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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Well I'm back in Brighton, and the sun's shining. Of course, you don't want the sun to shine when you're stuck in a traffic jam on the M25 in a car with no air conditioning, but on the plus side, I think I sweated off a good few pounds yesterday afternoon. Although I did end up having to listen to Steve Wright in the Afternoon on Radio 2 in the hope of hearing some travel news, so it wasn't all good.

Personally I blame myself. I was the one who turned to Lisa just after the Dartford Bridge toll booths, and said "I think that's the quickest I've ever made it over that bridge. There's just no traffic around today. We'll be in Brighton by 3:15pm." I might as well have added "Oi, fate! I'm over here!"

Exploded LorryThe irony is that the exploded lorry which shut a ten lane stretch of the M25 for most of the day was the least of our problems. Traffic may have been at a virtual standstill for miles around, but it didn't stop a few more cars colliding at the junction with the M23, and closing another two lanes of the M25, leaving us queuing all the way through Kent and into Surrey (I do love a traffic jam which spans a couple of counties).

But fortunately after about an hour we made it as far as the Wimpy at the Clackett Lane services, so we were able to top up our electrolyte levels with some fries and a coke. As for the exploding vehicle problem, well apparently it took them until the early hours of this morning to clean it all up, which is surprising seeing as the lorry was carrying bleach. You'd think the accident scene would have been pretty much pine-fresh already.

But anyway, we got down to Brighton at 4:45pm, ate some Honey Nut Cheerios, and headed off to see The Stereophonics at the Brighton Dome. We were supposed to be going with a work colleague of Lisa's, but at the last minute she texted with some flimsy excuse about being ill, and cancelled. So clearly the thought of wasting a £29 concert ticket was still preferable to the prospect of having to meet me. To be honest it was probably a wise decision - we chose to walk to the Dome, rather than drive, so I took the opportunity to have four Bacardis, and quite frankly I'm an animal when I drink.*

The StereophonicsAnyhoo, The Stereophonics were actually very good, and we had top class seats in the front row of the balcony, hence the high quality mobile-phone-photography opposite. I was surprised by how small the lead singer (I'm not going to pretend to know his name, but he's the one in the middle) is. He reminded me of Prince, only more Welsh. Lisa also enjoyed the support band, Casino (which is the kind of band name you choose without realising that it makes you impossible to find on the internet. I know - I run a website about The Senators), whose lead singer looked like a young Gary Davies, and who opened the show by making an offensive joke about being arrested by police because he looked too Brazillian. But he plugged their CDs, which he said were on sale for £3 in the foyer, so Lisa sent me out to buy one. Whereupon I found they were £4. It was an outrage.

The bigger outrage, however, was that having tempted fate exactly one week ago by saying that they'd better play 'Have a Nice Day' because it's the only one I know, they... um... didn't. Lisa was particularly annoyed as she was planning to get up and leap about at the end, and she thought she was safe to stay in her seat until she heard the opening 'dah-da-dah's of 'Have a Nice Day'. Needless to say she was wrong. And I was forced to come away without any shots of her dancing in the aisles. It was a tragedy all round.

*Although the animal in question is a cross between a lamb and a guinea pig.

Monday, August 29, 2005

You can tell it's a Bank Holiday Monday - I'm writing a blog post while watching The Great Escape. Though I must admit I can't watch any scene with Steve McQueen in it without thinking of Griff Rhys Jones in the Holsten Pils ads. I even found myself joining in on the "two hundred and fifty??" line.

But anyhoo, it's been a quiet weekend of diet-breaking, X Factor-watching, and in-bed-staying, which is just as well, because Lisa and I had a lot of recovering to do after a day of small-child-rearing on Friday. The second half of Friday's blog post was actually written in the most trying of circumstances (namely having the chocolate-covered fingers of a two year old permanently attached to my laptop, and a six year old trying to explain the plot of 'Madagascar' to me), after Lisa's nephews turned up at her flat at lunchtime. I assumed they'd come to make amends for the frankly inadequate rendition of 'Happy Birthday' we were treated to over the phone the day before, but sadly it didn't happen. Lisa's youngest nephew still insists on singing "Happy Birthday two three" every time. I'm sure we're all very impressed with his counting, and he does a world-beating version of 'Bob the Builder' (or so his mother keeps insisting), but to be honest I'm not sure he fully grasps the true meaning of the birthday song.

The boys did succeed in delaying our departure from Brighton by an hour though, meaning that we reached the queue for the Dartford Tunnel a good seven miles before we reached the tunnel. I always knew it was a good idea to head back to Shotley Gate for the Bank Holiday weekend.

On the way, we proved we're gluttons for punishment by stopping off at my parents house in Chelmsford, where my six year old niece was staying for a few days. She tried to persuade us to stay for the night, by pointing out that the spare double bed is probably big enough for us both to fit into, before asking if Lisa is related to her. I told her she would be if we got married, whereupon she asked if she could come to the wedding. Still, it makes a change from her asking when we're going to have children, and where I sleep when I'm at Lisa's house.

