World of Chig   

X 4 UK = OK

Liberty X for Eurovision! Hurrah! The mighty X have been announced by Auntie as one of the contenders in Making Your Mind Up. How fantastic, especially after our expectations had been lowered by rumours of a third Scott-Lee contender in the shape of Lisa. (Her brother Andy took part in MYMU last year and little brother Ant had a go as part of Hyrise the year before.) We still have a member of the Scott-Lee extended family though, as Michelle Liberty X is Andy's girlfriend.

Before we can welcome the X to Athens though, they have an unfortunate, and possibly substantial, obstacle to overcome; Chico bloomin' X Factor! God help us all.

The full list of MYMU contenders (according to the News Of The World) is as follows:

Liberty X
Chico Slimani
Natasha Hamilton (the one from Atomic Kitten who HASN'T just covered 'Woman In Love' - that's Liz McLarnon)
DJ Daz
Four Story
+ the winner of Radio 2's songwriting competition.

Slovenia chose a good song tonight, in a strong final. The winner was Plan B, sung by Anjez Dezan. For once, those of watching in Oldbury - nineteen of us! - actually picked the same winner as Slovenia did. This rarely happens.

Oh yeah, I've had a bloody brilliant four days (and four nights of drinking) in London, but now I must sleep!

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Isn't it a shame that Pete Burns isn't up for eviction from Celebrity Big Brother tonight? It would have been so appropriate: it's Burns Night!

And with that, Chig buggers off to London. I'm not sure if they have computers down there, so I'll be back on Sunday, to watch the Slovenian final to choose their song for Eurovision. Oh yes, we've held out until 25 January before mentioning the 'E' word. Fear not, it'll be back in a big way next week. In the meantime, I'd just like to say: Ella for Latvia, Queentastic for Norway, Kate Ryan for Belgium. Let's just turn this year's contest into a big gay disco!

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Aaaaah, bless!

Chantelle: "I don’t think I’m naïve. Do you think I’m naïve?"
Preston (with only a slight hesitation): "We both are."

The man’s a saint – and more of a politician than George Galloway will ever be.

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Does anybody know what has happened to the download chart? It used to be revealed on Radio 1 on Wednesday evenings, but the chart for last week (18 January) hasn't appeared yet on the Radio 1 website. It still has the chart for the week before (11 January). The Yahoo! Launch website, despite keeping the other charts up to date, seems to have given up on the download chart over a month ago, and is still showing the one dated 12 December.

What's happening?

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"Not only is he damned to leave the house, he is damned to go to hell."
The wonderful, insightful, usually impartial Dermot O’Leary on George Galloway. And so say all of us.

On the plus side, well done George! Not only have you revealed yourself to be a complete idiot tonight, completely out of touch with what the public are thinking, but your vindictive, totally unjustified attack on Preston and Chantelle has probably just assured them coming first and second. Good. You're a jerk.

Unfortunately, I have to work with someone as argumentative as George and the vile Pete. That's partly why I hate going in to work, and why I feel like giving Chantelle and Preston a big hug right now.

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A question for my gay readers in London

Hello, gay readers in London! Chig will be at a party in central London this Wednesday at the oddly-named Too2much. It's the gaytimes Wilde Awards party, and a celebration of the magazine's redesign. We may well be looking for after-party drinking and dancing later. What's to do late on Wednesdays? Any recommendations gratefully accepted. Ta. Having said that, Wednesday nights at Too2much are 'Trannyshack', apparently. Maybe we'll just stay there out of curiosity.

I'm in London Wednesday to Sunday, so I may well celebrate Mozart's 250th birthday on Friday by doing something momentous like going to Mozart Street in Kilburn, taking a photo of the street sign and singing a chorus of 'Rock Me Amadeus' out loud. I bet Diamond Geezer beats me to it though...

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Rula deposed

Celebrity Big Brother continues to surprise us. I kind of assumed Traci would be evicted tonight, not Rula. You can't evict Rula Lenska! It's like slapping your granny in the face. There was palpable shock in the BB house, as well as here at Chig Mansions. No one said anything. I've never seen a BB eviction announcement greeted so quietly. The poor thing. Of course, Rula wouldn't be out if George hadn't nominated her over something that was inaccurately reported to him. He wouldn't have been nominating if it hadn't been for him and Preston talking about the nominations. And the conversation about nominations wouldn't have happened if someone hadn't misrepresented something that Dennis had said and caused a race row. Which brings us back to the cause of that row: Traci. She should be out!

