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Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Good old Tim Henman, letting us all down again. Am I the only one who longs for the days when the entire nation rejoiced the moment Jeremy Bates got through to the second round?

And while I'm on the subject, is it just me, or does Roger Federer look like Quentin Tarantino?

Anyhoo, I returned from the meeting with my sister (who is far too tanned for her own good, and appears to be suffering from the delusion that British summers are akin to arctic winters. I knew we had problems when she started wrapping herself in a blanket and saying she couldn't wait to get back to Texas), to find that the Big Bad Wolf had blown brick dust down my chimney and all over my living room carpet. I cleaned it up last night and got the place looking shiny again, meaning I was particularly calm and relaxed when I got up this morning to find another pile of rubble strewn around my fireplace. Honestly, Santa Claus makes less mess. And at least he brings presents.

Talking of which, Big Sis was particularly pleased with the papier mache fruit I bought her in Brighton, and didn't once say "what the heck am I supposed to do with this?". She's also keen to book a couple of plane tickets so that Lisa and I can go and visit her in Dallas at the end of the year. An offer which Lisa was willing to consider "assuming nothing's gone horribly wrong by then". That's what I like, a bit of optimism.

Oh marvellous. My neighbour's just knocked on my door to tell me that the new chimney is finished, but that I should have my gas fire serviced before using it, because the builders have said there may be some debris in the flue, and we're all liable to die from carbon monoxide poisoning if I switch it on. I told him there's nothing to worry about - all the debris is on my living room carpet. He seemed quite happy with that.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

These escapes from Brighton are getting later and later. Three weeks ago it was an 11:50pm departure time, last week 12:10am, last night 12:35am. Still, it won't be long before I'm driving home in the light, which will be nice.

I arrived back to find that someone had kindly left a large ladder leaning against the side of my flat by my living room window. Fortunately it wasn't a burglar after my £20 stereo (I couldn't give that away), but was in fact a scaffolding team with designs on my dodgy chimney stack. As we speak, a demolition squad are on the roof knocking half the building down. I feel like one of the three little pigs.

But I couldn't eat a whole one. Perhaps a bacon sandwich and a cup of tea.

(I really should be more ashamed of these jokes.)

Anyhoo, as luck would have it, I'm perfectly capable of getting to bed at 3:30am and being out the next morning, so I'm off to visit my Big Sis, who has agreed to pop over from America long enough for me to see her for a couple of hours. Which means I had to buy her a birthday present yesterday. Dammit.

Oh, and for all you duck memorial fans, I feel there could be a few new epitaphs about to be written...


Monday, June 28, 2004

The thing about Brighton beach at nine in the morning is that it's teeming with celebrities. Well ok, not teeming. It's actually quite deserted. Which made it all the more surprising to look up from my position by Brighton pier (or what's left of it) this morning and see the lone figure of Mike Read (superstar DJ and Cliff Richard tribute act) wandering across the beach towards me chatting away on a mobile phone.

I caught his eye, smiled in an "aren't you that bloke off the telly" kind of a way, only for him to respond with a quizzical "stalker & slasher alert" expression, decide I looked a little too much like Kathy Bates for his liking, and turn his back on me. Whereupon he revealed himself to be wearing his 'vote Mike' shirt from the last series of "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here". Probably the very words he was speaking into the phone at the time.

I looked on nonchalantly, wondering whether to mention the fact that I used to own a copy of 'Mike Read's Pop Quiz', when the sound of trudging footsteps was heard, and lo and behold, Lord Brockett (top showbiz criminal and all round toff) hoved into view over yonder pebble bank. Suddenly realising I was outnumbered two to one by B-list celebrities, and fearing that Peter Andre could be just around the next corner, my natural instinct was to run, but I held my ground and was duly rewarded with the arrival of a small film crew. Mike led them to the Lord, and together they retreated further down the beach, possibly to get away from the dodgy bloke with the laptop.

Naturally I followed. Not that I'm a stalker or anything. Having taken up a comfortable new position on somebody's groyne (I'm not sure whose. Possibly the council's), I watched as a bevy of beauties (that's a technical term) consisting of three bikini-clad girls, made their way out of the cafe on the seafront and down the beach towards the celebs. And me. The luscious lovelies (another technical term, go with me on this) were to play a pivotal role in the ensuing drama.

As far as I could make out, the plot of this TV extravaganza, which will no doubt form the central plank of ITV's autumn schedule, appeared to involve Lord Brockett sitting at a table reading a newspaper, whereupon the page 3 stunnas (trust me, I know what I'm talking about) would walk past, catch Brockett's eye, and cause him to leap into action by chasing them down the beach.

So it's good to see Lord Brockett hasn't been typecast as a result of his "I'm a Celebrity" experience. It was like Benny Hill without the production values.

This apparently simple task required a good eight or nine takes, after each of which the director would thank the Lord for his efforts, before telling him how rubbish he was and insisting he do it again. Having finally pulled off this feat of dramatic acting, we all praised the Lord, and the girls put their tops back on. Which was a relief for us all.

At this point a fat bloke in a loud shirt turned up, and much to my horror I realised it was Razor Ruddock (former football hardman, current football lardman). I'm not one to criticise, but the guy has really let himself go. He looked like Danny DeVito on stilts.

