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Monday, October 31, 2005

It's Halloween! Woooooooooooooo... Are you scared yet?

I don't really do Halloween. There's something about kids wearing masks and knocking on the door demanding money with menaces that doesn't seem particularly fun to me. But in the spirit of late October, I did find myself on the phone to Lisa last night, trying to open a tin of corned beef with one hand whilst explaining the plot of Cannibal Holocaust. Just a little insight into my life there. Unfortunately I couldn't remember the second half of the title, but having mumbled "Cannibal Something" about half a dozen times, Lisa kindly leapt to my aid and suggested 'Cannibal Run'. Which is possibly the wittiest thing she's ever said. I wouldn't mind seeing Burt Reynolds eat Roger Moore. He looks a bit tough and leathery, but he'd probably taste like beef jerky.

Anyhoo, I've just had my first ever piece of international junk mail, and I have to say, those Americans do it so much better than we do. This is ingenious with a capital 'inge'. I've received a letter in today's post from...

... who have kindly written to me all the way from New York with a serious looking document entitled 'Domain Name Expiration Notice'. It says this (and if you haven't eaten enough carrot cake, you may have to click to enlarge it)...

The important word there is "switch". I'm not actually with the Domain Registry of America. They are in fact a rival company, who have gone to all the trouble of looking up the registration details for my Telly Critic site, and sending me a letter which looks like a bill for renewal, complete with handy payment form at the bottom, and the words "You must renew your domain name to retain exclusive rights to it on the Web".

Which is true of course. I just don't have to do it with them. You have to say that's quite enterprising though. And if I didn't know my domain name was set to be renewed automatically, I'd be writing them a cheque as we speak.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

I've just been looking at the website of...
Bingo Bango Software... (it's a catchy name), whose software product 'Elicit' (a bargain at only $59)allows you to schedule the automatic publication of blog entries for when you're not there. Which sounds quite interesting. However, I was more interested by this revealing statement on their website:

"Successful bloggers know that you have to publish frequently to get the attention of your readers and the ever important search engines. And many bloggers know that you have to have more than one site if you want to make money. 3 entries per day per blog is a lot of entries if you have 10 or more blogs."

So THAT'S why I'm not a successful blogger. I'm not writing three entries a day on ten different blogs. I really should make more of an effort.

But in the meantime, I've managed to pinpoint my basic needs in life, courtesy of Internet Wombat, and a pointless but entertaining game which is currently doing the rounds on various blogs. The idea is to enter the phrase "[your name] needs" into Google, and then list the results. Some blogs say you should list only the top ten, others that you should underline the ones which are true. Me, I'm listing the top twenty (see numbers 7, 14 and 18), and frankly they're all true. It's almost as if Google knows me personally...

1. Phil needs a dose of his own medicine.
2. Phil needs a blog.
3. Phil needs a new act.
4. Phil needs Jesus.
5. Phil needs your help today to fight the Schwarzenegger fundraising machine.
6. Phil needs more assistance.
7. Phil needs to get a life.
8. Phil needs his beauty sleep.
9. Phil needs a swift kick in the arse.
10. Phil needs to be born again.
11. Phil needs new life in Jesus Christ.
12. Phil needs a wake up call.
13. Phil needs someone like you.
14. Phil needs to feel superior.
15. Phil needs to get real.
16. Phil needs to realize that the main reason we suck is because we’re saddled with a roster of undesirable players with huge contracts.
17. Phil needs to be arrested.
18. Phil needs more attention than a "normal" boy.
19. Phil needs to read his own biography.

... and my personal favourite...

20. Phil needs to unleash the beast and let those hands fly.

I've no idea what that means, but I plan to put it into practice immediately.

Friday, October 28, 2005

It's interesting the things you learn whilst on the phone to Lisa. Not from the actual conversation, obviously, but rather from the things you fiddle with whilst chatting. I happen to have in my possession numerous pens sent to me by charities in the belief that the only thing stopping me from signing a direct debit instruction is the lack of anything to write with. Personally I believe that any charity which can afford to give away pens to random members of the public via first class post is a charity not short of a few bob, so I keep the pens and chuck the letters in the bin as a matter of principle.

Anyhoo, the current trend seems to be for pens which look like this...

Charity Pen... and basically consist of a tight roll of paper wound around the middle of a biro. Which is more environmentally friendly, I'm sure, but doesn't fare so well when you leave one on your coffee table under a leaking ceiling for a week.

So whilst listening to Lisa's engaging conversation about Burgess Hill (and her desire not to go there) last night, I began fiddling with a pen I'd received from the RSPB (I love birds as much as the next man, but I'd be more inclined to give them money if they'd let me shoot the seagulls outside Lisa's flat). Despite only having one hand to work with, I found myself successfully unrolling the paper around my pen, and what did I find..?

Pen to PaperWell, this actually. It's a Chinese newspaper. Or possibly a Japanese newspaper - it's so hard to tell the difference (although my niece knows a rhyme about that). I think I'll go for Japanese - I don't imagine they get many adverts for Chanel and Dior in communist China.

On the other side there's half a picture of a major car crash, and an advert for a company whose phone number is 87777777. It's a cracking good read anyway, and frankly I'm going to be unravelling every pen I get from now on, just to catch up on world news.

If nothing else, it gives whole new meaning to the phrase 'pen to paper'.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

My six-year-old niece came over yesterday to help fix the water tank in my loft. Her help mainly consisted of watching 'The Rescuers' on video, and asking me to play with her when I'm halfway up a stepladder, but even so, it was invaluable. She was quite disappointed by the lack of Actimel yoghurt drinks in my fridge though, as apparently she really likes those.

