Monday, December 31, 2007


And finally, here's a picture of my last man of 2007. He wasn't wearing the paint at the time, but I shall forget that inconvenient detail in later life.

Turned out to be a massive fan of musicals, so much so that he's on first name terms with Sweeney Todd. I shall also replace this detail with a lie about how we met wrestling.

It's been a good term in many ways

It's odd how you catch yourself thinking "that wasn't much of a year" and yet this year I've...

  • Left a job that was driving me nuts
  • Got a better one
  • Won a playwriting award
  • Become a (slightly) published author
  • Took a play to Edinburgh
  • Discovered just how lovely my friends are
  • Hired a stately home
  • Briefly enjoyed the miracle of signing on
  • Taken some hilarious Russian pony pills
  • Owned a Lego monorail
  • Made a space pirate cartoon

  • Not got a cat

Oh, and a brief thank you to all the men, no matter how deranged, dismissive, drunk or drop dead dishy. Wouldn't have been the same without you.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Spoilers

So. I'm back from four lovely days on a hill without television. I get back, and I'm looking quietly forward to seeing the Doctor Who Christmas Special - it's the first episode I've really known nothing about before it goes out.

Foolishly, I log into Facebook. And find a message blaring: "WHY THE FUCK DID THEY KILL KYLIE?" Ah well.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Chilling Presents

Here are the top presents to buy your cat.

Hmmn. A laser and a targeting system in geostationary orbit. Buy your cat both and it'll build the Death Star.

Monday, December 17, 2007

A letter from Lego

For reasons too boring to mention, I've been rather keen for the last two Christmases on buying the Lego Holiday Train (look! there's even a bunny in the snow...). Yesterday, I crack and login to - only to find that they halved the price last week and have sold out. So, I email Lego to ask if there's any left, and they send a reply that manages to be both formulaic, corporate and yet oddly charming. Like Lego itself:

Thanks for getting in touch with us.

It's always great to hear from loyal LEGO® fans, but I'm afraid we don't make that LEGO set any more. So it will not come back. It could off course happen that some stock is found and a limited amount come back for sale but it will definetly not be produced anymore.

Actually, we have a team of experts in Denmark whose job it is to invent new LEGO toys every year. They spend their time trying to find new and fun toys that are even better than classic sets. The shelves aren't big enough to hold everything so sometimes we have to stop making a few of the older sets.

You never know though, some of the old favourites sometimes make a comeback, so keep a look out!

I hope one of our many new LEGO toys will inspire the LEGO fans in your house. To have a look through the hundreds of sets and toys go to and see what grabs you and remember to keep an eye on the 'Exclusives and Treasures' section, which includes classic and collectable sets!

Thanks again for getting in touch.

Happy building!

Vincent Velthuizen
LEGO Direct

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Wet Look

I wake up late last Saturday and decide to login to what friends now call "The Orange Facebook". It's been a few weeks, and there's an old message from a startling New Zealander. The kind of man who seems to go out to clubs, take his top off and grin a lot.

I reply, and he messages back. "Mate, I've just got in! Come over!"
I tell him I've only just got up. "Shower when you get here." he says.

I pull on a pair of jeans and a trenchcoat and leave. Yes. That's all I'm wearing. My thinking goes like this:
  • I'm in really good shape at the moment.
  • This seems exciting and spontaneous, two things which I have decided I need to be more.
  • Princess Diana regularly used to pop out for dates wearing only a fur coat and high heels. This will be my tribute to our Queen of Hearts.

Of course, Diana only had to step from palace to limousine. It's not like she had to travel to Kilburn on the Jubilee Line when it's pissing down.

I huddle dripping on the platform at Baker Street. I feel like a sacked stripogram. I realise I've not eaten yet, so buy a power bar. All goes well until I reach into my pocket for change, and a woman gives me a startled look. I stop feeling like a stripper and begin feeling like a flasher.

By the time I reach Kilburn the rain is horizontal, it is freezing and I'm wishing I was wearing socks. Actually, I'm wishing I was wearing everything I owned, and was wrapped up in blankets on my sofa. By the time I finally find the New Zealander's flat I am as sodden as a stray cat. He turns out to be very nice, has a lot of towels, and turns the central heating up.

Surprisingly, the New Zealander is an opera singer. We stand on his balcony smoking menthol. I have never felt less like Princess Diana.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The "Never Forget How Venal Pretty Gays Are" TXT of the year

From the Polish Footballer:

"Do u have Windows software on CD for me? My laptop died and i have to put windows on it. Vista Basic is fine, but premium better. How r u btw?"

txt speak? CD-Roms? He's not just selfish, he's soooo nineties.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Southland Tales

Southland Tales is playing in one cinema in London. This may be one too many.

The follow-up to Donnie Darko is like going on a really bad date with a cheating lover. You love them. You want to believe their story. All your friends warned you about them, and you wouldn't listen, but gradually, horribly, the truth about them is revealed. And they keep on talking and talking and talking and you just want them to stop because your heart is choked with bile and hatred.

Over the 140 minutes/years/hours that the film endures I went straight from "Richard Kelly is a misunderstood genius", through "Richard Kelly, please shut up", and reached "Fuck you Richard Kelly" fairly quickly.

Kate and I did consider leaving. But when we booked two tickets the cinema offered us free popcorn and chocolate, which made us feel guilty about sneaking out. And Southland Tales is so distractingly odd that you keep watching. With giddy boredom.

Things happen that you'll tell your kids. There are the musical numbers, and the bit with an ice cream van and a zeppelin. These are all remarkable things. Not necessarily good, but remarkable. And when you talk about them, they sound a little bit amazing, and a lot more exciting than they actually were.

Normally, I hate people talking during films, but Southland Tales provoked its tiny audience into anxious murmuring. What was said most often, as a whisper, a whimper, or even a yell, was "What the fuck?"

It does actually end. There's a point when you think it can't possibly and that you will be trapped watching this insane babble until you die and your seats are taken by your children, the products of a brief, mindless rutting that failed to distract or console. And then your children, who have seen nothing else except darkness and Southland Tales, will settle down and watch the film while raising miserable halfbreeds of their own, mindless gibbering fools, mutants so pathetic and isolated that they'll actually enjoy Southland Tales.

Yes, it is that bad. The only consolation prize is Seann William Scott who spends the entire film looking like this:

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Steroid Diary: Dianabol


One of the many nice things about the steroid Dianabol is that it's only temporary. You take it for two weeks, your body gets all lumpy. You stop taking it and the lumps melt away.

It's very popular amongst body builders who are taking a course of serious steroids. These take a fortnight to kick in, so while you're waiting for the results, you pop some nice, friendly Dianabol.

Oh, that's the other nice thing about Dianabol. It's in tablet form. No icky injections. And it tastes slightly of vanilla. The reason it's in tablet form is that it's been tweaked so that it can pass through your liver without shredding it. Grown-up steroids haven't, so need to be injected into the muscle, which sounds like rather too much effort.

Sweetly, my nurse friend offers to come over and do the injections if I want to do proper steroids. I explain I've avoided visiting continents just to miss a jab. “Okay,” he says, “But the offer's there. I'm brilliant with an orange.”

So, friendly, temporary tablets it is.

Getting hold of them is a bit trickier than Clenbuterol, the wonder diet drug. It requires a bit of careful googling before a useful link pops up. Then I'm in an online pharmacy, and, after swapping some badly spelt emails with a guy called Joe, my Dianabol turns up.

£20 gets you 100 tablets of Russian Dianabol. I have to email Joe to check the dosage – my cyrillic isn't what it should be. Like Vodka, Russian Dianabol is apparently the best – it's the best option, even on American sites. Mine comes from Kettering.

Now Clenbuterol has a streetname of Clen. Therefore, the streetname for Dianabol should be Diana. Sadly, it is D-Bol, a name which appears on jokey bodybuilding t-shirts that are fucking hilarious, I can tell you. Incidentally, how fabulous is it that I'm taking something with a streetname? They'll be dead impressed at my flower-arranging class.

Four tablets later, and I've started my course. You take it in the morning, you go to the gym... and nothing much happens for a few days.

The side-effects of steroids are what I'm really interested in – do they make you mental? Will my liver pack up? Will my hair fall out? Will my balls shrink? Will I get breasts?

The answer is... not really. After a week, and six visits to the gym, things are looking pretty good. The whippetty thinness of Clenbuterol has gone, replaced by a bulky look that in a certain light is a bit... puffy. My arms aren't exactly ripped. More overstuffed. Like a sofa.

I'm spending so long checking out the results in the gym shower that I'm getting looked at. Not by the strangely hunky Latvuanian hotel porter, but by the weird guy who even naked manages to look like a Geography teacher. Fascinatingly, he always dries himself with kitchen towel.

Anyway, it had been an interesting gym session. I was doing something repetitive with a barbell, and suddenly realised my arms looked like an anatomical drawing. There were biceps doing their bulgy thing, and some lumpy triceps flexing away, and that weird third arm muscle group having a bit of a jive. Woof! To celebrate, I did some pull ups, just to prove to the puny weaklings that it could be done. And then I went home and watched cartoons to celebrate a wicked Friday night. And that brings us to the major side-effect...