There were hugs all round (which was actually quite touching), then Razor and Brockett made their way back to the cafe as the producer arrived with - brace yourself - Mike Read's guitar. I cursed my luck in leaving my ear plugs back at Lisa's flat, and watched in some discomfort as Mike sat down with guitar across knee and began singing for the camera. I presume it was the acoustic mix of 'Insania', but I didn't hang around to find out, preferring instead to loiter about the deserted cafe and eavesdrop on the celebrity chit-chat. I couldn't possibly reveal what they said here though. Not that's it's private, it's just incredibly dull. I can confirm however that Lord Brockett sounds just as irritating in real life as he does on the telly, so that's reassuring.

A cup of tea later and the director had finally persuaded Mike Read to stop singing, meaning it was the turn of Razor, who by now had changed into his matching jungle gear, to get in front of the camera with a football. He attempted a bit of keepy-uppy, proved that all the old magic was still there by losing the ball every three seconds, then tried to get the blondes to take off their tops again.

I retreated to the pier to watch proceedings from a distance, before realising that this was possibly the most vacuous TV programme ever made, and that my time would be better spent going to McDonalds for a milkshake.

But obviously I'm looking forward to seeing the finished show on TV. They can work wonders with editing these days. It'll probably win a BAFTA.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Four hundred odd miles of driving later, and I find myself in Brighton. I'm beginning to know the road between Shotley Gate and here like the back of my hand. But with less eczema. Having popped down here on Saturday evening, I popped straight back to Suffolk with Lisa in tow (well, in the passenger seat of my car - she refused to wear the towbar) in order to attend a hastily convened summit with specially selected members of my family this afternoon. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet my next of kin over sausage rolls and cheesy Wotsits, so naturally Lisa couldn't refuse.

Personally I felt it went well. We discussed the merits of Slimming World versus Weightwatchers as we tucked into the strawberry cheesecake, and agreed to meet (and more importantly, eat) again at my birthday meal in a month's time.

Having discussed my position as the family's most successful dieter, I finished my third helping of lemon meringue pie, and finally agreed to escort Lisa out of there, picking up a microwave and toaster on the way out.

We sped back down to Brighton tonight, and Lisa is currently declaring me to be "outrageously rude" for posting to my blog instead of coming to bed. Honestly, there's just no pleasing some people.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

There's nothing like a sudden change of plan to keep you on your toes. I'm off to Brighton. But no burgling necessary - I'll be back later. It's just a quick 270 mile round trip, I won't be gone long.

In the meantime, enjoy a picture of a sliced meat bonnet with matching sausage ribbons, courtesy of Donna. Er... she's not the one in the photo, she just alerted me to the website from which I shamelessly stole it. Though I'm sure she probably does wear hats like that herself.

Mmmm... sausages.

Friday, June 25, 2004


I've just received my first ever item of hate mail!!! I'm so proud!

Naturally I cover many important issues both here and elsewhere on the world wide web, so I'm bound to upset various minority groups at one time or another. It's almost unavoidable. Though I must admit, I didn't expect the minority group in question to be the fans of Julie Reinger, the Look East weathergirl. Admittedly, she IS the most annoying woman on planet earth, a fact I may just have mentioned once or twice before in this blog, but even so.

Enjoy with me then, if you will, a fabulous piece of creative writing. God only knows how its author found the time to sit down and write such a piece, but let's just be grateful that he did. I clearly caught him on a day when he had a gap in his busy schedule.


Today I hit one of your incestuous and self-congratulatory websites [yeh, yeh , we can see through the feigned modesty and projected insecurity] whilst in search of information about Miss Reinger the real Weather Pixie.

Just a quick note then to say - ask yourself this.

Who’s the saddest of the two of you?

Julie, who just gets bit frivolous about the weather and pulls in 791 hits on Google – most of them seemingly not of her own making.


Phil – with his bloggs, slogs, websites, multitudinous email addresses and volumes of self biography with references to every tiny insignificant, article, farticle, play, video, and outward breath, all shrieking ‘look at me look at me’, who gets 423,000 Googles – albeit, I have to admit, including a lot of other Phil Gardners.

I think I know whom would I choose – if I had to.

But that really is a gun to the head thing isn’t it!

Ryan O’Really"

I feel a fool now. I AM sad. Though possibly not as sad as someone who admits to searching the web for information on Julie Reinger. And then signs his e-mail with a false name, having used an address which reveals his real name. But still, I apologise nonetheless.

I'm off now to write a farticle which shrieks "look at me look at me".

Let's all calm down with a nice picture of a cat with some fruit on its head.

Cat in the Hat

Thursday, June 24, 2004


Could Jeffrey Morris from the BBC, who e-mailed me twice this afternoon, please e-mail again. You didn't enter your e-mail address, so I can't respond!

Honestly, I really shouldn't allow the Phil-Mail-o-Matic to accept anonymous e-mails. Some people just can't be trusted...
I like to pretend I'm very busy all day, with numerous important tasks to fulfil, and barely a moment to myself. So you have to wonder how I can possibly justify sitting here for the last 20 minutes reading a memorial to dead ducks.