She also began a conversation with the words "You know when you shave your legs..?", before telling us that her Mummy tells her stories about "Dentists & Dragons". I said "Dungeons & Dragons?". She said "No, Dentists & Dragons". So that's cleared that one up then.

We left my parents' at 8pm. I'm not saying we were stressed by then, but we did head straight to Tescos for cream cakes and alcohol. Let's just say it's been a high calorie weekend. But it wasn't me who got toast crumbs in the bed.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Well I must admit, when I walked into Clair Hall (it's a venue, not someone I bumped into) in Haywards Heath last night, I was a bit of a skeptic. I had my doubts about mediums and clairvoyants, and tended to believe they were all a load of charlatans (unlike Regression Therapists, who have my full support), but I decided to attend last night's performance with an open mind, and not to jump to any conclusions.

Well people, I'm here today to tell you that to my surprise I came out of that place last night totally convinced. There are now no doubts in my mind whatsoever.

Colin Fry is definitely a fraud.

I think it was the Jaffa Cakes that did it for me. We paid Mr Fry £18.50 a ticket to tell a lady that her grandmother wanted to pass on a mesage about Jaffa Cakes, only for the lady to shriek in shocked surprise, because she'd been to Marks & Spencers last week and they were on special offer. Is it just me, or is that a bit tenuous?

Anyhoo, I'm pleased to report that in real life, Colin's ears are even bigger than they appear on his website. He's also as camp as Christmas, and came on in a white suit, with a jacket which reached down to his ankles. He began by saying that someone by the name of Eddy or Edwards (hedging his bets) was coming through, before a man stood up, declared that his name was Eddy, whereupon Colin changed his story and said "Yes, I'm looking for a man called Eddy". I wasn't that impressed. But I was even less impressed by his second dead customer who was "either called May, or has a connection with the month of May". I thought, that's handy - having someone named after a month. Kinda doubles your chances.

Fortunately he found someone with a connection to May, and after chatting for ten minutes, he moved on to another elderly woman who was coming through on a strong vibration. Guess what her name was?


I did wonder if I was the only one noticing this, and having pointed it out to a few people in the interval, the answer appeared to be yes. I was waiting for April to appear in the second half, but sadly it didn't happen - even Colin has limits to how far he'll push something.

Well, I say that, but actually, the way he began the second half, you did wonder if there's anything the man won't do. He came strolling on, waving to the crowd, before suddenly bursting into tears and announcing that he was going to give the proceeds from the evening to the local hospital. Apparently his Mum died there, and the nurses were fantastic, which prompted one of them (who just happened to be in the audience) to rush up on stage and comfort him. She was followed by his brother, who gave him a hug, after which Colin went through a five minute tearful tribute to those who have supported him - from his partner Vince, to his hairdresser Chris, and his P.A. who he's known since he was four. It was when he started thanking Boots the Chemist and Lloyds Bank that I began wondering if he'd gone too far. I'm sure Boots have always been there for him (in a condoms and KY Jelly kind of a way), but does that really warrant a sobbing tribute?

Anyhoo, Colin only actually communicated with about six or seven (living) people through the course of the evening, and two of those he knew personally, which seemed slightly suspect. He blamed that on the fact that he was a local boy, but said he'd only pass on things he couldn't possibly know. He then told one of his best friends that her father was dead. It was uncanny.

The highlight for me was the woman whose deceased grandmother came through, whereupon Colin said "she was a very sweet lady, wasn't she?", prompting the instant reply of "No". So she was clearly a nasty piece of work, but that didn't stop Colin, who claimed that she may not have always seemed sweet, but she was when you got to know her.

I also enjoyed his question to a lady "Was a scythe important to this person?", which produced an instant 'no', whereupon Colin immediately said "oh, I must be getting a new connection coming through" (presumably the Grim Reaper), and promptly broke for the interval.

But anyway, it was enjoyable evening (in a funfair showman kind of a way), and I got to meet Mel, a friend of Lisa's who, I hasten to add, is alive, not dead.

Earlier in the day we'd been to the Kemp Town Brasserie for a lunch of posh burgers and sardines with their heads on, before embarking on a birthday outing to B & Q. But perhaps the highlight of the day was the news that Lisa's mother has been asked out on a date by an 80 year old man. The amorous octagenarian is known as Doug (presumably because he buried his wife), lives in the flat below, and as part of his strategy to persaude Lisa's Mum to accompany him to the pictures, mentioned that he has money. And a disabled sticker for his car.

So here we have a potential father-in-law with a flat, a large bank balance, a weak heart (I'm guessing), and the facility to park wherever he likes in Brighton town centre.

And Lisa's Mum said no. Honestly, I need to have a serious word with that woman.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Well I have to say, Lisa should breathe a sigh of relief - my steamer wasn't a patch on Lorraine's. I didn't even know you could get steamers that big. If you put it on the front lawn, people would think a UFO had landed. So I'm actually quite pleased Lisa didn't get to see my pitiful effort. Although on the plus side, at least she'd have been able to fit mine in her kitchen.

