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Saturday, December 30, 2006

Hot StuffWell, Big Sis's visit yesterday evening was a complete success. She was late leaving my parents', got stuck in traffic, then lost in Brighton, and eventually arrived 90 minutes later than planned. At which point she spent five minutes trying to get into a parking space. Which is what happens when you let the hire car company give you a people carrier instead of an automatic. But from there on in, things could only get better, and sure enough, Sis hobbled into my flat complaining that her foot hurt from using the clutch, ate a piece of Christmas cake, and within two hours was lying on my sofa with a temperature of 102.

But on the bright side, she did get to meet Lisa's Mum before she passed out. I insisted we go round there, mainly to accept the offer of more cake, and we spent an enjoyable half hour chatting about jet-lag, foreigners, and Fatboy Slim, before heading off to the marina for pizza. Big Sis started feeling sick en route, and requested that we return to my flat instead, so being quite concerned about her health, I responded by pressing hard on the accelerator and heading straight to Pizza Hut, on the grounds that we could always pop into the pharmacy next door as well.

Sadly, Big Sis couldn't eat any pizza, which meant all the more for me, and having loaded up on Asda's entire stock of painkillers, we took our food back to my flat. Much like the pizza, Sis was getting cold by this point, and having arrived back, she looked so feverish and unwell that I almost lost my appetite. But not quite. I let her change into my jogging bottoms (which strangely I never use), wrapped her up in a duvet with a hot water bottle, and like a slice of pizza in the microwave, she began to warm up.

Being the last of the big spenders, I'm proud to say I own a thermometer from the local pound shop, so I took Sis's temperature, found it was 38.7 (or 102 in old money), and was immediately forced to take my own temperature, and that of Lisa's, just to prove the accuracy of my equipment. Honestly, she'll be refusing to eat my Lidl food next.

So our evening seeing the sights of Brighton turned into an evening sitting on the floor taking photos of Sis under a duvet, and plying her with painkillers to bring her temperature down. By 11pm she'd perked up a bit, so I shoved her straight back into the people carrier and made her drive to Gatwick. She's currently holed up at the Holiday Inn, having declared herself too ill to fly this morning - a decision which has everything to do with her health, and nothing to do with Saddam Hussein's execution. Although with George Bush currently in Texas, and the possibility of a revenge attack imminent, you wouldn't want to be on the early morning flight to Dallas.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Lisa woke me up at 5am this morning to tell me I'd been talking in my sleep. Apparently I said "Well you wanted me to get a job, Paul", in an accusatory tone of voice which implied that it was all Paul's fault that things had gone tits-up since finding employment. Personally I don't remember dreaming anything, and haven't met anyone called Paul for about five years, so I expect she misheard me. I was probably wide awake and said 'fool'.

Alternatively, my chattiness may have stemmed from our trip to Asda yesterday evening, when in an event of extraordinary (and frankly unlikely) coincidence, we met Dick Damage. Seriously. Now, I realise that the chances of having spotted Dick (mmm... spotted dick) shopping in the fresh meat section of Asda just four days after finding him on the web and discovering that he lives in Lewes, nowhere near Brighton Marina, are slim to say the least... BUT... it really did look like him. And both Lisa and I were convinced it was the winklepicker himself the moment we laid eyes on him.

Unfortunately it did nothing to raise my spirits, as seeing him in the flesh (well, the streaky bacon section), the man looked even more of a shambles than I'd imagined, and I wouldn't trust him to look after my goldfish, let alone my fort. Not that I have a goldfish. Or a fort. So it probably wasn't him.

Anyhoo, I need to go and get ready, as my Big Sis is visiting Brighton today en route to Gatwick. Which means a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to stuff myself with fast food courtesy of her bank account. The diet starts tomorrow.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

I think I've eaten too much. Actually, judging by my bathroom scales this morning, I know I've eaten too much. But fortunately, help is at hand...

I'm taking advantage.... I've bought this book from the charity shop around the corner. I've only read the first chapter so far, but I like it already. Its essential message seems to be that it's not my fault that I'm fat. It's the fault of women. And vegetarians. Not to mention the government. Who pander to women. And vegetarians. So from today onwards, I'm going to be eating like a man, and building the kind of body which will enable me to kick sand in the faces of ten-stone weaklings (that's Lisa). If nothing else, the boost in testosterone should make me slightly less camp.

As for Christmas, well my family presented me with some expensive and well thought out gifts, and in return I gave them a load of cheap tat. It seemed like a fair exchange. I received the 2-disc special edition DVD of Battle Royale, while Lisa got Richard & Judy's You Say, We Pay. My brother and his family then arrived, and we found ourselves playing the Marks & Spencers chocolate version of 'Deal or No Deal'. Which is just like the TV show, but with chocolates and forfeits instead of money and boxes. It was essentially very dull, but it did give my 7-year-old niece the chance to reveal a secret about my Big Sis. She lowered her voice conspiratorially, and whispered "She's quite annoying sometimes". I told her that's no secret.

As it happens, every DVD I got for Christmas was a horror film, because on top of 'Wolf Creek' and 'The Descent', I also received the home movie of our cruise to Mexico in February. Big Sis had left it nine months before giving me a copy, to allow the memory to fade sufficiently, so that I could experience the full unrelenting horror afresh at 11pm on Christmas Day. Like all good horror films, I had to watch it through my fingers, and it made me feel slightly sick, but seeing Lisa turn to the camera every five minutes and make a bitingly sarcastic comment, reminded me why I love her so much.

On Boxing Day my brother's family left to get my niece a Nintendo DS with some money she'd saved up (it's nice to know the government have tackled child poverty), so Lisa and I taught everyone to play Fluxx, and proved that it takes a lot longer with five people than two. By the end I think they'd not only lost the will to live, but also ensured that I won't be packing that in my suitcase next time I visit.

Before we left yesterday, Big Sis kindly gave me the benefit of her years of experience, by going through my recent failed job application and telling me where I went wrong. Apparently I need to lie more, and when they ask if I have any endorsements on my driving licence, say no.

That done, Lisa and I made our way back to Brighton, where we had our own little Christmas dinner, consisting of quiche, stuffing, and 12 mini cheesecakes. Lisa claimed I ate seven of them to her five, which I'm sure is an outrageous lie. We were watching Battle Royale at the time, so it's surprising I had any appetite at all. I did however eat most of the mini cheeseburgers. I find burgers surprisingly moreish when you can fit a whole one in your mouth in one go. It's no wonder I've put on weight.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christingle all the way.It's Christmas! And to celebrate, Lisa and I have impaled some marshmallows onto cocktail sticks, and stuck them into an orange. It seemed like the festive thing to do. The one on the left is mine, and the fire hazard on the right is Lisa's.

But anyhoo, Lisa and I are now in Chelmsford for Christmas (Lapland was full), having journeyed up the M23 yesterday afternoon in record time. On the way, we popped over to Portslade for a pre-arranged meeting with the lovely Lorraine, who was in a festive mood and wanted to give us the gift of meeting her new boyfriend. Unfortunately, when we turned up 55 minutes late and let ourselves in (her door is always open - literally), we came face to face with a Japanese student who informed us that Lorraine was out. Lisa asked her to pass on a message, but judging by the blank expression on the girl's face, I don't hold out much hope of that getting through. To be honest she did well not to call the police the moment we barged into the living room unannounced.

So having wished Oscar the cat a Happy Christmas on the doorstep, we left empty-handed, and made our way to Essex, where we were persuaded to attend a Christmas Carol Service, mainly because we know the bloke in charge (and I don't mean God). Big Sis had arrived from Texas (via Australia) so the three of us journeyed east, following a star (my Mum left before us) and arrived at the church in time to get a seat before all the pensioners turned up.

The service itself was quite enjoyable. Sis attempted to sing the harmony to every song, I attempted to stop laughing, and we both attempted to get Lisa clapping along to 'Away in a Manger'. We failed on all three counts. But I did enjoy the bloke doing the reading, who told us that "Maggie came from the east". I don't remember her in the Christmas story, which just goes to show how long it is since I last went to church.

