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Thursday, December 30, 2004

When I said I planned to do nothing for two days, it obviously included blog posts, but the good news (or bad news, depending on your point of view), is that I'm back! And I'm full of the spirit of hogmanay. Well actually I'm full of cheese straws and Kit-Kats, but that's the fault of Lisa's mother.

The highlight of Lisa's brief stay in Shotley Gate was undoubtedly my decisive victory in 'The Big Fat Quiz of the Year'. Lisa may have known who made the tea at Band Aid, but my superior knowledge of Hell's Kitchen and Sven Goran Eriksson's sex life enabled me to seize victory at the end. It was just a shame we didn't have any money riding on it.

Having proved myself the fount of all world knowledge, I returned Lisa to Brighton on Tuesday evening, in time for our 7 month anniversary on Wednesday, a landmark we celebrated with a visit to the drive-thru McDonalds. We're nothing if not classy. Lisa also managed to get to work an hour late, take twice as long for lunch, and then leave an hour and a half early. Which is the kind of work ethic I admire.

On the downside, it barely gave me enough time to browse Brighton's charity shops and buy clothes which don't fit me. I did get a pair of Calvin Klein jeans for £4.49, and they do fit me, but of course with Christmas over, I'm now going to start losing weight like nobody's business (no, really), so it's only a matter of time before they're falling down around my ankles.

Which is a common sight in the parks of Brighton.

Anyhoo, I did make it to the 'Africa Collection' shop where I bought many of my more rustic Christmas presents at the end of October. I was naturally thrilled to find that everything in the shop is now 50% off the marked price, and I could've saved an absolute fortune if my family hadn't insisted on having presents on the 25th. But I've learnt my lesson. They're getting nothing now until January 2006.

I returned to Shotley Gate late last night to find that one of my neighbours was clearly banking on me staying in Brighton for the new year, and had taken advantage of my absence by outrageously parking in my designated parking space. Which is probably a big enough event to make the next issue of 'The Shotley Noticeboard', under the headline 'Parking Fury in Tudor Close'.

If I was my neighbour at number 3, I'd have reacted by calling in the army and having the offending vehicle blown up (not that I'm suggesting he's intolerant), but me being me, I just parked elsewhere and chose to respond by quietly moaning to anyone who'd listen.

It obviously worked - the car disappeared an hour ago. Hurrah! Another victory for incessant whining.

Monday, December 27, 2004

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Sunday, December 26, 2004

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without embarrassing photos.

Natural blonde

Unfortunately I don't have any.

But I did manage to put on a paper hat and eat myself into a coma. I think my stomach reached its maximum capacity at around 3:15pm, but interestingly I didn't stop eating until shortly after 7pm. Having consumed a second slice of chocolate cheesecake at approximately 6:15pm I informed my sister-in-law that I'd definitely gone too far, felt physically sick, and may very well throw up at any moment. Ten minutes later I helped myself to another slice of cheesecake.

My presents this year included 3000 sheets of paper and two printer cartridges (anyone would think I was a writer), enough petrol money for two trips to Brighton, and a pig dressed as Santa. While my brother decided that now we're both in our 30s he should go for a more mature gift. So he got me a radio-controlled plane. He's coming back in a few days so we can play with it together.

As for today, I'm off down to Brighton with my guitar for a bit of community singing in Lisa's living room. I'm taking chocolates in case the crowd turn ugly (or should that be uglier?), and as an extra precaution I've told Lisa to get them drunk before I arrive. So hopefully I'll be well-received. All I need now is a dog on a piece of string and a cardboard sign.

Oh, and before you ask, no, I'm not a natural blonde.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Ding Dong...

('merrily on high', not 'the witch is dead')

Well, for those of you without calendars, it's Christmas Day. Hurrah! And a very merry Crizmus to one and all. I've already started celebrating by opening a bottle of Marks & Spencers Mulled Whine, sorry I mean wine, which went particularly well when I bored through the metal cap with my corkscrew. Honestly, they should put some kind of warning on the bottle if they're going to hide a screw top under the pretty festive wrapping where the cork should be.

