Subscribe: Subscribe to me on YouTube

Friday, November 30, 2007

Billy the Kid
Don't worry, that's not me. I've never worn a bow-tie. Although I did once have hair like that.

Anyhoo, with all the irrepressible enthusiasm of someone who feels they ought to go and see something at the Brighton Film Festival before it closes, I dragged Lisa along to see Billy the Kid at the Duke of York's last night. And very good it was too. Unless you're Lisa, in which case it was "alright, I suppose".

Personally I loved it. It's an American documentary by Jennifer Venditti about a kid named Billy (the clue was in the title) who likes heavy metal, martial arts and a girl named Heather. It basically follows him for a week as he potters about Maine in his karate suit, chatting up Heather and singing along to Kiss with his shirt off. I knew I was going to like him from the opening five minutes when he says he doesn't want to move house because his cat's buried in the garden. It's an emotion shared by Peter Tobin, I'm sure.

Heather & BillyThe thing about Billy is that he's highly intelligent, highly articulate and supremely confident... and yet he has a habit of saying entirely the wrong thing at every given opportunity. Having fallen head-over-heels in love with shy, partially-sighted Heather ("Even though her eyes shake, she's still very pretty"), he spends most of the film in the local diner where she works as a waitress, making the most excruciating conversation in an attempt to win her heart.

I particularly liked his attempts to impress her family. Having been introduced to her stepfather for the first time, the conversation went something like this:

Billy: Do you like horror movies?
Heather's Dad: No.
Billy: Do you want to know what my favourite kind of horror movie is?
Heather's Dad: What?
Billy: Slasher movies.

That went down well. Then there was his first meeting with her grandmother, at which his opening gambit was "Like Heather, I too have a condition".

It's all very sweet, embarrassing, touching, poignant and sad. Particularly when his stepfather walks out on his Mum, using the excuse that he doesn't like the weather in Maine. I'm sure we've all used that one. It was consistently funny as well though. Frankly, if it hadn't been unscripted, it would have been everything you'd want in a script. Well, everything I'd want in a script. Hollywood producers might demand a few more explosions and car chases. Which is probably why I'm not a screenwriter.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

If there's one thing I've learnt since I moved to Brighton (and to be honest there probably isn't), it's that the best place to meet celebrities is in charity shops. Just two short months after manhandling Dora Bryan in the Marie Curie shop, I've gone and bumped into Preston from The Ordinary Boys in the British Heart Foundation.

He was with a young woman (who I'm sure the tabloids would refer to as a mystery blonde), and was buying a pair of jeans and a top. He claimed he was doing some painting (so it was a brush with fame for both of us) and needed something to wear, but it's only eight days since his divorce came through, so I expect Chantelle's taken him for all he's got, and the man's penniless and relying on charity. Much like myself.

Anyway, if anyone wants to contact Heat magazine's 'Spotted' page, it was 12:10pm at the London Road branch, and he doesn't look as tall in real life.

But celebrity encounters aside, I think I'm getting far too dull and responsible in my old age. My favourite electric instrumentalists The Deal Was For The Diamond (that name trips off the tongue and falls flat on its face) were playing a gig at the Pavilion Tavern last night, and entry was free. Yes, free. It's almost as if they know I'm a fan. So did I go? No, I did not. I wanted to, but the DWP, in their infinite wisdom, decided to postpone their imminent strike action just long enough to book me in for a 12-month review at the Jobcentre this morning. So rather than stay out late, rocking with the kids at the Pav Tav, I decided to go to bed early. It's what Peter Hain would have wanted.

Anyhoo, it was all worth it. I spent an enjoyable half hour at the Jobcentre chatting to the same guy I saw last time. His hayfever's cleared up since then. I showed him the list of jobs I've applied for in the past year, he looked quite impressed, so I told him I'd applied for a number of writing jobs and asked if that could be reflected in my Jobseeker's Agreement. He said maybe, then printed out the details of a Janitor's job in Hove, and asked me to sign on the dotted line. I expect he wanted proof that I could write. He'll probably change my agreement next time.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Who's the Daddy?It's interesting the things I find out at 11:15pm when instead of being peacefully asleep like any normal person, I'm lying in bed listening to random tales from Lisa's childhood. Apparently she used to be a big wrestling fan.

I know this thanks to the following intellectual debate which took place in bed last night (pay attention - this is a valuable insight into our relationship). We'd just discussed the fact that Amy Winehouse was apparently off her head at the Brighton Centre on Monday night, didn't come on stage until 10:15pm, and kept wandering off in the middle of songs. I questioned whether it's worth paying good money to see a drug addict shuffling across a stage in a beehive, before making the point that people used to pay a fortune to see Robbie Williams, despite the fact that (a) he's a twat, and (b) he always made the audience sing 'Angels'. I added that if I'd paid fifty quid for a ticket, I'd expect him to sing, not me.

The conversation then continued along these lines:

Me: Whatever happened to Robbie Williams?
Her: He must be so annoyed about Take That's comeback. He can't have expected that.
Me: No, but I did. I always had faith in Gary Barlow. I'm like the people on the Michelle McManus message board. They never stopped believing.
Her: Do you remember Mick McManus?
Me: The wrestler?
Her: Yes.
Me: No.

At which point Lisa revealed that she has a signed photo of Big Daddy.

It turns out that she spent her childhood going to the big wrestling shows at the Brighton Dome, has personally booed Giant Haystacks, and on numerous occasions had to be physically restrained from rushing into the ring to remove Kendo Nagasaki's mask.

I've made a mental note not to cross her in future.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

It's Lisa's nephew's birthday tomorrow.

Hitler YouthHere he is doing his Hitler impression. That photo was taken about a year ago, before he learnt to goose-step. These days he looks more like a Sumo wrestler.

Anyway, he'll be two years old on the 28th, as proved by this blog post from 2005. Unfortunately that means nothing to one of Lisa's friends, who's just phoned me up to say that she wants to buy him a birthday card with his age on, but thought she ought to double check first that he'll be three. I said he will be. In a year's time.

The trouble is I'm just not assertive enough, and despite knowing for a fact that Lisa's nephew will be two tomorrow, I was forced to undergo a battery of advanced psychological tests (which consisted mainly of being asked "Are you sure?" about ten times in a row) until I began to question everything I know to be true, and admitted that maybe I was only 99% sure he'll be two. As a result she said she wouldn't buy him a card with his age on, and put the phone down. To be honest, I don't really know why she rang up.

