Thursday, April 24, 2003

And now, the end is near. And so I face the final phone call. My brief yet oh-so-glamorous career as a receptionist comes to an end tomorrow. Which is probably just as well, since my fingernails are now filed down to frankly dangerous levels, and there are really only so many copies of Marie Claire a boy can read.

It's been a whirlwind* of activity though. Not just upwards of five, sometimes six telephone calls a day, but a whole multitude of errands too - why, in the last week alone I've been out to buy milk, some shelves (v butch), flowers (not v butch) and have even travelled halfway across London to pick up some cakes, bearing icing inscriptions to 'Norma' and 'Betty' - which is either the MD being nice to elderly relatives or having some sort of rather disturbing double-octagenarian affair. And I've faxed some things.

Next week I shall be taking a well-earned rest in order to recover.

* In the sense of...actually, no, not a whirlwind at all.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

I can't tell you how nice it was to be out drinking in the sunshine in Soho on Thursday evening. Or how Friday was spent lazing on the Heath with good friends and good food, how great Substation South was on Friday night, how much fun Saturday night's party was, and how extraordinarily good Sunday's LA3 extravaganza at the Electrowerks proved to be.

Nope, can't tell you, because I wouldn't know. I can, however, tell you the entire ingredients of Night Nurse, backwards, without looking at the bottle. Precision Flu, specially devised to wipe out all four days of the Easter holiday while causing no collateral damage to the working weeks either side of it. 'Annoyed' does not begin to cover it.

Attempts to make the best of it did not go entirely well. Sunday evening, for example. Switch on radio in hope of entertainment. It's Dance Anthems on Radio 1. In which the records are interspersed with an endless stream of limited-vocabulary halfwits desperate to tell the world about their 'blinding weekend mate' or how they're 'off to 'ave a large one at Lorraine's in Chester-le-Street' or some such other exotic destination. Normally, this is just irritating, but today, I'm actually envious. Retreat to the safety of Heart FM where at least the pinnacle of most callers' weekends will have been taking the mother-in-law to the garden centre.

TV, meanwhile, is not an option. Have you seen the Sunday night schedule? BBC1's 'highlight' is yet another cosy rural drama series called 'Born and Bred' for which even the trailers '..remember the good old times?...when entertainment was spending time with the family...and everyone had a sense of community...' are enough to bring back your Sunday lunch.

An exercise in cynical marketing so thinly veiled they might as well say:
'Stuck in the past? Over 90? Isn't everything dreadful these days? All that bad language! Then watch our utterly bland nostalgia-fest, cynically especially designed with you in mind. Look! It's set in a nice country village somewhere – in the north, if you like! - back when they used to have a village post office and everything. Really slow-moving plots so you can't get confused about what's happening (not that it will stop you). And look! It's got that nice one in it, you know, him, the one who used to be in that other thing that you liked - ooh, what was it called again? - that one about the vets - ooh, I've forgotten now, would you like a butterscotch dear? We've even put it on at the same time as Heartbeat on the other side because we're banking on you being so fucking stupid you won't realise you haven't switched over until near the end, and by then you'll want to find out if it really was Mr Perkins who let that sheep out of the gate, so you'll keep watching anyway, because that's how lame-brained and easily pleased we're relying on you being. Let's face it, we could put on Angela Rippon reading out a knitting pattern for three hours and you'd be happy so long as there was none of that awful swearing they do nowadays. So, just you put your feet up and wallow in some imaginary golden age, while we go and do some more charlie in the toilets. Love, the BBC.'

So, instead we settled for a meal, a video, and a sober (and therefore short-lived) visit to the RVT on Monday. Not quite the planned holiday then, but huge thanks to Kelvin for patiently suffering along with me and indulging my self-pity (often with the aid of chocolate) - of which there was rather a lot. As you may have noticed.

I hope your holidays were better, people.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Tarnation. You're looking forward to a long weekend, the sun's out, you've got four days of uninterrupted party time, picnics on the Heath, drinks, gatherings and clubs a-plenty lined up - it's going to be like a real holiday! So it is, of course, precisely at this point that you will go down with some mysterious cough/temperature/dizziness thing which, while by no means severe, is potentially enough to fuck up the whole thing.

Were I a sort of up-to-the-minute, latest-fashion sort of person, I'd be in no doubt I've come down with that newfangled Sars thing. As it is, with me there's more chance of getting that Hawaiian Flu that was going round in the eighties. Or was it cats that got that?

Going to home to sleep as soon as possible and if it doesn't bugger off sharpish, I'll!...I'll!...
...come back to work on Tuesday really, really miffed.

Still, Happy Easter one and all - and as my old gran used to say, may your eggs be plentiful and not melt in the sunlight, forming an unpleasant goo which may be difficult to explain away later. I think it was a nursing home thing.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

I'm not sure I'm quite cut out for this bar work lark. Sure, I can pull a pint - even bloody Guinness (a drink surely invented as some sort of April Fool's gag on bar staff everywhere), given half an hour or so. But I'm not getting this whole tips and the '..and one for yourself' things right at all.

