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Friday, September 30, 2005

Granville HotelThe things I do for my friends (and I use the term loosely). This is me standing outside the Granville Hotel at 8:45am this morning in the pouring rain, shortly after stepping into a deep puddle. My socks still haven't dried two hours later. Although on the bright side, it's probably helped wash the cat wee off my shoes.

Anyhoo, for the benefit of Crash n Donna and their plans for a dirty weekend in February, I'm happy (kind of) to report that the Granville Hotel looks alright. It's less than two hundred yards from the Brighton Centre, so Tony Blair probably knows it well, and close enough to the Grand Hotel to have felt the rumbles from Margaret Thatcher's stay in 1984. It's not huge, but it's right on the seafront, with panoramic views of the West Pier wreckage as it breaks into a thousand rusty pieces and floats off towards France. They also have a lot of tropical-looking plants outside, which probably won't survive the winter.

Hotel PeliroccoI was slightly less happy by the time I reached the Hotel Pelirocco. Partly because it was raining heavily and threatening to ruin my phone, partly because I had a street cleaner looking at me suspiciously and wondering why I was standing in a monsoon holding a phone out in front of me like the Statue of Liberty, but mainly because I felt like I was posing for the cameras outside a brothel. But a high class brothel, it has to be said. Frankly I think it's right up Crash n Donna's street. Although the street it's actually up is Regency Square, just around the corner from the Granville.

Regency Square seemed quite posh, and much quieter than the seafront (although it's only 50 yards away), but you won't get a sea view from where the Pelirocco is. It looked quite funky, but the moody blue lighting and white fluffy things I could see through the downstairs window, did make it look like a sex club for rich people. It's the sort of place you'd expect to see Jordan and Peter Andre on a Friday night. I obviously got there a bit early.

Both hotels are in the perfect place though - seafront just seconds away, shops about a minute, and bars and restaurants everywhere, as well as being only ten minutes walk from Lisa's place of work, and even less than that from the Mind charity shop. It couldn't be more convenient.

If it was me, I'd be more inclined towards the Granville - traditional yet modern (they can quote that on the advertising if they want to), and suited to a reserved, classy gent such as myself (no, really). But frankly the Pelirocco was Crash n Donna to a tee. Funky, stylish, sexy, and just tacky enough to be cool. If they can't sell that 8 foot circular bed and mirrored ceiling to Crash n Donna, they can't sell it to anyone. Book it now, guys. Seriously.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

I'm beginning to get slightly fed up with the Labour Party now. Not so much their policies, but more the effect they have on the Brighton traffic. Having tried three different routes to get Lisa to work in the past three days, I reverted back to the seafront this morning, resulting in a journey time of 45 minutes for a distance of just over five miles. You could jog it quicker. I did enjoy watching the "random checkpoint" though, half a mile from the Brighton Centre, where you have to wait at the side of the road while six policemen with machine guns search the boot of your car.

Last night was more enjoyable though. Having received the news that Lisa had gained promotion at work, and has now reached the dizzying heights of 'person-who-can-tell-other-people-what-to-do', I decided to push the boat out, and took her to Pizza Hut to celebrate. Obviously I'm on a diet, but may I say how nice the new large sized Golden Stuffed Crust pizza is. If you're going to eat 3000 calories in one go, there's no better way to do it.

The West Quay PubFrom there we walked to the West Quay pub at Brighton Marina (beautifully pictured right, in a photo I didn't take), past the casino, where I noticed a posh car with the registration 'Grieg' parked in the priveleged parking space by the entrance. Eric Morecambe's dead, so I can only assume it was Andre Previn. But the West Quay was nice. We sat in the middle window and looked at the boats, before deciding that Lisa would probably have to save her pay rise for a hundred years to afford one.

Anyhoo, when I said yesterday that "there's always tomorrow" for another bid at international fame on the seafront, I was forgetting there's horse racing on the telly this afternoon. It clashes with the closing conference speeches, which is a bit of a shame, but one needs to get one's priorities right. Sadly I've failed to get an early tip from the racing supremo that is Lisa's mother (who claims to have picked out another 20-1 winner yesterday), due to the Brighton Argus' scandalous decision not to print the following day's racing cards in the evening paper, but for anyone about to join the office gambling syndicate, or with large amounts of money to burn, here are my sure-fire tips for this afternoon's live races on Channel 4:

1:05 Centaurus at 5-1

1:40 Ryedale Ovation at 20-1

2:10 Modeeroch at 10-1

2:45 Yasoodd at 5-1

Oh, and needless to say, they can't lose.

But back them each way in case they do.

STOP PRESS - 1:30pm
News is in from the silver haired tipster. Lisa's Mum is going for 'West of Amarillo' in the 2:45, at odds of 25-1.

She'll be lucky.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Who Killed Cock Robin?When I said the death and destruction of all that is sacred, this isn't quite what I meant.

But obviously I'm very grateful to Oscar for presenting it to me as a peace offering after the shameless soiling of my footwear. He's clearly very sorry. But not as sorry as I'd have been if I hadn't managed to perform a last-second manouevre and narrowly avoid treading on the bleeding corpse of this sparrow as I stepped out of the front door to go and pick up Lisa yesterday afternoon. But for the second time in two days I was grateful for that kitchen roll. A quick mummification in Bounty and it was straight into the wheelie bin. Which makes me think of Sarah Davey and the passed-on pensioner, but I won't go there. Suffice it to say that both cases involved a dead bird in a bin, but I didn't push mine through a supermarket car park.

Anyhoo, having disposed of my first corpse of the day, I made my way into Brighton and headed straight for the seafront where, naturally, I completely failed in my bid to become famous. I was however invited to a fringe meeting of the Labour Life Group where I can hear Claire Curtis-Thomas MP speak on the subject of 'Abortion- Whose Choice?'. I've read their leaflet, snappily entitled 'Treaties & Resolutions', and frankly I still can't work out if they're for or against it. I should pobably go to the meeting and find out.

