Sunday, December 24, 2006

It takes two to make a thing go shite

It’s the night before Christmas and I wish that nothing was stirring. Instead, surfing through the channels on TV I stumbled upon the equivalent of aural rape. I wish I could have changed the channel or turned off the TV completely but it was so hypnotically bad. I think my will to live drained so fast that I couldn’t summon the strength to escape its clutches.

Welcome to the world of ‘Duet Impossible’.

No doubt conceived by some coked up TV executive after seeing the Radio 2 advert starring Elvis, Keith Moon, Stevie Wonder et al, current ‘stars’ get to duet with dead ones. I’m not sure if the impossible part of the title is for the incredulity that this ever got past the first pitch meeting or for the implausibility that stars of the past would ever deign to share a stage with these pretenders. With Vernon Kay presenting, you knew that it would always be nylon on offer rather than silk, with little spark, static or otherwise.

The Sugar Babes continued to make me suspect that there’s a chip shop short of 3 staff somewhere as they took on Dusty Springfield with a version of ‘Dancing in the Streets’. As soon as Springfield opened her mouth, completely blowing the ‘Babes’ off the stage, I was left wishing that they would go back to the fish suppers and leave Dusty to sing. It was like being in a nightclub, hearing your favourite song and the DJ cutting out the best bits to sing over the top.

McFly announced that they were going to duet with Lulu, which made me wonder when she died. They appeared with a 15 year old version of Lulu which, they claimed was the impossible part, while attempting a predictable version of ‘Shout’. It looked like performing was the real impossible part as their contribution resembled miming to the original with a bit of extra shouting. Lo and behold the real Lulu appeared at the very end of the song and again I was left wondering when she died.

As McFly were out of their depth with Lulu, so too was she as she performed with Marvin Gaye. Simon Ward (I have no idea either) mumbled over Peggy Lee’s classic ‘Fever’ and for the grand finale, Boy George showed that there’s no greater love than self-love by dueting with himself. By this stage I nearly performed a ‘Duet Impossible’ myself with Mama Cass as I choked on my sandwich.

Choosing such obvious, classic songs was the first mistake. How anyone can think that altering the near perfection of ‘Heard it through the Grapevine’ will result in anything but disaster needs help. The second problem was the gulf in talent between the current and past acts. It highlights just how far good marketing and PR will get bands these days compared to acts of the past relying on pure talent.

The only person to come out of this with merit was Katie Meluah. Her duet with Eva Cassidy on ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ was understated, restrained and touching. Her voice and guitar complimenting both the song and Cassidy’s vocals, surely the most important quality of any duet. The fact that Meluah is a talented artist rather than from the conveyor belt that churned out the other acts is telling.

A truly terrible Christmas offering from the BBC and I’m only grateful that I didn’t catch all of the acts. If this is the best of the Christmas TV treats this year I only hope that someone has kept the receipt.

Friday, December 22, 2006

What did you do during the war?

You know the clock's ticking, time's running out and you still have that last minute shopping to do. Panicking you check your shopping list;

Kleenex?
Check.
Lubricant?
Check.
Porn mags?
Check.
World Peace?

Hmm…

Today, wankers all over the world will unite, unashamed and striving single-handedly to end all wars. By the simple act of self-love while thinking positive thoughts, aggression and violence around the globe can be reduced. Yes, today they come in peace.

Brought to you by the same people who spelled the word ‘peace’ with their naked bodies to show just how alarmed they were with the state of the world, Global Orgasm is their next step in ending conflict. You may be surprised to discover that the organisers are Californian hippies. Their website provides the following information:

The Event

WHO? All Men and Women, you and everyone
you know.

WHERE? Everywhere in the world, but especially in countries with weapons of mass destruction.

WHEN?
Winter Solstice Day - Friday, December 22nd,
at the time of your choosing, in the place of your choosing and with as much privacy as you choose.

WHY? To effect positive change in the energy field of the Earth through input of the largest possible surge of human energy a Synchronized Global Orgasm. There are two more US fleets heading for the Persian Gulf with anti-submarine equipment.


And while you may think this is all nonsense, they have science on their side:

The Global Consciousness Project runs a network of Random Event Generators (REGs) around the world, which record changes in randomness during global events. The results show that human consciousness can be measured to have a global effect on matter and energy during widely-watched events such as 9/11 and the Indian Ocean tsunami. There have also been measurable results during mass meditations and prayers.

The Zero Point Field or Quantum Field surrounds and is part of everything in the universe. It can be affected by human consciousness, as can be seen when simple observation of a subatomic particle changes the particle’s state.

We hope that a huge influx of physical, mental and spiritual energy with conscious peaceful intent will not only show up on Princeton’s REGs, but will have profound positive effects that will change the violent state of the human world.


So that’s cleared that up.

Looking at the countdown on the clock, there are less than 10 minutes until the synchronised global orgasm. Hopefully there aren't any trigger happy types out there because who knows what could happen if shooting starts prematurely. War is a messy business.

Perhaps the earth really will move.

Cover me. I'm going in.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Has it come to this?

Something’s been troubling me for some time. It started as a slight nagging feeling after failing to get the schadenfreude I was so eagerly anticipating. It quickly led to sympathy rising to support and, dare I say it, respect, leaving me in a state of confusion. This brings rise to the importan question of the day;

Is it ok to actually like Jamie Oliver now?

I know, I know. It’s a horrible thought, flying in the face of so many years of well deserved hatred but once you get past that ingrained, reactive, resounding scream of ‘No!’, take a deep breath, pause and reflect. Deep down it’s there. The same niggling feeling that I have.

Now the evidence against is significant. Years of being subjected to that hyperactive, fat tongued, mockney twat shouting ‘Pukka!’ and ‘Wallop on some of that!’ certainly have to be taken into consideration. He so often resembled an attention seeking child that it was hard to resist the urge to slap his legs and send him to bed without his olive oil drizzled supper. Is that one glug or two with halloumi?

Then there were the Sainsburys ads. Hundreds of them. Each one more irritating than the last. Here was a man that worried little about familiarity breeding contempt, failing to see how a chef promoting processed food might seem a tad hypocritical. He wasn't so much the Naked Chef. More over-exposed. And then there was the moped. Yet despite all this I now find myself thinking ‘Those flavour shakers seem like a good idea! Maybe I should get one.’

How did this happen? How did I get here? What the hell is Appenzeller?

First there was ‘Jamie’s Kitchen’ where he took disadvantaged youths and gave them the opportunity to train and work in Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant. There was the cynical whiff of self-promotion about it but it was a worthy project nonetheless. Seeing Jamie lose his temper time and time again was entertaining, not to mention taking a certain pleasure from every failure, but the seeds of doubt had been planted.

When the trailers for ‘School Dinners’ appeared it looked like compulsive viewing. Jamie trying to introduce healthy lunches while suffering the cruel insults, tantrums and disobedience that only children can dish out. The project was going to be a massive failure and I couldn’t wait to see it.

At first it was fun but the more I watched, the more I started to sympathise. Faced with resistance from the children, the school cooks and the parents I should have been riding on the crest of a wave of Oliver’s misery but I wasn’t. I started to feel his frustration, share his horror of those turkey twizzlers, see him actually attempt to make a difference and began to will him to succeed.

Then came those ridiculous pictures. Mothers trying to stuff bags of chips and burgers through the school gates, trying to save their poor little broods from the horrors of a nutritional, balanced diet. The utter stupidity of it all and their actions in the face of Oliver’s attempts to change children’s diets across the country triggered something.

It was an epiphany.

I was on his side.

This couldn't be happening.

Now I feel dirty and conflicted. I’m in need of help and guidance. I don't even know what butterghee is, pure or otherwise. I’m considering setting up a support group.

“Hello. My name is MonkeyBoy and I like Jamie Oliver.”

Pukka.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Merry Christmas Everyone

Browsing through the papers lately will testify to the fact that 'tis the season to be silly. Drag yourself away from the breaking news that after a 3 year inquiry, Diana's death was in fact an accident, a revelation nearly 10 years on. Try looking beyond the sports pages heralding how England are performing much better with Monty Panesar in the team. A fact that was obvious. As obvious as the nose on your face. The nose on your face being repeatedly hit by a baseball bat. A baseball bat with 'Play Panesar, for crying out loud' written on it. Unless you're Duncan Fletcher, of course.

Anyway.

Ignore even the rather splendid 'Dolphins saved by world's tallest man' story or the world pie eating contest and you get to that seasonal tradition loved by our press;

Stories of councils re-branding Christmas, Christmas songs taken off playlists for being too Christian, carol services unable to advertise in local libraries, decorations forbidden, Santa silenced now 'ho, ho, ho' is considered a derogatory term for women. In short, Christmas being banned less it offend those of other religions. Most of these stories have the journalistic depth of a That's Life investigation and you can imagine one of Esther's fawning minions repeatedly crying out the newspaper mantra that accompanies each story of Scrouge like behaviour;

'It's political correctness gone mad!'

It's a great excuse for the likes of the Mail and the Sun to beat those horrible liberal, lefty types, ridiculing anyone who might actually show some sort of social consideration. More importantly, it's a thinly veiled attack on those dirty coloured foreign types who are the fuel that this imagined PC engine runs on, jumping in to save them from insult. However it doesn't take the investigative skills of Poirot to discover that these stories are, like The Snowman, old, repeated every year at Christmas and blatantly not real. Furthermore, most non-Christians actually enjoy Christmas.

So if these tales of political correctness gone mad aren't true and no one is offended, who wants Christmas banned?

In short. Me.