The highlight however, was undoubtedly the audience participation spot. My Dad had personally eaten ninety yoghurts (what a weekend that was) to enable everyone to make their own Christingle, and despite being given an orange shaped like a pear, I made the best of it, and resisted the temptation to eat my equipment. Every element of the Christingle is deeply significant, and represents some part of the Christmas story. I think. To be honest, I was so busy trying to get my orange to stand up, that I stopped listening after the first 30 seconds. So I couldn't tell you the point of the raisins (or, if you will, the raisin d'etre), although I think the candle's got something to do with the light of the world cutting through red tape.

Anyhoo, a few mince pies and a chocolate roll later, and we fled back to my parents' house, where I took the above photo of our handiwork. It's just as well, because half an hour later my Mum got back, mistook them for rubbish, and chucked them in the bin.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

It's Dick Damage!I think I've discovered why I didn't get the job at Newhaven Fort. I've managed to locate the person whose shoes I was applying to fill, and I see now that I could never have lived up to his high standards. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you...

... DICK DAMAGE!!! How do you fill the shoes of a man who wears winklepickers?

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Famous FiveIf there's one thing I like on a Friday night, it's an in-depth philosophical debate about one of life's important issues. Lisa and I spent the evening playing Facts in Five, an American game which is considerably older than me (and slightly older than Lisa), which I bought in 1994 when living in Burwell, a village surrounded by American Air Force bases, and therefore by charity shops full of their cast-offs.

We'd been playing for less than ten minutes when this particular debate reared its contentious head. Having been asked to name a board game beginning with 'H', I naturally went for the internationally famous (and uncompromisingly cerebral) Hungry Hungry Hippos, and sat back to bask in the glory of another point earned, welcoming the polite applause of my opponent. Or rather I didn't, because in a testament to the power of pedantry, Lisa refused to accept my answer, on the grounds that it's called 'Hungry Hippos' and not 'Hungry Hungry Hippos'.

I headed for the internet and showed Lisa the above Wikipedia entry, only for her to counter with this page from Amazon. A lot of research and some heated debate later, and it emerged that the original game which was launched in the USA in 1966, and continues to be produced there, is called 'Hungry Hungry Hippos', but for reasons unknown, the hippos lost their appetite en route to Britain, and on this side of the pond they're known simply as 'Hungry Hippos'. That's British restraint for you.

So do I get a point or not? To be honest, I think the debate hinges less on the addition of one extra 'Hungry', and more on the fact that Lisa's got PMT. I wish I'd said Huff and Puff now.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Dammit. Clearly putting together the finest application form known to man (no really, Lorraine at Scope said so) wasn't enough to land me an interview for a job earning £11,865 a year. They're clearly looking for an altogether higher calibre of toilet cleaner. And the chap doing the Blitz Experience on Saturday was probably a history graduate with a BTEC in maintenance, and merely looked like a college drop-out who couldn't spell IQ. Admittedly, with my annual rent set at £8,100 (four thousand pounds a room), and a cost of £500 a year on petrol to get me there, I would have had to take up lap-dancing in the evenings just to make ends meet, but still, I really wanted that job.

But hey, that's what happens when you put the words 'clinical depression' on an application for a job involving bombs, knives and big guns pointing at France. They can't take the risk.

Anyhoo, to cap it all off, my second favourite radio talk show host, Mike Dickin, died in a car crash on Monday. I spent my teenage years listening to him on LBC (from Basildon, which takes some doing), and when I didn't sleep from about 1995 to 1999, his phone-ins on Talk Radio were the only thing which kept me going through the night. Well, them and the chocolate biscuits.

But as someone said in the Mike Dickin Book of Condolence on Wednesday, "It is perhaps apt that he died in a car in Cornwall: two things he absolutely loved". Which at least explains why I survived the cruise to Mexico.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

You know there's something wrong with the world when a homeless man says "I don't feel well, I'm going home", and nobody bats an eyelid. Admittedly, by that point he'd won £7 on the first race, so he was on his way to a deposit on a bedsit, but even so.

Anyhoo, my afternoon at the greyhound track went very well. Our unofficial meeting of Gamblers Anonymous consisted of me, Lisa, her mother, her nephew, and a bloke who's currently living in her bedroom while he searches for a flat. To be honest, I might just name him, because he's featured on this blog several times before (my birthday, for example), each time with a different description, and I'm giving the impression that I know more people than I do. So his name's Steve. I can say that, because he's currently living out of a suitcase, and has sold his computer at Cash Converters, so there's very little chance of him reading this.

Anyway, Steve is the latest victim of a hideous sickness which has so far claimed Lisa's sister, brother-in-law, and two of her nephews one-by-one over the past four days, and which I'm fully expecting to contract at around 5pm on Sunday, to ensure that it completely ruins Christmas for me (not that I'm pessimistic or anything). So he was forced to retire, pale and shivering, after the fifth race.

As for the rest of us, we ploughed on to glorious victory. Lisa had three winners using her tried and tested method of picking anything with a cute name, while her mother stuck two quid on a 10-1 no-hoper which romped home in first place. That woman is jammy beyond belief. As for me, well I knew I'd have a good day from the moment I decided to drastically reduce my stakes, and risk no more than a pound a race. Once I was betting ridiculously small amounts, I couldn't stop winning. Having already had two successful forecasts (predicting the first two dogs), I did a 50p trio (first three dogs in the correct order) and won £13.

Things went downhill slightly when I was held hostage out in the grandstand by Lisa's nephew, who refused to let me back inside for two races (I've since found out that he told everyone I didn't want to come back in), but I recovered the situation by suggesting that we hold a drawing competition to see who could produce the best portrait of Lisa on the back of a losing betting slip. Personally I feel I was the moral victor, but with the biased judging of the subject's mother, I was deemed to have lost.

Anyhoo, my change in luck has come at the right time, because I've received an intriguing postcard in the mail. It's addressed to 'The Occupier', and merely says this:

I assumed it was a cheap advertising trick, and the moment you call the number, they try to sell you double glazing, but out of curiosity I looked up Kudos and that phone number on the internet.

Turns out they're debt collectors. I'm going to need all the gambling profits I can get.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Photo © Big SisOk then, quokkas do exist. Unless she's just inflated a wallaby.

Anyhoo, no time to blog now - it's Christmas, so I'm going dog-racing with a pensioner, a 7-year-old, a homeless man, and a woman who's only just posted her Christmas cards. I'm rich in so many ways.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I went for a stroll this morning along the seafront to the West Breakwater, in an attempt to take advantage of the fact that it was a still day, and therefore possible to walk to the end without drowning. I was already slightly unsettled, because I'd popped into the bank en route to pay in a cheque given to me by Lisa for services rendered, only to discover that Lloyds TSB were training up a woman with Parkinson's Disease. Obviously I'm not medically qualified (although I have a lot of experience as a hypochondriac), so I can't say for certain it was Parkinsons, but the woman clearly had no control over her hands, and looked like Michael J Fox on a wobble board. Which made it difficult for her to initial my cheque without looking like she was conducting an orchestra with her pen. I'm all for equal opportunities, but when it takes you a good thirty seconds and a hell of a lot of concentration just to hit the right button on your keypad, I do begin to wonder if you wouldn't just be better off claiming disability benefits. Not that I'd ever do that.

But anyhoo, cheque paid in, I made my way down to the seafront and along to Black Rock. In 2009 it's due to look like this...

It's a 100-seat Cinema! Hurrah!... when the Brighton International Arena opens, featuring "two ice rinks, an 11,000-seat concert hall, a 100-seat cinema, flats, a museum, recording and dance studios, bars, shops and restaurants" (I should point out that I'm quoting from the Brighton Argus there, so when it occurs to you to wonder just how small a 100-seat cinema would be, don't come running to me - they're not my figures), but at the moment it's just a patch of waste ground which allows me to cross from Madeira Drive to the West Breakwater.

Or at least it was when I was last down there a week ago. It now seems to be a festive travellers' site. Twelve caravans have moved in, complete with Christmas lights, meaning that to get to the breakwater, I either had to walk a long way round via the main road, or cut a path through the middle of an illegal camp, past small children running around in their pyjamas, and a couple of unleashed dogs. Needless to say I went for the latter - I'm not going the long way round for anyone. I was glared at by a woman with a bucket of water, and almost hit by a tricycle, but apart from that I got through unscathed. I did notice that one of the vans had a German numberplate, so I suppose I should be grateful they're not claiming asylum.

