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Sunday, October 31, 2004

You know you're getting your priorities right when you sit around on a Saturday night discussing whether there's enough time to get to Sainsburys and back between the end of X-Factor and the beginning of the Strictly Come Dancing result. The answer of course is no, so we elected to watch one, record the other, and pop to Sainsburys half an hour before they closed.

It was a successful shopping trip though, mainly because I was able to prove just how easily I'm swayed by a bit of packaging, by deciding to buy a packet of 'Cow Biscuits'. They're no more than Malted Milk biccies by another name, but having been amused out of all proportion by the name, and the guarantee of "A whole herd in every pack", I just had to have them. And that was before noticing the statement on the side that "No cow suffered in the making of these biscuits". I'm so easily amused.

This afternoon we elected to go and see the new Johnny Depp film 'Finding Neverland', which I thought was a movie about the arrest of Michael Jackson. It proved not to be so, and having debated at length which screening to attend, and arranged to drop in on Lisa's mother with takeaway food afterwards, we ultimately decided we couldn't be bothered to get ready, and chose to stay in instead. But hey, it's Sunday - it's allowed. We plan to make it out of the house before sundown though. Which, having put the clocks back, is in about... oooh, 15 minutes. And no, we're not going trick or treating.

Tomorrow's the first day of NaNoWriMo, and in a shock of earth-shattering proportions, I've now done a bit of preparation. Which is just as well because I've agreed to meet Lisa for lunch on the first two days of the month, so with one thing and another, my chances of making it to Wednesday with more than a couple of hundred words under my belt, are looking decidedly slim. Wish me luck.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

The key to any successful relationship is to ensure that you spend quality time together, so yesterday, having reached the momentous milestone of 5 months, Lisa and I chose to celebrate by spending most of the day apart. Which just goes to show that if you force your boyfriend to meet you for lunch on a Tuesday with the words "Pleeeeease... I promise I won't ask you again this week", you don't leave yourself with many options come Friday.

So instead I packed Lisa off to work with a cheese bagel and passed the day quietly writing, charity shopping, and spending some quality time with a box of Sainsburys doughnuts.

I discovered that Portslade (which is the place I'm staying, not the prison from 'Porridge') features a 'Carla Lane Animal Shelter' charity shop. Their video shelves were surprisingly lacking in episodes of 'The Liver Birds', 'Butterflies' and 'Bread', and instead filled with Graham Norton, Ali G, and 'The Royle Family'. If I was Carla, I wouldn't be happy. I hung around for a while, but the woman failed to put in an appearance, so I wasn't able to ask for tips on successful sit-com writing. She's probably too busy rescuing under-priveleged hamsters these days.

Not wishing to waste a moment's drinking time meanwhile, Lisa went straight from work to the nearest pub (I believe she chose the one which currently has no windows, after they were all smashed in by Leeds United fans last weekend), so I wasn't reunited with the love of my life until 10:30pm when I arrived to pick up her and accompanying friend.

I was thrilled to discover upon my arrival in Brighton town centre that the designated meeting place to which Lisa had conscientiously given me directions the day before, was a road that's only open to buses and taxis. (It was news to Lisa). So I weighed up the pros and cons, thought what the heck, and drove down the bus lane to Laura Ashley's. Naturally Lisa and friend were nowhere to be seen, so I parked in a no parking area, pretended I'd broken down and let the stream of buses and taxis find their own way around me. My frantic calls to Lisa's mobile were of limited use, since she'd forgotten to take it with her. Again.

Fortunately I managed to avoid arrest until the pair eventually sauntered up five minutes late, and attempted to placate me by complimenting my driving all the way home while friend stated that we make a lovely couple and expressed her desire to buy a wedding hat. Lisa generously told her she's not coming to the wedding. My cries of "what wedding?" seemed to be lost in the louder cries of "you're one of my best friends, you are". It was really quite touching.

Roll on six months.

Friday, October 29, 2004

As an expert in information technology and all things PC, I naturally failed to fix the neighbour's computer yesterday morning. But to my credit, I got down on my hands and knees for a good fifteen minutes and fiddled around with the mass of wires behind the desk as though I knew what I was doing. In the end I claimed there was probably a bit missing, and admitted defeat.

The neighbour (who was remarkably unscantily clad as it turned out) received a phone call from her daughter just after I arrived, who wanted to be picked up immediately. Ms Neighbour assured her that she was halfway out the door as she spoke, before settling back and chatting to me for 40 minutes. Which is the kind of dedicated parenting I like to see. She also invited Lisa and I over at the weekend, so it's not just me she's interested in after all.

Having successfully loved my neighbour, I moved on to our absent hostess Lorraine. She's a woman with very little time on her hands - literally. She appears to have no clocks whatsoever in her house, save for a kitchen clock which, according to Lisa, has proclaimed the time to be 9:30 since bonfire night last year. So rather than look at that clock for the tenth time and panic that we're missing Wife Swap, I decided to buy it a new battery. It's now merrily ticking away, allowing us to see at a glance just how late we are in the morning.

