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Thursday, September 30, 2004

Boo-hoo I received notification this morning that both 'Be Worth It' and 'Internet Cafe' have failed in their attempts to get into this year's International Playwriting Festival at the Warehouse Theatre. Normally I put these things down to clerical errors, but this time the explanation is more obvious. Entries had to be submitted under a pseudonym to ensure impartiality in the judging process (and to stop them chucking it in the bin the moment they saw my name), so I entered 'Be Worth It' in Lisa's name. Which is where I went wrong. Putting aside the possibility that Lisa's reputation stretches as far as London, it seems clear that there's a deep-seated prejudice at work here. Sexism is rife in the playwriting world, and women such as myself face a constant struggle to make it in this male-oriented environment. They were no doubt threatened by the emergence of a strong female voice with something to say, and chose to suppress it with a standard rejection letter. There's no other explanation. If I was a man I'd be on the front page of the Evening Standard by now.

Boo-hoo I still haven't had a reply to the e-mail I sent to the SCDA, politely asking why they haven't bothered letting me know about the success (or, let's face it, failure) of 'Ledgers' in their one-act play competition, despite an assurance that I'd be notified one way or the other by August. So much for the nicey-nicey approach. I wish I'd called them Scottish twats now.

Boo-hoo I didn't win the lottery last night. Which is Lisa's fault for not being born on the 14th of April. At least that would've given me four numbers.

Boo-hoo I've got a cold.

Boo-hoo And a headache.

Boo-hoo And the fact that the BBC have commissioned a third series of the dire sit-com 'All About Me' is still a source of some grief in the Gardner household. Chloe is particularly annoyed.

Boo-hoo And finally...

Boo-hoo I've run out of bagels.

I knew it was a mistake to ignore that chain letter.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Today Lisa and I have reached the relationship milestone of a third of a year. Which I believe is Tupperware in the official anniversary listings, but I could be wrong. It's obviously important to celebrate these occasions together, to foster a spirit of intimacy and closeness. But Lisa was eating all the salad cream, so I came home yesterday instead.

To be honest I was getting bored with having to make detours past rotting farm animals in the town centre. I'm no stranger to seeing a couple of prime calves in the morning (see fact 73), but if you're going to dump a couple of cows in the middle of Brighton, you could at least turn it into a barbecue.

Lisa and I did walk scarily close to the bovine death scene at lunchtime (which whetted my appetite for a burger), and saw a policeman with a machine gun being filmed by a TV crew, a sight which had me jumping up and down with excitement, as Lisa strolled on nonchalantly. She's seen it all before in Brighton.

I chose not to join in the pro-hunt march, which was a missed televisual opportunity I admit, but I did enjoy seeing the local TV news reporter doing a piece to camera with a cuddly fox glove puppet on his hand. It's good to see them treating the story with suitable gravitas.

Anyhoo, I was eventually forced to return to Shotley Gate on account of the fact that Lisa can't get Channel 5 (which is her own fault for living in such a remote location, a good half mile from a major city centre). As a shameless fan of reality TV, I've recorded the first three episodes of 'The Farm', so I had to get back to watch them all before tonight's show.

I'm pushed for time though, and not just because I'm busy playing poker. I'm dangerously close to completing a literary extravaganza I started ten months ago, and which I expected to have finished by the end of January. I've settled on a self-imposed deadline of next Friday. I feel that if you start writing something at the end of November, it's always good to finish it before the end of the following October, otherwise you face accusations of slacking and procrastination. And you end up forgetting what you named your main character on the first page.

So that's the plan. Not that I need to finish it - I'm expecting to win the lottery tonight. What with it being our anniversary and all that, I've bought a lottery ticket comprised of mine and Lisa's birthdays, so obviously I can't lose. Mystic Smeg isn't predicting financial success for me today, but then her horse Astrocharm ran at Ascot on Friday and failed to win, so she clearly knows nothing. Incidentally, the Racing Post database lists Astrocharm's owner as 'Mystic Meg Limited'. Don't tell me she's now a registered company? I didn't see that one coming. But then I don't expect she did either. Maybe the word 'limited' is just a description of her powers.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

It's lovely to see how far the Labour party have come from their working class roots. Walking around Brighton town centre yesterday afternoon there was a definite trend on display. As I looked through the windows of restaurants (with my nose pressed up against the glass like a malnourished street urchin) (to the untrained eye I'm verging on the anorexic) (no, really) it was noticeable that the posher the establishment, the more Labour party delegates were inside doing lunch and chatting on their mobiles about 'hooking up' (which I think is something to do with drugs). The swankiest restaurant in North Street was packed with red ties and security passes, while Burger King and the fish & chip shop nearby were strangely quiet. But hey, when you're on expenses, why settle for a meat pie when there's sushi round the corner.

Anyhoo, I successfully mingled with the delegates on the seafront, which was actually quite exciting, since we all had the same aim - to get on TV. I hung around the outside broadcast vans hoping to bump into a few political correspondents, attempted to get involved with one of the protest groups lined up on the promenade (some of them had John Prescott's face on a banner - I felt like protesting about that), and made my way through the concrete bomb barriers to touch base with a few policemen. But all to no avail. The TV crews hanging about nearby simpy refused to turn on their cameras and film me. They just don't know a star when they see one. Admittedly all I was doing was wandering up and down, but even so, I have the x-factor (ask Simon Cowell) and I deserve a bit of public exposure.

