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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Interestingly, whilst out on Friday night, Donna happened to mention that the Pizza Hut at the Copdock Interchange near Tescos was the only branch she'd ever visited where she hadn't felt the need to complain. Now, even putting aside the fact that Donna's the kind of person who's been barred from most of the eating and drinking establishments in Ipswich, that's still quite a glowing recommendation. All I can say is, I wish she'd been there last night.

It started well, when Lisa and I actually managed to arrive two minutes before the rest of my family (there's a first time for everything) and I happily ordered a Meal Deal For 2. Which I pretty much planned to eat on my own. But having devoured some mildly disappointing Cheesy Wraps, the waitress brought over a pepperoni pizza for my niece, who'd ordered a plain margherita. I particularly enjoyed the girl's response when the mistake was pointed out. She asked "Won't she eat that?" in a tone of voice which implied it was our fault for having a six year old who refuses to eat what she's given, as opposed to their fault for bringing the wrong pizza.

Fortunately the mistake was soon rectified, and everyone had their main course. Except for me and Lisa. After another five minutes, Lisa received her lasagne, and by the time most of my family were happily finishing their pizzas, the waitress came over and vaguely said "Are you still waiting for anything?". I kindly pointed out that I'd had nothing to eat, and after a further delay of five minutes, I was eventually presented with a Cheese Feast, timed perfectly to coincide with the end of everyone else's meal.

The waitress warned me to be careful of the very hot pan, so I was slightly surprised to bite into a luke warm pizza. But on the bright side, I was able to impress my family with my apparently super-high pain threshold, by sitting in front of them and picking up the pan with my bare hands.

Having wolfed down my cold bread and cheese, I was particularly looking forward to my unlimited trips to the 'Ice Cream Factory'. I've only ever had it once before - at the Brighton Marina branch of Pizza Hut - when the ice cream machine turned out to be broken. So imagine my delight when the waitress cleared away the pizza plates and told me the Ice Cream Factory was out of order. Something they'd failed to mention when I'd placed my order an hour and a half earlier.

Fortunately I was promised unlimited bowls of ice cream from the freezer instead. Which would have been good if the waitress hadn't returned five minutes later, told me their freezer wasn't working properly, and handed me a bowl of defrosted ice cream. I was offered a free cup of tea as compensation, but having tasted the 'ice cream' and found it to be warmer than my pizza, and a bit like eating squirty cream that's been left out in the sun, I sent it back, and insisted on a free sticky toffee pudding instead.

The waitress agreed, and asked me if I'd like it with cream or ice cream. I said ice cream, she said it'll be the same as I've just had, and I quickly opted for cream. Which I don't even like.

So all in all it was the kind of meal that makes you glad you're on a diet. I just wish Donna had been there. If that's the type of meal they tend to serve, I'd quite like to have been barred.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Hand-madeToday's post brought with it another two birthday cards. The first was handmade by the sender, is very pretty, and arrived in an envelope crafted from arty home-made paper, which clearly took a lot of effort and thought. The second was bought in Morrisons and contained a pound coin. Which one did I prefer? You decide.

But muchos thankos to Carol & Weevil for the kind thought. The stalking school would be proud of you both. Although you're clearly well behind a certain someone who sat opposite me last night and produced recent photos he'd taken of Shotley Gate Village Store.

Anyhoo, having made my fortune on the birthday gift horses yesterday afternoon, Lisa and I set about perusing the online menu at Frankie & Benny's in preparation for our night out. Unfortunately I defy anyone to click on that link and not then spend hours playing with the little blue balloon which floats up the screen every few seconds. Needless to say we were fighting over control of the mouse for some time, and ended up being late. But on the bright side, we knew what we wanted to eat.

So we headed off into Ipswich to meet Crash n Donna. Unfortunately we also met hordes of Ipswich Town football fans heading for a home match, meaning it was impossible to park outside the restaurant. After driving around in circles for ten minutes, we took the decision to park in a nearby car park which charges £2.50 for up to 5 hours. Except, as the man on the gate cheerfully told us, when there's a football match on, when the price goes up to £3.50. But fortunately it was my birthday, so Lisa paid.

At Frankie & Benny's we met our fellow revellers, which included a guy called Steve, who'd come all the way over from Ireland just for my birthday meal. I think. Crash had spent the day shopping, and was planning to give me one present per course - a plan which lasted for about two minutes, before his resolve crumbled and he handed me the lot before the starters arrived.

The first gift I received was a Birthstone Fairy for the month of July. It contains a ruby, and promises to bring me "love, good luck and happiness". You can't ask for much more for 49p. And you can see how pleased I was, by the photographic evidence on Crash n Donna's blog.

The Ideal GiftSure enough, I was soon blessed by immense good fortune, when I found myself being handed a garden gnome and a pair of socks. The socks feature this fetching design, and as you can see, they're the ideal gift. No, really, it says so. Personally though, I don't feel they're anywhere near as ideal as the eye massaging glasses I received two minutes later. I'm not sure if they've undergone the entire range of exhaustive clinical trials, but I clearly look good in them, and if I ever want to give myself a headache at short notice, they should come in handy.

So thanks guys. My cup runneth over. And I'll let you know how much I get for it all on Ebay.

After enjoying an evening of broken ribs and breasts (or pork & chicken if you prefer), we headed off to The Plough, where we shouted at each other from a distance of 18 inches, and wondered why we'd chosen a pub with a live band. I'm reliably informed that Mads had been there that night, but fortunately for her she'd had the good sense to have left by the time we arrived.

