Thursday, September 30, 2004

Only 24 Hours From Dorking

Just over 24 hours to go now.

My request to rename my new accomodation from its slightly dull (and completely inaccurate) "nn High Street" to "Newly's Palace Of Passion" has sadly been turned down by the landlord. I suspect he thinks I'm weird. I suspect he could be right.

Didn't stop him taking my money though.

Its good to do a list like this every now and again:

Things That Are Good Right Now

* I never have to see my parents in-law ever, ever again. No more Sunday lunches poking at grey mystery meat while my father-in-law tracks my alcohol intake with a measuring jug

* In the next 3 months I have trips to Amsterdam, Menorca and Whistler planned

* I WILL be skiing down a mountain, on New Years Day, drinking champagne

* First-born is staying over

* The Ex keeps dropping hints that she'd like to get back together. I keep dropping hints that hell is more likely to freeze over

* The female gender (excepting The Ex and her mother, of course. Judging by the charming women I've met in the last 6 months, I've come to the conclusion that The Ex is an aberration of some sort. I may attempt to sell her to medical science.)

Things That Aren't So Good Right Now

Nothing! Nowt! Ok, there's the usual "I hate my job" and so forth. But aside from that, nothing.

I suspect that managing to do the full programme on the rower tonight without falling off may have addled my brain somewhat. Normal cynical service will be resumed tomorrow.

Smugness Becomes Him

As well as that all over smugness one gets at work after a 6am session in the gym (followed usually by falling asleep over one's keyboard at 4pm, which tends to spoil the effect somewhat) I have found myself exuding a slightly different type of smugness.

This is the 'been there, done that' smugness.

Let me explain; I embarked on my first serious relationship aged 18, bought my first house aged 20, married at 21, First-born appeared when I was 25, by 32 I was divorced.

By my reckoning, most of my friends are about 10 years behind me. Some have recently embarked on LTRs, some are about to have their first baby. By my reckoning the first divorces should kick off in the next 10 years or so. So I sit back and watch events unfold with both a sense of deja vu and a dreadful inner smugness of which I'm slightly ashamed.

I am particularly looking forward to the adventures of friends who were full of advice regarding the bringing up of First-born. I wonder if they will have model babies that fit into their lives like a piece in an expensive jigsaw puzzle as planned? Or will they have children that crash through their lives like a puppy at a picnic?

Cheaper than paying to watch soap operas on TV, I guess...

Tonight is my last night in this house. Tomorrow I'm taking some of the people from work out for a "attaboys-and-girls" thankyou meal, and Saturday... well... we all know whats happening on Saturday...

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Implements Of Destruction

Apologies to Arlo Guthrie for that title, but I've always liked "Alice's Restaurant"

However, at the gym I was introduced to the Implements Of Destruction of the lovely Samantha (who, I am selfishly sad to say, is happily married.) These implements being the weights.

God, I hate weights. The rowing machine is the worst, but the weights come in a very close second. I think it may be something to do with a trick played on me when I had a summer job in a factory, aged 13. I was sent to the warehouse to ask for a "long weight" for one of the machines.

Those who get the joke, well done. Those who don't; welcome to my (13 year old) world.

Although at the gym I realised how male obesity could be wiped out. Overnight. Its simple; force all men to join a gym. Staff that gym with beautiful women. The men will then push themselves to the limit and beyond to impress these women. The result will be either:

a) The formerly obese men regain their fitness, thus saving the healthcare system billions
b) The men will keel over from a major coronary and thus remove themselves from the statistics

Its a win-win situation. Although I suspect I'd fall into the (b) category. If this journal suddenly stops being updated, you'll know why.

Just A Little Bit Of History Repeating

I'm ploughing through the enormous pile of classic books dumped on me by my brother (finished The Picture Of Dorian Grey - great book, recommended) and having a great time.

I love books. I think books love me too, since I give them lots of attention by reading them over and over again.

The current book is The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad. A kind of thriller and black comedy written at the end of the 19th century and set in Victorian London.

Its centred around an attempt to bomb the Greenwich Observatory (which actually happened) but Conrad weaves a fictional conspiracy theory around the whole thing, with shadowy people in power using and driving such acts of terror to further their political goals and tighten their grip on power.

If it wasn't for the fact that its also a very funny book, I'd send a copy to Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush to peruse.

Time To Pay The Moron Tax

Long-time readers may remember the Moron Tax episode.

This was where First-born pointed to a queue of people waiting to buy lottery tickets and said something along the lines of "Ooooh! Look at all those people paying the moron tax" in that loud, clear voice children reserve for the most embarrassing moments.

I refer to buying lottery tickets as 'Paying The Moron Tax' (which First-born had picked up on) because the odds of winning are astronomical and if you bought a ticket for all the main national draws, you'd have spent enough money to buy nearly 100 pints of beer over the course of a year.

I call that Beeronomics. Helps one understand the true value of things.

But I digress. Today has been a lucky day. Firstly, the tenancy agreement for the flat/house/thing arrived on time, I paid the hugely inflated deposit (that I know I'll never see again) and now have this Saturday as a guaranteed move-in date. I forgot to buy a parking permit for the car, but was waved on by a friendly traffic warden. And finally I found a favourite toy of First-born's that I thought I'd lost.

Hence I should take advantage of this streak of luck by paying the moron tax.

Or maybe I'll just buy a beer instead.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

And People Do This For FUN?

Day 2 at the gym. Its too dark to cycle into work; I've had a few near misses (or rather, near hits) on the bike; despite the fact I'm lit up like a christmas tree car drivers fail to see me.

I can only hope I'll be able to have a smug expression of "Well, pal, no way can you say you didn't see me" while lying on the mortician's slab.

So the bike is being retired until the mornings start to get a little lighter. Country roads that looked beautiful in the summer are looking less so in the autumn.

Hence meeting the mad Jane and the lovely Samantha (that, and the fact that I really need to get into shape for Whistler; skiing doesn't forgive the unfit and with my current mass I suspect I could do some serious damage to ill-placed chalets, let alone any unfortunate trees.)

Today was the second day. Having breezed through the leg related stuff yesterday, I thought I'd attempt the rower. I spent a happy half hour on the bike (maximum resistance) and then the cross trainer (a bizarre Heath-Robinson contraption involving more pedals and levers than even Tim Burton's fevered imagination could conjure) - again difficultly level as high as it could go.

So I was perhaps a little over-confident as a I swaggered over to the rower.

5 minutes on what Samantha tactfully referred to as "beginner level" was all it took before I rolled off the side of the hateful machine, curled up on the ground and wished I was dead. "Hmmm" she said "We'll have to look at your upper body strength"

Tomorrow evening I have to do something with weights. I fervently hope that that "something" involves giving them to somebody else and heading down to the pub rather than lifting the dreadful looking things. Life, I think, will not be so kind.

Survival Of The Fittest

Warning label on my shampoo bottle:

"Caution! Avoid contact with eyes. If product enters eye, use water or medicated eye-wash to remove irritation. If irritation persists, seek medical attention as soon as possible."

Goodness, what are they putting in Head And Shoulders these days? That pesky dandruff must be a tough little devil. I'll have to start wearing goggles in the shower, which sounds a little kinky to me and tricky to explain to any significant other that wants to join you:

He: "Er, do you mind if I use some protection?"
She: "Oh, of course not. Thank you for being so thoughtful"
He: "Good - could you pass me those Speedo goggles, please?"
She: "!"

