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Friday, August 31, 2007

Lisa and I went to church last night. I think she's on some kind of spiritual quest, whereas frankly I just need a miracle. As it happens though, last night's trip was less about the blood of Christ, and more about the blood transfusion service. Being some kind of angel (or blood-sucking demon) Lisa has now donated blood forty times, and I'm pleased to say I've actively supported her on two of those occasions. The last time was May 2005, when I came away mentally traumatised and swore (literally) never to go near an organised blood-letting again as long as I live. But with me now on the verge of terminal prostatitis, I decided it was time to give it another try.

This time I supported Lisa from the safety of the comfy sofas in the church foyer, which I found far less traumatic, and having pre-booked a bloody appointment, Lisa assured me that I wouldn't have to wait long.

An hour later, and I'd had plenty of time to read all the leaflets on the entrance hall table, which interestingly included this one:

Fancy a Free Curry?
Two of my favourite words in the English language are 'free' and anything to do with food, so naturally I was interested. I'm like the bloke on the left - busy reading the menu while everyone else chats.

I assumed it was some kind of replacement for the usual post-blooding Hob-Nob, but as it turned out, this curry had strings attached. And I don't mean spaghetti...

Main Course
It was actually advertising the Alpha Course, which I think comes between starter and main, and includes a lot of Omega 3. I wonder if the Hindu owners of the Curry Mahal know they're hosting a Christian outreach event every Tuesday night? And just how spicy is the chat? Do you have to swear like a trooper and talk about your sex life?

The choice of venue isn't actually that surprising though. The event's organised by the Church of Christ the King...

Church of Christ the King
... and when your services look like a night out at a rock concert, I suppose you have no choice but to round them off with a curry.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Lisa, I presume.Lisa got a late birthday card yesterday. At least she claimed it was for her. Reading the name inside the card, it was difficult to tell. I think it looks more like bison than Lisa. Or possibly hijön (which is a traditional Scandinavian greeting) (I expect). There was a message too, but frankly that could say anything, and might not even be in English. I find Portuguese easier to follow. Personally I blame Bill Gates. If he hadn't made computers so darn popular, people would still be able to use a pen.

But that aside, I've been to the doctor this morning. The anti-anthrax pills I've been on for the past fortnight may have been successful in protecting me from the threat of biological warfare, but they've done precious little for my prostatitis. So having felt like death warmed up for the past couple of days, I headed back to the surgery to demand some answers. And to read a copy of The Kemptown Rag in the waiting room.

The upshot is that I'm now on another four-week course of antibiotics. It's a good job I don't pay for my prescriptions - I could be bankrupt by now. The doctor also gave me a large factsheet about my condition, so I left the surgery with a spring in my step... until five minutes later when I realised I'd been walking down the road clutching a large picture of a penis. To be honest though, that probably made me less conspicuous in St James's Street.

But the good news is that to cheer myself up after my medical ordeal, I headed straight to The Brighton Centre box office, where I managed to lay my hands on two of these...

World Beard & Moustache Championships
Start warming up the hair straighteners, I'm going to the beard show.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

With my popularity in American High Schools now a well-established fact, I'm sure it will come as a surprise to no one that, like Madeleine McCann, I'm also highly sought after in Portugal.

As of Monday night, I've been getting hits from a blog called Insónia (which I think is a song by Peter Andre), where my name seems to form part of an essay on very small narratives. Or something. Sadly it's written in Portuguese, and whilst I'm partial to a chocolate-covered Brazil nut, I'm not entirely fluent in the Romance languages of the Celtiberians.

But fortunately I have access to Babel Fish, and that combined with an uncanny ability to copy & paste, means that I've been able to accurately translate what Henrique Fialho is saying about me:

"The literature forms more soon cannot, by that it was said, be explained to the light of an unquestioned acceleration of our way of life. More than a justification for the micronarrative, we point to the technologies of the communication the fulcral paper of privileged support of some of the literary forms more badly loved of the literary intelligentzia call. It is in the InterNet that the cultores of these called "géneros minors" will find ways of draining of its art, wants through the creation of personal small farms (cf. Bob Thurber, Bruce Holland Rogers, Phil Gardner, etc)"

Hmm... I'm sensing that Babel Fish isn't quite the definitive translation service I thought it was. But that aside, am I being praised or persecuted? I'm willing to admit that I've created a personal small farm (well, I've grown strawberries in my windowbox), but I'm not sure I've ever drained anyone's art. And I certainly don't write on fulcral paper.

But still, it's nice to be mentioned in the same breath as the literary intelligentzia.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Real ThingI'd just like to thank Lisa for proving conclusively that if you place a can of Coke in your boyfriend's freezer for a few minutes to cool it down, only to forget it's there for two days, you've got approximately forty-five hours to vacate the premises before it explodes. I wondered what that booming noise was coming from my kitchen a couple of hours ago. I thought it was my out-of-date yoghurts making a bid for freedom. It's only now I find my wholemeal bagels encrusted with frozen cola that I've put two and two together.

The irony is that in the National IQ Test last night, Lisa did quite well on the memory questions.

Not that I'm complaining. Having the contents of my freezer splattered with exploding soft drink, and chipping away Coca-Cola icicles from the bottom of my tupperware, is a darn sight more exciting than the last two days have been. Personally I blame the gay community. And ethnic minorities.

On Sunday I fully intended to get involved in a lesbian egg & spoon race, and jump in the sack with a load of gay men, but sadly it didn't quite happen for me. The Brighton Lesbian & Gay Sports Society were holding their annual sports day just down the road from me in Dorset Gardens, a pretty area of grass and flowers where junkies go to shoot up. Events included Handbag Hurling and The Accessorize Relay, so I was expecting a colourful spectator-friendly event, like the Olympics but with feather boas.

When Lisa and I got there, however, it looked more like a small group of friends having a laugh in a park, and not quite the highlight of the sporting calendar I thought it might be. So we went to Asda instead.

Mind you, the gay sports day was monumental compared to yesterday's 'Alternative Notting Hill Carnival Party' down at Madeira Drive. Friday's Argus claimed that it's "fast becoming a highlight of the annual calendar". Well I don't know what calendar they're using, but when I got down there at 2pm yesterday afternoon it appeared to consist of half a dozen people, a barbecue, and a few jars of Reggae Reggae Sauce. They didn't even have William Hague in a baseball cap. Maybe it livened up later, but I had to get home for an IQ Test, so I wouldn't know.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

It's Lisa in a hot air balloon!