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Celebrity Big Brother in the early hours of this morning was absolutely brilliant! George and Preston were called into the diary room and punished for talking about nominations, by being asked to nominate three housemates for eviction tomorrow. The problem, for them, was that all the others were watching on the big screen, and it didn't occur to Preston or George. Preston had been drinking, and they spoke quite openly. It was horribly embarrassing and yet gripping at the same time. No doubt it will be edited to death in tonight's highlights programme, but it was pure TV gold.

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The Land Of Make Believe

Happy Birthday to Mister Samuel Dylan Murray Preston, current inmate of the Celebrity Big Brother asylum and occasional Ordinary Boys frontman. Not only does the song title above sum up life inside the Big Brother house, it also happens to be the song that was number one when Preston was born, 24 years ago today. (Thank you to Dermot O’Leary for supplying that information, and Preston’s full name, as I prised my eyes open to watch his far-too-early BBLB show today.)

Preston seems to be enjoying his birthday party as I write this, but it’s a shame he is blissfully unaware of the birthday present which yesterday’s singles chart delivered to him, as The Ordinary Boys’ rather good single from last year, Boys Will Be Boys, made a tasty re-entry into the singles chart. It re-entered at number 33, seven months after it became the biggest of their four Top 40 hits so far, peaking at number 16 last June. It took me by surprise, as I was expecting a surge of downloads for their tracks – I’ve done it myself – but didn’t expect to see it in the ‘proper’ singles chart, as it isn’t officially on sale as a physical single. However, the presence of this in yesterday’s chart and the absence of a certain Dead Or Alive song, which I also sense is being downloaded quite a lot this week, shows the rather contrived rules under which our singles chart is now operating. Songs can’t appear in the main singles chart on the strength of download sales, unless a physical version is also on sale. That’s why loads of classic Christmas songs, by Wham!, Band Aid, Shakin’ Stevens, Slade, Wizzard and particularly Mariah Carey, were clogging up the download chart last month but didn’t appear in the main singles chart, because they weren’t on sale in any physical format. This rule was cleverly bent by Gorillaz last year with Feel Good Inc, when they released it first as a download, but also put a very limited edition vinyl version into some shops. This was enough to get the downloads included in the main chart and get the single into the Top 30, almost on download sales alone. When the CD version was released later, the single leapt up the chart in a way that singles are not supposed to do anymore.

If I’ve understood the rules correctly, download sales can count towards a single’s position in the combined chart for one year after the release of the physical single. So that’s why the Christmas singles mentioned above didn’t enter the main chart, but the Ordinary Boys have. In reality, there must have been very few copies of Boys Will Be Boys lurking in the alphabetical racks of HMVs across the country last week, and I’m sure they’ve all gone now, but the fact that the single is still within a year of its original release date means that all the download sales count. Hey presto – a re-entry!

‘Boys Will Be Boys’ has been hurriedly scheduled for a ‘proper’ re-release a week today (23rd January), so we’ll have one more week of it in the chart on mainly download sales and then, I suspect, a number one single on Sunday 29th January. This is two days after Celebrity Big Brother ends. Can you imagine little Preston’s face if he comes out of this as the winner and then Davina tells him he’s heading for a number one single? I can’t wait! Lounging around in the house sure beats the usual round of travelling and promotions that normally go with the release of a single.

‘You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)’ won’t make the main singles chart at all, no matter how many downloads it sells, unless Epic get the CD out again. They’ve only re-released the classic once before, in May 2003, when a remixed version made number 23. They need to re-release the original, in my humble opinion. It’s already had airplay this week on commercial radio – I’ve heard it!

PS. Check out the Lady Sovereign remix of ‘Boys Will Be Boys’. The Queen Of Chav puts a whole new spin on the original in what we used to call a ‘reply song’ in the olden days.

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Feline a bit funny?