Fortunately though, while my Dad was crawling about in the roof-space trying to mend a broken pipe with half a house brick and some ladies gloves, I took some time out to discuss the British Board of Film Classification with my niece. Having gone through my video collection and asked if she could watch 'A Nightmare on Elm Street', I pointed out the '18' rating, and explained what it meant. She then set about looking for a video marked '6', failed, and decided to find out if she could come back a few years down the line instead and borrow my entire Freddy Krueger collection. The conversation went along these lines:

Niece: Will you still be alive when I'm 18?

Me: Yes, I hope so.

Niece: REALLY??? I thought you'd be dead!

So it's reassuring to know I'm not expected to last another 12 years. I should start saving for a coffin.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

It's always good to get home after a week away by the seaside. Except when you walk into your living room at midnight to find that water's been coming through the ceiling for days, your coffee table's soaked, the VCR remote control doesn't work because it's full of water, three videos are ruined, your slippers are damp, and your Perudo Liar Dice have got mould growing on them. And I thought "the best pub in Brighton" had a problem with leaky rooves.

But still, I've been able to cheer myself up with a fabulous e-mail which was sent to me last week, but which I've only just discovered, due to being crap at checking my e-mails when I'm away from home. It never fails to make me laugh that despite being the nicest guy you could ever wish to meet, I seem to be gradually turning the entire world against me via the world wide web. If it's not regional weather fans and regression therapists, it's 20-year-old Ukrainians with a boob complex.

I've had an e-mail from Loli Fedun, one of the participants in Channel Five's latest breast-fest, who wishes to take issue with my review of 'Hot Tub Ranking'. For those who didn't see the show, she was the one who dressed like a prostitute.

Sorry, I'm going to have to narrow that down a bit.

She was the blonde one who dressed like a prostitute.
Loli Fedun
Ok, forget that. She's second from the right.

I so wish I'd kept a colour version of that photo, but what can you do - I didn't know I was going to be contacted a week later by one of the knicker-clad slappers.

Anyhoo, Loli e-mailed shortly after midnight last Tuesday with these words of wisdom, which, incidentally, might not be suitable for small children, the easily offended, or fans of the English language...

Subject: loli Fedun from Hot Tub

Hi Loli there

I know i hope ull go fuck ur self up ur arse and then RANK URSELF!
U look like shit rather more than i look like a prostitue.
And my breast are Really good! If u wanna have an english cow with huge tits that hang doenm to the floor like shit then yeah small and very firm breasts are only for playboy and top magazines! Yeah go for it babe


Obviously I do look like shit, but the difference between me and Loli is that I don't parade around on national TV in my underwear asking men to rate my bum.

And did I even comment on her breasts?? I don't recall ever expressing a preference for English cows with huge tits. Although it's true you'd probably get more milk from them.

Anyhoo, you know what it's like when you e-mail someone - the moment you click on 'send', you immediately think of what you should have said. So Loli e-mailed again two minutes later to add this important point...

"This show was about showing off uyr body! Not fucken hiding it!"

... which frankly wins the argument hands down. I don't know what I was thinking.

Of course, prostitution's about showing off your body too, but in an entirely different way, I'm sure.

Interestingly though, Loli's unwittingly provided me with a bit of a scoop. It turns out that 'Loli' isn't her real name. Her e-mail address reveals it to be Olga. Which is only marginally less sexy. I bet Garry Bushell doesn't know that.

Obviously it would be immoral to reproduce someone's e-mail address here without permission, but I can tell from the way she calls me babe and then offers to have sex with me, that the lovely Loli - sorry, I mean Olga - wouldn't mind. So if any Hot Tub Ranking fans (and I know Kingster's one for a start) want to drop her a line, her e-mail address is:

But whatever you do, don't mention her breasts.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

I've just returned (again) from "the best pub in Brighton", where I'm pleased to report they're now stocking ice cubes. Which they're putting in the wine to save them from having to keep it in the fridge.

Pets to the VetsOn the way home, I was nearly run over by this attractive little vehicle, which came screaming around the corner just as I was crossing the road. The logo on the side told me it was transporting Pets to the Vets, which I assumed was some kind of Geordie call-girl service for the British Legion, but is in fact a local taxi company for gerbils. Their website describes the 'Pets to the Vets' drivers as "accomplished". Accomplished at getting cats to casualty at the expense of a human life anyway.

Talking of such things, the good news of the day is that Charlie the stray cat, whom Lisa and I successfully cared for without a single problem for an entire fortnight at the beginning of this month, has finally returned home after going missing the weekend before last. It turns out Lorraine had shut him in the garage for a week.

But good news for Charlie (and not quite so good for me and Lisa) is that Lorraine is going to New York for bonfire night (as you do), so we've been roped in to look after her cats again. Ah yes, barely a month since the weeing on shoes incident, and we're going to be reunited with Oscar & Timmy for a weekend. It's like a dream come true.

Monday, October 24, 2005

I've just returned from "the best pub in Brighton" (which on top of not stocking Bacardi, orange juice, ice cubes, or barmaids who aren't on drugs, now seems to have a leaky roof), where I met Lisa for a lunchtime drink. We'd clearly arrived at the wrong time though, because according to their new sign, if we'd been there just a few hours later, we'd have experienced "HolySoul JellyRoll (with a sideorder of funk), with DJ Pyrate & Neil-By-Mouth". You have to admire anyone who calls himself Neil-By-Mouth. He'd get on well with Betty Swollocks.

