Sunday, February 29, 2004

Something's gotta give...

Interesting film with Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson. Mostly fascinating and funny - Keaton is amazing, as is Keanu (as the man SHE SHOULD BE WITH). But Nicholson is awful.

He delivers each line with the smug satisfaction of a man who's just done a really big fart and is looking round for approval.

It's also agonising to see the difference between Keaton (rake thin and gorgeous) and Nicholson (bloated and sagging). Why are women forced to apologise for growing old, whereas men like Nicholson are rewarded for living life to the full.


Finally, finally went rollerblading - after a gap of two years. I wobbled like a child, and could really have done with a zimmerframe.

Fell flat on my arse in the middle of the road - agonising and undignified. I quickly gathered a group of pensioners and a policeman around me as i crawled to the pavement. But, I made myself get up and carry on round Regents Park.

I was joined by a nine year old, who tried to give me tips on technique. Mortifying! :) He stood there, hopping from one skate to the other, munching maltesers and tutting as i lurched and staggered up the hill.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Good things we adore

I jogged to work this morning as it was snowing.

It was a simple blissful experience.

I should also confess that I had a Steps remix album on my walkman. So much better than the real thing.
They were basically an Abba tribute band who could skip.

Brainstorming with thieves

Of all the humiliations in my career, yesterday was a definite stand-out moment.

Without going in to too much detail, I've been looking after a website for a programme for four years. It's a lovely website, and all was well in the world - until the BBC decided to bring the programme back.

Nothing bad about that in itself - the production team are (for TV people) lovely, intelligent and interesting. They are based in BBC Wales. The only problem is that BBC Wales Online suddenly announced that they'd be doing the website for the new series.

This is how things work in the BBC. Imagine you're a department. You want to do something? Fine - announce you're doing it and see what happens. The best outcome is that you suddenly end up doing it - and the very worst thing that will happen is that you're suddenly locked in a "compromise" about a "co-production".

White collar crime's fab isn't it? Imagine how this would be in the real world.

PC HOOT: "So - you've been burgled?"

SKIP: "Yes. I've lost my nice TV."

SCOWL: "Yes. I stole his TV. It was nice."

PC HOOT: "Yes, it is nice. Far too nice for you, young Skip. Perhaps we should give it to Scowl?"

SKIP: "But...."

PC HOOT: "Now, play fair young Skip. If you want to get on, you really must learn to share."

SCOWL: "I'll need a video player as well..."

PC HOOT: "Don't worry - Skip will buy you a nice new one."

That's right - not only is our website being nicked, but we have to pay the thieves to look after it.

I can't help but take this personally - one of my proudest professional achievements is in danger of wandering out of the door, and the BBC is being as helpful and supportive as... well... well - how supportive do you imagine the BBC would be? Yup.

My fab head of department did some shouting. My lovely managed looked pained. But it's a BBC thing - kick up a fuss and people accuse you of not being "One BBC".

As I look back on my time at the BBC (which, I fear, is lumbering into its twilight stages), I realise that if you make the mistake of working too hard for too little money you get bugger all recognition ever. In fact, you get your budget cut, your target increased, and the threat of redundancies waved over your head. And, if any money is ever given to you for projects, you have to grovel for it, then spend the next few months being made to feel guilty for having it.


Yesterday we had a "meet the thieves" brainstorm, where we were summoned up to Wales. To a castle, which had been hired for the day. This is where BBC Wales Online love having brainstorms - according to one person "We had to have one a month all through last year - I got quite giddy by the end of them. I've learned - if you just nod, make encouraging noises and say nothing, the day just flies by."

So there we were - trapped in a beautiful building. Outside it was snowing. Inside it was an intellectual desert.

I'm a cynical person - unlike my boss who loves brainstorming (he knows the names of the different types, and gets a whistful glint in his eye whenever anyone mentions mime workshops). I figured the best way to get through a deeply painful and humiliating day was to just keep quiet and try not to openly insult anyone.