But anyway, I timed my loitering to perfection, arriving ten minutes before Tony Blair finished his speech, and having watched the delegates pour out of the Brighton Centre at 3:25pm, I quickly attached myself to a bloke with a microphone and a camera crew, who was busy rounding up a few protesters (like me) for a live report back to the studio. I'm not sure which studio, but it was TV, so frankly I didn't care.

Unfortunately, despite hanging about for twenty minutes posing as a Gordon Brown supporter protesting about the invasion of Iraq, with a sub-agenda about hospital cuts, the studio still weren't ready to cross over to me live, and I was forced to go and meet Lisa from work. It was something of a tragedy. Particularly as I never got to perform my song. But hey, there's always tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Hell CatLook at that. It's pure evil, that is. The blood-curdling roar of an amoral hell-fiend intent on the death and destruction of all that is sacred.

Well ok, it's Oscar. And I basically just happened to catch him in the middle of a yawn. But he is lying on my black t-shirt, and let's face it, the mobile phone camera never lies, so the fact remains - he's hardly whiter than white.

Well ok, he is white, but he's still quite naughty.

And what's more, Lorraine has been informed of his toilet habits. She phoned from a quayside in Portugal at 7:30am this morning, so I took the opportunity to update her on her cats' behaviour. To be honest, I think she was more concerned about the state of her dining room table than the condition of my shoes. But she did say she can hardly believe that Oscar would ever do such a thing. Before going on to describe what it's "usually" like when he does.

She also made me promise that if Timmy is sick again, I'll take him to the vet. I said I will. But only to ask for him to be put down.

Anyhoo, having received countless (that's if you can't count up to two) requests for me to post the entire list of cat instructions, I'm willing to reproduce number three, which is:

"They generally have half a sachet of the 'wet' food each and some biscuits morning and night. If you give them more than this they won't eat it and you will find it will go off and you'll have to contend with the stink".

Personally I can see five main problems with this instruction:

1. We've looked after her cats twice before, so I already know that.

2. If you give Timmy more than this, he will eat it. Along with anything else not wrapped in six layers of tin foil and placed under lock and key.

3. I'm aware that food goes off if you leave it lying around.

4. Does she really think I'd wait until the house stinks of rotting cat food before doing anything about it?

5. I'm not the one who left the mouldy onion in the fridge.

But other than that, I'm living my life by these instructions, and I wouldn't be without them.

Anyhoo, Lisa's finishing work half an hour early today, in order to give us more time to eat takeaway food (I can recommend the sausages from the Athena Fish Bar in Boundary Road), so I've decided to combine her collection with an attempt at international fame. Tony Blair's giving his keynote speech to the Labour Party Conference this afternoon, so I'm going to head into town an hour early and loiter outside the Brighton Centre. I'm wearing a bright orange t-shirt, which should be enough to get me noticed, so look out for me on the TV news between 3 and 4.

And if it doesn't work, I'm going back tomorrow with some fake tan and a padded jacket.

Monday, September 26, 2005

I am shocked and stunned. Just when you think no cat could outdo Timmy in the naughtiness stakes, along comes Oscar with an early bid for the title of Week's Worst Cat. I'm sitting here in Lorraine's living room, making full use of her new wireless internet access by surfing the web on her sofa, and Oscar has just come strolling in from the garden. Let's face it, he's not Timmy, so I was quite happy to see him. For about ten seconds anyway. Having sauntered in, he then walked straight over to the other side of the room where I'd placed my shoes neatly by the television, climbed on top of them, squatted down, and weed all over them. Right in front of me. He could at least have waited for me to turn my back.

And what's more, he'd obviously saved himself for that moment. I don't want to get too graphic, but frankly there was about a gallon of it. It took half a kitchen roll to dry the carpet, and I ended up having to hold my shoes under the tap. They still smell a bit dodgy now, and if they ever shine again it'll be a miracle.

I have to say though, as I sat watching a river of urine cascading over my shoes, I couldn't help feeling slightly smug that barely half an hour earlier I'd been to Sainsburys for that kitchen roll. I'd have made a good Boy Scout. I'm prepared for anything.

As for yesterday, well the highlight of the day had to be a phone call from Lisa's mother who was ringing not to see how we're getting on, but to ask me to put £2 on Baron's Pit in the 3:45 at Newmarket. I did. And it won. At odds of 23-1. Honestly, that woman is so jammy.

The only other phone call was from Lorraine's next door neighbour, who rang from her house five yards away to tell me to put the rubbish out ("now - not in the morning"), and to comment about how late we'd arrived on Saturday. It was a phone call I appreciated. Especially as we were in bed at the time.

I can't say I appreciated the alarm going off at 6am this morning though. Lisa, who'd stated her bold intention to be at work for 8am, promptly refused to get up, and started a half hour long protest about Mondays. I was tempted to use Supernanny techniques to get her into line, but frankly if I had to send her to the naughty step for one minute for every year of her life, she'd be there all day. So I just shoved her in the back until she fell out of bed.

The drive to work took over half an hour instead of the usual 20 minutes, for which I place the blame squarely on Tony Blair's shoulders, for having the nerve to hold his annual conference directly on the route between Lorraine's house and Lisa's place of work. We took an alternative route on the way there, regretted it, and I came back along the seafront past the 'Ring of Steel' which the police have set up to protect us against suicide bombers. It's basically a two foot high piece of Meccano. But I'm sure it's very effective.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The trouble with looking after a cat with a reputation is that people are going to expect immediate tales of naughtiness from day one. The trouble with immediate tales of naughtiness from day one is that people are going to think I'm making it up. You'd at least expect Timmy to wait until we've unpacked.

But sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction. So here goes...

At 9:45pm last night we arrived at Lorraine's.

At 10pm I fed the cats.