Fortunately all was not lost. After much suspicious loitering I eventually spotted a Sky News crew setting up, and a pretty female reporter (who's probably famous, but I don't have Sky, so she could've been the New Deal girl for all I know) preparing to do a piece to camera. Sadly she was standing with her back to the road, so short of doing a mercy dash into oncoming traffic, it was going to prove difficult to get into shot.

I needn't have worried. The good thing about political conferences is that there's always a nutter around when you want one (often on the stage inside the hall). Just in the nick of time, a group of young people wearing Gordon Brown t-shirts turned up with guitars and started singing 'Give Brown a Chance', to the tune of 'Give Peace a Chance'. It was quite moving. Naturally Sky immediately turned their camera around, and I spent a good five minutes shamelessly walking back and forth behind this musical ensemble, pretending to be out for an afternoon stroll along the seafront. This EXACT bit of seafront. About half a dozen times.

Sadly I then had to go and meet Lisa from work (she's consistently standing between me and the fame I so richly deserve), but I expect I was a star on international satellite television last night. In living rooms up and down the country, people were probably saying "Those singers are all very well, but who's the berk in the background?". Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that berk was me.

Monday, September 27, 2004

I won over a thousand pounds in a game of poker yesterday evening. Which was no mean feat seeing as I'd never played the game before yesterday afternoon. The only downside is that it wasn't real money, but hey, you can't have everything. It does mean however that my plan to become a professional poker player by Christmas (which is a plan I've had since about... ooh, Thursday afternoon) is well on track. I've discovered the plethora of opportunities open to the poker professional on the internet, and I like the idea of making a living by sitting at home playing cards on my computer, so I'm sure I'll soon pick it up. How hard can it be?

Of course, as Lisa and I sat huddled around my monitor last night discussing tactics ("do you get anything for a queen and a four?"), and I developed my advanced strategy of betting my entire bank balance on the most rubbish of hands, it came as something of a shock when the computer suddenly declared us the winner and handed over a grand and a half of cash. I knew I shouldn't have clicked on that 'play for fun' table. I could be rich by now.

Still, the knowledge that I'm only a few games of cards away from financial security spurred me on to get up at 4am and drive Lisa down to Brighton in the dark. The advantage of which is that I can deliver Lisa to work on time and be back at her flat before Trisha starts. And what's more, I've even scratched off the correct date on my parking permit. I might pop down to the seafront later and see if I can get into shot behind any politicians being interviewed outside the Labour conference. Unless it's John Prescott, in which case I'm keeping my distance. I don't trust him not to hit me. But look out for me on the 6 o'clock news - I'll be the one yawning in a Bart Simpson hat.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

I'm back in Shotley Gate, hurrah! And there's a woman in the next room eating a bagel. But hey, if she can comment on my blog at 6:20am when I'm asleep three feet away, I can write a blog post about her while she's sitting nearby with her hands on my comestibles.

I spent a relaxing 24 hours in Brighton, doing my best not to become an integral part of 'Operation Otter', which sounds like a relative of Secret Squirrel, but is in fact the security operation surrounding next week's Labour party conference. The police are cordoning off roads at one end of town, while the council are doing their bit by carrying out major roadworks at the other. In the middle they're stopping anyone with a kiss-me-quick hat and searching for explosives. Those otters don't stand a chance.

I also proved that I'm on the ball by getting out to my car before 9am to place a visitors parking permit on the dashboard for the day. They're like lottery scratchcards - they cost a pound each, you scratch off a few little boxes, and you get nothing in return for your money. So having checked the day and date a dozen times to ensure accuracy, I carefully scratched off 'Friday'... then '24th'... then 'August'... then '2004', and looked back with satisfaction on a job well done. Before realising it was September. It was the sunny weather which confused me. But hey, what's a pound to someone of my means. One less McFlurry, that's what. Dammit.

Anyhoo, the highlight of the day was spending two hours playing Playstation II with Lisa's 5 year old nephew. I randomly pressed buttons, pretended I knew what I was doing, and when I was instructed to take out the enemy soldiers ahead to clear a path to freedom, I chose not to mention that I wasn't entirely sure how to fire my gun. But I think I got away with it, and I found a hidden talent for hoverboarding which I never knew I had. Though I still didn't quite understand the game where you have to free the fat hamsters by swinging a rabbit around on a chain until it gets stuck in a light socket. Do the RSPCA know about this?

But I successfully dragged myself away from the video games and escorted Lisa back to Suffolk, where she chose to declare a love for the 1970s kids show 'Pipkins', and displayed an incredible talent for saying the word "Pig" in a Birmingham accent. I'll be making that available for download just as soon as I can hide a microphone in an onion bagel.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

I was watching the night-time repeat of 'Trisha' last night (I have to find some way to fill my time now that 'Cosmetic Surgery Live' has finished), and it featured a young couple who were merrily volunteering for one of Trisha's marriage-saving lie detector tests - such an integral part of a modern relationship, I feel.

