Status Update

To sum up: I hate almost everything right now. The fuse on my temper has grown very short, the house is covered in boxes, and of course I’m also at the state in the selling process where you discover awkward things about the house which a) you had no idea were an issue, and b) may torpedo the current process. So yay!

Next week, I will be driving 500 miles.

I Just Sighed, I Just Sighed, Just So You Know

“Clouds are bumpy you know. Do we look worried?”

While I do appreciate that the flight attendants were trying to make me feel better as I gripped hold of the armrest in a manner akin to a bear giving out a generous hug, they really only made things worse. I am fully aware of all these things they were saying, but it matters very little at 35,000 ft. One of these days, I will rip out one of the armrests, which is going to be quite embarrassing.

Anyway, I flew places! Firstly, to Seattle, where it was wet, windy, and 26 floors up, and right now, I’m in Las Vegas with my family for my birthday weekend. Which is the first time I’ve been here since…2007?

(Yes, 2007.)

Oh, and I’m also trying to co-ordinate a move, sell my house, and work all at the same time. It’s a fun combination! Especially since I have a moving date of…two weeks from right now. I may be a little frazzled, and perhaps that’s why my psoriasis is the most painful it has been in a long while. And also one of the reasons why there has been a lack of updates here for a bit. I’m hoping May will be a little easier, though I also imagine I will spend a lot of it staring at boxes full of books and wondering if the new house will ever look moved in.

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Back in 1994, this was, I think, the first shop we visited on our first-ever trip to the USA. It seemed appropriate to re-visit it before it’s gone forever. The good thing about coming here with family is that we don’t tend to hang about The Strip too much (indeed, we’ve been here two days and haven’t been there yet; and won’t tomorrow, either). You do get to see a slightly different Las Vegas, even if that’s essentially Newark, CA with a bit more sun.

However, on my birthday, I will be heading to the bright lights in order to visit Milk Bar and Bouchon Bakery!

The Last Tour of Durham

The Goodbye Durham Tour is now in full swing; whilst my house isn’t on the market yet1, and I’m not scheduled to move until the end of April, I’m going to Seattle and Las Vegas in a week’s time. Then I just have two weeks which will mainly be a flurry of me getting increasingly more exasperated as I try to fit all my things into little boxes that somehow take on the density of a small black hole even after just putting a few books in them2.

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So that means it is time for a final trip to OnlyBurger, in their original location, of course. One of the top priorities I have when I get to Cincinnati is to find a replacement, but it’s going to be hard.

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Toast! Ten years old, and still going strong. Many an afternoon or evening was spent here, although I haven’t been much since I stopped working in downtown Durham.

A few of us will mourn you, South Bank building!

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And of course, one final shot of the South Bank Building, which if I do come back to Durham in the future (and I expect I will!), I imagine will be raised to the ground. The centre of Durham has changed a huge amount in the seven years I’ve lived here. Can’t quite get along with all the changes; in particular, this hideous work of glass:


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It’s a building that’s too tall and is too close to the amazing Hill Building. But, I do hope that they have a plaque inside to commemorate where Colin Firth once stood and attempted…that…accent.

It’s not all bad; I’d argue that despite reservations about Unscripted, they prevented a lovely little modernist building from being demolished and turned into a soulless glass block matching the one across the road. Of all the hotels that have sprung up in Durham in the past few years, it’s the one I’d actually want to stay in.

Anyway, so you may catch me out and about in the last couple of weeks of April frantically trying to check off the last of my old haunts. And not just Durham, of course! It has been so long since I’ve been to Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen. Apparently they now ship biscuits, but I feel that they’d be somewhat cold by the time they reached Ohio…

  1. But I already have a fun story about that, trust me. [return]
  2. ‘few books’ means 3 cookbooks that weight about 10lbs each, obviously. [return]

Moving Time


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The packing has begun in earnest. The books are being packed away and bubble-wrapped. And they have somehow…grown since the last move. There’s even a box of books that have to be driven by car because they would be so difficult to replace if anything happened to them (including rare B.S. Johnson editions and obviously a couple of Brutalist books).

Having also spoken to estate agents this week to find out just how you sell a house, things are becoming a lot more real. This time next month, I’ll be on my way to Ohio, leaving North Carolina behind. And I think I’m ready for it, though I do still have a list of Durham restaurants to visit before I go (next week: Toast!). Plus, I’ll be in Seattle and Las Vegas at the start of April, so it’s going to be an odd few weeks. Maybe by June I’ll be settled in Cincinnati.

Right, back to the packing once again…

I Use The NME

I feel like the reaction of ‘the NME got bad one year after you left university’ takes over the end of the NME’s printed edition miss the point. I know that the period I read it was not a great one. It did not have Morley, Penman, or Sinker. But…it was how I was introduced to Spiritualized, Asian Dub Foundation, Atari Teenage Riot, Sleater-Kinney, and countless others. It had Kitty Empire, Sylvia Patterson, and Steven Wells.

