Tuesday, August 31, 2004

We dine at the Village Pub.

I need a new name for it. ‘Pub’ implies somewhere heartier.

‘Village Hotel/Restaurant’ doesn’t really flow. ‘Inn’ implies somewhere with less stainless steel.

We’ll stick to ‘pub’ for now.

My dinner was faultless. They asked me if everything was ‘all right’ a couple of times, but they’re new and nervous, so I can forgive them that. And what’s more, when I asked for a half-pint, the barman put three-quarters in my pint mug. As everybody knows, this is the best thing that can happen to a bloke that doesn’t involve oral sex.

I hereby urge all my readers to dine at the Village Pub/Hotel/Restaurant/Inn.

Tell them I sent you and they will leave you alone whilst you eat.

Friday, August 27, 2004

I have a voicemail message!!!

This is more sinister than it sounds. Because I am not actually at home. I’ve left the comforting surroundings of rural Norfolk, and I’m staying in a posh hotel in Marylebone Lane, London.

The red light blinks at me, threateningly.

My mind races. As far as I was aware, nobody knows that I’m here. Something is going on. I think back, furiously.

The LTLP knows that I’m here. But she is in the en-suite, weeing. I think it’s unlikely that she will telephone me to tell me that.

The bus driver. He could have abandoned his bus and followed us from Oxford Street.

I listen hard. There is no sound of car horns, or angry bus commuters shouting.

I go to play the message but stop myself in time. I have seen enough films to know that as soon as I walk up to the phone and pick it up, somebody will shoot me through the window. I don’t have many enemies but SOMEONE IS OUT TO GET ME.

It could be Dido’s manager.

Eventually, I pluck up the courage to press ‘play’. After a bit of whirring, a voice says:

“Good afternoon! This is [insert person’s first name which I’ve actually forgotten but don’t want to make something up] on Reception. I’m just making a courtesy call to check whether everything is all right with the room.”

Oh. It is worse than I thought. Someone is asking me if I am all right.

Not content with coming up to me in restaurants and gratuitously asking me if I am all right, they have decided to do this in hotels as well now.

Well, let me tell you, Ms Reception person, I am a red-blooded Englishman and if things were not all right I am PERFECTLY CAPABLE of pretending that they are, thank you very much.

Let’s face it. The walls could be damp, the bath could be swimming in human excrement and the TV could be stuck on an endless repeat of ‘Behind the Music: The Stereophonics’ and the question ‘is everything all right’ would still elicit a complicit nod.

Why do they do it? They know all the above. They know they won’t get a straight answer.

They caused alarm and panic for nothing.

And that is not all right.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Of all the things I’ve written here, one sentence stands out as having provoked more than most.

Speaking on the equality of the sexes, I welcomed the fact that it was a good thing that “women can now get secretarial jobs and listen to Dido”.

A joke, of course. Quite well-constructed, not as good as the Beethoven one that made me snigger for ages (I’m sad like that), and fairly clearly NOT WHAT I SERIOUSLY BELIEVE.

I’d expected a bit of mock feminist outrage in the comments box, but nothing particularly serious. Although as far as I can work out, that post was responsible for my current ‘shortest time on somebody else’s blogroll’ world record. I can only imagine the Daily Mail-esque depths of manufactured McIndignation the new linker concerned must have summoned up in order to decide that this was crap after all, I was a pig, and that she should link to that nice Wil Wheaton instead.

What I hadn’t expected was the wall of heartfelt anti-Dido feeling that hit me.

Dido is the draught of popular music.

That is to say, you’ll be sitting down, quietly reading the paper, doing nobody any harm. And after a while, you’ll realise that something is annoying you.

You can’t quite place it, or its source, but it’s coming from somewhere and causing you a mild irritation.

Then you realise that a Dido track has started playing on the radio.

Why do we hate her so? Why? There are plenty of other purveyors of rubbish out there.

If I knew I’d tell you. Any ideas that aren't mindless abuse?

Monday, August 23, 2004

New people!!!

