Monday, December 22, 2003

Hits Blogger with a hammer

WHY [smack] WON'T [smack] THIS [smack] FUCKING [smack] THING [smack] UPDATE [smack] MY [smack] SITE [smack].

Oh, that's sorted it.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Christmas is coming

For many people, today is the last day in the office before Christmas. This creates a certain bonohomie around the place as people become demob happy at the prospect of the coming festive season.

Normally, I look across the desk at the top of someones head and a wall planner. Today I am looking across my desk at novelty Christmas earrings, and a pair of novelty deely boppers.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

God bless you gerry mentlemen

Walking from Marylebone to Baker Street Tube yesterday morning I heard the tones of a perculiarly muffled medley of Christmas carols being sung. It sounded rather like a call to Muslim prayer as heard in those pre-war Iraqi reports on how Baghdad continues to function despite the threat of invasion. I thought, perhaps, there was a nearby Mosque I'd never heard or seen before.

But this was clearly Christian song and as far as I know George Bush hasn't achieved religious hegemony yet. My second thought was that there was a workman nearby enjoying the festive season in an area where the acoustics distored and amplified his voice across West London.

I crossed the road and passed Boots, and the singing got louder. The rush hour pedestrian traffic was quite heavy so it took a while to see where the noise was coming from. Sitting on the floor was a tiny tramp nonchelantly singing through a four foot long traffic cone.

Naturally nobody gave him money, success really does take the edge off this level of creativity.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Just the novelty Christmas earrings to go

Following the Secret Santa debacle, Friday's Christmas do was, as expected, OK. It wasn't great, nor amazing, just OK. The Ambassadors of Fun were knocked sideways, because the little taste of Rio (in Bracknell) turned out to be a just a side salad with a big kebab of Berkshire concrete hell hole on top. The reality was never going to meet the expectation, so the night was always going to be tinged with disapointment.

The food was generally dire; Tesco value pack potato wedges, pita bread and fried mushrooms passed off as canapes, microwave heated chicken, followed by Creme caramel without the crunchy top.

The entertainment came from the Red Hot Dancers, pretty girls in thongs, and greased up boys in loin cloths executing moves choreographed in the school playground. By dreading the thing all week, I gave it every opportunity to exceed my expectations. It didn't.

Finally there was the disco which was one paced and predictable. People jogged on the spot through endless office party classics. The songs are paced so not to enduce heart palpatations amongst people who call dancing "Having a bit of a boogie". If you're going to dance, you might as well dance, break sweat, turn purple, put your head in a base bin, at least camp it up a bit. If at the beginning of the next century they look back on the pop culture of yesteryear, hopefully the office party bored swaying dance won't make an appearance.

I knew things weren't going well two minutes after we left. Two women behind me were chatting. "Do you remember Morris Minor's" said one, "I don't remember" said the other.

It wasn't like there weren't people enjoying the night, tables where everyone genuinely got on seemed to have a lot of fun. I couldn't help but think that if I had gone to it with the people from the Little Publishing Company on the Hill, I would probably have had the best night ever.

Leaving your inhibitions and the subsequent consequences at the door seems to be the way to do it though. The girl in the black mini dress held together by a reel of tit tape took this approach. There was flesh everywhere, the dress was cut down to her waist, her thunderous thighs shone in the spot lights. She seemed unconcerned that her bosses were watching as she ascended onto the podium and, in front of four hundred people, proceded to give herself a gynacological examination through several Ricky Martin hits.

It seemed to be a theme of the night, whilst she was the first, she wasn?t the last. Another spent the whole of Lady Marmalade thrusting her crotch in the face of an impassive bouncer. It seems that despite the potential long term consequence of these actions, the purchase of a new g-string is not something to be kept a secret.

The women weren't alone. Men, of course, can always be drawn to the honeypot of some knicker flashing. But the disturbing and decidedly less aesthetically pleasing sight of middle aged senior managers taking the opportunity to drag their tasty marketing executive onto the dancefloor and cop feel of thigh and booby was truely unpleasent.

Not that the modern streetwise young lady of today can't cope with an unsophisticated letch. Most young ladies today know that a sultry shimmy around the belly of an overwieght Accounts Director is less of an inappropriate sexual advance and more a meaningless negotiating lever come pay review time. But the thing is, its got to make Monday's Team Meeting a little uncomfortable hasn't it?

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Footnote to the previous post

We've just done Secret Santa.. the woman who hated what I bought her last year got a voucher. Clearly someone wasn't taking any risks. The reaction from the women? Couldn't have been more excited if she was sitting on a tumble drier.

I got a box of Celebrations Chocolates and a whiskey drinkers gift set. My Christmas is made, god bless you all.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Bar humbug

This is where blogging comes into its own, an opportunity to release some built up tension?

God I hate Christmas at work. It's the Christmas party on Friday and people have become utterly pre-occupied by it. It's like they've never been out before. We're a small company, so we're going to a theme night in Bracknell designed for small companies, it's called something like Red Hot in Rio and sounds like hell on earth. It's going to be all novelty ties and inappropriate sexual suggestions - it's so The Office it's unreal.

'Is everyone excited about Friday' Said the girl who job appears to consist of acting as an ambassador of fun for the company.

The temptation to tell her to fuck right off was almost overwhelming, instead I showed my disdain by not looking up from my keyboard and asking what we were supposed to wear. She was horrified I didn?t know because she's been planning her outfit since fucking October.

On top of that comes the office phenomenon of Secret Santa. We're operating a kind of Secret Santa style present buying operation amongst the family this year, which is fine, we want to buy presents for these people.

I have no desire to buy a present for anyone here at work. We did it last year, and it's slowly come back to me that the person I bought for was positively offended by the £5 piece of crap I bought them. They don't know it was me, and it wasn't offensive in the obscene sense, but it was a piece of crap. This is because a. I had £5 to spend, b. I didn't know this person from Adam and c. I had no enthusiasm for the concept.

I can be a generous and creative present buyer when I want to be. Emma has benefited from Off-Roading, Simon from rally driving, and my dad was positively enthused during the series of exotic novelty fruits. But people at work?

The reason I'm blogging this is because I'm tempted to come clean and announce it was me and that I don't care because the shitty clock I got went straight in the bin at the garage before I got home. I wasn't offended by receiving this turd of a present, because I have the half a brain that is needed to know that Secret Santa is nothing more than a meaningless token effort that is only fun for compulsive present buyers who would buy presents for dead cows given half the chance.

How dare they be offended? What the hell did they expect? It?s a secret, so you can?t ask for a list, and it's £5 so your not getting a Ferrari. It is a scheme forced on us by the ambassadors of fun, which means it has appeal to the lowest common denominator.

So distressed was this person at the present I got them, that this year they've doubled the budget and allowed each person to give some suggestions. The slip of paper I picked includes Night Watch by Terry Pratchett, which helpfully someone has put in brackets: - (A book). I feel like storming downstairs and banging on the desk and shouting "I KNOW IT'S A BOOK NOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT A KORG KAOSS 2 IS?" before walking out.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

And finally on the subject

Just for the hell of it, I mixed up a heap of the tunes I played on Saturday, I'm calling it Scuff Live, it's not in the mix club yet because The Premiership starts in four minutes, but if you can't wait, email me and I'll send a copy. Here's the tracklisting.

Never Leave Me (Uh Oooh, Uh Oooh) (Acapella) - Lumidee
Light Your Ass On Fire - Busta Rhymes feat. Pharrell
Stand Up - Ludacris feat Shawna
Turn It Up (Refried) - Ugly Duckling
William The First - Mighty Dub Katz
Toot Toot Hey Beep Beep (Mantronix G-String Mix) - Kool Keith and Heather Hunter
Work - MAW feat Puppah Nas-T and Denise
Damelo - DJ Gregory
E Samba - David Penn Remix
Go Down (Tim Deluxe Mix) - Jon Carter
Deeper Down (Hill Sixty Mix) - DKS
Love At First Sight (Kid Creme Mix) - Kylie Minogue
Punkcity - D'Ranged
It Just Won?t Do (Without You) - Tim Deluxe feat Sam Obernik
Lucky Star (Jaxxhouz Dub) - Basement Jaxx feat Dizzee Rascal
Satisfaction (Isak Original) - Benny Benassi Presents The Biz
Crazy In Love - Beyonce Knowles

Friday, December 05, 2003

We had a party on Saturday night

I love the way after a party you start to piece together little bits and pieces that you missed. People tell their own stories of the night, things you didn?t have anything to do with. Gareth tells me that the drink was overflowing with his mates. Apparently Gareth's best man Tim strode up to the bar at one point and said to the barman 'Can I have five of the gayest cocktail you've got please?'

Having sunk something sickly and pink with umbrellas in it, it was Gareth?s turn to step up to the oche. He asked the Australian barman what it was he had been drinking, to which the barman replied -

'I dunno mate, but it was pretty bloody gay'

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Just done it

Prior to the 1998 World Cup cart horse England legend Tony Adams was interviewed in one of the papers he reads in his post-booze renaissance. He plays the piano, goes to the theatre and doesn’t feel self conscious about giving paternal love to another man. One copy of the Observer to Mr Adams please.

He said the weight of expectation on a World Cup squad is the hardest thing to bear because when you're the one on the pitch, it's you who has to do the things everyone at home assumes you will. So, whilst most people have the luxury of sitting in their chair claiming, when 2-0 up with 20 minutes to go, that Tony Adams is the best in the world at shutting a game down. It is Tony Adams, human being, who executes the minutiae of what this means - slowing the game down, retaining possession, keeping a clear head, staying organised, communicating, closing others' down etc. If he doesn't, regardless of his history or reputation, the team will lose and he'll be to blame. Everyone expects it; Tony's got to do it.

It's this malaise of expectation that people with a similar background to me often go through. Our comfortable, middle class, safe and stable upbringing lulls you into a false sense of security. Our parents provide a comfortable environment that we've grown used to. If we needed something, generally speaking we could have it. We didn't have shed loads of money but nor were we short, concerns about cash, if there were any, simply never got through to us kids. There may have been the odd overdraft here, or loan there but it didn't deprive us of shoes.

Now we're in the big bad world it's easy to assume that these comfortable straight lines of our childhood will continue. That without any effort we can forge and afford that same comfortable life. It's easy to forget that in order to stay on that even keel we still have to steer the boat. Redundancy, divorce, separation, negative equity and all the things you may never have experienced in the past are still there to get you. Just because your in an ocean with a thousand fish, doesn't mean you can stop swimming.

On Saturday night Tredge told me he was 'Loving my work' on the decks, I don't take, or believe compliments easily so I told him that we played what we wanted for four hours then stuck Crazy in Love by Beyonce on. It's rather easy to assume that this is all there is to it. After all, people like dancing and having a good time, so all you have to do is put good records on. Simple.