But not one to waste a photo opportunity, I took a picture of it with my new camera, and turned it into a piece of monochrome pop-art, in an effort to keep up with the Joneses. Well, the Crashes.


I've already pulled a cracker this year - May 29th to be precise (I can't believe I just used that line), but there are still mince pies to be scoffed, and Santa hats to be worn, so I'm off to my parents for some free food, and to brace myself for the reaction to the plastic novelty tat I bought in Brighton at the end of October.

Abi Titmuss everyone, and a prosperous new year.

Friday, December 24, 2004

I stopped to get petrol yesterday morning on my way to the nether regions of Ipswich, and attempted to use our country's fine new 'Chip & Pin' system to pay for it. After sticking in my card and waiting in vain for the machine to verify my pin number, the assistant eventually gave up and informed me that there are so many people nationwide doing their Christmas shopping that the system can't cope, and you could wait half an hour for it to verify your number. Meaning I had to sign for it instead.

So the technologically advanced new system increases security and cuts fraud... but only if the shops aren't too busy.

Anyhoo, I made it to my parents, where I found my sister in possession of a multi-coloured talking toucan. I didn't bother asking why. I did take a couple of festive photos of Big Sis with my shiny new camera though, both of which she insisted I delete, and one of which she deleted herself when I kindly refused. I hate digital photography. It was so much better when embarrassing photos were burnt permanently onto a bit of film.

I told my Mum at lunchtime that I wouldn't be pigging out until Christmas day, so by the end of the afternoon I'd only eaten half a tube of Pringles, two pieces of chocolate cake, some After Eight mints and a couple of sausage rolls. I held firm and didn't touch the mince pies.

But amongst the party food I did find time to view endless (well it seemed like it) photos on Sis's laptop, and listen to my Dad playing trout music on the violin. I also discovered that we have an iPod owner in the family, and felt quite jealous.

But on the plus side, my sister's decided to stay in America til 2006, so I may be able to squeeze in one more free holiday. Assuming she can build up a few more air miles in the next six months. Keep spending, Sis.

I've also had an expert opinion on my cat from a leading authority on Persians, who was posing as an odd-job man at my parents' house at the time. Apparently his wife breeds them, so he claimed expert knowledge, and in between cleaning the patio with a power-washer, declared that my little Chloe is a Persian Blue with a good face. Which is one in the eye for Melee, who claims she's ugly as sin, and addressed her Christmas card "To Phil & Lisa (but not Chloe)".

Anyway, family socialising over, I stayed up late last night working on a little extra home-made Christmas gift for Lisa. I won't be revealing what it is until Boxing Day though, partly to create a bit of excitement, partly to maintain an air of suspense, but mainly because I know it annoys her.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Well she cut it a bit fine, but with less than 48 hours to go until Christmas Day, Lisa's card has finally arrived.

Beary Christmas

It's a bear on a pudding. A festive combination which just isn't seen often enough in my opinion.

But I have no time to wax lyrical about ursine desserts - I've just received a text message announcing the arrival of my sister at my parents' house. And seeing as she's flown all the way from Texas, I probably ought to make the effort to drive 15 miles to see her.

After I've finished watching the Big Brother Pantomime, that is.

Victor, who told us in the last series that "they call me the milkman, because I deliver", has just announced that "they call me the baker, because I make bread". Which is interesting, because milk and bread were the two items he asked for in the diary room. After announcing he was a rapper slash part-time hitman. In his dressing gown.

I'm just waiting for "they call me the farmer, because I talk bullsh*t".

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

I was reading an article today about the three UN hostages who were released in Afghanistan at the end of November. Well, I wasn't so much reading the article, as looking at the pictures. But every picture tells a story, and what this one appeared to tell me was that Lisa and I were lucky to see the Human League in Ipswich last week, because until a month ago they were clearly being held captive in the Middle East...

Human League ........ Hostages
................ Human League ........................................... Hostages

I think I've proved my case quite conclusively there. No wonder they sang that song about the Lebanon.