It was there: week in, week out; Fifty pages of music every week. Sometimes it’d be terrible, other times it would be great. At times, it would get me so angry that I’d scribble a furious missive, one of which even got published1. Every Wednesday afternoon, we’d have a free period in the Sixth Form common room, sharing the week’s NME and Melody Maker between us.

Of course, you could say that it’s not needed any more, but…while, sure, the day-to-day ‘MUSIC! NEWS! INCOMING! PETER! YOU’VE LOST THE MUSIC NEWS!’ is handled well by the Internet, I feel that we’re missing something by not having a weekly that ends up taking the piss as much as it takes things seriously2. And it was a weekly that paid real money to writers, something that’s lacking in our bold new era of Digital Content.

But obviously, I haven’t bought the NME since I went to UNC in 2002. I could never bring myself to buy Q or Word (okay, I did buy them a couple of times, but that was for when my online work got featured in them), or god forgive us, Uncut. And the writing on the wall had been there since it became a free sheet. In many ways, it’s a mercy killing. But it’s another avenue closed off, another chunk of something intensely…well…British3 disappearing into the mists.

Let us remember those that fell in the ‘hip-hop wars’.

  1. It was Stereophonics slagging off Kenickie that finally got me into the letters pages. The gall of Kelly Jones still angers me to this very day, obviously. [return]
  2. I still miss NTK’s weekly British-slanted take on technology news [return]
  3. British in the way I remember it, in the immortal words of Your Sinclair: ‘it’s crap. in a funky skillo sort of way’ [return]

We're The Goodies

“Wait, you can tell whether somebody is Catholic or Protestant there just by their name?”

“Often, yes!”

“What would ‘George’ be?”

“Obviously, 100% Protestant.”

“Why are the Catholics leaving on the 12th?”

Watching Derry Girls with Americans is interesting. There’s so much of it that is just pure-NI (and pure 90s Britain) that you don’t get a chunk of the jokes if you weren’t there. I also discovered that Americans don’t know who Whigfield is either…

I’m just past the half-way point of my current visit to Cincinnati, and the realisation is setting in: there isn’t going to be a next ‘visit’. The next time I come back here, at the end of April, I will be following a large lorry of books, and I won’t be going anywhere after that. In eight weeks, I’ll be gone from Durham.

While that’s more than a little terrifying, I think it’ll be good! I’ve already seen more people this week than I have in the past month back in NC. Plus more kitchen space, less grass in the back garden, and well, the new house has a built-in bar. You can’t really argue with that. I have even driven in Cincinnati this week! Admittedly, it has been ‘turn left, then go straight for about 2 miles and then turn right into Target/Kroger’, but it’s a start…

By the way, everybody is invited to my bar in May for a Eurovision party. It has been seven years since first mooted, but finally (finally!), everything is place for it to actually happen!


It turns out that this area of Ohio (and Kentucky) has had a lot of rain this week. A lot. Whilst my house is far enough uphill that I wasn’t flooded (I’m basically on top of Mt. Airy!), it did take on water. The continued joys of home ownership! So in my first week back in Cincinnati, I’m having visits from electricians and people who specialize in waterproofing basements. Hurrah!

(LATE BLOG UPDATE: I have working sockets! And presumably more waterproofing…but they left without saying a word so I’m not entirely sure on that one)

Meanwhile, I am just pretty much being tired all the time. Maybe March will be better.

A message from back home

The Secret Service And Other Stories

Well, I was going to write something about the Californian Ideology and how it got us into our current nightmare, but Dan Hon has said it better than I would. I’d only add that we’re likely downplaying just how much tech people bought into the things that brought us here, just like how we downplay how the IEA went hand-in-hand with pirate radio, swinging London, and Keith Joseph. There’s a direct line from the hippies to Thatcher/Reagan, and there’s another between the cipherpunks and today.

Now, in happier news, I need to tell you about a book. I haven’t finished it yet, but you need to run, not walk, and get hold of The Secret Service. You should probably get the eBook rather than hunting down an expensive physical copy (h/t Jennifer Hodgson).

It’s a book about spies in the early 19th century that can turn into objects. It opens in medias res with one of the main characters as a goblet. It is absolutely glorious. Run, don’t walk.

Finally this week, I recommend that you all, like me, watch Taggart from the beginning. The Glasgow high-rises! The early episodes switching from 16mm to videotape at a drop of a hat! The Biscuit! A very naked 21-year-old Alan Cumming! Taggart taking the piss out of Jardine every five minutes!

What's A Computer?

I am struggling to think of anything interesting that happened this week here in Durham. I sent off tax documents! I hoovered up! I discovered that I had missed the last two re-releases of Blue Monday, so I ordered them! I…went to Kroger! And…and…no, I’m afraid I have nothing.

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I did make some chocolates with a fancy new mold…but really that’s it. I have let you all down and I can only apologize.