Monday, February 28, 2005

I have a crisis of confidence.

"Do you think," I whisper, as we lay side by side in the warmth of our king size bed (Ikea), "that..."

"What?" she whispers back.

We stick to the convention that people whisper when it's dark, despite the fact that we are both awake.

"Do you think that at my age I am a bit old to bring cuddly animals to bed?"

Every night, my side of the bed is shared by Honey Bear, Peter the Hanging Monkey and a furry glove-like-thing you're meant to wear to polish your car, called Mr. Mitt.

There is a long diplomatic silence.

"I think," she tentatively offers, "that it's less the fact that they are animals, rather than the fact that they're just nice and warm to have about you on a night like this."

Another pause.

"Right," I affirm.

"Don't listen to her, Mr Mitt," I hiss.

"Can I go to sleep now?" (that was the LTLP, not Mr. Mitt)

"I'm just worried that I'm a bit..."

"Well why don't you write something on your fucking blog about it?"

"Because I'll come across as sad."

"You ARE sad."

"I am not. I just write about things that happen in my life in a certain style that on the face of it makes me come across as sad for comic effect, whereas really showing readers that I am in fact not sad at all but really somebody who is quite youthful and dynamic and who they would look up to in many ways."

"No. You just come across as sad."

"Oh," I say in a very small voice.

She turns over, and the conversation is closed. The five of us drift off to sleep.

Friday, February 25, 2005


With the garden carpeted white, the local schools closed and cars sliding past in an alarming fashion, the LTLP decides to work at home.

I am happy about this, as she will probably make me some lunch. However it means sharing my important working space with her. I sternly warn that she is not allowed to disturb my concentration whilst I get on with my Important Things.

"Oh - just look at the rabbits!" she exclaims, as they frolic in the snow. "Look look look!!!"

I frown into the PC screen, labouring to grasp a document that has been sent to me by a consultant as [quote] "it may be of some help".

The first sentence reads - and I'm not making one word of this up:

"In assessing which is the better medium it is of paramount importance to determine the tasks it is designed to support as numerous empirical studies have confirmed that technology is but an enabling tool that will fail if applied in an environment for which it is ill suited."

"A mouse!!! There's a little mouse eating the nuts from the bird feeder!!!"

Sure enough, a small wood mouse is gorging itself accordingly as described.

Several cute-animal-related interruptions follow until I am close to despair. I am trying to juggle a real-life children's wildlife programme with a report that has clearly been written by an over-paid buffoon to whom, in a two-way contest to write the best plain and simple note to the milkman, the small wood mouse would present a serious challenge.

Just as there are 0898 telephone numbers that generate hilarious 'prank' calls to one's friends, I'm sure there are companies that create joke documents like this in order to fool people like me. Well if you are laughing then I don't think it is funny.

I close the PC screen and stomp off to watch Mr Blair and Mr Howard on the telly.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Well, it's been a year.

And I've loved every moment of it.

Well, actually, I've mainly loved the getting nice comments bit. And the checking the site stats bit. The actual writing's been a bit of a pain in the arse.

It's opened some interesting doors.

It's been dubbed 'superbly funny - if all blogs were as good as this, we'd never switch off our computers' by no less an authority than VNU's Web Active magazine. Although they also made a big point of my unique monthly 'helpful onsite archive' of old posts, which does make one wonder how many blogs they actually read - but they're the experts and who am I to argue?

It's a good job everybody isn't as funny as me, or your electricity bills would all be astronomical.

There has even been talk of a book deal.

Admittedly that talk was me in the Village Pub, banging the table and shouting at people that I should have a book deal.

Finally, I have met some fit women bloggers through it.

(Although as I am one of the leading bloggers it would be unethical and an abuse of power for me to have sex with one or all of them, even if they begged really hard).

So, all in all, a year well spent.

Where was I going with this? Oh yes - I really just wanted to thank all the readers - be you commenter, linker or lurker. I haven't a clue who most of you are or where you come from, but it's been such incredible fun trying to work it out using my secret charts.

This was originally a way of getting over writer's block and easing myself back into a productive routine. I figured if I could force myself to write something interesting about nothing every day, then it'd help. Which it did. I look back at the early stuff much as William Hague must look back on that conference speech - the embarrassment comes from the fact that I thought at the time that it was any good. But at least I got something down on screen.