At 10:15pm Timmy threw up on the dining room table.

But on the bright side, it was another half hour before I found him on the kitchen work surface ripping open the packet of cat biscuits with his claws.

Fortunately, Lorraine has left us two pages of instructions on looking after her little darlings. Number 4 is "Timmy has started to bite books, newspapers, and basically anything he can get his teeth into, so watch out", but personally I prefer number 5, which reads "Be careful with Timmy near the washing machine (he likes to jump in it)". I'll bear that in mind for when he's been particularly naughty. I can sense an entirely accidental spin cycle coming on.

Anyhoo, it's been a busy couple of days. On Friday I picked up Lisa's nephew from school, chatted to her other nephew about cows, ate cheese straws, and then went to a mental hospital. That was shortly after visiting Lorraine for a cat-orientation seminar, but the two were mostly unconnected. At the Mill View psychiatric hospital in Hove we visited an old friend of Lisa's, whose life had sadly taken a turn for the worse since meeting me last year. I was slightly shocked at the way we were allowed to walk in and wander around the wards without once being asked who we were, but the place seemed clean and modern, and the garden was nice, so it wasn't all bad.

On Saturday we met a friend to whom the street-drinking laws clearly mean nothing - he strolled up with a can of beer in one hand, before talking about the time he smashed in a hospital door whilst drunk, the time he had his cannabis confiscated by the police, and the time he was stopped for drink driving. Have I mentioned he's a primary school teacher? But don't worry - he said he's only occasionally taught a class on Valium.

From there it was off to Sainsburys, before finally making it to Lorraine's 12 hours after she'd left for the Mediterranean. We've thrown out the mouldy onion, the rancid carrots, and the tomatoes which were past the point of no return, and this morning I've met Charlie. He disappeared over the fence before we had a chance to bond, leaving me to step over the slippery logs and tip the slugs out of his food bowl. It's going well so far.

Friday, September 23, 2005

I knew it was a mistake to tempt fate at the end of yesterday's blog post. Barely twenty minutes after posting it, I received a phone call from the lovely Lorraine. She has the timing of a Hollywood villain. But fortunately she hadn't read my blog, so she was quite friendly.

Anyhoo, the good news is that Timmy has started eating books. The official advice is "Don't leave any important papers lying around", as he's developed a taste for literature, and will devour as much of the written word as he can get his paws on. Frankly he's a bigger reader than I am. Although Lorraine also claims he's become a fussy eater in recent months (yeah, me too), which frankly I'll believe when I see it.

But anyway, on top of my TV guide being at constant risk of Timmy-attack, it turns out that I'll be feeding three cats this time around. Oh yes indeed. In October last year it was just Oscar; in May it was Oscar and Timmy; now it's Oscar, Timmy & Charlie. It's like a hideous plague. Fortunately though Charlie's a stray, and doesn't actually come into the house. Apart from the time he got trapped in the conservatory and did an impression of a motorcyclist on the wall of death. Needless to say I'll be keeping the conservatory door closed at all times.

So I'll be making daily trips to the bottom of the garden, and hoping I'm feeding the right cat. I've no idea what he looks like, so it's a bit of a lottery.

In addition I've arrived in Brighton to find that the local authorities have prepared for my arrival by sending squads of armed police onto the city streets. Although it could also be something to do with the fact that Tony Blair's coming for the week. Yes, of all the times when I could be staying in Portslade and driving Lisa to and from Brighton on a daily basis, we choose the one week when the sea front is closed off and police are carrying out random car searches. Although on the bright side, it means another chance to get on TV. I've learnt from last year's attempt, so I'm off to write a song about Gordon Brown.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

It looks like I have another Orlaith on my hands. In the past 48 hours, visitors to my Telly Critic blog have more than tripled, thanks to numerous hits for the phrases...
Jasmine Lennard
Jasmine Lennard nude
Jasmine Lennard tits


Jasmine Lennard bitch

Personally I'd go with the last one, but each to their own.

In fact, for the past two days, 83% (I'll just repeat that for dramatic effect), 83% of all the search engine hits I've received have been Lennard related. I'm one of the world's leading resources for that woman's breasts.

So I thought I'd give my visitors what they require. Anyone desperately searching for Jasmine Lennard naked should click on the photo above. It should give you what you need.

Anyhoo, it's been two and a half long weeks, but I'm finally off back down to Brighton today for a fortnight of fun in the sun. Which reminds me, are we supposed to be putting sun cream on Oscar's ears this time? Who knows. Well, Lorraine probably knows. I must remember to ask her tomorrow night.

But it's now little more than 24 hours before we'll be reunited with the evil hell-fiend of doom that is Timmy. Although I'm sure he'll grow on me this time. Especially as I plan to keep him locked in a cupboard for the next two weeks.

Thinking about it, I should probably wait until Lorraine's left the country before saying things like that in public. Oh what the heck, I've promised to keep her cats alive, what more does she want?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Well the breaking news is that last night, at 11pm, on a clear moonlit evening in Shotley Gate, with barely a hint of a breeze, I discovered something truly amazing.

I discovered that I couldn't be bothered to walk back to the telegraph pole.

Actually, now I think about it, it's probably not that amazing. But as a compromise I did drive past it yesterday afternoon en route to Ipswich to buy compost, and I'm sorry to report that there were no new messages attached. Although 'Bums & Tums' are apparently still going strong.

I did wonder though if we're all barking up the wrong tree (well, telegraph pole). My new theory is that Davey isn't a surname, it's a forename, and that "Sarah Davey Through the Years!" is just another way of saying "Sarah & Davey 4 Ever!". After all, it's possible that with the threat of ASBOs permanently hanging over their heads, the youth of today are too scared to carve declarations of love into council property, and prefer to put up polite notices instead.

Though I'm still not ruling out the battered wife / wheelie bin / vase in a haystack theory.

