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I am *exhausted*…

I am *exhausted*…


Ever since Hyperham moved in, life has pretty much been a non-stop whirlwind of relaxing on the sofa watching Dave, running around London, trash-talking each other and endlessly re-arranging stuff in the flat without actually deciding on anything. And tripping over socks and cables. It hasn’t helped that we’re also in the midst of some redesign projects at work, and I’ve volunteered for more late nights elsewhere (exciting details to come later!)

and I am *exhausted*. Sleep has never come so easily in my life before – hell, some nights, we’re in bed snoring away by 10pm. Especially at weekends. Which has severely cut into my social media time… Yet, people keep commenting that I look healthy and happy. Which sounds rather bizarre to me, because I’m usually looking at them with weary lidded eyes.

This week alone, we’ve got two guests from overseas to entertain, a cinema screening with free whisky, a leaving do and a long night ahead for this week. Oy vey.

And yet, I must also show Hyperham the glory that is the United Kingdom, especially now that Spring has arrived.

Now the rest of my life can begin…

Now the rest of my life can begin…

Me and HyperHambecause HyperHam has finally gotten permission from the glorious British government to pop over and live with me in my West London palace for a very very long time.

After all the stressing of getting documents together for proof and all that, it did seem like a relatively easy process. Just the nail-biting wait – and we paid an extra $100 for an expediter to get an express service too.

Still, now I have three or so weeks to turn my bachelor West London pad into a place permanently fit for a Queen. so that means out with the old rotting food and the decade-old mattress, and in with a new one. Although she likes it soft and I like it hard (fnarr fnarr) so I guess this means we’ll have to compromise!

What else do I need, besides lots of new coathangers and Lush soaps?

The day I met David Tennant…

The day I met David Tennant…

Geoff Marshall with some dude

Geoff Marshall with some dude

It was all Geoff‘s idea, Yer Honour…

Y’see, he’d recently come back to the BBC after two years in America fraternising with our American cousins – and even worse, American ACTORS. And it had all rubbed off a bit on him. The endless video posts, the sheer confidence in walking up to strangers – and yet still enthusing about Doctor Who, music and the Pet Shop Boys.

He then told me that he knew that David Tennant was going to be on BBC Breakfast on 31 December, and he was determined to get an autograph with him – by essentially lurking down the labyrinthe corridors of BBC Television Centre until he bumped into him. But he needed some help. A wingman, to help pass the time. Did I want to do it?

Strange as it may seem, I didn’t jump at the chance. Ever since I started working professionally within the media industry I’ve never asked for an autograph – mostly because you can’t interrupt an interview with Ben Elton, Alicia Silverstone or Glenn Close to ask for an autograph. That just wouldn’t do. Plus, I’m usually hyperaware that in the highly unlikely event of any problems, my face will be the ones that the security guards remember for reasons I’ll go into in another post … Although when I was younger, I’d hang around stage doors (well, it was double Physical Education on Wednesdays) and I managed to co-opt Stephen Fry into saving my University projects. Twice.

This time, I reasoned, I wouldn’t be there for work, and besides, it’s David Tennant. The night before he hands over the TARDIS keys. So I brushed up on the do’s and don’t of approaching a celebrity and waited…

The next morning, I arrived at the ye early time of 8am, and joined Geoff thereafter as we kept moving from point to point on the hear-out for a Scottish accent, while trying to avoid the cleaners who kept asking if we knew where we were going.

And then we went back into main reception – where usually only taxi drivers and runners are – and there he was. Already patiently signing autographs for a few kids, while a harassed BBC runner hovered behind him, eager to move him into his warm dressing room. But oh no, we were between him and the main doors. Geoff asked him whether he could stop now or on the way back, and David, being the understanding man he is, said he’d be a while in the studio and best to do it now.

Geoff managed to persuade him for a photograph. Unfortunately, it was an iPhone – and have you ever tried taking a pic on an iPhone in a hurry when you’ve never used one before? Your fingers are everywhere except where they need to be! So after three blurred shots of Geoff with David Tennant, he made his apologies and ran into the studio.

Throughout it all, David seemed slightly stressed – well, you would be if you’re dashing into a TV studio to address the nation – but a thoroughly decent chap nice enough to stop for autographs on a cold Thursday morning when he didn’t have to.

Anyway, that’s enough from me. Watch Geoff’s video of this momentous occasion (via Facebook alas!)…

Money money money

Money money money

lust money

Originally uploaded by catsfather

The ongoing saga of MP expenses has opened up a veritable kettle of worms in terms of what people earn, what they expect to earn – and crucially, how that compares to the rest of the population.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies has a handy calculator that compares your income against the British national average (£390 for a two-adult household, after taxes and benefits).

