Monday, August 31, 2009


A road side shrine in the small town of Foligno, there is hardly a street around here that doesn't have a shrine like this or a smaller style set up up into the wall of a building.

Mum in law and Mrs Ys at Spelo.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


The church of Saint Michele Arcangelo at night, we sat in the village square as the village festival flowed around us. At 11pm the school brass orchestra was giving a free concert, down the road in the park a free pop concert was underway, earlier in the evening the village square had been packed for a mass participation game of bingo.

Everybody is very friendly, nobody is drunk or boorish. The young people here seem very much more stylish than our young folk back home, whereas in Ilkley when you see a group of girls (or boys) out at night there seems to be a sort of desperate uniformity to their dress as though to wear something different would set you apart from the group, here the girls wear a multitude of styles, and more mature styles as well. Italian girls know that clingy leggings are not a good look even if you have the perfect figure. There is also a huge difference in how the girls wear make up, at home the sight of girls wearing so much war paint that you assume they need an archaeologist to remove it is common, here the girls allow more of their natural beauty to shine through.

The streets of these villages are very much as they were hundreds of years ago, a mass of cramped, winding roads, arches leading into steep and stepped passages, windows all shuttered against the daytime heat, flowers growing in colourful profusion from pots and window boxes wherever room allows.

A large earthquake (magnitude 6.4) struck this region on 26th September 1997, eleven people lost their lives, hundreds were hurt and there was widespread damage to buildings across the region. Some of the ancient buildings are still being repaired twelve years on.

Our hosts, Ilka and Nuccio, spent hours searching for their daughter Katty who had gone missing in the immediate aftermath of the quake, she was found safe. Their home was damaged in the quake and they spent days living in their car before enough tents could be found to acomodate the thousands made homeless. The car park close to the rail station became an open air hospital after the main hospital building was too badly damaged to use.

Friday, August 28, 2009

What Do Italian Mosquito's Eat ?

Surely it can't just be a diet of Yorkshireman's legs ?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The League Of Nations Dinner

That's what last night felt like, out group made of up three Brits, One German and one Sicilian went for dinner up in the hills at the home of another couple, he's Italian and the lady of the house is Croatian.

We were treated like royalty, flagons of home made red and white wine were poured enthusiastically every time our mugs looked a little empty, we dined on roasted pancetta cooked over a charcoal grill, rosemary chicken (they keep their own chickens), black truffles on bruschetta, potatoes roasted in their home pressed olive oil, cured sausages, baked pork, figs, plums and peaches all picked from the trees in their orchard only moments before we ate them, and then panacotta and local cheeses.

The language barriers didn't seem to matter much after a pint or two of red wine, and of course the grappa came out ofter dinner, Croatian fire water this time, which was downed in one after much clanking of mugs and jovial shouts of "Cheers" and "Salute".

It was a lovely night, fabulous hospitality. Kath hasn't surfaced yet this morning, but we walked miles in Rome in quite incredible heat yesterday so we're not just blaming the wine. We saw the Vatican, the Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, then the Coloseum, very touristy but great fun. The only thing that marred the experience for me was the complete inability of the crowds inside the Sistine to keep quiet despite being hushed by the priests and staff.

The whole of the Vatican is awe inspiring, to raise such a monument to the worship of God, to create such art and such beauty, it is just a shame that people cannot manage even five minutes of quiet contemplation.

It's our last day today, Ilka has cooked a number of beautiful meals for us, and today her husband Nuccio has returned from Sicily with bags of huge prawns (which we were eating raw yesterday, just doused in olive oil and lemon juice) and squid, today he is going to cook seafood pasta for lunch, then we're off to look round the area where they get truffles here.

Everywhere I travel in Europe I am constantly reminded of how much better people are connected to their food and farming traditions than we are in Britain where the giant supermarkets and the processed food industries have us in their thrall.

Ciao for now.

Monday, August 24, 2009


Many thanks to the residents of the villages of Spelo and Bavagna who last night put on a classical music concert, a pop concert, a roman fancy dress show and a fireworks display all in honour of England winning the Ashes, or it might just have been happy coincidence.

It was wonderful to be able to sit out at midnight in the market square drinking beer and wine and grappa (and for anyone who hasn't tried Grappa, just syphon a little unleaded petrol from your car's tank and have a swig) and eating ice cream.

Ilka is hungover this morning, Mum claims she isn't, I walked my hangover off by taking the dog for a walk. We're off to Assisi now, then more beer/vino/pasta/pasta etc.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Helloooooo Australia

A tiny urn filled with dirt is now the sole property of the England cricket team, I am a very happy man.

(Going out now for more red wine and grappa having spent the last hour trying to explain the importance of a game of cricket between England and Australia to a German living in Italy, not easy.)
Sod This For A Lark

I'm off to Italy.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Foam Man Gives Birth, Odd Things Occur

Here is a really strange gif animation, after watching it I don't really understand what is going on, but I do like it.
If The Internet Named Movies

If the internet named movies.

Although I don't understand the Simpsons one, answers on a postcard please ?

(Seen at Gromblog)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Top 10 Caddy Comments

# 10 Golfer: 'I think I'm going to drown myself in the lake.'
Caddy: 'Think you can keep your head down that long?'

# 9 Golfer: 'I'd move heaven and earth to break 100 on this course.
Caddy: 'Try heaven, you've already moved most of the earth.'

# 8 Golfer: 'Do you think my game is improving?'
Caddy: 'Yes sir, you miss the ball much closer now.'

# 7 Golfer: 'Do you think I can get there with a 5 iron?'
Caddy: 'Eventually.'

# 6 Golfer: 'You've got to be the worst caddy in the world.'
Caddy: 'I don't think so sir. That would be too much of a

# 5 Golfer: 'Please stop checking your watch all the time. It's too much
of a distraction.'
Caddy: 'It's not a watch - it's a compass.'

