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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

It's not until you clear out all your kitchen cupboards in preparation for moving, that you realise just how much food you have that was best before 2003. And to be honest, I'm sure I've used that nutmeg in the last six months, so I was a bit disappointed to find it expired in June 2001. But the real quandary has to be those four tins of baked beans that should have been used by last November. To me that's borderline. So I may still eat them.

But I've chucked out everything else, so my kitchen now looks like it's been hit by a famine. My gran had a better stocked larder at the height of rationing. I'm also trying to cut down to the barest essentials to enable me to move from a 10' by 11' kitchen to one the size of a phone box, so I'm spending a lot of time trying to decide whether I really need seven wooden spoons and three mixing bowls. My current thinking is yes, but I may have to change that.

I also read a quote the other day from the 19th century scientist Louis Agassiz, who apparently said "I cannot afford to waste my time making money". I feel that sums up my life quite well. Of course, Louis was probably thinking more along the lines of his scientific research being more important than any attempts to get rich, whereas I'd just rather go on holiday.

So with that in mind, I've spent the last couple of days discussing possible excursions with my Big Sis and Lisa. We leave for Texas on Saturday, but Sis has booked us onto a heavily discounted four-day all-you-can-eat cruise, which leaves a week on Thursday and sails to Cozumel in Mexico. Once there, you have the option of leaving behind the free food, disembarking, and handing over large amounts of cash for the chance to go on an overpriced excursion.

Current favourite is the 'Hideaway Beach Boat Adventure', where for just $94 per person you get to drive your own two-seater speedboat around the Cozumel coast to "a hidden [though hopefully not that hidden] lagoon and beach". Big Sis is keen to go snorkelling, and is packing the flippers as we speak, while I had just about managed to convince myself that taking the wheel of a speedboat after just a five-minute "safety orientation", is perfectly sensible and safe...

... at which point I sent a jokey e-mail to Lisa saying "Where was Kirsty McColl on holiday when she was hit by a speedboat?"

I chuckled at my own wit. Then decided to look up the answer on the internet.

Yup, it was Cozumel. And she was snorkelling at the time. Apparently plans to rename the 'Hideaway Beach Boat Adventure' as 'The Kirsty McColl Death Tour' were shelved at the last moment. Well ok, that last bit might not be strictly true. But it's good to know that in the wake (no pun intended) of a tragic accident, they're still willing to let idiots like me drive speedboats past scuba-diving siblings for $94. Money well spent in my opinion. Though I'd be quite disappointed if I killed my sister. I wouldn't get any more free holidays in America.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Things I'll Miss About Shotley Gate When I Move to Brighton, #1:

D'oh! A deer!Walking down the road at 7:50pm on a Saturday night and having a deer trot out of someone's front garden five yards away, and wander across the road right in front of you. I've met dogs that are less tame. Frankly I could've ridden the thing. And to be honest, I wish I had.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Sign of the times.It's a sign I tell you, a sign! No really, it is. And as of this morning it's standing outside the Brighton des-res which will be mine, all mine (well, my brother's - it's a small detail) in a matter of weeks. Which is what happens when your mother calls up the estate agents on the phone posing as a rival buyer to see if they're still showing people around. They obviously didn't want the likes of her ringing them up again, so they rushed straight down there with a placard.

Anyway, it's encouraging to know that Wyatt and his son can be trusted not to aid any local gazumpers. Or maybe it's just my Mum they don't want to talk to. But either way, it was good to see that sold sign when I drove Lisa to work this morning. Even if the excitement nearly made me hit a bus.

In other news, I had visual confirmation yesterday of the sterling work being done by local people to assist those unlucky enough to receive a parking ticket. Sitting on the wall outside Lisa's place of work at lunchtime, I chose to pass the time by looking at a nearby car with the numberplate P491 GRD, and trying to convince myself that if I squinted hard enough, I could make it say 'Phil Gardner'. I'm easily entertained. Anyhoo, the car was parked on double yellow lines, and had a parking ticket tucked under the windscreen wiper. At least it did for a little while...

