Wednesday, May 14, 2003

The website for "This Is Uncool".
[via an excellent blog that's new to me: six different ways]
Regular readers have no doubt noticed my recent slump in output. When my side-bar is longer than the main bit, you know I have a problem. The last time this occurred was in December, when I threatened to give up blogging altogether. I thought I'd figured out what this was all about: I am scared of change. I stopped blogging in December when I took redundancy, and I'm doing it again now that I've started evening shifts at the paper.

I don't think it is change I am scared of, but uncertainty. On the surface, I sailed through the break-up with Marcus, blogging everything that moved. But that was a defence mechanism: graceful swan above, frantic paddling below. At least I knew the waters I was in, and I knew how to navigate out of them.

Much as I hate to admit it, I like routine. I like to know what my day is going to look like, I need to know that tomorrow won't differ from today. I like certainty. I require stability.

I am aware that sounds odd from someone who spends his life on the edge, or pretty damn near it. But I am a trapeze artist - I will execute death-defying manoeuvres as long as I know there's a safety net to break my fall. Right now, the net has been pulled away - I'm winging it. I'm employed on a strictly casual basis, which is a first for me. I could be out of a job tomorrow. Also, Marcus has recovered enough from our break-up that he wants to go out for a drink. Do I want that? I do. I don't. I'm scared.

I don't know what I want. And - for me - that's new, and frightening.

For a control freak like me, who needs certainty, it's a scary situation. Oh, it's a healthy situation, I suppose. I can't always predict what is going to happen. I can't always be in charge. I need to be challenged, to be surprised. And so I launch myself into a somersault, having faith that I will catch the swinging bar.

And if I don't? Hell, I've seen The Greatest Show On Earth - I always play the wounded clown.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Over the last few weeks, I have received some amazing presents from readers. Amanda - all the way from Australia - has sent me This Is Uncool - The 500 Greatest Singles Since Punk And Disco. A few years ago, I read The Heart Of Rock And Roll - The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made by Dave Marsh. While I loved it, his choices were too American and completely dismissive of my favourite genre - electropop. "If only I had the willpower," I told myself, "I'd compile a book about the real greatest singles ever made." I don't need to now - Garry Mulholland has done it for me. He's about the same age as me, and our cultural references are almost identical. I checked the index, wondering if my favourite singles were included: "Atomic": check; "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye": check; "Uptown Top Ranking": check; "Coffee + TV": check; "Back For Good": check. And loads I'd forgotten: "Remember Me" by Blueboy; "You Don't Love Me (No No No)".

Mullholland's writing is pretty sharp, too. Here's his description of The Buzzcocks' "Spiral Scratch" EP: "None of the songs are actually about wanking exactly, but, if ever you've tried to masturbate while on a speed comedown and emerged three hours later with nothing but a cramped claw where your hand used to be, then you'll know what Devoto sounds like on this record."

Thank you, Amanda, and please don't take this the wrong way when I say I'm going to keep it in the toilet!
No, I haven't received my iPod yet. I placed the order on the 1st of May, and Apple's website said I should allow eight to ten days for delivery. It's now twelve days later, and no sign of it. Their clunky website tells me only that my order is being assembled, and gives no idea of how long this will take. I've just called them, and was told that my order is expected to be ready to ship on the 28th of May. So I should receive it about five days after that - over a month after ordering it - all going to plan, which I doubt. I really wish I'd just gone down Tottenham Court Road now.
New Lynx ad on TV: "Men's sweat only attracts other men. Is that really what you want??"

Er, yes.

Give me the natural smell of man [or 'manstink' as it's so charmingly referred to in personal ads] over deodorised pong any day.

Monday, May 12, 2003

Swiisssssshhhhh. That was the sound of a veil being drawn over this weekend's happenings.

Saturday, May 10, 2003

It's Freak Night on Kilburn High Road.

Outside Brondes Age bar, a middle-aged man chats on his mobile, wearing a full Spiderman costume, the mask pushed back off his face onto the top of his head. The kid who processes my Switch card in the computer games shop is all of nine years old. Across the road, the pug-faced woman is keeping up her usual ignored litany: "Excuse me, excuse me, excuse me..." The dirty, scary man is lying on his sun-lounger in the council block gardens again, his obscene crotch competing with his enormous belly and jellied thighs. Further up the hill, an old man stands by the side of the road, casting an imaginary rod into the imaginary river that is Cricklewood Broadway. A young well-dressed guy stands on a corner screaming and punching, wrestling with demons.
This working nights business doesn't half get in the way of good drinking time. For the last two weeks, I have worked from 9pm till 3am on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Can't go out for a few drinks with The Boys before work. Too late to go out for a drink after my shift. Oh God, I'm becoming teetotal. But saving lots of money.

Saving lots of money for my nine days in Sitges at the end of June with The Boys, and drink aplenty.

Friday, May 09, 2003

<deja vu>
OK, who sent me The Manual (How To Have A Number One The Easy Way) by Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty [the KLF]? It arrived this morning, but the packing slip doesn't say who it's from. I'd love to know who to thank.
</deja vu>

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Monday, May 05, 2003

Ah, the logic of drugs. On Friday night Saturday morning, I went straight from finishing my shift on the paper to a Vauxhall after-hours club which is open from 3am to 3pm. Arriving stone-cold sober, I realised just how bizarre these places are. Clearly, everybody had been at it for hours - I've never seen so many unfocused people.

There were three guys at the door trying to get in. All three of them were much the worse for wear, but the one in the middle could not stand at all. His two mates were trying to hold him up. The bouncer took one look at them and said there was no way they were coming in with their friend in that state.

"He's just had a line of K," one of them explained to bouncer, "All he needs is a line of coke to sort him out. Is there anywhere here we can do that?"

I didn't hear the bouncer's reply, but I think I saw all three of them in the club later.

Friday, May 02, 2003

I've linked to Rob's amazing poem generator several times, but I never tire of the cut-up semi-sense it prduces [after a fair bit of editing]:
Swish Cottage walks across westwards directly to
my beer, of sore feet.
I was trying to
find the lion guarding
the warehouses, so I blocked
the stars.
My route was the average
age of the way. in pain.

Sipping my first beer of
bureaucratic delays. When, I had
driven Marc Bolan died, OK? Maps lie.
I considered climbing over the
gorgeous Buddhist peace pavilion
I was my name.
I was The road
I was holding forth about
instant history.

Swish Cottage walks
across westwards directly to
find the bleak industrial estates, with its surroundings.
I had stopped working.
An annual fixture in pain.
I discovered I was there in Battersea Home,
and a little zoo stocked with tangled weeds
An icon of blisters.

The Thames, littered with a beefy skinhead walking
a thirties stage actress:
An annual fixture in Rome

Swish Cottage walks across westwards directly to be ignored,
I considered
asking this magnificent building
the national Missing Persons Helpline, their
first, supervised swim,
proud parents escorting them

Swish Cottage walks across westwards directly
to entertain
I recognised you
instantly from the Eurovision compilation.
look very brave a little lost
The
abandoned hulls of time
Eyes of plate glass
their windows plastered with dodgy guys hanging
around, with peacocks... ...
In fact, I walked a likely tree
into decay like romantic pier.
Some quick thoughts after working nights at a newspaper for the first time:

1. Election night may not be the best night for your first shift. Those results keep trickling in, and the editor keeps putting back the time we'll close-off the paper's final edition.

2. The canteen shuts early, so ensure your bag is stuffed with durable nibbles.

3. Make sure you know which side of the huge building your car is waiting to pick you up. Running around a skyscraper at 3:30am in the rain is not fun.

4. When you do get home, go to bed immediately. Don't be tempted to check your email and surf the web 'just for a minute'.

5. Close your curtains before you go out - it's hard to sleep when the sun's shining directly on you.

6. Buy some earplugs, especially if your room is next to the front door, and if several sets of meter-readers and telephone-repairmen have chosen this morning to shout to each other down the hallway.

7. Try not to dream that you are sat in front of a computer terminal, re-laying out the front page, over and over.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

I am chipmunk, hear me roar. I'm convinced Audblog speeds everyone's voices up to make the file sizes a bit smaller. That's my excuse for sounding like a chipmunk on this Audblog post. A very loud chipmunk at that - you may wish to turn your volume down before clicking the icon below.

Powered by audblogaudblog audio post
"Two years after packing up his box of groovy tunes and heading south, DJ Juggy Jones makes a welcome return to the capital with the re-launch of Shake Your Tail Feather on Wednesday 7th May (and then every first Wednesday of the month) at FLIP, Lisle Street, WC2.

"Juggy is sure to keep the dance floor grooving as he takes the crowd on a musical rollercoaster ride through the Sixties and Seventies, with his funky blend of Motown, Northern Soul, Funk and Rare Groove.

"Dance the night away to classics from Diana Ross and the Supremes, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, get down to rare soul from the vaults of Stax, Hi and Atlantic, and get on up to funky tunes from James Brown, The O’Jays and the Fatback Band.

Shake Your Tail Feather, 1st Wednesday of the month (commencing 07/05/03), 10pm – 2am. FLIP, 30 Lisle Street, London, WC2 (Leicester Sq underground)"
Look what I just ordered think I might have ordered. There's a good chance I've just bought myself a 15GB Apple iPod - one of the new, even thinner, ones, laser-engraved with my name and telephone number.

Why the uncertainty? The Apple site doesn't accept Switch cards, so I had to place the order by phone and then transfer the money online. However, as I pressed 'send', I was suddenly logged out of my bank's site, and now I'm not sure if my order was accepted. I may have to wait a day to see if it's gone through.

