Thursday, December 20, 2007

It's true, It really is!

What's true? A change is as good as a Holiday.

Having said that, I'm enjoying my holiday immensely so far. Not so much the Christmas bit, obviously, or the evil act of shopping, but once all the tinsel and gaudiness is out of the way this trip home is doing me a power of good.

I'm not at work, I'm spending time with old friends and family, I'm getting up late. It's fantastic and it's bringing back chilled out Paul who everyone used to know and giggle at.

So rather than the bitching and moaning of the last few posts lets try and get back to the crazy, some insane rant about rollerblading down the motorway perhaps. Sorry can't help you I'm afraid. I'm on holiday. i may have mentioned. It's wonderful thank you.

Yes thank you. That's a good one to talk about. Thank you to everyone who does work so that I don't have to. While I'm on holiday, thanks to all the people who still beaver away and make the world tick over. Especial thanks to those who work to make my life a bit easier. The shop keepers, the chefs (I'm looking at you Rooster, I bet your working like a dog this time of year, thank you, it's appreciated) the nurses and doctors, thank you very much to the mams and dads who welcome home a 30 year old child and insist on doing his washing and cooking while he treats the house like a hotel, and everyone else who thinks they deserve it, hell even the estate agents can have a piece of this one, Thank you very much.

Now I'm on holiday so I'm going back to my lie in. I hope you all have a good holiday in the near future. It may well be on a par with change, but holidays come with a fried breakfast and in my book that's a winner.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

My wretched mood

As some observant types have noticed I've not been my usual relaxed self of late. I'll be honest I've been a miserable, angry little sod. Not at all fun to be around and there are a million and three different reasons. Some justified and if I talked about them you'd say, "you're actually holding up really well". Others are petty and small and if it wasn't a case of all things at once I wouldn't even notice them.

First off, some thank yous to those who offered kind words and offers of comfort, shoulders and ears. I may yet take you up on those offers, be afraid. I do appreciate it and I don't express that enough.

And now into some of the reasons for status messages like "P*s*ed Off!" and "Just bloody sick of the lot of it.". Well one reason actually I won't go into them all. Worst of all, it's going to sound like one of those second kind of problems, the petty ones, and it really isn't. I suppose, like most things, a problem is always larger and more impressive when you're close to it. However I know I'm not alone in this so I expect to strike a chord with some.

You see dear reader one of the things that has been bothering me so much at this time of year is this time of year. I'm not a Christmas person. I don't like the so called festive season and I find nothing more depressing than someone telling me I should be merry. They can rarely offer a good reason why, an increasing amount don't even relate Christmas to a Christian celebration, not necessarily a bad thing. However my innate dislike of organised religion is not the main reason I don't like this time of year. It isn't even the short days (insomnia makes for some very long nights all year round) or the weather (though I do occasionally miss a proper snow filled winter from my youth rather than a wet overcast one from today, anyone still not convinced by climate change?) or the thousands of other reasons that statisticians and psychologists give for the suicide rates always spiking at this most wonderful time of the year.

I don't like birthdays either and try to celebrate mine on as low a key as possible. This is connected, trust me. You see my birthday is quite near Christmas, very near in fact and like many people with birthdays next to old pagan holidays I was put off both Christmas and birthdays as a very young child by one short simple phrase, said to me at least once a formative year after formative year by some well meaning relative or another,

"This is your combined Christmas and birthday present"


Why do people think they can get away with this to a child? They wouldn't consider it for someone with a birthday in June. The usual excuse given for the evil "This is your combined Christmas and birthday present" is It's a big one so... here's your combined Christmas and birthday present, I'm not a parent but as a former child I beg you all, get the 2 smaller presents. Always in that order as well, combined Christmas, then Birthday present. I promise you to a small child their birthday is more important than Christmas. It's personal. It's their day. It should be all about them. Not some Christian festival borrowed from the Pagans and stolen by the corporations.

There are other reasons I don't enjoy this time of year too numerous to mention here but one more is connected to my deep emotional scars and the present thing so I'll make a quick note of it. I hate the idea of being obligated to buy presents for people. This is not how generosity is meant to work. I prefer, if I'm out and about and see a little something one of my friends will love, I'll get it for them. If I have something I don't use that I know someone needs I'll make it a gift. If you've never done this, try it sometime in the new year. get someone a present out of the blue. It doesn't have to be large or extravagant, just personal and for no other reason than you thought they'd like it. The look on their face is worth it, gratitude mixed with true surprise, not the Christmas present surprise of "oh look, you got me the thing I was dropping hints for". That look is very addictive. If your lucky it also comes with hugs.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Mark Thomas

Sorry for the delay, but anyway, Mark Thomas.

Before I start, I do swear a bit in this one, so if you're easily offended, get a grip on yourselves. Read on. Follow some of the links and maybe you'll find something worth getting pissed off about and you'll direct your anger at some of the evil things happening in the world rather than someone typing a swearword on the internet.

Mark describes himself as a fat dad with a failing mouthwash regime. I call him a hero of modern politics. The truth is probably somewhere in between.

