30 April 2008

Tight Fit

picture by stringberd
I was actually slightly relieved to discover that apparently we don't have free will.

It explained my mysterious choice last Saturday of the chocolate brown / lime green colour-ways for my new Orca triathlon top - I just couldn't help myself: Evidently while my conscious mind was carefully examining each top in turn, assessing it for smoothness of micro-fabric, breathablility and rigidity around the abdomen, my unconscious mind was was leaning back in the best seats of the Cartesian Theatre with a box of epiphenomenal popcorn bellowing "Chocolate? CHOCOLATE?? I WANT!"

Unfortunately my amagdyla has no idea what size I am, so that decision was entirely to the cortex... and I'm going to have to to return the top this Saturday as I have come to the conclusion that it makes my belly look round.

"Don't be silly, darling", said Mrs Botogol, "what do you expect from lycra, and anyway your.....well yes, maybe a bigger size would be more streamlined.... and actually - were they all that colour?"

27 April 2008

24 April 2008

Pearls and Grit

"So, why don't you ever write about me on your blog?" asked my friend Mystery Shopper, plaintively.
"Well, give me something to write about"
"What sort of thing?"
"To be honest, M-S, it would have to be pretty good"
"How good?"
"Pretty. Good. You know: Insider information... Celebrity Gossip... Free Opera tickets... An idea for a dotcom start up. Tell you what: for a dotcom startup I'll even throw in a dozen oysters and a margarita"

Twenty four hours later we were discussing domain names in Wrights, between us two pacific, two mersea, two dover, three spanish and three wasabi, and before us a barman sweating over a couple of rock-hard limes.

"But Botogol, what if my idea is rubbish?"
"50/50 on the oysters and I get the last Wasabi, but don't worry: I'll blog about you anyway"
"As long as it's not just a collection of half truths and cheap jokes at my expense"

23 April 2008

Emails from God

picture by funtik.cat

Well, that Ken Costa may be even better connected than I thought: the sidebar of his page contains an intriguing opportunity:

If you would like to receive occasional updates from God at work please subscribe here.
I wonder how the mails would make it through our corporate spam filters...

22 April 2008

Preaching to the Converted

Picture: fotofill
The last time I attended an event in a church I was mysteriously smited as I crossed the threshold, finding myself bleeding suddenly and copiously from a flesh wound on my finger.

So it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I entered St Stephen's last Saturday morning. Even so, I was still surprised that my demeanour was so uncomfortable and my appearance so out of place that I was challenged on the doorway and asked if I had a ticket.

Did a cold wind blow and a strange pool of silence follow me in? Do I have a 666 tattooed on my forehead? Will I ever succeed in entering a church without incident?

What made it even more strange was there wasn't, in fact, anyone actually on door duty and , so far as I could tell there were no tickets.

Perhaps I was intercepted by an angel.

"I'm meeting a friend" I muttered, and it was with some relief that spotted my host at the far end of the room and hurried off, where I was made heartily welcome with bacon rolls, warm handshakes and no fewer than three croissants.

I was there to hear Ken Costa, successful investment banker and pillar of the church to talk about his new book and it was two hours well spent.

For me Costa was best on 'how to behave at work'. In this area he was authoritative - it was interesting how often he returned to the theme of picking your fights - working out which issues are really important and worth fighting for, or even resigning over, and which are issues where you just have to just accept that you are living in a less than perfect world. That was good advice. He was also very sound on the importance on profit, and the need to comfortable with it.

But then.... but then.... there was also a lot of strange ideas about God....

Perhaps I need to read the book.

21 April 2008

just testing...

botogol jemmy button tinkerbell

17 April 2008

So very tired

Its that time of year again: I run, I swim and I bike (we don't cycle - we bike) and I am mortal tired.

I am racing on Bank Holiday Monday, and my aim is to take 5 minutes off last year's time.
- 1min from the run
- 2min from the bike
- 1min from the swim
- 1min from the transition.

