Saturday, April 28, 2001

Amazingly, I feel no physical effects of yesterday's marathon walk across London. I'm not at all sore or stiff. I did sleep for fourteen hours solid, though. Thanks to everone who sent me encouragement and birthday wishes.

Once I get the Lomo photos back, I will write up the whole event in full, but for now check out
Ian's archived as-it-happened report.

Friday, April 27, 2001

The feet are tingling, rather than sore. The thighs are aching a bit, though. I'm in the easyeverything cafe on Kensington High Street, having walked for five-and-a-half hours so far. With a few stops, naturally. Next Hammersmith, and then... who knows? Chiswick?

Quite how I'm going to be able to dance all night for my birthday tomorrow is a mystery. Jonathan has suggested I must be on drugs, and has referred to my walk as A Pilled-Sim's Progress.

Regular progress updates on Blogadoon thanks to the twin marvels of mobile phones and Ian .
It's 10am. Started 'The Walk' 2 hours ago at Canning Town and so far I've walked through Poplar, Limehouse, Aldgate, then across Tower Bridge, along the river to London Bridge and am now in Southwark. Watch Blogadoon for progress reports throughout the day. Send me words of encouragement as I might well be checking my mail this afternoon.

Thursday, April 26, 2001

Yes, I will be blogmeeting tonight. All birthday drinks gladly accepted. (Apart from anything jelly-like.)
Take 5 parts Kraftwerk, 4 parts Stereolab, 3 parts OMD, 2 parts Human League, and 1 part each of Dubstar, Buggles, New Order and Gary Numan. Assemble these components in a factory in Dusseldorf, using a manual translated from the original Japanese into Bulgarian while watching a re-run of "Are You Being Served?". Call the finished product the Ladytron 604.
At the age of 37, he realised he'd never...

...ride through Paris in a sports car
...skydive, scuba dive
...become a popstar
...become a parent
...get fat a troubled teen, a confused 20-something, a neurotic 30-something a team sport
...backpack across a continent
...have a McJob
...believe wholeheartedly in a cause
...believe in astrology, numerology, a religion, or fate

Wednesday, April 25, 2001

It looks like the weather may have put paid to my grand ambition to walk across London. The idea is this - I get up really early one morning (as if!) and take the tube to somewhere in East London, say Canary Wharf, then start walking westward. Till I can walk no further. I've been wanting to do this for a year or so, and if I don't do it during this holiday, I'll feel I've failed, but I really don't feel like trudging along London streets in the kind of downpours we've had all day today. And the forecast for tomorrow is just as bad.

Or am I just being a wimp?
Jonathan has some of the details of what happened at the quiz. But not what happened afterwards...
My favourite albums of the 90s

4. "England Made Me" by Black Box Recorder

England made me...

...depressed ...bored ...lonely ...creepy ...sadistic ...selfish
...polite ...isolated ...suicidal ...resentful ...numb ...awkward
...sneering ...withdrawn ...flippant ...deceitful ...superior
...heartless ...educated ...masochistic ...desperate ...needy
...listless ...spiteful ...ironic ...cold ...dismal ...snivel ...fearful
...hopeless ...crafty ...closed ...accepting ...drink ...voyeuristic
...secretive ...irresponsible ...guilty ...impotent ...condescending
...suspicious ...miserable ...dispirited ...stooped ...sly ...mean
...bitter ...distant ...despondent ...cautious ...glum ...anxious
...apprehensive ...shy ...shabby ...fraudulent ...self-centred
...mediocre ...middle-class...


Tuesday, April 24, 2001

The dangers of living your life in public:

Last year I met a lovely guy while on holiday in Sitges. He asked me how old I was. Now, I'm quite proud of the fact that I never lie about my age. I don't think it was a deliberate lie, but for some reason, perhaps because he was only 24, I took a year off.

But I forgot that he now reads my blog, which explains the text message I got from his yesterday: "I don't understand: how can you go from 35 to 37 in one year??"
My favourite albums of the 90s

5. "Titanic Days" by Kirsty MacColl

In the public's mind - if they ever thought of her at all - Kirsty MacColl was the other funny, fat one on French & Saunders, the other funny, fat one on Buzzcocks, or that funny, fat bird who sang that song about Elvis working a chip shop. And she certainly could be very funny:

"I've been the token woman all my life, the token daughter and the token wife. Now, I collected tokens one by one till I saved enough to buy a gun."

Funny, yes, but angry, too. The early 90s were not a good time for Kirsty. The hits, such as they were, had dried up. Her marriage had failed, she had come out of an abusive relationship. She was tired of being bubbly and chirpy. She was lonely, needing to be loved.

The opening lines are: "I want to shake up this world, and not to feel so useless. And I long to wake up happy and not to feel so hopeless." The album ends: "Let us part in the rain, so the clouds hide the despair and sorrow I feel on the inside."

Kirsty hid her sorrow well. She suffered from stage fright, yet was always seemingly relaxed and comfortable when performing live. Like all Kirsty MacColl records - like her jolly exterior - "Titanic Days" is packed with sprightly tunes, the guitars chime merrily, the drums shuffle, the strings soar. But this is the tip of the iceberg - the lyrics tell the real story.

