Sunday, October 31, 2004

Er, Would You Mind Awfully...?

We don't really *do* Halloween in the UK. Leastways, not in the bit where I live.

The pubs and eateries all make an effort; mutilated pumpkins adorn bars and orange and black balloons cover the ceilings like a teenage acne nightmare. But truly, nothing much happens. One of my local pubs had a halloween theme costume evening. One guy showed up dressed as Death, and that was it.

Astonishingly, he didn't win the prize. That went to the girl who'd written "Halo" on one breast and "ween" on the other. And yes, I have diligently reproduced her spelling mistake (although who am I to talk, I never bother to proof read or spell check these posts - publish and be damned say I. Or rather publish and be corrected by 7 year-olds.)

Trick-or-treating doesn't really happen either. The media have put a terror into the minds of us parents that around every corner lurks a cold-blooded killer, so children get driven around or accompanied. And this year there was a new twist. My father and aunt live in a 'gated' estate, so the kids roam freely. The neighbourhood kids went round all the houses last week sticking a note in everyone's door saying "We will be trick-or-treating on Sunday night. If you would prefer to be left alone, please leave this note where we can see it."

How screwed up is that? When I was a kid in Scotland, I'm pretty sure that eggs, flour or water-bombs were the order of the day for any adult bold enough to fail to fill our cherub-like faces with the finest sweets. I mean, that note has come from the same dead hand as a "We arrived to read your electricity meter, but you were out" letter.

No-one came to my house. I can't say I blame them. I live down an alley so dark and creepy that even the cold-blooded killers mentioned above would hesitate before venturing into it and so narrow that Michael Moore could never come and visit.

Best Of Luck Dr Porco

10 points to anyone who got the reference to an old Neil Armstrong joke and/or the song by Sleeper.

Today's post is dedicated to Dr Carolyn Porco, who is leading the imaging team for the Cassini spacecraft (currently in orbit around Saturn.) Those that know me, know that aside from almond croissants, my secret vice is space. I'm aware of how dull the majority find the subject and as such can come up with a variety of alternate hobbies when questioned.

This doesn't stop the weekly chorus at the pub on a Friday where the boss will lead with: "Come on, Newly, give us this week's sad space fact" and I'll come up with something ranging from the oddball ("How long would an ice cube stay frozen in the cryo-tanks of the Apollo service module?") through to the crowd-pleaser ("Which Apollo astronaut made it to the moon and back without having to, er, make use of the fecal containment system?") and ending with the conspiracy theorists ("I saw this thing on Fox that said the moon landings were faked. It was all pretend, right?")

And so to Dr Carolyn Porco. I've watched a number of documentaries over the years, and she generally pops up as a talking head when anyone needs someone to dish out facts on planetary ring systems (no jokes about "Rings around Uranus", please.) She spotted the spokes in Saturn's rings and was sitting alone in the Voyager imaging room as that spacecraft flew past Saturn, making her the first person to see the back of Saturn.

And here, nearly 25 years later, she's back looking at Saturn. Now that is a heck of a long time to dedicate to one area of study, coupled with the high risk that once the space-craft turned up at the planet, it might not even be still in a state to do any useful science.

So to Dr Porco, and all those passionate enough about their calling to dedicate their lives to it, I salute you from the massed ranks of those of us who are 30 years into their lives and still don't know what to do with them.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Oh So Childish

Friday night was one of these nights where alcohol is consumed, other stuff is consumed. And then someone suggests putting on some Pink Floyd.

One of those evenings. Oh, and playing the EyeToy game where bubbles get burst; that kept the troops entertained until the sun came up.

So while it was a good evening, its left me irritated with myself; I didn't actually wake up until 4 o'clock this afternoon and that is *so* not me. Or maybe it is now... either way, I can't shake the feeling of a wasted day (as well as wasted guests still asleep on the floor.)

I cheered myself by watching the cheerful amateurism of BBC News 24. From this I learned that there is a new European directive. For those non-European readers, these are rules that come out of the European Commission in Brussels and are either 'A Good Idea' or 'A Bad Idea', depending on where your politics lie, regardless of what the directive actually is. Rules range from how human rights should be implemented through to the correct thickness of a cucumber.

Most countries sensibly ignore the sillier rules. Britain usually slavishly implements each one in a draconian style.

As usual, I'm digressing. Today's directive is quite a good one; the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipement directive (concerned with recycling cast-off electrical goods.) Whatever the ins and outs of this new rule are, I was delighted to note that I was not alone in sniggering at the politico being interviewed about it on the news. He repeatedly used the approved acronym W.E.E.E which sounds a bit like wee. They cut back to the newsdesk, and both of the anchors were beside themselves with laughter.

So childish, but I was pleased to see that whoever does the scrolling news ticker had been equally effected as text such as "EU up to neck in WEEE. WEEE leaves stain on UK recycling record..." and so on scrolled past. Sadly things went back to normal after a few minutes.

I wonder if the other viewer of BBC News 24 noticed. I'll have to ask him.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Oh The Tragedy

I never used to be a vain person. Longtime readers will know that until recently, my wardrobe could best be described as 'comfortable'. I would look at young poeple in the pub, buying their first slightly illegal pint of beer and think "I have *pants* that are older than you."

Of course, all this changed when my cousin and his beautiful fiancee took me in hand and spent my hard earned cash in a variety of London clothes emporia. And I've never looked back.

Which is why the weeks of inaction I've endured to date, coupled with the months (6 months is the latest estimate) of inaction that lie ahead is depressing me. You see, through the cycling and then the joining of the gym, I'd made good progress on the physique. Heck, if I wasn't starting to look good.

And now all I can do is sit around and watch hard-fought-for tone melting away. The camera didn't lie.


Someone has just found the journal while searching for "chat rooms dating for incontinent people"

My initial reaction was "Oh, please god, no" and, to shut the site down. But then I start feeling a little sympathy for this person (unless, of course, the person gets off on incontinence, which has got to rate as the weirdest fetish I've ever encountered. And I've encountered a few.)

You see, I don't think I've ever seen that option on These dating agencies rarely ask the questions that you really want answered:

"Do you put out on the first date?"
"Do you expect the person you meet to put out on the first date?"

Because, my friends, lets face it; those are the questions in everyone's mind as they nervously push beer mats around the table or fiddle with half eaten breadsticks, trying to avoid eye contact until the first few glasses of wine have been drunk.

And as for my own dating exploits? Sadly, all on-hold for the time being. How long the ladies in question are prepared to be on-hold is a different matter all together...

Thursday, October 28, 2004


Well, having stopped taking the pills as of last week, I appear to have fallen off the wagon.

Still, 3 weeks without alcohol is some sort of record so I think a round of applause is called for. In addition, it was all The Uncle's fault. He took me out, forced me to drink all that lovely T.E.A. and then came back to mine to make a dent in the crate of Leffe and talk about John Peel.

Its funny, he's 50 and I'm 32. Yet we both have our favourite Peel sessions and an awful lot of them overlap.

Happy days. 'Night all.

We Have A Winnah

I've been reminded that wayback when. I did a 5,000th visitor Q&A, and said I'd do the same thing for visitor 10,0000. Doesn't time fly.

