Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Hand History - Part 15: The Final Shove

Well it looks like I won't have much time for poker over the next three years. Or neccessarily that much money either. I've done the calculations and whilst I won't be living light and will no doubt have enough for some sort of leisure, I don't want to factor poker in to my estimates. For a start it would be a bit lame. And in any case I should like to begin saving, saving in such a way that each year can see a sort of incremental increase in prosperity until such time as I end up marrying and buying a semi-detached in Acton or something.

It even looks unlikely that I'll have a Vic session prior to my September start, although I would like to see the place again before too long. The last time I was there was in Janaury pretty much the weekend before applications started. And it's well over two years since I first set foot in there as can be read about in my previous Hand History.

Well now it is time to bring the story to a close. I don't pretend this to be an easy task: the gap between April 2009 and now has been a long one and there have been fewer great easily memorable 'set pieces'. But I shall do my best to relate them now.

The days immediately following the Vic session were pretty low. I did not feel that I had been through some odd rite of passage. I actually felt genuinely foolish. However the loss had no immediate financial effect and in no way impacted on my ability for study, which is infact usually strengthened in times of misery. Two days after my Vic session I was in a cardroom once more for the UKSPC in Birmingham. I was genuinly excited about the event but was playing pretty recklessly and was out before the dinner break. I decided my dignity was worth more than a free meal so rather than hanging around for the buffet I went home under the full veil of glumness.

There were no more major events during this period (up till the end of exams and after). I remember one May afternoon (self designated-day off) I pretty much sat downstairs in my dressing gown playing tournaments on full tilt, making a loss of about $50 which in my dense mental state seemed like a 'fucking waste' rather than a legitimate investment. Generally speaking if you're still in your dressing gown by mid-afternoon and have not washed it's hard to have a healthy mindset about anything. I also won Pokersoc a second time (post-exams) although it was only for a £100 prize. That plus a visit or two to Stanleys (or Noobleys or Stanjokes as we have alternatively called it) and the occasional home game (including an 8-man £20 tourney). DKSOP still existed but was neither as intense nor as regular as it had been in previous years- credit the fact that third year work actually meant something beyond simply copying and pasting! That and the fact that our second year poker-protaganist (always the first to suggest a trip to the casino or to double the stakes) had long left us.

In June there was also the pokersoc final HORSE and NLHE deepstacks, both of which I enjoyed but neither of which I cashed in.  I recall the very last poker games I played at uni being as followes: a fancy dress NLHE tourney at Pokersoc (I came as Phil Hellmuth but busted v. early on) and a three-way £1/£2 mixed game with Goblin and the Conjurer. The pokersoc game was rather offputting: when you see four maths/physics/computer science students/graduands jumping up and down to some music drunk on lager in the Ramphal Building you sort of lose respect for the majesty of the institution (Pokersoc). I feelings when I first entered Pokersoc 33 months earlier were a mixture of florrid confusion and reverence. Gone were the heavy smoking pro's of 2006 (a high proprotion of whom were humanties students). In were the geeks. It isn't gangsters who give poker a bad name these days, it's the misplaced-testostrone bermuda shorts striped shirt BSc's with no discernable interests outside drinking, mathematics, gambling and pornography pay-sites.

Not that I was too different back in July 2009 anyway. From a period stretching July to November (excluding October when I was in Peru) I did get to know the evening tournament schedule on Pokerstars fairly well, and valued having spare evenings in which to grind. To be honest this was one of the most unproductive periods of my life but then... 'life'? I had not decided yet what I wished to do with it anyway, and I had the luxury of time.

One of the features of this period was the WkdSOP, an online series set up by a uni player from the year below and co-managed by me. Aptly enough he came first and I came second. But I didn't really enjoy it. I got easily and quite intensely frustrated at losing to these pokersoc people.

In early September Goblin and the Conjurer came down briefely for another Brighton rack. There were no huge cashes and we lost quite a bit of money. It wasn't even that fun either - when you have two gamblers and it's going badly it's easy enough to cope with. But in a group of three it's easier to get cantankerous, and the idea that you should be doing something better with your time becomes more infectious.

In late September (just before Peru) I had two significant poker experiences. One was live cash at the Vic: Goblin and I had a split going. I finished up quite a bit, but he finished down by a greater amount. So overall we were down quite a bit (no specifc numbers here!) but it was good to play sensibly at the Vic in contrast to my previous attendance. A few days later I scored just under $1,000 in a $5 turbo on Stars. If there had ever been a time for me to consider playing with a serious bankroll, this was it. I had nearly $1300, and ample cushion for comfortable 25NL play, $11 MTTs and $16 STTs, presuming I was EV+ at all three. But I had this little holiday to Peru coming up, so I pretty much withdrew most of it and, ironically, exchanged it for dollars (this being the peg-currency of the Pervuain New Sol).

It was after Peru that I decidedly started playing less poker. I was still interested in it and still drooled over live/online series scehdules but... I wasn't really playing. The long sessions and frequent nights of online tournaments never really returned. It was more sporadic. In early November I did sort of set off on a $25NL grinding project but I stopped that after about a week, and never again was there the same sort of  'project-based' approach to poker. I wanted poker to fit in with other aspects of my life, not the other way around, and I was more interested in the quality of the games I played rather than the frequency.

So it was, that in January I had a trip to the Midlands. It was mainly to visit friends but I also planned to play some poker. Not that the two are incomptabible. The Pokersoc (at least those from the year below) were still about and a home game was organized (5p/10p, deep stacks and a lot of pizza and lager). Goblin lived up in Nottingham, so we went a few nights to DTD. I love DTD even though I've never actually won anything there* and it's odd to think that, though I haven't been there for ages I still remember it extremely clearly.

*Actually I did win something there, just not a tournament: I managed to triple my £40 stack in a 50/1 game after flopping a low flush.

The next major poker session was in early April. I had gone to Goblin's house in Surrey. The election had just been called and it was an exciting time, although frankly I was in the grips of hypochondria (when one worry is over a new one quickly fills the void) something which I snapped out of by the summer when my life became more interesting. Still, this was one of the best poker sessions ('racks') we'd ever had. Despite there being very little in the way of cardrooms nearby (we mainly played online) we were only 40 minutes from Waterloo (I say only...). We were both now enthusiasts for the Vic (Victhusiasts) and I proposed the idea of an all-night session there. After all it was already early evening and if we wanted to go there, we'd better do it properly. So we did. After dinner we sat down at around 9 and weren't out till dawn (which at that time was around 5am). We took a morning tube service to Waterloo and then the early train to Hampton Court. Oddly enough I can't actually remember the result of that session, but it was a great experience. On the final night of the rack we managed to get in the top 1% of the Sunday Quarter Million (as it was then - I don't actually know what it is now) but that only fetched us a couple of hundred, enough to cover earlier losses, I dare say.

On my return to Brighton there came what can probably be called the very last thing even resembling a poker 'project', an attempt to grind up a little money (c. $120 on my Stars account) multitabling $3.25 45 seaters. I don't think I played more than 20 or so of these in the end. Over the next few months I playing activity basically came to nil.

It wasn't until late June when I came to the Midlands again (and what a bittersweet trip that was!) that I was back to the card table. There was the Pokersoc annual deepstack. I was disappointed by the pokersoccers amongst me - I began to realise I no longer had anything in common with any of them (if ever I had). In the second leg of my Midlands trip (early July) I was at Nottingham again and played what to date has been my highest-buyin tourney, a £168 monthly special at DTD. I actually made it a few hours in but no cash.

From July to January I hardly played any poker at all. This is essentially because I was trying to sort out my life which, piece by piece, I did. However, I didn't have any particularly strong desire to play poker either, certainly not online. The only sort of poker which did interest me was live cash at the Vic, where I had a session in early December with Goblin.

At the end of January I had my final Vic session. It was a 1/1 allnighter with Goblin and was the first time I'd gone to the Vic with anything resembling a proper roll for the occasion. We did well and had a great time too, leaving the cardroom around 10 or 11 hours after our arrival. My experience inspired me to reread Harrington on Cash but all that enthusiasm came to and end very quickly. I think I had known at the time that that Vic session would be the last for a while. We all need inspiration from time to time, and much came to me in the late January/early February period. My friends were going places, my London Lust was never stronger, I had nothing else on the horizon and I had sorted out everything else in my life. All I needed now was a good graduate scheme in an accountancy firm. This would keep me away from the poker rooms right up until July (although I had my offer in June).

I still played a bit of poker during applications season but it was minor online stuff. Friend-from-uni set up another mini-series in March using Pokerstars homegames (excellent innovation). I only played a few events but soon stopped in favour of interview preperation. On 6th April (two days before my Big Four interview telephone interview) I remember seeing myself registered for the tourneys thinking to myself "why on earth am I playing a poker tourney tonight? I have an interview in two mornings' time. What makes me so special!"