"An empty bench in Soho Square, if you'd have come you'd have found me there. But you never did cos you don't care."

It is about coming to terms with depression, admitting the loneliness. It is about empowerment, dealing with problems.

"One day I just woke up, I opened my eyes, opened the door, took a walk outside. And I realised that what I saw was there before. But I opened my eyes when I opened the door, I just woke up."

The sad thing is that this album went unnoticed. There were no hits, and it was her last new album of the 90s. But Kirsty did find love, and a purpose. She spent the last few years of her life in a happy relationship. She spent a lot of time in Latin America, helping the Cuban Solidarity Campaign. She returned in 2000 with Tropical Brainstorm, which sold well, and was a critical success. She died last year, while on holiday with her family in Cuba. She is sorely missed.

Monday, April 23, 2001

Could my hectic weekend possibly be a reaction to the fact that I will turn 37 this coming Saturday? Crisis? What mid-life crisis?
Ha ha. The Dave confusion gets worse.
Albums which nearly made my list:

Pet Shop Boys: Behaviour (1990), Primal Scream: Screamadelica (1991), Pet Shop Boys: Very (1993), Blur: Parklife (1993), Radiohead: The Bends (1995), Pulp: Different Class (1995), Blur: The Great Escape (1995), Garbage: Garbage (1995), Mogwai: Young Team (1997), Cornershop: When I Was Born For The 7th Time (1997), Future Bible Heroes: Memories Of Love (1998), Faithless: Sunday 8pm (1998), Moby: Play (1999), XTC: Apple Venus Vol 1 (1999), Magnetic Fields: 69 Love Songs (1999).
My favourite albums of the 90s

6. "Orbital" by Orbital

This 'writing about music' lark - it's a doddle, innit? Just quote a few lyrics and say something fascinating about the band. But this is Orbital - there are no lyrics and as for the Hartnoll brothers, well, um, they like Dr Who. This album was released in 1991, but I certainly didn't buy it back then. I didn't buy into dance music at all. I lumped it all together - all that Snap, Black Box, Technotronic, 2Unlimited rubbish. Just as I had defiantly worn a "Disco Sucks" badge as a kid, so I resented this strange new music. House? Not in my house, mate. Orbital were named for the late 80s illegal raves off the M25, when I was more likely to be found holed up in my bedroom listening to some whining pale-faced, gelled misery.

My dance road to Damascus was a long bleak pedestrian tunnel at Bank Underground station, transformed into an exotic mysterious post-industrial landscape simply by adding Orbital on the Discman. I discovered that techno made great music to work to, if your work consists of pecking away at a computer keyboard. Orbital are the Mavis Beacon of pop - my keystrokes become more precise, more accurate, more rhythmic. Apart from the bits where I need to wave my hands in the air, of course. The music is, after all, constructed in this fashion, laboriously, painstakingly, at a computer terminal.

There are people who will tell you that Orbital's second album - confusingly also named "Orbital", but usually referred to as 'the brown one' - is their best album. These people are wrong. Orbital have never made a bad album, but they have never bettered their first, aka 'the yellow [or green] one'. It's got more tunes, more beats, and fewer silly spoken-word samples. There are moments of exquisite beauty - the motif that floats in ten-and-a-half minutes into "Desert Storm", and bits that rip the top of your head off - "High Rise" uses a shuddering elevator door as a rhythmic device, and a keyboard riff that gets higher and higher and higher, teasing out that rush, till your brain just can't take it any more. There's the machine that goes ping, the thing that goes bump in the night, and the constant ta-pocketa-ta-pocketa.

Then there's the album's stunning closing threesome - "Chime" and "Midnight" ['live', whatever that means for a techno band] - and "Belfast" which ranks alongside the Art Of Noise's "Moments In Love" and FSOL's "Papua New Guinea" as techno's most beautiful, fully-realised modern-day symphonies.

Orbital are perennial festival favourites. But the best way to listen to this music is on your own, hands flying over your keyboard; or on your Discman, soundtracking your morning commute.
Now that's what I call a weekend. None of this 'early to bed' nonsense. Went out yesterday afternoon, and got home at twelve. Noon. Today.

Friday: Met up with Patriic and went to see Bridget Jones, which - despite myself - I quite liked. Hugh Grant sexy? Whatever next? Patriic and I had a swift pint in Mantos (Since when was a pint of Stella £3.20?) before he had to rush off to get some coal (don't ask). Bumped into Paul outside Comptons, so phoned Ian and told him we'd meet him in there. Several pints with Paul, several more with Ian, then John joined us for several more. And then Dan turned up, only for me to ask him several impertinent questions. Matt arrived too and we tried to go to Barcode but were frightened off by the solid wall of men. Ian, Dan and Matt went on to the traditional home of blogmeets, the Rat and Parrot. I went on home where I conducted several simultaneous SMS conversations.