I'm not going to press 'send' again just yet. Much as I covet an iPod, two would be plain greedy.
My London walk 2003

The full write-up of my birthday walk is now online. The page is pretty graphics-intensive as I took loads of photos, but there's plenty of text to read while the pics load. Click here.

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

I was hoping to tell you about the walk I did yesterday, but I have to rush off to work [more about that later, too]. In the meantime, here's a map showing the route I took.
OK, who sent me The Creation Records Story? It arrived this morning, but the packing slip doesn't say who it's from. I'd love to know who to thank.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

I seem to be heading out for a walk, pedometer clipped to my waistband. Abandoning my original vague idea of following the Victoria Line, I'm going to walk westward along the south bank of the Thames from Westminster to....? Vauxhall? Battersea? Wandsworth? Putney? Barnes? Hammersmith? Kew? Richmond? Twickenham? Kingston?

Lambeth?
Guy received the following email this morning:
>-----Original Message-----
>From: Ryan
>Sent: Tuesday, April 29, 2003 11:20 AM
>Subject: mr bump
>
>hey guys
>
>i had this book when I was a kid
>
>little did i know its effect on me in later years!!
>
>not sure what the relevance of the large K on his belly is all about though...
>
>xx
>R
Attached were jpegs of the book Luca made for me on Sunday, and which I posted yesterday. This must be a new speed record. It's not the first time I've received one of my own posts as a mass email - Guy recently sent out an email telling us about a review of the RVT translated from German. Yes, I know, I was the one who translated it.
The other day, suffering the effects of a heavy weekend, I turned on the telly and figured I was tripping. Brightly-coloured blobby creatures danced around a sparkly rainbow, revolving round and round, creating hypnotic patterns, dancing and interweaving, squeaking and whooping gleefully.

The Boobahs are the latest hallucinogenic creation from Tellytubbies creator Anne Wood. This description on Metafilter just about sums them up: "Imagine some aliens kidnapped a Teletubby, pumped it full of ecstasy, acid and marijuana, forced it to play Rez for eight hours straight and then sent it to bed and somehow watched its dreams."

The Boobah website is Faaaabulous. Make Humbah, Zumbah, Zing Zing Zingbah, Jumbah and Jingbah dance, remix their Banghra-inspired theme tune, herd them, pop them.

Monday, April 28, 2003

A big thank you to Pete, who bought me one of the best books I have ever read - Concrete Island by JG Ballard. I first read it about ten years ago, and am hugely looking forward to re-reading it.
Luca is a genius. He got me a pedometer for my birthday, so that I can measure how far I've gone when I get round to doing my annual walk. I certainly ain't doing that this morning - after the RVT and Duke's last night, I've barely managed the walk to and from the kitchen and bathroom [183 steps, or 0.071 miles].

Luca also made me the most brilliant 'card', a specially customised version of one of the Mr Men books. Mr Bump lives in a Swish Cottage and is forever falling over. Not sure I understand the relevance of the large 'K' on his belly...!

Saturday, April 26, 2003

Well, I had been having quite a nice day till that happened. Had a leisurely lunch, followed by a stroll through town, observing the world. I attempted a bit of shopping, then met up with a friend at Comptons for birthday drinks [his birthday, not mine, confusingly].

I left Soho at seven, walked down to Piccadilly Circus and got the Bakerloo Line. When I got off at Baker Street, intending to change onto the Jubilee, I automatically checked my back pocket, as I do a hundred times a day. Empty.

My wallet was gone. I ran back to the train, but - as expected - it wasn't there. I looked accusingly at the people who had been standing around me, but as they were an elderly couple taking the grandkids out, they seemed unlikely suspects. Luckily, I still had my mobile, so I went above ground and cancelled my cards immediately. There hadn't been any cash in my wallet, so presumably I've lost nothing. It's just damned annoying, that's all.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Lots of people have been coming here searching for information on Regina Fong. Here is some information about the funeral, taken from the Black Cap site:
The funeral will take place on Monday 28th April at 1.30pm at Golders Green Crematorium NW11.

For those wishing to ride in convoy to the crematorium you are invited to congregate at the Black Cap, Camden High Street, NW1 from where the hearse will be leaving. Assemble at 1240 for a 1245 departure. After the service, everyone is invited back to the Black Cap, where we will continue to remember and celebrate Reg's life.

Anyone wishing to send flowers might like to contact Funeral Directors Levertons and Sons, attn; Andrew H Leverton, 212 Eversholt Street, London NW1 1BD tel 020 7387 6075.
Work in progress:
For the cover of Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Beatles chose writers, artists, musicians and philosophers they admired, people who inspired them.

I came up with the idea of creating my own personal Sgt Pepper, featuring people who have inspired me. It's been fun placing them. Marc Almond at the front, of course. A great picture of the Pet Shop Boys, their brightly-coloured uniforms echoing the Beatles' Pepper suits. The guys from Blondie dressed like the Beatles' Tussauds waxworks on the original cover.

It's taking me a lot longer than I'd thought it would. I've been trying to work in high-resolution so that I can print it out when it's finished, but it's not easy to find high-res pics of everyone. I'm trying to track down good full-length pics of Neil Hannon, Marianne Faithfull and Jarvis Cocker for the front row. If you know of any good sources of big popstar pics, please let me know.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

A couple of years ago, I read a great book: Bleeding London by Geoff Nicholson. The novel links the stories of people who are obsessed with London in different ways. Stuart is determined to walk every street in the A to Z. Judy has a huge map of London on her bedroom wall, on which she marks all the spots in which she's had sex, and gets her shags to mark their sites too, building up a sexual map of the city.

This brings me neatly to two things:

1. It's my birthday on Monday and, as in 2001 and 2002, I'll celebrate by doing some sort of walk across London. Watch this space.

2. With new site ishaggedhere.com, you can create a plaque indicating where you've had a shag. The site doesn't go far enough in my opinion. There needs to be an online version of Judy's map in Bleeding London. You could enter the postcodes or addresses of the places you've shagged, then you could cross-reference your map with your mates' maps, overlaying them, each showing I shagged here. Does anyone know enough about programming to have a go at this?

Of course, I could combine the two and make my birthday walk a tour of all the places I've had sex. Hmmm.... could take me until my next birthday to finish that one.
Are you a faggot fanatic? Then watch tonight's Trouble At The Top on BBC2.
It seems that faggots have been losing popularity lately, so a faggot marketing team is combing the country for a family of faggot lovers. The winning 'Faggot Family' win a week in a posh London hotel, a family holiday to Disneyland Florida, a TV and a video and will be expected to represent faggots for a year, taking part in media interviews and promotional events.

"We are looking for genuine faggot fanatics. People who will preach the gospel." Meanwhile, chairman Oliver Murphy is watching the bottom line.

They engage the services of a psychologist to help in their quest to find the right faggot fanciers. "You must start living the brand. I want people you speak to to feel that they have met a real faggot enthusiast." It isn't all hard work as the Faggot Family is chauffeured to its promotional duties in a limousine. Part two of Wilfred's marketing campaign is 'National Faggot' week.

TheDoodys [the winning family] begin to resent the amount of time they spend promoting faggots. Frederick and Janet Doody run a market stall selling CDs, DVDs and posters, and are losing business when they have to drop everything and take their kids Lewis and Grace to do some promotion work. "Some business has probably been lost," says Janet. "We don't want to close our little business on a Saturday to do faggots, because then faggots will begin to take over our life."
Surely the real problem facing the faggot marketing board is the name. 'Faggots' is such an offensive word. Surely we could find something more gentle? I suggest 'Omi Polones' - it even sounds like some sort of meat product. Here are a few more of my alternative suggestions:

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

LA3 at Electrowerks, Easter Sunday. Grown men being led by the hand like frightened children, taking hours to pick their way across the dancefloor, edging step by precarious step. Semi-naked men rooted to the spot, dancing to stay alive. Arms flailing, fingers clawing the air, desperate to stay upright. Faces frozen in a rictus of fear. The music a constant barrage of noise. Bangin'. It was hellish. It was fantastic.

Saturday, April 19, 2003

Here's an historical artefact from my life. Between 1996 and 1999, I collected all the phone numbers I was given; and I was given rather a lot. Now - before you jump to conclusions - no, I did not sleep with all these people. The majority of these cards were handed to me by hopeful random strangers. But, sure, there are a few recognisable names. Look, there's Michael, and Roger, and is that really Alex? Some people were more persistent than others - George gave me his number twice, Dev three times. Click the image to make it bigger - I've blurred out the numbers.

The very bits of paper these numbers are scrawled on tell their tales. Business cards, beer mats, safe sex reminders, travelcards, post-it notes, condom packets, newspapers, magazines. There are ticket stubs from New York, Madrid, Barcelona, Antwerp, Prague. Swapping numbers is so much less revealing today - storing numbers in your mobile has none of the charm.

