Saturday, August 30, 2008

Cooking at home: Here's your host, Squid...

Hi. Okay, so my parents are due back in about an hour, and I've decided to do a little welcome back treat. The house is all tidy and clean, everything has been put away etc etc, and I'm gonna do a little cooking for 'em. What's on the menu? Bagna Cauda.
Yep, after watching one too many episodes of Babylon 5, I rather fancied my hand at doing a decent Bagna Cauda, and we've got plenty to serve up with it today.

Bagna Cauda is basically a (rather unhealthy!) savoury fondue made of olive oil, butter, garlic, anchovies (before you say "eww" they dissolve so you don't realise they're in there), and onion. you dip vegetables and bread etc in it. So what have we got to dip in the sauce? Today we've got Celery, Yellow/Green Peppers, Onion chunks (some people do like onion), Pepperoni (I fancied a break with tradition), Olives (eww) and Carrot sticks.
And bread, of course. Real bread, not that pre-sliced rubbish.

So I'm gonna get on with it, photos and recipe to come soon :).

02:38: Well, here we go.

Here's the ingredients you will need for a generous serving of bagna cauda, complete with dipping things (there's some kind of snobby culinary word for the things, but I deliberately forget what it is :)).

The basic steps are:
Put the butter in a pan until it starts bubbling, (do not let it burn, or else you will ruin the whole thing!)
Put in the oil and the garlic, and let it simmer for a bit. another 3 or 4 mins.
Put in the anchovies and let it simmer some more. You guessed it, 3 or 4 mins.

Serve in a fondue thingie, with bread, pepperoni etc etc, and there you have it.

Don't do what I did, and let the butter burn - the taste of burned butter cuts through even the best bagna cauda, and as I found out, no amount of salt or pepper will fix it. In desperation, I even added another 5 cloves of garlic and some tabasco sauce. Nope, no change whatsoever in the taste.

My parents came back, and I let my dad in to show the surprise that I'd sorted out for him. Both my mum and dad were very pleased with the surprise, and as they'd never had bagna cauda, not even in Italy, they didn't know what they were missing.
They were very sympathetic and we had a nice meal, chatting and enjoying the extra dippy bits, even as the burned bagna cauda went cold.

So yeah, it's fairly simple to prepare, but don't burn the butter!

I'm off to relax now. Burned butter is irritating my still somewhat sensitive stomach, gonna have a nice sleep soon :).

Here are some pictures :).

Friday, August 29, 2008

Owwww

Okay so as my parents holiday draws to a close and they set off home, how have I been doing?
Okay actually. I've had a few sedentary days where my sleeping patterns been somewhat bizarre, but other than that I've had rather a nice time.
Until now. For some reason I now have a very unpleasant stomachache, that varies between not-there and extremely painful, for no apparent reason, moving from my stomach to my abdomen and back again :(.

Oh well, let's see how things go :(.

00:24 - in less than 24 hours my parents will be home.

I'm sorry for the fact that the blog thus far has been somewhat pefunctory, seeming as though I was disinterested. To be honest, while I was trying to get stuff down, I was in too much pain to be able to concentrate.

My stomachache continued, frequently turning from a minor annoyance into waves of discomfort that made me literally groan with the pain. In short order, I developed other symptoms of an unhappy digestive system (I won't go further into these as I know some of you like to read this while snacking), these themselves were much less unpleasant but no more welcome.

I had gone to the shops earlier, bought myself everything I need for a happy night in with the TV. A nice bottle of whisky (a rare treat for me), a ginormous bottle of lucozade (for the morning's (or more likely the afternoon's) hangover), a nice admiral's pie (fish in butter sauce with mashed potato and cheese - very nice and inexpensive) and some double chocolate cookies to enjoy with my whisky. I was all set for a nice night in front of the TV.

It's with some regret therefore that I've abandoned that idea. The whisky sits undrank in the living room, I managed to eat four cookies before my stomach made it clear that everything north of my intestine was going in one direction, and it wasn't into my stomach, the lucozade and my dinner are still in the fridge waiting for me.

But, I've cheered up somewhat. I've taken some advice from a friend who is studying some type of medical science at University, who has assured me that this is likely to be a very short term complaint. I was given to understand that the pain itself is simply due to the lining of my stomach/intestine being swollen and tender. I'm sitting now in my bedroom, with only the whir of the laptop fan for company, I've been alone on and off for about 8 days now, and I am somewhat lonely, but as I'm laid down, the pain has all but vanished, and my digestive system, satisfied that it won't have any through traffic for the immediate future, has quietened down a fair bit.

