29.2.04

I'm wasting my life.

We get this extra day once every four years, and how do I choose to spend it?

Wake at 10, doze for two hours with the radio on, then up at midday. Channel hop for a couple of hours, returning every so often to bid-up tv.

The channel both fascinates and frightens me, and I'm fast getting hooked. Of course I never bid for the overpriced, garish tat they sell, but by golly watching the auctions is addictive. And with the wannabe star"auctioneers" closing every five minutes, it's always tempting to stay on for just one more lot. Am I sick?

Then two movies, one found channel-hopping (orang-utan kiddie flick Dunston Checks In), the other (critically acclaimed Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs) at the cinema, just to get me out of the flat. Guess which I enjoyed more.

I'm feeling in limbo, like I'm treading water. Maybe it's because however nice Charles' flat is, it's never really going to feel like home. It's not mine. But I'm nervous that this thing I'm buying will feel just the same way.

I need roots and structure quickly, as well as a good burst of adrenaline so I don't have to look for it on tacky TV auction channels.

I'm wasting my life.

27.2.04

Sorry. I seem to have spent most of the last week sleeping and working. But mostly sleeping (except when at work).

So what I've not said has included:

The biscuit is edging closer, but seems to be trudging through Solicitorland. Just a few more details to sort out, and with any luck I should be accepted into the Finsbury Park cookie jar by some time in April.

Looking forward to Agent Cody Banks 2, with trailer proclaiming "and introducing Hannah Spearritt". Hollywood won't know what's hit it. Not that I need introducing to Hannah Spearritt. Although I wouldn't say no to an introduction.

Spy talk - Katharine Gun did the right thing. She thought the world should know the US and UK were conspiring to spy on the little nations who would decided the Iraq vote at the UN. Good on her. Clare Short was just Clare Short. She could have been more delicate... but then she wouldn't have been Clare Short. None of this should really be shocking or surprising, but anything that makes Blair squirm over the war can only be good. And just because we can do something and want to do something, that doesn't mean we should. If you can't trust the Secretary General of the UN, who can you trust?

Thinking about far too many celebrity redheads, but particularly Lauren Ambrose.

Wondering whether to see The Passion of The Christ. It may be an interesting piece of movie-making, but can I hack the religion? I don't want an atheist rant in the middle of my local multiplex.

Hustle wasn't nearly as good or clever as it should have been or thought it was. Very disappointing. Must do better.

Ann Winterton is a very stupid lady. Don't know about you, but if I'd already been sacked from one important job for making a racist joke, I'd think twice about making a second one even if, as she claims, it was only to cite an example of how quickly jokes spread in the age of the internet. If I were a Congleton Tory (and I can't think which of those variables would be a worse fate) I wouldn't want her as my MP.

And while most of us get spam from bored housewives and Xanax salesmen, Mark gets his from Bill Clinton. No, really.

So you've not missed much.

20.2.04

Well, either the Rapture happened without my noticing, thereby depriving me of anyone with an enquiring mind, or you've had your fill of the Oracle for the time being.

Either way, that's your lot for this week.

The bad news is that I'm off now until Easter. The good news is that this gives you plenty of time to think up more questions.

And remember: stupid questions often expose more than clever ones.

Until April, then...

19.2.04

As I'm too busy getting angry about this (troubled? I'll give that redneck asshole troubled), this is going to be a quick-fire round.

1. Persistent of Acton: Where's the research into my original question on Tom Sizemore? You know, the top secret hush-hush stuff about him being the strange genetic clone mix thing offspring of George Clooney and Michael Madsen (which could explain the whole Heidi Fleiss thing)?

Still being worked on. This research thing doesn't come easy or cheap. So hopefully the diversion I've recently sent your way will keep your mind off the matter. (I am Nightshift Ben. My sphere of influence is ubiquitous.)

2. Conspiracy Theorist of the Barbarian Lands: Do you believe it a possibility that the Tories and New Labour, at a very covert level, are in cahoots, giving the illusion of choice to the electorate, but one merely posing a more disastrous possibility than the other's unpalatable one. Yesterday's Tory spending proposals seem to bear this out. The Tories cuts in welfare look savage and make Blair's gradual privatisation of public services grudgingly bearable. Are we actually dealing with a self-fulfilling single part system?

