27 May 2008

Hideous shots and Euromania

I had a very nice bank holiday weekend that felt much longer than the three days it actually was. I've also only got a three-day week this week before we are off to Sweden, so hopefully that will fly by!

On Friday Chris' cousin Katy and her friend Gemma came to visit us as they wanted a bit of a trip down to Brighton, so they came round in the evening and we had some drinks and went out for a few more drinks and a bit of dancing. I have to say I was quite surprised and dismayed to realise just how much of a difference being 20 makes to how much alcohol you can get away with consuming. Those girls could DRINK. Honestly, I don't know where they were putting it. I wouldn't mind, but they were barely hungover in the morning after having drunk enough to put me under for about two days... Still, that's the price you pay for being 27 I suppose. I did manage to have two shots that arrived in test tubes, which I found very disturbing indeed - you should never being drinking anything from a test tube, not unless you are clinically insane and have an assistant called Igor. I had to politely decline the third and fourth shots which arrived, so Katy had mine for me (again, quite shameful).

Revenge was alright, and the girls seemed quite amused by the hideousness of the 'drag' act they have there on a Friday. They were also very, very smitten with Mr Gay Brighton who was acting as a go-go boy during the cabaret, and spent about 20 minutes chasing him round the club shouting "Mr Gay! Mr Gay!" and trying to chat him up. I tried to point out that it wasn't his actual name, but that didn't seem as important to them as the prospect of licking the sweat off his chest.

Then on Saturday it was our Eurovision Spectacular, which was great! I had made scoresheets and miniature flags, we had a Euro Cake (see below), a sweepstake, loads of cocktails, and lots of people came. It was a bit of a shame that Russia won when clearly it did not deserve to, as evidenced by our scoresheets (which I've kept). Iceland, Sweden, Greece, Ukraine and even the bizarre Spanish entry (cuatro: el Robocop) were better than Russia, but alas those countries don't cut such an imposing figure among the Eastern European states who now seem to make up about 70% of the vote.

I did derive small comfort from Andy Binface finishing in last place, which I thought was hilarious. He only got points off of San Marino (which is where exactly?) and Ireland (probably out of charity). I am certain (and cannot be proved wrong) that Michelle Gayle would have done much better. Hopefully failing abysmally at Eurovision will spell the end of his career and he can go back to emptying bins and perhaps get crushed in the big metal jaws of a dustcart.

Chris won the sweepstake AGAIN, which is frankly getting rather suspicious as that's two years in a row we've won our own sweepstake. No-one thought when he drew Russia that he'd win though, and it was fairly close between Greece and Russia right until the end. So I hope no-one thinks we have these parties merely as a scam to extract pound coins from our friends.

Oh yes, and although I'd been looking forward to having Boogaloo Stu present the BBC Interactive part of the programme, it was actually hideously painful and disappointing so I wish I hadn't bothered. All his clips were clearly pre-recorded and bore little relation to what was happening on screen, which is such a shame given how witty he normally is. If they'd just let him be live and make comments on people's hair or bad dancing it would have been much better. I felt quite sorry for him really.

Anyway, in three days time I'll be landing in Stockholm and I can't wait! Lots of hot blond Swedish boys running around in little shorts, what more could you want?

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20 May 2008

Stupid religious people

I watched a Dispatches special on Channel 4 last night about fundamentalist Christians and their attempts to influence government legislation. It was really interesting, but as annoying and frustrating to watch as any programme about people with firmly held religious beliefs. You can't argue with people like that, because there comes a point where you run into the brick wall of blind and immovable faith that is impervious to logical arguments. I realise that that is partly the point when you have faith - you make a leap between what you see and know, and what you believe - and I don't MIND people being religious if that's how they choose to live. But I do mind it when they feel they need to impose their views upon other people, when they imply that people who don't share their views are inferior to them, and when they feel that everyone should live according to their beliefs.