Twice on Saturday night I stupidly turned down kind offers of drinks, only to regret it minutes later when handing over yet another nice cold beer that wasn't mine.
'Are you new at this, by any chance?' came a conspiratorial whisper.
'Yes, just my third shift'.
'Thought so - even if you don't want the drink you can still take the money and have it later on, y'know.'

Which I should have done, having made a grand total in tips of - drum roll - eighty pence. Granted, it's not the sort of place where anyone tips a great deal, and things might improve over time.

But even so, this is not good. I suspect I need to concentrate less on the job in hand and more on the banter with the punters. Of the flirtatious variety, ideally. Trouble is, I've barely mastered flirting with people I do find attractive, let alone faking it (which, with no offence intended to the residents of Hampstead, I might just occasionally have to do).

An offer of a slightly different kind at the end of Wednesday's shift, meanwhile. A smart-ish gentleman and large-ish lady of around forty appeared at the side of the bar.
'Excuse me...are you single?'
Now I'm not sure why, but for a fleeting and rather worrying moment I was convinced they were a long-wed couple, about to propose spicing up their marriage with a good old-fashioned game of bang the barman.
'...because our friend over there really likes you.'
A palpable sense of relief. Just the old 'my mate fancies you' routine after all, the school-disco saviour of the tongue-tied and terrified (like, er, me on at least two more occasions than I care to remember...)

Naturally, this also had to be declined. Still, time was when being offered two pints and cheap sex with a total stranger constituted a good night out. Now? Just bring on the eighty pence. I promise not to forget my friends just because I'm loaded.

Friday, April 11, 2003

It's not been all work, fortunately. Although there were no less than three Saturdays in March which involved nary a club among them. Unemployment's a bitch.

Those that were good, were good though. The month started, by way of a change, in Birmingham. Or more precisely, with our good friends Paul and Rob at their cosy country cottage in a sleepy hamlet somewhere in a remote corner of northern Worcestershire. Not, you might assume, the sort of place that would turn into a hotbed (and I use the word advisedly) of champagne-soaked excess, sex, drugs and shameless debauchery for the best part of four days. And yet, with a little help from the fourteen? fifteen? sixteen? people invited back from The Nightingale on Saturday night, it certainly did. I'll gloss over the finer details but suffice to say the Daily Mail would have been utterly apoplectic from start to finish. Which, I think, is always a sign of a good weekend.

Question, for no particular reason: does it qualify as a foursome if there are, for instance, two people, say, in the same bed as another two people, but not actually, like, 'involved' with them? Just wondering.

Club-wise, a big thumbs-up to the aforementioned Nightingale (which somewhat disturbingly elicited not the slightest spark of recognition from me, despite having been there only last June) and Sunday night at DV8, with which I was most impressed - great venue, big, contemporary, and with deeply funky music indeed. In fact, not a million miles from London's DTPM, one of my two very favourite late-Sunday-night venues, to which we managed to pay a visit the following week (unemployment, though a bitch, has its advantages - principally not having to get up on a Monday). As luck would have it, my other favourite post-RVT event returns next Sunday, one of the LA3's special nights at the Electrowerks in Islington, which remains one of the highlights of last year in my hung-over and befuddled memory.

Sometime after Birmingham came Action's Black Party, which reminded me why I never wear those heavy leather trousers on occasions when I will be dancing for six hours, but was much fun. And throbbing away up the rear - as they would no doubt say in one of their smut-laden ads - last Saturday's 'last ever' Love Muscle (until the next one).

Since my last visit the good ol' Fridge has had something of a makeover, with a much smarter bar, new floor, and quite astonishingly powerful sound and lights. Plus, somewhat amusingly, the 'backroom barracks', in which you find a row of military-style bunk beds, fully made with crisp, fresh sheets. In case you need a lie down after all the dancing, presumably. One can only pity whoever is responsible for laundry at the end of the night.

Full marks for effort though - all four DJ's came up trumps, the pyrotechnics and giant balloons entertained or terrified (depending on narcotic consumption at the time) and even portly hostess Yvette (in a figure-hugging black outfit that made every spare tyre resemble an actual spare tyre, off a large truck) didn't hog the stage for too long. I'd say it'll be missed, but I doubt there'll be time before the 'surprise one-offs' begin. July 26th anyone?

As for this weekend, I'm behind the bar tomorrow night, which means I'm just going to have to spend as much time this side of it as I can tonight. Damn...

You used to know where you were with Smarties. From the dawn of confectionery there were just the normal-sized tubes, and then those giant ones that you might get at Christmas. The tube lids had mysterious letters on, and they had the answer. Everything was simple, and everybody understood.

