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Thursday, December 29, 2005

It's mine and Lisa's 19 month anniversary today, and to celebrate she's given me a very special gift. Her cold. Although to be honest, I'm placing half the blame with her mother, a healthy pensioner with the constitution (and sheer brute strength) of an ox, who, having been germ-free for the past year, went to the doctor's for a flu jab two weeks ago, and has had flu ever since. I was forced to get up close and personal with the woman last night whilst attempting to hand over a horse racing calendar at arm's length, so frankly she's as much to blame as her daughter.

Yesterday was quite a momentous day, as after 19 months of sampling the limited range of drinks on offer at "the best pub in Brighton", I finally decided to try their food. Technically it's not the first time I've eaten there, as the last time we visited, there was a fly in my drink, but this is the first time I've paid for the privilege. I can't say I'll be doing it again, but I did manage to clear my plate. Shortly after burning myself on it.

From there I went to the bank, where I had the joy of queuing for 25 minutes for the right to get at my own money (Barclays clearly felt that three cashiers at the main city centre branch at lunchtime on the first day back after Christmas would be ample staffing), before heading for the calendar shop, where I was delighted to see a sign saying "Everything Half Price!", only to be slightly less delighted when I discovered they'd sold out of the only one I wanted. I'd ordered the 2006 Channel 4 Racing Calendar on the internet at the beginning of December, but due to unfortunate levels of incompetence on the part of the vendor, all they managed to send me was a letter telling me it was no longer available. Which naturally I didn't get until three days before Christmas.

So I bought an Eric the Penguin calendar for myself, before heading to WHSmiths, where by some minor miracle I actually found the racing calendar I wanted. As well as a mile-long queue I didn't want. But hey, what's another 25 minutes standing in a line? It's Christmas after all. So having watched my life pass me by for most of the afternoon, I walked the two miles back to Lisa's flat in the freezing cold, stole her festive wrapping paper, and finally succeeded in delivering her mother's Christmas present three days late. And what did I get for my trouble? A bout of flu. Well, that and a baked potato. And a handful of Christmas chocolates. Oh, and a mini pavlova. Come to think of it, it was almost worth it.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Just when I thought Christmas was over, there's suddenly snow on the ground and I'm writing a blog post in front of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. At this rate I'll be roasting chestnuts before the day's out. Possibly on an open fire. As it is, I've already made a great escape from Chelmsford, and am currently back down in Brighton, where Lisa is refusing to travel to work by sledge (despite it being mostly downhill), meaning I was forced to get out my Homer Simpson ice scraper at the crack of dawn this morning and shower her with frost from my car windscreen, just to make a point.

Anyhoo, the good news of the day is that I've just read an interesting and informative article in this morning's Sun (it was bound to happen sooner or later), which mentions blogs, and, for the benefit of people who have never heard of the things, refers to them as "internet opinion sites". So I'd just like to state for the record that 'Friends' is the most over-rated show on TV. But obviously that's only my opinion.

As for the past couple of days, well the good news is that Santa brought me everything I wanted, and I now have more CDs, videos and DVDs than I can shake a stick at. Unfortunately stick-shaking is about all I'm likely to manage as I'll never actually have time to watch any of them. Apart from the CDs. Christmas Day was spent eating, playing cards, and indulging in synchronised whistle-blowing with members of my family. Sadly we failed to play 'Ding Dong Merrily On High' on a set of eight differently pitched pipes, mainly because there were only seven of us and my niece preferred to conduct, but we did manage an almost-recognisable rendition of 'Jingle Bells'. If only Lisa had been there with her recorder.

On Boxing Day half my family disappeared to the sales, confirming my long held opinion that they all need psychiatric help, meaning I was able to stay in and win a whopping six pounds (read it and weep) (if you don't, I will) on the horse racing. I also played with my Dad's remote controlled UFO, and learnt my niece's technique for dealing with cats who won't get off the bed. I won't go into details, but it involves large amounts of water.

Yesterday I took Big Sis to the swimming pool, bought some half price wine from Asda, then fled the snow of East Anglia and drove down to Lisa's flat, where I immediately escorted her sister and three nephews from the premises to make room for my bags. They didn't seem that keen to go, but hey, Christmas finished two days ago, and I agreed (well, insisted on) giving them a lift home, what more do they want? And besides, I'm only here til Friday. They can come back at the weekend. Lisa won't be here of course, but for some that's just a bonus.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY! And a ho-ho-ho to one and all. Which, if we were gangsta rappers, would mean something else entirely.

Anyhoo, it's Christmas Day and my sister's come out as a lesbian.

Well ok, she hasn't. But she was telling us last night about a book called 'Why Men Don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps', which features a test designed to reveal whether you have a masculine or feminine brain. She'd apparently come out as more manly than any man she knows, though as my Mum pointed out, that's not necessarily a bad thing, and we're not too worried about her.

But the good news is I've tracked down the quiz online this morning, so in the absence of a stocking to open, I've answered 30 probing questions about my sexual leanings. I received a score of 115, which makes me the perfect blend of macho posturing and caring sensitivity. According to the website, "The lower the score for a woman, the more likely she will be to have lesbian tendencies", so I couldn't possibly tell you what my sister got. Though I can reveal she made it into double figures. Not that it means a thing. She just happens to be good at parking.

And on the bright side, her hair's looking very festive. She looks like the scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

It's Christmas Eve and my Mum's fridge looks like this. Which is just as well really, coz frankly I wouldn't be here unless I could pig out for three straight days. Oh, and in case you think there's a gap on the right hand side, that's only because I took out a pint of milk to make a cup of tea (it was a BIG cup of tea).

Anyhoo, things are going festively, and there's been plenty of entertainment, mainly from my sister, who's had a bad experience at the hairdresser and now looks like Garth out of Wayne's World. Though admittedly she wasn't very pleased when I told her that. Still, it made me laugh, which is what counts.

We've also had a visit from my 6-year-old niece, who demonstrated her ability to sing 'Is This the Way to Amarillo', before demanding to know if Lisa and I are getting married, and suggesting Christmas Day as a suitable date. When I told her it might not be the best time to get married, she went for Boxing Day instead. So I said we'd think about it. Frankly if she's not related to Lisa by the new year, she won't be happy.

In the evening we had a visit from Santa, who'd come all the way from the north pole local Round Table just to shower us with gifts. In the end he agreed to give us a penny chew in return for a donation of a pound. It may not have been a great deal, but it did leave a lasting impression on my niece. As the Christmas sleigh pulled off into the distance, and the traditional carol (by John Lennon) faded, she turned to me with a look of quiet contemplation on her face, and uttered the oh-so-moving words:

"Santa was wearing trainers."

And frankly his sleigh looked more like the back of a pick-up truck. I'm beginning to think he wasn't real at all.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Only HumanIt's the Human League! And it's only a week late. But hey, at least I took a photo this year, which is more than I did twelve months ago. Lisa did give me a camera last Christmas (whereas I gave her my heart, obviously), but unfortunately we saw the Human League on December 13th, which was clearly no good. I'd only had the camera a month and hadn't worked out how to use it yet.

Anyhoo, I may not have been around much (well, at all) lately, but it's ok - Brian Harvey hasn't tracked me down. Although I did come across a random stranger yesterday making the kind of comment I'm sure everyone can identify with. Well, the first part of it anyway. I'm also sorry to have missed Dave's one-year blog anniversary, Donna's tonsillitis, and Carol saying that I write like a girl. Which is obviously something I refute. Although when I told Lisa of the outrageous accusation last night, she responded with a simple "Well, you do". So that's the last time I ask for her support in a libel case.

As for the past week, well it's been a heady mix of exhaustion, stress, and Christmas shopping. Having been tempted on a daily basis by the Marks & Spencer advert for the turkey breast joint wrapped in parma ham and stuffed with... um... stuffing, Lisa and I got the bus into Brighton town centre on Monday morning with the sole aim of buying about half a dozen of the things and seeing how fat we can get before the new year. Unfortunately it turns out that they cost twenty quid each - something the advert conveniently fails to mention. So we headed for HMV instead and bought the 'Now That's What I Call Music Quiz' DVD. It was three pounds cheaper, considerably less fattening, and likely to last more than a day.

We also came up with the entertaining idea that whoever lost the first game had to pay for the DVD. Something we were both happy to agree to, as Lisa knows a lot about pop music, and I was still on a confidence high after winning the BBC's Test the Nation Quiz the night before (54 out of 70 - borderline genius - I don't know how I do it). We opted for the 'Top Twenty' game, where you have to get a certain number of questions correct in a row, otherwise you go back to the start. Which looked like a bad decision when Lisa was still on square one after two hours, but after only another four or five hours of intensive play, and with the time approaching 11pm, a winner finally emerged.

I had no idea I knew so much about Girls Aloud. Lisa was gutted. Though I had to agree that "Which member of the Spice Girls likes Sugar Puffs?" is not really a music question.

