Monday, July 26, 2004

Reckless Extravagance

I know, I know. I shouldn't really have done it but my Barclaycard was perishing through not having anything on it and I was being oddly affected by its mewling cries so I had to do something.

So yes... I bought an MP3 player. Not an iPod, I might add - I plain don't like them, there's something about the faceless white brick that just offends me - but an ordinary MP3/WMA player that I can use on my PC without being sucked into Apple's proprietary format. It's not got a large capacity (256Mb) but it's more than adequate for the gym and the journey into work and also is only just bigger than the card which paid for it, which is a plus.

Its presence so far (and bearing in mind it only arrived on Friday) has been a saviour. The gym was far more bearable for me with my music instead of R&B hour on TMF every time I go in. Equally my journey in this morning was marred by trains not going where they said they were going, packed carriages, lack of air and a general feeling that I'd really not got enough sleep, but still I was oddly cheery.

Okay, so naturally I'm currently playing camp old nonsense, but that's why I was so happy - in fact I actually started giggling when I heard the lines "I like cigarettes, and that's no gag, but you'll always be my favourite fag" piped into my ear from a song I'll leave you to guess the name of. Plus there's something extremely appropriate about hearing the "a-whoa-wah, a-whoa-wah" bit from Rachel Stevens' latest magnificent octopus while swaying monkey-like from an overhead bar.

I'd forgotten how much I had missed having music on the move, though. It's such a wonderful thing. Coming out of Moorgate tube I heard the stuttery opening of Girls Aloud's "The Show" and found my relationship to the world change; I strode purposefully and, dare I say it bouncily, in time with the music, the other denizens of the area shifting out of their way as my body language informed them I was simply better than they were. And I could even feel something different about my eyes - I'm sure they were either grinning on their own or simply filled with glitter.

So yes. I love my Muvo. It shall henceforth be my constant companion, confidant and purveyor of cheesy rubbish. Soulseek, you are now in second place.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Up in Smoke

I love smokers. Now, I'm not going to criticise them for their habit - I tried taking it up myself during a particularly self-destructive period a couple of years back back and it is, after all, every person's right to kill themselves if they want (legal issues aside). Plus most of my my friends do it, but sometimes there's something about the whole way of life that just makes me laugh.

For example, whilst I would be the first to admit to having an addictive personality, but I can't help but raise an eyebrow when some of my acquaintances ticks me off about it whilst simultaneously sitting there puffing away on the evening's nth Marlboro Light (truly the fag of fags). Equally I can't help but smirk when I see the latest resident of my area to go on a health kick pause exhausted from their morning jog, perch on a garden wall and light up to steady their collapsing cardiovascular system.

But yesterday I saw my favourite incident. It was a typical city scene: a non-descript office block with two colleagues sharing a quick faggette outside during their lunch-break. In this case though, the gentle, civilised, bonding procedure was shattered when one of them suddenly burst into one of the most viciously (not to mention viscously) bronchial coughing fits I've ever seen outside of Children's BBC's "The Moondial". You could probably have heard it in Redhill: it really was a virtuoso performance of lung-rippingly-harsh hacking, gasping and spluttering.

There was a short pause during which calm returned to the pavement as I walked carefully past and then, just behind me, I heard the perpetrator clear their throat and have another drag. They gulped it down, restored their inner peace and then in small, tremulous, and slightly put-out voice uttered the immortal words "I'm sorry, I don't know what started that."

Delusion, thy name is human.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Pipes is here!

Well, last night I stayed in with a few friends, drew the curtains, turned out the lights and watched Ghostwatch on DVD.

I saw most of the original broadcast in 1992 (although I was sent to bed before it ended and - typically - got really good) but twelve years down the line, knowing it was really a scripted drama didn't actually make the end any less scary. Somehow it just begs you into suspending your disbelief; our motley group of blokes sitting there giggling about the cupboard under the stairs being called the "glory hole" were silent by the end, watching in rapt attention.

Frankly it still remains one of the most singularly audacious pieces of television the BBC have ever done and considering they nearly chickened out at the time I can't believe they'd make anything that daring now.

Which is kind of sad really. I'd hate to be growing up with today's TV.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Think of the Children!

I've just remembered one of the many tales I heard during the post-archery booze-up on Tuesday, and thought I'd relate it in case it's stored in the part of my brain next scheduled for demolition by whisky and I lose it forever.

