Friday, September 28, 2001

You know your problem, you keep it all in

Marcus now has a blog. It's coming along nicely, but he doesn't want me to tell anyone of its whereabouts just yet. Our styles are completely different. He's very open about his feelings. I'm not. Mine is very British, his more what I've come to think of as American. Which is odd, really, as he's Scandinavian - stereotypically even more emotionally retarded than us Brits.

I envy the American bloggers their ability to write about how they feel. Many of them seem to use Blogger as a therapist's couch - a piece of furniture most of them are familiar with in real life. Charlie, Michael and Jeff have a wonderful transparency - they tell you their fears, their hopes, their doubts. I wish I did more of that. I tend to keep my readers at a distance. Oh, I tell anecdotes about my past, and recently I've been going on [and on] about my boyfriend, but you don't really know how I am, do you? I've never once told you about my doubts and fears, my health, my ambitions, what keeps me awake at night.

The question is, do I want to?

One of the reasons I don't share the 'bad things' here is that I prefer not to think about them at all. I sweep things under the carpet, pretend they don't exist. Every time I start having fears, I go "oh no, we're not having any of that," and think trivial thoughts instead. I've always done that. In her last letter to me, my mother warned me about my tendency to bottle everything up - "one day you'll explode". [Ah, you see, I sort of let you in there!]

Being a Brit, of course, I don't have a therapist. I rarely even share my fears with my friends. This is something I need to change. You're warned!

But perhaps I can use this forum to air some of the things I keep hidden away. Don't worry - I'm not going to suddenly turn into an emotional geyser, gushing forth. But slowly, tentatively, I might emerge from my shell, see what it's like to let people in. My fear is that I will become the subject of bored emails: "God, have you seen what David SwishCottage is wittering on about today?"

We'll see...
I forgot to say: on Saturday afternoon, as part of the Open House weekend, Marcus and I visited the Grand Temple at Freemasons' Hall. Marcus was spot-on when he said it was like a set for Tomb Raider.
Jonathan asks if spelling is important these days. Yes, to those who can spell. No, to those who can't.

I'm afraid I've never understood people who can't spell in their own language. If you don't know how to spell a word, why - you simply look it up. What's so difficult? Jonathan says, "I certainly can't be bothered to check it manually." Why on earth not, Jonce? Poor spelling makes one wary of the reliability of the content.

While my spelling may be near-perfect, my typing certainly isn't. I tend to type my blog entries directly into Blogger, which - on a Mac - doesn't have a spell-checking facility. Generally speaking, if there are errors in my blog - and there certainly are - they're typos rather than spelling errors, and they've slipped past my check and double-check.

I've always been a good speller. I have a vivid memory of being able to spell 'Mediterranean' before I was eight. But I shouldn't be too proud of my spelling - it once got me into a lot of trouble and scarred me permanently:

When I was about ten, and living on a farm in South Africa, my English teacher was one Mrs Townsend. She was madly competitive - in fact I may have picked up my competitive nature from her. The class was streamed - every week. She would give us a test each week, and the seating plan would be changed according to the results. For those of us who were good at English, it was exciting, and we worked extra hard to try to occupy the front row. I should imagine that it was hell for those who weren't, though.

One Monday morning Mrs Townsend announced a special spelling competition...

The contest was not compulsory; it was only for those who wanted to enter. But once you agreed to enter, you were committed. We would be given a list of ten words; if we spelled all ten words correctly, we would win a Lunch Bar. If we got even one wrong, we would have to buy her one. Now, I'd never had a Lunch Bar - never had much chocolate at all really. We didn't receive pocket money as kids - my parents had some strange ideas about child-rearing. Either that or they were tight - I'm beginning to suspect the latter.

I usually got ten out ten on Mrs Townsend's spelling quizzes, but what if she decided to include some really hard words to ensure she'd get loads of chocolate? I decided to gamble - that Lunch Bar with its caramel and nougat and nuts smothered in chocolate was just too tempting.

As I feared, she'd lured us into her trap - the test included words like 'accommodation' and 'liaise'. I didn't get one word wrong - I got three wrong. Mrs Townsend grinned wickedly and told us we'd have to give her a Lunch Bar before the end of the week. She wrote the names of her debtors on the board. As the week progressed she erased each name as they brought in her booty.

I had a problem - I didn't have any money. The end of the week came and went. On Friday, she pointed me out to the rest of the class, announcing that David now owed her two Lunch Bars.

What was I to do? I lay awake at nights, worrying about how I was going to buy the chocolate. Looking back now, I wonder why I didn't tell my parents about it. I mean, I wasn't scared of them; I got on really well with them, but I didn't dare tell them what I had managed - through my own greed - to get myself into. The end of that week came and went, too, and mine was the lone name on the board; the amount owing increased to three.

Again, I now wonder why I didn't simply tell Mrs Townsend that I didn't get pocket money, that I had no means of paying my debt. But I feared that she would say, "but you shouldn't have entered the contest then," and increase my debt still further. More sleepless nights ensued, more mental torture - far more mental torture than a kid of ten should have to go through.

My name stayed on the board till the end of term, my debt clocking up. On the last day, Mrs Townsend addressed the class, handing out prizes for the best pupil, the most improved, neatest handwriting, etc. She ordered me to stand up and called me an ungrateful, selfish boy. I cried.
I'm not a fan of the Armando Iannucci show. Too clever-clever for its own good, it's not half as funny as it thinks it is. But last night's sketch about going to the barber's rang a few bells. I don't go the barber's anymore - I cut my own hair. It might have something to do with the horrific event of two years ago: I settled into the chair, politely answering the banal questions about holidays, and reeled with horror when he got out a pair of tiny clippers and trimmed my eyebrows!

Admittedly, I sometimes give my eyebrows a quick once-over myself, but the fact that someone else thought they needed it scared me. Sometimes I catch a quick look at myself in the mirror and see my dad - mad, bushy eyebrows and all. Although my eyebrows are dark brown, I get these incredibly thick, wiry blonde ones that, frankly, could take your eye out. "But I can't be an adult - I'm only 37."

Thursday, September 27, 2001

Remember Etch-a-Sketches? I loved mine, and I thought I was pretty cool when I realised I didn't have to just draw horizontal or vertical lines, but that I could produce diagonal lines and curves by clever manipulation of both buttons. But I never, ever got this good. Or, indeed, this good.

Think I need to practise on this online Etch-a-Sketch
I keep playing this over and over, with a sick fascination. A time lapse video of the World Trade Centers collapsing.
Have you seen that advertising promo that plays repeatedly on MTV UK or The Box? Some young Scots girl, aged about twelve, a precocious vamp with stage school smiles and knowing winks, making love to the camera while singing a dreadful pop choon? She then goes on to witter on about doing her schoolwork and fancying some boy.

She is really, really creepy. Who is she? I want to put out a contract on her life.
Jonathan has experienced a massive growth in hits, largely from people entering the keywords: flight Q33NY New York World Trade Center webdings wingdings.

He wonders if you can automatically add the most popular search keywords to one's page. Not as far as I know, Jonathan, but a visit to Google Zeitgeist shows that the fastest-growing terms include nimda virus, counter strike, anthrax and infinite justice. Meanwhile, the most popular terms at Yahoo Buzz are: Love Cruise: The Maiden Voyage, World Health Organization, American flag, Osama bin Laden, terrorist attacks, Britney Spears, Halloween, FBI, New York City and Dragon Ball 2.

