Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Springtime for Hitler...

We've been watching The Producers over several evenings with timeslip on the Sky+ box post-BBT (boy bed time). We'd thought about going to see it on tour but hadn't quite got our finger out. Anyway, I checked availability at Manchester Palace online and was pleased to see there were still dates available with Peter Kay playing the part of the inept Director.

Anyway, I suggested a date, and Karen checked the calendar. "No good, we are going to see Five Gays named Moe that day".

A bit of a Freudian slip, although the 2005 Producers is much more Gay than the 1968 version...

Five Guys is touring again, by the way. Karen got into Jive via Joe Jackson and it is a cracking, if somewhat contrived show. (Although I find the original Louis Jordan songs a bit blander on the old recordings). Is you is or is you aint my baby sang slowly in tight close harmony is a showstopper song and gives me goosebumps!

A word with God...

I recently renewed my MOT at a local garage in Bradford. It was run by Pakistanis and looked like any other small Garage I have ever been in apart from one thing. (Two, if you count that all the mechanics had beards!)

In the place of girlie calendars, there was a large chart on the wall, listing Muslim adherance to Dua.

Dua are supplications, personal prayers said to suit particular situations, something also common in many other religions. The chart was mostly concerned with ritual related to prayer time and ablution but despite having spent a year in Saudi Arabia I can't recall which prayer is which from the Arabic names. However, there were a couple that struck me as amusing. I haven't found any direct copies of the chart online (the one I saw had been printed in Mumbai), I may be remembering them wrongly (I only had a couple of minutes to look at it) and some of it may have been down to translation (the chart was also in Arabic and Hindi) but there was one related to entering a bus (thanking god for not being able to control the vehicle without his help) and another about barking dogs (and being protected from the foul devils).

All religion troubles me somewhat. I'm something of an Agnosic; I'm happy to accept a grand architect of the universe but I'm pretty sure s/he doesn't give a tinkers cuss about supplication and it is a conceit of humanity to think that the supreme being pays any attention to the goings on here on earth in Rome, Jerusalem or Mecca, regarding us with anything higher than polite indifference.

By all means, believe in your own invisible friend but please don't force-feed it to the gullible.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Bye Bye Watermelon, hello Blinky?

Via a comment on Guido, news that Colin Challen MP will be standing down in order to save the planet is delighting the Grey household. (Well me, Karen & David are indifferent...) A Labour insider confided to me last week that the constituency party were not at all happy with the Ed Balls imposition but now Colin will not have to face the humiliation of being de-selected.

Blinky is the cruel but suitably amusing nickname for Ed Balls, our prospective parliamentary candidate, after being throughly mauled by Andrew (Brillo Pad) Neil on the Telly.

With Lord Levy getting arrested again, we'll be opening the Port tonight but we'll save the Champagne for when the Mr. Bigs get their collars well and truly felt.

Downtown Morley...

Queen Street yesterday teatime. It is quiet. Too quiet...

Monday, January 29, 2007

View from a window...

This is the view from the top floor of where I work on the outskirts of Bradford.

Not my view- I'm on the Ground Floor!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Hole in the ground...

Bernard Cribbins would be proud.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Personal space

I've been at work this morning, moving user PC network connections from older wiring onto new stuff. It is fairly straight-forward to do and we get into a bit of a routine. It goes like this:

-Power up the PC
-Log in via an administrator account and check/adjust the network settings
-Connect the PC to the new outlets using a suitable length pre-cut cable
-Log on again with a normal account and make sure network OK
-Power down PC

(Much of the older wiring only supported 10 Mbps (10 Meg) and now they can get 100 Meg or a Gig but as the network hasn't changed it doesn't make too much difference yet.)

Of course, as PCs take a while to boot up & log in, we will generally do a desk cluster at a time, moving between PCs to maximise efficiency. However, when it comes to running cables under desks, every crawl under is a voyage of discovery. In amongst the mess of cables can be found all sorts of trinkets that have fallen from above or simply been moved out of the way, along with empty plastic cups, crisp wrappers and the odd penny.

Now I'm very aware that a work desk is a very personal space and that people generally like it they way they have left it so I am careful to minimise disturbance. However, that doesn't stop me having a good gander at the stuff on view whilst waiting as it says a lot about the person. Photos of loved ones, awards, nick-nacks, cartoons and headlines are revealing, as is the style of desktop stuff, from minimalist squared off pad to piled up teenage shit-pit.

The other thing that constantly surprises me is how many desktops with PC mice that don't work properly, generally due to having a mucky ball. Are they experts at keyboard shortcuts, I wonder? Many older PCs take ridiculous lengths of time to boot up, do they go and have a cup of tea whilst the technology struggles slowly towards the logon screen?

Often specialised departments will have trade magazines lying around, such as Brand Aware or Accountancy Age. It is interesting to see what gets marketeers or accountants het up in these mags- generally the same sort of things that the IT and Communications Mags complain about, i.e. excessive and poorly thought out regulation.

At least at the weekend there is plenty of room in the car park...

Friday, January 26, 2007


Twelve irrational personal dislikes (or are they?) In no particular order...

• Pointy shoes- (really pointy ones, cockroach killers)
• Slacks with straps that go under the feet to hold them down
• White socks on men, or any socks with sandals on men
• Body disfigurement- tattoos, nose rings etc (Earrings OK though)
• shoulder straps for bras showing beside shoulder straps for tops
• Exposed midriff pot bellies
• Trainers with tongues bigger than £5 notes
• Dancing styles that involve pointing one foot then another forwards and inwards repeatedly ad nauseum
• People who want to convince me that their invisible friend is the only righteous one
• Shops that drop their shutters eight minutes before their advertised closing time
• Enforced Sunday observance
• Royal Mail Sorting offices that aren't open when it is convenient to visit them

Regarding the Royal Mail, they tracked down my missing lamps and I managed to collect them this morning. They were suitably apologetic but joked that it was partially my fault for having such a common name! (There are quite a lot of Grays in Morley, but not spelt like me).

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Mistaken identity...

I went to pick up a parcel from the Post Office today. (I've been expecting my energy efficient light bulbs- oops- lamps). However, they couldn't find it. After some thought, they reckoned that they had accidentally given it to the other Ian Grey who had been in the day before.

My first reaction was that "I'm the only Grey in this village". Then I remembered that I knew an Iain Gray who had been on the radio last Summer. There again, the names Ian and Grey aren't by any means unique.

