merry christmas - when do you open?

Hello folks. Well it's Christmas eve and I'm already feeling like I've over indulged at the festive trough. It's not a good sign.

We Nobles traditionally open Christmas gifts on Christmas day - early in the morning. But due to a benevolent form of Canadian cultural imperialism I have recently started opening gifts on Christmas eve. I know this is not the norm for all Canadians, but the canucks that I know, love and dare to call family are of Scandinavian stock and apparently this is where their festive impatience comes from. I feel like there are some theological problems here, I mean Jesus got his gifts on Christmas day, but traditions are traditions and to keep the wife happy I now open my gifts on the eve rather than the day.I hope this is not a sin of some description.

Anyway - whether you open your gifts on the eve or the day itself I hope you get something special and have a great Christmas day - learn from my earlier mistakes - say no to the extra helpings!

a game for Christmas day

Taught the legendary 'Brown paper Bag' game last night to some friends. (Kudos to Katherine B Gatewood for this one) It was so popular we played twice. If, post-christmas feast, you detect a lull in the celebrations break out the brown paper bag for guaranteed hilarity.

You need:
Two teams, one brown paper bag (or other recepticle), paper, writing instruments, stop watch (or egg timer) and imagination.

1. have everyone write the names of three famous/well known people/characters (e.g. George Bush, Bart Simpson, Julia Roberts) down on pieces of paper
2. fold these and place in bag

Round 1: Player draws a name and describes person named on piece of paper for his/her team (no use of name or sounds like etc.) team tries to guess the person - (keep track of scores) 30 seconds for each person then switch to other team.

After the bag is emptied (that sounds kind of gross) refold names and put back in bag.

Round 2: Player draws a name and uses one word - team have to guess the person. (I once played this game and used the word 'Stedman' as my (brilliant) one word clue for 'Oprah Winfrey' - unfortunately none of my team mates were aware of the existence of Stedman, Oprah's longtime boyfriend.

Round 3: Draw names and perform a charade for your team to guess the name of the person.

It's seriously good fun, oh the wild nights I've had playing brown paper bag. Some of you may know this game by another name, I'm not claiming that I invented it, just sharing the joy. I know what I'll be doing this Christmas Day...

did you ever write to santa?

Interesting article in today's guardian - it's about North Pole, Alaska. If you've ever written a letter to Santa and addressed it to Santa, North Pole, apparently this is where that letter ended up (see here for another explanation). Children in the local school work as letter writing elves and reply to the letters as part of their school curriculum. It's Christmas 365 days a year - decorations, christmas lights the lot. The article is focused on events earlier this year when it was discovered that a group of teens had planned a Columbine style school massacre that was only foiled when the boy who was going to supply the guns didn't turn up to school. It's quite a sad story and not just because it adds substance to the arguments of those christmas atheists who claim there's no such thing as Santa.

Snow storm in belfast!

Snow Patrol made a triumphant return to belfast last night. Julie and I walked past the shivering crowds waiting outside the oddyssey. Lots of excited girls and one guy trying to sneak in the VIP entrance with a really dodgy looking painting of the band under his arm. Thankfully, he was gently escorted away from the venue by security. Anyway, the Belfast Telegraph is oh so proud - despite the fact that Snowpatrol aren't really an NI band (they formed and became established in Scotland) we've claimed the boys as our own. I'm still not 100% about the snowmen - here's one perspective from the guardian blog. They have become the band people love to hate, partly because their new album was the biggest seller of 06, but also because they are a bit bland. However, this is also a classic example of how the brits just love to hate those who achieve even a modicum of success.

However, I will say that it was great to hear that Duke Special was supporting snow patrol last night - check him out, we've seen him twice in the past year and he lives round the corner!

Warning: Ikea in belfast

Newsflash - Ikea are coming to Belfast - we've made it! Never mind Belfast's recent boom - you know you've made it as a city when Ikea rest their swedish hindquarters in your back yard. Bit worried though - when they opened a new store last year in England there were riots on opening night - rest assured the combination of Belfast's rampant materialism and our skills in the rioting department will show those english how it's done!

what to do on the net?

Here's a guide from today's guardian on the good stuff on the net - it's the all new top 100 sites, it's got the usual suspects and some of the new generation of players. Along the same lines here's Time magazine 50 coolest websites - happy surfing...

old habits die hard

Went for a walk the other night. Came across some neatly sprayed graffiti - "Anyone caught Housebreaking in Bloomfield will be severly dealt with..." - Thought this was a more direct approach to crime prevention than the local police who are currently running an ad campaign that encourages people to keep christmas presents out of sight. I'm not sure about the intentions of the author but there's something quite menacing about that's the unfinished thought...being severely dealt with sounds bad enough...but it's worse when it trails off like that...


