Sounding Like Barry White

When I told a friend that a current sore throat was making me sound like Barry White – deep, husky and rather sultry – he quipped in reply: “What, dead?”

I rather walked into that one, it seems, but still, I think this may be the first time in a long while that I’ve been ill. And in truth, it’s a trifling illness. Normally sore throats come attached to a cold or some other nastiness. This one appears to be an entirely isolated sore throat, with some collateral damage through excess phlegm production.

The problem is that the collateral damage ends up being worse than the sore throat itself. During the day the sore throat is pretty much irrelevant. It hurts a tiny bit when I swallow, but I’ve made up for that by ramping up my water consumption. Yes, this means I’m going the toilet every hour, sometimes twice, but this trick usually works for flushing any bugs out of my system, literally speaking in the case of the toilet trips.

Anyway, the real problem is that, at night, because I can’t drink overnight, and it seems can’t cough or get rid of mucus in any other way, I am waking up in the night with a blocked nose and difficulty breathing in any way other than through my mouth. Which only dries my throat, making it worse. The result of all these shenanigans was that last night I was awake from 3am to 4:30am, unable to get back to sleep, and unable to drink lots of water to stop the problem… because I’ll be damned if I’m getting up every hour to go the toilet – the stairs coming down from the loft are incredibly creaky (despite being six months old) and it probably wakes up my mum and dad in the room next to them.

So a piddling little illness that by day is nothing to me becomes a ridiculous ordeal at night. I don’t think I’ve had a good night’s sleep for a while now, definitely not since this whole sillyness started on Sunday afternoon. I’m not even sure how I caught this one. Usually bugs like this have a known origin… but no one I know is ill right now. And I can’t have picked it up during Sunday’s little jaunt outdoors (see previous post) because there’s no way it would have affected me that quickly.

Of course, being ill is hardly a big deal… but at the same time, because my life is so dull right now, in some respects I’m annoyed because it’s ruined what I perceive to be an incredible couple of years without me falling victim to any illnesses. I put it down to my outstanding hygiene practices… but then again, they
are so good that I have a habit of annoying other people by constantly berating them for their lack of handwashing, which has only gotten worse since we got a dog three years ago.

But in every bit of bad there’s a little bit of good – and my new bassy tones, a whole seven semi-tones below what I was previously capable of are proving a useful amusement. I suspect they won’t last once this has all cleared up (which makes me want to know why this effect exists, as I’ve observed it before) – but it’s still been fun mimicking those opening words to Can’t Get Enough of Your Love.

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Must Be Mad

One of the serious downsides about running a Sunday league football team is that you are at the full mercy of the British weather. Never has this been more evident than today, when an insufficient amount of rain fell overnight for the game to be called off, resulting in us having to play when it was obvious to all and sundry that it was soon going to descend into farce.

And what a farce. If I were a neutral observer, sitting in a warm ivory tower, I would probably laugh at the suffering people go through in order to watch their side suffer or succeed. But mostly suffer, in my case.

Today the conditions were utterly appalling. I had listened to the rain all night pounding away at the roof barely 50cm above me. The forecast was for it to rain heavily until midday – good enough, since our game would kick off at 10:30am, and the overnight rain would be a bonus. Ideally, we needed the game called off, because we’re going through something of a crisis at the moment. True, we are never out of crisis, but this one is worse than most.

The rain stopped at 7:30am. I looked out the loft window – clear skies coming ahead. I checked the BBC weather forecast. Sunny spells, 9am. Sunny, 12pm, sunny spells 3pm. Well, at least it wasn’t going to rain while we were there…

But the game still might have been called off, I thought. I checked the league’s website. No news. I checked my mobile – no news of cancellation either. OK, so we’re unlucky this time. We’re going to have to play. But like I said, at least it’s going to be sunny.

Wrong. Not for the first time the BBC Weather website forecast, which is soon to be reclassified from a factual website to a comedy website, was so damn wrong it’s untrue. I often laugh at how many times the forecast can change within the space of 24 hours. Sometimes I think it randomly generates symbols they change so often.  

We were treated to 90 minutes of hell. Gale force winds, freezing cold, blowing throughout. Rain. Heavy rain. Heavy hailstones. Sunshine! Heavy hailstones. Heavy rain. Driving, bitterly cold rain, freezing you to the bone. On, off, on, off. Worst of all, I badly needed the toilet. Not a number two, I assure you. 

The thing is about our team is that they don’t take kindly to poor conditions. In recent weeks we’ve actually been improving, having sorted out a good defence. Well, that was until our excellent keeper decided to let us down, resulting in the current crisis. But anyway, we thought we would be OK at the back, at least. And we were, until the weather ruined everything.

