Monday, 31 December 2007

The Best of 2007

The Best....

Day: Visiting Denmark or perhaps meeting my new Bloom partner for the first time
Feeling: Having a purpose - finally
New person: Satara
Old person returned: Laura
Blog Post: ooh - they've all been so good - I liked my tribute to my Grandpa, and Saturdaysand I liked explaining Englishness through lard. But all of my posts have been works of genius to be honest with you.
Other Blog: It's close, but I must pay tribute to Tangential Ramblings for starting me off on this crazy journey
New song heard: The End, Nancy Sinatra or Numb / Encore by Jay Z & Linkin Park
New song: Release Me, by Laura or Foundations by Kate Nash
New album heard: Favourite Worst Nightmare, Arctic Monkeys
New album: Costello Music, The Fratellis
Best running music: 99 problems by Jay Z or Con te partiro by Andrea Bocelli
Song from TV: Business Time from Flight of the Conchords
TV programme: Big Brother and Californication
Comedy: Flight of the Conchords
Best sporting moment: Rugby World Cup. All of it. And beating Chelscum in the Champions League. Again.
Distinguished Achievement Award: Paul McCartney. For I love him still (see below).
Read of the Year: The Saturday Guardian
Journalist of the Year: Robert Crampton or Daniel Finkelstein
Best book: Kite Runner
Non fiction:Meaning Inc
Radio Station: Radio 5 Live
Sports star: Andrew Sheridan

Views of Christmas 2007

A lovely Danish forest

Magnificent London - Tower Bridge

Pretty Crimbo lights at Sloane Square

Home - Liverpool - Georgian splendour with earthy pragmatism and liberal helpings of genius. And some cars.

Heaven - Anfield - same thing

My Gran - Xmas Day - WHATEVVA

Sunday, 30 December 2007

Rotation Policy

Rafa Benitez has this year come under severe criticism for his rotation policy, whereby he rests players from one game to next seemingly irrespective of the form they are in.

I have just replaced my old Liverpool FC calendar, saying goodbye to Dirk Kujt, Liverpool's Dutch striker, and man of December.

My new calendar is now up in its place (I couldn't wait). And guess who is Mr January? That's right, Dirk Kujt.

Is this a subliminal message that Rafa will be rotating less this year and keeping the same team from one month to the next?

Saturday, 29 December 2007

Thank you letters

Do any of today's ungrateful little shits say thank you any more? None of my little cousins do, the turds. Does anyone?

An article in yesterday's Times suggests that some do, though it is a struggle. I nearly peed my pants when the author persuaded her son to write his laborious thanks and gave him a formula to follow: “Thank you very much for the (blank). I like it very much.”

His aunt reported back that his card to her read, “Thank you very much for the £10. I like it very much.”

Thursday, 27 December 2007


Back in the 'pool. Went the match. Reds won 4-1. Had a pint with an old Scouser in a pub. Cost about a quid. Saw the folks. Talked about the neighbours caravan (really). Felt the urge to run back to London within about 5 minutes.

The problem with running from something is that it's not authentic. I fear ending up being back in Liverpool, but in the Liverpool of the early 1980s when unemployment was rife, my parents were screaming at each other and I was writing shit poetry about Claire Williams in my room.

But there isn't any chance of that (not the shit poetry - there's every chance of that). What I need to do is understand what role Liverpool plays in the narrative of my life, and acknowledge it.

My Mum was telling me a story about working in the libraries in Merseyside and Cheshire - places of great polarised wealth and opportunity. (Not the libraries so much as the counties). Bear with me on this one.

She was talking about serving the public and everyone was commenting on what a pain it must be. And I made a joke about some of the old bats that come in and say 'Gorrany Catherine Cooookson?' in a big Scouse accent, (cos I used to work there too and I met them). And my Mum laughed but then said 'Yes but I'd prefer them to the posh rude ones' and told us about a middle class woman who refused to pay her fine and was all rude.

And there it is. That's the bit of Liverpool's narrative that stays with me. I'd prefer that too, like my Mum. I'm on the side of the poor ones, the ones who'd give you a cup of tea with their last tea bag. The ones who like Catherine Cooookson.

I don't want wealth if it means I've done nothing in my life to help the underdog. I'm on their side, like it or not. It is part of my narrative, part of me.

And if that doesn't stay with me meaningfully throughout life, if I don't struggle to do something about it, then I've failed utterly.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Happy Christmas

So, I am off to Liverpool tomorrow, 'home' for Christmas. I'm going to see Liverpool play Portsmouth and then seeing my Mum and everyone and it will be good.

I love getting the train home to Liverpool. I love the guys who crack open the ales with a glint in their eye just outside Euston. I love the ones who sit near the toilets because it's inevitably packed out. I think they'd sit there anyway, complaining about British Rail even if it was empty. I love the north. I love Liverpool.

And once more I'll be going home as a sort of child-man. No family, not even a job at the moment; I'll get picked up at the station by my Step dad like I was 18 years ago. And I'll expect my Mum to cook for me and I'll barely lift a finger, I'll treat it like a holiday as though I don't know how much work goes into Christmas.