I still haven't quite recovered after watching George Galloway and Rula Lenska playing pussycat and owner on last night's CBB. It was scary, sexual and just a little bit too realistic. One thing's for sure - no one will ever be scared of abrasive George again.

Let's hope Jodie goes tonight. She's offering nothing to the programme now she seems to have retired to bed, moaning about how hard her life is. Pete continues to entertain and George...well, who knows what he'll do next?!

Our science correspondent adds:
In Dennis and Pete's 'talking to plants' experiment, where was the control experiment? Even if Pete hadn't killed his plant because he had to adjust his knackers, how would they have 'proved' that one plant grew because they spoke to it, unless they had one that they didn't speak to?

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"I’ve never seen a pig choose nice earrings", said Pete Burns in tonight's Celebrity Big Brother.

Oh yeah?

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Look at my pole!

While Celebrity Big Brother is on, lots of places are having polls, so we're going to be different and have a pole instead. Check out Chig's Big Brother Pole of Popularity on the left hand side. This is subject to change at any time over the next few weeks, on a whim, and you can influence it too, via the comments boxes on any CBB-related items here. Currently, as you can see, mod-boy cutey Preston is sitting on top of Chig's greasy pole, but he could slide down it at any moment, causing untold pleasure someone else to take the 'pole' position. Jodie 'Poor Me' Marsh has only survived being in bottom place because Dennis Rodman is so damn scary. So, there you have it, for now. Watch this space.

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Chig is rather bemused by all this fuss over the Education Secretary approving a paedophile to work as a teacher. Have people forgotten that Ruth Kelly has 'close links' with Opus Dei, the Vatican's extremist wing? She's so embroiled in the Catholic Church that she probably thinks putting children and paedophiles together is compulsory.

(I'm Catholic. I'm allowed to make sick jokes about it. I'm going to hell anyway.)

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Link sense

You see that little box on the left? The one that shows us which links were most popular yesterday? It currently seems to make sense! It says:

Eat fewer pies, Boy George.
British firefighters gob Kenzie.

Which conjures up a couple of interesting images, does it not?!

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Today's bad news

Something to think about today for those of us going to Athens in four months' time for Eurovision. Greece (including Athens) has been hit by a 6.9 earthquake. Astonishingly, for a quake of that size, there seem to be no reports of deaths or even serious injuries.

First Robin Cook, then Mo Mowlam, and now Tony Banks has died. The unfair cull of Labour politicians continues. If they keep losing the ones who have personalities and lives outside of politics at this rate, there won't be anyone left soon who 'non-political' people actually recognise. I liked Tony Banks. He was a good Sports Minister (who just about lived long enough to see his beloved Chelsea win the Premier League last year after 50 years) and he was always good value on TV. I wonder if anyone has told George Galloway? I don't know if they ever got on, but he must have known Tony Banks pretty well. They were both in the same party for a long time, and both have been MPs for East London constituencies.

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A friend of mine sent me a text yesterday evening: "Am off to Gale later to see Brenda. Hope to see you there, followed by a pic of you and her on ya blog!"

We aim to please:

Brenda was absolutely amazing. She had managed to pack out the club on what's normally the quietest weekend of the year, and did nine songs, singing live. Nine! That's like a proper gig! Her voice is phenomenally strong. She was absolutely lovely afterwards too. She told me she doesn't yet have a record deal, but she has the X Factor tour to do first and hopes to release something soon.

Go Brenda! Go Brenda!

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Not George, but George.

23:15 Oh Channel 4, you are really spoiling us! What a marvellous selection of people you have secured for Celebrity Big Brother. My disappointment at the absence of Boy George is more than made up for by the fabulous mix of gobshites, crossdressers, damaged lives and totty (Preston, obviously) who have gone in there. I'm staying in for the next three weeks.

Ordinary Boy Preston: tattooed totty. No, this is not a modelling shoot for Top Man.

I like the Ordinary Boys, and I've liked Preston when I've seen them performing on TV. He seems like a nice guy, and you just know that his tattooed working classness would have been right up Boy George's alley, so to speak, so there's an opportunity missed for an interesting interpersonal dynamic, but I think we have enough to be going on with, thank you very much. (Preston has left a message for fans on the Ordinary Boys' website, which says it crashed earlier, with 50,000 visitors in two minutes.) Aaah, he's looking really cute wearing glasses in the house now too.