Whether it’s a lack of enthusiasm, or there’s something about our style of play that really suffers in the rain, it’s hard to be certain. But whatever it is, we just don’t know how to deal with it. We lose all control, while the wind does its worst to make the trajectory of an airborne ball utterly unpredictable. Meanwhile, the driving rain saps you of all energy and morale.

The conditions in the middle of the game were such that if they were happening at the start of the game then I’m certain it would have been called off. Indeed, I understand that many similar leagues called off their games today. But ours crazily went ahead. If only the rain hadn’t stopped at 7:30am. If only I hadn’t been deceived by the woeful forecast this morning for the rest of the morning. Can they really not forecast just a few hours ahead? I would have worn more layers and a more waterproof jacket for starters!

So today has really knocked the stuffing out of our team. After two great performances in the last two weeks, today was utter capitulation. It was only 2-0 down at half time, and the opposition had had no more chances than the ones they scored. It ended 7-1, in the second half when the worst of the weather was taking its toll. At one point I pleaded with our team to abandon the game. The opposition were happy to (of course they would) and the referee thought we should but our players didn’t want to, so we didn’t. 

Like I said, you’ve got to be mad to be in this business. 

Nobody ever said being a football fan was easy. But more than being a fan, running your own team is far worse because the depth of involvement is on a much deeper level. But we do it through the good times as well as the bad… even if it means nearly dying of hypothermia.

Frijj-y

As a person, I’m very easily pleased. Perhaps it’s because life is so dull that even the simple pleasures mean a lot to me. Or maybe I’m just like that. After all, when I was practicing for my job interview (the only bloody one I’ve been fortunate enough to get), I did describe my “ideal weekend” as nothing other than good food, good friends and good entertainment, but not necessarily in that order. Not a bit adventurous, am I.

So it is with that in mind that one most consider the following anecdote. 

Supermarkets are the bane of most people’s existence. No one really enjoys going food shopping. You pile it high and end up with a great deal of remorse at the end. What the hell are you actually going to do with those haricot beans? Will you really drink all that milk before the expiry date? Is there much point in all those air fresheners when you’ve got a stinking dog/cat/hamster/other assorted animal? And so it goes on.

But to me, there is one thing I look forward to on every shopping journey. 

It is the arrival in the dairy isle. That sweet heaven that contains therein the thick milky goodness of Frijj milkshakes. They are always there, waiting, in delicious chocolate, banana, strawberry and, my favourite, chocolate brownie varieties. They play their siren song, and I am commanded to place in the trolley.

But, like Odysseus, I have to be restrained, because there is one condition that must be fulfilled in order to take advantage of this 10g of fat indulgence. 

There has to be some sort of offer going on. Normal Frijj is priced at around 99p. Unacceptably expensive in my book. Though it is delicious, and allegedly nutritious due to its high calcium levels, I simply cannot justify a whole sovereign for the beverage. Or is it a beverage? Some say that it’s like Guinness: a meal in a glass. Only this time it’s a meal in a plastic bottle.

So often I am disappointed upon my arrival to the dairy isle. It taunts me with its high prices, and much as I might want to buy it, my brain tells me no.

But there is a good end to this tale. The other day it was very much on offer. In truth, Frijj is probably on offer in a supermarket somewhere in the country throughout the entire year. It makes me think that it mustn’t sell very well at the higher prices – for those of us unfortunate enough to have done business studies at school or in university, Frijj has extremely high price elasticity of demand. A 50% drop in price, I imagine produces a much greater increase in demand.

It certainly does when I’m around anyway. I go from zero consumption to buying it every time I’m in there. And sometimes I’ll even make a special visit to stock up in the Frijjy goodness. Oh yes.

I entered the dairy aisle with much trepidation, as usual. Lo! What is that in the distance? A bright yellow POS market. It must be good news! 

And sure enough, it was. ASDA are selling it two for £1. Bargain. That’s ASDA price, apparently. 

I left the supermarket with 10 Frijjs.

And I was very, very happy. 

Like I said, I’m very easily pleased.

Crying

In recent days my mood has been along those lines due to the incredible disaster that is my life right now, but it’s a pure co-incidence that yesterday I found a song of the same name by Roy Orbison which has moved me to make this post…

I have always liked the well known Roy Orbison songs. I’m also aware of his tragic life, and how it’s such a shame that a talented bloke like him would suffer in that way. So yesterday I borrowed a DVD from my gran’s house about the Big O himself, a biography filled with his music.

On there I came across the song that is the name of this post. I heard a live performance of it, just Roy on his own, and thought it was something very special indeed. His ghostly, operatic voice, soaring with falsetto, building up to the crescendo at the end… just truly magical. The theme of the song is as you’d expect from a song that has such a name, but somehow it doesn’t feel cliched or contrived, like most songs about love and loss do these days.

