31st December

So 2014 draws to a close and let’s face it what a year it’s been!  I was thinking about it earlier and something hit me! I’m sure for years Sarah and I had toasted in the new year by saying “here’s to 20xx it can’t be any worse than the last one” and it invariably was. I’m absolutely positive that in the last few minutes of 2013 we decided not to say that and it must have worked because it all changed in 2014. However if you’d told us at that moment what 2014 held in store I’m pretty sure we have both laughed and said you were insane!

So in review in 2014 I…….

Posed for Spencer Tunick in Folkestone

Moved 300 miles north to a small village in County Durham

Left the job I’d had for 26 years (approx half my life)

So after such a good year it seemed fitting to celebrate it ending.

A few years ago we went to Newcastle on Christmas eve and they had a parade and fireworks so we decided to go again. Luckily I checked on the Internet because apparently the route had changed this year. So we went over to Newcastle and after changing a couple of presents we went to find somewhere to watch the parade from.

One thing that always annoys me in these situations is that hsving got there early and found a good spot to watch from there’s always dome arrogant arse who thinks he can turn up late and push his way to the front or even just walk down the middle of the road and stand in front of you. It happened in Brighton at Burning the Clocks and you could see it happening here as well.

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The parade turned out to be a bit rubbish, not like we remembered it. People around us were saying the same. Someone commented that if that was the parade what was the fireworks going to be, two bangers and a sparkler? We followed the parade all the wsy down to the quayside where it was absolutely packed. We waited in a side street until just after 6 when it finally started.

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Afterwards we headed back to the central station to cstch the Metro to where we parked thr car. We drove home and had time to order a pizza before heading out again to Allendale for the annual Tar Barrel parade to see in the new year.

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The parade seemed to start earlier than usual and therefore the bonfire which usually gets lit at midnight was well ablaze by about ten to. The fire was enormous and sparks were flying everywhere so we decided to move back a bit. We kept looking at the time and eventually the woman behing said oh sod it and started a countdown which turned out to be remarkably accurate and so 2014 ended.

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Christmas

So the blog went to pot this year due to moving house and commuting back and forth to London for work. So before I abandon the blog all together I thought I’d pop a few topics in so when I have time I can come back and fill in the blanks!

Lindisfarne

Then all at once I heard some music playing in my bones
the same old song I’d heard for years, reminding me of home

Back in February I was working in Luxembourg and I arrived back at Heathrow late on a Friday night and then had to drive almost 300 miles to Sunderland to pick up Sarah and Ben. As I pulled away from the airport and onto the M25 I picked a CD out of the box on the passenger seat and popped it in. The CD was Lindisfarne’s greatest hits and I’m still to this day not 100% sure if this had anything to do with my answer when Sarah asked me a few hours later “why don’t we move to the North East?”

In any case Ray Jackson’s Lindisfarne at Newcastle City Hall on 20th December seemed like a great idea for my first gig since returning to the North East – it also marked my first visit to the City Hall in over 30 years!

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I saw last year that they’d done a couple of shows at the City Hall – once upon a time the Lindisfarne Christmas concerts were a feature of the season and we used to go often – even my mum and dad! I wished I could have gone last year but it wasn’t possible so when I heard they were playing again this year I wanted to go. there was a single ticket sitting there in the second row that just seemed to be waiting for me to grab it. I’d seen it before we moved and it was still there weeks later so I just had to snap it up!

The last time I saw Lindisfarne was in 1984 at St James Park supporting Bob Dylan and frankly they were awful – I’d seen them first at one of their reunion gigs in 1977 and all that I loved about that night seemed to have gone, all the songs sounded the same it was so sad. A few weeks later I caught front man Alan Hull at a Miners Benefit at the City Hall (the last gig mentioned above) and he was so much better. Alan has of course sadly died since and the only original member of the band left is Ray Jackson but the reports from last year are so good I’m glad to be going!

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The first thing I noticed when I took my seat was that the stage was higher than I remembered it to be but everything else was the same as it ever was. The show started off the way it used to with someone dressed as Santa coming on and telling some jokes before the band came on and got the first set underway. There used to be a support act and then Lindisfarne would play all the way through but I guess times change and they need a break! When the band come on my first thought is that Ray Jackson doesn’t look any different – obviously he is thirty years older than last time I saw him but hey I’m 30 years older too!

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As I said Ray is the only original member of the band but I also spot Charlie Harcourt who joined Jackson in Lindisfarne in 1973 after three of the original members left to form Jack the Lad. We once famously met the pair in a guitar shop in Newcastle when we were in town one Saturday. We saw them through the window and went off to buy a pen to ask for autographs. We bought one but we couldn’t find any paper either and then we saw some posters for the 1976 Reunion concert in a second hand shop next door. The posters duly bought we stormed into the guitar shop and got the pair of them to sign them. They were very confused as to how we just happened to be passing with identical posters!