So that was yesterday. Today's the day for getting back to my diet and doing a cheesecake detox. So obviously I'm off to Pizza Hut for another binge...

Friday, July 29, 2005


1st. Unshakable
2nd. Crosspeace
4th. Elliots World

I am toooooooo good at this...
It's my birthday! Hurrah! I'm celebrating by trying to lose a fortune on the horses. And let's just say it's going well so far. Lisa's currently entering into the spirit of things by sitting on the sofa and going through her accounts. Something tells me that an afternoon of horse racing isn't her idea of a good time, but fortunately it's my birthday so she's not allowed to complain. I'll help break up the boredom for her in a minute by letting her make me a cup of tea.

Anyhoo, in honour of my birthday, here are the first four home in the Totesport mile at 3:25...

1st. Unshakable
2nd. Elliots World
3rd. Crosspeace
4th. Kings Point

It's my birthday, so they're all guaranteed dead certs, and can't lose. You've got fifteen minutes to get your bets on.

Anyhoo, Lisa and I are due in Ipswich tonight for a birthday meal with Crash n Donna. And a film star lookalike. We're aiming to arrive by 7:30pm, which means we'll be leaving in... oooh, about five hours time. I'd better get my skates on. Well, my shoes on. Although Donna's wearing goggles, so skates might not be such a ridiculous idea.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Mmm... cakeBefore doing anything else, may I just say thanks to Dave for the quality birthday e-card I received yesterday. I presume the 13 candles are an indication of my mental age. Although why the card played 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star' instead of 'Happy Birthday', I'm not entirely sure. But it was a lovely gesture, and couldn't have been a nicer surprise. Unless it had contained money.

As it happens though, Dave was narrowly beaten to the title of 'First Card Sender' by Lisa's Mum, who handed me this fine effort yesterday. I'm not saying which of the two cards I preferred, but this one contained a ten pound note.

Anyhoo, I successfully made it down to Brighton yesterday to pick up Lisa. I seem to have got stuck in numerous major traffic jams just lately, but I'm pleased to report that yesterday afternoon traffic was light, and the roads were clear.

So I broke down instead. But on the bright side, when you're sitting by the side of the A12 with steam billowing out of your engine, you get to see a whole different side of Essex. And on the even brighter side, I'm making the most of my AA membership this year.

Twenty-five minutes later a very nice man, a very very nice man, arrived, took one look at my car, and made the kind of face that suggested it needed more than a pair of ladies tights to fix. He then informed me that the head gasket had gone. Which means nothing to me. But might mean more when I get the bill for fixing it.

I was offered a free courtesy car for 24 hours to get me to Brighton and back, but who needs a courtesy car when you've got parents? Not me, anyway, so in the words of a slightly more recent AA advert, I got to ride in the big truck with the flashing lights, and was taken back up the A12 to my Mummy & Daddy's new house in Chelmsford, where I commandeered my mother's car for the common good. Well, my good. Then I was off again, leapfrogging down the road while I adjusted to my Mum's new clutch.

Remarkably I made it down to Brighton only four hours after leaving home, which isn't bad for a breakdown, a truck ride, a car swap, and two stops for petrol. And what's more, I even managed to get Lisa back here in one piece. Which is just as well, coz I need someone to finish off the Beef & Aubergine Chili.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

It's official - my neighbours are worried about me. I've just put out my wheelie bin, only to be apprehended by Bobbie from number 10 (Tudor Close, not Downing Street). She was looking all dressed up, so being an old smoothie (or is that a fruit drink?), I smiled and said "You're looking very smart!". To which she replied "Yes, I'm off to the cemetery to put flowers on my son's grave".

So it was a good start to the conversation. But all talk of dead children was soon put to one side, because frankly Bobbie was more concerned about me. She said she hasn't seen me around much lately, and has been quite worried in case there's something wrong. She's even apparently asked "Shaz" if she's seen me around, and "Shaz" hadn't either.

Which poses two questions:

1. Since when has my neighbour Sharon been calling herself Shaz?

and 2. Seeing as Shaz openly ignores me at the best of times, is she really the best person to ask about milk bottles piling up on my doorstep?

But anyway, the result was that I was forced to out Lisa to my neighbours. I told Bobbie I'm always in Brighton because my girlfriend's living there. Which should be all round the village by lunchtime. But it's a small world, because apparently Bobbie's son (living or dead - I'm not sure) used to live in Peacehaven, so she sympathised about the long drive. She's been there, done that, bought the petrol.

We parted with the words "I'm so glad I've seen you, Phil, I was considering breaking in to check you're ok". So doorbells clearly mean nothing to that woman. But it's nice to know that in Shotley Gate, it's the pensioners who are worried about 31 year olds having a fall, and not the other way around. She even said she checks my bins for me when I'm not there. So I'd better be careful what I throw away.

Anyhoo, talking of being 31, my birthday officially starts today. I'm off down to Brighton this afternoon to pick up a merrymaker and begin the build-up to birthday celebrations on Friday. When I'll be 32. Which is still very early thirties.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Breaking news...

I've just eaten a plate of Beef & Aubergine Chili.

To be honest, it was disappointing. So after all that, I may never return to Chelmondiston Village Store, and fans of aubergine-heavy blog posts could be facing a bleak future. I knew I should've stuck with Laughing Cow sandwiches.

