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Monday, February 28, 2005

There's nothing like a bit of daytime TV to give you the willies. I was watching This Morning... um... this morning, and they had a self-proclaimed health expert / food guru type woman on there who, in between discussing oral itching and post-menopausal gout (I'm not making this up), happened to mention that you should never clean your teeth after eating sweet things, because the acid from the sugar temporarily softens the enamel on your teeth, meaning that if you immediately brush them, you'll scrub away all the enamel and die a sad and lonely death with brown rotting stumps in your mouth (or something).

Speaking as someone who's always reached for a toothbrush the moment I finish a Kit-Kat, I now realise my life is over and I might as well stop buying toothpaste.

So that's cheered me up.

As for the Oscars, well I may have chucked away a total of £14 on Clive 'Loser' Owen, Natalie 'Also-Ran' Portman, and Vera 'Out-for-a-Duck' Drake (which incidentally would have netted me £180 if they'd won), but fortunately I also had a couple of quid on Million Dollar Baby scooping both best picture and best director, a top quality prediction which earned me £16.50.

So that's a whopping £2.50 profit. I'm raking it in like nobody's business.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

It's that time again...

And the award goes to... PHIL PREDICTS THE OSCARS 2005 And the award goes to...

I'm going out on a limb this year...

PICTURE: Million Dollar Baby

DIRECTOR: Clint Eastwood

ACTOR: Jamie Foxx

ACTRESS: Hilary Swank

(The 'going out on a limb' bit will be along in a moment)...


SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Natalie Portman (yes, I am insane)

SCREENPLAY: Vera Drake (told you)


I've got a fiver on Clive Owen at odds of 11-1, so if someone could nobble Morgan Freeman for me, I'd be grateful. Thanks.
Tragic news from

Launch of Shotley & Erwarton Good Neighbours.


Apparently no one was willing to help clear the snow.

Anyhoo, I'm getting slightly worried about my interest in young boys (which is not the kind of public statement you read every day). Earlier this week, in a Brighton charity shop, I splashed out a pound on '3 Car Garage', a CD album by Hanson, recorded in 1995, when they were all too young to be left at home without a babysitter. I didn't previously own any Hanson, but I've always been a closet fan of Mmmbop, so I saw my chance to invest in an album under the cover of giving to charity.

Lisa was somewhat scornful, but she's heavily into the Appleton sisters, which makes her naturally biased.

But anyway, having listened to it solidly for three days, I'd like to hereby declare '3 Car Garage' to be a work of genius, and out myself as a Hanson fan. Which I can do with no shame whatsoever, having already publicly admitted going to see the X Factor tour this week. There's no way to go but up after that.

However, it doesn't end there. The day before, I'd spent another pound on the self-titled debut album by a band called Northern Uproar. I'd never heard of them, but I bought the CD anyway as a result of a medical condition I suffer from, which compels me to spend money in charity shops like there's no tomorrow.

Well having started listening to it yesterday, I'm hooked, so I naturally headed straight onto the internet to find out more about this band. It turns out they recorded this album in 1996 when they were all teenagers. It's a worrying trend. I've never been a Michael Jackson fan, but he and I do seem to be developing similar tastes.

Friday, February 25, 2005

If there's one thing I love about the 'Shotley, Chelmondiston, Pin Mill, Woolverstone & Erwarton Community News' (apart from the snappy title, obviously), it's that they're always first with the big stories.

In October they carried a front page story advising people to register their opposition to a local housing development by the end of September. Right underneath the October 1st date heading. Back then of course, they were known as the 'Shotley, Pin Mill, Chelmondiston, Woolverstone & Erwarton Community News', an ungainly title, which they understandably changed one month later to the 'Shotley, Chelmondiston, Pin Mill, Woolverstone & Erwarton Community News'. It made all the difference, and I for one applaud them for it.

But anyway, they've struck again with the new issue, which has arrived at my flat this afternoon with the front page headline "We're Coming Your Way..." and an article informing me that the council's 'Sort It Crew' will be touring my area and knocking on doors "over the coming months".

To be forewarned is to have four arms. Or something. It's just a shame the news is two weeks late. But hey, you can't have everything.