Saturday: I am not going out. I'm staying in, having an early night. Why have I just put my shoes on then? Is that a jacket I see before me? Oh look, we're at Duckies. Great music, nice crowd, but the most dreadfully pretentious act I ever seen: a monologue called "Starfucker": "Julia Roberts in a taxi cab, Richard Gere on his hands and knees, Goldie Hawn, Meryl Streep and Helena Bonham-Carter in a restaurant, Jude Law reflected in the window of a passing car..." And on and on for fifteen deathly dull minutes. I escaped to the Spiral, ordering Ian to get his arse out of bed and meet me there. Fascinating conversation en route with Nigerian cab driver about how women just don't know their place any more. Bumped into David Saunders, too, which is always nice.

Sunday: the Royal Vauxhall Tavern (of course) where Edna put on the best show I've ever seen her do. Had a chat with Andy Almighty, who, it turns out, has been reading the A to Z of the Vauxhall Tavern and has therefore seen my description of him as Shaggus Almightius. Oops! Chatted to Andy and Alex, Phil, Ian, Darren and Jim, Michael, Andrew, and Seph, and then suddenly it was 11 o'clock and I found myself on the tube to Brixton for Marvellous. Danced to Siouxsie and Bowie and Bolan and Sylvester, and talked the ear off Zed. Bumped into Seph again, and at 4 o'clock we headed to an all-night chill-out in Vauxhall, stopping off briefly at his place for a cup of tea. The chill out thing was excellent, very stylish venue. It's amazing what queens can do with a couple of disused arches. Two dance floors, one apparently called "The K Room". I had a brief liaison with the ex-lead singer of a boyband (they had two mid-40s chart placings back in 1994 - not that much of a Starfucker, me). And then somehow, as if by magic, it was 11am and time for me to stagger home, avoiding the eyes of normal people going about their daily lives.

Coffee! Now!

Thursday, April 19, 2001

My favourite albums of the 90s

7. "Casanova" by the Divine Comedy

Are you all settled in? Right, we can begin. After GCSEs, A-levels, university, after your first badly-paid job in advertising.

Pale, pubescent beasts roam through the streets. While they search for a mate, my type hibernate in bedrooms above. Elegance against ignorance. Difference against indifference. Wit against shit.

But something in his heart told him to come clean - he was not who he claimed to be. A fake. Sure, but a real fake. Once there was a time when my mind lay on higher things. But now, well now I find it saves time to say what you mean. I know it seems so unrefined, but it's time to let off some steam. Now I'm resigned to the kind of life I'd reserved for other guys less smart than I - you know, the kind who end up with the girls.

I fall in love with someone new practically every day. But that's OK. It's just the price I pay for being a man. If that's really what I am. The Casanova in your dreams. On the make, making up for lost time. In and out in Paris and London. Naked bodies twist and turn on the futon of dreams fulfilled. Way-hey! Let the games begin. Oh come on, you know you want to. This is not a sin - it's not even original. You don't really love me, and I don't really mind. I don't love anybody, that stuff is just a waste of time. Your place or mine? I come and go through people's love lives. Your place or mine? Your place or mine?

Bang! Bang! Bang! All night.

Then the fall from grace. The lines upon your face grow deeper almost everyday. Slide right back down that self-confident path you've just so laboriously climbed. It's four o'clock and all's not well in my private circle of hell. This rut has fast become a trench. This smell has turned into the stench of rotten dreams and stale ideals. The past is snapping at my heels. Pickle your liver and addle your brain. I know you'll be the death of me, but what a cool death that would be. Casanova? In your dreams.

The casualties of casual sex.

Wednesday, April 18, 2001

Thank you to the person who suggested that the "Royal" Vauxhall Tavern is so named because Queen Victoria once stopped there for a glass of water on the way down to Brighton. It's good to see the tradition of queens drinking water at the RVT continues today.
My favourite albums of the 90s

8. "Until The End Of The World" Original Soundtrack

To anyone who suggests that my doing a 'favourite albums' list - and a wilfully obscure one at that - was a ploy to get New York London Paris Munich to link to me, I say "how perspicacious of you". It worked, too. Thanks Tom. However, the fact that today's album contains many search-engine favourites is not another ploy, honest.

By the early 90s, the soundtrack album had been devalued after a decade of big-haired rockers belting out power ballads which had nothing to do with the film. "Until The End Of The World", however, is a case of the soundtrack being far better than the film. Wenders personally selected the acts - Depeche Mode, U2, REM, Nick Cave, Patti Smith, Talking Heads, Can, Lou Reed, Elvis Costello, Neneh Cherry, Jane Siberry and kd lang - and gave them a mission: to make the type of music they thought they would be making in the year 1999.

1999, remember, was Nostradmus year, the year the world was supposed to end. And the year the nuclear-powered satellite in Wenders' film is due to fall to the earth. Most of the acts Wenders approached reacted appropriately, producing an amazingly cohesive album of downbeat, bleak music.

I listened to this album compulsively during the Gulf War, and hearing it now brings back that sense of coming dread. REM's most beautiful song "Fretless" recalls the CNN footage of the conflict. I can see my black-and-white portable, the sound down, the deadly beauty of tracer trails by night accompanying Elvis Costello's harrowing cover of the Kinks' "Days".