Anyhoo, I've been back in Suffolk for 48 hours, which is just long enough to unpack two weeks worth of stuff and then pack it all up again for a trip to Chelmsford. My sister is flying in this morning from Chicago. Which makes very little sense as she lives in Dallas. I can only assume she was looking for Mexico. But whatever the reason, we're reuniting at my parents' house for a few days of fighting over the computer and eating cake. We're also holding a birthday tea for my Mum, a mere six days after her actual birthday. Fortunately she's already had my present though - I gave her my cat for the month of December.

So I'd better go. I still need to copy my entire CD collection onto the MP3 Player Lisa's given me for Christmas. Not that I've opened it yet, obviously. Well, only the wrapping paper and packaging. But hey, she's been wearing my gift since November, so she can't complain. And besides, her coat may be more stylish, more waterproof, and eminently more practical, but my MP3 Player has a chance of still fitting me in the new year...

Thursday, December 22, 2005

One of these days I might actually write a blog post.

But don't hold me to that, obviously.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

It's Thursday morning and I'm still in Brighton. Due to people flocking here over the festive period, there's not going to be any room for me at the inn, and sadly Lisa doesn't have a stable (though her flat's quite close to the racecourse), so the result is that we won't be seeing each other over Christmas. So I'm staying an extra week now, in the hope that we'll be so sick of one another by Tuesday that we won't want to meet up again til the new year.

The extra time together has already paid off though, with me learning all sorts of new and important things about the love of my life. This morning, for example, I've discovered that she dunks Jacobs Cheddars in tea. Which is just wrong, wrong, wrong. Chocolate Hob-Nobs maybe, but cheesy biscuits, no. The woman needs help.

And talking of such people, Lorraine (self-proclaimed mother of feline delinquents Timmy & Oscar) came round on Tuesday evening for a chat about the state of her love life, and whilst here happened to reveal that she knows everything there is to know about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. You see, she may look like a blonde bimbo with a cat obsession, but she's actually a highly intelligent people-manager who's been on more courses than Lester Piggot. I was quite impressed.

But on the subject of intimidating blondes, I'm a bit concerned about the deeply caring and sympathetic article I cobbled together yesterday about the life of Brian Harvey. Despite my best intentions I seem to be turning into a less cuddly version of Nina Myskow with PMT, and may not have come across quite as sympathetically as I'd planned. Which is a bit of a problem as I have to admit to finding Brian Harvey slightly scary. Even in a wheelchair. So it's only a matter of time before I add East 17 fans and enraged popstars to my catalogue of hate-mail correspondents.

But anyhoo, this time last year Lisa and I went to see the Human League in Ipswich. It was the perfect build-up to Christmas, but we're a year older now, and this time around we want to do something a bit different. So we're going to see them in Brighton. At least I think we are. According to Mystic Meg in today's Sun, who appears to be losing the plot at an alarming rate, "Luck is building, and you are ready and able to agree to a role on a TV quiz show". Which is possibly just a polite way of saying I'm the weakest link. But if anyone offers to swap my Human League tickets for the stage version of Millionaire, I'll be straight in there.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

I do love a grumpy charity shop worker. I've just returned from Age Concern (frankly I'd be more concerned about their staff) where I found a book I'll be giving to my brother for Christmas, along with the impression that I paid full price for it from Waterstones. Unfortunately the book didn't seem to be priced, and lacking the mind-reading skills of Derren Brown, I was therefore forced to take it to the lady on the till and politely ask how much it was.

Being a cheerful and friendly member of the service industry, she naturally sighed, scowled, tutted, and looked at me like I'd just murdered her children, before replying "I was tired when I put those out, so I haven't priced them", as though that actually answered my question. Fortunately, having stood around for an eternity while she pondered how on earth to solve this seemingly impossible problem, I eventually offered her two quid, she acted like I was taking food from the mouths of pensioners all over Britain, and we struck a deal. Unless my brother's reading this, in which case I went down the road and paid £10.99 for it instead.

Fortunately though, it was all uphill from there on in, as five minutes later I found myself in 'Cardome', which really ought to sell automobiles, but actually sells cards, where I bought a festive notelet with the words "We All Like Figgy Pudding" in big print on the front. After which the man on the till handed me a voucher for a free leg tanning session next door at 'Tube Station Tanning'. I've looked them up on the internet, and was naturally thrilled to find they're listed on Gay Brighton & Hove under 'Saunas', just below Bristol Gardens, "a predominantly gay (discretion required) sauna for naturists".

Something tells me the word's getting around about my choice of carrier bags...

Monday, December 12, 2005

Breaking news from Mystic Meg for the twelfth of the population who share a midsummer birthday, as revealed exclusively in this morning's Sun: "The words you write or record could be step one on an exciting new life". So it's official - I really should write a blog post today.

As for the words I wrote yesterday, well they consisted mainly of a few pages of discussion on Herzberg's Two-Factor Theory, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, and of course Vroom's Expectancy Theory. Which turned out to be less about giving birth in cars, and more about... well I couldn't tell you really. But I did successfully manage to complete Lisa's 104-page leadership workbook, in readiness for a one-day course her employers are insisting she attend. And what's more, it didn't take the predicted seven hours. I had it done and dusted in six and a half.

Not that I can take all the credit. It was very much a team effort, with me reading the workbook and answering the questions, and Lisa sighing, hiding under the duvet, and watching Strictly Come Dancing on video.

But with the work done, I attempted to get us both into a more festive mood by asking Lisa what her favourite Christmas carol is. She thought for a moment, considered her options, then went with 'Little Donkey'. An interesting choice. I was thinking more of 'Once in Royal David's City', but each to their own. Mind you, I was able to change her mind pretty quickly. I was only half way through the first verse before she stopped me with the words "I don't like it that much".

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Blimey, I've been away so long I almost forgot the address of this place. But it's Saturday night and Lisa's out with her work colleagues at a meal paid for from the winnings of their lottery syndicate over the past twelve months. So while she's eating soup at the Salvation Army hostel (the balls haven't dropped in her favour this year), I can get back to business. Blogging, it turns out, is a lot like walking the Pennine Way. Important, satisfying, and filled with a sense of achievement, but not always appreciated by others. Hence the three day week. Negotiations are ongoing, but for the time being I'm back on the trail and campaigning for the right to ramble.

Anyhoo, having made it down to Brighton on Wednesday, I got up at 6am on Thursday morning, dropped Lisa off at work, and attempted to write a pithy, sardonic critique of Space Cadets in the time it took my mother to drive around the M25 and down to Sussex. Needless to say I failed. But I did get to within one paragraph of the end before the text message arrived confirming that my Mum was passing the last service station on the M23 and hurtling towards Brighton at an alarming rate.

So leaving the spaced out cadets behind, I came back down to earth and headed for Telscombe Cliffs, where I successfully rendezvoused with my mother and toured the first of what would turn out to be ten flats, ranging in price from £110,000 (one bedroom, needs a lot of work) to £135,000 (2 bedrooms, no view). I think it was on our way to the ninth of those that the estate agent said she wouldn't recommend trying to see more than four properties in one day. But hey, we're nothing if not stupid. I also took my Mum round to the inlaws for a couple of hours, where I helped myself to tea and offered Lisa's Mum one of her own biscuits. She seemed quite grateful.

On Friday Lisa took the day off work for some serious Christmas shopping, which meant a five minute drive into town and a fifteen minute queue for the car park, followed by a 90 minute wait outside the shopping centre while Lisa selected my present. If I'd known I was so hard to buy for, I'd have taken my laptop and knocked out a few lines about Johnny Vaughan's furry hooded coat, but I'm never prepared for these things. The devil makes work for idle hands though, so I found myself in Barnardos buying a CD rack in the shape of a cat. No, I don't know why either.

On Friday night I had a date with Ben Elton at the Brighton Dome. He slagged off Sharon Osbourne, did a little bit of politics, and spent two hours complaining that everything's getting too big these days. Thus proving he hadn't been near the foyer, where I'd just bought the world's smallest tub of ice cream for £1.70.

As for today, well it's been a day of deja vu, spent touring most of the same flats I viewed on Thursday, only this time with my brother and sister-in-law. The highlight, apart from the owner of the first flat, who took one look at the estate agent and decided not to let us in, was the Rottingdean tea rooms where we ended up for afternoon... um... coffee. They had a signed photo of Blue on the wall, and an invitation to a royal garden party, which made for an interesting combination. Much like the peach and fig sponge cake.

Oooh, just had a message from the gruel squad. Pick-up is 11pm at Laura Ashley. I've heard of late-night opening, but this is ridiculous. I'd better be off.

Oh, and no, I never did finish that last paragraph.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Christmas cards are still coming in thick and fast. Another two today, one of which seemed strangely familiar (I'm sure I've seen it somewhere before), while the other one said "On His Majesty's Service" on the envelope, and looked like a court summons.

In return I wrote a grand total of seven, count them, SEVEN cards yesterday afternoon, which is surprising as I've threatened to cut so many people off my Christmas card list in the past year (usually for suggesting that I'm either fat or old) that I really should be down to zero by now.

