Friday, December 31, 2004

By "in the New Year" I mean on Tuesday January 4th, after the Bank Holiday. (Note to Scottish readers - I see you have an extra one on that day as well. This seems unfair.)

Wednesday, December 22, 2004


The Management, Staff and Characters of
JonnyB's Private Secret Diary

Would like to wish all readers, commenters and lurkers a very merry Christmas

We will be reopening for business in the New Year.


In case of emergency, a skeleton comments box service will be operating.


If you bought a PC for Christmas especially to read this, you might like to start here:

Banjo Monkey Cleaner Knock

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Smoke!!!

Seeping through the bricks in the chimney, worming its smoky way into the very fibre of my happy home!!!

I give up. I admit that I should have done things properly in the first place and installed a chimney flue liner. After a couple of months of bodging repairs and patching up, there is nothing for it but to bite the bullet and to get in a professional to deal with it.

I engage the Cheerful Builder.

The materials arrive as ordered, which is a good sign. The Cheerful Builder climbs up to the chimney stack. To do this, he appears to balance one ladder on top of another ladder, then tie himself to the stack with a longish bit of dressing gown cord.

I watch him, a nagging concern forming about safety.

It starts to snow.

By now, I am extremely worried about his welfare. I leap into action, and send an email to a friend querying my legal liability should he fall off the roof.

Coffee break. I make the Cheerful Builder a mug of his favourite, and feed him mince pies. He pooh-poohs the danger. I suggest that he fills his left-hand pockets with some really heavy things, so that if he loses his footing he'll slide down the pitched roof on the side of the soft bushes in the front garden.

The Cheerful Builder resumes his ascent.

An email from my friend. She is confident that I am not personally responsible. Whether she means 'in the event of an accident' or 'just in my general life' she does not make clear.

Short Tony appears. "You're a couple of days early, and I don't think much of your costume!" he shouts. He has no idea of Health and Safety. The next time he is clinging precariously to his own chimney stack, I will dress up as a clown and leap out behind him shouting 'bang!!!'. Then he will see how dangerous misplaced humour can be.

Another email from my friend, admitting that she's not really sure about the basis of her legal advice. I send her a stroppy reply. She responds by saying that I would be better off consulting a lawyer, rather than a recruitment consultant.

By now the snow is easing off and has turned into a sort of swirling sleety rain. I gaze up at the Cheerful Builder, plying his lonely trade up in the stratosphere, and regret including the penalty clause in our agreement (death, if he doesn't finish by Christmas Eve).

I retire inside, to the warmth of a roaring fan heater.

Monday, December 20, 2004

I pick the wrong day to dismember the hare.

(Publisher's note - JonnyB's 'Blog and be Published' correspondence course includes all you need to know about writing hard-hitting opening lines. Sign up now! Money back guarantee.)

Unfortunately, time constraints mean that if I am to make a delicious game pie for Boxing Day dinner, I am going to have to make it on the official Worst Hangover of the Year Day.

The world-famous Drummers of Burundi perform at a venue just behind my eyes.

The LTLP has already run from the kitchen clutching her mouth at the first whiff of pigeon frying. But real chefs have more grit. I stick to my task, like an Ainsley Harriot with some degree of personality.

There are two great things about wild game. The first is that it's about as free range as free range could be. So ethically it's an extremely good thing to eat. The second is that it's bloody cheap (if you can't get it free), but people think it's really expensive. That makes it a good way of impressing - to pick somebody at complete random - a father-in-law who might inexplicably think that you are a vapid, know-nothing wastrel.

Anybody who has ever cut up a rabbit will tell you - they have an incredible amount of blood. Hares are the same. It must be something about the long floppy ears. It drips on the floor as I go to work with my knife.

I ping one of the joints out. A glollop of blood flicks across the kitchen and splotches on the work surface, like an evil Jackson Pollack.

The Burundi lads move on to a new tune - cover versions of Sabbath classics.

By the time the meat is quartered and thrown in the pan, the kitchen is starting to look like a crime scene. I gather up the packaging and the bowl of blood and gutty things, then unfortunately knock my arm against something, tipping half my payload against a kitchen unit.

It slides down the white door, gracefully.

I hurry over to the bin bag, leaving a trail as I go. The remainder goes in the bin bag. Some of it comes out the bottom again, to form a small pool.

The LTLP enters, to find me laughing maniacally, clutching a knife in blood-sodden hands.

The drummers reach a crescendo.

Friday, December 17, 2004

I go for a run.

Run! Run! Run!

Up past the village shop and down the green lane (where there has been a recent episode of dog shit).

My breathing isn't too good, and it's cold. A sea fret is forming about me.

A 'sea fret' is the local name for the thick fogs that occasionally sweep in off the North Sea. They can be pretty spectacular, sometimes arriving at an incredible speed - literally billowing, like smoke.

You will often find that different regions have special local names for fog. There is a very good reason for this - 'a sea fret' sounds infinitely more scary and sinister than just 'some fog'. It's a way of intimidating the townies.

I run on. It is like being a character in a James Herbert horror story. (The Fog).

This is a bit worrying. I do not wish to turn into a gibbering homicidal maniac, especially just before Christmas.

I already have a bit of a headache and a runny nose from the cold. In fact I feel a bit weird. The thing is, with the sea fret being like the horrific-makes-you-go-mad fog in the James Herbert book, I am very concerned about the placebo effect.

I am worried that I will end up being mysteriously compelled to expose myself in the village shop before murdering the LTLP and Short Tony. And then, just when I'm standing there covered in blood and dribbling, and wondering who to murder next, the police would turn up and explain that it wasn't a sinister chemical nerve agent James Herbert fog after all, but a simple sea fret. And I will look sheepish, and feel like a bit of a fool, and at the very least I will have to write a letter of apology to the Village Shop Lady.

The air is clearer as I huff past the church, past Big A's place with his newly-installed exterior Christmas lights and back home.

I feel out of breath. But I think I am OK this time.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Like David Davis, I feel sorry for poor Mr Blunkett.

"Politicians!" I hear you cry (over the internet). "If us private sector people were as incompetent as that lot, we'd be sacked immediately!"

Which, thinking back at the spectacular collection of fuckwitted cock-ups that were the regular milestones of my career, and that of everybody else I know in the world, doesn't ring entirely true.

But that was it for him. One mistake and he had to go. Like that Boris Johnson, who was sacked by Mr Howard for not telling him about his blog.

If Mr Blunkett had a fault, it was that he concentrated too much on the glamour parts of his job, like prisons and tanks at Heathrow and stuff, and did fuck all about the issue of dog shit.

As regular readers know, I hate dog shit. If you offered me a choice as to whether I would want Dido rubbed into my face or dog shit, I would choose Dido every time. That's how much I hate it. There has been another episode of dog shit in our village, and I see the politicians doing nothing.

Nothing.

I am fairly sure that compulsory ID cards for dogs would help us tackle the problem of this village being flooded with waves of dog shit. But is there a political will to do this?

Mr Clarke, are you listening?

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

I go to an office party!!!

This is highly exciting, as I don't have an office now. But I was kindly invited by the company for which (grammar) I used to work.

It is in London. I walk in wonder through the brightly-lit streets like Paul Hogan on his first trip from the Outback to New York.

That's me. I am the Norfolk Paul Hogan. Turkey Dundee.

There is a nagging doubt in my mind that my 'nautical theme' costume is rubbish. The Village Shop is not much good for fancy dress, so I have sellotaped a picture of a cow, a can of Fosters and a chocolate bar to a pole, and gone as a historical re-enactment of the Mutiny on the Bounty.

My other worry is that this company is now a big customer of mine, and so it would be unwise to get really drunk and start saying things I regret. Like:

"You know why I left? You're all idiots!!! You idiotic idiots!!!"

or

"I've got this website..."

or

"You may well be bitter that you're just known as 'the Reception Girl'. But tonight - my dear - I shall make you a woman."

My costume has a hit and miss success rate, and sooner or later somebody eats my chocolate bar thus ruining the whole concept, but generally I seem to have a good time.

I return by train to the village, hungover but energised.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

"Are you sure this is a good idea?"

We mill around outside Short Tony's, several layers of alcohol insulating us against the cold night. The plan: to march on Big A's house and sing Christmas Carols at him until his icy Scrooge-like heart melts in the warmth of a festive onslaught.

Some singing children have been engaged to help us.

We tiptoe across the road, making load 'shhh!' noises. The LTLP carries a reindeer soft toy with some sleigh bells attached, and a candle. I have a mandolin slung round my neck. Short Tony and Mrs Short Tony carry torches. (The electrical, not the flaming kind).

The children lag behind unenthusiastically. I don't know what's the matter with them. When I was their age I would have been really excited to have been got out of bed and sent out into the bitter cold with my mum's and dad's friends in order to play a weak practical joke on the neighbours. It is Playstation that I blame.

We scrunch up the gravel path ("Shhh!!!", "Shhhhh!!!") and assemble around the front door, roughly pushing the kids to the front and ordering them to look waif-like. The house is occupied but the interior lights are dim behind thick drapes. We have arranged to perform 'Jingle Bells' (chorus only) being that we all know the words, and there are only three chords.

[Whispers] "A one, two, a one two three four!"

"Jinglebellsjinglebellsjingleallthewayohwhatfunitistorideonaonehorseopensleigh, oh!"

The LTLP shakes her reindeer enthusiastically.

We tail off weakly at the end, not knowing what to do next. There is no sign of movement, although other lights in the street seem to have come on in the meantime.

A warning voice booms in my head. "LOOK AT YOU!!! THIS IS WHAT YOU'VE MADE OF YOUR LIFE, THIS IS!!!" I tell it to go away.