I made myself lots of promises about things I'd enjoy post-applications season. Whilst I had banned myself from live poker during applications season, it was not specifically one of the things I looked forward to as a motivator. I had always supposed that I would have one live tournament session (which I did in July) and one Vic Session (which I may yet do this month) but nothing more extravagent than that. I think it's fair to say that I'm no longer really a poker player like I was at university. I have my own interests and an ambitions now which have nothing to do with poker. Sure, having a good salary will no doubt make it easier to play any big tourneys I might one day be interested in (liferoll permitting) but this is no longer something which dominates my thoughts. And if ever I needed confirmation that having poker as your main hobby essentially destroys your social life and (to some extent) self-worth, I saw it at the UKIPT, sitting with the grinders

As the title suggests this shall be the last hand history. If I have any more significant poker episodes during the lifetime of this blog I shall post them. But I'm not planning to rebuy anytime soon.

Sunday, 24 July 2011


Pretty busy 20 days or so. Two weeks ago Goblin came down for a spot of poker. We played the £5 rebuy at the Grosvenor, a £110 6-max side event at the UKIPT and a £50 second chance at the Rendezvous as well as a bit of online. Over all we were up by just about enough to cover meals and (his) transport expenses. A lot of fun too. I did find the UKIPT a little depressing though - most of the people seemed to be classic travelling semi-pros with little to say. If ever I needed reinforcement of the idea that poker is in many respects a tepid, low-testostrone scared-of-the-outside-world pastime then here it was. The Rendezvous was quite fun though. Still, it's the last tournament poker I expect to be playing for many months now, certainly before September. I may have a quick Vic session in August but that's only if I have a spare few hundred pounds or so.

This most recent week I was in Paris for four nights to spend some time with a cousin who happened to be there. Pretty fun time - the group of us (4) saw the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre, Disneyland, Versailles and the Seine. As with poker I doubt I'll be having an adventure like this again any time soon. From now on it's all the practical stuff of moving house and settling into a new job.

Indeed I have my first houseviewings tomorrow. I really am going to move out as soon as possible. The push and pull factors are both strong and in are in perfect balance. Life awaits me!

Monday, 4 July 2011

Sunday Lunch - The Lion and Lobster

Date: 3rd July 2011

Location: The Lion and Lobster, 24 Sillwood Street (south off Western Road)

Price Range: £8.95 (all roasts)*

Drinks available: Selection of ales

Despite the name, there is no possibility of either roast lion or lobster. That said, the range of roasts is for from disappointing: Lamb, Beef, Chicken, Pork Belly, Nut Roast. What's more, you can have half of one meat and half of another. All meats come with potato and vegetables, but you can purchase extra sides too, namely yorkshire pudding, stuffing, angels & devils on horseback and cauliflower cheese.

I went for beef and pork and found myself served very quickly, and with none of the microwave steam of my Shakespeare's Head visit. I was in a bit of a haze so I have forgotten what the vegetables were. There were roast potatoes, of course, but also delicate things like celariac mash (or it might have been sweet potato mash) - unfortunately I forget the rest. The pork belly was great and the crackling as hard as a slate of toffee. The beef was normal. It was clear that the ingredients and cooking methods were of high quality here, but somehow this did not translate directly into taste. It wasn't exciting.

Nevertheless it's something I'd come back for. For a start, the option to mix two roasts in one dish appeals to me greatly and allows me to try meats I wouldn't choose to have by themselves. Also the place has a friendly atmosphere. That they were showing the exciting Wimbledon men's final on television was a bonus. Furthermore, I'd also be inclined to return here on non-roast days to sample their general menu. Plus the dessert (sticky toffee pudding) was good.

It seems only fitting that finding one pub which has many of the benefits of another but a lower price should skew the star-rating of the former in favour of the latter. Neither the Good Companions nor the Lion and Lobster are culninarily compelling but I suspect there a 'fair chance' that I would return to both. However I should make the distinction that the Lion and Lobster is probably better as part of a group (as I was in yesterday) whereas the Good Companions is more condusive to dining alone and reading a newspaper.

I suspect next week I shall try somewhere like The Prestonville and perhaps the week after The Crescent.

Updated star ratings:

Lion and Lobster:
Good Companions:
Shakespeare's Head:

*65p is added for any credit card transaction, so arm yourselves with cash!

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Sunday Lunch - Shakespeare's Head

Date: 26th June 2011

Location: Shakespeare's Head, 1 Chatham Place

Price range: £9

Drinks available: Small selection of high-quality ales (Badger brewery).

The Shakespeare's Head specialises in sausages. Alas, the cookery skills required for a good sausage meal are not the same as those for a good roast.

The selection of roasts was similar to that of the Good Companions, although instead of Turkey they offered Chicken. I ordered the beef. After a decent wait (I was not the only customer) my plate came.

Let us start with the vegetables, for that is where I started. Uncompelling, wet. The meat was much the same, and everything had steam rising from it as if (as indeed may have been the case) it had come straight out of the microwave. The potatoes were satisfactory. The whole meal would have been a lot better if had been set in a hot bath of gravy. But the only moisture was meltwater. This was little better than school dinners. I would even go so far as to compare it to Gekko, that almost incomparably bad all-purpose buffet (unless your purpose is to 'have a good meal') that since my visit in March has actually closed down.

There was also a cheese and cauliflower side and a yorkshire pudding on the side, neither of which I have anything bad to say about. However, they only seemed good in comparison to the rest of the dish, a relieving break I could occasionally turn my knife and fork to.

Normally I quite like this pub, and I was sat in a nice shaded area overlooking the main road (coming down from the Dials towards Preston Circus) once again with my Sunday readables. It is on the basis of the quality of the roast (and the price demanded for it) that I have concluded to give this place the lowest possible score - i.e. I never intend to come for a sunday roast here ever again.

There are three other pubs in my immediate area (Crescent, Palmeira and Prestonville Arms) which I believe do roasts. I already have a high opinion of the Crescent roast so will try the other two first. After I've toured this lot I shall find places further out from Seven Dials.


Sunday, 26 June 2011

Sunday Lunch - The Good Companions

Date: 19th June 2011

Location: The Good Companions, 132 Dyke Road

Price range: £10-£12

Drinks available: Broad selection of real ales.

The Good Companions has gone through a transformation in the last year. Gone are the pool tables, quiz machines, TV sports and balding middle-aged locals staring into their empty beer glasses. The Good Companions has been gentrified/poncified and has built up a reputation of being a food pub. It has been resettled by twenty/thirty-somethings on above average earnings and inoffensive, couth demeanours. Though not everyone enjoys this cultural colonialism, for the purposes of my Sunday Lunch project this pub is now on the radar in a way it would not have been before. Indeed as far as I remember, this time last year they did not actually do sunday lunches - the closest thing they had to food was pub pizza.

I have dined at the Good Companions many times since its refurbishment and, having found this food greatly to my taste, it seemed only natural that this should be the first place on my sunday lunch tour.

The selection of roasts was the usual - beef/pork/turkey/lamb/nut-roast (if I remember correctly). My preference is usually for beef, and this what I went for.

Beef was the most expensive of the roasts at £12. At most places I would not have paid this much for a roast, but having eaten here before I knew to expect high quality fare.

I was not disappointed. The vegetables were subtle and moist, the potatoes crispy, the beef juicy and generous and the king-size Yorkshire pudding very savoury. The meal was just about the right size too. As was the table - large enough for the Independent on Sunday anyway.

My only real objection is the price. Though I am always willing to fork out a few extra pounds for a good eating experience (there are no shortage of bad eating experiences out there for sure) it's just a touch on the pricy side. However, the quality is sufficiently good to compensate to this and indeed draw me back on future occasions (the few there will be).


Sunday Lunch

Over the next 8 weeks or so (however long I'm in Brighton) I'll be trying out sunday lunches at different pubs across Brighton. I shall post brief reviews on this blog. The 'star rating' I give to each lunch/venue will be based on how likely I am to go back there in the future. This will include weighing up such factors as the quality of the food, the ambience in the pub and the price of the meal (drinks not included!).

I have already done two such lunches which I shall post very shortly.

Lost & Found

It's a funny thing - three times in the last week I have mislaid something only to find it again. First was in Yorkshire - I lost my favourite hat somewhere between Halifax and Bradford but managed to find it the next day at Halifax station. Second: Four days ago I thought I'd lost my driving license, but it turned out that I had simply not brought it out with me (having meant to). And today I found £15 in a shirt pocket (which I did not realise I had lost). When I went out this night I couldn't find the said money. When I got home I found it neatly strewn on my bed.