Incidentally, I'm afraid my steamer's no longer up for sale - I've found the receipt, so I'm selling it back to Mr Tesco and pocketing the cash.

But anyway, without further ado...

Happy Birthday Lisa!!!
Have a fantastic day, and I'd just like to say that I didn't really mind being constantly prodded to keep me awake for an hour at 7:30am so that I could share in the joy of the card-opening ceremony.

Anyhoo, having driven down to Brighton yesterday in torrential rain, and some of the worst driving conditions I've ever experienced (I wouldn't mind a bit of global warming right about now), we finally made it to the Duke of Yorks Picturehouse to see 'Overnight' last night. It was very good, though I'm obviously developing a conscience, because I actually found it harder to laugh at Troy Duffy's failure than I thought I would. The man was clearly despicable, and would happily bad-mouth anyone from Ethan Hawke to his own brother (and I particularly enjoyed his phone call to Kenneth Branagh), but ultimately, when he and his friends had finally blown the $300,000 he got for his script, and ended up back in their dead-end menial jobs, you couldn't help feeling kinda sad about the whole thing.

Although obviously I won't make those same mistakes when I'm offered $300k for my first script.

Anyhoo, I've gotta go - when Lisa emerges from the shower we're off for a birthday lunch at a venue which has yet to be decided upon. It's currently a toss-up between a trendy little Brighton restaurant called The Saint, or the McDonalds Drive-Thru. And then of course we're Frying tonight, which is quite exciting. I'm hoping Colin will get a message from an Oscar, so that I can put my hand up and see how long I can carry on a conversation about my deceased family member who tragically died prematurely from a heart complaint at the age of eight, without ever letting on that he was a cat.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

I'm sorry, but after a week of wondering, I'm just going to have to break my silence and ask...

Why are there so many Sikhs working for Gate Gourmet?

I can't be the only one who's been thinking that, can I? I don't have a problem with it, I'm just curious. Is it because BA serve a lot of curries?

PrezAnyhoo, tomorrow is Lisa's birthday, so I'm heading off to Brighton today where I intend to drag her to the cinema to finally see 'Overnight' before midnight when I officially have to do what she wants for 24 hours. Naturally I plan to be asleep at 11:45pm.

We agreed that I wouldn't get her a present, because I've paid for the big Fry-up tomorrow night, and a Stereophonics concert on Tuesday at the venue where Abba won the Eurovision Song Contest. So the place has a history of quality music. Which makes you wonder why they booked the Stereophonics. Only joking, I love them really. And I'm sure we'll have a niiice dayyy. (They'd bloomin' well better play that one - it's the only one I know).

So like I say, there'll be no large, beautifully gift-wrapped present from me this year.

While I'm here, can I just say how much I love Lisa's friend Lorraine. We're cat-sitting for her again at the end of September (oh yes - brace yourself for another two weeks of Timmy tales), and the woman is not only kind and generous, she also has the uncanny knack of knowing exactly what Lisa would like most in life. It filled my heart with warmth and joy to get an excited text message from Lisa last night, saying that Lorraine had just turned up with an electric steamer for her birthday. It's just what Lisa has always wanted (because let's face it, she's basically been steaming broccoli for the past year using a set of saucepans with holes in them), and she couldn't have been more pleased.

I naturally shared her excitement and joy, and will be personally thanking Lorraine for her generosity when I next see her.

So anyway, anyone want to buy a steamer?

Monday, August 22, 2005

Sugar GliderI want a Sugar Glider.

No, really, I do.

________________This is a Sugar Glider...

Sugar Gliders

... and so are these.

Sugar Glider Gliding

But on top of being incredibly cute, they can also do this...

... which is slightly scary. But apparently they're the must-have pet of 2005, and I've therefore decided I must have one.

According to Sugar Gliders: The Ultimate Guide, they can glide the length of a football pitch in a single bound. So the distance from my living room to the kitchen wouldn't be a problem. And as long as they fly at a height of more than three feet, they should be safe from my cat. Apparently you can even train them to glide to you when they're called, so I could walk out of my flat, call to my two little sugar gliders, Tate & Lyle, and they'd come soaring out of the first floor window and follow me down the road. As opposed to just sitting there growing hairier, which is essentially what my current pet does.

And what's more... there's a breeder in Suffolk!!! Well, I say breeder... it's more of an inbreeder really. Their sugar gliders are called Alfie & Moon, which frankly should be illegal, and suggests they may be mentally subnormal, but on top of that, their website seems to imply that they're planning on breeding Moon with her own son, Charlie. It may not be as big a crime as naming your pets after Shane Richie, but it still doesn't seem right.

But beggars can't be choosers, and there are only four months til Christmas, so start saving - I want an inbred sugar glider.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Five words...

No really, I am.
You should ignore everything that reprobate Crash says (actually, that's a good general rule, but it's particularly true on this occasion) - the fact is that after taking on all-comers (well, a teenager and a couple of drunks), it was I who was crowned the rightful champion of world Swingball. And no amount of cheating is going to change that.