Tuesday night, on the other hand, is merely "Indie Night with DJs Dave & Tony". Something tells me Dave & Tony could learn a thing or two about marketing from Neil and the Pyrate.

Anyhoo, having been dripped on for half an hour in The St James, I returned Lisa to work and made my way to the nearest charity shop, where I bought a very fetching Next top for £2.50. The old dear on the till gave me the equally stylish carrier bag on the right in which to transport it back to Lisa's. Which I did, proudly swinging it through the air as I went, in a kind of "I've-got-a-Next-top-for-£2.50-so-ner" type way.

Having made it home, curiosity got the better of me however, and I thought I'd look up CloneZone on the internet, to see what kind of quality products they sell.

It's good news.

I've just walked a mile and a half through some of Brighton's rougher neighbourhoods with a bag from a gay sex shop.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

If there's one group of professionals who know their stuff, and are respected the world over, it's estate agents. And lion tamers. And if there's one estate agent that stands head and shoulders above the rest, it's undoubtedly David Miles from Fox & Sons in Peacehaven. The man's a property god. He can't actually open a front door with a key, and he tends to take you to the wrong flat most of the time, but apart from that he's top quality.

Lisa and I had the pleasure of spending an hour in Dave's company yesterday as part of my ongoing campaign to be beside the seaside (beside the sea) before the end of 2006 (by which time my car will be knackered from driving back and forth between Shotley Gate and Brighton). We'd persuaded my brother to come down for the day, bringing his mortgage application forms with him, for a tour of some of the finest one-and-two-bedroom flats that Sussex has to offer.

Collingwood CloseIt began well, with an appointment at Fox & Sons where we met Dave. He didn't exactly convey authority so much as vagueness, but he was happy to tell us that we can move in whenever we like, because everyone's desperate to get out of Peacehaven. That was encouraging. So we headed to Collingwood Close for a look at a one bedroom flat with a stained toilet, belonging to someone who keeps swords on the wall. My brother asked about the loft space, only to be informed by Dave that people aren't that bothered about lofts these days. The property details said the loft was boarded over and had electric lighting and a pull-down ladder, but naturally we didn't get to see any of that, because Dave didn't consider it much of a selling point.

From there we went to see a two bedroom flat half a mile away. We didn't succeed in seeing it of course, because, having fiddled about with the key in the lock for a good two minutes, Dave failed to open the door. But it was the right key - Dave was sure about that. I joked that maybe it was the right key, but the wrong block. I had no idea how prophetic that was.

The Right BlockNext we went to a one bedroom flat near the seafront. Dave told us this was the most sought after block in Peacehaven, and there's no finer place to live, so we all piled out of the car with anticipation high... only for Dave to realise he'd brought us to the wrong block. Back in the car, and we soon arrived at the right block. Which wasn't quite so sought after. Dave rang the doorbell, the woman opened the door, and we all started to enter. At which point she announced that she wasn't expecting us. Cue slight confusion, before Dave realised he'd brought us to the wrong flat. But hey, the woman seemed quite happy to show us around anyway, even if her flat wasn't for sale.

Back outside, we walked down a few doors, went in a different entrance and climbed the stairs, where Dave began knocking on the door of a different flat. Some persistant knocking, calling, and puzzled looks, and a man eventually came down from the flat above with the news that we were knocking on the wrong door. Not a great surprise, considering Dave's track record. But we did eventually get inside the right property, which turned out to be very nice, with sea views and a rotting garage.

Fortunately we said farewell to Dave at that point, and headed to a nearby cafe for sausage sandwiches, where we met a local who advised us to avoid Collingwood Close at all costs. And he didn't even know about the stained toilet. Thankful for the advice, we made our way back along the coast road to meet Louise from Lampons. She was ten minutes late, but made up for it by being about as vague as Dave, and playing with the vendor's gerbil instead of showing us around the flat.

Telscombe CliffsOur final appointment was with Paul from Phillip Mann, who'd arranged to meet us at the office at 1pm... where the girl on the desk told us that he'd decided to wait for us at the property instead. Naturally we had no idea where the property was, but that didn't stop Paul. Some directions and a map later, we successfully rendezvoused with him, and looked around a two bedroom flat in Telscombe Cliffs. Personally it was my favourite, but only because it had more space to store my vast quantities of junk, and is two minutes closer to Lisa. Although as an added selling point, it's not listed with Fox & Sons, so you don't have to deal with David Miles. If it had been, we'd probably never have seen it at all.

Friday, October 21, 2005

The Grass is Always Super on the Other SideIt's Supergrass! Yes, I know it could be anyone really, but it is them. And very good they were too. If you like that sort of thing. They certainly went down better than the support act, Son of Dave, anyway. I actually saw him on 'Later with Jools Holland' a couple of months ago. There's not really anything wrong with him, but his act is essentially a mouth organ, a hat, and a bit of stamping, which doesn't always go down well with a rock concert crowd. Although I don't think he helped matters by getting annoyed and telling us all to stop talking.

Anyhoo, Lisa and I took the scenic coastal route to Folkestone yesterday afternoon, taking in Hastings, which has gone noticeably downhill since I left there at the age of one, as well as Hythe, Dymchurch, and the unlikely named Guestling Thorn (which welcomes careful drivers) (meaning I felt slightly uncomfortable). I also coasted through the picturesque town of Rye to the soundtrack of Lisa snorting in her sleep.

