Friday, February 28, 2003

Have you seen that ad for pasta sauce, with Lloyd Grossman telling a woman how she should be cooking? "Why don't you use the extra-virgin? Don't you think you should chop those tomatoes smaller?" If the smug git tried that with me, I'd burn his house down.

After all, I've done it before...

When I was 19, I lived with my first boyfriend, Stefan [what was I thinking?]. I offered to cook dinner one night and, being from good northern stock, put the chip pan on. I peeled the potatoes and started slicing them into chips. Stefan popped his head in: "Aren't those chips a bit thick?" "I like them this way," I replied. "Suit yourself." But he wouldn't leave it alone, hovering in the kitchen: "The stove's on a bit high." And again: "Those chips are far too thick - why don't you make them thinner?"

I slammed the knife down onto the board. "Right," I huffed, "you bloody well cook, then!" With that, I stormed into the spare bedroom, slamming the door.

And, unknown to me, Stefan stormed into his room and slammed his door.

I may not have heard that, but I certainly heard the window-rattling Whoooomph! ten minutes later. Stefan and I both rushed to the kitchen door. The entire kitchen was ablaze - a pillar of smoke rose from the pan, flaming oil flowed across the stove and work surfaces, and the curtains were alight.

"Quick! Wet some towels!" We rushed around, smothering the pan, swatting the curtains, eventually managing to extinguish all the flames.

We surveyed the damage. The curtains were charred tatters. [And the potatoes were charred taters!] The stove was ruined. The melamine surfaces had melted. And everything - walls, windows, ceiling - were coated in a thick layer of greasy black soot.

A recrimination and blame session in a burger bar followed:
"How could you leave the pan on the stove like that?"
"Me? How could you?"
"I thought you were cooking."
"I thought you were."
"That's going to cost hundreds."

So watch it, Grossman - you're warned!
Funjunkie's goose egg experiment [see below] reminds me: a few years ago, I made scrambled ostrich egg. Actually, Pano made it while I made useful suggestions. One ostrich egg was enough to feed eight. And what did it taste like? Why, like chicken, of course. Like chicken's egg, that is, but paler - there seemed to be a higher white-to-yolk ratio. The most exciting part was getting the eggy stuff out of the egg - we didn't want to destroy the shell, so we made a hole each end and blew the insides out. Another tick on the "things I've always wanted to do" list.
The following links have made me giggle out loud tonight. I should perhaps explain that it is after 1am and I am dog-tired, yet I'm sat in front of the computer [like, d-uh!] after a night on the town.
  • Derren Brown Mind Control
  • Michael Jackson and Prince
  • Funjunkie cooks a goose egg.
  • Monkey. Just watched a late-night repeat on TV. Look, I didn't grow up in this country - you lot had this on telly when you were kids? You lucky bleeders. Finally I understand why drunken talk dahn the pub with twenty-somethings inevitably turns to Monkey. I've never seen such hysterically bad dubbing - and remember I grew up watching Space 1999 dubbed into Afrikaans.
  • "Think Of The People" [download] - the anti-war song by Lee Ryan, the young-looking blonde one from boyband Blue. Yeah, Lee, but what about the whales, huh? How cool is that? [via the essential popjustice]
  • The new Madonna single, "American Life". I've just listened to a two-minute snatch cobbled together from various teasers. Not just the "double latte shotte" rap bit that's been quoted all over the place, but a verse and a chorus too. Download it here if you really want to. But, trust me, you don't.
  • Thursday, February 27, 2003

    Tonight's Evening Standard published a photograph of London by night, taken from space. It was a high-resolution pic from the NASA site - the same people who brought us the Blue Marble project. And if you don't know what the Blue Marble project is, stop whatever you're doing right now, and go download the highest pic of our world from space that your system can handle.

    The image of London by night available on the NASA site is quite lo-res, but after a bit of searching, I think I've managed to find a more detailed one. Check back here in an hour or so, as I hope to make it available, pointing out various London landmarks.

    Update, one hour later: Bugger that. I can't seem to line up a street map with the vague illuminated main arteries on the satellite pic. But Steve has created a cool little Flash toy with it.
    [mobile phone]: "Ring-ring. Ring-ring."
    [me]: "Hello?"
    [him]: "Hi, it's Billy."
    [my brain]: who? i don't know anyone called Billy.
    [me]: "Hi, Billy."
    [him]: "How are you?"
    [me]: "Er, I'm fine. How are you?"
    [him]: "Pretty good. What are you up to?"
    [me]: "Absolutely nothing."
    [him]: "What? Are you not working these days?"
    [me]: "No. Well, I'm freelance these days, so I work from home."
    [him]: "Oh, that's nice."
    [me]: "And, um, how about you?"
    [him]: "Oh, nothing. Just trying to sort out my new flat."
    [me]: "Your new...? Look, I don't mean to be rude, but who are you?"
    [him]: "Billy."
    [me]: "Billy....?"
    [him]: "Scottish Billy."
    [me]: "Yes, I can tell that. But how do I know you?"
    [him]: "Well, I used to work in The Cock Tavern."
    [me]: "Hmm... I only went there once or twice. Did you used to run the place with your boyfriend?"
    [him]: "No, not those two."
    [me]: "They were Scottish as well, though."
    [him]: "Yeah, they were. Look, I'll be honest. I found your number in an old phone and thought I'd give it a try."
    [me]: "We must have swapped numbers at some stage."
    [him]: "Yeah, must have been a good few years ago."
    [me]: "Don't know where or when though. Hey, we might have shagged!"
    [him]: "Yeah, that's always possible."
    [me]: "Well, I'm sure you were very good, but I've got no idea who you are. Sorry."
    [him]: "OK, not to worry."
    [me]: "Bye."
    [him]: "Bye."
    Mike's excellent project to determine which decade had all the best music comes to a close today. Head over there and choose between the number ones of '63, '73, '83, '93 and '03. Or, respectively, between Jet Harris & Tony Meehan; The Sweet; Men At Work, 2Unlimited and tATu.

