Friday, December 23, 2005

Christmas cheer

Toffee has asked me to cut out the histrionics and give you an update.

He ran out of the park gates in front of a car, the car braked, skidded and clipped his behind. I thought he was a goner, but in fact there wasn’t so much as a broken bone, although he didn’t recover the use of his back legs for many hours after the accident.

He has a badly bruised bottom and, quite literally, his arse in a sling.

Thanks so much for your well wishes, and thanks too – to a friend, for putting up with my panic attack.

I hope you all have a wonderful, joyful Christmas, whatever is perfect for you. We are going to sing and celebrate all the more, the lads will “wee on it”, and we’ll have a jolly old time!!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

don't you ever run out of the park again...

there's no more sickening moment than the screech sqwall of brakes and a dull thud....

...nothing so terrifying as looking down at your dog, who's petrified, broken and shivering in the road....rolling a big bown eye at you and whimpering because his legs don't work

or standing in the surgery waiting for news..I'd change places with you gladly if I only could...

and then waking up to the same big stupid eye, lolling in the same big stupid, beautiful face, with a silly bandaged bum, lying in your bed.

Thank you providence.

We so have to get out of this f#cking city.

We don't belong here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

the ghost of Christmas past

I’ve spent the evening wrapping presents, listening to the choir of St Martins in the Field singing Christmas carols and drinking mulled wine.

Generally getting in the mood and beginning to feel that frisson of excitement that all children recognise as Christmas gets closer.

When I was a child Christmas was always exciting, not only because of the presents and the tree, and the staying up late and all the fun that surrounds the holiday…but because of the antics of my family. Somewhere along the line one ours would manage, with a moment of ineptitude or tactlessness or simple unadulterated gormlessness, to turn the sublime to the ridiculous.

My first clear memory of Christmas is horrifying and had the potential to ruin all of the succeeding ones had I not been so gullible. I think I was four years old, and a normal inquisitive child. My parents had taken pains to hide all of the presents away so that prying eyes wouldn’t spoil any surprises, and had stayed up late on Christmas eve to wrap them. I’d gone to bed very excited after leaving Santa (and Rudolf) a glass of sherry and a mince pie each.

Unfortunately “Santa” and “Rudolph” must have worked up quite a thirst wrapping all of the presents and they’d fallen asleep in the living room amongst yards of paper and ribbon.

When I woke up it was dark and quiet in the house. I was watchless but it was definitely early in the morning (in fact it was 4 am), and I was even more excited than when I went to bed. I crept out of my room, down the stairs and joy on joy, there was a crack of light under the living room door, so my parents must be up already, Santa had been and yippee!!! I opened the door to a child’s vision of Dante’s inferno, my parents slumped on the living room floor amongst a mound of presents which they had apparently been ripping open in a frenzy before suddenly being struck by some righteous festive narcolepsy. And they were toys, they were MY presents, how could they!!!

It took quite a while to calm me down, and very well done to my Dad, in a befuddled state for spinning the yarn of Santa’s sleigh crashing in the garden and spilling my presents and them volunteering to re-wrap them so that he wouldn’t be delayed…

On a different occasion we’d sat at least a dozen people around the table, waiting expectantly for Christmas dinner. I should say that my mum was an amazing woman. We always had extra people for Christmas, they weren’t by any means all family, quite often people I didn’t know, especially children. It was only later in life that I learned that they were people that she knew of, or worked for my father who might not be enjoying Christmas as well as we were that she had invited, very humbly, to come and “make” our Christmas day. She was 4 feet 10, beautiful, and mild mannered. And on this particular Christmas day slightly flustered and stretched by cooking for so many people. My father was a jolly, gregarious dipsomaniac who would have given Oliver Reed a headache.

We sat around the table expectantly, a little shyly, because my Dad was the battery off which everything ran. We could hear them talking and crashing about in the kitchen, just noises at first but then the conversation as their voices rose:

“Not like that Jean”
“Just put the plates out Harold”
“Your doing it wrong”
“I’m doing it as well as I can”
“Look, it’s falling apart”
“Harold, do something else!!”
“Look, let me show you…”
“Oh you bloody do it then” this from my mother, a swear word!! Followed by a sodden thump.

My father appeared at the door, to address the concerned throng. He had a big grease mark across his forehead and crackling in his eyebrows. “Pork’s off” he said.

Actually the pork was “on” and very delicious too, even if it was a little crumbly.

Old Pa Deed had a knack for acquiring things too. Somehow, if somebody said that they’d really like a particular thing, then my father would “know a man” who had one, or could find one. Which is why we had one of the first television sets that anyone had seen. And we had it for Christmas.

But we didn’t have an ariel. In fact never realised that we needed one. So I sat with the friends that I had invited watching hour after hour of static believing that it was Lapland, it was snowing, but we might catch a glimpse of Santa or Rudolph’s red nose if we concentrated. He was a lying sod too.

One year we had a dartboard in the kitchen, and then later a smell of gas, which my father traced to a pinhole in the kitchen wall where a dart had missed the board and pierced a gas pipe….he found it by dint of tracing his lighter across the wall. We all went to bed that night with a two foot flame jetting out of kitchen wall.

I remember sitting down to Christmas dinner around a full size billiard table that my father had “rescued” and persuaded his friends to help him bring into the house. I seem to remember also my grandmother laughing so hard at something that her teeth fell into the centre pocket.

And one priceless occasion when we lived in Scotland, when Lord and Lady Ferguson (who were my Fathers employers at the time) stopped by on Boxing Day. They’d brought us a goose. A live one, and the gilly was busy trying manfully to unload it from the back of the Land Rover without losing fingers or an eye, so they popped in for a cup tea. We had the most badly trained Golden Retriever in the world. This maniacal hound had been banished from the kennels, in fact left to his own devices the game keeper would have happily shot it, but my mother would have none of it, so we inherited the mutt instead. It was clinically stupid and one of it’s less endearing traits was uncontrollable and indiscriminate randiness every time it ate something.

My father opened the door of the parlour for the Fergussons, to be greeted by the sight of my 3 year old brother being vigorously humped by the dog on the carpet, while my Gran sat asleep and unconcerned in the armchair in the corner.

I think they would have taken the goose back, if they could.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

being Oliver Malkovich

I've been compelled by Sandra who is compelling by the way, to share 5 items of my weirdness with the world. The only problem I have is narrowing it down, and keeping it within sensible bounds. (Sometimes weirdness is like a dog whistle, when it's just so very weird that only other weirdo's can recognise it?):

I’m the worst friend in the world. I have two friends, but hundreds of acquaintances and it always makes me feel slightly uneasy when I hear other people describe me as their friend. I know what they mean, but I just wish there was another recognised, alternative word that we all understood the meaning of, for "nearly friend" - we could use “mate” for example and then I’d be happy. Because if I were their “friend” I would return their calls, or at least give a toss that they were upset when I didn’t?

I’m not normally nervous at all, I’ll speak with anyone about almost anything. But put me in front of a girl who I really, really like and suddenly I can’t find a single thing to say. (Unless I’ve had too much to drink, in which case a stream of utter jibberwaffle comes out of my mouth).

I’ve fallen in love on the tube train. In the course of a fifteen minute journey, I’ve been enchanted and enthralled, plighted my troth and had my bleeding heart ripped from bosom as she got off at Edgeware Road. Of course I’ve done this all on my own, she’s completely unaware that the eyes and mop of hair poking out over the newspaper belong to a man who is busy conjuring names for our children….

My middle name is Oliver…and I twist.

I bought the dogs a pet, a kitten, a tiny ginger tom called “Alfie”. It ripped them to shreds, ate their dinner, slept under their ears and generally made their lives hell. As soon as it was old enough it called a cab to the airport and is now terrorising a large area of Madagascan jungle.

I'm not going t tag anyone in particular....I'd like to hear 5 bits of weirdness from all of you please (that's above and beyond your usual weirdness please).

I'm the king of the castle..

and I'm a dirty rascal

Thursday, December 15, 2005

through a glass darkly

I can see from people’s posts of late that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has caused a stir by denying the holocaust. It’s not strange at all that one word in three syllables ^holocaust” is instantly recognisable for the series of events that for most of us is one of the foulest passages of modern history.

We do not need any additional proof other than the images that we have seen of the pain and anguish of the people on whom Hitler’s progrom was inflicted. In fact for most of us, we simply couldn’t stay sane if we were able to comprehend the real scope of the suffering involved.

So, for someone to say that it is a myth or invention is the most dreadful affrontary to any rational sensibility.

Then why did he say it? What does he possibly have to gain?

May I introduce two distractions from what the papers say please?, they are called politics and perspective. As a whole they may be summed up as discernment.

When will we ever stop to report on what people say, and add spin from our own perspective to meet our own political ends and try, instead, to analyse motivation?

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m not defending the statement, I despise the sentiment unequivocally, I despise the simple departure from an evident truth. But what interests me is motivation…this man is, whether you like it or not, the spokesperson for an ancient, well disciplined and cultured society. To what end would he utter such fallacy?

Religion or politics? It seems to be a pertinent question. Certainly here in Europe it is more often simply a matter of politics, trust me, we seldom vote with our feet en route to any particular church. It’s a simple truth. In the US I believe that religion has a much stronger influence on people’s daily lives, here less so. (and I understand that each of these statements that I am making at the moment are arguable for decades between dipolar exponents of either side of the argument, this is simply my perspective which in its way is a case in point). But that influence has a cost too. For every moment we step towards any religious idealism, we take a step away from perspective at exactly the same rate. We lose the capacity to see it from another’s perspective. We become fundamentalists.

Or politicians? Or even worse just mules.

Why Iraq, why are our troops dying in Iraq? Why has there been no political analysis of what would happen without Iraq? It’s really very simple. Iran is the single most populace, (and arguably best armed and most cohesive of the all of Arab nations). It’s a nation state like all others, that envys power, and nearby the oil rich sates of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates hold the promise of incredible wealth – hence power – hence influence.

And what was in the way? Our dear Saddam. We invaded once and tried pass along the message. Stay real, stay within bounds, don’t draw too much attention attention to yourself and you can be as despotic as you like – because you serve a purpose, you are the no man’s land between Iran and the South. But unfortunately he, as is the wont of puppets, forgot who was pulling his strings. He was safe, it would have taken Iran so long to fight their way through Iraq that we would have been there in numbers before they could pose a real threat on Saudi Arabia, bui he made such headlines as no longer could be ignored.

And so we invented WOMD and now we have to be there instead. And we can never leave in the foreseeable future because the threat will not abate, and we need the compliance of the oil rich states for our political future.

