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Monthly Archives: January 2007

The Jesus and Mary Chain – Reverence. Bobby Gillespie was a member of an early incarnation of the band.

I’ve never had a belief in God, it was just something that I didn’t get. An invisible massive spaceman not quite controlling our destinies, but having enough power to direct certain events according to those believing in him. The local Church didn’t do much to help, it always seemed to me to be more of a youth club for adults with people moving in and out of the minister’s best pals circle in accordance with their rank and file. It’s possibly the community itself that bound many to it, although it would be churlish to assume that was what people wanted in the past as individuals. There would have been enough folk that revolve around a pub to describe their belief in optics to be as much of a religious draw as any other.

When I was young, I found community via the radio knowing I had a friend in someone like Mark Goodier before he went to Radio 1 and later John Peel. Around this time was when computers started their invasion of the home, and with magazines such as Home Computer Weekly I felt satisfactorarily coccooned and not really in any rush to go along with a shared belief system. I also kind of disliked many of the people involved in the Church as they were an arrogant interfering people with self importance issues. Of all of the people I interacted with, there’s only a couple I’d be genuinely interested in speaking to again.

Mostly, the others seemed to be there for much the same reason as I, persuasion and pressure from their parents. Some seemed to have genuine, unshakable beliefs that I couldn’t understand, and it’s these folk I’d like to know more about. Those that didn’t assume that not getting it was wrong, but they would be happy to explain their own feelings to help you understand them, and possibly understand a bigger picture that you couldn’t see.

My own, hedonistic pursuits in my teens and early twenties ultimately proved that I wasn’t to follow my family’s thoughts. I’m not saying I’ll never believe in God as the Christian concept, but at this time in my life I find it difficult to accept.

There’s always been part of me that could never let go of the possibility. In 1982, Pope John Paul II visited Bellahouston Park in Glasgow. It was a draw for people all over the UK and over 300,000 people visited this site to see and hear the Pope.

It was the most spectacularly sunny day I had ever seen, as if the face of God was looking down up his appointed agent and smiling.

There’s a medical condition called Phimosis(no, don’t google image it. Trust me.). For whatever reason it was something I had the joy of experiencing a few years ago. Put simply, it’s when the head of the penis is unable to be fully exposed through the foreskin. On and off I had been aware that this was becoming slightly more difficult as time went on, but didn’t think that much of it. As you age, bits change.

Until the time that the foreskin burst after a tumble in bed. There was a searing pain, and I look down to see a rip in my skin. I don’t want to look too closely in case there are now two holes in my foreskin, but luckily this wasn’t the case. After spending a day wandering around Italy and a few hours on some kind of hoverboat thing with a deeply unpleasant burning at the tip, I succumb to the fact that this isn’t going away.

On returning home I make an appointment with the local doctor’s office. As I hadn’t really had to consult with a doctor for any previous reason, I just went with whoever was available, and I end up with a female doctor whose command of English isn’t spectacular.

After some awkward discussions, I have to show the goods. She is somewhat surprised by the damage, and goes to find a colleague for a second opinion. I feel somewhat of a fool standing waving my cock at two people that I’ve only just met, even more so when one of them starts to cast dispersions on my account of what happened and wonders if it was mechanically inspired. I make a mental note not to consult with either of these doctors in future.

After the eventual referral to hospital, I speak with a doctor there who basically backs up my fear. Circumcision is the only possible solution. Shortly afterwards I’m admitted to hospital for the final cut and I’m summarily dismissed post operation with stitches holding things together.

The thing about the male sexual organ is that it has quite the mind of it’s own. During the day it’s not so difficult to mentally repress the urges that it provides, but there’s definately nothing as frightening as suddenly waking during the night as your penis tries to pull itself apart.

6 1/2 years ago I was working in Scotland, not enjoying the cold, the constant rain or the Glaswegians. My wife had been contacted by the British head of her department about a possible job in Bradford, and she had asked if I had any objections to her attending an interview there since we would have to consider finding work for myself down there.

It didn’t amount to much, the interview went well, but Bradford wasn’t the most dynamic town to live in, so we passed on it. Two months later, the global head of finding things out phoned my wife, explained that he had a position similar to the one in Bradford, and asked if she would be interested. This position was in the companies global Headquarters in Basel, Switzerland.

