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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Me & the SugababesIf there's one thing I like to do on a Monday afternoon, it's hang out with the Sugababes. The one in the middle seemed a bit haughty, but Keisha Buchanan was right up for it. It's just a shame she's a cardboard cut-out.

Anyhoo, Lisa's on annual leave this week, so in an attempt to broaden her horizons, I dragged her out of bed yesterday afternoon and along to the Brighton Centre, which is currently celebrating its 30th birthday with a free exhibition. And it's a good job I did. The doors opened for the first time at 10am yesterday morning, we arrived at 3:15pm, and having been there for 25 minutes, one of the stewards let slip that we were only the 13th & 14th visitors of the day. I don't think the crowd control barriers were strictly necessary.

As it turned out, visitor number 15 was the author of this piece, who swept through the place like a man on a mission, got a couple of quotes from Penny Parker (who sounds like a cheap pen), and promptly left. I don't think anyone turned up after that.

Puppy LoveBut the lack of visitors meant we were able to get chatting to a lady steward who's worked there for more than twenty years, and once had her handbag stolen during an Echo & the Bunnymen concert. She talked of her great love for Donny Osmond (seen right, sitting on the toilet with Lisa), the time she met Russell Watson, the ins and outs of staging an ice show, and her memories of Johnny Cash, before dishing the dirt on David Cassidy.

She then asked why I was taking notes, I told her I'm an ace reporter on The Argus, and she spoke of her frustration with people who begin sentences with the word 'and'. I agreed with her wholeheartedly. And then promised I wouldn't do it.

Like the staff, the exhibition was surprisingly entertaining. In addition to the blurry pictures above, I also have a photo of Lisa dancing with Tom Jones, but to be honest she looks more like a cardboard cut-out than he does, so I'm not allowed to publish it.

I did discover though, that when Radiohead played The Brighton Centre in September 1997, Cameron Diaz, Ewan McGregor and Michael Stipe were in the audience. Compare and contrast that with a performance by Michael Crawford in July 1992, when audience members included Bonnie Langford, Gloria Hunniford and... Lisa. I know which one I'd rather have been at.

Anyhoo, no doubt the finer points of the exhibition will eventually appear here in an overlong article, but for now I'll leave you with the words of Lee Curreri who played Bruno in the TV show 'Fame'. He appeared at The Brighton Centre in December 1982 as part of 'The Kids From Fame', when he reportedly said this:

"I love Brighton. I have seen the pier in the Woody Allen film and it is amazing to see it in real life".

And they say Americans are no good at geography.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Full-length dresses are definitely in this season.

Police Line-up
Oh, hang on, who's that in the mini skirt, doing her best to ignore the bride?

Anyhoo, if you've always wondered what the front line in the fight against crime looks like, now you know. The groom at the wedding we attended on Saturday is a high-ranking policeman, so most of the people above are responsible for keeping our streets free of drug-crazed murdering scum on a daily basis. I think I was the only one there without a background in law enforcement (although I was Head Boy at school, and like to think I ran a tight ship). Even the wedding photographers were Scene of Crime Officers.* It must be reassuring to know that the happiest day of your life is being recorded by cameras which a day earlier were snapping dead bodies at a local murder scene.

Always the Bridesmaid...Obviously the bride wouldn't pose with me personally, but I managed to get her in the background when she wasn't looking. It was like a police surveillance operation.

The wedding itself was fine. Lisa and I left home in plenty of time, immediately got stuck in a traffic jam, and arrived less than five minutes before it started with Lisa on the verge of a panic attack. The ceremony was held in a wooden outhouse (or 'the wedding gazebo' as they prefer to call it), and the bride made full use of the free CD player by coming on to 'Follow You, Follow Me' by Genesis. The traditional Wedding March clearly doesn't have enough drum solos.

The Happy CoupleAs for the rest of the day, well I managed to stuff myself to the point of physical pain, despite being handed a large helping of what I was told was chili con carne, only to find out the girl had got it wrong and it was cold mushroom salad. But the prize for most embarrassing mistake went to Lisa's friend H, who thought the best man's wife was the bride's mother. That took some explaining.

The evening was spent trying to save the barbecue from the rain, whilst grooving to the funky tunes of the fabulously named Teddy Messiah. God knows where they found him. But he did a good job of keeping the party going, despite being expected to hold a disco in a room the size of a broom cupboard, with a dance floor made from a few sheets of MDF.

By the time we got home through the flooded country lanes of Sussex it was almost my birthday. Having been forced to visit Pizza Express three times in the past year, this time around I insisted on a bit of variety. So we went to Pizza Hut instead, where I proved that a large Cheesy Bites Fondue really is too much for one person, and my mother attempted to fleece them out of 50p by ordering a child's drink with free refills. I'm sure that's illegal.

From Roswell to Your KitchenBut I did receive a number of quality gifts, including a cookbook from the International UFO Museum and Research Center in Roswell, New Mexico, which was described by my Big Sis as "the tackiest place I have ever been". And let's not forget, she's been to the Wizard of Oz Museum in Kansas. It's very nice though, and the recipes are out of this world (obviously).

While I'm here, I'd also like to thank everyone who sent me a card, and of course Royal Mail for going on strike and not delivering them until this afternoon.

* Believe it or not, that's not a joke.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Deans PlaceLisa and I are off to a wedding today. It's at Deans Place Hotel in Alfriston, which is designed for people who want to look like they're standing outside a pub in their wedding photos. For an additional fee, Dean will stand in the background giving you the double thumbs up.