But talking of wasting my time, Lisa was due to finish work at 5pm yesterday afternoon, so being the kind of romantic boyfriend who likes to surprise his partner with touching gestures of love, I decided to meet her from work with a big bunch of shopping from Somerfied. Mainly so that she could help me carry it home.

What I didn't know, as I sat on the wall outside her workplace for a quarter of an hour in the freezing cold, clinging to a bottle of milk for warmth, was that she'd left work half an hour early, and was back at my flat playing Mahjong on the computer. Next time I try to be spontaneous, I think I'll check with her first.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Anyone who's recently been to the Brighton Hip-Hop Festival, the Brighton Food & Drink Festival, the Brighton Comedy Festival and the Brighton Festival of World Sacred Music (or maybe it's just me) will know that we love a good festival in Brighton. So for the past ten days we've been enduring enjoying CineCity - the Brighton Film Festival. It's like Sundance, but with drizzle.

Before last night I hadn't been to any of the screenings so far, not because I'm picky when it comes to art films, but because I can't afford the ticket prices. I'm tempted to make an exception on Wednesday, however, when they're showing a French film called 'Water Lilies', which is described as "a coming-of-age tale set amidst the world of synchronised swimming". It can't be easy going through adolescence with a peg on your nose, so that's got to be worth a look.

Anyhoo, the good news is that in an attempt to drum up interest (or possibly just to show stuff that no one would pay for) the film festival organisers put on a free screening at the Sallis Benney Theatre last night, so like a poverty-stricken rat up a cinematic drainpipe, I was straight down there. Here's how the evening was described on the leaflet which I found on my seat:

Welcome to the future.
Obviously it's not 2008, but that doesn't mean the organisers don't know what day of the week it is; it just means they're ahead of their time.

Anyhoo, having embarrassed myself on page 16 of the current issue of The Kemptown Rag (that's what you call a shameless plug), I plan to redeem myself by writing an insightful analysis of last night for the next issue, so rather than going over it here, I think I'll skip the interesting first half of the evening, and move straight on to slagging off the second half.

Back in September, I seriously considered entering a film competition organised by the council which invited residents to create "an eye-catching, jaw-dropping, heart-stopping, 60-second ultra-short promoting Brighton as a tourist destination". In the end I decided against it on the grounds that Brighton is full of talented film-makers and I don't even own a camcorder. But I'm well and truly kicking myself now. Last night's entertainment included the screening of the three prize-winners and six runners-up, and the good news is that all nine are on YouTube for the world to enjoy.

They asked for "eye-catching, jaw-dropping, heart-stopping" films. They got this. My jaw certainly dropped. Then there's this one which seems to have been made by a production team of about twelve, and has nothing whatsoever to do with "promoting Brighton as a tourist destination". At least this one tries, but if you can stay awake through all sixty seconds of it, you're doing quite well. This one doesn't even include any film.

B Right OnThe biggest travesty was not that half of them were complete rubbish, it was that B Right On by Drew Cameron only came second. It was the one film which was genuinely entertaining and looked like it had taken more than five minutes to make, and it didn't win. The judges should be shot.

Mind you, that wasn't the only let-down. According to the competition website, "the prizes will be presented by a well-known Brighton TV and radio personality". Given that Steve Coogan is listed as one of the CineCity patrons, my hopes for a celebrity encounter were quite high. So who did we get? Councillor David Smith, chair of the council's tourism committee. I wonder what TV shows he's been on..?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Performing tonight at The Brighton Centre it's Pete Doherty.

Tomorrow it's Amy Winehouse.

Next Monday it's The Brighton & Hove Primary Schools' Christmas Concert.

I wonder which event will feature the most snow..?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

You've Been FramedCall off the search, I've found a picture frame for my stolen photos. And frankly it's a lot better than the one I bought on Monday. For a start, the print it contained (some old fashioned nonsense with rabbits) wasn't stuck to stiff board, making it a lot easier to screw up and chuck in the bin.

Unfortunately I think I'm getting a reputation as a connoisseur of bad art. I bought this one around the corner yesterday afternoon in the same charity shop, for the same price, where I was served by the same woman, who informed me that she'd only just put it out, and said "You must have been watching closely for it". I was tempted to reply that yes, I'm always on the lookout for appalling artwork, before asking if she had any Damien Hirst.

In other news, I only found out last night that my fellow charity fundraiser Hilda Braid died three weeks ago. I feel guilty now for suggesting that she forgot to turn up for the Memory Walk in September. The woman was probably on her last legs.

According to Wikipedia (so by definition it's probably not true), she "died peacefully on 6 November 2007 in Brighton, East Sussex, at the Royal Sussex County Hospital with her children at her bedside". And if the hospital hadn't turned me down for five jobs, I'd have been there too.

Anyhoo, today's my Dad's birthday, so Happy Birthday to him, and on the subject of barmy old people, I was very sad to see Lynne Franks voted off 'I'm a Celebrity' last night. The good news for Lynne, however, is that she'll be coming home to a message from Lisa, who looked up her website on Thursday and posted a comment on her blog. It was approved by the moderator within two hours, so they clearly don't understand sarcasm.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Christmas has come to the Gardner house!

The Light Fantastic
Well, the Gardner one-bedroom flat. At first glance it might look like the Christmas lights in Oxford Street, but that's not a Chinese tourist in the bottom right-hand corner. Although she is playing Mahjong. Interestingly, when I first showed Lisa this photo on the camera last night, she didn't realise she was in it. That's how dazzling the lights are. You can't take your eyes off them.

Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "Phil, I'm on a limited budget this Christmas. I'm a Farepak customer with shares in Northern Rock. I'd like to splash out on that kind of visually stunning display but, unlike yourself, I just can't afford those little luxuries (Mahjong computer game, excessive guitar amps, picture of a plane) which make life worth living. How can I be festive and frugal this Christmas?"

Well firstly I'd say that Lisa doesn't even like that picture, so not everyone appreciates luxury, and secondly, you can get a whole frozen goose from Lidl for £14.99. No, really, I saw them on Wednesday.

But as for the lights, if you're wondering how much it might cost to have that kind of display in your living room this year, here's the answer:

Cheap as Chips
I'd say they're as cheap as chips, but I don't know where you can get chips for 67p.

To be honest, I've no idea how Asda can produce a boxed set of 20 multi-coloured Christmas lights with three spare bulbs and a fitted plug for less than seventy pence, but I'm sure it doesn't involve child labour. They're top quality too - I had them on for three hours last night and they didn't catch fire once.

