Friday, April 30, 2004

I haven’t switched on Top of the Pops for fifteen years or so, just in case Bryan Adams is still at number one with his fucking Robin Hood song.

Radio-wise I can receive KLFM (King’s Lynn), BBC Radio Norfolk and Lincs FM. None of which are cutting-edge in the tunes department.

Of course, there are the national BBC stations. Which really means Radio 2. (I don’t want to sound at all not-with-it, but Radio 1 just seems to play loud drum machines with people shouting).

My 56k modem precludes Internet Radio, and lack of public transport means that local gigs would be a sober experience. And I don’t do gigs sober, especially local ones.

And given that I’m a bit bored with my CD and record collection, I haven’t listened to much music recently.

This situation is been addressed, however, as my grandmother is giving me her piano. From now on, we shall be making our own entertainment!

It shall be like one of those period dramas, with guests conversing politely in the drawing room whilst Kate Winslet plonks away in the next room. Crossed with the Courage Best commercial, featuring Chas ‘n’ Dave.

I have already warned Short Tony about this, and he seems relaxed. The party wall between us is a rare example of 18th-century nanotechnology, and I was concerned that he would regard the introduction of a piano as a Cuban-missile-crisis-like escalation provoked by his young daughter’s recent violin lessons.

My only problem now is how to move it from Essex to Norfolk. It weighs about seventeen tons, and I need to do it on the cheap.

My first thought was to contact some medical students and convince them that I am organising a piano push, in aid of Comic Relief. However, I’m not sure the castors are up to it, and I’m wary about the level crossing at Littleport.

My mother has sourced a specialist removal person. He calls himself ‘The Piano Man’, which does imply some expertise in this area.

He’s up for it. I’m up for it.

The long winter evenings will never be the same.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

I’ve just returned from a three-and-a-half hour seminar at the Inland Revenue.

As far as I can work out, it was about numbers and stuff. I had anticipated a turgid morning, but still arrived slightly late and hungover.

The lady running it was very nice; however all the workings-out made my headache worse, and before the end of the first hour, my arse problem had kicked in again. Add that to the fact that I’d not had time to visit the toilet before the half-time break, and it was a fairly uncomfortable session all round.

I now need to explain to the LTLP that letting her use the car is not tax-efficient. There is a bus, and it would be straightforward for her to take that to the station each morning, if she got out of bed half an hour earlier and was a bit more flexible with her arrangements.

I now need to clear up wine bottles and make tea.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

The premise of the ‘Police Academy’ films is quite straightforward.

The Authorities are concerned at a severe drop in the number of good people signing up. So rather than do anything sensible to address this, they throw open the doors to anybody who fancies it. Hilarious consequences ensue.

This is the argument for giving votes to sixteen year-olds.

The government should not be basing major constitutional change on the Police Academy films. It is madness.

I don’t usually write about politics, but I’ve been catching up on a lot of newspapers recently. And now I wish I hadn’t because I get so blackly depressed about the sheer living-on-planet-Zog-ness of most politicians. And the fact they’re guided by newspaper editors, who know very well what the real world is like, but choose to ignore this in favour of manufactured indignation and synthetic outrage. (I think that might be one and the same thing, just with different words).

So I’m fighting back. Given that, in percentage terms, this blog has shown a larger year-on-year readership increase than all the national newspapers put together, I feel justified in putting forward the following constitutional proposals:

Item one – new technology
A microchip shall be inserted in everybody’s TV. Citizens will then accrue eligibility points based on their viewing, with only those people with a positive score allowed to vote.

Positive points will be given for programmes that are informative about the issues of the day. Panorama, Newsnight, etc.

Negative points will be given for programmes made for the brain-dead. Hartbeat, Through the Keyhole, any programme featuring Steve Penk, etc.

Extra negative points shall be allocated for ‘Tonight with Trevor McDonald’, watched by people who think they’re intellectual because they can sing all the words to ‘Imagine’.

Item two – other bars/extensions to the franchise
The following people will be allowed to vote, whatever:
  • Prisoners.
    Barring prisoners from voting is perverse. They are the only people with the time to read all the newspapers, discuss and form judgements on the major issues, etc. They also have experience of the criminal justice system, are more likely to be a victim of crime, come from deprived social backgrounds etc.

