Wednesday, January 31, 2007


I am not particularly happy at the moment. Work is not good since I moved to my new team on Monday. The people I am working with are not as nice, there is an air of tension around the office and everyone is under enormous pressure and stress because of the amount of work they're being expected to do. It is a far from happy environment. I am finding it difficult to fit in, trying to learn the new processes and work while at the same time managing out the case load I brought with me from my previous job. I am getting to a stage where I am feeling unable to cope. I'll probably have to do some extra hours to get myself back on track although I've been so exhausted the last few days that I really haven't felt like doing anything more.

What is not helping is the fact that I seem to be coming down with a cold. Its that odd state I am in at the moment, feeling lethargic, with splitting headache that has been with me most of the day and generally feeling under the weather.

So basically I am feeling a bit sorry for myself. Its times like this when it becomes hard being on my own. I know I could 'phone one of my friends if I wanted to talk but is not the same as having someone with me. Sometimes I need more than words of reassurance down a telephone line.

Hopefully I'll feel better tomorrow and its only two more days until the weekend and I have nothing planned, so I can relax and spend some selfish 'me' time doing the things I want.

I remember as a kid whenever I was ill or feeling a bit sorry for myself, like I do now, that my parents would always assure me that I would feel better after a good night's sleep. Mostly they were right too. Often in the morning, things seem clearer and better than they do at night. I am sure it will be the same tomorrow, I'll feel happier and reassured.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Recent films

I've been listening to Alan Titchmarsh on Radio 2 and some wonderful choices of music. I can't think of many things that are more fun than spending two hours every Sunday evening playing a selection of my favourite music. So Mr Titchmarsh, if you ever need a stand in, I am your man!

As a slight compensation I have this blog, which while it may not be regular (which if you visit regularly you will have noticed!) and doesn't last for 2 hours (although it might take me that long to write each post) it is my space. This is my time and my place to share with those of you reading my favourite things or just my observations, inane ramblings or nostalgia...whatever takes the mood at the time.

Over the last week I've seen some cracking films. Starting last Saturday with a trip to Colchester to see Witchfinder at the Headgate Theatre. This film features a good friend of mine, Joe Sales, as John Stearne, assistant to the Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins. It is an amateur production but not in anyway in the bad sense of that word. You can read my review on Joe's blog here.

Last Sunday I watched Monster based on the troubled life of Aileen Wuornos, America's first female serial killer. It is a depressing film and one that like The Woodsman, simultaneously produces deep revulsion and feelings of sympathy for its central character. Its a morally complex and ambiguous film although its handicapped by a central lesbian relationship between Wuornos and Selby (played by Christina Ricci) that doesn't work for me. The affair between these two desperate women seems forced and I feel the actors are uncomfortable in their portrayal. It is still a powerful film and there are moments which are both chilling and sickening.

Yesterday I saw Bobby, Emilio Estevez's film on the events leading up to the assassination of Robert Kennedy in June 1968. It is clear that this film has been a labour of love for Estevez. It is beautifully crafted following the intersecting lives of 22 characters at the Ambassador Hotel on the day and night that Kennedy was shot and fatally wounded. It reminded me in its intercutting of characters and its slow build to a powerful, emotional climax of Magnolia, with all its characters, eventually thrust into the centre of the terrible events of 5 June 1968. I cried through the last ten minutes of the film, which is awesome in its power and pathos. No one left the cinema when the credits came up, everyone stayed to watch the first part, with pictures of Kennedy and his family shown alongside the names of the principal cast. This is a film that boldly states its message and while some maybe cynical of its idealism I found it's hopefulness something that inspires.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Moving on

I had bad news yesterday at work. I am being moved from my current team to work in a different area. To say that I am bitterly disappointed is an understatement. I've invested a good deal of time and personal effort into the team I am working with now, building up my skills and knowledge and I feel making a genuine and positive commitment to the job, so to be told that I am being moved out of the team was a complete shock and a personal blow.

Personally it has hit me hard. For the first time in a long while I feel happy where I am working now. I've got to know the people I am working with and enjoy the work. It is the best team I've worked with and I get a buzz from the commitment and dedication shown by everyone and the supportive environment. The work itself is interesting, challenging and additionally has a certain prestige attached to it. Moving onto something else, just when I feel I've got myself settled and comfortable, is the last thing I want. But it isn't my choice and there is nothing I can do or say that is going to change the decision that has been made.