It's a strange thing your health. Like air, like water, you take it for granted until you don't have it.
I did, until all that dental agony I've had over the last 12 months, from then on I have been sincerely grateful to nature or my luck or whatever (I'm not religious) that my general health has been good.

But hey, I might put the upstairs tv on and see if I can do something with my night. Even if I do end up dozing off, the whisky, cookies, pie and lucozade are still there waiting for me, and if tonight's infection is as short term as I'm told it's likely to be, maybe I can go out on sunday with Ste and Si afterall.
I don't have much of a social life (the lad at the back whispering "most bloggers don't" gets a slap) so it's nice to get out.

And the pain's back.
I'm gonna try to get to sleep.

03:38: I woke up with no pain, and very thirsty. So I got changed for bed, which is what I'm doing after this is finished.
The pain is minor now. The odd stab of discomfort is felt, but this is accompanied with a slight rumbling that suggests my stomach is finally grudgingly accepting the water that I've been advised to get down me.

So I do feel quite a lot better, let's hope that I feel even better in the morning. I have stuff to do before my rents get back.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Zero Hour

http://picasaweb.google.com/home

Well, I woke up early this afternoon, what with my new found sedentary lifestyle, and decided that I was going to take the opportunity to get out there - it was a nice afternoon so I thought I'd take the camera and take the final opportunity to get some shots of the Tinsley Towers before they came down for good. Seems lots of people had the same idea. I've never seen so many people with cameras out and about at one time - that's including the viewing park at Manchester Airport.

No sooner do I pull up at a picturesque parking place, than out of nowhere (probably hiding behind trees and parked cars waiting for me to come along. It would be in keeping with the past few weeks) appear a load of photographers of all sorts. Happy snappers, digicam users and a surprising number who labour under the weight of their Canon and Nikon super death turbo DSLR XL models. Like me I suppose.

So there's not much more to say at this stage except it looks like the entire city is coming out to watch over the towers in their last hours. Which I suppose is only fair, as they've watched over the city for 70 years.

I'm going to get something to eat, enjoy the photos.

11:52PM

Well, I've had a fairly non-active evening in, just babysitting the house. I've got my camera stuff ready and we hope to be setting off in about 40 minutes. So, I've got to see if I can wrestle my camera into taking good night photos, and hopefully the results will be good.
Well, all the results apart from the one: When I come back the towers will be gone for ever, and the landscape will have changed completely.
Let's hope we can get used to it, let's hope we can give them a good sendoff.

06:01AM

Right. God, where to start. A cup of tea, that's where I'm going to start. Be right back.

06:24AM

I still don't feel any better.

Right. After a while of getting my camera gear ready, I decided to forego the nap and stayed up ready to be collected. Eventually the time came, and lugging two tripods and my camera bag, my sister, my nephew and I set off.

After a quick detour via McDonalds, we joined in the local traffic, which already heavy for that time of night, grew heavier as we approached the vantage point that I picked earlier. Once we got there, noticing that traffic was insane, I managed to get myself through the tangle of photographers and hyper kids. After being moved on by one militant snotty woman who wanted to take unobstructed photos (with her tacky lil plastic fantastic - camera snobbery? She should have just sodded off home and bought the photos from me - just kidding!), we eventually managed to find a place on some ratty scrubland overlooking the towers, and I set up shop. 2 tripods, 2 cameras. I fired a few test shots, as well as a few more, and then some more later on, checking as if to make sure that the camera hadn't sneakily changed its settings while I'd not been looking.

Over time, the place began to fill up - this is some scrubby wasteland in the middle of a not-very-populated area of the town, and it was an absolute hive of activitiy, with kids running about, drunken yoofs stumbling about, and photographers and suchlike behind their cameras, binoculars, spotting scopes, portable radar, electronic signalling thumbs etc, and so we waited.

Before long the hillside was heaving, well over a thousand people easily, staring at the towers through their viewfinders, glasses, all waiting expectantly for the big moment.

The rain started, the rain stopped, I got heckled by a couple of loony young women who couldn't keep themselves to themselves (nooo, not in that way), and still we waited.

Finally, as if in expectation, the already light breeze disappeared, I glanced at my watch. 2:57AM.

On the very edge of hearing, quiet enough to ask an observer if I was imagining it, a klaxon sounded in the distance, and the crowd grew quiet. The claxon guy, feeling he'd done his bit and he wanted a cup of tea, fell silent. And we waited.

