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.


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?"
"That's rubbish."
"I know your phone number. Just you wait."
"Was that a threat?"

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?"
"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.
"So... Not... done anything else?"
"No. I haven't touched it."
"Still... it's....?"
"Fine, apparently."

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


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."


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.