Visitor 10,000 appears to come from Canada and have an ISP racily entitled "Soho Skyway". The deal is five questions (other than 'who are you?') which I'll answer absolutely truthfully. Pick 'em carefully, I won't do this again until visitor 100,000, when I can be relatively sure this journal won't exist anymore...

Er, Erm, Uh...

There are times, you know, when I almost (*almost*) wish First-born had been born a boy.

Its nothing to do with a need to play sports or a desire for First-born to serve in the frontline of the armed forces. Nor is it anything to do with having to go shopping for girly clothes, or reading "Felicity Wishes Fairy School" stories rather than whatever it is 7 year-old boys read these days. In actual fact, I love shopping for clothes with First-born, and I'll read any story she wants for as long as she still likes Dad to sit and read of an evening. After all, in a few short years she probably won't want to know me, being 13 and knowing everything and all.

No, the thing is this: without a senior female figure in the house, there are some questions that I'm simply not equipped to answer. Take last night, First-born woke up and staggered downstairs in that slightly drunken fashion she does upon waking.

"I've got a pain" she said
"What sort of pain? Where?" I asked

And she pointed at the one part of her anatomy that I, as a guy, really can't help with. Thank goodness for the internet and questioning inspired by Google searches. It transpired that she'd been out with The Ex for the day and hadn't drunk any liquid, and so was dehydrated. A gallon of water later, and all was well with the world.

But there really needs to be a manual for single fathers with daughters, not just about this, but about everything. With headings like:

"The Importance Of Pink"
"Piercings - Top 10 Excuses Not To Allow Them"
"Mood Swings 101"
"When 'nuthin' Really Means 'I want to talk about it' And When It Doesn't"
"Hair Brushing 101"
"Make-up, And Ways Of Saying 'You look like a clown' Without Hurting Feelings"

Actually, I could use that book for some of the adult women I know too, you know...

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Night Terrors

Today was interesting.

I met the man who fixes backs. A nice chap who helped me realise just how badly I've broken myself.

Allow me to explain. As mentioned before, this all seems to be sorting itself out. Sure, I walk a little oddly - but not so oddly that I can't dismiss it as the result of some astounding sporting achievement for the benefit of interested onlookers:

"Oh yes, I sprained my ankle while leaving the track after waving the chequered flag at the Monaco Grand Prix. Michael Schumacher was very concerned. No, really."

However, the good doctor pointed out that it was not, in fact, sorting itself out. Quite the opposite. You see, I don't really feel a lot of pain. In fact, I don't really feel a lot of anything much - my right leg is a bit of a useless appendage. Its deadness was illustrated when the chap did the thing with hammer; you know - the reflex test. Left leg - thunk - and up in the air went my foot. Right leg - thunk... thunk... THUNK... nothing. Not a sausage. DOA, it would seem.

My leg clearly took offence at this and found a means to exact revenge. The next test involved standing on tiptoe (no problem) and then walking across the room (big problem.) Down I went, taking out a bookcase on the way down as well as some very expensive looking ornaments.

With a disturbing gleam in his eye, the doctor booked me in for a MRI scan on Monday. "It'll probably need surgery" he announced with slightly more glee than I would have liked, "We'll just cut away the portion of the disk that is pressing on the nerve"

'We'? I doubt I'll be involved in anything but a passive way. Aside from the kicking and screaming when the anesthetist tries to put me under.

And I have to admit, the thought of someone wielding a scalpel around my spine fills me with a special sort of terror...

Fabulous Dahling, Mwah, Mwah

With the exception of my passport (which is serial-killer-chic) there are only 2 photographs of me in existance. The Ex destroyed the rest, and if I'm entirely honest, there weren't many to go on the bonfire; I always tended to be behind rather than in front of the camera.

I was asked to provide a 'headshot' photo. Pornographic associations aside, I looked at my options. There's the passport which, as I said, looks like that of a mass-murderer. There's a photo of me and First-born which is nice, but I look far too fit and happy, and I'm not sure its suitable. Finally there's a very recent photo of me and the boys celebrating christmas in a bar by building a pyramid of shot glasses of epic proportions. No, definitely not suitable.

There's a whole load of me as a student as well, but I'm just too thin, young and long-haired in those. The inflatable shark probably wasn't a good idea either.

First-born tried to take some photos over the weekend, but her well-intentioned efforts probably belong in a surrealist gallery with titles like "Gigantic Nose, Sideways"

By happy coincidence, my neighbour is a professional photographer and today I had a 'session'. He burbled away happily about his long and varied career working for various magazines (and judging by some of the 'scenery' stacked in the corner of the room, I'd class those publications as 'specialist') as he snapped away.

I don't get to see the pictures until tomorrow, when he's picked the best of the bunch. I'm dreading it; the camera doesn't lie.

Oh, and if you see any shots of a guy in a black shirt, black leather jacket with a hairstyle by Salon de Finger-In-Power-Outlet turn up on any 'specialist' web sites, let me know, ok?

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Unwanted Visitors

Now, here's a thing. Tomorrow, The Ex is dropping off First-born and my former mother-in-law is going to be coming along.

She and First-born used to be the best of friends, but sadly my ex-mother-in-law has yet to grasp that First-born is no longer 3 years old. First-born therefore tolerates her with that icy aloofness that children reserve for adults in whom they are no longer interested (and then, once the child hits about 22 and realises the hurt they caused, find it too late to apologise for.)

But I digress. The ex-mother-in-law (referred to as 'EMIL' from now on) is quite keen to have a look around my new place. I was initially ambivalent about this, but now am in two minds. Three or four minds, in fact.

Initially, I worried about the state of the bathroom and the general tidiness of the place. Then I thought about creating a Tracy Eminesque scene of destruction, complete with empty vodka bottles and other less savoury detritus scattered about. Perhaps I could be found sitting, slumped in front of the TV, solitary finger poised over the remote control, surrounded by empty beer cans.

Finally, it occurred to me that I could persuade the Hair Dresser to emerge, garbed in only a towel, from the bathroom while The EMIL is on her tour. Heck, I'd quite like the Hair Dresser to emerge, garbed only in a towel, from the bathroom regardless of The EMIL's presence.

Of course, what I'll actually do is clean the bathroom and make sure the place is at its best. First-born will be present after all. However, it appears that The Ex and The Boyfriend have set a date for their wedding, and I have Plans. Oh yes, I have Plans...

Letter To America

Dear Americans,
You have an election coming up soon, and it is really, really important that you vote.

I ask you this not because I'm supporting any particular party; from the point of view of the outside world, little is going to change no matter who wins. The majority of you will still need oil for your SUVs which, lets face it, is going to mean that aside from a few bells and whistles foreign policy isn't going to change an awful lot no matter what the candidates may say.

For what its worth, the candidate with the long face and slightly aloof persona scares me less than the candidate who always puts me in mind of a cheerful chimp. But heck, its none of my business.

No, the reason I ask you to vote is so that one or other of the candidates has a decisive victory. For the last two years, every single news programme in the UK has had a feature about the US election. I can't escape it. I have a sneaking feeling that I may know more about the issues than the majority of US voters because of this wall-to-wall coverage. And if there's another disputed result, we'll be faced with another two years of analysis and finger pointing. And I don't even live in the country.

So, please, for the sake of my sanity - vote.

Lots of love,


P.S. You're welcome to come to our election next year when little Tony Blair takes on The Prince Of Darkness. There'll be tea, biscuits and concrete barricades on the lawns of Parliament.