One thing I have lost and will not get back are 188 facebook friends. I decided to reduce my friend list from the proposterous 230 to a real, managable amount of people (42) I actually know and like and voluntarily communicate with on a regular basis, or would wish to. Some are family members who never actually use facebook but with whom there is no real need for removing. As for the others? Well, I'm more than content waiting 20 years till the school reunion. Only then will it be really fair to say who is doing what with their lives. A friend and I have a running joke that a lot of people from school aren't actually doing anything - they haven't formed any life plans and have no serious ambitions or interests other than hanging around 'being awesome'. But I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life until around six months ago and had some good luck along the way, so I shall reserve any concrete judgement for 2031.

But there is also a broader reason for my curbing my 'online friends' so. I am increasingly demanding a more subtle life for myself, one with a greater degree of self-discipline, open-mindedness and unlaboured extroversion: facebook hinders all three of these things. My keeping up of a facebook account is now for practical purposes only (I genuinly keep in contact and organize things with people from it, both local and distant). In general I would like to see the computer and the internet as tools which facilitate my to do things I need to do and want to do e.g. work activities, communications, research and (as now) writing. These are specific activities. What I do not want is for the computer itself to become an activity, a sort of default spare-time activity, the first item to consult when ennui strikes. I got rid of my TV back in the winter in a similar vein. I'm not anti-technology in the slightest, but it is up to the technology user to decide what his relationship with the technologies should be.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Creating things that no-one will see
is the surest way to misery

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Inconveniently named items that can be added to restaurant/takeaway menues for comic effect

- My Favourite
- The Usual
- What He's Having

 - The Bill
- Another


Saturday, 4 June 2011


I have one.

I actually received it on the afternoon of the 2nd, but have been busy socializing since then and have had no time to write. Ironically these socials had actually been planned before I received my offer.

I'll continue my tradition of not giving individual firm names (this is partly out of superstition I admit). But let us say only that they are a top firm and that these may be the hardest, most stimulating 3 years I have ever had.

I still have to accept the offer / pass the screening, and (again, with all superstition) refuse to plan anything elaborate until I have actually signed a training contract. Nevertheless I shall now have to pick very carefully what I do over the next months. Don't let my usual bland language fool you - there is an undercurrent of dread and excitement and immense relaxation behind every word I type today. I realize that this is a huge opportunity and that I must do whatever I can to ensure that, by the time I start, I am fully prepared.

There are a lot of practical things involved here: getting accomodation, fixing up the old car, improving my fitness, mustering a bit of living cash in advance of any salary I receive, and of course trying to get a few of the professional exams out of the way.

But I must also consider all those things which I simply won't have time to indulge in once my contract starts. Things like visiting friends in other parts of the country, getting one of my board game ideas into a publishable state, reading extensively and perhaps even the occasional poker match. The Brighton UKIPT looks like a good bet, although naturally it would have to be a side event. A Vic visit is also on the cards. I used to joke that I would one day try playing there full time for a week with a full bankroll (£4,000) for deep 1/1NL. However, I don't think this will be possible or desirable - it's pretty certain that I won't have a £4,000 roll at any point and that even if I did, I think I'd get bored of the project after the first day. More realistic is, say, an all-night session, probably near the end of my holiday (but not so near the end as to destroy my sleeping patterns pre-employment!)

Am excited but, for the time being, the practical things to do will take a slight precedence over the fun things. That said, I think that property searching (in West Hampstead or St. Albans, most likely) will be pretty enjoyable.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Not about Applications (so I'm allowed to write even if it isn't the 31st yet)

It's funny. I've noticed that whenever I read old message threads on facebook (private messages mainly, sometimes wall-to-wall) I think back to myself, "wow, in its own way what a great time that was!". I don't think this about all periods - some do stick out as intensely boring, frustrating, passive or lonely. But on the whole when I look at the words I wrote I think that, whatever else was going on, they are the words of someone who was fundamentally happy and always had something to look forward to. While I am aware that nothing has ever been perfect, it is, say, the casual Spring walks to campus in third year and the vague sense of freedom that accomponied them which form the mental backdrop as I reread my words from that time, rather than any frustrations, longings, anxieties and apathies.

But the pertinent point is that I rarely think this about the present in this rose-tinted way, as the frustations, longings, anxieties and apathies are precisely the things which, by their very nature, attack one on a day-to-day basis.

Yet I know very well that in two years time, perhaps when I am a tired, lonely trainee accountant with a couple of spare hours on a Sunday reading this blogpost again, I shall once again resort to historicizing my experiences. "Ah yes, the heavy May, the golden summer! What a time of great achievement. I set myself a difficult task and I did it. I always knew I'd be succesful in the end you know... didn't I tell everyone."

Yet in a way I have started the historicizing already. I perhaps choose to charecterize this particular period of my life (i.e. applications) as say the final hurdle to becoming a full member of society and that everything hereafter will somehow fit in to a comfortable, structured, happy narrative. But I thought exactly the same at the time of my driving test, my 3rd year exams, my A-levels, and many more personal if rather subtle examples at that. Soon 'getting a job' will be just another thing on this list, and new hurdles, such as deciding where to work post-qualification, where to live, how ambitious to be, who to marry, children etc... may also produce the 'hurdles' phenomenon.

Actually I shouldn't be too linear about this. Nor should I assume all these 'stages' have equal weight. Getting my A-Levels done was probably harder than getting my 2:1 at university. Both of these had fixed dates. But my driving test, that was a whole new ball game. Technically it was more challenging, yet there was no limit to how many times I could take it.

And in truth getting a position on a graduate training scheme is amongst the most demanding things I have done, and I have treated it with due reverence. Yet I know that even if my Wednesday interview is not succesful, some other one will be at some stage. Either way, I'm sure some sort of narrative will develop around it and I'm sure I'll end up posting it here at some stage.

Sunday, 22 May 2011


Oh no, I forgot to write yesterday! I could backdate this to make it appear as though it had been published yesterday, but that's a bit Stalinist.

I did postpone my tax exam in pretty much the day after my last post and I think my decision will be vindicated. I have freed my time up to focus solely on applications.

Had a Big Four middle-stage interview up in Crawley on Tuesday, which I feel went fairly well, but I won't guess the outcome. It's the sort of performance I might have been very proud of two months ago. But I have since learnt that 'how you felt about it' and 'whether you enjoyed it or not' sometimes bear little relation to how well you actually did - for they can only judge you by the competencies they are looking for. Naturally I hope I do get invited to the final round - any reservations I had about that firm or that office were dispelled on visit. They haven't got back to me yet but I shall pester them if I don't have a result by end Monday.

However, still more important is the final round Big Four interview at St Albans this coming Wednesday. I shall be my usual calm self I'm sure, but this is the first final round interview I've ever had and my life will be completely transformed if I get into this firm.

I also have a first-stage telephone interview with another firm - the date for that needs to be booked. Currently the only date available would clash with my St Albans interview.

(Also there's the group interview on 13 June for yet another firm, althoguh that feels too distant to be real yet.)

I have a nasty habit of fitting my life activities around familiar historical narratives. For instance, take my driving tests. Attempt 1 was akin to Labour in 1987 - never really had a realistic chance. Attempt 2 was akin to Labour in 1992 - better performance but undermined by its own triumphalisn. Attempt 3 was akin to 1997 - very cautious, but a caution fuelled by confidence; the fact that this time it might just actually happen, if only because the memory of Attempt 2 still haunted me, and that the prospect of an Attempt 4 haunts me all the more.

To some extent I have been doing this during my applications as well, although I've been interpreting it as more of a trench war than an election, because the fighting is so continous and grinding. Yet even when victory seems so close at hand I can't lay down my arms till the enemy surrenders. One might call my final interview invitation (and my qualificaiton for the Recruitment Register) akin to the Americans stepping out of neutrality, or my decision to study for the CFAB akin to introducing the tank into the battelfield.

Obviously all this is just a sort of Barnum Effect

However, I certainly have a good chance of getting this offer. If I don't, I'll keep fighting through 1919, 1920... but I feel the end is in sight. If it isn't I'll have to disappoint a lot of people (not least myself), as from the very beginning I anticipated that June/July/August would be three months of bliss, the last days of an earned freedom. And if this Wednesday interview is unsuccesful I think there's still a good chance of getting an offer in June (the three other applications I have in progress are unlikely to take more than the month to resolve).