Out for a Duck

In my defence though, I thought it was a piece of comedy, and it was only at the point where I was about to e-mail the author to congratulate them on a fine piece of humorous writing, that I realised it's completely serious.

So I'd like to apologise, and offer my heartfelt comiserations to the owners of Chompy and Quackers. I feel your loss. Although, as Brittany LeBlanc, who claims to be the mother of her duck (nothing weird there then), says: "Many people tell me, 'It's just
a duck, get over it.'"
Harsh words indeed. You wouldn't catch me saying something like that.

Perhaps the most heartbreaking tale concerns 'Lucky'. Lucky by name, lucky by nature. Or perhaps not. "One morning my mother, brother and myself were busy in the kitchen and not paying close attention to where Lucky was. Accidentally my brother stepped on him and his little neck snapped." Don't laugh, this is tragic. I know someone who once trod on a gerbil. You don't get over something like that.

Still, it could be worse. He could've been eaten by a raccoon. Trust me, it happens.

While I'm here, may I just say hello to the anonymous person on the A23 who contacted me via my website this morning.


Now stop reading this blog, and get back to those children.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

I know the whole country seems to have dissolved into Rooney-mania, but this takes the biscuit. I've just been listening to TalkSport, which, when it's not at number three in the singles chart, is also a radio station, and they've just run a new trailer for tomorrow's live football coverage, describing Wayne Rooney thus: "He could probably date any woman in England... he's the closest thing on earth to the angel Gabriel".

I'm not questioning the accuracy of that statement, obviously. Well not much. But what really annoys me is that they've blatantly stolen the phrase from Tommy Boyd, who they callously sacked from the airwaves over two years ago. I should know, I based Adam from 'Be Worth It' on that man. Unless you're the Soho Theatre, in which case you seem to think Adam is "hovering somewhere between being a real radio DJ and a fairly clever but overwritten personification of God".

Which is outrageous. He's not a DJ, he's a broadcaster.

Anyhoo, as Tommy used to say, "I could go out with any woman in the country. I'm a complete human being. A genius. The closest thing on earth to the angel Gabriel". And that was without scoring two goals for England, or looking like a potato. Wayne Rooney isn't fit to lick his boots. Even if he is a bit too big for them.

As for me, well I'm back in the bosom of Shotley Gate, having driven home in the middle of the night through Mother Nature's version of a power shower. I was startled to find a raw chicken breast on the doorstep outside Lisa's block of flats, which made a change from the armchairs and fridges which residents usually chuck over their balconies, but I resisted the temptation to take it with me, and instead enjoyed a takeaway meal of three cold roast potatoes and a packet of Polos on the journey home. Mmmm... nothing says lovin' like something from the oven. Unless you see Lisa with a packet of sausages.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Well remarkably enough I did do some writing yesterday. I remained encamped in my hole under Brighton pier, leaving only to meet Lisa for lunch (a nutritious meal consisting of cheesecake and tea), then returning to my burrow for an afternoon of quality creative writing, interrupted only by two gay men who wandered past, saw me with my laptop, and said "Got any dirty pictures on there?". I laughed, said no, and hoped they wouldn't offer to rectify the situation.

Personally I felt I'd achieved something by the end of the day. So did Lisa, though I think she felt my achievement was not so much to have produced some worthwhile writing, but more to have managed to sit on Brighton beach all day with a laptop computer without being mugged.

A quick meal out, and it was back home for the England match, during which I made a point of ridiculing the commentators for their regular use of the phrase "I don't want to tempt fate, but..."

I was still ridiculing them this morning, when I walked Lisa to work, and commented that without wishing to tempt fate, there's no way any traffic wardens would ever bother checking a street like this for illegally parked visitors from Suffolk.

I was quite correct. For about two hours. The first traffic warden arrived at 10:30am. So my planned day of writing and napping went out the window, to be replaced by a day of surreptitious car-moving to get around the two hour parking limit. I discovered that the next street has a four hour limit, so I'm currently parked there, and if Lisa listens to me, she'll be moving there asap. It's obviously a better neighbourhood.

I'm returning home tonight. I see Brighton as a form of shift work: five days on, nine days off. So it's back to Shotley Gate for a week and a bit. I bet they've missed me.

Oh, and yes, I have another two packets of Polos. They mysteriously turned up on my guitar case yesterday when I wasn't looking. With work like this, Lisa's Mum could make the tooth fairy jealous.

Monday, June 21, 2004

I've always liked the idea of sitting outside a chic Parisien cafe at dawn, surrounded by the French literati, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes in a black polo neck, whilst producing the next great work of English literature.

Sadly, I've never been to Paris. Or been up at dawn. And I don't smoke or drink coffee. And let's face it, I'm never likely to produce a great work of English literature. But I do look good in a polo neck.

So it's 8:45am and I'm sitting on the beach underneath Brighton pier with my laptop, pretending that the drunks and homeless people are actually just anti-capitalist writers who have rejected worldly goods. A bit like me. Well, I haven't so much rejected them, as realised I can't afford them.