Anyhoo, the good news of the day is that I've wrapped up all my Christmas presents. And a shoddier bit of festive gift-wrapping you're not likely to find. But hey, it's the thought that counts. And I'll be forcing my family to sign a statement to that effect on Christmas morning before they're allowed to open them.

I also received an e-mail from my chum Helen, with her verdict on the meeting with Lisa last week. Helen confidently declares: "She is such a sweetie, you lucky, lucky boy!!!", which is a bit over the top if you ask me. But then she also uses the phrase "spooky dooky", so frankly I don't think anyone should listen to a word she says.

In addition I've been preparing my set-list for a Christmas concert I've been asked to give in front of a specially invited audience in Lisa's living room on Boxing Day. After much discussion, Lisa and I have narrowed it down to an eclectic mix of Senators and Matchbox Twenty songs about pain, infidelity and mental illness. So it should be quite festive. Although I've been informed tonight that the specially invited audience don't actually know anything about it yet. Which isn't good. Especially for them. But on the plus side, I've been assured that Lisa's nephew will dance to anything.

Monday, December 20, 2004

I returned home from Brighton late last night (sadly alone) to various items of news. One was a postcard from my sister in the Big Bend National Park in Texas. It featured this picture...


... on the back of which my Big Sis had written "I saw this and thought of you". So that's her off my Christmas card list.

Apparently the creature in question is called a 'Javelina' (pronounced 'hav-uh-LEE-nuh'). The postcard informs me that they're short, fat, nearsighted, and are active in the late afternoons. So quite why my sister thought of me, I'm not sure.

My second item of note was an e-mail sent to me via my SoundClick music page. It reads:

"I live in Woodbridge, and was wondering if you have any albums out/available".

Marvellous. I have a fan! And what's more, they're local. I knew if I stuck that music on the web for long enough, eventually I'd find someone who liked it. And it only took a year and a half.

On the slight downside, the person in question forgot to fill in their name and e-mail address, so I don't actually have a clue who they are, and I can't respond. But hey, it's the thought that counts.

Thirdly, I checked my lottery numbers for Saturday, to see if I can now afford a house in Brighton. The winning numbers were:

5 , 16 , 22 , 25 , 27 , 30

I'd invested a whole pound in a May themed lottery ticket which included...

5 (the month of May)
26 (the day Lisa and I are going to see Neil Diamond)
28 (the day we're going to see Duran Duran)
29 (our first anniversary)
31 (my age)

So 25, 27 and 30 come up, and I have 26, 28, 29 and 31. Is it just me, or is that something of a travesty? It's like the bingo all over again.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Not content with the Human League last Monday, Lisa and I returned to the 80s last night with the 'Here & Now' tour at the Brighton Centre. It was a step up in musical quality after we'd spent the afternoon being subjected to a plastic nativity scene in the living room of a friend's mother, which (she was keen to demonstrate) blared out festive music and meaningful words (in an American accent) at the touch of a button. Lisa wondered if it cost less than a fiver. If so, we've found our wedding present for a certain couple next March.

Half an hour of novelty tat later, and we escaped to the pub for the afternoon with the woman's son, who regaled us with stories of neglected kids at the school where he teaches. Although personally I don't think it's that bad to make your children eat Super Noodles for every meal.

But the main event of the day was the evening's musical extravaganza, which featured live performances from... [fanfare please]...

Limahl... Living in a Box... (don't worry, it gets better)... Bucks Fizz... (soon)... Nik Kershaw (hurrah!)... Belinda Carlisle... Kim Wilde (yawn)... and... Midge Ure!

Limahl kicked it off with three of his biggest hits. He was actually quite good, and I would've called for an encore if it wasn't for the fact that by the end of the third song he'd actually covered his whole career. Coming up with a fourth hit was clearly a bridge too far for the dodgy-haired popster.