The following people will not be allowed to vote, whatever:
  • Children under 18
  • Pensioners
  • Tim the chef from that Gordon Ramsay programme on the telly last night

Item three – political advertising
All political advertising shall be banned. It is nasty and dishonest. The parties shall be allowed one letter to the electorate, which the electorate must study and absorb as there will be a system of random spot checks.

It shall consist of two sides of A4, printed in 12-point Courier. It will explain clearly what the party would do should it be elected.

Before dispatch, the contents of the letter shall be scrutinised by a small panel of the most wise and respected members of British society. That is, me, and the elderly Sikh bloke that did the marathon.

I would be prepared to allow Comic Sans, if it made the politicians feel that they were striking a blow for the youth vote.

Item four – newspaper bias
It is clear that in a democracy, journalists should be free to write in support the party of their choice. However, the privilege of influencing our opinion must be paid for in some way.

At the end of each newspaper edition, political opinions expressed will be carefully logged and the proprietor charged a fee for each that is not balanced by an equal and opposite point of view.

Monies raised will be allocated to non-fashionable sweep-under-the-carpet things like mental health care, rehabilitation of offenders, etc.

Journalists will protest that this would be completely impractical. However, it would be easy, using PayPal.

Costs payable will be calculated by the same panel (see item three). For reasons of irony, I will judge the broadsheets and tabloids whilst Mr Singh will evaluate the Daily Mail and Express.

This is a long post, for which I apologise.

However, it is important that we get this right.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

I can hardly move.

Sunday morning was the first cricket practice of the season, and for me, the first in five or so years.

I started stiffening up yesterday morning. By lunchtime, bits of me had locked immovably into inconvenient positions, and by the end of the day I felt like a ninety-three year old who’d recently been given a good seeing-to by men with baseball bats.

I’m now loping around the house like an extra in a Hammer film. My neck doesn’t seem to be working properly, and one side of me seems to be longer than the other.

To cap it off, there is a big cricket-ball shaped bruise right in the middle of my stomach, the result, I suspect, of a ‘let’s welcome the new boy’ conference amongst the fast bowlers.

As fit as one thinks one is, cricket exposes the fact that there are esoteric muscles one just doesn’t use to their full extent, sitting down at the PC all day.

My current condition makes me all the more admiring of my father, who is in his seventies and still plays several times a week. Still, being retired means he’s got time to lay about being stiff, whereas I am a thrusting executive professional who can't afford to be in less than 100% shape.

The LTLP had a lousy commute last night, and arrived home half an hour late following a train cancellation then vomiting incident in the packed carriage. She was immediately cross at the state of the kitchen, taking no account whatsoever of my Christopher-Reevesness, and the evening was not improved by our lousy score of 50 points at ‘University Challenge’.

I am down, dear reader. I am down.

Monday, April 26, 2004

I’ve never been much good at finishing off jobs.

You know, the tidying up bit. I think it might be a blokey thing. That syndrome where the kitchen looks like it’s been hit by a cyclone, with every single plate, pot, pan and bowl you own still crying out to be washed and put away three days after you’ve prepared a small baked potato for lunch.

There’s nothing quite like pulling out ones cricket boots in May, to find them caked with September mud and mould, and stuffed with two used socks and an old toe plaster.

And who can say that their camping holiday has not been enhanced by turning up to a wet field in Wales to discover that the inside of their tent is a deep shade of mildew?

I wish, I wish, I wish I’d cleaned off the barbecue last year.

I just don’t understand people. They insist on buying anti-bacterial cleaning wipes, thus laying us all open to death-by-superbug, but are quite happy to gorge themselves from a barbecue. Even my barbecue.

I was gonna do it. I remember. I had the scrapey thing and wire brush all ready, but I recall it was spitting with rain, we had people round, so I chucked it in the shed and promised: ‘I’ll do it in a bit’.

So cut to yesterday. I stepped back in alarm, then gazed in fascination at the interesting civilisation that had arisen on what I’d planned to cook dinner on in... two hours’ time. It was clearly highly noxious. I half expected Hans Blix to leap out from behind a tree, shouting ‘aha!!!’

They say that you know within eight hours whether food has poisoned you, and I’m still walking and talking. I examined my poo carefully this morning, and found nothing untoward. The key now will be to have a barbecue every single day between now and the end of summer, to avoid ever having to clean it off again.

And you’ll be pleased to know – my Sunday newspaper was there.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Yesterday was a bit of a milestone for me - one year since the big life-change.