Party On!
Although it could just as easily be Mike Myers in Wayne's World. The likeness was uncanny the moment she put on that cap.

Don't Look DownAnd here I am snarling at the camera and trying not to look down.

Anyhoo, being made of money, my surprise birthday present to Lisa was a ride in a hot air balloon, courtesy of Virgin Balloon Flights. I'd booked a flight from Crowborough, taking in the Hundred Acre Wood and Eeyore's house, but just to prove that nothing ever goes according to plan, at 2pm yesterday afternoon it was suddenly moved to Yalding in Kent, due to "uncertainty about the wind direction". I expect it was a blustery day in Winnie the Pooh country.

So instead of a gentle drive through the Sussex countryside, we had three hours to get around the M25 to Maidstone. Fortunately, it being a bank holiday weekend, we were the only people heading away from Brighton, so we made it to Yalding in ninety minutes and found ourselves at Teapot Island, which is apparently in the Guiness Book of Records for having the largest teapot collection in the known universe. I think they pay for them out of the extortionate parking charges.

A quick cream tea later, and we headed down the road to the state-of-the-art balloon launch site, which turned out to be a small field with grass.

A Load of Hot Air
We were greeted by three Virgins, who advised us to return to the car for our baseball caps, in order to stop our hair being set alight by the gas burners. We did as we were told, and returned to watch the balloon being inflated. Lisa was looking visibly nervous by this point, but as it turned out, she couldn't care less about the flight - she was just terrified about how she was going to climb into the basket.

And she was right to be worried. Floating two thousand feet above the Kent countryside was a piece of (cheese)cake, but getting in and out of the basket was like something out of the Krypton Factor assault course. Especially as you only have a few seconds to do it. Once the balloon's inflated and the basket's upright, the pilot shouts "EVERYBODY IN!", and you have less than a minute to haul yourself over the side before the whole thing takes off.

Shadow PuppetBut with a combination of brute force and blind panic, we made it in without any serious injuries, and were soon ascending to 2,500 feet and doing shadow puppets on the corn fields below.

The actual flying experience is quite amazing. I was expecting a bit of turbulence, but in fact the basket remains completely still, and you feel like you're hanging motionless in the air, in complete silence. It's all very calming and serene.

Apart, that is, from when the pilot turns on the burners, which roar like a jet engine and make the back of your neck feel like it's on fire.

Pilot Damon BridgerFan the Flames
Anyhoo, we floated off in a north-easterly direction, passing fields, lakes, mansions, and a gypsy caravan site, while the pilot, Damon Bridger, pointed out Canary Wharf on the horizon, and steered us towards Leeds Castle. Apparently he has landed there in the past (Leeds Castle, not Canary Wharf), but the owners weren't too happy about it, so after almost ninety minutes in the sky, we aimed instead for a cornfield near Sutton Valence.

Balloon AnimalThe landing was a bit like something out of Fearless, but I was pleased to see that as we flew dangerously low over a row of houses, the occupants were only too happy to come out and wave to us. Or possibly they were just shaking their fists. Adopting the crash position - sorry, I mean the landing position - which involves crouching down and hanging on for dear life whilst gritting your teeth and praying, we hit the ground, bounced, took off again, landed, skidded, and eventually came to a halt with the basket at an angle of forty-five degrees. As you can see from the photo on the left, Lisa still had her eyes shut five minutes later.

To be honest, we were never in any real danger during landing, but both Lisa and I did come close to incurring major injuries trying to climb out of the basket. Lisa almost twisted her spine and landed on her back in the corn, while I did my best to fall over the side and break my leg.

But feeling like survivors of a major disaster, we gathered our thoughts and relaxed while everyone else packed away the balloon.

BasketcaseBalloon or Bussed
While we enjoyed a complimentary glass of champagne, and were handed our certificates personally signed by Richard Branson's photocopier, the basket was loaded onto the back of a trailer, after which we all piled into the minibus which had been following us through the countryside, and were driven back to the launch site, tired, flame-grilled, and full of hot air. Next year I'll just get Lisa a card.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Just look at the quality of that cheesecake...

Mmm... cheesecake.
You wouldn't believe I'd used ingredients from the Pound Shop.

Today is Lisa's birthday (Happy Birthday Lisa!), and with her now well into her late thirties, I decided it was about time I baked her a cake. So having scoured the internet for the perfect recipe yesterday morning, I finally settled on this Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake. It's only 75 calories a slice. If you cut it into a hundred slices.

At Asda you can buy frozen cheesecakes for £1. The ingredients for this culinary masterpiece cost me £8.90. I think I'll freeze half and make her have it next year as well. But on the bright side, Lisa and I shared the slice pictured above for breakfast this morning (it was gone about two minutes after I took that photo), and it is stunningly delicious. Even if I say so myself. It'll be well worth the 7lb weight gain.

As unbelievable as it may sound however, that cheesecake is not the highlight of Lisa's day. Oh no. That particular event is set to take place later this afternoon somewhere in the wilds of Sussex, and despite having been on the phone to her Mum and sister for the past forty-eight hours, trying to extract information from them, Lisa still has no idea what we're doing. I've told her it's something Dave would enjoy, so she's terrified we're playing cricket.

Anyhoo, I was up half the night sacrificing chickens to the weather god, and I'm pleased to say it's paid off - it actually looks like August out there today. I know, I can't believe it either.

Friday, August 24, 2007

P!nkIt's Pink! I think it was the sign above her head that gave it away. Mind you, for the first ten minutes of the concert I thought she was called Pinb, after the bottom of the 'k' failed to unfurl properly as she arrived onstage. It took a roadie with a broom handle to sort it out.

Anyhoo, last night's concert was very good. Not quite as good as last time when she swung above the stage like Tarzan on a net curtain, and then rode in on a Fat Boy, but still, the support act was a major improvement this time around. Named The Coronas, they consisted of four 21-year-olds from Dublin, and knocked last year's Mudbone into a cocked top hat. I was very impressed. In fact I'd have bought their first album on the spot, but unfortunately it's not out until October. So if anyone wants to get me a Halloween present, that's one for the shortlist.

To be honest, we were lucky to see The Coronas at all, having arrived at our seats in the south balcony to find them occupied by a couple of foreigners in flashing bunny ears. Lisa and I have a long and fine tradition of encountering nutters at the Brighton Centre, and yesterday was no exception. Fortunately, having tried a combination of shouting and exaggerated hand gestures in the dark, we were eventually able to use the light from a mobile phone to explain to the pair of startled rabbits that their tickets were for the east balcony, and that perhaps they should hop it.