I'm back at the Post office tomorrow. Will they have sorted it out?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ice Cubes and sore bums

David had a school trip to the Ice Cube today, held in Leeds Millennium Square, otherwise known as the world's most expensive patio, to quote a well known local politician. (You can see it here via webcam).

He had been once a couple of years ago and hated it so we didn't really know what today's outcome would be.

As it turned out, he loved it, although he fell down a fair bit and now knows what a Coccyx is.

"Dad, can we go to that ice rink in Bradford...?"

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Wall of sound

No, nothing to do with Phil Spector, but an interesting experience at work yesterday.

I have a fascination with large scale engineering. You can tell I'm a bit sad because I took a photo of the Leeds Grand Theatre Mains Intake which I noticed was 3 phase 2000 Amps, a somewhat substantial 1.4 Megawatts.

Our building has a large standby generator that cuts in if the mains fails. However, last November, it didn't start during a night-time failure and 30 minutes or so later the batteries were pancaked on the Computer Room power supplies. Needless to say, total power loss in a data centre is a long-winded process to recover from.

(Apparently, if the National grid shut down for some reason, it would take a week to get it all back online which is a rather un-nerving prospect).

After the incident, we had a couple of generator tests but they were somewhat contrived as they were manual transfers onto partial load. Since then, I have been waiting for a real power cut to get confidence in the system.

Anyway, yesterday the mains dipped then went out. Our IT department held its collective breath and five seconds later, the lights came back on again. A quick look out of the window and we could see that the Generator was running- a large cloud of white smoke was billowing out of the exhaust, the new Pope had been chosen. The white smoke then turned into black soot and it eventually cleared once the engine warmed up. Indeed, someone from IT was walking across the car park as it started and had been engulfed in fug...

However, the mains appeared to have come on again in surrounding buildings but our generator was still running. I asked our maintenance people what load it was pulling but they said they couldn't make any sense of the readings. I persuaded them to let me have a look so armed with torch and ear defenders, we ventured into the generator house. The Genny is containerised and wasn't particularly noisy- until they opened the inspection door. That was when the wall of sound hit me, the roar of a large diesel running the building power.

I could see why they were confused as the voltmeter showed 0 volts. However, the Ammeter showed 700 Amps. There were various knobs to read different settings of voltage and current but I didn't really want to tinker with it as a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I pronounced that it was certainly running the building and they alerted the maintainer to check out whether there was a problem.

Later that day, the power flicked again and then the generator turned itself off a couple of minutes later. The maintainers offered the opinion that when the power recovered the first time, it was out of specification (probably by being supplied from another zone) but when it was switched back again the system correctly went back to normal.

I was interested to know what load the system was actually providing but it appeared to be a two phase generator (the ammeter controls were only labelled L1 and L2) and with a reading of zero volts it was hard to speculate. I made a token attempt to look at the rating plate on the alternator but the cacophany of noise kept me away. I am relieved, though, that the system can switch full load as we have a UPS test coming up next month.

Finally, as a treat to technophiles, I attach photos of the Leeds Grand mains intake panel and their emergency sprinkler system pump. Because I can!

Monday, January 22, 2007

I've seen the light!

A few weeks ago, I saw an article on Energy Saving lamps by Seth Godin, a Marketing Guru who is a prolific writer and presenter. In the blog, he questioned why so few American households had even one compact fluorescent lamp in their house.

(Notice that I call them Lamps rather than light bulbs. At a very early age, I had it drummed into me by older and wiser theatre electricians that bulbs were things you planted in the garden).

Read the article, then return if the whimsy takes you and read on... (shift + click keeps this window open whilst you are gone)

The humble light bulb (oops, lamp) works by the heating effect of a current. The filament reaches a high enough temperature to glow but not high enough to melt. Lamps have one main purpose in life- to emit visible light. Your average 100 Watt lamp is surprisingly Cak at this, converting the power used to roughly 97.5% heat, 2.5% light. The efficacy of a lamp is expressed in a rating known as lumens per watt and a typical figure for a domestic lamp is about 15. (A lumen is a standardised unit of measurement that replaces the more quaint candle-based measurements in the sam e way that car engine ratings are in DIN kW rather than horse-power). Without getting bogged down in maths, it can be seen that the better the lumens per watt rating, the more efficient the lamp.

Conventional lamps with tungsten filaments can get up to roughly 25 lumens per watt, particularly if they use Tungsten-Halogen technology. Some specialised lamps such as photo-floods can emit much more than this, but at the expense of lamp life.

Standard fluorescent tubes are much more efficient than regular lamps because they work in a different way. A mercury vapour arc is struck down the length of the tube in the same way as a neon tube, however the arc emits invisible ultra-violet light and the coatings on the inside of the tube fluoresce, i.e. convert the UV light to visible light. Florry tubes are typically 80 lumens/watt. So why don't we fill our houses with them?

Well, the simple answer is that we hate them outside of the kitchen or workshop, because their light is somewhat contradictory- whilst suitably soft regarding shadows, the colour rendering has traditionally been hideous and they make a cozy living room look bleak and institutional.

So, Seth Godin, this is one very big reason why the Merkins don't stampede towards compact fluorescents- for the same reason that they wouldn't put a twin 5' tube in their lounge, it ain't nice.

Compact fluorescents are the same principle as their big brother tubes but with electronics to regulate them rather than a simple choke/starter circuit that most florry fittings have included.

Another nuisance with florrys is that they can't be dimmed in the conventional sense. It isn't impossible- indeed the Newcastle City Hall had dimmable tubes in the ceiling laylights with a sophisticated push-button Thorn control. You had to use a special tube which was basically the same but it also had a metallic strip that linked the two end caps in order to earth it better. With ordinary tubes fitted, the arc would spiral around the electrodes inside the tube giving a visible swirly effect with the lamps on check. It also needed special control gear which kept the electrode heaters on at all brightness levels. The dimmer was somewhat of a "partial success" as when it reached about 40% it would chatter the relays and make the lights flicker to full somewhat alarmingly, an effect familiar to thousands of Geordie Concert-goers during the 70s.

The other downer with a compact florry is the length of time it takes to reach full brightness- particularly awkward on hall stairs where you can end up going upstairs in gloom and it isn't a decent level until after you actually need it any more.

The other downer with the lamps is that they are somewhat longer than a regular lamp, so their optical centres are generally not aligned properly in many light fittings, making them look a bit silly.