Having been stuck behind a lorry from the Kent Potato Company ("You've tried the rest, now FRY the best") for ten miles, we eventually completed the journey of 75 miles in two and a half hours, and arrived in Folkestone at 4pm. We're both on diets, so we headed straight to Pizza Hut (via the Barnardos charity shop), where I remained strong, and refused a dessert. Before leaving it for two minutes and ordering a Choc Fundoo. It was the phrase 'dinky doughnuts' that did it. There's just no way you can resist something like that.

Back at the Leas Cliff Hall, we joined the queue of (worryingly young) people, and having gained entry with our 'standing only' tickets, made straight for the seating section and sat down. We had an hour long wait before Son of Dave took to the stage, so you'd think he'd have been warmly welcomed, but apparently not. Although the bit where he climbed onto his stool for some more freestyle stamping went down quite well. Possibly because it immediately preceded the end of his set.

Anyhoo, Supergrass were pretty good. I kept my eye on the drummer, who, we'd been informed by one of Lisa's friends, is "very dodgy". I'm not quite sure what she meant by that, but he did seem to use giant cotton buds instead of drum sticks on a couple of songs, so that could be what she was getting at. Having made it out of the hall at 11pm, I elected to take the motorway route back to Brighton. It was 100 miles instead of 75. And only took 90 minutes. There were noticeably fewer potato lorries too. Scenic routes are all very well, but I feel so much more welcome on motorways.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Well it's lunchtime and we're barely dressed, so it's not going to be a whole day in Folkestone. Personally I blame the live 'This Morning' smear test. That delayed us by a good twenty minutes. And I'm still trying to work out why they had to stick a pair of curling tongs up the poor woman.

But anyhoo, I made it to Brighton yesterday via the roadworks of Essex, stopping only to eat a trifle at my parents' house. Having parked near Lisa's place of work, I successfully managed to forget that I only had one hour of free parking (condtional upon me buying something at Somerfields), and spent an enjoyable 45 minutes looking at the self-help books in Sussex Stationers, and wondering whether I need the assistance of angels in my life.

Having remembered the parking with only three minutes to spare, I was forced to abandon Lisa and make a mercy dash for some buy-one-get-one-free teacakes, before running back to the car park in a state of panic. Only to find that the man in the little booth had raised the barrier and gone home for the day. Which is just as well, because having got into the lift, I'd realised that the boy on the checkout hadn't given me a receipt.

The lift was also threatening to break down, prompting a woman nearby to lean over and tell me that she had wine and crisps, so we'd be alright. It's just as well we made it - I'd have been drunk and fat in no time.

Anyhoo, we're leaving soon (he said optimistically) for a Supergrass concert at the Leas Cliff Hall in Folkestone. Not one of the nation's best known rock venues, it's true, but I'm sure they're very good. Apparently Daniel O'Donnell's a regular, so they have a fine tradition of quality music. We can't go wrong. Unless we miss the turning and end up on the Eurostar.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

I've just received my weekly e-mail from the Advertising Standards Authority, updating me on the latest adjudications. It's the price I pay for having made what I thought was a frivolous complaint a few months ago. I'm now on their list of busybodies. But on the plus side, they do provide me with proof every Wednesday morning that my complaint was actually pretty serious compared with most of those they receive. The highlight of this week's selection is this one...

"A TV ad for Innocent smoothies showed a drinks carton with a pile of fruit beside it. One by one the pieces of fruit disappeared. The voiceover said "We squeeze all of this fruit into each of our big cartons"...

Two viewers complained that it was not possible to squeeze the amount of fruit shown in the ad into one carton."

Fortunately the ASA have investigated, and apparently it is possible. But you have to liquidise it first. I don't think the viewers had thought of that.

Anyhoo, I'm off back down to Brighton today. Lisa and I are planning a day out in Folkestone tomorrow. Well I say a day out - knowing what we're like for leaving on time, it'll be an evening out. But it's quite exciting nonetheless. I hear Folkestone rocks on a Thursday.

I'm also going to try and avoid making the same mistake I made when leaving my flat last time. I returned from two weeks of cat-sitting to find that I'd left a glass of water by the side of my bed. It had gone stagnant, and there were things living in it. It was like having Sea Monkeys again. It also reminded me of my old friend Shelley, who, when we were 14, grew some mould on a piece of toast under her bed, claimed it as a pet, and called it Dominic.

Which just goes to show the dangers of not allowing your children to keep animals. Certain people take note.

Monday, October 17, 2005

It's interesting the things you discover when you're out on a late-night walk around the neighbourhood...

Shotley is GayApparently the entire village has come out.

I can't say I'm surprised - they're always putting on musicals at the village hall, and the local Judy Garland appreciation society has been going strong for a number of years. My neighbour wears a lot of tight t-shirts too. Although that could just be because he's fat. But still, it gives new meaning to the phrase 'the only gay in the village'.

I particularly like the way the author of this piece - a certain H.B.L. - has used a stick as a comma. That's what I call resourceful. Or autumnal. One or the other.

Shotley HoesFortunately, those responsible for this piece of decorative street art were only too happy to come forward. It turns out that the literary collective behind these public declarations of homosexuality are in fact the 'Shotley Hoes'. Which is presumably some kind of local gardening club. And they number amongst them such pillars of the community as 'Rach', 'Vix' (who probably has nasal congestion) and 'Meg'. Who sounds quite mystic.

God Gave Me StyleI'm particularly pleased to see that the Hoes are all good Christian girls, and have been blessed by the Almighty. Oh yes indeed, God has given them style. Which is very kind of him. Although frankly if he can do it for the Shotley Hoes, why did he make Jesus wear those awful robes?

