Friday, December 23, 2005

A very merry Christmas to all
readers, linkers, commenters and lurkers

From the management and staff
at JonnyB's Private Secret Diary.

We will be returning in the New Year for your continued entertainment.

If you asked for a PC for Christmas purely so that you could read this, then you'll find that October 2004 is probably the best place to start.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Today - some Christmas facts at 'Tis the Season. About parrots.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

There is a Suspicious Noise!!!

I am sitting up late, replying to fan emails etc. The Noise jolts me upright. As soon as I react, it is gone, so I am not quite sure whether I heard it at all. Then it happens again. But as soon as I react, it is gone, so I am not quite sure whether I heard it at all. I prepare myself this time, listening hard, so I don't have to waste valuable reaction time reacting. But it doesn't happen again, so I sit all tense for some time, straining my ears.

The house is dark and utterly still. No cars for miles around, no noise from the farm. I can hear the LTLP breathing gently in the bedroom. Aside from that - nothing. I recall that I haven't bolted the front door. Peering through the study door, it seems even darker downstairs, which is probably an optical illusion or something scientific to do with it being further away from the sun.

I resolve to investigate.

Liveblogging: Suspicious Noise.

By now, I am fairly convinced that there is some form of intruder in the house. My evidence for this (a Suspicious Noise) is pretty weak, but I have built it up in my mind, and it won't go away.

The stairs creak at 10000000 decibels as I tiptoe down. I am torn as to whether to try to be quiet, so I can creep up on the Suspicious Noise, or whether to make as much racket as possible in order that it can hear me and run away. I decide on the quiet route, as I don't want to wake the LTLP, and I am as scared of her as I am of the Suspicious Noise.

Halfway down the stairs, I start worrying more about the Noise. It might not be somebody knocking something over after all, and could just be a standalone Noise that has transformed into a physical entity, like the dark, fog etc. in the James Herbert horror books. In this case, my intruder plan (make a lot of fuss and try to punch it) will probably not work. I pause for thought for a second.

Downstairs, I tentatively reach round the corner for the lightswitch. Nothing grabs hold of my arm and pulls me physically screaming across dimensions to the Vortex of the Zlith, which is encouraging. Instead, the light comes on. I poke my head around to see an absence of burglar blinking in the glare.

Presumably any human being would now know of my presence and would be hiding. Ready to leap out on me. I take a deep breath and check the toilet. There is nobody in the toilet. I need the toilet. Now would not be an appropriate time. My heart is thumping: bang, bang, BANG, pitifully and pathetically for a grown man on the trail of a minor Suspicious Noise. Standing in the doorway of the bathroom, I peer across the lounge. There is nowhere to hide in the lounge. The Suspicious Noise must be in the kitchen.

There is nothing in the kitchen.

Retreating upstairs, I try to laugh off my worry. But as I turn the lights off I can grasp no reassurance at all. All I seem to have done is to prove that the Suspicious Noise was not Earthly in origin. I console myself by thinking that if it is the supreme aural manifestation of evil then at least I will be able to write a newspaper article saying that bloggers broke the news first.

I creep past the main bedroom and shut myself firmly into the spare room. Hopefully it will get the LTLP first and then not be hungry any more.

I crawl under the duvet, and lie awake for ages.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

I do my Christmas shopping.

They have spent about a grillion pounds on renovating Lynn town centre, and now it has a spanking new multi-story car park and gleaming, architect-designed pound shops. I purchase an indescribable thing in a roll for my lunch and gradually tick items off my list.

Up near McDonalds, Santa is selling the Big Issue.

I find this a bit depressing. Whilst he's always had a bit of a seasonal job, I am sorry to see him in this position. Still - that is globalisation for you and he, as an inefficient monopoly, has lost out.

In fact thinking about it, he has got a bloody cheek coming over here and begging on our own streets. It is because we are known as a soft touch. They have been flooding in from Lapland in such numbers that we do not know what those numbers are.

I do not buy a copy of his magazine as it will send out the wrong messages to the elves.

I do feel a bit sorry for him. It is sad all round. There are children that will see him that will be traumatised by the sight.

It is a shame.

Monday, December 19, 2005

I deliver my Christmas cards.

Delivering Christmas cards is a political act. I scuttle round the village, zipping furtively up and down driveways like a transvestite Baath party activist leafleting South Carolina.

The aim, as ever, is to get in first. That way there can be no suspicion whatsoever that one is giving a Christmas card solely in reaction to an unexpected receipt. Already I have spent several hours pondering the Venn diagram depicting 'good friends', 'friends' and 'people who I meet in the village pub and am very friendly with but probably would not describe as 'friends'', and in an act of calculated aggression, have decided to play it safe. I stagger up the lane laden with several hundred greetings. Short Tony's dog looks at me sarcastically as I stuff one into his box.

In this year's Realpolitik I have a distinct advantage - I have skipped village without leaving a forwarding address with many people. Wallace and his wife have been wise to the ploy however, and have sent a card via Mrs Short Tony. I worry that they will think that I would not have sent them one anyway. I sent them one last year. I hope against hope that they have good memories, as I slip my own greeting through their small and rather tight flap.

My plan is to deliver my entire load, disappear from the village and hide, then reappear unexpectedly back on Wednesday in time for the big Christmas quiz night. That way there will be lots of slightly embarrassed 'thank you for the card Jonny, we haven't actually got round to writing ours yet, let me buy you a pint instead's. I will not want them to be embarrassed so I will accept graciously in the true spirit of Christmas.

Now for my masterstroke - I leave one at Luc's. I know very well that Luc won't have got me a card, as we don't know each other very well, but we got quite drunk together a couple of Sundays ago and he seems like a nice chap. Now he will forever be in my debt, which is great as he has quite a big house and is possibly quite rich. He has a very long drive - I skip away from his house with a spring in my step (not literally).

Finally, a declaration of war. A card and some homemade chocolates for Len the Fish. In return for the meat etc. he has given me this year. I know very well that Short Tony will not have given Len the Fish some homemade chocolates. Honestly, I am good at this. I should have been at the trade talks and they would have accomplished something.

Chuckling slightly, I leave my deposit on his front step and sprint back to the car to blow town.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Today's thing from me is over on 'Tis the Season.

OK, it's dated yesterday. But it's today's. Honest.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

If I have one dissatisfaction with my temporary accommodation, it's that the television reception is not very good.

I don't watch a lot of TV. I play bowls on Monday nights now, so don't get to see University Challenge, so from my 'must watch'es that only really leaves Eggheads and the Channel 4 News, and anything featuring Kirstie Allsopp or/and space travel. However since my reception has become a Cameronesque snowfest, the Radio Times is suddenly chock-full of interesting documentaries and dramas and nature programmes etc. that I really really want to tune in to see.

The Aerial Man arrives.

I greet him at the door. He has a van, and some electronic testy thing, so I do not ask to see ID and let him straight in. He removes his shoes at the entrance, which impresses me.

Initial readings on his device do not appear to be encouraging.

"I'm just going to follow this wire," he says, following a wire. It leads out through the rear wall. The Aerial Man asks me to open the back door so that he can examine its progress.

This I do, while he goes to the front of the house to fetch his shoes. At the back door, he puts his shoes on and goes outside. It turns out that the wire does not do anything unexpected in the back garden, so he returns to the back door and takes off his shoes. Announcing that a signal booster might be worth a fiddle, he carries his shoes through the house to the front door, puts on his shoes, goes to the van for the equipment, returns to the door, takes off his shoes and re-enters the house.

By this point I am slightly anxious that I've fallen for some sort of shoe 'cup and ball' trick, and that I will go to put a pair of my own on later only to find that he has stolen all my shoes with cunning sleight of hand. It does happen. But he seems on the level and we chat amicably about signal reception.

"It's been a bugger of a morning," he explains, twiddling a dial. "I got the wrong house, and went next door. But the woman was on the phone, so she just beckoned me in. I think she thought I was there to see her husband. I was hanging around for ages before she asked me who I was."

"We were both quite confused," he adds.

Presumably he also had no shoes on at the time.

In the end we establish that he can do nothing without incurring considerable expense, the aerial socket not actually being connected to the rooftop aerial itself. He gives me some more good advice about cable types whilst packing his equipment away.

"How much do I owe you?" I ask.

"No - nothing at all. Sorry I couldn't do more."

"Are you sure?"

"Wouldn't dream of it."

Monday, December 12, 2005

I go to the Village Shop.

My new Village Shop is extremely handy and well stocked, but is situated inconveniently one hills-worth away. I haven't got much exercise recently, so I am panting and disorientated when I arrive.

"Morning!" I say to the Village Shop Man. "It's a lot warmer out today."

"Morning Jonny," replies the Village Shop Man. "Not as warm as in Hertfordshire though. Only need to glance out of your window there and you'll get a tan."

I am a bit puzzled by his response but do not follow it up. My attention has been taken by a headline on the paper that Richard Pryor has died. I am sad about this - he was a great comic actor, and I was a big fan of The Good Life and Ever Decreasing Circles. It turns out that he set himself on fire once, which goes to show that you never can tell. I pay for my newspaper and take my leave.

It is only later that I discover what the Village Shop Man was referring to (re Hertfordshire conversation, above) - that oil tanks have taken to blowing themselves up all on their own.

This is extremely alarming. I have one in my new back garden which coincidentally I had filled up last week (it was a regular delivery, not a panic buy at all). I am not really sure what to do. I don't really want to get exploded and have my windows blown in and my ceiling brought down; worse, whenever there is an incident like that they force you to go to a local leisure centre. I have spent my entire life giving local leisure centres the wide berth that they require, and I don't mean to change that now.

