book: Nicky & Sila Lee “The Marriage Book”

January 28, 2011

Today is 15 days before our wedding, and I’ve just finished this book.  “The Marriage Book” is closely related to “The Marriage Course” which we did a few months ago through St Silas church.  The book covers the same material as the course but in a little more depth and obviously at the readers own pace.

I tend not to enjoy ‘self help’ or ‘advice’ style books as they are by the very nature of the subject preachy, filled with asides, example stories and not much substance.  Perhaps it was because the concept of Marriage is so important and immediate that I still found this book interesting and easy to pick up and work through.  The topics are worth thinking through, such as forgiveness, conflict resolution, etc. and it is certainly worth both of us reading this (so D’s getting it back to finish this time!).

Now that I’ve read this do I feel more prepared for life after the wedding in 15 days?  No, but I think I know more of the things I need to work on.

Right, I’m off for my Stag Night!

gig: Blind Boys of Alabama

January 26, 2011

The Blind Boys of Alabama at the Concert Hall as part of Celtic Connections. First formed at the “Alabama Institute for the Negro Blind” in 1939, they did the black gospel circuit, playing in churches, auditoriums, and stadiums across the country. Influential for many gospel, R&B and rock ‘n’ roll artists The Blind Boys have been recording and touring for more than 60 years.

In the 1990’s they received two Grammy nominations and performed at the White House. In recent years the Blind Boys were awarded five Grammy Awards and their musical brethren have paid homage to their legacy and their continued relevance by asking them to contribute and collaborate on new projects.

Seeing them being led onstage to their microphones starts to build anticipation, but when they start to harmonize together to the blues rifts of guitar and bass the magic really happens.  As a show, it is fairly simple, three vocalists, keys/organ, a blind drummer (which is a first for me), fantastically talented guitarist and the coolest Bass player I’ve ever seen.

I love the sound of the Blues, I’m not too up on old time Gospel but I do like the Blindboys sound and their sound is the sound of the blues.  A fantastic night as part of the Celtic Connections, probably the only gig I’ll get to Celtic Connections this year and worth it.

food: Jamie’s Italian

January 25, 2011

Jamie Oliver’s restaurant in Geroge Square has been open for a while now and the queues you used to see outside have quietened down (then again it was a Sunday evening).  Despite the lack of queues outside, we still had a 40 minute wait in the bar.

The menu was interesting and it was hard to choose (partly hard to understand, mostly hard to choose) but we finally settled on spaghetti bolognese and some fish and chips…  well actually “Frito Misto – Italian dish of bits of meat, seafood, and vegetables dipped in batter and fried in olive oil”

I’m not a big fan of ‘shell fish’ or ‘squidgy things’ but I do like fish and in particular white fish and the waitress said this was mixed bits of white fish.  The photo shows how it arrived, which looked dramatic with the fried ‘fish’ in brown paper and topped with deep fried spaghetti, and a little bucket of chips (which were extra).

When I managed to get past the brittle deep fried spaghetti (which frankly was a waste of time, tasteless brittle nest of stuff that didn’t add anything to the meal) I discovered that most of the deep fried fish wasn’t fish but – calamari, sardines, prawn, etc. with very little (IMHO) fish!  The tartar sauce was excellent, the chips were OK but though I tried everything it really wasn’t to my taste – or to be more accurate ‘rubbish’.  The bits of fish I could eat weren’t even that great but the calamari was very chewy, the sardines tasteless, basically I didn’t like it.

D’ said the Spag-Bol was OK, but nothing too fantastic and to be honest that is what we expected.  Jamie Oliver’s restaurants trade on his name and reputation and I really like his TV and books so was expecting something above average.  We were charged highly above average price, but the quality of the food, just wasn’t up to that standard.

For interest – the above bag of little fishy bits with tartar sauce and ‘waste of space’ deep fried spaghetti cost £16!  Spag-Bol was a little over £10, chips were £3.25 and Morgan Spiced and Coke was £4.50 each.  I have paid more for a meal than this, but I think this might have been the worst meal I’ve eaten at a restaurant.  Deeply disappointing and I wouldn’t recommend going here.

book: Jack Higgins “Pay the Devil”

January 14, 2011

Jack Higgins is an excellent thriller writer with numerous best sellers, both ‘one-offs’ and serials.  I’ve read a number of his books, mostly featuring the same character and none for a while.  But when I saw “Pay The Devil” I didn’t even read the cover but decided to go for it.

It turned out to be very different from the other books being set in the 19th century rather than contemporary times.  The story starts at the end of the American Civil War, following the adventures of Confederate Colonel Clay Fitzgerald who escapes to Ireland where he has inherited an estate.  What Clay finds when he arrives is wealthy English landlords abusing the poor tenants on their land, taking everything in rent and keeping them in inhumane conditions.

The country is ready for an uprising and Clay finds himself forced to choose sides.

Higgins is an excellent writer, keeping the pace of a novel just right and maintaining interest throughout.  Not a bad little purchase in Asda for £1 :-)

books: Danny Wallace “Awkward Situations for Men”

January 10, 2011

What are “Awkward Situations for Men” ?  It seems almost anything can quickly become ‘awkward’ to the contemporary British male.  For Danny it was anything to meeting a friend’s baby (and comparing it to Hitler), going to a public loo (and then not needing to ‘go’) and discovering that you like wearing pajamas (and being caught doing so by your partner).

