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Monday, January 31, 2005

Brace yourself everyone...


Hurrah! I've been hoping to hear from Andrey again ever since he invited me to his home in Alexandria two weeks ago to help him celebrate his success in some kind of spelling competition.

Well he's back. And his English has definitely improved. He says:

I am a free Author in my World.
Given birth not for the first time and to make the first termination a circle of external transformations, I quietly and simply open my soul.
I am opened, - I want, that to be close - I has come in the world.
The dark terrestrial soul of the person is sweet words also fierce and rises on an infinite ladder of perfection in this life for ever inaccessible and for ever desirable.
Thirst a miracle - and a miracle will be given to her.
And if terrestrial life, - my life, - not a miracle? Life such destroyed, such disconnected and such big.
"For all and in everything, - I, and only I, also was not existing another, and not and I shall not be".
"Things - in me, but you - not a thing mine; you and I - one".
"Arrive to me, read me".

Ok, well as far as I can make out, Andrey appears to have had a baby. Although he also talks about a termination, so I'm not quite sure what that's all about. To be honest, he began to lose me around the ladder of perfection bit, although I did enjoy the clever use of a semi-colon in the sentence "Things - in me, but you - not a thing mine; you and I - one". Correct punctuation is so crucial, otherwise people won't know what you're talking about.

Pleasantries out of the way however, the reason for Andrey's e-mail soon becomes clear. Anyone initially confused by the words "Arrive to me, read me" will be left in no doubt by the next sentence:

Andess mine WEB is such form.

Well ok, maybe just a little bit of doubt. But let me clear things up for you:

Andrey has a website address! Yes, really. And since he's written to tell me about it, I feel the least I can do is link to it on my blog. So here we go...

... and whilst I'm not one to judge, I feel I should mention that this may very well be the worst website you've ever seen...


But I do like his use of big fonts.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

In the great tradition of people who have nothing to say, here's a picture instead...

Look at the black dot in the middle and move your head (and upper body, if it's attached) forwards and backwards (you see, not only is this a piece of optical spookiness, it's also a cardio-vascular workout).

I'm not entirely sure how it works, but I suspect it's an ungodly act of Satan. Which is why I've posted it on a Sunday.

Talking of ungodly, my young chum Melee was asked this question in a job interview on Thursday:

"My Mum always uses the principle 'one spoon per person and one for the pot' when making tea. Before Granny moved in we bought one box of tea leaves per week. Now we buy two every fifth week and one per week otherwise. How many people were living in the house before Gran arrived?"

I didn't realise the selection process at Burger King was so rigorous.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Today is mine and Lisa's 8 month anniversary, which is good news for us, but bad news for all those people who are sick to death with this habit of mentioning it on a monthly basis. I'm sure there's a significant drop in my blog visitors around the 29th of each month. But to me it's like the menstrual cycle - you know it's coming, you can't do anything about it, and ultimately it's other people who suffer.

Fortunately though, I'm saving myself up for Valentine's Day, so for now I'll change the subject from anniversaries to birthdays.

Yesterday was the birthday of my best friend Pat. I've known her for less than a year, but I've seen more of her in that time than all my other friends put together. So I think she qualifies as my bestest pal, and we've had some good times together. Most of which involve reckless gambling.

It's not all rosy though - she has a slightly dodgy daughter who hangs around the place and gets in the way a bit when we're trying to chat about horse racing, but on the plus side, I have free rein on the contents of the biscuit jar, and Pat's even been known to bake me a potato (or three). So it's worth putting up with the daughter. I think.

So I'd like to wish Pat a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY (a day late, but what can you do), and give her a hundred grand with my compliments.

Yes, that's right, I'm announcing my selections for the...

Scoop 6


Obviously they're all dead certs, and if (sorry, I mean when) all six come in this afternoon, you'll win about a hundred thousand. So here you go...

Royal Rosa
Ollie Magern
Your a Gassman
Kandjar d'Allier

You've got just under two hours to place your bets. I'll put the champagne on ice.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Big news!!! The nominations for the 2005 Bloggies (the world's most prestigious blog awards) have just been announced, and guess what..?!!!

I haven't been nominated.

I'm particularly disappointed not to have made the shortlist for "best weblog in the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgendered community", but hey, there's always next year.

The Bloggies were open to "any weblogs that existed for a period of time during the year 2004", so particular congratulations must go to The South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami Blog (which sounds like a barrel of laughs), created on December 26th, and nominated for four top awards. That's what I call sneaking in at the death. No pun intended.

Anyhoo, it's taken me over three weeks, but I've finally spent the money generously donated to me by King Nicholas, and as per our agreement, I have to post a photo of what I bought...

£6.99 well spent

My reasons for choosing this particularly fine item of clothing were multifold:

1. I can't be trusted in charity shops.
2. I can't wear a Great Ormond Street Hospital sweatshirt all my life.
3. I want to look like Emilio Estevez in 'The Breakfast Club'.
4. I still fancy my chances with Molly Ringwald.
5. The more I lose my hair, the more I need a hood.
6. It cost exactly £6.99. And here's the proof:

Told you

Incidentally, I apologise for the mess in the top right-hand corner of the pic, but there's only so much available floor space in my flat, and it's difficult to find a patch without a mic stand and some guitar leads.

But you're right, I do have nice carpeting.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

I've found another photo of me in the Great Ormond Street Hospital sweatshirt...

Male Model

I also found three photos of Bruno Brookes which I took when I was 14. I've led a tragic life.

Talking of which, I was reading the website of Richard Herring (fish-based comedian) before the weekend, and was particularly taken with the idea of Consecutive Number Plate Spotting. The challenge is to spot every number from 1 to 999, in the correct order, on car number plates. It took the Herring a year and eight months to complete, and is clearly a pointless and highly stupid activity.

So I thought I might give it a go. I was slightly concerned by the rule which states...

