Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Supermassive Black Hole

As this is supposed to be a parenting blog - "Hi everyone on Mumsnet", I suppose it would be just as well if I did the occasional post about the children! That was the original intention however I do seem to get sidetracked off onto random topics and exploring some of the strange ideas that come into my head. It's a bit of a mixed blog for that reason - you never really know what you are going to get. Like a bag of Revels - which incidentally is like a game of Russian Roulette for me - what with the peanut allergy and all.

In fact people from mumsnet who read this must think I am some sort of weirdo. In fact most of my friends do, so what chance have I got with random strangers when they read my questionnaire's and readers letters.

Probably thing it's the outpouring of a seriously deranged mind.

What you, my loyal readers must remember at all times that there's a lot of poetic license in what I write, intended purely for amusement value. For instance, one reader yesterday picked up on my casual comment about not remembering why I split up with my ex-girlfriend. Of course I do, but to maintain an entertaining narrative flow, and in keeping with the "caddish" nature of the post, I thought it amusing to pretend otherwise!

So remember - it's all tongue-in-cheek! Those of you that know me well enough can usually work out what's in jest and what's real.

Anyway - the kiddies. So impressed with them this morning. Well up until about 8:25am anyway. As you will know from past bloggage, our meal table has frequently been somewhat of a battleground, but they were so good this morning with their breakfast. Jamie, although he is only 1, is already out of the high chair and likes to sit up at the table himself. In fact I only have to say "breakfast time" and he's up and sat at the table. Ollie likewise after some initial grumbling "Can I have toast?" "No", was also sat there.

What did they have - well fantastically, it's healthy. They both like Shreddies - and I seat them there with a bowl each and a spoon and they both wolf them down - no mess, no spillage. They both have some milk on them and no sugar. In fact they never ask for sugar. Why? Because I have never even introduced the concept that you can put sugar on cereal, so what they don't know about they can't ask for.


Of course to set a good example I do not put sugar on my cereal either - but then again I have Frosties, so I can get away with it!

Anyway they sat and ate it all up as good as gold - leaving me with a happy glowing moment of parental pride. Then we hit a problem.

All set and ready to go to school - but it quickly becomes apparent that Ollie's shoes were nowhere to be found. Just what you don't need when you need to be out of the door 30 seconds ago. House turned upside down, panic, panic, panic, attempt to phone Mrs Jason to find out if she knows where they are, no answer. Eventually he ends up going to school in the rather odd combination of shorts and wellies (no rain today, of course).

As for the shoes - they have disappeared into the Supermassive Black Hole that we all have in our homes that swallows key things you need when you are in a rush. On my return from school I assumed that I would find them eventually - in the process of the million and one unsung things that we mums have to do on a day to day basis (am I right?) but no joy. Of course one of the drawbacks of living in a mansion is there are a lot more places where things can hide.

Eventually - hurrah! Here they are - for a completely inexplicable reason, behind the toilet in bathroom #2.

Well I am not taking them round there now - he'd better pray for rain so he doesn't look silly walking home in his wellies and let that be a lesson to you, young man! Put your shoes where they should be!

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please take a look at my books on Amazon (Paperback & Kindle), where you can read lots more of the same! Click here.

Jason xx

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Perfect Partner - try my questionnaire

The last time I found myself single, about six years ago, for reasons that escape me now, I decided that I really must choose my next partner carefully. Compatibility! That's the thing! I decided therefore that I would screen all future suitors via a questionnaire, so I could be sure I was meeting the right type of person.

However, before I could complete this momentous task, I met Claire and the rest, as they say, is history. However I still think it was a good idea. I can't remember the exact content of the questionnaire but I thought I would attempt to recreate it here, so you can see if had you been around back then you would have fitted the bill.

And who knows, if you are single, perhaps it could inspire you to create your own questionnaire, and help you find the man or woman of your dreams.

I have decided to go for a mix of written and pictorial questions. There are 7 in all. When you have finished tot up your scores, a), b) or c) and see how you did.

1) What would be your ideal first date with me?

a) An inspiring and thought provoking piece of modern theatre at the Playhouse in Oxford, examining the role of the creative artist in the contemporary world which has had rave reviews in the Guardian. Followed by a quick drink in the Eagle and Child (only one, mind as we want to stay in control), to discuss the artistic integrity of the piece, and then home before 10pm, with perhaps a chaste kiss on the cheek as a thank-you for a most intellectually stimulating evening.

b) A trip to the flicks to see the latest sci-fi Blockbuster, with a McDonalds beforehand and a few beers afterwards in O'Neills, before grabbing a taxi home and a bit of a fumble in the back seat if I'm lucky.

c) A trip to an evening meeting at Cheltenham Races where I astound and impress you with my amazing knowledge of horse racing and betting, leading inevitably to me winning hundreds if not thousands of pounds, before we check into the honeymoon suite of a nearby hotel, and blow the lot, ordering magnums of champagne, half the room service menu, emptying the mini-bar, watching the in house adult movies and generally having a whale of a time.