Poetry in MotionBut glossing over that, one Hoe in particularly looks to have been singled out for greatness, stating "God made me shine like the sun!". So if you look directly at her, you'll go blind.

But when they're not solving the local street lighting problem, the Hoes are creating poetic masterpieces. They left us with these words:

"If hugz were minutes,
I wud send u hourz,
If kisses woz rain,
I wud send u showerz."

I think that's possibly the most beautiful thing I've ever read. Although spelling clearly means nothing to the Shotley Hoes. They're probably too busy gardening to read a dictionary.

Friday, October 14, 2005

I went out in my car today for the first time since having it MOT'd on Monday. I took the cross-country route to Manningtree, via Stutton, where I saw a sign near Griff Rhys Jones' house saying "Partridges - £2 each". Having narrowly missed a couple of pheasants half a mile earlier, I did feel it was a bit like putting "Roadkill - two for a fiver", but I was still quite tempted. If I could get my hands on a pear tree, I'd have one heck of a Christmas display.

Anyhoo, having arrived at the Co-op car park in Manningtree, I noticed this little green tag hanging from my car's indicator arm:

It would have been nice of them to have pointed it out to me before I'd driven the 15 miles home on Monday, and another 14 today, but hey, you can't have everything. And there was me thinking the pheasants were the lucky ones when I braked hard on the way there.

But even more exciting than my ability to survive that journey, was my visit to the charity shop where I once obtained under-the-counter adult videos. Sadly there was nothing of that nature there today, but I did buy a game called 'Perudo - South American Liar Dice'. I bought it partly because it was only £1, partly because it contains 30 dice, meaning I'll never be caught short for a game of Risk again, but mainly because it says this on the box...

... which made me laugh enough to part with a pound.

Upon returning home however, I've discovered that Perudo is far more than just a charity shop stocking-filler - you can play it online at And what's more, it has its very own world governing body - FISA (Federation Internationale de Sanataba Association) (no, really) - set up in Italy in 1857 by a band of professional dice-chuckers. Their website states:

"As Perudo comes back into fashion we've had a lot of visitors asking what the difference between Perudo Santaba, Perudo, Liars' Dice, Liari, Dudo and Cachos is".

It's something I've wondered myself. Fortunately FISA can tell us:

"The answer is not much really".

So that's cleared that one up.

But most exciting (and life-changing) of all, is this nugget o' news...

"You can download and play the official FISA online version of Sanataba below. The game can be used freely for a 60 day period at which point you can register to continue playing. Please note, this game awards official FISA seedings; if you achieve a top ten ranking you will be eligible to play in the 2005 FISA Roma Championships".

Oh yessss! You can play for free, and if you're any good, you get invited to Rome to join the ranks of the Perudo pros, and a life of laughs, luxury, and professional Perudo playing!

So that's my future sorted out. All I need to do now is learn how to play...

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

I had a search engine hit yesterday for the words "What kind of ground does Rakti like?". Which probably sounds like a gardening question to most people. But as a service to my visitors, I can tell you that Rakti likes fast ground. If you back him on anything less than good-to-firm, he'll run like a donkey and get beaten by the kind of old nags who wouldn't normally be fit to lick his shiny golden horse shoes. Not that I have any personal experience of that, obviously.

Anyhoo, like a fossil from the north Norfolk coast, I've recently had the pleasure of being tagged by Dave. The task, which I'm loathe to accept, but will do, seeing as I lead an empty life and have nothing else to say, is this:

1. Delve into your blog archive.

2. Find your 23rd post (or closest to).

3. Find the fifth sentence (or closest to).

4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions. Ponder it for meaning, subtext or hidden agendas.

5. Tag five people to do the same.

Yes, it is pointless. Which is why it fits in here so well.

It turns out that my 23rd post was written on 19th April 2003. And it doesn't have as many as five sentences. But hey, it was two and a half years ago, and at the time I was very much a student of the Lisa school of blog-posting. Even though I'd never met her at the time.

But the sentence "closest to" number five is this:

"You'll hate yourself in the morning."

It followed a one night stand with a chocolate bar, and at the time may have seemed like a literal comment on the dangers of binge-eating at Easter. But on reflection I feel I was trying to make an altogether deeper point about personal growth (and I don't mean my expanding waistline).

Life is like a rollercoaster ride (it makes you sick and it's over before you know it), but it's a journey of self-discovery and acceptance. In the 'morning' of our lives, we tend to feel dissatisfied with our lot, hating our bodies, our lives, and our regional weathergirls. But as we grow older and move on to the 'afternoon' years (shortly after pigging out at the 'lunchtime' of our lives) we begin to accept that life isn't so bad after all, and it's not worth worrying about the small and insignificant bald patch that's appeared in the last couple of years. In short, we stop hating and start loving.

Obviously I'm still in my very early thirties, and have barely experienced brunch, but even so, this is a lesson that I've learnt, and was trying to pass on via my blog two and a half years ago. Naturally it fell on deaf ears, but I don't care, because I'm a lover, not a fighter, and I've accepted myself and all those around me.

Although I still don't like Julie Reinger.

Anyhoo, I don't know as many as five people, so I'll spare everyone else the experience of being tagged. And besides, you don't want to waste your time doing something like this. You'll hate yourself in the morning.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

I love daytime TV. Trisha has just introduced a guest with the words "This is Angela. She says it was an accident that she set her 12 year old daughter's hair on fire". Apparently it had nothing to do with her being drunk and dancing around the living room with a lighter.