As it happens, I actually had a budget of £150 for my Christmas decorations this year, but as of 12:15pm yesterday afternoon when Mr Hotpoint arrived, tightened a nut on my dryer fan, and left after five minutes with £149 of my money, I've had to make savings.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

LoserWell the good news is I now have hot water. The bad news is my washing machine's packed up. But still, the nice thing about getting up at an ungodly hour in order to wait in all day for a repairman who can't be more specific than "between 8am and 6pm" is that it gives me plenty of time to write a blog post.

As for my boiler, well I'm pleased to say that it was successfully fixed on Tuesday afternoon by a man named Russell. Which was odd as we'd booked a bloke called Terry. I thought he might have been a bogus caller, especially when he asked if he could plug in his laptop, but fortunately my electricity was all he stole, and he seemed to know how to remove a bit of gunk (that's a technical term) from my pipes. Apparently you can tell if you have a blockage in your pipes by using a simple magnet (my landlord paid a hundred quid for this information, so pay attention). Copper piping isn't magnetic, but a blockage made up of rust from the inside of a radiator is. So if you stroke your pipes with a magnet and suddenly feel strangely attracted to them, you've got a blockage.

As it turned out, my pipes contained more iron that a 12oz steak, but the good news is that after forty-five minutes of work by the lovely Russell, most of it was safely out of the pipes and onto my floor. I might have got covered in sludge trying to clear it all up, but at least I had hot water to wash my hands.

So with Russell gone, and my home comforts restored, I cheerfully picked up the iron-covered towels I'd used to mop up the bathroom floor, and chucked them into my washer-dryer. Two hours later I was enjoying the sound of a rattling drum, the smell of burning, and looking up the error code 'F 13'. Apparently it means "call an engineer".

Having forked out £460 for the thing only 17 months ago, I was naturally delighted to find that the guarantee ran out in June, thereby giving me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fork out another £149 for Mr Hotpoint to come and fix it. He should be here... oooh, any time in the next nine hours.

So buoyed by the fact that clearly nothing else could go wrong, we invited Lisa's mother around last night to watch the football. That went well, didn't it. So I spent an enjoyable two hours on the sofa, shouting at the TV, while Lisa's Mum actively supported Croatia. Not because she has Balkan blood, but because she's barking and should be in a home.

When I thought it was all over (it is now), I gave Lisa's mother a lift home, whereupon my car stalled outside her flat and wouldn't restart. I ended up having to push it into a parking space. With Lisa's mother still inside. Fortunately, having carried the woman's bags into the lift and returned to my car, I eventually managed to get it started, and returned to my flat where Lisa had already received a phone call from her mother, informing her of my plight and the fact that I might not be back for a while.

She'd only received the news two minutes earlier, but Lisa had already sprung into action. Had she phoned the AA? Run up the hill to help me? No, she'd gone straight onto my blog and left this comment:

"At least your car is in tip-top condition".

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Good news. According to today's Sun, suspected fruit-loop and serial hide & seek player, Peter Tobin, used to live in Chadborn Close, which in addition to being five minutes walk from me (or ten if you're carrying a body), is where Lisa's mother lives. I always wondered what the funny smell was. I'm tempted to ring The Sun and tell them it's not the first time dead bodies have been found there. They'll clearly print anything - today's exclusive seems to revolve around the fact that a student house in Dyke Road stinks a bit. Frankly that's not news.

But talking of the sun and printing...

Art For Art's Sake... look at that. That's art, that is. Yes, I know it looks like something a three-year-old did at nursery by drawing around a dinner plate, but it's actually a masterpiece by the late Sir Terry Frost. Who was 63 when he painted it. And probably out of nursery.

According to this article on the BBC website, Terry was "famous for his passionate use of circles", and it's not hard to see why. Just look at that passion. He's used almost three colours.

Anyhoo, Terry's flair with a pair of compasses has left me with a bit of a problem. Since Lisa broke out of Suffolk three weeks ago with a stolen masterpiece under her coat, I've been looking for a suitable frame for it, and yesterday afternoon I thought I'd found it. The charity shop around the corner had a very nice 70cm x 50cm Nielsen aluminium picture frame for £4.99. So I bought it. On the downside, the frame contained a hideous piece of toddler art, but I planned to rip that out the moment I got home, and chuck it in the recycling bin.

Unfortunately, having carried it home in a bin bag (which is where the picture would have stayed if I'd had my way), I noticed the title 'Black Sun' by Terry Frost, and the words "Screenprinted by hand in the UK by Artizan Editions", and decided that maybe I should look it up before screwing it up.

So here's what I found. It's worth £55. Plus £44 for the frame. And that's for a generic screenprint from Art Republic. Artizan Editions seem altogether more exclusive.

Obviously I'm not inclined to put something hideous on my wall just because of the label (I reserve that policy for clothes), so after a lot of soul searching, I decided that the best thing to do would be to respect the artist's work by removing the print, popping it in a postal tube, and selling it on Ebay. Leaving me with a nice frame to house my stolen art collection.

It was a plan which couldn't fail. Until it did. Having sat on the floor with a screwdriver for half an hour last night, and eventually managed to dismantle the frame (the ones I get from the Pound Shop are never this well constructed), I triumphantly removed the serigraph...

... and found that it's permanently mounted on stiff board. Not only am I unable to pop it in a postal tube, but with no separate backing board, I can't use the frame for my photos either. It's a lose-lose situation. So...

Anyone want to buy some art? Buyer collects. No timewasters please.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I've got a problem with the old boiler...

Coat Of Not Many Colours
But to take my mind off it, here's a picture of Lisa in her new coat. The Night Fisherman look is apparently in this season.

Anyhoo, back to my boiler. As of last night when I ran myself a bath, got in, and spent two minutes experiencing the medicinal benefits of Scandinavian ice swimming, I've been aware that my water's not heating up properly. True, it's given me a good excuse not to do the washing up for twenty-four hours, but by mid afternoon I'd tired of twiddling knobs on the boiler, looking at a pilot light which won't, and holding my hand under a running tap which seems to be on a direct line from Siberia.

So I got on to my slumlord and his representative (I forget her name) and they promised to send a man around forthwith.

That was at 3pm. At 4pm I received the news I'd been waiting for:

The gasman's on holiday until December 3rd.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Three StoogesI was trawling through all the photos on my hard drive last night, trying to find a picture which I know is there, but which seems to have vanished into thin air (or possibly the recycling bin) sometime in the past year, when I came across this one.

It's nice to know that things never change - I'm just as bald as I was then, and my brother still wears sandals.

