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February 3rd 2007
Entries have been spasmodic of late, due to Satisfied? week keeping me busy. And now I'm feeling pretty ill, so I may not update a lot in the next few days. I also have quite a stack of work to catch up on (ooh... preposition), which'll be fun. Then there's stuff for AXA, preparing for my Standard Life assessment and Norwich Union interview... I feel a little buried. And to top things off, I can't find my Garden State DVD. Ho-hum.

February 6th 2007
You'll be pleased to knwo I'm feeling better, more or less. Although slightly peeved that Costies stopped stocking their super-cheap tissues, meaning I have to fork out 1.19 a pop. Anyways, last time I complained a tad that my Garden State DVD was awol, but tonight it was returned to me by German Andi (the only man who's ever laughed at my Canada joke) so that's good... in other news, it's not often I find myself in agreement with Ant (it wouldn't be stretching the truth to suggest that, on occasion, we disagree simply for the joy of doing so. I have a similar thing working with Simon... and Becky's complained before now that I disagree with her a lot, but in that case I have the solid defence that she's wrong a staggering amount of the time) but I have to say the latest entry from The Other Place has hit the nail right on the head with the references to Joe Shepherd. Basically, it's election time again, and this chappie wants to be Welfare Sabb, so has put up various posters, hand-drawn, with stick figures and amusing captions. He's got my vote, just for being funny (and, of course, I won't be here when the new Sabbs are in office). In further website news, I've discovered today that my Geocities hourly usage has been exceeded twice today; it never has before, as far as I'm aware. I'm not sure why, and I'm not sure what to do about it. If anyone's been downloading videos or something from here (which would be weird, so I have't uploaded any), let me know. Finally (I need to get back to work), I wish I could draw... in particular, I would use this ability to create political (or at least topical) cartoons. When it was revealed that Rupert Murdoch wouldn't be buying any paparazzi pictures of Kate Middleton, I worked up the idea of a cartoon showing two scenes: on the left, Teddy Roosevelt holding up a small bear, while the corpses of other bears he'd shot lay around him. On the right, I'd have Murdoch perhaps holding a newspaper with the story of him not buying photos of Middleton, while all around are old newspapers with pictures of celebrities whose lives have been ruined by the media and paparazzi. In both cases I'd make it obvious that Roosevelt and Murdoch respectively were receiving warm approbation from the masses. And the caption would be "The One They Didn't Shoot". You see, the ideas are there... but I wouldn't have a hope in a hundred years of producing the pictures.

February 10th 2007
As I write this, I'm listening to The List on RaW, with current guest presenter Jimmy Lee (the regular host prefers to remain anonymous. Although I'm confident I've mentioned him in the archive), and they're doing the top ten artists with unusual names who had some sort of success last year. Sadly this means they played something by The Streets, who sucks horrendously (he's right up there with the Sex Pistols and the Sugababes among the worst artists ever... maybe it's something to do wit the letter S? S Club 7, Steps, Shakira... yep, seems to stack up. The Smiths aren't bad, but not good enough to make me doubt this new hypothesis. Status Quo probably are good enough to, though... another fine idea crashes and burns). Anyways, you're probably all aware that it snowed the other day, but you may not be aware that I made the most of this by playing in the snow all day. You see, the buses weren't running, so instead of tramping into lectures, I decided to build a snowman, and to that end went round the back garden filling a wheely-bin with snow (the eventual plan was to flip it upside down, then use it as a basis for the snowman's body by packing snow round it). I started some time before 9am (remember this) and the snow was thick enough that I was able to practically fill the bin and still have enough left to chuck a couple of snowballs at Ant's window to wake him up. He came down, and pointed out that the snow needed packing down: this he did, and we together filled the bin, with the intention of wheeling it to the front of the house and building Wilbur (the snowman now had a name, after the pig in Charlotte's Web) outside Iain's window. We got to the front, turned over the bin, and started packing snow around; this was all going nicely - I was showing the first hints of my tendencies towards perfectionism, Ant was showing the umpteenth of his hints that he wanted to have a snowball fight with anyone within reach. Snowball fights are not fun, though, so we didn't - but we were having a little difficulty with Wilbur's head. The traditional technique of rolling a head just wasn't working, so I had the idea of filling the paper recycling box with snow, packing it down, and carving a head from it. Whilst we were filling the box, a passerby asked us if we were making an igloo - this didn't seem a bad idea. Hastily abandoning Wilbur's head for the time being, we decided an igloo was the way forward... we also discovered that the amount of snow that gathers on a car overnight is approximately a boxful. The igloo we eventually built wasn't an igloo in the traditional sense: it had two walls, almsot head height (above head height for Wilbur) and a roof that covered the diagonal. We found time along the way to carve Wilbur's head and give him a Yeovil scarf. And a bandana. He even had some sunglasses temporarily. We traipsed back into the house at 4pm... I make that 7 hours in the snow, albeit with several tea breaks (and a Neighbours break). Anyways, enough talk from me, you want some pictures. They're a bit big, so I've put them on a separate page. A sad footnote, though, is that the igloo was knocked down before the evening was out... and when I looked out the window today, it appeared that Wilbur had died (and I can't see my Yeovil scarf...)

