Bringing Back Boring James

It is time to bring back boring James.  BJ.  Boring James.

It has been a hectic 6 or so weeks.  I have been in the fullest party mode since my Mango days, I think it is fair to say.  I will try to remember it all.

A weekend away in Lisbon, a half-weekend in Hull, I DJ’d twice and both were pretty heavy nights.  I’ve actually been clubbing 4 times in the time period – fabric’s birthday, Art Of Dark, The Hydra and then, well, it wasn’t clubbing actually, the Jeff Mills and BBC Symphony Orchestra event last Saturday.

A hell of a lot of fun.  And a hell of a lot of money spent.  I may have gone a little bit overdrawn.  Mum/Dad, if you are reading, don’t even think of sending me money.  I will send it back.  It isn’t for you to fund me going to nightclubs!

More importantly, my study backlog has shot up to 74 hours.  I have a plan of 10 hours studying a week.  This should be feasible.  If I don’t do my 10 hours then whatever I didn’t do carries over until the next week.  Unfortunately, this is really clocking up now.

So for both money and studying reasons, I am bringing back Boring James.

The next three weekends I am going to do as little as possible, and spend as little money as possible.

Which isn’t easy.

Tonight I am really looking forward to cooking a belated birthday dinner for the delightful Miss Hamilton.  I really enjoy cooking for people and rarely get the chance to…it’s even more difficult now I live in Bracknell, especially with the lack of space to entertain.  Hence I’m going to Reading tonight.  Ahhh the culture.  I cannot wait to see attractive women in the street for the first time since I last wasn’t in Bracknell.

On Tuesday I am going to watch Brentford vs Hull City.  I really cannot afford it, but the opportunity to watch Championship level football in a proper football ground…on a terrace, was too poignant an opportunity to dismiss.  It must be 15 years since I last stood on a terrace watching football.  I’m a little disappointed that it’s not going to be absolutely freezing cold.  And I can actually get the train directly to Brentford from Bracknell after work.  I’ve finally found an advantage to living here!

And then I have nothing else planned for the next two weekends…except go for roast dinners on Sundays, of course.

I might watch the Spain vs England football game in a pub, which I think is two Friday’s time.

This is about as close to nothing as I can muster.  Maybe I will go for a pie with someone.

Until 20th November when I will be back in party mode, full-on party mode, and DJing too.

I’m boring, boring boring boring.  So boring, so boring, boring tonight.

My ‘Best’ Ever Funeral

It does sound a bit wrong to say that, plus I’ve only been to two funerals but please allow me to elaborate.

My uncle recently passed away after a battle with cancer.

I knew him as a warm-hearted and loving man, though I particularly knew him for his sense of humour and very much larger-than-life personality.

But I never understood the extent to which he was appreciated and loved by so many.  He needed the largest church in Hull to be able to hold the crowd of people that came to pay their respects.  I guess there were around 400 people in the church, possibly 500.  There were queues to get in, and passers-by were apparently overheard assuming that a celebrity had passed away.

And in his own Winfield kind of way, he was a celebrity.  Two caravan factories that he worked for shut down for the day so employees could attend.  He hadn’t worked at either of them for many years – 5, maybe closer to 10 years.

He was a proper northerner – very down to earth.  He lived pretty much on the same road all of his life – for north Hull was the area, and more importantly, the people that he loved.  And they loved him in return.

I was consistently surprised about some of the stories I heard.  Apparently when he owned a newspaper shop, by time it opened, there would often be 20 people in his front room drinking coffee and eating bacon sandwiches prepared for them.  They would always be welcomed into his house – something replicated by his (and my dad’s) parents who always had an open door for those around.

I like to think that I am quite pragmatic – being down south and away from events, it is easier to carry on with life.  But the service was emotional.  It surprised me.  What really got to me is seeing other family members upset.  Yeah, I half-cried.

But the service wasn’t all tears and sadness.  There were many moments of laughter too.  For that is what my uncle would have wanted – he couldn’t stand morbid funerals.

