Electoral Blues

http://www.bobdylan.com/#/songs/political-world

So, Brown’s resigned his Labour Leader post; rumours abound about a Con-Lib deal and a PM has formally resigned; tempers are flared; fuses are short; everyone in the country (it seems) is blaming anyone they can; and I’m a good number of days late in writing anything about a British Election that – frankly – bored me silly until the closing weeks, but now has me pretty intrigued. All at the time of writing, of course.

I may as well be honest and state from the outset that party and statewide politics bore and irritate me. It’s not something I support and in my own little idealist way can’t until the time comes that we can cast off those shackles towards real freedom. But, whatever protestations I may have, it’s the system I find myself under, and as such find I need to be realistic about it. Which probably explains my interest.

Anyway, another thing I should get out of the way is which way I voted which, in honesty, is that I voted for this. A hung parliament. And, much to my own surprise, one that would result in a Con-Lib coalition. Why? Because I honestly believe that of all the myriad (ok, four) possibilities being mooted about the place, that is the only combination that could actually introduce any real (and in my view, necessary) changes to the country that most people I think would agree needs to happen, current economic climate or no.
On the topic of Manifestos, I can admit that the only one I read in full was the Liberal Democrat one, and I spent some time scanning the Tory manifesto for points I agreed / disagreed with, and similarly scanned the key Labour points (as I saw them).
So, whether its agreed with or not, I feel I’ve done my bit to make the decision I wanted to make, and made it based on choosing the party I disagreed with least at a Manifesto and personality level. And so its made. So it remains to be seen what the parties finally decide.

A bunch of things throughout the campaign, and after have annoyed me from all sides, so I thought I’d choose a few as I remember them:

ConLib / LabLib / Rainbow Squabblings

The whole episode of the last few days seems to have been dominated by the extremes on both sides (and may yet still be decided from them). Hardline Liberal Democrats appalled to be dealing with the Conservatives, and clinging desperately to their failed notion that New Labour are really as “Lefty” a party as they like to think they are; Tories disgusted to be seen to be “lowering” themselves to dealing with 3rd place when “they got more votes anyway” (irony, anybody?); and Labour supporters uncertain over what they want more – to see Gordon Brown away from the leadership or to keep themselves in power. All of which, frankly, are ridiculous and missing the point completely.
Lab-Lib would have been a mistake, whichever way you cut it. At a time when there’s a genuine opportunity for change, having two parties align that have ‘historic’ ties amongst back-benchers and party members would have inevitably been frail and wouldn’t have lasted (by my reckoning) more than 2 years. Similarly with a “Rainbow” coalition, although my money’s on that having lasted even less time. As it is, I’d be fairly confident that a ConLib agreement could be mutually beneficial, and potentially provide the right checks and balances between two quite different parties and policies. I jsut hope the Lib Dems can approve the deal by more than 75% to allow Clegg to pursue it, then let everyone see what the details are and what we think can happen. As many seats as they do have, I don’t think the Tories can last if they’re made to go it alone.

Clegg’s Pimping Himself Out and LibDems Not Doing as Well as People Thought

Two myths, right there, if you ask me. Firstly, to the actual election results, which near enough tied in with my expectations (alright, I didn’t expect the LibDems to actually lose seats, but I didn’t expect them to gain any). yet there was such a public sense of defeatism from those people who foolishly thought their LibDem votes were going to result in a landslide. It was never going to happen. And the reason it would never happen is for exactly the reasons the party had espoused beforehand – electoral reform. So why be surprised?
And secondly, the recent frustrated notion that Clegg has been pimping himself out to any party in an eager attempt to get power. Two issues with this: 1) What’s the problem? He’s a politician. He can’t, really, ever achieve anything noteworthy if he stays in opposition (which, realisitically, is what the LibDems risk facing if they don’t take the opportunity now while it presents itself) and (2) Why is it “pimping yourself out” to go and hear both possible deals that are on the table, and making your decision accordingly. I’ve said it already earlier today, but I’d be many times more disappointed in anyone who clung desperately to the first offer they received rather than taking their time and weighing up the choices. I even heard one person on the radio today saying they were disgusted with Clegg and that they only voted LibDem to get Labour out… well… that comes at a risk doesn’t it? And that risk is that you’ll,  most likely, get Tory, in some incarnation. Deal with it. And stop being silly.

