Sunday, 30 May 2010

New song available

I've a new song, Daydreams, uploaded to my reverbnation page... either go there or look at the player in the right side bar on this page.

Enjoy!

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Ashes to Ashes...

So anyone follow all this?

I was a casual watcher - it was often on a night I was out but I did watch the latter half of the last series to try and get it. Which I did ... clever ending I quite liked the idea.

So here is a question though - my friends and I were talking about it and I said so was Jim the nasty guy actually the devil. One said - it was good vs evil saying he is the devil is a bit far isn't it? If you say that then Gene Hunt was God.

I laughed and said "we could take this like those that have set up Jedi as a puka (in their eyes) religion. Let's call ourselves the Disciples of Gene and have 10 commandments according to Gene". We all laughed then one friend said... "hey Disciples Of Gene... is GOD backwards"... spooky!

Friday, 28 May 2010

Long weekend

Bank holiday only seems like 4 weeks ago we were having one of these :-)

Depending on the weather I think I might go over to Brands Hatch on Monday to watch some big of F1 and Sportscars zoom around there :-)

My son has his last exam of this year today so he'll be celebrating his finishing of another year at uni. I'm off to pick him up next Thursday - giving him a couple of days to start packing... knowing him no chance it'll all be last minute.

My daughter who has at various times this year come through the door in her usual calm and quiet manner... (NOT!) screaming that she'll never gets Statistics, hates it and the teacher and her teacher clearly hates her etc. managed to get 96% in a test this week and the teacher used her as an example to the class of what they should be aiming for. Hopefully she'll approach her impending GCSE with some confidence now. It does seem wrong that she is taking a full GCSE this early, she is year 9 and only 14 for crying out loud but it's the way of the world these days isn't it. Since they scrapped the KS3 SATS test her school decided that on some of the "pathways" they'd bring stuff into year 9 this year. So she is doing the full Stats paper and modules in Maths, Physics, Chemistry and Biology. She is drawing up a revision timetable and will need to knuckle down to some revision this holiday week. Whatever the populist view of exams being easier and kids not being as clever as they used to be etc. one thing I can't ignore as a parent is that in my opinion there is far more pressure on kids today than ever there was in my day.

Hope everyone has a good weekend wherever you are....

Another one...

It's not been a great week. Sadly I learnt today of the passing of the wife of the owner of the rehab I was in exactly 6 years ago. Another one of the good ones taken from us and another good guy in pain trying to recover from that. Sad

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Working at gratitude...

or... trying to slay the beast of self pity.

The news of my colleague yesterday did really hit me. Poor bloke lost a young child some years back as well - as seems to be the way of the world the bad luck sometimes doesn't seem so generously spread around.

So I'm trying to work on my gratitude. I'll update my list in a moment, but the obvious ones are,sobriety, health, family, where I live (i.e. England compare it to much of Africa, or say North Korea... yep not so bad is it?), wealth, warmth, somewhere to live... etc. See I have simply so much to be grateful for. I might be being made redundant but as a friend of mine says "this company doesn't throw people on the scrapheap; it lays them on it gently". I love his humour, but in that it means my compensation payment is very generous, I've a load of shares that I can also cash in without Tax and NI liability and I'm getting all this help from the outplacement company. I'm off on a course about setting up your own business next month - not that that is my top priority but the course is free to me and simply an opportunity not to be missed.

However - the beast that is self pity is always lying there awaiting me. It drags me into the "everyone is smarter than me", "everyone has more of x than me", "I don't have this, I don't have that"... etc. The reading at our AA meeting last night was on this topic and it hit me how I can have those thoughts in my head too much and too often and I'm not sure I do enough to dispel them. I know the drill, look at what you do have not what you don't, look at others less fortunate than yourself, try to help those less fortunate, etc. etc. Easy said not so easy done especially when whatever I might say about the redundancy I cannot deny I'm anxious about exactly what the future does hold and therefore vulnerable to these emotions more at the moment.

The top thing to be grateful for is always at the top of my list... I haven't thought about having a drink. That for an alcoholic no matter how long away from the booze is remarkable. I don't look to drink to fix me, or more accurately temporarily numb me from whatever is hurting me. I have to stand up and face it and work it through and somehow these days I do that sober, remarkable!

