Tag Archives: photos

From the IXI, SCO and Tarantella archives

The Tarantella Cambridge office finally closed its doors in summer 2003. I’d worked there for ten years: from its IXI days soon after a buyout by SCO, through the merger with Leeds company Visionware to become IXI Visionware, through the slow strangulation by corporate SCO overlords that was our time as the virtually anonymous Client Integration Division of SCO, through the gradual rise of the Tarantella Division, to a bittersweet couple of years at Tarantella, Inc. (It lived on after the final Cambridge folk left, and now toils under the yoke of another behemoth. I wonder how much of the IXI DNA still exists?)

That August we dismantled the tiny rump of an office that we’d become after several wearying rounds of layoffs. Our Leeds colleagues – their office still open then and now – took whatever kit they wanted from our server corner, and the rest was either skipped or accompanied the newly liberated into our exciting, redundancy-fuelled futures.

I took with me a 19-inch iiyama CRT monitor the weight of a neutron star belching in a Christmas afternoon armchair, and there, finally, went my back. But this post isn’t about that old story. I also became the Keeper of the Archives.

Hidden amongst the detritus of Marketing was a collection of ancient relics: a shoebox or two of photos from the Olden Days of IXI, and numerous 3.5-inch disks with enticing labels. Too interesting to throw away. At various times in the subsequent couple of years I spent some hours sorting through these – scanning prints and slides, and copying files from the disks before the hardware fell to bits – and performing holy rites of tagging. I combined them with images I’d kept from my time with the company – sometimes I’d created graphics at home, and hadn’t deleted them.

And now, finally, I’ve uploaded the entire archive to Flickr – all dated and captioned to the best of my ability. There are certainly one or two screenshots of historical interest, such as IXI Mosaic showing the very first IXI home page. I also tell a few stories in the descriptions.

There might be more to come. But this lot will do for starters.

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Croatia

Ah, holidays. One minute you’re anticipating a week of sun and relaxation on the Dalmatian coast, the next a friend is screaming in agony after slipping on some wet steps and badly breaking her leg. Melanie has form, but twelve hours into the holiday is a new record.

For future reference, the Croatian for 999 is 94. Not that we knew that at the time. We soon learned that most of Split, the closest city, is a grimly post-communist forest of tower blocks with a cheap and efficient – and grey and understaffed – A&E. Happily they did a great job of straightening up Melanie’s zombie foot in a flight-ready cast, then turfed her out into our waiting people carrier for a hellish journey back to our villa in a Croatian monsoon.

Chris spent the rest of the evening speaking to insurance droids on hideously expensive phone calls. He thanked one American lady for her help, who replied, “Just doing my job, sir.” With a straight face Chris answered, “All the heroes say that.” Thankfully he hung up a few seconds later so that we could all burst out laughing.

Chris and Melanie flew home the following day. The rest of the holiday was significantly less eventful.

We had rain, and lots of it; we recreated scenes from Doctor Who; we ate identikit cheap food, in the main; we visited a national park and its stunning waterfall; we saw Roman ruins; and so on.

My photos (and the Doctor Who photos). See also photos from Louise, Chef and Lynda.

(Melanie, incidentally, had a couple of pins and a plate inserted in Addenbrookes and is now home, being attended to by nurse Chris.)

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The Gayaway

That was a… unique week. I was holidaying with gaychums John and Roger at the Barbados Apartments in Playa del Ingles in Gran Canaria, an area described variously as Spanish Brighton or Disneyland for Gays (though Disneyland is pretty gay already if you ask me). I returned light of head, light of wallet and lobsterish of hue, with a blue-edged soul flecked with volcanic sand and the fag lag of New York time on the Gran Canaria clock.

Our days enjoyed noon-ish starts, late lunches, a couple of hours of gay beach, silent contemplation/internet, dinner at ten, partying until late/early, and bed. We never left the bars before 2am, and were dirty rotten stop-outs until 5am more than once. According to my extensive records this was the greatest number of consecutive late nights + drink + dancing I have yet experienced. And I enjoyed it. The novelty played a part I’m sure; the sun and heat too. Plus scenery of both landscape and portrait aspects.

