Monday, December 31, 2007

Patroclus And Mr BC Discuss...World Politics


PATROCLUS and MR BC are reading the Guardian, paying close attention to the fallout from the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and reflecting soberly on the possible ramifications for East-West relations, the War on Terror, and the rising tide of anti-Islamist sentiment in the UK.


PATROCLUS: That Bilawal Bhutto's got really nice glasses.

MR BC: He really does.

Party Like It's 1979

Tonight I will be staying in, admiring James Spader's ...erm... performance in Boston Legal and going to bed at 10.00, but for those who insist on 'going out' and 'having a good time' and all that, I give you this to get you in the mood for the inevitable Soirée of Horror ahead of you:

Dan Hartman - Relight My Fire (mp3)

Accept no substitutes. That Loleatta Holloway could totally have Lulu in a fight any day of the week.

Happy New Year!

There's No Point Waiting For Tomorrow; It'll Come Of Its Own Accord When It's Ready

"Another year over and what have I done?/All my aspirations have shrivelled in the sun..."

So sang Matt Johnson*, but he was a miserable bastard, and anyway he wasn't exactly right. Well, not if one of his aspirations was to be immortalised in a postmodernist, Verfremdungseffekt-bedecked one-act play written by me when I was in the sixth form, he wasn't. Not many people had that honour, Matt Johnson, I can tell you.

(One day my precocious juvenilia will be sensationally discovered, as a direct result of which there will be a huge The The revival, and a whole new generation of rock writers (probably led by Tim 'I've never heard of David Bowie' 'Jonze') will take great pleasure in deconstructing jejune lyrics about overgrown gardens and weeds and stuff, and wishing they'd been around in Thatcher's Britain when everything was gritty and bleak and real and you could look cool by wearing metal badges with Soviet iconography on them and there were real issues like Greenham Common and British Leyland to sing real songs and write real journalism about.)

Oh right, yes, where was I?

Yes, I decided this morning that I was going to draw this blog to a close today, in a sort of '...and they lived happily ever after'-type way, but then the lovely (and funny and deeply knowledgeable about electronica) Fat Roland said something nice about it, and I decided to continue it forever and ever, so you know who to blame.

And on that cheery note, I wish you all a very happy New Year and I hope that, unlike Matt Johnson, you will realise all of your aspirations** and just generally have a splendid year in 2008.

* Apparently the correct lyric is "Another year older and what have I done?", thus ruining my entire New Year's Eve riff. No gratitude, that Johnson chap. None at all.

** Try keeping them out of direct sunlight, that would seem to be the best approach. Maybe store your aspirations in a cool, dark place. Like under the shed, or in Beth Ditto's loft.

Friday, December 21, 2007


Now blogging at the mighty rate of ONE POST PER YEAR, all hail the glorious return of the incomparable, inimitable and peerless PEANUT!


News Just In (thanks Betty for the tip-off): And what's more, the mighty Willie Lupin, of Musings from Middle England, is also back (after an even longer HIGH ATUS than PEANUT's), and is just as funny as he ever was, if not more so. Welcome back, Willie, and not a moment too soon.

NB I fully realise that Messrs PEANUT and Lupin have both actually been BACK! since November, but I catch on to things very slowly.

Next week: Dirty Den and Nick Cotton return to Albert Square (although for all I know, this might have actually just happened. Again.)

Look Out At The Station

Mr BC and I get on the train at Truro. Presently, a well-spoken lady comes up to where we are sitting.

WELL-SPOKEN LADY: (indicating seat next to Mr BC) Is this seat free?

MR BC: I think s-

FLORID GENTLEMAN: (having just arrived on the scene) No, that's my seat.

ME: (indicating seat next to me) This one's free.

WELL-SPOKEN LADY: (with evident disdain) Oh, I couldn't possibly sit there, back to the engine. I would be sick.

MR BC: Me too.


ME: (inwardly) Why, you shower of lily-livered weaklings, honestly. Look at me, I've clambered out of a river gorge in Africa in the beating hot sun, not to mention battled with killer flies* in the Venezuelan jungle and swum in the cold North Sea on New Year's Day, and you can't even contemplate sitting on a train looking backwards? What's the country coming to, I don't know, tut tut, blah blah blah....

Outwardly, I give the well-spoken lady a disapproving frown.


MR BC: That was Jenny Agutter.

Crikey. I wonder what the karmic retribution is for frowning at a National Treasure.

* Well, I *thought* they were killer flies. It was only after our guide had shouted 'No pican!' at me for about the 80th time that it dawned on me she wasn't shouting 'Run for your life!'** but in fact 'They don't bite!'.