Now? Now, it's a brand extension bonanza! In the last few weeks alone, I have so far witnessed:

Smarties bars: bars of chocolate with broken up bits of Smartie in them. I cannot vouch for these having not yet partaken, but am assured by former colleagues of reputable taste that they are indeed a delicacy. We shall see.

Smarties biscuits: these are just disturbing. While the tradition of associating chocolate with biscuit is indeed a long and honourable one, the bright, garish Smartie colours and plain biscuit do not comfortable bedfellows make. Gastronomically acceptable, admittedly, but aesthetically terrifying.

Smarties desserts: in those twin pots with a bit of chocolate in one side and some mini Smarties in the other. Not bad, but the Cadbury's Buttons one laughs in its face.

Smarties Mini Eggs: like actual Mini Eggs but in Smartie colours. Or, like actual Smarties in the shape of Mini Eggs. Somewhat pointless, though this failed to prevent me scoffing a large tube of them when placed in near proximity yesterday.

Where will it all end? Smarties crisps? Smarties toothpaste? Smarties single-engine light aircraft?

It's a scary world, people.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

The Hammersmith & City line is, officially, the worst tube line in London. Even when the Central Line was closed for weeks it was better than this, because at least you knew there wouldn't be any trains. On the Hammersmith & City you'll generally hang around on a cold platform for at least half an hour before finding that out. Or hearing an announcement that your next train 'should be departing Hammersmith shortly' (and therefore will probably be with you approximately a week on Thursday).

If you're a tourist, visiting London, or simply have any choice at all, avoid it at all costs. It's the wanky salmon pink one (see, even the colour is lame-a-rama), it doesn't go anywhere you'd actually want to go that isn't better served by another line*, and if you fall asleep there's every possibility of ending up in Barking. 'Nuff said.

* No, Portobello Road does not count. If you must spend your Saturdays amassing knocked-off antiques and overpriced New Age cack, remember why the good Lord gave you Camden.

Just an internal call that came through to me by mistake. Sigh. So that's job A. Meanwhile, new job B involves me being part-time barman at the King William IV, Hampstead's finest (nay, only) gay pub. Which is going fine so far and certainly a lot more fun than the office (though for, inevitably, a lot less money).

I'll be the first to admit I don't have a lot of experience in this particular role, though. Most of what I know about running a pub comes from watching the Queen Vic on EastEnders, which might explain the odd looks I'm getting when each request for a drink is met with a curt 'Stay out of it, this is faaamlee!' and a punch in the face. However I am positively trying to encourage all members of the local community that should they wish to reveal a partner's illicit affair, announce a pregnancy, or perhaps break some earth-shattering news to a loved one, that they should always do so by making a loud speech to the entire pub, preferably at about three minutes to eight on a Thursday. No takers so far, but I live in hope.

I suspect the job may be short-lived, though. The main shift they need me to cover every week? Sunday evening. Every Sunday evening. Which is of course Royal Vauxhall Tavern time, and as such, sacred. Particularly when, as now, my weekly RVT fix can often be the lone shining light in a week of otherwise unadulterated dullness. However, have been reasonably pleased with my drink-creating skills. Okay. despite appearances (ahem) I'm no Tom Cruise in Cocktail, but so far so good, and fortunately there doesn't seem to be much call for Screaming Orgasms in NW3.

Who's next?

Alrighty then, some long overdue updating. So what's been happening? Well not unlike the seminal (and yet, in a way, crap) Aussie soap Sons and Daughters, there's been love and laughter, tears and sadness and happiness. Mixed in with rather a lot of boredom and toast.

Right now, however, I'm coming to you live from the true arse-end of London, the hilariously inaccessible Ladbroke Grove. Be not ye fooled by the trendy W10 postcode - wherever you're from it'll take you hours to get here and you'll wish you hadn't bothered when you do.

Still, not being in a position to do otherwise, here I am, temping away with, in fairness, quite a nice design consultancy. I'm covering reception, which given there are approximately five phone calls a day, is not overly taxing. Hardest part is trying to not trip over the passing tumbleweeds while making tea.

Mind you, at least it's getting me away from daytime television. I knew things were getting bad when I finally did start getting into Crossroads, and I'd started watching Countdown every day 'to keep my brain active'. Not only watching, but feeling a real sense of achievement when getting anything above seven letters. If there's a job that specifically calls for the ability to rearrange random vowels and consonants into mid-length words, then I am now more than qualified.

I could of course apply to go on the show itself, but the thought of having to endure weeks of Richard Whiteley and those cringeworthy pre-commercial break anecdotes for the faint possibility of at some point winning a dictionary and some sort of useless glass artefact doesn't really appeal. Not when you can go on Wheel of Fortune and win thousands for being able to say your name, knowing three letters of the alphabet and clapping like a seal.

Ooh, a phone call! A phone call! Back in a minute...

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Thanks to Guy for clearing up the mystery below. Not that it still entirely makes sense, mind you, but at least I can cross it off my list of Things I Do Not Understand.