Friday, April 18, 2003

Before they were famous: Debbie Harry on the cover of a paperback edition of a book called 'The Franchise Affair' by Josephine Tey.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did. It's hard to know, when you're setting a competition all alone in your bedroom, whether you've made the quiz too easy or too hard. Judging from the scores, the difficulty level seems to have been about right. Being the sadistic bastard I am, I've taken great pleasure in the emails saying, "Oh, I know that one, it's on the tip of my tongue. I know I've got it on CD, but I can't find it. Aaaarrrgghh!" There was drama mid-contest as clear signs of cheating were uncovered. [ok, not really]

The correct answers:
1. Electric 6 - Danger! High Voltage
2. Heaven 17 - Temptation
3. ABBA - Dancing Queen
4. St Etienne - He's On The Phone
5. Prince - Alphabet Street
6. The Cardigans - My Favourite Game
7. Kelly Marie - Feels Like I'm In Love
8. Kylie Minogue - Better The Devil You Know
9. Madonna - Like A Prayer
10. The Boomtown Rats - I Don't Like Mondays
11. Deee-Lite - Groove Is In The Heart
12. Blur - Girls & Boys
13. The Pretenders - Brass In Pocket
14. Laura Branigan - Gloria
15. Pulp - Disco 2000
16. Eminem - The Real Slim Shady
17. Destiny's Child - Jumpin' Jumpin'
18. The Osmonds - Crazy Horses
19. The Pet Shop Boys - It's A Sin
20. Nelly - Hot In Herre
Listen to the snippet again.

And the winner is… Darren
Darren scored an amazing 39 out of 40. The only song he had trouble with was number 5: "I know it's Prince. Is it Sign O' The Times?"
Refreshingly, Darren doesn't have a blog to link to, but he does have a club to promote, and a fab one, too. Shake Your Tail Feather is coming back at last, playing Motown, northern soul, funk and rare groove. SYTF will be held on the first Wednesday of every month, starting the 7th of May, at Flip on Lisle Street.

2nd: Jonathan on 38 points. Like Darren, he named the wrong Prince track, and he also mixed up his Destiny's Child songs.

3rd: Elisabeth, 36 out of 40. Elisabeth had a last-minute change of mind: apparently the sunshine gave her a sudden flash of inspiration, and she cried "Eureka! Kylie Minogue!"

=5th: Dave
=5th: Mike
Dave and Mike both scored 34 out of 40. This makes it very nearly a clean sweep for ex-Retro Bar pop quizzers. Dave now lives in Sydney, but is keepin' the faith, man.
Mike once joined us for a Retro Bar quiz, too. I came fifth in his music quiz last week, now he's come fifth in mine. Neither Dave nor Mike recognised Madonna. That's several points on your Homosexualists' Licence, boys.

6th: Marc deserves special mention. He confessed he'd become totally obsessed with the quiz, sending me five entries in four days. Each time, he'd hopefully enquire: "And now? Have I done better?" and each time I'd have to reply, "nope, still 33."

7th: Paul [28].
8th: Diamond Geezer [27].
9th: Luca [26].
10th: Mark [22].

Followed by: Christian , Peter, Job, John, and Sarah. "Ooh! I got 28," squealed Sarah when she submitted her entry. "Er, no, love, 16, actually!"

Thanks to everyone who entered. I have been thinking of running a much harder one soon, with fairly obscure tracks that only a dedicated fan would recognise, but making it collaborative, with answers in the comments.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Peter recently held a poll to find out whether his readers approved of men's hairy backs. The poll has now closed, so I'm too late to influence the voting with this picture I took this afternoon:

Click on his back to see him in all his furry glory.
Sad news. Regina Fong has passed away. I arrived in London too late to really be a Fongette, but I'll never forget the first time I saw Regina one Tuesday at the Black Cap. This outlandish creature, part Margaret Thatcher, part Ken Dodd, commanded the adoring crowds as though she really were, as she claimed, Her Imperial Highness, The Grand Duchess Regina Fong, Last Of The Romanoffs.

The joy of Regina's act was that it was always the same, yet it was always different. She had perhaps 20 routines, and could fit eight into a show. The audience would fervently shout for which sketch they wanted that night. "Skippy! Skippy!" "Typewriter!" "Hollywood!" "Skippy!" Eventually, a running order order would be decided, Regina would insult the audience, and we'd all play air-typewriter, or act out Skippy The Butch Kangaroo.

Her act was hysterical and berzerk. She'd mime to "A Mouse In A Windmill" at normal speed, and we'd have to react at various points, going clip-clippety-clop on the stairs. Then we'd do it at double speed; then triple; then faster still. On eight pints of lager.

There was the usual professional rivalry between drag queens, and I think to an extent the DE Experience took some of Regina's audience. But secretly I think they were quite close. Edna will be doing a tribute show at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern this Sunday. This Easter Monday, Compton Street will see the first annual Easter Bonnet Parade organised by HIV fund-raising group UKCoalition. The winner of the best bonnet will be presented with the specially designed ‘Her Imperial Highness Regina Fong Award 2003’.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Time for a quick update on my 20 in 20 competition. It's neck-and-neck at the top - I think there are two people tied for first place. The score has edged up a bit over the last few days, but no-one's managed a clear round. Listen to this short mp3, note down the song titles and artists, and email them to me [don't leave answers in the comments]. The competition closes at midnight (BST) tomorrow.
When I started working from home, I was looking forward to all the time I would spend reading. Instead, I seem to spend all day in front of my computer, or in front of the telly. It's taken me two weeks to plough through In The Sixties, the autobiography of Barry Miles.

Miles was a well-connected figure in the London of the Swinging Sixties. He co-founded the Indica bookshop and gallery, which is where John Lennon met Yoko Ono. Miles's business partners were John Dunbar, who was married to Marianne Faithfull, and Peter Asher, whose sister Jane was Paul McCartney's girlfriend. He offers some intimate glimpses into the everyday lives of the Beatles and the Stones. Miles was closely involved in the UFO club, where the Pink Floyd regularly performed, bathed in a psychedelic light show.

Miles set up the underground newspaper International Times, running stories on drug-taking and way-out poetry by counter-culture heroes Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs.

I have always been fascinated by London - its geography, its history - especially its recent history. I have often told Ian that if I could be any age, I'd be his. Oh to be 17 in 1967. [Ian tells me it wasn't all it was cracked up to be, and didn't seem to notice the Summer of Love.] The London of Miles's book is familiar, yet so different:
The King's Road led straight to Glastonbury in those days (much as Brighton used to be the sea end of Wardour Street); everyone seemed to be travelling to Glastonbury each weekend and staying - those that were eligible - at Mrs Biggins' Aquarian Boarding House (those born under other signs stayed in bed-and-breakfasts, barns and haystacks).

Jane Ormsby-Gore and Michael Rainey decided to follow the ley lines to Wales, and Sue and I took the lease on 15 Lord North Street, a small Queen Anne house just round the corner from the Houses of Parliament. There were five floors including a basement, with a pocket-handkerchief garden in the back. The Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, lived across the street - he never did bother to move properly into Number 10. Our garden wall backed upon that of the editor of The Times, William Rees-Mogg. Lord Sainsbury lived next door to him. The rent was quite high at £15 a week, so Graham Keen took one of the floors.
Saddam Hussein starred in gay porn films.
In the newly uncovered 86-minute prison flick, Saddam, then just 34, plays a naive young peasant who is wrongly convicted and sent to jail. He is initiated into homosexuality by a series of older and more experienced cons.

"Saddam's acting in the picture is actually quite good," al-Sabah notes. "One scene, in which he buries his face in a pillow and cries, is so touching you almost can forget you're watching a low-budget sexploitation film."
Saddam and Gomorrah! I don't believe a word of it - a porn film with a 34-year-old being set upon by older men?
[via Fraser]

Monday, April 14, 2003

Oh, good Lord. I've unearthed another RVT regular who has a blog. I've known him in person for years, and he's been blogging since January, but I've just found it. So how many RVT bloggers does that make? Let's see:
  1. Me, obviously: usually found near the DJ booth or on the raised gallery.
  2. Ian: the token man with hair.
  3. Luca: can't decide if he's a Montague [near the DJ booth] or a Capulet [near the ladies'].
  4. Dave: he and Kelvin can always be found stage left.
  5. Steve: we only recently discovered him, but he's already one of us.
  6. Jonathan: hasn't attended for a while, tut-tut.
  7. Paul: I haven't seen him down there for a while either, but often bump into him in Duke's afterwards, along with...
  8. Sef.
  9. Marcus: Hasn't been for a while, for obvious reasons, and hasn't updated his blog, either. I miss him and look forward to the day when we can be friends.
  10. Dave: OK, he's moved to Australia, but there's a corner of the dancefloor that is forever Minkered.
  11. And now another.
And then there are those who turn up less regularly: Scally, Mike, Chig and Diamond Geezer. Nigel, perhaps? Foreign visitors Dave, Todd, Timothy and Dan have checked the place out, too. It will soon be one of the requirements of entry that you have a blog. Who have I left off?
Everybody is talking about the Honda Accord commercial, Cog. Watch the ad here. According to this Telegraph article, it is filmed in one shot with no edits, and took 606 takes to get it right.
The idea for the advert derived partly from the old children's game Mouse Trap, and from the wacky engineering of Caractacus Potts's breakfast-making machine in the Sixties film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Oh, so they didn't take inspiration from the brilliant film The Way Things Go by Peter Fischli and David Weiss, then? This is a 30-minute film made in 1987, in which a warehouse full of objects engage in a choreographed chain reaction, similar to the Honda advert. Read about the film here. And watch a brief extract from it here. (Remember, the actual film lasts for 30 minutes, resulting in ever-more ludicrous and inventive reactions, involving fireworks, fire extinguishers and various chemical reactions.)

Sunday, April 13, 2003

Entries for 20 in 20 have been coming in thick and fast. Well, not so much of the thick - so far, two people are tied on 28 out of 40. Can you do better? Take a listen to this short mp3, note down the song titles and artists, and email them to me [don't leave answers in the comments]. Don't worry if you haven't got them all yet; you've got till Wednesday to send me your answers.