But, Jonathan, your friends would be justified in calling you a right hit-obsessed linkslut if you included all of those in a posting.
Apologies for the fake privacy site I posted a link to yesterday. But, of course, there is a serious issue here. Every time you click on a link, you transmit all kinds of information about yourself and your computer. Privacy.net analyses your computer and tells you the information it has gathered.
Last night's Blue Planet looked at the vast expanses of open ocean described by David Attenborough as "the deserts of the sea" and by one cameraman as "liquid space".

The cameras followed a shoal of sardines, changing direction seemingly at random, as one, like a huge cloud of particles, a nebula of sardines. Suddenly they were under attack from giant marlin, living javelins. The twister of sardines knotted and unknotted, grouped and regrouped, taking shape like the special effects in The Mummy. Then along came a giant 14-metre Sei whale, its entire front half opening up, blossoming like huge variegated petals, engulfing hundreds of fish at once.

A manta ray, five-metres from wing to wing, cruised the ocean floor, inhaling clouds of plankton. I had always thought plankton were tiny shrimp and things, but the manta ray was feasting on fish eggs and sperm, pearl jam.

The finale was stunning - we followed a school of dolphin as they tracked a shoal of anchovies. Meanwhile, flocks of gulls were following the dolphins, knowing they would lead them to food. They attacked the anchovies simultaneously - the gulls diving to depths of 15 metres. Mammal, fish and bird, competing in the same element. A violent frenzy when viewed from above, yet balletic and beautiful underwater.
DATE Wed September 26 2001, 22:00  
FROM  James Geppert
TO  davidsim@another.com  
SUBJECT hhhmmm?  
MESSAGE  
what do you look like?
"sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes...you don't"
peter paul


Help!

Wednesday, September 26, 2001

I didn't make it to the quiz last night, as I have a cold. Sounds like I missed quite a night: Jonathan and Ian were there as usual, and David and Davo turned up too.

I stayed in bed, wishing I could be there, and torn between hoping that they'd win, and that there would be at least one question which made them go "oh! David would have known that!"
Thanks to Guy for sending this worrying link. It shows just how easy it is to get hold of private and supposedly confidential information. You just put in your name and your post-code or zip-code, and they can list the last four digits of your credit card number and the last few things you bought on your card. Worrying, my friends, worrying.

http://www.nothingisprivate.com
My boss just told me a great story. On the tube this morning, he sat opposite the new geek who has an office on our floor. He was reading a book, and then grabbed a copy of Metro. As he slipped his book into the paper, my boss managed to sneak a look at the title: "How To Bluff Your Way In Management".

Tuesday, September 25, 2001

> 1. launch Word
> 2. put on caps lock
> 3. type in "IAMAGULLIBLEFOOL"
> 4. increase font size to 72
> 5. print off
> 6. sellotape to forehead
>
> YOU WILL BE AMAZED AT WHAT HAPPENS!
>
> don't forget, send this posting on to ten people you know and you will
> receive a reward within a month. trust me, I know a bloke who
> just did this
> and he is now shagging Jennifer Lopez in a speedboat made of
> GOLD!!!!!!
>
> I know someone who only sent on six posts - he is now a vegan
> windmill-builder in Norfolk with a beeping head and a large
> number of oil
> barrels in his cellar.
Swish Cottage is twinned with... [no real surprises here]
Several people have written to me, asking where I got the tube map showing which carriage to sit in to ensure you arrive near the exit.
It's the Way Out tube map, and you can find it on the London rack downstairs at Stanfords, the fab map shop in Covent Garden.
To the Jazz Cafe last night to see Billie Ray Martin in concert. She has somehow become a bit of a gay icon - not among the shiny happy Kylie GAY chickens, but among the sleazier, rougher end of the market - the Marc Almond fans. I rechristened the Jazz Cafe the Jizz Cafe - hell, I knew the guy who does her merchandise, the guy who runs her web site and the guy twiddling the computer on stage. "He's just pretending he's playing stuff," said Jim, "he's really just checking his Gaydar profile!"

Billie Ray has a look, but it's not a look you'd really aspire to: with her shaved eyebrows and her skinhead girl feathered hair, she looks like a cross between Ziggy Stardust and Bob Geldof in The Wall. She was wearing an elasticated top which she kept pulling self-consciously down over her belly.

The reason we love her, of course, is The Voice. OK, she's a bit of a two-note wonder, alternating between barking like a seal and squawking like a seagull. But a very powerful, very teutonic seagull. Each trademark transition between one register and the other brought squeals of delight from the queens. She played most of her new album, 18 Carat Garbage, which is pretty good. The new single, the Motown-meets-Stop-by-the-Spice-Girls Where Fools Rush In, got two plays. She ended with two crowd favourites: 1995's huge hit Your Loving Arms, and Electribe 101's Talking With Myself.

Close your eyes, and you're listening to a black American soul diva. Open them, and you're looking at a German punk rock chick. She's Hamburg meets Memphis, St Pauli meets St Louis.

Monday, September 24, 2001

My candle burns at both ends
It will not last the night
But, ah, my foes
And oh, my friends,
It gives a lovely light!

Edna St Vincent Millay (1920)
I'm with Edna on this one. My candle burned all weekend, and now I'm a quivering pool of melted stuff. But, oh, my friends, what a lovely weekend.

The plan was to have a nice, quiet Friday night at home with Marcus. He cooked dinner and we opened a bottle of red wine. And another. And a third. And some organic beer. And various brightly-coloured alcopops. Managed to watch the American telethon at 4am.

On Saturday afternoon we went shopping. Together - a potentially dangerous thing for couples to do. But it went off very smoothly: we bought Jonathan a Captain Scarlet DVD box set and found him a really anorak-y map showing which tube carriage to sit in to be sure of arriving near the exit at your destination. Geeks rule!

Back home to watch Marcus wrap the present: an incredibly painstaking process involving much precision measuring and accurate folding and half a roll of tape. Then off to the party upstairs at The Yard. Simply everybody was there, including fellow bloggers Ian, Iain and David. The party was excellent, and had everything you could possibly need: As much free booze as you could drink? Check. Chicken satay on a stick? Check. Great company? Check. Music by Boyz pin-up DJ Juggy Jones? Check. Home movies of Jonathan as a baby? Check. Embarrassing photos of Jonce in the nude? Check. Good friends, old boyfriends, drunk friends? Check.

The others all went off to Barcode (where Juggy got jiggy, allegedly) but Ian, Marcus and I went down to Queer Nation at SubStation South. I'd love to tell you what happened there but (1) it's all a bit of a blur and (2) the bits I do remember are not fit for public consumption (and Marcus tells the "two tongues" story far better than I...). Annoyingly, I discovered three free drinks tickets in my back pocket the next day, with no idea of how they got there.

Sunday, of course, means the Dame Edna Experience at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. "Imagine Judy Garland on acid: 'Are you a good witch or a bad witch?' 'Miss Garland, this is a bank'." We finally got to meet the mysterious - and gorgeous - Dave, chatted with Andy'n'Alex, watched Andy drool over Drew, avoided Guy's flailing arms, spoke to Christian ("I've got to tell you: I'm addicted to your blog"), got trashed, whipped our shirts off, danced like grinning loonies and generally had a brilliant time. "Your friends are so nice," said Marcus on the way home. Aren't they just?
Over the past few weeks some of the most chilling, most disturbing images of our time have been broadcast into our homes. These continued on Friday night with America: A Tribute To Heroes.

