Wednesday 31 December 2008

Dug Up And Resuscitated

Not at work, so it's a bit like a Saturday and we get up really late. Around 11.30! Then onto the park with the dogs who are both getting far too presumptuous that this is going to happen every time I'm off.

Today is of course New Years Eve and L's been out shopping for new trendier clothes. She says she's having a new image for 2009 and this one is going to wear more girlie skirts. Sounds great, I can hardly wait. In fact I don't have to because she has a blindingly good new grungy yellow and black dress which she wears tonight.

We head out early for a few drinks and L's brother comes over to join us. This tempts Daughter out, which is great, it's good to get a bit of a 'crowd' together, well four of us, although this keeps us out of the grown up bars.

I spend the night or should that be the 'early evening' on the St. Austell Tribute which isn't the best but it's a good sociable 'early evening'. Then its home for more beer, take away curry and Jools' Hootananny or whatever it's called. Pre-recorded of course, why they persist with this, don't know. I reckon the guests would still come if was live but Jools himself would perhaps prefer to be elsewhere.

It's rather dull this year, there's no Kylie to slobber over, only Duffy and even Jools doesn't appear to relish that prospect. His star guests are Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, who have been dug up and resuscitated especially. Even we can't stick it through to the end. The Ting Tings (surprisingly) and The Hold Steady were both good but underused and we gave up waiting for them to perform again.

New Year comes and goes; Son stays in his room throughout, probably denying it's all happening, probably not a bad idea.


Favourite Films Of 2008

Second part of my review of the year, my favourite ten films of the year.

10. Juno

I will probably get stick for including this but it had its moments. Lightweight but still entertaining.

Read My Review

9. Somers Town

A pleasant thought provoking tale from Shane Meadows. Not one of his best but still very watchable.

Read My Review

8. Persepolis

Always interesting and often darkly humorous. A cracking 'cartoon'.

Read My Review

7. Son Of Rambow

In here for the insinuation that you can light a cigarette by connecting yourself to the mains electricity but for other reasons too. 'Skill on toast' as they said in them days.

Read My Review

6. Elegy

Old man pulls young student and photographs her chest. So a cracking plot... and there's more to it than that.

Read My Review

5. Burn After Reading

OMG, a Coen's film not at number one. Not their best but the Coen's are still coming up with something different.

Read My Review

4. In Search Of A Midnight Kiss

A cheap fun film with lots of rough edges. Just like life should be.

Read My Review

3. Baader Meinhoff Komplex

A fast and furious detailed history of the Red Army Fraction, squeezing 10 years into two and a half hours and doing it well.

Read My Review

2. Lust Caution

On the 6th January last year we though we'd seen number one already. Almost but not quite. I held my breath all the way through this excellent film.

Read My Review

1. No Country For Old Men

A botched plot and a botched ending but still gripping. What do you expect, it's the Coen's, it's got to be number one.

Read My Review

Tuesday 30 December 2008

Wimps Or Three Wise Men?

My second and last day at work this week and I'm on the bus, I daren't risk running or cycling, it would take me a week to stop coughing afterwards.

It is announced that Droylsden have been thrown out of the FA Cup for fielding an ineligible player in their second-round replay win over Chesterfield. Sean Newton who scored both goals in their 2-1 win should have been serving a one-match ban. This is actually quite amusing and brings a bizarre conclusion to a match that was first abandoned due to fog, then the rearranged game was drawn and then the replay at Droylsden was abandoned because of floodlight failure with Chesterfield 2-0 up. Droylsden won at the fourth attempt. So perhaps justice has been done in the end, it was hardly Chesterfield's fault the lights failed.

After work, I walk in to Derby, where I meet the rest of the family who are planning on ice-skating with a group of friends of ours. Turns out the men, and L's brother, elect not to skate, wimps or three wise men, you choose. Although L's brother does eventually crack under pressure and have a brief go.