The gay beach, to a first approximation, consisted of older, larger, leather-skinned Germans working on their all-overs, and younger, lightly bronzed gym residents with stomachs you could bounce 5ps on. Coming a distant third were the Persil-white Brits and Irish, embracing the empinkening with relish, beer and insufficient sunscreen. Poor John overdid it that first day and a shoulder blistered up. Memo: ice, not aftersun.

The fastest path to the gay beach crossed a stunning expanse of sand dunes. These have a capital-R-Reputation, of which we saw some evidence from a safe distance. A few weeks before the holiday I had a dream in which I said the words “meandering through the sand dunes of Sodom.” It made me wake up laughing. It also led our friend Ali to create a T-shirt for the holiday, which I’m ashamed to say I didn’t wear lest it be misconstrued. I might bring it out for special occasions.

The central gay area in Playa del Ingles is the Yumbo. Drab, sun-bleached tat-n-caff shopping centre by day, it transforms into gay bars, clubs and… other establishments after dark. A bizarre juxtaposition of trashy drag acts, presentably seedy leather-clad dancers, decidedly sleazy entrances into dens of unknown sordidness, and families with young kids wandering about at midnight. Funny lot these continentals.

We favoured La Leche, a light, open, breezy bar with milk-based decor, yer standard pop toons and the occasional live act. We also haunted clubs like Mykonos and Mantrix (less seedy than it sounds). We saw many of the same faces day after day wherever we went – a quintet of Dutch guys, including it seems the Milky Bar Kid himself, seemed to stalk our every move.

We didn’t dare visit Bunker, Gran Canaria’s self-proclaimed sleaziest establishment. The posters boasted/warned “anything goes”. I imagined a gruff Yorkshire-born manager running the place, slouched at the bar surrounded by gin and depravity with some form of jazz cigarette dangling limply from his lips, casting a lazy botoxed eye over the writhing dancers and occasionally crying out “Maureen! Maureen! Clean up in suckateria three!” to a long-suffering post-op assistant. There is, you might not like to know, a web site; it is unlikely to be safe for your workplace.

Our hotel was pleasant enough. Stamped gay-friendly on Thomson’s web site to ward off the loons, it was nevertheless virtually gay-empty on our holiday. A few twinks here, an ambiguous twosome there. Mostly Spanish families with holiday apartments decorated by blindfolded dustmen and Blue Peter competition winners and, oddly, a great number of straight Irish teenagers permanently on the cusp of being ejected by management for booze-related noisiness. One of them, in a conspiratorial whisper, asked me what I thought our swimming pool resembled. He agreed.

We found, to our surprise, a couple of decent restaurants. Not just resort-decent, but decent-decent. La Liguria just opposite our hotel was a fine Italian with freshly made pasta and other delights. Mundo, down the road, was oddly decorated but busy and equally excellent: when the waiter/proprietor recommends you don’t order something on the menu you know you’ll eat well.

I’m almost shocked to say I think I’ll return to the area again. A different time of year, though – gay high season, October to March – and it’d be fun to stay in an exclusively gay hotel if only for the lols. I might need a little recovery time first, though. And a flat stomach.

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In my capacity as official photographer

I present the highlights of two recent evenings: last Wednesday evening, with my current work colleagues; and last Saturday evening, with the Exsquiddy mob.

Rejoice that many of the photos are in focus, and some were taken by others. Those sets are not, however, identical. Let me make that quite clear.

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Tuscany photos

I’ve finally uploaded all my photos from Tuscany. You can see them, plus those from Chris, Melanie and Andy, in a lovely little Flickr group. We’re still waiting for Chef’s photos.

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One Wedding and a Barbecue

Forgive me readers for I have sinned. It is one month since my last blog. However, I shall make amends with three in quick succession.