But burning issues aside, I think someone's noticed that I spend a lot of time in Brighton. I've received a card in today's post from Boots the Chemist, inviting me, a loyal Advantage Card holder, to a special Christmas shopping evening. Putting aside the fact that it's on October 20th, which isn't even in the same season as Christmas, the interesting thing is that they're inviting me to the one in North Street, Brighton. Which means, slightly scarily, that your loyalty card not only records what you buy, but where you buy it, and they've realised that I buy more deoderant in Brighton than I do in Ipswich. Frankly I smell when I'm at home.

The good news though is that I'm now in a position to get there - my car passed its MOT yesterday, in an inspirational triumph of workmanship over rust. It turns out that the rough clattering noise I've been experiencing over the past two weeks was because I had no brake pads. But hey, who needs 'em. I managed to slow down enough to stop at the garage, and that's all that matters.

The experience wasn't without a degree of suffering though. Seeing as I needed to leave home at half past nine, I naturally didn't start eating my breakfast until 9:25am, meaning I was forced to multitask (put on my shoes in between mouthfuls). So having tied my laces (I knew I should have gone for velcro), I was naturally delighted to turn around and see my cat on the table, lapping the milk from my bowl of muesli.

It was a bit of a dilemma - hunger versus the fact that I had to leave in two minutes and there was no time to fetch another bowl. Needless to say I took the only reasonable option: tried not to think where that tongue might have been, and shoveled it straight down.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Well they didn't bring us marmalade.

They brought us Apple & Rosehip Jelly, made with ingredients from a pub beer garden and some bushes in Croydon. But it could have been worse - apparently they were right out of the stinging nettle jam.

Anyhoo, our meeting with the Chief Executives of J&M Preserves went well yesterday. Lisa had informed me that in order to get to Brighton station we needed to catch either a number 7 or a number 37 bus, and that nothing else would do. So having waited at the bus stop for five minutes, we got on a 54. We weren't too late.

We arrived at the station to find James in a Photo-Me booth and Marie in a winter coat, and successfully packed them onto a bus to the Ha Ha Bar - a five minute walk away, but a lifetime if you're wearing Lisa's shoes. Not that I was. But she was, so frankly walking was out of the question.

At the Ha Ha Bar (I'm laughing already) we bagged a cosy red booth, and ordered fish, meat and beans. Three of us went for 'skinny chips' and one for fat. The fat one being Melee (I only mention that for documentary purposes). But my "hand-ground burger" (I was expecting to find finger nails in it) was very nice, although James had finished his entire meal by the time I'd cut it in half.

Having eaten, we settled down to discuss important world issues such as Carol Smillie's personal habits, Anne Robinson's diction, and the possibility of dislocating your hips during childbirth. We also learnt that James's ear is producing enough wax to build the entire Vicar of Dibley display at Madame Tussauds, and still have enough left over for Fern Britten. More worrying was the discovery that he and Lisa share a deep and unrequited love for Ralph Fiennes. But still, it's nice to meet a man who's not afraid of that side of his sexuality.

After an hour and a half of looking at our empty plates, the waiter eventually turned up to clear them away, James giving him a helping hand by sweeping my crispy onions out onto the main concourse. I then ordered the star dessert, which apparently had been created by one of their chefs, and was an award-winning gastronomic delight. It was intriguingly entitled 'Hot Jam Sandwich', so my expectations were high. It turned out to be two slices of bread with a thin layer of jam in between, fried in butter. It tasted like a strawberry omelette, and cost £3.95. So I ate Lisa's pavlova instead.

Pigging-out done, there was just time for James to talk about micropenises (I think it was a cry for help), before we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways - Lisa and I to the bus stop, Marie and James to the Royal Pavilion Gift Shop to buy a snow globe. They phoned an hour later to point out that we'd never actually told them how to get to the Corn Exchange, and they were in danger of missing John Hegley. Yeah, like we'd know where the Corn Exchange is. We can't even get on the right bus.

Anyhoo, socialising over, I left Brighton behind at 8pm, and arrived back in Shotley Gate at 12:30am. I'm sure it shouldn't take me four and a half hours. I think it was being charged 65p for a packet of crisps at the service station that did it. I was too shocked to drive. But I did manage to finish all Lisa's After Eight Mints on the way. I knew I should've left at 7pm.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

It's always nice, when you think you've successfully managed to keep three cats alive for two weeks, to be woken up at 4am on your last night by the sound of a cat choking to death on the landing. It's even nicer when Lisa reacts by screaming "Don't open the door!" and hiding under the duvet. But despite her conviction that opening the bedroom door would result in an instant attack from some kind of devil-cat with a death wish, I bravely ventured out and faced the hideous beast. Or Oscar, as we've come to know him.

To be honest, he was just sitting at the top of the stairs purring, and after a ten minute search of the house, I eventually found Timmy on a shelf, but if you'd heard the hellish noise they were making, you'd have been scared too. I was actually quite brave. And I didn't even put my socks on.

Anyhoo, talking of hellish things, Lorraine's back. Having told us she'd return between midday and 1pm, she phoned at 10:30am to say she'd be there in half an hour. And she was. I barely had time to clear the fridge. But it meant we were able to enjoy two hours of unscheduled holiday chat with both Lorraine and her parents, which was obviously much better than sticking to our original plan of making a quick getaway before they arrived.

Anyway, I'm happy to report that Lorraine had a good time, and the cruise ship only picked up one boat load of asylum seekers off the coast of Spain.

Talking of foreigners, having watched The X Factor with Lisa's mother last night, I learnt an important fact. Apparently we don't have to feel sorry for the black singers who didn't make it through to the final twelve, because "dark people don't get so upset, do they". I'm told it's because they've had a hard life, and therefore "they're used to disappointment". There's a certain logic in that. I've always thought Kriss Akabusi seemed quite cheerful.