Which just leaves us with: sports matches on the radio (what is the point?); how and why Emmerdale still exists; and those really wide rolls of tin foil (what, apart from your annual turkey and possibly a spot of Joe Wicks-style interior decorating, are they actually any good for?). Oh, and Chris De Burgh.

Meanwhile apologies for absence, updates on the way, honest.

Friday, February 28, 2003

Three words I've never entirely understood: No Purchase Necessary.

You know the sort of thing, it's all: 'Collect 30 tokens off these bars of chocolate and you could win a holiday to Hawaii!', and then, in smaller writing: 'No purchase necessary'. I mean, just what is that all about?

Frankly, if I've just bought and munched my way through umpteen hundred Snickers bars and bothered to save the wrappers, in the hope of winning said holiday, I'm going to be mightily brassed off if it goes to someone who's not even bothered to have so much as a peanut pass their lips, or diced with obesity in such a fearless manner.

There's presumably some sort of nonsense legal reason, but surely if the point of the competition is to get you to buy the product, then what's with opening it up to the non-purchasers? You wouldn't expect to win a raffle you hadn't bought a ticket for, now would you?

Oddest of all are the 'Is there a £50 note inside this packet?' ones on certain packets of crisps. And again, 'no purchase necessary'. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but I feel fairly certain that most shopkeepers would take a rather dim view of you opening up all their bags of crisps to see if they do indeed contain a £50 note, and then skipping off without purchasing any.

It's just crazy! It's political correctness gone mad! It's Carpet Madness! Oh no, that's something else.

Anyway, rant over. As you were, readers, as you were.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

All this leisure time isn't entirely going to waste though. Oh no. Using my Fitness First membership, which entitles you to use any of their 40 London venues, I'm conducting something of a gym tour of the capital, using whichever one I happen to be nearest to that day. Should you ever need to know, here's how they compare. I've rated them on the following key factors:

Size. It matters. You don't want to be standing in the weights area while the people doing sit-ups have no choice but to look directly up your shorts. Or possibly you do. But, generally speaking, space is good.

Facilities. Given they're all the same chain, there is much consistency. However there are also variations in age and condition. Swanky new marble-tiled changing rooms or past-their-best wooden affairs? Some may offer sparkling orange drinks while at others you may have to content yourself with still. It's important to know.

Eye Candy. Let's face it, working out is deeply boring. Yes, you could put on those rather-too-lightweight little headphones and watch the televisions, but you'll be competing with the music coming over the sound system, and just how much is watching Fern Britton stuffing her face with cake on This Morning going to motivate you anyway? [Er...quite a lot actually - Ed.] However, having a liberal sprinkling of studmuffins (or muffettes, if you prefer) to hold your attention will always help to pass the time more quickly.

The verdicts, then:

Coram Street (Russell Square)
Somewhat unusual design, with the main gym area spread through three separate rooms - so considerably bigger than it first appears. All in good condition, and generally above average on the eye candy scale. Not at all bad.
Size: 7
Facilities: 9
Totty: 7

High Holborn
Ah, my happy home branch, sparklingly refurbished last summer, and I suspect one of the biggest. Loads of space - in comparison with some of the others you'd get plenty of exercise just walking from one machine to another - and seems to appear in TV news reports with alarmingly regularity. Why, only yesterday Olympic athlete Sally Gunnell was bobbing about in there for the BBC. It's also been on Watchdog, but we'll not go there. Eye candy more occasional than constant, but hence not too much to distract you from your routine. V. good.
Size: 10
Facilities: 10
Totty: 5

Albert Street, Camden
Hmm, must be an old one this, as it's looking a little past its best. Really quite small, with the running machines dominating, leaving everything else rather squashed into a corner. And eye candy? It's like being underneath the ugly tree during a violent autumnal storm. Sorry, but there it is. Large notice warning of the evils of Coca-Cola posted on, er, the Coke machine. That's Camden for you.
Size: 3
Facilities: 6
Totty: 0
(apologies if you're a member here, I probably just got there at a bad time. And you definitely weren't there that day)

Ramillies Street (off Oxford St)
Changing rooms not quite up to standard of rest of chain, also a bit on the small side overall - not a problem off-peak but probably best avoided at peak times. Otherwise not bad. Needle on the tottyometer was not swayed much in either direction.
Size: 4
Facilities: 7
Totty: 5

Kingly Street (Soho)
Ah, now this is a good 'un. Not quite as big as Holborn but very well laid out and user-friendly. Plus, it appears to be company policy that all the best-looking instructors must work at this branch. Which can in no way be bad.
Size: 8
Facilities: 9
Totty: 9.5
(for the staff, at least)

So there you have it. There may be more - I hear the Covent Garden branch scores highly on all three counts so may have to pay it a visit. Full report as and when. Probably.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Diary of a doleboy, part 1.

- Up relatively early, 9.30-ish, toast, tea, and Trisha. Woman accuses man of cheating on her. Man takes lie detector test, proving conclusively that he isn't. Woman storms off anyway, declaring him a bastard. Eh? This is why I am gay. It's easier.

