Thursday, July 28, 2005

Charlie’s disappointment at not being posted after all resulted in a huge sulk….


oh crap, I recognise the symptoms.

It’s sooner than I thought, I only recently came back into the world, bugger and damnation.

It’s just a simple infatuation, there’s no need to worry. I’m certainly not going to call it by any other name, (although I do know the symptoms very well). There are some obvious giveaways, it’s always the person that you want most that you find most difficult to talk to…???... tell me I’m not alone… and when you do summon up the courage there’s that awful out of body experience: I said that? That was the best I could come up with?, oh you tragedy in trousers. Because it’s impossible to be spontaneous when you’re trying so bloody hard.

Well sod it, this time I’m not going to get involved, there’s a perfectly rational argument for simply keeping your head down and letting it pass and let’s be truthful here, there’s no indication that it’s not one way traffic in any case. I don’t want to be a coward, but then again I don’t want to be a fool either.

and yes, I know that you die little inside every time you do this

"to realize that not a symbol, is not one riddle and one failure to guess it, is not to inhabit one face alone or to be given up after one losing throw of the dice; but it is to be, however inadequately, emptily. hopelessly into the city's iron heart, endured" Well fuck you Mr Fowles, knowing you're right just makes it worse.
guess what....

Derek called. He wants to go "road trip" this weekend. We generally head off for West Wales, he lives near Manchester, I live in London, so we meet not far from Worcester and head of West. The roads are well paved, quiet and beautifully curvy. Ideal for biking. So it's a Saturday night stopover and then repeat the process in reverse on Sunday.

Here are some reasons why I should not go. I'm magnetic, I hit things. I once accelerated into a parked car at a T-junction, I thought it was going to turn left, I looked right and there was nothing coming so with 100 yards to go I dropped a gear and gunned the bike. I hit it with such force that I sailed over the car, the road, and into the field opposite. Like a startled superhero I emerged from the hole in the hedge, and apologised to the driver, and his girlfriend who was kissing him goodnight when I hurtled into them. They were very nice, and we all went to look over the hedge at the furrow I'd ploughed in the field.

One frosty morning I simply hit a patch of black ice. I wasn't going particularly quickly, it just happened, I did what every biker will understand, which is to try to get your leg out from under the bike before it lands on it's side, successfully, and we slid along quite sedately until the bike hit the kerb. I catapulted back off into the road, and was promptly run over by a 2CV. Strange, but I've noticed that 2CV's are usually driven by attractive women, hippy chic, but attractive. The car ran over my head, that is to say, the attractive young lady who was driving it saw me sliding, sans transport, towards her, down the white line and applied the brakes (which in a Citroen 2CV is the equivalent of trying to stop a revolving door with two slices of liver) - the car turned sideways and I slid underneath.

I heard the car door open and an incoherent wailing as the young lady discovered my legs sticking out from under the car. It was indeed very icy, and she fell over, clawed her way up the side of the car and instantly fell over again, shireking all the while. I'm afraid I got the giggles, you see my only problem was that my head was firmly wedged under her exhaust, to be honest I was probably in better shape than she was. Even so it occurred to me that my head was getting very warm, so the next time she fell down and my head was close enough to hers for me to make myself heard I asked her politely to switch the engine off. A couple of good natured chaps picked the car up in the end, just enough so that I could slide out.

At least I've learnt to dress for the occasion. A few years ago I had a little pose. Lady's day at Ascot is pure theatre, and I have to say I thought I looked rather dashing in my morning suit perched on top of my R1. The problem is that on the way home, fizzing down a country lane, I found two little old ladies reversing out of their driveway, in a Volvo estate, on a blind bend. I arrived in the back seat, without one of the arms and both trouser legs of the suit. I swear (really), that after a pregnant pause, one of the old ladies said: "oh dear, would you like a cup of tea". I said, "that's jolly decent of you, but could I have an ambulance please". I still keep in touch with the arresting officer.

what's that all about then?

I have a hangover….I mean a worse hangover than usual. There’s not a day that I can remember that I’ve woken up feeling refreshed and leapt out of bed feeling enthusiastic and ready to face the world.

This morning I lay in bed and watched 10 minutes of “Big Brother” (which I loathe) whilst conducting the routine check on ‘where does it hurt’, simply because I didn’t have the energy to change channels. (I take a tiny crumb of solace from some wise words: “I feel sorry for people who don’t drink, when they wake up in the morning that’s the best they’re going to feel all day”, I can’t remember who said them, but thanks whoever you are).