You may know that religion has no place in my life.  However, I have always defended its ability to bring comfort and peace to many, and this was hugely emphasised on Friday.  I was particularly taken by the vicar, who clearly had become a good friend with my uncle and the service was personal to him – he attended the wake afterwards and was still there when we left early evening.

Not only did the vicar get his guitar out (sorry uncle for not doing the happy clappy thing) but then he de-robed to reveal a Hull City AFC shirt, which he did the rest of the service in.  I deemed it inappropriate to photograph but the moment will stay with me forever.

See, my uncle was a massive Hull City fan.  It kind of runs in the family.  I am truly delighted that he got to see them in an FA Cup Final, despite his health struggles.

And I’ll always have an even greater appreciation for our manager, Steve Bruce, who often took the time out to speak to him, as my uncle would go down to watch training.  My uncle had explained his scenario to him, and they had become quite friendly.  Not that you would expect anything else from someone my uncle had spoken to!  To be leading a major football club and yet still have time for the ordinary man is heart-warming, and I know how much my uncle appreciated it.

There was one particularly funny story told at the funeral, and I remember being at the game and wondering what the heck my uncle was doing on the pitch at half-time.

He was entering a competition to win a car.  There was a large wooden frame of a tiger on the pitch, and you had three attempts to firstly kick the ball through the large hole – which was relatively easy, then after that you had to kick the ball through the small hole – the eye of the tiger.

Instead, he hit the first ball straight through the small hole, and then ran round the pitch with his shirt off, belly fully exposed (quite some belly…he did once get stuck in a water slide on holiday) thinking he had won the car, with the crowd chanting “Who ate all the pies”.

I expect that the story meant far more to him than the car that he didn’t win.

The wake afterwards saw a lifting of spirits, and a fair amount of beer drunk.  There were bacon and sausage sandwiches for all.  No room for salad-queens.

It was heart-warming to see so many people vaguely connected to the family – like the couple who used to babysit my uncle and father, whom I was particularly taken with.  There were many stories told, particularly by my dad, who was in good form and even towards the end started a sing-song with “There’s Only One Ozzy Winfield”.  True Winfield.

Which brings me onto my point.  I’m not even sure if I should really be writing about family funerals on a public blog, but if you know me well enough then you’ll have been expecting me to write about it.

The overwhelming feeling I had by the end of the day was a real pride to be a Winfield.  It was a day where I fully understood what being a Winfield was all about – being warm, generous, funny, loyal, honest – an entertainer, a listener, a story-teller.  Occasionally an idiot.  Some of those I do well…others not so well.

I was also proud to be from Hull, albeit very secondary to being a Winfield.  I am not sure you would replicate that kind of community and kindred spirit in Reading/Bracknell.

It was an emotional day but yet looking back and reflecting nearly a week on, I can reflect on my memories, not just of that day, with considerable warmth and appreciation.

So, lost for words now, I will just say RIP Uncle Ozzy.  My favourite ever trade unionist.

And the last thing he ever said to me?  “Get your bloody hair cut”.

James Went To Lisbon

Me and my sister decided that we wanted to replicate the success of previous weekend breaks to Bologna, Stuttgart and Brussels but this time go somewhere that would still hopefully be warm and sunny – Lisbon.

I’d actually done some research before we went this time, so we had an itinerary (what an oddly spelt word) and a plan of action.

When we arrived, it appeared that we had got onto the wrong plane and had ended up in East Midlands airport.

The first thing that we learnt about Lisbon was that it had lots of hills.  Lisbon likes a good hill – tall, steep hills.  7 of them, in fact.

We arrived at our Airbnb accommodation…halfway up the tallest hill in Lisbon.  At £55.00 each for 3 nights it was quite the bargain, though we soon realised why it was nicknamed the Doll’s House.  It was small – I only had a sofa bed and not the most comfortable one either, and with no sheet.  There was only one window so no way for air to pass through…I wouldn’t have wanted to stay there in the heart of the summer.  And I got a few bites.