Ignoring the fact that Christmas is a cuckoo of a festival, usurping the pagan ones established long before, let's consider these reasons:

Christmas adverts in October. And what adverts. I still have hysterics every time I see the deluded Argos advert, the Debenhams one is just plain irritating with its rapping Santa and M&S just about get away with it for its camp Bond overtones and Shirley Bassey singing about coming up on ecstasy.

Christmas songs. Which level of Hell contains Noddy Holder screaming 'Iiiiiiiitttt'sss Chriiiiiiistmassss!' and what did I do to end up there? Don't you wish that last Christmas George Michael had given book tokens instead? And if that girl had stayed another day, we'd never have been inflicted with E17. It's no coincidence that The Pogues' 'Fairytale of New York' tops most lists of favourite Christmas songs. It contains all those popular seasonal themes; hatred, alcohol abuse, shattered dreams and bitter recriminations.

Christmas shopping. Suddenly everyone has the urge to head, lemming-like, to their nearest shopping centre to buy crap. Aware of this, every shop stops their special offers and raise prices. A 5 minute trip to buy lunch turns into survival horror, battling through the masses of stumbling zombies, as they gorge themselves on consumerism. Still, it'll all be discounted come January.

Christmas drinkers. It takes hours to get served, if in fact you can even get in, as every pub and club is filled with those part time drinkers that reserve Christmas as their one solitary time to abuse alcohol. Their part-time status leading to rapid inebriation, a chorus of 'Away in a manger' before vomit and/or unconsciousness beckon. Show me Christmas and I’ll show you a drunk girl crying in the corner. Compounded with the office party, an excellent time to get drunk and then discuss with your boss exactly why you hate him. Either that or attempt to get off with the receptionist and after failing, dancing on a table without your pants. You only hope that everyone was as drunk as you or suffer from short-term amnesia before you return in the New Year. If you still have a job.

Santa hats. Stop it. Stop it now.

Carol singers. Do you really think that 3 of you shrieking 'Silent Night' off-key deserve anything more than a good kicking?

And I won't even start on the nightmare that is traditional family Christmas Day dinner.

This year, if you want me, I'll probably be enjoying a leisurely walk along the deserted streets or sea front, getting away from the fights, the over-eating, the paper hats, the Queen's speech, the crying kids, terrible TV and drunken relatives.

Well, it wouldn't be Christmas without the Great Escape.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Things I have learned this week...

Working long hours and alcohol do not mix.

No matter how justified one may feel, dirty protests are not big or clever. They are however funny, particularly when one has no recollection of them (see point 1).

Sober friends are very useful in stopping dirty protests escalating into open warfare. Even when you swear at them. A lot.

No matter how good an idea it seems, opening a bottle of wine after a night out is never wise.

Flatmates' enjoyment of DVDs may be hampered by loud snoring from drunken idiots with undrunk glasses of wine.

Sometimes the events of a night out can only be reconstructed from various stains and bruises.

Torchwood was finally worth watching after 2 previous aborted attempts. It's also an anagram of Doctor Who, which I needed pointing out. I'd be rubbish on Countdown. Apart from the numbers game. I'm good at that.

I have too many friends that I haven't even contacted, let alone seen in a long time.

My closest friends are all screwed up to the point that my life often seems straight forward yet I wouldn't swap them for anyone. Well, maybe Kylie.

A beautiful woman forgetting your name is crushing.

I haven't had my hair cut since I wrote about it on here.

I love my new phone to the point of unhealthiness. Being able to watch films and TV programs on the train make the commute almost bearable and just one of its many magical features.

I might actually have finally worked on a good game.

I might actually get to work on an even better game and it won't turn out to be a rushed, half-baked waste of a licence. Maybe.

Getting home from work before midnight is good in theory but in practice has proven somewhat elusive.

The only time people talk to you in the street is when they want something.

Shouting 'dude' and jabbing me in the back is not the best way to illicit a favourable response if you want something.

My DVD addiction was only in remission.

Women eating in Choccywoccydoodah always look away guiltily if you catch their eye.

My flatmate has the patience of a saint and is a veritable domestic goddess.

Now matter how much I rail against it, I am, deep down, a geek.

I like it when people refer to me as a writer.

I'm the sort of person who counts just how many things I have learned this week and then adds one last point to make it total 23.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Mick and Bob in da bungalow

Those of you that don't live in the Regency Ward of Brighton will have been denied the pleasure of Mick and Bob's monthly newsletters. A self-styled dynamic duo currently campaigning for two seats in the next council elections. On receiving their first contribution I had to re-read it several times to work out if it was a serious political statement or some unsubtle satire of the Conservative party's candidates.

One can imagine the pair looking to the skies and beholding the 'Mick and Bob' sign, highlighting that political peril was afoot when they described themselves as 'first on the scene' for a meeting with the director behind the i360 viewing tower, planned to replace the West Pier. I can just see the Labour candidate cursing himself and muttering about 'getting away with it if it wasn't for those meddling kids'.

On answering such a perilous call for arms, the duo didn't disappoint.

'Will the tower complement the surrounding buildings?'

'Will it be safe in all conditions?'

'Will it disturb the peregrine falcons atop Sussex Heights?'

In the face of such fierce opposition, I'm surprised that the project wasn't cancelled immediately although it's possible that the questions received the answers they merited;

'It's a 600ft, high tech looking tower in the middle of a Regency area. What do you fucking think? Hold on, don't you actually write a column on architecture?'

'Well we initially thought that we'd make it collapse at the first sign of rain but after a rethink it should be ok although we haven't ruled out nuclear strikes, earthquakes or large numbers of hen parties dressed as cowgirls yet.'

'Did you only ask that in a very poor attempt to show your Green credentials? What next, a trip across the Artic with huskies?'

'Do your mummies know you're out?'

Sadly, the dynamic duo didn't tell us what the actual responses were but that's probably because it's very difficult to capture hysterical laughter in the written form.

While in interviews they continue to ride the Green ticket, no doubt with several cars following them with a change of clothes and political briefs, pointing out that living in the centre of Brighton with strong transport links removes the need for car ownership they are also fighting the introduction of new parking zones.

'Surely more parking zones mean more cars', I hear you ask, 'so that's a good thing to campaign against?'

Apart from the fact that the council are looking to consolidate eight parking areas into two, totalling a reduction of 700 places not increase the amount of parking. So while fighting for 'quicker and healthier transport options' it seems that the loss of nearly a thousand cars doesn't fit into this agenda. Keen to maintain the traditions of the area they point out that the new pay and displays will also 'look hideous and spoil the character of the area'. Of course, 600ft towers will blend into the background.

Bob, or it could be Mick, boasts riding motorbikes as a hobby although we shouldn't question his environmental impact too much as he doesn't actually own one. This suggests that he participates in his hobby in a similar manner to mine of fucking supermodels.

They state concern over the fate of the Hippodrome, closed as a bingo hall and its future uncertain. Part of this uncertainty, we are told, is because its guardians are the same that have overseen the fate of the West Pier. That's the same West Pier that they are planning to replace with a 600ft tower and of which our dynamic duo’s most damning indictment was the possibility of a bird getting caught in its turbines. And I'm not talking about those hen parties.

So onto the current crusade and the great fight against crime. After criticising NCP's over enforcement of parking in the city, again flying in the face of their Greenness but not their political greenness, they suggest that traffic wardens should, wait for this, be deployed as 'community wardens' to help prevent crime. Armed with the latest IT equipment they would be able to report incidents to the council who would deal with it promptly.

Pause.

And Laugh.

Ignoring that we are all equipped with the latest IT equipment, namely a phone, capable of reporting incidents in seconds, when has the council ever dealt with anything promptly. Yes, vandalism, graffiti and discarded waste are undesirable but wouldn't a hotline for the public to call be a far more effective and cost efficient way for the council to ignore it? And isn't it the police's job to deal with the more serious matters, which are again easily reported without paying for vigilantes to patrol the street?

I wonder how the traffic wardens would feel about taking on all these extra duties. Perhaps if their workload was decreased by, say, removing eight disparate parking areas and replacing them with two main ones, with a reduction in cars to check for valid tickets, they might find time. Or perhaps the extra revenue from a new pay and display system could go towards compensating them for their extra work.

This is part of their campaign to make West Street safer at night, which they hope giving traffic wardens these new duties will achieve. Of course, there is one, huge, glaring hole in this suggestion, which I'd love to point out but I really don't want to risk insulting the intelligence of any 5 year olds that may stumble upon these pages. Plus it would be unfair to distract them from writing Mick and Bob’s next manisfesto.

It's not surprising that they call themselves action men. They're plastic caricatures of a bygone age in need of constant revision to seem current and relevant yet still lacking any balls.

Vote Monkey. You know it makes sense.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Sign o' the times

The other day I noticed an unusual sign at the front of the harbour, 'Warning - Student Police Officers In Training', which struck me as strange since I wasn't aware that the student population had reached such a point of unlawlessness that they needed their own special officers. Surely the odd traffic cop to check for missing traffic cones, flashing beacons and comedy sounding street signs would suffice?

They had done some research on their subject matter though. In the area where the training was taking place, a PA was blasting out the Billy Ocean hit 'When the going gets tough (the tough get going)'. It's obviously very important to subject the student police to such musical attrocities given that the 80's are very much de riguer with the youth today in that ever so ironic way. I just hope that they are equally prepared for facing the vomit drinking and scrotum shaving of the rugby team's night out.