My sex drive's died. It's been lovely having a holiday from it, really. But still, something's wrong when you find yourself sat on the sofa on a Friday night thinking “I could take the gun show clubbing, or I could just improve the tagging on my MP3s.”

Hmmn. Thanks to the internet, I set up a couple of dates for next week, and then get on with the serious business of going to the gym and eating protein. Actually, eating full stop. I am ravenously hungry, and I'm blaming the Dianabol. I'm gaining a bit of bulk, but it seems to be muscly bulk. Which is pleasing. I briefly wonder if I should get a new walk – perhaps even a gait.

If I was expecting roid rage, I've been disappointed. D-bol just makes me... frustrated. I'll be in a meeting, and if something isn't going my way I get a sudden urge to burst into tears. After this has happened twice I think, “oh god, I've become one of those women” and reach for the Beechams Kalms. Skippity skip, hello birds, hello sky etc.

Date number one is with a nuclear physicist in Shoreditch. “It's just a short walk from work,” he explains. There's a nuclear base in Clerkenwell? This is surprising knowledge. If the date doesn't go well, will he spike my drink?

Actually, the date doesn't go well. He's perfectly nice, but his profile claimed “athletic”. He's not, and he's wearing peach lacoste. My immediate reaction is “Cool, I wasn't really in the mood anyway and the barman was looking at me.”

Worse happens with the next date, a rather sweet young MA student in a hoody. He's charming, but I'm still not really in the mood. Still, a glass of wine later we're sat in the flat in front of the fire, and it seems silly not to. At which point, he takes off the hoody and expands.

It's like I've pulled a Slitheen. Where the fuck have you been hiding all that? I think. But your face is so pretty... and I have got your clothes off. How socially awkward. I'm struck with sudden inspiration. “Hey,” I say, “I'm feeling selfish. Can you just suck me off and go?”

He smirks. “Okay. Cool.”

Oh no. It really is true what they say - Treat men really badly and they love it. Previously, I would have taken a bumbling and honest approach. This is clearly better all round. Plus, if I stand at a certain angle, he still looks really pretty, and I can see myself flexing my muscles in the mirror. Ultimate Win.

And actually, afterwards I pour him another glass of wine and we talk. Turns out he went to Oxford as well, so we have a jolly chat about colleges and quads and ivy stuff.

After he's left I think “Thank goodness that's over. Now I can get on with watching TV.”


So that's pretty much it for side-effects – I'm petulant, selfish, addicted to TV, a bit spotty, and don't fancy men much. I'm basically a teenage boy.

Otherwise, it's a great week, really. I lift a lot of weights, my chest gets impressively lumpy, I feel good about myself, I don't particularly feel like going out. On the other hand, apart from occasional teary moments, I feel fantastic. I'm confident, I'm smiling, I'm eating biscuits and striking up conversations with strangers. It turns out that this, sadly, is all a side-effect. This is fascinating for my research, but makes me vow not to make any important decisions while I'm behaving like an estate agent.

It is at this point that we should ponder asthmatics. I went drinking with one the other week, and he told me that as a child, he'd get put on steroids for his ashtma. The reward was an instant six pack. It is at this point I think “ashtmatics get all the luck – clenbuterol was invented for them, they get steroids, and they get let off cross country running.” Then I remember that they're probably allergic to cats and figure it's not so great.

So much for Dianabol, really. It's left me in great shape and feeling brilliant. So, I head off for a week in the middle of nowhere in Scotland, and over the holiday my body steadily deflates, like a balloon left after a party. Oh well.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Wet Week

Last night, after an evening of Extreme SoHo, I passed out on the sofa at 2am, book in one hand, cigarette in the other. Normal service has been resumed. Hurrah.

[ Things we are conveniently forgetting that would otherwise cloud this rosy picture:
1) Smoking outside in the freezing cold for four hours
2) Tramps are more frequent, madder, and have worse moisturising regimes since the smoking ban
3) That last drink in 79CXR, although the toilets now smell curiously of vanilla. Has someone opened up an ice cream stand? ]

Monday, December 03, 2007

The Dry Week, Day 6

Fuck it. I'm having a drink. This may be foolish, but here I am. It's midnight. In theory I can drink on Monday evening. Midnight on Sunday is only a little away from that.

It's a Sunday. I could have done anything with my evening, but I just don't want to go out. I spend an hour watching Frasier, and all I can think of is "there's half a bottle of wine in the fridge."

So, I have a glass of wine. I don't vomit. I have another little glass of wine. I feel fabulous. And very drunk. I go to bed in my giant new room, its shelves full of lego. And I smile.

The next day, of course, I wake up hungover. And happy.

(PS: Obviously, giving up booze for a week also means I've lost a whole kilo. That I wasn't actually sure I needed to lose. But hey.)

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Dry Week, Day 5

I go out drinking with lovely friends in Soho. Or rather, I watch them drink. All afternoon. They seem very merry. I pass through "I'd rather have this coffee and fruit juice actually" and quickly reach "Who do I have to fuck for a cocktail?".

I am supposed to go out clubbing in the evening but feel dead tired and can't face a room of happy drunk people. Instead, I spend the evening dismantling Legoland. It's charming having a spare room full of Lego, but it's larger than my room. It just doesn't seem rational that Lego has the master bedroom. It really doesn't seem rational on many levels.

So, I move furniture until I'm ready to drop. Then I watch TV and chainsmoke.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Dry Week, Day 4

I go round to the fabulouos bachelor pad of a minor celebrity. I am there to laugh at badly-made fan films with very clever people. We discover minor celebrity has made his wine glasses by washing out nutella pots.

I persist in not drinking. I have a good evening. Sadly, when a row breaks out, I am sober and don't feel like joining in. I go home.

For complicated reasons involving a gay dead letter box, I have been given a valium tablet. I am intrigued and can't decide whether to take it or frame it. Sadly, the sheer volume of rain has dissolved the tablet in my jeans.

So, I sit watching QI at midnight. Stone cold sober, trying to get drunk on cigarettes. I miss you booze. Do you miss me?

Friday, November 30, 2007

The Dry Week, Day 3

"Metronidazole?" laughs the nurse. "It's hilarious when we give it to alcholic tramps in A&E. We warn them, but they don't listen."

I ask him what will happen if I have just a tiny glass of wine. We're having supper. A glass of wine would be lovely.

"Oh, you'll throw up," the nurse assures me.

Just the glass of wine?

"No. Everything in your stomach, right down to chewing gum you swallowed when you were ten. You'll be in agony for a day. But there's a chance it won't affect you."

"How much of a chance?"

"Let's just say I'll move my chair back a little."


We leave the Stockpot. It truly is the cheapest place to eat in London. Next to us are a couple on a first date. "Choose whatever you want, baby!" says the man. "Thanks," says the woman. It is obvious to all but him that this restaurant has been A Bad Choice. After glancing at the menu, she twists the knife a little. "What would you recommend?" she asks sweetly.

He suggests the special. Boiled potatoes, tongue and a bowl of minestrone soup. Fatal.

The nurse and I leave, going for a walk along the Thames. Halfway along the Thames path we realise we're surrounded by rats. Large rats. We both scream and clutch each other, and then stand laughing on the path. We spend the next quarter of an hour daring each other to move. Eventually, eyes clamped shut, we run hand-in-hand past the vermin, and find ourselves outside the kind of hotel it would be very nice to have a cocktail in. But we can't. As I don't drink.

So instead we walk up to St Pauls. The nurse tells me about a disastrous evening with his ex ("I was soooo dignified in the pub, then I went round to his flat and screamed at him until someone called the police. Augh!"), and then he's off to the pub he works at ("Maurizio's working tonight. He's so sweet. He really fancies me but doesn't do boyfriends. I keep telling him not to be so damaged, but he just keeps wearing more perfume. I don't know what's going on there.").

I go home and smoke 7 cigarettes. I don't feel drunk. I walk to bed in a straight line.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Dry Week, Day 2

I used NEVER to drink at Christmas parties. I learned my lesson after a bacchic BBC Education party where horrifyingly drunk strangers crawled drunkenly around the floor with helium balloons tied to our wrists and the names of famous authors strapped to our lapels in fruitless search of vol-aux-vents to soak up the wine. I set off for home and woke up in the bed of a waiter who spoke only French.

Shortly after that I gave up drinking for two years, and thereafter stuck to sobriety at work dos. It was a great policy, and worked out well (Pretty Straight Coder is drunk. I am sober. Any lunge I make is therefore my moral responsibility). Then I moved to Wales, and the whole idea of not drinking (at any time of the day) seemed wrong. Like not taking aspirin for a headache.

So, here I am, at a Christmas Party, two days in to my sober week. It's at my lovely new firm. The party is full of people I don't really know, they seem rather nice. I make a bit of small talk. I realise how dull I sound (I know none of you well enough to talk about anything other than work). When I realise I'm talking to the Prettiest Man In The Room about database integration, I go home.

