Personal Stories - 4/55 -

Old Alumni Part 1 – Ghosts and Fortune Drive

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It’s got to the stage in mine and my friends’ lives where we look back and wonder what old schoolmates are up to now. There are a few I still see, of course, but what happened to the rest? Did they meet untimely ends? Did they become major stars? Did they make millions? Did they break into the bigtime?
Well, two groups of them are just emerging as the “music bands of 2007”, amazingly. “Fortune Drive” (myspace) have a growing fanbase for their indie-rock music, and while it’s not totally my bag of chips, they are still good. In fact, this bunch were always destined for greatness – lead singer Bobby’s mum is Carleen Anderson (myspace), and he was one of the nicest guys at school. Alan Akehurst, the guitarist, was always the girls favourite – which is uncanny, because his amazing sister was always the guys’ favourite…
And then there’s “Ghosts” (myspace). They are currently playing on every radio station going, and appeared last Friday night on “The Friday Night Project“. It’s stunned me for two reasons – firstly, I *really* like their songs, and secondly, the band members are so… unlikely! The lead singer and songwriter, Simon Pettigrew, was a very intelligent guy who was better known for getting good homework grades than for musical prowess. The guitarist Robbie Smith was known for being a nice guy and very sporty, and Mark Treasure… well, Mark and I competed for top grades when we were 7, and were at school together until we were 16. He was also another clever guy, almost nerdy, and played a lot of classical piano stuff.
Ghosts are definitely heading for big things, with Fortune Drive close behind. And if they can, can’t we all?!
The final word, as usual, should go to Jac, who is getting more and more involved in the marketing side of the music. “Ghosts – lots of money behind them and the tunes to make a good first album, it’ll be interesting to see if they make a second one as good. Fortune Drive – great singer fronting powerful band, watch out for them.” So there we have it.
But wait! As I peer closely and the online videos, I can see … Mark has become almost bald! There is a god…

Moving In – The Aftermath

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I take it back. There are two things that are great about moving house at Christmas. moved.jpgFirstly, it’s the ultimate way to keep in trim while loading your body with turkey and chocolate. For the two weeks after we moved, there were endless tasks to be done – informing all the companies and friends of our new address, buying essential domestic stuff, putting up pictures, mistakenly knocking holes in the wall, desperately trying to cover them up before anyone noticed, that kind of thing. It’s a veritable workout every day. And secondly, the sales are on. On the strength of this, various things have arrived throughout the last few weeks – a fridge, meaning that we don’t have to suffer the mini-fridge any longer; a tumble dryer, meaning there won’t be clothes draped around everywhere; a bed and mattress, meaning that we can sleep (and what a bed it is, too); curtains for the entire place; and, for vanity’s sake, a surround sound system and a new piano. Amusingly – or not – this has all coincided with Revenue and Customs deciding they’ve forgotten to tax me sufficiently – and adding £500 to my tax bill for the next couple of months. Better stay in for a month, I guess…!
So, the house is very nearly done. We’re still after a dishwasher, and then there’s the garden to consider. Honestly, this house-buying malarkey is a task and a half. But, in a couple of weeks, we’ll be ready to announce an event that people have been asking about ever since we announced we were moving – the house-warming! As we’ve all grown up, maybe we’ll have Spritzers and canapés instead of beer tubes, silly hats and pizza. Probably not, though…