There's some great footage of Daughter getting irate at being filmed, which should be on youtube any day now, I'll keep you posted.

On reflection, it might have been warmer to have skated because it's absolutely freezing watching, all my extremities are frozen to such an extent that possibly only one thing can thaw them out. We head home in search of the cure. Mulled wine followed by real wine eventually does the trick and thaws them out.

Favourite Albums Of 2008

The first part of my review of 2008. These are my favourite ten albums of the last twelve months.

10. The Seldom Seen Kid - Elbow

I don't proclaim to be a great fan and it's not an album I listen to a huge amount but live the quality of this band and this record really come through.

9. Third - Portishead

Eleven years on from their second album, Portishead finally followed it up. I've always been a fan and this is great album, nothing will be as good as their debut 'Dummy' but this is a fair effort.

8. The '59 Sound - Gaslight Anthem

I've been listening to downloads of this for the last four months or so, now I've been given the album for Christmas so need to prosecute me. It's been pointed out to me how Springsteen like it is. Gosh, does this mean I'm officially old.

7. Silent Cry - Feeder

Nobody seemed to like this album, least of all the band themselves but I love it, a return to form.

6. St Jude - Courteeners

Great lyrics and wonderful guitars, a cracking debut album. If only Liam Fray didn't want to be Oasis quite so much.

5. Glasvegas - Glasvegas

The Glasvegas album was a let down when it came out because like the Arctic Monkeys a few years, everyone had the free downloads and the four singles already on their ipods. Still excellent though, just at least twelve months too late. Had this come out in 2007, it would perhaps have been my number one.

4. Hold on Now, Youngster - Los Campesinos

Los Campesinos aren't my usual sort of band, but this record by the seven-piece from Cardiff literally jumps out at you, punches you in the face and demands to be sung along to, so you oblige.

3. Do You Like Rock Music? - British Sea Power

British Sea Power are an odd bunch, if they weren't such an odd bunch they'd have been huge by now. This is their most normal record yet and possibly their best but they're still odd and consequently still relatively unknown.

2. Oracular Spectacular - MGMT

A mix of electronics and guitars produces something quite different. To top it all they managed to reproduce the sound live as well and without too much trickery.

1. Only By The Night - Kings Of Leon

Well they've done it again. Two years in a row as my number one but it's just such a good album.

Monday 29 December 2008

Out On To The Battlefield

Being ill has totally ruined my training schedule, I should have been on the bike today but instead, I'm (whisper it) in the car. It also means I'm obviously not as fit and healthy as I thought I was. I'd also hoped to fit a swim or two in somewhere this week but no such luck. If everyone is as ill as I am, as appears to be the case, then the council will be shutting all the leisure centres again next year claiming no one used them this year. We've all been too ill.

It's cold at work with the heating having been off for four days, so I'm sure they're all thankful for me coming in and warming the place up with the high temperature I have. Mine you, everyone else seems to be the same

After Derby's defeat yesterday Paul Jewell resigned. Which is odd, I didn't have him down as a quitter. No idea how they're going to find anyone better qualified to take over. If someone with the record of Jewell can't hack it then who can.

I reckon our Chairman Adam Pearson fancies the job himself. I expect him to keep the current assistant Chris Hutchings on in the driver seat until the end of the season with Pearson in the backseat.

Predictably, there's no sandwich vans serving Pride Park today, despite the fact there are a surprisingly high number of offices occupied near us. The sandwich shops obviously can't be feeling the crunch then or they'd be out mopping up what business there was.

I look in our fridge to see what I have in stock for lunch, not much, a few yoghurts that are well out of date but one of those will do for starters. I learnt as an impoverished student never to let anything go to waste and certainly not to let something as trivial as a sell by date get in the way. After all what have you go to lose, if you eat it and it makes you ill, you'll probably be off food for a couple of days, saving even more money. It's a win-win situation.

