Wednesday, July 31, 2002

An update on Save Karyn... her negative feedback on eBay has been removed! This is because one neg comes under "auction interference" (the buyer states that someone contacted her and told her not to pay) and the other one had an url to a private discussion board, and putting links in feedback is forbidden. What I can't believe is how quickly eBay removed them. There are people who wait months, with negs far worse than hers. I noticed she's put the Gucci sunglasses back up for auction. All very odd...

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

Gah! Endemol just called me to check if I was available for work. Y'know, the people that make Big Brother amongst other things. The girl who called was really nice, so I didn't have the heart to be too flippant when I told her I'd left telly - but it just re-confirmed that I'd made the right decision. Even if I wanted to, I'm not allowed to collect any benefits as a UK resident, so the phone call was about 3 months too late!

I've been enjoying reading Save Karyn, a girl in NYC who's asking people to send her a dollar or two to help her pay off her $20,000 credit card debt.

But all is not well in Karyn land. I really hope this isn't true, but if you look at her recent feedback for the items she's been selling on eBay here, she's received two negatives for shill bidding. For those that don't know, basically it means that you or someone you know use another eBay id to place bids that push the price up. It's very much frowned upon on eBay, and for her to receive two negatives so early on could see her getting her account pulled.

There's no proof that she did this yet, but it does seem strange, for example, that a pair of Gucci singlasses that she says cost $200 would go for over $300. She's also currently auctioning July issues of women's magazines, when she's stated that to save money, she's been reading them at the library.

I really want to believe that she's legit, but I'm feeling kind of wary now. I was even going to send her a few bucks - the envelope's still sitting in the living room. Hmmmmm. I guess this shows that if you're going to ask the world to send you $20,000, you'd better be prepared to be accountable for all your actions, and to have your every move scrutinised.

Monday, July 29, 2002

I'm going to have make this quick, as I'm off to my first day at the new job soon!

Karaoke on Saturday was great - highlights included "alone again naturally" and R CJs courageous version of "no dream impossible". However, I'd like to make a few minor complaints about the venue...

1. When we went to check out the place ahead of time, we were shown a hefty songbook. What he didn't tell us was that a) the middle section of the book was useless, as the master disc for those songs had been lost and b) if we wanted to sing any top 40 songs from the large section in the back of the book, we had to go request the discs from the outside bar. While it wasn't the end of the world, it was definitely annoying and dampened the fun of spontaneously choosing songs on the spot - which is a big part of the appeal of renting a private karaoke box - especially when you're paying £25 an hour!

2. We also weren't told that the kitchen staff would need to walk through our private room to get to the kitchen. I'm sure the prospect of being interrupted by a busboy prevented the shyer members of the party from singing.

There, I've got that off my chest.

(Postscript: I would just like to add that I am, by habit, a bitchy consumer and thus, feel the need to point out inadequacies when I think myself or any of my friends aren't getting the treatment they deserve. It's all in the name of humour and financial know-how. It doesn't mean I didn't have a fab time!)

Before I go....I'm having serious issues with my archive. As in, I can't get them to appear at all, although they are of course safe on the Blogger server. I'm using a java script in my main template that links to some java in the archive template, but nothing is working. I've checked and re-checked that the code is ok, too. Anyone have some ideas for a painless way to get them working again? Pleeeease?

Thursday, July 25, 2002

A new job, and a new look. OK, so it's still a bit wonky - I can't make the main image move *more* to the left, and how the f*&$ can I stop those damn archive links from being blue? If any of my html fairy godmothers would like to help, that would lovely.

Anyhow, I was really excited to hear that Nicole and Natalie Appleton have joined forces and shall from this day forward be known as... Appleton. Clever, huh? Their new song is just like Pat Benetar meets Mel C and it totally rocks! I thought you might like to see their new press photos:



(if you couldn't detect heavy, heavy sarcasm...)

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

This afternoon, I went into town to accompany R CJ on a recce of the karaoke bar booked for her birthday this weekend. As you've probably noticed, it's the first day of the Commonwealth Games, so I was a bit worried about getting stuck en route. But I have to say that first impressions were good - buses are running smoothly, and perhaps even a bit quicker because of the no-car zones on some of the major roads like Deansgate and Whitworth Street.

The city centre felt quite buzzy actually, and I must confess it was exciting to see loads of games officials, limos carting VIPs and new faces wandering around looking curious. I'll have to keep an eye out for my Canadian synchro girls!

The best bit, though, has got to be the extended shopping hours. I'm still not used to everything packing up by 6 pm - in Canada, we could often shop 'til 9 or 10, which strikes me as logical when most people are stuck in the office until 5 or 6 pm. But for the duration of the games, lots of shops will be staying open until 9 pm every day - and Cafe Nero opens at 5 am every day!