Afterwards, I was kind of disappointed that this party staple was the thing that triggered mass shape pulling extravaganza. After all it was the record that made people move, I just put the needle on that record. But then again football's just about someone kicking a leather bag of air between two sticks. Having a comfortable and successful life is just about having money, a positive outlook on life and nice friends and family. Conceptually it's all so easy.

I got thinking. It is easy to play records and operate a mixer, it's easy to say that you simply drop a big party bomb and everyone dances. But you try doing it at 7.30 when people are just taking their coats off and you'll get the mildest of nods to a recognisable tune. Try pushing people onto the dancefloor with hit after hit and you'll have an empty dance floor all night. DJ-ing looks easy, and the mechanics of it are, but there's more to it than that. You have to gently cajole people into it, make the atmosphere comfortable and fun, warm their minds and bodies up to the idea.

That's the theory. But better than that, that's what we did. Slowly, over five hours - a fifth of a day - we eased people into the zone. From walking out of a cold winter night and onto the dancefloor. At 12.40 we knew, absolutely knew that the party was ready for that record, we knew the reaction it would get. Why? Because we understood the dynamics of the party, we'd set it up that way, we'd provided the atmosphere, the venue, the drink, the company and the music. Nobody knew that they were being controlled, in fact we didn't know we were doing it, but we orchestrated it all so that at 12.40, no earlier or later, we could pull the trigger and it would go off.

So we pulled the trigger, and it went off. How bloody exciting is that?

Sunday, November 30, 2003

"Ooh it's your birthday, congratulations" "No, who are you?"

“Hi do you remember me? I used to work in the department opposite you” said the girl whose face I immediately and incorrectly identified as belonging to Catherine O’Leary, who I lived round the corner from my parents and I haven’t seen since I was nine.

It was a bit like that on Saturday. When Simon and I decided to have a party in a pub that would hold 200 we were pessimistic about being able to fill it. So we told everyone to invite their friends, and their friends friends and their, well, you get the picture. We had no idea who would turn up.

“These are my flatmates” said the girl, pointing to a woman who stared at me as though I’d unpicked the stitching on her favourite teddy bear. Who two minutes later was poking me and massaging my shoulders. Who two minutes after that appeared to be retching over the bar.

“Dance with me”. I didn’t. Gareth later informed me, in a story which became more grotesque with each telling, that she quickly became involved in a vigorously amorous clinch with a stranger in brown slip-ons.

The multiplier effect of our laissez fair invite policy threatened to swamp the venue, the phone kept ringing, the emails kept arriving, the guests became further and further removed from the original invite list. Everyone turned up, from Internet celebrities who live in log cabins in Canada to Emma’s sister’s friend’s husband’s sister’s mates.

It was, of course, great. Faces put to names, old acquaintances rekindled. People sucked vodka out of the Ice Luge. Penny and Mike flew in from Jersey especially as a total and complete surprise. The night was punctuated by countless half conversations with everyone from my sister, to my oldest school friends to newer friends like Clare and Meg. If I stood everyone in a line, these people could have pieced together my entire life story.

There were selfish reasons for the party, we wanted to DJ. Five hours through Maceo and the Macs, Salt N Pepa, Ludacris, Collapsed Lung, Junior Jack, into an awkward hole I struggled to climb out of, back out to Finger Lickin’ breaks, and inappropriately hard techno. For the final 15 minutes we pounded out Groove is in the Heart, Crazy in Love, and Jump Around to a room full of people dancing on chairs and pulling their best shapes. Even the bar staff were bouncing around like loons. My only regret is that we didn’t have anything to play for the Finnish barmaid who asked if we had anything from her homeland. She still gave us a couple of free shots, presumably because she’d had a good night and we’d been good customers.

Eventually our extended licence expired and the lights came up, it was time to pull out cables, pack away records and lug the PA back down three flights of stairs. Suddenly we were confronted by a wall of very very drunk people. Supremely, unexpectedly drunk people, each and every person I talked to was bouncing off the walls, or slurring their speech or acting inappropriately. Probably because unknown to most people, the bar staff kept in the spirit of the party by only serving doubles.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Bastard by Motley Crue

When I worked at The Little Oxford Publishing Company on the Hill I had an almost sibling relationship with a girl in my department. Whilst I was more sensible and pragmatic, she was deeply intelligent yet a bit erratic so we got on and hated each other at the same time. My approach meant my Directorial bollockings were less frequent and my pay rises marginally better. Although in that company, this really only meant that my peanuts were dry roasted and hers ready salted.

Anyway, she had perfect punchline to any musical conversation: -

“So what are you having as the first dance at your wedding will it be Bastard by Motley Crue?”
“What are you going to sing at the Karaoke how about Bastard by Motley Crue?”
“I always sing songs to my niece, Row Row Row Your Boat, Incey Wincey Spider, Bastard by Motley Crue.”
“Which tune from Oklahoma shall we sing next, hmm, Bastard by Motley Crue?”

I use it all the time, it’s the perfect way to end any conversation about music. Anyway, I had my first homoerotic experience last week, a mid-week karaoke night in Coventry.

I have no beef with Karaoke, herds of women screeching Summer Lovin’, tribes of men hollering Wonderwall. People seem to enjoy themselves, there’s a sense of fun in humiliating yourself with your mates. It’s safe, it’s silly, it’s what you do from time to time. I wouldn’t do it even if you nailed my scrotum to my feet, but people do it don’t they?

Only this wasn’t that type of Karaoke, this was for regulars, earnest men with delusions of a semi professional singing career clustered round a small dance floor taking it in turns to show us their stuff. Wind Beneath My Wings, Forever in Blue Jeans, Life is a Rollercoaster, and, ulp, Angels.

God it was awful, navigating an axis of Stereophonics and Neil Diamond, each bloke, aged about 50, dressed casually, with the look of the killer about them, would step up, close their eyes in emotional concentration and with a little echo effect from Dave’s Mobile Disco, give it welly. I can’t imagine for a second that they would go back to work on Thursday and tell their mates what they did. They probably don’t tell their wives, it would have been like, I don’t know, buggering farmyard animals or something.

These guys were serious about their seedy hobby; they even did that thing where they moved the microphone away during the long notes. You know, to protect the sound system from their powerful range.

My reticence to engage in this musical S&M meant I was accused of trying to look cool, mainly because I didn’t dance to the bloke in the braces singing Enrique Inglasias’ Hero. I was accused of being miserable because I suggested we threw sugar lumps at the bad people, glasses at the really awful. People were even shocked when I got up to sing, but alas they didn’t have Bastard by Motley Crue.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Friday stuff

Point your right finger in the air and draw the figure six. Keep circling your finger in this way.

Now stick your right leg out, circle your foot in the same direction as your finger.

Now whilst you’re doing it, change the direction of your circling your finger.

LOOK! Your foot has changed direction too.

Try it again, much as you try not to, your foot will always comply with your finger. But you can do it if you use opposite fingers and feet.

There, that killed a couple of minutes didn’t it?

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Doesn't suit you sir

To my immense disappointment this weekend I had to buy myself a dinner suit. For one, I've hit an age where my friends rather like the curio of dressing up posh on occasion. But mostly my need comes from my job, which dictates that I have to go to a couple of black tie dinners a year (no, I'm not a very part time waiter).

So, it's become economical for me to buy, rather than rent, something I didn't really want to do. I don't like wearing them, I don't feel particularly special in it. I feel my youth ebbing away as I'm shoe horned into the constraints of adulthood. I know, I'm probably too old to get sulky about wearing a tie, but I'd really prefer a groovy pair of trainers.

Simon's got his own dinner suit, which has been sagely handed down from his dad and has probably been hand stitched by an aged London tailor who works only by candlelight. When I heard that he was wearing his dad's dinner suit I envisaged huge flares, a purple dress shirt with capacious ruffles cascading down his chest and a vast velvet bow tie, like Eddie Large on his primetime Saturday evening show in the 70's. Sadly though, it's a classic cut that fits perfectly.

I'm not sure whether my dad has a dinner suit, he's several inches shorter than me, so I'd look a right banana if I did wear it. I had to get my own.

My brief was simple, keep it classic and keep the cost down. There's not a great choice of course, a dinner suit is a dinner suit. Each shop has a rack of classic black suits; stripe down the trousers, slightly shiny lapels, the works. They all also have a couple of white ones, and ties with diamante diamonds embedded, you know, for people who want to look a bit different and special (aka like a twat). I was flumuxed as the couple next to me in Marks and Spencer oggled the white suits with admiration, putting a range of multi-coloured bow ties up against the lapels to see how they matched.

I went classic, and cheap - machine washable even. Sullied and depressed, I also bought a parka with a furry hood, It's kind of cool, like what the kids wear.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Greatly exaggerated rumour

I’m back. Flu-less, cold-less, injury-less, even hassle and stress less. I fell into the dark abyss and was, for seventy two hours, corrupted and diseased. I succumbed to my first day off work (man or boy) since Kenny Dalglish resigned as Liverpool manager, but having weathered that harsh winter, I’m refreshed and unleaden with the angst of my circumstance.

I couldn’t have done it without my friends Nurofen, Lemsip Cough Medicine (for chesty coughs) or Ribena Original for they all gallantly waged war with me on the hideous spectre. And we won.

I don’t know whether I feel better (better than I did before I was ill) because I’ve beaten the illness, or because I'm not ill anymore, or because I know that when I’m old and decrepit, every day will feel a bit like last week and I should be thankful I’ve at least got me ‘elf.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003


I’m at work and I’m ill. Properly, unable to do anything ill, not a bit chesty, I don’t have that flu people who don’t actually have flu get. The flu that manifests itself as a slightly irritating cough and a runny nose. No, I have a flu which renders me unable to do anything. Well, apart from foolishly drag myself into work so not to break the record of not having had a day off work for 13 years. I played football last night, but the aches and pains are nothing to do with my fitness or lack thereof. Emma’s had it, her kids at school had it, and now I have it. Ill.

Nobody cares of course, you say that you’re feeling terrible and people make neutral comments like “There’s something going around”. The coughing interrupts your sentences, making you sound like you’re putting it on for effect. Nobody wants to be my audience; nobody wants to watch me play out my ordeal, my head in my hands, the shuffle to the kitchen. Despite inviting people to join me, nobody wants to follow me to the toilet and watch me sit in a cubicle for 20 minutes slumped up against the wall. Nobody wants to get inside my head and really know how I’m feeling, and how brave I’m being.

I shouldn’t be here. I should be at home, in bed. But I have a week of emails to get through having been in York last week. I want to have a day off on Friday, and don’t feel its right to run sick days into holidays. The thought of driving home fills me with dread. I know, I’m patently stupid, you have no sympathy for me.

I shall tootle along until three, then I’m going. I’m not having any lunch, because I can’t face it. If I go at three I’ve practically done my hours and the run will remain unbroken.

