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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.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

As I type this, we're still in Essex, but the good news is my car is now MOT'd, and I'm £157 poorer. Or I would be if I'd paid the bill. Unfortunately I couldn't quite afford it after our trip to the Chelmsford Odeon on Monday afternoon. I'm not saying the place is a rip-off, but when they ask you if you want standard seats or premier seats, you choose standard, and they charge you £6.80, you do start to wonder. Of course, that was before we found that the smallest sized thimble-full of popcorn they do is £3.40, the cheapest bottle of water is £2.30, and they'd run out of buns for the hotdogs. So they charged Lisa £3.50 for a sausage. Which she had to wait twenty minutes for.

Apart from that, it was a constant joy. Although I loathed every second of the film with the kind of passion I usually reserve only for June Sarpong and Pete from Big Brother. I realise 'The History Boys' is supposed to be fabulous from start to finish, and to disagree with that view is virtual heresy, but honestly, I hated every ridiculous, pretentious, over-theatrical minute of it, and would happily shoot Alan Bennett with a big gun if I had the chance.

It's not just that the actors give the same performances they'd give on stage, which really doesn't work on film, and means they spend two hours doing a Magnus Pyke impression two feet in front of your face. It's not just that these supposedly working class northern boys speak in a manner which makes Stephen Fry sound like he grew up in the ghetto. It's not just that the headmaster is like something out of Scooby Doo, that EVERY DAMN CHARACTER sounds like Alan Bennett, or that every exchange of dialogue is over-written to the point of pretentiousness. It's not even just that all the actors playing teenagers look about thirty. It's not just that. It's that the message of the film seems to be that sexual abuse of your pupils is all just a bit of harmless fun, and nothing to get het up about. And when your teacher gets fired for it, you rally around to save him, because his daily fondling of your genitals is all just a bit of a laugh.

Oh, and if your other teacher fancies you (because all teachers are apparently gay), it's ok to let him give you a blow job, even though you're heterosexual, because he deserves some thanks for getting you through your exams.

Honestly, if I hadn't paid £6.80, I'd have walked out. It was everything I hate about British theatre, all rolled up into one neat little package and stuck on the big screen. I could barely stay in my seat. Although that was partly because it had next to no padding, and was so hard I was in physical pain half an hour before the end. As if the mental pain wasn't enough. I knew I should have gone for the premier seats.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Driving AmbitionQ. What do you get when you let your 7-year-old niece play with your camera in the back of the car?

A. See left.

Of course, what you also get is a look of extreme concern from Lisa, when that same niece starts scrolling through all the photos you've taken, and shouts "Oooh, naked men!". It turned out she was looking at my pictures of the Brighton Pride march. At least that's what I told Lisa.

Anyhoo, as I write this, I'm in Chelmsford, where Lisa and I have retreated for a few days, partly to spend some quality time with my family, partly to escape the hurly burly of Brighton, but mainly so I can get my car MOT'd on the cheap. We left on Friday night after visiting Lisa's mother, who imparted some of her great wisdom, and informed us that Chinese people never go upstairs on a bus. I assume it's some kind of allegory.

Having settled in at my parents' house, we made our way yesterday to the oddly-named 'Salvation Army-Hadleigh Farm' (their hyphen, not mine), where my niece informed me that I look like Homer Simpson, before demanding that I get married when she's eight. A quick circuit of Hadleigh Castle in gale-force winds, and we made our way back to the cafe for a cream tea. Which, thanks to the fool-proof numbering system used by the waitress to eliminate errors, came out as a cheese & ham toastie.

In the evening, Lisa and I put 317 Christmas cards in envelopes for my parents, to complete the 6,000 they're sending out this year. I had no idea they were so popular. Fortunately I only cut my tongue once, and I'm sure the gum on the envelopes isn't toxic in large quantities. Although my lips have been stuck together ever since. I think I'll suggest they send to close family only next year.

As for today, well so far I've burnt Lisa's toast, broken my Mum's toaster, been shot in the head by a pop gun, and had to wrestle my niece away from playing 'Over the Hedge' for five minutes just so I can write this blog post. I started to feel a little down about it all, but fortunately Lisa was there to buoy me up with the words "Your life's not a complete failure".