I also have a slight problem, as Lisa informed me last night that she can't stand people who begin their cards with the word "To". Naturally she told me this three hours after I'd written her card. It turns out she prefers the less formal "Dear", which personally I feel is more suited to a letter. Especially to someone called John. But hey, if she thinks I'm steaming open that envelope and getting out the Tipp-ex, she's got another thing coming. She should just be grateful I didn't put "Best Wishes" at the end. Although I would have done if she hadn't already told me how much she hates it. Honestly, I should just let her dictate my cards to me in future.

Anyhoo, it's just as well the Christmas cards are written, as I seem to have a busy week ahead of me. Tomorrow it's back down to Brighton, Thursday it's flat-hunting with my mother (who's visiting the south coast for the first time to see where I've been spending my life for the past year and a half) (I'm sure she'll be impressed) (unless she gets a parking ticket), Friday I'll be carrying Lisa's bags around the town centre on a Christmas shopping expedition, Friday night I'm stalking Ben Elton, Saturday I'm flat-hunting with my brother, and Sunday I'm doing seven hours of paperwork for Lisa's employers. Er, I mean I'm watching while Lisa does it. Obviously it wouldn't be ethical for me to do it for her.

And all of that coincides with the reality TV event of the year (well, this month) (apart from I'm a Celebrity) - Space Cadets. Which frankly it'll be a miracle if I find time to watch, let alone write about.

I think I need a holiday.

Which is handy because my sister's booking tickets to Mexico as we speak. Assuming she can work out where it is...

Monday, December 05, 2005

Christmas CarolI've had two Christmas cards today! I almost feel popular. The first is from Carol, who deserted her (scout) post long enough to send me this quality handmade effort. A little small, yes, but I'm willing to overlook that. The fact is it's purple, which is my favourite colour, and she probably spent longer making it than it took me to walk to the till in a Brighton card shop with my cheap multi-pack of festive cardboard, so I can't really complain. My cat's already been attracted by the shiny star and managed to knock it off the coffee table.

So thanks Car (I know you like being called that).

Car Park ChristmasThe second is this one. Not the most colourful of cards, it's true. It's actually a photo of a bunch of people standing around at night in a church car park looking at a man in a bedsheet, and it's been posted through my letterbox by St Mary's Church, in honour of the fact that I live in Shotley, and therefore might be persuaded to turn up on Christmas day and give them some money. And let's face it, they need money - they've splashed out a fortune on these cards.

Intriguingly however, with five days to go before the Trek to Bethlehem at Shotley Village Hall (tickets still available - book now), the photo above seems to be a shot from a similar, yet ever so slightly different event. The caption on the back of the card declares it to be a photo of...

Treck to Bethlehem
TRECK??? Is that an Old Testament word?

Still, if anyone else would like to order fine Christmas cards of this quality (and Carol won't take your order), here are the details you need:

Think ink. Forget spelling. Job done.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

As it turns out, neither Dave nor Nick is a dangerous lunatic. I know, I couldn't believe it either, but it's true. Although obviously you shouldn't judge people on the first meeting, so I'm not committing myself to that point of view.

But I successfully made it up to the north Norfolk coast yesterday, for the kind of gathering rarely seen outside of an episode of Parkinson. Knowing that Dave won't tolerate lateness, and combining that with the fact that Mapquest had told me the drive would take 3 hours, and that we'd arranged to meet at 1pm, I was naturally still eating my breakfast at 10am. But as luck would have it, Mapquest were lying, and I made it to Sheringham at 12:20pm, giving me just enough time to admire the seafront in the rain, before arriving at Dave's, surveying the spacious free car park next to his house, and parking in front of his garage.

Dave was naturally pleased to see me arrive ten minutes early, having already planned today's blog post around the certainty of me being late, but he let me in anyway, and within minutes Nick arrived, having phoned ahead to check which house it was. There's only actually one house in the whole street, and he was standing right outside it, but it pays to be sure. Nick, it turns out, is far taller than he appeared on Richard & Judy, which either demonstrates the misleading nature of television, or means he's had a growth spurt since May.

Introductions over, and Christmas cards exchanged, we headed to Dave's (no relation) Fish Bar for lunch, which gave Dave (the first one - are you following this?) a chance to tell us of his aspirations to move to a luxury pad in the yuppiest part of town. Aspirations which basically hinge on Tesco buying him a four bedroom house with two en suites and a hot tub. Which isn't quite as deluded as it sounds. Well, not the way Dave tells it. Although he did inform me that his church can't afford bells in the bell tower, so they play a tape-recording through loud speakers instead. It's a dead ringer apparently (and no, I'm not ashamed of that pun). Although I'm still not entirely sure he wasn't winding me up there, in the hope that I'd mention it on my blog and look a complete fool. Frankly I wouldn't trust a word that man says.

Anyhoo, despite discovering that neither of my hosts regard themselves as locals, and that Nick really ought to sound like Noddy Holder, we managed to find the Fish Bar, where Nick ordered scampi (giving me a chance to tell the story of the time my Dad was rushed to hospital in an ambulance after eating the little critters), and Dave ordered something which didn't appear to be on anyone else's menu. I then gave the pair an informative lecture on why I feel the need to write about rubbish TV, before testing Dave on his memory of February 23rd. Nick also stated that although he has a flat on Hampstead Heath, and a peacock feather on his door, we're not to infer anything from that.

Leaving the fish bar behind us, Dave attempted to show me the Beeston Bump (which isn't a disco dance), before leading us on a stroll along the seafront. Which would have been more pleasant had it not been pouring with rain. And let's face it, we can't all afford an £11 jacket from Primark. But it gave Nick a chance to tell us about his attempts to break into television by uniting the worlds of comedy and physical deformity, while Dave detailed his plans for a comic novel about a cricket-loving artist with a Russian stalker. Which sounds a bit far-fetched to me. The man needs to get a grip on reality.

Back at Dave's we examined the mini art gallery on his living room wall, before being shown the nerve-centre from which a year's worth of blog posts have sprung (a blue plaque is surely only a matter of time), and witnessing his journey from watercolours to acrylic. I couldn't possibly comment on the quality of Dave's artwork for fear of making him unbearably conceited, but you know you're doing something right when both your guests think your painting of a Formula 1 car is actually a photo.

We retired to the drawing room (I'm not apologising for that pun either) for afternoon tea (Earl Gray for them, Ty-phoo for me), where I attempted to persuade Dave to get a chihuahua. Sadly he refused, feeling that it might detract from his image as a red-blooded heterosexual man about town. It's an image I share myself (there's nothing cissy about owning a Persian cat called Chloe), so I could understand Dave's fear of being tarred (and feathered) with the gay brush. Although he has written a book called 'Fruit From the Blossom', which doesn't help.

Nick eventually left to go to a Thanksgiving dinner (presumably to give thanks that he's not American), and after eating chocolate biscuits and doing my best to leave crumbs all over Dave's furniture, I finally departed at 5:15pm and made my way home (via Tescos, who sadly refused to buy me a house). It may have been my first visit to Sheringham, but I'm not too proud to admit that even as I turned my back on the north Norfolk coast, a small part of me remained forever there in that town.

It was my Christmas card from Dave. But he says he'll send it on to me.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

I do love a good conspiracy theory, and I've always liked the 9/11 no-Boeing-ever-hit-the-Pentagon one, ever since I first heard it three and a half years ago. But I came across a particularly good flash presentation yesterday evening, which frankly should win the Oscar for best short film. I've watched it five times already. Though mainly because I'm a slow reader, and I keep missing the captions before they disappear. But anyway, go to this little website and click one of the union jacks. It's well worth the 3MB download. I haven't been so excited since I discovered that Tony Blair's the son of JFK.

Anyhoo, being far too trusting for my own good, I'm off to Norfolk. Alone. And without the aid of a safety net. If you never hear from me again, send the police here and here, and if they claim I accidentally slipped and fell into the sea, don't believe a word of it. Oh, and if someone could look after my cat, that would be great. The key's under the mat.

Unfortunately I can't tell you where the mat is.

Friday, December 02, 2005

The current topic up for discussion on today's Trisha show, as decribed by the caption at the bottom of the screen, is "Did my boyfriend have sex with a stranger at a bus stop?". It's a question I'm sure every woman has asked herself. After all, what else is there to do while you're waiting for a bus, but make sweet love with the rest of the queue?

Anyhoo, Lisa and I are currently considering whether to go and visit my Big Sis in America at the beginning of February. As of last night, Sis has attempted to persuade us by offering to get tickets to an ice hockey game. Which would be more appealing were it not for the fact that the last time she tried to book a sporting event we ended up with tickets to a home game a thousand miles away.

