Thursday, 21 January 2010

Obligatory Sports Blog 1

It's finally over.

I closed another chapter today, and am 4000 words nearer to that elusive AAT qualification. I hope the job market will be supportive when I finally arrive. Either way, the wine-and-adrenaline kick I've been riding since Monday has finally washed itself out and now the heavy cold and the exhaustion can fight it out with the copious amounts of lemsip coursing through my system in order to see which of them is in charge of the Friday ship.

Incidentally, the City College have earned themselves an honourary mention on my blog for the extremely poor standard of IT in their business premises. I love the way they can make a massive fuss at me for wearing jeans, but on deadline day it's okay that it takes the better part of an hour to find a working printer. Seriously guys, get your priorities in order. It's a bit early in the piece for this blog to start a 'Turkey of the Month' award but I'm seriously tempted, and let's face it, this blog is evidence that I already have too much time on my hands, so best not to push me.

So I'm doing my best to write some content that appeals to all my readership (and let's face it, so far I have a regular readership of 2, and they're only reading to make sure I'm not saying something rude about them.) One comment I had suggested that the blog could be livened up by resorting to man's lowest common denominator, which for the benefit of all the ladies in the house, is sport. So I have bowed to peer pressure and am unenthusiastically trying to find something to say about the state of English cricket.

At the best of times, writing about cricket is best left to the experts, like Haigh, Martin-Jenkins, Boycott, Atherton and Agnew. It gets ever tougher for me to have informed opinions, given that I am no longer in possession of a working Sky box and my enthusiasm for the game has been crushed under the weight of the 20-over plankfest that now passes for a one-day game. There were green shoots in the recent test series as England came close to snatching an entirely undeserved series victory in South Africa, but even as a fan, it's comforting in the end to note that the right result came about.

Paul Collingwood has been one of the rare positives in a poor series for England, and one in which the tail has frequently outperformed the openers with the bat. Collingwood has been an object of derision in the press for a bewilderingly long time now, despite his traditional English qualities of grit and delivering substance over style. He is also accused of negative play, but anyone who saw his joyful six over the head of Dale Steyn at the Wanderers when the game was already well out of England's reach, will surely know better.

Likewise, I am not about to jump on the 'Drop Pietersen' bandwagon. The batsman has had a poor series, but he is one of several. Stuart Broad, for example, would do well to button his lip and do his talking with the ball occasionally. Pietersen is the one player that offers something that no-one else does, and when he is at his best, he is a colossus, pure and simple. As a bowler, how do you plan an over when you know that whatever you do, you're going to be creamed? The anti-Pietersen brigade may do well to ponder his Ashes-saving 158 at the Oval in 2005 and wonder why we in England are so afraid of genius.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

An interest in why

After yesterday's fairly heavy subject, I'm going to veer wildly today from the imponderable to the inconsequential. That is, if I can tear myself away from Bejewelled Blitz long enough. Apart from anything else, I need to leave this chair soon to buy biscuits.

Haiti is still on my mind, and there are still thankfully stories of survivors coming from the buildings in and around the capital. Each story has a certain poignancy attached, and they are all worthy of a read. However, I've been branching out today and looking at other news in and around the subject of disasters and came upon a story in the BBC online magazine that echoed something I'd considered myself in the interim - namely, why does God allow disasters to happen?

Please, don't panic. I have not suddenly rejected my atheist roots, and I still love to watch Richard Dawkins pin down fundamentalists and thrash them with irrefutable scientific evidence (if you've never seen him in action, I recommend it as compulsive viewing. The man is like a bad-tempered mongoose with a doctorate and a grudge against the universe.) But those of you that I have imparted a little bit of personal knowledge to will possibly be aware that I have a burgeoning interest in theology. Or perhaps, less religion itself than the history of religion, where they were formed and by whom, and the paths they took as they travelled across the old world via the spice trade routes.

Whatever my reason for finding this interesting, it was still fairly spooky to come across a BBC article immediately afterwards with the same sentiment, and it's written far more intelligently and succintly than I could do myself. The url, if you're interested, is: Despite the stance of the article, some of my best friends over the years have been staunch Christians and Catholics, and as followers are currently an easy target for ridicule, it's a good time to point out that I respect their position, even if I don't share it. I also have some comments to make about Buddhism, but I'll save those for another time.

Nearly finished here for today. Just a quick final word, which is an advert for the Hairy Bikers new show, which is on every Tuesday for the next few weeks at 8pm on BBC2.

