Friday, May 28, 2004

It’s one of the milestone ones today.

The one after which I can no longer truthfully claim to be in my ‘early thirties’.

Mid-thirties it is, then. Turning into an old git was quicker than I thought. Bummer! There goes my carefully worked-out blog concept.

I appear to be taking this quite well, after the drama-queen five-year period that led up to my thirtieth. I’ve had no periods of black depression about it, no waking up in cold sweats. My eyes seem OK in the mirror, no wildness or staringness or anything.

But these things can creep up on you. Perhaps later on I will chop the LTLP into pieces with a big axe.

Fortunately I won’t be celebrating on my own. The Cheerful Builder will be here for one. And Mick the Sparks.

(Note – one of the advantages of a blog is that you can use a phrase like ‘Sparks’ with the utmost offhand nonchalance. As opposed to verbal communication, where it sounds embarrassingly forced when used by someone who has clearly never been on a building site in his life).

Even my in-laws are driving up for the weekend. This promises to be the best birthday ever.

On Tuesday I will post about my surprise party.

I did start an Amazon wishlist but I kind of think that’s the equivalent of hanging around in bars poncing drinks off strangers. You need to be better-looking to get away with it. Or look like an easy lay. And I am neither. Tsk! At my age! Well I can tell you, if you think you can buy me presents in exchange for sex then you have come to the WRONG BLOG and I will not change my mind about this even if you all send me pictures of yourself naked (email address is on the right, females only please, I will be in town Thursday and Friday if that's convenient for you).

So, in the words of the great Boothby Graffoe:
“If I can’t have you
And a million pounds
And a house in Rome
And lots of cars
I don’t want anything at all.”

I’ll think I’ll do a bit of raging against the dying of the light, then get myself some breakfast.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

This is not a political blog.

But this ‘New Labour’ government has no understanding whatsoever about the needs of the countryside. It’s a joke.

The fact is, that we NEED somebody in power to take local services seriously. To understand that the ‘countryside’ is not this twee little holiday resort for people in Range Rovers, but a living, breathing community of working folk with relatively low earnings, and some quite large social problems.

As it is, I’m desperate. The filter for the Dyson has broken and there is nowhere within twenty miles that can sell me a new one.

You might ask how I am expected to live like this. But we’ve learned to adapt and not expect help or sympathy from London.

I can feel my lungs clogging up with dust already. But do they give you Dyson filters on the NHS? Don’t bother checking – I can tell you the answer is ‘no’. And all that’s going to happen is that I’ll need to be admitted for a lung operation, and that will cost the country more in the long term.

It’s just insania.

Where do my taxes go??? I’ll tell you, as I got a very clear leaflet from the English Democrats Party pushed through the door yesterday.

“By paying £10 billion extra to Scotland under the Barnett Formula, Scots now have better [long list of better things] – all at the expense of the long suffering English Taxpayer!”

I have never heard this explained so clearly before, even though I know quite a bit about Scottish politics from listening to Marillion.

They are bleeding Britain dry, with their Barnett Formulae, monopoly on New Years Eves and breakaway separatist blog web rings. Although I do like the accent, and the Inspector Rebus books.

I read the leaflet again. It seems plausible.

“Not Right, Not Left, Just English” is their slogan.

Although I think the “But Mainly Right” bit probably dropped off at the typesetters.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Why’s he doing it?

Gordon, I mean. Gordon Ramsay.

I mean – the man’s a genuine superstar. Michelin stars. Huge popular respect. He’s achieved a deserved position at the top of his game, is judged on his own terms and has stormed passed the barrier where he could have sat back and traded on his name.

So why ‘Hell’s Kitchen’? Why?

It would be like Sir Bobby Robson doing an embarrassing crisps commercial.

Oops. Bad analogy.

But it’s all I can think of, as I sit here, my brain oozing out onto the carpet.

I think I’ll probably like the show by the end of it, as long as Amanda whatsherface, clearly the most spoilt and self-centred person in the entire world, gets voted off in the early stages. I’d watch anything with Al Murray in it, and it does thrill me in a truly misogynistic and juvenile way that Abi Titmuss is proving to be an absolute angel in the kitchen.



Why make yourself look a twat in front of Anthony Worrell-Thompson?