Sometimes you want a soft light source, sometimes a sharp one, compact florrys don't do sharp, sorry. Morley Town Hall suffers from this.with the large impressive electroliers which have lost their sparkle by having been relamped with inferior units. When Newcastle Odeon was open, the Chief would rather relamp the foyer fittings with long life clear regular lamps than succomb to energy efficiency because with florrys in, they lost their sparkle and looked extremely lacklustre.

Having condemned them, now let me praise them. All of our lamps at home are compact ones, with the exception of two bedroom pendant fittings and a large lounge uplighter (which are all on dimmers). Their colour rendering and warm-up times have improved dramatically in recent years and the range is much wider, although some brands are better than others. However, the comparable brightness figures need to be taken with a pinch of salt and I am yet to be convinced that a 23W compact is really equivalent to a 150W general lighting service filament lamp and domestically, 23W is as bit as it gets in B&Q.

However, I have found a source of 30W spiral lamps (in both daylight and warm white) which will be great for the kitchen table (jigsaws anyone?). There is even an 80W version available that will be great for the Garage. A couple of our home lamps are slow or have a very odd pinkish-tinge whilst warming up and one of them even turns itself off randomly so it is time to buy a few more.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Song of Steel

David asked to go to Magna again today. I thought I had blogged about it before but the search engine suggests no more than a passing reference.

Magna is a science museum with a difference. It is built inside a massive old smelting shed- parts of the former Steel, Peach & Tozer steelworks (known colloquially as Steelos) in Rotherham a few minutes drive from Sheffield Meadowhall. It features four new pavilion structures within the enormous space, devoted to the elements; earth, fire, water and air. On the hour, several times a day, one of the cold rusty furnace behomoths lurches noisily to life in a simulated inferno with the aid of clever lighting, smoke, sparks and special effects.

This building is industrial archeology on an inspiring scale. Massive hooks hang silently in the heavens, enormous crucibles litter the depths and mysterious machinery lurks in the corners of this incredible space even though it is a fraction of its original size.

Magna opened in 2001 and has been one of the more successful Millennium Projects. We were Annual passholders for a couple of years as David liked it so much, although familiarity breeds contempt and we became jaded of the place somewhat as more and more exhibits broke down and didn't get fixed (not kid-proof enough).

Magna has had some success (indoor bungee jumping!) but also some flops, namely the ill-fated Robotics show and the Energy pavilion, now closed with some of the exhibits distributed around the other spaces. However, it does have a huge outside play area which has been repeatedly expanded and now with a very wet area added, called Aqua-Tek. It would be wonderful in Orlando but at Tinsley on a cold, wet, windy squally day in January the padlock is still on the gate...

So, after possibly a two year absence, we returned with reasonable but not too high expectations and we weren't overly disappointed. Lots of construction work going on but mainly to add facilities for corporate hire. Lots more interactive panels on the mainwalkway with a novel searchlight arrangement- you shine it around and certain items trigger a vignette on-screen. We also heard a number of steel songs on these panels, one of which shocked David somewhat as they sang "send the bugger back" in one of them. No, it wasn't Half a Shilling, the racist folk group from the Phoenix Club, but The Song of Steel by BBC Radio Ballads and you can listen to it yourself online here (with a little patience).

So, quite a lot new, but what of the old? well disappointingly, they continue to have maintenance issues*, lots of mainline & lesser displays aren't working properly, are erratic, out of adjustment, or even quietly spirited away. (A display of metallic flares in bunsen flames in the fire pavilion had been welded over so those not in the know wouldn't even know it had been there). The trouble is, it is easy to blag money for capital projects, but not for revenue ones.

One final nail in the coffin- the entrance Cafe let David down badly, no crisps or sugar-free pop, just healthy food and drinks, which the management apparently thought was a good idea. Excuse me? Isn't this a bit hypocritical if you still sell blueberry muffins and Danish pastries? Spare me the bullshit about think of the children until you stop selling ice creams. Healthy choices fine, but no choice is just paternal nannyism. Spare us from that please, we get enough of that from the state already...

We didn't leave empty handed- I bought a CD of The Song of Steel which is full of anecdotes as well as the specially composed songs that we had heard indoors. I'd recommend it if you can find it, here it is on Amazon.

(* During the early years, Magna organised an evening event for Adult passholders only- a chance to find out more and get onto the JCB diggers without having to queue with ankle-biters. The Museum Director made a presentation about the place and invited questions. I raised the matter of the high level of exhibits being out of order and questioned whether they were robust enough. He explained that many of them had been commissioned from other Science Centres who were all too aware of the destructive malevolence of children. He expressed concern that we had such a perception and when I pointed out that many items were off because of consumables such as projector lamps, he made the memorable management-speak comment that it was probably less of a design issue and more of a maintenance issue...)

The facts of life...

David's class were introduced to dictionaries recently. However, during the lesson, the classroom assistant specifically (and perhaps foolishly) told a miscreant not to look up Penis, Vagina or Sex. Not something sensible to say in earshot of an intelligent 9 year old with a thirst for knowledge...

So now, David is starting to get on the clue train of this Boys vs Girls business, although it keeps getting shunted into sidings on the way. Because he watches Disney channel and the like, he thinks that Cooties have something to do with it.

Recently, after explaining about how Miss had used rude words as per above, he asked me if he had been born after Karen and I had "Sexual interface".

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition...

"Get some day nurse & night nurse"- was the request from karen, just entering the early stages of a cold that I am beginning to shake off. "Tell them we both have colds so we can buy some to have in- Chemists can be a bit funny these days..." she added.


You can now buy a number of headache-type medicines down at the Supermarket but what may not be quite so obvious is that (certainly at ASDA) you are only allowed to buy a maximum of two packs in one transaction, for your own good, of course. Indeed, I ran foul of this a year or two back at ASDA when I worked out that three packs of something unbranded Ibuprofen-based (packed in 8s) was better value than two of a larger size Nurofen brand (packed in 16s). When I got to the till, "Computer says No...".The idiocy of the rule is that it is a nonsense anyway, apparently 25 Paracetamol is enough to top yourself and someone determined enough to do so is not going to be put off by having to queue up again at another till. Apparently the maximum non-pharmacy size is a pack of 16, at a chemist a pack of 32.