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Since those days Alan Hull has of course died and his vocal sections are taken by his son-in-law Dave Hull-Denholm and he really does do them justice. The set starts off with a couple of old favourite songs, what am I saying they’re all old favourites! The audience are as old as me, if not older and for most of the night they remains firmly rooted in their seats! The highlight of the first set for me is of course Lady Eleanor but January Song is a definite close second!

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The second set started a bit slow with Mandolin king and tales of Rod Stewart’s Maggie May but after a stunning Winter Song the opening bars of Fog on the Tyne finally got the audience up onto their feet! As the song finished Ray Jackson saw them trying to sit down again and said “Ha’way man you might as well stay standing up” as they kicked into Run for Home! The rest of the night was the familiar Christmas concert finale with the harmonica section and Rapper Side featuring during We can Swing Together.

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The encores were meet me on the corner and Clear White Light. The whole evening fair took me back to the days of my youth and a few weeks later Ray Jackson announced he was retiring from live performances so I was glad that I didn’t put it off and that I got to see him one last time! The band continues but with Rod Clements as the only original member left. Also a few months later Simon Cowe sadly died in Toronto – inexplicably on the day he died there was fog on the Tyne!

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Set 1
1 Santa stands up
2 Road To Kingdom Come
3 All Fall Down
4 Wake Up Little Sister
5 Scarecrow Song
6 City Song
7 Together Forever
8 Lady Eleanor
9 Marshall Riley’s Army
10 Alright On The Night
11 January Song

Set 2
1 Mandolin King
2 Maggie May-Court In The Act
3 Evening
4 Only Alone
5 Train In G Major
6 United States Of Mind
7 Warm Feeling
8 Winter Song
9 Fog On The Tyne
10 Run For Home
11 We Can Swing Together
12 band introductions
13 Meet Me On The Corner
14 Clear White Light (Part 2)

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Paris

The last job I did abroad for Eclipse was in Paris – although it turned out to be a disaster from start to finish. I’d been asked by one of the project managers if I could do it because due to a change of dates one of the cameraman that was originally booked now couldn’t do the job. I said to him right from the start that I would only do it if I could fly from Newcastle and he said he would sort that out.

When the dates drew nearer I was told that I had been booked on Eurostar out of St Pancras along with all the rest of the crew which meant I would have to travel all the way down to London in order to then get on a train to Paris which would obviously take much longer than just flying from Newcastle. The there was the question of who would pay for it!

At first the director who was my line manager said that the company would only pay for the journey to London because that wasn’t during normal working hours (oh I forgot to mention that I was now travelling out on the Sunday instead of Monday as originally discussed!) but I would have to foot the bill for the return journey. Needless to say I wan’t happy about this and I went to see the other director (who I’ve known longer) and told him if that was the case I was now not available for the job as we were travelling on the Sunday which I hadn’t been told about.

He did some sums and worked out that by the time they’d paid for a freelancer for 3 days, lost the money it had cost them for my train ticket and paid for another ticket there wouldn’t be much change from £1,500 which would cost the company much more than the £28 it would cost them to pay for my return ticket! At this point I think I was starting to see why I was leaving (although they didn’t know this yet!) as these sort of stupid things just kept happening all the time and the original director was usually at the root of noses being cut off to spite faces!

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Anyway after a very long day we arrived in Paris and checked into our hotel. We agreed to go out an hour later and I spent the time editing and uploading some audio tracks for another project manager! When we did go out we headed for a bat just over the road. I don’t usually like Paris but we seemed to be in a quiet part of the city and just for once I was enjoying it. After our drink we decided to move to another place to get something to eat and as I picked up my jacket to pay I discovered that my PDs had gone. They’d been in an envelope in my pocket but now they weren’t! I panicked for a bit but then found the envelope on the floor under my chair. I paid for the very expensive pint I’d just drank and off we went for a meal in a restaurant nearby.

The following morning the Project manager announced that he had forgotten to get cash for taxi’s so we would walk to the venue! It was about a 20 minute walk but it was early and the streets were quiet. When we arrived at the venue we had to sign in and we were asked for our passports or other photo ID. I put my hand in my pocket and my passport wasn’t there! Oh no where was it? Shit! Maybe I’d left it back at the hotel! Or maybe not! Anyway I handed over my driving licence and we went in to start the rig.

When the hour was decent I rang Sarah “Don’t shout at me but I think I may have lost my passport! Can you find out what I need to do?” She said she’d look into it and call me back. When she did about half an hour later it wasn’t good news! I needed to go to the British Embassy which was only open between 9:30 and 12:30 each day. I had to pay £100 for emergency travel documents and then when I got back home I’d obviously need to pay for a new passport.