In the evening we met Lisa's sister and Mr Durham at a nearby pub called The Stag's Head. We'd been assured that of the two pubs in Portslade High Street, this was the nicer, so naturally having been there for two minutes, we were wondering what in God's name the other one was like. The word "dive" was mentioned once or twice, and Lisa expressed the view that it was like a scene from 'The Wicker Man', before going on to criticise their carpets.

Her sister meanwhile was pressured into hanging up her coat by the kind of man you don't argue with, leaving her panic-stricken that it would probably be stolen, whilst simultaneously too terrified to go back and get it.

But a good time was had by all, and Lisa only hit me once.

Tonight Lisa's going out with the girls for an evening of alcoholism. My role in all this is to turn up at the correct time to give them all a lift home, and to prepare me for this task I've been informed that the last time one of these particular friends received such a lift, the car had to be stopped en route so that she could be sick. It's something to look forward to anyway, and the kind of news which makes me glad I'm driving my Mum's car.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Another hour in Brighton town centre yesterday morning, and I'm up to 9 out of 15 Christmas presents. There's also been a noticeable hike in quality levels, since I found a rustic gift shop which sells handmade craft items, fashioned by impoverished African farmers. I presume they're impoverished because the shop pays them precious little for their handmade craft items. But the good news is that they pass the savings on to their customers, so I was able to pick up a couple of bargains. I'm sure the metal sculpture of a dung beetle (with added dung) will go down particularly well.

In the afternoon Lisa and I joined with members of her family, and a bloke from Durham, for a trip to the local dog track. I was confident of success, having formulated a strategy whereby I do nothing but £1 reverse forecasts (predicting the first two dogs home in each race, at a cost of two quid). So we walked in five minutes before the first race, I plonked down my £2 bet, and promptly won £9.80. Whereupon I was forced to admit that I hadn't actually expected it to work.

Seven losing bets later and I was feeling much more comfortable. I was even able to enjoy my sausage and chips, safe in the knowledge that I was leaking money like a sieve. At which point my luck - sorry, I mean my skill and judgement - changed. Lisa's mother returned from the other end of the grandstand with the news that she'd overheard a man on the phone saying that he'd backed dog number 3 in race 11. We were only on race 8 at the time, so as someone who never looks beyond the next race, I knew this must be inside information of the cast-iron variety, courtesy of a serious professional gambler.

I'd never have picked dog number 3, a rank outsider with little chance, but I put down my money with complete confidence. Lisa and her mother then followed suit. They're nothing if not easily led. And brace yourself...

Dog number 3 won. Lisa made £6.50, her mother won £13, and me... well I picked the second dog home as well, so I won £38. Marvellous. Even marvellouser was the fact that my £1 reverse forecasts started coming in like there was no tomorrow. (Although as I'm writing this the following day, I know there is). I successfully picked another two pairs, making me £21 and £11, and finishing the afternoon with an overall profit of £60.

So if I'd bet £20 on each race instead of £2, I'd have made £600. There's a moral there. The other moral is that eavesdropping pays.

Right, I'm off next door now. Lorraine's neighbour stuck her head out of the window yesterday when we arrived home, and asked if I'd pop over today to see if I can sort out a problem with her computer. Lisa's at work, the neighbour is young, female and scantily clad (probably), and I'm going round to fix her computer. It sounds like the opening scene of a soft porn film.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

It's October 27th, and three days before we put the clocks back, so naturally it's about time I started my Christmas shopping. With the possibility that I could be occupied throughout November writing 50,000 words of pulp fiction for NaNoWriMo, I thought I'd better get the yuletide gift-buying out the way this week. And what better place to do it than Brighton, city of taste, culture, and creative body piercing. So I made a list of all the people I need to buy for (which, incidentally, numbered 15. I really need to get rid of some of this dead wood before next year. Starting with Melee I think...) and headed off into town yesterday afternoon.

Three and a half hours of intensive shopping later, and I had 7 out of 15 gifts successfully purchased. Hurrah! It's interesting the effect that the pressure of time had on my gift selection. I'm not saying it impaired my judgement, but frankly you've never seen such a dodgy collection of Christmas presents in your life. So any members of my family who are reading this, hoping for a quality, well-thought out gift this year, you can stop wasting your time. It's plastic novelty pap all the way. Never has the saying "It's the thought that counts" been so tested.

This morning I discovered to my delight that if I put my earplugs in and bury my face in the pillow, I can successfully sleep through Lisa's prolonged use of the hairdryer three feet away. She heartlessly woke me up at 7:20am though, right in the middle of an interesting dream I was having about creating a section on my website for my favourite penguin pictures. I'm not even sure I have any favourite penguin pictures. But that may not stop me, so watch this space.