# 4 Golfer: 'How do you like my game?'
Caddy: 'Very good sir, but personally, I prefer golf.'

# 3 Golfer: 'Do you think it's a sin to play on Sunday? '
Caddy: The way you play, sir, it's a sin on any day.'

# 2 Golfer: 'This is the worst course I've ever played on.'
Caddy: 'This isn't the golf course. We left that an hour a go.'

And the # 1 Best Caddy Comment:

Golfer: 'That can't be my ball, it's too old.'
Caddy: 'It's been a long time since we teed off, sir.

(Thanks to Bill)
The priest in a small Irish village had a rooster and ten hens he kept in the hen house behind the church. One Sunday morning, before mass, he went to feed the birds and discovered
that the cock was missing.

He knew about cock fights in the village, so he questioned his parishioners in church. During mass, he asked the congregation, 'Has anybody got a cock? '

All the men stood up.

'No, no, 'he said,'that wasn't what I meant. Has anybody seen a cock? '

All the women stood up.

'No, no, ' he said, ' that wasn't what I meant. Has anybody seen a cock that doesn't belong to them?'

Half the women stood up.

'No, no, ' he said, 'that wasn't what I meant. Has anybody seen MY cock?'

Sixteen altar boys, two priests and a goat stood up.

(Thanks to Bill)
Minas Tirith, Made From Matches

Got some time on your hands, well, you could do like Patrick Acton does and make a scale model of Minas Tirith from matches, see here for more pics.
Life Tastes Good

But Coke does not.

I had a glass of Coke last night, I have not had a Coke for some time, months or possibly years, and on those rare occaisions I do try some I am reminded why it was so long since I last had a slurp.

Coke is bloody awful, what exactly is it supposed to taste of ? It has a strangely minerally, metallic flavour that tastes much like the oily floor of a garage smells, and that's supposed to be appealing ? Yuck.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Hate Mail

If you fancy messing with haters that read the bile filled Daily Mail, pop across to this article and vote 'yes' for "Should the public fund a trans-gender police support group?", go on, press yes, it'll make their little narrow minded heads explode. Voting is currently running at 72% in favour, that's certainly not the result they were hoping for, gotta love the power of the interwebnet ;-)
Hot Rock Athletics Chicks

Sheffield girl Jessica Ennis got the gold medal in the heptathlon in Berlin this week, woo and yay !

She Won, Or Did He ?

The bizarre case of South African 800m runner Caster Semenya has gripped the world's press and bloggers in the run up to her outstanding victory in last night's 800 metres. Rumours had been circulating that Semenya might not be a woman, she certainly has a very mascualine facial and body appearence, and before the race the IAAF managed to drop themselves into trouble, and muddied the waters, by suggesting that a lengthy process of gender testing was already underway. The South African athletics authorities have said that the IAAF have made no such approach to them.

This would not be the first time that a 'female' athlete has been found to be male, a Polish athlete failed a sex test in 1964, another Polish athlete from the 1930's was unveiled as being male when he/she died during a robbery 50 years later, and a number of 'female' Soviet athletes retired from competition when sex testing became compulsory.
A father walks into a restaurant with his young son. He gives the young boy three 10p coins to play with to keep him occupied.

Suddenly, the boy starts choking, going blue in the face.. The father realizes the boy has swallowed the coins and starts slapping him on the back. The boy coughs up 2 of the 10p's, but keeps choking. Looking at his son, the father is panicking, shouting for help.

A well dressed, attractive, and serious looking woman, in a blue business suit is sitting at a coffee bar reading a newspaper and sipping a cup of coffee. At the sound of the commotion, she looks up, puts her coffee cup down, neatly folds the newspaper places it on the counter, gets up from her seat and makes her way, unhurried, across the restaurant.

Reaching the boy, the woman carefully drops his pants; takes hold of the boy's testicles and starts to squeeze and twist, gently at first and then ever so firmly. After a few seconds the boy convulses violently and coughs up the last of the 10p's, which the woman deftly catches in her free hand.

Releasing the boy's testicles, the woman hands the coin to the father and walks back to her seat at the coffee bar without saying a word.

As soon as he is sure that his son has suffered no ill effects, the father rushes over to the woman and starts thanking her saying, "I've never seen anybody do anything like that before, it was fantastic. Are you a doctor? "
'No,' the woman replied.
I'm with the Inland Revenue..'

(thanks to Shirley)
David Goes Home

David Is To Be Returned To Italy

A bit of cultural news for a welcome change.

After a two year loan to the United States, Michelangelo's David is being returned to Italy .

(Thanks to MR)
Album Review : Metalwar - Hysterica****

For Fans Of : Judas Priest, Girlschool, Doro, Iron Maiden, classic metal

Sometimes what I want from music is challenging and well constructed rhythms and melodies wrapped around insightful social commentaries or rebellious anthems, at other times though five Nordic girls in tight rubber and leather outfits belting out some classic heavy metal riffs are just what Dr. Rock ordered.

Hysterica then are 5 ladies from Stockholm with a penchant for proper heavy metal, big riffs, clear vocals, lyrics about war and graveyards and blood and being hard, you know, proper metal stuff. The band members are Anni De Vil (ha ha, you see what she did with her name there ?) on vocals, Hell'n on drums, Sat Anica (oh the punnage) on bass, Bitchie and Rockzilla on guitars, you see just how metal these Swedes are ? They even give their baby girls real metal names.