There’s a house just beside the church that’s been for sale for ages. We drove past on Friday morning and a ‘Sold’ sign was up!!!

What’s more, the current owner was loading stuff into a van. Then, on our return, two new vans and two cars had arrived.

“New people!!!” I exclaimed to the LTLP. “We need to find out what they’re like.”

She sighed.

We had to go to the Village Shop. “I know,” I said, “now it’s stopped raining, we’ll go via the church and make a walk of it.”

“You are,” she explained, “the nosiest person I have ever met in my life.”

I was stung by this unfair criticism, and we walked in silence. One white male, one white female, possibly late thirties, reasonably well dressed. He was having a fraught conversation into a mobile phone.

We collected the paper, and it was such a nice afternoon that I decided we should go back via the same route. I noted the geographical origin of their removal vans. This time they were having an animated discussion with the existing householder.

We’d been home ten minutes when the doorbell rang.

“It’s the new people!!!” I shouted, excitedly. The LTLP threw open the door. It was Short Tony. Booooo. It was only passe existing old people after all.

“You said you wanted to make a trip to the dump,” he offered. “And I heard there were some new people.”

We loaded up his Land Rover and drove the quickest way to the dump, which is past the church. The man was pacing up and down in some agitation.

“One of them’s a sports car,” Short Tony opined. “That means around forty, mid-life crisis sort of thing.”

“They could be local,” I replied, “but it’s more likely they’ve used local removal men because they’re cheaper than getting people from West London.”

“Yes. And making a new start with his second wife, since they sold up their bookshop business and their daughter went off to University in the North of England.”

We left our load, and came back the direct route, past the church.

The vans had disappeared and the new people had gone!!!

We were aghast.

They would have been so happy here.

Friday, August 20, 2004

The LTLP catches me reading the paper.

“JONNY!!!” she shouts. “You get out there and mow the lawn as agreed, then when you’ve done that I want this room spotless!!!”

Somehow, without me noticing, she has turned into the big black lady off Tom and Jerry. I scuttle outside to the shed, where I will be safe.

The woods and fields at the back make the garden seem bigger than it is. And there’s a big shingled area, and a patio. Grass is a minority interest.

However, I bought a petrol mower this year. I didn’t really need it, but the point is that a petrol mower is the gardening equivalent of having a GREAT BIG ENORMOUS HUGE COCK.

It’s a great manly feeling. I manoeuvre it onto the lawn and give the ripcord a sharp tug. Not many people know this, but starting a petrol mower was the inspiration behind Cheryl Baker getting her skirt ripped off on the Eurovision Song Contest.

It throbs into life and I start giving the grass a good hard seeing-to.

The smell of petrol mingles with freshly cut grass as I wrestle with my machine on the sharp slope at the back. It’s like a David Cronenberg film. In a minute I will chat to my typewriter and shag Debbie Harry.

As ever, it’s over far too soon.

Exhausted, I lock her back in the shed.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

The Village Pub has re-opened!!!

Oh. You knew that anyway, Bear with me – I’m getting a bit behind.

It had been closed for two years for refurbishments, after the previous landlord, the Rudest Man in the World, had retired.

You might think that it was exciting to have the genuinely Rudest Man in the World as village landlord. However, there comes a point when rudeness passes from novelty into annoyingness, and he’d jumped that particular shark years ago. Nobody went in there.

I once met a visitor to the village, who’d tried to book a room for the night.

“What happened?” I asked.

“He told me to fuck myself, and put the phone down on me,” he replied, sadly.

Last Thursday was opening night. We traipsed on down there – the Short Tonies, the Big A’s, the Cheerful Builder and us. In there was the Miller and his wife, the Parish Council people, Roxy and Spike and everybody. It was just like I imagine The Ivy.

It is exceedingly posh now. You can tell it’s posh because food is served on a bed of other food, and there isn’t a machine in the gents selling rubber johnnies.

