Sunday, 25 May 2008

A Portrait of the Landlord as a Crippled Artist

I am taking a very brief break from packing and cleaning and sweating like a ragged tot up a soot-chute to kindly ask any visitors here to also pop along here and offer some encouragement to my bestest subletting friend, Keith. I promised I’d do this on Friday, but I forgot.

Sorry, Keith.

Please don’t put my rent up.

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Friday, 23 May 2008

Feedback Friday :: End Of An Era

bulk :: 16st 1 (pffffffft)
alcohol units imbibed :: 10ish
cigarettes smoked :: 0
joints smoked :: 6
runs run :: 0 (pffffffft)
bookcases emptied and ready to dismantle :: 6
boxes packed :: 15
hells entered :: 1 (Excel Hell)
physical ailments :: 1 (spinal mayhem)
tantrums thrown :: 2 (don’t want to talk about it)
money worries :: lots suddenly
weird girlfriends :: 1
despicable thoughts :: plenty
stress level :: high

So, my landlady, who’s kept herself pretty much to herself for the duration of my stay in her humble home, has now decided to transform herself into a rapacious hard-nosed harridan. She tells me she’s not going to give me my deposit back because Pablo has ‘destroyed’ her flat. She used the word ‘destroyed’ to describe one patch of carpet that’s been a little scratched up and the back of one armchair. And a table. And a cracked kitchen window. Pablo didn’t actually crack the kitchen window but I blamed him for that one anyway. Actually it was kind of his fault. He was in the back garden torturing a half-dead blackbird, so I rapped on the pane to distract him, but I didn’t know my own strength. Bad cat.

I said to her: ‘You’ve got over a grand of my money. You can’t possibly be suggesting that it’s going to cost over a grand to replace a couple of pieces of – let’s face it – fairly crappy furniture, and a roll of cheap, paper-thin carpet.’

She didn’t like that.

‘You’re being ridiculous,’ I added.

She liked that even less.

‘You’re just greedy.’

She glared at me. And she wouldn’t budge. So I guess there’s nothing I can do.


Many years ago I knew someone who moved into a house which the previous tenants – having had some gripe with the estate agents – wrecked by turning on all the taps before they left. That’s a pretty horrible thing to do and I felt ashamed when it not only crossed my mind, but lingered there for a moment and tempted me.

I’m taking the light bulbs though. And the toilet roll.

Meanwhile, Sally wants to create a exhibition of photographs of my face. And I can think of nothing more hideous. And she thinks it would be good for me. And I think that really, she thinks it might be good for her. And she asks me what I’m afraid of. And I tell her I’m afraid of being made into a freak show. And she shakes her head and points her camera at me. ‘No,’ I say. She sulks.

And this afternoon, surrounded by half-packed boxes and more of a mess than I could really handle, I had a bit of a tantrum. I threw lots of things on the floor. Piles of papers. Books. A cup full of pens.

Pablo ran away from me. I shouted after him, blaming him for losing me a thousand pounds.

It was then, as I found myself calling my beloved cat a ‘dirty bastard’ that I stopped, shook my head, and took a long hard look at myself. I wondered if I was having a mini-breakdown. I decided I was just stressed with the idea of moving. And worried about money, and Sally and me, and everything else. I mean, what’s it all about? Stupid life.

Anyway, I picked up all the stuff. I found Pablo and apologised. He gave me a look like he might forgive me if I gave him some catnip. So I gave him some catnip. And I had a joint. And we were both happy.

I’m going to spend the weekend moving my stuff and myself into Keith’s house in Peckham.

It’s the end of an era. And I guess, the beginning of a new one.

Wish me luck.

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Thursday, 22 May 2008

Why, That's Delightful!

This - Why, That’s Delightful! - is my new favourite website. (Apologies if I’m thrusting a rather shiny glass cock under anyone’s nose with this.)

And it really is delightful! Especially delightful is this interview, which is delightful in a rather painful way, but delightful nonetheless (it gets painful around the 4-minute mark):

And this, which was just lying around in his comments and follows on from this, is simply gorgeous:

But then I am in a slightly silly mood.

Forgive me.

I wonder if I should ask Graham Linehan to do my survey. Hmmm… Why of course I should!

Joyeux Jeudi.

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Wednesday, 21 May 2008

A Modest Milestone

Hello everybody. This is my 100th post. So I decided to have a bloody big cake.

Then I thought, no. I thought, whoa there.

Instead, I shall have a modest cake.

Fröhliche Mittwoch.

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Tuesday, 20 May 2008


I could tell something was wrong immediately. Keith had been particularly spiky on the phone, but that was half-normal. What gave it away was the expression on his face when I answered my front door. There was something unpleasant in his eyes. Apart from the sleep-bogeys. I was pretty sure he was going to say, ‘I don’t think we should live together’, so it was – weirdly – almost something of a relief when he said: ‘I’ve got a brain tumour.’

‘Come in,’ I said.

He stomped through to the living room and sat down. ‘I’ve got a brain tumour,’ he repeated.

I just looked, waiting for the smirk. It didn’t come. ‘Don’t be silly,’ I said.

‘I have,’ he said. ‘I understand you don’t want to hear it, and I appreciate that – thank you. But you hiding your head in the sand won’t make my tumour go away.’

‘Please tell me you’re joking now, Keith,’ I replied. My heart had begun to move about in my chest.

He didn’t speak. Just shook his head.

I started shaking my head too. Vigorously. Until my neck hurt. And tears actually began to form somewhere behind my eyes before Keith finally forced a supercilious smirk and said, ‘Nah, not really.’

Then, when he saw my wrecked face twist to anger in a single second, his own face fell. ‘I have got a congenital cerebral aneurysm though,’ he said, ‘if that’s any consolation.’

I smiled gratefully.

It was.


So Keith’s got a ballooning blood vessel up there in his brain. A medical man told him that it’s inoperable. Which I guess means that if they try to remove it, he might wake up and never walk again, never speak again, never move or even think again; or he might wake up and imagine he’s Jewish or Jamaican, or like Preston Sturges’ father, he might start laughing when he’s sad or crying when he’s happy. Or of course he might not wake up at all. The brain is a funny old stick.