And, sweet irony, I’ve no idea why or how this happens, but having a hangover makes me feel randy. (Maybe I’m a masochist?). Doesn’t figure, a head full of cotton wool, a stomach that I’d like to put on a spin cycle in the washing machine, and the raging horn….

(did you hear about the masochist who said to the sadist: “hurt me”. The sadist thought for a moment and said: “no”)

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Oregon trail

I'm getting excited. I've finally managed to organise some flights and a car so I can start to think about the detail.

Another one of my friends is about to commit themselves to a life with a preferred side of the bed. He's marrying a Canadian girl in Toronto in August. I'd said all along that I wanted to be there, which I do, but I always had an inkling that it would provide a springboard for a bit of an adventure.

Now here's the odd thing, I've never been a fan of the US of A, in fact I've been a bit derogatory at times (this probably isn't going to win me any votes on the other side of the pond but....let me explain). Life there seems so easy, for the people who it's easy for, but on the outskirts of every wealthy 'burb, every evidence of the good life...there's an expanse of used car sales lots, greasy eateries and what appear to be shanty towns. There just seems to be such a huge gulf between the haves and the have nots. Variously I've been confused and upset by: people with far more money than taste, people who seem to have been taken on one side in school and given lessons in conversation - but have actually learnt whole conversations verbatim (or at least their side of one, so it doesn't matter what you say, their next line will be the same anyway), those who can make "have a nice day" sound like a threat, the dichotomy between truly immense people and their incredibly health conscious counterparts (so it's possible to order a side portion in a restaurant that would feed a family for a week, and then be crucified in the street for asking for an ashtray). We think because we share a language, that things are the same, but they're not, it is a shock to the system for the average Brit to discover that the USA is actually a foreign country.

Having said all of that, then for me at least, the States exert a strange magnetism. I've caught a fish in Pike Street market in Seattle, walked the Appalachian trail through Vermont, had a Hurricane on Bourbon Street, lobster in Kennebunk and fallen down a rather big hole (while just a little drunk) in Houston.

So I have a plan. It's a fairly rudimentary one, which is to be there to celebrate my friends nuptials, and leave shortly after driving down through the great lakes, point the car in a Westerly direction and head for the sea. I want to make my way through the northern states, away from the main roads, through Wisconsin, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho and eventually Oregon. I have no idea why really except that the names seem so evocative. I'll be taking my "zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance", and some essential Jack Kerouac. I'll be taking a tent too, so that I can lie there in the dark and worry about bears, and possibly the children of the corn (do they come out at night?).

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Charlie's undercarriage

I have to tell you about the dogs. I'm not a slob by any means, I think we all have a minimum level of cleanliness, but living with dogs increases your tolerance for scummage, they are by their very nature hairy, smelly when wet and often dirty.

Charlie is the small black one that looks like a toilet brush with no stick. He is in fact a Cairn terrier, a very small one, with a lineage that would do credit to the royal family. He has a very long, foppish, double-barrelled kennel club name that I can't even remember. Charlie has a plan to rule the world, and very short legs. Toffee on the other hand is as mad as a hatter, he's simple, I've had more intelligent shrubbery, but he's also love in a fur coat.

There's never been a problem at toilet time, Charlie and Toffee (the Springer) clatter down the fire escape stairs into the garden to do their thing. Except that recently I've noticed that Charlie has been taking his time coming back up the stairs. It's been getting worse recently, I thought perhaps he was suffering from some sort of knee-knack or hip blip (small dogs do), so I've been keeping an eye on him. And then last night the nature of his problem dawned on me, he's put on a bit of weight - it's not the paunch that's keeping him back you understand, but his undercarriage has moved an inch south along with his belly, and he has been smacking his tackle off every single metal step on the upward journey. Ouch!!

I'm not sure what to do. Obviously a diet is the long term solution, but in the meantime I'm considering some sort of genital sling....or perhaps a length of gutter pipe laid down the centre of the stairs might be the solution? I'm a bit worried that the neighbours might get the wrong idea about the latter if they see a tiny dog shooting out of the back of the house and sliding down into the garden on it's genitals.

And just to top things off I spent part of the evening cutting an assortment of twigs, sticky-bobs and briar out of Toffee's backside. He does love a bit of undergrowth and always brings me back a snapshot of the hedgerow he's just investigated. Deep joy.