But hey, there's still the fruity chicken to look forward to.

Anyhoo, I'm pleased to say that whilst whipping up a storm in the kitchen this afternoon, I also found time to score with a geezer. Which is not something I've done before. But hey, it's all part of life's rich tapestry.

Obviously I'm talking horse racing here. Today was the start of Glorious Goodwood. In the rain. And having publicly backed The Geezer once in the Derby, and then again two weeks later, both times with only limited success... well ok, with no success at all, I proved how much I refuse to learn from my mistakes by making him my sole bet of the day today.

And sure enough, he romped home by four lengths, like I always knew he would. And about time too. It was a bigger success than the Beef & Aubergine Chili anyway.

Monday, July 25, 2005

I learnt a valuable lesson today. Although as I speak, I'm slightly distracted because Channel 4 news are doing a report about seabirds in the south Atlantic being eaten alive by giant mice. Which is not the kind of news you hear every day.

Oh, and if you're wondering why the aubergine is saying "Oups", it's because it's French. I couldn't find one that speaks English.

Anyhoo, I went into Ipswich today in search of ingredients for two culinary masterpieces I'm planning on creating (preferably before Wednesday when Lisa arrives - there's no point cooking if you have to share it): 'Orange & Chicken Stew' and 'Beef & Aubergine Chili'. The first one's Duck a L'Orange for poor people, and the second's Moussaka for people who can't spell it.

So I drove the 11 miles to Tescos and started merrily filling my trolley with oranges and chili powder. However... I had reckoned without...

The Great Aubergine Shortage of 2005.

Tesco didn't have any. Not even the supervisor man in the cheap suit could find me one. So I headed into town. There used to be a greengrocer at one end of Ipswich town centre. I know, because it's next door to Oxfam. Unfortunately it's now a pound shop. And they don't sell aubergines.

So I went on to the Marks & Spencers food hall, which is quite posh, and just the kind of place to stock purple fruit & veg. No joy there either. So I headed off to the bank. To be honest, I wasn't really expecting to get an aubergine there, I was mainly just going to pay in a cheque, but even so, it was slightly disappointing.

So having only intended to pop into Barclays, I trudged on to Sainsburys on the other side of the town centre. And guess what? No aubergines. I'd spent an hour scouring Ipswich for eggplant, and at the end of it all was faced with the prospect of making Beef & Aubergine Chili without the aubergine. I wasn't happy.

So I headed home. Three miles from Shotley Gate is the village of Chelmondiston, a lovely place with a small amateur dramatics group and no street lights. It's the kind of 30mph-limit village that I tend to drive through at 40mph without stopping. But on a whim, I decided to stop at the Chelmondiston village store. Which just goes to show the level of desperation to which a worldwide shortage of aubergines can drive a man.

Anyhoo, you've guessed it, they had aubergines. I'd driven 12 miles into town, visited two large supermarkets, and scoured a busy town centre, and they were on sale three miles from my flat all along. I think there's a lesson there. Spookier still is that whilst I may have looked slightly stupid standing in the queue with nothing but an aubergine, the woman in front of me was buying a pot of chicken livers... and an aubergine.

As the lady on the till said to me, "Oooh, we're getting a run on aubergines!".

She was quite an excitable woman.

But anyhoo, if Chelmondiston Village Store can stock aubergines, you have to wonder why Shotley Gate Village Store can't sell skimmed milk? But still. I'd better stop now before I mention aubergines for the 15th time.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Two weeks ago I came across this startling statistic quoted in 'The Week' magazine, and it's been troubling me ever since. It's one of those things that you read, go "wow...", and then happily accept. Usually. Unfortunately, having read it and gone "wow..." it suddenly occurred to me to wonder how on earth the 250,000 people who attended Live8 could have dropped 650,015 tonnes of litter in one day. That's two and a half tonnes per person. Now, I may not recycle as much as I should, but even I'd struggle to throw away that much.

So having wondered about it for two weeks, this evening I sprang into immediate action (a fortnight later) and decided to look it up on the internet. I've managed to find the Guardian article in question, and here it is. It does indeed say that "650,015 tonnes of rubbish" were removed from Hyde Park.

It goes on to explain that 150 tonnes of that were from the southern enclosure, with another 500 to come from the bigger northern enclosure.

Er... that's 650 tonnes.

Not 650 thousand tonnes.

So just a small error then.

Honestly, you do wonder who's more stupid - the Guardian sub-editor who printed it in the first place, or 'The Week' magazine for reproducing it without once stopping to wonder if it could be true.

Or alternatively me for taking two weeks to check it out.

And talking of stupidity, I saw an advert on TV last night for the Open University, which informed me that I should choose them for all my educational needs, "whatever level you want to learn at". Which is lovely. Although personally if I was going to do an English degree, I'd choose a university that doesn't end its sentences with prepositions.

Frankly I'm not sure the OU is a university you should go to. And 'at' isn't the kind of word you should end a sentence with. But it's a point I'm not going to argue over...

Friday, July 22, 2005

I've finally worked out how to get photos from my phone to my computer, so here's my favourite shot from Monday night. The reason it's my favourite is because despite the presence of at least ten policemen violently grappling with two men on the ground, and the crime scene being surrounded by eight police cars with flashing blue lights, there's still a little girl in a pink headband trying to cycle through on her bike.

