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Saturday, March 31, 2007

I took this photo as I was walking along the seafront this morning...

Black Smoke
I think they're electing a new Pope in Hove. Although the BBC seem convinced it was more of a flat fire. Not that the bloke eating his sandwiches seems to care.

Anyhoo, when I'm not blazing a trail along the seafront, I'm feeling sufficiently fired-up to set the world alight by applying for another job. I've decided to leave behind the worlds of celebrity journalism, cat-copywriting, fish-fancying and professional Naziism (those are four links to be proud of) and get into drugs instead. The Royal Sussex County Hospital need a 'Rotational Pharmacy Assistant', which is basically a chemist in a spin. I've had a life-long interest in medicine (I've been a hypochondriac for many years), so I've decided to apply. Mainly because the hospital's about a hundred yards from my front door, so it's a commute I could cope with, and I won't have far to go when I'm sacked.

Friday, March 30, 2007

QuickieI've learnt something today: if you fancy a quickie, go to the woman on the left. I did. And I'm very satisfied. Her husband's no slouch either. It's thanks to these people that I've finally seen the light after eight months of living in darkness. Yes, that's right, they've helped me clean my windows.

I went to B&Q yesterday, and having successfully described what I wanted as "a spongy squeegee-type-thing on a long pole", whilst doing the actions and looking to Lisa for back-up (which didn't come), they sold me the HomePro Telescopic Window Washer & Squeegee, made by an American company called Quickie, which was founded by the couple above after they escaped the Armenian genocide of 1915. I'm not making this up. Although the Turks would have you believe so.

It was £14.99, which was about ten quid more than I wanted to spend, but you have to pay for quality, especially when you're too scared to go up a ladder, so I reluctantly parted with the cash. And may I say I'm not disappointed. I've spent today cleaning my windows (there's only two of them, but I like to claim it's a big job) inside and out, whilst washing my net curtains in Persil and trying not to lose my cat. And having finally finished, it's like someone's turned on a light bulb in my flat. My landlord's like a brother to me, but I had no idea just how filthy the flat was when I moved in. I may withhold next month's rent in protest. Or at least get him to pay for my Quickie.

Anyhoo, now my windows are clean enough to see through, I've decided to branch out into the world of pick-your-own fruit. The flowers I planted in my windowboxes last summer were dead by Christmas, so I've decided to grow strawberries this year instead. Lisa had the day off work yesterday, so in honour of our 34-month anniversary (we're still counting), we spent the afternoon in Worthing, where I bought a pack of six strawberry plants which were reduced to £1.99 on the grounds that they're half dead. It seemed like a bargain at the time.

As the owner of four windowboxes and six half-dead plants, I soon realised I had space for something else, so I also bought a blueberry bush for £2.49. I realise that no one's ever grown blueberries in a windowbox before, but for £2.49 I couldn't go wrong. Well, not until I got home, looked them up on the internet, and found that blueberry bushes don't start to produce fruit until the third year. I wanted a fruit salad by August. It looks like I'll be lucky to get a smoothie for Lisa's 40th.

But while I'm dreaming of blueberry pie in middle-age, the new issue of The Kemptown Rag has hit the streets today. They've published my article about David Van Day, but after some discussion on the consequences of upsetting the bloke who's just paid you £91 for a front page ad, they decided to print it as a letter, rather than a front page exclusive. Which means he's less likely to firebomb the magazine when he reads it, and more likely to come after me personally. If anyone asks, I'm out for the next month.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

I always thought grooming on the internet was illegal, but I found this on the Jobcentre website last night...

Internet Grooming
I had no idea you had to study at college for three years just to groom a cat. I've been dangerously underqualified all this time. No wonder I keep cutting off her whiskers.

But that aside, the winners of the Radio 4 writing competition were indeed announced last night. Needless to say it was another travesty. My two entries (which can be examined here) somehow failed to make the top three, which featured a lame joke about a Front Row presenter in third place, and a wordy winning entry which was described by judge Kate Mosse (who's dating Pete Dochertee) as "clever", "fantastic" and "what magic realism is all about".

My personal favourite though was the story in second place. Well I say story. It's more of a paragraph if you ask me. But here it is, as transcribed by Lisa, who's a trained audio typist, and only needed me to stop the tape about twelve times for her to get it all down. It's by Ann Lesley Mitchell, and is called simply 'Homeless'...

The café opens at five, though the scrum starts well before that. Twenty odd waifs and strays all vying to be first through the door to a welcome from someone who knows. No organic posh nosh experiments here, just a bacon sarnie with a cuppa or two. A glance through yesterday’s paper and a listen to the music on the radio. A blissful hour of warmth for cold-wracked bodies at a table near the fire before the bell rings and the real clientele begin arriving and the prices rise to greet them. Then back onto the streets for another day of less.

The first thing you'll notice is that it's not much cop. The second is that it's 102 words. I may not know what magic realism is, but at least I can stick to the word count.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The things I'll do for a photo opportunity...