I also thought I might do a bit of good. Maybe I might make a few readers think a bit more about the countryside and country life.

To make you realise that 'country dwellers' aren't necessarily the Countryside Alliance's pinup honest peasant salt-of-the-earth types dependent for their livelihood upon centuries of tradition. Nor are they the risible stereotypes of the Vicar of Dibley et al. No - they are perfectly normal people like all of you are, who just happen to dwell in a rural area and talk to the rabbits and hide behind their secret bookcase whilst living next door to a man who has converted his dining room into a pub.

Now I need to spend a bit more time doing stuff that I'm - like - paid for. I'm also going to be spending a bit more time away from the Norfolk Village.

So for a while I won't be writing every day. Just some days.

The alternative would be to bash out hurried but tired old rubbish, complacent in the comfort that enough people would consume it uncritically, whilst gradually losing the will to drag myself out of the relentlessly downward spiral of creative torpor. And I have no wish to become the 'Never Mind The Buzzcocks' of blog.

So don't go away.

And thanks.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

I was excited to read Mr Iain Duncan Smith's article about blogging in The Guardian.

It is very good to know that he is reading, so I would like to welcome him to these pages.

(NB for foreign readers who do not know him I should explain that Mr Duncan Smith is a sort of Conservative George Lazenby.)

I am so pleased that at last an important MP has worked out the importance of the blogging revolution. That is, for the first time since politics began, our representatives can look through a window to read and learn from the lives, hopes, fears and aspirations of the ordinary man or woman in the street.

Previously, of course, they were forced to make highly-managed visits to new hospital wings, or take non-executive directorships of big multinational corporations in order to keep in touch with the real world of you or I.

But oh! - typical Guardian - a series of misprints have implied that it's the sites of political activists and organised campaigns that are most of interest to him, rather than the 99% of UK weblogs written by ordinary voters.

He should get this corrected right away.

UPDATE - Claypot has asked me to mention this site, which I'm happy to do, although I'm always a little uneasy about juxtaposing serious stuff on what is essentially a humorous little piece of writing. It's the 'That's Life' syndrome ("Next week we'll tell you more about this poor dying baby in an incubator but meanwhile - here's an amusing carrot"). We are very lucky to have free speech here in the village, as long as we are obsequious to any Daily Mail reporters we might come across in the village shop.

Monday, February 21, 2005

There is a knock at the door!!!

I am overwhelmingly excited, as I am not due any visitors today. I adjust my hair and throw open the door.

It is Short Tony.

"You are meant to be at work," I tell him crossly. "I thought I had a mystery visitor."

He replies that he has some unexpected spare time, and challenges me to a game of tennis.

I tell him that I've just finished a big lunch, and so I will not be able to run around much. But he dismisses my protest with a laugh. "I know," he says. "I've got a webcam hidden in your kitchen. Come on!"

I am never one to turn down a challenge, except really difficult ones. So I don my Matalan and follow him out. All the time, however, I am alarmed that he has a webcam hidden in my kitchen.

This seems to go beyond good neighbourliness. I hope he does not have a video from Monday of me having sex with my dinner. Even though I didn't, he could have falsified the evidence by going on an advanced Adobe Premier/After Effects IT course at Fakenham College then piecing a video together frame by frame in order to post it on the Internet to embarrass me. And I would be unable to deny it because it would be so realistic right down to the sound effects when I withdraw, even though it was all a fake and wasn't true.

That is the sort of man he is.

The thought of his probable betrayal makes me angry, and I administer a good thrashing in the tie breaker, despite the leaden effects of two large slices of toast, a jar of potted shrimp and some home-made pate (lamb's liver).

I return home and sweep the kitchen before I undress for a shower.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

We arrive at the restaurant.

"Happy Valentine's Day!!!" I wish the LTLP romantically, before enquiring anxiously whether she has brought any money.

"I still can't get the taste out of my mouth," she complains.

I carefully inscribe the name on my list of death. 'Fergus Henderson, owner, St. John Restaurant'. He wrote the sheep's heart recipe and is an idiot. An unmarried idiot. Or an idiot who was married before serving up one of his own dishes as a romantic 'treat'.

Our takeaway arrives, and we step out into the raging wall of sleet.

"This is nice," I say, as we eat in front of University Challenge.

