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Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Brace yourself - it's time for my yearly humour-free blog post.

I've just come across this letter printed in The Independent a couple of weeks ago:

"After all this time, it is saddening to see the problems of bullying running on unchecked. Almost 40 years ago, as a boy of ten, I was subjected to persistent bullying at a new school. The problem became so intolerable that I was packed off to the child psychiatrist to find out what was wrong with me and why I was causing the bullies to target me. Of course, this had no effect on the bullies or the bullying. But there was one positive outcome for me: the psychiatrist's IQ tests revealed that I had the highest IQ he had ever measured. Here was something of my very own that could not be spoiled or taken away by the bullies, and it was a great impetus to me.

Twenty years later I had earned a PhD. But I still have the deep and intractable depression that the bullying caused. I cannot use my intellectual and academic skills to earn myself an income, but live at the state's expense on benefits, isolated at home with my books and strange interests, keeping myself quietly and irrelevantly away from a society I cannot cope with.

Dr Stephen Kent, London WC1"

I just found that very sad. And kinda familiar.

Although obviously it should be "a society with which I cannot cope", not "a society I cannot cope with". High IQ, my foot.

(I can't believe I just said that).
I've had a postcard this morning from my sister-in-law who has spent the past week holidaying in the flood plains of Cornwall with my brother and niece.

Where they gone?

She says...

"Yes, they really are lost! A big reward is offered - scrutinise the picture and start looking... we might be able to seek our fortune and rest on our laurels (or Hardy's). As for the holiday, oh yes... it's been raining. Every day. What fun! Am at present sitting on beach under overcast skies pretending we are enjoying ourselves..."

My five year old niece has added to the artistic merit of the postcard by drawing a picture of herself in her sun hat. They're so optimistic at that age aren't they.

Meanwhile, Lisa visited Venice yesterday (I'm completely ruining her holiday tales by revealing what she's been up to before she gets back - she'll thank me for it, I'm sure). She's promised me a postcard, but personally I'm holding out for a Cornetto and a set of blinds.

Myself, I'm holidaying in Shotley Gate, which is ok since the local free paper have kindly published a pull-out guide to what to do over the bank holiday weekend. Sadly they didn't bother to deliver it to me until 8pm last night, but hey, you can't have everything.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Following my success on 'Gatwick' yesterday, I spent half an hour this morning going through the race cards for the next five days on the Racing Post website, to see if a horse called 'Lake Garda' (which does exist) is running this week.

It's not. In my disappointment, I left the computer and chose instead to bop around the kitchen to the sound of my new Avril Lavigne album...

... missing the fact that in the 4:50 at Beverley this afternoon, there was a horse called 'Shotley Dancer'.

It won. Dammit.
Word has reached us from Italy that Lisa embarked on "a quick 10 minute walk" this morning, and successfully managed to find her way back to the hotel in just two hours. Which may be some kind of record for Lisa, who has a tendency to turn the wrong way coming out of shops she's been frequenting for ten years, and recently headed for a cupboard at a friend's house thinking it was the front door (she'd only been there a few dozen times before).

Fortunately she had the common sense to take a map with her today, which is why it only took her the two hours. She's lucky she didn't end up in Rome, as apparently all roads lead there. But sadly she failed to have enough foresight to take a dusty old donkey to carry the water bottles, and having lugged them around Lake Garda for a tad more than ten minutes, is now too knackered to leave the sofa. So it's a good start to the holiday.

But I'm sure she'll be perked up by the news that I've had a search engine hit for the words 'Lisa Gardner'. Talk about jumping the gun. I haven't even booked the church yet. But it is our three month anniversary today (feel free to say 'aah'). And she had the audacity to go away without me. I know, it's outrageous.

Is it my imagination, or is Lisa actually getting even more coverage in this blog now that she's out of the country? I must be missing her.

But I'm sure my aim will improve...

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Lisa's moved on from the role of muse to that of lucky charm. Following my forty quid greyhound success on her birthday, Lisa has chosen to leave the country today and make her way to Italy for a gastronomic tour of pasta restaurants. She's accompanied on this venture by a blonde who sat opposite me at Leonardo's on Wednesday and threatened me with violence if I hurt her cat (some people are just too sensitive).

(Honestly, it does annoy me when people have the nerve to knock on my door in the middle of a blog post. I've just been accosted by a young man who'd come all the way from Tollesbury in Essex to tell me that I've been specially selected from the census (I knew I shouldn't have filled that thing in) to keep a 'Rajar' book for a week, recording my radio listening habits in order to compile the official audience figures. I generously let him through the front door and we spent an enjoyable 15 minutes on my sofa discussing the fact that this is the only job he's been able to get since graduating, and no one else wanted to come to Shotley Gate. I got a free pen out of it, and a book with stickers to record my radio listening for seven days, starting on Monday morning at 4am. I told him I'm not getting up specially. He said he'll be back in nine days time to collect my book, and entered me into a prize draw open only to men aged 25-34 (so Lisa would miss out on both counts). It's quite exciting. Especially as I only ever listen to Hawksbee & Jacobs on TalkSport. Their audience figures are going to go through the roof.)