There is nothing quite so pitiful as a group of previously-confident people realising that they look ridiculous. The village flashmob hovers uncertainly. Finally, we agree to give it another go. Short Tony bangs angrily on the front window. We are both cross that the occupants are ruining it for everyone.

"Jinglebellsjinglebellsjingleallthewayohwhatfunitistoride..."

The front door opens, and Mr & Mrs Big A gaze out in some incredulity. The song falls to pieces around our feet. Lyrics catch on the tumbleweed and are carried down the street.

"Er... would you like to come in?" they offer, eventually.

We make our excuses and leave.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Escalation.

"The fact is, he's just too bloody stingy to pay for the electricity."

Short Tony gesticulates with exasperation towards Big A's dark and forlorn house. Aside from him alone, our corner of the village is ablaze with luminescence, like a Pink Floyd concert without the extra percussionist who wasn't big, wasn't clever and spoilt it for the rest of us. Or a pig with huge testicles, or a fat middle-class guitar player. Or a video of lots of commuters walking about, or a gigantic glitter ball that opens during the interminably overrated solo at the end of 'Comfortably Numb'.

I make a note to add 'Analogies - for Dummies!' to my Christmas present list.

He presses a leaflet into my hand. It is from 'Stop Miserable Ebenezerish Gits' (SMEG). Strapline: 'Are you TOO TIGHT to LIGHT?'

'I spent ages thinking of that,' he confesses.

Friday, December 10, 2004

A threatening note through the door!!!

"STOP.

Are you fed up with excessive and gaudy lighting over Christmas?

Do you think your competing neighbours 'lower the tone'?

Are you also concerned with the light pollution and waste of energy involved?

If so - encourage your offending neighbours to show a bit of local civic pride by removing their lights.

Join RAND - Residents Against Naff Decorations.

For further details contact Big A on [phone number]."


Thursday, December 09, 2004

Everybody likes the local doctor.

He is amiable, sympathetic, and doesn't start off each consultation with the standard three questions they teach you at medical school. (Do you drink/do you smoke/do you do anything else at all in your life that might be remotely enjoyable).

He has also been very mature and sympathetic about my arse problem, although I'm sure he has a bit of a laugh about it down at the rugby club with his mates, which is fair enough and a perk of the job. I'm sure he also regrets his unwitting choice of words when I first went to see him about that years ago - viz, 'let's see if we can get to the bottom of this'.

Anyway, the problem is that I've started getting horrible, unbearable, nausea-inducing headaches. Last week I almost collapsed, in a dramatic fashion, which got me lots of sympathy but frankly is the sort of thing that I would Rather Not Happen.

I was concerned that I may have caught a brain tumour.

I go to the doctor's, and tell him the symptoms.

"God, yes - me too," he replies. "Bloody unpleasant, isn't it?"

I'm a bit taken aback by this, but he explains that some special pills usually make it go away. He then asks me lots of questions, takes my blood pressure and examines me with his tricorder, although I am a bit disappointed that I he doesn't ask me to wear a big metal helmet with wires and stuff on it in order to check my brainwaves.

The upshot is that I don't have a brain tunour, but am getting migraines, possibly triggered by either food or sex.

I had no idea such a condition existed.

He advises me to keep a diary of everything I eat before an occurrence. "Oh - and I'd try shagging at least twice a day."

I leave the surgery, a spring in my step.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Accused!!!

Again.

We are next door, enjoying a glass of wine, skirting round the topic of the missing Christmas lights.

A lull in the conversation. The LTLP turns to me, sweetly.

"By the way," she remarks. "I found some ladies' glasses in a case beside the bed. Whose are they, please?"

I am greatly taken aback.

I am a rubbish liar. Fortunately on this occasion I have no need to lie, as I really haven't got a clue whose glasses these are.

Unfortunately, in between me working this bit out and presenting the LTLP with a calm and authoritative denial of any wrongdoing, I allow myself to think quite how implausible whatever I say will sound.

Consequently I go very red, stammer and look shifty as I make weak protestations.

"I guess they might be the cleaner's?" I reply.

Mentioning the cleaner never improves the situation between us.

"Perhaps they're the Vegetable Delivery Lady's?" offers Short Tony. He is the world's biggest stirrer. I shall henceforth call him Short Tony the Wooden Spoon.

"I doubt they're the Vegetable Delivery Lady's," I reply. "Besides, it was not the Vegetable Delivery Lady last week. It was a man. With a beard."

I reflect that the man with a beard explanation was all very well, but that it would perhaps have been better to simply point out that the Vegetable Delivery Lady has never been up to my bedroom and removed her glasses. Why must I always over-elaborate???

"Search a bit harder," suggests Short Tony the Wooden Spoon, highly unhelpfully. "You might find a discarded brassiere."

"No," I reply quickly. "She only ever leaves brassica."

The room echoes with laughter at my clever little joke. When I have wiped the tears from my eyes I look round to find that in fact it was only me laughing and that it is just a very echoey room.

"Well?" asks the LTLP.

"I'm sure they were the cleaner's," I state, drawing the line under the subject and moving on, like Mr Blair does when there is nothing more to say about a topic ever in the world again.

The conversation is dropped. But the cleaner does not wear glasses. I am stumped.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

There appeared to be some misunderstandings in yesterday's comments box.

I read The Guardian and watch Channel 4 - therefore I am putting up outside Christmas lights in an amusing 'post-ironic' sense. You're right, though - other people that do that sort of thing are just trashy, and I would not wish to be associated with their chavvy taste.

Up against it today. Back tomorrow.

A quick recommendation: this weblog is terribly good. She is very funny, like me, and is clearly the Next Big Thing. I found her first! Me! Me!

Found, inexplicably, via Blogexplosion, the electronic equivalent of tonguing a lot of frogs.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Accused!!!

Flashback to last December...

A war of escalation is taking place in the village. All to do with exterior Christmas lights.

I bought some hanging flashy icicle things. Short Tony bought some hanging flashy icicle things and a neon Santa.

I bought some starry lights for the cherry tree. Short Tony bought some more hanging flashy icicle things.

I bought some fairy lights to go round the windows and yet more hanging flashy icicle things. Short Tony bought a collection of powerful strobes and a seven foot high illuminated statue of the Reverend Ian Paisley.

Or suchlike.


A loud knock at the door. A ring. The impatient shuffle of official jackboots.

It is Mrs Short Tony, looking stern.

"You haven't seen our outside lights, have you?" she enquires, looking me in the eye. "They appear to have disappeared."

I am taken aback.

"We thought we'd put them up in the loft," she continues.

The implication is clear. The Cheerful Builder and I had carried out some building work in the shared loft, to foil the Short Tonies' incessant attempts to install video and sound recording devices in my bedroom ceiling. It would have been a simple matter to pilfer their tawdry Christmas illuminations in order to gain one-upmanship this year.

I stammer denials, caught on the back foot. She is already peering round me to check the conservatory. Finding nothing, she shoots me a suspicious glance and takes her leave.

Being accused of a crime one hasn't committed is the worst feeling in the world. I am the OJ Simpson of the village.

Unlike Mr Simpson, however, I will not get a chance to prove my innocence in a court of law and thus stop people talking.

I retire inside, miserable and branded a thief.

Friday, December 03, 2004

London Town, early morning

Occasionally I get nostalgic for London.

It’s important to point out here that I am not a Londoner. I just lived there for some time.

That’s not meant to be disrespectful to Londoners. I know lots of them and they are all quite normal. But when you see the upmarket press dubbing this region ‘Chelsea by the Sea’ then the Londoner thing takes on a particular hue.

Norfolkers, Londoners, people from overseas. All are welcome on this very rainbow nation of journals. Except people from Lincolnshire, obviously. They’re just bloody freaky.

Anyway – the nostalgia. I got it yesterday again, when I was driving down the M11 and heard the new ‘Feed the World’ single for the first time.

It got to the bit in the middle, when the young chap tries his rap. And it was just like when I used to be driving around London and my nice easy-listening music would suddenly be interrupted by a short burst from some rubbish pirate station broadcasting in the vicinity.

It happened again, just later in the verse. Genius.

People ask me what I miss about living in London, and I’d like to say ‘the theatres’ or ‘the Tate Modern’ or ‘vibrant multiculturalism’. But actually, it’s staggering into a Tribute-KFC joint at 2am, chatting incoherently to the staff, then walking the streets wide-eyed and happy, munching on chicken.

I did that a bit last night, and it was wonderful.

But now I have an urge to return to civilisation.

My people are calling me.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

"But you never finish anything!" she wailed.

"But at least I start them!" I countered, defensively.

This cycle of conversation had gone on for at least six turns. I made a mental note to add 'Relate' to my BT Friends and Family.

"It's one tiny little bit of varnishing! It'll take you - what - ten minutes?"

I explained that although that was probably accurate, I couldn't attempt the varnishing until I'd planed off a tiny corner of wood, to ensure that the cupboard shut properly. What's more, I'd got out the big tin of varnish, a paintbrush and the plane a week previously to ensure that I was prepared for the job. That was why they'd been sitting in the middle of the lounge.

Silence crashed amongst us like nuclear explosions.

Ill-advisedly, I felt the need to speak.

"Besides, I had to get on with the architrave round the loft hatch."

She goggled at me, thunderstruck, like a Nazgul who'd just been presented with a large demand from the Child Support Agency.

"And look at it!!!"

I was affronted by her tone. Architraving is very difficult to do, as you have to join four bits of wood together exactly right, like a picture frame. That was why I'd only attempted one bit, but I'd nailed it up there, all perfectly nicely.

Sometimes she treats me like Frank Spencer. I do not deserve this, but I love her very much so I make allowances for her DIY fascism.

What she does not realise is that a lot of the job is in the planning. And I had been planning to finish both jobs for some time.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

My vegetables have arrived!!!