Anyway, Lisa's been successfully delivered to her place of work. Not on time, obviously, but hey, I can't be hurried in the morning. Especially since Lisa is insisting I shave more often. Honestly, you go to all the trouble of compiling the definitive 101 Phil Phacts, and immediately they expect you to change number 3. If I'm not careful, number 31 will be history too. But I digress...

So I've resolved to make use of my day by getting out with my laptop and actually writing some of the stoopid top-secret fiction thing which has been hanging albatross-like around my neck for a dog's age. I have all the relevant files on here, and even some photos of Christchurch Park in Ipswich to remind me of home. So I'm all set. Which is why I'm writing this blog post instead.

I wonder how much mobile internet access costs..? I could post to my blog from every donut stand on Brighton seafront, and avoid doing anything even remotely resembling work. Not that I need any help in that department.

Someone's just wandered past with a metal detector. I think he's picking up my laptop on his headphones.

Oh by the way, I'm still in Brighton. Did I mention that? I couldn't go home last night, owing to the extra traffic created by the London to Brighton bike ride. So I was forced to stay. And by the end of the afternoon I'll have come up with a good reason for staying tonight too. Possibly involving the threat of drunken England fans rampaging across the M23. I'm still working on that one.

Oh, and I've been instructed to mention the fact that Lisa has lost 3lbs over the weekend, an admirable weightloss achievement wich I'm sure is due entirely to the walk she insisted we take on Saturday. An outing I was particularly keen to go on (split infinitive), as there's nothing worse than being allowed to stay in bed all weekend.

Oooh, a TV crew have arrived! They appear to be interviewing a man in a blue shirt on the seafront. It's not the Tory pary conference this week is it? Of course they could just be covering the breaking news, as reported on local radio this morning, that Brighton is STILL the gay capital of Europe. It's nice to know that in this ever changing world, some things will always remain constant.

I think I'll go and buy a milkshake. I can do that writing later.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Having spent part of Thursday afternoon with five members of Lisa's family, one of whom insisted on removing his trousers every five minutes, I continued my goodwill mission yesterday with a trip to the other side of Brighton to meet Aunt Phyllis (who I can happily name and shame here on account of the fact that she doesn't have internet access, and assures me she's too old to learn). Honestly, if Lisa made as much effort to see her relatives as I do, instead of insisting on going out to work during the day, she might not be so short of mints.

So I collected my first packet of Polos of the weekend from Lisa's mother, then drove to Aunt Phyllis's, where I happily drank her tea, ate her biscuits, and agreed to take a note back for Lisa, asking her to record Gardener's World. I also succeeded in leaving with a small coffee table, and an enthusiastic request for a copy of my last play, so all in all a successful trip.

At 8:30pm, in the middle of playing a medley of Senators songs on the guitar for Lisa's entertainment, I remembered the note from Phyllis, and dutifully passed it on. Gardener's World was finished by then of course, as was my relationship with Phyllis. I don't think I'll be getting any biscuits next time. And I'd made such a good impression too. We even discussed Shakespeare. I knew it was a mistake the moment I heard myself saying the words "Of course I can pass on a message". It was asking for trouble.

The highlight of today has been the arrival of the local paper - The Brighton Argus. Which sounds like a catalogue shop to me, but isn't. Today's issue features a section entitled 'Poetry Corner', which showcases the work of three local poets. Or rather three local people who think they're poets. My eye was drawn to a submission by the name of 'St James's Street'.

St James's Street is situated close to Lisa's place of work, and as such, has become a regular haunt of mine. I've shopped in its Safeways, had lunch in its restaurants, and mingled with drag queens in its charity shops. It's an area of Brighton close to my heart. Which explains why I have chest pains.

Anyhoo, one local man has seen fit to make the place the subject of a touching piece of poetry. And The Argus, in its wisdom, have seen fit to print it. So for family and friends who are struggling to picture the scene of my weekends away in Brighton, what better than to paint a picture of my surroundings with this heartfelt verse from Jim Platt of Eaton Place, Brighton...

St James's Street

As the bars start to close on a Saturday night,
And the pretty boys scream as the dykes start to fight,
You pay five pounds for a greasy kebab,
Full of meat discarded by a germ warfare lab,
You hear distant police sirens from respectable Hove,
As Kemptown junkies steal your TV and stove,
You see rivers of urine cascade round your feet,
Welcome, my friend, to St James's Street.

Ah yes, the fighting dykes and rivers of urine. It's no wonder I find it difficult to tear myself away from the place.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Well it's 6pm, England are just kicking off the second half of their crucial match against Switzerland, and the whole country is settled in front of a TV set cheering the boys on.

Well, almost the whole country. Myself, I'm sitting in a doctor's waiting room in Brighton. Not that I'm ill. And neither is Lisa, despite the fact that she seems to have purple hair this week, which I'm sure can't be medically sound. But these days you don't have to be ill to pay a visit to the local surgery, so here we are. Well here I am. Lisa disappeared ten minutes ago and frankly I don't think they're bringing her back.

But fortunately, as part of my ongoing charade of being a writer, I have a pad and pen with me. If I'd known I'd have the entire waiting room to myself, I'd have brought my laptop, but you can't have everything, and I think I'm in with at least a sporting chance of being able to decipher my own handwriting when I get back to within reach of a computer later on, so it's no problem.