The album works best in the background, as you're reading the paper, picking up random snatches of mumbled lyric and whispered litany: "Sometimes you can't tell whether you're waking up, or going to sleep, spiralling, un-numbered streets". "What good's a war without killing? What good's a disease that won't hurt you?" "Don't talk to me about being alone." "Santa Maria, Santa Theresa, Santa Cecilia, Santa Dominica".

It's ironic that the soundtrack - the product of so many creative minds - is a focused cohesive whole, while the film - the vision of one man - is a rambling, confusing three-hour mess (and, God forbid, there is a five-hour director's cut in existence). If you haven't seen the film, don't bother, but if you haven't got the soundtrack, buy it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2001

School Shootings Tour T-shirt 1996-2001.
A week and a half without blogging [much]
I may not blog much for the rest of this month, as I'm off work from tomorrow till the 1st of May. I still haven't decided what I'm going to do. The vague ideas I have had are as follows:
  • Walk across London, from somewhere in the east (say, Wapping) to somewhere in the west (wherever I get to by sunset - Acton or Ealing. Or, more likely, Soho.)
  • Go to a city which is warm and cultural, like Seville or Barcelona, both of which I love. But I feel I should go somewhere new. Any suggestions for alternative destinations?
  • Spend my birthday [28th of April] at Hope with friends.
  • Relax.
  • Spent the day yesterday at Chessington World Of Queues. Quite fun, but the combination of exhilarating rides and one-hour queues left me feeling like an over-tired child. Came home, cuddled in a duvet and grizzled.

    Saturday, April 14, 2001

    My favourite albums of the 90s

    9. "Grrr!" by Betty Boo
    From the sublime to the sublimely ridiculous. In case you hadn’t realised, I should point out that this list is not meant to be the definitive list of the most important albums of the 90s, just my favourites of the decade.

    Betty Boo was the original Spice Girl. She invented Girl Power. I imagine Simon Fuller listened to “Grrr!” and came up with the idea of a group of girls who, like, are really good friends who look out for each other. On “Skin Tight”, Betty says: “Never wait for my girls, they’re never late. Reliable, desirable, we’re all good mates. There’s no place for girls off their face, to get with us you must have our tastes.” Which is just another way of saying “If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends.” The CD booklet shows Betty dressed in a range of outfits: posh in little black number, scary in tiger print, sporty in track suit, babyish cuddling a teddy. But definitely no ginger.

    Opening track “I’m On My Way” fabulously incorporates the Beatles’ “Lady Madonna”, resulting in an unlikely writing credit: "Written by Boo/Coxon/Lennon/McCartney". No matter how foul a mood you may be in, one listen to “Thing Goin’ On” will have you grinning from ear to ear, containing as it does, the silliest noise known to man - the decoy duck call. “Catch Me” is identikit Pet Shop Boys - and catchy as hell, while “I Wish You Were Here” bubbles away what sounds like a swamp chorus of synthesised tree frogs. The standout track for me is "Skin Tight" - ska on steroids - a 140bpm stomper that will have you dancing round in your undies. Or maybe that's just me.

    Betty Boo - Alison Clarkson to her mum - was 18 when "Grrr!" was released, and her raps concern themselves with the obsessions of teenaged girls - clothes, friends, hair, and boys. They are childish, silly and great fun - "Yummy yummy, my tummy goes all funny". Like all teenagers, Betty knows what's right: "Yes it is a must for us you take no drugs, no nicotine fiends cos your grave is dug, ashes to ashes and dust to dust”.

    Betty's career came to a dismal end when it was revealed she was miming as she dropped the mike at a "live" performance. Nowadays she writes songs for Girl Thing and Louise. Oh, and Hear'Say. Yes, "Pure And Simple" was co-written by Betty Boo.
    The William IV, The Flask, The Heath, Jack Straw's Castle, The Heath, The William IV, Central Station, Liquid Lounge and The Spiral Staircase. Oh, and Chariots. Ian has what details he can remember.

    Now that's what I call The Long Good Friday.

    Wednesday, April 11, 2001

    My favourite albums of the 90s

    10. "Cardinal" by Cardinal
    Before the New Acoustic Movement there was Cardinal - a one-off collaboration between Australian songwriter Richard Davies and American classically-trained trumpeter Eric Matthews. Think acoustic guitar, whispered vocals and tight harmonies. Summery pop, but under a weak, pale sun. It's like lazing on a sunny afternoon in the wintertime.

    If that was all there was to "Cardinal", it would be a lovely - if unremarkable - album. But that would be without reckoning on the complex and - frankly jarring - baroque trumpet and harpsichord arrangements. The effect is simultaneously soothing and unnerving, like a faulty radio which keeps switching abruptly between Capital Gold and Classic FM.