Saturday, April 12, 2003

More crap telly. The producers of Reborn In The USA must be very glad the show's about to end. They'd banked a lot on the success of this show, and it just hasn't worked. The only time the show is even remotely entertaining is in the off-stage segments. We want more gossip, back-biting and drunkenness, and less karaoke. I taped tonight's show while watching "25 Years Of Smash Hits". I fast-forwarded past most of the performances, just watching the sequences filmed during the week. And, yes, OK, I watched the sequence of Haydon Eshun getting out of bed naked twice, just to see if there was a hint of... you know. There wasn't.

But... the same can't be said of fellow reality TV contestant, the newly-announced "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here" participant, footballer John Fashanu. [Wouldn't be the first Fashanu I've seen in the showers, but that's another story.] Somebody snapped pics of John Fashanu naked in a changing room, and turned it into a cock-swinging animated gif. Now, you have to wonder who takes a camera into a locker room and takes photos of a sportsman's penis. I mean, who would have the opportunity? Surely only a fellow team-mate? Anyway, here's the file. Not work safe, obviously.
Telly speling. Its rubish.
This week on Richard And Judy [look, I'm housebound during the day, I was desperate, OK?] they had a spelling bee, pitting Grans against Grads, oldies against youngsters, to see whose spelling was better. As it turned out, the contest was fairly even, but the worst speller was the person responsible for flashing the 'correct' spelling of the word on-screen for the viewers. "How do you spell 'accommodate'?" asked Judy. "A-c-c-o-m-m-o-d-a-t-e," replied the contestant, correctly. "Accomodate," said the on-screen title.

For another example, take "This Morning" with Fern Britten and Phillip Schofield. Please do. Please. Please don't make me waste my mornings waiting to find out the results of "Challenge The Stylist". Please. [Actually, I'll confess I don't know how Mr Schofield spells his name, but I'm not alone - Google returns 83 results for "philip schofield" "this morning" and 77 for "phillip schofield" "this morning".] Anyway, each morning, they ask a ridiculously easy question. This week they asked: "Name the famous fictitious British spy better known as 007. Is it (a) James Bond, (b) James Dean, or (c) James Brown?" Or, as the on-screen title had it, "What is the name of the ficticious British spy..." Someone on the production team obviously spotted the error and it was spelled correctly when repeated later.

In tonight's "25 Years Of Smash Hits" on Channel 4, former editor Mark Ellen remarked that once they'd noticed that the magazine's name could be written as S.Hits, they came up with variations on the name: PopPoo, PopDung and PopGuano. Or, as the on-screen title had it, PopGuarana.

Yeah, too much crap telly with cheap production values, I know. Highlight of my week was getting a nine-letter word on Countdown.
This is fantastic! Two record decks, twenty records. Put 'em on, mix 'em, crossfade 'em, make an unholy racket. This DJ-ing business is harder than it looks.
Vibe On! Turn your Nokia phone into a vibrator. Yes, really.
[via I Love Everything]
Paul and Luca have both quit smoking, and use the excellent Quitmeter to demonstrate how many cigarettes they've refused and how much money they've saved. This got me to wondering.

I've never smoked, but what if I had? Let's say I started smoking on my 18th birthday, and smoked 20 a day. How much would I have spent on the evil habit so far? Now, I haven't the faintest how much cigarettes are now, let alone the average price over the last 21 years, but I've chosen £3 a pack. How much would it have cost me?

QuitMeter Counter courtesy of www.quitmeter.com.
As Chig points out in a comment below, Saddam is a hot item on Ebay. A search on the auction site for 'Saddam' currently turns up 3,093 items. Dinar banknotes with Saddam's face on them may now be worthless in Iraq, but they're worth plenty on the internet.

People have put some unbelievable items up for sale to gullible fools. The head of a statue of Saddam, and a grey office chair supposedly looted from his palace, were on sale at a ridiculous twenty-one-million dollars each, but they've been removed. You could splash out $3,000 on a photograph autographed by the evil dictator himself. If you don't have thousands to spare, you might want to, er, fork out $365 on a fork from his palace. Or perhaps you'd like to become a Saddam double in this charming mask - yours for only $150. Of course, if you think this is all a pile of shit, you may like to wipe your arse on this Saddam Hussein toilet paper.

Me? I've got my heart set on this cuddly, handmade, musical Saddam Hussein doll which plays "God Bless America" when you ram a hand-crocheted Patriot missile up his arse.

Friday, April 11, 2003

Mike's fiendishly difficult Match The Intros competition has come to an end. Despite it being the most difficult competition in the history of competitions, Luca somehow managed to score full marks. I've got a little musical competition of my own lined up, called 20 in 20. Twenty songs in twenty seconds. [Actually, I decided it was too easy and edited the snippets even more, so it's now just over 18 seconds.] All twenty songs are very well-known; there are no obscure album tracks or B-sides - these were all huge hits. Take a listen to this short mp3, note down the song titles and artists, and email them to me [don't leave answers in the comments]. I think it's pretty easy, but then I would, cuz I know the answers! I don't know if anyone will get all twenty, so the winner will be whoever recognises the most songs. There will be a prize but, er, I haven't decided what it is yet. Closing date: Wednesday 16 April 2003.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

In the early hours of this morning, I was accosted on the street by an amiably drunk young man carrying a road sign:
"Mate! Mate! You've got to help me! You've got to tell me: should we liberate Iraq, or should we bomb them?"
"Er, I don't think it's quite that simple, I mean..."
"But I don't know what we should do! Should we liberate them or bomb them?"
"Well, er," I replied, then saw an opportunity to change the subject: "What does your sign say?"
"I don't know!" he cried, "I don't know!"
"Well, let's have a look then: 'London Marathon. Diversions. Avoid area.'"
"Oh no!" he said, "that's not any help!" So he dropped his sign and started following me down the street. "Should we liberate Iraq or should we bomb them?"
I thought about it. "Neither," I replied.
"Neither? Neither? Oh no! You mean I've got to go back and get my sign?"
"Yes, I think you'd better."
I left him heading back to his sign muttering, "Neither! Neither!"

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

I have been against the war from the beginning, largely because I didn't know whether to believe the Americans' claims that the people wanted to be "liberated". The first weeks of the war seemed to confirm that the Iraqis saw the coalition forces as invaders rather than liberators. Now, perhaps, the people are confident enough that the end of Saddam's rule is almost here, and can allow themselves to rejoice openly.

But now the real trouble begins. There is nothing in place to replace the ruling government. Chaos and anarchy will reign. Many more will surely die in the struggle for power among the various nationalist groups. Getting rid of the ruler is not the end of the story, as the Americans are finding in Afghanistan, where they accidentally killed eleven citizens today.
Saddam is down, revealed to be a hollow shell, all that's left, pitifully thin rusted pipes in his empty boots.
Hmmm... the statue's not down yet. The delays are remniscent of Nelson Mandela's release from Robben Island. Poor Rageh Omaar has had to keep up a commentary, trying to find things to say about what is plainly obvious.

Now the Americans have got involved. First they used a thin cable, and when that didn't work, they tied a thick chain round his neck. All very well, but the stars-and-stripes hood over his head was a misjudged lynch mob moment.

Ah, that's better - the old-style Iraqi flag has been tied around his neck like a jaunty little scarf. Oh, but now the Marines have removed that too.

OK, decisions about Saddam's neckwear over, here goes.......
Extraordinary scenes from Baghdad. I am watching two blokes trying to tie a threadbare rope around a giant statue of Saddam Hussein, intending to topple it. Will the rope break? How will they pull the other end of the rope? Will the American tanks help? Currently, Saddam's standing there with a giant noose round his neck. Now the people are eagerly taking turns with a sledgehammer, trying to smash the statue's pedestal.

It makes for exciting TV, and is an incredibly significant moment. Quite literally a tipping point. Not since the toppling of the Berlin Wall have we seen anything quite so historically symbolic live on TV. Will the statue, like the wall, be broken up into pieces and sold to tourists? Bring me the head of Saddam Hussein!

Monday, April 07, 2003

Mike has released a range of merchandising for his blog, including coffee mugs and mousemats. Perhaps a potty would be more suitable - does he know what the title bar of his site reads on a Mac?
Ooh! The Future Bible Heroes are coming to London. "The who?" you ask. Future Bible Heroes, the other band formed by Magnetic Fields mainman Stephin Merritt. They're playing on the 28th of May at Ocean - whose website you should visit if only for the calming sounds of the sea.
And then it was on to Madame JoJo's to see The Readers Wifes in concert. I'd been to JoJo's once before and had seen the Wifes once previously, and both were just as I remembered them: tacky, glamorous, seedy, camp, ludicrous, decadent and utterly, utterly fabulous. The legendary cabaret venue, surrounded by Soho strip joints, made a perfect setting for the Wifes' tales of drag, drugs and dregs.

And their songs really are very funny. New song Scumpop manages to come up with lots of very silly rhymes for the title, most notably 'Scunthorpe'. They were rapturously received by a partisan crowd made up of Retro Bar regulars, who could be heard muttering about the bar prices. "Three-pound-fifty for a can of Red Stripe? And not even the 13% extra cans, either!" Biggest cheer of the night went to the first single, Bitch At The Brits. The next single must surely be the insanely catchy First Out, the chorus of which is still lodged in my brain: "Hey big brother, lend me your motorbike..."