In fact, it’s more a hotel than an inn now, although room rates are such that I will have to be incredibly pissed and it be raining incredibly hard for me to book myself in rather than walk the 300 yards home.

They had earlier put on a free meal in the restaurant for local dignitaries, TO WHICH I WAS NOT INVITED. I have not put whoever organised that on my list of death yet, as they are new, and I am a compassionate deity.

But it raises a big question mark over their business sense and they will be sorry if my readers decide to eat elsewhere.


UPDATE! Have eaten there now and it's superb. Readers may consider this a recommendation and flock there in droves. Thank you.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

I had to unexpectedly write a tender yesterday.

For local government. It took me six hours, excluding time to go to the toilet.

If you are in local government, you can’t just give big contracts to your brother’s mate. They employ special procurement people to get you to write proper documents, which they then check very carefully.

This costs them more, but means they can gauge each response on a totally objective criterion, which is how many long words you have used.

This is very important, as it is taxpayers’ money.

I finished yesterday afternoon and it came to a good twelve pages. I then did a word count, and it came to about thirty-three, which indicated a satisfactory degree of long-wordness.

I’m no good at long words. Economy is my style. That is why this is the Tesco Value of blogs, except I only use fresh local ingredients that weren’t originally meant to be fed to dogs.

Blogs shouldn’t have long words, anyway. That’s not a style point, but an important technical thing. The PCs that the Internet runs on have only a certain amount of space on their hard disc, and if everybody used long words then they would have to buy an extra RAM pack.

Hopefully I won’t have to use long words again for a while. I have sent my document to the people who asked me nicely to write it, and all I need to do now is sit by the telephone waiting for the inevitable ‘what the fuck does this bit mean?’ calls.

Until then I shall resume talking to the rabbits.

Monday, August 16, 2004

I staggered from the toilet cubicle.

If we start from the premise that the chemicals in a portable toilet smell bad enough in their own right, then add in three days of festival use and a hot, humid day, we can begin to construct a dictionary definition of the word ‘unpleasant’. The flush had ceased to work, and contents were mounting up in a disagreeable fashion.

It had not, let us say, been a trip to The Sanctuary.

Deep breath. To the one and only basin.

A man was hovering, with towels and washing accoutrements.

“You go first,” he offered. “I was just going to have a shave, and there doesn’t appear to be any hot water anyway.”

I blinked at him. He had a day’s growth, but was hardly Rasputin. I struggled to come to terms with his need to stand there amidst the flies, piss and shit, struggling with his regular grooming routine.

“You pitiful, foppish, berk,” I irritably retorted, in my head.

On these occasions I’ve always played the pragmatist. It seems to me that if you’re going to camp in a muddy field with no facilities, drink beer on a 24/7 basis and eat things from the back of vans, then personal hygiene is going to suffer and there’s not a lot of point in fighting it.

Thus it was that I found myself arriving home on Sunday afternoon with the rare condition known as ‘solid hair’.

It’s a bloody unusual feeling, I tell you. Not desperately unpleasant, unless you happen to touch it. I’m sure there is some genuine medical reason behind my solid hair besides grease and beer spillages. As it was, I had a go with my pretentious shampoo, and it’s loosened up a bit.

As the great maestro wrote:

“You've been taking your time
And you've been living with solid hair.
You've been walking the line,
You've been living with solid hair.
Don't know what's going wrong inside,
And I can tell you that it's hard to hide when you're living with

Solid hair.”

Couldn’t have put it better myself.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Unexpected hiatus.

This is frustrating.

Like many people, I charge by the hour for on the business front. So when I was asked if I could drop everything to be in London at 8.30 this morning, I couldn’t really turn it down.

Or I could have done, but ‘I have to write about really exciting developments at the Village Pub’ would have been frowned upon as an excuse, and would have perhaps lost me business long-term.

Clients, huh? All townies, you see.

It’s terribly annoying, as I’m off to a festival tomorrow, and the plan was to write something so amazingly, incredibly interesting and funny today, that it would last you for all the weekend.