Once more I am left in awe about the power of music. The rest of the DVD also contained songs which I will have to investigate. Perhaps even ask for a Roy Orbison CD for Christmas. I think of myself as being very lucky to be able to like music of all types from all eras. It means I can absorb such a vast range of moods, lyrics, great riffs and melodies from a massive array of talent, and all without feeling the snobbisheness and aloofness that people who like “real music” often burden themselves with. My motto is: if it’s good music, it’s good music. 

(And, incidentally, that is also how I justify to myself watching X Factor, which always brings me a moment of embarrassment… my excuse being that a good singer is a good singer and always worth listening to! Methinks I do protest too much)

I’ve been spending more time lately playing my guitar after a fairly lengthy absence from it. The guitar has frustrated me now for seven years, simply because I have never passed an intermediate level of skill on it. But I know why, because I don’t have the discipline. I know full well that if I played it for an hour each day and tried to learn a new song or new riff at least once I week I would make definite progress. But I don’t. I’m lucky if I play it once a week, and haven’t learned a new song in months.

So I think I should put this right. And if I did get good, maybe I could find a friend and go out busking. I would love that, seriously. Whether I’d have the bottle to do it is another matter. I am often full of good intentions which are never fulfilled. This, to me, sounds like I’m building up another hostage to fortune…

But in any case, it is providing me with a useful distraction right now. That can only be a good thing, because I really could do without sliding into a depression the likes of which I’ve not been in for several years. I just need a break, a lucky one.

Perhaps I should view the returning of my Icesave money, which should be complete by next week, as a good sign…

Nothing Ever Happens

… sang Del Amitri many years ago. It is a wonderful song, one of my favourites, but it also is very apt right now, since nothing really is happening at all. The US election is over, and while I am still following events there very closely, it seems anything remotely interesting in my life right now has been drained away.

The only event of note recently was on Sunday when my football team, the one my brother plays for, ground out a very dodgy draw. It was probably one of the most tense and nerve-wracking games of football I’ve ever been to watch, as we took a one goal lead at half-time and managed to weather a huge storm in the second half – both metaphorically and literally as the heavens opened and gale force winds blew against us – to only concede once after the opposition had a huge array of opportunities to win and win handsomely.

Literally, that has been the only thing lately worth writing about. I spend most of my time mulling around here, looking at job sections, occasionally applying but knowing there’s really no point right now. I’m waiting for a Eureka moment, one in which I will finally decide what to do with my useless existence.

It’s not like I’m not trying to think up a way out of this hole. I have called in as many friends as I can, but I’m beginning to discover who my real friends are in this situation. It’s amazing how I can live with or know people for so long and think they’re a good friend, but when times get hard it can be incredibly difficult even to get a reply out of people.

And in other circumstances, the opportunity for action has passed. I thought I might genuinely have a chance to get a business started up with a friend… so I e-mailed him to see if he would be interested. He said yes, but he had to delay the decision until he had pending job interview. The interview arrives, he e-mails me and tells me it was a disaster. So we start to plan.

Next day, he’s got the job, and all bets are off. Talk about bad timing. If only I’d considered this a few weeks earlier he might not have applied, and things could be very different.

The daft thing is that right now, with my terrible job prospects, I am seriously considering if I could go to the USA next year and do the camp counselling thing again. But that really would be a desperate situation, because it would pretty much mean that I could start a full time job in the meantime, because I would have to quit come next summer.

So I’m delaying that one for a little while, though the window of opportunity is only open until mid-December. That’s not good, not with the way the days seem to just fly by and I take so long to make up my mind anyway.

My head is wracked with worry right now. I just haven’t got a clue what to do. There are lots of options, but each one I take probably closes almost all the other doors. For instance, if I went to the USA, it effectively means that I won’t have a proper job until next September. That’s too long.

And it’s getting so bad that the first seeds of doubt about dropping out of teacher training are starting to appear. That’s not good at all.

Hmm. Considering nothing has happened, I still managed to write an awful lot about it…

Yes, We Did

After an incredible two days in which I’ve slept for a grand total of two hours, I finally reach the end of the road.

It’s been a stunning moment, one which I think I feel I ought to acknowledge for historical purposes. This was the moment that America woke up and at last picked the candidate that wasn’t the folksiest, wasn’t the one trying to scare you into submission, but actually is articulate, intelligent and conducts himself with great dignity.

The speech Barack Obama gave this morning at 4am my time was, without doubt, the best speech I have ever heard in my life. It hit every note perfectly: soaring, inspirational rhetoric, with an exceptional narrative and even better, almost sermon-like refrain of “Yes, we can”. The resonance this speech will have throughout history should not be underestimated. Obama knows how good he is at this stuff, and always knows how to rise to the occasion. This time he knew this speech would be pored over by history students for centuries to come: so he made sure he left them something to remember him by!