Slowly, almost imperceptibly at first the right (south) tower began to fall, and from the distance, came the boom of an explosion. Not loud, but low enough to be felt as well as heard. The south tower continued earthwards, towards destruction, to stand watch over the city no more. The north tower began to fall, surrounded by the dust of its fallen partner of 70 years, as a second explosion pounded across the landscape, both towers now, spiralling into nothingness.

The south tower, almost completely gone now, collapsed in on itself, as the last of its strength gave out and the final hundred feet or so fell into dust.

And then the north tower did something odd. It corkscrewed. I don't remember the exact motion, but almost in slow motion, I watched as the top of the tower bent around the center, until through the clouds of dust, I could see past the rim of the tower into its inside. The top came down, falling not vertically, but diagonally, and then all was lost in clouds.

The clouds dissipated somewhat, and standing there, against all expectation, was the center of the south tower, defiantly standing, after a fashion but still standing, above the motorway. Through the dust and debris, we stared, at the tower seemingly resting against the top deck of the viaduct. A worst case scenario, really?

The dust cleared. Of the south tower, nothing remained. but the north, still standing proudly almost, seemingly against the viaduct, a last act of retribution against E.ON, poetic justice it seemed, to a degree at least.

Eventually, after going and having a chat with my brother and his fiancee who were also there, we managed to work our way through the complete gridlock, and managed to turn around to head to where we were going. Had the tower really fallen against the motorway? I was elated. Many people had described the demolition of the towers as a crime. Was this their punishment? We were off to find out. Already, the radio was commenting that the towers hadn't come down according to plan, and they would bring us more news as they had it. In the meantime, would we like some music? "I'm Still Standing", by Elton John. Laughing and joking, with our windows down and the radio up, we disappeared into the countryside.

Eventually we arrived at the hillside, looking down onto where the towers stood. Less remained now, and as we watched, brave men and their machines were working hard to remove the remaining structure. Brave? I might have been against the whole thing, but these men were doing their jobs, and from what we could see as a tracked JCB poked at the shell of the south tower, much in the way an insect tries to sink its teeth into you or I, they were putting their safety at risk. A tall ruined spire of concrete, maybe half the tower's original height still stood tall, and these men in their JCB's, looking, well, insectlike in scale, were doing their best to bring it down to ground level. And still, even on the south tower, many of the concrete supports stood proud, doing their job, even though they no longer had anything to support.

E.ON were being tight lipped, saying only that there had been an "unexpected development". The Highways Agency were even more reluctant to talk, according to one radio reporter, "he walked away shouting 'no comment'".

We watched for a time as little by little, the remaining shell came down, and it began to rain, over a different landscape.

A somewhat emptier landscape, I feel.

Obviously, I'm upset about the demolition of the towers. Concrete and steel is all they may be, but the value we place on a building is more than the value of its components. Is your home only bricks and mortar? Those towers were part of Sheffield's heritage, a part that is now gone forever.

Am I going to tear myself up about it? Moaning that they're gone, that we weren't given a say? Or am I going to look back and laugh, and see that concrete spire as one giant middle finger weighing hundreds of tons and pointed squarely at E.ON, as the tower proclaims "I have the last laugh!"

I think I'll try to feel good about it. :)

But I'll do it after I've been to bed. It's 7am, I've been up 16 hours.

Video of the demolition (not mine)

BBC News article on the demolition

"How is a cooling tower demolished"

Finally, here's one I found earlier. These guys actually climbed the north tower and took photos from inside it. You wouldn't bloody get me up there.

And really finally now - you may notice that this entry gets a little emotional or dramatic in places. Blame Radio Sheffield. Just as rousing speeches and glorious hymns (i'm not religious) are most effective and dramatic when set to music, the right (or wrong) music can make all the difference when writing. It was Radio Sheffield's fault for playing a rather sad piece of music just at the bit where I really didn't need it.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Holiday

Well, it's 04:47, it's absolutely freezing, both outside and inside, which for the past few days have been connected to each other by an open window which I am reluctant to close as it would then give me nothing to complain about.

I've waved by to my parents, and they disappear round the corner in a taxi never to be seen again. This month.
Yep, after a year of preparation, threats, arguments on the subject of and general hanging-over-the-headedness, the holiday to Italy has now commenced, and the parents, being the happy couple that they are (15 years happily married - the first 15) are now off to what I have no doubt will be a slightly warmer slightly more humid autumn climate than over here.

