Thursday, October 31, 2002

I received an email in error the other day. It was sent to me instead of to David in HR:
> David,
> Could you please define what is a 'Top Hat' policy/scheme in relation to
> Pension schemes?
I replied:
>It's where when someone leaves,
>you pass a hat round and everyone puts a bit
>of money in, to top up their pension.
Where is the logic in this? After over a year of putting up with my mobile phone (a Motorola Timeport 250) I've decided it's time for a new one. I'm with T-Mobile, so I was pleased to see the big signs on the windows of Carphone Warehouse telling me that the phone I want (the Nokia 8310) is now free.

And it is free, but only on new contracts. To upgrade on an existing contract, keeping the same phone number, it's £129.99. If I switch to a new network, I get the phone for free and I can keep my number. So it's bye-bye T-Mobile. The future is Orange

I called T-Mobile and told the customer service guy I needed my 'PAC number', as I was switching to Orange. "Hold on," he said, and put me on hold for ages.

"Hello, this is Geraldine. I believe you're thinking of leaving T-Mobile? You want the 8310? Well, allow us to buy it for you. Yes, free. Just get Carphone Warehouse to fax us the proof of purchase, and we'll refund your account immediately. Oh, and the price plan you're on: are you sure that's the right one for you? Why don't we switch you to this cheaper one? Oh, and I'll throw in 50 free text messages per month."
Ian and I went to see Donnie Darko last night. Jesus! What a headfuck. I think I need to see it again just to try to figure out what the hell happened at the end. A film that would be perfect on DVD - a few drinks, a smoke perhaps, and hours of, like, deep and meaningful debate afterwards.

Jonathan described the film as "Back To The Future meets Twin Peaks meets Halloween meets ET meets The Abyss meets Star Trek meets The Last Temptation Of Christ meets Harvey meets Stephen King meets Married With Children meets American Werewolf In London meets..." to which I'd add American Beauty meets Pretty In Pink. According to, customers who shopped for the Donnie Darko DVD also bought Memento, Mulholland Drive, Ghost World and Requiem For A Dream.

It's a teen movie, but perhaps one aimed at those who were teens in the 80s, which is when the movie is set. First-time director Richard Kelly has a bright future ahead of him - I'm sure Hollywood will chuck a lot of money his way, soon.

The film's official site is as odd as the film. You could spend hours wandering around it and still not have the faintest idea what's going on. Plus, naturally, someone's created a test to find out which Donnnie Darko character you are.
Overheard in the pub last night:

"A glass of Sauvignon please."
"Certainly. Sauvignon Blanc?"
"Er, no, the other one - Sauvignon Red?"

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Er, no I didn't. But thanks.
Note: Lavatorial, faintly pornographic illustration lurks just below the bottom of your screen - make sure your colleagues aren't looking at your monitor before you scroll down!

Do you doodle when you're on the phone? Often, after a particularly long call, I'll find that the pice of paper in front of me is covered with the name of the person I've been speaking to, or my own signature, or some seemingly meaningless word, repeated over and over, underlined or boxed. When I was a teenager, I used to think I drew eyes really well, and would fill the margins of my school books with eyes - usually Debbie Harry eyes - until I read in one of my mum's mags that doodling eyes was a sure sign of paranoia. So then I worried that people would think I was paranoid...

Anyway, occasionally, my doodles take a life of their own and become proper drawings, almost without my noticing. I'll be scribbling away and, an hour later, I'll look down and, as if by magic, there's a complete picture. On Monday night, while watching dull telly [Buzzcocks, Coupling] I found that I had drawn this picture of Sophie Ellis-Bextor meeting a stop sign:

Last night, while watching 24-Hour Party People, I came up with this masterpiece:

It's a five-minute walk from my house to the tube station, but this morning - well, it was raining and I was feeling a bit bleah and there was a bus coming, so - I took the bus.

Big mistake. Five minutes later, we had barely moved an inch. There was some sort of obstruction blocking the intersection ahead. The lights went green, we stayed still. The lights went red, we stayed still. Green, red, green, red, green - aha - we're moving. We had almost reached the intersection when the lights went red again, but our resourceful driver carried on going. We reached the middle of the crossroads and got stuck.

Now we were blocking the road. Nobody could move, because there was a big red bus across both lanes. Oh, that didn't stop them trying. One determined motorist managed to squeeze the front end of his car into the tiny gap ahead of the bus. Stalemate. Gridlock. Green. Red. Green. Red. Green.

A woman got up and stood at the side doors, dragging her four-year-old with her. The kid started playing with the bright yellow webbing belt attached to the doors.