The medical man also said that, if the aneurysm ruptures, as it could potentially at any moment, then Keith could be dead within seconds. But he also said it might just as easily never happen.

So in reality, having no clue how long he’s got left, he’s really no different from the rest of us. But I suppose in the Book of Grisly Demises he’s just got one more tick box than most of us to worry about. But then who’s to say that I don’t have a blueberry time bomb in my brain too? Or you. Perish the thought obviously. But you never know.

‘Do you think you should be smoking weed on top of it?’ I asked.

He grabbed the joint off me.

‘I’m just saying,’ I said. ‘The last thing you want is a psychotic aneurysm.’

‘No,’ Keith replied, his brain full of smoke, ‘the last thing I want is to start living my life like a terrified weakling, not doing the things I would ordinarily do just because something that will probably never happen is hanging vaguely over my head.’

‘Like the Blueberry of Damocles,’ I said.

‘It’s more like a raspberry,’ he said. ‘Which could of course one day be horribly appropriate.’

I tutted and shook my head. Then I put this song on for him and joined in with the chorus.

We smiled.

OK, I smiled. Keith just rolled his eyes.

‘You’re like Nate Fisher,’ I said.

He shook his head and looked at me blankly like a dirty great ignoramus. I sighed. For anyone else unfortunate enough not to know, Nate Fisher is the dirty sexy funeral director who in the second series of Six Feet Under is diagnosed with arteriovenous malformation, which he’s told could flare up and kill him at any time or else just sit there in his head, inspiring murderous, God-hating thoughts, but otherwise doing absolutely nothing at all. Just like Paris Hilton.

‘Does Nate Fisher die?’ said Keith.

‘We all die, Keith. Come on, grow up. It’s not all about you, you know.

‘But I’ve got a fucking blood clot in my brain, man!’

‘Bloodclaaaaaaaaaat!’ I said. That shut him up.

‘Don’t,’ he said.


‘Please don’t,’ Keith repeated. ‘My brain could pop at any moment. One wrong word from you, and….’

‘And what, Keith? Eh? And what?’ It was time for some tough, stoned love. ‘So it goes pop. What happens then? You die, do you? Is that what happens?’

‘Probably, yeah. No one knows. It wouldn’t be pretty though. We know that much.’

‘Do we? Do we really…’ – I wiggled my apostrophe fingers – ‘…know that much. Or – and I’m just throwing this out here – maybe we should start looking on the bright side here, eh? Eh? What do you think of that? Let’s give that a go, shall we? So – with that in mind – as well as you dying a horrible death, what else might just as equally happen?’

Keith nodded his head, slowly, as if coming round to my way of thinking. He handed me the end of the first joint of the evening. ‘Well, I suppose,’ he said, ‘best case scenario, there’s just as much chance that I might actually be immortal.’

I sighed, nodded my head. ‘Thank you,’ I said, pleased that he was on my wavelength. ‘Exactly. And at least,’ I added. ‘At least it’s not a tumour.’

‘It’s not a tumour,’ repeated Keith, in his best Detective John Kimble voice.

I joined in. ‘It’s not a tumour.’

Keith had another go. ‘It’s not a tumour.’

We actually went on for some time, till I said, ‘you see, there are a number of very definite bright sides to be considered here. Fuck it. Come on, it’s all good.’

Keith nodded. ‘I’m Mr Brightside,’ he said. Then he said it again, this time as Detective John Kimble. Then via Sparticus and Life of Brian, I suddenly had a delirious Arnie yelling at me, ‘No, I am Mr Brightside and so is my wife!’

‘Come on,’ I said, trying to calm the situation down and hide my fear. ‘Group hug.’

We put our arms around one another and squeezed, then Keith pulled away suddenly and clasped at his forehead. ‘Shit,’ he said.

‘What’s wrong?’ I said.

He looked me in the eyes.

‘I think I felt it rupture,’ he said.

And so on.

If Friday night was anything to go by, Keith is going to be dining out on this bloomin' aneurysm for the rest of his life.


I wish I had an aneurysm.

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Friday, 16 May 2008

Feedback Friday :: No Value, No Glamour

bulk :: 16st 2 (Oops. Um… not really sure what happened here. Actually I am sure. Pizza and chocolate biscuits. That’s what happened. With extra gorgonzola. Plus at some stage I thought, ‘Well, I’ll be training for the marathon in June – surely I can afford a little blow-out before then?’ I’m just amazed how quickly it all piles back on. I reckon if I really put the effort in, I could be back to 20 stone by the end of the month. I don’t want to do that however. That would be ghastly.)
alcohol units imbibed :: 16
cigarettes smoked :: 0
runs run :: 0 (Hmm. Well, there you go. The weight gain begins to make even more sense. I am playing tennis tomorrow though, if that’s any consolation.)
status updates :: 1
value :: 0
glamour :: 0

My brain is officially dead. It has no value. It has no glamour. Finance has filled it with fog and fur. Foreign financiers have fucked it foroughly. And frankly, I’ve had enough for this week.

Sally’s out with friends tonight, which is a shame, but Keith has come out of hiding. Turns out he’d been asleep. After working stupid-long hours on a chocolate bar ad for five days, he went home and to sleep for 38 hours solid. Now he’s awake and suggests a catch-up with skunkweed and beer. As it happens, I can think of very few things I’d like more.

The only reservation I have is that Sally doesn’t like me smoking dope. She really hates it. Doesn’t like the smell of it on me; doesn’t like the taste. I told her it makes me eat more so she should be pleased. She wasn’t. She doesn’t even like me doing it when she’s not around. And I don’t want to upset or annoy her. But at the same time…

When I mentioned this on the phone to Keith not half an hour ago, he laughed. Then he said: ‘You’re such a fucking twat. You’ve gone from 30-year-old semi-virgin to treacherous love-rat to spineless pussy-whipped eunuch in the space of six months. You don’t know how ridiculous you are. And you don’t know a fucking thing about women.’ I laughed. Then I hung up.