Muhammed Ali ("he's America's greatest hero and also a Muslim"). Regular all-American family men (Tom Hanks, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen). Action heroes and vigilantes; men accustomed to mowing down terrorists (Will Smith, Sylvester Stallone, Tom Cruise, Al Pacino, Robert de Niro). Grizzled bearded tuneless country singers (Willie Nelson - or Nellie Wilson as I prefer to think of him). And troubled divas with new albums to promote (Mariah Carey). All led in a righteous, strident, anthemic, downright vengeful version of America The Beautiful.

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

I couldn't help but think of the message this was sending out. Imagine turning on your telly and finding the stars of the Ay-rab world [whoever they may be] on a sombre candlelit stage, singing "Afghanistan! Afghanistan! Allah shed his grace on thee".

I'm scared.
And so the Kylie-Posh battle for number one turns out to be a Kylie-DJ Otzi-Alien Ant Farm-Bob The Builder-Shaggy battle, with Mrs Beckham nowhere to be seen in the top five. But that's all right, because "the media like to make out there's some kind of battle between us, but all I want to do is get my music out there". So I'm sure she's not sulking today, then.

She must hate Rob Davis: he co-wrote Kylie's "I Can't Get You Out Of My Head" and also co-wrote Spiller's "Groovejet" which beat her to number one last summer. Moody cow!

This just in: Kylie: the new face of Eurostar.

I'd just like to say right here that I am not a fan of Ms Minogue. No, really, I'm not. Let's just say I've been exposed to her rather a lot in the last couple of weeks and it's rubbing off.

Friday, September 21, 2001

Via Fraser: All about my vagina. Yup, a blog by a woman, all about - you guessed it. It's the Vagina Monoblog.

Someone told me there's a blog somewhere in which the writer details that day's shit - its colour, consistency, etc. I believe it's called LogBlog, though I can't find it. Fittingly, I'm off work ill today. Supposedly with a dodgy tummy, though it seems to have cleared up miraculously in time for the weekend.

Thursday, September 20, 2001

This is fantastic! You've surely seen the original video clip of Microsoft's sweaty Steve Ballmer dancing across the stage as fast as his lumbering frame will allow, chanting "Developers, developers, developers, developers!" Now see the music video. A worthy Christmas number one, say I.
Last night's Blue Planet was filled with bizarre deep-sea creatures. But the strangest phenomenon of all was the underwater brine lake. Yes, that's a lake. At the bottom of the sea.

The brine is so much denser than the surrounding sea water that it sinks to the seabed, forming a lake. I had to feel sorry for the poor fish trying to swim across it and virtually bouncing off the surface.
Well done! You remember cat good. It's the Tom Jones cat game.
"All gay men dress to the right," said an ex of mine, "except those for whom it makes no difference."

Current Results
[Quick explanation for those who don't understand the term 'dressing': it's whether you wear your 'bulge' to the left or the right of your trousers.]
Four months ago, I was full of the joys of Spring, writing about "the chestnut trees thrusting their outrageous clumps of creamy sex organs heavenwards". Well, now, I'm sad to report, the pavements are littered with their spiky scrotums and glossy nuts.

Wednesday, September 19, 2001

Not many people know this, but...
Most people who live in London assume the postcodes are numbered according to their distance from the centre of London. This is often borne out by the evidence - SW19 is indeed further than SW3. But W3 (Acton) is miles away; and I'd far rather walk to N7 than N2 (East Finchley).

This is how it works: they're alphabetical. In each sector, the postal district nearest the centre of London is given the number 1. Then they are numbered in more-or-less alphabetical order, as follows:
North
  • N1 Canonbury and Islington
  • N2 East Finchley
  • N3 Finchley
  • N4 Finsbury Park, Haringay
  • N5 Highbury
  • N6 Highgate
  • N7 Holloway
  • N8 Hornsey
  • N9 Lower Edmonton
  • N10 Muswell Hill
  • N11 New Southgate
  • N12 North Finchley
  • N13 Palmers Green
  • N14 Southgate
  • N15 South Tottenham
  • N16 Stoke Newington
  • N17 Tottenham
  • N18 Upper Edmonton
  • N19 Upper Holloway
  • N20 Whetstone
  • N21 Winchmore Hill
  • N22 Wood Green

    East
  • E1 Aldgate East, Shoreditch, Stepney, Wapping and Whitechapel
  • E2 Bethnal Green
  • E3 Bow
  • E4 Chingford
  • E5 Clapton
  • E6 East Ham
  • E7 Forest Gate
  • E8 Dalston and Hackney
  • E9 Homerton
  • E10 Leyton
  • E11 Leytonstone and Wanstead
  • E12 Manor Park
  • E13 Plaistow
  • E14 Poplar
  • E15 Stratford
  • E16 North Woolwich and Victoria Docks
  • E17 Walthamstow
  • E18 South Woodford
  • E20 Walford (!)

    South-East
  • SE1 Bermondsey, Lambeth (North), Waterloo
  • SE2 Abbeywood
  • SE3 Blackheath and Lee Green
  • SE4 Brockley
  • SE5 Camberwell
  • SE6 Catford
  • SE7 Charlton
  • SE8 Deptford
  • SE9 Eltham
  • SE10 Greenwich
  • SE11 Kennington
  • SE12 Lee
  • SE13 Lewisham
  • SE14 Newcross
  • SE15 Peckham
  • SE16 Rotherhithe
  • SE17 Walworth
  • SE18 Woolwich
  • SE19 Norwood
  • SE20 Anerley, Penge
  • SE21 Dulwich
  • SE22 East Dulwich
  • SE23 Forest Hill
  • SE24 Herne Hill
  • SE25 South Norwood
  • SE26 Sydenham
  • SE27 West Norwood
  • SE28 Thamesmead

    South-West
  • SW1 Belgravia, Knightsbridge, Victoria and Westminster
  • SW2 Brixton (South) and Streatham (North)
  • SW3 Chelsea
  • SW4 Clapham
  • SW5 Earls Court
  • SW6 Fulham
  • SW7 South Kensington
  • SW8 Lambeth (South)
  • SW9 Brixton (North) and Stockwell
  • SW10 West Bromton
  • SW11 Battersea
  • SW12 Balham
  • SW13 Barnes
  • SW14 Mortlake
  • SW15 Putney and Roehampton
  • SW16 Norbury and Streatham (South)
  • SW17 Wandsworth Common, Tooting
  • SW18 Wandsworth
  • SW19 Merton, Wimbledon
  • SW20 Raynes Park

    West
  • W1 Marble Arch, Marylebone, Mayfair, a bit of Euston
  • W2 Paddington
  • W3 Acton
  • W4 Chiswick
  • W5 Ealing
  • W6 Hammersmith
  • W7 Hanwell
  • W8 Kensington
  • W9 Maida Vale
  • W10 Kensington (North)
  • W11 Notting Hill
  • W12 Shepherds Bush
  • W13 West Ealing
  • W14 West Kensington