In other news, I mentioned on Friday that Wellies With Wings is officially the best blog in Brighton. Well the good news is that I've since read this report in The Argus, which not only confirms that the awards ceremony was glittering (that was a lucky guess on my part), but also reveals that in addition to winning 'Best Personal Site & Blog', the winged wellingtons scooped the 'Best in Show' award too. So it's not just the best blog in Brighton, it's the best website in Brighton. Well done the wellies.

Anyhoo, awards are all very well, but personally I'm in this for the memorable quotes, so I'm pleased to see that 'Think Exist' have organised a list of my best quotations. Oddly I don't remember saying any of them, but as I once remarked to Peter Ustinov (in a dream), I have a photographic memory; I just don't have any film.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Lisa and I went to see Floors and Walls again last night.

But enough about them. It's Ben Poole!

Big in Beds
He's big in Bedfordshire.

Anyhoo, last night was Children In Need, and as anyone who's ever seen me in a charity shop knows, I like to do my bit for people less fortunate than myself. Although it's often hard to find them.CIN City So in an attempt to get out of the house before the Spice Girls came on TV, I dragged Lisa across town and raised a grand total of £8 for needy youngsters by buying two tickets for Captain Bob's annual fundraiser at Hove Town Hall.

Sadly we missed the under-10s disco, but we did arrive in time to catch the last song from The Rylics, a three-piece rock band who have been together since 2004. Which isn't noteworthy until you find out they're aged 15, 15 and 13. It wasn't so much Children In Need, as children in need of a record contract. But they were surprisingly good for their age (he says patronisingly), and it was well worth them staying up past their bedtime.

The Rylics were followed by Republic of Heaven, a band featuring the former guitarist of Thousand Yard Stare, Giles Duffy. He's bald now. Their music was less hair-raising, unfortunately, and to be honest I had a more exciting time getting Lisa a Coke from the bar.

Playing PooleThe evening took a sharp turn for the better, however, with the arrival of The Ben Poole Band. I spent Tuesday afternoon writing an article about Floors & Walls for the next issue of The Kemptown Rag, but quite frankly I feel like running straight down to the printers and jamming a guitar into the presses to halt production, because Ben Poole was simply stunning. Well, his music was stunning. He was no oil painting. But quite honestly I have never seen a better guitarist in the flesh. In fact I haven't seen a better guitarist full-stop since my brother made me sit through an Yngwie Malmsteen video in 1989.

To be honest, it was slightly depressing to think that at the age of 34, I've probably been playing the guitar longer than he has, and yet even if I practice for the rest of my life, I'll never be as good as he is now. I feel like jacking it all in and taking up the tuba.

But my lack of talent aside, Ben made good use of a wireless radio transmitter plugged into his guitar, which meant that while his bassist and drummer took to the stage, Ben could start his set from the bar outside, which is where I took the first photo above. He repeated the trick towards the end of the gig, wandering out of the room like the Pied Piper with a bunch of teenage rats following his progress through the foyer, while everyone else wondered where the music was coming from.

Paddling PooleAnyhoo, it's at times like this I wish I was an A&R man for a record company. I even discussed with Lisa whether we have enough cash to start our own label, just so I can sign Ben Poole. The answer appeared to be no. But I'm telling you now, that kid is going to be a major star. And I'm never wrong about these things. After all, I saw Maroon 5 in London four-and-a-half years ago, and nobody would listen to me about them either.

Ben's band were excellent too, although the bass player looked like one of the Hanson brothers, which was slightly disturbing, and he seemed barely old enough to get into The Rylics, which was even more worrying. Since when have children been allowed to be so good at rock music, that's what I'd like to know. Haven't they ever heard of Playstation?

Children in NeedAnyhoo, on top of being a phenomenal guitarist, Ben Poole can sing better than I can and write his own songs, but can he rap along to Floors and Walls whilst jumping up and down in a cardigan with a bunch of 14-year-olds? No, he can not. Or if he can, he didn't want to. So while I loitered at the back of a group of needy children who appeared to be taking the name 'Floors & Walls' too literally by doing American wrestling moves on the ground and slamming each other into the walls, Ben just sat on the Poole table at the side with a bottle of beer. Some people have no stamina.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Boom Bang-a-BangIt's Christmas! And as usual, I'm slightly disappointed with what I received.

Brighton's Christmas lights were officially switched on last night in a ceremony which included five minutes of fireworks and... um... not a lot else. I haven't felt so let down since I touched denim at the museum.

After all, the event promised so much. According to, "Kim and Aggie are appearing at the Theatre Royal and will be compering the switch on", which is the kind of news guaranteed to get me out of the house on a Thursday night. It's not every day you get the chance to meet a couple of cleaning women under the light of an illuminated reindeer, and I could do with a bit of help with the hoovering, so naturally I went along.

Unfortunately no one else did. But the good thing about arriving ten minutes early is that it gave me plenty of time to stand on a deserted pavement at the Clock Tower, staring at the Argus promotions girls, who themselves were staring at the Southern FM promotions girls, who in turn were staring into space wondering what to do with their balloons. It wasn't quite the party I expected.

So instead of waiting for Christmas to come, I wandered off around the shops and came back half an hour later, by which time a small crowd had gathered. It's hard to estimate numbers, but it was about as many as you'd find at a bus stop. I know, because there was one nearby. But just as we were all thinking we were wasting our time, the clock struck six and The Pogues' 'Fairytale of New York' started blasting out of a speaker on the roof of Boots. Then, to the sound of Shane MacGowan's mellifluous voice, fireworks began launching into the air and threatening to set light to Holland & Barrett.

It was all very spectacular, which is just as well because it only lasted five minutes. Mind you, with a song about New York, and massive explosions going off at a big tower, they were wise to cut it short before people made the connection with 9/11.

Lights, Camera, InactionAs the last firework fizzled into the air over The Body Shop, the music faded away, and without so much as a public announcement, the Christmas lights suddenly came on. Everyone went "Oooh..." for about two seconds, then immediately walked off, leaving me standing there with the promotions girls, wondering what had happened to Kim and Aggie.

Frankly it's just not good enough. If I'm going to walk all the way to the Clock Tower and stand in the freezing cold for half an hour (well, look around the shops for half an hour), the least I expect is a celebrity cleaning woman wishing me Merry Christmas and leading the crowd in a Thunderbirds-style countdown. Is that really too much to ask?