Anyhoo, Lisa phoned me from Gatwick airport at lunchtime to prove that she was getting into the swing of things already by stuffing herself with a ham and brie bagel. In between mouthfuls she assured me that she'd miss me, and would come home fat, after which I bid her farewell and turned my attention to the afternoon's horse racing.

It just so happened that one of the major races of the afternoon featured a horse called... (brace yourself)...


Well I don't need any more encouragement than that to slap my money down. I'd have backed the thing anyway, but with the airport tannoy still ringing in my ears, I knew I couldn't lose, so I was persuaded to wade in a bit beyond my usual 50p each way. And the result..?

Gatwick won.

So did I. To the tune of £90. Making an overall profit for the afternoon of £128. Marvellous. I've got a week to spend it before Lisa gets back.

Friday, August 27, 2004

I haven't been near the internet for over 48 hours, which I believe is a 2004 record, and has only been bettered this century by my week in the Isles of Scilly last summer, where they're startled by the sound of a text message and still refer to cars as 'iron horses' (probably). This time however, my web-seperation is more due to a lack of inclination to get out of bed and turn on the computer. Oh, and my extreme dedication to the joyful celebration of Lisa's birthday. ("Web-seperation, lack of inclination, extreme dedication to the joyful celebration"... is it just me or is this blog turning into a rap?)

Anyhoo, the riches came a-rollin' in on Wednesday afternoon when I put a £2 bet on a greyhound race, correctly predicted the first two home, and won £39.70. I celebrated by letting Lisa's mother buy me lunch, and a good time was had by all.

Lisa and I then popped over to Hove (the bath chair capital of Europe, I'm told. Or possibly I just made that up) for a birthday meal at 'Leonardo's' (who's famous for being one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). Sadly we chose to make our way there via an official Brighton & Hove taxi, driven by a lovely lady who clearly had never visited Brighton before. Fortunately she's now seen a lot more of the place, having driven us to entirely the wrong road on the wrong side of town, before asking us for directions, looking blank, then driving along at 40mph with a map in front of her face. She then graciously tried to avoid knocking anything off the bill for her mistake, by claiming poverty and stating that "it's my petrol money". Lisa, who's hard as nails, was clearly having none of it, and handed the woman a ten pound note for the £12.70 charge, saying "I don't care if your children do starve".*

*Not strictly true.

The meal was shared with three friends and a sister (the family kind, not a nun), I was relieved I didn't order a Hawaiian pizza, and we all discovered just what a good idea it is to secretly arrange for the management to play Happy Birthday at full volume over the restaurant loudspeakers. I think Lisa's developing quite a taste for the Bach Rescue Remedy.

We returned home to the joyful news that we hadn't won the lottery. Thanks a bunch, Mystic Smeg.

Thursday... where did Thursday go? I don't think there was one this week.

But I left Brighton this morning, choosing in my infinite wisdom to drive home on the Friday immediately preceding an August bank holiday. But hey, four hours on the motorway in the pouring rain never killed anyone.*

*Not strictly true.

I've returned home to the following:

1. An e-mail informing me of an almighty travesty. Yes, it's true - I've failed once again to win the Writers Weekly 24-Hour Short Story Contest. Reading the winning entry, I can see where I went wrong: I failed to put in enough references to wombats. I also fell into the trap of giving the judges what they asked for ("if you love us, make us laugh"), instead of following the example of the three major prize winners by ensuring my story was devoid of any humour whatsoever. Fortunately though, the judges saw fit to add insult to injury by leaving me off the 'honourable mentions' list, and instead awarding me a random 'grab bag' prize for managing to successfully write my name at the top of the piece of paper. Thanks guys. And thanks too for helping with my weightloss efforts by awarding third place to a story which makes me want to throw up.

Not that I'm bitter, obviously.

2. A postcard from the lovely Melee, addressed to "MR PHIL GARDNER & EVIL CHLOE", with 'proof' (and I use the word loosely) that Persian cats are alien beings sent to Earth to spy on us. For which da Melee deserves to have an embarrassing photo of herself aged 15 posted here.

3. Earth-shattering local news...

I love you Julie

Yes, the lovely Julie Reinger (or Jules, as dedicated fans such as myself like to call her), who does a lot of good work for charity but doesn't like to talk about it (apart from having posters printed), is putting in an appearance just outside Ipswich in two weeks time. Sadly I'll be in Brighton that weekend, but as luck would have it, I'm a close personal friend of the minister of Capel St Mary Methodist Church. I can't name him here for legal reasons, but there's enough of a bond between us for me to be confident of a signed photo (of Julie, not the minister of Capel Methodist Church) in 15 days time. With a bit of luck he may be able to pass on my website address too, so she'll probably turn up here in a couple of weeks time and start posting comments. Ryan O'Really will be thrilled.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

It's Lisa's birthday! Hurrah!


Obviously I can't reveal how old she is - there may be people of a nervous disposition reading this, and the shock could be too much for them. But she's wearing well for someone of her age.

I started the day by generously offering to make the birthday girl breakfast in bed. She requested one slice of cheese on toast, which increased to one and a half slices after I told her it's her birthday and she's legally obliged to pig out. Ten minutes later she changed her mind, ordered a bacon sandwich, decided she didn't trust me to make it, and got me a cup of tea while I read the paper. So that worked out well.