    It has been a fascinating endeavour, but it has highlighted our misconceptions about the decades' defining characteristics. Think of The Sixties, for instance, and you think Beatles, Stones, Summer Of Love, Carnaby Street, yet the charts in early '63 were still filled with singers straight from the '50s tin pan alley showbiz tradition: Frankie Vaughan, Cliff Richard, Del Shannon. In fact, the period that Mike has chosen sees the Beatles in the top ten for the first time, signalling the start of the sixties proper, and five or so years of glorious pop.

    By 1970, the optimism of the '60s had soured, and the pop turned to pomp, to rock, or its poppier niece: glam. The hair got longer, the outfits more ridiculous, the staging more complex, the concepts more ludicrous, until the seventies were given a swift and much-needed kick in the teeth by punk, signalling the start of new era: the 80s.

    The '80s started in - ooh - 1978, as punk was swiftly followed by new wave and the new romantics. Blondie, the Boomtown Rats, the Police and Gary Numan all had number ones in the '70s. The next few years were wildly inventive, and thus pop quickly ran out of ideas by the middle of the decade, foisting identikit puppets on us.

    One strand of what we came to know of the '90s started very early - in about '84 - with The Smiths spearheading the indie trend. The other defining sound of the '90s - house and dance music - hit the charts with M/A/R/R/S in '87, and it was soon goodbye to Kylie [but only for a little while] and hello to faceless Italian producers.

    It's perhaps too soon to say what the defining musical characteristic of the '00s will be. Will the boybands and manufactured pop survive? If so, perhaps Robson and Jerome started this decade in 1995. Or perhaps the real sounds of the '00s will prove to be rap and R&B? On the other hand, perhaps there's some new and exciting musical trend just round the corner. We can but hope...

    Wednesday, February 26, 2003

    Although I do love my cute little iMac, there are times I wish I had a PC instead. Take searching for MP3 files, for instance. Mac users have but a fraction of the resources available to PC users. As far as I know - and I'd love to be told I'm wrong - we can't access the huge databases on Kazaa or whatever is flavour of the month this month.

    It's ironic that much of Apple' recent marketing has focused on sharing music, yet the resources aren't much cop. The leading Mac p2p package is Limewire, which [I think] lets you browse only other Mac users' files, returning far fewer results. And then there's the problem that Limewire crashes my machine after about half an hour. I'll be downloading several songs, and then my machine will hang. The only thing I can do is switch it off at the power and restart it, but it never quite starts up properly. I sometimes have to restart it ten times or more, as something will be wrong - the keyboard and mouse won't work, or it won't connect to the internet.

    If anyone does have suggestions as to a good p2p package for the Mac, please let me know. Oh, I should add that I use OS9.2 rather than OSX as I use Quark all day long.

    Instead of peer-to-peer programmes, I have to rely on web searches, most of which are wild goose chases, resulting in no songs downloaded but a desktop full of Russian pop-up windows full of question marks instead. I've been a real sucker at times, too; registering my details at a site which promises it will email you a password allowing you access - the only thing you receive is loads of spam.

    I visit regularly. It's perfect if you're looking for new and forthcoming UK releases. And this morning I registered for a free trial with The trial allows you to download 50 songs for free; which I did, and then closed my account. But I want More! More! More! If you know of any good mp3 sites, let me know in the comments. Or if you have a resource you'd rather not let everyone know about, email me.

    Tuesday, February 25, 2003

    "You really need a haircut," Marcus said to me on Saturday, "you're starting to look like Liza Minnelli."

    I have just spent the last half hour grafting my face onto Liza's body*, with her hair [or wig], but the results are so scary, I deleted them immediately. I am happy - yet a little surprised - to say I do not make a pretty woman.

    *Using Photoshop, not advanced surgical procedures.
    "You know that Lynx ad," Marcus said last night, "with the guy in the suit, dancing? I really like the music – do you know who it’s by?"

    "No," I replied, "but there’s a website that lists the songs used in TV commercials. Can’t remember the URL of it now. I’ll let you know tomorrow."

    True to my word, here’s the website: And the song? Apparently "Make Luv" by Oliver Cheatham feat. Room 5.
    You’ve submitted a picture to the Mirror Project, you’ve sent your silhouette in to the Shadow Project. Now the latest me!me! meme is the 5-line self portrait. Mine’s somewhere on this page.
    Marcus got us tickets for an advance screening of Mexican film, El Crimen Del Padre Amaro last night. The film is slow and melodramatic, though it does capture the atmosphere of the Mexican village. The plot involves corruption in the Catholic church, and has proved to be controversial in strictly religious Latin American countries. I’m afraid it was all a bit heavy-handed and felt like a soap opera. Still, it did give us ample opportunity to gaze at the impossibly handsome Gael Garcia Bernal. Those lips! So curved, so plump, so smooth, so cruelkind.

    Then it was off to Comptons, where Monday night is cheap drink night. The downstairs bar was uncomfortably packed and we couldn’t see anyone we knew in the crowds, so we went upstairs, and into the Twilight Zone. Perhaps the circus was in town? The place looked like a casting call for Todd Browning’s Freaks.

