Monday, October 31, 2005

Intolerable Cruelty

Despite my general good humour and relaxed state on both Saturday and Sunday (after I'd had a damn good whinge on Saturday morning) I was still somewhat suffering.

Late on Thursday, after the usual lunchtime session with the Personal Sadist, my back started complaining bitterly about what it had been put through that week and this pain merely increased during Friday to the point where any attempt at movement didn't lessen my general level of stress at all.

On Saturday my abdominal muscles decided to get in on the act. The bastards.

It was then I remembered a throwaway comment the Sadist had made on Thursday as I balanced precariously by my neck on a rubber ball whilst tugging at some weights and uttering dark satanic curses.

"I'm amazed," he said "you haven't had an ASBO taken out on me after all the cruelty I put you through."

I merely smiled wanly and commented that the thought hadn't occurred to me, but that it was out there circling now.

It's not true though. Based on the way that everything's tightening up and my jeans aren't quite as snug as they used to be I'm actually considering buying another five hours.

I'm now complicit in my own torture and humiliation.

I must be totally insane.

One of Those Days

I have to say, Friday was one of the most hateful days I've had for a very long time.

Work was, to put it mildly, a little piece of hell on earth. I'd already spent most of Thursday dealing exclusively with petty issues from one client, but Friday they just decided to latch onto me totally and not let go. I was swamped with new cases, most of which I could do nowt about, and by the end of the day was on the verge of sending small nuclear devices to the part of the country said client resides in.

So, I was quite looking forward to the Thingbox Halloween Party that night.

I got changed, tried to calm down a bit and headed up to the Ten Bells after work. I had visions of an evening chatting to people I knew, just unwinding and having a bit of a laugh.

I arrived at the Ten Bells, asked about where the private party was and was told that no-one was there yet. I was a little surprised - it was due to have started ten minutes ago - but accepted the suggestion of a drink. Bearing in mind the slightly squalid environs and the faintly threatening nature of some of the other patrons I opted for a bitter and stood there like a spare tit in a bra drinking it - simultaneously trying to make myself look as non poofy as possible.

And doing that whole "regularly checking the watch so people know you're not just a sad and lonely lurker" thing.

Frankly I felt desperately out of place and intimidated. It really is not a pleasant pub and I couldn't help but feel that Jack the Ripper's victims probably would have leapt gratefully at his knife after a night in there. After twenty minutes of seeing no-one I knew and no-one head to the upstairs bit I decided that I couldn't cope any more with the giggling Friday night Chavettes and Hoxton Trendies and decided to cut my losses.

Of course it's quite a long walk to Old Street station from there and Commercial Road isn't hugely inspiring in its own right. Still, I resisted the temptation to pop to Chariots and Expectations en route and headed for the tube, determining that probably a night unwinding in front of the telly was probably going to be good for me.

The fact that some car driver then decided not to wait for the traffic lights to change in his favour and swang over the pavement and into the road I was crossing just made the night complete. There's nothing like being within inches of death to put the tin hat on it is there?

Thankfully it didn't set the scene for the weekend. Instead I got loads done, paid bills, reconciled accounts, finished a demo track off, met with various friends (and, somewhat randomly, made mulled wine with one since for some reason he was convinced ordinary wine would bring back his flu) and received much benefit from the extra hour in bed the change back to GMT provided.

So at least I can rest assured that I wasn't being completely victimised by the universe all weekend. Just for the start of it, which I think I can just write off really. Ho hum.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Everything About You Is Hexy

On Tuesday I ended up catching an episode of Hex, largely by chance I admit but it's been one of those programmes I'd seen advertised, liked the look of and then had previously managed to miss every episode of.

And I instantly loved it. It was just good. Dry, sarcastic humour, sinister storyline, and stylish realisation. During one of the commercial breaks I popped onto Amazon and ordered the first series box set to allow me to catch up properly.

That arrived yesterday and I spent last night getting halfway through the run (it's okay, there's only six episodes in total) and I have to say I'm really impressed.

I've heard people call it "the British Buffy", but it's not really. The only similarity is a fight against supernatural forces, and it's centering round a cast of youngsters. But if anything, I'm finding it much darker and more focused.

And besides, they've taken their theme tune from Garbage. That's got to be a good sign.

It's strange really. Sky One's original programming is consistently of a higher quality than it should be. Whereas BBC Three - ostensibly aiming for the same market - is just producing crap.

Who'd have thought, eh?

Thursday, October 27, 2005

But... But... I Wanted to be Sarah Jane!

rose

You are ROSE. You have no qualifications to speak of but you are very good at holding on to and swinging on ropes. No doubt at school you used to climb up the rope in gym with it held tightly between your legs where you experienced your first orgasm!

Which Doctor Who assistant are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

(Got to be said, whoever wrote that text needed to do at least one more draft.)

Fiddler's Muscle

You may have gathered by now that my Forgotten English calendar is a constant source of joy to me (and I'm pleased to report that the 2006 is available to order now so I may have to hit Amazon shortly).

Sometimes, however, I think the entries are specifically written to cause my schoolboy humour to rise to the surface. Today's entry provided the following pause for thought:

Fiddler's Muscle: One of four little lumbrical muscles in the palm of the hand, the action of which facilitates quick motion of the fingers.
- William Whitney's Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
Now... up until this moment I didn't have a fiddler's muscle, let alone any lumbrical ones. And now I do.