So why would M. Ahmadinejad say the things he does?

Let’s not discount the possibility that he is a religious fanatic, though Islam does not teach the brutality of mind that he is cultivating at present. But it’s not likely is it? Anybody capable of ruling a nation is generally quite capable of rational thought and ipso facto, self preservation, which implies a sophisticated knowledge of politics.

Islam and Christianity are not so far apart (there’s another one of those statements, go and do you own research). Neither advocates violence or intolerance. But either in the right conditions may be used to political ends. It’s a matter of strategy, in a way it is exactly what Hitler did. Take a people who feel down trodden, done to, whilst those around them are enjoying great riches (the Saudi’s, the UAE), and inculcate in them a belief that they are chosen, being tested somehow….fundamental religious constructs are more powerful in this respect than Hitler’s arianism but the mechanism is the same.

That through belief all things are possible. These are good people, honest god fearing people, who simply believe that they have not reached their equilibrium on earth (or will in heaven) because they have been beguiled by the skills of a politician during hard circumstances.

And then all you require is a common enemy. Zion. To provide the possibility of self righteous indignation from any crowd that you speak to.

(Israel is not perfect, as often the aggressor as the recipient. It IS a false state too, it is a political whim to sate the guilt of all of those nations who had the opportunity to decide the boundaries of the new world following the war. Palestinians WERE displaced, and a completely incongruous religion-that-was -not-beforehand-ever-a-nation was seated astride the single most diversely revered city on earth, Jerusalem. And then defended, paternally and politically, by those who had made that decision – you and me folks. Just some perspective, none of us a free of guilt.

There is a historical parallel in the creation of Yugoslavia after at the end of the first World War. Where Croatians and Bosnians had lived in harmony facing each other and trading at the point where the Holy Roman Empire met the Eastern Roman Empire, albeit with empirically different cultures and beliefs….until the moment that they were forced to become a nation, at the behest of a politically ‘neater Europe’. And we all know the atrocities that were conducted there under the auspices of "racial cleansing" and the personal influence of Slobodan Milosovic).

And there we have the entire recipe. A disenchanted people who’s better understanding of their own religious precepts has been undermined by political machination, given a common enemy – Israel – that they will fight to the point of war to drive home this obvious truth to their neighbours of the same faith. And an Israel supported by the US and ourselves, further demonised because we are religious and power mad interlopers is too much to bear. We have news papers and are stupid enough to believe them - but tell me where their alternate opinion might find any kind of congress?

They would drive down into Saudi Arabia full of religious fervour, as saviours of the faith to open the Saudi’s eyes – to drive out the Infidel, to cast out the shadows from their eyes, and thus fulfil the political objectives of those few who perverted the soul of reasonable and peaceful people.

In my opinion….

Please don't misunderstnad, I am not against the war in Iraq, I'm simply trying to understand the reason why our soldiers are dying there along with those who wish to live their daily lives and practice their religion peacefully. I refuse to believe the simplistic and sensatioalist fodder that we are offered by the media. In it's own way it is as subversive as the poison being spread by Iranian fundamentalists. We are intelligent, we can make sophisticated decisions and form our own opinions and I find it grotesque that we are fed with a diet that is tantamount to propaganda.

We're blessed with the ability to openly discuss this, unlike our counterparts who live in less liberal societies. Let us not waste the opportunity, provide us with historical and political background so that we can better understand the principle that takes us to war - let us all be clear that we desire to combat tyranny, not subvert the religious beliefs of another nation. Because if we don't do this, if we continue to write what we write in the press and say in the news - which is accessible to the political spin doctors of the would be tyrants, then our words and naive opinions will be used against us, and we will be made to appear as oppressors and overzealous children with guns but no understanding.

Our politicians and media need to treat us with the respect that our intelligence and democracy deserve. We are perilously close to aiding and abetting the political aims of dictators, not by doing the wrong thing - but by doing the right thing but appearing to do it for the wrong reasons.

Please, please ask questions of anything that you read in the news

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

what's in a word?

I’m in a very good mood for some obscure reason, a random good mood. It’s been like this all day, not even the gimp (my idiot colleague) could spoil it. He is still networking all over the place, machinating, climbing and obsequiously conniving to make his way up the ladder. We sit only a few feet away and in these few months I have learnt the signals that prelude one of his little assaults on my sensibilities…there’s a sigh, and he’ll push back on his chair, lean backwards and stare at me. I’ll carry on doing whatever it is that I’m doing until he begins his little well rehearsed speech. It’s almost always an idea, almost always in a loud voice when one of the partners is passing by, and it almost always involves him forming a little team, a posse, to investigate the potential. And it’s not the outcome that matters, it’s his apparent leadership that is an objective in itself…

Which is absolutely fine, except that I don’t particularly relish being one of his stepping stones. And we are a small company, two partners, myself, my gimp and several sales people and half a dozen other employees. We discuss our ideas openly, we develop them as we work, it’s not a deliberate act, it’s a simple way of life, the good ideas are incorporated, the rest are chaff…

The gimp has brought himself to a battle woefully under armed, but he does have guile and stamina, sufficient to make him an utter pain in the arse.

But today it was all water of duck’s back, and I’m sorry to say that I simply couldn’t resist calling to the partners “are you busy?, #### has an idea!!” as soon as gimp said to me, “I have an idea….”. And we all gathered round to listen to some half baked plan. It wasn’t a moment to relish, in fact it was really quite embarrassing, but it might keep him quiet for a few days… that I can enjoy my good mood.

On a completely different note, serendipity, how odd that I should be in bed at the moment, writing this and watching “The Thomas Crown Affair” in the background on tv. I know that won’t mean much to any of you but trust me, it is very odd. (That’s an excellent love scene by the way, Rene Russo really is incredibly (I want to say toey for some reason) sexy?).

So, in the spirit of good moods, a game you might want to play: The idea is really very simple, you just come up with an alternative meaning for an existing word. We (friends) have a little email circle that we send these to occasionally on an ad hoc basis when something occurs to one of us. They include:

Patio Doors - an Irish Carpenter’s wife
Mastiff - a lot of boys at a Brittany Spears concert (think about it)
Hullabaloo - correct way to greet a cartoon bear
Custard - what you say when you step in some
Proctor - a religious bottom doctor
Loophole - a very long lavatory brush
Geranium! - the war cry of a gay red Indian war party
Dilatory - sexually assault a conservative member of parliament
Epoxy - bad news for your friend at the genito-urinary clinic
Speculate - contemplate a visit to the gynaecologist

If you think you’d like to play, just pass on the idea and an invitation to others (with a mention if you are inclined), and ten more ‘new’ words on your web site, and let me know you've put them there please - so I can share them with my friends.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

some enchanted evening

It’s been a very strange few days…

Do you ever get those little cataclysmic periods that convince you that it would be a lot safer to make a flask of tea and some sandwiches and retire to bed for the week? (I would have considered that as a viable option at one point but you will find out why it wasn’t such a good idea in a moment or two).

It all started out quite gaily enough. I’ve started to play hockey again, I’m okay so long as I concentrate and feel better for the exercise. I never could just sit there and wait to feel better….I feel so bloody, sedentary, potato like, I’d much rather see if I can do something.

And after playing the beer always tastes better, and in the evening, after the game, I went to a birthday party. It had a cowboy theme, and a lot of the guests had actually made the effort to turn up in chaps and Stetsons, spurs and lots of leather….and some of the men dressed up too! (it looked rather like a Village People video). But la piece de resistance was the mechanical bull. Bulls in any form are not a thing we see very often in our neck of the woods…unless it’s being discreetly slaughtered in the car park of the Halal butcher on Bounces Road, but I digress.

It had to be done, didn’t it? No self respecting man can see his friends being liberally tossed at a party without wanting to join in?

My 43 seconds of madness came to an abrupt end in the corner of the room, under a half collapsed table, who’s legs, mercifully, were intended to fold under for storage. As is my wont, I’m sure it has something to do with streamlining, I flew arrow like and head first to meet my destiny with said table legs. We all agreed that I was lucky to only chip a tooth.

Have you ever wondered where the phrase “don’t you have any bloody homes to go to”? came from? I know I do. It’s going to be my catch phrase for a while. I’m not sure what it is about my place, perhaps it’s the fact my friends feel comfortable here in the belief that they can’t possibly make a mess, or the fact that I become lugubrious and relatively philanthropic with my wine after I’ve had a few drinks…but we always seem to decant to chez zoo if they feel that there’s more party to squeeze out of the night.

Which would be fine, well not fine –but not too awful, except that it’s such a clutter in the morning. Stepping over dead bodies, and fighting for a little quality bathroom time. Trying to find the dogs amongst the human detritus and separating them from pizza boxes and whatever else your friends decided they might like to eat after you dozed off.

Having said that it’s usually quite civilised. Everyone muck’s in and helps to tidy up, and to be honest by the time they’ve finished my friend’s wives and girlfriends have usually given the place something tantamount to a spring clean. Except for this weekend, it seemed as if a kind of viral, almost Biblical, plague of bodily dysfunction had visited us while we slept.

We are grown ups, we have fun and we get, occasionally rather drunk. Then we sit and play silly games, good humouredly, en masse and then we fall down and go to sleep.

On this Saturday two people felt it necessary to vomit. One of them was apparently busy missing the toilet by a full yard when the other entered the bathroom and was left with no alternative but to utilise the bath. They must have kept each other company honking and hooting for quite a while (from the sheer quantity of technicolour yawn that they produced….and left behind!!) before shaking hands on a job well done and taking themselves off to their eventual repose on the sofa or floor…they wouldn’t fit in the bed, they don’t know how lucky they were.

The bed was occupied quite early on by, we will call them Lightweight and the Waterboy to save face, though goodness knows why, I actually considered having posters made on Sunday morning. Lightweight tells me that Waterboy sometimes gets a little disoriented when he sleeps in a strange bed. Now I’ve known this particular ‘Aquarian’ for a lot longer than Lightweight even though they have been married for 2 years, I know for a fact that “disoriented” is an inadequate term for what Waterboy gets when he’s had too much to drink….hence “you’re welcome to use my bed” seemed like a good idea at 3am.

Not so at 9am the following day. It appears that Lightweight suffers from chronic spontaneous combustion, and that Waterboy selflessly tried to extinguish her by using the only liquid to hand (literally)…or he’d had that “thank God I made it to the toilet dream”….or, he had indeed made it to the toilet only to find it occupied by regurgitating were-geese, and decided in a drunken stupor that the bed was a viable option.