Anyhoo, in other news, the winners of this year's Brighton Web Awards were announced last night in a glittering awards ceremony at the Sallis Benney Theatre. So that might explain where Kim & Aggie were. My invitation must have been lost in the post, but the results have been published this morning, so I'm now in a position to announce that Wellies With Wings is officially the best blog in Brighton. Marvellous. Only nine posts since June, but my, what posts they are.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I was down at the Jobcentre this morning, waiting to speak to someone knowledgable about my employment prospects (it proved to be a long wait), when a young female goth arrived. She was dressed all in black, carrying a bag with a skull on it, and listening to death metal on her Walkman at the kind of volume which meant we could all enjoy it with her. There were only two spare seats, one of which was next to me, so she walked up, stopped in front of me, eyed me up and down for a moment, then promptly chose the other one. It's nice to know that even to a weirdo, I look like the kind of person to avoid.

And talking of interesting looks, I had an e-mail yesterday from the organisers of Tacheback, announcing this year's top fundraiser. Some bloke called Chris Baynes managed to raise £5,110 with his moustache. Bearing in mind that my facial hair raised a total of £156.21, it makes you wonder just how stupid he looked.

As it happens, I'm currently tempted to grow another moustache, after Lisa knocked my shaving mirror into the bath whilst having a shower, and then trod on it. She claims it was an accident, but there's a fine line between treading on my shaving mirror and stamping on my face, so I plan to watch my back for a while. Although with seven years bad luck, she probably won't succeed in killing me until 2014.

In other news, Lisa was at her sister's house on Tuesday, and they received a visit from the lovely Lorraine (she of the delinquent cats and endless holidays). It was the first time she'd met Lisa's four-year-old nephew, so when Lorraine had left, Lisa's sister was naturally keen for a verdict, and the following conversation ensued...

Sister: Do you like Lorraine?
Nephew: No.
Sister: Why not?
Nephew: Because it makes me wet.

I should get him to co-write my next comedy script. The boy's a genius.

Anyhoo, I went to Lidl last night to do a bit of Christmas shopping, and having loaded my trolley with tat, I picked up a leaflet detailing next week's special offers. They've now moved on from Father Christmas outfits to fish, and as of Monday you can buy these...

Fillet of Grunt
"Choose from Grunt, Triggerfish or Painted Sweetlips fillets".

I'm really not sure I can. To be honest, I find it hard to believe that anyone eats fillet of Grunt. So having seen the advert, I asked Lisa if she'd ever heard of Triggerfish. She replied:

"Is it a band?"

And people wonder why I feel so alone. Still, it could have been worse. If I'd asked Lisa's nephew if he likes Painted Sweetlips, he'd probably have said "Yes, she seemed very nice".

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I don't know what I was thinking yesterday. Of course I'm not going to look like Victoria Beckham in my David Bitton jeans. Hers are white, mine are blue. They're poles apart. We might have the same level of sophistication and singing ability, but we're forever divided by an indigo dye. It's like trying to be Geri Halliwell without a union jack dress and an eating disorder.

But not to worry. There's always this bloke from the David Bitton catalogue...

Hard BittonOnce Bitton, Twice Shy
                      Catwalk                                            Dogwalk

The model's the one on the left.

In an ideal world, the bedsheet would have stretched across the whole of the picture (and possibly covered my face), but you can't have everything. The important thing is not to look like you're about to fall off the coffee table.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I was in the Alzheimer's Society shop yesterday (I forget exactly where it is), when I came across a pair of David Bitton jeans. Yes, David Bitton jeans. If, like me, you have your finger on the nub of fashion, you'll know that David Bitton jeans are worn by the likes of Brad Pitt, Ben Affleck, Christina Aguilera, Halle Berry and, of course, Steve Brookstein on the X Factor. So they're only worn by successful people. And Steve Brookstein.

According to the man himself (Bitton, not Brookstein), "The David Bitton look is young, sexy, fun and more importantly butt-lifting". So no ifs, no butts, they're the jeans for me. Especially when they're only six quid in a charity shop. On top of that, each pair is apparently "individually numbered and personalised with only 600 pieces per style produced worldwide". I think mine are number 36. Or possibly that's the waist measurement.

Anyhoo, needless to say I bought them, thereby simultaneously becoming a style icon and tackling the problem of senile dementia. They're actually a bit big for me, but (or should that be 'butt'?) it means I can wear them on Boxing Day and well into the New Year.

What it also means, of course, is that I could be the subject of a tabloid exposé at any time. When my fellow twig-thin icon of style, Victoria Beckham, bought a bit o' Bitton last year, it made all the papers. So at the very least I should command a couple of lines in The Argus. And let's face it, she and I have so much in common. Here we both are in our David Bitton jeans...

Well HeeledHandbags At Dawn
                     Posh Spice                                        Fat Spice

Our bags are actually the same size, it's just that she's a lot smaller than I am. It's remarkable how similar our cars are though. They both have four wheels for a start.

Anyway, I know that's a front view, so it might not be obvious, but trust me, my butt is lifted higher than my handbag.

Monday, November 12, 2007

I think I've found my dream home...

Gardner House
It's got my name written all over it. And what's more it's for sale. It's also in Gardner Street in the centre of town, so my address would be:

Gardner StreetPhil Gardner,
Gardner House,
Gardner Street,

That's got to be worth paying for.

On the downside, a quick visit to the estate agent's website reveals that it's on the market at £249,950 and for that you only actually get a two-bedroom flat on the third floor. Admittedly that keeps you well away from the sandal-wearing hippies buying tofu from Infinity Foods at ground level, which is a definite plus, but at the end of the day you're basically paying a quarter of a million pounds for an attic. It's a lot of money just to be able to remember your address.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

It's always good to have a threesome on a Saturday night...

Three's a Crowd
If Lisa looks a little dazed and confused, it's because I'd just elbowed her in the back of the head. Which is probably why she agreed to have her photo taken. Concussion is a wonderful thing.

Anyhoo, yesterday my old chum Marie came down from sunny Croydon to visit me for the day. She's the one on the left who looks like she's been rubbing her thighs with sandpaper. The last time she visited Brighton, she brought me jam. The time before that she brought me marmalade. This time she brought me to book for parking on double yellow lines outside the station. But having abandoned my car in traffic, I successfully spotted a bespectacled figure in a blue-green coat looking longingly at the taxi rank, and made my way across the concourse at speed before she opted for public transport. She accused me of running in a gay manner, I told her I was just blending into the crowd, and we headed back to my car before it was towed away.