Unlock Democracy and Proportional Representation

A massive sticking pointing for the LibDems (and it remains to be seen if it will get passed them, and in what form), but the news all week has been obsessed with this question of PR, and what it means. Unlock Democracy, as much as I can applaud them for the speed with which  they put together their protests. And, I agree, First Past the Post is a ridiculous system and one that does need to be changed. However, as with so many protesters, I can’t agree that their expected timescale is correct, let alone feasible. Expecting a referendum, and for that to then be enacted within a year – in a coalition government (a coalition, incidentally, that whichever way it was formed, would have resulted in disagreements in exactly how far to go with PR) – is optimistic, to say the least. Push for it once the coalition’s in place. And support the coalition with the most contrasting views – its the better way to ultimately get the more dramatic changes you want.
I remain quietly optimistic that PR will happen, but it won’t happen if we don’t have  strong coalition government. I never thought I’d say it, but I think Con-Lib is the strongest coalition we can get at this time, and also the one most susceptible to enacting change.

Clegg’s “Two Horse Race” Moment…

… surprised me. Whilst I’m all in favour of being optimistic, this moment struck me as a public show of unmerited over-confidence that, frankly, wasn’t needed. I’m not saying I think they would have done better had he not come out and said this, but I’m sure it didn’t help sway those who were on the edge of deciding which way to go.

LibDem’s “Losing”

A big deal seemed to be made of the LibDems losing seats, both on the public’s part, and their own. I still can’t help feeling this is misplaced. They gained votes. They gained quite a few votes. Yet they lost seats. Is that not, in essence, what PR aims to resolve? If anything it adds fuel to the fire that electoral reform is needed and confirms one of their strongest policies and arguments right the way through.

Tories “Winning”

Not a right lot to say on this except it goes back to arguments about first past the post. This was sadly inevitable, so deal with it. In honesty, I expected them to win outright by a very slim margin, which would have been a much worse situation than we now find ourselves in. Equally, even with the Coalition, its no surprise that Cameron took the PM spot (seems justified). Until late last night I remained optimistic that balance could be restored and Osborne would be replaced as Chancellor by Cable, but it seems that hasn’t happened, and won’t happen this time round. Those were really the only two posts that interests me significantly at this time. Clegg as Deputy could be interesting, guess we’ll see what happens.

Brown as “Unelected PM” Possibility

This kept coming up again and again, especially when the LibDems first said they were going back to talk to Labour. Unfounded fear-mongering at its best. We don’t elect Prime Ministers. Parties elect their leaders, and we elect Parties. Parties decide policies (naturally, a strong party leader can influence those policies). It really is that simple. Stop whining.

So there’s a few, I’m sure there are more, and I’ll probably add them later. But for now, I’m going to go back to waiting to see what the final results are, and what the LibDems side on.

EDIT 1: So, Cameron’s Prime Minister. And the LibDems – to my surprise – have accepted the terms offered in a Coalition. It will be interesting to see what the terms are. Can’t say I’m overwhelmingly pleased with Osborne as Chancellor, but I guess it was to be expected.

The BNP on QT

Well, I’m not the first blogger who’ll mention this and arguably – with an hour or so to go until it airs – I’ve left it quite late, but it’s all I’ve heard on the radio all sodding day and so I wanted to have my own short(ish) rant about it. Craig’s already written a letter on his blog that I largely agree with, but need to summarise some extra thoughts myself. Because I can.

My first impressions of the whole affair (including the ‘protests’)? The country is overrun by single-minded idiots. Sorry, but there we go. I’ll come to why shortly.

As for where I stand on politics, I’m largely neutral. I have no sense of support for any party (major or minor) and long for the day the ‘state’ is little more than a thing of the past. I’m also realistic and doubt strongly that will happen in my life time, so I feel I can get involved in little arguments like this. On top of this, I despise being encouraged to vote for a ‘major’ party in order to stand against the BNP – if no-one can give me a convincing reason to vote _for_ them, I won’t. I strongly believe that whilst the argument has limited merit as to what it hopes to achieve, it will never fix the fundamental problem, and as such will just prolong its symptoms from rearing their head again.