The bride is a friend and colleague of Lisa's who I've only actually met once, but judging by the Deans Place wedding brochure, she clearly liked me enough to consider it worth spending an extra hundred quid to have me at her wedding. But the £300 facility fee and £89 per person does include "use of a CD player", so it's not all bad. The evening barbecue, which I'm also invited to, is an extra fifteen pounds a head, but I plan to eat enough to ensure they get their money's worth. It's the least I can do.

Friday, July 27, 2007

I had no idea just how much power I wield in this city.

Back in April during the heady days of the local election campaign, the Lib Dems announced that if elected they would plant more street trees. Naturally I care a lot about the environment, and spend most of my time worrying about food miles (how many miles it is to the nearest food), and I love carbon offsetting as much as the next man (although it's odd how none of this was an issue six months ago), but faced with the death of the planet, I find myself caring more about bird poo on my car windscreen than my chances of being carbon neutral by Christmas.

So I reacted to the Lib Dems pledge on street trees by announcing that I'd vote for any politician who'd promise to chop them down instead. Within hours, Councillor Warren Morgan had responded by saying that he'd fetch his axe.

Nine days later I voted for Mr Morgan, he was duly elected, and three months down the line, this is the scene outside my flat...

Wot No Tree
Two of the three trees I complained about on April 24th have just been felled by a group of council workmen with chainsaws, possibly under the direction of a mysterious figure in a suit with an axe. I feel like the Godfather. I can get anything done in this town.

But when I'm not dictating council policy, I've been busy chatting to Big Sis in Australia. She's just completed her first week at aeroplane school (I think it's some kind of remedial class), and is still struggling to tie her own tie, but despite that, she's just come top of the form in her first exam. Apparently everyone else failed, so I bet she'll be popular in the playground now. They're probably writing 'swot' on her pencil case as we speak.

Anyhoo, in a transparent attempt to become the most popular girl in school, Big Sis is hosting a sleepover this weekend for all her little classmates. They're also going on a 'wine cruise', which is like a pub crawl but with boats. Sis informs me that there are wild dolphins in the river, so by this time tomorrow she'll either be mowing them down at the wheel of a yacht, or overboard and swimming with them.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

I've been to the Jobcentre this morning, and here's what I've got to show for it:

Duties will include nudity.
Can nudity really be considered a 'duty'?

But still, I'm glad "there is no obligation to consider making an application for this vacancy". Although I have always wanted to work for an organisation which is "not registered with a recognised professional body". Especially one which invites applicants to come straight round (possibly stripped to the waist). Unfortunately I've never liked making coffee, so I don't think it's the job for me. Which is a shame as it's only a ten minute walk from my flat. Or a five minute naked sprint.

ExterminateAnyhoo, whilst looking for a job that allows me to keep my clothes on, I've also managed to find time to celebrate the fourth birthday of Lisa's second nephew. Last year the event involved a hedgehog cake which had its innards removed by a baby, and its foot spat out by the birthday boy, but I'm pleased to say that this year the catering had moved on from wildlife to alien villains, and party guests (that's me, Lisa and her Mum) were treated to a very fetching Dalek cake. Everyone knows that Daleks taste better than hedgehogs, and sure enough it was actually very nice. I exterminated two slices.

I also viewed Nephew Number One's end-of-term trophy which he's been awarded for being the school's 'Most Improved Pupil'. I think that's a polite way of saying he was rubbish last year. But the highlight for me was hearing about Lisa's sister's attempt to introduce two small children to each other at the school sports day this week. The boys were called James and Sidney, so without thinking she cried "Look Sid, James!"

Sidney's mother now thinks she was calling him a craggy-faced old codger with a dirty laugh, and isn't speaking to her.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The weekend before last, I made my way up the hill to the Bristol Estate and dropped in on Lisa's Mum (squeezing her in between Simon Cowell and Nicky Keig-Shevlin). I didn't stay long, because I don't like to leave my car outside without an armed guard for more than five minutes, but I was there long enough to notice a sign on the door of her block of flats advertising a Film Making Workshop for residents on 16th July from 7-9pm. Obviously it doesn't take more than a couple of hours to teach people the fine art of movie production. I expect Steven Spielberg learnt it in his lunch hour.

I actually did well to notice the sign, because I was distracted at the time by the fact that the door now opens outwards instead of inwards, having been recently replaced due to yet another act of wanton vandalism. I was also admiring the newly laid floor just inside, which I was pleased to see has now been repaired after the entrance hall was gutted by fire during an arson attack at 3am a few weeks ago. They just need to remove the black stains from the ceiling and the smell of smoke in the lift, and the place will be as good as new. But I digress...

I asked Lisa's Mum if she was planning to attend the workshop, but oddly she had better things to do. Coronation Street was on twice that evening. But as it turns out, it was her loss, because I discovered last night that the fruits of those film-making labours have now ripened on YouTube. So without further ado, I give you 'Welcome to the Bristol Estate'...

As the lady says, "you get the impression it's a rough area, but it's not that at all". Well, maybe slightly. Do watch the first ten seconds though, because they've managed to find the only flower on the whole estate, and you wouldn't want to miss that.