I am trying not to let all the politics of the situation bother me because I know that it will just make me angry and make things more negative than they already are. There is politics involved and there are reasons why this decision has been made, which have nothing to do with me but serve other purposes. I could get angry about the way I was told, which was in a rather flippant and casual way or about the fact that I was only told half the story. The real reasons only became apparent later. Or I could be angry about the fact that other people in my team knew what was happening before I did.

I don't want to go, that's the bottom line. I thought after a night's sleep I would feel differently about it. Sometimes, in the morning things are clearer or seem less important. This doesn't. I feel disappointed and as if I have failed in some way. Although technically the move is side-ways, I can't help feeling it is a demotion.

In a few weeks I am sure all this will be forgotten and I will be settling into the new job. I just don't want to make that step though. I have no choice so I will have to focus on the positive and try and make the best of it. There is the advantage that the change will broaden my experience and give me skills, which will make it easier to look for another job. I guess that is what I need to focus on; the future not the here and now.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Feeling Good

Had a great time on Saturday, albeit a very long day. Started early enough - left home shortly before 7am to get to Reading for 10 and only just made it! Was my OU Tutorial on Saturday and I felt really pleased with myself that I contributed what I thought were fairly intelligent and erudite comments on the American legal system and constitution, which is interesting seeing as the course I am doing is about UK politics! It did have relevance though as it was to do with the comparison between the UK and US political systems, which are about as different as chalk and cheese. Studying one informs the other and vice versa so my comments were with value and importance. Also surprised myself with being able to correctly name every UK Prime Minister since 1945! Although admittedly I struggled with Clement Attlee, which is a shame as his premiership has been overshadowed by history yet it is argued that his tenure at No.10 shaped the UK for the rest of the century. Not just the establishment of the NHS and the modern welfare state but also the nationalisation of utilities and railways and the building of consensual government in the post-war period.

Later in the day it was back to London to meet with friends, which after some mix ups, did do eventually at the British Museum. This is one of those places that just awes me. Everything about the BM is grandiose and triumphant. Much like the feeling I had earlier in the morning arriving at Paddington station. Whenever I head up the stairs/escalators out of the tube station into that magnificent concourse, I swear I get tears in my eyes. It is not just the enormity or grand design of the train shed that takes my breath away, its the atmosphere with fumes and roar of engines that making it feel alive. Anyhows back to the British Museum and I get similar feelings. These impressive buildings speak of greatness and power; a testament to a proud and patriotic nation. At the British Museum we spent time covering the Egyptian and Greek exhibits seeing the Rosetta Stone and the Elgin Marbles. It is such an impressive and wonderful collection of treasures, it just has to be seen to be believed.

We left the British Museum and headed back to the West End, stopping off at Forbidden Planet in Shaftesbury Avenue before settling at a pub for a few hours well earned rest and replenishment of the liquid and food kind! Just a wonderful few hours, talking about all sorts, Star Wars mainly, naturally! Sharing good memories and happy times together. Tim has got me hooked on the new Star Wars Miniatures Game, must get my starter set!

Yesterday was a quiet day, catching up on my sleep mainly and working on my current essay, which I've started writing tonight. Last night I decided to chill and watch a film. Choice was It's A Wonderful Life, which I've had at home on rental for a few weeks. It has been a while since I've seen this film and I'd forgotten just how good it is. A lovely, heart-warming story that made me think how important everyday is. I like the fact that George Bailey is taken to see what life would be like if he had never been born as it shows just how much we all influence and impact on each others lives, even in very small ways, which can have profound implications. His realisation that his life is important and that he is in every way the 'richest' person in Bedford Falls is simply wonderful. It brought tears to my eyes.

I picked up some bargain DVD's today at lunchtime - Monster, The Remains of the Day and October Sky and I recorded The Shipping News and Moonlight Mile, which were on TV this weekend, so I've got a fair amount of film watching to do! Plus I got another Nina Simone CD - an absolute snatch at £2.99! A compilation of her work between 1964-1967 it includes Feeling Good, a track that perfectly sums up my outlook just now. Yet again this is a exceptional CD and I really do wonder why Simone is so underrated when it seems to me that she was such a towering talent. From what I've read, difficult and idiosyncratic too but a genius all the same. Okay, she may not have been the most attractive woman, although certainly striking and she may not have had the most accomplished singing voice but she knew how to use it and deliver music that is affecting and powerful. I'll keep buying her music though, I am hooked!