2) It's my birthday and you decide to make me a cake. Which of the following would you choose:

a) - Salad Cake

b) Romantic chocolate cake

c) Bacon cake

3) What would you consider to be an ideal evening's televisual viewing?

a) The latest couple of rom-coms hired from Blockbuster, with a nice pot of tea.

b) A few soaps, and then Traffic Cops on BBC1, with a glass of vino or two.

c) A full on sci-fi/ fantasy fest with a takeaway and unlimited wine and Strongbow. Featuring a selection from the following shows: Torchwood, Being Human, Heroes, Doctor Who, Star Trek, V, Survivors, Lost, Ashes To Ashes, Quantum Leap.

4) In the unlikely event that I ever find myself working a nightshift anywhere, you decide to prepare me a nice breakfast for my return. What will I find on the kitchen table on my return?

a) Healthy fruit and muesli -

"well you've got to think of your waistline, Jason"

b) Scrambled eggs on toast -

"well you have been working hard all night and you need plenty of protein".

c) A nice fry-up -

"And I've got some nice danishes for afters if you are still hungry"

5) You decide that we both need to get fit, and you outline you proposals for how we are going to go about this. These are as follows:

a) We both join a gym and also start going out jogging together in the evenings. And maybe next year we can do the Three Peaks for charity!

b) Walk to the pub instead of getting a taxi.

c) Loads and loads and loads of sex.

6) You go out shopping for the day and decide to buy some new underwear. What do you choose?

a) Granny pants

b) something a little naughty and suggestive

c) These!

7) After we have been going out a few months you decide to confess a deep dark secret to me. Which of the following would it be?

a) You are in fact already married, which you somehow neglected to mention, but your husband has been away on a tour in Afghanistan for the last 3 months. He is now due home on leave, has heard about me, and is coming back to beat the crap out of me.

b) Your highly paid job in the city does not actually exist, and you are thousands of pounds in debt, and the bailiffs have tracked you down to my house, hence the mysterious disappearance of my telly whilst I was out shopping earlier.

c) You have been bi-curious for years, and your extremely fit best friend thinks you should explore this side of your sexuality. So that it's all above board and there's no cheating, we should have a threesome.

Now it's time to see how you did:

Mostly a)'s - Well it seems we just aren't compatible. I can't see that it would ever work, but I am sure there is someout out there for you. Try hanging out in the Bodleian, or loitering around the salad bar in Sainsbury's, you need to be around your sort of people.

Mostly b)'s - Well you have promise. Certainly there's enough there to make it worth giving it a try. Once I've conditioned you into normalising the worst excesses of my personality we could have a glorious future together.

Mostly c)'s - Where have you been all my life? Hop on board for the ride of yours!

Well hope you enjoyed that - feel free to leave me comments to let me know how you got on!

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please take a look at my books on Amazon (Paperback & Kindle), where you can read lots more of the same! Click here.

Jason xx

Monday, 25 June 2012

Pavement Cafe Culture

Just before I start - and I am probably being incredibly thick but how do you put an accent on a letter - i.e. the word cafe in the title of this blog. I've often wondered.

One of the things that I remember most about Tony Blair's Governement wasn't one of the biggies like war on terror or Iraq. No, it was his confident vision of Britain developing a Pavement Cafe Culture such as you see all the time in cities in Europe, particularly in Southern Europe.

The vision

I must admit when I was on holiday in Menorca a few years ago, I was struck by how lovely it was in the capital, Ciutadella. Clean, pleasant streets, even in the early evening - no litter, no chewing gum, and happy smiley people in the streets. Parents with their kiddies in the park, at 7pm, and the sun beaming down. Not a down and out sipping a can of White Ice in sight.

Of course, the main drawback to this cultural ideal here, (putting aside general British yobbery and littering) is the weather.

The reality

Yes, the good old British weather. To be fair, I reckon during the warmer months it's probably possible to sit outside comfortably on about 50% of days. Now that is not a random figure plucked by me from thin air, but based on a comprehensive statistical analysis of the last 3 months of Tuesday lunchtime Monster sessions.

To elaborate, since April began - so within what I would term the warmer months, I have met my friend Jo Jo for brunch on 8 occasions at Nash's. We have been able to sit outside on 4 occasions, and have been forced inside by inclement meteorological conditions on 4 occasions also. Therefore my conclusion is Blair was half right - we can have a pavement cafe culture - 50% of the time.

Come on - the cafe is not much further.

However - there are other things about a European lifestyle that are positively pleasing and I have long been an advocate of the "siesta" lifestyle.