I could turn up there stark bollock naked except for an amusing Warner Bros tie and a copy of Jordan’s autobiography taped over my privates, and Anthony Worrell-Thompson would still be the bigger cunt out of the both of us.


Somebody? Please?

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

I have been up in the roof, treating timbers.

Had I been feeling more excitable today, I might have started this post thus:

My joists are riddled with woodworm!!!

But I’m knackered. It’s hot and stifling up there. Too tight to pay for a proper woodworm person, and feeling slightly emasculated at my minimal contribution to the building work so far, I decided to Do It Myself.

The can of Woodworm Stuff had various alarming messages on it. “Use only in well-ventilated areas” being the most problematical. In the end I also bought an exciting-looking mask, that claims to protect me from fumes and hazardous particles.

There surely must be an interesting use for this, once my mundane chores are over.

The next time I get the bus into Fakenham I will carry it with me, in case of ricin attack.

Confusingly, the Stuff also claims to be “bat friendly”. I don’t know much about bats, but I would imagine that our respiratory systems aren’t that different. So what am I doing struggling up the ladder attired as Bill Murray in Ghostbusters?

The fact is that I am better with words than with worms. I feel good about getting the job done, but I have to accept that a proper woodworm person would have finished in a quarter of the time. Nor would he have kicked the pot of treatment over.

But it’s done, and I’m off for a shower.

If you listen hard enough, you can hear the sound of a thousand woodworm croaking their last.

Monday, May 24, 2004

I stayed in a hotel on Saturday.

Courtesy of some friends, the most generous people in the entire world (it’s true - I’ve checked), we wallowed in five star luxury in St. James’s.


I like two types of hotel. Really, really good ones that you rarely find in England, or cheap and rough motels of the American model. I will accept the Holidaypremiertravelinn experience if I’m using it just for a place to crash out and somebody else is paying. I like staying in pubs, for obvious reasons, and rough seaside B&Bs appeal to my puritan and seedy streak.

The hotels I hate are the really, really mediocre ones that pretend to be really, really good ones.

You can identify these by two factors:

After being patronised by the check-in assistant you find that your room, whilst ostensibly plush, contains at least one fitting that has been bodged at an angle that isn’t quite straight. There are also two old rawlplugged holes in the bathroom wall, that nobody has bothered to make good.

There is a sign hoping that you share their concerns about the environment, so possibly won’t want your towels washed every day.

It’s this second thing that gets me so livid. The fucking weasels – yeah right, it’s not about ECONOMICS, perchance? Show me that you invest in eco washing powder, recycle all your plastics and glass, and pay and train your staff more than the bare, bare, Dickensian minimum, and I’ll chip in with my laundry contribution. Otherwise I’m going to piss on each towel individually then hold a dirty protest in the bedchamber before I leave.

Anyway, as I say, this was a genuinely good hotel. They were happy to give me clean towels without dripping hypocricy about it, and in return I did not soil the walls.

I’ve been reading some trendy London blogs recently, and may have got slightly maudlin on occasions about missing the big city.

So we checked in, ambled through Bond Street, went to a restaurant, clothes-shopped in Selfridges, took a taxi back to the hotel, watched the end of the day’s test match on the room's widescreen TV, took a glass of champagne, dined in the private room, retired to the American Bar and tasted malt whiskies until the early hours.

It felt good to see the real London.

Returning to the cottage yesterday, the lounge still uninhabitable and the whole place stinking of wood treatment, I would have given anything for a nice hotel room. Even one with previously-enjoyed towels. (By me.)

I folded the end of the bog roll into a triangle and charged the LTLP £8.95 for bringing her a small sandwich, but it just wasn’t the same.

Friday, May 21, 2004

My tickets have arrived!!!

So this summer I SHALL be blissed out in a muddy field, music wafting gently over me, cider stains down the front of my inappropriate tie-die garb.

Apologies to those of you who missed out this year. Who sat on the phone for hour upon frustrating hour, credit card in hand, playing through all the bands in your head, desperate to be connected to place your order.

I don’t want to be smug.

But nya nya na-na naa.

And this year’s lineup has to be the best for years.

Jerry Donahue! Earl Okin! Legendary morris dance/rock fusion supergroup Morris On!

Jethro Tull!

And of course the mighty Fairport Convention. One of Q Magazine’s ‘50 bands to see before you die’. Although I’d be disappointed if I went first.