    Take opening track "If You Believe In Christmas Trees" - a lovely, gentle pop song, all whispered confessions. The first slightly odd thing you notice is his pronunciation of the word 'frighten': "I don't know what I've done, to frighken everyone". And then suddenly, out of nowhere, ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-bah - a fucking glorious trumpet voluntary. Cardinal's nearest antecedent in terms of the mix of psychedelic pop with unusual orchestral arrangements was probably Love's "Forever Changes", but on the Cardinal album, the arrangements are more unexpected, more jarring, and more accomplished. All Music Guide classifies it as chamber pop.

    Davies' lyrics range from the enigmatic "If you knew where I'd just been, you'd notify my next of kin", to the totally bizarre "Gee, Kennedy got kicked in the ass a couple of times for his impersonation of a crow". There are many references to seasons, especially winter: "I feel a polar January sun between March and I".

    It's the perfect album for this time of year, still in the grips of winter's misery, but daring now to look forward to sunny days. The whole thing is incredibly fragile. I listened to it on repeat three times this Saturday, singing along with every word, trying out new harmonies, yet somehow not realising it existed at all. I should warn you, though - it's not an easy album. The thought of pale, over-edcuated white college boys playing sonic alchemists is not a pretty one. But I love the result.
    While standing outside the pub last night, waiting for it to burn down, we had a fantastic conversation about spontaneous human combustion. And specifically about an experiment involving pigs that was shown on TV a few years ago. Nobody could remember the actual details, but we built up a lovely mental image of pigs sat by electric heaters, dressed in comfortable clothes, their legs swaddled in blankets, waiting to combust.

    We weren't that far off. Details of the actual experiment can be found here.
    I was so nearly prom queen!
    High drama down the quiz last night. No, we didn't win, and nor did we lose. The pub burned down. Well, nearly. Perhaps Wendy's inclusion of Ash's "Burn Baby Baby" was a mistake.

    At the end of the questions, the smell of burning filtered through the bar, and it seemed to be coming from the sofa we were sitting on. Me, Jonathan, Guy and Neil took cover at the far end of the pub as Wendy thoroughly doused the sofa (and our pints) with a fire extinguisher. But then, halfway through the answers, it became clear that the smell of burning hadn't gone and was in fact getting stronger, so the quiz was abandoned, and everyone was herded out of the pub.

    Five minutes later, the fire engines arrived. Not one, not two, but three fire engines disgorged about twenty uniformed men, who had to make their way through the phalanx of whooping queers. Retro Bar regulars may be indie queens, but they're queens, nonetheless.

    There are those less charitable folk who would suggest that the fact that the fire started in our area is not entirely unrelated to the fact we weren't doing all that well in the quiz. But I'd be careful what you say if I were you.

    Tuesday, April 10, 2001

    I just forwarded the My Little Tony link to a colleague, who said "you should start a column with, like, all the weird web sites you find".

    If only they knew...
    Just for Dave:
    It's My Little Tony. Now you can ask Tony Blair the really important questions.
    I went home at lunch, and lying on the doormat was a brown A4 envelope addressed to "Toby Morgan". Now, there's no-one of that name in our house, so I opened the envelope. There was a covering note, "Hi Toby. Here's my epistle, I'm not even sure what I think of it now" and about 50 typewritten pages, comprising what appeared to be a novella. Pretty good it was, too. But there was no return address or phone number.
    I've always been under the impression I work best under pressure. Give me something to do and say "there's no hurry," and I'll never get round to doing it. But I have a pile of pages on my desk I have to lay out, the mag has to go to print at the end of this week, and this week is one day short, yet still I can't motivate myself to actually do some work.

    [note to prospective employers: the above is satire, honest]
    [note to self: remember, you are being paid]
    On the evocatively-named Shoot Up Hill in Kilburn yesterday around 6pm, I encountered a spectacularly drunk young man attempting to urinate against the railings. Every time he tried to steady himself and turn towards the wall, he involuntarily reeled off and away, an arc of urine spraying around him. Eventually he gave up and staggered all the way down the hill, forgetting to put his dick away. Nobody said a word.

    Monday, April 09, 2001

    A new study reveals that the average penis is 5.877 inches long.
    Link half-inched from Fraser.
    Jon Ronson's A to Z of Paranoid London

    Q is for the Queen
    According to American conspiracy theorist Lyndon LaRouche:
    1. Science fiction is a part of the Communist plan to dominate Western culture. Queen Elizabeth herself has been known to pen "sci-fi" under a pseudonym.
    2. The Queen is the world's leading opium trafficker - the figure behind the Triads and the Colombian drug barons.

    Link via LMG.
    Top Ten Electropop Pioneers
    A programme which featured all my pop idols: Marc Almond, Stephin Merritt and Debbie Harry. Outlandish hairstyles. Huge fashion mistakes. And fantastic music. And a brief clip of my ex-boyfriend. Dressed as a robot.

    But Marc was dreadfully wooden, Stephin is turning into Moby, and Debbie was in her Thompson Twins phase. Then again, the programme did get me and my ex talking again for the first time in ages.
    Eugene Mirman, the marvellous crooning child.
    What is this waking up at 4 a.m. business? I was wide awake for two hours this morning, so I watched Andy and Alex's video of the DE Experience, and then - sad to report - I tried to remember all 50 US states. No, I don't why either. I got up to 43 before falling asleep, so it worked.