Monday, July 25, 2005

diff'rent strokes

My friends are growing up. Five minutes ago we were all sucking down beers and happily talking utter rubbish. Slowly but surely I've watched them form couples and then relationships, and then the first wedding led, like a toppling domino, to the next and the next they're in the having babies stage. And it's great, in an odd but very real way I'm excited and so proud of them. They seem preoccupied and tired at times, but happy and content in a way that I shouldn't have imagined as if they're suffused with a deep, warm glow. It's an infectious happiness too.

I'm not surprised that they're good parents, They're happy people, and they love each other, they all had full and interesting lives before they married, and they still do...they simply added another ingredient. We have fun in a different way now, it's more mellow, not the tigger scary sod-it fun, but fun all the same. (I have other friends I can still do that with).

I feel that they've out grown me, surpassed me somehow, moved on, and I'm so happy it's like an ache.

If I were stupid I'd wish I were like them, but I'm not, we're all built differently and their life isn't mine (remind me to tell you about the gypsy woman one day), and I'm content that I have a group of friends that accomplished all of this that I still feel comfortable with.

I was reading Evelyn Waugh recently, he's my bathroom book at the moment, and there was a wonderful description of a man who obviously didn't relish the idea of getting married, "Oh why did nobody warn me". "I should have been told. They should have warned me about Flossie, not about the fires of Hell". "They should have told me about marriage...that at the end of that gay journey and flower strewn path were the hideous lights of home and the voices of children".

"I'm one of the blind alleys off the main road of procreation".

it's good to have friends

I like to think I could steal through life without having any real impact on the people I interact with. It suits a selfish need to abrogate any kind of responsibility.

There is one person I've had quite an impact on, quite literally.

I first met Derek at school, he had a friend with a stutter (and the unfortunate name of Ecclestone). Ecclestone could spend 45 minutes introducing himself, and when I pointed this out to him Derek promptly hit me with a desk. We have been the best of friends ever since.

Derek has a fascinating face. Not classically handsome you understand, but one of those faces that you could look at for ages trying to work out what's going on there, or maybe what happened to cause some of the more peculiar contours. I know the answers and I get a nice warm glow when I see people take a second look at what is effectively my handiwork.

Before I go into any detail, don't go feeling too sorry for Derek, he was much blander before my work began....and it's not all been one way traffic, this is the friend who said he'd direct me all the way home from school, with my duffle coat on back to front and the hood up, and then guided me onto a busy dual carriageway!! How we laughed.....

We've always ridden motorbikes, in the early days with more enthusiasm than skill or self defence. I bought a huge cow of a Suzuki one Thursday afternoon in the summer holiday during the time when we were working hard at getting thrown out of our respective Universities. On Friday I had the bike MOT'd and insured, and on Saturday I demolished it on a country lane in North Wales with Derek as a pillion passenger. Neither of knows quite what happened, we've agreed it was a patch of gravel (and nothing to do with the fact that we had just left the pub en route to a party). Whatever, it was quite a messy one as crashes go. Derek must have stayed with the bike for longer than me, I remember waking up in the road and seeing him lying 50 feet away, back lit by the waning headlight of the bike which was stuck in a ditch another 50 feet further on. I couldn't move at all, and Derek wasn't showing any signs of life.....for horrible minutes I really thought I'd topped him, and then - sweet joy - a pick up truck came around the corner, from the direction of the pub we had left, and ran Derek over. He was lucky, it was just his leg, but it was very comforting to hear him yelp with pain. The pick up didn't stop, I expect it was being driven by a drunken farmer, but they must have called an ambulance from a safe distance.

We spent 2 weeks in a surgical ward in Colwyn Bay hospital. I think we both had a couple of quite tricky days with numerous injuries. We found out later in our stay that the more seriously ill you were, the closer your bed was to the nursing station at the head of the ward. That first night Derek was terrified out of wits when he apparently died. It's all very confusing when you are in shock and being kept awake, Derek did in fact overhear a conversation along the lines of "I think he's passed away, get the duty Doctor" and was struggling to deny his demise by blowing spit bubbles....but it was the chap in the next bed who the local surgical team had helped off this mortal coil with a botched procedure (I'm sure I saw ladybird books on transplant surgery in the library).

We had a fairly comprehensive collection of broken bones, bruises and contusions between us. Of the more notable nasties I had landed on the clutch handle, which had broken off and managed to make it's way through my midriff and out the other side, and I was the better off.......did I mention that Derek was wearing an open face helmet? How remiss (of him). Derek had ingeniously used his face as a brake on the road and was missing one entire eyebrow and quite a large piece of his nose.

Even by the time we left the hospital his appearance was still a bit of a shock to the uninitiated and earned various expressions of disgust, admiration or sympathy depending on the constitution of the observer.