So that was what annoyed me most about their lobbying of government over legislation on religious grounds. It comes down to this: not everyone shares the same religion, nor are they ever likely to; but we ALL share the same law, and it is not fair to impose religious opinion through law. People should be free to practise their religion, and if they wish to impose extra-legal restrictions on their behaviour due to their religion then that's up to them. But they do NOT have the right to impose them on everyone else.

Fortunately, that will hopefully never happen in a widespread way because religion is in decline and laws will be decided by (sort of) democratic majority rather than by the vocal, sometimes extreme minority. I suppose I don't even really mind them having a part in the debate, because everyone has that right, but they can't peddle out "it says so in the Bible" as part of a legal argument. It says a LOT of things in the Bible, it would be impossible to live your life following every edict it contains.

Which brings me on to my other point. Where do Christians feel they get the right to pick and choose what parts of the Bible they obey, and which parts they hark on about and protest about and commit hate crimes in the name of? I'm picking on Christians because it's the religion I know the most about, having been to Catholic school, not because they're the only ones guilty of it.

For example, and predictably given who I am, Christians go on a LOT about homosexuality, and it affects their arguments not just on whether you're allowed to love someone of the same sex but also on marriage rights, adoption rights and fostering rights. And often you'll hear peddled out Leviticus 18:22 as it is one of the clearest condemnations of a man lying with a man as you would a woman, calling it 'abomination' or 'detestable' depending on your translation.

Hmm, OK, fine. Let's turn the page shall we. In Leviticus 19, it instructs you not to cut the hair on the sides of your head or trim the sides of your beard. It tells you not to tattoo yourself. It tells you not to wear clothing containing two types of cloth. It tells you not to plant two types of seed in one field. It says if you plant a fruit tree, you shouldn't eat its fruit for four years and may only eat it after its fifth year. It even says you shouldn't hold onto someone's wages overnight after they've worked for you.

So instead of waving placards outside Gay Pride, why aren't they picketing barbers shops, tattoo parlours, New Look, the Asda fruit and veg aisle, and every payroll department in the country? Why should they get to pick and choose which sins they commit and are happy for others to commit, and which they mount massive hate campaigns about??

Oh yes, and then they say something along the lines of the New Testament did away with the old laws and God no longer requires the same sacrifices of us because of the sacrifice made by Jesus. OK, fine, if that's the way you want to play it then shut the hell up about homosexuals and Leviticus. And the New Testament isn't much better anyway, for example Mark 12:18-27 says if a man dies childless, his widow is ordered by biblical law to have sex with each of his brothers in turn until she bears her deceased husband a male heir. Hmm, how often is that one enforced??

And Jesus never said anything about same-sex behaviour, never condemned it or even commented on it, so how bad a sin can he have viewed it to be??

Arrrgh, god it makes me so angry! Especially as lots of these people don't even understand the pages they quote, some haven't even read them, and they are all translations of ancient languages the meaning of which is open to interpretation anyway.

I'm going to shut up now as this has gone on far too long, but woe betide anyone Bible basher who tries to hand me a religious leaflet on the way home today!
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16 May 2008

Sleepy day

We went to Boogaloo last night so I am a tired boy at work today. I was meant to swim this morning, but I woke up at 6.30am and thought no that's clearly not going to happen so went back to sleep for another hour. Never mind though, I can try to make Tuesdays my regularly swimming day and then if we don't go to Boogaloo I'll go on Fridays as well.

Boogaloo was quite good, but it was really quiet. I hope their numbers aren't dropping off because it's at Candy Bar or anything. Hopefully it'll just be because the students have got dissertations and exams and things just now, so they're not going out as much. I like the way they deal with it there when it's quiet though, they just brazen it out and say things like "good evening everyone - yes, all five of you". It was better when it was at Audio, I think it was a nicer venue, although I do like the basement-vibe of the Candy Bar that reminds me of the good old days when it was at the Joint.