In the pre-polygraph chat, our genial hostess asked the pair about their young son, posing the question:

"Was this baby planned?"

To which the girl replied:

"Sort of fifty-fifty. We were using protection, but not to its full...", at which point her words trailed off, and I was left with the quizzical expression of "what..?" on my face.

Fortunately Trisha spoke for the nation by nodding her head sympathetically and saying...


So obviously I'm the only one who doesn't understand this. Could someone please explain it to me? Does she mean she was on the pill, but only bothered taking it on alternate weekends when there was an 'R' in the month? I need to know.

But in the meantime I'm off down to Brighton. I'll be back tomorrow, but if someone could pop in and feed my cat, that would be lovely. Ta.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004


In an effort to annoy my grumpy chum Melee (I'd link her name to an embarrassing pic, but frankly I've done it so often I've run out of them), I submitted a delightful photo of my cuddly cat Chloe to...

This one's for you, Melee.

... a website which does exactly what it says on the tin.

For some entirely unknown reason, young Melee is less than loving towards sweet little Chloe, and used to e-mail my now sadly deceased lardy cat, Oscar, calling him a "sexy wee beastie" and asking him to "swipe Chloe on her fluffy squashed nose for me". Which was a ridiculous thing to do - Oscar was always far too busy playing Minesweeper to bother reading his e-mails.

So to exact a bit of revenge on Melee for her unfounded accusations of evilness, and the fact that she spent the evening cuddling Oscar on my sofa when she came up at Christmas, and making vomit-related noises whenever Chloe walked past, I decided to launch Chloe's reciprocal hatred onto the worldwide web.

And triumphantly she's been accepted. Hurrah!

Although... invite contributors to write their own photo caption, but complain that 95% of people don't bother, forcing the webmasters to do it themselves. No problem, I thought, and kindly submitted my own caption regarding freak tobogganing accidents, and Chloe's fervent hope that certain people might be involved in them.

So you can imagine my delight at finding that they've replaced my effort with an unfunny line about Britney Spears. What? Now that really is enough to make Chloe hate you.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

I love a tenuous local link. The local free paper 'The Hadleigh Advertiser' (which is free due to the fact that nobody would pay good money for it) is carrying a picture of John Kerry, the American presidential candidate, on its front page this week, along with an article entitled 'Local links for would-be President', which claims the man has "strong ties with Suffolk".

Marvellous, I thought. Did the man grow up here? Did he work for ten years in Ipswich? Does he plan to retire to Shotley Gate?

In a word, no. It turns out that (fanfare please) John Kerry's cousin is a geography teacher at East Bergholt High School.

Strong ties with Suffolk???

Still, when it comes to tenuous links, you can't beat Lisa, who informed me of a brutal murder in Brighton last week, only to claim a strong personal involvement in the case. So brace yourself, I'm only going to say this once:

Lisa's hairdresser's daughter is in the class of a girl who lives next door to the son of the murdered pensioner.

So naturally Lisa's feeling the loss quite personally. But I'm helping her through it.

Going back to American politics, am I the only one who's getting increasingly annoyed at the way politicians will happily tell the most bare-faced and pointless lies, without the slightest hint of an apology when they're exposed?

First there was Bill Clinton a few weeks ago, who claims in his new autobiography that his lovely wife Hillary was named after Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to scale Mount Everest. An incredible feat, when you realise that baby Hillary was born seven years before her namesake conquered the world's highest mountain, and at the time Sir Edmund was working as a bee-keeper in New Zealand, and had climbed nothing bigger than a molehill.

But now Arnold Schwarzenegger's at it too. He made an impassioned speech at the Republican National Convention a couple of weeks back about his experiences of growing up in Austria under socialism, and of seeing Soviet tanks as a boy.

It's since been pointed out that the last Soviet tanks left Austria two years before Arnie was born, and all the chancellors who governed in his youth were conservatives.

So Arnie's statement that "I saw tanks in the streets. I saw communism with my own eyes" may have been just a teensy bit inaccurate. But still, that's American politics for you. And they do all have such nice teeth.

By the way, how many American presidents does it take to change a lightbulb? Two - one to change the bulb, and one to declare it a shining beacon of hope and freedom.

It's ok, I'm going now.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Sitting up at 1am last night writing a thousand words on Eastern Electricity's contribution to the night-life of Shotley Gate, my evening was brightened up by an e-mail from a young friend. She only e-mails me half a dozen times a year (but I can't complain - I never e-mail her), and she uses these very special moments exclusively to forward on those lovely chain letter e-mails which promise good fortune beyond your wildest dreams if you send it to 47 people in 20 seconds, and a life of misery and plague if you don't.

So I have the indisputable honour of lying dormant in this friend's address book all year round, ready to spring into life the moment she needs an extra recipient to ensure that her life continues in the same rich vein of good fortune that she's enjoyed since the day she got a Hotmail account.

Personally I've never forwarded on one of these e-mails, which is why my life has been such a vale of tears for the past decade. But this latest offering is particularly good. Named 'Lotus Totus' (which is like a Vauxhall Zafira, only sportier), it offers 21 pointers for a better life, such as "Say 'bless you' when you hear someone sneeze" and "Spend some time alone" (yeah, I've tried that one, thanks), along with the following friendly advice:

"Do not keep this message. The Lotus Totus must leave your hands in 6 MINUTES. Otherwise you will get a very unpleasant surprise. This is true, even if you are not superstitious, agnostic, or otherwise faith impaired."