The same could be said for Living in a Box, a name which has probably proved spookily accurate for the three band members since the 80s. The singer sounded like he'd been smoking sixty a day for the last twenty years, but he managed to belt out their three hits with gusto. And without feeling the need to play the guitar he had hung around his neck.

Next up were 'The Original Bucks Fizz', back together for the first time since the 80s, and original in every way except the actual line up. But hey, we had Cheryl Baker, and that's good enough for me. It was good to see that their dancing hasn't come on at all in the last two decades, but they were strangely enjoyable in an embarrassingly cheesy way, and Lisa and I even got to our feet for 'Making Your Mind Up'. I wasn't too proud to do the actions either.

The first half was completed by Nik Kershaw, who, I have to say, was the star of the night for me. He was clearly no bigger than a midget, but the guy can play a guitar and belt out a pop song with the best of 'em. It was just a travesty that he only got to play four songs (compared with the Fizz's six), and missed out Don Quixote - the one record of his I actually bought. He deserves a comeback tour of his very own. Though as Lisa said, probably in a pub rather than the Brighton Centre.

After the interval we came back to Belinda Carlisle. Not very exciting, although her backing singer was clearly a trained tambourine player, and the woman can presumeably now cook after being in Hell's Kitchen. Not that she was able to demonstrate that ability in five songs.

She was followed by Kim Wilde in a black leather cat suit. I was never that wild about Kim, and she did go on a bit. Though on the plus side, she appeared to have Morpheus from The Matrix on guitar, who she finally revealed at the end to be her little brother. But even so, I was calling for the return of Nik Kershaw.

Kim out the way, it was left to Midge Ure to wrap up the evening, and he was surprisingly good. I sang along to Vienna (even though I'm barely old enough to remember it, obviously), and tapped my toe to 'Fade to Grey', whilst Lisa attempted to explain to me who 'Visage' were. The entire cast of this musical pantomime of nostalgia then returned to the stage for a moving rendition of 'Feed the World', along with all the crew and their children.

Lisa couldn't spot Nik Kershaw, but I helpfully pointed him out. He'd blended into a row of small children, and was hidden behind an eight year old.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Well I successfully lost my bingo virginity last night, but it didn't so much make me triumphant and rich, as confused, bewildered and poor. How doddery old pensioners manage to keep track of that darn game, I'll never know. I was struggling from the moment Lisa handed over the money, and I was presented with all manner of different coloured booklets and numbered slips of paper, the like of which I haven't seen since my A-level maths exam.

Of course, I was expecting a nice relaxing sedentary pace when it came to the actual game, so I was somewhat startled when the woman on the stage started barking out numbers like there was no tomorrow. I thought she was handing out her phone number to the men on the front row, but no - I was somehow supposed to find the time to search for each of these numbers on my bingo card and cross them off with the felt tip pens we'd just paid a quid for, whilst simultaneously checking to see if I'd won anything - a feat of lightning quick reflexes and speed of thought which was frankly beyond me. I've never been so stressed in all my life. It was all I could do to avoid a full blown panic attack.

The highlight of the evening for me was the interval, when we were granted a reprieve from the advanced mathematics, and allowed to drink water and take sedatives. I considered calling for oxygen, but didn't want to embarrass my companions. So I went to the gents toilets instead for a bit of a cry.

Fortunately in the second half Lisa's Mum showed us all how it was done by winning £25 for a single line (which she successfully claimed after getting a woman nearby to cause a diversion by coughing, while she checked with Lisa that she'd got the right numbers), and not having got within three numbers of a full house all evening, I suddenly found myself on the verge of a £500 jackpot. I only needed number seven, and the woman with the apathetic voice called at least another six numbers before anyone won. So if any one of those had been a 7, I'd be rich. But they weren't. So I'm poor. It was a travesty, and I still haven't quite got over it.

But it was an experience. Although next time I might do something a bit less stressful, like bungee jumping.

Friday, December 17, 2004

It's my Mum's birthday today. So...


I couldn't possibly reveal how old she is, but on the day she was born a third German spy was hung at Pentonville Prison, and the government increased rationing for Christmas. So we're not talking the 60s here.