Yes, it may be taglined 'Mums know best', they may spend all their time hanging out with members of the Womens' Institute and I would cheerfully nominate them as the Queen Mothers of the TV Chef set. But thanks to a considerate friend, I have a copy of their latest cookbook, and I think it's fantastic. They were filming in Norwich for a while shortly before Xmas, and I'm gutted that I didn't find out about it in time to go and see them.

Monday, 18 January 2010

I have no skills, but I really want to dig

I have had a very slow day.

Perhaps it's the knowledge that I'm not in work for the next three days that makes each hour that I have been there tick along with agonising slowness. Despite myself, there is something more than that, though. I'm a great reader of news in all shapes and sizes, and it will have escaped no-one's attention that the news for the last few days has been focusing on the devastating earthquake in Haiti, and this news inspires a little more attention from me than most.

Bear with me here. I'm keen that this blog will be a positive and light-hearted look at the world, rather than another means to vent my myriad frustrations about things. But this quake has been described by UN officials as the worst humanitarian disaster that they have ever had to deal with, and it is a subject that touches me for a good reason.

I am my local trade union branch's International Officer (I especially love the ironic way that I type the capitals there.) It would be fantastic if this was a highly responsible post that resulted in James Bond-style adventure and plenty of exotic foreign travel, but in practise, it means that I get my own in-tray which is filled monthly with letters from different charities from around the world. It falls to me to research these charities, pick out the worthiest and then attempt to persuade a large number of sceptical union stewards to make small donations towards them from a central fund.

Make no mistake, it's a worthy job and I enjoy it very much. I may not get paid, but I constantly learn new things and I like to think that in some small ways, the money that we donate makes a difference. But as I crawled through my day job today with my usual listlessness, it occurred to me that with each passing minute, the chance of finding live people under the rubble of Port-au-Prince dwindles. An incident of this magnitude really brings home our impotence in the face of the world, and in that context, no donation of money really cuts to the quick for me.

I know that conducting rescues in itself is a highly skilled job, that it requires specialised equipment and training or the would-be rescuer is at best a hindrance and at worst a danger to themselves and others. But this isn't a rational feeling, one that reflects common sense and good judgement. I joined my trade union for no more reason than I wanted to help people, and I am feeling that same way now as I look at the pictures on the TV. I may have no skills, but I really want to dig.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

A new blog!

It's amazing what I can find to do as an alternative to something unpleasant.

Against the advice of at least one friend, I have decided to start writing a blog. I have no idea, frankly, if I have anything interesting to say, but there are a couple of reasons for my decision.

Firstly, I have an accounting essay to hand in on Thursday of this week, and therefore anything is currently looking preferable to sitting down and composing a risk matrix. Yes, it has to be done, but I have study leave on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week and I can probably justify spending at least some of that time finalising my dull, fictitious account of the team that I work with.

Secondly, I have several friends who write occasional blogs on various topics, and while I always knew that they were intelligent and interesting people, it is still surprising to me just how knowledgeable and observant they are. This isn't intended in any kind of condescending way, but when you spend your time with friends drinking too much and making jokes, it's easy to forget the massive range of bizarre experiences and talents that make them who they are. This will only drift further from the point the longer I go on, so in short, having smart, interesting friends makes me want to be smarter and more interesting, and I strive accordingly.

Thirdly...and this is shameful to admit, but I love blogs. It's like having a diary that's a bit (but only a bit) secret. In addition to the friends above (who individually do such interesting things as work with prison inmates, love animals, are interested in morris dancing, play far too much poker than is healthy, are writing books and so much more) there are a million different blogs out there.

Before I created this, I was worried about whether I could find enough material to write about in a blog. Testing the water, I came upon the blog of an obese American family who seem to have made it their life mission to test out and rate every small town diner in their fine country. There are even pictures of the eternally grinning, rotund couple and their adorably chubby children, giving thumbs up to the camera while sweetcorn relish dribbles down their respective chins. I suspect that you haven't fully appreciated your life until you realise that other people really sit down in their free time and write their opinions on chicken fingers and chilli dogs. I should probably stress that this isn't sarcasm on my part. I'm going to bookmark them, because their smiling faces make me feel a little bit better about the world. Also, a ready made diner guide will probably be very useful if I ever get around to visiting America.

Well...this is it. Post one, I guess it was always going to be the hardest. And now, maybe no-one will ever read it and even if they do, they'll probably realise that everything they ever thought about me is true (and distressingly, it probably is.) Either way, I've actually surprised myself. I really could have written much, much more.

Oh, one more thing. When I was setting up this blog, I was given the option of filtering adult content (i.e. should I allow myself the luxury of an occasional swear word.) It may lack class in so many ways but I wouldn't be me if I didn't abuse this privilege. So here goes. Fuck arse cunt shit bollocks. There.