The problem was that it was now 11:30 and I had no idea where the Embassy was. Then tomorrow the show was between 9 and 1 so I wouldn’t be able to go then either. After the show we were supposed to be derigging and getting the Eurostar straight home. Bollocks.

Then I remembered I had the receipts from the two places we’d been to the previous evening so in a last desperate attempt at solving the problem I’d call them and see if it had been handed in. I rang the first bar…

Ring ring

“Bonjour”

Oh hello – do you speak English?

“yes”

Oh good – I was in your bar last night and I think I may had dropped my passport and I was wondering if someone had handed it in

” Ah yes – is that Mr….”

Oh thank goodness for that I’ll be back later this evening to collect it

“No problem it will be in the safe”

Huge sigh of relief!

When I did get back to the bar that evening I had a nervous wait till someone found someone who knew where it was – I knew but they didn’t ask me! Finally I had the thing back in my hand and I was so relieved”

The following day we were supposed to be at the venue at 7:30 which meant we could just have enough time to grab breakfast before out enforced route march (with luggage) to the venue. Then the PM said the client had asked for us to be there early so that meant we’d miss breakfast that the hotel but they would organise something at the venue.

Needless to say breakfast never materialized and on the way to the venue the handle snapped on Sarah’s wheely suitcase so I ended up having to carry it most of the way. Midway through the first session we were all starving and then the client twigged that we hadn’t had any breakfast and wasn’t pleased. He told us to go and grab stuff when the delegates broke for coffee but then told us not to be seen doing it! Sod that we just grabbed coffee and as many pastries as we could!

After the show finished we had lunch in the staff canteen and then derigged and loaded the truck – in the rain as I recall! Then we had about 3 hours to kill before we caught the Eurostar so we ended up at a bat near Gare du Nord and had a few beers. Obviously once I’d got back to London I still had another 4 hour journey to get home so when I did I was absolutely knackered!

 

 

Dog

I foolishly said “If I get a job in the North East we can get a dog!”

So needless to say I’ve been held to this!

So we went to Dog’s Trust at Darlington to have a look and see what they had! My only stipulation was that it was a man dog – not a male dog but a dog that a man wouldn’t be embarrassed to be see out with. The Dog’s Trust had a variety but the one that took our fancy was a black saluki.

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We went through all the processes and filled out all the forms and the only bugbear was that they didn’t know how she was with cats. So they decided that before they came out to us to do the home visit they would try her with a stunt cat. They had a friendly cat that they used to test dog’s reactions. Sadly for us she went for the cat as soon as they were introduced so it was back to the drawing board.

Then Sarah saw an advert for someone near us trying to rehome a greyhound. We went to see it and Ralph was a real softy – when we got there it was sitting on the sofa with one of the owners cats. We decided to take him and we put this lumbering animal in the car and took him home. All was good for the first two weeks but then he started to get quite aggressive and started barking for no particular reason. Sarah contacted the original owner and he said that this had never happened but during the discussion it was agreed that he would take Ralph back. Looking back it probably was for the best although Ben was upset as Ralph had takne to sleeping on his bed!

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At this point we decided that we would wake until after Christmas before looking again but Sarah also signed us up to an agency called barking mad. We ended up having a small dog named Sebi with us over the Christmas period.

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Sebi was somewhat precious and came with his own special food which included mozzarella and hot dogs which she liked. The rest of the food was vegetarian and gluten free and she wouldn’t touch that – she ended up eating the left over turkey! She came with presents which she pissed on on Christmas morning and several jumpers including a special Christams one. On the whole she wasn’t too much bother and we had to take pictures of her to send to the owners so they knew she was ok. One of the pictures was taken at the Angel of the North which prompted the reply “Oh I wanted to go there and now Sebi has gone without me!”

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The search for our own dog would resume in the new year!

 

 

Work

My original plan when we moved to County Durham was that I was going to leave my job and use some of the money that my dad left us to support myself while I established myself as a freelancer. However as the time to move got closer it became apparent that the solicitor dealing with the probate was so incompetent that there was no guarantee  when the balance of the money would be forthcoming. So I decided to stay where I was albeit working less hours and part time from home.

The only thing was that the company while agreeing to the arrangement made me feel very insecure about it. Then of course I was having to drive down almost every week on a Sunday night and then return on the Thursday evening and of course staying at my Mother-in Law’s (which I didn’t mind)

So I started to look for a job in Newcastle. Someone had mentioned R&B to me as being the best company in the North East and I had looked at their website a couple of times. One day I decided to send in a speculative application and I went on the site to find out their e-mail only to find they were looking for a graphics person – that jobs just right for me I thought and duly applied.