I also presented her with some silver earrings, a present she guessed a week ago, after I was forced to give her more clues than the Times crossword, and reveal most of the letters. Even then it was touch and go for a while (she was still stumped when I told her this gift is so small she might have to keep it in her earring box - a bit of reverse psychology which threw her off the scent for a good three or four days).

In addition I saw fit to buy Lisa an omelette pan, as she's developed a fixation with the notion of the perfect omelette (I know, I don't think it's normal either), and feels her life will be complete if she can just learn to make one successfully. Having read an old school report from her Home Economics teacher (I don't think they're allowed to make such negative comments these days), you have to question how likely she is to achieve her goals, but hey, she's (much) older now, and no doubt wiser, so I'm sure she can do it. By the end of the week I'll be sick of the sight of omelettes.

Anyhoo, we only have a couple of hours before we achieve riches beyond our wildest dreams. Yes, that's right, we're going dog racing this afternoon. But not only that, I've generously spent a pound of my hard earned money to buy Lisa a lottery ticket made up of numbers relating to her birthday, and Mystic Meg in today's Sun is confident of a lucky day for Virgos (and people wearing purple), so frankly we can't lose.

Blimey, we're leaving in 45 minutes. Something tells me I should get dressed.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

I'm far too easily led. My A-level English teacher once described me as 'acquiescent', which I thought meant I was good in the water, so naturally I just agreed with him. But now I know what he was getting at. He meant that I'm far too quick to listen to people who complain about the size of my font. I just never learn.

So after being stung - yes, that's right, STUNG - by the harsh, unwarranted, and (let's face it) jealousy-fuelled criticism of my small, yet beautifully formed, font by persons I shall refrain to name here (but you know who you are, and frankly you're all off my Christmas card list), I've reluctantly bowed to public pressure and, like Alice in Wonderland, taken a bite out of the 'eat me' cake, and rejected bonsai in favour of the mighty oak.

I think I lost the plot about three words into that sentence. Which just goes to show the kind of mental torment you people have put me through. The final straw was when I turned to Lisa for support last night, and she came back with a reassuring "Well it is a bit small".

Er, she was talking about my font size, did I make that clear? Good.

So here you are. I hope you're all happy now. My blog can now hold its own in sofa-reading tests, and will save you a fortune in Windolene, requiring significantly less cleaning of nose prints from your monitor screen. I'm always happy to help.

And the first person who says "I preferred it the way it was before", dies. Slowly and painfully.

Before I go, may I just say that Steve Ovett is fat. Yes, that Steve Ovett. No wonder he hasn't been on TV lately. The only place he's been running is down the pie shop.

Right, I'm off to meet Lisa at a Brighton drinking hole called 'The Pump House'. It's clearly a magnet for international megastars - Lisa once saw Christopher Biggins coming out of a shop nearby. I can only dream of being that lucky.

Monday, August 23, 2004

I don't mean to be a fussy eater, but I've just visited McDonalds at Brighton Marina for an all-new Toffee Crisp McFlurry (as part of a balanced diet), and the girl who served me (I didn't notice whether she was crewmember of the month, but I doubt it), chose to fetch my McFlurry, then stand for a few moments cooling herself down by stroking her forehead with my pot of ice cream. Having carefully wiped the sweat from her brow with my lunch, she smiled, handed it over, and charged me 99p for the privilege.

I'm not sure McDonalds health & safety guidelines recommend a garnish of sweat on their takeaway food, but being British, I decided not to complain. And besides, some men will pay a fortune for items bathed with the richly scented sweat of a pretty young girl. Apparently. So they might have charged me extra. Personally though, I like the liquid dripping down the side of my ice cream pot to be condensation, not perspiration, so I wasn't entirely happy with my fast food experience.

And the worst thing is, I think I prefer Crunchie McFlurries anyway.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

I've given a lot of money to sick animals in my time, mostly those running at Newmarket, but gambling isn't always a mug's game - sometimes it can put you on the road to riches. Especially now I've developed my very own surefire gambling system. It involves sitting with my feet up, waiting for Lisa to come along and bet me a pound that she's right and I'm wrong. So far this week I'm three quid up, with another pound pending as we speak.

In the past we've gambled on whether Tom O'Connor presented 'Name That Tune', the exact age that women reach their sexual peak, and whether you ever get 4-1 favourites in dog races. This week however, we've had bets on blogs, friends, and (at 3am on Friday night) Gloria Estefan. Naturally I've won them all, and despite me generously allowing Lisa to make a pound back by betting that Mrs Bruno would give her a Stefan Dennis CD for her birthday (it was a long shot, I admit), I'm still in the money to such an extent that Lisa confidently declared yesterday "I'm never betting again".

So naturally she's just walked in and challenged me to take an online IQ test at IQ (clearly wanting to disprove my claims that I'm not as stupid as I look), before, predictably, adding that she'd bet me a pound she could beat my score. Fifteen minutes later and I had a certified IQ of 142, which, this highly scientific (and not dodgy at all) website alleges, makes me "highly gifted" and three points short of a genius. Not that I was surprised. The fact that I can't spell 'separate', and I think 'eachother' is one word, means nothing.