Sadly I can't be there in person to give her the bumps, due to being away on important business in Brighton, but Lisa and I are planning to mark the occasion by taking Lisa's Mum to the bingo tonight. She's not actually very keen to go, but Lisa and I are, and we need a token pensioner to take with us. And besides, I'm legally obliged to treat a mother today, and she's the only one available. So she's coming, whether she likes it or not.

Yesterday turned out to be a blog-free day, due to the fact that I realised I'd driven 630 miles in 6 days (all in the name of love, naturally), and therefore felt we should have a brief afternoon nap to recover. A brief afternoon nap which turned into a marathon sleep. Lisa's first words when we awoke were "Have we missed Richard & Judy?". As it turned out, we barely caught Eastenders.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Not content with Suffolk and Sussex, Lisa and I made our way over to Cambridgeshire (via a traffic jam on the A14) yesterday afternoon to visit my pal Helen, who felt that after six and a half months of me no longer being single, it was about time she was introduced to Lisa. I'd left it until December in the hope of getting extra Christmas presents, and I'm pleased to say I wasn't disappointed. Obviously I won't admit to having opened the present I received, but suffice it to say it was a DVD and I enjoyed watching it this morning.

Our evening involved a roast dinner at my aunt's house in St Ives (which Lisa has finally accepted isn't in Cornwall), after which I was forced to endure an episode of Eastenders before being allowed back to Helen's house for some chatting and Ebay bidding (sadly not for giant bobble hats). When Lisa went to the toilet, Helen took the opportunity to tell me what a nice girl she is, before grabbing me roughly by the arm and saying "you be good to her" in a menacing tone of voice. Honestly, anyone would think I'm a rampaging womaniser.

Although it has to be said that if the aardvark keeper at Colchester Zoo became single I'd have to seriously consider my position. And if I ever find a female bagel chef...

Anyhoo, the meeting over, Lisa and I made our way back to Shotley Gate for the night, before returning to Brighton this afternoon via my parents' house, where we filled up on sausage rolls, mince pies and chocolate cake (can help weightloss only as part of a calorie controlled diet). In return I gave them my cat for five days.

We arrived back at Lisa's flat to find a Christmas card and party invitation from a couple of dodgy characters. So thanks to them. Lisa's Elvis sideburns are on order. Personally I'm going as Elvis Costello.

Talking of fat burger-eaters (and I don't mean Lisa), I've had a website hit for the phrase "battered beefburgers". Which wasn't particularly exciting, until I discovered I'm actually the only website in the known universe (well, on Google) that features that phrase. So does that mean The Happy Fryer in Shotley is also the only place you can buy them???

They're 50p each, in case anyone's wondering. And they're very nice. But I'm not sure how many WeightWatchers points they are.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

It's Phil

He looks nothing like me.

But fortunately he can sing, and what's more, we made it into Ipswich in time to hear it. We also arrived in time for the support act, who were worth catching. It's not every day you see three young men with a plug obsession, dressed in white lab coats and standing behind keyboards doing a cross between Kraftwerk and Gary Numan.

Here's a plug for their website:


So that was 'Trademark'. Lisa turned to me after the first song and said "I think they've missed the boat by about twenty years", but apart from that they were quite good.

The Human League were better though. We were standing after only two songs (which is a shame - I paid good money for those seats), and we bopped our way through an hour and a half of 80s synth pop, some of which I actually recognised. It was surprisingly good anyway, and unlike our recent Beautiful South experience (which turned ugly), the Regent was reassuringly nutter-free. You get a better class of music lover in Ipswich.

Although Lisa did see someone throwing up in the foyer.

Monday, December 13, 2004

One day Brighton, the next Shotley Gate. Lisa and I are back in Suffolk for the 80s synth pop event of the year (well ok, there isn't much competition) - The Human League at the Ipswich Regent. I'm obviously very young, so I barely remember the Human League, but Lisa assures me they were quite big in her day. That was before CDs of course. I'm hoping they'll just play 'Don't You Want Me' over and over again, otherwise I might be a bit lost.