My wife calls to tell me this, and between our laughter we decide that it would be worth following this up, a trip to Switzerland at someone else’s expense isn’t to be passed up. I agree to rework my CV in the hope there might be something that I can do over there and we wait. One week later, I’m contacted by a German guy asking if I would also be interested in attending a couple of interviews for a development position. At the time I’m trying my best not to let anything slip at work, so I have to sneak out infrequently to make phone calls to Switzerland and try to organise things as best I can.

Two weeks later, we both have interviews scheduled in the Global Headquarters. On the day we have to leave, I phone my work to pretend I have a cold and then we head to the airport. By the time we arrive in Switzerland, I actually have a cold, and spend the evening there feeling terrible, but one of the guys who will interview me assures me he has something that will help in the morning.

The following morning, we depart for the HQ, not really knowing where we are, but we meet the representatives and my interviewer gives me a pill of some kind, informing me that I’ll feel a lot better soon enough. I have no idea what was in it, but obviously working for a pharmaceutical company has it’s advantages. Whatever I had seemed speedlike to me, but it sorted out my cold almost instantly. The interviews went well, I coasted along slightly out of my head, but getting on well with the various people I met, including a large Jabba-esque man who I thought was going to eat me. My experience and opinions of various obscure programming languages seemed to be appreciated, and by the end of the day we departed for home. Mission accomplished, we had travelled to Switzerland and back.

The following week, we’re still waiting on feedback, and by now we both assume that things weren’t going to happen. Switzerland has a limited number of foreign nationals that companies can employ as the government wants Swiss people to fill the positions where possible. If a Swiss can’t do it, then a foreigner can be employed for that position.

I was that foreigner, the interviewer contacted me to state that there was a position for me if I wanted it, and my wife was also about to be made an offer. If there was ever a point in time where I expected my jaw to drop, this was it.

This was July 2000, and we were asked if we would be willing to start on the 1st of October. It was time to sell the yellow house that we lived in, so we started advertising it. I received a phonecall at work to inform me that a viewer wanted to come and see it that afternoon, so I had to speak with my boss to arrange the afternoon off. When I went to speak to him, I said that I needed the time off to prepare the house as we were trying to sell it. “Fine, ” he said, “do you have another place lined up?”. “Yes, ” I replied, “a flat in Switzerland.”. Surprisingly, the house sale went quickly and smoothly, our second viewers were happy with what they saw and put in an offer the following day.

We were a few weeks away from leaving the UK to go to a country where we don’t speak the language. To further compound matters, the locals speak a near impenetrable dialect that doesn’t even resemble the official language. I started smoking again.

I still didn’t really believe this was happening, and until I saw a work permit with my name on it, I wasn’t convinced. Then the work permit arrived. All systems were go. A removal van arrived from Germany to collect our belongings and store them until we had somewhere to put them. I was kind of disconcerted to look out of the window to see a mulleted fellow sitting on the back of the truck playing a guitar, but you know, I wasn’t European and as far as I knew that was a feature of a days hard labour. I arranged with my brother to look after our cats until we could get them shipped over.

The day finally arrived when we had to leave. We spent the night before in one of the local pubs drinking anything and everything with our friends, trying to postpone the inevitable with copious amounts of alcohol. To this day I don’t remember the flights very well, I was still drunk from the night before and the high altitude combined with the drink leaves me feeling a bit spaced out. The last hurdle was to find our accommodation and contact the Hausfrau for keys, and she didn’t speak any Hoch Deutsch or English, but I think she must have been told to wait on some idiot auslander phoning her, as she was waiting on our arrival by taxi.

It was at this point where we wonder “What the fuck have we done?”.

Lionrock – Packet of Peace. Lionrock remixed Saint Etienne’s “Nothing Can Stop Us”.
For various reasons I found myself in France watching the finale of the second season/second series of Doctor Who as opposed to at my home. After NOT CRYING AT ALL during the emotional bits, I pack up and leave. As I live about 30 minutes away from my location, I hook up my iPod shuffle and leave my musical selection to fate.

After five minutes, I find myself wandering through the centre of Huningue. Recent road reworkings have left the town without a street, without a centre and without people. My iPod selects Nitzer Ebb at 130 BPM, and I find myself inadvertendly stomping through craters on my way home.

After fifteen minutes, I realise I’ve been marching like a Cyberman. I stop for a moment and remove my headphones, taking in the silence. The silence continues. There is no-one around. It’s just after 2100, and there should be folk in the pubs and restaurants watching the third place playoff of the World Cup between Germany and Portugal.