I’m sick of people telling me I don’t know anything about women.

Part of me wants to say to Sally, ‘Listen. Shagpuss. I am what I am and that’s that. Take it or leave it.’ But of course I’m afraid that she’ll leave it.

Another part of me wants to never ever touch another cannabinoid as long as I live and to say to Sally, ‘Look! Look what I did for you! See? I’d do anything for you.’ But I’ve had an incredibly brain-frazzling week and I want nothing more than to smoke a few joints with my oldest friend because, frankly speaking, it’s one of life’s greatest pleasures.

And I keep thinking to myself, what am I? A man or a mouse?

Oh, Sally.

Please don’t leave me.


In other news, a few people have asked me about the results of the survey. I’m afraid you’re going to have to wait a while longer though. So far, I’ve only received 243 responses, and I’m guessing maybe 10% of those are spoiled (or whatever the word is for surveys that have been opened and pooh-poohed). Apparently that’s still not a bad sample – I was chatting to Frank last night who recently did some work for an internationally renowned arts institute that I swore I would not mention by name, and they commissioned a survey which received around a hundred responses. Fuck the ICA however – no, I’m just kidding, it wasn't them. It really wasn't.

But still, I paid for a thousand respondents, so next week I’m going to try and go after the other 757. At the moment however, I haven’t a clue how to go about it. Any suggestions gratefully received.

Now my fingers are failing and my eyesight is fading fast. Time to drink till I’m drunk, and to smoke till I’m senseless.

Have a great weekend.

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Thursday, 15 May 2008


Why should I let the toad work
Squat on my life?
Can’t I use my wit as a pitchfork
And drive the brute off?

Sometimes I really despise the things I have to do to make money. However, sometimes the things I have to do to make money bring me into contact with other things – things which other people have to do to make money – which actually make me feel incredibly grateful for my lot. I’ve written a lot of incredibly dull tosh for financial websites for example, and if there’s one thing that really curdles my soul, it’s finance.

I also regularly do proofreading work. Now, if the material’s any good, proofreading can be a delight, money for old rope - let's face it, it's basically reading, which obviously, is one of life’s great joys. Sometimes however, it’s an enormous, spirit-sapping trial. This week for example, I was given an emergency proofing job by an Arab financier who pays me half-decent money to make sense of this garbage:

The “value-glamour effect” makes another overreaction manifestation. Here the focus has moved away from the first past return to the accounting ratios. Considering then for instance the book-to-market ratio (B/M), i.e. relationship with companies own resources versus market capitalization. A company with an high B/M ratio (“value”) has most probably encountered the difficulties in recent past, and therefore penalized as consequence by the investors....

And so on for 300 pages. If I may borrow a phrase from the great poet, Tracy Lauren Marrow, this kind of work throws me headfirst into the very bowels of a 'capitalist migraine'.

So yes, whilst the lovely Barbara Ellen gets to turn off her mind and squat over her laptop, this is how I spend my days. I would genuinely rather lick the sweat from a dead dog’s balls. Genuinely. Find me a job doing exactly that and watch me go. I'd be all over it like a man with six mouths. But no. It's not to be. Dead dogs' balls, like Observer columns, must remain the stuff of dreams...

Speaking of the perils of work, I’m slightly concerned that Keith has been swallowed whole by his own giant toad. I know he’s doing an ad at the moment and that can mean working 16-plus hours a day, but it’s not like him to ignore voice-mails. I’m concerned for two reasons: the last conversation we had was about the possibility of me moving into his flat, and I worry that he might be having second thoughts; and also, I know he was due to get the results from his brain scan this week. I’m sure everything’s fine, but of course... I’m not.

Right. Break over. I have another 50 pages of incomprehensible guff to get through by the end of the day.

Aaaaaaah, work.

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Wednesday, 14 May 2008


Recently I confessed to a newfound desire to be paid money for writing more than just website copy. I understand I’m not alone in this. Therefore I’m guessing I’m also not alone in occasionally dipping into certain broadsheet weekend supplements, reading the columns therein and groaning, closing my eyes, shaking my head and uttering the words, ‘Why? Why? What kind of world do we live in where a respected publication actually pays good money to blithering imbeciles for this kind of inane, soulless garbage?’

I won’t mention any names, but frankly, pick one at random. They’re all crap. So I decided to write something and send it in to the Observer. After all, I have nothing to lose but my dignity. I decided to write something about the hot weather, as - at least until this morning - it seemed appropriate. Here it is – it’s a small piece just to show them what I’m capable of:

This hot weather is ruining my life. I'm a greasy factor-50 carping mess. Attila the Sunny. Indeed, however much people start prancing around in hideous citrus clothing, Britain is not happy in the sun. No country is - extreme sustained heat just seems to make people soporific and slow or foul-tempered and bonkers.

On the bright side, if readers want a surefire way of getting out of all the boring barbecues they're bound to be invited to, they can borrow my thoughts on sorting out the Middle East: 'They should stop looking for WMDs and start putting in air conditioning.' Imbecilic? Yes. Racist? No - it's weatherist. But the invitations will dry up before you can say 'hosepipe ban'.

What do you think? Oh. Oh dear. Really? You thought it was poorly written to the point of embarrassing? It actually made your skin crawl? You don’t really know why I wrote it and what I was trying to say? You thought it was uninsightful, reactionary, inaccurate, hackneyed and bordering on offensively pointless? You think I’ve got more chance of waking up in an Abu Ghraib-style pile of Jessica Albas than I have of getting that bilge published in the Observer?

Well, OK then, I’ll come clean. In truth, I absolutely agree with you, except of course for your last point. The words in question were actually written by Barbara Ellen and published in last Sunday’s Observer magazine.