Also, frankly, these pills have made me knackered. But I'll make up for it next week.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Dry Week, Day 1

Night One of not drinking. I'm back in the flat after seeing The Darjeeling Limited (In Wes Anderson's world, when you stop worrying about money, you start worrying about your relationship with your father. Blah blah some Indian stuff blah blah).

So, I'm back in the flat. This is normally the point where I'd have a little drink and a smoke before bed. What do sober people do?

I start folding washing. The phone rings. It's The Squaddie. "Where the fuck have you been?" he asks.

"Scotland and ill." I say.

"Fuck off," he says. "I'm coming round."

"But-". He's hung up.

It is at this point I remember that someone was laughing annoyingly loudly throughout the film. This is wrong for two reasons - Firstly, it's a Wes Anderson film. Secondly, it was me. Clearly, the cocktail of codeine and antibiotics has gone to my head. And the Squaddie is coming round, doesn't sound happy and, and... I've just taken a sleeping tablet.

Ten minutes later the Squaddie is in the flat and I'm high as a kite.

"What the fuck are you doing?" he asks.

I give him a slow smile. "Making you coffee, silly."

"You've been staring at that cupboard for a minute. I've been watching."

"Is it not a kettle? Oh."

We sit in the living room. He wants to have a row about me not calling him, but I keep laughing at his voice.

"That's a very naughty word," I tell him, seriously, "But it doesn't sound so naughty when you say it."

He looks at me. "You fucking drunken idiot."

"I know." I start to light a cigarette, but instead stare raptly at the flame on my lighter. "Would you like some booze? I'm sure I've got some. You can drink it and I can watch. Won't that be dreamy?"

I've decided I'm going clubbing this week. We've clearly reached a point where I am artificially in love with the whole wide world and should hug it. "Hug" may be a euphemism, but let's make the most of it while it lasts, eh?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Root of the Problem

"So," says my dentist, "What made you wait 10 days before seeing me?"

"Wikipedia," I mumble.

She looks like she's about to say something, but instead just prods away at my gum. Eventually she sighs.

"You'll have to take some antibiotics before I can get to it. It's an idea to avoid alcohol." She sees the look in my eyes and barely pauses. "No, really. It'll make you very, very sick. Everywhere."

So. A week without booze. I can do this. I've done it before. There was a period of two years when I was dry, smug, and wafer thin.

But this is different. I've a week before I see her again, and in the meantime I can't really do the following...
  • drink
  • eat
  • sleep
  • have sex

Hmmn. This leaves me with smoking and TV. Oh and the gym. Oh dear.

Friday, November 23, 2007


A dozen years ago I edited a student newspaper. I've still got fond memories, good friends, and a box of back issues. Very sweetly, I was invited to a reunion, organised by a recent editor.

The Oxford Student is a journalism powerhouse these days. We didn't do too badly for ourselves, but now it's Student Newspaper of the Year every year, its staff are marked for success like members of a satanic frat house.

It was a surprisingly lovely evening. I discovered why I kept seeing pictures of Lydia wearing daring hats (she's the racing correspondent of The Times), that a vicious politcal opponent is now a single mum in Jerusalem, and that a beloved ex-editor is now *something not at all sinister* behind the scenes in government.

I was in avuncular mode, which was a mistake. A typical exchange with a sharply-haired youth of about 12 went:

ME: So... I hear you work at the Beeb?

CHILD: Yeah. It's all right.

ME: I did a bit of that myself, once. Ha ha. So, what do you do for them, then? Bet it's a jolly good way of learning the ropes.

CHILD: Actually, I'm the business producer of the Today Programme.

ME: ...

At the end of the evening, these brilliant child geniuses piled into taxis and went laughing off to a club. We ancients stood behind, dejectedly sharing cigarettes on the pavement.

After a while, one of us said, "For the first time, I feel my age."

We all nodded, quietly.

Russell Howard topless again

Quietly cheering.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Knitting Tarot

.."is, quite simply, a Tarot deck with original art, and accompanying book with original card texts, for knitters"

The Knitting Tarot

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Hole Tooth

There were two nice hours last night. They were when I discovered that I could block the pain of my wisdom tooth with cheap whisky and fags.

Unfortunately, after two hours I was pissed, so fell into bed, praying for oblivion.

Instead my tooth woke me up a couple of hours later. And then, three hours after that, it woke me again.

So. It's 4am. I'm staring miserably at my pale, pus-and-blood-streaked reflection in the mirror. And I'm thinking "This can't get worse."

Then my boiler explodes and floods the flat.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Whole Tooth

My wisdom teeth never finished coming through. My last two got so far and then stopped.

However, every time I have a cold, they start moving again. It's clearly some weird sinusy side effect, and it's vile. Colds I can cope with - they're an excuse to replace the gym with a book and some whisky. But the aftermath is horrible.

It's basically a week of my wisdom teeth girding up their loins and making a doomed final push through the gum. The gum doesn't particularly want to know ("Didn't we do this last year?"), so promptly gets all inflamed and huffy, which drives me mad.

I've about four days before
1) lefty realises that he's actually double-parked.
2) righty remembers he's growing sideways into my cheek and gives up again

... and then that'll be it until my summer cold.

In the meantime, that's four more days of whisky, bonjella and jabbing valiantly at infected gum-tissue with a cocktail stick.

No, I'm not going out much at the moment.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Buy My DVD update...

Not only still in the top 100, but more importantly: outselling Poliakoff. That is all.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Police mistakenly shoot another "terrorist"

Only this one turned out to be in a diabetic coma. Police explained that he looked a bit "Egyptian".

A diabetic points out the worrying fact that when her blood sugar is too high her breath "smells like Acetone... if they sniff that, I'm a goner."

Google Ex

I was watching the play of All About My Mother, and suddenly thought "I too have slept with an Esteban."

I even remembered his full name - the marvellously improbable Esteban Mihuel C Hubner. My main memory of him was his charm, and that he taught me that it was possible, if not easy, to kiss whilst pedalling up the Woodstock Road.

[I'm looking back at the sentence I've just typed and thinking 'Should I bother clarifying that?']

Anyway, since I can remember his name, perhaps I can find out what happened to him? And bless you Google, I can. He's married to an Argentinian gay footballer. Result! Isn't the internet marvellous?

(PS: I've even found a clip of him on YouTube. I was going to post a grab of him, but he's wearing a really nasty paisley shirt)


Man arrested for having sex with his bicycle.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Stephen Poliakoff's The Bill


The camera tracks slowly in to Sun Hill Police Station. It is a lovely large mansion. We move towards it across sun-dappled fields, past police sheep and police ponies and giant fluttering police flags.

In the background The Bill theme plays, arranged dramtically for strings.

PC MARY: (voice-over) When first I came to Sun Hill, it was like I was wandering through a dream.

The camers pushes slowly up the grand police lobby and spins steadily up the spiral staircase, decorated with ornate pictures of constables and useful signs such as "Crack is not nice" and "Do stop that thief!"

We push past open doors. Each room shows a single mahogany desk with a single policeman, writing earnestly in journals, surrounded by slowly billowing curtains.

After all these identical rooms, we come to an end room, just a little smaller. In it is MARY. She is staring away from us out of the windows. Seated at a chair is a CROOK, wearing a striped jersey and an eye-mask. At his feet is a bag labelled "Swag".

CROOK: I did it.

MARY: (sadly) Did you?


MARY: (slowly, sadly) I don't know. (sighs) I just don't know.

CROOK: No. (smiles) Or yes. Perhaps.

MARY: (smiling too. sadly). Perhaps. You're free.

CROOK: Am I? Am I free? (picks up swag bag) Am I really free?

MARY: Are any of us?

CROOK leaves the room, fading away as he walks out.

Dissolve to...


Mary is in her best police-lady gown, descending the lovely police staircase. It is lit with thousands of candles. The hall is lined with policemen, standing in a dutiful row.

MARY: (voice over) We were hunting a grass. Gerry was the greenest grass, and yet the wisest. As is always the way. As a man he told both truth and lies. But then, all men do that, don't they? All I know is that I felt very lovely in my nice Police Lady gown. There's something exciting about going off to hunt down a killer, especially when the satin of the uniform is pressing close to your skin.

Dissolve to....

A typical modern slum street. Organ grinders and prositutes with monkeys are walking slowly up and down. Each prostitute wears a lovely big dress of a single colour and hold a matching parasol.

GERRY THE GRASS runs past. He is holding a big torch.

MARY follows behind. On a bicycle, her way lit by a lamp on the front of the bicycle using electricity.

C/U on the LAMP. It glows.

MARY: (shouting) Stop! Stop Thief!

Her cries continue and the music swells.

MARY: (voice-over) Ah, but can we ever stop? So many bad men, and bad women, doing exciting and mysterious things like drugs and evil and theft. I wonder if our crimes catch up with us, or do we never really escape them?


MARY is now played by someone more famous. She still wears her police gown. Even though she is old. She is sobbing.

GERRY THE GRASS walks past. He stops. And watches her. Briefly. And then walks away


Buy My DVD!

My brief career as a producer of space pirate animation is in the shops now. And I made the special features, and it's less than a tenner.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Capturing Mary

In a nutshell: Don't let a career-mincing bitch ruin your life.

