Thursday, March 27, 2003

Well it’s almost time for our trip to Paris. We are out tomorrow evening so, tonight we will be finalising our packing, in readiness for the flight on Saturday.

Any one interested in hearing something unexpected should take a look at Tally Ho Sulky. 5 red panda’s is organising a swap of mix tapes. Why not join in the fun?

I finished reading Under The Frog by Tibor Fischer, what a great book. It’s a very funny and also very sad look at life in post war Hungary. Following on from that I’ve decided to take another of Bill’s tips away on holiday with me, The Master And The Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov keeps my Soviet controlled theme going. Completed in 1940, it was not published in his native Russia until the mid 1960’s. First impressions are of a curious mixture of surrealism and the bible as the split time frame novel leads us on a pretty freewheeling path.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

So last night we went to see Far From Heaven at the Watershed, what a strange film. Now I don't think that I'm giving too much away, when I say that this is a film made very much is the style of all those great old 1950's melodrama's. Now the thing is, that we tend to watch lots of old films, so the likes Joan Crawford, Ginger Rogers, Doris Day, Claudette Colbert and like are familiar guests in our house, so I think that we are pretty well versed in the nature of films that this was based on. The first thing I have to say is that the film looked absolutely stunning, the rich autumnal colours of the landscape, brilliantly mirrored by the fantastic 50's clothing which the cast were blessed with. The internal set's were master pieces of styling, even the font used for the titles and credits was brilliant. What a shame then that film did appear somewhat shallow, in it's approach to the important issues which were raised. We enjoyed the film but came away thinking that it was a pretty average Sunday afternoon film, rather than the masterpiece which some reviewers alluded to.

I've tried not to talk about the war on this site, but Orynthia and I had an interesting conversation about the reaction of exiled Iraqi's to the current situation. Orynthia's family are originally from what was Burma, now known as Myanmar. For many years, the country has been under the control of a tyrannical regime, who have crushed individual freedoms, been engaged in warfare with it's own people, used forced child labour to work on building railway lines in appalling conditions, many political prisoners have been taken, many have simply disappeared, a people's revolution after the results of the last "democratic" election were ignored was brutally put down. Oil and mineral deposits should have resulted in a rich and prosperous country, instead it is one of the poorest in the world. Orynthia's family were forced into exile in the 1960's in search of a better life. Thankfully for me as otherwise we would never have meet. We would love to visit the country of her birth, but will never do so until the regime changes. Now obviously regime change is one of the prime motivators in the current gulf war, and I'm sure everyone wants the people of Iraq to enjoy the same sort of democratic freedoms which we enjoy, so some people have been questioning why many exiled Iraqi's are so unhappy about the current campaign. Anyway we started to talk about how we would feel if Rangoon was under the same sort of pressure that Baghdad is at the moment. Some members of Orynthia's family remained in Burma when the exodus took place, certainly Orynthia's mum and dad still have many, many friends in the country and the prospect of sitting at home watching these people being bombed because of the actions of their leaders is just too terrifying to comprehend. We want the situation to improve for the people living there but how many people need to die or be displaced before the gains are outweighed by the loses?

I don't have an answer for the obvious "Well how would you remove the evil leaders?" question.

Monday, March 24, 2003

What a glorious weekend we had. The weather was even good enough for me to do the thing that every Englishman loves to do on a sunny afternoon – Cut the lawn! I know it’s very sad, but the first lawn trimming of the year is one of those benchmark’s that define the start of spring. Whilst I was doing that Orynthia went out for a ride on her bike, another sure sign that spring is here. It may seem odd to some of you, but I must admit that I have never learnt how to ride a bike. We well remember how shocked our Aussie relatives were when they found out that I could not ride a bike, could not swim and worst of all did not drink beer! Strewth, they said or maybe it was something a little stronger?