    Monday, February 24, 2003

    I've got to rush off to a screening of a new Mexican film, so I'll just list the highlights of the past weekend:
  • Friday afternoon, sat in the surprisingly warm sunlight at Golders Hill Park, reading Alexander MCall Smith's utterly charming The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency.
  • Met up with Pano, and we went for a long walk across the Heath, via Kenwood House and the various Ponds, one of which was frozen. "It's poetry," Pano declaimed, "frozen in time." "Time for a drink," quoth I.
  • A pint in the Spaniard, then many more in the William. "I've just worked it out," said Pano, on the fourth pint, "this is a gay bar, isn't it?"
  • Lovely dinner in the exotic restaurant on Hampstead High Street, near the tube. Can't remember the name of the place, nor can I precisely pinpoint the cuisine: Moroccan? Lebanese? Turkish? Not sure, but it had all the middle-eastern trappings you could ask for - hubbly-bubby, belly dancer - and my lamb tagine with prunes and cinnamon was superb.
  • Saturday: Bought 300 copies of The Guardian. Nah, not really. Watched as my stats went through the roof. Nice to see most visitors read a couple of pages.
  • Marcus and I rented a couple of DVDs and stayed in, watching the disappointing Signs and the wonderful Sunshine State.
  • Sunday: Gave the RVT a miss for a change, but popped in to Dukes later and had a reasonably sober chat with Ian. Which makes a nice change.
  • Saturday, February 22, 2003

    This interactive flash movie is quite beautiful. How high can you go?
    [via simon]
    Thanks to Sasha for alerting me to this Guardian article on blogging which mentions Swish Cottage. Which is nice.

    Hello, Guardian readers. If you're looking for the photo of Tobey Maguire with his kimono open, as mentioned in the article, you can find it here. And yes, that is David Blaine and Leonardo DiCaprio with him. But, no, I don't know if it's real or fake. Nor do I know the provenance of this X-rated pic of Justin Timberlake.

    If, however, naked men ain't your thing, and you've come looking for personal anecdotes and links, here are a few of my favourites:
  • The eleven schools I went to. Part 1 | Part 2.
  • When I was rescued by a fireman.
  • My troubles with spelling.
  • A late-night tube journey.
  • The night my pee turned blue.
  • The night I broke my cock.
  • My A to Z of the Royal Vauxhall Tavern.
  • The FAO Girls Take Manhattan.
  • My colleague and the dog.
  • My first month in London.
  • OJ Simpson meets the Hardy Boys.
  • How London postcodes are arranged.
  • Thank God or Not Thank God.
  • Scotsmen on the Tube.
  • Turkish nightmare.
  • 38 Special.
  • Reminisce and regret.
  • The crap on telly.
  • I got no sense of direction.
  • Some of my favourite blogs, in song. [Check out the great blogs on my sidebar, too.]
  • Friday, February 21, 2003

    The cats across the road have got the right idea. I'm heading out into the sun. I may be some time.
    Genius! Another marvellous music video. That 'special relationship' between Bush and Blair.
    Warning! Unbelieveably camp music video ahead. Never mind The Brits. Never mind the Eurovision Song Contest. This is what we want!
    [via popjustice. Don't worry if it doesn't seem to be loading - stick with it.]

    OK, this has been around for ages, but someohow I missed it. Here is an explanation of the song. And this page has links to the video in various formats, as well as a remix of the song and a dance tutorial.

    Thursday, February 20, 2003

    One year ago tomorrow [or today, if you're reading this on Friday] I sat in front of the telly with a bottle of Alsatian pinot gris, watching the Brit Awards. This year, I stuck with the Alsace, choosing a lovely gew├╝rztraminer [notes of lychee, rose petals and glycerine, since you ask].

    There is much hype this year about how the show is live for the first time since the infamous Sam Fox/Mick Fleetwood debacle. No, it isn't. It is recorded several hours before it is broadcast - the BBC News site quotes the winners' acceptance speeches several hours before transmission. Having said that, it does have a far more immediate, involving feel this year. OK, it does feel like a bigger budget Pop Idol - the ubiquitous Davina McCall prowls the aisles, and the pop awards are cluttered with reality TV show winners and runners-up.

    A panning shot of the front rows of the audience reveals many of the night's winners and performers: Liberty X [sitting next to a proprietorial Richard Branson], Gareth, Will, Coldplay, Tiffany.

    It's time to get the party started. It's Punk-Pink - spiky performance, spiky hair, looking decidedly chunky. I do hope for her sake she's pregnant.

    Liberty X win something, beating Will, Gareth, and Gareth again, in a category which was voted for by the public. Norah Jones wins something in a category which clearly wasn't.

    Blue perform. The gorgeous Simon sports an afro, rockin' that Lenny Kravitz vibe (or was that Bobby from Boney M?) The lads foolishly choose a new song that no-one knows, trying to stir up some interest with pyrotechnics and a half-hearted snatch of "One Love". The audience remembers 5ive and is distinctly unimpressed. Fucking amazing set design, though.

    A frisson runs round the room [well, my room, anyway] as Robin Gibb is called on to present an award. Will he rip Graham Norton's head off live on national telly? Sadly, no.

    "Now, for these next two presenters," says Davina, "imagine you've had a really bad curry." Cue ring-stinglingly shit humour from Matt Lucas and someone else pretending to be Charlotte Church and Eminem.

    "Now it's breast British male," says Davina. "Ooh, sorry, I meant best." No, dear, you meant breast. Cue Robbie Williams making a tit of himself, dialling in another acceptance speech. Offscreen, I imagine, nubile handmaidens massage beer into his pampered rump.

    I swear I hear Davina introduce Denise Van Outen with the following sentence "She's most famous for her recipe for sausages inside her with lemon thyme".

    Ooh! And then it's time for Justin Timberlake. I get so excited I knock my bottle of wine over, so miss the first part of his act while I suck wine out the carpet. Anyway, our Just manages to look gorgeous despite wearing the white trackpants and hooded top last seen on the kid wot nicked your mobile. And then he and Kylie Minogue do a mercifully brief rendition of Blondie's "Rapture". Kylie looks a million dollars - literally: glossy, hard, enamelled. But she's a trouper at heart and her rap bit is more Listen With Mother: "Are You Sitting Comfortably? Good, Let's Rap With Auntie Kylie". Justin's falsetto bit is just, "Oh, no, dear, don't!"

