. Oh no, we were to fend for ourselves on the next available train.

This might not have bothered me as much were it not for the fact that I'd started work early in order that I might leave early and just miss rush hour with its packed trains and scary gun weilding police. Indeed, as I stood on the platform at 4:30, I had missed rush hour. The came the cancellation of my train, two minutes before it was supposed to arrive. Not that it was announced over the tannoy as such.

"[crackle] flump flump [crackle] flump [loud train noise] flump, 16:41 cancelled"

But even that was more informative than the advice given to the 16:41's wannabe passengers:

"Flump, flump-flump [train noise, train noise] flump [crackle]"

Thus I dragged myself up to the information booth to see if I could get any, well, information. the only problem being that the guy in the booth knew even less about the train situation than me.

"I'm wanting to get to Crossgates"*

"You need to ge the next train to Selby, if it's running"

"[hard and slightly scary looking man behind me interjects] what do you mean it might not be running?"

"It might not be running"

I decide to try a different tack.

"Is the Middlesbrough train stopping at Crossgates?"

"No. You need the Selby train" he says Selby as if talking to a three year old who's having a problem understanding.

"The Middlesbrough train normally stops at Crossgates".

He looks at me. He doesn't need to say the words, so I do.

"Selby".

It's only when I'm sitting on the Selby train platform, just as the Middlesbrough train is arriving seven platforms away, that I hear that, of course, the Middlesbrough train has only dropped York from its route and will be calling at all other stations as normal. But I'm stuck on platform eight and there's no way I'm going to make it. God, that guy really wanted me to go to Selby.

me and half of Leeds it would appear when the train pulls in. I'm lucky, I've been on the platform for nearly an hour, I'm in the carriage and firmly attached to my spot. But this is the busiest train I've ever been on. And when you consider that I regular travel Virgin cross country you know this is saying something. It's so full that the platform is still crammed with people when there is no where else to squash them on the train. And god is it hot, not to mention the rather odd smell that seems to be emanating from the man next to me. In their wisdom the company decides at this point that it might be a good idea to add a couple of carriages. Even when they do this it's standing room only and I've got an elbow pretty near my face.

And then the conductor makes his announcement. Predictably he lists every stop on the route to Selby except Crossgates. I let out an audible "what?" and people turn to look at me. I also mouthed an inaudible swear word, but only the bloke opposite me catches that.

"It'll stop"

I look at him through my Coco sunglasses.

"If it doesn't and I end up in Selby I'm blaming you".

It stops.

* Or Cross Gates as it is on the national rail website. It's both Crossgates and Cross Gates on the station signs and Crossgates on the boards at Leeds station. No one, least of all those of us who live here, know which is the correct version.

Monday, August 01, 2005

After The Army

After The Army

If I'd factored in the sand then there was one thing I hadn't bargained on.

Rain.

And not just a little bit of drizzle. Oh no. Pouring down, soaking you to the skin, leaving you with a wet bottom type rain. Ok, maybe the wet bottom bit wouldn't have happened under normal circumstances [unless I'd been lying with my bum in the air] and had more to do with deciding to sit in deckchairs. But, as one of my all time favourite films notes "there's a point when you can't get any wetter". I might have drowned, but I wasn't going anywhere.

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Scarborough. In July. I really should have guessed how it would turn out.

But along with the tiaras, party bags and comedy shaped balloons there was also the little matter of Griffin. After hitting 50 appearances in 52 weeks, it's slowed down somewhat this year. So much so that Saturday was only the second time I've seen Griffin this year. It was, however, devoid of some of the pre-Ilkley angst. I was rather unashamedly looking forward to the gig. If indeed it could be called a gig, given the fact it was part of a summer roadshow type thing and meant a return to the backing tracks of old. For a long, long time the only songs I heard Griffin sing where 'Bring It On' and 'Wherever You Will Go', always to a backing track, not always in that order. Post UMTV I've seen him sing to a backing track once. So I confess to not having particularly high hopes. I wasn't expecting magic. But equally there didn't seem to be any risk. If the risk came anywhere it was probably, and ironically, caused by this blog. Ilkley, and the last time I say Griffin fans on mass, was prior to DA-gate. And whilst I'm not egotistical enough to claim it caused more than a minor blip, it was enough for this blog to quadruple its daily hit count (such is the incestuous world of the Griffin fan that within 24 hours my blog had gained its own thread in the mods forum of AG and I had a steady stream of repeat viewings from there. And I think I can be 100% certain that they weren't coming to see what I'd written about cowboy boots). Thus I'd been very honest, to how I felt in that moment, how I've felt for a long time but I remain unsure of who exactly has read that great splash of honesty. How many people have peered into that bit of my brain and then wandered away. And being honest makes you a little vulnerable. I guess, since the beginning of the Griffin experience I've made myself slightly vulnerable. At one point I wrote lavish reports for AG, chronicling the experience, undoubtedly giving more of myself than I should have as I strived for that bit of me that likes to enertain with my writing whilst treading the increasingly difficult line of what it was possible to say about Griffin. I stopped that when it became clear that my writing was putting myself - and indeed my friends - in the firing line. Writing the DA-gate blog, in the college computer room one sunday evening, was something that was probably long overdue but it also meant I was sticking my head - and my honesty - over the parapet. And in doing that you open yourself up to being shot at.