Amazing how so much can change in your life in so little time, isn't it?

There's Always Someone Worse off Than Yourself

As a regular user of the Northern Line (oft called the Misery Line) I was under the impression that at times it could be described as providing the single most hellish traveling experience in the western hemisphere.

I have now had to revise that consideration.

The Waterloo and City Line at peak time offers you a far worse journey. Which is remarkable considering it only has two stations on it.

I don't think I've ever been as cramped or uncomfortable in my life as I was on that particular journey. 1.38 miles of sheer unadulterated displeasure. (I knew I should have walked.)

I pity those poor souls who use it twice a day every day of their working week, I really do.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

To Everything... Turn Turn Turn

As one of those Who-ers who lived through the dark devalued times of the late 80s - when the series' inventiveness and flair had finally returned only to find itself put up against Coronation Street - the following news article leaves me in a frame of mind to gloat.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/tv_and_radio/4375540.stm

And gloat I shall.

Look: this me, gloating.

Gloat gloat gloat.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Are You Sure You Wish a Contribution?

One of my colleagues is leaving the UK office tomorrow for Oz.

So an email comes round asking for money with which to purchase a leaving gift.

The exact phrasing on it: "I am doing a wee collection for him."

Best get myself a phial and a funnel I guess.

Well... That Worked.

All I can say is that getting drunk and shoving flyers down the pants of people on a Saturday night seems to be a viable approach to getting the punters in. So fair play to Darren and Smess for that approach; it meant that Windypops! was packed last night.

Frankly we knew something was up when we were in double figures by half past nine. And by the time Chris and I left at about quarter to one the place was busier than we've ever seen it on a non-Bank-Holiday-Monday. I mean I actually had to "excuse me" repeatedly to move around.

I was rather pleased with the set as it turned out. It was one of those ones I enjoyed enormously and it was only a shame I was doing it as opposed to being on the receiving end. It wasn't just me, though, I'm glad to say: several people were rather complimentary about it - including the Other Rob which is probably the main thing. The (somewhat muscular) list was as follows:

  • Kirsty MacColl - Terry (Extended Mix)
  • ABBA - So Long
  • Fuzzbox - Pink Sunshine
  • Voice of the Beehive - Scary Kisses
  • Shakespear's Sister - You Made Me Come To This
  • Human League - Love Me Madly?
  • Client - Don't Call Me Baby
  • Ladytron - Destroy Everything You Touch
  • Readers Wifes - Nostalgia
  • The Modern - Jane Falls Down
  • 2wo Third3 - I Want the World
  • Pay TV - Refrain Refrain
  • Girls Aloud - Biology
  • Bananarama - Look On the Floor (Hypnotic Tango)
  • Madonna - Hung Up (Radio Edit)
  • Hazel Dean - Who's Leaving Who
  • Rachel Stevens - I Said Never Again (Jewels and Stone Extended Mix)
I even had the surprisingly pleasurable experience of having Other Rob turn up and demand to know what it was I was playing whilst he was bopping along to it at one point. The look of bewilderment when he discovered it was ABBA was a pleasure to behold.

Unfortunately he then decided to fuck around with the lighting and smoke machine which caused one or two small fits and a protracted coughing fit from the group nearest to it. I made a mental note never to let the boy near the switches again.

And I'm not entirely sure I'm reconciled to having a request for some Hazel Dean either, but never mind.

The cake was suitably pink I must say. And surprisingly tasty - I think Chris did us proud. That said, whilst it did nominally look like an exclamation mark I have a horrid feeling that any photos which appear in Boyz and QX will distort it to show a group of drunken bastards using a sharp knife to lacerate a large facsimile penis.

Well... who hasn't been photographed like that, eh?

Monday, October 24, 2005

Quick Reminder...

... that it's the Windypops! first birthday party tonight. So get your arses down there if you can.

Naturally I spent some fair time this weekend working on my setlist. In honour of the occasion it's mainly a sort of "Atomic Slattern's Greatest Hits" where I've picked a whole load of my absolute favourites, but I've still thrown in a few things I've never played before and a couple of pre-release items just to stop it being too stale.

I'm pretty darned happy with it all things considered, which of course probably means it'll bomb. The only worry is that I'm not on first so I may have to make last minute substitutions if any of my highlights get used before I have a chance to. (Still, I guess it's good to have to think on your feet.)

I was privy to the creation of the cake yesterday too. It's quite a tour de force considering the flatmate was seriously broken at the time. Following a heavy Saturday night out he was still whimpering and shaking yesterday evening as he was mixing the darned thing.

It's always fun to watch that sort of thing, of course, purely because it's more often me in that state.

Getting the Fear

Does anyone else, like me, have a mortal terror of their bank balance?

It's a terrible curse I think. It's not an entirely irrational phobia - I know for a fact it was instilled in me during my time as a student and got pretty much solidified during my first couple of years of work when I was still seeing horrifically negative figures - but by now, when solvency is within my grasp, I feel I really shouldn't be quite so scared of it.

And yet I am. The moments before I enter my online banking website are still moments where a cold hand closes around my heart, I instinctively want to slug back a whisky, and I find myself doing the sign of the cross.