Tickled PinkThat only left the lesbian couple right in front of us, whose patented dance routine involved waving their arms about maniacally like Cliff Richard in the 'Mistletoe & Wine' video (if it was stuck on fast-forward). It took me a good half hour to realise that they were a lesbian couple, as one of them was a lot more butch than I am, and frankly I wouldn't want to take her on in a fight. But after the third song, when she turned around to ask if we could actually see Pink through their mass of flailing limbs, I successfully spotted her breasts. So I quickly adjusted my response and said "No, love."

As for Pink, well she was very good as always, although I did get the feeling that she was on a tighter budget than last year. Gone were the acrobatics, motorbikes, dancers and huge stage set, and in came... well, in came higher ticket prices for some reason. Money just doesn't go as far these days.

She did, however, announce that she'd been looking around Brighton yesterday and is tempted to move here. She said it reminded her of Atlantic City, which frankly I feel is a bit of an insult. As an episode of The Simpsons put it, "Atlantic City: Where New York comes to smoke". I wouldn't mind having Pink as a neighbour though. She could give me a lift to Asda.

In other news, I've received an anonymous e-mail about this blog post from a couple of weeks ago. The sender clearly doesn't have a shift key, but has managed to cobble this together:

"thanks for your ill informed commnets on the rice pavilion. fools and bairns shouldn't see things half done, as they say in aberdeen."

That's outrageous. I am not a bairn. Although I have been to Aberdeen. Well, I've eaten their Angus burgers.

Anyhoo, I assume he/she will be forwarding on the complaint to both Brighton Council and The Edible Construction Company, both of whom advertised the building site as "a public art intervention" and encouraged people (including fools and bairns) to come and watch it being done.

To be honest though, I'm not even sure the e-mail was meant for me. I'm actually very well-informed (and I have the photos to prove it), so I think my correspondent must be referring to Dave's remark about a Taj Mahal made of chips.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Lisa's Mum came round for the evening last night, so to avoid having to cook her anything, I naturally headed for the local fish & chip shop. The Kemp Town Chippy is run by a little Chinese fella (so I presume the Peach Blossom Takeaway around the corner is owned by a strapping northerner called Les), and as I always have to wait a dog's age for Lisa's scampi (why she can't order cod like everyone else, I have no idea), Mr Chippy and I have had a chance to bond over recent months.

The man has clearly integrated into British society a lot better than some of the local Poles, who still feel it's acceptable to max out the volume on their stereo systems at 3 o'clock in the morning, so we spent an enjoyable five minutes talking about the weather. Having agreed that it's more like autumn, and something needs to be done, the Chipster leaned forward conspiratorially and said this:

"When I arrived in this country twenty-two years ago, my brother told me one thing..."

I checked that no one else was listening, and joined him over the counter. He continued...

"The British weather is like a woman. You never know what it's going to do next."

And they say the descendants of Confucius are unknown. That man is wasted cooking haddock for a living.

Slightly NutsAs if to prove the philosophy, Lisa persuaded me to hand over her birthday card last night. It's not actually her birthday until Saturday, but she's hurtling towards forty at breakneck speed (only two years to go now), so there's no time to lose, and as she told me last night, "I'll get more use out of it if I have it now".

I avoided the Pound Shop (you can get cards cheaper at Asda), and eventually settled on this high quality penguin offering. The front says "On your birthday, remember... I love you because you are unique...", while the inside adds "... unique being the posh term for 'slightly nuts'."

Under that I wrote "It's funny because it's true". I'm not sure she agreed.

But no matter, because today is actually my birthday. Kind of. In November last year we went to see Pink hover in mid-air above the stage of the Brighton Centre, and I enjoyed it so much that I bought tickets to see her again tonight. Tickets which Lisa then bought from me when she realised she had no idea what to get me for my birthday last month.

Last year we had standing tickets; this year we have seats. None of us are getting any younger.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Brighton & Hove Debating SocietyLisa and I were planning to join the Brighton & Hove Debating Society last night. No, really. We'd had a debate about it and I won. The topic for yesterday's discussion was 'Religious tolerance is the key to world peace', and as someone who likes a good argument about peace, I was keen to join in. Especially as it only costs a pound.

Unfortunately I wasn't feeling very well yesterday (physically or mentally), and didn't quite feel up to slagging off Scientology in public. So sadly we had to cancel our plans. I'll have to wait another month to start a riot in Hove.

But the good thing about sitting at home with a bag of mini Aeros, refusing to go and have a shower, is that you have plenty of time to enter your own name into Google. It's the modern equivalent of finding yourself.

I've discussed here before the stirling work being done by American high school students who are being forced to study my Micro Fiction in their 12th grade English class. There was Vinny, who slightly missed the point, Walfrey, who wrote about the literary element of symbolization, CuriousLittleLena, who saw jigsaw puzzles as a metaphor for life, and htrinidad, who was the only one to get anything right.

Well I've found another one. Luke D, who's more luke warm than red hot, says this about my story 'Bringing Home the Bacon':

"This story has one central theme: Sheila, the main character, trying to convince herself that she is not a loser for writing a paper on the importance of pigs in the bacon industry to win a prize."

I'm beginning to think these people are having a laugh. I'm not searching for any more, it only upsets me. But on the bright side, Luke mentions his teacher's name elsewhere on his blog, and being a highly experienced stalker, I've been able to track down a group photo of the whole class. They all look old enough to know better.

Anyhoo, while I'm here, I'd just like to say thank you to 'Jackie' (possibly the magazine) who e-mailed me last night to let me know that Andrea Foulkes used to model jewellery for QVC. It's a more accurate description of a past life than Andrea's ever managed, because it turns out to be true.

I particularly like the comment on that messageboard from Marzy: "She's a good looking woman but oh, that voice. I think it's got worse since she was a model on qvc. It totally does my head in!!!"

Which is more or less what I said. Apart from the good looking bit.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Terra Naomi My Victorian stuffing recipe, featuring chicken, pork and frogs' legs, is now available here, but I've actually spent most of the day writing about Terra Naomi, an American singer on whom I currently have a bit of a crush.