Blown Away in Leeds

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I was still trying to wake up after an early morning start. The
geek-based course was about to get in full swing, and all the various
course teachers were coming in, vulture-like, picking off the
delegates one by one. Their enforced cheeriness grated slightly after
half an hour spent trying to find a car park in Leeds, a task only
marginally easier than forcing jelly down a drain. However, they did lighten our spirits on the drab, rain-filled morning. I even started looking forward to five days of database training. Sadly, people with personalities generally don’t train people in databases, as I discovered when a small Indian man shuffled round the corner. He announced the course in a thick Indian accent, showing all the excitement of a morgue assistant finding another dead body down the back of the incinerator. We all glanced at each other before shuffling off behind him to the training room.
By lunchtime I had at least learned something – never underestimate a boring man. He seemed to know everything there was to know about databases and computers in general. His problem, sadly, was that he was not good at conveying that knowledge. We could only understand every other sentence and developed a system of nodding whenever he looked at us, attempting to show we were following every word. It took about an hour to tune into his accent, and a further hour before I got into the groove of the difficult topic. Luckily the course notes we comprehensive enough to bluff my way through.
Lunch was not particularly inspirational either. Cold salad, hastily knocked together quiches and orange juice filled the vapid hour before the afternoon session. Thanks to the smokers insisting on going outside in the freezing wet weather to puff on their cancer sticks, the room got colder and colder. It was, frankly, a relief to go back into the training room, and perhaps this was precisely the reverse psychology we needed. The afternoon went with a bang, and before I knew it we had finished the first day. I managed to get to the car park without being blown off course – coinciding the course with bad weather was a possible error – and got into my car on the top floor. “Dammit”, I thought as I saw the NCP car park ticket on my passenger seat. “Please pay on the bottom floor,” it mentioned. So, downstairs I went, wallet in hand. A wallet, it turned out, which caught the notice of a woman sitting huddled on the bottom stair, looking as if she was waiting for someone. Me, as it turned out. “Nice weather,” I ventured, trying to be friendly as I searched for the ticket machines. “Yeah. The machines are other there.” She pointed to a darkened corner of the room. As I opened my wallet and got out wads of cash – NCP managed to charge £14 for 7 hours of parking – she piped up again. “Yeah, I may be homeless but I can be useful.” Here we go, I thought. After a wail about her life story, I felt compelled to give her a couple of pounds. I told myself off as I wandered up the stairs, but it was too late. She had probably bought a quarter pound of brown by the time I’d reached the top stair.
I had arrived in Leeds on Sunday afternoon for the five-day marathon and booked into the closest hotel I could find. It managed to be situated beside a chinese restaurant and a TGI Fridays, which gave little choice for healthy eating – but a big choice for deliciously overpriced fodder. I was here that I returned that first afternoon. As I entered the hotel for the second time that week, a large gust of wind heralded my arrival, blowing everything around me off the table. Hell of an entrance, I think you’ll agree.
After a meal at TGI Friday’s, some newspaper reading and email sending, I settled down to a good night’s sleep.
And that’s how it’s been for the past five nights. The weather has got worse – my mother phoned on Tuesday to check how close I was to the especially windy Pennines – the trainer’s accent has got bearable, and I’ve actually learnt a whole load of useful stuff. Today I’m off home, back to my wonderful girlfriend, my wonderful new house and a whole load of DIY…

All Moved In!