Gentle mocking aside, Hysterica's music is bloody great, they are firmly and absolutely classic metal, big crunchy guitars and heavy riffs, fast tight drumming, real guitar solos (but not too many) and crystal vocals with big choruses designed for easy drunken sing-a-long-ability.

Hysterica's lyrics are also firmly rooted in the old school of metal lyrics, from opener We Are The Undertakers, through Girls Made Of Heavy Metal and Halloween the band don't break any new ground. Hang on, I've got my Man-O-War-Ometer handy, let's run Hysterica through it and see where on the metal scale they are........Yes ! It's a 9.5 from 10, Hysterica could only be more metal if they punched James Hetfield or invaded Scotland in a longboat.

It might sound as if I'm being patronising about the band and mocking their musical ability, but don't be fooled, this is a cracking debut album from a fine outfit who have put together a great collection of songs, nearly every track has me bobbling my head and throwing horns. Proper Heavy Metal you see, it's the most fun in music when it's done right, we know we're not cool or trendy or scene, and we don't bloody care, rock on girls, see you from the pit.
Record A-Level Results Announced

For the 27th year in a row, A-Level results have improved, would that be 27 years since results were tied to bonus systems and funding ?



Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Henry Rollins on rave and modern rock music

Mr. Rollins is quite sweary, so probably not good for watching at work.


It's been 9 years since we had a Summer holiday, our host Ilka reports that it was 38 degrees in Rome today, wow, I think I'm going to melt.
Is the Ashes still the pinnacle of cricket?

We’re in a pub in Leeds, watching the cricket. The Aussies seem to be bossing proceedings. My friend Tim – a life-long football fan – slurps on his pint, then pauses quizzically as he studies the TV.

‘So let’s see if I’ve got this right,’ he says. ‘This guy – what’s his name…Collingwood? He’s on 73 runs and he’s been in for, what….six hours?’

I nod earnestly. ‘Yep. Great, isn’t it?’

And it is, really. Call it want you want – gritty, stubborn, defiant…even boring – but on that day Collingwood succeeded in doing what he had to do: when England were in a hole, Collingwood’s sole responsibility was saving the game by whatever means possible. Naturally, if Collingwood’s run-rate in a Twenty20 match had been identical to that when he’d rescued England at Cardiff, the England all-rounder would have been booed from the stadium amidst volleys of half-filled plastic pint glasses and a chorus of jeers and heckles.

But Test cricket is a different animal. It requires both physical and mental stamina. And the Ashes? Well, the Ashes is the biggest, most formidable animal there is, and God help anyone that gets in its way.

Five days of sporting drama is tough on the nerves. Just ask any Test cricketer. Just ask the fans. Those supporters who normally thrive on pressure have chomped fingernails down to the core just watching the Ashes; and all because England are locked in combat with The Old Enemy for possession of a six inch terracotta urn. Who wants a glitzy, ribbon-decorated trophy, anyway, when you’re playing for over 115 years of history? In terms of winning, it doesn’t get more momentous than that.

The story of the Ashes is crammed with controversy, gamesmanship and legend. Cricket fans are under no illusion that no other sporting event is as keenly contested. For controversy, what better example is there than the notorious Bodyline series in the early 1930’s? Talk about a real-life battle scenario! Deliberate bowling hostility towards the batsmen in a blatant display of masculine intimidation. Biff! Take that, Aussies!

Gamesmanship? In one word – sledging. Quite within the rules (or at least the umpires let it be so), and the Aussies revel in it. Newcomers to the crease have wobbled under a barrage of close to the bone remarks and vicious banter. Legendary Australian Steve Waugh called it ‘mental disintegration.’ He should know – he was the master at it.

And legend. How many of the Ashes stories we hear are true? Did Shane Warne really say that to Andrew Strauss in 2006? Did Freddie Flintoff actually do what was reported when he met Tony Blair after the Ashes celebrations in 2005? And did David Boon – “Boony” or “The Keg on Legs” to his mates – really consume 52 beers on the flight from Sydney to London before the 1989 Ashes series? Maybe only they know. Perhaps it’s best if we, the public, don’t know.

That the Ashes is legendary simply as a sporting contest is not in question. Even non-cricketers – who think of cricket bats as “sticks” – respect the relationship us cricket-loving Pommies have with the Ashes. Maybe – just maybe – the only sporting contest between England and another nation that can come close to the Ashes is England versus Germany at football. But even then a football match is over in ninety minutes and lacks the “plays within plays” that give Test cricket its theatre-like appeal.

What the Ashes essentially boils down to is relatively simple: years of unbridled competition between two proud nations of unquestionably contrasting styles; the straight-faced, slightly bashful Pommies laced with a few dark horses in their flock, against the Baggy Greens – mightily confident, apologetically brash, and blessed with flair. As the oldest rivalry in international sport, the Ashes simply has it all.

So is the Ashes still the pinnacle of cricket? To answer a question like that we have to consider if it was previously. It’s fair to say most people would agree that, in terms of quality, frenzied expectation and the sheer sporting occasion of it all, the Ashes is cricket’s unparalleled zenith, and the trend shows no sign of wavering.

For the players, well, the Aussies pride themselves on raising their game in an Ashes series – particularly when their sweaty backs are against the wall. They tend to play their best game when we have them on the rack. In no other international series do our Antipodean foes want to prove themselves to their captain, their selectors, the fans and their country. For the English, what better than beating Australia? We can praise our players who perform well on a tour to the sub continent, or when we win in the West Indies. But to beat Australia – even if we haven’t played particularly that well – is really as good as it gets.