That said, it was charming, it was a bargain and most importantly, it was in an excellent location – slightly away from the tourism hot-spots, yet just a 5-10 minute walk up/down hill to where we wanted to be.

We set off late Saturday afternoon for a random walk, to see what we could find.  We ended up walking through a rather shady district before finding a little café – Lisbon is fully of tiny cafes seating between 6 and 20 people.  We ordered two beers, paying €2.40 in total.  Yes…I paid 90p for a beer.  I cannot even get one in a shop in Bracknell for 90p nowadays.

I expected Lisbon to be reasonably cheap but we were regularly surprised.  Of course, there were the usual tourist trap areas with €5.50 beers, but as long as we stayed away from main squares then we rarely paid more than €3.00 for a pint, often less.

Another reason to stay away from the main squares were the regular offer of drugs.  Yes I know they are legal in Portugal.  No I don’t want a free sample (though I do wonder how many people took up the free sample of coke from every person that offered to them).  Time and again I was offered drugs.  It must be the hair.

In the evening we went for tapas.  Portuguese tapas.  It isn’t like Spanish tapas – they seem only to do a selection of cold meat/cheese, and chorizo cooked on a boat.  We ordered chorizo for two as they didn’t have anything else that was on the menu.  I would suggest that it was flambéed on our table.  But I might have made that word up, and instead it was flame-cooked in the oil or whatever was on the bottom of our porcelain boat.

It was good, but not a patch on Spanish chorizo.  In fact, Portuguese tapas isn’t a patch on Spanish tapas.  I didn’t regret declining the option of Ryanair’s patatas bravas though.

Then we were treated to a performance of Fado.  You were not allowed to talk through it.  We had to sit there in silence, for quite a lot of Fado songs.  A mournful, occasionally joyful music, with the woman singing and a guy on guitar.  Not my kind of thing, believe it or not, but it was impressively beautiful.

(Not my video and I haven’t watched it).

We finished our Portuguese sangria (yeah not as good as Spanish) and headed off for a drunken night around Barrio Alto.  More cheap beer, some drunken pizza and apparently a taxi back instead of the hill.  The hill definitely was not happening.  My sister was probably the only person in heels – although we never found the gay quarter to check thoroughly.

Sunday we woke up with sore heads.  My first action was to go to toilet and whack my head straight into the overhead pillar.  Not for the first time but with quite some force.

Once we had gained some composure, we took the walk, uphill – steeply uphill, to the magnificent castle which overlooks the whole of Lisbon.

Without doubt the highlight of my trip.  This magnificent, historic structure towered above the whole of Lisbon, with amazing views over the whole of the city, in the intermittent drizzle.  Ahhh Hurricane Joaquim thank you ever so much.

I still wore shorts though.

There were many sections to the castle, and some very tricky steps to climb up to the high heights – and not especially difficult to fall from various areas at a significant height.  I now have an appreciation of how people could be scared of heights!

The castle also came with peacocks.  Now I’ve always wanted to be re-incarnated as a duck, but I’d definitely settle to be re-incarnated as a peacock.  Quite magnificent birds.

It is hard to put into words or pictures just quite how impressive and magnificent the whole structure was, and we spent probably not far from 2 hours there.  The below photograph is just a fairly small section of the castle.

Then, having not eaten and also craving a beer to shift my hangover, we set off for a highly recommended café near the castle – well aware that many places are 3 times the normal price in the area, only to eventually find it, and find that all 4 tables were occupied.

We went for a random walk, with no back-up plan and ended up in a random restaurant as hunger was getting the better of us.

We were treated to probably the worst meal I’ve had since I had a roast dinner at the Back Of Beyond (a Wetherspoons to the uninitiated).  For €43 in total, we had two beers, two grilled chicken dinners.  The chicken came with rice, which you probably know my thoughts on that, anaemic chips and even crapper chicken than Nando’s – small, dry, overcooked – one piece didn’t even have any actual chicken on it.  Why give me a chunk of fried bone?