But there’s no-one, anywhere. I walk past a home that’s been derelict for years. The next one has a dining table with a pot of mustard and cutlery, but no sign of life.

I take a moment to catch my breath. If there was an apocalypse, surely the BBC would have said something?

And then I realise, I was watching the programming on a fifteen minute delay. Je suis L’homme d’Omega.

But there’s something in the background. A high pitched whine. I turn, and a young boy shoots past me on his bike at around a thousand miles an hour. My heart matches his speed.

Kylie Minogue covered Saint Etienne’s “Nothing Can Stop Us” in 1994 as a bonus track on her debut single for Deconstruction Records.

A lifetime ago I lived in Glasgow, Scotland. A wet grey place most of the time with colour coming from the strangest of places. Once I was on a bus travelling home past some highrise flats in Ibrox that face the huge Police station at Helen Street where the Police keep suspected high risk criminals in high security prisons that reach deep into the ground.

Anyway, back to the bus. As it ambles along past Bellahouston Park, I notice one of the windows of the block of flats is badly smoke damaged and at the same time one of my fellow passengers mentions this to her travelling companion. Apparently the flat in question was somewhat of a junkie hangout. One night the inhabitants decide that after a hard day’s smack, nothing would be more relaxing that some nutritious chips and one of them somehow manages to get from the floor or the sofa to the kitchen and sets about firing up a chip pan.

Being junked up and without any real concept of time, they seem to forget that there is a chip pan in the kitchen happily bubbling away full of hot fat. Inevitably this catches fire and starts to burn. Through the foggy haze of heroin, one of them notices something out of the ordinary. Black smoke. Their thoughts turn to how to dispose of a chip pan, not remembering the old public service announcements that informed you that the best way to deal with this would be a wet tea towel or similar placed over the pan to cut off oxygen and starve the fire.

In this drug world the obvious way of disposing of a burning chip pan is to throw it out of the window from the 14th floor onto the motorway below. This stroke of genius may have worked, had it not been for the unsteady hands of one that’s been injecting exciting concoctions into their veins. On the way to the window, burning fat was spilled from the pan to the sofa, setting it also alight.

At this point, most folk would likely realise the folly of their actions and escape through the door alerting everyone and anyone. However, our heroes have another Eureka moment.

“And that’s why there was a burning sofa sticking out of a 14th floor window in the middle of the night.”

The 1999 Pet Shop Boys album, Nightlife, features a duet between Neil Tennant and Kylie Minogue.

I always like Radio phone in competitions, they were fairly easy to figure out if you were quick enough. I would usually pre dial the first 7 numbers or so, and then the remainder as soon as the trigger track was played or the question was asked. I acquired various pieces of loot for very little effort by being quick off the mark. I had a copy of the Manic Street Preachers album that was signed by all of the band members, but sadly I had sold that one on before Richie took a header off a bridge. I won a bunch of 12″s, CDs, tickets to raves and a record bag from Pete Tong, I won a few shopping sprees. I never did manage to get into Space though, I was robbed on that one, but it’s for another time.

For the UK premiere of Batman Returns, Noel Edmonds’ promotion company ran a competition in conjunction with various local radio stations for transport to London, accomodation for two in a fancy hotel and tickets to the premiere of Batman Returns. I wanted this, so accordingly I waited for the trigger and answered the question leading to my winning of the prize. I was kind of seeing two different girls at the time, one called Susan who was only using me to split with her previous boyfriend and another called Claire who was very tall compared to me.

I asked both of them if they wanted to come, but neither was particularly eager. Susan wasn’t really interested in spending a night away with me as I was only a pawn in her machinations, and Claire didn’t seem that eager to pursue anything further in a relationship. I should have stuck to trying to woo her friend Kelly instead as we seemed to have a more realistic rapport. On reflection I can’t help but think she might be Kelly Macdonald, but I’m sure my mind is playing tricks on me in that respect.

Anyway, Claire eventually capitulated and decided to come with me. I should really have taken John, but oddly enough it was his father that suggested I do otherwise in case they thought I was gay or something.

