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Sunday, September 30, 2007

It's me with a big woman at Victoria Station!

Big Girl's Blouse
And I'd like to thank that big woman for taking my photo with the giant sculpture. It's apparently there to publicise London Ink, a new TV show about Louis Molloy, David Beckham's personal tattooist. No, I won't be tuning in either.

Anyhoo, as the photo proves, Lisa and I successfully made it to London yesterday. Just. Thanks to the Brighton Breeze which was taking place down at Madeira Drive, the streets were filled with VW camper vans, meaning our five-minute bus ride to the station turned into a twenty-five minute journey of epic proportions, akin to Hannibal crossing the Alps on an elephant. Only slower. But with perfect timing, we bought our tickets at 11:18am and caught the 11:19 train to Victoria, securing the only two seats left in the entire train. It was a good twenty minutes before we realised we were sitting in first class.

Arriving in London, we met up with Lisa's friend 'C' who insists on living there and working for Camden Council. I've no idea why. Knowing that we only had to travel three stops on the underground, Lisa and I had decided against buying one-day travelcards at Brighton station on the assumption that a return tube fare to Embankment would cost us... oooh, about 20p each. You can tell we haven't been to London for a while. It turns out that any single fare in zones 1 & 2 is £4, with a return costing £5.10. Someone needs to have a word with King Newt.

So having handed over £10.20 for our five-minute tube ride, we headed off towards Charing Cross, and arrived at the Ha Ha Bar for lunch. Which was quite appropriate as C couldn't stop laughing at my moustache. A chicken sandwich and some cheesecake later, and we made our way down The Strand to the Adelphi Theatre. We'd paid £35 each for our tickets, so naturally we were near the back, about three miles above sea level, with a load of people from Essex.

MeadiocreHere I am in row D of the cheap seats with Lee Mead who played Joseph. I can't believe he goes out in public with hair like that.

Anyhoo, despite the small child sitting behind us who spent most of the performance asking her father what was going on, I have to say the show was very good. Lee was excellent, which was quite annoying as I was hoping to make a joke about him being Meadiocre, but for me the show was stolen by Dean Collinson as Pharaoh. When he was barely 20, Dean wrote Sonia's 1993 hit 'Better the Devil You Know' which came second in the Eurovision Song Contest, but after fourteen years I feel it's time to forgive and forget, so I won't hold it against him. He was very good anyway, and took my mind off the painful cramp I was getting from the lack of leg room in the upper circle.

The finale, in which Joseph ascends into the rafters on a platform the size of a postage stamp, with no apparent safety net, made me feel slightly ill and probably contravened numerous health & safety by-laws, but it was quite spectacular nonetheless. Unfortunately it distracted Lisa enough for her to leave behind her small bottle of water, which was particularly annoying as she'd paid £2.10 for it at the theatre bar, making it her most valuable possession, and worth more than the entire contents of her handbag.

But we left the theatre with a smile on our faces and a song in our hearts. Both of which vanished once we got back on the tube. C and I attempted to politely kiss each other goodbye at Embankment station, but unfortunately I went one way, she went the other, and I ended up snogging her on the lips. As Lisa pointed out, it's the first time I've kissed another woman in 40 months. At least that's what she thinks.

All in all though, it was a good day out. Having spent £6.40 on buses, £37 on trains, £10.20 on tubes, £70 on tickets, £40 on food & drink, and 60p to use the toilets at Victoria Station, we obviously can't afford a holiday this year, but still, it got us out of the house for a few hours.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Your WrongThink your smart? Think you can misspell "you're"? Then you too could be writing the signs at The Jury's Out pub in Edward Street. This one's advertising their weekly quiz night. I'm tempted to go. If the questions are set by the person who wrote the sign, it should be pretty simple.

Mind you, spelling isn't their only problem. The pub's called 'The Jury's Out' because it's situated opposite Brighton Magistrates Court. Which of course doesn't have a jury. I think maybe someone should tell them.

Anyhoo, today is mine and Lisa's 40th anniversary. Forty months that is. So to celebrate, we're off to London to see Joseph at the Adelphi Theatre. It's a show, not a friend of ours.

But on the subject of 'Think Your Smart?', I'll leave you with possibly the most bizarre link I've ever posted here. It's a quiz called So You Think You're Clever Hmmn?, written (if you click on her username) by a 14-year-old girl from south-east England who loves writing, playing the drums and drinking tea. We have so much in common. Although she also likes poetry and running, so it's not all good.

Anyway, scroll down past the hailstones and Oompa-Loompas to question number 11.

Of all the world events she could have chosen...

Friday, September 28, 2007

CD StandIt's Chris Difford of Squeeze! You'll have to excuse the blurry photograph - I was on the floor at the time and my hands were shaking with excitement. Or possibly lack of food. It was lunchtime.

It just so happens that this week is Brighton Live week, during which over 250 local bands are playing free gigs around the city to poor people like me who wouldn't normally part with cash to go and see them. We missed a free concert on Tuesday night by Jake Shillingford of My Life Story, which took place only 200 yards from my flat, because despite Lisa being a big fan of the band, she wasn't quite enough of a devotee to know the lead singer's name, and therefore didn't realise who he was.

Fortunately, however, we're both big enough Squeeze fans to have heard of Chris Difford, and I'm pleased to say that despite being an international pop star for thirty years, he's not above playing a free gig in a room over a pub at 1:15pm on a Thursday.

