Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Merry Christmas! Off to start my shopping now. Yes, really.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

And slowly, quietly, the office stirs into life. It’s the morning after the Christmas party and all the traditional rituals are being faithfully observed:

 By 9.30am there shall be no more than four people present. Three who either didn’t attend the party or don’t drink, and me. Every year.

 By 10.00am the numbers shall have risen to about eight. Each new arrival shall be clutching a McDonald’s bag, their hangover having led them into the belief that a McMuffin is the answer to their problems. Too late, they will realise that the McMuffin is the answer to no-one’s problems.

 10.30am, and the ‘god, I was so drunk!’ stories have been mingling with the ‘what was she wearing?’s for some time, tales of ill-advised tequilas and even less-advised lycra. And everyone’s whispering about That Girl From Accounts.

 Sadly however, That Girl From Accounts has got every day off from now until the New Year, by which time it won’t be half as funny. Spoilsport.

 Nobody’s arse will have been photocopied. This is an office party myth. You have never attended, and hopefully never will attend, a party of any sort at which there is any form of arse-duplication. Or indeed one at which there even is a photocopier (although if you do find yourself at such a gathering, simply leave. Trust me. There’s a whole world out there.)

 Ditto secretaries and bosses in stationery cupboards. Will not have happened. Although my view here may be skewed by our not having any secretaries, therefore rendering this scenario almost entirely unlikely. Haven’t got a stationery cupboard either, come to think of it. No wonder there’s so little scandal around here these days.

 Many things shall have been lost, and there shall be emails pleading for their return. Our list so far: ‘Moses’-style kaftan (one), glasses, blonde wigs (two), pair of comedy plastic breasts (one), dignity (lots).

 12.00pm. Having spent the morning in the self-satisfied belief that you got through the evening embarrassment-free, you will suddenly have a hideous, juddering recollection. Yes, you did do that. Everyone did see you, and that was your tongue. Sorry.

Actually, the last one has yet to hit me. I think we’re safe. Until someone comes in with the photographs at least, of which at least one is guaranteed to be of you doing something embarrassing that you don’t remember doing. It’s the law. I'm off for a long lunch before anything incriminating can surface...

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Ah, it appears to be Wednesday already. Just about recovered sufficiently from the weekend to look at the screen again, and if I remember rightly, a fine weekend it was too. I’m fairly sure K & I cooked dinner on Friday night for friends, followed by Chris and Dave’s party on Saturday night, before heading to Crash, and Beyond, the RVT and the LA3, but it’s all a bit of a blur. I heartily support Luca’s endorsement of the Big Gay Disco Bus that runs between the latter two venues, though. Most useful, and one of those ‘only in London’ experiences I suspect.

More when I regain the ability to string a sentence together in less than half an hour, which, given it’s our Christmas party tonight (themed ‘Popstars: The Rejects’ – don’t ask…), may be some time…

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Good things that happened at the weekend:

 Spent Friday night devouring something big, hot and South African. Yes indeed, my first ever meal in Nando’s, South Africa’s finest chicken emporium. Have worked on some of their advertising before, but never actually eaten in any of their restaurants. Most impressed. Very reasonable and very good – just like going for a meal in their native country in fact.

 In another moment of middle-aged-ness, there was, for once, no clubbing on Saturday. Instead, standing in at last-minute for absent friends, a most civilised visit to the theatre in Hampstead (Stephen Fry’s somewhat controversial ‘Latin!’ – more of which another time perhaps), followed by an Italian meal, and relaxing in front of a Kylie documentary. Possibly the gayest night in history, admittedly.

Bad things that happened at the weekend:

 Aforementioned car thing. Still working (just) but have now discovered that driving around in freezing weather with the windows open and attempting not to breathe lest it steam the screen up, is not particularly easy. And you can’t sing along to your car radio without getting funny looks from passers-by. Apparently the good burghers of Southgate don’t appreciate ‘This Time I Know It’s For Real’ quite like I do. Boo.

 Record of the Year 2002? Gareth bloody Gates? And not even ‘Anyone of Us’ which at least had the benefit of a tune, but Unchained-flippin-Travesty, the most unimaginative, turgid, soulless, poorly-written and over-rated ballad in the history of pop? Were the other voting lines not working?

