Friday, December 24, 2010

You're not still, are you?

My relationship has survived its biggest test. He took me on a date to an all-you-can-eat restaurant. *sigh*

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Next please!

Interesting time of the year for watching how other people shop. That's a euphemism for standing around tutting and rolling my eyes.

We all know about Flustered Shopper - the person who gets to the counter, watches all their things go through then wakes out of a trance to realise that these need to go in their bag-for-life and that they must then voyage through their pocket Narnia for their purse/wallet, try and find exact change or some helpful approximation of it, get distracted by a baby picture on the inside of the wallet, sigh a little and then start gathering their purchases and bags together as though they are faithful Sherpa Tensing about to trek to the roof of the world.

We are all Angry Self Checkout Shopper. Nothing more needs to be said about this, although one day I pray the NHS Suicide Booths use this voice. Oh, and M&S have got rid of them juts as Tesco have decided that they are the way forward. I wonder their staff don't have riot gear.

Finally, this year I saw Rude Fashion Shopper. She was dressed like she worked for Sgt Pepper and was clearly on her way somewhere fabulous, just stopping off for 10 menthol at the corner shop. She plucked an immaculate fiver from inside her cape and then CRUMPLED it before dropping it into the hand of the assistant like a used hankie. What?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

G-fail

Gmail is obsessed that I try "Sydney's largest cruising restaurant". Oh honey, we've all known that kind of waiter.

Friday, December 03, 2010

In praise of Pound shops

First there was the Richard Dennen's gay column in the Evening Standard, now my friend Ashley has found A weekend eating Poundland food. The article's joy sings from word to word, but you will go BANG at "my daughter, Dory... if she saw the pink label Heinz Barbie pasta in tomato sauce she would never eat broccoli or quinoa again!"

As Ashley points out, the Standard champions itself as the paper of the dispossessed - then runs a sneering article about Poundland food. As someone comments on the article "You don't do your weekly grocery shopping in Poundland any more than you do in WH Smiths."

Earlier this year, my friend Gary did a play called Mrs Reynolds And The Ruffian. It was about many things, including an old lady brightening up her estate by planting flowers in the abandoned plots. Through it she forms an unlikely friendship with a wayward youth. LIFETIME AMBITION.

Ever since, I have been doing this on my estate - with shrubs and bulbs almost entirely from pound shops. You get a fucking hardy rose bush from Poundland - if it can sit for three months on a shelf tied up in elastic bands, it can survive the nuclear winter that is Somerstown.

It's a brilliantly satisfying thing to do - and an utterly unaffordable bit of whimsy without pound shops (I am mean and selfish - this is as good as I get). The other day while I was working on a bed, a woman rapped me on the shoulder and asked me what I was doing. So I told her.

"Good," she said, "Council says we don't deserve flowers."

Yes, the frost has dented the primroses, but my quid bulbs are still ticking away, along with roses, redcurrants, and lord knows what else but it-looked-nice-on-the-box. All from a pound shop. Take that, yummy mummy.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Let it snow

The cold weather brings out the best and the worst in people. At the moment, you probably can't move for Facebook updates about heroic journeys into work or valiant battles with the central heating. We all deal with these things in different ways.

The cat, for example, wakes me at four every morning to inform me that it is still cold. Considering that Cat has stolen entire duvet, this seems a bit rich. Especially as Cat then sticks its head out of the cat flap, drains all the heat from the flat, and then posts itself back under the duvet. As I said, we all deal with these things differently.

It does seem to be an excuse to go and stand at train stations screaming at staff. At Kings Cross this morning I overheard a woman railing "But I have to go to my cousin's funeral. It's so inconsiderate of you". I mean, seriously, what? Apart from anything else, it's plain common sense that shouting at ticketing staff isn't really going to make four foot of snow go away. A couple stood at a window, pounding on the glass and swearing. I mean, really, why? It would perhaps be excusable if staff weren't going out of the their way to be helpful, working the queues, and generally being as friendly as slightly-too-polite Aunt Sally at a wedding.

I am currently working anywhere other than the flat. Yesterday I swapped the British Library for Camden Library, which was a mistake. The building sweated desperation and failure, miserable staff being constantly berated by weird people, all holding more-than-three Sainsbury's bags stuffed with bits of paper that they'd painstakingly unfurl at any moment. When I was a kid I wanted to be a librarian (lots of arranging books in the right order - how brilliant). Not any more.

Today I tried a coffee shop (yeah, way to rock the cliche - writing on a laptop in Costa). Oddly, a coffee shop is where the worst of humanity gathers in a smug. The staff all the have same panicked look that Lee from Steps wore throughout his time with the group, as though they're trapped in a nightmare working as baristas even though they've never made a cup of coffee before in their lives. The customers are worse. Putting me to one side there was....

1) Haughty lady who had brought her own sandwiches and was eating them under the table as though it was The Perfect Crime.

2) Two students planning a trip using a university travel grant. "Oh yeah, and what we'll do is we'll get Prakash to do the final proposal for us as he is very creative and will do whatever I ask him to. Now I think we should say here that we're walking the whole route, but in fact we'll just sit on that beach, yeah?"

3) Sensitive Girl. You know her - rainbow-jumper, lots of dolphin jewelry, skin paler than rice pudding, bag made of velvet. "Hi, I just wanted to check - I've a nut allergy, so will the caramel syrup be okay?" Pause. "Cos caramel's a nut, isn't it?"

Finally there are the loos in coffee shops. Getting in requires all the agility of a text-based adventure game from the 80s ("Get RECEIPT from CAROL. Go NORTH to BASEMENT. Use CODE on DOOR. Do not TOUCH any surfaces"). Once you're there it is a little bit like breaking in to Fort Knox to discover all the gold has gone. And there's just a puddle of wee and a really horrible smell.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Discovery

The local Catholic school was founded by refugees from the French Revolution. I am interested in this. No-one else is.

While the rest of the country has proper snow, Camden has clearly cut back to just A Lot Of Cold. It's so so cold I've given up trying to heat the flat and am just wandering around in ski thermals. The cat has shut down completely. It may have died. Although something is still eating the cat biscuits.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Unexpected Item In The Bagging Area

So, boyfriend. Which is why I've been quiet for a few weeks. Partly cos I didn't want to say anything to jinx it, and partly cos... well, the number of opportunities for truly disastrous temporary cupboard husbands decreases rapidly when you're dating the same man.

Don't worry, though. Given my track record I'll find some truly appalling way to torpedo it by Tuesday. I bloody hope not, however.

Worrying fact: The cat likes him. This means they're probably conspiring together already.

Anyway, back tomorrow with more silly stories.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Things continue

Overall "Rather Marvellous Really". There's a couple of things I could do without at the moment (mind you have discovered that filleting your gmail may not solve a problem, but does hide it like an unopened bank statement). That's more than balanced by there being a lot of lovely things going on. Which sounds both cryptic and inane. 's'mylife.

Last night featured Unexpected Clubbing. Really we just ended up in the Black Cap. Apparently, it is becoming the new Joiner's Arms. This is probably a great surprise to everyone, not least the Black Cap. It's like a gay bar stuck in the 90s, which is probably the appeal for the Hoxmosexuals, but really.... it's like they're re-running the same club nights over and over again. Even the acts are the same, note for note, from when I last saw them in 2002. It's a bit sad, really. I remember the Black Cap as being a brilliantly unpretentious giggle. Now it's a slightly shabby mess. Will the arrival of a lot of men with interesting glasses and expensive gingham revitalise it? Really?

The security staff are still brilliant. One sidled up to the world's most obvious dealer last night. "Do you really want to stand there, mate? It's just you're in full view of the CCTV. Why not nip to the loo, eh?".

Staggering home through Camden at late o'clock was an obstacle course of swearing, flying bottles, vomit and  girls pulling each other's hair. We picked a mock-fight with each other. As Ben said, "it's like when they try and escape by covering themselves with rotting meat in The Walking Dead..."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Late last night

I dropped round to see the students next door, who appeared to have moved their flat. I needed to talk to them about fireworks and trifle.

"Oh, it's you!" they said. "Come in, come in! We keep meaning to say how much we like your work. No, really we do. Excuse the mess, we're off out clubbing, which is why we're all ironing topless..."

And then I woke up.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Curious

Couple of weeks. Not in a bad way. I'm busy, but in the same way that I tidy the flat, in that I'll find myself in the kitchen thinking "now what was I doing?" and just make myself a cup-a-soup instead.

Things I've discovered about being a freelancer - you can never have enough teaspoons.

In other news, it's a month since I gave up smoking. My friend Joe was my last smoking friend and he gave up in June, which left me feeling like that nice lady at the end of Invasion of the Bodysnatchers (there is a lovely Garrison Keillor story about the last smoker in America called End of the Trail. That). There are good sides to it all. The suddenly needed a lot less sleep is one. The feeling better in the mornings. The looking younger (and, for complicated reasons, I desperately need to look as young as possible at the moment). But...

Oh, it's not fun. According to my nice little card, it's supposed to get better right now. Well, about a week ago. In fact, no, not so much.

I went to see Joe's hypnotist. Which worked really well.  There have been only two problems. One is that if I feel a craving I am supposed to look at the colour red. My worst craving came at 7am one morning jogging round Loch Lomond. This was Loch Lomond. There was no red. Just a variety of lovely greys. It took a mile before I found a post box and hugged it. This is not good behaviour.