Lisa then handed me my laptop and sent me into the other room with the words "Go and write your blog while I do the test". So here I am. Sadly though I'm not going to be able to reveal Lisa's eventual score here. Especially if it's higher than mine. These things are deeply personal. And if it's lower, my gentlemanly instincts will prevent me mentioning so.

Oh hang on, she's finished.

Oooh, I'm rich.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Doctor Brighton (as I believe older readers of this blog might refer to the place) has worked his magic. My ear has been noticeably better since arriving here (and immediately eating a medicinal McFlurry) yesterday afternoon. Though I'm sure I can milk the sympathy for a few more days.

In addition, my spirits have been raised this morning by another fine edition of 'Poetry Corner' in The Brighton Argus. I've featured the stirling work being done by Sussex's leading poets once before, and the standard clearly hasn't dropped. Today's paper features a work of some genius by J Montague Strong of Preston Road (who's obviously not ashamed to admit where he lives, the concept of hate mail not having occurred to him), simply entitled 'Limerick'...

A young lady who worked in lobotomy,
Said "I'm cold and there isn't a lot o' me,
But when I sit on your lap,
And you tenderly slap,
Where I'm slim, it makes a much hotter me."

Is there really enough ink in the world to justify that submission? And more to the point, what were the other efforts like if the Brighton Argus considered that worthy of publication? Happily, the letters page of the Argus allow you to submit your correspondence via e-mail, so I'm working on a few iambic pentameters of my own for next week's edition. They clearly have a low quality threshold, so I'm bound to get in.

In a spooky coincidence, it's almost a year to the day since I sat on a beach on the Isles of Scilly and composed a limerick dedicated to the home-made egg sandwiches I was eating at the time...

Oh sandwiches stuffed full of egg,
For you I'd be willing to beg,
And without your fine bread,
I'd rather be dead,
Oh... I've spilt you all over my leg.

Obviously I tackle the important topics in my writing.

Today Lisa and I are considering the obvious temptations of 'Hastings Goes Pop', a musical event featuring two high profile bands entitled 'Westlives' and 'Bustid'. They sound like the kind of bands you'd pick up for a couple of quid down the market if you can't afford the real thing. Funnily enough, I was born in Hastings. It's obviously gone downhill since I left.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Top of the referral logs this morning is "eyebrow waxers, Fort Worth", which is great because I actually HAVE been to an eyebrow waxers in Fort Worth. Well, near Fort Worth. Ok, to be honest I'm not entirely sure where Fort Worth is, but I'm sure it wasn't far from the hair removal centre I visited in February. Not that I was having any hair removed, you understand. You wouldn't so much need a wax strip, as a lawnmower.

And it seems I'm not the only one. I've also had a search for "pictures of Wayne Rooney hairy chest". Does Wayne Rooney even have a hairy chest?? I know he looks like a gorilla, but even so. And more to the point, does ANYONE visit my website who's not looking for information on body hair???

Thursday, August 19, 2004

I'm off down to Brighton tomorrow after a self-imposed rest-break (which is different from a trial separation) of eleven days - a week and a half in which I've been able to effectively make the most of my time by... um... well, sleeping mostly. I've also gone against Lisa's strict instructions not to do any writing this week, by secretly spending yesterday and today producing a work of fiction about the Foundation Street car park and the A1214 out of Ipswich. A piece of writing which may never see the light of day. Well let's hope so anyway.

I'm also bravely battling through the pain of an ear infection, prompting Lisa to start e-mailing me in block capitals so that I can hear her, and generously wishing me better by Friday with the sympathetic words "I DON'T WANT YOU MISSING ANY OF MY RELEVANT POINTS". In return I've assured her I'm not well enough to make my own cups of tea, and demanded the return of a Polo donated by the kind (but frankly ridiculously named) Mrs Bruno, which was meant for me, but found its way straight into Lisa's mouth at lunchtime today. So I think we're all set for the weekend.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Mr Magic e-mailed me this morning with something up his sleeve: proof that Chloe, my little Persian ball of fluff has had a rough time on her annual summer holiday in Cornwall.


According to the front page of The Daily Telegraph, this photo depicts "Chloe, a 17 year old Persian" being "rescued by a fireman yesterday after being found amid the devastation in Boscastle". Speaking as someone who's no stranger to sticking his cat in the shower with a bottle of kitten shampoo, I'd recognise that bedraggled face anywhere (and the look which says "Come near me with that hairdryer and you die"). I hadn't realised she'd popped down to Cornwall, but she never tells me what she's doing, and there's hardly likely to be two people in Britain insipid enough to call their Persian cat 'Chloe'.

I expect she was trying to escape the Suffolk weather, which, when it's not bombarding us with thunderbolts and lightning (very very frightening), is chucking meteorites at us.

Apparently a 76 year old great-grandmother named Pauline Aguss (who presumably shops at a well known catalogue store) has been "struck by a meteorite while hanging out washing" in Lowestoft. Which is why they invented tumble-dryers - so elderly people can stay indoors and avoid the large rocks falling from the sky.

Interestingly, Mrs Aguss "blamed a peg bag" (as you do), before realising a full day later that "a linen peg bag couldn't have caused a cut like that". It's this kind of quality deduction which is keeping Miss Marple off our TV screens.