Anyway, moving swiftly on to some of the arguments against the BBC playing host to Nick Griffin this evening:

  • I don’t want my license-fee being spent on the BNP
    Short answer: tough shit.
    I don’t like _my_ license-fee being spent on far worse and (completely) uninformative programming, such as Eastenders or Stictly Come Dancing, but I’d rather pay it and not watch those shows if it means it can also be spent on pressing political programmes (yes, such as Question Time), or exceptional documentaries (a la Blue Planet, Life, Planet Earth). As it is, I’m prepared to ignore the shit in order to receive the good. If you don’t feel you’re getting that value for money, don’t pay it, and go do something more pro-active, like reading. Either way, don’t bitch about it. Because it’s a baseless argument.
  • The BBC has a moral obligation to not host the BNP
    I’m not so sure on the actual truth of this one, nor the morality of it either way. I guess I would come down on the side of, ‘Surely it is more amoral to pretend the voice in the wilderness doesn’t exist (and so let it fester unseen) than it is to give that voice the same chance the others get’. If you’re so concerned that you will be that easily swayed by the ramblings of such a party, I suggest suicide. Before you kill us all.
    If you don’t believe you’re that easily swayed and that the views and propaganda of the BNP are built on a pack of lies then you have nothing to fear. They will embarass themselves in their own time. Either way, face facts: Just because you can’t see / hear them, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. If you would rather force them underground and hope that will solve the problem, I encourage you to think harder.
  • Nick Griffin as holocaust-denier
    This seems to get brought up every time someone mentions Nick Griffin and the BNP. And whilst I can understand why (citing an easy example as to why this man’s a moron), it carries no real weight in the sense of the argument. I believe the Holocaust occured. And I believe that on the balance of the facts I have seen and studied. In just the same way that I do not believe in a god, based on the facts and evidence I have looked at. Just because I have friends who do believe doesn’t mean I shouldn’t discuss and debate such issues with them ultimately in the pursuit of knowledge.
    Is he a holocaust-denier? Then good for him. Just means he needs to go back and actually digest the facts. Nothing more for me to worry about except that he’s an idiot. Whilst it’s a very good reason he should not be in politics, it does not change the fact that he is and as such deserves the same chance to talk as we would give any other politician.
  • Allowing him on Question Time provides a valid platform to spout their racist diatribe
    No. It gives him a valid platform to partake in a public discussion, fielding questions both from the public and his opposition. This is not a BNP Political Rally being broadcast by the BBC, it’s a political debate. And in many ways I would like to think the questions don’t become just a bashing of BNP policies, because that’s not what the debate is about. And if that does happen (as I fear it inevitably will) then the situation has been changed by the very people claiming to protest it. And that gives Griffin every opportunity to use it to his advantage.
    Treat him like any other politician in the way you ask your questions and respond to his answers and he will be exposed as the flawed individual he is. If you try and attack BNP policies and him explicitly, it will be easily manipulated to make you look the fool, and garner further support. Any shouting, pointing person can be very easily made to look like the mad man. So don’t do it to yourself. Let them do it to themselves.
  • He’ll manipulate it to appeal to a broad audience  to garner support (disguising the more sensitive views they may stand for)
    See above, largely. But moreover, I disagree in terms of scale. Pissy little protests incorporating such views as listed above do far, far more for the extremist politician in their ability to manipulate that reaction to their own advantage. It’s already happened countless times (MEP Elections, the ‘Egging’ incident, etc.). And here’s the thing – it doesn’t matter if what he responds with is lies (to the general public), he’s still coming across as far more in control of the situation than you will in your hate-filled moments of shouting and demonstration. And that is what’s dangerous.

Well, I wrote a bit more then than I wanted, and it’s nearly time to actually see how it did turn out. I hope at least some of that is coherent, if a bit ranting. I’ll be interested to see what the reaction is to the broadcast in the end.

*sigh* Time to get a pot of tea ready me-thinks.