I take the mandolin from the wall and do a few strums in joyous celebration. Widdledee-widdledee-deee!

Yes, I love the Cropredy Folk Festival.

I feel that a weight of anxiety has been lifted from me, knowing that I’ve been one of the lucky few. I clasp my tickets greedily, wondering where I can hide them. Numbers 00081-00084.

It would be devastating if they were pocketed by some chancer posing as a meter reader, and resold for a fortune on Ebay.

I should emphasise that their website did not crash at any point. The Glastonbury IT people can learn from this, should they not be too proud.

I’ve not managed to get to Cropredy for some years, as it clashes with the Edinburgh Festival. I need to check whether they’ve got Internet access these days so I can provide an act-by-act blog.

I know you’ll want to hear all about it.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

The cheerful builder has the day off.

This is a respite for me. The last couple of weeks have seen my routine disrupted, which is traumatic for us anal-retentives.

I haven’t been able to take my mid-afternoon bath, for instance.

My usual Wednesday lunchtime viewing of Prime Minister’s Question Time has been put on hold. Typically, I missed an exciting one with (as far as I could tell with the sound turned off, and I may have got the details wrong here) the chamber being infiltrated by The Great Soprendo.

What I will not miss is Steve Wright in the Afternoon.

I’ve checked, and contractually I am obliged to have Radio 2 on whilst builders are in the house.

Ken Bruce I am happy with – he’s like your favourite but slightly embarrassing uncle. Jeremy Vine lifts his dumbed-down current affairs show, and has been playing Leonard Cohen tracks all week. But Steve Wright...

It’s like Smashy and Nicey never happened. I listen to his show, and black waves of old-gittishness descend down over me. From the desperate theme tune to the cringe-worthy cheering and clapping, the whole thing’s an eighties revival without ever having had the courtesy to go away.

Steve Wright is the marrow of DJ’s. There is no point to him. He might seem interesting on the outside, but he is utterly, utterly bland and unexciting. He has no taste in any way whatsoever.

He is big and green and bulbous. (Note to self – must check this, may not be true - may have to edit on final draft).

If I were to continue my excellent analogy, I might say that if I owned a restaurant I would not serve him. But that would be stupid. He is very rich, and if I owned a restaurant I would probably be struggling.

Instead, I would wait until he had paid his bill in full, then leap out of the kitchen and scream at him: “FACTOID! I put bogies in your mushroom risotto!”

I bear him no ill-will.

But his contrived jollity is driving me up the wall.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

“Here you go,” I offer generously, as she was packing her sandwich box. “This could do with using up.”

I immediately regret the end bit of that sentence.

“What do you mean: ‘using up’? What’s the date on it?”

“Er... the fourteenth.”

“That’s four bloody days ago! Throw it away.”

“It’ll be OK!” I plead.

“It’s yoghurt! It will not be OK.”

Her eyes narrow. “What flavour is that?”

I pretend to examine the carton closely, raising my eyebrows in surprise at the information gleaned.

“Er... apricot.”

“I knew it! I am not taking fucking out of date fucking apricot yoghurt for my lunch!”

“You like apricot yoghurt!!!”

“I know I like apricot yoghurt!!! But I like the other flavours as well and I’m sick of being given the fucking apricot just because you only eat the fucking berry ones!!!”

“But otherwise it’s a waste!”

She snatches it from me and stuffs it into the bin.

“You are the fucking tightest man I have ever met in my life,” she explains, unreasonably. “I am fed up of being given manky stuff from the fridge. Just throw the fucking things away if you don’t want them.”

I nod, humbly. She doesn’t realise that buying yoghurts as individual pots is bad economics, although it seems like the wrong time to point that out.

“Is there another one in there that I could take?”

I re-open the fridge, then step in front of it, guiltily. To say that it was stuffed top to bottom with apricot yoghurts would be an exaggeration. But it’s fair to say that if someone had hammered on the door suffering from some form of emergency apricot-dependent diabetic attack, then I would have been in a reasonable position to help.

She sighs.

“Just give me one of those, then.”

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

I have been usurped!!!

There have always been clear and well-defined roles for the village Eurovision party.

  • Big A and wife supply venue and catering;

  • Narcoleptic Dave and wife help with creche services;

  • Short Tony and wife provide post-show karaoke facilities.
(note to self – still need to sort out fuller identities for female characters)

My role has always been to provide scoring sheets, statistical information etc. This is the most important job, as the evening is an empty facade without it.