Frontman [woman?] Kim Phaggs [aka dark Mark] snarled out the lyrics, tossing his hair, while Chelsea [aka blonde Mark] stood behind a tiny keyboard, affecting a look of utter boredom, visibly put-out when called on to actually play a note or drawl a deadpan rap. A third Mark and the gorgeous Jeremy [aka ver Lads] played guitar and keyboards respectively. The Wifes' musical influences lie firmly in the eighties: Dead Or Alive, Divine and the Pet Shop Boys. A little too firmly, perhaps - while their lyrics are packed with modern references, like a musical version of Popbitch, the musical references seem to have stopped in 1986.

But that's a minor quibble and one that certainly didn't occur to me while I was throwing myself around the dancefloor with a huge grin on my face.

Excellent night out last night to celebrate David and Jason's birthday. Started off at Ben Crouch's Tavern, a horror-themed pub on Wells Street, just off Oxford Street. The place is wonderfully fake - all Gothycke arches and bubbling cauldrons and ectoplasmic lighting. David and Jason are boyfriends who share the same birthday. That's so weird it should be illegal. I was quite pleased with the card I made them which on the outside read...
HAPPY
BIRTHDAY
DAVID
JASON

...and on the inside had a picture of David Jason. "Ha ha, look, Jason," shouted David, "another David Jason joke. Every year we get one." I told Jason it was a pity his name wasn't James, as the card would have been much prettier with a pic of David James. "Actually," replied Jason, "David's last boyfriend was called James, and they had pictures of him in the toilet."

David and Jason told us this wonderful story about a goth club they had inadvertently found themselves in a few years ago in Amsterdam. They'd ingested some mushrooms which made everything even more surrreal. The place was dark and creepy with damp, leaking ceilings and rattling chains. The two of them plucked up the courage to lean against a wall near the dance floor. Suddenly, these bright UV lights came on and all the goths in the place wheeled round and stared at them, pointing at them, shouting things that only the undead could understand. Turned out David had leaned against a light switch!

Friday, April 04, 2003

Lying on the grass on Hampstead Heath in the sun, reading the paper: good.

Waking up trailing drool, with deep red creases in your face and today's front page printed in mirror-writing on your forehead: bad.

My apologies for not coming up with the stuff about Gaydar I'd promised. I'm just too darn tired. I guess I'm still getting over the illness I've had all week. Or maybe I'm tired because, to protect my delicate stomach, I haven't had any coffee all week. Then again, the tiredness and weepy eyes could just be the start of this season's hayfever. I'm not weepy, I'm not - honest; just cuz it's a Friday night and I'm on my own. Hayfever, mate, and lack of coffee - that's all.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

Q: How do you spot the gay one in a boyband?
A: He answers the question, "What's your favourite colour", with "Into most colours except brown."

My thoughts on Gaydar tomorrow.
My secret squirrels have all simultaneously decided to get rid of all the stuff they'd been storing. More stools than a Scandinavian furniture store.

I think I may be getting better.
In my capacity as unofficial RVT publicist, I have received two emails this afternoon, asking me if I know what's happening at the RVT tommorow night. This is from DiscoDamaged:
RVT THIS FRIDAY
We've just had word in about a charity night at the RVT this coming Friday and thought many of you would appreciate news of it.

THIS FRIDAY, 4TH APRIL - CHARITY NIGHT AT THE ROYAL VAUXHALL TAVERN
This coming Friday The Royal Vauxhall Tavern will be holding a charity night hosted by the ever popular Sunday S.L.A.G.S. and Chill Out Crew. D.J's playing on the night will be Simon Le Vans, Andy Almighty and Sean Sirrs, so you will be guaranteed a fantastic selection of happy, uplifting music. In addition, the fabulous D.E. Experience will be live on stage during the evening to bring you another one of her stunning “West End shows“ to the R.V.T.!

Proceeds from the night will be donated to the Bodley Scott Cancer Ward, St Bartholomew's Hospital, in memory of Kelvin Woolacott. Kelvin's young life was tragically cut short due to cancer at the age of 34, on 27th March 2002.

With your generous help and attendance this Friday 4th April, the ward will be able to make the lives of cancer suffers that bit better and more comfortable.

Tickets will be sold on the door priced at a mere £5, with all proceeds generously donated by The R.V.T. to the ward. Doors open at 21.00 and you can party late until 02:00.

This promises to be a brilliant night for everyone. With your help, much needed and appreciated assistance can be given to the cancer ward at Bart's, who cared for Kelvin so fantastically well for 3 months and who continue to provide such great nursing.

This is a night not to be missed (and you have the weekend to recover!), so make sure you get down to The R.V.T., this Friday 4th April. Be there early to avoid disappointment!

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

So you want to know the current state of my bowels, huh? The good news is, the diarrhoea has stopped. The bad news is, my intestines are still gurgling and bubbling away. My belly's swollen and getting larger all the time. So I reckon my guts are labouring away industriously, like squirrels, storing the stuff in hidden nooks and crannies.

Anyway, I took my three samples in to the hospital today, wrapped neatly in a bright blue paper bag. I'd sellotaped the opening shut [ooh, now there's an idea I could use elsewhere] to prevent spillages. My usual doctor wasn't in, so I got to see a harried temp. He seemed really distracted, and didn't seem to know what to do with my samples. "Oh, I can't find the forms right now, just leave them there."

So I left this bright blue gaily wrapped parcel on his desk. I just know that at the end of the day, he will have spotted it and thought, "What's that? I must have popped out at lunch and bought my wife a present. Here, dear..."
"Get everything you need for a traditional easter at ASDA."

  • Crucifix - check
  • Nails - check
  • Crown of thorns - check
  • Cave with boulder in front of it - check [I doubt it - Thos.]
  • Tuesday, April 01, 2003

    I still receive a couple of emails a week about the Justin Timberlake cock pic. This one is sadly typical of the level of erudition displayed, but it does take an innovative approach at the end:
    i saw the picture i don;t know what ta think at all.after she both the pictures i think that one of them is fake.most like the one with the penis.y would he want ta do a thing like anyway.also i notice the pic don't look that much alike.if that pic real so what.every guy has got one.it isn't that impressive anyway.really i don't care iwould like ta hear back from you people so im me back.you might want ta give me a job or something.
    I've been experimenting with a few alternative looks.
    I popped out yesterday to get some passport pics taken. The local post office has a newfangled booth that takes digital photos. It takes four photos, and then you choose which one you'd like it to print four copies of. A good idea, but let down by the print quality - the resulting photo looks fuzzy and out-of-register. And - of course - there's that slack-jawed expression and lined-up-against-a-wall stare de rigeur for passport photos.
    See pic

    But this got me thinking - I've got a digital camera and a high-res printer and photo-quality paper. Why not take my own picture at home? I could take hundreds of shots till I achieved the perfect pose, with the minimum of wrinkles and blemishes.

    And then another thought occurred to me. Why have any wrinkles and blemishes at all? If the government allows digital pics, what's to stop you retouching your photo?

    See pic
    Now, I wouldn't actually use this photo for a passport - it's too posey, too come-hither. But it's not a bad photo of me. Click on the thumbnail to see a bigger version. See? Not bad. But pity about that red blotch next to my eye and the red splotch on my head and that skin texture and those huge pores on my nose and those frown lines and those sunken cheeks and....

    So I used Photoshop's cloning tool, erasing my blotches, reducing the redness of my nose, smoothing out fine wrinkles. But like anyone who starts having plastic surgery, I didn't know where to stop. I didn't just stop at airbrushing my skin. Soon I was doing a Michael Jackson, taking a fraction of my nose, making my face just slightly wider, some virtual botox, some virtual collagen...
    See pic

    See? Young again! OK, it's a bit fake, but - you know what - not fake enough. Real writers shift ton-loads of novels through the ridiculously alluring black-and-white or duotone photos on their book-jackets. What's to stop me having one on my blog? So, I present the Real me:
    See pic

    All that remains now is to offer my services on Gaydar. As photo-retoucher, image consultant and makeover artist, that is!
    OK, so I've been to the hospital. Now, how am I supposed to shit into these little tubes?

    Ah, that'll be what the disposable kidney-shaped bowls are for. [Of course they're disposable - what am I gonna do? Serve hummus in 'em at my next dinner party?] So it's a case of squirt into the bowl, then use the little spatula attached to the tube's lid to scrape the fecal matter [or spatter] into the tube. Laahvly.

    I'm taking Sarah's advice and theming my blog - expect even more shit in the days to come. In tomorrow's fashion supplement: tan is the new brown. In Thursday's interiors feature, we take a look at pebbledashed bathrooms. In Friday's Review: an alternative take on Frankie Says Relax.
    Bugger that, I'm going to the hospital.
    It's twenty-past-five in the morning, and I haven't slept a wink. No, I haven't been out partying. And no, I haven't had the shits all night. The stuff my GP gave me yesterday seems to be effective in keeping it all inside. But that doesn't mean my tummy is settled. Oh no, my insides are a seething, writhing mass of angry, hissing snakes; a boiler-room of shuddering pipes with faulty valves and juddering air bubbles.

    Lying in bed under the duvet, I am a child listening to a thunderstorm raging outside. Distant low rumbles are followed by faint echoes somewhere over the horizon. A long, lazy grumble snakes across the dark sky. A gaggle of excitable juvenile reports play tag around the hills. A sudden detonation is so loud, so near, I half-expect my dad's car alarm to go off.

    I almost wish it would pour again, to relieve the pressure.

    Monday, March 31, 2003

    Oh dear, it's official: I'm a shallow queen. I noticed on Teletext that there was a programme on at 23:25 tonight called "Billie On Billie". I waited and waited, and got quite excited when the announcer said, "And now we take a look at the troubled life of singer, Billie..." and my heart sank when he continued, "...Holiday."