To be fair to the girl, Lightweight did her very best to cover for him, some dreadfully half arsed story about making a cup of tea and then spilling it….and to be fair to Waterboy too, he came clean, as it were, when I asked him if he had peed in the kettle as well.

But, as I said we are all friends, and we all mucked in, some more sheepishly than others, to clean the debris out of the loo and the “tea” stains off the bedding…and then we all went out to breakfast.

Where, incidentally, we found out that we had slept through the largest explosion in Europe since the second world war. We were 10 miles away, and it woke people up in Holland.

Which is nice?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

turning tea into wine...

This is my winter coat. Not the overcoat, the Shirley Temple and facial hair, it protects my delicate skin from the ravages of winter.

Home sweet home. I managed to get a flight back that allowed me to pick up the boys from the kennels, so we've walked and chatted about what they got up to over the last few days, "ruffle scruffle, gggggrrrrreowww" said Charlie. I've no bloody idea what it all means but he seemed pleased. The overwhelming impression I get is that they did their best to find anything that was rotting, or unusually foul smelling and roll around in it.

Apart from the general wellbeing of having a personal bum shaped dent in the sofa, and knowing how to work the shower controls the whole coming home thing was a bit lack luster . Two wet, smelly dogs, luggage, a dark landing an inordinate amount of post for just a few days. I've just found another reason to celebrate too, not only am I a zoo keeper, I'm a museum curate too.

I swore ages ago that every time I bought a new article of clothing I would throw one away. Somebody once described to me a very sensible rule, if you haven't worn it for twelve months, then it's unlikely that you will ever wear it again. It's true, but I am a hoarder. I was really hoping that those stripey nylon tank tops would come back into fashion.....but the beans certainly won't. I should have applied a similar rule to my kitchen cupboards you see. I've been a bit negligent on the shopping front, and while I remembered to pick up the bare essentials like bread and milk on the way home, I forgot that my place was in a state of victular negligence that would have shocked Old Mother Hubbard.

There was however a tin of beans in the cupboard, behind a rather tatty and ancient looking packet of Ryvita. Actually lets discuss the contents of the cupboard, just for context: Ryvita, coffee, tea, lemon tea, green tea, Lea & Perrins sauce, a torch, a can of chick peas, two tins of tuna, tomato ketchup, a roll of tin foil, a packet of soluble aspirin and some vitamin C tablets that are now welded into one very large vitamin C tablet that is too big to exit the container....and a can of baked beans. And I have bread, and butter in the fridge, and a very passable bottle of Valpolicella, in other words...the gastronomic world is my oyster.

On the first crank of the can opener the bean tin let out an audible sigh, the sigh associated with the opening of ancient sarcophagi, or perhaps Pandora's box. I bent down to take a closer look which was a huge mistake, trust me, as it brought my olfactory senses in to play as well. Try to imagine conducting a post mortem on a large animal whose staple diet is cabbage, that died three or four weeks ago, and has lain in a nice sunny spot ever since....your first incision into the gut will give you some idea of the fug that escaped the tin. The fact that I needed to use the can opener in the first place probably should have been an indicator - most tins are 'conveniently' fitted with a stiff little ring pull now that allow you to open the jugular of anyone standing behind you as the lid suddenly gives way with a flourish?

But there, on the lid was a date stamp, which ended in "93". Lummee!! twelve year old beans, Lawks a mercy!!

(Sorry I'm going to stop for a moment to laugh at Toffee, he's absolutely zonked out on their sofa, obviously chasing something in his dreams. His legs are going and his nose is twitching, and he's grumbling and much so that he's given me a real fit of the giggles).

Anyway, to my shame, I held the offending can at arms length, not daring to breath in and opened the back door and flung it as far as I could....into the bushes around the garages at the end of the garden. If I see a fox with dysentery over the next few days I will be filled with remorse.

On an entirely different note, I think I may have decided what to do with New Year. Riga, Latvia, to be precise. Why?

Why not?

A brief trip to Berlin reminded me how much I like to party. It's my party trick, as it were. And if nothing else Berlin is full of the most outlandish night clubs. There appear to be more gay people than pigeons, cross dressing and bondage is almost de rigeur, "Cabaret" really does still exist from smokey jazz bars to art decco and poetry appreciation societies sipping coffee and absinthe...something for everyone, including voyeurs and private dancers like me. (I like to dance, but I don't want to embarrass anyone else by association, so I just get on with it on my own - actually, put like that, it resembles my sex life).

Now a word to the wise. It's cold, very, very chilly, chillier than a polar bears bottom in a cold snap, icy in fact. Take a cab. Don't do what I did. Don't have a shower and then immediately walk out of the hotel into the night to look for a good time and the warm lights of the basement bars and clubs in the alleys and back streets...

...or you will arrive like I did, unable to make any facial expression other than surprise because your hair is frozen solid on your head.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

infamy, infamy....

they've all got it infamy.

Two days in seasonally soggy, desperately festive, manic Berlin.

With an internet connection as useful as a wireless lettuce leaf.

Deep joy, ho bloody ho.....

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

don't try this at home....

A few small notes:

“dial emma” from the previous post…”dilemma” (please?)

and in my profile…this was supposed to be a picture of Charlie, because for ages I had a photo of Toffee there. Now I suppose everyone thinks I’m a dog.

So, how was your day? Honky dory? Smashing, mundane or really quite bad?

Want to play one-upmanship?

I just set fire to my pubic hair.

Accidentally of course, I don’t mind a little pain, but if it’s anything too intense I prefer other people to wear it.

There’s a coal effect gas fire in the living room. It’s more for ambience than heat because the central heating is on most of the time at this time of year. (I’m just setting the scene). So I came in from our walk, and the usual routine is to chage into some floppies – old baggy track suit bottoms and floppy t-shirt. Except this evening, in the nuddy, I decided to light the fire in the living room. The button is on the bottom of the fire, you have to hold it in for a little while, release a little gas (the fire not me) and then in theory the pilot light lights the fire and voila!!

This entails squatting. And I think I held the button in for too long, because when I let go a plume of ignited gas nestled directly in my…lap.

There was a crackling noise, like dry leaves on a bonfire, and a bright red flame engulfed my bits. (And a horrible smell! – those are ‘ketones’ by the way folks, I didn’t get a degree in organic chemistry for nothing (I got it so that if I ever go blind I will still know that the cat is on fire) ).

Shock is a more immediate reaction than reason, so I promptly fell backwards and beat the area with both hands – adding a kind of pubic toothache to the stinging sensation.

I’ve checked out the results in the bathroom. It’s not a pretty sight. I know it’s HNT tomorrow, but I don’t think this is the right place, there are probably specialist sites for that sort of photograph.

The area is largely deforested. I’ve singed my old chap and quite possibly bruised him too. It looks as if my willy has spent a night in a cell with Rambo, and called him a “nancy boy”.

My mother always told me to wear clean undercrackers in case I get run over….if I get knocked down tomorrow how will explain this?

I don't suppose there are any volounteers to kiss....

er, no

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

dial emma

Toffee's bored...

I'm not. I have shiny boxes, 3 of them, wrapped in silver gift paper.

And instructions not to open them for a very long time.

Down boy....

Monday, November 28, 2005

dulce et decorum est

that we change with time.

That we change so slowly that we don’t even understand the nature of the change, it is gradual, insipient. We don’t stand far enough away from ourselves to observe it.

One of our evening soirees takes us past a tiny stone church and cemetery, it borders the park on a square for almost half a mile, separated only by a low wall. At 7.30 these days it is pitch, and tonight there is a steady biting wind, the trees overhead bend and susserate in low voices, skeletal viola’s played by the bow of the icy air. A night of runny noses and wind whipped leaf devils, and apparently no one else.

We follow the wall, the boys snuffling amongst the low grass and I stare at the grave stones standing in irregular rank and file just a few feet away. There’s a low hedge running like a dark ribbon amongst the stones and here and there the midnight mushrooms of rowans and weeping willows betwixt and between the larger lozenge shapes of larger family tombs.

And there’s a flicker of light, just a few yards back, at the base of a larger head stone. A will ‘o the wisp of tiny pale light in the dark and the wind. It’s only a dozen feet away, and I’m curious, I slide over the wall to take a closer look leaving the dogs to their own devices for a minute or two. Just a few steps in it’s obvious that the light is a candle, in a beaker with a lid, like a storm lantern. Whoever tends this grave has seen fit to mark this day by lighting a candle, to what end I don’t know because the light of the candle isn’t sufficient to read the name of whoever lies there, or the dates to see if this is an anniversary.

I don’t feel irreverent. Neither for feeling curious or for stepping over the nameless inhabitants of the ground below to sate my curiosity. And it suddenly occurs to me that I don’t feel in the least bit unsettled by being alone, by the light of a fluttering candle, kneeling by a grave in the venerable shadow of an elderly church on a cold blustery night.

It wouldn’t always have been like this. I have been for as far as I can remember, scared of the dark. More so indoors than outdoors, I would lie in bed in the dark and pull in my hands and feet lest something touch them in the night, but nevertheless scared of what might remain in the dark when the light fled. (I think I had very good reason too, but they’re different stories).

So back over the wall I went a whistling, and groaning as it happened as my legs aren’t quite long enough to reach the ground on both sides and I rocked momentarily on parts of me that weren’t designed as load bearing members.

With the wind gratefully to my back we continue our circuit, all three of us chasing shadows in our own way. The manner of the change isn’t difficult to understand, in fact it’s very obvious. Quite simply I am not scared of death anymore. It holds none of the unspoken, vague but terrible dread of youth. It simply is. A practicality. The people in the ground are no longer a horrifying alien species, but now a mundane reminder of what we all will become, they’ve lost their power by dint of their sheer numbers and the certain boring fact that I will join them one day.

I swear that if a sepulchral figure were to trouble me one night in bed, that I would now simply tell it to “fuck off, I’ve got be up early in the morning”.

No, these days I have substituted these night fears for day fears instead. No fear of the grim reaper lives here, just a more languid, insipient fear. The fear of living.

The fear of fear itself almost. The fear of choice, for isn’t that what life is? A myriad opportunities every single day to make choices. I don’t know about your life any more than you know about mine, but every single day I have the opportunity to stand up and be counted, to do things that will change my life perhaps only fractionally but for the better. I can do anything that I want to do within the constraints of my imagination. I can speak to whomever I please, live where and how I like, keep my peace or say my mind….

In theory.