Well I say 1:15pm. That's the time he was due to start, but I can't be certain that he did, because obviously we weren't there. Yes, in a shocking twist of fate, Lisa and I arrived late. Which is not like us at all. Unfortunately, due to Lisa's hectic schedule of engagements, we were unable to leave before 1:05pm, it then took us twenty minutes to walk to the pub, a further ten minutes to wander aimlessly up and down Trafalgar Street trying to find the pub, and a final five minutes in the pub trying to find Chris Difford.

But at 1:40pm, having spotted a handwritten piece of paper stuck to the wall saying "Chris Difford upstairs -->" (it was hardly the name in lights I was expecting), we eventually came crashing through a closed door into a darkened room just as he finished 'Black Coffee in Bed'. But the good thing about making a noisy entrance right at the end of an intimate gig is that it gets you noticed. So as we sat down on the floor at the front, Chris turned to the audience and announced how guilty he felt at finishing the gig just as we'd arrived. He then exchanged a few words with Lisa, who persuaded him to do an encore, and he duly sang 'Tempted'. It was possibly the finest four-minute concert I've ever attended.

Floors & WallsSo inspired by our brief encounter with Chris Difford, we decided to make the most of Brighton Live by going to the Joogleberry Playhouse last night to see Floors and Walls. Yes, Floors and Walls. They might sound like a cleaning product, but they're actually an alternative pop-rock band who are almost young enough to be my children. They were supported by the dubiously named Mascara, an all-girl trio who list among their influences 'each other' and 'chocolate'.

Both bands are signed to South Coast Sounds, which in Mascara's case is a bit of a shame because it precludes them from entering The X Factor, and with the dirge which passes for vocal talent on that show, I'm telling you now, they would walk it. Lead singer Stephanie had the kind of voice which would make Michelle McManus crawl under a rock in shame. That's if she could find a rock big enough.

As for Floors & Walls, they were excellent. In fact they were so good I've just ordered their album from HMV. Watching videos like this one (which was filmed in the multi-storey car park down at the marina), you don't realise just what a stunning voice Alex Adams has. If I were him I'd spend less time rapping, and more time showing people how well I can sing. But what do I know? I'm 34 and I've got a moustache. I don't think I'm their target audience.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

HairyWell, the naming, shaming and outing technique I used in yesterday's post has worked. By 11:06pm last night (dangerously close to the end of the day), I'd succeeded in attracting a further two (count them) donations. Unfortunately only one of them's from a sibling. Unless BS6 (whose real name is far more ridiculous) is my long lost brother. So thanks go to him for his frankly insane generosity in giving money to an unemployed stranger, and to Big Sis who forgot how much she'd pledged, and ended up donating twice as much as she'd promised. When scientists announce a cure for cancer at the beginning of October, I'll make sure you both get the credit you deserve.

In addition to her donation, Big Sis sent me an e-mail in which she stated a total of four times that she can't believe how silly I look, and then, without so much as a hint of irony, sent me a photo of herself in her Australian school uniform. I asked if I can publish it on my blog, but oddly she hasn't replied. Mind you, it's about as clear as a photo of Madeleine McCann in Morocco, and looks like it was taken on a mobile phone, in the dark, by somebody with Parkinsons Disease. So I might hold out for a better one.

As for my brother, he demanded further evidence of my facial hair, said I should be inhabiting the beer halls of Germany, and then promised to donate in the near future. Which is the electronic equivalent of saying the cheque's in the post.

Anyhoo, I don't know if I mentioned this before, but I was in Worthing on Tuesday. No, really. Lisa wasn't at work (I didn't ask why), so I took her out for the afternoon to some of the south coast's finest charity shops. At the time I think she'd rather have gone to a fancy restaurant, but that was before we arrived at charity shop number twelve: The Salvation Army. Where I found a very nice coffee table for £15. It just so happens that Lisa's mother has been after a new coffee table for quite some time. She doesn't drink coffee, but she does need somewhere to fill in her betting slips, and every time she comes around here she makes a point of admiring my coffee table, presumably hoping that I might cave in and give it to her.

So to cut a long story short, we (by which I mean Lisa) handed over £15 and bought it. I then spent 24 hours cleaning and polishing the thing, and having waited until Lisa's mother was out, we crept (ie. drove) up to her flat, let ourselves in, and left the table in her living room, in that playful, spontaneous way that people do when they don't want to talk to their parents.

Of course, the whole process would have been a lot quicker if Lisa hadn't forgotten her key the first time, meaning we had to drive all the way back to my flat, but other than that it all went swimmingly. Apart from when I carefully replaced the table's glass inlay, and managed to leave a big scratch right across the table-top. I was not a happy bunny. But I left a note blaming the previous owners.

We then returned to my flat to see how long it woud take Lisa's Mum to notice that we'd been there, and phone us up to say thank you. It wasn't long - it turned out we'd left a light on, so she thought she had burglars and almost phoned the police. But the good news is, she loves her new coffee table. If there's one thing I've always said, it's that you can tell how empty someone's life is by their reaction to a bit of second-hand furniture from a charity shop. And let me tell you, that woman's life was empty. But not any more. She said it's the nicest coffee table she's ever seen, and its presence has transformed her entire home. I feel like Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen. But with no hair and a moustache.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Hot FuzzIt's me and my moustache in Worthing! I feel like I should be saying "Rather!" or "What-ho!" or something. It was suggested in yesterday's comments that I'm only a wig short of doing a Stalin impression, which is an outrageous thing to say. I look far more like Saddam Hussein...

Power-Hungry DictatorSaddam Hussein
Kind of. Mind you, that was before he hid in a hole and came out looking like Father Christmas.

When I saw Lisa's sister last Friday she claimed I had a touch of the Dick Dastardly about me, but that was probably nothing to do with my moustache.