So she's offered to take us to Mexico instead (possibly working on the principle that the ice hockey game she tries to book in Dallas will end up being in another country). I'd quite like to go to Mexico. And what better guide could we have than my Big Sis, a woman who once attempted to drive there, couldn't find it, and used her inability to locate an entire country as the basis for her Big Brother audition tape four years ago. Needless to say they immediately invited her to an audition (you just have to meet someone like that), but sadly she was pipped at the post by a woman who thought chick peas contained chicken.

In the meantime I'm preparing for an adventure of an altogether more dangerous nature. I'm planning to drive to north Norfolk tomorrow. Which is probably enough to get you straight through to the Big Brother house. I've checked two different online driving resources, one of which says it'll take me two and three quarter hours to do the journey of 81 miles. Which speaks volumes for the quality of Norfolk's roads. Fortunately the other site disagrees. It claims it'll take me three hours. Which makes an average speed of 27mph. I could cycle it quicker than that. If I was young and fit. And I had a bike.

I think I'll hire a tractor and go cross country.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

I don't really have anything to say today, and besides, I'm too busy opening the first door on my chocolate advent calendar, so instead I've visited the Instant Blog Post Generator, which has provided me with this entry for today:

I totally love my grandma Tamika. On weekends she is quite dumb, and then today she just fascinated me... I needed her advice watching a TV show about memory on the African subcontinent, and then she interrupted:

"Damn! If I hear another thing about the African subcontinent I'm going to shoot somebody!"

At first I screamed "NO WAY!" but this morning I just quieted down and began picking my nose. After all, she *is* my grandma and she wants what is best for me...

Link of the day: The Gay Quiz

It's seamless. I should be doing this every day.

And on the subject of that last link...

flooble said that I am
Not Gay
(Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

So there.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

There's nothing more likely to get you in trouble with the police these days than the wanton use of asterisks. No, seriously. For about half an hour yesterday I was on the verge of major criminal charges.

I wrote an e-mail on Saturday to the parking department at Brighton & Hove City Council about their response to my PCN (that's a parking ticket to you and me). I wanted to point out to them the problem of traffic wardens walking down the middle of Lisa's road and therefore failing to check the side windows closest to the kerb, and I decided that the best way of explaining the situation would be to send them the link to my original blog post about it. Which is what I did.

So imagine my delight when I received this reply yesterday from Terry Wilson at Brighton council:

"Dear Mr. Gardner,

First of all: I note in your website that you appear to have confronted the female attendant and used offensive language to her. This behaviour is not acceptable and a note of this has been made against your records. If you use intimidating or threatening behaviour towards a parking attendant again, you will be on the receiving end of a police investigation and may face charges, so I would advise you to pursue any issue such as this through the correct channels and not use aggression towards the attendant."

Ah yes, there's nothing like a light-hearted blog post to make you the subject of a major police investigation. You may want to pause at this point, click on the link above, and search for the evidence of offensive language, intimidation, and threatening behaviour. Let me know if you find it.

In the meantime, Terry continues...

"To address the points in your email:

I have attempted to obtain photographs of the vehicle taken by the Parking Attendant that day but they are unavailable because although 4 were taken, it appears that they were not downloaded properly and are lost. But obviously this evidence would have been very useful in determining exactly what happened. In the absence of these, I have checked The Parking Attendant's notes which state "All Windows Checked". They also include details of exactly where the vehicle was, the tyre valve positions, the distance to the nearest sign, the registration number etc. and she took four shots of the car, all of which indicate to me that they attendant spent some time inspecting the vehicle before issuing the Penalty Charge. You state that the permit was clearly displayed, and our appeals team have to weigh this against the parking attendant’s observations, and she states that she did not see a valid permit on display."

Oooh, the traffic warden took four photos of my car! Marvellous! They would PROVE beyond a shadow of a doubt that I'm telling the truth... but miraculously they failed to download and have been lost. Which is convenient to say the least. And she was obviously too busy looking at my tyre valves to check the nearside window.

But going back to that first paragraph...

I replied to our Tel, with this:

"Dear Terry,

Please could you tell me where it states on my website that I used "offensive language" and "intimidating or threatening behaviour" towards the parking attendant. I did no such thing, I did not swear, threaten, or lose my temper in any way, and I would very much like to know how you have got this impression from my website.

I will add the full text of my website entry below, for your convenience, and look forward to hearing from you.



And to his credit, he got back to me ten minutes later with this:


I'm very sorry, I misunderstood the asterisks. I took them to be used in place of swear words which throws different light on things.

I will delete the note I put on the PCN records. As I'm sure you appreciate, aggression towards Parking Attendants is all too common and we take a firm line with it. But I accept that you were in no way aggressive to her, and I was wrong to suggest that you were.

My apologies to you,


Which possibly makes him the first member of Brighton & Hove City Council ever to admit their own mistakes.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

No letterbox news today sadly, but it is mine and Lisa's one and a half year anniversary, which is obviously quite momentous. Lisa's taken the day off work, and we're celebrating by spending it 140 miles apart.

But in other news, I'm now dangerously close to completing my Christmas shopping. I went into Ipswich yesterday afternoon, having located the perfect gift for my brother (as if being my brother isn't reward enough) in the Argos Catalogue ("don't shop for it - Argos it" as the advert said in an attempt at brainwashing which clearly worked on me). Being the kind of prepared person that would put a boy scout to shame, I checked the availability of my item on the Argos website, then headed straight to the Suffolk Retail Park, safe in the knowledge that my gift was in stock.

So I was naturally delighted to get there and find I'd entered the code of the batteries, and not the gift itself. It was only slightly embarrassing. But as luck would have it, the actual toy - sorry, I mean grown-up present - was in stock too. And I only had to queue for 15 minutes to get it. Which gave a chance for numerous strangers to chat to me against my will (I obviously look approachable). I plan to keep in touch with the woman who'd been waiting half an hour for two bedspreads, although the ginger lady who was going straight from Argos to pick up her kids (and seemed on the verge of asking me to go with her) was more friendly. Unlike the man who disapproved of the Argos computer system, and wanted to discuss with me his proposals for change. Frankly he seemed a bit grumpy, and refused to share in the wartime spirit the rest of us had built up.

I also managed to get my hands on a present for my Mum, whose birthday is December 17th. I'd like to claim it was from an expensive boutique, but I actually spotted it whilst pushing my trolley around Tescos. It says 'Christmas Gift' on it too, but I'm hoping she won't notice. To be honest I was lucky to get it at all, after encountering a woman who wanted to discuss with me the outrage that is Tesco's failure to stock longjohns. She'd been to Asda too, and they were no better. As it happened, neither of us knew what the world is coming too, nor what's wrong with people these days, but by the time I got away, the store was almost closing. Which is surprising as it's open 24 hours.

While I'm here, I'd just like to do my bit for the community by mentioning a very convincing malicious e-mail I received this morning. It looks like it came from Ebay, seems to be targeting UK residents only, and tries to get you to visit Both the e-mail and the site are actually very impressive copies, and the only thing which gave it away for me, is that it was sent to one of my e-mail addresses which I've never used for Ebay. The scam's mentioned here, but I'm slightly concerned that it was reported two weeks ago, and the site still hasn't been closed down.

So be careful people. And remember, crimes like this are actually very rare. So don't have nightmares, do sleep well.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Lisa's sister gave birth to a boy last night. So that's Wilma out the window. I'm currently lobbying for Butler instead.

But that aside, I do wonder where this blog would be without my letterbox. Or rather without people continually shoving rubbish through it. Being on the ball and up to the minute, I've finally got around to going through the pile of junk kindly donated to me whilst in Brighton last week, and amongst it I've found an item personally hand-delivered by a represenative of Babergh District Council. It's addressed thus...

7 Up
... and says it was brought to me by a canvasser on behalf of the council who are very worried that I haven't returned my electoral registration form this year. The canvasser knocked on my door, got no reply, so scribbled this on the form...

URGENT!... along with a note threatening me with a £1000 fine if I ignore it, and shoved the whole lot through my letterbox.

Naturally I'm not worried, because I happen to know I returned my form a couple of months ago, and besides, I'm not easily intimidated.

So anyway, here's a photo of my letterbox. The same letterbox in front of which a canvasser stood, ringing my doorbell and scribbling threatening messages on a form addressed to number 7, before opening it and posting the paperwork through.

Spot the Difference
Honestly, Brighton & Hove council are more competent.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Breaking news from the front page of The Shotley Noticeboard, which has just been unceremoniously shoved through my letterbox...

Star Trek
I can't help feeling Shotley Walking Club have gone too far this time. And how are they going to manage it in two and a half hours??

But it's a catchy title. Being a TREK to a place associated with a STAR, I can't think what else they could have called it.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Well it's taken more than two and a half months, but I've finally received a letter in this morning's post from Brighton & Hove City Council about the sterling work carried out in early September by their flagship traffic warden, W Lunch.

The letter begins well...