Though she's not wearing a helmet, so frankly she was lucky not to be arrested and sprayed with CS gas.

Talking of which, Lisa, who has high level contacts deep within the Brighton police force, has uncovered the story behind the Monday night incident. Apparently one of the men told the policewoman to f*** off, and jog off. Which presumably is the more offensive version of jog on. Anyway, it was enough to get him assaulted and trussed up, and provide me with a good twenty minutes of quality entertainment, so you can't argue with that.

Anyhoo, in the absence of anything more interesting to say today, here are my selections for the four races at Newbury on BBC2 this afternoon...

2:15 Mostaqeleh

2:45 Shortbread (mmm... shortbread)

3:20 Golden Dixie

3:50 Teeba

I've got dog racing losses to recoup, so keep your fingers crossed.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The big news of the day is that according to my bathroom scales this morning, I'm officially back down to the weight I was before I went to America in March. So I've finally managed to lose the two weeks worth of fast food fat I acquired in the ice cream parlours of Texas. And it's only taken me four months. Hurrah! I just wish Saddam Hussein could have seen me looking this slim.

It's perfect timing, because having shed the pounds like nobody's business, it means I can eat to my heart's content at the two (count them) birthday meals I have booked for next weekend. And by November I should have lost that weight too.

But fortunately, in an effort to stop me eating, my freezer helpfully broke down last night, and seems beyond repair, meaning I now have very little to eat, and will be surviving on Laughing Cow sandwiches until I can be bothered to drive to Asda. I'm planning to market the idea as a weightloss plan called 'The Broken Freezer Diet'. It should be a big seller.

In other news, Lisa and I now have tickets to see purple charlatan Colin Fry at the end of August. In the words of Lisa, "we're officially going to chat to the dead on my birthday". I'm hoping to get a message from my deceased cat, Oscar. He left rather suddenly, and I'd just like to know that he doesn't blame me for over-feeding him Felix.

Oh, and one other thing - I've managed to get hold of a copy of the current issue of Front magazine, which features a four-page article on King Nicholas. I've not bought the magazine before, and I'm not all that familiar with lad's mags in general, so could someone please explain to me what "regal as f*ck" means?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

I've just arrived home from Brighton (a day late, but timekeeping never was my strong point), to find this waiting for me...

FIVE POUNDS????? It's an outrage. I don't get out of bed for less than ten pounds of McDonalds vouchers. That doesn't even cover the meal we waited half an hour for (bad grammar, but I don't care - I'm annoyed).

The accompanying letter says:

"As promised, please find enclosed a voucher, which I hope you will enjoy using on your next visit to one of our UK restaurants."

Well no, I won't, thank you very much. I would have enjoyed a free pigging-out to the value of twenty quid, but once I split this with my fellow plaintiffs (one of whom's diabetic you know), it'll barely cover a McFlurry 'n' Fries. More of an unhappy meal, if you ask me. No wonder they were rioting down at the marina on Monday.

But on the bright side, I've received the following e-mail:

"Hello! I did one of your quizzes, about poddington peas - it was great :P"

Now that's what I call a satisfied customer. He must have come out as Hap-Pea. I particularly like the way he says "one of your quizzes", thus generously implying that I've written more than one. He clearly doesn't know me at all...

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

I always say you can tell how good a horror film is by the Lisa-shaped finger marks it leaves on your arm, and the number of hours of counselling required to get her over it. So with a bruise-factor of ten, and a scream mid-way through which suggested genuine mental trauma, I'd say The Descent was pretty good.

It started well, when I asked for two tickets, and the girl in the kiosk said "Six twenty". I thought blimey, that's a bargain, before realising it was approaching half past six, and she was confirming what screening we wanted to go to. After which she charged me a slightly less bargainous twelve quid.

As for the film, well according to the opening credits, it was made by Celador, the people who brought us 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire'. Paul Smith was executive producer of both, though sadly he couldn't find a role for Chris Tarrant in this one. Which is a shame - I'd have paid good money to see him hacked to death underground.

Anyhoo, I have to say it was very entertaining, and more than a little scary. Though I managed to resist the temptation to join in the screaming which was going on in the seat next to me. And that's despite the pain of having my arm gripped like a vice every two minutes.

On the downside, I did feel that the creatures looked a bit like Marco from last year's Big Brother. But to be honest, that only made them scarier. All in all it was a very good film anyway (four and a half hot dogs out of five), and I'd recommend it to anyone who likes a bit of blood and guts of an evening.

Interestingly though, the excitement (and wanton violence) didn't end there last night. Lisa and I arrived back at the multi-storey car park to find we had the best seat in the house for a potential punch-up. Down below us at the Brighton Marina branch of McDonalds, a policeman and policewoman were busy having an animated discussion with two young men.

It was a bit hard to follow what happened next, but essentially the sequence of events appeared to be:

1. Two men sitting together outside.
2. Police force one man to move to another table.
3. Other man follows him, leaving behind his burger & fries.
4. A seagull starts eating the fries.
5. Another seagull makes off with the burger.
6. The animated discussions continue, oblivious to the fast food heist going on behind them.
7. The policewoman suddenly whips out her extendable baton and starts threatening one of the blokes.
8. The policeman follows suit.
9. The policewoman (clearly not a girl to be messed with) sprays one of the men in the face with a pepper spray for no apparent reason.
10. The policeman restrains the other one with no need for violence.
11. The policewoman sees her colleague's admirable lack of aggression, comes over, and sprays the other bloke too, just for good measure.
12. They call for backup, and eight police cars arrive.
13. Seriously. Eight.
14. I start taking photos with my mobile phone.
15. The two men are trussed up like chickens and loaded face down into a van, as the policewoman knees one of them in the back.