It's really quite terrifying.

Into the Depths of Zone Four...

On Saturday I once again attended the National Honey show in order to meet up with my father who had entered some more jars into the competition.

Last year's visit (see here) was fraught with difficulty on account of the navigation to Hendon being something of an exercise in trial and error. This year I elected to meet Dad and Daniel (my little halfbrother) up there.

Half an hour it took by tube, and the only faintly hairy moment occurred when I suddenly realised that after Hampstead the Northern Line isn't underground at all and we emerged into harsh white light again. Well, the last time I'd been up that way it was night and I'd dozed off on the train (as here).

To be brutally frank everything was all pretty much the same as last time. The only differences were:

  • Because of my different transportation I got to see a that there's a Police Boxish construction by the side of the tracks as you approach Colindale station. (I can only assume the Police Training College is to blame.)
  • Daniel was delighted with the sonic screwdriver I bought him.
  • This time dad got a first prize, two second prizes and a couple of commendations. (He forgot, however, to bring me any honey to distribute. But hey.)
A not unpleasant way to spend an afternoon I must admit.

I made my excuses and headed off prior to the prizegiving, though. Realising that there were a couple of hundred classes into which the honey could be entered (!) I could sense it was going to take a bloody long time.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Did It Again

Okay... that's two certifications I've passed in the last two weeks. I haven't even passed my probation period yet (and every time I hear the words "swap with a short leg" I giggle) but pass them I have.

Just before lunch I went in for the "driving" test on System Admin, convinced I'd done really badly in the written test and so would have to retake that.

Turns out I did better on that than I had on the compliance one. (Still not entirely sure how - I definitely guessed a huge chunk. But hey.)

Thing is now they want me to run the System Admin training courses, so it seems that if you prove yourself in any way capable of anything you will always end up having more to do.

Failure, therefore, is presumably the key to a stress-free life.

Suits You Sir!

I have an odd relationship with suits.

Fact is I really resent being made to wear them. When I joined my new company I was delighted to find I didn't need to go as far as a suit with jacket and tie, a shirt and smart trousers was fine. Excellent - makes it all bearable (although getting enough shirts to not have to wash mid-week and iron in the bleary hours of the morning took a couple of painful shopping expeditions).

Yesterday I did my occasional bar-work thing at Dolphin Square. This time it was a small soiree in honour of Trafalgar day (which is today as readers of Diamond Geezer's blog will know) and this time I was invited to the dinner afterwards as well which - as it happens - was a sit-down suit and tie affair.

Damnit, I thought.

But you know, I loved it - mainly because I was repeatedly told how damn smart I looked. I was told several times at various points in the evening that I could remove my jacket or tie but by that point I was enjoying being dressed up so much that I wasn't having any of it.

It would appear that getting me out of a suit takes rather more effort than persuading me into one in the first place.

Compare and Contrast

Situation One: a man is jailed for just 21 days for breaking his dog's ribs and giving it 20 cigarette burns. [Here.]

Situation Two: a woman is sued by Transport for London on the grounds of fare-dodging because her oyster card didn't swipe, despite witnesses claiming she swiped it and money being available to cover her fare.

For 50% of your mark, explain how it is that a society which regards itself as civilised can pursue petty vendettas with such vigour and yet fail to punish real evil.

Remember this is under exam conditions, so if you want to go to the toilet please raise your hand.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Again, I Misunderstood...

Reading about Christian Ronaldo's arrest on rape allegations yesterday reminded me of one of my typical literal interpretations of headlines when the story first came out about a month ago.

At the time the identity of the person concerned was being kept very very secret indeed, and so the Evening Standard proclaimed to the world:

Soccer Star Rape Police Quiz

I found this such an odd collection of words that I was stopped in my tracks while my brain grasped wildly for an interpretation. And finally that interpretation was made:

"I wonder what the prize is," I muttered to myself.

It was only a little further down the road I actually realised what they meant.

D'oh.

"No, I've Really Got To Go..."

Last night I ended up at one of those social gatherings you find yourself, for one reason or another, completely unable to leave.

It was the leaving drinks for a former colleague and I rolled up to Digress at Citypoint to try and find them, finally discovered them hiding in a snug little area that's hard to see into, and got a drink.

I promised myself I'd only stay for two. As you know, I'm knackered - plus with another certification due today and a night out this evening and tomorrow planned I felt I would benefit from an early night.

But of course, the best laid plans of mice and men are usually about equal.

I had a glass and someone offered me another. I was chatting, and other people would arrive and I'd chat to them and then just as I was about to stop and say, "Sorry guys, gotta go" someone else I hadn't spoken to in a while would come over and it would have seemed rude to bugger off then.

This kept happening.

I left at half ten.

And of course the Northern Line was again shagged, so I took a chance on getting a random bus that looked like it might be going in the right direction (never used that route before, it was fascinating) and finally made it in at 11:15. Whereupon I medically needed a bath and a Nytol.

Today I feel terrible. And the exam's at noon.

Way to go Rob. Get a backbone man.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Rising to Temptation

A relatively heated email discussion between an ex and I (over matters of no real consequence: the quality of merchandise of a certain British SF series) finally ended in an agreement between us on one point.

"Good," he said. "Nice to see you aren't completely without taste."

I managed to switch "auto-bitch" off just in time.