However I am comforted as always by the fact that whenever I have worked hard for soemthing in the past I have achieved it. Moreover, 'fate' does not care that it is me who is taking the interview. In a sense, nor does my prospective employer. What might seem like a momentous occasion for me is for them just another recruitment decision and none of the subtle 'destinies' I have imagined for myself, positive or negative, come into play at all. If I meet their relevant competencies and the interviewer thinks I'm the sort of person he/they could work with, I get the job. If not, I don't. Fundamentally it's little more than that, and overcomplicating the situation with fretting, analysis, last-minute worrying etc is the surefire way to fail as one loses sight of the bigger picture

In other news, finished American Notes. I've read three Dickens books now (Christmas Carol, Great Expecatations being the other two) and I must say I haven't been able to enjoy his style. I shall remain open-minded though and read another at some point

Also last night I watched The Wave, a 2008 German film about a school social experiment with 'autocracy' that goes horribly wrong. I enjoyed the film but it was pretty unconvincing. The main thrust of the film was that even if a society believes it has gone beyond the 'stage' in which people are susceptible to totalitarianism, the whole thing is packed into one week at a school. One week! And the ending? I won't go into any more detail in case you want to watch it, but I must say I am not able to enjoy unconvincing plots, which on the one hand claim to be examining something critical to human nature but on the other hand use decidedly unnatural and exaggerated interpretations of human nature in order to do it.

It was my birthday on Friday. 22 has been a great year - I finally feel that I'm taking my life seriously and actively getting the things I want to do done rather than just sitting back and waiting. However 23 passed with no major celebration. I met my friends on the Thursday and was going to have a family celebration on Saturday, but given my upcoming interview I thought it best to postpone any celebration to a date when I have something worth celebrating.

And you shall know on the 31st whether I have.

Or the 1st, if I post a day late again

Or before the 31st, if I am in regular correspondence with you. In that case I shall rpobably let you know immediately. Save twenty minutes or so in which I vow not to tell a single soul the result. I shall enjoy or commiserate by myself for those minutes.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011


Rather arbitrarily I've decided to post this month only on the 1st, 11th, 21st and 31rd.

Although it's guaranteed that these three posts will be quite different.

I had an assessment centre on the 4th at a medium-sized London-based firm. My 3-minute presentaiton was considered 'too essaylike'. Which it was, but it was never clear what they wanted. Can't complain about the result though - complaining never gets anywhere. It just emphasises the fact that a lot of firms are looking for something quite specific in their future employees and that, given how many applications there are for each place, they can often afford to eliminate candidates at a fast pace and for reasons which, in any other sphere, might seem minor.

However, I now have four important events coming up.

On the 17th I have a Big Four first-stage interview (at Crawley)
On the 20th I have my Principles of Taxation Module
On the 25th I have my Final Interview (at another Big Four firm)
On the 13th June I have an assessment centre for another mid-tier London firm

The only date which is flexible is the 20th. I have to consider this very carefully. It's one of those exams where a fail actually counts against you in the long run as there are limited retake opportunities and failures have to be declared, so I'd have to be pretty certain of passing to make it worth taking. I did some self-testing today on one of the early chapters and while my 14/22 is in pass territory (55% is the pass mark), it's a little close for my liking. Time hasn't been an issue, but accuracy has. From this I can infer that I can afford to (and indeed need to) spend more time on my workings. The trouble with Tax is that there are lots of different rules and structures, and while many of these may only change the answer by 1% either way, the answer demands 0% either way.

I'll make my decision on this over the next few days. I don't doubt that it's possible to pass this exam on the 20th. But getting to 'test standard' may take extra, previously underestimated numbers of hours, and the interview preperation is more important. Indeed the main motivation behind sitting this exam on this date was so that I could 'boast a pass' come by big interview on the 25th. But if this comes at the cost of other elements of preperation then I may as well not have taken the paper at all.

I'm still frightfully optimistic about my eventual chances of getting a training contract though. Indeed my focus has long since gone from 'whether' to 'when'. Ideally I pass the 25th May interview, get an offer and fierecely enjoy the summer. This would be the dream situation but I have to keep planing as if I don't get to dream... I have to stay awake... for a month longer... maybe two. Note, though I am speaking in these analogies I have not used the term 'nightmare'. The only conceivable nightmare applicationswise is that I essentially voluntarily fail the 20th May exam!

Did feel rather tired today though and didn't manage to start working till 9. Early starts definitely favour me - yesterday I was at the books at 6.30am.

I have been at other books though. I strarted reading Charles DIckens' American Notes. On the one hand I fear it might be a little like Alistair Cooke's American Journey one century later i.e. lots of descriptions of things and institutions but not a lot about charecters and mentalities.

However I did come across one of the most interesting passages I think I have ever read:

[The context is this - Dickens is recalling a report published by Dr Howe regarding the mental development of Laura Bridgman, a blind deaf-mute child who had recently been taught to communicate using a finger language.]

"It is very remarkable, that as we dream in words, and carry on imaginary conversations, in which we speak both for ourselves and for the shadows who appear to us in those visions of the night, so she, having no words, uses her finger alphabet in her sleep. And it has been ascertained that when her slumber is broken, and is much disturbed by dreams, she expresses her thoughts in an irregular and confused manner on her fingers: just as we should murmur and mutter them indistinctly, in the like circumstances."

I've just realised that if I am to reschedule this exam I should probably still take it in May, as I believe on my Recruitment Register application I have said 'taking first exam in May'. Well, there's a big gap between the 20th and 31st.

And there's almost as big a gap between the 11th and the 21st, but that's how long you shall have to wait for my next post.

Sunday, 1 May 2011


It's May!

May has been consistently the most interesting month for me as far back as I remember.

Let it be so again!

(Let us see if I am so excited in thirty days time when I emerge, tattered and wartorn as if I had just fell out of a maze of turning cogs)

Saturday, 30 April 2011

I do find small things amusing (that's not what she said!) because even in the most mundane item there has been an awful lot of concious decision.

For instance, this  morning I was surprised to find a 2l bottle of diet lemonade in the fridge.

I began to think about the life story of said bottle, and how many concious decisions went in to getting it where it was today.

From most recent to most histroic
- somebody decided to put it in the fridge rather than store it at room temperature
- somebody decided to buy diet rather than regular lemonade
- somebody decided to go shopping
- somebody decided that they should sell this particular brand of diet lemonade in store
- somedody decided the price should be set at 79p
- somebody decided that they should manufacture this particular brand of diet lemonade
- somebody decided that one of the sizes of bottles should be 2 litres
- somebody decided that lemons mixed with carbonated water makes a refreshing drink
- somebody decided that plastic containers can be forged to hold liquids

And soon we shall be able to add to this list:
- somebody decided to drink it

Friday, 29 April 2011

Books Read Feb - April 2011

Kavanagh & Cowley - The British General Election of 2010 (2010)
J. Bronowski - The Ascent of Man (1973)
Stanislaw Lem - The Cyberiad (1967)
Fyodor Dostoyevsky - Crime and Punishment (1865-6)
Aldous Huxley - Brave New World (1932)
Franz Kafka - Metamorphosis and Other Stories (to 1924)
Tom Perrotta - Election (1998)

April hasn't exactly ended yet but I'm not going to be finishing any other books over the next 30 hours, so am posting now.

Have been reading relitavely little owing to the fact that I have been focusing most of my intellectual energy on applications, interview preperation, financial reading and (as of ten days ago) studying for the professional exams and I can only take in so many words per day. Fortunately the situation seems set to change and I shall once again have the time and energy to properly engross myself in leisure reading.

My enthusiasm for reading hasn't diminished, though parts of it have transferred to other topics for the time being. Business becomes rather amusing when you appreciate that it is, ultimately, a study of human interaction, and that even the most obscure figures and subtle percentage points changes are nevertheless aggregates of real and essentially logical individual human activities, and that government legislation does make a difference.

That said, I still generally find the imaginary worlds of Lem more absorbing. Having read some Kafka recently I can see their is some weight to the interpretation of Lem as essentially being 'Kafka with a sense of humour'. I've mentioned this before, but I am surpirsed when people see 'comic' writing as somehow being juvenile, picking out easy truths and ironies and lacking any 'real understanding'. For me, humour is understanding. A joke is shared because two people (or in this case the author and the reader) as both understand the situation already - they don't need to labour on it, as it's all blindlingly obvious to them. To 'get' a joke is to 'get' the situation! That said, there's a big difference between, say, satire and wordplay, whether printed or in conversation.

Having almost exhausted the Lem works we have in the house I think I shall study Borges. I've found his work too ethereal in the past, but tastes change and I shalln't base my opinion on just one book (Book of Sand) anyway.

Thursday, 28 April 2011


Major news.

It isn't an offer. When I do get an offer I shall find a better post title than 'Applications'.

(Or I might not post at all.)

However, I can confirm that following my Tuesday assessment centre I have been invited to the final interview stage of a Big Four firm.

The interview isn't till the end of May.

I still have another assessment centre coming up next week (for a smaller, London-based firm) and so at least I've got something to shoot for in the meantime.

But I can't overexaggerate what a singularly good peice of news this is. Two and a half months ago I was stuck on the seabed. Now I can feel the sun rays through the water surface.