It was all very exciting anyway. Kind of like the Rodney King incident, but with less racism and more seagulls. I was tempted to start rioting in an effort to get a free McFlurry, but in the end we just went home. There's only so much screaming you can do in one evening.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Despite impressions to the contrary, this has actually been the first weekend I've spent at Lisa's flat since the end of April. No, really, it's true. Check if you don't believe me. Which means it's also the first weekend I've spent here since I skillfully constructed her new bed with my bare hands (and an electric screwdriver) two months ago. Which explains why I haven't managed to write a blog post all weekend.

But when I'm not lying on a well constructed bed with Lisa's knee in my back, wondering how she can possibly need a duvet in this weather, I'm busy losing money on animals of various descriptions. Yes, that's right, I've been betting on Big Brother. But that aside, I successfully lost a few quid on the horses on Saturday afternoon, only to then agree to a Sunday morning outing to Hove dog track with Lisa's mother (who's even more of a compulsive gambler than I am).

When I last went in October, I made a profit of £60 betting no more than £2 per race, and using a patented sure-fire gambling system developed by yours truly on the drive over there. So I was confident of success, and decided that the only change I needed to make to the system was to double my stake this time.

So anyway, twelve races later and not a single win, and I was beginning to wonder if there might be a tiny flaw in my plan. But as luck would have it, they also happened to have a 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire' quiz machine in the bar. So I was able to lose two quid on that as well.

But having leaked money like a sieve for three hours, I walked out of the greyhound stadium with my head held high (and my bank balance held low), listening to the comforting jangle of Lisa and her Mum's copious (and inexplicable) winnings, happy in the knowledge that there's probably a £100 McDonalds voucher waiting for me at home. So we went to Burger King to celebrate.

As for tonight, well we're going to see...

The Descent
It says "FACE YOUR DEEPEST FEAR", and as it happens, my deepest fear is a 90 minute film about pot-holing, so it should be quite scary.

Unfortunately, in my search to find the above pic for this blog post, I accidentally stumbled across a website which gave away the film's ending. So that's ruined that night out. We might as well go back to the dog track.

Friday, July 15, 2005

I'm beginning to think Matthew Tucker was lying to me. Two days on and still no McDonalds voucher. I could go hungry at this rate.

But as compensation, the postman did bring me a receipt for my (obviously unjust) £60 speeding fine, and the return of my driving licence. I have to say, when they add 3 points to your licence, I didn't realise they do it in biro. Does that mean the key to a clean driving licence is a bottle of Tipp-Ex?

On top of that, I received an e-mail through my website at 8pm last night from a dangerous stalker masquerading as a holidaymaker looking for help...

"....and the help I need funnily enough is your opinion of your local Campsite (you dont believe me do you!!) well its true. i typed Shotley Gate into multi map and saw there is a campsite there. i want to get out of london this weekend with my husband (no I'm not stalking you) and head to the nearest bit of nice water. is shotley gate nice or is it just another horried essex seaside town with yucky modern houses. is the pub near the pier nice and does it do food. so tell me is it worth bringing our bikes and having a weekend in your village. please let me know.
Love Beth xxx
PS nice website"

Yes, she does say "love", but let's not forget she's a married woman. Although she also puts kisses, so they're probably into swinging.

But I've e-mailed the lovely Beth (hi Beth, if you're reading this) and told her that Shotley Gate is indeed the perfect place to spend a weekend.

Which is why I'm leaving for Brighton in half an hour.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

For the benefit of a certain somebody...

Gay performer ..... Alan Cumming
.............Happy ............................. Gay

Personally I can't see the similarity. One's a gay actor and performer. The other's Alan Cumming.

But anyhoo, the postman failed to deliver my McDonalds voucher this morning, which I'm not happy about, but still on the subject of complaints, I'm even less happy with the ASA. Having heartlessly rejected my (admittedly frivolous) Big Yellow complaint two months ago, they've been sending me weekly e-mails to keep me updated on all their other decisions.

So yesterday I got a report on the ASA adjudications for the week up to July 13th, and top of the list was this one...

BROADCASTER: Channel 5 Broadcasting Ltd
Date: 13 July 2005
Media: Television
No. of complaints: 1

COMPLAINT: Advertisements were shown during a break in the film Groundhog Day, shown on Channel 5 on 3 March 2005. A viewer complained that the advertisements were much louder than the surrounding programme.

ADJUDICATION: Complaint upheld.

What??? They chuck out my perfectly reasonable objection to a self-storage company encouraging people to have sex with corpses, only to then uphold a complaint by ONE PERSON who can't find the mute button on his remote control??? What's going on???

It's injustices like this that make me vote Liberal Democrat.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

I've had an e-mail from McDonalds!

"Dear Mr Gardner

Thank you for contacting us about your visit to our Clacton-On-Sea restaurant.

I agree with your sentiments that the level of service you received on the day in question was most undesirable. For any of our customers to be treated in the manner you describe is unacceptable and not in keeping with McDonald's high standards. As such, I am appreciative that you brought this matter to our attention and offer my apologies for your poor visit.

