Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Minibus master

Today I took my minibus test and you'll be pleased (I hope) to know that I passed. I managed to stall the bus a few times (and it was a diesel which are generally far harder to stall than petrol engines), but got round the test route without any major disasters. I'll need to try and get a drive of the bus as often as possible for GUCC trips to get used to it though.

Making up for past mistakes

Last night myself and a few friends went to see the comedian Daniel Kitson at The Stand. I've written before about how good I think Kitson is, but my plans to see him earlier this year didn't work out. His gig at the Glasgow Comedy Festival got waylaid by a work trip. My plan to then go and see him in Edinburgh over the summer was then scuppered by me taking too long to buy tickets and then them all being sold out. But I got a nice surprise a few weeks back when The Stand emailed me to say that Kitson would be doing a late gig of new material. This time I jumped on the chance at getting the tickets straight away. I reality the gig wasn't anywhere near sold out, due to it being not very widely advertised an on at 11pm on a Monday night. Kitson was testing out new material for his show next year, trying to whittle down his currently vague ideas from his quarter full notebook. Often when comedians are trying out new material there can be quite a large miss-to-hit ratio, but this wasn't the case here. It was pretty much quality stuff throughout the one and a half hour set - definitely worth the £5 entry. He says that his show will be very different from the stuff he performed last night, so I'll be looking forward to it and won't repeat my mistakes from earlier this year.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Home and dry

As you'll no doubt gather from the fact that this post exists I've returned from my trip to Macrihanish with the canoe club alive and well. This is mainly due to me not actually going in the sea at all! I saw the sea, and got reasonably close to it, but it wasn't exactly inviting me in with open arms. It was generally thrashing about looking intimidating. On Saturday no-one actually went in as it was far too windy and the waves were looking pretty dangerous. But on Sunday at lot of people got suited up and went for a paddle, whilst I stood on the beach and shivered. I think that with my very much novice status it was probably the best plan as I reckon if I'd gone in I'd have spent the majority of the time drowning. It wasn't a wasted weekend though as I had a good time and was able to join in fully with the drinking aspects of the trip.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Wet and wild

This (cold, rainy, windy, late November) weekend I'm heading off to Macrihanish on the Mull of Kintyre for some sea based activities with the canoe club. The plan is to get some kayaks in the water and also attempt some surfing, but I think drinking is at the top of most people's priorities. As the weather's supposed to be atrocious tomorrow it'll be interesting to see if anyone ventures into the water. Providing I don't get hyperthermia or washed out to sea I'll probably say a bit about the trip when I get back.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

We're shit and we know we are!

It's not the worst England performance I've ever seen, but...

Well before last weekend everyone thought England were beyond hope of qualifying for Euro2008. We'd got used to the fact, but then we were thrown a lifeline. All we had to do was draw against Croatia at home - and Croatia had already qualified, so they didn't have anything to play for. What did we do with this lifeline? We pissed all over it is what! We took the lovely present we'd been offered and then jumped up and down on it, set fire to it and threw it out the window.

From this you might guess that England lost their crucial qualifying game against Croatia. Croatia played very well, but that can't excuse the dismal England performance. Our defense was crap, but then so was our midfield, and as we only started with Crouch up front there wasn't much he could do as a lone striker. After going 2-0 down early in the first half, from a dreadful goalkeeping error and then some poor defending, we decided the best way to respond was to not bother playing. In the second half, after a couple of substitutions, we started trying (a bit) and managed to pull the game back to 2-2, but then forgot we were in an important game and let things slip again. There were major tactical errors by the manager Steve McClaren and there was also a complete lack of passion and belief by the players. If you contrast how we played today to how Scotland played against Italy at the weekend there's a marked contrast. After Scotland conceded a poor goal and then got back into the game they knew the importance of the game and upped their performance (despite still having a fairly ropey defense.) The England players deserve a large dose of the blame for our failure, but McClaren's job as England manager is now untenable. His poor squad selection and changes in formation have confused and unstableised things in the team throughout the campaign.