    The auditorium is looking half-empty, with whole tranches of empty seats. Given this year's policy of no alcohol inside the venue, the stars have no doubt gone off to the bar.

    I've had just about enough by now, and when David Gray starts wailing "Meet me on the other side; I'll see you on the other side", I take his advice and switch to the BBC for the Cherie Blair / Carole Caplin / Peter "Conman" Foster documentary. Even dodgier hairstyles and less believable sanctimonious speeches. Ah, the Brits.
    Someone has [allegedly] leaked the [alleged] lyrics of "Clubsong", a new track [allegedly] off the forthcoming Britney Spears album. Who could it be about? [Clue: it contains a sample of Justin Timberlake's "Cry Me A River". And what is the "secret" that she refers to, huh?] Ooh, not since Lennon and McCartney have we had such a public spat in song.
    Once upon a time there was a little boy who tried so hard to be down.
    Playing me publically, twisting the story, see, made it the talk of the town.
    I try to play sweet, and be quiet, discreet...and let you be on that level alone.

    First things first,
    (cry me... cry me...)

    Why you so caught up with me?
    Sick with it, like you got the flu...
    I've also got the ability to open my mouth -
    you don't want me to tell the truth.

    My little secret about you,
    you sure you want me to play too?
    ...I recommend don't wear anything see-through, baby.
    They might peep that your heart is soft.
    Synchronicity. As I started writing the piece below, my computer chose that moment to play Frank Sinatra's I Get A Kick Out Of You: "I get no kick from champagne. Mere alcohol doesn't thrill me at all..."
    I have just finished reading A Head Full Of Blue by Nick Johnstone. "When I was fourteen," the book begins, "I got drunk for the first time. Champagne drunk. My mouth stretched in a smile so wide my jaw hurt."

    He discovers that drinking temporarily gets rid of his depression, makes him more fun to be with, less shy, makes him feel better. So he drinks more - a lot more. The book is an honest account of alcoholism. Midway through the book, he is sitting up every evening drinking an entire 5-litre box of wine, squeezing the last few drops out of the silver bag. He destroys his relationships, deliberately cuts himself, develops bleeding ulcers, wrecks his life.

    The book struck a few chords with me. No, I don't sit at home draining a box of wine, but I do often open a bottle of red when I'm on my own in the evening - and sometimes finish it. The list below is the test the AA use to determine whether you are an alcoholic. Go through it yourself, counting up your yesses. Then continue reading the comments.
    1. Do you lose time from work due to drinking?
    2. Is drinking making your home life unhappy?
    3. Do you drink because you are shy with other people?
    4. Is drinking affecting your reputation?
    5. Have you ever felt remorse after drinking?
    6. Have you gotten into financial difficulties as a result of drinking?
    7. Do you turn to lower companions and an inferior environment when drinking?
    8. Does your drinking make you careless of your family's welfare?
    9. Has your ambition decreased since drinking?
    10. Do you crave a drink at a definite time of day?
    11. Do you want a drink the next morning?
    12. Does drinking cause you to have difficulty in sleeping?
    13. Has your efficiency decreased since drinking?
    14. Is drinking jeopardizing your job or business?
    15. Do you drink to escape from worries or trouble?
    16. Do you drink alone?
    17. Have you ever had a complete loss of memory as a result of drinking?
    18. Has your physician ever treated you for drinking?
    19. Do you drink to build up your self-confidence?
    20. Have you ever been to a hospital or institution on account of drinking?

    Wednesday, February 19, 2003

    Oh, I do like my Wednesday nights in in front of the telly. For an undomesticated slattern living in bedsitland, I do have a mystifying interest in home improvement shows. And there's loads of them on a Wednesday night.

    First up, BBC1's Changing Rooms. The formula is looking tired, with the designers now too busy on more upmarket programmes and having their families photographed for Hello! and OK to put any effort into their designs. Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen can usually be relied on to come up with fucking awful schemes for Changing Rooms, and tonight's was no exception. A riot of garish, clashing colours and haphazard drapes. Yet the client claimed she loved it, so go figure.

    LLB was back again, with housewives' favourite Diarmuid Gavin, on BBC2's Home Front. In this fifth anniversary special, the tables were turned, with Lawrence having his garden designed and Diarmuid getting someone in to do his office. We didn't get to see the results of the office makeover, as Diarmuid pulled out, claiming he couldn't cope with the intrusion into his private life. Lawrence, naturally, had no such compunctions, and we got to see him and his wife having a blazing row in the kitchen. Let's just say I quite warmed to him after seeing what he has to put up with at home.

    But one of the best things on telly right now has to be Channel 4's Grand Designs, which follows ludicrously ambitious building plans from conception through to realisation, documenting the dramas along the way. Tonight's show was just remarkable - Chris and Leanne fell in love with a huge, derelict 1930s water works. Anyone else would take one look at the crumbling walls, the bricked-up windows and the damp, equipment-strewn filthy halls, and run in the opposite direction. But they had a vision. Over the next year, they worked day in and day out to realise this vision - doing all the mind-numbing, back-breaking work themselves. Remember, this place was incredibly huge - Chris had to chip rock-hard old plaster off 400,000 sq feet of wall. But they managed, doing everything - no builders, no architects, and no experience, just gritty determination.

    The finished result is astonishing - if idiosyncratic.
    Speaking of pop reality shows, you - yes, you - can play pop judge over at Troubled Diva. Mike wants to finally find out, once and for all, whether they really do write them like they used to. His latest project will scientifically prove which was the best decade for pop music: the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s or the 00s. Mike will upload snatches of the top ten on this day from each decade. Each day - starting with the respective number tens - you'll be invited to rank them in your order of preference. At the end of the project, Mike will tally up all the scores and reveal which decade was the best.