So it's clearly curtains for me. 'Not superstitious'... 'agnostic'... 'faith impaired'... yup, they've got me down to a tee. Oh my god. I mean oh my goodness. And it's obviously true, because... well, it says "This is true". What more proof do you need?

To compound the issue, I'm quite a slow reader, so by the time I'd read the 21 pieces of sound advice and the dire warnings of eternal damnation, my six minutes were up. So it looks like I can expect a safe to drop on my head at any moment.

Worse still is that a quick look at the address line of the e-mail showed that my young friend had sent it to 14 people (13 of whom were thrilled to get it, I'm sure). Unfortunately, the Lotus Pocus (whatever) states in no uncertain terms that if you forward it to FIFTEEN lucky individuals "Your life will improve drastically and everything you ever dreamed of will begin to take shape".

D'oh! What a missed opportunity. I bet she's kicking herself now. You see, this is why I keep in touch with people I can't stand - you never know when you might need that extra e-mail address to fulfill your dreams.

Not that I need to worry. This morning I've been informed by a nameless individual who reads The Sun, that Mystic Meg is confidently declaring that my name "will appear on a winners list today". So that's just me and the other 5 million Leos in the country. It must be a hell of a long list.

But I'm standing by for word from the SCDA Play on Words judges nonetheless.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Sometimes I don't realise just what a fantastic racing tipster I am. Exactly one year ago today, in an act of supreme confidence, I instructed my blog readers to back a horse named Spuradich in the 3:15 at Newbury. It couldn't lose. And sure enough, in his moment of glory, he came home... um... 18th out of 19. But hey, he wiped the floor with that 19th placed horse, and let's face it, the race was probably fixed anyway.

But the thing about tipping racehorses is that it's a lot like clairvoyance. Sometimes you receive from on high these premonitions about future events, but the images in your crystal ball are a little hazy. You think Mystic Meg will surely get the sack within weeks, but in fact it takes many months before she's removed from our TV screens. It's not an exact science. And not one in which amateurs should dabble either, otherwise you'll end up mis-reading your mother's handwriting, and confidently trying to back a horse called 'Goat of Honour' in your local betting shop. Not that I'm one to draw attention to others' mistakes.

Anyhoo, as I watched Spuradich amble home at the back of the field last September, I knew there was more to this than just a dodgy bit of tipping, so I held back on my call to the dog food factory, and looked for a deeper explanation.

And this afternoon, all became clear. Spuradich was competing once again in the very same ten furlong heritage handicap at Newbury that he ran (well, walked) in so spectacularly last year. And yes, ladies and gentlemen, you've guessed it...

He won. At odds of 14-1.

So you see, I was right all along. I got the horse right, the race right, in fact everything right. All except the year. Which is a minor detail, and easily overlooked. I think I may well be a genius.

Oh, and the wining lottery numbers are 7, 8, 25, 29, 31 and 35. But I'm not saying which week.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Q. What do you get if you mix tomato ketchup, paprika, water and Marmite?

A. I don't know, but I've got a jug of it in my kitchen if anyone wants some.

Thursday, September 16, 2004


Better late than never

A mere eight days after everyone else got their postcards, and in more time than it took a scruffy bear to make his way from Italy to Shotley Gate via Brighton (in a cheap plastic bag), Royal Mail has seen fit to deliver my little piece of holiday love from the lady in the lake, who informs us that "weather good although at the moment chucking it down".

Of course, it's a complete mystery as to why my postcard took so long to get here.

Well... maybe not a complete mystery...

Towards the bottom of the postcard, the words "Non scrivere al di sotto di questa riga" are printed. But hey, not everyone speaks Italian - they get a lot of foreign tourists. No problem, it's in French too: "Ne pas ecrire au dessous de cette ligne". Of course, some people gave up French to do Home Economics, so let's have the German version: "Bitte nicht unterhalb dieser linie schrieben". How come the Germans are the only ones to say 'please'? They're so polite. Not like those Spaniards: "No escribir debajo de esta raya".

But for anyone more inclined to speak loudly and wave their arms about, rather than learn a foreign language, there's also the English version: "Do not write below this line".

So naturally there's a blank space of virgin postcard below, right? Er, wrong. Instead it's filled with an important message from Lisa:

"P.S. Not sure stamp will be enough - woman a bit vague."

It's a miracle I got the thing at all.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Twenty thousand words into my current pap-filled vanity project, and I forced my mother into Ipswich today to act as an accessory to a bit of research which bordered on the illegal at times. Well, it didn't so much border on it, as blatantly run across the checkpoint into Crimeville waving it's arms and shouting. Unless the authorities are reading this, in which case it was all above board and perfectly justified in the name of art. But either way, these things are far easier when you have a respectable middle-aged lady with you to act as a decoy and lookout, so thanks Mum. Though you're hereby banned from talking about today's activities in public, and if you call the cops I'm putting you in a home.