Which leaves me alone to shiver in the cold (my own fault), eat what I fancy (but not too much as in true parent manner they reason that 2 weeks of food is twice the amount they'd buy for one week, which is actually about three day's food).

Soooo, what to do, what to do. I don't particularly want to annoy the neighbours as they haven't done anything to deserve it. So while Howards Jones might be a very good singer, I've decided not to broadcast him throughout the building for the time being.

Soooo, well.
It's been 8 minutes and now I'm bored.
I said I'll keep the place tidy, look after the property, water the plants etc etc, as long as I do that, I don't see why I can't have a little company every now and again.
Hmm something to consider - and no, I'm not talking about having the next pishup at our house.

Well, I'm off to er, have a shower probably. And then to shove my clothes in the wash, where they will remain until I wash them. Ooh, scary thought, that.

I'm sure I'll cope with the administration, if not the lack of company.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Unemployment, Punks, Alcohol and Car Crashes!

DISCLAIMER: Requests for further detail about the events detailed in this blog will not be entertained. No one was injured during the events depicted, and therefore I consider the matter closed.

Chapter One - The Boring Bit (possibly)

Soo, where to begin. Well there are the usual apologies - I've not posted for a while, I can't remember what I've covered and I'm too lazy to read back. I think the last one I posted was the cooling towers one.

For a few weeks at work, there've been rumours of doom and gloom, clients pulling out of the business, major contracts being cancelled, and hundreds of people being laid off. One of the more interesting rumours is that the department I worked on was in breach of contract and therefore that contract was likely to be cancelled as well.

See what I said there? I "worked" there?
I went to work on saturday morning, unhappily employed, got on with my shift, when a certain meeting took place. For the sake of discretion, I'm not going to go into detail, because, well, it's my business really, and there's only a certain amount that I'm gonna share on here.

The general outcome of the meeting was that more would be revealed to us the following tuesday. The manager of the department would have a short meeting with us to explain further.
Well on tuesday, the manager was nowhere to be seen, so his immediate junior, due to lose her own job a couple of weeks later, explained to all present that we had the option of leaving the job now or [not much] later.
So on friday, I was unhappily employed, and as of tuesday morning, I am happily unemployed. We were given the impression that those of us who left were not the first and wouldn't be the last. Seems even since tuesday that others have left. So wahey, go them.

Sooo, what did I do? Well I said bye to the people that were remaining, and eventually sodded off, before hanging around for a while to wait for my mate
[funny, as I'm explaining about being unhappily employed, Ross Noble is on TV heckling one of the audience "I work in an office, I couldn't decide whether to come an' see the show or to commit suicide". My job wasn't THAT bad, not quite anyway, but I can kinda identify with it. A final chat, a walk to the bus stop and a farewell later, and I rode away on the bus, casting a last look at the building that I'd worked in for three years.

So I went down to the jobcenter to register as unemployed, and there was actually a vacancy for a photographer's job. Only problem is that not having a full car driving licence, I wasn't eligible to apply, not having one.
But I met a mate at the pub afterwards and sat for an hour or two just chatting and chilling out, when along came Si.
Picture yer typical punk lad, blue hair, black hoodie, combat trousers, Same age as me, quite a good mate [insofar as it's possible to be quite a good mate with someone after not having seen them for 6 years - well my reasoning was that we were good mates at school so we'd be good mates now - I was right as it turned out later].
So chilling out, sitting about and generally chatting round, I took the bike home and arranged to meet them a couple of hours later.

Chapter Two - The Not-Boring bit. Possibly.

So, a couple of hours later, I meet one of my mates at the pub as arranged - Si is nowhere to be seen. I went into the pub, mildly dismayed - we had 6 years of catching up to do - and bought a pint, struggling to keep a straight face when the person behind the bar demanded £2.90 for a pint (just over half a litre) - you can buy 4 litres from the off licence for £6.30.
Moaning inwardly about this, I wandered outside and spent half an hour just chatting about this and that.
Then, wandering along as if he'd forgotten he was supposed to be here, Si came round the corner. He had a pint, we had a chat and decided to move on. So off the the offlicence, where we got 24 cans for £11.00 and wandered up to our mate's house.

So we're there, chatting about everything, anything, typical drunken chat, sat on the balcony, having a good time, watching the world go by and building a steadily increasing pile of beer cans.
About 2 hours in, there's a lull in the conversation, while we get fresh beer or something.
Out of the night, somwehere between our housing estate and the one across the river, there's a huge bang, the sound of metal twisting, and the screech of a tyre. Nothing drawn out, one second it was silent, one second later it was silent. In between was this crashing noise.

