Friday, 23 December 2011

Seasons Greetings...

Typically I would have composed this entry many weeks ago, having prepared fully for the entire Christmas duration. Instead you find me lying idly in the lounge, dressed in old clothes whilst a succession of children’s programs play endlessly in the background. A small bottle of beer lies half-empty beside me; it is mid-afternoon.

The truth is that I have run out of steam this year and seek to spend the remainder of Christmas lying on my back with a bottle in my mouth… I did contemplate doing a Channel 4 style review of the year, but even that lost its appeal. Key moment that particularly stood out were the flooding in the bathroom on Black Sunday in June, the Season of Horror when Emie’s teeth decided to defy medical science, the near punch-up with an aggressive bunch of Jehovah Witnesses and my sudden loss of hearing. Actually, having suffered a broken hand, a fractured ribcage, a recurrence of my prolapsed spinal disc and flu into the bargain, it’s been a reasonably unhealthy year. Perhaps the full review would have been a tad depressing…

That said, it has been a year in which a cute little girl has kept us highly entertained and occupied and I have finally completed the first draft of the Quests of the Silver Knight. As I type this, a richly-decorated tree shines its lights upon a host of presents and parcels, whilst the fridge and cupboards are stocked full of festive goodness. So, it’s not all bad.

Anyway, on that note…a Merry Christmas from the authors blog and a happy new year!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Motorway Madness

It’s interesting listening to the debate (or should I say arrant speculation) on the causes of the tragic M5 pile up last Friday. As a daily motorway driver, I dread listening to the usual blinkered safety campaigners who use these unfortunate occasions to push their generic “speed kills” message and call for a reduction in the speed limit.

Can I just say for the record that speed doesn’t kill. Bad driving kills. Inappropriate use of speed kills. Inexperienced driving kills. On the one hand, our motorways are the safest roads on which to drive – you don’t have oncoming traffic, they are designed to be driven at high speeds on flat surfaces and they have at least three lanes and a hard shoulder. However, it is entirely wrong that a newly-qualified driver can pass their test and immediately find themselves legally able to drive on a motorway, having never driven on one before. There should be a motorway element to the test and involves both use of speed and exposure to poor conditions, whether it be congestion, darkness, fog, rain, snow or ice.

I have driven beyond the speed limit on a motorway. I have also driven well below it. The decision to use speed is one a driver must make according to the conditions and they need to be trained in order to exert their judgement accordingly. The sooner that the DVLA started taking advice and guidance from the police in techniques such as limit point driving and forgot some of their invented technical gibberish the better. That way, we might actually move away from being a nation of tailgaters, something that would immediately reduce the number of accidents.

Rant over.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The other side of the coin

Perhaps, given the somewhat dark and depressing tone of my earlier posting, it would be wise for me to counter that with something more uplifting and less sinister. My aim was simply to share the horrors of long-term sleep deprivation, simply giving the reason behind them in my case. Of course, one could suffer from the issue as a result of stress or illness and the effect could be far greater; indeed, I did stress (and will do so here again) that it is easier to manage when the rest of the time is made glorious by the presence of a cute toddler.

So on that note, let me draw your attention to a short list of incidents of incredible cuteness over the past month…

Waving goodbye and shouting bye on cue
Waking up with a smile and a giggle
Pretending that object theft is innocent and handing it back on being rumbled
Walking like a drunken pirate
Hugging toys on cue
Lobbing toys like darts
Trying to swim in the bath
Climbing up the stairs
Putting on a bib when food/drink is desired…(Pavlovian Conditioning)

Of course, many of these things occur during a blurry haze of tiredness, but at least they occur. To lay weight to my earlier posting, you can survive…

Monday, 17 October 2011

Blackberry and Apple Pie

Disclaimer: I did not think that one up and I do not even find it that amusing – it’s more the case that I’m too lazy to think of an alternative title…

Contrary to some others, I did not feel as if it was the end of the world when my Blackberry crashed last week. The inability to update Facebook and Twitter on the handheld was not exactly a major inconvenience. However, it did get me thinking about my foray and reliance upon technology, brands and operating platforms. There is something almost Betamax vs VHS about this whole Smartphone warfare…

Perhaps I have been too insular in my sense of individualism…it’s great that Blackeberry produce a range of quality devices, all slightly different, all offering cool functions and apps, but if the company is on the slide, its share price having already fallen by 80% these past few years and is facing a dual attach from both Google and Apple (a daunting prospect) then perhaps it’s time to put on a wig, climb into a dress, step gingerly into the nearest lifeboat and pretend that I’m a genuine contender to escape the Titanic…

In six months time my phone is up for renewal and at this stage and despite all my previous doubts, it very much looks like being an iPhone….

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

The old English way - sort the forwards out!

The post-mortem is so blindingly oblivious.For once, we’ve actually got quite good backs. Perhaps a new 12 is required and it would seem as if Wilkinson's best days are behind him, otherwise we’re looking good. But you don’t win games if you’re forwards are not on song.

To put it simply, the scrum went backwards, the front row went down, the lineout failed and the aggression was lacking. But the biggest sin was the incompetence at the breakdown…

Sack John Wells and bring in a tup-thumping forwards coach. Simple. And bring in Richard Hill to address the strategy at the breakdown (which has been poor all year now)

Pick a front row on merit and position - that DOESN'T mean Stevens at 1, it means a loose head at 1. Pick a second row that contains Lawes AND an enforcer at 4, thus giving some ballast to the drives. And as for the backrow - make Croft captain, Haskell vice captain and bring in Tom Wood at 7. That will give you 3/4 lineout jumpers and athleticism at the breakdown.

Players for the future? Joe Marler in the front row, Dave Attwood at 4, certainly Owen Farrell at 12 outside Flood (he can also play 10) and possibly Charlie Sharples. But it's more about selection and direction. Not to mention more aggression.

Whatever happened to Lions-esque team talks?

Monday, 10 October 2011

On this day, 650 years ago, Edward the Black Prince was married...

On this day, October 10th 1361, Edward of Woodstock, Prince of Wales and subsequently known as the Black Prince, married Joan, the 'Fair Maid of Kent'.
The French chronicler Froissart called her "the most beautiful woman in all the realm of England, and the most loving". The Black Prince was already the Flower of Christian Chivalry and an English hero and victor over the French.

That their legacy would be one of failure would not dampen the people of England in their worship of the royal couple. Anyway, you don’t need me to witter on – they got married, you get the idea…

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Parental Insomnia and Teething

Perhaps the time is right for a blog on sleeping patterns incurred as a result of a certain little person entering the Cure household this past year. I am conscious of my lack of updates recently and perhaps if I take a few moments to better explain the predicament, you’ll be able to understand why this blog has been visibly less prolific than you might expect.

To put it simply, I don’t get enough sleep… Subjective, I know.