Always Read the Label
I think she's still reading the directions on the back. Then it's time to load up the pellet gun and take on her neighbourhood rivals.

I got the cat repellent from the 99p Store last week. I forget how much I paid for it. But if the DSS find out I'm wasting their money on props for blog posts, I could be in trouble.

Anyhoo, if you were up and watching GMTV at 7:26 this morning (I know I was) (well ok, I video'd it), and are now wondering about the identity of the big-nosed bloke in the pink shirt and pink tie (let's just say he was in the pink), being interviewed with his family via live satellite link-up from Adelaide, Australia, about the number of people now emigrating there from the UK, well wonder no more. It was my cousin Nick.

GMTV were extolling the virtues of Adelaide, which their reporter Richard Gaisford seemed to think was some kind of futuristic paradise where "high-speed buses use special rails to whizz you into the city". Yeah, they're called trams. We have them here too.

But the highlight (obviously) was the extensive interview with my nasally challenged cousin. If you missed it, don't worry, I've painstakingly transcribed the whole thing and reproduced it below in all its unedited glory. Enjoy.

Richard: Nick, just tell us, you do property consulting in the area, are lots of Brits coming to you at the moment?
Nick: Loads of 'em. We're full all the time.
Richard: And do they stay?
Nick: They do.
Richard: They tend to stay.
Nick: Never seen anyone move back to England yet.
Richard: That's good news.

And people wonder why we don't have much contact with that side of the family. He could have written that on a postcard. But still, it was worth travelling half way around the world and setting up a live satellite link just to get his nose on camera. Thank god for widescreen.

Anyhoo, Nick isn't the only member of the family hoping for international media exposure today. They're announcing the winner tonight of the Radio 4 Front Row writing competition I entered a couple of weeks ago. Obviously if I'd won, you'd expect them to have contacted me, but hey, this is the BBC. Those £50 worth of book tokens represent half of someone's licence fee. They're not going to send them out without a fight. I expect they're still saving up for a stamp.

So needless to say I'll be tuning in at 7:15pm full of optimism. And adding Radio 4 to my revenge list by 7:45.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

It's me in a high place!

And there were a lot of rabbits there. In fact I saw more rabbits than people, so Fiver knew what he was talking about.

As for fivers of the other kind, well I'm pleased to say I've got my money. And it only took 24 hours of torture, pain and hassle. But hey, the good thing about being unemployed is that you have nothing better to do than sit in the jobcentre for 35 minutes on a Monday morning waiting for them to find the time to see you. Fortunately, when my name was called, I got to meet a lovely young lady who looked up my details, then politely turned the computer screen around and pointed out to me that I did receive a payment on March 13th. I pointed out to her that she was looking at February, she went "Oh yeah...", and we started again.

Ten minutes and one phone call to 'Payments' later, and the lady confirmed that I haven't been paid for a month (I already knew that), and that although they have processed everything correctly (I believe them), "it doesn't seem to be triggering payments". Why, I hear you ask? Well, here's the official explanation from the bloke in 'Payments', via the woman on 'The Signing Team', delivered at a desk in 'Enquiries':

"I think it's caused by some kind of problem with the tax year or something."

So that's cleared that one up. As luck would have it, they confirmed that the likelihood of me getting my next fortnight's payment (due today) was zero, so the nice lady said she'd ask 'Payments' to issue me with a instant giro. She said they were going to ring her back to confirm that they could. I asked "When?". She said "I don't know".

So it was back to the waiting area, where I had plenty of time to consider how much of that giro I could afford to spend on sharp implements with which to run amok more effectively. When 'Payments' did ring back, the news was good. They'd agreed to issue me with a giro so that I could get the cash from my local post office. And all I had to do was go back to the Jobcentre at 2:30pm to pick it up. Like I say, the unemployed have nothing better to do.

So I trudged the 15 minute walk home, considered what would happen if I didn't turn up, then thought sod it, I'll go to the Jobcentre when it suits me. At which point I jumped in my car and fled town, stopping only at Sainsburys in Portslade to buy Lisa an Easter egg and do my bit for the environment by pumping up my tyres.

My destination was Cissbury Ring, an Iron Age hill-fort three miles north of Worthing near the village of Findon. Which is so called because it's hard to findon a map. Apparently it dates from 3000BC, so it's about as old as I feel, and is also a haven for Fairy Shrimps. [Insert your own line about Wayne Sleep here].

Watership Down. Kind of.Anyhoo, I spent a calming two hours wandering amongst the rabbit holes and sheep (who are let loose onto Cissbury Ring for one month a year to keep the grass down), and trying to take a decent photo of myself with the timer on my camera. I just missed a rabbit disappearing down the hole on the right, failed to get up close and personal with a sheep, and nearly twisted my ankle in warren central, but overall it was very relaxing.

From there I headed back to the peaceful serenity of the Jobcentre. Where I had the pleasure of waiting another 15 minutes in a locked room (security's tight when they're handing out giros) before eventually getting mine at 4:15pm. Meaning that by the time I'd got out of the car park and picked up Lisa from work, it was too late to go to the post office.