Modern life is so full of complications. The central heating here makes the house warm and cosy, but at times like this I long for the rustic simplicity of my own cottage with its wood fire and reassuring oak beams, plus the internet access is better. But we are in general very happy here.

I settle down with the paper for ten minutes, then put the pork on to roast.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Intermission for diversionary announcement:

'2005 Blogged', the paperback blogging anthology edited by Tim is still available from that link just there (ad removed from right hand side due to 28k dial-up hell).

I didn't say a lot about it before, basically because it hadn't been printed so there wasn't a hell of a lot to tell you. But also I guess I was unsure as to who to recommend it to. Now I've read it through a couple of times I'm clearer on that front, and a couple of people have asked my opinion, so here's some sort of more detailed appraisal much of which has already been covered by Mike and the subsequent commenters, including Tim's replies.

There's some great stuff in there. Structurally it's exactly as you'd expect a blog anthology to be. It's all well-written. There are pieces that are funny; there are pieces that are serious. There are pieces written as satire or parody; there are pieces where you're not sure whether they're written as satire or parody or not. There are pieces that you find yourself nodding vigorously in agreement to; there are pieces that make you want to crawl into a hole and rock gently from side to side. There are pieces that are short and pithy; there are pieces that would have benefited from being included in their own pull-out, perhaps featuring advertising by the Samaritans. In short, style-wise there's the full gamut.

Topics-wise, anthologies are always going to reflect the interests of their editor - I guess you could describe Tim's sphere as 'political argument'. Rather than 'this is what happened to me today', 'political' bloggers tend to write self-contained posts about current affairs that require no background knowledge of the writer. This is always going to be handy if ones brief is to compile a book of self-contained posts about current events aimed at readers with no background knowledge of the writer. Despite Tim's genuine and perhaps heroic forays into the areas of blogland less familiar to him, politics is the lens through which he sees the medium (everybody has one) and it forms the soul of the book - the strand to which we return again and again. Occasionally and amusingly, political-blogger-parochialism does creep in to the annotations. "Robert Fisk of The Independent," we're told authoritatively, "is a favourite target for bloggers all over the Anglosphere". Here in the Norfolk webring we talk of little else.

So the man or woman on the Clapham bendy-omnibus will find the year as described in '2005: Blogged' familiar but also oddly disconnected from them. It's a world in which a piece by Polly Toynbee in The Guardian just can't pass without analysis and dissection, but in which we didn't actually get to win the Ashes. Football gets nine lines, winning the Olympics gets five (despite being one of the 'major events' on the back cover blurb); there was nothing on the telly that could be enjoyed without a political deconstruction (indeed no films were released either and there were no cultural events); Ronnie Barker's still with us; Michael Jackson's still prancing round Neverland without a care in the world... you get the drift. Meanwhile, the nineteen pages on the 'ID card debate' are detailed, informative and well-argued.

As one who regularly weeps into his ex-broadsheet newspaper at the dumbing down of Western culture, society and media, pointing out an imbalance towards serious political analysis might be a little contrary. Actually, in an odd way, relying on this political core probably makes for a more coherent and focused book - 'reviews of the year', being a bit of an artificial conceit, aren't often that interesting in their own right. Therefore if there's a problem it's not with the product itself but with the ambition to produce a catch-all 'this is what blogging is about', which I'm not sure is actually possible to do. So two stars for fulfilling the mission statement, four stars for an enjoyable browse. I suspect it's likely to put off more people than it converts; those it converts will be very converted.

A recommendation? It's the ideal Christmas gift for your annoying brother-in-law who monopolises dinner parties with his loud and entrenched opinions. Buy him the book, log him into Blogger, point him towards that particular area of blogdom and let him get it all off his chest. As such it might be construed as a public service.

Friday, December 09, 2005

My car has been crashed into!!!

The LTLP told me the news as I lay in the bath; Short Andy had popped over to let her know. He really is a most helpful neighbour and very sensible in comparison with some others that I have had.

The car had been parked fairly obviously, the only one plonked on the straightest of straight roads leading in to the village.

The driver had driven off afterwards leaving a hole in the bumper. For the benefit of overseas readers I should point out that this sort of crime is quite common in the UK, as the police do not carry guns. I pursed my lips crossly as I wished the descent of endless live Dido studio sessions on the perpetrator.

Later on, I heard the LTLP answer a knock on the door. The driver had returned!!! I resisted the urge to leap up and run out to confront him, as I was still washing myself and so I would have also been guilty of an offence, probably even if we were on my own private property. It is political correctness gone mad that I am liable to arrest if I stand dripping and naked on my front step shouting angrily at a criminal, with a large erection, even if I do remove the shower head.

That last bit was a joke. (The hose to the shower head would not have stretched to the front door anyway).

"I'm really sorry," I heard him mumble. "I thought I'd only hit it gently, but when I saw the damage to my own car I thought I'd better come back."

This seemed fair enough and I regretted my earlier crossness. The baby Jesus said something like it was better for people to sin then own up to it than not to sin, and this bloke sounded pretty contrite. Hitting a parked car is an easy enough thing to do, especially if you have had a couple of pints, and it was dark and rainy outside making conditions difficult for driving. I relaxed in my steaming bath water and pondered the redemption of humankind.

The LTLP took the name and address, and we took things no further.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

'Tis the Season!!!

A sort of December-only advent calendar funny thing. Run by Meg and Anna who are very funny ladies and prove that women can be really funny, as well as all soft and warm.

I'm doing a couple of pieces on it this year. Read it!!! Read it!!!

UPDATE there is also a funny blog advent cartoony calendar over here. It's by regular reader Dave, who is a man and funny.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

"Morning! Didn't expect to see you today!"

The Chipper Barman welcomes me effusively. I order my drink, plus a gurl's drink for the LTLP, and ask for a bar menu. It is nice to be able to lunch together and so we have undertaken the ten-mile round trip to the (old) Village Pub especially.

Martin the IT Consultant sits in the corner, studying the food options. This is unusual - he is normally an early-evening sort of chap. I ponder his unexpected change in behaviour.

Thinking about it, the clue is probably that he works in IT. I guess that he probably keeps some form of geeky internet web log, and that he has turned up today on the sole possibility that he might bump into Ann Widdecombe in a vaguely amusing circumstance thus generating easy material to get round his chronic writer's block.

He is a very sad man.

The most convenient table faces the glass door that leads into the packed restaurant. We sit down and watch the world go by. The Chipper Barman approaches with his special pad.

"There might be a bit of a delay," he apologises. "We're really busy in there, with the Ann Widdecombe thing."

I had completely forgotten that she was going to dining in there (despite my suspicions about Martin the IT Consultant (above)). I assure him that there is no hurry. Behind the glass, the restaurant seems to darken suddenly. I think it might be Ann Widdecombe walking past the window, but it turns out to be just a big cloud.

Martin the IT Consultant meanders over to the cigarette machine, between our table and the door. I had no idea that he smoked.

"Any sign of the old bat yet?" he asks casually.

"Not yet," I reply.

Monday, December 05, 2005

The Village Pub is all but empty.

Clearly my moving out has had an adverse effect on trade. I perch on my usual favoured barstool and engage the Well-Spoken Barman in conversation.

"Are you in here tomorrow?" he asks. "Ann Widdecombe is booked in for lunch."

I stare at him. My brain ticks over at speed. I cannot recall a mutual friend called 'Ann Widdecombe', nor do I know of anybody in the village who goes by that name. Perhaps one of the regulars is unkindly known as 'Ann Widdecombe' behind her or his back. It does not sound particularly likely.

It might be a euphemism. Like in the theatre when the manager runs around shouting 'Inspector Sands is in the building!!!' it is a coded phrase designed to evacuate people in an emergency without panic. There is no reason why there would not be the same sort of thing in the catering trade; 'Ann Widdecombe is booked in for lunch' is probably just something restaurateurs use to clear the area as quickly as possible in case of, say, a really bad chip pan fire.

An elderly couple are the only other people in the bar; they sit unevacuated, picking at their cheeseboard. There is no sign of smoke, flames, al-Qaida etc.

It was Sherlock Holmes who said that when you have eliminated all the probable possibilities then whatever is left even if it is really, really unfeasible is likely to be a goer. That is the typical reasoning of somebody on drugs. But he was quite successful by and large, if a bit full of himself, and I am forced to adopt his methods.

"Ann Widdecombe?" I ask.

"Ann Widdecombe," he replies.

I finish my pint, thoughtfully.

Friday, December 02, 2005

The rain starts falling as I leave the cottage, empty boxes in hand. Trudging to the car, I spot my new neighbour over the road.

"Are you sure you are not a bit early?" I ask.

"Not a bit of it," enthuses Short Andy. "You can never be too early."

I gaze doubtfully at the two large festive characters that perch askew atop his garage. Three-dimensional and dazzlingly illuminated, one is a recognisable Santa Claus figure, the other being some Christmassy person of indeterminate origin. They buffet around in the rainy squall.

We exchange some damp neighbourly pleasantries before I get into the car. The rain stops immediately. He places a ladder up against his wall, in order to try to fix things down more effectively. I drive off to pick up some more worldly goods.

On my return the indeterminate figure is upright, its hand still raised in a cheery wave to the neighbourhood children. But Santa has plunged forth, leaning at a seventy-degree angle off the edge of the building. What's more, its right arm has launched itself forwards like Superman attempting to take off or, at a stretch, a very elderly and bearded Alan Shearer celebrating a goal by dressing up in red and running around on a garage roof in a gale.