Last year I put together a master scoring grid, and distributed cards with big numbers for people to hold up (artistic impression and song quality).

Cricket commitments meant that I was always going to be an hour late for the start. But I had it all worked out in my mind, and given some pieces of paper and a biro I could have produced something half-way decent.

You can imagine my anger and dismay when I arrived to find people already completing results sheets. Short Tony had taken advantage of my temporary absence in order to take over the role of scorer!!!

I did not give him the satisfaction of showing my true feelings, but sat and joined in with a heavy heart.

We each had a sheet pre-printed with name of country, comments, score deserved, plus three additional tick-box columns: OD (original dancing), CG (clothing gimmick) and KC (key change).

He is a very sad man.

When all our sheets were complete, he added up our individual totals to produce a group ranking. We then telephoned the results line to register our vote.

Had everybody in Britain taken such care with their choice, we would not have suffered the national humiliation of giving the Irish song some points.

Short Tony was obviously sulking as we had decided not to do the karaoke. Clearly, he had been planning this coup for some time.

It is not a pleasant thing to have ones next-door neighbour plotting against you.

Truly I now understand the pressures mounting on Tony Blair.

Monday, May 17, 2004

“But first, here’s KLFM traffic and travel, with Sonia!”

I like Sonia. She has a nice voice.

“Hello! Starting with the north of the town, both John Kennedy and Edward Benefer Way are clear at the moment. The bypass is running smoothly from Knight’s Hill down to the Hardwick, and no problems there. Looking at the A47, traffic’s moving smoothly both ways, and the A10 appears to be clear.”

“Looking further afield, we’ve had no reports of problems on the A17; no problems around Wisbech, and everything’s clear around Downham and Setch.”

“Turning to public transport: both the railways and buses are running to timetable, with no reported delays.”

“But if you hear of any problems *tone of desperation* call me on the jambusters hotline: 01553...”

It’s like this most weekdays.

Poor Sonia. She must spend her life under the constant pressure of redundancy. I would miss her nice voice.

If I were a mad stalking psycho in love with her, I would drive my car into a chemical lorry in the middle of the rush hour.

Fortunately I am not.

Friday, May 14, 2004

I’ve decided to send a donation to ‘The Silver Ring Thing’.

There seem to be two good reasons for this.

Firstly, no matter how I wretchedly cling on to the last vestiges of youth cool I ever possessed, I have to accept that I’ve reached an age where teenage girls are unlikely to want to shag me. And I don’t see why everybody else should have all the fun.

Secondly, my own teenage years were sparse on the lurve front. Being a dweeb-boy with a mullet and ZX Spectrum fixation didn’t really do it for the ladies.

Being a member of the Silver Ring Thing crew would have given me dignity. I could have been all smug in the knowledge that not poking all the girls in the street was MY CHOICE and THEIR LOSS.

I could have used it to create an aura of self-assuredness. Cool. Relaxed about the whole dating thing.

I would have been regarded as a challenge.

Sat on the sofa, explaining in detail the best way through ‘Eugene’s Lair’, I would catch her eye. And I’d know that she’d be thinking: “let’s see just how committed he REALLY is”.

I’d glance down at my silver ring, look quickly away, catch her eye again then look quickly away again.

And then I would act all startled when she made the inevitable lunge. And then look thoughtful and say: “well, Shazza/Kaz/Tracey H, I guess you’re the one". And I’d hurl the ring far away out of the window, before giving her a good seeing to. Or a crap seeing to, if I’m honest.

Then she’d leave, and I’d grab a new ring from my big collection of spares.

So I think the Ring Thing is a good idea.

As well as helping middle-class music-teacher parents feel even more smug about their objectionable offspring, it provides a window of opportunity for the poor geek boy, who will otherwise grow up bitter, insecure and with isshhoes.

Perhaps I should let it go.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Continued from yesterday.

Boris, you also work for an elderly Welshman. So my first advice to you is not to pretend to be him in order to gatecrash a gallery reception. It’s just not worth it.

Since then, I have wandered in to the National Gallery and Tate Modern a number of times.

I like the fact that they’re free, and warm.

The National is home to an agreeable collection by John Constable, my favourite painter.