Anyhoo, having tried and failed to get into Ipswich two weeks ago, I actually managed it yesterday, which meant I had the joy of meeting another clueless member of the Barclays bank staff, but in a whole different branch this time.

I also had an enjoyable conversation with the woman on the checkout at Tescos, who felt it was her place to comment on all my shopping (I love it when they do that), and let me know whether or not her husband likes the same things as I do. I can tell you now that he's a big fan of Jordans cereals, particularly the one with strawberries, but that he also likes porridge as an occasional treat. I thought she was going to invite me round for breakfast at one point, but in the end she just asked if I wanted cashback.

My most exciting purchase though (apart from the Value cabbage) was a bag of Miracle-Gro compost, which meant I was able to return home and spend a relaxing hour trying to repot my one and only houseplant without getting soil all over the kitchen floor. The fact that it took me longer to hoover up afterwards than it did to pot the plant, suggests that I may have failed.

But the plant is now repotted and looking lovely in preparation for its two week holiday in Chelmsford, where my Mum will be watering it for me while I'm in Brighton. She doesn't know she'll be watering it for me, as I've forgotten to ask her, but hey, it's in a pot the size of a bucket, with a whole sack of Miracle-Gro compost, and it's looking a bit peaky - how can the woman refuse?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

I haven't really slept the last three nights (it's the stress of a high-pressure lifestyle), so I decided to go for a three mile walk at 11pm last night to see if a bit of fresh air at bedtime would help me sleep. It didn't. I was still awake at 5am. And I didn't even win any iPods. But that's not the point. The point is that having walked a mile down the road, I passed a telegraph pole opposite the village hall, and there, sandwiched between an advert for a jumble sale, and another for something called 'Bums & Tums' (I think it's a fetish group), I found this notice:

It was handwritten on pink A4 paper and stuck to the telegraph pole with a couple of drawing pins. Obviously I could have left it there, but I do like to steal other people's property if there's a blog post in it, so I prised off the drawing pins and brought it home.

The question is, what does it mean? And who is Sarah Davey? There's nothing else written on the paper, and no photos or helpful illustrations, just the words 'Sarah Davey Through The Years!". Personally I think it's some kind of code. There's something very suspicious about the way its written. I particularly like the way the author completely gives up on capital letters through the middle of... um... 'through', makes a half-hearted effort to regain capitalisation at the beginning of 'the', only to finish strongly at the end. With an exclamation mark. They're clearly trying to tell us something.

The most obvious explanation is that it was written by Sarah's boyfriend, who was planning a series of daily notices to celebrate her birthday (and their love), showing pictures of her through the years. Although naturally I've just ruined that by taking down the first one. But the problem with this theory is that the handwriting is clearly female. I know, because it looks like the handwriting of my old friend Scott, and he wrote like a girl.

So my theory is that it's a carefully coded cry for help from Sarah herself. And what's more, I've cracked the code. Taking into account the apparently random (random, my foot) capitalisation, the message actually reads "SARAH DAVEY ThrougH The YEARS!". Rearrange the lower case letters slightly, and what do you get?

"He rough".

It's domestic violence. It couldn't be any clearer. Well ok, it could be a little bit clearer, but it doesn't matter coz I've solved it anyway.

And if I knew who Sarah Davey was, I could do something to help.

Monday, September 19, 2005

I can't believe Ipswich lost the pitchfork derby yesterday. If I was a football fan, I'd be really quite annoyed.

'ere drumsBut anyhoo, here's a sad picture. After seven years sitting in the corner of my spare room, I've finally dismantled my drum kit, in an effort to fool my brain into thinking that I might actually be moving to Brighton at some point in the near future.

The way I phrased that makes it sound like I've spent seven years sitting in the corner of the spare room. I haven't. I've spent seven years sitting in the corner of the living room.

Anyhoo, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "Isn't that Molly Ringwald in the top left corner of the picture?". Well yes it is. But I'm not ashamed of having a Breakfast Club poster on my wall. It's actually quite cool. And retro. And... um... street. No, really.

Anyway, it must be true what they say about the seven year itch. I've lived in Shotley Gate since 1998, and seven years on, my love for the place finally seems to be waning. There's a younger, more attractive town fluttering its eyelashes at me. So with a bit of luck I might be able to leave the old battleaxe in the country, and head on down to Sus-sexy Brighton (that pun so nearly works) while I'm still in my very early thirties. Hence the packing of the drums.

A break-up's not without its pain though. I've got a blood blister on my hand where I caught my thumb in a microphone stand yesterday afternoon. Love hurts. Well, my thumb hurts. It's the same thing.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

I've had a letter this morning from Brighton & Hove City Council. Seeing as it's now twelve days since I received my parking ticket, and the man behind the bullet-proof glass told me they'd contact me in about two weeks with the result of my appeal, it doesn't take a genius to guess what the letter is about.

Unfortunately geniuses aren't always right. It actually says this:

"Dear Sir/Madam, (putting my name at the top was obviously too much trouble)

Thank you for your communication received on 6/09/05 regarding Penalty Charge Notice BH17612039 issued on 05 September 2005.

Your case will be referred to a council officer who will give full consideration to the matters raised and respond to you directly as soon as they have completed their investigations. If you wish for further evidence to be taken into account, this must also be put in writing and sent to the above address."

So two weeks on and they've got as far as acknowledging my complaint. It doesn't exactly inspire confidence. But I'm seriously tempted to print out my blog post from 6th September and send that in as 'further evidence'.

Anyhoo, in the meantime I've decided I want to Pick My Own Pig. No, really. For just £279 you can get a 'Pig Consortium' (which sounds like the Brighton & Hove Parking Department) to grow a free range pig for you, e-mail you a photo of it, then deliver it to your door when it's ready. Unfortunately it arrives in pork chops and sausages, so it won't make much of a pet, but even so, the photos look quite cute...