Every week, I get a box of organic vegetables delivered direct from the farm. There are always potatoes and onions, then possibly carrots and other root veg, cabbage, tomatoes, leeks, squashes - a selection of delights that lasts the week.

There are two main reasons why I get my vegetables delivered:

  • Aside from the variety and interest, and the feelgood factor of giving a farmer the whole revenue for his work, the produce is unbelievably, spectacularly tastier. This is not necessarily because organic tastes better per se, but is due to a combination of factors. It's far, far fresher for a start, the growers aren't obliged to concentrate on varieties that look pristine and have a long shelf life, and they can harvest when the crop itself is ready, not when the distributors demand it.

  • The Vegetable Delivery Lady is quite fit.
I run to the kitchen in haste. Wearing my most 'come hither' wolfish grin, I adjust my hair and throw open the side door with panache.

Except it is not the Vegetable Delivery Lady. It is a man. With a beard.

This is not what I was expecting at all. I peer round him to see if the regular Vegetable Delivery Lady is perhaps hiding round the corner in order to spring out and shout 'surprise!!!'

But it is not to be.

I do not understand. When I signed up to the service it was on the basis that I would get my vegetables delivered by foxy Vegetable Delivery Lady and not by a man (with a beard). The organic farm is clearly not quite as it seems. Like many evil corporations, they treat their existing business like dirt whilst giving new customers all sorts of incentives to sign up.

They are as bad as Morrisons. I take my parsnips grumpily and bid him 'good evening'.

Monday, November 29, 2004

"That'll be twenty-five pee please."

It seemed like reasonable value. I handed over my money and tucked into the fairy cake, which proved to be exceedingly good.

At the next stall, I was offered the chance to win a tin of Heinz chicken soup on the tombola. Mrs. Tall Alf then attempted to sell me a Soda Stream machine (original seventies vintage, unused), and pointed out that I was entitled to a cup of tea and mince pie included in the admission charge.

I explained that I'd had a cup of tea and a mince pie before I came out, in addition to my fairy cake, but thanked her for the offer, thus neatly side-stepping the Soda Stream pitch. Ironically enough, I'll probably find that original Soda Streams now change hands on Ebay for hundreds of pounds with international soft-drink enthusiasts desperate to get their hands on stock.

On the way out of the hall I passed the vicar. I imagine that he would have cannily not eaten that day so as to take full advantage of the free refreshments. I dare say he'd negotiated cheap entry as well.

In fact, thinking about it, I should have asked them for a discount as a non pie-eater or tea-drinker, although they might then have whacked on a premium for a non church-goer. I'd have then pointed out the vast quantity of raffle tickets I'd sold, but they'd have countered with the fact that I'm a non-pensioner unlike most other attendees. I'd have then played my trump card - my generosity in leaving them with a valuable and desirable soft-drink machine asset.

For the sake of the 30p entrance fee it didn't seem worth getting lawyers involved. But one has to look after the pennies.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Suddenly, it is the Christmas party season.

Yesterday I got invited to another one, only to accept and find that it’s fancy dress. As everybody knows, in terms of experiences one would rather not go through, fancy dress is right up there with being falsely accused of child molestation. So now, given the theme of ‘anything nautical’ I have to choose between dressing up as:

A fish;
Michael Fish;
Fish (from Marillion)

I also have to give some thought to my own office party. As I work for myself, alone and sad, I am not greatly looking forward to this, although if I cancelled it this year then it may affect morale.

My plan is to stop working at about 4pm one day, before making a slightly embarrassing speech about what a good year it’s been, but how 2005 will bring new challenges and I’ll have to work even harder to meet them. I’ll then get really drunk on my own (beers and wine only), listen to records I don’t particularly like and make a pass at the standard lamp.

At least I won’t have to worry too much about getting home, although it will be embarrassing to get up in the morning and find the standard lamp still there, but we will have to get over this and continue to coexist together in a professional fashion.

Perhaps I should invite the rabbits?

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

I was extremely concerned to read that the Post Office is thinking about closing lots of Post Offices.

This seems bizarre to me. If the Post Office close the Post Offices then they won't have anything to do. They will just have to sit around all day, experimenting with queuing systems and stroking their black and white cats, like Bond villains but in a polyester blue uniform and with a crap bike.

Frankly, I think they would make very bad master criminals. Rather than just plant their thermonuclear device round the back of the Houses of Parliament they would expect the Government to make a special trip out to the depot in order to collect and sign for it, then they would go on strike at the first sign of a setback. If James Bond got captured, as he usually does, he would be able to save the world just by turning to his guards and suggesting a minor change in shift patterns.

The Village Post Office is nothing like this, and I would be very sad if it was sold and turned into a Starbucks. It is run by a very nice and helpful couple. The two regular posties are also very cheerful people who like a chat, despite me getting off on the wrong foot with the Lady Postman.

(Two years ago - I'd just moved in. I am chopping logs out the back, and hear the scrunch of gravel on the drive. I wander over, a huge axe slung over my shoulder.)

Her (brandishing post): "Good morning! Here is your post."

Me (brandishing axe): "Thank you. You've just caught me! I've just been horribly murdering my wife!"

This was when I learnt my first small village lesson - people tend to talk.

No - if Mr Blair and his cronies try to shut the Village Post Office he will find trouble. I will mobilise public opinion, through this diary and via Sonia the traffic announcer who sends me secret messages in her bulletins (and who now works for BBC Norfolk).

I predict civil disobedience and mayhem.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Friday, early hours. Next door.

Big A has fallen asleep on the sofa. There is no sign of the girls. Short Tony and I are tired of waiting up for them.

We decide to fetch them home and fall out into the dark night. The hundred yard journey to Big A's house in stretched to a couple of miles in our particular zig zag fashion.

The house is quiet, the curtains drawn. We are still cross about being fed this ridiculous 'cosmetics party' spiel.

As we walk up the front drive I have an idea.

"Let's see if we can find a gap in the curtains," I suggest. "We might be able to catch them red-handed in their lewd outfits of shame."

We tumble into the front garden and up to the large bay window. We are extremely quiet as only drunk people can be, with lots of whispering, giggling and hisses of 'sshhh!!!' There is no gap in the curtains, but a noise from within suggests that our plan has been rumbled.

"Quick!" cries Short Tony. "Into the bushes!"

We leap into the bushes.

The front door opens and a couple of people emerge. Phrases such as "I could have sworn I heard something" are bandied. The door closes again.

"Wouldn't it be funny," observes Short Tony, "if we rang the doorbell and then hid again?"

I consider this. I have an encyclopaedic knowledge of British comedy from the late seventies onwards including the UK stand-up scene, coupled with a single appearance at the Edinburgh Festival dressed in a tutu. However, ringing the doorbell and then hiding would clearly surpass anything that anybody had ever done in the name of being funny, ever in the world, ever.

Short Tony creeps out, tiptoes to the door, pushes the bell and then dives back into the bushes.

Again the door opens and there are confused noises, before the ladies retreat back inside.

We are beside ourselves with glee. The girls seem unable to work out what is happening. I reflect that they are clearly embarrassingly drunk, as I crouch sniggering in the rosemary bush with another grown man.

This is probably what Kevin Spacey was really up to.

"Right," whispers Short Tony. "Your turn."

I scuttle towards the front door.

[Five turns later]

"You know what?" I ask Short Tony, as once more the girls retreat inside in confusion. "We could do this all night and it wouldn't become boring."

[Three turns later]

They are scouring the front garden with a torch. But they are rubbish at finding us. We are like two Norfolk Andy McNabs, using our resourceful survival skills to remain hidden in the rosemary bush.

[Two turns later]

Blows from a large rubber torch rein down on my arms and upper body, as I struggle to protect my head. "You bastards, you bastards!" Mrs Big A keeps repeating. "We were really worried!" Our attempts at apologies intermingle with nervous laughter and howls of pain.

I hadn't realised that they sold torches at Ann Summers parties. It is probably a Vag-lite.

The LTLP stands back from the scene with her arms folded, looking cross.

"You were a bit late," I explain. "I came to fetch you home."

Monday, November 22, 2004

Thursday evening. Next door.

"Well I don't believe a word of it," I snorted, as I weighed up whether to be satisfied with conquering the continent of Australia or whether to mount a sneaky additional raid on Madagascar. "I have never heard of this 'Virgin Vie' party thing."

Big A rolled the dice and annihilated my armies. We agreed it was highly unlikely that the girls' evening really involved demonstrations of cosmetics and face creams. I poured another large glass of wine.

"Let's face it. It's an Ann Summers party, isn't it?" I observed.

We nodded angrily, the undoubted truth dawning on us. We are unaccustomed to being lied to by our spouses. Short Tony attempted to sweep his armies into Europe via Iceland, but was repulsed.

"Well I just hope it doesn't go on too late," I stated. "I have a Very Important Meeting tomorrow, and the last thing I need is the LTLP crashing home in the early hours carrying all sorts of probe implements and demanding to be pleasured."

"It's disgusting," agreed Short Tony.

Big A handed in a set of cards, and proceeded to destroy my African presence. Despite some canny dice rolling my interest there was at an end. We reflected on their sad evening, as we enjoyed our board game.

"Even now, she is probably parading round your living room in a rubber basque." I shook my head in annoyance. "Like a common whore."

We were now extremely annoyed by their behaviour. I made an abortive raid on China. We poured some more wine.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

DVD Movie Review.

The LTLP has bought The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and her convalescence seemed like a good time to tackle the first installment - The Fellowship of the Ring.

I won't go on about the film too much, as it probably won't mean anything to readers outside the UK. It was very popular here, and all our friends in the village have seen it.

In a nutshell, it is really just one long chase sequence. If you imagine The Cannonball Run but set in olden days and without banjo music then that is the sort of thing.

