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


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.


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!!!"


"I've got this website..."


"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.


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


"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!!!


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



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


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.