Did I mention that I was just a little excited about my house? It has a slightly rude address though. Ok, the actual address (xx High Street) isn't rude at all, but in the true tradition of all old English towns, the street address has no bearing on the actual location of the house, which lurks down a narrow victorian alley called "Farnboroughs Passage". Sound like something Oscar Wilde might have written in his memoirs:

"On Saturday last, Alfred and I spent a delightful afternoon up Farnborough's Passage..." (continue innuendo until every internet cafe in the world starts blocking this journal)

Yes, I am in a childish mood today. And quite absurdly happy.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Made For Idiots

My search for a bed took me far and wide. From IKEA to MFI (the meaning of whose acronym - shown in the header of this entry - has become so rooted in the national consciousness that nobody I know can remember what 'MFI' really stands for. And I can't be bothered to hit Google to find out.)

I found and purchased one in the end. And then found an identical bed a day later for £100 less. Always happens that way, doesn't it?

I've yet to source a bed for First-born. I selfishly want to a get her a day bed that I can use as a sofa upon which I can sit cross legged and play my guitar or harmonica. Or both at the same time. Haven't touched either for 10 years, so it should be interesting.

The Ex, you see, didn't approve of my musical tendancies. And if I'm honest, I can't really blame her; I'm endowed with enthusiasm, but sadly not talent.

I also bought a washer/dryer combo (not enough space for both) about which I'm hugely excited. I can't wait to put the first load of washing into it. I'm going to get deliberately dirty on Saturday so I can load it up.

I suspect thats a little tragic, but heck; its my life.

Er, Pink?

A few days ago The Lem had a bit of a rant about the habit the news media has of assigning silly names to those who they want us to consider as "Scary People", such as 'Dr Germ'. She felt it was insulting.

Insulting to whom, I wonder. The people concerned deserve all the name calling they get (although it should be evenhanded: "General 'Mr. Murdering Bastard' sanctioned an airstrike this morning in which 35 civilians and 2 insurgents were killed"); no, I think the people being insulted by this are the viewers. Its an insult to the intelligence (although I guess saying 'Dr Germ' rather than 'Dr Rihab Rashid Taha, who's research into anthrax, based on specimens from Western biological suppliers, has yet to be found' is easier on the ears.)

But then again, maybe the intelligence of the viewing public isn't being insulted. While at the gym this morning I was watching broadcast television (a novelty; I don't actually have a television that can do anything but play DVDs at home) and was tempted to enter a competition to win some sort of Beatles memorabilia.

I didn't want the prize, but it is compulsory to enter any competition where the question is:

"What was the colour of the submarine in the Beatles' hit record 'The Yellow Submarine'?

A: Pink
B: Yellow
C: Blue"

...and you just know a sizeable portion of the viewing public are going to get it wrong...

Sunday, September 26, 2004

"Looking At You Is Exercise Enough"

The Gym Induction occurred yesterday. Since joining, my only additional exercise had consisted of carrying the gym card and credit card receipt around in my wallet.

I was disappointed to note that rubber gloves were not involved. Nor was a candle, a box and the attendance of three or four fire appliances (replete with men in silly hats and breathing apparatus.) Or was that convection?

I forget which, but I've had a happy flashback to the time my class managed to set the physics lab aflame 20 years ago.

But I digress. The fearsome (and frankly bonkers) Jane was not present. Instead I had to make do with the utterly gorgeous and charming Samantha. During conversation she revealed she had several children (I played the First-born trump card) which is often, but not always, indicative of a current relationship. Only one way to find out...

She also revealed that her father ran the motorcycle team for which Joey Dunlop raced, so a happy hour of Isle Of Man stories was passed while she introduced me to the various instruments of torture/cardio vascular equipment.

I am apparently extremely fit (thanks mainly to the bike ride.) This is also apparently a Bad Thing if I'm seeking to shift the spare tyre that has settled around my waist.

"On Wednesday, we'll look at the weights"

7 words to strike fear into the bravest of hearts.

Oh, and she's also going to set me up with a motorcycle school; learning to ride (without killing myself while doing so) is on The List Of Things To Do.

This time next week I'll be celebrating my first 24 hours in my new house. SO excited.

A Hex On The Ex

...not that there would be a lot of point. Nature has been cruel enough to her as it is.

When did I get to be so bitter and twisted? Oh yeah, I remember, approximately six months ago.

So, there was a meeting last week. A cosy gathering of The Ex, The Boyfriend and I, all around a table in Pizza Express, glowering at each other. Except for The Boyfriend, his semi-blindness means he can often be found carrying on intense conversations with the furniture. An improvement over talking to The Ex, I'd wager.

Ouch, there I go again.

First Born had been left with The Uncle. Which is how the row started. We had planned to talk about money; the fact they owe me £100,000 for my half of the marital property. But The Ex had other things on her mind:

She: "So why is First-born staying with The Uncle? What's wrong with YOUR father?"
Me: (inward sigh) "Because my father doesn't like you. You know that. If you want to collect First-born yourself, The Uncle is the only option"
She: "I don't understand; why doesn't your father like me?"
Me: (I can't believe she even has to ask this) "Um... because of what's happened?"
She: (getting louder) "But YOU said you'd be amicable!"
Me: "Yes, and I have. But I can't control how my family feels, which is why its best for you not to try and pop in for tea" (yes, this really did almost happen)
She: (shouting now) "Oh, that makes me SO angry! Its just NOT FAIR"

And with that she stormed off to the bathroom. Presumably to strangle an adorably fluffy kitten or something.

I looked evenly at The Boyfriend. He looked at a chair that I presume he thought was me.

"Don't fancy your's much, mate."

...and as for the money? Thats a whole other story...

Saturday, September 25, 2004

I Want To Do This

Except maybe in the other direction. Any kind American got an open-top car I can borrow?

Just for a week?

Excitement Reaches Fever Pitch

This time next week I will be in my own house, with my own front door and my own curtains to draw over the world.

Except for upstairs, where there are no curtains on the skylights. But thats ok - I like the stars. Next year I'm going to go to a desert and spend a few nights camped outside so I can look at a proper night sky.

Today I made my first foray into solo-furniture shopping (having comprehensively failed at IKEA.) The first stop was positively Pythonesque.

She: "Hello sir, how can I help you?"
Me: "I'd like to buy a bed, please."
She: "Oh, I'm sorry sir. We only sell kitchens here."
Me: (double take) "This *is* 'Sharps Bedrooms' isn't it?"
She: "Yes sir"
Me: "But you don't sell beds?"
She: "No sir"
Me: "Or anything bedroom related?"
She: "No sir. We do have a special offer free appliances with selected kitchens, if you're interested..."
Me: "Does a bed feature in any of those appliances?"
She: "Of course not sir, we only..."
Me: "...sell kitchens. Silly me."
She: "You might want to try the carpet shop next door. They sell beds."

And indeed they did. Two beds. Both of which were horrible. The salesman shrugged when I asked if I could see a catalogue. "We don't have one," he said "Not much demand for beds, you see"

I was tempted to speculate as to the location where he slept of a night (looking at the chap, he was more like to sleep in a coffin during the day.) You'll not be surprised to learn that his carpet shop actually sold formica tables and chairs (and two awful beds.)