Suffice it to say we visited a number of historic Ipswich locations, took 38 photos, bought some dodgy goods, then visited B&Q where we recreated the scene from 'Shallow Grave' where Ewan McGregor wanders around a DIY store with a shopping trolley, buying various items with which to dispose of a dead body.

Not that my mother's killed anyone. Yet.

But it was a day of fun and laughter. Particularly when my mother, who was acting as chief security camera scout at the time, allowed a guard in a fluorescent jacket to get within ten yards of me when my back was turned in an act of extreme law-breaking. But like a modern day Bonnie & Clyde we managed to avoid arrest, and made it home in one piece without having to exchange gunfire with any local police. Which is always a bonus.

And what's more, we had such a good time that we're going to do it all again tomorrow...

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Ok, I've come down from the natural high of holding in my hands a piece of paper touched by the pointy weather fingers of Julie Reinger, Look East's answer to Michael Fish, so it's time for a quick run down of the last 24 hours. And may I just say that having officially turned over a new leaf and vowed to love and respect dear Jules for evermore, the last 24 hours is now the only thing I'd like to quickly run down.

Right, well yesterday lunchtime I met Lisa from work and had the pleasure of being taken to one of her "favourite pubs". Having ordered a Bacardi and Coke, and been told "we don't do Bacardi", I upped the ante with my second drink and went for something exotic: an orange juice and lemonade. The barman politely told me they were out of orange juice (it can happen), but as luck would have it, he was happy to take my money and pop out to the local corner shop, returning five minutes later with a couple of cartons of cheap orangey liquid, for which he charged me ten times what he'd just paid for it two minutes earlier.

I celebrated by spending half an hour leaning against the rustic wooden table, only to find it had left me with a wide brown alcohol-smelling stain across the front of my top for the rest of the day. Lisa still maintained it was one of the best pubs in Brighton.

In the evening we made our way to the Theatre Royal for the opening night of 'Blithe Spirit', a play which Noel Coward apparently wrote in five days in 1941. But I'm sure the days were much longer back then. The programme also quoted Coward, who said that having written the thing from start to finish in less than a week, he then only changed two lines. And people say I don't do enough rewrites.

Anyhoo, the play starred Penelope Keith, ably supported by the usual bit part players from The Bill and Eastenders, plus a woman who claims she was in 'Men Behaving Badly', but isn't Caroline Quentin or Leslie Ash. It was very good though, the only drawback being the Theatre Royal's insistence on cooking the audience at gas mark eight for the duration of the play. Lisa expressed a very real fear of fainting and toppling into the royal circle below, I expressed an equally real fear of being charged £1.50 for a thimble-full of Diet Coke, but somehow we fanned ourselves through the evening and avoided being treated for heatstroke.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end though, and I left Brighton behind this morning, and returned to Shotley Gate. I'd taken receipt of a cuddly bear named Scruffy, who'd travelled all the way from Venice in a cheap plastic bag (which Lisa tried to palm off as an extra gift), so frankly I'd got what I went for. And very sweet he is too.

Eat your heart out, Ryan O'Really, (I wanted to say "suck my weathercock", but my parents might be reading this), there's only one true regional weather fan in this 'hood (neighbourhood, not rainhood), and you're looking at him. Well, you're reading his blog. I never was much good at triumphalism. Anyhoo...

Number One Fan

Yes, it's true, I have Julie Reinger's autograph. My life is complete.

Following the principal of six degrees of separation, I realised that Jules and I are practically related, so I sent out feelers into the murky underworld of the Suffolk establishment, via my mother, who is rumoured to be in love with the minister of Capel St Mary Methodist Church (but you shouldn't listen to gossip), and on to Maddie, wife of Paul, the organiser of the Merchants of India fashion show at the church in Capel on Saturday, attended, in all her meteorological glory, by Ms Reinger herself.

I duly returned from Brighton this afternoon to find that mission impossible had been accomplished. Note the personal dedication. Note the informal sign-off 'Jules', indicating a close personal friendship. And note the smiley sun, suggesting an unhealthy obsession with the weather, and possible psychotic tendencies.

Did I mention that I was only allowed to have this autograph on the condition that I'm nice to Julie on my blog from now on?

Anyhoo, I was pleased to have obtained this sainted signature without having to actually meet the woman, but my delight was tinged with sadness that my explicit instructions to have Julie sign the dedication "To my number one fan, Phil, lots of love, Julie", seem to have got lost somewhere along the line. I'm also unsure whether Maddie successfully passed on my website address, but hey, you can't have everything. The important thing is that Jules and I are like that.*

* Hold up your right hand and cross your first two fingers as you read that.

I wonder how much I can get for it on Ebay..?

Monday, September 13, 2004

I'm writing this on Monday afternoon at Brighton Marina, a good half mile along the seafront from the TUC (isn't that a cheesy biscuit?) conference where Tony Blair is currently addressing the delegates. And then presumably posting them, I don't know. I decided it might be best not to venture too close to the pier with a laptop in case they think I'm remote-detonating some semtex. The Argus helped to spread a bit of calm on Saturday by carrying an interview with the IRA bloke who bombed the Grand Hotel in the 1980s, under the front page headline "BRIGHTON BOMBER WOULD DO IT AGAIN". That made us all feel better.