I step out of the car. The rain switches on again immediately. This has been happening for several days.

I give the tarmac a hard stare, examining it for pressure pads.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

"...which is the piece of skin between the vagina and the bumhole."

Once more I shift awkwardly in my seat. I checked my watch surreptitiously but the hands appear to be moving backwards. The midwife charges on regardless.

I am not even sure whether 'bumhole' is a generally accepted official anatomical term. As far as I am concerned, the only context in which the word 'bumhole' should really be used is something like: 'yah boo, it is a good job that it is the end of playtime otherwise I shall beat you up because you have a face like a bumhole'. I start to worry that she is not qualified and just pretending to be a midwife.

"So you'll be there on the bed, probably on all fours..."

I fix my attention to a speck on the opposite wall. It is amazing how interesting a speck can be relative to some alternatives. I speculate on its origin. It could be dust-based, or a flick of paint from the recent decoration.

If you hold your eyes on it for long enough it appears to dance about. This is presumably an optical illusion. Although it could be a genuine dancing speck. I make a mental note to check it out at a later date. It could be worth lots of money given the right management advice.

"So do you have any particular wishes, Jonny?"

"You what?"

She appears to have asked me a question. I think hard. What I would really really like to do is to stop talking about epidurals and deliveries and bumholes and perhaps have a nice cup of tea and discuss rabbits or mice or washing machines or any other of my normal conversational things.

"Well really I think how I feel is that I think I am quite happy with whatever she decides," I say assertively. I feel a glare on the side of my head.

Our hour is almost up, and it is time for me to get ready for bowls. I leave them talking about electronic pain relief systems and slip quietly out the door.

Monday, November 28, 2005

"Accept it," says the LTLP. "At some point, you are going to have to do some washing up."

Her empty threats do not scare me. I sip from my plastic cup, defiantly.

We are cosy in our new little cottage. It has comfy rooms, a nice narrow staircase, working central heating and a general aura of homeliness. But there is no space in the kitchen for a dishwasher. We are having to wash everything manually with washing up liquid and a bowl, like they do in the third world.

"Mrs Short Tony said we could use their dishwasher," I explain. "Once we get a reasonable pile of stuff I'll box it up and drive over there."

Fortunately we have not yet managed to procure a cooker. It is all very well having hot food etc., but it tends to stick to the plates a bit more and require saucepans, and it is the time of year when it is nice to have salads. Having central heating is still a wondrous new novelty for me, and I am sure that I can re-heat frozen things on the radiators if needs be.

"I'll have my cheesecake now," she orders.

I fetch her dinner, thoughtfully. As regular readers know, I do try my best to be what the style commentators call 'a new man' by cooking, ironing, organising cleaners etc., but when it comes to washing up, I'd rather dress up as a woman and attend a 'Mike and the Mechanics' gig with Jack Straw. It is something to do with the dirty greasy water that repels me.

"Here you go," I offer. "Can I have the plate after you?"

The plan is that we shall be living here for six months. I have bought some Fairy liquid but do not wish to get further than half way down the bottle.

Friday, November 25, 2005

"I've backed the Land Rover right up," says Short Tony, as I stand in the old kitchen, my bent finger covering my mouth in that particular way that has been scientifically proven to help you think. I decide that if I stare at the washing machine for long enough then it will become a bit lighter.

I have already expertly unplumbed it, removing the hot and cold water inlets and unscrewing the waste pipe from the sink outlet. I make a mental note to seal up the subsequent gap in the pipework and not to forget, which would be foolish and potentially wet. Fortunately I have an excellent memory and never forget anything ever.

We lift the washing machine.

I don't know why some people are good at lifting things and some people aren't. It must be a technique thing. It cannot be anything to do with strength. We stagger around the kitchen in the general direction of the door. I have my hands underneath it and am stooped like a fairytale character to compensate for the three-foot difference in height (estimate) between me and Short Tony.

By the time we reach the Land Rover we have given up all pretence of being careful with the appliance, and sort of hurl the thing in the back. I do some exercises to try to return my arms to their previous length.

"Ready to go?" asks Short Tony. I am as ready as I will ever be. Normally I approach a journey in his Land Rover with the same sort of confidence as I'd book up a scenic light aircraft trip with, say, Buddy Holly and Richard Reid the Shoe Bomber. But I am comforted by the thought that if the worst does happen and we break down miles from anywhere then at least I will be able to have clean clothes.

We set off at a steady 32 mph. In the event the engine only stops working once and we reach our destination without incident, if you don't classify alarming rattly and bangy noises from both engine and domestic appliance as 'incident'.

We lift the washing machine.

My new cottage is on a bit of a hill, and the extra altitude makes everything appear even heavier. Zigzagging up the path, we sort of fall in to the front room, bashing it against the doorframe as we attempt to manoeuvre it around. Of course the new kitchen is the furthest room away, and access is via a convenient step, but sweating and swearing we get it there in the end, and I do some lightning plumbing and electrical connection.

The washing machine does not work.

This is disappointing.

We methodically instigate a troubleshooting procedure - trying a different socket, checking the plug, changing the fuse etc. An hour later, this has all gone out of the window, and we are shouting and swearing at the machine whilst punching and kicking it. At this point it decides to work after all, which is wonderful, but the waste pipe is not connected up and it starts pumping dirty water into the kitchen cupboard.

Deciding that this would be best cleared up at a later date, I thank Short Tony for his help. At times like these it is good to have neighbours who one can rely on.

We return to the old cottage without event. Absentmindedly, I empty the washing-up bowl down the sink.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

There is a particular constant about moving into a new house.

That is, in the period between meeting the current owner/landlord and saying "yes, what a nice house this is, I think I will definitely buy/rent it" and actually moving in, the vendor in question will zip round making all the rooms smaller, the rooms darker, and the carpets and walls generally nastier than you remember.

In fact my top tip if you are looking around a house with a view to prospective purchase/rent is to make a very secret mark thing somewhere hidden. That way, when you eventually move in you can check that you're actually in the place that you originally saw rather than a cheaper substitute dwelling that you've been tricked into purchasing via a system of mirrors etc (which is quite easy to do).

Fortunately, Narcoleptic Dave's cottage is much as I remember it - in fact he's given it a nice lick of paint. He'd been staying there whilst his own builders finished off, and hadn't really bothered to move much furniture in, with no cooker, and mattresses slung on the floor in lieu of a bed. God knows how he got any sleep.

So thinking about it, there isn't a particular constant at all. It just happens sometimes, depending on circumstances. Like in particle physics (I think, although I am not entirely sure, not being a particle physicist. But I could look the subject up on Google and become an expert, if I had time, which I don't, but I could).

A real particular constant constant, however, is the fact that every single time I move house I say to myself "next time, I will get the professionals to do it." Hence, I have booked the bloke in the next village who owns a van, and asked Short Tony and Big A to give me a hand. There can't be much carrying to do, really.


Sunday, November 20, 2005

Apologies for the interruption in transmission.

This week I will be busy moving into Narcoleptic Dave's cottage. Here are some nice posts from this year, a bit like UK Gold only in Norfolk. And with writing instead of telly.

Sheep - Mitt - Wet - Table

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Sleepless night.

Got up, got dressed, took some breakfast to the mice.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

I entrap a mouse!!!

Looking at my watch, I realise that it is time to check the traps. There is no point in buying humane mousetraps if one leaves a mouse in there for a long time with no food or TV etc. As the man of the house, I decide to go myself.

The joists are riddled with woodworm and as soft as cheese. But being a courageous Norfolk Steve Irwin I am not afraid as I crawl across them on my knees, clutching my torch and trying not to touch the loft insulation (because it is itchy).

My trap is full of mice!!!

There are three in there. I carefully grab it and retrace my kneels, bringing my prize downstairs into the main part of the cottage. They don't appear to be making much of a bid for freedom.

"Mice!!!" I announce to the LTLP, thrusting the trap at her. She looks up in distaste from the thickie bit of the newspaper, annoyingly unimpressed with my resourcefulness at pest extermination.

I examine the trap in triumph. Two smaller mice are sort of cowering at the back, whilst the larger one sits in front, looking at me. It doesn't seem annoyed or reproachful, just a bit... sad.

I locate my shoes and carry the trap into the back garden.

It's horribly cold outside. I shiver as I step out into the rapidly gathering frost. We hunters are used to harsh conditions, but it really is very peaky.

A small remorse nags at me.

My torch lights the way into the woodshed. It is very slightly warmer in there. Placing the trap down gently, I release the catch. The mice do not emerge. I give it a slight tap. The mice still do not emerge. I say something like "Here, mousey mousey!!!" and emergentless remain the mice.

They seem perfectly alive and well in there, but unwilling to leave for whatever reason. I am not sure whether I have traumatised them or whether it's just that it is warmer where they are. I try various ploys to get them to be on their way, but to no avail.

I wrap some sacking over the trap to keep it cosy, and plod back indoors to fetch them a snack.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Two disturbed nights later and I am resolved to get rid of the little bastard.

(Note to readers who missed yesterday's post: I am talking about a mouse in the attic. The LTLP has not given birth yet).

It now seems to be purposely jumping up and down on the bit of ceiling right above my head, presumably as some kind of dare. But when I stick my head up into the loft and try to surprise it with a torch, it is hiding. It is a very juvenile creature.

I purchase some traps.