Mental arithmetic is almost completely pointless. For instance, is you take an average week night to result in 7 hours sleep, with 8 hours at the weekend, I would have previously enjoyed somewhere in the region of 50 hours sleep a week, 200 a month and 2,600 a year. On the basis of the past year, I would suggest a realistic average of 5 hours in the week and 6 at the weekend, leading to 35 per week, 140 a month and 1,820 a year. Thus, I have lost around 780 hours sleep in the past 12 months. However, this is a “flat stat” – devoid of any meaning or feeling. It does not account for the increase in other life demands; it does not account for the systematic removal of other avenues of relaxation; it does not allow for some nights of no sleep, it does not allow for broken sleep – that is to say that 5 hours coming in three or four sub-divided slots ; and it does not allow for the fact that those stolen hours from the night have often been replaced by the continual sound of crying and screaming…

It might be worth retracing some steps and giving a slightly broader picture for a moment. Babies are human beings and are therefore unpredictable. If you ever hear anyone (or yourself) starting a sentence with “the thing is with babies is..” then please take my advice and ignore any subsequent claim. There is no such thing as a normal baby. Some are happy, some are irritable, some are boisterous, some like to sleep, some don’t, some like to eat, and some don’t. Many are a combination of all of these things (and more) at different times and almost all serve their own agenda. This is not a criticism, as I am almost certainly the same.

For the first three months of their lives, babies effectively cannot cope with anything. The reason they are born after nine months is purely down to physiological factors, as a better gestation period would be somewhere near the twelve month mark and would allow for greater physical and mental development. Sleep comes in 2 – 3 hours intervals, but is somewhat offset by the fact that they can sleep for up to 18 hours per day. Coping with broken sleep is incredibly difficult, but in the first few weeks adrenaline and general inertia assists in making this just about possible. What then follows is a gradual battle between sense, logic and the powers of practical baby advice, and the ever-changing challenge presented by the onset of growth and development. Sleep may increase to 4-5 hours chunks, but then the first cold arrives (children cannot blow their nose until they are 3 or 4 years old and are therefore unable to breathe with any form of cold), followed by teething, followed by a growth spurt, followed by the cognitive appraisal of being able to crawl or stand, followed by more teething, followed by an injection, followed by hot nights and light mornings, followed by another cold, and so on, and so on and so on…

This pattern of total random challenges can be non-existent, or it can be relentless. For us, it has been the latter, but the biggest and most daunting of all of these demons has been the full satanic monster of early teething…and let me warn you, teething can be the most appalling thing you’ll have to deal with.

I should just point out at this stage, before I launch into a full scale hyperbolic assault on teething, that I am not in any way criticising my daughter or any one of the countless babies presenting their parents with a similar challenge. I understand only too well that the very idea of a hard, blunt tooth forcing its way through a soft gum to the point where it draws blood must be agony, even for an adult who understands what is going on in their mouth. In the cold light of day my sympathy is unquestioned and my helplessness open and raw. However, there is something about the night that plays upon one’s basic ability to cope with even the most basic challenges – walking, talking, thinking…it is no coincidence that we choose this time to sleep and yet for that very reason, the pressures exerted by the outbreak of teething almost too much to bear.

To give this some perspective, Emilia cut her first tooth at around 3-4 months old. By the age of one, she had 16 out of 20 teeth (the final four molars tending not to arrive until the age of 2). This is ridiculously early as most babies have only 4-5 teeth max by this stage. The advantages are that she has got the teething out of the way. The disadvantage being that she had to cope with the pain early, and in one intensified go. The horrors we have been through…

Often, the first signs that a night would be devoid of sleep would materialise at bedtime – she would take longer to put down and struggle for up to an hour before sleeping. Then the calm before the storm – two to three hours of uninterrupted sleep whilst we had tea, cleared up, did some work and perhaps watched a few minutes of television. Then the cries would start – a dull, cry to warn that she has woken, followed by an incessant longing to be held and for her dummy. This might be abated by a quick pit stop to the nursery, but in most cases would involve Calpol and comforting for up to an hour before further sleep ensued. The next phase could be thirty minutes or an hour, but would almost certainly lead to a second wake – this time followed by screaming, a long, piercing scream of the pitch and ferocity to summon the dead from the gates of the Underworld. To hold her, you would think red hot pincers gripped her skin, for her body would contort and writhe in the most extraordinary manner, pushing out of an adult's grip with ease. The screaming would continue, until exhaustion saw her back into the arms of sleep. A quick check to be sure that her eyes are closed and then a dart out of the room, across the landing and into the soft comfort of the mattress. For several seconds, the stress of the moment would linger, before the calm tranquillity of silence descends, allowing tired eyes to relax. Then, just as the arms of sleep elope, the cries ring out once more. Depending on the effectiveness of Calpol, the type of tooth involved and other more detailed factors, there can be more than a dozen wakes between 10pm and 6am, each one more desperate and intense that the one before. The only respite, cold and harsh, comes in the form of dawn and the start of another long day of driving and working.

This process would typically be repeated for three nights, before calming slightly, only to continue several days later, time stretching for weeks and months in a continual descend towards madness. Tinnitus has set in and means that I am often unable to distinguish any noise other than a residual ringing. I frequently wake from nightmares, often composing of horrific images and demonic entities, leaving me drenched in sweat and feeling sick. My eyes always hurt with the burden of sleep deprivation and the toil of the daily grind. I have stood awake at night, either holding her and listening to her being held, swaying in the night air, my eyes closing to the sound of sleep and yet my body not allowing a respite in its icy grip of insomnia and depression. On some of these occasions, I have opened my eyes to all manner of visual horrors as hallucinations have materialised, transcending the ever-murky gap between sleep and actual; between what is real and what is not. Of late, I have struggled to tell the difference. In moments of despair, during the approaching dawn or the fourth straight hour of screaming, I have sparred with madness and almost completely parted company with my sanity. I have wandered off down the street, found myself in a crumpled heap at the bottom of the stairs, and have even broken my hand punching the door in frustration and anguish. There is something frustrating in the human condition when one cannot find a solution to a problem, To not find it every night for a year in the face of complete nocturnal misery is almost too much to bear. When the person suffering is one’s own daughter (and I should add in wife, lest I abandon her plight here), it is intolerable. Some things have to give…

You might (if of course you have been brave enough to read through this incessant self-pity) wonder why I have bared my soul in such a despondent manner. Is there no joy to the nurturing and parenting of young children? Are you simply going to throw yourself off the top of the nearest cliff? Should we all follow? The answer is that is it immensely pleasurable, rewarding and (moreover) and privilege to raise children. For the most part, it is a tiring, fun pursuit that rewards, enriches and entertains and this is probably what makes the nightime more difficult to bear. There are basic human needs that cannot simply be removed indefinitely without causing severe damage and if anybody else who has suffered similarly or is still suffering with the ravages of teething chooses to read this and take from the blackened lines something of comfort in that they are not alone, then I have at least fulfilled my purpose.

Don’t break your hand on the door. It hurts.

You cannot write.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

On this day, 600 years ago, Richard Plantagenet, the Duke of York was born...