Lisa and I made it to the cinema yesterday to see 'Open Water', the low budget fish film which has taken America by storm. Having read rave reviews of it for the past month, I couldn't wait to see it, so naturally it was a huge let down and I felt like demanding my money back. I haven't been so disappointed since I sat through the closing credits of 'The Blair Witch Project' thinking "is that it?". The Brighton Argus (it's impressive the way I can use the words 'Blair' and 'Argus' in two entirely unrelated paragraphs, isn't it) gave the film a five star review on Friday, urging its readers to go and see it before anyone reveals the fabulous shock ending which will knock your socks off.

The shock ending, of course, is that it turns out to be a load of tame rubbish, and the closing credits come up before anything has actually happened. That certainly took ME by surprise. I didn't see it coming at all.

But hey, maybe I just have high standards. I'm more of a 'Carry on Camping' kind of guy.

In fairness, Lisa actually thought 'Open Water' wasn't bad, but before you take on board that recommendation, you need to bear in mind that she fell asleep for most of the second half. And that was at the 5pm performance. I mentioned at the end that one of them had been bitten by a shark. It was news to Lisa. I think she missed the shark angle altogether.

Still, all bodes well for tonight's cultural outing. We're off to the theatre to see Penelope Keith. I'm sure she won't let us down.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Lisa and I have just returned from a momentous first meeting with blog commenter extraordinaire, part-time Nigel Havers campaigner, one-time muse of Janet Street-Porter, and full-time Stefan Dennis fan, Mrs Bruno (who herself admits she chose a ridiculous name there). Well, I say 'first meeting' - I believe she and Lisa may have bumped into each other once or twice in Safeways over the past 35 years, not to mention the occasional Bros concert, but for the Bruno and me, it was a maiden voyage. And may I say, I was not disappointed.

Naturally Lisa and I turned up five minutes late at the Pavilion Tavern in Brighton (not even the lure of their speciality dish - 9 fish fingers in a bap - was enough to get us there on time), to find Mrs Bruno had reserved us a table with built in high-volume speaker, to ensure we missed none of the accompanying music. Which allowed Lisa to play 'Name That Tune' at every available opportunity. To my excitement, Mrs B had arrived laden with gifts for me (nothing for Lisa, obviously), including Polos which had seen Drury Lane, and (prepare to swoon) a photo of Derek Thompson, of Channel Four Racing fame, striding across the paddock at Cheltenham. My efforts to convey the man's identity to Lisa by shouting "Thommo!" and waving my arms around, failed miserably, though she successfully recognised that the accompanying photo of Richard Johnson was a picture of a jockey, by the fact that he was sitting on a horse (Gunther McBride - I've backed him, it's so exciting).

Sadly the photos weren't autographed, but when you've met Tom O'Connor and had him sign your marrow, there's really no point making an effort after that.

Anyhoo, we spent an enjoyable afternoon discussing Knott's Landing, Take the High Road, Married With Children, Neighbours, Eldorado and - yes indeed - Cosmetic Surgery Live. Lisa and I were advised to take more notice of Daniella Westbrook's breasts, and I forgot to mention that the authority to which you complain if your boob job goes wrong is the British Association of Plastic Surgeons - or BAPS.

We moved on to the sexuality of George Michael and Robbie Williams, examined the career of 80s pop starlet Sinitta, and debated the voice-over work of Jesse Birdsall, before reaching a climax with an in-depth discussion of weightloss techniques, as I cleared my plate and finished off Lisa's chips, before starting on the after dinner Polos.

Personally I'm looking forward to the next meeting - Mrs Bruno claimed she couldn't think of any embarrassing stories from Lisa's past, so clearly I need to win her trust before she'll give me the real dirt. She admitted to the existence of a 20 year old photo of Lisa in a blue towelling dress with matching belt though, so I think this new friendship is worth pursuing...

Friday, September 10, 2004

Lisa's mother received a postcard from Italy on Tuesday.

Lisa's workmates (the people she works with, not her DIY accessories) received a postcard from Italy on Wednesday.

It's now Friday. So have I received a postcard yet..?

That would be a no.

But obviously I'm not taking it personally. These things happen.

I have, however, received a postcard this morning from my aunt, who informs me that she's been to Tresco. I thought "blimey, does she really need to write just to inform me of her latest shopping trip?", before realising Tresco is one of the Isles of Scilly.

She sent that on Tuesday.

Second class.

From a rock in the middle of the Atlantic.

But hey, Italy's a long way away too.

Anyhoo, I'm off down to Brighton now. It's about a two and a half hour drive. Yes, that is a lot of trouble to go to, I know, but it's ok, I don't mind. We do these things for the ones we love.

I expect the postbox at Lake Garda was a bit of a trek too.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

It's good to know I have a cat who doesn't let a bit of important printing stand in the way of a nap.

Can I feel something?

It's also good to know that Channel 5 (sorry, 'Five') haven't let the standards slip yet on 'Cosmetic Surgery Live'. I don't want to harp on about this programme, but really, when you find yourself watching Maureen from 'Driving School' trying to talk with a hypodermic needle stuck in her face, you know it's time you got cable.