Acting on advice, I buy two 'humane' mousetraps. They are cunning devices - once the animals get in they cannot get out again, like a rodentine direct debit arrangement with a large mail-order book club. I bait them with a generous chunk of nice malty bread, which should lure them in unless I have found one with gluten intolerance. I then climb stealthily up into the loft, like a Norfolk Steve Irwin.

Having set my ambush, I retreat stealthily downstairs, chuckling slightly.

Monday, November 14, 2005

A mice invasion occurs.

I lie awake, listening to the echo of their scratchy feet above the ceiling. This is annoying. I try not to listen. I can't not listen. It is amazing the volume of noise one small mouse will generate given the dead silence of the small hours and some thin resonant plasterboard. Either that or it's actually a huge great three-foot long mouse who has mutated (via chemicals etc) and has somehow slipped into the attic to plan how to satisfy its craving for human flesh.

This seems unlikely. But it is best not to take any chances.

The mouse problem taxes me. Of all creatures, I have very little against mice. They are small and furry, reasonably cute, enjoy cheese and have provided entertaining cartoon characters. It's also likely to be a wood mouse rather than its smellier house mouse cousin. However, its continued tap dancing escapades are becoming annoying and I don't want it to eat the stored clothing up there. The natural order of things must be restored, i.e. humans in charge (unless it is a big huge mutated flesh eating mouse, in which case it is welcome to stay and I will move).

I am a bit concerned about trying to shoot it in an enclosed space.

I resolve to buy a trap.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The LTLP inspects the envelope suspiciously.

"Open it!!! Open it!!!" I am excited.

She raises half an eyebrow.

"This had better," she states, pursing her lips, "not be another Blake's Seven one."

We have joined a DVD club. It is really good. You pay them a small amount per month and the post lady brings you DVDs that you have put on a list, using the Internet. Then you watch them and wander over the road and pop them into the GPO box set into the stone wall. We joined because the LTLP is very pregnant and needs to sit down a lot and watch DVDs whilst I get her things. Apparently.

"I'm sure it isn't."

"You open it."

"Can I?"

I slit open the envelope eagerly.

"What is it then?"


"I don't believe it!" she cries, snatching the disc from my hand. I step back slightly out of harm's way.

"All I want," she continues, "is to watch a nice fucking film. One of the ones that I put on the list. And every time we get something it's Blake's fucking Seven. I can't believe you - you must have moved my choices down on the list."

She is being unfair. "I didn't, honest," I plead, thinking about it for a bit. "It was probably Orac. He can control any computer, you know."

I do not know what the LTLP has against Blake's Seven, which was an excellent programme from the 1980s set in space. I think it is due to peer pressure that females pretend not to like things set in space, which reinforces gender stereotypes just as much as blokes not liking things about knitting and dollies.

It is either that or she is secretly jealous because she thinks I fancy Jenna (played by Sally Knyvette). I have the last laugh however as I only pretend to fancy Jenna whereas really I fancy Cally (Jan Chappell) who is the non-Agnetha one, and quite cute and vulnerable and also she is telepathic so you wouldn't need to go through the embarrassment of asking her to dress as Kirstie Allsopp.

However clearly there is a disagreement between us.

"I will make sure that your women's films are at the top of the list," I promise. "Just as soon as I turn the PC on."

We settle down to watch the episode.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

"Didn't you tell them?"

"No - I thought you told them."

"Well - I sort of told them. That sounds like them now."

The scrunch of Ford on gravel announces the arrival of our Sophisticated Essex Friends (SEF's). SEF (male) and I shake hands in that matey-yet-slightly-awkward type way that blokes do when they haven't seen each other for ages. SEF (female) and the LTLP kiss in that this-is-what-we-do-being-females-in-our-thirties type way. SEF (male) and the LTLP kiss in a naturally-delighted-to-see-you type way. SEF (female) and I kiss in an I'm-not-really-comfortable-with-all-this-kissing-business-so-I'll-do-it-in-a-very-exaggeratedly-effusive-way-to-try-to-hide-the-fact type way. No tongues (although I would).

They start unloading piles of jumpers and warm coats and boots from the car. "All set for the Village bonfire night then?" asks my friend, in eager anticipation.

"What did you tell them?" hisses the LTLP.

Where we grew up, our town's bonfire night was the best in the area. There was thousands of pounds worth of fireworks and food and recorded music by J.M. Jarre.

We go next door to Short Tony's.

The spectacular is in full swing by the time we arrive. Short Tony, Big A and Narcoleptic Dave have set up the pyrotechnics from the box obtained from the local Morrison's Supermarket, and are already sending rockets into the stratosphere.

We take shelter in the carport from the driving rain, so we can't actually see them exploding above us, but the first ten feet or so of their ascent is jolly impressive.

Fireworks are to autumn what barbeques are to summer. For some reason blokes abandon their horror of entertaining a crowd of small children/cooking a meal for all the family and throw themselves into the task safe in the knowledge that it won't lead to their masculinity being questioned. I introduce the SEFs to the local characters.

"Would you like some pie and peas?" asks Mrs Short Tony, proffering a dish resembling a forfeit on Saturday morning children's television.

"Er... thank you," replies SEF (male).

"Yes - er - we didn't really think about getting any food in for later," I admit, worried about our hospitality. "No - I'll pass thanks, Mrs Short Tony."

"It looks delicious," maintains SEF (male).

By this point the fireworks have been exhausted, and we retire indoors for a game of darts in Short Tony's front room pub. I sell everybody a raffle ticket for the Church bazaar.

It is good to introduce outsiders to our village events, to show them that we can do them at least as good as in London etc. I know that they will be talking about this for months to come.

By nine o'clock the LTLP is tired, but Narcoleptic Dave is hogging the sofa, so we retire back home for an early night.

Monday, November 07, 2005

'No Smoking beyond this point'.

I stared at the new sign, impressed by its authoritarianness.

"How excitingly 2006!!!" I remarked to the Well-Spoken Barman.

"We're trying to get ahead of legislation," he replied.

I took my usual seat at the bar. The Village Pub (smoking side) was packed. The Village Pub (non-smoking side) was sparsely populated. I sipped my pint, reflecting on the momentous import of the new sign. It was just like being in Germany after the war. An accident of residency had found my seat in the freedom-loving smoking quarter; I could just have easily been trapped under the authoritarian jackboot of Communism (except with smoking rules).

"I think it's good," said Big A, puffing on a Marlboro contentedly. "It'll definitely help me to stop."

I am a non-smoker myself apart from occasionally when I am drunk and want to look cool, but I am uneasy about these new rules. The Village Pub is a private building, owned by the landlord. If he wants to let people smoke then it is should be his business. Nobody ever suggests that he shouldn't serve pints in non-standard measures, block the fire exits, mix up the chopping boards or hire a twelve-piece folk band to sing in the corner. I don't see why people should single out smoking.

Friday, November 04, 2005

"Do you really have to milk that suspense so much?" asked Short Tony from behind his pint.

"What do you mean? They love it really."

"Can't you just tell them that you're only moving out temporarily whilst the builders work?"

"It wouldn't be so much fun. Besides, shhhh, people will hear us talking about the secret internet thing."

"I think I might order a burger."

Thank you for your comments over the last couple of days - I've been a bit busy doing Important Things so haven't been able to reply to clarify matters.

I shall indeed soon be indulging in a complete change of scene. I am moving to an old cottage in a small Norfolk village a couple of miles down the road. Just temporarily, you understand. Narcoleptic Dave has kindly let us stay there whilst building work is being done.

Normal service will continue here, perhaps with a few new characters in a different location. It will be like Joey (the hilarious spin-off from Friends not the man on Blue Peter).

It is now the weekend almost, and I need to do some shopping for the Village Bonfire Party. Have a good one, and there are some good things to read here.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The cottage is the second-oldest in the Village.

Starting life in the 1700s both probably and appropriately as some form of animal piggery place, it seems to have been converted into human accommodation soon afterwards. It was then split into three dwellings, before the gradual gentrification into hovel status that caused such ill-feeling amongst local peasants struggling to get onto the housing ladder.

In the 1800s some enterprising builder raised the roof, to provide a proper 'upstairs', and added a small kitchen and extra bedroom. You still had to go outside for a wee wee, though.

Frank Spencer lived here at some point in the 1970s and carried out some more additions. A small back room and conservatory. Roofing using the latest asbestos technology, he declined to use non-environmentally-friendly concrete for the foundations, relying instead on a natural earth base, reinforced with motorbike tyres.

But you no longer have to go outside for a wee wee at night: simply duck through the five-foot-one doorway into the second bedroom, totter down the narrow flight of stairs, through the lounge, through a short mysterious corridor, through the larder and you get to an indoor bathroom. If you've remembered to switch the hot water on you're able to have a shower as well, although the ceiling's not high enough to actually stand under it.

In the early twenty-first century, I engaged the Cheerful Builder. Strictly speaking a renovator, rather than a builder (although still very cheerful), the Cheerful Builder and his brother, the Cheerful Decorator, made the living area of the house beautiful and lovely and warm and cosy. Granted, there were a few false starts, particularly with regards to the chimney, but nothing a bit of work and the GNP of Portugal couldn't fix.

But now there will be three of us.

Continued tomorrow...

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

"Are you sure you don't want any money for it?"

Len the Fish shook his head firmly. "Naah... don't be stupid."

Accepting joints off men in pubs is not something I do that often. But it was a Sunday lunchtime, and Len the Fish is a kind and generous man, and I was not about to turn him down.

"Get him a pint," I mouthed at the Well-Spoken Barman, who had read my mind with his secret barman powers. I munched on a bit of pork crackling from the bowl on the bar, peckish already.