"Don't play with that, Jamie. I said don't play with that. Come away from the doors, Jamie. I'm not telling you again. Come away from the doors. I'm not telling you again. I'm not telling you again. I'm not telling you again."

The more she yanked him away from the doors, the more stubbornly determined he became, screaming, kicking, yelling, trying to reach the doors. The man sitting next to me starts drumming his fingers on the railing. "Will you stop that," I wanted to shout, till I noticed that my fingers were doing the same.

Green. Red. Green. Red. "I'm not telling you again, Jamie."


Tuesday, October 29, 2002

This week I have been mostly entirely listening to the bonus remix CD that comes with Forever Delayed - the Manic Street Preachers' greatest hits.
Moments from a great weekend:
  • At Abigail's Party on Friday night, as the actress playing Beverley walked on stage wearing a very low-cut gown, Marcus leaned to me and said, in a surprisingly loud stage whisper: "Nice tits!"
  • At Abigail's Party on Friday night, Marcus leaping to his feet in a one-man standing ovation, followed by me, and no-one else.
  • S. H. O. P. P. I. N. G. on Saturday afternoon. Zara, HMV, Sainsbury's and Virgin Megastore.
  • Cooking ostrich steaks for Marcus on Saturday evening.
  • Sending text messages to Andy during the overly-dramatic Pop Stars The Rivals on Saturday evening.
  • Drinks with Ian at First Destination at Dukes on Saturday night.
  • Very drunken text messages from Andy on Sunday afternoon, and me telling him to "Go home. Now!"
  • At the RVT on Sunday, crooning along to the Carpenters' "Close To You" with Luca: "Wah, wah-ah-ah-ah-aaah, close to you!"
  • At the RVT on Sunday, singing along to the Almighty mix of Soft Cell's "The Night" with Mike: "So he paints a pretty picture..."
  • At the RVT on Sunday, enquiring of G: "Is your friend still snogging mine?"
  • Green & Blacks are running a novel poster campaign in my local tube station. The escalators are lined with numbered posters: "18: I am forgetting the first chcolate I ever tasted"; "17: I am forgetting selection boxes"; "16: I am forgetting easter eggs"; "15: especially those that have free mugs"; and so on, up to: "3: I am forgetting foreign chocolates with names like Krappi"; "2: I am forgetting chocolate bars that are smaller than they used to be"; "1: I am forgetting chocolate from station slot machines"; and finally: "I am ready - Green and Blacks Organic Chocolate."

    Clever campaign. Except:

  • The shop in the station ticket hall doesn't sell Green & Blacks. Missed opportunity or what?

  • Descending the escalators, the very next poster you see after this campaign reads: "A child will have died of poverty by the time you reach the next poster".
  • Leaves. Why do they do that? London pavements are covered in fallen brown leaves right now, but only in places. They form huge piles, all huddled together in clusters. Why do they do that? Why do they choose just that spot along the wall? Why are there whole empty stretches with not a single stray leaf, and then occcasional, seemingly random, leafy mounds? I'm pretty sure it's not that someone has swept them up into these heaps - surely they would have carted them away too. Strangely, within each pile there are gaps, empty spaces where no leaf dare go. Why do they do that?

    Monday, October 28, 2002

    Wading through my archives, I rediscovered Rob's Amazing Poem Generator. Create your own poem based on any web page. Here's one based on Swish Cottage:

    Generate a whirlwind
    of an imagined

    I wandered around Europe when we stepped out nice, you can impress
    your head
    Where was
    when I stay at 18?
    already done years to

    Generate a sensitive
    wee thing. Back on
    the night I fly away
    home .

    gleefully jumping in the
    last I like that you time: hours,
    memories are one
    of friends a different turn thirty year anniversary
    is a farm in
    the landscape, my place,
    my at all.

    Fallen angel,
    in England.
    perhaps I got
    to move us
    when young, enough of my family
    waved us goodbye

    fly home I tried
    long to
    a little
    silver St Christopher on a degree,
    the sun, rose the night when
    it and mentality.
    Johannesburg bad as Aids

    and what
    you were gay, scene,
    at myself
    now a crisis of this the night
    probably would have
    long silky grass.
    and keep my memories
    regrets when I stay
    at my continual arguing.

    I am
    clubs, I loved. all the
    UK, that I would
    feel slightly sad and keep friends.

    And had wanted to,
    ignore the sun, rose
    the point of my
    heart soared when it was.

    too far this trip was the internet.
    a grand climax
    and they have any photos
    of those terrifying
    ones that set in
    Guardian met David
    Beckham. And Wednesday. Presumably
    more famous than the nude
    David Beckham.
    I was forced to watch the Kylie concert yesterday. Forced, I tell you. Jonathan kindly popped round to drop off his X Box for Marcus to play with while he's away. Jonathan later bumped into Ian and claimed we'd ignored him because Kylie was on. As if!