A couple of weekends ago a number of us travelled to Winchester to see the family Shire. Several of our happy band stayed in a 1960s hotel apparently designed before the invention of the curve. To call it ‘boxy’ would be like calling the Pacific Ocean ‘slightly damp’. However, the rooms were pleasant enough and there was free entertainment in the form of a wedding reception taking place around us. The ratio of tattoos to bridesmaids was sufficiently high to make the playing of Una Paloma Blanca in the adjoining disco a desperate inevitability.

I briefly enjoyed myself watching slightly squiffy guests fail to deal with an automatic door that didn’t. Each of them entered the magic zone, hesitated in pathetic expectation, and wafted at the HAL 9000 sensor watching darkly over them. I explained repeatedly to ever-deaf ears how the vaguely foreign receptionist was busy rebooting Windows for Doors or whatever to make it work again. The rufty-tufty blokes of course tried to manhandle the puny door open, to no avail. I ventured to a middle-aged couple how I was glad there was no fire, but I don’t think they got my point. They were probably wondering who the hell I was, standing in the middle of a hotel/wedding reception and certainly not dressed for the occasion.

The hotel in all its Tetris ugliness squats right next to Winchester Cathedral. A fine view for some from their hotel window; the glory of the council offices for others, including me. Still, that wasn’t why we were there.

It being the height of summer, we walked in increasingly threatening clouds to Andy and Lisa’s. There we spent an enjoyable afternoon and evening indoors watching Andy and Bob trying to keep dry while tending the barbecue. We all ate far too much, as per. Alcohol was consumed (but not by me: still waiting for the all-clear from the doc). Children ran around and latched onto Chef and Chris for entertainment purposes.

Next morning we breakfasted early at the hotel to avoid the wedding guests, who were scheduled to descend en masse at 9am. We were also just ahead of them when checking out a couple of hours later. The usual wandering with cameras followed, punctuated by the standard pub visit (“the best pub in town” – A. Shire) and a refuelling stop at Pizza Express (where “express” was not the word of the day thanks to the crowds of families).

Photos: me, Lynda, Andy Heckford, Chris, Melanie.

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Olé

IMG_2237More or less everything I knew about Spain I learned from Fawlty Towers, until two weeks ago when I departed these shores via the medium of Stansted for a week in Andalucia with Mike/Cline, Louise/Adrian, Chef and Andy. My goals were sunshine, relaxation, reading and sight-seeing, roughly in that order.

We flew to Malaga and drove in a convoy of three cars (don’t ask) an hour or so north on roads that became ever more crinkly and decrepit. Our villa, located 7km from Valle de Abdalajis, lay up a dirt track 1.01 cars wide and bordered by rockface and air. Stunning views, naturally: you always get stunning views half way up mountains in the middle of nowhere.

Thus began a week of expeditions (or the avoidance thereof) of varying lengths to places of interest. And a week of navigational hilarity in which we, again, forgot lesson #1: it is not permitted to allow Chef to navigate within two hours of mealtimes.

Places visited by some or all of us included Antequera, noted for its mountain backdrop shaped like a stereotypical Native American profile; El Chorro, with gorge and comedy walkways for climbers; Cordoba, which apparently has a bridge (I didn’t go); Puerto Banús with its nobs and yachts; the Alhambra at Granada, which is not a bingo hall; and Gibraltar, where you don’t turn your back on the apes if you value your crisps.

Amusingly, while waiting our turn to go round the posh bits of the Alhambra, I noticed that I was being watched by a gentleman sitting on a bench. I glanced over; he was rather obviously giving me the once-over, and smiling. After verifying that my flies were properly zipped, I wore matching socks, etc, I mentioned it to Mike and he confirmed my suspicions. Next time I looked, the gentleman’s male companion had also engaged scanners. And before I knew it he’d pulled out his camera and was deploying tactic #94, Taking a Photo of Someone Interesting While Pretending to Photograph a Friend.