It was actually produced in New Zealand. It is very cheap to film there, as they have snow and crags and mountains and stuff already, whilst if they'd have done it in Norfolk they would have had to have used expensive computer technology to generate these, although they could have done the Mordor bits in King's Lynn. I looked in vain for the Waitangi Treaty House but I could not spot it.

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote many books - The Hobbit, Farmer Giles of Ham and Fly Fishing (sadly out of print and difficult to find) being the most popular. He was famously rubbish at doing female characters, and there is a definite homoerotic subtext between the Hobbits in the Fellowship although nobody actually bums one other. (Admittedly I haven't yet watched the second disc featuring the deleted scenes).

I have a couple of first and second editions of the books, as my dad was involved in its original production. They are probably a bit valuable now, although sadly none have a signed dedication like 'Dear JonnyB snr, thanks for all your help with my successful 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy. Yours, J.R.R. Tolkein. PS thanks for the Golem idea - knockout!!!'

All in all I would give it a 9, losing a point because the background music is too loud and because of the boring bits in the elf forest. Definitely better than the excruciating 'Sliding Doors' though, which is the only other DVD we own.

I have an Important Meeting tomorrow, so will return on Monday.

Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

The LTLP has had a small operation.

Only a minor thing. But thanks for your concern - there is no need to send flowers, release charity records etc.

I arrive at the hospital to pick her up.

I have actually been quite worried about her, but at times like these it is always important not to let that show, just in case you relay concern to the patient. So I had been making jokes about death, her not waking up etc. Now it was done, I didn't have to maintain this difficult façade, and I bounded into the ward just grateful to see her, despite not having had time for any lunch.

"Hellooooo!!!!" I cried, plonking myself down in the chair beside her.

She was still very groggy after the general anaesthetic.

"Urghhh," she replied.

I glanced over her. She was still wearing a hospital-issue gown and some surgical stockings. I didn't want to feel put out, but I hadn't seen her for a couple of days and was just a little let down that she hadn't made more of an effort.

"So - how did it go?" I asked.

"Urghhh," she explained.

We conversed like this for a while, whilst I twirled my car keys around my finger. Although she was clearly in a state of recovery, she didn't seem to appreciate the cost of using an NCP car park. I glanced at my watch.

A nurse approached the bed. I was a bit disappointed - they don't dress anything like they do in the videos. She seemed very nice, however, and had a thermometer and everything.

"You should start to feel much better very soon," she explained. "Would you like a glass of water, or some toast?"

"Oooh, toast please!" I replied. "That's very kind of you."

She ignored me and took the LTLP's temperature, before disappearing through the curtain to the next bed..

"We'll have you out of there and home in no time," I said. "You've not eaten for over twelve hours now - no wonder you feel weak."

Fortunately, the best curry house in town was just down the road.

"Urghhh," she said.

"Urghhh," came the noise from the next bed. At least I think it was "Urghhh." It could have been "Ohhhh!!!!" or "Eeeaaaahhh!!!!"

"You take your time," I offered, kindly. "I've got the new Nick Cave album and some Leonard Cohen for the drive home."

"Urghhh."

I sat and wished I'd brought a newspaper and some sandwiches.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

An open letter to the lady occupying Room 507 on Saturday evening.

Dear Madam,

It was an excellent hotel, wasn't it? No weasily pretending-to-be-concerned-about-the-environment 'can we get away with not washing your towels' notices. Nice bath things. Proper toilet roll, with the ends turned up into a little triangle.

For that money, you'd have expected all that.

A little soundproofing, however, wouldn't have gone amiss.

When I first heard you, I thought I was imagining things. I was sitting on the toilet you see - my mind was elsewhere. The hum of the air conditioning was constant. But there you were again. Unmistakable.

I finished my business, and flushed. And then, I am ashamed to say, I switched the air conditioning off. I don't know why. I just wanted to make sure I wasn't dreaming.

I can't possibly describe the noise. I've tried every combination of vowels and aitches. Somewhere between 'Ohhhh!!!!' and 'Eeeaaaahhh!!!!' would be most accurate. Not loud, and muffled, but clearly screamed, belted, hollered. And so regular! Clockwork. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Ohhhh!!!! Eeeaaaahhh!!!! Ohhhh!!!! Eeeaaaahhh!!!!

The thing is - I really don't want to be immature about this. We're all adults here. But... but... it just drew me in. Once there, it was impossible not to listen. Impossible. Eeeaaaahhh!!!! Ohhhh!!!! The sheer joyous enthusiasm was a breath of fresh air in a cynical and indifferent world.

Two things I did not expect.

The first was the LTLP's reaction.

"Christ - she's not still going, is she?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, they were at it when I arrived back from the shops."

The LTLP had arrived back more than an hour previously. I had clearly had the TV on too high.

The second was when I walked out from our room to make my way to the bar. Whilst the party walls were providing a fair sound barrier between us, clearly the bedroom doors were performing no such function. Indeed, they seemed to be acting as an acoustic sounding board. Screams of hard-driven pleasure echoed round and along the corridor. Creaks. Thrusts. We hurried past.

Everybody looked up at us as we walked into the bar. I felt their eyes examining us. Wondering.

I located my friend Fred.

"Did you hear...?" we both exclaimed, simultaneously.

I write this not to embarrass you. I just - I just feel that we shared a moment. I wonder who you are, and what your story is. I hope that you enjoyed your trip to London, and always remember that evening with a smile and perhaps a little secret flush of enjoyment. If you are reading this, perhaps after searching Google for 'attractive Norfolk blogger in London hotel bar' or 'name of bloke I shared room 507 with' then I'd like to wish you all the very, very best.

Much later, I walked back to the room. I passed the two empty champagne bottles that you'd left outside for collection. You were silent and, I hope, at peace and satisfied.

To your wonderful future memories.

Your unknown friend,

JonnyB.

*

An open letter to the gentleman occupying Room 507 on Saturday evening.

Dear Sir,

Respect.

Yours,

JonnyB.

Monday, November 15, 2004

I have a groin strain!!!

A genuine 100% groin strain!!!

I am terribly excited. This is the first proper sporting injury I have ever had, if you don't count last month's mildly sore elbow, or a couple of broken fingers from cackhanded slip fielding. They were but mild inconveniences.

I sustained it on Friday, whilst beating Short Tony at tennis for the very first time. As we shook hands afterwards, he was sweating and knackered like the mediocre amateur he is, whilst I was jaunty and had a groin strain, like a real professional sportsman.

The LTLP and I sat and watched the Frank Skinner show on Friday night. Usually I empathise with Frank Skinner, as I am also very funny but an awkward and rubbish conversationalist when I meet celebrities. But this time I felt like I had much more in common with his star guest, Paula Radcliffe, who was the blonde lady who broke down and could not finish at the Olympic Games.

They replayed the footage of her bent double with pain and crying, her Olympic dream in shatters. I now know the agony that she was going through. (Although of course I went on to beat Short Tony, rather than just giving up).

Although she does not know me, I might write her a letter to cheer her up. It would be good for her to know that there are other people in the same situation as her. I would explain that, just as she fought back recently to triumph in another race - albeit one that nobody really knows or cares about - I would also be doing the same thing by challenging the LTLP next weekend.

And I would also put her troubles in perspective by saying that although she was badly dehydrated, she could get over that by just having a drink, whereas my groin strain will take a while to heal and possibly require massage, etc. She seems like a very nice lady and once she thinks about this, I am sure that she will be a lot happier and philosophical about her failure.

Thinking about it, now Emlyn Hughes has sadly passed away, there will be a vacancy for team captain on BBC's popular and successful quiz show 'A Question of Sport'.

I think with my amusing personality and groin strain I would be the ideal person to fill this role.

I shall write to Michael Grade with my suggestion.

Friday, November 12, 2004

The Village Pub, 10pm.

"It's just the principle of the thing that gets me," bemoaned Short Tony.

"Chill out," I advised. "Everybody gets chucked out of a party once in their life."

"Yes, but it's my party and my house!"

"The girls really didn't want us there, did they?" observed Keith the Woodman.

I took another swig of beer and surveyed the bar. Present: the four of us, two others and the Well Spoken Barman. Big A must have read my thoughts. "You have to make it more atmospheric in here," he stated.

"Bloody right," I interjected, backed up by four pints of Broadside. "The music in here, for instance. It's shite."

The Well Spoken Barman agreed, unoffended. "We do need to sort that out. We've only got CD's that were free with The Mail on Sunday. You know about music. What do you recommend?"

Somebody is asking my opinion about music! I warmed to the chap immediately. There is nothing better one can do for a man than ask his opinion about music. I looked around the pub in an analytical fashion, determined to use my music-recommending responsibilities for the power of good.

"Well." I replied eventually. "This is a pub/restaurant. And a sophisticated and not cheap one. What you need is some decent jazz. Not too mainstream, not pretentious, not the slickly produced stuff, not dinner jazz, yet melodic and perhaps funky. The stuff where you shut your eyes, and you're transported to a sweaty, small and smoky basement bar, packed in a few feet away from the band and carried off by the music."

Everybody looked at me, dead impressed.

"That's great!" said the Well Spoken Barman. "Would you do me a favour? Write down the names of some CD's and I'll order them off Amazon?"

As we walked home I reflected that perhaps I had been slightly hasty in my subsequent agreement to become the Village Pub's musical director. On my mental list so far was one album - Les McCann's and Eddie Harris's "Swiss Movement" - one of the greatest jazz albums ever made.

I can say this because a) it says on the insert that it's one of the greatest jazz albums ever made; b) I have it and really enjoy it; and c) it's the only jazz record I own, full stop, period, shoobeedoobeedoo.

The thing is, that I know nothing about jazz whatsoever. No. That's not true. I know two things. Firstly, drummers prefer playing it. Secondly, bands start off playing a recognisable theme, then everybody takes it in turns to play what the fuck they like on instruments that should really be in a nice brass band, before somebody waves their hand and they play the recognisable theme again then stop and have a fag.

