View through my window

March 31, 2006

Good, better, best

The phone rings. It is the LOML. "Are you doing anything later?" she asks.

"I've got stuff to be getting on with," I reply, "but nothing that won't wait. Why?"

"I just wondered if you wanted to go our for lunch?"

Do I ever. This is just the sort of thing that I imagined we homeworkers would do regularly.

She arrives to pick me up. On the way, I look across from the manly driver's seat, and she is texting.

"Who are you texting?"

"Mr and Mrs Flash Pete. I wondered if they'd like to come too. He's working from home today."

This is officially now A Work Of Genius. I've actually worked hard this morning - advertising sorted, outstanding letters and emails sent, cheques into bank, all prepared for 2 new clients next week. It's an ordinary Friday lunchtime, and I'm going for lunch with my wife and mates.

Mrs Pete duly texts back - of course they can come: they will be there in a sufficient time for us to have a large starter to be getting on with and me a couple of pints of Old Speckled Hen, digest a bit, and then order mains when they arrive. This could Hardly Be Better.

A good time is had by all. "What's this in aid of?" asks Pete, when they get there.

"Nothing at all" we reply. "Just had some invoices paid, I suppose, is all." And isn't that the best reason of all?

Flash Pete regales us wittily with anecdotes from a recent stag do in Budapest. Mrs Pete keeps cutting him off talking about mundane things: like school, or the house, just before the punchline of each story. "Sorry, am I boring you?", says Pete. "If you don't want to hear about shooting AK47s in an abandoned factory/accommodating Hungarian lapdancers, you only need to say."

I giggle.

And now here I am writing this. Later this evening I'm going round to play Ghost Recon on Pete's XBox 360. The LOML will take Child One to karate, so I don't even need to worry about him.

If you're expecting a pithy sign off line, I'm afraid you're going to be disappointed.

A good day today. About time.

March 30, 2006


Getting a bit fed up with the adverts on the telly again. I know I've had a rant about this before (December the 8th, actually, I've just looked it up). Sorry to my colonial friends who won't have seen these.

Child One and I like ranting at the continuity. There's one for, I think, the Halifax about loans, cue woman doing up house: "I'm so glad to get rid of that hideous bath" as the offending avocado item is chucked in the skip. Then there's the pack shot of terms and conditions, and then the wrap with the contact details, behind which is another, different, shot of her throwing the bath away AGAIN.

Child One and I, in unison: "There goes the bath ... [pause] ... and there it goes again." The LOML gets quite irritated by us; can't see why.

AND there's the one of the Injury Lawyers For You. Cue Nice Lawyer in chair, attached to lie detector - at one point you see his fingers in some sort of metally detectory probey things, just so you know. The questioners fire questions at him:"Will I have to sign a credit agreement?", "How much of the compensation will I be able to keep?", and as he answers the old pen line on the graph paper stays resolutely flat, giving the indication that he's not lying. I understand that this is nothing like a real lie detector test, and I think they are getting confused with seismographs, but no matter. The end of the ad: they all shake hands, and the Nice Lawyer turns to leave, throwing a "Nice tie" comment over his shoulder to the questioner bloke. The little lie detector pen goes beserk, like a Richter scale 11 earthquake has just gone off. The bloke in the tie looks at his tie, upset, and the Nice Lawyer pulls a hidden phew-no-it-isn't-it's-a-crap-tie-and-aren't-I-clever face.

Spotted the problem? No? Uh, the Nice Lawyer isn't attached to the fucking machine any more. He's even shaken hands to prove it. He's leaving. How can the lie detector go off on one about the tie comment? More to the point: how can the ad people think we are stupid enough not to notice?

And, while I'm at it, people who make Vagicil for Intimate Feminine Irritation: using a foreign language ad of a woman going on about her itchy bits and dubbing an English voice over the top ISN'T FOOLING US EITHER. It looks stupid, and cheap, and patronising. I'm certainly not buying any, just because I hate your ad so much. Oh, and because I haven't got a vagina.

And, furthermore, can anyone come up with a more annoying three word phrase in English than 'Intimate Feminine Irritation'? (I feel a competition coming on). Do we mean itchy fanny? I think we do.

I notice that some tampons (or sanitary towels, I forget) come with an 'Intimate Feminine Wipe'. For fuck's sake, talk about beating about the bush (yes, yes, intentional, couldn't resist, no I'm not going to apologise): what a euphemism for a fucking wet wipe for period leakage that is. Just say fanny wipe. Please.

Oh, I've got another phrase that I would be happy never ever to hear again in my entire fucking life: "Come on, Tim".

Anyone do better?

EDIT: I've just seen the fanny wipe ad again, and it's worse than I thought: it's an 'intimate feminine towelette', apparently. That must be a small, cute, girly version of a towel, huh. For fuck's sake. Surely life is too short for intimate feminine towelettes.

March 28, 2006


I'm back.

Not that I've actually been anywhere - still sat here, working: worrying, talking on the phone, emailing, drawing, colouring, graphicking, referencing, researching. Listening to the radio. And, uh, surfing the interweb. And playing a bit of poker*. And downloading MP3s.

Work has been a bit thin, to be honest. Not what you want to see when you're a self-employed person. I've spent too much on advertising in the wrong places, which I'm really cross about. Stupid of me. I'm sorting this out - I'm seeing someone tomorrow about advertising in the right places. I'm also swapping some of my design work for some website enhancement work from a client, I hope. That should help.

Everyone else seems to have buggered off as well. Is there some unwritten blog rule that I don't know about that says you can go away during the last week of March? Half my links sidebar aren't there. New York, Dubrovnik, somewhere else unspecified. Or moving house.

I'd like to move house. No, actually, I'd like to build a house and then move to it. (When I say 'build' I obviously mean 'have built by someone else while I stand around with my hands in my pockets wearing a clean hi-viz jacket and a shiny hard hat, and make the decisions. About what doorknobs to have. And stuff like that.').

Unfortunately the village is an absolute no-you-can't-build-a-house, green belt, conservation area, protected, forget it, no chance mate sort of area. Unless you happen to be our neighbours two doors down who have realised their garden is just wide enough to squeeze another house into the row, cos the road turns a little corner. This is 'infill' apparently, and is allowed. Jammy gits. And we really do want to stay in the village.