Friday, January 12, 2007

The treadmill of work

The mini-break of Christmas and New Year now seems a distant memory although Christmas was only 3 weeks ago. Work is picking up again, next week promises to be extremely busy. Some days it feels like being a hamster on a wheel, constantly peddling away but getting nowhere very fast and not rewarded for the effort either. Not that I dislike my job. On the contrary I am very much enjoying what I do now. It would just be nice if the culture of the organisation was different. The people I work with are excellent, a really great team. Its just that above them there is no recognition of what we do, of the effort we all put in every day and the results that we deliver for the Company. One of the stock phrases of our team is that we 'add value' to the business, a fact that seems to be sadly missed by everyone beyond our immediate manager.

Reward, is not as the Management seem to believe, just about money. Its about being appreciated and acknowledged. It would be nice if our more senior managers could stop by once in a while and actually show some - any - interest in what we do, what pressures we're facing, what's going well and what isn't. Talk to the staff, engage them in the way the business is run, share in their experience and expertise, motivate and lead through example. Build an office that is where everyone wants to come to work each day and feels that their individual contribution is important and necessary. A place where people feel free to enjoy their work and have realistic goals to work towards. In other words, actually manage instead of firing off e-mails from a distance to tell us how wonderful they think they are along with some patronising management speak about how we are appreciated and valued.

I don't expect things to change. They never do, for the better. I do wonder if this will be the pattern of my working life for the next 30 years? Maybe I should get out now. I've thought about it many times in the past. There is always the danger though that the grass, while it may look greener outside, maybe just as brown and worn as the grass where I am. Or to use another metaphor, jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. Maybe I'll stick where I am for now and consider my options.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Looking ahead

This is my 60th post. Seems like a small milestone, a recognition that this blog is now firmly established, even if it isn't that well read. That doesn't particularly matter to me. This blog was always here for selfish reasons - it's about me and it's for me. I do welcome those that do contribute and post and I value their comments on what I've said and posted.

I haven't said a lot recently because there hasn't been much that I've wanted to say. I did consider yesterday reposting an e-mail that I sent to my friends - the Groovy Gang - on Battlestar Galactica. The Groovy Gang? Where did that phrase come from? I believe it was Jamie who first coined it but the where, when and why are forgotten to me. I am sure if he's reading this he'll drop by and let me know. Over time 'The Groovy Gang' has become shorthand for my group of friends - a particular core of individuals who I've known for many years. Of course it equally applies to me and indeed all of 'us' - we are all part of the Groovy Gang. I think it's a great little title, it sounds trendy and fun, a bit like us I suppose, sometimes!

Anyhows, I am digressing. Yes, my e-mail about Battlestar Galactica was a particularly good one I thought. When I get passionate about something I don't let it rest. The words of praise seem to flow easily and thoughtfully. Maybe I should be passionate about more things then? Here's a taste of what I said:

Most of all what impresses me about this new series of Battlestar Galactica is that it dares to take the viewer on a dark journey sometimes. Just when I am settled and content with where the story is going and the fate of the characters, it suddenly takes an unsuspecting turn. It is bold, imaginative and original story-telling that is at the heart of BG and although some people may decry the fact that it's too bleak or gritty, that is for me exactly what makes it so compelling.

Like The West Wing and Six Feet Under, Battlestar Galactica has become a cult programme in my home. I've bought the series for each avidly on DVD and I know the shows intimately, almost too well at times. The reason is they all strike a chord, a connection with me on some emotional, spiritual or intellectual level. They mean something important and I've genuinely watched episodes of each of these shows and reflected on things they said which have related to or informed parts of my own life. That's why I am so passionate about them. The downside is that I probably bore people to death about these things!

Currently I am reading a biography of Richard Nixon. You may remember from a post some months back that I started reading a biography of Nixon before and dismissed it in disgust at its uneven approach to the man. This volume by Richard Reeves, I find much more incisive and evenly balanced. It doesn't shy from exploring the dark side of Nixon but it doesn't paint him either as the caricatured demon that has become so popular, because as I am reading (and personally believe) Nixon was a brilliant man, although deeply and fatally flawed.