    Anyway, during the performance of "Confide In Me", a message flashed up on screen, saying "Call 1-500-CONFIDE". So, just for a laugh, I did. I got such a surprise when it actually rang, that I put the phone down immediately. And then I thought, "hey, maybe it's some sort of competition line and I can win - oooh, I don't know - a pair of gold hotpants or something," so I called it again. Again it rang and an angry-sounding man answered: "T&T Consultants" [or something like that]. Again, I panicked and slammed the phone down.

    Marcus didn't believe that anyone had actually answered, so I passed the phone to him and he dialled 1-555-CONFIDE and also panicked and slammed the phone down* when the angry man answered.

    Why was he angry? How many people idly wondered if 1-500-CONFIDE was a real number? How many times did he have the phone put down on him during yesterday's transmission of the Kylie concert? Of course, if I was a real journalist, I'd phone the company today and make proper enquiries, but I'm just a blogger, and can get by with idly wondering. What I will tell you is that you can watch the Michel Gondry video for Kylie's new single "Come Into My World" at

    *When I say "slammed the phone down", I really mean "pressed the 'off' button". Or, in this case, "giggled nervously, blindly pressed all the keys on the phone, and chucked it on the bed like a red-hot brick".

    Sunday, October 27, 2002

    I am in Marcus's kitchen, using his laptop. He is in his bedroom, playing Klonoa 2 on the PlayStation. I have no idea what it's all about, so I'll make up a plot based on its Tchaikovsky-lite soundtrack. I'm guessing that it's set in Russia; he is being set upon by mad whirling monks on springs, while high-kicking circus clowns attack him en masse. Now he is very drunk and having a conversation with a five-year-old blue midget. Church bells are ringing, I'm imagining a snow-bound Moscow, lovers ice-skating on a frozen pond. Oh, hang on, the annoying midget is back, and he can't skate. Now the music swells in a grand climax and he is dashing around excitedly, eating hundreds of pep pills. Now comes the inevitable come-down, as he falls into a series of dark caves, battling glowing green spiders in a torrential downpour.

    I've just popped in to see what is actually going on: I was quite close. Klonoa is a blue midget, and when I went in, he was indeed in a series of dark caves, in the rain. No glowing spiders, but lots of glowing green diamonds. I completely failed to imagine the giant puffin he was riding, though.

    Friday, October 25, 2002

    The clocks go back this weekend. At 2am on Sunday morning, the clocks go back one hour, making it 1am, so you can live that last hour again.
    And when she shines she really shows you all she can

    The most sibilant, microphone-splattering lyric in pop?
    Meg asked us yesterday to remember our first celebrity crushes. "easy," I thought, "Debbie Harry." And yes, back in the late seventies, early eighties, I was the numero uno Debbie Harry fan. My room at boarding school was literally covered with pictures of Debbie: everything from huge posters to tiny pictures cut out of magazines. Debbie was the perfect pop star - gorgeous, slutty, sexy yet credible.

    However, not all my crushes were quite that credible. Reading through the comments on Meg's site, memories came flooding back. Did I really used to have a 'thing' for Kristy McNichol? Puzzlingly, yes. And, most embarrassingly of all, did I really come over all funny whenever Johnny of Sha Na Na gazed at me through the telly screen, all doe eyes and falsetto? Cringingly, yes.

    Mike posted pics of his first crushes. Here are mine: [pics removed to conserve bandwidth]
    'In England they think I'm one of the Teletubbies' - Björk in today's Guardian
    'I met David Bowie the other day at dinner," she says, evidently keen to get this off her chest, "and, I mean, he's obviously 10 times more famous than I am, but it was just good to hear someone else say it: that there are just nutters for paparazzi [in the UK] where they've got four tabloids competing against each other, whereas there's only one in New York. Nobody bothers him [Bowie] in New York, he can walk around there all day, and in London they'll be sleeping outside his house." It seems that, even more than the events of 1996, it was the subsequent media circus that caused Björk most grief. "I may not be much of a heartbreak because I'm from Iceland anyway, but you're actually throwing away a lot of your favourite people out of your country. John Lennon did it, too, right? He moved to New York because of this."

    Björk has a theory. "I was wondering the other day whether it's because of the royals. Maybe nobody has any sympathy for them because they don't ever have to work, they just get born and they have money, right? So everybody thinks we have unlimited access to their private lives, because they're on this 'dole' from us. Well, they have a similar attitude to celebrities - kinda like, 'We made you this rich, so we've got unlimited access to you... to your life.'"

