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July 7th 2006
For protocol's sake, I'm back. Fear not. There will be more here, after I've mowed the back lawn.

Well, I managed to break the lawn mower. Anyhow, we returned today from our jaunt in Cornwall, in our first family holiday for a while, and what I rather expect to be our last. No sooner have my feet hit the ground than (then?) I'm off again, hitching to Scotland and back with Ant, which should be an experience and a half. As soon as we've been there, done that, got the photos, then we should be able to put the whole caboodle together: visiting every(ish) building on campus, visiting as many no. 67s in Earlsdon as we could, and hitchin'. It's gonna be a great site - it may even rival the Dude List in terms of visual brilliance. Man, what a cheap way to post a link. Speaking of pictures, I only managed one from our recent jaunt away... we went to Land's End, we visited several beaches, I saw Kate Winslet buying an ice cream, and what do you think I got a snap of? (As a clue, that last one was a lie). Based on the success of the last time I took a close-up photo of a body part (you remember the beard shot?), I went for the tan line on my leg.I love socks Enjoy. In other news, I was devastated by England's defeat in the World Cup, despite the fact that I'm supposed to be and Ireland fan - two years ago, when Portugal knocked England out, I was actually quite chuffed, but this time I was fully on the side of the team in white. Odd. But I have been reminded over the last few days why I wanted to disassociate myself from England fans in general - there is a propensity to hate (although I have witnessed this in many fans of club teams as well). Here's a little run-down of recent tournaments, and whom the English fans/tabloids decided to focus their hatred on:
Euro 96 - Gareth Southgate, for missing a penalty. C'mon, people, commiserate!
World Cup 98 - David Beckham, for getting sent off against Argentina. OK, he was immature, but does it warrant the dartboards?
Euro 2000 - Phil Neville, for giving away a penalty against Romania, or maybe Hoddle.
World Cup 2002 - David Seaman, for letting in a free-kick from the superlative Ronaldinho.
Euro 2004 - Urs Meier, the referee who (correctly) disallowed an England goal.
World Cup 2006 - Cristiano Ronaldo, for complaining to the ref when Rooney stamped on his teammate's groin.
All in all, it seems that the fans' hatred has shifted from their own players to innocent foreigners - I mean, Meier was absolutely correct in his decision, but was hounded out of the profession by idiots (led by the Sun), and Ronaldo was surely nowhere near as much to blame a Rooney himself? Throughout it all, the manager comes in for a fair amount of stick: Graham Taylor was a turnip, Hoddle was fired because of his religion, Keegan didn't have enough tactical awareness, Sven was foreign and didn't shout enough. And, while I'm on the topic, isn't it amazing that other teams' fans suddenly become violent whenever their team is playing England? Anyone would think that it's actually the England fans who are behaving yobbishly...

Whilst I'm here, I mentioned a while ago that Sabrina ends up with Harvey. For those of you who didn't believe me...

July 9th 2006
You may have noticed that I've put a comment box on the site again. Only time will tell how successful this one will be - I happened to notice in the archive that it was a year ago this month when I last attempted to have a comment facility, which was a pretty much unmitigated failure. Anyways, the hitchin' to Scotland begins very soon, so wish me luck. I think I'm gonna head bedwards, so I don't fall asleep on the train to Leicester (via London).

July 18th 2006
I apologise, it was foolish of me to believe that the people who ruined every attempt at responsive comment thus far would not do the same again - so the comment box is gone until my next bout of optimism. If nothing else, it proved to sceptics that the word 'nerd' is still in circulation - most of us thought it had died sometime around the advent of New Labour. Cheers for that. Anyhow, that unpleasantness washed away, today I arrived home from journeying around the country, having successfully hitched to Scotland, and resolutely not hitched back. Ant, my fellow-traveller, is putting together a website of various pictures and a video or three, but I expect to put some kind of account of the week here before too long. But not right now. Right now all my energies are focused into non-retaliation.

