2009 Archive

I recently rediscovered an old blog of mine from 10 years ago that, despite it’s age, made for quite interesting reading. A snapshot if you like of how my life was back in my late 20’s.

It was titled ‘4:45am’. A nod to the time of the morning when I would be making my way to work and when I usually had most of my ideas of what to write. I lived in Surrey, worked as a baker and had no money. Some things never change eh?

It may not be of interest to everyone of course, but it cetainly demonstrates my ability to write creativly.

About me – as I was in 2009.

I’ve always found it quite a challenge to write an ‘About me’ page. I mean, where do you start?

Well I guess at the beginning with the basics is as good a place as any to start. So…

I’m Chris, I’m near enough 30 years old and I live in a nice part of Surrey. By day, I’m a Fisher Price baker. By night, well, i’m.. er.. not.

By my own admittion I’m quite a complicated person. I think a lot. Sometimes about important and worthwhile things, sometimes about trivial or pointless things. Sometimes my mood swings get the better of me and I’ll spend a good few days feeling low, or sometimes it’ll swing the other way and I’ll be irritatingly happy and cheerful. That’s just me. You’ll get used to me. Underneath all the complications I’m the sort of person that will do anything for anyone. I usually care, despite pretending not to.

I’m a huge music fan. It’s probably one of the most important things in my life. Even the most tedious of tasks can be made better when accompanied by a good album or two. I love all different types of music. Anything from The Beatles to Basshunter. I can appreciate it all. I’m also a big Radio junkie. But only good, personality-led radio is good enough. I’m not interested in soul-less, wallpaper radio like Heart or anything. I’ve discovered so many great artists just through listening to Radio 1 at all hours of the day, but nothing of interest from the commercial stations.

Aside from music, I like to play Xbox as and when the mood takes me. On a good day playing Grand Theft Auto IV online can be the funniest thing in the world. I love going to gigs as much as my finances let me, and I enjoy good telly and good books. Oh, and good beer, good food and good company. And a good laugh.

Clubland Live 3

Originally published: 6th December 2009

Once again last night I decided to abandon the Simon Cowell sponsered excitement of The X Factor in favour of spending 3 hours sat in the shabby surroundings of the Hammersmith Apollo.

Clubland Live 3 hit London last night with a half-arsed bang. Bringing with it the good, (Agnes, Darren Styles, Cascada) the bad, (Shouty-man MC Domino) and the ugly, (Fat chavs in tutus). They also bought N-Dubz with them. Who looked completely out of place amongst the rest of the dance line up. Highlights of N-Dubz set included the mysterious absence of Tinchy Stryder and Dappy encouraging the entire arena to call one member of the audience an ‘Ugly Fucker’ after they threw a bottle in his direction.

Poor old Natalie Horler from Cascada also suffered during her headline performance after her backing track failed to start. She was left looking rather awkward and somewhat annoyed. A couple of her dancers tried to keep the crowd entertained during the un-scheduled silent break but when the backing track still failed to materialise, Natalie and the rest of Cascada left the stage. I personally felt quite sorry for her. Because up until then her performance had easily been the best of the night.

Other highlights of the night included Agnes’ criminally short set, (I need you now, Release me) Darren Styles going through the motions, (Come Running, Save Me, Outta My Head) and Mini Viva, who are rather like a good version of the dismal Booty Luv, opening the show with the anthemic ‘Left my heart in Tokyo’ and forthcoming single ‘I Wish’.

All in all, despite the technical problems, the slightly disappointing sound levels and the presence of N-Dubz it was a fairly good night. I’m not particularly fond of the Hammersmith Apollo though mind-you. An overpriced bar, (Even for London!) and Toilets not dis-similar to the one that Renton dives into in Trainspotting don’t make for a good venue.

They were filming the show last night for Clubland TV, so it’ll be interesting to see how it comes across.

Expressing myself in more than 140 characters.

Originally published: 7th December 2009

I’ve started many blogs like this one in the past and mostly failed to stick to them. Perhaps because I’ve either lost interest in them rather quickly or maybe because I’m not very good at keeping to things. But since I started using Twitter regularly I’ve become slightly better at expressing myself in written word.

Often when I’m on my lonely walk to my mostly tedious supermarket job I think of something that I think would be quite good to write down somewhere. Some random thought about something or other that might have popped into my head while I was sleeping that just decided to resurface at the front of my mind at that particular moment. Twitter restricts me to 140 characters which usually isn’t enough to fully expand on that thought, so hence the appearance of this blog.