Godspeed John Peel

...which would have royally pissed the man off; if memory serves, I think he was a Buddhist. And God knows I've not believed in Him for quite a while and doesn't seem to mind too much. Still, its the thought that counts.

John Peel died suddenly today. If you lived in the UK during the 80s and early 90s, his show on the national radio station, Radio 1, was a beacon of light amongst the flurry of manufactured pop rubbish that filled the airways.

He is an important part of my youth and is now gone. I can't fully articulate why this has upset me so much; I never knew the man and in later years was only an occasional listener. But there you go.

I've had no beer for 18 days. Today would seem to be a good day to fall off the wagon.

What Was I Thinking?

I'm bored? I want to go back to work?

I sound like First-born towards the end of August. Although her yearnings to return to the classroom seldom last longer than the first day back.

For the first time in years I don't have to set an alarm clock, nobody cares if I stay in bed all day, there is no pile of work to deal with in the morning.

Ok, so there was that week of wishing I was dead. But now, time to kick back and enjoy the fact that Human Resources will not allow me on the site until the Doctor says so.

I wonder how much flights to Barcelona are?

Monday, October 25, 2004

Just So I Don't Forget

This is a post about the last three weeks. It has a few naughty words.

I'm finally mobile - this weekend I intend to drink my first beer in a month. I'm still hopeful of an MRI scan, mainly so I can scream "Aaaagh! It burns! It burns!" and freak out the technicians.

Back pain is an insiduous thing. It creeps up on you. Maybe after a long drive in a car, you experience a slight twinge, perhaps after a particularly vigourous session of copulation or maybe just carrying the drinks from the bar back to the table in an awkward fashion (twisting to avoid packs of revellers before eventually spilling Guinness into your loved one's lap.) It starts to build up. The damage, not the Guinness.

Then you do something fucking stupid like lifting a washing machine.

This is phase 1 of the pain. A small warning light goes on at the back of your head. You ignore it; you are, after all, young and therefore indestructable. But there's that thought: "I shouldn't have done that"

You dismiss it. Did I mention that you are, of course, invincible?

Phase 2 commences the following day. This is the beginning of the humourous 'funny walk'. No real pain yet, but for some reason your leg just won't do what its told. You contrive explanations for the limp involving sporting activities or feats of bravery. Nobody believes you.

If untreated (and of course, it is untreated - indestructible, remember?) Phase 2 leads to Phase 3. Phase 3 is when it starts to hurt a lot. Driving your car leaves you almost crying with the pain. Walking has turned into a old-man's shuffle. Your friends joke that you've either eaten a particularly impressive curry the night before, or have been doing things with your rear for which nature did not intend.

As Phase 3 becomes Phase 4, you finally seek help. This isn't going to go away by itself.

Of course, by then its too late. The medico hands out pills more suited to Phase 2 that make as much difference to what you're going through as urinating in the ocean does to the sea level.

Phase 4 is the phase of the Long Nights. Phase 4 is as bad as it gets on a physical level. You can no longer sleep or function as a human being. You consider various methods of suicide. The internet is consulted. Ultimately, you find yourself a coward and are driven by a family member to your next appointment with the medico. This is when Phase 5 begins.

The medico picks up on the buzzwords like "suicide" and "if this doesn't fucking end soon I'm going to fucking top myself". You also look like someone who has been on a month-long drug fuelled bender. Serious medication is prescribed. You take enough drugs to knock out a herd of elephants and sleep. At last.

You start feeling better.

But Phase 5 has a sting in the tail. Your friends (remember them?) don't really want to know you at the moment. Although you don't talk about it (invincible, yes?) the pain is written in big letters on your face. You are a huge wake-up call. A reminder that they are also not invincible. This is too awful for them to contemplate and so, gradually, you see less of them...

And Phase 5 becomes Phase 2 again. Mobility returns. Semi-normality returns. You aren't allowed to go back to work and become bored. You are also perpetually afraid that Phase 2 might become Phase 3. You're scared to lift anything. You're scared to walk in any way but a slow and careful gait. You're a living, breathing example of 'correct posture' in all you do.

You wonder if you'll ever dare strap on a pair of skis again, or will settle for watching the mountains of Whistler from a hot-tub and hitting the parties in the evenings instead.

And this is where I'm at right now. Just so I don't forget.

I Love Stats

I don't publish a counter, but I do like looking at the stats.

October's award for most creative search that found this site goes to a person from Sheffield, UK looking for "rubber marigolds sex"

Sounds a damn fine idea to me.

Signatory Symbolism

I received a letter today (a real one, mind. Not something suggesting that my life might be somehow more complete if I applied for another credit card and got a free toenail polisher as part of the deal.)

The letter was unusual in that the signature was legible. It said:

P.A. Stafford (Mrs)

Why? Why do I need to know that P.A. Stafford is a 'Mrs' ? - I'm pretty sure 'Mrs' isn't a diploma handed out by a university or anything (and it would take an ego of epic proportions - matched only by similar insecurities to handwrite your qualifications in your signature)

Does P.A. Stafford want to ward off unwanted suitors? Could it be that she is proudly proclaiming to the world that she has a life partner with whom she has participated in a signing-of-a-book ceremony and is rubbing the noses of the singletons of this world in it? Why?

No, we should not adopt titles, marital or otherwise, in signatures. We should instead be forced to write our personality traits in those parenthesis. Just like Charles Dickens (who had a habit of naming characters "Miss Lovely" and "Mr Total Bastard")

For example:

R.A. Jones (Obstructive Bureaucrat)
T. Smith (Helpful But Ultimately Useless)
P. Pilkington-Smythe (Arsehole)
N. Single (Charming, Debonair And All Round Good Egg)

I don't think the world's supply of ink could stand it.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

I Don't Think You Meant Us To See That

I sat watching BBC News 24 this morning, picking at half a grapefruit that, according to the label, was Mexican in origin. Eating food that has been transported half way around the world alway makes me vaguely uncomfortable.

But I do like grapefruits.

Anyhow, aside from the usual doom and gloom, there was the compulsory human interest story. This morning, it was about having pharmacists perform more of the duties of the family doctor in order to give patients a better service/save money depending on which side of the political fence you're sitting.

As the talking head of the pharmacist blathered away, my attention was drawn to the bookshelf behind him.

Seeing a book called "Diabetes For Dummies" on the bookshelf of a man wanting to treat patients in place of a 'proper' doctor does not inspire confidence.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Pipe And Slippers

Its a sign of how bored I've become, stuck at home these last 2 weeks, that rather than put a telemarketeer off with a sarcastic or politely abusive response, I've begun engaging them in conversation.

I kept one guy who was selling electric garage doors talking for, oh, half an hour. He was about to book an appointment for a salesperson to visit when I enquired innocently: "Does it matter than I don't actually have a garage?"

For the first time, a telemarketeer cursed me for wasting *his* time. With luck, I'm now on some sort of black list.

Today's person was a lady trying to work out my credit card spending habits (too much) and which cards I use (any I can get hold of.) Every question was asked in a bored tone with the following options recited:

"And how would you rate that: bad, better than bad, ok, better than ok, good, better than good?"

And as I picked a random answer for each question I had to surpress the schoolteacher within me from saying "And there are two 'T's in BETTER, young lady. 'Beh-errr' is not a word in *my* dictionary."

