Review of the Year

Hi folks,
It’s been a while, almost exactly a year, since I wrote this and I’d forgotten what I’d written. But looking back:

Things I’d like to see the new bring which I can work towards:
– Continued working at the job I’m in and either seeing the hours increased to full time or take on a second job.
In January the manager of the library told me she was pregnant and would be leaving in August and that it would be a good idea if I got myself enrolled on a course to do with Library management so I could take over when she left. So I did.
In February I was offered part time work at a local bookshop that has links with the resources centre. I took the offer up expecting the position to vanish in the summer when the shop closed down one site and started working from one. This still hasn’t happened yet, I just got a Christmas bonus and it’s likely I’ll still be working there at least until the start of the summer.
In August the library manager left and I successfully applied for the job. Hurray!
All the while the care-taking for the church on Saturdays continued.
The course is finished but there is still about a rainforest of coursework due.

– Continued recovery from the depression. It’s still a grind to do anything, and hardly a day goes by without me thinking about how much better it would be to be dead. I know I’m so much better than I was, but seeing how far there still is to go is far from encouraging.
Maybe writing about depression at the dead of winter wasn’t the smartest thing in the world to do. Things haven’t been great on this front, but it hasn’t cost me a day at work (there was one morning at college that I didn’t make due to a stress out) and I even didn’t lose it when I suffered a prolonged bout of severe insomnia. So it’s been a triumph of sheer bloody-mindedness over all the inertia that the illness has thrown at me.
Still feels like shit a lot of the time though.

– A place of my own to live – I won’t be able to afford to buy, but renting might be an option with either full time hours or a second job.
This almost happened in the autumn, but because neither the bookshop or library jobs are secure (the bookshop is only a casual contract and the library job is up for review when the maternity leave period expires & I’ll have to re-apply for whatever position the board of directors end up implementing), it wasn’t viable. It was a damned nice flat too.

– A lovely young lady who’ll be happy to be loved, will love me in return and will still show an interest in me after a couple of months.
Nothing to report.

– More regular writing, both for this journal and for myself in general, maybe even think about contacting publishers.
This fell by the way-side when the course and bookshop got going. I made a couple of attempts to get it going again, but the lack of free time during the day and a more active social life put put paid to any grand schemes.

– More regular contact with the friends I have who live outside Newcastle and cementing of the relationships I have with those in Newcastle.
This has gone well, two of my best friends have moved back north to Durham (half an hour away on the train) and I’ll be heading to their place for New Year’s after I’m done writing this and sorting out some form of fancy dress. There have been meals out, meals in, drinks here, there and everywhere, cinema trips, DVD nights, general hanging out and plenty of silliness. All in all not bad, although online contact isn’t as regular as once it was.

So, that’s what became of the hopes and dreams for 2005.

In other news:
One of my flatmates got married at Easter and moved out, I got the huge room he’d been in, and six months later the spare room was filled with a new flatmate.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory turned out to be one of my favourite films of all time.
Star Wars Episode III turned out to be not too bad after all.
Wallace & Grommit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit was just as fantastic as I expected it to be.
I got an I-Pod.
I filled my room with shelves of books.
I discovered the works of Jasper Fforde. Go and buy his books!
I discovered the Fables series by Bill Willingham. Go and buy them too!
I continued to be involved with the youth work at church and attended Youth-Work the Conference in Southport, which was a fantastic weekend.

That’s about it, things have been pretty much taken up with work, college and social stuff. Not too terrible at all.

Thanks for reading this far, have a fantastic 2006.


That’s not me being angry, it’s the noise my computer makes.
I just changed the fan on the processor having been advised by the friendly staff at Maplin that that was probably the problem.
It wasn’t.
I turned on the machine as per usual. Same old loud fan noises.
Followed shortly by the loud roaring of jet engines which dies down after the same old few seconds of deafening-ness.

In other news I now have a stereo set up in my room with big speakers and shiney amp and cd player and everything, but I’m still listening to dodgy old mp3s on my pc speakers…


For the past few weeks it’s been hot and sunny in the morning when I go
to work, so I generally just wear a shirt and trousers – not bothering
with a jacket.

Nine years I’ve been living in Newcastle.  During that time I’ve seen public transport prices rocket.  

This morning it was overcast and windy so I wore my jacket.

And being the good little citizen that I am I’ve refused the urge to just walk on to the Metro without buying a ticket.

Today’s ticket went straight into my jacket pocket in the same slot it always goes into.

During that time I’ve had my ticket checked a sum total of precisely no fucking times at all.