After a period of absence, we return to our “on this day” mini-series. And what is more, you lucky people, we can actually return to the topic of the Wars of the Roses! On this day, in 1411, Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York, was born to the Earl of Cambridge and Anne Mortimer. Although the names of his parents do not sound glamorous, nor famous, they were of huge significance (as readers of The Silver Knight will know), for he was descended from both Lionel of Antwerp, and Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, making him the leading contender for the crown.

His presence and passion would bring him to the brink of the crown and his actions would start the period we now know as the Wars of the Roses.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Ten Years On…

It was a very normal Tuesday in September ten years ago that it happened. I had been working for Unilever as part of my student placement in Kingston, London, for around two months at that stage and my working life was a very bland, uneventful set of menial “office junior” tasks accomplished in front of my pc. At some point around lunchtime (it could have been early afternoon – my memory blurs a little), my boss had a call from her husband who worked in the city to say that a plane had struck the World Trade Centre in New York.

Driven by nothing stronger than mild curiosity as a result of this quite odd revelation, the members of our section of the office immediately fired up the BBC and CNN websites to see what was happening. It was as the rolling news bulletins and flash player slips finally buffeted that we saw the now infamous clip of the enormous fireball as a second plane slammed into the south tower and with it removed any lingering notion that it could have been an accident.

At that point, mild curiosity morphed into bedlam. Phone calls, rumour, counter rumour, live television coverage and radio debates all converged to turn a relatively quiet marketing department for FMCG brands into something more akin to Wall Street. We heard of a third plane that had apparently crashed into the Pentagon, of other possible targets, of missing planes in Europe and of potential suspects. The President had been taken on board Aircraft One, whilst all other flights had been grounded. Munich and London were cited as potential European targets and my then girlfriend, who happened to be working in the London Bridge area, was sent home amongst hoards of other city evacuees. Desperate messages had gone out from London to potentially-affected Stateside employees. The world, in the space of a few unbelievable minutes, had changed.

The remainder of the day was probably in line with that of most others. I left the office in the afternoon and returned home to watch the remainder of the news break at her flat – wide-eyed and deep with incredulity as the death toll tottered up, the buildings collapsed and the faces of survivors, families and onlookers bore a hellish contrast with those of Osama Bin Laden and other suspected terrorists as the initial bout of media speculation began to unfurl.

It is difficult to recapture the mood of the moment a decade on, but I do vividly recall making a statement that evening that I was surprised that no other targets had been struck – that “that was it.” I was met with scorn as their reactions were to state the obvious – how could I possible suggest that the attacks already surpassed conceivable imagination. My point though, however crude, was simply that the events were so extraordinary that it was almost a surprise that the terrorists had not gone further with monstrous acts. And that, to me, has always been the point. If men are prepared to board a plane full of innocent passengers, kill the crew and fly it into a building of innocent workers, massacring thousands in the process, then surely such an act defies all reason and logic and simply overrides any nominal notion of basic humanity that we assumed to exist in even the most abhorrent in society. Perhaps, hideous as it is to think this way, such men are capable of anything.

I lived in London for another year and eventually escaped the city, thankful that I had not become yet another statistic. Having been forced, through a pitifully low salary to rent a room in Tooting Bec, I frequently had to walk past houses with pro-terrorist posters on the windows on the way to work. The area bore a high proportion of immigrants and especially Muslims and the overriding feeling in the streets and markets in the immediate vicinity was one of menace and threat. A sizable portion of the local community had not integrated into the wider South London populace and were inclined to align their sympathies with minority issues rather than those of the masses (as could recently be seen with the August rioting). I am sure that the vast majority of UK Muslims were equally or perhaps even more horrified by the events of 9/11 than I was (and still am), however in that area of London in the weeks that followed, it was not a good thing to be young, white and British where I happened to live.

Fortunately for me, my departure from the city preceded the terrorist attacks of July 2005, but for many, the threat has been ever-present since that time and even now, with the capture of many senior Al-Qaeda co-ordinators and the recent killing of Osama Bin Laden, the world is far from being a safe and peaceful place. My story is a distant one from those who were caught up in the events and is almost exclusively in the guise of an observer. I know of those who were more closely affected. For thousands of victims and their families and friends, their lives were destroyed by the events of September 11th 2001 and it is to those people that I will be casting my thoughts towards today.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Holidays, Heroin and Horlicks

I am on holiday at the moment. Actually, I’m not, except that I am. What I mean is that I’m off work, but not actually abroad or at Butlins. I’m on annual leave – that’s the phrase I’m searching for.

On that very subject, I calculated the other day that we haven’t actually been on holiday for three years. Three whole years! In fact, the last holiday was our honeymoon in Jersey (glad I didn’t go back there this summer, as much as I love the place). In the meantime, the only other destination was a few days in the Lake District a couple of year ago, but that doesn’t count as we spent eight hours stuck in traffic on the way there only to contract swine flu and have to return home early (If anyone wants to try and convince me that it still counts as a holiday then I’m prepared to fight them in a car park with fist punches and everything).

There are reasons a-plenty for this puritanical self-denial of enjoyment. In this period, we moved house, experienced job changes and, not to forget, a new born baby to attend to. In fact, Emie is the main reason why we haven’t gone away this summer. A holiday to me is designed to relax, something that is difficult to achieve when carrying around an eleven-month-old child around. Much as I would love to be on a beach somewhere hot at this present moment, these things have to be taken step-by-step. As such, we will be booking a week in Wales next Easter. It’s by the beach, so that’s a start…

Part of the trouble is that just about everyone we know book holidays all of the time. It’s ridiculous in fact, as we have increasingly felt like the most unadventurous people in the universe, to the point where any activity of any sort seems like indulgence overkill. For instance, during the last few days, we’ve been to two weddings, several meals out, to the cinema, shopping, and I’ve spent a day at the Test Match as part of a stag event. Such has been the level of our studious diligence that I’ve almost felt as if I’ve suddenly fallen off the rails in my capacity as a Zen Monk and turned into Keith Richards. I even found myself questioning whether to purchase a cup of tea and a slice of cake at our local garden centre. God, I really do need to get out more…

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Summer Hacking

It’s been a while, I’m sure you’ve noticed…or at the very least you’ve counted your blessings at having been spared my usual weekly digest of complaint-ridden drivel. The reason for my prolonged abstinence is down to what we have termed “Operation Total Nightmare” in our house – that is to say that we have both been in full time work, rising at silly O’clock and going to bed at stupid O’clock, whilst dealing with a chest infection that has been kindly passed around the house (including the little person), working late into the evening, whilst juggling a variety of other tasks, stretching from the mundane to the ad-hoc, such as constructing a garden fence and installing a stair gate designed by a deranged clown with no engineering skills to speak of…

Anyway, finally the summer holidays are upon us and with it a chance to breath. Given this, I felt I should poke my head inside the good ship blog and toss you a few token phrases before I disappear to bed for a day or two; and I suppose there is nowhere better than the hacking scandal with which to start.