"Be aware that once you take up the call to be a CNP spotter you have to see it through to its bitter end. You can’t start up the game, decide it’s rubbish and impossible and then stop. By agreeing to start you have signed a contract that you will do all in your power to complete the task, even if it takes 5 or 10 years."

... but I successfully spotted 1, 2 & 3 in sequence driving down to Brighton last Friday, so after a few days of telling myself "you really don't want to start this, it'll take years", I've finally given in and registered at, where my mighty total of 3 is already good enough for position number 402 on the leaderboard. I'm only 391 places behind Emma Kennedy, who I used to quite fancy when she did the film reviews on 'The Terry & Gaby Show'.

So now I'm looking for a number 4. Which makes it particularly annoying that so far this week I've seen three 5s, a 6, an 8 and two 9s.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Despite weather forecasts to the contrary (and fervent prayers from Lisa, who didn't particularly want to get out of bed at 7am), we failed to get snowed in on either Monday or Tuesday, so sadly I was forced to leave Brighton and return home last night.

Not being situated on the balmy south coast, Shotley Gate had borne the brunt of the winter weather, and was covered in snow, a fact which was brought home to me when my car went into a sudden spin on the bend half a mile from my flat, and I came to a standstill facing in the opposite direction on the wrong side of the road.

Which proves the value of coming home late at night when there's no traffic around. A couple of hours earlier and I might not be here now writing this blog post. (I'm not saying I'd be dead, but I might have sprained my typing finger).

Anyhoo, I survived intact, and more importantly, so did my cargo of tackiness. I'd spent Monday afternoon scouring Brighton's classier boutiques for a cheap gift to take to Crash n Donna's wedding party in March. The rules stipulate that it must be both tacky and under a fiver, which sounds simple enough, especially for someone like me who tends to buy tacky gifts without even trying. But it actually proved quite taxing. There's a very thin line between tacky and brilliant. So I was forced to reject the clockwork nun and the heart-shaped frying pan, on the grounds that they were actually too amusing to be tacky. I needed something deeply rubbish.

I'm still not convinced that what I've got plumbs the depths of pure tat to a sufficient extent, but it only cost £3 and is fairly bad. Trouble is, they'll probably love it.

As for yesterday, I visited Lewes and Hove, ate copious amounts of sugar-free sherbet lemons, gave large quantities of cash to charity (in return for dodgy items of clothing), stole leftover Christmas food from Lisa's mother, and then drove through the streets of Brighton one-handed with my seatbelt undone, whilst attempting to retrieve my mobile from my pocket to see who was texting me.

It turned out to be my mother telling me to drive carefully.

Monday, January 24, 2005

I've just had a close encounter with Chris Eubank! Well, Chris Eubank's armoured assault vehicle. And I thought it was exciting meeting Mike Read and Lord Brockett on the beach last summer.

At the bottom of the hill where Lisa lives is the private school attended by the Eubank herd. I pass it every day, but so far have failed to spot Chris doing the school run or attending PTA meetings. This morning however, on my return from driving Lisa to work, I swung around the corner and nearly hit a huge Hummer parked illegally on the double yellow lines opposite the school.

Now I'm not saying it was definitely Chris Eubank's vehicle, but the registration number was '1 KO'.

I was tempted to call for a traffic warden, or possibly just clean his windscreen, charge him a fiver and ask where he gets his jodhpurs, but I hadn't had any breakfast, so in the end I just drove past and went home for my Honey Nut Cheerios. It was quite exciting at the time though, and puts me one up on Lisa, who's only met Biggins and Blair (Lionel, not Tony).

Anyhoo, today is apparently the most depressing day of the year. Hurrah! Personally though I'm keeping my spirits up thanks to a valuable new revenue stream which has boosted my bank balance over the weekend. It involves sitting on Lisa's sofa and waiting for her to bet me a pound on a Big Brother related issue.

It began on Friday when, in a moment of inspiration, Lisa bet me a pound that Bez would be voted out of the house. I went for Caprice, and the result was the quickest pound Lisa's ever lost. Having learnt her lesson (obviously), she proposed another bet last night - that Bez would finish third. I said Brigitte, the deal was struck, and I was another pound up.

At which point my conscience got the better of me. Feeling guilty about taking another pound off my dearly beloved, and knowing that Kenzie was the nailed-on winner, I magnanimously bet Lisa a pound that Bez would win, just so she could have her money back.


Sunday, January 23, 2005

You know you've chosen the right song for your first karaoke experience when the DJ introduces you, and half the audience groans. I knew I shouldn't have gone for Take That. But like a younger, slimmer Gary Barlow, I ploughed on regardless and slaughtered 'Back For Good' with all the dedication I could muster, accompanied by encouraging cheers from the other side of the bar where Lisa was doing her best not to laugh.

I missed out a lot of the words towards the end, when I realised I didn't know the song quite as well as I thought I did, but I compensated with a bit of swaying and a few despairing looks to the DJ, who said "I don't know how that bit goes either", so I think I got away with it.

The evening had started well when Lisa and I decided not to get off the bus thirty yards from the station, because it was raining, and Lisa was convinced that if we stayed on, it would swing around and drop us off right by the main entrance. So we stayed put and looked longingly at the station disappearing into the distance behind us, as the bus drove on a quarter of a mile before letting us off.

But hey, I was in the mood for a walk through the rain, with Lisa telling me to slow down because she was wearing the wrong heels, and Melee phoning me on my mobile wondering where we were.

But we all met up shortly afterwards, exchanged marmalade (well, Melee and James (named and shamed) gave us marmalade, we gave them a firm handshake), and promptly jumped on another bus into town. We ate at Pinocchio's, where we each took it in turn to go to the toilet, giving the other three a couple of minutes to talk about the absent person. I'm sure only nice things were said about me, and in addition, James told me what he liked most about Lisa. He'd been drinking, so I won't repeat it.