Better yet, if this application proves unsuccessful I can still put my name forward to a special recruitment register for vacancies of this sort. Which may not sound like much, but basically being on a list of 'tripped up but only at the last hurdle' candidates means that the firms, looking out for new recruits, already have a list of candidates who have gone through and passed the hoops of application forms, online tests, competency interviews, assessment centres... and that is a good place to be.

I feel no reason to guard myself from optimism. This is going to happen.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

No offence mate...

"...but how do you combine your socialst principles with paying an extra £26/week to have a slightly larger university room and your own bathroom?"

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Taxing Times?

You wouldn't think receiving a set of Principles of Taxation learning materials could make somebody so happy. Well it has.

And actually I did think that it would make me happy, that's why I applied to take it (as the first module of the CFAB i.e. the Knowledge Modules of the ACA). There's nothing quite like starting out a new folder, getting out a textbook, fountain pen and a fresh pad of high-quality paper (it's practically vellum) and studying. Though I have not got a training contract yet I shall look back on 19th April 2011 as the day I started my professional life. It's not clear how quickly I'll get through the materials but it's not unrealistic for me to take this module some time in late May.

Anyway I'm not going to London today after all. I got a phone call yesterday to arrange the date of my Assessment Centre: Tuesday 26th in the Wild West of London. So I'll get to see London anyway, probably in the long, balmy afternoon following the assessment. Although I don't actually know what time it's going to be yet...

Either way, not much use me taking a day off at the moment!

I love the fact that these blog posts will look conspiciously mundane in, say, a year or two's time when I'm travelling the country committing audits, having wine and 'bites' with red-faced partners and forming social relationships with other people in my position (oh, and maybe the occasional friendship).

And yesterday was a great practical step in making this nightmare a reality!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011


Wow, for a ten-minute phone interview that was difficult! She literally asked the first question within about 15 seconds of saying hello, and it was a hard one - 'What do you think companies look for when choosing a [n accounting] firm', or something like that. And five more questions followed, only one or two of which could be answered formulaeically. It was a BANG, BANG, BANG sort of interview.

Still, feel quite invigorated after that, and if I found it tough there'll be many out there who found it tougher. I do know that one of the things this firm looks out for is socially able people. I'm not socialy disabled and I can rise to socially demanding occasions, but anyone who knows me will appreciate that I have a tendency to speak in generalizations and speak more as if through ether than through the four earthly elements, something which can often take the form of rambling. So all the specificity and detail required in interviews (especially with HR professionals) is something I'm learning as I go along. But any suggestion (by myself or others) that I am decidely anti-social isn't really valid - I'm always willing to socialize with people whom I actually like!

I won't say who the firm in question is and I shalln't speculate about my chances of getting to the next stage as I have been profoundly wrong about that in the past. Back in March I had an interview with a medium-sized London firm at their London office which I came back fairly chirpy from, but I didn't get to the next round. Two weeks ago I made a angsty post about an upcoming phone interview with a Big Four firm, and I felt fairly resigned (if relieved) once it was over. Well, I passed that and have been invited to an assessment centre (BIG news). The only interview I have been totally right about was a Big Four pre-screening interview which pretty much involved me reading out preprepared answers - I literally couldn't fail that one. So far I've had a 2/3 success rate at first-interviews, but then all three (well, all four now) have been very different.

However, one thing true of all these interviews is that knowing your stuff well will help you. This sounds obvious, but you need to be able to whip out the facts when required. Sure, structure the facts in your mind or on paper, but have the facts, not just the structures! Also, have a couple of bananas just before! I used to do this back in my driving-lesson days and it did make a difference, and I doubt that difference was entirely psychosomatic.

Still, I'm dropping my naive pessimism one brick at a time. Also, this afternon my first set of learning materials for the CFAB are going to arrive, though I probably won't start learning them till Thursday - I am considering a London daytrip tomorrow (not meeting anyone, am just going to go on one of my classic exploratory walks peppered with the occasional museum or burger). This will be my last chance to go to London before Easter/Royal Wedding/Assessment Centres/Bank Holiday crowds etc etc etc. Plus it's set to be 25oC!!!1

Feels funny writing all this here as I literally write more or less the same thing in correspondence with friends, who are now able to read it in two different places at once!

I shall have to think now about what to do today. Catch up on financial reading I suppose, and maybe make a start on another application. Although logically it might be better to wait till the outcome of this one is known... but then, that might not be for a few days... and by the time a few days is passed the assessment centre and first office interview dates for my Big Four applications might be set, and I'd be preparing for them!

Yes I suppose I'll write an application today AND catch up with financial reading. The more I do today the more I'll enjoy my day off tomorrow.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

A vision

I envisage that at some point in the next fifteen years I shall one day find myself face to face with an American businessman, maybe in London, maybe in Seattle. He'll be chubby, in his fourties, sporting short-cut spiky light hair and wearing a checkered shirt and a dark tie. He'll look at me through his glasses and say, excitedly, "Let's do lunch!".

I'll have made it.

Friday, 15 April 2011

The Rap of Charles I

Good evening all! My name is Charles Stuart
or Charles I, yes, that'll do it.
Believe it or not I was once your monarch
with the crown of England on my noble head honoured!

Yet the history books
(or so it looks)
show me like some sort of fool
stupid, stubborn as a mule,
The English King who lost the plot,
though technically I was born a Scot.
But my native accent I have lost
along with my head! but let's not be fossed
with the particulars of that Janaury morn
that deathly silence, that groan folorn
for only seconds did it take
and tho' good history I know it make
there were by then 48 candles on my cake
so let us rather concentrate
on the earlier hours on my life's clock
rather than the axe and then block.

I was never born to be a king
yae my brother Henry, that was his thing.
Athletic, bright, tall and broad
as good with the pen as he was with the sword.
But I, poor Charlie, the younger brother
was born quite frail, tho' I'd soon recover
through routine exercise and riding
(lest I get my father's chiding)
and by age eighteen I cut quite a figure
though I sometimes wished I was a little bigger
with my sword and my armour
I'd be quite the young charmer
and every little painting
would send the ladies fainting
but as you see I'm short, of course
so instead they paint me on a horse.

Years passed and my dearest brother
died and then too my dear father,
so down to London I was sent
to take the reins of government.
But governing soon proved a pain
tax revolts, wars with France and Spain
and the fermenting agent for all these problems
was none other than the House of Commons!
Something that I ought to mention
the word 'Parliament' is from the French 'an
if we have it roughly translated
means 'talking shop' - and their talk ne'er abated!
Now if it had all been harmless banter
which never provoked a more hostile encounter
then that'd be fine, they could sit forever
without throwing assaults upon my endeavours,
for a King neds money to fight his wars
but the members of Parliament, those tepid whores
would raise no tax till conditions they set
on grievances were duly met.
With the details of these I will not bore you
but for my own part I do implore you
not to consider my judgement lacking
when I chose to send the whole lot packing.
For through I realise things are now different
in my days parliaments were meant to be deferent
the bowl of justice and the dish of democracy
had no place in my set of political crockery.
Indeed to me it seemed little more than mockery
so I made the government of England my property.

Now my critics both in past and present
have used an adage most unpleasant
to describe this period of my reign:
'Eleven Years Tyranny' - are they insane?
Did I slay all the first borns and boil their ears?
Did I trample my enemies and implale'm with spears?
Obviously not, no one says so, it's be asburd
yet these are the images conjoured up by this word
and as the name tyrant is misleading and cruel
we now prefer to use to term 'Personal Rule'.
One thing my critics do have right
is that it was eleven years, that I won't fight
and a blissful eleven years it was too:
peace, laughter, prosperity to name but a few,
pies and dances, revelry and games
while the rest of Europe was set in flames.

But in 1640 it came to an end
for a Scottish army was now on the mend
I had a northern frontier to defend
and there was noone from whom I could lend
but Parliament... yes, Parliament. I recalled 'em
but my obstinate refusals over grievances appaled'em.

So that didn't  last very long
I was right and they were wrong -
it was rarely ever the other way
but unfortunately I had bills to pay
so in Novekber that year once more I recalled'em
and I gave some concessions, and that consolled'em
but on some things I simply could not budge
and I gave not succint answers - I prefered to fudge.
I was immune of course, as their king
from the sharpest pangs of their viceral stings,
they couldn't touch me, as God's annointed
so instead they attacked those men I'd appointed
to Council and Archbishop and other positions
sending me death warrants and terms and conditions
but by July '42 it was getting so rough
that I'd decided that I'd had enough.
So I raised my standard at Nottingham
and so the Civil War began.

At first we had some great success
the better soldiers we had to excess:
the ramshackle parliamentarians were dire
while Royalist morale could not have been higher.
But soon came Cromwell's New Model Army
singing hymns into battle, it was really quite smarmy
my men were not used to these fresh-faced foes -
they were better organized, I suppose -
but my Cavaliers fought gallanty
though at the battle of Na-se-by
they cut our ranks incisively
we lost very decisively.