Fortunately Lisa's happy for me to get behind the wheel of a car ten minutes after I've woken up from a deep penguin-related sleep, so I still managed to get her to work for 8am. The journey is always brightened up for me by the miniature golf course we pass along the seafront. Someone's altered the first 'P' on the sign into a 'B', so that it now reads 'Bitch and Putt'. Which is almost as amusing as the till receipt I got at Sainsburys the other day, which spelt 'pizza' as 'pizzer'. I dread to think how they spell broccoli.

Monday, October 25, 2004

When Lisa turns to you at 8am and says "Well this'll give you something to write about on your blog", you just know the day's started well. The fact that we were stuck at the traffic lights on a box junction in the middle of Brighton in the rush hour with my car refusing to move, just confirmed that. The additional fact that I hadn't had a shower, a shave or any breakfast, was merely the icing on the cake.

But hey, as I switched on the hazard lights, dialled the AA on my mobile, and waved Lisa goodbye as she abandoned my car to walk the rest of the way to work, there was still a smile on my face and a song in my heart. Particularly when Lisa texted me twenty minutes later, advising me to start singing in order to pass the time and keep my spirits up. It was like living through the Blitz. I could've murdered a powdered egg sandwich.

Cursing my decision to leave the Honey Nut Cheerios at home, I was naturally delighted when the AA texted me at 8:20am to tell me that the man was on his way and would be there by 8:35am. Not as delighted as the queue of irate drivers behind me, but even so, I was pleased. True to his word, the yellow-vanned knight of the road turned up at... um... 8:45am. But hey, what's ten minutes between friends.

I was greeted with a jovial "I bet you've heard a few honks of the horn stuck there, eh?!". I politely confirmed that I had, thank you very much. And probably prompted a few scarily accurate voodoo dolls to be fashioned as well. So Mr AA kindly towed me off around the corner, away from the angry mob with burning torches and pitchforks, to a quiet backstreet where no one knew of my past life as a instigator of traffic chaos.

In an attempt to recreate a popular children's television tableau, I got out of the car and asked Mr AA "Can you fix it?". Fortunately he was no stranger to Bob the Builder, and replied with a cheery "Yes, we can!". Well ok, it was more of a "I'll see what I can do", but I'm sure he'd seen the show.

It turns out that I have a dodgy clutch, which required expert attention (described by Mr AA as "a bit of a botch job", which I'm sure is some kind of technical term), and after twenty minutes of adjustment ("botching") I was on my way, with my saviour's comedy guarantee that his work would last "a mile or a minute, whichever comes first". Sadly Lorraine's house was five miles or twenty minutes away, but in a feat of near-miracle proportions I made it back in one piece.

As a mature 31 year old, naturally the next call I made was to my parents, and having impressed upon them the importance of reliable transport to the work of a cat-sitter, my Dad agreed to drive down and swap cars with me. He'll be here in half an hour, so with a bit of luck Lisa won't have to get the bus home. Though she probably regrets not learning to ride a bike now.

And for the record, tomorrow I'm having breakfast before I leave the house.

But to finish on some good news, I'd just like to announce that I've successfully applied Oscar's suntan cream to his ears this morning.

(And no, I'm not making that up.)

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Well it's forty-eight hours on, and Lisa and I have successfully settled into our new life and formed a love triangle with a white-haired old duffer called Oscar. Who happens to be a cat. Belonging to Lorraine (she of the duck sausages). I have to come clean and admit that our reasons for venturing into the world of co-habitation have less to do with love, and more with the fact that we're house-sitting for the next nine days while Lorraine sails the seven seas with her mother.

Having been cruelly abandoned by his wicked stepmother, poor ickle Oscar needed someone to take care of him in his hour of need, and Lisa has a tendency to gag at the smell of cat food, so as someone who can't bear to see a cat abandoned so heartlessly, I naturally dropped everything and headed for Brighton. Leaving my cat Chloe on her own back in Suffolk. But hey, I'm sure she'll be fine. And let's face it, she doesn't come with a free three-bedroomed house and a broadband internet connection, so frankly it was no contest.

This might not be a permanent arrangement in the official, legal sense of the word, but we're pinning our hopes on Lorraine meeting a nice rich American bloke on this cruise and calling from a Beverley Hills tanning salon to say she doesn't need her house any more. It could happen. And if not, we're changing the locks and claiming squatters rights.

So far we've managed to keep Oscar alive, which personally I think is good going, and what's more I've avoided hitting him with my car every time I swing into the driveway. Which I'm sure won't last, but frankly if Oscar can cling on to life until the middle of the week, I'll consider it a good job done and expect Lorraine to be grateful. I don't expect she'll miss him much anyway. The fact that he knows her as 'Mummy', and she rang from the dockside in Florida just to check he's ok, means nothing.