So it was back out this morning to walk down the road and exchange my giro for cash. All I need to do now is walk the 40-minute round trip to the bank to pay it in. Another half a day and I'll have it all sorted. Thank god I'm unemployed, or I'd never find the time.

Monday, March 26, 2007

That Monday Morning Feeling
It's Monday morning! I'm feeling particularly good today, because I'm planning another trip to the Jobcentre this morning to have a lighthearted chat with their staff about a problem which has so far failed to be solved by three phone calls and a personal visit. They actually owe me a large amount of money which I should have received on March 13th. When it didn't arrive, I had the privilege of spending a lot of time on hold, and speaking to three different people, all of whom assumed it must be my fault.

So last Monday I stolled down to the Jobcentre with a song in my heart (making sure I went in the morning - they're keen to help, obviously, but they close the enquiries desk at midday), where I met with a lady who checked their records, found it was entirely their fault, apologised to me, and promised the money would be in my account within three working days. I said "Is that definite?". She said "Yes".

So that was a week ago. Needless to say I'm still penniless. I've actually had no money from them since February 27th, and have been living on my wits for the past month. So it's a miracle I'm still alive. But hey, I'm sure they'll be able to sort it out this morning. It's what they're paid (on time) for.

Anyhoo, the Jobseeker's Agreement I have between me and the DWP states that if I do my utmost to find a minimum wage job stacking shelves for a living, then in return they'll pay me Jobseeker's Allowance every fortnight. So as they've broken their side of the bargain, I'm obviously entitled to a two-week holiday. Which is handy, as if I don't get away somewhere soon, I'm liable to run amok with a copy of my bank statement, resulting in some very nasty paper cuts. And they wouldn't want my blood on their hands.

So after I've argued for half an hour with the girl on the enquiries desk, I'm going to take the advice of lapine sage Fiver (and I could do with a couple of those), who said:

"I know what we ought to be looking for – a high place, where rabbits can see and hear all round and men hardly ever come. Wouldn't that be worth the journey?"

It would. So I'm going here for the afternoon...

A High Place
Of course, the rabbits in Watership Down had to cross rivers, evade predators and dodge bullets, whereas for me it's just a ten mile drive down the A27. But when you can't afford the petrol, it's quite exciting.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

It's Lisa!If there's one thing I don't talk about enough on this blog, it's Lisa's breasts. Ok, technically that's two things, but the bottom line is I really should cover them (or possibly uncover them) a lot more. Especially since discovering yesterday that I have the kind of girlfriend who's wasted on a blog like this, and really should be featuring on more 'specialist' websites where people will pay good money to examine her assets. I managed to get her on my webcam last night (see the evidence to the right), but I think I flared my nostrils at the wrong moment and ruined the shot.

Anyhoo, this all stems from a visit yesterday afternoon to Bravissimo in North Street, which I always thought was an Italian restaurant, but is in fact a shop which sells "Lingerie, swimwear & clothing for big boobed women". I feel they could have put it a little more tastefully than that (I prefer the phrase 'massive bristols'), but that's their slogan, and they're sticking with it. I should point out that I wasn't a part of this event, preferring instead to nestle comfortably in the bosom of the 99p Store in Western Road, where I bought a box of bandages so that Lisa can practice for a first aid course she's going on next week. She also wants to try putting me in the recovery position, which will probably take me a week to recover from, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Anyway, I was slightly stressed by my experience in the 99p Store, having been forced to stand in a queue while the woman in front of me said "How much is this?" (I think people like that should be put down), but Lisa got on slightly better than me at Bravissimo. Yesterday '32G' was merely the kind of force which could kill a spaceman. Today it's Lisa's bra size. Yes, the trained staff at Bravissimo carefully measured Lisa from all angles using state of the art equipment (a tape measure), and concluded that she's been out in the lingerie wilderness for too long, and needs to come in to a refreshing size 32G. Which is lucky as they're the only shop in town which sells it.

So having been successfully diagnosed as a candidate for the top shelf, Lisa parted with £26 for the bra pictured above. It's a good job specialist magazines pay well, otherwise she couldn't afford to eat. As it is, she couldn't stretch to the matching knickers, so skirts are out til the summer.

But the good news is I've done a bit of research on the internet this morning, and having looked into the 32G phenomenon quite extensively (at great personal sacrifice), I've managed to find a website with information (and photos) for people like myself who have to live with these breasts on a daily basis. It's called simply But be warned, some of the photos are quite explicit. One of the girls is so hot she's got steam coming off her.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Sun Dried Tibetan Goji Berries. Seriously.As I write this, I'm chewing on a handful of Sun Dried Tibetan Goji Berries. No, really. There's no end to the number of impulse buys I'll make when I'm wandering aimlessly around Holland & Barrett on a Thursday morning. According to traditional Chinese medicine, they're believed to improve eyesight and boost sperm production. Which is odd, as I always thought people who produce a lot of sperm go blind. But aside from the medicinal benefits, they also possess the mystical quality of being ridiculously expensive. And strangely moreish. I could be broke within the week.