This particular tale related to the experiences some of us had... um... experienced during various abortive attempts at horse-riding. Many of these tales bonded us through the surprisingly typical experience of being chosen to sit on the most malicious, bad-tempered, lazy and, above all, productive creatures at the stables' disposal, but this one was different. Fellow beginner Natasha had instead been on a course where the instructor - whilst inadvertently proving that owners start to look like their animals - had sternly instructed the assembled class that they were mounting their steeds all wrong, and that they should "sit down in the saddle in the way you would love a man".

This was not, in itself, bad advice of course, but the general consensus was that this was possibly not ideal teaching material to be laid before a class of 14-year-old public school-girls.

What was best about the story of course was that most of the blokes hearing the anecdote sat there looking somewhat unsure as to how this would work and struggling to picture it. The ladies present however simply smiled wistfully and let out a happy sigh.

The flatmate and I, needless to say, were amongst the latter.

Lingering Impressions

It's strange how first impressions of people can hang around for ages despite repeated evidence to the contrary.

I was told last night by my friend Daniel that many of his other friends still refer to me as "that tall blonde one" despite the fact that I haven't had bleached hair in two years, instead keeping it at the kind of occasionally burnished but generally just mousey brown colour it seems determined to stick at.

I was, however, recently informed by a couple of friends and family that they never thought it suited me anyway (in complete opposition to what they said at the time) announcing that it just made me look gaunt, pale and heavily eye-bagged. The trouble is that kind of too-many-late-nights-chic was exactly the look I was going for so that's kind of made me determined to do it again at some point.

It must be said, though, that I consider blonde more of a state of mind than a hair colour anyway.

I just happen to like it. So ner.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Thwack!

Well, after attending the familiarisation session in May, I finally started on the beginners course with the London Archers last night and it was great.

Done archery a few times - last time was last year in Gloucestershire on a medieval weekend where I got to play with longbows and so on - and always enjoyed it so naturally I jumped at the chance to do it here in London. And I have to say, there's a lot more to it than would first appear - especially if, like me, you have sticky out elbows in your bow arm which you need to rotate so as to avoid unnecessary bloodloss and bruising. I spent almost all of the night perfecting my stance, making sure I kept my shoulders level and - this is the scary bit for me - drawing the string right back against my face for (as Servalan would have it) maximum power.

But I was hitting the target more often than not at the end and discovering interesting new muscles in my chest and shoulders so it was not at all wasted - unlike me after the trip to the pub afterwards.

The local pub for the archers is technically the Champion which some of the male members still won't go in after being chatted up by the barman whilst it was a gay bar - or as the secretary tactfully put it "a bit weird". I couldn't really take offence at this comment because, to be fair, it was - although interestingly now it's straight the decor has improved immeasurably which is completely contrary to my normal expectation. The next pub along, judging by the rainbow flag, was also "one of ours" (although I can't say I'd ever heard of it: The Leinster anyone?) so the one after that was the one that has long been adopted by the group.

It was strange being in a straight pub again, but not unpleasant, and it was there I discovered that there are very nice ales called "Badger" and "Fursty Ferret" and that, believe it or not, archers can't half drink.

I think I may have found my spiritual home.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

The Great Big Flamer

Well yesterday I was coerced into a session of fire training against my will.

Why against my will? Primarily because last years' involved being forced to watch a 1970s dramatisation of a hospital burning down in Queensland - a combination which had me humming "he used to give me roses" within five minutes of the first fag being lit.

This time was, I'm glad to say, better - and not just because we got to watch live footage of the 1984 Bradford Stadium disaster which somehow packed far more of a punch than a video which suggested you stand a better chance of surviving a fire if you're not Australian. It was quite shocking viewing to be honest despite my brain's urge to shout "flambéd fan" at inappropriate moments.

The most fascinating aspect though was all the scientific stuff which completely changed the way I thought about fire, how it works and spreads and so on. Unfortunately this interest has probably undermined the whole point of the training. There's a part of me that now wants to set fire to things and stand there watching in rapt fascination.

I'm not sure this is really A Good Thing™...

Monday, July 19, 2004

Oddly Peripheral

There was a big OUTintheUK event on Saturday night called "Element" which, after the previous one, I decided not to attend (don't know why, but the prospect of being crammed together with 450 pooves whilst listening to music I can't stand somehow didn't appeal) . Everyone I know on the site went, so I instead managed a nice quiet dinner with some friends followed by a couple of hours with Living TV.
 
What I did find irritating, though, was that in the months leading up until Saturday no-one made any attempt to ascertain whether I was going or not, and then suddenly I was deluged with messages saying "see you later." My response was, naturally enough, "no you won't" - something I followed with a strange creeping fear that maybe they would be seeing me later, I just didn't know about it and perhaps double locking the door might be a good move.
 