HANG ON!!! I've just noticed a portable TV up in the corner of the room behind me! Dare I turn it on..? I'm British, and therefore not inclined to openly leave my seat and turn on a TV in a public place, but what the heck...

Ha! I have the England match on TV before me! How amusing. There's half an hour to go and it's 1-0. But then I already knew that, thanks to the man we passed in the street outside, who obviously saw himself as some kind of modern day town cryer, and was staggering down the road at half time (overcome more with emotion than alcohol, I'm sure), singing "One nil, one nil..."

Marvellous. Well I'm all set. I'm tempted to open the bottle of wine we've just bought in Safeways. I wonder if the receptionist would lend me a corkscrew..? And I have to say, with all these references to Switzerland, I could murder a Toblerone.

Anyhoo, I drove down to Brighton this afternoon, having dumped my cat at my parents' house en route. They were out, but I'm sure they won't mind. It'll be nice for them to come home to an extra cat.

Having endured a traffic jam on the M25, during which I crossed my fingers, as part of a deal to ensure successful future employment for Weevil, I arrived on the south coast in time to rendezvous with a surprisingly large number of Lisa's family members. It took me aback slightly, meaning I forgot to carry out my fiendish plan of asking Lisa's mother for a supply of embarrassing childhood photos. Honestly, I could kick myself sometimes.

Oooh England have scored again. Marvellous. I always did like cuckoo clocks. Can I just say though, I'd rather there wasn't a poster offering cervical smears right under the television set. It's quite offputting. They have an impressive selection of leaflets on bladder weakness though.

Blimey, 3-0. I could happily have some Gruyere right now.

Well, Lisa's not back, and the match is almost over. But you can't ask for much more from a visit to the doctors - a blog post and a live football match. I should come here more often. It's almost worth being ill.

Well really! Some woman's just walked in and turned off my TV! The nerve of some people! This is not what I expect from a Labour run NHS.

Oh I see, they're chucking Lisa out and trying to close up for the day. Fair enough. I'll be off.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Well ok, I didn't put the mortgage money on, but Fokine earned me another £28 (if I tip a horse to win, it's always a good idea to bet on it to place, coz you just know it's going to finish second). I can afford a ticket for Elton now.
No time for horse racing chat today (except to say that we should all get the mortgage money on Fokine at 6-1 in the Jersey Stakes. No really, I mean it this time) - I've just been forced to spend my vast gambling profits on a new monitor, having woken up this morning to find that my old one had died during the night. Honestly, the nerve of that monitor - I've only used it about eight hours a day for the last four years, you'd think it could've kept going a bit longer.

Fortunately though, I'm a two computer family these days, so I was able to reach for the emergency laptop. I'm not one to let major hardware failure stand between me and the Racing Post website.

So I've had a lovely stress-filled morning trawling the online computer retailers, looking for a new monitor, and finding that the one I want is no longer available from any supplier known to man. I eventually settled on a Philips one. That name is a sure sign of quality.

So I attempted to order one, cunningly arranging to have it sent to my parents house, as I'm off to Brighton tomorrow (but forget the burgling this time - my monitor was the only thing worth stealing), whereupon I discovered that they wouldn't let me have it delivered to an address other than that on my credit card. Cue change of plan, and a phonecall to my parents asking if I could use their card instead. Back to the retailer, where I re-entered the payment details, the transaction was processed, and... I was asked for a Halifax security password. Back on the phone to my parents, who couldn't remember the password and were out of the house with no access to the details. They suggested a few alternatives, so it was back to the website, where I entered three guesses, all incorrect, and was told I'd used up my quota of guesses, and would have to come back later.

It was at this point I decided I could do without a monitor, and live a life of simple purity in a cave somewhere.

To cut a long story short, I did eventually place my order, and looking on the bright side, I've proved that I CAN cope with high stress levels without turning into a rampaging psychopath. Though it was touch and go for a while there.

In other news, Elton John is playing in Ipswich tonight. I know, I couldn't quite believe it myself. Last month Joe Brown & Marty Wilde (laughing in the face of all those people who assumed they were dead), this month Elton John. Consistently high standards, that's what Ipswich is all about.

We're not easily impressed around here though. It takes more than an international megastar to get us out of the house of an evening. And so it is that... tickets are still available! Yes, Elton has failed to sell out Ipswich tonight. Madison Square Garden, yes, Wembley Arena, yes, but Ipswich, not a chance. We'd rather stay in and watch the football.

So all day we've had the amusing sight of every local news programme desperately plugging the ticket hotline in every broadcast, and even going so far as to state this afternoon that "tickets will be available on the door".

Hmmm... well I'll see how I feel. Big Brother's on though, and it looks like rain. I'm not sure I can be bothered...