** Or, more cryptically, 'No pecans!'.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


One of the great things about Britain, apparently, is that it's very easy to set up a new company here. Sometimes you hear that in Britain, you can set up a new company in a day. Woohoo the land of the free market economy, milk & honey, Richard Branson, etc.

In practice it doesn't quite work like that. Not - amazingly - because of government red tape, but due to the MASSIVE BUMBLING INCOMPETENCE of the companies you have to deal with in order to get frivolous perks like a working phone line, an internet connection, a working mobile phone and a business bank account.

The past six weeks have furnished me with enough examples of institutional bungling to fill several instalments of Tony Levene's column in the Money Guardian. Follow me now as I probe the compacted strata of inefficiency lurking beneath the shiny surface of some of our nation's leading 'brands':

Phone line/Internet connection: I ordered two phone lines from BT on the 19th November. They came to install them on the 5th December (two weeks with no phone line or internet connection - luckily Mr BC had his old flat until the 30th, so we could go there for such things). Then it turned out that they could only install one, but that was OK, because at least we had a working phone line and broadband connection. On the 7th December BT engineers came to install the second line, and in doing so broke the first one. They then left without connecting the second line to the house. With no landline and no internet connection, I was completely stuck*. I spent days trying to persuade BT to fix the first line - or just to get through to BT at all. On one occasion I was told that their systems had been down all day, so they couldn't tell me anything. On another, I was on hold for an hour and 20 minutes before giving up.

(Let us pause briefly to reflect on the fact that BT's tagline is 'Bringing it all together'. I propose this be amended to: 'Fucking it all up to an almost unbelievable degree of fuckedupness, then not answering the phone when you call us, while merrily charging you £249.98 as if nothing at all amiss had occurred.')

After a while it occurred to me that I might have more luck persuading them to complete the installation of the second line, but when I phoned them about that they claimed to have no record of me ordering a second line - despite the fact that it was at that point sticking up outside the front door waiting to be connected into the house. Eventually on the 13th December - almost a month after I'd first ordered the lines - a nice man came and fixed up the whole lot, but not before I'd made about a thousand chargeable calls to BT on my mobile. Super.

(* During this period I spent a lot of time in Falmouth's free wi-fi enabled bars, and can thoroughly recommend the tea in the Q Bar and the interior décor in the Townhouse - and the early 90s indie soundtracks playing in both of them.)

Mobile Phone: I went into Phones4U to upgrade my embarrassingly retro mobile phone to a shiny new model with a camera and everything. The girl in the shop recommended I move from T-Mobile to Orange, as Orange has better reception in Falmouth. I spent an hour in the shop going through the whole procedure of moving my number to the new network, setting up a direct debit for monthly payments, etc. The shop girl presented me with my new phone, plus - for some reason - a second, free, pay-as-you-go phone with £20 loaded on to it, and the promise of £120 cashback from Orange for moving to their network. A week later my number hadn't moved across to the new phone, so I phoned Orange, who had no record of me asking for a transfer, and no record of any direct debit being set up either. So I had to go through the whole procedure again. The pay-as-you-go phone doesn't work, and the £120 cashback hasn't appeared. However, it does appear that I am paying Phones4U for insurance on both phones.

(Phones4U's tagline: 'We'll find the right deal 4U'. I propose this be amended to 'We'll find the right deal for us'.)

Bank Account: I first went into Abbey in Chiswick on the 5th November to set up a business account. They asked me to come back on the 8th at 10am. When I asked if there was anything in particular I had to bring, the girl told me 'there's a kind of number - you'll need that.' She then fetched a colleague who confirmed that this number would be my company registration number. I duly returned on the 8th at 10am with my certificate of incorporation and various other proofs of identity, to be told by another lady that I didn't need an appointment, and that her colleagues didn't really know anything about business banking and had told me all the wrong things.

Much faffing about then ensued, including the Falmouth branch of Abbey losing my company secretary's faxed proof of identity, then losing the replacement proof of identity she sent them in the post, then the woman dealing with my application going on holiday for a week during which nothing was done.

Yesterday, a mere six weeks after I first went into a branch of Abbey, I received confirmation that my business bank account and my business savings account had been set up. Everything is fine, other than that they've mis-spelled my name on both accounts, my current account and my savings account mysteriously have the same number, and there's a sentence on one of their letters that says 'Abbey and it's employees will never ask you for your PIN number'.

I rang Abbey to ask how it's even possible that two separate bank accounts have been allocated the same number, but they told me their systems were down and I should call back 'early this afternoon'.