Bad news on the car front today. Apparently we've blown a gasket! As amusing as this sounds it means our Mazda is mazdead and grounded until the new year. It's resurrection will create a large garage bill and our mechanic won't be able to get to it until the first week of january. So we are sort of car-less until then. If only I'd put that Segway on my christmas list!

But enough of the bad news. Today I finished my christmas shopping! We went into Belfast for the morning, but fled when we noticed that the lines of people waiting impatiently to buy gifts were getting longer and longer. I was hoping to buy the sufjan stevens christmas album, but for some reason the staff at Belfast's virgin megastore had locked the doors and put hurriedly written signs in the window that said 'For reasons beyond our control this store is closed'. Perhaps there was a computer crash but I wouldn't blame them if they just needed a break - I still suffer flashbacks to the pre-christmas chaos of starbucks - complete nightmare!

Julie bought Vanity Fair last week and I'll confess to having had a sneaky read. Amidst the glitz and glam I found a great article about esquire magazine in the 1960s - a time when it was a serious magazine with a staff of heavyweight writers. I downloaded one of the classics from this period, Gay Telese's 'Frank Sinatra has a cold' . It's a great piece - made me 1) mad at the rubbish that fills most magazines today and b) contemplate reading a biography of old blue eyes.

Josh Ritter

I first heard of Josh Ritter a few years back. I briefly worked with a german girl who was also a postgrad at St Andrews. She was quite mad in a really endearing way rather than the don't let her look after your pets when you are on holiday way. Anyway - Julia was stunned that I'd never heard of Josh Ritter. Julianne (Broten, wife of mine) does a great impression of Julia saying, 'You don't know Josh Ritta?!'

On Thursday night Julianne and I finally got to see the great man play live. As jbn points out it was great to see how enthusiastic Josh and his band were after a full year of touring. It was a great night. He writes beautiful songs that can pull you in for a
good ole stomp and sing a long or make you step back and listen as he paints visions of a mid-western apocalypse. His songs remind me of my visits to Canada - the sort of tunes you should have blasting as you drive in Northern BC - the music of wide open spaces, endless forests and trucks!

The support act for the Josher (as I like to call him) was a guy called Richard Swift. I enjoyed the brief set he played enough to download one of his tunes - Richard Swift is with a record label called Secretly Canadian. Just about the best name for a company of any description I've heard for a long time...

random comments...

Got a random comment from someone called 'Payday loans' - of course I was flattered when old payday said my blog was 'nice' but a little bit suspicious. Whenever someone mentions 'pure hoodia gordonii' I get a little nervous! Don't they know I lost my gut by pounding the pavement!

"Hey nice blog. Although it’s not what I was looking for. I am looking for info on Payday Loans or a Cash Advance so I can buy some Pure Hoodia Gordonii or Hoodia Diet Pills. I need to get a Payday Loans or Cash Advance first. I found your blog very interesting"

The holiday has officially started. Today we have been hanging out round the house, tidying up and enjoying the knowledge that the weekend will just keep going .

live from glasgow airport

Don't you just love laptops with wireless - here I am in the garishly orange easyjet lounge of glasgow airport: blogging!

Had an enjoyable day - Christmas dinner and chatting with colleagues. Working for a Christian charity means that it was a rather tame affair - but good fun. I think Bill was happy with his moleskine notebook. Hard to say since I would have reacted with a lot more joy to a moleskine - but he was certainly impressed. I got a tie - I think I like it, although I am very particular when it comes to ties - I like wearing ties - but I don't like all ties. Tend towards solids rather than stripes and would rather be tied up than wear a novelty tie, but that's just me.

The 'lounge' is filling up - lots of hungry and tired people longing for home. I still have an hour to wait! Have a good day wherever you are...

secret santa

Tomorrow I'm jetting off to sunny Glasgow for my work Christmas dinner. Julie likes to joke about how I work alone and frequently entertains herself with the image of my solitary work Christmas dinner. But actually we all come from our respective places of solitude to celebrate in Scotland!

Anyway, we do the whole 'secret santa' thing and while I like it in theory the experience was rather stressful. I was given Bill as my recipient. I don't really know Bill and I was totally unsure about what to get him. I've opted for a moleskine notebook and a mini Pilot G4 pen. (The budget was 10 pounds) I have a thing for cool pens and moleskine notebooks - I seriously can't get enough of them. Essentially I bought Bill the gift that I would like to receive. Is that terrible? We'll see if he shares the same obsession with stationary that I do. Any interesting suggestions for secret santa gifts from the blogosphere would be greatly appreciated - I will keep a list for next year.

sufjan stevens

Just read a review of Sufjan Steven's album, Songs for Chistmas. Have to confess that I'd never heard of him, despite that he's name-checked on the Snow Patrol track 'Open your Eyes'. Apparently he's a graduate of Hope College where my good friend Trygve Johnson works.