Whether it’s of any interest to anybody else other than me or people or know me is largely irrelevant. But it will hopefully help me to empty my mind of some of the more random thoughts and feelings that usually make an appearance at a quarter to five in the morning, and more importantly, it will hopefully get me used to writing more than 140 characters in time for the start of my college course in less than a months time.

Lost Christmas

Originally published: 10th December 2009

These days the first sighting of the Christmas Coca-cola advert on the telly marks the imminent arrival of the festive season for many people. But back 20 years or so when I was just 10 years old, it was the advert below that heralded the start of the run up to Christmas for me.

As soon as I first saw the famous Toys R Us advert during Childrens ITV it usually prompted me to sit on the living room floor with both the Argos and Index catalogues and start leafing through the toy and electrical sections in order to make a comprehensive list of presents that I wanted my parents to get me. Usually my Christmas lists were massively unrealistic. But I still loved doing it.

I always loved the month or so running up to the big day. The excitement of the Christmas Radio & TV Times’ arriving in the house and spending a good hour or so carefully going through them looking for all the decent films and Christmas specials that were scheduled over the festive season. The fun of decorating the tree and seeing it all lit up with fairy lights. The yearly tradition of waking up at 2am on Christmas day and not being able to go back to sleep.

Christmas in the present day then has perhaps lost a lot of its magic and sparkle from when I was a child. The festive season for me these days means a few days off work and the opportunity to eat and drink as much as I like without feeling in the slightest bit guilty. It’s all about trying to work out what to buy everyone else for presents rather than spending hours working out what I want to find under the tree on the big day. It’s all about spending the entire morning in the kitchen cooking Christmas lunch, normally with wine glass in hand. Even the magic of Christmas TV has all but disappeared thanks to Sky and the hundreds of channels it offers.

But still, the Toys R Us advert is still on…..

The way in which we listen to music may have evolved, but the restrictions are still there.

Originally published: 13th December 2009

The way in which we purchase, listen to and indeed experience music is ever-changing and evolving. Think back years and years and the ability to fit an entire album or two onto a small plastic cassette tape and then listen to said cassette tape on a small portable cassette player whilst walking down the road was considered by most as an incredible achievement both for modern technology and for the music industry alike. Now with this modern technology available to everyone you were no longer restricted as to where you could listen to your favourite music.

With this innovation however came the obligatory worries about piracy and copyright and how home taping had the potential to damage or even kill off the music industry. But yet still Argos were flogging midi hi-fi systems with twin tape decks that boasted the ability to dub a copy of a tape at high-speed. So the copying of music can’t really have been that much of a worry for the industry can it? After all, if the music industry or the government were that keen to put a stop to the practise of home taping they would have taken action against the manufacturers of such home recording equipment, right?

Anyway, like with any entertainment medium, the technology evolved. As people began to realise that cassette tapes weren’t in fact the music format of the future and in fact they were actually quite prone to getting chewed up or snapping and were all in all a little bit rubbish really, CD’s quickly began to take over as the format of choice. CD’s sounded better, had absolutely no chance of getting chewed up by your player and looked altogether much cooler and futuristic. A few years later, the inevitable happened and CD burners began to appear in PC’s across the nation. Almost every shop under the sun began to sell blank CD’s and once again the music industry began speculating that CD copying and burning would eventually kill off the music industry. Yet, like before, the equipment that enabled anyone to make an illegal copy of a CD was readily and legally available to buy on any high street the length and breadth of the country.

In the late 1990’s and with the ever-increasing popularity and availability of the Internet, music technology evolved again. This time with the help of a small, perfectly legal bit of freely available software called Napster. In simple terms, Napster enabled it’s user base to share any music that they had on their PC’s hard drive with each other via their home Internet connection. The music needed to be ripped from CD onto the PC into a highly compressed audio format called MPEG Layer 3 or MP3 for short. A typical MP3 file was around 4mb. Easily small enough to share over even the 56k Internet connections that were commonplace at the time. Essentially, Napster and the other similar file sharing programmes that were beginning to appear were like the computer equivalent of several people all standing in a room and exchanging CD’s with each other. But on a much grander scale.

As Internet connections and PC technology improved, the popularity of sharing music via the Internet increased. And again, inevitably the music industry and the government caught wind of it. The actual act of downloading and uploading copyrighted music from and to the Internet became illegal. But the actual software that enabled you to do such a thing remained the exact opposite. The sharing of music online was predicted to be the death of the music industry again, as it had been 20 years ago when Cassettes where at their peak, and so both the government and the industry set about putting a stop to it. But not entirely. Because the Internet and doing things digitally was the future. And they all wanted a piece of it.