Still, they've sent me instructions for operating my account by fax (still awaiting instructions for operating my account by carrier pigeon, vacuum tube and shutter telegraph), and they've asked me to send them my password, security question & answer and mother's maiden name in the post. I dread to think how they're going to react when I ask for a dollar account.

(Abbey's tagline: 'Part of the Santander Group'. I propose this be amended to: 'Part of an international conspiracy to ensure that your business goes bust before it's even started'.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

No, Wait!

This always happens...the minute I decide I'm too miserable and self-conscious to blog, I always suddenly feel much better about it again, hurrah.

This miraculous turnaround is thanks to Miss Newham, whom I found via Beyceyar, whom I found via Miss-Cellany.

Miss Newham has a great meme - the Wikipedia Band Name Meme. You go to Wikipedia and click on 'random article' in the left-hand navbar, and the first article title is your band name. Then click 'random article' again, that is your album name. Then click 'random article' another however many times, and those are your album tracks.

Here are mine:

Band Name: Volksbank Beograd

Album Title: British Rail Class 325

Album Tracks:

1. Arbutus Pavarii

2. Andorra

3. Komorów, Świdnica County

4. Bonnerveen

5. Dianne Feinstein

6. Erica Carnea

7. Carroll Borland

8. Balochistan Forest Dormouse

9. Sopot

10. Shinobu

11. Gediminids

Hurrah, I have a 1980s industrial chamber pop band with fey indie overtones, and I am every bit as pretentious as I always knew I was!


Don't really feel like it at the moment. Back after the 'festive' season, no doubt.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Yes, Well, I Spoke Too Soon, Didn't I

During our prolonged sojourn in the horrid prelapsarian Eden that is a home without broadband, the lovely Mr BC and I have been amusing ourselves in the only other way we know how: making compilation CDs.

This is a bit of a competitive activity in our household, as I refuse to admit that Mr BC has better music taste than I do, and every time I hear some fabulous tune he's unearthed from some impossibly cool mp3 blog, instead of enjoying it, I feel compelled to avenge the slight on my honour by discovering something EVEN MORE AMAZING.

Of course not having access to the internet makes this quite tricky, as it means I have to rely on finding stuff in my existing mp3 library that a) is AMAZING and b) neither of us has heard before.

It's not going too badly so far, as the two below offerings should attest, but if BT keep arsing about for much longer I'm going to have to start resorting to obscure album tracks from second-rate late-80s chamber pop bands, and that's not going to win any prizes.

Anyway here are two fabulous things I discovered, although I'm not sure whether the first one is actually fabulous or just two already-fabulous songs smooshed together:

Legion of Doom - Crazy As She Goes (mp3)

Black Grass featuring Dominique Noiret - Don't Leave Me This Way (mp3)*

In other news: Falmouth appears to be having a mini early-90s revival, if the music playing in its various wi-fi-enabled bars is anything to go by. I'm off to dig out my Carter USM t-shirt and order a pint of snakebite and black in celebration.

* Mr BC is now claiming he originally sent this one to me. Nice try.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

I've Got The Internet Again Now, Thankfully

During the long, dark, lonely evenings when we didn't have broadband, the lovely Mr BC and I took to amusing ourselves the only other way we know how: by building things out of lego.

I'm quite worried that the lego has revealed a Dark Side of me that I hadn't previously suspected. Some recent 'vignettes' that just seemed to build themselves in my hands include:

1. A paraplegic who is learning to walk again. He's struggling along those walking bars towards the pretty nurse. In front of him, behind the pretty nurse, there is a mirror, and in the mirror, where his reflection should be, is a grey ice demon.

2. A naturalist, examining a spider on the fronds of a flowering shrub in the park. Unbeknownst to the naturalist, the spider is radioactive, and the radioactivity, filtered through the naturalist's magnifying glass, has caused a grey ice demon to break through on to the physical plain, intent on wreaking destruction (this signalled by raising his arms a bit and going 'auuuggghhh').

3. A horde of villagers who have gathered in a clearing in the woods with pickaxes and flamethrowers, intent on burning down the new modern art gallery, whose bold modernist lines and liberal use of Luxcrete have offended their more conservative aesthetic sensibilities.

4. An injured man being cut out of the wreckage of the modern art gallery by a fireman with an axe. (This may be the injured man from vignette 1.)

Also: 5. An entity that is one-third human, one-third machine and one-third reptile: the human brain controlling the long reptile arm, which operates the machine, which acts as the human's body.

I'm thinking Jeff Goldblum for the naturalist, Bruce Willis for the fireman, and a cameo from Zaha Hadid as herself. If anyone's interested in auditioning, there are several minor roles, mainly as road sweepers, spacemen and fruit sellers.