Anyhoo, Crash and Donna's barbecue yesterday evening was a high class affair, much like the Ambassador's reception, but with burgers instead of Ferrero Rocher. I'd been told that our hosts were planning to start cooking at about 5pm, so I arrived promptly at 4:50pm, thus proving two things:

1. It's Lisa who makes me late.

2. I was only really there for the free food.

Unfortunately I was the first to arrive, and having been outnumbered on the "sod 'em - let's cook all the food now" conversation, was forced to wait for my charred meat products. I said I didn't mind, and sadly they believed me.

Next to arrive was a summery looking gentleman by the name of Screwy (I hope I heard that right - I'll probably find it's Hughie and I've just insulted him) who brought along his son, allowing me to spend the rest of the evening thinking what a great name for a business 'Screwy & Son' would be.

Shortly afterwards came Mads with Other Half and Small Person (not their christened names). I felt Mads looked like Lowri Turner, but didn't like to say so in case she took it as an insult. So I've waited until we're a good ten miles apart. As for Other Half, well he shamelessly ruined my evening by trumping my claims on the title of 'Most Ill Person There', by having the nerve to have just come through major surgery. I tried coughing a few times to redirect the sympathy back towards me, but no one noticed. I was tempted to sneeze on the barbecue just to make a point.

The line-up was completed by Rich, who lived up to his name by bringing steak, and we settled down to discuss major world issues like Crash's festering tongue, putting cake in a blender, and whether Close Encounters is better than Star Wars. I knew it was going well when Crash got out his Coronation Street photos, put on some dolphin music (which sounded more like a seagull in distress) and started flicking through a pile of magazines in an old shoe box.

But the highlight of the evening, if not the entire year, was the final settling of our long-running dispute over the title of Swingball Champion. Many have laid claim to the title, but having taken on Donna (who plays like Venus Williams, but with more aggression), over the best of three sets, only one true champion emerged.

And it wasn't Crash. The rules of Swingball clearly state that if you're left-handed, you have to declare it at the start, and not wait until your opponent is expecting the ball to arrive on one side, before sending it round on the other and nearly hitting him in the face.

And besides, I could have hit it back, it's just that I refuse to sink to his level.

Friday, August 19, 2005

I'm home. And only 16 hours later than planned. Personally I blame the Chelmsford Sainsburys for this. Within hours of visiting on Wednesday and buying some 'Taste the Difference' tomato soup, I came down with a sore throat, which over the course of yesterday developed into an even sorer throat, a headache, and a simultaneously blocked and running nose. Which meant that by 10pm last night I was in no fit state to drive home.

I did, however, manage to make it into Chelmsford town centre yesterday afternoon with my sister. She was looking for a new mobile phone, I was looking for an excuse to get out of the house, and I'm pleased to say we both got what we wanted. In addition I bought a stunning Jeff Banks suit from Age Concern, which on top of being only £20, also happens to fit me - I don't know which is more remarkable. I then moved on to a very fetching Trussardi top, which had come straight from the catwalks of Milan to the Chelmsford branch of Oxfam.

It's new, unworn, and comes complete with this certificate of authenticity, just in case anyone should doubt that you can buy genuine Italian designer clothes from an Essex charity shop. And what's more it was only £4.99. Bargain.

I'm particularly pleased, because according to this website...

"Trussardi Man is determined and kind, he is rational and rebuffs the ephemeral: a man of the world. Brilliant entertainer, extrovert and reserved at the same time, Trussardi Man is sure of himself, is fulfilled and self-confident: masterful in managing his business, he approaches daily situations with naturalness and the reassuring ways of a man in control: Trussardi Man unites sophisticated Italian traits with the most refined sartorial re-interpretation of modernity."

Which I think you'll find is me to a tee. I barely have time to write this blog, I'm so busy rebuffing the ephemeral.

And what's more, my new designer top comes with these inspiring washing instructions...

So one wash, and it comes out streaked, faded and wrinkled. But hey, that's all part of its charm. Apparently. It does mean, however, that I can't wear it to Crash and Donna's barbecue tomorrow - there's no telling what a drop of rain might do to it.

So I'll have to go for the suit instead.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Another day, another town. Having been in Brighton for five days, I'm now taking in the delights of Chelmsford for 48 hours. The reasons for this unscheduled holiday are not only dull, but also surprisingly tedious (or do they mean the same thing?), so suffice it to say that it's all down to cars and their general unreliability, meaning that I'm stranded without transport at my parents' house until tonight.

But on the bright side, it means I've been able to explore the local Sainsburys superstore, which on top of being a pleasant ten minute walk down an A-road, also features this sign at the entrance to the car park.

I love things like that (almost as much as I love having a camera on my phone). I can spend hours happily pondering how a well-constructed, permanent sign at a major store can go through the entire manufacturing and erecting process, without one person ever saying "hey, there's no 'r' on the end of 'your'".

Not that I'm pedantic or anything.

Anyhoo, my access to computers and phonelines is a little limited at the moment. And to be honest, I don't like sitting this close to my Dad's monitor. He doesn't even have a swivel chair, which frankly limits the amount of fun you can have writing a blog post. And on top of all that, my sister is in the country for four days, and due to arrive here at any moment.