So, I'll ring Flyhalf Phil (qv) again and see if he's got any wrecks to renovate come in this week. I may even drive about a bit in the up-and-coming areas of the local towns, and see if I can spot anything. Frustrating thing is, a biggish house on the edge of the village came up last year. Needed a lot of work. It went to auction, and went way way waaaaay over my budget - not that I had a budget sorted out at that point. Some people who work in TV bought it. They've obviously got money because they aren't even living in it while they're doing it up.

There's another one at the bottom of the road coming up soon - absolute wreck, same old bloke had been living there for donkey's years. He died recently, bless him. The LOML and Child One managed to scab a quick look round cos she knows the family and they were clearing it out. He hadn't been upstairs in ten years, just lived in the one room downstairs. Beaten earth floor, rotting stairs, a lean-to with an old clotheswashing copper boiler thing. No kitchen, no nothing really. Full of ragged 1950's clothes and mould and damp. It will make an excellent, exciting project.

For someone else. Because it's a black and white beamed cottage with original features, it'll definitely go to auction. And sell for way over my league. Apart from anything else, it's too much work for me to take on - it'll need almost completely taking down and starting again. Bollocks. It's only 200 yards away. How irritating.

Patience, man. Something will come up. Plenty of time. At least I'm safe for the foreseeable future from the worst of all nightmares.

Having to go and get a job.

*I found $3-62 sitting in my account on a site I haven't played at for a long time; I've no idea why. I thought I'd see how far I can get with it. "The $3-62 Experiment", I thought I'd call it. Original. Anyhoo, current balance is $78-75. More than 20 times my start. Good, eh? I rock at poker, me.

March 23, 2006

You can't choose your family...

" .... so anyway, dear, we'll be passing through on Wednesday afternoon and we thought it would be a lovely opportunity to drop in and see you and the little ones."

"Of course, Aunt, do drop in. Come for a cup of tea."

"We know you haven't got room to put us up ...[did I detect a faint disapproving tone?] ... and it's too far to get back to London so I think we'll book a hotel somewhere near you ..."

"In that case [grit teeth], come for dinner, do."

"How lovely of you. Yes, perhaps we will."

Bugger, I thought. The LOML's not going to like it.


"What have you done now?"

"Ummm. Mum's sister is, uh, passing on Wednesday ... they want to come and see the kids. I've, uh, invited them for dinner. "


"I've, uh, asked them to stay for something to eat. I couldn't avoid it really."


Mmmmmm. Mum's older, more critical, more I'm-right-and-you're-wrong, more patronising sister. And her vague, crass husband. Coming to visit the yokel branch of the family. I need reinforcements.

"Can you ask your Mum and Dad to come? Just to, like, spread the load?"

A phone call later: "Mum and Dad will come. But they say you owe them one."

Free posh dinner and I owe them one?

Aunt and Uncle duly arrived last evening, an hour late. No apology. They brought as a gift a large lump of Welsh lamb. Riiight. We managed the small talk, I smiled through being told how to look after my children, looked interested on how better to spend my leisure time, murmured vague agreement on being told I was too old to play rugby.

The LOML cooked a spectacular meal: baked ham in mustard, orange and Coca-cola. [Try it]. Potatoes, broad beans, orange sauce. Vague approval.

Properly briefed, the LOML's Mum and Dad started making yawny it's-time-we-were-going noises at about half eight. Goodbyes were said, coats fetched. Aunt and Uncle came back in. We stayed standing up, near the door, expectant.

They sat down again.

They didn't leave until quarter to eleven.

I have to be honest, here, as I said to myself I wouldn't make anything up on this blog. While all the above is technically true, I have changed the emphasis for comic effect. The evening was actually surprisingly quite pleasant, the conversation didn't really come to an awkward halt at any point and no-one bickered about anything, and my aunt didn't bring up any of my embarrassing teenage excesses in front of my in-laws. And she knows I like lamb. And I bet it was expensive.

March 22, 2006


Both kids are poorly ill and lying on the sofa watching crap cartoons and bickering and coughing. Both need regular Calpol and I need to keep setting my alarm to remember it. And drinks. I make them food but they don't eat it. I am constantly stopping in mid flow and changing DVDs, or sorting out arguments, or doling out never-mind hugs.

The LOML's had to go to work. I have work to do, but can't concentrate. I was up in the night with high-temperature children. I've taken my Berocca and had loads of strong coffee but it's not helping. I can't go out for a walk or a run because I've got to look after the kids. I can't even go into town to do my plan copying and a quick coffee and a mooch around the bookshop while I'm at it, like normal.

It's been like this for days.

I'm climbing the walls. I'm trapped.

Is this what madness feels like?


March 20, 2006


I know it's a perennial blog subject, but I am unable to resist.

So, I hope whomever came to me via the Google search "porridge change colour of poo" found what they were looking for. Welcome, indeed. I hope finding me was worth wading through several hundred other entries first. I mean, I got bored after six hundred or so. But you persevered. Well done. I noticed, also, how many blogs appear above me on the list. Including four that I read regularly. I'm not saying whom. You will have to search yourselves; my lips are sealed.

And welcome, welcome, too, to the MSN searcher for "farm fucking Barbados". I hope your long search, too, was worthwhile. Come again, do.

Feel free to comment on your weirdest search result entry. I am sure I am not alone. I may even award a virtual prize for the best if I am caused to laugh out loud.

Money making scheme?

Flash Pete and his missus come round for a curry. He brings his new Xbox 360 which creates a bit of marital disharmony on both sides, but that's another story.

Over lamb rogan josh, which my local curry house apparently makes with chicken (it was nice anyway), we discuss ruts. Or more properly Ruts, and being in them. It looks as if Pamplona will have to wait until next year for a whole host of domestic reasons, and I am consequently feeling a bit trapped and Ruttish.

My latest scheme, and something that I have been interested in for ever such a long time, is property development. I'm lucky to be quite capital rich but I'm cash poor; I've got property to borrow plenty against but have to add up the spare change to see whether I can snurk out to the pub.