And so local shop hell continued.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Childish, Oh So Childish

Someone said on the radio today: "Isn't it odd how we spend such a big chunk of our lives at work, but never really talk about it"

No it isn't, it isn't odd at all.

Yes, I had a stupendously bad day. The foul-up fairy paid a visit and waved her little wand of poo (now starring in South Park as 'Mr Hanky') over all she surveyed.

Which is why the toilet humour in this little video has made me laugh so much I actually cried. Sometimes it can feel really good to regress back to the playground, throw off the veneer of sophistication and enjoy being really childish.

I always felt The Lord Of The Rings was missing something (other than dialog that wasn't buttock clenchingly bad.) Now I know; Fart Jokes.

It was Dickens who said "for it is good to be children sometimes..." - right on, Chuck. I've yet to find the Dickensian quote that gives me carte-blanche to be a child *all* the time though.


Thursday, September 23, 2004

Ice Cold In Surrey

A marvellous and wonderful thing has happened.

My father has put the heating on in the house. I suspect it may be the influence of my Aunt; my Mother just used to suffer in silence. Actually, on reflection, she didn't; but my Dad had this steely gaze that he's lost over the years.

And so now I'm too hot. All those winters spent in my parents' Victorian house (replete with original features such as draughty windows, plumbing that makes a noise like an old person's digestion after a plate of sprouts and doors with enough space between door and frame for a small child to climb through) have hardened me against the cold.

Many was the morning that I'd leap out of bed and press my face to the window, hoping the postman would bring me letters and find myself stuck to the glass. I'd have to beg my brother to fetch some warm water to prise me off.

Other days we'd peel the curtains off the window pane with a delightful ripping noise where condensation had frozen. I also had music that I could only play in the winter because the intense cold meant that the tape player ran at a different speed and warbled a bit.

Eeeeh, but we were happy. Even when my attempts to turn my brother into a superhero using my chemistry set nearly got us a visit from the social worker.

I forget where I was going with this, but allow me a moment of nostalgia before I embark on an Ex rant later on tonight...

Look At The Size Of That Thing

Operation Flirt is on temporary hiatus owing to the fact that I appear to be growing an extra nose at the moment.

I feel I ought to walk about with a paper bag over my head, or perhaps a mask in a similar way to Michael Jackson. Maybe Michael would like to purchase this appendage to replace his own damaged organ.

Until it bursts, of course. Ewww...

I also heard from the agents today. It seems I am GO for moving in on October 2nd. So I'm making a list of Stuff To Buy.

I never thought I'd find myself breathlessly excited about the purchase of a toilet roll holder...

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

No, I Don't Have Floppy Hair

Why is it that I always, ALWAYS switch into a kind of retarded Hugh Grant mode when trying to ask someone out? It was the same when I was a teenager; except that back then Hugh Grant hadn't met Andie MacDowell and the stammering idiot act was, well, just that.

Me (deep breath): "Hi, do you fancy a spot of lunch with me and some of the guys?"
She: "Excuse me a sec - Hello, (insert company name here) - how can I help you today? Mr Smith? Please hold... sorry Newly, what were you saying?"
Me: "Oh, er, gosh. Um. Can I, er, borrow the key to the stationery cupboard? I need a, er, pen. Yes."

(Damn, Damn, Damn, Damn)

Ok. For the rest of the week I shall adopt Plan B, consisting of some gentle flirting with a build-up to the Asking Out on Monday.

Yeah. Pathetic, isn't it?

On the plus side, Jane Of The Gym called to cancel the Thursday induction. Something about the scheduled torturer/instructor putting his back out while administering punishment/training to other victims/gym members. Oh, the irony.

Dancing With Danger

The receptionist situation has stabilised somewhat, and I'm trying to screw up the courage to ask her out. She's very funny, very pretty and very clever.

You see, in the past few months I've usually been the one who has been asked out; I've not really had to do an awful lot of work; its just been a case of:

She: "So, are you going to ask me out for dinner or what?"
Me: "Er, ok. Tomorrow night good for you?"

The problem comes when the potential date is not so forward. I run the conversation through in my mind, looking for possible pitfalls or man-traps. It goes thus: "How do I ascertain if she has a boyfriend? Will she think I'm a creep? Will she think I'm a lunatic stalker? Is it really worth it? Shall I go out for a beer with my friends instead?" At which point the thought process is derailed and like minded members of staff are gethered for a lunchtime raid on the pub.

Leaving, of course, the issue unresolved.

What to do, what to do?


When I was at school, the nuns maintained that everybody had a "Guardian Angel", watching over them and making sure nothing bad happen.

Even at such an early age, I deduced that this was sappy nonsense.

No, what we have are cheerleaders, cheering us on. The lucky amongst us have friends and family to wave the sparkly pom-poms and don the metaphorical silly skirt.

Cheerleaders are non-judgemental; they don't criticise your actions, they raise your spirits and bolster faltering confidence.

Everybody needs their own personal cheerleader.

And I probably need to get some sleep.

Night all.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Are There Minor Food Groups?

Using the vending machine is like a voyage into the unknown.

Sure, the label might say "Coke" but what actually comes out could be anything ranging from Sprite to a dead rat. No, I'm not joking; that happened once. The shriek of the unlucky colleague who put his hand into the machine, expecting to find a chilled can of sugary liquid and instead grasping a dead rodent echoes around the building to this day.

I stick to what I can see; namely the time expired chocolate.

Jane has suggested I keep a list of what I consume over the course of a day (breakfast, lunch, evening meal and snacks.)

I wonder what she's going to make of:

1 x Dairy milk chocolate bar
1 x Crunchie bar
1 x Small bottle of coke
1 x Cheese and ham toasted sandwich
2 x Pints of beer (Stella Artois)
1 x Caramel chocolate bar
1 x Can of Lilt
3 x Pints of beer (Kronenberg)
Gallons of water

...and possbly a pizza. Not sure yet...

That does not strike me as a good daily diet when written out in black and white. Maybe I should add some green stuff into it in order to avoid being fixed by her gimlet gaze on Thursday.

Er. "Sprouts!" "Cabbage!" "Peas!"

No, it isn't working, is it?

Losing Time

Here's the problem.

I'm 6 months and 350 posts into this whole 'single' thing. I can hardly be called 'Newly Single' anymore because, well, I'm not. I've been single for 6 months, 2 of which were legally single.

(Hey, what a great name for a film: "Legally Single" - reckon Reese Witherspoon would be up for it?)

Maybe I should change the journal to "Resolutely Single", "Forever Single" or similar.

Or maybe its time to shut up shop and move on to pastures new. Lots of the blogs that I read on a daily basis have either closed down completely or are dying from a lack of updates. Perhaps its A Sign.

I shall give it some thought.

I shall also call Jane and change the time of my Induction; I have a meeting on Thursday with The Ex and The Boyfriend regarding the fact they've been less than forthcoming with their part of the settlement.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Been There, Done That

So I've joined. Paid up for a full year which will probably work out the same as the cost of my Barcelona trip per visit when averaged out.

You see, I loathe gyms. I hate the posturing at the weights. I hate the expressions of grim determination and misery of those on the cardio-machines.