Anyhoo, I'm naturally fond of the area because I spent my weekends there on an inflatable mattress for two years, so that video brings back many happy memories. Right behind Katie in the opening shot is where my tyres were slashed eighteen months ago, and if you watch carefully as the camera pans across, you'll see the door to the bin area where people dump live hamsters. Unfortunately they failed to interview the drug dealers who live next door to Lisa's Mum, or the policemen who regularly turn up to arrest them, but there is a lot about the vegetable market.

And as the little girl says, "you can play all over the place". Which is undoubtedly true. It's usually in the turning space at the end of the road. I've come close to mowing down many a small child there in my time. Usually because they refuse to move out of the way. But on the bright side, my car's only been hit by a football on three or four occasions, and the kid who threatened to hit my bonnet with a cricket bat has probably matured a lot in the past year.

Not that I'm dissing the place. After all, I very nearly moved there. We viewed a very nice flat in Donald Hall Road around Christmastime 2005, and my brother was quite keen, but unfortunately someone had scrawled the word 'SCUM' on the front door of the flat opposite, and ultimately we felt that it might lower property values and stop me making friends, so we headed for Kemp Town instead.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

For anyone who wasn't lucky enough to be watching Channel Five at 10pm last night, here's what you missed...

Phil & Lisa on the rocks.
Fortunately the hypnosis has sorted everything out. And as a bonus, I can now bark like a dog and eat an onion thinking it's an apple.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Look what was on at the Brighton Centre yesterday...

District Convention of Jehovah's Witnesses
I knocked on the door and asked if I could talk to them about it, but they told me to go away.

Fortunately I was only passing at the time, as I was on my way to bag a good spot for this year's Brighton Carnival. I eventually settled on a prime vantage point which allowed me to get a big yellow rubbish bin into every shot...

Walking HeaddressGrumpy Fan Woman
With hindsight, I probably could have chosen a better location. But on the plus side, it was near the Gemini Beach Bar where, in addition to a live band outside, they now have waitresses who wear t-shirts saying 'Thirst Aider'. It doesn't take much to amuse me.

Foyer Pelham StreetAnyhoo, here's a group from The Foyer on Pelham Street, which "provides a safe haven and temporary supported accommodation for fifty vulnerable 16 to 25-year-olds who are homeless or in housing need". And what better way to help vulnerable young people than to make them dress up as Bugs Bunny and The Big Bad Wolf, and parade through the streets of Brighton. Their self-esteem must be sky-rocketing.

Having watched the procession belly-dance their way along the seafront, I then followed them to Hove Lawns where the carnival ended in a three-hour 'Peace Picnic' - ironic, as it was actually very noisy.

The Argus Bouncy CastleBut I did discover why The Argus can't afford to pay me for my articles. It's because they've spent all their money on a bouncy castle. Now I know how Michael Beard spends his lunch hour. I bet they can't drag him off it.

To be honest, the Peace Picnic was more like a field at Glastonbury. It was all henna tattoos, hand-made jewellery, fair-trade cushion covers and a lot of tofu. I did study an exhibition entitled 'Guantanamo: Portraits of Injustice', but when you've seen one person in orange, you've seen them all. To be honest I was more shocked by some of the live music on offer. A couple of those bands really were committing crimes against humanity.

Speaker For... um...As for the agenda at the Speaker Forum, that also failed to excite me. Although if you spend long enough trying to decipher all the times on the left, you end up feeling too confused to declare war on anybody, so they probably achieved something there. The Women's International League For Peace & Freedom sounded like a fun bunch of girls, but I couldn't be bothered to hang about until 5:15pm to find out. And besides, they fought for my freedom to leave early, so I knew they wouldn't mind.

I did, however, chat to a nice lady with a clipboard, who introduced herself as "one of the organisers of the Brighton Carnival", and proceeded to ask me a couple of pointless questions about recycling. My favourite was the multiple choice one about what we should do with the rubbish from the Peace Picnic. One of the options was 'Leave it in the street'. I went for that, but she didn't take me seriously.

We had a good discussion about question number two though, which was "Where do you live?". I answered "Kemp Town", she replied "Kent Town?", I repeated "Kemp Town", she asked me to spell it, I described where it is, she said she'd never heard of it, I said it's very nice, and she finally admitted that "I don't really know Brighton". But hey, I'm glad it hasn't stopped her organising our carnival.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Is it my imagination, or are TV presenters getting younger these days..?

News Puppy
Yes indeed, it wasn't just me who attended the Footvolley International down at Madeira Drive yesterday afternoon - the BBC's Newsround were there too. Minus John Craven, who's too old to connect with today's youth. The young news hound, who to be honest was more of a news puppy, was quite telegenic (he looked like Donny Osmond circa 1965), but I think he was finding the pressure of up-to-the-minute reporting a little tough going.

Take 57Having spent forty-five minutes trying to do his twenty second piece to camera (for the twenty-second time), first from the other side of the court, and then from a deckchair in the corner, the film crew finally decided that they might have more luck coaxing a performance out of their young star if they stood right in front of me and blocked my view of the game.

Having tried it three times in this position, the cameraman finally shook his head, sighed, and muttered "Well I think that's the best we're gonna do..." before stomping off, vowing never to work with children or footvolleyers again. It was good to see a man so happy in his work. I'll be looking out for that report on BBC1 at 5:25pm tomorrow. It should be a cracker.