I think they’re rotten words, and they really do make me despair. Often I read stuff like this and I find myself thinking, ‘I could do better than that’. This time I actually found myself thinking. ‘Amanda Platell could do better than that’. So you see the level to which we’ve descended. The tragedy is that if I really had written those words, I would probably have neither the sense nor the decency to give my brain the bullet it so richly deserves. Do I exaggerate? Do I really? Three words: Attila the Sunny.

Oh, Barbara.

Just as youth is wasted on the young, and wealth and success are wasted on the rich and successful, so it seems that broadsheet glossy columns are wasted on the arse-clenchingly inane.

For shame, the Observer. For shame.

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Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Working On Sunshine

I feel very ambivalent about the sunshine. On the one hand, I feel I’m at least three parts cat and I’d like nothing more than to roll around in it, luxuriating and spreading myself across the tarmac, rubbing my face on the bare legs of hot strangers. But on the other hand not only do I burn easily, but my skin dries up and my eczema makes a mini-comeback. In the past, this has always been enough to make me rather hate the sun. This year however, I’m determined to try and fight. Fight for my right to sunbathe.

So first stop, Sally’s homeopathic mother. I sense from a few of the comments I received last week that homeopathy is not particularly well thought of round these parts. And I understand that. I don’t think particularly well of it myself. Or at least I didn’t use to. To be honest, Sally has brought me round somewhat. But I’m still fairly sceptical.

‘What about Ben Goldacre?’ I asked her over the weekend. Did you read that article?’

She shrugged. ‘Skimmed it,’ she said.

‘Well, what did you think? You can’t deny he puts a devilishly convincing case against.’

‘But none of it matters,’ she said, ‘I don’t care about placebos and regressing to mean. All of that may well be true but it totally misses the most important part of homeopathy, and that’s the care.’

I looked at her a bit blankly. She looked quite peeved.

‘Alright, let me try and explain. When was the last time you went to the doctor?’

I told her it was a couple of years ago, when I suddenly started suffering from a lot of migraines.

‘And what was the treatment?’ she asked.

‘I think I was just prescribed some painkillers,’ I said. ‘Oh, and I was advised to keep away from bright light, but I already knew that.’

‘And why were you getting migraines all of a sudden?’ she continued. ‘Did you discuss that with your doctor?’

I shrugged. ‘Stress?’ I suggested.

‘Did you discuss it with your doctor?’ she repeated.

I shook my head. ‘No, I was in and out in about two or three minutes.’

‘Well, there you go,’ said Sally. ‘There’s your conventional medicine right there, in all of its scientific glory. Let me ask you: do you have any pains at the moment? Anywhere in your body?’

‘Yes,’ I said. ‘My calves are throbbing. Like slapped meat. Like Kenneth Tynan’s buttocks.’

She ignored my rather witty allusion and asked me if I had any idea what the cause of the pain might be.

‘Of course,’ I replied. ‘Running. I’ve been running like a wildebeest.’

‘Right,’ said Sally. ‘It’s obvious, isn’t it? Cause and effect. Like getting a hangover after drinking a lot of vodka, or a runny nose after shoving loads of coke up there. So what about your migraines? Why were you getting them?’

I shrugged. ‘Stress?’

‘OK, so why were you stressed?’

I shrugged again. ‘Life?’ I suggested.

‘If you can’t be more specific than that, there’s not much chance you’re going to be able to stop it happening. The painkillers your doctor gave you may have killed the pain but they didn’t make the migraines stop. They stopped for reasons unknown. That’s your Goldacre’s “regression to the mean”. It applies equally to traditional medicines. But the difference between traditional medicine and homeopathy is that, where you got three minutes and some ibuprofen from your proper doctor, you’d get an hour or so in-depth consultation from a homeopath, and with their help, you’ve got a much greater chance of finding out why your body is doing whatever it’s doing. Pain isn’t an accident, you know. It happens for a reason. It’s your body reacting to something. A homeopath is much more concerned with finding out what that is, and it’s that level of care and consultation which helps. I don’t care that Ben Goldacre and that fucking Teabag bloke think it’s a load of bollocks and that the pills are placebos – I don’t care if the pills really are placebos – it’s the full care package that homeopathy offers that works. I have complete faith in it. Is that faith part of the reason it works? Probably. Do I give a fuck? No. Are you a wishy-washy shit-for-brains who changes his opinions according to whatever he’s just heard? Yes.’

‘Hmmm. I’m definitely beginning to understand though,’ I said. ‘Because now I have a terrible headache and very low self-esteem, and I’m pretty sure it’s a direct result of the lambasting I just received.’

‘Good. Yes. Cause and effect.’ Sally nodded. She looked quite pissed off. I felt bad for talking about Ben Goldacre in such glowing terms. (His article about Gillian McKeith is however, a work of art.)

Having said that, what Sally said about care makes just as much sense as Goldacre’s science to me. Plus, crucially, Sally lets me pin her to the kitchen table and sweat into her. Can I say the same for Ben Goldacre? No, I cannot. Not yet anyway.

So, as soon as possible, I’m going to go and have a session with Sally’s mum. Not a pinning and sweating session, but a homeopathic consultation. I’m looking forward to it. I love talking about myself.

Until I have been cured by homeopathy however, I shall have to continue to hide from the sun, which is frankly, really depressing.

I love the sun. But the sun hates me. Actually, maybe Ben Goldacre can help. I shall write to him and find out.

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Saturday, 10 May 2008

J Evans Pritchard PhD Spotted in Leicester Square

Sally took this photo with her phone in the Photographers’ Gallery yesterday afternoon.

It’s a man enjoying an exhibition of 2,700 passport-size photos of Maria Elvira Escallon, taken over a period of ten years. It sounds cool. I wish I’d thought of that. Eleven years ago preferably.

The man in the picture was a visiting Turk. His name is Melik. I know this because he told Sally when he tried to pick her up, and Sally told me. His opener was, ‘Do you know how many photos?’

Not a PUA.

Sally pulled a befuddled face.

‘How many there are,’ he said. ‘You guess.’

Sally guessed.

‘Higher,’ said Melik. ‘Higher.’


He knew because he'd counted them. He'd counted down the side, then he'd counted along the bottom. Then he did the math.

It seems to me a rather strange response to a piece of visual art. I suspect Melik probably works in a bank.

Oh, and when I think of Sally getting chatted up in a gallery... I grow below. Is that wrong?

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Feedback Friday :: Late Night Ramble/Looks Like We Got Ourselves A Feeder

bulk :: 15st 13
alcohol units imbibed :: 20ish
cigarettes smoked :: 0
runs run :: 2 (both stupid)
swims swum :: 0 (There’s just not enough hours in a day. How do people do this stuff?)
shocking revelations :: 1
great shafts of sun-flavoured hope :: 1

Every now and then, I find myself drifting off and fantasising about all of the ghastly, miserable things which could descend upon me at any moment. Not that I’m willing them to happen or anything, but all this ceaseless happiness is beginning to get me down. You know? Where's the conflict? What the hell am I supposed to be blogging about now? I really think I need something dark and unpleasant to come along and wipe this saccharine smirk off my increasingly self-satisfied face.

No, I'm just kidding. If it came to a toss-up between happiness and an exciting blog, there'd be no question. Sally would be history. I joke, I joke.

Anyway, there’s always conflict.

But before we get to the conflict, let me say this: years ago, on the telly, Philip Roth said that he always makes a point of saying to the people in his life: ‘If you don’t want it going in a book, don’t tell me.’ And he said it with a kind of arrogant, don’t-say-I-didn’t-warn-you swagger. At the time, I thought he was distinctly lacking in moral fibre. But now I’m forced to agree with him.

If I meet you and you know I keep a blog, there’s a good chance you’ll feature. (Unless you’re just really, unspeakably dull.) And if you don’t know I keep a blog, you’re easy pickings.

So I was reminded of this late last night, when Sally and I fell into a quite intense telephone conversation about some of her many deep-rooted psychological issues. (They’re like meercats, Sally’s issues. Just when you think the coast is clear, one will pop its head above the parapet and twitch at you.) After one particularly amusing exchange, I rather drifted off for a moment. Quick as a flash, Sally said, ‘You’re thinking about blogging what I just said, aren’t you?’ And I couldn’t lie.

‘Is that alright?’ I asked. ‘It’s actually probably a bit weird, isn’t it? Is it?’

‘It’s very weird,’ she said. Then: ‘If I asked you to stop, would you not do it anymore? Writing about me, I mean.’

‘Of course,’ I said. ‘I don’t want to use my blog for Evil. If it makes good people feel bad, then it must die. Do you want me to stop?’


‘No.’ Fame whore. ‘Just try and steer clear of the megapersonal stuff.’

‘You mean like how you like me to push your face into the pillow and thrash your bumcheeks raw with the IKEA spatula?’

‘Yeah. All that stuff is off limits, please.’

‘I know, baby-girl. I know.’


I discovered yesterday that Sally – my girlfriend – is a feeder. This is how it came out:

Sally: What did you have to eat tonight?

Me: Not a sausage.

Sally: Not even a little chipolata?

Me: No, and I don’t miss it. I think I feel another fast coming on.

Sally: Don’t you dare. There shall be no fasting on my watch, Biggles. Gandhi wasn't sexy.

Me: But it cleanses my soul. It’s good for me.

Sally: Eat, man! What's wrong with you? Not eating is sick. It’s a disorder. And besides any of that, you’re a growing lad.

Me: But I’m fed up with growing.

Sally: You need to eat. You need fuel.

Me: I want to shrink myself.

Sally: Well, I don’t approve. You’re going to waste away if you’re not careful. Promise me you’ll eat something, Stan. Promise.

Me: Absolutely not! If anything, I’m promising you I won’t eat. I have no intention of eating. And I’m beginning to worry about you. I’m beginning to think you might be a feeder.

Sally: I like a big man. There's nothing wrong with that.

Me: You like a fat man. That’s different. That’s weird.

Sally: I'm going to buy you some baggy clothes, so you can grow into them.

Me: No.

So anyway, usually, feeders are men who want to control their wives or girlfriends by making sure they’re at home eating and piling on the pounds, rather than out and about looking slim and sexy and attracting other men. So it’s kind of an abusive thing borne of hideous insecurity. But I don’t think Sally’s is like that at all. I think she just gets off on being pinned down and taken roughly from behind by massive sweaty fat blokes.

Another one of her other madnesses is her really quite passionate belief in homeopathy. Or ho-ho-homeopathy, as I refer to it when I’m being witty. Now I like to keep a half-open mind as far as homeopathy is concerned (incidentally, no mind should ever be any more than half-open, otherwise stuff gets out), but my instinct is to damn it as errant tosh for the desperate and gullible.

However, Sally maintains that it works. She swears by it. Her mother even recently qualified as a proper homeopath, if that isn’t an oxymoron. Also, when she was younger, Sally suffered from migraines for years, had all kinds of prescribed medicines and conventional wisdoms and nothing. Then she went a homeopath and they cleared up almost immediately. This makes me doubt my knee-jerk cynicism a little, I must say.

What has me yammering about this however, is the fact that I started to rash up last night after spending a couple of hours in the lovely hot sun. Just a mild itch at first, but blotching and bubbling are in the post if I persist. And when I told Sally about it, she said, ‘Mum could knock you up a remedy.’

So I’m going to give it a shot. Apparently I have to sit down with her and tell her everything about my life, including but by no means limited to my medical history. It actually sounded like a therapy session the way Sally described it. It sounds great. And I really want to be able to go out in the sun without blistering like a vampire. So I’m going to give witchcraft a go.

Wish me luck.

Have a smashing weekend.

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Thursday, 8 May 2008

The Bête Report :: The Truth About Stats and Blogs

A few weeks ago, knee-deep in a distinctly Gandhiesque starvation-inspired delirium, I wrote a blog post which was basically one half of a telephone conversation between one man and his blog, played out like a troubled love affair in which the blogger bemoans - amongst other things - his lack of comments. Unconvinced that it wasn’t pretentious garbage, I asked a couple of fellow bloggers to cast an eye over it for me. One of them didn’t get back to me, which was a bit distressing. The other said that she liked it, but she wasn’t sure. She also suggested that there exists in blogging an unwritten rule which states that the terrible, universal affliction of Comment Addiction shall never - under any circumstances - ever be broached in a public forum. I found this fascinating and wondered if it were really true.

The only way I could find out more however, would be if I were to ask other bloggers. So I considered a blog post posing the question. But if I did that, I figured that of the however many bloggers who read it, maybe only 5 or 10 of them would actually respond. Maybe 20 if a couple of them got into a to-and-fro. And although that would be entertaining, it wouldn’t really tell me anything significant. If however, I had the opinions of say, a thousand bloggers, then I might have something I could claim to hang a fact on.

Then I realised that I had lots of other questions I wanted to ask bloggers, questions that had occurred to me since I started this blog in December. And thus, the GREAT BLOG QUESTIONNAIRE was born (free delusion of grandeur with every ten questions).

So, if you have a blog and you're reading this, there's a distinct possibility you've already received a link to the questionnaire. However, if this is the first you’ve heard and you're not opposed to wagging your chin and logging your brain and your blog for eternity, then pop along here, and indulge yourself.

That's right, here.

So, for now, that's me done. Now I just sit back with my fingers crossed and hope that the urge to be heard (which I guess is what really unites all bloggers) will be strong enough to bring in lots of responses.

I’m quite excited. I feel like Shere Hite.

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Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Telly Which Isn’t All Evil :: That’s Not My Name

I’ve just fallen head over heels in love with a song and I want nothing more than to share it with you like an insidious if garishly ostranenic viral marketeer. Eat my sentence.

So I was watching last week’s Jonathan Ross on television, diligently utilising the frankly futuristic ‘watch last week’s television’ function, and I was ecstatically drawn in. I kind of want to be Robert Downey Jr, which is maybe a bit odd, and Michael Aspel was nothing less than adorable, playing a kind of Green Room sleeping bag, all fusty and sweetly grateful to be unpacked for one last roll in the heyday of prime time. Gwyneth Paltrow was wholesome and charming and a good foil for Ross’s outrageousness. He really is a one, and I do admire his inappropriateness. Telling Paltrow that with his wife’s permission, he would fuck her, takes a special kind of confidence. But I don’t want to be Jonathan Ross. He can be quite annoying. I want to be Robert Downey Jr.

So anyway, there I was all caught up in the well-crafted PR drama of it all, when Gwynnie was packed off with her Guinness (kerching!) and it was time for Music For Young People to play out the show. So naturally I turned down the TV and carried on reading about Wing Chun Kung Fu (which Robert does). (And is brilliant at.) Then I realised I was being slowly hypnotised by the music. I watched for a while, and then I turned up the volume. Then I rewound it and watched it three times from the beginning. What it was, was, I fell in love with it. That’s what it was.

A couple of times, it actually made me cry. It was glorious. It also made me wonder if maybe there was something somehow somewhere wrong, or a little peculiar in that. I decided that no, there wasn’t, and that I was merely massively moved by the music, by the mesmerising passion of the performance, and maybe also by the clump of hash that Keith left behind last night.

Whatever. Here it is on the life-changingly brilliant YouTube (kerching!):

Actually, I can see how some might find it rather annoying and that over time – maybe not even that much time – it could become every bit as annoying as Oh Shitting Mickey. But for the moment I – as they say – am all over it.

It does however, pale into insignificance, next to this.

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A Poignant Moment Out of the Sun...

I just read something which made me rather sad, and which I thought was worth sharing because of that very fact.

Here, a teacher's thoughts on losing a student.

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Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Happy Leigh, Ever After

Crikey. What a wonderful weekend I’ve just had. Let me bore you with it right now.

On Friday evening I went to the Tate Britain and an evening of free events entitled Drawing on Jarman. I went with Sally. Sally. Pride of our alley. I told you I wasn’t gay. Now I rather like Derek Jarman – at least I enjoyed Caravaggio many years ago when I saw it, and Jubilee wasn’t entirely repulsive. So I thought a bunch of his short films would - at the very least - be interesting to look at.

So first up, we sauntered into a screening room called the Lightbox, where Imagining October was being shown. Billed as a ‘rarely seen experimental short film’ and ‘a dreamlike mediation on art and politics in the final years of the Cold War’, it became clear after a matter of minutes why it was rarely seen. ‘Rarely endured’ is probably nearer the mark.

The only seat in there was a spongy banquette against the back wall which we shared with two other people, invisible in the dark. We managed about ten minutes, but only because Sally allowed me to put my hand on her bare knee, and then slowly move it up over her knee, under her skirt and onto her thigh. I was watching pretentious garbage that had nothing to do with either art or politics, peppered with images of semi-naked Russian boys stroking one another and sledgehammer phallic symbolism and I felt probably as sexually excited as I ever had before in my life. Life is queer. Then we left the Lightbox and Sally said, ‘What the fuck was that all about?’ She said, ‘That man is far too gay for his own good. There was nothing whatsoever to connect with there. Where was the empathy? Where was the human emotion? What kind of reaction was that supposed to provoke? Am I just being inhuman here? Did I miss it? Do you have to be gay to understand what the point was?’

I said, ‘Why are you asking me?’

I agreed with her that it was over-indulgent garbage. But some people don’t agree. The film scores nine out of ten on IMDb, which is just ludicrous. It has had only 12 votes however, and interestingly, the rating has fallen 38% in the last week. Hold on… there. My vote is now cast. Let’s see if we can’t get a more realistic score on there. I’ll show you, Jarman. Lovely man though, don’t get me wrong. Lovely man.

So I said, ‘Let’s go and look at proper art’, and we had a wander through the galleries, gawping at the good stuff. Now I don’t know about you but art galleries always get me a little excited. In the toilet area I mean. I get terribly aroused just walking around, no matter what I’m looking at. I shared this information with Sally in front of The Lady of Shalott and do you know what the little minx did? She kissed me passionately whilst touching me on the Johnson.

John William Waterhouse would have been proud. I reckon.

Then we went to the main bar where there was more Jarman being shown to the accompaniment to some wacky Aphex Twin-like music and where the Tate make their money on free events by selling severely mediocre wine at laughably high prices. We drank a little wine, ate a tub of olives and made up stories about the other people in the bar – some of whom also had the good grace to look appalled by what was being passed off as art.

After which we hopped on a bus to Clapham. Sally lives in Clapham. We had a tajine each and a bottle of wine in a Moroccan restaurant, then we went back to hers.

Now, when I started this blog, it was always my intention to be painfully frank – genital warts and all – but, having said that, I also feel the need to exercise a certain amount of restraint where other people are concerned. Well, some of them. All of which is a roundabout way of saying that I have no intention of taking you with me into Sally’s bedroom. But – rather like a teenage boy who wears his tie deliberately loose to ensure you get an eyeful of his love bites – I wish to make it absolutely clear that I went there myself.

Oh yes.

What a self-satisfied smirking smuggle I am.

Well, sod it. It was about time.

So on Saturday afternoon we went to see Happy Go Lucky and Sally had to tolerate the distinctly unpleasant site of me weeping like a giant sore for at least fifteen minutes after the film was over. It really got me. I love Mike Leigh, but the last three films of his which I saw - Topsy Turvy, Vera Drake and Career Girls - I didn’t particularly enjoy, and for at least the first ten minutes of Happy Go Lucky I felt I was in for another disappointment.

Poppy was really irritating me. Her relentless jollity and inability to let a single remark pass without attempting to make some kind of joke out of it really made me want something hideous to happen to her. I found myself praying for something dark, for Johnny from Naked to wander in and destroy her with some superbleak cynicism. But then when the darkness did wander in, in the form of Scott, driving instructor and joyless time bomb of neuroses and bigotry, I immediately found myself rooting for Poppy and willing her to turn him round and bring some of her happy go lucky into his life. And from that moment on, I fell in love with the film.

My favourite scene was the one in which Poppy spends a few minutes with a wasted, stammering homeless guy on a bit of derelict wasteland. Sally didn’t see but there were tears streaming down my cheeks throughout this scene. It was just such a perfect and beautifully touching example of human empathy; one human being reaching out and making an effort to touch another, to let someone know that they’re not alone. Which is kind of what Mike Leigh specialises in, I think.

On Sunday I got on with some work which has come up and I ran again. Following on from Frank’s push last week, I ran twice the distance I used to. It hurt, but I managed it. In the bath afterwards, I came to an important decision. Another one! This one is a hefty decision that I know I’m going to regret sharing with you. I also know that I have to share it with you, or I probably won’t get round to it. My decision is this: I’m going to run the London Marathon next year.


So there.

Oh, and to round things off, I saw Sally again yesterday and we sat in the sun all day laughing and frolicking and me feeling rather like Caligula at a gymkhana.

You know, I don’t believe I have ever been this happy in my entire life. And it’s only May!

Look at the sun!


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Friday, 2 May 2008

Feedback Friday :: Fingers Crossed

bulk :: 16st 0 (very pleased - next stop 15st something, especially if I join a gym. Eh? Eh?)
alcohol units imbibed :: 15ish
cigarettes smoked :: 0
runs run :: 2 (one stupid one)
swims swum :: 0 (boo! Free swimming with gym membership! Further incentive right there.)
votes cast :: 4
dates enjoyed :: 1. Maybe. Or possibly 0.
dates about to be enjoyed :: 1. For sure.
horrible feelings that I may just have hexed myself :: 1

No time! No time at all! You know why? Because I'm going on a date! Is it a date though? Yeah, fuck it. It's a date. Yes, with Sally. Flat deloused. Crevices cleaned. Fingers crossed.

Oh yeah, and I was going to post this yesterday with the title, Sorry, Keith:

But I couldn't bring myself to do it.

It isn't real by the way. I took a cheeky snap of the blank form yesterday and filled the crosses in using techno-trickery. But the way things stand, it seems in very poor taste.

Bye-bye, London. Hello, Ridiculous Nonsense Joke Town.

But still, you never know. It's not over until the Pompous Arse crows.

Fingers crossed.

Look at Keith's pics by the way. I think he's ace and I'm very proud of him. (I really tried to say that in a non-patronising way. I get the feeling I failed. Sorry, Keith. You clever boy.)

Before I run, I must ask a question - if you were going to send a questionnaire out as an email, when would you send it to ensure the highest possibility of people actually filling it in?

a) Friday evening
b) the Saturday morning of a bank holiday weekend, maybe when people have got a bit more time, but are probably spending it in Whitstable
c) Tuesday morning after a bank holiday weekend when everybody has a big pile of work to get through
d) Wednesday morning

I think I might have answered that myself, but if you have any thoughts, please let me know.

Now I must rush.

Have a super weekend.

Fingers crossed!

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Thursday, 1 May 2008

The Wind Beneath My Bingo Wings

I had another warm and fuzzy internet moment this week when a reader of this blog – let’s call him Frank – got in contact, observing that my fitness regime seems to be falling by the wayside and offering to help me out. ‘I’d be happy to take you out running,’ he wrote. Obviously, I was a little hesitant. When a strange man writes to you out of the blue offering to get breathless and sweaty with you, you do well to be a little circumspect. So first of all, on Tuesday evening, we met for a drink.

Tall like a tower block and bald like a blade, turns out Frank is actually a rather splendid chap. A splendid chap who happens to have the body of a Greek god. Now I’m not what you'd call a gay man, but I do know a top-notch piece of masculine ass when I see it, and Frank just happens to have a bod to die for. Happily, he didn’t get that bod by chance – that would just be annoying. No, Frank works hard to keep himself in shape, playing football and squash, and going to the gym three times a week without fail.

But there’s more to Frank than just his height, pecs and glabrousness. Here, let me break it down for you.

10 Frank Facts

1. Frank drives a mint condition Lancia Fulvia.

2. Frank wears very expensive suit, but no tie.

3. Frank looks a little like Neil Strauss of The Game fame, but unlike Neil Strauss, he is not a complete tool.

4. Frank gets up at every morning at 6am, meditates for 20 minutes and then prepares breakfast for himself, his wife Emily (beautiful) and his little girl, Abbey (precocious), before driving to work, where before he does anything, he spends an hour pumping his body into a state of masculine perfection in the office gym.

5. Frank has run 12 marathons, including the London marathon last month, which he finished in exactly three and a half hours.

6. When he was 15, Frank became a Satanist and frightened his friends by speaking in tongues and etching an inverted crucifix into his forehead. He is now half-Buddhist, half-Zoroastrian.

7. Frank rarely watches films or reads books because ‘Life’s too short. I could be wind-surfing!’ (Actually, I’m tempted to take back Frank Fact #3.)

8. Frank has six hearts.

9. Frank was born in Bermuda.

10. Frank has a minuscule penis.

OK, this last fact is not literally a fact. It’s actually more idle conjecture, inspired by ugly, ugly envy. (Oh, the heart thing isn’t true either.)


So we met again yesterday in Brockwell Park, and we went running together. Now I usually run for just 12 minutes before collapsing. I have a little circuit around the park worked out and I’ve been running that same route for three months now and nothing has changed. It hasn’t got any easier and I haven’t got any quicker. Frank said, ‘It never gets any easier. But you have to push yourself. It’ll still hurt – it’ll hurt more in fact, but the more you do, the further you’ll get, the quicker you’ll recover and the fitter you’ll get.’ We were already running at this point. I had started wheezing, which is customary around the three-minute mark. ‘Today you push yourself,’ he said. And he sped up.

I was in quite a bit of pain by the time we finished, and it took me a little while to recover. I’d definitely run a lot faster than I do on my own. I felt well pushed.

Frank said,’ OK, let’s go.’

I said, ‘I beg your pardon?’, genuinely curious to know what he could possibly mean.

‘One more time around,’ he said. ‘That was just the warm-up. Now you need to start burning some calories.’

I laughed in his face. ‘Ha ha ha.’ Like that.

‘Come on,’ he said, unimpressed, and off he went. I suppose it was a lot to do with pride, which is apparently not a good thing, but I couldn’t just give up. I had to give it a go. So there I was, running again.

Probably around halfway through the second lap, the rain came, hard and cold. It mingled with my sweat and stung my eyes. As I half-ran, half-stumbled along, I found myself grabbing at my sides in an attempt to hold off the stitches which were coming now in gangs, like a girdle of pain. I stopped, bent double, gasping, ‘Stitch. Stitch.’

Frank stopped and said, ‘Catch your breath. Then we’ll carry on.’ He said, ‘Breathe into the stitch. Deep breaths. As deep as you can, and guide that breath to where the stitch is.’

Then I was running again. A minute later, desperate to slump to the wet earth and die, I began to wonder how anyone could possibly run non-stop for three hours. ‘They push themselves,’ said Frank. Whoa, that was odd. Had I said that or just thought it? I looked up at him as we ran. He was looking straight ahead. Did that actually just happen? I thought. Or did I merely imagine it? ‘You merely imagined it,’ said Frank. ‘Keep going. Sprint the last stretch.’

I did as I was told, to the best of my ability.

Lying on my back in the mud, I felt a strange sense of achievement. If I survive this, I thought, I’ll probably end up feeling better for it.

I survived it. And today I can barely walk. My calves are bleating like Christians.

But it feels good. It’s a healthy pain.


So as may be obvious by now, Frank is my new hero. He is also my adopted Life Coach. I’ve never had a Life Coach before, as the whole idea is anathema to me, but what the hell. Frank is perfect Life Coach material because he says things like, ‘You can do anything you want to do, be anything you want to be’, and he really seems to mean it.

He means it because he's one of those self-made swine. He was a bank manager in his 20s, but then he got bored, so he changed direction. ‘When I first started out in banks, it was different. Banks were banks in those days and customers were terrified of them. Then it all went soft and people realised they had rights and dignity.’ He spat the last word out like a fishbone that had been trying to choke him.

Frank is either deliberately outrageously amusing, or he really is a ginormous arse. At the moment my money's on the former. But we'll see.

‘Today, technology is the new religion. Still fresh enough, and powerful enough to be feared by the ignorant. So I learned technology. Now I’m a member of the digerati.’

‘I beg your pardon?’

‘I’m a digital strategist,’ he said, ‘and I’m one of the best.’

He explained what he actually did. It sounded like marketing to me. And we all know what Bill Hicks said about marketing. ‘No, Stan,’ said Frank. ‘It isn’t marketing. I’m a digital guru.’ He said it like he meant it too, which I really admired, and he even pronounced ‘guru’ so that it chimed not with ‘voodoo’, but with ‘Baloo’. The man has balls of reinforced concrete.

So I asked him, ‘Why did you get in touch with me, Frank?’ And he told me, ‘Because you’re putting yourself out there, you’re trying to make a difference to your life, and I like that. Plus I like what you write. And I think I can help you. And that’s that. Isn’t that what life’s all about?’

I just stared into his steely blue eyes and nodded, like a big breathless simpering gay freak.

(I'm not gay.)


Now I find myself seriously considering joining a gym. I’ve always hated the idea, and instinctively loathe the kind of people that go there, considering them horrible, vain, vacuous vermin. Ab rats. I’ve always thought that they have their priorities in life all wrong. But look at Frank. He might not watch as many films as I do, or read as many books, he might work longer hours on the whole and spend 10 hours a week stuck in traffic, but just look at his biceps.

I want biceps like that.

I’m going to look into it.

(Ugh. Tip: never do an image search for 'weightlifter'. Unless of course the sight of giant hernias is what you're into.)

Now I must lie down and eat chocolate. Adios.

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