Trouble is, the market has been wrong for a long, long time, and all the knackered old houses round me have been selling at auction for about the price that they can be expected to fetch once they are done up. If you're a buy-to-let landlord, this is stupid but not suicidal. You can make up the difference in the end. But if you're a buy-to-renovate-quickly-and-sell-at-a-profit developer, it's just suicidal.

So it's been on the backburner until market conditions change.

My mate Flyhalf Phil asked me as we were jogging across the pitch warming up for Saturday's game whether I was still in the market. Flyhalf Phil is an estate agent. Apparently, changes are afoot in this area. He sold a house to a bloke last week for 120 grand, needs ten spending, max, and will then be worth 160 grand. Mmmm, I said, seems to be too good to be true. I know, he said, it's cos builders who have bought to renovate are shipping the unrenovated houses back onto the market for anything they can get for them. They've overbought. And he has more similar.

Flyhalf Phil is a very useful contact. He's only young: just out of University. But I know his family and reckon he's trustworthy. And in this business, you desperately need a man on the inside. Go round the estate agents and explain in detail what sort of properties you're looking for and they nod and say yes a lot and then just send you a list of everything they've got every month, never mind that none of it is suitable. But a mate on the inside is a huge advantage: he can point you at the best ones before anyone else gets to see them. Quick deal, commission in back pocket, no time and money wasted with advertising and multiple viewings and suchlike.

Now, I bang on about how I love my job, and I do. So why, Flash Pete asked, do you want to do this? Stuck in a dank Edwardian terrace covered in dust and tiling grout and whatever. Good question. Made me think, did that. Couldn't put my finger on the answer straight away.

I've decided I do know the answer. It's cos I'm fickle. I need a new challenge every now and then or I stagnate, whether it's work or social or hobbies or whatever. I throw all my energies at it for a while and then move on to the next thing. Before blogging, it was online poker. Hardly bother to play any more now I do this. Hopefully, each house would be the same - get in, 16 weeks work, sell quickly for a sensible price - and find another new challenge.

I have time, I think. I'm ticking over nicely at my business, but I can find quite a few spare hours in the day, and evenings too. I'm not planning on doing heavy building work - I can do all the design work, obviously, and I can tile and paint and lay floor and project manage and labour and tidy gardens and make tea. Electrics and plumbing and RSJs and shit I will leave to my builder.

The LOML is cautious. She sees me on my SAD days, sitting around, tetchy, unwilling (= unable) to do anything constructive. She worries that the project would stagnate, and we would lose our profit in procrastination.

It might. But I ought to take the risk, I think.

I'll ring Phil.

March 17, 2006


Many years ago, I was walking down the road with my mother. The chap walking in front was wearing a suit - not super smart, but ok. Perhaps he was a bank clerk or something.

He turned off. My mother waited for him to be out of earshot, then said "It doesn't matter how smart their suit is, does it - if someone walks with their toes pointing out like that they just look common, don't they?"

I laughed and laughed and laughed.

My mother all over.

March 16, 2006

Don't like to ask ...

I asked Surly Gurl and she gave me one - but I only dared ask her cos she'd sent me a private email. I didn't even ask The Beep and he gave me one anyway.

I gave one to Surly myself early on. I gave one to Greavsie and JonnyB too, because they all make me laugh out loud. I did it without asking, hope that's ok. I'd love them to give me one back but I think I'm still new to this and they've been doing it for ages and they are Famous And Successful Bloggers and I don't know the etiquette and I'm far too shy to just email and ask. That would just be too forward. Jesus, they get 40 comments a day sometimes. I'm having a bit of a crisis of confidence-y type day.

I'm going to add to mine when I get the chance. I'll put the Beep up, defo. Only fair. And Just Jane and Universal Soldier cos they make me laugh and comment sometimes. And Jane tagged me. Not that anyone read my answers. Didn't think they would, it was too long. And Kyahgirl too, just I can't find her link at the moment cos she's moved*.

I've even got a couple of commenters who don't really have blogs of their own - well, sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. DCI, and I, Like The View, your comments are very welcome and maybe in the future we can sort something out.

There are loads of others that I read too, all brilliant. I haven't got time to do the blue underlined thing to them all, but Petite Anglaise, Little Red Boat, My Boyfriend Is A Twat, Boob Pencil, After the Rat Race, Brom Man, Kitchen Witch, nf girl, Ivan The Terrible, Wyndham the Triffid and The Iceland Weather Report are all excellent. And just cos you're not on the list doesn't mean you're not a great blogger. I'd just be here all day.

So how do you do it?

You can't just ask.

That would be rude.

*Duh. Found it now. It's

March 15, 2006

Little Voices

I'm conscious that this has been a bit ranty and heavy going recently. While all this catharsis and close-quarters navel inspection is no doubt deeply good for me, it's time for some diary type stuff.

Went with the LOML and a whole bunch of mates up to the big Brummy smoke on Saturday night, to a comedy club, and it was ace. I laughed a lot, had a reasonable amount to drink, a few pints, but was ok on it. Didn't want a hangover Sunday, so listened to the Little Voice in my head which said "Probably enough warm lager now, CwhatC. If you get any drunker you're not going to enjoy yourself any more than you are now."

Not so a friend of mine. Nameless, she shall remain. She had a couple of drinks before we met up. When we got there her man was drinking Guinness, so she went for the white wine option, and bought a bottle. And drank it. And apparently bought another too, and was about halfway down that when we left the club, about half twelve, in high spirits.

On t'minibus on t'way home, her mood changed. The subject of money had somehow come up. You can safely be spared the details, but it was about family, and that's always the worst. She shouted at her man through gritted teeth - we were amazed just how loud you can be without opening your mouth. She went on and on and on, louder and louder, apparently oblivious of everyone else. He was super tolerant, though he must have been mortally embarrassed, and made the smart decision not to say "Come on love, you're drunk, we'll talk about it in the morning" because she certainly would have given it the old "I'm NOT drunk how DARE you you patronising BASTARD you're all the fucking SAME etc" and belaboured him vigourously about the cranium with her handbag. He just kept calmly refuting her points.