One-day internationals and Twenty20 cricket have a place in the sporting calendar, for sure. For both the booze-guzzling crowds as well as for the scorebook-laden purists, these two genres look set in stone. They are essentially cut from the same cloth as Test cricket, but tapered and embroidered to ensure a comfy fit. But for the whole package – from the high-jinked jamborees on Headingley’s Western Terrace to the more sedated members lounging under the Pavilion at Lord’s – England versus Australia remains the very best there is; the cherry on the cricket tea cake…cricket’s very own Golden Fleece.

Tim goes to bar to get another round in. When he returns, he plonks on the table two pints of fizzy lager.

‘I’ve been thinking,’ he says.

‘About what?’

‘The friendly footie match on Saturday.’

‘What about it?’

A peculiar grin dances across his face. ‘I was thinking – I might just watch the cricket instead.’

by Guest Writer Lager.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Pillar box and flowers in Hovingham, Yorkshire.
"I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we've struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people. We've made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions." - Barack Obama
Did you hear about the owl who proposed on the internet? It was the tweet to woo.

Friday, August 14, 2009

5-year-old Girl goes Fishing

Catches a tiddler with her bare hands.

Guest Writers Wanted

"If anyone fancies their hand at a spot of writing, I'm looking for reviews (books, cinema, art, restaurants, albums, gigs) to pad out the blog, send them to my e-mail address and I'll post them up."

I put this up on facebook this week, and so far I have had two volunteers to contribute to Yorkshire Soul, and they are an American and a Lancastrian ! Should anyone else, and especially more Tykes, wish to get involved, mail to the usual address please.
Film Review - Public Enemies**

Dear reader, before I kick off this review, let me urge you to take on board one thing. If you are planning to see this film Do NOT under any circumstances go up to the counter and ask for tickets to see "Pubic Enemies". Big G and I had giggled about that so much while waiting in the queue that it was inevitable! Ahem.

Set in the 1930s, in the booming age of crime, this film focuses on the battle between notorious bank robber John Dillinger (Johnny Depp) and a new FBI department dedicated to ending his reign of terror, headed up by Melvin Purvis (Christian "Batman" Bale). Now apart from the fact that it's highly unlikely that anyone called Melvin is likely to inspire horror in a hardened criminal, Dillinger is a smart cookie, who boasts of being able to go through a bank "in about a minute", and so his chances of capture are small. In contrast to his fellow robbers Pretty Boy Floyd and others, Dillinger is a popular figure, loved by the people for knocking off big business and not touching a penny of the common people (well except what he gets out of the vaults ....). The changing face of bank robbery is also explored - Dillinger's peers are less wary of killing people who get in their way which grates with our "hero".

I have to say that this was - for me - a bit of a let down. The trailer suggested constant action and daring stunts, yet the plot was pretty slow moving in truth, and a lot of the scenes were very sluggishly paced. Depp is always watchable, though in this he plays the role in a fairly bland manner. He's best known for his edgy portrayals of outlandish characters like Jack Sparrow, Edward Scissorhands and Sweeney Todd, so this was something of a disappointing role. Christian Bale also did not set the screen alight for me - after his damp squib performance in Terminator, he desperately needs another Batman film to get him back on top form!!

Despite the film's inordinate length (well it seemed to go on for ever), it's a fairly short review, friends; it just didn't rock my world in any way and offering very little in the way of memorable scenes or dialogue. Disappointing!

The highlight of the film was the very old couple who turned up right at the start of the film. The man clearly had a hearing aid - switched off - and his wife kept shouting at him during the film. Right near the end you could hear her say "ARE YOU ASLEEP????" and then as the credits rolled we had the immortal "OI, WAKE UP, IT'S NEARLY MIDNIGHT AND I WANT TO GET HOME"!!

- by guest writer Dr. P

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Fatal Floor (1974) - UK Public Information Film

Oh dear, the dark water one gave me nightmares, but this one just seems silly despite its message.

Dark And Lonely Water

I was six when this public information film was first aired, it made quite an impression on me, I could still remember most of it before seeing it again.

Album Review : Invaders Must Die - The Prodigy****

For Fans Of : Ministry, Skinny Puppy, Pendulum, Revolting Cocks

The best Prodigy album yet ? As with Placebo, The Prodigy have been a band that manage a few really stunning tracks on each of their albums (Firestarter, Breath, Spitfire etc) but always seem to run out of enthusiam and energy and end up padding their long player's out with some rather obvious b-side material.

Invaders Must Die then gets off to a much better start than most of their output by stringing together six dance metal floor filling mosh pit whirling songs in a row, big bouncy beats coupled with hard and heavy rythyms drag you through the first half of the album in an ecstatic headrush. Omen, Colours, Thunder, Take Me To The Hospital and the title track are all bona fide Prodigy classics, they're infectious and rabble rousing, play them loud and you want to jump around and break stuff.

The album stumbles a little in the second half where most of the tracks seem a little duller, without quite the same manic and strident edge to them, only the emminently daft but still very likeable Piranha really stands out, Run with The Wolves and World's On Fire are a little tedious, and the closing piece Stand Up sounds like a bad action sci-fi movie closing credits piece.

Half the album then, completely stunning, the other half, sort of alright, but it for the first half then, seven awesome tracks from eleven is a decent return.

No matter how many pics of 'hard looking' rock bands or psuedo scary black metallers I see, I still think Keith Flint c.Firestarter is the most dangerous looking man in music. Look at those eyes, mad, mad I tell you.

By Parsnip at b3ta.

By Parsnip at b3ta.

By Barryheadwound at b3ta.

By Happytoast at b3ta.