It was just after that that she shot me with the pop gun.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Made in Hong KongWell I've moved away from Cordless Illuminated Tranquility Fountains, and on to something far less fatal, by expanding my collection of original artwork courtesy of the Age Concern shop. I'd like to say it's no oil painting, but in fact it is. The artist, as declared by both the signature on the front, and some writing in pencil on the back, is a certain Hin Kee Yong, who I'm sure is a major star in his native China, with exhibitions up and down the country, but due to communist restrictions hasn't made it on to Google. So I can't be sure. But I only paid £3.49 for it, which wouldn't get you much more than a pot of paint and a beret in China, so it's a definite bargain.

In other news, it turns out that unbeknownst to me, the photo I posted on Sunday featured more than one celebrity. The bus in the background (spookily referred to in the comments by a notorious drug-user) was parked outside the Concorde 2 music venue in Madeira Drive (5 minutes walk from my flat), and having passed it minutes earlier, Lisa and I had commented to each other that it looked like the kind of tour bus used by a major popstar. Which seemed a little incongruous, as Concorde 2 is more used to playing host to bands like the Scratch Perverts and The Long Blondes.

But having stolen Lisa's mother's copy of the Brighton Argus on Wednesday, I've learnt that sitting aboard the green bus in that photo was none other than James Dean Bradfield, lead singer of the Manic Street Preachers, who was playing a rare solo gig there on Sunday. Which is mildly amusing, as Lisa's a huge fan, and would have smashed the windscreen and scrambled aboard had she known.

My Flexible FriendNot that Lisa needs a major popstar of course, because let's face it, she's got me. And I've got a debit card. With a picture of her on it. I received word from my bank yesterday informing me that as a valued customer of some standing, I've been carefully selected to trial their new personalised debit card, featuring a photo of my choice. I naturally jumped at the chance. Until I found out that this generous offer involved me giving them £5 for the privelege. But hey, what's £5 when it means I can carry Lisa with me at all times. It's like having two flexible friends in one. And it reduces the likelihood of credit card fraud by making my card significantly less attractive to thieves.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Fountain of DeathThe thing I love about charity shops is that you never know what you're going to find. Take the quality item on the left. It's a Cordless Illuminated Tranquility Fountain. Yes, a Cordless Illuminated Tranquility Fountain. And it was only £2.50. Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, Phil, why on earth did you spend £2.50 on a Cordless Illuminated Tranquility Fountain? Well, aside from the fact that it has a "beautiful faux stone finish" (that's plastic to you and me), and allows you to "Add the soothing sound of flowing water and ever-changing colors to any room!", (although the 'colors' are more like pulsing disco lights, and are anything but soothing), the main reason I bought it was because of the fantastic warning in small print on the back of the box...

The Soothing Sound of Cancer
Oh, and because it was for charity. Let's not forget that. But back to the birth defects...

Aside from being the kind of thing which makes you laugh out loud in a quiet charity shop, thus making everyone turn and see you holding a Cordless Illuminated Tranquility Fountain (which is not a good look), this warning raises a number of questions:

1. Just how tranquil can you feel knowing that your fountain is giving you cancer?
2. Why did they use such a lethal chemical in the first place, rather than choosing one which, say, doesn't lead to three-legged children?
3. Why is it only Californians who know about this?

Clearly Arnold Schwarzenegger's up to his muscular neck in all of this, and refusing to tell the rest of the world what he knows. And is it more than just coincidence that I found this fountain in the Martlet's Hospice Shop? Is it their way of drumming up future business?

Whatever the case, I made sure I scrubbed my hands with anti-bacterial handwash after scanning the box. But it's probably best if I don't father any children until it's out of the flat. I think I'll give it to Lisa's mother for Christmas.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Paul AdamHonestly, I can't even have a game of crazy golf in this town without being bothered by celebrities. Lisa and I have just taken the five minute walk down to Madeira Drive for a round of putting at Peter Pan's Adventure Golf, where we spent an enjoyable half hour watching the group of teenagers in front of us successfully hit the ball from the tee, off the course, through the fence, across the road, and into oncoming traffic, before trying to persuade passers-by to throw it back to them. But whilst attempting to keep a safe distance from the girl who used the putter like a hockey stick, little did we know that coming up behind us at the twelfth hole was none other than Paul Adam! Yes, Paul Adam!