Yesterday's soggy butterflies are all very well, but would an article on drowning insects have allowed me to use the phrase 'Reign of Terra'? No, it would not. Well, to be honest I probably could have crowbarred it in somewhere. 'Rain of Terra Firma' springs to mind. But I digress. The fact is there was no decision to be made. As of this afternoon I cut the caterpillars and declared war on Terra. After all, it's not every day a global music phenomenon plays 200 yards from my flat. I really should have invited her round for coffee.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Things don't quite seem to be going according to plan at the moment. I was supposed to be attending a 'Butterfly Walk & BBQ' this morning for The Kemptown Rag, and answering the question of whether Brighton's butterflies really need to be taken for walks and then cooked on an open fire, without offending lepidopterists and inciting hate mail from caterpillars. But it being mid August in Britain, I've naturally been thwarted by the weather.

I did make it as far as East Brighton Park, but having scouted around the café in the gloom and drizzle, it soon became clear that only one other Friend of Sheepcote Valley had turned up, and I didn't want to be stuck on my own for four hours with a lonely pensioner, grilling sausages in the rain and lamenting the lack of wildlife. So I pretended I was out for a bracing Sunday morning walk in the mud, and kept going, doing a quick circuit of the park and heading straight back to the car, whilst questioning my own sanity for actually having gone out to look for butterflies in a thunderstorm. I'm only covering indoor events from now on.

That's if I have time to cover any events at all. It all hinges on me learning to knit by a week on Tuesday...

Get Knitted
I presume "an enviable list of industry contacts" is code for a pensioners' group with a few balls of wool and a pattern for booties.

Friday, August 17, 2007

I had a day and a half yesterday. In the words of Homer Simpson, I think "God is teasing me. Just like he teased Moses in the desert".

But on the bright side, I'm now on the anti-anthrax medication...

I'll be fine when the chemical warfare starts.
Dr Learner turned out to be a locum, and in keeping with every GP, PC and AA man I encounter these days, was significantly younger than me. It was like chatting to a mate down the pub. Albeit one who shows an unhealthy interest in your private parts. I tried to turn the conversation around to last night's football, but he preferred to talk about my urine.

Fortunately the man seemed to know his stuff, and having looked up some details on the computer (or possibly just browsed Facebook for five minutes) he very quickly decided to try me on some new tablets. He was clearly a fast Learner. On the down side, he informed me that if this final two week course fails to clear up my current unpleasantness, then I'll have to see a urologist and have things stuck up me in a way which violates nature. I'm paraphrasing him there.

The leaflet which accompanies my medication states that the dose for cystitis is 200mg a day for 3 days. I'm on 1000mg a day for two weeks. It's what pharmacists call the Biological Warfare dose.

On a positive note, the table in the surgery waiting room was proudly displaying three copies of The Kemptown Rag (possibly they're using them as anaesthetic), so I returned home with a spring in my step, knowing that I'm probably offending the terminally ill as we speak. Back home, I decided not to check my e-mails, feeling that I'd had enough death threats for one day, so instead Lisa and I headed across town to visit her aunt and uncle.

Lisa's uncle is 81 today (we were a day early) and to celebrate, he'd just been quoted a price of £75 for someone to come round and plug a few wires into their Virgin cable box. Not one to pass up the opportunity of employment, I got down on my hands and knees for half an hour, and thanks to my intimate knowledge of Scart leads (which Lisa's uncle called Stark leads), I got the system up and running. They gave me twenty quid for my trouble, so I should probably declare that at the Jobcentre.

With things clearly picking up, we popped into Asda on the way home, where Lisa attempted to operate the self-scanning machine by pressing my bagels down with such force that it thought we were weighing ten kilos of apples, but it was the five minute journey home where the real joy began.

Driving along Eastern Road, less than half a mile from home, and foolishly thinking that the day's troubles were behind me, my car suddenly died a death. It was like I'd been zapped by a UFO (and frankly I'm still not ruling that out) which had killed my car's electrics stone dead. Fortunately I was able to coast over to some double yellow lines and call the AA, who cheerfully informed me that a patrol would be with me "within two hours". At which point the battery on my mobile phone ran out.

Carefully considering our options, I took the executive decision to eat the hot Cumberland sausages we'd just bought at Asda, and told Lisa she could abandon ship and walk home. Possibly on some kind of sausage high, I then decided to throw caution to the wind, abandon my car with the hazard lights on, run the half mile home, and charge my phone for five minutes. Not to mention go to the toilet.

Fortunately I made it back before the AA, and at 10:05pm my rescuer finally arrived. I have to say I was very impressed with the guy. Even if he was ten years younger than me. Having spent twenty minutes carrying out a series of tests, he eventually discovered that the ignition fuse had blown, but could find no reason why. Or as he put it:

No Reson Wy
He might not have been able to spell, but having replaced my fuse, got my car going, and given me two spares in case it happens again, I'd have happily married that man in a civil ceremony.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Seven weeks on from my negative cancer test, and I'm ill again. The Big C is well and truly back. Fortunately though, in my case C only stands for Chronic Pain. And it's not actually that chronic. To be honest, I'm fine most of the time.

But that hasn't stopped me making a doctor's appointment for this afternoon. I love the healthcare system we have nowadays whereby you have to battle a hundred other people to get through on a single phone line at 8:30am to bag one of the day's appointments. It's like entering the Deal Or No Deal phone-in competition. I made it through at 9:15am, only to be told that all my doctor's appointments for the day had been taken. I asked to book one tomorrow instead, and was cheerfully informed that I can...

... by simply phoning back at 8:30am tomorrow morning.

So instead I've accepted an appointment this afternoon with a Dr Learner. He's new. Obviously.

It's a shame, because my usual GP, Dr Dirmikis, looks like this, and if I'm going to be told that I'm dying from a hideous disease, I'd like it to be done by someone who looks like they've just come in from a hockey match on the school playing field. It softens the blow somewhat. But I'm sure Dr L Plates will be very nice too.

In other news, following my front page exclusive in the last issue of The Kemptown Rag, I'm pleased to say that the reviews are now in. I've had two lengthy e-mails from readers, and I have to admit the verdict's not entirely positive, but I'm sure it's just constructive criticism. Here are the salient points from just one of the e-mails:

"bitchy... negative, ill-informed and misleading... disgraceful, deeply unfair and totally unnecessary... act so irresponsibly... incorrect... hugely unfair... glaringly apparent naivety... negative and personal... I'm so angry... such a shoddy publication".

Believe it or not, all of those comments refer to just four sentences of this article.

