Quiz all over my face

12:05 am : Wednesday, 29 April 2015  |  , , ,

Tuesday night is quiz night for us at the Angel Inn in Oundle. Hosted by resident Corbyite Stuart, fun is always guaranteed. Usually my team ends up winning the music quiz, and last night was no exception! It pays to know your Pickettywitch and your Chairmen of the Board. I do tend to get thrown by the more modern music (being the old fart that I am), but that's where the younger person comes in - helping me to differentiate between Lemar and Seal.

On the karaoke front, we have found a venue that plays every Sunday night. This is very useful as Sunday night TV is usually dire, and with Hannah not willing to sit through another Sky+ recording of Rude Tube, it makes sense to take me to Corby for a hearty rendition of Handle With Care. Plus the drinks are cheap there too. Petrol money permitting, this could become a regular thing.

Later this morning I have an appointment for an ECG test. This is following my recent angina attack. Apart from more walking, the only thing I have been able to do health-wise is eat my food a lot slower. Learning to taste it again, as opposed to just getting it inside of me. Even at this age, bad habits have to be unlearned. It's no wonder I have the shape of a beer barrel.

I shall now leave you with a video. This one is in memory of the late Keith Harris, who unfortunately passed away yesterday aged 67 due to cancer. The very Keith Harris who gave us Orville the duck.

Back in 1991, a rave outfit called DWA* brought us an interpretation of the classic (!) Orville song I Wish I Could Fly. What we have to remember is that this was the fashion in dance music at the time - taking a children's TV theme or song, and troweling on the techno (Rainbow, Roobarb, Sesame Street and Trumpton were also casualties of this fad). And as if that was not enough, YouTube user keiththedish has laid on a VERY clever video to accompany said song. So push your musical sensibilities to one side and gaze in awe and wonder!

* (DWA was actually comprised of artist Stuart Crichton - better known as the anagrammatic Narcotic Thrust, and also Umboza who gave us the wonderful Bamboleo-sampling 1996 hit Sunshine.)

I Wish I Could Fly - DWA with Orville the Duck and Keith

Incidentally, this dance adaptation even managed to upset a few rather sensitive people, due to the fact that our fluffy friend was somehow advocating the use of those naughty little MDMA pills. All I can say is - you cannot argue with stupid!

The perils of ageing

8:30 pm : Monday, 13 April 2015  | 

My health seems to be getting a little worse of late. Saturday night saw me suffering an angina attack. For me it was a horrendous pain in my jaw accompanied by pain in my upper chest. Having been non-smoking since mid/late January, I am seriously disappointed at this lack of health. Talk about not rewarding me for my valuable effort. I know my weight is an issue, but why this?

I am now on daily aspirin, and should an attack happen again, I will have to pop a tablet under my tongue. This is now a serious wake-up call. At 42 I am on tablets for blood pressure, cholesterol, prostate matters - and now angina. Life just gets better and better, does it not! I am not best happy about it all. I know I should lose weight again. I have been slim before, and it is now up to me to achieve that again.

A perfect response

3:18 am : Saturday, 11 April 2015  | 

These days people tend to view the web on all manner of portable devices. Phones and tablets are pretty much ubiquitous, and the laptop or notebook appears to have taken the place of the lumbering desktop. Sure desktops are still available, but why bother having a space-hog when you can plonk it on your lap and end up with a nice helping of erythema ab igne.

For the site designer, this means ensuring your site is properly viewable on pretty much every device that is out there. I can remember my early days of being a web designer, and selfishly designing for the 1024x768 resolution, yet ensuring it was viewable on an 800x600 screen. Little did I know that some people were still using the earlier 640x480 resolution - because that's as great as their monitors would display. This saw me having to limit my page widths to a pathetic 600 pixels just for the sake of compatibility, which meant folk with larger screens would have plenty of space on either side of the page.