I feel awful, I really want you to know that.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Modern life is rubbish

Work has consumed my time, my thoughts and everything over the last six weeks. It’s had a peculiar effect on me; I’m not sleeping, I’m suffering from a very uncomfortable frozen shoulder, but more than the physical, it’s sucked my imagination dry and distracted me from the things that I consider makes my life worthwhile; family, friends, music, football. Even trying to write to this site, I’ve sat trying to articulate the few ideas that have permeated the fug but as soon as I sit down the ideas, the energy, and the flow of thoughts all dry up.

Some people get to have their work and their life on the same continuum. I imagine musicians and sportsmen don’t see any real divide between what they do to pay the bills and the rest of their life, but for most of us work and life appear to be very different things.

It’s not right; our lives should be our lives. A linear progression from birth to death during which we do everything we want, whenever we want. Instead, five sevenths of our time we’re diverted into the work cul-de-sac which is full of frustration, politics, incompetence, dealing with people you would normally cross the street to avoid.

It’s a peculiar thing. My ambition at work, and what keeps me doing what I’m doing, is to make something that doesn’t work, work well. It’s because I think I can achieve this that I don’t run away and live in a hole in the ground. But despite this ambition, the truth is, I don’t really care if it doesn’t work. If someone tells me I’m not allowed to see any one of my friends in the future I’d be devastated. If someone informed me that I couldn’t achieve what I want to achieve at work, I’d greet it with a shrug of the shoulders. None the less, I still follow this foolish ambition to make the company I work for, the best it can be.

I could have it all wrong. I work for a company that relies on volunteers to do a lot of its work. It has very clear ethical guidelines that ensure these volunteers don’t exploit the company for their own gain. But the rules are flaunted continuously and people are making money left, right and centre. They should be working for a ‘greater good’ but most are doing it for their bank accounts and egos. I could use the company to improve my personal wealth if I wanted to. I could increase my income by up to 50% by ramping up my expenses on meaningless meetings all over the country. I could have twice as much holiday by taking days off sick or sneaking home when the boss is away. Nobody would bat an eyelid if I did. But with me, if someone invites me to a networking lunch in Bristol, I turn it down in favour of a day in the office trying to meet the company’s objectives. It seems hopelessly naive.

I’m not a blind company man; I just think this is the right way to work. But it causes me so many hassles. My salary is my salary, I don’t claim anymore expenses than I should. So I have a little less to spend at the weekends than I might have. I haven’t had a day off sick since the half term before my A Levels thirteen years ago. So I get five weeks holiday and no more. I put a lot of energy trying to block people who are just trying line their pockets or egos in the name of being a volunteer because I don’t think it helps the company and I don’t think its right. I know some people don’t like me because of it, and I worry about what is being plotted behind my back. I wonder whether it’s really worth the hassle.

On the other hand, I’m punching well above my weight in terms of my role and responsibilities. People far brighter than me at school, who went to better universities, are not doing nearly as well as I am. By doing what I do, the way I do it, I’ve had great holidays in Paris, Barcelona, Majorca, and Italy in the last twelve months and still have Las Vegas to come in February. I watch Oxford play football, and buy records and can still afford to eat. More importantly I have the best group of friends and family I could ever hope to have. Presumably, like I do with them, they stick by me because of who I am and the way I am. If I was different I’d have a different life, with different friends. Perhaps your working life does reflect on your real life in a more profound way than by just paying for it. Given that I don’t want a different real life, perhaps I should stick with the same working life I have.

Maybe modern life is not that rubbish after all.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Whistle while you work

Occasionally I’ll receive a text message from Simon hailing the virtues of some CD he's listening to at work. You wonder why many IT projects fail? Probably because IT consultants are listening to Acid House whilst building your fully secure online banking service.

"Ooh I must remember to encrypt the current account details...WHOOOHOO here comes the breakdown WHISTLE POSSE WHERE ARE YOU!... now where was I, oh yeah, coffee"

Quite how he manages to concentrate on anything whilst listening to the headrush of Hardfloor Acperience is anyone’s guess.

I like listening to music whilst I work; my A Level revision was done to the magical tones of The Orb’s UFOrb, Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld, and the Aubrey Mixes. When I used to work at home, a carefully selected CD warbling in the background increased my productivity and eased my working pains.

“If this annoys you, I can turn it off”

I couldn’t actually hear anything, but it turns out The Woman At Work has Dido playing on her laptop. Now, of course I can here the tinny top end of each tune, awful whimsical music, played through terrible laptop speakers at a volume which is a fraction above audible a fraction below clear.

Heaven, absolute bloody bliss.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Latest news

I seem to have slipped into a parallel universe. Usually I have time to muse about the world and the universe, construct complex theories on life, and weave comical set pieces which lighten the heavy burden of our times, then forget them all and post gibbering rubbish on this site. Not at the moment though.

On a totally unrelated note, should planning be about ensuring you have a manageable and consistent flow of activities, not having, for example, 21 projects to manage in the last three months of the year, compared to 4 in the first three months. Also, you know that thing about how authority and responsibility should go hand in hand? How you shouldn’t divorce the two? You shouldn’t assume the latter without the former. And, on balance you shouldn’t devolve all responsibility when things go bad and assume it when they get sorted out. Should you, SHOULD YOU?

Anyway, enough of conceptual thoughts not grounded in anyone’s experience of the last couple of weeks. What else?

Emma graduated from her Headteacher qualification course and received a paperweight for her trouble. A metaphor, said the guest speaker, “The paper can wait”. Alyce hurt her back falling off a horse. Well, I say hurt, broke it is more accurate. She’s in a back brace, but she’s going to be OK, although apparently a bit shorter.

Scant consolation I know, but we went to visit her in hospital on Sunday and had a couple of hours chatting and reminiscing. It was ace. Poor Alyce had been stuck lying on her back for a week and was bored silly, we suggested, helpfully, you’ll agree, that she could count the dimples on the ceiling tiles.

“174” she replied.

I tell you what though, she’s dead funny Alyce, we had a great time.

Oxford are on fire after a humbling defeat to Reading (more of that below for the benefit of Linhope stalwart and Reading fan Barry) so it’s happy days. Imagine if my life was blighted by people who couldn’t plan and people who assumed authority but no responsibility?


A bloke at the football has a replica shirt emblazoned with the legend ‘We 8 Reading’. This is nearly as perplexing as the gutsy singing of the Hokey Cokey at the Kassam recently; how on earth do you…“do the Scott McNiven and you turn around?” I’m perplexed because much as we try to 8 Reading, no Oxford fan can really bring themselves to do it.

Hence, the banks of the East Stand faithful sing “We hate Reading (‘suppose) and we hate Reading (‘suppose)”. OK, well, they don’t, but they did sing “You’re only here ‘cause it’s Oxford” to Reading fans who were indeed only there because their team was playing in Oxford which does strip the song of the irony it had when it was sung to 30,000 Arsenal fans at Highbury.

Like the game at Highbury we were cut to ribbons by a Reading side who passed their way through our lumbering back five on countless occasions and enjoyed considerable shooting practice from the edge of the six yard box. Oxford are a team built for the third division, Reading for the first. Oxford’s pitch offers, quite literally, too level a playing field upon which expensively constructed teams are invited to outclass us. It’s all so clinically obvious, it’s difficult to be bothered about it.

I wandered whether it was just me but the blokes behind me confirmed it wasn’t. When they spotted the bloke in the We 8 Reading shirt one turned to the other and asked…

“Do you think he 8’s writing too?”

To which his mate replied, in a rare moment of quality East Stand humour

“He probably 8’s all school”

Tuesday, September 23, 2003


Yesterday: After three weeks of cycling between 10 and 15 miles a day, I was looking forward to my first five-a-side of the season. 15 days of cardio vascular whatnot, my speed has increased, my endurance has improved, my recovery rate has dipped below an hour. Fitness gives you great benefits, you feel better, you (should) look better, and in a sporting context it gives you space to think about using your skills rather than keeping down the lining of your lungs. As a footballer, I can pass, have good positional sense, can time a tackle to perfection and can outthink most of the other players. Except until three weeks ago I was burdened with poor fitness which clouded my skills in a fug of feeble bodily impotence. But lo, I am probably fitter now than at anytime since school, watch me fly.

Today: Hurt.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Prawn cocktail, steak and chips and a black forest gatox

My idea of posh food served by a French person is having a Pret a Manger Super Club sandwich on Regents Street. Le Manoir Quat’ Saison is a level of quality and service I can barely comprehend.

Whilst Emma’s been telling people the reason we took lunch at the world famous restaurant was because “We were hungry” it was actually because my family bought her a meal for two for her 30th birthday.

As you can probably tell, this is no six quid chicken in a basket merchant. Le Manoir is owned by Raymond Blanc. Imagine, if you can, a cook so famous he’s beyond Ready Steady Cook.

Let’s pause to contemplate that bombshell…

It’s so high class it’s coming back the other way. The quality of the service, food, and surroundings is so high there’s simply no need for any snotty pretence which means you’re made to feel entirely comfortable and relaxed.

We took drinks and ordered our food in the gardens. The wine waiter didn’t, as I thought he might, suggest ‘Vin au Imbeciles’, before walking away sniggering smugly to himself. His recommended Chardonnay was spot on. Only Emma was drinking so she went for a half bottle at £28, which means unless you benefit from some economies of scale by going for a full bottle, you’re looking at £56 for the full Monty. And that was a cheap one – one Champagne was £1600 – a lot of money to giggle stupidly and say “Ooh the bubbles have gone up my nose”.

After a little Cod thing to clear the palette it was on to the vegetable soup. Now I’m no expert, but I’d wager it didn’t come from a tin. In fact it was so green each bowl must have contained such a concentration of vegetables that it would’ve fed a small African nation. Our French waitress took us through our order step by step, although she did get her translations a little mixed up telling us rather than it having “hints” of flavour, that there “maybe a little parmesan”. Given the price I’d have expected something a little more definitive.

For the main course, I had cod and mash, although in posh restaurants it’s “crushed potato”, Ooh, get you. Emma had lamb.

Then came the cheese.

When we have cheese it’s usually Tesco blue stripe, it’s usually mild cheddar and it’s usually in kilogram blocks. We like cheese. The nutty offer of the cheese course before dessert was readily accepted and a gargantuan choice presented. Like a Countdown contestant I took a selection from all over the plate. They were orgasmic. My experience of blue cheeses is that they can burn your nostril hair; this offered me a taste that toured my mouth. Just as it seemed it was going to consume my head and overpower my taste buds, it retreated, tantalisingly giving me something new to deal with. It was perfectly balanced, so constant, never too much, never too little and at just £5 for a piece little bigger than a Trivial Pursuit segment, I don’t think I could go back to Tesco Blue Stripe (because I can’t afford to).

The meal was finished with a desert which was so posh it made Vienetta seem like a poor man’s posh ice cream. We took coffee in the gardens.