It took many months of painstaking reconstructive surgery and skin grafts to put humpty dumpty back together again. Even then there were several noticeable lumps, knobbles and scars that weren’t on the original contour map of his face. (I like to think of the consultant muttering darkly about making a silk purse out of sow’s ear).

It didn’t stop us going out though, in fact we couldn’t wait to show of our scars, in the misguided belief that girls are somehow attracted to oozing flesh wounds. I found an opportunity to embellish my handiwork at a party one night. The girl’s mother had kindly cut a tray of sandwiches before she went out (god knows what she thought “party” meant). Anyway, during the course of the night somebody let the Jack Russell out of the kitchen and into the living room where the main bulk of the drunken debauch was well underway. Derek, having had more than his fare share (of booze) took pity on the startled pooch and fed it slices of ham from the sandwiches, and they soon getting on very well. Now whether it was a genuine attempt to remove the last barrier with the dog, or to impress the girls (some of who had come over to watch, it did look very cute as it sat up and waited for the next ham slice), we’ll never know. Derek slid off the chair, on to all fours, nose to recovering nose with his new found friend.

It didn’t occur to me that it might be a bad time to throw a fresh piece of ham to the dog. It was quite a good shot too, ham is not particularly aerodynamic, but it flew threw the space between their noses, whereby the dog launched itself forward with hungry enthusiasm and caught the ham in mid flight. It’s jaws snapped shut on the slice of meat…unfortunately it’s forward motion meant that they also snapped shut on Derek’s nose.

There’s was a moment of mortified silence before all hell broke loose. Derek leapt up with a shriek with the diminutive dog still firmly attached to his nose. It wasn’t giving up it’s meal easily, but the ham was now firmly attached to Derek’s face by virtue of the Jack Russel’s teeth. They waltzed round and around the living room scattering drinks and people in all directions, Derek pulling on the dog’s legs and wailing like a banshee while his tiny assailant growled and held on for grim death.

Something had to give, and it turned out to be Derek’s skin grafts that were to be the eventual weak link. Exit to casualty, at 3 am with a friend with his head in a tea towel. (Neither the ham or the skin were ever recovered from the scene, but the girl who’s party it was said that her dog was looking smug for days).

Derek’s head went into respite for several months after that, I found myself an unwelcome guest at his home. His mother was quite bitter about the whole affair. However in time I slowly managed to work my way, if not into her good books, then at least off her immediate hit-list (unlike next doors cat which shat in her petunias on seven consecutive nights).

I was allowed to stay over again. Derek’s parent’s house was, without peer, the best place to stay when you’d had a skinful the night before. His mother made huge mugs of hot, sweet tea in the morning and juggled buttery slices of warm toast onto the table. Weeks passed free from incident, and I was a regular hangoveree in their kitchen on a Sunday morning, until one fateful Saturday night where it all went stupidly tits-up once again.

Derek had been taking some kind of kung-fu lessons. He was in the very first stages, where I think you learn how to tie the robe, but as far as he was concerned he was Bruce Lee. We arrived back at his house in the early hours of Sunday morning in severe need of a snack to soak up some of the night’s lager frenzy – he went to the toaster, I went for the butter dish. Derek wanted to show me some “moves” and asked me to throw a few punches, of course we were both bladdered and I couldn’t have fought my way out of a privet hedge – and judging by his responses he still couldn’t tie up his robe properly.

It was while he was salvaging the first two smouldering lumps of charcoal from the toaster that I noticed his mother’s knife rack – when he turned round to show me the clinker with a giggle, I was brandishing the meat cleaver.

Now I swear, we were standing ten feet apart, and I had no intention of getting within five feet of him. I brought my arm round in a slow arc, and was amazed as it seemed to super-extend, go-go gadget arm…….and appalled as Derek, incredibly, drunkenly glued to the floor swayed forward so that the blade of the cleaver sliced through the cartilage at the top of his nose with a soft, neat “snick”.

It was quiet for quite a while. I saw (but I don’t think he did) his mutilated nose slip forward a degree or ten as the top slid away from his face under the weight of the heavier, fleshier bottom portion. Still, not to make a mountain out of a mole hill, he let me patch it up with some antiseptic cream and a plaster…

I sat oblivious to whole incident in the kitchen on Sunday morning, nursing a hangover and cup of tea. We heard Derek before he arrived, tottering down the stairs with the gait of a man who is trying desperately not to move his head. I didn’t even look round, I was too absorbed in my own pain and I’d quite forgotten about the previous nights surgery, and I think so had Derek… was his mothers blood curdling scream that brought the whole sorry incident flooding back. I’d left their house by the back door before my tea landed on the table.