The moment I saw George Galloway MP being unveiled, despite the fact that it had been leaked on Radio 1 this afternoon (from a list which they had which has turned out, I think, to be completely accurate), I still found myself thinking, 'how can an MP spare the time?'. Presumably he'll walk early once he feels he's got his message across. Or will he? Diamond Geezer, one of his constituents, isn't too thrilled about it, and nor would I be, if it were my MP, with Parliament reassembling next week.

My phone rang as soon as Celebrity Big Brother finished. To my surprise, it wasn't a friend, but my 65 year old Dad, ringing to ask if I was watching C4 and to say "What a fantastic mix of people." MY DAD!! Channel 4 must be doing something right. He's also as disappointed as I am that Dermot's BBLB is now going to be in the mornings at 8am, with no evening or late night repeat. Although I can think of advantages to watching Dermot in bed first thing in the morning, that's a crap time to have the programme on. Sort it out, Channel 4. We want it in the evenings.

Oh, and Channel 4 might also want to repaint that wall in the gym, which set off my Lynne Truss alarm. The designers have made a stupid mistake, in BIG, BOLD letters. It says 'EAT LESS PIES'. Oh dear. What is a 'less pie'? Is it like a meat pie? Where do you buy this stuff called 'less' that goes in the pies?

It's 'EAT FEWER PIES', you idiots!

PS. I've had to sing 'You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)' down the phone to my Dad, so that he knows who Pete Burns is.

PPS. With hindsight, there's a really funny quote on this website's biography of the Ordinary Boys. It says, "The Ordinary Boys rise above the trivialities of a Big Brother world." In fact, it seems Preston is in the Big Brother house because he said in an interview that he would like to be, and the producers saw it.

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My friend Twiggy, Birmingham's favourite drag queen performance artiste and door whore, has a feature all to herself himself on the BBC Birmingham website. They've also gone to town with a gallery of 38 photos. Hurrah!

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Boy George
Pete Burns
Liza Tarbuck
Dr. Gillian McKeith
Johnny Vegas
Dennis Rodman
Anna Nicole Smith
Michael Barrymore
Zane Lowe
Esther Rantzen
Joan Rivers

They can’t all be going into the Celebrity Big Brother house tonight...can they? Er, no, but some of them will be. I can’t wait!

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Chig's Faves Of 2005 - Albums

It's the day I thought would never happen. Quite frankly, I'm good in principle at doing these end of year lists, because I do them in my head all the time, from about August onwards, but when it comes down to committing them to paper/screen, it's a different matter. So, I am very proud to say that there are some lists coming up over the next few days. They never seem to be final lists, as I'm changing the order around all the time, even now. However, as of this moment, here are Chig's favourite 15 albums of 2005. These are in no way meant to represent the 'best' of anything, as it's a matter of personal taste, but the top ten here are albums I've enjoyed immensely over the last twelve months (or, in the case of Erasure, the last fifteen months, as I was fortunate to have a copy back in October 2004, but it was only released last January.) Those below the top ten I still rate, but they're not quite in the same league (for me).

(2004 Favourite: Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand. 2004 Runner-up: Wild Dances – Ruslana)

01 I Am A Bird Now – Antony & The Johnsons
For the second year running, my favourite album is the Mercury winner. This is head and shoulders above anything else I’ve heard this year. I find it captivating, haunting, emotional and perfect late night listening.

02 Dangerous And Moving – t.A.T.u
Don’t underestimate them – this is the most consistent pop album I heard all year, full of great tunes and excellent production. There are several potential hit singles on here which are better then the one they’ve released (All About Us). Why do I have a feeling the record company won’t bother to release them, or promote this album properly?

03 Back To Bedlam – James Blunt
The best-selling album of the year, and deservedly so. There’s not a duff tune on it. I love his unusual voice as well as his lyrics.