So yes, our trip to Northumberland. Here are the highlights:

1. On Saturday as we headed for the motorway, I had one of my usual impulsive moments and asked the bf to stop at the Trafford Centre so I could buy "The Last Broadcast" by Doves to listen to in the car. Since I first heard "words" over coffee in Night & Day many months ago, I've been secretly wanting the album. What put me off? It's not the band's fault, but I struggled with buying a cd that I knew nestled in the shelves of Coldplay fans (possibly one of my most hated bands, EVER!) - y'know, essential student "anthem" stuff. But fuck it - it's great, and it suited the wild scenery perfectly.

2. If you ever find yourself up in Northumberland, you must visit Cragside House. Both the bf and myself are National Trust members, so we always check out NT properties on our travels. Houses of the UK's elite can often be stuffy and pompous (Chatsworth, anyone?), but Cragside is happily none of these things. First of all, it's the first house in the world to be run on hydro electricity, powered by the estate's own water supply. Second, the tastefully eccentric style of the house is completely intact, complete with a 1930s kitchen. There's a truly breathtaking view from the master bedroom out over the rock garden, looking out to the hills. The elegant parlour features an entire mantlepiece and alcove made of marble that's more like a small sitting room. I felt like I was walking around the set of Gosford Park.

3. For Harry Potter fans, we also went to Alnwick Castle in, err, Alnwick. The courtyard was the location for Harry's first quidditch lesson. Here's a tip for you - don't follow the herds of tourists queueing to buy tickets at the kiosk near the garden entrance. Save yourself £6.75 and just walk around the castle grounds - the views are spectacular, and probably just as nice, if not nicer, than the interior. You only have to show a ticket to actually get inside, but they keep that quiet.

4. Alnwick is worth a walk round, but you should at least visit Barter Books, one of the biggest, and nicest second hand book shops I've ever visited. Housed in Alnwick's former rail station (the line closed in 1968), you can browse their 350,000 books at leisure - in fact you're encouraged to put your feet up with a cup of coffee and relax on the comfy sofas scattered throughout the shop.

5. Get your fresh fish & chips from Lewis' in Seahouses, a charming little fishing village.

6. Hadrian's Wall is more interesting than exciting, if you know what I mean. But I did like the helpful painting of Romans doing a poo by the remains of the latrines at Housesteads!

I think that's everything, but if I think of anything later, I'll add it on...

Monday, July 22, 2002

I'm back! Completely shattered though - it almost feels like jet lag. I wanted to write tonight, but I can barely see straight and it's only just after 10 pm. Funny how Hadrian's Wall can take the stuffing out of you. What a lightweight, huh?

Tomorrow, the first day of my last week of freedom!

Friday, July 19, 2002

All this talk of eBay had me do a little searching myself. I found these delightful Labbatts Ice bottle cap earrings. I actually kind of like them - maybe it's just patriotism, but they're kind of cute in an 80s sort of way.

Good morning! I feel much happier, now that I've finally managed to get a cup of decent coffee! I've been trying to buy mainly organic lately, and this includes coffee. I'm sorry, but fair trade organic espresso tastes like...nothing. They must have left the caffeine out too, because I've had mild headaches on and off all week. And before you lecture me, I only have one latte every morning, and maybe one filter coffee in the afternoon. Thank god the bf's parents brought me back a stash of coffee beans from their trip to France.

Anyhow, amusing site for the day: If, like me, you love to see all the weird crap that pops up on eBay, this site is the perfect place. Just remember that eBay updates its servers from 9-11 am BST every Friday, so the links won't work until then. (Via Linda's site, who stopped by while bloghopping last night.)

I'd also suggest checking out the eBay feedback forums for a laugh - and they're not affected by the server update, so you can read away starting now!

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Mmmm. My zucchini (sorry, courgette) bread is baked and I've sorted a nice mp3 for you:

The Satin Bells - "baby you're so right for me"

Featuring classic lyrics such as "babycakes you've got what it takes" and "boy you're just my cup of tea", it's a must-have.

The Satin Bells were a trio of Scottish sisters (two of 'em twins!) who started pop life as the Three Bells. Most seem to approach these early singles with caution, although their cover of the Cookies' "softly in the night" is excellent. As the Satin Bells, today's mp3 was their first single in 1968. Quality-wise, it's up there with further releases such as "da di da da" (a France Gall cover) and "i stand accused (of loving you)" (a storming, whooping slice of girl group soul if there ever was one!)