Constable, as well as being the punchline to the greatest joke in the world ever, has hidden depths. For years he was decried as a painter of chocolate box covers, but walk round the National and you can follow his path from early carefree landscapes, through radical social change in the countryside to ‘fuck it, the wife’s dead, I’m stuck here in Wiltshire and it’s raining’.

Some of his paintings are also really big, much bigger than most foreign artists could manage.

Not having much art of their own, the Americans hang ‘Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop’s Grounds’ in the Met in New York. We seem far more relaxed about this than the Greeks who make such a fuss over the Elgin Marbles.

So here’s a second suggestion, Boris – insist they give it back before we’ll invade anyone with them again.

And so we come to the modern stuff.

It’s so simple and trite to say ‘use the money for dialysis machines’ but...

The Tate Modern does make me think. I once stood for ages, looking at the bits of perspex spaced at equal intervals up the wall. (“Bits of Perspex Spaced at Equal Intervals Up the Wall”)

I wondered what they meant, and whether I could see beauty in them. I looked at the different way light reflected off them, and tried to work out whether the spacing was exactly equal.

Then I thought: ‘gosh, I’ve been here for ten minutes, enjoyably thinking, and it’s cost me fuck all! What entertainment I’ve got from this conceptual art!’

However, it occurred to me that the art was in the concept and the installation. Unlike a painting, a unique imprint of one person’s (or one studio’s) individual brush, these modern bods tend to describe exactly what they want, then get it made.

“Stick some bits of perspex up the wall at equal intervals would you, there’s a good chap?”

“Have you got a lobster? I need to balance it on this old phone.”

“While you’re at the photocopier, run me off a few of these Marilyns?”

The point is, worthy as they are, a copy would be just as good as the original. So, Boris, I suggest we stop spending loads on buying them, and just put copies in all the art museums.

The originals can then be bought by people in wanky glasses who used to own ad agencies, and everyone will be happy.

I wish you well, Boris, and hope I’ve helped you get to grips with your new brief.

Any problems, just drop me an email.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

It’s so simple and trite to say ‘use the money for dialysis machines’ but...

Boris Johnson has been made the Conservative’s shadow minister for the arts.

Now, nobody with any sense buys Boris’s bumbling idiot act. But the fact is that he’s a clever chap with a genuinely popular touch. Should he get the opportunity, it’s unlikely that he’ll be too swayed by establishment interests, nor pour cash into quick populist stuff that has no intrinsic worth.

And seeing that Charles Kennedy’s people have yet to contact me regarding my proposals for the constitution, I don’t feel too bad about putting forward some common-sense no-nonsense advice to the other opposition lot. As this might go on a bit, I think I’ll split it over two days.

(Note to CK – I do use a dial-up connection, so am engaged a lot – try email. Cheers – JB)

I suppose I should establish some credentials as a serious art-lover.

My first experience of contemporary art was back in the very late eighties, when I woz young. It was the first freebie junket that I’d ever been to.

A champagne reception at the ‘Pop Art Show’, courtesy of The Independent newspaper, held at the Royal Academy in Piccadilly. Proper invitations and all that, with gold writing.

My boss couldn’t go, so I inherited the tickets and went posing as him. He was encouraging about this – he had a very paternalistic way about him, and wanted his staff to experience culture. As long as we were reasonably discreet.

Given that he was forty years older than me, well-known to everybody at The Independent, and Welsh, passing myself off as him might have been optimistic. Not as optimistic as Volvo Man (then known as Renault Boy), who accompanied me, as my boss’s girlfriend.

We had a couple of pints first. Dutch courage. But we got in easily. Nobody seemed to mind or notice that we weren’t an elderly Welsh couple.

I vividly recall the initial impression. We walked in to the first room, somebody thrust a glass of champagne at me and I saw a shoe nailed to the wall.

Underneath this was a terrifically serious plaque reading (something like): “Shoe Nailed to the Wall”.

There was the famous piece with the bricks on the floor, and some Lichtensteins. But if I’m honest, it was the free champagne that we both paid the most attention to.

It was everywhere. New glasses carried round on trays, arriving as top-ups straight from the bottle, ferreted away from shelves as soon as it had been put down by an unsuspecting guest.