So I'm a bit stuck. I need to come up with a list before Saturday that veers a cool line between Jamie Cullum and wanky plinkity plonk wierdo shit. But that isn't just things that everyone's all heard before and are included on free CD's given away with The Mail on Sunday.

Help!!! Any ideas?

Thursday, November 11, 2004

What a fiasco.

Sorry for my absence today, everyone. No internet connection at all.

That's my livelihood, that is.

It's like they cut off my oxygen.

Now I'm a day behind.

See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Insomnia!!!

Wrapping its greedy tentacles around me like a desperate divorcee at an over-40's disco.

There is nothing on earth worse than not being able to sleep. I lie there, angry and stressed. I toss. I turn. I do some more tossing. I turn once more. Then I throw in another toss for good measure, before giving a little turn and lying on my back, hopeless and cross.

Ninety minutes later, I am still lying there, and I realise that I have exhausted the entertainment possibilities of studying the inside surface of my eyelids. They are featureless and boring.

There is no noise. Two cars have passed in the last hour, and even the local squeaky thing that lives outside the window seems to have tucked in early with a hot drink.

The LTLP is away for the night. Perhaps that is the problem. I am all alone except for Honey Bear and Peter the Hanging Monkey.

My bed is slightly larger than king sized, which is great as you can share it and have the warm sensation of being with somebody overnight without any of that physical contact stuff that girls like. Honestly, it's really really big - it would comfortably fit me and the LTLP, plus, Kirstie Allsopp, Alison Goldfrapp and at a pinch, Daisy Sampson and Laura Kuenssberg from The Daily Politics to pick some people at random. (Although if they were all there, I would have to back down and have physical contact - it's not that big.)

That thought exaggerates the emptiness more.

We lie there - me, Honey Bear and Peter the Hanging Monkey.

I start thinking about things. This is always a mistake, thinking about things. It further activates my racing brain. Am I hungry? Not sure. Do I want to go for a wee wee? I didn't, but now I can't tell. Are there aliens elsewhere in the universe? It would be interesting if there were.

A crumb of comfort - at least it gives me something to write about. I think of a very funny 'Insomnia! Insomnia! They've all got it in-somnia!' joke, and wonder how I can work it in to a post without appearing contrived.

Then I must have gone to sleep.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Unexpected break - I need to go into London at the last minute, so haven't got time to write about insomnia.

I'll do that tomorrow. It will probably start like this:

Insomnia!!!

And I'll probably do some sort of "Insomnia! Insomnia! They've all got it in-somnia!" joke.

That one needs work.

In my absence, try Chase Me, Ladies. It's terribly good.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Smoke!!!

It's everywhere. Filling up the loft space with its smoky smokiness. Again, my chimney seems to be failing in its primary purpose.

This time I am prepared, and, having extinguished the trial fire in the grate, I head upstairs with my new secret weapon - an aerosol can excitingly labelled 'No More Big Gaps'.

(I had previously noticed a big gap, you see).

The 'No More Big Gaps' stuff is very exciting. You spray it in a big gap, and it sort of foams up dramatically in order to fill said aperture.

I think the best way I can probably describe it to the average reader is that it's extremely like the foam injection filler in 'Space Fall', the second episode of BBC TV's 'Blake's Seven' series, that automatically sealed the space between the inner and outer skin of the prison ship 'London' on the accidental puncturing of its hull.

Mindful of what happened to the unfortunate rebel caught in the foam onslaught, I am extremely cautious. I wear the free polythene gloves provided, and make sure that there is a straight and uncluttered escape route from where I am standing back to the loft hatch. That way, if the 'No More Big Gaps' expands more than expected, to fill the whole loft space, I should be OK, and not end up cocooned forever amongst old furniture and boxes.

I don't know if the makers of Blake's Seven get royalties from this product, but they really should do. They had a lot of good ideas, like transporting criminals to the planet Cygnus Alpha rather than giving them anti social behaviour orders. Honestly, if Michael Howard really wanted to make an impact on the electorate he would appoint Servalan as Shadow Home Secretary and give everybody teleportation bracelets to solve our transport problems and end our reliance on Saudi oil.

Truly the man has no imagination whatsoever.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

This is a bloody weird freaky blog.

Friday, November 05, 2004

I am excited to read that scientists have worked out how the body clock affects our daily lives.

They are terribly clever, what with their white lab coats and clipboards and everything. The thing is, I'm not sure that they're right on all counts.

They did a table, showing how our bodies work differently throughout the day. It goes like this:

1-2am: Urine production is at its lowest
This is rubbish. My urine production really starts to get going round about this point, and I am clearly not alone in this.

3-4am: Body at its lowest ebb - most likely to die
This is alarming, especially as I am normally asleep at this point (except when I get up to go for a wee wee (see above)). Which means that I can't take any action to avert the 'likely to die' bit, like get a drink of water or some paracetamol etc etc. It must be quite useful to know however, especially if you are a journalist hanging around Yasser Arafat - you may as well get a bit of kip and come back in a few hours time.

5-6am: Growth hormones peak
Annoyingly, I am still asleep. It would be far more interesting if this happened during the day, then you could stand in front of a full-length mirror, watching yourself grow. As it is, it seems a bit of a waste.

7-8am: ...sperm count highest - most likely to conceive
Somebody here is taking the piss. This is all very well, but frankly I'm not - well - that is to say, I'm not at my most alluring at this point. Something has clearly gone wrong with evolution if this is the best time to plan conception. I've just woken up, my hair's all over the place, I haven't cleaned my teeth and I've sweated all night so it's not particularly nice - you know - down there.

9-10am: ...short-term memory and logical reasoning at their best
Again, a bit of a waste. I've just got up and nothing has happened to give me things to remember in the short term. It would be better if this happened around 7pm when the LTLP gets home, so when she asks what I've been doing all day I can give her a better answer than 'oh, this and that'.

11am-12 noon: Concentration at its best
Sorry. You were saying?

1-2pm: Peak urine production
Rubbish (see above). I am going to measure how much wee wee I do between 1 and 2 today.

3-4pm: Lung function at its best
If I ever go a bit eccentric and start ringing people at random from the phone book and just breathe at them, then I will make a note to do this mid-afternoon. I might ask my friend the Policeman if there are statistics on the times heavy breathers usually make their calls.

5-6pm: Body at its fittest - best time to exercise; alertness peaks; body at its most flexible, muscle tone peaks
This is very useful to know. I will plan to always play Short Tony at tennis at this time, and with my insider knowledge I will thrash him every time. Ha ha!!!

Note (1) - thinking about it, his body will probably work the same as mine, so my advantage may well be negated.

Note (2) - and it will be dark.

7-8pm: ...digestive system at its best
This is the first sensible thing the body clock has done all day. Just when I'm having my dinner and all.

9-10pm: ...libido at its highest
Again, this is more like it! I would guess this is especially on Friday and Saturday. By this point I have usually had a couple of beers, and I'm raring to go and not particularly choosy. Honestly, if any lovely lady readers are looking at this after around 9pm, then give me a shout and we'll go from there. Towards 10pm you won't even need to be that lovely. Or ladylike.

11pm-12 midnight: ...ovulation most likely
Hmmm.

So you see - a mixed bag.

And what happens to our bodies during every other hour in between?!?

I shall ponder this over the weekend.

Have a good one.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

My G is broken!!!

I sit at the piano and play a scale. It should go:

"Plink plunk plunk plunk plink plunk plunk plunnnk."

And now it just goes:

"Plink plunk plunk plunk [gap] plunk plunk plunnnk."

This is really annoying. I was quite happy with not having an A flat, but pretty well everything ever written has a G in it somewhere, especially 'Air on a G String' and 'Green Green Grass of Home'. It is such a useful note.

I open the lid. I can see the wooden hammery-on things. It all looks very complicated, and not something that I'd be easily able to fix. I would call the Cheerful Builder, but I guess he doesn't really know much about pianos as a) he is a builder not a piano mender and b) he is a punk - albeit a punk who likes Status Quo, which makes him a very rubbish punk indeed.

There is a business card sellotaped inside the lid - it is for a general piano repair man!!!

His phone number is Edgware 6421. I think it might be quite old.

I look at my piano sadly. It is very old and historic and I love it, but I will never become the Tori Amos of West Norfolk without a G or an A flat.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

I want to know where all the washing comes from.

Every morning I do some washing. Some mornings I do two or three loads. Don't worry - I have a machine that does most of the work for me. I just don't understand.

I clearly remember when I was young, there would be a 'washing day' when it would all get done. This was as part of a family of four.

As far as I can tell, I don't wear more clothes than I used to. In fact, when I was a kid I would have got more dirty, playing on my bike and stuff. Actually, thinking about it, I was sitting in my bedroom programming my ZX Spectrum whilst the other children were outside, getting dirty, making friends etc., so maybe that doesn't stack up.

As it is, it's pissing down with rain outside so there is wet laundry hanging everywhere. The bedroom looks like the pants department of Marks and Spencer.

In fact, if I wanted to make a bit of cash I could follow the example of those farmers who have diversified by setting up mazes using their fields of maize - the 'Amazing Maize Mazes', and do the same with my pants. It would be great. People would start at the top of the stairs and have to work their way to the door of the second bedroom. Truly my 'Amazing Pants Maze' would be a tourist attraction for miles around, and I could buy more Persil with the proceeds.

The only problem I can see is that I would have to buy more pants whilst my old ones were being used, which would then generate more washing. But then I could extend the maze into the second bedroom, thus providing customers with a reason to make a repeat visit.

I could probably charge a bit more at that point, and buy one of those trendy Dyson washing machines.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Hallowe'en's a lot nicer in the Village.