He calls himself a fat dad because he's got two kids and a complex, but to be honest, he's not in bad shape for someone in his mid forties. So he's half right I suppose. I can't comment on the mouthwash.

Why I consider him a hero will take a bit more of a back story. A story which starts with the sad fact that I knew more about politics at the age of 10 than I did at 18. The reason for this was a tv show called "Spitting Image" which at one time told a growing boy all he needed to know about the world of politics and the strange people that inhabited it. The show started in 1984 when I was 7, by the time I was 10 or 11 I knew every member of the cabinet and shadow cabinet and what they did. I was aware of the scandals and the stories. I was interested and wanted to fix the broken world I saw around me. By the time it finished in 1996 it had descended to picking on celebrities with silly jokes and I'd long since lost interest. I was going off to university, the traditional time of political activism, and I couldn't give a stuff.

Then in 1996 a loud mouthed comedian from south London somehow managed to get channel 4 to give him a tv show. That was Mark. It was called the Mark Thomas Comedy Product. It slapped me round the face, yelled in my ear that there were some serious problems that needed looking at then put me down. Unlike the puppets on Spitting Image (I'm not being derogatory there, they really were puppets) here was a man who literally put his money where his mouth was. He would go out and investigate the shit, then protest against it and even better he would tell everyone else and ask them to join in. Genius. If you go to his website you'll be greeted by the banner "If you're not pissed off, You're not paying attention.

I could go on for pages and pages about the sort of things he gets up to but I'd best not here because it's late and I'm tired. Maybe I'll talk about some of the things he's done, and inspired me to do next time. This time I'll just talk about the show I saw.

The focus of this tour and Marks latest campaign is one of the most draconian laws our retro-active over-controlling draconian government has put in place in the name of countering the so called terrorist threat. What's so evil about this law ls that it sounds so innocent. SCOPA is a law that actually makes it against the law to protest near the Houses of Parliament (and quite a large chunk of London to boot) without getting written permission from the authorities first. i.e. the poeple you are most likely to be protesting against, those in the houses of parliament, have the final say as to whether you are allowed to protest. What constitutes a protest under this law, One person wearing one pin badge. That's right, a tourist walking through parliament square wearing a "give peace a chance" t-shirt could be deemed to be breaking the law and be arrested. This show was about Marks attempts to fight the law by obaying the law. The shows blurb reads;
"Comedy that really makes a difference! This is Mark's true story of cake icing as a political weapon, of demonstrations to Defend Surrealism and getting to like the police. Mark turns an 18 month battle over Parliament Square and the right to demonstrate into bizarrely brilliant stand up. This is how Mark fought the law ... with the law's permission! It is a laugh out loud funny world inhabited by anarchists, Goths, artists and a chap called PC Paul McInally, in which Mark becomes a Guinness World Record holder, organises 2,500 protests in one day and changes the law in the process." and since I couldn't sum it up better I won't.

I think I've rambled enough for now. If you want to know more, drop me a msg or email. I may pick this up again in a future blog even. For now, it's late, good night.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Shins

Well the new lease on life continues apace, the private life of Paul becomes more and more public and much more and more fun.

First an explanation on chronology, I went to two gigs this week. I'm going to do a blog on each, a kind of mini review of the night and the experience. The first on Tuesday was Mark Thomas. The second was Thursday night, that was the Shins. "But Paul," I hear the more observant of you cry, "the title of your blog is the Shins, surely you have made some mistake with your timeline. Why put the second night before the first, pray tell?" and since you ask I will tell. Both gigs were outstanding for very different reasons, but the Mark Thomas show was important and I want what I say about that to stick in your mind, so if you read these blogs together you'll read that last and it might stick.

But first the Shins. And before them the friends. I'd never heard of this band until recently when I was introduced to their music by my friend Hannah who's lovely. Thank you Hannah for the music (anyone who starts humming ABBA to themselves, shame on you!). Anyway when I got the annoying email a few months ago from ticketmaster I very nearly deleted it without thinking, then I noticed the Shins were playing. In Manchester. Yippee Skippy! I rang Hannah, she rang Steph and Laura (two of my new friends in manc I met thru Han) I bought four tickets.

So Thursday night we went it was great. I've got the tickets and I'm waiting for the girls in Kro bar, which is just across from the Manchester Academy where the gig is and I'm doing the standard first one there act. Nursing my pint, looking at my watch far to often, glancing at the door whenever it looks like it moved and generally trying not to look like a lonely alcoholic. Then Laura and Steph turn up and I got hugs. Yay me! and Hannah turns up and we have excited giggly catch up chat and we're sat outside so the smokers can smoke and it's November in the north of England so everyone's shivering and turning a lovely blue colour. Then it's time to go across the road and we shove our way to about half way up the hall and the band starts to play.

Now I'm a bit nervous at this point whenever I see a band for the first time because some of them are a bit hit and miss. Arctic Monkeys for instance, brilliant albums, could listen to them all day. Bit crap live. And I'm a fairly new Shins fan, I didn't want my new found love of the band to be shattered. I needn't have worried. They were outstanding. True artists. A joy to listen to. Another little sound-bite quote you get on album covers.