I chatted enthusiastically to various people for a couple of hours, brilliantly deconstructing the zeitgeist and things. Then, no doubt overwhelmed by all the artistry around me, I went out and was sick on the steps.

On the way back to Liverpool Street we had to drop in at my office to pick up some stuff. Small office, nobody there, I had a key.

We walked in and I immediately knocked over a huge pot plant. The carpet was liberally doused with earth, which I then fell in and went to sleep.

Meanwhile, Volvo Man/Renault Boy was vomiting in, and over, the toilets.

For reasons best known to himself, he then defecated on the floor.

I didn’t realise this until I turned up for work the next day, to find our clearing up efforts had truly been token.

The subsequent recriminations really overshadowed any debate I might have had with myself about the nature and function of contemporary art.

But I was young and immature then.

Continued tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

The LTLP is away for a couple of days.

Whilst I’ve spent my evening reheating a ready-meal, watching University Challenge (125 points today), eking out the one remaining bottle of Weston’s cider and refreshing my site stats every two minutes, she’s been stuck in a hotel room with nothing but satellite TV and a minibar.

I pity her sad existence.

Being a leading expert in the field of interesting things, she goes away a lot. So I’m on my own in the cottage, in the freezing cold (no central heating and windows open all day) and with the main living area uninhabitable.

Outside it’s as dark as dark could be. No street lights, no neon glow. No cars passing – not for the last twenty minutes, anyway.

I think I can probably be excused a bit of introspection.

I started this blog for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, I wanted to start writing again. And it seemed like this sort of framework would give me the kick up the arse I needed. So I set myself a few rules (two of which I’ve already broken in this post) and got on with it.

Secondly, other people were doing it and I felt left out.

And thirdly, I was genuinely concerned that I was turning into a cross between Mr Pooter and a scary obsessive-compulsive freak-boy with tightwad tendencies.

An example:

The toothpaste has almost run out. So the tube is battered and worn, the end folded up as far and as tightly as it will possibly go.

There is a new tube of toothpaste ready and waiting.

However, earlier I spent a good deal of time on the old tube. I managed to get a few grammes out by laying it on the edge of the bath and putting my whole weight on it. Then I probed the bristles of the toothbrush down the end of the opening, fishing for any more that might be hidden away. At the end of the process I had perhaps three-quarters of the volume of toothpaste needed for a satisfactory brushing.

Then I put the old tube back in the mug. Not in the bin.

It’s behaviour like this that is concerning me.

I'm going to London later today. There will be people there, and discourse. I hope I do not frighten them with my insular ways. Working on my own in the house - I've lost touch with civilisation.

Slowly, but inexorably, I am turning into an old git.

Friday, May 07, 2004

More soot.

Soot trodden over the kitchen floor. Soot blackening the curtains. Soot GETTING ON MY FUCKING TITS.

The cottage was built in around 1750, but the fireplace seems older. The current theory is that the house was constructed around the remains of an earlier dwelling. It’s all terribly Time Team around here at the moment.

Two interesting discoveries:

Firstly, a pair of earrings. Seemingly deliberately bricked in. Non-precious, but clearly of value to somebody – perhaps hidden to remember a loved one who once lived and died here?

It would be great to find something else to help us piece together the story – a letter, a necklace, an old skull, etc.

Secondly, an arched vault that revealed itself to be an ancient bread oven.

They didn’t have Prima bread makers in the eighteenth century, not having power points and stuff. Me, Short Tony and the Cheerful Builder gazed at it in rapture. It’s incredible. I reckon I could get in Period Living magazine with this.

It’s odd how perceptions change with time. If I were able to whisk the house’s original owner forward to the present day, they would piss themselves laughing at our admiration for their simple oven, and the fact that their shitty dwelling is now considered a desirable place to live.

Actually, they probably wouldn’t. They’d be too busy being bloody terrified about three blokes turning up in a big flashing machine and abducting them into the future.

Although if I’m being realistic about it, that doesn’t work anyway. Had I been brilliant enough to invent time travel, the first thing I’d use it for would probably not be to snatch to order a filthy peasant for the purposes of showing off about my period features.

I’d go back and stick a few quid in a high interest account. Then I’d forward to Volvo Man’s eighteenth birthday party, and stop myself from asking Tracey H out.

Thursday, May 06, 2004


Soot everywhere. Soot on the carpet, soot up the walls. Soot on the windowsill, covering the photo frame.