    North-West
  • NW1 Camden, Euston, Regents Park
  • NW2 Cricklewood
  • NW3 Hampstead and Swiss Cottage
  • NW4 Hendon
  • NW5 Kentish Town
  • NW6 Kilburn, West Hampstead
  • NW7 Mill Hill
  • NW8 St Johns Wood
  • NW9 Kingsbury and the Hyde
  • NW10 Harlseden, Kensal Rise, Neasden, Willesden
  • NW11 Golders Green

    East-Central
  • EC1 Clerkenwell and Smithfield
  • EC2 Bishopsgate and Moorgate
  • EC3 Aldgate, Bank and Billingsgate
  • EC4 Cannon St, Fleet St, Farringdon St area

    West-Central
  • WC1 Kings Cross and Holborn (North)
  • WC2 Holborn (South), Covent Garden and Trafalgar Square
  • I want! Stool pigeon, ha-cha-cha-chah! I'm a wonderful thing, baybeeh! [link nicked from lalalalela.]
    Last night - being Tuesday night - we visited the Retro Bar for our weekly dose of the Retroteasers Pop Quiz. There were three of us cramped into the lucky sofa - Ian, Jonathan and me. We didn't win, but didn't do too badly. See how you would have done - use the comments facility at the bottom of this entry to add any answers you come up with.

    First up was the battle of the girls. Being paid-up members of the Queen's Brigade, we had no trouble telling our Kylie from our Posh from our Samantha Mumba. We got a bonus anorak point for knowing that Kylie's Can't Get You Out Of My Head was written by Cathy Dennis and Rob Davis.

    Next up was a dreadful mish-mash of samples, which we correctly identified [guessed] as Def Con One by Pop Will Eat Itself. We recognised the samples as being Right Now by the Creatures, Funky Town by Lipps Inc and Crazy Horses by the Osmonds, but we were several years out on the year the PWEI single was released.

    Chronology caused us trouble again when we had to put four Cure songs into the order in which they were released. See if you can do any better with: Caterpillar, Inbetween Days, The Walk and Hanging Garden.

    We had no idea what sixties song was the basis for the UK's current number one by DJ Otzi. But then nor did anyone else. Do you?

    We did pretty well with the Mercury Music Prize nominees, recognising PJ Harvey, Goldfrapp, Zero7, Basement Jaxx and Radiohead, but failing once again to have the faintest idea who Elbow are.

    We didn't do very well in naming the seven members of Bob The Builder's gang. We got Bob, Dizzy, Lofty and Wendy, but there are another three. Can you name them?

    Next was our favourite round of the evening - spot the connection between a song called When You're Good To Mama from a musical; Do The Strand by Roxy Music; and Situation by Yazoo [or Yaz, if you're American].

    Next came three questions based on the Moulin Rouge soundtrack. We knew that Randy Crawford originally did One Day I'll Fly Away, though we didn't know the year; and we knew that the artist covering Diamond Dogs was Beck (and we even knew the year it was a hit for Bowie); and we knew who the two artists collaborating on a cover of Nature Boy were.

    Finally, they played three songs from one year: Grace Jones with Nipple To The Bottle; something by Siouxsie And The Banshees which we failed to recognise as Slowdive; and something we thought might have been by Heaven 17 but which turned out to be Pleasure Boys by Visage. Somehow, miraculously, we got the year right. Any idea?

    So... our final score was 15 out of a possible 21. The winners were Nadine and co with 16-and-a-half. Fortunately [for us, not them] the cash prize of 68 quid didn't go, so there should be 80-something on offer next week. Come along next Tuesday - 9pm at the Retro Bar, George Court, off The Strand, London.
    An open letter to my colleague: Look, I don't know why you can't seem to order tickets for Robbie Williams at the Royal Albert Hall. Yes, I may use the web a lot, but I didn't design Robbie's site. No, I don't know if you're supposed to click on 'Buy' or 'Royal Albert Hall' or 'Inner Sanctum'. No, I don't know why it won't accept your credit card number. No, I don't know why it keeps saying you've requested too many seats. No, I don't know if you should try ordering just one. I don't know - or care - if you should try the more expensive seats. I have no idea why you keep getting a 'not found' error. Sort it out yourself - you are a 42-year-old man, after all.

    [After a quick visit to the site - Robbie is not really going to record a big-band album called 'Swing When You're Winning', is he?]

    Tuesday, September 18, 2001

    The FBI's Ten Most Wanted fugitives include Usama Bin Laden and, er, James Bulger. Good news, though: Eric Rosser has been captured - could it be because of his penchant for travelling across Europe on a red moped with a piano attached to it?
    Sick! Police in Japan have arrested a 25-year-old bulimic woman who may have dumped more than a ton of vomit on city streets.
    A current thread on the Kirsty MacColl mailing list concerns a fictitious album, Ultimate Soho. The suggested track-listing so far includes:
  • Soho Square - Kirsty MacColl
  • A Rainy Night In Soho - The Pogues
  • West End Girls - Pet Shop Boys
  • 'A' Bomb In Wardour Street - The Jam
  • Soho, Needless To Say - Al Stewart
  • Hippy Chick - Soho
  • Piccadilly - Julie Andrews, Bruce Forsyth and Beryl Reid [and I quote Chris here "Honest, it's on the 'Star' Soundtrack. Actually the lyric is 'Piccadilly! Piccadilly! The playground of the gay!' - who knew!!"]
  • Chris also adds: "There was a crap musical in the 80s of the TV show 'Budgie' starring Adam Faith and - twitch - Anita Dobson which had a song in it called Old Compton Street."

    Two questions: does anyone have a copy of the last two songs; and can you suggest more songs for Ultimate Soho? [Note to Americans: that's Soho, not SoHo.]
  • I've seen the future: Has anyone ever actually used a pair of these? You plug them into your DVD player or PlayStation; they're the size of a pair of sunglasses, yet supposedly give you the illusion of watching a 52cm TV from a distance of 2 metres, with surround stereo sound. How amazing! How frightening! One airline - Japanese of course - offers them to their first class passengers.

    If you've ever used them, please let me know if they actually work, by leaving a comment. I don't even have a DVD player or a PlayStation, but - gee whiz - I'd buy both in a hurry just to try these babies out, although I suspect the illusion may be on a par with those X-Ray glasses advertised on the backs of American comics.
    What wonderfully strange dreams I had last night:

  • In one, I alternated between being a Zimbabwean farmer defending his land, and being the attacker. As a means of defence, I had bred a cross between a gorilla and a baobab tree!

  • In another dream, I was George Bush, driving across America listening to country songs on the radio.

  • A third dream went on for hours, and the details are sketchy, but involved me trying to poison a village by contaminating their waterfall with a substance in a little brown glass bottle [sound familiar?] The bottle leaked, poisoning me.

    All the death and destruction currently going on in the world is clearly getting to me, but I seem to be dealing with it in a whimsical manner.
  • Monday, September 17, 2001

    Well, today just goes to show the disbelievers that I do occasionally get some work done. It's now 7pm and I haven't left my desk since 9:30 this morning. No blogging, no surfing, no chatting. Just slaving away, laying out pages, retouching photos, subbing copy - ie doing what I get paid to do for a change.

    You know what? I kind of enjoyed it.
    The DE Experience is not noted for political correctness. If there is a foul joke to be made about anything - paedophilia, the Hamiltons, obesity, anything - she'll make it. So I had been dreading her show at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern this week, sure she'd make insensitive remarks about the World Trade Center disaster.