    Today he pits the number nines against each other, so head over there and choose between Eminem, Rolf Harris, Wham!, Focus and Brenda Lee.
    BBC News has redesigned its front page. They have increased the width of the page from 600 pixels to 800. This makes perfect sense and is about time - who still uses a resolution of 640x480? But - perhaps I'm just not used to it yet - I find the new four-column layout too busy. My eye seems to bounce around the screen - there's no main focus.

    One headline which did catch my eye: Popstars tour cancelled due to poor ticket sales. A combined tour starring Girls Aloud and One True Voice, which was due to start next month and take in huge venues like Wembley Arena, has been called off because, says manager Louis Walsh, "it wasn't selling, nobody was buying the tickets". Of course, Louis blames the poor sales on boyband One True Voice - "the girls are doing brilliantly and don't need to be supported by anyone else".

    No, Louis, nobody is interested in either band anymore, because they're not bands. They're products of a highly successful TV show. A TV show which reached a feverish peak at Christmas and is now as forgotten as Beyblades. The country is now slightly mystified and embarrassed about its Popstars hysteria. We fell for it with Hear'Say, almost willing them to be a "proper" band, allowing them to get to their second album before giving in and admitting they were fakes. We ain't gonna make the same mistake again.

    Oh, I'm sure another series of Popstars or Pop Idol will be a ratings grabber again. And David Sneddon, Sinead and Ainslie - all off reality TV show Fame Academy - have all had huge hits. And no doubt the winner of Simon Cowell's latest wheeze, Reborn In The USA, will see Sonia or Tony Hadley or - please God - Dollar return briefly to the top of the charts. But do they have long careers ahead of them? I think not. That's the reality.

    Tuesday, February 18, 2003

    Just spotted this sweet little fox sunning itself in my back garden. When we first moved to South Africa when I was a child, my gran joked that we should watch out for the lions and tigers roaming the streets. But I almost never saw wild animals on the streets of Johannesburg. When I moved back to the UK, I went for a walk one night and was terrified when I saw a fox, remembering childhood stories in which the fox was always the villain. Now, of course, I realise that even in the centre of the London, foxes are pretty common. But I think this is the first time I've ever seen one in the day time like this. Cute, innit?

    Monday, February 17, 2003

    Happy birthday, Mike!
    Ian and I did our bit for world peace on Saturday. "Bit" being the operative word. We joined the march at the corner of Charing Cross Road and Shaftesbury Avenue. As has been reported elsewhere, it wasn't so much a march as a mass shuffle. Two steps forward, wait, two steps forward, inexplicable cheer, two steps forward. An hour later, we had only got as far as Piccadilly Circus. We looked at each other and said, "You thinking what I'm thinking?" and went for a drink on Old Compton Street instead.

    Taking up prime position at the huge windows in Comptons, we watched thousands of protesters taking a short cut. This - I feel - is why the reported numbers on the march vary so wildly. Not everybody did the whole thing, via the official route. Some only went to Hyde Park, others took back streets and some, like us, were just plain lazy. What do we want? World Peace. When do we want it? Ooh, after this pint, I should think.

    Sunday, February 16, 2003

    The Readers Wifes' first single, Bitch At The Brits, is out on Monday. It's fantastic. Think Divine, Dead Or Alive, Pet Shop Boys. It'll be hard to find as they've only pressed 1,000 copies - try one of the shops on Berwick Street, or Amazon. Bizzarely, according to Amazon,
    Customers who shopped for this item also shopped for:
    * Very Best of Foreigner...And Beyond [IMPORT]; Audio CD ~ Foreigner
    * Pop Life: a Journey by Sofa; Paperback ~ Casper Llewellyn Smith
    * Barney - It's Time For Counting; VHS Tape ~ Barney The Dinosaur;
    Google buys Blogger.

    Friday, February 14, 2003

    "Removes 99 top stains", screams the box of lemon fresh Surf washing powder. On the back of the box, the manufacturers have handily listed all 99 stains, including: coffee, deodorant, pina colada, mucus, baby pee, bird poo, eye shadow and fag ash.

    No good on cum stains, then? Lube? The unidentified black gunk from the floor at the RVT? No? I'll stick to Persil then.
    Loads of rare and unreleased Pet Shop Boys songs, videos and live performances to dowload at this beautifully-designed site.
    Thanks to Lyle and Sarrah for suggesting that I listen to the BBC's 6 Music, but it ain't going to work, I'm afraid ["work" being the key word]. Why don't they just be done with it and call it "6 Talk"? Oh, I like it enormously - the DJ roster is virtually identical to that of GLR at its Britpop peak - and so's the music, which is fine by me. It'd be great company on a long car journey. But - especially when it's coming out of the Harman/Kardon speakers either side of the monitor in front of you - the chat demands that it be listened to. So, no good for working to.

    Back to Radio Event Horizon for me, I think.

    Aside: The 6 Music record of the day for Valentine's Day is The Pogues' "Rum, Sodomy And The Lash", featuring "A Pair Of Brown Eyes". There's a joke in their somewhere...
    Whoah! Dude! This is the freakiest site on the 'net. There's clearly somebody very, very talented, with acess to very, very, very good drugs, behind this. Now, what does it all mean, exactly, hmm?
    [via b3ta]
    For Marcus on Valentine's Day.

    Thursday, February 13, 2003

    My name is David, and I'm a Salonoholic. I've even just been to the website to vote for Ricardo to receive the £3,000 bonus. Can't standing the preening twat, but he makes for compulsive viewing.
    Can somebody please explain this Freeserve ad to me?

    Why does it say "Dieter" on it? And is that "Dieter" as in the German man's name, or "dieter" as in someone who's trying to lose weight? And why are there dog's paw-prints all over it? Is the dog's name Dieter? What sort of name is that for a dog? What has a dog got to do with it anyway, despite the copywriter's lame attempt to incorporate the word 'barking'? Is Dieter the dog's owner? Is the dog's owner trying to eat less? And why is the dog trying to tell his owner that Freeserve only costs £6.99? Why should the dog care? Is Dieter starving his dog? And - actually - what is the whole thing written on? A slab of marble? A plank of wood? A parcel?