Although price of the meal in total would have been roughly the same as a weekend away in a three star hotel being there for four hours was like being in another world, I’m go back to tomorrow… because I have to wash the dishes.

Who goes there?

Whilst out on my bike (every day for the last three weeks) I’ve noticed things I wouldn’t normally. On the edge of Aylesbury, as is customary, there’s a sign which says “Welcome to Aylesbury”, hung underneath is a luminous yellow sign which says “Parking restrictions start from 30 June”.

In other words, welcome to Aylesbury… but not that welcome.

Of course what is should say is ‘Aylesbury, Thank you for staying as long as you did’.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Bring bring, bring bring (for the younger folks, that’s what phones used to sound like)

“Hello, it’s Vic, the eagle has landed”

Emma sent me a text at 11am on Friday; ‘do you want pizza with the Dobscrubs tonight?’ I said yes, joking it was, after all their last night of freedom before the baby arrived.

We went for somewhere with a bit of class; so Pizza Express it was. We generally ignored Vicki’s assertion that ‘things were happening’, after all, you’d expect things to happen after nine months wouldn’t you?

Nobody has a second choice with Pizza Express. Nobody diverts from their standard order. With me, it’s always a Fiorentina never anything else. Perversely Nobby is rather odd (now now, let me finish)*; he has either a Sloppy Giuseppe or American Hot, from which he idiosyncratically removes the chillies as he eats. We try to guess his choice, it’s a ‘thing’ we do. He chose American Hot, adding an air of excitement by keeping his decision concealed until he ordered, we ‘Ooh’ed’ when he did. This coincided with the waiter getting a cramp and buckling up. He thought we were Ooh-ing his pain, so he reassured us he was OK. We looked perplexed.

As we talked Vicki idly picked the discarded chillies from Nobby’s plate. Someone may have commented that this would speed things up. At the end of the night we paid and left. The Dobscrub’s gave us a lift home; we said our goodbyes as normal.

Last Saturday I said to Vicstah, ‘we’ll see you on the other side’ something I said to my sister a few days before she had Sophie. The reaction was the same; a nervous “Oh I’m sure we’ll see you before that” followed by the rapid arrangement of another night out. Last night I chose to go for a simple goodbye. It was 10.30pm.

The phone rang on Saturday morning at 11.30, it was Vic, the eagle had landed. The commencement of labour I assumed, we’d seen them 13 hours ago. Although, on reflection, the eagle thing would have been a particularly crap analogy for labour, and Vic has a linguistics degree. It was only when she took me through the timetable of the night (things started happening at midnight, the midwife called at 3am, in the hospital by 5, the baby arrived at 10.50.) that it became clear she’d actually popped.

“The baby’s arrived!?” I said

Emma pulled the phone off me. It’s a little girl, don’t know how heavy, name unconfirmed. How was the labour? “I swore at Nobby”, to which the riposte should have been, ‘well obviously, now how was the labour’. How are you feeling now? “A little sore” – I should coco. Is she beautiful? “I don’t know Nobby’s been cuddling her”. Which I suppose is fair enough, Vic’s had her for the last 9 months, Nobby deserves his chance.

*Enter alternative joke: - ‘or oddly Nobby is rather perverse’

Saturday, September 13, 2003

Extended family

This weekend I will go to the football and watch Oxford play Mansfield, we’re top of the league and still unbeaten so I’m looking forward to it. The rest of the weekend is pretty blank, we may go to the cinema, we may see Katie, we may even visit the Dobscrub’s new baby, if Vicki conveniences us all by having it on Friday or Saturday (come on Vickster, some of us have to work). But we don’t have much on, and frankly, I’m glad because I’m emotionally spent.

The first time I remember meeting Sara she was in full Stone Roses chic in a pair of flared jeans and wallabies shoes. She was about 13. I don’t remember the first time I met Gareth, but it would have been about four years ago and Sara would have insisted on him dressing up in his best clothes when they came over. Sara doesn’t wear flared jeans anymore, and Gareth barely changes out of his slippers when he comes over. Things change.

They finally did the biggie last weekend and got married. In what was a full day, I nearly wrote off the Rolls Royce (with one working door) hired to ferry Sara around. The Pastor decided to call Sara Louise, “Louise Sara” during the vows. Two people did a runner when Sara walked in realising they’d got the wrong wedding, and then returned having forgotten their camera. A guest sitting at the front of the church in full view of everyone suffered the crippling embarrassment of her camera film rewinding and her phone going off… to which she cursed herself with an audible “Oh for fuck’s sake.”

During the reception, the best man Tim took his duties somewhat literally, his speech dismantled Gareth’s personality bit by bit with stories of vomit, drinking, and nudity, which were illustrated with pixilated photos. Afterwards Emma’s Grandma said that Gareth and Emma’s dad’s speeches were marvellous, but for some reason neglected to mention the best man. He also started a near riot by opening up some old East coast, West coast shit*.

Despite a minor panic over a late arriving DJ, the evening do saw Gareth’s often monosyllabic teenage brother turn from gangling pubescent to Fred Astaire, wowing the ladies (including, most disturbingly, my mum) with moves so nifty it was like he’d been force fed Ceroc lessons since a young age. He finished the night off at 2am returning to his teenage roots, ordering tequila and two vodka shots and then disappearing to the toilets to throw up.

There were other cameos, Donkman’s dancing, the appearance of a back up bridesmaid, Tom doing a Del Boy prat fall when trying to lean on the shoulder of his girlfriend just as she stepped away to talk to someone. Gareth’s mum’s first words when she appeared in her beautifully tailored, carefully chosen designer outfit: “Ooh I’m sweating like a pig”. Then there was Claire shaking her booty like a high class table dancer two minutes before bursting into tears like someone had shot her dog blubbing “It’s like she’s left us”. Another rendition of “One more tune” like we were back on the Stag. Emma’s auntie filming the whole shebang on a video camera the size of an elephant. Tim breakdancing. The dancefloor invasion during the first dance… by the mother and father of the bride. The Waitrose Paprazzi pushing their way into the cheap seats “’scuse me, scuse me, oh no I don’t want an order of service, I’m not invited”. Me and Katie looking on aghast as Gareth’s divorced parents enjoyed a tongue sandwich then walked off the dancefloor revealing themselves to not be Gareth’s parents at all. And what about the ushers and Sara posing for a picture whilst questioning through fake smiles “What the fuck is he doing” as one dirty old bugger tried to lick the ear of the photographer?

The biggest surprise of all was being singled out in Gareth’s speech. Apparently me and Emma have offered “support, advice and above all common sense” which, whilst I’d have preferred “Elk racing, Leer Jet flights and fire breathing” was very touching.

So ubiquitous is the presence of Sara and Gareth in our lives, I had totally forgotten how close we are as friends. But moreover it confirmed to me that we’re on track with the Ruffles Philosophy. Y’see, we want a house that our friends can come to anytime they want. You may have to take us as you see us, which is usually in a mess, but you’re always welcome, the kettle is never cold.

I love the way Sara and Gareth come over in their tracky-bots to do little more than chat the world away, eat takeaway and watch the telly or how Simon appears on a Sunday to watch the 1980 version of Flash Gordon. We may not impress you with our cooking, or the size of our house, or our off-beat holidays to Upper Volta but if you come over there’s no pretence. Totally relaxed, totally normal. I like having friends who let us be like that.

On Saturday Gareth helped confirm to me that the philosophy is working, if during the 20 months of organising, we helped make things a little easier then I’m happy.

*we went to a split site school; there were two lower school’s Lower School East and Lower School West which merged into one upper school in the fourth year – there were rivalries.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Gangsta's paradise

Someone’s been watching me, having read “Have gun will travel – the story of Death Row Records” on holiday I got thinking about the gap in my record collection dedicated to Gangsta Rap. During the height of Gangsta Rap I was enjoying the more left field acts of the genre who ploughed a more conceptual furrow – The Goats (Politics Hop), The Gravediggaz (Death Hop), Pharcyde (Silly Sausages Hop) Cypress Hill (Munchies Hop).

I wasn’t a fan of G-Funk; it was a little weedy after the sonic onslaughts of Public Enemy and NWA, and the brilliantly creative samples of the Party Hip Hop it was now eclipsing.

The book is basically the story of Suge Knight, yet, if it was good enough to have a subtext (it isn’t) it would actually be the story of Dr Dre. Reading it I began to realise that with the exception of the few lyricists with anything to say (Eminem, Chuck D), the producer is god in Hip Hop. All the great dynasties have been themed through their production teams; Sugarhill Gang, Marley Marl, The Bomb Squad, Dr Dre, Timabland, and The Neptunes – the lyricists are two a penny.

Lyrically, Gangsta Rap is banal, but reading the book, so are the lives of its protagonists - which are a very boring cycle of fights and beefs punctuated by about three stories of interest i.e. Suge Knight holding Vanilla Ice out of a 23rd story window by his ankles to make him sign over rights to his album, and the killings of Tupac and Biggie Smalls – which seem to be little more than petty spats that got out of hand rather than any lawless street war. There doesn’t even seem to be very many guns involved – in fact they all seem to jump out of their skin when a gun appears.

Given Death Row’s extensive roster of acts you’d think it’d be difficult to find the definitive Death Row album, but it becomes clear that since the 90’s hip-hop has been all about franchising (Wu Tang Clan with Method Man, GZA, ODB, etc, Eminem with D12 and 50 Cent) and most of the spin offs are crap reproductions. The Death Row records worth having have been produced by Dre, and of those The Chronic is where it all started.

The Chronic is a brilliant album, as well produced as any I’ve heard, especially turned up to 25 in the car. But after The Chronic, the genre (sub-genre? whatever) leaves me cold, I like Snoop’s drawl but the rest on the West Coast just make up the numbers and the East Coast equivalent is really very lame pop RnB.

However, being a consummate archivist when it comes to my record collection I needed something to fill my East Coast Gangsta void. The record that always comes into my head is Mo Money Mo Problems by Notorious BIG (featuring inevitably Puffy on backing “Ah Ha’s” and “Oh Yeah’s”). This record is several years old, and was deleted ages ago. I’ve been trying to track it down since I got back from holiday, preferably on 12”, but I’d even failed to find it on CD. The Diana Ross sample has drilled into my head constantly ever since – you don’t know how pre-occupied I’ve become with the record.

Well, someone does, yesterday whilst virtuously walking from Blackfriars to Marylebone after a meeting I dropped into HMV. On a rack of re-released classics, there it was; a repress of Mo Money Mo Problems by Notorious BIG. It wasn’t there last week, but there it was: it – perfectly positioned product meeting me – target demographic. It was expensive, but I’d become so obsessed by it I just had to have it.


Friday, September 05, 2003

A boy on his bike

Who hasn’t had a few scrapes on a bike? OK, OK, you can put your hands down now, don’t draw attention to yourself, you’re at work remember, you’re not supposed to be reading this.