Thing is, with anyone else I'd probably go for the catty remark purely for my own amusement and sort out any damage later. In this case I suddenly worried that it might actually hurt his feelings and felt it just wouldn't be fair - especially since I wouldn't really mean it.

I'm worried now. I'm clearly losing my nerve.

What Was I Thinking?

This link to "Leather Pants I Unfortunately Own" has just been forwarded to me and I think is worth a worth a look. It's from an original eBay listing which at the time of writing is available here.

As a piece of writing in its own right it is without compare I think.

But it raises an interesting confession I have from my own life: I used to own a pair myself.

Now as it turns out they weren't actually leather, just a very good approximation. And I only wore them twice: once out in public on an ordinary evening, at which, I realised shortly afterwards, I looked like a dick; and the other time for a performance of the Rocky Horror show, at which of course you are supposed to look like a dick, so that's alright.

Ah... fashion follies of the past. You never can live them down really can you?

Clearly my mid-life crisis came in very early.

The Weeping Tiger

Still running on empty.

However, a lovely evening was had. I was due out for dinner with a mate at eight last night so, reckoning it wasn't worth heading home beforehand, stayed at work with my laptop and did some more work on the Mysterious Project.

Coming along nicely. Slowly, of course, and since PHP and a database are involved, a little painfully too. Not that any of it's particularly hard: once you've done one retrieval page, you can do another - but the problem is they all start to blur and become vaguely tedious after a while. (It's not exactly the most creative of occupations, I've discovered, but hey.)

And then on to Marble Arch to meet Steve. We scurried round the sidestreets along Oxford Street until we came to a restaurant called "Eat Thai" (details here) which we thought we'd try..

You can't go wrong with Dim Sums of course, but they were the best I'd ever tasted. And I followed that up with a wonderfully titled main course: "Weeping Tiger" - a wonderfully evocative name for what was essentially steak. But it was all beautifully prepared and tasted gorgeous. The Thai wine I will probably pass on in future I'll admit, but otherwise I heartily recommend the venue.

A couple of drinks in a nearby tavern and then I braved the journey home with La Stevens ringing in my ears. Ended up having two showers when I reached Archway: one because of the deluge which seemed to have set in during my surprisingly short journey, and another to warm up again.

Uncannily I woke up one minute before my alarm was due to go off today. This keeps happening - I must have an extremely efficient body clock.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Heheheh. Wipeout!

Oh that's better.

Drug assisted sleep it may have been, but sleep it was. I feel so much better this morning. Almost human in fact.

Mind you, the dreams were a bit odd still.

For one thing I had a punch-up with a man in a shark suit in a swimming pool.

And for another I won.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Come and Get It!

You see, I was raving about Rachel Stevens the other week, having a small hissy fit about the fact she'll bomb when all I've heard of her album has been genius.

Let's just take it as read that the same still holds true.

But really it is. I'm listening now and some of the tracks I heard previously through less than legitimate means have been improved. The tracks I hadn't heard are at worst good or servicable.

If Kylie doesn't buy this and snap up those producers there really is no God.

And even La Stevens herself came across quite well in a documentary the other day on E4. (Sweet and naive but still very self-effacing and giggly which I rather liked. I'm clearly mellowing in my old age.)

Windypops! The Anniversary!

Would you believe it: next Monday Windypops! will be a year old! All of a year on the the 24th October 2005. Bless it.

And yes, last night I signed up to DJ. (I'm going to have to give this some thought.)

So.... come one, come all. But most of all come!

There will - I gather - be cake.

http://www.windypops.com/

Frazzled

I have the overwhelming feeling I didn't stop over the weekend.

I know this isn't strictly true, but I did find certain parts of it imbued with rather more frantic rushing than I feel is seemly for a time of rest.

Saturday morning I found myself trying to pack in my usual morning scrubdown and panelbeating, sort out the flatmate's washing and washing up (the bugger had left me to do it as usual as he rushed of to Sheffield, the sod) clean the kitchen, do all my washing and start doing some demo pages for the Mysterious Project so I'd have something to show Smess and Darren on Sunday night.

Then I had to find another method of getting to my Aunt's given that the Northern Line was shagged and everyone was trying to find alternate routes. Thankfully I got there and had a pleasant evening with roasts and wine and so forth.

Sunday I had the unusual experience of being the only gay in Ikea. I trailed around behind Terry as she ummed and ahhed over furniture, pictures and ornaments, then similarly round Curry's as she chose a new hoover. Then lunch and an interminable journey home which put us seriously behind schedule for getting back into town so I could meet Smess and Darren for a Mysterious Project Meeting. Miraculously I arrived about the time they did so that kind of worked.

Then I drew at a game of Scrabble (this surely shouldn't happen) and then had to get home again. The Northern Line was professing to run a limited service so I chanced it and did actually get home in under an hour and a half which was, I suppose, something.

I managed to get a lot done, I suppose, so that's a good thing. But I also get the feeling that I spent more than half of my spare time trying to get places. Since I am not a natural traveller this normally wears me down a bit. But the additional factor of barely sleeping (and having some bloody weird dreams when I did) has left me feeling slightly tweaked by my weekend.

Today coffee is my friend. But tonight the fickle finger of friendship will point at the Nytol One-a-Night pills.