I have some footage of them tucked away somewhere, in which our three blondes prance around a garden, peek out of windows simultaneously and generally look gorgeous. Which reminds me, I've got some gardening to do...

Back in sweet suburbia...

So there's no sunshine in Manchester today - but it's summer over at Brian's site, where you can treat yourself to the new Saint Etienne single. It's looooovely - I keep listening to it over and over again. They're back in form, and how. I just realised that the little "ooh ooh ooh" bit sounds like "genie in a bottle", but that's not a bad thing - I have been known to sing it at karaoke after all!

I've got a few cool singles in the post today, so I might put up an mp3 later if I sort myself out... it'll be 60s girl pop though.

So yes, job. My new contract's arrived - although the holiday entitlement is generous, I have to wait three months before I can take any holidays. Eeeesh. It's a good thing we booked a last-minute remote cottage in Northumberland for the weekend, huh?

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

YES!!

I got the job! I should complain in public more often - it seems to get things moving. Anyhow, I'm now a part-time office manager for a technology firm. Bizarre as that may sound coming from someone who's spent the last 3 years in television, it's exactly what I need. If you look at it overall, it's going to be like working part-time around free school (the volunteer work leads to a qualification), with my evenings and weekends still free. I feel pretty lucky.

We might just scoot away somewhere for the weekend on a last minute deal, seeing as I have some time before it all starts. I love spontaneous decisions!

Before I go, this story from the Toronto Star made me laugh. If I was still there, I'd probably be first in line (with my mother of course) to pay $10 for a quarter loaf!

Monday, July 15, 2002

Folks, I've been unemployed since May 31st - and frankly, it's starting to worry me a little even though I've secretly loved every minute of the freedom. True, I've got a part-time job that's all but confirmed - but I've witnessed too many disasters to count my chickens. So until that magical phone call comes through, I can only think cynical thoughts in between baking bread and working on a re-design for this site.

It's been much, much harder than I thought to get some new work - something feels wrong. Through the grapevine, I've heard that none of the agencies in Manchester have any placements. Yes, the students are all out en masse trying to scrape up some cash before the new term starts, but it's eerily quiet out on the financial front in general. I can only go off the places and things I normally encounter, but for example...

Exhibit A. On eBay, bidding seems to have tapered off dramatically. In all my favourite sections (1950s collectables, kitchenalia, vintage fabric) dozens of items are still up for grabs or stuck at low prices. I myself put some kitchenalia up for auction - things bought previously on eBay but no longer fitting the bill. Not a single bid! Four months ago, everything I sold went like hotcakes.

Exhibit B. No reply to job applications. Duh, I know that job-hunting is a often cruel and heartbreaking process, but at least I used to get 'thanks but no thanks' letters! Every single job I've applied for since May has obviously entered some sort of black hole. And no, these weren't ads that stated only successful applicants would be contacted. I'm paranoid that this means every job is swamped with hundreds instead of dozens of replies.

Is this the start of a recession, or just a summer lull?

Friday, July 12, 2002

Pet Shop Boys, Sheffield City Hall (11.07.02)

Would someone please pinch me? I'm still glowing from last night. It didn't start off well though - we got stuck in terrible traffic and spent the better part of an hour trying to get out of Manchester. Hunger also made us cranky as we'd forgotten to eat before we left, and we also got stuck behind a lorry for the last leg of the journey. Once we got to Sheffield, we found the city hall easily enough - but spent the next twenty minutes trying to find parking. Apparently Sheffield has something against multi-storey car parks.

But as soon as we approached the venue, I knew it would be good. I just had this feeling! Maybe it was the matronly ticket takers. Or maybe it was when I walked in and saw that they were selling Sexy Northerner t-shirts. (yes, I bought one - they had youth sizes!) Or maybe it was when I looked at my tickets more closely and realised "Shit! I have SECOND ROW SEATS!".

You have to understand something - I've been in love with the PSB since I was about 9 or 10. When I was growing up, my parents didn't really take the pleadings for concert tickets that seriously - after all, I had dozens of whims at any given time. I did get tickets to see them at the MEN arena here in Manchester on the Nightlife tour, but it was a bit of a letdown. Despite whole blocks of empty seats, our tickets weren't very good, and the half-full arena led to a deflated atmosphere although patches of people were doing their best to liven it up.

But for this tour, they've played their cards right - an intimate venue with a pared down presence - just Chris and Neil joined by a couple of guitarists, a programmer and a percussionist.