But still I was King!
And there's the thing,
for tho' radicalized members of the army would moan
they couldn't budge me off of my throne
for the Presbyterians in Parliament couldn't face
a settlement without the King in place.
So I toyed with their affection
and did not expect any defection
but Parliament too had their limits and bounds
and chased me much like a pack of hounds
so I solicited help from some Scottish friends
that I might imrpove things for my own ends.
But they too betrayed me! and after a fight
I was captured, imprisoned on the Isle of Wight.
By now I was not trusted, not a friend in the land
I'd long since forfeited the upper hand.
It seems, you see, that for my obstinacy
the people had had quite enough of me.
And so Colonel Pride was able to purge the House
of my sympathisers, that nasty louse,
to see to it that I, their sovereign
would no longer their plans be a-botherin'.

In short, they  wished to put me on trial
on charges of treason, this raised a wry smile
for treason means 'against the crown'
and aren't I the only King in town?
I didn't recognize their right to try me
the very idea was improper and slimy
but much to my anger and much to my shock
they proceeded to bring me to the dock.

The language was lofty, their humility sparse,
it was at once both tragedy and frace!
At times the whole process came close to collapse
as the arguments raged and the hours elapsed.
But eventually the judge, with fine eridution
spoke 'The Prisoner shall be taken to a Place of Execution'.

Some words of protest I managed to mutter
(throughout the whole trial I spoke without my old stutter)
not that it mattered how I now used my voice
the verdict was final, I had no other choice.
All I could do was act with decorum
as I was tropped away from the Westminster forum.

And so to the morning of my beheading
to the executors block I'd soon be heading,
so cold that morning, frosty too
so instead of one shirt I worte two
for if I were cold I might be fain shiver
and a tragic exit I'd be unable to deliver
for my shaking might be mistaken for fear -
I'd look a coward, the crowd would all jeer.
For in truth I wan't scared at all,
my mouth wasn't dry, my voice didn't fall,
for what more could a vain monarch desire
to be remembered as dying for Something Higher?
The gallant King Charles
with his long flowing curls
was all the smarter
for dying a martyr.
For Providence was on my side
and even as my head did slide
upon the block
my courage didn't rock
for as the axeman's axe came down
I flew to an Incorruptable Crown
where there may be no disturbance
or Parliamentary perturbance.

And when my head was severed moments later
'twas picked up - "behold, the head of a traitor!"
Well, this wasn't quite so nice to hear
as the blood rolled away from my dripping ear.

But I'm happy to say, if a decade too late,
that Cromwell's head met a similar fate
propped on the pole of a Westminster gate
with no-one  around to comiserate.
And tho' my reign seems many years past
it's important to observe that I wasn't the last,
sometimes I wonder whther the British public
have any great appetite for a republic.
For what's a republic except a crown
where you bring your leaders up and down
on the basis of votes, or the basis of money
it does seem to me rather funny
because monarchy too needed cash and support
and some sort of constitutional rapport -
no monarch is ever safe for life
is that not clear from my very own strife?
It just so happens that now we select
not by the bullet but the ballot - we elect
but I shuldn't berate you - what suits you best
democracy too has passed the test.
But I suppose your psyches will always make space
for CHARLES THE FIRST and his infinite grace.

Royal Fish

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Go, Go, Power Rangers

Go! Go! Power Rangers,
don't you ever come back.
Make yourselves all strangers,
disband your paltry pack.

Go! Go! Power Rangers,
we'll flatter you no longer -
your vanity, it's contagious
but our medicine, it's stronger.

Go! Go! Power Rangers,
you're not welcome at my door.
We'd once thought you courageous,
well, we don't think that anymore.

Go! Go! Power Rangers,
your time here now has passed.
Go hunt some other dangers
for here you've seen your last.

Royal Fish

Sunday, 10 April 2011


Funny how I'm more intimidated by HR/recruitment professionals than Partners and Managers. It's partly becaue HR professionals are so friendly. Of course I'm not against friendliness, but it can be difficult to know whether they're really interested in you (be it over the phone or face-to-face) if they issue the same smile and nod everytime, as if they were the doctors and you the patient. In a way these sort of interviews demand this - they are diagnosing your suitability for the job. But Partners, they seem to want a conversation! They'll scowl slightly, raise their eyebrows, chuckle with acknowledgement and ask you genuie questions, as if you were a client they had already built a rapport with.


"I have rejected Society!" (he claimed)
though this was a desperate whim:
for seeing through his sloth and false piety (ashamed)
Society rejected him.

Thursday, 7 April 2011


I have some big interviews coming up. And I am anxious.

I don't mean anxious about the interviews themselves. That is passé and in my case false. It is a broader anxiety. There is a possiblity that none of these applications come to anything. An interview followed by a rejection can be taken as a lesson. You can analyse where you need to improve, perhaps pinning your failure down to interview technique rather than anything more chronic. However, multiple rejections would surely indicate that there is something fundamentally lacking in the applicant.

As it happens I have only had one rejection so far. I have reason to be encouraged - the majority of the firms I have applied to have expressed interest, and I have so far been offered three interviews (two of which are coming up very soon). The first interview resulted in failure.

Of course I understand these are very competitive positions I am applying for. That in itself doesn't daunt me. It's a fact. Nor do I have any doubt that I'll get a position eventually. Different firms look for different things in their candidates, and rejection from one firm does not mean rejection from the profession as a whole. But if interview after interview results in failure, then failure can not simply be put down to 'interview technique'. Indeed, I felt my last interview went well, but I was rejected all the same. Sometimes you have to realise that even if you're a 'good' candidate there will be several other applicants who are 'very good'. And that, essentially, 'good' isn't good enough.

Which begs the question - what is 'good enough'? Well, that's not an easy question as different candidates may be attractive for different reasons. But the point is, they are attractive. They have established a good life-narrative and fulfil the relevant competencies. Sure they will have worked hard for this, and sure they too will have had to have milked their skills and acheivements dry. But they are milking a bigger cow than I, a cow that has walked many pastures. Their milk is fatter and fuller.

Luckily I have a Plan B. It's actually just a longer route to Plan A, but would involve fulfilling many of the apparent gaps in my résumé. I know exactly how I would go about this plan and it is very likely to succeed. I won't tell you the specifics - there's no point. It's elegant and efficient and perhaps utterly neccessary. It would involve hard work, but varied work and work with a common purpose. Other aspects of my life will suffer, but they're suffering already. May as well suffer for something worth suffering for rather than simply walking in a circle with one foot chained to the floor. And that's been the problem - each time I write an application at the moment I have no idea what the chances are of its succeeding. And that's OK for, say, the first two months of applications (god, it's been that long. I have been doing other stuff though, although maybe that's part of the problem). But when I set out on my applications I expected that I would have an offer by April or May. Of course there's still time to go, but if these two current big ones fail then suddenly I'm back where I started. Now, sticking to your guns is one thing. But what if you're simply firing blanks? I'm shooting at the right target, that I know. But who's to say my shots are getting through the armour? Perhaps my pistol isn't good enough.

Analogies aside: the point is, if several applications fail at interview stage then the common denominator is me. And if I continue applying and find myself in mid-June with nothing in the pipeline, I will have wasted an awful lot of time and have nothing to show for it other than experience and some good war stories.

I am tempted to invoke Einstein's definition:

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Of course my Plan B does involve hard work. But it will without question improve my employability. I feel rather ashamed that I hadn't thought of something like this before. But now I have, hurray!

I don't mind working hard. Not at all. But only so long as I know where the work is heading and it is a goal which is both worthy and plausible. I've been hiding from the world too long

I would also like to make the point that I do not blame anyone for what I perceive to be my own long-term apathy and lack of ambition.

I also don't really care if I alientate people in the process. I've never spent enough time trying to fulfil my ambitions and now I am definitively trying to rectify that, and though I have already barred myself from a number of time/energy/cash-consuming pleasures (chiefly visiting friends in other parts of the country - I have only left Brighton once since February and that was for an interview) I shall bar myself from more still if I have to.

I'm sure I've posted this before

but it's so good I'm going to post it again.


Wednesday, 6 April 2011

A common mistake I sometimes make is assuming that everybody else has sorted out their lives and are more effective and clear about what they want from their existence than I and are actively pursuing it. I have since realised this is not really true - a lot of people are disarmed by internia, frustration or laziness. However, I have also realised (and this, perhaps most importantly of all) that just because it's normal (and implicitly 'OK') to become victim to these traits, it doesn't mean you should.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Seriously though I really do like Size 10 Arial. Almost all my work is computer-based at the moment and I don't think I'd be able to survive it if I was working with another font.