This, I feel is sign of my aging. That, and referring to the lawyer who drew up the tenancy agreement as "That nice young man".

I've been trapped in this house for 2 weeks. I need someone fun and exciting to take me out. Somewhere. Anywhere. Before its too late...

Friday, October 22, 2004

Wash Your Mind Out With Soapy Water

Preface: I'd not been at the special biscuits. Really, I'd not.

Watching Bedknobs And Broomsticks with First-born. The scene is the one where Angela Lansbury has all the children on the bedstead, and they're about to travel to London by a combination of magic and psychadelic special effect.

Angela: "Now tap the knob three times and give it a sharp turn to the left. Then hold on tight; the behaviour of the bed is something I'm not sure of"

Its the "sharp turn to the left" that made my eyes water. For those that don't know, knob has a slang meaning. And having the name 'Angela Lansbury' and the word 'knob' in the same sentence is wrong on so many levels.

...of course, then I had to explain to First-born why I was laughing during what to her was a deeply serious bit involving magic (which she knows doesn't exist, and so spends her time debunking special effects: "Look, I can see the strings")

Actually, regarding First-born and the age of not believing, she caught herself out at christmas:

She: "So father christmas delivers presents to all the good children over christmas eve?"
Me: (neutrally) "Thats the story"
She: (quiet for a while) "But thats not possible. I've seen the postman delivering letters; it would take too long."
Me: "Well, the only time the postman moves fast is when next door's dog is chasing him"
She: "Ok, but still... it just isn't possible..."

(a long silence)

She: (sniff) "I wish I hadn't said that..."

Sky Rocket

I'm very attached to my car. Its about as 1980s as one can comfortably get without fitting a mullet to the roof.

Its an elderly VW Scirocco, replete with an impressively pointless spoiler on the back (on the plus side, the spolier is made of a delightfully black rubber substance that would leave fetishists positively rigid with excitement.)

Which brings me to the point of this post. The car has to go. There are 2 reasons for this. Firstly, the seats are falling to pieces and probably contributed to my broken back and, secondly, I had a very disturbing conversation in the supermarket car park a few weeks ago:

He: (total stranger, smelt a bit of sour milk) "Oh ho, mate, now thats a nice looking sky-rocket"

Me: (non-plussed. Are my jeans that tight?) "Eh?"
He: "The Scirocco. Lovely example you've got there. We call them 'sky-rockets'"
Me: "Ah yes. Sci-rocco = sky-rocket. Haha"
He: "Ha ha indeed! Shame the wheels aren't original, but they're in keeping with the era..."

He stuck his head through the door frame. I contemplated slamming the door with a "so sorry" and driving at speed toward the exit barrier with he still attached.

He: "...its very unmolested and a lovely patina. Even a period car alarm" (I'd wondered what the pointless black box on the dashboard did)

A pause

He: "And electric windows!" This appeared to excite him. An unusual feature of a UK-car of this vintage it seemed.

I would have listened further to his excitement, but could feel my life-force draining. As a I drove off, I glanced at him standing, solitary in the parking bay. One arm outstretched in farewell, the other clutching a membership form I'd filled in with the details of someone I went to school with and never liked very much. I'd swear there was a darkening around his groin. Perhaps a shadow. Either possibility is to horrid to contemplate.

Which is why I have to get rid of this car. It has begun to excite enthusiasts. I think I'll get a Volvo instead.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Yeah, I Can Tell...

The Builder was in today. Rectifying an act of breathtaking stupidity from his previous visit (ever seen a staircase fitted upside down? No, me neither, not until last week. Mr. Escher would have been proud.)

"Hello, mate," he said in that cheery way of workmen that is supposed to put one at one's ease but instead leaves one with the distinct impression that little, aside from tea drinking and biscuit eating is going to be accomplished.

And boy, do I have some biscuits for him.

"This 'ere is Kristen" he said, indicating a stunning girl who'd followed him in. "She's me niece from Australia" he added by way of explanation. "Learning the trade." The 'trade' presumably being distracting male customers from the horrors being inflicted on their domicile.

Whatever, his diversionary tactic worked and I didn't notice his abject failure to fix last weeks "oopsie" as he eloquently put it.

As he left he made a slightly offbeat observation: "I see yer using that washing machine, heh Kristen, this guy is always washing something"

I was at a loss for words, at least a loss for words to say to a man wielding a large hammer.

"Yeah," he continued, "Lucky if our's sees use in a fortnight. Heh."

Kristen and I exchanged a glance. She wrinkled her nose and followed her Uncle back to the van.

The Daily Mail Says...

Yes, the herbal cookies are doing the trick. All is well with the world, I now walk as though I'd dropped a heavy weight on my foot rather than the "oops, I've filled my pants" gait of earlier this week, and First-born is coming over for the weekend.

However, I'm a little annoyed. I really don't understand why my herbal cookies excite the moral indignation of the establishment so much. They work a damn sight better than the pills, and aren't as addictive either.

I suspect there's a very good reason for it. I've often suspected that politicians were the types who never got invited to any of the 'cool' parties when they were at college and are taking their bitterness out on the rest of us now.

They'd sit and formulate their plan: "First party activist, then local government, then a Member Of Parliament and finally Prime Minister! Then Sarah Snodsworthy-Whittlarse would be sorry for not inviting me to her 21st birthday"

I'll bet the poor guy who missed Tony Blair off the list for his 9th birthday party is ruing his mistake...

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

A Place In The Sun

My friends, we have a new Project.

A throwawy comment during a chat with a good friend last night got the wheels of the Newly Single brain working. As longtime readers know, I've harboured a desire to build a place of my own; the problem being that to do so in the UK without being either a millionaire or the lucky recipient of that week's moron tax involves building in some godforsaken place. Like The Midlands.

So I'd put the idea on hold and continued looking at local properties into which I could pour The Payoff (when it finally arrives.)

However, I'm quite comfortable in my little house. The rent is lower than a mortgage would be... so... why not buy a place abroad? France or Italy? The money would go a lot further and there'd be no mortgage... I could rent it out in the meantime and if I got too hacked off with modern life I could just up sticks and go. And it would only be a cheap and short flight for First-born.

Maybe its the drugs, but I can't see a flaw in this scheme...

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Parents Evening

Tonight's post is rated R for nauseating cuteness...

Ah, Parents Evening. I still haven't got used to the fact that most of other parents could be, well, my parents. I guess I started early, or they started late.

And of course, the added twist tonight was that I was the only solitary person. The rest of the hall was full of married couples toasting the success of their nauseating offspring.

Yes, the school gives the parents a glass of wine. Presumably to soften the blow when their illusions are shattered. Parents Evening can be a nervewracking experience.

I (day 11 of no alcohol) stuck to orange juice and apologised to the teacher for making her have two appointments (The Ex and Boyfriend, and then me.) "Its ok," she said, "I shouldn't say this, but First-born's mother is a little, er, highly strung isn't she? I understand a bit more about First-born's behaviour now."

I, as our American friends would say, took the fifth. Personally, I think First-born's mother should be highly strung. Preferably from a lamp post.

She then spent 10 minutes showing me page after page of A-grades and merits (with last week's blip) and finally came to a poem written a few weeks ago.

"There's a book being compiled of children's poetry. We'd like to make this our school's submission. Would you mind?"