No-one knew where to look. No-one else was even remotely close to being that pissed. We didn't dare giggle because we all knew the "and what the fuck do YOU think you're laughing at?" option was open and available to her. I spent some of the time entertaining myself by fractionally dropping my eyelid in a micro-wink at Mrs Tony Bloke to try and make her laugh. Everyone else spent pretty much the whole journey minutely examining the ceiling of the bus. It was grey, and padded, by the way.

It took me maybe fifteen years of drinking - I was certainly more than thirty - to realise that there is a point during the evening at which you are at maximum entertainment capacity. The Little Voice was finally - finally - being heard. Drinking any more at this point is both a waste of money, will maybe make you ill and is potentially embarrassing. The great thing about the Little Voice is that it's a very slidy scale. For me, the absolute minimum Voice-intervention is about two pints for formal sort of times with important people who aren't drinking. Third pint, I might get just a little gobby, with only very slightly embarrassing results. The other end of the scale is the rubgy club players' dinner, where the round of four bottles of red wine every twenty minutes for a table of six is entirely reasonable. Oh, and a bottle of port. The Voice might intervene here to avoid death from alcohol poisoning, but only for that. It might call on its cousin, the you're-about-to-suffer-some-extreme-pain Voice, however. Or its bastard inbred step-brother, the this-is-going-to-be-really-fucking-expensive-if-it-goes-wrong Voice. This might have avoided the driving-naked-round-the-lanes incident, and the quad-bike-wheelies-up-the-village-street-four-up incident, and the British-bulldog*-in-the-graveyard incident.But that would have been dull, so we didn't listen. Should have, oh we so should have. But we didn't.

Who are the Voices? Where do they live? And why aren't they always there? Tell you what, if you knew that, you'd make an abso-fucking-lute fortune saving people from themselves.

I wonder if my mate's I-told-you-so Voice was to be heard on Sunday.

*for our American cousins: it's a bit like the NFL, but imagine everyone with a ball and only one tackler. Get tackled, join the tackling side for the run back across. There's lots of big gravestones in the churchyard.

March 14, 2006

Warning: self-indulgent

I made a basic schoolboy error a while ago - it's in the archive, if you need to check for some reason - by moaning that no-one had tagged me for the four favourite things meme. I just fancied the questions. Silly. It was noted, out there in blogland. And now Just Jane has tagged me for a meme.

I feel like the dickhead in the town centre - you know the bloke, unemployed and a sad act but full of himself, who deliberately lurks around when the market researchers are wandering the precincts with fixed unamused smiles, laminated name badges, clipboards of unanswerable questions ("how do you rate the local authority sewerage provision? Are you (a) extremely satisfied; (b) very satisfied ..."). He waits and lurks and wanders back and forth until finally a fixed unamused smile sighs and approaches him: "Excuse me sir, can you spare five minutes ..." and then of course he marches off quickly throwing an "I'm far too busy, sorry" over his shoulder as he goes.

I feel a bit like that with the meme - I feel like saying "I know I've been tagged but I really don't do memes, sorry" (subtext: because I'm far too important) and then go off and ramble and wibble incoherently and ungrammatically about telly last night or something.

But I went and said I would do it, so I will. A warning, though: if you don't share my taste in music you'll probably get bored at some point. I don't mind, feel free to skip bits. I have done in the past when people crap on about life-changing music, because it's so personal to them and sooo important but to everyone else it's a track they haven't heard by a band they haven't heard of. Though I have to say that Jane's answers were good 'uns; certainly interesting enough for me to read the lot. 'Ride on time', Jane? Damn that takes me back. I once won a pub quiz by knowing it was by Black Box and that they were Italian.

So, enough dicking around:

1: Name a track from your early childhood. Mum and Dad only play classical, so about the first I can remember is Going To Barbados by Typically Tropical. Awful. Whoa! We're going to Barbados! Precursor to those shits with the Agadoo bollocks. Black Lace, that's them. Wankers. My big brother bought it on vinyl single.

2: Track you associate with your first love: Madonna's Like A Virgin. Cos she used to play it all the time, and did that dance with her arms over her head, wearing fishnet gloves. This was my first proper love, obviously, not the ones that I used to fall over in front of 'by mistake' playing kiss chase.

3: Track that reminds you of a holiday trip: could have put loads for this, but went in the end with I Predict A Riot by Kaiser Chiefs. Last summer, scorching hot, beer in hand, campsite, deck chair, kids in swimming pool, listening to the Ashes on the car radio with Marcus the Worm Farmer. We won the Test, and then Mrs Marcus brought out this as his birthday present. Danced about the field making an exhibition of ourselves.

4: Track I like but wouldn't want to be associated with in public: anything off James Blunt's album Back To Bedlam. Er, not You're Beautiful, that's been done to death, what's the most untrendy? Got to be Goodbye My Lover. It seems to be trendy to knock it at the moment (even in my comments box, Surly, ahem. I have seen Maiden about five times, though, does that make up?) but shit, I like it. I must like whiny male vocalists; I've got all of Coldplay's albums too.

5: Track that accompanied you when you were lovesick: Have You Ever Loved A Woman? by Derek and the Dominoes, which means of course that it's essentially Eric Clapton. I was madly in love with a girl that I was at sixth form college with, but she was going out with someone (not 'my very best friend' like the lyrics say; life didn't imitate art to that extent). I sat in my bedroom and played this on tape over and over and over until the tape stretched. They split up and I shagged her a few months later, of course. It wasn't as great as I'd imagined, and we parted after a few weeks. (Oh come on, grow up, I was 18 and randy. 18 year old boys are allowed to be insensitive bastards). She's slightly famous in the music industry now, as it happens.

6: Track you've probably listened to most often. I wanted this to be something desperately trendy, but it's almost certainly Comfortably Numb, by, of course, Pink Floyd. I was going through the teenage angst thing and it seemed to fit. I just had it on repeat for about three mothths. I still know all the words now.

7: Favourite instrumental: damn, that's hard. I've got rucks and rucks of guitar band CDs, but a pure instrumental? Tell you what, I'll nick Jane's idea of a TV theme: how about the theme to Jonathan Creek? It's that brilliant minor key thing based on a piece of music called Danse Macabre, which I must find out more about and buy.