Last night we broadened our horizons by making our way over to the other side of town to meet a bloke who told me you can buy houses for £800 in Croatia. I think he's getting confused with Monopoly, but he seemed like a nice chap anyway, and I've agreed to go dog racing with him on Wednesday. I'll introduce him to my surefire system of betting on the dog with the cutest name. It never fails.

The one drawback of living a few miles outside Brighton with a girl who failed her driving test in an automatic (which I'm sure is no secret and something she won't mind me mentioning), is that I have to drive her to work at 7:30am. But we've formulated a foolproof plan of action, which involves me getting up at 7:20am, putting on some clothes, and driving through the rush hour traffic without a shower, a shave, or some breakfast. It's a plan with no drawbacks. And if Lisa doesn't mind the smell, and the constant whines of "I'm hunnngryyy..." then I'm sure it'll work fine.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Lisa and I are moving in together today. Yes, I know, this has seemingly come out of the blue, but the fact is it's been on the cards ever since I found out she can make omelettes and say the word 'pig' in a Birmingham accent. Possibly at the same time. So it's only right we start co-habiting. It's an arrangement with no drawbacks (we're even getting a cat), and with luck I can see it lasting... oooh, about 11 days. As Lisa romantically put it a couple of weeks ago, "It'll be make or break for this relationship".

Talking of relationships, Bob Geldof recently gave an interview in which he blamed the dodgy state of modern marriage on the "because I'm worth it" society, where people always put themselves first. The unkempt rocker also claimed that "we are sold a child-like and naive view of marriage", before continuing:

"We hop from product to product, channel to channel, station to station, and most damagingly, lover to lover, trading each one in for a new model as soon as passion fades. If our expectations of married life were more realistic, then the everyday reality would not be thought of as difficult, limiting or mundane, but rather as comforting and supportive."

But enough of all that. The fact is that these next couple of weeks will undoubtedly be the most fantastic of my life, with Lisa treating me to a neverending rollercoaster ride of passion and excitement, with constant thrills which are bound to last for ever. Because, after all, I'm worth it. Hurrah!

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Following an entirely misleading (and frankly libellous) report on last night's Great British Spelling Test, I'd just like to set the record straight. The simple truth is that I'M the nation's greatest speller, and unlike Lisa, who's never had hiccoughs in her life and can't spell the titles of Johnny Depp movies, I was undoubtedly the moral victor last night, and would've won but for an extreme technical fault which seemed to affect (not effect) only my television and no one else's.

The fact is that I DO know how to spell 'definitely', but the correct spelling didn't appear on my screen, I swear. I looked through the five options, realised that due to an outrageous mistake on ITV's part, they'd omitted the correct answer, and was forced to plump for 'definately' instead. Is that my fault???

So despite scoring 43 out of 50, I SHOULD have got 44, which would've made me the winner, and earned me a pound.

Oh, and it's not my fault my text messages were delayed due to network problems, leading Lisa to think I'd scored 13 out of 15 on the third section, when I'd clearly scored 14. Nothing suspicious there at all.

And what's more, I'M not the one who had the nerve to get on the phone immediately afterwards and blame my mother for my failure to win. I didn't need to blame my mother - it was clearly ITV's fault that I didn't win.

So having argued on the phone for half an hour about our matching scores of 43, and which of us deserved the title of Britain's greatest speller (I think you'll find it's me), we were interrupted by a text message from MY Mum (you just can't get away from these interfering mothers) which read:

"How did you get on? I got 44."


Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Just when I thought no one could beat Richard Madeley in the "There'll be Complaints" league, Fern Britton has made her bid for the title. At 10:15am this morning Fern & Phil (no relation) did a live trailer for their upcoming programme. It was broadcast during an ad break in the Trisha show, so naturally I saw it.

It turns out that 'This Morning' are tackling the little-known subject of male breast cancer today, and will be interviewing a man whose brother died from the disease, and has had to undergo a double mastectomy himself. It's a heart-rending and tragic tale.

So naturally Fern was in fits of giggles throughout. Having made it through the first few lines on the auto-cue with a straight face, the phrase "male breasts" was clearly too much for her, and she burst out laughing, before attempting to read the remainder of the information about death, cancer and mastectomies with a hand over her mouth and a wavering voice. I've never seen anyone so happy about major bereavement.

In other news, Blogger have published an article about NaNoWriMo, and have produced a blog for participants to post links to their works in progress. As a self-proclaimed internet whore, and despite the fact that I have no intention of letting people read my upcoming wordfest as I write it, I've naturally submitted this blog. It says that blogs which "clearly document the writing process" are ok, so seeing as I plan to post comments such as "Right, that's it, I'm not doing this stoopid NaNoWriMo thing any more, and you can't make me" throughout the month of November, I feel I qualify.