We're now left with a European Championship next year with no home nations. I'd like to say I'll be as excited about it as if there was England, or even any home nation, playing, but I doubt I will. Well there's the World Cup qualification to look forward to at the end of the week!

Monday, November 19, 2007

New look, new sound

Since the final gig of Look up for Danger back in September the two remaining members (ellielabelle and myself) have been on a bit of a hiatus. There's been some song writing going on (and it's already produced a hit of pure genius), but we've not had a practice due to a lack of having a full band. However today we emerged from our downtime and resumed practicing with two brand new members. The Look up for Danger moniker will go, but in it's place will come a new sound including a keyboard and aforementioned original material. We had a pretty damn successful first practice and our new bassist/guitarist seems almost over qualified for us (he can even play drums, so I'll need to up my form.) The keyboard also added a new dimension to the songs and I think we'll be up to speed on a good selection of our old covers quickly. Here's hoping this new line-up can keep together.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Out and (maybe) in

Yesterday, after five years is Scotland, I really got behind the Scottish football team for the first time. Up until then I'd been rather indifferent when it came to Scotland's results with a "nice if they win, but it doesn't really affect me if they don't" attitude. But watching the game against Italy yesterday it was hard not to get caught up in the atmosphere and disappointing to see them lose. Obviously I couldn't bring myself to get fully worked up about it (and it would have seemed a bit disingenuous if I had), but my throat was still fairly raw from shouting at the screen trying to urge the team forward. It would have been really good for Scotland to be Euro 2008, but I don't think what they could do there (unless they got to the final) would have matched the atmosphere around the country before yesterday's game.

I had the consolation of the fortuitous results for England. Israel did England a huge favour by beating Russia, although it was a very tense second half with Russia pushing forward and threatening the Israeli goal constantly. I, and all other England fans, had written us off after the loss to Russia the other month, but this has given us the lifeline of having our fate back in our own hands. We now need a draw against Croatia on Wednesday to go through.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The wheels on the bus

Today I signed up to take a test to enable me to drive the Glasgow University Sports Association minibus. This is to enable me to drive people around for the canoe club (although I've still not officially joined that yet - I probably should) when we go on trips to rivers and the like - which I've also not done yet. The requirements for taking the minibus test are being over 21 (check), having a clean driving license (check), and having had a license for over 3 years (also check). What they don't require is for you to have actually driven recently, which is fortunate as my last bit of driving was in February and that wasn't entirely successful. Anyway I've got a couple of weeks to at least put driving back in my mind and the test's more of a 15 minute instruction course on how to drive the minibus, so hopefully I'll pass!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Pig's revenge

Last night I stupidly failed to cook a piece of gammon steak properly and since then I've been suffering the consequences. Unsurprisingly I didn't get much sleep and have spent most of today in bed being vomity, achy and feverish. Hopefully the nasty bugs will be purged from my system by tomorrow and I'll be able to eat something again. Let that be a lesson to me though.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The dreaming void

Last week I finished reading a new novel (of the pulp sci-fi space opera kind) called The Dreaming Void by Peter F Hamilton. The book is set in the same universe as Hamilton's last two books that formed the Commonwealth Saga and is the start of a new trilogy. To start with if you are going to read this book then you pretty much need to have read the Commonwealth Saga books beforehand. There are several of the same characters involved (despite being set 1500 years later) and many events that are referred to, so I think you'd be quite confused if you didn't have the background from the previous books. Like Hamilton's other major sagas the story has many threads that are jumped between at quite a pace, which takes a bit of getting used to as you try to absorb all the characters and events. There are a couple of threads which seem to flow better and held my focus far more than other areas, but none of it is high literature. The reason I enjoy reading Hamilton's stuff as that it's generally pure pulp fun. There's enough action and high-technology stuff going on to keep you going through the less absorbing parts of the story. One thing that does start to grate, as in previous books, is Hamilton's sex scenes. He does like his sex scenes and almost all the people in his books are outrageously attractive and randy, but largely they'll just make you cringe. It's not that I'm prudish about literary sex, it's just that he can't write it without it coming across a bit pubescent-teenage-boy-style. There's one particular scene that almost made me stop reading the book completely! If I disregard certain scenes though I did enjoy the book. It's not as good as parts of the Nights Dawn trilogy, which provided some great moments of pure space opera fun, but it seems on a level with the Commonwealth Saga. I'll keep on with it as it has left me wanting to know what happens next.