All of which is ample reason to leave the computer immediately. And besides, I can't see the horse racing on the TV from here.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

When I met Lisa for lunch yesterday at "the best pub in Brighton" (which on top of not stocking Bacardi, and having to rely on the corner shop for orange juice, is now experiencing a five minute delay on ice cubes), we happened to walk past a woman in St James's Street who looked like she'd come straight out of a horror film. And I don't mean she was the spitting image of Neve Campbell.

It led to an in-depth discussion on the number of lunatics one comes across on the streets of Brighton, and how I've met more dodgy characters (Lisa not included) in one day here than I've encountered in over seven years at Shotley Gate. It turned out to be a prophetic conversation. And not just because of the woman in the fright-wig who we passed two minutes later.

Having delivered Lisa safely back to work, I headed off into town on some important errands. Mostly involving charity shops. And soon wound up at the branch of Barnardos where I bought my fetching Next shirt exactly two weeks ago. They're obviously being supplied by a specialist Next fence, because they had another fine t-shirt (which sadly I can't find on the Next website, hence no photo), this time for only £3.50.

The lower price was obviously to compensate for the ordeal you have to go through to buy it...

Whilst browsing the Barnardos rails, shirt in hand, I was approached by a middle aged woman. I'm not one to judge people on appearances, but she only had two teeth, and was wearing an Easter bonnet. But hey, live and let live, that's what I say. Unless they start to sexually harrass you...

So anyway, this woman's first words to me, as she moved in uncomfortably close, were "I hope you don't mind me saying, but I really like your head". Not the kind of thing you hear every day. I thanked her for the compliment, and tried to pretend she wasn't there. She continued with "It's nice and round. I really like round things, and your head is lovely and round".

I smiled through gritted teeth, and responded with "No one's ever said that to me before". She looked surprised. I considered running. She then moved in for the kill with...

"Can I touch it?"

I suppose I should be grateful she didn't say "I like round things - can I touch your stomach?", but even so, it wasn't the kind of request I felt inclined to agree to. So I attempted to laugh it off. She persisted. I told her we'd only just met. She assured me it wouldn't hurt and she only wanted to feel my head (anyone would think I was being unreasonable here). So I told her my girlfriend would be jealous - a statement which prompted a two minute speech from the woman on how she's not attracted to me sexually, she's not 'after' me, she's been single for many years (big surprise), she's not interested in a relationship, and Lisa has nothing to fear.

To be honest, I felt she was a little too keen to make that point. I'd have been happy with a simple "I can see you're out of my league, and I wouldn't stand a chance", rather than the emphatic way she announced to the entire shop that she didn't fancy me. But you can't have everything.

Fortunately she got distracted at that point by another shopper's skirt, and was forced to interrupt our conversation in order to shout an aggressive compliment at the woman, who was fast disappearing out the door. I was tempted to follow her, but I had a £3.50 Next shirt in my hand, and nothing comes between me and a charity shop bargain.

So I made the most of the diversion, and attempted to head for the till, only to be cut off at the pass by the toothless crone (it's a term of affection), who was a faster mover than she looked. She said "So am I going to get a laugh today?", I considered saying "Only if you look in the mirror", but instead went with "Not from me, no" in a cheery voice.

It didn't go down well. For a moment I thought she was going to hit me. Or worse - fondle my forehead. She asked again, with the kind of expression that said "Either I touch your head, or you die", but fortunately for me, the girl on the till, who had been making some half-hearted attempts to intervene and persuade the woman to leave me alone, finally took matters into her own hands, and in a stern voice said:

"I think you'd better go and work upstairs now". Wherepon the crooked hag disappeared through the door behind the counter.

So after all that, it turns out she worked there. I can only presume she comes across better in interviews.

Monday, August 15, 2005

I'm always keen to try new things (and I'm not talking about the chocolate puddings), so yesterday I decided to follow in the footsteps of that annoying bloke on the (colour wonderful) Clairol advert and become a celebrity colourist for the day. Which basically involved stripping down to my underwear, putting on plastic gloves, and making Lisa dress in a bin liner. Trust me, it sounds more exciting than it was.

The colour we were aiming for was 'dark brown'. I'm not saying we didn't achieve it, but the first reaction of Lisa's mother when we picked her up from her sister's in the evening was to say that Lisa looked like Cleopatra. Which was an outrageous slur, and far more offensive than my earlier comment that she looked like Mystic Meg.

Fortunately, having been informed that it's actually dark brown, Lisa's Mum reconsidered her initial opinion, and instead declared "It's as black as the ace of spades". Which was far more reasonable.

Personally though, I thought it was a job well done, and I'm sure I didn't leave that many patches of light brown at the back. And besides, you don't tend to notice the light patches - the eye is far more drawn to the black stains on Lisa's neck.