I feel that I should do something appropriate to mark it - spend the day on Brancaster beach, for instance, or at the very least enjoy a crab sandwich in the garden.

However, with a twist of irony, I have a meeting in London.

But it's a beautiful day, and nothing can get my mood down. Drawing into Ely from the North is one of the great railway journeys of the world, and even if WAGN doesn't quite reach the Orient Express in terms of opulence, I've already wolfed a top-notch bacon roll, downed a cup of tea and read the sports pages.

The vacant seat opposite is occupied by a girl with beautiful, beautiful breasts.

Now THERE'S “a delicious source of milk goodness”

Shit! I am turning into Alan Clark. I bury my face in the paper.

I have time to kill, so I go to have my hair cut. It's a nostalgia trip to my old hairdresser's in EC2. I love it there. It's cheap, it's friendly, and the girls dress like cheap whores.

What's happening to me?!? It must be the weather. The spring sunshine, the almost-end-of-the-weekness. There is a buzz of eroticism crackling in the London air. It's quite overwhelming for a simple country boy like me. I just don't feel this on the way to the village shop. Everybody seems to be whispering: 'go on! It's the mating season! Looooose your inhibitions! Come to meeee!'

Perhaps there is a fine line between 'whimsical flights of fancy' and 'hearing voices in my head'.

Concerned that I have scared and alienated my female audience, I grab a hurried fifteen minutes in an Internet cafe and bash out a feeble post about a TV programme nobody watched.

So here I am, hungover and tired, after a night on the town with an old friend.

I love visiting London, but it's time to go home.

My people need me.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

UK TV Review alert. International readers might want to scroll down to the amusing story where I forgot my keys.

Celebrity name drop number 0001 in a series of 47325

It pains me to write this. When I last appeared on stage in a professional capacity with Frank Skinner, he went down very well. In fact the audience were quite taken with both of us.

He performed (from memory) ‘Girl you’ll be a Woman Now’, and I performed ‘Massachusetts’. I believe the support acts did ‘Country Roads’ and ‘I will Survive’ amongst others.

So I had such high hopes for ‘Shane’.

No. Scrub that. I had really, really low hopes. But – you know – Frank's a funny guy. And ‘Blue Heaven’ was superb, even though it died a death. You remember ‘Blue Heaven’. Surely.

I am not a religious man. But for better or worse I base my life around a few moral certainties. And the foremost of those is: never watch any form of comedy programme that is broadcast on ITV between 10 and 10.30pm.

But I laughed all the way through it. All the way. But in an odd sort of way.

Occasionally, when I’m very drunk, I play the piano. One-finger job. This is the cue for the LTLP to cover her eyes in embarrassment, spit phrases such as ‘for God’s sake’ under her breath, apologise to the other diners, etc.

The thing is, I can’t play the piano. I play the guitar. But what I do is quite clever. I look at the pressy-downy things on the piano (mainly the white ones, apart from the B-flat) and work out which corresponds to each string. I am transcribing, dear reader. Quite a skill.

And so it was with ‘Shane’. I laughed all the way through it because I was able to transcribe the whole thing back to the original script, discarding the bollocks, crap, dog-turdish, hamfisted, fiasco that was the production.

And the script wasn't that bad at all. The 'bummer' joke was lousy, granted, and it was really just an extended stand-up routine. What it needed was a bit of editing by someone that knows about these things, but I haven't spoken to Frank much lately and I guess he knew I'd been busy with the blog.

The problem stemmed from the sheer EFFORT they’d gone to to make it shit!

Exhibit one: Frank Skinner isn’t an actor. We know this. His acting is his stand-up persona, but moving about, with other people in shot. And this wouldn’t be a problem, if it wasn’t for...

Exhibit two: The Laugh Track. Cringing, skin-crawling embarrassment of wanting to be dead at the sheer artificiality of it.

Exhibit three: The wisecracking kid. Admittedly probably a script fault. They don’t exist, and emphasise the artificiality of sitcom. Memo to self: delete wisecracking kid from forthcoming script based on handsome and witty blogger who holds the world in his thrall from small Norfolk village.

Frank, if you're reading this, give me a bell. There was definitely a synergy between us. Let's put that understanding to work.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Just when I think that I'm running out of things to blog about, I go and lock myself out of the house. What luck!

However, I AM rather busy. Hence the morning rush to the village shop.