    Thursday, October 24, 2002

    Name that tune in one
    Track six of Lemon Jelly's Lost Horizons album, "Experiment No. 6", details a supposed experiment where a subject is given a drug under controlled conditions. Just under one minute into the track, there's a piano note that is naggingly familiar. It occurs at 0:57, and again at 1:11, 1:25 and 1:38. Yes, just one note. It might seem silly, but I am convinced I recognise it - I reckon it's sampled off something I know well. But what? It's driving me mad.

    Mike? Elisabeth? Anyone?
    Whew! Panic over! I was sitting at my desk a couple of minutes ago, idly wondering if had been registered. I typed it in and discovered it has, but there's just a blank page with a redirect. So then I wondered if has been taken. I typed that in and... whooah! it's a portal to a porn website, one of those terrifying ones that keep opening up more and more windows, each more pornographic than the last. One of the senior managers in our company chose just that moment to sneak round and ask me to do something. I panicked and stabbed my monitor's on-off button a couple of times: Off! On! Off! On! OFF! "What was that?" he asked. "Oh," I replied, red-faced, "my computer keeps crashing."

    Virtually every variation on Ulrika's name [Ulrika Johnson, Ulrika Jonnson, etc] has been registered. According to whoisreport, the following dot.coms have been registered, but I daren't check to see what's there: sven and ulrika; ulrika; ulrika-johnsson; ulrika-jonsson; ulrikajohnson; ulrikajonnson; ulrikajonsson.

    Update: takes you to a porn director's site called "The Evil Empire". Time to clear my cache, I think!
    Things that are occupying my brain this morning:
    1. Why do people say "Hi, it's me" when you answer the phone? Who else could it be?
    2. Why is it colder in winter? I should know this, but I can't remember.
    3. And why is colder at the poles, winter or summer?
    4. How and why does Immodium work?
    5. Can you infect yourself with an illness you already have?
    6. Why do white jet vapour trails on a crisp blue sky make me happy?
    7. Why are Westlife popular?
    8. What was I doing?

    Wednesday, October 23, 2002

    Blogger Pro™ - Power Push-Button Publishing

    Hmmm.... that name looks familiar!
    [Thanks Fraser]
    Channel 5's Matthew Wright has 'inadvertently' named the TV presenter whom Ulrika Jonsson has accused of date rape. It's John Leslie, currently fronting "This Morning". Meanwhile, Ulrika has been granted an injunction against former lover Stan Collymore, banning him from selling an explicit video of the two of them having sex.

    As ye sow, so shall ye reap.

    Doonesbury on blogging: Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Presumably more to follow this week. A cycnical ploy to get webloggers to link to the Doonesbury site? Probably.
    There's a guy who stands at Kilburn station, collecting money for charity, holding a sign saying, "Help us save the last 4,500 wild tigers". This number has remained unchanged for at least the two years that I've lived in Kilburn, so judging from his sign, the tiger population seems pretty stable. If they're not decreasing, why give money? And if people have been giving money for at least two years and the tiger population has shown no increase, why keep giving money to his organisation? Anyway, a quick web search seems to indicate that the number of wild tigers is probably somewhere between 5,000 and 7,500.

    Of course, the protection of endangered species is a must, and a very worthwhile cause. But my issue is with his stipulating a number; and an unchanging number at that. Perhaps I'd be more inclined to donate if every time I saw him, he'd crossed out the number and made it a bit smaller. "Help us save the last 4,500 4,499 4,498 4,497 wild tigers".

    Monday, October 21, 2002

    "All the ducks are swimming in the water, fal-der-al-der-al-der." The new Lemon Jelly album is wonderful. The packaging is a delight - it helps to have a band member who has his own graphic design firm. "Chillout" is a discredited term these days, and it won't be long till these tracks are all soundtracking mobile phone ads, but if you're a fan of quirky downtempo music, buy it.
    To conserve bandwidth [mine and yours], I have archived the photos from my recent "holiday at home" here.
    Original English Text:
    It is Monday, and I am tired after a weekend of excess. So I didn't go to Italy, but I had a wonderful holiday in London.

    Translated to French:
    C'est lundi, et je suis fatigué après un week-end d'excès. Ainsi je ne suis pas allé en Italie, mais j'ai eu des vacances merveilleuses à Londres.

    Translated back to English:
    It is Monday, and I am tired after one weekend of excess. Thus I did not go to Italy, but I had marvellous holidays in London.