I should explain to my American readers that Hallowe'en in Britain is slightly different to Hallowe'en in the States, at least as I've seen it, on the Roseanne show. Whereas Stateside it appears to be a pleasant, fun, family festival, over here it's a bit like the TV footage you see of Sierra Leone or Liberia.

Anyway, the children were all nice and polite.

I was stuck for a costume for Short Tony's Hallowe'en party. The LTLP had bought a witch's hat for 60p at Tesco, but I was completely unprepared.

I had black trousers and a black T-shirt, so I did think of going as Simon Cowell, but then I found my granddad's old hat, sellotaped knives to my fingers and went as Freddie Krueger.

It was quite effective, but a bit impractical as I couldn't really do anything without knives waving around alarmingly. In the end I had to give up when Short Tony suggested we play snooker. I think he probably did this on purpose as I was scaring the children.

I think granddad would have approved. He always did an Australian Long John Silver at parties, what with him being a fairly jolly Aussie character with two artificial legs.

It was like a Dud 'n' Pete sketch in reverse. He was the only person there who didn't have enough legs to play the role.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Move along. There's nothing to see.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Like many people, I was sad to hear that John Peel had died.

He really was an icon. He used to play really good classic rock stuff, like the Undertones and Pink Floyd and New Order.

Obviously I haven't listened to his show since I was a teenager. I heard it a few months ago and he was putting on records by bands that I'd never heard of, which was very annoying. But truly I felt that I was his number one fan.

KLFM is our local radio station, and we have nobody at all like Mr. Peel. Even Sonia, the traffic announcer who used to send me secret coded messages in her reports, doesn't seem to work there any more.

I am hungover and keep being sick.


Update - two hours later.

As I don't write at the weekends, I always try to make a special effort to do something good on Fridays.

On close reflection, I feel that perhaps I haven't achieved this today.

I'm feeling a bit better now. Enjoy your weekends, everyone.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

There is a knock at the door!!!

It’s the wrong door, however. Some fool is knocking at the disused front door.

But this is exciting. It means that there is a New Person who might be my friend.

I throw open the window and lean out anxiously. First impressions are not good and I think it might not be a potential new friend after all. It is a man with long hair who is not Robert Plant.

“Hello?” I enquire, making sure that I am still friendly even after my crushing disappointment.

“Hello, I’m the milkman. I was wondering if you would like your milk delivered in the mornings.”

I studied my visitor carefully. He did have a sort of milkman’s outfit on, and a Dairy Crest badge. I thought of asking him for some form of ID, as you read stories about bogus milkmen conning pensioners out of their life savings by charging them £8000 to fix a roof tile. But he seemed plausible enough.

The thing is, I would quite like my milk delivered in the mornings. I don’t really drink much milk, but it seems like a nice thing to happen. It would be another connection to that sort of traditional English idyll that I’m searching for – a Cheerful Milkman whistling as he saunters up the drive to bring me my two pints of silver top.

I’m sure, however, that if you actually looked at the history, the traditional English milkman probably only goes back to about 1963 and originally came from Germany.

The clincher was this. I get my milk and newspaper and everything from the Village Shop. If I didn’t need to go out to the Village Shop every morning then I wouldn’t see anybody during the day. Nobody. Not a soul. Then I would go mad.

“I’m sorry,” I reply. “I get my milk from the Village Shop.”

“It’d be a lot easier to get it delivered,” he counters.

“It’s only two hundred yards up the road!”

“We do eggs too. And butter. And orange juice.”

But I was resolute. His high-pressure sales tactics had only served to confirm my gut feeling. I will buy my milk from the Village Shop, and not from Dairy Crest, who are clearly an Evil Corporation.

I am glad I was talking to him out of the window, as his next tactic would probably have been to jam his foot in the door. But he would have looked foolish if he’d have tried to jam his foot in the window and sold me dairy products whilst hopping around with his leg in the air.

He shrugged and made his way next door.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

I stand in the lounge, contemplating the big pile of ironing.

Already I have placed a couple of mugs in the dishwasher and put some washing on. Honestly, a woman’s work is never done.

“Mind if I put a CD on?” I call out to the LTLP, who is working in the other room.

“As long as it isn’t Leonard Cohen,” comes the ever-familiar reply.

I put on my CD of banjo music.

If you are doing something like ironing, it always helps to put fast-tempo feelgood music on, as it helps you complete the task quickly.

The first couple of bars ring out. There is a snort from the other room. She is clearly very enthusiastic.

Banjo music is great. The iron whooshes across the board as I holler along with the boys from the Arizona Smoke Revue. “Whooooooaaaa!!!!” we sing. “You can HEAR the whistle BLOW a hundred miles!!!!” At this, I blow some steam out of the bottom of the iron, as a special effect.

Listening to banjo music is a bit like dressing up in women’s clothing and masturbating in front of ‘Bargain Hunt’. Everybody does it, but nobody ever admits to it. Some people are way too cool to say they like banjo music, but if I came round to your house with a banjo that I had learnt to play and a couple of mates also with instruments that they were reasonably proficient on, then you’d start tapping your feet, definitely. Especially if you’d had a couple of beers. Honestly, we would have a great time.

The LTLP is very quiet as I iron her shirts and sing along with the banjo music.

I expect she is thinking that she is the luckiest woman alive.

Monday, October 25, 2004

I didn’t sleep well last night. I am tired and I am getting old.

I guess it happens to us all. I knew I’d reached a certain point in my life the other day – an old episode of ‘The Good Life’ was on and I realised that I’d rather shag Margot than Barbara.

And even at my gentle pace, I seem to have badly hurt my elbow playing tennis. I guess there’s a name for this condition. Whatever. It aches.

But the main thing is that I constantly have to get up during the night to go for a wee wee.

I went to see the the doctor about it. He said something along the lines of ‘Christ, me too! Bloody inconvenient, isn’t it?’ then tested me to make sure I wasn’t diabetic (I’m not). So that didn’t help much, apart from the not being diabetic reassurance – and even that wasn’t much of a step forward, as he was the one that had just mentioned the possibility to me in the first place.

I could try to minimise the problem by taking a bucket to bed with me, or by moving to a house where the bathroom isn’t downstairs and an obstacle course away.

I did think of giving up drinking. But presumably I would then die of thirst.

Or I guess I could buy loads of electrical items and shoes and stuff, then throw them away but keep the little sachets of silica gel that come in the packaging. If I could collect a couple of hundred, I could pack them all into my pants before I go to bed at night then not worry about having to get up at all. In the morning I could put them in the tumble-drier ready for re-use.

That sounds expensive. But I am knackered and will try anything.

Friday, October 22, 2004

I have a new wall in my loft.

It’s stark and brutal – plain breezeblocks – like the cover of a fair-to-middling Pink Floyd album.

As I gaze at it, I get some mysterious urge to bitterly rage against English society, stifling mothers and vicious ex-wives, and dubiously project blame onto them for the futile death of my father during the Second World War, whilst moaning about what a drag it is being popular, loved and adored by obsessive fans.

Then I realise that I don’t have an ex-wife and my dad’s alive and well and living in Essex, so this would be foolish.

Pondering the wisdom of basing a key joke on an obscure music reference that most people won’t understand, I wander back downstairs to the lounge.

I am a bit down, as I still can’t try the chimney again. Which means that I can’t use my new grate, as made by the local blacksmith. It’s a gargantuan iron construction that weighs several hundredweight, and incorporates all sorts of spikes and crenellations. It sits there sadly, waiting to be useful.

He also made me an iron curtain pole, which I pick up and study. It is genetically impossible for a male to hold any pole-shaped thing without performing some form of Luke Skywalker lightsabre wafts, so I play with it for a bit. Whoosh! Thrust!

Again, it’s massively heavy and solid. If I should ever discover a burglar, I have a hidden secret weapon – I will snatch it off the wall to defend my property.

Although I had better be careful. I have no wish to become the Tony Martin of haberdashery.

When the cement round the chimney stack dries, I'll know whether I can have a fire or not.

Until then, it's starting to get cold.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

The Cheerful Builder has returned!!!

Again.

He has a new car and has been on holiday since I last engaged him, but it was very good to see his face again. Or, indeed, anybody’s face.

I explained the problem to him – viz, the loft would currently be very useful should I wish to open a haddock smokery. But as a conventional storage area it is currently under-par.

He winced, in his Cheerful Builder-like fashion, and started to mix up some cement-stuff to cover the cracks in the chimney stack. I put the kettle on.

The Cheerful Builder drinks coffee like someone who has been crossly told not to by David Blunkett. I cannot believe that somebody can drink that much coffee and still be alive. I have my suspicions that he actually stores it in big plastic containers then runs some sort of coffee van in the evenings, going round the villages selling recycled ‘fresh’ coffee.

I watch him like a hawk as he goes back to the car for some tools. There is a bulge in his jumper, but I think he is just a bit overweight.

While he is here, we have asked him to build a wall in the loft, between my house and Short Tony’s. At the moment we have one big loft between us, which is not very practical.

For a start, our chimney debacle also fills his house with smoke. And secondly it would be easy for him to creep across the joists until he’s over my bedroom and bore holes in the ceiling, in order to install small cameras and recording equipment to video me in bed and sell it over the Internet.

You might think that I am being paranoid, worrying about my coffee being re-sold and videos of me in bed wearing women’s clothes being traded over the Internet, but that is exactly the sort of complacency that allows terrorism to flourish.

We can never be too careful.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

“You want chilli sauce with that?”

I stared at him in some bemusement. There was surely no situation ever when somebody would be able to eat ‘that’ not saturated in taste-numbing chilli sauce.

The elephant leg revolved on the skewer. I resolved not to ask the origin of the meat, or whether it was organic. For one night only I would push my morals to one side and eat something from a battery sheep.