If part of their duties are preventing harpies shrieking like banshees at 3am or stopping blokes pissing against the nearest wall after 2 shandies I'm all for this new initiative. I'd like to hope that playing incredibly crap music at full, tinny volume on a mobile phone is also on the list. While we're at it can we ban the whole emo movement? Or am I the only one who on hearing that term is reminded of Emo Phillips, a gangly, lanky haired, badly dressed loser whining about not being sexual attractive to his headmaster as a child? They're nothing but goths with allusions to coolness.

Let's add not drinking in any pub I am likely to frequent and queuing at any cash point at any given time. Stupidly themed fancy dress parties are right out, as is using any catchphrase of any comedy show ever. And talking. About anything. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I believe that we actually do need this new arm of the law. Unfortunately I suspect it's all doomed to failure.

They were training before midday.

You're never going to find a student at that time.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Are you dancing?

It’s one of those awkward social situations that is never addressed in etiquette books or advice columns but demands an answer. When with a female friend, how exactly should one act while dancing to Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Closer’?

For the uninitiated, ‘Closer’ has slow, pounding beats, a bass line so dirty it should only be played after the watershed and the repeated chorus of ‘I want to fuck you like an animal’. There’s something about the primal rhythm, the slow build up and the transcendental lyrics that make it impossible to resist attempting to move spasmodically to it, or as some would call it, dance.

So while at the bar, in a club, discovering that Goth nights have not moved on in over a decade, I hear the unmistakable drum beat kick in. Quickly grabbing my beer and change, I head over to where the others are, already on the dance floor, moving to the twisted beat. Putting my pint down I join the throng and start my interpretation of movement that would no doubt cause Vitus to look away in embarrassment. Lost in a fog of alcohol and the relentless rhythm it takes some time before I realise that, while silently mouthing the chorus, due to the dynamics of the dance floor, I am now dancing with a female friend and am suddenly slapped in the face with self consciousness.

I can’t read her expression as she looks at me and it suddenly occurs to me how this may be interpreted. Does she think this is some sort of courtship, a proposition? Is that a look of shock, disgust, invitation? Or is it just complete bemusement at the bizarre jerks and tics I’m making? How on earth did we end up dancing together? Did the others drift away? Did I move? Did she? A flush of panic rushes over me, not helped by my drunken guardian angel leaning towards us and highlighting the situation in a loud, vocal manner.

Trying to concentrate on dancing, avoiding eye contact as much as possible, I attempt to act as naturally as I can while suddenly wishing that the song wasn’t quite so long. Hoping for it to finish so I can return to my pint and pretend that this never happened. All the while wondering what on earth I was doing dancing to this song with a girl and what on earth was now going through her mind.

As the song finishes I think I mutter something to her about ‘loving that song’, hastily grab my pint and down nearly half in an attempt to extinguish the heat of embarrassment.

Until agony aunts and etiquette experts can come up with a solution to how this situation should be properly addressed, I have little choice but to start a campaign to ban this filth from our dance floors.

I’m just grateful that they didn’t play any Peaches.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Talking of the dumbing down of television...

It was recently announced that sometime footballer, failed memory man and fulltime idiot, Rio Ferdinand, is planning a follow up to his ‘World Cup Wind-Ups’ show. He’s planning to target his footballing friends and WAGS for a new kind of make over show. With several designers at his disposal, he’s going to transform their mansions in ways never seen before. Noting that millionaire footballers have more money than taste and every gadget possible, he’s going to great lengths to do ‘something special’.

Can you imagine anything more obscene? Footballers getting to show off their vast wealth while at the same time getting a free redesign and plenty of new gadgets. The only thing more distasteful than this was hearing of multi-millionaire pig bladder kicker, Frank Lampard, looking enviously at the yacht and surrounding wealth of billionaire Roman Abramovic and feeling a little bit sorry for himself.

The only saving grace is hoping that Rio’s taste for bling results in some truly awful décor, a massive fall in the value of the property and some very pissed off celebrities. And you can imagine my dread when I hear that Rio’s production company also have a reality TV show in development.

It’s just a shame that the press release didn’t read like this:

Rio’s Dole Scum Wind-Ups

Fresh on the heals of his groundbreaking show ‘World Cup Wind-Ups’, which was entirely his own idea and not some poor rip off of Candid Camera, Beadle’s About, Noel’s Gotcha’s or Punk'd, where millions of idiots tuned in purely because it featured his friends who also happen to play football for England, where he got to play some hilarious pranks such as convincing Wayne Rooney that he’d killed a dog and featured the hilarious footage of David Beckham risking injury as he escaped a moving car, Rio Ferdinand brings us his next TV brainchild, ‘Dole Scum Wind-Ups’.

Laugh along with Rio as he takes top Premiership players, convinced that their careers have prematurely ended, that they’ve lost every last penny and asset and that they’ve been deserted by loved ones and hangers on, and places them in a run down council flat. Watch the hilarity ensue as they go through the soul destroying and demeaning process of signing on for the pittance of £50 a week. Enjoy their exploits as you see them rejected for job after job, wishing that they’d actually bothered to get some qualifications rather than kicking a ball and dying just a little more with every single knock back.

Share Rio’s joy as we see them forced into mugging, stealing car stereos and selling their arses to 18 stone lorry drivers in an attempt to afford the very basics needed to survive. Guffaw at their decline into drug use as they try and find something to escape the relentless monotony of their wretched existence, trying to find something to help them transcend the utter, utter emptiness of a life with no hope, where watching those even worse off than you on the Jeremy Kyle show is the only respite.

Chuckle as these spoilt, pampered, overpaid idiots, who couldn’t even wipe their own arses without an adviser and agent present realise the truly privileged position they once were in, realise how lucky they were to earn more than most earn in a year each week purely for being able to kick a round object really, really well fall into deeper and deeper depression, wracked with the guilt of seeing how normal people have to survive and seeing just how obscene their displays of wealth were.

You’ll howl with laughter as one footballer, unable to cope with his bleak, dark, futile existence, a life with no dreams, where every single day is a battle to survive, finally reaches breaking point and in a bid to end the pain and despair opens up his wrists. You’ll be rolling on the floor as the ambulance crew battle to save his pointless life and Rio rushes in shouting ‘You’ve been merked!’

An Endemol production.

The inevitable 'why I hate big brother' piece

On the eve of their second series of Extras, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant are already looking to their next project. Given their previous work you’d be forgiven for thinking that this would be another comedy show but the duo has other plans. Looking to the US for inspiration, they want to try something more dramatic, hoping to team up with HBO to produce a series to match the scale of America’s most successful shows.

When Gervais says that he can’t remember when he last watched a British drama, praising US TV series as innovative, audacious and brilliant, I can’t help but nod in agreement. Shows such as Lost, 24 and The Sopranos are high quality, engrossing shows that generate the ad man’s favourite, the water cooler effect. Each episode is highly anticipated and the day after airing, offices are full of chatter about the latest plot twist and development. Where are our UK equivalents?

These shows are not unique. The quality of US TV has been consistently good for a number of years now with HBO in particularly producing some of the best. A quick look at their current roster reveals The Sopranos, Deadwood, The Wire, Six Feet Under, Carnivale, Sex And The City and, the brilliant prison drama, Oz.

A quick look at the BBC, our so called bastions of quality, shows EastEnders, Holby City, Neighbours and How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?. With the notable exception of Dr Who, when did the BBC last produce a drama that was must see, that created the sort of buzz that each episode of 24 generates? Where are the modern equivalents of Boys From The Black Stuff, GBH, Cracker and Our Friends In The North? Since when did we have to rely on the US to create leftfield, gritty, original, groundbreaking drama? It used to be our forte.

Looking through the TV schedules is a depressing affair. We’re deluged with fly on the wall, reality TV type programs or Pop Idol, X-Factor type talent shows. And, though I’m loath to even grace the show with any sort of recognition, I blame Big Brother.

When Big Brother originally launched, it seemed fresh and original, an interesting social experiment. It wasn’t long before it was clear that it wasn’t so much social experiment as an excuse for a freak show, watching those most base of emotions, fucking and fighting, being enacted by members of the lumpen masses. Put into artificial situations and performing ridiculous tasks, all the time being pushed towards conflict and mental anguish by the producers in the name of ratings. And you could guarantee when things got remotely interesting, the sound would be muted out or the cameras switched to a nice vase. Most of the time though it was some people sat on a sofa.

Of course, the public watched in their millions and Channel 4 get an excuse to print cash. Cheap production costs, 3 or 4 programs a day plus live feeds, repeats and not to mention the various spin off shows that follow, making use of the last embers of fading celebrity before we get bored and move on to the next household. And the obscene cycle begins again, even more bastardised than before as those that enter are only interested in the fame it generated for the last contestants. It’s the TV equivalent of inbreeding and it’s not so much money for old rope as money for some old rope that has been filmed in a house for 3 months, been spotted at some C-list event and been given a show with a limited run on life outside the house.

This wouldn’t be so bad if it generated money for Channel 4 to invest in quality programs and with Film 4, quality films but it hasn’t. Instead it’s changed the landscape of UK television and generated more of the same. Seeing the success of Big Brother, every production company has tried to create their own version, hoping to have the same low production costs and high audience figures. Why spend millions on a high quality drama that, while critically acclaimed, only draws in a small audience when you can stick the plebs in front of a camera, make them perform humiliating tasks and pull in millions?

Similarly Pop Idol has created its own format of low cost, high reward TV that’s now widely emulated. Take some unknowns, get the public to watch them perform and vote for them, on premium cost phone lines obviously, then sell the CDs to the public when the winner is decided. Genius. As the saying goes, nobody's ever gone broke underestimating the intelligence of the general public.

It’s no wonder that we have to look to America for our drama. And until we stop lapping up the lo-com-denom television and Bulldog snogging Chardonnay is no longer the most talked about topic in the office we’ll get just that.