For those who don't know Paul from Adam, he's the former head of A&R at Polydor Records, who made up one third of the judging panel on the mother of all talent shows, Popstars.Nice Paul, Nasty Nigel Here he is with Nasty Nigel, trying to decide whether to shoot Darius for his rendition of '...Baby One More Time'. A decision I'm sure they lived to regret.

Anyhoo, Paul was enjoying a game of crazy golf with his two kids (possibly as part of a divorce court order, who knows), after which they retired to the adjacent children's playground, where he forced an unrelated woman with a small child to budge up so that he could fit onto that bench. Even more shocking than that, however, is that he can clearly be seen still holding the green felt-tip pen loaned to him at the crazy golf, which he has blatantly failed to return. I therefore felt fully justified in invading his privacy, and that of his children, by taking the above photo. Which I shall be handing to the police when they knock on my door and charge me with being a paedophile after being spotted hiding behind those bins with a camera.

Friday, October 13, 2006

I had to take Lisa to the dentist yesterday for a filling. I thought it best to go with her in case she had another allergic reaction and swelled up like a Zeppelin, but naturally I couldn't park within half a mile of Hove, so I was forced to loiter in an illegal bay while Lisa was drilled and filled. Operation over, she informed me that the dentist had told her not to eat for the next two hours - a bit of a blow as she hadn't had lunch at that point. As she herself put it, "What a liberty". I think she's turning into Catherine Tate's granny. She already has the looks.

So I drove her home looking like she'd suffered a stroke, only to find that thanks to the new parking restrictions in Eastern Road, I couldn't park in my road, the next road, or the road after that. By the time I'd found a space I was technically in another county. But at least we got some exercise walking from the car to my flat.

A couple of hours later and we headed to Asda for food. Sadly there was no sign of David Van Day this time (he probably goes to Lidl now the Asda car park is pay & display) but we successfully loaded up on healthy eating options like new Cadburys Melts and Roast Ox flavour crisps. We then returned to my flat where, after driving around the block three times, and cunningly trying a whole new set of side streets, we found we still couldn't park and ended up back where we started. But hey, if you're looking for a cardio-vascular workout, you can do worse than parking up a steep hill five minutes walk from your flat with a boot full of heavy shopping.

Having worked up an appetite, we then settled down to enjoy an Asda Spicy Pepperoni Pasta Bake. Here are the cooking instructions on the back...

Hot Steam WILL Escape
Just one question: seeing as you have to remove the film lid before cooking, why are they so sure you'll encounter hot steam when you take it off?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Sir TomIf there's one thing I've learnt in the past week, it's that the consequences of Lisa's appetite can be far-reaching. When she announced on Sunday afternoon, whilst relaxing on my sofa in her dressing gown, that she was a bit peckish, little did we know that it would lead directly to an encounter with a Welshman and some women throwing knickers. But that's what happens when she refuses to eat my quality Lidl food, and forces me out onto the streets for a two mile walk to Marks & Spencers.

So I headed off into town, loaded up on Parmentier Potatoes and sausages, and made my way back via the seafront, where I encountered yet another traffic-related event, the Brightona Beach Bash, taking place five minutes walk from my flat. It was basically a load of motorbikes, people with tattoos, some odd facial hair, and a middle-aged metal band from Southampton, all strolling up and down Madeira Drive in leather jackets, and making a clean-shaven bloke with a Marks & Spencers bag feel slightly out of place. It's possible I'm in this photo, but even I can't spot myself, and I know what I was wearing.

Anyhoo, having mingled with the biking community for twenty minutes, and wondered how many donations The National Association For Bikers With a Disability get every year, I bought the Sunday Mirror and returned home to cook sausages.

Being someone who likes to keep up with the very latest news, Lisa naturally picked up the Sunday Mirror on Monday afternoon, and having flicked through the current affairs section, stopped in entertainment news long enough to notice an advert for Tom Jones at the Brighton Centre on Tuesday. Which was kind of timely, because we had tickets for it. And had no idea it was this week. Which is what happens when you book things months in advance, and then move house. So with 24 hours to spare, Lisa's love of sausages had saved us from wasting eighty quid on a pair of unused concert tickets. Hurrah!