[Curiously, a search on the above item turns up barely any relevant links - perhaps the web is trying to eradicate this travesty from history as quickly as possible. Google is not just clever, but has taste too.]

Monday, December 09, 2002

It looks like it’s the end of the road for Mike. Not our beleaguered balladeer but Mike, my trusty VW Golf. Whilst I’d normally lump people who name their vehicles in with the sort of twisted sickos who send 'Forever Friends' cards with teddy bears on, I confess he’s always had the name.

It started with my friend Emily, in Maths class at school, who had a small bright yellow plastic motorbike out of a Christmas cracker, named Mike the Bike. Entertained us through many a tedious trigonometry moment, he did – quite how, at that age, I have absolutely no idea. Maybe anything is entertaining when your only other option is an algebra textbook.

A year or so later I got my very first motorised transport: a small bright yellow plastic moped, with a habit of falling over embarrassingly in front of the school bus. The resemblance was uncanny. Although I would probably have travelled faster on the one out of the cracker. Hence, also named Mike.

Since which time, through a mixture of tradition, comfortable familiarity and well, sheer lack of imagination, every vehicle I’ve ever owned has been Mike. Sorry.

He’s in a bad way though. I got in on Saturday morning to discover that Lake Windermere had decided on an impromptu relocation to what I can only describe as my passenger footwell. Small groups of fishermen had gathered on the western shores and one enterprising soul was organising boat trips. Well, okay the last bit’s not entirely true.

No problem with the roof, but seems there is a gutter below the windscreen, which, should it become clogged with seasonal leaf-fall, will instead divert all the rainwater directly into the car. Marvellous.

So now I have a minor ocean to my left, while those bits of carpet not under flood are growing some sort of fluffy white fungus which I’m quite sure can’t be good. Decide water has to be soaked up somehow, but there’s a lot of it. Drive to nearest steep hill (Muswell) and park, such that the water will at least run into one place. Boating trip temporarily disrupted by unexpected tsunami. Place enormously large cloth dustsheet into water, in vain attempt to soak up as much as possible. Only moderately successful, and operation hindered by it raining and being approximately minus ten degrees. Cold and wet, decide to abort mission and return to warm flat for coffee.

As it stands, most of the water’s soaked up but it’s a long way from dry. A couple days on a driveway in the sunshine with all the doors open would sort it out but it’s early December and sunshine is a good six months away (and by no means certain even then). I’d run it round for a couple of hours with the heater on full, except in the process of unclogging the gutter I appear to have rendered the air blower thingy unworkable. A prolonged blast with some sort of enormous industrial hairdryer would probably work, but short of Peter Stringfellow I can’t think of anyone who might possess such an item.

So, along with his many other injuries, batterings and bruises (he’s been on his last wheels for several years now), I fear this could be the last straw for Mike. Considering all he’s survived it seems entirely unjust that he should be defeated by a bit of water, but unless I can invent some brilliant way of drying out a car in a cold, wet December it’s going to be me versus the fungi and I’m no match for mushrooms.

Any suggestions?

(*Sigh* I remember when all this was sex, drugs and rock and roll hi-NRG pop nonsense. Now I'm rambling on about my car problems. Hello middle age, yes, I see you there. Next week, What's Wrong With My Oven? and Oh! That Terrible Trouble We Had With The Gas Meter).

Friday, December 06, 2002

Kylie calendar update: now no right foot, hair, face, or right breast. Left arm history by Monday. Butt still intact.

Much more adventy goodness over at the new and improved Popjustice blog, and we are loving the Newby's of Molford advert calendar.

Joy be with you all.

This here blog isn’t the only thing of Major Cultural Significance I haven’t been keeping up with lately. For example:

Celebrity Big Brother
Came, went, almost completely passed me by. Saw some of the final night, solely by virtue of the law of my generation that states, should you be unfortunate enough to find yourself in on a Friday night, you will be watching Channel 4. It’s the law.

Seemed largely uneventful – the only real mystery being how at no point did Mark Owen go:
‘Christ. There’s my old mate Robbie signing eighty-million-pound record deals and having yet another No.1 album, and here I am, stuck in a house in Hertfordshire with Les Dennis and Anne fucking Diamond.’, before proceeding to lose the plot entirely and bite the heads off all the chickens.