04 Taller In More Ways – Sugababes
Much, much stronger than I expected it to be. I can even forgive them for covering Animotion’s ‘Obsession’; one of my favourite 80s tunes. Bring on Red Dress as a big hit single. (Presumably they’ll take Mutya’s vocals off and record new member Amelle’s before they release it?)

05 Confessions On A Dancefloor – Madonna
Almost perfect, but I can’t quite love Madonna as much as she seems to love herself, and that stops me from wholeheartedly embracing the music. You also know, if you’ve heard her try to sing live on various TV programmes recently (notably Children In Need) that the quality of the vocals on this album is achieved largely through technology and that takes away the enjoyment slightly. It’s still a great pop/dance album though.

06 Tissues And Issues - Charlotte Church
We like Charlotte Church. Especially since she brought her boyfriend along to stand next to me for a millisecond at Cardiff Mardi Gras. This album is a 'something for everyone' hotchpotch of musical styles, but overall a great pop album.

07 Employment – Kaiser Chiefs
‘I Predict A Riot’ was one of my Top 20 singles of 2004, despite it only making number 22 on its first release, so I’m glad the track became a top ten hit on re-release; one of four top 11 hits (The Modern Way spoilt the run of top ten hits by stalling one place short). The album has a surprising variety of musical styles on it, making it very listenable indeed. I suspect the first release from their next album will be a contender for a number one single. They should also be getting the Brit Award for best UK group, possibly UK newcomers, possibly UK album, unless they are beaten by this lot…

08 Stars Of CCTV - Hard-fi
A charismatic frontman, or Son of Supergrass, as I call him, plus some great tunes and some brilliant videos too, makes another contender for British group of the year.

09 Nightbird – Erasure
It’s officially a ‘return to form’ from Erasure, but their first album since their debut, Wonderland, to miss the top 20, peaking at number 27, when it eventually hit the shops, fifteen weeks after I had it. Erasure’s problem is that they seem to be dependent on making the Radio 2 playlist (which Breathe did) because they just don’t get played elsewhere. There are some great tunes on here – not all of them – but by the time they’d released the best one as the third single, people had already lost interest. ‘Here I Go Impossible Again’ should have been the lead single, and would have done a whole lot better than number 25.

10 Push The Button – Chemical Brothers
A fantastic album to play loud!

11 X&Y – Coldplay

12 Traces Of Sadness – Vanilla Ninja
For ‘most surreal moment of 2005’, it will be hard to beat the occasion back in May as I was listening to this album on my MP3 player at Frankfurt airport, before flying out to Eurovision in Ukraine. As I sat down by the departure gate with my headphones in, I glanced up at a woman and thought ‘she looks familiar’ and then looked at a woman next to her and thought, ‘so does she’. I then looked around and it dawned on me that Vanilla Ninja were about to board my plane to Kyiv. As they’re from Estonia, this was hardly expected. I so much wanted to tell them I was listening to their album, but I didn’t. In fact, I was in such awe of their beauty that I didn't say a word to them, even on the plane. Probably just as well. There are two women in this band who could possibly turn me straight, and I love their music too. Fawning adoration is never a good look.

13 Amarantine – Enya
14 Magic Numbers – Magic Numbers
15 Battleship Potemkin – Pet Shop Boys and Dresdner Sinfoniker
16 Intensive Care – Robbie Williams

Albums from late 2004 which I didn’t really play until 2005, which would have made the list: Thunder Lightning Strike - The Go! Team, Love Angel Music Baby – Gwen Stefani, American Idiot – Green Day.

Albums which would probably have made the list if I’d heard the whole album:
Cetri Krasti (Four Shores) - Prata Vetra (Brainstorm)
For reasons I can’t quite understand, other than initial lack of awareness, I haven’t bought this album, released last May (in Latvia) by my favourite group in the whole wide world. I will rectify this shocking state of affairs immediately, as this will probably end up being my favourite album of 2005, unless they’ve suffered a shocking lack of form, but it will be too late for this list.

Supernature – Goldfrapp, You Could Have It So Much Better With – Franz Ferdinand, In Between Dreams – Jack Johnson, Electric Blue – Andy Bell, Aerial – Kate Bush, Demon Days – Gorillaz, Eye To The Telescope – KT Tunstall, Tourist – Athlete, Keep On – Will Young, Chemistry – Girls Aloud, Come And Get It – Rachel Stevens, Language Sex Violence Other – Stereophonics, Funeral – The Arcade Fire.