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

It's always good to ignore your own advice. I had more on Soviet Song to place than I had on Six Perfections to win. Which is just as well, considering my baby came 6th while Soviet Song listened to my predictions and duly finished second. So that's another £10 profit. I haven't picked a winner yet and I'm £20 up for the day. I'll make that three grand tomorrow instead.
Another victory! Kind of. Well Antonius Pius beat Haafhd anyway, and finished third, earning me enough money to recoup my losses on Boogie Street. So I'm £10 up. Hurrah! Let's all put the farm on Six Perfections. No, really.
Hey, Boogie Street was leading with a furlong and a half to go. I'm claiming that as a win.
It's not healthy to be up this early in the morning, but hey, if you decide that on balance you can probably do without an air conditioner this year, this is what happens.

Still, it gives me a chance for a bit of Royal Ascot chat, which was on the cards from the moment I made the mistake of mentioning Choisir and the 2003 King's Stand Stakes to a certain someone last night, resulting in a blank look (if that's possible on the phone) and the words "why on earth would I have read your horses page?"

Which ought to have been a rhetorical question, but wasn't. Still, I refuse to be put off by such outrageous behaviour, so I'm ploughing on regardless. I'll get that column in the Racing Post if it's the last thing I do.

Right. Let's start with the King's Stand Stakes. Oooh, that name rings a bell. But then I've read my horses page. And yes, I realise I'm alone in that. Anyhoo, we could be up for another Choisir this year, with Cape of Good Hope popping over from Hong Kong for this, but personally I'm going with the 14-1 Boogie Street. Not only a good price, but a nice address too.

The St James's Palace Stakes features a hot favourite in the form of 2000 Guineas winner Haafhd, but will he win today? Why of course not, that would be far too obvious. Nope, the pick has to be Antonius Pius, who's over from France after deciding to kick one of his rivals at the start of his last race, and then run headlong into the rail for no particular reason, losing all chance of winning. He's clearly loopy, but that's why I like him. He'll romp home at 6-1.

The Queen Anne Stakes features my ickle sweetheart Six Perfections, familiar to anyone who's ever read my horses page. Your what Phil? That's right, my horses page. So that would be no one then. Never mind.

This race features more top quality horses than you can shake a stick at, but it's the girls all the way, with Six Perfections to win (at 9-4) and Soviet Song to finish second. Could I be any more helpful if I tried? Well ok, I could give you the third horse too. But I won't.

Oh ok, you twisted my arm, it'll be Hurricane Alan, a big outsider at 40-1.

Anyhoo, if you put a £10 accumulator on those three winners alone, you'd come home with... (reaches for calculator)... £3331.25. You can't say fairer than that. This blog is practically a get rich quick scheme. You can thank me later.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Sometimes I think I shouldn't check my website statistics. Especially late at night. I've just discovered that I've received a visitor who searched for the three little words "hairy gay teen". Would it be too much to ask for my Biography page not to be ranked 18th out of 347,142 sites on MSN Search for that phrase? People might start to get the wrong idea.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Is it unhealthy to speak to someone on the phone for six and a half hours on a Saturday night..?

I'll take that as a yes. I could've driven to Brighton and back in that time. But hey, if the BBC are going to remove quality entertainment like 'Strictly Come Dancing' from the Saturday night schedules and replace it with football, it was bound to happen. Though I must say it was good to find out that my fellow chatter and I have achieved such a similar level of Big Brother obsession that we'd both independently set our videos before picking up the phone. To quote a line from my first play, "it just goes to show, no matter how sad you are, there's someone out there for you".

Anyhoo, despite being more excited about Royal Ascot than the European Football Championships (I find the average horse more attractive than David Beckham) (not that I'm weird or anything), I'll happily gamble on anything, particularly a bit of 'betting in running' on a live sporting event. So with 15 minutes to go in the opening match, and Greece leading Portugal 2-0, I slapped down a couple of quid on there being a third goal. Obviously I wasn't worried when we were two minutes into injury time and the score was still 2-0 - I'm a semi-professional gambler, I have nerves of steel, and I never lose. No, really.

So Portugal's goal in the 93rd minute was entirely expected and no more than I deserved. Easiest twenty-five quid I've ever made.

Not that I had a chance to rest on my laurels. I made the mistake of mentioning to Lisa that spelling is the new rock and roll, which led her to demonstrate that she's Elvis and I'm Rick Astley. So what if I can't spell accommodation and separate? Has she never heard of spellcheckers?

Friday, June 11, 2004

I always knew it was a good idea to spend lengthy periods of time spying on my neighbours from my living room window while I'm sitting at the computer. True, it's led in the past to the deeply disturbing sight of a man in pyjamas putting out a wheelie bin at ten o'clock in the morning, but my healthy interest in the private lives of my fellow Tudor Closers has finally paid off.

I was carefully observing two of my neighbours this afternoon who were standing out the front, deep in conversation. Naturally I was cursing my lack of foresight in failing to install hidden microphones in the newly planted hedge, and wondering how much it would cost to take an evening class in lip-reading, but it appeared that one of them was in possession of a bunch of keys, which he was proudly showing to the other. We don't have much to say to eachother in Tudor Close, so this was enough on which to base a good five minute chat, whereupon the keys were pocketed, and both got into their cars and drove off.

Two hours later, by which time I was the only resident still... um... resident, on account of the fact that I have no life and nowhere to go in the daytime, I received a knock on the door. I opened it to a distressed woman (one of my fantasies, obviously), asking if by any chance I'd seen a set of keys.