And talking of money, I learnt a valuable financial lesson this week. If you know you're not going to see your Mum until the beginning of April, don't buy her a Mother's Day present the week before Mother's Day. The thoughtful gift which has been sitting on a shelf in my bedroom for more than a week waiting to be presented to my Mum, is currently being sold at 60% off in the post-Mother's-Day clearance sale at the shop where I bought it. I could have saved myself a fortune. That's if 60% of something cheap can be considered a fortune.

But anyhoo, when I'm not buying overpriced berries and regretting my own generosity, I'm busy hanging out at the jobcentre. I dropped in there this morning to see all my old friends and give them a good laugh at my latest jobseeking efforts. Interestingly though, I was accosted outside by a small group of people who handed me a bright orange leaflet asking if I'm "fed up with being bullied and kicked around by the employment service and their privatised gestapo, Working Links". Apparently, (and this is a fact - leaflets never lie), "their staff earn generous bonuses using bullying and intimidation, making claimants suicidal and depressed so they go off sick".

Fortunately I was already sick and depressed before I signed on, so they can't touch me, but there's a 'Fight Back Meeting' on the first Tuesday of every month for anyone interested in "action, not words". Although let's face it: their target audience are people who are both depressed and unemployed, so I can't see many turning up.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

You know you've got problems when you find yourself lying in bed at 1am thinking about David Van Day. Personally I blame Sarah, the editor of The Kemptown Rag. She e-mailed me on Monday offering me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to write about a three-legged charity pub crawl she's organising for Easter Monday. Apparently I don't just get to write about it, I also get to make a fool of myself in public and take part in an egg & spoon race. It was a crushing blow when I realised I'm busy that day.

But as compensation for my lack of charity work, I agreed to write her an article about David Van Day instead. I felt I had a lot of material to work with, as having written last Saturday's blog post and pointed out all the man's mistakes, I then noticed another three I'd missed. Well I say mistakes. For all I know the word 'propspective' does exist.

So I spent yesterday evening considering the faults of David Van Day. Which meant I was still awake at 1am, and ended up getting out of bed at one-thirty and writing the whole thing on my laptop in the middle of the night. It's how all the best journalists work. I just need to find a safe-house now before the article goes to press. I'll ask the Labour council. Apparently they collect refuges.

In other news, I was watching a TV programme last night about first-time buyers in Brighton, and it mentioned that a lot of people are now buying houseboats in Shoreham harbour because they're a fraction of the price of a one-bedroom flat, and come with sea views and all the fish you can eat. Which was enough to get me straight onto Right Move looking for a raft I can call my own. I didn't find any, but I did find this...

Space For SaleIt's a parking space in Lower Rock Gardens, only five minutes walk from my flat, and it's currently on the market for £30,000. Is it just me, or is that a bit excessive? I wouldn't mind, but it looks so narrow that it's clearly discriminating against women drivers, who'd never get in there in a million years.

But still, it's good to know that if I want to get on the property ladder in Brighton, I can start with a parking space, work my way up to a shed, and within ten years have a small bedsit of my very own. You've got to dream the dream.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Can I just say that it's quite hard to write a blog post when Lisa's incinerating waffles in your toaster and setting off the fire alarm. It's easy to lose your concentration when you're forced to break off in mid-sentence to go and stand on a stool and flap a copy of the News of the World at a smoke detector. But still, the atmosphere's quite invigorating now I'm typing this next to a wide-open window.

LOOK OUT!Anyhoo, the smell of waffle ash in the air is quite appropriate as we've just returned form Hove Greyhound Track where I bet large amounts of money on the canine superstar which is Lookoutforlisa. If only I'd heeded that advice when she started heading for the toaster. As it happens though I did keep a Lookoutforlisa at the winning post of Race 9, but unfortunately saw no sign of either her or any winnings.

I actually had a losing streak all the way up to the penultimate race when I dug myself out of a hole with an ambitious trio and won twenty quid, before winning a fiver on the last by betting on the dog Lisa had deserted at the last minute. It was all nothing in comparison to Lisa's mother however, who cemented her reputation as the jammiest pensioner alive by sticking two quid on a ridiculous forecast and scooping £53.30. It was chips all round after that (potato, not poker).

Afghan RugThe undoubted highlight of the afternoon though was 'The Mothers Day Afghan Trophy' (sponsored by the Taliban) (probably) - a one-lap race for Afghan Hounds. You haven't lived until you've witnessed six hairy hounds lolloping around the track after a day-glo bunny. I haven't laughed so much in years. And I'm still not sure how they managed to stuff them into the starting traps - one of them was the size of a horse. Well, a Shetland Pony. In a wig. It was top quality entertainment anyway. Bring on the camel racing for Father's Day.

Oh, and one more thing...