I'm off to the solicitors in a while since I have a compromise agreement as part of the severance deal that I have to sign - essentially saying I won't take the money and then try to sue for more. All good fun.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Life isn't fair

Over the last few days I've heard of a blogger that died suddenly who was a couple of years younger than me, the sad death of Paul Gray (bassist with Slipknot) he was only in his thirties, and now a friend at work has found out that he has an agressive tumour in his mouth.

Life just isn't fair is it at times.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Summertime

It no doubt is too much to ask that the heatwave continue isn't it? We sat outside in the garden most of yesterday afternoon - and both my daugther and Mrs F got more sun than they should probably have done. To be honest it has been too nice a day to be cooped up in the office but there is little choice really.

I'm off to London tomorrow for another meeting with the outplacement consultant which should be useful. I am actually somewhat glad that it looks like the temperature will be down a bit tomorrow as being in London in the sweltering heat probably not too brilliant.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Finally in America

I say finally as I was originally scheduled to travel the week after all the Ash Cloud mess in April so I aborted that and rebooked for this week which had some added benefits in some other connections over here I was hoping to make.

Also finally because this is the final trip I'll make over here in this job - so probably the last time I'll ever visit this area and see the rest of my team and many other old colleagues. I've been coming here since I started in the company in 1991 - well I think my first trip was 1992 but anyway there have been periods where I've spent one week in every 4 over here in some jobs etc. in the days when money was never really an issue. I've not added up the number of trips but it must be somewhere around 80 or so over the years.

Time to say goodbye - the office block my team is in is almost empty as they are going to refurbish it. I remember this thing being built! I was talking to an old friend and mentioned the "old restaurant" and he looked blankly at me, he found it funny someone from the UK knew more about this site's history then he did.

So the last ever American hire car - long term readers of this and the previous blog will know my amazement at some USA hire cars I've had - is possibly the best I've ever had. I got an upgrade to an Infinity G37 or something like that. Boy does this thing fly! It has every gizmo you could want and some you don't... a camera that shows a picture on a little screen on the dash as you reverse for example!

Still can't wait to be home to Blighty though - much as I do like this area and the people it's never home.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Tribute

My tribute to the great and now very sadly late Ronnie James Dio.



Sadly one of the greatest vocalists has passed away from stomach cancer. Somewhat ironic as well - you'd have thought Ozzy would be the first of the great Sabbath singers to go given his abuse of his body wouldn't you.

I saw him twice live - first on the original tour in support of the Heaven & Hell album when Bill Ward was still in the band. Secondly only last year at Sonisphere and ironically having to choose between H&H or Coheed & Cambria my son and I decided to stay in the pouring rain and honour H&H as we thought we were bound to get other opportunities to see C&C but wondered how much longer H&H would tour. How prophetic those thoughts were.

Originally when he "joined" the Sabbath line up they considered a name change to avoid the Ozzy comparison - which is totally unfair as Dio is a completely different kind of vocalist. But the record company of the time insisted they stick with the moniker as they no doubt thought the established name would sell more. Funny that when they reformed they used a new name... no doubt partly as there is a dispute with Ozzy over the rights to the name now.

Also remember that he was the original vocalist with Rainbow and highly successful with his own outfit Dio for many years too.

RIP Mr Dio.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

What it is like now

After the row that the last post ended with I opened up to someone I knew where I work in our occupational health department. She was brilliant and she helped me get into a rehab. I didn't really research it or think about it I just knew I needed to go somewhere and get someone to help me. I still think I wanted to drink normally really.

When I got to the rehab I was totally lost and confused. We shared dorms, we had to do "chores" we were expected to have a group meeting before breakfast then in group therapy sessions and other sessions throughout the day and in the evening do "step work" ready for group etc. You were locked out of the dorm for 14 hours or so a day forcing you to interact with the others so that you could never isolate. I was cut off pretty much from my family apart from a call home in the evening and them visiting once a week on a Sunday for lunch. My wife decided to never bring my daughter who was 8 at the time. All that was very heartbreaking, one thing I realised although I should have known was how much my family really meant to me. Of course my wife couldn't readily understand why I needed to go off with a bunch of strangers to just do what she'd been telling me to do for years, i.e. stop bloody drinking!

It was hard work in the rehab. However quickly I sussed the following.