Which is all very well, but it took ages to say it, in endless lovely frocks in unending gorgeous rooms. Veerrrrrry sloooowly.

And was David Walliams playing... Satan? or Billy Bunter? It's hard to tell. But any trace of atmosphere is instantly dissipated when he looms over Maggie Smith and intones "Silly girl. You silly girl."

Gareth McClean's review

Sunday, November 11, 2007

BBC Cutbacks: The audience responds

From Feedback: "I was disgusted to hear the Chairman announce that there would be less programmes. Outrageous. He clearly should have said fewer."

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Scottish borders holiday

Well, that was lovely. The stately home turned out to be statelier than described with our own enormous hise and extensive grinds. There was a lot of food, fireworks, drinking, walking and playing of games. And it was lovely. Except when we accidentally ended up in a stripper bar in the village of Newton StBorstal.
The plan next time is for a castle.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Streoid Diary: Clenbuterol


I'm doing this for research. And vanity, naturally. But remember – research. I'm possibly working on a project which invloves writing about steroid use, but I know nothing about them, and don't want to approach it from a simplistic angle. Plus I'm a vain old bugger, and a curious one too.

So, I do a bit of research and discover Clenbuterol. Clenbuterol is not a steroid, but it's similar (readers with chemistry degrees are banging their heads on desks. Remember, this is not Tomorrow's World). Apparently very popular with gym-mad city mums and whippet gays, it is praised for stripping off fat and increasing muscle tone. Or so a couple of articles say.

So, I decide it's a good place to start, and buy some. It is, naturally, not available in any pharmacy. So I get it off ebay. From a man with a Russian name. It takes 2 minutes, and I've purchased a £20 “Clenbuterol Information Pack” which contains a free course of medication. I feel daring, but bet it never turns up.


Bless ebay! My legally dodgy drugs have turned up. Now it's got a bit serious. Do I take them, or just brag about it?

I sit down and read the information pack. The list of side effects looks interesting. So do the possible benefits. But will it really strip fat from my body and inflate my arms? Or just melt my liver?

The information pack tells me that Clenbuterol was originally marketed as asthma medication, until doctors noticed that their patients were looking remarkably buff. It was swiftly banned in athletics, but curiously, my leaflet tells me that 60% of American athletes promptly registered as asthmatic.

I find a flip side on a US site for ladies health, where their medical expert says that it was popular for increasing perfomance of racehorses, but that any meat contaminated with Clenbuterol is labelled unfit for human consumption. Hey lady, I think, who'd want to eat horse anyway?

So, I start the pills. It's just one 20 mg tablet today. It's apparently important to start the fortnight cycle with a low dosage and then build up.

Dose: 1 tablet
Weight: 73.5 kg
Side effects: None

Hangover. I've drunk a normal amount, and yet my body is not happy. I blame the drugs.

I take 40mgs today, and see what happens. It takes about an hour. One of the ways Clenbuterol works is by raising the body temperature by 1 degree. And suddenly, I'm feeling a bit warm and tingly. Not sweaty, just tingly. Interesting.

The “muscle cramps” have started as well. It's like being stabbed in the arm or leg with a really hot needle, but for less than a fraction of a second. It's a curious feeling. The pain's gone before you get a good chance to complain about it. Hmmn.

Headache comes on after lunch. And gets really bad when I'm at the gym. I take some pills, and it goes away. What persists is an odd feeling of dislocation and unfocus. Like being a bit drunk. I find my sentences are drifting. My appetite is also down. I go to the supermarket, forget why i'm there and come back with clingfilm, toilet cleaner and a tin of ravioli.

Dose: 2 tablets
Side effects: Muscle cramps, headache, warmth

Hungover again. Quite mild, but still unusual. I take 80mgs, and within an hour am feeling a little toasty. By lunctime I've noticed that my hands are shaking. Only very slightly, but still. Thinking about it a little, all of me appears to be quivering gently. Jubble. Jubble. Jubble. Like I'm near a very big speaker, but I can't hear the music.

I have a quick look for other people's experiences of clenbuterol. There's this website forum where people called BabyPhat and Jenefer alternately shout and plead with each other. No one says when you're supposed to wake up and go “wow! I'm as skinny as a rake”. There's a lot of defensiveness. People post to say things like “The only solution to manageable weight loss is diet and exercise. And anyway ephedrine is much safer and easier to get hold of.”

I'm still looking for a hint of what to expect. Clearly some people on there have taken Clenbuterol, and have experienced whacky side effects. But hey, all i'm thinking so far is that it's a chilly day and i'm feeling toasty. It's like i'm wearing a hot water bottle. But not in a bad way.

The online medical Doctor does say that hospitals have reported some horrific reactions to Clenbuterol, which sounds worrying... but actually, this turns out to be in cases where heroin addicts have had their supply cut with it. So I can relax – I may just lose a liver, not my kidneys too.

Things are feeling quite tight. Which might be a breathing thing. Oddly when I go to the gym, it's extraordinarily tough. I do the same exercises at the same weight as normal, but it feels as though I'm tearing muscles apart. This has to be a good thing.

Strange things happen in the evening when I smoke. Quite anxious.

Dose: 4 tablets
Side effects: Trembling, headache


I have a six pack! Fucking hell. After three days? I just nip back and check in the mirror. Ooooh. I mean, it's not actually a proper six pack that you could bounce off, but it's like someone's marked out the foundations. “Put six pack here”. There's space at the top and the bottom, and a neat line down the middle and ooh. I wonder if i'm just kidding myself. And I'd quite like to have a lot of sex, right now. But somehow posting on Gaydar “Hey guys! I woke up with a six pack and would like to use it...” seemed odd. Even by gaydar standards.

Sudden desire to clean the house topless. Or go shopping topless. Or whatever it is that people who live in West Hollywood do. Perhaps I should clean the car shirtless. That's a socially allowable thing. Only I don't own a car. I can't even drive. Perhaps I can hire a car, and clean it. No, wait that sounds weird.

Also, no hangover this morning. And the muscle cramps I'm getting used to.

The hangovers and mild anxiety make sense. When I was on beta blockers briefly last year – I didn't get nervous, but I also didn't get hangovers. Or if I did, they slid in gently over a morning. But then, that's cos Beta Blockers slow down the metabolism. Which explains why I put on 6 kilogrammes on them. So it only seems fair that Clenbuterol gives you a hangover and the jitters. But I'm not employed, so my stress levels are pretty much at zero. Apart from a moment at the self-service checkout in Tesco, but that's only human.

I have now found a few “Clen diaries” online kept by proper body builders. They're a bit helpful, but they're not great reading. Here's a sample entry: “upped dose to 180mcg clen, t4 200mcg. i will start ramping clen dose starting tom. no sides at all. i love this clen! could have gotten to 200 or even 220mcg but dint want to waste the clen."

I'm sticking at 80mgs for today. I don't know if I should go any higher. Men can, clearly, but it already seems to be working well, and I don't want to run out of pills before the end of the cycle.

I'm getting increasingly worried about the quality of information on the internet. Some of it is very good. Some of it isn't. For instance, this looks like a helpful article, but repeats itself halfway through several times, and then ends “Ha Ha” and has a link to how cats carry the plague. WTF, as I believe we say.

Later in the day – I notice my pecs have got bigger. By the evening the six pack has deflated slightly. And, despite drinking loads and loads of water, there's a burning pain when I wee. Clearly cut down on the diaretics, and up the water. So an evening of caffeine free diet coke.

Appetite is really down, but oddly when it returns it's ravenous.

Dose: 4 tablets
Side effects: Trembling, slight headache


Another slight hangover this morning. Take today's dose and the trembling in my hands starts. It's quite severe today, but not serious – I wouldn't darn socks or touch up pics for my gaydar profile, but so far it's been fine for typing, chopping carrots and lego, so we're looking good. Soup's suddenly eating soup with an edge.

Worrying chat with my new dentist. She'd like to give me a filling next week. She asks among other things if I'm taking anything for breathing difficulties or have been prescribed steroids recently. I lie. I wonder if that's a stupid thing. Paranoid, I decide to reschedule the filling until the cycle's over. I don't want to die in a dentist's chair from a vanity pill. It's not going to look good.

Despite noticeably improved chest definition, I still have love handles. So I look like a pear that does sit-ups.

Clenbuterol isn't recommended for people with stressful jobs. Being unemployed I'm fine, but a slight problem with a direct debit sends me into a right state. I can hear my voice trembling when I ring the bank and feel my heart pounding and I think, “clearly, not a drug for racing car drivers”.

Dose: 4 tablets
Side effects: Trembling


I wake up with a burning pain in my chest and difficulty breathing. This is it, I think, the rare “breathing difficulties” that are reported. And then I belch and realise that the burning pain is just indigestion from last night's pizza. Ah well. It's easy to blame every little niggle as a side-effect of the miracle drug.

There's an overall tightening of the stomach. Things are less springy, and my leg muscles seem more defined. I catch myself squeezing bits, like a lady with new breasts. Jubble jubble.