I have to say that I really enjoyed the Ladytron gig on Saturday. It's strange that when I was younger synth bands appeared to be the music of the future. Certainly, I remember seeing the wonderful Kraftwerk in action when they had the robot mannequins with them and thinking that that was the way music would be in the next century. So it’s odd that music, which was futuristic, now has a slightly retro feel to it. The band all looked very good in their matching unisex outfits, swaying behind banks of keyboards.

I’ve managed to make some practical use of my time off today (unusually for me). An old footballing acquaintance came round to look at our leaky roof. It’s only been leaking for a couple of years; we didn’t want to rush into anything you understand, and after all the rain was conveniently leaking into the shower cubicle!

Saturday, March 22, 2003

Had a lovely day in sunny South Wales yesterday. Unfortunately returned home just in time to watch the frightening scenes unfolding in Baghdad. I notice that Where is Raed? has not been updated in a while, I hope that this is just down to a loss of power or communication lines.

The McDowell gig was a strange affair. I really like this band; I just wish that people would actually listen to them, rather than just using the gigs as an opportunity to pay money to go and have a very loud conversation. They are a pretty quiet band, so the constant buzz of chatter can really irate. All the bands new songs sound splendid, I really hope that they can find their niche.

Thanks to John and Jane, it looks like we have a couple of guest list places for the intriguing Ladytron at the Anson Rooms tonight. I have not heard too much stuff from them, but I have liked what I’ve heard. They are another of the wave of electro bands that seem to be sweeping the nation, although in fairness to them they have been doing it for a little while.

I’m off to have some breakfast now. Somehow, I don’t think that our breakfast will be able to compare to the one enjoyed by my blog buddy Pete in Australia! Toast and Marmite for me.

Friday, March 21, 2003

So here I am with 4 days off work! Today I’m taking my sister and one of her sons, Craig over to South Wales to see our auntie in Pontypridd. Lets see if it will rain in Pontypridd again today, as it always seems to! This evening, it’s off to the hospital to Don ad he continues to make steady progress after his operations. Then we are going to see the lovely McDowell in action The Folkhouse. They are one of Orynthia’s favourite local bands and are capable of hitting beautiful heights.

On Saturday, I think that we are going to be doing a brief bit of pre holiday shopping. Petunia, who will be joining us in Paris, flew of to Egypt yesterday on an amazing deal. A week in a 5 start hotel and return flights for £199! When she gets back to Bristol, she has a day to get used to being back in Europe before heading out to France with Simon to catch up with us. How jet set!

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Not sure how long Where is Raed? is going to be around. It's a blog from Baghdad. Just one persons view on life in the city, that we hear about almost every hour of every day.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Yesterday, I had on of those moments when I wonder if I really am a mature grown up. For many years now I have been heading off to work every morning in the traditional attire of the office worker, suit, shirt and tie. So why was it, that I should be standing in front of a mirror for about 10 minutes, being completely unable to put my tie on. Of course I could put it on, but it would either end up somewhere by knees, or a slight adjustment in the starting position would result in a complete reversal of roles, with the wider front portion of the only just making it past the point of my shirt collars! Suddenly all those years of successful tie management counted for nothing. Pretty soon I could not even remember the basic manoeuvres required to complete any sort of knot let alone being able to venture into the world of the Windsor knot, the Half Windsor or the more straightforward Four In Hand. Ah, you ask yourself why does this man know the different names for the way in which his tie is presented to the world. Well, I have to confess that it’s not the 1st time that this malaise has affected me. So imagine my delight a few years ago, when I found a series of detailed, step-by-step illustrations and descriptions for the successful resolutions of tie related problems. Unfortunately, this appeared to complicate matters further. I spent so much time worrying about which way I was bringing the long end over the short end that I would inevitable end up with something that looked liked two pieces of badly knotted spaghetti around my neck. It really is one of those things that is best done on instinct at breakneck (not literally!) speed. As soon as I pause to consider exactly what I am doing, all is lost!