Incidentally, I've received a hit today for the words "millionaire looking for a tax write off". It turns out I'm ranked #1 on Yahoo for those words, out of 211,000 sites. Which is undoubtedly good news. It's clearly only a matter of time before I'm rich.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

I want a friendly fox...

Fantastic Mr Fox

... apparently they wag their tails.

Anyhoo, I'm back in Shotley Gate, and if there's one thing I've learnt, it's that you can tell how bad the weather is by the size of the snowmen you encounter. Brighton snowmen can be kept in the freezer compartment of the fridge, Ipswich snowpeople require a chest freezer, while the Shotley Gate variety need a refrigerated lorry. The one on the grass outside my flat is bigger than I am.

I've also learnt that if you leave your flat empty for five days on the coldest week of the year, it'll take more than a two-bar electric fire to warm it up. I've been back for twelve hours and I still haven't taken my gloves off.

But despite Lisa's attempts to hide me under the duvet, I think it was a good decision to return home last night. Suffolk is fast disappearing under a six-inch blanket of snow, and the roads of the Shotley Peninsula are treacherous in the extreme.

Which makes it a good time to dial up the Tesco home delivery service. They can afford to lose a couple of delivery men...

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Well, Lisa may not have got a balloon when she went to the dentist yesterday, but we did get a free flag last night...


... and I'm not too proud to have waved it in public.

Yes, that's right, Lisa and I went to see the X Factor Live at the Brighton Centre last night, in another attempt to prove that we have no credibility whatsoever. I'd like to claim that we won the tickets in a competition, rather than admitting we paid good money to attend such an event, but sadly we're not above forking out £22 a time for the chance to see G4. But on the bright side, we're balancing it out by going to see Paul Weller in two weeks time, so we're not complete lost causes.

Anyhoo, despite Lisa's encouragement, I decided not to spend the afternoon making an "I Love 2 to Go" banner, meaning I was slightly shown up by the eight year old boy across the aisle from us who was armed with his fluorescent "Tabby's #1 Fan" sign. Not that I want to give the impression that Lisa and I were attending an event aimed at the under tens. Though I will say that the good thing about having lots of children at a pop concert is that you get a good view.

The concert featured all nine finalists from the TV show, but having warmed up gradually over the first half, the evening hit an unexpected high just before the interval, with the surprise appearance of Robert Unwin...

Pick-a-Chick ... yes, that Robert Unwin.

The man from Pick-a-Chick strode onto the stage and gave us his own unique interpretation of 'Barbie Girl' and 'Tragedy'. It was the undoubted highlight of the night, and I'm sure the nine stars will have been thrilled to see that the only person who really got the crowd going all night was the guy from the chicken factory who didn't make it past the first audition.

But anyway, it was a strangely enjoyable night. Despite the fact that I was the only 2 to Go fan in the building. I even found myself liking Tabby for the first time. And dancing a bit to Steve. Though Lisa kept distracting me by suggesting I audition for the next series by dressing as a Teletubby and singing opera.

Well I'd better be off now. I've shamelessly ignored my Mum's advice about driving home in the daylight to avoid the bad weather, but I can't stay here all day. I think I'll hang on in Brighton just long enough to throw a snowball at Lisa at 4:30pm, but then I really ought to be off home.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Brighton Argus still haven't printed my poem, but they did see fit to publish this effort from Debbie Jordan of Loder Road in yesterday's issue. It's entitled simply 'My Mum'...

M is for making the best out of me,
O is for the others you'll always see,
T is for the troubles we both had to share,
H is for the home with you always there,
E is for ever that I'll tell everyone,
R is the reason that I love you Mum.

I still don't understand that second line. But at least Mrs Jordan can sleep easy in her bed now she knows that the reason Deb loves her is... um... "R".

Anyhoo, the big news of the day is that Lisa's lasagne was actually very nice. Although having eaten three quarters of it, I'm a little suspicious that Lisa may be one of those 'feeders' that Channel 5 make documentaries about. I'll be fifty stone before the end of the year, and she'll be making videos of me for so-called 'niche markets'.