I stand back and give the side door a hard stare. At times like this, it is important to keep calm and gather together all the facts. So:

The door is definitely closed.
It is definitely locked.
I definitely do not have a key.
My dad definitely forgot to replace the spare key when he went home on Monday.
The LTLP will definitely be home in (checks watch) nine-and-a-half hours time.

I study the lock closely, giving it a little wiggle. It’s a cheap one, and does not seem to have some form of fail-safe opening-from-the-outside device, for people that have forgotten their keys. This is clearly a design flaw.

I examine the tools at my disposal. I might be able to rig something together in order to effect an entrance. Available to hand are the following:

A garden chair
A copy of The Guardian newspaper
Some loose change
Three chicken fillets
A courgette

It’s annoying, but always the way. Had I been loafing in front of the TV, watching some ‘I’m locked-out and only have a chair, some money and some groceries’ type game show, I would have been shouting out the obvious solution to the hapless contestant. Here, actually IN the high-pressure locked-out situation, my mind goes blank.

The letterbox is quite large. I have quite thin arms, to go with my head, and I roll up my sleeves to make an exploratory grope for the handle on the inside. It’s tight – very tight – and the analytical percentage man in me warns me to withdraw. The locked out situation is bad, but at least I am locked out without my arm being stuck in a letterbox.

Hang on! I’m sure we left a spare spare key next door, some years back. After the LTLP, being a stupid woman, went out without her keys.

I go next door to Short Tony’s. Short Tony is very busy, but sympathetic. He can’t find the key, but he does kindly lend me his lawnmower. That will kill some time.

I mow the lawn. Really, really slowly. By the time I finish we have the carefullyest-mown lawn in the village. I check my watch. LTLP due back in nine hours.

I ring my dad, ostensibly to double-triple-check that he hadn’t left the spare key somewhere accessible after all, but really to make him feel bad. He sounds contrite, but at no point in our conversation does he offer to make the three-hour drive up here to let me in. Pensioners!

I sit and read the main bit of the paper. All of it. Even the long intellectual bits about the West Bank and stuff. The sun is out, it’s a beautiful day, and I start to relax a bit. Only eight-and-a-half hours to go.

I begin to regret the three early-morning cups of tea, and knock shamefacedly on Short Tony’s door, asking to use the toilet.

I offer to mow Short Tony’s lawn, which he gracefully declines. He accompanies me back, with some tools, which prove not to be any help whatsoever.

But I can see that he’s got an idea.

At the bottom of the side door is an old catflap. Some previous owners, presumably, had a cat. It is sealed up, badly, with cheap hardboard. He examines it closely, then stands and turns to me.

“What we need,” he says, very slowly and thoughtfully, “is an extremely well-trained cat.”

I sit and read the second half of the paper.

The spare spare key was on Short Tony’s kitchen table all along. His wife got home from work at lunchtime and found it within thirty seconds. So it was all his fault!!!

The lawn looks nice.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

I meticulously transcribe her name on to my List of Enemies.

The. Phone. Answering. Lady. At. Serviceteam.

There. That will teach you, Phone-answering Lady at Serviceteam. Come the revolution, you will be made to pay well, alongside the marketing people at the Covent Garden Soup Company, and Person-in-Charge-of-Bulk-Email-Database at Egg.

(Of course it’s a mental list really. I wouldn’t be so stupid as to keep it in writing. Just in case.)

Clearly I would also need to do something about the Rumsfelds, Sharons and Worrell Thompsons of this world, but I will cross that particular bridge when I have the priorities sorted.

My mind rewinds through our conversation. Her utter indifference to the recycling crisis currently engulfing the village, and the total faith that Serviceteam had got the date right and EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN THE STREET had got it wrong.

The lady at West Norfolk Council was also useless. But she sounded genuinely upset that a mistake had been made and that we, the public, had been inconvenienced. And that makes a difference, you see.

Customer service people everywhere take note. Listen, and ye shall all have opportunities in my new world order.

Monday, April 19, 2004

The recycling men haven’t been!

They should come every two weeks, but our last collection would have been on Good Friday. So they rearranged for the Friday just gone. But didn’t turn up. Nor on Saturday. Nor Sunday. So it’s just sitting there forlornly at the end of the drive.

I have had to allocate an overflow box for the extra week's copies of the Guardian. So THIS is what it was like during the Winter of Discontent!