The kebab tastes fatty and oniony. Note – that is not me slipping into the present tense to create a sense of immediacy. It is two days on, and as I write this, the bloody kebab STILL tastes fatty and oniony.

Like those people who say they can still feel their arms after they have been amputated, I have some form of phantom kebab in my mouth. It was extremely inconvenient at my Important Meeting yesterday, and now it’s frankly bugging me, like a dinner party guest who’s outstayed his welcome, drunk all your port and is now talking at length about the sexual problems he’s having with his wife despite your frantic efforts to get rid of him by hinting sharply and playing Dido.

Scientifically, the only thing that gets rid of kebab-taste is a McDonald’s chocolate milkshake. I’m home now and the nearest one is fifteen miles away.

The day is not starting well.

Monday, October 18, 2004

I have joined an exclusive tennis club.

Both Short Tony and I signed up for ‘family membership’. It’s twenty pounds a year for everything, so we were determined to get our money’s worth.

Luckily, my sister left her tennis equipment with me when she went travelling, so I had a professional-looking tennis bag, like at Wimbledon. To help my performance, I had an isotonic pie for lunch and dug out my sporty Matelan tracksuit top.

I went next door, feeling psychologically advantaged. Short Tony opened the door in brand new Nike gear right down to the shoes. I was a bit crushed, but if he wants to win by viciously exploiting the homeless orphans in the third world then that is his choice.

Even if he beat me 6-0 6-0 6-0, I would still be the real winner.

I haven’t played tennis since I was a teenager, and I was astonished at the changes in the game. For a start, it’s a lot more difficult to hit it over the net or between the white lines, and running around to get to the ball is far harder work. It was probably best that they changed the game like this, as people like Pete Sampras were getting too good at it, although I was a bit irritated that he has spoiled it for the rest of us.

The other thing is that the bats are not made of wood any more, because it is endangered (I think). So I had to make do with my sister’s graphitey one, which is a different shape than I am used to. This caused me problems as it means I don’t know whether I am playing with a girls’ bat or not, so I am worried about people laughing at me.

We played two sets and got drenched. I lost but it was very enjoyable and we decided to play regularly. I may even decide to enter Wimbledon next year, although I am realistic that I am unlikely to get past the first couple of rounds.

I am now in the market for a headband like the best players wear. That will give me the edge.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Not quite a day off today.

Young Crumb asked me to contribute to his regular ‘Friday Fuckwit’ anthology. So you’ll find a piece from me over there.

If you’re at a loose end over the weekend, here are two things that I loved.

Bandhag’s ‘Fleabag! Fleabag!’ Emails you wish you’d sent (pt 3).

Unluckyman’s ridiculous facial hair parade.

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

A Bath Man arrived.

He examined the stains left by the Body Shop Bath Bomb fiasco, scratched his tattoos then returned to his van for a selection of strong chemicals, which he handled gingerly using thick gloves. They didn’t quite steam and bubble, but weren’t something that I’d have wanted to down in one, even if I’d been an EXTREMELY thick rugby player.

The dye melted and dribbled away in the face of this corrosive onslaught.

I was very pleased with how the Body Shop dealt with it. I spoke to a nice lady on the phone – presumably Mrs Roddick – who was very apologetic in a non-Tony Blair sort of way. She is going to send me some vouchers, which will handily cover my female Christmas present needs.

Later on, I pondered the Bath Man’s parting words.

“I’d give that a bit of a rinse round before you use it again, mate.”

I reflected on the meaning of the words themselves, but mainly the irony of the fact that I’d only been able to collect my thoughts and remember this piece of advice because I’d just climbed into a nice deep relaxing bath.

I lifted my head out of the water in some concern.

I’m one of those people that tends to think a lot about things, rather than a practical action type of man. Cerebral – that’s me.

If, for instance, you were Pavarotti and jumped from an eighth floor window and I was standing underneath, my immediate reaction would be to reflect on “why on Earth did you do that?” and “I bet there’ll be another Greatest Hits compilation rushed out quick” and “gosh – isn’t that a marvellously dramatic and musical ‘aaaarrrghhh!!!!’” rather than to do something impetuous and leap out of the way.

So I lay there, trying to work out whether the slight burning sensation on my face was an over-active imagination in a hot bath or horrible chemical burns that would make me look like the Joker from Batman.

I really, really didn’t want to look like the Joker from Batman. For a start, I am self-employed which means I need to meet people face-to-face and charm them, and I don’t think this would be feasible in this event, unless I started up some bizarre government clown outsourcing services agency.

Plus if I was going to be horribly scarred into a bad guy from Batman then I would prefer to be the Penguin, as I could then live in my bookcase-dungeon thing and have a stylish umbrella. The sixties TV series starring Adam West and Burt Ward please, rather than the films.

I decided on a course of action and got out of the bath.

My face was smarting a bit, but no serious damage. I will have to be a normal-looking master criminal, but obviously I could still play practical jokes if I wanted.

I washed the bath around and ran another one.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Monday 3.30pm. Home. The LTLP is on the sofa under a blanket, shivering and whimpering. She’s not been well for a couple of days, but this is a turn for the worse. I’ve been working hard all morning, and now resolve to look after her.

Sometimes when somebody is ill, the best sort of looking after that you can do is not to disturb them. That allows them to rest. So I wander next door to see if Short Tony fancies a quick pint.


5.30pm. The Village Pub.

“I’m not ASKING you to come home. I’m asking IF you are COMING home.”

Mrs. Short Tony’s feet stare accusingly at me. I realise that our ‘we’re not in here’ ruse has failed, and crawl out from under the table. Behind me, Big A’s shoes poke out from behind the bulging drapes. Short Tony peers over the large menu and makes some conciliatory noises.

“Your LTLP says she’s hungry,” she adds, turning to me. I suddenly feel very guilty – she hadn’t had any lunch. I am a louse and a worm.

“Tell her I’ll be half an hour,” I promise. And then a brainwave. “I don’t suppose you’d mind heating her up some soup while you’re round there?”


6.45pm. At the bar.

“You see, the thing is – I’ve run out of money.”

The Well-Spoken Barman nodded amiably.

“I’ve run out of money. But I really really want to buy some more beer. So I don’t suppose you could see your way to offering credit facilities?”


7pm. We stare in bemusement at the hurriedly-departing figure of Big A.

Short Tony shrugs. “Well. To be fair, that was the second full pint he’s dropped.”


8.30pm. Home. I am on the sofa under a blanket, shivering and whimpering. The whimpers are a bit echoey as I have my head in a big saucepan. The LTLP returns from answering the door.

“That was Short Tony,” she snuffles. “He swayed about a bit, then realised it was me and tried to hide behind the coal bunker.”


Makers of Elgoods’ Barleymead – you are hereby put on my list of death.

And hers, probably.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

It’s a bookcase.

It’s set into the wall beside the fireplace. I keep books on it. Generally, they’re the impressive intellectual ones that I want people to think I read. The James Herberts, Tom Sharpes and back issues of ‘Bloggers’ Wives’ are all hidden away upstairs.

Sensibly, I spaced the shelves at different intervals. So there’s room for the big books at the bottom – the dictionaries etc, the regulation-sized paperbacks fit snugly at the top, and the annoying-sized-books-that-don’t-quite-fit-into-your-coat-pocket have a shelf all to themselves.

But the thing about the bookcase is:

It secretly swings out on hinges to reveal a concealed chamber beyond, like in the Scooby Doo cartoons.

It’s only a tiny little cellar-like space, but it’s got a genuine stone floor and everything. Honestly, it’s incredibly exciting. I must have opened and closed the bookcase hundreds of times already.

I’m genuinely thinking of employing an out-of-work actor to hide in there dressed in an old-fashioned diving suit, so they can lumber out scarily with their arms held out in front of them. I also thought of cutting a couple of holes in the back for eyes to peer through.

In an ideal world it would open automatically when I removed an appropriately-named book. Something like “This Book Opens The Secret Opening Bookcase” by Paul Itofftheshelfandthebookcasewillopen. But the technical requirements for that were a bit daunting.

I keep looking at it and touching it and opening and closing it. Really, if it were socially acceptable to have sex with a piece of furniture I would do it. But somebody would be bound to walk in on me and get the wrong impression, and besides, I haven’t cut the eye-holes yet.

I reckon I am the only person in the village who has a secret swingy-outy Scooby Doo bookcase.

It’s really really good. It really is.

Monday, October 11, 2004

I always dreamt of having one.

Right from when I was a kid. To me, it was the most exciting thing that one could possibly have in a house. I longed to be an adult so I could get one and prove myself a man.

No – not a drinks cabinet. I got one of those ages ago, and it did make me feel manly. I filled it with exotic bottles to offer people when they came round, and made sure that I locked it each time I closed the door. (Just in case).

No – not curtains that open and close using a piece of rope, rather than the common ‘manual draw’ method. We had those in our last residence, and I realised that they were false gods – fools’ gold on the road to furniture Nirvana.

I finished it at the weekend, and I am beside myself with excitement. It’s just... it’s just... no – I cannot think of a better phrase. It’s just “like – so cool”.

I’m very busy this morning, especially as I have to keep stopping work to get up and look at it.

So I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow.

Friday, October 08, 2004

I go for a run.

Run! Run! Run!

“When you gooooo, will yae send baaackkk...” the motivational running music on my MP3 spurs me on.

But all is not well. I’m not even half way to the Village Shop and I’m struggling and panting. My legs seem to have turned into lead, which is inconvenient, as it is extremely heavy (and also poisonous).

I am horribly out of shape.

This is bad news. My idle plan to do the Marathon next year in aid of the African Orphans is in tatters. I think it was the Cheerful Builder’s brother – the Cheerful Decorator – who told me that if you don’t run for two weeks then your legs sort of reset into what they were before and you have to start training again from scratch.