Anyway, down to Morley Boots, and a request for Day Nurse/Night Nurse. The assistant asked me to describe a number of symptoms in tedious detail and then went through what medication I was on. She then consulted with the pharmacist and returned with recommendations. I then had to repeat the whole rigmarole for Karen, despite not being able to accurately describe the symptoms, me not being Karen, of course. Eventually I get exasperated, saying "I can't believe that I can't just buy what I asked for, I can't be arsed, goodbye.", walking out leaving a bemused assistant behind.

I then popped round to the Co-Op pharmacy round the corner, where the inquisition was simply "have you taken this before?" which was much more straight-forward to answer, yes of course, and Karen has as well.

I did ask what the difference was between seperate and combined Day/Night Nurse and it boils down to packaging and price, so now you know.

(When checking out the rules, i came across an interesting article on headaches here. (Its from the Grauniad, but don't let that put you off...)

Summit to shout about

Last Friday's Summit was standing room only down at the Rugby Club. It was front page news on the front cover of our weekly paper but didn't appear on the website until yesterday. Rather than rehash it, you can read the story here.

We were all given a form with six topics on the front and six blank ones on the back (which were chosen from a ballot box in the interval). There was a slight downside- the questions were Yes/No and then a comment field. Consequently, myself and the chap to my right (who is a classical Liberal) sometimes ticked the opposite box followed by a caveat. E.g. for charging in car parks, I put No, but there should be a waiting limit in some areas. Conversely the other bloke put Yes, but only for long stayers. That had to make it tricky to interpret the results.

As ever, there was a collective assumption that local or national government could be the solution to the problem, when in reality, they are generally the cause.

Anyway, the post-event was very social, indeed I didn't leave until after last orders at 1am after much banter and merriment with the regulars. Fortunately I don't visit there too often, I don't think I have the stamina...

Friday, January 19, 2007

Gallows Humour

Back at the Leeds Grand, this noose welcomes visitors to the fly floor. The sign on it says "Feel free!!" The staircase continues onwards and upwards to the Grid.

This is an overhead view of the fly floor, where the two controllers for the flying equipment are. The wall on the left was originally covered with the counterweight frames in which the balancing cradles ran. The weights had to be loaded and unloaded on a gallery higher above. Surprisingly, the flys are as bright as this during shows as the light does not spill onto the stage below.

A view of the grid. The pink walls are where the stage house was raised some six metres or so above the original structural level. Five cables feed to each bar and the numbers of pulleys reduces across the stage as you get further away from the lifting equipment. (Note how they alternate.) The sensors are to detect slack wires, i.e. ones that have snapped or the bar has possibly fouled by hitting an obstruction.

The hauling equipment, note the five sets of steel wire coils on each drum. Yes, that is indeed the manager in-shot who was our group's guide for the afternoon and he certainly knows quite a bit about everything about his theatre.

We even saw inside the abandoned projection box of the Assembly Room which was known as the Plaza for many years. The Box is that carbuncle on the roof line, Warren's words but we all agreed. It will go one day and in the meantime the remains of two Kalee Projectors with BTH lamphouses continue to rust. Talking of rust, we were advised that the wrought iron staircase which can be seen under the Box was probably not a good idea to venture onto...

And finally, a low tech fire alrm. read the label...(Click on any of the pictures for larger versions).

Shades of Grey(s)

Karen suggested the blog name be tweaked. Our old purple fiesta battlebus has now been replaced by a not quite so old Fabia- official color Stone Grey.

My other car is an Octavia- Dark Blue which isn't a shade of grey of course. However, there are several listeners in the Morley FM area who think I drive a Pink Skoda- a running gag as we had blagged a 4x4 super stretch Limo for the Morley carnival (reprised in 2006- clip 2).

Poppa's taking us to the Zoo tomorrow...

David is absolutely fascinated with animals. It is a strange mixture of fascinated and terrified- he spots every dog on every journey but cowers if they sniff him. He has previously declared that he is going to be a Vet when he grows up, which is a little worrying as apparently vets have hugely high depression and suicide rates. He has also considered working in a zoo but we have made it clear that it is a calling, not a career.

As a birthday treat, we arranged a keeper for the day event for David last October. After looking around the local ones (and being stunned at the prices) we eventually hit upon a one focussed on children and a (comparatively) reasonably priced one at £65 down at Dudley Zoo. (Now £95 due to overwhelming success).

Anyway the weather was good on the day, the keeper chaperone was great with David and he had a whale of a time. She even made the shovelling out of the shit a bit of fun for him down on the petting farm.

Dudley zoo is unusual in that it is a quite compact site but spirals up a hill to an old castle on the top of the hill so getting around involves a lot of steep paths or a ride on the land train.

David's favourite bit was feeding the penguins, although he did say they were rather smelly.

As an aside, I once interviewed some contestants live on-stage for a Miss 18 Plus Area final in the Aston area. On discovering a contestant was a Vet, I asked if she had ever had to put her arm into a cow as per James Herriott. When she replied that she worked in a small animal practice, I immediately (and perhaps not thinking of the reaction) enquired as to whether she had ever had a finger up a Hamster...

This definitely gave us a big Woof and when order was restored, we restarted the interview as if nothing had happened... until she said she was a Vet again, at which point we both corpsed...

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Another Grand day out

Despite having lived in the Leeds area for over a decade and being a Theatre Technical obsessive, I haven't been behind the scenes at the remarkable Leeds Grand, discounting a visit to the understage rehearsal room a couple of years ago to see the recording of an interview with Warren Smith, the larger than life General Manager.

Of course, I've seen dozens of shows there, good and bad. However, when I heard that the ABTT had organised a visit, that provided me with the impetus to rejoin and get along to the event.

The event turned out to be very popular so that the party was split in two in order to visit the various spaces without (too much) overcrowding.

Crossing the stage on the way to the new rehearsal workshops, we paused to admire the house. The view from upstage on a big stage is rather odd without an audience, namely a very large wall with hole in, beyond which is another room full of empty seats. I'd particularly felt this once at the Sheffield Lyceum working there for a few days whilst the building was "dark" (i.e. no show in) and the stage stripped of all masking in order to clean the dust out of the grid area above. This view reminded me a little of that experience...

After seeing the new spaces, we were then treated to a ride on their massive lorry lift, which raises 40 Tonne wagons from street to stage, nearly 6m above street level.