I don’t wish to be afraid. I don’t wish to let the future make choices for me, I want to make choices for my future and then live by them. Mostly I don’t wish to believe that that I have to make perfect choices, that the next choice is the only and final one. Fear of consequence , of some possible, frightful outcome, becomes an inability to choose at all, denies what might be, a small but very real death.

It sounds grandiose I know. In fact it sounds ridiculous even to me. In so much as the consequences of any choice rarely impact just on oneself.

It’s been a stated ambition of mine for a long time now to find a place, a perfect selfish place, where I have no impact on anyone else’s life. I know it’s something I can do, and I’ve come a very long way down that road.

All I need to do is be firm, or invest in a really sharp spade and a tarpaulin.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

dinner anyone?

I've begun to feel persecuted by the faceless strategists who dictate my shopping experience in supermarkets.

Because they do.

They analyse my spending, my post code (zip I believe), they know where I've come from and will travel to, how much I am likely to spend and in what aisles, they even know my bibbledy bobbledy route around their grand maze. Somebody out there is keeping a keen eye on my preference for loo roll and how many tins of tuna I buy in one go (completely unrelated incidentally).....there's a computer programme running somewhere that could probably predict what this little fish will buy on any particular shopping trip. I am that predictable.

So why do they keep moving items from one aisle to another? My favourites spend three happy months in one place and are then shunted to some obscure corner elsewhere so that I have to hunt them down. Of course I understand why it's done, so that I'm introduced to bits of this monolithic grocery that I wouldn't normally pass through...presumably I will suddenly realise that my life before sanitary towels has been futile, now that they've been drawn to my attention by mixing them in with my usual brand of shaving foam. It's subtle on most occasions, it's not as if the tomato's have been placed next to the dog food, although that would probably suit me as I generally need both, but it's manipulative.I understand why it's being done, what the generally strategy is, I just don't want to feel like a white mouse pushing a trolley, or Hercule Poirot, searching for the hidden gravy granules.

I've taken to picking up a few of the items that I want, and returning them to the shelf that they used to occupy to help the next one or two people in a similar predicament who come along behind me. Except that no one in their right minds will pick them up, I certainly wouldn't. You've got to be bonkers to pick up a lonely tin of haricot beans mixed in with the chick peas, what kind of loon would do that? (It could be booby trapped). (Actually I'm often very amused by the 'swapsies' that people have obviously done as they make progress round the store. You can see the single tub of butter amongst the olive oil rich spread where some one has succumbed to guilt or peer group pressure. Or fresh veg, personally bagged, in amongst tins of beans, yoghurt in the ice cream freezer, and a whole chicken slyly substituted for a leg of lamb in the meat cooler. I find it quite warming, it's somehow submersive).

On a tangent….choice….I give you choice, or rather we’re given choice on a fantabulous grandiose scale. Especially in toiletries it appears, how in hell’s name am I supposed to choose the perfect combination for my oral hygiene from amongst 32 separate kinds of toothbrush and 27 brands of toothpaste (with 8 varieties of mouthwash thrown in just to complicate things). And eggs, the ubiquitous egg, in all it’s many guises, from the “we think this came from a chicken, or all least some battery shaped morph of the chicken family” to the apparently exquisite version delivered by “a deliriously happy semi wild fowl, recently rogered by a free range cock”.

What I particularly don't like is "two for one" bloody offers. For goodness sake, don't these people realise that we are in London, which probably has the largest proportion of single flat dwellers in Europe. Don't they realise that "2 for sodding " 1 is a form of persecution. It's not as if it is precisely two for one either, it's as likely as not two packs for one. Two packs of eight frigging sausages, two large bags of crispy leaf salad (read liquid leaf salad for the second bag by the time you get around to it), two large pizza's, the biggest damn loaf in the world and it's twin brother...there seems to be no concession to a) the available space that I have at home, and b) the need that I feel to vary my diet occasionally during the course of a week (ooh, I know I'll eat chicken livers all week, because they're on snotting offer).

Now if they were to extend this courtesy to obvious essentials like wine and aspirin I might be less aggravated.

I've been thinking of ways I might get my own back, I quite like the idea of buying the vegetables but not putting them in the bags, 5 potatoes, six tomatoes, twelve satsumas, umpteen brussel sprouts....and maybe indulge myself in some of those nice seedless grapes....and passing them over in no particular order at the check out.

Actually it reminds me of a joke, about a young lady who arrived at the check out with a small carton of milk, half a cucumber, two tomatoes in a bag, a tiny piece of cheese, a single can of coke and an individual yoghurt, "Do you live alone?", said the young chap behind the counter as he passed her purchases through the register. She joined in with the obvious joke and smiled, and said "yes I do, what gave it away?". "Because you're bloody ugly", he said.

Tonight I’m having salmon fish cake sandwiches because I bought a pack of eight of the wretched things “on offer”.

Friday, November 18, 2005

pucker up

I haven't been kissed on New Year's eve for years (on any eve or morn for that matter).

And I haven't been to Alabama or Georgia yet.

I can't help making the association, it must be that all of the less discerning, 'ladies who spontaneously kiss strangers at the turn of the year' must live in the southern states?

I do enjoy an anymous good time, and it's my plan to put on my black tie and slip in through the back door of a party, and lie low - there's nothing better than being among a crowd of people who are enjoying themselves without being noticed. And then offer my kiss to anyone (feminine) who looks a little lost at 11.59pm.

Seems like a good idea to me, unless any of you know better.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

body warmth

I switch off the heating when I go out in the morning, and I used to wonder if the guys got cold while I was out. I think this answers that little conundrum quite eloquently.

I’m sorry I haven’t written anything for a while, and embarrassed that it’s been the cause of any concern, but I am very, very grateful for the kind comments.

So, by way of explanation….there’s not much to say really. It’s just that I’ve lost some articulation in my fingers. Writing is quite a painstaking exercise at the moment. At the best of times I’m a two fingered typist, and now those two fingers are sulking. On the bright side, having effectively dumbed down, my hands are running at a similar pace to my brain, which is a first, as I’m used to them ostensibly doing things of their own volition and then catching up with the consequences later.

It’s something I can live with in any case, I mean at worst I’m going to have to give up my embroidery? Or possibly sell the unused painting by numbers sets on ebay? Well bugger me, life is truly over.

Seriously, I have an appointment to see a neurologist in the new year, and then, when he’s looked for any suspicious bumps on my bottom he’ll make up his mind about the necessity for scanning, shrinking or pickling. Which I see as a good sign as it’s certainly not that serious then?

In other far more exciting news, I seem to be having the best dreams of late. You know the kind of dreams that are, quite literally, memorable? Some of them are bizarre, off the wall, fantastical, journey oriented, through mazes of alley ways and dark passageways under heavy tall, dripping buildings, a la Ridley Scott. This is a starting point, in a variation of this one of these buildings houses my flat which is truly huge, modern in a Spartan way, and it’s full of my friends who are deeply impressed with this warehouse come living area. (I say friends, but at least in my dreams the characters are populated by people who I know from other contexts – the postman is suddenly my best friend, the lady in the dry cleaners is in a mini skirt dancing in my imaginary kitchen and I’m sure I saw ex Pope John Paul skulking around by the fridge – probably looking for the crème de menthe). But the best ones are the ones that culminate in my ex’s begging me to take them very roughly on the larder floor (the bean bag, over the kitchen sink, IN the freezer – and once, oddly, in bed). By the way, if any one out there knows the meaning of these dreams, please don't tell me.

I’ve woken up in quite a lather, they are so, vivid. I couldn’t make up better dreams, and I want the moments between the alarm going off and the eventual hauling of my lazy arse out between the sheets to last as long as possible – because that’s where dreams live? In those blissful moments between sleep and waking? I’ve not had dreams this exciting since I was 15. (I once emerged from under my sheets on a Sunday morning, after indulging myself in my futile passion for the French student at the stables (her name was Abigail and she was 18, hence as distant to me as Kuala Lumpur), to find a steaming hot cup of tea on my bed side table – to this day I still hope that my mother imagined that I was petting the cat under the sheets, or I’d taken up blind origami).

It’s all a bit sordid, (at least I didn’t make any allusions to the benefits of numb fingers?) I know, sorry. All I’m saying is, that if the dreams are in any way connected with the other symptoms, I think it’s a reasonable trade for the moment.

Friday, November 11, 2005

more cabbage anyone?

Hurrah, we have a name for it...a latin phrase no less, but disappointingly not an 'ology.

Upon reviewing the symptoms and my notes my quack has reached his considered opinion. He's a gem my doctor, one of the old school, Dr MacFadzean, who keeps a bottle of scotch in his top drawer. He smokes like a trooper and comfortingly forgets one's name, he blames the worlds ills on junk food and lack of exercise and is as gloomy as a winter sky over Rannock Moor.

He thinks that the headaches are a symptom of 'dementia pugilistica', which was made all the more thrilling delivered as it was in a gravelly Sots accent, "Aye laddie, ye have a wee spot of bother with your noggin".

Apparently the effects of concussion are cumulative!! I didn't know that, but I have proof now, as I have a little card which I should put into my wallet that says something along the lines of "please look after this bear"...(oops, wrong one), "if you should see this person lying down in an unusal place please don't assume he's blind drunk, even if you do know him".

I'd always assumed that because one's head is hard and conveniently situated, that it could be used as a kind of bony shield to protect the rest of your body from injury. It's proved very servicable in this capacity, so far it has deflected hockey balls, various roads that would have made mincemeat out of more fleshy parts of my body. My head has been succesfully applied as a buffer whilst careering down the stairs on the ironing board, used as a musical instrument, been struck fairly and squarely by thrown crockery, struck repeatedly by a high heeled shoe and once, dramatically stopped a falling icycle from piercing my body and coming out of my bottom. In terms of it's ability to "get in the way" it's been a very good head, even if it is looking a little ramshackle these days.

Other than that it's hardly been used.

Dr MacDeath is adamant that I should have taken better care of it, that people were not intended to use their heads in the same way as "rutting he goats" (his words not mine, but doesn't it conjure up a lovely image?). On reflection I had to agree that it's a bit of a patch work quilt now, and we went through my notes thoroughly, (he never offers me a scotch!), and I added a few other un logged incidents to the equation - like the time that I forgot I was in the top bunk, and the man who mistakenly punched me in the chip shop in Wigan.

The last is probably the most apt as I am, punchy that is. Apparently that's what 'dementia pugilistica' means, literally 'punch drunk'. I never thought that I would be in such esteemed company as Mohammed Ali, Sonny Liston and Rocky Balboa.