I’ve had many; I’ve used a peddle-back break, one which I didn’t know I had, whilst taking a corner making me involuntarily apply my front break and sending me flying over the handlebars. I’ve slipped a bike into neutral losing all power causing me to slide alarmingly across a gravely road tearing my 'Battle of the Planets' t-shirt in the process. I’ve been hit by a car, and was so startled just jumped back on and rode off without a word to the horrified driver.

Having cut and banged my knee in that accident, Emma, along with a number of her maternal friends insisted that I visit A&E to get it checked out. After all, they said, knees are funny things; a small bang can come back and haunt you in years to come. It was a little swollen and quite sore. I think Emma may have made me a cup of tea out of sympathy. Yes, it looked that bad.

So the next day I went to A&E and sat with the children with pots on their heads and the winos who had overdosed on Vim. Being healthy, male and in my early twenties, having walked in unaided and wandered around picking up leaflets, I was left to wait for two and a half hours for my check-up. Eventually I was seen by a dashing young doctor who rolled up my trouser leg carefully so not to damage ligaments or dislocate the knee cap. I sat and looked down, wincing and what we might see. I was shocked to see…

My knee.

I swear, even the cut had healed up, the swelling was nowhere to be seen, the doctor muttered something like “another Munchausen tosser”. When I asked him to clarify he looked me in the eye in a pitying way and said. “Would you like a tube-e-grip to go on it?” I said no and left in a hurry.

Despite this my greatest fear and scrape has always been with divots; little folds in the road, the lowered part of pavements that allow cars to access driveways. Anything, in fact, which is less than a quarter of an inch high.

For some reason I can bunny-hop any Doberman that comes my way (I used to have a BMX Raleigh Burner with yellow Mag-wheels and trick nuts… Ah now you’re checking my flow.) but when it comes to navigating over something you can barely see from six inches away I’m all over the place, I inexplicably line up my wheels in parallel with the fold or curb and find myself hurtling along unable to steer with my legs sticking out desperate to stop myself. When eventually I come to a halt, all the cars that have stacked up behind me drive past, laughing hysterically.

I’ve been on my bike everyday this week; I’ve been near to catastrophe about two hundred and forty times.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Man in the Mirror

I’ve often thought there’d be mileage in a blog dedicated to commenting on Daily Mirror stories. I used to read The Guardian on the train, but I found I only liked G2 on Mondays (sport and media) and Fridays (Music and TV (which is like Monday’s Media section without the interview with the BBC Head of Welsh Cultural Programming). That plus I can’t turn the pages of a broadsheet without giving those sitting around me a blooded nose in the process. Instead I buy the Mirror which I can read in an hour, be thoroughly entertained by, and usually ensures me a double seat. Three things caught my eye today: -

Firstly this story, which I’ve edited to the essentials: - “Heather McCartney has registered her name as a brand and could develop a range of cosmetics. A spokeswoman for McCartney said she did it to use her name to benefit land mine charities and had no intention of releasing a range of cosmetics. If she does, the Mirror screamed, the range could compete with Stella McCartney’s own range of cosmetics creating further tension between Stella and her dad Sir Paul.”

Unconfirmed reports also saw Stella McCartney buying a nail file from Boots, she said it was because she had a rough edge to one of her nails. HOWEVER, (eyes narrow suspiciously) IF she uses that nail file to saw off her leg at the knee in a desperate attempt to win back the affections of her father this could create further tensions between Heather and her husband Sir Paul. The intrigue!

The letters page offers this cracker: - “Can the recent blackouts in London and New York be too much of a coincidence? Could it be that terrorists are tampering with our infrastructure in preparation for a major terrorist attack?” (This is my favourite bit) “Come on Tony Blair, tell the truth for once.”

Tony Blair resisted the urge to tell us the truth for once in answering “Yes, it’s probably too much of a coincidence and no, it probably isn’t terrorists.” Wriggled his way out of it again, the snake.

What about the enigmatic little boxes that contain corrections from previous issues. In the Guardian they usually contain things like “Correction: - The King of Deheubarth died in 1063 and not 1062, oh how we all had a jolly good laugh at that.” In the Mirror the corrections leave you panting for more. Today’s included: -

Correction: The lowest temperature possible is -273 degrees centigrade; it is not possible for temperatures to drop to -700C.

What was the story?!

Mind you, it might be worth getting the Star ocassionally on the back of today's issue the headline bellows in letters as big as houses “BECKS GOES AWOL!” referring to a story whereby David Beckham’s flight from Spain was diverted from Manchester to Stanstead causing the footballing icon mild inconvenience. The drama!

Monday, September 01, 2003

Wrists! Wrists!

Sadly I can’t claim ownership to this rather incisive social observation. For it is Simon who accurately concludes that women communicate their excitement through the medium of showing each other their wrists, hence…


I have much to tell you, the week in Italy you know about but we’ve also done lunch at Le Manoir, a weekend in Mallorca with my favourite people in the whole world, and Australia Jo’s wedding.

I have developed the theories of Bridesmaid’s Envy and Airport Machismo, pondered structuralism in relation to my friends; have developed firm opinions about the role of producers in Hip Hop. I’m redesigning with masses of new functionality (if pictures and good spelling can be classified as functionality). We’re on a healthy living kick. And Oxford are on a six game unbeaten run, third in the table and in the second round of the Carling Cup.

And we have Sky!


What’s more, it’s Sara and Gareth’s wedding on Saturday, the Dobscrub’s baby is due. The social diary is packed with Willy’s birthday, and Dave Gorman and Al Murray gigs. And we’ve got a party in the planning. All I have to do now is find some time to tell you all about it.

And we have Sky!


Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Dull Italian trilogy part 3

Imagine if you will, the people of London converging on Trafalgar Square singing the songs of their region. East Londoners; The Lambeth Walk, those from the West; Tosca, the North, If I Were A Rich Man and the South; 21 Seconds by So Solid Crew. Each follows a horse and a little man in pyjamas, upon which their hopes and dreams rely.

The Siena Palio is the Italy’s most spectacular festival. Every July and August the town’s seventeen family groups or Contrada establish bragging rights through a series of brutal, lawless horse races around Il Campo, the town centre, not the Bolton centre back.

Before each race the Contrada march through the streets, singing songs of battle, afterwards they feast and celebrate. The races are riddled with corruption, it’s been known for jockeys, local Italian cowboys, to be kidnapped on the way to a race. Corruption runs so deep, it is said that by the time they get to the start line no more than three of the seventeen horses have any chance of winning such is the drugging and bribery that goes on.

After an hour and more of jockeying for starting positions, the race lasts 90 seconds, jockeys ride bareback and are frequently sent crashing to the floor. It’s a contradictory event, the rivalries are fierce, yet the atmosphere celebratory and friendly, the racing is chaotic, yet regimented by history and pageantry.

Emma nearly fainted in the crowds, we waited for three hours for something to happen, I’ve no idea who won. It was ace.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Tuscan raiders

On holiday we rarely got going before 4 o’clock. The heat was oppressive (the car registered 42 degrees one day) so we did little more than sit by the pool and siesta. I don’t really do sunbathing, to use a Danny Wallace-ism – “I know what I want and I know how to get it, it’s just that usually what I want is a cup of tea and a biscuit, and how I get it is by going to the kitchen.” So in between my five books we did frequent a few local towns.

The nearest was Pistoia, a town typical of the area, although you can become complacent of Tuscany’s beauty. As we sat in the square watching the Galetaria seller open her stall in preparation for the evening’s trade I turned to Emma and asked her a question I’ve wanted to ask for ever: -

“Is sweat dripping down your back and into your bumhole?”
“Yes what about you?”

Pistoia’s like that; it really needs something to lift it from being more than just another Tuscan town. Pisa is equally unremarkable but at least it’s got the tower. When you walk out of the meadow and into the town it is remarkable for its emptiness. It’s a town built on bad surveying techniques. Figuratively, not literally, if it was literally built on bad surveying techniques it wouldn’t be there.

Italian towns in August are dead; you can walk through them on a Saturday afternoon and not see a soul. Siesta is very unnerving for those of us cursed with a protestant work ethic. Would it be too much to ask the locals to siesta in the town square to assure hapless tourists that people live there? For all we know everyone could have been killed by a huge leak of noxious gases.

Florence on the other hand doesn’t fail to deliver or impress. When I went as a teenager it was in the middle of huge clean up so the Cathedral and surrounds were covered in scaffolding. That gone it is everything you hope for and more.

Emma, whose map reading skills are nigh on legendary told me before the holiday that we were so far from Florence that it wasn’t on our map although we were just 20km away from Firenze. It makes me wonder, how many people, and there have to have been a few, go to Tuscany intending to visit Florence but never make it because they are unaware of the Italian spelling.

We parked in a city centre car park, when we returned we were greeted by a swarthy unshaven Italian covered in sweat, in a dirty vest. He muttered something to his mate then turned to us and said “That will be 10 Euros please” in a voice which suggested he had learnt English from Mrs Slocombe from Are You Being Served? As we sorted through our funny money he broke back into his growling Italiano. we handed over the cash and he said “Thenk-ewe very maaaarch, your car is around the corrrrrner”. He even rolled his ‘Rs’. Apparently he went to boarding school in Dorset which has clearly paid dividends now he’s secured this late night shift in an undercover car park. Whilst we were tempted to ask about buggery and the intricate private school fagging system, we had to get home.

You’ve got to admit I’m a bit of a Bill Bryson, we visit the cultural behemoth of Florence and tell a story about the car park.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Busy doing nothing

Strategically it was a simple holiday; low key and low maintenance, and whilst there was something very fedora hat and imported copies of the Independent about a week in Tuscany, it met all pre-defined objectives. We were based in Il Cagnagno; a tiny hill village outside Pistoia which was accessible only by “A rough but asphalted road”, as if to say, ‘well at least it’s asphalted, what do you want? Jam on it?’

Emma took driving responsibilities, a fair challenge for the winding ascents to the apartment which were reminiscent of family holidays driving through the Alps and Pyrenees. One time mum took over from a tiring dad whilst driving over a precarious Alpine pass. As she pulled away, a guide book balanced on the dashboard slid down and jammed behind the steering wheel locking it up and putting the car on a direct trajectory towards the edge of a million foot drop. She eventually decided to brake, and shaken they swapped back over so dad carried on driving, fully rested from travelling fifteen feet in the passenger seat.

Our apartment was a converted something or other with narrow windows like those you find on castles. Maybe Il Cagnagno was an independent state, as many of the towns in the area seem to have been, although with a population of no more than six, its nuclear arsenal was likely to be limited.