So good luck, Steve and Ricky. We need you.

I’m off to read Heat. There’s a great article entitled ‘Old Rope: My Big Brother House Hell’.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The numbers game

A long time ago, I pinned my hopes on England winning the World Cup based on a rather tenuous link to the number 23 and my office sweepstake. We now know that theory was in fact utter nonsense.

Fortunately on my return from Barcelona, a couple of us chipped in for a sealed envelope sweepstake at one of the local pubs. Although the World Cup was under way no one knew who they had picked until the last envelope had been sold. After paying for the last one we opened it and discovered that we had Italy. The bar man running the sweepstake was less impressed on disccovering he had Angola.

In case you’ve forgotten, after the game finished 1-1, with Zinedine Zidane being sent off in extra time, Italy won the final on penalties. The player who gave away the penalty from which France took the lead, scored the equaliser, got Zidane sent off, scored in the shootout and helped win me over £30 was Marco Materazzi. His shirt number. 23.

Would you like an opinion with that?

“That’s a great film. The ending is so messed up.”

I muttered something about having already seen it and just wanting to add it to my collection, paid and wandered off wondering about this recent phenomenon. Why is it that shop assistants always feel the need to validate my purchases for me? I’ve already made my choice, using reviews, recommendations and knowing what I types of film I enjoy. I’m already in the process of paying for them so why is their opinion going to make the slightest bit of difference? It’s not as if I’m going to turn round and thank them as I had no idea what I was doing, had found myself lost in the DVD section and in a panic I grabbed the first things I saw based on them having pretty covers.

Also, why did he only remark on how good Audition was? What about my other choices? Granted Kika wasn’t warmly received when it was first released but surely its inclusion doesn’t make Volume 2 of the Almodovar collection worthless. The 6 disc Tarantino collectors set contains two of his finest and iconic films. Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire won numerous awards and was remade into City of Angels. Yet only Audition seems worthy of mention. Should I have taken the others back and just kept the DVD that the assistant rated? Rather than validate my purchase, I’m left unsure of my other choices.

What would be much more useful would be if they turned round occasionally and warned me about any potential turkeys I was about to buy but that never happens. Even then, I’m not sure if I want to trust the judgement of the bloke down HMV over that of a friend. When it comes to music and film, it’s all down to personal taste and it’s all very subjective. There are films out there that have received critical acclaim which leave me unimpressed. Other films receive a poor reception yet I’ve enjoyed them immensely.

Perhaps I’m just scared that as soon as I leave the shop, the assistants will get together and laugh about what I’ve just paid good money for. God forbid that they deem me uncool. Then again, unless I’m being served by the next Kevin Smith or Tarantino, I’m not sure that I should be overly worried.

Why I’m buying yet more DVDs I don’t know. I seem to go through phases of mild obsessions and currently it’s DVDs. In the past I've bought games and CDs with the same enthusiasm and I have shelves full of games I’ve never played, CDs I’ve never heard and DVDs still in their cellophane wrapping. I’ve finally amassed everything that Pedro Almodovar has committed to celluloid yet I know that I’m not sated as I’ve already got my eye on a Michael Haneke box set that’s out in a few months. I should just be grateful that Hal Hartley has yet to make it to these shores although there’s always the option to import.

So it’s Saturday night and I find myself at a loose end. I could send out the usual texts and see if there’s anything going on tonight but I’m not sure whether to bother. From experience though, it’s these unplanned nights that turn out to be the most fun.

If not, I suppose I could always watch a DVD.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

So there I was with Irvine Welsh...

One of the joys in life is the unexpected, unplanned, great night out. So often, the organised, planned nights fail to meet expectations, already built up in the mind to be more than they can ever live up to, never matching the memory of the last great one. The surprise of the random is always welcome and always occurs when least expected. Brighton is a magnet for these kinds of nights.

It’s been a tough week. Work has been a struggle but I’m still on schedule even though it’s been a fight. Fair too many people have been distracting me with ‘any chance you can..?’ type tasks. Not only do they eat up my time and are invisible to my schedule but they break up the concentration making my actual job take twice as long as I try and work out what I was doing, what I was going to do next and just how I was going to do it.

There’s a lot of pressure as we’re now in ‘alpha’, which means we have only several months before it’s literally game over. With this on my mind, finally having a good, uninterrupted day and getting things done, I end up putting in an extra hour on a Friday night, more concerned with finishing the levels I’m working on than getting home and going out. There’s nothing heroic about one lousy extra hour, all of us in the industry have our own horror stories of all nighters and seven day weeks, but given the toughness of the week I’m surprised by my dedication when normally I’d write the week off and nurse my wounds with liberal application of alcohol.

Another couple of tasks completed I decide to get the next train to Brighton. Slightly behind schedule but I reckon I can blitz the few things remaining on Monday and put in a few more hours so that I can balance the books. Plus, the last couple of office key holders look like they want to go soon and the train after that is in an hour. Not worth the risk and I don’t want to be getting into Brighton at 10pm on a Friday, dedicated or not.

On the train, my main concern is getting home, having a shower and getting changed. I send out a few tentative texts to see if anyone is around. A couple of responses, one no and a maybe. It looks like it’ll be a quiet night with maybe a chance of a couple of late night pints in the local.

Once showered, with no further replies, I decide to have a play on my new toys, my CD decks and mixer. Don’t ask me why I bought them but they are something I’ve desired for a very long time. I get so engrossed in trying to see if Pump It Up by Elvis Costello really will go with Run DMC’s It’s Tricky that I miss a text. When I finally do check my phone I discover that some of my ex-colleagues are across the road at my local.

I describe them as ex-colleagues only to give context to how I know them. I’d like to think of them as my friends since, without work, there’s no obligation for any of us to see each other socially but we still meet up and when work discussions don’t exclude me from the conversation we have a great time.

Amongst the crowd of friends are a couple of unfamiliar, female faces. I’m soon introduced to one. She’s down for the weekend and visiting one of my friends. I’m unsure of the exact details but it seems that it’s a date of sorts. We end up chatting about music and she asks me for my top five favourite bands.

Once upon a time this would be a bread and butter question for me. I was such a typical male, music, list obsessive that High Fidelity was a documentary, not a work of fiction, for me. Somehow that side of me has subsided, no doubt something in the water, and I name a couple of bands but don’t complete the list before we are both drawn into other random conversations around the table.

Several beers later, my synapses have finally fired up, I rattle off my five bands with ease. This impresses her no end as not only does she judge them as good choices but she comments that it’s rare that anyone ever gives her a definitive list. She grabs the other unknown girl at the table and excitedly tells her that I can name five. This seems like a cause for celebration and she’s introduced to me as her best friend.

She asks about my work and naturally I tell her. It never ceases to amaze me that people think that what I do is cool. I’ve had ‘real’ jobs in the past and would never want to go back to them but I’ve got one eye on getting out of the industry and am sure that if people knew the reality of our day to day, they’d soon decide it was far from the fun that they envision.

I throw the question back to her and discovered what a genuinely cool job is.

‘I do burlesque tap and dance and promote my own group.’

Making games doesn’t even compare. Her recent show ‘Burlesque Idol’ where a tie break situation involved contestants in bikinis and Mexican wrestling masks fighting it out in an inflatable pool filled with water melons and whipped cream sounds like a work of genius and it’s hard not to be endeared to someone who announces that ‘I haven’t performed in months, I’m out of shape and I’ve got to go to Edinburgh on Sunday and get my tits out’. We were all having a great laugh.

All except my friend on the date who had taken Dutch courage to new levels. After disappearing to the toilet several times for long stretches and occasionally lying on the table face down, he somehow got into a heated argument with his date. It never got too bad but he had to be taken home by a couple of friends and his date and best friend were left trying to find out the time of the next train to London.

It ended with the consumption of Cava, vodka, beer, kebabs and tunes back at mine. Typically drunk conversations and the pain of discovering just how heartbroken another friend who had come back with us currently is. No matter what you say or do, drunken advice will never help. I hope he works it all out.

Both girls stayed the night, the attraction of the 4am train long gone, and slept on the sofas, with more than enough spare bedding to make them comfortable. Jon, returning to find two strangers in his front room, woke me and I grumpily got up and said my goodbyes to our guests. They headed off to meet my friend for coffee and a chat, which I was glad about as if they’d gone straight back to London, all parties would have felt bad. At least this way they are still talking.

I’ve made breakfast, read some of the paper and plan to do a spot of shopping that doesn’t involve anywhere holding a sale. Plans are already being hatched for tonight, which means it can only lead to disappointment. Random is king.

It’s bright outside but raining. There’s a rainbow somewhere. That’s a sympathetic background if ever I’ve seen one.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The longest day

Life seems to have a different pace in Spain. The notion of a siesta is alien to us in the UK but in the Barcelona heat, it makes much more sense. The knock on effect is that people work well into the evening and the city’s night life starts later as a result, which we soon discover.

After a couple more drinks, we need to find somewhere to eat and decide on a Sushi restaurant nearby, wandering through the side streets off La Ramblas, until we find it.

On arrival, it’s deserted.

‘It’s quiet in here’, we remark as we stand at the bar.

‘That’s because we’re not open yet.’

We apologise and start to move towards the exit before being told that they are opening in a couple of minutes and we are welcome to have some drinks while we wait. A couple of minutes are in fact more than half an hour and shortly after 9pm and several more beers we are shown to our table. Starving by now, we order a variety of starters and some main dishes to share.