At the gym, I make a hurried attempt to measure my body fat with calipers. It's not a roaring success as I don't know what I'm doing. Seemingly at 37% body fat I'm clinically very obese, if not dead. I'll try and get it properly measured at some point. But do notice that I've lost 200g since last I measured myself.

To put it in perspective, that's not a great drop. When I did a no-alcohol, protein-only diet years ago, I was losing about 4kg a week. The most I've lost this week is a kilo. But it's a week that's included a vast amount of booze and a pizza. So, hey. And no. I've never had 37% body fat.

Dose: 4 tablets
Side effects: Trembling


I don't make it to the gym today. Instead I meet a friend for lunch which goes on till about 10pm. Interestingly, the loss-of-appetite makes an appearance. When I crawl in, I just have a few slices of ham and some tomatoes.

Oddly, cigarette cravings reduced a bit. Hmmmn.

Dose: 4 tablets.
Side effects: Trembling


Business as usual. Take tablets. Feel a warm flush after a quarter of an hour. Then fingers shake a little after half an hour. Hey ho.
Great workout at the gym (how weird it is typing that), with trainer commenting “Your body shape's really changed recently. In that you no longer look like shit.”

After the workout, we're stretching, and trainer John notices my hand playing the Murder She Wrote theme on an invisible piano. “Is that normal?” he asks. I assure him it is. The shaking subsides. “Could be MS,” he tells me. I don't tell him it could also be pony pills.

Appetite again tiny. Odd.

Dose: 4 tablets.
Side effects: Trembling


The impossible happened. Pullups are the hardest exercise to do. You dangle from a bar and lift your own bodyweight. I've never been able to do them, unless helped by a grunting personal trainer assuring me “...uhnf, you're doing all the work... gasp... no, mate, it's really all you... oh god, my back...”. My trainer and I tried them a fortnight ago, and just couldn't.

But today, I was resting in between another exercise, passed the bars and thought “let's just have a go.” All of a sudden, I was going pullups. Bad pullups, but pullups all of my very own. Wow.

Of course, these things have their downside. I get back from the gym, and a nice guy I'm supposed to be meeting texts to postpone. And I send him a vile text back, and then spend half an hour actually quivering with rage. Even my breasts are spasming angrily.

Thinking back over the past few days, when things haven't gone completely my way, I've reacted very badly, very quickly, without a pause for thought. It's like these pills have unleashed my inner twat.

I try and imagine how I'd be coping right now with these pills and a stressful job. And it's not good. It's like putting unfiltered teenage me in charge.

Dose: 4 tablets.
Side effects: Superhuman strength, Behaving like a grumpy arsehole.


As I get out of the shower, the phone's ringing. It's a recruitment consultant. She seems lovely, but clearly hasn't read my CV. The red mist descends and the urge to snap at her and hang up is enormous and scary.

From what I've read, you can “stack” clenbuterol, taking it simultaneously with a steroid. Instead, I'm stacking it with Beechams Kalms.

Searched for the baby steroid Dianabol on Ebay. It recommended a Dinobots T-shirt.

Dose: 4 tablets.
Side effects: Red mist.


Nothing interesting happened today. Kalms have sorted out the mood swings nicely. The abating of side effects echoes the advice that after a fortnight your body starts to counter the chemical.

Dose: 4 tablets.
Side effects: Mild, mild trembling. Like a slightly nervous rabbit.

DAY 12

Managed more pull-ups at the gym. Other than that, getting used to seeing more ribcage. Tomorrow, I start to wind down the cycle.

Dose: 4 tablets.
Side effects: None.

DAY 13

Am going round Habitat with my friend the student nurse. We weigh each other in the bathroom section. I am pleased to notice that I weigh a shade over 70 kgs. While holding a litre bottle of water in my hand.

The nurse gets on to the scales. “Damn. 60 kilos. No matter how hard I try, I just can't put on weight. Ooh, you're scowling at me. You're kind of hot when you do that. For an old fat man.”

Dose: 2 tablets.
Side effects: None really.
Weight: 70.5 Kgs. Ish.

DAY 14

So, what have I learned after a fortnight on drugs that are only really legal if I'm a pony? Clearly, that drugs make you sexier. And behave like a twat.

I've also learnt that next time I try something like this, I should measure it more carefully. The weight loss/increase in muscle tone has been visibly dramatic. Some of that may be down to visiting the gym six times a week. But the drug has definitely helped remarkably. Still got some love handle left, though.

I've lost more weight before over a similar period (either through giving up booze, Atkins, or food poisoning), but this has certainly been quite straightforward and painless. The aggression has really been the only irritating side-effect. Other than that, Clenbuterol has left me lithe and whippety.

So what am I going to do? Yep, a course of drugs that achieves exactly the reverse.

NEXT: Steroids.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Not the same old Saturday night

So. I had a big Saurday night planned. I'd even made a list of Exciting New Places To Go. But then I got caught up in packing for holiday, and cleaning and suddenly it was half ten and I felt all middle-aged.

So, I went to the Black Cap. In the smoking garden a (not particularly attractive) straight man was telling a group of (very attractive) young gays "I guess we're all biseckshewell. Buy me enough drinks and we'll see."

An hour later, he was no closer to sleeping with any of them, but very drunk. I left, and went to Central Station for a last drink. I figured there'll either be cabaret or mildly amusing sleaze.

Up on the smoking terrace a man in Chelsea strip had his feet up on a guy in Man U kit, who was hunched over, lapping beer out of a dog bowl on the floor. "Pity Andy can't come," sighed Chelsea.

"Yurr," replied Man U, in between slurps. "Did you text him?"

"Oh, I did, but he's not replied."

"'Kay," replied Man U, burying himself in his bowl.

At which point, Chelsea took a long, deep drag on his cigarette, leant back and groaned powerfully.

I went home and watched Family Guy.

(PS: Yes, I checked the kit colours when I got home, and I was right. Clearly I have general knowledge. As soon as I get back from holiday, I am going out properly. To a place with bright lights and music that goes thump-thump-wheee and drunk gays who do the same.)

Saturday, November 03, 2007

A week's holiday

I'll be in a Scottish stately home for a week:

But I'll leave you with a big update on another project tomorrow.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Camp alert! Alcazar's ABBA Tribute

The holy grail of camp euro-pop is on the internet. Someone has put up a bootleg of Alcazar's fabled ABBA concert.

The Swedish pop menaces fall on Waterloo like cats on a shrew. I've been giggling all morning. Yeah, the arrangement is flat (imagine a lost Andrew Lloyd Webber musical called Orgy!), and it's a bit slow, but hooray for their version of As Good As New.

Yeah, it may be ABBA (these days Dancing Queen clears a dancefloor faster than vomit), but.. but... it's Alcazar.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Trick or treat

A trick or treater came round last night. I did a panic raid of the cupboard - cup-a-soup, rice crackers, miso paste, low carb pasta.... finally found a box of jaffa cakes.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Halloween Costume

Q: I am wearing a sailor suit with a rubber duck round my neck on a rope. Who am I?
A: The Ancient Mariner. Or just a tired old whoopsie who grabs any excuse to raid the Dressing-Up Box (see my naive visit to The Hoist). I was aiming for Querelle, but got Captain Haddock.

I did mean to go clubbing wearing this. But by the time I left the party I was a) smashed and b) very slightly stoned ("Goodness, I haven't tried this in years. I wonder if it still tastes funny... Why, yes it does. God, your hob is amazing."). I ended up standing in a long queue surrounded by Very Fat Women wearing horns. I decided to go home with my dignity intact. Or as much dignity as you can have dressed like you wish you were 19.

Worst choice I made so far this week: It involved the sailor costume and some sex. Instead I went to a pub quiz night and lost. Boo.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Two divas on a cliff

This week I got to see two Queens of the 80s - Sandra Bernhard and Pam Ayres.

Both were there through my childhood years - Pam quietly wry about the dentist, Sandra summing up what was great about late night tv - if it didn't feature shrieking incoherence, what was the point?

How exciting to see these two ladies (of a surprisingly similar age) in the same week. Ann got us tickets to Pam's new sitcom, in which Pam plays a character called Pam. She also does a poem about a contact lens and proves she has looked after her teeth by eating a carrot. After two hours we staggered out onto the street. Ann sighed, "I feel I've been gentled to death."

Sandra was different. She staggered on an hour late, scything rapidly through her audience of vile queens. With the politness of the truly depraved, her act was ruthlessly clean. Pam actually talked about sex more - but whenever she mentioned the missionary position the audience shifted nervously from one buttock to the next.

As to who was nicer, I can only apply The Cliff Test. This is when you imagine what someone's reaction would be when discovering you dangling from a cliff. Having seen Pam in action, I can imagine her surprisingly flinty gaze settling on me as she intones "From here the view is very 'igh/I rather think you're going to die."

Wheareas Sandra wouldn't blink before she'd pulled you to safety, poured you a brandy, and tossed you to her fags.

After Sandra, I went to Central Station for a quick drink. It seemed a fairly normal night (no leather or paddling pools in sight). I sat out on the roof garden, smoking and listening to a group of men fantasizing about David Tennant. It was raining gently, and all seemed calm. Then a naked fat man wandered out and lit a cigarette.