And most of all, I hate the changing room. But thats another story.

Jane, on the other hand, was unflappably enthusiastic in spite of my dour demeanour.

J: "And here we have the main area; as you can see there are lots of machines available - John! How are you doing?"

(she paused to slap an unfortunate man heartily on the back while he struggled on a stationary bike. He shot me a glance of pleading: "Please - kill me now")

J: "And all around the room are the weights! Good for those biceps and abs, what?"

(she pinched my arm in a playful fashion and moved on)

J: "The pool is down there - full of water you know, ha ha!"

("Ha Ha" I dutifully replied)

J: "And there are the badminton courts, and squash courts. See - they're playing badminton and squash! There's a thing, what?"
Me: (internal) "If I pay you money, will you shut the f**k up and let me leave?"
Me: (external) "It sounds great! Where do I sign up?"
J: "Good man! Just here! Visa will be fine! Can I interest you in any of the classes? Hello?"

But I had gone.

In a final act of defiance on the way home I bought some of the greasiest bits of reformed chicken I could find at KFC and ate it while surfing the net. The kebab shop was closed you see.

On Thursday I get inducted. It sounds painful. I suspect rubber gloves may be involved (with any luck, yellow marigolds.)

Newly Frightened

Yes, I *am* going to become one of the legions that join a gym and then never go again. I have an appointment with a lady called Jane tonight, who will show me around.

She sounds somewhat fearsome:

J: "Oh, don't worry sir! We'll whip you into shape into no time. It just takes a bit of committment on your part!"
Me: "Oh, er, jolly good..."
J: "So we'll see you tonight. 7pm good for you? Excellent! Don't be late - I can't be doing with tardiness!"


I have a vision of a 7 foot woman wielding hockey sticks. The sort who would wear tweed in her more casual moments and charges through life like an enthusiastic labrador puppy.

A few beers after work are going to be needed in order to stiffen the resolve. I can only hope she doesn't wield a breathalyser...


And so I'm back in the office. It seems months since I was last here, even though it was only last Friday.

I'm currently staring at a picture of me sitting in the rooftop jacuzzi, grinning like an idiot and raising a glass of fizzy wine.

"Gosh," I thought to myself, "You, sir, are out of shape."

Where once there was muscle tone there is now, well, nothing. Riding the bike isn't going to sort this out; I'm going to have to visit the gym.


Sunday, September 19, 2004

Sunburn And Siesta

This is part three of a three part entry. Get thee to Captain Kangaroo to find out how the story begins, or to Lounge Bars And Limosines for part 2.

This is the end.

But I digress. Above you can see how it was that I got so impressively sunburnt. I haven't been this badly burnt since I was 15 and on a family holiday to Florida.

The hotel, you see, has a jacuzzi on the roof. And it was here that I began my Saturday, with a bottle of Cava (to my uncultured pallette, indistinguishable from champagne if drunk in industrial quantities; no problem there then) and a selection of nuts. The view is fabulous.

It was a real wrench to leave the tub and start exploring. But leave I did, and explore I did. Barcelona is a wonderful city, not as 'unblemished' as the centre of Prague, but bigger, and with the most amazing little alleyways and hidden nooks tucked away behind vast wooden doors or through concealed archways.

I could have walked for miles. I stopped at a pavement cafe and watched a wedding; I saw the bride enter the church, and saw the happy couple leave 45 minutes later. I wanted to shout "Stop! Don't do it!" but I ordered a beer instead.

I poked about in palaces, I had my own little Siesta (I'd planned to finish off The Picture Of Dorian Gray, but lethargy overtook me and I slept) and I ate in an amazing restaurant. More amazing was where I stopped in on the way back at around 2; a palace hidden off an alley that bore more resemblance to a junk shop of curios than a bar. I sipped a fruit cocktail and tried to absorb the experience; I was aware I was into my last 24 hours.

And a big chunk of those hours were spent in the jacuzzi on Sunday with my now constant friend, Cava, for company. I did a bit more exploring, and gave money to street artists.

I bought CDs from buskers (one of which has a gloriously cheesy rendition of "Blue Spanish Eyes" that I wish I could share with you.) And then I was in the hotel bar, waiting for a taxi to take me back to the airport. With a final flourish of incompetence, the pretty waitress informed me that they'd run out of Tequila for the Margarita I'd ordered and would I mind Vodka instead? They still put salt around the glass, which created a taste sensation I shan't soon forget. I used the straw.

I was reassured to find that while Check-In was at Terminal B, the flight was to go from Terminal A, and I entrusted my body and soul to the tender care of today's Captain Kangaroo.

In clipped English tones the pilot annouced that there was a possibility of a northerly wind that might make the flight a little bumpy. Within minutes the plane lurched through the air like a drunk trying to find a vacant stall. Luggage fell from lockers, stewards and stewardesses swayed in the aisle before electing to strap themselves in and I took the opportunity to introduce myself to the nice lady sitting next to me.

I find imminent death is a great ice-breaker.

And there you have it. Thank you to A for all she did to make the stay memorable. You should take up Trip Organising as a profession.

You know, its just about exactly 6 months since The Ex left me. I have lived more and experienced more in these 6 months than in the last 14 years.

Can't wait to throw myself off a mountain at Whistler.

Night all.

Lounge Bars And Limosines

I know a girl in Barcelona, and I wondered if she was going to meet me at the airport (I rather hoped she would; I was hoping for a guided tour of the city.)

She was, alas, not there. However, a man in a sharp suit was there with a sign for "Snr Newly".

"'s me" I said, staggering in his direction. In broken English, he asked me to follow him (I do know a little Spanish, but even the worst speakers of English in Spain put me to shame.) So follow him I did. To a stretched silver Mercedes Limosine. Inside was my friend; she'd pulled some strings upon learning of the hotel plight and arranged for transportation in style. A chilled bottle of Cava was waiting in the car.

I was, I confess, pathetically grateful.

The hotel I was to stay at had suffered a power failure, not caught fire. However, staying in it wasn't an option. So my friend had arranged an alternative (having friends fluent in the language is always a bonus) but first had a surprise in store.

As if the chauffered Mercedes wasn't surprise enough.

We were to visit a club called 'Carpe Diem' on the seafront. I was told it would be a hefty hit to my credit card, but would be worth it. It certainly was; I can honestly say I've never been anywhere like this before. We ate in a private-ish lounge area surrounded by drapes and cushions, eating horizontally is probably not good for the digestion, but scores highly on the hedonism and decadence stakes.

Another bottle of chilled Cava appeared and disappeared.

An Asian lady named Glenda arrived and gave me an hour long back and head massage. It certainly beats other places where one is harassed by rose sellers or bad violinists.

And then, regretfully, I left. The club had turned into a full-on dance venue; but with head starting to spin with the fizzy wine and dubious chocolate drinks, I needed sleep.

I paused on the way back to look at the dancing fountain in front of the National Palace. I'm told they have opera and classic nights. When I was there, the water was blasting and fizzing in time to Queen ("I want to break free".) When Whitney Houston ("And I-ee-I Will Always Love Yoooooooo") became the tune of choice I knew it was time to sleep.

For what would tomorrow bring?

"Captain Kangaroo...

...and his happy band of incompetents welcome you to Barcelona International Airport" blared cheerfully from wherever loudspeakers are concealed in Boeing 737s.