Apparently the BBC consulted a Fagg from Norfolk, who took a break from his day job as a male secretary to confirm that Pauline is one in a billion. Though he didn't say what he thinks of her husband.

According to the Telegraph, "the last known victim of a meteorite was a dog in Egypt, killed when it was struck on the head". You have to laugh don't you. Although reports that the dog's name was 'Lucky', are unconfirmed.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Like me, I'm sure you're a regular reader of the National Association of Convenience Stores website (I'm never out of my local Spar) (well ok, I don't have a local Spar, but that's only because I've been shunned by society and am forced to live out my days on a lonely peninsula with people who think it's spelt 'peninsular', and a local shop which doesn't sell skimmed milk and is populated by elderly ladies who want to talk to me about dieting and mental health problems) (but I digress).

The fact is I'd be more likely to shop at Shotley Gate Village Stores if they sold fizzy fruit. Yes, that's right, FIZZY FRUIT. Apparently they can now make fruit fizzy (the clue was in the name) using a combination of scientific technology and ungodly hocus pocus (probably). I'd happily go for the oranges, but I'm not sure I like the sound of those carbonated cucumbers.

My mother, who is years ahead of her time, has made strides in this area herself, by managing to carbonate some fresh grape juice which she bought from the chiller cabinet in Asda and then decided to keep for a couple of days on the windowsill in her utility room, in the mistaken belief that it was long-life.

Obviously I still drank it though. It had quite a kick.

In other food-related news, today is the first day of the York Ebor meeting (that's horse racing, for those of you living in eternal darkness). Lisa has selected 'Bagan' in the 1:20 on the grounds that it sounds like 'Bagel', which is a fine horse racing system (especially when it's your mother's money you're staking). She's definitely barking up the right tree, but tragically she's gone for the wrong horse. She should have backed 'Bago' in the 3:00. Not only does it sound even MORE like 'Bagel', but it's going to win. No really.
I am a genius (proved by the fact that I'm still up at 1:53am tinkering with my blog template. There's a thin line between genius and insanity. I believe I crossed that line around 1:30am). Being a webmasterful HTML expert, I've successfully prodded my template and re-revealed my fetching mauve decoration, and the top of my arty graphic on the left which was so heartlessly obscured by the mighty NavBar (which has already succeeded in securing a special place for itself in my heart). I've also banished the varicose vein blue in favour of 'silver' (that's grey to you and me).

Those of you without major personality disorders, who have the common sense to be in bed between the hours of 1 and 2am, will never know just how crap this blog looked for a while there.
Aaaaarrrrrrgggghhhh!!!!! (That's a technical term). I am not a happy bunny. I knew it couldn't last - a year and a half of undeserved intrusion-free blogging has finally come to an end.

When I joined Blogger a billion years ago, they offered to remove the advert at the top of the page for a bargain-priced fee of just $12 a year. I duly handed over my eight quid, and the ads vanished. Blogger then evolved, changed their system, and somehow I seemed to get permanently stuck on some sainted list of ad-free blogs. I was never asked for more money (despite my $12 subscription expiring 18 months ago), never handed over another penny, yet still the ads resisted the temptation to return.

Until now. Blogger has taken another evolutionary step, and replaced the old adverts with the all-new, all-singing-and-dancing, 'NavBar', a technological breakthrough which they've kindly seen fit to slap at the top of my blog, obscuring my lovely mauve decorative heading, and generally buggering (I mean bloggering) up my customised template. I could cry. I paid over £7.50 in good faith - the least they could do is let me continue to blog ad-free for the rest of my life. Is that really too much to ask???

The irony is that I'm only here because I couldn't sleep. I'm meant to be relaxing over a strawberry yoghurt while I wait to catch the sleepy train. I feel more like I've eaten a British Rail sandwich and heard the train's been derailed at Clapham junction. Still I was only complaining to Lisa a few hours ago that I can't stay awake and I have nothing to blog about. Be careful what you wish for...

Sunday, August 15, 2004

I've been watching the women's beach volleyball at the Olympics. It's an epic struggle of female athlete against female athlete in the white heat of sporting competition.

Striving for sporting excellence

But it's not all girl-on-girl bikini beach action around here, I've also been considering my future, since I came across this advert in the current edition of 'The Week' magazine...

See me

Apparently I can buy my own school. Hurrah! So eyes this way please, stop talking at the back, I've checked out their website and there's a school available in my area (a snip at £2 million) with a high standard of GCSE results (I'll soon change that), which is described thus: "In short, this is an ideal springboard for a new owner, who could either run the business and appoint a Head or act as a Head/Proprietor."

I can be the headmaster!!! Yes!!! Hang on, are you chewing? I'm not going to tell you again. It's your own time you're wasting.

Anyhoo, I like the idea of dabbling in the futures of innocent children by appointing myself head of my own school. I may even add beach volleyball to the curriculum and encourage running in the corridors (preferably with scissors). I have my finger on the nub of youth (which is what they locked up Jonathan King for), so it should be a breeze. And naturally the Latin slogan above the gates will be "De omni re scibili et quibusdam aliis". No really, I mean it.