With the communion of smokers we all nodded amiably at each other. But all I could think was "Where does he keep the cigarettes?"

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Unsettling kitten news

Good news: Kittens rescued.
Bad news: By a dog.
Worse news: She suckles them.


Meet Rusty

This is Rusty. He'd like to be my friend on Facebook. Both Facebook and I are quite certain we have no friends in common.

Rusty is an American college student. As such, all of his pictures appear to involve him and other male friends clutching each other and beer and saying "woo!"

Facebook's curious. It allows me to waste five minutes wondering what it would be like to be Rusty, living in his abercrombie/jock-y world of bonfires, tinnies and hell yeah.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A little respect

Went for drinks with a friend who was setting up a recruitment consultancy. After a few days he found it hard going, and so he's turned it into an escort agency. Already it's a roaring success. And he's managed to keep some of the same people on his books.

Monday, October 22, 2007

No dwarves or horses or things in places...

And I don't even like Skins that much...

(PS: Better lip-sync version)

Things I have learned this morning

1) 33 is too old to mix red wine and whisky.
2) There are never enough bacon sandwiches
3) If you can hang in, it'll all be better by 11.30

Meanwhile, do go and see "Blame It On Fidel". French movies are rennie for the soul.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Saturday am

My body insisted that 6am was the right time to get up this morning. So I saw day break in a hotel on the Euston Road.

The other people in the restaurant were either Chunnel workers, perpetually single men of advanced years, or sturdy female German tourists. And me. Sat in a corner, reading Vanity Fair.

I realised, with a little sigh that I'd got the weekend the wrong way round. At 6am on a Saturday morning, I'm supposed to be in Fire, my arms, eyes and legs akimbo.

It's now 10am, and I've done nearly everything I'd aim to do in a normal weekend. What the hell do I do now?

Friday, October 19, 2007

7 reasons to see The Invasion

  1. Nicole Kidman's breasts. They glide into shot like Dalek plungers. Smooth and slightly sinister. Plus perfectly pyramidal. Wow.
  2. Daniel Craig. He wasn't famous when he made it, so Nicole barely spares him a glance.
  3. The aliens. Dead-eyed and socially inept - They're exactly like BBC Managers. Scary.
  4. The Polish Ambassador's wife. Her accent starts off German, skids into Scottish before settling on Irish. Seriously. It's hilarious.
  5. The joins. Can you spot where the Wachowski reshoots are? Can you? Would they be the oddly cheap bits?
  6. The unlikeliest American President ever. The end of the film is so fucked, you almost can't believe it. But no, that's him.
  7. Plus, it's nowhere near as bad as you'd think.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Waterloo Sunset

The view from my office. I'm loving freelancing.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Finally, I have a new dentist. She is very nice despite the fact that already I've spat a dental mould on her face. That said, the filling was agony.

"Were you moaning because the injection felt a little odd?" she cooed.

"No. I was moaning cos you just stuck a giant needle in my jaw," I growled.

The dental nurse giggled. "I think the hygenic scraping hurts more."

And it did.

The Squaddie refused to let me cancel a date. "I don't care," he said.

"I do," I told him. "I can't open my mouth."

"We don't have to kiss," he said.

In the end, it would have been better if we'd postponed.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Very Small Things

Slept with a nanotechnologist yesterday. He was very beautiful. Nothing amusing or disastrous happened. He told me two things. Firstly, that he liked me. Second, that he was moving to Bath.

I'm still at "Nanites were only in Star Trek when I was a kid. Now stunning Greek men can be professors in them. Cool."

Yesterday I also
  1. Went to Kilburn. It has one kebab shop for every ten straight men screaming at the rugby.
  2. Ate a Boots Prawn Mayo sandwich. It had anti-taste.
  3. Saw Transformers at the IMAX. Cried again ("Bumblebeeeeeeeeeee!" *sniff*). Oddly, nearly fell asleep, slightly hypnotised by the final fight on a really big screen. Fans of the film (and hey, who's not?) will be delighted to learn it's a different cut with lots of cool extra bits.
  4. Drank half a bottle of vodka. Which was supposed to be one last little drink when I got in. Hmmn. No hangover, but a vague feeling of self-loathing.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Cupcake's Road To Frugality

Click the "next blog" link and you get Cupcake's Road to Frugality. A god-fearing USA mom's tales of economy drives, coupons, and laminate furniture purchases. Hey neighbour!

Up and Coming Somerstown 2

When I moved to Kings Cross in 2002, it was still a bit iffy. But with the coming of the Eurostar we even now have... middle clas people.

There are at least three gay couples living in my building (all far more fabulous than me - either whippety thin cardigan-wearers, or flip-flops, beards, motorbike and Guardian).

My street has a proper pizzeria, a Szechuan chinese, and a wine bar. But just over the road is The Brunswick Centre. It used to be a delapidated Barbican rip-off, with a Somerfield and a charity shop. Now it's a shopping centre out of your dreams.

For one thing, there's a Waitrose. It's heaving - rammed with middle class people who've just materialised. Build it. They will come. And they spill out, eating at Yo Sushi, or Strada (we even have a Nandos for daytrippers from Zone 3). Later, they'll dive into the Virgin Megastore and Space NK, before checking out show times at the French Art House cinema. People wander happily around, looking like pastel drawings from an artist's impresison in an architecture brochure. It all looks worryingly like Caprica in Galactica. I love it.

This afternoon, there was even a cute Polish gay couple arguing over which season of the OC to buy on DVD.

UPDATE: Orchis pointed out that I'd forgotten Skoob, a giant underground second hand book store. When they reopened, they'd done the entire floor in cheap wood flooring, hadn't left any gaps for expansion, and the floor had risen. As a result it was brilliantly like walking on a wooden sea, where a careful step in Crime could cause ripples in Ancient History.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Drunken ebay

Paypal is so cruel to the drunk. Until the postman turned up, I'd completely forgotten about buying a Lego Garage and Giant Robot. Wheeee!

Hating Gaydar

I've not logged in for a while. There is 1 message. An invitation to join a Lesbian Dining Society. Says it all, really.


The improved tagging means that you can read all the stories tagged about "TV". Of which there are 50. Or "Sex", of which there are 220-something. I don't mention this to boast. But it gives a completely misleading impression. I have nothing profound to say about this. That is all.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Filling a vacancy

So, I go to a job interview. It's next door to a gay sauna.


I phone the recruitment consultant afterwards. "Oooh, is that a bar you're in?" she trills. "It sounds nice."

Yes and no. I immediately get seduced by two beautiful Italian tourists with wonderful bodies but bad breath. One of them is called Mattel. Afterwards, he fetches the guidebook, and we sit, flicking through it.

They melt away, and I'm left feeling oddly listless. I catch myself wondering what I'd do if I got the job. Aside from the whole "can I still do a job?" thing, there's also the closeness to the sauna. Would it be like putting on weight when you work next to a nice cafe? Would I end up in here every night? Or at lunchtimes? Odd.

I met a Polish guy called Tom. He believed in everything but kissing on the lips. I always find that strange. I went home, still thoughtful.

Rain and men

Met the Squaddie for afternoon tea. Turns out he works in Regents Place, which is a strange business park at the top of Tottenham Court Road. It's a surprisingly desolate rain-soaked tundra. Smokers were huddled under statues, ducking as sodden copies of London Lite howled past.

We found a Starbucks. It was full of vile business people having meetings with that smug air of "But look! We're having a meeting in Starbucks! Isn't that exciting?" No.

The Squaddie dropped his thick Scottish accent when he ordered ("The lassie doesn't get me,"), and we sat down next to two posh boy students talking about cafetieres.

It was about five minutes before I realised what was wrong. The Squaddie was wearing a suit. A really nice suit.

We sat watching the rain pound across the courtyard outside, and he sighed, and told me all about how he used to run a skiing lodge in the Alps. "It was a great quality of life. Skiing to work every morning. Great. Until I fell out with my German bird. They're so argumentative." I stil don't know if he meant birds or Germans. But every time I meet him, he gets more complicated.

Monday, October 08, 2007


It's a bit peachy-beige isn't it? Hopefully, normal service etc, soon!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

My Own Private Ida ho

Late on Saturday I figured it was no good sitting alone in my room, so instead went out to hear the music play. I'd missed the Cabaret, but luckily not a nice man from Idaho.

My local is also one of London's scrapiest gayeries, which may explain why I'm not very "scene" - it's the sheer effort of having to boil wash your trainers after every visit. The problem with the smoking ban is that I can no longer use my patented solution to gay bars (find corner. scowl. chainsmoke). Instead, I found the prettiest man there, and started talking to him. It's radical, but does appear to work a lot better than glowering.

This was Jarod's first and only night on London's gay scene. The farmer's son from Idaho was puzzled. "So, at the bar upstairs, there are these two fat men in rugby kit. And one of them's lying on the floor, and the other one's standing on his hand. That ain't customary."