‘The Anarchists’ by James Joll

First things first: this took me far too bloody long to finish. That’s not a criticism of the book itself – far from it – but more a reflection that I didn’t give it the attention I perhaps should. There’s various reasons / excuses I could make for that, but it mostly boils down to it not being the easiest of reads, and therefore only attracting my attention when I felt I could dedicate half an hour to it without wanting to fall asleep. Time for some fiction now I reckon!

As for the book though, despite the above paragraph, it’s a very interesting read. Effectively a run-down of Anarchism and ‘key’ anarchists throughout the centuries, culminating in their role and defeat into obscurity in Spain in the mid-to-late 1930’s. It covers characters such as Kropotkin, Godwin, Proudhon, Bakunin, Malatesta and Goldman, to name but a few, and also spends a good portion of its time explaining and exploring the somewhat strange relationship between the various anarchists and the communists as were springing up around the time of the First International.

All in all then, lots of things I had – at best – only the slightest of grips on, and it certainly paved the way to making further reading into the different areas more appealing.

It flows well, it’s well written, and spans the periods of time chronologically (as you may expect), often recalling characters that had been introduced earlier on and how most of the main figures knew each other, personally or otherwise,  as well as fairly carefully analyzing some of the failure points and successes at various times in the movement.

One of the things that was perhaps most pleasing about it as a read was the seeming lack of bias on behalf of Joll. As ever with books surrounding the political arena, I’m always a bit wary that the author will be approaching the subject from one side or the other, which usually comes across in the writing and can get a bit tedious. So it was nice to not have that to contend with!

Don’t know if I’d go as far as to recommend this to anyone, but if anarchy / history of political thoughts is your ‘bag’, then you could do worse.

Glastonbury 2009: Anticipation

Right then.

About this time last year I wrote a similar little note shortly after the lineup had been announced of things I wanted to see and do ahead of Glastonbury, scheduling clashes notwithstanding. Looking at the lineup for this year, I started getting excited again, and figured I would do the same. Similar to last year, the nice thing about the lineup is that there are a lot of artists I know of, but none I’ve particularly thought I’d ever get the chance to see. Also as with last year, I’ll just hit the names down here,  and aim to do a full writeup after the fact.

Here goes then:

  • Hobo Jones and the Junkyard Dogs
  • Neil Young
  • Lily Allen
  • The Specials
  • The Streets
  • Rolf Harris
  • British Sea Power
  • Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band
  • Eagles of Death Metal
  • Pendulum
  • Jarvis Cocker
  • Spinal Tap
  • Florence and the Machine
  • Newton Faulkner
  • 2ManyDJs
  • Scratch Perverts
  • Badly Drawn Boy
  • The Lancashire Hotpots
  • Blur
  • The Prodigy
  • Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
  • Madness
  • Tom Jones
  • Noisettes
  • Black Eyed Peas
  • Manu Dibango
  • Roots Manuva
  • Mr Scruff

So, yeh, a bit of a longer list than last time, based on what I’ve seen so far. In addition, some of the stand-up options sound most appealing, as does the Free University of Glastonbury idea. May have to be spending quite a lot of time wandering about the place…

One thing that disappoints me about the lineup is the highly likely clash between Blur and Prodigy – both bands of particular note I would love to see live. If there’s one thing Jay-Z and Massive attack taught me last year it’s that I can’t succesfully mix between the two halfway. Some tough decisions may have to be made…

Obviously, it’s a long list, and many things will clash, especially as I intend to be nipping to and from ‘The Park’ fairly frquently to see what the special guests lineups end up being – I was more than a little gutted to hear I missed Last Shadow Puppets last year. Hmph.

Either way though, I think the essence I’m trying to get across here is this: I’m excited. If you’re going, I hope you are too.

Bob Dylan: The Way Live Music is Meant to Be?

Set List: http://www.boblinks.com/050209s.html

So, last night I was in Glasgow at the SECC watching Bob Dylan and his band live in concert for the first time.

I’ve wanted to see Dylan live for a good few years since I was first introduced to his music and I think it’s fair to say I wasn’t disappointed.