The poem was beautiful. First-born has grasped that a poem doesn't have to rhyme, it doesn't need to follow a form. It just needs to... evoke.

For some reason I couldn't speak. I just nodded my agreement and turned to the next page. She'd written a page on how happy she was to have her room in my house and how much she was looking forward to staying with me.

Then the bell rang, and it was the turn of the next set of parents.

Next time I'm low, I'll be re-reading this post.

Something For The Weekend

Pharamacies in the UK are gradually becoming souless icons of efficiency as they get absorbed into the all-encompassing supermarkets.

However, there are still pockets of incompetence for the enthusiast to find. One is actually opposite the alley down which I live.

This is a store called 'Boots' - a very elderly version of the chain and, owing to the planning regulations of my town, likely to remain stuck in 1927 for the forseeable future.

I turned up, handed the pharmacist my prescription for a variety of drugs, some of which have a street value of more than I earn in a week, and sat and waited. Next to me sat an elderly lady who smelt faintly of cabbage, in the way that all old people do eventually. Probably an early stage of decomposition, I suspect.

Tiring of copies of copies of Cosmopolitan dating back to 1983 I studied the shop shelves that faced the waiting area. To my surprise it was the, er, 'preventatives' section. I had no idea there was such a variety. So I spent a happy few minutes speculating what a product with the special feature of "Double Action Spring Mechanism" actually entailed. Certainly something to make ones' or one's partners' eyes water.

The elderly lady had her gaze fixed on the selection of pregnancy tests on the bottom shelf. I felt obliged to say something.

Me: "Heh, good thing having those nearby, in case one of the products on the shelf above fails, eh?"
She: (silence)
Me: (starting to dig) "There seems such a variety these days, doesn't there? I can't help wondering what the differences are."
She: (silence)

I was about to dig myself in further with "In my day we had to mke to with clingfilm and sellotape - haha" when the pharmacist appeared. He stood directly in front of the lady and in a loud, clear voice said: "Here are your tablets, Mrs Jones".

The lady adjusted her hearing aid, took the proffered bag and pottered out. I made a mental note to the effect that an elderly person with a cable going to an earpiece is probably not listening to Ms Dynamite. Although the gold cord around her neck for her spectacles probably constituted 'bling'

Midnight Munchies

Here's a secret. The way to my heart is food. Not stuff for which you have to pay overrated chefs and sneering waiters, no, food made by someone who will then sit and eat with you.

Preparing food is like selecting a gift, except perhaps more thoughtful - where you think "Oh, Dad will be ok with this vintage elephant wrangler valve" and move on, you just can't do that with food. With food, you have to consider your target audience. What are their likes and dislikes.

The food can be simple, or complicated, but if prepared with thought and love then its always good.

But I'm rambling. Possibly because my friend S, knowing that I can't smoke in this rented apartment made me some cookies with herbal additions to help with the back. It was his first attempt and he and his girlfriend had spent the weekend trying to get the mixture right.

They are the most delicious biscuits I've ever* had, and the act of generosity has really touched me.

Shame I can't eat more than one at a time. Too fattening. Probably. Ahem.

* Not entirely true, the most delicious biscuits I ever had was on a trip to Florida 18 years ago; having come from a country where all chocolate chip cookies were crunchy, the joy of discovering soft, chewy Chips-Ahoy cookies was something that ranks only a short way behind learning to drive and discovering things a boy can do with a girl that doesn't involve pulling pigtails.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Oh So Shallow

The osteopath and I were talking the other day. Well, she was talking, and I was saying the odd word between yelps of pain and "Please Don't Do That Again"s.

She always greets me with a cheery "Right, get your clothes off"

Gotta love that in a woman.

As I was, er, manipulated, she noted the way I'd folded my clothes on the chair. "Tidy, huh?" she remarked.

Me: "I'd never thought about it"
She: "Most guys just dump them in a pile on the floor, with the odd sock or sleeve of shirt hitting the chair on the way down"
Me: "Oh, well, its just an automatic thing I guess. I don't mind about other people, but I like my stuff - well - tidy."
She: "Hmmm... bet you're the same at home too, huh?"
Me: "Well, yes. I'm a demon with the marigolds."
She: "Yessss... ever thought you might be gay?"

There isn't really an answer to that. But there is a point to this story - today I indulged in retail therapy. I have developed a love of clothes shopping, but today I let my gadget fetish run free. I'd intended to buy a digital TV tuner box (mainly to avoid buying a subscription to Sky and indirectly giving money to Rupert Murdoch) and came home with a new hi-fi. Its awfully sparkly. All shiny. And best of all, there's a very bright blue LED on the top that glows in a deeply sexy way.

Tragic really, the wondrous digital radio that is built into it will only be used for listening the re-runs of I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue on BBC7 and flicking between Radio 4 and Radio 2 of a morning (depending on who gets more irritating, John Humphreys or Terry Wogan.)

But ooooh it is so awfully sparkly and shiny.

They've Tracked Me Down

I've yet to to receieve the usual tsunami of unsolicited mail owing to the fact that I've only been here for 2 weeks, and the the various utility companies have yet to sell my address to sundry blackhearted marketeers.

However, the postal service often slips in some leaflets with the post. If I'm honest, these leaflets are all I get - no actual letters. Most offer me discounts from local pizza establishments or indian takeways. The occasional more optismistic brochure suggests that a conservatory or extension would make my life complete. I've written them back and asked for a survey; I'll be intrigued to see how they fit a conservatory onto an apartment.

But I digress. Today's sheaf of emergency toilet paper contained information from a dating agency. Seems a scattergun approach to me. But the pinkness of the flyer intrigued me, and I had a read.

"If you are uncomfortable with conventional ways of dating, we're the agency for you!"

What the heck does that mean? They have 'unconventional' methods? Like what? Flinging potential spouses at the house of a potential bride using a medieval catapult? Kidnapping the puppy of the target and threatening it with a sequence of indignities until a date is undertaken?

I'm going to sign up. Just to find out. I've always fancied being bungied into someone's life.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

And It Was All Going So Well

Today was a good day. First-born came over and we drew pictures. We played a game called 'The Sims 2' where she demonstrated her prowess at family creation. We watched the compulsory Pixar film. The Ex appeared to collect her and commented on the fact that no beer for 9 days and a week of simple salads had had an impressive effect on my shape. I made a hot garlic chicken sandwich and settled down to watch this week's cull on Midsummer Murders (a detective show set in unfeasibly pretty English villages with equally unlikely storylines.)

I was actually mentally preparing a post based around the absurdness of this show when The Phone Call came.

The Ex. In tears. Driving to come and see me.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

It appears she's realised she's made a terrible mistake, she wants to turn back the clock, can we start again for the sake of First-born if nothing else?

I talked her down, got her to turn the car around and go back to The Boyfriend. I made it clear there was no going back. Whats done is done. She has to make a life with The Boyfriend.

I could really do without this now (although I understand that my condition has triggered this all off.)

This is one post where I really would welcome feedback; how do I deal with this one?

Lucky I've got sleeping pills, otherwise I'd be lying awake worrying about a knock at the door.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

The Good Samaritan

Walking has been entertaining. I take 10 paces, and then have to crouch down until the pain goes away.