My details against the IFS calculator show that I have a higher income than around 85% of the population. Then again, I’m in a single household with no dependents.

I’m reasonably happy with my salary – I don’t feel rich, but I don’t feel poor either. I’m not buying Tesco Value baked beans, but neither am I buying organically grown gourmet beans flown in from Fiji. But then once I discovered that some people earned far more than I did, I was slightly peeved for a while – for no good reason. My income hadn’t changed at all, but the knowledge that other people were doing far better than I did suddenly started to rankle slightly. For no good reason.

There’s a fascinating – if somewhat biased article – in The Guardian about the *emotional* gap between those working in the City and their reality. How everyone in the City assumes they’re working for a slave’s wage, yet can’t grasp the reality that they are far better off than most people. Because, alas, most people aren’t around them – they only see their peers.

Which is probably why MPs had no clue that the rest of the country would see what they were doing as thieving.

I’m fairly sure most of my friends would consider themselves to be average wage-earners, not earning that much more or less. But then the reality is, in fact, that they’re probably all earning far more than say 75% of the population.

Hiding my Doctor Who love…

Hiding my Doctor Who love…

Ever since I’ve been a kid, I’ve been a Doctor Who fan. Not quite to the point of putting up posters but I definitely bought the magazines and recorded the programmes on VHS.

It did get to the point when I was notoriously knowledgable about it in my hometown, and when I accidentally recorded over my prized recording of Remembrance of the Daleks, even my TV-phobic parents knew how important it was to my 14-year-old self.

However, it became time to grow up, go to university and put away childish things. Although of course, the knowledge would always emerge somehow sooner or later – and it’s not as if pretending to like The Sundays hid my geekiness. But I consciously shied away from being too close to what counted for Doctor Who fandom at the time. Even if I did run the Cult TV society at University…

Fast-forward ten years, and Doctor Who geeks and fans are everywhere. And I mean, EVERYWHERE. In all shapes, sizes and ages.

Doctor Who almost always comes up at some point in work. But while I concentrated on trying to be cool at university (and failing), they unabashedly carried on with the love that dare not vworp its name, and started running conventions and the like. Now, they go on holidays with the production team and things like that.

I recently had a work meeting with a young mid-20s lady with a glamorous name, and was amazed when unbidden, she started talking about her love of Doctor Who, and namechecking Troughton and the like. Never mind the fact she knows what happens at Christmas…

Of course, working at BBC Wales for five years, three of which were spent looking enviously while other colleagues ran off taking pics on location and in studio didn’t exactly help. But ah well, not even the Doctor can change his own past (Eighth Doctor excepted, of course)

Eating in America…

Eating in America…

I’ve been in Ohio for ten days now, give or take, and aside from the aforementioned so-called Asian doughnuts, I have been introduced to such culinary delights as:

country fried steak for breakfast. This would be a pork steak covered in breadcrumbs, and then deep-fried – for breakfast. Even the Scottish with their deep-fried Mars bars wouldn’t cover it in breadcrumbs first. In the interests of research, I had to try this as part of a three-plate breakfast buffet.

Of course, if only I hadn’t then had to go on a Easter egg hunt looking for candy-filled Easter eggs for kids (with a side-trip to Arbys for a roast beef sandwich and a malted milkshake), and then onto a sumptuous evening dinner with some wonderful potato concoction that turned out to be twice-baked potato or something…

– In the UK, it’s called a Welsh rarebit and often the butt of national jokes about Welsh cuisine. But in Ohio, melted cheese sandwiches are revered at Melts, a rather cool bar’n’grill where the menu comes on the back of old vinyl covers. Shame that a melted cheese sandwich apparently takes an hour from ordering to arrival.

– After that came a dessert course of hot fudge ice cream at Malleys. The Americans, they like their ice cream. Even at 1pm on a wet Wednesday afternoon.

However, there are side-effects that come from eating out in America.

When two call centres go to war…

When two call centres go to war…

So, via eBookers, I booked a flight to take my parents to the United States. But when I checked the booking details later, the middle names of my parents hadn’t been transferred over. Although the middle names of my sisters *had* been transferred over.

So I called the eBookers call centre (which turns out to be in Manila) to query this, and after speaking to a curiously disembodied woman on the other end who was either Dutch or Irish, but was definitely in the middle of a sandstorm in the Sahara desert, I was told that:
– their GDS system didn’t allow for the insertion of a middle name
– (eventually) that it didn’t matter anyway, since the names on a ticket don’t need to match the passport.

Then I called Air France to check on this, and was told that yes, the names on a flight ticket DO need to match the passport if you’re visiting the United States.

So, back to eBookers. They end up putting me on a conference call with Air France, and asking to speak to an Air France supervisor.