8: Track which represents one of your favourite bands: La Grange by ZZTop. It was back in their grungy, dirty heydey before they got all polished with Legs and Sharp Dressed Man and such. It's got a really good driving guitar which my kids keep making me play over and over on the car CD. Oh, and it's about a brothel. It's on an old album called Tres Hombres (1973: I just checked) and I recommend it most highly. Not a duff track on it.

9: Track which represents yourself best. Mmmm. If I'm honest? It's Been A While by Staind. "It's been a while/Since I've gone and fucked things up/Just like I always do/But all that shit seems to disappear/ When I'm with you." Nuff said, really.

10: Track which reminds you of a special occasion:Going Underground by The Jam. The LOML's a massive fan, and I first noticed her dancing to this in herringbone mod suit in Ritzy's nightclub in Tottenham in 1988. I walked her home six miles across London and she wouldn't even invite me in for coffee. I walked another three miles home without my feet touching the ground. After you with that bucket.

11: Track you can relax to: Turn Me On by Norah Jones. It's the CD that gets put on late at night in the car. I stop at the services and get a take out latte, and put this on to cruise home down the motorway.

12: Track that stands for a really good time in your life: can't think of many, to be honest, which sounds terribly bleak. I don't have a track which I associate with our wedding, or the birth of either of our kids; I wonder why not? Don't know the answer to that. I'll go for a couple of years ago: self employment going well, enjoying my work for the first time in maybe 15 years, summertime with the office window to the garden open, and Joss Stone and Super Duper Love on the CD.

13: Track which is currently your favourite. This one needs to stand the test of time a bit - sometimes I really like a current song for a few weeks and then get annoyed with it. I'll go for K T Tunstall and Black Horse And The Cherry Tree. Love the album, often play it in the kitchen late at night while I'm doing the dishes after the LOML has gone to bed. Relaxing and uplifting at once.

14: Track to dedicate to your best friend: this is a bit girly. Reeeeally not sure. The LOML's my best friend; trite but true. I can't stand him, but the LOML likes him, so something by Jean Michel Jarre? Because she's my Oxygene? Bleugh. Didn't like doing that. *shivers and moves on*

15: Track you think that no-one but you likes: Johnny Cash and Hurt. I saw the vid for this on telly: it was all filmed in the closed down Johnny Cash Museum, with the man sitting among the dustsheets in his own epitaph singing how he hurt himself just to see if he still feels. It's a cover of Trent Reznor of the Nine Inch Nails's song. I think it's genius, but everyone I know can't see past the cun-ter-ee yee-haw thang, which it's so not. I went and found it and there's a whole album of it called American IV: The Man Comes Around and it includes stuff like Depeche Mode's Personal Jesus. Excellent, excellent, excellent.

16: Track you like especially for its lyrics: almost any of the above, for a short list. Plus loads of others. I've settled in the end for Lloyd Cole and the Commotions' Perfect Skin. Could quote the whole song, but "She's got cheekbones like geometry and eyes like sin/and she's sexually enlightened by Cosmopolitan/and when she smiles my way my eyes go out in vain/for her perfect skin ... strikes me the moral of this song must be there never has been one" will do. Just perfect. Whatever happened to Lloyd Cole? I liked him.

17: Track you like, in neither English nor German: I'm not going to stoop to putting Nessun Dorma. Son Of A Preacher Man, by Aretha Franklin. That's definitely in American. And therefore so not in English. Two countries divided by a common language? What a voice, though, what a voice.

18: Track which best lets you release tension: odd one this. Susan's House by Eels. It was a minor hit in about 1996. I heard them on the radio doing it acoustically and fell in love with it - I can even remember where I heard the session. (In the car park at my old work, if you must know). It's just so quirky and has a real difference to it, and there's a message in there too. Gets you out of yourself. Good one.

19: Track you want played at your funeral: Simple Man by Lynyrd Skynyrd. I just wish I had been, sometimes.

20: Track to nominate for "the best of all times" category. Easy: The Great Gig In The Sky, by Pink Floyd. I've loved it since I first heard it as a teenager. It has a soaring, orchestral quality to it, and then the vocal goes just a bit screamy shouty and just a bit out of control and it's all just a bit trippy. I last listened to this on the Shuffle while I was running across the middle of a massive flat stubble field under a massive flat grey sky, and it was nearly mind altering. Nearly. I slipped over, which brought me back down to earth, pun absolutely intentional.

Wow. There you go, then. Bit of an epic, so if you're still reading: gold star. Comment, criticise, empathise, take the piss if you will. Maybe, maybe, someone even agrees with me.

I've actually revealed more of myself than I thought I would doing that, which is good and pretty much the point, I suppose.

Oh, and I am just so going to take the tag cop-out and just tag anyone who fancies doing it. I'm still quite new to this and I'm not quite sure of all the etiquette yet. Have a go, it's cathartic. A bit.

Am I stupid?

I'm doing the meme, Jane, honest. I may even post twice in one day by putting it up later. Mmmmm.

I listen to Radio 1 in the mornings. Don't know why, at my age, I suppose it's just force of habit really. Can't force myself to listen to Radio 2, that's for old .... for fuck's sake, get off the midlife crisis thing, will you? Can't even write a simple paragraph without going on and on and on about it. Jesus.

Anyhoo, as Greavsie would say, Chris Moyles this morning. I quite like the guy. I can also see how many people would find him astonishingly irritating. Still. He does a little quiz thing every week, among the people in the studio and a couple of callers on the phone.

This week's questions:

What kind of animal is a natterjack?
Which Ukrainian city gave its name to a chicken dish?
On a ship, facing forwards, is port to your left or your right?
Who was the youngest player to score for England in the twentieth century (football)?
Which are the three American states with only four letters in their names?

Now I know you know the answers. You are erudite, educated, knowledgable people. I won't patronise you by telling you the answers*.

While going through the answers, the breakfast crew (I think that's what you're supposed to call them), between them, variously thought that a natterjack was a bird or a frog, and that frogs and toads are the same thing so that counted, that Stroganoff is both a city and furthermore in Ukraine, the stern of a ship is the front, Wayne Rooney (I reckon he would have been about 13) was playing for England in the twentieth century, and were generally unable to name the all three states.

I sat in the car, listening, with a bemused air. I don't get cross about stuff like this any more. How did these people get onto national radio? Surely everyone around the country is shouting at the radio at the stupidity?