Highlights of last night's show included Daniella Westbrook being traumatised by a chemical peel, and Vanessa's caring comment "she looks like a smurf in pain". The Fatz went on to top that as they removed the bandages from a woman who'd had a face lift five hours earlier. Naturally the lady in question needed reassurance about the major ordeal she'd just put herself through, and as luck would have it, Vanessa was on hand to rebuild her confidence with the words "you look like you've been in a car crash". She was certainly earning her money last night.

But I really didn't want to know what they do with the foreskins of circumcised babies. I feel quite ill.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

I've just received my copy of Suffolk County Council's fine publication 'About Suffolk', "the newspaper for everyone who lives or works in Suffolk", which boasts on the front page "New design, costs less!". Yes. Though it would cost significantly less not to bother producing it at all. But hey, if you're going to put up Council Tax, you've got to spend it on something.

Excitingly, this edition features a major article on 'The Amplifier Project', a council initiative to train and encourage young people to make a career out of music.

Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "but nobody from Suffolk has ever made it in the music business? Where are the role models for our musically talented young people? This project is surely doomed from the start? Hold me, Phil, I'm scared." Well worry not, my little ones, Suffolk County Council have thought of this. They've done their research and discovered that the county is actually brimming with popstars of every description, and to allay the fears of any cynics out there, they've helpfully published...

"Role Models for the Amplifier Project - these Suffolk musicians have already proved they have got what it takes to make it in the music business."

Marvellous. Let's have the list then. These people have made it, and they deserve our admiration.

Seymour Glass (24) [what is he, a window cleaner? Sorry, I shouldn't interrupt] from Bury St Edmunds has toured extensively throughout Europe and the UK with his band Miss Black America. They have released five singles and an album - their second album will be released next year.

Aaron Short (23) from Leiston is currently recording his first single. He has appeared on television and radio and regularly performs all over the UK.

Donna O'Connor [she sounds like a nursery rhyme character] (29) from Ipswich is a press Officer with New Century Media Records.

Kirsten Gundersen (21) from Bury St Edmunds has been writing her own songs since she was 13 [that's hormones for you], has performed all over the UK and her band Tamel Baby is signed up with the Vanquish Music Group.

Greg McDonald (25) from Bury St Edmunds [it's clearly a hotbed of talent], singer and song-writter [sic] with The Dawn Parade had written 200 songs by the time he was 18.

Rob Littlejohn (29) [getting on a bit] from Ipswich is a producer for BBC Radio 1XTRA.

Ah yes, superstars one and all, and the cream of the musical talent that Suffolk has to offer. Well done Suffolk County Council.

They've obviously never heard of John Peel and The Darkness.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Ok, I'm back. Having been kept away from the coalface of blogdom by a two day headache (obviously brought on by overwork and the stress of a modern 24/7 lifestyle), I've been cured by the metaphorical aspirin of Channel 5's 'Cosmetic Surgery Live' with Vanessa Fatz (she's presenting, not having her breasts done).

Actually, it's not called Channel 5 any more, is it. They've dropped the 'Channel' and changed their name to 'Five', presumably realising they were pushing their luck claiming to be a TV channel. But personally I approve. It's like 'Emmerdale Farm' rebranding themselves as 'Emmerdale'. It doesn't take so long to read the opening titles, meaning you can pack in a lot more storylines about under-age sex.

Anyhoo, 'Cosmetic Surgery Live' ("from buttock implants to genital enhancements" - yes, that really is how they're describing it) is clearly a quality show, last night's edition of which was entitled 'My Breasts Are Too Small'. I don't think that was a direct plea from Vanessa, but I could be wrong. I particularly enjoyed the graphic close-ups of infected pus-filled bosoms (a beautiful shade of green - I now know what colour to paint my bathroom), and the woman who had a nose job two hours previously, and confidently declared "I'm really pleased with it" before they'd taken off the bandages.

Offering a more human touch was Daniella Westbrook, who swapped tales of nose reconstruction with members of the public, before trying to interview a woman immediately after we'd watched her having something injected into her lips. "I don't think I can talk" pleaded the woman. "Don't worry about that" said Daniella, and ploughed on with the next question.

But boy oh boy, do I wish I had a camera on my mobile phone. Vanessa invited viewers to text in photos of their naked body parts, to enable her co-host (an American bloke who I'd like to think has some kind of medical qualification, and wasn't just the second-hand car salesman he appeared to be) to give an instant opinion on whether or not they need surgery. Marvellously, the British public is full of people who'll happily whip off their clothes for a national TV show, and we were soon treated to a few shots of women with perfectly normal breasts, allowing some considered opinions to be voiced thus:

Fatz: "So this person should have surgery?"

Bloke: "Yes."

It's good to know that TV presenters are allowed to advise people to have major operations based on nothing but a mobile phone picture message.

Fantastically, this show is no mere one-off, but a nightly event. Tonight's edition is entitled 'I'm Too Fat', allowing Vanessa the chance for some personal input, and promises a spot of live liposuction. I'll be setting the video for that one. Unfortunately I can't reveal the title of Friday's installment in case there are minors reading this (in which case, get back down t'pit immediately, hehe) (sorry), but the first word is 'Designer' and the second word rhymes with the first. Stop right there.

And as if all that's not enough, Richard & Judy are back on our screens after their summer break. Could things get any better than this?