"Thanks. I've had a bit of a rubbish morning, actually," I revealed.

Having spent much of the early hours waiting around to meet the cricket team in order to do a bit of groundwork, I'd thrown a strop and called one of them asking where the fuck they were. Slipping dramatically on a discarded banana skin; accidentally getting handcuffed to somebody you don't like; forgetting that the clocks change - they're all staples of comedy that never actually happen to anybody. Except, it appears, me. Apart from the banana skin/handcuff thing. So far.

"When are you going to have that then?" he asked, making appreciative 'this is nice beer' faces.

"Not today. Tuesday night, I think. It'll last us a couple of days." I was acutely aware that my dinner-cooking responsibilities had suffered recently. A roast topside with all the trimmings, or even just a few trimmings, might remedy that.

"I'm sorry I couldn't take the half a cow off you in the end," I said. "It's just that we're running the freezer down now, for when we move away, out of the Village at the end of the month."

I had a dim and nagging doubt at the back of my mind that there were some people I'd meant to mention this to.

"Ahh, don't worry," he reassured. "You'll still be able to pop in here occasionally, won't you?"

"Oh I'm sure I will."

"Your table's ready, Jonny." The Unfeasibly Tall Barman had appeared from nowhere, like the shopkeeper in the Mr Benn cartoons.

The LTLP and I walked through to the restaurant. I kept a sharp eye out for discarded fruit peelings on the floor.

Monday, October 31, 2005

The Piano Man arrived.

Seeing that my piano is so old and so important, I had seen fit to engage one of the leading Piano Men in the country. I checked his credentials carefully. The GIF image of a piano on his website seemed plausible enough, so I invited him for an initial consultation.

Terribly well-spokenly, he introduced himself with the flourish of a man to whom flourishy introductions come with ease. I sort of said 'hullo' in return, and we had one of those awkward waiting-for-the-kettle-to-boil chats. He seemed like a thoroughly nice chap. Suitably beNescafed, I led him through to the object of his assignation.

"Oh my goodness, what a simply wonderful piano!" he exclaimed.

"Yes, I..."

"Wonderful! Beautiful!"

"It's been in my family for..."

"Let's look inside. Oh! Gracious! This is marvellous!" He ran his finger over the mahogany like one about to tuck fifty quid into its garter.

"Yes, it's..."

But it was no good. He was transfixed and lost in pianoland. I watched as he undressed the resigned instrument, disrobing it of swathes of panelling until its innards were exposed and vulnerable. With expertly probing fingers he worked gently away at its strings, feeling its felts, squeezing the dampers, uttering little cries of satisfaction at each turn.

At some point I thought I should butt in again.

"So how much do you reckon?" I asked, cutting straight to the chase.

"Ah - well it's in beautiful, beautiful condition. Beautiful. But - there are things that are wrong and that need a complete overhaul or replacing."

"So how much do you reckon?" I asked.

"But on the whole, a beautiful instrument. So rare to find one like this."

"So how much do you reckon?" I asked.

"Well," he pondered. "You could skimp slightly on one or two things. But some aspects do need doing urgently."

"Like what?" I enquired. The answer he gave was a bit like when you get up to about the letter 'M' of that 'I went to the Supermarket and I bought..." game, but with things that can go wrong with a piano.

So how much do you reckon?" I asked. By this point I wasn't actually sure whether it was me speaking that phrase, or whether my voice had been sampled for a rap music track.

"Hummmm..." he said.

"Yes...?" I asked.

"Well the transport from here will be around sixty pounds," he offered finally. "I'll try to get it cheaper for you, but I think we'd better allow about sixty pounds. Just to be safe. So that's [draws breath, frowns, thinks, uses fingers as counting device] mutter mutter sixty pounds mutter mutter possibly cheaper mutter no sixty pounds mutter mutter...

"Around five thousand pounds," he concluded.

"Righhhhhht," I said. I could hear the other items of furniture laughing from the other room.

I did some sums in my head whilst he re-dressed the piano. I often don't read the newspaper on Tuesdays or Wednesdays. That would save one pound 20p a week. I am no good at maths but I knew it would take me ages to save up.

We chatted cordially before he took his leave. I promised to call him with my decision.

Friday, October 28, 2005

The Piano Man arrived.

My piano, squatting in the corner of our tiny dining room, is now in a sorry, sorry state. The notes that used to go 'plink' now go 'plunk'. Some notes don't even do that, and go 'bofff' or '      '.

It is most inconvenient if you are a serious musician. You will be sitting there, attempting to sing and play a beautiful song in order to entertain your LTLP and it will go a bit like this:

Hey Jude, don't be a      ; you were made to go out and bofff her; remember to     her into your      ; then you begin to bofff it bofffher.

This is unsatisfactory, especially when she starts shouting 'shutup shutup shutup the baby is kicking'.

It was made by a posh company called John Brinsmead in around 1901 and has had a lot of famous things written on it, the most well-known of which being 'Sally in Our Alley' which, for younger readers, is not a pornographic film but an annoying song by Gracie Fields. Now it has passed down to another celebrity creative artiste owner i.e. me, JonnyB, and I want to do the best by it.

The 'soft' pedal is hanging off completely now, although I've never really been interested in the 'soft' pedal, which seems to go against the whole idea of pushing your piano up against the party wall. Some of the ivory covers have snapped off the keys as well.

This is going to be annoying, as it's now a bit passe to shoot elephants, even old elephants who don't have much of a quality of life and are just going to be a burden on African society, which really doesn't need any more problems according to experts like Bob Geldof and Toto. I might end up having to use thin bits of wood veneer and Tippex.

But first I thought I would take some expert advice. So I called the Piano Man.

Continued on Monday.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The farmers' market is the highlight of our month.

That sentence probably explains everything about how my life didn't quite turn out as I expected. But it's really good. Honest. There is all different sorts of meat. And when you are bored with the meat you can look at the vegetables.

We stand there, munching our hot dogs, produce voyeurs. "Morning Jonny," says Vegetable Stall #1 Owner, from behind his beard.

Farmers' markets have become extremely popular in the past couple of years, as people have realised the essential rubbishness of fresh supermarket food, viz - it doesn't taste of anything. Plus it is good way of supporting your neighbours. Plus going along makes you feel smug.

But in fact the smug factor is pretty well entirely absent here. I attended the big market in Borough (note to foreigner readers - this is in London and has some pubs) some years back. It was full of people who'd read about it in the Sunday Supplements and had turned up as a day out to purchase a single organic veal and sun-dried tomato pie and a small loaf of 'craft bread'. Here, everybody is here for their weekly shop, and stocking up the freezer for the future.

"Hullo," I say to Meat Stall That Does Mainly Lamb Man. "Hello!" he replies.

A maypole has been set up in the corner of the square, and some children are dancing around it. Even this doesn't spoil my mood. Although I can't quite work out the chronological aspect.

I watch them dancing for a few minutes (not in a pervy way). I am pleased that they and their parents are enjoying it, but as entertainment it is not for me. If you want dancing children then you can say what you like about their appalling human rights record, but as a society we should just accept that North Korea does it better.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

There will be no journal entry today, as I am sulking.

(via Salvadore Vincent)

Monday, October 24, 2005

There is a knock on the door!!!

I breathe deeply before I go to answer it, as this time I know very well who the knocker is. In fact, I have been sitting patiently waiting all day, with my hair gelled into a trendy fashion and my best shirt on.

I subtly peek through the curtains to see the van parked in the lane. I am right!!! It is the Vegetable Delivery Lady on her last ever day at work.

I take a deep breath. Then another deep breath. Then I stand up and walk slowly to the door. My heart is pounding a bit as I walk through the kitchen, so I take another couple of deep breaths to compensate.

It is important to avoid a scene. Much as I like the foxy Vegetable Delivery Lady, we must both keep a stiff upper lip about our parting. I hope that she does not do anything foolish that we will both regret later.

Wearing a grin that is both welcoming and wolfish, and still breathing hard, I throw open the door.

"Hi!!!" I purr, adopting a cool leaning position on the doorframe.

"Hello!" she replies. "Here you go."

She hands me my vegetable box which entails unadopting my leaning position. I breathe a bit more to compensate.

"Oooh they look good this week!" I enthuse.

"I'll see you later, then." She turns and steps away, playing it cool.

"Hang on!!!" I shout at her.

"What?" she asks, looking back and glancing at her watch, to check how much time we will have together.

"Hullo!!!" exclaims Short Tony, appearing from round the corner, and bounding insensitively into our Special Moment. It is like being on that 'Neighbours from Hell' programme on the telly. I shoo him inside, in some irritation.

"See ya then!" the Vegetable Delivery Lady waves from the van.

I wave morosely and stomp back into the house.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Short Tony opened the door in some bleariness.

"Would you like a sausage sandwich?" I asked.

His face lit up, like a spaniel discovering a lower-than-expected tax bill. "Not half," he said.

"Great. Have you got any bread?"

Truth be told, we are both feeling slightly fragile this morning. A magnificent dinner was held at the Village Pub last night, in honour of Trafalgar Day. Here in the village we are scrupulous about honouring our local historical heroes. Admittedly, we got the date wrong, but that is a minor point.

Being very tight, we didn't actually attend the magnificent dinner, but instead sat at the bar and befriended the Chef, who, in collusion with the Well-Spoken Barman, smuggled us out some roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.

Lord Nelson is an extremely important person, as if it wasn't for him we would all be French, and look where that would have got us. As it was, here we were centuries later, still free to sit in the pub and eat roast beef and drink Stella.