All the same, I still venture out on to the battlefield that is Sainsbury's. The one bright point of being in the car this morning, was that there's was no traffic on the roads. The reason for this of course is that they're all in Sainsbury's car park and probably have been, since Christmas Eve trying to get out. Yet again there's hardly anyone actually in the store.

In the evening, we go to Broadway to check out 'Inkheart'. They have a beer called Rudolph's Ruin by Springhead, but at 4.2% it's hardly very ruinous. Daughter doesn't seem to like her posh organic cola, which is just fine and means I can steal it, to take into the cinema to oil my throat. Don't you just hate it when there's someone coughing during the film, spoiling everyone's enjoyment.

Well here's my review of 'Inkheart'. Hmmmm. Says it all really. Oh go on then I'll elaborate. It's the second film this week that I've seen that's had an excellent idea but badly executed (re: Hancock).

Mo Folchart (Brendan Fraser) has the gift of a 'silver tongue', which means not that he can charm the pants off the ladies but that he has the skill to make characters in books come alive as he reads the story.

Nine years ago, he carelessly lost his wife Resa (Sienna Guillory), presumably short for Theresa, this way as he was reading to his daughter Meggie (Eliza Hope Bennett) from the book 'Inkheart'. His 'gift' also causes real people to disappear into the book, whilst leaving the characters from 'Inkheart' roaming the real world, which they kind of grow to like.

Mo claims he's searched long and hard for another copy of this rare book, nine years or so, whilst travelling all over the world in the guise of a 'Book Doctor'. Hmmm, sounds like he's been living it up a bit to me. He's probably privately, been reading Princess Leia out of Star Wars whilst catching up with Catwoman every other Sunday. Well you would wouldn't you.

I mean surely he's heard of 'Google' or 'ebay' or could he not just have reached for a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and got Holmes and Watson in on the case? Oh I should have been a script writer.

When he finally finds the book in the Italian Alps, one of its characters Dustfinger (Paul Bettany) stops him in the street to try to persuade Mo to read him back into the book, he, for one, wants to go home. Meanwhile the evil gang lord from the book, Capricorn (Andy Serkis), has no wish to return and pursues Mo.

They all end up locked away in Capricorn's castle where Capricorn wants Mo to read money and other riches out of books for him. He's been employing a less skilled 'silver tongue' which means they have amassed quite a zoo of imperfectly read-out characters. The story mentions loads of great books along the way but regrettably doesn't develop this part of the story.

All this time, Mo has kept his powers secret from his daughter but whilst they are locked up with the crocodile from Peter Pan ticking away next door, he goes for an explanation. Now I know its an odd request to demand realism in a fantasy movie but if your Father told you such a weird secret, that he read some weirdoes out of a book in exchange for your Mother, how would you react? Wouldn't you instantly think, oh that explains everything... or think perhaps he was joking, mad, drunk or perhaps all three? Then to top it all, it turns out that Meggie has the same gift as her father but she just hasn't noticed...

It comes down to Dustfinger to rescue them with the help of a lad called Farid who fell out of 'Arabian Nights' or was it 'Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves' and they all search out the author of the book (Jim Broadbent) for another copy and end up with the manuscript.

At the finish, with them all recaptured, Capricorn forces Meggie to read something awful called the 'Shadow' out of the book whilst the author is hurriedly trying to rewrite the ending. For God's sake somebody write and read anything, nobody said it had to be a good book. In the end it's down to Toto the dog from the Wizard Of Oz to deliver the new page to the Meggie, without eating it, MD couldn't have managed that, and listen girl. When you're reading the new ending and it's clearly working, helping to get rid of the bad guys, rescue your friends and your family, what is the last thing you should do... durrr stop reading. Silly girl.

It's an alright film but it gets progressively messier as it goes on. It's a shame, there are some good special effects, the baddies are superb and there's some decent acting, although I thought Mo was played by a rubber dummy but the others disagreed, assured me it was human and that he did ok. It also boasts the acting skills of Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren but both their parts are mainly irrelevant to the story.