Unfortunately, I can't swim any faster than last year.

16 April 2008

The dawn of Blogger power

I had that Perry de Havilland on my blog once.

I don't suppose he's a regular reader of Green Ideas, but I still read him and it was odd to see him in the flesh Curbing the Crap Artists at the Adam Smith Institute this evening, sharing a table with giants of the blogosphere Guido Fawkes and Tim Worstall.

Politics neeks and blogging geeks are strange breeds and there were many of them (us?) crammed in a tiny front room, directly off the street. When each person spoke he (there were few women) introduced himself not by his profession but by his blog. As well as Samizdata, Devil's Kitchen, Englishman's Castle, Spinwatch, Great Simpleton, Despatchblog were all there although, much to my disappointment even surrounded as I was by early adopters, I spotted no one live-blogging, twittering or even rickrolling

From the panel it was all heady stuff: new technologies are empowering the common man to confound his betters armed the sword of accuracy, the rifle of knowledge, the rapier of complaint, the dagger of wit and, unfortunately also, the rubber cosh of coarse language. The blogosphere may be small but it's influential, it punches above its weight, it shines sunlight into the hideouts of the corrupt, and it exposes the ruses of the self-important.

Well, I'm buying it.

Tim Worstall's careful cynicism failed to conceal an infectious optimism for the growing power and influence of the ordinary blogger. Guido Fawkes - the rhythm, and cadences of his speech sounding unexpectedly and uncannily like Diane Abbot - bewailed the multiple failings of politicians and their trough-sharing lobby, but was strangely subdued compared to his lively on-line persona, while Perry de Haviland eschewed Samizdata's natural political stamping grounds for a paen to the new power of the complaining customer.

I'd like to hang out with those blogging guys. Perhaps I should quit procrastinating and start that single issue political blog I've been thinking about off and on this last year. (I've got an idea... and I know the time is right) But the thing is, I told Mrs Botogol over a London Pride and sun-dried tomato sandwich, I'd have to quit my indescribable job to find the time. If, that is, the credit crunch doesn't get me first.

Mrs B opined that I could, instead, quit surfing the net and emailing her 'interesting' tidbits all day long and use that time saved to write my blog from work.

Its not such a bad idea.

09 April 2008

A burst of activity

Wow - 2,300 views and no fewer than 30 comments for my video on youtube; that's more comments than my blog has had all year.
I should go to more demonstrations... but which ones ?


06 April 2008

Free Tibet!

It was a very English demonstration. At Westminster tube station a half dozen or so demonstrators had gathered.

"You can't do that here, love", plaintively, "you need to go up on the street"

"But I'm waiting to meet a friend"

"Oh....Well... all right then"

My daughters and I hurried on up Whitehall where we had a very satisfactory morning: What do we want? "FREE TIBET!", When do we want it? "NOW!"

The procession was shambles, the torch bearers completely obscured by rings of goons and policeman, every inch of Whitehall lined with protesters. The Olympic torch disappeared into Downing Street, and faced with chanting and derision, it left ignominiously by the back exit. Police sweated, demonstrators broke through and we chanted and sang. China, China, China: OUT! OUT! OUT! Stop the killing... IN TIBET!.... Stop the torture... IN TIBET!

"Well, really", opined the man next to me, who had changed into a dragon costume extracted from his ruck sack when the torch was in sight, "we should attempt to prevent torture everywhere"

I was too busy videoing to answer:


I will admit: I don't get invited to many album launches and it was with some diffidence that Mrs Botogol and I presented ourselves at the firmly-closed front door of Hurst House in Covent Garden. on Friday.

Before knocking I glanced again at my printed-out email
From: Chris Difford
: Boo Hewerdine
Message: ...
says your tickets are at the door
It didn't seem, well, it didn't seem very official. It didn't seem very authentic. Are all album launches publicised this way? What is it like to given the bum's rush? And what exactly is a bum's rush anyway? Does it hurt?