Then there was my one lapse. Hypnolady banned me from watching television as that's where I did most of my smoking. Instead, I've spent the last month curled up in bed with cheap wine and a bad book. Oh, and a block of cheese (one of the benefits of being mildly lactose intolerant is that helps me go to sleep. Or pass out. Or whatever. Who cares so long as I get through another day without smoking?).

There was of course, one exception. One night when I thought "fuck it, let's watch telly". Ten cigarettes later I went to bed miserable, and the next day had one of Those Hangovers. You remember those teenage hangovers about which you say "and to this day I have NEVER drunk Taboo or Mirage again"? One of those hangovers.

So that's it really. Lots of work. Lots of sleep. Lots of cheese.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Caprica Cancelled



So, Caprica is cancelled. The quasi-mystical-virtual-reality-worrying-and-beards follow-up to Galactica is being replaced with something a bit more gutsy. Caprica was only really liked by people who spent their evenings ironing Team Jacob pillowcases while genuinely meaning to get beyond Chapter 1 of their copy Nietszche for Dummies. Blood and Chrome sounds a bit more.. you know... blood and chrome-y.


According to EW, Blood and Chrome was commissioned at a meeting at Comic-Con between an exec from SyFy and Caprica guru David Eick (no relation to the lizard guy). The conversation may have gone a bit like this:

EICK: "So, anyway, things are going great on Caprica..."


EXEC: "Uh-huh."


EICK: "Yeah, we've got a whole spiritual arc plotted out, a real journey of the mind..."


EXEC: "Right."


EICK: "Honestly, we are staring into the Frakking Abyss."


EXEC: "Sure you are."


EICK: "Mind you, the writing room has this idea for a show all about exploding spaceships and Cylons."


EXEC: "uh-hu... What?"


EICK: "Oh yeah, crazy isn't it? It's all zoom! zoom! pew! pew! pew! robots go smashy-smashy! kablooey! and I keep saying to them, guys, if you can really nail the true nature of the virutal soul by year three, then maybe, just maybe we'll do it as a web series."


There is a pause.


EICK: "Seriously, Caprica is a metaphysical allegory! It's Obama!"


EXEC: (mournful, quiet) "pew... pew... pew..."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Filling in

Last week's filling fell out. It was put in by dashingly handsome euro dentist. I go back and am seen by a different dentist - he isn't dashing. He's not handsome. But he has a great sense of humour, is painless, and an amazing dentist.

There is a life lesson here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Kings Cross Death Camp

In this world there are tough sells. Telling people that their new home is built on an Indian Burial Ground is one. Building a viral research centre in the middle of Kings Cross is another.



For some mad reason it's proposed to erect a viral monolith next to our estate. In between Somerstown and the sunlight will be 13 stories packed full of the deadiest germs known to man. Right next to the Eurostar. We've seen 28 Days Later. We've seen Survivors. What could possibly go wrong?

The people of Somerstown are normally fairly laid-back, but we're managing to protest the nightmare fairly well. We had a hilarious community meeting about it the other week. One woman pointed out it'd attract terrorists like flies to shit. Someone else pointed out that UKCMRI, the people behind it, already have quite a nice research establishment in a non-residential area. 

Brilliantly, UKCMRI had sent along someone to talk to us. Clearly, tough crowd, but he was marvellous. He turrned up late, saying he'd had a problem organising childcare. "Would you be happy if someone built this next door to your children?" someone asked. The man went pale. "Um, yes," he quavered.

Someone else asked, "How many of the seven chimneys will be used for burning animal corpses?", to which the guy responsed, "Um, well, not all of them, obviously." There was a ghastly silence. "I mean, most of the animal corpses will be driven away in special lorries...".  A hand shoots up, "So you're saying that there'll be lorries going up and down our road full of dead animals carrying plagues? The roads our kids play on?" The crowd tuts.

The man looks like he'd like to go home now. Instead he tries to explain the animal experiments. "You see, we use a lot of ferrets, especially when we're looking at the common cold. What's great about ferrets is that they get the sniffles." The crowd make a noise. It's the noise of people suddenly deciding that ferrets are the cutest things ever, and then imagining heaps of cute ferret corpses being burned. It's an odd noise. Children wail. Mothers clutch babies protectively.

It actually gets worse. The man haplessly tries to explain that many of the diseases they're trying to cure are "you know, things that people in this area, deprived areas, suffer from..." This goes down like a cup of cold sick. "Are you saying people like us deserve to have this next to us?" an irate woman demands.

It may be Nimbyism, but there's a point to it. No-one would dream of building the UK's largest virology  centre in Knightsbridge. As it is, slapping it on a bit of empty ground near the ignorant poor seems a safer bet. Only, it turns out, we're not actually the ignorant poor. I realise the people who are going to turn up to a public meeting aren't necessarily a representative sample, but they seemed sensible, informed, and above all scared. And, frankly, if someone told you they were planning on building the biological equivalent of an Indian Burial Ground next door, so would you be.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hate +1

Yesterday I left the flat to discover the RMT had organised an anti-cuts rally under the surprising slogan "We're all in this together". I'll remember that next time there's a tube strike cos your drivers are demanding free unicorns, Bob.

It is a hazard living on the same street as the RMT. Periodically you'll find the road blocked with TV vans, or, as yesterday, socialist workers with duffle coats pouncing on Saturday shoppers nipping into Costcutter.

Around the corner, the local fire station were also protesting the cuts. Their approach was to fill the road with firemen. Frankly I'd have taken a leaflet off them if it had said "Death to Kittens".

I got back to the flat and tried to work while hearing people blarting "Comrades..." at each other through megaphones. I rolled my eyes. Political protest sucks.

Then my friend Joe tells me that it's been a year since there was a Gay Hate Crimes Vigil in Trafalgar Square and they're doing another one. So, I go to that. Hypocrisy goes well with candles.

It's a nice thing, if you can call an event to protest gay people being kicked to death nice. Some of the speeches are really moving. The problem is that various protest groups view it less as a protest and more as a giant marketing pen. So, you'll be stood there trying to listen to Harvey Milk's nephew and someone will flyer you, get you to do a survey, take a newspaper or... frankly, fuck off. Couldn't you all just stand at the entrance to Trafalgar Square and do us as we leave, eh?

The event itself is fine, if padded. Two hours of speeches is a bit much, and soon people are running out of variations on "Hate hate, love love, please don't kick the gays". We kind of get that, otherwise we wouldn't be stood here with candle wax dripping down our hands. Some of us have even turned off Grindr during the two minute silence. Of course, it's all put into perspective by an Aussie friend of a friend who has been dragged along. "What's the point of this?" he sulks a bit loudly, "I mean, that kind of thing doesn't happen here, does it? This is England." Um, yes, yes it does. Quite a lot, actually. And that's why we're here.

It's the morning after, and I'm still finding those damn fliers in the back of my jeans. Apparently there's a "March and Carnival" against racism, fascism and Islamophobia coming up. What is this, Amazon's "People who like Gay Hate Crime also like..."?

And here's a leaflet suggesting that I hold my same sex partner's hand in public. For one thing, I should be so lucky. For another, it's got a picture of two lesbians in wheelchairs holding hands as they go over a bridge. What's interesting is the reactions of the people in the background. They're not going "ooh, lesbo touching" or "eurgh, disableds" but "I'm sorry, but you are blocking the bloody bridge, ladies". Even their dog is edging out of the way. The leaflet is printed on lovely lovely card. Lovely glossy card. Lovely glossy expensive card. Lovely glossy expensive "does David Cameron know who your printer is?" card.

I vow now, if I should miraculously get a same-sex partner, I will of course hold their hand in public. Out of pride and also to make sure they can't escape.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Whole Tooth

A disadvantage of modern dental hygeine is that I keep flossing out fillings. Well, I've done it twice this year. It's an awful feeling - the triumph of thinking you've finally dislodged that nagging bit of lettuce followed by the heartrending "ping" of enamel hitting basin and the sinking thought "Clumsy and Expensive! So you".

The good thing about my dentist is that he's hot. I can see no way of translating this into an actual dating opportunity as he's made me whimper simply by muttering "root canal, it's not so bad". He's very Eastern European preppy - wearing neatly ironed stripy shirts tucked into chinos in a way that just makes me want to hug him. A friend acidly comments, "Why not make the first move by reminding him that dental anaesthetic suppresses your gag reflex?"

That turns out not to be true. Halfway through surprise replacement filling yesterday there was a sudden "oh" from Hot Euro Dentist followed by frantic vacuuming of my throat, and not in the hoped-for way. Turns out new filling had immediately fallen out and vanished. It's not pleasant swallowing a tooth. It's even less pleasant having to bring it up again, especially when encouraged by cries of "Don't swallow it! Don't swallow it!" and "Oh god!".

Yesterday included googling "How poisonous are fillings?" with a face like a bloater fish. I'm increasingly jealous of my dad, whose visits to the dentist involve dropping his teeth off at reception while he nips out to the shops.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Loch

The really amazing thing about Loch Lomond is that it's under an hour from Glasgow. Compare this to my flat in London - with a bit of luck I'd be in Penge or East Croydon.