Anyhoo, my reason for posing outside Wilkinsons in the middle of Worthing town centre on a Tuesday afternoon is because I need evidence of massive hair growth to e-mail to my brother and sister who, more than three weeks after this tireless charity work began, are still managing to avoid sponsoring me. And that's despite me e-mailing them on day one, pointing out the fact that they both use tenners like other people use post-it notes, and inviting them to help me cure cancer. I did get a vague pledge from Big Sis, but she claimed she was busy trying to remember the stall speed of an aircraft at the time, and couldn't focus on my facial hair.

So with less than a week to go until I cross the finish line and shave the ends off my moustache to see what I'd look like as Hitler, I'm making another attempt to extort money from my siblings, and will be e-mailing them both this afternoon. So if they haven't sponsored me by the end of the day (whenever the day ends in Australia), there'll be trouble.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I took Lisa to the doctor yesterday for her annual service and oil change. As stated here before (on too many occasions to mention), Lisa's GP operates an interesting and forward-thinking appointments system which basically involves stuffing everyone into an overcrowded waiting room... and then refusing to see them. She seems to think that if she ignores her patients, they'll go away. And sometimes they do. I've witnessed people walking out after two and a half hours, claiming they'd rather die of bluetongue than spend another hour waiting.

This is in stark contrast to my own doctor down the road who, in four visits this year, has never kept me waiting long enough to open a copy of Heat magazine. Frankly I queue longer at Asda.

So imagine our delight when we arrived at the surgery yesterday morning to find that there were only two (yes, two) people ahead of us. Either the sea air has cured everyone's ills, or the local population have finally realised just how rubbish Lisa's doctor is, and gone elsewhere. I'd plump for the latter.

Anyhoo, as we sat down, Lisa turned to me and said "well at least we won't have to wait two hours this time". She was right. It was only an hour and a half. I'd like to know how, when most people spend about five minutes in with the doctor, Lisa's GP only manages to get through two patients in ninety minutes. She's probably busy on Facebook. Mind you, this is a woman who once ate a sandwich and rang a mechanic about her car while Lisa and I were in the room with her, so goodness knows what she gets up to when she's alone.

Anyway, having come out of the surgery a great deal older than when I went in, I was cheered up by popping into the local Co-op and finding that it's now Christmas. Technically it might still be three months away, but that hasn't stopped the Co-op putting out their festive range, and encouraging me to buy tins of biscuits with reindeer on them. I stood there thinking "who's going to buy these in September?", only to receive an instant answer - the lady in front of me bought two.

Personally I just bought a copy of The Argus, which yesterday published this fantastic piece of correspondence on their letters page...

47 years old and single.
I'm not entirely sure what her point is, but if you're looking for a 47-year-old single woman who smokes cigarettes and is willing to fast if she has to, Anne's your girl.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Police line-ups in Brighton are getting more extreme every day...

Bombay Baja
I think I'd go for the one third from the left. He looks shifty in those glasses. It's clearly only his saxophone which is going straight.

Anyhoo, yesterday was Car Free Day in Brighton, which is probably why Hilda Braid was doing the Nana Moonwalk along the seafront. Tragically, however, Lisa and I failed to spot her. We did see a young boy illegally playing Maroon 5 on an electronic keyboard by the pier, and liked him enough to give him 60p, but sadly that was the only cash we parted with all afternoon. Hilda Braid and the coffers of the Alzheimer's Society remained empty.

Village GreenFortunately the 'Streets For People' event in the town centre was a bit easier to spot. It's hard to miss a road covered in AstroTurf and a group of Romanian tuba players dressed as ducks. Especially when they're introduced by Dave Mounfield, whose "natural speaking voice is informative, friendly and warm", at least according to his agent.

As for the saxophonists in turbans, they went by the name of Bombay Baja, and were described in the programme as "one of Europe's leading Indian brass bands". There are so many things wrong with that sentence that I don't know where to begin. And let's face it, there's no such place as Bombay either, so they really do have problems. But despite that, the music was quite good. What we heard of it anyway. Unfortunately after less than a minute, Lisa claimed they were giving her a headache, so we left.

Car Free SculptureI have to say, some of the events taking place seemed more relevant than others. I can see the point of replacing a road with a village green, doing free bike safety checks, and letting people play snooker in the street (I think), but offering to style people's hair and calling it a 'Car Free Sculpture' was pushing it a bit. Surely all hairstyles are car free? Apart from the VW Beatle cut.

In the end I decided not to let them tint my moustache, and we moved on past the Giant Jenga, Hula-Hooping children, drum-making workshop, and remote-controlled wheelie bins to the Giant Paint By Numbers, which was overseen by a man called Hugh Jart. I'm sensing that's not his given name. Lisa professed a life-long love of painting by numbers, and was keen to get involved, but I wasn't sure her maths was strong enough, so I led her on quickly to the Giant Comic Strip.

Giant Comic StripI'm not sure why everything has to be 'giant' on Car Free Day, but it does. It's probably something to do with big oil. The Giant Comic Strip turned out to be a long roll of paper sellotaped to the road, which had been started quite artistically (possibly by Hugh) with a sign saying "Let's Go!" and a dragon on a skateboard. It went downhill after that. And then round the corner. Personally I was praying for rain, just to see what would happen. They'd probably have to turn it into a papier-mâché workshop.

But some of the live music was very good. We missed the City of Brighton Gay Men's Chorus, and the Samba band for pensioners, but we did get to see The Ukes of Hazzard, who were described by Dave Mounfield as "the second best ukulele-based band I've ever seen. The first being them about an hour ago".