My fellow novelists are clearly a high-brow bunch as well, attracted to quality works of literature. One of them visited my website on Monday, and sent me the following review:

"That Poddington Peas Quiz is the funniest thing I've read in ages."

Her thoughts on the emotional depth of my full-length plays are, as yet, unknown.

Anyhoo, the good news is that my little Skoda lives to fight another day. The rear suspension has been fixed, and I'm a happy bunny again. Mainly because I haven't had the bill yet. But it means I can start packing for my upcoming holiday by the seaside, confident that my car will get me there without the help of an AA man. Unless I unexpectedly turn to drink in the next two days.

Monday, October 18, 2004

It's interesting the things which unexpectedly appear in pop-up windows...

Big Boned

I'm sure that can't be a real pair of trousers. It looks more like a railway tunnel to me.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

(Three posts in one day, what's going on?)

There's something to be said for the karma of a charitable donation. Whilst on the phone to Lisa this afternoon, I was interrupted by the doorbell. Personally I was all for ignoring it, but Lisa forced me to answer the door against my will (mainly because she's a curious orange, and wanted to know who'd be insane enough to come knocking at my little hovel on a Sunday afternoon).

Turned out it was two teenage boys who demanded money from me for no better reason than that they were dressed in nautical outfits and claimed to be from the local Sea Scouts. Which was good enough for a spineless jellyfish like me, so I handed over 50p, after which I demanded that Lisa refund the amount next time I see her.

Feeling an inner warmth from the generous charitable mission I'd just completed, I knew it was only a matter of time before fate would reward me for my good works. And so it proved.

Having bored Lisa to the point of submission, she put down the phone and I checked my e-mails. Only to find the following message from a certain Dorothy Nelson (how spooky is that - Sea Scouts and then someone called Nelson):

"Re: Ledgers. I have read a synopsis of this play and would like to see a copy - I need something for a one act festival and need to choose it within the week. Can you help?"

News of my helpfulness is clearly spreading like wildfire, so I've e-mailed Dotty a copy of Ledgers. I think I'll insist she charge £20 a ticket though, just to prove a point to Donna...
I've had a reply from Kay. She says:

"I can't imagine Radio 4 letting me get away with your novel synopsis but I'll give it a go..."

Well really. It's this kind of defeatist attitude which is keeping me away from the national media spotlight. It's a conspiracy I tell you, a conspiracy!
I've just been posting on the 'Suffolk Nanoers' message board at the NaNoWriMo site. It turns out there are a scary number of 30-day novelists in the area. Although one of them describes Ipswich as "strange-smelling", which is just not on. It's more of a stench.

I've also received an e-mail this morning from someone called Kay. Which is more a letter of the alphabet than a name if you ask me. But anyway, the lovely Kay writes:

"Dear Brighton and Hovians [how did SHE find out about my double life??]

We're on our way! We have a Friday meeting organised and spot prizes for participants in the NaNo. See the calander in England: Elsewhere for details.

We might feature on Radio 4! If anybody would like their NaNo novel described, please email me. If I get interviewed I want to mention as many of our novels in progress as possible.

I hope you've all got your family and friends to support you in this? No dogwalking, essay writing, gardening or sex will be possible in November because you need all your energy for writing.

I'm only kidding, you can walk the dog.


It turns out they're meeting every Friday afternoon in November at Cafe Nia on Trafalgar Street, Brighton, for a "moanfest" (don't go there) which will last from 1:30pm til 4pm, which is great coz it means no one who works for a living will be able to make it, thus helping to keep out those dreadful people who think it's more important to provide for the family than to sit at home watching Trisha with a chewed pen in one hand and a benefit book in the other.

It just so happens I'll be in Brighton on Friday the 12th, so I may pop along. Any excuse to get on the national airwaves. So I've e-mailed Kay with the following synopsis:

'Mirkin Topp and the Hair of the Dog', an epic tale of one man's journey east across the Bear-Faced Mountains to the Implacable Maw, to take on the Hooded Donkey which resides within and steal his hairy puppy (not shaggy dog) to make a wig for the balding king.

Now if that doesn't sound like best-seller material, I don't know what does. I'm off to turn on Radio 4 and listen out for a namecheck.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Honestly, I'm meant to be taking it easy since I finished my ten-month hella-novella a few days ago, but I've just totted up the word count for today, and including e-mails, blog post and website updates, I've written over 4,800 words today.

And there was me worried about how I'm going to write 2,000 words a day during November. Blimey, at this rate it'll seem like a holiday.

Hang on, let me just count up this blog post...

Ok, make that 4,900.
Apologies in advance, but I'm just going to indulge in a bit of shameless teenage-esque hero worship for a few minutes. I've received a package in this morning's post from Jim Kitson of The Senators. Don't say "who?". Trust me, he's famous. Kind of. Having created a dodgy website about him and his (equally famous) brother Mick some time ago, Jim has sent me a pristine copy of their first album on vinyl, which he's personally signed...

