Saturday, December 31, 2005


On James's recommendation, the Rabbit and I settled down last night with a roast chicken and the Complete First Season of The OC. Sadly the chicken did not survive beyond Episode Three, but the Rabbit and I valiantly battled through to the end of Episode Nine (i.e. the one in which Whatsisname and That One Who Apparently Designs Jewellery Now finally get to kiss each other).

Watching a lot of episodes of something consecutively is always a bit strange. Earlier this year I spent ages discussing the supposed many layers of significance in the sitcom version of Nathan Barley with my comedy forum chums. It was only when I watched all six episodes back to back that I realised that it doesn't have many layers of significance at all; it's simply about the emptiness of fashion. The irony of this is not lost on me.

Watching a lot of the OC in one sitting demands a lot of the old willing suspension of disbelief. For example, Nice Jewish Lawyer Chappie is seen to have a job interview one day and start the new job the next ("surely he'd have cases to wrap up first") and Jewellery Designer Bird's parents' divorce comes through faster than it takes her to come round from having her stomach pumped of painkillers and tequila (top marks to her for collapsing in such a beautiful, gothic fashion, though).

"I've got no one," sobs Jewellery Bird at one point, having discovered her Evil Jock Boyfriend sexydancing with Evil Blonde Bimbo in a nightclub in Tijuana, just after her Dad's phoned her to say he's leaving her Mum. "What in hell is she talking about," exclaim I. "She's just spent a night in a motel with Troubled Kid Who Used To Be Poor, and she woke up holding his hand. That's the kind of thing you'd notice, wouldn't you?" The Rabbit agreed. "I'd notice if someone I fancied even breathed in my direction," she observes. We both nod sagely.

Clearly the Best Character is (the quite lovely) Seth, who gets all the best lines *and* has a seemingly inexhaustible wardrobe of faintly subversive indie-band t-shirts. Seth goes off the boil pretty quickly though, once he becomes a magnet for The Ladies. "Bring back geeky, socially-leprous Seth!" exclaim I. But no, the lovely Seth is destined to have all manner of smart, sassy girls unexpectedly throw themselves at him. Unfair play!

Err, obviously I haven't become at all addicted to it. Oh no. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have another 18 episodes to watch...

Friday, December 30, 2005


Er, this post sort of turned out to be My Terribly Dull Life Story. Frankly I would advise you to switch off now and go and do something more exciting instead, like write your thank you letters to Aunt Fanny and Uncle Quentin.

Sorry for writing so much about music at the moment, but I’ve had a lot of catching up to do, you see. Once upon a time, I was one of two music editors of my uni’s student magazine (all copies of which have thankfully been lost), which entailed getting in free to lots of gigs and being sent lots of indie-rock albums in the post. As if this wasn’t good enough, I once got to interview opium-tinged American goth rockers My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult. And EMF once said hello to me*. So you can see these were halcyon days indeed.

After that it all went a bit wrong**. I ditched my whole indie-chick thing and became a raver. When spending entire weekends in a field making complicated hand movements, reaching for the lasers and talking hackneyed nonsense about becoming a Buddhist started to seem like a bit too much hassle, I elected to spend my weekends instead in London’s techno and trance clubs, making complicated hand movements, reaching for the lasers and talking hackneyed nonsense about becoming a Buddhist.

As you can imagine, these were not particularly musically rich times. But worse was yet to come. Not only did I land myself one of those dream corporate jobs that meant I had to get up at 5.30am every day, drive from Camden to Reading, work my arse off for fourteen hours and then drive back to Camden just in time to fall into bed at 10pm, but I also became afflicted – somewhat unsurprisingly, it seems to me now – with terrible, hallucinatory, shaking panic attacks, which could apparently only be treated with heavy medication***.

This turned out to be A Terrible Mistake. While spending four years numbed up on anti-depressants might *sound* quite pleasant, in a Brave New World soma-holiday type way, it did nothing for me culturally. I didn’t have any panic attacks, but then I didn’t experience any other emotions either. For four years I was pretty much an automaton, and anything on the emotional-cultural axis seemed like a mighty waste of time. So I didn’t really listen to any music at all.

Which means that now I’m completely chemical-free and Mistress Of My Own Mind, I have to catch up on everything I missed over the last – what? – twelve years. And oh boy, is that a lot of catching up.

And what makes it worse is that my parents were never into the pop music of their day, so I never had one of those upbringings where you were handily exposed to Bob Dylan and Marvin Gaye and whatnot. Which means lots of extra catching up. Why, only the other day - and at the insistence of Fizzy - I finally acquired a copy of that Velvet Underground album with the banana on it. "Hmmm," I thought. "This sounds suspiciously like Spacemen 3. Oh no, wait."

Anyway, to summarise, apparently some quite good music has been made over the last forty years or so that you wouldn't necessarily see on MTV. Luckily I have some trusty companions like Pitchfork (reliable!) and Stylus (unutterably pretentious!) to guide me, not to mention all the lovely people who send me marvellous mp3s and compilations an' ting.