As a company we aim to provide 100% customer satisfaction and high standards of quality, service and cleanliness at all times. I regret this has not been your experience.

Your comments are taken seriously by us and have been passed to the management team at Clacton-On-Sea. The details of your complaint will be used as part of their assessment of the restaurant's performance and procedures. These ongoing reviews help to identify any areas needing improvement within the restaurant.

You are clearly a regular customer and we thank you for your custom.

To make amends for your spoilt visit I have sent a voucher to your home address to put towards another meal with our compliments. I trust this is well received.

Again, thank you for taking the time and trouble to contact us.


Matthew Tucker
Internet Response Team"

Yes!!! A voucher!!! Mind you, I don't like the way they say I can put it towards another meal. That doesn't sound like the £100 gift certificate I was hoping for. Although admittedly I did keep referring to "my family" as though there were about ten of us (and Lisa officially became my wife for the purposes of this complaint), so perhaps the voucher will feed an entire coachload of us. Although obviously I'm on a diet, so I want be having anything myself. Maybe just a small McSalad and a fruit bag.

Talking of which, is the phrase "You are clearly a regular customer" a dig about my weight? Something tells me they've been looking at the CCTV footage. They might as well just say "you're fat" and have done with it.

But I do like the fact that the man who hands out the free food is called Tucker.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

My current circumstances can be summed up by this bank statement...

Statement of Fact
Rent, shopping, petrol, internet access and frivolous competition entries, so nearly funded by horse racing profits, but ultimately always just falling short. It's a sad indictment of my life.

But never mind, eh. I've spent the afternoon looking up charlatans on the internet. The people of East Sussex are currently cock-a-hoop (there's a phrase I really should be using more often) about an upcoming performance in Haywards Heath by king of the psychics Colin Fry. Obviously you wouldn't want to visit Haywards Heath unless you really had to, so before Lisa commits me to going along, together with half her work colleagues, I thought I'd find out a little bit about the man they call 'The Happy Medium' (no really, they do call him that).

Well as it turns out, he is a fraud, but of greater interest than that, is the revelation that he seems even more litigious than Secret of Light! Over at the website of confirmed sceptic Tony Youens, it states:

"There used to be a photo of Colin Fry here - an ordinary headshot, showing a happy smiling ordinary-looking guy – taken from a BBC webpage. For some reason Fry objected to it and told me to remove the picture in seven days or he would "not hesitate to use legal action".

I am unaware that I have broken any law regarding the use of Colin Fry's image, however if it is his wish that my site should not sport his picture then so be it. I have therefore removed it.

He also told me to remove the link from my site to as he claims the "photographic images" on that site are his copyright. I regard this demand as completely unreasonable - I am merely providing a link to an external site, which is what every site on the Web does. The links will therefore remain."

Does that sound spookily familiar or what?

Anyway, Colin's clearly a man you don't want to mess with, and not someone you want to go posting photos of without permission.

Colin Fry

Oooh, he's got big ears...

Monday, July 11, 2005

According to recent news reports, a steroid called Prednisolone could prevent miscarriages in women who are particularly prone to them, and has already enabled a woman with 19 miscarriages to her name to have a baby.

Which is interesting, because I happen to know a user of that particular drug. In fact, she's sitting next to me on the table as I write this.

Yes, it's true, my cat has been on Prednisolone all her life, and what's more, I can report that she's never had a miscarriage. So it clearly works. Although it could be responsible for making her hair grow.

Oh, and yes, they have spelt my name wrong. I've also blanked out my address, just in case hordes of broody young women start to beat a path to my door looking for supplies.

Anyhoo, whilst eating my porridge this morning, I was watching 'Homes Under the Hammer' on BBC1, which sounds like a programme about vandalism, but isn't. It did, however, feature the auction of a flat in Lower Rock Gardens, Brighton, which is about a ten minute walk from where Lisa lives, and is a road I pass frequently, due to it being on a direct line between two charity shops.

The flat in question was on the top floor of a four storey building, with no lift, and very narrow flights of stairs. It was described as "shoebox sized", with only one bedroom which you could barely fit a double bed into, although as the presenter pointed out, "that's if you can fold it in half to get it up the stairs". It needed new floorboards, and you could only see the sea if you risked your life by leaning right out of the window.

Anyway, they sold it for £112,000. The person who bought it said he was planning to rent it out for £550 a month.

Which is why, 14 months into this relationship, I still haven't moved to Brighton.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Front page news in this week's TV Choice magazine is this story...

Phil's Mum turns upWhat's my Mum doing turning up in the Bill? It's bad enough her turning up on this blog. And more to the point, why does she look like Angie from Eastenders?

But putting those issues aside, my parents are actually quite unlikely to turn up at the moment, as they're preparing to move to Chelmsford on August 2nd. Suffolk is all very well, but if you're offered the chance to live in Essex, you'd be a fool to turn it down. So they're currently doing the rounds of farewell barbecues and tearful send-offs. All these luxury dinners being held in your honour can take their toll though. As my Dad remarked today, "it's tiring saying goodbye all the time".

As for me, well I've spent the day posting numerous photos over at the other place. You can never have too much black & white photography in your life, that's what I say. So I've littered the place with quality shots such as this one of Ann Widdecombe...

... which is lovely. Although if you keep it in colour and crop it a little more...

... it does tend to look like she's posing with a penis.