It's Jim!

... before passing it on to Mick...

It's Mick!

... who obviously owns a better quality of pen than his brother.

In addition he's sent me a letter which reads:

[No really, I am going to copy out the whole thing. Don't try to stop me.]

"Dear Phil,
I was sorting some stuff out recently and I found a few of these, so I got Mick to sign it when I saw him recently, and please accept it as a token of our appreciation of all the work you put in to your website."

He then says this:

It's Lisa!

... which for anyone without a degree in handwriting analysis, reads:

"I'm glad true love has sprung eternal for you and Lisa.
Best wishes, Jim."

Which is enough to melt the stoniest of hearts. One of mine and Lisa's musical heroes is celebrating our newfound love. Possibly just in the hope of getting a wedding booking, but even so. It's still quite touching.

Jim finishes off with:

"P.S. If you've already got a signed one, my apologies, if not, hang on to it, if Ebay values are to be believed, it'll be worth nearly a quid in a few years."

Many a true word spoken in jest.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Tonight's the opening night of Shotley Drama Group's production of 'Fogies' at the village hall. I've resisted the obvious temptation to attend, due to their blatant willingness to sacrifice the last ounce of any artistic integrity they might have once had by choosing to stage the kind of unrelenting dirge churned out by soulless script factories at £4.50 a time, instead of producing something with a bit of creative merit.

Not that it's any of my business, of course.

Personally I've been busy in Ipswich today, mourning the felling of a tree in Christchurch Park, which has been chopped up and dumped at the side of the war memorial. I think it's some kind of statement on the tragedy of war, using the powerful image of a tree to represent the plight of the fallen soldier. But as an environmentalist of the Dogmatix school of tree-hugging, I was quite upset.

But not as upset as I was when the rear suspension on my car gave up the right to life on the way home. I blame the pot-hole on the hill where Lisa lives. The council charge me a pound a day to park outside my girlfriend's flat, and then destroy my little Skoda with their badly maintained highways. It's an outrage. I may have to write a stiff letter. Possibly on cardboard. I'm not happy.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Well I'm home, and what's more I have skimmed milk. It must be warmer on the south coast though, as I've just found myself turning on the heater by the side of my desk for the first time since April. Obviously I live in a draughty peasant's hovel, but I don't normally feel the cold on account of all the bagels I eat, so it must be chilly if I'm willing to resort to electricity.

The cold's clearly affected my mind too, as I've just signed up for NaNoWriMo 2004, the (inter)National Novel Writing Month, thereby pledging to write a 50,000 word novel from scratch in thirty days from the first of November. No sweat. I was disappointed to have missed the boat last year, so I've been waiting eleven months for this. During which time you'd think I'd have come up with a great idea for a novel. You'd be wrong of course, but that's not going to stop me.

My motivation is based partly on the associated right to use pretty icons such as this one...

National Novel Writing Month

... and the one over there on the left. Though in my excitement I e-mailed it to Lisa, only to receive the reply "It looks like a smurf with a tail", which is NOT the required response thank you very much. It's clearly a blue squirrel wearing a viking helmet made from an acorn, and anyone who can't see that is blind.

In addition, I agree wholeheartedly with the following NaNoWriMo statement: "For one month out of the year, we can stew and storm, and make a huge mess of our apartments and drink lots of coffee at odd hours. And we can do all of these things loudly, in front of people. As satisfying as it is to reach deep within yourself and pull out an unexpectedly passable work of art, it is equally (if not more) satisfying to be able to dramatize the process at social gatherings."

Oh yes, I'm doing this for the attention. And for the right to talk at length about my struggle to anyone who'll listen.

Though when I give up and abandon my novel for good on November 2nd, I'll be deleting this post, removing the pretty icons and never mentioning this thing again. Seriously.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

I love weekends which last until Tuesday afternoon. With a bit of luck I might even make it home before the next one starts. But as we speak, I'm still in Brighton, recovering from an evening of culture at the theatre, where Lisa and I took in the delights of 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat'. Obviously you need a certain type to convincingly portray a saintly Biblical figure, so they played it safe and went with serial love rat Darren Day, who's not averse to dumping his girlfriends via tabloid headline.

But cheating scum or no cheating scum, the man can sing, and I was clapping away (and shamelessly swaying) with the sadder members of the audience by the end. I was also moved by the touching message in the official programme, which stated that the bloke playing Jacob "would like to dedicate this peformance to the memory of his gran". What better way to remember an elderly loved one than to put on a false beard and dance around at the back of the stage while your sons slaughter a goat.