    I don't understand.
    Daytime telly is bad enough, but daytime radio is even worse. Every song has to be prefaced with sixth-form innuendo from juvenile 'jocks' desperate to show off how funny they are. All I want is some good music, a chance to hear what's new. I can't find a radio station I can actually bear listening to while working.

  • Radio 1: Much as I admire how Mark and Lard managed to break into the mainstream with their surreal humour, haven't they been doing the same thing for a bit long? Comedy voices and catchphrases a-go-go.
  • GLR BBC London: Good music, with intelligent talk, just too much of it - I need to get some work done.
  • Virgin: Might as well be Capital Gold.
  • Xfm: I like the music, but too many ads. The station has also fallen into the Personality DJ trap. Speaking of traps, I wish Zoe Ball would shut hers.
  • etc

    But then I had a brainwave - online radio. There are thousands of internet radio stations, and now that I've got Broadband, it should whizz along. Can anyone recommend a good station? Something UK-based that plays old and new stuff? There must be something out there targeted towards my tastes. Perhaps I should set up my own station using ShoutCast.
  • Wednesday, February 12, 2003

    After months of meaning to go to Comedy Camp, downstairs at Barcode, we finally made it last night. The only available seats were in the front row - never a good idea at a comedy gig. But we thought 'to hell with it', and braced ourselves for the ribbing that was sure to follow. Matters were made worse when I arrived back from the bar midway through compere Simon Happily's opening remarks. "Don't think I didn't see you," he said, "Ooh you look like a real bit of rough, but then you laugh and become a screaming queen."

    Opening act Cathy P went down well, playing to the audience, relating anecdotes of her experiences as a lesbian growing up in Yorkshire. "We had one lesbian night a month, held in the local community centre. The DJ had lights which went red, blue, green; red, blue, green. Or, if he was feeling really flash, green, blue, red."

    Simon Amstell made the most of his daytime job - presenter of T4's Popworld. He told us which popstars are twats (Ronan Keating, apparently) and which are gay. "Justin Timberlake says he never shagged Britney Spears. Of course you didn't, Justin - you're as gay as a very gay thing." Simon made me laugh a great deal, even though he picked on me a lot.

    Mandy Muden was billed as performing magic and comedy, but neither was much in evidence.

    Headliner Jo Caulfield was utterly brilliant. Perhaps we were just pissed by this stage, but we were in hysterics all the way through her act. Described as "Graham Norton's warm-up", which, she said, made her think of herself as a fluffer. Her experience showed, as she was confident and relaxed and very, very funny.

    A top night out - I will definitely be going back, perhaps on the 11th of March, for surreal duo Men In Coats.
    How fantastic are these? Soft Cell dolls. I want!

    Tuesday, February 11, 2003

    Happy birthday, dearest Luca
    From the land that brought us sambuca.
    You are really quite a looker,
    Have a blast, like a big bazooka.

    Oh dear, what a dreadful poem – I’m such a palooka.
    I'm an autumn girl, flying over London
    With the trees on fire it looks like home
    I'm an autumn girl on the endless search for summer
    Cause I need some love to cook my frozen bones

    You needed something to get your teeth into
    And in my voodoo kitchen you said
    "I've got something to show you,
    It's a recipe handed down from father to son
    For a thousand years, and it goes with those hot salt tears."

    Get me on the boil and reduce me
    To a simmering wreck with a slow kiss
    To the back of my neck
    Carve up my heart on a very low flame
    Separate my feelings then pour them down the drain
    Close my eyes and sweeten me with lies
    Pierce my skin with a few well chosen words
    Now you can stuff me with whatever you've got handy
    And on a cold grey day a cold grey man will do

    So give me something to whet my appetite
    And chill my soul with a sudden lack of interest
    Oh, but the winter freezes on and the candle's burned low
    Fill me with the hot stuff then say you've got to go
    Take my mind, marinade it in red wine
    Grate my thighs with your chinny chin chin
    And I will let you in
    Oh on a long dark night a long dark man might ...
    Kirsty MacColl, Autumngirlsoup, from the album Tropical Brainstorm.
    Over-tired, I couldn't sleep last night. Some time in the wee small hours, I gave up and padded into the kitchen, intending to have a midnight snack. But although the larder was well stocked, there was nothing appropriate. Just breakfast rolls, luncheon meat, picnic ham, cocktail onions, a TV dinner and rich tea biscuits - nothing for a midnight feast.
    Oh, you probably want to know how the job interview went? It went fairly well - they were nice people and I asked all the right questions. But their mag is a lot glossier and more creative than the one I've been working on, and I left with the feeling that they would be worried that I wouldn't be up to the job. And, sure enough, they emailed me today to say they'd decided to go with another designer who had more experience in their sector. Although I know I would have been capable, I understand their reservations. I don't mind - it was only a quarterly publication, giving me just five days of freelance employment every three months. Would have been nice to put in my portfolio, though.

    Ah well, I've got one of my regular days in the old office tomorrow. It's not the most creative work, but it pays better.

    Saturday, February 08, 2003

    'cause I've got no sense of direction,
    I guess I've got no sense at all
    - Magnetic Fields: "All The Umbrellas In London"
    I am not exactly blessed with an innate sense of direction. Ask me to choose the right way home, and you can be guaranteed I will choose - not just the wrong way - but quite the opposite way. Yet all the time, I will be 100% convinced I know I'm going the right way. You'd think, by now, that I'd know how unreliable my sense of direction is, yet every single time, I manage to convince myself that this time it will work out.

    Tonight, I have walked. Walked and walked and walked. From Kings Cross to Kilburn. [Don't ask - I was drunk and annoyed, OK?]. I knew where I was heading, and how to get there. I mean, I really knew how to get there. 100% knew it, I tell you.