Interestingly, only one person has ever stopped in the street to enquire if I needed help. She was a charming young lady, and its a measure of how sparkly and sideways the world had gone that I didn't ask her for her phone number. Instead I said through clenched teeth, "No, its ok. Just a bit of back pain. Be fine in a minute. Thanks."

I suppose I probably looked like a drunk about to throw up or something.

It has, however, caused me to re-evaluate my own attitude to people in distress in the street. Would I have stopped to help? I'd like to think so, but I'm not sure...

However, after the suicidal feelings of the last few days I'm pretty content. My family have rallied around in a very touching way; shopping has been bought, flowers placed around the place and The Uncle turned up with a curry and some beer (which I watched him drink with envy.) We watched a DVD, he listened patiently while I prattled on and then left when it came time to take tonight's meds.

You see, thats been the problem. Something I hadn't expected to hit so soon. Now I live alone, there's no-one to - how can I put it - to be *there* when I'm vulnerable. I'm glad I chose to live within walking distance of family.

Thats it for tonight. I'll be funny again tomorrow. Promise.

Are You Vodafone-Approved?

While there are few things I apologise for in this hournal, repetition is one of them. Unfortunately, I'm no longer able to view my own journal thanks to the magic red vodafone card. Every other link in that side bar works, except mine which comes up with vodafone's "Adult Content Blocked" page.

Why, I have no idea. So if I repeat myself over the next three weeks, consider this an apology in advance.

(Oh, and while The Lemon's page isn't exactly blocked; Vodafone just refuses to accept it even exists. Make of that what you will, kids. Personally, its a badge I'd wear with pride, Ms. Lemon.)

So, here I am, Day 6 of my incarceration. At least another 15 to go. My friend S is going to bake me a batch of his 'special' chocolate brownies (the landlady doesn't approve of smoking) which, when combined with all the other meds will make the time fly by. Hopefully in a literal sense.

And I'm watching my DVD collection. I'm slightly ashamed to admit that I have some DVDs that I bought and never got around to watching. At present, I'm ploughing through Michael Palin's "Around The World In 80 Days" which is causing the travel bug to bite quite hard. Going around the world without using air travel looks immensely exciting (for someone like me, who professes to be well travelled based on the number of anonymous airports and hotels I've seen.) Although the bit where he's plugging across the Strait of Hormuz in a Dhow and finds himself catching a dose of what our German friends call "durchfall". Interesting on a boat where the lavatorial facilities consist of perching oneself over the side of the boat.

"Durchfall" - literally translated means "Fall Through". And who said Germans don't have a sense of humour.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Up In Smoke

I sat on my haunches in the waiting room of the doctor's surgery; I can't stand, sit or even lie down for longer that a few minutes, but adopting a pained expression and dropping to a squat seems to be the most comfortable way of hanging around.

"Are you ok, love?" asked a kindly old lady
"Would I be in a doctor's surgery if I was ok?" I snapped back

I instantly felt guilty and apologised to the greyhead, but it transpired that she was rather more deaf than a post and has thought I'd come for surgery for being gay.

Amazing what General Practitioners can do these days.

Upon learning that the latest round of pills have failed to do much with the pain, the doctor closed her door and drew her chair closer.

"I didn't say this, but you might want to consider a, er, herbal remedy..."

So, there you have it. Carte blanche to emulate my student heroes Cheech and Chong. And the trip to Amsterdam is certainly now looking a lot more interesting...

Thursday, October 14, 2004

And The Worst Thing Is...

I have a variety of exciting pills and potions to take. Some white, some orange and some red.


But they all have one thing in common (aside from being utterly useless, apart from the little bottle that has quite a high street value) - and it is this: They all have "DON'T CONSUME ALCOHOL" in big, scary letters.

This is most unfair. My brother bought me a crate of Leffe as a housewarming gift, replete with special glasses. And all I can do is look at it.

May I make a suggestion; can the labels also describe the effect of consuming alcohol combined with the pills. For example: "May turn you green" or "Your leg will fall off" or, better still, "Will make you look big and clever." Then I can make a considered choice - do I really need that kidney?

Thank you for your attention.

Newly Single (dry for 6 days)

Slipped Disco-a-go-go

And so I find myself staring down the barrel of 3 weeks at home.

You see, I have seriously damaged my back. Or, as my doctor put it, "Yep, you've fucked that right up, mate"

He comes from Australia, you see. I enjoyed a brief moment speculating what my grandmother would make of him; she'd probably wield the soap and wash his mouth out.

Ordinarily being restricted to one's house would be a cause for joy and celebration. Not here though. I can't sit and watch DVDs. I can't lie in bed and read a book. I can't even take long, leisurely baths and listen to Monteverdi while sipping chilled champagne.

No. You see, the problem is this: Everything. Hurts.

On the plus side, it means I get to have an MRI scan, and I've always fancied a go in one of those Star Trek-esque tube things. The only worry (aside from being launched as a photon torpedo) is that the software they're using on the scanner might be something I was involved in writing. Why the concern? Here's an old IT joke:

There's a quality management training course going on, and the instructor says to the assembled IT managers: "Right, imagine this. Your programmers have written the guidance software for the aircraft on which you're about to travel. Hands up all those who'd get on the plane."

A solitary hand is raised.

"You? You'd fly on a plane with software written by your team?"

The manager replies: "I wouldn't have to. It would never make it as far as the actual runway before the wheels fell off..."

Suggestions welcome for things to do at home when one is unable to adopt a position for more than 2 minutes before yelping in pain and moving.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

The Domino Effect

As I sit here, pondering whether I'm going to make it to Whistler this year (the Man Who Looks At Spines chortled and said "Yeah, go skiing, more business for me when you get back...") I realised that there was another skiing story concerning myself and an American blessed with marginally less talent than me.

It starts on the ski lift. We are four abreast clunking up on the chair. There is me, a friend, a large female american and a large male american. The lift, as you might imagine, is a tad unbalanced.

We reach the summit and disembark. This is usually my opporunity to take someone out with a flailing pole or crossed ski, but this time I've made a perfect exit and turn to see my friend who has not been so lucky. He's face down in the snow making gurgling noises. The large female american skis unsteadily past me and says to her companion: "Gee, Bob, I think I stuck my ski pole up that guy's ass..."

And with that, she was gone. But her memory lives on.

But thats not the end of the story. Vengence was wreaked upon these people. Albeit accidentally.

I paused at the top of the slope and plotted a course that would get me down whilst avoiding obstacles such as trees, lift supports and fences. People tend to just get out of the way when they see me coming and so don't feature in the plan.

As usual, I push off from the top, as usual I attempt my first turn, as usual I'm out of control by the time the second turn comes up. And by the fourth turn I decide its time to stop - for this I adopt my usual method; falling over.

Unfortunately the slope is icy, so rather than my usual slide into a few inches of snow, I'm actually sliding down the slope and picking up speed. And there had to be a ski-school below me, didn't there? A flailing pole caught the leader as I slid past, and down they went like dominos. Including large male and female american.

The instructor skiied to where I'd come to a rest and handed me a pole and ski I'd left enroute. "Would you like lessons?" he enquired. "No," I said, "And how did you know I was English?" "Lucky guess" he replied, and went back to pick his class up out of the snow.

Unrolling Barbed Wire In The Mind

At last, we have a reaction. I'm almost relieved.

