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September 04, 2006

The worst friend ever?

I have done a very very stupid thing.

Recently, I kind of renewed my friendship with the girl who was my best friend at secondary school. We were inseparable. We’d both get up at 5am, go swimming training together from 6am to 8am, then go to school together, then do more swimming training together in the evenings. We used to take lunch together every day at her house, catching up on the obligatory Sesame Street and Home & Away. Even at weekends, if we weren’t at a swimming competition, we were probably hanging out together with some of our other mates.

But, life moved on and we went our separate ways as I went off to University and made new friends. Anyway, through Friends Reunited and MSN we recently started chatting again. I learned that she was due to get married to a lovely guy that we both knew and met through our swimming club when we were kids. I messaged her and asked her to send me their address so that I could send them a wedding card. She sent the email immediately. This was 1 month ago. I didn’t bother opening the email because she sent it so quickly I presumed it only contained the address.

Anyway, their wedding was this Saturday. Remembering this, I opened the email to get their address so I could post their card, ready for their return from honeymoon. Only then did I see that she had not only sent the address, but also invited me and my family to the wedding reception. And I didn’t realise! So I never replied.

I would have given my right arm to be there on their wedding day, and consequently spent the rest of Saturday feeling more than a little miserable. I’m a fool. I’ll write to them to explain. However, in the hope that Mr and Mrs Chris and Kerry McCarthy ever see this, they might get a real sense at just what an idiot I am.


4 out of 5 stars

This witty novel tells the story of John Self, a first-time movie director. Having made a name for himself directing TV commercials, Self is given the opportunity to direct a full length movie thanks to the purse-pulling powers of his New York contact, Fielding Goodney. The movie, Good Money or Bad Money (it changes through the novel) is to feature a cast of egotistic, emotionally unstable and unreasonably demanding actors, and the novel includes several very funny encounters and conversations with these, presumably, b-list celebs. As Self signs several documents throughout the novel without looking at them, the final twist in the plot is not entirely a surprise as Self is abruptly wrenched from his hedonistic lifestyle of money, sex, alcohol, fast food and Atlantic-hopping.

The plot is good, but the intertextuality of this novel is striking, and makes me want to read it again in an attempt to pick up on several references that I undoubtedly missed. Most overt are the Orwellian references. Not only does he read Animal Farm on recommendation of his friend, Martina, but the references to 1984 are rife. The novel itself was conveniently published in 1984. Self repeatedly stays in room 101 of his favourite hotel; his name itself, like Winston Smith, is an “everyman” name; he spends the duration of the novel overseeing rewrites of the script, just as Smith spends his days re-writing history. Likewise, characters sharing names with literary figures might also more than just a coincidence: Twain, Fielding. The London pub he frequents is called The Shakespeare. The novel is clearly making statements about literature and writing itself … although what? I’d need to read it again to make any kind of insightful comment on that.

Amis cleverly places his own self in the novel as the writer Martin Amis that occasionally bumps into Self and ultimately re-writes the movie script for him. Poised as a counterpart to Self’s over-indulgence and love of money, Amis cleverly brings the two of them together in a moment where they both share a tear at the televised wedding of Princess Diana and Prince Charles. This passage is perhaps reminiscent of the closing passage of Animal Farm where pigs and man become indistinguishable, and leaves the reader with a possible hint that Self and Amis are not the polar opposites that they initially seem.

This is a clever novel, depicting a consumer culture of New York and London in the 1980s, but, like 1984, with many passages and themes that still ring true today.

New Car – EEEEEE!!!!

Just heard that our beautiful new zenith grey special edition seat leon is now at the dealership. Ready to collect on Friday!!!

It’ll look like this

Now I have the registration number I can finally sort the insurance out. I expect it will double my premium but it will be worth it!


Still waiting for the new car to arrive. We were told that the Special Editions didn’t come into the country until last week, and ours should be arriving with the dealership today. Hoping to collect on Friday. What’s really frustrating though is the email I received through my blog from someone who’s just got their new special edition Leon and was asking how I was getting on with mine. Grrrr – makes me even more impatient now to get mine. Well, at least she said how wonderful the new car is though, so I have that to look forward to.

Back to the real world

Back to work today having taken most of last week off. I say “most” because between Nathan and I it seemed to be impossible to find a full clear week that we could both take off together. So, I ended up coming into work on Wednesday for an away day … at least it wasn’t desk work though, I guess.