    I started in N1, and wanted to end up in NW2. Even I can figure out that that's north-west. Easy: find north, then head up a bit and left a bit. Finding north was surprisingly easy - I stumbled, literally, upon York Way, which I - quite correctly - knew heads pretty damn well due north. So I headed up that for a bit, then left a bit. Up a bit, left a bit, up a bit, left a bit, all the time heading north west. Or so I thought. I was really proud of myself. Half an hour or so later, I spotted a big road. Excitedly, I wondered which main north-west artery this was - Haverstock Hill? Edgware Road? Finchley Road?

    Er, no. It was York Way. Yes, the street I'd started on. In fact, after half an hour of walking, I'd managed to end up just six blocks up from where I'd started.

    OK, never mind. A quick look at a bus-stop map showed that if I walked right a bit, up a bit, I'd be back on track. So I walked right a bit, up a bit, right a bit, up a bit. And found myself in Tufnell Park - miles east of where I wanted to be.

    By this stage, any logical person would have called it a day. I had a Travelcard in my pocket, so could have got a bus. Hell, I had pockets full of cash and could have got a cab. But - no - I knew where I was, and knew how to get home. Quickly. And easily.

    So I walked up a long hill - into Highgate. Lovely area, but miles north of Kilburn.

    What next? Why, a "short cut" of course - a phrase which should strike fear into the heart of anyone hearing me suggest it. But I'm made of sturdier stuff, and headed into the upper reaches of Hampstead Heath. At last, an area I recognised. To my right, the gazebo at Kenwood House. Keeping the gazebo on my right, I picked my way in the dark, across the marshy grounds, skirting around the larger puddles, yet still regularly getting stuck ankle-deep in mud. Eventually, I spotted, directly ahead of me - no, that can't be right - the gazebo. Yes, I'd managed to come full circle.

    Finally, an hour later, I am home. It is now 3:30am, perhaps three hours after I left Kings Cross.

    This map shows the route I should have taken.

    This map shows, as well as I can figure out, the route I actually took. My feet are sore. And muddy. Still, I've walked myself sober. Not unannoyed, though.

    Friday, February 07, 2003

    I have a job interview this morning.

    OK, it's only for a freelance contract, doing a quarterly mag, and I don't know yet whether it will be a from-home job or an in-the-office one. But it's still my first job interview in eight years.

    I haven't yet decided on the approach I'll take - sober and professional; creative and arty; matey and reliable; nervous and flustered.

    Thursday, February 06, 2003

    It's clearly smutty gay music video day. Here's one for the Shorts & Sports gang: "Soccer Practice" by Gay Pimp.
    [via the excellent bloghserf]
    From today's referrals: i want to have sex can you help me see seans which will help me

    Not work-safe: sean connery? sean penn? sean young?
    I'm gonna be singing this all day. Linked to in today's Popbitch mailing, and seemingly something to do with, laydeez and gennulmen: the all-singing, all-dancing Disco Squirrels with "Disco Sauna".

    I'll admit I actually like the song. It's a spoof of stereotyped gay disco, but it's a well-informed spoof and very well done. And I happen to like Man Parrish and Bronski Beat. Does that make me a stereotype poof?

    Wednesday, February 05, 2003

    This is very, very good: Diamond Geezer's Brewer's Unoriginal Miscellany.
    [via Mike.]
    My demographic has been filled! New magazine Word seems designed for me, as though someone has said, "Hmm... David's got a lot of time on his hands right now, let's give him something to read."

    The cover star for the first issue of Word is Nick Cave. Straplines trumpet: "We set the world to rights with Neil Tennant, sleep over at John Peel's, learn to script Eastenders, flirt with Clare Grogan and Kim Wilde... and tell you how old everyone is. Plus 40 pages of the best reviews: Nick Hornby, Missy Elliott, Dave Eggers."

    How could I resist? On first look, the magazine appears to be from the stable that brings us Q - the design is similar, and the editor is Mark Ellen. In the editorial, however, Ellen says the mag is an independent labour of love, put together by a small team in an insalubrious area of Islington. "Everything in this first issue is here because we want to read it," he says, "We haven't market-researched the concept."

    Now that I've started reading it, I can't help feeling it's a bit Sunday supplement, a bit Midweek, a bit like a transcript of an episode of "I Love The...". Indeed, the last page contains a quiz called "Did You Love 1979"?

    But, yes, I did. Throughout, the subject matter is very me - Shazam and CDDB; the charts; mixtapes; Fopp Records; Julie Christie; 31 Songs; and some rather nice earphones. They may not have market-researched it, but they have targeted my 30-40-something demographic perfectly - I'll be buying Word again.

    Tuesday, February 04, 2003

    Someone just arrived at my site by searching for "Freda Payne obituary". Say it isn't so.
    He's keeping awfully quiet about it, but it's his birthday on Sunday, you know.
    Hooray! I'm all broadbanded up now.

    Monday, February 03, 2003

    I've just been to the Consignia Royal Mail sorting office to pick up my BT Broadband modem [not that my service has been activated yet, but anyway...]. As I was leaving, I overheard the woman who had been behind me in the queue: "Excuse me. I wonder if you can help me? My son sent a letter, and he wrote some things that were not nice, things that were not right. Is there any way you can stop it being sent?"
    I too did a search for the Royal Vauxhall Tavern this morning, and came across this page, which seemed to be a review of the place, in German. I ran it through a Babelfish translation, and now it makes sense. Well, sort of, as these excerpts show:
    Per: Well attainable with bus and course, nice chaps, fantastische Show, ingenious tendency, moderate prices.
    Against: The volume! Queues at the inlet.
    "Hello pos around!" the battle call is welcomed by superstar lady Edna with that it its fans, Verehrer and ex husbands. As a large fan of its Show I was naturally strained, when I experienced with my first London stay that a small club with the hochtrabenden name "The Royal Vauxhall Tavern" has each Sunday a Show "named lady Edna" Experience on the program. What would expect us there? Lady Edna for arms? And at all, which was for a shed?