Or to put it another way, do I think Tony Blair is a Thatcherite acolyte dropped behind left-wing lines to destroy the popular British socialist movement and all pretences to communal responsibility? It wouldn't be the first time that had crossed my mind.

As for thing about chicks, Ben tackled that question on your blog.

3. The self-proclaimed Nightshift Ben the Second: You've nicked my name!

No, I think you'll find you've nicked mine. Which part of "The Second" don't you understand? I'm flattered, of course.

4. Jane from the People's Republic of Kernow: How can we tempt your parents to indulge in a Cornish Wafer?

If you mean next door, I don't believe Ben's parents have written off the possibility. As for my parents, that would be somewhat more difficult. I was born of the stars. And now I've got this job? Tch!

5. Casanova: Romantic love is a self indulgent ego trip - discuss

I assume you're not the real Casanova, because that would require you to be speaking to me from beyond the grave (not the first time it's happened to me, admittedly, not because of any deeply held belief in an afterlife, but more to do with the concept of a virtual paradise as suggested by Iain Banks in Look to Windward). But if you are, were you really a librarian?

Anyway, I disagree, Romantic love should be mutually indulgent, and while it usually provides a certain boost to the ego, I don't think that's what most people are in it for.

Now, unromantic love (namely a quick shag with someone you just picked up), that's a self-indulgent ego trip.

And if it gets up Dubya's nose, then it's all good.

Last orders, please.

17.2.04

Evening all. The court of Nightshift Ben is now in session.

Unfortunately, there seems to have been very little call for my encyclopedic knowledge and almost spooky powers of precognition.

But I shall do what I have been asked.

Erik, fine Citizen that he is, wants to know: When will City secure three more points and should I start wearing black for the christ-almighty-awfulness of Division One?

No, Erik, do not fear, you shall not be playing in the Nationwide come August. City are too good to go down. Or rather, there are three teams who definitely suck more than you, namely Dirty Leeds, Leicester City, and even the mighty Scum-killers Wolves. Portsmouth probably can't match you either.

As for your next three points, I can possibly see them coming this weekend at Bolton, but it's more likely that you'll have to wait until the end of March, with the visit of Leeds, for a straight-out win. Unless, of course, you fancy tonking Chelsea and United at home. Feel free!

However, you should probably prepare yourself for a new manager. Kevin Keegan has a notoriously low pressure tolerance level, and we must surely be nearing the moment when he'll freak and jack it all in.

Apart from that, all Samantha wants to know is where's Tom Sizemore?

That one's simple. He's in a California correctional facility for beating up his former squeeze Heidi Fleiss.

Now can y'all please give me something I can get my teeth in to. These sessions don't come round all that often, remember?

15.2.04

Yes, folks, it's what you've all been waiting for. Monday night sees the first session of the Oracle of the Night Shift for 2004. So get your questions in now.

And while I'm here, I'd just like to thank Lizzie, Joseph, Robin, Helen and Peter for making this year's February 14th so much less miserable than last year's.

The fact that I'm currently unafflicted by infatuation (and have been since last May, hallelujah) has a great deal to do with it, but good company, a couple of games of Cranium, and copious amounts of booze worked wonders.

And for a fairly recently married couple to give up their own Valentine's night in favour of entertaining their close, single chums is friendship indeed, and just one of the many reasons that I love them.

13.2.04

Is it any wonder that when half-naked lunatics go on the rampage for many of them the weapon of choice is a samurai sword?

As a recent convert to the samurai movie (albeit only through Tarantino and Cruise), I feel I've missed out on a very exciting cinematic genre. I must make a determined effort to bone up on Kurosawa and the like.

I'm not a violent person, but there's something about the samurai's weapon that's just so simple and graceful and brutal and effective. Beats a gun any day.

But perhaps I should shut up before I scare too many people.

12.2.04

Last night we said goodbye to The Leinster.

Although it was never the cosiest of pubs, rarely sold very good beer, and was often empty of an afternoon, the fact that Thomas worked there as part of a very friendly staff made this place the closest thing I had to a local after leaving Elgin Avenue. Even before that, it saw us through many an England international, Premiership fixture and Six Nations match.

Now someone high up at the multi-national conglomerate which seems to own most of west London's pubs has decided it would be fun to switch the Leinster with local gay haunt The Champion.