    Translated to German:
    Es ist Montag und ich bin nach einem Wochenende des Überflußes müde. So ging ich nicht nach Italien, aber ich hatte erstaunliche Feiertage in London.

    Translated back to English:
    It is Monday and I is tired after one weekend of the abundance. Thus I did not go to Italy, but I had amazing holidays in London.

    Translated to Italian:
    È lunedì e la I è tired dopo una fine settimana dell'abbondanza. Così non sono andato in Italia, ma ho avuto feste stupefacenti a Londra.

    Translated back to English:
    It is monday and it is tired after one fine week of the abundance. Therefore they have not gone in Italy, but I have had narcotic festivities to London.

    Translated to Portuguese:
    É segunda-feira e é tired após uma semana fina da abundância. Conseqüentemente não foram em Italy, mas eu tive festivities narcotic a Londres.

    Translated back to English:
    It is monday and he is tired after one week fine of the abundance. Consequently they had not been in Italy, but I had festivities narcotic London.

    Translated to Spanish:
    Es lunes y él es cansado después de una multa de la semana de la abundancia. Por lo tanto no habían estado en Italia, pero tenía festivities Londres narcótico.

    Translated back to English:
    It is Monday and he is tired after a fine of the week of the abundance. Therefore they did not have been in Italy, but he had festivities narcotic London.

    "Narcotic"?? How did MultiBabel know that?

    Tuesday, October 15, 2002

    Just a quick note to say I'm in London, but I'm pretending I'm in Italy. That's a bit hard with this weather, but I'm planning to do the stuff I would have done had I made my flight: I'm visiting museums and churches and eating out. [Somehow, however, I doubt that the spaghetti bolognaise at Ellie's Cafe on Kilburn High Road is typically Bolognese.] I'm about to head off to South Kensington. We might not have fountains with women shooting water out of their tits, but the Albert memorial is pretty bloody fab, and there's a retrospective of Italy's favourite son, Gianni Versace, at the V&A.

    Monday, October 14, 2002

    You thought I was in Italy? Me too.

    I was on the Stansted Express, and that vague feeling I'd had all day of having forgotten something was realised: I'd left my passport at home. A high-speed cab chase across London ensued, until we hit a traffic jam in Hampstead, and it became clear I'd never make it back to the airport on time.

    Ah well, London is a lovely city in which to spend your week off.

    Friday, October 11, 2002

    Remember the early days of the internet, when virtually every web page had a tiled image as a background? And when animated gifs were, like, cool? The fact is, they weren't cool and thankfully they soon disappeared, along with dated tiled backgrounds.

    I've had this animated gif for four or five years.

    I don't know where I got it from, but I've been keeping it, hoping one day I'd find a good use for it. I think I finally have: as a tiled background.
    OK, so I booked my flight online. I found my hotels in Bologna and Florence on the internet. I ordered the perfect reading material via Amazon. I have printed out maps of both cities from the excellent MapBlast. I've researched all the must-see cultural sights as well as the best bars and restaurants. I have found a page of handy Italian phrases which I found online.

    Hey, maybe I don't have to go in person at all!
    Hurrah! Brainsluice is back - the internet is a brighter place.
    I am not a believer in dream analysis. I don't accept that dreams are filled with meaningful symbols that must be pored over and intrepreted. I don't believe that a dream of sheep means you are weak and unable to protect yourself.

    If I dream of sheep, I have probably been watching Bladerunner. My deams are movies played out in my head for my own enjoyment. They are filled with people I know or have known and things I have recently seen, or have been been thinking about. If I watch a film like Rear Window just before bed, chances are - as happened one night this week - my dreams will have a voyeuristic quality. This doesn't mean I am secretly a Peeping Tom [OK, bad example!].

    However... sometimes you are confronted with what appears to be hard evidence. If I were to relate the dreams I had last night, you'd be very, very worried. Especially if you knew me personally - you'd be afraid that you'd wake up in the middle of the night being murdered by me. Surely such a violent dream - filled with stabbings and poisonings and drownings and suicides - must reveal the unbalanced nature of my subconscious?

    Then again, I did watch
    The Man Who Wasn't There just before bed.