Pick Your Own Pig
... although I hope they wash the mud off first.

So start saving. There are less than a hundred shopping days till Christmas. And I still want a sugar glider too.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Well the latest twist in the 'Hotel On Sea' are-they-real-people-or-androids-from-the-factory-that-made-Julie-Reinger saga, is that after last night's fine edition of the BBC1 comi-doc (which I missed), I had a visit over yonder from close friend of the stars, Tim, who said this.

So there you go. "Everything was real although some scenes were staged". I'm glad we've finally cleared that one up.

Anyhoo, I've been meaning to mention for the last few days The Great iPod Scandal of 2005 (the scandal being that I haven't got one), otherwise known as Especially as I see that Donna has already outlined her plans for world domination via the acquisition of iPods.

Well I hate to rain on Donna's parade (not strictly true, but I'm being polite), but I've been there, done that, got the phone bill. And I've decided the whole thing is a fix, and possibly even a high-level conspiracy to stop me getting my hands on luxury goods.

I was quite excited when they launched this competition, because it just so happens that I know someone who gets through more crisps than a school of eight-year-olds at lunchtime (no names, but think four letters, beginning with L), so I was fully expecting to have at least six iPods by the end of the month.

Tragically however, despite my cunning plan to keep Lisa talking (and eating) until 3:30am so that I could text in my codes at the quietest time, my first attempt at iPod acquisition (3 entries at 3:35am) proved fruitless. I wasn't happy.

I cheered up though when I read the small print on the back of the pack, and found that you don't actually have to buy any crisps at all. If you visit (NPN stands for 'no purchase necessary') you can have as many codes as you like, free of charge. Personally I ordered six in two minutes.

So I was naturally delighted last Sunday night, when I had trouble sleeping. Ordinarily insomnia would be a pain in the rear, but this month it's a blessing in disguise. At least I thought so. Having texted in NINE codes between 1:20am and 5:15am, and received nine text messages back saying "Sorry, you haven't won this time", I was beginning to change my mind.

So like I say, it's all a fix, and I'm not happy.

But hey, who needs an iPod. I'm off to put the rent money on Ice Planet in the 2:30 at Ayr.

No, really.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

At the beginning of this year I entered the Scottish Community Drama Association's Full-Length Playwriting Competition. Despite the SCDA being a Scottish association, and the prize money being put up by Richard 'One Foot in the Grave' Wilson, the competition was open to anyone, anywhere in the world, and entries were read blind, with the judges having no idea who had written each play, or where they came from.

Naturally I didn't win.

But I did get a letter on May 27th, telling me that they'd received entries from nine different countries, and giving me the final shortlist of twelve. Which, needless to say, I wasn't on.

Well, four months later, I've received another letter from them in today's post, informing me of the two overall winners which have just been selected. I do love the way theatres keep me updated on the success of the plays which wiped the floor with mine. So I'm pleased to announce that having accepted entries from all over the world, and read each one anonymously with no clue as to the author's nationality, the two grand prize winners are:

Peter Whiteley from Ross-shire, and Jacqueline McCarrick, whose ancestry is clearly a complete mystery and can't be guessed at by looking at her name.

It's quite appropriate that the patron of the contest was Richard Wilson, because frankly I don't believe it.

Anyhoo, talking of things that smell fishy, today is exactly four years since I adopted my two little feline bundles of fur, Oscar and Chloe. One of whom is still alive. It's good to know that just four days after 9/11, with the world in a state of shock and turmoil, people like me were doing their bit to help by heading off to Colchester and picking up a couple of cats. I like to see it as an act of defiance towards Osama Bin Laden.


But anyway, seeing as it's her birthday, here's a photo of little Chlo. On June 8th she looked like this --->


Today, after the three hottest months of the year, when she really shouldn't have been growing any fur at all, she looks like this.

Honestly, if I could market hair growth like that, I'd make a fortune.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

I've just had an e-mail from the BBC:

"Dear Phil

Thank you for your e-mail regarding 'Hotel on Sea'.

I am pleased to read of your interest in this programme. I understand you want to find out if the programme is a real documentary. It is a new genre called 'comi-doc' which is documentary with elements of comedy in it. The series contains real people and a real hotel: it is a documentary which was filmed over one year. Sometimes the directors accentuate the comedy element of the characters.

I hope this clarifies the matter for you and thank you again for contacting the BBC.


Clare Mahon
BBC Information"

So it's a comi-doc. Much in the same way that Jeremy Blachman has a comi-blog. It's a wonder I ever manage to stop laughing.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

We've won the Ashes! I so nearly care. But still, it's nice to see that the England cricket team aren't afraid to get on a London bus.

Personally I'm more interested in the high quality of visitor I seem to be attracting at the moment. This blog had a hit yesterday from Ask Jeeves for the question "I have the second sight so what should I do with my gift?"

I'd like to think the person found what they were looking for here, but if not, I'd suggest playing the lottery and becoming a weatherman. But hey, they probably already knew I was going to say that.

On the subject of blogs, I successfully managed to track down the reason why Jeremy Blachman deserved a mention in Blogger's 'Blogs of Note' the other week. It seems he was featured in The New York Times nine months ago (so Blogger clearly have their finger on the pulse) for writing the lawyer's equivalent of Belle de Jour. Which automatically makes his personal blog noteworthy. And I wouldn't disagree - his latest post mentions that he attends a "level 2 improv comedy class", which is one of the more startling things I've read today. Let's hope they offer a refund.

But anyhoo, I don't need Jezza any more, because Blogger have just added a new blog of note. It's called Circadiana, and it's kind of like Jeremy's blog, but without the humour. It also has Dave's problem of the links appearing at the bottom of the page in Internet Explorer, so it's nice to know that even bloggers of note have trouble with their templates.
Talking of computer problems (the links in this post are just seamless), I've discovered a cure for one of my most regular PC complaints, as depicted by the photo on the right, which looks like my dear departed fatty Osk (see below), but in fact isn't. Frankly if Oscar had stood on your keyboard, you'd need a new keyboard.