And then I thought, who is being stupid here? What is the point of this kind of team presenting on the radio, if not to be inclusive and welcoming? It's a lads' and ladettes' club in the morning. People tune in because they feel like the presenters are their mates. They feel they know about their private lives (they don't of course: tiny irrelevant details are dropped in carefully, but never anywhere near enough for someone to, say, find out where they live) and feel like they could all go for a drink together and have great time.

So how would it help having people on the team who, like me and I suspect you, would get 7 out of 7 every time on these sort of questions? It wouldn't. The inclusiveness would be lost. So, by definition, national BBC radio is deliberately dumbing down, despite their protestations to government and elsewhere that they are not. And I can therefore leave you with another question - should the BBC be chasing ratings or maintaining standards? Better minds than I can debate that one.

Conclusion? Nobody likes a smartarse.

Story of my life.

*oh all right, just in case there's one you don't know and it's annoying you: toad, Kiev, the left, Michael Owen, Ohio, Utah, Iowa.

March 10, 2006


I caught that 'The Planets' thing on Beeb 3 the other night. I love all that. The one thing that I missed when I moved out of my parents' home all those years ago was the old man's New Scientist subscription.

The prog mentioned the latest estimates re the number of stars in the universe. Our galaxy contains a hundred billion stars. And there are maybe fifty billion galaxies. They said that this is as many stars as there are grains of sand on every beach on Earth.

Imagine, if you will, going down to your favourite beach - wherever it is in the world - digging a little hole in the sand with your hand, pulling your hand out, looking closely at your index finger, and choosing one particular grain of sand sticking to your finger. Pick a pretty-coloured or shiny one if you want. That's our sun. Life is here.

Now look at your hand, at all the other grains stuck there. And now look around, slowly, at the grains on your feet, on the beach beneath your feet, the wet ones down by the water, blowing around up by the car park, in the distance, close to, at the bottom of the kids' hole, under the crisp packet, washing about in the little waves, stuck to the dog turd.

Imagine how many beaches there are in whatever country you're in. Repeat. Imagine how many countries there are in the world. Cote d'Azur, Cote d'Ivoire, Corfu, Cork, Coromandel. Cornwall. Cook Islands. Repeat.

Now tell me we're the only life in the universe.

March 08, 2006

Nervous tissue

Not, as you may have been hoping, about a piece of worried supersoft three-ply. Instead, about nervous tissue in my body.

Every day, I get a bit sicky and tired feeling in the morning. I look at the clock, and within a few minutes either way, it'll be eleven o'clock. You could set your watch by it, if you don't mind your watch being maybe ten minutes out either way. And having to contact me at about eleven o'clock in the morning whenever you want your watch setting.

It's a blood sugar thing. Breakfast has gone down, blood sugar has dropped, tiredy sicky feeling is how it manifests itself. That 's interesting in itself, really. Let's get this straight - my body communicates to brain that blood sugar has dropped. Hidden part of brain communicates to conscious part of brain that it feels sick and tired. Conscious part of brain rationalises this and dunks a couple of ginger nuts into another coffee with a sugar in, and in a minute or two all is fine again. If you were doing a time and motion study, I'm sure you would reckon there are too many links in this communication chain, but it works pretty well, no? I'm aware that there are all sorts of complex issues that I'm skirting to do with insulin and whathaveyou, but the basic system is the same.

Earlier every morning, at a somewhat more unpredictable time, I get a rush of mental energy. I can solve previously insoluble problems, I am inspired in an artistic designery way, I am enthused with optomism for all the things I am going to get done during the day ahead. Frustratingly, it only lasts a few minutes because after that time I need to go and have a dump. Sorry if that's a little graphic, but there you are. The few minutes before I get the ten-minute warning that I need to go for a shit are the most productive of the day. I can frequently be seen frantically drawing while hopping about, cheeks clenched, trying to finish tricky bits before I go to the loo. Trouble is, when I'm finished, the energy and enthusiasm are completely gone. I've forgotten the solutions, the jobs I was looking forward to seem like chores, inspiration disappears. It doesn't matter if I've been two minutes or read half a novel, the effect is the same.

A medical doctor friend of mine said that there is as much nervous tissue associated with your abdominal tract as there is in your brain. (Mind you, he also thinks that the anus is astonishingly clever and underrated because it's just a little hoop of muscle and yet it can tell the difference between liquid and solid. Hah. Not always, it fucking can't). So perhaps we should be treating our abdominal nervous tissue a little more kindly; giving it a better press, maybe. We do all sorts of things for our cranial brain tissue, why not the rest of it? Does omega-3 fish oil work for all your other neural connections, perhaps make your gut more efficient? Or your spinal cord? More importantly, how do I get the inspired-by-my-gut feeling to last?*

I was musing thus, and indeed had written most of the above in draft, when I came across this debate, at Greavsie's blog. I'd never heard of Berocca, but it sounds just what I need. I've already nearly fallen asleep in my chair this morning (not because I'm tired, just bored with what I was doing - which indeed is why I am doing this at the moment). Long-term readers will be aware that I'm a bit of a winter loony, and have problems motivating myself in the long dark days. SAD, perhaps. The doctor said maybe, but try getting more exercise in the daytime before we go down that route. Thanks for that.

So, Berocca it is. I know it's not an anti-depressant, but I'm sure if I can boost my energy with something other than caffeine I won't feel so unmotivated. It's the huge effort that I have to make some days just to get the necessary, bill-paying stuff done that makes me down, I reckon. If I had more energy I'd get more done and wouldn't feel down about it. It's a theory, anyway.

If I ever get my finger out and get the work I'm supposed to be doing as we speak finished, I'll have to go into town later to the repro shop. I can go to Boots at the same time. Or Holland and Barrett, perhaps. Maybe I can feed all of my nervous tissue with it, you never know.

I shall harness the power of my poo-brain. Yellow piss seems a small price to pay.

*anyone suggesting shoving things up my arse, or trying to hold onto a shit all day, will have their chat banned, or something.

March 07, 2006


About everything, really.

