May 2004 Archives -

Good socks are hard to come by.

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I have a feeling that great sockmakers all over the world have no idea of the needs of the average sock-wearing person. I’ve just spent a goodly 20 minutes sorting, pairing, and cursing a gargantuan mound of them, somehow coming away with five spares. It’s a chore many of us do, I’ll wager – albeit a chore I usually leave to my overworked mother. None of them adequately fit my vision of a good sock – or if they did, the elastic in them is so battered by my great big feet and sizable legs that they flap around at ankle height for most of the day.
What I need in a sock isn’t a lot to ask – black, elasticated top (although not too tight – I have tree trunks for legs, truth be told), with the top end around 5 inches above the ankle. Simple? Hell no.
So what I’m really angling for is good, well thought out sock recommendations. Anyone?

Alex and Millie de la Salle – Married at last

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It was a sunny, Saturday morning. Birds were tweeting, leaves were rustling and, possibly more importantly than all of that, Millie and Alex were getting married. Not only that, but they were getting married is what I later found to be one to most remote locations in England – St Mawes, in Cornwall. Michelle and I had arranged to pick Mark (an erstwhile, long-suffering friend from my days at Sun) and his delightful girlfriend Julia. Excitement literally oozed out of me* as we sped off down the A roads, eating into the 520-mile round trip with all haste.

After an hour, my excitement was flagging. The placid ride of my hired Vauxhall Vectra had lulled me into a coma, and Mark was gently snoozing in the back. Suddenly, Mark hit the jackpot – “We should look out for animals, say the animals name and then do the sound associated with that animal” he announced, and forthwith we launched into a load of MOOOOs, BAAAAAs and OINKs without embarrassment. This however proved a struggle for me – my cry of “SHEEP, MOOOOOO” was greeted with large titters and wild applause.

Four and a half hours and two wrong turnings later, we arrived. St Mawes is everything we were promised – a paradise by the sea.. The tranquil, picturesque village surrounded a wide bay, and the bright sun set it all off nicely. Our hotel was right on the seafront, and after dumping our luggage we headed for the nearest pub to meet the others.

Well, I say nearest. We in fact passed 5 pubs before climbing a long hill to the planned meeting place, a rather posh hotel. A few drinks were had, and then we snafled back to our rooms to prepare for the night ahead.

Millie has plainly been keeping a few things quiet. For as we walked into the grounds of her dad’s enormous seafront house, we discovered just how rich he really is. The enormous white Georgian home was set in about 3 acres of gardens, all of which was open to the public. At the bottom of the garden, a small round pergola overlooked the sea. This astonishingly beautiful place was the setting for Millie’s wedding. We were in awe.

The rest of the night was a little hazy. Alcohol took effect half way through the meal, but I have photographic evidence that we enjoyed dancing for hours in the dance tent set in the grounds. The photos are here. They do not lie.

The following morning were were all suffering the effects, and as we drove home Michelle and I reflected on the events of the past day. It may be 253 miles away from home, but it’s a paradise on earth. Congratulations, Alex and Millie de la Salle.

* Not strictly true.

Culinary Comic

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Favourite TV quote of the night:
“To vote interactively, just depress the red button – tell it its mother died or something.”
Angus Deayton, Hell’s Kitchen
And while we’re on the subject of Hell’s Kitchen, can I just say I’m in awe of Gordon Ramsay’s man management skills.

On the road with a man named Duncan

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“Now, this is where the fun starts – there’s a French lady on reception, and she’s a bit temperamental.”
2 or 3 days a week, my job involves visiting customer sites and fixing their scientific computer-based issues. Three days into the job and I’m still expectedly clueness, so Thursday was a shadowing day. I had driven up to Bicester at the crack of dawn, to be confronted with the blasted M25. Ten miles of its time was all I asked – and I got 8 miles of queues for my trouble. My company car – albeit a hired one until I decide on a real one – was built for traffic jams. The Vauxhall Vectra is a big slab of a car, more functional than fanciful, but it got me to Bicester in some style and an hour early.
Once Duncan the engineer had been located, we set off for Oxford University, where two cries for help needed to be answered. The aforementioned Frenchwoman turned out to be having a good day, and we sailed through the two jobs in a couple of hours. And that appeared to be it for the day. We chowed down on sandwiches, after which I wended my way home, throughly pleased with the early finish. Something tells me the days won’t always be like this…

Joining the Rat Race

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Ah, the fresh smell of a new-born job. I arrived last Monday morning, suited and booted (which, for me, is unusual attire) and headed for the door. In fact, in my eagerness to impress, I’d arrived an hour early, sitting at the side of the road and taking in the delights of an early morning Frimley. Schoolkids reluctantly heading off to school, suited men rushing to catch their delayed trains, a few drunks outside Waitrose supping their first (and surely not their last) bottle of White Lightening (a cider whose description should surely read “paint stripper with a hint of apple”). After a while, I noticed nervousness creeping up, and I sped off to the office.
The imposing building welcomed me with all it’s red-brick charm. I stepped over the threshold – and that was it. I was in.
You may wonder at the melodrama I’m creating here – it’s only a job, I hear you say. Not so – this is my first change of job that was entirely my idea, the first time I’ve actually got something to lose. I’ve left behind a good group of people and security to wonder into an unknown – and it is a little concerning.
But no matter, those first few days were a breeze. It’s a big step up the career ladder – there’s a lot to learn, no doubt, and there’s a lot to prove – but the eternal optimist in me always kicks in and allays those troublesome fears. I will be fine.


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If a General Election was called tomorrow, what would happen? The boffins at Financial Calculus predict the answers, using the latest polls and electoral geography. In short, it’s political prediction without the bias – a rarity, I’m sure you’ll agree. I’m not sure I like the current prediction, though…

Chelabi – what a guy…

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A bit of politics inbetwixt my daily “new job” posts – The Truth About Ahmed Chalabi. As one commentator put it: “Don’t get me wrong–I’d be thrilled to win the raffle to get to kick Chalabi’s feet out from under him on the gallow, but this guy’s story is pretty cool. Can you imagine hiding out for like 30 years and hatching a plot to fool the largest superpower in the world into stealing a country for you? And then actually trying that plan? And then, thanks to the willing stupidity of people who actively sought to be tricked by a guy named “Curveball,” having the plan actually work?