I could practically feel the large 'S' appearing on my chest, and I was tempted to change into a pair of blue tights there and then (again, one of my fantasies), so with great pride I was able to tell her that I had indeed seen a set of keys... from my living room window, sitting in the hand of the bloke from number three. I was tempted to plant the thought in her mind that he may well be a type of Fagin character who had distracted her with his ride-on lawnmower, and pick-pocketed the keys when she wasn't looking, before driving off into town to see what he could get for them at Cash Converters. But in the end I just pointed her in the direction of his flat, and told her to put a note through the door. It's community spirit like that which entitles me to eavesdrop on so many private conversations. I'll probably be up for some kind of Community Action Trust reward for this.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

I like to do my best to stand out from the crowd and be different to the rest of society, so I've just been and voted in the European elections. I don't know if it's just that there are a lot of pensioners around here, or whether it's down to a faulty setting on the photocopier, but here at Shotley Village Hall we seem to be using the big print version of the ballot paper. I've seen smaller posters.

I successfully passed over the BNP, the white-suited Martin Bell, and some bloke who claims he's fighting for local people whilst living in Hertfordshire, hovered momentarily on the ProLife party, whose only policy appears to be the protection of unborn foetuses, meaning you're unlikely to get an opinion out of them on the single currency unless you threaten to pay for your abortion in Euros, and settled, somewhat predictably, on the Lib Dems, who I still insist on flogging like a dead horse, even after my sole youthful flirtation with politics when, at the age of 17, I was invited to a meeting of the Basildon Liberal Democrats, only for them to merrily cancel it without telling me, and not turn up.

I think that's the longest sentence I've ever written. I should be a politician.

Actually, I've just remembered that it was the Lib Dems on the local council who were responsible for reducing the speed limit on the road into Shotley from 60mph to 40mph. God I hate them. And I'd hate them even more if I ever actually kept to that speed limit. This is what happens when you make snap decisions in the polling booth. I wish I'd voted for Kilroy now.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Well I said I was leaving Brighton yesterday, and I'm never one to break my word. Dragging myself away from Lisa's flat at 11:50pm, I'm sure I'd reached the outskirts of the town by midnight, so that was one pledge effortlessly fulfilled. It was worth staying for the evening though, since it produced the unexpected (yet legally binding) statement from Lisa that "you can put anything about me on the internet except my full name and photo".

Which opens up a whole world of possibilities. I don't know about you, but I'm thinking used panties and Ebay.

Anyhoo, (he said, glossing over that last sentence), I arrived home just before 2am last night. Unless there are any traffic cops reading this, in which case it was nearer 3am, I swear. I'm now considering writing to the British Medical Council to ask if they'll register 'Polo Tongue' as an official ailment. Honestly, people should realise that if they give me three packets of Polos, I'm going to eat them. It's like giving a gun to a chimp and expecting him not to shoot someone.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

The thing about weekends in Brighton is that you can't reasonably expect them to end before Tuesday. Yes, that's right, I'm still here, but only because I felt that having had less than ten years experience of getting to work on her own, Lisa could probably do with someone to walk her there at the crack of dawn, then meet her at 4:30pm and walk her home, just in case she forgets the way. Or is kidnapped by international terrorists hell bent on obtaining her recipe for scrambled eggs. You can't be too careful, and if there's one thing I've learnt about Brighton, it's that the place is a mecca for dodgy characters of all descriptions.

Which explains why I feel so at home.

And why Lisa's lived here all her life.

All good things must come to an end though, and with the European elections on Thursday it's important I return to Shotley Gate and sift through my pile of leaflets to decide who to vote for. Incidentally, I received one last week from the BNP, which featured the winning slogan "My Dad's not a racist!". I can't help thinking that if you find yourself having to state that in your advertising, you've probably lost already. I'm more tempted by the UK Independence Party, and their slogan "We talk, U Kip". Well ok, that's not their slogan, but it should be.

Anyhoo, having experienced the joy of standing in a charity shop whilst a middle aged man asks if they have any corsets he could use in his drag act on Wednesday night, I feel I'm ready to leave Brighton, so I'm returning home tonight. No really, I mean it this time. And besides, I'd been here three days before anybody bothered to tell me that the time limit on parking in the street outside is two hours. So I don't want to push my luck. And I've succeeded in wangling three packets of Polos out of Lisa's mother, which is frankly all I came for. So hang out the bunting, I'm coming home.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Well it's Monday afternoon and I'm unxpectedly still in Brighton, though I could return at any moment, so if you haven't broken in and taken my stereo yet, it's probably too late.

Surprisingly, after eating Lisa's cooking on Saturday I still felt well enough to leave the house, so we made it as far as Brighton dog track in the evening. And more surprisingly still, after eating the hot dog they sold me there, I felt well enough to make it back again afterwards. Lisa and I backed at least two dogs between us per race, and with only six dogs in each race, I was naturally thrilled with my strike rate of one winning bet in the entire evening. The night was crowned in the final race when myself, Lisa, and our companion (whose name I don't yet have clearance to mention in this blog) (but it was Joe), selected a different dog each, and happily watched them romp home to 4th, 5th and 6th place.