Apparently many people were shocked and disappointed that I wasn't going - which was vaguely gratifying - but I was left with the overwhelming feeling that I'm someone who's on the periphery of people's social consciousness. When they think about me they're generally welcoming and happy to see me, but somehow I never quite bob up in their minds early enough to make sure that I actually will be. It's assumed that I'm psychic and will magically appear.
 
I'm becoming vaguely intolerant of assumptions, to be honest. I get them quite a lot: "oh Rob must get loads," "oh yeah, Rob knows about that," "oh yeah, Rob'll have some whisky in." Now if truth be told the last one is a fairly safe bet, but on the whole they are wildly inaccurate.
 
The middle one, assuming that I know about things, is the most wearing though - and sometimes it's quite scary: I have one friend who goes as far as to have conversations in his own head that he then continues with me in person - leaving me totally baffled until I finally clarify the backstory. (What's upsetting there is that I get accused of having a lousy memory coz he thinks his internal conversation actually happened, but I know for a fact he's just bonkers since he does this to everyone.)
 
Anyway, the point of this rant is simple: could all of you I know stop assuming that I am omnipotent? Sometimes it's actually nice to be treated as if I know nothing, and especially nice to be told about things a little bit earlier than "at the last possible moment."
 
My god-like powers and associated sexual prowess are an illusion of your own making - so you can just stop it at once. I am merely a man - and I'm willing to prove it.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

End the Pretence!

I think it's probably about time we looked at amending the highway code to more accurately reflect the weight of actual practice.

For example, the new rules on pedestrian crossings could go:

other drivers should look out for people waiting to cross and be ready to slow down or stop to let them cross, whereas unless you are in a spectacularly good mood, you can carry straight on across regardless
See? Much better.

Of course we shouldn't apply this abandonment of pretence to all walks of life or patterns of behaviour. Otherwise my black mood resulting from a near brush with death this morning at the hands of a cyclist and (of course) a taxi would not have been alleviated by the lady in the local newsagent. How did she achieve this miracle? She simply managed to give the impression of being really pleased to see me, and that selling me two 500ml bottles of diet coke really made her day.

It really cheered me up even if she didn't actually mean it, so well done her.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Attention Deficit Disorder

I realised something last night which really doesn't make any sense.

When faced with a prospect of watching a good film of, say, 90 minutes duration, I'll generally pass. The idea doesn't fill me with much enthusiasm, it just seems too long to devote to a single feature.

And yet I'll quite happily sit down and watch a collection of half-hour episodes of a series I've seen a million times before for a duration equal to or exceeding the time it would take to watch said film. Heck, I've been known to sit down and watch an entire series rather than watch a movie.

I'm not entirely sure what this says about me, but I'm certain it's not normal.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

With Extreme Prejudice

It's quite galling really that as I grow older I find myself having to completely backtrack on a great many things I've said in the past. My opinions on drugs, sex, drink, relationships and so on have changed completely over the last few years and that does mean I run the risk of either looking like a total hypocrite or, at best, being wantonly indecisive.

The two latest changes are to do with Muesli and South Park. In the case of the former it was a determination to improve my eating habits, combined with the fact that the Co-op do one which has almost equal ratio of fruit to floor-sweepings, that has lead me to start eating the stuff. (And much better I feel for it too.)

In the case of the latter it is the near constant playing of the series on DVD by my flatmate that has caused the change. It's finally lowered my resistance to the point where I now find vast chunks of it gleefully inspired and can actually even watch entire episodes with the added bonus of laughing.

Of course, being forced into such admissions does me no good at all, and so in retaliation I have hunted down and started raiding a repository of obscure Hazell Dean mixes which I can play at full volume when Chris least expects it.

So no, you needn't think I'm mellowing. One of the great things about clearing out old prejudices is that suddenly you find room for entirely new ones. To this end I am now reserving my hatred and bile for the unjustified tat which is "The Mighty Boosh". In fact am pleased to say that for the forseeable future I will be doing all I can to obtain its writers a happy and fulfilling future in the tartrazine-addled world of CBBC where, I think you'll agree, they so clearly belong.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Smelling Pistakes of the Wold Untie!

The abiding image for me of the Euro 2004 tournament was the graffiti on the photograph of David Beckham at the Royal Academy of Arts which read "you loosers".