I’ve been really enjoying a book called Under The Frog by Tibor Fischer recently (thanks to Bill for another excellent recommendation). It has the unlikely premise of following the progress of a couple Hungarian basketball players from the end of the Second World War up to the revolution in 1956. It’s full of crazy situations as they try to pick their way through the chaos of a post war eastern block county, doing as little as they can.

BCFC managed to pick up another victory at the weekend. The 1-0 win over Peterborough and the failure of the teams around us to win, means that we are once again only 3 points off one of the automatic promotion places. In truth it was a desperately poor game, but the win does keep us on track.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Two bits of good news for us!
Orynthia's dad has had a couple of operations this week and the surgeon told Orynthia that he has an 80% of walking again. It will take several months, but it is so nice to see some light at the end of the tunnel at last. It was Orynthia's mums birthday yesterday, so along with Orynthia's brother Ashton we took her out to Sawadee's our favourite local Asian restaurant. It was really nice to see Orynthia's mum smiling and laughing again. The food was good, as always.

The other good news is that we have booked a lovely looking apartment in Paris. Petunia and Simon will be joining us, for what should be a lovely trip to celebrate Orynthia's birthday. We sure do need a holiday!!

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Well it's been a hectic few days again. We had a call on Sunday morning to say that Orynthia's dad was being moved to another hospital in order to have an operation on his back. We had planned to visit him during the day, so decided that we would do some stuff around the house and go out to see him in the evening. So at about 6pm we called the hospital to see if he had been moved yet, the answer was no, they were still waiting for the transport to move him. When we got to the hospital it was quite a little family gathering, Orynthia's sister and her 2 kids were also there along with Orynthia's mum. Some poor old chap took a terrible crashing fall whilst on his way to the toilet, which was not a very nice thing to see. Anyway it later emerged that one of the reasons for the delay in moving Don, was that his wheelchair had to be moved at the same time and for some reason that can only be done in a certain kind of vehicle. The nurse asked how we felt about taking the wheelchair to Frenchay hospital, so that Don could follow on behind. When it was explained to us that the wheelchair would actually fold down into a very compact little unit, we realised that we could get it into our very small car, so we did, and set off on the 5 mile journey to Frenchay Hospital. This was when the fun began. Frenchay is a huge hospital set in pleasant grounds, but with hardly any signs.
So we drove round and round looking for some sort of indication of the location of ward 2. Eventually we found a building with some lights on and people moving around inside. We rang the bell on the door, and from the way the woman rushed to meet us, it looked as though they had not had any visitors it a very long time. She ushered us in, and seemed a trifle disappointed that we were only looking for directions. Anyway, she managed to give us a decent clue to help us in our quest. We drove round to the Accident centre parked up again and Orynthia went off on foot to locate the ward. Success!! Frenchay is actually the site of an old American war base from the days of world war 2, and although many millions of pounds have been spent on it over the years, the one enormous central corridor that serves all the wards still has the feeling of the sort of place where you could encounter Gary Copper, David Niven or maybe as this is Bristol, Cary Grant. Anyway we managed to find ward 2 and amazingly they did have a bed ready for Don, so we could deposit the wheelchair and finally make our way home.

Yesterday Don had the operation, Orynthia and her brother and mum spent a large part of the afternoon at the hospital, When I came home from work, they were all back at our house grabbing something to eat and a chance to relax for an hour. They went back a bit later on and Don was conscious and chatting, I guess that we will have to wait a little while to see how this will leave him in the long run, but at least something is happening now.

I played football last night and I have to say that I was laughingly inept. I just had one of those nights when I could not do anything right. The harder I tried the worse I became, so I was the target for a lot of good natured ribbing, as I blundered my way around the pitch.

Saturday, March 08, 2003

So we’ve arranged our transport to Paris. We were going to go on the train and today we got very excited when it looked as though we could do it for only £80 each, all the way from Bristol to Paris and back again. Of course it was too good to be true! We could get a train to Paris on the day that we wanted to go, but travel back to Bristol was virtually impossible to arrange. So we have opted to fly from Bristol instead. It cost’s a bit more, but we can travel at times which suit us and the actual travelling is much less, so we get more time in Paris. We have enquired about an apartment in the Montmarte area, and are just waiting to hear back from the owners to make sure that we can have it for the week.