Naturally all this gambling success took its toll, and I felt fully justified in staying in bed most of Sunday to recover.

This morning, having walked Lisa to work at some ungodly hour, I mooched around Brighton seafront, wandered illegally onto the pier before it was open, then explored the town centre, which taught me that Brighton charity shops charge twice as much as their Ipswich cousins. I don't think I've ever come away from four successive charity shops without a purchase. It's a new record. The starving Africans will just have to stay starving.

Having met Lisa for lunch (I just won't leave the girl alone), I made my way back to her flat with the bold intention of getting out my laptop and actually doing some writing. Obviously it hasn't happened, but hey, if I'm forced to get up early in the morning with someone who actually works for a living, it stands to reason that I'm going to need a nap in the afternoon. And at least my intentions were good, which is all that matters.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

It's funny how you find yourself put off caravanning for life after you've filed past a caravan and its car lying on their side across two lanes of the M25 on a Friday afternoon. The contents of their cutlery drawers must have been everywhere. It doesn't bear thinking about.

But still, I'm currently in Brighton, considering who to back in the Derby, while Lisa demonstrates the influence of Hell's Kitchen by insisting on preparing her signature dish ("more of a forged signature dish", as she openly admits) for me. I can't say my confidence has been particularly boosted by the reassuring words "Ignore what it looks like, it won't kill you". My mouth's watering already.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Would someone mind telling me what's going on? I can accept the fact that my website gets an average of nine hits per day for the phrase 'Jail Babes'. I'd prefer nine hits a day for the phrase 'Phil Gardner', but you can't have everything. Yesterday however, in one 24 hour period, my Jail Babes article received a grand total of SIXTY-FIVE search engine hits from all over America. I worry for that nation, I really do. You can spend four months writing a play, but what really gets the visitors flooding in? A stoopid article you wrote over two years ago, and a Poddington Peas quiz. You couldn't make it up.

Talking of plays, I've had a letter this morning from the Scottish Community Drama Association Playwriting Committee (catchy title), asking me if I'd like to "consider submitting one or more plays" (just how many plays do they think I've written?) for their 2005 playwriting competition. Closing date is January 31st next year, so at least it gives me time to save up the postage. I'll see how desperate I am after Christmas.

Anyhoo, I'm off to Brighton today. I won't say for how long, just to add an element of jeopardy for all you would-be burglars. But I've just spent £20 on a new stereo, so feel free to try your luck.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

My five year old niece dropped by this afternoon for an impromptu hide & seek tournament, which personally I felt I won, having proved I can remain undiscovered for a good three minutes in a two bedroom flat with virtually nowhere to hide. Although I may not have lasted so long had my niece not temporarily forgotten there was a second bedroom.

I know it's unethical to place pictures of small children on the internet, for fear of attracting attention from unsavoury characters in dirty macs, but I laugh in the face of conformity and I'm scared of no one, so I'm perfectly prepared to reveal that my niece looks like this:

Hello, I'm Phil's niece.
'Self Portrait' ©2004 M.Gardner

And besides, having arrived at my flat, it was pointed out to the hide & seek queen that she hasn't been here for quite some time. Which led to her having a brief look around before declaring "I know, but it hasn't changed much".

Honestly, do new curtains mean nothing to that girl??? If she's going to diss my flat like that, she deserves everything she gets. I'm already beginning to regret letting her play with my cuddly pigs.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

One of the great things about the internet is finding out there are other people just as sad as yourself. I've had a website hit via Google for the phrase "I never met a luna I didn't like", which is not bad going, since it's a phrase so obscure that it appears on only one other website in the known universe. And what's more, the visitor in question (and possibly the first human ever to search for that phrase) came from Denmark. I've always loved the Danes. They're great.

(I apologise for the lameness of that pun. Unless you didn't notice, in which case forget I said anything).

The phrase in question is a line from the fabulous 'Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie', a film which in the past year has also provided me with the following obscure search engine hits...

"place your hands above the rails - they're magnetised"

"let's slip away under cover of afternoon in the biggest car in the county"

... and about half a dozen searches for the word "interrossiter".

So I'm just waiting for my personal favourite...

"increase the Flash Gordon noise and put more science stuff around"

... and I'll have the complete set.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

My near neighbours in Great Harlings to the rear of my flat, who spent the Easter weekend building a shed in their parking space (presumeably their car's parked on the lawn), have now successfully proved that if you spend a little extra on a good quality pneumatic drill, you can produce enough noise to penetrate both double glazing and ear plugs. And what's more, they have a work ethic to be proud of - none of these lazy mid-morning starts, oh no, the destruction of their patio gets underway before Eamonn Holmes has even had a chance to get settled on the GMTV sofa.

We already have Starboard (Shotley Residents Against Port Expansion. Which I'm sure spells "Srape", not "Starboard") campaigning against a level of noise pollution which basically amounts to an occasional distant rumble, audible only on a still day, with the windows open, after a trip to the doctor to have your ears syringed. So I might ask them to add home improvements to their remit. After all, their campaign is all about environmental issues and quality of life, and has nothing to do with property prices at all. No, really.