Of course, alcohol makes one ask stupid questions. "Did you hear that?" "What was that then?" darted across the table at each other, after a short discussion whether through curiosity, altruism or plain nosiness, we ended up wandering down. Not far from where we were, its hazards on, was a car, the occupants already sat on the pavement halfway through arguing. No one else was there, no bystanders, even the people who's front wall the car had come within inches of demolishing were evidently asleep or something.

The car was a mess, huge scars down the front and side of the car, one wheel was completely smashed, crushed under the car at a 90 degree angle, the car wasn't going anywhere.
Brake fluid dripped down from under the car into the kerb, where it ran down towards a nearby drain.

The conversation was as expected "f'ckin hell, what happened, what a mess etc". Some builders had put a skip in the road, evidently local kids or something had stolen the warning lights put there to prevent this sort of thing, and these people were teararsing along, had swerved to avoid it and ended up hitting the kerb with a hell of a bang.

The lighting on the road was poor, the car was not well lit, and the rear of the car was sticking out into the road blocking half the lane it was in. So the owners arranged to get the car recovered, and, since we didn't witness the accident, and everyone concerned was okay, we returned back up to our little party.

"Yikes what a mess" etc etc. So we carried on for anouther couple of hours, getting steadily more pissed, sat lazily rocking back on the chairs, feet on the table having indepth conversations about everything and anything.

But, our mate was tired, so me and Si disappeared off taking the last of the beer. I ended up wandering along and found myself in Si's house. No, sorry, this is not the start of a raunchy gay sex novel or anything - that sort of stuff doesn't really appeal to either of us. So after chilling and chatting for another hour, drinking yet more alcohol, listening to music etc, Si went to bed and I sodded off home.

Epilogue: The boring bit at the end.

So how are things at home? They're ok. The family took my unemployment rather less badly than they took my 6am return home, but hey that's all sorted now. And me? I'm happier than I've been for a long time. No more AHT, ACW, 121, Crappy three letter acronyms, stupid management speak, little management fads and stupid pointless memos, meetings and bureaucracy. Thank feck for that.

I'm gonna look for a job obviously, because I have committments of my own.
But I think I deserve a week off, and so I'm going to have one. I'm going to another party with Si etc, and I've got to go and watch the towers come down. So, let's see how the next week or so goes.
Oh, and my camera lens, that finally arrived. 12 days after I bought it, paying £5 for next-day. But I was so elated at actually receiving the damn thing that I neglected to send an abusive message.

So that's cool :).


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The sky is falling...

Okay, so maybe not for us lot, but for the frogs, fish, snakes etc etc that make their home under the Tinsley Viaduct, between Junctions 33 and 34 of the M1 Motorway, the sky will be falling. Yep, after seventy years of, if not piercing the sky, then at least making it distinctly difficult for it to lay down nice and flat so it meets the ground properly, the iconic cooling towers at Tinsley are finally definitely actually going to be demolished, in the early hours, of August 24th. After years of campaigns, offers to purchase the towers, petitions and studies, they are definitely coming down.

Why do we care? Because as trite as it sounds, the cooling towers are part of Sheffield's heritage.
We've always been an industrial city, famous for our steelworks which used to cover the landscape, even today, Sheffield steel is sold all over the world, and "Made in Sheffield" is still a hallmark of quality on various steel goods, from small knives and surgical instruments, right through to massive machine parts and girders, for all manner of industrial and construction applications.

And Sheffield has been an industrial city for over 200 years. In WW2, Sheffield was vigorously bombed to try and prevent the mass production of tanks, and armaments for the British war effort, we were the only ones who had the skill and the machinery to produce parts without which aircraft like the Spitfire and the Lancaster would never have flown.

After the war, Sheffield continued to be a major manufacturer of steel, manufacturing and exporting steel goods made all over the world. Heavy industry flourished and tens of thousands of workers were able to put food on the table thanks to the steel industry.

And ever since before the war, and for about thirty years afterwards, Blackburn Meadows power station, (on the site of which stood a total of seven cooling towers of which five have been demolished) provided electricity for the mills, the foundries and the factories.

The power station was closed in the mid 70's, and five of the towers were demolished. However, these two were too close to the new Tinsley Viaduct, part of the M1 Motorway, being only 17 metres from the bridge, to be safely brought down.