Fast forward to the present-day, and the fledgling digital music technology that was just beginning to emerge underground back then has fast  become the norm. Yes, people still buy albums on CD as sometimes it’s nice to actually see something physical for the £9.99 you’ve just outlayed. But the majority of music is purchased digitally via the iTunes music store or 7Digital or one of the other many thousands of download stores that litter the web. Once purchased, it’s played back on an iPod or one your PC or even perhaps through a traditional stereo with an iPod dock or other such digital music input. Downloading music from the Internet is the future, and rather than kill off the music industry it has instead enhanced and strengthened it. The ordinary consumer now has the ability to access far more music than they could back in the days of the cassette tape. All sorts of different types of music. Different genres and styles. It’s all out there to be experienced. Think of how many new bands and artists have had their big break after being spotted on YouTube or MySpace and having their song played out on late-night Radio 1. The Internet has in my opinion boosted the music industry rather than slowly kill it.

But the Internet is a global technology. It’s not just restricted to America or the UK. It’s worldwide. You can visit any website from any corner of the globe in an instant. And frankly, even after all these years of using the Internet, that still amazes me.

So what with the Internet being such a worldwide phenomenon. And what with digital music being the future and all that. I wonder why I am still unable to legally purchase a song from another country? After all, I am perfectly able to purchase a CD album or single from Amazon in Germany from the comfort of my flat here in Surrey. So why not a digital copy? Surely it’s the same thing, right?

I guess that’s kind of the point I’ve been trying to make in my own roundabout way throughout this blog entry. Despite the evolution of recording and listening technology, and despite the freedom of the Internet and the fact that the UK is a part of Europe, when it comes to music and entertainment we are all subject to these ridiculous and tiresome restrictions and boundaries that in this modern age of digital global communications and technology that we really shouldn’t be.

Panic buying

Originally published: 10th January 2010

This is my first blog entry for around a month. Thus re-enforcing the point I made in an earlier entry that I am not very good at sticking to things such as blogging. That aside, I’m kind of bored and couldn’t think of anything else to do. There’s a stupid amount of snow and ice sat on the ground outside that looks pretty but is starting to become somewhat of an annoyance to most people. Me included.

There are many reasons for my ever increasing annoyance with the cold, white stuff. Here are just 3 of them:

1. Absolute morons who are convinced that the world is about to end, charging round the supermarkets filling their trollies and baskets with as much bread and milk as they can lay their sweaty hands on. All because they think that the supermarkets are going to run out of such basic foodstuffs because of the bad weather.

I wonder, has it occurred to the aforementioned morons that the only reason that the supermarkets might end up running out of the essentials is because of idiots like themselves panic buying stupid amounts of food that they don’t actually need and therefore emptying the shelves before the next delivery has a chance to get through? Probably not.

Interestingly, these same people that are selfishly taking all the milk and bread are also panic buying toilet roll. As if the sudden cold snap is going to trigger an unfortunate bout of stress-related diarrhea or something. Surely a pack of 16 is more than enough to last any typical family for at least a week? How many shits does any normal person realistically have in a day?

2. The way in which the entire country appears to have ground to a halt simply because of a slightly heavier than usual dusting of snow. Surely, you’d think that after the last really heavy snowfall early last year we as a country would be a bit more prepared.

But apparently not. Within a minute of the first snowflake falling everything started going tits up. Cars and trains everywhere gave up. Schools across the country closed much to the delight of both students and teachers, neither of whom could really be bothered to go in anyway and would rather spend the day messing about in the snow.

Office workers everywhere relished the thought of an unplanned day off to spend the day staring blankly at Facebook on their own computer for a change, while retail staff the length and breadth of the country grimaced at the thought of having to spend the day pandering to the needs of the daft, panic buying public. Oh, and someone forgot to order enough salt to grit the roads with. Despite having been fully aware of the impending cold snap for at least a week. D’oh!

3. The non-stop, increasingly desperate coverage of all the above by the rolling news channels, who insist on sending some poor sod out in to the middle of nowhere to tell us the bleeding obvious. “Well, as you can see behind me, the snow is still particularly bad here’ they state as their entire body proceeds to turn blue. Great, thanks for that.

A brief age-related musing.

Originally published: 10th January 2010

Although I have tried to ignore it as much as possible, and not think about it too much, it is becoming increasingly more and more difficult to avoid the fact that in a matter of weeks I will leave my 20’s behind and reach my next big age milestone. The big 30. And from here on in, so i’ve been reassuringly told, it’s all downhill from there.