This must be an absolute boon for the crew, although it is really just making the best of an awkward job as a modern theatre such as the Lowry will be able to cater for several trucks at once with them simply backing up the way they can at Tescos round the back. The Grand used to have to haul everything up and down with a winch & presumably a block & tackle in the earlier days when the scenery & cloths used to arrive from the train station on a hand cart. Now scenery and props can be stored on the connecting bridge seen in the photo, as well as the comparatively spacious original backstage areas. It is still necessary to brave the weather somewhat, as can be seen by the raised hoods amongst the riders.

A new flying system replaces the old, driven from a computerised panel on the fly floor. The system has a precision of a couple of milimetres so that once a position has been plotted it will reliably return to that setting night after night. As moving heavy scenery above actors can be a dangerous business, the system includes various safety features to detect anything unexpected. A dead man's handle approach on the control panels ensures the brakes will be immediately applied if the operator lets go or the panel is disturbed. It is also designed with performance in mind so that up to four combinations of complex movements can be individually controlled and the speed adjusted to suit slight variation sin performance. (The Grand is the home to Opera North so music sets the pace for most shows).

Up on the grid 70' above the stage, 64 sets of hoists (32 each side) do the actual lifting work. Each assembly has a long drum upon which five sets of steel wire ropes wind and unwind in their allotted grooves. This photo shows the mesh floor and the stage way down below.

We were also given a chance to see Leeds' forgotten theatre, the Assembly Room. There is hope to re-open that as a performance space in phase two, but in the meantime it is used as a rehearsal space, asbestos removal permitting...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

(sniff sniff...)

I've been fighting off a cold since the weekend I've been off work these last two days. "Aww Diddums!" I hear you say...

It is hardly a life threatening illness, but coughing fits that make you dizzy, sizzlingly painful ears that feel like they are going to implode and prickly eyeballs that feel as though they have been peeled are not pleasant. I know I'm not well when I can't even be bothered to surf.

Anyway, I'm Lemsipped up and feel ready to take on the cut & thrust of IT Networks again, although I'll probably be wrecked by teatime.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Coffee Stains

I've mentioned coffee stains before, where an otherwise immaculate presentation is marred by lack of attention to detail, e.g. the Coffee Pot ring on the pristine table setting.

Yesterday, the three of us went to a surprise party for an Eighteen Plus old friend down in Leicester. It was being held in an out of town hotel and the afternoon's procedings would include a buffet and a Kaleigh Band. People were attending from North and South as well as from the Midlands. We even had the Lord Mayor of Lichfield join us, in civvies of course...

It was a great do and marred by only one Coffee stain, or more accurately a Chocolate Chip Cookie stain. I had stuck a couple of biscuits in my top pocket for the journey to share with David but forgot about them until late in the journey. At this point they had melted somewhat and my shirt pocket looked as though my Pooper-Pen had leaked. (What do you mean, you don't have a crap Biro? I have loads of them, generally made by Bic...)

Fortunately, I am too thick skinned to worry overly much about what others think and didn't feel it was necessary to scoot along to a retail park to buy an emergency shirt. (this is the Yorkshire influence:- depp pockets, short arms!)Instead, one of the girls tastefully arranged a napkin as a flamboyant Pocket Cravat.

It is nice to mmet up with old friends, especially when it feels just right to drop into the groove again. It is a shame we don't all live in the same place and there is the dawning realisation that as we move from the natural progression of marriages, 40ths, re-marriages and 50ths, sooner or later we will be attending funerals as well. In the meantime, aging Eighteen Plussers are determined to grow older disgracefully...

Friday, January 12, 2007

Fit plug A into socket B

I ordered some replacement water cartridges the other day, Sodastream Filterstreams which look like the blue thing on the left here

(Find out what a Filterstream is here) It is the grown-up version of the Brita water jug filter, where you have a plumbed-in tap for about six months worth of filtered water for drinking & cooking.

Anyway, the filters duly arrived, but they were the wrong ones. Instead of push fit connectors they had a threaded shaft at one end and a plastic mesh at the other.

My first reaction was that I had cocked up- maybe I had clicked on the wrong one. Checking back with the website, the items were the correct code, although the line description matched something else in the catalogue with a different number but correctly described what I had received. I rang up their customer care line and after explaining the situation, Susan$ was tremendously helpful. They would send me a postage paid label with the replacement shipment. A very satisfactory result...

However, they rang back later in the day. Was I confused about it being unbranded and not saying Sodastream, asked Susan? No I said, that didn't bother me, my concern was that it didn't have the right connectors. Hold on, she said, let me transfer you to Vaughan$. Vaughan tried very hard to persuade me that I had the right ones, but eventually had to agree that he didn't have a clue what I was talking about and that I would have to talk to Ken who understood the product. Ken was out that day but would be back the next day.

The following day, I talked to Ken who assured me he packed the order himself and that they should be correct. Had I looked at both of the cartridges? All four of them were the same I replied. That stumped him as he hadn't sent an order for four Sodastreams and he eventually acceded that I did have the wrong ones & someone else must have prepared mine. He didn't feel that that the coincedence of the incorrect description matching my shipped goods were related however, as they all knew the product lines...

This morning, the right onses showed up, with a Freepost shipping label. A satisfactory outcome, despite three phone calls and a lot of explaining. In the world of technical support, this is known as a "Shit sandwich", where the miffle bit is crap.

($ Footnote:-Not their actual names, which were actually Lesley, Dave and Lee)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Vaseline on Toast

I use Vaseline nearly every day and it involves a liberal amount of smearing and then insertion.

Now, if you are of a similar age to me, you might well be sniggering, because Vaseline used to be synonymous with rude goings on in the bedroom, or possibly (and somewhat more sordidly) in a Cottage.

I can recall a bit of a shaggy dog story that Billy Connolly used to tell, revolving around a Vaseline Survey in the centre of Glasgow. The punchline twist was that the parent of the large family used it for sexual purpose: they smeared it on the bedroom door knob so that the Kids couldn't get in...

Now it turns out that vaseline is actually a somewhat third rate sexual lubricant, as being oil based, it dries out mucous membranes and dissolves latex. Water based solutions like KY jelly are the right thing to use on occasions that demand it.

In case you are wondering, I use it every day to block my grommetised ear with a cotton wool ball, in order to keep out soapy water which could apparently have unpleasant consequences.

So, I asked myself, what is petrolium jelly? Ingredients: Petrolatum. You can find out far more than you wanted to know about it on Wikipedia here, including who eats it for breakfast.