I downloaded a couple of tracks from itunes (Chicago and That was the worst Christmas ever): I'm hooked. Check him out...

Other recent downloads:

Set the Fire to the Third Bar - Snow Patrol and Martha Wainwright
Trouble - Ray LaMontagne
I just want to see the boy happy - Morrissey
Down at the twist and Shout - Mary Chapin Carpenter
Wintersong - Sarah McLachlan
Fairytale of New York - The Pogues featuring Kirsty McCall

He knows every two-bit toker in this burgh

Watched the movie Brick last night. I've been wanting to see it for months. I saw a trailer for it earlier this year - during a time when I was reading nothing but crime fiction - actually I was pretty much doing nothing but reading crime fiction. (Yes - this coincided with a period of unemployment.) Anyway - Brick did not disappoint. The writer/director, Rian Johnson even invented his own slang for the movie. If you like your crime fiction hard-boiled and your High School movies a little grittier than Mean Girls then Brick is for you. Much as I'd love to say more, I feel the onion av club review says it all.

Other news just in - Apparently The Killers are releasing a Christmas single called 'A Great Big Sled'. For those of you not from the UK, the Christmas number one is a rather big deal round here. The Killer's tune is all for a good cause as the proceeds will go to red. Good old Bono calling in some favours!

Sorry bout the lack of recent posting. Julianne has been monopolising the computer! This afternoon I wrote a version of this post, but then my browser inexplicably crashed and I lost it all.

Oh yes today I had a good old chat with two Mormons. It's been a few years since I've had a chance to speak to someone from LDS so it was very interesting. Aside from the whole theological issues, I discovered today that the missionaries don't like to reveal their first names - you know it's Elder X or Elder Y. At least that's what my two friends told me. However, I did manage to 'trick' one of them into revealing his first-name. He was clearly unaware of my months steeped in the world of crime fiction!

Saint George?

Before his death last year, George Best was frequently criticised for a multitude of sins - chief amongst these was his abuse of his 'new kidney' after a transplant operation. I think Best was a tragic figure, the personification of flawed genius. A truly incredible footballer, but that's about it.

What irks me is the hypocrisy! The same 'pundits' who wanted the kidney ripped from George's fragile torso when Bestie was caught downing libations in his local, elbowed their way to the top of the line to proclaim him a saint, encouraging all sorts of acts, gestures and celebrations that would immortalise 'our George'. There's an airport, a statue, a plane and even a faberge egg! Now there's a banknote. Tomorrow the Ulsterbank release a special fiver with George as the artwork.

The bank are expecting quite a rush on the notes when they fling wide the doors in the morning- they have been on sale on ebay since the bank announced their plans with all the pomp and ceremony they could muster. I've just found one for £30 (+£2 postage)!

For those of you who are interested, here's the note in all its glory...

Wendell Berry

I was introduced to Wendell Berry by my good friend Trygve Johnson. I should say 'introduced' as in to his work rather than the rather more impressive, "Wendell, this is Stu...Stuart, meet Wendell."

Anyway, I've read a few of his essays and the excellent Jayber Crow. In the new year I'm hoping to embark on a Berry feast by reading as much of his work as I can get my hands on. I think he's got some really interesting things to say about our relationship to the creation and how Christians might think critically about politics and the prevailing culture of consumerism. Here's link to an excellent bibliography.

The quote above the portrait reads: "The most alarming sign of the state of our society is that our leaders have the courage to sacrifice the lives of young people in war but have not the courage to tell us that we must be less greedy and wasteful."

The boss brings peace to our troubled land?

Good news peace fans - Where politicans, religious leaders and clever people who know lots about peace have failed Bruce Springsteen has been victorious! Last night he played in Belfast for the first time in ten years. Amongst the aging rockers and those who've raided their Dad's music collection we find Ian Paisley Junior and Gerry Adams! It's a great story - I'm not sure of the details but I like to think of ian jnr sneaking out his bedroom window to dance to some sinful music and bumping into Gerry. Despite their ideological, political and religious differences the refrain of 'Thunder Road' brings them together and Northern Ireland takes a step closer to a lasting peace.

I know Bruce has come in for stick about his politics of late, but I'm sure his fellow americans will forgive him his campaigning when they hear he's brought peace to Ireland


Stuart Noble


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romantic? No just cold

It's been a cold and wet weekend in Belfast. Perfect for being inside, making and eating soup, reading the papers and enjoying the hot-tub at the gym. Our little belfast house is pretty cold so we had to light some candles in the living room - where once there was a fireplace we have a few artfully arranged logs and a variety of candles. Not sure how much of a difference it makes, but it certainly adds something to the mood.

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