It doesn't pay to cross John Craven.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Can help weight loss only as part of a calorie controlled diet.Lisa and I went to Asda last night. As you can see from the shopping list opposite, Lisa needed the basic staples of waffles and ice cream, but eventually decided against apples on the grounds that she can get most of her five-a-day from the fruit shortcake.

As for me, I was stocking up on potatoes, lentils, and anything on special offer. I've now lost 25lbs since I moved from Shotley Gate to Brighton last year, which I'd like to claim is down to the sea air and healthy lifestyle, but is probably more to do with the fact that if I want to pay the rent then I can't afford to eat.

So while Lisa was chatting to her two friends Ben & Jerry in the freezer department, I was haunting the fruit & veg aisle looking for bargains, and what should I find but these...

Elizabeth from SuffolkIt's Elizabeth Potatoes, personally harvested by a man in jeans with a stick. And they're currently on offer at Asda for a pound. But that's not all. As I rummaged around in the box for the ones with the longest date, I thought "hang on, I recognise that view...", and started reading the blurb:

"Philip Mayhew grows 33 acres of Elizabeth [she sounds like a big girl] as part of 700 acres of potatoes grown on his farm on the Shotley Peninsula near Ipswich, Suffolk. Elizabeth is a popular new potato exclusively grown for Asda"


I was so excited, I almost didn't notice that they've put "exclusively grown" instead of 'grown exclusively'. Next they'll be saying he boldly goes where no farmer has gone before. But I digress.

That's the River Orwell in the background, and the footpath where I spent many a happy hour being bitten by flies and chased by a weasel. There's every chance that I personally trod on Phil's potatoes as I took an illegal shortcut to the river. It's like a little bit of Shotley Gate has followed me to Brighton. Thank God it's a root vegetable, and not my neighbour at number 7.

The question is, if the Shotley farmers are growing Shotley potatoes, are they being dug up by the Shotley Hoes?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Face of a Killer, Body of a WhaleIt's me with my hand in a killer whale's mouth!

Ignore the sign saying 'Please Do Not Touch' - that's only there for other people. Much like the sign near the entrance which said 'DO NOT SIT ON THE PIG'. Hey, if they don't want you sitting on the pig, they shouldn't call it a saddleback and make its ears look like handlebars.

Anyhoo, my Mummy came down to Brighton yesterday to visit me (she'd obviously read about my win on the horses), so I decided to make her feel at home by taking her to a building full of fossils and stuffed old birds. The Booth Museum of Natural History in Dyke Road is currently holding an exhibition entitled 'Life in Death', which sounds like a show on Living TV, but is actually a display about 'The Victorian Art of Taxidermy'. I'd recently discovered via YouTube that it includes frogs on swings, so I was naturally keen to get down there and give them a push.

What YouTube didn't tell me was that they also have a genuine bona fide 100% real Merman...

Fish With Fingers
It looks like a baby, so I expect it's what Karen Kay had in mind when she wrote 'Birth of a Mermaid'. Interestingly, when Big Sis visited Banff in Canada a couple of months ago, she failed to mention that they have a Merman too. The things are clearly breeding like rabbits. Which is good news as I eat a lot of fish fingers, and you get five per hand.

ToadyingAs for the swinging frogs, well they turned out to be 'Athletic Toads', a mechanical tableau built in 1850 by Walter Potter (brother of Beatrix and Harry) (I expect). The sign claimed that "toads are, by their very nature, difficult to stuff", which I find a bit hard to believe. They're only warty chickens, and if Gordon Ramsay can stuff a poussin, I'm sure I could get a bit of sawdust up a toad.

In the 19th century you had to put a penny in the machine to get the toads to ride the see-saw, but thanks to Tony Blair's legacy of free museums for all, there's now no charge to send a stuffed toad across the room on a clockwork swing. That's why I voted New Labour.

Crossing a ZebraNext to the toads' playground there was a funeral going on, in the form of 'The Original Death & Burial of Cock Robin', another case of stiffs from Mr Potter, which I've since found out was sold at auction in 2003 for £20,000. If I'd known, I'd have told my Mum to take the other end, and nicked it.

To be honest, the exhibition as a whole was a bit disappointingly small. You'd find more stuffed animals in my Mum's oven at Christmas. But I did like the ashtray made out of a tortoise, and despite being about as spacious as a garden shed, the rest of the museum was actually quite good, especially the skeleton collection, which featured a killer whale, an elephant's skull, and a horse who looked about as well as the ones I usually bet on. There were also enough dead birds to get Colonel Sanders excited.

Ultimately though, it did feel a bit like spending the afternoon in a morgue, so to cheer us both up, I took my Mum to the circus on our way home. That's John Goto's New World Circus, a photographic art exhibition currently on at the University of Brighton. I actually popped in there on Thursday, but didn't mention it at the time for fear of revealing that I didn't have a clue what the heck it was all about. Fortunately however, I've since looked deep into my soul (and the internet), and it all makes perfect sense now. I'll let my Mum explain it in the comments section.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

I don't know why I waste my time applying for jobs. My true path in life is obvious: I should be a professional gambler.

Seven weeks ago I put £7.20 on the Tote Placepot and scooped £110. Yesterday I tried it again...

Winner Takes All
Ten of the thirteen horses I chose were successfully placed, and my Totesport account now looks like this...

Statement of FactI seem to be unintentionally limiting myself to about one bet a month, so according to my calculations, if I increased productivity and placed one bet a day, then by Christmas I'd be...

[taps furiously on a calculator]

... a squillionnaire! I think I'll phone the Jobcentre and tell them I won't be in next week.

But the life of Riley aside, long time readers of this blog (that's you Dave) might remember that a couple of years ago I received two fantastic e-mails sending me love and light (and threatening me with legal action) after I wrote this article accusing regression therapist Andrea Foulkes of having an annoying voice and not being able to pronounce her own name.

Despite my caring and sensitive response (in which I claimed I was more open-minded in a previous life), I failed to defuse the situation, and received a third e-mail three weeks later complaining that Andrea's name was still turning up on Google. Or something. Frankly I think she'd regressed herself back to a time before computers, and didn't know how to use the internet.

Well the good news is that more than two years down the line, I've had another e-mail. This one's not from Andrea (or Secret of Light, as she liked to call herself), it's from Karen Kay of (ooh, that rhymes!). Karen, who describes herself as 'Cornwall's Faery Lady', writes:

"I'm not happy about your defamatory comments about Andrea Foulkes. She is a wonderful and genuine lady, and I would suggest you take back your comments. You obviousley do not know her very well, otherwise you would not write such things."