    I have to admit I was hoping it would be a look at the troubled life of the toothy, trolley-pushing, ginger-noshing singer, Chazzbaps.

    I just hope I'm not going to be equally disappointed by the programme on ITV at 02:00.
    You've played Fantasy Football, Popdex, the Rockstargame, Celebdaq. Now play Blogshares.
    Listed on BlogShares

    Actually, don't. It's clunky, erratic and not exactly user-friendly. A blog's share price is based on the number of links to it; according to Blogshare, just seven blogs link to me. And, apparently, I don't have any outgoing links from my site at all. Seems they have a few teething problems. Blogshare might be bearable one day, but right now, it's bull.
    The horror! The horror! Don't read this if you're squeamish or of a sensitive disposition, or are just about to eat your lunch.

    Our toilet door handle doesn't just squeak, it screams. The toilet is directly next-door to my flatmate's bedroom and - being the considerate flatmate I am - I try to keep my late-night toilet-visits to a minimum. But that's difficult when you've got a severe case of diarrh diahrre the shits.

    I had to go three times last night between midnight and 2am, trying, in vain, to ease the troublesome door open quietly. And indeed trying, in vain, to ease my explosive bowels quietly.

    Half an hour after my last attack, I felt my insides cramp again. I decided to ignore it, to try to sleep through it. I lay there listening to my avant garde intestinal orchestra gurgling, bubbling, chattering and whistling. "Ignore it," I ordered myself, "go to sleep." And I did.

    When I woke up this morning, I couldn't open my eyes - they seemed to be glued shut. Exploring my face with my hands, I felt something caked on my face. The entire left-hand side of my face seemed to be coated in a thick gummy layer, with hard dried lumps.

    I managed to prise my eyes open, and stumbled to the bathroom mirror, only to be confronted with my gruesome reflection. I looked like I'd been tarred, like I'd done a long shift down the pits. "Oh my God! I've shit myself in my sleep! Oh why, oh why, didn't I go to the loo when I needed to? Oh, I'm so stupid!

    "But, hang on, why's it only on my face and my arm? The rest of my body seems OK. Oh, wait, it's not shit at all - it's blood. Only blood. Thank God for that - it's just a nosebleed."

    Saturday, March 29, 2003

    Found one of these in my change today. Is it legal tender in the UK?
    And now I've got a runny tummy, too. Not fair.
    The Circle Line Party II looks amazing. 600 revellers dressed in ludicrous outfits took over a Circle Line train, partying for two full circuits, complete with DJs, pole dancers, a samba band and nudity. The trains were kitted out with balloons, mirrorballs and coloured gels over the strip lights. How fantastic?
    The new Girls Aloud single, "No Good Advice", may not quite be - as proclaimed by popjustice - the greatest single ever, but it does contain one of the greatest key changes ever. I know nothing about music theory, but I recognise a sophisticated key change when I hear one. Maybe Simon can explain why the bit Nadine sings just before the chorus sends shivers up my spine?

    Friday, March 28, 2003

    If my cold clears up, I'll be flinging myself around the Duckie dancefloor tomorrow with Mike 'n' Dave 'n' Darren 'n' Rob 'n' Steve 'n'... you?
    Totally tasteless. But funny. If Hitler had won the war.
    I'm ill. Poooooooorly. Wah. Grizzle, grumble. Rumours of my death are slightly exaggerated.
    I'm getting tired of waking up at four every morning, unable to breathe.
    I'm tired of the coughing fits.
    I'm tired of so much snot gushing out of my nose that I've abandoned tissues and have taken to using a beach towel.
    I'm tired of feeling slightly feverish.
    And emotional - I'm sitting here listening to Kirsty MacColl and feeling all weepy.
    And my ribs hurt - what's that about?
    My eyeballs feel bruised.
    My skin feels all prickly, and I seem to have somebody else's hair follicles.
    And Ian's joints.
    I seem to have somebody else's scrotum, too, twice the size of my own; which would be nice apart from the fact it's hanging half-way down to my knees. My testicles seem to be trying to get as far away from my body as they can - and I don't blame them.
    I feel fat and puffy - I'd say I was retaining water were it not for the fact I have to pee every ten minutes.

    Sympathy. Now!

    Thursday, March 27, 2003

    Wednesday, March 26, 2003

    Fantastic photos of North Korea's mind-boggling Arirang Festival.
    I've been trying to find a video online to illustrate the awesome precision of the North Korean mass choreography, to no avail. But it was something like this...!
    I caught the repeat of a fascinating programme on BBC2 last night. In Holidays In The Axis Of Evil, Ben Anderson, armed only with a hidden camera, tours North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya and Cuba.

    Last night's programme revealed the fascinating contradictions of North Korea - vast amounts of money spent on megalomaniac statues and megalithic unfinished architectural projects, while apparently millions may be dying of starvation. The celebration for the Dear Leader's birthday was simply astonishing, with hundreds of thousands of people in an impressive display of precision choreography. And then there's what seems to be the national hobby: a stadium full of people flicking over bits of coloured card to create ever-changing mosaics of the Great Leader, the Dear Leader and assorted symbols of Communism. Human pixels on a stadium-sized monitor.

    Next week, Anderson visits Libya, Syria and Iran. Sadly, I missed the Iraq one last week.

    Monday, March 24, 2003

    I've just received some bad news. My first boyfriend in the UK died last night. He'd been very ill for a very long time. All the combinations had stopped working, and he'd run out of options.

    I pretty much lost touch with him a few years ago, as he sold up the London house we'd lived in and moved to a little pink cottage in the countryside. It was always his dream to live a life straight out of Mapp and Lucia, and he achieved it. He was a funny old stick. I call him "old" because that's how he often seemed, but he was younger than me - 30 going on 65. He was never happier than when pottering around his garden, tying up the raspberry canes, cooking up this year's batch of jams.

    We'd speak on the phone occasionally, and email till his eyesight deteriorated too much. I'd always get pangs of guilt that I didn't venture out into the country to go visit. Now, of course, it's too late. Whenever somebody dies, one always feels this sense of regret at not having done enough, of having failed somehow.

    He had really suffered in the last four or five years. He once joked that he'd named his three remaining T-cells "Mary, Mungo and Midge". He died last night in an ambulance on the way to the hospital, a sudden decline after what, by all accounts, was a lovely weekend. His end was swift, peaceful and painless, an end to the suffering.

    Sunday, March 23, 2003

    Saturday, March 22, 2003

    I woke up this morning [OK, this afternoon] half-lying on a plastic bag from the 24-hour shop on West End Lane. Examining its contents, I discovered:
  • 1 package of Emmentaler slices [Swiss cheese. Manufacturer: Toni. Swiss Toni.]
  • 1 packet of full-roast ground coffee [taste guide 5: "strong"]
  • 1 jar of Georgian orange marmalade [taste guide 7: "challenging"]
  • 1 package of Roquefort blue cheese [taste guide: fucking toxic]
  • 1 tub of Brussels paté ["smooth pork and pork liver paté"]
  • One loaf of spongy white sliced Sunblest
  • The Guardian

    The paté had been opened, and half of its contents had been eaten, showing signs of having been gouged out with folded-up slices of bread. What is it with food you'd only buy when you're drunk, and only in a 24-hour shop? And why the craving for intense flavours? The paté may explain why I feel like shit today. Then again, the bottle of Shiraz [taste guide: "blackberry, plum, leather, freshly-turned earth, licorice and violet"] and six pints of Kronenbourg [taste guide: stale vomit] at Club Kali [taste guide: a Wembley three-piece lounge suite] may have something to do with it.
  • To complicate matters, last night Ian handed me a print-out of this site, with the counter at 300,000. So gets the CDs, too.

    Friday, March 21, 2003

    OK, so tonight I start putting together the promised Earworms CD for Duncan and Alan. I scroll through iTunes, choosing the songs I simply have to include. Thirty-seven songs later, I realise I have enough for at least two CDs.

    The realisation that, as with a CD I recently did for Mike, I seem to have chosen an awful lot of Europop (and a lot of awful Eurodisco) skews the project, and it turns into Euroworms.
    Euroworms:
    Europop: Divine Comedy
    Eurodisco: Bis
    ABC Pour Casser: Peter Kitsch
    27: Bernstrup
    Comment Te Dire Adieu: Jimmy Somerville
    Sexy Northerner: Pet Shop Boys
    Snobbery And Decay: Act
    Hopeless: Future Bible Heroes
    Europe After The Rain: John Foxx
    All The Umbrellas In London: Magnetic Fields
    Souvenir (Moby remix): OMD
    Andrew Ridgley: Black Box Recorder
    Every Party Has A Winner And A Loser: Erlend Oye
    Breathe In: Frou Frou
    Crystalline Green: Goldfrapp
    Please Stay (Royksopp remix): Mekon feat Marc Almond
    Does Your Heart Go Boom: Helen Love
    But what if Duncan and Alan don't like Europop? And what about all those songs I had to leave off? I look at the discarded songs and realise there's another theme - all the songs that make me cry keep flooding back. These are all songs of loss and nostalgia. Enough for another CD - Fearworms.
    Fearworms:
    Soho Square: Kirsty MacColl
    One Better Day: Madness
    All For Love & Love For All: Lilac Time
    The Second Summer Of Love: Danny Wilson
    The Final Arrears: Mull Historical Society
    Rollerblade: Nick Heyward
    Cry Me A River: Julie London
    How Insensitive: Sinead O'Connor
    Wrong Again: Kirsty MacColl
    The Day I See You Again: Dubstar
    Why Go?: Faithless feat Boy George
    A Red Letter Day: Pet Shop Boys
    End Credits: Laptop
    If You Believe In Christmas Trees: Cardinal
    Manhattan Skyline: A-ha
    First We Take Manhattan: Leonard Cohen
    Times Square: Marianne Faithfull
    But, hang on, I don't want Alan and Duncan to get the impression I'm merely into miserabilism. Time for a collection of songs that make me happy, good old favourites, songs that get me dancing around bollock-naked behind the net curtains. Yes, it's Cheerworms:
    Cheerworms:
    Atomic: Blondie
    Don't Talk To Me About Love: Altered Images
    Maybe For Sure: Debbie Harry
    You Came: Kim Wilde
    He's On The Phone: Saint Etienne
    He's on The Beach: Kirsty MacColl
    I Would Fix You: Kenickie
    Mon Amour Tokyo: Pizzicato Five
    Barracuda: Heart
    My Sharona: The Knack
    I Was Made For Loving You: Kiss
    Last Train to London: Electric Light Orchestra
    Sweeping The Nation: Spearmint
    The Disappointed: XTC
    Mama Used To Say: Junior
    Double Dutch Bus: Gap Band Frankie Smith [Damn Kazaa!]
    It's Yours: Jon Cutler
    Now then, sending someone three CDs seems a bit excessive. Even two is a bit desperate, but I'm OK with that. I'm gonna send them two CDs. But which two? Of course, I could ask Alan and Duncan which ones they'd like, but what's the point of the internet if you ain't gonna get all interactive?