This morning featured a second trip to the dentist. I think Lisa's keen to get her teeth sorted out before we head for America next month, so she can blend in with the locals and not look too much like a British tourist. Being a supportive partner, I suggested trying to calm her nerves by hiring a tranquiliser gun and taking her out from thirty feet, but sadly she declined the offer. So I just drove her to Hove whilst making sympathetic and calming noises... and complaining about cyclists getting in my way.

The major reconstructive surgery is all done now anyway. I noticed they also do Botox there, which is handy, coz visiting the dentist does seem to give Lisa more worry lines on her forehead. I'll be suggesting that for next time.

I managed to deliver the drugged up, anaesthetised Lisa to work at 10:30am, where she's now working dilligently... for an hour and a half, before I meet her down the pub at twelve. It's all go around here...

Monday, February 21, 2005

Well I've spent the weekend getting up close and personal with the motorways of Britain, but I'm back. And a day early too. Which is what happens when you make the mistake of thinking that 48 hours with Lisa's long lost relatives will be a breeze.

My drive down to Brighton on Friday afternoon was brightened up when I overtook a car on the M25, to which someone had stuck a handwritten notice, obscuring the numberplate. I drew closer to see what the sign said, assuming it was some kind of DVLA announcement, only to find that it read "I'm the only gay in Stratford". I'm not sure if the driver was the victim of a practical joke, or just extremely comfortable with his own sexuality. Either way it made me laugh.

The plan for the weekend was to take Lisa up to Sheffield for a momentous first meeting with... [brace yourself]... her father. (First meeting for me, that is, not her. She's met him... oooh, at least four or five times). Lisa had prepared me for the event by doing numerous impressions of the man saying "Hello there" in an Irish accent. Interestingly it was the one phrase he never used all weekend, and his accent wasn't even that thick. But at least she tried.

I'd insisted that we leave at 9:30am on Saturday, to ensure we got to Sheffield in the light, so naturally we rolled out of Brighton about 1:30pm, and sat around in a branch of Burger King on the M1 for a good half hour on the way. Somehow we still made it to Sheffield in four hours though. So we must have had a following wind.

Upon arrival we drank tea, chatted about hospital treatment, the weather and traffic conditions, then, keen to make the most of our limited time with Lisa's father, we went to the pub. Without him. But I'm sure he was happy staying in and watching 'Stars in Their Eyes' with his wife. Naturally it would've appeared rude to stay out for long though, so we made sure we weren't gone for much more than three hours, and made it back shortly after half the household had gone to bed, giving us just enough time to watch a programme about swingers, get the info on local lap dancing clubs from Lisa's father, feel slightly uncomfortable, and head off to bed ourselves.

Sunday morning was spent holed up in the guest bedroom, after Lisa realised that she had no need to leave as long as she could persuade me to go on regular scouting missions downstairs for cups of tea and cornflakes. Once we found our packed lunch from the previous day was still edible, it was touch and go as to whether I'd get her out of there before Monday. But we eventually put in an appearance soon after midday, and took our hosts out to lunch at a local restaurant called Damon's.

As we ate, I was fortunate enough to be treated to the life story of Lisa's father. Interestingly he managed to miss out the story which Lisa's mother had told me on Saturday morning before we left, but I'm sure that was just an oversight. When Lisa went to the toilet, the conversation turned to love, and having listened to heartwarming tales of how her father was saved from alcoholism by his current partner, I considered asking him for his daughter's hand in marriage. But the dessert menu arrived and I got distracted. I'll do it another time.

Back at the house we accepted the offer of a cup of tea, and I was introduced to the family's pet ducks. Our plan had been to stay until Monday morning, in order to fully bond with the northern half of Lisa's family. As it turned out, we left before Lisa had even drunk her tea. But don't let that fool you - we actually had a lovely time, and we'd go back tomorrow.

It's just lucky that tomorrow never comes.

So as we speak, I'm back in Brighton (in the middle of a blizzard), and about to receive my reward for driving 600 miles in three days. Yes, that's right, Lisa's in the kitchen attempting to cook me lasagne for the first time in her life. Lorraine has a lot to answer for...