Ok, thats not quite what was said. But after the plane bounced not once, not twice, but three times before careening to a halt on the runway I think the passengers were of a mind that "Welcome to Barcelona" did not sum up our arrival.

I was sorely tempted to revive the urban legend of the old lady making her way off the plane and asking the pilot: "Sonny, did we land or were we shot down?" but the look in the eye of steward/stewardess (I'd not worked out his or her sexuality, and the androgynous name badge "Alex" didn't help) suggested it would be a bad idea. Its a long drop from the door of an aeroplane.

Things were not going well.

As I'd left for the airport that afternoon I'd received a call; something was amiss with the hotel where I was planning to stay. A power cut, a fire, something. Unfortunately the caller's poor grasp of English and my non-existant grasp of Spanish did not help matters. So I was a little nervous before getting on the plane, and was wondering what would be waiting for me on the continent.

Spain welcomed me with an enthusiastic incompetence that I find endearing. Most countries are incompetent when it comes to airports; we British specialise in sullen unhelpfulness coupled with an annoying habit to take your luggage on a 20 mile mystery tour between aircraft and carousel. The French take arrogance to an extreme, deploying the infamous gallic shrug to any person who might dare to enquire as where their bag might be. The Italians and Spanish, on the other hand, are disarmingly incompetent. The staff genuinely want to help, but are either still sleepy from a siesta or still slightly drunk from a party that only finished 2 hours previously.

And so it was that we, the passengers, stood at a deserted passport control barrier, feeling slightly foolish. Eventually a guard sauntered up, doubtless having stuffed himself with tapas, opened the gate and waved us through.

"You want to see my passport?"
"No, no, no, no - I trust you all"

(this contrasts sharply with my last experience of flying to the US, where I was given some 'special' treatment at immigration)

As I expected, while we had arrived at Terminal A, the luggage was going to Terminal B (I tried to get an explanation from British Airway for this but was met with sullen British incompetence, somewhat at odds with the enthusiastic shouting and frantic hand waving of the Spanish. Still useless, but at least entertaining.)

As I began the walk to the other side of the airport (somewhat smug in the knowledge that few of my fellow passengers had noticed the revised luggage location and naively assumed their bags would appear in the terminal where the aircraft was parked) I wondered what the night had in store...

...if you'd told me, I wouldn't have believed you...

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Wish You Were Here

Having a lovely time. Big update on Sunday night. Wish you were here.

Some words to stir my memory for tomorrow:

Captain Kangaroo
Mercedes Limo
Lounge Bar
Rooftop Jacuzzi

I want to live here.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Changing At Clapham

When I was eighteen I studied English Literature at University. I didn't do many things that most students do (The Ex saw to that) but I did write bad poetry.

I used to sit on a platform at Clapham Junction and look at people passing by, imagining their lives and writing about them. The thing about Clapham Junction is that it isn't really a destination in its own right, its a place where people change trains, a place that people pass through.

So if anyone passed through Clapham 14 years ago and saw an intense looking kid staring at them... sorry.

And now I'm sitting at Gatwick Airport North Terminal, looking at people, and for the first time in 14 years I'm feeling the urge to write some bad poetry.

Time to get on the plane.

IKEA Is Where The Heart Is

Today I instructed my bank to let the agents know that I am as fantastically wealthy as I appear. Or at least able to pay the rent. If all goes to plan, I move in on October 2nd.

Excited? Just a little.

I went to the flat again to measure up with The Uncle in tow. The Uncle would find fault with Utopia, which can be an annoying trait. However, in this case it was a fine sight watching him systematically verbally demolishing the apartment while the agent went paler and paler.

When we left he turned to me and said "Great place. You can spend the money I've just saved you on the rent by buying me a beer."

And then we went to one of the outtakes from Dante's Inferno: IKEA. The flat, you see, is unfurnished. Shuffling through the store along the dictated path, staring at beds that will probably fall apart at the most inopportune moment and prodding items of cookware that have clearly been built down to a price is not my idea of fun.

I still failed to select a bed. At this rate I'll be using the inflatable mattress and sleeping bag I keep in the car (yes, I've taken to keeping a packed bag in the car too, just in case I wake up somewhere strange.)

I'm sure any ladyfriends will be suitably impressed...

Thursday, September 16, 2004

That Was Tough

Yeah, I'm still in the office. Idly surfing other people's journals while I wait for the Gollum lookalike who called me out to call back.

I just got a call from The Ex. Well, not The Ex as suc; she'd put First-born on the line, a very tearful First-born: "I really miss you, Dad. Don't go away this weekend, I want to come over and stay..." (sob)

The Ex: "She's been like this for an hour, I didn't know what else to do."


A promise to take pictures of the new apartment (and most importantly, her room) and email views of Barcelona calmed the young lady down. But now I'm boiling over with rage at The Ex.

My mantra: "Happy place. Go to my Happy Place."

I Sailed The Seven Seas

I've just remembered.

This time tomorrow I'll be on an aeroplane to Barcelona, gripping the arm-rests of my seat in pure terror and vowing I'll never leave the ground again.

Until I go to Amsterdam. And then Menorca. And then Vancouver. And then Florida.

Michael Palin had the right idea in Around The World In 80 Days; boats and trains are a much better idea.

I'll be sure to send a postcard...

I also made my peace with First-born tonight; I've had to promise her a trip to the seaside, fun in a funfair and some painting of pots. And I've also had to promise to leave the mobile phone and pager in a box. Buried in the garden.

Application Nerves

I'm an impatient soul. The application form for the rental was due to arrive this morning, so at lunch I tore back to my father's house. I pulled up to a halt with a pervading smell of burnt rubber all around me. The car ticked madly to itself as I leapt into the house.

Three phone bills, something telling me I'd won a million pounds and need to call Readers Digest immediately, the same thing for my Dad, another for my Aunt (a family of millionaires - what are chances of that, eh?) and then, then... there it was. A handwritten envelope. I paused to admire the quality of the paper before tearing it open to find the application form.

'Name' - yep, I can do that. 'Current Address' - again, ok. 'Annual Salary' - not a problem. 'Previous Landlord' - er, this is a tricky one. I've owned my own house for the last 12 years. The only time I've rented a place was while at University. And I'm not sure that mentioning a room in a dormitory that smelt of a distressing combination of pot, body odour and something else too horrible to remember is an appropriate thing for such an application form.

So I left that bit blank.

With the VW's clutch protesting, I raced to the office of the agent and breathlessly handed the form over. The agent peered at me through her nose as she studied the form. Then she saw the section marked 'Annual Salary' and her face lit up.

"There should be no problem, sir" she said brightly "We'll be in touch in the next few days"

Ladies and gentlemen, we appear to be off!

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The News, Boss, The News

Oh, I'm so excited. I'm really, really excited. Mere words cannot describe my excitement.

I think I've found a place to live. My first flat/apartment as a single person. My first space to call my own.

I've seen a few places around this town. Up until now I was pondering two places... the first was a Victorian terraced house hidden in a row behind a pub. I liked it, but it was a little far from the town centre.

Of course, when there's a pub at the end of your garden, this is less of a problem.