The food is worth the wait and much needed. The last thing we’d eaten was a quick sandwich washed down with coffee at the airport while waiting for the plane. The gyoza is the best I’ve tasted and despite the large quantities of food already consumed, we all order more of the delicious dumplings. By the time we finish the meal the restaurant is finally starting to fill up. It’s now past 10pm.

Earlier, while grabbing our last meal at the airport, Andy received an email on his phone from Soma Records. Apparently they are putting on a club in Barcelona that night with DJ Alex Smoke. Sonar’s night time events are not starting until tomorrow, so it seems like a good idea.

After heading back to the apartment to quickly change clothes, we head down to the club, La Terrazza, a twenty minute walk away. We queue for tickets and then make our way to the club area. The club is actually in the middle of the Poble Espanyol, a village built for the 1929 World Exposition, dedicated to Spanish architecture. Walking through the narrow cobbled streets, with the various styles of buildings is surreal. I feel like I’m wandering through different zones in a Westworld type theme park. A quick look over my shoulder confirms that we’re not being followed by Yul Brynner, just more clubbers.

The club is situated in an open air patio and, even this late, the night air is around 24°C. It takes a little while to take in the surroundings, the lighting, the projections, the bizarre architecture and the people. It’s breathtaking.

The evening doesn’t quite go to plan. There’s a problem with the sound system and the music keeps cutting out. There are times when the DJ carries on, oblivious that no one can hear him, until the crowd in front of his booth get his attention. When the music does play, it’s too quiet and there’s very little atmosphere because of this.

We discover a small area inside that leads to the stairs to the toilets. Here is the only speaker that seems capable of playing at a good volume. A few clubbers, frustrated with the outside PA, are dancing here. We soon join them and smiles slowly return to our faces. Others pass and watch, slightly bemused, before finding themselves joining in too.

I head to the bar to get yet more vodka and Red Bull to fuel our night. As I stand outside by the bar, waiting for my order, Alex Smoke's set starts. Miraculously the sound system bursts into life, pumping out the music loud and clear. Everyone, bar staff included, jump in the air cheering. You can feel spirits rise as the place comes alive. New energy found and the crowd buzzing. Smiles everywhere. We dance into the night and it all seems worthwhile.

By the time we find a taxi and get back to the apartment we’ve been up for nearly 24 hours. We still have Sonar to come.

Sleep first.

It's not just the water

The feminisation of the male species seems to be continuing. Dr Mike Fitzpatrick, a consultant toxicologist, started investigating the effects of soya beans in 1991, funded by a multimillionaire who was sure that the beans were killing off his collection of rare parrots. The millionaire, Richard James, and his wife had been feeding the birds that they bred a soya feed. They discovered later that some of the birds were infertile, while others aged prematurely or reached puberty early, proving for a disastrous year’s breeding.

When asked to carry out the study, Fitzpatrick was sceptical at first but agreed to investigate. He discovered that soya contains toxins and plant oestrogens strong enough to disrupt women’s menstrual cycles in the experiments he performed. Further studies concluded that babies fed exclusively on soya formula were receiving, based on body weight, the equivalent amount of oestrogen as five birth control pills.

In 2002, an enquiry by the British government’s expert committee on the toxicity of food concluded that the health benefits claimed for soya were not supported by clear evidence and judged that high levels of consumption in some age groups could cause risks. Given that 60% of processed food in the UK contains soya in some form, Fitzpatrick’s conclusion that our new found dependence on soya is a dangerous experiment might hold true.

This might explain why last week, while buying lunch, I decided I needed a new wallet and headed to Mambo. Ten minutes later I emerged with a new shirt, several pairs of trousers and no new wallet.

Well, they were having a sale, darling.

Monday, August 07, 2006

So much for July...

…as one of my many emails waiting for a response said last week. Some may have noticed the lack of activity of late. Some may recall that I was due to move house. Some may even have been able to deduce that those two events are not totally unrelated. Throw in yet another deadline to the mix and an inability to pass by the local after a long day and you might be able to understand my lack of updates.

The start of July saw me somehow managing to pack all my worldly possessions into boxes in the evenings after getting home from work. Well, just about. I was finishing off the last box when the man with the van turned up on the Saturday afternoon. Actually it was two men with a van. And not so much a van as a warehouse on wheels. At least I didn’t have to worry about fitting everything in it.

The move was relatively painless. With it being so hot and my move being the last of the day, the van loading was carried out with the enthusiasm of two men looking forward to an early finish and a pint in the sun. Once at the other end, unloading was equally swift and in just over an hour I had moved house.

Opening a celebratory can of beer and sitting on the doorstep, enjoying the sun and my new surroundings, I looked down at the ground. Outside the front door was a small sticker, stuck to the ground, with a number printed on it. I had to double-take and then wonder if my new housemate was having a joke at my expense. Why else was there a 23 outside my new home?

Of course, physically moving is only a small part of the job. Over the last 3 weeks I’ve bought and assembled furniture, done a couple of minor repairs and somehow managed to fit a flat’s worth of possessions into a modestly sized room. I hasten to add that I’ve been far from dedicated to these tasks and allowed distractions such as sailing, clubbing or just drinking in the pub keep me from these more pressing tasks.

However, slowly, bit by bit, the chaos in my room has diminished. With Jon tidying the flat this weekend and myself contributing by brushing and washing the yard and roof terrace with a steely eyed determination that had my new housemate wondering if I suffered from OCD, I can let out a huge sigh of relief and finally relax in clean, uncluttered surroundings, happy that it’s finally all done.

Now, I have another task hanging over me to worry about as well as attempting to finish off writing about Barcelona and responding to the 90 odd unread emails in my inbox. With my project at work now entering the final phase and my schedule being somewhat aggressive, I’m going to be very busy and putting in the extra hours.

So much for August.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Cry God for Harry, England and Nando's

When the inevitable happens and Portugal knockout England later today, amidst the cries of being cheated yet again, dirty bloody foreigners and death threats to the referee, fuelled by our jingoistic tabloids, consider another possible victim from the fallout.Nando's.

This week, the Portuguese restaurant chain might have been wise to change the usual messages on their chalkboards outside their restaurants and maybe just play down their links to Portugal a little.

‘Eat Portuguese, live to 164’, while surely highly inaccurately might also induce cannibalistic retribution for defeat or have knuckle draggers thinking ‘Live to 164? We’ll see about that, sunshine’.

‘Peri-Peri, it’s Portuguese for flaming tasty’, should be changed to ‘Peri-Peri, it’s Portuguese for please don’t firebomb our restaurant, we’re really, really sorry’.

And I think it’s a little cruel for their staff to be forced to wear T-shirts with ‘Portugal’ written on the front. It’s just asking for trouble.

I fear turning up for work on Monday to discover the Nando's by our office vandalised.

Although, bearing in mind that this is Portsmouth, land of the lynch mobs that struggle to differentiate between paediatrician and paedophile, they’ll probably burn down the Santa Fé bar by mistake.

'Well it sounds foreign, innit.’

Or as I overheard yesterday,

‘What’s this Portugal crap? It’s in Spain, they speak Spanish and eat Spanish food. They’re nothing but bloody Spaniards in denial.’

And someone really should point out to Nando's the similarity between their logo and goatsce.

Don’t ask.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Football's gone abroad (second half)

So here I am in Barcelona and there’s an England game this evening. There’s already some confusion on when the game is. After much debate, we thought that we are now one hour ahead in Barcelona but according to the time in the paper that the cab driver showed us, the England game is on two hours later than it should be. Unsure of exactly what sort of time warp we have travelled through, we arrange to meet other friends at a bar to watch the game.

The nearest Metro station (or estácio) seems to be closed for building work so it’s a short five minute walk to the next nearest. We buy a T-10 ticket, similar to a CarNet ticket, and the three of us use it to go through the station turnstiles. I’m not even sure that you can use a T-10 for more than one person in this way but no one ever stopped us on our travels and it was a case of entering within the spirit of the law if not within the letter.

Once on the platform, the heat is unbearable, humid and suffocating. A train is mercifully quick to arrive. The carriage is packed and, while air-conditioned, the number of people make it hot and uncomfortable. After a couple of stops, we get seats and away from the doors and the crowds, the air-conditioning seems much more effective. It’s at this point we make another discovery. Someone’s mobile phone goes off elsewhere in the carriage. We all reach into our pockets to check our phones. We all have full-strength signals! Air-conditioning and mobile phone signals? This beats the Tube. Pete is so excited by this that he can’t help phoning a friend we are meeting later, spending a small fortune, just to tell him that he is on the Metro and his phone still works.

We disembark at La Ramblas, which appears to be the main tourist strip of Barcelona. In some ways it is similar to Leicester Square, full of bars, shops, people, buskers and activity. We wander up the street in search of the Jules Verne bar, a supposedly English bar, where our friends are waiting. When we find it, it is packed. There are crowds of people outside watching the screens and there is no way we will get in.

My companions have been to Barcelona before and Plan B is quickly formulated. There’s a good bar off the main strip that should be showing the game. We head back the way we came, quietly hoping no one scores while we find the bar. We wander down some side streets until we find it. It’s not showing the game despite having a TV.

‘Didn’t we see another bar with the game on? Let’s head back that way.’

Round the corner we find a busy bar showing the game. We make our way to the bar and note that it’s still 0-0. I knew I could rely on England not to score while we found somewhere to watch the game. I know I can generally rely on England not to score.

I was looking forward to seeing the game in a foreign country. One of the things I hate about England is our fans. The blaring of car horns, the chanting, the wild celebrations, all after barely scraping a win. It’s embarrassing to celebrate beating smaller teams in such a manner. At least in Barcelona we can escape that, grab a beer and enjoy the game without the borderline racist remarks, the uninformed diatribes and the constant abuse thrown at the players on the screen.