Naturally I took a photo of them as he did so.

Then he got his camcorder out. Big cowardy custard that I am, I let them get on with it rather than go over and talk to them. However, I am now dedicating my life to discovering those photos and that footage.

All this and more is fully documented in the Avaragado and chums: Spain 2009 Flickr group. Or if you’ve seen everyone else’s, here are just my photos.

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Avaragado is 40

DSC_0122.JPGA good birthday party needs a few simple ingredients: food, drink, people, music, cameras and ritual humiliation. All of these were present last Saturday evening when about fifty chums of various flavours converged on the barn at The Punter to celebrate with me as I officially peaked and began the long, slow descent into Alzheimer’s International Airport.

Forty. Forty! It barely seems ten minutes since my thirtieth. It was great to see so many veterans of that night still on speaking terms with me.

Traditionally I put off any planning for my birthday until the latest possible moment and choose a restaurant in a hurry. This year I was exceptionally well-prepared. Back in January I booked the venue, sent pre-invitation invitations to gauge interest, and secured, hush-hush, the services of some very special guests. I must thank Andrew for giving me a few ideas, liking mine and not letting me get away with doing nothing.

The Punter – the latest incarnation of what was once The Town and Gown – would take care of the catering. A notoriously veggie-apathetic pub (every time I visit there’s a token veggie option, invariably a random risotto) I took a keen interest in the food, and requested sample menus. Lots of time to chat about the options, I thought; but as is the way of such things nothing was finalised until the week before the event: a finger buffet, 50:50 veggie:meatie.

To keep track of attendees I fired up a Google spreadsheet, which sat in a browser tab at work and at home for the next three months. Naturally – see blogs passim – I saw a list of names as merely a starting point to a whole raft of pointless stats. There was a purpose, however – that’s what I kept telling myself – as the barn at The Punter had a limit of sixty, so I couldn’t invite the universe and see who turned up. By the day of the event I’d received 55 affirmatives. I figured a certain proportion of no-shows would be balanced by one or two extras, so I threw the number sixty at the pub kitchen (“never knowingly underfed”).

I charged Chris with musical duties, a task I knew he would approach with gusto. He tapped Andrew for additional intelligence on my listening habits. The result was, as Chris described it, a five-and-a-half-hour megamix. To play this we’d need some kind of sound system; and not just a CD player, since my very special guests would require microphonic enhancement. Chris found a kit we could hire: CD player, speakers, mic, mixer. Sorted.

So to the special guests. For my fortieth I wanted something more than just an evening of food and drink with mates, as nice as that is. An idea occurred to me in January and it immediately appealed. What would make for an entertaining, memorable event; provide an experience that would be a first for many of the attendees; and undoubtedly involve some form of ritual humiliation for me? I had just the thing.

They’re called The Fleurettes, and they’re a drag act. Winners of the coveted Drag Idol event in 2005, and – handily – regulars at the Bird in Hand, which I also frequent. I know them pretty well and they readily agreed to assist with my celebration, out of the goodness of their own hearts and also my own wallet. Very few people knew they were coming: I wanted it to be a surprise for as many as possible.

Saturday morning, the day of the event, was relaxing. A quick wander in town, then some trivial yet exciting DIY – screwing some hooks into a picture frame and hanging up my present from Chris and Melanie. Then it got busier. Lunch at The Wrestlers, and another amazing present: 24 DVDs of 1969 films in a custom-made box (a group present from the usual suspects). Then picking up my friend Damon from the station, then a quick stop at Andrew’s to pick up another couple of presents (a cake, plus a T-shirt with a three-UTF-8-character message in binary, and no, it’s none of the ones you’re thinking of), then time for a cuppa back home, then off to Cottenham to pick up Chris – who nearly forgot the music – and straight to Milton to collect the sound system, which we dropped off at The Punter, then home to get changed, then back to the pub to figure out how to put the sound system together, then, finally, party time.