HOW DARE she say that I don't know Andrea very well? I don't know her at all, dammit, and to suggest that I do is libellous in the extreme.

But that aside, I'm tempted to apologise to Karen. I've just listened to her musical masterpiece 'Birth of a Mermaid', and despite sounding like someone playing the saucepans, it's given me a new sense of calm and inner peace. I also feel more enlightened about fish.

And besides, judging by Karen's Links page, she doesn't have a lot of friends, so this could be a mutually beneficial relationship. Although having listened to one of her meditations, her voice is about as annoying as Andrea's, so we'd have to stick to e-mail.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Driven to DistractionWell I didn't get the job. I did, however, get to spend an evening playing one of the worst games ever created. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Driven. And it should be. Preferably over a cliff.

The job I applied for was 'Games Tester' with Babel Media, a company in Hove which tests computer and video games for all the major developers. It's not every day you get a shot at a full time job playing video games, so I suppose I should be grateful for such a golden opportunity to impress Lisa's nephews. Especially after they told me I was rubbish at TimeSplitters 2.

As it turned out, I was one of ten hopefuls on the shortlist to be a professional couch potato. Not only was I the oldest candidate by a good twelve years, but I was also the only one to turn up in a suit. I know how to stand out in a crowd. Admittedly I did consider not wearing a tie, but frankly I don't think that would have made much difference standing next to the bloke who arrived in jeans and a pair of flip-flops.

Babel Media turned out to be Hove's answer to the Pentagon, with security so tight that you could barely go to the toilet without an electronic keycard and a full body search. Apparently if I'd got the job I'd have been obliged to sign Babel's version of the Official Secrets Act, promising not to reveal details of the latest games to anyone, and agreeing not to use web-based e-mail in case anyone hacks into it and finds out I'm working on Police Academy 9: The Game. It even warned against blogging, so I'd have had this place shut down within a week.

Anyhoo, looking like a smartly dressed father out with his nine small sons, we were eventually led into a secure room and each given a workstation containing a TV, a PC with monitor, an Xbox and a PlayStation 2. It reminded me of my living room. As we walked in, Stefan, the bloke in charge, said "I'm afraid only nine of the TVs are in colour. One of them's black & white".

Guess who got the black & white one? I wouldn't have minded, but it only had mono sound too, so when I put the headphones on I felt like I'd gone deaf in one ear.

Anyway, we were each given a pre-release beta version of 'Driven', an old PS2 game based on a Sylvester Stallone film which Stefan informed us was "shit", and had to spend an hour playing the game with one hand, while simultaneously writing a bug report in Microsoft Excel with the other.

I quickly spotted that the game was rubbish, but wasn't sure you could really classify that as a bug. Maybe I just have low standards, but despite playing the game in earnest for a full sixty minutes, I couldn't find a lot wrong with it, and the only crashes I encountered were when I deliberately drove into a wall. I was tempted to report Sly Stallone's wooden voiceovers as a technical fault, but wasn't sure they'd appreciate it, so in the end I wrote reports on four bugs which almost certainly weren't bugs at all, and left it at that.

Having finished bug-spotting at 8pm, we were told we could leave for half an hour, which caused a few problems as none of us could get out. It transpired that not only do you need a keycard to get in, but you can't escape without one either. It's easier to get out of Pentonville. But after a half hour wait which lasted for 45 minutes, we were eventually given the results of our test, and at 8:45pm I was officially culled from the herd along with a couple of others. We were told we "didn't quite cut it" as games testers.

So it's back to writing 500 words about rice for The Argus.

Friday, August 10, 2007

I know I really ought to be preparing an answer to the question "where do you see yourself in five years time?", but I'm slightly distracted because I've just had a search engine hit for the phrase 'which shops in lewisham can you buy drinking poison?'. I'm currently fifth on Google for that.

Admittedly if I lived in Lewisham I'd want to kill myself too, but can I just say that it's not worth it, and you should always try to look on the bright side of life.

Although if you've made your mind up, I'd try Boots.
The Rice PavilionIt's The Rice Pavilion!

This is it after the great storm of '87, when the Pavilion's onions were knocked to the ground by a particularly nasty gust.

Well ok, it's not. I actually visited the library yesterday morning, twenty-four hours ahead of the official completion date, and sure enough, the rice roofers hadn't finished yet. But I'm reliably informed that those onions (which aren't made of rice) (or onions) will be sitting proudly on top of the building by the end of today. They've built the thing right by the window though, so one week of hot weather and they'll have a major boil-in-the-bag situation on their hands, and a few thousand portions of paella they didn't ask for.

Short-GrainCatering issues aside, I have to say I'm disappointed by the scale of their achievement. I was promised a 16ft-high edible Pavilion, when in reality it's barely more than eight, as is demonstrated by the basmati brickie in the background, who was only a couple of inches taller than me. Frankly the whole thing's more short-grain than long-grain. The domes might push it towards sixteen feet, but they're made of wood, so frankly that's cheating. If I'm promised five metres of rice, I want five metres of rice, dammit. If it wasn't free, I'd have asked for my money back. Or at the very least, a few tins of Ambrosia to take home.

But anyhoo, I shouldn't really be sitting here waxing lyrical about rice, because...

I have a job interview today.

I know, it sounds unlikely, but it's true. Twenty-four hours after e-mailing them my CV, I received a phone call yesterday afternoon from the mystery employer I mentioned on Wednesday, inviting me to come in for an interview at 6:15pm today. By nine o'clock tomorrow morning, I could be in there, taming.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

I was rummaging around on YouTube yesterday, looking for film clips of Bigfoot (or Bigfootage as I like to call it) when, thanks to YouTube's insistence on linking the serious scientific study of men in ape suits with the ramblings of deluded Mexicans, I came across this video of a witch...

Apparently villagers from Monterrey are being terrorised by "a flying humanoid... wearing a cape and what seems like a pointy hat". Interestingly that describes my sister in Tuesday's blog post, but I'm sure that's just coincidence. In fact, "their conclusion was that it might have been a witch". Which still doesn't rule out Big Sis of course, but I happen to know she was nowhere near Mexico at the time.

Fortunately we don't have to rely on the ramblings of villagers with camcorders, because we have the testimony of police officer Gerardo Garza, who gives this reasoned account: "I saw a person dressed in black with huge claws". Right. His colleague Leonardo Samaniego adds that "she was dressed in black with huge eyes and dark skin". Although that probably describes about half the women in Mexico.