So there it is. I am Frankenstein, and less popular than the neighbour’s cat.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

a nightmare at Warren Street

Well, here we are again, plugged into all of the internet news channels and the radio, trying to find out the details of the latest despicable attacks on the City. We are in an office on the perimeter of London, though many of my colleagues commute through the centre each day, and all of us have friends and relatives who work in central London. The cell networks are already jammed and, oddly, we are having difficulty getting a line to phone overseas...though perhaps that's not so odd as the emergency services will no doubt commandeer some of the terrestrial network and there must be many, many calls being made from overseas to check if colleagues and loved ones are okay.

This seems to be quite a trivial incident in comparison with the last, although the intention was surely the same, the bombs themselves appear not to have worked properly. I read one eyewitness account of a tube traveller who saw a man with a rucksack that exploded, but only enough to blow it apart, the description of the rucksackee was stunning, according to the eye witness he looked "dismayed"!! I should fucking coco, imagine how 'dismayed' the people around him were?

There has been a subtle readjustment over the past few weeks, in many ways the rhythm of London was hardly disturbed. We missed a step was all. There's always been a tacit acceptance of when rather than if something of this nature would happen, and the tube is such a soft target, and such a hideous prospect - an explosion in the crush and enclosure of the stations and carriages conjures a terrifying Dante-esque vision. And then when it did happen, perhaps, forgivably there was almost a sense of relief, it's happened and I wasn't involved, though I doubt whether anyone would admit to that particular dark thought.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

the wonderful thing about tiggers...

Is it a universal truth that we all know instinctively what is right from what is wrong (apart from psychopaths that is)? I mean we all did it as kids, even if it wasn't an experience that you'd had before, (so there were no actual rules attached to it), you were still aware that putting the cat in the paddling pool was, on some very fundamental level, wrong. But you still did it. Why? Even more obliquely, you were, and still are, aware that action is quite possibly followed by consequence. For my part I was spotted and sent to my bedroom to spend the rest of the afternoon to ponder the mess the cat had made of my arms.

So, I'm going to assume that this is a basic instinct. And the more we find out, the more sophisticated we become in the nuances of correct social behaviour, the more opportunities we have to "do the wrong thing". Simple social situations like over dinner conversation are littered with prospects not only for faux pas, but real naughtiness. I don't mean the ill judged, foot-in-mouth, "Tony must be working tonight" to Janet, who broke up with Tony last Wednesday, but the "I saw Tony the other day, he looked great" to Janet when you know that she broke up with Tony a month ago. Wrong, and socially reprehensible, and for what? Because Janet warned her sister Molly, (publicly), that you were a drunken womaniser, not to be trusted within a hundred feet of ladies underwear and quite possibly a sexual deviant? Or perhaps it's because she just drank the last of the Rioja....or, as I'm beginning to suspect, because it was simply fun.

In a very childlike way it reminded me of the frisson of danger associated with stealing gates, tying door knockers together or bundling dog crap up in newspaper and leaving it ablaze on someone's doorstep, and knowing full well that there was a distinct possibility that you would get caught in the act. The looks of horror and recognition (that you knew that Janet and Tony were no longer an item and she was still very upset because Katie had told you last week), the wave of guilt and shame like adrenalin flushing into your face, and the act of control necessary to say "pass the salad please" resulting in a delight similar to an endorphin rush following a successfully digested jalapeno pepper.

I'm saying this as if it were just playfulness, but here's a description that fits another word....."showing malicious ill will and a desire to hurt motivated by being........." can you guess what it is?

It's okay though, I'll pay for it. I'm a great believer in what goes around comes around. When I hear the phrase, "there's no justice" I wince. I think that if you could stand far enough away from the world, but still keep it in focus, you would see all of the consequences of every tiny action. Like ripples on a pond, spreading out and interacting, changing and reforming but still keeping a tiny fragment of the moment when they were created....eventually returning, infinitely slowly, to bite you in the arse. I'm still puzzled by how the incident with the cat is connected with my tent catching fire but I'm sure that justice was done.

Oh yes, the word was "spiteful"

Monday, July 18, 2005

of Gimps, Goth's and terrorists

It's been a loong weekend.

I'm dehydrated, there's a terrible taste in my mouth and various parts of my body that don't usually ache have come out in sympathy with the one's that do. I seem to have a mild case of dysentery and a visual inspection reveal marks that might be explained by an attack from an over amorous giant squid.