I have to go for a scan, which is ace, very exciting as I've always wanted to see the inside of one of those machines, though I suppose they'll probably put me in it upside down and arse first if they are looking for my brain.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

the King's new clothes

I have a theory.

There's is a precedent, I did have another which I elaborated on over time and crystallised, and eventually presented to a plenary session of the British Entomological and Natural History Society, which has now become established scientific fact. It was entitled "Brontosauruses were thin at one end, got thick in the middle, and then thin again at the other end".

My theories are based on a level of observational acuity normally only associated with pipistrelle bats.

(May I tell a joke here? Two vampire bats are hanging from the cave roof. One says to the other, "I'm starving" and flies off. Ten minutes later he's back with his face covered with blood. "Blimey" says the other, "that looks good, where did you go", The first bat points a claw towards the mouth of the cave, "do you see that tree there?"...."no"....."well neither did I")

Anyway, about my theory. If you are reading this in the US of A at the moment you are currently being under whelmed by a visit from the most un engaging of Royal couples Charles and Camilla. The two separate halves of a pantomime horse, I'll let you decide which is the head and which the arse.

My theory concerns Charles, and it is very simple. I would like to make a proposition, that Charles is gay.

It's really very obvious.

He certainly wouldn't be the first member of the Royal family or British aristocracy to be homosexual (or mad for that matter). However in this day and age, where we are proud of our liberalism, we actually have a far more prejorative attitude to sex in some guises than that perhaps we might have had several hundred years ago. A complicating factor is the Royal family's relationship with the Church (or rather Churches of England (or better yet, the diverse religions of the UK)). Figuratively the Queen, or King, is the head of the Church of England. There is no consensus of opinion on the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality in ecclesiastic circles, and if there is a growing acceptance now it is probably more to do with the political will of the pastoral arm of the Church who can ill afford to alienate a significant proportion of an already dwindling congregation. Be that as it may, if that is the situation now, then 30 years ago it would have been far more burdensome for the Church to accept grace and favour in the future from an openly homosexual King.

It's my belief that an agreement was negotiated between the Court of St James and Lambeth Palace to the effect that the Prince of Wales might accede to the throne, but only if he publicly adopted the role of a family man, as 'befitting' a Royal role model and future representative of the Church. Never forgetting also that the Royal family would not have been thrilled with the prospect of unveiling a spare "Queen", having regained some of the groundswell of popular opinion during the war years that had been lost by the abdication of Edward VIII.

This may sound draconian to you and I, but the Royals are, or were at least, made from sterner stuff. Denying one's sexuality for the "common good" may have been proposed to Charles and accepted as the noble choice.

Which would mean that his marriage to Diana was a sham. And it is very likely that Diana was complicit in the sham. After all, it wouldn't do to be outed by one's wife? It would be much more sensible to appeal to a sensible yet impressionable young lady, impart a sense of national security, the future of the monarchy - whilst holding out discreetly the charms of being the Princess of Wales. Given the right candidate it may have been hard to refuse. And it is no surprise that the marriage was fruitful, it was necessary for both the portrayal of normal family life and, of course, to provide a route for a natural succession to the throne.

All of which went horribly wrong as the fair Princess discovered with time the extent of the onerousness of a loveless marriage, the strictures placed on her by the Court and the incredible pressure exerted by the press. There would be no Royal concubine for Diana, no comfort, except for her children, no respite and no place to hide from the paparazzi. However, the Court had succeeded in as much as she was complicit from the beginning, and of good stock, then her only route of escape was probably blocked by her own pride - although maybe it came close? (I have no secondary theory on the manner of Diana's death, no conspiracy theory at least, it would be preferable to imagine that it was a tragic accident - if a timely one for the Windsors).

So my theory is that, if Camilla is not actually a man, then she is Charles's confidante. She knows, and she is his best friend. He shall not now be King, too much controversy surrounds his relationship with Diana, and he has probably been offered a new deal, to keep his peace, enjoy his 'retirement' and ensure the eventual succession of his children.

So give him a wave if you see him, but not a wink, because he might take that the wrong way.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

I'm going to try a large vodka tonight

I’m dying, I’m almost sure of it.

That’s probably because I’m a man, and it hurts a little bit. It’s a well known fact that men have a lower threshold for pain than women, let’s face it if the act of childbirth were left to us then the world would be a far less populace place – I tried pushing a lightly moistened fist up my nose once and I have to say I didn’t like it at all.

I’ve been plagued by headaches for the past week and they seem to be getting progressively worse. Not that I’m a stranger to headaches, they’re a lifestyle event, but usually my breakfast diet of two aspirin a coffee and half an ounce of toothpaste does the trick in a jiffy. That and the simple fact that the boys can’t (but I sometimes think wilfully won’t feed themselves – they can open every other bloody door in the place, how hard would it be to get at the sack of dog food in the cupboard – or for that matter put the sodding kettle on for once in their lives), so life is a matter of prerogative, in as much as if I don’t function, we don’t function.

But these aren’t the usual morning headaches. I’ve tried all sorts of things, including my own recipes, mixtures of paracetomol, aspirin, ibuprofen shaken and stirred in glasses with whiskey and red wine (a sure fire cure if there ever was one!) and liberal amounts of cerveza, but all to no avail.

On a slight tangent here, have you noticed how you can really get into a good ache or pain. Lying there, especially at night when there’s nothing else to do, no distractions, nothing else but the umbra of pain itself, to be absorbed by the throb…the ebb and tide as it washes in and out with your pulse…last night I would happily have cut my head off with a rubber flip flop if I’d only had the willpower to get out of bed.

Which would all be okay in isolation. But more worrying, vaguely, if I could concentrate on it would be the increasing number of “moments” that I seem to be losing. I’ve always been a little bit absent minded, it’s a matter of course to make 8 separate trips to the kitchen to enjoy a meal in front of the tv…knife, fork, glass of wine, tv controller (oo, surprise, it’s in the bathroom), bread, switch the cooker off, more wine (I’ve drunk the original one while I was faffing about) and…bugger, the dinner…But, with increasing frequency, I’ve found myself suddenly being in a room without knowing what I’m doing there, or reading a book and “waking up” (that’s the only way I can describe it), as if I’d ‘slipped out’, for a moment – a kind of sleep walking, narcolepsy. Which is nothing more than vaguely disturbing at home, but potentially very embarrassing at work.

On the bright side I might actually spook my gimp! (He’s my colleague if you didn’t already know, a very disturbed bunny wabbit indeed).

On that same bright side, I have removed the ridiculous “phantom of the opera” mask now. So I look almost normal. At least as normal as I did before, which was not a particularly pretty sight but at least no creation of Julian Lloyd Webber, (and I am no longer afraid of Sarah Brightman as I was as a child), just a black eye.

And just to make it a perfect day, I drove to Rugby to go to a meeting. (If after reading the above, you are as nonplussed as I why I chose to drive 100 miles to the meeting, then welcome to my world).
Imagine the world as a great big bottom if you will. And all of the less attractive towns and cities occupying space in the dreadful crevasse of the bum cleft…then Rugby is deep in there, burrowed towards the very botty hole, a virulent speck of puss on a pimple on the arsehole of the world.

I don’t like Rugby.

It always seems as if it’s shut to me. That the people who live there have gone on a budget coach ride to gayer climbs and shut the shops, battened the hatches and taken anything of any value or beauty along for the ride.

So I am happily at home, tucked up in the corner of the sofa, squinting at my key board with my sadly neglected hairy idiots lying across my feet. Which is nice.

I might put off dying until tomorrow.

Friday, November 04, 2005

here's looking at you kid

There’s been a cease fire in the gastrological warfare chez zoo, so in lieu of any more anorexic dog dinners I wanted to think out loud about something that’s been pecking away at me for a while:

What exactly is, “being attractive”?

I’ve read quite a few of those “7 things” and other quizzes that ask people to name the qualities that they find attractive in the opposite sex, and there are answers that you would expect to find – nice hands, confidence, shapely bums and legs and shoulders, tight stomachs and tanned skin. But there are enough quirky answers too, enough to suggest what most people already suspect, that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Maybe we could, with a little help (given a wide enough selection of alternatives), describe our ideal partner. I think that probably most of us have a fairly comprehensive set of criteria already established concerning what we find attractive and distinctly unattractive. So, given that we are not absolutely all the same, shouldn’t we be out there looking for this identikit, ideal other half? (Obviously there’s one obvious flaw in that plan, in as much as you may very well not be their cup of tea should you find them).

But we don’t do that do we? We have some unfocussed mental image of the person that we are attracted to and then fall head over heals in love with someone that would have ticked very few of the boxes on a questionnaire entitled “ideal partner”. We’ve all had moments where we’ve been introduced to our friend's romantic interest and thought “my word, she’s going out with Uncle Fester”, or made idle chat with your best friend's new girlfriend while thinking that he would have been better off with Lucrecia Borgia.

There’s no doubt that there are some common denominators as far as “attractive" people are concerned, those whom the vast majority (of sighted people) would agree are “top totty”. They are the clause written in to relationships, by which I mean that if I were with a very beautiful girl and we were deeply in love, and she came home early one morning and announced that she’d just spent the last four hours being shagged senseless by Brad Pitt I’d have to say “well done!!” without any trace of irony.

However the majority of us poor mortals still manage to fall ridiculously in love and lust with others that we wouldn’t have regarded as an object of desire if they’d been described to us rather than had we met them. (Women especially seem to describe gentleness and sensitivity as a positive attribute in men, and then hormonally throw their knickers and broken heart at an utter bastard).

There are other people too, like Brad Pitt, but unlike him too, that exude a more inexplicable but equally tangible aura of sexuality, iconic people that examined under the magnifying glass of criteria wouldn’t seem to make the grade. Take Marilyn Monroe for example (and name me a man who hasn’t just intentionally misinterpreted that sentence). She was a ‘big’ girl, had a squeaky voice and extremely large feet, she was as thick as you like (no, I’m sure Einstein wasn’t really interested in her for her conversation), and by all accounts moody and easily confused….but attractive? (Rhetorical by the way, of course she bloody well was).

But you know, I don’t expect she felt so for much of her life. She was plunged into society and politics that she didn’t comprehend for much of the time, paraded at parties, put on pedestals and magazine covers and worshipped – and there’s nothing more likely to make you feel unattractive as feeling awkward.

We all come as discreet packages, of physical attributes and personalities. One person’s painful shyness, that makes them quirky and cute, would make another appear futile or stupid. What we seem to find attractive is the ‘whole’ person, the sum of the parts and not just the individual bits they are made of. I wonder how many women are desperately in love with men with dirty fingernails, and how many men agree with their girlfriends that her nose is little bit quirky – but perfect all the same.