The Ex and I got a call from the school today; First-born has been having what they tactfully described as "behavioural difficulties"

Fortunately, these difficulties have manifested themselves as a sudden drop from a straight-A student down to a straight-F student, pretty much overnight rather than her delivering a knock-out blow to the snotty kid who sits next to her.

I think the cause is obvious enough, I'm just a little surprised its taken as long as it has to show itself. The Ex, of course, blames the school, the teachers and possibly the person who designed the pen with which First-born writes:

She: "I don't understand - how can she suddenly go from getting 20 out of 20 to simply scribbling on the test paper?"
They: "Well, when we've seen this happen before, its normally because something has upset the child; they bottle it up, and it comes out like, well, you can see..."
She: "Well, *I* can't think of anything. She hasn't said anything to *me*"
They: "No, the child wouldn't for fear of hurting your feelings."
She: "Hah - well, the only change I can see is that she's in a new year at school; the new teacher can't be any good"
They: "We can move her to a different class, but all her friends are here, so we'd rather not."

(Rant concerning quality of teaching of the schol from The Ex excised)

They: "Ok, well, we're sorry you feel that way"
Me: "Don't worry, I think its probably the finality of me getting my own place thats done it, along with The Ex shipping all pictures of me and my family out a couple of weeks back."
Me: (I couldn't resist it) "And I expect moving her father out and the new boyfriend in within a week might have a delayed bearing..."
They: "Really? Yes, well there could certainly be a delayed reaction. The best thing to do is to give First-born lots of support and understanding for the next few months. She will most likely snap of it."

And there we have it. Even when you think your kids are doing fine, and you've made every effort to be amicable and nice, this can still come and bite you on the bottom.

Monday, October 11, 2004

If You Only Knew

I have no idea why I kept this. Its a picture of my class from the first day of 'big school' 21 years ago. I found it amongst a pile of pictures that I rescued from The Ex (you won't be surprised to know that all trace of me, and my family have been excised from the former marital home with surgical precision. First-born wasn't pleased.)

And so there you have me. Aged 11. Thankfully I've grown into the ears somewhat and whoever was responsible for cutting my hair has been suitably punished. But I wonder what was going on behind those eyes. What were my hopes and dreams? I think I variously wanted to be an astronaut, journalist or cartoonist, but I can't really remember. I find that my memories only last 4 or 5 years, and then turn into stories, so I can't remember the memory itself, just the story of it.

And I wonder what Newly Single circa 1983 would make of his 2004 incarnation. Probably impressed with all the toys, but not impressed with the failure to see the world (preferably from 100 miles up, through the window of a pressurised tin can.)

I love looking at these old photos and wondering what happened in the days/weeks/months after the photo was taken. What the people in the photo were thinking. What they did with their lives.

Which is why I'm a bad conversationalist when I pop into my local pub, the walls are covered with photos of the regulars from the last 200 years. The results of last night's football game pale compared to what the imagination can conjure up from an old photo.

Fried Burnt Potatoes At The Newly Single Cafe

Weekend number 2 in the new house. Slowly, everso slowly, stuff is coming together.

For example, I actually bought some food to put in the fridge. This will doubtless have a severe impact on the takings of local kebab shop and the chippy.

I have a bowl of oranges on the windowsill in an attempt to demonstrate to the postman that this is a House Of Health. The crate of beer sitting on the kitchen worktop admittedly undermines this appearance somewhat.

And yes, I really have done some damage to my back. I suspect whatever power governs fate (known hereon as The Bastard) took exception to my old-person rant and cursed me to walk like a 95 year-old nursing a full incontinence bag.

I can only hope The Bastard didn't hear the name I ascribed to the elderly gentleman who nearly ran me down ("Sorry, sonny. Didn't see the red light. My eyes aren't what they were, you know...")

Friday, October 08, 2004

Putting A Pole Where It Doesn't Belong

Today I am walking around like the oldie I mocked in the previous post. No sign of an improvement in the busted-back front and I'm getting concerned about going skiing in a mere 2 and a half months.

Sundry advice has been offered:

"Lie down in bed for three days"
"Do stretches and exercises"
"Lay on the floor here and I'll walk on you"

The latter offer would have been entertained longer had it come from a nubile young thing rather than my 120 kilo boss.

That said, I am bucking for a skiing injury. While I sit here wincing and wishing I were dead, let me recount a couple of stories...

* Story 1, or "How I Became Part Of The Scenery"

I'll start by saying that in most things I do, what I lack in talent I make up for in enthusiasm. Skiing is no different. Which is how I found myself careering down a black run by mistake and hit a tree. When I opened my eyes I found myself on my back, hanging head first over what looked like a sheer drop. My foot was still attached to a forlorn looking ski, which in turn was firmly attached to the tree.

What to do? If I remained hanging there, I'd surely freeze. But I didn't fancy sliding headfirst down an icy black run. I pondered this as skiiers slid past, allowing themselves a chuckle at my dilemma. In the end I released the ski, and spent long seconds scrabbling at the ice as I slid down the slope. Another tree helpfully stopped me, and I began the long trudge back up the slope, nursing bruised ribs and leaking red stuff out of an impressive gash.

As I retrieved my gear I was showered with snow. I looked up and saw another skiier in an identical predicament - upside down, ski in tree. He waved at me and said "Ja, ja - see; I haff done vat you did - hahah"

"Haha" I dutifully replied, and left him to it.

And strangely, skiing is still my second favourite past-time.

Later tonight: "Story 2 - The Day I Wiped Out An Entire Ski School"

Ex-isms, Part 376

One of the purposes of this journal was to record 'events' during the divorce process in case I needed to know what happened and when.

No need to do so now, but old habits die hard. So here's the latest:

She: "It's First-born's parent's evening next week. Are you going to go?"
Me: "Of course"
She: "The Boyfriend wants to go too. I thought we could all go together..."
Me: "!"
She: "Yes, the teacher sounded a little surprised too. You don't mind, do you?"

This isn't normal, right? I mean, what do you reckon - some sort of tumour pressing on the 'common-sense' part of her brain?

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Now Then, Young Man...

What is it about little old ladies and cashiers? I stand in the queue at the market. There is a little old lady in front of me, shuffling towards the cashier, clutching her purchase. With a trembling hand, she passes the tin of prunes or whatever over the counter.

"That'll be 39p, please" responds the cashier in a bored voice.

39p? 39p! The oldie is thunderstruck. She actually has to *pay*? Cue long minutes of fumbling around in her sundry coats for her purse until the shop closes or hell freezes over. Whichever is soonest.

I'm definitely getting more intolerant with age. And with the aged. Must be to do with me getting older; I found myself referring to the landlord's lawyer as "that young chap" the other day.

Tune in later tonight for an update on The New Adventures With The Ex... heh...

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Oh The Domesticity Of It All

I never thought I'd find myself using the words "happily" and "ironing" in the same sentence. I've spent the last week using shiny new appliances, and tonight was the deflowering of the iron and ironing board.

I watched TV for the first time in months and subjected innocent fabric to alternate sessions of steaming and scorching. All the while humming a slightly madly happy tune.

It won't last. Anything made this cheaply will probably catch fire at an inopportune moment. Probably while I'm 'entertaining':

"Can you smell burning?"
"Hell yeah, baby. I'm hot tonight!"