We had a fun week though. In the absence of enough money to go away somewhere, we opted to fill the week with visits to local attractions … a sort-of getting to know the area in which we live exercise!

So, we set off to Twycross Zoo on Tuesday, which was great (except for the hideous monsoon-like weather) ... I got a little spooked by too much eye contact from one of the Gorillas – very intimidating!

On Thursday we, with great shame given that we’ve both lived in the locality for some years, visited the Coventry Motor Museum for the first time. It was fantastic. The two Thrust vehicles on display are not to be missed. The day was slightly marred by the presence of some less-than-respectful kids in the museum, but what else can you expect when entry is free and some kids seem to have nothing better to do with their time than make a nuissance of themselves. Equally as impressive as the Museum itself was the regeneration work that they’ve done around that area in Coventry … Millenium Place, the BBC centre, some fab looking apartments and nice trendy bars … we were really very impressed with just how nice our City Centre is looking these days. Shame about the hideous Pool Meadow Bus Station smack bang in the middle of the vicinity though.

Finally, with Nathan’s memories of stuffed tigers and t-rex skeletons, we visited the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery on Friday. It was okay, again especially as entry was free, but not a patch on the Motor Museum in Coventry. Lots of Renaissance art (which isn’t really my cup of tea) and some other mediocre exhibits. Not a thrilling day out, but not bad either. No tigers or t-rex either. Tapas just off Broad Street made up for it though.

August 20, 2006

Not to be taken ssssseriousssly

Snakes on a Plane
4 out of 5 stars

Excuse the awful title of this review. At 9.30 on a Sunday evening I don't feel inspired enough to come up with anything more original!

This is a fab movie so long as, as my title suggests, you go into the cinema and don't have any intention of taking the movie too seriously. Leave the intellectualism at the door please! The closest this film comes to socio–political commentary is in the one brief moment when it is mentionned that one of the snakes is native to the Middle East. Humph. It's an easy enough comment to ignor, and is probably completely meaningless.

Really enjoyed this. Laughed a lot, jumped a lot, squirmed a bit. It wasn't so scary that I found myself checking under the bed before going to sleep last night either … it's not believable enough to be that scary … it's just good pure fun. And it doesn't pretend to be anything other than that.


Just got myself set up today with a Skype account and USB internet phone. I am so impressed! So far I've managed to convince my dad to set himself up too, and am also working on my sister who is moving to India next year, then on to Australia following that. Free phone calls to her in India and Oz would be fantastic.

I opted to buy credit too so that for now I can also use it to dial landlines and mobiles, and I can send text messages from it too (to the recipient, it appears as though the text has come from my mobile phone). This also includes voicemail, so if I'm not online then my contacts can leave me a message. Likewise, I've also set up a SkypeIn number, so people that don't have Skype accounts can still call my Skype line from their landlines and mobiles.

I got a Doro 212 phone from Staples – it's all very simple. Just plugs into the USB port. You can use it as a normal phone. I've even just ordered a Chinese takeaway on it. It is a bit sad though that my local Chinese takeaway is one of the first contacts I've added to my account!!!

Now I just need everybody else to get themselves set up!!! This is brilliant.

August 11, 2006

That couple with the Greens

It seems that Nath' and I have developed a reputation in Canley Sainsburys amongst the staff as the couple that always comes in and buys piles of veg for their rabbits! I didn't think that popping in such a large store every few days and buying a pile of spring greens would get you noticed quite as much as it seems to have done …

Earlier this week Nathan's mother went into Sainsburys and was buying some items for their house rabbit, Harvey. She got chatting to the check–out girl about Harvey. She turned to Gaye and said "There's this young couple who are always coming in here and buying bags and bags of greens and other veg. All the staff have been talking about them. Turns out they buy it for their house rabbits." Nathan's mum replied that that would be her son they were thinking of!!!

I think we might have to change our spring green supplier and save our reputation. What really perplexes me though is the volume in which the supermarkets buy in spring greens. Does that mean that there are really people out there that buy them for anything other than rabbits!!! Surely people don't actually eat them?!

August 09, 2006

The Ageing Techy

During my trip to Essex today I decided to make a suprise stop off at my grandparent's house in Harlow. I haven't seen them in about 1–2 years (bad, bad grandchild!!!), so they were pretty suprised to see me. Grandad said I made his week.