    Thursday, October 10, 2002

    Just some of the more bizarre phrases people have typed into search engines recently, only to find my site:

    amputee pretenders
    "Got brass, in pocket. Not gonna use my arms, not gonna use my legs, not gonna use my fingers, gotta use my, my, my, imagination..."

    hung pupils share penis with teacher
    "Sir, sir! Would you like a bit of this?" Well, you got to admit, it beats an apple.

    quiz hats one men die colour
    Anybody? Anybody?

    where to buy x ray googles
    Have you tried a search engine?

    vera lynn machine gun fellatio
    So, that's why she was called the "Forces' Sweetheart".

    wig quiz
    Here are the answers.

    cruel roasted penis pics
    "Cruel" roasted? As opposed to...?

    cause of inside penis head ich
    Ich bin ein dickhead.

    poems of penis going into the virgina
    Go on, a prize for the best poem in the comments.
    It has been vaguely there, in the background, all week, though I've been ignoring it. On Monday, I tried to write it off as a hangover. I convinced myself that all the sneezing on Tuesday was an unseasonal bout of hayfever. Wednesday morning, I had a tell-tale nosebleed. Wednesday night, I alternated between being freezing and having to wrap myself in a duvet. Now it's Thursday, and my eyes are eerily shiny, my bin is full of used tissues, my nose is rubbed red. Yes, o joy, I'm coming down with a cold just in time for my holiday. Traitorous body.
    Do we know you?

    Wednesday, October 09, 2002

    Just unveiled: Marsyas, Anish Kapoor's huge new sculpture at Tate Modern. Made of PVC, it measures 155m long by ten storeys high, filling the entire great turbine hall, yet it arrived at the museum in one chest-freezer-sized box.

    The critics have been overwhelmed yet unimpressed: "Stupid yet unforgettable," says Adrian Searle in the Guardian.

    Personally, I'm a bit worried by the news that the engineering firm responsible for the construction of the project, Arup, also did the wobbly bridge directly outside Tate Modern. But I hope to go see it this weekend.

    Tuesday, October 08, 2002

    Just a quick note to explain this quiet patch: I'm swamped at work, I'm looking forward to next week's holiday in Italy, and my brain's gone walkabout.

    Monday, October 07, 2002

    Unböring IKEA ad directed by Spike Jonze. Don't watch this on Tearful Tuesday, Marcus - if the Carphone Warehouse ad with the unwanted mobile brought tears to your eyes, you'll get all weepy at the plight of this poor lamp left out in the rain.

    Friday, October 04, 2002

    Oh, the irony - it's time for the next part of:
    The Swish Guide to South African Music - Part 9
    "Fallen Angel" by Lesley Rae Dowling - 1982 [download the mp3]
    "Will I Ever Get Over You?" by Lesley Rae Dowling - 1995 [download the mp3]

    Lesley Rae Dowling has A Voice - a voice you will either love or hate. Deep, soulful, smoky, hurt, raw, painful, mellow, earthy, husky or downright annoying, her voice is something of an acquired taste. Like a well-aged red wine, which is appropriate, really, as she's married to a wine farmer and they live on a farm in beautiful Stellenbosch.

    Lesley is beautiful, too, with her celtic looks: delicate features, porcelain skin, luminous blue eyes, and wild raven mane.

    I've uploaded two songs - "Will I Ever Get Over You?", an eight-minute epic from her 1994 album "Unbounded Waters" and her cover of a Yancey song, "Fallen Angel".
    I sit here in my room alone
    in my dressing gown
    Sunday morning comes along
    With its old familiar sounds
    Church bells call us all to pray
    Have I gone too far this way?

    Fallen angel, fallen angel
    Fallen angel in the night
    I can't fly home

    Somehow all this morning light
    shines heavy on my head
    I so proud to be the girl
    with the trick to turn your head and all
    Mama begged "don't fall to shame,
    "Oh baby, you're gonna lose your name."

    Fallen angel, fallen angel
    Fallen angel in the night
    I can't fly home

    I tried so hard for oh so long
    to wear a starry crown
    Ah, but when an angel falls,
    she falls a long way down

    Mama's gone, now I'm alone
    It was a man or two ago,
    Ah, who knows
    Sure enough these tired wings
    Have almost lost their glow
    Shining mirror keep me shining
    I'm too far down the road for trying

    Angel, fallen angel
    Fallen angel in the night

    I can't fly home
    Read more about Lesley Rae Dowling

    Let me know what you think of this. Buy South African CDs online at
    I don't wallow in nostalgia all the time, honest - but a thirty year anniversary is a good excuse, I think. But now it's the 4th of October; enough of the ifs, buts and maybes. It's time to stop living my life in the past or in an imagined future. There is no parallel universe in which my life took a different turn thirty years ago. I need to get on with living my life the way it is. I like it, and you seem to. It's turned out nice, you know.

    Thursday, October 03, 2002

    When I turned thirty, I decided it was time to return to the UK, to see if I would feel any more at home there. Flying in over the English landscape, my heart soared when I saw the patchwork of green fields. I was home, even though I hadn't seen it in more than twenty years.