Going into the gig, which I was attending with Steve, Craig, and Steve’s flatmate Gordon, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. Steve had seen him before on a couple of occasions, and his advice, in agreement with what I’d heard / read elsewhere seemed to suggest this was a good thing. Expect nothing. Don’t expect to recognise the songs until you hear the lyrics, and the like. They were right. It was like no other gig I’d been to before.

First up, no support acts. Hardly surprising I guess, given the man’s fame and reputation, it would be bloody difficult to have the task of warm up act. Secondly, he simply doesn’t need it. It detracts nothing from the occasion in there being no support act present. The feeling of anticipation in the arena before the show commenced at around 19:45 was electric as it was. If anything, a support act runs the risk of diminishing that feeling.

Secondly, a notable lack of spoken interraction with the audience, right up until he announced the names of his band members as the show closed up. Again, not a bad thing, but just not something I’ve experienced from a ‘standard’ gig, where the centre piece of the group is more than happy to harp out the same old cliche’d arguments to an already excited crowd. If anything, I appreciate the lack of it, but it was also a notable change to the other gigs I’ve been to in the past.

Thirdly, and as forewarned, the incredible differences in the songs being played to the point that they are unrecognisable from any recorded versions I’d heard, until he started singing. Steve mentioned whilst we were beering before the show that the reason he heard for this from Dylan’s point of view is that he’s never been completely, 100% happy with any song he’s recorded, so why shouldn’t he mash them up and try to perfect them live? Even if that means taking the songs off on a tangent that hadn’t been thought of when they were first written. It actually makes a whole lot of sense, and to me, emphasises the ‘artist’ quality that Dylan seems to ooze – never quite content, never afraid to try something different, regardless as to how it may be received. An admirable quality, regardless of what you think of the songs themselves.

Fourthly, and perhaps most importantly, the music itself. It doesn’t matter whether you think it ‘works’ or not – for me personally, some of it on the evening worked better than others, but that’s the nature of experimentation – the thing about it was that it seemed to be note perfect. Both Dylan and all the band members were on exactly the same page at every step through every song, and you’re left with the impression that one would have to try bloody hard to pull up just one note that was out of place. Maybe I’m overly keen to praise given how much I enjoy his music, but to me this screams emphasis on the artist permanently seeking perfection. These twists to old tracks haven’t just been toyed with one night and rolled straight out, they’ve been born out, practised, tweaked, practised some more until they’re ready to be performed.
The one exception to this during the set was Thunder on the Mountain which, whilst having twists from the recorded version – and sounding much more powerful – was easily recognisable from the first few notes.
Another interesting point relating to the music itself? Not one track from the new album that came out a few days before. Very refreshing.

Favourite Tracks / Moments:

  • Maggie’s Farm is a personal favourite track of mine. Heightened by the fact that this was the first performance of the evening, I thoroughly bloody enjoyed it. [ ~ YouTube ~ ]
  • Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright – or, more specifically, Dylan’s Harmonica solo towards the end of it – was sublime. The whole track was superbly put together, but the harmonica elevated it to an entirely different level. Simply stunning. [ ~ YouTube ~ ]
  • Highway 61 Revisited. Another track that I’m sure I’m not alone in saying I adore, largely for it’s entertainment factor, and simple ‘jumpability’, before even looking at the lyrics. This version left me, quite surprisingly, stunned. It genuinely did take me right up until he started singing before I could work out what was being played, but knew I was going to enjoy it. Whilst perhaps not being musically similar, it reminded me of the excitement I get listening to the recording of Isis from The Bootleg Series Volume 5: The Rolling Thunder Revue from the point of view that it was so loud, boisterous, pwoerful and yet clearly so carefully executed that it just left me awe-struck. Special. [ ~ YouTube ~ ]

Of course, I could highlight many, many more, but that would sort of defeat the point of trying to pick out highlights. It was all excellent. The encore surprised me, as I wasn’t expecting to hear All Along the Watchtower [ ~ YouTube ~ ], and thoroughly enjoyed the version I got to hear, as I was with The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll [ ~ YouTube ~ ], in a rendition that brought quite a surreal twist to something I was used to hearing at a much slower, mournful pace.

