Monday, 31 March 2008


No, I'm not talking about a dodgy British soap or Bon Jovi's Greatest Hits album and I'm definitely not referring to that hideous song by Blazin' Squad (thank goodness they seem to have gone for good eh?). I feel as though I'm at a crossroads, or perhaps a fork in the road to be more accurate. It's this writing business. For the last 9 months or so I've been trying to get my foot in the door to the world of freelance journalism. I've written on various different subjects and most of it has found its way onto the internet in one form or another. But I'm getting disheartened. To be perfectly honest I'm fed up of doing it all for free. I know that it's the way to get experience and all that jazz but it's rather demoralising when you send off e-mails and samples of your work, never to hear back from those people that could actually afford to pay you.

Perhaps I just don't have the ambition and motivation necessary to get ahead in the industry. It's not my dream to be a writer. It's just something that I happen to be able to do to a decent standard and which I would be able to fit around my health problems. Maybe I just don't want it enough.

So the writing malarkey is one prong of the metaphorical fork in the road that I spoke of. The other is to go back to studying. I've been having a look at the OU website recently and part of me would really like to get myself a little more educated. The problem is that I can't do both. I simply don't have enough energy to give follow both avenues. Which leaves me with a difficult choice; to write or to study? Theoretically I can do either at any time in future. However, if I give up the writing now I'm well aware that it will take me twice as long to make any progress next time. Gah! I'm not used to decisions like this. My M.E. dictates my life so much that usually there is only one option available to me in any given situation! Once more with feeling? GAH!

Monday, 24 March 2008

No business like snow business

Finally! I began to think that it would never happen. But oh joy, it did! Snow! I'd given up hope of being able to build a snowman this year. We had the bizarre flurry at the end of October, followed by a few half-hearted showers of the non-settling variety over the winter. Easter had come, surely all chance of snow was gone? Oh me of little faith.

Meet Jeffrey. Named after Mr Jeffrey Buttle, World Figure Skating champion! I'm sure you'll agree that the likeness is uncanny.

It almost didn't happen. For a long and boring reason, which I shall not force you to endure on these pages, I was woken up earlier than normal yesterday. I happened to poke my head through the curtains and was greeted by the magnificent sight of brilliant white snow. Sad to say that I didn't quite have the enthusiasm to run outside straight away. I went back to bed for half an hour or so for a lovely lie-in. However once those 30 minutes had passed I peeked out of the window again and noticed to my consternation that the lovely winter wonderland was already starting to melt away. I realised that if I wanted to make a snowman at all this year then now was the time for action! I kitted myself out with my woolliest garments, grabbed a hot-cross bun for sustenance and made my way into the back garden. After five minutes or so of intense snowman building I realised that this year's masterpiece was going to have to be on a slightly smaller scale than usual. Normally I'd have had some extra help in the form of my little sis, but seeing as she's still off gallavanting in the States, this time it was left to me and my not-so-hot energy levels. Nonetheless I'm still pretty pleased with my solo effort. Although upon my parents seeing Jeffrey I was greeted with a cry of, "That's my best scarf!" from my dad. Pah! I'd looked through all the scarves we had and chosen one that I'd never seen anyone wear! Hmmm... maybe that's because it's his best scarf! You know, like the whole best china that no-one ever uses because it might get damaged!

Jeffrey is still standing currently, although he is missing an eye and his nose is looking rather on the wobbly side! Anyway, roll on spring and summer. Snowman built, winter is now complete.

Friday, 21 March 2008

A few musings

I'm exhausted. Honestly. I've been running myself ragged over the last couple of weeks. Yesterday I was finally able to catch my breath and get some much needed rest. I don't quite know how I managed to get so busy. Places to go, people to see and all that. Anyway, I'm resting up for the next few days; recharging my batteries.

I was delighted to hear about the BBC regaining the rights to the F1 races. Another positive Lewis Hamilton effect. Don't try and tell me that the BBC would have even thought about bidding if it wasn't for the golden boy. But they have - hurrah! The Beeb have spent an alleged £150 million for 5 years worth of F1. It might seem like a lot but really they're just spending what they saved from dropping Neighbours. If I remember rightly the BBC were being asked to pay £100,000 for each episode of the Aussie soap. That's £500,000 a week. Neighbours is broadcast for about 45 weeks a year, so that's £22.5m each year, multiply by 5 = £112.5m. And F1 will provide far more entertainment for the money than Neighbours could ever hope to.