    I needn't have worried.

    Her soaring rendition of Somewhere Over The Rainbow, dedicated to those who lost their lives in the tragedy, reduced a silent crowd to tears.

    Friday, September 14, 2001

    The current ten best sellers at Amazon.com
    1. Nostradamus : The Complete Prophecies
    2. Twin Towers : The Life of New York City's World Trade Center
    3. Nostradamus and His Prophecies
    4. The New Jackals : Ramzi Yousef, Osama Bin Laden and the Future of Terrorism
    5. The Secrets of Nostradamus : A Radical New Interpretation of the Master's Prophecies
    6. Jack: Straight from the Gut
    7. Passion for Truth : From Finding JFK's Single Bullet to Questioning Anita Hill to Impeaching Clinton
    8. Black House by Stephen King, Peter Straub
    9. The Final Prophecies of Nostradamus
    10. Divided We Stand: A Biography of New York City's World Trade Center

    Meanwhile, here in the UK, the top ten best sellers on Amazon.co.uk
    1. Robbie Williams: Somebody Someday
    2. Nostradamus: The Complete Prophecies
    3. Happy Days With The Naked Chef
    4. Victoria Beckham: Learning To Fly
    5. Nigella Bites
    6. Dr Atkins' New Diet Revolution
    7. The Little Book Of Nostradamus
    8. Black House by Stephen King, Peter Straub
    9. A Place In The Sun by Fanny Blake
    10: The Shape Of Snakes by Minette Walters
    I love going to sleep with Marcus. I hold him from behind, my left arm flung over him; my right curled up, hand pressing against his back. This way, I hold him on both sides, cocooning him safely. And I love waking up with Marcus, snuggling into each other, greeting the morning with a kiss - or, in the word Dave has coined - snoggling.

    But I hate sleeping with Marcus.

    He snores. Loudly. Very loudly. It's not his fault. The poor boy suffers from something called sleep apnoea. He snores rhythmically and then stops breathing completely... for up to twenty seconds. This scary, eerie, silence is broken by him spluttering explosively, gasping for breath like a drowning man. Listening to him struggling for breath is terrifying. And damned annoying.

    I've discovered that rolling him onto his side stops the snoring. Last night I had to do this three times. The final time was the last straw. I kicked him and forcefully shoved him as far away from me as I could and built a buttress of pillows to prevent him rolling onto his back again. In theory, his irregular breathing means he doesn't get a good night's sleep. In practice, it means I don't. The truly frustrating thing is that he doesn't wake up during these episodes - I do. And remain awake for a good fifteen minutes or so while I simmer angrily, plotting ways of shutting him up. Perhaps I could smother him with pillows, or rig him up into a harness which would restrict his mobility, keeping him on his side, or maybe I could install spikes into the mattress which would dig in if he tried to roll onto his back.

    But then I remember it's not his fault, and I hold him from behind, my left arm flung over him; my right curled up, hand pressing against his back, cocooning him safely. And putting in my earplugs.
    In the light of the World Trade Center disaster, everything has to be reassessed. Our magazine was about to go to press. This month's cover feature is about how the Climate Change Levy is a blunt instrument, forcing round pegs into square holes, hindering rather than helping industry. We had commissioned an artist to paint the cover picture - a hammer knocking factory chimneys into square holes, smashing some of them. The shattered remains are eerily remniscent of the ruins of the WTC. Clearly, we can't run it - I am going to have to spend all day trying to make it look less contentious.

    Still, it's not as contentious as the cover art for the album Party Music by the Coup, which showed the World Trade Center exploding. The cover art was designed in July and has, of course, been pulled.

    Thursday, September 13, 2001

    A year or two ago, I heard a rumour that Jonathan - aka The DE Experience - was once a member of Bronski Beat. One Sunday afternoon at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, I asked Jonathan directly. "No," he said, "Never! Where on earth did you hear that?" I answered that I'd read that a Jonathan Hellyer had once been lead vocalist of Bronski Beat, and I thought his surname was Hellyer. "It isn't," he snapped, "it's Paul."

    Ladies and gentlemen, I present: The Jonathan Paule Experience.
    Chris first met Jonathan at Battery Studios in 1994 during Jonathan's first major gig, recording lead vocals with Bronski Beat in its final incarnation. The two worked together briefly before Jonathan left the UK to tour Europe & the U.S.A. as a vocalist, not to mention stand-up comic and impressionist.

    From a musical family (the kids from 6 upwards were a Jackson 5 style club act!), Jonathan left home to go into nursing (becoming a qualified psychiatric nurse) while always singing in clubs. After Bronski Beat (in 1989) and touring ended with a residency in a nightclub in Atlanta, USA, Jonathan returned to England to develop his one man act, where he re-established contact with Chris Marshall. Chris, having now formed RSR, asked him to record some covers and some of their original songs for his new label, resulting in Jonathan's first solo single. Get in touch with JONATHAN PAULE by CLICKING HERE, particularly if you know why the catalogue number of Jonathan's single is 'DE' 201. There's a prize for anyone who knows why, O.K.?"
    I love the idea of Jonathan and his brothers being part of a 'Jackson 5 style' club act. At least that explains the note-perfect rendition of "I'll Be There" he often performs. What say we all buy copies of the Bronski Beat album Rainbow Nation and ask Jonathan to autograph them?
    Welcome news: PJ Harvey wins the Mercury Music Prize, with her album Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea.
    Michael just emailed me to say he keeps thinking about the video of me and Jonathan singing On Top Of The World from the top of the World Trade Center. Me too, and this pic of the FAO Girls taking Manhattan.
    I told you so! I've had search requests today from people looking for pics of the devil in the World Trade Center and World Trade Centre angel pics. This, and the Nostradumus prediction (you do know it's a hoax, don't you?) demonstrates mankind's need to turn to the supernatural when we can't understand events or explain them rationally.

    Wednesday, September 12, 2001


    How long can it be till this picture starts some sort of religious fanatical theory? Is that an angel watching over the emergency workers sorting through the rubble? An alien? Is the figure holding a gun? A bible? The Koran?
    More sights to take our minds off what's going on over there: London street scenes. The photographer has a good eye. Take a look at:
  • Chimneys on a Westminster office block
  • Blue stripes and callbox
  • Gasometers and train
  • Waterloo Bridge
  • Time for some cheer amid all this doom and gloom. And what could be more heartening than love and romance, with added funfair?
    Altogether now... 'Aaaaaah!'
    For Michael Daddino, who lives and works in New York, the tragedy will always be encapsulated by the music he was listening to:
    MORTON FELDMAN – “Why Patterns?”

    I've been falling asleep to it for the last few weeks. It's near-random tinkles of glockenspiel, piano and flute. You keep expecting the tinkles to fall into the void, it's so slow and lovely.

    At first I thought: this is music for falling snow. Now I will think: this is music for falling ash.
    Artists I really, really should like, but can't stand, no matter how hard I try to like them:

    2. Bob Dylan

    Oh, quit your nasal whining, ferchrissakes.

    There's no point my adding anything to that, and anyway, Tanya Headon said it far more eloquently.