Incidentally, has anyone heard if Lisa's back from Italy yet..?

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Having made £150 in the past seven days from my shrewd investments on the equine stockmarket (I really should turn professional), I placed my six bets this afternoon with supreme confidence.

Five losing bets later, and I was contacting the race-fixing enquiry to report some more dodgy results. There's a few more jockeys that need waking up at dawn if you ask me.

But the thing about being £26 down by 3 o'clock in the afternoon, is not to panic. Much. Investment number six duly came in (and I wasn't remotely worried when he was 7th with a furlong to go), meaning I finished the day...

[fanfare please]

... 23p down. Dammit. If I'd just put another 5p on, I'd have made a profit.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Can I sneak in a quick post before midnight..? Marvellous. Ok... well, I don't actually have anything to say, but that's never stopped me before.

It's been a day of industrious boredom, which has included web-tinkering, note-making, e-mailing, pulp-writing and cat-kicking. Though not deliberately. The pulp-writing I mean. The cat-kicking was entirely intentional.

This afternoon I e-mailed the Scottish Community Drama Association (och aye the noo, as I believe they have a habit of saying), who I'm sure were thrilled to hear from me. Having paid the outrageous fee of £7.50 to enter my one-act lemming-fest 'Ledgers' into their 2004 Play on Words contest LAST DECEMBER (!!!), I received an e-mail from them in January of this year stating that "you will be notified of its progress by August 2004". Marvellous, I thought, only eight months to wait. So the fact that nine months on I've heard precisely NOTHING, rankles a tad, and entitles them to the rough edge of my e-mail tongue.

In other news, I challenge anyone to beat my score of 62 on this stoopid game.

But the best news of all is that Lisa returns home from Italy tomorrow! Hurrah! I've missed the little munchkin y'know. It just hasn't been the same without those piggy noises. Obviously I could go and meet her at the airport, but that would involve finding out what time her flight is, and some things are just too much trouble. But I'm looking forward to seeing what presents she's bought me.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

The headlines tonight... (well, this afternoon)... [bong]...

1. I was constantly irritated throughout the Olympics by the BBC's insistence on making Sue Barker (who looks a bit rough at the best of times) wear some kind of cheek-mounted flesh-coloured microphone, which, as Lisa so rightly pointed out, "made her look like she had a Sugar Puff stuck to her face". To my increased horror however, the practice seems to be spreading. I was watching Newsnight last night (I'm a regular viewer, obviously. The fact that I only caught the last five minutes, and Red Dwarf happened to be on straight afterwards, is purely coincidental), and Gavin Esler was sitting in the studio interviewing Newt Gingrich (some kind of red-headed amphibian spokesman I believe), both decorated with the outrageous Sugar Puff technology. Do they have no idea how ridiculous they look? What's wrong with clipping a microphone to a tie all of a sudden??? I felt like spitting on a hanky and dabbing their faces immediately.

2. I got up this morning to find that overnight a spider had spun a web across my draining board and was busy mummifying a moth over my teaspoons.

Click for full blown spider hell

Yes, you're right, I do have nice cutlery. I'm not sure it's strictly hygienic though.

3. My parents, who had their house double glazed last summer (it's very nice - new doors and windows throughout - you should see it, really - make an appointment immediately), have just realised after a year of blissful silence, untroubled by visitors ringing the doorbell day and night, that they have no number on their front door.

Strangely though, the Readers Digest prize draw entry still manages to find them.

4. I'm bracing myself for the moment when the hit counter on this blog matches the hit counter on my homepage. Projections based on advanced statistical analysis indicate that it should take place within the next 48 hours (always allowing for people reading this, and immediately clicking the refresh button all day, just to annoy me). The fact that my blog has received the same number of hits since April as my homepage has in over 18 months is a statistical anomaly, and has nothing to do with my webcam pic putting people off. So gather round and watch those numbers tick by. It doesn't get much more exciting than this. (Unfortunately).

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Contrary to rumours circulating nearby, I wasn't one of the three Suffolkonians (?) arrested in dawn raids today, accused of fixing horse races. Frankly not even the police could get me up at dawn. But the sixteen dodgy characters in question (they must be dodgy - look at John McCrirrick - he's considered normal in racing circles) are accused of fixing eighty races in the past two years, so that explains all my losses. I just hope the case goes to court - I've got great odds on a guilty verdict.

Personally I've been avoiding dodginess like the plague, and instead creeping through the bushes at a top secret Shotley location with a notepad and camera, all in the name of research. And I'd just like to say that this window...

It wasn't me

... was already broken when I got there.

Though obviously I took advantage of it by sticking my camera through and taking a couple of photos. But no, I won't be drawn on what they show. (But it's alien bodies, I swear).

When I'm not testing the robustness of Britain's trespass laws, and being hassled by the wife of a university cow farmer, I'm replying to text messages from Italy, where Lisa has caringly attempted to cure her dear friend's phobia of heights by insisting she go on a cable car ride. She's all heart that girl. As a vertigo sufferer myself, I struggle with the fact that Lisa lives on top of a hill, without voluntarily dangling off a mountain on the end of a wire.

I'm also currently surviving on 50% less bagels than standard, which frankly is verging on the superhuman.