Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The opposite of every cloud has a silver lining

Hearts beat Rangers 1-0 on Saturday past (which was brilliant obviously). I had several large shandies during the day however and managed somehow to lose my copy of Stanley Elkins The Magic Kingdom, mentioned in my last post.

As a result, I've had to switch to Charles Williams Many Dimensions. It's a great book, but wouldn't have been my first choice for a Williams re-read (that would be The Place of the Lion). I thought it was a good idea to read it whilst I still can though, because Matthew managed to tear the front cover off of my fifty year old Penguin copy and then - like the trophy of some literary obsessive serial killer - pinned the damn thing to the fridge door using Scooby Doo fridge magnets. Impressively deranged, I thought, for a three year old.

Williams actually deserves more than just a passing mention which I'll try and get to in the next few days.
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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Cold Turkey, Who-style

Doing a count earlier this month, I figured out that I had read 28 Doctor Who books in the preceeding year (sadly, I have a spreadsheet). That's enough to get me stared at even in Doctor Who book circles.

With that in mind, and having just finished Nick Wallace's quite exceptional Fear Itself, I'm taking an extended break from TV tie-in fiction. Instead, I'm going to re-read the books which I've enjoyed most over the past thirty years - but only those books which no-one else I know of has read (unless I gave them it, of course).

With that in mind, I'm going to start reading Stanley Elkin's The Magic Kingdom tomorrow. Other books I intend to get to should include:

Last of the Just - Andre Schwartz-Bart
The Roaches Have no King- Daniel Evan Weiss
Lord of the Dance - Robin Lloyd-Jones

plus others as I think of them/come across them in boxes in my mum's attic.
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Friday, September 16, 2005


My friend Elaine mailed me the other day with some ill-thought out, misguided and frankly foolish digs at the might Heart of Midlothian FC, Scotland's premier football team. Going onto auto pilot, I replied with a list of the team's achievements this year which I replicate here just for the pleasure of seeing it written out in full again...

Hearts Facts, 2005

Games played - six
Games won - six.

Lead over Celtic and Hibs, the teams in joint second place - 5 points.
Lead over Rangers, the current championship holders - 8 points.
Current record holder for most consecutive games scored in Scottish Premier League - Rudi Skacel (Hearts).

Goals scored - 19.
Goals conceded - 3.

Current internationals in first team - 10.
Number of Champions League Winners in Scottish Football - 1 (Jankauskus, Hearts).
Number of European Championship Winners in Scottish Football - 1 (Fyssas, Hearts).
Only team in current world football to supply the most players to two different international teams - Hearts (Scotland, Lithuania).

Current Scottish Manager of the Month for the second month running - George Burley (Hearts)
Current Scottish Player of the Month for the second month running - Skacel (Hearts)

After thirty-five years of disappointment, maybe this is the year.

+++Edited to Add+++

Games played - eight
Games won - eight
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Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The View from the Floor and the Terraces

I had quite an interesting weekend this week.

First, on Friday J and I went with my parents to a family wedding at the Corn Exchange (well, only the reception bit at night - the groom was insufficiently close family to warrant an invitation to the 'eating food someone else has paid for' element of festivities). It was OK although the beer was rubbish (Tennents Velvet, which is hit and miss at the best of times), necessitating an early switch to vodka. It was so bad in fact that my dad actually left half a pint at one point and then moped around the bar area for ten minutes quizzing the staff to make sure there wasn't some ale-based alternative hidden away amongst the beer fonts (sadly there wasn't, only various lagers which are beer in the same way that fish are bicycles).

Everything was going reasonably well until around midnight, when a run of 80s poptastic hits had me up on the dance floor for an extended period. I'm a terrible dancer and tend not to dance unless (a) completely drunk and The Smiths come on, (b) forced to by relations or (c) slightly tipsy and faced with songs I know all the words to. Given that the tracks that came on were 'Temptation' by Heaven 17, 'Relax' by Frankie and 'To Cut a Long Story Short' by Spandau Ballet, I could hardly resist and, in a flash, I was moving my feet in strict time to the drum-beat and singing 'You've got to make me an offer, that cannot be ignored' while J (who can dance) tried to shuffle away and pretend I was a friend of the bride's.

And I would have been fine, except that after those three songs, and whilst I was heading off the dance floor to the loo, 'House of Fun' by Madness came on. And the Madness step dance thing is the one bit of dance floor shenanigans I can do. So, absolutely knackered, I bounced about for one more song. I was feeling a bit dizzy at the end of the song, so I walked fairly slowly towards the toilets but even so had to stop at one point because of stars in front of my eyes.

Next thing I knew I was waking up on the floor with three guys shouting for an ambulance. It seems I had a common or garden drop in blood pressure caused by over exertion but it was all very embarassing especially since no-one seemed willing to believe I wasn't drunk (which I wasn't, honest) not to mention disconcerting since I have no memory at all between thinking 'I feel quite dizzy' and coming to at shoe level.

The fact that J has taken to talking about my 'fainting fits' rather than a more manly 'Stuart collapsed' isn't helping the ongoing red neck either.

That was Friday night. Saturday was nice and quiet, but on Sunday my dad and I took Cameron, recently turned seven years old, to his first live football game.Hearts won 4-1 away to Livingston in a very enjoyable game to go five points clear at the top of the Premier League table, but I really couldn't care less - the fact that Cameron described the day as 'brilliant' and spent all Monday evening regaling his friends in our back garden with the tale of his trip was a genuinely moving thing (although had we lost it might have been a different story). I don't go to anywhere near as much football as I used to but I think I'll be going more regularly now I have Cameron to take.

Finally, any fans of great music who read this (so that'll be Scott and Geoff) should head over to and download the Troy Tate version of The Smiths first album. Seldom has it been more obvious that a bad producer can kill even the greatest of bands. Bizarre production, peculiar backing vocals and insane arrangements make this collection of early tracks a must-listen for any Smiths fan (plus it contains one song I'd never heard before).
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Thursday, September 08, 2005

Finished Reading VIII

Lost in a Good Book - Jasper Fforde

Since Terry Pratchett stopped writing very good comedies and started writing very good novels instead there's been a gap in the market for a humourous British writer (and please, no-one mention third division tat like Robert Rankin).

Jasper Fforde could have filled that signifcant space, but his books - while they do make you smile - have yet to make me laugh out loud. Fforde's jokes and whimsies are clever rather than genuinely funny, and 'Lost in a Good Book' has, if anything, more such clever ideas than his debut novel.

Which means it's excellent and highly to be recommended, even if it's not packed with belly-laughs..
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