16 May 2007

So, it's another year in the Conference (and other Assorted Random Snippets to Entertain)

Another in the vein of Everything and Nothing; a sure sign that the combination of lifestyle, mental state and the work I'm doing is not good for me. A happy, healthy and alive me would be seeking to write discrete entries for these things. Oh well, it's not to be for now.

The title refers to the disasters of last week when, despite winning the away leg 1-0, Oxford conspired to lose on penalties to Exeter in the conference playoff semi-finals, ending the hopes of an immediate return to the top flight. I'm not actually as gutted about this as I would have been as, generally, I find my interest in football waning some across the board. Still, it would have been nice if the excellent early season performance had been more the "real" nature of the team than the dismal end to it.

Also on the sporting front, this week signals the beginning of the (international) cricket season in England, with the first Test at Lords kicking off on Thursday. Despite the pratfalls of team and tour party over the winter (the still somewhat unbelievable CB series win aside) England should really be looking for convincing wins over a West Indies team that has lost it's talisman of the last 15 years or so. Brian Lara retired after the World Cup and whilst his brilliant best was, I feel, some years behind him, losing someone of that talent is going to be a major hurdle for their side to straddle. England, meanwhile, have injury problems galore and a new coach to boot. The one good thing to come from the World Cup was Duncan Fletcher's resignation; hopefully new coach Peter Moores (and his new assistant, former Zimbabwe world #1 keeper/batsman Andy Flower, who I reckon will be a fantastic appointment) will revitalise a team that has great potential but has looked light of belief and direction of late. I'm hoping without real belief that Moore's pet pick, wicketkeeper Matt Prior, proves himself worthy, but more than that I'm hoping that a sea-change is signalled and that whilst we only really have 4 truly classy bowlers (Hoggy, Harmy - assuming his mind is right, and his early-season form for Durham suggests it might be - Freddie and Monty) the extra batsman is picked and any surplus overs can be cobbled from the likes of Collingwood, Bell and Pietersen, who can all turn their arms over decently. I think it would make for a stronger side, especially as and when Vaughan returns and could lend his under-rated offspin to the equation. I fear, though, looking at the make-up of the squad, the mindset is currently too firmly set on 5+5+Keeper. Time will tell.

Away from sports, I'm coming up to the end of the free trial Gold membership of Xbox Live, and will be paying for the service soon. That said, it's proving fun, even if I have so far limited myself to playing with the one person on there that I know well offline - my idiot threshold is low and whilst I'm sure there are plenty of good folks out there (and some I know I'd love to game with if our tastes and times overlapped) at the moment I haven't fully abridged myself of the opportunities. That said I have had a chance to smack Garry at Cricket, and was thumping him at Table Tennis too before my connection dropped. Hopefully thumpings will not continue, it's more fun if there's contest. Those aside, there has been more co-op shooting alien-zombies in the face in Gears of War, which is a nice wind down to any evening.

There was a bit of excitement this week when the gaming group were briefly discussing Primetime Adventures, the game I most want to actually play - by the rules and everything! Ultimately though I suspect we shall not - it really isn't a good style match for everyone and whilst people might be willing to give it a try, the success or failure would appear to ride on peoples' initial buy in and enthusiasm for the concept, which is far enough removed from standard RPGs to not be a given. It will be a shame if it does not happen, but perhaps more of one if it does and falls flat. In any case the current game is set to continue a few weeks yet (at the very least) , and what happens thereafter is up in the air for now.

To end on a thoroughly positive note, musically life is good. A couple of weeks ago I had a few days off and headed down to see a mate in Bristol. Whilst there I not only saw Thea Gilmore play an acoustic set at the Fleece (my primary reason for booking holiday and descending on Bristol), I was also back in the same venue the next night to see Nick Harper who, whilst he did not thrill me with his music, certainly knew how to entertain a crowd. In between the two - God Bless Fopp! - I found a copy of Tom Waits' Orphans for £20, so finally persuaded myself to make it mine. Even better than all of that, though - and surely worth a post to itself but for my tired mind - is the album that has been on constant play for the last 5 days since it arrived.

Ma Fleur by The Cinematic Orchestra is a stunningly good album. I liked - not loved - their earlier works, but this release has everything. So well crafted, so appropriately rich or sparse where required, so beautifully performed and recorded. It is Music That Makes the World Alright. That is, no matter what the weather (and it has been doing allsorts; the drive to Windsor Castle - where we took my Grandmother for a birthday outing on Sunday - was through almost zero visibility for rain and spray, and both today and Saturday were changeable if nothing else!) it makes it feel like a bright warm sunny day. Despite the fact I have really been feeling my loneliness recently - this during a few weeks that have seen more social activity for me than most 3 month periods - it banishes all such thoughts.

Now, I have to go press play before I type "if only I had someone to share it with".... Bugger.

No comments: