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Monday, May 31, 2004

I went over to St Ives today to see my friend Helen (it's always good to link a name to a stoopid photo. I'd do it with Marie too, but firstly she has no relevance to this blog post, and secondly she'd kill me. Which is why I wouldn't do it with Lisa either). Barely three miles from home, I was somewhat startled to see the head of Shotley Drama Group pull out of a driveway in Chelmondiston, and follow me down the road towards Ipswich. Naturally I assumed he was after a copy of my latest play, so just as naturally I put my foot down and sped off.

Thirty miles further on, heading west along the A14 towards Cambridge, I stopped for petrol, had a drink of water, then leisurely made my way back onto the dual carriageway. Whereupon I checked my rearview mirror to make sure traffic was giving way, and saw... the head of Shotley Drama Group hurtling towards me at 60mph.

If my life was a horror film, I'd have been chopped to pieces by now. The people of Elm Street have come face to face with less evil than me. Concerned that if I allow him to draw up alongside me, he'd ask me to rewrite Internet Cafe with more songs and a big dance routine at the end, I put my foot down once again and managed to accelerate away. Fortunately it worked, and I kept to a steady ninety for the rest of the journey just to be on the safe side.

I arrived at Helen's in time for a lunch of ham and mustard bagels. I declared myself "a bit peckish", Helen was "starving", so naturally we divided the three bagels fairly, with one for her and two for me.

Helen's daughter, who by a freak of nature also happens to be my first cousin once removed (I know, I can hardly believe it myself), was in possession of a new stereo, bought for her by her boyfriend (which is the main advantage of not being single), so I caringly offered her twenty quid for her old one, a deal was struck, and I came away looking like I'd been to a car boot sale. I like her boyfriend. Obviously I've never met him, but I don't have to.

The afternoon featured tea and cake with my aunt, a drive to Needingworth for some chocolate (well, that was what *I* got out of it anyway), and a visit to a garden centre where we bought no plants whatsoever. Then it was back to Helen's where I entertained (I use the word loosely) everyone with a medley of Matchbox 20 songs on the guitar. Which produced a spontaneous round of applause. Well it did when I stopped anyway. Which could be significant.

In the evening it was back to my aunt's for spaghetti bolognese and pears (not on the same plate). I successfully managed not to volunteer any information about my love life, and my aunt was far too polite to ask, meaning I won my bet with Helen that I could make it until 7pm without being asked about Lisa. Some bets are just there to be won.

I made my way home at 9:30pm, managing to avoid amateur dramatic encounters on the return journey, and arrived back at 10:45pm, which suggests I may have broken the odd speed limit. Which I'm sure can't be true.
Well it's a spring bank holiday, so I'm off to sit in a traffic jam on the A14.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Can I just say that I'm slightly offended to be ranked number one on Yahoo for the phrase "pointless online quiz". That quiz is not pointless. I was being ironic.
I was just checking out Betfair for the latest odds on the new series of Big Brother. In addition to betting on the eventual winner (Shell is the current favourite. Possibly because she's the only one who's not a complete freak), you can also bet on whether the winner will be male or female. A straightforward bet, you would think. It has, however, forced Betfair to state in bold capitals:


It's good to get these confusions cleared up. If only they'd done the same with Lisa last year. Personally I'm betting on female. I think Marco will win.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

According to a survey by clothing manufacturer Bwear, 64% of men with skinny girlfriends (anything under a size 12) admit to being unfaithful, compared with just 20% of men whose partners are above size 12.

Just thought I'd mention that. No particular reason.

Friday, May 28, 2004

I've just discovered that over at the South Park Studios site you can create your very own South Park character. So seeing as I'm barely out of my twenties, and clearly still young enough to legitimately spend the afternoon playing around with cartoon characters instead of writing anything worthwhile, I've created the South Park version of me.

Oh my god, they killed Kenny!

I think I've captured my likeness quite well there. It's like looking in a mirror.
Ok, it's time for a quick update on the words and phrases which are bringing people flocking to my website. Every time I get a hit from a search engine, the words searched for are kindly logged for me. Which is how I know that 31% of ALL visitors to my website searched for the words "Jail Babes". But hey, when you're ranked number one out of 170,000 websites on Yahoo for that term (no really, it's true), it's hardly surprising.

The good news though is that I'm also now appealing to both sexes, having just received a hit for "guys in jail suits". I presume they mean those orange American things. They are quite fetching.

In the past three days I've also had...

"He doesn't return my calls".
What? That's not a search, it's a complaint. Are people now using Google as an agony aunt?

"Shaved blondes".
But surely if they're shaved, it's immaterial what their hair colour is? Or am I missing something?

"How is the packaging of Toblerone done?".
I'm ranked #11 on Yahoo for that. And not only do I not know the answer, but I'm not entirely sure I care.

"Poem written in 1990".
What, ANY poem?? Remarkably I appear to be ranked #2 out of 256,000 sites on Yahoo for that one. Is that even possible? Second out of a quarter of a million? I wouldn't mind, but I don't even write poetry. Well, apart from that one in 1990.

And finally...

"Micro Pygmy Hippos".
Another number one ranking on Yahoo! Yes! I knew I could do it.

Incidentally, what are micro pygmy hippos..?

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Two weeks after 'Be Worth It' was rejected by both the Royal Court and the Soho Theatre, in what can only be described as an outrageous administrative error (probably), I've finally picked myself up and read through the play for the first time in four months, with a view to highlighting the sections needing a rewrite. And the result..?

I don't want to change a single word. In fact, I have no idea how I wrote that thing in the first place, so the thought of improving on what's already there seems kinda stoopid. In fact it scares the hell out of me. That play is the best damn thing I've ever written, which for someone with low self esteem is quite a statement, and I'm not at all sure I can write anything like that again. At least not without significantly increasing my bagel consumption, having no life, and driving myself to the brink of insanity for three months, which is how I managed it last time. That darn play nearly killed me.

So I'm pig-headedly refusing to take out my chisel and chip away at any slight imperfections. The whole thing would just crack and dissolve into a million pieces.

Instead, it's going straight back out there. It's off to join the new improved 'Internet Cafe' at the Warehouse Theatre's International Playwriting Festival, and on top of that, is heading for the Sussex Playwrights 2004 full-length play competition. Which, seeing as I was born in Hastings, and I now know Brighton like the back of my hand (well, I can find the police station with no more than two or three wrong turns), I should have no problem winning.

So being an obsessive who can't leave anything til the morning, I was naturally up til 3:30am last night sorting out these entries. And simultaneously making myself poor. I fitted a new printer cartridge immediately before printing 'Internet Cafe' three weeks ago, and as of this morning, that's virtually empty. So let's consider the cost of sending out these three plays...

Inkjet Paper (1 copy of 'Internet Cafe', 2 of 'Be Worth It', 340 pages) = £3.40

Envelopes (for sending of plays, return of plays, acknowledgement of plays, sealed contact details) = £4

Printer Cartridge (about 90% of one cartridge) = £20

Postage (for sending of plays and return postage of plays & acknowledgements) = £20

Contest Entry Fee = £5

GRAND TOTAL = £52.40

And that doesn't include paper fasteners, electricity, blood, sweat, or indeed tears.

It's no wonder I'm living in poverty.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Sixteen months into this blog and I finally have a bona fide scoop, involving two, count them, TWO top tabloid celebrities...

...and the woman on whose chest they sit. Not to mention her musically talented boyfriend. It would be total insania not to reveal the facts of this story here, especially as it means I might have to talk about cleaning my car instead, but sadly I have been banned from revealing the details of this explosive incident in case it leads to the sacking of a dear friend.

Which obviously wouldn't bother me in the slightest, but I'm scared of physical violence and you don't mess with someone who's been trained in the use of fire extinguishers.

So in place of top quality tabloid scandal... sigh...

I've cleaned my car this morning.

I know, even I'm not interested. But hey, don't blame me, I'm not the one with the morals here. I'd happily sell this insider information to the hack with the biggest chequebook quicker than you can say "Rebecca Loos". But what can I do, my hands are tied.

I think it might rain later...

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

I went into Ipswich this afternoon to do some high level banking (mostly at the cashpoint near the cheesecake shop), but I subsequently found myself standing for hours in the queue at the pharmacy in Boots. The girl in front of me was engaging the assistant in deep conversation about her choice of purchase, whereupon the assistant dutifully led her off into the store to choose an alternative brand, leaving the rest of us happy shoppers high and dry.

Naturally, being British, I chose not to complain, but instead stood there quietly tutting, sighing, and looking despairingly from my watch to my fellow queuers. As someone who buys his footwear from charity shops, it's not the first time I've felt uncomfortable standing around in boots, but on this occasion I spent the time constructively cursing people who don't know what they're doing in shops, and arrive at the counter before having completed their shopping.

Eventually the girl returned, I exchanged one last empathetic roll of the eyes with my fellow queuers, and stepped forward, by now feeling fully justified in requesting some painkillers. Having found them for me, the assistant began to scan my other items, before stopping at my two boxes of earplugs, and saying "Did you know these are 3 for the price of 2?"

I looked at the growing queue of frustrated shoppers behind me, looked at the assistant, considered the situation for a moment, then checked my sensitivity at the door and said:

"Ooooh, are they? I'll go and get another box!"

I'm sure everyone understood, as I disappeared off to the other side of the store. And I would've been back quite quickly too if it wasn't for all the women with pushchairs who insisted on blocking the babyfood aisle en route. Honestly, don't they know that's the most direct route to the earplug section?

Still, all's well that ends well. And fortunately looks can't kill, so I was able to live long enough to get out of Boots and buy up half the contents of the Mind Shop down the road. You can never have too many earplugs or too many pairs of charity shop jeans, that's what I say.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Obviously it's prudent to take your time over major decisions, and consider all the options before making any new financial commitments. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Apparently. So is it really such a good idea to change your phone company for the first time in your life at one o'clock in the morning, half asleep, after about two minutes thought?

Don't answer that. But on the bright side, it's thanks to people like me that the government brought in laws about cooling off periods. This is why I never go to Spain - I'd come back with timeshare holidays totalling fifty-three weeks a year.

But anyway, it's not my fault, I was forced into action by my latest phone bill, which had the audacity to be twice as much as any phone bill which had ever previously dropped through my letterbox. I'm not saying who's to blame, but the answer begins with 'L'.

And ends with 'isa'. So I decided to take action. That was at about 12:58am. Ten minutes later I'd handed over my bank details - there's no point hanging around. So I have officially left BT, after a lifetime of paying through the nose for frankly nothing, and joined OneTel, who are kindly offering me free local and national calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for just £10.99 a month.

So now might be a good time to change your number, coz you can bet your life I will be calling, and I won't be putting the phone down.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

I've just investigated the worldwide impact of my Which Poddington Pea Are You quiz. I may have been stoopid to write the thing, but a quick survey of the search engines shows that there are clearly people with far bigger problems than me. A number of people are actually displaying their pea personality on their own websites.

There's 20 year old Emily, who's happy to admit to being Sleep-pea. Alex and Ruth, a couple of teenagers from an American independent preparatory school, who are Sweet-pea and Hap-pea respectively (leading to the comment from Ruth, "Haha! I was in Girl Scouts" - you see, it DOES produce accurate results. And some people thought I just threw that quiz together).

And then there's Carol, who, on top of finding out which Poddington Pea she is, is also planning to fight me for Orlando Bloom. Which is worrying.

But not as worrying as the fact that 20 year old girls on both sides of the Atlantic are perfectly happy to display the words "Good grief, you make me sick", alongside my name and website address. Still, at least my writing is reaching a wider audience.

Friday, May 21, 2004

I think I've found my soulmate.

Blogger have recently added a new feature (well it's new to me, but I'm fairly unobservant, so it's probably been around for months) allowing you to create your own little profile page. I've no idea why, but I'm not averse to indulging in pointless activities, so I filled mine in. Which, if you're VERY bored, you can view here.

This resulted in two interesting pieces of information (apart from finding out I was born in the year of the ox, which explains why I'm such a hard worker):

The first is that it tells me I've written over 34,000 words so far in this blog. Which I found surprising, considering that until recently I barely managed to scrape together a couple of sentences a week. So I investigated further and found that 30,000 of those words have been written since January. Which explains why I never have time to write anything important - I've been far too busy here, writing half a novel's worth of crap since Christmas.

Although having said that, my last play was 29,000 words, and has so far received fewer positive comments than this blog, so perhaps it was time well spent.

But anyway, far more important than that, is that this new profile feature has led to the discovery of my perfect match. I was asked to enter some of my favourite music, so being deliberately awkward, I entered four of my less well known favourites, first among them being Lucy Woodward. (Stop mouthing "who?"). Having done so, I found I could click on the name and find out how many of the other millions of bloggers worldwide had named the lovely Lucy in their profile. And the answer...?


Only one other blogger in the entire world likes Lucy. And what's more it's a girl. So I clicked on her, and...

She likes Michelle Branch and Matchbox 20 too. Is that spooky or what? She likes three of my four obscure musical favourites. The only one not mentioned is The Senators, but frankly no one's ever heard of The Senators. And I mean no one. Boy, if I ever met anyone who liked The Senators, I'd probably fall in love or something.

So Jesse, as her name appears to be, is clearly my soulmate, and the girl I should be spending the rest of my life with.

There appear to be just two problems:

1. She lives in Australia.

2. She's 14.

But hey, the course of true love never runs smoothly. So what if she lives on the other side of the world, and happens to be a small child? Besides, by the time I've saved up enough money for the airline ticket, she'll probably be 18 anyway.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Fantastic news! I've just discovered I'm now officially the number one web resource on Google for the phrase "Linda Tonkin".

It's something I've always dreamt of. Well, for the past eleven days anyway.

I wonder if Linda knows I'm making her famous here? I bet the woman's thrilled. That's if she hasn't already left the area after finding out everyone hates her.
I was watching ITV's fine talk show 'Trisha' this morning (and what's more, I'm not ashamed to admit it). The subject of today's edition was something along the lines of "I'm Too Fat to Marry". So naturally I felt I should watch, for research purposes only you understand.

Anyhoo, the show featured a woman in her fifties who weighed 25 stone. Trisha, always one to seek out the truth behind the headlines, posed the question:

"Have you always been a larger lady?"

To which the woman in question replied:

"No, no, not at all..."

She then paused for a second, before continuing in complete seriousness with:

"I didn't start putting on weight til I was 11."

So obviously being fat is quite a recent thing for her. She must have struggled to adjust.

I now realise I've been lying my whole life to all those people who have ever asked me "Have you always been able to write?". The answer of course is no. There was a good three or four years at the beginning of my life when I struggled to pick up a pen at all.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

My Big Sis has sent me a card from Texas which reads:

"In pig years...


Beneath which she's written "Americans are just fantastic."

They certainly are.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Well all good things must come to an end, and so it was that I reluctantly agreed to tag and release Lisa back into the wild. We diced with death on the way back down to Brighton yesterday, and not just by eating at a service station branch of Burger King. An accident on the A23 just north of Brighton had closed the road, meaning we were forced to enjoy a tour of Burgess Hill at speeds of up to 5mph. Still, a couple of hours earlier and we'd have been enjoying a tour of heaven, so you can't complain.

Despite Lisa's deliberate attempts to get me lost, I successfully ignored her and found her flat, where I picked up another two packets of Polos and was treated to a demonstration of a stereo system in perfect working order. I also wondered how anyone can own CDs by both Eminem and Barry Manilow.

A quick chat about jockeys with Lisa's Mum, and I was off again, making my way home via Washington, which I always thought was in America, but is in fact just north of Worthing. I arrived back at the shores of Shotley Gate an injured man, having managed to suck my way through one and a half packets of Polos. My tongue feels like it's been attacked with a blowtorch. They should put a warning on the packet - how am I supposed to know it's not a good idea to eat them non-stop for three hours?

Sunday, May 16, 2004

One of the tragedies of my life is that I'm frequently forced to stroke fat-tailed sheep alone, and my dreams of poking aardvarks with company have remained unfulfilled. But that all changed yesterday when Lisa agreed to join me in a hands-on experience at Colchester Zoo. Being a Saturday, the place was full of children, but fortunately, as the only grown man attempting to get close to small furry animals in the children's petting zoo, I was able to force a clear path through the crowds of people half my size, and get my hands on a sheep. And I'm sure Lisa didn't think my attraction to fat-tailed ruminants was anything to worry about. But she is quite polite. Except when she's talking about my taste in hats.

I was forced to admit that I've never actually poked an aardvark, due to the fact that they're always asleep, and unsportingly refuse to come out and be prodded. But I think I successfully demonstrated their big-eared, furry stomached appeal, and may have gained a willing partner in any future poking attempts.

Though possibly I'm alone in my desire to ride a pygmy hippo.

That aside, the underwater sea lion tank was strangely relaxing, and Lisa felt she could fit a baby agouti in her handbag given half a chance, but despite many temptations we failed to leave with any large animals under our coats. Which was mildly disappointing.

But still, spending an evening watching the Eurovision Song Contest will always make up for any disappointment. Especially when it features a French woman on stilts, and a gay Bosnian singing about disco.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

The postman has brought me three interesting items of mail this morning:

1. A postcard from St Lucia, on which my Big Sis has helpfully written "the arrow shows where we are staying", and then drawn an arrow which points off the edge of the postcard.

2. A party invitation from da Melee, which promises "champagne and canapes", and insists on "smart dress". Yeah, like I own anything smart. I'd better get down the charity shops.

And spookiest of all...

3. A letter from the Wolsey Theatre inviting me to a production of 'Candida' in Ipswich next month. They HAVE to be reading my blog. I study Candida at A-level, 13 years on I finally reveal the secret in the poet's heart to an expectant public via this blog, and just ten days later I'm being begged to attend a new production of the play. At least I THINK it's the same play. It says it's written by Bernard Shaw, but it also describes it as "an exquisite comedy". But I expect that's just a typographical error.

Friday, May 14, 2004

I took Lisa to The Shipwreck for dinner last night, where we repeated our trick of refusing to leave any establishment until we're outnumbered at least 2 to 1 by staff members standing by the door coughing and looking at their watches. I was hoping to get the meal free, due to the fact that I've been plugging the place on my website links page for the past year, but bizarrely they seemed to expect me to pay for my food just like any common person would. It was almost as if they had no idea who I was.

We walked back around Shotley Point in complete darkness, and managed to avoid falling into the sea, which was something of an achievement as I'd really let myself go and consumed a total of two, count them, TWO alcoholic drinks that evening, so naturally I was a bit shaky on my feet. It was all I could do to stop myself singing Sinatra songs and telling Lisa she's my best mate.

And that's it really. Which is what happens when you slob around in your pyjamas until 6pm.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

The last thing I saw at the Ipswich Regent was 'Art' last October, so clearly anything would be an improvement, but despite that, I have to say Derren Brown was excellent last night. Being Master Magic, the Magician's Son, I was able to see through Mr Brown's opening trick, and then successfully perform it for Lisa in my living room when we got home, which left her utterly convinced of my psychologically manipulative powers. Until I revealed how it was done. At which point she used a word I couldn't possibly repeat here.

But from the opening trick onwards, I was totally impressed by Derren Brown. He's the consummate showman, and 90% of the evening was nothing short of stunning. Sadly Lisa and I failed to get onstage, more due to luck than anything else - Derren's method of choosing volunteers consisted of chucking a frisbee into the audience every five minutes, the recipient of which found themselves part of the entertainment, like it or not. Lisa's tactics involved sinking down into her seat every time a frisbee was about to be launched, fending off a panic attack each time one came within ten yards, and claiming she had a serious medical condition which prohibited the use of her legs.

It was a fantastic show anyway, but I'm cursing my decision not to be listed in the Ipswich phone book, as Derren has apparently learnt the whole thing off by heart, and can give you your phone number and address the moment you state your surname and initial. Which surely isn't possible. As Derren himself said, "everything you've seen here tonight is real, but nothing is based in reality".

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

But in other news...

I made another successful visit to the south coast yesterday, and was introduced to three new people, two of whom were over three years old, and one of whom was ill. Personally I felt the meeting was a success, but I'm reserving judgement until reports are in from all sides.

I also made the aquaintance of 'floppy headed bear', a high quality craft item made (almost entirely) by Lisa in her school days. Which was obviously quite a long time ago. He's worn well. Even if he doesn't have a nose.

I left Brighton with TWO packets of Polos this time, which I feel was symbolic of my growing popularity. Another couple of months and I'll be accepting them by the crate.

Having returned to the safety of Shotley Gate, Lisa attempted to broaden my musical horizons by playing me her Duran Duran CD (not that she's stuck in the 80s or anything), and introducing me to Terry Hall, who sounds more like a community centre than a popstar to me. But he does come up with his own album sleeves, and sounds like The Lightning Seeds, so I gave him a cautious thumbs up.

At 3am I kindly gave Lisa a lecture on music theory, chord construction, and key signatures, which I'm sure she appreciated. As of course did my neighbours, when I got out my guitar and started playing They Might Be Giants in the middle of the night.

We're off to see Derren Brown tonight. Lisa's going up on stage to be hypnotised and generally manipulated. She doesn't know it yet, but that's why it's going to be such a nice suprise when I volunteer her. She'll thank me for it later.
I've received a detailed two page 'reader's report' on 'Be Worth It' from the Soho Theatre & Writers Centre in London. Once again, it singularly fails to include a promise of vast sums of money and a two year residency at the theatre (which was probably an oversight), but it did feature the following positive comments...

"This play has a very strong theatrical concept"

"makes for an interesting and engaging drama"

"the language is consistently strong and natural"

"This play has a clever and dramatically interesting construction"

"The writer makes some great play out of Helen's flirting with Russell"

"This play has the potential to be a successful and dramatic exploration of modern themes and values"

Marvellous. Unfortunately...

"I am worried that the sheer volume of subjects tackled makes this area of the play sound more like a lecture or presentation of the writer's own ideas than a believable human drama"

"The ending left me feeling disappointed"

"Pauline is lacking any real direction and journey of her own"

"it feels like it needs one more meaty draft to draw the characters out and fulfil the great concept"

And finally, my personal favourite...

"I think Adam is too articulate"

Fantastic. You try to write one character with a bit of intelligence and wisdom, and what happens - he's TOO ARTICULATE. Good grief. I knew I should have made him say "D'oh" more often.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Well it's been two weeks, so I'm off down to Brighton again to abuse my professional position as webmaster by fraternising with one of my blog posters.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

The great thing about living in a village is the way we all love and support each other, living in a constant state of bliss and harmony, and no one has a bad word to say about a fellow resident.

The other great thing is the stirling comedy work being done on a regular basis by contributors to the letters page of 'The Shotley Noticeboard', a local publication which comes out six times a year, and frequently runs to as many as four pages.

I remember with fondness the letter from an individual who stated that she'd moved to Shotley Gate just two weeks earlier, and was already writing to complain about local dog owners, and the fact that people were so much nicer where she lived before. That's what I call fitting in.

But I digress. The last issue of The Shotley Noticeboard featured a letter from Linda Tonkin, a local resident who wanted to politely complain about the parking problems caused by parents who needlessly pick up their children by car from Shotley Primary School. I actually agree with Linda, but the difference of course is that I'd never put my name to a letter in The Shotley Noticeboard. Not that anyone would actually take the trouble to launch a personal attack on Linda in the next issue. Oh no, not at all.

Well maybe just a bit. The latest issue has dropped through my letterbox this lunchtime (meaning that the people who deliver it weren't attending the May Fair at the village hall. They should be ashamed of themselves. I might write to the Shotley Noticeboard about them), and it features one of the finest comedy letters of recent months. Sadly the name of the author is not supplied, which is a great shame, because it's rare to see humour written this well. The letter begins:

"Dear Sir,
I am writing in response to the letter from Linda Tonkin in the March/April issue. Whilst I agree wholeheartedly with Linda's valid comments of parking outside school, I would like to point out that ***** ******* also causes many problems for drivers..."

Now clearly we have one of Linda's "wholehearted" supporters here. However, you may have noticed that I've blanked out two words in the above extract. So come with me now and play "Guess the Issue"!! The question, dear readers, is...

Alongside the valid issue of parking outside school, what is the OTHER main source of problems for local drivers?

Think carefully now. Could it be the inappropriate speed limits? Farm vehicles on the roads? Loose livestock? Drunks driving home from Shotley Sailing Club? (I'm talking hypothetically there).

You'll kick yourself. No, the answer is far more obvious. Ladies and gentlemen, the biggest hazard facing the Shotley motorist, is...

[fanfare please]


Well at least according to the author of this letter. Let's enjoy some more of this wisdom...

"... I would like to point out that Linda herself also causes many problems for drivers, especially on the winding road to school. There are many impatient drivers who I have witnessed on many occasions, overtaking Linda's trike on blind corners. I do not think that she realises the problems that she causes especially when she cycles alongside her daughter. I must also voice my concern about the occasion recently when I encountered Linda on her trike with her daughter in the basket at the back and neither of them were wearing a cycle helmet."

Well I say lock her up. Either that, or make her use a car like everyone else. If you get there early Linda, you can bag one of the best spots on the zig-zag lines by the school gates.

And another thing, does Linda have a very large basket, or a very small daughter? You have to wonder.

But still, with great comedy, you need a great punchline. And this contributor did not disappoint. Having "agreed wholeheartedly" with Linda, by portraying her as the biggest threat to the British motorist since the fuel crisis of 2000, the author of this letter finishes with these immortal words:

"This is not an attack on Linda."

That's almost worth a round of applause.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Tomorrow is the annual May Fair at Shotley Village Hall. Among the usual attractions such as tombola, cake stall and bouncy castle, this year the organisers are advertising the addition of a "greasy pole".

Call me old-fashioned, but I can't help feeling that if you've booked Lech Walesa, you should show a bit more respect for the man.

[I apologise for the quality of that joke. But hey, it's the weekend, news is thin on the ground.]

Friday, May 07, 2004

What was I saying on Monday about never having had a play rejected in my life..?

This morning has brought a letter from the Royal Court, informing me that "after careful consideration" (yeah right), they've decided not to offer me a multi-million pound contract to stage 'Be Worth It' after all. Their carefully considered opinion is as follows:

"We enjoyed reading the script, and found it energetically written with a neat idea. At the same time, we felt there is scope for tightening the narrative through subtext and dramatic action, as it tends to become conversational and unfocused."

A NEAT IDEA????? If I'd put that in the script, they'd have told me to avoid Americanisms. Still it's nice to know it's so energetically written. That must be why I had to eat so many bagels while I was writing it.

And may I apologise to Jen for telling her on Saturday that the good thing about writing plays is that you don't have to insert tedious action scenes just for the sake of it. Clearly you do if you want to get on at the Royal Court.

Conversational I agree with - it's supposed to be - but unfocused?? Blimey. They should've been here with me for three months surrounded by bits of paper as far as the eye can see, trying to fit that play together like a jigsaw puzzle, and making sure every scene came in right on cue, lasted an exact number of pages, and made a specific point. I would've LOVED to do a bit of unfocused rambling.

I think they must have believed Adam when he says in Act Two: "We're talking about nothing, and using it as cover for some good conversation". Of course, there's a subtext there, but you can't expect a top London theatre to pick up on that.

But obviously I appreciate constructive criticism and I'm not bitter.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

I've just discovered I'm being talked about on the official Aqualung message board. This is kind of scary. Although someone from Houston refers to me as "", so that should be enough to throw people off the scent.

But still, I've already had three hits since yesterday evening as a result of this, so I think I'm going to forget the secret in the poet's heart, and aim my site at young music fans instead. After all, I'm barely out of my twenties, and I'm a close personal friend of Matt and Ben Hales. No really, I am.

Well ok, I'm not. But Lisa said my version of 'Brighter Than Sunshine' is better than the original. It's true, she did.

That was just before she said that drunk people would appreciate my singing.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Can I just say, if anyone hears reports of a dodgy character seen wandering around Christchurch Park in Ipswich this afternoon with a camera and a notepad, hiding in the bushes near the war memorial and taking photos of trees, it WAS me, but my motives were entirely innocent I swear.
I've just discovered what a good education I had. It turns out I'm in possession of a piece of information which is being sought by English Literature students the world over. Yes people, I know the secret in the poet's heart.

The very last line of the play 'Candida' by George Bernard Shaw is a stage direction which reads:

"They embrace. But they do not know the secret in the poet's heart."

One of theatre's more pointless stage directions, I'm sure you'll agree. Particularly as most people don't seem to have a clue what it means.

Personally I couldn't care less about any secret - you should just be glad you've reached the end of a Shaw play, and get the hell out of there - but others disagree. And having been forced to study 'Candida' at A-level 13 years ago (mostly against my will, it has to be said), I was expected to take an interest in such a secret. This was the pre-internet era, meaning we had to use old-fashioned contraptions called books, but fortunately the fine English scholar who led my class, Mr G Jones (nickname: Bunter), possessed a number of ancient English Literature tomes from a bygone age, and having studied them on our behalf, was able to reveal said secret. So we all went home happy.

All these years later, I naturally assumed this was the kind of information easily available on the world wide web. And I knew people were looking for it, because in the past year I've had about half a dozen website hits via Google, from people searching for the phrase "secret in the poet's heart" and the word "Candida". Which takes them to... a certain page on my website. Which singularly fails to reveal the secret.

Having had yet another of these hits this morning, I decided to search Google myself and found to my surprise that there only appear to be eight websites in the world which feature that phrase. And I'm number six. More surprising still, is that none of the other seven appear to reveal the secret either. One, a page entirely devoted to 'Candida', even states:

"The secret in the poet's heart? Many people have suggested many possibilities. Frankly, I don't know."

So that's helpful.

What this means of course, is that if I reveal the secret here, my blog will have the distinction of being the only site on the world wide web to contain this information, and will instantly become a magnet for literary scholars the world over. That's if it isn't already.

So here goes. Sit up straight everyone.

The secret in the poet's heart is that Candida is not worth the winning.

Let me just repeat that for the search engines...

In George Bernard Shaw's play 'Candida', the secret in the poet's heart, as mentioned in the final stage direction, is that Candida is not worth the winning.

Right, that ought to do it. Yes, I know, it's not very interesting. But then we're talking about a Shaw play here, so what do you expect. Basically Candida is a bitch on wheels, and having spent the entire play trying to win her heart, Marchbanks, the weedy poet, fails in his quest and Candida chooses to stay with her husband. But what the experience has taught young Eugene is that in fact Candida was never worth fighting for in the first place. Partly, I suspect, because it dawns on him that she's named after a yeast infection (but don't quote me on that), though mainly because he realises that Candida is the kind of moo-cow from hell that should be avoided at all costs. She's actually not the perfect gal he previously thought, and a life with her would be a life of downtrodden submission under the thumb of a mothering dominatrix.

Which some men would pay good money for. But not Eugene. He's apparently lost, but his secret is that he knows he's won. Morell has ended up with a prize not worth winning.

This blog is such an education isn't it. I should be charging for stuff like this.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Incidentally, I've been meaning to mention it, but in case anyone's wondering, I've finally moved into the 21st century (4 years after it started) and set up an RSS feed for this blog. Which I'm sure requires no explanation. At least I hope it doesn't, because frankly I don't have a clue what it means. Unless there are any girls reading this, in which case I understand completely. And I'm good at football too.

Basically RSS stands for 'Really Stoopid Syndication' (probably), and it means my blog can now be syndicated worldwide via Atom-enabled feed readers and downloadable newsreading client software of many different kinds. No really, it's true. Apparently I can also be picked up on 'handheld devices', though whether that includes the kind of handheld devices I once saw in Marie's bathroom, I'm not sure.

But still, the Atom feed can be found under the link to the left. The one which cries 'Syndicate Me' in a needy voice. Just so you know.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Well I've finally succumbed to the pressure of certain people (Lisa) who are determined to ruin my record of never having had a play rejected in my life (unless you count Shotley Drama Group, who prefer to just ignore me for 15 months and hope I'll get the message), and I'm submitting 'Internet Cafe' to the International Playwriting Festival at the Warehouse Theatre.

Which has meant an entire weekend of work, largely due to the fact that I prefer my screenplay to my original play, and was therefore keen to work the two main extra scenes from the film version into the stage version. It's all very technical, and involves a lot of eye strain, eating Pringles, and cursing at Microsoft Word, but after two days of stress I now have the definitive version of 'Internet Cafe', which features all the swearing of the film version, but without the exotic location shots.

Interestingly, the Warehouse Theatre casually and caringly state that "any play offered for production elsewhere before the judges' decision is announced will be disqualified", which is very lovely of them. So I wonder how they'll feel if the shadowy Leigh returns with his Bedfordshire film company, and makes a definite decision to shoot 'Internet Cafe' this summer. I think I'll just forget to mention it. And besides, the screenplay still contains at least half a dozen extra lines of dialogue, so essentially they're two entirely different scripts. I'm sure they'll understand.

Right, well I'm all theatred out, and it's a bank holiday, so I'm off to eat chocolate cookies with my niece.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

I think my position as Shotley Gate's resident playwright is under threat. Next month's 'Shotley Open Gardens' event is (for some reason) being advertised in the local community magazine by means of a short piece of drama. The author has modestly decided to leave his/her name off the script, so I can't give credit where credit is so obviously due, but it's a quality piece of work, with very few spelling mistakes, and it's only partially about toilets, so I present it here now for all to enjoy...

Freda: Are you opening your garden Fred?
Fred: Opening my garden Freda?

[We're off to a strong start. Sorry, I shouldn't interrupt.]

Freda: Don't tell me you haven't seen all those adverts and entry forms asking Shotley gardeners to open their gardens 19th and 20th June?
Fred: Oh yes, I've seen them but my garden is just... ordinary, flowers n' tatters n' things... it's not Heligan nor Highgrove.

[I think tatters are potatoes. I could be wrong.]

Freda: No, but it is a Shotley garden Fred and grows good food and nice flowers, exactly what this is about, opening your garden can be a means of raising funds for a toilet at Shotley Church.


Fred: But I don't often get to church Freda! By the time I have done Aunt Flo's garden on a Saturday, I've only got Sunday for my own then it's off to work again.
Freda: Oh, I know Fred, but a toilet doesn't just benefit Sunday worshippers, many times I have been asked by baptismal and wedding guests. Where is your toilet? I have seen you in church on such occasions!

[So Fred's often seen at weddings and baptisms on a Saturday. Isn't he meant to be doing Aunt Flo's garden? I'm struggling to follow this plot.]

Fred: Oh alright then Freda, you win! Now just remind me about those entry forms.

[Blimey, he's easily persuaded.]

Freda: Shotley Post Offices have them or you can ask someone to bring you a form from Church. Fill in the informtion [sic] asked for and your name will be printed in the 'Shotley Open Gardens' programme and, what is more, you will be entered into a draw! Atco-Bosch donated a hedgecutter; Tesco have given a £20 commnity [sic] voucher, By Pass Nurseries also gave us a voucher and Thompson and Morgan a pack of their famous seeds; they said just ring for one if you would like our catalogue. Take your form to Norman, I mean Mr Bugg "Mersing" Shotley. On the Saturday try to find time to slip down to the Church and have a plough lunch; Mr and Mrs Patel have very generously offered to provide the food items for it.
Fred: Really? Well that is very kind. Does that mean I don't have to pay?
Freda: It means you have yet another opportunity to help raise funds for that much needed toilet.

[I'll take that as a "no" then.]

Freda: Perhaps you'll spread the word Fred, I think there'll be morning coffee and afternoon tea too.
Fred: Righto Freda, I best tackle those weeds. Now where did I leave my hoe?

Er... it seems to end there. But what a marvellous piece of drama. And I particularly like the subtext at the end. Fred, who clearly lacks any kind of backbone, and has just allowed himself to be pushed around by a woman who frankly couldn't care less about him never attending church on a Sunday and is only interested in his money, resolves to change - using the 'tackling weeds' metaphor to signal his intentions. And then he calls Freda a 'ho'.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

You wait three weeks for a Cretan postcard, and what do you get? Donkeys with big ears. It's not a patch on the Texan Buckaroos I was kind enough to send back from Dallas.


But obviously I'm very grateful.