Sunday evening was equally entertaining. Lisa and I were treated to an audience with Lorraine's parents, who regaled us with anecdotes about cheating men and the failure of long distance relationships. It was a successful meeting though, despite the lack of gourmet sausages, and apparently the official verdict is that I was "warm". I knew it was a good idea to wear that fleecy top.

This afternoon, after being forced into the dodgy pub which doesn't stock Bacardi, and gets its orange juice in cartons from the corner shop next door, I went to Asda for skimmed milk, only to find they were completely out of it for the rest of the day. Honestly, you can't buy anything in this town. I think I'll go home.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Well I made it down to Brighton on Friday afternoon, timing my journey perfectly to allow me to rush into Boots for cough medicine and Strepsils (plus a fortuitous 3 for 2 offer which I won't mention) before meeting Lisa from work. We spent the evening at the home of 'L', or 'Lorraine' as she prefers to be called on other people's blogs. Lisa and I turned up fashionably late after deciding to miss the turning and head north towards London, but fortunately the avocado starter which had been lovingly prepared for us hadn't gone off. Unfortunately neither had the prawns, so I was forced to eat those too.

But we had an enjoyable evening of fine food, including duck sausages (which sounds like a warning at a food fight) and apple crumble with ice cream. Which is all the more remarkable when you know that Lorraine doesn't have a working freezer. I took notes on how to operate the dishwasher and washing machine, and more importantly bonded with the cat of the house, so I think I'm all set to move in in the near future. I'm sure Lisa won't mind.

Lorraine also proved to be a rich source of childhood stories regarding Lisa's plastic footwear (she had to be pushed uphill in the winter) and a handy method of bunking off school using nothing but a bag of mini cheddars and a toilet. It was quite enlightening.

After such a successful evening, Lisa and I followed it up with lunch on Saturday at Brighton marina with another friend who was keen to make my acquaintance. She managed to make a bowl of profiteroles last longer than it took Lisa and I to eat a full meal, and told me about the time she left Lisa in her parked car for five minutes, only to come back to find that someone had crashed into it. Lisa, always alert and on the ball, hadn't noticed.

The afternoon went so well that we've agreed to go out again today for another bit of high tea mingling. Honestly, with all this socialising, we're never going to have time for our usual weekend walks.

Friday, October 08, 2004

My sister e-mailed me last night from America, where she's currently in the process of moving house, to tell me that one of her removal men played the part of Jock's younger brother in 'Dallas'. He was also apparently a stuntman in 'Robocop' and a former professional wrestler. And now he's in my sister's bathroom, packing up her shampoo and deoderant. So I think it's safe to say his career might have already peaked.

And talking of pathetic non-careers, I successfully finished my current project last night - a 29,000 word novella which dare not speak its name. Having toiled away at this thing since the end of last November (with a brief 4-month break at the beginning of the year to re-evaluate my life and eat bagels), I rushed to get it completed this week, so there's a major drop-off in quality in the last 2000 words, but hey, who cares - it's finished, and I'm off to the seaside.

And as if that wasn't enough in the way of good news, I turned on my TV this morning to find that Trisha was indulging herself in a show entitled 'I Want to Marry a Drug Addict Prostitute'. Eight words which are never far from my lips.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

It's my parent's 43rd wedding anniversary today, which is one in the eye for those who said it wouldn't last, and proof positive that if you don't give your wife any money, she won't be able to afford a divorce lawyer.

Fortunately in these modern times I have no need to send a card. I sent a Happy Anniversary text message instead. At a cost of 10p it represents a saving of at least a pound on the traditional card. My Dad would be proud of me.

I can also stretch to a virtual balloon:

And they said it wouldn't last

I've checked, and apparently there isn't a traditional gift for the 43rd anniversary. Probably because they assume you'll either be dead by now, or not speaking to each other. Or so out of touch with your faculties that you're not allowed to handle money. But I digress...

I received a message back from my mother informing me of a dream she had last night, in which they went off in secret to get married without even telling their three grown-up children, and suggesting that the last 43 years may have been a sham. Which would explain a lot. I'm not sure about the getting married bit, but the idea of them going off somewhere holds a certain appeal.

I said I might mention that on my blog, which produced the reply "I should be careful what I tell you". Wise words indeed. Words which she immediately followed up with "Dad bought a French Horn on Ebay last night".

Eh??? What kind of crazy world are they inhabiting over there?? My Mum's dreaming of eloping while my Dad tries to start up a brass band on the internet. This is what 43 years of marriage does to you.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

I think my body's currently acting as a show home for all the latest symptoms on the market. Just as my sore throat had subsided, I woke up yesterday with a cough, and twenty-four hours later I've coughed so much that my throat's sore again and I've given myself hiccups. And don't even get me started on my snuffly nose.

But the good news is I'm up early enough to watch Trisha, so every cloud.