He's currently living in Amsterdam and not liking it. "The Dutch are just boring bastards with big dicks. If you could just make their dicks smaller and their charisma bigger, I'd be happier."

We sit and drink till the only man left at the bar is wearing a string vest and lime silk shorts.

This year, I've been discovering that Americans say weird things during sex. First there was Lucas who finished with "Hell yeah!". Now Jarod continues this by yelling out "Yeah! Breed that hole!".

He pauses. "You're laughing."

ME: "Sorry."

JAROD: "Yeah. I just knew you were gonna hate that. It's a thing."

ME: "But where's it come from?"

JAROD: "Well, kind of... you know... traditional."

ME: "But it doesn't make sense. 'Breed'... sounds weird. And a bit aggressive."

JAROD: "Hey, this is good old country dirty talk."

ME: "Handed down to you by your Pa?"

Jarod's led a varied life. A typical sentence runs: "Oh, didn't I tell you I was a weatherman for a while? It was when I was in the Marines. Yeah, that was before the Seminary." He's also worked in farming and construction. "All I've got left is plumber, and then that's all the porn jobs."

As I leave him, he hands me a sheet of paper. I think it's his number, but it turns out to be a discount coupon for a Boots Only night in Kerkstraat. Breeder.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


I'd never work again if it wasn't that I quite like buying spendy drinks and toys. I miss working with fun people, but there's something lovely about every day being Saturday, full of shopping and gym and boys and fags and writing and one last little vodka before bed.

But I have my wobbles. I was signing on the other day. In return for some free money and discount cinema tickets, it's a fun ritual where a nice lady called Shimla asks me if I've progressed from my last job, which was making cartoons about space pirates. I explain that sadly, animated space piracy is a small industry. She nods sympathetically, and suggests I use one of their Job Points to further my job seeking.

As I leave a Customer Satisfaction man asks what I thought of my Job Seeking interview. And then says, "So how long have you been unemployed?"

"Four months," I say.

"Aw," he says. "Baby!"

And that's when I have a wobble.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Recruitment Consultants

How I wish it would go, just once:

"Hi, this is Jocasta calling from OfficeWankers. I've grabbed your cv off a pile, haven't even read it and am calling you about a job that, in about 10 seconds time we're both going to realise you're completely unsuitable for. How does that grab you?"

ME: "Sure. Once you realise it would be like hiring a cat to run the Mouse Zoo, will you keep flogging the job to me anyway?"

JOCASTA: "Oh, absolutely. Without pausing for breath."

ME: "It's based in Slough, isn't it?"

JOCASTA: "Almost certainly. I've not read that far down the job description yet but it's bound to be somewhere ghastly... ah. yup."

ME: "And are you playing with Facebook all the way through this conversation?"

JOCASTA: "But of course! I'm uploading pictures of girls night out in AllBarOne. It was hilarious."

I worked out t'other day when I run out of money. It's February 14th. Which'll be a shit of a day, but luckily it's a looong way away.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Making the most of Monday

It's been a terrible day. The sun never rose, it's rained, I've started worrying about not having a job, and the stuff I've mopped the floors with smells of hospital.

1) Tom Middleton's Crazy Covers. What's not to love about Ian Brown doing Thriller, or Cars played on oil drums?

2) Tesco do Banana Milkshake flavoured toothpaste. Have now cleaned teeth five times.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Unusual breakdancing on a Sunday

SoHo lunch started at 1 and finished at 10. I don't spend enough Sundays like this, pottering amiably around with pleasant company. We discovered that London's mintiest gay bar, The Box, now does table service, but in a dismissive "Wait in that corner. Someone will get you a drink - you're blocking the view of our beautiful bar staff."

We were in The Friendly Society when a young man in a wheelchair approached us and told us the story of his life. Whether we wanted to hear it or not. It says something about the times we live in that people in wheelchairs can now feel free to be a bit unpleasant.

"Are you single?" Tony demanded of my friend Tim.


"Well, I'm straight!" he snapped, dismissively. And then started to tell us again about the documentary film that was being made of his life. Tim went to the loo.

We were joined by a friend of Tony's, who was quite the most sexually available marine you could meet. "You have great eyes and teeth," he said to me, "What do you think of my arse?" and pulled down his trousers. "Do you want to touch it?"

", my friend, Tim.... is..." I managed.

"Tim? I can't stand that name!" wailed the marine, "My ex was called Tim!"

"Isn't that funny! I'm a bit weird about Pauls," I giggled. "What about you, Tony? Are there any people's names you don't like?"

Tony looked up sullenly from his wheelchair. "They used to call me Bent-Back. I didn't like that."

"No! That's not what I meant! Are there any bad Sandras in your life?"

Tony thought about it "I hated it when they called me Peg Leg."

The marine pulled down his trousers again. "They call me Bubble Butt, cos of my great arse. Can you see why?"

Tony told us some more about his hard life, as being made into a documentary. On the one hand, I really envied his ability to come over, introduce himself, and have a conversation with two strangers. On the other hand, he was truly terrible company.

Tim came back. I got up to go to the loo. The marine showed me his arse again as I squeezed past. He was, I think, completely missing the point of marines. They are supposed to be hard to get into. That's their charm.

When I got back, Tim was being lectured by Tony about how the Hackney Gazette had featured his bravura display of wheelchair breakdancing. And the marine placed a hand on my loins and squeezed. It was nastily like having an unfamiliar cat settle in your lap.

"Er, haven't we got to...?" I said to Tim.

"Oh, yes... we're almost certainly late for..." He replied, and we headed to the door.

"Myspace me!" cried Tony. "I reply to as many messages as I can!"

PS: Things that make me realise I'm 33: After a hard day's drinking, I do not have one more and go clubbing. No, I return home and thoroughly enjoy a documentary about Channel 4.


Went to see a play. After half an hour, the actor stood up and said, "Well, that's it. Shall we go to the pub?"

I have decided that this should happen more in theatre. It was a lovely evening, but meant that, by the time I reached the engagement party I was supposed to be at, I was a little drunk.

The engagement party was in a heaving Camden straight pub. It's ironic that North Londoners are against battery farming, but happy to drink in pubs so crowded a hen would faint. I eventually found the private party in a quiet area, with some rather lovely free food. "How long have you known Guy?" I asked a nice man called Darren. "Who's Guy?" he asked. It turned out I had gatecrashed his birthday party.

I never did find Guy. Every time I moved or turned, a bouncer would spin me around and back into the melee, like a dodgem attendant.

Friday, September 28, 2007

You, the reader

Things I've recently discovered about my readers. You are quite likely to be:
  • High-powered and fabulous
  • Quite attractive
  • My plumber

Miss Jalpa saves the planet

I know a lovely woman who actually does something worthwhile. She's saving the planet. She's currently in the Sudan. She summarises her problems as this: "So, there's a flood. There's also a civil war. You kind of assume that the really bad flooding would stop the civil war. But no. There they are, up to their necks in water, shooting at each other. Tiresome."

We have an evening of cocktails in a rooftop bar. She insists on paying the ludicrous bill ("Darling, we only got Cappucino in the Sudan last month. How long do you think it'll be before we get a decent martini?").

There's gossip. About randy aid workers, lustful body guards, and corrupt UN officials. About almost hopeless challenges and terrible terrible things. She says how one night they found the woman in the next door tent trussed screaming to her bed by her three bodyguards. When asked what they thought they were doing the bodyguards calmly replied, "We're gonna have a little fun."

She tells me all this and I think "I couldn't do your job." And then she starts talking about the plumbing and I think "I really couldn't do your job."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Meanwhile, online..

No matter how hard your online dating persona, I can't take you seriously if you name yourself after a Doctor Who character:

"The Great Healer: I am a Master looking to gain a sport kitted slave."

Yeah, to come over, crap on my coffee table, and then we can cuddle while we watch the Tegan boxset together and bitch about the chromakey.

A little respect

Yesterday evening didn't quite go as planned. There were supposed to be fabulous drinks. Then I was going to see a Chinese Walking Play (sold out), a Numbers Play (sold out), a foreign film (only on on Wednesdays at 4pm. Clearly peak time for the sullen). Finally I decided - I was finally going to go and see a night of Gay Comedy at Barcode.

Instead, and rather marvellously, I ended up seeing Erasure in a private box at the Albert Hall (thank you Mr Morris). And I'm pleased to say I was a good boy on the bike ride home through Hyde Park. Although maybe that's because they've fenced off all the naughty bits. Who can say?

Job alert!

brand: Your Horse
job title : Head of Products
Your Horse Britain’s premier horse brand (magazine, website and show) is set to become the consumer champion of equestrian equipment...

I'm gonna have the Black Beauty theme in my head all day now.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

New web addiction

Hunters and Gatherers - lifting unfortunate profiles from gay dating sites. Safe for work (on the top level). I'm laughing like Phil Spector at a gun show.


In the supermarket, I get a text from my Irish ex. The preview says "Hi, how you doing"

I cycle home, thinking through the various possibilities, and mildly worried by how excited I am. Clearly, this means that I've never got over any bloke, ever. I mentally compose a witty, detached reply which proves that I am cool, calm, and in no way prepared to move back to Wales just to be with him if he'd just ask.