Having stuffed myself with chocolate truffle gateaux (I'm on a diet), we made our way to Brighton pier and the 'Offshore Karaoke Bar', which presumeably has certain tax advantages over other karaoke bars. Melee did Macy Gray, James did R.E.M., I did the boy band thing, and Lisa did a convincing impression of someone who'd rather die than get up on stage and sing. Having seen me dying on stage, she should've realised that both were possible, but she refused to be persuaded, so we missed out on her own unique interpretation of the Bananarama classics.

Unfortunately the twin distractions of drink and karaoke were enough to corrupt the usually responsible young Croydoners, and having stayed til 11pm, Melee and James promptly realised they'd missed their last train home. So it was back to Lisa's for a game of Mike Read's Pop Quiz, accompanied by much shouting of "Ricky!" (there was some confusion over which Mike Read we were talking about), and large amounts of cheating from the younger members of the group. Ultimately though, Lisa and I triumphed over adversity and won both the game and the right to wear the winner's badge.

Which was too much for Melee and James. They left first thing this morning.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Well so far the Brighton Argus have ignored my poetic masterpiece. But they did print a poem today entitled 'Lament for the A23', which begins "Where traffic flowed freely, let there be congestion", and makes frequent reference to bus lanes, so obviously the competition is quite stiff.

Having driven down to the south coast yesterday afternoon, Lisa and I made our way to Shoreham for a dinner party with two other couples. I was introduced to a lovely lady who despite coming "from a farming and haulage background" (a fact she may just have mentioned once or twice) had made something of her life and gone on to live next door to Simon Nye, the writer of 'Men Behaving Badly', for seven years. He, apparently, was lovely, but I couldn't possibly reveal what his wife got up to while he was in London filming the shows.

As if that wasn't enough, her friend is currently dating someone who knows both Steve Coogan AND Alan Partridge, a fact she was quite convinced of, even after we pointed out that they're the same person.

We also learnt that Lisa is "very naive", "England is shit", and none of us earn enough. Oh, and having your own dog-minding business ('Dogs R Us' - I'm not making it up) is very hard work. But I'm sure we all knew that already.

Fortunately we only had to sit through the first 200 of her wedding photos before her husband succeeded in dragging her out the door (literally). As Lisa said "she's a sit-com waiting to happen", so watch this space.

Anyhoo, no time for further blogging now - Lisa and I are off to Brighton station to meet young Melee and her beau, who are leaving behind the delights of Croydon on a Saturday night and travelling down here to see what Brighton has to offer.

And what does Brighton have to offer..?


We're getting the bus, coz I'm going to need a few drinks to get through this.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

A couple of weeks ago Lisa and I were watching an American edition of Wife Swap (for research purposes only. It's not as if we spend our lives watching cheap reality shows), and the husband of one of the couples featured decided to write his absent wife a love poem. It began "Roses are red, violets are blue...", after which it failed to rhyme, scan, or (to the best of our knowledge) mean anything. I've read more poetic shopping lists.

But it did cause Lisa to turn to me and suggest (demand) that I write her a love poem. I think the basis for her reasoning was essentially that "it might be a bit of a laugh". For her.

In addition to that, I've spent the last eight months enjoying the Brighton Argus' 'Poetry Corner' section, which regularly features some of the most appalling verse ever committed to paper. Lisa, who knows that if I put my mind to it, I'm more than capable of coming up with some appalling poetry, has long been suggesting that I submit a few lines, to test the theory that they'll publish any old rubbish.

So today I killed two birds with one stone (not literally - Lisa's the sparrow slayer in this relationship). I spent the afternoon composing a delicate and beautiful love poem in five stanzas, and having satisfied myself that I'd succeeded in conveying the true nature of my deepest emotions about Lisa in 20 lines (about one and a half sonnets) of tender verse, I e-mailed it to the Brighton Argus.

Obviously it would have been better if I'd composed it under an oak tree on the edge of a cornfield, but I didn't like the look of the weather, so I stayed in and watched '60 Minute Makeover' instead. But the result, I feel, is among the finest poetry I've ever written. Though admittedly I don't write poetry. It all rhymes though.

I'm off now to the south coast for four days to await the (inevitable) publication of my masterpiece.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Sometimes I think I'm too easily bullied...

Bad Hair Day

In case you're wondering, the white blob on the front of my sweatshirt is a hamster called Snowy. I was like a youthful St Francis of Assisi in those days. And I realise you can't actually tell it's a Great Ormond Street Hospital sweatshirt, but trust me, it is. I bought it because of my great love for the place. It was originally white, but they made a mess of my blood test.

Anyhoo, I realise I should be on a plane to Egypt by now, but I've decided to stay in Britain, partly because I'm due at a pasta-eating event on Friday, partly because I've been asked to sing karaoke to chavs on Saturday, but mainly because Andrey has neglected to send me his address. He obviously feels we're sufficiently close that I should already have it.

Oh, and to the person (you know who you are) who entered decidedly dodgy terms into search engines yesterday evening in an attempt to show up on my blog referral stats and get a mention here, you're going to have to try a lot harder than that. And don't think I don't know what royal palace you came from...

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

It seems the Winter Vomiting Virus is spreading like wildfire throughout Shotley Gate. I went for a walk this morning to the other end of Shotley and back, for no other reason than that it was sunny and I want to win a fiver off Lisa. On the outward leg of the journey I spotted nothing untoward, save for an elderly lady I've never met before insisting on stopping me to discuss the cold wind, and venture the opinion that winter might be on its way. Personally I could've told her that by staying indoors and looking at a calendar, but I politely nodded and agreed with everything she said.

Having retraced my steps back down the road however, I walked a stretch of pavement I'd covered just forty minutes earlier, and...

There were two patches of fresh vomit on it.