    Tuesday, September 11, 2001

    The footage of today's events is literally unbelievable. The World Trade Center was one of the defining icons of our time, and the image of it collapsing into itself, shown repeatedly on news bulletins, will surely be another. It's like a bad disaster movie. We've seen these images of buildings being blown up before, but it never happens in real life. I can't get it into my head that the World Trade Center has gone. What will Manhattan look like without it? To think Jonathan and I were standing at the top of the tower just over a month ago and now there's a hole, or a pile of rubble. It doesn't make sense.

    We still have no idea who is responsible, but what a gesture. What an almighty fucking brilliant gesture. And what a dreadful, wasteful, unbelievable tragedy.
    What's happening on other blogs:

    Ian has noticed the bit of grafitti in the Gents' loo at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern which reads: "Why am I the only one who hasn't got a boyfriend?" He didn't notice the two replies underneath it: "You're not, dude" and "Maybe because you're a self-pitying whiner?"

    Fraser notes that 'Britney Spears' is an anagram of 'Presbyterians'

    Meg has a go at street 'entertainers' and 'poxy robots'. Yes, I confess, I have an ex boyfriend who was one of those poxy robots. He may read this page, so I shan't be rude about him [not that I would ever be rude about him anyway, he's a wonderful guy] but I agree with Meg: what is the point? I only saw his act once - it consisted of shuffling round a shopping centre, making whirring noises and swivelling his head quizzically around. He did it very, very well, and it was amusing for - ooh - a couple of minutes. But he had been doing this act for ten years! Thankfully, he's got a proper job now. And, no, he doesn't do the purple dinosaur any more...
    Overheard this morning: two black South African men saying: "there's a big difference between being passive and passive resistance."

    Funny, that's almost what someone very near and dear said to me this weekend, although in an entirely different context...
    Artists I really, really should like, but can't stand, no matter how hard I try to like them:

    1. Diamanda Galas

    I really should love Diamanda Galas. She looks amazing - GothGlam - all raven hair, brooding eyes and smouldering lips. Her subject matter is close to my heart - the politics and plague mentality surrounding AIDS. Like Marc Almond, she deals with the realities of sex and disease, often influenced by poets such as Baudelaire and Edgar Allen Poe. Her theatrical performances are visually stunning - she has performed in a huge cathedral, stripped to the waist and covered in blood....

    ...But there's that voice. It's often said that she has a four-octave range - like that's some kind of compliment, you know? It has been described as "between The Exorcist and Maria Callas" - mmmm... lovely! I initially read about Ms Galas back in the mid-80s, and rushed out and bought Plague Mass without listening to it first. Oh, what a treat was in store for me when I got home! Spread - excrutiatingly - over three albums, were her random piano stylings and overly-dramatic screechings and moanings. Just because you have a four-octave voice, do you have to prove it?

    Will I be going to see her at the Royal Festival Hall next week? Not bloody likely!

    Monday, September 10, 2001

    My South African readers [of which I have surprisingly few - I guess all my old friends have since moved to the UK] may like to know about RetroFresh:
    RETRO FRESH is an imprint label dedicated to the preservation of classic South African pop & rock music of the last 30 years…each release, many available for the first time on cd, has been digitally remastered with bonus tracks including live, studio out takes, demos and unreleased songs. Where possible the original artwork has been retained but has been extended to include great pics, in-depth liner notes written by some of the country`s leading music journalists, rare memorabilia and artist commentary. All releases are artist approved.
    Their catalogue includes some much music that I adored back in the mid-80s, and much which now sounds incredibly naff. Click on the title to hear a sound-clip:
  • Via Afrika - Hey Boy
  • eVoid - Shadows
  • Lesley Rae Dowling - Will I Ever Get Over You, Living Without Conversation, The Spaniard

    However, after trawling the site for half an hour, I can find no way of ordering these albums. The only online resource I know of for South African CDs is One World, though it is annoyingly slow right now.
  • My comments facility disappeared recently. Upon investigating, I discovered that Jesse's free hosting came to a sudden end. He has moved to another server and I've changed the code to reflect this, so the comments are working again. Unfortunately, any old comments were lost in the move.

    Techie note to fellow bloggers: you need to change your first line of Reblogger code to:
    <SCRIPT type=text/javascript src="http://jsoft.ca/cgi-bin/reblogger_old/jsrb.pl?command=load&id=<$BlogID$>"></SCRIPT>
    According to the poll run by Firda, if you like Swish Cottage, you should like these:
    # 1 Brad of The Bradlands
    # 2 Caroline of Prolific.org
    # 3 Firda of Weblog Wannabe
    # 4 Meg of Not So Soft
    # 5 Ernie of Little.Yellow.Different
  • What do you do in a packed club if you suddenly feel your stomach lurch and threaten to expel vile diarrhoea down your legs? Why, you push through the crowds and force your way to the front of the queue for the ladies, mumbling, "sorry, sorry, gotta get through," of course.
  • What do you do when you discover - after a violent, backsplashing case of the runs - that there's no toilet paper? And that the toilet won't flush? Why, you remove the cistern cover and dip your hands in the water, rubbing furiously at your bits, and then rubbing your hands even more furiously in the cistern, of course.
  • But what on earth do you do when you open the door and standing in front of you, wrinkling her nose in horror at the overpowering stench you've created, is Kat from Eastenders?
  • A packed - and lovely - weekend! First, the 'packed' bit:

    Friday night was Fiction night. This is quickly becoming my favourite club. Five arches swathed in silk, three dance floors, two gardens, chilled, happy atmosphere. A rare occasion of 'no attitude mixed gay/straight' being just that.

    On Saturday afternoon I was interviewed by University of Surrey researcher Adam Reed about my thoughts on blogging. My thoughts seemed to consist largely of "um... well... er... I... ah...". I don't know if the meeting will have been any use to him, but it was useful to me - hearing his perceptions of my blog and the opinion he had formed of me through the blog. Although he didn't quite say "you're much more interesting on screen than you are in person," that was how I felt - blame the previous night's excesses if you wish.

    We were going to stay in on Saturday night, but Marcus' flatmate Janne persuaded us, begged us, to go to the Skinners Arms in scenic Oval/Camberwell Borders. My advice to you: if your flatmate ever tries to persuade you to do the same, shoot him. Tired, ugly, annoying - and that was just the 'entertainment' Dave Lynn.

    Speaking of strange drag queens, the DE Experience was really sick yesterday. No, I mean really, she was sick. Backstage. Retching noises over the PA, then she reappeared and revealed that the microdot she'd taken last night had just kicked in. There followed five minutes of her trying to do her usual act, but failing to pull herself together. Still, the crowd were incredibly supportive, and she was in fine - if overwrought - voice.

    A lovely weekend too. I spent all of it south of the river, at Marcus' place. We're becoming dreadfully domestic: cooking for each other, reading the Sunday papers in bed [the Observer for me, News Of The World for him - though I'll confess to taking a sneak peek at the latest Robbie Williams revelations], playing SimCity, setting up a blog for him [be afraid!]. Lovely!

    Friday, September 07, 2001

    When I was a kid, my dad came home from work one day with huge zig-zagging reams of punched computer paper bearing the faces of celebrities, each made up of letters and numbers. I was fascinated. How could simple everyday characters turn into recognisable faces?