Popstars: The Rivals
Nope, missed this too, all bar about half an hour which consisted entirely of funny uncles Pete and Louis visiting identikit teenagers’ homes to inform them whether or not they’d got through to the next stage. At which point they burst into identikit sobbing/gasps of joy, which all got rather dull after the first ten minutes. Large amounts of stone-cladding, UPVC windows and Laura Ashley curtains were seen during the filming of these segments. Which, frankly, should have disqualified the contestants immediately but sometimes there’s no justice. No idea if the winners are any good, but we do rather like…

The Cheeky Girls
…who nearly passed me by until yesterday, when I had the pleasure of both hearing the record and seeing the video. Genius. Christmas wouldn’t be the same without a crap novelty record. Okay we’ve still got Las Ketchup but you can’t sing along to that unless you’re really, really drunk. This, however combines the sort of brilliantly inane lyrics that only Oasis can match, with the beat of another crap novelty classic, Whigfield’s ‘Saturday Night’, and as such cannot fail to be really quite marvellous. Plus, any song which contains the line: ‘Touch my bum, this is life!’ (surely one of the greatest pop lyrics ever) has got to be good news. And at least it’s supposed to be laughably bad – what’s your excuse, Lopez?

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Oh good. The dog from the Churchill Insurance ads is releasing a single next week. It's a cover of 2 Unlimited's 'No Limit'. Like I say, oh good...

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Can we just talk about advent calendars for a moment? My boss has kindly bought them for all of our team - mine is of the chocolate filled variety, and somewhat non-festively, features a big picture of Kylie. Whilst in no way ungrateful for said item, I feel I really must take issue with some of its finer details.

1. It's got thirty-two windows. That's thirty-two. Now, I'm possibly not the most avidly religious person you'll ever encounter, but even I know that the entire advent calendar concept hinges on counting down until, well, Christmas. Twenty-four windows max (not twenty-five, although admittedly I've never quite grasped that one). And when exactly is the 32nd December anyway? Presumably the final window is for New Year's Day but frankly if you can face chocolate on the morning of January 1st you really haven't been trying.

2. 'A milk chocolate surprise behind every window!' it gushingly claims. I'm not so sure. Having opened the first three windows to find a small, star-shaped piece of milk chocolate, I think I can just about guess what lies behind the remaining twenty-nine.

3. Not only a calendar, but flip it over and you can 'Impress your family and friends with this great cut-out Kylie necklace and microphone!' which even comes with handy instructions: 'Place necklace over your head and clasp the microphone in your right or left hand' (as opposed to what, it fails to divulge). Potentially, if your family haven't left the house since 1974 and have spent the subsequent decades with only a piece of string for entertainment they might, just might, be impressed by this. Try it over Christmas lunch. Second thoughts, perhaps Mr German Leather would like it.

Incidentally, due to the arrangement of the windows you may be interested to know that her face has already been removed, while her ass will remain intact until December 27th.

You know when you run into someone you haven’t seen for ages, and they ask the inevitable:

‘So, what have you been up to then?’

And there’s an entirely inverse relationship between the time elapsed since you last saw them and the amount of information you feel worth imparting. Two days and you’ll fill them in on everything. Two years and despite those six relationships, four changes of jobs, two house moves, winning that Oscar, the Booker Prize and the Turner Prize whilst simultaneously bringing about world peace - not forgetting that embarrassing incident with those nuns and that watermelon - your reply will, without fail, come out as: ‘Oh, y’know, the usual, nothing much – you?’

Drives me mad every time I do it. For which reason I’m not even going to attempt to fill in the last two months. Twelve days or so, however, might just be ok.

Thursday 21st November
To Grand Central for Kelvin’s birthday drinks. A good bar that we happened across due to its proximity to Expectations where we’d been shopping for Phil and Nigel’s ‘Naughty at Forty’ party (it was, they were). On paper – funky design, Shoreditch location, New York-style menu, Nathan something double-barrelled or other spinning electropop – it sounds like something out of TvGoHome’s worst nightmares, but in fact manages to be really rather nice, neither pretentious nor overpriced and a welcome addition to the list of Bars I Like. I should point out that my opinion is in no way influenced by the barmaid buying us pints on our first visit. At all.