I have to admit to being thoroughly bored of the whole thing already. Not to sound puritanical, hemp-munching, or Bob-Geldoff-esque, I’m quite surprised that the papers have not spent more time covering the impending famine in Somalia, or ongoing air strikes in Libya, but then the media are what they are and some things never change. My whole issue with this is that the focus seems to be on Rupert Murdoch, a variety of NOTW editors and the role that politicians play in the media (or rather the influence the media has over politicians).

Now, you have to ask yourself, if Gordon Brown, a man who loathed the right wing press, was prepared to invite Rebekah Brooks to his home for a slumber party, dine privately with her and attend her wedding simply in order not to risk further damaging his reputation in the tabloids, what the state of the media’s influence over the country is? Is it any wonder that David Cameron invited Andy Coulson to become his Director of Communications? Or that Tony Blair based the success of his first two terms on the spinning power of the biggest weasel of them all?

The reason these men of power seek the favour of the press is because the press can make or break them. Always have done – always will do. Yet, why does this continue to happen? It is not down to the responsibility of Rupert Murdoch or News International. It is down to the general public. People buy papers. People buy tat and want to read about tat. They soak up scandal with greedy relish. They line the pockets of journalists and expect bigger and bigger scoops in response. The general public should be the ones ashamed of themselves here.

Would there have been such a furore if phone hacking had been used to uncover the activities of a child molester, terrorist or murderer? No, of course not. Whilst there is a fine line between good and bad, worthy and not-so-worthy, do we really want to place our faith in the media to decide on this? Are they our moral guardians? Or is it actually a case of double standards.

There is a simple solution to this. Stop buying newspapers. Think for yourself and allow politicians room to breathe so that can make or break their careers on their own merits. Concentrate on proper stories and not scandal. Don’t build up celebrities in the first place. Don’t be dictated to. Don’t…oh, you get what I’m on about…

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Introducing the Motorway Podcasts…part two

To follow up part one, here is the second part of the first Motorway Podcast(split into two parts given the limitations of free audio-storage, but still)…

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Introducing the Motorway Podcasts…part one

Tired of being stuck in the car with dead time, Ive managed to create a useful way of blogging via podcasts…and here is the first Motorway Podcast (split into two parts given the limitations of free audio-storage, but still)…

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Google Blogger Formatting Tripe

To the best of my knowledge I am at a loss as to why this has suddenly suffered a breakdown and has been rendered incapable of displaying consistently. As a consequence, my various posts of later seem to oscillate between professional design and “the dog ate my homework.”

Apologies for this – I will continue to investigate…

Friday, 10 June 2011

Three-and-a-half-years…The Quests of the Silver Knight

In fact, it’s been so long that I have quite forgotten how it all started, who “did it,” what it was that they did, why they did it – in fact, the whole shebang. However, despite moving house, re-constructing several rooms, changing job, welcoming a new little person into the family and having several other major issues to deal with, I have finally managed to complete a first draft of the sequel to The Silver Knight

Now, if that sounds impressive, allow me to place further emphasis on two words in the above paragraph – first draft. The book is, no doubt, fragmented, inconsistent, riddled with grammatical and construction errors and in need of a polish and a proof – that is before I conduct my own review. Therefore, it would be wise not to place any expectations on seeing it in glossy, published form for certainly twelve months or more.

However – it is done and it does exist!

Now, over to my trusted editors for their thoughts…

Saturday, 4 June 2011

On this day, 450 years ago, the medieval spire of St Paul's is destroyed by fire...

Where would this series by without a disaster to two?

Here we are, then…on this day, in 1561, the magnificent medieval building of St. Paul's Cathedral in London is badly damaged by fire and the spire is destroyed after being struck by lightning. Of course, this would not be the last time the building would succumb to fire, the next time being a somewhat more fatal event.

However, this is in many ways the first event that took place in London to destroy the old medieval city and convert it into the soulless mass of aesthetically displeasing junklets, lego blocks and cigars that adorns its dirty streets today.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Privacy laws and the celebrity culture

Does anybody else find this whole matter of Ryan Giggs, tabloid press “revelations”, super injunctions and civil disobedience ridiculous? When I say ridiculous, I mean, not just the furor, but the entire process…

I agree that injunctions should not only be available to the rich and famous, however, why should we be concerned with tittle-tattle in the first place? Why is the media being so “holier-than-thou” on the matter?

Why does anybody care about the private lives of the rich and famous anymore than the private lives of anyone else? Because it compensates – that’s why. It compensates for the fact that people like Jordan, Big Brother contestants and other such wastrels have nothing else to offer, other than the machinations of those they bed.

The media would claim that “celebrities” use positive media coverage to build their fame and fortune and so it is in the public’s interest to know when they are morally lacking. Surely a better process, rather than allowing newspaper editors to be moral guardians, would be to deny them pointless airspace in the first place? As for the general public – the only reason they are interested is voyeuristic escapism, nothing to do with inflicting moral superiority. An affair conducted between two unknowns is no better or worse than one conducted between two actors, for notoriety is neither here nor there. It remains a regretable, bad thing.

Why can’t we return to the days when fame was earned by excellence and achievement, rather than infamy? Personally, I don’t care if someone is flawed, providing they are not setting a bad example and (more importantly) they do their job. Give me Winston Churchill over Dennis Skinner any day; however, if the media do not bother to set these people on a pedestal in the first place, none of this legal shuffling would be necessary…

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

The perfect online experience – Mean & Green

I was recently sat at home one Sunday morning, I happened to browse the web for “camo trousers” – as I felt the need to join the TA (not really - I just wanted to take cover whilst stalking cats in the garden)… so I typed in “camo trousers” into Google, and “Mean and Green” seemed to be what I was looking for. I clicked through to the site and was taken to a category page with lots of camo trousers. I clicked on the one in the middle as it looked along the lines of what I wanted and was rrp discounted – but I was still 50/50 when I noticed a Facebook app towards the bottom that had a promotion based around Friday 13th to offer a further 15% off ALL orders, including ones already discounted (this offer doesn’t show at present as it’s expired). I added the trousers to my basket, added the promo code and went through to checkout to complete the order. However, I had a question about the inside leg measurement that I wanted to confirm (but didn’t want to wait for it to be answered unless I missed out on the promotion), so I asked a question and added it as a comment to by basket before placing the order…

So… on the Monday, not only did I receive a dispatch note, I also received an answer to my question, confirming what I wanted to know and ALSO – they added my question and the subsequent answer to the bottom of the product page for future users (like Ebay do). I then received the trousers on Tuesday, well-packaged, neatly presented, with a returns slip, neat catalogue and a thank you note. I then had an email asking for feedback and an invitation to join the email newsletter.

I’ve never heard of Mean & Green before and nor I suspect have many others, so they have to work extra hard to get these things right – which they do. There are a lot of small cogs to this experience, but if you want any outdoors clothes, equipment, or you just want to join the army and need the look – then check them out.

I might order a beret next...