Not to mention they charged us for the bread and butter – having not realised that the entre that is unfairly forced in front of ravenous stomachs wasn’t actually free.  Rude and forgetful service and an all-round unpleasant experience which really put a dampener on our moods.

The moral of the story – always have a back-up plan.

Then to top off my misery, we went to the cathedral.  I was overjoyed with religious fervour.  Thankfully it was only for a few minutes.

Then we sat outside in the main square, without any cannabis, and enjoyed occasional glimpses of sunshine…and the breeze from the river.  To continue our ultra-touristic day, we then paid €5.00 each to queue nearly an hour to go up a really old elevator, to the site of an old church which was knocked down in the 1755 earthquake.  I hadn’t realised that I was in an earthquake zone.  It was pretty pointless.

Much more research was completed for the evening meal – it had to be as according to Trip Advisor, many places we wanted to go to were closed on Sunday.  We ended up with the last table at another Portuguese tapas place, this time with no Fado, and again paying €43.00.

But this time it was worth every cent.  With glasses of gorgeous red wine for just €2.00 each, possibly the best wine I have ever tasted.  Even better than White Zinfandel.

As the rain started to pour, we got chatting to our table neighbours, who were from America.  One was a DJ living in Berlin – he was with his parents lived next door to someone who drives the dominator (the tornado chasing tank thing in America).  My two favourite passions covered at once!

And then we walked all the way back up the hill.

Monday wasn’t quite so successful on the tourist side.  It was threatening to pour down at various points, though never quite did properly.  We went to the Parque Do Naquos, or something similar, which was built for the Lisbon Expo, many years ago.

It wasn’t that exciting.  Were we not running out of funds, then we could have gone to the science museum, or aquarium.  Instead we settled for a cable car jaunt in the wind and drizzle, and a €2 pint of beer.

We then had an excellent chicken dinner, recommended to me by the one and only, Edible Reading, and followed that with a trip to Belem – at the other side of Lisbon.  We took the tram – Lisbon seems to be very proud of it’s trams, especially the rickety 1930’s trams.  This one was sadly just a modern, boring tram.

Belem wasn’t that exciting either.  We saw the tower jutting out into the estuary, and some other impressive buildings.  And then settled for a ride back to the centre, so we could go watch the football.

Ironically, the most upmarket place we went all holiday, was the English pub, which was showing the football.  With suitably over-priced beer like you would get in an English pub.

Football over, we hot-footed it to a steak restaurant recommended to us by our Airbnb host, and arrived to a fairly full restaurant in a slightly shady district – with the doors closed.  Last entry was 10pm.  It was 10:03pm.

Thankfully a waitress saw that we were lost souls without a back-up plan and let us in for a very good lump of sirloin.  I had 500g for just €13.00 – yet another bargain.  We made our way back, resisted the temptation of some Fado and set our alarm to wake up to get the number 28 tram.

Now the number 28 tram I was told was the way to explore Lisbon.  Lisbon has lots of steep hills, as I may have mentioned – and an very historic layout, with sharp bends and narrow roads that modern trams cannot fit down.  But the old-school 1930’s trams do the jobs perfectly, though are absolutely chocka-full all day.  So we got up early.

Again, it wasn’t that exciting.  But it was emblematic of Lisbon and I bought myself a little miniature tram to sit next to my Eiffel Tower, waffle shop and hippopotamus.

And then we went to the airport, via a strange codcake thing filled with very strong cheese.

Of course, the sun then came out.

I liked Lisbon.  I wouldn’t put it up there with must-visit cities such as Barcelona and Berlin.  But I do recommend it – unless you don’t like hills.

Also worth mentioning is that Lisbon Tinder wasn’t that exciting.  More productive than Bracknell Tinder – there are some cute Portuguese women, but they are not a patch on the Spanish.

Portugal is another country ticked off the list.  Maybe I’d go back in the future to another city, maybe Porto, but for now there are so many other countries to tick off the list that it will have to wait until I’m old.