I do have a photo of Lisa standing on the village green, enjoying the lilting sounds of Romanian tubas, but unfortunately her first words upon viewing it were "get rid of that immediately", so I don't think I'm allowed to publish it. But all in all, Car Free Day was a good afternoon out. It was quite tiring though, so we had to get a taxi home.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I've just been into the bedroom and tried to convey to Lisa via the medium of mime the fact that Marcel Marceau has died. Her exact response was "Are you not feeling very well?", but I think that has more to do with her lack of imagination, rather than my ability to convincingly portray a dead man trapped in a box.

Hilda BraidBut following on from yesterday's close encounter with a TV pensioner, I have high hopes of meeting another one today. The Alzheimer's Society are holding a 'Memory Walk' from Hove Lagoon to Kemp Town, featuring none other than Hilda Braid, who's either Wolfie's mother-in-law in Citizen Smith, or Nana Moon from Eastenders, depending on which generation you're from.

You can't get away from former Eastenders actresses ambling around Brighton for charity at the moment. Only yesterday, Patsy Palmer put on her pyjamas in public and staggered around Stanmer in her slippers with a load of Yummy Mummys. Sadly I wasn't there to see it. I was too busy cooking Lisa thin with a miracle weight loss lasagne, which ended up taking four hours to create. She's a pound heavier this morning, but I'm sure that's just coincidence.

Anyhoo, Nana Moon set off from Hove Lagoon at midday, so she's been pounding the streets for an hour now. Taking into account her age, and any delays suffered by signing autographs for the three people who might recognise her, I estimate that the Memory Walk should be arriving here in Kemp Town about mid afternoon. That's if they remember the way.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Dora the ExplorerIt's not every day you have to wrestle Dora Bryan on the floor of a charity shop, just to buy a copy of Richard & Judy's autobiography. I sometimes wonder what I'm doing with my life. But I popped into the Marie Curie (or Mariah Carey, as I like to call it) shop around the corner this afternoon where, in an act of supreme selflessness, I decided to buy a copy of Madeley & Finnigan's life story for Lisa. She's been feeling a bit under the weather lately (Lisa, not Judy), and I thought it was just the kind of rubbish which might cheer her up.

Unfortunately my efforts to brighten Lisa's day were thwarted by octogenarian star of stage and screen, Dora Bryan, who was encamped at the counter, demanding to know if anyone had seen her tapestry. Apparently she's recently started one (possibly of King Harold getting an arrow in the eye) but having settled down this morning to work on it, she found it had gone missing, and therefore came to the only logical conclusion: she must have left it in a charity shop.

Sadly for Dora, the staff assured her that no recently-started tapestry had been handed in to lost property, and despite getting the manageress to check out the back just in case, it was like finding a needlework in a haystack, and they drew a blank.

So having finally accepted that losing stuff is all part of life's rich tapestry (especially when you're living the life of Bryan), Dora moved off towards the exit. Which she then proceeded to block whilst she had a conversation with some bloke about the health of her old friend Kenneth in London. Apparently he's not been at all well.

In the meantime I handed over my £1.50, assured the woman on the counter that the book wasn't for me, and attempted to leave. Only to find that I couldn't get out of the shop for retired actresses. I said "Excuse me...", Dora ignored me, I tried to gently push past, she didn't move, and before I knew what was happening, we were practically doing the Lambada in the middle of Marie Curie. I haven't been so intimate with a celebrity since I trod on Nicky Keig-Shevlin's dog.

But all's well that ends well: Lisa likes her book, and Dora Bryan's not going to press charges after I pushed her into a clothes rack.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Donkeys' YearsLisa and I went to see Donkeys' Years at the Theatre Royal last night. According to the posters outside, The Daily Telegraph described it as "English comedy at its best... it becomes physically impossible to stop laughing". Well I wouldn't say impossible. To be honest, the first time Lisa laughed out loud was when the curtain came down at the interval and I told her my sides had just split.

I don't know what it is about stage comedies. I love the theatre, I love comedy, and yet every time I go to see a supposedly hilarious play, I come away feeling disappointed. I mean, there are plays I find genuinely funny, but I haven't been to see one since last year, and these days the only time I laugh at a bit of theatre is when I'm watching 'Cosmetic Surgery Live'.

Mind you, I wasn't in the best of moods to start with. Having already paid through the nose for our tickets, it then started pouring with rain for the first time in a fortnight, half an hour before we were due to leave, meaning we were forced to pay £3 each for a bus ticket to avoid irreparable damage to Lisa's hair. So once you added in the price of a programme and an interval ice cream, the evening ended up costing us more than a cheap package holiday to Benidorm. Which would have been only slightly less funny.

To be fair, the play wasn't bad. The acting was very good (although I'm disappointed we didn't get to see one of the understudies who, according to the programme, has appeared in a Crimewatch reconstruction), the staging and sets were excellent and the whole thing was very polished. Even Norman Pace excelled himself. Although I wouldn't recommend he try a Brummie accent again any time soon. The whole thing was reasonably amusing, and held my interest for an hour and three quarters, it's just that... well, it didn't make me laugh. Which came as a slight disappointment, having been assured by The Daily Telegraph that I'd require some kind of hospitalisation for hysteria by the end of the night.