As I sat there squinting, three teenage girls, one of whom was wearing a pink tracksuit top and looked suspiciously like Vicki Pollard, came strolling down the road, and as they passed the car with the personalised numberplate, the Pollard girl snatched up the parking ticket, read it as they walked down the hill, then screwed it up, put it in her pocket, and disappeared into the Jobcentre. Presumably to check for any vacancies at the local Chavs R Us.

Clearly the girl's intention was to save the car's owner from the stress and trauma of finding out he'd been fined. It's a form of community service (and let's face it, I'm sure she's no stranger to that). Of course, she was also saving him from the chance of getting a £30 reduction for paying promptly, but hey, ignorance is bliss, and besides, what's £30 compared to the joy of returning to your car and finding you've got away scot free with your illegal parking? It's a small price to pay for happiness, and I'm sure he'll thank her for it in the long run.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Well I'm back in Brighton, but sadly just for a long weekend. If only the British flat-buying process was as quick as the Thai legal system. To be honest I was lucky to get here alive, having driven across the Dartford Bridge on Friday afternoon with my eyes permanently on the river below, trying to do a bit of whale-watching at 50mph. Sadly I didn't see any large mammals thrashing about in the water, but it did remind me to ask Lisa if she's taking her bikini to America next month.

Having arrived safely, I spent Friday evening trying to conquer a castle with the help of a plastic dinosaur, only to be foiled by a two-year-old armed with a mole. I feel I would have done better if I hadn't listened to Nephew #1 who insisted I scale the ramparts in front of the mole's bedroom window, and try to breathe fire through the drawbridge. I don't think I'll play that game again.

On Saturday, Lisa and I made our way into town, where we successfully got a refund for my dead MP3 player, spent £30 on some visitor parking permits, and bought a suitcase for Lisa's bikini. We're due to head off to my Big Sis's house in Texas in just 12 days time, so we're naturally both keen to get into shape for our holiday, hence Lisa's purchase of Paul McKenna's mighty tome 'I Can Make You Thin'. It comes complete with a mind-altering CD, so having abandoned Lisa's mother in front of the snooker in the living room for half an hour, we settled down for some deep breathing and self-hypnosis. Personally I felt the subliminal weight loss messages were just beginning to get through to my subconcious mind, when Lisa's Mum shouted through the door "Phil, do you want a biscuit?". Which is perhaps not the best thing to ask in the middle of a mind-altering slimming CD. I've been craving custard creams ever since.

On the bright side however, I did find out on Saturday that the Brighton branch of Poundland have excelled themselves. Back in May I discovered that you can buy a pregnancy testing kit for a pound. Well no more. Now you can a twin pack of pregnancy testing kits for a pound. And they come complete with disposable plastic cups for you to collect your sample. So at 50p a go, and plastic cups included, they're clearly designed for people who don't have a pot to piss in. Naturally I bought one. You can't pass up a bargain like that.

I spent Sunday morning in bed with a bit of crumpet, which was very nice. Lisa had grilled it to within an inch of its life, but hey, if you find your bloke in bed with his lips around a greasy tart, you're going to ask a few questions. After that, we were invited out by Lisa's sister, brother-in-law and three nephews for an evening out in Newhaven at a pub/restaurant called The Drove. Naturally we went by car. Although apparently people are abandoning the place in... um... large numbers. Anyhoo, a nice time was had by all, and I was able to chat at length to Nephew #1 who was keen to fill me in on his day. It turned out he'd been to the video game shop to exchange his unwanted games, in particular 'Devil May Cry 2', which, he informed me, was rubbish, difficult to play, no fun at all, and a complete waste of money. So I asked him what he'd swapped it for. Answer: 'Devil May Cry 3'. I'm sure there's some kind of logic there.

Monday, January 16, 2006

I realise that the entertainment value of my blog has increased significantly since I stopped coming here, and the number of comments seems to have grown by a factor of three, but sadly all good things must come to an end. So I'm back. Hurrah! But only for the day. I wouldn't want it to become a habit.