... but let's not forget, these are the representatives of a woman who failed to spot a parking permit displayed exactly as instructed, so to expect them to notice how I spell my name is clearly asking too much. They go on to explain why a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) was issued to me (though manage to avoid using the phrase "because our traffic warden's an idiot"), before saying this:

"You stated in your appeal that you displayed a valid resident's visitor's permit in the window, however it was not seen by the attendant at the time the PCN was issued. You must ensure that your permit can be clearly seen in order to avoid incurring charges."

I DID!!!!!

Honestly, I could slap the lot of them. They continue:

"The information provided has been considered and in view of your assurances I can confirm that the PCN has been cancelled on this occasion only. The particular circumstances which have led to the cancellation of the notice on this occasion will not apply again as you now have full knowledge of why the vehicle was in contravention of parking regulations."

So in other words, we don't believe a word you say and you clearly had no idea how to display a parking permit, so we're being very generous in letting you off, but this is the last time because frankly it was all your fault in the first place, and you're not getting away with it twice.

It's good to know that the next time one of their traffic wardens completely fails to do her job, I'll be the one who has to pay for it.

The letter's signed...
Rae of Sunshine
If that signature says 'Rae', I'm a Dutchman. No wonder they couldn't spell my name. Oh, and it should be yours sincerely. But hey, why start getting things right now.

Friday, November 25, 2005

C'mon everybody, do the Lloyd Commotion!It's Lloyd Cole! Yes, I know it looks more like an alien holding a radioactive otter, but it IS him. And yes, I thought he was dead too. But it's amazing the number of 80s music stars who are still out there managing to flog concert tickets to people like Lisa. I was somehow persuaded to stay an extra day in Brighton in order to see the hot Cole causing a commotion in Hove on Wednesday night at a venue called 'The Old Market', which Lisa, who's lived in Brighton all her life, didn't even know existed.

To be honest I was lucky to get there alive, having been rammed by a pensioner on the way to pick up Lisa from work. I was stationary at the time, with my headlights on, and no other traffic around, but that didn't stop a man in his eighties who looked like he'd died about six months ago, veering his car across the road for no apparent reason and ploughing into my right headlamp. I'm not even sure he noticed. But then if you don't spot an entire car on the other side of the road, you're not really gonna know if you hit it. I waved as he drove on down the road, but he didn't let it worry him. Frankly it's only the fact that pensioners rarely top 10mph that saved my life that day.

But I was successfully comforted by Lloyd Cole, who played an evening's worth of songs I'm too young to remember, but which were actually very good. I'm almost a converted fan. We were also impressed by the undiscovered venue, prompting Lisa to quip "We'll probably find Roddy Frame's played here!". Roddy Frame, one of Lisa's top three obscure musical heroes, whom she hasn't seen live for more than 15 years, despite him being the only other man on the planet whose babies she still shamelessly offers to have, could clearly never have played within fifty miles of Brighton without her finding out, going into a frothing frenzy, and snapping up every ticket available. So we both laughed. And then picked up a programme which said he'd been there on October 14th.

So with Lisa on the verge of topping herself, I chose instead to wonder if I have the confident glow of a pharmacist. Whilst at Mill View Psychiatric Hospital on Tuesday evening (not everyone's idea of a night out, but I like the ambience) I was asked by one of the residents if I could supply him with any illegal substances. Naturally I declined (he couldn't afford my prices), so I was slightly surprised when we were approached in the bar of The Old Market 24 hours later and asked if we had any paracetamol. Do I look like a chemist? I said no, but gave her an aspirin and she went away happy.

Anyhoo, as of 1:30am this morning, I'm back in Shotley Gate. I made Lisa's nephew cry by turning up 30 seconds late to pick him up from school yesterday afternoon, so I thought I'd better leave before he tells his parents.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

No sign of the baby yet. I've been doing my best to help by shouting "IT'S THE BAYBEEEEEE!!!" in a panic-stricken voice every time the phone rings, but sadly it never is. Lisa's sister is still refusing to uncross her legs and let it out. But with the due splashdown date only a week away now, my money's on a weekend birth. Which will annoy Lisa, who's hoping for a day off work.

We may not have heard from little Wilma yet (mine and Lisa's choice of baby name - sadly no one's backing us up on this one so far), but I have had an e-mail from my old school chum Emma, who I haven't seen for more than 12 years, but who has finally tracked me down via the magic of Google. It's like Friends Reunited around here. But without the relentless false claims of success and happiness. Although I will be replying to Em in a moment to tell her just how fantastically well I'm doing. And then hoping to win the lottery tonight so I can back up my claims. I'll also be consulting a solicitor this afternoon in case she tries to sue for breach of copyright over Phact #63. Although I should add that this phact is no longer true since I took possession of Lisa's Fire Extinguisher Training Certificate.

Anyhoo, the good news is that having spent another 3 hours in the gift shops of Brighton yesterday afternoon, I've managed to lay my hands on a further four Christmas presents. I also resisted the temptation to buy some Christmas lights in the shape of plastic bunny rabbits, and spent the same amount of money on Lisa's Christmas card as I did on an entire pack of cards for everyone else. Which either demonstrates how expensive Lisa's was, or how cheap the others were. Frankly it's the latter. But it's the thought that counts.

Today got off to a joyful start when I drove Lisa to work and saw a man hit by a car on the other side of the road. He didn't seem to be moving much, but on the plus side, it was only half a mile from the hospital. I was naturally sympathetic, but he was less than 50 yards from a pedestrian crossing, the speed limit's 30mph, and he was hit right next to a speed camera, so frankly the man's an idiot. But obviously I hope he gets well soon.

Right, I'd better get off the internet and back to work. I'm currently in the middle of fitting a lock to Lisa's bedroom door to stop her 2-year-old nephew running in and eating her make-up. Which is good news for her, but bad news for him. He's developed quite a taste for the Max Factor range, so he won't be happy.

Monday, November 21, 2005

My horoscope, courtesy of Mystic Meg in today's Sun:

"Your home chart is at the centre of the action and, after all the waiting, you get the cash go-ahead for changes you want to make. The extra living space could do a lot for a love relationship too".

If that's not proof positive that my brother's putting in an offer on a flat as we speak, I don't know what is. Although from the sound of that "extra living space", he's not going for the studio flat.

Anyhoo, I'm doing my best to stay off the internet today, as Lisa's sister is expecting her third child in just nine days time, and the last one was two weeks early, so we're on a state of high alert around here. And I might not be too popular if Lisa misses the birth because I'm busy surfing the net for hair replacement products. Although it is true that I've just been looking at Mane UK, after seeing an advert in yesterday's paper which claimed to give you a full head of hair within seconds for just £13. I'd quite like a mane, although Lisa's already informed me that I'd look "ridiculous".

So I'd better be off. I'm hoping to combine a lunchtime meeting with Lisa, with some possible Christmas shopping, whilst still finding time to write a light-hearted critique of a TV institution. In which I'll be revealing that Lisa's cousin's daughter's boyfriend was strapped to David Dickinson as he jumped out of a plane last night. No, really, it's true. Frankly me and The Duke are like that (cross your fingers as you read that bit).

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Next door to the Keig-ShevlinsGive it a couple of months and this could be my new living room. It didn't actually look anything like this when we viewed it yesterday of course - since taking the photo, the vendors had decided to go for more of a 'bare rubble-strewn carpet and broken window' look - but I'm assured it's the same property. And it has a lot of potential. Which is estate agent speak for "I'd rip out that yellow and blue striped wall-cladding in the bedroom immediately if I were you".

But of the seven (yes, seven) flats I toured yesterday with my brother, his wallet, my sister-in-law, and everyone's Lisa, this was definitely one of the leading contenders. It's conveniently situated on Hove seafront, close to Chris Eubank's house, and just around around the corner from The Sussex pub, regular haunt of Nicky Keig-Shevlin, the Southern FM breakfast DJ with whom I'm regularly forced to wake up against my will. In addition it features partial sea views, period features, and a brown stain on the ceiling.

Tunnel of LoveIt's also a lot bigger than the first flat we saw - a studio apartment in this exclusive row of houses on Brighton seafront, which despite coming complete with locked gardens and a private underground tunnel to the beach, lacked enough room to comfortably swing a cat. Which is quite important, as my little hairball Chloe will be moving with me.

Amongst those to cross off the list was the one-bedroom flat in Palmeira Square, which despite being handy for the shops, featured a bedroom the same size as a double bed, a cooker ignition switch which was permanently trying to light, and a strong smell of gas throughout. Frankly we were lucky to make it out of there alive.

THE Place for RugbyBut the other leading contender, at least amongst the three members of the party who have no say in the matter, was this one-bedroom effort in Rugby Place. I've never liked rugby, but it has its place, and that happens to be less than half a mile from Lisa's flat, which is handy. Although my enthusiasm waned slightly when she said it's probably not safe to walk between the two after 9pm. I need another of those private tunnels.

It did however have its own roof garden (well, you could walk on the neighbour's extension), and a loft which, according to the estate agent, might actually come with the flat.