Apart from everyone in the bar seemed to be English. People barged past us as we watched the game, apologising in some hybrid of Essex and Spanish not realising that everyone around them was English too. I doubt there were any Spaniards in the bar and when England scored, the reactions proved this. In fairness, no one reached the depths I’d witnessed while watching games in Brighton and it was a good humoured crowd. I probably shouted my own fair share of abuse at our insipid performance anyway.

After the game finished, we headed back to the Q Bar. As we entered, the second half of the game was confusingly kicking off. Then the penny dropped and the differences in time made sense. Live games were shown on a subscription channel, while Spanish TV showed them with an hour delay.

Another lesson learned.

Football's gone abroad (first half)

This is the second time that I’ve found myself in a foreign country, going to a festival, while the World Cup is on. Eight years ago would have found me in a tent just outside Copenhagen, hunched over a tiny handheld TV, in the dark, trying to tune in to the England v Columbia game while all around me a festival was taking place. I could barely get a reception at the time but could just about work out that we were winning 2-0.

A week later, myself and a friend were rushing back after spending the day sightseeing in Copenhagen for the England v Argentina game. As we passed a bar, we saw England go 1-0 down to a penalty. My friend, being Irish, seemed fairly happy with this but we both increased our pace so as not to miss any more action. As it was, England lost on penalties. I was sat at my friend’s house surrounded by the united nations of Denmark, Scotland, Ireland and Australia. It was with great grace that they chose not to rip into me after such disappointment.

We ended up in a local bar for the Denmark v Brazil quarter final. The bar was busy but not packed as we were on the outskirts of the centre of town. After two minutes, Denmark scored and we all cheered with the locals, backing our hosts with gusto. Seconds later the pay phone in the bar rang and the bar maid answered. Minutes later she was at our table asking us what we wanted to drink. We pointed to our nearly full drinks and said we weren’t quite ready. She shook her head and told us that the owner of the bar, Peter, had phoned to buy everyone in the bar a drink to celebrate Denmark scoring. We, of course got another round in.

Ten minutes later, Brazil equalised and went into half-time 2-1 up. Disappointing but not unexpected. Still, it was a good game and there were another 45 minutes to go. Five minutes after the second half had kicked off, Brian Laudrup equalised. As we all cheered the phone rang again. Minutes later Peter was paying for our beer again.

As entertaining a game as it was, the fairy tale was not to be and Brazil scored the winner. At full time everyone was disappointed but Denmark had played very well and it had been an entertaining, open game, one of the best we’d seen. The phone rang one final time. Was Peter going to ask for his money back? Not at all. For Denmark’s valiant efforts, he thought that those still in the bar deserved one last drink to toast them with.

It would have been rude to refuse.

Shopping

The apartment is perfect. It has four bedrooms, two bathrooms, an air-conditioned living room, fully fitted kitchen and a balcony that overlooks the busy road five floors below. I’m informed that it can sleep eight people if needed, more than enough for three of us and I begin to work out if it’s possible to spend each night in a different bed. It works out cheaper than sharing a hotel room and there’s a feeling of independence and freedom that you don’t get in a hotel. For ‘freedom and independence’ read ‘able to walk around in your pants’.

After sorting out keys, paper work and who was going to sleep where, we select to do what any English man abroad would do. Have a nice cup of tea. Unfortunately, the cupboards are bare so we decide to stock up on some provisions. The nearest supermarket is handily just a few doors away. Shopping in a foreign country is an adventure in itself. Everything seems familiar yet strangely different and while you are sure that you are buying teabags, there’s that little doubt in the back of your mind that they might be condoms or tampons.

There’s no mistaking beer though and my basket was soon filled with twelve bottles of a vaguely familiar looking lager that obviously had another name in Spain. Looking round the supermarket, watching the other shoppers, I discover a piece of wonderful design. The baskets have wheels on them and the handle is extendable! It isn’t long before I am dragging my beer behind me like the faithful companion it has proven to be.

After much wandering back and forth, marvelling at some of the more exotic food stuff, we have the ingredients for the Spanish equivalent of a good breakfast fry up, the prerequisite tea, coffee, milk and whatever basics we had forgotten to pack. Now we just have to negotiate the till. As you can gather, our Spanish is pretty much none existent and I have my doubts about the linguistic abilities of the girl serving behind the till. As it was, I suspect that her English was better than the majority of checkout girls I normally encounter in Brighton but we adopted for the age old method when she asked for money. Thrust a handful of notes at her and hope that we get the right change.

Job done we head home for a sit down and a nice cup of tea.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Joe le taxi (parte dos)

I’m on a plane and don’t even know exactly where we are flying to. Obviously I know the name of the city, the name of the country, but the geographical location on the map is a mystery. There’s a map of Europe with flight routes in one of the airline magazines. My ignorance is compounded as I locate Barcelona. I thought I knew what Spain looked like but I’d never noticed that little strip of land in the north-east that borders France and never realised that the two countries met quite as they do.

Outside the airport, in the sweltering heat, I spot a sign in three languages. ‘Please extinguish your cigarette here, thank you’ is obviously English. The second language appears to be Spanish. The third looks a little like French but it isn’t. Then I realise. It’s Catalan and it must resemble French because Barcelona is so close to the border. Ok, that makes sense. I knew they spoke Catalan. It just took a while to piece it all together.

It dawns on me that I am now doubly ignorant. Not only have I not bothered to learn any rudimentary Spanish, I have failed to learn any Catalan too. I ponder about the similarities with French then stop myself. The Catalonians take great pride in their history. The last thing they would appreciate is some English tourist raping their language by thinking badly pronounced school boy French might just pass.

We queue for a taxi and it is not long before I am taking my second atypical cab journey in the space of a week. Luckily, the driver has a basic grasp of English, and he apologises for its poorness.

“Better than our Spanish”, we joke but I’m embarrassed that I know so little.

Yet again, I find myself slightly unnerved as a cab driver leans across to the passenger side of the car, trying to work out where our apartment is from the map one of my companions is holding. The night time traffic in Brighton is one thing but a busy road in a foreign country during the day is another. I regret not putting my seatbelt on and wonder if it would seem rude to do so at this stage of the journey.

We hit upon the international language that all men can speak, wherever they gather – football. It seems he thinks that England had a good chance but he’s unsure about Spain. He reaches over to the glove compartment, pulls out a newspaper and appears to start reading it at the wheel. Finding the page he wants, he turns round and taps on the paper. His finger points to the TV listings and the time and TV channel of the England game.

“Sexto”, he repeats several times.

I’m unsure if that’s how many he expects England to score or the TV channel. I only hope we live long enough to see it.

The journey is educational. We discover through a mixture of broken English and Spanish that the driver’s father was a political exile during the Civil War. The Catalonians were on the side opposed to Franco, I knew that much. I even recall that Ernest Hemmingway went off to fight in the war too. I’m not sure when it was but I’m pretty sure it was in the early to mid 20th century. Yet something else to look up when I get home.

The driver’s father lived in London for some years before ending up in Poole. It seems odd trying to juxtapose the image of a young Spanish Revolutionary, exiled from his homeland, and Poole, a small harbour town on the Dorset coast. It’s akin to Che Guevara moving to Blackpool. Fortunately for the driver, his father did return to Spain or else he’d probably be ferrying tourists round the harbour in the rain right now.

We are told that there over a million motorbikes and scooters in Barcelona. I’m unsure how accurate this fact is but looking out of the cab window, there certainly seem to be a lot of them and throughout our stay they are everywhere. It does seem a very popular form of transport.

A small church is pointed out to us. It looks picturesque and again he’s leaning over and reaching into the glove compartment. I start to work on a theory regarding unusual cab journeys and the element of danger involved. He pulls out a small, religiously decorated card and it looks like it has the times that the church is open. We all nod appreciatively.

“I’ve only visited it once,” he tells us,“to get married. That was enough.”

We learn that it hardly ever rains in Barcelona, it’s always hot and you can swim in the sea all year round. The subject of Sonar, the festival we are here for, comes up. We briefly chat about that before nervously looking at each other as we realise just how long we’ve been driving for and that we are now late to pick up the keys for our apartment. Just when we think that we are lost and the driver really doesn’t know where we are going, he pulls over. We pay for the journey, grab our bags and, thankfully, the woman with the keys for our apartment is still waiting outside.

We’ve arrived.

Friday, June 23, 2006

The cutter

Scientists think that there is a danger that the male species is being feminised. Estrogen, from either human waste or birth control pills being flushed away is polluting our waterways. Chemicals that mimic the effects of estrogen, such as altrazine, a herbicide, are also finding their way into our lakes and rivers. Male fish have been found with both male and female sexual organs. Both estrogen and altrazine have been detected in our drinking water and while some scientists are linking this to the high prevalence of reproductive disorders in European males, there are still doubts over whether the chemicals affect humans.

Let me tell you. They do.

It’s the only explanation I have for the reason I’m very particular about where and how I get my hair cut and why I seem to actually enjoy shopping for clothes. I don’t have the love of cars that most other men seem to share either and have no idea what a naturally aspirated engine is. I still enjoy watching football but since many women now do too, this is inconclusive evidence.

Last week, I was bound for Barcelona and the day before, prepared as ever, I realised that my hair needed cutting and I simply didn’t have a thing to wear. I’d only had my haircut twice in the last 9 months and hadn’t been that pleased with the results. To me, stylists are like dentists. A good one that inflicts the least pain is very difficult to find and when you do find one, you’ll go to great lengths to stay with them. If my old stylist in Kentish Town was still working in the same salon, I’d probably pay to go to London to get my hair cut there.