I've been asked to do it again in a couple of months time anyway, which I feel is more to do with the professional job I did, rather than the fact that Lisa's sister is pregnant and doesn't want to poison her baby with hair dye. In the meantime I'm hoping to persuade Lisa to be a bit more adventurous next time. We've already got the colour down to a tee, so forget Mystic Meg - we're just a simple home perm kit away from Big Brother's Makosi.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The tragic news of the weekend so far is that Lisa and I haven't been to see 'Overnight' yet. Despite the Duke of Yorks (delapidated Brighton picturehouse) website telling me last week that it opened on Friday 12th August, it turns out it doesn't open until the 19th. After which it runs for just seven days. Which is so obviously an attempt to stop me seeing it, as they know I only come down here on alternate weekends.

But fortunately they had reckoned without Lisa having a birthday on the 25th, meaning I'll be down here the day before (traffic jams allowing), and able to go and see the late night showing at 9pm. Hurrah! It had better be good after all this.

Anyhoo, yesterday Lisa and I made our way over to Peacehaven to spy on the residents of this block of flats. I'm hoping they might be my neighbours one day. And I'm sure the fact that in this small block of just eight flats, three of them are currently for sale, doesn't mean it's the kind of place that people are desperate to get away from. At least not until I move in.

It seemed to be the ideal location for someone like me though - partly because it's only 15 minutes from Lisa's flat, partly because it has its own garage, but mainly because it's just a one minute walk from the nearest charity shop. So if my brother wasn't currently on holiday in Cyprus, I'd be dragging him straight down the bank to arrange a mortgage.

Having taken in the delights of Peacehaven in the pouring rain, Lisa and I retired to the local Co-op, where I was persuaded (against my will, obviously) to join in on the purchase of two individual chocolate puddings in their own little glass dishes. As the world and its dog knows, I'm currently on a diet, so I insisted that to compensate for the puddings, Lisa made a Miracle Weight Loss Lasagne to eat first. Which she did. Along with two plate-loads of garlic and herb potato wedges.

I think it was about 12:15am when Lisa broke open the Milk of Magnesia. To be honest, I was slightly distracted by her constant complaining of stomach pains, so I could be wrong. I suggested she go on a 24 hour detox, but the way she asked for a chocolate biscuit with her cup of tea first thing this morning suggested that maybe she hadn't taken me seriously.

The chocolate puddings were very nice though. Three hundred calories for something the size of a fairy cake, but worth every penny.

Friday, August 12, 2005

I've missed my chance of fame yet again. ITV were broadcasting part of 'This Morning'... um.... this morning, from Brighton beach. Not only Brighton beach, but a part of Brighton beach I can so very nearly see from Lisa's bedroom window. I know it well, coz it's near the drive-thru McDonalds.

I was tempted to head straight down there (the beach, not the McDonalds) (well, to be honest, both of them), but they'd outrageously decided to film the interviews and outdoor cooking spot from within the sand sculpture exhibition by the marina. And you have to pay to get in. Now, I'm as keen to pull stupid faces in the background of a live TV show as the next man, but I'm not going to pay for the privelege. So I stayed in and ate porridge instead.

I did venture out at lunchtime though and met Lisa for a quick jaunt around Boots, where I bought up all the cut-price men's grooming products, before heading to the pub for a 45 minute dissection of the news that Tom Cruise has been found in bed with Rob Thomas, the lead singer of Matchbox 20, whose first solo album my parents gave me for my birthday. Obviously they wouldn't have bought me the album if they'd known he was cheating on his wife in order to have a gay affair with Tom Cruise, but on the bright side, the story's almost certainly not true.

Unlike the one about Mission Impossible III being put on hold because Tom Cruise is HIV positive and therefore uninsurable. Which is obviously guaranteed gospel.

Anyhoo, having seen Lisa safely back to work, I embarked on my good deed for the day - driving Lisa's Mum over to Lisa's Aunt & Uncle's house. I stayed long enough to drink tea, eat home-made fruit cake, and hear about wartime experiences in Iceland (the country, not the freezer shop). It obviously went down well, because Lisa spoke to her aunt on the phone this evening, and was informed that not only am I lovely (which we already knew), but meeting me is like going back in time, because I shake men's hands and kiss ladies on the cheek. Unlike the youth of today, who go straight for tongues (she didn't actually say that bit, but I know what she meant).

She then added that if Lisa doesn't want me, she'll have me. Which is handy. It's always good to have something to fall back on. And let's face it - the woman has access to cake.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

It's always nice to be missed. Especially by people with guns. So to answer Mads' question from this afternoon, I was indeed doing "something worthy/unpleasant/life-threatening" today. I was driving around the M25. Which I think you'll find is all of the above.

So as we speak, I'm back in Brighton. But I did get up extra early just to write an informative article about people with personality disorders. Which you can read here. So you see I have posted today really.

My services as an expert in said field were in high demand too, as I received a text message halfway to Brighton, which read "Hey Mr Telly Critic. What happened in Big Bro last night? We were out partying in Hopton!". Partying in Hopton??? Is that even possible? I really should be more careful about the kind of people I give my mobile number to.

I'm now typing this one-handed, as Lisa has presented me with a Magnum ice cream. Obviously I'm on a diet, but fear not, it's a Magnum Light. 30% less calories than a standard Magnum. You can't go wrong. I might have two.

