New Year parish notices

In an attempt to enter 2006 with a slightly shorter backlog of things to say, here are a few points of order...

Normal service resumed a couple of weeks ago when Team Albatross won the final round of the pub quiz and the season title along with it by the whopping margin of 33 points, more than most teams scored in a whole week.

I'm sure the world will be relieved to hear this, if not out of good will, then just to save itself from more of my bellyaching (although that did prove most cathartic in that it got the quiz monkey off my back).

Mind you, there was very little good will when it was announced we'd won - the boos and hisses being rather unsporting even in what may have been the best of natures.

In the same mean spirit, it was good to see the Colts' winning run brought to an end by the Chargers, thereby ensuring that the '72 Dolphins' perfect season remains unique in NFL history for at least one more year. You stay classy, San Diego.

Reporting Slipper's death back in October, I gave the impression that every member of the family heralded her arrival with unbridled joy, even the dog.

I have to confess that this version of events is not quite the one that my mother remembers. The way she tells it, Boot had to be tied to the kitchen table, frothing at the mouth, while Mum held Slipper out of his reach. This continued for a week or thereabouts. So not quite a inter-species vision of harmony, then. Hopefully this won't undermine my journalistic credibility too seriously.

The funny little barcode and his fifth metatarsal ensured that the next year will start as miserably as this one ended for those of a black and white persuasion. Who knows. Maybe we'll have a new manager to look forward to.

I'm thinking about my most memorable moments, movies, music of 2005. I'll let you know when more of them come to mind. The word favourite is bandied about far too lightly these days. These things take time. :)

Happy New Year everyone. See you on the flip side.


I didn't think it was possible but I now have even greater admiration for Ben Folds.

At another great gig on Tuesday, he took a couple of minutes to explain the inspiration for The Ascent of Stan, a song about a hippy who abandons his principles in order to get on in the world.

The idea for the song came to him when he got a lift from said far-out groovy guy in a car adorned with peace stickers and witnessed a bout of near road rage from the driver.

Not that it had anything to so with the song, but at the end of the journey, the hippy told Ben he'd been "dialoguing" with his girlfriend.

At this point in telling the story, Mr Folds stopped to make a comment about people who use the word dialogue as a verb, a comment unsuitable for reproduction in a family environment such as this. Actually, that's not true. The truth is I can't remember exactly what he said because I was too busy screaming to process the precise words. Cheering grammar lessons at a rock concert - geek much?

Don't give me any BS about the evolution of language - although nouns like focus and parent have already been lost for ever, the further development of such practice is just plain wrong, and I'm damned if I'll give up any more ground.

But with all the dialoguing, incentivising, disincentivising, tasking, transitioning and actioning that goes on in popular speech there's little doubt that we're unlikely to win this war.

At least now I know that with Ben on our side, we're definitely going to have the better sounding argument.


I know how Alex Ferguson and Bill Belichick must feel. It's funny how addictive winning can become. I've never really experienced it before, at least not on a long-term basis.

And now... loss. It's almost too much to bear.

A few weeks ago, disillusioned with the chronic mediocrity of our performances in the Harringay Arms quiz, Team Albatross decided to try out another pub. An experimental competition saw us come fourth, and it was generally decided that with a change being as good as a rest, we might see an upturn in our fortunes.

Sure, the questions seemed a little easier than at the old place, but with the chance to prove our mettle over a six week season, the move - even if only temporary - seemed too good to resist.

Aided by the relative easiness of the questions, the results were immediate. We won the first week of the season with a record score. We won the next week too. And the third, with a total beating our own record.

It was starting to get embarrassing, partly because we were so obviously punching below our weight. We were quickly becoming the least popular team in the pub. The first week we won we were warmly applauded, the second less so, but still a polite congratulatory ripple. But the third week? Nothing. Tumbleweed. And by the fourth victory on the trot, people were asking the quizmaster whether he was going to ban us.

Short of deliberately giving the wrong answers we'd done everything we could to reduce the likelihood of us winning, even going so far as to demand our paper be remarked when we were sure we'd got points for an incorrect answer that had been misread by the scorer.

But all to no avail. Our winnings kitty continued to grow, and the lead over other teams in the race for the end of season prize reached 26 points - more than some competitors score in any one week.

So when, last Monday, we turned up with more than the regulation limit on players, Team Albatross had to split in two. This, we thought, might finally see us lose and regain a little bar cred. Certainly the first half of the quiz felt a little shaky for our depleted forces, and the half-time score confirmed it, putting us in joint second place.

Despite redoubling our efforts in the second half, when the final scores were in revealing a three-way tie we knew our time may well have come. And indeed we flunked the tiebreak question. Our crown went to another group.

But while we were generous in defeat and enjoyed the boost in morale and hope it gave to the rest of the teams in the pub, our loss has haunted me all week.

Why? Because this week's picture round was on British political figures, and while I got nine of the featured individuals immediately, the other one left me agonising: a black female Labour peer. There are only two that I knew of , but which one was it - Baroness Amos or Baroness Scotland? I went with the latter and resisted several urges to change the answer before handing the paper in.

And when the answers were revealed? It was Amos, of course. Bloody Amos. Something I guess I knew all along. The two of them don't even look alike.

I'm still gutted.

I know I ought to be big, that spreading the wealth and ability to rejoice in a win can only be a good thing, and that everyone on Team Albatross felt some sense of relief at finally losing. I also know that we're still long odds-on favourite to take the title in the final round.

But bugger magnanimity - I'm hooked on this victory high. Winning most of the time isn't good enough. We could have had a pefect season, and we blew it. I blew it.

Next week there'll be no surrender. It's clobberin' time.


Hey folks, please excuse the trumpet-blowing but it's a Ben Fell exclusive.

As I've said before, so rarely do we get to do anything truly original (and by that I mean 100%) that when this guy brought us some video footage of the massive explosions at one of Britain's biggest fuel depots, I just had to interview him about the blasts he'd seen from the air. It was our chance to scoop not just the rest of the media, but our own TV and radio colleagues too.

Phil was a nice guy, he needed a bit of coaching to get the best out of the story and was clearly a little nervous about being on camera, but I don't think I'm fooling anyone by saying the final product was worth it.

News 24 clearly agreed, because they used the interview when we offered it to them.

Not bad for a day on which I wasn't even supposed to be at work.