It kicked off with "home and dry" and a few more mellow numbers - but as soon as the first dance track came along, the crowd started to dance and rushed to the stage. We tried to go up as well, but a bouncer quashed our first attempt. I stayed put, pouting - but when "Sexy Northerner" came on, there was no holding me back! We went round the other way and snagged a spot right at the front. For the better part of an hour, I danced like an idiot. Name a PSB hit, and they probably played it. The final encore was "it's a sin", and with a parting "Sheffield, you've been *fabulous*!" from Neil, they were gone.

The journey home was great, too - a service station tea of jaffa cakes and crisps. Listening to Jello as we wound our way back via the Snake Pass, the pulsing electronica perfectly suiting the dramatic silhouette of the hills of Derbyshire.

Thursday, July 11, 2002

I'm so negligent, I know! It's been a strange few weeks - and with only expensive dial up service at home until today, I felt I had to curb my usual habits. But I'm pleased to say that I've now got broadband which will make writing here much, much easier. Not to mention I'm happily downloading stuff...bliss!

So! Last night. Oh dear. I seem to have this bad habit of persuading friends to come along to a club night that I promise will be fantastic, only to arrive and, well, it's crap. Flustered, you sit there explaining "it wasn't like this last time..." while your friend politely smiles and says "Hey, don't worry about it..." while no doubt secretly thinking "Never trust her again!" (sorry Esther!)

I wrote here about the last time I went to Club Suicide, and how great it was. Now, I'm not sure if I'll ever be going again. We stepped inside Night & Day and Cabaret Voltaire was playing. Fine, the bf is happy. But the rock theme continues with The Damned and other stuff I'm not familiar with. Where is Felix da HC? The Sugababes? Tok Tok? Not a pop record in sight, and there's worse to come. The Obsession take the stage and try to convince us they're a cross between Iggy Pop (naked scrawy chest on lead singer) and the Make Up ("in the beginning there was the word, and it started with the letter "o"...for OBSESSION!") but, oddly, adopting the accent of the singer from the Hives. I'm not impressed. Next band: The Rapture. (can someone please tell me why band is The Something at the moment? It's The So Tiresome!)

So yeah, The Rapture. NYC jazz punk with wailing saxophones and manic basslines. I'm sure the NME or someone will be drooling all over them, if they're not already. (I refuse to read the music press!) We left after two songs.

So - having spent £5 to get in plus bought two beers each, we've just spent our evening in a club that played absolutely *nothing* from its promised playlist which, I might add, lured us there in the first place. For all the enjoyment I had, I would have rather been sat in a pub having a nice conversation. If it was going to be such a rock-out night, don't you think they could have, I don't know, *warned* people?

Tonight, we're going to see the Pet Shop Boys at Sheffield City Hall. At least it'll do what it says on the box! A full report tomorrow.

Sunday, July 07, 2002

Since my last post I have:

1. Been on a job interview

2. Had too much tequila (again) at a birthday party

3. Scored free tickets to an August bank holiday soul all-nighter at the Ritz

4. Become obsessed with the Poppy Family

5. Tried to give up dairy for a while

6. Been enjoying 2 many djs and the new jello cd (aka bola)

7. Recovered my north american accent after seeing Kissing Jessica Stein

Thursday, July 04, 2002

I feel like I need something to make me laugh today - so here's an old picture I dug out:



Moi, circa 1993. Can you guess who that is with me? (p.s. the bf isn't allowed to guess, because he already knows!)

Note my lovely homemade Bratmobile t-shirt and girly bob (oh so popular at the time...)

Wednesday, July 03, 2002

Well, talk about talking too soon. Just as I was gearing up for the synchronized swimming at the Commonwealth Games, a letter arrived today from the ticket department. I'm now told that a) fewer teams are competing so the event might take less than an hour; and b) my seats are 50 feet away from the competition pool, although they're putting up video screens to try and "improve your experience".

I have the option of either sending my tickets back now for a full refund, or attending as planned and getting 50% back anyhow. I'm going to go, of course - I don't really have a problem with the event being short as I'd only be there to see Canada, plus I have a big party to scoot off to afterwards.

What does annoy the hell out of me, though, is that I ordered my tickets the very morning they went on sale in October, and chose the posh seats at £15 each. So would someone like to explain why the expensive tickets aren't anywhere near the bloody competition pool?

Being a diligent consumer, there will be an unhappy e-mail with some well-chosen words sent tonight. I think it's fair to ask if my tickets can be swapped for closer seats, should people be returning them en masse.

I'm not the only Canadian having a hard time though - check out these poor otters.

Monday, July 01, 2002

Not much news to report, but I finally finished the infamous Coffee in Manchester page - follow the link from the menu on the left. Further suggestions of places to try/bitch about are welcome!