But it was hellish. There were clapping exercises, skipping ropes, share sessions, and a lizard toy which squeaked whenever an idea wasn't being discussed in an open-minded fashion.

Our faciliator was just the kind of person you would imagine - clashing pastels, world music playing in the background, mobile phone strapped cowboy style on his belt, and a sack full of beanie toys ready should the group need a quick "energising game". Frankly, I was surprised he hadn't made us soup.

He relished everything, warmly championed all input, valued original insight, and kept making feeble cracks about turds, and how rubbish the original show was. This last thing was, natch, especially annoying - people wouldn't sit around a Casualty brainstorm saying how bad the last twelve years of the show were, would they? Well...

The worst bit was at the end of the day, when the programme team turned up to evaluate the ideas we'd evovled. They stood, staring in bemused horror at a floor covered with mind maps and photocopied money. As they sucked away on boiled sweets, our facilitator proceeded to describe each idea while looking at his shoes and mumbling - occasionally handing over to another bloke who described ideas with all the passion of a list of laxative side effects.

But I got through the day with only one outburst. And that was when I tried refusing to do the clapping.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Sacked my personal trainer

I didn't like my new personal trainer.

His name was Nick, and the second thing he said to me when I first met him was "So, what did you think of the match this weekend?"

From thereon in, I knew I was doomed. Nick was one of those beefy, piggy men who looks rather as though he may have stolen lunchmoney from the small kids at school, and probably had "Bruiser" as a nickname. Or "Knuckles".

But, we managed to struggle through two sessions. He announced once "I've always liked knowing about how the human body works, ever since I took my Biology A Level. Only took it for a few weeks, but the interest remains..."

On the second session he actually managed to hurt me (weird leg exercise that ended in a sharp snapping pain and me limping for a week). He only stopped the crippling work when the gym manager was alerted by my agonised whimpering.

So I binned him - which felt a bit weird, but exhilarating. After all, why should a large fraction of my disposable income go on something I don't enjoy.

I'm now seeing a trainer called Sam. He's tall, has lots of muscles, and is very handsome without being attractive. He also has a wicked sense of humour, a killer grin, and doesn't insist on using rubbish latin terms for bits of the human body.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

I took up smoking... LA.

That was perverse.

But their cigarettes are really nice. They do ultra light menthol.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

The Saga of Room 255

One of our fellow guests was the man in Room 255. I've met him, and he's terribly sweet - one of those lovely bachelor gentlemen who you imagine keeps orchids, does origami, and likes puppies.

He was telling me about how he was heading into his room the other evening when he couldn't help but notice he was being cruised by a handsome, muscly guy at the soda machine by his door. "After all," he said, "although I nipped back into my room swiftly, I couldn't help but notice he was touting for action... No one takes that long to buy a soda."

I was out for supper with Matt, just about to tell him this curious story, when he leaned over and said "Do you know the guy in Room 255?"


"I was trying to buy a soda last night, and the guy tried to pick me up. It was really intimidating - I was having real trouble trying to get the maching to take my dollar, and this guy kept wandering past, then went and stood in the open door of his room staring at me. It was scary - like being in a bathhouse. In the end I ran back to my room."

I told him Room 255's version of the story. And we both laughed.


Later that evening, we told Matt's roommate about Room 255. Daryl laughed, and then complained that he hadn't had any action all holiday, and that maybe he should go knock on Room 255 and see what happened.

We stared at Daryl in horror. And then got interrupted by the connecting door to their room being flung open. It was worse than Room 255 - their next door neighbours were drunk ozzies, who having heard voices decided to have a Par-Tay. There was a guy called Burke, and a gal called Sher. She was very drunk, telling us how she'd spent the evening trying to score cocaine off famous men by offering them rough bum sex. We stopped staring at Daryl in horror, and instead stared at her in horror.

She kept yelling "I'm real classy. And this is my kind of holiday. Theme parks. Shopping. And drugged up shagging!"