Friday, February 18, 2005

I was doing some research yesterday for someone who was unsure how to spell 'MRSA' (I think she was getting it mixed up with Major Repetitive Strain Injury), and having typed it into Google, this advert popped up in the 'Sponsored Links' section of the search results...


I knew Ebay was bad news. Though in their defence, at least they're keeping the prices of their superbugs low.

Anyhoo, blog posts might be a bit thin on the ground for a few days. I'm off to Yorkshire. Via Brighton. I didn't do GCSE Geography, but I'm sure that makes sense.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

On Saturday 8th June 1991, I was in Essex revising for my A-level Chaucer exam. On the other side of the Atlantic, Richard Laymon was in New York writing "Vampires suck!" on a first edition horror novel. Fourteen years later those two events have finally become connected...

Vampires suck. So do vacuum cleaners.

I knew it was a mistake to join Ebay.

But on the plus side, I'm sure my A-level English teachers would be thrilled to know that the moment my exams were over, I put down the Shakespeare and Chaucer, and started reading trashy horror novels. I'd choose Richard Laymon over a signed copy of The Canterbury Tales any day.

Coincidentally, Monday was the fourth anniversary of his death. Which is very sad. He saved my life in 1995.

Anyhoo, we're now well into February; March is only a week and a half away, and spring is just around the corner. So with that very much in mind, I drank half a bottle of Marks & Spencer 'Christmas Mulled Wine' last night. I was celebrating the purchase of a very nice pair of shoes for £3.99 from the Ipswich branch of Oxfam yesterday afternoon, as part of my bid to become the Imelda Marcos of the charity shop world.

They're actually in remarkably good condition. Which means their owner probably died. Possibly whilst wearing them. But I didn't let that put me off.

The wine then went to my head, and I found myself writing an article for The Daily Mail at 11:30pm last night. Sometimes even I don't understand my life.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Well I think the Valentine's squeeziness was a success. One of Lisa's friends summed up the emotionally moving experience of seeing her photo on the internet with these immortal words...

"It made me choke on my packet of Quavers."

... which is the kind of review you dream of. And she's right - it does bring a lump to your throat.

But of course most of the people who now think I'm Mr Wonderful, haven't seen the card I sent...

Every Little Helps

Incidentally, talking of choking hazards, what the heck is going on with that 'Extreme Celebrity Detox' on Channel 4?? I'm all in favour of poisoning celebrities, but since when has it been a good idea to drink three litres of warm salt water in the Himalayas, and then stick two fingers down your throat and vomit it all up?

I struggled to follow the logic there: if you do it with food it's dangerous bulimia, if you do it with salt water it's fabulous detox. And doesn't salt give you high blood pressure? Oh well, I'm sure they know what they're doing. And if I was stuck up a mountain with Lisa I'Anson, I'd be throwing up too.

Monday, February 14, 2005

It's Valentine's Day! Hurrah! Three cheers for commercialism.

This time last year I was in a beauty salon in Texas, being chatted up by a gorgeous young American girl. This year I'm spending Valentine's Day at home on my own. But funnily enough I'd choose my current situation over last year's any day.

(My general situation I mean. I'm not saying I'd rather be alone watching Trisha in my pyjamas, than sitting on a sofa in a Texan eyebrow waxers. Although now I think about it...)

Anyhoo, Lisa and I agreed not to spend any money on gifts this year. So I won't be getting that 'Love God' thong I've been wanting. I did however receive a card featuring an elephant (I think she's trying to tell me something) and the following message which was written on the back of the envelope:

I love you.

Tragically my postman won't be needing to contact Lisa. Honestly, sometimes secret admirers are just too damn secretive. I'm sure they're out there, they just never bother getting in touch.

But anyway. Not one to be held back by self-imposed financial constraints, I've created the kind of Valentine's gift that money can't buy. Or to put it another way, something which isn't worth a penny. So without further ado...

Happy Valentine's Day I love you.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

It was kinda sad to hear of the death of Arthur Miller yesterday (well, as sad as it ever is when an 89 year old man dies). I've always been a bit of a fan. Not least because he looks like the symbol which appears on my VCR display when I put a tape in...