Incidentally, it's nice to see that after seven months of technical breakdowns, Blogger have finally restored the feature which allows you to see how many posts you've written. Although clearly anyone with as many as 661 posts to their name needs to get out more...

Friday, July 08, 2005

I've had an e-mail today from the Austin Film Festival. It's just a confirmation that they've received my entry for their 2005 screenplay competition. A competition I entered THREE MONTHS AGO. Not that I'm saying they're slow to respond. Well ok, I am. But putting that aside, it also happens to be the coolest confirmation e-mail I've ever received. Having thanked me for being part of the 2005 Austin Film Festival, they say:

"Contests are very subjective. No matter where your entry stands in our competition, I congratulate you for putting forth the time and effort into creating a world of characters and conversations."

Which is nice. I just found it refreshing for a competition to acknowledge the effort involved in actually entering, and openly admit that their judgement isn't necessarily right, rather than pretending that the best entries always win, which is so patently not true.

Apart, of course, from all the competitions I've ever won.

But on the subject of writing contests, the tragic news is that my cough acute tonsilitis has now forced my withdrawal from the Channel 4 New Comedy Writers award. Frankly my keyboard was getting covered in phlegm, and after a couple of days of postponing the inevitable, I've finally called time on my brief foray into sketch-writing.

But in an effort to find something I can win which doesn't actually involve any work, I've turned my attention to music, and entered...

... which shows the value of having numerous little ditties what you wrote, just sitting around on the computer in MP3 format. I knew my cluttered hard drive would come in handy one day.

After much thought, I decided not to enter the hip-hop category, and instead went for the folk section. I've always fancied myself with a beard, going 'hey nonny nonny' in my sandals, so I think I should fit in quite well. And according to the website, the judging panel includes two guys called 'The Bacon Brothers', who I presume are like The Chemical Brothers, only fatter.

So I'm quietly confident. That twenty grand prize is in the bag...

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Obviously it's not been a good day for Londoners, fans of public transport, and people who don't like loud bangs, and I'm sure Ken Livingstone feels a bit guilty about telling people to get out of their cars and onto the tube, but it's ok, I'm here to raise everyone's spirits with a few more tales from my adventures in horse racing.

Actually, before I do that, can I just mention that I'm ill? I don't like to make a fuss about these things, so I haven't previously mentioned it, but for the past week I've had a cough. I'm permanently sucking the Halls Mentholyptus and downing a bottle of Covonia a day. But despite that, I took a turn for the worse yesterday, and was forced to upgrade the situation to tonsilitis, with possible food poisoning. I then had a major coughing fit in the night, got up this morning with a headache, and felt so rough I was forced to go back to bed at lunchtime.

Which meant I missed the first race at Newmarket. Meaning I didn't get to see the horse I'd backed romping home way down the field, and losing me six quid. Which is probably just as well. I was already feeling pretty rough.

However, I was well and truly awake for the July Cup at 3:05pm, and (possibly due to the mind-altering effects of cough medicine) decided to go completely against all the numerous tips of the so-called experts (pah!), and back two hugely priced outsiders which I happened to think had great chances, and were far better than people realised.

Obviously I was alone in that opinion, and seemed to be the only person on Betfair merrily backing horses at 66-1, but hey, I'm not easily deterred. These are horses, not popes, and I know what I'm doing. So I backed Avonbridge and Etlaala each-way at ridiculous prices, then happily settled down to watch my boat come in. Sorry, my horses come in.

And what happened? They came second and third, and I won £135. You can't argue with a financial investment like that. Of course, if Avonbridge hadn't been overtaken just yards from the line, it would have been over £400, but I'm trying not to think about that.

Oh, and yes, I am very sorry I didn't share those tips here beforehand, but as I've said before, I seem to do so much better when I keep my cards close to my chest. Or in this case, my chesty cough.
Blimey, are the French taking revenge???

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Can I just say how pleased I am that London's got the 2012 Olympics? (Hey, it's bang up to date, this blog, isn't it). Can I? Well actually, no I can't, because to be honest I really couldn't care less. I'll be watching the whole thing on TV, so it makes no difference to me whether they hold it here or in France. Either way I'll still have to look at Sally Gunnell's face every day for three straight weeks. And she might not age well in the next seven years. Which really doesn't bear thinking about.

And besides, right now I have bigger fish to fry. Yes, it's true, I've made an official complaint to McDonalds about the standard of service at their Clacton-on-Sea branch. Much like the ASA, who allow people like me to make frivolous complaints about necrophilia via their website, McDonalds accept online vitriol too. So I filled out their complaints form via the web yesterday, and sent it off.

Lisa reminded me that her mother is a diabetic, which was handy because it enabled me to present our experience on Sunday as less of a casual stop for food, and more of a mercy dash to prevent a diabetic coma. Which ought to increase my chances of getting some free vouchers.

But when I'm not indulging in no-win no-fee lawsuits, I'm busy making my way home from Brighton. I left there at 11:15pm last night, and arrived at the M25 at midnight to be greeted by numerous flashing signs telling me it was closed between junctions 23 and 21a. I love these warning signs which assume we all know the number of every junction we pass. I couldn't even tell you what county junction 23 is in, let alone whether I'm going that way. So I drove around the M25 in a state of constant panic in case the road suddenly came to an end.

Fortunately it didn't, but the M25's still closed as we speak, which will go down well with the IOC members who've just voted for London.