A couple of days later, Matt turns up at my room in the morning. He looks lovely, and, better, has gossip to tell me.

"Last night, Daryl and I were turning in, when all of a sudden Daryl announces he's going to go try out Room 255. He was gone for three hours. And doesn't want to talk about it."


A couple of hours after that, I'm out walking with Room 255. Who should we bump into but Matt and Daryl.

Room 255 suddenly starts hailing a taxi.
Daryl suddenly starts trying to call someone on a public payphone.

"Are you trying to hire a cab?" asks Matt.
"Not really. Who's Daryl trying to phone?"
"No one. He doesn't know anyone here." replies Matt.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Canadian Matt

I found a man in LA. His name is Matt. And he's Canadian. Which makes him tall, and charming. Plus terribly matter of fact.

Naturally, he's travelling with a friend. They're sharing a room, and his friend (the not pretty one) doesn't like me. So much so that, even when I turn the Skip Factor up to ten, he's still as charmed as a flattened weasel.

However, I met Matt in Mickey's, a bar full of gogo boys and bad drag. It turns out that American drag is much like Australian Drag, but lazier - they don't sing, they can barely be bother to mime, and there's not much dancing - it's just hairdoes, shrugging and great nails.

We got chatting to diss the drag, then got... well... drunk. As in really drunk. American bartenders aren't stingy with an order of spirits, and, when you add jet lag to the equation... well.... somehow, we got back to my room. Got naked. And then fell asleep.

I was woken at five am just in time to see a pile of balloons cascading from the ceiling, covering the bed. Neither of us have any idea where the balloons came from. Clearly, we must have stolen them.

So - in West Hollywood is missing about a dozen red balloons... sorry.

Irritatingly, I had to work the next day. With a hangover the size of Geneva. It was odd. Especially as the lovely Rob and Daniel came knocking on my door at 8.30 demanding camera equipment and instructions and I was... in Canada at the time.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Amoeba Records

Is the best record shop in the world. It's on Sunset and Vine. And is simply splendid - full of cheap DVDs, CDs, and stuff.

I've spent far too much money there already.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Convention panel

I was on a panel. At a Dr Who convention. Very early on a Sunday morning. With Paul McGann and the lovely Susannah Harker.

Just as the panel started, they turned on the VERY BRIGHT LIGHTS, and, just as suddenly, my hangover switched on. Viciously. Nastily. In front of two hundred people.

I spent the next hour trying not to throw up on Susannah Harker's shoes.


I was on another panel later that afternoon. By which time my hangover had abated. It was oddly nice, as I got to be blisteringly truthful about the horrid project I've been working on for the last year. You can be honest with Americans, and they've just supportive and encouraging - rather than looking to assign blame.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Supportive Vomiting

Lovely sight at a disco. A large guy being lead out to the loos, having just thrown up on the dancefloor.

Inside, as he crouches over the sink, muttering "I'm ashamed, I'm foolish!" his mates are saying, "Look, think of this as a bad moment. It will be a weekend of good moments for you to take away, and you can leave the bad moments behind..."

Americans. Weirdly endearing.

Dr Who Convention

It's oddly rather nice being in LA, although the jetlag is killing me again.

Van Nuys is also not nice. Going jogging like it is rather like a video game comprimise between Grand Theft Auto, Frogger and Quake.

The convention itself is surprisingly mild - the fans are charming (for the most part), the guests are terribly relaxed, and the hotel is entertainingly terrible.

Only managed to get a hotel room by waving our (suddenly invalid) booking around and yelling "We're from the BBC!" Which is as low-down and crumby as you can get. But you are allowed desperation after a ten hours on a plane, two hours in an airport, and two more hours in LA traffic.

What's odd about these conventions is that, as the day goes on, they get gayer. Gradually, all the straight people head off to nice restaurants, to look after the kids... whatever... and the gays come out to play.