I have previously read “Join Me: The True Story of a Man Who Started a Cult by Accident” and “Yes Man” by Danny Wallace which are both fantastically funny books!  This book is just as funny, but it is worth knowing it is a different type of book.  Danny writes about things that happen to him, like accidentally starting a cult or agreeing to anything and everything by only saying ‘Yes’ …  however ‘Awkward Situations for Men‘ is a collection of his columns in the free “Shortlist” magazine so rather than being a single narrative each chapter in this book is a little story in its own right.  Provided you are aware of that you shouldn’t be disapointed.

Danny Wallace’s humour is hugely observational in style and many of the situations he finds himself in become ‘awkward’ because of the British sense of correct manners and behaviour.  I am hugely tempted to give a number of examples but will refrain – read the book!

Gift Lists are odd…

January 3, 2011

Doing a ‘gift list‘ is a very strange experience.  Before gift lists people just choose what to get you for a wedding present and you ended up with 4 toasters and lots of towels.  Now it is possible to have a ‘list’ letting people know what you are interested in, what styles of crockery, cutlery, etc. you like.  This should make it easier for guests who want to get gifts to do so – in fact it takes out almost all the hassle.

However, to do this we had to spend two days going around John Lewis (other stores are also available) with a scanner to make up a list of things you ‘want’.  It is hard to keep fighting the feeling of guilt for asking for stuff and remember that people want to get you stuff and you are helping them do so – I hope.

So now the list is live, the web site updated and we can move on to the other things on the to-do list.  In fact we just re-did the to-do list and I’m stalling trying to avoid doing anything new.

2010 – how did I get on?

January 1, 2011

At the start of this year I wrote a blog post simply called “2010” which was more or less some of the things I hoped to do and achieve this year.  So time to see how I got on, I said:

I would like to go to more movies!
well, I’ve been to 13 this/last year, which is more than double 2009 so that’s a win!  I doubt very much I will be able to keep up that number simply because I was given a GFT membership last year for Christmas and went to a number of movies there on my own which I can’t see happening this year, but not to worry I achieved it this year.

I would like to see more live music.
In 2009 I went to 4 gigs, while in 2010 I managed 6 music gigs plus a couple of trips to the theater and other events.  These were all great (well I didn’t think much of Snow Patrol, but lets not get into that).  I would really like to continue this somehow.

Be able to play Bass with some confidence.
Well this just hasn’t happened.  At the turn of last year I had just started messing around with the Bass and I was doing OK, but then I started dating, time pressure squeezed out any thoughts of practice and then finally I decided to totally shelf this for the time being rather than feeling guilty about it.  So for now this is off the agenda but you never know…

Do more VJing.
I had a couple of great opportunities to VJ this year and we have certainly dialed in the setup we use to something which almost always doesn’t completely fail.  I haven’t done much development of new footage and material which might be a good thing to focus on next year?

Use Time better
This was the most interesting one for me to look back on because I said things like “see more of my Sister”, “visit family in Lewis” and “proper holiday”….  I think I have managed this and all thanks to my wonderful ex-girlfriend, current fiancee and soon to be ‘other-half’ who is very good at making me get off my backside and do things with friends and family.

So, I don’t think I’ve done too bad with the things that I hoped and planned for at the start of this year. There were of course a number of things I had no idea would happen at that point which shaped the year just gone…  what will 2011 bring?

Review of 2010

January 1, 2011

Time to sum up what I’ve been doing (or at least blogging about) this year…

It seems like a fairly busy year and I suppose the main reason for that is that this year D’ and I started dating and on the 23 July we got engaged while in St Andrews.  We have set a date for the wedding and since then it sometimes feels like all we are doing or talking about are wedding plans.  However, there have been a few other things going on and here is the summary:


MOVIES watched at the cinema…

RESTAURANTS, blogged about…

BOOKS read this year….

Holidays (a new and exciting section to my blog as I haven’t done much in the way of ‘breaks’ but hope to in the future)…

Jan: London: part work trip to a conference but three days to myself for sight-seeing, concerts and shows. — Day1Day 2aDay2bDay3Day4Day5Day6 — highlights included: Victoria and Albert Museum, National Theater gig – Marcia Mello, British Film Institute, Tate Modern,  St Bride’s Church,  British Museum,  Trafalgar Square, The National Gallery, St Martin-in-the-Fields (which isn’t), Broadcasting House, recording of Newsjack in the Radio Theater, Hyde Park, Albert Memorial, the Monmouth Coffee Company, Tower Bridge,

May: York: a quick weekend break in the city of York was great.  I didn’t blog as much as in London (when I was on my own and deliberately trying to do everything I could in as short a time as possible).  This trip was much more relaxed and great fun.Happy New Year!

October: Isle of Lewis: another very quick weekend break in Lewis to visit family and to introduce my fiancee to them and to this beautiful island.  We had great weather for the time of year and took lots of photos.

Nov: Campbeltown: again, just a quick one-night stop over in (well just outside) Campbeltown to visit Grant Logan to choose wedding rings.