February 14th 2007
Happy Valentine's Day. No, despite my permanent state of forlorn hopelessness, I am not a cynic who despises the day as a Hallmark Holiday. It's a lovely day, and if you received a card this morning, good for you; likewise if you sent one. I did neither. In other news, this was the first month in which my 3 CD rule has applied - I have set a buying limit of 3 CDs per month, not including those from charity shops, partially from a financial standpoint, and partially because I don't want to be over-run with the things. Well, I hit my limit last week, having bought the best of Crowded House, the best of Phil Collins (I know, very mainstream. But he's done some good stuff, of which more later) and a double-album (yes, I count this as one CD) of Buddy Holly's greatest hits. Quality stuff. Alongside those, I also bought a Cliff Richard best of from Oxfam, bringing my total number of Cliff CDs up to seven (one triple album, one double album and two regular albums). As an aside, when I wrote that last sentence, I accidentally missed the 'l' out of 'triple'... some people would see this as a fair analysis of Cliff's work. They're wrong. While I'm on the music theme, Dangerously Articulate's next show is this coming Monday 9-10am, radio.warwick.ac.uk, 1251AM, 87.7FM... and it's gonna be a Bob Dylan special. James wasn't altogether up for this, since his taste in music isn't great, but he agreed anyhow. We'll be playing songs by Bob Dylan, covers of Bob Dylan, songs that mention Bob Dylan, songs that Bob Dylan covered... all sorts. It's gonna be great. In non-musical news, I'm now clean shaven (ish - I shaved on Sunday) which has provoked various reactions from among my friends and acquaintances. To wit (by the bye, I think a great sentence would be "There are many infinitives referring to courtship; to wit, to woo."), there have been those who say I look better (Lucy was one, Rob almost certainly another, since it was he who advised me to shave in the first place, in the belief that I'd do better in job interviews that way), those who reprimanded me savagely (these included Mark, Matt, Larry, Adam, Phil, Sophie - this last had even started calling me Mr. Tumnus beforehand), those who didn't really notice (Drew, Ville, Iain, probably more) and those who thought I'd had a haircut or something (Linda). The general consensus, however, was that I look a lot younger - I certainly agree with this. Some people barely recognised me, in fact... one or two made the rather obvious point that I look more like Simon now (really? When without a beard, I look more like someone who doesn't have a beard?). Anyways, it'll be some time before the beard returns.

I realise that, despite the promises, I never did mention Phil Collins again. I wanted to mention that my favourite song of his (thus far) is Against All Odds, which is nicely different to the rubbishy "I can't believe you dumped me, you suck, I don't need you at all" songs that 'empowered' women sing. Phil goes a completely different direction: "So take a look at me now/Cos there's just an empty space". He's saying what the master said long before him: "Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds".

February 17th 2007
Yesterday I was at an interview in Bristol, for the [wonderful, wonderful, wonderful - it's possible that they'll track my diary down] AXA. And the interview went well, methinks. Well, I got an invite to the assessment centre that same day, which can't be bad (especially as he said that it wouldn't come through for a week or two). I realise I don't make a good first impression, especially when I'm nervous, but I don't think that went too badly either. In other news, does anyone else think that the latest bad guy in Neighbours is somewhat risible? His attempts to appear 'hard' are reminiscent of a particularly kind-hearted teddy bear who has gone without honey for a few hours. For those of you whose watching of Neighbours is cursory (or, heav'n forbid, non-existent), this guy is the chappie who's blackmailing Katya, or some such. I can't remember his name, sorry. Now, to go self-referential, Simon has pointed out that this diary is not entirely consistent... to wit;
February 9th 2006
Next Tuesday, so I understand, is Valentine's Day (and possibly Shrove Tuesday, although I may be a week out). What, exactly, is the point of this day? Surely if you're in a loving relationship, you don't need some named day to celebrate this, and if you're not, it merely serves to reinforce the fact that you're sad and alone. Clearly the celebration was invented solely as a way for Hallmark to make a few extra bucks, and Clinton Cards to meet its annual customer quota. Boycott this pointless and cruel day! It's also, to add insult to injury, the day my library book is due back.
February 14th 2007
Happy Valentine's Day. No, despite my permanent state of forlorn hopelessness, I am not a cynic who despises the day as a Hallmark Holiday. It's a lovely day, and if you received a card this morning, good for you; likewise if you sent one. I did neither.