So the Champ moves lock, stock and barrels from its high street location to the quiet back street spot formerly occupied by the Leinster, hoping to take its regulars with it, while the Leinster moves out onto Notting Hill Gate, with its valuable traffic of local passers-by and tourists.

Strategically, this switch is undoubtedly born of good business sense. But in reality, they're splitting up the team who were starting to make the Leinster work.

Gary, the manager, is a hotshot troubleshooter who'll doubtless be parachuted into another ailing alehouse. John, the number two, is having something of a turbulent time personally, and will probably drift away now this anchor has been removed. Liz, the cute Australian barmaid, is seemingly taking advantage of the change to move on. Our kid's off to Norway to shoot a docu-drama on an ice flow while the various refits are done.

And the locals? They'll probably just find somewhere else to drink for the month or so that the Leinster's out of operation. But will they ever come back?

I can't help but feel, no, know that a truly good, cherishable pub is something organic, which has the ability to grow, evolve and develop a personality. It's got to get dirty, get itself a history.

So many new places like All Bar One and Wetherspoons lack any kind of character, because the proprietors have attempted to create the finished article. That's never going to work. I fear the same fate will befall Leinster 2.0.

So last night we toasted the people of the pub, trying (but failing) to drink the place dry, flying in the face of all known licensing laws.

And as the doors of the Leinster closed for one last time, just after half past twelve, so the doors also closed on another little piece of this island's glorious drinking history.
More whitewash, anyone?
From the BBC's Norman Smith at Millbank:

The Butler committee set up to investigate the intelligence on Iraq, has announced that it will carry out its review in private.

The committee will not issue any statements about the progress of its work until the publication of the final report, expected before the summer recess.

It will begin by accumulating written material relating to the intelligence. In April it will begin taking oral evidence. Witnesses will be questioned by the committee and not by legal counsel. Consideration will be given to protecting the identity of individual witnesses should they request it.

The committee will "focus principally on structures, systems and processes rather than on the actions of indviduals."

Anyone who has information they want to put to the inquiry has been asked to submit it by March 31st.

Downing Street has said ti will cooperate fully with the inquiry.


Surprise, sur-fucking-prise.

9.2.04

I'm having to give Thomsk a wide berth at the moment. My brother and his household have all been itching crazily since their return from Australia. The medicine men of west London told them they were probably just reacting to insect bites they'd picked up down under, despite the very nasty hives cropping up on Thomas's thighs a full four weeks after his return.

These I can vouch for, having seen them my own eyes. Jane and Thea, I'm not so clued up on, but have no reason to doubt they're any better than our kid. Anyway, whatever Thomsk had, you wouldn't want.

Turns out it's scabies.

Although I have no reason to think I'm infected, even the tiniest itch now sets me thinking. I've an iron stomach - years of eating slowly have meant other people have moved on to less savoury topics of conversation before I've finished, helping to inure me to the fact that food and bodily functions play equal parts in our life.

Squeamish I ain't.

But the thought of microsopic bugs crawling about under my skin? That's just a little more than I can handle.

7.2.04

This take on the Hutton aftermath is outrageous...

My Word: Liar Liar by John Gibson

Now also available in fabulous Blustervision.

... but it's probably no more than I should have expected from the bastion of journalism that is Fox News.

I've decided not to bang on about the fallout from Hutton, partly because I'd start to sound like a broken record, but mostly because in this business for a broadcaster to be the story for too long is not good form. That's why I didn't take part in the "Hands off the BBC" rallies, and why I think the best way to prove our point is to get on with doing our job.

If other people want to fight our corner, that's fine, but we should keep our mouths shut and carry on providing fair, balanced and accurate reporting, and not to be afraid to ask more difficult questions in future, regardless of who's in the firing line. Let others dig their own holes.

So I'll refrain from saying much about John Gibson's take on the Hutton report, save to mention that it contains several factual inaccuracies, wholly unfounded allegations of political bias, and more partisan, unchallenged, bilious rhetoric in one minute than you'd find a BBC journalist expounding on air in an entire career.

But just read "My Word" (and the follow-up and make your own decision. Don't let the fact that John Gibson works for Rupert Murdoch (the man who would gain most from a weakened BBC) cloud your judgment.