Mum in a Million
Happy Mother's Day, Mum. xxx

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Big Sis in a Small World
Well my bro' set this up for me so I could keep y'all informed of my travels as I embark on my "Visit Every US State Before I Leave the US Tour" 11,000 mile road trip in May. But as Kansas and Nebraska were proving just too difficult to fit in, I figured I'd fly there for the day last Tuesday instead. Despite what everyone has been telling me, I was determined to prove that there really is something worth seeing in both states. And there is. The WIZARD OF OZ MUSEUM is an absolutely fantastic collection of memorabilia, only 1.5 hours from Kansas City in that well known city of Wamega. We're not in Kansas any more.It is well worth the drive and you can make the self-guided tour last at least 15 minutes if you include the optional photo shoot with Toto the dog. You even get to see actual replicas of the red shoes. But what I'm really looking forward to is going there for Oktoberfest when the 20 remaining living munchkins all return to the land of Oz to sign autographs for fans like myself.

And then Nebraska... oh Nebraska... well other than the fact I nearly lost the state as I tried to take a short cut across many corn fields, Falls City, NE is quite a nice place. Albeit a small place. But they serve nice pizza.

As if that wasn't enough excitement for one week, I returned home on Tuesday night to discover that all my sales on Ebay had ended and I am now $350 richer from selling all my old clothes and shoes. That puts the red pea coat to shame.

Feeling the the seller's bug, I figured I'd hold a good old fashioned American garage sale on Friday. I was there at 6am, as I'd been reliably informed that all the Texas housewives will be there desperate to catch a bargain. I'd also been reliably informed that everything would be sold by 10am so I could go back to bed. Well by 10am, I'd had three visitors, one of which was a friend who turned up to ask me when I could meet her for lunch. Admittedly things picked up a little and at one point I believe there were five people perusing my wares. In fact I got so disorientated by the crowds that I didn't notice one woman walk off wearing my Nike hiking boots without paying for them. I'm sticking to Ebay in future.
Just how short is he?I had a letter yesterday from David Van Day, former chart-topper, Asda-shopper, and arch enemy of hamster-faced scouser Sonia, now close personal friend of David Cameron and prospective city councillor for the Nasty Party. To be honest he didn't just write to me, he sent a hand-delivered, personally-addressed card to everyone on the electoral register in East Brighton. That man is desperate for power.

So having plastered the front of the card with a full-sized mugshot of himself (which is enough to put anyone off) he's chosen to take up the rest of the mailing with a personally written letter stating the many good reasons why we should all vote for him. Which would be fine if the man could actually write. Unfortunately the whole thing is so poorly written it's barely coherent, and would be drowned in a sea of red ink if it went within half a mile of a secondary school English teacher. And if you don't believe me, click here.

You'll immediately notice that the man's proud of the fact that he was actually born in East Brighton. And proud of the fact that he can't spell "actually". Or "whose". And doesn't know how to use an apostrophe. But that aside, my favourite bit is this...

No RefugeJust who are these people encouraging rats by collecting refuges? I'm 100% against domestic violence, but even I feel it should be strictly one person, one refuge. There's no need for people to build up vast collections. It'll only attract vermin. Someone should tell those lefties on the council before it's too late.

[Note: On 21/3/07 I decided to expand the above into an article for The Kemptown Rag. Mainly because I spotted another three spelling mistakes I'd previously missed. So to read the new improved version, complete with gratuitous burger-flipping reference, click here.]

Anyhoo, I have an important Mother's Day outing to Hove dog track to prepare for, but in my absence I've foolishly allowed my Big Sis access to this blog for what may (or may not) become a regular feature over the next few months. So I'd just like to publicly distance myself from the next post. Unless it turns out to be good, in which case I'm right behind her, and taught her everything she knows.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The new issue of The Kemptown Rag is out today (that's not me on the cover), and features an edited version of last Monday's blog post. Well I say 'edited'. I basically just cut out all references to Lisa and pretended I'd gone on my own. It's a bit like being in a boy band - you have to appear clean-cut and 'available' to attract the female fans.

I'm on page six this time, which seems to be headed 'Computer Corner' (they must have known I wrote it on my laptop), but more interesting is that the letters page features an entertaining and informative epistle on local parking regulations from Councillor Warren Morgan, who commented on my blog last Thursday. The man gets about a bit. Anyone would think he was looking for votes.

Anyhoo, I bought The Argus yesterday in yet another misguided attempt to find someone willing to part with minimum wage in return for my services. My favourite advert was for a 'Temporary Smoke-Free Implementation Officer'. I presume they say 'temporary' because if you tell someone to stop smoking, they'll only light up again the moment you leave the room.

But even more appealing than being a Cigarette Nazi was this one...

Into Administration
I'd be no good at the actual job, but I know where I can get one heck of a reference.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Is it just me, or is there something different about this place..? I can't quite put my finger on it...

But talking of things which look different...

Short Fat Hairy Legs
I think I may have missed a bit. Her leg's the same width as her body. But hey, it works for Nicole Richie.