I took a small piece of packaging out there this morning. Before I stuffed it in, my eye caught the slogan on the front.

“A delicious source of milk goodness”

Guess where?

On a milk carton?


On... on something else milky that you would expect might be good for you?


On the box from the Milky Bar Easter Egg that I was kindly given last week?

Yes. And what I can’t... what I struggle to... I just – well, I didn’t get annoyed because the whole world’s getting porky and this wasn’t aimed at helping. Or because I thought Trading Standards shouldn’t allow it, although possibly they shouldn’t.

It just makes you depressed because it’s such obvious, obvious, laughable bollocks. It’s not true, they know it’s not true, we know it’s not true. But we’re in this rut as a human race that we’re utterly blasé about churning out and accepting shit.

“A delicious source of milk goodness”

Person who briefed it to a marketing agency. Person who wrote it. People who decided it was good. People who presented it back to some more people. The 2378242 executives who approved it. Person who designed the box. Typesetter. Production manager and printers. Supermarket buyer.

Have none of you any dignity?!?

Delicious egg, however.

My Sunday newspaper wasn’t there again. Plucking up courage to walk to the shop.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Go and read Nutgroist.

Nutgroist wants more readers. And more readers should read Nutgroist.

So that's a win-win situation all round.

Back tomorrow.

Friday, April 16, 2004

I go for a run.

Turn right at the gate and up the street. Run, run, run, run, run!

I head down past the shop and through the Lane, gracefully leaping the dog shit as I go. Leap! Leeeeeaaap!

I try to do this most days. In my pocket I have my MP3 player. It’s an extremely fine one at the moment, but give it a year and the local kids will be pointing at it and laughing.

Choosing the playlist is critical. Can’t be too uptempo, you see, as you jog with the beat. We runners know such things.

Run, run! My Matalan tracksuit cunningly retains the sweat, thus stopping my skin from drying out.

I turn left, past the spooky disused church. Run, run run! Leeeea... oh, bugger.

Run, run! Music bellowing in my ear. ‘Like a burrrrrdd on the wiy-errr... like a drunk in a...’.

It’s just over a mile in all, and I arrive back wheezing for breath but alive and well. I don’t have time to do it twenty-five more times, as my mum and dad are staying, but I don’t reckon it would be much of a problem. And people make such a fuss about preparing for the London Marathon.

My mate Tink completed the London Marathon last year. He was really chuffed. Then they gave him his official finishing photo, which showed him being overtaken by two blokes dressed as a giant millipede.

I totter in, and wish the cottage had a shower.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

My Norfolk strapline has dried now, and I think I’m happy with it.

Although I had a major gittishness event yesterday morning, trying to sort out my permalinks. WHY don’t they work? WHY? WHY? HELP ME SOMEBODY PLEASE HELP ME HELP

The only problem I have with the ‘blogging from a small Norfolk village’ concept, is that I have a horror of turning into Will Buckley.

Our paths so far have been very similar. He left the metropolis and moved out into the Norfolk countryside for a better quality of life, and to work from home.

He then started to write a column about it, for The Observer. Again, a parallel, although editors of the national press’s ‘media pages’ (and God, I’ll write about them one day) might like to note that my circulation is growing somewhat faster than The Observer’s, year-on-year, in percentage terms.

It was gentle humour. Slightly smug, but inoffensive. The sort of articles that you’d find in a rubbish local magazine, under a crap header like: ‘Will Buckley explores the lighter side of...’ or ‘Will Buckley takes a wry look at...’

Unfortunately for him, journalists don’t write the headlines. Bored sub-editors fulfil this task, and as it’s one grillion percent more interesting than the rest of their job, they go to town occasionally. So when the first article appeared under a banner the gist of which was ‘In the land of the three-headed cousin fuckers’ there was a certain amount of local interest.

The subsequent retraction/explanation/apology was a masterpiece of contrition and ‘please like me again’, and I warmed to the man immensely. I understand that people speak to him now, and his kids have stopped being wedgied at school.

You can see my dilemma. I make a big thing of life round here being uncomplicated, friendly and rural and immediately it sounds like I’m taking the piss.

Nothing could be further from the truth. I like uncomplicated, friendly and rural. Uncomplicated, friendly and rural is good. Not in a sneery ‘isn’t that quaint’ metropolitan way. If you want that, go read somebody else.

Oh dear, I’ve gone all serious. Better write something funny tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

I have not got a big head.