Right, so that's travellers, asylum seekers and the disabled covered. Let's move on to ethnic minorities. I had a phone call from my sister yesterday. She'd just finished climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge in a space suit, and was ringing mainly to give me her views on Aborigines. I'd pass them on, but I think you can be arrested for saying things like that in public, and I'm not entirely sure she wasn't winding me up. To be honest, she hasn't yet convinced me that quokkas exist, so I'm not about to accept her top ten facts about Aborigines.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Phil & WhatshernameJust to prove you can get a card for every eventuality these days, my Mum gave me this one yesterday. Although the way it says "Wishing you both a wonderful Christmas together" does kind of imply that she wants us to spend it on our own, rather than descending on Chelmsford for a week and eating all her food, which is more what we had in mind. Personally I'm hoping Lisa will officially move in during 2007 so that my Mum can send a card to 'Son and Bird He's Shacked Up With at the Moment'. It's something to look forward to.

And as if a Christmas card wasn't enough, Brighton & Hove City Council delivered 'A Pocket Guide to Council Services' to every home in the city yesterday. It's a handy-sized booklet which lists all the various services the council offers, and the phone numbers to call to take advantage of them. I flicked through it when it arrived, and got as far as 'H'...

From Home Improvement to Homophobia
The council's offering a homophobia service? What happens when you ring up - do they tell you it's not natural and it turns their stomachs, then call you a poof and hang up?

Or do you just get straight through to Peter Willows?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

It's me and Lisa at Newhaven Fort!

It's the Fort That Counts.
But not just me and Lisa. That blob at the bottom which looks like someone doing a shadow puppet of the top of a Fairy Liquid bottle, is, in fact, my mother taking the photo.

Newhaven Fort may be closed to the public from November til March, but fortunately for anyone hoping to get a job there in January, it opened today for five hours to play host to a Christmas Fair. So the three of us took our chance to visit - me so that having sat in a job interview for half an hour claiming that history is my life, I'm not caught out by the question "Have you ever been to Newhaven Fort?"; my Mum in the hope of collaring the fort manager and demanding he gives her son a job; and Lisa because having walked around Hadleigh Castle in her heels two months ago, it seemed about time she trekked through the mud in unsuitable footwear at an historic location again.

Anyhoo, Newhaven Fort turned out to be very nice. I particularly liked the way they waived the £5.50 entrance fee for the day. But as if that wasn't enough, they'd brought over a group of market traders from Dieppe and stuck them in a Nissen Hut for three hours with a few trestle-tables and some price tags in Euros. It was like the Dieppe Raid in reverse. That's if they really were from Dieppe. Having passed on the chance to buy some Chili Jam, and headed instead to the Honey Stall where I bought a jar of finest French honey for my Mum, plus some Honey & Propolis Sweets (which according to some sources can cure cancer), the stall-holder placed my purchases in a carrier bag which said "Les Marches de Saint Germain en Laye". Now, I'm proud to say I achieved grade B in GCSE French, so I happen to know that 'Les Marches' means 'the markets' (it's knowledge like that which got me through the oral), but a quick search on Google reveals that Saint Germain En Laye isAs Seen By the Luftwaffe near Paris. And nowhere near Dieppe. So frankly they were all conmen and charlatans. But the sweets are very nice.

Back outside, we spent an hour climbing the fort ramparts, touring the gun emplacements, and wiping the mud off Lisa's heels with a tissue, before stumbling across the Worthing and District Amateur Radio Club holed up in a munitions store. PUT THAT LIGHT OUT!Having almost lost Lisa down a cliff for the second time in my life, we made our way back to the relative safety of the indoor exhibits, and took part in 'The Blitz Experience', which basically involved being shut in a cupboard for ten minutes while someone flickered the lights and played a recording of Bill Pertwee through the door.

It was all very interesting though, and well worth the price of admission (see above). Especially as it included a performance by the Newhaven Youth Marching Band, who were very good (if you like hearing 'Phantom of the Opera' on the xylophone). Although half of them did look like they were on anti-depressants. My Mum said they'd probably just been told to look serious, but frankly there's serious, and there's suicidal, and one or two of them had crossed the line.

Anyhoo, the good news is that 24 hours on from the closing date for the Fort Custodian job, a visit to my potential employers has only reinforced my desire to work there. And I saw a fair few crisp packets on the floor which wouldn't be there on my watch, let me tell you. In addition Lisa spent £2.99 on a visitor's guide so that I can impress them with my knowledge, so I'd better get an interview after all this, or she'll be asking for her money back.

Friday, December 15, 2006

It's that time of the year again...

Happy Chanukah
Brighton & Hove City Council, in their infinite wisdom, have erected a wooden Chanukah tree in the Royal Pavilion gardens. Personally I think it looks like God's been playing darts and dropped one on the floor, but I don't want to insult anyone's religion, so may I say how nice it is to see other faiths represented in this way. Of course, I've yet to see a banner in the town centre which says Happy Christmas from Brighton City Council, but I'm sure I've just been looking in the wrong places. Let's face it, I always thought Chanukah was spelt Hanukkah, so it shows what I know. But anyhoo, nothing says 'peace on earth and goodwill to all men' like a security fence around your Chanukah tree. So well done Brighton Council, and a happy winter solstice to you all.

As it happens, I only went out this morning to deliver Christmas cards for Lisa, and pick up a copy of Friday Ad as part of my tireless search for employment. And may I say I wasn't disappointed. Among the local job opportunities in this week's edition was this nugget:

"French speakers required for computer games testing. You will be required to test computer games for the Swiss market, therefore you will need to have a good insight to the Swiss culture. Please only apply if you have good general knowledge of Switzerland."

Excuse my ignorance, but just what is the Swiss culture? A love of Toblerones? And if you're currently looking for people to test 'Cuckoo Clock Deathmatch' on the Playstation 2, wouldn't you be better off advertising in, oh I don't know, Geneva, rather than hoping to find a game-playing, French-speaking expert on Switzerland, living by the sea in Brighton?

I'm tempted to apply though. I think I'd enjoy a Swiss role.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Lisa and I have just got back from babysitting two of her three nephews while the third took on the demanding role of 'sheep' at his school nativity play. Having been dragged around Brighton town centre all day yesterday by a girlfriend who claims she's "literally just popping in and out of Next", only to emerge forty minutes later with a pair of trousers and some shoes, I wasn't really in the mood for child wrangling today, but as I said on the phone to my Mum this afternoon, we're only looking after two of them this time, so it's at least a third less stressful than usual. What could possibly go wrong?

Out of ShapeSo anyway, there I was, collapsed on the sofa, suffering from nervous exhaustion after having had a three-year-old repeating the mantra "You get up. You be a monster. I run." over and over for about half an hour, and ignoring my protestations that he was the monster, and I couldn't get up and run any more if my life depended on it, whilst simultaneously trying to distract him by singing the Fimbles song and doing the actions, when I decided it might be fun to play with the shapes sorting cube sitting on the coffee table next to me.

And I'm sure it would have been fun, had my little playmate (and I don't mean Lisa) not enterprisingly picked up a cold mug of tea when our backs were turned, and carefully placed it inside the cube, so that when I picked it up and shook it, I got half a pint of tea all over my lap. Well, I say half a pint. It was probably less than that, because quite a lot went on his Mum's sofa too. And then there was the puddle on the carpet. So all in all, it was probably only half that amount which seeped through my jeans and into my underwear.

But anyway, I spent an enjoyable hour smelling of Typhoo and feeling like I'd wet myself, whilst simultaneously stuffing kitchen roll down my pants, but the good news is that Nephew Number One's portrayal of a sheep was apparently a triumph. Although I didn't get any details, because we were straight out the door before they'd got their coats off. I must remember to tell the Scope Job Broker not to send me any childcare positions.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

If there's one thing I like to do on a Monday morning, it's to meet with my broker and set up a new deal. Unfortunately, until I become the successful businessman my parents always dreamed of, I'll have to make do with the Scope Job Broker, and the government's New Deal for Disabled People. But I have to say that Lorraine at Scope was very nice indeed. I have to say it because I mentioned my website, so she might be reading this.