Just to point out, Loch Lomond looks like this, only prettier:


Other than that, there's not really much to say about the last few days. They've been lovely. And just occasionally, very very cold.


Hopefully, my next trip up here should include: The steam train to Fort William, the GlasGay Festival, and a foam party at the Polo Lounge. Followed by hypothermia on the walk home.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Differently Abled

I'm in the Polo Lounge in Glasgow. I've finally met Fawkes. My friend Tim and I are having a lovely time, when... a man shuffles over and introduces himself speaking slowly and clearly.

"Hey guys. Are you two deaf?"

We blink.

"It's just I saw all the waving and...."

We realise. We're not deaf. We're just camp.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The End Of Time

It's not every day you can say your lover is leaving you to join an apocalyptic cult. But I can.

The Brazilian is back. He's had a lovely time in Wiltshire. He went to work in a cafe and ended up running guided tours of crop circles  ("For some they are shit, but hey, they may be real."). Now he's back in London for a very few days, and then going back to Brazil... to rejoin the weird cult that he left.

They've phoned him. Apparently, the end of days is near, so they need him back. They've even offered him a slight payrise. With winter coming on in London, he's figured, what the hell. Also, the great thing about belonging to a cult is the lack of long-term planning. "They think it all ends in 2012. If it doesn't all go to shit, then yeah, maybe I'll need to think of what to do next." This is probably how Boris Johnson greets every morning.

The tiny downside is that it's in the middle of nowhere. With no booze. No cigarettes. No boys. No coffee. I look at the Brazilian in horror. He shrugs. "It's not so bad. It's peaceful." I admire him. But selfishly, I'm thinking "Typical. I've turned one man straight, now another would rather live in a monastery."

He has, at no point, suggested I join his cult. I don't know whether to be relieved or insulted.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Upstairs, Downstairs

The gays upstairs had a splendid fight yesterday. You could tell it was gays - they'd been lobbing things through the window and amidst the shattered pains of glass, the courtyard was littered with tealights, potted plants, and DVDs with titles like "Raw Beef" and "Skaterboy".

Today one of them moved out. While he was loading the van the other one was throwing wine glasses from above, cooing "whoopsie". I suspect it had something to do with him taking their small dog with him.

So there we go. On the one hand, a sad end of a chapter. On the other hand there's a vulnerable, freshly-single gay upstairs. And he's clearly nuts.

*grabs a bottle of cava and best cardigan*

In other news, fiddled with the comments and spam-filtering, trying to make it a bit easier for people to comment. The result was an inbox clogged with emails about using pivot tables in excel. What? Now I'm 36 do I no longer count as a target for pen1s enlargement? I also discovered that stats button, which is quite striking. Apparently the single most popular post on here ever is "Russell Howard Topless". Humph. I dunno, over seven years of rubbish dates and that's the best I can manage. Russell, if you're still reading this blog, can we hook up? It's not for me, it's for the traffic. Honest.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Where the nuts come from

I meet the Brazilian in a bar. I've gone out for a drink and as I sit down, I realise two things:
1) I'm surrounded by transvestites
2) They've announced those fateful words "Two minutes till Sandra comes on stage".

The trannies aren't proper glamorous trannies. These look like mildly frumpy people who get their fashion tips from Les Dawson. They are almost all of them clutching the handbags you find at jumble sales.

Sandra is, if you've not seen her, well... it's just one of those awful moments when you think "Have I really seen that same act for ten years? Oh lord."

There's a bar downstairs. "Oh, the ladies are just finishing." I'm told. I see a sign up that says something like "Shirley Valentine's". There's clearly some kind of transvestite gathering. I'm oddly reminded of The Witches convention in Roald Dahl.

But actually, inside it's okay. A large man in a small frock rushes past me into the night, and I'm at the bar. And it's empty. Well, almost empty.

When I was a kid I used to imagine the world was made for me. You know - that only my house was real, that all the others were fakes, that people were as real as the newsreader on television (that episode of Willo The Wisp has a lot to answer for). I wonder at what point you stop realising that the world revolves around you and you revolve around the world? Thinking back to some of my exes.... Anyway, the point is that sometimes, the people in a bar just appear to have been hired in for the evening by a casting agency. They just can't have a real existence elsewhere, can they?

I'm not talking about the large man in the corner, sipping a pint and looking miserable. I'm sure he's got a home, a dog, and may even be called Barry. Only he rarely goes home, hardly sees the dog, and never uses his name. He just sits in the corner of that pub, of every pub.

Nor am I talking about the incredibly athletic black guy who, even though it's been a damp summer has come out in short shorts. They're red and covered in glitter but hey - he's probably just nipped in for a quick drink on his way home from choreographing the 1970s.

But... but I am talking about the guy who is wearing a doublet and hose. Actual, proper, secondary school Romeo costume. He's drinking a J20, so he must, actually, be real. But and yet.... he can't be. He just stands there in a corner, watching one of those insane PubTV flat screens (why are you advertising your bar in a bar? I mean, we're standing in it). He looks insoucient - he is eyeing up everyone shamelessly. It's not so much cruisy as predatory. As though he's waiting to be challenged to a dual.

And that's when I realise I'm not the only person trying not to laugh. For there's a handsome man, and we're both pointedly not laughing at the last of the capulets.

So we go outside for a cigarette. His name's Phillip and he's from Brazil. "Not Phillipe?" I ask. He glowers at me. We walk back to the station and he arranges to come round at the weekend.

Amazingly, he does. He teaches English, he's moved to England on a whim. Well, he says a whim, but...

His story is complicated. He's a vegetarian, which isn't so easy in Brazil. So he moved out of the city, and taught in a vegetarian community. I ask what this is and he winces. It's complicated, but the stews were nice and eventually... they got a little mad. So he moved to England.

How mad? I find out when he asks me what I do. I try and explain. He looks suddenly nervous as though a secret society has caught up with him, plied him with cheap cava, Camel lights and sexual intercourse to try and win him back.

"You work with.... Aliens?" he asks. I nod.

And then it all comes out. The community he went to work for got increasingly less about vegetarianism and ecology and more about the aliens. Specifically The Old Ones who lived before mankind, an ancient and wise race who slept in their underground cities and were awaiting the signal of return, a signal which had never come. However, the community had worked out how to bring about this signal by reuniting 13 discs of power. When he'd been there there'd just been the 12, but then someone had apparently unearthed the 13th and he'd hotfooted it on the next plane out.

"Goodness," I say, "That alien race sounds just like the..." And then, seeing the haunted look in his eyes, I shut up.

He is trying to escape an imminent alien apocalypse by working in a cafe in Kentish Town. He's probably not the first.

The next day he texts to say he's moved to Wiltshire. Or does he?

Friday, September 03, 2010

Tales of the UnExPected: Fancy seeing you here

"It's been a while," he says.
"Yeah."
"How've you been?" he says.
"Good thanks. You?"
"Fine thanks."
"You've put on weight."
"Thanks. At least I'm wearing clothes." I say.
It's one of those bars where the dress code occasionally varies. Madly, this means I don't see him for two years and then suddenly bump into him at the bar and he's wearing a pair of pants. I'm not sure if this gives me the advantage or not. I am conscious that, were I in his position, I would be the only person in the bar wearing Bugs Bunny not Aussie Bums.
There's a pause.

"Why did we split up?" he says.
"I dunno. We kept missing dates." It was one of those odd... nearly clicking, not quite clicking, nearly clicking things. But here we are. Face to face. A couple of silver spoons. Where is that from?
Anyway, here we are. Two years on. It's odd. I nearly typed "it's all a bit mad", but don't you just hate people who say that?

So he gives me his number and I have no idea what to do with it. Do I call him? Do I not call him? So I leave it in the back of my jeans and pop them in the washing machine. My fate is in the hands of Daz. If the number's still legible afterwards, then maybe I'll give him a call.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Pandorica Opens

Camden Lidl not yet open. But soon.... soon... soon my precious, soon...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

funny familiar forgotten

You know when someone does something really stupid online and then follows it up with one of those semi-apologies that includes the bleat "Look, it's just been a really tough few days and there's been a lot of stuff going on in my personal life" and you think "fine, but if that's the case how come you found the time to check Facebook, send that mad email or post fifty three times to a message board in block caps?"

Well... yeah. Last night contained a tiny, awful little event. A really small ugly bit of homophobia. Stupid really the sheer tininess of it - I've had friends who've been properly gay-bashed and they're brilliant about it. But this... oh lawks, I'm worked up into a right old state by it. And the terrible thing is, it was so tiny and casual, just a single remark that the guy probably forgot about it between one sip of his drink and the next. I haven't. It's so small and it's gnawing away.

*fumes*

So I'll be treading carefully online for a couple of days. Just to avoid having to say "Look, it's just been a really..."

Saturday, August 28, 2010

tap tap tap

It happened at one of those luncheon parties for gays. Everyone around me had tapped open their iPhones to see if the waiter was on Grindr, and then someone stared at me.
"Where's yours?"
"I don't have an iPhone."
"oh" A tiny pause.
I produce my battered Nokia.
"How... retro. Look! How 2000s." There is cooing. And clucking.

Not having an iPhone has become... well, it's become like some kind of deliberate anti-fashion statement. Or, in my case, because I belong to T-Mobile.