I enjoyed 'Noises Off' and the film 'Clockwise', both written by Michael Frayn, but when the main character in Donkeys' Years hurts his back at the end of Act I purely so that he can spend the whole of Act II with his trousers round his ankles, unable to bend over and pull them up, in a lame attempt to get a few cheap laughs, you do start to think that maybe this isn't his best work.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

If there's one thing I've always said, it's that I love Polish people. True, we haven't always seen eye to eye on the issue of whether it's acceptable to play dance music through the night at a volume liable to remove people's fillings with the drill of a thumping bassline, and I haven't quite worked out why they can't phone home to Warsaw without standing outside my living room window and shouting, but that aside, they're all salt of the earth types and I won't hear a word said against them.

Anyhoo, Lisa and I went to Asda last night. I needed to buy the ingredients for a lasagne recipe taken from Lisa's book 'Cook Yourself Thin' (she didn't write it, she was given it for her birthday by my parents, who were clearly trying to tell her something). Despite the fact that the book is, according to its cover, "the delicious way to drop a dress size", thereby proving that sexism is alive and well, and men aren't important, I'd agreed to make said lasagne for Lisa, thereby cooking her thin and taking full credit for her weight loss.

One of the ingredients for this miracle diet dish was "1 jar of red peppers in brine", so I headed off to Asda fully confident that a shop the size of an aircraft hangar would stock such an item. Ten minutes later I'd changed my mind. They might sell eight different types of beetroot, stacks of pickled onions, and numerous jars of disgusting-looking cabbage and olives, but the closest thing to red peppers were small pots of pickled chillis. And I refuse to burn my tongue for anyone. My dream of cooking Lisa thin was looking in tatters.

Until, that is, we arrived two aisles further down at an all-new department, recently added to the Brighton Marina branch of Asda. To my amazement, they now have a dedicated 'Polish Food' section. I was about to turn to Lisa and make a valid point about food miles and the state of Britain's immigration policy, when I noticed this...

Mmm... Papryka Marynowana.
It's Papryka Marynowana Czerwona. Or a jar of red peppers in brine. Shipped directly from Poland to the heart of the Polish community here in Kemp Town. I might not share their taste in music, but you can't fault their love of food. We'll be thin in no time.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Cheek of it.I went to the Lib Dem Conference yesterday. Well, I loitered about outside looking for Lembit Opik & The Cheeky Girls. It amounts to the same thing. Sadly, despite walking in front of two different camera crews with an interesting expression on my face, no one asked to interview me for the lunchtime news, and I failed to spot anyone famous. I was particularly hoping to bump into Justine McGuinness, the former official spokesperson for Kate & Gerry McCann, who's now lost custody of Cuddle Cat and is in Brighton all week chairing debates for the Lib Dems.

I discovered this morning that she has her own blog (although she avoids the subject of Madeleine McCann in favour of writing about Punch & Judy). She's only had one comment on her latest post, but it's a corker. Oddly she hasn't replied to it.

Brighton & Hove Debating SocietyBut inspired by the debates taking place on the stage of the Brighton Centre, Lisa and I made our second attempt to join the Brighton & Hove Debating Society last night. We'd planned to go last month, before having a debate about it and changing our minds, but yesterday there was no stopping us. Admittedly, we were very nearly foiled by our inability to find the venue, but having almost walked into a yoga class by mistake, we were eventually directed down a dark alleyway behind a flower stall, and located our fellow debaters.

It cost us a pound to get in, which the gentleman on the door assured me is the best value night out in Brighton, including as it does, a cup of coffee. I didn't tell him I only drink tea. The group were a curious mix. I'd say 90% of them were pensioners, but intriguingly the president of the society is a young chap much like myself (but without the fantastic moustache).

The proposal up for discussion was 'Age is a state of mind', and prompted a debate which covered everything from Mozart to Stirling Moss, via Joan Collins and Cher, taking in hip replacements, YouTube, and 'the biological cage'. I actually quite enjoyed it. In fact I very nearly got to my feet to make a fantastic point about the menopause, and playing squash with octogenarians, but just as I was on the verge of joining in, we ran out of time. The proposer won the debate by 23 votes to 6. Which would have been 4 if Lisa and I hadn't gone. I had no idea I held such minority views.

Monday, September 17, 2007

It's always good to stand on the beach on a Sunday morning, admiring the pier in a yellow hat...

Has anyone seen my shoes?
Unfortunately, people in rubber are easily startled. I think one of them spotted Sir Menzies Campbell coming up behind with a conference agenda, and in the scramble to get away, they all ended up leaping into the sea...

Taking the plunge.
White as a sheet.By the time this one emerged twenty minutes later, all the colour had washed out of his hat.

Well ok, this insane lemming-like behaviour was actually part of the Brighton Triathlon, which took place yesterday, five minutes walk (or a two-minute run in a wetsuit) from my flat. The chap on the left wiped the ocean floor with his rivals in the Olympic distance event for 20 to 29-year-olds. Most of the other white-capped youngsters were still floundering about off the coast when he emerged onto the beach. Mind you, the tide was coming in at the time, so they had further to swim.

As for the yellow-capped people, they were the 30 to 39-year-old men, which is why I was able to mingle with them so successfully, and pass myself off as one of their own.

Bike OutHaving swum 1500m in cold choppy water, it was then just a short sprint across the pebbles to the bike park to slap on a helmet, pick up your trusty steed and head off towards an ambulance in your bare feet with your shoes stuck to the pedals.

If you make it that far, you then have to cycle 40km (yes, that's all) up and down Madeira Drive, trying not to forget how many laps you've done, while people like me try to run across the road in front of you to get to the toilets. Assuming you survive that, then it's just a simple matter of hopping off and embarking on a relaxing 10km run back and forth along the promenade in your soggy underwear.