The other potential was an apartment in a converted country house. This looked fabulous on the outside. Go read a Jane Austen novel and you'll get an idea. I had to restrain myself from saying "Oh, Mr Darcy" as I admired the facade.

The inside was somewhat different. Think 'Care Home For The Elderly'. But, well, it was ok...

However, today I've found The Place. Right in the middle of town. Well inside budget. Titchy tiny. Space for First-born. And a little bit interesting (it goes over three floors, with a room on each floor.) I'm going to visit the agent tomorrow and shake her hand off.

Everyone's invited to the house-warming.

The Sun Sets

The view from a camera perched on top of my car about 5 minutes ago.

The sun's setting earlier. The days are getting shorter. Which means there's a better chance of seeing the sunrise and sunset. Silver lining/cloud; make up your own phrase.

Today was hugely, hugely exciting. I shall get onto that later, once I've spoken with The Father and The Aunt.

First I have to deal with another telephone call. I love this job. Yes, its the American. Probably something to do with the spelling of 'colour' or 'night' or a requirement for instructions on the proper use of toilet paper.

Some may have got the impression from previous posts that I'm somewhat down on Americans. Nothing could be further from the truth; if First-born came to me in 10 years time and said in an excited squeak: "Father, I have met a lovely American and want to marry him", I would embrace the child and weep tears of pure joy. I would also begin looking forward to free holidays in the US.

When did I get so cynical?

But America does seem to have a very vocal lunatic fringe. We don't have that in the UK; our nutters tend to end up in the House Of Lords, or are packed off to Scotland. Occasionally both.

I can only hope that my personal bette noir blows his head off while cleaning the assault rifles that he can now purchase from his local gun shop.

A man can dream, ok?

I also have to confess that part of my general antipathy to this chap is that when I returned from call-out last night, First-born had gone to bed. And then refused to talk to me in the morning. I'd broken a promise, you see...

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

The End To A Perfect Evening

Aha. It would seem the problem stemmed from the chap selecting "Reports - UK" rather than "Reports - US"

This would appear to be my problem because he "expects to see the US stuff first" in all lists.

Patience of a saint, me. Although I may have made a slight dent in the wall from throwing the phone at it.

A Perfect Evening


They: "Oh, hello. Are you not in the office?"
Me (internal): "No. Its 9pm, I've just worked 3 22 hour days and want some sleep. And if you genuinely thought I'd be in the office why did you call my mobile phone?"
Me: "No, can I help you?"
They: "Yes, there's a problem with the system. We need you to fix it"
Me: (internal) "I bet its another Americanism"
Me: "What is the nature of the problem?"
They: "The dates on one of the reports. They say 22 March, 2004, not March 22, 2004. The users won't understand it"
Me: (internal) "Bingo"
Me: "Oh, I see. Can it wait until tomorrow?"
They: "Of course it can't! You're contracted to provide 24 hour support and we want this fixed NOW!"


Oh, and tonight is a First-born night too. We were watching Sleeping Beauty and eating chocolate as a small way of making up for the weekend when the phone went off.

I'm not looking for sympathy. Just somebody to offer me a job. Any job.

Lets Recap

I think its time for an update. Mainly because this is a diary, and I should note these things which, being a man, I'll otherwise forget.

Life has got very confusing in the last six months. From 14 years with one female companion to being resolutely single with occasional fun girlfriends. I'm going to have to update The Cast, am I not?

Firstly we have The Waitress. A woman who manages to combine stunning looks with being absolutely lovely. I have no idea what she sees in me. Downside? She doesn't like Father Ted. I can probably live with that.

Then we have The Work Colleague. I have a rule about relationships at work; mainly because when they go wrong you have to see the person on a daily basis. The rule is Don't. But after the last few weeks I'm thinking about quitting and dropping out for a couple of years. So maybe the rule could be a little bendier than thought.

And there's The Hairdresser. The wedding with the Greek chap called George is apparently off. And she's popping around the house to ensure I'm spiffy for Barcelona on Friday. And then she's takinig me out for lunch. Father would not approve, which is as good a reason as any.

And finally there is The Lady Of The Weekend. This is a tricky one; I'm scrupulously honest in all things (it would be hypocritical not to) so all the people listed here are aware of the existence of the others and that I'm not seeking anything more meaningful than fun nights out and fun nights in. And to be honest, it'll take a long, long time before I'm willing to trust anyone further than that again. Shallowness is the new Black, dahling.

However, The Lady Of The Weekend has voiced a need for something more. She wants me to meet her parents. She wants to meet my parents. She even wants to meet First-born.

I suspect the back injury sustained at her hands may have been a cunning ploy to stop me running a mile.

I'm joking. I think.

And On A Similar Theme

This is absolutely the last nun-related reference.


I'm starting to worry that I'm bucking for a lightning strike.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Instructions For Life, Part 338

"How To Get Served Quickly In A Bar

Dress as a nun. Ideally a nun in mini-skirt and distressed fishnet stockings. Oversized high heeled shoes are also helpful."

Well, it worked for me. The crowds parted like I was some sort of latter day Moses, albeit one wearing really itchy tights, and possessed of a nagging worry that the previous wearer of the wimple may not have been too particular in the personal hygiene stakes.

Having a crowd of similarly clad friends around me may also have helped somewhat.

Yes, the show was very good. We sang our little hearts out. We adlibbed the lines in an inappropriate fashion. We failed to win any prizes - I guess I should shave next time. And maybe wax.

Next time; Rocky Horror. I've rediscovered my taste for costume. Heh.

Sunday, September 12, 2004


I'm having one of those moments where one wonders "What's it all about, eh?" - and this is without any alcohol. Just a bottle of diet coke, cold pizza and sundry sullen members of staff to keep me company.

This weekend, you see, was a First-born weekend. I had plans. We were to go swimming, go to the seaside and throw stones in the sea (and at the tourists), go paint some pottery and hunt for something other than Toy Story 2 to watch.

But the evil Doctor Pager had other ideas.

So yesterday I spent a large part of the day squinting at a laptop while First-born played with the kids next door, and today I've been in the office for the whole day. The girl in question spent the first hour scooting about on wheely chairs and then the subsequent hours indulging in a Toy Story-a-thon. Then I took her back to her mother and returned to the office, returned to squint at a laptop screen.

The pay's good, but this (as our American friends would say) sucks.

I'll be back later with words about nuns, fishnet stockings and gin. In the meantime, as a tribute to Johnny Cash, I give you this. Monkeys are always funny, but there's a bit in this video that made me laugh out loud, even in the gloom of today. You'll know it when you see it...

Friday, September 10, 2004


Its time to face facts. I have an addiction.

Last month, after the session in the Blues Bar, I was in denial. But its no good. After last night at the Jazz Cafe in Camden I have to admit it.

I'm hooked on live music.

What a fabulous show. The support act played with the kind of amplifier-shaking gusto that only comes from the certain knowledge that you've only 3 or 4 songs to get through before the main event. This they did with enthusiasm and demonstrated that every song does not need a 15 minute guitar solo in the middle of it. Band-I-Saw-In-The-Blues-Bar; please take note.

I whooped, I cheered, I shook the hand of the singer, I bought the CD. I fought shy of the t-shirt. It seemed excessive.