Seeing that it is a distillation by-product, I recalled a schoolboy visit to a Rohm & Haas chemical works, where we discovered this very large lump of brown, squidgy plastic on the access platforms of their fractional distillation tower. When asked what it was, we were told it was an unintended by-product, which they referred to as the "embarrassing polymer".

Wow, no hits at all for that in Google, yet...

What six CDs are in your car multi-changer today?

Easy one this,

1) Little Britain Radio Season 1 Disk 1
2) Little Britain Radio Season 1 Disk 2
3) Little Britain Radio Season 1 Disk 3
4) Little Britain Radio Season 2 Disk 1
5) Little Britain Radio Season 2 Disk 2
6) Little Britain Radio Season 2 Disk 3

(It just arrived this morning as the limited edition (3783 or 8000) tin box, picked up as a bargain brand new and still sealed on eBay for £12.50).

That will keep me amused driving too and from work until next Thursday!

The Apple phone is making waves, good story on The First Post and cracking analysis from Martin Geddes.

Blogpowerers, don't think I've forgot about you, I tag Sempiternal Horizons, Greenbanana, The NEWS sUcKs, In search of high places and As a Dodo. (The last one is very strange/clever!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Togetherness in Morley

The Morley Observer & Advertiser comes out on Wednesdays. This week, a few things caught my eye.

On page Five, there is mention that the Town Council precept will remain the same and I would have voted against putting it up anyway (I'd like to see it come down). This is good news for Morleians but it does rely on us drawing from reserves again this year, some £55k. The Reserves are higher than normal for various reasons but the current spending level is not sustainable in the longer term and we will have to cut our coat according to our cloth which means less spending or more local tax. I go for the former, unsurprisingly...

In the letters pages, there is a kerfuffle about some comments made in a letter from a BNP supporter last week, related to the Literature Festival. I have to say that the words went straight over my head as I could not recollect taking offense at them (and can't be arsed to to rooting around in the recycle bin).

I read Letters to the Editor with my Cynic filter engaged, namely- what are they saying, why are they saying it and is there more to this than meets the eye?

Some of my fellow politicians, however, probably more concerned about the forthcoming election battle in May than I am, have their PPS filters engaged (Political point Scoring). The letter headlines are "Shameful attempt at brainwashing", "Approved reading?", "Desperation setting in" (from a different BNP supporter) and "Come to the Forum" about our Leisure Centre. Letters three and four will probably result in further banter next week.

Over on page 12, the news is about "Stewie Mac" (his radio name, or at least that is what I call him). He has announced that he is standing again as a Leeds City Councillor in May, although last Wednesday he told me he was still undecided. He will be cringing at such a lengthly article and a picture of him from his days as a Marxist Bingo caller back in the swinging sixties. (Have you played Marxist Bingo? It is a bit like ordinary Bingo, except that when you win, instead of HOUSE! you shout PROPERTY IS THEFT!) There are some revealing comments on why he is an independent rather than a Morley Borough Independent. I like SMc, he is perceived by some as a loose cannon, exactly what the same people think of me!

Finally, on page 19, there is the "Morley Together" campaign launch, where "...organisations and businesses in Morley are being challenged to sign up to a campaign to tackle racism and xenophobia." Of course the principles of it are exemplary, even if the grammar isn't (there is a comma before an "and", I'm picky about that sort of thing) but it is from Colin Challen our MP and I do wonder if it is a localised Morley thing or a national Labour thing wherever they are losing ground to BNP. I read this with an increasing sense of unease as the tone implies that if you are not with us, you are against us.

I consider the term Racism to now be devalued to the point where Racist is a knee-jerk response to any opinions someone else doesn't agree with, or where the reactor feels that something should not be said out loud based on received wisdom, even though the statement may be patently true. Is it racist to say that in black street culture school isn't cool? Of course not. Is it racist to say Paki shop? it depends on the context, but generally, I would say no, even putting to one side that being Pakistani is not a race but a cultural grouping. Up until relatively recently, it simply referred to a local general store trader open for extended hours ran by a family business originally from the Indian Sub-Continent. It still does of course, but now there is the worry that someone (undefined) might take offense.

(As an aside here, I was in my local Premier Store recently which is ran by a Sikh family. A girl in the queue in front of me was talking on her mobile and as she was about to get served she said "I'll be about five minutes, I'm just buying some Fags in the Paki Shop." She then realised what she had said and looked sheepish. The owner and myself exchanged knowing smiles! I was tempted to tell her that she should have called it a "Sikh Shop" but wouldn't have wanted the owner thinking that I was taking the piss.I also suspect that she wouldn't have known or cared about the cultural differnce between the various Asian groupings...

I'd probably take offence to someone referring to "Pakis" in an offensive or ignorant manner but I much prefer Bigotry as the more accurate term rather than Racism. The other nuisance is that "Paki" is a shortening of "Pakistani" which is a bit of a mouthful with four syllables. (I never got concerned being called a Brit in Saudi, but did get uncomfortable over there on one occasion with a number of Scots (& their Wives) that I had a working relationship with but I didn't know too well, when it became apparent that they rather resented the English and their good natured taunts weren't that good natured).

Back to the campaign. It has wisely stayed clear of a number of Cliches that sound increasingly ridiculous in the political correctness backlash. It doesn't mention issues, it uses tolerance instead of respect and it doesn't emplore us to celebrate diversity.

Personally, my own value system tells me to follow the path of polite indifference. It sounds a bit harsh when said cold but so does "So what?" to cold calling salesmen!
Polite is the tolerance bit. I see no reason to be rude to people because of their own beliefs but it doesn't mean that I have to respect the beliefs they hold. Indifference simply means I'm not really interested in the detail of all of the mumbo jumbo in the baggage people and cultures carry around with them. Indifference does not make someone a racist in the same way that I choose to be indifferent to Opera, Modern Jazz, Football and Dogging. This doesn't mean that I am a cruel heartless bastard, just that I get interested in things, people and culture for some particular trigger reason of my own choice, rather than being told to.

We are seriously screwed up in this country over the whole business of being nice to victim groups, the various minorities having now being calculated to actually add up together as the majority of the population!(see We're (nearly) all victims now). It must make the do-gooders wring their hands in dismay when they realise that many of the victims often hold even more intolerant views than white van man.

I rather like the No prejudice, no preference strapline which I stumbled across recently at UKIPHome. An interesting blog but how mainstream UKIP it actually is I'm not certain. It is parodied here.