VCR Display........Arthur Miller

... but also because (as mentioned here) he was very nearly responsible for me writing a play about a singing shark.

Fortunately his death has received the reverent coverage it deserved. The Independent gave the story the front page treatment with a photo, an obituary, and the headline:


... while The Sun went with...

Monroe Ex Dies

... and a couple of paragraphs about breasts.

It must be reassuring to know that as the greatest playwright of the twentieth century, people will still only remember you for marrying a cheap blonde.

Anyhoo, yesterday evening was a turning point in my life. After years of resisting the temptation, I finally bowed to public pressure (I blame my father) and joined Ebay. It's definitely a bad idea. I've always avoided the place on the grounds that once I join and start browsing, I'll immediately find numerous items which I never knew I needed but suddenly can't do without, and I'll be filing for bankruptcy within the week.

But obviously the item I've bid for is a bargain, and I really DO need it. I won't reveal what it is (it's a dog-eat-dog world and I don't trust the readers of my blog not to outbid me), but I'm currently top of the tree with a whopping bid of £5.05.

Only trouble is, I'm due to be on the M1 heading towards Yorkshire when the auction ends, so I can sense a last minute disappointment here...

Friday, February 11, 2005

It's interesting the things you accidentally record when you start the video running early for The Simpsons. I could be dreaming, but I seem to have a tape of Tony Blair playing 'You Say, We Pay' on Richard & Judy.

It's not every day you see the Prime Minister trying to guess the word 'courgette' from clues given by Vivian from Lee-on-the-Solent. Anyone would think there was an election looming. Apparently Gordon Brown's planning to retaliate by doing 'Spin a Winner' on Des & Mel tonight.

Anyhoo, this afternoon I received a visit from this woman:


It's ok, I didn't force her to have her photo taken on my doorstep, I actually recognised her from the front page of last week's Hadleigh Advertiser. She's a member of 'The Sort It Crew' (which sounds like a hip-hop act), who are described as "a four strong team of waste awareness promoters". I haven't seen a more appealing job description since the council last advertised for Master Composters.

Her and her posse - sorry, I mean crew - are touring the district going through people's bins and giving them advice on waste disposal. We had a very interesting and informative chat about orange juice cartons, after which she stood there at the top of the steps, outside the entrance to my first-floor flat, looked me in the eye, and said "Do you have any garden waste?"

I told her I don't have room for it. My ride-on lawnmower takes up most of the space in my kitchen.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The SCDA have just announced that they've had a grand total of 71 entries for their 2005 Playwriting Competition, the first such contest they've organised for over 40 years. Two of those 71 entries are mine, so according to my calculations I represent almost 3% of the field. With odds like that, I can't fail.

We're competing for a thousand pounds of Richard "I don't believe it" Wilson's money, and frankly with 'One Foot in the Grave' being repeated endlessly on UK Gold, he can afford it.

In addition, they claim that the 71 entries have come from 9 different countries. Even assuming that six of those are England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Wight, that still means a large proportion of the entries will have come from the likes of Andrey Eris, which cuts down the competition significantly.

On the downside, the winning plays will be performed in Dingwall in November, and I've no idea where that is.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

I arrived back in Shotley Gate at 1:30am last night. At least I think I did. To be honest, the fog was so thick for most of the journey, I could've ended up anywhere. But my front door key worked, so I presume I'm in the right place.

I'd been fortified for the drive home by large quantities of pancakes which were produced as a result of a joint effort in Lisa's kitchen. I bought the ingredients and carefully followed my Mum's recipe, while Lisa fiddled with the gas, complained about my beating ethic (if a batter's worth beating, it's worth beating well), and insisted on stabbing the pancakes with her spatula at every given opportunity.

To be honest, it was a miracle we got as far as we did. You try buying batter mix and Jif lemon on the afternoon of Pancake Day. The shelves of every supermarket in Brighton were a batter and lemon free zone. I believe packets of pancake mix were changing hands for upwards of a hundred quid on the black market. It was like trying to buy a dozen red roses at 5pm on Valentine's Day (not that I've ever tried - Lisa will be getting a card and a firm handshake).