Bought a few CD’s yesterday: The Mink Lungs – The Better Button and DJ Muggs – Dust. The Mink Lungs album sounds as though about 6 different bands have been forced together to make record some tracks. So far about 50% of it sounds great to me, the rest sounds a bit confused to me at the moment.

Thanks to BBC4 we are now getting the fantastic American TV show “Curb Your Enthusiasm”. It’s one of those shows that you either love or hate. I love it, but Orynthia runs for the door as soon as it starts.

Oh no the shame of it! Last night I went out with the people from work, we went to a Chinese Karaoke restaurant and I have to admit that I was dragged onto the stage! I trust that I was suitably awful. I Promise that it will never happen again.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Well being a fan of Bristol City Football club can be a frustrating and occasionally tedious hobby. Last night, we had one of those nights that makes it all worthwhile. The team played with an exhilarating zip and vigour, coupled with a skilful and intelligent use of the ball seldom seen at Ashton Gate to inflict Oldham's 1st away defeat of the season upon them. The 2-0 score line did not do the team justice, as they pounded an Oldham side that were only sparred a heavy defeat by the heroics of their Australian goalkeeper. So we now go above Oldham to take 4th place in the league and thing are really starting to hot up in the promotion race.
After the match, I went down to The Bell to meet up with Orynthia and a few other friends. It was only then that I realised that I had the slightly rough throat that comes from cheering us to victory, it's one of those strange occasions, when something slightly bad comes from something good. Like the sore feet and aching legs that are the result of exciting day exploring a new city when you are on holiday, the stinging mouth and lips that you can get from the red hot curry and the buzzing in the ears when leaving a gig which has knocked your socks off.

Sunday, March 02, 2003

Well the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s certainly rocked last night. After the slightly disappointing 2nd EP, I was not sure if they were a bit of a flash in the pan. Initially I was a bit concerned that they used tapes and loops to provide additional backing, I really like to see a whole band of people up on stage, struggling with their equipment, rather than pressing a button, and coasting along on the results. I have to say that the shear energy of the band won me over, Karen O is a star and the guitar playing of Nick Zinger was splendidly angular and spiky. Do they have the songs to make this more than a quick bit of fun? We will just have to see what the album is like, when it comes out in a few weeks time. Support came from dreary Canadians The Still’s and Novelty fat man, mulleted would be sex god Har Mar Superstar. Funny for the first 5 minutes and then so awful that it became a bit of a car crash performance. You know the sort of thing, absolutely dreadful but you can’t take your eyes of it. He ended his performance wearing only his underwear, most of the crowd loved it, which was a shame, because for me, the funniest bits came when he was dealing the one heckler brave enough to take him on. Maybe the whole joke would work better with a crowd that did not lap it up so willingly.

City managed another win yesterday, 3-1 against lowly Cheltenham Town. We are still in 5th place in the league, and have a big few days ahead of us. On Tuesday night we are at home to 4th placed Oldham and then on Saturday we are away at 6th placed QPR. So by next Saturday evening we should have a much better idea of our promotion credentials.

On Wednesday evening we are of to see one of Orynthia’s current favourites, Richard Hawley at the Fleece. Sometimes guitarist with Pulp and former member of The Longpigs, he is starting to make a bit of a name for himself with his gently brooding yet melodic pop gems.

Saturday, March 01, 2003

Just got in after a top night out. Went round to Petunia’s where we had a most enjoyable few drinks with her and Simon. Then onto Four corners at The Croft where we had a bit of a dance before a sort of rare groove 60‘s soul instrumental band played a short set. Strangely they played a funked up version of that old Black Sabbath tune -Iron Man. Why is it that in every dance band, there is a rock group desperate to get out?