But it turns out that you can nowOscar cat-proof your computer with PawSense, a piece of software which can "detect cat typing". So presumably that's frequent references to fish, and orders for Whiskas at Tesco Online. It then emits "a sound that annoys cats", which for Oscar was the words "No, you can't have any more food", but in this case is a bit of mouth organ music, because, according to PawSense, "most cats dislike the harmonica". Although my cat hates modern jazz even more.

Anyway, I've listened to the clip in question, and I think it's safe to say that it's not Larry Adler. Frankly, one burst of that music, and I felt like getting off the computer.

Monday, September 12, 2005

It's another travesty. I've received an important-looking airmail letter from America (which always makes me think of The Proclaimers) in today's post.
It starts well...

Great Writing Effort
I hate it when they start praising me. You always know what the next line is going to be...

First Round Defeat
I feel like a Brit at Wimbledon.

But I've cheered myself up by writing a pointless e-mail to the BBC to complain about the standard of dress in 'Hotel On Sea'. And I'm happy to say they've already sent me this reply:

"We are pleased to confirm receipt of your e-mail to BBC Information. Thank you for taking the trouble to share your views with us".

So they obviously haven't read it yet.

Anyhoo, I'm off to peer out of my kitchen window at my neighbours, who are out the back as we speak, erecting a huge fence across the middle of the back yard to divide it in two. Anyone would think we'd had a row.

It's particularly good timing, as I've just been accosted at the post box by a local resident who's read my Shotley Gate page, and who wanted to inform me that actually local residents do have the right to fence off any patch of grass they like the look of, all in the name of freedom, liberty, and increasing their property values. So that's told me.

Honestly, the sooner I move to Brighton, the better.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

It's always good to spend a couple of days in Essex. If you've got nowhere else to go, that is. But despite having a perfectly good flat, I voluntarily left my humble home on Thursday evening and made my way to my parents' house in Chelmsford, where my Big Sis is currently holed up, having done her bit for the hurricane relief effort by vacating her Texas home before the refugees arrived. New Orleans in the murder capital of the US, and she's not taking any chances.

Having been in Essex for the past two nights, I've had a chance to read the Chelmsford Weekly News, which makes the Shotley Noticeboard look like a 4 page leaflet. Oh hang on, it is a 4 page leaflet. Well anyway, as the title suggests, they've had a whole week to seek out the top news stories from across the region, and this week they've gone with this headline plastered across the front page in inch-high letters:


Which sounds quite exciting. Personally I was envisaging a gang of armed hoodlums with AK47s peppering a pensioner's car with bullets and causing it to flip over several times and crash in a huge fireball, before looting the wreckage and making off with their ill-gotten gains to buy some crack and pick up a couple of ho's.

Unfortunately the story was about a few teenagers on bicycles who distracted an old lady on a mobility scooter and caused her to bump into a bus stop. She wasn't hurt, but she did say "I've never been spoken to like that before", so it was obviously quite a vicious gang. Chelmsford's just not a safe place any more.

But on the bright side, the local vets are having an open day, where you can "Meet 'Thunder', the Essex FM dog".

Why have Essex FM got a dog? And why can't I read the words 'Essex' and 'dog' without thinking of Jodie Marsh?

Anyhoo, yesterday Big Sis and I drove down to Southend where we met our 6 year old niece from school. She greeted us by informing Sis that her Daddy's cleverer than she is, and telling me I've got a fat tummy. One of those is definitely a lie. But we took her home anyway, where I was forced to play Fishes (don't ask), and she wiped the floor with us at Scooby Doo.

Personally I was only there for the promise of a takeaway, but the half pound of sugar they'd clearly put in my curry soured the whole experience, and I was forced to buy chocolate on the way home to make up for the disappointment. Which is something I can get away with, seeing as I don't have a fat tummy, and I'm the cleverest member of the family.

Anyway, as I speak, I'm still in Chelmsford. It's the final classic of the horse racing season today, so naturally I can't be expected to drive home this afternoon. I also can't be expected to come up with anything original, so having tipped The Geezer three times on this blog in the past six months, I'm tipping him again in the St Leger. Get on now. He can't lose. Unless of course he does.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The good thing about not going down to Brighton is that I don't have to suffer at the petrol-covered hands of major traffic jams. At least I didn't think I did. Obviously I was wrong.

I had to go into Ipswich yesterday to pay an American cheque (so that's a check then) into the bank, a journey which involves no main roads whatsoever. In fact I felt a smug sense of self-satisfaction as I drove under the Orwell Bridge, from where I could see that the traffic above was at a complete standstill. Until, that is, I rounded the corner and found that everything was being diverted off the A14 and onto my route into Ipswich, causing complete gridlock, and meaning I couldn't actually get into town at all. I wasn't happy.

Though obviously the family of Kevin Patterson, the lorry driver who hit a bridge and died, closing the A14 for ten hours, had quite a bad day too.

So I had to turn around and drive all the way to Manningtree instead, where they don't have a Marks & Spencers, meaning I couldn't get any extra strong tea bags, which was frankly a tragedy. As was the reaction of the woman in the bank when faced with my foreign cheque. She couldn't have looked more panicked if I'd handed her a note telling her to empty the safe. But fortunately, having watched her tear off the wrong section of my form, and type something into the computer for no apparent reason, I gave her a few reassuring glances, smiled cheerfully, and walked off to the sound of her calling a colleague for assistance.

So if I ever see that money, it'll be a miracle.

But anyway, one other thing while I'm here...

As anyone with a blog is likely to know, there's a section on the Blogger dashboard every time you log in, called 'Blogs of Note', which states "Feel like browsing? Here are some blogs we have noticed recently". A new addition to the list is one Jeremy Blachman, whose blog I've just had the pleasure of visiting. Having experienced this 'blog of note' for myself, perhaps someone could tell me precisely what is was that made Blogger notice him? I can only assume it was the large cheque he sent them.