Two of them.

Autumn Mornings

It's suddenly got distinctly autumnal here now. Whilst waking up in the dark is still having its usual deliterious effect on my inclination to interact with the universe, once light has tentatively stretched its fingers over the world, I must confess I'm rather enjoying it.

Two mornings now I've seen the morning start with significant amounts of mist lingering over the landscape and the atmospheric effect it creates is one I'm very much attached to. It's all mysterious and intriguing, all these dark shapes looming up out of the moist grey air, lights appearing diffused on the horizon, that sense of wonderment and puzzle as you squint at the approaching bus and go "is that the 43 or the 134? I can't tell."

It's a great time of year.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Bloody Hell!

I just got certified.

Internal certifications that is. They're been doing them on various modules of the system this week and despite my protests that I was hopelessly unprepared after only two months in the company and formal training) I got put forward for Compliance.

I was in such a state of terror yesterday that I was sick before I left for work and could barely type the answers into the test. And I fully expected not to be asked to do the practical test today.

Until I got asked to ten minutes before Cathy wanted me to do it.

However, much to my surprise - and my general shakes are testament to this - I passed with 86% overall. I'm frankly stunned.

I am now compliance personified.

(Or to put it another way - a complete walkover.)

Madonna's New Single

Just heard it.

I'm a tad confused.

Bits of it I rather like.

Strangely the ABBA sample isn't one of them.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Lies or Half Truths?

Email from London Transport:

Dear Mr Morris,

I am writing to let you know that the Northern line is not running today due to problems connected to the signalling system.
Now, I have a couple of problems with this.

Firstly: the email arrived at two o'clock. Since it hasn't been running since 7:45 last night when the drivers walked out it's taken them a while to tell me.

Not that I didn't already know because the bus this morning was full of pissed-off Northern Line passengers.

Second is this continued statement that the problem is with the signalling system. It's not - we know it's not. It was exposed a week ago that the problem lies with the emergency backup on the trains which stops them going through a red light if there is a problem with the danger signal.

And why's this happened? Oh, because the trains have not been properly maintained.

Once again the safety of the public has been put in the hands of commerical entities and once again they've been more interested in making money than safety and service.

Mind you, it's a tad worrying that the emergency system in modern trains still relies on a bit of string under the carriage.

Whatever it is, Tube Lines should be bloody well sacked from running the lines they do. They have absolutely and consistently failed the system since they took over.

Twats.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Damn Cyclists!

Three times in the last couple of days I've nearly been knocked over by a cyclist zipping at me out of nowhere.

I'm starting to find it slightly annoying considering that I'm fastidiously waiting for green lights, not crossing the road until I get one, checking that the traffic's noticed the lights are against them etc etc, to find that when I do get the right of way I am liable to be injured by someone who doesn't think the highway code applies to them.

Bastards, I tell 'ee! Bastards!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

That's Odd

On my return from Windypops! last night (rather busy as it happens and quite fun) I went into my room and instantly got the feeling something was off.

Earlier I'd got home from work, thrown a few CDs into a bag - I'd been requested to take a couple but as it turns out I didn't take nearly enough - had a quick bath and something to eat, and hurried out of the door again to Limehouse.

I got home later than I'd expected due to the Northern Line being crap (again) and having to change at Moorgate to a bus. But, due to not fitting in a pool session and sticking to wine (instead of mixing grape and grain) I was pretty clear-headed - if a tad tired.

It was the little things really. The spare towel that normally I put back in the bathroom was on my radiator with my other one - not something I'd normally do. My Compliance study guide was on my bedside table when I was sure I'd just thrown it out of my bag onto the bed. And my main CD case was on the floor by my bed, when I was pretty certain I'd left it on top - and if I was to put it down I'd put it back in its usual place.

But I shrugged it off. I was tired, and I had left in a hurry. Maybe I was just imagining it.

And then... this morning as I stretched and tried to focus my eyes - whilst standing stark naked in front of a window with no net curtain, incidentally (I'm determined to upset the people out back) I saw something which was definitely not my imagination.

There on my bookcase was a bog-standard common or garden pub pint glass, two thirds full of water.

I'm currently working on the basis - in a charitable fashion - that my flatmate assumed I'd be staggering home roaring drunk last night and tried to make my collapse into bed as straightforward as possible, providing a life-giving glass of water to help rehydrate me.

But it's got to be said a part of my brain is now also running through various less savoury possibilities.

UPDATE:

Seems I was vaguely right. Chris managed to take five pro plus last night in anticipation of a late night drinking with a mate, which then got cancelled. He was then somewhat buzzing and unfocussed but decided to make my return as painless for me (and him in case I dropped the CD case) as possible.

And subsequent to that he spent an hour searching the flat for the glass of water he'd put down somewhere.

And the thing is, all of this all seems perfectly normal to me.

Monday, October 10, 2005

To Those We Have Lost

As I wandered round Greenwich yesterday (I had arrived somewhat early for the mysterious discussions) I decided to take a tour up to what used to be the nicer of the gay pubs in the village to see what it was like now.

I was really quite stunned.

It's now a totally trendy gastropub, decked out in back and white. Somehow at once incredibly stylish and yet utterly soulless. Where once the Gloucester - or as I used to call it "The Rat and Eggwhisk" - stood, tourist attraction by day, camp-as-tits cabaret-and-dance-bar by night, there exists now a trendy gastro-pub, decked out smartly in black and white and a lot of polish.