Due to low numbers they played whole-audience Boogaloo Pictionary last night rather than a normal cabaret game, which was good actually because I won a t-shirt and Chris won a t-shirt and a miniature handbag! Mine was for guessing 'piss flaps', I think Chris might have guessed 'sperm' (nice), and I can't remember what his other one was. Bumhole maybe. Anyway, the t-shirts are Ting Tings ones, a band who I have vaguely heard of and whose single they were promoting. It's quite nice really, I might even wear it from time to time.

It's now 12.35 and I'm trying to put off eating my lunch for a bit... I need the energy in order to stay awake, but the later I have lunch the shorter the afternoon is. I feel it is highly likely that I'll be slumped asleep on my desk by 3.30 at this rate...

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15 May 2008

A day spent up back passages, and a picture of Magenta eating

Yesterday we went on one of our 'staff development/team building outings', which basically means we went on a jolly in work time. We went on a guided tour of Brighton's back passages and alleyways that was about two hours of walking down lots of cool and picturesque passages that you'd never know were there, and then we had lunch in the Pavilion Gardens before getting the bus back to work. All in all we were out for about four hours, so clearly it wasn't worth doing any work once I got back...

I had thought the walk might be a bit boring and take us down some of the narrow bits of the Lanes that I've been through hundreds of times, but it wasn't and I actually really enjoyed it. There are some amazing tiny little houses with cottage gardens tucked away in the centre of Brighton, some of which you can only get to on foot, and the tour guide had lots of stories and anecdotes about each place. God I must be getting old actually if I'm starting to enjoy guided walks... I'll be painting watercolours and becoming a member of the National Trust next.

It's really good actually that we go and do things like this at work. They don't have to arrange things like this, but they do and it makes you feel a bit more valued (and like you've got a way dossy job). We have previously been on a wine tasting, to the cinema, and are currently looking into arranging a boat trip from the Marina.

For Shosh's benefit, as she hasn't heard of a Venus Fly Trap before, here is a picture of Magenta:

She is currently eating three flies, and you can see that the traps at the top and on the left are sealed shut as she dissolves them with her special enzymes. I still find her fascinating and terrifying.

13 May 2008

Hi de hi, campers

We survived our camping trip over the weekend and actually had a really good time. Chris says that he now "well likes camping" and that he would go again, so it must have been good.

We got up to the campsite about 2pm on Saturday, after 10 minutes of driving up and down the same road in Plumpton repeatedly missing the turning, occasionally seeing the turning and saying "there it was! there it was!" and then missing it again on the way back. The 'campsite' was more of a field really, belonging to an old lady in a farmhouse, and the only facilities provided were a cobwebby outdoor toilet over the other side of the field and a scorched area for having a fire in. That was fine though, because at least there was a proper toilet if you wanted one, and you don't really need much else.

It didn't take too long to set up the tent, although it was scorching hot and there was no shade. Fortunately a forward-thinking person brought a gazebo with them which we also set up, so then we had shade without having to go into the immediately furnace-like interior of a tent. Quite a few people came in the end, about 20 I think, and Zac had booked the whole field so we had it all to ourselves.

We played rounders once all the tents were set up, and I was pleasantly surprised at my performance. Instead of going out on my first bat or screeching like a girl when the ball came near me, I actually succeeded in a) hitting it, b) running round the little sticks, and c) catching two people out - including one boy (boys are more points, catching out a girl is easier). My team did lose in the end, but I maintain that they cheated because when it was their turn to bat they suddenly had about 5 new players and we barely had enough fielders to cover the bases.

Then in the evening we had alcohol and a big fire on which various dead animals or animal-free vegetarian substitutes were coated in charcoal/ash/grass (due to accidental dropping) before being consumed. Oh yes, and then we nearly died through facial incineration. At midnight when we all started singing happy birthday to Zac, Billy produced some fireworks from somewhere and started letting them off. Not too close to us I suppose, but not the prescribed 25 metres away.