So the other side of the coin is what do we feel about our own aptitude to be attractive? You know people and I do too, stunning individuals with wonderful personalities, with wit and charm that make you green with envy, who genuinely don’t think they are attractive? We worry about our weight, height, hair, clothes (!) and that we might be out of our depth – that we might be boring the other person senseless, we are scared that they want to be elsewhere and wish them away so as not to prolong the agony, a self fulfilling wish if ever there was one.

On a personal note I’ve never considered myself “attractive”, there are just so many things wrong, holes and scars and knobbly bits (but I’m not going to list all of the faults, anyone who is interested will have to find out for themselves). Even so, I’ve been held by people who, at least in my estimation, were beautiful (and I thought could have been very much more discriminating). So, without any vanity, at least at that moment, to them, I was – attractive (either that or it was some terrible practical joke that I didn’t understand). And in that case, who am I to argue, that would be silly.

And it’s true, what makes you feel attractive, new hair, new nails, losing weight, good clothes..we all seem to want something that we don’t have? And most of these are temporary fixes. I’d suggest that the only think that makes us feel truly beautiful and wanted is to accept that whatever we are, whatever shape of size or multi-faceted hotchpotch of personality traits, is deemed to ideal by a person that we love and trust.

I’m not suggesting for a moment that is an easy thing to do.

If you are lucky enough to be in the company of someone you love and trust, and are attracted to – then there’s every possibility that you are wondering what the hell it is that they see in you? And that’s the moment where the magic happens, where you let the barriers down and accept that for them, you are the one.

At that moment, try not to sneeze, or fart.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

some enchanted evening

The boys always need a bath when I pick them up from the kennels, especially in the winter, because they absolutely stink. So there’s no harm in taking them out for a big muddy ramble, except of course that I picked them up straight from the office so I’m not really dressed for the elements (and tonight was elemental indeed, gusty winds and driving rain), and the fact that it’s pitch black. But what the hey, I’ll have a bath too?

So we slithered and slimed and hullaballooed our way around the local park, scuffed by twigs and the occasional bush and shed uprooted and whipped along by the wind. And they scrubbed around in the undergrowth, collecting as much as possible in their ears and tails.

This is part of the problem you see. I have the foresight of a gnat. I know that Toffee’s ears and hairy undercarriage are magnets for any flaura with prickles or burrs, they just wrap themselves up in a curl of hair and wait there for the spring to germinate. I know this from experience after having to prune a small briar poking out of his arse earlier this year. But it still feels like a good idea to let them have their fun. So I made allsorts of discoveries as I lathered them up in the bath, and spent an unhappy hour after towelling them with a pair of scissors disengaging sticky bobs from their pits and bits along with a lot of hair that they probably need (you need nail scissors for the tricky bits especially around their unmentionables).

Bathing the dogs entails cleaning the entire bathroom.

And then washing the towels.

And then, mopping down the route that we took into the house.

And, buggeration, I left the bedroom door ajar, and Charlie has introduced himself to the pillows by, upside down rolling around and rubbing the back of his head on them to “scent” them. Which he made a perfect job of, so I changed the bed while I was at it.

Now I’ve just come back from Hamburg. I walked into my front door at 2am this morning after spending the beginning of the week at a conference and “entertaining” clients in the evenings / early mornings. I was in the office early this morning and there’s a pile of laundry, and bags to unpack, and a fine film of dust seems to have settled in just 3 days (I have issues with dust, I seem to have more than my fair share – I think that my place is keeping some other household completely dust free). All of this has been slightly compounded by the fact that I look like the phantom of the opera at the moment, courtesy of a plastic mask which is protecting the socket of my left eye which was fractured by a hockey ball on Saturday. (I’m a lucky boy there, because that’s the one I’m already almost totally blind in). But it is annoying, and I’ve permanent headache, and seem to be mislaying little fragments of time, a minute here or there, over the past few days (I found myself in the gents toilet in a bar in Hamburg standing against the sink still clasping my willy and wondered how I’d made it there from the urinal which was 5 yards away – and I was sober! Anyway, trust me, you don’t want to be seen provocatively posing with your old chap in your hand in ANY public place in Hamburg).

So all in all it’s really not been the best of evenings. It’s compounded by the fact that, almost for the first time I felt quite lonely and morose coming back to an unlit, cold home. I’m not given to loneliness at all, I’ve settled that in my head on the whole and I’m generally quite all right with my own company – except of course I miss the warmth and physical affection, (I’m selfish, but not completely daft!!). But once again I’m lucky in that respect too, because although I’ve had some fairly exhilarating relationships I don’t think I’ve ever had a “soul-mate”, so I don’t know what I’m missing.

But that’s a bit off topic, and I’m too tired for tangents, suffice to say that I feel at a bit of a low ebb. (Vulnerable?).

Nothing that a hot bath, a glass of wine, a bit of Bach and a good book won’t normally fix. (Or even a cheesy baked potato with baked beans at a pinch).

Which was when the vomiting began, when I was running the bath. Jungle noises in the hall. Jurassic sounds, great honks and hoots and rasping shuddering breaths, spittle laden respiration…the call of some disgusting other-nature, right here in my house.

I peered round the corner half expecting to see a yeti vigorously rodgering a gnu with a head cold. In retrospect I think I might have preferred that. The two idiot children were standing side by side in the hallway wracked with gut busting, rib cracking heaves sending gobs of white mucous and knotted undigested grass across the carpets, and up the walls.

They were doing a great job too. They seemed to be taking it in turns, resting, shallow gurgling and panting and then getting a good lungful of with which to shoot the gooey green gobs as far as possible. “Beat that”, “Giz a mo, I’ve got a good ‘un in the pipe”.

I grabbed the wine and a glass from the kitchen counter and sat on the bathroom floor for a good twenty minutes until the noise subsided.

I’ve never been entirely sure why dogs suddenly decide to eat a wild emetic salad – I’m supposing that they know somehow what the consequences are, it’s not as if they’ve any bovine ancestry, they do it to actually make themselves throw up because they’ve eaten something bad (worse!)? But this was like a vomiting version of mass hysteria.

So I spent a happy hour with the disinfectant and a pale of hot water, and the mop, and somehow dinner didn’t seem quite so appealing.

Is it Monday today – I know that God occasionally throws a spare Monday into a week if he needs a laugh.

I wanted to catch up on some correspondence, people I miss and want to talk to, but this is all I have the energy for at the moment, and I want to be better ‘company’ than I feel I could provide right now..

So, nite, nite everyone, sleep tight, I’m going to bed before anything else happens.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

I can sing a rainbow

‘tis my blog so I can bend the rules. “thou shalt not write when thy is triped”, is, I’m afraid, out of the window for tonight. (Although I’m setting off optimistically expecting that I will be able to able to glue this to my blog later).

Anyway, I’ve just had a very ambiguous time, banging off the walls and making cheese on toast that now seems to be made of plasticine, and oddly trying to fold my suit trousers into a neat pile instead of hanging them up….

I don’t know whether this job found me, or I found it, but it’s an unhealthy relationship, like putting Herrod in charge of Mothercare. Just about now I feel like I have something very important to say but I’m trying to articulate it with a head full off mashed potato.

It’s got something to do with connections. Not opposites, I don’t believe in opposites. But I feel again like I’m close to a breakthrough, a moment of clarity, it has something to do with relative levels of hope and disappointment, of guarding and shutting doors and making sure the lights are off, of protection and no investment, of staying within and not straying without, because it’s warm out there and cold in equal measure and…..and of course because I’m drunk. Again. Corporately rat arsed and trying to feed the dogs (here, you have the plasticine on toast I don’t want it). Singing loudly in a field in the dark in my suit, I feel good, and looking up and then sitting suddenly in the mud.

So that’s okay then, clear as dishwater, I’m glad I got that off my chest.

Oh, I wore brown shoes to the City today, and I think they’ve cost me the client despite my bar skills.


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

a clean sheet

My bed is King sized. It’s official. Fact.

Another fact that I learnt tonight is that of all the mattresses in all the world, the one that I desired had to be the most expensive, hundreds of £’s worth of springs and material. Despite the fact that I turn out looking like an extra from Oliver, I appear to have expensive taste. I’m surrounded by the best of everything that I simply can’t afford.

Bear in mind that this was a whim anyway, I’d convinced myself that a new mattress was a good idea, it’s not as if the existing one had started to talk to me or ran off with the wardrobe. So I stood there with that strange mixture of excitement and fear that imbues one when you are about to embark on the adventure of spending a lot of money needlessly….and took one more lap of the shop to make absolutely sure I would do the deed. And in the corner I found mattress pads, guaranteed to transform even the shoddiest, moth eaten bag full of spanners into a blissful nights sleep, at a fraction of the cost of a new mattress. Pasteur must have felt the same way when he discovered penicillin, though probably less smug.

So I’ve treated myself, new pillows, new sheets and duvet cover, and tall thick church candles to read by. I’ve just come home from walking the dogs, it’s 10.30, and I’m excited like a big girl’s blouse at the thought of tucking up in a ‘brand new bed’.

And it’s strange isn’t it, that in a way that’s a meaning of life, it doesn’t matter what a drudge the majority of it is, the key is having something to look forward to. (The only thing that could make it better tonight would be to share the soft cool newness).

I keep looking at Milady’s blog to see if there’s any news.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Monday with the zoo

I was going to buy a new mattress at the weekend, but I was lazy and didn’t get around to it.

So I set off for ye olde bedde shoppe tonight full of purpose and resolve. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, but it was, to find out that they were very well endowed in the mattress department. If they’d had a selection of three mattresses I would have been perfectly fine, but there appeared to be hundreds of them. It’s intimidating isn’t it? Because you don’t want to be seen making eyes at the budget, wouldn’t be seen dead in a prison cell or a hotel in Margate mattress, and by the same token, don’t want to pay over the odds for the Rolls Royce Silver Shadow version. So I made a token gesture of sitting on a few beds, wearing the same face I do in the supermarket when I try to look as if I really do know my avocados.

One of the assistants took pity on me after a while and came over: “Can I help you?” she said. “I’d like to buy a mattress” I replied confidently. “What size?” she asked, “Double” I said, (I really had the trick of this mattress buying malarkey). “King or Queen?”………”I’ll see you tomorrow” I said and slunk off.

So, full of mattress loss, a kind of ‘presque mattress’ I went home and took the dogs to the park.