I enjoyed the movie, and it was made somewhat more surreal by the audience as it comprised every z lister talent that could find their way to Leicester Square, and it was quite a buzz walking along a red carpet with a crowd gathered outside wondering if either my partner or I were famous or not. After the movie, we moved to Equinox next door for free drinks. The party itself was pretty immemorable, although there were a few highlights that stick to my mind. After waiting at the bar for a free drink, I noticed a bottle of wine to my right. I moved to lift this only to be stared down by Pat Roach, a former wrestler turned actor. We were sitting close to John Leslie and his then girlfriend. When he walked off to the toilet, I asked if she would leave him and go out with me. Catherine Zeta-Jones politely refused. And to finish, I bumped into a friendly girl on the way to the bathroom, and I couldn’t help but notice she looked to have a bit of puppy fat on her and made my excuses. That would have been my shot at Dannii Minogue.

Her feet stink because she works in manure all day, but it’s still the best damned Starbucks in Glasgow.

The Pet Shop Boys – Was it worth it?

The Pet Shop Boys covered Sterling Void’s It’s Alright for their album Introspective. I have a fond memory of this album. No, that’s not entirely true, it was a bootleg cassette purchased from a man with a suitcase on Argyle Street.

Before car boot sales became popular, places with market stalls provided an easy way for acquiring pirated material at minimal prices. Glasgow’s primarly copyright violation centre was The Barras market in the East End. It’s still there, but a shadow of it’s former self due to ongoing Police raids. Anyway, back in 1989 I’d visit the stalls in the market and buy the odd C-15 cassette with a single game on it or a C30/C60/C90(GO!) with a compilation of games for my C64. These were usually a few weeks before general release and most likely were review copies or betas that had been leaked to the unscrupulous and duplicated at home by the means that Sony et al. provided at low cost with the proliferation of dual cassette decks on home stereos.

Before the internet, data was couriered from modem to modem at low bit rates and multiple copies were spawned by various people sitting at home with mass duplication equipment, and a supposed loophole in the law meant that selling copies as back-ups prevented Police pressure. Even when the vendors were busted, the means of production was not much more than a few stereos and blank cassettes. Twenty C15 cassettes cost approximately four pounds, and each one was resold for two pounds once it had a game on it, therefore two hours work made you approximately thirty six pounds profit.

This continued for years, but as I’ve not been anywhere near the Barras for nigh on seven years I don’t know what happened. I’m pretty sure Sega, Microsoft, Sony et al. wouldn’t have been entirely delighted at their wares available as warez and measures such as the DMCA give them more clout here. As I remember, the local press reported that Windows 95 final gold was available at the Barras two months before retail release.

To start, Sterling Void – It’s Alright featuring the vocals of Paris Brightledge. It’s not intended to link to anything immediately, and is a random seed to move on from. On that note, here’s something else kind of random.When I was in Primary School, I remember the teacher asking everyone to name their favourite bands and I was confused. I didn’t have any real knowledge of pop music, and although people such as Kirstie Unsworth were mentioning bands such as Blondie I just didn’t have anyone I could think of. I remember saying E.L.O. purely because the teacher was polling the children for their favourite bands to then render their letters in Morse Code(or something), so I was pleased at picking such a shortened name.

In Secondary School my musical influences tended to come from cousins and friends more than anything else. Like many others of my age I found Frankie Goes To Hollywood to be exciting, although that would have from the marketed subversiveness we all fell for. Most of the music from the Eighties passed me by though, I was attracted by the sounds of the SID chip far more than any conventional instrument and couldn’t care less for those such as the Thompson Twins or A-Ha.

Leaving school in 1987, I took a job in a factory as an apprentice engineer and mixed with people that had more interesting tastes in music than I did at the time, and was introduced to bands such the The Smiths, The Cure, R.E.M. and Echo and the Bunnymen. Bands that were probably lurking around the Indie charts on the Chart Show that I hadn’t previously cared for. From this I started noticing things like Snub TV with other previously overlooked bands like Spacemen 3 and the Jesus and Mary Chain, and I felt I was beginning to find music that resonated with me.

In 1991 Primal Scream played at the Glasgow Plaza. The Plaza is a derelict building these days, but as anyone at that concert would attest it is probably because the concert tore the roof off the venue. The concert had support from Slam and Andrew Weatherall, and for the first time outside of the Sub Club there were hundreds of folk on E dancing on anything they could. The speakers and the fountains were a writhing mass of folk dancing in tandem, joints and water passed around to anyone and everyone. A proper nightout, and a fond memory of a simpler time.