So I was forced to buy a bag of flour and six eggs instead, and make them from scratch. Fortunately every idiot knows the recipe for pancakes. So I texted my Mum and asked her to e-mail it to me.

But even though I say it myself, it was quite a successful effort. And I proved myself to be a fine flipper of a pancake (I refuse to use the phrase "great tosser").

Anyhoo, I've arrived home to the latest issue of 'The Shotley Noticeboard', which has a report on the Shotley Tsunami Appeal Day, a day of fun and fund-raising at the village hall which I sadly missed due to being in Brighton at the time performing the hits of Take That.

Apparently it was a huge success, and a good time was had by all. A jazz band "performed brilliantly to a small audience" (emphasis on the small) and "the drawing of the raffles took over an hour in total".

Blimey. And I thought the BBC dragged out the lottery show.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Having had a stress-filled weekend of bingo and babysitting, Lisa and I naturally needed a bit of rest and relaxation, so what better way to unwind than with a trip to the dentist. Thus we headed on over to Hove yesterday afternoon for a bit of flossing. Lisa took it all in her stride, and only needed three glasses of wine to get her through the door, while I basked in the glow of free healthcare for all, and watched as the NHS dentist handed her a bill for over a hundred quid. But on the plus side, her money has paid for a very luxurious waiting room, and we get to go back in a fortnight's time.

The ordeal over (for now - the screaming starts in earnest on the 22nd), we made our way to Brighton Marina for a bit of pizza, and some reminiscing about an old friend. After which we popped next door to the cinema to see 'Closer'. Personally I liked it, though considering it was written by the guy who wrote 'Knowing Me Knowing You' with Alan Partridge (aha), the belly laughs were a bit thin on the ground. But having spent twenty minutes relaying the story to Lisa, who slept through most of the second half, I realised just how deep and meaningful it had been, and why the Royal Court prefers Patrick Marber's plays to my own.

Anyhoo, I'm off now to Brighton City Council to have an argument about parking permits.

Monday, February 07, 2005

If there's one thing I've learnt this weekend it's that having children leaves no time for blogging. It barely leaves time for sleeping. Well not when you have Lisa's five year old nephew jumping up and down on the bed at 8am, and his one year old brother sticking a fire engine in your ear.

But anyway, I drove down to Brighton on Friday afternoon in time for an intensive bingo session with Lisa and her mother. After my last experience of bingo drove me to the brink of tranquiliser dependency, we planned to get there earlier to allow time for deep breathing exercises and a thorough read-through of the exam papers. Sorry, I mean bingo cards.

It started well when we arrived in good time, only to find the car park was full, forcing us to park across some pretty yellow writing on the road which read 'Keep Clear'. I decided that if we parked on top of it, no one would know it was there. We then made our way inside, where we were abused by the receptionist, who clearly wasn't happy that we didn't have a degree in bingo procedure and had the nerve to ask her what to do. We considered complaining, but the manager's name turned out to be Mr Manyweathers, and frankly we couldn't have kept a straight face.

We then moved on to the bloke at the ticket desk, who struggled to grasp the concept of three people standing in front of him and Lisa asking for "three please". He proceeded to tell us there were six rounds of bingo that evening, not three, and gave us enough cards for one person. So that went well. This is what happens when you have low unemployment. We need another recession if you ask me. Or possibly a war. With Mr Manyweathers in the front line.

Anyhoo, the evening's entertainment soon started, which was the point where Lisa and I discovered that our pens didn't work. Cue much panic, stress, swearing (on Lisa's part), and numerous cries of "I can't wait for the interval". Needless to say we didn't win anything. At half-time I bought us three bingo pens (£1 each - bargain) (not extortionate at all), which allowed Lisa to spend the second half squirting purple ink all over her bingo card, while her Mum managed to accidentally play two games on the same card and still not win.

So for the second time in two months we got highly stressed and came away significantly poorer than when we went in. And the strange thing is, we're considering going back for a third time.

So that was Friday. (Ever get the feeling this could be a long blog post?)