Even if Obama ultimately struggles with the task at hand, and who wouldn’t with his unenviable in-tray, there is no doubt in my mind that he will always be able to find the right words at the right time to rally people to his cause and try to invoke some good faith.

I stayed up the whole night biting my fingernails. It wasn’t over until it was over. Which was basically when Ohio was called for Obama, and that was when I knew we were on the verge of something very special indeed. In the end, I was actually disappointed that Obama didn’t get more votes than he did, or come with longer coat tails (some Senate election results were a bit disappointing); it seems that turnout on the West Coast didn’t match the heights on the East Coast. And some Obama safe states (e.g. NY) didn’t feel the need to go all out and be part of the moment. I dunno about you, but if I lived in NY, even though I know the result for my state is a foregone conclusion, I would want to be able to say to my children and future generations that I was there casting my vote to change the course of American history.

In the end I could take no more and had to go to bed at 6:30am. I had a couple of hours sleep and got back to the computer to keep an eye on the results. I’m obsessive about this kind of thing. I just want more and more data. I thought to myself that it’s quite lucky I don’t have a job right now, or else I wouldn’t have been able to indulge so much in absorbing all the material surrounding this US election.

And what a fabulous election it has been. I’ve been following it all year, and following Obama himself since 2004, and now all of a sudden the election is over.

In its place is the beginning of the struggle. The hard work begins now for the USA. I can only dream that one day Britain will achieve a leader of the same caliber as Obama, one who creates a new movement and mobilises an entire apathetic generation from their slumber. Because I think that’s what we’re waiting for, but we can’t do it alone.

It really is a privilege to have witnessed the events of the past two days. I know I will never forget them. As “Yes, we can” morphs into “Yes, we did”, the election of Barack Obama will forever serve as a powerful lesson that together anything is possible.

Yes, we can. Yes, we will. Yes, we did.

Yes, we must.

The world is waiting.

Our Moment Is Now

Of all the slogans that the Obama campaign has, “Our Moment Is Now” is probably my favourite. It encapsulates the feeling of America, if not the world, that it’s time for a change, and that it is a new generation that will be making it. At least, that is my reading of the current situation. Can nearly 200 polls be wrong and there is a McCain “surge” waiting in the wings, undetected by dozens of polls over the past several weeks?

No. I’m feeling pretty confident about it. And to celebrate, I will be staying up all night tonight and following the coverage. The coverage is, of course, not very good here in the UK, unless you have Sky television, and receive all the US news channels. Tonight, I will have to suffer the BBC and ITV coverage. Hopefully, there will be no Jeremy Vine making a total prick of himself. Bring back Peter Snow, that’s what I say.

So a very long night is in prospect. I usually do this to myself every election night, US, UK and even the Italian election that put Romano Prodi back in power, because I wanted to see Silvio Berlusconi go down in flames. Though he did, it didn’t last very long, such is the nature of Italian politics, and now the corrupt “Il Cavaliere” is back in power.

But this one holds so much significance to me.  Probably more than the UK election will next time around. To me, I hope this is the evidence of a generational shift in politics. I hope it is going to prove to us that there is going to be a change in the way politics is conducted, away from the tired old priorities of the past, towards re-engaging society via grassroots organisation. This kind of narrative slots very neatly into American history – because the USA is built so strongly upon local organisation anyway – but I suspect it will not take root here. We are suspicious of localism in this country, preferring instead to take our direction from politicians hundreds of miles away in London.

I have pinned a lot of hopes to Obama, and I know many of them will be dashed. I talked about this last time I wrote about him. But nevertheless, he is still the perfect candidate for these times. I want to believe, I really do, and have allowed myself to be swept away with the hype, just this once.

And so that is why tonight I feel there is so much at stake. I love politics, and I love elections even more, but normally I view them with a critical distance. There is not too much difference between the parties in the UK any more, so it doesn’t really matter that much.

This time, however, I detect a large difference between Obama and McCain. With that in mind, there is only one possible candidate for me to support. And I have to go all in with my support, because any other result would be a disaster, not just for me personally, but I believe the USA and hence the rest of the world will suffer.

If I was an American, today I would be doing everything I could to get out the vote. I would be knocking on doors, delivering leaflets, making phone calls, whatever. This means so much to me, and it means so much to the rest of the world too.

There is a lot riding on American shoulders today. I know they are up to the challenge. I know some of them don’t like Johnny Foreigner getting involved in their politics either. But the only reason we do is because it matters a great deal to us. It affects our lives too. We want to have a say on that, only we can’t.

How do you think that feels to feel so powerless, helpless, disconnected, unable to do anything about the changing circumstances of the world, Unable to have a say on changing the direction of travel?

Americans should feel very privileged that they have, in their hands, one method of changing the world. I beg of you, on behalf of the rest of the planet, please, don’t waste it.