JubilanceIt's all worth it though. Just look at the expression of unbridled joy on this competitor's face as she crosses the finish line. She'd obviously spotted the free banana being offered to anyone who completed the course.

Anyway, whilst I'm enormously impressed by anyone who can swim a mile, cycle a marathon, and still have enough energy left to run ten kilometres in a headwind, I have to say that each and every one of them, without exception, is completely and utterly INSANE. They could have been sitting at home with their feet up in front of the Grand Prix, not picking seaweed from between their toes whilst trying to mount a racing bike. I was tired just watching them. In fact, having stood on the beach all morning, walked home, written a blog post, and then gone back down there for an hour to cheer on the stragglers, I was just about ready for a full body massage and an early night. I dread to think how the competitors felt.

This bloke was so confused that he crossed the finish line thinking he was still on his bike.

Meanwhile, one of the yellow-capped guys I photographed plunging into the sea at 10:40am was only just jogging up the home straight when I got back down there at ten to two. I can think of better way to spend a Sunday. Most of them involving Yorkshire puddings and gravy.

But I think the reason they all do it was summed up nicely on the back of the t-shirts worn by representatives of Urbanrace, the company who organised the event. As their slogan puts it:

'Swim With The Endorphins'

I do love a good pun. Although personally I get my endorphins from chocolate.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

'Ello 'Ello 'ElloLisa went away for the weekend on Friday to some kind of convention for the misguided, so left alone for two days without her help, advice and confident leadership skills (she's been on a course) it was naturally only a matter of time before my life fell apart and I ended up in the police cells.

Fortunately I was only there for an hour. That's how long the tour lasts. I actually spent yesterday morning roaming the basement (and sub-basement) of Brighton Town Hall, which is home to the Old Police Cells Museum, a visitor attraction which is only open for two hours a week. Until the end of September. Then it's closed for seven months.

Our guide for this underground operation was none other than Pat Drake, former Mayor of Brighton & Hove, and current Conservative councillor for Withdean. According to that link, she was educated at Lourdes Convent, so she's no stranger to miracles. She should pray for longer opening hours.

Unfortunately, despite being located at the town hall, started by the Mayor, and dedicated to local policing, the museum receives no funding from the council and can't afford to hire any staff, so you can only go down there when Pat's got a couple of hours free to show you around. It's a real shame, because it's actually very good. Parts of it have been redecorated by teenagers from the Prince's Trust, who removed sixteen skiploads of rubbish from the basement, before giving new meaning to being plastered in a police cell, by volunteering to do all the structural repairs themselves.

Fortunately they haven't plastered over all the graffiti in the men's holding cells, which were used right up until the late 60s. The walls feature amusing autographs from the law-breaking likes of 'Dave the Rocker, 8th June 1964', 'Beatnik George', 'Mick' (who "loves Sandra"), and artistic representations of various topless women in suspenders. My favourite was this message, written in biro near the ceiling:

"Scotland 2, England 1. We are the people who tamed the so called World Cup holders. Ha ha ha. They are just like the English Old Bill - a crowd of no good slag b*st*rds."

I'm sensing the author might have been from north of the border.

Among the more official displays were historical helmets, handcuffs and more truncheons than you can shake a large heavy stick at. There's also a detailed model of the Grand Hotel just after the Brighton bombing of 1984, which has apparently toured the world's police conferences as a reminder of what happens if you let members of the public near politicians. Oh, and there's also a ghost.

Apparently the cells are haunted by the ghost of Chief Constable Henry Solomon. They should train him to do the tours, then they could open during the week. Solomon was murdered there in 1844 by a bloke called John Lawrence, who had stolen a roll of carpet from a shop in St James's Street (they only sell Polish products there now) and therefore thought it worth cleaving the chief constable's head open with a poker when no one was looking. Apparently the poker knocked out a couple of teeth (the wisdoms of Solomon) and he died the next day. We were shown the fireplace where it happened, but I didn't see any blood. Or ghostly apparitions. Possibly because I don't believe in them.

As for John Lawrence, he was hanged three weeks later, so the wheels of justice were obviously a lot better oiled in those days.

I was also slightly shocked to see that whilst the men's cells had cold concrete floors and no natural light, the women were treated to nice wooden flooring and windows. I loved Prisoner Cell Block H as much as the next man, but you can't go giving them special treatment. As Vinegar Tits used to say, they're all animals.

That's not me. Honestly.All in all though, it was a very entertaining experience. My only complaint is that your visit is strictly limited to the time it takes to give the tour, meaning that having been whisked in and out of the cells for fifty-five minutes whilst trying (and failing) to see everything on display, you're then ushered out of the door before you've had a chance to take any amusing photos of yourself with the criminal graffiti. Mind you, with my moustache the way it is, I already bear an uncanny similarity to Britain's most dangerous prisoner, so it's probably not a good idea to publish photos of myself in a cell.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

It's never a good idea to sniff my socks. You can be passed out for hours.

Put a sock in it.
But when I'm not filling my flat with the fragrance of feet, I'm busy being turned down for the same job twice. Back in January I applied for the position of Entertainment Writer on The Argus, only to be rejected four weeks later on the grounds that... well actually I don't know - they wouldn't tell me. At the end of August, however, they advertised the position again, so being a glutton for punishment, I decided to apply for a second time. I thought the fact that in the intervening months I'd had eleven entertainment articles published in The Kemptown Rag and another fourteen on The Argus website, might give me a better chance of success.

Sadly I was wrong. I received a letter this morning which states "We have had a huge number of applications for this vacancy and I am afraid to say you have not been selected for interview". The closing date was last Friday, and this letter's dated Monday, so it's nice to know that even having received a huge number of applications, each comprising a CV and three examples of work, they were ready to type up my rejection letter on the next working day.

