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.
    Dave asks, "If you were to do drag (or have done), what song would you do it to and why?"

    Monday, March 10, 2003

    Is there a bit of celeb gossip doing the rounds that I don't know about? I've had several search requests today involving a domestic canine and a certain female TV presenter WITH a habit of emphasising the wrong WORDS. (I'm not naming her - I learned my lesson after the footballer's sister Google-frenzy.)

    One blogger lives at A.
    Another blogger lives at B.
    Another blogger lives at C.

    Is this the bloggiest area of London or, indeed, the UK?

    Can anyone provide a Streetmap.co.uk square with more than three separate blogger residences in it? [Not fair if you live together!]
    Stephen, masquerading as Sparky, raises one of my favourite subjects: the geographically-correct tube map. Coincidentally, so does Kottke, providing a link to an image of the London Underground map as it really looks. The familiar Henry Beck schematic doesn't merely straighten the lines, it also enlarges the busy centre, making the area within the Circle Line seem far bigger than it is.

    I've laid the geographically-correct map over a road map of London. I'm not sure I've lined it up 100% correctly, but it's near enough. If you've got Photoshop, you might want to download this .psd file so you can move it around and adjust the opacity of the layers yourself.

    Friday, March 07, 2003

    "Angel" by Gavin Friday, "Angel Eyes" by Roxy music, or the one by ABBA, or their "Like An Angel Passing Through My Room", "There Must Be An Angel" by the Eurythmics, "Angel On A Trampoline" by the Aluminum Group, "Angel Darling" by Cardinal, "Angel" by Kirsty MacColl, "Calling All Angels" by Jane Siberry and kd lang, "Angel" by Massive Attack, "Fallen Angel" by Lesley Rae Dowling, even "Angels" by Robbie Williams - why do I own so many songs with 'angel' in the title? And is it a law that every song with that word in its name has to be gorgeous?
    Marcus has been a bad boy and hasn't updated his blog in ages, but it's not because there's been nothing happening in his life. Last weekend he moved house, and this weekend he's dressing a Hollywood A-list star for the cover of a top women's magazine.

    Thursday, March 06, 2003

    I have just watched The Hours on video.

    Oh, I tell you, it's unreleased Blur albums one day, advance copies of the Goldfrapp one the next, watching new releases in the comfort (?) of your own home the next. And then tonight we've got tickets for a preview screening of something-or-other at the cinema, and then after that we're on the guest-list at Substation South where the DJ will be Lady Miss Kier [ex of Deee-Lite].

    Who'd have thought unemployment would be so glamorous?

    Wednesday, March 05, 2003

    I want one of these!
    A quick review of the new Goldfrapp album, "Black Cherry". Gulp, they've gone all Garbage. Although three or four tracks have their patented coffee-table dinner-party trip-hop sound, the rest are dancey, with dark scuzzy synths and squelching basslines and distorted screams and singlaong choruses. It's excellent, but it's not the new Lemon Jelly (which was the new Royksopp [which was the new Moby {which was the new Air |etc|}]).
    What the fuck is happening? Literally hundreds of children, running, screaming, down my street. Some carrying placards. No adults supervising them. Running amok. Banging on cars. Invading neighbours' gardens. Tearing poles off fences. I tell you, it's Lord Of The Flies out there.

    A couple of minues later, panicked teachers are coming down the street, looking for the kids. The police have arrived and I went out to investigate. Seems a local school was having a protest which got out of hand. "The kids just walked out," said the head teacher. "How many are there?" asked the policeman. "Seven hundred."

    Now the kids are heading back to the school, more subdued, in smaller groups of four or five. Galactic toss monkeys. There's still a group of surly teenagers in hooded tops hanging out threateningly on the the corner outside my house. Go away. I've just watched the news, and it seems there were impromptu schools anti-war protests all over the country.

    In other news, a man was stabbed to death last night at the petrol station just down the road, near Sasha's place.
    Do you make up words for the instrumental bits in songs? I do it all the time. Take "Killer", by Adamski. Or Seal. Or the Sugababes. Or George Michael. Anyway, whenever I hear that killer riff - you know the one: "nuh-nuh-nuh-nuh-nerr-nerr" - I sing along: "Music you can dance to". Always have, dunno why - was there ever a version with these words on it, or did I make it up? I do that in loads of songs but, er, I can't remember any of the others. Do you do it, too?

    Tuesday, March 04, 2003

    Britain. Margaret Thatcher. Instant coffee. Powdered creamer. Hairdressers. Perms. Tabac. Advocaat. Midori. Alcoholism. Single mothers. Spam. Baked beans. Smash. Recipes involving Spam and baked beans and Smash. Dallas. Sue-Ellen. Oral sex. Cosmopolitan. Multiple orgasms. Marital affairs. Domestic violence. Divorce. Tranquillisers. Family. Failure. Microwave ovens. Digital watches. North sea oil. Save the whales. Industrial disputes. Miners' strike. Dustbin men's strike. Fleet Street. Wapping. Rupert Murdoch. Cash-in-hand. Falklands. The Sun. Gotcha! Conservatories. Lounge suites. Bathroom pedestal sets. Milton Keynes. Roundabouts. Public art. Shopping centres. Shoplifting. Buying council flats. Mortgages. Endowment policies. Negative equity. Barratt homes. Bankruptcy. ERM. Immigrants. Bananas thrown at black sportsmen. Coloureds. Coons. I'm not a racialist. BNP. ANL. CND. AIDS. Rock Hudson. Lady Di. Michael Fish. The big storm. Margaret Thatcher. Britain.