Plucky BritsAnyhoo, news crews aside, I spent an hour watching the opening rounds of the Footvolley International from the comfort of a free deckchair. On the left are a pair of plucky Brits losing 18-9 to a couple of Spaniards who'd clearly played the game before, after which they made way for a pair of even pluckier Brits who took on the mighty footvolley nation of Holland, raised all our hopes by winning a few points, battled gamely for a bit, and then lost 18-15.

Brazillian BabesAs for the pair of bronzed beach babes on the right, they're apparently the world champions from Brazil, which is why they're allowed to take on the men. And beat them. Having wiped the floor 18-1 with their first opponents, they came out again to take on the mighty Dutch, and beat them 18-9. Whilst they were doing that, their male countrymen were busy crushing another local pair, and by the time I'd sat there for an hour it had become obvious that this was a 'tournament' in name only. It doesn't finish until 5pm today, but I'm telling you now, the Brazilians have won it.

It was worth going though, if only to pick up my free Lamisil Once goody bag. At least that's what the promotions girl called it. When I looked inside it contained nothing but a leaflet about Lamisil, and a small beanbag featuring their logo. But at least I can walk down the street with pride, carrying my smart canvas bag advertising an Athlete's Foot ointment. It's the must-have accessory this summer.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Well I'll say one thing: it doesn't take long to do an annual glow worm survey when there's only about twelve of them. Lisa obviously splatted more in her youth than I realised. Mind you, luminous beetles may have been thin on the ground, but they still outnumbered us humans by two to one. Let's just say there wasn't a lot of life at Waterhall last night.

Personally I blame Brighton & Hove Albion. They were playing a pre-season friendly against Fulham yesterday evening, and felt that gave them the right to close all the roads around Withdean, meaning that anyone hoping to hunt glow worms in the dark had to take a major detour around the northern reaches of Brighton just to get to the car park.

Lisa and I were actually the first ones there, and by standing purposefully in the dark we managed to attract a further two adults and two children, after which the leader of the gang arrived. Five minutes late. It turned out to be my old mate Dave Larkin, accompanied by his wife (or possibly just an ardent stalker). Unfortunately Dave couldn't get his landrover into the car park as the council have erected a height barrier to keep out travellers, so he had to park further down the road with the other gypsies.

I'm not sure if Dave recognised me from Stanmer Park, and I decided not to tell him that I'd made him famous with a very bad pun, but as the only two people there who seemed to be in possession of a set of vocal chords, Dave and I spent most of the next hour chatting about glow worms, vipers and the positive benefits of sheep on landfill sites.

Waterhall, it turns out, used to be a rubbish dump, and is now home to numerous adders - news which filled Lisa with much excitement. Almost enough to make her head back to the car. But we did learn a new word: 'refugia', which is the technical term for a strategically placed plank of wood or sheet of metal under which Dave hoped to find Britain's deadliest snake. Sadly, having lifted half a dozen refugias, all we discovered was a slow worm, various slugs and a spider.

I asked Dave if we should be scared of adders, and he said that the only person to be hospitalised from an adder bite in the last thirty years was waving two of them in the air by the tail at the time, while his mate took a photo. So the answer's essentially no.

Having encountered a toad and lots of stinging nettles, we did eventually find the glow worms, which had turned out in such low numbers that even the children could count them. Not that I blame them - I wouldn't want to live on a former landfill site either.

As for today, well the beach volleyball centre down the road from me is playing host to the Lamisil Once Footvolley International. I find it hard to get excited about an event named after a treatment for Athlete's Foot, but according to the website it's an exciting sporting occasion which has attracted teams from Brazil, Holland and Spain. So if they can travel thousands of miles from Rio, I ought to be able to walk the five minutes to Madeira Drive in the rain.

Friday, July 20, 2007

I swear this is genuine...

Grumpy & Geriatric
I found it in today's issue of Friday Ad, which I've just picked up from my local Co-op. As it happens, I have direct experience of caring for the grumpy and geriatric - I bought my Dad a Father's Day present this year. I haven't actually given it to him yet, but he lives a hundred miles away, and I forgot to take it with me last time I visited. But it's the thought that counts.

I have to say though, rather than hiring a hamster-sitter for minimum wage, wouldn't it work out cheaper to just let Nutmeg die, and then buy another one. Let's face it, he's already geriatric, so the chances of him seeing out the summer are slim to say the least. And you could get a cheerful hamster next time. It's just a suggestion.

Anyhoo, if either of my referees are reading this, start preparing a reference about my love of rodents. And don't mention that Lisa's sister once dropped a fridge on a gerbil.

Employment aside, I'm currently trying to decide whether to brave the elements for the 'Great Waterhall Glow Worm Hunt', which takes place tonight at 9:30pm. Lisa apparently used to go cross-country running at Waterhall, so she's probably squashed thousands of them in her time. Which might explain why they're now doing a population survey. She probably wiped out half the colony before the age of sixteen.

Unfortunately the weather's more barmy than balmy at the moment, and having sat looking out into darkness and torrential rain at 9am this morning (I was up early), I couldn't help thinking that not only was my clock wrong, but my calendar too.

It's particularly annoying, because I wrote a blog post for The Argus on Wednesday which began:

"If you’re looking for somewhere to shelter from the torrential rain, gale force winds and flash floods this summer, then you could do a lot worse than the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery."

That's the closest I've ever come to being topical. Which makes it all the more riling that they haven't managed to publish it yet. Their offices are probably under water. And knowing my luck, it'll be hot and sunny by Monday.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Following on from Lisa's comment here the other day, I found this on the jobcentre website last night...