Anyhoo, when I'm not eyeing up my cat's short, fat, hairy legs, I'm spending last night on the fringes of Hove, where Lisa and I baby-sat her three nephews while their parents went back to school for remedial lessons. Or a parents' evening. One or the other. The highlight for me came about half an hour into the adventure when Nephew Number Two announced in a determined voice "I want to kill Lisa!". I told him I know how he feels, and advised him to go and lie down until the urge passes, before realising they were playing Metroid on the Nintendo and he'd just blown her up with a death bomb. It seemed to give him quite a lot of pleasure though. I might try it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

I had a knock on the door yesterday afternoon from a pair of very nice ladies (I don't think they were lesbians, but this is Brighton so I can't be sure) inviting me to come and "live in a peaceful new world". I was tempted to tell them it would be a lot more peaceful if they hadn't knocked on my door, but I didn't. Mainly because they know where I live, and might send round a hitman from the SAS (Salvation Army Service) to rough me up.

He's the GreatestAnyhoo, they eventually agreed to leave after I reluctantly accepted the leaflet on the left, and falsely gave the impression that I might consider going to a meeting at Kingdom Hall where they plan to reveal the identity of the greatest man who ever lived (and died). As it happens I don't need to go at all, because I already know the answer. It was the Pope, two years ago. The clue was in the question.

In other news, I learnt yesterday that the phrase "To be or not to be: that is the question, whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" is an exact anagram of "In one of the Bard's best-thought-of tragedies, our insistent hero, Hamlet, queries on two fronts about how life turns rotten."

Which is so unlikely that I actually spent five minutes checking.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Well as of yesterday evening Lisa and I are back home, having snuck around the M25 when no one was looking and avoided all the people who like to go there on a daily basis to crash their cars. Whilst away, I've received three items of fan mail via my website: one from "a lowly graduate who has as yet failed to convince anybody to exchange cash for her gainful employment" and is therefore refusing to give me any; another who comments "Very very scary how such a seemingly nice guy could be so dodgy! I wonder how his wife and kids are doing now, as she was completely insane beforehand" (I won't tell you who she was referring to); and a third who simply says "Your ace!".

Personally I wasn't aware I had an ace, and I certainly never managed to serve any when I used to play tennis, but I appreciated the comment nonetheless. Especially after coming to the attention of the council with Thursday's blog post.

So with the sound of compliments ringing in my ears, I went to the Jobcentre (sorry, Jobcentre Plus) this morning for my '13 Week Review'. Yes, it's officially three months since I declared myself mentally employable, and what a roaring success that's been. I've boosted the printer cartridge industry with my numerous CVs, and have enough rejection letters to make a handy doorstop. So it's about time the reviews came in. Today's interview was with a man named Justin, and got off to a good start when the bloke on the desk assured me that no one called Justin actually works there. His colleague backed him up, and the matter had to be referred to a third person, who finally confirmed the existence of Justin and agreed to let me meet him.

Twenty minutes later, Justin had confirmed that I'm doing quite well (as well as you can do without actually getting a job), and agreed to remove 'Shelf Filler' from the list of careers I'm actively pursuing.

And for those who think I'm joking...

Left on the Shelf
The other two are apparently non-negotiable, despite my assurances that I'd rather have my own fort or aquarium. I was tempted to quote the woman I saw 13 weeks ago who having put down 'Office Assistant', added "Though no one's going to take you on", but Justin and I were getting on quite well at this point, so I decided to keep quiet and sign the form.

From Strength to StrengthIt was an uplifting experience anyway, so with the sun shining both outside the jobcentre and inside my heart, I met Lisa for lunch at the Strength Coffee Bar in St James's Street. Back in November I mentioned (and not for the first time) that they have the audacity to charge £1.30 for a cup of hot water with a tea bag in it. Well since then the place has had a bit of a make-over, and I'm pleased to say the days of £1.30 cups of tea are well and truly gone. They're now £1.50. I need a job just to pay the lunch bill.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Open to the ElementsAs I write this, I'm actually in Chelmsford on my parents' reclining sofa, next to my hairless cat. She and I came up here on Thursday afternoon with Lisa, after my plan of telling her she could only come if she was ready in half an hour backfired when I found her standing at the door with a holdall at 2:30pm (Lisa, not my hairless cat). As usual we timed our journey perfectly to coincide with a major traffic jam on the M25, and arrived in Essex an hour later than planned. I wouldn't have it any other way.

I've spent the last three days exploring the local area on foot while Lisa reads 'Notes on a Scandal' in bed. Yesterday I made it out of my parents' cul-de-sac and over the pelican crossing to the Boleyn Gardens, where garden designer Bella D'Arcy (a made-up name if ever I heard one) has been instrumental in creating an 'Elements Garden'. I'm quite open to the elements, but I didn't fully understand what it all meant. I sat on the bench in the photo above though and checked my text messages, so I did feel myself becoming one with nature.