So, should any organisation I'm involved in sign up to Morley Together if the letter pops through the Chairman's letterbox? Colin has even said that we can approach him to take the pledge. Sorry Mate, I'm uncertain at this stage and somewhat cynical. I'd like to see the invite and maybe even chat with CC to try and work out his motives, because driving the BNP out of Morley has a big benefit for the Labour vote. For now, I go with polite indifference vergalised as No thanks, I'm not interested. Treat it like a pushy car salesman trying to close an unwanted deal, or a Jehova's Witness wanting to know if you believe that God is your Saviour. Dust down your assertivenes techniques, starting with broken record.

No thanks, I'm not thanks, I'm not thanks, I'm not interested...

Sounding better- some of the time...

I see from the news that Apple have launched something called the iPhone, a multi purpose mobile phone device that hopes to do for the Telecoms business what the iPod did for the Minidisc- i.e. gain massive market share and hammer the competition to the benefit of purchasers.

It isn't widely known outside of IT circles that Apple Computer and Apple Records had a bit of a tiff, with the outcome that Apple Computer agreed to stay out of the music business. It terns out that Cisco have the rights to the name iPhone, so expect a new turn-on sound when it goes on sale- "Sosumi2".

My new Freebiephone* (tm) comes with a feature called "Wideband". What this means is that it has much better sonic performance than a regular phone. How good is the sonic performance of a regular phone? Grotty.

We can hear sounds from about 20 Hertz to about 20 KiloHertz, from a very low rumble to a high pitched shriek. A Hertz (Hz) is what used to be called a Cycle and a good analogy is a Rolf Harris Wobble Board- it rattles the air backwards and Forwards at a a low frequency of maybe 2-3Hz. (We don't hear the actual wobble, we hear higher frequency resonances).

At the bottom end, we can feel notes below this range, infrasonics being used to impressive effect on movies like "Earthquake!" where you could feel your seat and your innards rattling when it was switched on.

(Mains power is at 50 Hz, which you can hear as a low hum if you put your ear next to many household power supply devices like Phone chargers)

The high end cutoff varies according to age and circumstance. The younger we are, the higher we can hear (hence the ringtones above 16kHz that teenagers can hear and the teacher can't). Women can hear higher than Men, which strikes me as a Male defence mechanism against Nagshriek!

(When I was in my late teens, I found out at college that my hearing cut off at 14.5kHz, no doubt a side effect of wearing headset intercoms at Rock & Roll gigs.)

CD range is 20Hz to 22kHz (ish) and that is not considered as true HiFi by real audiophine buffs. Whilst we can't hear frequencies higher than our own personal range, the unheard sounds will interact with the heard ones to impact on the sonic experience. (Remember "Is it real, or is it Memorex?" adverts, where they broke a glass by playing a cassette? Yea, right...)

For the phone network, the acceptable range for intelligible speech was decided on donkeys years ago as the band from 300 Hertz to 3,400 Hertz, referred to as "Commercial bandwidth". Transmission equipment generally goes up to 4kHz so the Telcos used to borrow the 600 Hertz of headroom for out-of-band signalling in the days before digital. They also used to borrow inband for setup/calldown, notably 2,600Hz (US) and 2,280Hz (Eu) which you still hear on the telly occasionally to simulate a phone call in drama (the double chirp you hear on the hangup). 300Hz was effectively the roll-off point for the transmitters & receivers in the handset.

Now, my wideband phone can go from 50 Hz to 700Hz so it should certainly sound a lot less tinny. The trouble is that it doesn't. Why not? Because it is the only one. It is like having an HD ready telly but not having Sky HD, it performs exactly the same as the non-HD ones.

BT's 21st century Network promises Wideband, or at least it has been mentioned in presentations, when they described it as "near-CD audio quality)". (This is a bit like saying that a Mondeo is a "Near-Lexus experience" on the basis that you used to drive a Trabant!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

New improved marketing techniques

Deep pockets productions presents the Multimedia Shades stunning sonic experience.

Click here and get on down!

(OK, it is recycled, but at least I'm doing my bit to save the planet)

From Udder Creative as part of a cheap as chips community radio sweeper set. Without having even met me, he created this!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Give me Presence- Now!

I was recently given a rather swish IP desktop phone gratis by a supplier to put on my desk at work. Here is a tiny picture of it...

Why did they give me a phone for nothing? Smart Marketing. I'd work out how to get the best out of it and the Green-eyed monster effect would hopefully result in Bosses coveting it. To prevent the bosses coveting it too much to the extent that it would transport itself up to Mahogany Row, it was given to me as a thank-you for working proactively with them on recent installs.

So when I retire, or move on, I can lay claim to the phone as my own and lug in my old one in its place. The only trouble is that I'd need a £100k phone system at home to make it work and by then they will probably be worth 50p on eBay!

Also by then, hopefully they will have gotten the bugs out of it. The old one was a single keypress to activate redirection of my calls to voicemail if I was stepping away from my desk for some reason. The new one takes six key presses to activate it and the feature doesn't actually work anyway...

What i want is the phone to be able to react to my presence according to pre-defined rules. How will it know I'm there? To be automatic, it would need to use RFID on something I had on me, maybe a phone pairing ID card in my wallet or perhaps on my Security pass that I wear on a lanyard all day.

Of course, I don't just want that to apply to my phone- I want my PC to work the same way as well so that it automatically locks when I step away and unlocks again when I return, updating my messaging presence accordingly. It doesn't negate the need for a second authentication factor
but it will make office life so much easier and make communicating much more effective.

Come on Networks Industry, I;m waiting and I'll buy one...

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Morley Summit

I've been invited to a "Summit" next Friday, organised by the City Council Area Committee which gives me "a unique opportunity to contribute to creating a vision for Morley".

It is by invitation only, however anyone can ask to be sent an invitation so it isn't exclusive, just they don't want people turning up unannounced (probably for the catering). Details are at the updated Independents site here.

The new Town Centre Manager is involved and the panel includes our MP, Robert Finnigan, the Town Mayor and an unspecified traders representative, maybe Graham from Happysaks?

There is a keynote address from Doctor Rachel Unsworth from the University who is a highly regarded regeneration expert.

Now, driving home the other evening, I was listening to Thinking Allowed on radio 4 which was discussing regeneration in Liverpool. The sociologists made the moot point that planners generally don't succeed in regenerating places, people do. I also recalled an interesting article about planning failure in an area of Newcastle I knew well in my childhood via a Bradford Blogger.