It was an extra expensive “Day Rider” ticket because at lunch time I
had to travel further down the line to hand in a job application a town
and a half away.

When I got to the North Shields Metro Station (for such it was that I
was travelling to) I saw a gang of large people wearing official orange
hi-vis jackets.

When I got to work it was sunny and bright and hot so I hung my jacket up on its appointed hanger and promptly forgot about it.

They were stopping all passenger on their way out and checking their tickets.

Recently, during the warmth, I’ve been storing my ticket in my shirt pocket.

But today, on the only day I
have ever been on the Metro and had my ticket checked, my ticket was in
its old winter place in my jacket pocket, and my jacket was hanging on
it’s appointed hanger two or three miles away.

At the time of going to press, the website above is advertising the
special new expensive penalty fare of twenty whole English pounds.

In  the cold light of text the moral indignity of my position
doesn’t come across quite so well as it should, and because I’m using
the rtf online editor the normal html linkage that I’m used to isn’t
working. (I’ve just discovered that re-editing the post brings back the html. So back in goes the code. Why the “insert link” button didn’t work I don’t know…)

But anyway, besides being screwed over for money that I’d already paid,
the place I was meant to hand the form into wasn’t actually anywhere
near its advertised position.  Hardly surprising given that it’s a
government run institution.  Once I’d found my way across this
town I’d never been to before and  opened the door into the
building’s foyer I was almost overcome by the stench of a thousand
locker rooms and male toilets. 

Then on the way back the Metro took twenty minutes to arrive at the station making me late back at work for the afternoon.

I’m doing well, how are you?

In the end all is Lasagne

It’s all over.
Even the washing up.
This will be my last lasagne related entry.
For the time being.

The mountain of cheese that was left in the fridge was only just enough to cover all three trays before they went into the oven. People arrived with salad and apple pie and trifle to complete the menu. The trays were rotated around the oven in fifteen minute intervals – although it had been preheated it has a history of burning whatever’s on the bottom shelf just above the roaring flames – and, three quarters of an hour after it went into the oven, I beheld my creation and saw that it was good.
It didn’t taste bad either.

We served up thirty seven of the forty five portions we had to about twenty five people (a whole group of seven or eight utterly failed to turn up).
People were queueueueueueueueuing up for seconds that never ever ate more than one portion (and that wasn’t due to skimpy amounts either).
Sample comments included: “that’s probably the best lasagne I’ve ever had” and “That’s been the best supper so far on the course.” (we’ve had eight of ten sessions).
So I think it’s fair to say that it was a success.
Even if the custard was a bit runny.

I’m off to collapse in bed. Cycling to work and back for the first time and then running a kitchen for two and a half hours can take it out of a guy.

Heaven’s Kitchen (Eat your heart out, Gordon!)

Just got back after thirteen and a half hours out of the house. Caretakering duty meant I had to be at the church for nine o’clock to let the band in, this wasn’t too bad because it gave me plenty of time to set up the chairs and equipment (restraints and torture implements) for the creche, get the kettles and flasks filled so there’d be enough hot water for the coffe after the service and to go and buy some last minute juice supplies for the young folks’ group which I’d be helping out with during the rest of the morning.
Then I got hassled by somebody asking why the keys he needed weren’t in the place that he expected them to be, we checked the piano-stool in which the keys are kept (it’s a strange Newcastle tradition – storing the faeces of our mnusical instruments and hiding our keys in it) and there were the keys! Outraged? I nearly said a rude word. But self restraint is a discipline in which I’m making progress…
Then I was accosted by the guy who was doing the children’s talk who wanted me to operate his video camera for it. This was no problem, he’s a mate, and the talk was very good – entertaining, and about the big trade justice rally in Edinburgh next month and the couple of coaches we’re taking up. Shame about the sweat-shopped produced “Make Poverty History” wristbands that were very much in evidence. (story)
After the service everybody flooded back into the lower hall for coffee which would have been fine, but I needed to set up tables to seat fifty for the “international lunch” which was due to start there in ten minutes’ time – it’s a trifle tricky to do so in a space that’s filled with a couple of hundred people milling about and toddlers running about and biting your knees. The food was good though. Got caught up in the washing up afterwards – it’s always worth pushing a tea-towel around a few plates for a good bit of chat away from the chaos that is tidying up outside the kitchen.
With the place empty and cleaned up I could get on with the day’s real business:

Stage 2
The first thing I did was tip the pans of mincey (I would have said “meaty”, but a good third of it was vegetarian mince) sauce into bigger pans. The meaty sauce needed four tins of tomatoes and two tins of beans adding to it and my pan was already full to capacity. The vege sauce just needed mixing together from the two smaller pans I’d transported it in. It was as I was peeling the tinned tomatoes (Question: How do you peel chopped tomatoes? Answer: With a tin opener.) that the cavalry arrived! Hurray! They bought their two kids. Hurray! Faith No More were rapidly removed from the stereo and replaced with a cd of childrens’ songs which were much more fun to sing along to. Cheese sauce was made up, mincey sauce was poured into tins, lasagne was laid on top of the mincey sauce, cheese sauce was poured on top of the lasagne, more lasagne was laid, more mincey sauce, more lasagne, more mincey sauce, more lasagne and a freshly made second panful of cheese sauce were added. I performed miracles fitting it into the fridge so that the door closed.
The three tins were filled to perfection, there was still enough cheese left to sprinkle on top before we bake them tomorrow and everything besides half a tub or margerine and two thirds of a bag of flour had been used up – another triumph for Timbo’s Patended Fudging It Method (inspired by my good friends in the building trade, Messrs Bodgitt and Scarpa). To be entirely honest, the custard powder wasn’t used either, but it’s time has not yet come…
The very moment we finished washing the last pot, the doorbell rang. It was time to let the band in for the evening session.
I slept through the sermon, my head following a circular path as I moved between sleep and realising I was asleep and waking up with a jerk and nodding off again.

A bunch of us went to the beach afterwards, threw a rugby ball and an American football around for a couple of hours and then walked along the prom to the chip shop.

Then I came home and wrote this update.

For the final instalment of the exciting Lasagne Saga tune in tomorrow (or later today for some of you…)

The Big Shop ™(cont.)(cont.)

The Prep
There’s not much more to tell. I chopped lots of vegetables up very small, fried up the onions and the stock cubes (which I’d crumbled down small) and some of my special sauce (chopped and ground chillies, garlic and ginger under olive oil), added the mince and fried it some more, added the peppers, fried it some more, added the mushrooms and fried it all some more again. Then I decanted the whole lot into a big pan with the tomatoes and some pasta sauce from a jar in it and mixed it all up. I had to do this three times to get everything cooked and ready.
A friend came round with his car and we transported the pans full of cooled down bolognese to the church fridges where they now await tomorrow’s lasagne-ification. We grated the cheese too and put that in old ice-cream tubs (which had been washed out) which also went into the fridge.
The cheese sauce will be made tomorow afternoon and the lasagne laid down. All that will remanin on Monday night will be the sprinkling on of the topping cheese and a good sound baking for all concerned.
And the washing up.

The Big Shop ™(cont.)

So I decide that all of the above will fit into my small backpack, get onto my shiney new bike and ride to a nearby Big Cheap Supermarket. Big Cheap Supermarket that I’ve never been to before and have only seen a sign saying that it exists and is somewhere in “that” direction, but it’s cheap and there’s a limited budget so I head in its general direction.
I come to a round-about (circle junction, I believe is the American name for such things) and turn left. Big mistake. The Big Cheap (and incedentally Foreign) Supermarket is in the other direction. Half a mile down the road I decide to turn back around and go to a different one. I become hopelessly lost and end up in the car park of the place I was origianlly looking for.
I locked up my bike.
I realised I had no change to get a trolley (shopping cart). And being a cheap place they had no baskets for the cheap customers (like me, who couldn’t afford the deposit for the trolley) to use instead. I ended up wandering round the shop carrying a huge bread tray which I filled with tins and frozen stuff and big bottles of milk. I got to the till and had to stand for half an hour whilst the cheap slow staff rang cheap produce through for the customers in front of me and sold them expensive carrier bags all the while holding this huge bread tray full of heavy groceries.
I had been mistaken about the size of bag needed for the groceries and needed to ride home with a backpack full of stuff and two carrier bags (9 pence each!) on the end of each handle bar. I also was still lost. The wind (remember the wind from the night before?) decided to wake up and blew the bags about a bit so they dragged into the spokes of the front wheel as I trundled around looking for a landmark. Then it started to rain.
Eventually, I made it back to the flat and unloaded my fresh produce into my fridge and onto my kitchen table. Then, because the Cheap Foreign Big Supermarket didn’t have everything I needed I had to cycle over to another supermarket on the other side of Heaton to get the rest. This journey was better – I knew my way and the rain had stopped, but I got to the tills and had paid for my goods before I remembered that I still needed the actual lasagne. Back into the store I delved and dug out six packs, four normal and two green for the non-meat-eaters, and joined yet another queueueueueueue. The lasagne decided it didn’t want to fit in the bag, but I persuaded it.

Then home for the preparation.