Sunday, January 30, 2005

Closer


A cheap and cheerful cast...

Finally got to see Closer, at the third attempt.

An unusual rather cold film with an outstanding script and cast. A little too stagey to make excellent cinema but still well worth the ticket.

Clive Owen was outstanding and Julia Roberts was a pleasant surprise. They even managed to make London look gritty and real with that grey filtered light we get so often in Britain. Not like "Notting Hill" or even the miserable part of "Four Weddings and Funeral." Posted by Hello

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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

John Lloyd

Bored this evening, my thoughts turned to the summer and the pleasures of Wimbledon. With that came a serious surf for information on John Lloyd. The results of this effort was this piece for Wikipedia which I hope does the man justice:

John Lloyd is a British professional tennis player, who’s finest moment came in December 1977 when he was the finalist in the Australian Open, losing to Vitas Gerulaitis (USA) in five sets, after trailing two sets to love. To date (January 2005) he remains the only British man to reach the final of a grand-slam singles tournament in the open era.

Born on the 27th August 1954 in Leigh-on-Sea, England, Lloyd reached his official peak aged nearly 24 with a ranking of 21st in the world in July 1978. A thoughtful and somewhat temperamental player, Lloyd found the pressures of the fanatically patriotic Wimbledon crowd hard to handle. Despite grass being his best surface he was unable to gain strength from “home advantage” and never progressed beyond the 3rd round in tennis’ most famous tournament. On the grass in the more laid-back atmosphere of the Australian Open 12,000 miles from home, he was able to relax and express himself to much greater effect.

A classical serve and volley player, Lloyd had superb “touch” and a range of volleys that made him deadly close to the net. His stroke play was a pleasure to watch, being correct and seemingly effortless – like many a top athlete he often made the most difficult shots look easy. By the elite standards of grand-slam tennis, the rest of his game was competent, although his serve was only ever adequate. Sadly, the mental side of his game was never a strong point, and against the very best he had a tendency to over-analyse and “choke” under extreme pressure.

Teamed with the Australian Wendy Turnbill, Lloyd gave the Wimbledon crowds something to cheer about in the early 1980s, winning the mixed doubles tournament in 1983 and 1984. He also competed for Great Britain in the Davis Cup for 11 years, and has also been the non-playing team captain more recently.

Somewhat unexpectedly, Lloyd found himself transformed from a national to international celebrity in 1979 when he married. His bride was American tennis legend Chris Evert who became Chris Evert-Lloyd. The media styled “golden couple” of tennis enjoyed several years in the limelight before a separation, a short-lived reconciliation, and eventual divorce in 1987. Lloyd was obviously never happy being a celebrity, despite his good looks and easy charm. Ever the gentleman, after the divorce he refused offers of obscene amounts of money from the British tabloids eager for the “dirt” on his ex-wife.

As his career came to an end, John Lloyd has stayed within the tennis world, finding work as a coach, a television commentator, and a popular figure on the veterans circuit.

While he lacked the mystical “something” that distinguish the best players from the very-good, at his peak in the late 1970s he was equal to almost anyone across a tennis net, especially on grass.

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Monday, January 24, 2005

C-C-C-C-Cold!

A cold freezing day made bearable (just) by the thinest covering of snow like icing sugar on a Christmas pudding.

As usual the week-end was way too short and as usual I failed to achieve most of the tasks I'd set myself. The major problem is my house is too expensive (and cold), my job doesn't pay enough, and my workplace is too far away - I'm wasting nearly four hours of my life every day travelling to and from work to earn too little money. I don't know where all this will end, but at the moment I'm in a hole which is not getting any deeper, but is way too constricting...

Never mind, one thing you can be sure of in this life is that nature hates stability, one way or another change will come, whether I initiate it or not...

Watch this space.

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Friday, January 21, 2005

Footballers

The town where I work has an unusual institution, a football school. It's hard to find out much about this establishment, but it seems to be a place where promising young footballers go and practice their craft by day and their normal school work in the late afternoons and early evening.

On the train, a group of rather loud young ladies (I use the term losely) glowing with fitness discuss their exploits on the field. Perhaps it's my age, but I can't get used to the way these teenage girls use the jargon of professional footballers; "She dinked it in from about six yards," "I was trying to lay it off but was too slow," etc etc.

Hopefully, women's professional football will become established in Britain and at least some of these gifted young atheletes will be able to earn a good living doing what they do best.

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Thursday, January 20, 2005

Dubya

So Dubya is sworn in for another four more years...

America hasn't had a more inept leader since Jimmy Carter (1976-1980), the first President who's entire term I can remember. Fortunately, the famously stupid and aggressively ignorant right-wing is too stupid to realise who they have elected, much less what he's done.

On the bright side, and from a clearly selfish point of view, a weaker America can only benefit everyone else in the world.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Scraping the bottom of the barrel

Monday comes around and after a plesant hour arranging a field trip, my boss calls me into the office and tells me I'm in the QA (Quality Assurance) department for the next couple of weeks.

Bang goes the field trip, but up comes the system in its close to final form.

Struggling to use the damn thing, I'm reminded that I've spent close to 20 years wrestling with software that doesn't work properly... By the time it does approach reliability, it's months since the manul and help have been written.

Oh well, it's nice to be wanted, and change is a change although not as good as a rest.

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Friday, January 14, 2005

Thank God it's Friday

The end of the first full week back at work after Christmas. It was a l-o-n-g one, but not too bad, and I managed to achieve one or two useful tasks.

Back home I realise there are four messages left on the phone since Wednesday - I'd been too busy and exhausted to check! At least the new mobile is picking up a few calls that would have otherwise been missed. Plans for the week-end are vague, but a trip to the cinema on Sunday with one of my few remaining friends in this provincal town is something to look forward too.

T.S. Eliot got it wrong - January is the cruelest month, not April. Two pretty teenagers were taking the piss out of me on the train back this evening, already drunk and probably off to a party or a session of pubbing. I managed to placate them by agreeing to offer them a sweet each, and... somewhat shamed by this, we had a little chat. They were both glowing with health and beauty, it must be nice to look in a mirror and be pleased by what you see. For me, there's the delicious prospect of being entirely alone tomorrow. I need space and time and solitude on a regular basis. I suspect my teenage companions on the train are the exact opposite.

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Sunday, January 09, 2005

Sunday School

Over to a friend's house to help makes signs for a protest vigil to be held next week.

Making the signs involved the use of stencils and felt-tip pens, the first time I've used these instruments since I left school in the summer of 1981.

It took ages but was soothing and satisfying in the way accomplishing a shared task can be. A broadcast of the ludicrus yet very watchable"Where Eagles Dare" provided a suitably stirring background...

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Saturday, January 08, 2005

Back on the chain gang


Back to work after the long (and very welcome) Christmas break.

We work for a short week doing exactly what we were doing the week before Christmas, then a message comes that the M.D. himself wants to speak to us. We make a few nervous jokes about P45s and shuffle off as a group to the boardroom, which is just like a meeting room except it features a huge long wooden table with a rather interesting contemporary veener design. When the company finally goes bankrupt, or (more likely) is merged, this table will be one of the few assets worth bidding for.

The essence of the presentation is the same as it was in July, September, and early December. Thank you for your patience, we're nearly there, we've made changes to our procedures and structure, the customer has shown understanding, we must meet this deadline, I have full confidence, etc etc. As George W Bush so amply demonstrates, being a CEO is not hard - no matter what the situation, your presentation pretty much writes itself.

What will happen? As we're the obligatory 6 months late for this major software project, my guess is Development will deliver... just.

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