It's very simple really, they're all symptoms of a particular kind of self abuse that we know as "stag weekend". You would have thought that Cambridge was quite a sedate choice for "stagging"? Not one of the more favoured spots for a beer fest, like Dublin, Amsterdam or Marbella. And it was, quite a civilised affair really with something other than just binge drinking organised for each day; golf on the Friday, carting and then paint ball. The only problem was that everything we did was accompanied by excessive heat.

The golf was a long afternoon spent with too few healthy drinks in direct sunshine, (followed by beer, curry and lap dancing - it's so easy for naked women to separate drunken men from their money!). Then off to Cambridge the next morning, thoroughly hung over, to spend 5 hours in a boiler suit in 35 degrees at a go carting track. There were 59 rounds!! Long enough to cramp just about all of our enthusiasm muscles, and to make it worse none of the drivers can drink.....which I understand is a sensible precaution if you are going to hurtling around at 40 miles an hour with your arse 2 inches from the ground.....but to make it worse, they did have ice cold bottles of beer in the fridge, with instant disqualification written all over them. It had it's moments, the groom wore his gimp mask with good grace, I collected a seriously sore backside and a damp patch in the front of my overalls when a wheel came off my cart at speed.....and we did a fair job of joining in the applause when the final was won by an attractive blond girl that we had all been drooling over, (though there were shouts of "moon!!, moon!!" from our section of the crowd when she received her medal).

Cambridge is an odd place, where everyone seems to drive at 15 miles per hour, as if no-one wants to be the first to overtake a bicycle. I'd never really spent much time there before, I'd wandered around the University buildings many moons ago and been quietly impressed by the sculptured cloisters and ancient gentility of the buildings (but not by the corduroy jackets and home knit scarves - I'm surprised you don't hear of more students being dragged into the spokes of their bicycles. So I was quite surprised at how squalid the night club was, and the amount of very large, impressively drunken, tattooed women. It was if a herd of wildebeest had taken a wrong turn on the Serengeti. There was a rancid stench to the whole place too, and if you stood in one place for too long your shoes became part of the carpet. And the heat! So we did the only thing possible in the circumstances, we drank ourselves stupid, sweat a lot and danced like loons. Somebody said that there were couples having sex in the toilets but I think that they simply got stuck to each other on the dance floor and had to go with their bondee when he or she needed to pee.

They wouldn't serve us with any more alcohol when we got back to the hotel, which we whined about at the time, but were all very grateful for on Sunday morning.
Sunday saw a change of venue, a fresh set of overalls, and a new game, paint ball. The poor taste clicked in almost immediately, but it was impossible not to notice that one of the other teams consisted almost entirely of roly-poly Iranian looking girls in uniform and headdress. It did look very much as if we had stumbled into an Al Qaeda training ground. There were enough of us to form a team, along with another much smaller group - whilst the suicide bombers (as we affectionately called them) were joined with a group of pimply Goths who looked for all of the world like Hanson in negative, and one other young guy who had his own gun and the boxed set of Rambo DVD's.

All of the games were quite similar. We hid, ran, fell over in the forest while at the same time shooting the shit out of the Hanson's (doo wop now you motherf#####!!), and the wobbly, ululating and clearly unhappy Iranian ladies. I think I was a marked man after I'd joked to one of our new friends "the only good Goth is a dead Goth" without realising that they were standing within earshot. Fortunately they were easy too shoot, Goths seem to have the same aptness to self preservation as lemmings, which is I suppose what limits their numbers.
There was a free-for-all at the end to use up our paint balls. The groom was given a bright orange jacket and wisely ran away and the rest of rained bruises on each other for the next 5 minutes. If you've not played then trust me, those bloody things really do hurt and leave 1 inch wheals with bright purple rings of bruising.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