    We go in the Londoner the south. Strangely lost working building stands directly in relation to the tube station Vauxhall - that is it: "The Royal Vauxhall Tavern". The tube is by the way nothing indecent separates the name for the Londoner underground. (those indecent things come later...)

    It precedes also quite quickly, because the club begins itself to only fill. Is it only times fully applies: one into one out. Thus only if someone goes, clean-let someone. And before the Show nobody, it there naturally goes can happen that between five and un the end of the Show around seven no inlet is. Appear thus early, in order to avoid disappointment! Who is smart and time would like to save, o'clock already goes and gets themselves its bracelet for the price of 5 Pound and comes back punctually to the Show at 6 o'clock around two or three. The bracelet is the ticket, which makes possible to each time the entrance to fuselage forward section. It is from stable plastics and gets over all "shenanigans" (who does not have to look up the word now, may on itself be powerfully proud).

    Finite are we in it. At a long side of the area a stage at the other one bar. In the semicircular a loft also a few few seat lyingnesses, which is remainder of the area up to a few standing tables and narrow heads of molten metal unmoebliert. Ever more guests of the heterosexual Tuersteherin in the Kampflesbenlook are let in. It is by the way one of the few (genuine) women of the meeting.

    It becomes fuller and more fully. Even in a stage in which one would not have considered this possible becomes it still more fully. And then it becomes again fuller. On estimated 80 square meters estimated 300 people. With the crowding even a Oelsardine would get klaustrophobische accumulations.

    As I hardly still beer and cigarette to keep simultaneous can begin the Show. On the stage steps:

    Lady Edna superstar!

    With the Boshaftigkeiten of the wrong lady Edna my English knowledge is, I for completely passably always kept, hopelessly overtaxed. A half hour is pulled over everything, about what the Yellowpress of the island in the past week reported and much local gossip and gossip participate also. The public raves and I is annoyed that I do not understand times half.

    Then the Show turns, the peruecke over falls and on the stage stands alternating for Robbie Williams, Debbie Harry and Freddy Mercury. Which for a voice! I am inspired - and the remaining estimated 299 present ones also.

    The DJ transfers and movement comes into the mass. It is to be danced. Dance? With the crowding? Now, one arranges oneself. From that drilled out HFM roars to loudspeakers with Eurobeats (homo friendly music). Exactly the correct mixture between dancable uffta uffta and melody remainders to heitern the Mitraten. Kylie and Madonna may not be missing, and otherwise the DJ of everything verwurstet which in the Clubcharts is momentary. Only a little too loud. (I assume, the public-address system favorably one from the recently torn off Wembley stage purchased.) I recommend urgently good ear plugs. Verbal communication is so well impossible.

    Meanwhile the Meute comes into momentum. No miracle, most are eh on any letter of the alphabet. Before the lady toilet a continuous queue. If the colleagues of James Bond in the neighbouring MI6-Gebaeude would work around this time and a view from the window would risk, they would see being thrown a club in that to pills which things hold. Bizarr... I have rarely a club seen into so openly so many drugs to be consumed. I adhere to beer, prefer Jamaican "talk to Stripe" in doses. Thus one does not bury the precious wet at least in the crowding. Finally the pint costs 2.85 Pound (ca.4,50 euro), with which however on the local price level moves the fuselage forward sections. Soft drinks cost 2, clothes 1 Pound. Even Euros are accepted.

    Within short nine of ten guests made their torso free. That is only partially because of narzistischen inclinations of the present ones and has above all somewhat with the fact to do that there is no (in words NONE) air conditioning system. Even in the winter both doors are open checkfishing rod far, which provides however only in their direct proximity for something fresh air. In the summer still another blower the several times ventilated gas mixture, which one hardly still breathing air can call strives, to through-agitate. With only small success. Therefore one sees grapes/clusters of halfnaked men with steaming torsos also in the cold season before the house. In the summer the adjacent park is taken as chill out AREA in fitting. There is not a retreat area in the building unfortunately.

    The average age of the public is appropriate for chest hair over 30, the existing main hair predominantly short-cropped is carried and proudly shown. So I like that. Above average many men, who fit rather exactly into my booty pattern. In addition an omitted party tendency, to which the fantastische Show before the party contributes and which is not continued to heat up by various chemicals freely for sale and alcohol. Englishmen know as one celebrate. Between 23 and 23:30 o'clock the restaurant empties quite suddenly, because around midnight is everything past. Home one comes with bus or night bus. Stops are nearly direct before the entry door.


    I amuse myself on hardly another party as well as Sundays in the Royal Vauxhall Tavern. A grandiose Travestie Show, nice men, a dancable music and the English way of life make an unbeatable mixture. For me this meeting belongs simply to an attendance in the British capital. To prevent perfect means around sun-daily boredom and a recommendation for each gay London tourist. But always remember, the saying printed thickly in the newspaper advertisements of the fuselage forward sections is quite seriously to be taken: Arrive early to avoid disappointment.  

    Sunday, February 02, 2003

    Quite the nicest e-mail I have ever received. People can be so damn nice!
    Good to have you back, at last.
    I stumbled upon your blog a few months ago, quite by accident, via a Google search for "Vauxhall Tavern". Since then I have wasted many hours of my and my employers' time reading and re-reading the entire archive. It's made me laugh, made me cry (yes, really) and led me to discover things I would never have otherwise found. (Like that picture of Justin).
    I'm pretty certain you enjoy creating Swish Cottage as much as I enjoy reading it, but I can hardly go on enjoying the fruits of your labours day after day without offering some sort of recompense. So I've been to your Amazon wishlist. "Normally despatched in 24 hours" (but you know what they're like).
    Aaaaw! That's given me a lovely warm glow. Thank you so very, very much.