    I am happier here than I was in SA, and it's that which leads me to wonder what it would be like if I'd never left.
    My younger brother was young enough not to notice the difference. My older brother loved all of the differences: running barefoot in the sun, playing rugby, and fishing and shooting and swimming. My older sister wanted to fit it immediately and had lost any traces of a British accent within months, becoming a real privileged white South African, in voice and mentality.

    As for me: I didn't like the heat, didn't like the dust, didn't like the accents, didn't like the outdoor lifestyle, didn't like the fact there was no telly. I didn't like the fact we moved around so much, didn't make any friends. I didn't understand apartheid, but I didn't like it. I didn't like the schools, didn't like the bullies, the hatred. I didn't like the smell of fear, even if I didn't recognise it for what it was.

    When we moved to SA, I was forced to repeat two-and-a-half years of schooling simply because I was too young. And after doing my O'Levels in Swaziland, I had to repeat the last year again, as O'Levels weren't recognised in SA. So by the time I did matric at the age of 18, I'd already done three-and-a-half years more schooling than other kids my age. I was sick of academia. The last thing I wanted was to go to university (and even if I had wanted to, my parents couldn't have afforded to send me there).

    Had we stayed here, I would have finished my O'Levels at 15, and my A'Levels at 17. I probably would have gone to university, as - thanks to the education system here - it wouldn't have bankrupted my parents.

    One of the consequences of moving around so much, and attending so many schools, was that I found it hard to make and keep friends. As soon as I got close to someone, we were whisked off to another school in another part of the country. I believe that as a result of this, I keep my guard up even today.

    Had we stayed in England, perhaps I would have had the same friends throughout my school years. Perhaps I'd be more open, more trusting. Then again, perhaps I'd be just the same. Or worse off: I doubt the seventies were an ideal time up north for a sensitive wee thing.

    Back in SA, my nomadic school life had given me a need for stability. Instead of ambition, I craved security. Because I didn't have a degree, I took a dead-end job. I became an apprentice in the government printing works.

    In the UK, armed with a degree, the world would have been, as Frankie was bellowing, my oyster. I would perhaps have gone into something like advertising. On the other hand, perhaps I - like millions of other young people in the 80s - wouldn't have found a job at all. Maybe I'd be on the dole, using the system. At least the absence of a social security system in SA means I have a good work ethic, refusing to take hand-outs.

    One of my greatest regrets, when I lived in South Africa, was that I could never get to see any of my favourite bands or singers. Only bland middle-of-the-road acts dared break the cultural boycott, and the sheer distance made South African tours economically impossible for the small indie acts I loved. It wasn't until I moved back to the UK that I finally got to attend a proper gig. In England, I would have spent the 80s and 90s seeing all the bands I could. I would have seen the Smiths at their peak, Depeche Mode when they were still playing clubs, I would have followed Marc Almond around the country. And abroad, of course, for I could have travelled extensively - something I couldn't do in South Africa. I would have backpacked around Europe when young, travel broadening the mind and all that.

    The gay scene in Johannesburg wasn't bad - there were three or four bars and a pretty big club. I imagine it was like the scene in Bristol or Leeds. Or Stockholm. Johannesburg was certainly the city to live in if you were gay, and that was one of the reasons I moved there. Just as you can bet that if I'd been in England, I'd have moved to London as soon I could.

    I look at myself now - a master of London's gay scene, with hundreds of friends in hundreds of bars, a thousand conquests in a thousand days - and I don't recognise the quiet, shy wallflower I was back in SA. But how much of my new-found confidence is due to geography, and how much is due to age and maturity? Perhaps I would have overcome much of my social ineptness by now even if I had stayed in SA.

    And what if I had launched myself onto the London scene at 18? Would I have become caught up in a whirlwind of drugs and sex? Would I have become jaded and bitter at a young age? I would have entered the gay scene just as Aids was becoming front page headlines - perhaps I'd now be dead.

    Who knows?

    Who can say how much one's personality has to do with environment? It's the old nature-or-nurture dilemma. Maybe I would have a fabulous life: loads of friends, a successful career. Maybe I'd be lonely and jobless, living from giro to giro. Maybe I'd still have had a crisis of confidence at thirty, and would have moved to another country - South Africa perhaps. Or maybe I'd just be the same generally happy person I am now, with only the names and places changed.

    Hey, maybe I'd now be writing a blog entry about how different my life could have been if my dad had dared to move us to South Africa the way he had always dreamed!
    It was the third of October, 1972. My dad's family waved us goodbye as we left Preston station on a coach bound for London. My Auntie Margaret hung a little silver St Christopher on a chain around my neck to protect me on the flight. The flight itself was enormously exciting - we stopped in the middle of the night on a real tropical island [Las Palmas] and drank incredibly expensive Coca-Colas from dinky heavy glass bottles. This trip was going to be fun.