July 22nd 2006
Hot on the heels - well, rather cool on the footprints - of discovering I'd been misusing the phrase de rigueur for several years (using it synonymously with a la mode, which apparently also means 'with ice-cream' in the USA) it was pointed out to me by the Clohesies that I'd been using the word 'erstwhile' erroneously for a long time. You see, I've always used it to refer to temporary absence, whereas in fact it should be permanent absence, apparently. Of course, I may have tangled myself into further knows - if so, I apologise. In other news, Ant has set up a website detailing our hitching exploits, and once I've read through it, I'll see if there's anything that needs adding here. I feel he won't have done justice to Rotherham - or used the pun I love in Yorkshire. To move on again, a minor Monty update - the good people of Chissy and the surrounding area have been very generous to both Simon and myself, contributing a lot of money to the fund-raising efforts. Thankyou very much! I've also started putting together a Monty site, which is still in its infancy, but can be reached at www.StephHoyland.co.uk/montenegro.html. I'm also keeping myself busy putting together Sagg7, which largely comprises of songs rejected for previous Sagg albums, sadly. We'll see how it goes.

July 23rd 2006
Film4 should hit our screens in its incarnation as a free channel today. This is a fabulous new opportunity for us down here in Zummerzet to read 'No Signal' instead of 'Coming July 23rd'. It's also a day on which Scrubs is shown for three hours straight on abc1. In other news, while trawling the Interweb, I discovered this:
MC Escher

July 24th 2006
In the Sunday Times yesterday there was an article about the two boys (Venables and Thompson) who killed Jamie Bulger. The article itself was actually reasonably kind towards them, describing their rehabilitation behind bars, although clearly the guy who put together the front cover of the supplement hadn't been told, since he made a chilling 'They're Out There' picture. This all reminded me of the chain-letter email I'd received twice, with a gap of a year or two between them, informing me that Venables and Thompson were being given new identities and released, and how awful this was, asking me (I think; can't quite remember) to sign a petition against the measure. The first time I got the email, it was from someone who didn't surprise me by joining in, but the second time it was from someone who really ought to know better. You see, it's hatred like this that I absolutely abhor - I know I've written about this before, but every time there's an Ian Huntley or a Harold Shipman in the public eye, I'm disgusted by the vitriolic response (of the tabloids in particular, but by no means exclusively). This is not to say that the actions of any of these people are not also horrific, but it is imperative that our response is forgiveness, not hatred. Difficult? Even offensive to suggest it? Maybe. But right, nonetheless - there are enough mentions in the Bible for that to be clear. In the case of Venables and Thompson, I read that a lot of letters were being held back from the pair, some because they were vitriolic, but others because they said that God was willing to forgive the pair, and the authorities believed that this would stop them from understanding the gravity of what they'd done. Sadly, this is the view of forgiveness today; that somehow forgiveness condones the sin (naturally it does the opposite) and that loads of actions are 'unforgivable'. Yes, what Venables and Thompson did was very, very wrong. But if God is prepared to forgive, who are we to refuse? I only hope that the hate-mongers of the Sun and others don't discover their new identities, and ruin more lives.

While I'm being all serious and newspaper-driven, a brief mention of misogyny, which got an article in the Sunday Times edition mentioned above. Actually, I'm not going to talk a lot about misogyny or the frequently laughable assertions made in the article (an example of misogyny, apparently, is not sending boys to school in frocks), instead I think misandry deserves a mention. Not heard of it? No, neither had I, which tells its own tale; misandry is the hatred of men. This, like anything discriminating against white people, the middle classes, the intelligent, etc etc is more or less accepted in today's culture as undamaging and not worth discussing. So the widespread 'women only' train carriages, restaurants and so forth in Japan haven't caused a stir over here... they are in response to male gropers on Japanese trains, but clearly indicate to the masses that women need protecting from all males. Then, far more seriously, we have the custody laws in the UK, which automatically side with the mother for no valid reason whatsoever; the divorce laws that mean a man can build a fortune, then lose half of it to a wife who had nothing to do with his business acumen; there is the misnomer of 'positive discrimination' which allows women to be given jobs based on the fact that they're women, ignoring males better suited to the role. The list goes on. Fathers 4 Justice had an extremely valid and important point to make, even if they didn't make it well, but no changes have been made. Of course, in the whole men/women debate, the Bible was well ahead of anyone, telling us that men and women are different, but equal in God's eyes... the problem in some cases is that feminists have taken the whole thing too far, believing that having shopping carried for them is a form of misogyny, when it is clearly not. Further examples of misandry are shown on television - especially adverts - where men are shown as bumbling incompetents or sex-mad devils. There was an outcry when it was realised that all the composers and conductors at the Proms this year were male... go on, name a female composer. Or conductor, for that matter. 'Positive discrimination' again? Actually, in fairness, the fact that there are no (or very few) famous female artists, composers or inventors does say a lot about the prejudice of the past (one of the many problems with the monarchy is the sexist succession rules), but look to literature, acting or popular music, and you see the errors being put right. It's time to realise that misandry exists (some doubt even this) and that it's not big or clever.