And I know my Mum won't even mind, and everyone will just be pleased to see me, to have me there, home. And I want to tell them how grateful I am, for everything.

Once again I won't.

But I am.

Happy Christmas everyone, back on 27th.

Christmas 2007

So, where have we got to? What is the world like this Christmas? In Britain it depends on what sort of mood you're in. I could easily argue that this nation has never had it so good. Decades of continuous growth. Rich. Free. Diverse. Meritocratic as never before.

Yet at the same time, I do sense a growing sense of unease at our health system, the way the major government departments are run, the sense of lawlessness despite falling crime. We are increasingly unequal. Are we happy? Not if the collective self loathing that is celebrity culture is anything to go by.

Maybe this confusion is just my own experience writ large. I found no meaning in my highly paid, secure comfortable job, yet the challenge of doing something I'll be proud of leaves me prone to depression and isolation.

The best conclusion I can reach for myself is that I am at least trying to do something different. It feels like a brave decision. Psychology shows that people don't regret brave decisions, but I'm not sure in my case.

Life's so complicated sometimes that the best conclusion is that if you're really thinking about your life and doing your best to reach your carefully selected goals then that's all you can do. Finally, I suppose I can say I am.

Are you?

Fairytale of New York

Dan phone me briefly to ask me to comment on why Fairytale of New York (FoNY) is in fact the greatest Christmas song of all.

I don't believe that it's because the exquisite Kirsty MacColl is dead, though that is sad, or because we have to like the Irish, which I do.


It's to do with contrasts, and our need for them. Humans are, by and large driven by the need for homeostasis; when we have a lot of something, we crave to balance this. I think this extends to emotions. We seek authenticity, not just happy thoughts.

FoNY is a song of contrasts, encapsulating this need for balance and authenticity on a number of levels. It's about love, but also love's close relationship to hate. Despite all that's said, I built my dreams around you. It's about the perfection of Christmas, but a flawed perfection - none of us experiences Christmas as perfect - indeed often the reverse. But isn't that the deal? And this is reflected by the bittersweet contrast between the voices (MacColl can sing, Macgowan can't).

It's also set in New York, the most Christmassy city on earth and itself a city of contrasts. It offers us snapshots of Christmas - the NYPD choir - which is how we remember Christmas; not whole, but in snippets and scenes. Oh, and its soaring, magnificent chorus is Macgowan at his very best, and Macgowan is a songwriting genius.

FoNY sees Christmas for what it really is. Imperfect. We are not simply having a wonderful Christmas time. But it also says that there is a majesty to Christmas that frames and magnifies the human experience. That is what makes FoNY that rarest of songs; authentic and honest.

When I listen to it properly, it makes me sad in the most happy way imaginable.

The same is not true of Dan's other choice All I want for Christmas is You.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Numbers 1 - 20

These should be the easiest, for everyone has some long-held ambitions:
1. Live in America for at least a year
2. Own a dog - let's go mad and say a Collie or German Shepherd. Or a big soppy mongrel from the streets
3. Run a marathon in 3:15
4. Run an extreme marathon
5. Do a job I genuinely love which is varied, which I can largely control and which actually helps people in a way I can live with
6. Identify a charitable cause and devote serious time and money to it
7. Be silly as often as possible, and devote myself seriously to the pursuit of silliness
8. Play in a band covering Beatles songs at least once. Even if I have to be Ringo.
9. Start my own business (see 5, but not necessarily the same)
10. Witness a Test Match in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka (this replaces previous 'play in a test match....'sadly I think my time may have gone)
11. Go to a baseball game
12. Never weigh more than 13 and a half stone
13. Work with / employ great people with great big brains, like this: BIG.
14. Remain friends with people better than I have done so far. I like knowing people for a long time and the feeling of loyalty.
15. See Radiohead play in my local park next Summer.
16. To write one published book.
17. Live in a barn conversion with all modern furniture and nice taps.
18. See Liverpool win the Premiership.
19. To go to Iceland and stay in that ice hotel.
20. Speak a foreign language fluently.

Monday, 17 December 2007


How important is meaning at work? What I mean by meaning is a sense of purpose; that what you do is important, and that the organisation you work for is doing something inherently meaningful.


I laughed at this and then realised it's probably more interesting than Facebook.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Life lists

I do love a good list. I love making them, for they bring order. I love reading them, for they bring reassurance. I love studying them too, and think the psychology of list-making is fascinating. I practically kiss myself when I cross something off them. If I could bathe in lists I would. And I would tenderly nibble their little ears too.

I think you get the gist.

I think lists are the best way to get anything done, to bring happiness to your life, to ensure balance and achievement in one's career and beyond. For what goes down on your list represents how you will live your life*.

There are different types of list.

A daily list is your basic unit of achievement. It is the worker bee, the engine of happiness, containing rough timings of when things get done and in what order. It allows your mind to relax a little.

Subconscious, you can relax for I have proof of my competence here! And no, I have not forgotten milk.