"Why don't you change network?" one of my exquisitely-haired friends tuts.
"Because I've got the most amazing deal." Seriously, there is a special T-Mobile Discount for "I've shagged the manager of a call centre on his water bed" and I'm not letting go of it.

But it does mean that "T-Mobile iphone" is one of my periodic hopeful google searches. Along with "Avengers blu-ray", "cancer-free cigarette" and the name of a particularly vile ex-colleague with "RIP" after it.

The other day, I hit pay-dirt on one of these. No, not the chance to do the Numa Numa dance on a grave, but T-Mobile now stock the i-phone. Well, kind of. You wouldn't expect them to rush headlong into the 2010s, now, would you?

If you click the existing customer button at the bottom of the page, it asks you to log in and then offers you a google android thingy. "What iphone?" it shrugs.

It has to be an iphone. I'd like to join Grindr before all the gays have moved on to dating via wireless hair-product. Already an A-gay friend of mine's informed me that "Grindr is ovah". But then he's now dating a sushi chef, so it could just mean the sudden rush of carbohydrates has driven him mad. I'm still recovering from the dinner party where the friends I'd invited over casually arranged their own dessert on the way out. This left me mildly stunned (there are other gays in my apartment building? is it the guy with the really tiny dog? or the guy who appears to live on Waitrose pierce-n-ping?).

Anyway. I'd like an iphone. So I make the mistake of ringing T-mobile customer service. This is like hell, if hell had voicemail. It's broken, and constantly spins you around in a loop while sending you helpful automated texts ("Why not log into our website?"). Eventually, after two minutes of stabbing the star key and yelling with a pent-up rage I haven't felt since my days of lower-middle-midle-lower management, they put me through to someone in a call center in a galaxy far far away.

This does not go well. The line is so faint and her accent is so strong and I'm so cross that neither of us can understand the other. At another time, if I hadn't just spent five minutes pressing 1 to hear those options again, I might, just might have found the fact that she pronounced it "pissword" funny. But not today. Today I'm like a freshly-microwaved Daily Mail of hate.

Finally I am transferred to a nice Valleys Girl called Kate. She's no-nonsense and will have none of it. "We do have the iphone" she admits, and we can transfer you to it. Hosanna. But it is quite pricey... hang on. She's checked my account. Actually, with the discount you've got... there's awe in her tone (I suddenly wonder if he took pictures). So, I'm left wondering... should I do it?

I email a couple of friends. One of them has just become the marketing manager of a major phone network. He promises me an even bigger discount. And this time it doesn't involve horizontal trampolining.

"Cool," I say. "How much?"
"Ah," there's a pause of about a day. "I don't know. Let me check the figures and get back to you."
"Hang on, you're the marketing manager of [blank] and you don't know?"
"No."
"That's rubbish."
"I know your phone number. Just you wait."
"Was that a threat?"
*click*

So. I'd like an iphone. But I still don't have one. And the nearest I'm getting to meeting temporary afternoon husbands is a sudden stream of texts from people called things like Tiffany explaining that they're bored and appear to have lost all their money and their clothes.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Familiar Face

Many years ago I went to take my second driving test. It was the same examiner.
"Oh don't worry," she said, "I do ten of these things a day. I can't remember anyone. Well, only the really awful ones."

On my fifth test she greeted me with a weary sigh. "Hello James".

I still can't drive.

***

A few years ago I took my bike in for repair as it just wasn't pedalling. The guys at the bike shop clustered round the gears, staring in horror. One of them eventually, staring at the floor, managed to address me.

"So... what did you oil that with?"
"Oil."
"What kind of oil?" (sniggering from the back of the shop)
"Olive oil."
"Olive oil?"
"Extra virgin!"
"oh my god."

Someone called Barry collected some money from someone called Ted. There'd been a bet on.

***

You remember I washed my netbook to death a couple of weeks ago? I took it back to the repair shop to get the melted keyboard replaced. As I walked in, the guy who runs it greeted me like an old friend. I noticed his Polish helper glance up from some soldering. The two shared a glance.

"Just a new keyboard, yeah?" he asked.
"Yep."
"So... Not... done anything else?"
"No. I haven't touched it."
"Still... it's....?"
"Fine, apparently."
"Okay."

He looked vaguely disappointed. He took the netbook from me. His gently sniggering air transformed to that of a protective father. I suddenly realised what it's like to be at the vet's when you're That Crazy Old Lady Who Has Been Feeding The Cat On Kit-Kat Chunkies.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Dying Swan

I've been dating a ballet dancer recently. It kind of petered out, as things with ballet dancers are bound to do, but he was rather lovely in a vaguely flaky way.

We managed one meal out. He ordered a burger, fries, the cheeseboard and ice cream. I had a bowl of soup.

He was very good looking, but, as he admitted, his flatmate was stunning. In a "he's about to take over the part of Rocky in Rocky Horror". Dancer sighed "We no longer go out to bars together as I'm fucked off with getting shoved out of the way," he said. His flatmate was also utterly disorganised, helium-squeaky, and almost completely pointless.

Plus he had an extremely high body image. Dancer used to have business meetings in his flat, but gave up after Ben kept wandering through wearing a thong while eating cereal and scratching himself.

The Dancer did tell me one lovely story, though. He and Ben the Beautiful went out one night. And there on the dance floor was a very handsome man.

Ben clocked him, squealed "honey, it's showtime!" tore off his shirt and went to dance at the handsome man. This was a mistake, as for a professional dancer, Ben is actually not very good on a dancefloor. If he's following a routine he's immaculate, but confront him with the Pussycat Dolls and he's like a sack of fighting coathangers.

Handsome man ignores the display of flailing. Ben, spurned for the only time in his life, storms back to Dancer. "Hey babydoll, this place is ova!" he announces and swishes out.

Dancer stands there at the bar and sighs. He's about to follow when an arm lands on his. It is the handsome man. "I hope that's not your boyfriend because this is my number," he says.

Dancer leaves the club, floating on point. Ben is standing fuming on the pavement. "Hey gurl, what kept you?" he yells. The Dancer tries evading the question, but eventually answers. Ben screams and refuses to speak to him for a fortnight.

There's a moral here. I think. Possibly.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

How I became a hooligan

We were drinking in a theatre bar before a show. We were having a lovely time, place to ourselves. Then it filled up with the interval crowd from the previous show. Who jostled and tutted us.

In the corner someone started to play the piano, quite loudly. It was annoying, but we just raised our voices and pressed on. We'd just got to a juicy bit of somebody else's sex life and weren't going to be distracted. Then the singing started. This wasn't a light bit of Cole Porter in the Palm Court but I'm-filling-an-aircraft-hanger.

The worst thing was the way the interval crowd loved it. They wheeled out the smug laughter. If you've been to the RSC you'll have encountered the Coxcomb Laugh employed by people to show "I know what that word means. Hahahaha." It was that kind of self-satisfied chuckling.

What with the singing and the piano and the mirthless laughter it was getting very loud. We could hardly hear ourselves shouting about a friend's taste in twinks. People started looking at us. An old man slumped down at our table, got out a tesco sandwich and dentured his way through it while glaring at us. We got cross. The music got even louder. We were practically having to bellow at each other...

Then an usher came over and explained that the previous show was a pop-up opera and they'd decided to do act 2 down in the bar and we were interrupting it. We had gatecrashed a pensioner flashmob.

I'd like to say "mortified, we sat quietly through the rest of the opera". Yes, that would have been the polite, nice thing to do. But no. Faced with having to sulk through the rest of an act of an opera getting "that's you told" looks from the egg mayonnaise brigade, we left. Quite loudly.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Misheard

Brilliantly, unexpectedly went to a gig last night - the amazing Our Lady J



See? I can do going out. And you should too - not only is she incredible, but the choir are amazing In Every Way.

Anyway, afterwards, am talking to one of the choir and I make a tit of myself in at least two ways. One is to suddenly realise that he's going out with a friend of mine and announce this in a tone of startled surprise.

The second awful thing is that we're discussing another stunningly beautiful member of the choir.

"Oh, he's sweet and an idiot." I am told by the singer.

My jaw hangs open excitedly and my head fills with a plan involving tin foil and a string. "He's an idiot!" I bellow gleefully, "How brilliant that he's stupid!"

The singer glares at me. "I didn't say he was an idiot."

"Yes you did."

"No, I said He Was Canadian."

Awkward.

Pleasingly, though, I get home and find there's a trampoline in my flat.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Biking for Boris

If you're a Londoner, you'll have seen these things:



Normally pedalled by people looking Very Pleased With Themselves. They're the iPad of bicycles. If iPads were heavy and cumbersome with all the grace of an iron-clad spinster.

A couple of weeks in and I've decided I Like Them. The system is actually really simple to set up - £2 for the electronic key and £1 for each day you decide to use one. Dead handy if you're thinking "well I'll cycle into town but I shall be too pissed to make the return journey".

The bikes are... well, the Evening Standard is valiantly insisting on calling them "chic" but they look like they've been designed by the NHS... but they're okay. They're a bit top-heavy so anyone over six foot will fall off immediately, but if you're Sandi Toksvig you're laughing. Once you get used to them they're very practical, even if pedalling them is a bit like stirring rapidly-setting wallpaper paste.