So hands up who'd let me educate their children? Hey, it's not me you're letting down, it's yourself.

Right, hands on heads. That bell is for me, not for you. I'm off to sew leather patches on my elbows.

Friday, August 13, 2004

1. I've received a search engine hit for the words 'cheesecake recipe henman mother' (number 3 on Google, yes!!! ). I didn't even know Tim Henman's mother made cheesecake, and if she does, I'm sure she wouldn't give me the recipe.

2. I've only just discovered that the film Before Sunset is out (though apparently not at my local cinema - we're still wearing 3D glasses and humming along to the Pearl & Dean music around here). It's the sequel to the 1994 film 'Before Sunrise', which is one of my favourite movies and is single-handedly responsible for getting me where I am today. As a literate 20-something dabbling in the world of internet dating, I used to describe myself as looking for "the Julie Delpy to my Ethan Hawke". Naturally it failed to work in any shape or form, meaning I was still single when Lisa came along. Hurrah! I owe that movie everything.

3. I received my official government booklet last week about what to do in an emergency, so I did what the advert says and put it in a safe place. I've now realised I can't remember where I put it, and can't seem to find it anywhere. So can someone please remind me what I'm meant to do if al-Qa'eda launch an attack on Shotley Gate? I seem to remember it had something to do with blankets and tinned peas.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

My five year old niece dropped by this afternoon on her way to the zoo. Her 6th birthday was mentioned (now just a matter of 8 months away - a concept not fully grasped by the five year old mind) and she asked me what my favourite animal is, a leading question if ever there was one, designed purely to allow her to jump in straightaway with the information that she loves ponies and would like one at the earliest opportunity. Or failing that a donkey. I missed the chance to tell her about the time her Auntie Big Sis (that name really doesn't work, but I'm only allowed to refer to Big Sis as Big Sis on this blog - she's worried about stalkers after her yoghurt covered pretzels) was kicked by a donkey, and that according to Lisa they're all old and dusty (and possibly hooded) anyway, and instead replied with a philanthropic "You'll be lucky".

The conversation moved on to my spare bed, which my niece was disappointed to hear that I never sleep in. I told her it's for other people to use when they come and stay. She said "Does Lisa sleep in it?". I said "She used to". Fortunately the conversation was dropped there.

My niece then decided we really ought to name the cuddly pig sent to me by my Big Sis, which declares "Oink From Texas" across its tummy (an appropriate slogan if you've ever seen the average Texan). I left it to her, and having confirmed "It's a boy pig isn't it?", she thought for a moment, then came up with the infinitely masculine name of 'Piggy Snog-Snog'. Which elicited another Lisa-related comment from my mother in the doorway. Honestly, if it's not sleeping arrangements it's snogging with my family. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

In an act of supreme self-sacrifice, I was up at 7am this morning to venture forth into Ipswich on the trail of a birthday present for someone not a million miles away (135 miles away to be precise). I'd already managed to pick up a small gift from the window of a dodgy Brighton backstreet store during a powercut on Monday afternoon (strange but true), but having casually mentioned that fact to Lisa, the chances of me being able to stop her laying her hands on it before the 25th are frankly slim (she'd get hold of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction within five minutes if someone told her they were a birthday present). So I felt I should hedge my bets and purchase a back-up gift.

Sadly I failed in my quest to buy a Labradoodle...

Cute or Evil?

... which as everyone knows is a cross between a Labrador and a Poodle. I was working to a budget, and the Pound Shop was right out of them. Which is probably just as well, as Lisa's roped me in to cat-sitting with her in October on the grounds that "I'll forget to feed it", and her sister's record on small furry animals doesn't stand much scrutiny either (The Gerbil Slayer of Brighton is all I'm saying). So anything more than a houseplant and a couple of Sea Monkeys is probably asking too much.

Undeterred however, I spent a joyous three hours trailing up and down Ipswich town centre, by the end of which I had successfully purchased a range of over-priced white elephants (not literally - Lisa would forget to feed them) which I'll be gift-wrapping and hand-delivering to Brighton within the next fortnight. Unless I'm a bit short next week, in which case I'll be straight down Cash Converters.

I then returned to the Foundation Street car park, where I had decided in my infinite wisdom to park for the first time (for reasons I refuse to divulge in this blog, in a shameless attempt to create an air of mystery), to find they were happily charging me £5.20 for the privelege of occupying one of their concrete spaces for the morning. It's an outrage. I could have bought half a cheesecake with that.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Yesterday was the day of my aunt's surprise 70th birthday party, an event which has been in the planning for months, making it all the more surprising that I've managed to avoid mentioning it to her. It took place in St Ives, so naturally certain people (Lisa) were under the impression we were heading for Cornwall, and were packing the surfboard, but instead we set off along the A14 to Cambridgeshire.

In a spooky coincidence, my friend Helen also lives in St Ives, and in a far spookier coincidence Lisa and I actually arrived early, meaning we had time to drop in on Helen first with a thank you card for the Ben Folds tickets she was kind enough to send me for my birthday (which for anyone wishing to plan their 2005 present-buying, is on July 29th - only 354 shopping days to go). Helen, being an intelligent kind of gal, had the common sense to celebrate my aunt's birthday by going away for the weekend, possibly due to the very real fear that she may have to meet Lisa. So we admired Helen's curtains, put the card through the letterbox, and made a quick getaway.