All of this is pooh-poohed by the experts of course, who wouldn't be so stupid as to think it's a witch. The one on the video has a far more reasonable explanation: "I'm inclined to say that this is an extra-terrestrial entity, and this extra-terrestrial being rides a personal vehicle of sorts, or a flying apparatus".

Yes. Or alternatively it could just be a bloke on a WASP...

Clearly someone in Mexico has got hold of a Williams Aerial Systems Platform, which was the precursor to the Williams X-Jet, and is flying around the mountains of Monterrey with a hat on, doing his best to spook the locals. It's what's known in the aviation industry as 'a bit of a laugh'. And frankly I don't blame him. I've been to Mexico, and let me tell you, not only is there nothing to do there, but it's full of lizards, and hovering fifty feet above the ground is the only way to avoid them.

According to Wikipedia, the WASP was nicknamed 'The Flying Pulpit'. So I know what to get Dave for his birthday now.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

I've applied for two jobs today. I know, you wait weeks for one to turn up, and then I go and apply for two in a day. I'm clearly lowering my standards. The first is a Clinical Trials Pharmacy Assistant at the hospital, which basically involves giving drugs to volunteers, watching their heads swell up, and then handing out the compensation forms.

As part of my research, I've just read this article on the BBC website about the Parexel drugs trial last year which went so spectacularly right (bearing in mind that the whole point of these trials is to highlight problems with the drugs), and I couldn't help noticing this line:

"The worst affected of the group was 20-year-old Ryan Wilson. His fingertips and toes have been amputated, and he says he will never achieve his ambition of becoming a plumber."

I shouldn't laugh. But really, he needs to set his sights a little higher. If your first thought upon losing all your fingers and toes is "Good God, I'll never be able to change a washer", then you clearly need to get out more. But still, at least he can wear socks on his hands now.

The second job I've applied for is far more exciting, but I'm not going to reveal what it is here, for fear that it'll appeal to half the population of Brighton, and I'll be beaten to the post by someone who read about it on my blog. But before anyone asks, it doesn't involve lion taming. Although I do have my own hat.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

My Mum posted me a birthday card on 26th July, first class, from Chelmsford in Essex. It arrived five days later on 31st July. My Big Sis meanwhile posted me a card and present the day after my birthday (I think there's some kind of time delay in the southern hemisphere) on 30th July from Perth, Western Australia. It arrived yesterday morning, seven days after she mailed it.

So it's official - Essex to Sussex is two days quicker than Perth to Brighton. It's another victory for Royal Mail.

On the downside, it's hard to maintain the element of surprise when you're forced to write on the front of the parcel what's inside...

What do you buy the man who has everything..?I've blanked out Big Sis's signature for security reasons. Although if you do want to try and recreate it, you'll need one spider, two bottles of ink and a lot of imagination.

You'll notice that the valuation box has been left blank. That's because patterned tissues are essentially worthless. But thanks Sis, they're just what I've always wanted.

In other news, I'm considering going to see an edible building this week. A group of people with too much time on their hands are currently down at the library constructing a 16ft tall replica of the Royal Pavilion out of rice. You're right, it is a good idea. They apparently need volunteers, so I plan to do my bit by heading down there with a kettle and a couple of saucepans.

Monday, August 06, 2007

A fortnight ago it was Footvolley; this time the sport-you've-never-heard-of being played down at Madeira Drive on a Sunday afternoon is...

Ultimate Frisbee... Ultimate Frisbee. Although it's shortened to just 'Ultimate' when Frisbee's trademark lawyers are around. According to the commentator at pitchside, it's a cross between American Football and Netball. So it really ought to be played by small girls with shoulder pads.

Anyhoo I spent an hour or so down at the Yellowave Beach Sports Centre yesterday afternoon watching the Nivea Sun Ultimate Showcase, and trying to spot the cameras from Sky Sports, which the commentator swore were there. Mind you, this is the same commentator who said "The crowd are calling for the disc of his dreams..." when the only spectators were me and a couple of teenage girls, one of whom was on her mobile telling someone she was watching volleyball. So I'm not sure you can believe everything he says.
Nivea Sun Ultimate Showcase
I did, however, like his commentary when a player with receding hair made a lunging dive for the disc and got showered with sand. The commentator was straight on the mic to announce that "Dave Barnard's got sand in his hair... sorry, he's got sand on his head". John Motson eat your heart out.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Big Sis may have been to the Wizard of Oz Museum in Kansas, but has she stood in front of the Royal Pavilion in Brighton with fifty people on top of a bus shelter, watching a dozen dancing Dorothies?

Follow the Yellow Brick Road
No, she hasn't. Or if she has, she hasn't blogged about it.

Mr PresidentBut hang on, who's that little green munchkin following the yellow brick road with his back to the camera and a jacket over his shoulder on the hottest day of the year..? Why, it's none other than Lib Dem President Simon Hughes, formerly the "straight choice" for the Bermondsey by-election of 1983, now outed by The Sun and more than happy to join a gay pride march. Hurrah!

I met Simon fifteen years ago at the Greenbelt Christian Arts Festival. How we've both changed.

Stop Homophobia in PolandAnyhoo, yesterday was indeed Brighton Pride 2007, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to put on a pink cowboy hat and stop homophobia in Poland. Or something. Frankly I'd be willing to fly to Krakow and personally put homophobes to the sword if only my neighbours at Flat 1 would come with me. And then stay there. I love Poles as much as the next man, but the party they held outside my living room window on Friday night was still going strong at 10am the next morning, only to begin again in earnest last night. And when they start breaking glasses and singing songs of their homeland, you do start to lose patience. But I digress...

Bully For YouHere's Dr David Bull, former presenter of Watchdog Healthcheck, Tomorrow's World and... um... Most Haunted Live, recreating John Travolta's role in Saturday Night Fever, and publicising the fact that the Brighton Conservative Party have learnt nothing from their experience with David Van Day, and are still placing all their faith in celebrities. Dr Bull has just been selected as the Tory party candidate for the next election. I can't wait.

As well as the gay police, gay paramedics and gay firefighters (who are like the PC brigade, only more liberal), groups taking part in the parade this year included a bus-load of gay people with mental health problems, represented by the charity Mind under the slogan 'Mind Out'. I quite liked that.