July 25th 2006
I've written before of my disgust for non-cryptic crosswords, and this was heightened yesterday when I glanced at the Times' offering. Actually, I did most of it, in boredom, but what really struck me was the excrutiating "Not in (3)". My word. Perhaps as day two of an English-for-Chinese course held at a centre for expelled kids, but not in a puzzle that takes up space in the world's best newspaper. On the crossword theme, I'm thinking of making a teetotallers' crossword, since I've come up with at least two or three clues. "Thoughts turn to gin and tonic: time to leave (9)" and "Not even rum (3)". And some variation or other on "Continue as headless chickens, drinking gin ultimately (7)". Answers on the back of a postcard (unless you're Anthony, to whom I've already told the answers).

July 26th 2006
So Sagg7 is complete. The listing is as follows:
1. Rockin' All Over The World - Status Quo
2. Oh My Sweet Carolina - Ryan Adams
3. Piano Man - Billy Joel
4. Insane - Texas
5. Hold On Hope - Guided By Voices
6. Heaven - Bryan Adams
7. Fields Of Gold - Eva Cassidy
8. All By Myself - Eric Carmen
9. I Want You - Bob Dylan
10. Sunshine Superman - Donovan
11. Brown Eyed Girl - Van Morrison
12. Sweet Caroline - Neil Diamond
13. Romeo & Juliet - Dire Straits
14. Free Bird - Lynyrd Skynyrd
15. Wicked Game - Chris Isaak
16. The Road - Jackson Browne
17. End Credit Score - Jan Stevens
18. Give Me Novacaine - Green Day

July 27th 2006
There are more things that annoy me. The Sheila's Wheels adverts - while symptomatic of the misandry I was writing about earlier, and grossly sexist - are also stupid in that the supposedly safe drivers who are going to get 'bonza car insurance deals' in fact don't actually touch the wheel of the car they're driving. They're too busy turning round, dancing and (on one occasion) getting a dog to drive for them. Though not a qualified driver myself, I don't view that as a recipe for success, and reckon their insurance premiums should go up. There was something completely different I wanted to complain about, but I can't for the life of me remember what it was, so you'll have to wait. Actually, I'll change tune for a while, and be more complimentary: Rob Brydon (whom I've seen live in the Keith Barrett Show) has got a new programme out called Annually Retentive. I've seen episodes two and three, and while it isn't by any means brilliant, it's certainly much better than I thought it would be (and features Dave Gorman, from the Dude List). For those of you who haven't seen it, the basic premise is a HIGNFY-style show interspersed with scenes from the planning stage (hence the chronology falls to pieces), where Brydon lambasts everything to do with the show except himself, pretty much. Although Gorman did a bit of lambasting himself last time round. Thank the Light!Another thing I'm impressed by is Booth's, who managed to get their checkout sign spot-on, as pictured. Made my day, that did... although if you want to go there, it's in Keswick. In other news, I'm not sure whether I've mentioned Simon Barnes here: he's a Times journalist, and a very, very good one. Mostly he writes for the sport section, which he does in a highly intelligent and poetic manner, and (unusually) what he writes usually makes a great deal of sense. There are not many regular contributors whose work I will read solely because it was written by them: I think the only others are Daniel Finkelstein and Jeremy Clarkson (the latter in the Sunday Times rather than the Times). It's a pity, really, since there are a fair few people who I can normally count on to write absolute garbage: Rod Liddle and Jasper Gerard are yet to produce a valid point between them, and they peddle their nonsense in a reasonably disagreeable manner - the former also has a bad taste in music - although I guess they have the last laugh, since I tend to read both their columns. Hugh McIllanoy, or some name similar, is not as often wrong as those two, but can usually be counted on to write some bilge or other. Which brings me on to another point - the secular nature of the press in general. Is there anyone upholding Christianity? There are merely snide, childish and highly misinformed comments that pass unchalleneged by the editor - and, sadly, by the majority of readers, probably. Just reading today, Matthew Parris (whose columns are always worth giving a miss) wrote some nonsense about the words to 'Dear Lord and Father of Mankind' and on the letters page someone described the idea of sin as 'dated'. Even if the latter is not necessarily the fault of the Times - except in publishing it - it is very much the norm in the press to pour scorn on religion in general and Christianity in particular, perhaps occasionally and patronisingly complimenting some bishop or other (but tagging an insult to the church in general, usually). I think the worst case I've seen was the aforementioned Gerard saying that the Christian message was about, among other things, 'tolerance'. And I forget the exact context, but it was really a tolerance of sinfulness that he was talking about. Oh, and the Christian message he provided in a succinct five or six words failed to make any mention of God.