Sideshow Bob
Unfortunately, aside from the fact that my name's not Bob, supervisory experience is apparently essential, and unless you count baby-sitting cats and nephews, both of whom disobey my orders, throw up all over the place and try to eat all my food, then I don't have the necessary qualifications. Although judging by most of the people who operate sideshows on the pier, experience in a supervisory role means anyone who's been the subject of a supervision order in their teens.

But fortunately I'm not interested in leaving people dangling 120ft above the sea for a living, because I've found something far more up my street in today's paper:

At Home With the Body Piercers
Forgive my ignorance, but how the heck can you "study in the comfort of your own home"? Don't you need someone to practise on? Admittedly I once pierced my cat's ear with nothing but a pair of electric clippers and a lot of enthusiasm, but that was an accident and I'm not sure she'd let me do it again.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Wobble-Board World RecordBig news! The Keith Barron lookalike I met on Friday night was telling the truth! He really was a world record-breaking wobble-boarder! Although when he said "we were in all the papers", I didn't think he meant a few copies of The Bolton News. Sadly he doesn't appear in the photo on the left (and he wasn't Bob Wilson either) but still, it's nice to know he wasn't the complete fantasist loon I thought he was. I wish I'd bought him a drink now.

In other news, I've just had the following e-mail:

"We have filled the position. Thank you for your interest.
Alan Thompson"

It seems I'm not going to be a writer for a law firm after all. Alan didn't quite manage to address me by name, but the fact that he bothered to reply at all puts him head and shoulders above most of the people to whom I apply for jobs. And let's face it, the man's a lawyer, so ordinarily I'd have been charged £500 for that letter. So thanks, Alan. Gordon Strachan was wrong to drop you from the Celtic team.

Anyhoo, chronic unemployment aside, I've cheered myself up by taking The Boris Quiz from Channel 4 News. I like to think I know everything there is to know about Boris Johnson, so I was naturally disappointed to score a feeble 5 out of 10, and receive the following judgement:

"Like Portsmouth, you're too full of underachievement."

And they don't even know about the job situation.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Due to overwhelming popular demand (no, really) here's another picture of Simon Cowell...

Simon Says
The lady on the right with the sunglasses and the eager expression is the woman responsible for the lipstick on his cheek in yesterday's photo. It's not, I repeat not, Eddie Large in a dress. If she looks slightly blurry, it's because she was hurtling towards his face at high speed and about to wrest him forcibly from the arms of a small boy, possibly driven by some kind of powerful medication she'd taken that morning. She was certainly on something. Unless she's reading this, in which case I'm sure it was just youthful exuberance, and I admire your energy, madam.

High RollerAnd here's Simon's Rolls Royce parked outside the ladies toilets, which had been out of order all afternoon, and had just been pumped out by some burly blokes from the council. I particularly like the teenage RSPCA cadet biting his nails in the background. You can't blame him - if I'd been trusted with the welfare of Mr Nasty's car, I'd be nervous too. If he's willing to tear you apart just for singing badly, imagine what he'd do if his Roller got scratched.

While I'm here I'll just shamelessly plug my Argus article on the subject. Thanks go to Lisa for the Sideshow Bob comment. I can't take her anywhere.

Anyhoo, regular readers of this blog (that's you, Mum) might remember that back at the end of May I got mildly irate (which is not like me at all) about the number of young people in America who seem to spend their schooldays misinterpreting my Micro Fiction.

Well I've found another one. Vinny (who's not my cousin) has analysed My Daughter & I, which I wrote two and a half years ago. The thing is, everything he says is 100% true... but I still can't help feeling that he's missed the entire point of the story. I'm tempted to write 'See Me' at the bottom of his paper.

But on a brighter note, I've discovered who's going to be starring in the panto at the Theatre Royal this Christmas. Last year it was Chico from the X-Factor, but this time around my old mate Julien Boast has opted for a more proven theatrical talent. Understandably stung by criticism that Chico's previous acting experience consisted largely of pretending he could sing on national TV, Julien's booked a couple of old pros this year. Yes, it's true, starring in Cinderella at the 200-year-old Theatre Royal in Brighton this Christmas will be...

Kim and Aggie from 'How Clean is Your House?'. I believe tickets are still available.

Monday, July 16, 2007

You never know who you're going to meet on a Sunday afternoon in Brighton...

Simon Cowell
It's Simon Cowell! If you're not familiar with his work, he's the one in the middle. And that's Sharon Osbourne on the left and Louis Walsh on the right.

I should point out that the lipstick on his cheek is nothing to do with me - he'd just been physically assaulted by a middle-aged woman who approached at speed, declared her love for him, and started facially sucking the man. I was going to point out the lip-print, but I decided it would make a better photo if I didn't.

Of course, Simon Cowell is all very well, but personally I'm far more excited about this:

Me & Keig-Shevlin
It's me and Nicky Keig-Shevlin, the Southern FM breakfast DJ! I've written here before of my great love for the woman, and now I've met her in person. I convinced her to pose for the photo by telling her that I listen to her show every morning. I didn't mention that it's mostly against my will. But she turned out to be very nice, and far less annoying in person. She even got her Bichon Frisé, Alfie, to sit at my feet and pose for the camera. It's just a shame Lisa then cut him out of the photo.