- 12.00pm. Apparently, the 'Adults Only' swimming session does not involve naked bathing and porn videos. However, if I am never again trapped in so little water with so many possibly-incontinent pensioners, I will be a happy man.

- 3.00pm-ish. Adjourn to local shop, for newspaper and unusually, a lottery ticket. Who knows, one might contain my dream job and the other could make me a millionaire! Odds approximately 14 million to one against, in both cases.

- 5.00pm. Crossroads. It's hammy, silly, tacky, over-the-top, camp nonsense, and yet it still hasn't got me hooked. And I've even been trying!

Tomorrow, high-powered career summit with fellow destiny-seeker Peter, masquerading as a coffee and possibly a spot of lunch somewhere in Soho. Methinks must try harder next week...

Just over a year ago I posted a mock resignation letter here on the site, determined that I'd be writing it for real before long. And yet, despite various attempts and much job searching, as little as two posts ago, there I was, still hoping for an out.

Well, the good news is it finally arrived. The not-so-good news is it came in the form of redundancy rather than the discovery of some brilliant new career. Still, at least Objective A (known as 'I'm A Catatonically Bored Account Handler - Get Me Out Of Here!') has been achieved, one way or the other. And while the somewhat modest payout won't exactly finance a future of champagne-soaked excess, I'll take it over an amusing novelty leaving gift, if it's all the same.

Objective B ('find something to like, do with the rest of my life') could be rather more tricky. Health, fortune and impending wars permitting, I could have a good forty, fifty, even sixty years left kicking around this planet. And not the first idea of how I'm going to fill them.

Which is, by turns, exciting, disorienting, and downright terrifying.

On a good day I'm thrilled to be free of the nine-to-five drudgery, the tedious paperwork and more-tedious clients that I won't have to deal with again. The possibilities are, theroetically, endless. I don't have to go back into an office! I could run a bar! I could travel and work abroad! I could write a book! Or at least attempt to.

On a bad day, the realisation that I've still got to earn a living and have nearly reached 30 without anything even approaching a career (at least, not one that I want), nor, realistically, the means or experience to do the things I'd actually like to, is rather stronger.

Ever the optimist, I like to think it'll turn out alright somehow. Then again, it could all go more tits-up than a hooker in a hot-air balloon.

Ay, ay, ay, as Gloria Estefan once said (probably). And as another great thinker once said, 'I'm looking for a new direction, something that will stimulate my mind'.

Or was that the S Club Juniors?

Friday, February 14, 2003

Technically speaking, I should be writing this slightly hungover from some post-work birthday drinks last night in Covent Garden. But, unbeknown to me, the bar was of the ‘no-trainers’ variety, a policy which yours truly thought no longer existed outside of rough nightclubs in Essex. You know the sort, wall to wall button-down YSL shirts, black trousers, and shiny black shoes that will end the night connecting repeatedly with the head of some unfortunate who inadvertently looked at someone the wrong way.

‘Sorry, but not in those’, tutted the clipboard-wielding door nazis through their improbably thin lips.
In my mind’s eye I arched an eyebrow and sneered ‘Really? How very provincial.’ or possibly, ‘How very last century’, before turning on my Nike-cushioned heel and departing to somewhere infinitely more fashionable.

Sadly the reality was more like a shrug and an ‘Oh, alright then’, being not about to beg to get into somewhere I had suddenly gone right off the idea of anyway.

Fortunately I foresee no such problems at this weekend’s intended venues, Action and the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, where the only thing potentially frowned upon would be any kind of shirt.

Much more like it.

One of those brown envelopes just came around, collecting for someone’s leaving present.
‘Here,’ says Mat, passing it on. ‘It’s an opportunity to give to someone more fortunate than yourself.’

True, very true.

Thursday, February 13, 2003

Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Nice to meet you
And hello to you, you, you, and everyone else who’s been kind enough to link in this general direction recently, possibly in the sadly misguided hope of finding entertainment on something approaching a semi-regular basis. Apologies for the delay as always. But you’re all great.

As was last week’s holiday to Gran Canaria, should you be wondering. Alright, it’s not the most chic of destinations, and the beach may boast the highest ratio of Fat Naked Germans Per Square Foot of anywhere in Europe (and, one would hope, the world), but frankly, when you’re lazing by the pool in the sun with a nice cold beer in early February, these are trifling concerns.

And any holiday spent at the Vista Bonita is pretty much guaranteed to be a good’un. Much the nicest complex in the resort in my humble opinion (and, ahem, I’ve seen quite a few), with apartments I’d quite happily live in on a full-time basis, and a thoroughly relaxed and sociable atmosphere, thanks in no small part to the ever-so-lovely bar staff.