Breaking news on Jeremy's site is that after three years of blogging, he's just posted his first photo. Which doesn't seem to work.* But never mind. To be honest, any one of the six (count them) blogs I link to on the left are more noteworthy. Oh, and that's another thing Jeremy doesn't have - links. But he's been getting 2,000 visitors a day since Blogger mentioned him, so why bother. I haven't had that many hits since I claimed to have pictures of Orlaith naked.

* Since writing that, the photo seems to have started working. So I take it all back. It clearly is a blog of note.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Blind leading the blind Look at that. It's quality is that. You've never seen such fine workmanship in all your life. I am a DIY god. And anyone who says there's a bigger gap on the right than the left, doesn't know what they're talking about. It's meant to be like that.

Anyhoo, I successfully installed the new roller blind in Lisa's bathroom yesterday, despite my fear of heights, and the fact that I had the wrong size rawlplugs. I ended up cutting the aluminium tube on Lisa's computer table with a junior hacksaw. It worked quite well, and I don't think she's noticed the pile of metal fragments on the carpet. So all in all it was a job well done. Though that's the last time I attempt to drill through a bathroom tile from the top of a rickety stepladder.

But having served my purpose as a handyman, I returned home last night, arriving back in Shotley Gate at 1:15am. At least, I think it's Shotley Gate. It was so foggy most of the way, frankly I could have ended up anywhere.

But now I'm back in the 21st century, with access to a scanner, I thought I'd present Exhibit A for any budding graphologists out there...

Working Lunch
I still think it looks like W Lunch.

I've also received the following e-mail this morning, all the way from San Francisco, California...

"Hi Phil,

I like your site and I listened to your rendition of Luckiest by Ben Folds. I am getting married this coming weekend, and would love to have a good friend of mine sing that song at the wedding. A little cheesy I know but what a great song. Do you happen to have a MIDI version of the song with no vocals? I have been desperately searching and unfortunately am not skilled enough to make my own. Thank you!


So I'm off to try and persuade him to fly me out there for the weekend to play it live. After all, what's the price of a plane ticket when you're desperate and short of time. Nothing, that's what.

Although we're talking San Francisco here, so his fiancee's probably called Steve.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Whenever I visit the fair city of Brighton, I have the joy of using a 'Resident's Visitor Parking Permit', which is like a scratchcard, only it costs a pound without actually giving you the chance of winning any money. But every day I have to scratch off the date on one of these permits, fill in my registration number, and place it in my car so that I can park in Lisa's road. At a pound a time, it doesn't take a genius with Lisa's qualifications to work out just how much money I've donated to Brighton & Hove City Council over the past 16 months.

But obviously I don't mind.

Anyhoo, said permits have to be placed either on the nearside dashboard, or the top portion folded over and hooked onto the nearside front window, which you then close to hold it in place. (Stick with it - this is all relevant). 90% of the time I park with the driver's side closest to the kerb, and place the permit on the dashboard, but occasionally I park the other way, and have to put the permit in the window, because the dashboard on the passenger side is too narrow to balance a permit on.

Don't worry, this blog post becomes more interesting in... oooh, about two paragraphs time. Actually, make that three paragraphs.

On those occasions when I have to park with the passenger side closest to the kerb, and the permit in the passenger window, I'm always slightly worried, because I've seen the local traffic wardens, and they have a habit of walking down the middle of the road (which is a quiet cul-de-sac) rather than on the nearside as they should. But I daren't put the permit on the dashboard on the driver's side, because even though they'd easily spot it there, they could technically give me a ticket, because I haven't placed it on the nearside as per the instructions, which form part of the 'Conditions of Use'.

So anyway, after driving Lisa to work at 8:15am yesterday morning, I parked outside with the passenger side of my car closest to the kerb, and placed a parking permit in the window. I then left my car until 4:25pm when I went to pick up Lisa again.

Anyone who can't see what's coming here should immediately report to their nearest NHS clinic for the slow of thought.

Yep, I'd received a £60 parking ticket for having parked longer than the two free hours you can stay without a permit. Which means that a traffic warden had visited TWICE, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, and BOTH times had completely failed to spot my 8" wide parking permit clearly displayed in the side window. Even on the point of issuing a ticket, they still didn't bother wandering over to the kerb to check the nearside window, where THEY instruct you to display the damn thing.

Now, I'm a mild mannered man, and my similarity to guinea pigs and lambs has been discussed on this blog before, but to say I was livid would be an understatement.

I drove off to pick up Lisa, but as luck would have it, I rounded the corner, headed down the hill, and spotted a traffic warden at the side of the road. So I pulled in to the left, which was very handy, because my parking permit was still in the window, and asked the traffic warden if she'd just come from ******* ***** (Lisa's road has been censored for security reasons). She was only a young girl, and the way she looked blank, searched vaguely through a few pieces of paper in her hand, and repeated the words "******* *****..?" in a thick French accent, suggested to me that not only was she new to the job, but she probably didn't speak English either.

But I persevered. I showed her my parking ticket, she recognised her signature, I pointed out my permit, and she uttered for the first time the four words which would become her catchphrase over the course of the next two minutes:

"I didn't see it"

She must have said that at least twelve times. It was her response to just about every argument I put to her. And possibly the only English phrase she knew. I told her it's her JOB to see it. Which is when she started shrugging. Honestly, the girl could not have been more French if she'd tried.

Having repeated myself a million times, and told her she can see the permit right now in the window of my car, where it's been all day, she managed to muster enough English to inform me that she can't take the ticket back because she doesn't have a photograph proving that it had been there all day. Quite where I'm supposed to get photographic evidence that a permit's been in my car for eight consecutive hours, I'm not sure. But what really annoyed me was when she started blatantly lying...