Anyhoo, if you're wondering which star-studded event I had to attend to meet all these celebs, it was the Brighton RSPCA Open Day. No, really. It's like a film premiere, but with more dogs. Simon Cowell goes every year. On 20th July 2004 I suggested that he was being blackmailed by the undercover wing of the PDSA, but three years on I've discovered that it's all down to his octogenarian mother, who loves animals (well she loves him) and therefore manages to persuade one of the biggest stars in America to fly over every year to judge a dog show for mongrels.

Bargain HuntObviously I'm not one to criticise, but celebrities aside, the organisers really could have done better. They seemed to be under the impression that if something's for charity, you can offer any old rubbish and people will lap it up. There was stall after stall selling what essentially looked like the contents of someone's wheelie bin, and holding raffles for bottles of shampoo and tins of beans. I'm not making this up. It culminated in our disovery of a stall selling a bundle of half a dozen used copies of What's On TV, dating from May & June 2007, for 50p. The question WHY??? springs to mind. Lisa suggested we buy them, just to see the look on the stall-holder's face, but I couldn't quite bring myself to do it. Even for charity.

The food was another problem. The RSPCA seem to feel that if you love animals then you won't want to eat them, so the catering for this event attended by many hundreds of people consisted of the following:

1 ice cream van
1 vegetarian sandwich stall
1 barbecue selling vegetarian sausages & vegeburgers
1 cake stall

That was it. In addition to the fact that with only four catering establishments, the queues at each of them were stretching halfway to Burgess Hill, anyone who wanted a ham sandwich or beefburger was left on the edge of starvation. Lisa came close to fainting twice.

MongrelOn the bright side, there may not have been any burgers, but with the sun shining all afternoon there were a lot of hot dogs. Nicky Keig-Shevlin arrived just in time for the 'Prettiest Bitch' competition (she was judging it, not taking part), and as you can tell from the picture of a mongrel on the left, Simon Cowell did the honours in the 'RSPCA Dog of the Year', a contest open only to crossbreeds. That's his brother man-handling the bitch at the bottom.

Unfortunately I've now got to attempt to rewrite the day's events for the Argus without slagging anyone off. Needless to say it's going to be a short article. But hey, I'm used to writing Micro Fiction, so it shouldn't be a problem.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Star PrizeIt's not every day you win a charity quiz, get recognised from your photo on the Argus website, find yourself being mistaken for the editor of Queer Corner, and end up chatting to the man who holds the world record for synchronised wobble-boarding. And people say Friday the 13th is unlucky. But sure enough, I'm now the proud owner of a photo frame. It was almost worth the £2.50 entry fee. And £3 bus fare.

Anyhoo, in a last-minute change of plan, Lisa decided to cancel her arrangements for last night and come with me to the quiz, presumably worried that I might meet a Lois Lane lookalike and run off to work on the Daily Planet. We arrived early (which is not like us), only to find that we were the first ones there, and the owners of the Sussex Arts Club didn't want to let us in. But we passed the time chatting to Pete Sanders and Steve Myers, two of hospital radio's campest DJs, who told me they'd just written their first article for The Kemptown Rag, about a recent trip they've made to Krakow. Presumably in search of a plumber.

With his tongue a good four or five inches into his cheek (I think), Pete then claimed to have been mortally offended by the Naked Bike Ride article, after which I told him that I wrote it, he said I should be ashamed of myself, and we parted company.

Anyhoo, to cut a dull story short, there ended up being fourteen of us from the Kemptown Rag, eight of whom I never did identify. But I did get a taste of my new-found celebrity status when I was spotted across the room by someone who's read my Argus blog. Unfortunately she's only read it because she writes one too, but even so, it was a proud moment.

We decided to split into two teams of seven, which would have worked out fine had two members of our team not left "to get a bite to eat" the moment the quiz started, and never returned. I hope it wasn't something we said.

Keith BarronOur team of five consisted of me, Lisa, a young couple whose answers I couldn't quite hear, and a bloke who looked like Keith Barron. Admittedly it doesn't sound like a winning combination, but appearances can be deceptive.

The first half was mostly uneventful, but things picked up at half-time when I went to the bar and got chatting to a drunken Rag colleague who, it turned out, thought I was the editor of Queer Corner. Lisa says it's my mannerisms. I have no idea what she's talking about.

I then headed back and got chatting to Keith, who's either a very interesting chap, or a complete fantasist loon. I still can't make my mind up. He informed me that he's just come back from Manchester (I think) where he was hosting a conference to do with Airmiles (or something), and had arranged a team-building exercise which involved breaking the world record for the most people playing the wobble board in unison. He claimed it had been personally verified by a representative from Guiness, and he was in all the morning's papers.

Naturally I believed every word, but funnily enough I can't find a single mention of it on the internet today.

Keith then added that he's planning to be the first person to travel around the world in a tuk-tuk, before adding "What is The Kemptown Rag?". I thought it was a philosophical question at first, but oh no. It turned out that the bloke I'd been chatting to for the past hour wasn't in fact a fellow Ragamuffin, but had merely been dragged along by his neighbours... who'd then buggered off "to get a bite to eat" and left him on his own. Possibly to avoid hearing about wobble boards for the hundredth time. He'd never even heard of The Kemptown Rag, and had no idea who we were.

But on the plus side, he knew quite a lot of the answers, and that combined with the fact that I was one of only two people in the whole place that knew who Marni Nixon was...

Marni Nixon
... meant that we came away winners. With a photo frame. To share between five of us.