Always an interesting crowd too (more like a cast of characters as the daily goings-on increasingly turn into soap opera), this time including the Cute Couple (our new pals Daniel and Martin), Rik, Paul, Rich and Jamie the Bar Boys, the Amazing Chainsmoking Lesbians (actually very sweet and lovely indeed), the Big Fat Liar (supposed ‘millionaire’ only slightly less tall than most of his tales), and many more.

Rather less fortuitously, Monday’s peace was interrupted by the arrival of the Inconsiderately Loud Council Fags and Hags (I don’t mean to be a snob - oh alright I do - but there were whole estates somewhere in the provinces where prams were having to push themselves around last week. And not a soul in the audience of Trisha). A mixture of horror and amusement followed as the fattest, campest one of all finally snared a man and demanded sole use of the bedroom, thus resulting in a glass-throwing fishwife fight with the two fag hags (not an expression I like, but here it’s more perfectly descriptive than anything I could conjure) who looked like they’d kill their grandmother for an extra 10p to spend down JD Sports.

Fortunately peace was soon restored by swift words from the staff (of the ‘any more of that and you’re out’ variety) and the rest of us got on with the business of having a damn good time. Which included soaking up the sunshine and sangria at the beach, on the boat, and needless to say, in the bars.

The Yumbo Centre will need no introduction if you’ve ever visited this corner of the world. If you haven’t, imagine your local shopping centre (or ‘mall’ if you prefer) after a severe but not-quite-catastrophic earthquake. Bits of concrete crumble down around the last few shop fronts left forlornly standing, here a souvenir shop bulging with T-shirts bearing palm trees and maps of the island, there a discount electrical shop selling cut-price camcorders to cut-price Coppolas.

Restaurants with plastic pictures of their plastic food compete for attention with the tacky wares strewn across the walkways, as people in gold slingbacks and/or lemon sweaters (this is, after all, an island on which the fashion police are on emergency callout, 24 hours a day) pick their way around gingerly and look somewhat bemused.

At around 10.30pm there’s a sea-change: the slingback and sweater people go home, the shops close, and twinkling among the debris you suddenly spot a gay bar at every turn, filled with leather, lace, and just about everything in between. Sing along to show tunes at Centre Stage, bop around to Europop at Mykonos, lose yourself in the high-quality-porn-and-low-level-lighting of Construction, witness the worst drag acts you’ve ever seen, or simply dance around on a bit of concrete outside XL. The choice, dear punter, is yours.

And yet, horrific as it may sound, it’s really very difficult not to have a whole lot of fun, especially once the more-than-generous vodkas have started to flow. Trashy ‘n’ cheesy, tacky ‘n’ sleazy, but really, you couldn’t have it any other way. And you get to sleep off the hangover on a palm tree-shaded sunlounger, which, for February, can in no way be bad.

I'd fill you in on the other highlights and lowlights, revels and revelations (and boy, were there some of those...), but then I'd have to kill you. But suffice to say, despite how I may have made it sound, a deeply fantastic time was had by all. Bring on the next trip, I say...

Friday, January 31, 2003

Apologies for absence, I’ve been trapped in the house by Pink fans camped outside, threatening my imminent demise and being generally rebellious with their mad hair. Fortunately once the snow melts Mummy and Daddy should be along to pick them up in the Range Rover, and then they can spend the journey trying to split them up so that they too can have a fashionably dysfunctional childhood.

Alright, not really, I’m a lazy fucker and that’s that. And about to be even more so. Am doing what any self-respecting homosexual whose budget doesn’t quite stretch to Sydney or Miami would do in the face of continued sub-zero temperatures and defunct public transport, and that’s buggering off to Gran Estata Councila Canaria for a week in the sun. Provided that a) we can get to Gatwick Airport, and b) it isn’t closed when/if we do.

All being well, back next Sunday. Be good now.

Friday, January 24, 2003

Tesco invent credit card that won't work when you're drunk.

Nice idea.

Will never work in a million years...

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on mittens, brown paper packages tied up with kittens. Or something. On the grounds that it’s that time of year, and everyone else is doing it so why can’t I, it’s time to review My Favourite Things of 2002.

I use the word ‘favourite’ advisedly – ‘best’ implying some sort of objective judgment involving cultural significance, value and lots of other things that sound like far too much effort. Nope, simply the stuff I liked.

Favourite Album of 2002
Ah, there’s a problem with this category. On looking through my CD collection, I discover that, excluding one or two compilations, I didn’t actually buy so much as one album released in 2002. Largely because there weren’t any that I wanted. The main reason I don’t have an Amazon wish list is quite simply that I can’t think of anything to put on it. Which is probably a subject for another post, but for now, by default, the winner is (hastily opening envelope)...

Will Young – From Now On virtue of being the only 2002 album I actually possess. It was a gift, although a welcome one, as although I wasn’t quite prepared to fork out for it I was curious to hear it, at least. And it isn’t bad. Best in small doses though – after a while the endless succession of string-heavy ballads starts to grate, and it’s desperately in need of one or two upbeat, funkier tracks to break through the syrup.