I could have taken a photo, but I didn't. Suffice it to say it was a beautiful shade of pink, and quite chunky.

So who in their right mind would vomit copiously on the pavements of Shotley Gate at 11 o'clock in the morning, other than a fellow victim of the Winter Vomiting Virus? Or possibly an alcoholic. Or anyone who'd just eaten at the Happy Fryer.*

Either way, I'm wearing a face mask from now on.

This afternoon my mother came over with a suitcase full of junk, confident in her assumption that I don't have enough junk already. Having sorted through it and chucked half the contents in the bin, I discovered two items of interest:

1. A stack of old photos, including one of me aged 9 wearing a Great Ormond Street Hospital sweatshirt (what on earth possessed me to buy that???).

2. Six folders containing every A-level English essay I ever wrote. Which is marvellous, coz it means I can sell them all on Ebay when I'm famous.

I also found two of my A-level exam papers, so I now know that at 2:30pm on Tuesday, 18th June 1991, I was attempting to answer the following:

"A nobleman's sadistic trial of his wife's fortitude and constancy."
Say how far you consider this a fair summing-up of The Clerk's Tale.

So I just wrote "Not at all" and walked out.

Well ok, I didn't. But I did regret not questioning their use of 'summing-up' instead of 'summation'.

*only joking. I love the Happy Fryer.

Monday, January 17, 2005

I had two interesting e-mails over the weekend. The first read:

do you own jail babes if so contact me it is urgent

The author's clearly not a fan of such conventions of letter-writing as punctuation, capital letters, or indeed signing your name at the bottom, but I won't hold that against him. What I will hold against him is the fact that clearly people are now starting to think I actually owned the Jail Babes site (sadly no longer with us), when in fact all I did was write an article about it a couple of years ago.

As previously discussed here, I already get more hits for the term 'Jail Babes' than for any other phrase (although 'Poddington Peas' runs it close on a good day, which is slightly scary), possibly due to being ranked number 3 for those two words out of 259,000 sites on Yahoo (so no, it's not a Googlewhack).

So once word gets around that I might actually have owned the thing, I could be inundated with heartbroken guys who fell in love with violent criminals on the net and don't know how to get in touch with them after the site closed down. Personally I'd contact the prison visiting service or the parole board, but I'm the kind of guy who would've noted down my girlfriend's prisoner ID number and the name of the state penitentiary she calls home, and obviously I can't expect everyone to be that conscientious. These are the lovesick partners of major felons, and they're not going to be thinking clearly. Or calmly. Or non-violently.

Meaning it's important I set this guy straight.

Which makes it mildly tragic that in common with about 30% of people who use the Phil-Mail-o-Matic, this chap didn't bother entering his name or e-mail address, yet still felt confident I'd know who he is and would be able to reply.

But hey, that's love. It's tragic at the best of times.

My second e-mail was far more exciting, and was sent direct, avoiding any such mishaps. It was from Andrey Eris. That's right, Andrey Eris. Me and Andrey go way back. We're like brothers. I remember with great fondness the time old Eris, or Andi as I call him, travelled the world together, seeing the sights, experiencing the highs and lows, living life with gusto...

Ok, I admit I've never heard of Andrey Eris. But he seems to have heard of me. He says:

At me the Big holiday concerning my successful spelling of the novel 'Joseph' Is planned. I wait to myself for you and your friends? 19 January till January 21.

I'm guessing, but I don't think English is Andrey's first language.

Which is no problem, because he then repeats it all in French:

Chez moi On decide une Grande fete au sujet de mon orthographe heureux du roman 'Iosif'. Donc! J'attends chez moi-meme de vous et vos amis? 19 de janvier avant le 21 janvier.
La fete!

... which actually made more sense to me.

Now, I'm as pleased about Andrey's successful spelling as the next man, but is that really enough to entitle me to three days at his house?

The e-mail concludes:

Kind Regards from Alexandria,
The Russian Writer Andrey Eris.

Alexandria?? That's Egypt! I've always wanted to go to Egypt! And what's more, I can take my friends with me. Woo-hoo! Pack your bags everyone, we're off to Africa on Wednesday!

Sunday, January 16, 2005

The question on everybody's lips today appears to be "How tall is Phil Oakey?". At least, that's what somebody typed into a search engine to get to this blog. The spooky thing is that whilst I have no idea, I do have close links with a woman who can quote the exact height of every member of Duran Duran. So if anyone can find out, it's Lisa.

In other internet news, I spent yesterday evening at my parents' house, chatting to my sister-in-law and colouring-in a Christmas tree with my niece (twelfth night means nothing to her), whereupon I discovered that my Dad now has more items for sale on E-bay than Del Trotter. Speaking as someone with about half a dozen websites, and more hours clocked up online than Bill Gates, there's something not quite right about being shown how to use E-bay by a pensioner.

But anyway, I've now found time to watch the DVD lent to me (and Lisa, but she doesn't get a look in) by Crash n Donna. And very good it was too. (So they're definitely not getting it back). Entitled 'Dave Gorman's Googlewhack Adventure', it was the story of an adventure undertaken by Dave Gorman, based around Googlewhacks. Which took me by surprise.

For the unenlightened, a Googlewhack is a random pair of words which, when entered into Google, produce just one hit. They're not easy to find (well not for people with limited vocabularies like me), but having watched the DVD, I decided that with all the many pages on my website, at least one of them must contain a Googlewhack. And if it's (just) possible to find them randomly, it's gonna be a darn sight easier when you're physically searching a particular page. So I thought I'd quickly find one on my own site.

Gentle reader, I have wasted half the day on this. I cannot believe there are 1,460 results for schizophrenic aardvark. And how can there be 61 other sites which mention inglenook Nazis? Catchphrase catamarans was no better - I reckoned without a 2001 edition of Sailing News which claims that "Why did we bring a spinnaker?" is a common catchphrase amongst boating people. Yeah right.