Arriving half an hour early for the party, we naturally had time to mingle and chat with long lost relatives as they arrived. We didn't, but we had time to. Personally I was just waiting for the buffet to open. When my parents arrived, we found ourselves introduced to more cousins than you can shake a stick at, most of them so many times removed you can barely detect them. For some reason they all seemed to be female too. I suspect the distant male cousin gene has been deliberately bred out of my family. Possibly for sinister reasons.

But we chatted to an elderly cousin wearing a CND badge, who claimed to have heard of Shotley Gate, and I got the run down on my aunt's life from a friend she's known for 55 years. Apparently she once fell off a motorbike, and her ex husband still cares for her. That was about the gist of it.

I also spoke at length to my first cousin once removed, who credited me with the success of her current relationship (I'm a bit of a teen counsellor on the quiet) and then told me she still has the remote control for the stereo she sold me in May. I was tempted to demand my money back, but in the spirit of family unity I said she could send it to me instead.

My aunt duly arrived wearing a badge which proclaimed "21 today", with the added comment "(in 1955)", and to my relief the buffet was thrown open, allowing us to tuck into the mystery vol-au-vents and onion bhajis while two of my cousins (unnaccustomed as they are to public speaking) made amusing speeches about Saga holidays and washing machine repairmen. I found it difficult to concentrate, as my mind was preoccupied with the realisation that there were no desserts, but I battled on and made do with birthday cake instead.

An hour after my Dad first started dropping hints about leaving, we said our goodbyes, received an offer of a holiday in Christchurch from an elderly cousin, and made straight for Brighton, where we shamelessly took photos of ourselves looking squeezy in our party gear, before I insisted on taking off my socks and slobbing around in my shorts.

St Ives, it turns out, is three miles nearer to Lisa's flat than Shotley Gate is, so I may move in with my aunt just to save on petrol costs.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Today is Gay Pride 2004 in Brighton, and despite a kind invitation from one of Lisa's more heterosexually challenged chums for the two of us to support our LGBT brothers and sisters (anyone who asks what LGBT stands for will be immediately barred from this blog for not being PC enough) by attending this year's event, we chose instead to avoid the 90,000 strong crowd and head back to Suffolk instead, where 'gay' still means happy. Personally I was disappointed, as Kitten from Big Brother was promising to put in an appearance, and I wanted to ask her if she's still against war and starvation. The possible presence of Betty Swollocks was an added attraction.

Fortunately Sussex Police have issued a mission statement for this year's Pride, which includes a promise about learning from last year's experience and ensuring that "debrief points" are addressed. I imagine there'll be a fair amount of debriefing during the day. Especially as the official press release claims that 10,000 Pride condom packs will be handed out "at the bushes". There's no suggestion of a proper noun there, so I presume they mean that literally.

Lisa and I stayed up til 2am last night watching the video of the Big Brother final (not that we're sad at all), so feel free to shout the name of the winner through the letterbox now. As a staunch supporter of the LGBT community, I'm a big Nadia fan, so I was particularly pleased to see her win. And a bisexual ginge come second. It was top stuff. I was pouting along at home for all I was worth.

Friday, August 06, 2004

I'm strangely drawn to the fair city of Brighton (is it a city? Probably not. Forget I said that then) like a bluebottle drawn to the stinking carcass of a dead animal. Not that I'm likening Brighton to a dead animal (unless we're talking gerbils under the fridge) - I just mean that its lure is overpowering. So after three days in Shotley Gate, I'm off back down there this afternoon to lay my eggs in the rotting flesh of the south coast. Ok, I'm not sure the metaphor stretches. Can I start this blog post again? Thanks.

Despite the fact that I haven't yet repaid the debt to sleep I incurred last week, I'm going back down to Brighton this afternoon. My aunt is having a surprise 70th birthday party on Sunday (well, she doesn't know she is, but trust me, she is), so what could be more surprising than me turning up with some dodgy woman she's never met? It's therefore important that Lisa attends, in order to raise the status of the event from 'surprise party' to 'shocking party'. And Lisa will be playing the recorder too. Which will be a surprise to her, but I'm sure she won't mind. She feels strongly about musical performances at family parties.

I'd better be off then. Oh, and we'll be on the M25 during the Big Brother final, so anyone who shouts the result through my letterbox before we have a chance to watch the video will incur the full unexpurgated wrath of Lisa. Believe me, it's not worth it.

Tony Christie Lyrics

Thursday, August 05, 2004

I don't want to bring everyone down, but I've just heard that Paula Danziger died on July 8th. Being barely out of my twenties in my very early thirties, I remember very well her appearances on 'Going Live' alongside Gordon the Gopher (who sadly remains with us). She was an American children's novelist, who used to turn up every week in big glasses and a headscarf, and discuss the latest kids' books. As an impressionable 16 year old who was five chapters into writing a teen novel about a boy called Jasper (don't go there), she was my absolute hero. She also happened to be the funniest woman alive, and if this blog wasn't public I might even admit to having had a small crush on her.