If they were hoping to claim the record for my fastest rejection though, they'll have to do a lot better than that. That particular title still belongs to the SeaLife Centre, who managed to turn me down on the same day they got my application form.

Interestingly though, back in March, just a few weeks after both of those valiant job-seeking efforts, I applied to be a Rotational Pharmacy Assistant (chemist in a spin) at the hospital. Well ok, that's not very interesting. But what is interesting is that much like the Entertainment Writer job, that position's now being readvertised too. Clearly no one stays in a job for more than six months any more.

Since then, I've actually applied for a total of three jobs at the hospital, in three different departments, none of which have ever bothered to get back to me. It's obviously not easy to hide a mental illness when you're dealing with doctors. They can probably tell I'm a fruit loop from the way I type my CV. But after the roaring success of my second Argus application, I might give the hospital a fourth chance to respond to me. The way things are going, I could just keep applying for the same jobs every six months. Then I can repeat the same blog posts when they turn me down.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Donkeys' YearsI booked two tickets yesterday for 'Donkeys' Years', a play by Michael Frayn which is coming to the Theatre Royal in Brighton next week. It stars Norman Pace out of Hale & Pace, Pike out of Dad's Army, and the woman who said "Lovely" in the Philadelphia ads. Now, obviously I'm willing to pay top dollar to see actors of that calibre performing in my home town, but by the time I'd entered my credit card details and clicked 'Pay', I did feel like I'd been the victim of some kind of mugging.

For a start, the ticket price is £25. If you want to sit at the back, half a mile from the stage, behind a couple of pillars, then they're willing to knock two quid off that, but otherwise you're stuck with it. The Thursday matinee is cheaper, but firstly some of us have to work for a living (not me, obviously, but some of us), and secondly it's already booked up.

So I grudgingly slapped down my metaphorical cash, only to be told that there's also a booking fee of £2 per ticket. Putting the price up to £27. Fair enough you might think (although if you do, I'd like a word with you), but having contributed an extra £4 to cover the cost of 'booking', and pay for a couple of drinks at the staff Christmas party, I was then informed that there's also a 'restoration levy' of £1. Per ticket. And it's compulsory. Oh yes, we're now expected to pay for the theatre to be redecorated.

So faced with a charge of £28 each for my £25 tickets, I finally entered my name, address and credit card details whilst mentally composing a letter of complaint to my old mate Julien Boast and contemplating the possibility of slashing a few seats when I get there, just to get my money's worth out of the restoration levy. At which point this came up: "Extra - Web Transaction Charge - £2.50".

So on top of paying for the tickets, covering the cost of booking, and funding the complete renovation of the toilets, I also have to pay extra for booking online. WHY??? Surely that saves them money? Unless they're paying their ticket office staff so little that it actually costs more to run a computer. I wouldn't mind, but I've now got no money left for an interval ice cream.
Big Sis in a Small World
Durango, Colorado (20-22 June 2007)

Many people had told me that I must do the Durango to Silverton train ride in Colorado. I'm not sure why. Maybe they didn't realise I have a car. But keen to do as I'm told, I set off for Durango, where I checked into a particularly unpleasant hotel... before quickly deciding to leave, and move to one half way up a mountain where I had this view from my room...


What you can’t see from the pic above is the multitude of beaver-shaped animals in the area, such as this one.

On the right track.Anyway, keen to do the 'must see' train ride, I headed off to buy my ticket when I suddenly saw a mass of people with cameras at the ready getting onto said train (pictured right). I suddenly had a massive flashback to the Denali coach trip in Alaska with a busload of Americans who went wild in the aisles at the sight of a rabbit, and decided that cycling from Durango to Silverton must be a better option. So I set off on my trusty steed and admired views such as this one...

Colorado River
Fifty-five miles later, and having climbed to 10,000 feet, I started to look longingly at the train which sped past below me. But not to be dissuaded, the next day I continued on from where I left off and had the satisfaction of views such as these, before eventually getting to see Silverton itself.

But despite all the bear warning signs, I felt a little disappointed that the most dangerous animal sightings I’d had were a herd of beavers. That was until an hour before I left, when I went for a quick run to say goodbye to the furry critters. In that thirty minutes, I stepped on a (dead, fortunately) snake and fell over in an attempt to avoid treading on a (live, unfortunately) snake looking particularly ferocious. At least the beavers aren't venomous.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Who's that moustachioed Mexican with his arm around a totem pole..?

Bushy MushI hope he's being paid to look that stupid.

Anyhoo, my Mummy came down to Brighton yesterday to visit me and laugh at my moustache, so I got my own back by insisting she go out with me in public. That soon wiped the smile off her face. Having read yesterday's report about Big Sis rising from the ashes of Phoenix, I decided to take my Mum to the Phoenix Gallery, which is slightly nearer than Arizona, situated as it is in the centre of Brighton.

They've got two exhibitions on at the moment, one a collection of totem poles, the other a load of felt tip pen drawings. No, really.

It actually turned out to be very good. I didn't understand a lot of it, but hey, you can't let your own ignorance get in the way of your enjoyment of art. Jim Sanders' totem poles (or "totemic figures" if you read the programme) consisted of eight-foot bits of wood to which had been nailed numerous bits of junk. Or as the guide so eloquently put it, "found materials". That included thousands of bottle tops, can tops, sardine tins, animal bones, rusty chisels, a jelly mould and a sachet of vinegar. Not to mention some items that only ever get thrown away, such as empty cigarette packets and a leaflet from the Jehovah's Witnesses. One totem even included a passport and a page from a Tintin book. I'm not sure why.