Grandad is partially sighted these days. Well, he is 81 and did have corneal grafts in the 1950s or 60s or something (one is Swiss, the other is French, in case you really wanted to know) – he also has a set of very early contact lenses – they fit over the whole front of the eye and had to be removed with a small plunger – no kidding – he has them still in a little box in his house – but I digress! Anyway, because of his deteriorating sight he has decided to invest his savings in a 46" HD TV. It's a whopper and must have cost him a fortune. It does give him a little quality of life though – because he can hardly see, he can't read and he can barely walk these days too, so at least he can get some entertainment in his house. I think it's pretty cool having an 81 year old Grandad who owns a mobile phone, a digital camera, a 46" flat screen TV, a sky digital box, and a DVD player. Futhermore, he knows how to work everything too (better than I would)!!! Yay for technologically advanced old people!!! Perhaps I'll get him an i–pod for Christmas.

Motorway Rage

Had to drive back up to campus today from Essex. I'm fed up with my usual M11 – A14 – M6 route, so decided to take the equally fast M11 – M25 – M1 route. However, when I got on to the M25 there were signs saying that junction 21 exit was closed. I knew the M1 junction was somewhere around there, but figured that if they had closed off such a major junction, they would have said somthing like "M1 North junction closed" instead! But no, that would have been all too easy. As would have putting a clearly signposted diversion in place. Instead I twice drove back and forth on the neighbouring junctions of the M25 trying to figure out how to get North.

Don't these people realise that there are some of us out there that do actually want to go North of the M25?! Then again, the people controlling those signs probably don't realise that there's civilisation outside of the M25. Grrrrrrrrr!!!!

August 04, 2006

Answers – not enquiries

Whereas most organisations tend to have their general enquiries email addresses, or even general department email addresses as something like enquiries@blahblah.com, or admissions@blahblah.com, I noticed this morning that Anglia Ruskin University (formerly APU) have set their general enquiries address as "answers@apu.ac.uk". A nice touch to suggest proactive communications and to imply that your email to them will be answered and not just lost or passed around the houses.

August 03, 2006

Presentation Nerves

A friend recently asked a group of us for some tips on overcoming presentation nerves. Improving my own presentation skills was something that I had set myself as a CPD target for this year, and something that I have put some degree of effort into, although I guess really there’s nothing that quite compares to practice and experience. She received the usual suggestions, including imagining the audience naked and having a stiff drink beforehand. While presenting to an audience of 100 Swedes earlier this year, I also learned the value of having an audience that doesn’t speak your language as their mother tongue, thus forcing you to slow the pace down and be more concise, when the nerves are naturally trying to make you rush through the whole thing.

So, seeing as Warwick University is a community full of experienced presenters, I thought I’d throw the question open here and see what other tips I could gather, for the benefit of my friend and myself!

Crackling Etiquette

Just on the train now on my way back to Coventry after working in London all day. Had lunch with one of our producers in a rather nice restaurant called Moro – about 5 mins walk from Angel tube station. I had the pork, which was particularly delicious. However, while ravenously enjoying the pork, I had the dilemma of whether it is polite and correct to eat the crackling or not whilst at lunch with colleagues! On the one hand, the pork was excellently cooked and surely it would be rude and insulting to the chef not to eat what is typically accepted as the best bit of roast pork. On the other hand, is it rude to my colleagues and fellow diners to seat there crunching away, unable to participate in the flow of conversation as I gorge on hardened pig? Then, of course, there is also the risk of trying to cut into a piece of crackling and having it scoot off of the plate onto someone else’s lap. Given my track record, there was a high probability of this happening!

I decided to compromise and take a polite and discreet nibble (as discreet as one nibbling crackling can be!!) and left the rest, much to my dismay. I wish I didn’t feel the need to think of these things and had just tucked into it anyway.

August 02, 2006

DC Confidential

4 out of 5 stars

I'm not one for reading about politics, or even for reading autobiographies. However, when someone bought Christopher Meyer's DC Confidential for my partner as a gift, I snapped at the chance to read it first!

It's been a few months in the reading, and I found it a little slow to get going with, but Meyer's easy–style and comic anecdotes make it a worthwhile read. It's pitched as being controversial, but I can't say that he reveals a great deal that we either wouldn't have already known or suspected. Likewise, the chaper on 9/11 doesn't tell us a great deal – but then I guess that's to be expected given the global media coverage of it nevertheless. The chapters to follow this, however, are an entirely different matter giving a unique and, I would say, well–balanced insight into UK–US relations.