While I'm here, can I just indulge myself in a bit of tennis chat. It does annoy me the way we go completely overboard regarding any young British tennis hopeful who manages to win a couple of matches. Andy Murray (who is more notable for having been a pupil at Dunblane during the massacre in 1996) won the junior US Open title a couple of weeks ago at the age of 17, and suddenly everyone seems to think we have a future champion on our hands. May I just remind everyone that we also had the number one ranked junior in the world a few years ago - Martin Lee - who achieved that status at the age of 18. And my, what a force he's gone on to be in world tennis.

The REASON we have these top juniors is because anyone who's any good moves on to the senior tour when they're 16, meaning that the plucky Brits who hang around til they're 18 are playing against a few puny 14 year olds with bad acne, and thus end up winning once in a while. But that doesn't seem to occur to anyone. So instead we're merrily hailing Murray as a future Wimbledon champion.

And just how good is he? Well over the weekend he replaced Tim Henman in the Superset Tennis event at Wembley Arena. Tiger Tim (doesn't he advertise Frosties?) dropped out due to injury, so naturally our Andy, who is an undoubted world beater (yeah right) was the obvious replacement. It's an exhibition tournament played over just one set, and in the first round he played John McEnroe, aging commentator and quiz show host, whose plane had only just touched down from America.

The grey haired superbrat crushed our wonderkid 6-1. 6-1??? You can not be serious.

At 17 Boris Becker won Wimbledon and Michael Chang won the French Open. At the same age Andy Murray loses 6-1 to a 45 year old with jet-lag. Forgive me if I don't get too excited.

Monday, October 04, 2004

I've been a poorly bunny over the weekend. Lisa's the one who's been looking after her 14 month old nephew for two days, and yet somehow I'VE been the one at greater risk of encountering vomit on my laptop. There's something wrong somewhere.

But fortunately I'm on the mend now (subject to occasional queasiness). My recovery was boosted by yesterday's TV coverage of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe from Paris. No, it's not a Formula 1 race, it's a horse race. With a first prize of £643,831.00. Personally I don't get out of bed for less than three quarters of a million, but to be honest I don't get out of bed for much at all, so it's not surprising.

Anyway, it was won by Bago at odds of 10-1. Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "Hang on, that name sounds familiar. Could it be that Phil tipped it right here on this very blog, in yet another astounding feat of accurate horse-racing forecasting???". Well, modesty prevents me from saying so, but yes, you're right. Seven weeks ago in fact.

Well ok, I actually tipped it for a different race, in which it came third, but the principal remains the same. And I suspect the owners wouldn't have even entered it in the Arc if it wasn't for the supreme confidence I always had in the horse (based mainly on the fact that its name sounds like 'bagel'). So all in all, I'm taking sole credit for this one.

Especially as I failed to win the lottery again on Saturday. My age came up again, and Lisa's age was the bonus ball, so Mystic Meg's clearly messing with my head, but so far it's not making me rich. Dammit.

But in the meantime, remember.... Nd Dwn Wth Vwls .... you know it makes sense.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

At last! I've had a letter in this morning's post from the SCDA, blaming "staff shortages at HQ" for the delay in responding. They've gone for the personal approach by beginning the letter with "Dear Competitor" (that'll placate me), before moving on to extend congratulations to me for the excellent quality of the work submitted (even though they can't remember my name), and informing me that they've chucked 'Ledgers' into a skip. Metaphorically speaking that is. It didn't win their little contest anyway. Scottish twats.

This is what happens when I let Melee contribute lines to my plays.

Friday, October 01, 2004

It's impossible to underestimate the impact that writing a blog can have on your life. One day you're quietly cobbling together a couple of hundred words in the corner of the living room, with little idea who - if anyone - might be reading it, the next day those words have unexpectedly changed your life forever.

No, I haven't been offered a book deal, but my Mum rang up last night and offered to bring me bagels and cold remedies.

Naturally I accepted. The bagels anyway - the cold remedies are less urgent.

So I'm awaiting delivery as we speak. In the meantime I've received the latest edition of the 'Shotley, Pin Mill, Chelmondiston, Woolverstone & Erwarton Community News' this morning. Obviously by the time they've printed the title on the front page, there's very little room for any actual news, but this month they've managed to squeeze in an article about a proposed housing development (named 'Haylink' - it sounds quite rustic) in Shotley Gate. They're hoping to build 325 houses about 150 yards from my front door.

Naturally the entire peninsula is up in arms, but personally I'm all for doubling the size of the village in one go. It should mean we get a Co-op or Spar, and I won't have to drive ten miles to buy skimmed milk. Fantastic!

Even better is that the protest is being led by local people (some of whom can't spell peninsula), which means an amusing level of incompetence. This is the October 2004 issue of the Community News, it arrived this morning, October 1st, and it states clearly on the front page "Don't forget, even if you have objected in the past, you MUST send a new objection for this latest proposal by the end of September".

Marvellous. I can practically taste that skimmed milk.