Being a service aimed at disabled people, Scope are naturally situated at the top of a steep gravel driveway, up which only Geoff Capes would be able to haul a wheelchair, and in an attempt to promote access for all, they keep the door locked at all times. Which they could have told me before I half-broke the handle trying to get in. But from there it was all uphill. Well, even more uphill.

Lorraine made me a cup of tea, I showed her my application for the Fort Custodian job, and she uttered those oh-so-familiar words, "I didn't even know Newhaven had a fort". If I had a pound for every time I've heard that one, I'd have... about three pounds. But Lorraine and I chatted about life, loves, laughs and lottery funding for an hour and a half, during which she described my application form as "excellent" (or was it 'excrement'?), and told me that due to the government's draconian anti-discrimination laws, I'm basically under no obligation to tell an employer anything about myself. Which is handy.

We got on well anyway, and have arranged to meet again on January 8th, when Lorraine's going to get personal (or is that personnel?) with me, and write my CV. Although by that time I'll probably have my own fort, so it might not be necessary. It'll be more of an after-fort.

What a shower.Anyhoo, yesterday wasn't just exciting for job brokerage developments, it was also momentous due to the arrival of the shower on the right (I've cropped Lisa out of the photo for modesty reasons). Six months after moving in, my cruel slumlord (also known as my brother) has finally brought this flat into the 21st century by getting a shower installed. Having shampooed the carpets only last week, I was naturally delighted to have an electrician and his mate tramping back and forth in muddy boots all day to fit a power line from the front door to the bathroom, but the numerous dirty marks and thin layer of brickdust on my hand towels, paled into insignificance from the moment my new electric shower whirred into life this morning.

Although naturally I sent Lisa in first to check it was safe.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

I received a text message from my sister this morning:

"I stroked a wallaby today and saw lots of cute kangaroos and koalas xx"

Something tells me she's arrived in Australia. She only needs to wrestle a crocodile in a billabong and she'll have done everything on the first day.

And talking of wrestling, I've spent the afternoon grappling with my Fort Custodian job application form, which is now into its second glorious week. I'm attempting to find one example from the full and rich life I've led, for each of the seven 'Essential Criteria' in the person specification. I've successfully made the point that my scant regard for Lisa, and home life in general, means I'll be able to work weekends, bank holidays and some evenings, as per criterion number 3, and five of the remaining six have been fulfilled by my experiences with quiz shows and flat pack furniture. But I'm struggling with Essential Criterion number 7:

"Ability to actively support, work and deliver services within the framework of the Council's Comprehensive Equality Policy and associated procedures."

So it's a case of either putting "Some of my best friends are black", or saying I've trained under Hoolie the Coolie. Neither seem ideal.

But I'm not worried, because I have Scope for improvement. Literally. I'm off tomorrow morning to see the Scope Jobbroker (which I'm sure should be two words, but isn't). It's a service staffed by volunteers, which is presumably why it's taken me a month to get an appointment, and aims to help the weak and disadvantaged (that's me) to find employment. Hopefully they can give me some useful advice. Or at the very least let me wheel a disabled person along the corridor so I can put something down for number 7.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

It's now a week since I e-mailed Blogger about my missing archives, and they still haven't bothered to fix it, or reply with some words of comfort, so I've taken matters into my own hands and manually added all the links to the sidebar on the left. Which is far from ideal, as it won't update automatically, and means my sidebar is now half a mile long. Which in turn is a shame, because it means no one will notice the quality adverts which have been appearing there since I used the word 'LGBT' (well ok, it's an acronym not a word) on Thursday. My personal favourite is this one:

Guide for Coming Out
Coming out as an LGBT person is never easy -- this guide can help!

Clicking on the ad (which technically I'm not allowed to do as the site owner, so don't tell Google) takes you to a page which "offers spiritual resources for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in honor of the queer Christ".

In honour of the WHAT??? Coming out may not be easy, but I wasn't aware he'd done it.

Anyhoo, I must say thank you to Dave for the Christmas card I received yesterday. It was addressed to 'Mr P Gardner & Lisa', which makes us sound like a magic act (and in fairness I wouldn't mind sawing her in half sometimes), but it was sold in aid of Save The Children, unlike the one I sent him, which merely lined the pockets of Matt Groening. So thanks Dave, you're a trooper.

Photo by Dano. Wasn't he on Hawaii Five-O?As for today, well Lisa's mother came round this morning for a cup of tea and a chat, after which I went for a walk along the structure on the left. It's called the 'West Breakwater', and when I passed by on Thursday the water was indeed breaking right over the top, taking with it anything and everything that moved. I was tempted to invite Lisa's mother down there, but it was calm and sunny today, so there didn't seem any point.

By which I mean it was nowhere near as spectacular and wouldn't have been worth her seeing.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I bought the Brighton Argus this afternoon to assist in my tireless search for employment. Unfortunately, despite listing 350 vacancies in today's issue, I failed to find one which appealed. The post of Administrator at the Brighton Lesbian & Gay Switchboard ("providing a service to the lesbian & gay communities since April 1975") sounded intriguing, but apparently you need "knowledge of the LGBT community and the issues that affect LGBT people", and whilst I know everything there is to know about Lesbians, Gays & Bisexuals (mainly from talking to Lisa's friend 'L'), I'm clueless when it comes to Transgender issues. Although I do own a Dame Edna video.

Hmmm... I've only just noticed the obvious rhyme there. I can feel a limerick coming on...

I'd like to administrate gays,
I'm aware of bisexual ways,
But the only transgender,
I know is Dame Edna,
So maybe I'll keep writing plays.

You wouldn't think that took two minutes to write, would you. It sounds like it took a lot less.

But anyhoo, despite all of that, my 35p was money well spent, because having waded through the situations vacant, I came to the Jobs Wanted section and found this:

Now, even if you accept that there could be a demand for an experienced, professional wheelchair pusher (with references), is the average disabled pensioner really going to want to be pushed down to the shops by someone called Hoolie the Coolie???

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Christmas CarolI've had my first Christmas card! And may I say, Carol's hand made cards are getting more elaborate every year. With the amount of work she seems to have put into this one, it's going to take the whole of 2007 to make next year's effort. I'm looking forward to it already. Oh, and anyone getting excited about the thought of a Christmas card from me this year, worry not - you won't have to contain yourself for much longer. I've been to Lidl this morning, so they should be in the post by Friday.

And talking of exciting things arriving in the post, my annual car insurance renewal has arrived today. Is it me, or do these people just pluck random figures out of the air when deciding what to charge you? When I left Shotley Gate in July and moved to the ghetto, AA Insurance informed me that they'd be putting up my premium from around £300 a year, to £568.36. Presumably because Patsy Palmer lives around the corner, and they expect her to ram me on a daily basis.

But as I say, my renewal documents have dropped through the letterbox today, carrying the news that for no apparent reason my premium for the next year has been lowered to £482.19. But that's not all. They've now found an alternative insurer who'll cover me for £421.67. Obviously I'm not complaining about the drop in price, but why the heck was I charged £568 in July, when I'm now insurable for £421? It's not like I've gone out and bought a garage.

Anyhoo, in other news, four days on from my slightly stiff e-mail, there's still no word from Blogger regarding my missing archives. And as if that wasn't enough, I've discovered that since switching to Blogger Beta, I seem to be unable to upload any photos. Carol's card above has had to be hosted on my own site. So a word of advice to anyone thinking of upgrading to the new version of Blogger:


Tuesday, December 05, 2006


One mention in the local press, and they spell my name wrong!!!!!


Monday, December 04, 2006

Well I e-mailed Blogger on Saturday, but haven't received a response, and seeing as I haven't yet had the time (or let's face it, the inclination) to do anything about it, my archives currently remain out of sight. Or in this case, out of site.

One of the reasons for my lack of quality time to spend on fixing Blogger's mistakes, is that I'm currently attempting to join the working classes by getting a proper job instead of faffing about on the internet all day. My current vacancy of choice is Fort Custodian at Newhaven Fort, a high-ranking position which basically involves sweeping the car park and talking to small children about Hitler. I feel forts are my forté, and I can use a broom with the best of 'em, so I'm confident of success. That's as long as they don't contact my referees, which currently consist of a mad cat-woman and a bloke with a kidney stone collection.