I may not wear a Union Flag badge on my lapel at work (just lapels would be a major change!), but that's because I want everyone to be confident they'll be addressing an open mind and getting a fair hearing when they talk to me. Can the same really be said for John Gibson?

Frothing at the mouth indeed...

4.2.04

It's been quite a year since Jen gave me the idea to have my own blog.

Since the beginning, we've had booze, both heartache and hope for the future, a highly ineffective war on terror, booze, gossip, ducks at war, biscuits lost and found, karaoke, rejection and, of course, booze (the last three, surprisingly, not related).

Add to these a nation 'liberated', babies, spontaneous abuse, random acts of violence, malt and Mary Poppins, weather girls, booze, boogie nights and Condoleezza Rice's legs, and you're starting to get somewhere.

But that would be forgetting 'Comical Ali' joining the White House, sporting gloom and sporting glory, my work outing, more booze and more blues, lists, silly words and men in skirts.

Remember the blood, sweat and tears?

The man-in-a-hole and the twat-in-a-box?

Don't forget the missing friends, the fun with ISBNs, the evening classes, the end of an era, Stateside adventures, the hot lesbian fish action, and my solution for world peace

Exercising opinion over racism, religion, Hutton and a bout of Oscar rage kept me occupied.

And of course there was always room for the odd comment about George.

It's been a bad 12 months for the world, but a good year for me, despite not everything going my way. I'm well on the way to becoming landed gentry, I feel ready to accomplish new things in my career, and most importantly of all, some important friendships have grown out of friendly acquaintances.

And it's all here in bits, bytes and memories.

Thank you for reading.

Anyone for seconds?

2.2.04

Quote of the Day
Justin Timberlake on that Janet Jackson moment:
"I am sorry that anyone was offended by the wardrobe malfunction during the halftime performance of the Super Bowl." Don't be sorry, Justin. What else would the office have found to talk about today?

One of the occupational hazards that comes with blogging is that very often the snappiest turns of phrase come at the most inopportune moments.

At four o'clock this morning, for example, I had plenty of interesting things to say about last night's magnificent Super Bowl. Unfortunately I was half way home and nowhere near a computer. Now, much in the way of Churchill's dream about the end of the war (a seemingly foolproof idea of how to end WWII came to him in his sleep, he woke up, wrote it down, dozed off again happy that his problem was solved, but when he awoke in the morning, he found his intricate notes were complete nonsense, and the war rumbled on) I've forgotten the great majority of what I was thinking.

When New England first won the Superbowl two years ago, just months after The Day That Changed The World (TM), the cynic in me marveled at how convenient it was that a team called the Patriots triumphed over adversity as America struggled to come to terms with 9/11. Sport as socio-political motivation? Don't discount it.

But after last night's win for the Pats, in what was one of the best of the 16 Super Sundays I've seen, I'm not so sure. Much though it pains me to admit it as a Dolfan, maybe they're just a good team. And maybe sometimes I just have to admit that my inner conspiracist takes things a little too far.

One of these days I hope I'll get Stateside to enjoy the big game among those other for whom its a real event. Besides which, I'll get to drink a drop of decent American beer. English ale is not permissible during the Super Bowl, and Michelob just doesn't cut the mustard. One of these days...

But I'll never be quite sure how I managed to miss Janet flashing the world.

1.2.04

And then real life happens.

Last night my grandmother was the victim of an attempted burglary. Fortunately she wasn't in at the time. And even better, a neighbour saw the crime in process, and called the police, who arrived just as the perps were attempting to liberate the television from its prison of my grandmother's living room.

In the ensuing chase, one of those involved in the burglary was hit by a car. He is currently being treated in hospital, having had both his legs broken. To say this was a development that did not please me would be a lie. In fact if this man - allegedly well known to the local constabulary - has trouble walking for the rest of his life, then it'll be no more than he deserves.

My grandmother, although still indomitable at the age of 88, is understandably quite shaken. And although it presently appears that little, if anything, of either financial or emotional value will be lost, it will probably be a long time before she feels completely safe in her home of more than 30 years.

This sounds like a very conservative thing for me to say (Big C or little, you choose), but I hope those responsible get a good long period of social rehabilitation at Her Majesty's Pleasure. Nobody fucks with my Nanny without being made to pay.