She walks in beauty like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies
and all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes
I hate to decorate, especially the fiddly bits. Consequently the fat is full of broad expanses of colour, (I have no sense of clash either), so I tend to choose a colour on impulse and then paint an entire room in it. The living room is midnight blue, the bedroom bright orange and the bathroom pillar box red....there are other rooms too, with equally striking themes, but I don't want you snooping around my entire home just yet.
I'm also a self taught bodger. I'll try most things - and make a complete pig's ear of them. Last night was a case in point. Themanwhowouldbeabuilder left more than just a few loose ends behind, including lots of temporary electrical connections in the loft. He had promised to return at some point and fit a proper "junction box". Up until last night I had no idea what a junction box was, (except perhaps that it might be one of those yellow boxes that you're not allowed to enter unless you have an exit at a crossroad - but that would hardly fit into the loft). I tried holding the tools that he deserted to ransom, but to no avail, so last night as the matter has become urgent (you will remember that the flat is on the market and I don't want the buyer's surveyor to find anything untoward) I went to B&Q.
You would be amazed how many different types of junction boxes there are! with lights, with switches, waterproof ones, metal, plastic, big and small....I did what everyone else in B&Q seems to do, I ripped oped the plastic package and read the instructions on several different types. Not that I understood the instructions, but they all seemed to contain the same sort of gubbins, so I chose one that looked relatively simple to use and had a red light on the outside that should tell me whether it was on or off.
I went up in the loft and fiddled around to see if I could work our what I should do, and promptly gave myself quite a nasty shock. Five minutes later, after I'd turned off the electric I came back with the torch and every conceivable tool I thought I would need. I made several more trips, for the pliers..a screwdriver.....a knife.......the junction box (silly me!), all the while discovering the practical consequences of a law physics, heat rises. It was like a sauna up there.
You wouldn't believe the hours of farting around, different combinations of wires (I did look at the instructions eventually, they may as well have been in Hebrew), the sweating, the swearing, the holes in my fingers....I was very proud that I only had to replace the main fuse 3 times when I threw the switch to see if my handiwork did (work). More often than not nothing happened at all, until one blissful moment when the lights came on.
I am genius, I am savant!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

a working relationship

I wonder what my workmates think of me.....

Actually I don't, I can say with all honesty that I rarely give a toss. I'm not much into people, not particularly gregarious, not a conversationalist or needy of company. Which is nothing to be proud of since I sell advertising and work as part of a team who are supposed to buzz and bond and share information and leads and simply ooze enthusiasm. I'm not sure whether my lack of social skills in this respect is a product of being selfish, in as much as I live alone and do whatever I do pretty much whenever I want to do it - or whether I'm so completely brassed off with the inane, false, enthusiasm that is required to get through the day that I simply can't be arsed anymore. Personally I prefer to think that I'm just a miserable git.

So it really is just a matter of perspective isn't it? I think that my immediate work mates act like children who've eaten too much sugar, they think I'm either deaf, rude or aloof, or perhaps too stupid to understand the jokes and join in. That's not to say that all of my colleagues belong in the same category - you'll have to allow me a little leeway here, the prerogative of describing my colleagues through my eyes, conceit I know but it's my blog after all: The biggest threat to my wah comes in the form of my most immediate colleague. We are a team, we work together on two magazines and split the load, informally, between us. He cares deeply that we reach our targets (as do I), he cares even more deeply which of us records most of this business on our system on the way to these targets (I don't give a shit so long as we get there). This is a real sticking point in our working relationship. He doesn’t seem to understand why I am happy to let him deal with the majority of the new potential clients that we turn up, he's very mistrustful of my motives and I'm sure he thinks that I am attempting to "manage" him in some way. Nothing could be further from the truth, he's a very good salesman, albeit with an approach that makes me squirm, but he closes business, and I have the work ethic of a tree sloth so I'm happy to let him get on it.