    But as the sun rose the next morning and our plane flew over the vast African plains, I got a bad feeling. The landscape, as far as the eye could see, was orange and brown and red. Where was the green? This certainly wasn't England - it didn't even look like earth. It was alien, Martian. The blast of heat that hit us when we stepped out of the plane, onto the melting tarmac, was furnace-fierce. This wasn't the heat of my English summers - this was another planet. I wasn't going to like it here.

    And I didn't.
    In childhood, it is permanently summer, even in England. Long golden, sunny days of nature walks, rolling in fields, of melting ice-lollies and "ladybird ladybird fly away home". It never rains in the past, and when it does, you splash home, gleefully jumping in puddles. When I look back on my English childhood, I am playing in impossibly green fields, burrowing tunnels through long, silky grass. I am playing hide-and-seek in the spinney behind our house, smelling the earthy odour of autumnal beech trees. I am picking blackberries: one in the bucket, one in my mouth.

    Quite absent from my memories are any unhappy times. My recollections gloss over my parents' continual arguing. I manage to ignore the fact that we lived in virtual poverty, in the depressed seventies, in a literally crumbling farmhouse, in the arse-end of Preston. It really was grim up north. If I think hard, I can just about remember feeling shy and isolated at school. And although I do remember playing with my mum's best friend's kids, I can't remember having many friends.

    But all of this was when I was too young to know sorrow and regret. It's not till you get older that you start to become self-aware, that you see the bad as well as the good. Not till you reach, ooh, eight-and-a-half - the age I was when I was uprooted and moved to a foreign country.
    I always feel slightly sad and nostalgic on the third of October. This year is a big one: it's thirty years to the day since we upped sticks and left England for Sunny South Africa. I often wonder what my life would have been like if we hadn't moved. So forgive me, please, for a day of memories, regrets and what-ifs.

    Tuesday, October 01, 2002

    At last, I understand the point of Fashion Week. These photos of Christian Monzon half-wearing Dolce & Gabbana make me want to book my ticket for Milan now. [pics removed to conserve bandwidth]
    Domestic chores? Cookery? Recipes? Whatever next? Normal service will resume shortly. Ready, Steady, Cock.
    I'm not a good cook. No, hang on - that's probably not true. I can cook - I just don't do it very often. A case of Can Cook, Won't Cook.

    On the evenings I stay at my place, my evening meal is usually one of the following:
  • half a chicken and chips at Nando's
  • a curry at a cheap'n'nasty fast food place
  • a take-away pizza
  • a microwaveable TV dinner from Somerfield
  • a steak or tuna steak which I can quickly pan-fry
  • a bung-it-all-together salad
  • three packets of crisps and a Mars bar

    On the evenings I stay at Marcus's place, I eat very, very well. Marcus has recently discovered he enjoys cooking, and he loves trying out new recipes on me. His most recent discovery - a roasted onion and lemon salad - is one of the tastiest things I've ever eaten. Ask him for the recipe. As he loves cooking, I rarely have to venture into the kitchen myself, so I've lost any kitchen confidence I may once have possessed.

    So I was a bit nervous on Friday night when I offered to cook dinner for the two of us. I wandered around Sainsbury's in a dwaal, up and down the aisles, trying to find something I knew I'd be able to cook. "Hmmm... there's a special on tiger prawns - what can you make with them? I know, let's have a look in these cookbooks. Prawn curry? Sounds good. Let's see.. page 62. Right, prawns, coriander, ginger, garlic, coconut cream [whatever that is], curry paste. Sounds easy enough."

    It was. And it was delicious - I mean really, really good. So good, in fact, that Marcus demand I make it for him the next day, too. So good that I'll share the recipe with you so that you can impress your boyfriend/girlfriend/insignificant other.

    Finely chop half an onion, two cloves of garlic, some ginger, and some lime peel. Fry it for a minute or two. Then add two heaped teaspoons of curry paste. Stir it all together. Chuck in the prawns [or chicken or whatever]. Cook for a couple of minutes. Stir in a small carton of coconut cream. At the last minute, squeeze in a bit of lime juice and chuck in some roughly-chopped coriander. Serve on basmati rice. Delicious with a chilled gewurztraminer. Total cooking time: ten minutes. Total "ooh that was lovely, where did you learn to cook like that - oh I love you" time: hours, days.
  • Pssst! Wanna buy a cow?