  • any drink will set off a reaction in me leading to me drinking more. I can't drink one drink safely

  • I drink because I struggle with life, no more than any others but drink is a superb method for me of changing that feeling or blotting it all out altogether. I simply need coping mechanisms that don't employ alcohol

  • the programme was the AA one and that going to AA was going to need to be in the future plans

  • I wasn't the only one who was like this. There were plenty of others out there all with similar confusion in their heads.

  • honesty. I needed to stop lying to everyone, most importantly to stop lying to myself.



Today I'm sober. I work hard at being grateful for my life. I go to AA regularly, I don't think about it I just go. There I hear other people with similar nonsense in their heads. They stay sober by doing some simple things. I listen. I share some of my stuff, esp the nonsense in my head that I know will drive me back to drink. The major things in life I can cope with normally though a broken shoelace or someone not holding a door open for me - that is what could make me drink again. Or simply not being prepared for the first drink to arrive in my hand. I'm just an alcoholic it is the easiest thing in the world to put a drink inside me I have to work daily to ensure I don't let that happen or at least have the sense to run like hell if it looks like it is about to.

I have a stunning relationship with my wife and my kids. I cannot begin to describe how valuable that is to me. I have a great relationship back with my brother.

I am beginning to know who I am, the real me. What is important to me and what isn't. I learn to not get embroiled in stuff I can do nothing about. I can only change me and work at my reaction to things. Sometimes inside I'm hurting over something I have to try hard outwardly to not show that as that is the best way.

But today - today is another great day. So far today I've not taken a drink and that gives me endless opportunities. If I drink on any day then frankly all those opportunities will disappear.

I'm very very lucky since I haven't drunk since Friday May 14th 2004 so today is my 6th AA birthday.

What happened?

In April 2003 I knew I had to do something about my drinking, since coming back from NYC after Sept 11th 2001 I'd been on a mission of self-destruction hanging around with others who helped enable my drinking and helped at times cover for it at work. However I was a manager of a group and redundancies were looming and I knew I had to help make the decisions over who stayed and who went. I knew I had to try and do that dry (I would have thought sober to myself at the time but that was way beyond my true comprehension then). Also I'd confided in a friend at work about how I was feeling at times he was the first person I chose to have a conversation like that with who didn't drink like me. He looked me in the eye and said "You've got to stop drinking". BANG! That was like a hammer hitting me, most "friends" said "In moderation", "You need to slow down" etc. but this guy was straight in; like a kick in the nuts.

So I signed up to a web site about cutting down your drinking. See I wanted to drink normally of course... not that I ever had but I thought that was the problem. I ignored the advice of the programme I was following and actually did stop totally. I was lucky my withdrawals weren't that bad, some shaking, sweating and feeling generally crap. I kept going to the pub and drinking non-alcoholic lager or coke or whatever but I had stopped. I did the redundancy thing and was pleased with myself. So after some weeks clearly I didn't have a problem I could drink normally now...

So I started again. Maybe a few days, maybe a week it was sort of okay then suddenly I was on a bender. As bad as ever. Confused I went back to the drink diary and trying to control it. Same pattern. Oh complete with lying to myself on the drink diary for an added touch of clear insanity... "Two pints whilst lunching with friends". NO! It was more like 6 pints on my own in a boozer I knew no one from work would be seen dead in! By the way the only person who saw the diary was me - how's that for complete madness?

Okay - change drinks that'll help. So to drinking bitter that'll work. Same issue i.e. few days alright then a bad day without any real reason just the weather or some comment from someone at work or at home and I was off drinking unreasonably again.

So I stopped altogether again. I did about 6 weeks I think then I went on a pub crawl I'd organised. Brilliant that isn't it? A man supposedly not drinking arranging a pub crawl for a cold, wet Thursday in Ramsgate! Not one drop of alcohol passed my lips. Clearly therefore I was cured; it was all over. The next day I had two pints of lager (another change of drink you will note) to celebrate. How mad is that? Within a week I was worse than ever and was banned out of a pub for life simply because of the speed I was drinking, the landlady knew me as a regular and was trying to help me. I never saw it like that at that time sadly.

At that point I gave up giving up - I couldn't do it. Clearly this was all nonsense. I simply had to accept that I had to drink to continue to be, but I hated me and everything. I never seriously considered suicide apart from one day I stood on top of a cliff but frankly if life had just stopped that would have been a fine solution for me it had become a morose, mundane, miserable existence by now.