Although the fact that I know a lot about musicals, doesn't make me gay.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Sussex Arts ClubHaving rubbed shoulders successfully with Julien Boast yesterday afternoon, it will come as a surprise to no one that I'm heading off to The Sussex Arts Club tonight, a private members club for writers, artists and people with a GCSE in Media Studies.

Their premises in Ship Street were previously home to the Sussex Motor & Yacht Club, which counted amongst its members Rudyard Kipling (who made exceedingly good cakes) and Winston Churchill (insurance salesman). Naturally standards have dropped since then, and they now let the likes of me in. But only on special occasions. They obviously wanted to make Friday the 13th as unlucky as possible for their members.

In addition to the arty conversation, I'm actually going along to represent The Kemptown Rag in a charity quiz night. I do a lot of good work for charity, and funnily enough I do like to talk about it, so I'm at liberty to say that we're trying to raise money for Coastway Hospital Radio. The last I heard, there were quite a few of us going, which has to be good news. We're more likely to win with a team of twenty.

I've only actually met two of my fellow quiz-mates before, but I'm hoping that if I turn up early and look out for a collection of filth pedlars from an odious freesheet, I should be able to spot them all ok.

Anyhoo, the quiz starts at 8pm, so if I've got your mobile number, you can expect me to start texting you under the table by about 8:05.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Brighton & Hove. It has an air as well as air.

An air as well as air.
I hope the quality of journalism at The Guardian has improved since they wrote that.

Anyhoo, I've spent the day in two of the city's airiest institutions: Brighton Museum & Art Gallery and... um... Jobcentre Plus. The photo above was taken in the former. The latter is decorated mainly with posters about benefit fraud.

I was there (the museum, not the jobcentre) mainly to visit the Stagestruck! exhibition about the Theatre Royal, which is running throughout the summer. I sometimes think I lead a charmed life (not often, in fact almost never, but sometimes) and today was no exception. The exhibition's been on since May 5th, and I chose to visit today for no other reason than I was going to the Jobcentre anyway, and due to the unemployed's well-documented love of culture (and places to shelter from the rain), the Jobcentre was built only two minutes' walk from the museum. So I popped in...

... only to find that I'd chosen to visit on the one and only day of the entire four-month run when I could get a personal tour of the exhibition by Julien Boast, Chief Executive of the Theatre Royal. I even managed to arrive at the right time. Admittedly, not everyone would want to get up close and personal with the man who booked Chico from the X Factor for the Brighton Christmas panto, but I rarely get the chance to meet anyone with such a posh name, so for me it was a stroke of good fortune.

I found it hard to look Julien in the eye without thinking of carrots, but that aside, he was a very interesting chap. I chose not to tell him that I thought the bust of Mrs Nye Chart, the theatre's old manager, looked like Rory Bremner, and I pretended to be impressed by the Aladdin outfit worn by Chico last December. How they managed to secure such an artifact for this collection, I have no idea. I expect they had to outbid the V&A.

The Mummy and the Humming BirdI did see a number of interesting exhibits though. There was an Albert Morrow designed poster for 'The Mummy and the Humming Bird' (which is like Batman & Robin but with more bandages), and a playbill for a 'Grand Christmas Pantomime' performed in January 1940 and entitled 'Heil Cinderella'. It stated in brackets underneath: "a topical version". I'd never have guessed.

I also examined a programme from the February 1965 production of 'Loot', which had been scribbled on by a critic during the performance. He'd written "outrageously callous dialogue", and described a young Ian McShane as "pale faced". He's certainly made up for it since.

It was also reassuring to find that on Tuesday 10th October 1843 the Theatre Royal staged a play entitled 'War of Affghanistan'. Nothing's changed in 150 years. Except we've lost the f in war of Afghanistan.

Anyhoo, having recreated the weather outside by playing with a backstage wind machine and mechanical rain maker, I decided to pay my respects to the history of the place by embarking on a pilgrimage to the original 18th century site of the Theatre Royal, just up the road in North Street. It seemed the least I could do. Especially as it's now a branch of Burger King.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I Yam What I YamWell it's taken me more than a week, but I've finally solved the "incredibly difficult puzzle" set by the organisers of the Brighton Hip-Hop Festival. It turns out that 'Dire Rank' was an anagram of...


I was so close with Kind Rear. I solved it using a combination of lateral thinking, ingenuity, and sheer blind luck, when I happened to walk past a picture of Popeye playing poker (it's a common sight in Brighton) and noticed the word tattooed on his arm. RareKind, it turns out, is a gallery in Trafalgar Street dedicated to "the urban art scene", and specialising in graffiti and hip hop art. Which explains why I've never heard of it.

Anyhoo, yesterday's excitement involved taking the small bundle of fluff I call Chloe to the vet to demand some more tablets for her hideous bowel condition. There's not actually anything seriously wrong with her, but the vet does like to give her a stroke every six months so that he can charge me £23 for doing absolutely nothing. It's an arrangement I don't seem to get any say in.

From there I headed into town to get some more visitors' parking permits, in the misguided belief that people might actually come and visit me one day. I chose to drive, a decision I regretted when I discovered that the multi-storey car park next to the council parking office now charges 80p for 15 minutes. Which is £3.20 an hour. That's more than some people earn. Well, it's more than I earn. It's no wonder everyone parks on the double yellow lines outside the office when they go in to complain about their parking tickets.