But that only describes our working relationship. Other than that, he genuinely spooks me. He constantly tells me stuff about himself and his personal relationships, stuff that I wouldn't relate to a close friend after a night on the pop. It is peppered with intimate detail, and there have been some real shockers, things that have made me want to sit further Scunthorpe. This is a daily occurrence and I am getting much better at filtering most of it out but it's very much like sitting next to a restless child, who, whenever they are not engaged with some pressing task, uses me as an object into which to empty the content of their brain, higgledy piggledy, warts and all. This has an effect on my concentration, I would prefer to sit and contemplate my naval, doodle or stir the rolled up fragments of eraser on my desk into an interesting pattern than listen to a stream of inanity interjected with the occasional shocking insight into his psyche. He doesn't seem to be conscious of body language either, I make that face (the one where you stare blankly back while the person is talking, or turn to face them but continue to look down at some task you're not really performing, or even sit, stare and clench and unclench your fists) he just chatters on like a mechanical toy. I want to hit him, punch him right in the face, or hurl a steaming cup of copy over his bollocks. I'm sane and rational, and I'm sure the police will come one day and I will have to explain why I sat and sharpened my pencil, and then pushed it in his eye.
We're all pooped. It's hot at home and we drag our weary bones around the flat, Charlie and Toffee look as if they've just completed a marathon, their tongue's loll out and they leave a trail like a snail on the kitchen floor. I've noticed their appetite diminishes too, in the hot weather, as if they don't have the energy to eat. Personally I always find it's difficult to sleep during these mini heat waves. The flat warms up and though I can induce sleep with a combination of Nytol and wine, I wake in the early hours searching for a cool spot on the bed. Someone should invent an air conditioned pillow that stays cool throughout the night.
So, the place is on the market now, and the first prospective buyer is coming to view it this evening. It's not that I don't like the flat you understand, it's just that the area outside my door has turned into Beirut. It's never been upmarket but there was at least a sense of community. Now the other other person and I, who's first language is English, down my street, nod at each other if we pass, in a knowing sort of way. I'm not saying this in any disparaging way about the people who've moved in. In fact I feel rather sorry for many of them, but they've entered the country, been housed....and abandoned, pretty much to their own devices. They are probably completely unaware that, in suburban London, it is not the done thing to dispose of your litter over your neighbours garden wall, or leave chicken carcases on the street corner.
But we've been here for a while now, and "nested", comfortably. I'll be sorry in many ways to leave. I'll miss the quirkiness of the things like the toilet, a cast iron Victorian affair, that needs to be approached and handled with confidence to flush. I've sat and tittered many a time as visitors and freinds have tried, over and over again, to wash away their ablutions, with increasing finally emerge from the bathroom with a "sorry, I can't get your loo to work".
And of course I want to foster. I've been busy this past 12 months filling in my form "F" and going to the meetings. In fact we've (we refers to me and the zoo by the way), have undertaken major renovations to create another bedroom with the help of the idiotbuilderfreind (but that's another chapter, and I'll need to be in a good mood to write it). All we are really waiting for now, in the words of my allotted councillor in this process, is "the right child". Which, I think means one made of rubber and titanium. Just think, me, two dogs and a small child....whatever are they thinking of? In any case it's a good enough reason to contemplate moving to a place where one's not frequently woken up by low flying police helicopters.

Monday, July 11, 2005

two dogs, one cat = my family

Happy Mondays

It's an absolutely beautiful morning. Blue, cloudless skies, warm but with a gentle breeze, the gentle hum of suburban traffic and children's voices from the street as they chatter on their way to school. I prod the dogs into the yard with my foot and close the door grumpily (making a mental note to wear some underwear before opening the door, again). Bloody Mondays. They seem to come around with alarming frequency, moreso than any other day of the week. I'm not a morning person in any case, but on Monday I feel particulartly wretched. The degree of wretchedness is in direct inverse proportion to the good time I have had since 5pm on the previous Friday, and on this particular Monday I take whatever solace I can in the fact that it must have been a thoroughly enjoyable (aka excessive) weekend.

The routine/recovery consists of two aspirin, a Holland & Barret "super antioxidant" washed down with a little bottle of one of those foul tasting yoghurty drinks with live (?) bacteria that the ad tells me will have me doing summersaults on the way to work - no doubt wind powered. Followed by coffee, copious amounts of toothpaste and the hottest shower I can bear. I'm very tempted to have a glass of the unfinished bottle of wine I've just spotted in the fridge, but it's going to be a long day so I might as well start getting the feeling like a damp dishcloth out of the way sooner rather than later.

I feel better. I've been awake for nearly twenty minutes now and I've come a long way. I'm no longer appalled by the taste in my mouth, solids have begun to become a real possibility (though much later in the day), and I can bend over over with real confidence in returning to an upright position without nausea or fear of pitching forwards.

More coffee.

It's time to try a cigarette, and turn on the radio, I'm nothing if not a creature of habit. One day I live in hope that I'll switch on the radio to find that it's really Sunday, or an anonymous benefactor has donated a bank holiday and I can go back to bed. But it's not to be today, the cheeky, chirpy god wit on the radio tells me what I already know, it's sunny outside and 8.15 all over.

Why am I standing in a towel in the kitchen holding a tub of gravy granuals??.......ah yes, the dogs. They come in with repproachful looks, you forgot us didn't you, you toss pot - but I'm innured to the guilt now, after all they stole my breakfast out of the pizza box (on my chest) while I was 'taking a nap' on the living room carpet on Friday night.

It's a day for shorts, t-shirt and flip flops. I wrack my brain to try to remember if we have any visitors to the office today and whether I need to make even a minimal effort - but I just can't remember and the effort (and lack of result) is quite depressing so I decide to take a chance and dress for the weather.