By Joe Scaramanga at b3ta, they're doing a politics challenge over there so I may repost a few of the better ones.
Album Review : Battle For The Sun - Placebo***

For Fans Of : Muse, Radiohead, Kasabian, My Chemical Romance

Placebo have always been a band that along their career, with the exception of Black Market Music, have produced decent albums each with one or two killer tracks - Nancy Boy, Pure Morning, Brick Shithouse, The Bitter End etc. Black Market Music on the other hand was an album mostly filled with great songs and only a couple of fillers.

Perversely, Battle For The Sun contains better quality songs than Meds or Sleeping With Ghosts, all are pretty good but there doesn't seem to be a stand out epic track. Placebo are now on an independent label, with a new drummer, and BFTS has a more aggressive sound than their previous albums.

The anthemic title track is almost the killer song, but weakened slightly by the lyrical repetition within the song, it also sounds like Molko would benefit Placebo's sound by allowing backing vocals on some of the big chorus chorus numbers to enrich his own slightly plaintive vocal style. Molko also seems to suffer from a lack of lyrical clarity and focus, a song like Black Eyed was an obvious and heart felt emo anthem, the vignettes of Nancy Boy and Commercial For Levi were easy to get your head around, but what are Battle For The Sun, For What It's Worth and Devil In The Details all about ? Perhaps as a mature artist with a growing family Molko no longer finds it easy to pen his tales of loneliness and disaffection.

Strong guitars dominate BFTS and it is nice to have Placebo back as an out and out rock band after the sometimes uninspired dull plodding of Meds and Sleeping With Ghosts. I love Placebo, but this album leaves me feeling like many of the albums have done, quite good, and I enjoyed it, but it really should have been better.
Album Review : Common Dreads - Enter Shikari****

For Fans Of : The Prodigy, Alexisonfire, Faith No More, Linkin Park

Enter Shikari's debut album Take To The Skies proved that only people with a decent knowledge of music should be able to write about music, half the rock press (and Kerrang especially) were beside themselves at the emergence of this 'totally new genre - dance/rave metal'. Yes, because if you ignore Faith No More, Pendulum, Ministry, Skinny Puppy and The Prodigy (amongst many others), then dance metal is an entirely new genre. Or on the other hand, perhaps it's just a guitar band with added keyboards.

For me, Take To The Skies showed promise, it was interesting without being awesome, the lyrics in places were indifferent and in between the good songs there was too much self indulgent noodling. Common Dreads is a very different animal. Musically Enter Shikari have melded their guitars and keyboards for a more coherent style on their second album, on TTTS they seemed to be striving towards in individual sound, on Common Dreads they have found their niche.

Their sound has a passing resemblance to Faith No More meets The Streets with lyrics now informed by Muse via Rage Against The Machine, Enter Shikari have become the angry young men of the crossover metal scene, the lords of the dance singing their way to social revolution.

Common Dreads is a tight and ferocious album, from the deceptively gentle opening clarion call of Common Dreads with it's call to rebellion, through the near chaos of the frenetic Zzonked and Havok B to the closing number Fanfare For The Conscious Mind there is no mistaking Enter Shikari's dedication to both good rock music and to liberal political causes.

"Our gracious Queen should grasp her crown,
and take a good fucking swing at Blair and Brown,
for leading her country into illegal warfare,
and trying to pass it off that we're doing it 'cos we care."

Singer Roughton Reynolds seems to be channeling the spirit of Zack De La Rocha, and although I can't help thinking that in places he sounds rather like Mike Skinner, it is on the whole an invigorating and uplifting success. Politics on the dance floor, rave and brawl with chants fomenting insurrection, the St. Albans four to pick up where RATM left off, it sounds unlikely but works beautifully.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Album Review : Notes And Rhymes - The Proclaimers****

For Fans Of : Simon & Garfunkel, Deacon Blue, The Decemberists, Johnny Cash

Sadly to some, this excellent Scottish folk/rock/pop act will be forever tagged as a novelty act due to the popularity of one song, I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) became the song that shot them to fame and has since been used for film scores and charity comedy singles.

On their own terms though, Charlie and Craig Reid have continued to produce albums filled with great songs and big themes, love, loss, war and the existence of God are the sort of things that drive the twins to express themselves. The Proclaimers previous album, Life With You, is well worth getting hold of, or failing that, just download the song Here It Comes Again for it's considered and mature response to the misogynistic rap music that often blocks up the charts.

Notes And Rhymes isn't quite as strong as its predecessor, but there are still some aural gems here for the taking. The album gets off to a strong start with the eponymous opening track kicking in like a 50's rock and roll number with jangling guitars and then the twins trademark vocal harmonies carrying this bouncy number along. Love Can Move Mountains is a real high point, beautiful vocals on a soaring balled and the country styled It Was So Easy To Find An Unhappy Woman is both witty and poignant as well as being a good song.

The Proclaimers like to tackle serious issues as well, on I Know they cleverly use the same verse twice to express admiration for a soldier and then fear of a terrorist and then go on to express the futility of hoping for the end of war, it's a big topic well handled, but musically not the strongest song on the album. The attack on modern mores and values and the power of big business in Free Market is a strong number, a caustic evaluation of what the banks (and others) have done for us recently.

Overall the album is pretty good, the twins have distinctive voices and (thankfully) have never tried to sing in a foreign accent, their brand of modern folk rock is good listening and they don't shy away from difficult subjects, and often describe these topics with an admirable lack of triteness, not a truly great album, but still a rather good one.