Still, he also told me that it would take only half a day to wallpaper the dining room, so I am not sure that he is best placed to confidently pronounce on what the human body can achieve.

It has definitely been more than two weeks since my last run. I am depressed as I hark back to the Cheerful Decorator’s words. Now the children in Africa will all die and it will be HIS FAULT.

I consider taking an abortive short cut, but grit my teeth and plod away. The thought of my hero, Mr. Singh, the 93 year-old marathon runner, keeps me going. But then I realise that he is a pensioner and can practice every day. He has never had to go through the two-week withdrawal barrier. What a fraud!

Thursday, October 07, 2004

I've added an 'about' section (on the right) in response to some requests.

It took me ages, so don't imagine you're getting a 'proper' post as well.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

I loved Prague.

I won’t go on about it, as then we start to become the blog equivalent of those crap TV Christmas specials where for no reason whatsoever they move the cast away from their tried-and-tested familiar location. But it was picturesque and friendly and very relaxing after the manic stress of Norfolk village life.

The Czech Republic has had its fair share of history. I marvelled at the magnificent and sinister Tyn Church that towers over the Old Market Square, wondering how long it would have taken to construct if the Cheerful Builder had been involved.

The Czechs seemed amiable enough in the olden days, occasionally throwing unpopular politicians out of upstairs windows, which seems fair enough. As in most European countries, when things went a bit wrong they’d arrange a quick rampage through the Jewish Quarter in order to work out their frustrations.

Then came the war and communism and stuff, which didn’t seem much fun. And whilst long-awaited and welcome, the departure of the Communists at the very end of the eighties brought its own problems, particularly an influx of bad caricaturists who now occupy the Charles Bridge.

The food is indescribably bad, but the beer is indescribably good, and a liquid diet of the sublimely smooth and sweet Kozal seemed to do me no harm.

I supped a Speckled Hen last night (for comparison reasons only). It tasted bitter, very bitter – bitterer than a beer brewed from the most horribly burnt hops, infused with that Bitrex stuff they put in bleach to discourage kids from swallowing, and topped off with essence of Greg Dyke.

But I forced it down.

And now I’m back at my desk, with nothing but the rabbits for company.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

“We’ll be cruising at around 30,000 feet,” continued the bored voice over the intercom. “And hope to arrive in Copenhagen at around ten-thirty UK time.”

A hubub ensued, with a look of deep concern crossing the stewardess’s face. She made a dash for the cabin.

“Prague! Prague!” corrected the voice. “We are, of course, going to Prague. I’m very sorry. It’s just that I have to go to Copenhagen straight after that, and...”

He tailed off, without needing to complete the sentence, just those few words heartbreakingly encapsulating the crushing disappointment of a career that had started so full of promise and excitement on his first day at pilot’s school.

I settled into my seat, trying to ignore the stag party in the next two rows, the culinary betrayal of Garfunkle’s settling on my stomach. The LTLP is bearing up well beside me – she is very afraid of flying whereas I am not as I am too stupid.

There might be some non-European readers unfamiliar with the EasyJet concept. It is very simple – they charge a ridiculously low amount of money for the flight itself, but you have to pay for everything else. You can buy sandwiches from the trolley, order drinks, and in the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, a mask will drop from above your seat on insertion of the correct coinage.

It’s brought great advantages, allowing thousands of English people to travel abroad when they would not normally have been able to. And great disadvantages, allowing thousands of English people to travel abroad when they would not normally have been able to.

We touched down early, and took our first ride in a Skoda.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

The noticeboard has mysteriously reappeared!!!

It’s been given a nice new coat of paint. But if the fixers and spin doctors on the parish council think that that’s going to fool me then they are very na├»ve, oh yes.

Later on I will be checking it for drawing pin holes where there previously were none. We citizens cannot afford to let these things go. One minute everything is fine, the next minute the so-called powers-that-be have held a secret debate and the ordinary people’s bus shelter has been changed into a foundation bus shelter.

Unfortunately, I won’t be here to stand guard over our democratic rights for a few days – I’m off to Prague tomorrow for a romantic few days and the LTLP will get very cross if I spend it in Internet cafes. She will not understand that checking site stats is the best foreplay there is.

Until then – well, I guess you could read some old posts (not THAT old – they’re not very good). And it’s always very worth visiting The Mighty Crumb or Oeillade for the ‘Friday Fuckwit’ and ‘Friday Music Thing’ respectively.

Or you could click here and find a random British blog from the Blogging Brits webring. It’s better than Blogger’s ‘next blog’ link because there’s like – quality control.

Perhaps I am fooling myself that your lives will be empty without me.

Enjoy your weekends.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

I go to the village shop.

At the counter is a young lad of around (I’d guess) eleven or twelve, still in his school uniform.

“What can I get you?” asks the village shop lady.

“Some cheese, please,” is the reply. “A big bit.” He holds out his pocket money.

The village shop lady ascertains the quantity of cheese required, and cuts it for him. “Is this for you?” she asks. It is for him – a big wodge of cheddar. Posh cheddar. Keene’s, if you must know.

“That’ll be £3.11,” says the village shop lady. “Are you sure you have enough money?”

The lad does have enough money, and disappears off, happily, clutching his cheese. We watch him depart.

“You shouldn’t have sold him that,” I warn.

“What do you mean?”

“Under sixteen. Buying cheese. He might be going to sniff it.”

The village shop lady looks at me in bewilderment.

“Sniff it. Kids do that these days. Like glue.”

She goes slightly red. “You’re joking,” she says, with an enormous doubt in her voice that only the incomprehension between different generations can provide.

“That’s why you’re not allowed to sell it to under sixteens. Haven’t you seen them at the bus shelter in the evenings, hanging around with their cheese?”

“I don’t believe it,” she breathes, with a shake of her head. “I don’t believe it.”

“I’d just be a bit careful, that’s all,” I warn her kindly. I pay for my groceries and leave.

True story.

I must get a life.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

It was the wisps of smoke edging out from around the loft hatch that convinced me. The inauguration of the restored fireplace was clearly not going to be a one hundred percent success.

It wasn’t that cold, but we were both a bit sniffly. So I threw caution to the wind and set a match to the mound of paper, sticks and logs in the grate.

Fortunately, I then wandered upstairs to change my socks, noticed the unusual smokiness of the upstairs rooms and was able to leap into action, by grabbing a torch, looking up into the loft and saying ‘fuck’ a lot.

Heroically climbing up into the roof* wearing my specially adapted breathing apparatus (the neck of my t-shirt pulled up over my nose), I searched for the source of the smoke. It was coming from the chimney breast, which to be honest I could really have worked out in my head without needing to turn myself into the human smoked mackerel. My torch beam caught it as it billowed around the gable wall.

I said ‘fuck’ a few more times, to see if it had any effect.

The whole house now smells of smoke. The curtains smell of smoke. My clothes smell of smoke. The bedlinen smells of smoke.

I have called the Cheerful Builder.


(*In the interests of safety I should point out to readers that this was clearly wood smoke leaking from the chimney, NOT a house fire. In the event of a real fire you should leave the house immediately, unless you have really really valuable stuff that you need to rescue, or you need to put some pants on).

Monday, September 27, 2004

The LTLP has turned blue!!!

Saturday early evening. Preparing for the big party in the neighbouring village. Teeth-cleaning for him, a pre-party relaxing bath for her.

A Body Shop Bath Bomb Thing (Blue).

They are the ones that are supposed to fizz and effervesce as they dissolve, giving one a unique bathtime experience. And unique it certainly was. Due to some manufacturing defect, the interior of the Bath Bomb Thing seemed to consist of pure bright blue dye, which globuled and coagulated and made an instant bid to cling on to any bit of LTLP that it could.

She stood up slowly. Her arms, legs and body were mottled with patches and lines of vivid blue, which a quick rub only served to smear into the skin.

“I think you’d better have a shower,” I offered, sympathetically.

“I think you’re right,” replied Smurfette.

I make a mental note to put Anita Roddick on my list of death. Although we both saw the funny side (me almost instantly, as I have an advanced sense of humour), the fact is that we were off to a party and it wasn’t convenient for the LTLP to be blue.

I did this with great regret, as Ms Roddick set up the Body Shop not just to make shedloads of money but as a charitable foundation, helping people everywhere to obtain unimaginative birthday presents for women in their life that they don’t really know.

The LTLP scrubbed up OK. But there are still bright blue tide marks up the sides of the bath.

I contact Ms Roddick today.

Friday, September 24, 2004

The noticeboard has disappeared!!!

Opposite my house is a noticeboard, used to notify people of important village events. We have our own one at this end of the village, as we are important. But now it’s gone.

I stared at the space that had formerly been occupied by the noticeboard. It had definitely gone. There were two upright poles that it used to stand on, but now there was a large noticeboard-shaped rectangular gap between them.

I gazed, perplexed. I looked from several different angles, then squinted, then glanced away but very quickly looked back to try to catch it out. But it seemed like my first natural reaction - that this was yet another cheap publicity stunt by American magician David Blaine – was wrong.

I brooded on this as I walked back up the drive. If the noticeboard had genuinely disappeared then there would seem to be one explanation – that there is something going on in the village that they don’t want me to know about.

This turn of events is alarming. It is the sort of thing that happens in Putin’s Russia. And during the war they took down all the village noticeboards just in case the Germans invaded and were able to plan their moves around the country quickly using local bus services.

Co-incidentally, I’d been back for around half an hour when the village newsletter arrived. I scanned it thoroughly for clues. Nothing. But then I realised that they could have got a special one printed that didn’t include details of the mysterious forthcoming I-am-not-invited-to event, so I was back to square one.

Honestly. It is no fun living in this strange Kafkaesque nightmare.

I am determined to find out more over the weekend, and will let you know what happens.