Things have changed. We now have people using smaller - even tinier screens. So it makes sense to cater for these folk, yet not forcing big screen perverts (like me) to adapt. In comes responsive web design - a fancy way of having the page adjust itself specifically for the screen it is being displayed on. An example is shown above, look! Whether it be iPad™, iPhone™ or Android™ tablet - it's got to fit the screen properly. And if it's a 19" monitor that is being used - then stretch it baby! "Fill dat screen bruv, ya git me?"

Responsive design is important, even. Recently Google has started ranking sites according to their accessibility credentials. This means that the responsive site can expect to achieve a higher position on a search page as opposed to the non-responsive one. So it makes sense to get on board and get responsive. It is highly annoying, and thoroughly alienating when you visit a site on your mobile device, only to find the content unreadable because it is trying to display a full-width, full-size page within that meagre screen. Double-tapping the screen to zoom in on the page, then having to swipe horizontally back and forth just to read the text. Not too helpful.

I will be honest, learning responsive design was daunting, but it is what is required in this age of wildly differing screen resolutions. You have to pull your finger out and get with the times. Netscape 4 is long gone. CRT monitors are pretty much done with. Apple have released a watch now. Expect people to be viewing web pages on their wrists! It's called progress.

Laugh? I nearly voted Tory!

2:38 pm : Tuesday, 7 April 2015  |  , ,

Today's post arrived, and there was an envelope for Hannah. If an envelope shows up with an unfamiliar return address, I will usually search the postcode and PO Box number online. This one appeared to be from Marks and Spencer. No concerns then!

She opened it, and it was a letter from that f*cking Prime Minister of ours, David Cameron. A letter asking her to vote him in for another five years. There was no equivalent for me, but then I have never voted for that bunch of idiots.

The only good thing that this Government did was increase the Income Tax allowance from £6,500 in 2010 to £10,500 in 2015. But then, that was only because they were in coalition with the Liberal Democrats, who had been crying out for a proper tax-free allowance for goodness knows how long. With that in mind, I am at a loss to understand how more people are not on the side of the Liberal Democrats like they were back in 2010. Talk about ingratitude.

For the record, I have never voted Tory. I have never been able to bring myself to do so. I can remember their budget of 1988 (I was 15 at the time) when they slashed tax for the richest, while decreeing that 16 and 17 year olds would no longer be able to receive Housing Benefit if they are not working - the assumption being that people under 18 should not even be living on their own in the first place. The result of this was a literal explosion in the number of young people on the streets begging for dear survival. Visiting London's West End was not possible without having to play hopscotch over the many youths begging for money for survival. This was not what a supposedly civilised country was supposed to do for its people. And all people could say to these poor youngsters was: "Get a job". Sickening.

In 1992 I voted for change - which sadly did not happen. The braying toffs got in again and gave us 22 tax rises - having previously promised "tax cuts year on year". In 1997 I again voted for change - and this time got it.

2010 saw the people lose their heads (like those imbeciles who voted George W. Bush back in in 2004) and allow the Eton brigade back in. "We are all in this together", he lied. We now have people losing their homes because they now have to pay for bedrooms they apparently do not need. Even those who once received full Council Tax Benefit due to being out of work are now having to pay 10% of their annual bill from whatever pittance they are provided - the non-payment of which results in bailiffs coming round to seize their property. WE ARE NOT BETTER OFF. This is inhumane, and I want rid of it.

So Mr. Cameron: if you are counting on our votes to allow you and your lot another five years of fun and games, then you can f*ck off and die. You do not deserve our consideration. My partner with her disabilities has already been made to suffer as a result of your bright ideas. Do us a favour - just get lost.

Reclaiming the voice

1:13 am : Monday, 6 April 2015  |  , , ,

Ten weeks ago I decided to quit smoking. A very difficult task, made all the more difficult when you happen to enjoy it. 24th of January to be precise. All I can say is thank goodness for the advent of the e-cig. It has been the only substitute that is in any way enjoyable for me. Being able to use it in a pub or cafe is also of great benefit.