So for thirty years after the demolition of the power station, the towers, now affectionately - usually - known as The Tinsley Towers, have become a real living symbol of Sheffield's history. A real life surviving part of heritage. Sheffield has moved on now, steel is now only a small part of the city's economy, having been replaced by education and sport. But still the towers stand to remind us of what the city used to be like and what it used to represent.
For many years they have been controversial. Many people wanted them demolished as eyesores, and just as many vigorously opposed such an act, claiming just as I claim, that they are part of our heritage and history.
Whichever viewpoint any resident Sheffielder subscribed to, the fact remained that when the Tinsley Towers appeared over the horizon, coming across on the M1 from London, Dover, Calais, Trier, or wherever in the world you'd been, you knew that you were home. Standing on the horizon or looming above you as you pass them, they're still as familiar as the shapes of words or the wallpaper in your home, they were/are part of every Sheffielder's life, whether Sheffield born (like me) or not. I remember staring wide eyed at their size and presence every time we passed them when I was a kid, whether going on holiday or just going out somewhere.

So various groups have been putting in proposals to save the towers. Some wanted them turned into leisure resorts, music arenas, skating rinks, while others wanted them turned into giant works of art - Sheffield's own Angel Of The North. Some people tried to get them Listed Building status, while others criticised these plans and continued to call for their demolition.
The new owners of the towers, E.ON UK always said that the towers would have to come down if they were to build on the site, an announcement which brought relief and satisfaction to some, and anger and sadness to others.

In the end though, it seems that the decision has been made without the involvement of anyone concerned, including E.ON. The official line is that after many years of debating what to do with the towers, the towers themselves have made it clear that they're not going to stick around.
Apparently, the towers are becoming unsafe, and left standing, would shortly become structurally unstable, as the concrete falls victim to 70 years of erosion, no doubt helped by being surrounded by heavy industry and later having a major motorway sited next to them, the fact is, according to the study by a bunch of people whos names I don't remember, if the towers don't collapse safely - I.e. in a controlled demolition, they may well collapse unsafely; That is, onto the twin deck four lane motorway next to them.
Obviously the fact that the motorway bridge has spent the last few years under refurbishment and strengthening in a program that cost fourteen times as much as it cost to build the thing is quite foremost in the minds of its owners, and so, for this reason it seems, that the kindest thing to do, to use an animal simile, is to end the lives of the towers humanely, rather than let them suffer and die.

That's the official line anyway, and I have to admit, I'm going to buy it, whether it's true or not. Why? Because if the towers are going to collapse, then nothing is to be gained by fighting their demolition, whereas if they are capable of standing another hundred years, then what E.ON are proposing is a damn crime and this choice shouldn't have been allowed to have been made.
I like the towers. They're part of Sheffield, as much a part as Meadowhall, or the Cathedral, or even the City Hall, and I'm going to be sorry to see them go. I guess believing that they'll go one way or the other is easier for me than believing someone I've never met is negatively influencing my life and I can't do anything about it. So sue me, I'm only human.

So what am I going to do about it?
Is this the part where I tell you that I'm going to become a warrior who fights on the side of light against the evil forces of E.ON?
Er, no. Sorry.
What I am going to do though, is give the towers a good sendoff. I did briefly (very very briefly - see why below) consider smashing a cheap bottle of champagne against the towers prior to their demolition. I decided against this for several reasons:

1. It is a waste of Alcohol.
2. You smash bottles of champagne on things to commission them, not decommission them.
3. I can't throw a 1 kilo bottle of champagne from Kimberworth to Tinsley, even if it is only a mile or so.
4. They won't let me on site to do this, and even if they did I wouldn't know how to get there.
5. It's just being silly.

So instead, I'm going along to watch them come down, come rain or shine, whether it's at 2am or 3am. The place is going to be lit up like a christmas tree, and I'm going to get some great photos. And some great video.
And then, I'm going to have a wake (In local modern usage at least, Wake is a term for a for a party after the funeral during which the memories of the departed are drunk to and the lives of the departed are celebrated with copious amounts of alcohol - it's not quite the same thing as a "real" religious wake) for them. I'm not going to set anything on fire, but I am going to buy a cheap bottle of champagne, drink the champagne, and then probably for the sake of completeness, fall over and smash it against our concrete driveway. I am going to listen to cool tunes, drink cool tasting cocktails with alcohol in, I may even invite two or three friends over. Responsible friends obviously - this isn't technically MY house.
We'll have a "goodbye tinsley towers, we'll miss you" farewell party, and have a laugh and chill out and try not to get too sad, which may be easy or may not be. At least I have the fact that I get paid 2 days after the towers come down, to cheer me up.