Initial worries that the support act were going to upstage the headliners were soon dispersed into mass of bodies at the front of the stage. After a keyboard intro that distressingly put one in mind of a tune from the Outrun video game of the 80s, the main event made themselves known. Although I'm still unsure why the lead singer felt the need to wear flying goggles on his forehead and a lampshade over his hair.

Artists, eh?

The rest is all a blur of light and noise, save for a break from which the singer returned, er, a changed man. My friends and I speculated on the quantity of white powder he'd put up his nose behind the scenes while his band demonstrated their cleverness.

I loved the whole thing. Being able to do this and see this makes up for a lot.

I need my next fix, and so am scanning the papers for another interesting venue and gig.

Somehow, dressing up as a nun and singing along to Julie Andrews tonight is going to seem a bit of an anti-climax...

As Far As The Eye Can See

"No, really," said S, "There are acres and acres of the stuff. I'm not joking."
"I still don't believe you," I replied, "Show me."

S, you see, had made a discovery. The building where we work is located in farmland, and on his way to the office he'd noticed an unusual crop in one of the fields.

A group of us went to check it out and indeed, it certainly appeared that a farmer was growing what could only be described as a hardy variety of cannabis.

Excitement reached fever pitch. Plans were laid to hire a truck and return under cover of night with several large plastic bags in order to retrieve some samples for, er, analysis.

I was the tedious voice of reason.: "This is ridiculous. There's no way this can be what you think it is. At least check it out first"

One of the joys of working for a pharmaceutical company is access to analytical laboratories. However, in this case it wasn't necessary. A friendly technician took one look at the bedraggled plant proudly held in S's fist and pronounced:

"Yes, that's definitely Hemp. A commercial variety grown for its fibrous properties. You'd need to smoke the whole field to get the effect you're looking for."

Poor S. It was like shooting a puppy.

Thursday, September 09, 2004


Plagarism is an ugly word. Not least because I'm not sure I can spell it and its one of those silly words ending in 'ism'. When I rule the world, all silly words will be outlawed and replaced by versions that spell the same way they sound. I'm allowed to do this; I've got an English degree - it must have some use.

America will obviously be exempted, and forced to spell 'colour' the English way because, well, I'll be ruling the world and can be as irrational as I like.

You wait until you see what I've got in store for the director of the film Torque. Think you can burn through 2 hours of my life and there not be Consequences?

But I digress. Above is a self-portrait by First-born, stuck on my office wall. It struck me that her artistic style has changed over recent months, resembling more this person's technique. If this is the result of plagarism, then I'm anticipating some *really* interesting questions from First-born over the weekend...

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Make A Wish

I have a rule regarding First-born. I don't drink alcohol in her company. Its a rule thats been bent a few times (notably to breaking point when a hotel provided free champagne) but I generally try and stick to it.

Its not through any kind of high handed moral belief, or to set an example. No, its because I generally start talking utter rubbish after just one beer. Stuff I shouldn't say in front of her because it would lead to awkward questions.

Which is how the following conversation happened. I'd hadn't expected to see First-born tonight, and had enjoyed a single bottle of beer with the boss. Thats all it takes...

First born: "Do I have god-parents?"
Me: "Well, yes. You do. There's (The GodFather) and (Mad Friend Of The Ex)"
FB: (sigh) "I wish they were fairy god-parents"
Me: "Heh, well. I guess you could say that about (The GodFather)" - the guy has been out the closet since he was 14 and could best be described as 'flamboyant'
FB: "What do you mean?"
Me: (damn, damn, damn) "Er, er, er..."
FB: (sigh) "This is one of those things you'll tell me about when I'm older, isn't it?"
Me: (relieved to not have to discuss sexual orientation in a crowded restaurant with a 7 year-old): "Yes. Sorry."
FB: "Well, if I had a fairy god parent, I would get a magic wish"
Me: "What would you wish for?"

(Damn. I've done it twice in the same conversation - opened a can of worms. What is she going to wish for? Me and The Ex back together? That her grandmother hadn't died? What?)

FB: (long pause) "That chocolate was the healthiest thing you could eat"

Sleepless Nights

I lay awake last night, counting the cracks in the ceiling and wondering how I was going to reach the light bulb that had blown in the overhead lamp.

Several things were going through my mind; I was thinking about a piece of work that I've spent the last month putting off and now have to present on Friday, I was thinking about First-born's first day in a new class, but mostly I was thinking about how I was going to break the news to my father and aunt that I was planning on moving out.

And then it struck me. It was oh, so simple. And it stayed with me until the morning, when I was munching my way through a bowl of oats and sundry dried fruit.

Me: "I'm thinking of renting my own place"
They: "Why? Aren't you happy here?"
Me: "Yes, of course. Deliriously."
They: "So why do you want to move out?"
Me: "Well... its like this... I've met a girl..."
They: "Oh that wonderful news! Of course you need your own place! We'll help you look!"

Followed by all kinds of excited squeakings from my aunt regarding meeting girlfriends and traditional English sunday lunches.

Of course, I haven't actually met a girl I'd want to bring back. And even if I did, I live in constant fear of the infamous paddling pool film being wheeled out. But what they don't know can't hurt them, eh?

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Traditional English Ale

And here we are again. Far too much TEA drunk in far too short a time with The Uncle.

I exercised sufficient self-control to declare a desire for "an early night" and weaved back from the pub, stopping only at the chip shop to replenish carbohydrates lost through the raising of the wrist.

I miss First-born. Tomorrow is her first day back at school. She'll be in a new year, with a new teacher and a new class. And I will only hear about it through a crackly telephone line tomorrow night. I want to read her a story, tell her everything will be ok, and sit through another showing of Toy Story until she falls asleep.

Yes, I'm a little tipsy and perhaps a little maudlin.

I also decided that I have to move out. My father and aunt have been kindness and supportiveness personified. But I need my own place. I hope they understand.

Tomorrow, I shall start hunting for somewhere to rent. Somewhere with big windows.

Nun Or Nazi?

Decisions, decisions.

In a moment of drunken rashness during the traditional Friday evening "Thank God The Week Is Over" after-work beer session I signed up to this.

God knows why. I've never even seen the film. But in the warm fuzziness imbued by alcohol, it seemed a great idea.

So the question now is: Nun or Nazi? I'm off to the costume shop today to make my selection; I've done Nuns before (not in the biblical sense, that would be bad. Unless they were pretty and having Doubts, of course) but never a Nazi.

Like I said; decisions, decisions.

** UPDATE **

A third option has appeared. Three of us will wear oversized t-shirts with the words "Doh", "Ray", "Me" on each respectively. The latter word appeals most, self absorbed creature that I am. Just as well; the only Nun costume left in the shop was "Sexy Mother Superior" and I'm not sure the world is ready for Rocky Horror style Newly.


...although those stockings would look good on me...

See what I meant about 'decisions, decisions' ?

Monday, September 06, 2004

Would You?

In just under 2 weeks, I'm heading off to Barcelona for another adventure.

Here's where I'm planning to stay:

Looks nice, yes? That may be the case. However, the reason I chose it was because the booking site listed "Piped Music" as a special feature of the hotel. And I'm fascinated by a hotel that would list such a thing as a feature


Note to self: going out of an evening with the boss is a bad idea. The man is an ex-rugby player and has consumed more alcohol than you can possibly imagine. Attempting to match him, drink-for-drink, in some misguided macho competition is a doubly bad idea.