Anyhoo, I'm off home tonight, but before that Lisa and I are heading into town to meet Melee & James, who are venturing down to Brighton for an evening with John Hegley. It's nine months since we last met them, so I've had time to get over the karaoke and Pop Quiz debacle, but I will be having a serious word with James about his lack of blogging. Unless they bring us marmalade again.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Well it's been a mini adventure, but our third stint of cat-sitting is nearly at an end. Lorraine arrives back from her two week tour of Europe's coastlines tomorrow lunchtime, so it's almost time for us to bid farewell to Timmy, Oscar, and the wild-eyed Charlie. I feel like linking paws and singing Auld Langsyne.

To be honest, apart from generally fighting like cat, cat and cat, and eating so much food that I've had to go and buy more from Sainsburys, they've actually been quite well behaved the last couple of days. Although Timmy did find he could launch a surprise attack on me through the bannisters as I walked up the stairs, which wasn't good news. Oh, and Oscar drank from my glass of water while I was eating my lunch yesterday. And Charlie snuck in through the cat-flap this morning and ate Oscar's food. Actually, now I come to think about it, they haven't been very well behaved at all. But no matter - we're leaving tomorrow, and we're not coming back.

It's not just the cats that I can't trust either. I took a phone call last night from an elderly lady who claimed she was Lorraine's neighbour, and said she wanted to complain about the young woman staying here with her boyfriend. It turned out to be one of Lisa's friends putting on a silly voice. She only had me fooled for a minute though. I smelt a rat the moment she described Lisa as young.

But anyhoo, we return to Lisa's flat in the morning. It feels like we've never been away. Which is not surprising - we've been back three times in the past week.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Left on the ShelfThe trouble with being a naughty cat is that ultimately no one wants you and you end up being left on the shelf. Although frankly, with the amount of food Timmy eats, I'm surprised it doesn't collapse under his weight.

Oh, and yes, I know he's cute, but that doesn't stop him being a bad, bad cat.

Anyhoo, yesterday Lisa and I went from errant cats to money-making dogs, by spending the afternoon at Hove greyhound track with Lisa's mother. I'm not saying it went badly, but I did have to borrow ten quid from Lisa just to avoid bankruptcy, and enable me to continue donating to the Tote. I wouldn't mind, but both my companions seemed to have winner after winner, despite choosing their dogs on the basis of who had the funniest name and the cutest face.

By the 12th race (and 11 straight losers) I decided to join them, so I threw out the formbook and selected 'Pevensey Charlie' on the grounds that I once went to Pevensey Castle as a child, and I've been feeding Charlie for the past two weeks. Despite my protestations, Lisa then decided she wanted to back him too (and she doesn't even like Charlie), so out of politeness I graciously withdrew and chose a different dawg. Which came second. Naturally Pevensey Charlie romped home. At which point Lisa's mother revealed that she'd backed him too. So everyone was quids in. Except for the one who knows Pevensey Castle like the back of his hand, and goes to the bottom of the garden twice a day to tip slugs off a stray cat's saucer.

But obviously I'm not bitter. I was pleased for them both.

No, really.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

It's not every day you see Lisa on my blog. But I'd promised her ice cream and a trip to a suicide hotspot, so frankly she was putty in my hands.

Anyhoo, our day out in Eastbourne yesterday went very well. We were only 50 minutes late picking up Lisa's mother, meaning we made it to the 'bourne in time for lunch. Lisa selected The Hog's Head for our meal, where I had the pleasure of paying £7.20 for one glass of wine and a Bacardi. It was only the drink-driving laws which stopped me ending the day in poverty (well, even more in poverty). But we had an enjoyable lunch, over which Lisa's Mum informed us that she's passed on some of Lisa's clothes to her sister, because now she's seven months pregnant they fit her like a glove. That went down well.

From there we embarked on a tour of Eastbourne's fine shops, a tour which ended abruptly when Lisa entered Next. How anyone can spend 50 minutes in one shop, I have no idea. But it gave me a chance to wander down the road to the Cancer Research Shop, where (ironically) I bought a Next top for £4. Lisa also bought a Next top, but her bill came to slightly more.

A quick visit to the nearest jewellers to pick out something nice for Lisa (a watch battery), and it was off to Sainsburys for some Rolo cookies and five TV mags (one each for me, Lisa, her Mum, her sister, and her brother-in-law). The girl at the checkout asked if we really meant to buy five, to which Lisa's Mum replied "Yes, I'm a papergirl on Tuesdays". The way the girl looked at us completely seriously makes me wonder if there's anything she wouldn't believe. I should've told her the Rolo cookies were half price.

From there we headed to the seafront for a stroll along the promenade while Lisa's mother read the Daily Star. She claimed she'd bought it by mistake, but frankly I have my doubts. Having explored Eastbourne pier, and walked back and forth along the front without finding a single ice cream seller who hadn't closed for the winter, we were forced to leave Eastbourne behind us and head home. Fortunately however, I saw a sign to Beachy Head, so we made a quick diversion, and arrived at Britain's leading suicide launchpad to find...