The first one went up in the air and went bang - no problem. The second one decided to fly sideways and explode on the ground - fortunately, and purely by chance, the sideways was into an empty part of the field and not towards the campfire or any tents. Then the third, final, and most dramatic one decided it couldn't be bothered to fly so stayed put on its little stick. It was one of those ones where it explodes, scatters little coloured bits out, and they then explode in a pretty circle in the sky. This is fine, but the key part is in the sky. Our one, having refused to take off, exploded, scattered its coloured bits in a circle that neatly encompassed everyone round the campfire, and they then proceeded to explode all around us. I was TERRIFIED and so surprised no-one was hurt. There was some hysterical laughter afterwards in a kind of "oh my god, I'm not dead" sort of way, and fortunately that was the end of the fireworks.

So I have resolved that I am NEVER going to home fireworks again, not unless they are being done in a very large space where you can stand very far away. I've had two close calls in a row at Ady's house on fireworks night, and now this one too, so I think my luck must be due to run out soon. I had horrible visions of needing to call any ambulance in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere, and I'm just not prepared to run that risk again.

The rest of the evening was drunken but less eventful. We got told off by a neighbour for the fireworks waking them up, then got told off more when he heard someone say "well he can fuck off" as he walked back to his house. Chris experienced going to the toilet outside for the first time in this life, but his second experience of it was slightly marred by him falling over in stinging nettles in the dark, losing a shoe, getting stung looking for the shoe, and then having to come and forlornly ask for help to locate said shoe because he couldn't find it. Bless.

Sleeping was difficult and unpleasant because (I don't know why I was surprised) fabric tents provide no sound-proofing whatsoever so you couldn't go to sleep until everyone else did and then were woken up when the first people got up. It was also weirdly hot and sticky inside the sleeping bags, but freezing cold and condensationy outside of them, so you weren't comfortable wherever you were. The morning wasn't that pleasant really, due to lack of sleep and hangovers, but people didn't hang around long really. We had some breakfast, dismantled the tents again in blazing sunshine which really didn't help the hangovers, and then were home by 12. I have never ever appreciated a shower so much!

So all in all it was a Good Trip, and our tent may yet see another outing sometime. Hopefully somewhere with a shower though.
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09 May 2008

Nicest. Swim. Ever.

Instead of going to the gym, this morning I went for a swim at Brighton Health & Racquet Club just by my work. It's a private health clubby thing with a gym and a pool, and it is HUGELY expensive to join - like £100 to join plus £60 a month until you die. However, because they lease the land from the university, uni staff can get a special card for £13 and can then swim there for £2 a time on certain days.

Oh. My. God. It was the NICEST swimming pool I've ever been in! I kept thinking I was going to get chuck out for being uncouth. The lockers were made of oak panelling; there were free copies of the Daily Mail to take and read (ok, only the Mail, but still free); it was really quiet with no squawking kids or pikey mothers going "DEAN! STOP TRYING TO DROWN CHANTELLE!"; there were free shower gel dispensers in the showers; there were three pools including an outdoor one with sun loungers round it; there was even a little machine to put your trunks in that whizzes them round so you don't even have to wring them out yourself! So it was definitely worth the £2! And I was right next to work so didn't have far to go once I'd finished.

I'll definitely go again and fear the gym may now get ditched... It just seemed to make me ill by wearing me out and getting me overheated so I caught viruses, and then the bus to work was always a pain, so this seems so much better. The only thing that could have improved it was if there were lots of hot studenty types in little shorts in there, but alas all their male customers seemed to be 40 and over. Even more hideously I had to see one of the lecturers I used to work with naked, bleurgh.

Because of our idyllic country setting, I also walked by two tiny rabbits near the health club:

Tiny rabbit

How cute is that? One got scared and tried to run away from me through a wire fence, but unfortunately the holes in it were too small so it just shoved its head through one of the gaps, kicked a bit, realised it wasn't going anywhere, and then looked at me and waited to see if I was going to eat it. I didn't, but I could have.