It's not all doom and gloom though, really, despite the sadness and - by my standards at least - solemnity of this particular blog entry, because E.ON, who plenty of people would deem, as my dad says, "big bad bastards" have promised that where the two towers stood, they will build something to remember them by, or to commemorate them, (I'm trying to avoid thinking of where I've heard this before) something that the city can be proud of. The company has set aside £2 million for an art sculpture to be built, and its theme is "energy". Well something like the suggestion on the left seems ideal, the same size and shape, made out of nice latticed steel. I'm sure there are other suggestions out there, but this is the only one I've seen a picture of, and therefore in my tired state of mind, the best choice. It'll look nice on a winter's morning with the sun behind it, which as the motorway adjacent to the sculptures runs north, would be directly behind the new towers. Which I suppose would be good photography. When it comes to sunset.

So it isn't all sadness and sombre depressing funereal wallowing in despair or whatever, the towers have been part of Sheffield for a long time, longer than either of my parents, or this house, or even this road. It's only fair that they get some rest I suppose, and they're definitely going out with a bang.

Now I just need to figure out how to get two tripods, a samsung digicam, a nikon D200 and a couple of lenses to Kimberworth - the best vantage spot to watch the towers come down.
Hmm, I wonder if my brother is going along to watch them. It's on a sunday morning and he's lived in Sheffield all his life too - i'd be surprised if he doesn't go. Maybe that's an idea...

That's all :).

E.ON UK Press release detailing the planned destruction of the towers.
They wanted to turn the towers into art pieces.
The Sheffield Star: "Tinsley Towers demolition date revealed"
Some photos of the towers from the urban explorer forums
Artists disappointed at refusal to renovate the towers

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Watching and waiting...

21:02 - σ minus 38 minutes

I press the refresh button for the hundredth time, and relax as the updated number of bids stays at 1. But it's quiet, as they say. Too quiet.
Crappy and trite cliches aside, every now and again, ebay throws me a bone and gives me something I really want for much much less than it's worth. This happens only very rarely, admittedly, so it's pretty special when it does occur. And today, we have a Sigma 55-200mm AF Lens up for grabs. Current price is, let me see...
...99p.

Market value is between £80 and £125 depending on where you go.

Something is very wrong. Either I've missed the "this isn't really a lens" small print or no one actually wants this lens. With 39 minutes to go, this £125 lens is going for 99p, and despite the fact that all I can do if someone bids on it is to bid higher still, I'm watching it like a hawk, if only to convincce myself that I'm doing all I can to make it mine.

Interestingly enough, I'm not now going to "watch and wait" and edit this blog later, updating it every few hours like I did with some of my others, no. I'm going to keep this on my screen nice and secure, unpublished, until the auction is finished. Why? Because it would be a terrible cruel irony if someone read this and thought "hey a cheap lens on ebay!" and outbid me.

Not that that'd happen, but terrible irony is something life does well to me, so I'm keeping this here anyway :).

21:38 - σ minus 2 minutes

A last minute bidding frenzy has brought the price up to £10.51, a bit of a shock after 99p, but still ridiculously cheap for a lens...

21:43 - σ plus 3 minutes

Seems someone had the same idea as me. The price shot up from £10.51 to £26.00 before I won the lens. The bidding service that I have just been introduced to, EZsniper, performed admirably, winning both my test purchase (a 55mm circular polariser filter) and the lens without any intervention from me after the parameters had been set.
The software works pretty well. Put in the maximum amount of money you're willing to pay for an auction item, and the item number, and that's it.
Seriously (or "srsly" as the cats say).
Rather than putting down an early bid on an item and announcing to the world in a slurred idiotic voice "iiiiii waaaannnt thiiiiis iiiteeem tooooo" and therefore giving them the opportunity to totally blow your bids out of the water by outbidding you, forcing the item cost through the roof in the process, EZsniper witholds your bid until the very last minute, waiting quietly before springing into action at the very last second, placing your maximum bid seconds before the auction is due to close. If you've bid the highest, you've won the item. If you haven't, you don't have time to revise it or place a higher one. But, the beauty of bidding in the last few seconds, is that if you do place the highest bid, no other user has time to revise their bid either.
EZsniper isn't a free service, but it could be argued that it's worth it for the money it saves you, by removing the need to have to slog through hours of incremental bid, bidding, bidding higher, bidding higher still...