The film is based on the first book of a trilogy and probably leaves itself open 'to be continued'. The last film to attempt to start a franchise like that was, oh yes, 'The Golden Compass'. At least its better than that.

Suddenly at the end, out of nowhere, there's some love interest between Farid and Meggie. Which just highlights the lack of character development there's been throughout the film. There wasn't any chemistry between any of the other cast, not even Mo with his Daughter and certainly not with his wife. Whom they find and eventually free. She's spent the last nine years in what appears to be near slavery and has also gone mute, so perhaps that's why they're so estranged. Bet you wish you hadn't spent so much time with Princess Leia now eh Mo?

Sunday 28 December 2008

Preventative Measures

My physical condition is deteriorating, so L is very courageous indeed to brave the germs and administer TLC, even if she does refuse to look in my direction in case she catches something.

The dogs take advantage of my weakened state on the park. Doggo just seems to know that I can't shout very loudly at him and takes absolute liberties. MD then abandoned our ball game to go play chase with a Weimaraner. So not a good park session.

Another long-standing Christmas tradition is that Derby County lose all their Christmas games, so far it's two out of two.

L makes me a 'hot toddy' and has one herself too, preventative measures I believe it's called. I retire to bed early with the dogs and Chris Hoy. I got his book for Christmas, I'm already half way through it, and I'm crap at reading, so it must be good or it could just be the fact it has a big primary school typeface and pictures in it.

Saturday 27 December 2008

Idle Threats And Mamma Mia DVD's

After taking part in the Aston Christmas Walk we head over to my brother's to exchange presents. Then its home to be reunited with the kids and to cook our leg of lamb for L's parents who are coming over this evening.

In the afternoon, I watch 'Hancock' with Daughter. The idea of the film is quite ingenious because Hancock (Will Smith) is a drunken bum of a superhero who causes more damage than he prevents and consequently he is roundly hated by the general public.

The film started off very promisingly but as soon as Hancock started to get a PR make over, by Jason Bateman, whose life Hancock saved, it started to lose track of the original great idea. I thought it was going to pick up again and possibly get quite edgy when Charlize Theron looked as though she was going to try to bed a superhero but it turns out she's a superhero too. Doh, don't you just hate it when that happens.

Generally a fun film but not the best use of a great idea. This is rare case that when the remake is made, a few years from now, it's going to be a better film.

L's parents arrive and L's kitted out in those black stockings again, you can't beat the Christmas traditions.

There's been idle threats flying around for the last month or so of who's buying who the Mamma Mia DVD for Christmas and so everyone been on edge as a result. In the end, L is the only one who ends up with it. She seems thrilled, mainly because she can now try to inflict it on me. So far, I've been very proud to be one of that select group of people who haven’t seen it.

The lamb is excellent and there's not much left for the dogs but that's mainly because we let the other animals in the house, Son and Daughter, get their hands on the lamb bone first.

Friday 26 December 2008

The Dreaded Cough

I've not been feeling my best for a few days and today the dreaded cough has arrived. However, I felt I could not deny Doggo his annual moment of fame and we head off to defend his title as top dog in the Boxing Day 5k on Darley Park.

There's quite a big crowd of entrants and supporters, obviously drawn by the fact that Doggo is going for three in a row and news must also have got out that MD is making his debut.

As ever, Doggo goes off too quick and drags me around the first half of the course, by which time he's knackered and I have to drag him around the rest of the way.

We come in 26th which is two places better than last year and this is despite the fact that I'm ill. Most importantly though Doggo is first canine home again, although we still don't get a trophy for it. MD comes in as 7th dog on his debut. Not bad for a first timer but I'm sure L was holding him back for his own good. He'd also do better if he spent a little less time playing to the crowd and trying to see off the other dogs.

My father manages to turn up before the start this year, he even missed the finish last year, and gets some good photos of the momentous occasion.

A few beers and then we head home. With the kids staying over at their father's and with both dogs stuck to the carpet by their own muddy undercarriages, we can have a relaxing warm down at home without fear of reprimand or interruption.

Later we have Sea Bass, which was a big success last year, and is equally good again, if it just wasn't for all those bones.

Yesterday's goose cuts up much more easily when it's cold which means there's load of leftovers for the dogs, which unsurprisingly they manage to wake up for.

Thursday 25 December 2008

As Is Tradition

It's Christmas Day and after getting the dogs nicely muddied up on the park, we head home to get the goose cooked, and also to make a start on disposing of the eggnog.

We are not one of the 10 million people in the UK who have turkey. I'm not sure where this turkey thing came from, the UK is on it's own in making this a Christmas tradition. In 1588, Elizabeth I enacted a law making it an offence to eat any bird other than Goose on Christmas day, I wouldn't want to disobey.

L also sticks to tradition with her dashing black stocking look; this should also be passed in law.

Her present to the dogs this year are a couple of pigs. Not real ones, toy ones although they sound very authentic. At first MD is terrified of both of them but it doesn't take long for him to overcome that fear and to get his teeth around their throats.

My parents arrive and we head off for another tradition, the lunchtime pint down the Plough, before returning for lunch. My Mum has been struck down with the lurgy that everyone seems to be getting at the moment but at least she's well enough for Christmas lunch.

The Goose, and we've never had problems before, turns out to be a bit of a tough old bird. Like someone had substituted grilled collie instead... Daughter? which would most certainly have been a bit tough and grizzled but no, a quick head count and we still have two of the brutes.

After my parents have gone, we revive another tradition, the Christmas Day run. It's obviously not a popular tradition because we don't see anyone else out pounding the streets. Although there were a few getting it in early this morning.

I try out my new Christmas present from L, an Ipod sensor that fits into your training shoe and tells you on your Ipod how far you've ran. It tells us rather generously we've done about 7km when we know it's nearer to 5km. It may be wrong but it's still a rather cool gadget and it'll hopefully be even cooler when I've got it calibrated and it starts giving out the correct information.

We get back home in time for the traditional Christmas message, from Wallace And Grommit.

Wednesday 24 December 2008

Naughty Schoolboys

It's non-uniform day at work, where we are only open for the morning. We expect to be released at noon but they keep us in like naughty schoolboys until 12.30. At which point I get the bus to Beeston rather than home, where I meet L and the dogs for a late liquid lunch. L doesn't look too frazzled when she arrives having walked the two dogs across, I had been concerned that doing so might have an adverse effect on her alcohol consumption.

After sampling a few, fairly unspectacular Christmas ales, we wobble back home to get started on the cooking. I have my stuffing, pigs in blankets and the celebrated eggnog to make.

I still haven't managed to see any of the hoax signs that have supposedly been put up around Nottingham, telling people that it is legal to 'relieve' themselves in certain public places.

The official looking laminated signs which read "Public Urination Permitted After 7.30pm. In an attempt to reduce late night public nuisance, during the holiday period, Nottingham City Council has designated several public urination areas across the city. This urination area will be cleaned daily between the hours of 5am and 6am."

Nottingham City Council are now setting about removing them.

The advantage of having a blog (I knew there must be some advantage somewhere) is that you can look back and see what you did in the past. Apparently the last time we had the kids on Christmas Eve, we stayed in and got all romantic in the bedroom, without the kids, but with three bottles of Pelforth and John Malkovich as we watched 'Dangerous Liaisons'. If we're going to repeat the trick this year, all we've got in 'Lust Caution'...

As it happens we're knackered and slightly inebriated after lunchtime so it doesn't come to fruition, we also didn't have a disruptive puppy back then. It was also by no means certain we'd have him this Christmas Eve either, that is if Daughter had carried through any of her threats.