Now I'm home, I'm supposed to entering a Channel 4 comedy writing competition. Obviously the BBC's Last Laugh contest did me no good whatsoever, but in the words of cuddly philanthropist and all round Mr Nice Guy, Richard Nixon, "Failure is not falling down. Failure is falling down and not getting up again". Although Dick himself gave up pretty soon after the Watergate scandal, so it shows what he knows.

But nevertheless, I'm giving it another go. Probably. I have one week to write three 2-minute sketches and a 3-minute topical monologue. My first attempt two weeks ago resulted in a 5-minute sketch which I refuse to cut down, so it's gone well so far. And as if that wasn't enough, Channel 4 themselves are doing their best to scupper my chances by putting on horse racing this week.

Talking of which, it's about to start. I'm off...

Monday, July 04, 2005

I've had enough of Orlaith's breasts now. I've sucked them dry over the past week (I'm talking metaphorically there), and I've finally had my fill. Having reproduced that list of referrals from yonder last Monday, traffic reached an all time high on Friday, with (brace yourself) 910 unique visitors. Yes, 910. Which roughly equates to 10 regular readers and 900 Orlaith obsessives.

Better still is that your average boob fan is easily led, meaning that a total of (brace yourself even harder) 617 people clicked on the advert I cynically placed in my last post.

I get paid a commission of $4 for every t-shirt bought as a result of someone clicking on that link, which means that if each of those 617 people had bought just one shirt, I'd now have about $2,500. Enough for a down payment on a Brighton flat. So exactly how much have I made..? ... (biggest brace required)...

Well it begins with z and ends in ero.

Honestly, you have to wonder if internet advertising really works. Six hundred clicks and not one sale. Which is what happens when you try to sell clothing to people who like nudity. I should have thought that one through.

But onwards and upwards. After watching last night's show, people are now going to be more interested in Anthony and Makosi having sex in the plunge pool. Which is why I've mentioned it.

Anyhoo, the weekend turned out to be a big success. It started well when Lisa presented me with my birthday present (a new mobile phone) on Friday night. It's not actually my birthday til the 29th, but Friday was the 1st of July, which was the right month, and close enough for Lisa who's a little impatient when it comes to both giving and receiving gifts.

We then travelled back to Shotley Gate on Friday night with Lisa's mother in tow (not literally). As we headed up the A23, Lisa asked her if she'd ever been to Suffolk before. Her response of "Where?" suggested that maybe she hadn't, so Lisa repeated the word 'Suffolk'. To which her Mum replied "No. Why, what's there?". Something tells me she wasn't fully prepared for this trip.

But it went well all the same. We spent Saturday watching the racing (with Lisa banished to the kitchen to watch Live8), I won fifty quid on a horse called Zeitgeist, and Lisa's Mum decided she really ought to get into internet betting. Which means Lisa will be forced to open an acount by the end of the week.

In the evening we sang along to Velvet Revolver, tried to avoid Mariah Carey, enjoyed Madonna using the f-word at 7pm on BBC1, and lamented the absence of Howard Jones and Nik Kershaw this time around. I also enjoyed Paul Danan, who seemed to miss the point of the name Live8, and the G8 summit, by sending his best wishes to the six leaders in Edinburgh.

Sunday featured an even bigger summit - the momentous first ever meeting between Lisa's Mum and my parents. Lisa and I watched in awe as the leaders of two great clans joined together around a coffee table and drank tea. We may not have made poverty history, but we did eat a lot of cake.

From there it was on to Clacton, where Lisa's brother-in-law happened to be having a family get-together. His family, not mine or Lisa's, but we're not beyond a bit of gate-crashing, so we turned up anyway. We basically just stood there for half an hour pointing at people and saying "who's that?", while, no doubt, they were doing the same to us. But we did get some more free cake, which is what we went for.

We made our way back to Brighton via a drive-thru McDonalds in Essex, which became more of a drive-thru-and-park McDonalds, when, after making us queue for ten minutes, they happily took our money, only to keep us waiting another 15 minutes for our food. When I complained, the bloke said that everyone working there was new and none of them knew what they were doing, so it wasn't their fault. Which of course made up for everything, and meant I wasn't the least bit annoyed when I bit into my cheeseburger half a mile down the road and found the bun was so burnt it was black.

And to think I broke my diet for that thing. I can feel another complaining e-mail coming on...

Friday, July 01, 2005

Hello. If you're one of the 357 (no, seriously) people who arrived here yesterday in search of Orlaith nude action, feel free to click on the pic below...

Mmm... Orlaith...

... then at least you can say you've been there, done that, bought the t-shirt. It's just my way of saying thanks for visiting. And earning a nice commission into the bargain.

If, on the other hand, you're here for the latest news on my dull life, well you're in luck. I'm off to Brighton today to pick up a very precious cargo. No, not Lisa (although she is coming too), but her mother, a woman of such good taste that she's never been to Shotley Gate before. So after thirteen months of carefree lovin' (?), the future mother-in-law* is finally coming to stay.

I've prepared for the experience by reading a lot of Les Dawson books, although fortunately Lisa's Mum is a horse racing fan, so that's Saturday afternoon sorted. I wonder if she's familiar with the racing expression often used to describe horses with plenty of stamina - "it stays longer than the mother-in-law". I'll ask her when she gets here.

Oh, and I've bought mushy peas. She's old, it's what she knows.

I'll be back on Monday...

*not guaranteed. Sadly Lisa has to agree to marry me first.