So what else have I been up to? Well, quite a lot really. Work has totally shot to hell to the point where it's become intolerable. But hey, rumour has it that the business is going down the tube soon anyway, so it seems that this situation will take care of itself.

Family has been a lot better. We decided to get together for a Barbecue, which was kinda cool :).
I woke up in mid afternoon on the day of the barbecue and looked outside - glorious sunshine, but no car outside. I walked through the house - no nephew, and no one else in. Bugger, they'd gone without me!!
I got my leathers on and got the bike fired up, had a nice ride over to my sister's house. Hmm, no missing parent's car there either.
Still, I managed to get parked up and say hi to my sis who was in fact in, and it seems that the family had left to do some shopping - without telling anyone.
Eventually though, my brother and his fiancee turn up, followed later by my parents and nephew, and we had a good old time.

We had the usual barbecue food - very clever temperature sensitive "readiburgers". Yes, apparently they're designed to shrink in size so that when they reach half their original diameter, you know they're thoroughly cooked. That must be it right? This has to be some clever marketing invention and not part of the folly of cooking frozen burgers?? Just imagine if you put a 12 inch pizza in the oven and 20 minutes later took out a 6 inch pizza. It's daft!

But we did have copious quantities of soft drinks, which served to keep us cool, and served to make my nephew a hyper loony, but a good day was had by all :).

I got a new phone as well - I was going to get an iphone but it seemed that my sister wanted it, and since my sister and I haven't argued for maybe 8 years, I didn't think it was worth falling out over a cellphone, no matter how sparkly the iphone was.

So I've got myself one of those LG chocolate thingies. One friend complaint it is a little effeminate for a mobile phone, but hey, it's a cellphone not a knuckle duster. It does the job nicely enough, it was pretty damn inexpensive, and it's got enough novelty value to keep me interested. It will even let me read my emails on the move, or it would if I could configure the damn thing properly.
But, it's not the only thing I've bought recently, no. Some new camera gear arrived. a Light tent and a cool remote control shutter thing. My room is swiftly turning into an aladdins cave for any photographer.
The light tent in particular is a clever piece of kit. Basically, it's a metal framed nylon cube. Put object inside, photograph object, and straight away you get rid of dodgy reflections .
Not that I wander around in the nip with my camera swinging from my... ...neck.


But hey, everything has its downside, and the problem with the light tent, photo tent, light cube, whatever the hell people call it, is that it comes in a bag about the size of a dinner plate (12 inches) across. Now obviously <---- that isn't dinner plate sized, no. You have to fold it into shape, which is NOT AN EASY THING to do until you get the hang of it, which I haven't done. You have to arse about, sprain your wrists, send nearby glass objects hurtling to oblivion and dent any nearby walls, trying to collapse the thing - which doesn't disassemble - small enough to fit back in the bag. But hey, it brings a grin to my easily amused mug when I manage it first time. Which is primarily why I don't smile a lot. In other news, I decided to clean my rather battered and dinted (yes, I replaced the case and yes it has since become battered and dinted so I need to do it again) , and I decided it needed some serious attention, so out came the autosol.

Don't use autosol to clean anything shiny folks, not unless you want a brushed metal finish on your ipods, cellphones, whatever. Fortunately I had some purpose made "ipod scratch repair" fluid (which I suspect is actually repackaged silver/brass polish at three times the price) left over, and I managed to use a tiny little bit of the now scratch repair paste to polish the pod back up :).

It's also been a fairly busy month where photography's concerned. Nick and I went to manchester again to do a day's shooting, and we had a generally good day. Admittedly the weather couldn't make up its mind and my D200 got soaked. Before I could wipe the water off the camera though, the sun came out and it evaporated. Yes, the weather was that fickle.

(Image reduced to one-third size for upload - how's THAT for high resolution! God I love my camera!) This's the sort of weather we had while we were there. It subdued the colours, right enough, but it made for quite a lot of atmosphere, which really made up for it. It changed frequently so the camera settings were all over the place, but hey, it's fun being out there and getting behind the camera. I even shot a few genuine 35mm negatives while I was there, will be interesting to see how those come out.

So hey, I'm gonna chill out, tidy my room, drink coke, and watch a few Zero Punctuation and Ranting Monkey reviews before having an early night, and daydreaming about the sparklyness of my new lens :).

Night :).

Oh, and if any of you wondered what "σ" is, it's just a letter of the greek alphabet :). "What letter?" you ask. that's easy. It's the letter Sigma. ;)

Night.