    Beats counting sheep. Do the people counting the number of foot and mouth cases keep falling asleep on the job and having to start all over again?

    Saturday, April 07, 2001

    There were four in a bed and the little one said, "roll over, roll over". So they all rolled over.
    But enough about my Friday night.

    Friday, April 06, 2001

    Play Scalextric online. It helps if you understand Swedish, but you need to build your track first - ensuring it connects to the power supply - then click on the chequered flag. Now use your mouse button to control the speed of your car.
    The Divine Comedy - "Regeneration"
    I loved the Divine Comedy. They were my band. Neil Hannon: a short, skinny, effete, pompous, self-conscious know-all. I could relate. The first three albums, "Liberation", "Promenade" and "Casanova" were - along with Pulp's mid-90s albums - clear evidence that intelligent pop was in the resurgence. The Divine Comedy records sparkled with wit. They had a quaint charm with their string quartets and oboes, and - this is important - they gave the special thrill that comes from loving a band no-one else had ever heard of. They made the listener feel clever, with their literary references and musucal quotations.

    Then came the hits. No-one likes a smart-arse who succeeds. Suddenly, what was charming became condescencing sneering.

    Thus "Regeneration". As the title suggests, all has changed. They've left their indie label, and EMI have chucked bucketloads of money at them. This is their first album which is "them", rather than "him". They've roped in "OK Computer" producer Nigel Godrich, and the resulting sound is more than a bit Radiohead - layered guitars and much wailing. At one point Neil screams [Neil? Screaming?] "what the fuck is going on? Where has everybody gone?" Not sure if this is testimony to his state of mind or his vanished fanbase.

    I took one listen to "Regeneration" and hated it. All the things I had once loved about them were gone. Where once there was tiddleypom there now was twiddly pomp.

    But then I hauled it out again last week and somewhere underneath that ponderous production there are a couple of lovely pop songs. Calling a song "The Perfect Lovesong" is risky, but Neil just about pulls it off. This should have been the next single, as it might be a summer hit, but we don't want that. Previous single "Love What You Do" flopped, and I fully expect the plodding "Bad Ambassador" to do the same. The public doesn't want angst-ridden Neil. They want another "National Express" or some lightweight novelty to soundtrack a Jamie Oliver ad. And perhaps if they take that route, they may survive, but I imagine they'll soon be dropped by EMI. And Neil will have to go back to being a lonely, misunderstood artist penning wry ditties. Hurrah!
    Blogs that make you cry:
    "i laughed out loud at dave's post about curry-themed pop hits. reason? because, as a child, i actually thought that madonna's 'papa don't preach' was 'poppadom preach'. i was three years old when it was released."
    I have been given what I am told is a 'dead cert' for tomorrow's Grand National. I've never bet on a horse before, but what the hell, I'll have a flutter. Stay tuned!

    Thursday, April 05, 2001

    While you're away from desk, get your otherwise inactive computer to search for:
    intelligent life in space
    a cure for cancer
    a cure for Aids - "test candidate drugs against detailed models of evoloving* Aids viruses"

    *the Telegraph's typo, not mine.
    Unisex names. Bah. One of the blogs I reguarly visit is Bifurcated Rivets as it's an excellent source of time-killing links. I had assumed its creator, Lindsay Marshall, was a woman. He's not. [Although there is apparently a picture of him in a dress somewhere...]
    I've been walking in the rain just to get wet on purpose.

    I've just been out, wandering the streets, getting wet and loving it. I sneered at lesser mortals huddled in doorways, while I skipped down the rain-slicked streets, jumping in puddles. I think I may be mad.

    Or it may just be the relief of not having to spend my lunch hour thinking up another entry for the A to Z of the Vauxhall Tavern. I have uploaded the entire A to Z as one file, and need never think of it again.

    I'm singing in the rain, just singing in the rain. What a glorious feeling, I'm happy again.
    Dan, we're quite compatible. Wanna get married? Oh, hang on, you're dumped - Robert's more similar. No evenings spent watching Buffy together. Ian, I've done all of yours apart from the whisky and cigars thing. Here's the original list - what have you never done?
    Apparently the entire country is on tenterhooks waiting to find out who shot Phil Mitchell. Shoot him yourself.
    So my neighbour has a blog. My friends have blogs. Strangers I meet in clubs have blogs. I'm becoming paranoid. Someone was using the BT Multiphone in the tube station this morning. I swear he was in HabboHotel - must be a blogger. That bloke across from me on the tube writing on his PalmPilot: a blogger.

    Wednesday, April 04, 2001

    I don't even know where to begin on this one. Pay attention, as it involves four people named David.

    In February, I met Meg and Davo. I told them my mate Dave was going to Mardi Gras in Sydney. She told me her friend David was going too. I suggested we should somehow get them to meet. We didn't manage to set this up, but Dave did meet several people over there, and fell for someone named Tony.

    All clear so far? Now, this is where it gets weird:

    Today, David was reading Davo's blog, and followed a link to my blog [thanks, Davo]. He then followed a link from mine to Dave's blog.