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I’m not entirely sure you should be allowed to move house over Christmas.
movinghouse.jpgFirstly, there’s the financial absurdity. December is an expensive month anyway, without having to hire vans, feed helping friends, pay solicitors and start a lifelong mortgage. Then there’s the sheer organisation needed – for me, organising my morning’s breakfast is a bit of a struggle. So, here’s how Christmas went, Wibbler-style.
Moments after I wrote the last entry on here, the computer was switched off. NTL are not renowned for their efficiency – as a former post highlighted – and I resigned myself to defeat when they told me of a 2 week delay in transferring the services to our new pad. The delay horrified me, as you can imagine. So I employed a tactic straight from the annals of I claimed that Sky could install it in a week, and I wondered what NTL would be able to offer instead? Cue slight panic at the other end, culminating in 3 months of free NTL bills as an “apology”. I’m going to have to start lying more, I reckon…
So, back to the Big Computer Switch Off. Comprehensively tangled wires fought to say outside the packing boxes, and it was while I was grappling with them that Nick turned up.
Nick had very kindly taken a day off work to help clear our complete tip of a flat. The first thing we needed was a van, and off we trundled to Apex Van Rental in Burpham, only to find I’d forgotten a vital piece of identification. “You’re one of *those*, aren’t you,” said the woman on reception, clearly indicating that I needed a few more brain cells. Nick burst out laughing, while I nodded and sheepishly got back in Nick’s car, tail between my hefty legs. Eventually, we found the ID and got our mitts on an enormous van for only £25 a day. Bit of a bargain, I thought, especially as I’m bound to wreck it before sunset.
Slowly, throughout the morning, Michelle, Nick and I made a human chain down the two flights of stairs, piling the van high. Well, fairly high – it seems all our worldly wealth can be contained in half a van, which is a tad depressing. At 11am, a call came through that started a bodily wave of relief – the sale had been completed. We’d legally gained a house, and a whole load of never-ending debt. Woo!
At 2pm, after much-needed Domino’s pizzas – Texas Barbeque and Pepperoni Passion, since you ask – we set sail for the new house. There, waiting for us, was the previous owner, keys in hand and eager to show us how the house worked. And then… and then. The previous owner walked into the distance, and we all looked around in wonder. It was a great moment, and we took it in.
Only for about 5 minutes, mind you. We’d barely had time to investigate the garden before half of Michelle’s family breezed in with advice and cleaning products, giving the house a good once-over. They were closely followed by DFS, who with spectacular timing had managed to deliver on the very day ot the move. After we’d made them take the sofa covers off and put the wooden sofa feet on, a strong smell of leather rose from the seats. Then Sarah and Michelle’s sisters rocked up, plus her aunt, niece and nephew. It was like Piccadilly Circus.
The rest of the day was a bit of a blur, if I’m honest. I slowly became less and less excited – and more and more tired – as the trips backwards and forwards from the van and the flat took their toll. Michelle and I slumped into bed at 12.30am. The lights of the large Esporta gym over the road flooded the front bedroom as we dozed off – who needs a gym when you can have a workout like this?

We’re outta here

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Well, today’s the day. I probably should have mentioned it before – but Michelle and I have bought a house, and we’re moving today – which kinda explains why I haven’t even stopped to post over here recently. Just before Christmas, which as you can imagine adds a certain urgency to the thing. We’ll still be in Guildford, but in our own pad, with a garden – which I’ll have to pave over, obviously – and a shed, which will be my new alcohol-based bar. There’s SO MUCH to do, and so little time…
I’m sure, after I’ve recovered from box-moving and paid a few visits to the chiropractor to be told off for not lifting boxes correctly, I’ll fill you in. However, there may be a slight delay – the ever-efficient NTL cannot reconnect us to phones, TV or internet until 27th December, the little buggers…

KFC – Chicken Addicts Only.

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I’d like to raise a severe allegation against KFC. I would like to suggest that they are putting some sort of addictive ingredient into their mashed-up batter-covered chicken burgers and Buffalo Toasted Twisters. Why else would there be, last Friday, a 30-person queue of overweight, spotty people winding out of their restaurant in Guildford on a rain-filled night last Friday?

Online food shopping – why on earth not?

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foodshopping.jpgI’ve just completed our once-monthly online food shop, and it it reminded me of someone the other day complaining that they couldn’t afford the delivery charges. But there really is no reason not to do it. We live on the second floor of a place with no lift, and every time we shop online at Tesco we get the added bonus of seeing the exasperated face of a bloke lugging four of five crates of food up two flights of stairs. It’s fun, I assure you.
So, in a moment of full-on philanthropy, here are the arguments against online shopping – and the answers to knock ’em down.

1. They can’t usually deliver when I want.
Far be it for me to promote someone who’s already the top of the grocery pack, but Tesco are the way forward. They have two hour slots for delivery (if that’s not enough, Ocado from Waitrose do one hour slots) and can usually deliver within a day.

2. You have to pay for delivery.
True, you do. But with a little knowhow, you can cancel out the charge. You can get £5, £10 and £15 off your shopping total by using the codes listed on the Tesco Voucher Codes website, or reading the Voucher Forum on

3. It’s not secure.
It’s as secure as going into any shop. In fact, it’s more secure than that, as all the transactions are done by computers rather than people. So if you buy anything anywhere with a credit card, there’s no reason not to shop online for food.