Arriving at my flat, I gave Marie the full guided tour, and she declared that it's not as small as she expected. She'd obviously believed me when I said I was living in a cardboard box. So having assured her that my bookcases probably wouldn't fall on her, we settled down on the sofa to discuss weighty issues such as Marie's recent Ebay transactions. Apparently she's just sold a bucket of fish and put the money towards a pair of ruby slippers. And she has the nerve to criticise my charity shop purchases.

All of this was too much for Lisa, who walked out after half an hour and headed to Hove for the afternoon. I didn't have the heart to tell her that the French Market was only Thirsday to Fruday. But with more room on the sofa, Marie was able to bond successfully with my dear little Chloe. Despite being allergic to cats, and spending the past four years making comments like this, the small hairy one with with the scowly face and grumpy expression soon decided that she liked Chloe.

Friends ForeverHere she is inserting a finger during some kind of rectal examination. I told you they were close.

Feline bonding done, I escorted Marie out of my flat and took her down to the seafront, which she was surprised to find is less than five minutes walk from my flat. She had no idea. I really should mention it more often. We walked down to the end of the pier, became concerned about the rotten nature of some of the planks, and promptly walked back before we fell to our deaths in the icy water below. Marie's on a low carb diet, so I bought her a Cornish Pastie and chips, and we sat on the seafront for half an hour discussing the possibility of me retraining as a plumber.

Back at my flat we rendezvoused with Lisa, and Marie offered to take a look at my CV and tell me where I'm going wrong. As luck would have it, I'd only just been turned down for a job on Friday afternoon, so I showed her the very CV I'd used to battle my way to failure. She told me to reduce the size of my address, and move the name of my school slightly to the left. Apparently that should make all the difference.

So buoyed by my imminent success in the job market, we embarked on a game of Verbositi. I can't reveal who won for legal reasons, but having been challenged to create a seven-word sentence about the person on her right, using the letters PJDDGWL, Marie came up with "Phil just does dishes, glowing with love", which is so true it's not even funny. Mind you, she also came up with the words 'ginnel' and 'puttering', before claiming that you can buy chocolate-covered hula hoops, so she's not beyond talking rubbish.

Nuisance CallerAll of this was fine of course, but for me the highlight of the day was probably the phone call we received in the middle of X Factor from the man on the right. I suspect he was calling to invite me to some kind of party to celebrate the upcoming two-year anniversary of his last blog post, but I'm not sure because he rang off the moment I said I'd mention him on my blog.

Anyhoo, having fed Marie peanut butter on toast and filled her full of gingernuts, we said our goodbyes and I drove her back to the station. In return for her day at the seaside, Marie's kindly invited Lisa and I to visit her new house sometime. I'd say she's just being polite, but the woman lives in Croydon, so frankly the polite thing would have been not to invite us.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Honestly, anyone would think I go out looking for these things...

This one's on the seafront at the bottom of Paston Place. I think it's been there since Thirsday.

Friday, November 09, 2007

It's Floors and Walls!

I know it looks more like one of last week's zombie walks, but it's not. Although as you can see from the photo, I was standing behind two blonde midgets, and there's an undead arm in a plastercast trying to grab the bass guitarist on the right, so it was a bit of a freak show. And that's ignoring the fact that the mic stand's making the drummer look like the bloke on the Pringles tube.

Anyhoo, Lisa and I spent last night at Hector's House, trying to prove that just because you're over thirty (or pushing forty in Lisa's case) doesn't mean you can't get down and party with the kids. I'm not sure we succeeded. But as a long-time fan (it's almost six weeks now) of Floors and Walls, I was naturally keen to see them live again. Especially as it was free. So I persuaded Lisa to pay for my bus fare, and we headed on down to da House.

As it turned out, there were three bands on last night, of which Floors & Walls were the most sensibly named. I know, I couldn't believe it either. First up were The Deal Was For The Diamond. Yes, The Deal Was For The Diamond. No, I don't know what it means either. They were a four-piece instrumental band, something I eventually realised after spending the entire first number waiting for one of them to start singing. I have to admit that opinion is divided on TDWFTD (even as an acronym it's longer than Blur or Oasis). Personally I thought they were phenomenally good, and would happily go and see them again and part with cash to buy an album if they had one. Which is saying something when I won't spend £3.20 on a bus ticket. Lisa, on the other hand, called their music "a dreadful racket". It's all a matter of opinion. Although needless to say she's wrong.

The second band were The Chedington Incident, which sounds like a cheese spillage at a theme park. Lisa quite liked this lot, because as she put it, "at least they had some words and a tune", which I think is a bit harsh on the Diamond geezers. Personally I could take them or leave them. With a slight preference for leaving them. They weren't bad, but after the soaring prog-rock reverb of TDWFTD, I couldn't get excited about the Cheds, and would have been happy if the evening had passed without Incident.

... WallsHaving sat down through most of Chedington's world of adventures, I soon leapt to my feet, however, for the headline act of the night, Floors and Walls. I forced Lisa to join me near the stage, where we were able to fully experience the modern social etiquette of today's youth. Basically the rule appears to be that if there's enough of a gap between two people for you to slide in a theoretical credit card, then you're fully entitled to shove your way through and barge anyone out of the way, preferably whilst spilling a drink over them. I'm sure it wasn't like that in my day. Possibly because I tended to hang out at the library.

Anyhoo, the Floors were very good (obviously), although I felt like having strong words with the guy on the mixing desk who insisted on having the mic turned down so low that Alex Adams could have been reciting nursery rhymes for all we could tell. But I jumped around a bit, trying not to look like I was 15 years older than everyone else, and rapped along as best I could, before getting slightly scared by the mosh pit in the final song and retreating to a safe distance.

To Phil...When it was all over, the band started selling copies of their album for a fiver, which is an outrage as I paid £6.99 at HMV. But fortunately I'd taken my copy along, so with the self-confidence of a young rap fan, I quickly handed it to Lisa and asked her to fetch me some autographs. Three quarters of the band had wandered off by this point, but like a celebrity bloodhound, Lisa managed to make it onto the stage, flutter her eyelashes at the lead singer, and come back triumphantly holding a CD cover bearing the words "To Phil, Alex Adams". It's just a shame my pen wouldn't work. It's not so much signed as engraved.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

It's now more than seven weeks since I last applied for a job at the hospital (it's so long ago, I had a moustache in those days), and having heard nothing back from them, I think it's now safe to assume that my CV's in the hazardous waste incinerator. But the good thing is, I'm not easily put off. That may have been my fourth application to work there, but I don't think you can really call yourself a failure until you've been turned down five times. So I'm giving it another go.