The only problems really are the docking stations - getting a bike out requires a kind of upwards-heave that's a bit of a trick, and finding one to park the bike is a bit challenging (Soho Square has a cluster of Boris Bikes circling hopefully in parking orbit). Apparently there's a very nice iphone app, and Boris does send you a map when you sign up for the scheme, but I don't have an iphone and I keep forgetting the map.

Worse is the fact that as soon as you get to a docking station, someone will immediately talk to you. It's usually tourists demanding to know how it works or wanting help unlocking a bike with their oyster card (no, it doesn't work, yes, that's sad, but I'm not the mayor of London).

Last night it was a club bouncer who had rescued a set of keys from a docking station and wondered if they were mine. Well, I say wondered. He was Very Determined that they were my keys. It was one of those odd social situations - he'd clearly spotted someone had left their keys behind and was determined to do an act of charity and had decided there was only one cyclist in London (either that, or we all know each other). He kept shoving this bunch of someone else's keys towards me. I kept politely declining. It ended up with me waving my own keys in his face while he said (in Bouncer Voice): "People should be More Careful with their keys."

So there we are: Today's lesson - when undocking a bike, don't leave your keys in the docking station. Which, now it's been brought to my attention, I now realise is a cripplingly easy thing to do. And will probably do it next time.

Thing is though, if I do, the customer service from the scheme will be amazing. I had a bit of trouble first time I hired a bike. Five minutes later they rang me to check everything was okay. "I see from our computer that you've just hired your first bike. Are you cycling right now? " Yes. I am wobbling through traffic as we speak. Your computer is telling you this. Can we wait till I've not crashed?

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Vote! Vote! Vote!


A thing I did is shortlisted as one of the Top 20 Audiobooks of the Year. I am keeping a carefully neutral tone about this. But just so you know, the cat has been eating Tuna Chunks rather than Tuna Flakes all week.

Anyway, you can vote here. There - see, I am running a social networking marketing campaign. Take that Ginny Woolf, I'll get you for this, etc.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Question of the day

Who the hell goes cruising wearing a doublet and hose?

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Getting Saturday Wrong

It started with a tooth falling out. It's done this three times so far this year. Same tooth. Which is always annoying as dental anaesthetic makes me twitchy and grumpy, as a result of which I do stupid things.

I stump along to emergency dentist in Camden. Who turns out to be an emergency Private dentist. This means Classic FM rather than Heart 106. It also means a £400 bill rather than £16.90.

I stumble home. Along the way, I pass a little street by Euston Square station. Pleasingly, I realise it certainly is "Baker Street" in the new series of Sherlock. Then the anaesthetic really kicks in and I go home and lie down, twitching and muttering.

After a bit I decide to get my netbook ready to lend to Lee. He's going on holiday and I love new netbook. I tidy it up. I understand for most people lending out a netbook means removing porn, but as I've never really "got" porn, I instead spend half an hour trying to find some to put on (from here - mostly SFW).

And there we are. Job nearly done. I notice a slight mark on the screen. I'll just spruce that up, I think with a quick squirt of kitchen cleaner and some polish and...

Turns out, I've put the bang into Cillit Bang. The netbook immediately dies. Actually melts. As I am pressing the spray I am thinking "Is this really a good idea?"... but as I said earlier, I do stupid things on dental anaesthetic.

Suddenly today is a £600 day. And I can't even do a nice thing for a friend. And then someone I'd been vaguely dating the other week texts to say "Hi, how are you? Just to say I'm not really in the mood to meet again xx".

Hum, I think. Bad day. So I go and see Lee. And he takes me to the best Chinese Buffet in the world. Somehow I manage to eat unlimited duck pancakes using only the right hand side of the mouth. Later we go to the White Swan and have a horrible time, but I don't care.

On Monday I take netbook to the local laptop hospital. They stare at it.
"You put this in the washing machine, right?" they say eventually.
I shake my head.
"Sure," they say, unconvinced.

The guys who run the store are really nice and manage not to start laughing until I've left. I can hear them sniggering as I walk away. In binary.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Taming of the Shrew

In the country. Cat brings in a shrew. Mum and I coo, impressed. Cat kills shrew a bit. Shrew hides in a cushion. Cat pats cushion. Cushion squeaks. Cat grows tired of homemade muppetphone and slinks back out through cat flap.

Mum and I are left alone with potentially dead vermin in a corner. We prod it with a stick. It is alive.

"You've got to kill it," urges Mum, a bit Lady Macbeth.

Suddenly, horribly, armed with a mallet and a dustpan, I realise I've not killed anything bigger than a bug. The next minute isn't pleasant. It's probably easier to put something out of its misery if your eyes are open. Instead I make some dents in the skirtingboard.

I used to be okay at this - when I lived by the river, it was a daily chore to get rid of dead rats from the kitchen. It wasn't pleasant but I could do it. But this thing was alive. And quite squishy.

Eventually the tiny corpse is scooped up and thrown out into the night. The cat watches all of this from the garden. Curious and pitying.

"I hate that cat," announces my mother and goes to bed. I go and find the gin.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Saltash and the Devil


There's a curious story about a disqualified beauty queen - she claimed to be 22 and from Plymouth. She's actually 27 and from Saltash.

I'm trying to get my parents to move to Saltash. Since they may both lose their driving licences I figure they should live somewhere with shops. Rather than in Wuthering Heights.

Saltash is brilliant - it's on the other side of the Plymouth suspension bridge, so has all of the advantages of Plymouth without the disadvantage of being Plymouth. From my parents' point of view it's got views and charity shops. From my point of view, it's full of dim men as pale and lumpy as school custard who lurk meaningfully up and down the high street with tattoos so cheap they either do them at £stretcher or it's an evening class option alongside flower arranging.

I even find my parents a house. It is ridiculously cheap. My mother takes against it at once. "No views" she says. For a woman in imminent danger of losing her sight, this is ironic at best.

Nevertheless, we arrange to go round it with Laura from the estate agents. Her blonde hair has been straightened in a trouser press. My mother takes against the house and Laura with a hiss like an angry swan.

We walk through the door. The house is utterly amazing. Imagine a mini-stately home that's been shoddily converted - they've not even bothered ripping out the original features, simply covered them over with clapboard.

"You're in for a late 18th Century treat" says Laura, peeling back some plywood to show a hand-carved staircase. My mother looks at her with something like respect. "You're not stupid like an estate agent should be," says my mother. This for her, is high praise. Interestingly, Laura does not punch my mother to the ground. I'd love to know what training course she's been on.

We've spent much of the last ten days going round stately homes. This house is like that, but with an added air of treasure hunt. All the original features are intact. Ish. Oak floorboards hidden under orange nylon carpet, fireplaces nestling under artex. There is even a view. From the upstairs kitchen. It would be the best view of Plymouth Ho possible, were it not for a big tree next door. "Imagine if that tree died from poison," murmured my father wistfully (he used to work in pesticides in the 80s. The shed is full of bottles with names like "Stomp" and "Wipeout" which are now illegal even in Nigeria. His garden has never had slugs or birdsong).

Finally, Laura the Estate Agent does a little dance in the hall. Her high heels echo on the floorboards. "No one's checked, but sounds like a cellar" she says. We stand there, impressed. Secretly, all of us have wanted a cellar. I'd put Lego in it. Dad would fill it with useful bits of wood. Mum would clean it.

Afterwards, we sat glumly in the carpark watching trains chug over the suspension bridge. "Oh dear, that is the one," my mum sighed with quiet despair. The house is a bargain. But that's still £130k none of us have spare, and it's not like my parents can sell their house immediately. It's at moments like this I wish I'd gone into the City when I'd had the chance (it was either that or the BBC). You know, just for a couple of years.

At school we had a history teacher who'd done banking for five years. He'd made a mint and was now clearly teaching just for a laugh. It made him a brilliant teacher. How I remember the lesson where we reproduced John Wilkes's attempt to raise the devil in the school grounds by traipsing round the Rotondo reciting the Lord's Prayer Backwards. "But sir - do we walk backwards, recite the prayer backwards, or both?". "Let's work through the three options Gemma Pudsey and when you burst into flames, well, then we'll know, poppet."


See? He was brilliant. And also minted. It's at rare times like this, sat in a carpark in the rain, that I wish I was more like him. I'd be able to buy my parents a house on a whim. And I could raise the devil at dinner parties.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Views of the Country

So, I've been in the country for ten days. Basically, rehab with pasties.

There's something about the fresh country air (or maybe it's the boredom) that puts you early to bed with barely half a bottle of Lidl plonk inside you.

I've hardly missed smoking - except when watching Poirot with the parents, which is such an orgy of chainsmoking that the effect on me is like the brainwashing scene in Clockwork Orange ("must... not... rape... Eleanor... Bron...").

My reasons for country living are many. For a start, I miss the folks. Then there's a couple of projects to finish off, plus the bonus that being at home for two weeks costs nothing, meaning that I can finally cross "economy drive" off my to-do list (No wonder rural dwellers are addicted to drugs and online poker - there is nothing else to spend it on apart from houses. More of which later).

Finally, of course, my parents REALLY miss the cat. I'm now incidental to their plans. "Oh, are you staying?" my mothers asks as I get through the door. The cat eyes me, smugly, allowing my mother to scoop it up while cooing "Who's mummy's best love? Youare-youare-youare!"

My parents are fascinated about every aspect of the cat in a way that makes me pray it wasn't like this when I was a toddler. They'll comb through her litter tray like it's an episode of Time Team ("ooh, a solid. Isn't she a good girl?").