At the end of the month I am going to see the play Frost/Nixon, which was something that I didn't get round to doing last year. The play has had good reviews and I am eager to see it before it disappears to Broadway at the beginning of February. The ticket was a bargain - at less than £15 from

I am also looking forward to the London Symphony Orchestra's 2007/2008 season as the preview e-mail I received yesterday mentions that they will be performing the complete cycle of Mahler symphonies. While I doubt I will either have the time or money to see all of them, I've decided that there are a couple that I definitely don't want to miss. There is also a performance of Britten's opera Billy Budd included in the schedule. I've never been to an opera before but this could be the one to tempt me to give it a try. After all most things are worth doing once, aren't they?

Sunday, January 07, 2007


Its the start of a New Year so an opportunity to clear out the accumulated rubbish and unwanted tat that has been amassed over many months and years. When I am in the mood, I love doing this. Having a good rummage through the attic, cupboards and other places of stored and long forgotten memories and treasures. I've found quite a few things, some nice surprises and lots of nostalgia laced memories.

The best finds are the most personal ones naturally. For me this has been uncovering various fanzines that I either subscribed too or contributed to in the heady days of the mid-1990s before the Internet seemed to kill off just about any fanzines that were still going. The most precious ones to me are the Jedi fanzines of the British Star Wars Fan Club. The September 1996 edition includes my first piece of Star Wars storywriting that was published. Called 'The Hidden Jedi' it featured the secret daughter of Obi-wan, Alicia Kenobi - the hidden Jedi - and revisited what was in my mind the scene of Vader/Obi-wan's fateful duel. In my story the action takes place on a planet called Tarisha 5 and on the volcanic mountainside of Mount Tinmar. Of course, Episode III explains the real events of that fateful last duel but this was my personal interpretation of what happened before Lucas filled in the blanks for us. Reading it again now I am struck by some of the imagery I used. A brutal death for Alicia on the summit of the volcano that nearly claimed her father and Vader's remembrances of his wife (who I bizarrely called Claris) being strangled by a dark and malevolent hand. Not so different from the eventual fate that would be suffered by Amidala in Revenge of the Sith.

This issue of Jedi was also the one where Gary Tester took over the reins as Editor. Gary and I became good friends through our interest in Star Wars and worked together for a long time on both the successor to Jedi - a short-lived magazine called Eclipse - and later my own Star Wars fanzines, Tales of the Empire and Dark Jedi. Those were happy days and although we only met a few times, more often when Gary moved to Milton Keynes, I like to think that we were good friends.

I still think about Gary now and wonder what he is doing these days. Last I heard he had moved to America, married and settled down. That seems a long time ago now.

I never forget the people that have come into my life and although I am hopeless at keeping in touch with old friends, whether through wilful neglect or thoughtlessness, they're never forgotten. I always remember the good times with Gary and the fact that singularly of all the people I've known, he was the one person that seemed to be on the same wavelength as me. Its difficult to describe that really but it was like we thought the same way about stuff and viewed life with a similar outlook. I miss that opportunity to share those things now.

Another of my fond discoveries has been my collection of Zoids. Somewhere I have an almost complete set of the Spiderman & Zoids comics, which just to prove all things are inter-related somehow, even featured a Star Wars story for a few issues! Zoids were my passion after Star Wars - around 1985-1987 or thereabouts I guess. That would make me 9-11. After Zoids, came Action Force. I think Zoids though was the last thing that both my brother and I were both into in a big way. After Zoids, our interests diverged, particularly as we got older. Even with the Zoids though I liked the Red Zoids while my brother collected the Blue Zoids. There were some exceptions, like the Trooperzoid, which I thought was one of the better ones, although it was a Blue!

My favourite of the large battery operated Zoids has to be Zoidzilla or as he is called in Japan, Gojoulas, which is the version I have. It is virtually indistinguishable from the original Zoidzilla although some of the colouring is slightly different. The two Zoids that I had most wanted as a kid were probably Redhorn and Krark. Redhorn was the leader of the Red Zoid army and the nemesis of Zoidzilla. Krark was an altogether different creature, a winged pterodactyl type Zoid whose aim was to unite Red and Blue and form a formidable force that would then conquer the galaxy. He was definitely my favourite.

There are probably quite a few more discoveries yet to be made as I haven't as yet finished my sorting out. It'll be fascinating to see what other things remain to be discovered.