February 19th 2007
Many apologies to those of you who stumble across my Neighbours site because you like Neighbours - when I start to get behind with updates, everything cascades a little, and what with job interviews etc, I have to prioritise. Fear not, I'll be back on form soon. Keeping with the Neighbours theme, I've received two emails asking me if I was making a pun the other day, when I referred to 'some guy... I can't remember his name' - it transpires that the character's name is actually Guy. There you go. It also appears that the Neighbours-viewing community disagree with me, and find Guy very creepy - I remain unconvinced.

February 21st 2007
The assessment centre went reasonably well, good to have it under my belt (for those who don't know, I've spent the last two days at a Standard Life assessment centre, for the actuarial trainee role). I'm quite tired from it all, so I'll write more later. Hopefully I'll also get round to telling you about two things that make me happy. I'll leave you, however, with the sad fact that I had no pancakes on Shrove Tuesday at all. Nor any shrove (maple syrup, to the uninitiated).

February 22nd 2007
So much to tell. Firstly, I've hastily added two loopholes to my three-CDs-a-month rule: buying replacements for damaged CDs already in my collection, and buying classical music. And in this fine month of February, I've taken full advantage of these new relaxations by buying a new Friends CD and an eight-CD collection of classical music - the latter for 3. My knowledge of classical music is not immense, and I wanted to have some, so it seemed an offer too good to refuse. Now, yesterday I promised to write about two things that have made me happy; I will actually write of three. But before I do, I will explain further about the assessment centre I visited during the last two days. Rather than waste time writing about it all over again, I will leak this email that I sent to my parents this morning:
Sorry I didn't get back to you earlier, but my phone is out of credit, as the kids say nowadays.
The assessment centre went pretty well - neither brilliantly good nor horrific, so I don't really have a clue whether they'll offer me a job or not. All in all, I think one of the guys there called Andy stands a better chance.
To run you through:
There were four of us, since four had dropped out (one because of illness, one had another job already, not sure about others), and we were one of three assessment centres taking place; since each centre was due to house eight people, that means I'm down to the last 24 already (and probably fewer, since I guess those who didn't turn up to the centre are out of the running). It was unclear how many people they'd be hiring; I've heard numbers from 2 to 8. The people I were with were Andy , Steve (both at St. Andrews Uni and both Scottish) and Natasha (former Durham student). On the Tuesday evening, after checking into the 4 star, stupidly luxurious hotel, we did a problem solving and aptitude test - pleased to report that that went well; I finished the practice problem first (although it wasn't timed) and managed to answer all the problems within the time. 100% there is not an impossibility. After that, we went out for a meal with two members of SL staff at Tigerlily, quite an upmarket restaurant in Edinburgh.
On the Wed, having received my complimentary copy of the Times, we breakfasted and headed for the centre, which was about five minutes' walk away (we were late, in fact, since Steve & I decided to wait for Natasha, being the gentlemen we are. Picked up the pace on the way over, however). The day kicked off with a competency interview, which didn't go as well as the AXA one had, but wasn't too bad - over an hour of answering silly questions like 'Can you give an example of a time when a friend put you in a difficult position?' Next up was a case study, in which we had two and a half hours to read through a reasonably large set of info about a sports company, and give them recommendations regarding timing of a festival, publicity for it and events therein. Natasha didn't finish hers, I know I was rushing mine quite badly by the end, and none of us managed to prepare the presentation that we had to deliver at the end of the day.
Before that, we had lunch, and then there was a group exercise in which we had to discuss methods for improving our company, from the options listed - there were six, and we had to choose our top three in order. Previously we had individually chosen our top three in order. Four people were in watching what we did, and making notes, which wasn't as unnerving as it might have been (although at one point I noticed that we were managers, and thus discussing our own incompetence for some period of time; the other three didn't think this was worth taking up, so we left it. May have got me some points for observation; less so for persistance). After we'd decided on our top three (which, incidentally, were my top three, albeit in a different order), we got an emergency memo telling us that ITV were screening a programme saying how terrible our company was, on a number of points, and we had to prepare a Position Statement.
To finish the day, it was the presentation we'd supposedly prepared before; this went better than I thought it would, and I think I got some credit for working out that construction was going over-budget, although I probably should have mentioned it was also going over-time.
It was all quite intensive, but very good to get it under my belt, especially since SL aren't really my first choice - at this time, that's still AXA. Hope all this has been comprehensive! Now I've got to head off to lectures again. Typical.