General Conclusions:

You may have already guessed – I had a superb time, and thoroughly enjoyed every moment of the concert. As Craig commented beforehand, “It’s not every day you see an artist perform that influenced artists like the Beatles”.
And I know what he means.
There’s something slightly surreal (and more than a little exciting) about seeing an artist perform that has had such a lengthy career, playing songs he first recorded decades before you were born, but that you’ve listened to maybe one hundred times or more, and playing them in such a completely different manner that only the lyrics reveal their true identity.
It’s also exciting to see such an artist perform in such a way – rather than churning out the old favourites note-perfect as if they were playing the CD through the loudspeakers – I know why they do it, but that doesn’t make it as exciting as seeing someone constantly striving to shake it up and try something different.
And I think it’s that that I find so fascinating about Dylan. Of course, I love the music anyway, from a lyrical level as much as from an instrumental level, but it’s that extra twist – the defiance – the ability and the strength of mind to constantly try and break his own cycles, and to deal with the consequences later. To reinvent himself, I suppose. But none of those terms really do justice, as they’re banded about the place all too often and with such liberty that they become watered down, weak and, ultimately pointless. And, to me, Dylan is anything but that.

Isn’t he just reactionary? Isn’t it all a ploy to keep people guessing and writing about him? Does he really care? Isn’t he passed his best? Hasn’t he sold out? Yadda-yadda.

Maybe he is. Maybe he isn’t. The question I have to ask is does it really matter? Whether any of the above questions are valid or not is largely irrelevant. If they are true, then he’s executed them in a considerably more ‘ballsy’ manner than any other leading performance artist in the field. And he’s pulled it off exquisitely. If they’re not true then, well, they’re not true. 🙂

Are there songs I would have liked to have heard? Of course – but with such an extensive back catalogue that’s always going to be the case. One of the things that ‘does it’ for me about Dylan is the simple fact of the variation, the ever-present chance of surprise / disappointment / excitement / awesome. It makes it fresh. It makes it exciting. It makes it interesting. It makes it live.

Would see again without hesitation.


You need something to open up a new door
To show you something you seen before
But overlooked a hundred times or more
You need something to open your eyes
You need something to make it known
That it’s you and no one else that owns
That spot that yer standing, that space that you’re sitting
That the world ain’t got you beat
That it ain’t got you licked
It can’t get you crazy no matter how many
Times you might get kicked
You need something special all right
You need something special to give you hope
But hope’s just a word
That maybe you said or maybe you heard
On some windy corner ’round a wide-angled curve

Bob Dylan – Last Thoughts on Woodie Guthrie

Old, but Good

I’ve just been reminded of this after a long time.

Remarkably true, and an answer if ever there was one as to why I enjoy EvE so much above other games I’ve played. Long may it remain so. 😉

Learning Curve of Various MMORPGs
Learning Curve of Various MMORPGs

The Beauty of Random

Seven Hours.

Seven fucking hours.

That is the total amount of time I have spent travelling to and from Manchester this weekend. Let me just point out that, according to schedules, that seven (count ’em, 7) hours should be 2 and a half. I just got nearly three times my money’s worth. Bargain? Hmmm.

Anyway, that’s by-the-by because, despite delays, I actually thoroughly enjoyed them.

The first delay was on the way down to Manchester, when the train came to a stop jsut after Chorley because the previous train had disrupted the ‘points’ or some such technical train-like term. So we stopped, for the best part of an hour, in what I like to consider a No Man’s Land of the train world.
Yet, it was remarkably refreshing. Sat at the end of the carriage as I was, we were a cluster of maybe 6 or 7 people. And after a short while being stopped everyone started to open up. There was no frustration, no excessive tutting and shaking of heads, just light-hearted amusement. Simple jokes, shrugging the situation off, and genuinely just making the most of an unfortunate situation. People opened up, started talking about where they were heading, a few of us had drink on us that we were toying with cracking open if we were delayed much longer, and the like. It was how I imagine the war-time atmosphere was (granted, the bombs weren’t falling). It restored my faith in the public.

Anyway, before we knew it (and before we resorted to drink) we were movijng again and arrived at Bolton, where it terminated because of the delays. Lots of concerned people ushering their children everywhere and tutting wildly. I laughed a little. To myself. And then jumped on a train to Victoria instead, as it looked like it’d be quicker. Soon enough, I’d arrived.