And if sounds ludicrously mundane - yes, it is. But it's all in a good cause.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

No noise in the world so grating and mocking
Than the brutal sound of the bathroom door locking

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Dream (Another)

Dreamt I was in Argentina. We were in the Cordoba area. I asked my mother why we weren't going to Buenos Aires. She invoked some comparative point which seemed to say "families who want to waste their money go to Buenos Aires", and that we were not one of those families. The place actually reminded me of Broadstairs in Kent, except there was no sea or any other memories associated with that place - it was the buildings, narrow streets and contours which made it seem like Broadstairs. We were with my cousin Melanie. I walked outside alone and saw a German café. I wanted to go inside, but the food didn't look very nice and everyone seemed to be speaking German. Also I noticed I was wearing a blue jumper, which somehow I imagined to be a barrier to entry. So I just strutted around outside looking at them, and they, occasionally, at me. Some people came to pick us up. They were Argentinians but we spoke to them in English. They were driving us to the border. At one point the driver accelerated to such a speed that we took off like an airplane. We were all a little concerned though as it was clear from our trajectory that we were not going to stair airborne forever, and that the longer our leap, the further we'd have to fall. We landed safely. He said the trick to his driving technique was not only to go fast, but to change the country around him as he advances. He was keen to emphasise that this did not merely mean the roads or the landscape, but also its cultural assumptions, as if changing both together made the journey progress that much smoother.

Thursday, 24 March 2011


This might be the least illuminating post I ever write, but I've realised I actually really like Size 10 Arial font.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Another Cheap Rhyme

I met her on a rail replacement bus
a funny way to start
She said something funny
I said something smart

The seats weren't very comfy
infact they were rather hard
but she smiled at me warmly
and gave me her business card

And so I met her once more
this time on the train
she wasn't like the others
boring, busy and plain

We both got off at Croydon
I asked which way she'd go
She said "my place, you wanna?"
How could I say no

And then we hailed a taxi
the journey wasn't long
she slipped her hand into mine
my heart went into song

We pulled up outside her place
"£10 please mate" I paid
the cabby drove off, cheers mate
tonight I'm getting laid

And up to her appartment
upon the second floor
she giggled as we undid
the lock on the front door

It all happened so quickly
yet I'd gladly stay for more
I lay inside her, grinning
we tumbled on the floor

An hour later I got dressed
she brought coffee in a mug
I sat there slurping slowly
feet perched upon the rug

Suddenly there was knocking
she undid the top bolt
a man stood there angry
she cried "it wasn't my fault!"

He then came in and sternly
asked that I should leave
his brow was boiling furiously
fists shaking from their sleeves

"my daughter's not for picking,
no fallen apple here
now leave before I get angry
do I make myself quite clear?"

He quaked, if only I had known earlier
I'd have left her clean
for the girl I'd had, I later learnt
was only seventeen

So off I went, sad and sullen
out the flat and into the street
I couldn't see a taxi about
so I proceeded on my feet

And back to the station I lumbered
with a sigh running through my head
the train to Redhill wasn't running
so I got on the bus instead

So there I was back on the rail replacement
but from her now forever apart
now I need somebody to replace
the rails in my heart

Royal Fish

Monday, 14 March 2011

Yet Another Dream

I got shot at! Me, my brother and one of his old friends from school (God knows what the selection process for my dreams is) were sitting playing cards on a table by a ground-floor window. The window is wide open. A boy is standing in the street, looking at us. I am holding a book. After a short interval in which the boy is staring resentfully at us, he comes up to the window and, slurring his speech, demands to know what we're playing, and seemed to want to take my book. Within seconds he has become angry and, as if he was determined upon this course long ago he takes out the gun. He aims at me as I run out of the room. He misses narrowly. After a minute or so (or faster, we all know how instantly things happen in dreams) I return to the room. My brother is fine, his friend has escaped and the gunman is nowhere to be seen. At first I am relieved that no-one else has been shot at. However, I am reminded that there is somebody out there who actively wants to kill me and this thought haunted me for the rest of the dream. Until at one point, later on, I started discussing it wilth a friend. "Of course" I conclude, "that must have been a dream. Nobody is trying to kill me. That room we were playing cards in, it was like my brother's room in real life but on the ground floor. And I can't think of any reason why [brother's friend' would be there! We haven't seen him for years!". However, I was still anxious about whether this new assessment of mine was indeed correct.

At a later point in the dream I was walking around St Ann's Well park (or a similar, larger version with fewer trees which only appears in my dreams) dressed at the Pope and, on spotting two boys having a minor quibble I ordered them 'on the Authority of the Pope' to stop. Indeed they did.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Funny Old Dreams

I dreamt that I was having a practice job interview... with my grandfather, up in his top floor flat. My brother and father were in the same room and were talking with eachother, out loud. I was angry with them for not taking the interview seriously. (N.B. I have a real-life interview on Monday afternoon)

Later I dreamt that I was sitting on a long table with a lot of people from school, none of whom I particularly liked. There were quite a few spare seats and some guy (also from school, whom I always despised) was darting his eyes around calculating where would be best to sit. He sat in my area, where there were an above-average proportion of girls. I told him out loud that his reason for choosing this spot was pathetic and that, moreover, he deliberately chose to sit next to me so he could try his 'alpha-male- routine whilst sitting next to someone whom he didn't regard as rival.

Later still I dreamt that, after the meal, we had all got into a bus. Suddenly the bus, along with all the other signs of human life, disappeared. I was alone with two others, James and José (I don't think the J's are significant) and I was walking around in awe. I felt as though we had been transported to the distant future. I was making ridiculous comments "the sun is about to eat us. see how red everything is? this is phobos. this is the photon." while expansive new age music swirled around ominously as if we were at the navel of the universe.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Strange Dream

I dreamt that I was in Swansea looking for the Dylan Thomas statue. As is often the case in mydreams, though the place was instinctively familiar to me it was not the same as it was in real life. There were two railway stations on opposite sides of the road. One was labelled Brighton, the other Inverness - the stations were defined by their destination, not by their starting point (Swansea).

Friday, 18 February 2011

AV Referendum

I'll come out and predict right now the referendum on the AV voting system shall produce a marginal 'no', thus preserving the existing system. Though I am not sure how interested the public as a whole are, I don't think the Yes campaign will ever be able to establish a coherent and convincing message. Because after all, there is no clear 'advantage' which the AV can offer in the same way that, say, First Past the Post can offer the advantage of simplicity.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011


I do wonder whether one can choose the 'Desert Island Discs' theme as one of your desert-island discs.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011


I love it when I find a typo on the website of a large accountancy firm. It reminds you that while the Great Profitmaking Machines of the Big Four have the power to decide whether to employ you or not, they are nevertheless manned by humans who occasionally, for instance, accidently type a space between the 'th' and the 'e' of 'the'.

I don't like seeing typoes on smaller firms though. It just reeks of unprofessionalism.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

In a Class of their own

It's rather funny how our understanding of class is as much underpinned by the mathematical nature of comparative language than it is underpinned by genuine differences. For instance, the common trinity of upper, middle and lower classes says less about there being three distinct classes than it does about our tendency to find a 'middle/average' classification and then place things either side of it, moulding our understanding of the reality in order to cling to this scale.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Deepstack Cash

Up at sunrise again, as I have been doing for around three weeks. The only morning on which I forwent this rigour was a recent trip to The Vic in London, where I did not sleep at all, taking part as I was in an all-night session. It was more or less a break-even excursion but certainly very fun, just as it had been the last time I had done something like this the previous April.

However, I came to realise that much of my lack of success at The Vic (those which I have had have only been minor) could be directly attributed to my style of play. Put it this way: poker is about minimizing losses and maximizing profits given the situations thrown at you. Well I'm fairly good at the former: I almost enjoy folding top pair. But I end up seeing so few pots with speculative hands that I'm never very likely to, say, trump and over-confident overpair with a surpirse 3-5 suited. I end up having to rely on cold decks, but in situations where it is obvious the sort of hands I or the other player has. For instance Aces versus Kings, or flopped set versus flopped flush. Given my tendency to play nut-draw hands I am usually the beneficiary of these pots. But they come few-and-far enough between that they can hardly compensate for the huge number of small pots which I lose.

Now it's all very well telling someone they need to 'loosen up', but fear of changing your style of play is often based on the fact that the looser method has not been articulated to them. The truth is there is no single method anyway. The player has to be facilitated with the concepts which can rationalize looser play. The best concept for this, I am beginning to find, is to think of all transactions as the table as being proportions of the stacks in play. This includes pre-flop action. Those of us who have played tonnes of six-max 25NL (and not neccessarily been that successful there either) may have formed rigid expectations about what is 'right' and 'wrong' in 6-max play. For instance, opening ranges. Of course, a lot of these pre-flop decisions do take into account 'your chance of winning your opponent's stack' - that's why people are less inclined to say, call a raise with 67 suited out of position in a 100BB game.