So first thing Monday morning my brother will put in an offer, it'll be accepted, the paperwork will be rushed through, and I'll be in by Christmas. Not this Christmas, obviously, but maybe by the time I'm 35.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Breaking news from today's Daily Comet (which is like the Daily Star, only more fast-moving) (frankly I never read anything else) (although it is a local paper for the town of Thibodaux in Louisiana, so you have to wonder what kind of life I lead), is this story. Apparently a woman has called 911 after being served cold onion rings at her local Malt-N-Burger.

And not just any woman. Sharita Williams of 132 Senator Circle, Thibodaux. That's what I love about local papers - none of this "can't be named for legal reasons" nonsense - they're straight in there with the full name and address. I think I'll write to Sharita. We could become pen pals. Frankly we already share the same high standards in food preparation, so who knows what else we might have in common.

Anyhoo, I'm off to Brighton now, via a stop-off in Chelmsford, where I hope to bump into my sister for a couple of hours. I won't be able to hear her above the sound of my Dad practicing the violin of course, but it'll just be nice to see her smiling face. But woe betide my mother if she serves me any lukewarm food for tea...

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Having just logged into Blogger, I happened to glance at the list of 'Recently Updated' blogs, and couldn't help noticing this one. The blog itself isn't actually that interesting (unless you're really, really into pies), but there's just something inherently funny about a blog called 'Helpful Pie Resources'. Or is it just me?

Anyhoo, I actually have nothing to say today (which marks the day out as being different to... oooh, no other days whatsoever), but Lisa's managed a blog post, and frankly if she can do it, so can I.

Talking of people who blog about once a month, the latest headliner in the Blogger 'Blogs of Note' parade is Simplicity, whose author has managed four entries in the past three weeks, and who basically just seems to post links to other sites. Even he questions why he's noteworthy. Honestly, it makes me feel like e-mailing Blogger to complain. Have they ever listed a site actually worth visiting?

Mind you, I'm here trying to stretch precisely nothing into a full-length blog post, so I'm in no position to criticise.

Anyhoo, my sister arrives for the weekend tomorrow. I'd like to claim she's flying in from Texas just to hear my Dad play the violin, but she's the intelligent member of our family, so needless to say she's not. I don't get many opportunities to see her though, so the chance to spend a weekend in her company is not one to be missed.

Unless there's a chance to go flat-hunting in Brighton with my big brother. Which is why I'm heading for the south coast instead. But hey, I'm seeing Sis at Christmas, and I might even get her a present. What more does the girl want?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Well I did watch the concluding part of 'Walk Away and I Stumble' last night. Obviously I don't want to spoil it for anyone who's recorded all three tortuous hours of the thing, and plans to ruin their weekend by watching it, but suffice it to say it went majorly downhill in the second half. Which is surprising, because frankly I thought it had already hit rock bottom on Monday night. It's hard to pinpoint precisely what the worst moment was - there were so many - but to be honest, when you have a scene where the daughter makes a mercy dash through a multi-storey car park on horseback, you know it's not going well.

But in more exciting television news, the official line-up for the new series of 'I'm a Celebrity' has been announced, and having been assured a few days ago by a certain someone (no names, but she's an expert on the legless) that both Dickie Davies and Ron Davies (can you see a pattern forming here?) were going to be involved, I can't help feeling a little disappointed. But at least we've got little Jimmy Osmond. I'm looking forward to seeing his face melt in the heat.

In the meantime, I can reveal that I've seen a glimpse of the future. I bought these in Tescos...

Oh yes, no more carrying heavy bottles of bleach up the steps of my flat - now I can make my own. The back of the pack says 'Safer to Use Than Liquid Bleach', and I agree. The tablets may look like Trebor Extra Strong Mints, but it's ok, I'm not going to leave them lying around. I'll be making them up into bleach and filling my old lemonade bottles instead.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

I've just had a hit over at the other place for the words 'Jodie Marsh is Indian'. Which is news to me. Though I do know that Ian Duncan Smith is Japanese and Mariah Carey's black. I also discovered recently that Jodie Marsh apparently has better GCSE results than I do, so if you want proof that exams have become easier, there it is right there.

Anyhoo. The things I do for love. Against both my will and my better judgement last night, I allowed myself to be talked into watching the turgid relationship drama that was 'Walk Away and I Stumble' (you can tell it's going to be painful from the title alone) on ITV. As a rule I don't tend to watch television dramas on the grounds that they're all... oh, what's the word..? Rubbish. You get far more convincing drama from a bunch of celebrities in the jungle, or Noel Edmonds opening cardboard boxes on Channel 4. But as a bit of a new man, I eventually agreed to the request from my other (but not necessarily better) half, that we should watch the stumble fest 140 miles apart, then come together via the magic of telecommunications for a full and frank discussion of the issues raised.

So having sat through ninety minutes of infidelity and terminal illness, I rang Lisa. Only to find that she seemed to know rather too much about 'The Woman With Half a Body', which had been on Channel Five at the same time. She claimed she only flicked over during the commercial breaks, but having given me the woman's medical history, life story, relationship details, and reasons why she thinks her husband is "not all there", I was beginning to wonder just how many commercial breaks they'd had down there in Brighton.

Conversely, all she seemed to know about 'Walk Away and I Stumble' was that Tamzin Outhwaite had 47 months to live. It was actually "four to seven", but for someone who'd been glued to the other side for an hour, she'd done well to pick up that much.

So that's an hour and a half of my life down the drain. And the sad thing is, I'll probably watch the second half tonight.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

I've just been working out the chords to the Hanson song 'Deeper'. Yes, I know it's not cool for a fully grown man to admit to being into Hanson, but I'll have you know that their latest album exhibits a surprising level of musical maturity and the kind of emtionally charged lyrics not seen since the days of 'Mmmbop'. I can recommend it.

Anyhoo, having just referred to the CD sleeve for lyrical purposes, I've discovered that backing vocals on 'Deeper' are sung by Michelle Branch. So it's no wonder I like it. The dashing hero in 'Be Worth It' was named Adam Branch for a reason - it's a combination of the first man, and my idea of the first woman. At least she was then. She's now been relegated to second place.

But anyway, the chorus to 'Deeper' goes...

I'm falling deeper and deeper and deeper in love,
And I'm feeling more and more and more and more and more alone.

It's a song about living 140 miles from Brighton.

No, really.

And it's no wonder I'm keen to get down there. I bought this postcard on Wednesday...

Greetings From Brighton
... which successfully highlights the appeal of the place. I think I've walked past that portaloo.

In other news, am I the only one who finds that Welsh bloke on the McDonalds adverts intensely irritating?

Saturday, November 12, 2005

They do say there's no such thing as a free lunch. Well frankly they're wrong. I've just received this in today's post...

Free Lunch
Marvellous. Not only is it free, but it's FUN. And I have to take Jo Guest. This could not get any better.

The letter itself was posted in Folcroft, Pennsylvania (wherever that is), but fortunately I don't have to go to America for my free lunch. They're giving me the choice of Ipswich Corn Exchange on the 29th, The Erlsmer Hotel in Westcliff at noon on the 30th, or Hylands House in Chelmsford that same evening. Which is quite spooky, because I have family members in all three locations. Except Ipswich.

Naturally my only reason for going is the free food - I already know how to make money on the internet. Yes, that's right, I've picked the winner of the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham this afternoon. This goes back to my surefire theory (previously mentioned, and indeed mocked, on this blog) about always backing a horse after it's had a wind operation. So on that basis, Brooklyn Breeze at 14-1 cannot lose this afternoon. He's even named after the wind for goodness sake. What more do you want?

So that's my financial future sorted. It's just a shame the money's coming a day too late. I received the news yesterday that a pair of evil house-buyers have beaten my brother to the mortgage application forms and put in an offer for the two bedroom flat in Telscombe Cliffs. The peeling paint on that balcony had my name on it (literally - I took a marker pen), so I wasn't happy. Another 24 hours and that flat would have been mine, all mine, dammit.

Sorry, I mean my brother's. But we're a close family.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Another afternoon of Christmas shopping, another two gifts. I hope the recipients appreciate them - I had to go through a lot to get them. Not that I usually mind being chatted up by gay shop assistants who want to know where I'm from, how long I'm down for, and when I'm going home (he looked devastated when I told him I was leaving that night), but I was in a hurry, and frankly he wouldn't let me leave without giving me a rundown of the Brighton social scene, and fishing for an invite to Ipswich. But on the bright side, he did wrap up my gift and stick a feather on it free of charge. Which only looks slightly camp. My Dad will love it.

Talking of which, I left Brighton at 9:15pm last night, and stopped off at my parents in Chelmsford, only to be greeted by this luminous sign attached to their front door...

Local Musician
Honestly, no one ever tells me anything. First I find out my Dad's
calling himself Mr Magic, now he's turned into a "local musician" (for local people). Still, at least it means he doesn't have to travel far. Although with no admission charge and refreshments provided, he'll basically be playing to the homeless, and fans of free food.

I place myself firmly in the latter camp, but even I wouldn't go to a violin recital.