The return was funnier still.

I did the quick walk to Picadilly in my remotely hungover state, got a good ol’ Pasty to help me on my way, then got on the 12:25 train destined for Blackpool via Preston, where I was hoping to change to Lancaster.
It started with a decidedly dodgy edge when the train we got on was originally Stockport-bound, but got terminated for us to jump on. It got as far as Oxford Road before stopping, the crew jumping off, and no replacement crew being available. I could do little else but chuckle as I continued to read.

Then the engines stopped. Sighs all round, but, once more, smiley faces making the best of it. Public confidence restored, once more. After a little while, general pleasantries were swapped and I got talking to the lady sat opposite me who, as it happened, was also trying to get to Lancaster. Others left, jokes were told, and amusement was had by all as we finally started moving again and finally got into Preston and rushed to get much needed refreshment. During this process, we managed to miss the connection to Lancaster, so opted for beer whilst awaiting the next train. The bar tender did an excellent job and also joined in the banter spawned from random events. Most amusing, and more or less settled my ailing body.

Finally got the train, and got into Lancaster at 16:00, a mere 3 hours late. Super stuff.

But the important thing that came out of all this? The banter, the chat, the getting along with strangers and genuinely just meeting nice, nice people. Lovely stuff.

Sophie – thanks for the chatter – it was much appreciated and lightened my day after feeling pretty terrible from drink after effects. Genuinely very nice to have met and thanks for a fun couple of hours chatting shite. I hope you enjoyed the brief spell in sunny Lancaster and enjoy your course / being back in Manchester.

To the others I didn’t catch the names of – thanks for just being nice and restoring my faith. Dramatic? Probably. But it was lovely.

The strange part is that I almost certainly will never see any of those people again but… it doesn’t matter. I feel better because we had the banter and were nice to strangers. It would be nice to make and keep friends with everyone you meet, but it doesn’t have to happen that way. Lovely jubbly.

As to why I was in Manchester, I was there for Craig’s birthday. And I failed terribly at drinking.

To the people who met me at Craig’s, and to Craig and Lehna – I apologise. I have no excuse for seemingly being as drunk as I was as quick as I was, and I certainly have no excuse for locking myself away and sleeping on the bathroom floor. I’m still at a loss as to what actually caused my downfall. I’m sure I could sit here all night and come up with excuses, but that is all they’d be and it wouldn’t actually fixed anything. Sorry anyway for playing the drunken fool, it was lovely to meet you all.

And, Craig, happy birthday, you old bastard. 😉

New Positions and Status End

New Job

I got offered a new contract the other week at work which came as both a surprise and shock. The contract I was offered was for the Field Support Technician role that had been put out and advertised a month or two back and which, to be honest, I had never dreamed I would have stood a chance for and so didn’t apply for. I also didn’t think when it was offered that it would come about as quick as it seems to be doing – official start date will be in two weeks time.

Basically, the new role will involve being half a step up the support chain from where I am now, heading out to the sites affected to troubleshoot and fix problems locally. To little ol’ me it’s pretty exciting, more hands-on, but with a hell of a lot to learn.
I’m a little nervous about it, but also pretty keen to get the most out of it and take the opportunity to really try and sink my teeth into all the bits missing from my knowledge of the setup. It could definitely make for some interesting times.

Not much more to report there really I don’t think, but it should be fun.

End of an Instructor Era

I made a pretty drastic decision the other day. Well, I say drastic, to be honest it’s been on the horizon for a while and is in no way related to the previous topic.