Soot in the air. The smell of soot. Getting to the back of my throat. My nose running, my sinuses churning out gunge.

Soot on the bottom of my shoes, being trampled round the rest of the house. Soot on my jumper, on my jeans. Bits in my hair.

Soot everywhere. On the stairs. In the bedroom. Soot. Soot. Soot.

In short, it’s sooty.

I can’t blog in these conditions. I’m an artiste. I need a proper working environment. (non-sooty).

I may write something later.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

My skip has arrived!!!

That’s three and a half sheds, a fireplace that I can chuck things into and a skip in the drive. Nobody will now be able to question my masculinity.

I watched the Skip Delivery Man carefully and skilfully use his Hydraulic Thing to edge the skip into an inch-perfect position.

I watched as my neighbour strode out of his house looking bemused. I lip-read words to the effect of ‘what the hell are you doing’. I watched the Skip Delivery Man carefully and skilfully use his Hydraulic Thing to lift the skip back onto the lorry. Then I watched him drive next-door to mine, and repeat the process.

His was a small lorry, carrying empty skips only. He chatted cheerfully as he worked.

I sometimes look at delivery men and very much envy their jobs. I’m sure that it’s more complicated than this, but driving round Norfolk stopping occasionally for a drop-off and a chat strikes me as not a bad way to earn a crust. One of my main reasons for the downshifting thing was the stress of corporate life, and here was a job that I’d very much like, but that would never occur to me to apply for. Odd, isn’t it?

“I was told to tell you that we’ll be putting building rubble in it,” I said, obediently.

“No problem, mate. That just means that it needs to be perfectly straight on the drive. Otherwise the big lorry can’t pick it up.”

He thought for a moment, and looked forlorn.

“That’ll be someone else. I don’t get to drive the big lorry.”

There’s corporate pecking order management shit in the skip delivery business as well.

“So what type of rubble is it?” he enquired eagerly, as I turned to go back indoors.

I guess in the skip world, rubble is all you really get to talk about. So we chatted for a while, although I struggled with any more detail than ‘bricks and stuff’. Let’s face it. I wouldn’t even pass the first interview.

But I woke up this morning cheered. I live in a neighbourhood where I can have a skip on my drive overnight, and not wake the next morning to find it containing someone else’s soggy three-piece suite.

That’s why I’m here.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

There were so many reasons why I really, absolutely, absolutely, didn’t need to get drunk last night.

Firstly, the Cheerful Builder starts work at 9am today. Renovations.

That gave me a two-hour window to get all my work done before the cottage becomes uninhabitable as a serious place of business for a week.

Secondly, I had a heavy weekend. Ten years ago I would have shrugged it off, but now I am old and my body is failing. I need early nights and Horlicks after a night on the lash.

So we popped round to Short Tony’s.

The person I admire most in the world, ever, is Short Tony.

Granted, he faces tough competition, what with Nelson Mandela, Mr Singh that did the marathon, etc etc. But for me it’s Short Tony all the way.

I’d like to say that this is because he’s a great father to his kids, as clearly he is. But this isn’t the reason. Nor is it because he’s made some courageous professional and personal decisions in order to focus on what matters in life.

He tops the list, because he has pulled off the most incredible, outstanding, daring and admirable feat in the history of marriage, ever.

Recently, he had his own builders in to make some alterations to the family home. The plan was to create a second bed/sitting room from one of the extensions, and a large family dining room in the main part of the house.

The plans subtly evolved as the work progressed. And now they have a ‘Playstation Room’ in one of the extensions, and a snooker room in the main part of the house. And he’s still married.

Anyway. He answered the door, looking very hearty indeed. Already.

“Come in!” he beamed. “I’ve packed the beers with fridge.”


And so it was that these valuable two hours have been lost to my own foolishness, although after a bath and a mug of tea I don’t feel too bad.

I do have to clear up some sick (the LTLP’s, not mine) however, as I think it might be pushing it to ask the Cheerful Builder to do that as part of his preparation.

And no, as I know you’re thinking it, I won’t be getting a snooker room. I will, however, be getting a large fireplace that I’ll be able to chuck things into from the comfort of the sofa, an activity at least as manly as snooker.

And looking back on what I’ve just written, at least I’ve used my remaining valuable time constructively.