08 May 2008

Explosive drama

Yesterday was an unusual day, as I was only at work until about 12 and then we all got evacuated because of a bomb scare. It was terribly exciting... A caretaker man came round and said in a quiet voice "we all need to leave the building immediately, we're not setting the fire alarm off because we don't want to cause panic". So clearly we were all much more panicked by that than we would have been by the alarm, the fire alarm goes off all the time. So anyway, because he was verbally asking everyone to leave it took about 15 minutes to get everyone out, and none of us knew what was going on.

After a while we found out that the builders on campus had dug up a suspected incendiary device. I was quite disappointed to learn it was something from World War II, that seemed much less exciting than if we had been attacked by misguided terrorists who for some reason thought a couple of buildings in a field were a high-profile target. And seeing as the closest bomb squad lived an hour away in Portsmouth and we'd already been stood around for an hour, they said we should all go home. I think some students got chucked out of a final exam because of it, and lots more had to leave the students residences so God knows where they were meant to go... We were allowed a 10-minute window to go back into the building and get our stuff, which I also thought was a bit odd - if it's unsafe it's unsafe isn't it? They don't normally say "yes go back inside but make it quick". Explosions are pretty quick themselves, so if you were standing next to one the fact that you were only going to be there for a couple of minutes would be small consolation as your head flew one way and your body another.

Fortunately, no-one got exploded, and a couple of hours later they decided it was a spent artillery shell that had no chance of exploding and not a bomb after all. Of course, by that time it wasn't worth coming back to work so I had a nice afternoon in the sun instead, and very smugly thought "I'm getting paid to get a tan at the moment".

How annoying would it have been if it had been pouring with rain though?? You weren't allowed to shelter anywhere, so we would have had to stand there and be miserable. So yay for sunshine, yay for dodgy German workmanship in making bombs that don't actually explode, and yay for artillery shells that masquerade successfully as bombs without actually endangering anyone.

In other news, Magenta is currently eating a fly that I stunned with a rolled up newspaper. She hasn't caught anything on her own yet, so I thought I'd help her out. It should take her 5 days fully to eat the fly, providing she doesn't spit it out like last time. Honestly, who would have thought a fly trap would be so fussy...
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06 May 2008

Enter Magenta

I almost forgot to say that one of my birthday presents was a Venus Fly Trap which I have named Magenta after the woman from Rocky Horror. I LOVE it, but am completely terrified of it. I've always wanted one, and they are massively cool, but I'm sorry a plant should not be able to move like that. If you tickle the little sensory hairs inside one of the traps, it goes 'schnip' and flicks closed. It's not like a snapping motion, it's not that fast, but it moves really quickly and the fact that it detects you and responds makes it seem strangely and disturbingly aware. Like it's watching you and would try to bite your finger if you give it half a chance. I assume it's not that strong and the spikes aren't that sharp, but I'm still not taking any chances...

I have so far fed her a dead spider, which she didn't seem to like, and a live moth which was unfortunately too small and escaped out of a gap at the side of the trap. You don't have to feed them apparently, they can just live off the soil, and you're not supposed to trick them into closing their traps all the time for your amusement because it uses up too much energy, but I think I will try to feed her small morsels of things when I can just because it's so fascinating. So I'm now going to be on the lookout for recently deceased insects or ones I can trap and fling into her waiting jaws. Once she gets big enough she can probably move onto cats and small dogs, and eventually toddlers. I'll try to put a picture of her up when I get a chance to illustrate just how amazing she is.
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Birthday weekend

My birthday weekend was much nicer than my actual birthday in the end, as I was starting to get over my stupid virus and we went out and did lots of sociable things. Friday was our Works Night Out, which was lots of fun, although I did get assaulted with lots of bosoms by my colleagues and I wasn't really sure where to look. I don't mind bosoms obviously, I'm just not used to having them shoved in my face and jiggled around. The bar/club thing we ended up in was... interesting. Sort of chavvy, and rather empty to start with, but we did get buy-one-get-one-free cocktails, and we were not at all inhibited by the fact that the dancefloor was empty and everyone was looking at us.