On Saturday Lisa's nephews arrived. Their parents are currently moving house, so we'd agreed to take the little darlings for the weekend, to avoid them being trodden on by removal men. Personally I thought it was a risk - never take possesion of other people's children without a forwarding address, it's asking for trouble. I wasn't expecting to hear from Lisa's sister again til we got the postcard from Honolulu. As it transpired, however, they did turn up to collect their offspring on Sunday. The fools.

I spent Saturday shooting Nephew Number One with big guns, throwing steel girders at him, and hitting him over the head with an axe. Unfortunately he's better at Playstation than I am, so I don't think I won anything. He also had the nerve to blow me up with a grenade and then make comments about the state of my body parts which were strewn across the floor. Honestly, some people are so insensitive.

But on the bright side, he did ask me how old I am, and when I said 31, he replied "I thought you were about 15". I told him I do look about 15, but I'm just naturally youthful.

Having put the kids to bed, Lisa and I took part in The Great British Memory Test on ITV. We bet a pound on it, but I can't remember who won.

On Sunday we left Nephew Number Two in the capable (if slightly stressed) hands of Lisa's mother, and took his older brother to the theatre to see a stage version of Roald Dahl's 'The Witches'. We drove along the seafront to get there, and with much excitement spotted Phill Jupitus, big-boned comedian, and star of 'Never Mind the Buzzcocks', waiting at a pelican crosing with his wife. I drove within two feet of the man, which makes it even more of a close encounter than I had with Chris Eubank two weeks ago. Brighton is just choc-full of celebrities. Which is probably why I fit in so well.

At the theatre I was inwardly congratulating myself on getting a seat just outside of the 'restricted view' zone, from where I could see the whole stage, whereupon Nephew Number One decided he'd like to sit on my knee throughout the entire performance, leaving me with an unrestricted view of the back of his head. We'd been told that children under 7 might find 'The Witches' too scary. As it turned out, he was far more concerned about the possibility of toppling over the balcony, than being boiled by a witch.

Having learnt that Roald is actually pronounced Roo-ahl, we made our way home for another death-match or two, before the boys were (surprisingly) collected on time. Nephew Number One immediately asked his mother if I could move in with them. She said no. He said "pleeeease" in a whiny voice. Astonishingly, she still said no. Honestly, some people are so ungrateful. I looked after their offspring for 24 hours - the least they could do is let me move into their house.

Friday, February 04, 2005

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "Phil, what would you look like if you were Afro-Caribbean?". Well wonder no more...

Afro Phil

Sometimes there just aren't enough hours in the day to waste on something this marvellous. It's Perception Laboratory's Face Transformer, courtesy of St Andrew's University in Scotland. So I expect Prince William had a personal hand in it.

Changing the subject, I was reading 'The Week' magazine in the bath last night (so don't ask to borrow it - it's soggy), and I came across the following correction:

"In issue 495, we stated that Mark Thatcher had flown to the US to be reunited with his family. However, he discovered at the last minute that his visa was out of date, and went to London instead."

D'oh! Does nothing go right for that man? You have to laugh though.

Elsewhere in the magazine, they had an interview with the playwright and screenwriter Ronald Harwood, in which he said "I always think there are two kinds of writers: those who are surprised to have got as far as they have, and those who are bitter they have not got further."

I think I could lay claim to being both.

Anyhoo, no time to hang around here - I've got to go and play bingo with an old lady.

And her mother.

Talking of which, this'll be me in 30 years time...

Mature Phil

Lisa has a lot to look forward to.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

I received a letter in this morning's post from The Woodland Trust. The envelope claimed it contained a questionnaire which they wanted me to fill in within 14 days, so as I live 50 yards from a Woodland Trust wood (and the name of my concreted, treeless secondary school was 'Woodlands'), I opened it immediately.

Turned out it contained a begging letter. Here's the extent of the questionnaire:

"Does it matter if the last remnants of our ancient woodland disappear?

YES, if you care about Britain's wonderful heritage of ancient woodland.


NO, if you are content for the remaining ancient British woodland to be uprooted and replaced with housing estates, roads or intensive farming."