It’s quite dark for our evening walks now, and it was later tonight so it was quite, quite dark, although in London it never goes entirely pitch even at the dead of night because the sky is suffused with a rosy glow of house and street lights. In one corner of the park there’s a pathway that cuts through, between overhanging trees, from some rather nice houses. There’s a solitary lamp at the park entrance to the pathway and at night it always reminds me of the entrance to Narnia.

Tonight another person was walking a dog in the opposite direction and it was obvious we would meet under the lamp light if we both carried on at the same pace. There’s a protocol here, if the other person hesitates or calls their dog then there’s every chance that they don’t trust their pooch or yours to behave, and it’s as well to detour or delay. But we both walked confidently on, and met under the pool of light.

Under the pool of light, I exchanged “good evenings” with a rather well to do, tweedy and expensive wellie boots looking lady who I supposed lived in one of the big houses down the path. She had an immaculately groomed King Charles spaniel with her, who sat down 6 feet behind her as soon as she stopped. “Dreadful weather isn’t it” she said. “Yes, awful” I offered, “and very dark too”. We exchanged a few more pleasantries about the weather when Toffee plonked himself down at her feet. He was right in front of her and looked up with his best winning gurn, “Oh he’s a dahling” she said and played with his ear…”we very nearly had a Springer, but decided on William instead, they’re just much better house pets, you know?”. I looked at Charlie who was weighing up the, well behaved, perfectly groomed poppet “what the f#ck have you come dressed as, and you’d better not do any weeing around here without asking me first”..

…she was saying something else, about how she hated the way that they cut back the trees at this time of year. And she looked down at Toffee again, “you are a good boy aren’t you?”

Toffee was looking back at her with his big brown solemn eyes, which had begun to cross, and when his tongue rolled out to one side I suddenly wished we were elsewhere. For a dog Toffee has quite a range of facial expressions and I’ve become used to reading most of them, the placid dopey looking expression on his face that she was observing at that moment was a certain precursor of something far more unpleasant going on at the other end.

“That’s luvvly”, “Keep playing wiv me ear missus….I’ve got a four pounder in the bomb bay and the doors are openin’”

“Ere we go, bombs away” and he shuffled forward into her hand.

She looked down and finally realised what was happing. Toffee smiled back at her from the wrong end of a foot of brown cable.

“Oh dear” she said, “oh dear, oh dear”….”William come along”

And as I fumbled around for a baggy in my pocket I almost, very nearly, apologised.

And then I thought, what the hell, he’s a dog for goodness sake, so instead I pointed at the offending turd and looked at her, and then at Toffee and said, “that’s a corker!!”

“Good boy!!”

Thursday, October 20, 2005


If you’re travelling abroad you will find that dogs can survive for a maximum of 3 days wrapped in silver foil and tucked into a wardrobe before they start to go off.

Happily mine enjoy a stay at the kennels.

S’funny, but I still forget things when I travel, I always seem to pack in a rush. There are certain bare essentials without which an Englishman abroad is simply lost. Dark socks, a toothbrush and an umbrella, (next on the list is a hipflask, but a sample bottle of good whisky hidden on one’s person will do at a pinch). Yours truly came very close to having his passport rescinded this week when he found himself ‘brolly less on a water taxi in the pouring rain in Amsterdam. There’s no excuse, bang goes my career in the diplomatic core.

I’ve always regarded myself as very lucky to have the opportunity to travel with most of the twists and turns that my career has taken. There’s plenty of opportunity now as a great deal of time is taken up visiting and “entertaining” clients, these days in places that you’d regard as legitimate business centres – which has not always been the case in the past.

There was a time that I used to keep my head down in the office when the next ‘destination’ was mooted. I was working with a company that outfitted hospital Intensive Care Units and Operating Theatres, and I would stay with the nursing staff, for weeks if necessary, to make sure that they understood how to operate all of the equipment. (The first time I did this I evaporated in a dead faint during a hip operation in St Thomas’s in London).

After a little while I was convinced that I was being chosen for some of these assignments on the basis that I was the ‘least valuable player’, a “who can we afford to lose” basis. It wasn’t so much the work as the location. I’ve spent weeks at a time trying to make myself understood to nursing staff in St Petersburg, Belfast, Jerusalem and Dundee (Dundee was by far the most difficult – and the hardest place to stay out of trouble in the evenings too).

And then when one day somebody mentioned Beirut, I just new it had my name on it. It must have been an absolutely beautiful place, perhaps it is again now. The Lebanon is a strip of land trapped between the mountains and the sea. Once a resort of the rich and famous, when I arrived the centre of the city looked as if a meteor had landed there. My cab brought me to the hotel at night, so it wasn’t until the morning when I stepped out on to the balcony that you could truly appreciate the extent of the damage. The hotel was on a square, on one side of a small ‘green’ (dust bowl), four tanks were parked there, three under tarpaulins, one uncovered. There were literally chunks of masonry missing from all of the buildings in site, it wasn’t so much a scene of dilapidation as of destruction, very immediate damage on a large scale. The stone balustrade of my balcony was chipped and scored, and when I turned back to go into the room it became obvious why, several strings of pock marks on the stucco wall were all to real evidence of gunfire in the not too distant past.

In fact the ‘violence’ had ended, Beirut was catching it’s breath after – what was it – 15 years of war? It wasn’t being rebuilt at that time, but consolidated, the people who lived there were testing the boundaries of previous ‘no go areas’. The hospital where I spent the next month was run, staffed and financed by nuns (except for the male doctors and surgeons). The ambulances arrived there with patients who weren’t accepted by other hospitals in the city according to their religious or ethnic prerogative – the nuns simply treated anyone that arrived.

The administrator of the hospital was a local man, he was a figurehead I think, required to legitimise their work – he was necessary to negotiate on their behalf with the Christian militia and their muslim counterparts who co-owned and ran Beirut at the time, who guaranteed the hospital safe passage to carry on it’s work.

For some reason he befriended me and wanted to show me his Beirut. It was one of the oddest times I’ve known. There were still night clubs and restaurants and drinking clubs (most of the intact ones were in basements). I’d be woken up with a telephone call in my hotel room at 1 a.m. to a “it is I Colin, I am the lobby, we go out!”, not a request but an order, issued in his best gravelly Hollywood henchman voice. Of course I went. After a while I began to suspect that his role at the hospital was a front for a more sinister position in the Lebanese Mafia. By the time I arrived downstairs he’d be sitting in the back of the limousine parked outside the hotel, as I came out of the door the window would wind down and an arm would beckon in a cloud of cigar smoke “hurry, we go!”.

And off we went, I remember one night in particular, down a set of stone stairs that opened in to a room so thick with cigarette smoke that it was like fog. It was a belly dancing club, absolutely packed with men in dark suits and the biggest bugger grips (side burns) I’ve ever seen. There wasn’t a seat in sight, hardly any floor in fact, but my friend spoke to the ‘gentlemen’ at the door, some dollars changed hands and almost instantly a group of men at a table by the stage were invited to vacate their seats with a few gentle shakes of the throat. We sat down, I’m sure he teased me. “you want girls to sit with us?” he said, shaking some more currency, and I was completely embarrassed when they did.

It was quite usual to get back to the hotel at five o’clock in the morning, we’d speed through the streets avoiding concrete and the occasional car (it truly amazed me that people who had survived 15 years of armed conflict drove like drugged up lemmings racing towards the cliff edge). Except for one night when several, almost clad in uniform, men stepped out from the street corner and aimed automatic rifles at the car (I think that’s what they were, I can’t be sure, but they had barrels and stocks and triggers and looked like they would shoot bullets and not peas or water). We stopped and they quizzed the driver and my host and then me, I had the opportunity to look right into the penny round black hole at the end of one of those barrels and hope that the owner of the other end didn’t sneeze of hiccough or suddenly slip off the curb. He asked me questions which I didn’t understand, and when my companion tried to help the barrel swung his way so he was quiet. In the end my friend asked me for my passport, it was mandatory to carry it, and handed it over. The man with gun passed it back to another who made a play of reading it by the light of a brazier in a shop door alcove where they must have stood when they saw the car coming…he shook his head and pocketed my documents.

We were waved on and drove off into the night. I was horrified, I’d grown up in the country so I knew (shot)guns, but I’d never been introduced to the working end of one before, and while everyone I’d met had been friendly enough I certainly didn’t want to spend any time here without proof of identity. The thought of spending time in a cell terrified me. My host shrugged in a universal c’est la vie gesture “shit happens, no?”.

He explained over a coffee and brandy in the hotel, (this man was a walking dollar shaking conjuror), that the militia had taken my passport, they would hold it ransom for maybe $250 (he’d offered $50 in the car), he would send someone to fetch it tomorrow.

The thing that I’ve always found about business travel is that it is so frustrating, you get to visit wonderful, strange exotic places, and all you ever get to see is the inside of someone’s office and your hotel?

(A few weeks after I came back from Beirut, there was a whisper that operating theatres in Johannesburg were nearly finished – well not Johannesburg proper, but Soweto, Baragwaneth hospital. I went and hid in the loo…but they found me)

Monday, October 17, 2005

leaping and gurning

I’ve been shopping, and I’m going to see a friend in hospital. I hate hospitals, it’s the smell – and that’s ironic really, because for years I used to work for a company that outfitted intensive care units and operating theatres. I’d work with the staff after the installations to make sure that they knew what all the buttons did.

I’m afraid I enjoyed the weekend rather too well, I should have shopped but didn’t. Which is fine for me, I can get by on chick peas on toast, but it’s an indicator of poor parenting skills when your dogs have to breakfast on cornflakes and gravy! (Don’t feed your dogs cornflakes – it’s LOUD, and certainly don’t mix them with gravy unless you want to spend 15 minutes scraping brown sticky shrapnel off your walls).

So tonight we walked to the light of an enormous brass coloured moon. A sparkle of coloured lights reminded us of what time of year it is. We do celebrate Hallowe’en, All Hallows, (Walpurgis nicht), but we are also very big on bonfire night – or Guy Fawkes night. A strange celebration at face value, setting off fireworks and burning a “Guy” on a bonfire to demonstrate I suppose what the sky over Kensington might have looked like if our anti-hero had actually managed to light the blue touch paper on the barrels of gunpowder hidden in the Houses of Parliament.

Don’t get me wrong, I like bonfire night. I enjoy the fireworks and the treacle toffee and the bonfire itself – there’s nothing like a good “bonnie” tightening the skin on your face while you try to pick a cremated potato out of the embers with a bent stick.