I felt really quite bereft.

I remember when I first came to London that both the Gloucester and West Central were by far my favourite venues. They were both pubby places where you could happily find a place to sit and chat, and yet both gleefully pandered to a pure pop mentality in their choice of music.

There was character to them too. The transition of the Gloucester from tourist pub to gay pub was always worth being there for. The rainbow flags came out, the music got camper and suddenly the tourists started getting puzzled looks on their faces. Then they’d flee as they suddenly realised what had happened and caught the cock-shots in the free mags.

West Central was equally a totally unstylish venue, and even had a wonderfully tacky theatre bar that quietly played show-tunes, and served as a wonderful meeting place. It was strangely civilised in a flock-wallpaper and dripping tap sort of a way.

Now, much to my regret, both are gone and I kind of miss them. (I was there on West Central’s last night and helped to give it a right royal send-off even getting my mugshot in QX for my pains.)

I feel partially responsible. All the bars I really liked – not too crowded, not too grotty, not too trendy, camp music – seem destined to fail. I remember when Site Bar rose from the ashes of Brief Encounter, finding it and instantly loving it (not least because I was flirted with outrageously by the bar staff) and then finding it'd gone too. They tried being Brief Encounter again for a while - which was close but no cigar - but even that was closed last time I went by.

I think there’s a lesson in this. I’m sort of an anti-demographic as far as the gays go. If you want something to succeed, make sure I don’t like it – or am at least indifferent to its charms.

Once More unto the Sanitorium

On Sunday evening, after games of pool, darts and a long discussion with Smess about a project he wishes to work with me on, we headed to Chariots in Limehouse.

Only to find the Jacuzzi wasn't working. We were most put out.

Now I haven't been to one of these sanitoriums in quite a while, but I must say we had a pleasant time there. And it was all perfectly innocent too (as anyone who knows me will attest).

We uncleared the pores, cleansed, relaxed, laughed and wrested control of the TV in the lounge from the staff. (Sadly they had a cheap satellite package meaning we couldn't watch Miss Marple and thus ended up on Nighty Night instead - a series which really has improved no end.)

And all of this whilst wearing a towel which was just a the tiniest amount too small to be totally comfortable in.

Whilst we were enjoying ourselves, however, I'm not sure the rest of the people shuffling embarrassedly around enjoyed it as much as we did. Something about the fact we were actually talking seemed to clear out the steam and sauna areas as the other pooves panicked and ran. There must be an unwritten rule forbidding conversation and a lack of self-consciousness or something.

I think the best bit though was realising that Geri Halliwell’s "Ride It" was playing over the sauna's stereo system.

One of these days, I really must put together that "Ultimate Chariots" album. This is something Daniel and I mooted ages ago after he reported hearing Madge's "Substitute for Love" at the Liverpool Street one. The choice was so painfully funny we felt we had to do a collection of similar ones.

Thinking caps on, readers: surely there must be other equally (in)appropriate tracks we could use?

Friday, October 07, 2005

Short But Sweet

Well, Windypops! West has finally closed up.

Although to be fair it's mainly to do with the fact that the pub's gone belly up.

Unfortunately the fact that the nearest tube to it was stuck out on the far end of the Picadilly line and even then involved either a long walk or the thin hope of a bus ride meant that basically no-one (not even those who lived relatively close) could be bothered to go.

Apparently this was vaguely true even when it was straight. Seems that the management were not in any way shape or form gay, but were merely the latest in a long line of people whose business is failing and decide to go gay in order to cash in on the percieved power of the pink pound.

So I have to say it kind of deserves the lack of interest it got.

Karma's a bitch like that.

Bit of a shame though in some respects. The building itself was rather nice and had a long and distinguished history.

Presumably it'll now be sold off and demolished.

Nice and Unusual

I've just had notification that I've won a Kath and Kim related competition.

I wonder what it was for.

Memory like a sieve I tell you.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Crisis Point

So... Rachel Stevens' new single, the wondrous "I Said Never Again (But Here We Are)" has managed a midweek chart position just outside the top ten.

I am regarding this as something of a calamity, really. It shouldn't be like this.

Thing is, her forthcoming album is brilliant. It really is. I've heard (most of) it now, and the whole thing - unlike her debut - is just crammed with pop-tastic genius. It's the pop album we've been waiting on for years, achieving a level of dazzling consistency which even Kylie hasn't managed to pull off without a compilation album. Whole teams of the industry's finest writers and producers have slaved over it and it shows. It deserves to sell by the warehouse-full, and almost every track could be a hit single.

And if Kylie were to release them you can pretty much guarantee that they would be. But of course it's Rachel Stevens. And it seems the general public have Taken Against Her.

Fair enough, she has - as one of my friends put it - the personality of a bran flake. She never does anything interesting, and never says anything bad about anybody. (Kylie never does the latter either of course - but you always get the feeling she could.)

Now whilst I don't much care for Rachel really her increasing failure troubles me. It's a sign that pop is getting increasingly sidelined and I'm worried about this downward trend. Too many great tracks have been released and failed over the last year - Annie for one was criminally overlooked - and all it needs is for the major labels to decide there isn't a market for sheer hands-in-the-air fabulousness of this kind, and it's gone.