4. You can’t potter around picking up other things you might like.
No you can’t – and this is surely a good thing, no? You don’t spend money on things you didn’t need in the first place, you don’t add more inches to your waistline, and you don’t add more pennies to Tesco’s bulging moneybags.

So what’s not to love about online food shopping?

The Prestige – the ultimate twist?

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I saw The Prestige with Michelle last night. It’s a movie with a whole load of big names – Michael Caine, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, David Bowie and several others – and it’s directed by Christopher Nolan, who did the stunningly clever Memento a few years ago. The Prestige is a great film too – all about two rival magicians and their obsession with each other’s tricks. The title comes from a description of the three stages of an illusion – first, the setup (“pledge”), where the magician shows the audience something that appears ordinary; second, the performance (“turn”), where the magician makes the ordinary act extraordinary. Lastly, there is the “Prestige”, where the effect of the illusion is produced.
I left the film marvelling at the twists and turns, but it appears there is even more to the film than meets the eye. The final line of the the film implies that “you’re looking for the secret… but you won’t find it. Because you want to be fooled.” the film may have a “Prestige” all of its own – as the posters on The Ultimate Twist (IMDB) are discussing. I won’t ruin it here – but suffice to say you should go and watch. The tagline – “Are you watching closely” – couldn’t be more apt. Oh, and if you haven’t seen it, the above links do give the game away a bit…

Catching up with life…

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Over the last couple of months, work has been more than busy. For those who don’t know – and those that usually forget every time I tell them – I’m a Software and IT specialist for a pharmaceutical company that seems to be growing exponentially. My combination of roles is taking it’s toll though. As the company grows, I’m feeling a bit like the last bit of jam at the end of the jam jar – rather thinly spread. Two large IT projects have been launched, while all the time supporting the UK software base, conducting all the training and being a general IT monkey. Getting in at 8am and leaving at 7pm is not a load of fun – and hopefully after a bit of discussion last week things will pan out well in the new year.
And because of this – and the 4 websites I’ve built recently – nothing really happened on, as several readers are at pains to point out.
However, I this the site is due a revamp, don’t you?

A bit of Stuff

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“Don’t come too early, cos I’ve got a late night with Renault people. And Hannah.”

Jac’s certainly not wasted time since his release from a long termer a couple of months ago. One woman in particular seems to have become a regular fixture at his new house in Putney, and this latest snippet of information was like a red rag to a bull. Nick and I were due at Jac’s on Saturday morning to visit the Stuff Show in Hammersmith. We hadn’t met Hannah, and decided it was about time we forced Jac’s hand. We turned up on his doorstep at 8.30am, eager as a couple of beavers. It was a freezing morning, and after a couple of rings of the doorbell, I gave him a call.
“Morning Jac. How are you feeling?”
“I see. We’re outside your house.”
“Let us in please.”
“You utter *****.”
It still took him a few minutes to gather his senses and open the door, by which time we were slowly turning to icicles. Turns out he wasn’t too impressed with our early start, his hangover still in full force – and Nick and I instantly made the most of it, laudly stomping round the house and requesting breakfast. We took ourselves for a short tour of his new pad, and as we entered the front room he hurriedly removed items of clothing and underwear from the chairs and floor. “Had a good night?” I asked, catching a glimpse of Hannah round the door. “Hmmmm,” he replied. Nick and I gave ourselves a look of mirth.
A couple of sausage sandwiches later, we’d met Hannah, teased Jac (“she seems nice,” was met with a Jac-based scowl) and hurried him along. After discovering I’d got a parking ticket for NO REASON AT ALL (complaint pending on that one, let me assure you) we arrived at the Stuff Show and took in the gadgetry. It was actually a little disappointing – far less stands than the year before, and the stands that were there were mostly selling MP3 players. We left a few hours later for lunch, discovering that Putney is actually very nice, and that Gourmet Burger Kitchen is an amazing place to go for cracking burgers.
So, a bit of a revelation – I’ve found a bit of London I actually like! Check me out…