Morley's problems are fairly typical of what is now a dormitory town- it is on the retail slippery slope to becoming cheap-shop/crap-shop and the leisure opportunities are at best unremarkable in the evenings, unless you like Brass Band Concerts, for which Morley Town Hall is well known in those circles . The town centre has a buzz on saturday mornings but that can't sustain businesses all week, all month, all year. It is remarkable that we don't have a £1 shop yet and Kwik Save pulled out a couple of years ago but at least we haven't made the Crap Towns website yet.

So, what can politicians do? Spend other people's money, of course, distorted by petty party politics, oneupmanship & partisan well meaning but misguided beliefs. The town centre new street furniture was a success in the mid 90s, the pedestrianisation wasn't. Morley peaked with private enterprise and philanthropic investment in the Civic stakes a Century ago, often by the wealthy mill owners vying to out-do each other. During the 20th Century We had a Theatre, a Music Hall, two Cinemas and a skating rink. Morley is bristling with former Chapels and Churches. Alas, there isn't the draw to make it vibrant once again and this is a reflection on Society and the Benefits culture we have foolishly voted ourselves into since the last World War.

So, what should be in a vision for Morley? Visions and Missions tend to be full of nonsensical claptrap that sounds good but doesn't mean much. Here are a few, your mileage may vary:-

'To allow the evolution of Ennerdale as a wild valley for the benefit of people, relying more on natural processes to shape its landscape and ecology'.

"Attractive, sustainable and enterprising are words, which describe a successful and caring community. Economic prosperity and a variety of jobs contributes to quality of life, equitable opportunities and a sustainable environment. The city is serviced by a transport system which provides choices both within its boundaries and the balance of the region.

This attractive city celebrates achievement through festivals and events. Its civic spaces, bridges and award winning water features, gardens and centres are venues for people to gather, admire and reflect on the growth and change whilst respecting a rich heritage and past. Ipswich’s national team champions use these streets as the stage to celebrate success. Residents feel safe and this caring city is sought by enterprises seeking a livability for employees and investment growth. Thoughtful provision of infrastructure and services and a culture of ‘on going achievement’ continues to attract investment and new residents." (A small extract from Ipswitch)

“ To shape a welcoming, safe, clean, well-managed and vibrant town
centre, and improve Warrington’s standing and competitiveness within the

"To create an interesting, dynamic, vibrant heart catering for all with a mix of modern uses, amenities and shops to scale appropriate to Exmouth's size, population and status. To maximise the town's advantages of its sea front, estuary side, and level town centre and to promote its environmental assets accordingly."

"We exist to enthusiastically leverage existing timely opportunities in order that we may quickly revolutionize performance based content

It is our job to completely coordinate cutting edge infrastructures to allow us to seamlessly administrate excellent paradigms while promoting personal citizen growth" (Dilbert Mission Generator)

“ For Worthing to be a thriving Borough where people want to live, work and invest”

I like the last one best!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Wot, more bloggers?

The more astute of my readers may have noticed the new armour helmet logo on the right and that my hyperlinks further down to other sites have more than doubled. I have joined a loose alliance of small bloggers, many of them who write very well indeed. If you click on the Blogpower banner you can read more about it.

As some of them will no doubt drop in to suss me out, I'm going to participate in a current blog tag meme and reveal five things about myself not widely known. Tradition then states that I should tag five others, however as most of the sites I visit are all famous in web terms there isn't much point and also I balk at overly collectivist behaviour! In the spirit of co-operation, however, I have plucked five randomly out of the list- Cynical Chatter from the underworld, Onyx Stone, CityUnslicker, Morag the Mindbender and Finding Life Hard.

Having dabbled a bit behind the scenes in showbiz, I shall inulge in a bit of celebrity name dropping here. Every one has a story behind it, some more interesting than others!

1) Lionel Blair once stroked my thigh whilst he was perched on the arm of a Sofa

2) Jerry Lewis proudly showed me the photo in his wallet of his Wife and new Baby

3) I once urinated next to Les McEwan, the lead singer from the Bay City Rollers

4) Lisa Minelli asked me what I thought of some dance steps she and her Sister Lorna Luft were practising

5) Jools Holland insisted on taking my photograph because he had seen me on Telly

Here endeth the list...

Friday, January 05, 2007

Tonsorial tales

Tonight we had a trip to Mr. Gee for an occasional crop. I was beginning to look a little shaggy, or was that more like Doddy?

Sitting getting trimmed, the barbershop dialogue revolved around Christmas Presents. One clipper was surprised to have been given a Safe by her Mum. More sensible than it sounded- she had moved four times in the last year and is now having to fork out to replace mislaid documents.

Another Customer had got a hedge trimmer but had to stop using it due to school home time- he had been turfing the cuttings over the school wall it seems!

David assured me that he wouldn't be doing "Bats" but caught me with a "Bats no revengies", the Geordie celebration of having a haircut not dis-similar to happy-slapping passed down from generation to generation in the playground.

The rules are simple. If you spot someone who has obviously had a haircut, shouting Bats! entitles the observer to gently slap the haircut. The victim can then call revengies! and reciprocate the .

The haircutee can claim No-Bats! in order to prevent the initial bat and the assailant can claim No revengies! to prevent reciprocation, but it is first to speak in order to define precedent.

My standard riposte now is to dash into the house shouting Revengies, No Bats! which entitles me to get my retribution in first. I'd best not try it in the Council Chamber though...

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Happy New Year

Morly returns to normal after the festivities. It seems a waste that the Christmas lights are still on, as they are in Bradford as well. It might not be 12th night yet but it seems incongruous as the pre- Xmas consumerism moves into the post-Xmas one.

Chez Grey will be taking down the tinsel at the weekend and consigning them to the loft for the next eleven months.

Books read over the holiday:-

Peter Kay's The Sound of Laughter, entertaining but stops just as his career takes off. All of the plotlines for that Peter Kay thing are seeds sown in these pages. If you have read it and want to know about the Lido mural, click to see it.

The Inside Little Britain inside story was informative, especially when combined with the Little Britain Live DVD commentary & behind the scenes extras. Who is "Miss x?" Who cares!

The Book of general ignorance _not_ by Steven Fry (he wrote the intro) is full of surprising facts debunking lots of accepted wisdom. For example, Historic Scots Tartan was actually a Victorian invention and the smashing orangey bit in a Jaffa Cake is actually Apricot.