Best compilation:
01 Original Remixes and Rarities – The Human League
02 Eurovision 2005 - Various
03 The Very Best of… - Sandie Shaw

Best soundtrack album: Kinky Boots OST. (I haven't seen the film, although I meant to. Is it any good?)

Most disappointing album:
‘Worst’ album of the year would obviously be the Crazy Frog’s worthless piece of shite, but I wouldn’t normally be listening to something if I thought it wasn’t going to be any good. However, Robbie Williams’ Intensive Care is my most disappointing album of 2005. Maybe I just haven’t played it enough, but, apart from Tripping, nothing stands out. It’s too MOR for my liking. Having said that, Advertising Space has really grown on me after many listens, so perhaps the album is just a slow grower. I’ll keep an open mind.

What was your favourite album of last year?

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There's an air of familiarity to Chig's 'door of calendars' this year.

Out with the old...

In with the new...

In fact, the January picture on the Justin Trousersnake calendar is exactly the same as the January picture for last year! If the publishers (same ones) were so short of photos, couldn't they at least have made it a different month?!

If you have the British firefighters' calendar, then you are probably sad and single too, but are you looking forward to July as much as I am? Phew! It's gonna be a hot Summer!

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Global warming - the evidence mounts up...

In the Summer, I was given two tiny tomato plant cuttings by a colleague. I enjoyed tending to them on my kitchen windowsill, having made the mistake in 2004 of trying to grow tomatoes outside and watching them perform miserably. This time around, they grew upwards much more quickly, but didn't produce much fruit; only one tomato on one plant and six on the other. As I mentioned to my colleague, after spending £1.49 on a bottle of Baby Bio plant feed, I had spent more money than it would have cost to buy seven cherry tomatoes in the shops. "That's not the point," he correctly pointed out. Indeed it's not. Since enjoying the tomatoes - and they tasted absolutely delicious, which surely is the point - something strange happened. Even though the leaves started to wither away, I continued watering. The plants then flowered again and produced a second batch of fruit. Yesterday, I was able to take this New Year's Day photo of the two remaining tomatoes. There were actually four, but I had left them there a bit too long, just for the sake of a New Year photo opportunity, and two others fell off when I touched them! Still, Winter tomatoes, not in a greenhouse, who would have thought?

Further evidence of the unusually mild weather:

I went for a New Year's Day cycle ride yesterday. (Actually, I had to, in order to pick up my car from where I'd left it in Moseley for the NYE party.) It wasn't even slightly cold though. I know I'm conveniently ignoring last Thursday, when temperatures didn't rise above freezing all day here in Birmingham, but it really does feel unseasonally mild. (Thursday was the only day in recent weeks that I haven't taken my camera to work, so I have no pictures of the beautiful frosted trees that lined the road outside our office. It rained on Thursday night and destroyed the whole effect. Grrr.)

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First photo taken in 2006

Chig and Kim look thrilled to be entering the year of Chig's 40th birthday. (Only 125 days to go, as of New Year's Day.) The party was much more fun than the photo would imply, honest! Good food, good company and lots of wine, partying first in Beckster's flat and then moving down the road to the Shapperleys' abode. We had a wine tasting competition, which I can heartily recommend as a way of getting a bit giddy really quickly. Thanks to our hosts and other friends (and also BBC One and the people responsible for the London fireworks) for a great way to see in the New Year. There was something that we all wondered about as we watched the TV coverage of London's fireworks (which looked fantastic). Why this year? Why had the effort seemingly stepped up a gear, eclipsing even the not-really-a-new-millennium celebrations at the end of 1999? Is this the Olympic effect? Do we feel we have to show off a bit more now and compete with Sydney and New York's celebrations? This is the first New Year I can remember where I have seen no coverage at all of people in Trafalgar Square. Has there been a conscious decision to change the focus of NYEs in London? Someone at the party suggested there was no one in Trafalgar Square, due to the tube strike. Do you know better?

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