    Suddenly, he realised that Dave was the guy he had met in Sydney, who had fallen for his mate Tony. Indeed, David was at the Vauxhall Tavern this Sunday for Dave's birthday, where he was introduced to me [another David]. There's actually another David involved too, but that would just make things far too complicated.

    I can't decide which is more unsettling - that we're all called David, or that we all blog.
    The A to Z of the Vauxhall Tavern
    is for Zoo
    David Attenborough: [in patented stage whisper] I am standing at the entrance to the Royal Vauxhall Tavern Zoo. Let us pay our four pounds entrance fee and go inside to take a look at the animals. We'll have to be very careful - some of these creatures could misinterpret it if taken suddenly from behind. Come with me on a journey around the zoo...

    On the right you can see the watering hole. Herds of parched animals clamour here, trying to push through for a refreshing drink. Many of these beasts have developed a camel-like ability to drink huge amounts, storing it up in their vast pot-bellies. The warders on the other side of the trough tend to their needs as fast as they can, but never fast enough for these impatient hordes.

    Ah, now here is a splendid sight. The brilliantly-plumed, bespectacled, pink-legged Dame Edna bird of paradise [purplehairus sequinanus]. Note her strange courting dance and her unforgettable mating call: "turnitdown itsmyshow". Note too, how all the other creatures carefully observe her every move, echoing her cry: "parTICKularly! parTICKularly!".

    Down here near the front we see the minkered hedgehog [boyes minkerii] and a rare tattooed Knapp's gayzelle [tattlad africensis].

    You see this white-tiled room? Here you'll find pythons, boa constrictors and anacondas. Or, more usually, earthworms, wrinkled sea-slugs and assorted tiddlers.

    Up in the booth you can see the striped anteater [shaggus almightius].

    Continuing round, we come to my favourite animals in the zoo: the push-me-pull-you [andy'n'alexiis campastits], the hairy-backed shag [dorianus langridgii] - watch out for his deadly bite, Moore's starfish, Guy's lemming, which regularly falls to its death off high cliffs, and Ruffy's bulldog (once its gets its teeth into someone, it doesn't let go). Over there, somewhat camouflaged, you can just about see Martin's lynx [iansie dotcommus]. Look away, there's Barker's beaver [richardii awol] and Hooper's hoopoo [phill tonganus].

    But it is time for us to leave the zoo. We cannot show the feeding frenzy that ensues once the creatures wolf down their vitamin pills. So we bid a fond farewell to Vauxhall. Perhaps we will see you there next Sunday.

    129LBS. BF:1 (VG). CALS: 1,500 (XMPLRY).
    Spooky. Fraser lives here. I live here. Literally around the corner.
    The quiz: We won! We drew! We lost! We drank a lot! Darren drank even more! Ian got an answer right! We ignored him! We were loud! And obnoxious! We alienated half the pub! Thank God it's Jonathan's turn to do the write-up and try make some sense of last night. [Note to self: never post blog entries, when drunk, from a BT Multiphone, criticising someone's spelling, without checking your own.]

    Tuesday, April 03, 2001

    Jonathan has done almost all of the things on my list of things I've never done. Now, Jonce - and anyone else - let's see the list of supposedly everyday things you've never done.
    If you ever hear me say "wouldn't it be cool to do an A to Z about one topic, adding a new entry every day?" please punch me. Hard.
    The A to Z of the Vauxhall Tavern
    is for Youth
    The average age of the combat-wearing Vauxhall-goer is 30. In G.A.Y, it is n-n-n-n-n-nineteen.

    The punters at the RVT are older than in your average gay club - I've just paraphrased a Paul Hardcastle record, ferchrissakes - how much more proof of, er, maturity do you need? Those shaved heads are not just fashion statements - they're follicular necessities.

    However, they certainly don't act their age - but then who does these days? Little Women, last week's BBC documentary, looked at the "tweenager" - a powerful market force. The programme followed a group of pre-pubescent girls as young as seven, as they shopped for labels at Selfridges, and bopped around to S Club 7 while wearing leather trousers. "I'm going for the biker-babe look," said 10-year-old Alex.

    A casual listener outside the Royal Vauxhall Tavern on a Sunday afternoon might assume it was a pre-teen disco. Kylie, Steps, S Club 7, Geri - anodyne pop. The "pink pound" is another market force, with exactly the same music being aimed at it. Gay men are virtually encouraged to act like little girls - and boy, do they ever! All the way through "Little Women", I was struck by the parallels between the tastes and clothing of the tweenaged girls and your average bunch of gay men. There were, of course, a few noticeable differences. Sex [in both senses of the word] for one. And the documentary opened with two little girls getting ready to go out: "She's not my sister - she's my best friend." With two gay guys, that would be the other way round!
    Rob has taken up the "I have never..." baton.
    Tube drivers who think they're stand-up [sit-down?] comics - good thing or bad? Some announcements I've heard over the intercom recently:

    "Good morning boys and girls. This is your one-and-only Jubilee Line service. We're now arriving at the glorious Finchley Road."