But when I'm not padding out my CV with irrelevant nonsense, I'm busy attending the 'Kemp Town Winter Festival' which took place yesterday afternoon, 100 yards from my flat. To be honest, it was a bit of a let down. They'd closed a road for the day, just to enable a few people to stand in the rain and sell crepes. I wasn't impressed. But I was followed down the road by David Van Day, who, not content with bumping into me in the frozen food section of Asda two months ago, is now wandering the streets in a ridiculous hat, trying to persuade people to vote Conservative. I was going to take a photo of him, but I didn't like to kick a man when he's down.

TickledIn other news, I'm pleased to say I've finished my Christmas shopping. I managed to do most of it in one shop, which either indicates the brilliant selection they have in Tickled, or the fact that I was determined to get it all done in under five minutes, and couldn't care less what I bought. Frankly it was the latter. I got my Dad's present across the road at the Vintage Magazine Company (though interestingly it's not a vintage magazine), but everything else I bought from the ladies on the left at their "gift & gadget shop for women". Including my brother's present. But hey, according to the online quiz we all took last Christmas, my brother's less masculine than my sister. I'm sure he'll love it.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

What a complete disaster. For the past few weeks, I've been resisting the request every time I log in to Blogger, to switch over to the all-new 'Blogger Beta', on the grounds that I really don't have time to learn anything new, and I'm quite happy with the way things are, thank you very much. But having been asked for the umpteenth time this afternoon, and been told that within a couple of months everyone will have to switch anyway, I decided not to postpone the inevitable any longer, and merrily transferred my blogs across. Big mistake.

The Blogger Help section says this:

"Does upgrading change my account, profile or blogs in any way?
The only thing to change will be your login information. Everything else about Blogger remains the same: your profile, your display name, the addresses of your blogs, etc."

Not true. At least not if you've been with Blogger since 2002. Back then, the standard format was to automatically create an archive page with links to each month's posts. You can access it by clicking on 'Blog Archive' above, or 'Archives' to the left. Or at least you could. Not any more, because Blogger doesn't use that format these days, and appears to have completely forgotten that its original customers still do, because switching to Blogger Beta has instantly erased my archive page. Meaning that loyal Bloggers like myself, who have been here from the beginning, now have no access to their archives.

But it doesn't end there. My template was one of the original Blogger templates, with images hosted by Blogger themselves. They stopped offering this template to new users years ago, but obviously continued to host the required images for people like me who use this layout.

Not any more. Blogger haven't bothered transferring those images across to the new servers, meaning that the moment I agreed to have my blog upgraded, it could no longer find the required images (the top left picture, etc), replacing them instead with blank white spaces.

Fortunately, I've managed to locate the required files on someone else's website, and have uploaded them to my own server (obviously people without their own website are stuffed), so with a bit of tinkering I've succeeded in getting my blog to display more or less correctly. As for my archives, the posts are still there, I just have no way of accessing them. Which means a lot of work adding dozens of links to the sidebar. And there was me thinking I didn't have time to upgrade. I am not happy.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Optical IllusionThis is the best optical illusion I've ever seen. If you stare at the picture for long enough, you should see a giraffe.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Well I'm back home, and strangely the number of job offers I've received off the back of my play's three night run in Suffolk can be counted on the fingers of the Venus de Milo. I blame the East Anglian Daily Times. They'd rather preview Snow White at the Ipswich Regent than attend a genuine theatrical event. Mind you, in addition to showbiz legends Sooty & Sweep, the Regent's line-up this year features "arguably the nation's favourite panto dame, Malcolm Lord". Interesting use of the word 'arguably' there. But I'm sure the critics will be praising the Lord come Christmas. It's just a shame I've never heard of him.

Anyhoo, Lisa and I have had a fun-filled couple of days. Sunday was spent playing Monopoly with my 7 year old niece, who managed to wipe the floor with both of us, before challenging us to a game of Junior Trivial Pursuit. The questions are apparently aimed at 8-12 year olds, and are multiple choice, so Lisa rolled the dice feeling supremely confident, and immediately got the question "What's the name of Barbie's little sister?". It was all downhill from there really.

On Monday we ventured into Chelmsford for the opening of a new Tesco Home Style store, which is like a supermarket but without the food. They were offering £100 to the first person through the door at 9am, but having slept in all morning and then made it as far as the Next changing rooms, I couldn't actually get Lisa to Tescos until five, by which time the champagne had gone flat and there was a queue to get out of the car park.

We were supposed to return to the south coast on Monday evening, but as it transpired it seemed far more sensible to eat all my Mum's food and then veg out in front of I'm a Celebrity with a lemon meringue pie, rather than make the journey home. So we stayed until Tuesday instead. At which point Lisa's sister successfully lured us back to Brighton with the offer of cake.

Tuesday was the first birthday of Lisa's third nephew. We'd gone through a complicated and exhaustive selection procedure when choosing his gift, which basically involved standing in the queue at Clinton Cards, spotting a cuddly lion, saying "That'll do", and handing over the cash. Which didn't seem that generous until we arrived at his party to discover that his only present had cost £1.99 from Oxfam, and had been purchased by his parents under the principle of "He's one; he won't know the difference".

On the plus side, the cake was very nice, and just goes to show that when a gateau says you should defrost it at room temperature for two hours, there's no reason why you can't stick it in the microwave for five minutes instead. There's nothing wrong with hot cream on frozen strawberries, and I didn't break too many teeth on the sponge.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Karen Mills & Roy BramwellAh, the roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd, the 20p programmes which ran to a single sheet of A4, and the biscuits which ran out before I got there. All in all my play was a triumph. And I was asked to sign three (count them) autographs, none of which were disclaimers or court summonses. You can't ask for much more than that.

I was joined for this evening of culture by Lisa and my Mum - my Dad and sister were busy meeting each other in St Louis, while my brother and sister-in-law had been invited to a party. Having already been invited to my play. So obviously they couldn't come. I'm not taking it personally. I'm just never speaking to them again.

But anyhoo, the Constable Hall in East Bergholt is not so much off-Broadway as off the beaten track, so after Thursday's driving experience I insisted we leave halfway through X-Factor, just to be on the safe side. Meaning we were so early we had to sit in a BP garage looking at petrol pumps for ten minutes just to kill a bit of time. Having arrived at the Constable Hall, I strode confidently across the car park, into a deep puddle, fell through the door, and found myself in the toilets. It was the entrance I'd dreamed of.

From there however, things started to pick up. I announced my arrival to the lady on the door, who immediately told me how much she likes Ledgers, possibly in the hope of getting me to buy some raffle tickets, before being accosted by Val Eldridge, chairwoman of the East Bergholt Dramatic Society, and one-woman theatrical dynamo, who told me that the cast were all nervous knowing I was there. I tend to have that effect on people. Val in turn introduced me to Kieran Farrell, the director of my play, who made me feel old by being noticeably younger than me and having more hair. He asked about the background to the play, I confirmed that I saw no future in suicide, then I moved along to David Mitchell, very much the Boris Karloff of the EBDS, though I'm told he can do comedy too.

Introductions over, we took our seats, at which point Val Eldridge made her way to the front and announced that they were honoured to have a playwright in the audience that night. I looked around, realised she was talking about me, waited for my spotlight, before realising that nobody cared, and deciding not to wave. Then it was on with the show.

Keith Raby & Karen MillsLedgers might not have been the only play on that night, but it was the first, which is just as well, because it meant that having gripped Lisa's hand in nervous terror through all 35 minutes of my own play, she had the rest of the evening to recover and seek first aid. I might have been close to a panic attack for most of the performance, but I have to say it was outstanding. Well, I don't have to, but I am. Karen Mills and Keith Raby may have looked like Ellen DeGeneres and Fred Flintstone, but they did more justice to my play than a week at the Old Bailey. And I liked Roy Bramwell so much I wished I'd given him more lines. Even the stuffed pigeon excelled itself.

As for the audience, they might have been pushing 60 (in number and age), but they got my 'Malcolm in the Middle' reference and laughed at my penguin jokes, though judging by the sharp intake of collective breath, I might have to cut the 9/11 line.

Anyhoo, at the interval I instructed Lisa to head for the bar and mention in a loud voice just how much she'd enjoyed the first play, while I hunted down my actors and congratulated them on a job well done. At that point I hadn't discovered the lack of biscuits at the tea & coffee table, so I was in quite a good mood, and chatted at length to Keith about the problems of learning his lines. Personally I wouldn't be able to recite more than about three words from the first page, and I wrote the thing, so I had a lot of sympathy. I then shook hands with Karen over a cup of tea, realised I was late for act two, and headed for my seat.