"It's marginally better than last year, I guess."

"Jim Callaghan!!! Definitely Jim Callaghan!!! - you what?"

"Our romantic 'chicken dinner' at the M11 Services."

I decide against putting on my banjo music CD.
Back Monday

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

"And there will be a special traditional English lovers' Valentine's Day dish waiting for you when you get home."

I conclude the telephone conversation with a flourish. She is so lucky to have me, I reflect, as I adjourn to the kitchen to prepare stuffed sheep's heart.

Honestly, she will be overwhelmed at the effort I've gone to. In fact, it is quite likely that I will get a shag.

I have never had sheep's heart before, but the book insists that it's edible, and before long I'm stuffing away like John Leslie in a French convent school. It is funny how the chambers fit your fingers like a glove puppet. I play with it a bit.

"Helloooo, Mr Heart!" I say in a funny squeaky voice.

"Hello Jonny!" it replies, whispering in my ear.

I realise that I am being immature and slide my fingers out. It is tight and very moist - honestly, if it were a bit warmer and I were a pervert, which I am not, it might have occurred to me, which it didn't, that if I were on my own, which I was, but I wouldn't be later on, that it might act as a substitute, well not 'substitute' exactly, but that is to say it's a moot point anyway, as I didn't, and anyone who thinks I did doesn't know me at all, as I didn't even think about it.

I continue stuffing. (using my hands).

Again, I have huge guilt pangs about my sheep. I still had not given up hope of reviving it, and it has been in the freezer now for over a week. (As rich Americans know, you can pay to have your body deep-frozen and it will bring you back to life).

But now I will have to give it an artificial heart. I will have to make one out of Lego.

And some crutches.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Happy Valentine's day!!!

I have already got one card. It has a picture of two rabbits on the front and says 'luv ya! xxx' in it.

It is a good thing that the rabbits are trying to build bridges by sending me valentine's cards. I am very impressed with their thoughtfulness and the fact that they were able to write it directly to me (as they do not have opposable thumbs).

I have so far got nothing from the LTLP.

I would also be disappointed not to get a delivery from at least two of the following:

THE FOXY GIRLS WHO WORK IN THE VILLAGE PUB - they might not as I am a client and it would be unprofessional. THE VEGETABLE DELIVERY LADY - ditto. She may just include a suggestive parsnip next time instead. KIRSTIE ALLSOPP (presenter of Channel 4's 'Relocation' television programme) - not sure if she has my address, but it would be easy enough to get hold of as she has contacts in the estate agency business. SONIA THE TRAFFIC ANNOUNCER (ex KLFM, now Radio Norfolk) - she sends me secret coded messages in her traffic reports, so may not bother with a card and just stick to this.

I sit and eagerly await the post lady's knock.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

I've been working in London this week, so I stayed with my mum and dad. They live in a medium-sized Essex commuter-belt town (whose name I must keep secret from you for now).

My mother plays badminton on Monday nights, so my father and I were left to our own devices.

I decided to take a bath.

It was at this point that I discovered that, despite having been married to my mother for about 1 grillion years and living in the same house since 1967, my dad had no idea whatsoever where the towels were kept.

I marvelled at the way that he has managed to retain his natural male authority in the household. In contrast, not only do I know where our towels are kept, but I cook dinner and load the washing machine as well. A wave of despair hit me as I wondered when it was that I became so oppressed.

Do not get me wrong, as I was very in favour of the emergence of 'feminism' in the seventies, even though I was only about five at the time. I was a bit young to understand Ms. Germaine Greer and all that, but I was certainly impressed by the day-to-day achievements of people like Ms. Bonnie Tyler, who proved that ladies could do just as well in previously male-dominated professions such as soft rock.

I reflected upon this as I took my bath. What the vast silent majority (all of whom agree with me on everything) did not realise is that the Liberal Elite that run this country would turn this once-great nation into literally being like 'The Worm That Turned' by the Two Ronnies.

I do not resent the LTLP for her complicit role in this, as I love her so and she is constantly being bombarded by propaganda from hilariously biased organisations such as the BBC who never question the current orthodoxy. These liberals are just like the Taliban in their way, but without the beards (except goatees).

I got progressively angrier as I washed my armpits.

I dried myself off with my dad's towel.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Strange noises from next door!!!