Right, that's it. I'm sorry, it won't happen again. Next up is my critique of Dr Richard Cox's The Language Of The Ogam Inscriptions Of Scotland. I'll try to keep the word count down.

MINUTE-BY-MINUTE UPDATE: Oo, my OC Complete First Season DVD has just arrived! Now if you'll excuse me...

* If anyone would like the complete and unabridged list of Pop Stars Who Have Said Hello To Me, you’ve only to ask.

** Which for the uninitiated is dance culture argot for "all went a bit Pete Tong".

*** Don't do it, kids. I've since discovered that the condition can be treated equally well by not consuming bread, cheese or hot chocolate.

Thursday, December 29, 2005


I *was* going to review the emotional rollercoaster that was 2005 in the style of the Reduced Shakespeare Company, a post which in my head took the form of a hilarious, rollicking pantomime full of dastardly villains, dei ex machina, heartache, heartbreak, dispossession, restitution and a tip-top soundtrack that was two parts doomy Americana, one part sparkly electro-pop and a topping of crunchy Elliott Smith sprinkles, but then I decided that it might all be a bit close to the mark.

So instead you get a straightforward list of my New Year’s resolutions, none of which will be kept.

1. Read the entire Baroque Cycle, in the correct sequence.

2. Never wear a skirt as short as this one again.

3. Do it. Do it. Do *it*.

4. Go to the cinema, like, *all* the time.

5. Be a bit less like that Jack Nicholson character in that film I’ve forgotten the name of.

6. Go to Africa again. Also, go to San Francisco again.

7. Realise that all the things I’m rubbish at I will always be rubbish at. Including writing this blog, skiing and making resolutions.

8. Avoid getting into any, you know, *relationships*.

9. Start drinking again.

10. Get a Mibo lampshade for my hall.

Yup, that ought to do it, unless anyone has any other suggestions*?

* An audience participation feature I’ve totally nicked from Wyndham.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

OC Catastrophe

It turns out that every single one of my current favourite songs has featured on the soundtrack to the OC*. I've never seen a single episode of the OC. Am I subconsciously, erm, channelling it? What is it, anyway? And what does it all mean?

* OC? O.C.? Help.

Nicotine 1, Patroclus 0

Forget Nizlopi whatever-it-is vs Shayne Thing*, the real battle of the 2005 festive season has been me versus the demon weed. Things started out very well, with an eight-day unbroken run of not smoking at all, with no more horrific side effects than me snapping slightly at the lovely L (sorry, lovely L) at one point before dosing myself up to the eye teeth with those cripplingly expensive fur 'n' mint 'n' slime-based sweets that Nicotinell churn out in soothingly addiction-numbing quantities.

No, it was all fine. Scotland - fine. France - fine. This time I really will never smoke again, I told myself, proudly. I would have told other people too, but most of them were members of my family, and they sweetly pretend not to know I smoke.

Of course then I got back to Blighty, taking a handy coach straight from Stansted to the Four Seasons Hotel on Park Lane**, where my good friend the lovely S was nursing her millionaire jet-set father, who'd cracked a rib during a festive stop-over in London en route for Phoenix, or was it Tokyo?

One glance at S's packet of Marlboro Reds, and I was hooked again. We ended up taking a taxi down to the slums of Dalston E8 just so we could smoke all night, drink wine, listen to the Kings of Convenience and debate whether Sebastian Flyte actually dies or just fades out of the story***.

Needless to say I woke up this morning in an unfamiliar bed plagued with nausea, remorse and a terrible headache. Kids, take it from me - just don't start.

* I have no idea who these people actually are.

** Fact: I was once tear-gassed on Park Lane, surrounded by burning cars.

*** We tried looking it up on Google, but Google was infuriatingly tight-lipped on the matter. "I could just go out there and get the book," the lovely S suggests eventually. "No, that would be too easy," say I. We still don't know.

Friday, December 23, 2005

This Flight Is Making Me Afraid

The flight to Montpellier was possibly the worst I’ve ever taken, as I was beset the entire way by barely controllable panic attacks. The sort that make you think the same terrible thoughts over and over again, until your scalp crawls with fear, your hands go numb, your heart’s beating like a fucked clock and you can no longer feel your legs:

Oh my God, I’m in an aeroplane, I can’t get out.


That noise doesn’t sound normal.

Oh God, make that noise stop.

Oh God, the noise has stopped. We must be going to crash.


It’s abnormally hot in here.


I can’t die now, I haven’t deciphered the Pictish Ogham inscriptions.


I’m going to be sick now. That will be embarrassing.


Oh Jesus, I can’t get out.


And so it went on, and on, for two interminable hours. Matters were not helped by my travelling companion (in the sense that he was sitting next to me), Barry from Essex, who insisted on soliciting my opinion for the entire duration of the flight on how he could best market his wholesale commercial lighting business.


Fortunately we made it to Montpellier without mishap, I wasn’t sick and no one – to my knowledge – died during the flight.