After 30 minutes of being on hold, I’m eventually told that:
– it’s recommended (but not *essential*) for the names on the ticket to match that on the passport
– because it’s recommended – but not essential – then I’d essentially have to cancel the ticket and buy a new set of tickets, according to Air France
– eBookers aren’t willing to make the name change, because it’s not essential

and then I get cut off. After 50 minutes on the phone. I then try to call eBookers back, only to find that I’ve been put through to a different call centre in Bombay. (!)

The upshot of it all is that Air France would probably allow my parents onto the plane, but not necessarily. Especially if US immigration insists that the name on the plane ticket matches the name on the passport.

Does nobody know anything any more?

How to offend random Londoners #1 – grab a newspaper

How to offend random Londoners #1 – grab a newspaper

As I got on a random London bus this morning, I grabbed a copy of freebie newspaper The Metro which was lying on a bus seat. As a freebie newspaper (supported by advertising, given away across London and other major cities), it has a discernable value of, well, zero. Aside from the articles inside, which are of the same level as the international coverage of your local American paper ie it’s just copy from the news wires.

However, the paper was evidently of some value to the woman behind me, who sat down with an audible harumph and tut. I offered her the paper, to which she snootily replied “Oh no, I have a much better paper!”, and proceeded to loudly take out some copy of The Literary Economist (not a literal title, but something of that ilk) and concentrate on that. Even though I’d put the paper back down on the bus seat so she could read it.

The bus proceeded to where I had to get off, and as I was waiting for the bus to stop, I noticed her putting down her better paper, and grabbing the Metro as if her life depended on it. I never knew something that’s available for free would be so valuable…

Two countries seperated by a consonant

Two countries seperated by a consonant

I’ve spent the last few days in Cleveland, Ohio visiting Shalene – and even though I’ve been in America for the odd week for quite a few years, it’s the first time I’ve been over here since 2005, and I’m not sure if I’ve changed, or if America has changed.

Certainly, the temperatures seem worse. But this is probably more how I’ve changed – it was about 24 Celsius in London before I left. Right now it’s apparently 30 degrees Celsius outside – a fact that prompts Shalene to gloat about how it’s going to get hotter and hotter before I leave. But then the buildings have got their air conditioning turned up to maximum – so here I am, in the veritable British tourist uniform of T-shirts, shorts and sandals, while everyone else is wearing jeans and shirts. How they don’t sweat when they walk outside, I don’t know – I took a short stroll to a nearby Starbucks (I needed the wi-fi!) and I was getting close to sweating by the time I stumbled in. Having nearly caused three traffic accidents – don’t they have pedestrian crossings over here ?!

Another change seems to be how the bargains in American shops just aren’t as compelling to me as they used to be – but then I did indulge in a mini-orgy of shopping at before I left. Heaven knows how I’m going to fit Rock Band: Special Edition into my suitcase though.

The biggest difference seems to be how nobody understands me here. Especially when I ask for water. The conversation in restaurants seems to go thusly:

Me: “I’ll have some water, please.”
Waiter: “Sir?”
Me: “Water?”
Waiter: “Erm…”
Me: “Warrrr-terrrrr” (trying to speak slowly)
Waiter: “Erm…”
Me: “Warrrrrrrrrrr terrrrrrrr” (going Ice-Age speed at this point)
Waiter: “I’m sorry, sir”
Me: “Wader!” (in a cod-American accent)
Waiter: “Ahhh, wadderrr!”

*bangs head*

Cursing the Gods…

Cursing the Gods…

The last time I lived in London, I went on a comedy course (what do you mean, you can’t tell?) led by Marc Blake, and one of the very many comedy ideas created during the course revolved around a down-on-his-luck character who’d end every sketch by raising his fists up at the sky and cursing the Peruvian Gods above.

Fast-forward to last week, and after a very tempestuous fortnight (lost my job, got another temporary job, temporarily living in my mate’s spare kids’ bedroom and commuting four hours a day into West London) I went for a very quick drink with the ever-glamorous Fairy Blogmother. She and her fellow fairies talked about their GodBeadle concept – the idea that when life throws stones and wine barrels at you to jump over, it’s actually the God Jeremy Beadle who is laughing at you from on high for the amusement of celestial audiences.

Fast-forward to today, and the slightly sad news that Jeremy Beadle has indeed decided to become one amongst the Gods. While I never met him (and am not going to join in the necro-voyeurism that seemed to accompany the unfortunate death of Heath Ledger) I shall only note that he seemed like a jolly nice chap considering all the stresses he put people under in the name of comedy, and I really do hope he doesn’t start throwing more wine barrels and stones in my way. Stability, please!

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