Perhaps you’d return a couple of times to remind yourself, smile and shake your head in wonder. Then show the family when they turn up on Sunday.

Maybe give up blogging completely, knowing deep down in your gut that you could never match my interesting and amusing story about the Village Pub.

I have to get a system together for times like this.

Some people may have already guessed that all my commenting on other peoples’ blogs is outsourced to India. We had a couple of false starts – ‘If it please you I enjoy your tales of yourself and esteemed twat-boyfriend, might I invite you to humbly view my own web blog?’ – but now I’ve got a company that provides a pretty seamless service. It works well and saves me a whole lot of trouble.

So I need some sort of rapid-response service, that maybe I can SMS with the gist of what’s happened (‘The Village Pub has re-opened!!!’) and they’ll throw together the rest from an Access Database of funny sentences.

I may work on this business plan.

Had Norris McWhirter still been alive, I might have sent him this URL as a submission for ‘weakest blog post’. But he’s not, so all I can do is wish you a very happy weekend and we’ll speak on Monday.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

A text message from Salvadore.

He’s at the Edinburgh Festival and I’m not, is the gist of it.

I haven’t been for a couple of years now. It was getting uneconomic, if your idea of uneconomic is paying off the last installment on your credit card the month before you return to spend the same amount next year.

Before he left he sent me some photos he’d found.

I am standing amidst the cast of a bad comedy show, dressed in a pink tutu. The others are not wearing a pink tutu. There is something in my face that says ‘I would prefer not to be the only person here wearing a pink tutu’.

I think you could sum it up thus: there are three actorly/comedian-looking people, radiating confident thespianism from their very pores, aglow with the spirit of the Fringe. And one miserable looking bloke, who’d clearly been roped in at the last minute, wearing a pink tutu.

I stole the show, of course. It’s difficult not to, when an audience is desperate for a laugh, and a bloke runs onstage in a pink tutu singing a George Michael song.

That and the fact that I am very funny.

I miss the Edinburgh Festival. It’s so good to see the real Scotland, don’t you think? It continues without me as an important social function, helping to neutralise the decimation of Scottish manufacturing industry by providing good jobs distributing Guardian newspapers and handing out leaflets.

I hope Salvadore has a good time and gets to see lots of shows.

And I hope they’re all lousy.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

My piano has arrived!!!

After all this time.

It sits there in the corner of the room, looking brown and pianolike.

Actually, ‘in the corner’ is an exaggeration. It’s a lot bigger than I remember it, and seems to take up fully one quarter of the room. This has already caused tensions between the music- and non-music loving members of the household.

I understand now why John and Yoko needed such a big white living room.

I play a note. ‘Plink!’ it goes. Wahey!


Plink, plink, plonk, plink, thud, plink, plonk, plink!

Hmmm. ‘Thud’ is not good, but it’s an A flat, and I tend to save the black notes for special occasions anyway.

Likewise, the ‘soft’ pedal doesn’t seem to work, but I’ve never used the ‘soft’ pedal in my life and don’t mean to start now.

It needs tuning, if I am to learn all the works of the great masters - Beethoven, Shostakovich, O’Sullivan.

I know it might take me a long time to reach that standard. But I am prepared to work for at least the rest of the summer, and some weekends after that as well.

Today West Norfolk.

Tomorrow the World.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Well it was diabolical, wasn’t it?

You start watching something and it’s merely depressing. Then, by the end, black waves of old gittishness are enveloping your soul as you despair of the insult to humanity that decided to spend thousands and thousands of pounds on creating a small piece of shit, that was only ever going to be a small piece of shit.

I don’t mind great risky ventures that fail. And I don’t particularly mind being taken for a cretin. It’s just... it’s just... somebody – SOMEBODY at the BBC MUST HAVE KNOWN that the concept, script, execution and delivery of ‘Match of the Day at 40’ was going to be a fiasco.

I believe in the BBC, but she’s a terrible flirt. In fact she’s that smug, annoying girl at school who knows that she’s adored so much that she can get away with the most appalling behaviour because you’ll keep running back to her.