Buggery not BarclaysBut not as much as I liked the slogan 'Buggery not Barclays'. I presume that's the gang from Lloyds TSB on their annual staff outing. Mind you, if you think their banner's offensive, you should have seen the one just behind. I could be arrested if I hadn't cropped it out of the photo.

Following the bonkers bankers were a group from 'Brighton Bothways', whose banner declaring "biSEXualS!" prompted the middle-aged lady in front of us to ask her husband "What's a bisexual?". I didn't hear his reply. But in case she's reading this, it's someone who's not too picky.

I'll leave you with some of the more god-fearing members of the parade. On the left are the Lesbian & Gay Christian movement, who have made it easy for any far-right extremists with sniper rifles by dotting the 'i' in 'Christians' with a gun-sight, while on the right we see...

Lesbian & Gay ChristiansJoy to the World

... the Salvation Army???

Saturday, August 04, 2007

In golf, technique is all-important...

Mug of TeeTiger LisaOn the left we see my brother combining years of experience with a natural flair for the game (and an ability to look good in open-toed sandals), while on the right a mysterious masked player attempts to fuse the sports of golf and baseball.

I won't tell you which was more successful.

Well ok, it was my brother. Prize for the jammiest golfer of the day though went to my good self, who despite not having swung a club in anger since 2002, managed to tee off with a sand wedge, putt from the rough, and still achieve one par and three bogeys. It makes me wonder what I could do if I actually knew how to play.

Anyhoo, our day out in Southend yesterday was very nice. It took us over two and a quarter hours to get there, but that was due less to the traffic, and more to the petrol station on the A23 who were quite happy to let everyone fill up with petrol before telling them the credit card reader wasn't working and they'd all have to wait for twenty minutes.

But we made it to the Essex Golf Complex at Garon Park, and hit the 9-hole par 3 course. We didn't keep the score (you lose track once you're into treble figures), but I'm confident I came second, and Lisa a creditable third. Of course it helps when your sister-in-law and niece head off to the café after three holes and miss the rest of the round, but even with more than three players I feel that Lisa's individual style in the bunker, where she resorted to using her club like a spade, would have seen her through.

From the greens of Southend, we headed to the seafront for a late lunch at Rossi's, which is "legendary" according to last month's Guardian. I sampled two flavours of ice cream, Lisa tried another two, and I watched a pensioner try to get a refund after she licked her ice cream straight off the cone and onto the floor. Oddly enough she succeeded. Old people can get away with anything.

From there we walked along to Adventure Island, where Lisa and I paid £3 to ride the Green Scream, a rollercoaster which claims "You will certainly scream and maybe turn green!". If screaming includes swearing, then Lisa fulfilled both criteria. I wanted to buy the photo of us taken as we plummetted towards the ground at high speed, but Lisa felt that she wasn't at her best with a look of abject terror on her face, and refused to let me have it on a keyring.

Adventuring done, we made it onto the pier, which has started charging an entrance fee since I lived down the road in Basildon. As a teenager I could walk along it for free, but to my horror it now costs £2.50. I felt more sick about that than the rollercoaster. But we paid it nonetheless, and trudged the mile or so to the end. I think the novelty of walking down the longest pier in the world wore off after about two hundred metres, especially once the sea breezes kicked in, and at one point Lisa was begging to be left where she was, preferring to take her chances with the seagulls than take another step, but with perseverence we made it more than a mile out to sea, found there was nothing there, and caught the train back.

Hold the Front Page!Fortunately we managed to recover with some medicinal doughnuts, and made our way home to Brighton where, as Lisa pointed out, "the pier's free, and they actually have something on it".

We've returned to the news that I've finally made the front page of The Kemptown Rag. They've cut one of my more offensive jokes, but I'm sure that was nothing to do with being on the front page, and purely down to space constraints. Although with hindsight it's probably not a good idea to make light of fungal foot problems.

Friday, August 03, 2007

It's always good to apply for a job in May, and hear that you haven't got it in August. Royal Mail have managed to stop striking long enough to inform me that I won't be the next Rottingdean postie. They let me know by e-mail, so they've obviously got more sense than to rely on the post.

But fortunately I'm not downhearted because I'm going to be a professional gypsy.

Caravan of Love
It's not every day you see a job that requires you to have your own caravan. I know Jobcentre Plus will give me a grant for new work clothes, so I wonder if they'd stretch to a two-berth Elddis? I might ask them next time I pop in. I'd like to get in with the gypsies in case I ever need my drive tarmacked. And let's face it, some lucky heather wouldn't go amiss right about now.

But anyhoo, as befits a life on the breadline, I'm off to play golf today. My brother has invited me and Lisa up to Southend for a game that neither of us play. But hey, the line-up includes both Lisa and my 8-year-old niece, so at least I know I won't finish last. Probably second last.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

I ran out of milk yesterday afternoon (due in part to the moreish qualities of new Cheerios Oats), so I went around the corner to the Co-op for more. Obviously it's impossible to travel a hundred yards down the road for cow juice without having a look in the charity shop opposite, so I soon found myself in the Kemp Town branch of Marie Curie, where I immediately noticed these...

Sigma Kliban Cats
Always keep your receipt.As it happens I've been wanting a pair of bookends for the past fortnight, ever since I bought a shoe cupboard from Lidl (don't ask) and decided to store DVDs on the top, so at 3:54pm I bought them for £6.99. I hadn't actually wanted to spend more than three or four pounds (Jobseekers Allowance doesn't go as far as you might think), but I didn't know how much they were until the assistant had climbed into the window display to retrieve them, and was standing there balanced on a jewellery stand, giving me a look which said 'buy these or die'.

So I handed over the cash and returned home to tell Lisa I'd been the victim of a charity mugging and had been bullied into paying way over the odds for two pieces of junk. She tried to console me by telling me they were "quite nice". I could tell she was lying.

As it turns out though, my tireless charity work has paid off yet again. The bookends are marked 'Sigma' and 'B Kliban' which, despite being a regular viewer of Bargain Hunt, meant nothing to me. A quick search on the internet however, revealed that B Kliban was an American cartoonist famed for his cats, and Sigma a US ceramics company who, like Kliban, were around in the 80s but have since died a death.

It wasn't long before I found a teapot from the same Sigma/Kliban range selling for $325, but the real find came with the discovery of an identical pair of bookends (albeit in slightly better condition) currently up for auction in America with a reserve of $125.

So the question is, do I use them to hold up DVDs on a shoe cupboard, or put them straight on Ebay?