Having impressed upon her that the permit instructs me to place it in the nearside window, and that therefore it's her job to check there, she told me she HAD checked ALL the windows. I told her she can't have done. She told me she had. I told her the parking permit is visible from about thirty yards away if you're on that side of the car. She shrugged and said she hadn't seen it.

Basically we got nowhere fast. She said I can complain if I want to (which is ironic, because I thought that's what I'd been doing. And it had got me nowhere). But I said I would, and having attracted an audience of two people by now, I decided it was time to leave, taking my parking ticket with me.

Anyhoo, instead of heading over to Lisa's Uncle and Aunt's as promised, I was forced to make myself late by going straight to the council parking department in the city centre instead, before they closed at 5pm, paying 50p to park, and attempting to sort it out with the man behind the bullet-proof glass. I was told they can't just cancel a ticket, I have to go through an official appeal, which meant filling in a form with the details of why I don't think I should have to pay the fine, after which they weigh it all up, decide whether or not to believe me, and write to me with the outcome in a couple of weeks.

So there you go. Because of a trafic warden's complete inability to do her job, I could be faced with a £60 fine. So I'd just like to say that the utter incompetent in question is Brighton & Hove Parking Attendant Number 476, and her scrawl of a signature looks like 'W Lunch'. Seriously. I can only assume her first name is Working.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Typical. I was just about to embark on a fabulously witty blog post covering all manner of diverse topics (such as Peacehaven, tattoos and job applications) (not mine), when I found Lisa had shamelessly beaten me to it. So I don't think I'll bother now. Suffice it to say that I too love the ponds of Peacehaven, and the tattoos of the women who reside there.

I've also single-handedly won Lisa promotion (subject to interview) by writing a detailed work of fiction in which I've described her as "level-headed, well organised and flexible". I wrote the 'well organised' bit while she was rummaging around in the other room, trying to remember where she'd left all her important documents, and complaining that she couldn't find anything, while the 'flexible' bit was inspired by her comment that she refuses to work beyond half past four. By the end of the afternoon I barely recognised her from the description I'd written. Which was pretty much mission accomplished.

I also made the startling discovery that according to Lisa's old school certificates, she's better at French than cooking. So I asked her something in simple French, only to be greeted by the response of "What?". Which doesn't say much for her cooking. Although she did make me Italian Beef Casserole on Saturday, so I can't complain.

Anyhoo, must dash. I'm planning to embark on some DIY tomorrow by installing a rollerblind in Lisa's bathroom. It's a simple job, which basically just involves a bit of plastic and a couple of screws. So I'm off to her uncle's house to borrow some heavy-duty power tools and a Black & Decker Workmate.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Definition of Irony:

Writing a blog post on Thursday about how you tried, and failed, to meet Chris Eubank, then heading off into Hove on Friday afternoon to drown your sorrows in a sea of charity shops, pulling out of the car park at 4:15pm, and nearly colliding headlong with Mr Eubank's Hummer, which was swinging around the corner in my direction.

Fortunately he stopped in time to avoid hitting the woman who was crossing the road in front of him, so I took the opportunity to meet his gaze with the kind of look which said "I heard you got six points on your licence in court yesterday". Sadly he ignored me, but that's possibly because he was distracted by the Ipod he was wearing at the time.

Of course, driving along with headphones on is actually illegal, so when I go to the press with the story, it should be curtains for Chris's driving licence, and bye-bye to the Hummer. Which would be a shame, coz I only ever seem to meet the man when he's in his car.

But anyhoo, the more exciting news of yesterday was that I bought a Colin Fry video in the Hove pound shop. Guess how much it was? A pound. They can't give 'em away. I haven't watched it yet, but I'm sure it's quality through and through. As Colin himself says on the video cover, "Take a deep breath, make a nice cup of tea, get a box of tissues, plump up the cushions, pop in the video and be prepared for a good cry".

Honestly, could that man be any more camp?

Thursday, September 01, 2005

I nearly met Chris Eubank today. He and I have had a number of close encounters in the year and a bit that I've been coming down to Brighton, most of which have involved me narrowly avoiding crashing into his illegally parked Hummer, but sadly we always seem destined to be no more than casual acquaintances.

Today's close encounter, however, was on foot at the Brighton courthouse, where Mr Eubank was making one of his regular appearances, this time for some kind of wanton vehicle hijacking. Possibly in jodhpurs. Anyhoo, it just so happens that the courtroom steps are conveniently situated halfway between Lisa's workplace and the Mind charity shop, so needless to say I pass them quite frequently. And I couldn't help noticing the TV cameras, outside broadcast vans, satellite transmitters, and national news network presenters all lining up as I arrived to meet Lisa for lunch. Forget Katrina, the biggest news story of the day is obviously Chris.

Personally I was keen to loiter with the intent of getting on TV, but Lisa (to whom fame clearly means nothing) was more keen to get to the pub, so I was over-ruled and forced to go and drink Bacardi instead. I did return an hour later though, to find I hadn't actually missed anything, which lulled me into a false sense of security, so I popped around the corner to the Age Concern shop, went back ten minutes later, and found I'd jutht mitthed the mithcreant bokther.

The greater tragedy is that I didn't even buy anything in Age Concern.

But on a brighter note, I'd just like to pay homage to the culinary talents of Lisa, who spent most of yesterday following up the success of her Miracle Weight Loss Lasagne, by making me a Miracle Weight Gain Cheesy Cottage Pie. The recipe (by Fern's hubby, Phil Vickery) was from 'This Morning', and Lisa sent off for it in February 2002. This is the first time she's made it. It's almost as if she's been waiting for a victim all this time.

But I'm pleased to report that it was an unqualified success (emphasis on the unqualified), and well worth the price of that stamped addressed envelope. Although I still think we should sue over the quoted preparation time of 20 minutes.