I awoke with the too-much-beer sore throat (caused by the invevitable snoring that comes of over-consumption of said drink) and pondered First-born's comments on snoring the previous morning. The Ex, it seems, snores. Ok - I knew that already. You don't live with someone for 14 years without noticing this sort of thing. I know her favourite perfume, the types of flowers she likes, how to tell her that the outfit she's wearing doesn't suit her, and so on. Rebuilding that kind of encyclopaedic knowledge with someone else is one of the downsides of my situation.

But I digress. The Ex's snoring:

FB: "Yes, it keeps me awake at night"
Me: "You can hear it from your room?"
FB: "No, when she's had too much wine she gets all sad and brings me into bed with her"
Me: "Ah..."

Now, what am I to do about this? Sleeping with one's child is one thing. Sleeping with one's child and one's new Boyfriend is a little different. And sleeping with one's child and one's new Boyfriend while drunk out of one's head is something else entirely.

I don't want to create another 'food trauma' type incident, but I'm a tad uncomfortable about the whole thing.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Small But Perfectly Formed

Today is the best day of the year so far. I've sat in the garden pretty much all day, reading, tinkering with the laptop (gotta love that wireless) and drinking ice cold beer.

First born has splashed about in a paddling pool (dragging me in on occasion in spite of my well documented aversion to paddling pools,) drawn me some pictures for my office wall and is now esconced in The Sims.

This is one of the good days. Now all I need is some after-sun cream. Ouch, ouch, ouch.

Liar Liar

Friends and family lie all the time. No really, they do.

This is why I rely on First-born. For example, today I was selecting a shirt from the new wardrobe.

Me: "What do you think?"
She: "I don't mean to be rude, but - " (yes, all bad news from First-born begins with that phrase) " - I think it would look better on someone younger than you, Dad"

Cruel to be kind, I guess. You wait until she sees what colour I'm going to dye my hair next month. Heh.

*That* Goes *There*

She: "Hmmm, yes, definitely a problem in those two vertebrae"
Me: "So what does that mean?"
She: "Well, you probably sustained the injury a while ago, and your muscles compensated for as long as they could. Something pushed them over the edge, so to speak."
Me: "Oh?"
She: "Yes, you say this started on Monday? I'd imagine you did something unusual at the weekend to trigger it. Did you adopt any unusual postures? Any physical activity you haven't done before, or not for a while?"
Me: "Um"
She: "It would help with the therapy to know what triggered the secondary injury."
Me: "Er. Stretching to change a lightbulb?"
She: "Riiiiight. I'll write 'unsure' shall I, sir?"

And the woman expects me back on Wednesday? Tch.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Take One Goat...

How To Activate A Chemical Processing Plant In Iran

* Check the infrastructure for leaks
* Prime the pumps and condensers
* Sacrifice the goat
* Switch on the plant

Say what?

The Brother was round for beers and home made curry tonight. He brought the beers (courtesy of a recent excursion to Belgium), I provided the curry. It never fails to amaze me how other people's lives are so much more interesting than one's own. The Brother specialises in turning on or turning off Big Engineering. Last year he was in Iran, Saudi, Belgium and Ellesmere Port. I'm not sure which was the more distressing assignment.

Tonights 'funny foreigner' tale was concerned with activating a processing plant in Foreign. The nightmarish complex of pipes and tubes was designed in England and assembled by the local workforce. And by all accounts, an excellent assembly job was done. My brother turned up to do the final checks and press The Big Red Button.

And found the control room knee deep in blood. Well, a substantial puddle at least.

It transpired that the locals had decided to sacrifice a goat 'for luck'

My brother grinned at this point in the tale and said "You know what? In all the years I've been doing this, this was the first plant that started first time. And thats why I keep rabbits. In case I decide to do any DIY in the house...."

I think he was joking. I think.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Osteopath 1 Overweight English Bloke 0

She: "Mmmm, yes you are very tense, aren't you?"
Me: "Um" (well, wouldn't you be a little on the taut side if you were lying on a bench in the near-altogether, while a woman you'd only met 5 minutes before stood above you, cracking her knuckles ominously?)
She: "Now, just relax, this won't hurt a bit... breathe out..."


She: "Get down off ceiling and stop being such a baby"

Apparently I have managed to inflame some vertebrae. I must admit, vertebrae are not the first things that spring to mind with the words "inflamed with desire" - I assumed the phrase referred to, er, other bits - but there you go. A day without learning something new is, in this case, a day without a sadist twisting your back into odd positions.

A Machine That Goes Ping

I awoke with a start this morning - the clock said 9am - and I was very late for work. And then I remembered that today is a sick day, and I burrowed deeper into the bedding.

Why is it that one's bed is always the wrong temperature when you clamber into it, but just perfect when the time to leave its embrace rolls around? I'm going to invent a device that can measure your body temperature half an hour before you dive between the sheets and warm the bed just so. I'd be wealthy beyond my wildest dreams.

Of course, the role of that device could also be filled by one's partner, spouse, or favourite pet. Or even a hot water bottle, I guess. But none of them would feature a delightful 'ping' noise or impressively pointless flashing blue and red LEDs.

My plans for sleeping in were sadly scuppered by the kindly wrinkled face of the cleaner. I'd forgotten today was her day.

She: "Sorry to wake you, dear. Only, I was going to take my grandchildren to EuroDisney, and your aunt said you'd been. Did you like it?"
Me: "Fuckoffandleavemealonecan'tyouseeI'masleep?"
She: "I'm sorry? I'm a little deaf, you see."
Me: (sighing, and swinging legs out of bed) "I've got some photos, would you like a look?"
She: "Oh, gosh! Er, no, maybe next week, yes?"

And with that she was gone, leaving only a faint odour of boiled cabbage behind her. It took me a good 5 minutes of bleary blinking to realise that her sudden departure might have been due to the unexpected sight of naked Newly. I'd chosen to eschew nightwear. Oops.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004


I'm being punished. I'm sure of it.

A weekend of no-strings-attached fun, and now I can barely walk. I thought this was supposed to afflict girls rather than guys? Hmmm... think I'll stop that train of thought right there.

Alternatively, this might be punishment for getting very, very drunk and wandering down the hotel corridors on Saturday night/Sunday morning, flicking the "Do No Disturb" signs round to "Please Make Up My Room" on random doors. I'm too old to let fire extinguishers off these days, you see.

Either way, whatever I've done to my leg has become steadily more impressive. Jokes in the office along the lines of "Wahay! Good weekend, eh? Nudge, nudge, wink, wink" have turned into expressions of concern. Which translated into a sick day tomorrow to visit a charming lady with arms like an East European shotputter who will have a general poke about. No, I'm not looking forward to it.

Things came, I think, to a head today when, in an audit, I attempted to stand up from the table and saw the whole world go sparkly and sideways as my leg did its stuff. Then I threw up. Oddly enough, the audit ended pretty quickly after that. I must make a note of that approach for next time.

Or maybe The Ex has a post-makeover Newly doll into which she's sticking needles. Although I can't see it - she's got the creative ability of a rock. A particularly bland rock at that.

Cruel, cruel fate..

The hairdresser returned from Greece yesterday.

She has met a nice greek man called George and intends to marry him before the year is out.