Naturally some people took this as a clever pun on the name of Rebecca Loos with whom Beckham is alleged to have had textual intercourse; but I fear it is merely illiteracy, pure and simple.

The number of times I see "looser" as a misspelling of "loser" on OUTintheUK or somesuch forum is really quite scary. I mean, surely a display of such magnificent fucktardishness kind of takes the edge of any perjorative intent? It may even qualify as an example of proper - as opposed to "Alanis" - irony.

Besides which, confusing the two on a gay website could have dire consequences. People really should be more careful.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Give the Boy a Medal

Well, I did it. I completed my "Premier One" program at the Archway Gym. Had my induction ages ago and then just had to meet with a personal sadist three more times to check progress / advise and so on, the last of which was today and set my goals out for the next three months.

What I hadn't realised however was that I qualified for free gifts at each of my last sessions which, because each sadist I met with was different, hadn't been checked. These turned up en-mass today and really are quite staggering, viz and to whit:

  • 1 x Water Bottle - quite a useful one, but I wish they'd given it to me weeks ago - I've been struggling to find one that goes with my outfit.
  • 1 x Oddly Long Towel - which is a bit ropey and an odd shape, but I could at least pretend is a very thin mini-skirt.
  • 1 x Shitty T-Shirt - which is almost certainly going to be relegated to glop-mop duty for my early morning palm-pilot session.
Apparently I get these because I'd achieved my goals at each of the three meetings, but since, to be fair, my goals were a bit nebulous (well, you can't put "become a deeply boffable stud-muffin" in these things can you?) it appears that I have got these gifts simply by turning up and sweating at people.

It's a result I suppose.

Sadly, however, this week's sadist decided to triple the machines used in my resistance workout, knackered me out whilst showing how to use them and then sent me off to do a proper session.

I was there for two and a half hours and I am currently having trouble moving.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Take my Brain... Please!

As I descend e'er deeper into darkest middle age (actually, in gay years that's long gone but forgive me this delusion) I find myself craving a good night's sleep e'en more.

To this end I have purchased that fabulous for-some-reason-not-in-any-way-illegal powder known as Ovaltine, which does pretty much knock me out of an evening and doesn't leave me with the sorts of nightmarish fantasies that a combination of whisky and cheese does.

Trouble is, I've now had the Ovaltinies theme going through my head for several days now - despite the fact I'm too young to remember it - and ever so slowly it's become corrupted to something far more sinister:

We are all homosexuals:
Happy Girls and Boys!
We will sleep with our own gender
'Coz we are all great big benders.

We are all raving pooves
Who love to go and cruise.
So join us up on Hampstead Heath
Each week-day afternoooooooooon.
I really am getting quite concerned about what they put in this stuff, you know.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Another Part of the Great Health Kick

Yesterday I acquired a yoga mat. Mainly this is so I don't get carpet burns when I attempt the abdominal exercises at home, but just to see what it was like I tried a few yoga positions too (well it's supposed to be good for your flexibility and auto-fellating seems to be my best hope at present).

What I discovered was that yoga's surprisingly hard work. The only one which didn't require any effort was "the corpse" - and it doesn't take much imagination to figure out why that is.

Naturally I avoided the one where you stand on one leg with your hands in the air for thirty seconds for the simple reason that my balance is pretty lousy at the best of times. I could see the downstairs neighbours complaining about me playing domino rally with a collection of antique wardrobes.

It's quite energising, though. I currently have a yen to do a course in it.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Oh dear...

If any further proof were needed that I should get out more, it is this:

Whilst avoiding yesterday's main Pride event a few of us snuck into Stonewalls (on the old site of, um... Site Bar) on St. Martin's Lane. Therein we found succour in the form of alcohol in what is still an enjoyably gloomy establishment.

The music was, almost universally, awful. Lots of R&B stuff which I can't stand. But then they started playing "Happenin' All Over Again", a song I love to pieces anyway which cheered me up no end. Unusually, they played it in its extended version, all 5'26" seconds of it.

The sad thing is, I recognised it from the opening. Not so bad in itself, you might think, but the opening only consists of eight or so bars of drums.

So effectively I recognised a song from the drum sounds and pattern alone.

Dear God, I need help.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Return of the X-Factor

I am increasingly of the opinion that Richard X is one of the only people around who can resuscitate the sadly ailing pop world. Xenomania - the Girls Aloud production team - comes a close second. Sadly, Pete Waterman seems to have gone quite bonkers and set his sights on dominating the classical music world instead (although if I had the chance to put those two violinists under my belt I would too).