This time my vacancy of choice is 'Medical Laboratory Assistant', so there'll probably be a lot of applications from mice, and the job advert says "Reliable conscientious applicants are invited to apply for the above position in the Cytology Department". Obviously you wouldn't be an applicant unless you did apply, but ignoring that, I think it's me to a T. True, I couldn't be relied upon to write a blog post yesterday, but I think I'd do a lot better if I was being paid. And I'm so conscientious that I've already looked up 'cytology' in the dictionary. It turns out to be nothing to do with Tom Cruise's religion.

Anyhoo, with a bit of luck I should be in the cells come Christmas. And talking of which, I started my Christmas shopping yesterday. Lisa's decided she's not doing Christmas this year (although she still wants me to add her name to any gifts I send), so with festive joy in my heart, I merrily crossed her off my gift list and headed into town for a bit of yuletide spending. Two hours later I'd been around all the charity shops, bought myself a couple of videos, eaten a sandwich and picked up a migraine, but it's fair to say the Christmas shopping could have been a bit more successful. I did buy two packs of cards though (Christmas, not playing), so I've got something in which to write "Sorry I didn't get you a present".

In other news, Lisa and I are about to enter the pop charts. Kind of. Six weeks ago we spent an enjoyable evening staring at the Floors and Walls of the Joogleberry Playhouse. What we didn't realise at the time was that the event was being filmed. So anyone who wasn't impressed by the video of Floors + Walls in the multi-storey car park (I'm looking at you, mother) should try this one on for size.

You won't see me or Lisa per se, but if you pay close attention, at precisely 1:57 you'll see a flash. Which was me taking this photo...

Staring at the Floors
Probably. I'm claiming it is, anyway. Next Monday, What To Do is being released as a single, and that acoustic version constitutes the b-side of some kind of digital download. Whatever that is. Personally I still buy my music on plastic discs. The important thing, however, is that by this time next week I could be famous for flashing in a public place. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I don't like Ebay. I've been surreptitiously watching a guitar for the past five days, rubbing my hands together malevolently (it's quite cold here) whilst plotting the perfect moment to strike and claim it as my own. Obviously I don't need another guitar. It's almost seven months since I bought a Bloody Nightmare from an Elk and I've barely touched the thing, but...

Mmm... Fernandes Nomad Deluxe...... well just look at it. The body looks like a little piggy with a big eye. How can I resist styling like that? It's actually a Fernandes Nomad Deluxe, the world's only guitar (probably) with a built in amplifier, speaker, effects processor and drum machine. No, really. It does everything except make you a cup of tea. So if I combine it with Lisa, I'll want for nothing.

Obviously I already have three electric guitars, two acoustic guitars, one bass guitar, two amps, six effects pedals and a drum machine. But is that really enough? No, it is not. I need it all in one package. After all, there's no point having a room full of stuff I never have time to play - I want to go on the road with something I'll never have time to play.

The Fernandes Nomad retails for $599 in America (which seems to be pretty much the only place you can get them), although a number of retailers seem to offer them for $499. At current exchange rates that's about a tenner, but as Big Sis has now abandoned her post in the States, and I can no longer ask her to pop down to the music section of Wal-Mart for me, I was willing to pay slightly more than that to get my hands on one courtesy of some bloke in York. He claimed he'd had his for two months and never played it, which is not exactly a glowing recommendation it's true, but as someone who spends his days watching dust slowly settle on his unused guitar collection, I'm hardly in a position to judge.

So I've spent the past five days watching the price slowly creep up from £50 until it reached £127 yesterday morning. The auction was due to end at 12:15pm today, and with four minutes to go (yes, four minutes to go) it was still at £127. That guitar was mine.

240 seconds later, the world and his wife turned up, and it sold for £295. What the bloomin' heck is going on? Doesn't anyone work for a living any more? How dare they all be online at 12:15pm on a Tuesday, bidding on my guitar??? And who are these people willing to pay more than the guitar would cost new??? It's all a conspiracy to stop me spending money, that's what it is. I blame Jobcentre Plus. Although I'm not entirely sure why.

But still, there's always Christmas. And Lisa's kleptomania. One way or another I'll get that guitar.

Monday, November 05, 2007

I took this photo of a shop window display in London Road this afternoon...

Each and every one of those letters is printed on a single sheet of A4, so the people responsible actually went to the trouble of printing out an extra 'M' especially. You've got to admire that kind of dedication to bad spelling. I also like their illustrations of traditional Indian culture: Champagne and Christmas. Marvellous.

Crawl of the DeadBut anyhoo, when I'm not toasting the festive season with a bunch of Hindus, I'm busy trying to dodge the undead on street corners. You can't move for zombies in Brighton at the moment. Tragically I missed the Crawl of the Dead on Wednesday night, due to being up at the Devil's Dyke throwing tomatoes at freaks, but I did encounter the Beach of the Dead on Saturday. They were gathering at the train station as I walked past at 4pm, so frankly it's a miracle I spotted them. After all, if you're a group of pale, half-dead zombies who have long since abandoned hope, you're not going to stand out from the crowd in the ticket hall at Brighton station.

Sadly I couldn't quite bring myself to take part in any undead staggering (I'm obviously too full of life), but I do like the advice given out by the organisers of both events. The Beach of the Dead, which is apparently "Not suitable for the living", advises participants to "Be careful pouring fake blood INTO your ear, don't let it get in your inner ear canal, as it may cause infection." Yes, and that could prove fatal. If you weren't already dead.

Meanwhile the Crawl of the Dead website told its zombies to "Remember to bring lots of blood, false limbs, chunks of rotting flesh etc" (all items which are easily forgotten), before ending with the kind of sage advice we'd all do well to follow:

"Basically, if you’re coming along, then enjoy yourself - but don’t be a dick."

It's wisdom to live your life by.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

I noticed this advert in the job section of yesterday's 'Friday Ad'...

Good game, good game.
It was just to the left of one which began "Could you be the next Jordan? To find out, book a free photoshoot with top UK photographer Gary Silver." I've looked up Gary's website, and he's only a five minute walk from me, so I might pop in later. But in the meantime, what does the phrase 'Game Dealer's Assistant' conjour up in your mind?

Personally I took it to mean a job in a video game shop, assisting the owner in his attempts to buy and sell software, and advising customers on the resale value of a second-hand copy of Sonic the Hedgehog. With my vast experience of playing Playstation in a suit and tie, I was naturally interested.