Of course the best part of this transfer away from ITV is that there'll be no more ad breaks at inconvenient moments! My only worry is whether or not they'll hang on to James Allen and Martin Brundle as commentators. I very much doubt that they could put together a better team. In fact, thinking about it a little more, I am beginning to get concerned that they may get bloomin' Suzy Perry involved. Oh please no. I'm going to get nightmares now.

Moving on to less scary things... the World Figure Skating Championship is taking place in Gothenburg this week (also the city where Jonathan Edwards achieved his triple jump World Records in 1995, fact fans!). Ice skating gets a bad press. It's perceived as girly and namby-pamby. Watch some of the top male skaters and you'll see that is far from being the case. They have to be so athletic! I don't think that Dancing on Ice has really helped with the image of ice skating either. That show is more full of sequins and divas than Strictly Come Dancing! The World Champs are being shown on Eurosport - give them a gander.

Brian Joubert during his James Bond short programme last year.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

The James Toseland Appreciation Society

Some people have it all; meet James Toseland.
James is 27 years old and hails from Doncaster. He has twice won the World Superbike Championship and this year made the step up to MotoGP. Easy on the eye, an accomplished pianist and as he revealed on Sport Relief on Friday he can blooming well sing too. Check out his piano skills in the video below. I'm off to work out how I can persuade him to marry me. That is once I've also convinced him that he's a sinner who needs to repent and turn to trust in Jesus Christ...

Friday, 14 March 2008

Darling schmarling

I'm not a happy bunny. Or a happy car owner for that matter. Let me make one thing clear before I start: I have no problem with the government wanting to cut CO2 emissions. In fact I'd go so far as to say that I am positively pro the idea. It is right that those buying new, emission heavy vehicles should pay for the right to pollute. Such taxes are a necessary evil in my mind. It is important to encourage people when buying a new car, to buy the more eco-friendly option.

My unhappy bunny status comes from Alastair Darling's plan for cars registered before 2001. These are the cars that didn't have their carbon emissions tested. Up until this week's budget they were taxed according to engine size: £120 a year for cars under 1549cc and £185 a year for cars over that level. Fine. I drive a 2000 Skoda Fabia 1.4 - off goes £120 each year to the Treasury. I can deal with that. However, following Mr Darling's budget I will now have to pay a flat rate of £200 a year for the privilege of having my car on the road. Now it's quite possible that this is in fact the right level of tax for my car if it's carbon emissions were measured. I have no idea. My problem is that the government is clearly discriminating against those of us who cannot afford to buy a new car. The only way to reduce the amount of road tax we pay is to buy a new (or at the most 7 year old) car with a low emission output. I have no doubt that that option is sadly out of reach for many, including myself. Why he couldn't just leave the current pre-2001 system in place is beyond me. Of course, it's a nice little earner for the Treasury isn't it? I'm growing cynical in my old age. But I blame that on the government too. Cynicism is born of dashed hopes, something that Gordon Brown and his friends seem to do a nice line in.
N.B. (added 17/03) It would appear that I have been misinformed by The Daily Telegraph. That'll teach me for believing everything I read! According to the official budget report on the Downing Street website, pre-2001 cars will continue to be taxed according to engine size. That is £120 for under 1549 ccs and £185 for cars over 1549ccs. In 2009/2010 the upper rate will increase to £200 whilst the lower will remain at £120. Hurrah! Perhaps I was a little harsh on Mr Darling.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Mamma mia, here I go again.

It's only a matter of time before I turn into my mother. I'm resigned to this fact. Already people are unable to distinguish between us on the phone; worryingly, even my dad can't tell us apart when he calls. My sister doesn't have this problem. She sounds different, looks different... sigh. I've got the same face, voice, temperament. Usually I am able to forget this fact. I can look to the future without seeing myself as my mother. Not at the moment though; my Nana is visiting. My Nana is my mum's mum and the similarities between them just serve to highlight the characteristics shared by me and my mum. I can imagine it must be quite scary for my dad to have three generations of women under the same roof at one time.

Thankfully it hasn't quite got to the point where I am indistinguishable from my Nana, but surely it is only a matter of time. I can only console myself with the fact that I'll always be taller! It's fascinating to look at other people and the traits and features that they've inherited from their parents and grandparents. But when you turn the tables and start looking at yourself it becomes less fascinating and more horrifying! I can't imagine what it must be like to not know your parents, either through tragic circumstances, family break-ups or perhaps because of adoption. I see so much of myself in my parents (whether I want to or not). Granted, it's likely that I see more because of the unusually large amount of time that I spend in their company. Most 23 year-olds would have lived away from home by now and even if they were still at home, I doubt they would see as much of their parents as I do. They drive me round the bend at times (I'm sure that also applies to the other way round!) but it's cool to know where I came from; where some of my weirder character traits emanate from. But on the flip side it's also nice to know which parts are 100% me!