Yours for less than a million.From there I headed deeper into Beaulieu Park where you can currently buy houses like the one on the right for £945,000. Needless to say my parents don't live in Beaulieu Park. It's six bedrooms though, so personally I'd turn it into student flats and make a mint.

But when I'm not roaming the northern reaches of Chelmsford, and standing in Sainsburys watching Lisa buy 'Taste the Difference' Belgian Waffles and Pain au Chocolat, I've been busy entering a Radio 4 writing competition. Obviously I don't listen to Radio 4, but fortunately for me, Lorraine, my Scope Job Broker, does. She's supposed to be working tirelessly to find a job vacancy I'm capable of filling, but that's obviously easier said than done, so instead she's started listening to the radio on my behalf, and e-mailing me with competitions.

This one involves writing a 100-word story which features the words Bacon, Bodies, Experiments, Fire, Paper & Organic. Which leaves only 94 to write yourself. First prize is £50 in book tokens (why is it never a top of the range sports car?), and I'm confident of success. Just as long as they don't mind me leaving the 'i' out of 'papier mâché'.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Yes, with a bit of prudent clipping, you too can have a cat which measures just nine inches across and fits neatly into the palm of your hand.

Mine's nine inches. How big is yours?
I see it as the future of pet ownership for people with small flats.

And you're right, I do have a nice duvet. I chose it to match my cat.

But anyhoo, an air of nationalist pride is currently sweeping Brighton, as the Queen and Prince Philip are in town for the day. I know that because I was at the Jobcentre (sorry, Jobcentre Plus) this morning, and had to wait ten minutes to see someone because the woman who was supposed to be there had apparently "gone to see the Queen".

Anyway, having already endured a performance of the Bicycle Ballet at 11 o'clock this morning (did they learn nothing from my experience?) they're currently having lunch a mile from my flat (the Queen and Prince Philip, not the Queen and the woman from the Jobcentre), then at 2:45pm they're visiting the Whitehawk estate. So by 2:50pm their car will be on bricks and they'll be without their mobile phones.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

I've finally found a job with the kind of hours I'd like to work. This one comes courtesy of the Jobcentre (sorry, Jobcentre Plus) website:

Part-Time Job
1.76 hours a week. By my calculations that's 105 minutes, which works out at 21 minutes a day. I reckon I could manage that. They're even offering a pension. You wouldn't want to be late though, or you'll miss your whole day's work.

Of course, it could be a misprint. They could mean 176 hours a week. Which is about eight more than I'm willing to work.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

I read today that apparently one third of people who die from a second heart attack do so on a day when the atmospheric pressure falls or rises by more than 10 millibars. Another third die within two hours of waking on a Monday morning. And the final third die within two hours of having sex.

I don't know if that's true or not, but if I wake up next Monday and it looks like rain, there's no way I'm going near Lisa.

Talking of the weather, we're now well into March, the temperature's soaring, and Spring has well and truly sprung (don't argue with me on that point - it'll undermine this entire post). So here on the sunny south coast that can mean only one thing...

A Hairy Moment_ A Close Shave

___________ Saturday _______________________ Today

Notice how she took up half the sofa at the weekend. Notice how now she... um... doesn't. Notice how I triumphantly managed to avoid cutting off her whiskers this time. And notice how the burning hot sun which was pouring through the window on Saturday afternoon seems to have mysteriously vanished since I shaved off all her fur. But hey, I'm sure vets charge less to treat hypothermia than sunstroke.

Monday, March 05, 2007

MagnificentYesterday was the first Sunday of the month, and naturally that could mean only one thing: 'Landscape by Lamplight II: Hove, Actually'. It might sound like a Merchant Ivory sequel by Richard Curtis (perish the thought), but this was in fact the follow up to last month's moonlit jaunt around the seedier side of Brighton's past. And unlike a Merchant Ivory film, I actually wanted to go to this.

Like February's guided walk, this hobble around Hove was led by local historian Geoffrey Mead, who turned up dressed in a black hat and coat looking like a cross between Johnny Cash and a rabbi, and describing the weather as 'balmy'. Though I'm not sure how he's spelling that. The official meeting point for the event was the floral clock in Palmeira Square, but having turned up five minutes early, Lisa and I (oh yes, I persuaded her to come) soon discovered that the actual meeting point was a bus shelter across the road. Geoff may be enthusiastic about his work, but even he won't stand about in the rain.

A bit of laughing and pointing at the man's hat and we were off, with Brighton's answer to Simon Schama leading us straight across the road, over a chained barrier, past the 'Keep Off the Grass' signs, and onto a prime patch of turf at the bottom of Palmeira Avenue. This, he told us, was the location of an exceptional archeological find, when an amber cup was discovered during excavations in 1852. Despite looking like half an Easter egg with a handle, this cup is important enough to have its own Wikipedia page, and is, according to Geoffrey, "magnificent". I'm not saying he's wrong, but the picture's above - you be the judge.