    This is where you come in. Which two CDs would you most like to receive? Vote in the comments for the two CDs you'd rather listen to - Euroworms, Fearworms or Cheerworms.

    Oh, and Alan and Duncan - you're not allowed to sway the voters, so no voting from you two.
    The B52's are coming.
    Please tell me I didn't just hear Alan Titchmarsh say: "There's a free packet of my seed in tomorrow's Express."
    Y'know, sometimes, just sometimes, I love this freelance lark. I issued an invoice for £1,200 on Wednesday, one for £600 yesterday, and one for £500 and another for £450 today. If it were like this all the time....
    Congratulations, Duncan. You've won. Now I just have to decide what your prize is.... Duncan sent me a screenshot of my site with the counter at 300,001 at 06:19. Just goes to show: the early bird gets the worm. Yes, Duncan, that's what you've won - a worm. In fact, a whole bunch of worms - Earworms, a CD of the songs currently residing deep within the furthest recesses my head.

    I shall also send a prize to Alan, who spotted the counter at 300,004 yesterday when it went haywire.

    Thursday, March 20, 2003

    The counter currently stands at:




    See below for an explanation.
    A while ago, I asked if you make up words for the instrumental bits in songs. Chig replied: "I'm not saying this in order to appear clever (honest!), but it really is true. Ever since I was a teenager, I've often found myself translating current songs into French and singing along with them." Actually, I do this too, but as I can't speak French, I do it in Afrikaans. My favourite is "Thank You For The Music" which, with a bit of poetic licence, becomes "Dankie Vir Die Klankie"!

    Also, as I can't speak French, I anglicise any French bits in songs. I've just looked up what Kylie says in the spoken bit of "Your Disco Needs You". Apparently it's: "Vous netes jamais seuls". But I prefer my version: "You're just a jammy sod!"
    So I'm in my room, bollock-naked, dancing around deliriously to the discotastic mix that iTunes has rightly decided I need this afternoon: "Your Disco Needs You" into "Love Hangover" into "Boogie Wonderland" into the Almighty mix of "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye". Fantastic. Except, judging from the looks of the kids outside, my net curtains aren't as opaque as I thought they were.
    And so the war begins. The enemy could be said to have won the first round, bringing out the heavy artillery and the dirty tricks.

    Yes, ITV1 scored heavily over the BBC, replacing its scheduled morning programmes with a gripping special report featuring tense live updates from Kuwait and Baghdad. No doubt BBC News 24 provided round-the-clock coverage, but BBC1 plodded on with its standard fare. This perhaps shows the investment the BBC has placed in digital - if you want to know what's going on in the world, you'll upgrade. Otherwise, it's Kilroy baiting families who can't stand each other.

    ITV1 brought us dramatic reports from hotel balconies, complete with air raid sirens and the ever-present threat of incoming missiles. It was clear no-one really knew what going on. Was that an air raid siren or the all-clear? ITV made the most of the ratings-grabbing drama. "John," said the studio-based anchor to a foreign correspondent, "some of our previous reporters put their gas masks on. Don't you think you should?"

    The hotel in Kuwait City used as an ITV base received an evacuation order, but the reporter struggled on for a few more vital minutes. At the end of one siren-filled report, an exasperated off-camera voice could be heard to say, "Have you finished now?"

    Incidentally, just how old is the BBC's Rageh Omaar? He looks about twelve.

    Wednesday, March 19, 2003

    OK, here's an idea that East/West used ages ago. See the hit counter above? It shows the number of page views this site has received since inception. As I type this, the count stands at 299,096. Some time in the next day or so, it should hit 300,000. This will *probably* happen on Friday. I will award a prize to the person who sends me a screenshot with the counter at 300,000. Don't worry if it's not exactly 300,000 - send it to me anyway, as the nearest entry will win.

    [Yeah, I know you clever Photoshop people could cheat. But, really, is it worth that much effort?]

    You don't know how to capture a screen grab?
    If you're using Windows, press the Print Screen button top-right on your keyboard. This copies an image of your screen to your PC's clipboard memory. Now open your image programme [Photoshop, PhotoPaint or whatever Windows has as standard these days - Paint?] and Press CTRL-V to paste the image in. Save the file as a jpeg and email it to me.
    Mac users, pressing Command+shift+3 will create a file on your hard drive called something like 'Picture 1'. Send me that.
    If you live in north-west London long enough, you'll spot the Mini Cooper belonging to local real estate company Foxtons. The car's trademark bottle-green livery with yellow flames is highly distinctive, and spotting the little vehicle on your travels is like bumping into an old friend. Eventually, you bump into it so often that you suspect there must be more than one green and yellow Foxtons Mini.

    This suspicion is irrevocably confirmed with a walk along the western edge of Hampstead Heath. There are hundreds of the little cars parked along the streets in the area. It's like a scene out a Hollywood mega-budget remake of The Italian Job.


    I had intended to work today, but the weather was so lovely I took a book and the Guardian up to the Heath and attempted the crossword while soaking up the late afternoon sun. As soon as the sun had set so spectacularly, though, it got bloody cold. A lovely afternoon, to be repeated tomorrow - but an earlier start, I think.

    Is anyone else going to see Ladytron at the Electric Ballroom in Camden on Friday? Look out for me. I'll be the one wearing - do people really plan what they're going to be wearing several days in advance?
    9:30 am, Wednesday morning.
    BBC1: Kilroy: Children Experimenting With Drugs.
    ITV1: Trisha: Drug-Test My Teen.
    BBC2: Rubbadubbers. Starring a psychedelic green dragon, a fluorescent pink star and a talking submarine.

    Tuesday, March 18, 2003

    I've been putting off saying anything about this, and judging from Marcus's silence, so has he. But he and I have decided to split up.

    I'd like to thank all my friends for being so supportive. Your advice and endless capacity for listening has helped make this tough time a little easier. But most of all, thank you, Marcus, for twenty very happy months. I hope we can soon re-establish a relationship as good friends. I miss you.
    In reference to Mike's putting "Two Tribes" up, I produced this. It, er, hasn't quite worked out as well as I'd hoped, but as it only took me ten minutes, I'm not surprised.

    George goes to Baghdad
    "Just think - war breaks out and nobody turns up."

    Available for download at Troubled Diva today: the fantastic 15-minute version cassette single mix of Frankie Goes To Hollywood's "Two Tribes". Ooh, topical! Can we expect a video of Tony Blair and George Bush mud-wrestling? Speaking of which, I hope you watched Alison Jackson's Double Take on BBC2 last night. A bit hit-and-miss, but the Bush-Blair tennis match was brilliant, as was the Blair-Brown one.

    Saturday, March 15, 2003

    SMS exchange during tonight's Reborn In The USA:
    David: Vote Elkie.
    Pano: Pearl's a minger.
    David: She stands up, when she sprays the urinal.
    Pano: In a nightclub.
    I promised myself I wouldn't get caught up in Reborn In The USA, but tonight's vote between Elkie Brooks and Gina G is, in its own tiny way, a battle between Talent and Tat.

    In the red corner: Elkie Brooks. While Gina G's brief UK career started in 1996 with the Eurovison Song Contest, Elkie's began over 30 years earlier when she participated in the British Song Contest in 1965. She later joined rock/blues band Vinegar Joe, where she shared vocal duties with Robert Palmer - but don't hold that against her. Elkie had to wait till 1977 for her first solo hit - the brilliant "Pearl's A Singer", as massacred by drag queens everywhere. Oh, and you know that song "[I wanna see the] Sunshine after The Rain" that was a club hit for Berri in the mid-90's? Well, that was a top ten hit for Elkie twenty years earlier. Look, the woman's paid her dues, OK? And, get this, her real name is Elaine Bookbinder. What more can you want? Vote Elkie. Phone 09011 155 402 or text ELKIE to 83200.

    In the blue corner: Gina G. I rest my handbag.