As it was, there wasn't any need to stress. The rain and the deckchairs meant that it was impossible for me to socialise. Or if not impossible then on the difficult side. There were people I'd have liked to have spoken to, but in my need for self protection I've maybe become a little inward looking. In the past I remember spending endless hours socialising at Griffin gigs with an enthusiasm that now escapes me. For good or bad my own group of friends has tightened and I'm much, much less likely to go beyond them. And when I do its to people I've known since the beginning. Indeed it strikes me that the great AG-community has moved on, to be something that I'm emphatically no longer part of, even if I wanted to be. I think the Northern Division, or the ND as I always consider us, have written ourselves into its history, just as others have, and I know I'm still recognisable enough to have gotten all those extra hits to a blog which, ultimately occupies a very, very small part of the blogosphere, but we're AG's past. Not its present. And probably not its future either.

So maybe the fact that with the small stage, the pouring rain and the backing tracks Scarborough's gig was taking both Griffin and me back to the past was acting as a double bind. When it was announced the gig worried me. Would I - could I - deal with such a reminder? About where we'd been and how far we'd come, or more terrifyingly, not come? I have to confess that had the gig not been Scarborough, not have been in my back yard, I probably wouldn't have gone. If I'd travelled, like I did for Harlow back in 2003, it would literally have been going backwards. I'm not in the place I was then any more than Griffin is. But that remains hypothetical because it was Scarborough and I did go. And even with the rain, the predicted setlist (Wherever You Will Go, Oblivion, and a double dose of Bring It On) I'm really glad I did. For starters it never hurts to be reminded of just how lovely Griffin is. And his hair really was a work of art.

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And I think I can safely say that for as long as I live there will be something about Grififn's voice that makes my stomach flip. Even with the rain and the backing track and the jumping in the srowd and talking to the policewomen it was there, that undiscribeable thing that always makes me return. And when Griffin added our shouts of 'it's gone' and 'COME ON!' into the final 'Bring It On' I was rather touched.

The other moment of catharsis came, unexpectedly, when one of the presenters was talking about Griffin's fansite. He enquired if Griffin's fans had a name before suggesting one of his own. Griffin responded that we already had a name. But what that name was hung, unpronounced in the air. At one time a question as to what we were called would have been answered with a deafening shout. We were Ali's Army and then, with the familiarity of the name, we were simply the army. The army was something to be proud of. Was being the optimum word. It struck me, as it stayed unsaid by the collection of fans at the barrier, that "the army" had become a dirty word, a phrase that couldn't be uttered in public for all it represented.

Rather than depressing me, however, this revelation lifted me. Because I am and will always remain proud of being part of the army. And the reason that it has become a dirty word is not because of what it represents, but of who it represents. It's not a catch all tag that fits the current AG generation, its a tag that belongs to those who've gone before. Even in the beginning it wasn't as universal as it appeared. I can remember being completely thrilled that on his album notes Griffin had a special "and of course Ali's Army" thank you as well as one for "the fans". The army became even more specific in reality than belonging to members of AG. If it had always belonged to the site it would have remained so. But it didn't. It belonged to us. Not the ND us, though I think our very name - and its continued use - points to how embedded we were - are - in its myth - but to all of those who in the heady Bring It On days were part of the story. At York Grand Opera House, when Griffin dedicated Wherever You Will Go to "the army of fans who've followed me everywhere", it was implicit in his very words. "Wherever You Will Go" is our song, it's the army's song, testament to those Christmas light switch ons, those single and album signings, those early nightclub gigs. And the army - Ali's Army - were those who treked the country. Some of us still do. Some of us don't. But to be a Griffin fan, to be a member of AG, to be a prolific poster even, is not to make you part of the army.

Which is why, as the new generation attempts to establish itself, that the name has become one which, like Voldemort, must not be spoken. But in my recognising the position it now occupies, it's freed me. I was - and will forever remain - a member of Ali's Army. ALI'S ARMY. The Army. We've shared some wonderful times, we've done things I'm incredibly proud of and, if it never was our dream, our story, then it didn't stop us from walking some of the path. And however dirty the word, however much it is hidden under silence, nothing will ever be able to change that. In some way - even if just in memories - it will always exist.

After the gig we didn't stop to talk to Griffin, it was far too wet, and instead made our way to the pub. Soon though, we were on our way back to York, for the first time in months with Griffin's album playing in the car. And as we sung our way through it, adding Griffin's phrasing, our interjections, it felt wonderful. Each song, each line, brought back hundreds of memories.