When you think about it, this makes good sense for me with the job I am doing. When I work on a Saturday night I am often not home and to bed until well after 2am. Claire then goes to work early on Sunday morning meaning I have full care of the kids from first thing until she gets home about 3:30.

I have a roast dinner ready on her return, then of course I am working again Sunday night - so it is the most natural thing in the world for me to then catch up with my sleep for an hour or two around 5pm on a Sunday leaving me refreshed for the karaoke ahead.

But I have always been an advocate of the afternoon nap. Some think it's just for babies or old people but I disagree. Always I have suffered from a post lunch slump, when I am practically asleep on my feet. This was positively dangerous back in my Nielsen days. I would often be driving back from clients in the afternoon and find myself practically falling asleep at the wheel. On office days sometimes I would have to go into the toilet and sit down facing the wall, and rest my head on the cistern. In later years, I used to cycle home from Talentless House in Bicester at lunchtime and grab a half hour in bed or on the sofa.

Part of the reason I get so sleepy after lunch is that years ago I was diagnosed with a condition known as "Sleep Aponea". You can google this if you want, but to keep it brief it means I don't get a proper night's sleep.

But a quick few minutes, Maggie Thatcher power nap style, and I'm awake and refreshed and ready to go again. These days, I try and grab a few minutes when Jamie has his nap. It works for me. I don't have to be asleep for more than a few seconds for it to work - I don't think it's the amount of sleep - just the mere act of falling asleep seem to reboot me.

When I have a little more time, like on Sundays, I like to lie in my bed and listen to my music. On my ITunes and Ipod, I have what I call my "Hot 50". This is a playlist of 50 favourite songs that evolves and changes over time - each month about 10 songs come in, and about 10 go out, according to what I really want to listen to, but some of them have been on there for years. I find it easier to fall asleep to music than without which is odd, but that's just me.

I've talked a fair bit about music lately, but like I say it's a personal thing. Though it is amazing how many people at disco's ask me what music I like - hard to define really, but I guess "Indie" is the closest category it would fit.

Anyway, the latest Hot 50 list which I have just updated is shown at the bottom of this blog.

Just before I go, brief footnote on the football. Very little I can say about it really except that if you read my earlier entry "England expects...the worst" (which very few people did - obviously you hate football), was they everything unfolded entirely according to my predictions.

Despite this, and the karaoke starting so late last night, we still had a great night in the pub, and managed to lift everyone's spirits. Only one idiot gave me any grief and he was soon slapped back down into his place, so a good night all round really - apart from the result.

What I'm listening to this month:

Our Summer [Single]
All About Eve
End of a Century
Great Divide
The Only One I Know
The Charlatans
Diary of an 18 Year Old Boy
Here and Now
7 Ways To Love
Cola Boy
Paradise - Radio Edit
Don't Panic
See You
Depeche Mode
Commuter Love
Divine Comedy
Elevator Song
Free Me
Emma Bunton
It's All Over But the Crying
Sleep Together
Step On
Happy Mondays
Shine On
House Of Love
Don't Think I'm Not
Katy Perry
Is It Any Wonder
Nothing In My Way
La Roux
Littlest Things
Lily Allen
Lily Allen
Last Night
Massive Attack
5 Years Time
Noah And The Whale
Kinky Love
Pale Saints
Somewhere Else
We Found Love
Rihanna Feat. Calvin Harris
Saint Etienne
Carnt Sleep
Saint Etienne
Goodnight Jack
Saint Etienne
Jack Lemmon
Saint Etienne
You're All I Have (radio edit) - Snow Patrol
Snow Patrol
Avenging Angels
Beautiful Ones
When I'm Good And Ready
Pain Killer
Turin Brakes
You And Me Song
Dirty Talk
Wynter Gordon

Jason xx

Thursday, 21 June 2012

If music be the food of love...

There's not getting away from it, I love food. Isn't it just one of the best things ever?

I love eating. Now there's a shock for you! I just love food and consequently eat a lot. All the time. "How do you keep that svelte figure, Jason?" I hear you cry...well it's not easy, must be my metabolism or something.

During my miserable years at Nielsen - most days, unless by some stroke of luck Dogger and Dave were both out of the office on the same day, I frequently sought solace in the canteen. When that was shut, the vending machines. Somehow the unbearable mind-numbing tedium of it all could be made just that little bit bearable with a packet of Brannigan's Roast Beef and Mustard crisps - whatever happened to them?

In fact what happened to a lot of old crisp brands? - swallowed up and altered by the Walkers Machine, slowly conquering the Crisps & Snacks market by stealth.

There were loads of brands of crisps around when I was a kid - hedgehog, Tudor etc. Maybe they still exist but in a supermarket you've basically got Walkers or Supermarket Own Label.