However, at the Vic the maximum buy in is 200BB, and perhaps around a third to a half of any of the stacks at a given time will have more than this. And here enters my error. I was treating the fullring 200BB game as little more than a slighty-expanded version of six-max 100BB 25NL. So, slightly larger stacks and a few more players - no need to change my pre-flop play substantially. With this in mind, I continued my rather conservative 'raise when entering a pot, rarely call a raise especially when out of position'. The problem here is that I was not thinking about my transactions in terms of the 200BB stacks - I was thinking in an almost preset pre-flop way. A £5 raise, for instance, represents 1/40th of a buy-in. In an online 100BB 25NL game this would be the equivalent to 62.5 cents. Yet I was still thinking of it in terms of Big Blinds, so I would read this as to being the equivalent of $1.25, a five big-blind raise. And so I contined to play tightly, completely neglecting the favourable implied-odds implications. This was causing me to fold way too often and without any real justification. I was missing out on tonnes of favourable situations because I was thinking about poker in the wrong direction: pre-flop forwards rather than river back.

I'm glad I've realized this as it will probably open me up to a more flexible and intuitive approach to poker. For those curious, I essentially had a spell from May to Janaury in which I hardly played any poker. There was the occasional live tournament and a trip or two to The Vic, but none of the ambitious online MTT projects of the past - and no grinding. However, there is always space in my life for one game. In the last 9 months or so it's been alternatively scrabble, Civilization 4, my own board-game creation and at the moment poker. And I have finally reached the stage where I can play at stakes which do not affect my broader finances, the seperation of entities. My game only needs to improve. I shall do for poker what worked so succesfully for my driving - provide myself with a constant narrative of what is going on around and give the brain the information required to make the neccessary connections and make the best decisions.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Actually over-politeness is pretty much another form of rudeness - it presumes the person we are interacting with is incable of handling the truth.

Monday, 31 January 2011

Books Read Nov 2010 - January 2011

Stanlislaw Lem - The Futorological Congress (1974)
Jorge Luis Borges - The Book of Sand (1975)
Stanlislaw Lem - Solaris (1961)
Agatha Christie - And Then There Were None (1943)
Peter Vansittart - Voices 1870-1914 (1984)
Robert Harris - Lustrum (2009)
Edwin Williamson - The Penguin History of Latin America (1992)
Robert Harris - Fatherland (1992)
Erich Maria Remarque - All Quiet on The Western Front (1929)
Arthur C. Clarke - Profiles of the Future (1972)
Eugene P. Northrop - Riddles in Mathematics (1944)
Brian Cathcart - Were You Still Up For Portillo? (1997)
Eric Hobsbawm - The Age of Revolution (1962)
Charles Dickens - Great Expectations (1860-1)
Geoffrey Hosking - A History of the Soviet Union (1990)
Charlotte Bronte - Jane Eyre (1847)
Gyles Brandreth - Breaking the Code (1990-7)
Stanislaw Lem - A Perfect Vacuum (1971)

Wednesday, 19 January 2011


I was in a rectangular room, reminiscent of a public library. In the middle were lots of desks and tables and places to sit, although the whole place was busy and had less the atmosphere of a house-of-learning than a trading-floor. I met former chancellor Norman Lamont. Apparently I had invested £700 in some new scheme of his. However, I kept noticing him in conversation with shady characters over in the corner of the room, often taking a book out from the shelves at the same time.

I got involved in what can only be described as a form of poker-bingo. Everybody places their bets and each player is given a number of cards (I counted about 7 in the hand I was in). Then a special card is taken from a huge, separate deck and placed in the centre. This contains the community cards, so rather than actually using normal cards to create a flop, there are pre-created flops as if we were using bingo cards. My friend José (sitting to my left) had placed £3 down and had won the pot with a full house. I had only but down £1 but for some reason my KQJT9 straight was good enough to 'win the side-pot', which of course makes no sense in reality as if there would have been any side-pot it would have been between José and anyone else who staked more than a £1. I received my winnings in stacks of pennies (about 20 of them) and assorted silver. I was annoyed but amused. While the next hand was in progress I suddenly left and went across into another room.

This room was a bar, very similar to the Dirty Duck at the University of Warwick. I asked for a half-pint of coke, but he was having difficulty hearing me. I saw him pour half a pint of diet coke into a pint glass and then top it up with regular coke, as if he were preparing a bitter shandy only... with coke. He then asked for £3.60. Having left most of my coins on the gaming table I scrambled out my debit card. He said there was "-£1.15" on it, so I just whacked a tenner out of my pocket and paid with that. Of course, the fact that were was a negative amount was not actually a problem in real life: I have an interest-free overdraft facility.

I asked Oliver (a friend from school who happened to be there) whether he thought I had made a wise investment with Lord Lamont. Oliver said I should try to withdraw my investment immediately. I began to sense that I was here to play poker, and that I was at the Victoria casino in London. I then worried that I didn't have nearly enough money: I could only withdraw around £190 from my card. I began to curse myself for not having asked my employer for the two weeks of wages which were meant to come between me and this (scheduled) cardroom visit. A fight started to break out in the corridor. I am not sure what the fight was about, though it was concluded when a short, cartoonish fellow headbutted the protagonist. I heard a narrator saying that the short man was dimwitted but always a good laugh. A rating of '5' appeared above him in a golden star, as if he was a unit of that strength in some sort of card-based war game. The appearance of the short man seemed to be a mixture of Wilfred from The Bash Street Kids and that short guy from Sid the Sexist. The bully had had a rating of '11', and the short guy had used a special tactic (headbutting) to overcome this numerical disparity.

Then I woke up, around 20 minutes or so before my alarm.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Oldham East and Saddleworth By-Election

Well, a couple of hours ago the polls opened for what will be the first parliamentary by-election since the formation of the Coalition government in May. There was, of course, the postponed Thirsk & Malton poll on the 27th of May, but by then the coalition dyanmics had yet to really come into play electorally speaking.

Here are the 2010 results for Oldham East and Saddleworth:

LAB - 14,186 (31.9%)
LIB - 14,083 (31.6%)
CON - 11,773 (26.4%)
(and others, although they are not numerically signficant)

A great deal of analysis has been done on this by-election and it is generally expected that Labour will win. The general trend of the opinion polls since the general election suggests the Labour vote nationally is up around 13% whereas the Liberal Democrat vote is down by around the same amount. Notably, the Conservative vote remains more or less unchanged.

Much has been made of local factors. The previous Labour MP, of course, had his result voided following a court ruling which showed that the Labour candidate had effectively told untruths about the Liberal Democrat candidate in his campaign literature - a factor which may have proved decisive given the extremely close result. I don't expect this will damage the Labour vote here too much, indeed, there has been some resentment at what is perceived as their result being decided by a distant court.

It is significant that the combined Liberal/Conservative vote here is as high as it is: 58% compared to Labour's 32%. Although these are pre-coalition figures, it does indicate that for Labour to guarantee victory they will have to shift a lot of these votes.

Despite the Conservatives' strong third-place performance here in 2010 it is widely expected that many Conservative voters will vote tactically, lending their vote to the Liberal Democrat candidate to stop Labour from winning.

I shall make a prediction:
LAB - 13,476 (46%)
LIB - 7,531 (26%)
CON - 4,538 (15%)
OTH - 3,837 (13%)

Turnout being roughly 40%.
Based on these figures, the old saying that this will be the 'first real test for the Coalition' is somewhat misleading, as it is not a test they are expected to pass. The expectation is with Labour, although this may harm them: first it may encourage even more tactical voting from Conservatives to boost the Libdem vote. Second, any increase in expectation will just make defeat all the more unstomachable. The Liberal Democrats will only be humiliated if they come third. Labour will be humiliated if they come second. The Tories... if they come fourth I suppose. Despite the BNP polling 11% here in 2001, there is no single significant fourth party presence here.

Polls close at 10pm and results are expected at 2am.

Also, we'll be expecting another by-election sometime early this year! The MP for Barnsley Central has stood down after admitting fraud over his expenses. He was elected as a Labour MP in 2010 with 47% of the vote, 30% more than the second place candidate. Consequently, it will be rather a different type of by-election to this one, and potentially less interesting. Oldham East and Saddleworth is rare in that it was a genuine three-way marginal in the General Election. Barnsley Central is a definitive Labour safe-seat and so there's not even much chance of a two-way scrap, let alone a three-way scrap. More signficant would be a by-election in a Tory held marginal (with Labour in second place): or better still, a Tory held marginal with the Liberal Democrats in 2nd and Labour in 3rd. Of course the next major electoral test (one whose date is non-negotiable) are the Scottish Parliamentary and Welsh Assembly elections in May, as well as the council elections of the same month.