Anyhoo, the exciting news of the week is that the schedule outlined in my last post is coming true before my very eyes, and as of this morning, my brother's insultingly low opening offer for the one-bedroom flat in Brighton has been accepted. Which either means the vendor recognises that we're a tough-talking, no-compromising flat-buying force to be reckoned with, and to even consider haggling over the price would be futile... or there's something dodgy about the flat and he's desperate to offload it. I'm sure it's the former.

But for now I'm just a survey and a solicitor away from filling this kitchen with Weight Watchers ready meals and tins of tuna. Yes, I know it's a little small, but it does come with its own fire extinguisher, and let's not forget that Lisa is fire extinguisher trained. So I might let her cook me some miracle weight loss lasagne.

On the downside, it doesn't have any windows, meaning I may have to bid farewell to my lovely cow-duck-and-chicken-festooned kitchen curtains. Which would clearly be a wrench.

It's a good time to be moving to Brighton though, as the local Bears are on the verge of getting a Celebrity Big Brother. Sadly it's not George Galloway, but even so, I wouldn't mind living next door to Dennis Rodman.

In other news, I had an interesting Friday the 13th, when I discovered this page on the BBC website at about 7pm, decided it was fate that I'd stumbled across an appeal for sketches from a comedy group I'd never have heard of were it not for the fact that Dave links to them, and due to the similar number of letters in 'Mulled Whines' and 'Bearded Ladies', we're side by side on his blog, and I'd found the page just five hours before the deadline date... and therefore decided to spend the entire evening typing out a sketch in radio format.

Unfortunately, being Friday the 13th, I naturally had a malfunction in the BBC's radio script template, resulting in the loss of half the sketch, a swift retype, a lot of crisp-eating, irritable muttering, and a final submission via e-mail at 11pm. At which point my MP3 player blew up. And to think some people say there's nothing in this superstition thing...

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

As it turned out, we didn't see 14 flats on Saturday. But only due to estate agents merrily cancelling appointments at the last minute, and another named Warren who failed to turn up altogether. I expect he was too busy rabbitting on the phone (you have time of think of puns like that when you're left standing outside a house for half an hour).

But having been shown around a two bedroom flat on four levels by the wrong estate agent, we did manage to return to the flat pictured in my last post, which, it turns out, my Mum and I weren't actually meant to see on Thursday. Apparently the appointment had been cancelled, but by a stroke of good fortune the message failed to get through and the estate agent was too polite to say anything, so we managed to force our way in after all. Which, if you ask me, is fate, because as we speak my brother is putting in an offer on that very flat, which will no doubt be accepted, the survey will reveal no problems, the tenant will move out within a week, and I'll be in by March. What could possibly go wrong? (Don't answer that).

Unfortunately it means blog posts will probably be thin on the ground for a while. In addition to packing up the contents of a two-bedroom flat and trying to make it fit into a one-bedroom flat half the size, I need to make sure I can afford to move to Brighton in the first place. Which means spending more time buying lottery tickets. So for the time being, blogging is on the back burner.

But I'll leave you with a link courtesy of my sister, who's meant to be on a work-related trip to Florida, but seems to be spending all her time watching 10-minute infomercials on TV. Which is how she discovered Doggy Steps. Of course, working on the principal that 'Sporty Spice' refers to Mel C, I was expecting 'Doggy Steps' to be a site about Lisa Scott-Lee. But apparently it's not. It does however feature a product (not available in stores) (I wonder why) which apparently "gives your pet freedom from the floor". A helicopter would have a similar effect of course, but you can't get one of those for $39.99.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Well the bad news is I'm £73.50 poorer, but on the plus side I now have two brand new tyres on my car... which is still parked outside Lisa's flat, making an appealing target for any returning stalkers and slashers. I also can't help feeling slightly suspicious that the replacement tyre centre turned out to be only a few hundred yards away. Frankly if the boss of ATS isn't sending out his staff to sabotage the tyres of nearby residents in an attempt to drum up business, then he should be.