Well, how many times in a lifetime could one use such a cheesy line? Possibly once would be too many.

Thankfully I'm out tomorrow on either

a) An evening of polite conversation and drinks with my colleagues from the US office
b) A mission to ensure there are no meetings the following day, and the usual loud visitors are very, very quiet.

The intention is usually a). However, I then persuade them to try a pint of real beer. Its a bit like lighting the blue touch paper of a firework, standing back and waiting for b) to make an appearance.

Army Ants

I'd planned to extoll the virtues of British Telecom on Saturday.

They were to transfer my number from my aunt's house to my new place. A charming call-centre lady told me it would be no problem, and that the change would occur at midnight on Friday.

"Yay" said I, noting that my Spanish friend was still waiting for the national phone company over there to connect her phone. 6 weeks and counting.

So on Saturday I plugged in my phone, picked up the receiver and... nothing... dead. On Monday I called the nice call-centre lady and listened to profuse apologies and a promise to send an engineer out.

And indeed, the engineer did come out. He couldn't find the fault. So he phoned a friend. He couldn't find the fault either. After two or three hours there were something like 5 engineers crawling over my house, trying to find the break in the line.

With this sort of exponential increase, I speculated that I might find myself with the entire workforce of British Telecom in my house by the end of the day. Maybe I could start my own phone company. Maybe I might get to meet the lady from the call-centre with the nice voice.

They found the fault. My house backs on to a lingerie shop (yes, really) and the phone line was routed through a false ceiling. They'd put up partitions for changing rooms and snipped through the line. For my team of engineers it was the work of a moment to reconnect the severed cable.

Sadly, they refused to fit a webcam.

A Minor Incident

Gosh, that last post was a tad whiny. Even for me.

One thing I want to record for diary purposes. I have my own place, my own space. Life is really, really good.

Who knows, one day I might even finish unpacking these boxes.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004


So let me tell you about the latest Exism...

The Ex and I operated what is known as a 'romantic' marriage. This means all accounts were joint, all salaries were paid into the same place and so on.

Back in March, when all this kicked off, I started the process of opening a new bank account. I told my employer and arranged for my salary to be paid into it.

In the name of amicability, I let The Ex have my last salary cheque; complete with annual bonus.

Fast forward to July, and I'm booking tickets, hotels and conferences. Due to the byzantine purchasing nature of the company where I work, I expense all this stuff. This means paying for it on MY credit card and thinking no more of it. A bit of paper arrives from accounts saying "Paid" and I'm happy.

Until this month, when I'm suddenly spending lots of money on a new flat and furniture. And discover a £2500 hole in my finances. Yes, I know I should have been studying bank statements instead of partying in Barcelona...

It seems that while my salary was going to the new account, the accounts department were paying expenses into the old account. The Ex had noted the unusual payments.

Her quote:

"Oh, I thought it was some sort of bonus thing. I didn't see any point in mentioning it; you said I could keep it..."

For the first time I raised my voice. Just a little.

You Did What?

Were the words uttered by the osteopath (also called Samantha, equally lovely, but in a very happy relationship. So friends we stay.)

"I couldn't help it!" I stammered "I needed to move the washing machine..."

She merely pursed her lips, cracked her knuckles, and inflicted a suitable punishment. So I'm now walking in a marginally more pained fashion than before. I'm not sure its supposed to work this way.

On the plus side, the surgery is located in a place called "The Harmony Centre". Slightly odd, and painted an apparently soothing shade of lilac. I certainly felt soothed as I staggered down the stairs, pausing only to inflict a mild dose of concussion upon myself thanks to a thoughtfully placed sign saying "Mind Your Head"

I'll be back. Do I have an Ex story for you tonight, or do I have an Ex story for you tonight...

Monday, October 04, 2004


Its an oft-said myth that men can't multitask.

Oh, how untrue. Take tonight. I was enjoying a quiet drink with N, and my mind was doing the following things simultaneously:

* Wondering how the evening is going - she's laughing a lot, but I seem to be doing a lot of talking. Is this a good thing?

* Considering if tomorrow would be too soon to ask if she'd like to go out for dinner sometime

* Fighting the teenage urge that states "Girls are really impressed by guys who can down a pint of beer in one" - oh so wrong, but oh so driven into the subconscious

* Thinking "I can't believe I'm doing this"

All that, and there was still enough spare capacity to stop me drooling my drink down my chin.

The evening was somewhat tempered by me returning home and parking the car in the super-store carpark near my flat. A group of youths eyed it speculatively. I attempted to give them a stern "Hey, don't mess with me or my stuff" look, but I suspect I looked more like a stoke victim. Hey ho.

Breaking Rules

Ok, tonight I'm going to break a personal rule. This is "Thou Shalt Not Date Thy Work Colleagues"

Let me explain. Today I'd screwed up the courage to ask the receptionist out. Since she's a Temp, a date would be bending rather than breaking the rule.

So I took a risk, a gamble, and asked N (a fellow member of the permanent army of proles) out for a drink. N fits into the category of women that my anti-cheerleader persona flags as "Out of your league, Newly. Don't even think about it."

N said yes. And so I find myself going to enjoy the company this evening of a woman who is smarter than me, very attractive and possessed of a glorious French accent.

I guess my selection of jokes regarding bodily functions is going to be inappropriate. As is my tediously encyclopaediac knowledge of the last 50 years of space exploration.

We've both come out of long term relationships in the last 6 months. I guess that would be a start. If not, then there's always fart jokes.

Oops, I Did It Again

Sadly nothing Britney related. I attempted to lift an old washing machine (in order to replace it with the shiny new washer-drier thing) without realising that the charming wooden floor had been built over the feet of the hateful thing.

One big heeeeeeave, and there was a distressing, deposit-losing crack from the floor and a quieter, but equally significant 'ping' from my back.

"Oh dear, I shouldn't have done that" was all I had time to think before the world went sideways and sparkly.

Suffice to say "I am in". There are few things as nice as unpacking one's books; opening a box that was sealed 6 months ago. You get that wonderful old paper smell and then its like re-making an acquaintance with an old friend:

"Why, Mr Hawks! Its been a while, hasn't it? A cheeky little read? Well, I'm awfully busy... but... if you insist..."

...time to raid the furniture shop again for more impressively cheap and tacky bookcases; I've filled up three of the things already.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Oh, The Tragedy Of It All

It would appear that the lovely Samantha is happily married. So any tentative asking-out-for-a-coffee on the part of Newly would be a tad hypocritical.

Tragic. Particularly since I was using this as an excuse to wimp out on asking The Receptionist out for a date.

Last word on the gym; this morning was weights. Everything was set to "Maximum Wuss" and away I went.

Set 1 - hah! I was laughing! Charles Atlas? Pah, a mere weakling.
Set 2 - I AM GOD. See those weights raise and lower as though powered by a mighty machine. Although that machine is starting to get a bit sweaty...
Set 3 - Ok, who upped all the weights while I wasn't looking? The number is the same, but its feeling a lot heavier now, and I'm sure my arms shouldn't be vibrating like that...

So I'm now at work and radiating smugness. My mood is such that the chaps think I've taken some illegal substances on the way in. Its like everything has just clicked into place, and life is good. Know what I mean?

Probably means I'm due to get squashed by a 30 ton truck on my way home, but I'll enjoy it while it lasts.