Though perhaps that’s quite a negative approach to have when it comes to life. After all, you only have one life as far as we know, so we ought to live what life we do have to the full. I’m certainly trying to adopt a more positive approach to my life from now on. Obviously, in the past 30 years I probably have made quite a lot of silly mistakes. If I really sat and thought about it for a few minutes I could probably list hundreds of mistakes that I’ve made or hundreds of things i’ve done or situations that I’ve been in that I could’ve handled better. But everybody makes mistakes. The things we do badly or mess up are just as important as the things that we do well. It’s what makes us individual. If we all did everything right all the time, if we never made any mistakes then we would all be identical. Just a bunch of clones walking around living identical lives. How boring would that be?

So as I approach my 30th year, I’m taking a fresh, positive outlook on life. After all, i’ve got a lot of good things to look forward to.

Driving me crazy.

Originally published: 20th February 2010

When most people turn 17 years old it’s more than likely that they’ll want driving lessons as their main birthday present. I wish I’d asked for driving lessons. But no. At the age of 17 I was more interested in building up my N64 collection. So I asked for a pile of games instead. The only driving I was likely to be doing on my birthday was on Mario Kart.

Now I’ve made a lot of decisions in my  life that I’ve gone on to regret, and that has to rank right up there with sinking into a vast sea of unsecured debt. Just think, if I’d learnt to drive a real car when I was 17 instead of a virtual 150cc go-kart things might have turned out very differently. I might not have ended up working for Sainsburys for 5 years for example as I would’ve been able to work further afield instead of being restricted to working in Farnham. Consequently, I probably wouldn’t have sunk into the aforementioned sea of debt. And I certainly wouldn’t have had to spend countless hours stood waiting on freezing cold railway station platforms waiting for the connection that’s always late.

But I guess there’s little point in wallowing in past mistakes. Especially if it’s easy to rectify them. It’s best to look to the future. And in just over a week I will finally begin learning to drive.

I’ve never driven a car before. But I can’t wait to get started. I guess at the moment I’m feeling excited, enthusiastic and just a little bit nervous. Although I know there’s nothing to worry about. The car I’m going to be learning in has dual controls so I know that even if I do mess up on a grand scale my instructor will be able to take charge and prevent any major disasters. I just need to keep focussed on what my ability to drive will do to change my life.

It’s good to have a positive outlook on life. A negative outlook really doesn’t get you anywhere.

The day of nothing.

Originally published: 21st February 2010

I tend to spend most of the working week longing for it to be Sunday. Sunday for me is the one day of the week when I can usually get a decent lie-in and not have to be up at silly o’clock to bake bread and ice cakes while desperately trying to keep my eyes open. Although to be honest I think I actually handle the 4am starts rather well. Though I guess that’s down to the fact that I’ve been doing them for almost 3 years now and my body is probably used to being woken up and made to function in the middle of night when most other people are asleep.

So Sunday has finally arrived and despite enjoying the best sleep I’ve had all week and having had a nice rest, I find myself feeling extremely bored. I’ve done my usual Sunday chores, such as working my way through the mountain of washing that’s built up during the week and cooking Sunday lunch. But after that, what exactly is there to do? Bearing in mind that it’s the weekend before payday so I’m completely skint, so a post-lunchtime walk to the pub for a couple of well-earned pints and the option of losing a few quid on the Deal or No Deal machine is a no-go.

Obviously, I’ve tried turning the telly on and flicking through page after page of Sky channels in the hope of finding something to keep me entertained. Unfortunately it appears that the TV schedulers lack imagination when it comes to programming their channels on a Sunday, so I’m either faced with a 12 hour marathon on Family Fortunes with Les Dennis on Challenge, (Er.. No.) a 12 hour marathon of Spendaholics on Really, (I’ve spent enough hours of my life agonizing over my own financial problems without worrying about anyone elses.) or the predictable 12 hour marathon of Only Fools and Horses on Gold. I love Only Fools and Horses, there’s only so many times I can watch the same few episodes before I start reciting them word for word as they play out on the telly.

I’ve run out of new books to read. And I have to be in the right frame of mind to play Xbox. Today, I am not in the right frame of mind. In fact, I find Sundays so dull and tedious most of the time that I tend to get into the sort of mind state where the thought of doing anything or going anywhere seems, well, dull and tedious. And too much like hard work.