The pool next door was a honeypot for beautiful middle class locals. Young Italian women are without exception slim sexy bronzed nymphets able to wear bikinis without a second warning, capable of walking in 38 degree heat without perspiring a bead of sweat, and able to exit and enter swimming pools like supermodels. But their gorgeousness is short lived because young sexy slim Italian women just don’t grow into older sexy slim Italian women. They leap straight to being gnarly 32 stone deep sea monsters with jowls like a clowns pocket. Could it be that the diet of pasta and pizza, and inevitable stream of dates they attract catches up with them? That they wake up one morning with legs like oak trees. Perhaps Italian men don’t marry the thin ones because mama wouldn’t accept them (no child baring hips, don’t like their food, sullied by years of being gorgeous) and the fat ugly ones, hidden away learning to cook for years, suddenly become desirable wife material. Emma thinks that British Women win overall because they may start plain, but at least they sustain their plainness longer. 

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Out of office assistant

I am currently away from this blog, I shall be returning in a week, I will deal with your queries then. If your need for blog relief is urgent, please contact another blogger. But then come back to me. I’m funnier, and rely on your site hits to give my life value and purpose.

Yep, I’m off on holiday, which I’m sure you’re relieved to hear. I am fully aware during this hottest of hot patches, you could perceive from my recent musings that I, the boy Ruffles, have spent the last month playing tennis once, going out for dinner with Katie once and watching a whole heap of TV. This isn’t true. The TV bit is, but I have done other stuff.

It’s true I don’t really like the heat, if I were to choose one season to live in for the rest of my life; it would be winter (I can’t abide the Halfling seasons of spring and autumn). I find it very difficult to enjoy a hot day. I can’t sit in the garden and read a book, I mean I can read, but I’m not like Clare at college who covered her legs in cooking oil when sunbathing. She fried, quite literally.

This is the funniest time of year for me. It’s my birthday on Saturday, an occasion of underwhelming gravitas. The school summer holidays meant opportunities for parties and presents from friends were limited. Even when people were around, I wasn’t. I’ve spent many birthdays sitting in the boot of a car waiting to board a ferry on the first stage of an annual family invasion of Europe. We’ve even had holidays when I’ve gone back to work after two weeks on my birthday.

It doesn’t even have a particularly special place in the family calendar. Y’see we have a family birthday week. Two days before mine is Annia’s birthday, three days after is Kirsty’s. Yeah, go on, parents as regular as clockwork. Even Australia Jo’s is on the 5th. Emma’s 30th, which exists in blessed isolation in the middle of May, lasts forever. Her 30th lasted a month. My 30th was cocooned in several other birthdays and eclipsed, quite rightly, by Penny’s wedding. Over the years my birthday has simply paled into insignificance.

But I’m not bitter, the football season starts on Saturday which is compensation enough for me - life’s not that bad.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003


I should have gone to the gym or the pool or have done something because by 9pm last night my teeth were itching with boredom. Emma turned to watch That’ll Teach ‘Em on Channel 4, a series where children of the noughties are taught in the style of the 50’s.

There was nothing wrong nor right with the programme, it filled a space in the schedule whilst most people enjoyed the last of the evening sun in parks and gardens up and down the country.

The only interesting thing about it was Mr Daplin the PE teacher. Y’see, Mr Daplin was one of my PE teachers at school, a PE Teacher Without Portfolio. He wasn’t the debonair Mr Jones (Brittle Bones, Jam and Scones) the head of the department and destined for a deputy headship. He wasn’t in the brigade of young bucks, like Mr Bannister, who was subject to enduring, probably apocryphal tales of being banned from one of the school’s sites after being found in the showers with a sixth form girl. Nor was he, The PE Teacher Who Used to Play for Morton, who definitely did enjoy carnal knowledge of someone he taught, because nowadays they are often seen cosily doing their weekly shopping together around town.

Mr Daplin was just a ubiquitous presence in the changing rooms of our school (am I allowed to say that?). Little did we know of the successful TV career he was planning for himself.

I can’t let this pass without giving you the simple stratification of women games teachers. There were only two kinds, the Gorgeous Ones (at our school numbered one – though thinking back she did look like a Duran Duran groupie, but at least she was young and wore a short games skirt), and The Lesbians. The Lesbians all had husbands and children, but because they were women and hung around where women got naked, and had short hair they were all lesbians, those were the rules. Don’t blame me for it, this is the law of PE.

Sunday, August 03, 2003

Fat Bob's corporately funded freakshow

I took the opportunity to watch Fat Bob’s Knebworth shindig on Saturday and I just don’t get it. I don’t blame Bob himself; he’s just doing what he’s doing, and getting paid handsomely for it. And I don’t deny he can be entertaining. But is he really 375,000 people in three days entertaining?

Don’t get me wrong, he’s not blameless; his craving for fame is nauseous, thanking everyone from his family to his manager but “most importantly his fans” and claiming he was “Your son Great Britain”. But why do people pay £30 and more to watch a bloke doing a wedding reception cabaret? Bob claims he wants to be Iggy Pop and Johnny Rotten when he goes on stage but it all comes out Norman Wisdom and he hates it. He’s right, he’s basically a cynical rip-off of stadium performers throughout the ages – from Freddie Mercury the yodelling call and response skit to the Bono-esque ‘saving’ someone from the crowd crush (a crush incidentally, which everyone else on the front row seemed to endure with big smiles on their faces). Throw in a little bit of the big show off at the school disco, and you seem to have a pop phenomenon.

There is an element of empathy in all successful music. So perhaps that’s it, maybe the girls want to regress back to school and be all giggly and silly around the good looking fool, the cheeky chappy who could get away with looking up their skirts in science lessons. The blokes just wish they could go back to that time or have had the guts to get away with it.

There are other benefits of course, it’s definitely cheaper and easier to see one Robbie gig than put the effort into seeing Oasis, The Stones, Queen, Bowie, U2, Bono, Take That and Wisdom live. It’s also easier to buy one Robbie CD than the back catalogues of all these bands. It’s definitely more interesting to see it at Knebworth than at a working men’s club. Although, don’t kid yourselves, we saw Oasis at Knebworth and when you’re as far back as we were, it’s more of a buzz for the singer that the crowd.

Will we look back on the Robbie phenomenon with a slightly embarrassed snigger, much like we will look back on Sex And The City and conclude that the women looked not like fashion icons, but like crap on a rope stick (whatever that is) and that all we fell for was the fact that Kim Catrell was prepared to do full frontal nudity in a mainstream TV show, and say “fuck”, or as she actually says “Fuuuurk”.

It’s definitely on the cards, the show last night seemed to involve Let Me Entertain You followed by two hours of fillers rounded off with Angels. In between were a series of skits and celebrity guests (well Max Beesley) and few vaguely recognisable hits, of which only Kids really makes the grade. What I assume is the new stuff, sounds like ropey copies of the old stuff and whilst I’m bored of it now, others’ will get bored of it soon enough. What Robbie does for his fame then, god only knows.

Saturday, August 02, 2003

Get 'em while they're hot

I’ve put a new mix in the mix club. Knowing that Simon, who will always gets a copy, occasionally does his gym stuff to Ruffles’ mixes, and knowing how hardcore Plump DJ’s TB Reality is, this is called the Simon Splits A Kidney Mix.

Shake It (Mutiny Funk Mix) - Marascia
Stucco Homes (Return of the Ghost Mix) - Brett Johnson and Dave Barker
Shine On (Circoloco Remix) - Lucky Vs Hill Sixty
Patricia Never Leaves The House (Wally Lopez & Dr Kucho 2003 Edit) - Wally Lopez and Dr Kucho
Thrill Me - Junior Jack
Dooms Night (Da Hardstylaz Remix) - Azzido Da Bass
Body Freefall Electronic Inform #2 (Counterplan Mix) - Luke Slater
Bucci Bag (Wally Lopez Weekend Con Mazo De Graves!! Mix) - Andrea Doria
TB Reality – Plump DJs
Remember My Name – Plump DJs
No Ticket to Run – Santos
Killa Instinct – Initial Research
Noels House Party – Midfield General
People of the World Unite (Jon Carter Mix) - Tony Thomas & Access S8
Deeper Down (Hill Sixty Remix) - DKS

Hell, I’m so excited, I’m going to put another mix in there, it’s an oldie but a goodie - here’s my Wedding Special: -

Young Scene
Groove is in the Heart – Deee Lite
Doin’ The Doo – Betty Boo
Vogue – Madonna
Can’t Get You Out Of My Head – Kylie Minogue
Static Avenger
Roger Sanchez
Café Del Mar – Energy 52
Professional Widow (Armand Van Helden Mix) – Tori Amos
Red Alert – Basement Jaxx
Renegade Master (Fatboy Slim Mix) - Wildchild
Hey Boy Hey Girl – Chemical Brothers
Because of You - Scanty Sandwich
Born Slippy – Underworld
Star 69 – Fatboy Slim

By the way if you have asked for a CD, I’m getting round to it.

Friday, August 01, 2003

Busted busted

I rather like Busted, well I like the principle. Whilst I’m sure they’re not a statement on the hackneyed rehash of punk rock attitude that fills MTV, it would be nice to think their was some art statement going on behind their chiselled good looks.

Emma often talks about their single “Year 3000”, in which they claim to have been to the Year, er, 3000 and how the story in the song doesn't ring true: -

Overlooking some outstanding rhyming couplets including “Funny noise” and “Rowdy boys” the story begins when the lads see their neighbour Peter holding a Flux capacitor, part of a time machine he’d built. Instantly, the boys recognise it as like the one they'd seen in a film. Peter, the errant genius replies with the rather unsettling “Yeah, Yeah”. Now we’re not given any indication as to whether this was a nonchalant agreeing “Yeah Yeah” or a rock god “YEAH! YEAH!” either way it’s a less than inspiring response from someone who has changed the face of science using no more than Back to the Future as reference.

Things then begin to spin out a little. You see, thanks to Peter, they’ve been to the year 3000 where not much has changed but they live under water. Here I must interject, I know younger people are more agreeable to evolutionary change, but surely even they must agree living underwater is somewhat of a significant change, for example, you couldn't eat digestive biscuits anymore.

Now whilst change is unnerving the Boys reassure us that your great, great, great grand daughter is pretty fine. Now my reaction to any punk with a guitar making overt advances on a relative would be to pin him up against a wall and cut his throat. However, if this is your great great great granddaughter, to be still living in the Year 3000 she would have to be nigh on 800 years old. In which case Busted are a bunch of sick little shits. On the other hand she may be your 23rd generation granddaughter, but that wouldn't scan.

The next thing they see in this world where not much has changed is triple breasted women who swim around town… totally naked. They're adament that this is fairly normal.

But as the song progresses it sounds like Busted are doing OK. Their song has gone multiple platinum – which is not surprising, Prince has a big hit in 1999 with 1999, Eurythmics with 1984 in 1984, presumably Paul Hardcastle will be raking it in with 19-9-9-9-9-9-9-19. But that's a few year's off, and a terrible terrible joke to boot.