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Twenty One - An Indian Summer

I remember it as if it were yesterday. Twenty one summers ago, through the sands of cricketing time in which mediocrity has been punctuated by greatness and excitement are indistinguishable intervals, there arrived on these shores an Indian squad to take on the England cricket team for three Test matches.

Just to expand the picture a little, this was an England side captained by Graham Gooch, having already played a three match series against New Zealand and before that having returned from a tour of the Caribbean in which their batsmen had taken the usual pasting at the hands of Bishop and Walsh. The glory days of the eighties (sans the unavoidable blackwashes) had just passed, with Botham having missed the previous couple of years due to his back injury (he was never the same player again, even when he returned the following year) and Gower facing a brick wall in the form of his troubled relationship with his puritanical captain. Whilst Gooch was in the form of his life and would go on to break numerous records that summer, their only other world class player in that line up was the emerging Robin Smith.

However, whilst England were in transition, India also faced certain dilemmas. The likes of Ravi Shastri and Kapil Dev were not getting any younger, they still had problems in the fast bowling department, whilst their only real spin threat came in the form of the untested Hirwani. Azharuddin was always an explosive talent, but it was a young batsman who was drawing all the media attention to the touring party. When I say young, I mean young - for he was barley seventeen years old and had, the previous year as a sixteen year old, required written permission from his headmaster in order to represent India in an One Day match in which he went on to score 89 against a pace battery led by Malcolm Marshall.

His name was Sachin Tendulkar.

I recall how young he looked - in those days his hair was a lot longer and he bore a lithe, youthful frame that has since filled out and understandably become a little less athletic in the process. For the first two Tests, in which Gooch bored his way to hundred after hundred, Kapil Dev smacked sixes like they were going out of fashion and Eddie Hemming waddled in to bowl over after pathetic over, Tendulkar achieved nothing of note other than to take a memorable one-handed running catch in the outfield. In the third match at the Oval, however, he constructed a quite magnificent, almost flawless century to save the Test, proving his quality in the face of the world's media and wowing all those who watched.

It was his first century in International cricket. That figure now stands at 99 - fifty one of which have been Test centuries. If that statistic is not staggering enough, then let's explore further. He has a Test average of over 56, he has a One-Day average of over 40, he has scored over thirty thousand International runs in both form of the game combined and is the only player ever to score an International One Day double hundred. All this has been done in the face of huge daily pressure from over a billion Indian cricket fans. It is extraordinary...

So, twenty one years later, he comes to these shores once more, this time having won a World Cup and after a tour of the West Indies in which he could well hit his hundredth International hundred. Perhaps, however, it would be right and fitting for the 100th century to be forged at the Oval, where he hit his first. The home of so many extraordinary feats over the past century would be a rightful location for the world's greatest batsman of the modern age to claim his own record century.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The Daniel Cure Greatest XI

With the cricket season already in progress, I was musing on several articles and came across the Richie Benaud Greatest XI. Whilst most of the faces are certainly worthy of inclusion, I couldn’t help but feel inclined to tweak accordingly. In short, there were a few specific selections that seemed either biased towards his home country, or blinkered via simple stats.

So…here’s my effort...

Opening batsmen

Of all the leading candidates, I have to agree with Richie that Sir John Berry Hobbs must be the first name on the list. Having had his career interrupted by World War One, his average of 56.94 from 61 Test Matches belies the fact that he was a record breaking batsman having to open the batting without adequate body protection on uncovered pitches against some tremendously dangerous bowlers. The late playwright Ben Travers was once asked what the greatest innings he ever witnessed was and he replied that it took place in the final days of 1928 in Melbourne. The wicket was uncovered and had been subject to a monumental tropical rainstorm, followed by a day’s baking in the blistering Australian sun. Having inspected the surface, Hobbs returned to the dressing room and proclaimed to the rest of the team that they would be bowled out within a session. By the tea interval, he and Sutcliffe were unbeaten and Hobbs had 49 to his name. “That 49,” Travers stated, “must have been the greatest innings ever played. I walked out to the middle at the end of the days play and the pitch was like concrete, with broken lumps sticking out and huge cracks you could put your fist in – it must have been totally impossible to bat on.”

To partner Jack Hobbs, I have to be controversial and disagree with Benaud. Whilst Gavaskar bears all the stats to suggest that he is the choice, I can’t help but feel that he was not an extraordinary player. This is the greatest eleven ever, so we must look beyond mere accumulators and to the true greats. I could mention Herbert Sutchcliffe (who partnered Hobbs for many years) owing to his test average of over 60, or the likes of Boycott, Hutton, Greenidge or Hayden. However, I am going for a man who only played 4 Tests owing to the apartheid ban on South Africa and yet who averaged 72.57 in the process. Barry Richards was regarded as a phenomenal talent to all those who watched him play and one of the greats of the game. He could and did open the batting and what a great partner to Hobbs at the top of the order.

The middle order

Here is where I do agree with Benaud in terms of the selection, but not the order.

Play your players in the positions to which they are accustomed, I say, and to that end I would have the masterblaster at 3, where he did his damage for the Windies, the Don at 4 (always have your best batsman at 4 in Test Matches) and Tendulkar at 5, where he has been comfortable for much of his career.

Again, a combination of stats and gut-feel influences my

selection here, for after the man who smashed England for a 56 ball ton in 1986 is followed by a man who average 99 in Tests and a man who has broken almost

every batting record in an international careers running into its fourth decade…

The all-rounder
Assuming that a bowling attack was able to prise out four batsmen, they would be greeted by the sight of Sir Garfield Sobers, a man whose status as the greatest all rounder of all time could never be in doubt.

Not only did he finish with a Test average of 57.78 from 93 Tests, but he took 235 wickets – extraordinarily via a combination of orthodox left arm spin, fast new ball bowling and medium pace seam. In the famous tied test in Brisbane, he hit a six during his celebrated hundred that hit the mid-on fielder on the shoulder before clearing the stands. Commenting upon

Sobers' six sixes in an over against his team in 1968, Glamorgan captain Tony Lewis said: "It was not sheer slogging through strength, but scientific hitting with every movement working in harmony". For those of you who are interested, he was also an outstanding ground fielder, but then this team would be beyond fielding…

The wicket keeper

I’m agreeing quite a bit with Benaud here – worrying isn’t it! As much as I’d like to go for the “best” keeper, I’m not sure that we have sufficient information on this as athleticism has developed hugely throughout the course of the past twenty years and one has to consider the bowlers to which a keeper has faced. Knott was great but can’t have had the ferocious challenge of Dujon, whilst Dujon never had spin to contend with.

As such, I cannot help feel that spin has to be considered and if one is to combine this with the fact that he was the ultimate “keeper-batsman”, then Adam Gilchrist must be number one.

The bowlers

Here’s where I go off on a tangent to Benaud. With Sobers already in place as a first change left-armer and possible back-up spinner (as well as Richards with his tweakers” and Tendulkar with his session-breaking medium dobblers). We have the opportunity here to bring in four destroyers. We are not interested in just “stats men” here, or line and length merchants. I want some nasty-bastard men in to wipe out a line up in a session. I want to launch the four horsemen of the apocalypse and unleash hell upon our opponents. I want the four most lethal bowlers of all time.