    Nowadays, of course, I know all about ascii art, but the results still fascinate me. Create your own from any online gif with the GIF2TXT converter.
                                                                                                        
    



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    I knew Ian should never have read "Infinite Jest". He's gone footnote mad. It's footnotes! It's madness! It's footnotes! It's madness! It's footnote madness!
    Attention techies:

    I want this page to play a sound when it loads. I know how to do this with a WAV or MID file, but can I do it with an MP3? If you know how to make a web page play a brief sound file - just two or three seconds of speech - automatically on load, please email me or leave a suggestion in the comments.
    Pete Waterman was in the news yesterday: "Hear'Say were bound to flop. It couldn't last because the band is not real. They are not musically driven - they come from a TV show. Because everyone saw how they were formed, there is no intrigue."

    And, guess what, Pete Waterman is in the news today. He is one of the judge's in ITV's new show, Pop Idol, in which viewers will see a pop idol selected from thousands of hopefuls.

    Twat.

    Thursday, September 06, 2001

    I mentioned below that William Kentridge was my second-favourite South African artist. This begs the question: who is my favourite? Norman Catherine. Here's an excerpt from his illustrated CV.

    Take a look at the following images:
    Red Dream Cloth, 1980
    Walls Without Clouds, 1979
    Last Letters From The Wilderness, 1977
    Red Cactus I, 1978
    Cat Man
    Speakers, late 80s
    Fanagalo Store, 1995
    "Help, I'm a fish," said Retro Bar pop quizmistress Wendy on Tuesday night, "and I never thought I'd hear myself say that!"

    If you don't know why a woman referring to herself as a 'fish' in a gay pub is funny, you need to read this.
    On Thursday 26 July, I did Chelsea, New York. I visited 27 galleries in one day. Here's what I saw:

      22nd Street

    1. Gracie Mansion: Drawings by my second favourite South African artist, William Kentridge (son of Sir Sydney Kentridge, the barrister who represented Nelson Mandela in the Rivonia trial back in the 60s); and some very cool photos of melting popsicles by Meredith Allen.

    2. Bruce Silverstein: Evocative black-and-white photographs by American master Aaron Siskind

    3. Nikolai Fine Art: Karen Giusti's White House Project: humorous subversion of America's seat of power, including a perspex greenouse in the shape of the White House, with a huge dollar bill as the back wall.

    4. Max Protetch: An exhibition of drawings by pioneering architect Mies van der Rohe, including proposals for a building above Bank station, London.

    5. D'Amelio Terras: A group show, none of which did much for me, though I did rather like Martin Eder's pretty yet unsettling watercolours.

    6. Matthew Marks: Another group show, this one featuring some big names: Jeff Koons, Lucian Freud, and Bjork's Hidden Place video

    7. Phag Inc: Yet another group show. [I get the impression gallery curators go on holiday in July?]

    8. Friedrich Petzel: Electrify Me! A wonderful exhibition of neon lights, glowing bulbs, groovy lamps, etc by Dan Flavin, Bruce Nauman, and the wonderful Stuck by James Turrel: so simple an idea that most gallery-goers walked straight past it without noticing. A rectangular slit is lit with a perfectly flat light. There are no shadows, no depth; it is hard to tell if you're looking at something solid, opaque, translucent.


    9. 23rd Street

    10. Cheim and Read: Liquid Properties. An amusing show. Where Electrify Me! was electric, this is liquid. All the works have something to do with the properties of liquids: how they flow, corrode and evaporate. I liked the huge weighing scale by Louise Bourgeois, each end filled with a blue liquid - the different rates of evaporation tilting the scales.


    11. 24th Street

    12. Barbara Gladstone: Vito Acconci's cool robot-like installation, with radios for ears, video cameras for eyes, etc.

    13. Metro Pictures: A group show, most of which made no impression on me, apart from Olaf Breuning's huge photograph.

    14. Matthew Marks: Canvases in various shades of grey by Ellsworth Kelly, the American artist normally known for his use of vivid colours.

    15. Andrea Rosen: More Than One The most engrossing of the group shows. Wonderful, wonderful archive photos. Famous pictures like Weegee's incredibly crowded Coney Island and Ormond Gigli's Girls In Windows. Incredible pictures by Mole and Thomas, whose human formations, such as this one of the Statue of Liberty made up of 18,000 army officers, are just mind-boggling. I also loved Neal Slavin's photos, particularly the one taken at a 60s Electrolux convention.

    16. Luhring Augustine: A group show which clearly meant nothing to me, as I took no notes.

    17. Charles Cowles: Famed pop artist Richard Hamilton's Swingeing London - photorealist paintings based on sensational newspaper reports of the trial of Mick Jagger and Keith Richard.

    18. Gagosian: Monitor Vol I - an excellent group show curated by gallery staff. I liked Susan Hiller's Psi Girls which uses clips from Carrie, Firestarter and similar horror films which revolve around teenaged girls with psychic powers. I loved Wood and Harrison's series of short, amusing films. Best of all was this song, 27, and its accompanying video, by Swedish artist Tobias Bernstrup. I watched it several times, transfixed. 27 is the supreme eighties tribute. Like Stephin Merritt fronting the Pet Shop Boys, it is a knowing pastiche and has a cool, Resident Evil-style video.

    19. Liebman Magnan: A small show - I loved Raul Cordera's lenticular pictures, which change as you walk past them, so the sign welcoming you to Las Vegas, then hopes you drive carefully and come back soon.


    20. 25th and 26th Streets
    18. -27. By this stage, of course, I had seen too much art. I remember very little about the remaining galleries. I did like Roland Fischer's montage of 450 Chinese steelworkers, and I found Herbert List's 1930's homo-erotic photos of Greek statues and naked boys rather quaint. West African artist Olu Oguibe had an exhibition where the tribes of Britain were written about as anthroplogical curiosities, the way African tribes were written about in earlier times.

    But I was now going to galleries simply to say I'd been there, and it was time to call it a day. A fascinating day, an inspirational day, and one hell of a slog. I may take a day off in future and do a similar trip around the galleries of Hoxton or Mayfair.
    Marcia is a genius!

    Wednesday, September 05, 2001

    Last night, as I was leaving work, a man looked right at me and said, "Roy?" I ignored him and kept walking, but he continued to call after me, "Roy? Roy!" I went down into the tube station, but realised I'd forgotten my book on my desk, so went back up. As I emerged, he ran towards me: "Roy! Roy!" Once again, I ignored him, but when I left the building he was there again, waving to me from a parked car, "Roy!"

    I quite like the thought of having a doppelganger, but does he have to be called Roy?
    Ian wrote yesterday about the New Piccadilly Cafe in Denman Street. By Jove, he's right, you know. The place is a retro gem, an old-time 50s Soho caff straight out of Absolute Beginners. The place is a formica-spotter's dream: wood grain, marble effect, canvas texture, grey, yellow and burgundy.

    The New Piccadilly keeps the aspidistra flying. Stewards in starched white uniforms with jolly red epaulets gilde unctuously among the potted palms. As many mustaches as an 80s night at a Polish gay bar. The raffish rake manning the till, with greying quiff and RAF tache - why it's Leslie Phillips, surely? The menu boasts of its genuine fifties fare, as though a return to the days of rationing were a benefit. I had a serviceable steak, egg and chips, and managed to resist the steamed puddings on the dessert menu. The two chaps at the table next to mine called a waiter over and, giggling, said "can we have two of those, please?" "Certainly sir, two spotted dicks on table eight."