Still, not content with producing possibly last year's best album - the wonderous X-Factor Vol. 1 - Mister X has come up trumps again with Rachel Stevens' new single "Some Girls".

Always nice to know that there are still wonders that can melt even this heart of stone. It is, simply put, fabulous. And the extended mix even more so.

Now for God's sake Richard... phone the League and collaborate properly!

Friday, July 02, 2004

Lawks a Mussy!

I've just had two lady checkout operators fighting for my attention in the Liverpool Street W.H. Smith's!

I probably go in there a bit too much...

Man Alive

So, I'm being bullied into going to Man bar next Thursday for their "boots only" night.

Now if truth be told I do have a vague exhibitionist streak (completely at odds with my self image, I know, but there we go: consistency is for people who can't handle drugs) but I kind of balk at standing in a bar trying to drink a pint of Old Peculiar whilst wearing nothing but goosebumps and a pair of Doc Martens. It just seems a bit, well... seedy.

Also, whilst I'm happy doing anything for one (or two) men with a camera, a roomful of people brings out my innate shyness - essentially I think it's because in the first scenario I can control who sees, whereas in the latter it could be any old tart.

Sadly I don't think the young man in question is going to back down on this - which is a shame because neither am I. The only problem is that I'm having trouble coming up with excuses: I'm not sure that last night's "but I don't have a thing to wear" really covered it.

Lets Have a Vidge-Yew-Ul

Idle channel-hopping produces wonders it really does. Last night on FTN I stumbled across an episode of the marvellous Most Haunted which caused my eyebrows to raise far further than even they are normally wont to do. Yvette "I Can't Pronounce Vigil" Fielding, "the actor" Derek Acorah and their motley collection of production staff were investigating rumours of paranormal activity on, of all places, a ghost train.

Now, considering that normally even the most attention-seeking ghoul manages to go mystifyingly bashful when faced with a screamingly hysterical Blue Peter presenter, surely they'd have figured out that a spectral entity is hardly likely to manifest itself on something as lame as a funfair ride?

I mean, appearing on Most Haunted would be tacky enough, but that it'd never live down.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Showtime

Okay, so Binding's been raving about it for ages but I've only just got to hear Girls-Shouldn't-Be-Allowed's new single "The Show" and I must say that initially I didn't think much of the song at all.

For about a minute, this was. And then suddenly I switched completely.

Truth be told, I'm only just coming round to Girls Aloud. Normally I like spunky, fiesty popstar girlies with more gung-ho than talent - and these girls are certainly a bunch of gung-ho's - but I didn't take to the last album at all. Singles aside it sounded like it had been written before the actual band had been put together and they'd figured out the group dynamic.

Which it almost certainly was, but it sounded like it. Frankly I felt very let down by Ms Alison Clarkson. Very let down indeed.

So anyway: "The Show". Well, at times it seems a bit like a watered down "Hole in the Head" but I still really like it. Rather than have a strong chorus let down by a weak verse they've gone for several choruses wrapped around a cluttered, noisy, bombastic electronic arrangement which is all very cool. Plus they made a good move with the vocals: they eschew attempts at bland but accurate singing in favour of giving it some welly.

And who could ask for anything more? Yay them!

For the Love of God!

People often assume that my flatmate and I are, in fact, not flatmates but co-habiting boff-merchants. Or, to put it another way, married.

In so far as we live together, argue a lot and never have sex there is, I suppose, good reason for this confusion. But now people are asking him why we don't have our OUT profiles linked as partners and what it's like to wake up with me of a morning it seems to be getting beyond a joke. Plus it's vaguely demoralising because this marriage seems to put only me in the "unavailable" category, damnit.

Now it's true that he and I finish each other's sentences and often have exactly the same thoughts, but I do that with quite a lot of people; Bathsheba, my partner in crime on various writing ventures, also has a similar rapport and people never assume we're banging each other like salvation army drums, so this assumption is clearly not based on obvious personality traits.

I have to face facts: it's the height isn't it? It has to be - it's a lousy criterion for judgement but I've seen it used before. An ex of mine, for example, used to love going out clubbing with me and a similarly tall friend of his, who for the sake of protecting the overwhelmingly guilty we shall call "Damian" (trust me, it suits him). My actual partner was effectively the dip in our collective sine wave, so the result was that he got hit on no end when the three of us went out while it was assumed that Damian and I were the couple because we are roughly the same size.

All of which is proof if any were needed that Moxen don't have the sense they were born with. I'm now toying with a new chat up line: "Well, I'd like to fuck your brains out, but I think someone got there first."