So, my spinner, has to be Shane Warne. It was only ever going to be between him and Muralitharan, but if I wanted a man to take wicket with one ball – a life-or-death ball, it would be Warne, as he could live with the pressure. It also helps that he took over 700 Test wickets, at an average of 25 and could turn the ball square on glass.

We also have the legendary Sydney Barnes. There are few meticulous accounts of his bowling style, but this is a case where stats simply force a man’s inclusion. His bowling average was an amazing 16.43, delivered via the use of devastating medium pace leg-cutters along with other variants. On almost any pitch, this offered something else and when one thinks of the flatbeds delivered by groundsmen these days, his inclusion would be vital.

Which leaves us, readers, with the opening attack (as I lick my lips with relish). For me, Dennis Lillee was a great bowler, but not a man to send shivers down your spine. The man I am choosing to open the attack is a man capable of swinging a cricket ball at any length on any wicket at 95mph and whose scud missile bouncer was as close to unplayable as can be. In a nucleur quartet of pace that, for two decades destroyed the finest batsmen in the world, he stood out above all others with his ability to out-think a batsman on any surface. At 5 feet 11 inches in height, he dwarfed by Garner, Croft, Walsh, Bishop and Ambrose and yet Malcolm Marshall ended his Test career with 376 wickets at a staggering 20.94 – staggering none the less as from 1975 through to 1995 the great Windies bowlers usually had to share the spoils.

He never lost a Test series. He succeeded in every challenge on every pitch – including Asia. His bouncer skidded and regularly skulled batsmen as Andy Lloyd and Mike Gatting would testify. He routed England in 1984 with one arm in plaster. Here, I insert a clip from Cricinfo:

“… he broke Mike Gatting's nose as he plunged gamely forwards with a helmet but no grille in the one-day international at Kingston in 1985-86. The Test which followed at Sabina was Apocalypse Now: a broken pitch, and Marshall stirred by the introduction of Patrick Patterson to prove himself the fastest bowler alive. You would not believe the barrage which was put up by the pair of them from the George Headley Stand end, and unfortunately there is no television film to prove it. Gower squirted a semi-voluntary six over the slips; it was cricket at its most red-meat raw. … determined to break England's spirit for the rest of their tour, and successfully so.”

The man was the greatest fast bowler of all – of that there can be no doubts – and we were prematurely deprived of his presence so tragically in 1999.

To partner Marshall, I leave my hardest decision until last. My second opening bowler. Now again, I am going to be honest and state categorically that I want blood and guts here. I want the opposition to back away to leg before the run up has began, and for that reason I exclude McGrath, Ambrose, Lillee, Hadlee, Trueman, Lindwell and others, as they don’t have that out-and-out pace. I have considered many players here. Frank Tyson was supposedly lethally quick. Larwood was perhaps even faster. In the modern era, we have experienced a young Ian Bishop, Waquar Younis, Wasim Akram, Brett Lee and Shoab Akhtar. But, they have been inconsistent and perhaps never really became greats, other than Wasim (though we already have a left arm all-rounder, so unfortunately I have to turn him down). I want a nasty, nasty bowler with serious pace and so two that sprung to mind were Colin Croft (a man who hit batsmen for fun) and Patrick Patterson (whose spell at Sabina Park in 1986 is thought to be the fastest anywhere, ever – perhaps consistently over 100mph). But they, too, enjoyed very brief careers and can I really include them in a greatest-ever eleven? No, I think the choice must be Whispering Death.

I take you back to The Kensington Oval, Bridgetown in 1981 with Boycott and Gooch marching out to bat on an uneven pitch in response to the West Indies modest first innings total. I quote Cricino..
“Holding's first ball was a three-quarter-pace loosener which nevertheless rapped Boycott on the gloves and dropped just short of the slips. Each succeeding ball after that was quicker than the previous one. The second beat Boycott outside the off stump, and the third cut back and struck him on the inside of his right thigh. The fourth and fifth both hurried Boycott, but he just about managed to keep them out. "He middled none," wrote Gladstone Holder in The Nation, "but any lesser mortal would have been out." And Ian Botham recalled that Boycott was "jumping about like a jack-in-the-box".

Then came the final ball, the coup de grace, delivered at a fearsome pace ("It went like a rocket," Boycott recalled), which was pitched up and sent his off stump cartwheeling almost 20 yards as he desperately and belatedly brought his bat down. "The hateful half-dozen had been orchestrated into one gigantic crescendo," wrote Frank Keating. After a momentary silence, the crowd erupted. "Boycott looked round," observed Keating, "then as the din assailed his ears, his mouth gaped and he tottered as if he'd seen the Devil himself. Then slowly he walked away, erect and brave and beaten."

The greatest over cannot be bowled by an average bowler and for that reason, Michael Hodling makes the final slot in my team.

* * *

So, two Englishmen, a South African, an Indian, three Australians and four West Indians. No Pakistanis, no New Zealanders and No Sri Lankans. However, based upon their averages, this side would score over 500 (most batting line ups of the modern age would struggle to top 350 and that is with averages at their height with flat pitches, big bats and fast outfields) each time.

Jack Hobbs (England)
Barry Richards (South Africa)
Don Bradman (Australia)
Viv Richards (West Indies)
Sachin Tendulkar (India)
Gary Sobers (West Indies)
Adam Gilchrist (Australia)
Malcolm Marshall (West Indies)
Shane Warne (Australia)
Michael Holding (West Indies)
Sydney Barnes (England)

Captain – take it in turns
Coach – me (I doubt this lot would need coaching so I could just sit back in the stands and enjoy)

Monday, 2 May 2011

On this day, 400 years ago, the King James Bible is "launched"...

On this day, 400 years ago, the world-renowned King James Bible is published for the first time in London, England, by printer Robert Barker.

Contrary to popular belief, this was actually the third time the Bible had been translated into English; however this version adhered to the rather testing brief of King James, with the ecclesiastical principles of the Church of England being at the heart of this book’s conformity.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Two years old today…and over a hundred-and-seventy posts…

…and still going strong. The Daniel Cure Official Author’s blog this year shares its birthday with its author (still time to send your presents to me, thanks) and Easter Monday. Chocolate eggs are also welcome.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

On this day, 350 years ago, King Charles II is crowned for the second time...

In continuation of my “on this day” mini-series, I move away from the Wars of the Roses and skip forward two hundred years. On this day, 350 years ago, King Charles II of England, Scotland, Ireland is crowned in Westminster Abbey, for the second time. He had fled the country following the civil war and the death of his father at the hands of Oliver Cromwell (and having subsequently failed at the Battle of Worcester). Thus began the Restoration and a period of “merry-making” throughout the land, following the dour misery of Puritanical Britain.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

The Quests of The Silver Knight


For those who have raised this question…I have only three chapters left to write. It should…at least as a first draft…be completed this year.