While I was putting off doing work yesterday morning ("I'll just watch a bit of telly while I drink a coffee ....") I saw a programme hidden away in the minor Sky channels about thrill-seekers. It went on about the dopamine reflex blah blah and showed lots of film of people jumping off cliffs with nothing but some string and a large piece of fluorescent cloth to prevent them from dying (but they always wear crash helmets, don't they? What's the point? Not going to save you from shattering every other bone in your body when you hit the very hard ground at a hundred and forty miles an hour. Anyway.).

It got me thinking. I am, as you all ought to be aware by now (fucking well keep up at the back, why don't you?), approaching my fifth decade. In, by my calculations, 56 days, I will have my fortieth birthday. Note I did not say 'celebrate'.

I should have done all the stuff I dreamed of by now. I will be physically unable to do many of them in a few years. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to B.A.S.E. jump, I don't have that much of a dopamine receptor inhibition. (That sounded good didn't it? Almost medical. I think it's actually right, as well). I am toward that end of the spectrum, though: I do like a bit of an adrenalin sport, me. I've done a lot of rock climbing in my time, until arthritic fingers stopped me; when I'm on holiday, I enjoy finding high sea cliffs to jump off into the sea from; I ski and drive far too fucking fast to be safe. You can't play rugby every week, as a forward, if you're a wallflower.

But being nearly 40 isn't about have I done a bungee jump yet. Oh, all right, it is, but it isn't just about that. What about all my other life goals, though? The proper ones, the long-term ones. The ones that I thought I'd never possibly achieve, when I was living in a squat in a Hackney Wick tower block circa 1989, examining my navel, for day after day.

Lovely wife, check. Male progeny to continue family line, check. Female progeny to spoil rotten, check. Dream job, check. Own boss, check. Own house, check. Nice car, check.

Mmmmm. All check. So it's just stuff like 'learn to kite surf' that are missing after all. Perhaps I'm being too hard on myself. I mean, it's all very well having life goals of 'own a ski chalet in French Alps' but that conflicts with the life goal of 'do not be a slave to career, and always have time for the kids'. It's only money. You can't take it with you.

So, perhaps being 40 is all about bungee jumping. Work-type things are just the filling in between the adrenalin episodes, and if you happen to enjoy the filling in, so much the better. That's one way of looking at it, I suppose.

Thinking about it again, there are quite a few adrenaliny-type rushes that can be had at any age. I'm currently trying to organise going to Pamplona to run with the bulls this summer, as a late 40th present to myself. Everyone I talk to thinks that's nuts. (Except Flash Pete, who swears he's coming too. Hope he does, it won't be the same without him). Hey, though, ask yourself: the fucking great beast can do a hundred metres in 5 seconds and weighs a hundred and ten stone. And those horns are real, and sharp. And I am going to trap myself, with thousands of other people, in a narrow cobbled street, with several of them. Imagine, then, once the beasts have passed safely by, you turn to your mate, to anyone else in the street, eyes shining, shouting, screaming, death cheated, alive, more alive than ever. Imagine the adrenalin rush of that. Can't wait. And they do it every day for a week! And they do it first thing in the morning, so you can spend the rest of the day, and night, getting drunk!

Tell you what, I've decided that I can turn this whole thing on it's head. I shall triumphantly use this horrible event as an excuse to behave as childishly as possible. In a way only a real grown up can.

March 06, 2006


Being all inspired and enthused about countryish things over the last few days, I delve into Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's 'Meat' book - half essay, half cookbook, and a dashed good read.

I come across a recipe for cassoulet, that great French sausagey beany casseroley thing, and suddenly remember that I have a kit somewhere. A kit, in this case, consists of vac-packed sausage and pork belly and a packet of haricot beans.

No time like the present, I think to myself, with a manly jaw-jut and a heartily inflated chest. I get out Pots and Pans. I read the first of the instructions: soak beans overnight in cold water. I put Pots and Pans away. No time like tomorrow morning, I think to myself, zeal untarnished.

Aaaaaanyway, after much pfaffing and jaw stroking, the dish is ready. It has a heady, some might even say farmyardy, odour. It looks roughly like the picture in the book.

The LOML takes one glance and wordlessly gets a pizza out of the freezer for herself and the kids.

Their loss, I decide. I am determined to remain Undaunted. I serve myself a big bowlful. The flavour is, ah, interestingly strong - the various sausage is so spicy and the pork bellies so unexpectedly salted that these are the primary flavours. The beany tomato-y oniony sauce is nice, though.

Later on that evening, the LOML reminds me that her parents brought the cassoulet kit back from Spain for me, and, adding up on her fingers as she goes, works out that this is more than a year ago. I remind myself that I am remaining Undaunted, and content myself that the meat was vac-packed so it must be all right, surely. The slight abdominal rumbling is (a) normal for me anyway, and (b) just a result of the high bean content.

I put all thoughts of the texture of the pork belly out of my mind. It was perhaps a little yielding. 'Clammy' is a word which is not a great distance away from inclusion in that set of words that could be used to describe it. It smelled ok, though, surely? Oh yes, I convince myself, nodding. It did. However, I then remind myself, I have had a cold sufficient to prevent me from smelling anything much for a month now. Enough! No more weakness! 'Undaunted', remember?

Much, much later, in the wee small hours of the morning, suddenly awaking from fitful slumber while propped up sitting on the toilet, yet again, I finally admit that perhaps mere Undauntedness is sometimes not enough.

All in all, you will appreciate how this may have something to do with the lack of posts over the last few days.

March 02, 2006

'The Good Life' is a bit obvious but I can't immediately think of a better title

When I moved to the country it wasn't through any great need to get back to my roots and immerse my hands in mother soil. It was more a matter of moving to the village that the LOML was born and brought up in so we could be near her family and friends. I am a townie, a smallish-market-townie-in-a-fairly-rural-area, but a townie nonetheless.

When the LOML and I had our first house, in a town, I remember being amazed that she could grow french beans that you could actually eat up some canes by the shed. I mean, I knew that where beans came from was not Sainsbury's, but I imagined growing your own was strictly the preserve of arcane alchemy (if this isn't a tautology) known only to crusty old allotment holders. Passing on the secrets of their grandfathers, no doubt. So a germ of a kernel of a seed of an interest in things green gently sprouted.