    Rumours Of A Hurricane by Tim Lott. Briliant.

    Monday, March 03, 2003

    Ooh, the new Blur album, "Think Tank" is gorgeous - a real come-down album, all mellow mellotron and wracked vocals. Not a million miles away from their last album, "13", but more tuneful. It's very cohesive. Not sure if there are any big hit singles on it - the boys have clearly moved on from their chirpy-chappy Britpop days. On first listen, the stand-out track for me is the appropriately-titled "Sweet Song". And wait till you hear the magnificent drum programming on "Gene By Gene". The album is not released till the 5th of May, but - hurrah - someone's leaked it.
    Are you from Finland? Please tell me how you heard about this site. I usually average around 300 page views on a Sunday, but yesterday I got 800, mostly from Finnish domains. Please email me or leave a comment if you know the reason for this.

    Update: Examining my raw server logs turned up this site which mentions the Justin Timberlake pic.
    Play twenty questions against a computer. It beat me three out of three goes.
    From the Swish Cottage mailbag:
    Date: Sat March 1 2003, 18:28  
    From:  xyz
    To:  blog@cack.co.uk  
    Subject: the great mistake!  
    Message:  
    or how i ended up assuming that swishcottage.com was the site of someone else! This is a transcript of an exchange on a message board at outintheuk.com. I am the xyz one

    --------------------------
    xyz: i have been gripped, yes gripped for three quarters of an hour in yer bloggs...fascinating! yes really... inspiring.. I am trying to make a film at the mo about the life of a skinny bloke...only a few mins long nothing too adventurous....you have given me loads of ideas....(please try not to take this in a manner which downgrades your sense of being.!) fancy doing some writing for it with me bf?? great pics too...any chance of me using some on bbci sites?? i design websites for bbcwales 3days a week and make films/tv for 2days... enuf for now... [Sat 01/03/03 17:45]

    abc: ok, are bloggs meant to be writings or something else? if the are writings, has it really taken you three quarters of an hour??? [Sat 01/03/03 17:49]

    xyz: sorry if i have offended thought it took the ability to write at some level to blogg in the first place? Am i sposed to be reading? check yer stats...I reckon it has been about three quarters of an hour [Sat 01/03/03 17:59]

    abc: hey, you havent offended at all, just confused me a bit so where would you use my pics then? and what do you want me to help write? i am interested..... [Sat 01/03/03 18:01]

    abc: do yuo mean the stuff i have added to the boards?? [Sat 01/03/03 18:03]

    xyz: so is www.swishcottage.com your site?? [Sat 01/03/03 18:11]

    abc: no, there is a link from my site to a justin timberlake pic JUST because it is his pic dont think you should confuse me with that site..... still want me and my words? [Sat 01/03/03 18:14]

    xyz: lol....!!! [Sat 01/03/03 18:22]

    Sunday, March 02, 2003

    A huge "thank-you" to Meg, who responded to my file-sharing query with a novel solution, and then held my hand through the set-up process, and sent me some great files to boot. Ooh, Meg!

    Saturday, March 01, 2003

    "You don't care how big my ass is, just how fabulous my dress is. Gay boyfriend, gay boyfriend, I don't really care that you are queer."

    - Gay Boyfriend by the Ukes of Hazzard. It's a 9MB Quicktime movie, but worth the download time for its ukelele-pluckin' casio-tonin' fag-haggin' lo-fi charm.
    [via Plasticbag]
  • Number of people in the UK with my first name and surname: 125. "More people probably die poking spoons into the back of their PC's every year than there are of you."
  • Number of people in the UK with Ian's first name and surname: 810. "You are like a rare bird, Lost and pecking at nuts."
  • Number of people in the UK with Marcus's first name and surname: 1. "This name is unique like a yeti or some form of Magic Chimp."

    How many people in the UK have your first name and surname? Leave your answer in the comments - let's see if we can get higher than 810.
  • Can anyone tell me why I've had such a flurry of visitors from Finland today? Has this site been listed as one of the top five blogs in Keskipohjanmaa or something? Speaking of Finland, former Big Brother winner [and, remember, former air steward] Brian Dowling revealed his pathetic knowledge of geography on SM:TV this morning. He was presented with a large map of Europe, and was asked to pin a map into Finland. He deliberated for a few seconds then stuck the flag firmly into the wrong country. No, not Norway or Sweden, but - er - Italy!