Monday, August 10, 2009

This Week's Listening

1 Monster Magnet 76 - I'm curled up in my flame pit
2 Spinnerette 61 - the ex-wife....
3 Rancid 57 - ....the ex-husband
4 New Model Army 50 - I'd vote for Justin Sullivan
5 The Prodigy 49 - Take me to the hospital, via the dance floor
6 Enter Shikari 48 - Take me to the revolution, via the rave
7 W.A.S.P. 46 - Take me to Doktor Rokktor
8 Rammstein 45 - 1,2,3, BOOM
9 New York Dolls 39 - Trash ? I won't pick it up
9 Pink Floyd 39 - It was dark all around
Fired On Facebook

Why is it that people seem to think that things they write on the internet are not taken seriously by other people ? The foolish girl in this instance gets her comeuppance (or pwnd if you prefer) by her justly angered employer.

(Thanks to Mr. Moosehead)

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Nearly A Book Review : To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee*****

Another book to cross off on my classics list, and I absolutely loved To Kill A Mockingbird. Everything about the novel is rich and sumpteous, the main characters are wonderfully drawn, and the town and its inhabitants as seen through the eyes of Scout Finch are lifelike and believable.

Atticus Finch is a towering hero, calm, intelligent, kind, compassionate, loving in his own way, strong willed but mostly softly spoken, he really is one of the very best literary creatiions.

It is a great story, brilliantly told through the eyes of the child Scout, and it takes on some big themes, the loss of innocence, racism, moral and unwritten laws, courage in the face of adversity. The novel manages to maintain an air of impending menace whilst at the same time allowing the reader into the private imaginary world of children.

It really is a shame that like fellow novelist J D Salinger, Lee did not write another novel after TKAM was published in 1960, but I suppose if you're are only going to write one thing, then writing something as fantastic as this would be your best legacy.
Anarchy In The UK

So said today's newspaper headlines as it was revealed that Gordon Brown, Harriet Harman and 'Lord Of Darkness' Peter mandelson were all on holiday and nobody was actually running the country.

Millions of UK citizens were heard to say "Thank God for that, now we might actually get something done."

Looming in the not so distant futute is the chance to give Brown, Harman et al the chance to have an extended holiday for a period of four years or more when the General Election finally takes place.

Then David Cameron can take over.

Where are those Bolivian immigration forms I sent for ?
Cricket, I'm Not Talking Cricket

No, I have my fingers in my ears so I can't hear the Australians, nyah nyah nyah.

Friday, August 07, 2009

The Incredible Helicopter Shot

Can you see it ? Two of them flew quite close to me, but I got my camera straps all tangled up, then didn't take the lens cap off, then didn't switch the camera on. It's harder than it looks this military photography you know.

And no, I don't know what sort it was, it was big and green and very, very noisy.
Bombus Lapidarius

Or, the Red Tailed Bumble Bee, Stone Humble Bee or the Large Red Tailed Humble Bee.

Humble bees and chimbleys, I like the sound of the old spellings.

Bumble or Humble, it was more difficult to get a good shot than I would have thought, set the camera to close up and the insect just kept moving around, with such a shallow depth of field I managed about out of focus shots of the bee and the flowers, and just this one with the bee in focus.

Mind you, if that sounds bad just wait for my incredible RAF helicopter shot.
Twitter - 21st Century Telephone Box For Prostitutes

I get one or two of these in my Twitter inbox every week.....

"GabrilleReyes is now following you on Twitter"

Well she clearly is not, because I hardly ever use Twitter, I cannot really see the point of it, it performs the same function as the Facebook headline without doing anything else, pretty useless really.

Gabrielle's Twitter profile reads as follows "Hey guys, thanks for viewing my profile. I'm looking for no-strings-attached-sex." Although it doesn't show a scale of charges, I'm pretty sure that Gabrielle is actually a working girl, her photograph is a torso shot in which she wears an orange feather boa and nothing else. I mean, it would do my ego no end of good if I thought that almost naked feather boa wearing young ladies were actually searching the interweb looking for portly, bearded, middle aged blokes to have "no strings attached" sex with, but they are not, not for free anyway.

Myspace seemed to have devolved into this sort of sex/porn advertising (does anyone still use MySpace ?) but Facebook still seems relatively free of it, although I'm quite certain that an "Are You A Fan Of No Strings Attached Sex ?" group exists, and that if I trawled through my endless list of invites someone has actually asked me to join.

So sorry Gabrielle, you're on the blocked list, and I might even delete my Twitter account.
We Said No To The Big New Tesco

I would like to express my objection to this application. I believe that the massive buying power and the ability to sell products at prices that no independent trader can hope to compete with will result in the loss of more of Ilkley's small traders and the skills and jobs that go with them.

Tesco have a well documented history of anti-competition strategy and we should do all we can to ensure that other business in Ilkley can be allowed to trade in a fair manner. By Tesco's own figures thy are seeking to take £5.7m from other business in Ilkley, this will result in the closure of many other shops and will leave Ilkley with less choice and amenities.

"Dear Sir/Madam

Application Decision

Construction of replacement Tesco Class A1 food store with car parking, landscaping and associated works at Land At Railway Road And Mayfield Road Ilkley West Yorkshire LS29 8JB

Thank you for your letter regarding the above application. I am writing to advise you that Planning Permission was refused on 06.08.2009.

The decision notice can be viewed on the Council's website at Alternatively should you wish to receive details of the reason(s) for refusal please forward the attached slip to the above address.

Yours faithfully
Fiona Tiplady

It is only a temporary victory, despite being knocked back twice now, Tesco hyper-global big-brother inc. are already said to be considering an appeal.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Walking Yorkshire - Trollers Gill & Grimwith

I'm only just fit to be out on my own you know, I had planned to walk along the Wharfe from Barden Tower today, but as I drove along in the sunshine, happily sining along to the new Rancid album, it occured to me that I had missed the turning for Barden Bridge some miles back and I was now most of the way to Burnsall.

