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...