Things are going well for the boys, everybody buying their seventh album and its outsold Mich…. Hang on, SEVENTH? What the bloody hell have they been doing to cause them to release an album on average nearly every 143 years? Those cheeky scamps with their boyband rock hybrid music are cheating the fans. Looking at the evidence, and their simple workshy attitudes, I think they could be an evil marketing scam pulled by a major record label.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Pity the fools

Getting back from dinner with Katie on Friday, not tired and having heard nothing of the result of the Big Brother final I decided to watch it on video (yes, yes, we videoed it, bite me). I sent a text to Emma who is away on Sara’s hen do: “Watching BB on vid, don’t know who wins.” Seconds later she replied “Cameron wins”.

Well of course it’s not been as good other years but the killer 10pm daily update are perfect to keep you watching, Once you’ve bedded in for the night, its too late to go and do something new or demanding, too early for bed. You might as well let BB keep you company.

In Jon Tickle we’ve been able to watch the seduction of fame. Despite claims that he feared it in the outside world he, quickly fell for the whole national hero bunkum. So complicit was his fascination with the fickle mistress, by the time they put him back into the house, he truly believed that he had some kind of holding power over people claiming he would mess with their heads. This, he plainly failed to do, resorting to bleating embarrassingly at Cameron about why he never expressed an opinion. This was because Cameron was too canny to expose himself more than he needed to. Sadly Jon’s own mortality was cruelly exposed in that he was an ordinary bloke in an extraordinary world, not the other way round.

Of Cameron’s opinions, the one that did stand out was that he didn’t believe in same sex marriages. Sissy, who grated both in and out of the house, claimed that he shouldn’t win because he didn’t have the same view as “normal” people. Mind you this was the same person who developed a series of vendettas with people who nominated her, like it was in anyway avoidable. The crucial thing about his view was that he began the sentence, “It is certainly my opinion…”, that is he didn’t want to impress it onto others, that was just how he saw it. It is certainly my opinion that it is OK to hold a personal opinion, whilst I don’t agree with his view, his opinion is valid on this point alone. He also doesn’t believe in sex before marriage or excessive drinking, but I didn’t see him casting opinions or shunning those who did.

Big Brother is like a night out with friends. It could be just another night, it could be the best night of your life, either way, you participate to see which it will be. This is probably why it’s often branded boring, because it’s hard to induce the entertainment on demand. When you do try to do that it’s totally crass and cack handed… and called Fame Academy.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

(A load of) new balls please

I once bought mum a kite for her birthday. After some aborted launches throwing it in the air in a vane attempt to catch a gust, dad suggested we take a run up with the kite trailing behind. The instructions on the kite contradicted the approach, but Dad countered that he knew more than most about kite flying as he’d been doing it for “30 years”. It didn’t take Stephen Hawkins to work out that this would mean he’d started flying kites in his late twenties, about the time I was born which is a funny hobby to take up in a crisis. Either that or maybe time got lost somewhere.

“Your summer sport?” said Emma incredulously “When have you ever had a summer sport?”

Tennis is my summer sport; I just haven’t had a tennis partner for fourteen years. I used to play every day and was a member of our local club; we used to play best of about 140 sets in a single session. I was a bit of a Boris Becker, and a lot of a Boris Johnson.

I’ve not had a regular tennis partner since, what kind of girl do you think I am? I don’t just play with anyone. In Gareth I now have a potential tennis partner, so my natural talents could again grace the (school) tennis courts of Britain.

Playing on Wednesday for the first time in at least two years, I thought I would be rusty, but it was positively alien. The fourteen year gap since I played regularly opened up in front of me like a yawning chasm. Hitting a tennis ball involves moving your feet into a position far enough away to get a good swing, close enough to hit the ball. Power comes from your legs, through your spine and into your arms. The forearms are used for direction, and the wrist adds the spin.

But playing was not like riding a bike, for one thing, there’s no bike. Much as I tried to work it through, my brain couldn’t move my feet, so before I knew it the ball was hitting my forehead. The new fangled racket I borrowed off Sara did all the work in terms of power, so my viciously whipped forehand top spins sent the ball sailing over the fence, over the school maths block, and the English block, and into the Eastern bloc. Whilst I wrestled with the basics, Gareth waited patiently for a ball to come over the net, or eagerly chased after each homer lamped over the fence. Me? I apologised, a lot.

And now my shoulders burn, my fingers have blistered, my summer sport is as alien to me as buffalo racing. We’ll try again next week.

Friday, July 25, 2003

Stupid rich kids

ITV have introduced a new programme into their Thursday night ‘ooh the weekend is coming’ schedule. Previously post Big Brother was Club Reps and Pleasure Seekers – a programme that shot itself in the foot by introducing its features before the programme began.

“This week on Pleasure Seekers, a woman who dresses like an antelope for sexual pleasure”

Click, bed time.

The pack has been shuffled by moving Falaraki based Club Reps into the later Pleasure Seekers slot amidst tabloid outcry of teenagers going to the Greek Island on cheap holidays and drinking and having sex. The 10.30 slot is now occupied by Young, Posh and Loaded.

This is a “Reality TV Show” aka a documentary with no substance that ridicules the likes of Donetella for the indulgencies of her parents, one of which was her £45,000 Mini, a present from her dad for failing her driving test.

We were also introduced to a 23 year old “party animal” whose name escapes me; he wants to control London and everyone in it. His David Brent philosophising had a future of heroin addiction and bankruptcy written all over it.

He tells us his privileged background only gave him the foundation for take-off in his career, his ability provides the dynamite, his drive ignites the fuse. He didn’t need a weapon to murder the analogy; he strangled it with his bare hands.

Furthermore, it was all about the money, nothing else. “Some people think money is a dirty word, I don’t think money is a dirty word, in fact I think it’s a particularly clean word” – illustrating ‘clean’ by stretching an imaginary elastic band between his fingers.

None of this prepared us for Victoria Aitken, daughter of disgrace MP Jonathan. Victoria claimed she was neither posh, nor loaded, in fact she’s the opposite to Jennifer Lopez (what? Small bottom and, er, what’s the opposite of a velour tracksuit?) She even had a lyric to describe it - she was, it seems, “just Vicki from the yacht, she had a lot now she’s got a little”.

Victoria’s natural rhythm and her rhyming ability clearly cut her out to be a “rap star” – a career she’s very serious in pursuing. Now I don’t know if the TV crew simply gave her a couple of grand to make an idiot of herself, but for reasons best known to herself, she went to Soho for a hip hop open mic “battle” session. She was clearly intent on showing the rough boys how she can spit lyrics with the best of them. Without shame or hesitancy she got on the mic in front of hundreds of hardened hip hoppers for her first battle in a pair of slacks and a red jumper and danced like your mum at a wedding. Thankfully her lyrics saved her: -

“I wear red like Queen Victoria, Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah”.

Her battle partner opened with something like, “You’re a sloan, I’m gonna give you my bone...” going on to describe how he would flip her over, fill all the holes she had etc. etc.

Guess who won?

Monday, July 21, 2003

The revolution will be posted on this blog

As a result of the imaginatively titled “Computers for Teachers” scheme, Emma’s been given a laptop in order for her to obsessively play Solitaire. To her credit, although she’s unlikely to ever test the outer limits of its functionality, the first thing she did was create a short PowerPoint presentation for my benefit.

The first slide informed me of “the rules” relating to use of the laptop. There was just one; that Emma could make them up as she went along. Subsequent slides informed that, as she embarks on six weeks of summer holiday, she would be engaging in a large amount of sleeping, shopping, reading, sun bathing, and playing with the cats. If she’s not too busy she may do some stuff on the kitchen project – perhaps in celebration of the second anniversary of its inception.

It’s about time the government coughed up with a free laptop for us; after all it’s over three years since they gave us £500 towards a new PC.

The appearance of the Notebook has implications for this blog; I can now post in front of the telly, so I can watch The Cheeky Girls (bodies like Baywatch, faces like Crimewatch) performing their risible new single “A Cheeky Holiday”. I can watch Eat My Goal on CD:UK and hear the ‘Latest football scores’, including “Toy Story 2 How The West Was 1”.

The net effect on the quality of this blog (what do you mean, what quality?) is to be confirmed, I’m well aware that this country can only sustain three decent TV channels, with ITV and five being a crock of poo. Can this blog sustain my almost unlimited access to a keyboard? Will I have to refer to downgrade sexual innuendo, rehashed tired old stories, celebrity tittle tattle and sensationalised trivia to keep things going?

Oh alright then, how about…

Will I have to refer to more downgrade sexual innuendo, more rehashed tired old stories, more celebrity tittle tattle and more sensationalised trivia to keep things going?

Friday, July 18, 2003

Got up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head

I woke up at 6.07 this morning, despite having gone to bed at 1am with work hassles buzzing around my head. And one particularly nauseous hassle who deserves a pike rammed up his hairy arse – but that’s another, altogether more offline, story.

For me, as soon as I’m awake, that’s it, I’m awake, I can’t turn over and snooze, I have to get up. So I did, I was out of the house by seven, and at work by half past. Whilst I know that it’s not motivation, but a full bladder and an inability to snooze that makes me do this, being in early always makes me feel virtuous, I unlocked the offices, turned the alarm off, got the kettle on, walked around the office whistling a happy tune, went to the toilet and was still doing my trousers up whilst walking down the corridor – you can do that when you’re first in, and at any other time if you absent minded as me.

What’s more there’s little traffic on the road which begs the question, who said we work longer hours nowadays, it always seem to me that that roads and trains clog up between 8am-9am and then again between 5pm-6pm even though we’re all supposed to be working 15 hour days and don’t see the sunlight for weeks on end.

I started working, four emails before 8am, six before half past, each one sent with increasing self congratulations; “I bet when the person checks out when this was sent they’ll be impressed”.

About 8.40 the door went again, somebody drives in harbouring smug satisfaction that they will be the first in. They’re crushed as they see my car, with the engine cold as ice, sitting in the car park. What’s more it’s the same person who left me to lock up last night. I know what they’re thinking; “Wow he’s been working all night, and look how fresh he is, he’s such an unstoppable juggernaut, imagine how fertile he is”.

The office door rattles open and shut as 9am approaches, our MD chooses today to come in a little later, by this point I’ve already sent him two emails (check out when they were sent, and don’t fuck with me come pay rise time).

My second coffee is at 9.45, I’ve scratched off four things from my To Do list. By 10 I’ve cleared up two more queries. By 10.30, I’m making another coffee, by eleven I’m surfing the web, by 11.30 I’m writing a blog entry, It’s nearly twelve, I don’t have lunch until 1.30, I could see whose updated their blogs, but I just... Feel. So. Tired.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Hot in herre

We went to the Thames Valley Youth Games to see Emma’s class play tag rugby as representatives of their district on Saturday. It was a major event with 3,000 kids playing about 15 different sports, including Boccia, which is likely to be some kind of hybrid sport using moulded plastic bats that were featured on Blue Peter, but we never found out.