An Evening of One Act PlaysThe second half featured my director Kieran moonlighting as an expectant father, and Roy sitting in a comfy chair reading a catalogue, before ending on a high with David Mitchell looking menacing in a boiler suit. Performances over, Keith asked me to sign his programme, Val followed suit, and I congratulated Kieran on his directing. Before forcing my autograph on him too. I felt bad afterwards that I hadn't written any personal dedications, but I'm not used to the pressures of public life, and it was all I could do to remember my own name. To be honest, I'm not even sure I spelt it right on one of them.

But I had my confidence boosted by a woman called Alma who rushed over to tell me she'd love to act in one of my plays. Which would have been quite a compliment, had she not spent act one playing opposite a woman in leopardskin tights dancing to 'I Will Survive' with a rose in her mouth. After that, anything would seem like a step up. But I took it in the spirit it was intended, especially as Pauline, the woman in leopardskin tights, was standing next to me at the time.

Having chatted until my mouth went dry, I was very kindly given a set of photos by Val Eldridge, who personally pulled them off the display board for me, whereupon I said my goodbyes, turned around, and realised Lisa and my Mum had already left the building. Presumably so they could get to the car and pretend to fall asleep before I turned up and started droning on about my play again.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Slim PickingsHere's the picture I completely failed to get last Sunday, courtesy of the Brighton Argus, which clearly employs photographers who aren't easily put off by a lack of breakfast. To be honest though, even if I had postponed my Oatibix for ten minutes, I'm not sure I'd have recognised Fatboy Slim with a beard. And judging by most of the feet in the background, I wasn't the only one looking in the wrong direction.

But anyhoo, as I write this, Lisa and I are in Chelmsford at my parents' house, celebrating the birthday of my Dad, who's 68 today. Unfortunately he's celebrated it by leaving the country for two weeks and going to stay with my sister, so he's not actually here to join in. Which is why I haven't bought him a present. But I am doing my best to eat all his food. It's the least I can do.

Of course, the other reason we're here in East Anglia is this...

FOUR exclamation marks..?
My play opened in the west end... of East Bergholt last night. The first reviews are already in, courtesy of my mother, who travelled up the A12 to represent me on opening night, and reports that it played to a packed house. Well, enough people to pack a house. Which is nowhere near enough to fill a hall. The place was half empty apparently. Which is good news, as it means that very few people got to see Keith Raby forgetting his lines.

As for me and Lisa, we decided to forego the chance to attend my play's opening night, in favour of contracting deep vein thrombosis by sitting in a traffic jam on the M25 for two and a half hours. It may not have had the laughs of Ledgers, but it did feature a lot of the same suicidal tendencies. The 90 minute journey from Brighton to Chelmsford ended up taking us four hours, and having got here ten minutes before my Mum was due to leave for Suffolk, the urge to go and see my name up in lights was outweighed slightly by my determination never to see the inside of a car again for as long as I live.

But hopefully that will have passed by tomorrow. We have complimentary tickets for the Saturday night. That's if it hasn't closed by then.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Brooks Brighton 10KYesterday's event down at Madeira Drive (as I discovered when I wandered down there on the offchance that something would be happening - it usually is) was the Brooks Brighton 10K Race. Or, as I thought when I arrived at the seafront and looked over the railings, two thousand people in primary colours being run out of town by the Lycra police.

As it happened, I was more interested in the people watching, especially as I walked towards the pier and came face to face with singing binman and X-Factor runner-up Andy Abraham. I think. To be honest, even standing three feet away, I wasn't quite sure enough to take a photo, on the grounds that if it wasn't him, I risked a conversation along the lines of "Why are you taking my photo? - You're Andy Abraham. - Are you saying all black people look the same?", and frankly I didn't want to go there. So I just loitered nearby and stared long enough for him to feel uncomfortable and move on.

Go MummyFrom there I made my way to the finish line and stood opposite three small children holding "Go Mummy" signs. Obviously you can be arrested for taking photos of other people's kids without permission, which explains the grainy image - it's not easy getting a quality shot whilst looking the other way and pretending to clean the lens.

Anyhoo, I was a bit confused about how long the race took, meaning the winner ran straight past me and finished in a time of 30 minutes whilst I was facing the other way trying to spot Andy Abraham again. But having watched the first hundred or so cross the line and realised it wasn't going to get any more exciting, I made my way back along the seafront towards home. At which point the bloke on the loudspeaker announced that Fatboy Slim was approaching the finish line. Honestly, they could have told me celebrities were involved. I'd have stayed longer. According to the race website, snooker ace Ronnie O'Sullivan (nicknamed 'The Rocket' due to his love of salads) was running too. And all I saw was an X-Factor lookalike. It's tragic. Obviously I could have walked the quarter mile back to the finish, but I hadn't had breakfast at that point, and a celebrity-spotter marches on his stomach.

In other news, my career as a soothsayer has taken a turn in the right direction. On Saturday I played the lottery numbers which came to me in a dream at the end of May. It's the first time I've used them since inexplicably losing faith in my vision sometime in late July. But lo and behold, they came up trumps and won me a tenner. Obviously it's not enough to cover the eight straight weeks of play in which they won me nothing, but if I put that tenner on a horse, I could be quids in.

Friday, November 17, 2006

In the PinkIt's been another celebrity-packed week in Brighton. I only have to venture outside my front door and I come face to face with a popstar on a trapeze. Well, venture outside my front door and pay £25 to get into the Brighton Centre. But it was money well spent, as proved by this photo of Pink doing the mid-air splits in her underwear. She put on a visually impressive show, which is just as well because I had a group of teenage girls standing behind me who insisted on shouting the words to every song straight into my ear, meaning I couldn't actually hear most of what Pink was singing. But she looked like she was doing a good job. Although I did spend most of the evening wondering about the health and safety implications of dangling twenty feet above the stage on a pair of old curtains.

Not that Pink was alone in her efforts. She was supported (morally speaking - he wasn't holding the curtains) by a man called Mudbone, who, according to his website, gave us "a hold-on-to-your-seats, mind-blowing electrifying journey of controlled craziness through the world of funk and Fresh Mud". Personally I haven't been on a journey through mud since I last went paddling in Southend, and to be honest, I enjoyed that more. He might be a close personal friend of Dave Stewart and Jools Holland, but I can't warm to anyone who raps in a top hat.

I think he dyes his eyebrows.So that was Tuesday. Wednesday, however, brought with it an altogether different class of celebrity. Lisa and I were walking through Brighton town centre when who should we see (well, who should *I* see - Lisa, as usual, was looking in the other direction and saw nothing) but Bruce Montague. Yes, Bruce Montague. Bruce Montague played Leonard the love interest in my Mum's favourite sit-com 'Butterflies'. He's barely worked since, but that doesn't matter - the man's a legend. And a Brighton resident. Much like myself. On both counts.

From there, we made our way back to the Brighton Centre for a second night running to see Scottish sensations Deacon Blue. Here's Ricky Ross announcing the official attendance for the evening...

FiveSuffice it to say, it wasn't a sell-out. Which could explain why, four months after Lisa's Mum bought me full-price tickets as a flat-warming present, the Brighton Argus were offering two for the price of one on all Deacon Blue seats. Frankly they couldn't give them away. Which was a shame, because the show was actually very good. It's the fourth time I've seen them, but the first since the tragic death of guitarist Graeme Kelling from pancreatic cancer two years ago. They replaced him with a couple of bald blokes. It wasn't the same.

But despite that, it was an excellent gig, made even better by a support act - Roddy Hart - who was so good I bought his CD in the interval. The only downside was that having foregone my usual stroll down to the pier that afternoon in favour of going out that night, Deacon Blue came on and mentioned they'd been down there with their kids all afternoon trying out the rides. My musical heroes playing the Dolphin Derby ten minutes walk from my flat, and I missed it.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Well the good news from the weekend is that I can now confirm that my new smoke alarms work. And I have Lisa to thank for that discovery. If she hadn't ignored my advice not to turn the grill up to its maximum setting, and then followed that up by ignoring my suggestion that maybe it wasn't such a good idea to leave it unattended and sit on the sofa watching X-Factor, we'd never have been able to test my new fire alarm system with the billowing cloud of black smoke produced by her flaming cheese on toast.