Unfortunately, when I started reading out the job description to Lisa, she immediately disagreed, and pointed out that 'Game Dealer' could mean only one thing, and was certain to involve handing out cards for Blackjack down at the local casino. Or at least assisting the man who does. With my poker-face and borderline gambling addiction, I was even more interested.

Sadly, the rest of the advert was a bit of a letdown...

Call Now
But the good news is that I have no need to get a job now, because Lisa's followed up on her heist of last Saturday by turning to shoplifting to put food on the table. Whilst in town yesterday, she 'accidentally' (at least that's what she claims) picked up someone else's bag of shopping from the floor of a bookshop, thinking it was her own. As a result I was able to cross bread and coffee off my shopping list, and spend all evening eating sandwiches. And I'm telling you now, Marks & Spencer's Crusty White Loaf definitely tastes better when you haven't paid for it. I should send Lisa into town more often.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Brighton Web Awards 2007After more than a month of nail-biting suspense, the shortlist for this year's Brighton Web Awards has finally been announced. Hurrah! I was one of twenty bloggers to be nominated back in September for the 'Best Personal Site and Blog' category (you can see the full list here), which I'd like to claim was the result of some kind of rigorous selection procedure, but in reality just involved me visiting the awards site, typing in my web address and clicking 'Nominate'. Frankly Lisa could have made it onto the list if I'd told her about it.

Anyhoo, a panel of judges have spent the past month assessing each site according to a strict set of judging criteria (which oddly doesn't include quality of writing), and have now selected a shortlist of five for each category. Needless to say I'm not on it. But it's hard to compete with the standard on offer this year. We have...

1. The 2004 winner.
2. Local news from the Lib Dems.
3. International development research (no falling asleep at the back).
4. Dry democracy discussion.
5. Someone who's only managed five posts since July.

One of those blogs runs to as many as fifty-one posts. Yes, fifty-one posts. This is my one-thousand-one-hundred-and-ninetieth. But who's counting. Certainly not the judges. And besides, it's about quality, not quantity. After all, have I managed a discussion on the Gould Review of the Scottish Elections, the council's mobile-phone mast map, or the globalisation of ideas, movements and policy as a reconfiguration of social space? No, I have not. Well, not recently. I've been too busy slaying the undead at the Devil's Dyke.

So I'd just like to say well done to the five finalists. And also to Allan Love, whose fish & chip shop has made the shortlist for 'Best Business Site'. What a week that man's had. I'm also pleased to see the Dining Dykes getting a nod. It's about time someone acknowledged that lesbians like eating out.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

If there's one thing I like to see on a Wednesday evening, it's a travelling freak show with a Wolfboy chained to The Thing, next to a Bearded Lady and a Gimp in a wetsuit.

I've never met a freak I didn't like.
You can't ask for much more from a night out. I know the picture quality's not great, but I was in the middle of a field at the time, trying to avoid being hit in the face by flying tomatoes. National Trust members aren't the kind of people I thought they were.

Anyhoo, as you'll know if you answered the door to any goblins last night, it was Halloween, so being the kind of people who like to avoid becoming the victims of extortion attempts, Lisa and I decided to go out for the evening. The National Trust were holding a 'Devilish Dyke Halloween Walk', described in the council's 'Countryside Events' leaflet as "a ghostly walk through the dark and mist down into the depths of the Dyke valley", which all sounded very pleasant. Obviously they didn't mention the freaks, zombies, axe-murderers, and attempts to resurrect Freddie Mercury, but I expect they were short of space.

Having been on a number of local guided walks this year, I naturally expected about two people to turn up to this one. I was close. It was about two hundred. And that doesn't include Lisa's sister and nephew who we dragged along in an attempt to boost numbers. Half of them were dressed as witches, goblins and skeletons, and one man had a scythe. I kept away from him.

The walk was led by Saint Cuthman of Steyning, who was quite chatty for a hermit, and sounded a lot like Justin Lee Collins but with more of an accent. Cuthman led us off into the darkness of The Devil's Dyke until we arrived at a travelling circus (which looked suspiciously like a National Trust van with a trailer), where a Ringmaster invited us to throw tomatoes at his freaks. I've never seen children so keen to get their hands on a bit of veg.

Tragically, having pelted the freaks for a minute or so, they unexpectedly broke free of their shackles and ran amok in the crowd, which just goes to show the importance of chaining your bearded lady securely. I was almost knocked over by a runaway gimp, which I'm sure must breach some kind of health and safety guideline.

Having watched the Wolfboy disappear, howling, into the night, Cuthman warned us about the devil's cowpats up ahead, and we continued on down the hill to a bench where we heard about the headless horseman of Poynings, before being unexpectedly attacked by a group of zombies. At the time I thought it was all quite scary, but of course that was before I attempted to walk down a steep slippery hill in complete darkness with Lisa trying to pull me to the ground and break both my legs. Trust me, that was scary.

Hanging AroundBy this time, Lisa's sister had moved on from complaining about the tomato on her coat, and was busy trying to stay upright by walking like a penguin, so making sure we kept her in front of us at all times to break our fall, Lisa and I slid downhill through the cowpats and into the woods, where we encountered the disturbing image on the left, before being accosted by the evil dead, who were not so dead that they couldn't climb trees, start bonfires, and make growling noises in the dark.

By some miracle we made it out of there alive, and emerged into the clearing at the bottom of the valley, where a couple of witches served us pumpkin pie (or would have done if we'd got there before they ran out), after which we investigated the haunted pond, and heard the story of Thomas, Richard and Harold (those names ring a bell), two of whom drowned there a hundred years ago. Fortunately Harold survived, but was apparently struck dumb by the experience. Making it all the more surprising when his ghost came running down the hill and shouted that he couldn't find the stile in the dark.

Losing Your HeadOn the verge of mental trauma, we continued on through the valley, past a headless axeman who was busy hacking the circus ringmaster to death, and before long reached our final battle with the devil himself. Following the complicated instructions issued to us by Sister Ursula, who appeared on a hill looking like the Emperor from Star Wars, we all shone our torches on the devil and shouted "Cock-a-doodle-doo!" (as Cuthman said, "I apologise if this comes as a bit of an anticlimax"). Intimidated by the sound of two hundred people doing bird impressions, Satan naturally fled at high speed, and we marched on triumphantly to the climax of the evening's entertainment: an appearance by the late, great, Freddie Mercury, who emerged from a coffin to perform 'I Want To Break Free', before riding out of the valley on a quad bike.

And to think some people stay in on weeknights.