Doors open in... um... 10 minutes. And it'll take us 25 minutes to get there. But hey, popstars are never on time. Hence the decision to stop and write a blog post first.

I'm glad I booked tickets for the correct date anyway - this time tomorrow the stage of the Ipswich Regent is being graced by Jim Davidson. It doesn't bear thinking about.

Oh, and one more thing: a friend of Lisa's thinks I look a bit like Phil Oakey. Apparently he's the one who does most of the singing. (The other two, by Lisa's own admission, can barely hold a note). Our seats are quite near the front, so for him it'll probably be like looking in a mirror.

That's if we get there before the concert finishes...

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Lisa and I baby-sat her two nephews last night in return for some cheese & onion crisps and the children's supply of Hula Hoops (which Lisa stole from the kitchen). I knew it was going well when nephew number one hugged me goodbye and told me to have a good time - I was only giving his parents a lift down the road to the station. But hey, I was going to be gone a full ten minutes, and by that point we'd bonded.

But we had a good evening. Nephew one and I played video games, Lisa watched Eastenders upstairs, and nephew number two slept through the whole thing. I also enjoyed the book about the lion at bedtime, after which I tucked in Wile E Coyote and Daffy Duck, and went back to playing with the Lego.

This afternoon we ventured into Brighton town centre for a bit of christmas shopping. Which involved buying toys in Gamleys, clothes in Next, and wine from Marks & Spencers (mulled for me, boxed for Lisa). We also met an old man in a gold suit at the bus stop wearing a sign proclaiming the second coming of some deity I'd never heard of. It began with 'M', but that's probably not good enough to be saved. It might help if I could remember the whole name of my potential saviour. Although if his followers have to wear ridiculous hats like the one this chap was sporting, I may prefer to remain in eternal darkness.

Friday, December 10, 2004

When it comes to celebrating a one year anniversary (which is still six months away), a Neil Diamond concert alone is never enough. So despite the fact that Lisa and I already have tickets to see the hoary old warbler at Ipswich Town football stadium on May 26th next year (3 days before our 12 month millstone, I mean milestone), I've just booked tickets for Duran Duran's one-off gig at Birmingham City football stadium on May 28th.

Tickets went on sale at 9am, and by the time I got there at 9:45am they appeared to have already sold out of the seated areas (unless it's just me they didn't want to sell them to), which goes to show firstly that there are a lot of people stuck in the 80s, and secondly that most of their fans are too old to stand. Lisa falls into both categories. But she's also so keen on Duran Duran that she once managed to get the day off work to go and see them in London by telling the boss her grandmother had died. Which I'm sure is something she won't mind me revealing on this blog. So we've gone for the standing tickets.

So that's Duran Duran and Neil Diamond next year, The Human League in Ipswich on Monday, and the Here & Now 80s reunion tour (featuring Bucks Fizz) the following Saturday. One day we might actually go and see someone who's had a hit since 1989.

Anyhoo, I'm off down to Brighton now for a bit of baby-sitting. But while I'm gone, make sure you put in a bid for the world's biggest bobble hats. They're THE winter fashion accessory for 2005. No, really.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

I received my free copy of 'Babergh Matters!' today (the cheery exclamation mark is part of the title - they even use it when they're referring to themselves in articles about domestic violence). This latest issue of the district council's magazine contains an article entitled:


It begins, "Efforts to increase the number of affordable houses in local villages received a boost in September when Babergh planners gave the go ahead for..."

For what, I hear you cry? For a dynamic new town in the Suffolk countryside? For a modern housing estate? For a couple of blocks of flats?

No... "for five homes in Upper Layham."

As Ian Tippett, Babergh District Council's Housing Enabling Manager, proudly declares: "Babergh and its partners are pulling out the stops to build new affordable homes."

Notice he doesn't say ALL the stops. Presumeably because pulling out all the stops might involve building more than five homes. It's no wonder I can't get a council house around here.