P.S. So Brian Ashton has dropped dear Jonny from his starting XV on Saturday. Rubbish. He played badly, but no worse than the rest of the team. If Ashton's going to drop Jonny then he should drop every other player that was on that pitch last weekend. Bah.

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Give Brian the boot

My word was it an appalling rugby match today. I'm referring to the Scotland vs England debacle. I can only hope that no-one watching rugby for the first time tuned in to it. They'll have been put off for life. Fair enough, the weather was atrocious but even taking that into account, the standard of play was far far below what it should be for an international fixture of that nature. England looked as though they didn't want to be there.

The only thing worse than their performance was Brian Moore's commentary. Somebody at the BBC needs to show that man the door. He was unbearable during the France match and no better today. Poor Eddie Butler is evidently losing patience with him and it's not difficult to see why. Moore is opinionated to the point of rudeness; loud; aggressive; belligerent. These are traits unwanted in a pundit, let alone a commentator. His job is to inform, observe and explain. Instead he rants and raves over refereeing decisions, player choices and tactics. He is the equivalent of a lager-filled fan sat at home on his sofa convinced that he could do a better job than every man on the pitch and given a microphone by which to makes his views known to the world. Moore was a fine player in his day (or so I'm told!) but he is clearly not suited to this type of media work. In print, he's fine - his Daily Telegraph column is obviously opinionated but if I'm not in the mood to hear his grumblings then I can turn the page. Any one of the BBC's current line-up of pundits would do a better job in the commentary box. You can hear the strain in Eddie Butler's voice. I wouldn't be surprised if come the match against Ireland next weekend we are audio witnesses to a murder! Moore believes his own opinion to be the only true one and will not hear a word otherwise. No matter how much experience he has had on the pitch, he is the junior in the commentary box and he should act like it. He shows no respect for his colleague, the officials, players or viewers.

Be gone Brian Moore and blight my ears no longer!

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

I'm the mother flippin'

Just a very short post for today because quite frankly nothing I say will match up to the genius of the video clip below. These guys are called Flight of the Conchords. They're a folky, parody type band from New Zealand with their own TV show (it was shown on BBC Four in the UK). Said TV show is basically an excuse for them to get their songs out there - hurrah for that I say. They have a great talent for lyrics and imitating any number of different styles of music. Check out this clip. To put this in context, they start singing it whilst being mugged. Those ker-razy Kiwis.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

The James Marsden Appreciation Society

You know, there are some actors that just never get the recognition they deserve. Case in point: James Marsden.

The phrase 'ridiculously good-looking' could have been created for him. That is if Derek Zoolander hadn't got a hold of it first. Charisma; charm; talent; he's got it all and yet too often he gets relegated to the Paul Walker 'cute but should have stuck to modelling' league.

So why am I such a fan? Well, let's review the evidence.

Exhibit A: X-Men. Under used (I love Bryan Singer but he made an error here) but still great as Cyclops. We never see his eyes! It's incredibly difficult to act without eyes! As for X3, the potential was there for a Cyclops centred story. But no! Not to give too much away, but Mr Marsden doesn't get to see a whole lot of action in The Last Stand.

Exhibit B: Ally McBeal. The US legal comedy/drama suffered a big hit in its 5th and final season due to the departure of Robert Downey Jr. Good old James helped to ease the pain with his easy charm and dulcet singing tones.

Exhibit C: Superman Returns. Perhaps Singer was trying to make things up to him by casting him as Lois Lane's squeeze in his Superman revamp. Sadly still a fairly peripheral character, Marsden nevertheless fleshed out his role in such a way that it truly left the viewer unsure which man Lane would choose.

Exhibit D: Hairspray. Utterly joyous. I love this film and you-know-who was perfect in the role of cheesy as can be TV show host, Corny Collins. Once more he got to show off those vocal talents and sends up his clean-cut looks and image a treat. See also Exhibit E.

Exhibit E: Enchanted. Marsden is hilarious as the Disney prince searching for his princess in an all too real New York. He flings himself headlong into the spirit of the film despite once again playing second fiddle in the leading man stakes, this time to Patrick Dempsey.

So there you have it. Undeniable proof of the genius of James Marsden. If this guy had been around in the 40s or 50s then he'd have been a matinee idol. It's just bad luck for him that these days audiences want their movie stars a little less slick and a bit rough around the edges.

James Marsden, I salute you!