Anyhoo, having just about lost the will to live, I finally hit paydirt with... [fanfare please]... SHRIVELLING SPRITZERS. Hurrah!

At least... I thought I had. Unfortunately the rules of the challenge state that both words have to be listed in, indicated by them being underlined in the top right of the search results page.

And 'spritzers' isn't underlined.

So I visited, where I found... spritzer, n. : a drink made of wine and carbonated water.

I demand a steward's enquiry. (Possibly a bar steward's enquiry). How can spritzer be in there, and not spritzers? It's an outrage. Or is it like adding an 's' to sheep? Honestly, I'm not happy.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Oh, and I'm not one to blow my own trumpet, but...
I think my enforced 24-hour detox is at an end. The 'Winter Vomiting Virus' (thanks Donna) seems to have disappeared just as quickly as it arrived, and according to this BBC article, it's "usually non-fatal" (nice use of the word 'usually').

My recovery was undoubtedly aided by this gift of grapes...

Grapes of Wrath

... from Paul, though I resisted the temptation to go for baby food too, as he helpfully suggested. I have seen a jar of Lemon Curd Pavlova (I don't care what anyone says, pavlovas shouldn't come in jars) in Lisa's Mum's kitchen cupboard (she claims it's for her grandson, not for herself), but so far I haven't had the courage to try it.

Whilst aiding my recovery by sitting in the bath drinking Pepto-Bismol this afternoon, I read extracts from a new book by Simon Hoggart in The Week magazine. Called 'The Cat That Could Open the Fridge', it's a collection of those oh-so-enjoyable family newsletters which people seem to insist on sending out with their cards at Christmas time, full of glad tidings about how well their kids are doing, and the countless exotic holidays they've taken that year.

My parents once received one from a couple who stated that due to financial hardship that year, they'd had to sell one of their yachts. But personally I prefer the ones written by proud parents about their perfect children. And you'd have to go a long way to beat this one...

"At a recent parent-teacher meeting I asked the teacher if there were any areas of weakness with Melanie that we should be working on, and her reply was 'No, you've given me a little diamond, and all I have to do is polish it.'"

No, stop throwing up, I think that's actually rather beautiful. And I'm sure all my teachers said similar things.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

It's been an excellent day for my diet. With great self-control I've resisted the chocolatey goodness of Kit-Kats and limited myself to just four slices of toast all day. And I very nearly didn't finish that.

On the downside, it's not so much a healthy eating plan as a reaction to major illness (although as someone who likes to publicly rebrand a slight cold as terminal pneumonia, I don't actually expect anyone to believe that). But as of 3:30am last night, I've had terrible sickness, upset stomach, the worst headache I've had for many years, and limbs which ache so much I can barely lift the remote control.

Fortunately I was able to force my Mummy to come over with a thermometer and tend to my needs all day, leaving me free to swig Pepto-Bismol, take Aspirin, and sleep copious amounts.

So I feel rough in the extreme. But on the bright side, Lisa and I have an ongoing £5 bet that I can lose a stone quicker than she can lose half a stone. So today might just have earned me some money.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

I arrived back in Shotley Gate at 1:50am last night. The drive from Brighton takes around 2hrs 15mins, and by pure coincidence 1:50am was exactly 2hrs and 15mins after the end of Celebrity Big Brother's Little Brother on Channel 4. But I'm sure it doesn't mean that I stayed in Brighton just to watch vacuous reality shows, and refused to leave til they'd finished. That doesn't sound like me at all.

Frankly it was a relief to get away. I'd made the mistake of being friendly to Lisa's mother, and had been forced to eat four Kit-Kats in return. Obviously I'm on a diet, so I was going to say no after the third one, but I felt it would be rude to refuse. The same applies to the two packets of Polos she gave me for the journey home. So I only stuffed my face out of politeness.

I did however find out the startling news that Lisa's sister went to school with Jessica Stevenson (star of The Royle Family and Spaced), and that Lisa's Mum worked for Jessica's Mum many years ago. With connections like this, it's only a matter of time before I'm co-writing a sit-com with Simon Pegg. I haven't been so excited since I heard about Lisa's close friendship with Christopher Biggins.

Anyhoo, I returned home to find an e-mail from my sister who is currently gambling on love (well, visiting her boyfriend) in Las Vegas. Apparently she went cycling in the desert, got bitten by a large insect, and now can't sit down. Which is very serious, and not at all amusing. So I'm not laughing.

But if anyone's planning to get married there in February, it might be wise to take some bug spray.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Having met Lisa for lunch yesterday at the dodgy pub which doesn't sell Bacardi, gets its orange juice from the corner shop next door, and only serves cocktails "when we're not too busy", Lisa revealed that she had in fact booked the afternoon off work as a surprise. Proving that you can't trust her in the slightest. I was so cheered by the news, that I decided not to complain about the barmaid who had decided to answer the phone in the middle of getting my round, and then brought me the wrong drink, before leaving the right drink at the wrong end of the bar and claiming she'd already given it to me.

But as Lisa's friend confidently claims, "it's the best pub in Brighton". She clearly doesn't get out much.

So with time on our hands, Lisa and I went shopping for knee-high boots. Naturally Lisa can't enter a branch of Next without spending half the national debt on clothing she previously had no intention of buying, but safe in the knowledge that it wasn't my money, I decided to egg her on, and was instrumental in the purchase of at least two items. One of which Lisa's mother has declared to be so hideous she never wants to go out with her daughter in public again. But I'm sure it'll grow on her.

Anyhoo, I'm not saying women take a long time in changing rooms, but having deposited Lisa in one accompanied by a selection of potential purchases, I had time to wander off, drink a chocolate milkshake (the diet starts tomorrow), go to the toilet, look in two shops, and still make it back in time for her emergence.