Nelson, very much like Ronnie Barker, touched the lives of all of us and it is good that we made the effort to go to the pub. Community spirit and neighbourly acts are alive and well in England today, e.g. my kind offer to make Short Tony's breakfast.

I scooted back to the cottage, to see if the LTLP had finished cooking our sausages.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Waves of indifference radiated from her every fibre as I pointed out my difficulty.

From some unspecified overseas location, she had the air of one who had been promised an interesting and lucrative job in the sex industry only to find herself being forcibly trafficked into the provincial hotel reception business.

"It doesn't lock, you see. It does look to me that somebody has kicked it down recently and it hasn't been mended. In fact the whole door frame is hanging off."

"I'll get someone to look at it," she said, in a tone that made me want to sprint off down to William Hill and put a tenner on the 'David Cameron/Nobody will look at our hotel room door' accumulator.

We pulled the door as shut as we could, consumed our hotel breakfast, and made our way into the beautiful market town of Ludlow.

Ludlow is a very notable place, most famous for being the headquarters of 'Crash' computer magazine in the 1980s. We explored the castle and shops, mainly the food shops, until sudden and unexpected explosive diarrhoea forced a curtailment.

It would have been nice to have spent an extra day exploring, but I'd forgotten to book the hotel for the third night. Still, this allowed the Pneumatic Drill man to continue digging up the concrete outside our bedroom window in peace.

We returned home, refreshed after our small break in the country.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

I am going away!!!

On holiday.

I shall be back at the end of next week. Thank you for your patience and continued interest.

Friday, October 14, 2005

We go to the Hospital.

This is because they need to scan periodically to check that the baby is still in the LTLP, rather than because I am ill, e.g. with the lurgee. Although I have been coughing and sniffling over the past few days.

I think I might have had that avian flu thing, or maybe the 1918 Spanish version that they recently re-created in an American Government laboratory, despite security fears that it might be stolen and fall into the hands of fundamentalists and warmongers (note sophisticated political satire, truly I am the Peter Cook of my generation). Mothers-to-be glare at me and cover their bumps as I spread infection and phlegm round the waiting room.

The Stenographer Lady works at her black and white screen, cheerful as always, although I would be as well if my job was just like sitting down and playing 1980's arcade game 'Asteroids' all day, but for free and with women undressing. She does lots of measuring. Then she turns to us and breaks the news.

My baby has a big head!!!

Whereas the child itself is developed as is normal for (x) weeks, his/her head is of the dimensions that is normal for (x+1) weeks!!! I stagger back at the revelation.

It has already been demonstrated, very early in this body of writing, that I - its father - do not have a big head. Yet here is this woman - a professional - demonstrating large headdom in my infant.

I steal a glance at the LTLP. She does not look guilty and unfaithful. But if she has been secretly having affairs with large-headed men behind my back then I will be cross.

I ponder this on the way home, all sorts of thoughts going round my (normal sized) mind.

Monday, October 10, 2005

I cooked an oxtail.

Being, as I am, an extraordinarily new new-man, I have always prided myself on the scrumptious fare that awaits the LTLP on her return from work. However, one thing that has transpired over the past year or so is that I have forgotten how to cook.

Circumstances, you see. For weeks on end, she wanted nothing but bacon and tomatoes on toast. Then I found myself on crutches and unable to glide round the kitchen with my usual fernbrittanness. Then I got really busy and didn't have time. Plus I really, really like takeaways.

So I cooked an oxtail. I did this because a) it's apparently quite trendy these days; b) it caught my eye in the shop; and c) I've never done it before and one should try new things. Which sound like sound and reasonable enough reasons, until you realise that they're the sort of tempting arguments that can lead to a) growing a goatee; b) buying 'Zoo' magazine; and c) being arrested in the playground.

And so it was that five hours later I was scraping a plate furiously into the bin and ringing the Chinese Pub to source emergency rations.

There are several pointers one can examine to decide whether a meal is worth eating. One is that you should not be able to turn your plate one hundred and eighty degrees vertically so that it is completely upside-down, without your dinner accordingly obeying the force of gravity. As it was, a combination of gelatine and sci-fi strength surface tension conspired to offer an unappetising V-sign to the laws of physics.

A second is this. If one tries a bit of the gravy during the cooking process, and swills it round the mouth thoughtfully, thinking: "gosh that reminds me of something!" then five minutes later the revelation should not be: "oh yes, a Fray Bentos pie".

I yield to no man in my admiration of the great chefs who have put traditional English cooking on the map recently: Fearnley-Whittingstall, Henderson, Harriot. But the fact is that people ate peasant food in the past because they were peasants. Boiled pig's cock and the like were the only options available for the poor downtrodden masses in Walpole's Britain, and reviving it as gourmet is the affectation of an idiot.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Continued from yesterday...

Chigga Chigga

Chig Chig Chig Chig Chig

I swayed slightly. "It'll have to be the Proclaimers one," I hiss. The Chipper Barman, who has just finished work and is therefore very sober, gives me a Look.

To recap. A normal evening in the village. I am at a party, being thrown by the Drumming Barman for his friends. Having agreed to back the Drumming Barman in some musical entertainment, he disappears to take a phone call and I find myself glassy-eyed, standing in front of a crowd of people I don't know, one of whom I have already accidentally exposed myself to, playing the introduction to one of the only two songs I can remember when drunk: 'I will be (500 Miles)' by The Proclaimers.

Chig Chig Chig Chig Chig Chig Chig

The Chipper Barman joins in on bass. Bom Bom Bom Bom

I remember something important.

"Are there any people from Scotland here?" I mumble in to the microphone.

No response. A few bemused shakes of the head. This is good. If one is going to sing a Proclaimers song, one has to affect a broad Scottish accent. It is not quite the same as blacking up to sing 'What's Going On', but the principle is broadly similar.

"Oh good," I affirm.

Chig Chig Chig Cha-Cha Chig Chig Chig

I steal a glance behind me. The Drumming Barman has disappeared completely. We have been Chigging for a good two minutes now, and there is no sign of any miracle escape. There is nothing for it.

I sing the first verse of 'I will be (500 Miles)' by The Proclaimers.

I then sing the chorus.

Two things transpire from this. Firstly, when I say 'I know the song', it turns out that I kind of know the chorus and the dadilee-ada bit, and the fact that the first verse is something about waking up, but that is really the extent of my lyrical knowledge. I improvise.

The second thing is that the chorus really does draw its power from two magnificent voices in close harmony. In the original.

I sing the dadilee-ada bit. Some people sing 'dadilee-ada' back at me, which is encouraging. I sing it again and it happens again. The first bit is over.

Chig Chig Chig Cha-Cha Chig Chig Chig

I steal a look at the Chipper Barman, who gives me a shrug and melts further back into the shadows. Another desperate glance over my shoulder. I can see the Drumming Barman outside, on the phone. He is clearly involved in a long conversation.

I sort of extend the bit between the verses with some more Chigs. The problem is, it's not one of those songs that you can pad out. There isn't a guitar solo, or an improvisey bit, or anything like that. It's too tight. I look into the crowd. People are clearly growing restless with my Chigs.

I sing the first verse again, followed by the chorus. Then the dadilee-ada bit. I get some dadilee-adas back. For safety reasons, I sing the dadilee-ada bit a few more times. Unfortunately dadilee-adas seem to be subject to a law of diminishing returns and before too long we are all back to the Chig Chig bits. The Chig Chig bits never really had any cachet to begin with, but they allow me to pause and collect my thoughts.

The Chipper Barman stands there, impassively. Bom Bom Bom Ba Ba Bom Bom Bom. There is still no sign of the Drumming Barman, and his guests are starting to question the value of the entertainment on offer. The wine has really hit me now, but despite it all, I have a brainwave.

I sing the first verse of 'I will be (500 Miles)' by The Proclaimers.

I am providing the only noise in the room at all. The chorus, again, goes badly until the very end, when there is a little cheer. I knew I would win them over in the end!!! But it is not for me - the Drumming Barman has reappeared through the patio doors behind me.

Just in time for the dadilee-adas. He is such a glory boy. We finish on a crescendo and there is a smattering of applause.

"Sorry chaps," says the Drumming Barman. "Right. Shall we do a song?"

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The guests at the Drumming Barman's leaving party gathered round, expectantly.

I fiddled with a guitar lead, somewhat nervously. I'd envisaged slightly different scenarios for the Village Pub Band's debut gig.

As it was, that expectation threw me. When one is slightly unprepared, one looks for familiar faces in the room who will like you because they're your friend, rather than because you are brilliant. Aside from Short Tony and Big A, there was nobody I knew. All strangers, mates of the Drumming Barman, waiting to be impressed by his musician buddies. Beside me, the Chipper Barman tuned his bass guitar, similarly on his own in the room.

It would be up to the Drumming Barman to carry this one.

Thinking back, the phrase 'slightly unprepared' might have been understatement. We hadn't rehearsed at all. Or met beforehand. Or talked about what songs we knew. Small matters, I know, but ones which most competent pop groups would have had sorted before the house lights went down.

As noted on Monday, I was also quite drunk, having downed several pints, several more glasses of wine and exposed myself to a blonde female lawyer.

I have a bit of a problem with drinking and playing the guitar. That is - and I am sure this is the sole reason why my pop career never took off - when I'm drunk I can only ever remember two songs. This would be limiting enough as it was. The fact that my two songs are 'Ain't No Pleasing You' by Chas 'n' Dave and 'I will be (500 Miles)' by the Proclaimers, does tend to restrict me to niche audiences.

"What are we going to play?" hissed the Chipper Barman.