Except that it’s not just one night. The fireworks are on sale, and even though they are not supposed to be sold to kids under 16, kids are resourceful, I know I was. So every night for the next month we will be subject to rockets and screamers and air bombs and all manner of sky bound artillery – and Charlie will dehydrate.

While Toffee is chasing tardy crows into trees, Charlie will be walking by my side. There’s a flash of light in the sky, just a moment before the crack of firework thunder – and Charlie who is 10 inches tall will suddenly appear eyeball to eyeball with me, on the end of a jet of urine, before plopping back down to the ground. I’ve seen him perform this trick eight times in a row when some fiend has set off a complicated multi layered firework.

I’m very happy that light and noise travel at different speeds. I use the fraction of a second between the flash and the bang to move slightly to one side so that I don’t come home covered in wee wee pinstripes.

Friday, October 14, 2005

the best laid plans

I have some wonderful news. If you remember I was expecting a visitor this weekend? The guys have done me proud, dusted, hunted under the bed for hidden sausages and cowered in the corner while I hoovered and dusted the whole house. Special commendation to Charlie who went completely limp when I used him to sweeep the cobwebs out of the corners of the living room ceiling.

And the good news is that the young lady who became separated at Gatwick airport was not abandoned after all. Her parents, who flew on to Germany, had made arrangements for her to be picked up by relatives so that she might stay in the UK. These arrangements included going through customs and passport checks instead of simply moving through the transit lounge, and depositing thier 8 year old daughter on a seat in the arrivals lounge. They left her with a photo of her uncle (in case her uncle failed to recognise her - there must be lots of 8 year old Indoneian girls sitting alone on chairs in Gatwick airport) and a smattering of schoolroom English. Her parents then checked in again and flew to Frankfurt.

Somehow this well laid plan went awry, and the airport police discovered the poor mite before she was collected by her uncle. (It beggars belief, I am so angry that my eyes hurt), but there is a happy ending. The uncle in question had the decency to declare himself and they have been united. So a happy ending thank goodness, I can't close my eyes without thinking about what might have happened to her...

So we are at a loose end. I feel hollow, I don't know what to do. It's Friday night, so we'll break the bed down, and put the crayons back on the shelf....and thank goodness we kept all the dust!! Come on guys let's put the dust back, that'll keep us occupied for a while.

"Charlie, Charlie, where are you slinking off to..."

(I know that being angry is equal to being selfish...but I can't believe that fucking blogging about it is the only thing I can do!!)

Thursday, October 13, 2005

on the laying of ghosts - part the something or other

My family had lots of sayings, daft things, I guess every family does. When my mother was surprised she’d say “well I’ll go to the foot of stairs”, or if she was flustered “Jean, take your woolly hat off” to herself.

I once heard my grandmother say, “argle bargle morble whoosh”, but I don’t think she had her teeth in at the time.

But my Dad was an absolute genius for the bon mot, the apt phrase, sage sounding advice that had no basis in fact. One of favourites was, “it’s only the things that you don’t do that you regret”. It’s a classic, it sounds profound, a universal truth, words of wisdom uttered by a guru and gained by years of devotion and painful, aesthetic experience…but, it’s actually a lot of toss as most of us can testify. (From personal experience I regret trying to discover which one of the three was the live wire by touching them in turn with a bare finger, I regret jumping over the sea wall and not checking to see that the distance to the wet sand below was actually 25 feet (etc.)….had I not done these, then I would not have regretted them).

Anyway, that’s probably neither here nor there.

I finally found a girl who let me, and 6 weeks later she said that we were going to have a baby.

We met through friends, she was a remarkable looking girl, quirky but beautiful and full of fun. When we’d go out she’d always be the centre of attention, always on the dance floor, and constantly being chatted up by other guys, I didn’t think I stood a chance. (If you’ve read any of the earlier chapters of this tedious saga, you will remember that I was at University at this time, "washing" my clothes in Johnson’s baby talc and stealing fruit so that I could afford to spend my entire grant in the pub).

During the summer my friend and I managed to get jobs in the local nail factory, yes really. As many hours as we wanted to work, and not a penny in tax. It was heaven and hell. I’d never had so much money in my life, we were rich beyond all sense or reason and proceeded to try to drink every penny of it. Except that every morning we paid the price, I’ve sat and cried in cranial agony amongst mounds of cardboard boxes whilst an army of machines yelled BANG!! and cut the wire, KARAANG!!!, and made the point of the nail “TAKETHATFUCKINGCRASH”!!!!! slamming a flat head on the other end.

We’d be out every single night of the week. I think we were fun to be around and generous with our money so popular too and became regulars and gained a little notoriety in the local clubs for being the only there in the wee small hours on a mid week night. We were drowning in our salad days. Now the young lady who was the object of our desires became a regular stopper outer with us, we hang out together a small hard core group within a larger group of friends. Her parents had already retired and had a caravanette which they’d take on extended road trips around Britain, and the next time they did she asked my friend and me to move in.

And nothing happened, it was great fun. We went out, we came home eventually, and my friend and I took a lot of aspirin in the morning and went to work. Until one evening where we’d blown our bolt too early in the week, and found ourselves on the Thursday before pay day with just enough between us to buy a bag of pork scratchings. My friend, true to his life’s mission, took the money and went to the pub to buy a bag of pork scratchings and to try to scrounge a pint.

My reward for staying in with the young lady was to be led by the hand, without preamble or fuss, to the bedroom to lose my virginity. I was 20.

I thought it was incredible though I expect the best thing about it for her was that it was mercifully brief.

After that I followed her round like a puppy. I had no idea what she saw in me and at the time it wasn’t a question that concerned me, I was completely utterly in lust with her. She was the fountain of all carnal knowledge, she had only to lean forward and let me peep down her blouse, or touch my thigh with a finger and I would have agreed to eat a Manchester tram for her. She 'let me' you see, and would let me again from time to time, just enough to keep me on a short leash.

She worked in a bank and I was suddenly, although temporarily, rich. We had a very good time, I didn’t even mind if she would wake me up in restaurants by hitting me over the head with her shoe like Nately’s whore.

But all good things come to an end, her parents came home from their annual pilgrimage infuriating the other road users in Cornwall and I had to go back to my digs at Uni. Which is when she announced that she was pregnant. She told her parents and then me. Her mother actually seemed to be quite pleased, and I don’t think that it really sank in with her father, he was hard of hearing and had been disconcertingly calling me “Molly” ever since we had been introduced. For my part I wasn’t upset at all, and quite happy to do the decent thing, accept my responsibility and get married if she’d have me. I suggested that she came back to Manchester with me, in the house I shared with 3 friends at first while we looked for a place of our own. Her mother suggested she stayed at home, just for the moment, which she appeared happy to do and seemed to be for the best all round.

And so it went. We had a baby boy. He was born on Christmas eve’ at a few minutes past eleven and I remember running into the church by the hospital and disturbing the Christmas service…”it’s a boy, it’s a boy!”, and one of the ushers saying “yes, he’s called Jesus now bloody well shut up”. And still she stayed at home. We spent some of the holiday with her parents and some with mine, and all the while after the baby was born there was a growing coolness towards me that I thought may be a perfectly natural side effect of motherhood.

I went back to University in the new year, (everyone seemed to think it was a good idea for me to finish the course) and left my “family” once again with her family. It was four months into the year when she arrived at the house, in a car with a girl friend I’d never met before and announced very calmly that she was leaving. Which was complete gobbledigook to me at the time, she was standing there at the door, passing the baby to me and explaining that she didn’t want to be at home anymore, and didn’t want to leave the baby with her parents because they were getting on now, and she certainly couldn’t take the baby with her. And I stood there and nodded gormlessly and finally understood what he’d said to me long after the door had shut.

John was the only one of my housemates at home that day, and I gave him the baby to hold while I went to call #####’s parents. (He calmly tucked the baby in the crook of one arm, he was part of a very large family, so big I think some of them used to sleep in kitchen drawers).

“Hello Mrs ######”
“Hello deary”
“Is ##### there?”
“Oh no, deary she’s left”
“did she say when she’d be back”
“no, I mean she’s left home, she said she’d let us know she arrived safely”
“did you know she’d left the baby with me”
“yes dear, she said she would”
“do you know that he world has just been invaded by gigantic mutant jelly babies?”
“pardon dear”
“never mind”.

Have you ever seen ‘3 men and a baby’. Well it was absolutely nothing like that whatsoever. It was absolute bloody chaos, we had a council round the kitchen table. I had imagined that we could all muck in, in fact it was all I could do to convince them to let me stay! It was going to inconvenient for everyone to have a baby in the house! Damn right, we it might wake them out of a drunken stupor one night and it would require a modicum of cleanliness, who knows possibly take up a bit of fridge space.

I spent the next 5 months on a huge learning curve and remarkably little sleep. I learnt how to make bottles, burp, pack the necessaries for a day out, choose an appropriate outfit, bathe dry and anoint in scented oils (thank you mum for being on the other end of the phone at 3am) and beg and plead with friends to help out while I went to lectures. To be honest I’d chosen to go to University as an easy method of leaving home, I knew I wanted to be in Manchester, but I (literally) stuck a pin in the prospectus to choose a course. It had landed on Civil Engineering and what I’d learned about dynamics and soil mechanics you could have written with a marker pen on the back of a very tiny frog – so I can’t claim that my studies were affected.

Although my concentration levels definitely were. There’s nothing like a 3am feed and a stroll round the deserted streets of Salford with a buggy to make you feel tired, and nothing quite so debilitating as being woken up again two hours later.

Though it has it’s compensations? I do have one perfect memory of waking up in the early morning, I must have fed pudding in the early hours and drifted off before I’d finished changing him. I was flat on my back, and he was flat out on me on, nuddy baby with his chin on my shoulder and fast asleep. He looked tiny, peaceful and very beautiful…and the moment was only spoiled slightly by discovering that he had pood on us again during the night.

And just as we were getting into a rhythm, she arrived back into our lives as abruptly as she had left. This time she was accompanied with another man, who again I didn’t recognise, and she described matter of factly that he was the father of our baby and not me and terribly sorry but she would have said earlier but “you know”, and they were in love, and she was pregnant again (!), and they wanted to get married and could we just pack up his things now and they’d be gone.

And they were, and that was the last time I ever saw him, and I was a Dad, just for a bit.

I’ve heard from mutual friends that they are still together and the “pudster” is a big strapping healthy lad and the eldest brother of five children, which is nice.


And, please - if you were thinking of saying something, before you do - I regard this as a very, very happy memory.