Friday 22nd November – Mon 25th November
On to the Eurostar, and off to Paris for a long weekend – just slightly later, and somewhat wetter, than last year. But thoroughly lovely, much eating, drinking, shopping, clubbing – come to think of it not entirely unlike a weekend in London but y’know, like, French.

With the honourable exception of Sundays at the sadly-defunct (or indeed, de-funked) Palace, I’d never really ventured into Paris clubs that much, but this time we found some good ‘uns, of which I recommend (should you be visiting any time soon):

Butch @ Le Club, Friday
Which was, relatively. Like a lot of Paris venues, largely underground in cave-type rooms, small-ish and atmospheric, and good music, not unlike Substation South in London.

T Dance @ La Scala, Sunday
Much bigger venue on the Rue de Rivoli, and packed by 8pm. Decidedly 80s (think red walls, mirrors and chrome ahoy), more commercial music, extortionate bar prices and improbably built gogo boys – it’s Love Muscle does Paris, but with shirts.

B4 Lounge @ Cabaret, Sunday
As recommended to us by the locals and very, very nice indeed. In the basement of a hotel near the Louvre, very plush, lots of big white curtains, bedouin tent-style chillout area with lots of white mattresses to lounge on, and very friendly despite being, by all accounts, one of the most fashionable places to go in Paris at the moment. Not that the two things have to be mutually exclusive you understand, but speaking as more of a spit-and-sawdust sorta person, nevertheless something of a surprise. Speaking of spit-and-sawdust...

Le Depot
..of which I’ve written before. Still good fun. No garden-furniture-porn this time but they do now have probably the world’s only vending machine to sell crisps, chocolate and poppers. Press those buttons carefully or you’ll spend half an hour with a Kit Kat wedged under your nose wondering why nothing’s happening. I imagine.

Worth missing, on the other hand:
Le Queen
Paris’ biggest and most famous gay club, halfway down the Champs Elysees – but known as much for its draconian door policy and general pretentiousness as anything else. We waited as the entire queue in front of us were summarily dismissed for being too mixed (two guys, three girls), too large a group (six), too small a group (one), and not being gay (although they clearly were). Which makes it slightly worrying that we were ushered in without so much as a question – I suspect flashing my regulation gay white vest may have helped – it has its uses.

As a result, once inside it was all but empty, as tends to happen when you turn all your would-be punters away. I’d been here once before, in 1995, and vaguely remembered there being a large (and strictly policed) VIP seating area taking up half the dancefloor. It still does – more than half in fact, and whilst one look at any Paris cafĂ©, all chairs facing the street, will tell you that the Parisians love to sit and people-watch, it’s gotta be hard work for the DJs to generate any sort of atmosphere when half the crowd are sat sedately at a table supping champagne.

That aside, an excellent dinner at L’Equinox in the Marais, walking along the Seine at night, and a great Sunday brunch in the sunshine, all added to a gorgeous weekend.

Tuesday 26th-Friday 29th November
Truly, utterly, and quite spectacularly uneventful. Moving swiftly on...

Saturday 30th November - Monday 2nd December
..to a 30th birthday party, a flatwarming, the Fridge, more visits to Compton's than I've had in the last three years (I'm not entirely sure why), another party in Soho, the RVT, and finally the Red Ribbon Ball for World Aids Day at Crash. Which was both thoroughly enjoyable and full of utterly surreal moments. The minute's silence at midnight was particularly powerful due to its sheer incongruity on a crowded dancefloor, followed by the procession of Edna and the rest of the Regal Court, and later, a performance by Mr German Leather 2002. I'm not sure what I'd expected this to entail, but I think it's safe to say that his taking to the stage and growling through Kylie's 'In Your Eyes' came as something of a surprise to us all. Most importantly though, a successful night which I'd guess raised a decent sum - and all without being forced to endure a minor-celebrity-packed telethon and/or novelty single of any kind. Which can only be a good thing.

And brings me up to date. Speaking of dates...