... two ice cream vans. As Lisa said, if you were feeling a bit depressed, that would cheer you up. So it was Mr Whippys all round, whereupon I decided to leave Lisa and her Mum in the car and trudge off towards the cliff top with a solemn expression on my face, to see how far I could get before they'd come running after me in panic. 'Quite a long way' is the answer. Frankly I could have been in the mortuary before they'd have noticed. So having admired the view from the top of the hill for five minutes, I finished my 99 and returned to the car where I found Lisa's Mum reading aloud from the Daily Star problem page. Apparently they hadn't even noticed I'd gone. I kinda regret buying them ice creams now.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

No time to blog today (which is why I'm here blogging) - Lisa has the week off work to concentrate on cat-rearing and Coronation Street, so we're taking her mother to Eastbourne for the day. It's a selfless act of kindness towards the older generation, and one which went down particularly well when Lisa extended the invitation on Saturday night. I believe the conversation went along these lines:

Lisa: Would you like to come to Eastbourne with us on Tuesday?

Lisa's Mum: No thank you.

Lisa: Shut up, you're coming. [slams phone down]

Personally I'm only going to recover some gambling debts - Lisa's mother owes me £9 in failed horse racing bets I've placed for her in the past week, and I want the money before we take her to the dog track tomorrow. She might not be in a position to pay by the end of Wednesday.

Oh, and in cat news, we went to bed last night leaving the video running to record a documentary on Channel 4 about people who can't achieve orgasm without committing an armed robbery first (no, seriously), and I came downstairs this morning to find that overnight SOMEBODY had changed the cable channel to Sky Movies. I'm not pointing any fingers, but frankly it was Timmy. I know it. If he's not attacking (sorry, nesting with) toilet rolls, he's trying to watch Racing Stripes on cable.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Kill the Andrex Puppy!Week two, and Timmy's started attacking the toilet roll. I think it was the little doggy pictures on every sheet which simultaneously attracted and enraged him. Although frankly anything vicious enough to attack the Andrex puppy needs to be drowned in a sack. Unfortunately we've only got bin liners, and he tends to claw his way out of those.

Anyhoo, you'll be pleased to know that my 170-1 horse was leading the entire field of 30 with two furlongs to go on Saturday. I've still got a sore throat from shouting at the TV. Better still, having backed him each way, I only needed him to finish in the first five to collect. So no prizes for guessing where he ended up. Sixth. By a short head.

But I drowned my sorrows yesterday with a trip to the cinema to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. We didn't have a convenient child to take with us, so we went for the next best thing, and took someone who hangs out with them all day - the street-drinking, drug-taking, drink-driving primary school teacher of last Saturday. I was told I'd made him sound far worse than he really is, so it was particularly nice to turn up at his home yesterday afternoon to find him wearing the flannelette cord from his dressing gown to hold up his jeans, on the grounds that "I haven't got a belt". And what's more, we went out in public with him looking like that. To see a kids film. With a high risk of meeting his pupils.

But hey, if your 6 year old child pointed at a man shuffling down the street with a can of beer in his hand and a dressing gown cord holding up his jeans, and said "That's my teacher!", you'd never believe them anyway. Give it another week and he'll be wearing a potato sack.

Anyway, I thought the film was a disappointment. Since when has Willy Wonka been an abused child? And why did he have to look like Michael Jackson? As for the touching reunion with his abusive father at the end, I nearly threw up. But the musical numbers were quite good. And I liked the squirrels.

From there, Lisa and I made our way to Faigans, a cafe in Hove which had apparently caught Lisa's eye with a good write-up in the Brighton Argus. We'd been there for about five minutes before we started wondering how much they'd paid the Argus for that article. For a start all pizzas were off, next the waitress brought us red wine instead of white, then she got my order wrong, despite me having repeated it three times and pointed to it on the menu. I don't think she'd heard the word 'burger' before. It seemed to confuse her.

The food wasn't particularly great, but the main problem was that we seemed to be intruding on some kind of family gathering. Every single person who came in seemed to be an old family friend from Italy, and frankly we were the only people there who didn't get hugged, kissed, and given their "usual table".

So we left after the first course and went to 'The Slug & Lettuce' for dessert. The slugpeople may charge a little more, but they do a damn fine cinnamon waffle. And they speak English, which is always a bonus.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

It always happens. Thursday I plug five horses (well, four horses and a donkey) with nothing better than a second place to show for it. Yesterday I keep quiet, and I get a 10-1 shot romping home and winning me fifty quid. But hey, I deserved it. I once wrote an entire blog post about that horse, only to watch him finish 19th out of... um... 19 horses. I've had better days. So the least he could do was win me a bit of compensation. And I only had to wait five months to get it.

Talking of previous blog posts, people are going to think I'm making this one up, but yesterday afternoon I received a phone call at Lorraine's from a man asking for Natalie Winfield. When I said there was no one here by that name, he almost refused to believe me. But having stuck to my guns and refused to let him convince me that there was a woman living in the house without my knowledge, he added "But that is 72 [address I can't remember, but one that's not remotely like Lorraine's], isn't it??" I said "No it's not", which was greeted with yet more incredulity. By the end of the conversation I was beginning to wonder if it was me, and I'd come home to the wrong house.

Anyway, none of that would be particularly remarkable if it wasn't for this blog post written on May 19th when we were last here. It does make you wonder just how many calls Lorraine gets for the Winfields in the average week. And are they getting calls for her?

Fortunately though I did also have the pleasure of chatting to the woman herself yesterday. Lorraine rang from Rome to say she'd visited the Vatican and the Colosseum, and am I keeping her cats in at night? I said I was, and decided not to mention the sparrow. She seemed quite happy with that.

Anyhoo, I've got to go. I've put £2 on Desert Destiny in the 3:55 at Newmarket at odds of... (wait for it)... 170-1, so I need to go and prepare myself for major riches.