At the end of this year I’m going to suspend my PADI Teaching Status as an Instructor and start to be Non-Teaching Status.
For those unaware as to what that means, the clue’s in the names. Basically I’ll cease to be able to actively teach scuba diving courses as the sole instructor. Which is a shame, as I do genuinely love the feeling of satisfaction that’s derived from teaching someone new skills. But it had to happen, and has to happen, for a number of reasons:

  • I’m not actively teaching any more as it is, which means I lack confidence on the few times I do get the chance to teach and run portions of a class. This isn’t good for me, as it makes me feel incompetent, and doesn’t help the students, who aren’t getting the best education they could – and should – be getting.
  • I’m not, realistically, going to start teaching more frequently any time soon because, quite simply, I don’t have the time to do that and be able to do all the other things I want to be doing. This is more closely related to the new job scenario, as there’s plenty to do and a ton to learn which means, when it comes to time off, such as weekends and the like, I want to be making the most of it, whether that be heading off out to see friends, visit different places, spend some time playing EvE, or simply diving for my own pleasure and to increase my own diving experiences. it’s no secret that I’ve barely done any Mixed Gas diving since returning from Egypt, nor have I managed to really hammer myself in training scenarios to improve my own skills. With part-time teaching, I don’t have that capability and, by the same token, I don’t do it often enough to improve my teaching either – it’s lose-lose.
  • It costs. Many of us know the old jokes (PADI: Put Another Dollar In, etc.) which, whilst I don’t necessarily agree with all of them, is true – being an active member of PADI does cost (shock! Horror!) and, whilst it will also cost me to remain a member at a Non-Teaching Status level, it won’t cost anywhere near as much, and I don’t have to also cover Professional Liability insurance to the same level. Whilst those costs at the moment aren’t exactly crippling, there’s no point me paying them if I’m not getting the use out of them. I’d be better off putting that money saved towards gas, or equipment maintenance.
  • I can still partake and learn by helping out with courses as an assistant without being in Teaching Status – which basically means, should I reach a point where I feel I have the time and commitment to be able to start teaching again, I can get myself back into it gradually, putting the time in to help with courses and learning from those other instructors around me that have served as role models for so much of my time diving. The important thing is that I don’t have to be put in the pressure situation of already being Teaching Status whilst trying to learn this.

And those are about all I can think of right now. It’s a shame, in many ways, because I do genuinely enjoy teaching, but I also loathe the feeling of inadequacy I get from knowing I’m not providing the best teaching experience I possible can, purely because I lack practice and confidence. It ain’t fun.

Anyway, that’s that said.

Another Year

Well, I’m another year older. The ripe old age of 23.

Apparently, this isn’t the one I should be worried about, that’s 25 but, meh, I feel old just admitting that I’m 23.
Not in an entirely negative context you understand. I’m not all depressed; I’m not going out to buy myself a Porsche before suffering a nervous breakdown after discovering that my life is a huge melting pot of failed dreams and missed opportunities. Not by a long way.

I’m just genuinely apathetic about the fact it’s my birthday and I can’t, for the life of me, work out why, except to put it down to ‘age’.

Anyway, enough of that shite.

We went out last night avec la famille to celebrate the said birthday to Miyabi in Lancaster, a Japanese restaurant. It was bloody lovely and I gorged gratuitously. Myself and the father had the same thing – the Miyabi Deluxe set meal – consisting of King Prawns in batter, a lovely beef wrap jobby with mushrooms in the middle, lobster, scallops, lamb and pork. Fecking brilliant.
It was a fun night – lots of good banter, excellent food, good drink and general merriment, followed up by a cheeky pint or two in The Three Mariners around the corner.

So, yes, I can recommend it. Whilst it’s not the sort of place you could go to week in week out (it ain’t the cheapest place to go) but in terms of value for money, I’d rate it pretty high. But that could also be because I have zero experience of Japanese food besides that. *shrugs*
If there’s ever a group of us going for a group occasion any time, I’d definitely be recommending it.

After that joviality, I got back home and was encouraged to open cards etc, which included a pretty neat framed drawing of Jimi Hendrix from the parents. Have to admit, I was surprised. Not that I was expecting a shit gift, but I just didn’t expect them to have bought me something like that.

Today’s a day of work, followed by the standard Wetherspoon’s curry night.

As for celebrations of sorts, things are undecided, largely down to my earlier described apathy. There’s the chance of a few beers / food Friday night, either in Lancaster or at mine depending on what people fancy, although to be honest I’m veering away from Lancaster as it means we’ll end up somewhere unnecessarily noisy – I’d rather be able to sit around and chat shite. If anyone fancies either option, let me know and we’ll see if it can happen.

Otherwise, thanks for the birthday messages, cards and the like that people have sent. We’ll beer soon.