I gradually became converted, dug a small veg patch, experimented, learned, prospered. In the current CwhatC garden there are four veg patches and a greenhouse. All organic, natch. I even entered the Village Show, and won some certificates (uh, 'best short carrots', 'best any other vegetable - 3 specimens', 3rd best 'onions - spring sown', yada yada).

The LOML's parents, you see, are 'of the land'. They grow stuff for a living - soft fruit, cut flowers, florists' foliage - on 12 acres on the edge of the village. They met at horticultural college actually.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall became a bit of a guru; except, obviously, as regards haircuts: I think I could teach him a thing or two there. I visit his River Cottage website regularly, and have seriously considered taking a trundly down the M5 to one of his events. I'd love to keep pigs and make my own ham and stuff. It looks a fabulous laugh and hey, I love ham. And bacon. And sausages.

And when you look a bit deeper, it's a bit of a moral journey as well. There was a programme on BBC telly a while back called (I think) 'The Real Food Show'. (Was it called that? Anyway*). It was the one which had a zoo-type format somewhat copied from Top Gear. The premise of the feature in question was that all meat-eaters should be able to kill the animal they were going to eat. Hugh F-W used to have a section on it: a step-by-step guide culminating in actually slaughtering and butchering and cooking and eating an animal yourself. I can't find it now, but his other food essays are very good. I like his meat manifesto particularly.

The presenter from the BBC went out to a farm and selected an animal (a beef bullock, if I recall) and watched it being killed, and butchered. He cried on camera, and I am not mocking him here. I think this is important. But he did it, and he ate the meat, and I reckon was a better person for the experience. It's something we all ought to be prepared to do: if not, you know the answer. Vegetarianism. A simple, moral, code to live by. I can, and have, slaughtered animals. How many of us who buy our meat shrink-wrapped in Tesco can say the same? Not many, not many at all. Most, I suspect, would blanch at the sight, sound and smell of a twitching, newly-dead animal being eviscerated for our ultimate culinary pleasure. And then throw up their 4-grain Cheerios all over their Hush Puppies.

But do not the animals who died so that we may eat deserve our respect? I respect them by buying ethically raised non-intensive meat from my local butcher. They have only lived so that I can eat them, but this in no way means that their lives need not be as contented as possible in the meantime. It makes you think; it damn well ought to make you think.



Did it again.

Started off all light-hearted and ended up screaming and shouting off an oversized soapbox, spittle running down my chin and no doubt into the audience's faces. Sorry. Have a tissue. Comes of being an opinionated sort of chap, you see. I get carried away. And there's no-one here to say "Hey, shush. Calm down a bit" until afterwards, when it's too late, usually.

So, anyway. Right. Um. I guess that the whole point of this is that the reason that Hugh F-W's programmes were so popular is because we all hanker for it, really. That Jimmy's Farm that's on again is in the same mould - actually, it was probably watching that last night that set me thinking about it all again in the first place. We're all hardwired, deep down, into producing our own food. Just some of us are further removed from it than others.

Tell you what, I'll let you know how this year's food production activities are going, occasionally, and then at least you can grow veg and fruit vicariously through me if you want to. I may even kill some animals and eat them and we can all grow as people through the experience - me physically, you morally.

Any requests?

*I've now found it on Sky. It's called Full On Food.

March 01, 2006


I like Davina McCall. I do. I think she's very natural in front of the camera, if a bit giggly, and even though I'm not the biggest fan of Big Brother, you can't deny (a) it's romped into the social consciousness and (b) it needs a presenter with natural shallowness, just like Davina (and I don't mean that in a derogatory way), otherwise it could be taking itself too seriously.

Not sure about her chat show, with it's imaginative title, yet.

Especially as she's just announced "And now one of the sassiest and classiest girl bands around, the Sugababes."

'Sugababes' and 'classy' are two words which it would surely take a labrythine feat of grammatical adroitness to fit correctly into the same sentence. Surely?


Sorry about yesterday. Just tooooo busy. Rude of me, I know. I'll try not to let it happen again.

Trouble is, I had quite a lot of work to do with long deadlines. Now, I'm not the kind of chap to get it all done straight away, me. Oh, no. That would be far too easy. No, instead I think to myself that it's ok, I've got three weeks to do this thing, and two weeks to do that one, and they shouldn't take more than a couple of days each, so I can do the little urgent half-hour stuff and browse the blogsphere and play poker and all of a sudden I'm completely out of time and panicking and it's all gone tits. Again.

You'd think I'd learn. But I never do.

So, just to ensure I don't miss out anything, today I make myself a Timetable. Lists of which phone calls and emails I have to make, in what order. A slot to pop out and visit a client locally. Time when I have to put the casserole on (new man me), and go back to it to check it.

It is a good Timetable. It says 'Run, and/or dig the garden, just before lunch (don't forget Shuffle. Or key)'. Then the time is just before lunch and I don't really fancy going for a run cos it's snowing, but the timetable says I must, so I do. Bit of a bully, the Timetable, maybe, I'm thinking.

So, I'm out running, running, across the fields and through the woods and the sun comes out and the birds are singing in the trees and there's a pleasant breeze and I'm feeling pretty fit and not too tired and I'm thinking maybe that the Timetable was right after all. Then I fall over.

Still, I think, picking myself up and wiping my hands on my shorts, that's hardly the Timetable's fault.

And then the Shuffle plays a blinder to see me home: Joss Stone's Super Duper Love lifts me through the woods, Pink Floyd's The Great Gig In The Sky comes on as I head out across the middle of the stubble field: all earth and sky and that soaring vocal; inspirational. And then I pull through the houses at the edge of the village and up the hill powered by The Kinks' Lola. (I may not be the world's most masculine man, but when I'm in bed I know what I am: I'm a man and so's Lola. Oh yes. If that doesn't give me enough extra puff to get up the hill without walking nothing will). Glad the Timetable reminded me to take it. And just as the song finishes I arrive and I have my key, because the Timetable said to.

So I'm thinking quite kindly of the Timetable as we speak. Next item, go and check the casserole again and maybe add water. That's what Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's book tells me to do, and that's good enough for me.

I've even started writing tomorrow's Timetable. I think this could be a runner.