Seven Week Itch

(moved from 2005 due to a massive row with the NB)

So, the NB leans over and says, "Darling, you know how I never give you anything? Well..."

It turns out that his's flyer-posting roommate may not have paid much rent, but did leave a nice little present in his bed.

The next morning we sailed into Boots, hand in hand.

The manager leaned over the counter, "Can I help you, gentlemen?"

We grinned. "We'd like something for crabs, please!"


"Crabs!" we roared happily.

Thanks to a special offer, we also got a bag of chocolate truffles for 99p.

I've done many weird things in my time. I've done some romantic things. But what followed was weirldy romantic, as we slathered each other in crab paste, wincing and giggling as we went. It was rather like sun-tan lotion. Only nasty, as in "Hang on - I think you've missed a bit. Would you mind? Ow! Yep. Thanks."

Afterwards the agonising burning sensation changed to something puzzlingly... warming and not... unpleasant.

The NB paused. "I've just had a ghoulish thought. You don't think... I mean... how would it work as lube?"

Friday, February 13, 2004

Flying Virgin

Having flown one of their stewards, I've always wanted to try the actual airline.

A great disappointment. Tiny cramped seats that hurt, they're stingy with the frankly horrible food, and require prodding for booze.

It's just about bearable to LA. But I just couldn't imagine flying to Oz with them.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

My favourite Ex

The lovely Simon has finally separated from his frankly rubbish partner Michael. After two years of no sex, with Michael regularly leaving Simon on a Saturday to "go into SoHo and read the papers" - returning hours later, smelling of sauna.

Well, all that has now changed and Simon is making the most of his sudden mid-life crisis. He is, in fact, worse than me. And considerably prettier.

Simon has the best arms I know, and regularly wears a t-shirt which displays them to best effect. It sets off a guaranteed testosterone tsunami in a gay club, and has guaranteed hilarious consequences.

Simon is now seeing five different men (three in the last weekend), has started taking lots of jagged little pills, and in a move that made me strangely jealous, took a day off work last week purely to have drugged-up sex with a frenchman (which appears to have climaxed in a quick round of meat puppet theatre).

The reason I tell you this is not purely to make someone else feel inadequate, but to joyously give you Simon's quote of the week:

"I wish I hadn't gone to IKEA before taking K. I spent hours hallucinating soft furnishings."


Packing for holidays is fairly rubbish, isn't it?

There's a point where careful micro-planning and minimalist best intentions suddenly get abandoned for the build-a-jumble-sale-bonfire approach.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

How Casualty works

Okay - here's a brief praisee.

An episode of Casualty contains 60 scenes.

It also contains 3 Plots-of-the-Week (a,b,c), plus 4 Arc-Plots-About-The-Regular-Cast.

A,B, and C will get about 10 scenes each. C, the funny one, will normally have less.

Regular plots 1-4 will get about five scenes each.

You have ten scenes left over to zip the show together.

On a good week, Plots A,B,and C will resonate with a central character - eg allowing an aspect of Charlie's character/current situation to be shown/echoed.

So, if a regular is pregnant, they should somehow resonate with an A,B or C plot.

For each A,B, or C plot, there should be a maximum of two scenes set-up (eg Knives! Blood! Arg!), four scenes of medical trauma, and then revelation through conflict (in this week's episode, a gay bashed Christian earns the disgust of his vicar and the love of his boyfriend).

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Train joy

Best train journey home to my parents ever.

Roared down on a crowded train. Ended up with an artist who was also a cycle courier sat next to me, chatting away. Further down the carriage, a group were having a small party, and ended up whipping out a guitar and having a really good Beatles sing-a-long all the way to Taunton.

Unbeatably cheery journey, which put me in a great mood for watching Poirot and reading the papers all weekend.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

I'm not in the Union

Finally, a whole week after the Greg Dyke - Hutton Crisis, our the BBC unions have lumbered into action.

Industrial Action? Strike? Er, no - just a lunch hour protest. Lasting obviously two hours to fit in with people who take their lunch at different times. So as not to cause a fuss.