I dropped my guitar pick and scrabbled around on the floor whilst the Drumming Barman worked the crowd. He's a popular chap. With myself and the Chipper Barman as his backing band, we could possibly carry things off with the force of his personality. I started playing a chord. Chigga Chigga. Chigga Chigga. Some applause. The room focused on the Drumming Barman, oozles of goodwill coming from all his friends.

Chigga Chigga. Chigga Chigga.

"Phone call for the Drumming Barman," somebody announced.

"Won't be a second, chaps," he promised, and disappeared from the room.

Chigga Chigga.

The crowd turned to us. Expectation. A couple of them folded their arms. I exchanged a glance with the Chipper Barman. Silence.

Chigga Chigga.

Continued tomorrow.

Monday, October 03, 2005

I could see that she was impressed by my sophistication.

We stood in the kitchen at the Drumming Barman's leaving party, chatting. I was doing most of the chatting, anyway. I do like a good listener.

Despite being quite shy, I am actually very witty and urbane in real life, and in fact get more witty and more urbane with each glass of wine I drink, until I am so witty and so urbane that I just get overcome and have to have a lie down.

The foxy blonde lawyer laughed uproariously at one of my jokes. Actually, she laughed quite quietly and understatedly, being too classy to really roar like most people do when I say something witty. Her eyes darted round the room nervously, probably due to worry that she was making it too obvious that she was interested in me.

I metaphorically adjusted my tie. It is unusual that I find someone like me to talk to who oozes class and breeding. Short Tony and Big A swigged beer like the peasants that they are. I sipped my Blossom Hill with suavity.

All this made the later misunderstanding so much more annoying. Clearly it was not my fault that I broke the toilet door, nor was it down to me that the locky bit was a bit rubbish in the first place. The fact that my stomach had got a bit dodgy was down to the forces of nature, and one can blame a lack of communication for the 'if the door's shut, don't go in' protocol not to have been spread and adopted by all.

"Oh God, I'm really, so, so, sorry," she stammered.

I gazed up at her glassily, swaying slightly from side to side, wondering what to say, my pants round my ankles.

She backed away and pulled the door to.

We didn't speak again that evening.

This small story tails off here, but I had to write it anyway for one reason.

I have always wanted to use the phrase 'my pants around my ankles' without having to follow it with '(actually that was a joke)'.

In fact that was my one remaining ambition in life.

Where do I go now?

Saturday, October 01, 2005

2005: Blogged. As advertised on the right hand side. Now available to pre-order from Amazon.

Edited by Tim, who has occasionally said very nice things about this small body of work, it's a sort of anthology on the main events of the past year and what blog people wrote about them. Well that's how I understand it, anyway. I haven't actually read it yet.

Its specific 'in the news' subject matter means that its main contributors will (I guess) tend to be those people that mainly write about national current affairs and events etc., rather than mainly about their own lives and relationships. There is possibly a sister volume to be written on that front that would be at least as interesting.

Anyway, I have a bit in it, probably as some light relief. A bit like when Shakespeare brought on the thicko idiot characters to lighten the mood a bit when the heroine was faced with execution. It's not new material (you can read it for free here (what a great salesman I am)) but it's on proper paper and stuff.

Friday, September 30, 2005

I gaze apprehensively at the Kwik Fit centre.

I am in the LTLP's girly car and I feel rising anxiety. Aside from builders' merchants, garages and mechanics are probably the most intimidating business for the man-who-is-not-particularly-sure-of-himself to approach. I don't know much about the workings of cars, apart from the fact that the right pedal makes it go faster and you should press the middle pedal if someone walks out in front of you, unless it is Anthony Worrell Thompson. That is an unmanly state of affairs. I am sure most mechanics think I am effeminate because of this and the fact that they can somehow tell that I don't know much about football, whereas nothing could be further from the truth.

I park Daisy the car before taking the flower from its little vase and hiding it in the glovebox.

I lurk at the back of the reception area. A man looks at me. I don't quite put my hand up and say 'please sir, would you have a look at my tyres?' but I may as well have done. My voice comes out all squeaky. The Kwik Fit fitters are already probably a bit annoyed at me because I have interrupted their song.

He collects his useful tyre-measuring tool and follows me outside. "It is this one," I say, indicating Daisy. I am impressed by his professionalism in concealing his smirk and the loathing and contempt he must feel for me and my effeminate car.

"They're fine," he announces, having utilised his useful tyre-measuring tool.

"You sure?"

"They're fine," he repeats. "Four or five thousand miles left on those."

Again, I have been exposed by my lack of knowledge on the 'how worn tyres can be' front. But truth told, I am impressed by his honesty. He could clearly have made a packet from my ignorance but he has decided to be truthful and tell me no work needs doing. Or he is worried about catching AIDS from touching the car. I thank him profusely and drive off at speed making sure that the stereo is turned up very loudly so he knows I am hard really.

The Proclaimers belt out of the speakers as I hit the main drag of King's Lynn.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Late evening. I sit watching the television.

Barking and whining noises fill the room. I frown into my glass of whisky. Yelp, yelp, bark, bark, yelp. After a while I realise that it is not Bob Dylan and is in fact coming from next door.

Yelp, bark, yelp, bark, bark.

This is very unusual. Short Tony's remaining dog is normally one of the quietest I know. It never just sits there and barks. An animal of weak intellect, it only ever really makes much of a commotion when somebody it knows rings the doorbell. Yet there it is, going crazy.

Bark, bark, bark, yelp, growl.

It seems odd that I haven't heard any "shut up you stupid dog" yells. There is a bit more barking. A small worry forms at the back of my mind. I would feel very foolish if Short Tony and his family had been burgled, pick-axe murdered etc. whilst I just sat there spinning theories about why his faithful dog was in distress.

Thing is, after all of fifteen minutes, I would have expected to have heard a gun-shot by now. If he was being burgled, pick-axe murdered etc. then I would have expected him to have shot the person responsible, whereas if he wasn't then I would have expected him to have shot the dog.

So I am starting to get worried.

By now I am of the opinion that Short Tony is out. (See 'absence of shooting noises' paragraph, above). I do not know about Mrs Short Tony and the kids. She would be less likely to shoot a burglar, pick-axe murderer etc. Or a dog. She might play her tenor horn very loudly and aggressively at him.

But there are no loud tenor horn noises followed by screams of distress. Just barks. And yelps.

I decide to investigate. Crime is very rare in this part of the world, so if a burglar alarm goes off etc., it is a big deal and there is generally an attempt by the neighbourhood to investigate. There is no reason why this shouldn't be the same with a doesn't-usually-woof-but-is-now-woofing-dog.

The gravel scrunches under my feet as I head out into the dark and cold.

I wave my big torch in front of me. Halfway across the path to Short Tony's I have a sort of cold feet moment, and wonder whether I should ditch the torch in favour of a gun. I think better of it.

Scrunch, scrunch, woof, bark, yelp, growl (etc.)

The house is dark. I peer through the front window, trying to establish whether anybody is in or not. I can't see Short Tony, Mrs Short Tony, a burglar or a pick-axe murderer. This is a relief, although of course this makes me a bit more nervous that they are hiding and ready to jump out on me. (The burglar or pick-axe murderer, not Short Tony or Mrs Short Tony).

I reach the side of the house. At this point I realise that actually it's not beyond the bounds of possibility that it will be Short Tony who jumps out on me and shoots me, mistaking me for a burglar or a pick-axe murderer. Or his dog. I try to make reassuring 'it's only me' footstep noises.

The front door seems secure. There is no burglar or pick-axe murderer, unless he is clever and has broken in causing no damage and is hiding. Mrs. Short Tony's car is not there. They are out. I scuttle back home in relief.

Ten minutes later I hear their car on the gravel. I wait for five minutes, just in case there are pick-axeing noises, but there aren't. So I slip upstairs to bed.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

We watched the Bob Dylan television programme, 'No Direction Home', directed by Martin Scorsese.

I was quite interested. The LTLP lay on the sofa, radiating 'this is shit' vibes. She is not an intellectual like me.

I don't know much about Martin Scorsese but he also did the video for 'Bad' by Michael Jackson so he clearly knows a lot about film making. It was pretty good but I think he could have broken it up a bit more by including clips of people like Paul Ross, Kate Thornton etc. talking about the songs, his funny hat and haircut etc.

Scorsese showed him playing in Newcastle with his controversial new electric backing band. They were brilliant and it was an unexpectedly good recording quality as well. Unfortunately Bob Dylan seemed to be a bit pissed and just stood there looking at the ceiling and shouting the words. He was rubbish. I would have yelled at him as well. Just because he is a genius doesn't mean that he shouldn't make a bit of an effort to hit the notes.

Although one thing was noticeable - the hecklers were loud and cross-sounding, but by no means the obvious majority. They just shouted the loudest. Like angry commenters on a political web log they just wanted to spoil it for everybody else.

Tonight we will presumably see the famous heckle of 'Judas!' followed by Dylan's equally famous put-down reply of 'I don't belieeeve you'. He must lie awake at nights still thinking "why oh why could I not think of a better comeback than that? Something like 'oh yes, I remember my first pint' or something."

Was he a genius? Of course, and a visionary. Only recently people have been talking about how he anticipated the levees breaking in New Orleans, and the Mayor of that city must be kicking himself for not sorting out the pumps whose handles had been so irresponsibly removed by vandals. And there was quite a hard rain the other night, or certainly there was to the south over towards Swaffham.

But now with my Post Office stuff Bob has passed the baton, and it is one that I am happy to pick up and run with. Popular music no longer has the power it once had to change the world, and it is now up to us New Journalists. It is a big responsibility but I will try not to let him down.