Part of the problem of course is that that they're aiming it at the wrong people.

La Stevens is a case in point. Her tracks of late have been intelligently crafted, effortlessly cool and quirky little numbers which would only appeal to those pop-lovers amongst us who are more than old enough to have bullied her at school. So what do her people do? They market her with ringtones, games, appearances on Saturday morning TV, and synchronised dancing. She's being pushed at a younger age-group than that which would buy her stuff. Frankly who-ever's promoting her should be shot.

We need to make it clear that those of us out of short trousers want this sort of thing. Lots of it. It's not enough that Girls Aloud are somehow immune because who knows how long that immunity will last (ye Gods, they've been writing on the next album which terrifies me) The record companies need to know that we don't stop liking pop because we get a tax-code, we don't just grow up and instantly decline into James Blunt-loving miseries.

So for God's sake start now. If you like it at all, buy "I Said Never Again". And buy it from major record stores that count towards the charts. I've bought it in single formats and on iTunes, I'm so committed. (Incidentally the 5:03 long version you can get on iTunes is by far the best mix of this track - once again, as with "Some Girls", the good mixes don't make it to CD.)

Oh... and don't just download it from a P2P or copy it from a mate - you can get it easily, legally and cheaply and it'll count for something.

I know we may balk at supporting Rachel, but it's not about the artists. It's about good pop songs. We're not fighting to save Stevens and her ilk. It's bigger than that: we're fighting for pop music itself.

We need to take it back from those who don't understand its brilliance before they let it die.

Say What Now?

Would you believe, Gina G wrote a letter to the Evening Standard Lite yesterday after they ran a feature on pop comebacks. It was, to be fair a bit of a rant. Here are some of the salient points:

Unfortunately, it's the record labels who decide who's popular and who we listen to.
Well, yes... that and the idiots at Radio 1. But yeah, you're right there girl.

and now, because of the internet and downloading, some great acts, old and new, don't get through the labels.
Actually dear the internet is revolutionising the industry. It hasn't revitalised the charts in the way I'd personally like (still too much of middle-aged bed-wetters like Chris Martin and James Blunt) but the industry is catching up with its consumer-base again.

There is not artist development and therefore no longevity to an artist any more, especially in the pop industry. Here today, gone tomorrow.
Too true, sadly.

And the songs! There are no GREAT songs any more, just easily forgettable drivel. I'm so disappointed in the music of the last ten years. I welcome the comeback of great artists, but they have to fight the likes of Girls Aloud for a chart position.
Ooops. Don't diss the Aloud.

Thing is, Gina, Girls Aloud et al are putting out the best, catchiest and cleverly produced records of the last ten years (a span incidentally which includes your only notable hit - fabulous though it is). And, for some of us at least, the productions and songs of Xenomania and Richard X are far far better than the easily forgettable drivel you put out on your last (internet only) album.

So shut up Gina, there's a good girl. If you actually start producing some decent material again then I'm sure the pop community (rapidly becoming the musical underground in the UK) will welcome you with open arms.

But at the moment all you're doing is coming across like, as one poster on Popjustice so wisely put it, "a bitter deluded old has-been".

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

It Must Be Obvious

"And everyone knows when they look at us.
Of course they do, it must be obvious."
It Must Be Obvious - Pet Shop Boys
So I was just walking through Liverpool Street Station - as you do - when I happened upon a group of people handing out goodie-bags. I tried to skirt round (these things are never all they're cracked up to be) but instead ran directly into one who fixed a look on me and handed one over to me.

What was being handed out were various coloured - and quite sizable - fabric handbags.

And naturally she handed me one of the pink ones.

I had to ask for a large carrier-bag in WHSmith just to have something to hide it in.

One look, that was all it took. One look to decide that I should be carrying a pink handbag around the City of London. Great: I am now someone who you can tell is gay even when they're somberly dressed for work.

And if that wasn't bad enough, to add insult to injury it contains a whole load of free soya-based products.

Good News Everyone!

I have just received my brand spanking new Debit Card. Handed personally to me by the uber-helpful Sam at my local Barclays branch.

Even better: it works too!

Mind you, I found out at the weekend that one of the fraudulent transactions did hit my statement, so now I have to claim back a grand's worth of lucre. Still, I just faxed those forms off so with any luck it won't be too long.

It's such a relief to have easy access to my cash again. Living without a card has been something like losing a limb. Finally I can pay bills properly and everything.

Gosh: I never thought I'd see the day I'd be glad to pay a bill. How times change.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Age Concern

Sebastian Crawford and I were discussing whether to attend the ThingBox halloween party, finally deciding that yes, yes we would.

"Good," he said. "We can go and be fabulous and lie about our ages. How old do you want to be Robena?"

(No, don't ask.)

I considered the question and settled for 32.

I think the idea has merit. I'm rather looking forward to my thirties. I think they'll suit me. And then I'll just stick in them for a couple more years to let my real age catch up.

Works for me, anyway.

"Shut Up You Doddering Old Fart"...

...was, strangely, not one of the lines heard from the cast during last night's viewing of Doctor Who: the Web Planet. This was something of a surprise to Ben and I, as dear old Billy Hartnell was putting in one of the most gloriously apalling performances the series has ever seen.