In the evening we went to see the film version of 'The Phantom of the Opera'. Lisa was a self-confessed fan of the musical, while I was essentially just playing the dutiful boyfriend role. But I quite enjoyed it. I didn't completely understand what was going on half the time, but I knew I had a Phantom expert sitting next to me, so I waited patiently until the end, opened my mouth to clarify a few aspects of the plot, and was interrupted by Lisa asking me to explain the storyline to her, and wondering who the bloke at the end was supposed to be.

I thought it was the Phantom. She thought it was Jon Voight. Frankly we're none the wiser.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Today's Sun (not that I'm admitting to reading it), features an informative article on page 19, just above the understated 'Gazza in Aids Fury' piece, entitled 'M25 Fire Bedlam'. The article states:

"A warehouse fire shut the M25 for hours yesterday and caused traffic chaos in and around London. A 27-mile diversion caused congestion right through to the Blackwall Tunnel, East London."

So naturally it was the perfect time for me to drive Lisa back down to Brighton.

And it all started so well. We managed to leave Shotley Gate at 4:45pm, which for us is a record, giving us time to drop in on my parents and eat shortbread. It's a two hour journey from there to the south coast (well it is the way I drive), so we left my Mummy & Daddy's house at 6:10pm, having refused substantial food, safe in the knowledge that we were only a couple of hours away from the McDonalds at Brighton Marina. (We're both on diets, but we hadn't had anything since those leftover Christmas chocolates at mid-afternoon).

Obviously we did see the sign saying the M25 was closed at junction 30, but being a seasoned traveller who's tackled this route countless times, I had no idea where junction 30 was. I decided to hope it was north, and confidently headed south. Right into a major traffic jam.

Interestingly, the authorities hadn't bothered putting up any diversion signs telling you where to go, so the congestion wasn't helped by about a dozen cars all parked on the roundabout at junction 30, while their owners got out and asked each other where the heck they should be heading.

Fortunately I have the innate navigation abilities of a homing pigeon, so I headed west towards central London. Only to hit an even worse jam.

Having progressed three miles in 55 minutes, I suggested to Lisa that (a) she should get out and walk, and (b) failing that, we should swap anecdotes about our lives to pass the time and keep our spirits up. She promptly told me about the time she and her sister attempted to poison sparrows with bread soaked in Fairy Liquid, because they wanted to know what a dead bird felt like.

I listened with interest, then calmly suggested that she might like to reconsider her decision not to walk. Well, what I actually said was "good grief, you're a psychopath, get out of my car", but it amounted to the same thing. Sadly she refused, and I dropped the subject, reluctant to ask how old she was when attempting to murder our feathered friends, in case the answer was "about 29".

Anyhoo, we eventually made it south of the River Thames a mere three and a half hours after leaving Suffolk, and soon came across an oasis in the desert - a branch of McDonalds on a roundabout near Lewisham. I'm on a diet. But for what it's worth, I wasn't very impressed with the new Munchies McFlurry.

We eventually made it to Brighton at 11:20pm. So just the five hours of driving. Personally I blame Crash and Donna for forcing me (against my will, obviously) to bring Lisa up for the weekend. Although I also blame Lisa for having the nerve to live in Brighton. And as for the firestarters, they have a lot to answer for too. If you're going to cause traffic chaos by burning down a warehouse, at least make sure it contains some modern art first.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

It's ok, we're still alive. Crash and Donna didn't turn out to be psychopathic axe murderers after all. I know, I was surprised too.

As it happens, we had a very nice evening. Lisa and I were on time, having used the cunning ploy of planning to leave here 20 minutes earlier than we needed to, thus ensuring that when we actually left (15 minutes late) we still had a fighting chance of making it. Lisa was wearing shoes she can't walk in, and I'd made an effort by choosing a high percentage of charity shop gear and not bothering to shave.

Having arrived at Ask, and scanned the restaurant for dodgy characters, we sensed a bright orange glow behind us, and turned to see Crash approaching in one of his tasteful shirts. Which was made even more tasteful (well, tasty) by the presence of a marshmallow flump sticking out of the top pocket. A flump which is now sitting on my coffee table. I'm on a diet. So I'm leaving it til I have a couple of bowls of ice cream later.

Crash and Donna were also kind enough to lend us a DVD (they won't be seeing that again), and in return we gave them a piece of wooden tat I found in Brighton.

Having settled into our seats and looked at the menu, I slipped off to the toilet to check out the escape routes and text the police marksman I'd had positioned on the roof.

As it transpired, they weren't needed. Our blogging chums turned out to be fab people, although Donna did admit to having a frankly shocking criminal past, which is probably why she looks like one of the cast of Prisoner Cell Block H (it's ok, I can say things like that now - we're close friends). She also has a history of wantonly smashing pub windows. So I suspect she was only wearing baggy trousers to hide the police tag around her ankle.

But all that aside, we heard the romantic tale of how the pair met (which is a Mills & Boon novel waiting to happen, and if no one else writes it, I will), and were also treated to the details of Crash's surgical history. Only Michael Jackson has had more facial reconstruction than that guy. He's like the six million dollar man.

Anyhoo, with great originality I ordered the same pizza I had when Lisa and I first met at Ask in London, while Lisa went goat's cheese crazy, and Crash had a fried egg. Donna meanwhile proved herself to have the appetite of a sparrow, and failed to get halfway through her meal. But I think she'd been eating Blackjacks all evening, so that's probably why.

As for the drinking, I don't think Crash touched a drop all evening, though he certainly didn't draw attention to that fact.

But a good time was had by all, and we loved it. So thanks guys - we'll definitely have to do it again. Especially if you bring us another DVD. And promise not to shout.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

After meeting Lisa for lunch yesterday (I was only 15 minutes late), I made my way to Hove, bathchair capital of Britain, for the afternoon. It turned out that the streets of Hove are paved with gold. Yes, that's right, I discovered 11 charity shops within 200 yards of each other. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.