I do not normally do TV reviews on here, as fans expect stories about Short Tony getting drunk.

This is my 'gone electric'.

My favourite Bob Dylan album
Kate Thornton IMDB entry

Monday, September 26, 2005

"Well that was really terribly good," I remarked to Narcoleptic Dave.

Nods of appreciation all round.

We chattered away enthusiastically as we left the Arts Centre, like extras in a BBC drama who have been instructed to behave like typical people leaving an Arts Centre. In fact Bill Bryson's one-man show, imaginatively titled 'An Evening with Bill Bryson' had been excellent. He is one of those people that manages to write tight, very funny vignettes about nothing in particular, which is the most difficult type of writing there is, and only the most brilliant can do it.

A lady thrust something into my hand, and my whole world came crashing down around me.

Occasionally, especially as one approaches the second half of one's life, one notices little signs about ageing. A more-than-passing interest in the snooker. Annoyance about loud music. Television programmes that one watches being interrupted by stairlift commercials. That sort of thing.

I read the flyer.

'Alan Titchmarsh presents "Fill my Stocking" - a Christmas Anthology'.

Now, I have nothing whatsoever against Alan Titchmarsh. Easy targets are Not My Bag, and having a go at Alan Titchmarsh is not so much like shooting fish in a barrel than chucking two litres of rohypnol into the aforementioned barrel and following it with a stick of dynamite. He has his audience and I have mine. (I suspect actually his audience is a bit larger but it's quality that counts and besides he has been on the telly which is unfair).

But the fact that one has been singled out as somebody likely to enjoy 'Alan Titchmarsh presents "Fill my Stocking" - a Christmas Anthology' does tend to hit hard.

My legs carried on walking and I looked back, desperately. The ladies with the fliers weren't giving them to everyone. They were choosing. Holding back. Picking the people most likely to attend.

Typical Alan Titchmarsh. The fliers probably cost about 0.000001p each, and still he had instructed his henchwomen to be thrifty in their distribution.

Sadly I walked out on to the street.

"Do you fancy a pint?" asked Big A.

The rest of the party nodded enthusiastically. Narcoleptic Dave went home for an early night.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Today's diary entry is at Baggage Reclaim - the new website for everybody with a vagina. Follow the link from the home page.

NML, the editor, asked me to write it. I think it is good that in these 21st Century days of diversity and equality women are allowed their own website, and will support it all I can.

Enjoy your weekends.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

"This is really, really not what I feel like doing this morning."

Sunday. Standing in the Chipper Barman's back garden. Short Tony and Big A are there. In front of us is a shed.

"Thanks everso for offering to help, guys."

I am not sure about this new use of the word 'offer'. I resolve to look it up on the Internet when I get home, in case I am wrong and it also means 'to consent, possibly under the influence of rohypnol'.

"So basically, the shed's been constructed here, and it's currently resting on bricks mortared to individual concrete slab bases that I laid there earlier. What I've done is to set down these wooden planks over here, so the shed can sit levelly. These other planks under here, we can use for lifting it sideways onto the new foundations."

I am already intimidated by the Chipper Barman's DIY prowess. Whilst I have lots of sheds, he has built one himself, laid proper foundations and formulated a shed-moving strategy. My hangover and tiredness boosts my sense of manly inadequacy. My cock shrinks to Berliner format.

"Can I have a light corner?" I ask.

"You can have any corner you choose," replies the Chipper Barman kindly. This is good, but makes me feel even worse. The Chipper Barman is actually only about the size of Short Tony. They take heavy-looking corners. Big A, who is disabled, takes the heaviest.

"I think we'd better go very slowly," I offer. "In case it... falls to pieces or something."

"On the count of three," announces the Chipper Barman. This is a mistake in my mind, as I would prefer to lift it on the count of 237239.

We reach 'three' and lift the shed unsteadily. It is a bit like the World's Strongest Man thing that they used to have on the telly where a fat Dutchman used to have to lift an articulated lorry and hold it unsteadily above his head for five seconds before his legs buckled and he dropped it to one side. But with a shed.

We put the shed down on my finger.

My life flashes before me as the pain hit, which is quite depressing. I shout 'fuck' a lot. I would start jumping around in agony, but my hand is pinned to the ground by a shed. Short Tony wanders over to my corner, lifts the thing again on his own and I withdraw my hand. I am expecting crushed bones and bleeding, but I appear only to have a little graze, which is a bit disappointing.

I have often been told that I have very strong fingers, but not in this context.

We move the shed. Sweat pours off me, dripping on to the concrete below. With a final push, we have shifted it the five or so feet required.

"That's great, fellers. Can I buy you a beer?"

I make my excuses and leave.

Monday, September 19, 2005

"Why don't you move that table?"

"What table?"

"That table."

We are sat round in a big circle in the Non-Village Pub. Such a big circle that we have outgrown our table.

"Move that second table into the middle," she says.

I look at the second table. It seems comfortable where it is. I give it a little tug. It moves slightly, revealing that it is not fixed in position, but it makes a big scraping sound on the floor that everyone can see. The Bar Lady looks over, sternly.

I do not want to move the table. If I move the table, a man will probably appear and shout at me. I have spent my whole life worrying about doing things in case a man appears and shouts at me, and at my age it is too late to change this approach.

"No go on, just move it in to the middle."

They are all at it now. Trying to make me move the table. It is peer pressure. I flinch slightly under its power. I know that peer pressure is a terrible thing. One minute you are politely declining to do something, the next minute you are Zammo Maguire.

I move the table another grillionth of an inch. It makes another scraping noise, this time of immense decibality. Upstairs in his office, I can see the man putting down his pen and sighing and saying 'somebody is trying to move that table again, I will go down and shout at them'.

"Give us a hand," I say to nobody in general, desperately trying to share the responsibility for the moved table for when it gets to court.

But everybody suddenly looks at their feet and doesn't meet my eye. A couple pretend not to hear.
Nobody else wants to move the table either.

"Do we really need to move the table?" somebody asks.

There is a chorus of 'no, no, we do not really need to move the table at all's.

This is England in a nutshell. Whilst we would like people to bend the rules on our behalf, in fact when it comes down to it we all have respect for the rule of law and order in our society. If I had moved the table they would all have been quite admiring of my ability to flout convention and move a table that clearly was not meant to be moved, but they would also have been a tiny bit contemptuous and talked about it afterwards. Hypocritically, this would have been after they had accepted the benefit of the moved table in terms of putting their drinks on it.

I smiled inwardly at their blatant two-facedness that might have happened.

None of us are perfect, you see. But we can aspire.

Friday, September 16, 2005


Back in June, readers may remember that I started a massive nation-wide campaign to save the Village Post Office from closure.

Thank you all, for your support.

I was worried that somebody would come along and close it, but nobody has, so I think the time is right to wind down the activity. Plus frankly I'm sick to the back teeth with hearing the song. They can bulldoze the place into dust for all I care.

From a small little protest to stop something from happening that might or might not have happened in the future, the impact of the campaign spread far and wide. People told their friends and colleagues. Created logos. Wrote things in newspapers. Mowed things into their gardens. This is the New Journalism that is making people like R Murdoch, L Beaverbrook etc. so worried.

But now the campaign passes into history.

Last month I received an email enquiry from the Centre for Political Song at Glasgow Caledonian University. This facility 'exists to promote and foster an awareness of all forms of political song.'

To be honest, I thought they were taking the mick, so I was a bit defensive to begin with. But it turns out that they weren't, and now 'Save the Post Office' is wending its way into their collection, to join Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie and people.

It seems an appropriate resting place.

They also have the free Nelson Mandela song by Special AKA in their archive and that all worked out OK apart from all that unpleasantness with his wife, so I am hopeful that that is a positive sign for the Village Post Office.

Will it close? Will it stay open? I suspect the answer to that is blowing in the wind.

So for the last time:

Watch the video
Listen to the song

Enjoy your weekends, whatever you're doing.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

I telephone my friend Salvadore Vincent.

"Ring ring! Ring ring!"

NB that was not me talking, that was a special effect of the phone ringing.

Salvadore Vincent is my best friend (apart from of course the hundreds of you that read this, and Short Tony and Big A, and Unluckyman who is in South America so probably won't see this anyway and so has gone down the pecking order a bit) and has guested on here before. We don't see each other much these days as he lives off the beaten track in North West London.

"Hello?" he asks.

"Hullo," I reply.

The pleasantries out of the way, I ask him my special favour. I lean against a wall in Fakenham town centre, holding my portable telephone like the Important Executive I am. But I need his help.

"Is your PC switched on? Could you go on to the Internet and find one of those lists of wedding anniversaries? You know - paper, cotton, that sort of thing?"

Salvadore starts tappity tapping away at the keyboard in the background.

"It's just that I'm near some shops, which is unusual, and I don't know what sort of thing to buy."

Seconds later, the magic of the internet has delivered the information that I need. "I've got one!!!" he exclaims in excitement.

"That's wonderful. So what sort of thing do I need to buy?"

"Which anniversary is it?"

"This is my second question. I was wondering if you can tell me in what year I got married."

(A short pause).

"I'm not sure I can, no."

I sigh into the phone. He is not being helpful after all.

In truth, I am a bit piqued. I spent loads on that wedding, and invited him, and there was a free bar and everything, and a really good band. But it seems that my special day meant so little to him that he can't even remember when it was.

We chat about other things for a couple of minutes. But my heart is not in it.

It is sad when your friends let you down.