So in the end I end up spending far too much of the day on the net. Usually on Facebook. Wasting valuable minutes and hours of my life growing tiny pixellated strawberries on my virtual desert island. Or commenting on my friends status’ about how they too are bored and can’t really be bothered to do anything because it’s Sunday. I could go on for ages about Facebook and how it really is pointless and why I really, really ought to just bite the bullet and leave it once and for all. But that’s for another day. And another blog entry.

Turning 30 and learning to drive.

Originally published: 27th March 2010

Since I last bothered writing a few paragraphs on this blog it would appear that rather a lot has happened. Firstly and most obviously I’ve turned 30. I think my 30th year will be somewhat of a landmark as far as my life goes. Although at the moment there’s very little difference to being 29. With the exception of there being a ‘3’ at the start of my age instead of a ‘2’. 3 is greater than 2 so with any luck my 30’s will be considerably better than my 20’s. That’s what I’m hoping anyway.

At the end of the day you’re as old as you feel. I’ve spent most of my 20’s still feeling like I was 18 and it’s only recently that I’ve really started to feel my age. My priorities in life are very different now compared to my priorities 10 years ago. When I was 20 all that really mattered was being out and about, drinking too much and having money. Now at the age of 30 I’m mostly concerned with saving money rather than spending it, getting on the property ladder, starting a family, job satisfaction and happiness. The latter two of those I’m working on at the moment. The off-licence that I used to be deputy manager at is currently advertising for full time staff. And I dare say that when I walked past it the other day and saw the advert I was sorely tempted to apply for it. But to be honest it would just be a step backwards. And it’s usually better to try and move forwards rather than back when it comes to work. Plus they (Amazingly) probably wouldn’t pay as well as Sainsburys. So it’s back to searching through the job listings for that little glimmer of hope.

And while I’m waiting for that glimmer to appear, I’m busy learning to drive. I’ve only had two lessons so far but I’m really enjoying it. I’m still getting to grips with co-ordinating my feet on the different pedals as well as steering, changing gear and concentrating on the road around me all at the same time. But I’m pleased with my progress so far, as is my instructor. This time a month ago I’d never driven a car before, and now I’m able to drive a Ford Focus around the block. I’ve also done hill starts and started to learn clutch control which my Instructor seemed to think I picked up quite easily. Have got lesson number 3 on Monday morning so fingers crossed it all goes well. 

October stuff n’ nonsense

Originally published: 24th October 2010

Like most blogs that I’ve started in the past I seem to have let this one slip a bit. Well, since March actually. Not that I haven’t thought about updating it. I have. Usually at ten to five in the morning when I’m walking to work. But obviously by the time I’ve finished work I’ve pretty much forgotten what it was I thought I ought to write about in the first place. Such is the way when you do the silly hours that I do. Your mind tends to be all over the place, fluctuating from thought to thought at a rate of knots. But anyway my point was that it’s probably about time I posted a bit of an update on here. Which I am now. So…

Since I last posted, I’ve made my first attempt at passing the practical driving test, and failed it. Apparently I should learn to edge out from junctions rather than just going when I can clearly see there’s a gap, oh, and I should avoid Farnborough’s Clockhouse Roundabout like the plague. Surprisingly I didn’t get marked down for the things that I thought I might get marked down on. Such as going too fast and forgetting to check in the bloody mirrrors everytime I breathe in and out. Yes I am getting somewhat frustrated with learning to drive. I passed the theory and hazard perception tests without too much bother. Despite having to deal with the old guy on reception at the test centre that clearly wanted everyone to fail and hated his job. Don’t we all, eh?

I am still getting up at 4.00am to bake bread for Satansburys. Through necessity rather than through choice. Despite the recession apparently being over, it still seems damn near impossible to get another job. I have been looking at other options though that might help me to finally jump ship. In order to get all the things that I want out of life, such as a nice house, a car of some sort and a family I need to invest in myself. So that’s what I need to do. Invest in.. er.. myself. Yup.

Other stuff that’s going on at the moment. The X Factor’s back on and even more dire yet compulsive than last year. Wagner is this years novelty act it would seem and therefore I would like to see him win it. However, based on sheer talent my money’s on Rebecca Ferguson. In reality, Cher Lloyd will win. Because Simon Cowell wants her to. Also, The Apprentice is back on as well. Worth watching alone for Lord Sugars numerous uncomfortable attempts at humour, and also to watch a handful of city nobs make a fool of themselves on national telly. For the record, I want Liz to win, obviously.

I wonder how many Amstrad E-Mailer phones The ‘Sugar’ managed to sell in the end…?

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