It’s true to say I was a bit apprehensive: would everyone turn up, would the food be OK, would the sound system work, would we successfully avoid making the sound system explode, would people like the Fleurettes… I had nothing to worry about. It all went swimmingly and everyone had a great time – at least that’s what they told me.

The Fleurettes were naturally the highlight of the evening. They picked relentlessly on poor AndyC from work, who I think is now scarred for life. His girlfriend Emma enjoyed it though.

Of course they picked on me too. The dragged me up in front of everyone, and then… dragged me up in front of everyone. (Andrew was also not-so-randomly selected from the audience for the same treatment.) I emerged, chrysalis-like, resembling Amy Winehouse drawn by a three-year-old. It’s safe to say that several photos were taken (see the Flickr group).

You’ll see, in those photos, that I’m wearing a T-shirt. I made this myself: it shows the 8-year-old me wearing a T-shirt of a slightly younger me. My plan is, ten years hence, to use one of the photos taken at this party to make another T-shirt. Every ten years I will nest a little deeper. Perhaps I’ll make a paradoxical T-shirt too, where a younger me is wearing a photo of an older me. The possibilities are endless; and indeed tedious.

After the whirlwind that is the Fleurettes departed, Chris decided that a lonely microphone was too good an opportunity to ignore and began an inpromptu karaoke session. Much to my surprise I joined in. We’re not going to win any awards, I must admit, but it was fun.

It was an amazing night all told, and a great way to kick off my forties. I’ve got ten years to think of a way to top it.

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Different Camber

My annual trip to Camber Sands took place on Sunday and Monday. This year’s word is “different”. Oh, and also “Colin”.

Different because one of the group is no longer with us :-(

And because several other regular attendees were absent, because of the weather and other reasons.

And because I won fourth prize in the boules competition, only my second trophy in at least nineteen attempts.

And because the day ended with the most incredible storm I’ve ever witnessed, already dubbed Camber Storm Colin. Monsoon multiplied by five. Constant lightning. Hailstones smashing car windows (mine were OK, but others in the group weren’t so lucky). The photos don’t do it justice.

And because Camber Storm Colin and its aftermath meant we didn’t play our usual game of tippit.

And for other reasons too.

And here are the photos.

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Rimini etc

As you may have seen from Lynda’s blog, she, I, Andy, Chef and Louise spent last week swanning around various Italian towns in the vicinity of Rimini.

The week in quotes:

  • “How many courses shall I have?” – by Chef, at most meals. We ate out every lunchtime and most evenings. The pasta was mostly nice, the pizza was relatively disappointing. As Chef was designated driver the meals were cheaper than they might otherwise have been. I once again disproved the sweeping assertion that I never have dessert by opting for Tiramisu rather than niente dolci on a number of occasions.
  • “You’re the navigator” – which actually meant, “you’re in the passenger seat”. Three in the back of our 4×4 was cosy so we rotated shotgun; Louise performed most of the actual navigational duties. By the end of the week we also had a roadmap, which was nice. Chef drove come un italiano once or twice. We were never lost, though occasionally we didn’t know where we were going. Italian road signs are, mostly, for entertainment purposes only.
  • “Just get in as quickly as you can”. Our pool was unheated. The wrong approach is to take it a millimetre at a time, moaning all the way. I just got wet as quickly as possible, often noisily, but effectively. Once submerged it was fine. More than a few seconds out of the water, though, and re-entry was most invigorating.
  • “More tat shops”. Sometimes I wish the tourist industry could be uninvented. Please exit church via bookshop. Mug with your name on it? These postcards already stamped for Europe! Would you like to buy a pistol or a samurai sword with your baby’s new bib? San Marino’s fancy bits are especially blameworthy.
  • “Cock-a-doodle-doo”. All day long, all across the valley in which our villa lay. Cheerfully, croakily, quickly, slowly, interminably.
  • “Do we need more wine?”. Yes, apparently.

I’ve created a Flickr group for all our photos (mine only at time of writing).

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