Of course, some people would say that paying £80 to see Tom Jones in concert is a waste of money anyway. But obviously I'm not one of them. The man's a living legend. Although I hope he retires soon, because I don't want to have to go again.

Anyhoo, on Tuesday I also had the joy of being connected up to the building's new fire alarm system (not personally, but my flat as a whole). After a lot of noise and disruption, the result was a layer of dust all over my kitchen, a load of dirt trodden into my carpet, and my front door replaced in such a way that Lisa can no longer unlock it. Which could be a problem if we have a fire.

Fortunately though, we made it out to see Tom in the evening, which was quite an experience. The support band were the Cosmic Rough Riders, a Scottish band who were actually pretty good. Unluckily for them though, Tom Jones fans are, by and large, a despicable bunch of unappreciative hags (I don't think I'm generalising there), who greeted the Cosmics with regular cries of "Get off!" and "Bring on Tom!", before responding to the announcement of their last song with a huge cheer. I've never seen such embarrassing rudeness. Well not until Tom came on and started gyrating.

Anyhoo, I admit Tom Jones has a decent voice, but when you're sitting for an hour and a half surrounded by hundreds of middle-aged women wearing flashing plastic ears and singing 'What's New Pussycat?" with their hands in the air, you do start to feel a bit out of place.

So that was Tuesday. On Wednesday we met up with Lisa's friend 'S', who met me on my birthday and then emigrated the next day. I'm not sure if the two were connected. He was back in the country to show off his tan, so we took him to the dogs, where he and I discussed form, betting prices and complicated systems, before losing a fortune, while Lisa picked the cutest names and won ten quid.

We then returned home where I reluctantly agreed to let Lisa watch my DVD of The Aristocrats. It's a good film, though I think she's still slightly traumatised. Which is what happens when you miss the second 'r' and think it's a cartoon about cats.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Frustration, n. The feeling you get when Lisa's face unexpectedly (and spectacularly) swells up overnight, making her look like a cross between Leslie Ash and a Tweenie, only for her to refuse to let you post a photo of her on your blog. See also: Tragedy.

You Sitting Bull, me Breathing Tongue.But on the bright side, I do have the notes she made whilst on the phone to NHS Direct this morning. 'Breathing Tongue'. I think it's some kind of Native American name. Which might explain why she listened to the nurse's advice and replied "How?". But whatever the explanation, it was clearly important enough for her to write it down and draw a ring around it. Despite the fact that it was the only thing on the piece of paper.

Anyhoo, Lisa may have looked like Angelina Jolie for the first time in her life, but she still wasn't happy, so after a twenty minute chat with the NHS's finest, we headed down the road to 'BrightDoc', the out of hours surgery at Brighton General Hospital. Which I'd like to claim is only five minutes walk from my flat, but I can't. It's less than two minutes. The doctor we saw there, who was like a female version of Doogie Howser MD, flicked through a medical textbook for five minutes, answered my incisive allergy-related question with a confident "I don't know", then shrugged and gave Lisa a prescription for Piriton. Which we could have bought over the counter. So that was an hour well spent.

Thanks for the MemoryBut in altogether better news, my successful installation of a new graphics card on Tuesday clearly went straight to my head, as I found myself unexpectedly ordering the overpriced bit of plastic on the right on Wednesday, which, three days and a bit of tinkering later, is now sitting snugly inside my PC and merrily tripling its RAM. Who says you need fish oils to improve your memory.

Friday, October 06, 2006

David Van Day!It's David Van Day, formerly of 80s chart-toppers Dollar, 90s chart-avoiders Bucks Fizz, and now taking the 21st century by storm, shopping at my local Asda! Hurrah! I'm not saying times are hard for Mr Van Day, but he was buying rather a lot of Smart Price Orange Squash, and frankly even I don't stoop that low. Although obviously I'm not beyond following him around a supermarket with a camera-phone, which I admit is slightly pitiful. To his credit though, he was very interested in those frozen peas.

Funnily enough, I have Lisa to thank for my latest celebrity encounter. If she hadn't had an allergic reaction to an injection at the doctor's yesterday, come up in hives all over her body, and insisted on standing in front of my TV half-naked and scratching like a gibbon, I wouldn't have gone out to Asda at 9:45pm last night to get her some medication.