In practice, my staple task-level list is at a twice weekly level. Maybe this speaks of inefficiency, but it works well for me. Let us pay homage to a list here, for all are symbols of aspiration and hope:

A monthly list provides context and meaning. An annual list - so often mocked as new year resolutions - can seem intangible when it is not shackled to the discipline of the monthly list. When it has been disciplined, it is like an Arabian stallion; magnificent and brooding, you must cling to it, for it will take you wherever you want to go, and beyond. The monthly list is the hardest to write, for it must knit the aspirational to the achievable. But it is also the most important, because it demonstrates that you are in charge of your life. Happiness is a choice.

So, why don't I have one for my life as a whole?

I know this is not a new idea - life lists are covered very well at sites like these - but I am going to commit to 50 things to do in my life before I die. And - even better - I am going to share it here with you (and the tiny baby Jesus) through the month of December.

* Unless it is a list of this week's groceries or your all-time greatest England cricket team.


Of course none of these ads matches my all-time favourite ad, which doubles as a sort of life coach to me whenever I get nervous about all these changes I'm making.

When we shape shirts

What I want to know about the magnificent advert below, is whether it is one of a series. I want to know if they "think of guys like Bob, Paul and Steve" when they are doing other things too; perhaps when they are shaping hedges, doing the washing up or maybe soaping themselves down in the tub.

I know I will from now on.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

I've been waiting for this moment...

This was Ad of the Year, 2007. I still think it's fucking weird, but credit to Cadbury for going with it.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Englishness explained through lard

Watched Jonathon Ross last night, with David Walliams talking about how he had to cover himself in lard so that he could swim the channel. (Not to mention Jerry Seinfeld who was also on the show). (Sorry, just re-read that, Jerry wasn't smeared with lard,more's the pity, but he was on the show).

ANYWAY, they showed footage of Walliams meeting the Queen at some reception and mentioning the lard thing when the Queen enquired about how cold it must have been.

'Yes, but it's not as much as fun as you might think' he said, and the Queen laughed.

And I don't think I've seen anything so perfectly resonant of what being English is than that. A brilliant comic, who raised £1m for comic relief by swimming the channel, sitting next to a delicious, bald, gay comic (Matt Lucas), who didn't, explaining how he made the Queen laugh about smearing himself in lard.

A perfect juxtaposition of Englishness.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

My advice...

Support Hatton. Back Mayweather.

Come on Ricky, do it for the good guys.

Thought for the day

What if the hokey cokey IS what it's all about?

I know...


Well I had sex with your WIFE!

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Cognitive dissonance

Oliver Burkeman points out that cognitive dissonance can actually be used to good effect.

When salesman offered some cards at 8 for $3, they had a 40% success rate. But when they offered 8 for 300 pennies, they created confusion in the buyer's mind, which they then solved by adding 'which is a bargain'.

This is all a bit NLP if you ask me. But then NLP may have a legitimate effect for all I know. What is certain, and this is the point Burkeman makes, is that the more comfortable we are being uncomfortable, the better off we will be.

This has overlaps with new research which shows that increasing levels of acceptance (the willingness to experience thoughts, feelings, and physiological sensations without having to control them, or let them determine one’s actions), is a major individual determinant of mental health and behavioral effectiveness.

Anyway, here's the article.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Mr Tourette

No one said December would be high brow

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Fancy stress

Another matter of State: I am due to attend the Christmas party of a company I may well work for next year. The party is fancy dress, in the theme of James Bond.

Now, I don't know much about Bond but I do know that going in black tie is pathetic. When I am 80 years old I will not have wanted me to have gone in black tie so that's that. The question is what would I have wanted me to have done?

Bear in mind I will know only one other person and will be mingling with people (many of whom are international sports stars) who may shortly be interviewing / managing me.

I am thinking of going in a full wetsuit with flippers, but did Bond ever wear one?

Any other ideas? And does anyone have a wetsuit?

Signet wrongs

I'm not sure about people who wear signet rings. At this stage it is merely a hypothesis so if you are nice and balanced, actually listen to other people and have a pleasant line in self deprecating humour and still wear one, I apologise.

However, in general I find signet ring wearers to be megalomaniac despots with a supreme sense of their own self importance, arrogant buffoons, often toffs and nearly always tedious tossers.

But I am not sure if this rule travels internationally, as one of my (American) lecturers wears one and is truly outstanding and pleasant.

I'd be grateful for a wider view on this: can I place signet rings in my universal signs of the wanker or must I conduct further research?

Monday, 3 December 2007


November is statistically my poorest blogging month ever. A miserable 12 posts as opposed to the 17 in July - I don't need to do a T-test to know this is a significant difference.

But why?

University demands have gone through the roof; I have been socialising like a society Toff (without the cheese) and there has been a big push on 'miscellaneous projects'. The underlying forecast remains good, with productivity up and happiness levels stable at around 7.

The move into the spare room and turning it into my office is paying dividends and this should benefit the blog in the long term too.

In terms of content, I am hoping to increase the amount of both silly and serious content, leaving readers with a woozy sense of unpredictability, along with the usual sexual intoxication.

So welcome to December. This is our first Christmas together as a family, and I can't wait to see your chubby little faces light up as Christmas approaches and we all hurtle towards 2008.