I think I covered the next bit on the 21st October entry but needless to say I got the interview which I was pleased about but as part of the interview process I had to design a presentation template based on a pdf file they sent me for an event held in Manchester. I also had to take along examples of previous work to show them. I was bricking it over this and really didn’t like the idea of being judged in this way but I could see why they might want to do this. I kept putting it off but eventually I put aside the day before the interview to put something together. the examples bit was ok _ I had grabbed a load of videos that I’d made and some presentations I’d worked on and dropped them into a keynote presentation.

Then my mobile rang – it was one of the PMs from work – he’d just seen the video I;d made and it was 16×9. I know I said it was 16×9 last year. Oh god was it? My screen is 4×3 – any chance you can change it? So I had to drop everything and rearrange the video into a 4×3 format and wetransfer it to him – only once I’d finished did I get the chance to get on with the stuff for the interview. I hit on the idea of making some small animations to go on the background of the slides as part of the brochure had a different design for different streams. Naturally I was still not sure if it was good enough.

On the day of the interview I was very very nervous! I got dressed up and left in plenty of time to get to their offices. I probably hadn’t had a job interview for 20 years so I was worried about what it would be like. I told myself not to allow myself to get negative even when asked about why I wanted to leave Eclipse – at least it was easy to explain away by the move! I arrived half an hour early and really needed the loo! I drove around the area but couldn’t find anywhere to go so in the end I had to drive back to their office and ring the buzzer. I kicked myself when I asked for Anthony rather than Antony and felt even worse when I had to ask to use the loo straight away. In any case they weren’t ready for me so that was ok.

As I sat waiting to be called up someone came in and asked if I was being seen to and I explained that I was waiting for an interview and he asked me if I’d like a coffee but I already had one. I think it was at that moment that I knew I’d be happy yo work here! A short while later one of the directors came down to get me and as we walked upstairs he said “Viewplan eh?” referring to one of my old employers, to which I replied “I knew your name rang a bell!”

The interview wasn’t too bad – it’d probably be stretching it to say I enjoyed it but I felt relaxed and positive. I had a problem getting my keynote to run on their machine so I asked if they minded if I used mine and quickly pulled it out, unplugged theirs and got mine in place – I’m sure that helped me! Which is more than I could say about the spelling test! Oh my god I wasn’t expecting that! I’m sure I got a load wrong but my handwriting is so bad they probably couldn’t tell anyway! I left the interview really hoping I’d get the job!

Almost two weeks passed and I still hadn’t heard anything. At this point I was convinced I’d blown it. It made me sad because I felt that I’d ruined my chances with a good company perhaps by going for a job that I wasn’t right for. I kicked myself and wondered if I should apply to Savilles! Then one afternoon Sarah and I had gone Christmas shopping in Durham and as we were looking round the first shop my phone buzzed. I swear I knew instantly that it was to do with the job but when I opened the email it said I’d been offered the job. I was instantly propelled into a state of shock that was only relieved by going to Starbucks and having a Gingerbread Latte and a sit down for half an hour. My mind instantly whizzed the other way – what had I done – oh my god did I really want a new job after all I had been with my old company for 26 years which offered some protection etc etc

Once I’d calmed down it all made sense so after a few exchanges of emails to clarify things I accepted the job and we agreed I’d start on 10th January!

This only left one thing – to hand in my notice. The next time I was in the office was 1st December which was perfect to give one months notice. The director who I had the good relationship with was on holiday so I left my letter on the desk of my line manager. It sat there for two days! When he did eventually come in he didn’t say anything to me until after lunch when he stopped me in the corridor and said “yeah ok” – 26 years and that’s all I got! I explained that as I had some time working at home due and a fair amount of holiday then I’d finish the following day and he said ok. So I did.

No sooner had I got home than I heard from the other director – the one with whom I had started the company. He seemed to be annoyed about the fact that there had been no handover organised. The line manager tried to get me to go down the following week but I refused (what were they going to do? sack me?) and said I’d come in as agreed on the 23rd December which I did. When I got there neither director had bothered to turn up so I sat at my desk and typed out a document for my successor and left it where it could be found. The head of the graphics department hadn’t even bothered. There was no card or prezzie despite the fact I’d been there since day 1 except that one of my friends had got me a card himself in which he’d put £50 because he was so annoyed that they hadn’t bothered.

As I walked away I was 100% sure I’d made the right decision!

21st October

Ok this edit I’m working on is driving me nuts! It’s for an awards ceremony of sorts and I have to make a video for each of the finalists which I’m told should be around one and a half minutes long. The problem is that there’s about 15 minutes of footage for each of them and getting it cut down that far is a nightmare and a long snd painstaking task. It doesn’t help that they’re all as boring as shit as well. Only got 4 done by the end of the day so it looks like I’m going to be on this all week!  Well that’s something to look forward to!