The Pitkin of Free Enterprise

A few weeks back I decided that I'd join a university club of some sort, so that I'd have something extra to do of a week. A friend had recently joined the university surfing club, and a water-based sport sounded quite appealing, so I went for the canoe club. The canoe club has sessions in the university swimming pool on Thursday's where you get to practice your paddling skills and learn new techniques and so far I've been along to two of these. Despite the name of the club it's actually kayaking (rather than canoing) that they do, and it's far harder than I'd thought it would be. Last week I think I managed to capsize a record number of times, and when not having my head under the water I was generally going in circles (when I was really wanted to go straight.) The number of capsizes was helped by the fact that my kayak was filling with more and more water and therefore sat far lower in the water. I'm hoping that my ability to stay upright, and go in the direction I want to, will improve when I get more time in a boat. Next weekend I want to get out on one of the clubs trips to a proper river, where I'll get to spend far more time in a boat and can start picking up some proper control.

Despite my current lack of prowess in the kayak-stakes I can probably get up to speed on the drinking side of university sports club life more quickly - although probably should take that a bit slower. How better a way to get to know a new bunch of people than getting unintentionally pissed with them and singing karaoke? I can't think of one!

The visitors

At the request of a friend who, along with some others, visited Glasgow last weekend to see me I've decided to right a quick post on what we did - hope this makes you happy Claire! This post will probably be fairly dull and should be ignored by most unless you want to read a list of pubs and restaurants in Glasgow.

For the duration of their stay my four visitors rented out a swanky flat in the centre of Glasgow - my flat isn't quite big enough to cope with that many guests. I was, however, required to show my friends around Glasgow. On our first night we started off at a bar called the Butterfly and Pig, where we saw a rather good cover band. We followed this with dinner at a Spanish Tapas restaurant called La Tasca - this is part of a small chain of restaurants, but does decent food for a very affordable price. After dinner we went on to Firewater on Sauchiehall Street, where after being asked for £5 entry fee, which we thought was a bit steep, and starting to walk away we were let in for free. We were all pretty knackered by this time, so we didn't get out clubbing and just went back to the rented flat for a couple of more relaxing drinks.

On the following night we decided to go out in the West End of Glasgow. My friends came by my flat to check it out briefly and then we walked down to Byres Road. Our first drink was in the Oran Mor, which is a bar/restaurant/club/theatre in a converted church at the top of Byres Road. My friends were pretty impressed by this place so we stayed for a couple. Next came the problem of finding a restaurant on a Saturday evening in a popular part of town without having a table prebooked. We tried the Salon, Bar Budha and Mimmos, before finding a table in the Ubiquitous Chip. However it wasn't until we got seated and given a menu that we realised how much a meal was, in any case we decided it was beyond our budget and quickly made our excuses to the waitress and left. Further down Byres Road we tried a few more restaurants, all in vain, until we eventually got ourselves a table in the Japanese noodle bar Ichiban. Following dinner we headed back up to Aston Lane where we had a pint in the Loft, but moved on fairly quickly as it was a bit to busy. We decided to have a final couple of quiet drinks back a the Oran Mor, before heading home for the night.

It was a fairly sedate visit, in that we didn't have any wild nights clubbing or drinking huge amounts, but we all had a good time and hopefully I was a decent guide to Glasgow.