A pity as today I had a packet of Golden Wonder Cheese & Onion crisps in Nash's to go with my roll and Sausage Roll chaser. It's one of the few places you can get Golden Wonder and I believe they are vastly superior to Walkers in flavour and content. Sadly they do not have a multi-million advertising campaign behind them or Gary Lineker to help. And have largely disappeared from the shelves to become a niche brand.

Better than Walkers - Bicester Blogger says so!

Well anyway, eating was a good way of surviving the daily drudgery at Nielsen, so much so that one year at my annual review during a particularly miserable spell in the Client Service team I thought I would see if I could inject a little humour into my somewhat humourless boss's day. This person had been employed as part of the "new blood" coming into the business  as it was referred to - I shall not give his name but if I say "South African", if you were there you will no who I meant - and recall that he did not last very long.

When asked what I considered to be "My strengths", I leaned back in my chair, chewing the end of a pen, making a real show of carefully considering the question, before uttering the word "Eating".

Now I thought this was very funny, but he did not. In fact my attempts at humour in the office rarely met with any sort of positive response. I don't know what was the matter with these people, I thought we went there to have a laugh, but some of these people seemed to think we were there to work or something.

Anyway I thought maybe he just didn't get the joke first time round so when he asked what my weaknesses were I gave the same response. Which I thought was very funny. Well the result of this was I got "underperforming" on my review (the only time ever!), at which point I jumped ship and moved to the Foodservice department which was much more relaxed - you could say work was considered "optional" in that team, it also had the advantage of being much nearer to the vending machines.

As for the South African grinning Chesire cat, the powers that be realised shortly afterwards that he was in fact despite the sharp suits and permanent smile actually completely useless and sacked him.

One of the people I worked with in Client Service, Jon Merry always seemed to find it incredibly humorous to ask me every day what I had had for tea the previous evening. Whatever I said he would burst out laughing.

Jon Merry

So Jon - in the unlikely event you are reading, tonight we had Gammon Steaks which I bought from Aldi and they were delicious. Pineapple or Egg? Went for egg on this occasion. And of course, home made chips, crinkle cut with a little gadget I bought from a hardware store near Ladbrokes in Headington one cold lunchtime when all racing was abandoned back in the winter of '93.

This is another thing that always seems to astound people. I'm sorry but what's such hard work about peeling and cutting up your own potatoes and frying them yourself. As for oven chips, grim - always have been and always will. And on holiday this year at the caravan park in a rare moment of desperation I actually bought for the first time ever some McCain Micro Chips - never again.

Strictly for the Jeremy Kyle set.

Anyway - my chips are the best - not my words - Ollie's - "My Daddy makes the best chips in the world".

As we are on food, I am in mind of the phrase "Music is the food of love".

Perhaps it is - but I think we are all very personal in our music choices. And we'd all desperately like to share our love of certain artists/ songs with our friends, but it's something so difficult to share.

What do I mean? Well recommend a film, book, TV show, restaurant to a friend and chances are they will try it, as you will try their recommendations. But we all have very clear ideas about the songs/ bands that are special to us and will tend to stick to them.

That's why I said before - pointless those people self-indulgently posting their song links on facebook because no-one cares. Hence why they get no likes/ comments. I rarely do it, but last night decided to post one as one of my all time favourite bands, St Etienne has just released a new album. Why did I do this? To prove a point. No-one cares. We are very much each to our own when it comes to music.

I love sharing times, laughs, experiences with friends - the one thing I have always found so difficult to share is my music. I have a fairly distinctive type of music I like - it's invariably indie, British, pop and rock, and this music doesn't get much of a look in these days - a quick glance at the Top 40 will tell you all you need to know. But then I guess it was always that way to some extent - for most of the bands I ever liked getting a couple of weeks in the bottom half of the Top 40 was an achievement.

I wish I could share more of my music with people, but you can't force people to like something. With me, I guess a lot has always about wanting to be understood - and if I can say to someone "Listen to this song - it says so much about me", and they can actually listen and get me, that means so much.

I have always liked songs to tell a story and that's why I always loved bands like The Smiths, Divine Comedy and of course Saint Etienne as that was/ is what they do. The lyrics of most chart music is utterly predictable drivel - but that's what sells. I can only conclude it is down to a general lack of imagination or intelligence on behalf of the general public.

Sarah Cracknell (lead singer with Saint Etienne) has herself astounded me on occasion with her lyrics, I sometimes think maybe we were separated at birth. Anyway who can include a line in a song about sitting in a cafe at 10am on a Tuesday morning reading the Racing Post has got to have some connection with me. The first song on the new album is even more spooky. She talks about listening to the charts back in the 70s at 12:45 on a Tuesday lunchtime and memorising the positions, the same with the football league tables - and numerous other spooky co-incidences within this song. I tell you this woman is my long lost sister!

Thanks Sarah! I know there's someone else out there like me!
If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please take a look at my books on Amazon (Paperback & Kindle), where you can read lots more of the same! Click here.

Jason xx