Anyhoo, I stopped off at my parents new house in Chelmsford on my way down, and spent a bit of quality time with my 6 year old niece, who was staying for a few days, and who declared "I like Lisa" within two minutes of my arrival. You see, I knew I wasn't the only one. Although one of us is clearly only doing it to get an extra Christmas present.

(I'm hoping for a DVD recorder).

It was a comment worthy of a five minute game of frisbee in the garden anyway, after which there was still time for a half hour Hunt-the-Cat competition, when my little fluffy Chloe went missing soon after arrival at the new house. We eventually found her behind the kitchen cupboards. The fitted kitchen cupboards. I'm sure that shouldn't be possible.

But it meant I was free to carry on to the M25, safe in the knowledge that my cat was being cared for while I was sitting in a traffic jam for the rest of the afternoon.

Although I have to say it was worth it for that Magnum. They're very nice. You'd never know you're eating a slimming product.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

I've been neglecting this blog terribly. If I carry on like this, social services will have to step in and take it into care.*

* I used that line in my very first e-mail to Lisa, in May 2003, about my Senators website. She liked it so much (the line, not the website), that she actually replied, just to say so. If she hadn't, we'd never have met a year later, and I wouldn't now be neglecting my blog in an effort to make some money so that I can move down to Brighton. Kind of ironic that.

Anyhoo, whilst trawling the adverts on Elance (a website which posts job opportunities for poor people with pens) the other day, I came across this advert.

It's an appeal for someone to write daily horoscopes. And it's posted in the 'Creative Writing' section of a freelance writers' website. Not on a site for budding astrologers. It's almost as though the horoscopes we read in newspapers and magazines are written by creative writers who make them up on the spot, and not by qualified astrologers doing serious research. But I'm sure that can't be true. And besides, my stars in TV Quick this week say that Leos shouldn't believe everything they read.

While I'm here, can I just say how much I'm enjoying this birthday present from my Mummy & Daddy. It's the second album by Hot Rod Circuit, the band I discovered seven weeks ago in a Brighton charity shop. Well ok, the band weren't actually in the shop - their first album was. Although I'm sure they do regularly shop in Oxfam, coz let's face it - it's not as if they sell any records. Except to me. But anyway, in addition to having a very atmospheric photo on the cover, it's also very good indeed. I particularly like the song which goes "The way that you looked at me, I'm lucky I'm still alive". Not that it's a feeling I can relate to, obviously. I just like the tune.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The front page headline in the brand new issue of 'The Shotley Noticeboard' is:


Something tells me I'm not living in a very exciting place.

So with that in mind, I've spent a large proportion of the day trying to persuade my brother to buy me a flat in Peacehaven. After all, if you're going to move to within striking (not literally) distance of Lisa, where would you rather live - Peace [tranquility] haven [place of refuge] , or the neighbouring village of Rotting [decaying and infested with maggots] dean?

Obviously there's always Bright [clever or cheerful] on, but frankly I don't have the money. Of course, neither does my brother, but unlike me, he's the kind of bloke to whom people will lend it.

So that's occupied part of my day, with the remainder spent trying to earn some money so I might be able to pay him back before I die.

Talking of making money, I had a visitor to my website last night from America, who'd entered the words "Phil Gardner horse" into Google. So it's nice to know that news of my racing tips has crossed the Atlantic. This time next year I could be one of the leading causes of world poverty.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

I've had a postcard from my sister this morning...

Someone must have shown her the way there. Needless to say, she's been hugging her pillow quite a lot just lately too. And possibly weeping like a willow. But as she says herself, "We spent 6 hours here on the way to Santa Fe (New Mexico). It does not warrant a song being written about it."

Obviously I've no idea why she's going to Santa Fe. Personally I thought she was in Boston. Come to think of it, I don't even know who the "we" is that she refers to. Let's be honest, my sister's life is a complete mystery to me. But on the bright side, I've heard that her new house in Dallas is no longer infested with snakes.

Anyhoo, as a tribute to my much missed (and rarely e-mailed) sister, I've created this little work of art. Sadly Blogger won't let me post it here, for fear that I might be having too much of a good time, so I've had to bung it on my main website. But you're right, it is lovely, and I do look good in a hat.

While I'm here, can I just say thanks to Paul for e-mailing me with this news story. It seems that ITV's appalling Saturday night show 'Rock Around the Block' has been axed after receiving "unfavourable reviews from national TV critics".

So having reviewed it two weeks ago, and stated that "it looks like the kind of thing that could be axed at any moment", I'm now feeling strangely powerful. With a bit of luck I might be able to get June Sarpong removed from our screens next...

Friday, August 05, 2005

I've just had a leaflet put through my door...

Oooh, I've been personally selected! Obviously I'm not actually a homeowner - more of a poverty stricken renter - but they weren't to know that. So what do the people who personally selected me, want me to do? Well, they'd like me to...

An interesting concept, seeing as I'm in a first floor flat. One wonders just how rigorous the selection process was. You also have to wonder what was going through the mind of the person who delivered the leaflet, as he climbed a flight of stairs in order to tell me I'd been selected to have my own conservatory.