Anyhoo, I stood in line for two minutes behind a man who was complaining that he'd moved here two months ago, was told he'd have to wait two months for a parking permit, and was now wondering why he hadn't received one. He was naturally delighted when the woman told him that due to a computer problem he'd have to wait another three months.

Fortunately the man who dealt with me was far more helpful. He informed me that since I last ordered some permits, the computer has accidentally wiped everyone off the database, they have no record of me, and I'll have to fill in the forms all over again. Computers, eh. They're the future.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Big Sis in a Small World
California – Huntington Beach, LA (11-12 June 2007)

Huntington BeachAfter a day of scenic driving along windy cliff facing roads, we arrived at Hungtington beach in LA just in time for me to have a late rendezvous with two friends from my Texan days, J & T. We managed to catch up on three years of our lives in just two hours in ‘downtown Huntington’ which, as they said, is not as tacky as most US beach towns seem to be. Huntington beach was nice and stretched for miles, although I can’t say I can comment from personal experience. We could see it from our room, and from the hotel pool, and so J and I felt this was good enough and decided the convenience of drinks on hand, warm water and comfy loungers were good enough reasons to spend the two days at the hotel.

Huntington Beach Hotel
The second night and it was time for me to meet friend D. Feeling the need to visit a place named after him, we set off to Dana Point and then checked out 1,000 Steps Beach which is a secret place known by just a few locals. And once I’d climbed up the 1,000 steps, I understood why it's a secret. Of course, some of the million dollar houses which overlook the beach have their own elevators or trams so that the 1,000 steps can be avoided. We felt like we deserved some Thai food after all that.

1,000 Steps Beach1,000 Steps

It was our last evening in Huntington beach so J and I had planned to meet my British friend F and visit Beverly Hills and Hollywood Blvd and do general touristy things. But a combination of J getting sunstroke and F falling off her bike meant that our last night in LA was spent in our hotel room, ordering room service. My friends are so inconsiderate sometimes.

Monday, July 09, 2007


It's not every day you see a giant octopus closing in on a crocodile whilst being pursued by a scuba diver with a baby shark.


But then it's not every day you see Snoopy in a Sopwith Camel engaged in a mid-air dogfight with the Red Baron either. In the end they were both brought down by a teddy bear in a bi-plane. Which is something I did see coming.

Brighton Kite Festival
Anyhoo, as may be obvious by now, I spent yesterday afternoon at the Brighton Kite Festival, a free event with strings attached. And very good it was too. I haven't seen so many airborne fruit and veg since the Cheeky Girls played the Dome.

I particularly enjoyed the father & son display duo of Team Spectrum. They're like Team ZX81, only faster and with a better memory. And what's more, they're from Ipswich. Why they were never booked for the Shotley Gate summer fete, I have no idea.

I took a total of sixty-two photos in the space of three hours, and I'm tempted to follow the example of Big Sis and post about half of them, but I'll try to resist. I have however written an article about the event for The Argus, so if you want to read a report of a stunning visual spectacle without any photographs whatsoever, you can check out the website in a day or two.

In the meantime here's a giant inflatable stingray...

Apparently the inflatable Steve Irwin had a puncture.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

I'm writing this whilst watching the Live Earth concert on BBC2. I love the idea of trying to cut carbon emissions by holding a huge electric rock concert. It's like supporting vegetarianism by eating beef. Fortunately I don't have to worry about my carbon footprint as I tend to drive everywhere.

Except for when I'm walking around local parks at midnight, that is. In an unexpected twist of events, my Dad, who was naturally devastated at being denied the chance to read a report on the Stanmer Night Life Thriller, rang the council to complain yesterday and was told that had got the date wrong. It was actually being held last night. So it's a good job I didn't approach that van on Thursday.

Anyhoo, the weather on July 6th was almost springlike, making it a vast improvement on the past few weeks, so I managed to successfully attend the event this time around, and spend a happy couple of hours playing with an electronic bat detector in the dark. My report is currently sitting in the inbox of the Argus website editor, and should be appearing here within... ooh, a couple of days I should think. That's the trouble with not being allowed to publish your own posts.

In the meantime, I've been into town to investigate the 'Frieze Box' - a public art installation being painted outside the library as part of the Brighton Hip-Hop Festival...

That photo sums up Brighton perfectly: bright, colourful, vibrant, full of fun... and with a homeless person asleep in the background.

Pass the Tipp-ExIt's described in the leaflet which was thrust into my hand by a young man from the ghetto as "a living, evolving and constantly changing installation". And they weren't wrong. As one chap was busy painting an iron man on one side of the box, another was merrily erasing it with a bucket of Tipp-Ex and a roller. It's a good job I got there when I did.

And talking of good jobs (these links are seamless), I've decided that writing two blogs and a magazine (or an odious freesheet) is clearly not enough, so I spent yesterday afternoon applying for another job. I'm going to be a writer for a law firm. I'm not entirely sure what the job involves, but I expect it's just composing a load of speeches which begin "I put it to you..." and end with "No further questions, your honour". How hard can it be?

In other news, Gordon Ramsay is currently in town filming for the new series of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares. Having already sorted out Momma Cherri's in a previous episode, he's now tackling the snot-in-a-shell delights of Ruby Tate's Oyster Bar. Considering he only does four shows per series, the fact that he's done two restaurants in Brighton doesn't say much for the quality of local food. It's no wonder Lisa lives on ready meals.