There you have it; what I neglected to mention in that particular missive was meeting up with David Robinson, who's at Uni in Edinburgh, whom I hadn't seen for years (despite sleeping in his bedroom for a few nights this Summer); it was great to see him again. We are both erstwhile members of Twins Club from our respective Merseyside days. Anyways, the three things that have made me happy: first and, as they say, foremost is that I got a phone call this afternoon from them good people at Standard Life, who offered me the actuarial job - not sure if I'm going to take it, since AXA is my first choice currently, but fantastic news nonetheless. The second thing making me happy occurred at church last Sunday night - in the music group, we were practising a bit before the service, and I decided to mess around a bit by playing one of the piece staccato. Ant joined in almost immediately on his guitar. About halfway through the verse I became aware that Pete, who had been bashing away on the drums, was now beating in time with us. As we reached the chorus, Don started putting in a few saxophone embellishments, and before the end Graham was playing the chords on the keyboard too. We went into a second verse (and I was no longer playing staccato), and Claire began singing: we proceeded to play the whole thing through in style. It was a special moment for me, since I really felt part of a music group, I felt that I was contributing and making good music with other people. And it was good: in fact, much better than we managed in the service itself, I think, since we didn't really recapture that spontaneity and pure joy of playing; unity indeed. The third (and final?) thing that is making me happy is regarding a cafe on Albany Road. There is a small alleyway between Albany and The Greatest Road in the Known Universe (Westwood Road), and from this alleyway you can see the back of the aforementioned cafe, in all its burnt-out horror; the place is derelict, and clearly was burned down. This was devastatingly sad to me - I have always been far more interested in looking at houses than landscapes, I have had a fascination for thinking "Someone knows that house, someone lives there; that house is important for someone. That someone has a life just like mine, with all its diverse memories and feelings; and all I see is their house. I pass them quickly; their life is as important as mine." When I see a view, or a landscape, I don't see humanity in it. Anyhow, whenever I've seen this abandoned cafe, I've thought about the people whose dream was to run it, who stood proudly within on the day of opening, everything spick and span and the future ahead of them. Then I've seen, in my mind's eye, the profits failing, the dream dwindling, and the cataclysmic horror of the fire, the final slamming shut of possibilities (I have similar thoughts whenever I see a boarded up shop, in fact). So why am I happy? Because a few days ago I saw that builders are in, and the cafe is being repaired - I have no idea whom for, and to what purpose, but I am delighted to see it living again.

February 26th 2007
When first I shaved my beard off, I was quite pleased with the effect - now, however, I have come to the conclusion that I look better with it in place... this leaves me in a difficult position. You see, whisper it quietly, it takes me quite a long time to achieve anything approximating to facial hair, especially on the upper lip, and I really don't want to look half shaven at assessment centres etc. What I did last year was stop shaving at the end of third term, then hack back the beard to a goatee/moustache combo after returning from Monty. A year later, I reckon I should be able to muster something slightly quicker, so I plan to begin growth again after the last of my assessment centres, and hope to have everything tidied up by Dave & Christine's wedding. So there you go. I'm also giving serious consideration to wet shaving, since the electric method really doesn't cut the mustard, as it were. In other news, I've mentioned before how CD players hate me - so I've bought yet another. Slightly different, in fact, since it is a system rather than merely a portable player. This means I have speakers, with a real improvement of sound quality... however, the radio tuning on them is absolutely abysmal, so I've had to keep the old one out to listen to Capital Gold. Seriously, these new things will hardly play any stations, even the really well-known ones, without a high-pitched squealing. Disappointing. Hopefully when I'm working in a major city next year, there won't be this problem. Speaking of work, I'm coming up to my second assignment sheet in a row for which I've handed nothing in; the first was more or less because of the assessment centre I had to be at, which left little time for work. The second is because I couldn't answer any of the questions - he did make a little comment saying that some of them were really very hard, and I have no idea where to start. However, I'm confident that it'll all come good in revision. It always does. Now, please excuse me while I return to my complete works of Shakespeare, listening to one of my new classical CDs (currently part of Handel's Firework Music).

On my brother's blog yesterday, he put forward the suggestion that our mutual father does not, as they say, 'know the Mr. Men'. It was strongly implied, no less (I'm reading Wodehouse right now, so apologies) that in a given list of potential Mr. Man names, he would not be able to select the single true Mr. Man - a test to which he rose with aplomb, correctly identifying Mr. Quiet. Whether or not it was Dad that answered the question, and how much research was involved, one cannot say; however, I feel I must add to my brother's allegations by pointing out that Mum, who has always stood by whilst her husband has been derided for his lack of Mr. Man knowledge, has proven herself woefully unable in the same sphere. It has always been presumed by Simon and I that she knew the Mr. Men to a similar degree of perfection that we ourselves have achieved: however, last year it was shown that she really didn't know her Mr. Nonsense from her Mr. Silly, or her Mr. Topsy-Turvy from her Mr. Muddle. Mayhaps this was a one-off - but it goes to show you never can tell (in the words of the old folks; in the words of Chuck Berry).

what was I listening to?
The Best Of - Crowded House
what was I reading?
Very Good, Jeeves - P G Wodehouse
what was I watching?
Garden State
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