But never mind. I'm actually quite excited today, Overnightbecause Lisa's agreed to go to the pictures with me next weekend. We're going to see 'Overnight', a film I've been desperate to see for... oooh, days now. It's a documentary about a guy who was offered a multi-million dollar deal for his first film script, only for it all to go horribly wrong. What could be more entertaining than that? I always enjoy the failure of others, it makes me feel so much better about myself. And to quote my favourite line from Kevin Smith's 'Clerks', "There's nothing more exhilarating than pointing out the shortcomings of others".

Anyhoo, I've watched the trailer here, I've read the reviews here, and now I wanna go see the film. There's a special screening in Cambridge this Sunday, attended by both the director and the producer, who've flown over from America and will be holding a Q & A session afterwards, where mere mortals such as myself can ask them about the film. Tickets are still available, and only cost £6.20 each. And what's more, I'm free all day Sunday.

But I want Lisa to come with me, so I'll be paying £6.50 to see it in Brighton next weekend instead.

And besides, last time I went to Cambridge I got a speeding ticket.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

My ears are burning.

But on the bright side, if you're going to be talked about, it's always good to be talked about on a website called FU.CK. It's a bit of a dream come true.

I'm quite flattered anyway, particularly as the people involved in the discussion have over 30,000 posts to their name, meaning it's a miracle they found the time to read any of my writing.

Anyhoo, don't anyone go in and spoil it. It's like a fragile eco-system, where the beginnings of primitive life are just starting to appear. And frankly it could be the basis of a profitable fan club for me. I could sell Telly Critic t-shirts and everything. So feel free to watch from afar, but don't go in and stomp all over my delicate little followers (I'm looking at you here, Dave) by pretending to be Stuart White and complaining that I've never reviewed 'Look East'.

And besides, if anyone's going to go and mess with the minds of innocent young reality TV fans, it's going to be me. So hands off, I saw them first.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

I know it's the summer holidays, but are Royal Mail really allowed to let their postmen do three day weeks? I had no post on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday of last week, and I've had no post at all this week either. So clearly now the schools have broken up, my postie is having to stay at home with the kids for the first half of each week while his wife's out at work. I trust they're having a nice time. Just as long as they're not doodling on all my important letters. Oh, who am I kidding - I don't get important letters.

Anyhoo, here's a recent photo of me...

No really, it is me.

Well, it's my shirt anyway. Whilst shopping in Brighton town centre on Monday afternoon, I discovered that I possess an amazing skill - I can wait until Lisa disappears into the changing rooms at Oasis, calmly walk out of the shop, around the corner, up the hill, and into the Barnardos charity shop... look through the clothes, buy a shirt, walk back to Oasis, go down the stairs, and be standing outside the changing rooms a full ten seconds before Lisa emerges. Thus giving the impression that I've been a dutiful boyfriend who waited patiently for his partner, and didn't scarper the moment her back was turned.

The shirt in question was this lovely Next effort - £16.99 in the current Next Directory, but yours (well, mine) for a fiver from Barnardos. And what's more it's brand new, complete with the original Next tag, and it's in my size (which is only one small step up from medium). And needless to say, it makes me look just like the picture opposite, as you'll see by checking out the current webcam shot on my home page.

So I returned home from Brighton on Monday evening looking like a young David Beckham (I'm barely 32) but with a more talented partner.

Yesterday my Mummy & Daddy moved house, so naturally I was in the thick of it, lifting and carrying all day. Well ok, I stayed at home and wrote a thank you letter to my aunt instead. Which is what happens when the mechanic fails to get your car fixed on Monday as promised.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Well, the exciting news of the day is that I've finally spent my £5 McDonalds voucher. Having driven Lisa back down to Brighton yesterday evening (thus avoiding being amongst the 7 terrorists arrested here yesterday morning), and packed enough healthy food to last me 24 hours, we decided that my birthday really ought to extend to a third day of eating, so we headed off to the Brighton Marina branch of McDonalds instead.

Having discovered that my voucher stated that no change would be given, we ordered seven pounds worth of junk, and with much excitement I handed it over as part payment. My excitement level then dropped somewhat when the girl looked blankly at the voucher, turned back to me, and said "What is this?"

I explained that it was a McDonalds gift certificate, though I decided not to mention that I'd got it for complaining about how rubbish their restaurants are. She looked at me dubiously, then shut the drive-through window, and walked off. Which wasn't quite the reaction I'd hoped for. But on the bright side, it gave Lisa time to suggest that we should complain about them not knowing what to do with their own vouchers, and try to get another one. I'm still considering that idea.

Anyhoo, eventually the manager turned up, and after standing at the till for ages looking like he was typing his first novel, he eventually accepted the voucher and handed us our change. I really shouldn't eat so unhealthily - it's far too much trouble.

But anyway, Lisa has the day off work today, so we're making the most of it by heading into town to buy a suitcase, a loaf of bread and a packet of prunes. Which sounds like a typical Big Brother shopping list. Oooh, Lisa's ready, I'd better go...