Interestingly enough, the site of the floral clock was once home to an ambitious iron and glass dome, designed by architect Amon Henry Wilds in 1832. Unfortunately he lost patience with his clients when they repeatedly altered his plans during construction and told him his central supporting column was an unnecessary expense. As a result he pulled out of the project, they removed the column, and the building promptly collapsed. Apparently Amon was so traumatised by the event that he went blind. Which is a shame, because if he'd gone on to design houses, he could have called himself Amon Homes.

Anyhoo, as it happens the glass dome wasn't the only thing which came tumbling down in Palmeira Square: the rain was pretty torrential by this point too. So having climbed back over the barrier designed to keep the likes of us out, Geoffrey led us south towards the seafront... and straight into a force nine gale. I'd like to pass on some fascinating facts about regency architecture, but unfortunately I was distracted by my umbrella turning inside out, then breaking, then my realisation that Adelaide Crescent was essentially one big lake and I was standing in it up to my ankles. So it's all a bit of a blur. But I do remember thinking that somewhere called Adelaide really ought to be warmer in March.

Patrick HamiltonFortunately we made it around the corner and into First Avenue, where we stopped at number 12 to look at the blue plaque on the right and admire the childhood home of Patrick Hamilton, writer of 'Gas Light', 'Rope' and (according to Graham Greene) "the best book written about Brighton", 'The West Pier'. Sadly the man was also an alcoholic, and by the 60s he'd had enough of 'Rope' to hang himself, resulting in his death from liver failure in 1962. The blue plaque was paid for by Penguin Books, who I'm sure did it as a mark of respect, and not in an attempt to shift a few copies of his last paperback.

From there we made our way north by northwest (which is one Hitchcock film Hamilton didn't write) into Grand Avenue, past the war memorial, and down to the southern end where Geoff informed us that the homes used to feature baths with three taps: one for hot, one for cold, and one for seawater, which was pumped in from giant tanks beneath the road. These tanks were sealed up some years ago. Possibly around the time they invented Radox.

Nearby is the Queen Victoria Memorial, created by sculptor to the stars, Sir Thomas Brock, more than a hundred years ago. Apparently it was due to be unveiled on the 25th of January, 1901. Which is a bit of a shame as Victoria died on the 22nd. Timing never was her strong point.

By now we'd absorbed quite a lot of history, and it was clearly having an effect on Lisa. As we made our way along the seafront, fully immersing ourselves in the rich atmosphere of Hove's glorious past, Lisa turned to me with a look of quiet contemplation in her eyes and said...

"Can we go to McDonalds after this?"

Naturally I said yes. It's not wise to argue with a woman who looks like the Grim Reaper. (That was her own fault for wearing a hood). (Although the scythe didn't help).

Turning inland again, we headed up through Osborne Villas which, according to the woman walking in front of me (who was not so much a guide as a gossip), featured the former home of Jordan's Mum. Strangely, that one didn't have a blue plaque.

Dresswell of HoveFrom there it was back into Church Road, past the traditional ladies clothes shop 'Dresswell of Hove', followed a few doors down by the traditional men's toupé shop 'Rug World' (or possibly they just sell carpets).

Heading across Wilbury Road, where Freemasons go to die (apparently), we soon arrived back in Palmeira Square. Geoffrey ended by telling us that Brighton has more restaurants per head of population than anywhere outside of London and Edinburgh. I thought for a moment it was his way of inviting us all out to dinner, but sadly he just passed the hat around (literally) for a donation to 'The Friends of Hove Museum'. I thanked him and handed over a pound. I don't make friends easily.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

To Phillip, From GeorginaOk, this is getting slightly ridiculous now. On Saturday I sent off my application for the job at Brighton Sea Life Centre which, according to the job description, consisted entirely of "giving talks to the public, keeping the centre clean and tidy and helping in other areas". This morning I've received a letter back from Georgina Tunbridge, Front of House Manager, informing me that "after very careful consideration" they regret that my "qualifications and experience do not fit the profile for this position as accurately as the other candidates".

You can tell they mean it when they say they've given me "very careful consideration", because the letter's dated Monday, meaning they managed to turn me down the same day they got my CV. That's what I call efficiency. You can't hang about when you've got turtles to feed.

Interestingly, Georgina's impatience to get back to me a full two weeks before the closing date for the job, led her to spell my name wrong a total of three times and use the word 'process' when she meant 'proceed'. But I can forgive her that. It can't be easy having to tell someone they don't have the qualifications or experience to sweep your floors for minimum wage. I expect the pressure got to her.

So Lewes District Council don't trust me to clean their fort, the Argus don't want me to write for them, Cats Protection can do without my copywriting skills, and the Sea Life Centre aren't prepared to part with £5.35 an hour to let me near their fish.

It reminds me of my favourite episode of The Simpsons where Homer gets screwed over by a plumber, after which his chair breaks, prompting him to add them both to a lengthy piece of paper headed 'Homer's Revenge List'. I'm beginning to know how he felt. Of course, in that episode Homer resolves the situation by joining the Masons. Unfortunately, the way things are going, I don't think they'd have me.