July 29th 2006
Facebook is seeping more of my life away... it is an annoyingly good way of keeping in touch over the holidays, although I still maintain as much of a distance as I can. Not for me the long, arduous conversations or arbitrary 'poking'. But imagine my joy when someone joined my Mr. Man group when I hadn't invited them - imagine my disgust when someone else quit the group. Anyways, that out of the way, apparently today is Tower Day in Norton, and although no one else cares, it was enough to make Mel (one of Simon's friends at Oxford) stay over here. Since they were disappointed that last year's barbecue was a one-off, I set about building one in our back garden... and today it's raining for the first time in ages. Probably the first time since Noah was a young chap. But never mind, I'm sure it'll clear up (© The Big Book of English Clichés Vol I).

Hasn't rained for a while, so BBQ is scheduled for around 8.30pm. I'll let you know how it goes. Incidentally, this is the 446th entry in my diary (at least, it is now. I deleted one or two in the Grand 2005 Censorship). In case you were wondering.

July 31st 2006
It's the end of July as we know it, and I'm feeling fine. It's also the end of TOTP, and I made room in my schedule of sleeping to watch the last ever programme. Well, I say 'last ever,' but I confidently predict it will return to our screens within five years, probably sooner... and it wasn't really TOTP at all; it was a run-down of the programme's history, with a chart tacked on the end. Not too disimilar to what was shown a couple of hours later on the same channel, a show that looked at the history of TOTP and was first aired before 'all new top of the pops' (note: no capital letters) was launched. So Jamie Theakston was enthusiastically saying that TOTP now reached seven gazillion people worldwide and was stronger than ever, before an extra bit was shoved into the show, explaining the feeble all new top of the pops and current death. We even got a glimpse of Jeremy Clarkson, whose appearance on allnewtotp was absolutely fantastic (did it get a mention here? I forget): after a particularly dire rap song, he took out ear plugs and told the world just how awful the song was, at length, much to the despair of Fern. Anyhow, the final totp episode was somewhat odd in content, since it devoted approximately ten seconds each to the careers of Cliff, Tom Jones, etc and yet played an entire Beyonce song - there were no clips of the Beatles except in the intro, either. Of course, this was partly to cover every era, and partly because the current team look no further than yoofs much of the time, but it was a shame. Actually, I know very little about TOTP: it was definitely never a big thing for me at any point in my life, and little of the musical legend I know is tied in with it (none of the Beatles' many iconic moments occurred there, as far as I'm aware). So I didn't really know much about any of the presenters who made it back for the final show, although I have a basic awareness of Tony Blackburn, Sir Jimmy Saville, John Peel, Noel Edmonds... but no more than most. David "Kid" Jensen I've shared a fair bit of time with, but only because he has a show on Capital Gold. Anyways, that's enough musical nostalgia for me... cut to today, and I bought MOJO again: there were a lot of pages devoted to Dylan, but it wasn't really worth the exorbitant cover price. His album's out at the end of August though, so buy it.

I've remembered I tantalisingly mentioned the BBQ yesterday. Well, the less said the better... even before it started raining I couldn't get the thing to stay lit. Shame, but no doubt we'll try it again. And hopefully use fewer matches next time.

what was I listening to?
Heartbreaker - Ryan Adams
what was I reading?
The Times
what was I watching?
Scrubs
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