The quest has simply been to write the thing, without even thinking about the editing and publishing process!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

On this day, 550 years ago, the Battle of Towton is fought...

To complete my hatrick of “on this day” mini-series, I return again to the Wars of the Roses and in this instance, its showpiece, the Battle of Towton. I am speaking of an event that is beyond the current status of Jack Templeman novels, but rest assured, this battle, that took place on this day 550 years ago, was the focal point of the thirty-year conflict.

In essence, Edward Duke of York (who had already pronounced himself King several weeks previously and who would become King Edward VI) defeated Queen Margaret’s Lancastrians on a snow-capped field near Towton in North Yorkshire. Over one hundred thousand men fought in the ice-cold blizzards, making this the bloodiest and largest battle ever fought on English soil and mass graves are still being uncovered as testament to the severity of the bloodshed.

You have only to wait until book three to read about it…

Friday, 25 March 2011

The Cost of Fuel and the Green Police

All I have heard of late, each and every time the issue of the cost of fuel is raised, is a dour blanket of protests from the ashen-spirited anti-car brigade. “Fuel is too cheap anyway. You should get public transport or walk or cycle. Let’s put tax up further on cars – actually ban them completely. We all need to drive less.”

Oh really? How is that then? Do I simply wake up in the morning at present and think to myself “I know, I’ll just get in my car and drive aimlessly around for a few hours to do my bit for the environmental butchery of the planet?”

For the record, I typically work at two locations, one being south Birmingham, which is an eighteen mile trip; and the other Oxfordshire, which is fifty-five miles away down the M40. I leave my house just before 7am in order to get to my desk without suffering too much from the stresses of traffic, and I often don’t return until after 6pm

If I were to hand my car over to the lentil-wearers, then what would be my options? Cycle? My knees and back are already wrecked as it is without needing to set out at 2am each morning for a hundred-mile round cycle trip. Walk? Oh, ok, the train would be another. Yes, the train. Ah the joys of the train! So let me see, in order to catch the train, I would need to get from my house to the train station, which would be a short drive followed by parking followed by car theft (train stations are notorious) – ah yes we’re banning cars anyway – so it would actually be a short walk followed by a bus trip to the station – this alone would take around half an hour. I would then have to take the train from Stourbridge Junction to Birmingham Moor Street – a 35 minute journey – followed by a 55 minute journey to Banbury – from which there is probably a half an hour walk from the station to the office (not including the delay in between trains). So that would involve me leaving at least half an hour earlier, having a stressful Phileous Fog-style circumnavigation across the West Midlands, running from one stop to another, desperately hoping for no delays (of which there always are on trains) before finally arriving, knackered, tired, stressed and almost certainly late for work, a good forty minutes after I usually arrive by car – and at a far greater expense.

This, of course, does not allow for the fact that I have the need to leave early and late on occasions. The working hours of 8.30 to 4.30 are not necessarily representative of what I regularly do as I sometimes have to drop by a different office, leave early for a physio appointment, work later due to meetings – add to all of that the fact that I have a six month old daughter who I see far less of than I would like and it is only my car that allows me a fighting chance of a normal existence.

Do these people have jobs? Do they have families? Do they have responsibilities? Mortgages? Bills? Or do they lounge around reading the latest copy of Big Issue, wondering how many chairs to throw through the window of the next Tory Party Conference? The anti-car lobby are exactly the reason why I take great pleasure from Jeremy Clarkson. I am not time or cash rich but I do live in the real world and until there are viable alternative forms of transport available, I will continue to be driving to and from work and I do not intend to continue to pay more for the privilege.

Next week – potholes and road tax…

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Continuing the Daniel Cure "Demo Tape Cellar" - Dying Breed

Back in the mid-nineties when Ephesia, Nausea and a whole host of other high school bands were starting up, there was Dying Breed. I always felt that they were the most “band-like” of the bands, in that they had a sound and they played within themselves to maintain a professional edge. True, it did not stop them playing to the trends and I seem to recall they ended up disbanding after a time and their efforts at trying to adapt to Nu-Metal, rap, hip-hop and any other fad could not have helped this.

However, they could play and for a group of sixteen year olds, they were pretty good. I recall joining a couple of their rehearsals on guitar, plus on a few live tracks – they used to do a cover of Sepultura’s “Slave New world” – another example of playing within themselves as other bands would have tried to pull off something like Territory or Propaganda to poor effect…

Anyway, I’ve posted a couple of their tracks on You Tube, but here is “Cracked” from their first demo – check out the instrumental outro…

Saturday, 12 March 2011


I have, as of late, discovered that this is not the name of the magical land. The place is actually called Nara and the inhabitants Piplings. I have also discovered their names – the yellow monkey is called Yojojo, his blue friend is called NokTok, the pink cat is called De Li and her friend the lilac rabbit is Lau Lau. Any children who occasionally appear and join in with their yogo (basically yoga but where you can fly a little bit - well, hover) are referred to as Cheebies; whilst the Pipling's butterfly pets are called Narabugs.

Now, even if you have never watched an episode of this, you can’t fail to be chilled out by the mere mention of these names – as such it has become a staple diet of Saturday and Sunday morning, often following rugby and cricket updates. In fact, I reckon they should ship this out to rogue dictatorship and terrorist training camps – they’d soon lose their militant hate of the world after watching a couple of episodes of this…

I do wonder what the creators were on though… and if can have some...

Friday, 4 March 2011

On this day, 550 years ago, Edward of York proclaims himself King of England...

In this second entry in the “on this day” mini-series, I can one again draw upon the Wars of the Roses for inspiration. 550 years ago to this day, Edward, the young Duke of York, seized control of London and proclaimed himself King of England in the process. He was not immediately crowned, for there was the small matter of King Henry VI to deal with and so Edward's coronation day would have to wait until his Yorkist forces had met King Henry’s Lancastrians in the north. He would not have to wait long…

Friday, 25 February 2011

Another from the Daniel Cure "Demo Tape Cellar" – Solo

This is just a quick entry from my battered vault of rough recordings from the period 1999 – 2003, in which I moved from Nausea to Mary Jane to, well, bandless. Although the vocals are fairly lacklustre and the sound quality is warped from a years of damp storage, I quite like the chord progression and the outro solo remains one of my favourite…


Thursday, 17 February 2011

On this day, 550 years ago, the Second Battle of St Albans was fought...