WoodTwo of the figures represented Jesus and the Virgin Mary, but as the photo above proves, I chose to cuddle up to Satan instead. He looked a lot warmer. I particularly liked the totem pole with breasts, and the one on the right had a penis made out of a table leg. Or possibly it's a bedknob.

Anyway, it was all quite inspiring. Particularly for someone like me who doesn't recycle. But ironically, the forest of totem poles wasn't really the main reason I went. I actually wanted to see these...

Phelt Tip Phil
Ten-foot wide pictures drawn entirely in felt tip. It's enough to make a six-year-old froth at the mouth. I have to say, I loved these. There's something surprisingly entertaining about staring at a felt tip pen mural for ten minutes and spotting Ainsley Harriott, Darth Vader and Mr Potato Head. My Mum and I spent a good half hour trying to work out the connection between the hundreds of items in each ten-foot picture, before finally accepting that if Bagpuss is nestled between a kettle, a Cabbage Patch Kid and a picture of Theseus slaying the Minotaur, then that's just the way it is.

Super, Smashing, Great.Here's me with Arthur Scargill and Jim Bowen. You can't beat a bit o' bully. And Arthur was quite a major one.

As a lifelong fan of colouring in, the artist Martin Symons is now a major hero of mine, so I plan to return to the gallery on October 13th when he's creating a giant collaborative 'felt-tip medley' with the help of members of the public. I asked Lisa last night if she wants to come with me, and she replied "But I can't draw". She clearly knows nothing about modern art.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Big Sis in a Small World
Sedona, Arizona (18-19 June 2007)

Next stop, Arizona. A quick night in Phoenix where I managed to avoid my work colleagues, and I headed on to Sedona where I had this nice view from my hotel room...

A Room With a View
But keen to catch the sunrise, I set out on my bike in search of some red rocks (and I don't mean the cider), only to meet two women, Jill and Jill, wading about in some stagnant water. I soon realised they were trying to get a good photo of a rock, and obviously having water up to their waists did nothing to deter them. Personally I figured I could get a good shot from the side of the bank. That was until I and my camera slipped and landed in a mass of mud.

Red RocksFortunately Jill and Jill leapt to my rescue, and suddenly wading in stagnant water didn’t seem so bad, so I decided to join my new found friends. The Jills even cleaned my mud-covered camera to enable me to get this shot. They also invited me to join them on their next rock sighting which was apparently particularly mystic. But I declined - the urgent removal of mud and stagnant water seemed more appealing than being mystical with my new friends.Me in Sedona

All cleaned up and with a new day ahead of me, I went for another cycle ride through Sedona where I took a few more photos, saw a snake and got chased by a couple of dogs.

Sedona, Arizona

Monday, September 10, 2007

If you look very closely, you might be able to spot a motorbike in this picture...

Ace Cafe Reunion 2007
Where are the traffic wardens, that's what I'd like to know.

Anyhoo, this was the scene down at Madeira Drive yesterday morning after every leather-clad biker in Britain decended on the seafront for a day of petrol-sniffing in the sun. You can read an article about it here. I don't know who wrote it, but by god, he's good. The title's supposed to be 'That Petrol Emotion', thus creating a fantastically lame pun about an 80s band, but unfortunately you just can't get the staff these days.

Personally I wasn't planning to attend the event at all. I was far more interested in the Brighton Food Festival which was holding a gourmet food market outside the Theatre Royal. I like a wild boar sausage roll and a jar of chilli jam as much as the next man, and I'm a big fan of Hell's Kitchen, so it seemed like a better choice than the grease-monkey convention down at the seafront. Unfortunately it proved hard to make it into town without getting intimate with a Fatboy along the way, so I ended up doing both.

The market turned out to be very interesting. I tried some Sweet Olive Jam (which tasted like marmalade mixed with olive oil), visited The Chocolate Alchemist, browsed a stall called 'I Can't Believe It's Not Parmesan', nearly bought a Hush Puppy Bang Bang, and met Chilli Pepper Pete, who was selling a chilli so hot it's in the Guiness Book of Records.

Most curious though was a company from Wiltshire which went by the name of Suzette's Pancakes. I'm sorry, but surely if your name's Suzette, you shouldn't be calling them pancakes..?
Two months after you thought it was all over...

Big Sis in a Small World
San Diego (12-17 June 2007)

San DiegoWell I can confirm that San Diego, Southern California is still my favorite (sorry, favourite) place in the grand ol' US of A. And what was going to be a two-day visit turned into a six-day holiday as J and I could not bear to tear ourselves away from the sun, sea and sand (after all, it's the first four letters) of San Diego. After spending a night in a hotel which was in the middle of nowhere, we swiftly moved to the Marriot Harbor View where we did indeed get a fantastic harbour view after I persuaded them to upgrade us to a room on the 33rd floor. Little did I know that J had a fear of heights, so he missed all the harbour viewing and refused to go anywhere near our balcony during the entire stay.

Ground Level
Me and RFortunately we had our own local tour guide, a guy named R who walked us along a cliff just before informing us that part of it had collapsed the previous week. He then snuck us past the guards into his old university campus coz it apparently has the best views, before taking us up some hill for a quick photo shoot. The touring was finished off with a meal in La Jolla, which meant J and I could survey the surroundings and make a joint decision to spent the next few days permanently fastened to a La Jolla beach. And that is pretty much what we did for the whole five days...

Me and JJ and Me