In addition it turned out that the staff of the YMCA shop are just too young and Christian for their own good. I decided to buy a rather fetching denim jacket marked £4, only to be greeted by a member of staff who, when faced with my attempt to hand over four pound coins, said "that's been there for a while, you can have it for three if you like".

Bearing in mind that I was standing at the counter holding out four quid at the time, it wasn't the best business decision she's ever made. But obviously I didn't argue. So if any homeless people die over the weekend in Brighton for lack of a pound's worth of soup, you'll know why.

Anyhoo, I managed to fit in a couple of hours of quality time with Lisa's nephews before we left the south coast. We forsook the video games in favour of pretending we were in a spaceship. Which basically involved me sitting on the floor in Lisa's bedroom while nephew number one climbed all over me, and I attempted to fight off the evil alien (nephew number two) with my phasers.

Fortunately I survived, and Lisa and I made it back to Shotley Gate in time for Celebrity Big Brother.

Tonight is THE highlight of the 2004 Suffolk social calendar, with an exclusive event hosted at a top Ipswich restaurant, and attended by the leading lights of East Anglian high society. Well, four of the leading lights of East Anglian high society. And one of them's not from East Anglia.

Yes, it's true, Lisa and I are meeting Crash and Donna in Ipswich for an evening of pizza, pasta, and Weight Watchers rule-breaking. Personally I'm quite scared (mainly of Crash's taste in hats and shirts), but as Lisa said, if they turn out to be a complete nightmare, we can always climb out of the toilet window before the main course, and run away to Brighton.

Well ok, she didn't actually say that. But it's what she's thinking, I can tell.

Anyhoo, with four hours to go, Lisa's almost decided what shoes to wear, and she's confidently announced that she'd like us to get there early. So it's looking good for us only being about half an hour late.

I'm sure it'll be good anyway. But if neither Lisa nor I post on our blogs tomorrow, call the police immediately. We'll probably be in a ditch somewhere dressed in bobble hats and Elvis wigs.

Friday, January 07, 2005

I drove down to Brighton yesterday to collect Lisa for the great meeting of minds which is taking place in Ipswich on Saturday night. She takes a while to get ready though, so I'm still here.

We took the opportunity, however, to pop along the coast to Portslade for dinner at Lorraine's last night (she's a friend, not a restaurant). Lorraine had very kindly prepared chile con carne and apple crumble (although with a name like her's, it really ought to have been quiche), a gesture which was particularly appreciated by Lisa, who refused to touch it, and took her own food instead. It was a bit like a Blue Peter bring & buy sale. Only without the charitable goodwill.

But the food was good and an enjoyable evening was had by all. Particularly Lorraine's new cat, Timmy, who appreciated the opportunity to make Oscar (he of the cat-siting in October) even more jealous by being cute and forcing us to tickle his tummy.

We also heard (from Lorraine, not Timmy) about a friend who's been bothered by an ex partner. He's spread nude pictures of her around the neighbourhood, hurled insults through the kitchen window while she's entertaining, and been the subject of a police restraining order. But he's now asked her to go on holiday wih him to Dubai, and she's said yes. Obviously.

Anyhoo, my plan to lose two stone in a week has proved unsuccessful (mainly because it's medically impossible), but I weighed myself on Lisa's hi-tech digital scales this morning, and I've lost 4lb in 7 days. Which is fab. As long as you ignore the fact that I'd put on about 12lb since the beginning of November, and I'm going out for pizza on Saturday night.

So I really ought to walk the mile to Lisa's workplace to meet her for lunch now. But I need to conserve my energy for playing video games with her nephew after school. So the car it is.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

I saw a news report at lunchtime today about a man who'd been rescued from the tsunami in Asia after floating on tree branches in the sea for eight days. According to the report he'd survived by "drinking the milk from passing coconuts".

Speaking as someone who once struggled to get into a coconut with a drill and a hacksaw, would someone mind explaining to me how you extract the milk from one when you're weak with hunger and bobbing along in the ocean armed with nothing but a few twigs and leaves?

I also heard that Mike Read has written a charity song to raise money for the tsunami relief effort. As if it wasn't enough of a disaster already.

But anyway, I've been away from the computer since mid-afternoon, merrily cleaning my flat for no other reason than that Lisa will be arriving on Friday. It's been seven months - I really should've stopped making an effort by now. But I've just returned to the online world to be greeted by the news that King Nicholas (not to be confused with Kingster - honestly, anyone would think I was Paul Burrell) has clearly been at the leftover Christmas sherry again, and not content with awarding me an OCE in the New Year's Honours list (in between Anneka Rice and Julie Reinger - what can I say, it's a privelege), he's gone above and beyond the call of duty, and has officially become the first forward-thinking young visionary astute enough to see the true market value of my work and make use of my website's donation system.

Which is one in the eye for all those people who said "what's the point of that? No one's ever actually going to be mad enough to send you money".

Well yah boo, and sucks to piggywiggy. They were and they have.

So may I take this opportunity to say a humble and heartfelt thank you to his majesty for this gift. It was generous in the extreme (but no, I'm not disclosing the amount here, partly to ensure confidentiality for my benefactor, partly to avoid begging letters, but mainly because I know it will annoy everyone else who reads this) and I will indeed post a picture of whatever I spend it on, as requested. In addition you'll be added to my Christmas card list, as per the terms and conditions of this website.

You never know, I might even use it to buy a book from Amazon.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Damn this pneumonia. I was so busy thinking of ways to get more sympathy that I forgot it was my pal Helen's birthday today. I wasn't reminded until 6:15pm when she texted to say thanks for the present (which I'd cunningly given her a month early to save on postage costs). Sadly the accompanying card I'd planned to send isn't quite ready yet. It's still sitting on the shelf in Asda.