Although obviously I wish my father all the best in this endeavour.

And not just because I want the Stradivarius when he's dead.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I've just seen a WHSmiths advert for a new DVD box set of 'Titanic' (it's available now - don't all rush at once), which according to the ad features "an all-new alternative ending". Eh? I'm sorry, but just how alternative can it be? The boat sinks - end of (as I believe all the young people are saying). I wouldn't mind seeing Celine Dion dragged under an iceberg though. Preferably before she gets to the chorus. So I might buy it on the offchance.

Anyhoo, by this time on a Wednesday I'm usually back in Shotley Gate with a bag of washing, a pile of post, and a sense of nervous exhaustion, but as I write this I'm still on Lisa's sofa with a laptop. And a sense of nervous exhaustion. I've decided to stay another day (which makes me think of East 17), though I can't reveal why for legal reasons. It does however give me a second bite at the Christmas shopping cherry*. I plan to return to Brighton town centre this afternoon and get all the gifts I didn't consider good enough to buy on Monday. It's amazing how quickly you lower your standards.

Unfortunately I'm also desperately ill. Well, I have a headache. Which I've had since yesterday morning. It's probably the stress of Christmas.

* Who says I never mention fruit?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

So there I was yesterday lunchtime, chewing on a carrot stick, helping myself to more steamed broccoli, and looking forward to the fresh fruit salad I'd prepared for afters, when I decided I really ought to start on my Christmas shopping. Well the last bit of that is true anyway. This time last year I'd actually completed my festive purchasing, and was on chapter five of my novel. A novel I plan on finishing one day. So I decided that seeing as I'm in Brighton, with access to numerous quaint gift shops selling everything from drugs to witchcraft essentials, I really ought to make a start.

So I spent yesterday afternoon trailing around the backstreets of Brighton, and after three hours of non-stop shopping, what do I have to show for my efforts? Two gifts and a blister. At this rate it'll take me till January.

But I did see an entire range of Christmas cards for the gay community, one of which said on the front:
We're Here,
We're Queer,
We're Full of Christmas Cheer!

Which made me laugh anyway.

I was also tempted by some 'Mother Theresa Breath Spray', but wasn't sure who to give it to. And I found a shop selling Crash n Donna's tasteful Men in Pants coasters, so if they ever need a replacement set (though frankly I don't imagine they get a lot of use out of them), I'll know where to go.

Anyhoo, six weeks to go, and only another (quick count on the fingers) ten presents to buy. I think I'll resort to gift vouchers.

Monday, November 07, 2005

I caught the end of GMTV this morning, and happened to see Lorraine Kelly reporting on her weekend away in New York where she was running in yesterday's marathon. So having spent the last few days cat-sitting because Lisa's friend Lorraine had gone to New York for the weekend, I'd just like to make it clear that it's not that Lorraine. Our Lorraine would never run a marathon.

Anyhoo, said cat-sitting is now over, and Timmy did manage to get down from the high window. He opted for an advanced plummetting technique, which basically involved falling head-first onto a wicker chair below and nearly knocking over a glass coffee table. Sadly he wasn't injured. But having witnessed his dive of death, Lisa and I headed across town to pick up her mother for a trip to Hove dog track. Unfortunately, having made it along the seafront as far as the pier, dodging the classic cars from the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, we found ourselves being stopped by police who were holding up traffic for the funeral procession of one Phil Starr.

Starr in his EyesHaving lived in Brighton all her life, Lisa naturally looked blank and said "Who?", but fortunately her mother, who has her fingers in many local pies, was able to fill me in. Apparently he was a local drag queen. Although having sat in a traffic jam and watched a funeral procession consisting of four white horses with plumes, a coffin in a glass coach, half a dozen cadillacs and limos, and about three hundred people, I'd guessed he wasn't a plumber. According to today's Argus, the funeral was attended by both June Brown and Hilda Braid - or Dot Cotton & Nana Moon if you prefer. Sadly Shane Richie couldn't make it. But apparently "June Brown recalled the last time she saw Phil and dropped him off at Victoria station. The pair had been working on a gay sitcom for the BBC written by Matthew Westwood who, she said, thought Phil was a genius".

So it's a sad day for comedy. Phil's untimely death has robbed us of a gay sitcom starring Dot Cotton and a septagenarian drag queen.

It also robbed us of the chance to get to the greyhound track on time, which frankly was more of a loss. But I made up for lost time by picking a couple of losers, and then getting mixed up at the counter and backing the wrong dog. Lisa's Mum had requested a reverse forecast on numbers 2 and 5. So with great confidence I put her money on 2 and 6. I naturally felt awful when I realised my mistake, but felt slightly better two minutes later when 2 and 6 romped home and won me £13. Hey, it was my mistake, so I had to take the consequences. Which in this case was a slap up meal for three at McDonalds. It's no wonder my diet's going so badly.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

How much is that pussy in the window?
It's Timmy. And no, I don't know how he got there.

Or, for that matter, how he plans to get down.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Well I've read 'Who Moved My Cheese?", it did only take an hour, and it has changed my life. Though as a whodunnit it was mostly disappointing. But the main points of the story, as written by Haw (one of the Littlepeople) on the largest wall of Cheese Station N, in an act of wanton vandalism which frankly the author failed to condemn, are:

Change Happens
They keep moving the cheese.

Anticipate Change
Get ready for the cheese to move.

Monitor Change
Smell the cheese often so you know when it is getting old.

Adapt to Change Quickly
The quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you can enjoy new cheese.

Move with the cheese.

Enjoy Change!
Savour the adventure and enjoy the taste of new cheese.

Be Ready to Change Quickly and Enjoy it Again and Again
They keep moving the cheese.

I put the lessons into practice immediately by trying to anticipate the inevitable naughtiness of Timmy, and sure enough, the cheese made one hell of a move, when he spent the evening trying to sabotage my attempts to pack a chocolate polar bear into a cardboard box. Chewing my roll of brown paper, and running off with the sellotape didn't help, but I managed to move with the cheese and savour the adventure. And I only kicked him once. Well ok, twice.

As for smelling the cheese, well I must admit I had detected a slight odour in the kitchen all day, but had failed to locate the source. Until 8pm, that is, when I found that my freezer bag was sitting in a pool of cat's urine. I certainly didn't anticipate that. Having mopped the kitchen floor, run the bag under the tap for ten minutes, rubbed it with kitchen roll, and left it to dry, it still stank of cat wee, and I felt strangely reluctant to use it for food storage. So I ended up chucking it in the bin. I'll be invoicing Lorraine when she gets back.

As I will be for the dishwasher tablets I had to buy at 9:30pm, after spending 24 hours loading the dishwasher, only to find there were no tablets in the house. Oh, and then there's the lightbulbs. And the milk we bought today. Now I come to think about it, I should be making a list...

Friday, November 04, 2005

Well I've made it down to Brighton, but I think I've got some kind of hideous disease. Obviously I'm hoping it's Bird Flu, but they don't list that on NHS Direct, so I'm not sure. But my symptoms, courtesy of the Glandular Fever page, are:

Swollen, enlarged lymph nodes in the neck and groin.
Muscle aches and headache.
Tiredness and lack of energy.

Sadly I'm lacking the final symptom - weight loss - but you can't have everything. I did find myself thinking twice though when Lisa suggested we go to Burger King tonight.

Anyhoo, I'm battling on in the name of cat-sitting. Timmy's currently on the kitchen worktop trying to get into the cat biscuits, and Charlie's been in this morning and eaten Oscar's food, but apart from that it's all under control. As it's November 4th, we're also under strict instructions to keep them in from 5pm onwards "in case they get their ears blown off". And yes, those were her exact words.

I was, however, forced to stop off on the way back from taking Lisa to work this morning, to buy lightbulbs, as half the ones in Lorraine's house don't seem to work. The woman's living in eternal darkness. And her lights don't work. But fortunately I was able to make the most of the shopping trip by picking up a chocolate polar bear, which I plan to send to the needy.

Get your hands off my Edam.Most exciting of all though, was the discovery of this book on the floor by Lorraine's bedside (so frankly it's a miracle Timmy hasn't eaten it). I thought it was a recipe book, so I picked it up, and having got over that disappointment, found that it actually looks quite interesting. It claims to be able to improve your work, health and marriage, all via a simple story about cheese. And best of all, it says you can read it in an hour. Which for a slow reader like me is quite appealing.

So by half three I should have the perfect life. Just in time for Countdown. Marvellous.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

I've just answered the door to a small figure in a strange costume asking for money. I thought it was a trick-or-treater for a moment, but it turned out to be a woman from the British Legion. So I gave her 50p for a poppy, whereupon she came over all faint (possibly from the shock of my overwhelming generosity), made a grab for the handrail, and looked like she was going to topple over and roll down my steps. All of which turned out to be a cunning ruse to talk to me about her vertigo and tinnitus (possibly the result of shelling) for half an hour. Well ok, it wasn't half an hour, but it seemed like it. I'd have had less trouble from a trick-or-treater.