Where this vanity comes from, I don’t know. Most of the time it looks unwashed, unkempt and as if I’ve just got out of bed. And those are just the times when I’ve made an effort. Yet, I’m very fussy about who cuts it even though it looks no different than before I paid a small fortune to anyone but me. Ladies, when people fail to comment on your new hairdo, trust me, I share your pain.

So I found myself entering an alien salon, chosen mostly due to being 5 minutes walk from work rather than any recommendations. Greeted at reception, I nervously waited to meet the person I was entrusting with my hair. A figure emerged from a side room and approached me. Twenty-something, bubbly, with a large smile and dyed bright red hair, I felt a little more at ease. The red hair was a good sign. Now for the difficult part, describing exactly what I wanted.

I tried my best to explain, making pointless hand gestures and pulling at parts of my hair but it’s never that easy. I think it would be easier if I could just sit there and say ‘Create’ and they’d magically give me the perfect style.

“You know, I think it would be easier if I could just sit here and say ‘Create.’”, I inexplicably found myself saying.

“Oh, don’t worry”, she said with a grin, “we can do something with this.”

While washing my hair we got onto the subject of my job and I was surprised to discover that she enjoyed playing video games. I was also a little worried about her love of the game Manhunt, a pleasant little number where you can decapitate victims, slash throats and perform all manner of gruesome acts. It’s the tabloid press’ favourite bête noire and is wheeled out whenever a particularly grizzly murder is committed and the assailant might have played video games.

“I’m not sure I’m comfortable letting you near me with scissors now.”

“Oh, I’m fine. As long as I get it all out while playing the game it’s not a problem.”

I hoped that she’d played it very recently.

As she cut my hair we drifted onto the subject of music and discovered we shared a similar taste and an even similar hatred. It all got a little competitive, with music collections, gigs, festivals and famous meetings compared and despite being 10 years older than her, I’m unsure that I actually won. No, my meeting Mike Patton, lead singer of Faith No More and her hero probably clinched it. It made a refreshing change from ‘Where are you going on holiday?’ and twenty minutes of uncomfortable silence after several further pleasantries.

It wasn't long before the wax was being applied and it was time to see the final result. All that was left was to pay up and then quickly buy some new clothes before my lunch hour was over. Twenty minutes later and £250 lighter I was heading back to the office, laden with bags but happy with my little excursion.
It's got to be something in the water.

She was right though. She could do something with my hair.

Of course, no one noticed.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Joe le taxi

There are some differences between cabbies in London and Brighton and not just that most journeys are £20 cheaper. In London, you suspect that the driver will take his time and take the longest route possible while extolling his opinions on just what’s wrong with the world. Head almost permanently set looking over his shoulder, barely observing the road. In Brighton, they try and take the quickest route and get rid of you as fast as possible, trying not to fall into yet another of the same cab conversations.

A typical Brighton cab journey normally involves one of the following questions, as the passenger, rather than the driver, initiates conversation.

“Busy night?”

“Traffic’s bad tonight.”

“Christ, there’s some fuckwits out tonight.”

“How long until you finish?”

Getting into the cab tonight was a slightly different experience. As I opened the door and sat in the back seat, the driver put down the book he was reading. I told him my address and we set off. Seeing my opportunity to avoid the typical clichés, I took it.

“So what are you reading?” I asked?

“Oh, ‘The Firm.’”, he replied.

“Can’t say I’ve read it. Oh, hold on, that’s John Grisham isn’t it?”

At that point he choose to pick the book up and examine the front cover, obviously while still driving through the busy Brighton night traffic, which was just a little disconcerting.

“Yeah, it is. Saw the film years ago and thought I’d give the book a chance.”

“Do you get to read a lot while waiting for fares then? What else have you read recently?”

“Yeah, on the quiet nights. Plus I read at home. The Mrs hates it as she thinks I'm ignoring her. I had some book from the Reader’s Digest the other day. Four books in one type thing. They had an Andy McNab one and another action type story too.”

Given that this was a thick set man, shaven headed and possibly wearing an England shirt, I could understand how the likes of McNab would appeal. He did strike me as more Sun reader than book reader.

“My favourite though”, he continued, “was the third one. It was a romantic story set in Australia. I swear, I could feel the sun beating down on me as I read it. It was a bit Jackie Collins but I loved it. It was beautiful. By the way, you’re the only person I’ve admitted this to. If the lads ever heard about this I’d never live it down.”

I gave him a large tip and left the cab smiling.

I just hope the lads don’t read this.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Football's coming home?

It’s probably not escaped your notice but the World Cup is upon us once again. That can mean only one thing. The office sweepstake. That time when you give someone a couple of quid, pick some no hoper like Angola and realise that the money would have been better spent down the bookies. Still, it’s all a bit of fun, isn’t it?

As ever I signed up, despite suspecting it was a futile exercise. As I went to pay my money, my name went on the list of participants. A list with 32 places, with my name added with those that had already paid, next to the number (can see where this is going?) 23. My heart jumped. That's got to be a good omen. This could be my year. Now to find out if my theory still holds and pick out a team.We gathered together to draw out the teams. Brazil went early, much to everyone’s annoyance but as I waited, a lot of the bad teams got picked out. Most of the big guns were still there and I nervously waited for my turn.

Tentatively, I dipped my hand into the bag. I pulled out my piece of paper and as I unfolded it I could see the word ‘land’.

‘Poland?’ I thought, ‘Hmm not that good after all.’

Then I realised.

I had the golden ticket.

England.

So now the hopes of the nation don’t just rely on Rooney’s metatarsals but also on me and my unfounded belief in the power of a prime number.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

You keep me hanging on the telephone

While we’re on the subject of strange things, something else happened this week which has left me somewhat bewildered.

I got a phone call on my mobile on Wednesday afternoon. That in itself is quite unusual as hardly anyone seems to use mobiles to actually talk to each other. It tends to be a medium for text messages and blurry images, checking emails and cheating in pub quizzes.

The display didn’t list a number, purely the message ‘unknown’. Not so unusual as my bank never lists its number and has been phoning me for the last 12 months, trying to sell me a loan, despite my protestations that I don’t want a loan and don’t want to be asked yet again. However, if it was the bank, they’ve taken a new approach to customer services which may explain their high charges.

At first I was greeted with silence and a bit of static. I said ‘Hello?’ a few times and was about to hang up, thinking that it must be some automated dialler that had wrongly called my number.

Then I heard something. A gasp or sigh. ‘Hello?’ I repeated. Again nothing but I wasn’t going to hang up. It was their phone bill and if they didn’t want to talk, it was costing them money.

What I heard next did take me by surprise. The sounds were definitely female. Low moans and gasps, slowly building in loudness and speed. I was getting an obscene phone call and the caller certainly appeared to be enjoying herself.

I was at a loss as to what to do. What is the correct etiquette for receiving smutty calls? Does one hang up in disgust? Does one try to engage the person in conversation?

“Well it sounds like you’re having a splendid time but do you mind telling me who you are and why you are calling me?”

Or perhaps engage in some Beavis and Butthead type commentary?

Huh-huh, yeah, baby, huh-huh, that sounds, like, cool, huh-huh. Do you wanna, like, do it, huh-huh?

Of course, I just sat there in dumbstruck silence.

After a minute, the line went dead leaving me none the wiser to who it was from. It’s not the first time that I’ve had calls from ‘unknown’ but in the past the line has gone dead after I’ve answered.

Maybe I’ve got a stalker.

The magic number

It seems ridiculous now.

I can vividly recall several days before my 23rd birthday the panic as I felt that I was about to officially become old. I was genuinely worried and somewhat depressed at the thought. I now realise how stupid those feelings were but understand why I had them.

Birthdays are checkpoints in our life. A time when we look back and take stock of what we have achieved. Or haven’t. When we go through a mythical checklist of where we think our lives should be compared to our peers and society’s expectations and see how we measure up. I was living in a squat. I was still no nearer to finishing my degree and had little inclination to do so. And I was broke. That extra year seemed to signify the age where it was time to make some decisions and take some responsibility. Time to grow up.

I’d love to say that it was an epiphany. A turning point in my life where I suddenly found my way but I didn’t. Well, not in the way I was expecting.

Absent-mindedly flicking through NME or Melody Maker, I stumbled upon a short article on the number 23 and how many artists regard it as a powerful number. I can no longer recall which artists were interviewed or exactly what was said but it seemed to inspire me and make me rethink. Was it a coincidence that on the 23rd, while living at number 23, contemplating my 23rd birthday that I found this article?

I became almost evangelical in my belief. I converted others to my cause. Bizarrely, it seemed to work. Psychologically, it was probably because we believed in the power of that number that so many positive things happened to us. Research has shown that people who believe that they are lucky do tend to have more luck than those that think they are unlucky. Perhaps it was just the power of positive thought but I would always carry a 23, cut from a newspaper headline, in my wallet. The number would turn up everywhere and when it did, we would hold it with great significance.

I was having the time of my life and those that bought into the 23 theory seemed to benefit too. I ‘ordained’ one friend, presenting him with his own 23 to carry with him. I told him I would share some of the power with him and great things would happen. He went from being shy and geeky, useless with women (we all thought that he was still a virgin) into a confident, Casanova. He was with a different girl every week and loving it. Again, it may have all been in the mind but it worked.

I’d recently recounted my belief in the number 23 to several friends. Trying to exactly explain why it is so important or just how it has made things happen was difficult, the fogs of time obscuring the events and reasons, but the belief still continues. My friend, now happily married and with a child has 23 in roman numerals on his wrist and I’ve spotted one girl in Brighton with the same tattoo on her forearm, so I’m not alone.