And to be honest, I needed something to cheer me up when I got there and found that as of October 2nd, the Asda car park is now pay & display 24 hours a day. Which was especially galling as I didn't have any change with me. So an encounter with an 80s legend whose records my sister proudly purchased (her pocket money paid for that Smart Price Orange Squash), was just what I needed. It helped take my mind off Lisa's hideous skin condition too.

Anyhoo, the good news is that having shoved a tablet down Lisa's throat, and greased her up like a cross-channel swimmer, her skin's cleared up completely overnight, and she's back to the peachy-complexioned girl I know and love. Apart from the numerous grazes from all her scratching. She looks like she's been pulled through a bramble bush backwards.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Play Your Cards RightIt's been an eventful couple of days, most of which I'm not going to write about in an attempt to give the impression that something interesting's happened, but the highlight of the week so far is that I've finally cast aside the shackles of Ludditism, embraced the technological age, and confronted the dangers of static electricity head-on by successfully installing a new graphics card in my computer. The one on the left to be exact. And very nice it is too. I can play Space Invaders and everything. Although I did tread on my webcam whilst trying to get the back off my PC with a rusty screwdriver, so I'm not sure that works any more. But hey, with the amount of dust I found inside my PC, I'm surprised anything works.

Anyhoo, triumphant in my computer-upgrading skills, I opened my front door on Tuesday morning to find the council were out there with a blowtorch erasing half the parking spaces in my road and replacing them with double yellow lines. So the year-long resident's parking permit I applied for less than two weeks ago now entitles me to park about half a mile from my flat. Strange how they didn't mention that when they gave it to me.

But to cheer myself up, I went around the corner to my local charity shop where I found a painting by Bernard Buffet, which sounds like a catering event organised by a Norfolk turkey farmer, but is in fact a French artist who died in 1999. Not that I knew that at the time. But having returned home and utilised the power of my new graphics card by looking at some pictures on the internet, I discovered that if genuine, this painting was probably worth upwards of ten grand. Although the price tag was hidden by a dress in the window, so it's possible they were charging nine.

Either way though, it was the find I'd been waiting for, so I naturally grabbed my wallet and rushed straight for the front door. Only to find I couldn't get out. The maintenance company that looks after (and I use that phrase in its loosest possible sense) my building are in the process of fitting a new fire alarm system, and it just so happened that at 2pm on Tuesday afternoon they were at that crucial stage which involves blocking my front door with a stepladder, some live electrical cables, and a bloke called Marcus.

So I left it until 3:30pm, safe in the knowledge that they were unlikely to sell my painting in the next hour and a half.


But still, I live five minutes walk from Faques Gallery, an art shop which (as the pun suggests) sells fakes. So I'm hoping it had come from there, and I haven't just missed out on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It could have been my only chance to clean up at Sotheby's without actually buying a vacuum cleaner. But never mind, eh.

Monday, October 02, 2006

In the end I never did make it to the Brighton Breeze on Saturday. I felt like I'd taken part in the BBC's Election Night Special two years too early, and as a result was slightly disorientated and found it hard to motivate myself down to Madeira Drive in the afternoon. Even though it's only five minutes walk from my flat. So I missed out on seeing hundreds of air-cooled Volkswagens arriving from Epsom and taking part in a "Show and Shine Competition" (whatever that is).

But to get over my disappointment, I wandered down there yesterday lunchtime instead to see if anything was going on, and what should I find but The London to Brighton Land Rover Run. Honestly, is there anyone who's not driving down to Brighton these days? No wonder I can't park.

So I mingled for half an hour with beefy farming types and people who like to do the school run in a 4-wheel drive with bull-bars, before meeting a few Desert Rats who'd popped over from Iraq for the day. They'd creatively written 'Scudbusters' on the sides of their khaki-coloured Land Rovers, and drawn missiles with crosses through them for anyone who can't read. It was quite artistic.

But the main question I was left with was this:


If it takes this team 8.4 seconds to pull a giant Land Rover 20 yards...

Child Labour

... how long is it going to take this lot??

I think they're still out there now.