Physically, I mean. The size of it. Although ego-wise, I don’t have a big head either. I am not good at taking praise. Shy. English.

So you see, I have not got a big head in any capacity, neither physical nor mental.

I used to work with a guy who drew caricatures. He had this incredible skill of summing up the essence of a person in one or two brush strokes, and a finished cartoon would encapsulate not only the subject’s appearance, but their entire life history and what they had for breakfast that morning.

Except that when he picked me, he drew me with a big head. Blind spot, you see. Flaw in his technique. We were perhaps too close. In retrospect, I think it’s why he never got anywhere. Not much good at heads.

If he had been drawing Kelsey Grammar or Juan Veron then fine. But drawing me with a big head just made him look a fool.

I went to a wedding on Saturday. An old and dear friend of mine. She married a chap who I haven’t met often, but who seems like a top bloke, despite the fact that he’s just spoilt yet another back-up plan should the LTLP finally crack and desert me for a more attractive proposition. (I have to be pragmatic – there could be many better men out there - richer, better in bed, larger heads, etc.)

Anyway. They had a caricaturist at the reception.

Now, it strikes me that a jobbing wedding-reception caricaturist requires two major attributes in order to achieve success.

- A friendly and chatty disposition, able to get on with people
- The ability to draw caricatures

So when I tell you that this man had neither, you can probably see where I’m heading.

He scowled at his subjects. Grunted. Told the people at the end of the queue to eff off, as he was going home in ten minutes. All in all, somebody who should jack in the job for a role, say, working behind the counter at a Central London Post Office.

It probably didn’t help that everybody was openly laughing at his work.

The ladies all looked the same. That is, take a ‘Rachel from Friends’ wig, balance it on a hamster mask and glue on two chins of lard. His woman-hatred shone through with each vicious stab of the felt-tip.

The men got better treatment, but still emerged bemused and shaken by the experience. And all around the venue there was the crackle of latent domestics, as pissed-up bridesmaids demanded their husbands' reassurance as to whether their cheeks were really puffed out and swollen like that.

And he drew me with a big head.



I have not got a big head.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

A holiday weekend of ups and downs.

Leaving Fakenham Races £116 richer due to a succession of well-picked horses was a particular highlight. Definitely an ‘up’.

Leaving Fakenham Races minus my trousers, shoes and socks due to an Unfortunate Incident was less good. Bit of a ‘down’ there.

The highlight, however, had to be Oxford winning ‘University Challenge’, tragically my favourite TV programme.

Normally, I would cheer for the oiks, so an all-Oxbridge final would present me with a bit of a dilemma.

However, this series the Cambridge team has been captained by a chap called ‘Wallace’. Wallace, perhaps unfairly and for whatever reason, has made me want to commit some small act of random violence every time his ugly, smug, self-satisfied face has leered out of my TV screen. With all due respect.

So Oxford it was.

It’s always been my ambition to appear on ‘University Challenge’. Admittedly, as ambitions go it’s not up there with walking on the moon or finding a solution to the Arab-Israeli problem. But a man’s got to dream.

I blew my first chance when I failed my A-levels. And I think it unlikely that the ‘Professionals’ spin-off, in which they invite teams representative of different trades, will consider ‘people that sit around at home all day, occasionally doing a bit of this and that’.

However – inspiration! Perhaps they would accept a Bloggers’ team. They could pitch us against another profession that churn out shit on a regular basis – journalists from ‘Take a Break’ magazine, perhaps.

I would be able to cover questions on UK stand-up comedy, the novels of Peter Ackroyd and British confectionery (1975-present day). So all we’d need would be a particle physicist, a brain surgeon and a doctor of classics and theology and we’d be home and dry.

Any volunteers?

Thursday, April 08, 2004

I hear a knock on the door!!!

This is a major event in the day. In the week, come to think of it. What’s more, the neighbours are away and Big A & his wife are at work. I have a MYSTERY VISITOR!!!

I can’t begin to describe the magnitude of my excitement. I feel like Tony Blair when they found those portable WMD labs.

The thing is, we have two doors.

We use the side door. It opens onto the conservatory, which is convenient. You can leave your muddy boots there and chuck your coat on the hook.

We don’t use the front door. It opens onto the back of my stereo system, which is inconvenient. It’s been opened twice in the last five years. I now forget that it is a door at all, and just think of it as a different-coloured piece of wall.