But in other news, I've received a hit from MSN Search for the question "Can God create a rock too heavy for him to lift?". It turns out I'm the number 4 web resource for that issue out of 35,485 sites, so at least I have a new career as a theologian.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

I love a bit of narcissism, so I was naturally excited to come across a website this afternoon entitled 'Who Links to Me', which automatically tells you... um... who links to you.

As well as helpfully letting me know that all the pages of my website link to the main page (thanks for that), this handy tool informed me that I'm mentioned on a site called 'Something Beautiful', where I undoubtedly fit in perfectly, but also that I've inexplicably found my way into the Wikipedia Encyclopaedia.

They don't yet have a picture of me, or information about my natural habitat, diet, or life expectancy, and fortunately details of my breeding habits are sketchy, but they do use the word 'anthropomorphic', which sounds quite good.

It also raises the interesting point that if stuff I casually refer to on my website ends up being quoted in encyclopaedias, then I really ought to be laying claim to a lot more impressive achievements.

So I'd just like to state for the record that I'm single-handedly responsible for writing The Simpsons. Thanks.

Monday, December 06, 2004

In this morning's post I received all the way from America... (fanfare please)... my NaNoWriMo postcard, thank you card, and sticker...

I support National Novel Writing Month. And Ipswich Town.

... in return for being an Extraordinary Helper (I'm listed next to someone called Joanna Gardner, who I think is my piano).

As the thank you card states,

"At National Novel Writing Month, we have one mission: To change the world, one writer at a time.

Actually, scratch that. We have two missions. The other mission is to see if, in a limited amount of time, we can consume more coffee than all of Finland."

Well I'm pleased to have been instrumental in achieving one of those objectives anyway.

I'm also quite excited today because I've discovered what part my niece is playing in her school nativity play. The director obviously feels that her demure sensitivity and lack of pretension precludes her from being leading lady material, and makes her more suited to a supporting role.

Lisa's nephew is playing one of the three kings in his nativity play, which, he informs us, "is about Jesus this year" - something of a surprise there. They obviously wanted a break from tradition. By coincidence, my niece's nativity play is also about Jesus, but sadly, with the lack of decent parts for women, she's been handed a slightly less pivotal role.

I had my fingers crossed for donkey, or possibly sheep. Even star would have done. But no. This year my niece will be a nut. I'm saying nothing.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Am I right in thinking that Paul Burrell has become a national treasure overnight? The man's a star. Anyone who can shamelessly begin a sentence with the words "I can't believe how much support I've had over the years from Tom Hanks", and continue with that theme for a good five minutes when it's clear the person you're talking to couldn't give a monkey's, is completely wonderful, and should be stuffed and preserved for the nation. And if he isn't crowned King of the Jungle in 24 hours time, it will be a travesty of the highest order.

But then I said the same thing last year about Peter Andre, and look what happened there. The British public are insaniacs. I'll be voting for you though, Paul, don't worry, so that's two votes guaranteed: me and Tom Hanks. And he can probably afford a couple.

Anyhoo, top news of the day (apart from discovering this afternoon that Microsoft Word's dictionary doesn't know the word 'kerfuffle') (so I used it four times in one paragraph of my novel, just to make a point) is that I had a visitor arrive at my website today after Googling for the words "sings of depression". Which is quite spooky coz I've no idea how to diagnose depression, but I often hum Radiohead songs while I'm doing the washing up.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

I entered the Scoop 6 this afternoon (that's the equine equivalent of the pools) where you have to pick the winners of all six of the afternoon's horse races. Obviously I didn't win - if I had, I wouldn't be writing a blog post, I'd be writing a cheque to Brighton & Hove Council, and moving my stuff into the Royal Pavilion. But I did get two winners, two 2nds, one 3rd and one 4th, so I'm planning to start a campaign to have a share of the pool paid out to people who just "have a good stab".