If that strikes you as feeble, you'll snicker when you realise that they don't even want Greg back - instead their agenda is "Freedom and Transparency and Integrity". Guff.

Here's the "Call to arms" email:

There will be demonstration on Thursday 5th February outside every BBC building at 12 noon. This demonstration will be organised jointly with NUJ and the demonstration will last from 12.00 noon until 2.00 p.m. to allow people working on the lunchtime news to attend. This is not industrial action but it is an opportunity to show your support for a campaign to protect the BBC from further government interference.

Dear The Weird Union,

Thanks for being a week late with your spontaneous show of protest.

PS. You'll find the bandwagon's over there. Quite a long way over there.
PPS. Where were you last week?
PPPS. Bring back Greg.
PPPPS: No one cares about your mad political agenda.
PPPPPS: Except for those weird Socialist Worker saddoes outside White City tube station. Perhaps they'll come along.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Nicely unexpected things

Clayton Hickman, the evergreen editor of Doctor Who Magazine (and, officially, The Most Important Person In Doctor Who) was standing outside my office when I biked in to work this morning.

He was having a quick cigarette before going into An Important Meeting. He was with Gareth Roberts (officialy, The Cleverest Person In Doctor Who Fandom).

It's unusual to have witty and urbane conversation before nine in the morning, but there we are.

And then, I went and chained up my bike, and had fun giving the eye to one of the Very Cute And Important Runners we have hurryng around the building. He gave me the eye back. Twice. Hoorah!


Sold my Department S boxset on ebay. This is a moment for me. A milestone.

I sold it because... it was rubbish.

I was seduced in an Australian department store by the amazing packaging. I even watched a few episodes, marvelling at the gorgeous DVD design, the kooky music, the flagrant use of stock footage... but then... but then...

Well, the actual programme is dreadful. It starts off brilliantly with wonderful opening sequences (a girl wakes up in an abandoned village... a man is found sobbing in a beautiful room that's been built in a warehouse... all the passengers on a tube train die... a man in a space suit dies in SoHo...) but then, whereas the Avengers would take that and open it up and make it splendid, with Department S, by about ten minutes in it's all about bank robbers, blackmail, forgery and blah blah blah.

It's a very boring cake indeed covered in an impossibly frothy sugary icing called Jason King.

So anyway. I sold it. On ebay. For a vast profit. To a woman who's now sending me 10 emails a day.

State of Play

Finishe watching this clever BBC Political Conspiracy Thriller last night. Well, it seemed a good moment.

There's little to say about it, beyond it is As Good As People Say It Is, Bill Nighy is brilliant in it... and it also contains the best ever awkward meeting between two gay ex-shags ("oh... hiya!").

In the office Ann and Dan came up with the perfect description of Middle Class Drama - "lots of red wine being drunk from very large glasses". And yes, there is a certain amount of it in State of Play - but that's okay. The merest glimpse of a bottle on the sideboard is a sure sign you can fast forward through the next scene.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Lesbian Deathwish

I think I may have won a long standing bet with two lesbians.

I am owed £10.

Unfortunately, I can't discuss how exactly I won the bet, which boy was used, and how a concrete moulding of part of Tim Vincent's anatomy was involved.

If I did, I could lose my job. But, as I said, £10 is £10.

The Kitchen of Silence

In our vast open plan soulless office, people decide to go to the kitchen for secret little shared moments of gossip and personal pain.

This is terrible when you're trying to nip in and make a quick pot of coffee. People either....

a) stop blubbing, grab kleenexes, smile brightly, sniff a little, and try and make awkwardly cheery smalltalk while spent tears plop into their herbal tea.


b) carry on regardless, saying things like "so, you're saying that she did this without even telling you she was pregnant?"

It's most disconcerting. I have no idea how to react.

Monday, February 02, 2004


I've been wearing my pyjamas at work all day.

And nobody's noticed.