So I open the side door and nobody is there. Booooo!!! There is nobody at the door after all. Working here on my own has finally driven me mad. I am hearing people at doors.

I stomp back to the desk, disconsolate. Hang on. There is a shuffling, then a lady walks past the front window. There IS somebody at the door!!! I wave frantically at her, but she does not see me. She is escaping!!!

I sprint into the kitchen and hammer on the window, waving and gesticulating towards the side door. She hears me now. Oh yes, she hears me. “Don’t go away!!!” I mouth. “Please!!! Other door!!!” (point, point, wave, point).

‘I must get a sign made up,’ I think, as I run to the conservatory. Mentally, I compose some creative copy, finally settling on ‘Please Use Side Door’. Pleased with my efforts, I throw open the door.

By this point I am breathless and panting. She takes an alarmed step back. Then she hands me a leaflet about Jehovahs Witnessism.

I feel like Tony Blair when they discovered that they were portable balloon-inflating labs after all.

But a visitor’s a visitor. Human contact!

“I’m interrupting,” says Mystery Visitor who is no longer Mystery Visitor.

“No!!!” I reply, perhaps a little too quickly.

“Anyway, there’s the leaflet. I won’t stop. I can see you’re busy”.

I glance around, wondering what evidence at all she has to support this. I’m not busy. Reading Porny Boy Curtis can wait. This is a real, live, in-the-flesh, human being.

“I’m sorry?”

“Did I say that out loud?”

But by this point, she is turning to leave. I jabber something about the weather. She starts to run. That last bit could just be my imagination. But I stand at the doorway, and hang my head.

I have been spurned by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Insular and self-absorbed post alert. Please scroll down for more interesting stuff.

The strapline’s changed.

There was a very good reason for the former strapline. That is, you need to choose one before Blogger will let you get on and write anything.

As sitting down and thinking about it would have been tantamount to reading the instructions before starting to use a dangerous new power tool, I didn’t bother.

It was, and is, still relevant. I am still worried about all the things that I was worried about before. To wit: ever since I’ve been working here on my own devoid of any human contact, I’ve been turning into a small-minded tight-fisted anal-retentive mentalist.

But I thought that it reinforced the Meldrew connotations of the blog title a little too much.

I don’t even like the ‘I don’t believe it’ title. Again, it was done off the top of my head. I’m still worried that it implies that I’m the sort of crazy guy that stands in the pub quoting catchphrases from well-known British comedy programmes.

Like smeg I am.

I won’t change the title now, as people have been kind enough to link to me, and it would cause them inconvenience.

If I did change it, I’d take a leaf from the Yellow Pages and rebrand myself AAAA1 AARDVARK BLOG SERVICES LTD. It would get me to the top of lists and stuff.

So we’re now ‘Broadcasting Live from Norfolk’. We’ll see how that goes.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

My Sunday newspaper wasn’t there!!!

The shop is closed on Sunday. Pre-ordered newspapers are left in a box outside. You pay when you next pass by, or leave some money in the box.

It’s a good arrangement. The paper shop marketing people should consider introducing it in London.

But mine wasn’t there. Some catastrophic breakdown in the supply chain had led to none of the newspapers being there – except three copies of The Mail on Sunday. Who says that evil doesn’t triumph in the end?

So an awkward situation yesterday, as I had to tell The Lady In The Shop.

The Lady In The Shop is incredibly nice, and I am an English Male, so what really should have been a straightforward conversation (‘my Sunday newspaper wasn’t there’, ‘oh, I’m terribly sorry’, ‘not to worry, I got one later on from the petrol station, just thought you ought to know’) was always doomed to descend into a flurry of mumbling self-guilt and apologies.

Perhaps I hadn’t looked hard enough. Perhaps it had somehow tucked itself inside one of the other newspapers, between ‘New Euro Law to Release all Paedophiles’ and ‘All Women Are Slags’.

WHY am I unable to be confrontational? I skulked back home, feeling small.

Lunchtime’s nadir TV: ‘Through the Keyhole’. The panel: Ian McCaskill, Niamh Cusack and Richard Whiteley. The guest: a man from Hartbeat. I know he was a man from Hartbeat, because the BBC had added ‘A Man from Hartbeat’ in the caption under his name.

Far be it for me to shoot fish in barrels, but...