But fortunately it takes more than a puncture to deflate me (not strictly true, but I'm trying to be resilient), so with a spring in my step and an AA card in my pocket, I succesfully bounced back (which is more than my slashed tyre did when I kicked it) and managed to keep all nine flat-viewing appointments I had yesterday. And the good news is, we may just have found the flat for me. Although obviously I'm saying that without consulting my brother, who's actually buying the thing. But give it a couple of months and I could be living here...

Who would live in a place like this?... well, round the back of here. It's a one bedroom flat with no separate kitchen, and costs £130,000. Which for Brighton is quite good. God, I'm depressed. But hey, it's not my money. I only have to find the rent. Anyhoo, it's conveniently situated directly opposite the school attended by Chris Eubank's children, meaning he can pop in for coffee every day when he parks outside in the Hummer, and is only 50 yards from a children's daycare centre. So when Lisa and I have kids, they can walk to nursery on their own. It's also close to Lisa's work, Lisa's mother, the town centre and the seafront. So frankly I could sell my car. Which is now worth at least £73.50.

Further down the list of potential abodes... a lot further down the list... was the property which the owners had cunningly billed as a two bedroom flat by describing the open area outside the kitchen as 'the living room' and the living room as 'the master bedroom', thus enabling them to get a second bedroom out of the cupboard at the end of the hall. Unfortunately there were three Indian tenants living there, one wouldn't let us into the bathroom, one wouldn't let us into the bedroom, and the whole place smelt of curry. So I don't think we'll be putting in an offer.

But having viewed nine flats in one afternoon with the assistance of my mother, and being more tired than Charles Kennedy since the start of 24-hour drinking, I'm due to hit the streets again tomorrow, this time with my brother and sister-in-law, for what's currently looking like 14 viewings in 6 hours. Which is one in the eye for the estate agent who said she wouldn't recommend seeing more than four in one day. Anyone would think I was keen to move down here...

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Nothing sets you up better for a day when you have appointments to view nine flats in the area, than waking up to find that someone's slashed your car tyres with a big knife. It's like saying "Welcome to Brighton. Move right in!". Frankly it was probably the Brighton & Hove Parking Department out for revenge. But all I can say is thank god for the AA. They're the fifth emergency service. After police, fire, ambulance, and pizza delivery man.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

It's 2006! Hurrah! Naturally I'm a couple of days late for the actual new year celebrations, but I've had important business to attend to. I've been busy lying in bed while Lisa plucks out my grey chest hairs. And I can tell you now - it's hard to write when you're in that much pain. Technically 2006 is my fifth year of blogging, which is a bit of an achievement, although needless to say I've long since deleted the few posts I wrote in April 2002 on the grounds that they were clearly rubbish and contained too many references to nuns.

So far, the new year has brought with it much exciting news, most importantly the naming of Lisa's third nephew. After only five weeks of life, and one quick phone call from the midwife to inform Lisa's sister and brother-in-law that legally speaking they can't just keep calling him 'the baby' for the rest of his life, they've fnally settled on a name. Unfortunately, seeing as I have a policy of not naming any members of Lisa's family on this blog, I can't tell you what it is. But his middle name suggests a liking for bacon. So it's either Kevin, Porky or Babe.

I'm also quite excited, because I've wrested The Sun from Lisa's mother this morning and read Mystic Meg's predictions for 2006, which feature this bit of news for Leos like myself...

"DATES WITH DESTINY: Meetings on the 5th and 14th of any month at a race track, a casino, during a job interview and taking part in a reality TV show."

So the year ahead not only includes a lot of gambling, but I'm going to be on Big Brother too. I can't ask for much more than that. Although the BB house might be a bit full with a twelfth of the population in there.

Anyhoo, as we speak I'm in Brighton, as I was when I last blogged on Thursday. But in between I escorted Lisa back to Shotley Gate for three days, where she plied me with drink and tackled the seven signs of aging with an assault on my chest. I also managed to win £1.37 on the horses and eat a lot of mince pies. So I've started the year as I mean to go on.