Anyhoo, it's Thursday, and Lorraine left for New York at 6am this morning, so I'm off to Brighton to lock her cats in the garage for three days. But before I go, here's a pretty picture, courtesy of this website, which I came across last night whilst looking for something else entirely.

It may look like a very dull webpage, but enter some text into the little box and you get things like this...

It says Mulled Whines! Really!
... which is enough to entertain someone like me. A word of warning though - don't start clicking on the individual letters. You'll be there all day in a pointless and ultimately unsatisfying quest for alphabet perfection, and end up wishing you'd stuck with the big McDonalds 'M' when you had the chance.

Talking of which, according to The Guardian, 69% of British three-year-olds can identify the McDonalds golden arches, while only 50% of four-year-olds know their own name.

Which is why I'm going to call my first child McFlurry.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

I know this is lazy blogging, but I've just had my weekly comedy e-mail from the Advertising Standards Authority, and frankly things don't get any better. Hot on the heels of the people a fortnight ago who found enough time in their lives to question whether you can fit more than three apples into a carton of apple juice, today we have this top quality complaint which the ASA felt was worth investigating and writing up in their weekly newsletter...

An ad for Dell Computers showed a man looking at a magazine ad for their products. He dropped the magazine and another man picked it up, looked at it and said "Dell, you can’t buy them in the shops. Just give them a call or go online".

Three viewers objected that the ad misleadingly implied you could only buy Dell products from their website or over the phone when they believed they could be bought in high street stores.

ADJUDICATION: Complaints not upheld.
Dell sold directly from the factory to the customer and did not have any shops or contracts with shops to sell their products. Because new Dell products were available only from their website and telephone sales line, we concluded the ad was not misleading.

I'm sorry, but don't people bother checking their facts before sitting down and writing to the ASA??? I love a frivolous complaint as much as the next man, but frankly if this was a law enforcement matter, those three people would be charged with wasting police time, and locked up. Possibly in a psychiatric unit.

But hey, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. I'm off to complain that 'Everything's a Pound' doesn't sell anything under two quid.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

I'm not having much luck at the moment. Having come home a week ago to find my VCR remote control full of water, I've been attempting to get by with a cheap 'one for all' remote which I bought five years ago for about 50p from QD in Ipswich, despite the fact that it doesn't have all the buttons, meaning I can't actually programme the VCR to record anything. I've been attempting a daily ritual to dry out my old remote control, which basically involves shaking it vigorously and swearing quite a lot, and every day I manage to force out enough water to get one more button to start working. Though I still can't rewind, fast forward, or stop a video in less than five minutes without straining my thumb.

So with impeccable timing, I've just knocked my life-saving 'one for all' remote control off the table with my elbow, and watched it smash into a dozen pieces on the floor. Like the six million dollar man, I can rebuild it, but I've just done so and it doesn't work. At this rate I'm going to be forced to get out of my chair if I want to watch a video. Which is frankly outrageous. I've no idea how our forefathers managed.

But on the bright side, the latest issue of the local Community News magazine has just arrived, which always manages to cheer me up. On top of the 'Bandits Agility School' offering "Fun for you and your dog at Shotley Village Hall every Sunday at 2pm", headline news in this issue is:

50 hits a day!
Which is worth an exclamation mark in anyone's language. Watch out BBC Online, My Shotley is coming up on the rails.

Talking of which, I seem to be making a good living flogging singing lessons to Aqualung fans, since plastering my music pages with adverts...

Music Fans
... and even Lisa gets three admirers a day...

Lisa Fans
... but as for the reason I set up the website in the first place...

Play Fans
Marvellous. So it's official - people are more interested in Lisa than my plays.

But I can't complain, because let's face it - so am I.

Monday, October 31, 2005

It's Halloween! Woooooooooooooo... Are you scared yet?

I don't really do Halloween. There's something about kids wearing masks and knocking on the door demanding money with menaces that doesn't seem particularly fun to me. But in the spirit of late October, I did find myself on the phone to Lisa last night, trying to open a tin of corned beef with one hand whilst explaining the plot of Cannibal Holocaust. Just a little insight into my life there. Unfortunately I couldn't remember the second half of the title, but having mumbled "Cannibal Something" about half a dozen times, Lisa kindly leapt to my aid and suggested 'Cannibal Run'. Which is possibly the wittiest thing she's ever said. I wouldn't mind seeing Burt Reynolds eat Roger Moore. He looks a bit tough and leathery, but he'd probably taste like beef jerky.

Anyhoo, I've just had my first ever piece of international junk mail, and I have to say, those Americans do it so much better than we do. This is ingenious with a capital 'inge'. I've received a letter in today's post from...

... who have kindly written to me all the way from New York with a serious looking document entitled 'Domain Name Expiration Notice'. It says this (and if you haven't eaten enough carrot cake, you may have to click to enlarge it)...

The important word there is "switch". I'm not actually with the Domain Registry of America. They are in fact a rival company, who have gone to all the trouble of looking up the registration details for my Telly Critic site, and sending me a letter which looks like a bill for renewal, complete with handy payment form at the bottom, and the words "You must renew your domain name to retain exclusive rights to it on the Web".

Which is true of course. I just don't have to do it with them. You have to say that's quite enterprising though. And if I didn't know my domain name was set to be renewed automatically, I'd be writing them a cheque as we speak.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

I've just been looking at the website of...
Bingo Bango Software... (it's a catchy name), whose software product 'Elicit' (a bargain at only $59)allows you to schedule the automatic publication of blog entries for when you're not there. Which sounds quite interesting. However, I was more interested by this revealing statement on their website:

"Successful bloggers know that you have to publish frequently to get the attention of your readers and the ever important search engines. And many bloggers know that you have to have more than one site if you want to make money. 3 entries per day per blog is a lot of entries if you have 10 or more blogs."

So THAT'S why I'm not a successful blogger. I'm not writing three entries a day on ten different blogs. I really should make more of an effort.

But in the meantime, I've managed to pinpoint my basic needs in life, courtesy of Internet Wombat, and a pointless but entertaining game which is currently doing the rounds on various blogs. The idea is to enter the phrase "[your name] needs" into Google, and then list the results. Some blogs say you should list only the top ten, others that you should underline the ones which are true. Me, I'm listing the top twenty (see numbers 7, 14 and 18), and frankly they're all true. It's almost as if Google knows me personally...

1. Phil needs a dose of his own medicine.
2. Phil needs a blog.
3. Phil needs a new act.
4. Phil needs Jesus.
5. Phil needs your help today to fight the Schwarzenegger fundraising machine.
6. Phil needs more assistance.
7. Phil needs to get a life.
8. Phil needs his beauty sleep.
9. Phil needs a swift kick in the arse.
10. Phil needs to be born again.
11. Phil needs new life in Jesus Christ.
12. Phil needs a wake up call.
13. Phil needs someone like you.
14. Phil needs to feel superior.
15. Phil needs to get real.
16. Phil needs to realize that the main reason we suck is because we’re saddled with a roster of undesirable players with huge contracts.
17. Phil needs to be arrested.
18. Phil needs more attention than a "normal" boy.
19. Phil needs to read his own biography.

... and my personal favourite...

20. Phil needs to unleash the beast and let those hands fly.

I've no idea what that means, but I plan to put it into practice immediately.

Friday, October 28, 2005

It's interesting the things you learn whilst on the phone to Lisa. Not from the actual conversation, obviously, but rather from the things you fiddle with whilst chatting. I happen to have in my possession numerous pens sent to me by charities in the belief that the only thing stopping me from signing a direct debit instruction is the lack of anything to write with. Personally I believe that any charity which can afford to give away pens to random members of the public via first class post is a charity not short of a few bob, so I keep the pens and chuck the letters in the bin as a matter of principle.

Anyhoo, the current trend seems to be for pens which look like this...

Charity Pen... and basically consist of a tight roll of paper wound around the middle of a biro. Which is more environmentally friendly, I'm sure, but doesn't fare so well when you leave one on your coffee table under a leaking ceiling for a week.

So whilst listening to Lisa's engaging conversation about Burgess Hill (and her desire not to go there) last night, I began fiddling with a pen I'd received from the RSPB (I love birds as much as the next man, but I'd be more inclined to give them money if they'd let me shoot the seagulls outside Lisa's flat). Despite only having one hand to work with, I found myself successfully unrolling the paper around my pen, and what did I find..?

Pen to PaperWell, this actually. It's a Chinese newspaper. Or possibly a Japanese newspaper - it's so hard to tell the difference (although my niece knows a rhyme about that). I think I'll go for Japanese - I don't imagine they get many adverts for Chanel and Dior in communist China.

On the other side there's half a picture of a major car crash, and an advert for a company whose phone number is 87777777. It's a cracking good read anyway, and frankly I'm going to be unravelling every pen I get from now on, just to catch up on world news.

If nothing else, it gives whole new meaning to the phrase 'pen to paper'.