That's fine, I'm a free spirit, so plan b would be to park up at Burnsall and walk from there, but the sight of hundreds of folk strolling along the river's edge put me right off so I drove on and up to the lonely (-ish) moors at Appletreewick Pasture and parked on the roadside there.

Cows, with calves, inquisitive and a bit dozy, these ones were safely on the other side of a wall, but at the end of my day's hiking I had to shoo away a small herd of cattle which ambled across the field I was walking through. You don't really want umpteen tons of mobile beef getting all that close to you.

The entrance to the old lead mines at Gill Heads, the tunnel beyond was accessible but didn't look any too safe.

The entrance to Trollers Gill. MY knee has been a bit dodgy after my accident earlier this year, so where would I choose to go walking ? This rubble strewn dried stream bed with more unusual angles than an Escher painting, the knee held up though and even survived a couple of small slips and twists.

This barn stands above Grimwith Reservoir to the East. The sun was beating down now, I had liberally applied sun cream but being rather out of shape I managed to sweat it all back off almost instantly, thus I'm now lobstered down one side, my right leg is a similar colour to that of a boiled crab.

Reflections in the pool where Grimwith Beck meets the reservoir. That was a nice day's walking, I love living up here, it'd be bloody awful to live in a big city.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Taxpayers To Fund Gap Year

The Government, in its almost limitless wisdom, has decided that because many graduate students are finding it hard to get a job in the current economic climate, that they (and that is 'they' as in in 'we') will fund students to take an extra gap year abroad before they try to join the rest of us in earning an actual wage, paying taxes and keeping the country running.

The students will undertake projects such as building schools with the company Raleigh International.

I object to this on two main points. The first is that only 500 students are being taken on these projects at a total funding of £500,000 which makes the project a headline grabber for the Government, it makes it appear on a superficial reading of the topic as if the Government is doing something serious about graduate unemployment. Half a million pounds though is a relatively small sum of money, and targeting 500 people is not going to do much about graduate unemployment at all.

The students will have to pay for there own flights, vaccines and raise £1,000 , the Government will then provide a £1,000 grant. Now I don't know very much about Raleigh International's work, but a number of my staff have been on foreign expeditions with World Challenge. They do a lot of fundraising to go on these sort of trips and you could be fooled into thinking that your donated money will be put to excellent use in building schools, providing children with teaching experience, undertaking valuable projects in the countries they visit. The truth though is that out of a two or three week mission the time spent on projects is minimal, the rest of the trip is just an adventure holiday.

Now, I think it is an excellent idea for young people to have a good time in foreign countries, to experience other cultures and perhaps change their own views of the world, but some of these trips are promoted to potential sponsors as if they they are wholly charitable expeditions and largely this is not the case. I know of some parents who have refused to send their children on World Challenge expeditions because they feel that the amount of money required (which may well be £2-3000 for one person) is not on the whole put to good use in the country visited.

If you do want to work abroad, there are many charities who will find you accommodation in return for doing charitable work. One of my friends travels to Romania to work in an orphanage for disabled children, on this project the foreign volunteers work full working weeks for the duration of their visit, not the 'four days in six weeks' that I have heard quoted as the entire amount of effort put in on a World Challenge visit.

Last year at Tesco one of our local rugby teams were bag packing to collect money to send them to play in Dubai. Again, I'm all for youth sport, I will happily donate money for the general funding of youth sport, for kit, for new clubhouses/grounds etc. But why on earth should I donate money for children to go on an expensive holiday to the Middle East ? On the same day, the RAF collectors were standing outside with their tins collecting for servicemen injured in the line of duty, they got a fiver.

As an employer, would I consider that taking part in one of these expeditions makes a person better rounded and a better employee when sorting through job applications ? Well personally I would, but I do have a rather liberal/hippy/socialist attitude towards these sort of things, I'm not sure that all employers think along the same lines. Also, having done a little research into these companies, I would prefer a graduate who had undertaken their own gap year project (some of my staff have taught English in Thailand for example) rather than taking the easy route of signing up with what is in effect a holiday company.

Why not then use the money being set aside for these foreign holiday/projects for charitable or community work here in the UK. There are loads of things students could be doing here, without the costs of flights and foreign accommodation. There are hundreds of charitable projects all over the country which would benefit from a bit of graduate manpower. Just phone the RSPB or the Woodland Trust or the National Trust and ask them what they need doing, find a charity that you are interested in the work of and volunteer for them, it isn't hard to organise, and won't cost loads of money. Graduates could live at home and still be out working for the community, learning valuable skills and teamwork, just with less taxpayer's money spent.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Art Of Leo Hao

This is the work of Russian fantasy/sci-fi artist and illustrator Leo Hao, you can see more galleries of his work by clicking here.


I have added another Blogger widget to the blog, there are now reaction buttons below each post so that if you want to indicate that you like or do not like a post, but don't want to comment, you can just click a button.

At the moment they are set to 'more like this' or 'less like this', but the number of buttons is not limited to two, so if you want to suggest changes to the buttons fire away.
Working Man

A couple of the regulars have pointed out that I have not been writing many articles on work and cooking this year (not to mention the quiz), yes, guilty as charged. I havn't found work to be as amusing to write about at the moment. Earlier in the year I had to fire three staff as a result of accidentally contravening employment rules and three of the other part time staff had to be put on massively cut down hours.

I threw myself into work, it was my fault so I didn't want to lose any more staff, so we took on one one more waitress and everyone else worked really hard to ensure that the the other three could have their part time jobs back when they reached the legal age limit. Since April I've managed two full days off, about 4 shifts away from work, I managed a 71 hour week last week, and that was the lowest hour working week I've done since the last week in April.