    "Good morning passengers and welcome to your DLR service to Bank. This is your captain speaking. We are about to descend. Please ensure your tray tables are folded away and your seat is in an upright position."

    "Goeie more dames en here, welkom op u Jubilee Lyn diens na Stratford. Die volgende stasie is Wes Hampstead."

    Monday, April 02, 2001

    I've been to Paradise, but I've never...

    ...been to B+Q. Or Halfords. Or Homebase. Or IKEA. Or Iceland.

    ...learned to drive.

    ...been to Scotland. Or Ireland.

    ...gotten off (or on) the Tube at Queensway or Barons Court.

    ...seen a Derek Jarman film.

    ...broken a bone.

    ...had a tattoo. Or a piercing below the neck.

    ...ridden a skateboard. Or one of those micro scooter things.

    ...watched Dawsons Creek. Or Buffy. Or Angel. Or any Star Trek spin-offs. a John Grisham. Or a Harry Potter.

    What have you never done?
    This morning, instead of taking my usual route to the tube station, I took the road less travelled.

    How can it be that I have lived in my house for over a year, yet I have never until this morning noticed the following four things:

    1. The house next door - around the corner, actually, but adjoining our garden. A supremely ugly little construction, barely more than a shack, but with a grand name: Marino House.

    2. St Cuthbert's Church. Saint Cuthbert? Obviously C of E.

    3. The house where artist David Bomberg lived and worked.

    4. I live in quite a lovely area.
    The A to Z of the Vauxhall Tavern
    is for Xylophone
    The DE Experience's show invariably begins with her welcoming to the stage "that skinny bitch, Karen Carpenter":

    I'm on the top of the world
    Looking down on creation
    And the only explanation I can find
    Is the love that I've found
    Ever since you've been around
    Your love puts me at the top of the world.

    Well, people seem to think that I'm so rude
    When each dinner-time I'm yakking up my food.
    Bits of sweetcorn and bread
    Seem to gush from my head
    And I'm like a xylophone when I am nude.

    One day I might learn to keep my meal
    But you wouldn't know how sick it makes me feel.
    Forty doughnuts per hour
    They come up with such power
    And I cram them all back down
    Ain't that unreeeeal.
    If she doesn't stop making that noise, I'm going to go right over there and rip that roll of packaging tape out of her bloody hands.

    Comedowns? Never heard of them.
    Tin Man has only spoken the word "blog" aloud twice. I envy him. Sometimes I think that my conversations with Ian, Dave, Jonathan, etc consist entirely of the word "blog" padded out with a few personal pronouns. [Generally "my".]
    What a lovely weekend.

    Friday night: Arranged to meet Guy and Neil in Comptons. I got there early and had an intense and somewhat depressing - but necessary - conversation with Andrew. Guy and Neil soon arrived, as did Dave and Nick. Chatted to Dave about his new flat, and then went with Guy and Neil to Barcode, where we bumped into JL. I took a bit of ribbing for my NEW! jeans, my NEW! brown leather jacket and my NEW! red T-shirt-with-japanese-writing-on-it. Neil: "What does that say, then?" Me: "My boyfriend went to Tokyo and all he bought me was this lousy T-shirt." It was soon chucking-out time (1? 2?) so I got a night bus home. Fell asleep and woke up at the end of the line. Again.

    Saturday: Had a jolly afternoon in, watching Singin' In The Rain. Thought about going to the blogmeet, but decided against it, as I had a busy night ahead. Waited for Ian in the Cock, Kennington. He was late. Again. The Cock was OK - loud music, decent crowd. But were we satisfied with this? Oh no. So off we went to The Little Apple. You know, there are times when "no attitude" is not a compliment. The place has a community atmosphere. Care in the community.

    Then we went to Hope. What a brilliant night. The same DJs as the Vauxhall, the same crowd, a similar layout, a terrific atmosphere - but open till six in the morning. Highly recommended. The occasion was Dave's pre-birthday warm-up and he certainly had a great time. His report of the evening should be worth reading, but I'd give him till noon to wake up.

    Sunday: Dave's birthday drinks downstairs at Manto's. There must have been sixty people packed into the tiny basement - largely seven-foot strapping muscled men, but with one cluster of really short guys, seemingly all sticking together for safety. Off we all went to the Vauxhall, where the DE Experience gave a rambling, unfocused show, having been at Hope the night before. And Trade.

    The gorgeous weather meant we could all congregate on the pavement outside for the first time this year. My spirits lifted and I briefly rhapsodised about how beautiful the sky looked with a vapour trail glowing like a streak of neon, before I stopped and self-consciously asked "it's not just me, is it?" It wasn't. Roll on summer.

    Sunday, April 01, 2001

    Happy birthday, Dave!
    Why oh why am I in the Bond Street easyeverything at some ungodly hour of the morning, waiting for the tubes to start running? Because I had a wonderful allnighter at Hope in Brixton, that's why. My, it was busy. My, I was busy. But did I have a sign on my back saying "yes, I'd love to sleep with you, but why not get your jealous boyfriend/ex-boyfriend involved, too?"