Some good bits though, like the Burt Bacharach-written ‘What’s In Goodbye?’, and somehow I suspect the second album (should there be one), given more time and space, will be considerably better. For now though, I suspect this one is destined for a life as background music to suburban dinner parties, where it would pass the time inoffensively enough between the prawn cocktail and the passing-round of the Elizabeth Shaw mints. Apart from that god-awful duet with Gareth Gates, for which all concerned want a good hefty slap with a wet kipper or similarly unpleasant fish-based item.

Least Favourite Album of 2002

Admittedly I’m judging only by the singles, but in the merciful absence of much from Nelly Furtado or Dido this year, I’m going for the third member of that particular Axis of Evil, Pink. Did you see the European Music Awards? Just how out of tune is it possible to be? And then there’s ‘Family Portrait’ in which she whinges on about her parents splitting up: ‘I don’t want to split the holidays, I don’t want two addresses’ and so on (and on), as if it’s something even remotely unusual. All over the sort of lifeless, pedestrian beat that simply shouldn’t be possible on a drum machine in this day and age. Humourless, talentless, toss. In my humble opinion.

Favourite Film of 2002

Okay, so I’m not big on films either, but unquestionably Mulholland Drive. I suspect David Lynch is rather like Marmite to most people – you either love it or you hate it – but I’m firmly in the first camp so this was a dark, delicious treat (again, not unlike Marmite, should you be so inclined). My first impressions in January ‘..everything you'd hope for from a David Lynch movie: beautiful, intriguing, stylish, eerie, cryptic, sultry actresses, red curtains, black coffee, the dwarf guy - the works. And, as ever, deliciously confusing..’ still stand. Must see again.

Least Favourite Film of 2002
The only other film I saw last year was Gosford Park, which can’t receive this award on the grounds of being really very good – so we’ll have to fall back on my least favourite film of any year: The Piano. Good god, even the thought of it and my hackles (wherever they are) are starting to rise. I remember being forced to sit through this at the behest of my then girlfriend, and whilst I’ve no aversion to girlie films (I’ll take ‘Mystic Pizza’ over ‘Lethal Weapon’ any day, thank you very much), this really was just too much. Was it just me who wanted to shout ‘Oh just cheer up you miserable cow!’ all the way through (at Holly Hunter’s character, not said girlfriend)? Lost patience about half an hour in, and when she and the piano finally sunk to the bottom of the ocean I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cheer. I’ve had rashes less irritating than this.

Favourite Single of 2002
Ah, now singles I can do. Much more up my street. Ten, in fact. Soon. Ish.

Least Favourite Blog Posting of 2003
This one. It's taking me far, far too long. Will attempt to continue, but first there must be biscuits. There must always be biscuits.

Friday, January 17, 2003

Rooster, monkey, goat and donkey form pyramid.

Er, that's it really.

Next week: kitten, orang-utan, cow and nine penguins form dodecahedron.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

I’m not even going to start on how monumentally bored I am this week, because that would be, well, boring.

But suffice to say that earlier, a new magazine called ‘PQ’ (‘for Part-Qualified Accountants’) landed on my desk. And I’ve actually read it. Highlight has got to be where they’ve asked some accountants what they tell people they do at parties. And it’s not all dull y’know. One wild and ker-razy woman, we’re told: ‘admitted that she once described herself – wait for it – as a hairdresser!’

Oh, the hilarity.


Monday, January 13, 2003

Apparently, if you come down with a particularly hefty cold and start sneezing your head off at 5pm on a Friday, then take Beechams Flu-Plus tablets, mix in some Benylin 4-Flu ones (the daddy of all known cold remedies in my book - so long as you don't mind being unable to see straight for two days) add some Contac capsules (potential new daddy) the following day, proceed to have a party at which you drink approximately nineteen bottles of red wine, mix in very little sleep, a little beer, vodka, and sundry mild narcotics, you'll end up outside the RVT feeling really fucking awful. Who knew?

Not to mention the three hours spent in casualty - not for me, but Walter, who right now, thanks to the aforementioned wine and a slippery bathroom floor, is probably the only person in Britain with multiple head injuries caused by an Ikea print. It's a long story. Fortunately he's okay, although I can't say the same for the Matisse.

Meanwhile you'll have to excuse me tomorrow, I'll be in Birmingham New York at a meeting glamorous premiere!

Sort of, like, via Birmingham.

Thursday, January 09, 2003

From the Land of Unlikely Headlines:

Groom Killed By Stripper's Boobs

Much joy in our household last night at the long-awaited return of Footballers’ Wives, on ITV1.