The sight of various cast members having to think on their feet and cover for him was mildy enjoyable though. The tension in the studio was almost leaking out of the screen.

So... what's the verdict?

Well, as expected it was pretty risible generally. A fair attempt at doing a truly alien world, and it would have made a lame but enjoyable four-part story I think.

Unfortunately they somehow managed to pad it out to six.

Ben and I made it to the end of episode four before we reached breaking point. We'd got thus far with our traditional lack of reverence for the material (making up our own dialogue, blurring the boundaries between fact and fiction, and generally ripping the piss whilst getting increasingly drunk) but enough was enough: as episode five started I grabbed the remote control and set the DVD on double speed.

Thus it was that we sped through the last couple of episodes finding them much more entertaining without such intrusions as dialogue and plot.

In fact there was one point at which we were howling with laughter to the point we hurt.

This is a technique I shall be remembering for future stories. It may well come in handy.

Monday, October 03, 2005

PowerShopping

I went into Virgin. I came out of Virgin.

There were fifteen minutes in between and at the end of said period I was fifty quid poorer.

The special edition Ladytron album's rather nicely packaged. The (fabulous) Rachel Stevens single "I Said Never Again (But Here We Are)" has a lame-ass ringtone offer. Doctor Who: The Web Planet is going to be shockingly bad if I remember correctly (so I must get some wine on the way home) and I have no idea what to expect of the League of Gentlemen's Apoclypse apart from a brown fish joke.

I'm damned impressed I managed to get all of this and get back from Tottenham Court Road to the office in 45 minutes flat.

Clearly there is a part of me that was born to be a power-shopper.

And it feels good.

Lesley Judd's Cosmic Button

For reasons that aren't entirely clear (I think I was having a bad day and just wanted to spend some money on tat) I responded to an email offer last weekend and ordered the first series of Blake's Seven on DVD. The main reason for this was that now the third series is out, everyone's trying to get rid of their stock of the first and it's now started shifting for under twenty quid.

This I consider to be something of a bargain. I certainly wouldn't have paid full price for it, after all.

Anyway, since I was feeling desperately anti-social over the weekend - and despite my natural aversion to formica - I've managed to watch pretty much all of it, bar two episodes I seem to remember losing the will to live about a few years back.

Title sequence aside (big on cymbals, small on apostrophes) conceptually the series is actually quite good. The possibilities for edgy, interesting drama are all there, there's lots of friction and humour and the fact that Blake's set up on child molestation charges is something that still surprised me.

There's just one small problem: Terry Nation. The creator and writer of the series is its weakest link by far - which I don't think can be a good thing.

He's very much an ideas man, I've decided, not a writer. I mean, the Daleks are one of the best aliens ever created, but the actual story they first appear in is desperately tedious. He just can't seem to write (or rather hack) anything without doing things three times and throwing in the occasional long difficult journey.

Still, the middle of the series when it's all gelled and he hasn't run out of ideas is rather good. Thankfully he starts letting other people write episodes from series two onwards, which I think was something of a relief for all concerned.

One of the extras on the last disc though was a little bizarre: a clip from Blue Peter where Lesley Judd shows you how to make your very own teleport bracelet.

Watching a middle-aged woman eagerly telling young children about the correct location of her cosmic button was something I found more than a little upsetting.

Oh, Bogroll.

This weekend I discovered that whilst the general cloud I'd been under for a couple of weeks on my return had dissipated I still somehow have a deep-seated terror of social interaction.

It's fine with a couple of close friends, mind. But there's something about being part of any larger group or out in public that faintly scares me. Various offers this weekend of going out to bars or clubs left me with nasty prickling unease and instead I ended up scurrying or staying home and occupying the sofa.

There was a little social activity on Friday night but I couldn't really get out of that. It was a work do, with all the usual discomfort that entails when you barely know anyone and are stuck in a venue (a converted underground carpark as it turns out - quite quite ghastly) where the music's so loud it's hard to talk anyway. After a couple of drinks I managed to make my excuses and left.

Not entirely sure what's causing this. It seems to happen on a fairly annual basis so I can only assume it's something seasonal. Certainly I'm finding getting up when it's dull and grey outside rather a miserable activity too.

Usually I just ride it out and it all comes good again of its own accord, but it's still vaguely frustrating. I'm watching myself do it and a part of me's yelling at myself for being so stupid, but the dominant bit that's doing it is just shrugging its shoulders and telling it to fuck right off.

I sometimes wish I didn't have any self-awareness. People without it seem so much happier.

On the plus side I guess was that I spent until 3:00 in the afternoon wrapped up in bed reading. There was something deliciously wasteful about the whole (in)activity. (That said, "Thud!" wasn't one of Pratchett's finest. Very clever, but sadly not funny enough for my liking.)

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Strange Urges

There was I sitting at my computer idly considering my next move, when all of a sudden I got the strangest urge.

Of course Oscar Wilde once said "the only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it" and thus it is that I'm now listening to "the Mikado".

Frankly I'm enjoying myself enormously.

Confused of Archway

Why is it that so many of my fellow moxen profess to like being taken roughly up the bum?

Surely it's better if the guy manages to do it accurately?

Vagueness makes for a poor bedfellow I always find.