It's endearingly crackers... only, it turns out my parents are busy being very ill. Naturally, they don't really tell me (as a family, we just don't speak of these things), but their decision to bide out their twilight years on a hill in the middle of nowhere is now threatened by Dad's cataracts and Mum's glaucoma. Legally, neither of them is supposed to be driving.

It's at times like this that I realise what a disappointment I am to them. I'm sure somewhere my Dad has a list (he likes lists) that goes:
- can't play cricket
- didn't join the scouts
- not a lawyer
- not a mason
- gay
- failed five driving tests

The fact that I can't drive and they aren't allowed to hasn't stopped us from embarking on a merciless regime of Mr Magoo-style day trips "while we still can". In the last fortnight I've had my fill of stately homes, gardens, and small market towns. My mother's ecstatic "ooh look at that view" now seems oddly poignant, which doesn't help.

We'll get back home with a final crunch of gears and last scrape of car against fence in the late afternoon. Hardly has the rear wheel bumped to a halt against the garage wall than my mother will rush indoors. Just as I have a list of failures, my mother has a list of successes. For the cat. It goes:
- it poos
- it sleeps
- it eats
- it purrs
- it snores

Clearly, after me, she set the bar very low indeed.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

HDN-Hell

I accidentally ordered something from Amazon without checking whether or not it would be sent out by HDNL. Bad! Wrong! Never again!

As soon as you realise you're under HDNL house arrest it's like a glimpse into a Machine Stops future where all of humanity spends its entire time sealed into pods waiting for deliveries.

Sudden thought: It's a mercy that Gentlemen's Ordering Services don't use HDNL isn't it? Can you imagine stumbling home to find a note saying "We tried to deliver ChickenLols84 but you were out"? Or worse, finding it fuming sullenly in next door's kitchen?

Friday, July 09, 2010

The Comedian

The Comedian turns up on my doorstep just as my cold is finally going.
"Hello," he says.
"It's been a year," I say.
"There's never been anyone else," he says.
We both laugh.

The Comedian is fun. He's from the north, but studying theatre in Brighton. He's a stand-up comic, is about eight foot tall, and just seems to potter around amiably. His Dad lives somewhere in London, so every now and then he drops by.

He has a student flatshare in Brighton which has an internal stalker. "It was creepy originally, but now it's kind of reassuring. You know - if I ever fall over in the bath, I know there'll be someone on the other side of the door to call the ambulance. And, if I ever forget my keys, I know he'll be sat in the kichen in the dark, just waiting."

I once dated someone at uni who had a stalker. It was his ex, Piers (it was Oxford, so everyone had an ex called Piers). I remember after a house party. Mark had taken a lot of drugs, so we cleaned the flat until 5am, and then crawled into bed.

"Can you... smell cigar smoke?" I asked.

"Oh," said Mark.

Sat in a chair at the end of the bed was Mark's ex. Watching us. While smoking a cigar. "Please, don't mind me boys," said Piers, "Just carry on." PUFF.

It's creepy realising that stuff like this feels like it was just the other summer, but actually happened two decades ago. Almost before the Comedian was born. That's not funny.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Heigl

Sometimes you find yourself in a dark room doing something really regrettable and feeling ashamed. Yesterday, I went to see the new Katherine Heigl film.


I was bored and hadn't left the house for a week and through all the snot and confusion the impulsive desire to see Killers struck me. "Well, how bad can it be? And is Katherine Heigl really that awful an actress? I mean, she was fun in Roswell..."

Killers is a terrible film. It's not all Katherine Heigl's fault, but it's quite hard to see past her. She plays a "kooky" darling who accidentally marries a retired hitman. "Hilarity" ensues. One day, all their friends are trying to kill them and they must run for their lives. Only....

Heigl's character drops a momentous hissy fit. Before she runs for her life she demands an explanation, and then that they go shopping. All earlier pretence of being kooky and adorable has gone and she spends the rest of the film shrieking and squawking and whining.

The worst thing about this is that Heigl is frighteningly good at angry. You watch her being angry on screen and suddenly all those stories about her on-set behaviour on Grey's Anatomy go bing! My god, you think, that must have been what it was really like. When Heigl does angry acting, it's like she lets her guard down and her true self out, and you get to see what her agent, stylist, PA and dog-walker have to put up with. It's truly frightening.

The only other person like her for chillingly convincing angry-acting is Anna Torv who plays Special Agent Pramface in Fringe.


There's a famous description of the original Take That as four boys dancing round a polar bear, and Fringe is essentially three actors treading carefully round a block of ice. Torv is a nuclear winter of an actress. Like Heigl the only emotion Anna Torv can convey convincingly is fury. The difference between the two of them, though, is that Anna Torv doesn't even attempt the others. There's a brilliant scene in the latest series where they stick her on a roller coaster and her hair moves... but nothing else.

Anyway, back to Killers and Katherine Heigl. It's not entirely her fault. The film is fairly atrociously written. People keep saying unconvincingly smutty things like "Have you been downloading those internet pornos again?" in a way that makes you wonder if someone went "Let's give it a crude Seth Rogen kind of style" and everyone nodded but no-one had a clue what it meant. Then there's the stunning reveal that they've been living surrounded by professional assassins for three years because... because... well, these things just happen in movies.

I am not blaming Ashton Kutcher for any of this mess. Even though the film was his idea. My reason for excusing him is that he very priddy. Tom Selleck is also in this film. He wears a moustache.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

ill

That was a waste of a sunny week. Thanks cold.

On the other hand it is true - if you don't eat for four days you do lose weight. Who knew? Also, since when is hiccuping for 18 hours part of a cold? I mean, really?

And now, why does everything taste of salad cream? Even tea?

In other news this week, I found an ex on Facebook. A devastastingly handsome ex. Who's now gone... bald and speccy in a very "Grim Up North London" way. Sad week :(

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Quis?

I catch up with a friend who is a teacher. He tells me about having to look after his team at a cricket match.

"The visiting teacher was such a ravenous closet case," he sighs, poking away at a flapjack. "I wish he'd just come out and said 'Fancy a shag?', then I could have turned him down and got on with the afternoon. Instead he practically chased me round the pavillion. He sweating in the unusual places where only fat people sweat and he was all red in the face. It was repulsive. But he wouldn't actually get to the point. He'd just waffle on about liking a tight pair of shorts if you know what I mean, nudge nudge wink wink. It was awful."

It's weird how suddenly you're back at school remembering EXACTLY that teacher.

(update: lawks, how many typos? i have massive cold)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Meanwhile in Europe

Bizarre story on You and Yours (yeah I know) about how UK people who've emigrated to Southern France have found it cheaper to get groceries delivered from Tesco in England than to use their local shop.

PRESENTER: "How do you imagine your local shop feels about it?"

WOMAN: "Well, perhaps they should be more flexible about their prices."

PRESENTER: "Surely they can't help the strength of the pound against the euro?"

WOMAN: "Hmmm."

This is going to fascinate me all day. You move to France to "get away from it all". And then you can't. Not even a tiny bit.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Lessons I should have learned by now

HIM: "You won't be all weird in the morning, will you? "

ME: "No. Wasn't planning on it."

HIM: "Good. I hate it when people go all weird in the morning."

In the morning, he goes all weird.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Pink Mince


There's stuff by me in the new issue of Pink Mince which appears to be a lifestyle magazine for men with lumberjack shirts and artfully-shaped facial hair. It's jolly good - there's even an article in which a man with sexy tattoos shows you round his palatial barge home. I'm fascinated by this article:

  1. I would like a barge. It sounds brilliant.
  2. The article doesn't mention if he belongs to any Gentleman's Ordering Websites. How would you describe your location without it sounding like a "meet your serial killer" advert? "Camden Lock Towpath, near the burnt out shopping trolley". See?
  3. Mind you, he does have very very nice tattoos. I bet he doesn't use those websites.

In other news, after months of being quietly busy, suddenly very little work for the next fortnight at least. Now, I've checked my online banking, done my sums, and I really shouldn't panic, not for months. But I am. Oh dear lord I am. What am I supposed to do? So far, I've been very lucky in that work's turned up like some kind of cosmic ordering system, but now... I dunno... I guess this means actually admitting that I am a freelance and somehow... you know... doing whatever it is that freelancers do to solicit work. Or getting a part time job to stave off the horror of sitting around the flat, reading The Arabian Nights and getting on the cat's nerves.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Hande hoch!

Last week, I went on a date with a visiting German. This is why I will be avoiding the inter-fiddles for a while. I'd forgotten that temporary cyber-husbands are weird.

For a start, he'd said he was athletic. By which he meant he needed a sports bra for his moobs. They were so low-slung I wondered if they were simply high-rise testicles.

We sat having a drink, making small talk, and sharing a bowl of cashews. He tells me what he's into. Turns out, he's into rubber and fisting. I decide I've had enough cashews.

I ask him why he's in England. He explains he's a scientist doing research into bacteria. "It is the bacteria in shit," he says, which just seems like turning your hobby into your day job.

So, I'm having a drink with a tubby rubber fisting fetishist scat scientist. Awkward. I've never been brilliant at making my excuses and leaving. So instead I talk about the cat. A lot. I chat about her incessantly. I even find some fluff on my shirt and show it to him. I offer to find him the pictures on my phone. I keep on and on about the cat until he checks his watch and says "ah, oh dear, I have an early start at 10 tomorrow. Must get some sleep."