The only thing I really wanted to improve was my singing voice. When I lived in London, I was attending karaoke twice a week. Here amongst the greenery, it is available to me just once a month. A lack of practice combined with a love of smoking was only going to destroy my voice. It is no fun losing the ability to hit a near-decent high note and having to cough in-between verses and choruses.

Laying off the ciggies and the pipe has at long last seen me start to regain a proper singing voice. Months ago, even singing the low and gentle And I Love You So would have me clearing my throat and resorting to Bacardi to soothe it! Friday last, I was able to belt out Pulling Mussels (From The Shell) with nae bother at all. Does anyone realise how happy that makes me? Even Dancing In The Dark produced only a couple of slight croaks. The voice is coming back. With a bit of luck, there shall soon be two karaoke evenings a month for me. Bring it on if you please.

Right now I am drawing on an 18mg-strength menthol e-cig. I was never a menthol smoker, but it is all they had in the Co-op. Tastes so much like mint Tic-Tac's! Lord knows I would give much for a pack of Davidoff Classic or a bowl of St. Bruno, but I just have to lay off them. Hannah likes me more when I don't stink, and somehow I am able to smell the cat litter tray a little more easily.

As for Easter Sunday, I had a cheap and cheerful small Mars egg. There is no beating a Green and Blacks organic choccy egg, but money dictates.

And now for some music. This track came to my attention by way of that old 1990 dance compilation Deep Heat 8. Disc two began with this soulful number by Swedish singer Titiyo*, who just so happens to be Neneh Cherry's half-sister.

* (The spell-checker even went as far as to suggest that I use the word "titty" in place of her actual name. Give me strength!)

Titiyo - Flowers

Bring back the 90's I say! Bring back the yin and yang jewellery! But keep the puffa jackets if you don't mind.

This is a journey...

2:56 am : Sunday, 5 April 2015  |  , ,

If there is one thing that can be said about life, then it is that life is a journey. A journey that can alter at the drop of a hat. For better or for worse, no-one can know. The great future is unwritten, and cannot always be planned for.

This time twenty years ago, I became married to Lesley. It was on the 8th April 1995 at Ealing Town Hall. We had hopes and dreams. Little did I know that things would very soon take a downward turn. 1995 would see me become homeless - three months of sleeping rough before eventually being rescued and then rehoused in Birmingham. Eventually the marriage would come to a tragic halt, leaving me to start over, in a different place and with different plans.

Even thinking back ten years ago reveals plans that did not quite work out. At one point, the early April of 2005 would have seen me moving to Manchester, to live with Clair. Again, there were hopes and dreams that did not quite realise fulfillment. Different plans once again came into play.

What actually became of the that April of 2005 was meeting Julie. Once again, hopes and dreams were built - but only to crash and burn in their own good time.

We cannot help but look back on the things of the past. The hopes and the plans we had, whatever became of them, and where they have eventually led us to. For a start, I never thought I would ever leave London. Live in Birmingham? Why would I ever do that? Well I did! Manchester? I may have family aplenty up there, but could it have become a home? There was Watford, but that was just outside of London and therefore did not keep me from the vibrancy of London.

Today finds me living in greenest Northamptonshire. It has been two and a half years in fact. Yes, the hourly bus service to either Corby or Peterborough (or every two hours on a Sunday) is another world entirely. But then London can spoil you with its comprehensive night bus network. Even the nearest rail service to me (from Corby) is once an hour. Lord, I miss the Northern Line sometimes! That said, how can I ever leave this place? I would be mad to. I am in a far better place now that I was all those years ago. My health may be a little poorer, but things are a whole lot better.

On an entirely separate note, I must apologise for this blog being a little inaccessible of late. My other sites are down because of a hosting issue which shall be resolved in good time. You can still find me here.

Happy Easter. Enjoy the new look of the blog, by the way.