His background in PR and speechwriting shows through – Meyer is an excellent story–teller, and it's really the style and tone that make this book as opposed to any controversial revelations.

July 30, 2006

New Camera – Fab Piccies

We've just invested in a rather nice new camera. We don't really know what we're doing with it yet, but here's just one of the gorgeous "mucking around" photos that Nathan's taken already. Not bad, hey?

Bee on Lavendar

My little man!

Enjoying a little joke with my nephew Gabriele on Theresa's roof terrace in Rome. He's a lovely little man – so well behaved! Note the baby puke on my left shoulder though! Nice!

Gabriele and Aunty Tracy

New Car – Yay!

Nath and I went to buy a new car yesterday. Can't wait for the 2nd Sept when we can collect it. It's a Seat Leon special edition – air con, tinted windows, rear parking sensors, cd player, alloy wheels, zenith grey. Very sexy!!! I can finally wave goodbye to my dear old Rover. Not getting the new one until the beginning of Sept so that it can be a 56 registration, instead of an 06. We could have had it earlier but thought it worth waiting a couple of extra weeks to get the 56 plate.

July 28, 2006

Warwick Network

Yesterday was dominated by attending the Warwick Network. This appears to be the first time (at least, the first time in my 4 years of being here) that Warwick has organised an event like this. And about time too in my opinion! It was great to have the opportunity to mix with other admin staff in the University that we wouldn't ordinarily speak too, and to have the opportunity to speak our minds, brainstorm ideas and, quite frankly, just be made to feel part of the University community again. Well done to those that thought up the idea and made it happen! I'm really looking forward to discussing and thinking about a whole new set of issues at next year's event (and to seeing more diverse groups of staff there too).

Of course the event had a few flaws, but what conference doesn't? Bill Morris was excellent though. What a top bloke!


Can't believe it's been over a month since my last post. I really should get better at this, shouldn't I?!

We went to Rome again this weekend. We were out there for Gabriele's christening. The last 2 times we went to Rome we stayed with Theresa and Gerard in their apartment but given that they had loads of people descending on them this weekend, we opted for a hotel in the city centre instead.

We stayed at the hotel Quisisana. It's only 100m from the central train station in the city, so in a good location. The rooms were okay – a little shabby, but clean and tidy enough. The air conditioning was a real blessing as it was scorching in the City!

We managed to get in some great sight seeing on Saturday. We climbed to the top of St Peter's dome – I highly recommend this but it's not for the faint–hearted – it's a 510 step climb and towards the top the stair–wells are very narrow indeed. Don't do it if you're scared of heights, claustrophobic, or just generally very unfit. Also, between 3 of us we got through about 2 litres of water just on the trip to the top.

We also visited the Castle of St.Angelo (I think that's the correct name!). It's a stone's throw from the Vatican, with a direct escape route for the pope to run from the Vatican to the castle in times of attack! There's quite a lot to see there too, and the views are pretty good too (though nothing compared to standing on top of St Peter's dome).

We then went back to the Pantheon, where we've been before, for a quick peek in. It's free to get in but heaving with tourists, so we didn't stay long. Besides, we'd seen it before. Then a short walk via the beautiful Trevi Fountain (again, somewhere we've already been a couple of times before), too us to the Colleseum. We've only ever visited the outside of the Colleseum on previous visits so it was good to go inside, even though I do think the outside is far more impressive than the inside! I didn't think it was really worth the 12 or 13 euro entrance fee, which is pretty expensive compared to other attractions in Rome.

Nath' and I went to a fab restaurant just off the termini–station end of Via Nazionale (first turning on the right if you're walking down the road). It's called Target and serves the most delicious food. We had lobster for our primi course – I can highly recommend this – it was delicious (and a little messy!).

The Lob

Sunday was dominated by Gabriele's christening. He was as good as gold, sleeping through the entire service. He's such a gorgeous little chap. I'm really pleased that Theresa and Gerard will be moving back to the UK in 3 weeks time – hopefully I'll be able to get some quality time with my gorgeous nephew before they leave for India and Australia (their next overseas posting!).

June 28, 2006

Leave me alone

Writing about web page http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,,1803968,00.html

A colleague sent me the link to this article after I had been whinging about the number of distractions and interruptions I had to my normal working week last week. How ironic that the first thing I did was dropped everything I was working on to read it!

Now, I wonder how many people might read this entry and click straight through to the article too – after a little afternoon distraction, perhaps? (PS I'm on my lunch break now!!)