If you’re outside the UK, think Dynasty – fantastically far-fetched plots, power-dressing bitches, glamorous-yet-tacky settings, kidnappings, multiple affairs, the old been-in-a-coma-and-lost-memory device, parents passing off a baby as their own (who will apparently turn out to be a hermaphrodite, by all accounts – quite how they can not yet know this I am not entirely sure), a forthcoming lesbian fling and any number of secrets and double-crossings, just for starters. If I tell you that last night’s series-opener was introduced by principal bitch Tanya, floating round her private swimming pool on an inflatable chair, cigarette in hand, huskily recounting the story so far, you’ll get the idea.

Sensibly there is no football whatsoever, but there will always be at least one gratuitous scene per episode set in the men’s showers, post-match. You really can’t ask for much more from television.

All this and you get Jason Turner (Cristian Solimeno), easily walking away with the title of Sexiest Man On Television.
‘But he’s just a meat-headed, neanderthal bastard!’ protested Greg when Kirsty and I first expressed this opinion.
‘Yeah…’ we drooled in unison, with a dreamy expression.
Plus he always gets the best lines, as last night on discovering Jackie had given birth to his illegitimate child after all:
‘Yer baps were leakin’ milk, Jacks, I ain’t stupid!’ Brilliant.

Yes indeed, Wednesday nights have suddenly got a whole lot better.

Meanwhile, find out if you’re footballing wife material with this simple (and blatantly transparent) quiz.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

And a very merry Christmas it was too. Helped enormously by not trekking home to spend three days marooned in some god-forsaken rural backwater with only occasional text messages for entertainment (generally of the ‘Arrghh! Get me out of here! Oh god, now they’re watching Heartbeat…’ variety) but for the first time, staying right here in the mothership.

Which I highly recommend, with the following provisos:

 Do, if you ever have the opportunity, go ice-skating at Somerset House. Opened in 2000 as a festive attraction, (and having returned each year since) the rink is set in the courtyard of the beautifully-lit building, there’s a huge Christmas tree, mulled wine, music and if you peer through the rain in the direction of a white floodlight, you can almost imagine it’s snowing. It’s like every film set in New York at Christmas ever, you get to fall over in a comedy manner, and if you don’t feel thoroughly festive by the end of it you’re really not trying.

 Don’t, however, attempt to go out for a meal in the West End on Christmas Eve. There you are, picturing yourselves and a few good friends, holed up perhaps in some cosy, jovial, over-decorated Italian restaurant enjoying a hearty meal and plenty of red wine, and it’ll all be warm, jolly and seasonal.

But no. They, and almost every other restaurant in central London will be closed. With the result that you may, like us, end up in the basement of a minimal, strip-lit Chinese restaurant picking at some distinctly unseasonal prawn thing that nobody really wants, to the accompaniment of what can only be described as Chinese Speed Techno. Seriously, you have to hear this stuff. It’s like someone has taken the fastest techno you’ve heard, played it at double speed, and got Alvin and the Chipmunks to do the vocals. Makes you eat really, really fast as well. On the plus side, it isn’t Slade.

 Do spend Christmas day with friends. It’s amazing how much better being stuck in the house is, when you’re with people you’d actually choose to be stuck in a house with. Huge thanks to Stevie P and co for a great dinner, great company, and a damn fine day.

 Don’t, however, having had far too many of those little chipolata thingies and far too much wine, find the nearest sofa or bed and think ‘I’ll just have a little lie down for ten minutes to sleep it off’. You will wake, five hours later, to not only discover you’ve slept through the entire thing, but the horrifying realisation that you have finally become your Dad.

 Do go out on Boxing Day. Most people will have finally escaped their family ties and will be determined to party. The sense of relief at it all being over will have everyone smiling, and you’ve still got another week before you have to even consider the word ‘moderation’. Not a word you’re ever likely to hear in the RVT mind you, which was a treat, as ever.

 Don’t, for heaven’s sake, get up at some ridiculous hour on the 27th to go and queue up for the sales. Outside Next. There will be a report on it on every TV news bulletin throughout the day, because there’s nothing else happening. You will be seen, because they always film the queue outside Next at 6am. And up and down the country, people will be shouting at the screen: ‘What’s wrong with you people? Can’t you get enough bland in the rest of the year?! How desperate can you be for a badly-fitting beige sweater?!’, and the like. Just say no.

I am a 29 year old man, and I'm really excited that it's snowing. In Central London! And settling and everything!! Exclamation marks!!!

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Whilst we're on the subject, there I was thinking 'Live in London' in a sort of rock-concert publicity, shamelessly self-aggrandising sort of way, but it's 'where to live in London' that folk want to know about, judging from the number of times it pops up in my search requests. Even more often than Shakira or Travis Fimmel naked. Neither of which I can oblige with, I'm sorry to say.

But on the London thing, happy to help. So if you've surfed on in here from Google with that very query, or you want to know about a particular area, fire away, and I shall attempt to offer or solicit some sort of useful advice, in a public service kinda way.

Although I'm sure there are, like, y'know, books and stuff.

..and a Happy (belated) New Year!

(Not so much 'Live in London', as 'Considerably After The Event In London' as usual, but then I'm sure you've come to expect nothing less...)