Monday, April 05, 2004

Yeaahh!!! Lads night!!! (part two)

So with the world our masculine oyster, we settled down around Big A’s dining table on Saturday night to immerse ourselves in the turn-based WW2 strategy board game ‘Axis and Allies’.

And there I was, implying to you that we’d be going over the top with something wild and dangerous. Toying with your expectations. Like an evil puppetmaster.

This is what my life has become.

Should I be worried that I’ve reached the point where immersing myself in a turn-based WW2 strategy board game is more attractive than drinking and whoring my way around the bright city lights of King’s Lynn?

‘Axis and Allies’ does actually teach you a lot about history. Like for instance how the war must have been so much more fun for the Germans, as they had loads of extra tanks and stuff to play with. And the fact that it was probably a bad idea for the Japanese to annoy the Americans. I may email Simon Schama with my unique insights.

If you include the setting up, the games tend to last longer than the actual war itself did, and by the end Short Tony had lost interest and Narcoleptic Dave had gone to sleep.

This, of course, was preceded by the Grand National. I never have any luck with the Grand National. I believe that last year my jockey set some kind of record by falling off before he even reached the first fence.

Of course the best thing about Grand National day is the atmosphere in the bookies beforehand. There’s always that vibrancy and buzz that comes from a big once-a-year sporting event, that shared sense of occasion. I try to imagine this as I sit alone in front of

And you know the saddest thing about my Saturday? I actually wrote out betting slips for myself, with a felt-tip pen and post-it notes. It was forward planning. I knew then that I could have the small pleasure of tearing them up and throwing them on the floor.

Please. Just kill me now.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Tomorrow is ‘girls night’.

The LTLP has invited Short Tony’s wife, Big A’s wife and Narcoleptic Dave’s wife round for ‘a pampering evening’.

(Memo – must think up names for the female characters that allow them each an identity in their own right).

Two beauticians are driving over from Norwich to administer pedicures, massages, eyebrow grooming and the like, whilst they all presumably drink white wine and pick at olives.

So it’s ‘lads night’ as well. I’ve been looking forward to this for ages. We do so little that isn’t couple-related. We go to the pub together. We visit the cinema together. If I see my mates, it’s in the context of a couples’ dinner party with pasta-based dishes and Norah Jones.

But tomorrow is ‘lads night’. It’s back to the wildness of my youth.

Ignoring the fact that I spent most of my wild youth friendless in my bedroom with Crash magazine and Jet Set Willy, I start making plans.

For a start, Narcoleptic Dave has a huge great TV system. In fact, it’s so impressive, it could be described as a ‘huge great fuck-off TV system’. So the immediate thought is that we get some beers and rent ‘Porky’s’. Yeaahh!! Lads night!!

(Memo – must think up a better name for Narcoleptic Dave)

Then there’s the field possibility. I reckon, given a few cans of Kestrel and some cheap sherry, we could have a great ‘revisit our youth’ evening huddled in the field behind the cottage trying to grab sad glimpses of the girls in their underwear.

Clearly, as we are blokes, we won’t organise anything until around half an hour before the event. As opposed to the girls night, which has been planned like a military campaign.

That analogy doesn’t really work these days, does it?

I shall let you know what happens on Monday. Yeaahh!!! Lads night!!!

Thursday, April 01, 2004


If ‘rabbits’ is the earliest thing you say on the first of each month, then you’ll have good luck.

That’s what my dad used to tell me, anyway. But, thinking about it, he also used to warn me against walking on the cracks in the pavement, as the bears would get me. And I’ve not fallen victim to a bear ambush for some time.

It’s appropriate, because the garden is full of rabbits. I watch them frolicking about on the lawn and over the path. In fact, they’re bloody everywhere. I half expect to walk outside to find Art Garfunkel warbling in the shrubbery.

I’m a bit contradictory in my attitude to rabbits. I don’t particularly mind that they take chunks out of the plants – it’s quite fun to watch them scrabbling around.

But, on the other hand, I do have one of their cousins in the deep freeze, ready to stuff a carrot up its arse and stick it in a pot with some stock, bacon, shallots and herbs.

The LTLP won’t eat rabbit. She has a policy of not eating any animal that forms the central character in popular children’s fiction. I tend to think that if you’re not a vegetarian it’s a bit hypocritical to discriminate on grounds of cutesiness.

April Fool’s Day. Wonder what wacky pranks I can play on myself this morning?