Not that I'll need to make my fortune from gambling for much longer. The Racing Post are currently accepting nominations for their poll of the best and worst racing websites on the net, and one of the categories is "Best home-made fansite celebrating racing". So despite the fact that my main website features 69 different pages, only one of which is about horse racing, I've shamelessly nominated myself under an assumed name. Which I'm sure is perfectly legal. So once the judges turn up and recognise me for the top racing pundit I clearly am, I should be signed up for a weekly column in the Racing Post in no time at all, and set to replace John McCrirrick on Channel 4 by the new year. Hurrah!

While I'm here, may I also just say a public thank you to King Nicholas (England's other monarch), for officially appointing me Blogger Laureate of the Copeman Empire. It's an honour, and I am truly humbled.

Though if I don't get a company car by the end of the week, I won't be happy.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Today's moderate slogan of the day, as seen on a US pro-democrat, pro-choice, anti-war website:

"Republicans want live babies so they can raise them to be dead soldiers."

Marvellous. Nothing controversial there. Apart from the words.

I've also been enjoying a newly discovered blog entitled 'Koo-Koo Puffs'. It's only been live for the past month, but its author has already found time to share the following:

"I whant to be a basketball player when i grow up and i'am going drink apple juice so i can be tall. so i can duck when i play basketball.and iwill be rich and then buy me a nice car and a nice house with swimpoo. and so i will be famus. and i will be on the magazine and on books. and when i go some were the people get there artercraft from me."

Ah yes, I too dream of buying swimpoo, being famus, and having people ask me for my artercraft. Actually I like the word 'artercraft'. I think I'll try to drop it into casual conversation and see if anyone notices.

Anyhoo, it's interesting the effect that a lack of a deadline has on my writing. Having stormed through November on a stress-fuelled wave of high-octane novelling (?), I'm now finding it remarkably difficult to knock out the last remaining chapters. It somehow seems more appealing to watch Richard & Judy, drink Fairtrade hot chocolate, and surf the web for blogs called Koo-Koo Puffs.

But I did manage to struggle my way to a thousand words this afternoon. I would write more this evening, but there's a children's spelling competition just started on BBC1, and I can't be expected to ignore something like that.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Today's 'Trisha' featured a girl who can only have sex with her boyfriend in the dark.

WHY? I hear you ask.

Because he's got the names of all his ex-girlfriends tattooed on his body, and she doesn't like seeing them when they're making love.

How many ex-girlfriends, you say?

Just the odd 14.

Honestly, some people are just too sensitive. I'm sure it wouldn't bother Lisa if I had the names of 14 other women tattoed all over me.

But anyhoo, the sex in the dark is obviously working, because they're expecting a baby.

And they're planning to get married.

Although the bloke admits that his facial tattoos are stopping him getting a job.

Which I believed, until he mentioned that he also can't read or write.

Some men just have 'good catch' written all over them.

In his case literally.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

I returned home from Brighton last night (after staying to watch 'I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here', which says a lot about my life), and sent Lisa a text message at 1:30am to tell her I'd got back safely, so she wouldn't worry. As it turned out, she'd only worried until mid afternoon when her mobile phone network finally deigned to deliver the message. Marvellous.

I came back to the news that I'd missed the official launch of...

My Shotley. And yours too.

... the new parish website, which I was kindly asked to take charge of back in April, and which has finally been launched eight months later, after I not-so-kindly said no.

The home page confidently declares "You can make things happen here", beneath which is a disclaimer just in case anyone actually believes that.

But they've made an excellent job of it, and I'm not just saying that because I get a mention on there. It's fab, really. Though I'm a bit annoyed that the photo on the 'Shotley' page manages to cut off my flat. In addition there's a section entitled 'You Tell Us' for expressing your views, so I plan to complain about the fact that Shotley Playgroup have changed their name to 'Kidzone', which makes them sound like a boy band if you ask me.

Anyhoo, I've finished posting the first ten chapters of my novel on that other site today, and what's more, I've already had a promise to read it from His Majesty King Nicholas, which just goes to show the appeal of my writing. None of yer riff-raff around here, y'know - I attract bona fide royalty.