Thud. Thud. Thud.

Thud. Thud. Thud.

Thud. Thud. Thud.

I hurry over to Short Tony's to investigate. If there is some mysterious thudding sound going on in the village then I want to know about it.

Mrs Short Tony opens the door, a resigned look on her face. Short Tony bounds over, excitedly, and invites me into the dining room.

I walk into the dining room and my brain does somersaults. It is no longer a dining room.

Short Tony has converted his dining room into a pub.

The pool table is set up in the middle of the room. There is a new dartboard on the wall. Already, there are dart holes in the artexing around it. Thud, thud, thud. Notices indicate the way to the toilets, and the name of the licensee.

"Glub, blig, frrrrrrt, gaaaaah," I observe, momentarily unable to form coherent words.

"It's great isn't it?" enthuses Short Tony, handing me a bar menu.

Mrs Short Tony reappears, presumably having finished packing her suitcases.

Friday, February 04, 2005

My sheep has arrived!!!

New readers will need to understand that I have ordered a whole sheep from the organic farm on the Marquess of Cholmondeley's estate.

I move in these circles, you see.

A Land Rover draws up outside, and I bound to the door. It is, as expected, a man in wellies carrying a box of sheep. Presumably this is the Marquess of Cholmondeley. He seems a very nice chap if not as well spoken or well dressed as I thought he would be.

It is all neatly vacuum packed, and he explains which bit is which (chops, legs, neck etc). I grin at him enthusiastically and try to engage him in some interesting discourse, but he disappears off quite hurriedly. I expect he has an important vote in the House of Lords.

As I gaze at my purchase I feel a big stab of guilt in my heart. The box of meat is still quite warm and suddenly I am seized with remorse for this lost sheep.

I try to revive it, but with no success.

Miserably, I start to pack the freezer.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

My bird bath is occupied!!!

With the Iraqi elections etc. this might not sound like big news to you (especially my Iraqi readers, whether you voted or whether you are logging on from the insurgents' base).

But I have been gazing forlornly at my unoccupied bird bath since I was given it for Christmas.

"Wooohooo!!! Wooohoooo!!! Come on birdies, come and have a nice bath!" I have cooed, as I have stood out on the patio waving and beckoning to them, my pants round my ankles.

That last bit was a joke.

But now it is occupied!!!

I stare through the French windows, watching it take a bath. (But not in a pervy way). It seems very happy, and I am hoping this will encourage more of its fellow species to enjoy the facilities that I have provided.

Norfolk is full of birdwatchers, and I wonder whether they would be interested in this one. They are all a bit sad, but you must remember that they get the same thrill from seeing a bird as normal people do from witnessing the first heave of an early Class 37 drawing heavy freight out of the sidings and onto the West Coast Line.

My new birdy friend finishes its activities and shakes itself off (I do not provide towels). I would like to think that it chirps a happy 'thank you' to me.

But I cannot hear it through the window.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

"Helloooo!!! It's me!!! Over here!!!"

I do a little tapdance across the lounge.

But try as I might, she will still not look up from The Da Vinci Code.

Or it might be the Illustrated Da Vinci Code. Or the Rough Guide to The Da Vinci Code. Or the Da Vinci Code for Dummies. Or Dr. Seuss's The Grinch and Da Vinch. She has the lot.

Honestly. If I came home unexpectedly early and found her dressed as the Mona Lisa discussing plans for building the first helicopter in bed with Dan Brown then I would not be surprised (although a little disappointed).

I retire to the other end of the room, morose. I decide to play her a nice song on the piano. She will like that.

"Life is a moment in space," I warble, playing an E minor chord, which is beautiful. I think for a bit before switching to an A minor (also very nice), but then it goes back to an E minor quite quickly which is difficult. "When the dream is gone - it's a lonlieeer place."

She does not look up but I know in my heart she is listening and is touched. I get through the verse only having to stop a couple of times, marvelling at the genius of Mr. Barry Gibb.

I go crash heartfeltly into the chorus. "I ammm a woman in love - and I'll doooo anything..." I trill. At this point I wish Mr Gibb had written it in a slightly lower key, but what is good enough for Barbra Streisand is good enough for me. "To get you into my worrrld! And hollld you within!"

I finish the song, but she does not look up from the book.

It has her bewitched.