Two weeks ago I thought we had turned the corner, we had enough staff and I was starting to plan some days off, then one of the girls whom I had spent months training up to be able to cook and therefore cover some nights off for me, decided she didn't want to cook anymore and just wanted to go back to being a waitress. So on the cooking front, I'm back to having just enough staff to do the work, but no slack to get much time off.

There have been no 'Walking Yorkshire' posts for months either, obviously due to the fact that I have not had any time to go walking, but also that my back has been a real trouble to me this year (but my wonderful physio Candice keeps putting me back together), plus I had a nasty accident at work two months ago and injured my left knee, this is mostly mended but does give me some pain after very long shifts.

Anyway, all that heap of moaning aside, this week at work is rather quiet so chef Phil won't be seeing much of me, I'll be strapping on my boots, hoping the back/knee/shoulders/elbows etc hold up, and heading out on to the moors and hills. You can expect the usual pics of sheep - dry stone walls - trees - rain etc., and by Friday I should have cheered up a bit.

At the end of the month we are hopefully getting away for a few days, Mrs YS has some relatives just outside Rome, so we are going to grab a few days of Italian sunshine and German/Italian hospitality, woo and yay !

Monday, August 03, 2009

Unsupported Breasts Can Bounce Up To 14cm

This is a very serious website containing valuable information for women about wearing the correct sort of supportive bra for sport, and obviously should not be used by silly men who just want to see what a 44DD woman looks like when jogging in the nude.
Last Week's Listening

1 Rancid 82 - Just another East Bay night
2 Monster Magnet 67 - Come on down to the hotel baby
3 Girlschool 52 - 999 Emergency !
4 Howard Shore 50 - classical music for Hobbits
5 Enter Shikari 45 - We ain't taking orders from snakes no more
5 Nellie McKay 45 - We'll have a house in Tipperary
7 New York Dolls 44 - Babbling on and on
8 SPiT LiKE THiS 40 - Sex, Drugs and Heavy Metal is all I want
8 The Proclaimers 40 - Love can move mountains
10 Faith No More 34 - We care a lot

Sunday, August 02, 2009

I was searching for a woo yay gif to illustrate the post below, but this didn't seem quite appropriate, but it made me laugh.
Ben Wins Gold

A very big woo and yay indeed !

A few months ago a notice went up on the golf club board saying that club member Ben Horner would be entering the golf competition at this year's Leicester 2009 Special Olympics.

Well he's only gone and won the gold medal ! Ben came into the club today and was proudly wearing his Gold Olympic Medal, well done that man.
Who Fans In Irony Fail

Milly reports that when she attended a gig by The Who last year where the support came from Irish classic rockers The Answer, some Who fans were barracking the support band and criticising their musical style by yelling "It isn't the 70's you know."
Irish Stew In The Name Of The Law

Let's say you have a bit of wild night out, you get a bit drunk, you have a bit of a verbal argument with another bloke in the street, no punches are thrown but it all gets a bit lairy, insults are exchanged, there is some swearing, and then afterwards, the doorman on the the nightclub that you have just staggered out of hands you a ticket.

The ticket is a spot fine for being drunk and disorderly, fully back by new legal powers that the government have created which will further erode the power of and trust in our police force, which will further erode our civil liberties, and which may well put legal powers in the hands of people that frankly speaking you'd rather did not have this sort of legal power over you.

Accredited individuals, who may be 'community figures' such as traffic wardens, bouncers and private security guards, now have the right to access the Police National Computer system and run a criminal records check on you if they suspect that you have broken the law, and then may issue on the spot fines for a range of offences. Yes folks, that's right, bouncers and private security guards will now be allowed to delve into your most sensitive personal details.

Now I'm sure that there are very many decent, honest and upstanding bouncers around the country, but, having attended hundreds of gigs and dozens of venues, I can honestly report that there are quite a lot of shaven headed, knuckle dragging, violence prone thrill seekers working as security as well. I have a lot of trust in the police, they are well trained and receive continuous on the job training and monitoring. Bouncers though, just how much training are they going to get, it won't be enough, no matter how much training they receive they are never going to have the skills and aptitude of a police officer.

Perhaps ever more importantly, these people will not command the respect that police officers still do. Now I know that the police have to take a lot of crap from idiots on the street, like teachers, firemen and public health workers they are at the brunt of a general decline in respect for authority figures. But who really likes traffic wardens to begin with ? So if a traffic warden strides up to a group of youths who are drinking on the street, and he issues them with a spot fine for littering for the pizza boxes they have chucked in the gutter, does anyone really think that these sort of louts with respect him and his actions ? Or will the poor warden spend the rest of the night in hospital, or worse.

Bouncers, or in this politically correct age perhaps I should refer to them as Door Supervisors, but they're still bouncers so I won't, command even less respect, what they command is fear.

I think people should have a very real feeling of distrust about this scheme, it is easy to imagine where it can go wrong with unscrupulous 'accredited community figures' being able to shake down drunks and pull their criminal records in order to harass or blackmail them.

When you talk to a police officer you are aware that the uniform means something, it is a powerful symbol of the law and it is a crime in itself to pretend to be an officer of the law, the doormen and gig staff that now have powers to spot fine you might be wearing "a t-shirt emblazoned with a logo indicating they are authorised by the police to issue the tickets". I bet you can buy them from E-bay already. Will it then become a crime to wear a t-shirt proclaiming that you are an 'accredited community figure" ?

This country does not need an ill thought out and partially trained third tier police force, we should have a well funded, honest, well trained and just law enforcement organisation (which I believe, certainly on the latter three points, we mostly have), we do not need, and the Police themselves do not need, this dilution of their power and respect.

And my headline for this piece ? Well, you never know, they might extend the scheme to chefs.