The BBC has self-congratulatory Tourette’s. It’s shit-scared of losing the license fee – understandably – so it feels it has to big itself up all the time. Forget its self-flagellation over Hutton – it’s a drop in the ocean compared with the tens of thousands of pounds it might blithely spend on exciting ‘idents’ for the Olympic Games – which everybody who’s interested is going to watch anyway.

And ‘Match of the Day at 40’?!? ONE HOUR of ‘we’re so clever, we decided to put football on the telly and isn’t the BBC wonderful for doing so’?!?

As self-analysis goes it was as hard-hitting as QVC.

So we had Arsene Wenger bringing a football perspective to the programme’s impact. Oh – no – hang on. He was just saying that football on the telly was interesting, and that Match of the Day was what it was called on the Beeb. Strangely enough, he didn’t have much to say about the development of the actual show because HE WASN’T IN THE COUNTRY AT THE TIME, YOU CRETINS.

Oooh – better get someone trendy who’s in with the kids to lend some street cred! Who likes football? Er – oh yes, Noel Gallagher. How very 2004. Ronnie Corbett not available, I guess. Yes, we do know how the theme song goes. Thanks.

As luvvie as a box of theatre programmes, this was one corporate wank too many.

Sorry Gary, sorry Alan. I believe in the BBC, but you can laugh at me one too many times.

Normal Norfolk-related news will resume tomorrow.

Friday, August 06, 2004

There is an unusual noise!!!

I’m lying in bed, having just turned out the light. Then it starts.

“Squeak!” it goes.


It sounds a little like a child’s soft toy (obviously one with a squeaker in it). And it’s coming from outside the window.

This is a first.

One thing I particularly like about living here is that it’s dead quiet at night. There might be the odd ‘old house’ type noise, generally in the winter – you know, where you lie awake trying to work out whether what you can hear is the wind in the chimney or whether it’s somebody whispering very slowly: ‘I – am – going – to – kill – you...’

Otherwise there’s just the LTLP, who snores like a heffalump. But that’s about it.


The sound’s moving around quickly outside the window. One minute it appears to be coming from the front garden, the next from outside Short Tony’s, the next from further down the road. Then back again.

There seem to be two possibilities.

Firstly, one of my mates has made the two hour drive up here, stopping off on the way to purchase a child’s soft toy (inc. squeaker) from a 24-hour service area in order to effect a particularly weak practical joke on me.

I consider taking a potshot into the bushes just to teach them a lesson, but this scenario does seem unlikely, so I am forced to conclude that what I’m dealing with is probably a Peculiar Animal.


The squeaks are extremely regular, every five seconds or so. I lie there, marvelling at just how quickly something initially funny and intriguing can start to become very annoying indeed.

I go to the window, trying to locate this Ben Elton of the animal kingdom. I shine a torch out. Aside from being mobbed by flying insects, I can’t see anything.


It’s clearly not a cat. Nor a rabbit, nor next-door’s dog, nor an owl. I don’t know what moles and shrews sound like. It could be a young pheasant with a speech impediment, but that seems unlikely.

I switch off the torch. It takes me a moment to realise that there is still a torch beam moving round the garden.


It has a torch!!!

This is alarming but inevitable. Animals were going to evolve to carry torches sooner or later.

It takes me a further moment to realise that the beam’s origin is Short Tony’s bedroom window. Big relief. I am still the dominant species.


I go back to bed and try to ignore it.

A car passes, and the squeak is no more.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Sinister developments.

I saw the first poster a couple of weeks ago, drawing-pinned up in the Post Office.

The second appeared soon afterwards, and yesterday there was a third on the village noticeboard.


I previously recounted the tale of the cat-shooting maniac, which made the national press and caused villagers to live in fear.

Now there are four more cats missing. This seems a bit of a coincidence.

I have been extremely alert since I got my leaflet from the government, so I went indoors and switched the telly on as instructed. Nothing on the local news.