With a nod to the fact that this blog was originally created to add weight and substance to my historical novels, (since then, it’s all rather descended into chaos) I thought I would start a “mini-series” of “on this day” type-entries. Now, to kick us off, I thought I would remain topical to the nature of the Jack Templeman series…

So, on this day, 550 years ago, the second Battle of St Albans was fought between the Yorkists and the Lancastrians. Unlike the first battle (yes, the one that featured in “The Silver Knight”), the
Earl of Warwick's army was defeated by a Lancastrian force under Queen Margaret, who recovered control of her husband, King Henry VI. And yes, this battle will feature in the third in the Jack Templeman series, yet to be written…

Saturday, 12 February 2011

More from the Daniel Cure "Demo Tape Cellar" - Ephesia

Having started with a couple of tracks from Nausea, I am going to go back even further, this time to the very first band I was part of. I say the very first – I don’t count a collection of “idea bands” that were scribbled down on paper with ambitious aims for greatness…

I was asked to join Ephesia (though the name was not in place at that stage – and yes it was my suggestion) as a vocalist for a gig in 1996 (I believe it was someone’s birthday party, but my memory is a little hazy). I then became singer and part-vocalist for the bands duration – probably lasting twelve months or so when I moved away from Droitwich for a short time.

The two tracks I have included here are probably the only two that are “listenable” – I mean to say that the other four or five that have survived are a little too raw to be worthy of inclusion. Ephesia drew principally upon the influence of what is now know as the “New Wave of American Heavy Metal” – bands such as Sepultura, Pantera, Machine Head, et al, but also owed much to Korn, who had only just emerged at the time. You will probably not gain too much of this from these two tracks as they are more on the “mellow side” – but nonetheless…

“My Daydream” was (I believe) the very first thing I wrote and is only a little worse for wear as a result of the tape stretching and making what is an ethereal recording perhaps too warped and psychedelic at times. “What We Should Be” was the result of a band jam (always a rewarding experience) and contains some interesting Eastern licks. Just a shame that our primitive recording approach let the vocals down. Still, we were only sixteen.


Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Introducing the Daniel Cure Demo Tape Archive...

Those of you who have visited my YouTube Channel will have noticed that there are a number of rock and metal demo tracks that I have uploaded in previous weeks that are of dubious identity.

The reason for this is that I have been embarking upon a review of what seems like about five hundred old demo tapes from an assortment of bands that I have either played in or had an involvement with.

The first batch were from Nausea, a band I played guitar in between 1998 and 1999, who recorded a demo during a period of gigs in the West Midlands. You can see influences of the Deftones, Silverchair, Feeder and I suppose RATM in Nausea's style, something that a number of people will recall from the succession of "Battle of the Bands" victories enjoyed at the time. Ive embedded a couple of tracks in this blog...check out my YouTube Channel for the other Nausea tracks...

I should point out that this is nothing more than a garage-clearing exercise designed to serve my own amusments, so enjoy and look out for more to come...

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Sleuth - 1972

I recently had the pleasure of watching Sleuth – I refer not to the recent Jude Law version, but the original (I have not yet seen the remake). It’s a fantastic and quite unusual film, with a top performance from Michael Caine and a masterly, masterly performance from the late great Laurence Olivier as the hammy, eccentric Andrew Wyke.

The thing is about this film (if you have not had the pleasure) is that there are only two actors in the entire two-and-a-bit hours of screentime. There are no special effects, blue screens, or CGI. Not only that, but the dialogue is rich and varied enough to cover several entire encyclopaedic volumes of script. Where have films like this gone? Where have the disappeared to? Why were the best films made in the 1970s? What happened before or since that time to create such an artistic malaise? Or is it simply a case of certain conditions within that decade creating a film-making paradigm of utopia beyond the usual limits of quality?

Anyway, if you haven’t seen it already – find yourself a copy…

Monday, 31 January 2011

Labyrinth - The Riddle of the Two Doors

Lately, I have introduced the classic eighties film Labyrinth to Emilia. Even at four months old she is eminently capable of realising that, despite it's original Box Office failure, it remains one of the best movies of its type and a testament to the late great Jim Henson. Of course, that is not just my opinion, but verifiable fact so there...

Now, those of you who have seen the film will recall that halfway through, Sarah is faced with "the riddle of the two doors" - something that I believe took its inspiration from the work of Raymond Smulluan's "Knights and Knaves" logic puzzles - in order to avoid certain death.

The challenge is presented by these talking doors thus: "One of us leads to the castle, one of us leads to certain death. One of us always tells the truth; the other always lies."

Now, Sarah successfully guesses correctly (she actually ends up falling down a hole through a chasm of bizarre talking hands, before descending into an oubliette, but this is down to the goblin king punishing her for claiming it is "a piece of cake", rather than her own poor choice) - but I have always found it a very optimistic viewpoint that she could solve this for the first time under the pressure of having to save her baby brother in the space of thirteen hours...

Yes, I know it's a fantasy film - I promise I'm not taking it that seriously. It's just that the only way to answer the riddle correctly is to ask a certain question in a manner structured in mathematical logic, rather than intuition or cunning. The solution is not to find out which door is lying and which one is telling the truth, but to find a way of them both giving you the same answer. So - if you ask either door, as Sarah does: "If I asked the other door would he lead to the castle?" then whatever answer they give you is the opposite of the truth as follows:

1. You are either asking a truthful door what a lying door would say, OR
2. You are asking a lying door what a truthful door would say

Door one happens to be the correct door, so given that she asked door two the question, in scenario one from above, if he says YES, then door one IS the correct door (as he is truthful). In scenario two, if he says NO then door one IS STILL the right door (as he is a liar)

The point here is that the roles are such that the scenario remains the same when switched around - the two variables don't remain consistent, so therefore, providing you ask the correct question, you will determine the outcome by definition.

Now, it took me several views to even understand what the hell Sarah was on about - the reason being that to solve this by pure logic would require either a working understanding of this problem, or a pen and paper to map out the process. She had neither and was considerably up against it (what with only a few hours to get to the center armed with nothing other than a temperamental dwarf and a big hairy orange creature whose only friends are rocks. Also - with the choice as being life or death, I fine it hard to imagine that you would be content to rush through to a decision on the spot...

I'm taking it too seriously again, I know, I know... and I'm really just jealous because a fictional character played by a fifteen-year-old Jennifer Connolly is able to do what I cannot. Having said all that, if you want to have matters re-balanced by reality, there is always Karl Pilkington's approach to consider. Here's how he approached a similar puzzle when quizzed by Ricky Gervais...

Monday, 24 January 2011

Super XV and Mr Cipriani

The wonderful Super XV rugby union competition is due to kick off shortly (now having had an extra team to make up the numbers in Melbourne Rebels). I always regard this as great Saturday morning television, but with the added bonus of Danny Cipriani being added to the ranks at the new club.

Perhaps there is something fitting in the fact that he is joining a team known as “the Rebels” as that is what he has effectively become within the RFU – be it his fault or otherwise. I cannot recall the last time I saw something with such talent, nor am I able to quite forgive the powers that be in the way they have handled him – that is to say, abysmally.

It is true that he sometimes struggle to control a game at fly half and also that he does not offer the physicality in defence of a Wilkinson or Goode. However, it was not his fault that he suffered such a horrific ankle break, nor his fault that he was rushed back so early for the Autumn Internationals that followed. Perhaps a fresh start in the warmer climate of the southern hemisphere is exactly what he needs and if he can reproduce this kind of form, then surely he will start to feature on Martin Johnson’s radar once more…