Unfortunately, as I stood on a stool maniacally flapping a copy of TV Choice at the smoke detector, I forgot to actually thank Lisa for her efforts, but I think she knew I was grateful. She did try to blame me for the bruise which appeared on her nose the next morning, but frankly in the cut and thrust of a fire extinguishing exercise, people are going to get hurt. Yes, I may have hit her over the head with the TV guide, but it wasn't my fault. It was hard to see her through the smoke.

Anyhoo, when I'm not washing the smell of burnt toast out of my clothes, I'm busy scouring the local paper for job opportunities. And here's one hot off the press of the Brighton Argus. It's clearly a prestige position, where only the right candidate will do, so come with me now and play What's My Line...

"We need to recruit additional [job title] to join our well established team. These are temporary positions. This is a very demanding and important role and one where only the best will do. Just some of the qualities you will need are:

  • The ability to sit comfortably and talk enthusiastically for a minimum of three hours.

  • Be jovial, sensitive, caring and have some experience of talking to children.

  • Flexibility with working days and times is required.

  • Full training at our school will be given.

  • All successful applicants will have to undergo full reference checks.

  • You must be a non smoker."

Demanding... important... a training school... Obviously it's some kind of senior social work position requiring extensive counselling skills. But the best bit is this:

"If you have the personality and stamina to be one of our team, please write or e-mail in the first instance, giving your career details."

CAREER DETAILS??? What do they expect? "I've worked for twenty years as the Easter Bunny, and feel it's time for a step up"???

Oh, I think I might have given away the answer there.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Dave (God rest his soul) has tagged me with a request for 'Five Things About Me'. I could count on the fingers of one hand the number of facts I've yet to reveal about myself on the internet, which is handy, because that's exactly what he wants.

I've been warned by means of capital letters that the following paragraph MUST be included in my post. I'm not sure why. Probably something to do with health & safety.

"Remember that it isn't always the sensational stuff that writers are looking for, it can just as easily be something that you take for granted like having raised twins or knowing how to grow beetroot. Mind you, if you know how to fly a helicopter or have worked as a film extra, do feel free to let the rest of us know about it."

I like the way the author of that piece seems to rank film extra work a lot higher than raising twins. But anyhoo. Here go the facts...

1. I'm currently shopping in the town of Suran in the province of Morrowind, where I'm known as Minton the Orc. I chose the name Minton because I wanted to be bad. Even in a virtual universe I can't resist a pun.

2. I buy sugar-free barley sugar (which shouldn't be possible) from Caramella in Kensington Gardens. Which I always thought was in London.

The Missing Link
3. I almost replied to this advert in yesterday's Brighton Argus.

4. I wrote this a couple of years ago, and grew to hate every humourless, snail-paced, painfully painstaking word of it. Though I quite enjoy the e-mails from people who think it's real.

5. I think I'm coming down with a cold.

So there you go. My life is an open book. Albeit with a few pages missing.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I'm so unobservant, I hadn't noticed that my last post was this blog's 900th. If I'd realised, I wouldn't have wasted it making a lame joke about Lionel Blair. But still, having glided effortlessly past the 900 mark, if I continue at my current rate, I should hit the thousand by, oooh, about 2008. It almost makes it seem worth carrying on.

Anyhoo, the good news from around here is that the men who've been loitering in my hallway for the past month have finally finished installing the building's new fire alarm system, and having been here when they tested it yesterday afternoon, I'm happy to report that it's loud enough to wake not only me, but also the dead, whilst simultaneously removing any loose fillings and giving you tinnitus. Frankly it would be less painful to burn to death.

But that aside, I learnt the value of old-fashioned chivalry this week, when I selflessly poisoned Lisa with a Cumberland Pie. Visiting her mother last Friday, we had two of the things palmed off onto us, one with a use-by date of the 7th, the other the 8th. Naturally they were still in my fridge come 5pm on Tuesday, so I stuck one in the oven for my tea. Having cooked it for 25 minutes (200 degrees celsius, top shelf - write in for the factsheet), Lisa arrived home from work with a look of desperate hunger in her eyes, and having watched her eyeing up my pie, which by this point was only seven hours from expiry, I gave in to my chivalrous nature, and let her have it.

At the time of course, it was quite a hardship having to wait another 25 minutes for the second pie to cook, but my suffering was eased somewhat by watching Lisa having to lock herself in the bathroom for the rest of the evening as the effects of a clearly dodgy Cumberland Pie took hold. A Cumberland Pie which I'd have eaten myself had she stayed at work just five minutes longer. There's a lesson there. Though I'm not sure what it is.

Fortunately the Pie of Death had worked its way out of Lisa by Wednesday morning, so I kindly agreed to meet her for lunch for the third day running. I was beginning to lose patience with the local coffee shop's insistence on charging me £1.30 for a cup of tea, so I decided this time to opt for a simple can of Diet Coke instead. Being a high class establishment, they'd obviously been to Lidl for their beverages, and handed me a cheap German can of Coke, containing wasser, koffeinhaltiges and sussungsmitteln, complete with a phone number to ring in Berlin if I had any questions. Making it all the more galling when they proceeded to charge me £1.30 for that as well.
I'm staying at home today.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Well I made it down to the finish line of the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run yesterday afternoon and mingled with the participants for half an hour, whereupon I made a startling discovery: I found, to my great surprise, that it's actually a stultifyingly dull event. An endless procession of old bangers (which all looked the same to me) rolling slowly along the seafront, loaded up with posh (and usually fat) people in furs, headscarves and shooting jackets, waving regally at the commoners lining the streets, most of whom were actually clapping, tugging their forelocks, and saying "We're not worthy". Well, they were clapping anyway. I might have imagined the rest.

Old CrocksAs each car crossed the finish line, the occupants were interviewed by a bloke with a microphone who would ask them where they'd come from (I thought the answer was obvious - London) and tell them how lovely their car was, before giving them the chance to tell him how lovely the weather was. This went on for about six hours. And just when I was thinking how stupid I was to have travelled almost half a mile just to witness this event, we heard from a banger-full of Yanks, who'd flown their car over from Seattle just to take part. Which I thought was unbelievable. Until the Australians crossed the line. I've also discovered this morning from the LBVCR website that the 'race' was 'won' by a bloke from Mexico City. So it's obviously just me who thinks it's a waste of time. Mind you, I've been to Mexico, and a 1903 Berliet is like a modern sports car to them.

Blair Money BoxBut anyhoo, the trip wasn't a complete waste of an afternoon, because making my way across the road near the seafront I discovered this home-made (yet highly artistic) warning sign, which someone has stuck on a traffic light. It's a bit of a coincidence, because it's erected at a pedestrian crossing, and Lisa's main claim to fame is that she once saw Lionel dance across a zebra crossing in Brighton town centre. I had no idea he was earning good money from it though. £60 a time. He must be raking it in.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

It's been a busy week, but if there's one thing I've learnt, it's that my cat's too small to give blood. If there are two things I've learnt, it's that my cat's too small to give blood and I paid my vet far too much for that information. I only popped in for some more tablets for her lifelong bowel condition (which is not as unpleasant as it sounds), whereupon my new vet told me they'd lost the medical notes from my old vet, ran his fingers through her hair (which has grown back with a vengeance since June), put her on the scales, told me the tablets cost £3.16, then charged me over twenty-seven quid. Which is nice work if you can get it. Obviously the vets in Suffolk, who charge less than eight pounds for the same service, are underselling themselves.

And talking of eight pounds, my cat apparently weighs 3.6kg. Which is a shame, because they had a notice in the waiting room appealing for feline blood donors to help save the lives of their fellow cats, but they insist you're over 4kg. And not made entirely of fur.

In other news, I'm still waiting for word from the pumpkin people on my glorious victory, so I'm beginning to think 58kg wasn't the right answer. But to cheer myself up, I took Lisa down the marina on Friday and beat her at ten-pin bowling. I also won 9-0 at air hockey, but to be honest she scored more of those goals than I did.