And then he is gone. I go to pay the tab and discover it's only four quid. There's a minimum of a tenner if you're paying by card. The wonderful French barman shrugs gallicly. I smile, suddenly very happy. "Can I have six pounds worth of crisps please?" I ask.

I walk into the flat, arms full of crisps.

The cat eyes me, dryly. "Date not go well?" it asks.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Quornucopia

Brilliantly, Quorn have brought out loads and loads of new things, including Quorn Fish Fingers, Fake Stake, burgers, scotch eggs, sausage rolls, and even Bramley Apple Bangers

Being more than a little artificial I'm addicted to it all. The only problem is... well, I feel like a sheep that's been eating clover. It's brilliant - it's kind of like an anti-diet. It's kind of "Eat Yourself Straight". After dinner, I swell up to the size of a bouncy castle and spend the evening farting copiously while stumbling around in a vast black t-shirt and belching.

In other news, I've just discovered instant miso soup and pot noodles. Pot noodles are brilliant (kebab flavour! pork rib flavour!). The other day I was sitting eating a pot noodle while reading an article about White House Banquets in Vanity Fair. It might, just might, be classy. But I doubt it.

Meanwhile, I am trying to mend a broken heart with a lot of ballet. Well, a ballet dancer.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Eurovison Prong Contest

"So," I say to Lee, "Have I told you about the Brazilian Lawyer?"

Lee rolls his eyes. "You realise there's a formula, don't you?"

What do you mean?

"Nationality + Profession, then some random detail and giddy clapping."

I go very quiet.

"Honestly, go check the shag rolodex that is your blog and you'll see."

Hum. Brazilian Lawyer, Czechoslovakian Punk Baker, Portugese Programmer, Romanian Rentboy. I'm really not sure what this means. Maybe I should try and learn a few more names, or just not ask what they do for a living. Or settle down. Or write about the cat more.

I go home. Some time later I sleep with a Polish Barista.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The War On Lego

A while ago I found some War On Terror fego in Asda, but the range you could buy was quite limited. Not any more thanks to The Kids Arms Shop.

Before perving at their Lego options, let's just check out the name of the store again, shall we?



Everyone still feeling good about themselves? Great.

Question is, what do I buy? Do I go for the Panzer Tank Set (suitable for ages 5+)?



Or do I blow it all out on the World Peacekeeper's Gift Set?

It does have a lot of guns.

So many choices.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

And we're back

Well, apparently things got a little hacky last night. While I was out and about in Glasgow, someone was fiddling with my gmail. Tsk.

So, if you tuned in and got a big advert for a sex bride or really white teeth, then I'm sorry. And, if I've sent you an email promising similar services, or even just announcing that I'm bored and would be happy to pleasure you by premium-rate phone number, then I'm equally sorry. Although I have got a six-hour train journey today and no special plans, so....

Two things.Firstly - Gmail's way of proving I'm real is, roughly...

1) Morning! Your gmail may have been hacked.
2) Send us your mobile number and we'll reactivate your account.
3) Don't forget to pick a new password!

Can you see the flaw there? I'm not Chloe from CTU but I can.

Anyway, Glasgow has been its usual lovely self. One highlight was staggering out of the Polo Lounge at "Too Old For This" o'clock and sitting down for a last cigarette by a police box. I think this is cool. Taxis think this is In The Way.

Two very pretty lesbians wander over. They are on their way home but one of them wants to make sure I'm okay. This is Glasgow. People do this.

"What's his name, sweetheart? Did he break your heart?"

No, I say. I am just sat here smoking before going back to the hotel. I am wary and from London. Why are they being nice to me? Do they want a free cigarette or some money or to sell me some of the drugs?

Pretty lesbian just shrugs. "Do you listen to Chris Moyles?" she asks. And then explains that he's shit. At quite some length. Then she and her girlfriend start yelling "Save 6music" a lot. I think I join in.

These are clearly my new best friends and wonderful people. Until one of them leans forward and says, "And I'm gay, but I would do that George Lamb in a heartbeat."

I go home.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Foreign

So, yes, I've been abroad. It was nice, although clearly these days I don't fly well. It was nowhere near last year's spiking horrors of having to spend 24 hours flying back from Australia, but flying to Turkey not pleasant.

It didn't help that we had two security alerts. One was due to a false passport and a lot of suspicious luggage. I find this reassuring. Nothing says "we're not taking off until we're absolutely sure there isn't a bomb on the plane" more than being told to collect all your luggage and assemble on the tarmac while they empty out the hold.

The other security alert was on an internal flight. It was caused by a little old lady trying to smuggle five tightly wrapped packs of goats cheese in her hand luggage. Clearly, she'd never heard of semtex. Once the security staff had stopped shouting and ringing bells, they started laughing and taking photos of the x-ray on the phones. Bless.

So how was Turkey? Much the same, really. My Turkish is the same as ever (good in restaurants, hopeless elsewhere, and if you're hoping for a verb in a sentence then you'll be waiting a long time). But hey - it's an unusual skill to have, so I'm very proud of it. Even if I'm not very good at it. It's like making a mediocre creme brulee.

Not much happened really. Istanbul was its dumpy rude self. Cappadocia is still the most beautiful place on the planet:


Odd to think I've been going there for nearly 20 years. Every time they say "oh, tourism's ruining it..." and yet, it's still there, as magical as ever. Although this time we found a whole new underground city and a monastery, which made up for them putting really overweight-American-friendly superwide steps in the more popular cave churches.

Two lovely new things. One was trying out a night train from Istanbul. The guidebooks are all sneery about the trains, but the amazing seat61.com assured me it was possible. And it was cheap and lovely.

The other nice thing was going to Safranbolu. It's an old Ottman town that they never really got around to knocking down in favour of something in peach concrete. It's charming and friendly, but the best thing of all was that they've turned a 14th Century caravanserai into a luxury hotel:


It was like staying in a museum. Amazing, but you'd occasionally find tourists in your bedroom. There was also the day when I stuck my trainers to dry on the roof and the Turkish government had hired the hotel to launch some kind of policy initiative. We hid in some caves while important looking people stood on our balcony chain-smoking and doing a deal.

We also went to the Black Sea Coast, which turned out to be very hot and not much else. A nice old man took us out in his boat so we could look at jelly fish and dolphins and watch him smack the brains out of several small fish with his shoe.


There were a lot of cats in Turkey, all trotting around with the quiet certainty that they run the place. It's like a benevolent dictatorship - they control the vermin and charm the tourists, and they also tell you how propserous a place is. Safranbolu and Cappadocia had plump sleek cats. Istanbul had bedraggled street mogs. We watched one eating bread. I was not allowed to pack any in my luggage.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Old boy

Somehow, my old school has my email address. This surprises me, but means that occasionally I receive utterly random missives like the below:

Speech Day welcomed a good number of Old Stoics this year, despite the rain, and included a remarkable display of Old Stoics’ Classic Cars on the North Front

We have further great events over the summer, at which we would be delighted to see you:

12th June
Do take part in the Old Stoic Open Golf Tournament for the Bill Edgerley Memorial Cup.

13th June
Foden’s Brass Band returns to Stowe with master classes in the morning and a lively concert in Chapel in the afternoon.

2nd July
The Summer of Love with Donovan & John Illsley of Dire Straits – tickets still available.


Perfect. If I played golf, owned a vintage car, and liked nothing more than tootling Money For Nothing on the tuba.

Monday, May 31, 2010

I am not the crossbow killer

I'm on holiday at the moment (more later, but it's lovely thanks) when I receive a spate of texts about The Crossbow Cannibal, a case being presided over by my more useful namesake.

Curious to find out more (and with a broken laptop), I rush out to buy an English language paper and end up with The Times International Edition. It features a curious article which is, at best, insensitively subbed (and strangely missing from the Times Online site). In it the reporter wanders the streets of Bradford talking to friends of the three victims, sex-workers who appear to have been chopped into tiny pieces and dumped.

Here are a few quotes which illustrate what might have gone a bit wrong with the article:

"I've been taking my punters there ever Friday, right where they found the body. I've been doing punters right under my friend's nose."


"Sue was soft. She was an angel but soft as shit. She'd do punters for £10."


"My friends always used to have a laugh with her and she'd give her right arm to anybody."


Another draft?

Monday, May 17, 2010

The best of times

I have been going to the gym for quite a lot of years now and in all that time, neither of the following things has happened:

1) I've never developed arms like squirrels in a sack
2) I've never had sex

Apparently there's a lot of nookie in gyms, but maybe I go to the wrong ones. I did once go to the notorious YMCA gym on Tottenham Court Road which looked like an secret underground base for a gay Bond villain. The changing rooms had quite a number of very naked men displaying their obvious excitement - but they also contained several young children getting changed. Frankly, there's a time and a place, fellas.

I have twice *nearly8 pulled at the gym. The first was at the BBC gym at Television Centre. It was all a bit embarrassing. I was being obviously cruised but was at a really funny bit of The News Quiz and perhaps my best look is not laughing on a Swiss Ball. Undeterred, he followed me into the changing rooms and then lost interest when he I changed into my beloved Marvin The Martian boxers (quite why novelty pants with a "surrender you strange life-form, you" slogan are a turn off I dunno). The next week we bumped into each other at the Filling Station salad bar. Turns out there's no etiquette for "Hi! I haven't seen you since you hated my comedy knickers". I never saw him again - I like to think he left.