Anyone know where I can buy some hashish?

Positively Grumpy

So I’m a grumpy fucker on a Friday again.

There are probably deep-seated reasons that the psychologists amongst you, or whose who watched the first three seasons of Big Brother, have long worked out.

I’m partly putting it down to a comedown.  But mostly Bracknell.

Yes.  Bracknell.  It is the source of much that fucks me off.  It is the source of my unsatisfyingly dull job and home of the house of annoyances.

I was never totally convinced about the house I’m living in, but it was the one that ticked the most boxes.  I came home last night to a snotty notice on the white-board about my washing being in the way.

Well how about the fucking shoes in my way?  Or motorcyclist gear?  Jumpers?  People shouting at their computers until 1am?  Yes fucking shouting at a computer.  Slamming doors.  Loud televisions.  Squeaky beds.  And not one but two couples having sex.

Who is putting the bin out the most?  Who is emptying the dishwasher most often?  Who is the only person to have done any actual cleaning during the 4 weeks that the cleaner apparently couldn’t work out how to use a front door key?

And then it got me thinking that I’m a failure because I’m 35 and there is absolutely zero chance of me ever owning my place and being able to walk around naked (bar Brazilian nipple tassels and a coal miner’s helmet).  But how much of that is my fault and how much of that the lack of supply over the past 30-40 years, caused by government policy (Labour AND Tory)?

Maybe I should join the Liberal Democrats.  At least if Jeremy Corbyn got in, the economy would go down the pan and house prices would collapse.  In theory.

Besides, there will be some kind of recession in the next 5 years, not a patch on the last one but it might also cause at least a slight correction in house prices.

Back to my miserable bastard self (see I’m fucking swearing like a proper Bracknellite now) and I’m not exactly happy in my job.  It is totally unchallenging and really doesn’t give me any kind of mental stimulation, apart from the odd argument.  Every day.  I do feel that it causes me to be more angry and miserable.

Why didn’t I go down the sales route?

Anyway, I’ve had a plan for a while and part of it was moving to Bracknell so I could study more.

Am I studying more?  No.

But that is because I’ve been going out lots.  Whenever I had a heavy weekend when living in Reading, I wouldn’t get any studying done the next week.  At least now I’m managing around 5 hours.  My weekly target is 10.  I currently have a 57 hour backlog.

I am less tired and do feel healthier for moving to Bracknell.  But I am not getting any closer to living in London or more importantly, being a web developer.  On a positive note, the discontentment should push me towards London next year, early next year, even if it means taking a bog-standard credit control job temporarily, even if it means having even less spare money than I do now.  I didn’t have to get out of Reading.  I really do have to get out of Bracknell.

Then again, there isn’t much point in doing anything until I get my annual bonus in January.  Which last year paid for my holiday to Ibiza.

I am going to throw that fucking whiteboard out of the window if there are any more snotty, bitchy notes (it isn’t the first one).

Blogging always calms me down a tad.  Which is the main reason I wrote this in the first place.

More importantly I’m going on holiday tomorrow.  Lisbon to be exact.  3 nights in what is supposed to be a very exciting city – it looks absolutely fantastic, not to mention that there is a small chance of a thunderstorm with the remnants of Hurricane Joaquim heading there too.  Of course, it being me, the remnants are fading away and there won’t be much in the way of weather excitement, if any.

It could be argued that I need the break.  I certainly need to get away from Royal Berkshire.  I cannot wait for the pre-aeroplane beer tomorrow morning.

And that is not the only reason to be jolly.  Next Friday I’m DJing, next Sunday I’m going to fabric’s birthday shenanigans, and the Saturday after I am going to the Barbican to see Jeff Mills and the BBC Orchestra do their techno classical thing.  October seems to be my party season.

So for now, I’m fucked off, fed up of Bracknell, and maybe just a tiny bit lonely too.  But don’t tell my psychologist.

I still have 3 tubs of gravy left…