The constant theme of people who talked to me surrounded why I’d been ‘dragged’ there. Giving all those tawdry and tired ‘under the thumb’ jokes of “Did she give you the choice of this or DIY?” or “You just take orders you don’t ask questions”.

This is all very difficult when you actually wanted to be there. There are worse things to do on a Saturday than sit in the sun on Eton’s playing fields watching sport.

The team did well winning two with displays of fast free flowing passing, which is something I hadn’t expected of either the game or 10 year old kids. Unfortunately they lost the crucial third match to a team who were better than everyone else by some margin (and subsequently according to the blinkered parents – a load of cheats).

The sun blazed down, which had its drawbacks as we got burnt to a crisp. Emma was so busy ensuring the kids had slapped on the factor ten she neglected to take her own advice. I also got burnt but I think my Barcelona bronzing helped set off the redness a little.

Another fine mess

Penny’s birthday couldn’t have had a better setting, or better weather. Out on the balcony of Doggets Badge and Coat overlooking Blackfriars Bridge we enjoyed the sun setting on The City as we drank Pimms and £4 glasses of Hoegaarden.

We DJ’ed, Simon played some smooth deep house to soundtrack the setting sun, and then I came on at the point when people probably wanted to dance and generally cocked things right up. In mitigation the volume control on the French windows didn’t help. With the area being residential, when the doors were closed the volume went up, with people constantly traversing from the bar to the balcony via the doors this made it practically impossible to cue records up. But it wasn’t just that, I was just a little too drunk. At one stage I managed to take a record off that was still playing – something I’ve only ever done when DJ-ing in public, never, ever at home. My worst home DJ-ing moment was when, 45 minutes into a recorded mix, Peanut the cat decided that records were interesting and jumped up to stop it turning. Great fun for cats.

I have learnt to pack a small number of party standbys for times like this and it wasn’t long before my patented Neptunes Production Half Hour had people swaying a little. Many thanks to Beyonce, Nelly, Britney, Justin and, of course N*E*R*D, for getting me out of a hole.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Emma's crazy timetable

It’s the end of the school term next week and Emma is packing up her kids ready for the big school. Whilst the kids wind down, Emma’s timetable has cranked up. On Monday she attend a meeting to discuss a parent who last week accused her of being unprofessional because Emma told her class “She just wanted to get in her car and go home”. Given that she said this 10 months ago I'm sure you'll agree it was clearly a matter of some urgency. It, of course, had nothing to do with the fact the woman's little girl recently had a tantrum in front of all the parents after a school trip. This was Emma's fault you see, she's unprofessional.

The women has been backtracking ever since as the issue has been escalated up to the Governers. She stubbornly stands by her accusation of unprofessionalism, but claims the view is in no way a reflection on Emma's teaching ability. The term 'UH?!' springs to mind. She also said that “Hindsight is something that none of us possess” – which is fine, except we all have hindsight, just no foresight. Clearly a women to be listened to.

That safely negotiated, and with the Governers fully behind her, Tuesday and Wednesday was the school play, a harrowing depiction of life in World War 2. I went with Nobby, Vicki, Katie and Gareth on Tuesday. Our appearance caused a furour, they were even asking for my autograph. Then things turned nasty as the kids wanted to know, rather forcefully, why I hadn’t been to their Peter Pan play, and why I wouldn't be going to the school disco.

Thursday was Area Sports, a kind of Olympics for all the local schools. It’s been going for years, I remember when I was at primary school kids who were picked for Area Sports were Da Bomb.

Saturday is a Tag Rugby tournament in Eton, somehow I’ve been press ganged into going to that (well, I'm not going to the school disco see). I’m hoping for a sunny day in a field with a pile of newspapers and Harry Potter.

Next week is the school disco that I'm not going to. Emma's dreading it because she’s just done The Puberty Video, described in our house as Emma's sex video. Now they’re all sex mad, in fact a week or so ago packing up after sports day was delayed because one of the boys claimed to be having "Women trouble".

No wonder teachers get six weeks off for the summer.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Donkman and the phantom

Gareth and his mates have a relationship based on a tight cycle of piss take and mild violence. Whilst Tim slept off his sleepless night in Barcelona airport on Sunday, Gareth poured water over his crotch and plucked his leg hair. At one point in the weekend I watched Tim and Gareth take turns to kick each other. As with all banal repetition, it’s very funny.

Donkman is part of the gang, the one your parents want you to be, he’s polite, bright, successful and friendly. He sent his girlfriend flowers whilst he was away “just because”, and he took time from the drinking onslaught to pick a present for her. He’s often a target for the abuse, partly because he takes it so well but also because he’s so gullible, the story of Donkman and the Phantom may illustrate this.

Donkman worked on the fish counter in Waitrose whilst he was at school. One day the phone rang, he answered and at the other end someone was someone breathing heavily and then the line went dead. Then again, ring, ring, heavy breathing, and line went dead. Over and over again.

His intuition was right; he accused Gareth and Tim but they denied it and to put him off the scent set up a ruse whereby Gareth would talk to Donkman whilst Tim nicked off to the phone. Then vice versa. On this basis Donkman wrote them off his list of suspects.

The calls continued, for weeks, months, and years, the caller was nicknamed The Phantom. Donkman would shout down the phone “I’ll get you Phantom, I’ll find out who you are”.

On one occasion, the Phantom called and Donkman could hear Tim in the background talking. Instantly he rushed over to where Tim was working, but rather than accuse him again, he asked him who had been on the nearby phone, Tim said he hadn’t seen, and Donkman went off on another wild goose chase.

Donkman inexplicably accused a girl in his German class, who also worked at Waitrose. As his desperation set in, the accusation crossed the line into bullying. It got out of hand and he had to explain to the teachers the reason for his actions.

Eventually two and a half years later, over a few lagers on a lads holiday in Magaluf, Tim and Gareth came clean. They were the Phantom who for years had haunted his Fish Counter with their heavy breathing.

The only thing that hadn’t been cleared up was why Donkman exacted so much of his venom on the girl. Walking from the cable car in Barca he explained.

“She was the only person who wasn’t Gareth and Tim with the same shift pattern as me.”

Monday, July 07, 2003

What goes on tour, stays on tour

Due to the Law of the Stag, I’m mandated to not to tell you what on at Gareth’s stag weekend in Barcelona, so here are a few of the things that didn’t happen.

  • Nobody fell asleep in a porn cinema within three hours of arriving and got lost for six hours trying to find the hotel.
  • The stag didn’t at any point have to drink a pint with nine shots in it
  • Nobody dipped their willy in someone else’s pint whilst they were in the toilet, then got mixed up and drunk it himself
  • Nobody gave the stag a wedgie which tore his thick cotton boxer shorts clean off
  • No one fell into a water hazard on a roof top crazy golf course in front of six security guards
  • Nobody was ceremoniously dipped into the same roof top crazy golf course water hazard two days later.
  • This also wasn’t in front of six security guards
  • Nobody went to a strip bar, paid £14 to get it, £10 for a beer, then negotiated with a stripper to do a dance for £85, thanking her for giving them a discount by buying her a drink for £20
  • Not one of that party of four claimed it was his birthday and subsequently enjoyed a majority of the dance
  • Nobody got the stag to drink ten shots in a row, an endeavour illegal in this country
  • Nobody ‘thanked’ the best man Tim by buying him five shots, singing the theme song Tim’ll Fix It, whilst he drank them.
  • Nobody dreamt up that the best man should have a “Best Man’s Favourite” which meant he should drink three shots of Absinthe
  • Nobody who was over six foot three with the bulk of a body builder rode a children’s ride whilst others bought food from a supermarket
  • Nobody bought the stag a vile looking vodka and baileys which curdled and separated
  • At no point after he finished it, did we get a round of vodka and baileys for everyone because it was so nice
  • Nobody called out to a German who had just hired the services of a prostitute on Las Ramblas “She’ll make you pay for it you know, she doesn’t love you”
  • Nobody, being constantly propositioned by prostitutes whilst everyone walked back to the hotel shouted “Prossies make me laugh!”
  • Nobody threw themselves off the Marina into the sea at six in the morning as the result of a bet, despite having seen big fish and jelly fish earlier in the weekend
  • Nobody built a quasi religion around “The Curb of Apparent Doom”
  • Nobody fell over the “Incline of semi-embarrassment”
  • Nobody engaged in conversation with a German with man breasts who asked “Are you from the Techno Conference”, to which was replied “No but you are”
  • Nobody accidentally bought forty-two drinks for six people
  • Nobody bullied an Irish band to play for twenty minutes more than they were booked by continuously chanting “One more tune”, then, when they eventually packed up, booed them off
  • Nobody tried to proposition a prostitute with free Tequila shot vouchers from a bar
  • Nobody when asked whether they were coming to Guadi’s unfinished cathedral, said “Tell them I’ll come when it’s finished”
  • Nobody, in a conversation about ‘having your brown wings’, claimed to have his white wings, explaining to the blank faces it was “Sleeping with a girl with a uterus infection”
  • No one, not even Banno, sent a text message to his wife Clare saying “We think International Team Banno are the business”
  • She didn’t reply with a message saying “Great. We’re watching a video tonight, love you C.”
  • The Stag didn’t at any point jump to his feet offering the bemused waiter high tens every time he brought out another bowel of tapas shouting “Yaaah TAPAS!”
  • Nobody told someone we were having an non-existent olive eating competition and the record was fifteen, then forced that person, who hates olives with a sickness, to break the record.
  • Nobody, not even the same person as above, asked what happened to the name game we were playing in a restaurant when our food was served. Despite the game having died on its arse, at no point were they told it was their go. At no point did he without blinking start to drink whilst thinking up his name. At no point was he told that every subsequent name he came up with had ‘been done before’. At no point did he continue to struggle for at least ten to fifteen minutes.
  • The stag didn’t have a twenty minute rage about how you couldn’t “catch a hotel in this country”, when he meant a taxi.
  • Nobody, whilst lost at five in the morning accosted a couple of Belgian girls with a map waving his arms shouting “Parlez vous Francais”
  • Nobody downgraded the word C**t to a “category b swearword”
  • This conversation didn’t happen: -
  • “What time are we going out? About 11.30?”
  • “Fuck off you c**t, 11.30!? Quarter past”
  • Nobody fell asleep in the departure lounge toilets whilst the plane was boarding
  • Nobody woke up surrounded by sick on his bed, and then deny it was his.
  • Nobody said that he was disappointed that the last night ended a bit early, at 5.30 in the morning
  • Nobody stole every towel apart from a flannel from someone’s room whilst he showered, he didn’t then come out and walk around the corridors trying to find it
  • Nobody told an American that he hated the Swiss because they were “hoarding Hitler’s Gold”
  • Nobody tried to wave away a persistent flower seller by raising his arms and saying “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for”
  • Nobody knows how the long stay car park works at Gatwick Airport

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