They didn't play my favourite song, Baby Boomerang, but I'll forgive them because they did drip with entertainment and the crowd lapped it up. They didn't do much in the way of banter with the crowd but when they did they all came across as nice chaps. They even talked about a busking competition they'd had on the streets of Manchester that day. The bass player won with a princely sum of £19. I would have loved to have seen that. Just outside Boots getting a sandwich for lunch and coming across a guitarist in an international band to say, I've got a ticket to see you play tonight. Priceless.

Any way it was a great night, good music, all right venue and absolutely brilliant company.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


My last blogs have been quite personal tales about me digging my way out of the rut I'd found myself in and striving back towards a happy life.

Well this one isn't, it's a nice simple tale of what I did last weekend (I know it takes me a while to blog, sorry, but my new busy life is, well, busy) and a review of a gig.

I had a fantastic time. My friend Sarah was coming back to Manchester for a visit and she wanted to see this band play that none of us had ever heard of, So a group of us went out for a few drinks just to see Sarah, but no one wanted to see the band. Sarah was adamant she was going and with my new sense of adventure wanting to see an unknown band and my old sense of Gentlemanly conduct not wanting to let Sarah go off on her own, I valiantly decided to acompany her. I'm so glad I did.

The band was Puressence and despite my ignorance they are actually quite an established band who have been around for some years and have a small but very loyal fanbase. I don't know why they aren't more famous. They were fantastic.

On the down side, the stage design was terrible, the lighting was bad and someone liked the smoke machine far too much meaning that you couldn't actually see the band for some of the songs but in the most important aspect, the music, they were outstanding. I am now a fully fledged fan. During the last week I've bought nearly the full back catalogue, so thank you Sarah for a great night. I'm a convert.

I recomend you check out their myspace page, listen to their music and if you can see them live.

O.K. that's done, next time I'll go back to some floaty wierd stuff about flying on rollerblades again or something, promise.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Learning to fly... again.

About 8 months ago I put down my rollerblades. The excuse I gave myself was that the wheels were shot and completely useless. This, while technically true was not the reason. That part of me that loved to skate, among other things, was buried very deep and didn't want to see the sunlight.

Last week I ordered some very nice new racing wheels.

This weekend they arrived and were fitted.

Today I went skating. Hot damn it felt good!

This was the plan, now that I've moved to Manchester from Northwich it means getting the train to work. The Manchester train station is about 25 minutes walk from where I live. The Northwich station is about 15 minutes walk from my office. While I enjoy the walk, especially in the early morning when no-ones around and the sun's just coming up, my re-awakening sense of fun nudged my subconscious and said in conspirital tones, "you could skate that". What a fantastic idea!

So I like to start early. I normally leave the flat at about 6 am to go for the 6:30 train. This puts me at my desk before 8. While skating is faster than walking I figured, Paul, you've not been on your wheels for a while, leave at the same time, take it easy, get used to things again.

Oh it so didn't work like that.

6 am I sit on my front step, strap on my boots that feel like 2 old friends welcoming me back to the fold and I skate. I leave the square with a measured easy glide, taking care over the uneven tarmac. I gingerly try some step-overs round the corner and there it is. The wonderful flat levelled tarmac of the main road. The decidedly empty main road. Like a water-slide on a hot day it was calling me. It was irresistible. I put my mind on a back seat, spread my wings and let my body remember how to soar. I sped I swooped and I played for miles. When the cars started to appear I left the main road for the city centre and the pedestrian areas. I jumped, I laughed, I genuinely laughed out loud like a schoolchild who hasn't learned yet that this is wrong. I almost fell on some cobbles and again over a tram line and it was then that I looked at my watch. It was gone 8:15. I looked around to get my bearings, I had been far too swept up in flying to care where I had gone. I wasn't that far from the station, I turned towards the station to catch the 8:30 train.

I was a bit more confident by Northwich. It's a quieter town and I remembered it's roads in the grey depths of my wheels memory. I decided since it was already after 9 and the rush hour traffic was gone I would allow myself some music for the short skate I was determined to make directly to the office. I decided to trust to the fates, they'd been doing well so far today. Ipod on shuffle, I pressed play and waited.

I have the bestest shuffle button in the world.

The Jam - A town called Malice, hell yeah! I admit to a bit of a Billy Elliot moment and I was off. Head down, legs pumping back in the moment. Flying again. About halfway there the song ended and I was resigned t to the fact that it had been a stroke of luck. There was no way it could do it again, from 50 odd gig worth of music there was no way it could, by complete randomness, pull out another gem that would make my blood race. I would slow down, just enjoy the rest of the trip at a leisurely pace. There is a saying, "The Universe doesn't give you what you want. It gives you what you need.". 3 words,

Beastie Boys - Sabotage.

The track finished as I reached the office door.

Of course the Universe also likes to be repaid for it's gifts which is why it played the joke of turning off the isolator switch on the office shower so I got an ice cold drenching but once again, I was hot and sweaty and I had to remember "The Universe doesn't give you what you want. It gives you what you need."