Speaking as someone who has to bribe himself with bagels before he can write more than three lines, I was particularly pleased when she announced one week that before starting work on a novel she buys herself an expensive gift, then tells a friend to look after it and not let her have it until the book is finished. Without those tactics, she said, she'd never write anything. I know the feeling.

So it turns out she died last month at the age of 59. Which is really quite sad.

But on a brighter note, with less than three weeks to go until Lisa's birthday I've stumbled across the perfect gift. She may not know it yet, but Lisa will be ripping open the wrapping on the 25th to find her very own DYKEdoll - the world's first ever lesbian action figure. Every home should have one.

Have fun with a lesbian

They come in a range of styles to suit all tastes. But a word of warning: don't click on the section marked 'Add Ons'. Trust me, you don't want to know. Although I must admit, you have to admire the craftsmanship.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Due to Brighton-lag, not to mention Birthday-lag, I've failed to do anything remotely interesting in the last 24 hours (so no change there then), meaning we have time for a quick round-up of the leading phrases which have lured the general public to my website over the course of my birthday weekend.

It's particularly good to see that I'm helping out English language students, with a hit from Ask Jeeves for the question "Is the word headphones a compound noun?". Personally I'm not sure. But I know that toothpaste is.

I'm also attracting enquiring minds of a different kind, with the question "What goes on inside a massage parlour?". Obviously I wouldn't know. But having successfully lured visitors to two of my plays, I completed the hat-trick with "Where can I buy an 'I hate pigeons' hat?". Which just goes to show the sheer range of subjects I tackle in my writing.

I've also been blessed with:

INFJ 'too sensitive' (that's me)

sausage fingers (that's not)

A7 Bm F#m (I'll name that tune in one)

'father knows beaver' (I'm proud to be one of only two sites to feature that phrase)

vivid porn autumn (what?)

'Scillonian Entertainers' (I owe them everything)


Basildon Nazi (for the record, I'm not one. But I could probably point you in the direction of a few people who are)

I'm off now to buy some Marks & Spencer Sausage Fingers. I'm sure Lisa can bung them in the oven for me.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

The thing about getting up at 4am is that when you've done it once, it quickly becomes habit. So Sunday evening drives down to Brighton are definitely a thing of the past now - it's Monday morning jaunts from here on in. As a result, Lisa and I made it to bed remarkably early on Sunday night. I'm sure we were asleep by 2am.

As my brother said to me on Saturday "I take it Lisa's job doesn't involve her having to stay awake". Which is an outrageous thing to say. How does he think Lisa manages to write so many pointless e-mails and blog posts if she's asleep at work?

Anyhoo, I spent an action-packed Monday in Brighton asleep on Lisa's bed, before meeting her from work and allowing her to cook my tea. Sleep-deprivation-induced mania then set in, and she insisted we put on some David Bowie and have a dance. We also discussed the lyrical merits of the Senators song Don't Mess Around With Me ("It's funny how certain you can be in doubt, And how much you can want to punch someone you love in the mouth" ) and decided we'll definitely have that one played at our wedding.

I then reversed the trend of late departures from Brighton, by leaving the place before 1am and attempting to make a dent in the Gardner Polo Mountain by sucking my way through another two packets on the way home.

This morning my Big Sis has e-mailed to ask my opinion on whether she should move to this downtown Dallas loft before Lisa and I go and stay in January...

Lofty ambitions

Personally the rooftop swimming pool doesn't appeal to me at all, and I prefer my little two bedroom flat with panoramic views of my neighbours' wheelie bins, but I've told her I could probably put up with it for a couple of weeks, so if she must, then ok. But if she thinks I'm cleaning all those windows, she's sadly mistaken.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Well it's dragged on for three days, but my birthday is finally over. Fired up with enthusiasm, Lisa and I made it out of bed by 11:45am yesterday morning and headed to the outskirts of Ipswich, where we wiped the floor with the rest of my family at ten pin bowling. Which was a remarkable feat considering neither of us had bowled for over ten years. Unless you count the secret practice session we had on Friday afternoon, where we honed our skills before turning up 24 hours later and claiming to be beginners.

Sadly though, confidence got the better of me, and believing that my family would be polite enough to let me win on my birthday, I challenged my parents to a second frame, whereupon my mother managed three strikes, and I promptly finished third. There should be a law against being beaten by pensioners who don't bowl. It's just not right.

From there we headed south by south-east to 'The Compasses' where we dined on the finest gourmet food Suffolk has to offer. Unless you're my 5 year old niece, in which case you ordered pizza and chips. The dessert menu offered 'Hot Cheery Pancakes', so my sister-in-law, who's quite a cheery person, went for the comedy angle and asked the waitress what flavour they were. "Cherry" was the one word response. At which point we realised we were dealing with a sense of humour bypass, and dropped the plan to send them back for being too morose.

Today, which was officially my birthday boxing day, was also the date of the 2004 Shotley summer fete. I received a text message from my sister-in-law at lunchtime asking for directions, as 'Gnome Magic' had proved to be a disappointment that morning, and they thought they'd try the Shotley entertainment scene instead. Which is what it's like around here - the only visitors we get are the cast-offs from a garden gnome centre.