    It's all a million miles from the slick gay Soho of today. However, here's a thing: The wall behind the till is a collage of once-garish postcards, presumably sent by satisfied customers or vacationing waiters. One of the cards has fallen off, leaving a space through which can be seen what I assume is an ancient ad for the Denman Hotel. But all one can see are the words: "MAN HOT".
    It's nearly midnight on a Tuesday night, and instead of crowing about the pop quiz we just won (kinda sorta - more tomorrow) I have to tell you about the awfully disturbing phone call I just had.

    When I left South Africa back in 1995, I left behind someone very important - Pano, my boyfriend of six years. A while after I left, Pano picked himself up and became a partner in a restaurant outside Johannesburg. The restaurant eventually became wildly successful, but there was a slight problem: although Pano knew he was a partner in the place, he had nothing in writing - typical Pano.

    Two months ago, the restaurant was raided by a gang of armed robbers. Pano was taken into the kitchen and was forced to open the tills and give the gangstas everything.

    This happened again last month. And again. Yesterday he was forced onto the floor, a masked man shouting obscenities at him, an AK47 pressed against his head, a boot on his face.

    Clearly, he should get out there. Now. But because of his confused financial status, he may have to leave there with nothing. Surely that's better than the horrible, almost inevitable alternative.

    Tuesday, September 04, 2001

    Hansel is a little slip of a girly-boy born to a West German mother and an American G.I. father. When the Wall is erected, his mother moves the two of them to a tiny, cramped apartment in East Germany, saying, "It is better to be powerless". One day Hansel follows a trail of American candy through the woods. The trail leads him to his sugar daddy - a handsome black American G.I. named Luther. In order to marry Luther and leave East Germany, Hansel adopts his mother's name - Hedwig - and has a sex change. As his mother says, "To be free, you have to leave something behind." But the operation is botched, leaving Hedwig with an inch of angry flesh.

    So begins this remarkable glam-rock-opera, an "anatomically incorrect rock odyssey". Hedwig And The Angry Inch is a cult film, like The Rocky Horror Picture Show meets This Is Spinal Tap, starring Kiki And Herb, directed by Todd Haynes. With a bit of Pink Floyd: The Wall chucked in. Hedwig's story is played out to loud, trashy songs inspired by those "crypto-homo rockers" David Bowie, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop.

    Hedwig's search for someone to make her whole is based on a myth in Plato's Symposium, that lovers are actually two divided parts of the same being, longing to be unified. "Does my other half have what I don't? Did he get the looks, the luck, the love? Is it a he or a she?"

    Packed with literary, filmic and musical allusions, it delivers more on repeat viewings (I know this because I've seen it two days running). It's great fun. The script is packed with bitchy one-liners: "When it comes to huge openings, a lot of you think of me", "I was involved in the very business we call show, performing odd jobs - mostly the jobs we call blow." When little Hansel tells his mother that "Jesus died for our sins," his mother snaps, "So did Hitler!" The jokes come thick and fast: the band's manager is named Phyllis Stein; they play at a women's rock festival called Menses Fair; Hedwig reveals she once wrote a philosophy paper titled "You, Kant, always get what you want".

    Hedwig always looks fab: she gets to wear more than 40 costumes, and 30 different blonde wigs, looking variously like Marlene Dietrich, Debbie Harry, Farrah Fawcett, and Tina Turner. There's even one outfit made entirely out of wigs.

    John Cameron Mitchell is brilliant as Hedwig. He also directs the film and wrote the screenplay. Stephen Trask wrote the songs. The rest of the cast is strong, though they don't get much of an opportunity to shine - this is Hedwig's show. But take a close look at Yitzhak, the bearded bassist (I'm not saying why).

    It's appropriate that a film about the search for your other half should be in two distinct halves. After the glam riot that is "Wig In A Box", the film takes a dark, desperate turn, and loses its sure footing. The two subplots - one involving Hedwig's protégé Tommy Gnosis, the other involving Yitzhak's desire to become a drag queen - are insufficiently explored. The film ends with Hedwig walking, naked and wigless, into the night. Has she found her other half? Has she become he? Is the Tommy Gnosis character her other half? Or is Yitzhak? Has Hedwig realised she wasn't missing anything, and was always a whole? I don't know.

    But I do know I loved the film, and I know I want to see it again.
    I've just realised that readers of Swish Cottage may be under the impression that Marcus is an incoherent, stumbling, drunk, foul-mouthed, English-mangling foreigner.

    Um.......
    This link stolen from the aforementioned Luke: Quick, before it's changed, go look at Emma Bunton's official site: www.emmabunton.com. [Damn! Just discovered her official site is actually www.emmabunton.net]
    Finchley Road stinks! Especially the stretch between the tube station and Finchley And Frognal rail station. The stretch on which Davo, Meg and Luke live. Coincidentally, I'm sure. Finchley Road stinks, literally, of shit. At lunch, I saw three people check the underside of their shoes to see what they'd stood in. Finchley Road stinks!

    Monday, September 03, 2001

    I am dead in glider accident. Make your own fake BBC or CNN report here.
    You thought that I'd be weak without ya, but I'm stronger
    You thought that I'd be broke without ya, but I'm richer


    I treated Marcus to dinner last night. Well, "treated" may not be the right word - it was only the Stockpot. The surly waitress showed us to our table - right next to Marcus' ex-boyfriend.

    You thought that I'd be sad without ya, I laugh harder
    You thought I wouldn't grow without ya, now I'm wiser


    Marcus rose to the occasion with a bitchy comment worthy of any down-trodden woman on the Jerry Springer show: "Oh, hi," he said, "What are you doing these days?"
    "I've gone back into advertising."
    "Yes, I saw your ad... In QX!"

    You thought that I'd be helpless without ya, but I'm smarter
    You thought that I'd be stressed without ya, but I'm chillin'


    And with defiant diva songs ringing in his mind, he strutted out of the restaurant, head held high.... and fell over a chair.
    If you surf the net a lot, you will have seen those annoying pop-under ads for digital cameras. Clicking here will set a cookie on your computer that will disable the ads for 30 days.
    Marcus was spectacularly drunk on Saturday. How drunk? This drunk:

    We left Sports And Shorts, and weaved our way to Victoria bus station, Marcus barely dodging several stationary vehicles. We joined the queue for the night bus, with me holding on to the back of his trousers to prevent him from falling into oncoming traffic. He was so unsteady, so cute, that I couldn't resist giving him a quick peck on the lips. The seven-foot bloke next to me said: "Oi! You don't want to be doing that mate; he's a bloke."

    Marcus slurred: "Yeah, but it's OK, cuz we're faggots!"

    The big bloke was taken aback, and mumbled, "Is it nature or nurture?"

    "Huh, izzit what?"

    "Is it nature or nurture, do you think?"

    Marcus replied: "Neither. We just crave dick. The way you crave pussy, we crave dick!"

    With that, I whisked Marcus off: "Ha ha, let's get a cab, shall we?"

    Saturday, September 01, 2001

    My OJ Simpson Meets The Hardy Boys cartoon-defacement made Need To Know. While I have no idea what Need To Know is, apparently I should be like, rilly, rilly flattered. I am in good company - this Missy Elliot vs George Michael video, You Gotta Have Freak, is pure genius.