Then on Saturday we had Andi and Paul down to stay, and lots of people came round for drinks at ours, and then we went out for more drinks and a bit of dancing. I have decided that I quite like the Bulldog, despite it being ostensibly a skinhead-type pub, because it is ridiculously cheap. How many pubs have their happy hour 10-12 on a Saturday evening?? It was like £2.20 for a double and coke! And yes there were quite a few guys with not much hair on the top of their heads and rather a lot of hair around the bottom of their heads, sort of standing around and people watching in a cruisey way, but so what? It's not like they'll assault you or anything, not unless that's what you're into and you ask them nicely.

We also had a successful shopping trip on Monday where I spent some birthday money on three new tops, and then we purchased a Camping Starter Kit. It features a tent, two sleeping mats and two sleeping bags, and is designed for the First Time Camper. We are meant to be going camping with Zac this weekend for his 30th birthday, so we thought we had better get kitted out. I then spent Monday evening engaged in pole erection in the living room to make sure we knew how it all worked. I quite wanted one of those tents were you chuck it in the air and it goes 'flump!' and is all set up, but we didn't get one of those in the end and it took like an hour to erect it. I am sure it'll be quicker on Saturday though... Especially as Ali and Kate claim to have to have "got their time down to 2minutes", who the hell times themselves and tries to beat their personal best at tent erection?? So anyway, we'll look too crap if it takes us an hour, and hopefully we'll be able to whip it up quicker next time.

It is a lovely sunny day and I wish I were outside, but alas I'm stuck in my office with no natural light and my view of the seminar room today only contains a rather glum looking woman with a stethoscope. They could at least have stripped and oiled some hot surfer boys for me.
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02 May 2008

Still a bit ill and time is running out

I haven't quite got over feeling unwell yet and now the weekend is practically upon us. I am feeling better, each day I've felt a little better, but I'm still not there yet. When I got home on Wednesday (birthday) I ended up going straight to bed for an hour, and then we never made it out for that drink, so it wasn't the most exciting birthday evening I've ever had.

Yesterday was the day of the conference, to which I dutifully went and acted as a helper even though it's no longer my responsibility. They were quite grateful to have me I think as I sorted out quite a few equipment things for them (how hard is it to switch a microphone on, or press DVD -> PLAY on a touch screen? very hard, apparently). The event seemed to go well, it felt pretty much the same as last year when I was running it. That's good in a way, but also I secretly wanted it to be a stressy disaster so everyone would know how clever I was for making it run so smoothly last year. Instead I shall have to choose to believe that my contribution as a helper was a major factor in the day's success.

I was quite depressed to find that there are no attractive male staff at the university, as there was no eye candy on offer. There was one hot student (whom all the girls from Personnel immediately started clucking about), but he was only there for the first bit then he pushed off.

I didn't stay right until the end as I wasn't feeling that great by the afternoon, and then I had another lie down when I got in before dinner. Honestly, I'm turning into my mother.

Today I feel OK but have a weird achey neck, a bunged up face and an odd flat feeling in my head. I might go out for some air to perk myself up. Tonight is our much-anticipated works night out, and although I had promised Sally (with the best of intentions of keeping up my end) that we'd have a big night out, I just don't think I'm well enough so I'll need to take it a bit easy. Especially as we have Andi and Paul coming to stay tomorrow, I can't give myself an illness relapse and be a crap host. I was a crap host last time because of my shocking New Year's disaster, so I really must be better this time!

Maybe I can do that thing the girl does in Coyote Ugly, where you have a drink but then secretly spit it into a beer bottle so you don't actually get drunk...
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