Crap ToursAnyhoo, I'm off down to Madeira Drive now. I discovered a door under the pier the other day which featured this sign. Unfortunately the door's now permanently closed until the spring, so I've missed my chance of a crap day out, but today it's the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run. The finish line is five minutes walk from my flat, and I've spent the past three days watching them build the hospitality tent, so it's important I get down there and let off a few fireworks. If I can't get onto Flickr today, I never will.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

CharradeeeI do a lot of good work for charity, obviously, but I don't like to talk about it. Fortunately though, blog posts are a different matter entirely, so here's the Christmas box Lisa and I have lovingly (and, let's face it, generously) prepared for an underpriveleged child this festive season. It's what Madonna would have done if she'd had the money. We're taking part in Operation Christmas Child, which sounds like a fun board game, but is in fact a scheme where you fill a shoebox with knick-knacks and send it to Africa. Knowing Lisa as I do, getting our hands on a shoebox was never going to be a problem, so we thought we'd have a go.

Rules state that your box mustn't contain knives or anything of a political or racial nature, so we left out the machete and swastika, and went instead with a cuddly bear, some sweets, a toothbrush (for after the sweets), half a dozen cars, a motorbike, and some New York Yankees official merchandise. We're aiming for the 2-4 age group in darkest Congo, so I'm sure they'll all be fans. Personally though, I was most pleased with the Asda crayons for 14p. Those orphans will never know how cheap we are.

Finally you're supposed to include a Christmas card or photo of yourself. Needless to say we went for the latter. I even signed it, so if that's not up on some refugee's wall (that's if they have walls) come Boxing Day, there'll be trouble. Admittedly I only printed it on photopaper from the local pound shop, so it's about as glossy as The Kemp Town Rag, but that's not the point - I'm an overseas benefactor and I want a shrine.

All we have to do now is return it here, where it'll be stored for a while in the bedroom Lisa and I shared last week, before being shipped across the world to make some small child's Christmas. It brings a lump to your throat. And it's tax-deductable.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Well the good news is I've now received $10 for Friday's blog post, so despite not quite understanding how it works, it hasn't stopped me receiving my money. I feel like Neil Hamilton during the 'cash for questions' scandal. Albeit using PayPal rather than brown paper bags.

But even more gratifying than that, is that I've just read the latest copy of 'The Week' magazine, and discovered that I'm not quite the outcast I thought I was. I'd heard nothing but good things about 'The History Boys' before I went to see it last week, making it somewhat galling to find out just how much I hated it. But it turns out I'm not alone. I just read the wrong papers. Here's what 'The Week' had to say:

"Alan Bennett's award-winning play about a class of grammar school boys cramming for their Oxbridge exams in Sheffield in the Eighties has now reached the big screen. The play was a smash hit on both sides of the Atlantic, said Cosmo Landesman in The Sunday Times, but it astonishes me that so many people regard it as a serious work of art. Granted, 'The History Boys' has some funny lines, but the depiction of life in the school is embarrassingly anachronistic. When was the last time you saw young, working-class males spouting the poetry of Auden and Housman, spontaneously re-enacting scenes from Brief Encounter and breaking out into show tunes from the Forties? And would these same boys have laughed off the fact that one of their teachers regularly fondles their genitals?

Whether or not you admire Bennett's play, there's no doubting the fact that it has suffered in the transfer from stage to screen, said Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian. Nicholas Hytner's film feels stagey and oddly contrived, with the kind of elaborate, highly worked dialogue that is exhilarating in the theatre, but rather unreal-sounding on the big screen."

Which is pretty much what I said. Although they missed my point about Scooby Doo.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

One of the things I like about Brighton is that even a two minute walk to the greengrocer's is far more eventful than a week spent in Shotley Gate. Apart from the week we were in the Daily Mail. I only popped out briefly for some popcorn kernals yesterday afternoon, but in the space of about fifty yards I encountered:

1. A man in handcuffs on his knees in the road, being restrained by a policeman who seemed to be trying to get him run over.

2. Matt Irving, former keyboard player with Squeeze, Manfred Mann and The Senators. Possibly. It certainly looked like him.

3. A 'penny for the guy' boy, who demanded money from me on the grounds that he'd successfully managed to put a scary mask on a pillow.

I then arrived at the greengrocer's where, despite only wanting an 89p packet of corn, was forced to hand over an extra pound and enter their 'Guess the Weight of the Pumpkin' competition. Apparently it's for charity, and I'd have had the deaths of numerous children on my hands if I'd said no. So having read Crash n Donna's Pumpkin Challenge blog post the day before, I made the educated guess of 58kg, and left my phone number for them to call me with my inevitable winnings. Though unfortunately I forgot to ask what the prize is.

I then left the shop, was hassled again by the 'penny for the guy' boy, who really ought to have an ASBO by now, and made my way home past a newly arrived police van into which the handcuffed criminal was being bundled head first. Meaning the only way past was to walk under some nearby scaffolding and a ladder. Fortunately I'm not superstitious, so I'm sure it won't affect my chances of winning the pumpkin contest. Touch wood.

In other news, I've checked my website referrals for the first time in three months, and found that I'm getting hits from the University of Lyon in France, which is apparently "Europe's leading University in Humanities". Making it all the more surprising that I now seem to be part of their English syllabus. I'm sandwiched neatly between Ernest Hemingway and Joseph Conrad. They're the bread and butter, I'm the jammy filling.

Friday, October 27, 2006

McPhilMmm... root beer.

Well ok, it's a diet coke. McDonalds don't seem to sell root beer in the UK any more. Probably because no one east of Delaware knows what it is. But I remember always wanting it as a child. More for the word 'beer' than the word 'root'. Naturally my parents always said no, and got me a diet coke. Much like the girl in McDonalds this morning.

But this is me at the Western Road branch in Brighton today, enjoying an overpriced beverage, whilst pondering whether anyone ever buys a salad, whether any parent has ever managed to substitute their kid's fries with carrot sticks without prompting the kind of tantrum that would break Supernanny's naughty step, and of course why they always refuse to cook me a quarterpounder before 10:30am. I don't get it - they'll happily fry me a bit of sausage to go in a muffin, but burgers are apparently out. Who says you can have a pig for breakfast, but not a cow, that's what I'd like to know. Of course, I haven't had a pig for breakfast since I invited Lisa round for scrambled eggs, but that's another story. And an untrue one, obviously. As if I'd invite Lisa round.

Anyhoo, as I left the Brighton McDonalds (burgerless, and pining for beef) I was accosted by a couple of burly builder types who asked me if I knew of anywhere nearby that does "a fry-up". Clearly McDonalds salads didn't appeal. I was tempted to suggest a fruit bag and a yoghurt from the Pound Saver menu, but I didn't want to get beaten up, and didn't want their cholesterol on my hands either, so I lied and said no.

But anyway, for sharing those timely and relevant thoughts, I'm aiming to be paid $10. As can anyone (within reason) fingering the widget below. Naturally I don't quite understand how it works, but much like the voting system on 'Strictly Come Dancing', I'm just happy to believe that it does.

Anyhoo, as should be obvious by now, Lisa and I are back in Brighton, having driven home through the driving rain on Wednesday night. I returned to a sad lack of answerphone messages, plus 76 e-mails. 72 of which were spam. And 2 of which were identical, as my sister can't use a computer. She has, however, sent me three postcards, including one from the Pentagon, so I can't complain.

Last night Lisa and I held our first ever dinner party. There were four of us, with three trays, two rooms and no table, so it went well. We invited Lisa's sister, plus Turkish delight 'S', who's too chicken to go back to Turkey, and is still hanging about the UK waiting for airfares to go down. Lisa made Italian Beef Casserole from a Gary Rhodes recipe (whatever happened to him?), which went down a storm and produced no leftovers. Which is just as well, as it's beef, so we couldn't have had it for breakfast.

Entertainment consisted of my review of 'The History Boys', a show & tell session with my new debit card (which has now arrived, and was well worth the £5 it cost to have numbers pressed into Lisa's face), and the viewing of a scrotum wax on Channel 5. So needless to say it was a success.

As for this morning, I walked into town, took my photo next to a giant sandwich, then crossed the road to Gamestation where I bought Painkiller and Max Payne 2 - £4.99 the pair. Which is about $10. Hurrah for McDonalds.