I open the message: "Hi, how you doing with the wedding?"

Oh. He's texted the wrong bloke.

Monday, September 24, 2007

On the couch

The squaddie rings to say he's coming over, and would I mind if he brought a friend, who turns out to be a therapist.

I don't know whether to expect a threesome or an intervention.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Thursday, September 20, 2007

It's not WMD, it's just a cat!

"A new kitten named Cookie will be introduced to the show, while the BBC said Socks would "also remain on the team". [Blue Peter editor sacked]

Further Socks fakery! In an interview on the BBC website, Socks announces: "Embarrassing moment? Having to be made look messy before being groomed on the show!"

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The night I shagged Harry Potter

Q: How did your interview with the world's top listings magazine go?
A: I accidentally referred to listings as "dull".

Afterwards, shaken and wearing painful shoes, I rang up Adam and begged him to take me out for a drink. We ended up in a gay-o-rama on a roundabout in Victoria. Adam's there, along with a charming young couple. Let's call them Perfecton #1 and Perfecton #2.

Gays aren't like they used to be. The Perfectons were 21, shared a flat, were terribly mature, and kept on popping open their Blackberries to check with their dealers... Their share dealers ("oh, I knew Northern Rock would rally").

It was kind of like VHS going out for drinks with a couple of DVDs. They were so shiny. It made me a little whistful.

We all ended up in an Italian restaurant. Adam wandered off for a cigarette/to abuse a waitress/phone his boyfriend.

ME: Oh.


ME: Your boyfriend's hand appears to be on my knee.

PERFECTON #2: Shouldn't it be?

ME: Well, it's ... I... gosh...

PERFECTON #1: How old are you?

ME: 33.

PERFECTON #2: Then not too old.

PERFECTON #1: No. Good.

PERFECTON #2: Then that's settled.

ME: ...


ME: Has anyone ever turned you two down?

PERFECTON #2: No. Why would they?

PERFECTON #1: We both have such good taste.

(They smile. In unison. It's not at all sinister).


That's the thing about The Gay Lottery. No matter how shitty your day, you may win at any moment.

PS: Perfecton #2 was an actor when young, and played Harry Potter in a video game before discovering an aptitude for Network Server Maintainance. "I was such a disappointment to Sylvia Young..."

Monday, September 17, 2007

London has a beach

The Polish Footballer and I meet up at the end of the Thames Festival. We've missed the fireworks, but walk hand-in-hand along the South Bank and down onto the beach.

He thanks me for lending him my flat briefly. "I played with your little trains," he said, and smiled. "You have so many."

We walked on for a bit. "I should have seen you a couple of weeks ago," he said. "I'd just moved out of my ex's and was having so much sex. I was such a slut, you'd have been very happy. Now though, I am off sex. Poor you. It was just too much endless empty sex, my god."

He shares his new flat with a Greek rich kid, his vile porn star boyfriend, and a marketing student who's never around. "But they are all such thin bitches! So I must diet, otherwise I can't steal their clothes!" The Footballer stays in at nights, watching Sex & The City and eating tinned tuna and miso soup.

We walk back along Embankment and sit on a bench just watching the river at night. I steal one of his cigarettes and he explains, very carefully, where the Polish translation of Harry Potter goes wrong. It's all to do with House Elves.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Hai World!

It's taken less than a year for Lolcats to go from a joke to a programming language. Called LOLcode, obviously. Monorail cat would be proud.

London's prettier than you

London was looking a bit sexy yesterday, wasn't it? All that late summer sun, gentle breeze and the bracing whiff of baked tramp wee. Unbeatable. I spent most of the day walking - insisting that a long-suffering soul walk to Paddington rather than catch the tube, and then rambling back to Holborn. The sites were amazing - not just pretty boys, but every few streets something remarkable - a petting zoo, a Socialist book sale, a woman trying to eat ice cream through her veil.

And then, in the evening, a rather lovely party where everyone wore hats. I would have gone on clubbing but a) I'd spent my clubbing money on sushi and b) I was dressed as a builder.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Squaddie and the Sheikh

The Squaddie's back, having dumped his Arabian Prince somewhere in the Seychelles. "I told him he was a spoilt child and terrible in bed. He threatened to call security, so I slapped his arse and got a plane home. Miss me?"

I still don't know what to make of the Squaddie. He chain smokes, drinks red wine from the bottle, but likes foreign films and caviar. And his Dundee accent grinds like a waste disposal unit (I wish I could attempt to report it - can Fawkes help?).

He pops round after work, his workbag containing a laptop and a collar-and-chain. "Oh, it's not for you," he mumbles, "Got myself a slave last night."

For some stupid reason I tell him about my horrific slave-dating experience, and he laughs. "You don't kiss 'em, you daft twat, you just tell them what to do and they love it. This one was a nice young architect, so he'd even got the sling hooks in his living room. I trussed him up, beat his arse with a paddle, and made myself at home with his drinks cabinet. After an hour he begged me to stuff some love beads up his arse, but I looked at them and they were the size of cricket balls and I thought fuck that and said 'You've been bad slave, you don't deserve it,' and made myself another drink. He loved it."

Sometimes I feel I'm a GCSE mind in an A Level world.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

More disappointed than surprised

I open up a long-forgotten chest and discover that, for a considerable number of years, I've owned Arnold Schwarzenegger's Junior on video.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Russell Howard topless

Every now and then, the BBC website surprises and delights.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Dinner Party

Like Abigail's Party crossed with The Wicker Man, but nowhere near as good as that sounds. The cast gave it their all, but were abandoned by the script and the Terry & June incidental music.

It was all so obvious - three couples (young, middle and old aged) in a big house in Essex. The moral was either "Money doesn't bring you happiness" or "Lower middle class pretension is abhorrent." Neither's particularly original, or valid.

Just as films about East End crack dens are all made by nice public school boys, so films about Essex ghastliness are churned out by North Londoners who think a trip to Clapham racy. After last year's Poliakoff horror where a man who has never worked in an office turned in a satire about office life, you'd think the BBC would have learned... But try and imagine Alan Bleasdale or Alan Plater turning in something so patronising and limp.

The only likeable character was George Cole. And the only likeable word was "succulent".

Shuffling mad

"Bitch! Bitch! Shut up, you stupid bitch!" I said.

The woman next to me blinked with surprise, turned away and quickened her pace down the street, hurrying away from this clearly mad stranger.

How could I explain I was listening to Any Answers on the radio?

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The morning after the party

I discover someone had sex on Legoland:

There are only two problems with this:
  1. Surely it must have hurt?
  2. It's only when you have guests round that you realise that having your spare room filled with Lego is just, kind of, odd. Or, as someone said; "creepy".

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Signing-on and Signing-out

I've signed on. I haven't done this since leaving university, but since I'm technically unemployed, I appear to be eligible for some benefits. At the very least, I get cheap cinema tickets.

There's a curious selection of free magazines, including Pathfinder - "for career changers from all walks of life", but blatantly for ex-servic people, full of articles about how to leave the army and use your resettlement fund to become a recruitment consultant/kinky shoe saleswoman.

Among all the slightly weirdly worded adverts was one for Ex-Mil recruitment ( They're currently looking for an accountant who has experience of auditing in "a hardship location". Could this be you?

There's also an enticing backpage advert asking if you want the be "The Face of Munters. Munters is the world's number one organisation in damage restoration."

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The great thing about the tube strike

Is that the sun's shining and all the fit men in the area are off work. Goodness, there was a man in Costcutter who was both cute and gay (well, he was buying filter coffee, which is gay in Kings Cross).

When I left the shop, he was waiting for me outside. I smiled broadly, and then realised he was simply untying his dog. He walked past, and the dog gave me a pitying look.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Good news: re Cybercrime

Obssessively staring at pictures of someone on Facebook isn't actually stalking until you make one your desktop wallpaper. I have decided.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Coming up in Somers Town

I live in Somers Town. If you've ever wondered what's between Euston and King's Cross, the answer is a quaint little series of streets. My own estate (1920s Council Deco, thank you very much) is the old St Pancras' shunting yards, which says all you need to know.

In the five years since I've lived here we've really smartened up - the food's amazing, the people are friendly, and the local library is the British Library. Local drugs pub The Somers Town Coffee House is now a gastropub ("under new management: we now serve coffee") and on summer evenings crowds of ghastly media types spill out onto the pavements with their bottled cider.

We've a basketball court which is as popular with estate kids as it is with posh students. For me the sound of summer is six shirtless youths yelling "To me Stephen! Bitchin!"

We even have our own gang. Whereas other gangs have slightly more exciting names, such as the Tooti Nungs of West London, we only have the "Somers Town Boys 07", which is handy for filing, if nothing else.

Of course, things aren't all rosy. While it's been a good few years since the police cordoned off our bins to look for hooker bits, a real gang from Camden now commute down here away from their ASBOs. I get back from holiday to discover police signs asking for witnesses to a Murder. It took place at 6pm on a warm summer's night. Right by the gastropub, probably in front of a hundred nice middle class people too polite to notice.