My wife and I went to Dublin for her 40th birthday - this was a year on from the first decision to cut down/stop. We had one great day on that weekend and one terrible one where I had my "must drink" head on and she was not happy at all. I was back to Guinness by now my preferred weapon of self destruction.

A month later we had some good news and my wife texted me a simple line "tonight we can celebrate". I saw that last word, considered this great news and thought - "My life is still utter shite" and I went off on an all day bender. At home that evening my long suffering wife instead of ignoring me finally bit back and we had the most almighty row which is not how our relationship functions - we don't row. In the middle of that with the swearing and threats etc. I gave up. I lay down and cried and cried. I just wanted it all to stop. That was the moment I made the decision that I had to do something dramatic about my drinking I couldn't continue in this way.

From that day to this I've luckily not taken another drink.

Next installment will be Friday since I'm out and about all day in London tomorrow

How it was

Over the next few days I'm going to post some sobriety related posts ... you'll understand why on Friday if you stick with them.

How it was...

Awful! I drank and it was crap - simple. Well if it was that simple how come I drank for 25 years. That's a fair point. Because I'm an alcoholic that's why - it is that simple as well. :-)

I started drinking in my teens, so do many others but from the word go my relationship with alcohol wasn't right. I was always trying to get others to come for a beer with me, I was always "getting another in", throwing up in the car park or on the roadside etc. At 17 I remember going to the pub on a lunchtime during a school holiday on my own and thinking then "This isn't right you shouldn't drink on your own just for the sake of it".

Once at college and work I spied out those that liked to go to the pub and befriended them the main qualification for being a mate of mine was that you liked going for a drink. Soon though even that didn't work these buggers only wanted a pint or two and then go back to work or home to see their girlfriends etc. So soon I was working in London drinking most lunchtimes and evenings and increasingly on my own. I knew in my mid twenties that I drank too much, it caused rows at work with work mates, with my wife etc. But I couldn't stop. I'd stop once a year for a few weeks to show you all I didn't have a problem but I'd be counting the hours until I could drink again.

For many years it was this drink at lunchtime and on the way home every day - go to the football on a Saturday and have a few pints there as well.

I'd wake up most mornings hating myself, the world, the universe etc. I'd get out of bed, often soaked in sweat which I later discovered was my way of dealing with the alcohol, and start planing/scheming the days drinking, could I get out at lunchtime, when could I leave work how late could I get away with before coming home to sit in the chair asking the same questions over and over insisting I'd only had a couple whilst actually struggling to add up the real amount. Then I'd hit the bed saying to myself tomorrow will be different. It rarely was.

On very few days I'd make it home without having a drink. I'd want to run around telling everyone but of course to do that would expose the whole facade I was trying to keep up so I'd have to sit there quietly not letting on and by the end of the evening the one thing I knew for sure was that... I'd have to drink again tomorrow.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Book Review - Child 44 and The Secret Speech

I read these two books together but in the wrong order! This was a happenstance as simply I bought The Secret Speech as part of Buy One get One Half Price or something like that but that was the sequel to Child 44 which I then wanted to read and bought whilst just finishing The Secret Speech. Enough of that what are they like?

Brilliant. Very well written books that have interesting plots, engaging characters and are set in a very interesting period of history. Tom Rob Smith is an excellent writer.

Child 44 starts off in the last months of Stalin's rule in USSR. This is a stark portrayal of the way that totalitarianism lives by creating utter fear within those it wants to regulate. I was there living in the fear that existed during that time. Also the mechanisms that maintain the facade of the great state - for example there can be no murder as murder is a Western crime that is due to greed etc. really bring home to you about freedom.

During the book Stalin dies and the confusion of the system from losing it's figure head is ably demonstrated as the mechanics of prosecution cannot complete.

The Secret Speech picks up a little later, the title refers to the famous On The Personality Cult and its Consequences by which Khrushchev began to dismantle much of the operation of the Stalin regime. I vaguely remember this from history lessons but this novel again shows the turmoil that USSR went through at this time and shows the complete confusion in many people who had their place clearly understood but this speech then undermined that.