But I'm sure Helen will understand. And as a gesture of goodwill, here's a photo of her pointing at my leg for no apparent reason.

Happy Birthday Helen

That should make it up to her. And let's face it, when you've had as many birthdays as she's had, they don't mean so much anyway.

Anyhoo, despite my major bronchial symptoms (a bit of a cough), I've been out most of today, touring the charity shops of Ipswich under the pretence of doing some grocery shopping. I also showed great foresight by buying two pairs of laces for my shoes, then twenty minutes later deciding to buy new shoes.

I returned home to cheering news from Kingster, who had kindly e-mailed to let me know just how limited my life expectancy is. According to item number 85 on this BBC list, the average poet lives 62 years, playwrights 63 years, novelists 66 years and non-fiction writers 68 years.

So if I stop writing plays and turn to novels, I could live an extra three years. Alternatively, if I give up the make-believe and stick rigidly to the truth, I've a fighting chance of making my late sixties.

It's worrying news for my Mum though. She's just turned 64, so if she decides to write a play now, she could drop dead immediately.

Monday, January 03, 2005

You haven't lived til you've heard your neighbour in the flat downstairs doing the karaoke version of 'Dancing Queen' at 11 o' clock in the morning. It wasn't pleasant. I just pray to God she wasn't practising for the next series of the X-Factor. Simon Cowell would have something to say.

I was in the bath at the time, attempting to soothe my cold (sorry, I mean flu) with a bottle of Asda Indian Ginger & Sandalwood bubble bath. It claims to "help relax body and mind", which would probably be true were it not for the fact that it turns the bath water deep red, meaning that every time I closed my eyes for five minutes and attempted to block out the sound of Scandinavian power-pop being warbled at a scarily high pitch beneath me, I'd forget about the colour of the water, open my eyes, and panic that I'm bleeding to death.

So by the time I got out of my "relaxing bath soak", I was reaching for the tranquilisers. But on the plus side, I now smell like a gingerbread man, which should make me popular with small children.

In other news, I've written a piece of micro fiction for the first time in a year. I was going through a drawer in my living room looking for a pad of paper, and came across a half written micro fiction story which I'd started in America last February, and never finished (yes that's right - never mind novels, I can fail to finish a hundred word story), due to ill health and the fact that I was busy going to shopping malls and stuffing myself at ice cream parlours.

So that's now finished. And it only took me eleven months. Ms Cutrell's Language Arts Class will be thrilled.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Having read of my ills on my blog yesterday, my five year old niece turned up in the afternoon with a get well card, and one of her cuddly toys which she'd wrapped up in an effort to make me feel better. It worked. As did the festive artwork inside the card...

'Pudding - A Retrospective'
......... by M. Gardner

... she obviously knows I like custard.

In addition I was kindly allowed (forced) to watch her video of 'Barbie of Swan Lake', which helped dull the pain a little by sending me into a semi-cataleptic state, before being treated to a demonstration of my niece's counting skills. Having made a century flawlessly, she asked me "Can you count to a hundred?". I said I could, but refused to prove it. So I don't think she believed me.

My medical condition has now deteriorated into a full blown cold, which I plan to upgrade to flu by this time tomorrow, and pneumonia on Tuesday, for maximum sympathy. But I've been perked up by an e-mail from a 15 year old American girl who's fallen in love with Ledgers, and wants to stage it at her school in Chicago.

It's probably illegal for fully grown men to e-mail under-age girls with scripts about suicide, smoking and swearing, but hey, I'm on the other side of the Atlantic - what's the worst that could happen?

You're right - I'll start packing my bags for prison.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Happppy Noo Ye-harr! It's 2005! (I'm always first with the breaking news).

2004 was probably the best year of my life, and I have a lot to be positive about in 2005. So naturally I spent the end of the year hanging out with Dave, and being generally crap. But things started picking up at 6:15pm, when I crawled out of bed to find that I had a bit of a sore throat. By the time Gender Swap came on at 10pm I thought I'd swallowed a small cheese grater; it worsened during my happy new year chat with Lisa, and this morning I feel like someone's attacked my tonsils with a blowtorch.

But I've been cheered up by the news that my Shotley Gate page appears to be getting hits from...

It's a mystery

Apparently someone's linked to me on their member forums. Unfortunately I can't access them without joining, and you'd have to be quite sad to go to all the trouble of creating a member account just so you can find out what people are saying about you.

So anyway, as a committed member of Mystery Shoppers UK, I'm now entitled to view the forums. Unfortunately they don't seem to work, and I'm still getting error messages every time I try to read something. So it remains a mystery as to why shoppers are interested in my Shotley Gate page. Although I'm hoping it's because they're picking up my campaign to get Shotley Village Store to sell skimmed milk.

In other news, my attempt to recreate the aviation achievements of the Wright brothers by flying my radio-controlled plane with my brother this weekend, has hit a snag. He's decided not to come. As a compromise, he's generously offered me the once in a lifetime chance to drive all the way to Southend and go flying at his house instead.

Having driven 650 miles in 7 days over Christmas, and with a commitment to drive another 560 in 5 days next week, it's naturally tempting to spend the new year doing a 150 mile round trip to Essex for no good reason, but I've resisted the lure and said no. I'm already singlehandedly putting Mr Shell's children through private school. Word is they've opened a new Optimax factory just for me.

So 1360 miles in two weeks might be a bit of a stretch. My car goes ten miles on £1 of petrol, so some basic mental arithmetic tells us that... um... can anyone lend me a fiver? On top of that, my cat has developed a taste for expensive yellowfin tuna. And I'm not overly confident that Lisa will develop a similar enthusiasm for the cheap Hungarian Chardonnay I've bought for her next visit.

So my new year's resolution is to earn some money.

Meaning I've bought a lottery ticket for tonight's draw.