    Friday, March 14, 2003


    My lovely, lovely friend Christian, who works in the music industry, regularly sends me a huge envelope full of CDs. Among the many, many albums in the latest 'care package' was "Tusk" by Camper Van Beethoven. All I knew of CVB before this was the fantastic single, "Take The Skinheads Bowling", but on this evidence, I think they've got themselves a new fan. As you may have guessed from the cover artwork, the album is a deranged version of Fleetwood Mac's most excessive album. In its own little way, this is as 'out there' as the original. Part loving tribute, part parody. Part wonderful, part excruciating, it reminds me of the sonic excesses of a Kiki and Herb show. And, best of all, there's no Stevie Nicks on it. A customer review on Amazon sums it up: "Part of the charm for me as well is the audacity of the project -- like trying to re-make "Thriller" with a bunch of your friends and a 4-track."

    Thanks, Christian. I think I love it.

    Thursday, March 13, 2003

    Mike has promised to donate £100 to Comic Relief if he gets 235 or more comments on one post by midnight on Friday. I have to say, it's not looking all that likely - as I type, there have been 96 comments. So, even if you don't normally post comments, go over to Troubled Diva right now and leave a comment.
    Mr Bush, you can call your war off now, because the Swish Cottage Weapons Inspectors can reveal exactly how many weapons of mass destruction there are: 943,000. All but 270,000 of these belong to Iraq.

    There are 18,200 weapons of mass without any destructive capabilities.
    Of these,
  • 8,320 are weapons of mass distraction.
  • 1,590 are weapons of mass disruption.
  • 983 are weapons of mass obstruction.
  • 887 are weapons of mass deception.
  • 554 are weapons of mass construction, while 36 are weapons of mass deconstruction.
  • 309 are weapons of mass seduction
  • 236 are weapons of mass production.
  • 203 are weapons of mass instruction.
  • 126 are weapons of mass consumption.
  • 35 are weapons of mass distortion.
  • 32 are weapons of mass corruption.
  • 28 are weapons of mass irritation.
  • 24 are weapons of mass reduction.

    There have not yet been any recorded sightings of weapons of mass abduction. And despite what cynics may say about the real reasons behind the war, we have found no weapons of mass oil production. But give it a day or two, and I'll guarantee there'll be at least one...
  • Wednesday, March 12, 2003

    I've never told anyone this story before, and I'm not sure I should tell it at all, but it was a long time ago.

    It was ten years ago. I had a decent job and my own flat, but I was rubbish with money. My credit card bill was spiralling out of control, with more and more interest being added every month. My trouble wasn't so much that I kept spending, but more that I kept forgetting to pay it. I meant to; I really, really meant to.

    I had the best intentions - I'd wake up every morning thinking, "Shit! I really must pay that bill today." I'd carry the thing around with me, in a pocket, forgotten, till it was too late and the banks were shut. "Right, well, I'll definitely pay it tomorrow…"

    I'd get reminder letters, and I'd carry those around all day, too. The following month's bill would arrive; with a double payment plus interest upon interest upon interest. And again, I'd forget to pay it.

    Then, one day, I received a summons. I was mortified. At a hearing at Johannesburg Magistrates' Court, I agreed to pay off the outstanding amount with a small, manageable payment every month. "But if you don't keep up these payments," the judge told me, "you will go to jail."

    "Oh, don't worry," I replied, "I've learned my lesson. I'll keep up these payments."

    And I meant to, I really, really meant to…



    But I didn't keep up the payments. I have no real explanation for this, beyond simply forgetting to pay them. Looking back, I wonder why I didn't take out a direct debit, but then I remember that the bank's representative at the court hearing wouldn't allow me to do that. Apparently I had to show good faith or something.

    I wasn't really taking the whole thing seriously and when I received a letter one Friday morning asking me to report to the 'Deputy Sheriff's Office', I thought that was brilliant. I left work early that afternoon and took a bus to the southern suburbs. I got off and walked down a long dusty road in the heat, singing to myself, "I shot the sheriff, but I didn't kill the deputy".

    The sheriff's office was a corrugated iron warehouse on an industrial estate. I felt completely out of place as I entered and timidly announced, "Hello, my name's David and I'm here to see the, er, deputy sheriff".

    The bull-necked khaki-uniformed officers looked up from their newspapers, consulted some paperwork, and then one of them said, "Ja, come with me".

    I followed him outside and when he got into a white van, I got into the passenger seat. I assumed he was just going to drive me a short way - perhaps to the court, or to a bank. Actually, I don't think I really had any idea where he would take me. It was a lovely sunny day, and his car radio was playing "Groove Is In The Heart" and all seemed well in the world…

    …until he turned onto the motorway and we began heading south, away from Johannesburg.

    "Er… where are we going?" I asked.

    He looked at me like I was stupid: "To prison."



    South Africa's Diepkloof medium security jail was recently the subject of a huge government enquiry into corruption within the prison service, and I can confirm it was no different during my stay there. From the moment I arrived, my life was in the hands not of the jailors but of the people who really ran the place - the prisoners.

    I found out I was to spend six months in jail. I was terrified; stunned. I was processed, fingerprinted, allowed one phone call [to my boyfriend, who was shocked but promised he'd see what he could do]. While I was waiting at the front desk to find out my fate, some guys in a holding cage outside called me over. I ignored them. "Hey! Hey! Hey you! Listen, man. Come here. I want to tell you something. Hey! You!" I ventured over, keeping my distance, but one of them suddenly lashed out and grabbed my arm, trying to get my watch off. I managed to extricate myself, but it wasn't the last time my watch was to get me in trouble.

    While waiting, a shifty-looking guy asked me what I was in for. I told him and he said, "Make sure you get put into Civil, OK? Make sure you tell them it's Civil." I didn't trust him, and ignored him. I really wish I'd listened.

    Eventually, all the new intake, including the guys who'd been in the pen outside, were rounded up and marched off to the cells. I spoke to a warder and told him I was terrified, that I wanted to be put in a solitary cell. A couple of the guys from the pen shouted, "He's coming with us" and had their own private conversation with the second warder.

    I was relieved when I was taken by the first warder to a solitary cell, but just ten minutes later, the second one appeared and took me to a large dormitory cell shared by perhaps forty guys, including - of course - the ones who'd hassled me earlier. It seemed obvious to me that they'd bribed the warder.

    My new home was a long, narrow room with barred windows and two rows of iron bunk beds. The only spare bed was a top bunk near the back, next to those guys. "You watch out," one of them threatened as lights went out, "we're going to fuck you tonight."

    I didn't get any sleep, but nothing happened to me that night. The guys were more interested in smoking dope all night, and dealing it. Packages were passed from one floor to another through the barred windows using an ingenious pulley system. The entire prison reeked of marijuana.

    In the morning, I took a good look around the cell. It seemed that institutionalised homosexuality was tolerated - there were perhaps three male couples in our room. Each couple slept in two adjacent lower bunks, and stretched blankets over the exposed outer sides to create a private area within.


    On the way to breakfast, one of the big guys grabbed me. "Let me see your watch. Come on, I only want to see it. Hey, come here. Well, fuck you, then." He ripped the watch off my wrist, while his mates laughed.

    Queuing to receive my food, a warder instructed me to take my hands out of my pockets. I considered replying that he should stop worrying about petty things like that and sort out the crime inside the place, but I was already beginning to realise that's not how the system worked.

    I took my metal tray of mielie pap [white, grainy porridge] and eggs and sat at an empty table. A big bloke came and joined me. "Hey, I hear that cunt took your watch?" I nodded. "Wait here," he said, and in full view of all the warders, slammed the other guy against the wall, and retrieved my watch.

    "Here it is," he said, returning. "You can't trust those guys - you're coming to stay with us." And so that morning I moved into another dormitory, into the bed next to my rescuer. "You'll be safe here," he said. Taking a look at the pissed-off young guy who had to move out of my new bed, and at the blankets draped around us, I wasn't so sure. I realised that - to put it melodramatically - he now owned me, that I was now his bitch.

    Fortunately, later that afternoon, a prison official came in. "Is there anyone called David here? He's got visitors." My boyfriend had come to see me, and he'd had to wait for two hours while the prison tried to find me. First they looked where I should have been - the civil prison - then someone remembered that I'd been put in a solitary cell, then someone blabbed that I'd been taken to the first dormitory, and then finally they found me in yet another dorm. It's scary thinking that the prison itself had no knowledge of my whereabouts, no control over what happened to me.

    My boyfriend burst into tears when he saw me, pale and scared in my bottle green uniform. We had to communicate via telephone through a thick window. "Whatever it takes," I begged him, "you have to get me out of here. They're going to rape me."

    When visiting time was over, I demanded that I be put into the civil section, but the corrupt warder refused, presumably wanting to return me to... well, you know. I insisted, and - thankfully - a senior official took pity on me and told the other guy to make sure I was put in the correct section.

    The rest of that day passed quite smoothly. The civil section was far better and much less threatening. When I told my fellow debtors what had happened to me in the last day, they were horrified. "But those guys are murderers and rapists." The sexual harassment in the civil prison was less overt - one guy just happened to wander into the bathroom every time I tried to take a pee, and another started telling me graphic stories about his girlfriend, accompanied by obvious groping. I ignored it all and managed to sleep that night.

    On Sunday morning, I was released. Pano and my best friend Paul had hired a lawyer, and had, between them, come up with the money I owed. I was free to go. Thanks to my Pano and Paul, I had spent only two nights inside. Two nights too many. I dread to think what would have happened to me if they hadn't got me out, if I'd had to serve a full six months in that place. As it was, I went back to work on Monday, and didn't tell anyone what had happened. And I religiously paid back what I owed to Pano and Paul - you can bet I didn't miss a single payment.