The reason for explaining all this is that on Thursday, I was walking to the station to get to work. As I walked towards the footbridge, I noticed a trail of pages, seemingly ripped from a book. The trail led over the footbridge and down the other side. The last page had a heading. Chapter 23.

Maybe it’s time to get that tattoo.

The 23 Enigma is a belief that the number 23 is of particular or unusual significance, especially in relation to disasters.

Unusual circumstances being linked to 23 are mentioned by William S. Burroughs. He tells the story of meeting a ferry captain named Clark who claimed to have sailed the same route without an accident for 23 years. That very day, however, the ferry sank. Later that day, Burroughs writes, he was thinking about Clark's ferry accident when he heard that a Flight 23 on a New York-Miami route had crashed. According to Burroughs, the pilot's name for the flight had also been Clark. Burroughs began collecting incidences of the number 23 in a scrapbook and referred to them in his writings.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

The winner takes it all

Battle of the Bands, a competition where barely competent musicians, armed with 3 chords from ‘101 Hits for Buskers’ and delusions of adequacy, play sub-standard guitar rock and the band with the most attractive female members win. With more effort put into their ‘look’ than actual song writing or rehearsing and yet still looking like young Conservatives trying to look rebellious but not that rebellious because ‘what would the folks think’?

What is the point? The only people who attend these nights are friends of the bands, dragged along by the promise of girls, a free pint and 'a chance to be there at the start, man'. Do any of the bands think that A&R men are going to drag themselves down to the Snotbucket and Wimpole in Walthamstow on a Tuesday night and stumble upon their musical genius? Most A&R men wouldn’t stumble across the room if their mother was on fire and you promised them free coke and vodka.

It’s not like A&R aren’t already inundated with a surfeit of wannabes clamouring for their attention, wannabes that already have managers, a following, perform at venues that have some sort of respectability and most importantly, talent, is it? No, of course they’re going to drag themselves to the arse end of nowhere to watch bands take part in a cynical exercise. Where the promoter not only charges the band to enter the competition but also charges their friends to watch. On a dead rubber of a night that wouldn’t get punters through the door for free with beer £1 a pint, rather than the £4 they charge for cans of Tesco brand lager at these events.

And what if, and I think we’ve established it’s a big what if, an A&R man turns up on the night? Blown away by all the acts on the bill, does he only sign the winners as they have won the Battle? If not, why have a Battle of the Bands to decide who is best in the first place?

‘Sorry Mr Cobain. Really loved the act but its back to shovelling fries at McDonalds for you. Pigfister won fair and square. Rules are rules. Plus, their keyboard player is hot.’

Pointless. Has a band ever got a record deal from one of these nights?

No, I’ve got a better idea. Let’s take all these bands, stick them all on the same stage with a variety of weapons and let them have a real battle. Let the winners be the last band standing. Maybe we’ll get to see some proper axe work then. I’d pay good money for that. In fact, I think I’m going to get in touch with Endemol. It’s the sort of high class reality TV they love.

Better still. Imagine KISS, in their fully made-up, 70’s super hero form. GWAR with their outrageous armour and weaponry, deviant aliens hell bent on corrupting humanity. Manowar, Kings of Metal, muscled, lubed and wielding their mighty swords. Put them in a ring in a winner takes all, fourway, WWE style match against, let’s say, just for the fun of it, Stryper.

Yes.

Stryper.

Who isn’t going to cheer with joy to see their black and yellow, spandexed, whiny voiced, Christian rock arses ripped a new one by the 3 behemoths of metal? They say the devil has the best tunes and Stryper went a long way to prove that point and ironically turned more metallers into Satan worshippers than they converted. I’ve only ever met one Stryper fan and his dad was a vicar. You can almost imagine the compromises and shifting of ideals that the poor bloke went through to get that C of E stamp of approval. Just to be allowed to listen to anything that remotely resembled heavy metal, grow long hair and end up a laughing stock by his peers. Poor bastard.

Anyway, that would be a Battle of the Bands. Hell, it would be more than just that.

It. Would. ROCK.

And obviously KISS would win.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The sound of silence

Maybe it’s just because I’m tired but when did everything get so noisy? I seem to be surrounded by endless noise pollution all day long. Sitting on a train for an hour and a half each way I have to endure the automated drone informing me which station I’m approaching and which stations the train will stop at. Given that it’s 23 stops, it’s a long old list at the start of the journey, barely finishing announcing our ultimate destination before launching into ‘We are now approaching…’. Throw in a few random messages about penalty fares and security, plus the conductor chipping in with his location on the train if anyone is in need of a ticket to avoid said penalty fares and it’s pretty much a non-stop assault. And that’s before you take into account the other passengers.

That hell on Earth that is half term is upon us, which means that the train is full of families and their screaming broods, off on a day out to the harbour and a trip up the tower. There are also the students off to Chichester, who insist on playing music and videos on their phones at full blast, screaming about their exploits the night before and the ‘sss sss sss’ emitting from numerous headphones. Can you all just shut the fuck up and let me read the paper in peace?

As part of the events for the Volvo Ocean Race and half term promotion, the management at Gunwharf have decided to have a live band playing this morning. The stage is just outside our offices with the PA system facing us. The band play turgid, acoustic covers of MOR favourites and the female vocals in particular cut through everything. To make matters worse, they only seem to have a limited amount of covers in their set and we’ve been treated to the same songs 3 times now. It really is the live equivalent of muzak.

At one point a mail went round the office suggesting that we try and concentrate to see if we could summon up a Tsunami to cleanse the harbour of this aural filth. The experiment met with mixed results and it was clear that some were not concentrating as much as others as we were rewarded with Katrina and the Waves.

And don’t get me started on the fairground type attractions that have sprung up this week all around the shopping centre. Music, sirens and screaming kids everywhere I go. I just want to lie down in a nice, quiet, dark room. Still, the band has stopped now. Hopefully for good and not just for lunch.

I’m currently working on a game design that involves failed musicians and a high powered sniper rifle.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

You and me baby aint nothing but mammals

The chimpanzee genome project has shown that women are closer to chimps than men. Apparently this is because the X chromosome has changed less than the Y chromosome since we were split from a common ancestor with chimps. Women have 2 X chromosomes compared with XY in men.

Explains so much.

Moving on up

It’s been just over a year since I started my latest social experiment and it’s soon to come to an end and a new phase will begin. Last May, after 15 years of living in London, I moved to Brighton, started a new job and most importantly, lived on my own for the first time in my life. For various reasons, in just over a month, I’ll be entering the world of the flat share again.

From the last 13 months I've learned a few valuable lessons and realise that there will be some adjustments to make.

I’ve discovered that it’s not a good idea to leave my keys at home.

I’ve also discovered how easy it is to force my front door open and have dead bolted it ever since, which doubles as a handy way of remembering my keys.

I’ve learned that toilet roll seems to last an amazingly long time with the absence of flatmates and, more importantly, their girlfriends. I still believe that half the girls I know must eat the stuff as part of a super model type diet to stay waif-like.

Apparently neighbours don’t appreciate impromptu social gatherings at 5am, especially when the walls are so thin that you can hear them snoring in the flat above.

Washing up left for over 2 weeks in water smells bad. Real bad. On the plus side you develop some interesting cultures for experimentation.

You only need to dress when leaving the flat. Any other time you’re free to wear whatever you want, if anything at all. Obviously those days are coming to an end. Unless I end up sleepwalking naked into my flatmate’s room at 3am, as I did at my last flat. Jon, you’ve been warned.

The TV remote is my domain and mine alone. It’s going to be tough to relinquish such awesome powers and I suspect there will be some power struggles before remote control harmony is achieved in the new house, albeit a slightly bitter and resentful harmony.

You can leave clothes, dirty or otherwise anywhere you like. No need to go through the tedium of pairing socks and sticking them in the drawer when there are radiators, clothes horses or the floor to supply handy, alfresco storage space.

I’ve proven I can survive. I’ve managed to cook meals, pay the bills and even keep the place relatively tidy. Ok, we’ll ignore that too much of my diet still consists of ready meals at my work desk, the occasional court summons and that at its worse the flat resembled an explosion at a jumble sale and chalk it down as mostly a success.

I’ve loved the freedom but I’ve also discovered that it can be a lonely and isolated experience, particularly now I’m working at a new company outside of Brighton and don’t have as much time to meet up with friends during the week.

Now, of course, I can look forward to evenings of vintage port and Cuban cigars, myself and Jon sat in our smoking jackets, surround by lithe, young ladies in cocktail dresses laughing, gasping and applauding at our witty exchanges, our searing intellect and illuminating insights. With dim lighting, Dvorak or Berlioz on the stereo, Jon will prepare a gastronomic delight in the kitchen while I recite self-penned poetry of loves won and lost. There won’t be a dry seat in the house.

Obviously, I realise that it won’t be like this every night. Such eligible young bachelors as us have a hectic social life to attend to and prose capable of removing lingerie at 20 paces doesn’t just write itself. I’m also aware that given both our personalities and work demands, there will be times when my new flatmate and I won’t see each other for days on end, either entering into a reclusive stupor that only a duvet and hardcore EastEnders can cure or working towards yet another deadline.

So, given that Jon is probably the only person that will read this blog, it might just prove to be a useful way to find out what we’re actually doing and that we are still very much alive and well. It might just prove useful in other ways too.

Jon, if you’re reading this, the money for the gas bill is on the kitchen counter.

Oh, and we’re out of tea bags…