Then, this morning, as I sat at the PC to write this, I glanced out through the french windows (‘freedom windows’, if you’re in Texas) and guess what I saw?

I NEVER have cats in the garden. Lots of rabbits, pheasants, moles, the odd shrew, an owl, next-door’s dog. No cats.

It was black and white and sitting on the lawn. I wanted to see if it had a name tag, so I ran outside in my pants, but it looked scared and alarmed and shot off into the fields.

Why was it here?

Now I am worried that people will think I have something to do with the vanishings.

But as Billy Joel proclaimed: ‘I am an Innocent Man’!

And who are THEY to contradict the words of the great protest singers?

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Somebody has attempted to cut my hedge.

It’s a fairly ordinary hedge. Not particularly horticulturally distinguished, admittedly, but it’s been a loyal boundary for a few years, and I’m fond of it.

I’d accepted the kind offer to cut it with gratitude, and grateful I am still. It’s the thought that counts. However, after ‘the thought’ come things like ‘straight lines’ and ‘not missing big chunks of it’.

My poor hedge. It looks like it’s been dragged through a human backwards.

There isn’t a competitive gardening scene in the village, although there was once a cross item in the newsletter about people letting their shingle stray on to the pavement. (We know who you are). But I look at my hedge now, and am quite sensitive that people will point and laugh at it.

I had planned to do lots of work this afternoon. Now I have to do emergency clipping.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

We have to fit some skirting board.

In order to make it join together at the corners, you have to make what is technically (in the Reader’s Digest DIY manual) known as a ‘mitre joint’.

A mitre joint is basically a wonky cut. However, rather than just your normal bog standard wonky cut that you’d make anyway, this needs to be quite accurately wonky. What’s more you need to cut the other bit of wood with exactly the opposite degree of wonkiness, then they fit together at a snug ninety degrees.

For reasons of equality, the LTLP attempts this whilst I sit down to watch the cricket.

At the next wicket, I wander out to see how she’s getting on.

“Youuuu make me feeeel,” I sing, “Mitre real!!!”

How we roared.

There is a certain amount of wastage occurring. I make some helpful comments, which are not received in good spirit. It looks like we might need a special tool.

“Well we haven’t got one,” I venture, “...but Big A ‘mitre’!” (might – er)

She smiles weakly and stomps off round the corner.

Big A has lots of tools, all dating from the seventeenth century. Indeed he does possess a mitre block. Its interest is possibly more archaeological than practical, but she borrows it anyway.

On her way back she passes Wallace’s place. As usual, he is inventing in his garden. He looks bemused at the mitre block, disappears into his shed and reappears with a huge great electrical whirry thing.

This is great. You set an angle on the dial, put a piece of wood on the surface and then big whirling blades of death chomp down and cut a perfect mitre joint for you. Suddenly, I want to have a go.

I am not allowed, even though she is now struggling on working out the angles. More wastage is occurring.

“Is it lunchtime yet?” I ask. “I’m ‘mitre’ hungry!”

An offcut sails past my head.

Time taken: two hours.

Pieces of wood cut: two.

Monday, August 02, 2004

My wooden floor is still finished!!!

With most of my furniture in storage, I’ve had ample opportunity to appreciate the maximum surface area.

It’s wooden, and soft, and warm, and slidey.

I look at it this way and that, examining different bits of grain. I walk around in my bare feet, sit on it and lie on it.

When the LTLP is not looking, I give it a quick smell. (I didn’t want her to see me looking foolish or like a wood addict). It smells of wood and wood oil, which is not entirely expected.

By about Saturday evening I realise...

I’m bored with it now. It has ceased to be a thing of entertainment.

It doesn’t really DO anything – just sits there on the ground, being woody.

This is annoying, as I spent about a grillion pounds on it. I could have got a Ferrari for that, or paid for a Slovenian hooker to get plastic surgery and elocution lessons so that she was just like Kirstie Allsopp.

What it does mean is that I can set up all my stuff again.

It’s been a pain in the arse living out of cardboard boxes.