The second time I nearly pulled at the gym was very embarassing. I was chatting to a friendly and very good looking man. We got on like a house on fire. We walked out of the changing rooms together and he went to the water fountain. Now, here's where social skills would have helped. I could either follow him to the water fountain (which would have looked stalky as I clearly had no reason to be there), or I could leave. So I left, so as not to seem rude.

At which point the good-looking man gave me a look of disappointed disgust and said "Oh, so it's like that, is it? Bye then." If only Nancy Mitford had addressed this topic we'd be celebrating our civil partnership this weekend.

Instead of which on Sunday I did what I normally do. I went to the gym, tiny bit hungover and wearing my pyjamas (old t-shirt and trousers so baggy you can call them pantaloons). Merrily, I plonked myself down on the rowing machine.

Which is when HE turned up. You know what they're like - people who are so muscly gravity bends around them. He strolled in, lifted some very heavy weights with a fingernail and then dangled from the pull-up bar without a care in the world.

I tried not to watch him and instead rowed (a trifle unsteadily) through to the end of The Archers Omnibus (oh, Lillian...). Then I went and showered.

While I was showering, Mr Muscle wandered into the changing room and glowered at me angrily. It was a look which said "I know your sort. Yes, these are the biggest arms you'll ever see in your life, but the gun show is over. Now fuck off." This seemed perfectly fair, frankly. To minimise contamination I stayed in the cubicle until he'd gone into another of the showers, and then slunk into the sauna.

At which point he came into the sauna. How utterly, hideously embarrassing. It's not a big gym and the sauna is the size of a microwave oven. There was barely enough space for one of his biceps and oh dear me, just look at those thighs. How was I going to try and comfortably share warm oxygen with an alpha male? Paging UN goodwill ambassador Geri Halliwell.

I was just contemplating making some weak small talk along the lines of "oh dear, the light bulb's gone in here again" when... it all went a bit porn.

The next few minutes were among the happiest and yet least satisfying I've ever had. Sadly for my univesity education, I discovered that men with very large arms can do pretty much what they like. Annoyingly, I'd like to say all I could think was "You've made me feel like a princess" but instead my brain just went:
- Why me?
- Never ever leave me
- Do watch out for those hot coals

He kept on muttering "Gotta go. Really gotta go" which made it all the more urgent, but also all the more transient. Clearly, men with big arms have busy lives opening fetes and saving the world, but all I could think was "Must you? This is possibly the most exciting thing to happen to me this year. If not ever."

Afterwards we got changed. It was awkward. We still hadn't actually had a conversation. Neither of us was looking at the other - he seemed suddenly shy (which was a bit like Optimus Prime playing peekaboo). And yet again, Nancy Mitford remains tight-lipped on what is the right thing to say to an anonymous stranger you've just had sex with.

In the end, I settled for a grisly attempt at a matey pat on the shoulder. "Thanks," I said.

And he made that half-grunt half-laugh sound that men make which means "Yeah, that was a laugh", "You too,", "Don't mention it", and "Don't Mention It".

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Odd Couple

So, I'm at a party. And there's a married gay couple. I keep talking to them as they're near the food.

The thing about them is that... they're ALL about the sex. I talk incessantly about my cat, but pretty much their only topic of conversation was their sex lives.

This was a fairly nice, ordinary, mingly house party. There were straight men, straight women, a few gays... But (let's call them) Eric and Ernie filtered everything through cock-tinted spectacles.

Eg 1:

NICE LADY: "So how do you know our host?"
ERIC AND ERNIE: "Oh we spit-roasted him years ago."
NICE LADY: "Are these bruschetta?"

Eg 2:

"Any plans for the weekend?"
"Yeah. We're sling-fucking a Norwegian."

Yes. Eric and Ernie own a sling. This naturally required some explanation. Apparently they'd turned the spare room into an office-slash-dungeon. With a sling. Apparently it was self-assembly and was operational in minutes. I have a ceiling-mounted laundry hanger. This is excitement enough for me.

Ikea don't make a sex sling (although if they did, it'd be called Shünt), so Eric and Ernie got theirs mail order (I am trying to imagine the "we tried to deliver" note from the Post Office right now). Not so their cage. "No, we had that custom-built and fitted."

I don't have a cage for several reasons. These include:
  • I would lose the keys
  • It would take up valuable space which could be used for shelving, lego and cat-toys
  • I met one of my boyfriends in a cage. It would bring back unhappy memories. I avoid Nandos for a similar reason.
  • My flat is already cluttered with unwise impulse buys which are now gathering dust. There's a rice cooker, a USB vacuum cleaner and 10 metres of gold-plated S-Video cable. I'm wary of adding a cast-iron cube to the list. I'm not that much of a Star Trek fan.
Naturally, Eric and Ernie also have an extensive range of sex toys. They couldn't tell us in enough detail about their electro-shock butt plugs.

"Where did you get those?" I asked, stirring celery in the guacamole. "I mean, is there a catalogue?"
"Oh yeah. We got them from ErosTek."

It turns out that ErosTek are real. They've got a blog. Here's a sample post:
"When plugged into the AC adapter, the battery level displayed is higher since it sees the charging voltage being delivered to the battery via the charging circuit.... Don’t forget about the ET312 for 6 months and then expect the battery to have any life left in it." 

I have *exactly* the same problem with my mobile phone. See? It always pays to read the manual. Mind you, I salute ErosTek. I'm sure many companies will have done the following equation:

Electricity + Bottoms = Very Bad Idea

but clearly they've pressed on regardless. And the best thing? It turns out the electro-bummer is remote
controlled. This is supposed to lead to a uniquely tangled web of pleasure-pain-domination-control around the house at all hours of the day and night, but all I'm thinking is "What happens if the neighbours get a clicker for their garage?".

My new plan? I'm buying a universal remote.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

So wrong and yet far right

"Who is that?" It was the middle of election night. We were watching Ed Balls keep his seat. And there, on the screen behind him appeared...


Yes, it helped that he was sharing the screen with Ed Balls and a fat-suited David Tennant. But... who was that vision of utter beauty? It looked like David Beckham, only... (and this may have been that it was 5am) BETTER. Look at those cheekbones, the hard jaw-line, the stubble, the hair, the dead-eyed gaze...

Oh lord, please don't let me be fancying the BNP candidate.

Sometimes, fate plays cruel tricks. The head knows not where the heart may fall, etc etc. Sadly, it turns out that this political pornstar is none other than Chris Beverley, and yes, he really is a member of the BNP.

Umm.

But maybe, you know, he's not all bad... Maybe he's a cuddly fascist? Although, let's face it, we'd want to skip the cuddling.

Let's find out more about Chris. Thankfully, he has a twitter feed, from which we learn that he likes 24 but not immigration. Also, TitansMarch has helpfully uploaded a video to YouTube where he says that TB is caused by foreigners and Labour and that we should... um, I actually had a bit of trouble following after that, maybe it was his slightly discursive argumentative style or the thought "he's lost weight recently. Wonder if there's a special 'only eat British food' zone diet?".

See, I'm a rubbish gay. I'm trying ever so hard to vigorously enter into mass debate with Chris but am just thinking "I wonder if he's done a charity calendar?". I mean, what pictures are there out there, oh internet?


January sees cheeky Chris taking a firm hold of his weapon, his cold, dead eyes making love to the camera while preparing to bury it to the hilt.


February shows him donning a sexy suit to pose with the French Nationanl Front and the Austrian Freedom Party. Woof, I hope there's Lebensraum in those Union Jack boxers, Chris.


March sees him saying "I don't hate Hitler" to Richard Bacon. I hope those two continued their sparring once the cameras stopped rolling. Phwoar.


April... the suit is working for you but I'm starting to wonder about the hair. Seriously, Chris, cross the floor to our side and we'd do something about that... pro-hawk?


May gifts us a Tom of Finland piece of fan art which it would be nice to see on a mug, teatowel, or jizz mop.

And that's just the year so far. I'm hoping that June sees him posing naked in front of unicorns and a waterfall, his manhood peeping cheekily from behind one of his Amazon picks, perhaps a tome about Jihad, sustainable indigenous culture, or just by Tolkien.

I know, I know, this is all wrong. I mean, it's not as bad as a gay I know who went to Milton Keynes to get beaten up by someone in Nazi costume and then complained about the trains home. But still...

I have decided, however, that this is post-modern. After all, this has been the gay refuge for liking everything terrible from Dynasty to Supermarket Sweep. Perhaps, just perhaps... After all, if Chris found out that he had a large - nay, swelling - gay following wouldn't he be slightly annoyed? I'm wondering about starting a carefully-worded Facebook group. We could follow him around, with t-shirts and flags. Maybe even a banner. I dunno what we'd call it... "Benders for Beverley"?

Not, sadly, that Chris will be out in an official capacity any more. At the election he lost his slender grasp on his seat. But the gays? Oh Chris, we'd have a firm grasp on your seat.

One final fact about Chris which came out after he attended a European National Front conference... he's fluent in German. Oh Chris, you had me at "Heil".