In last minute change of heart, and clothes I took off my jumper and stuffed it into my rucksack, wishing one more time that au pair hadn't ironed a crease into the front of my black jeans; and I knocked.

"I'm Botogol", I said, "and this is my wife"

And that was it - we were in: a small subterranean room, one corner cleared for action and, in another, a bar dispensing London Pride and chilled chardonnay. In other words: perfect. There were about 80 other assorted misfits there: Difford fans, Hewerdine fans and Paul Gambaccini.

The beers were free, so I had seven of them, and it was with blurry eyes that I caught sight of a familiar face - "She looks like Rosalie Deighton", I ventured to Mrs Botogol "Don't be silly dear - she is Rosalie Deighton". The room suddenly felt very hot.

It was with some some more diffidence that a round-looking Chris Difford eventually took the stage heading a four-person band of whom only the lean-looking Boo appeared completely relaxed and confident. An inappropriate anecdote about an inappropriate T-Shirt only compounded the unease and it was with some relief that the band eventually broke into music with the entertaining Fat as a Fiddle

(here's the official video)

The theme of the album is age: Difford's rapid-fire, quick-witted story-songs tell of memories, regrets, physical decay, nostalgia and missed opportunities.
My Mum played piano... she loved Gracie Fields
she would have been famous.. but we dragged at her heels
It was Squeeze, but submerged with a certain bleakness. Is that's what's life is like in our 40s? On stage Chris fiddled self-consciously with his old-man glasses, apologised for the coarseness in his lyrics, and shifted uneasily when he mentioned Squeeze and the old days. A softer, sadder version of Up The Junction didn't break the mood, either.

I liked it!

The album is called the Last Temptation of Chris, and is written by Chris and Boo, which is actually an intriguing combination when you think about it: how to combine Chris' long, densely-packed story lyrics with Boo's concise idea-in-a-single-phrase style?

At the launch there was no publicity material so it was impossible to determine who wrote what, but while Battersea Boys, and Fat as a Fiddle seemed all Chris, I fancied I detected Boo's style in When I am on my own I'm never bored. (I am probably hopelessly wrong)

Set list (so far as I can remember)
Fat as a Fiddle
Battersea Boys
On My Own I'm never bored
Never Coming Back
My Mother's Handbag
Up the Junction
Take Me I'm yours
End of the Party
The album launches Monday,but you can hear a few tracks on Chris's myspace page, and some previews on 7digital - via this clever little widget:

After the gig was finished we went to Asia de Cuba for a margarita. Because we could.

02 April 2008

Connections and Memories

Here's a photograph that was emailed to me last week by someone whom I've never met.

The picture (click to enlarge) was taken right here, on 16 August 1929 and - you will be able to tell - it is a wedding day.

Those of my readers with good facial recognition skills will have seen the resemblance already and guessed the truth: this is a family picture. The bride's father - seated on the left with the shiny shoes - is my grandfather's uncle.

In 1929 my grandfather would have been 32 (I think). I wonder if he was at the wedding; perhaps he was even present in that suburban back garden, that hot afternoon, when the picture was taken, standing safely behind the camera, a wide and shallow glass of champagne in hand, idly peering across at the houses opposite.

I like to think he was.

Perhaps the photographer called "Family of the bride" and maybe in an attic somewhere in London there's a picture of him that we have never seen. If so, I don't think I'll ever find it: this photograph came to me from the groom's side

I wonder if my great, great uncle Albert liked this photo when he saw it. I fancy he did, for he's undoubtedly the centre of attention, never knowing success so huge. But daughter Lillian, I feel sure, did not: when the proof was returned from the photographers she must have marvelled how it could be - on her own wedding day - that she had contrived to remain in the background.

Those two little boys might be still alive; I wonder whether they would recognise this picture, I wonder whether they would remember the day.

I wonder whether they would remember my Grandfather.