So both books are really good reads that were for me quite educational as well however the subject matter both in the direct plot but also the multitude of subplots is very dark so these aren't a feel good read, until you put them down and realise how lucky you are not to be living in such a place at such a time.

Celebrating the humdrum

I read some blogs which are by alcoholics working through recovery. One such one recent post over at One Alcoholic's Journey was spot on for me. It reminded me of the old me, for years I used to expect that at some point I'd be instantly recognised as the genius I clearly was and I'd be swiftly famous, rich, accepted, etc. I was a bizarre notion but one that was a regular recurrence. Every time I entered a bar and started drinking I was expecting at that moment for someone to burst through the doors look at me and say something like "Hey you, there is a hung parliament we need you as PM now", or "Hey Eric Clapton has pulled out of the Cream reunion and we need you". Nuts I know.

However deep seated underneath this was a simple issue, I simply wasn't content with who I was and what I had. Why? Because I wasn't taking time to look and be grateful all I was was ungrateful, discontent.

Now a days I try to practice the discipline of stopping and looking about and realising what I have. I keep my list on this blog... sadly not recently updated, hence no doubt this post. I have to practice being grateful.

Doughnuts!!!

According to the staff shop where I work it is supposedly "Nation Doughnut Week" - the offer is 70p of which 10p goes to "Stop Hunger"

So I can stuff in as many doughnuts this week and still feel that I'm doing my bit for the starving in the world... :-)

Friday, 7 May 2010

We need electoral reform

So a hung parliament. Who'll be Prime Minister come Monday?

As I understand it the rules are Gordon stays in place until he resigns. However he could call up Nick Clegg and offer him a deal and remain as PM. Presumably if that is what happens they will be attempts early in the parliament, no doubt the vote to pass the Queen's Speech, to muster a vote against such a coalition. As I type this there are still 35 seats to come in so it still isn't clear whether Labour and Lib Dem combined will be enough or will Gordon have to turn to SNP or Plaid and offer them something?

Will the Conservatives get a chance? They'll need to rely on others support - but the Ulster Unionists their normal allies didn't do at all well.

Queues at the polling stations. People turned away at 10 o'clock. It was gratifying to see so much interest this time around and a high turnout but a shame the system seemed lacking in some areas.

But overall the bottom line is that even if the Tory majority was enough again we'd have a government voted for by the minority of people and many people I think may well have voted tactically leading to no doubt the slump in Lib Dem seats that was against the predictions.

What would I have? If I could I'd have a single transferable vote system... i.e. where you list in preference the candidates until you run out of ones you'd like to vote for. Then you'd work up eliminating the candidate with the lowest votes and moving their votes to the second choice and so on. It'll take longer on the counts obviously, unless we invested in an electronic system. What would that give - the candidate the least unliked probably rather than the one most liked but as I say in my constituency most people who voted didn't vote for the guy that has got in so in all this talk of mandates to govern the leaders need to think about what they are saying as you can call into question the legitimacy of the people filling up the seats to give them their so called mandate.

Would this lead to always coalition government? Probably - however we might then just get more grown up politics where rather than continual slanging of mud and insults across the chamber at Westminster. There would have to be more proper debate and moderation in the law making.

To me personally the best result of this election would be a reform to a PR voting system so that people felt that their vote really mattered and then see their views more likely to be represented in the government.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Much as I hate to see this happen...

Hartlepool have been docked 3 points over fielding a player who should have been on suspension.

Terrific!!! Sorry Hartlepool fans but we need all the help we can get - that now means that we have another team beneath us going into the crucial last day of the season.

Of course you know what'll happen now don't you...

Gillingham will scrape through and Hartlepool will be relegated. Half of the Gillingham team are out of contract so they will be encouraged to stay on League One style deals etc. and then Hartlepool will appeal the decision and win so Gilligham will be relegate but with a League One salary bill... we'll go into administration and plummet down League Two... I generally find with Gillingham it is better to look on the dark side, everything above that is a bonus!

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Comparing factories

Go here to see a load of videos about PRS manufacturing

Fender



Gisbon




Interesting... note the volume at Fender and the speed of stuff, much in the traditional that Leo wanted - remember much of the Fender design like bolt on neck, scratchplate mounted electrics, flat body/neck angle etc. was all to speed manufacturing.

You have to say at first look PRS do seem to take more individual care over the instruments, probably reflected in their prices.