I think that's what you call a leading question. Though personally I'm a fan of intensive farming (it's so much better than that laid back tensive farming), so I ticked NO.

I've also received the new issue of the 'Shotley, Chelmondiston, Pin Mill, Woolverstone & Erwarton Community News' (I do love a snappy title), which carries the front page headline "Shotley Community Launches Website". It's right up there alongside "Erwarton Community Discovers Fire" and "Local Man Invents Wheel".

Anyhoo, the article begins...

"The people of Shotley and Erwarton have developed and launched their own website - - in an effort to increase local interest in future planning for the area."

Now speaking as someone who's spent the last nine months feeling slightly guilty about turning down the parish council's request to become their webmaster, on the grounds that I have too much daytime TV to watch, and the remuneration package they were offering basically consisted of a shedload of cash without the cash (so we're talking a shed), I wouldn't be too happy if I'd spent six months creating that website for them, only for the local press to claim it was a group effort by the entire village.

But then I'm not a very public-spirited person. I'd rather be playing bingo in Brighton. So kudos to Brigitte Gualde and Jeremy Peters, the "people of Shotley and Erwarton", who had the selflessness to say yes.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The big news of the day is that according to my recently purchased bathroom scales (an item I said I'd never buy on principle - so it's official, I have no principles) I've now lost 9lbs since Christmas, which according to my calculations, means that if I continue losing weight at this rate, by the end of the year I'll be seven stone. Woo-hoo!

On the downside, Lisa tells me that you can't give blood if you're seven stone. And I may have to check into some kind of clinic. But who cares, I'll be thin.

My motivating factor in this fine achievement has undoubtedly been my decision to compete directly with Lizzie Bardsley, former Wife Swap babe, and someone whom the Daily Mail website recently referred to as "this big mouthed, asthmatic smoker breeding at the expense of taxpayers".

But I'm sure she's lovely when you get to know her.

Anyhoo, she's been doing annoyingly well on Celebrity Fit Club this month, but I've remained hot on her heels over the past few weeks, and I think I can take her.

Lizzie and I are the same age and a similar weight (as long as I continue to limit my consumption of Laughing Cow bagels), which led Lisa to comment last night:

"So now you know what you'd look like if you were a woman."

Oil Painting

And we so nearly made it to Valentine's Day...

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Whilst unable to sleep on Sunday night (possibly due to excessive guilt about my failure to attend church), I was reading 'The Book of Lists 2', sequel to 'The Book of Lists', neither of which have been far from my bedside during bouts of insomnia over the past twenty years.

Anyhoo, having read the list of 'Eight Unusual Dolphin Incidents' and 'Sixteen Famous People Who Grew Marijuana', I came across 'Thirty-One Words Rarely Used in Their Positive Form'. Which included such words as...

Advertent (heedful) (negative: inadvertent)
Consolate (comforted) (negative: disconsolate)
Descript (described) (negative: nondescript)

I particularly like the word 'peccable'. So I've decided to make more effort to drop these sadly neglected words into casual conversation.

But anyway, having been gruntled by a particularly sipid bagel and a delible e-mail from Lisa yesterday morning, I went into Ipswich. Which turned out to be a profitable trip when I spotted three number plates in the correct order within twenty minutes. I'm developing quite a gust for this game. Though my habit of driving along looking at cars on the other side of the road could prove to be a bit nocuous. I'm not sure it's entirely licit either.

Having met a couth, yet clumsy, shop assistant in Boots, who dropped my Bisodol tablets on the floor in an act which was frankly evitable, I took my mother to Tescos, where she warned me about a checkout girl who likes to comment on the number of cherry yoghurts you have in your trolley. I'm not the most placable person when it comes to supermarkets, and such a conversation would have had an algesic effect on me, so we headed for a different checkout.

Then it was back to my parents' kempt home, where I walked in with my maculate shoes and got mud on their kitchen floor. I have quite a domitable spirit, so I felt a bit guilty.

But my conscionable mother soon cleared that up, while my feckful father started demonstrating magic tricks and talking about his new life as a supplier of dodgy videos on E-bay.

Which was too much for me. I grabbed my wieldy bag and left.