Perhaps because of this pseudo near-death experience, I am having one of the best times in France that I’ve ever had. The countryside around my house is stunningly beautiful. I’ve seen the low winter sun rise over the frost-encrusted vineyards and the Iron Age oppidum* that caps the hill opposite. I’ve seen the low winter sun set in a rust-coloured glow over the first foothills of the Cévennes. I’ve bought an incredibly girly teapot. I’ve been having a really good laugh with my Mum. I’m very happy.

To allow you to share in this unexpected joy, here is a video for a lovely song by Icelandic indie piano popstrels Ampop.

And a very merry Christmas to one and all!

* The perspicacious among you may have noticed that living beneath Iron Age hillforts is the sort of thing I do.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


So long then folks, I'm off to visit various parents for a few days, just like that Christmassy bit in Bridget Jones's Diary, eh?


Going back to the north of Scotland is always a bit weird. When I was little we lived in a small stone cottage at the foot of a hill near the sea. On top of the hill was an old Iron Age fort. Nearby, hidden in trees and at the end of a long drive with a lodge at the bottom of it, was the Big House. The people in the big house were landowners and farmers. My Mum and Dad rented the cottage from them. They had four children, let's call them Martha, Ian, Sarah and Angus. Ian was the same age as me. We used to play together a bit.

One day I came in from the garden, it must have been in the autumn, and I must have been six or seven years old. My Mum was in the kitchen, and when I came in she said to me Ian is dead. I think I laughed, because I didn't really know what that meant. It turned out that Ian had been helping his Dad with the harvest, and he had fallen into one of those big silos where they store grain. By the time they got him out, he had drowned. They tried to revive him, but he was dead. After that, my parents always told us not to play anywhere near the big piles of grain there always were in the farm buildings at harvest time. We didn't take any notice.

Near the cottage where we grew up, underneath the hill with the Iron Age fort on top of it, there were three ponds that are now a trout fishery. In the winter, when we weren't more than seven and nine years old, my brother and I used to go up to the frozen ponds by ourselves and walk out on the ice. We weren't worried, even when we heard it cracking around us. Once, Mum told us we weren't to walk on the ice, ever. We didn't take any notice.

This week when we went back for my Granny's 95th birthday, my Dad and his girlfriend and I stayed in the Big House, which is now a guesthouse. The same people still live there. The hills that I thought were so huge when I was little now seem small enough to step over. The Iron Age fort is still there. My Granny is still there. Nothing has changed at all, except the size of the hills.

Sunday, December 18, 2005


So long then folks, I'm off to the place of my birth for a few days, just like that Christmassy bit in the Bible, eh?

* Which is my second favourite word of all time.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

High Fidelity

I love a good list, me. Just one more reason why I think I'm really a geeky man trapped in the body of a small, blonde ex-PR girl. So anyway, it being the season and all, I'll *treat* you to my top 20 songs of 2005* (in no particular order) - with FREE bonus facetious commentary:

There She Goes, My Beautiful World by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. The boy Cave abandons any kind of restraint and assembles what sounds like 50 guitars, 20 pianos, 63 drumkits and an entire gospel choir to produce riotous epic whose lyrics score way up high on the Cultural References Index. Useful source of throwaway facts about Nabokov, Gauguin, Johnny Thunders et al. Nice work.

New Light Of Tomorrow by Husky Rescue. Finland's answer to Air, only with a beautiful blonde singer and a tall, enigmatic Finnish guy instead of two French blokes. Lovely.

Black Heart by Calexico. Makes some people think about escaping across the border from California to Mexico. Made me cry all the way to Venezuela and back. Probably one of the best broken-heart dirges ever.

Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole by Martha Wainwright. Martha sticks it to her poor old Dad using some fairly unequivocal language, in a song that should have made Alanis Morissette weep with envy into her faux-ironic woolly hat.

The Start Of Something by Voxtrot. Tip-top twee indie-pop, cute blokes, top-notch "I've been dumped" lyrics, fabulous.

Babe, You Turn Me On by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Deploy with caution when making compilation CDs for people you fancy, on the grounds that it a) risks coming across as a bit stalkerish, and b) contains the lines: "the nightingale it sings to you/and it raises up the ante/I put one hand on your round, ripe heart/and the other down your panties". Ooh la la, Mr Cave! Come here and say that! Etc.

My Home Is The Sea by Matt Sweeney & Bonnie "Prince" Billy. This is just a perfect song, and that's all there is to say about it, really.

So Come Back, I Am Waiting by Okkervil River. Epic finale to inexplicably critically-overlooked Black Sheep Boy album, scores top marks for rhyming "bacterium", "magisterial", "abecedarian" and "wisteria" in the space of four lines. Impressive. Also, sinister.

Shanty For The Arethusa by The Decemberists. You may not *think* you need to hear a song about being press-ganged on to a nineteenth-century cargo ship bound from New York to Australia, but actually you do. No, really.

My Own Face Inside The Trees by The Clientele. A wintry walk in the park, followed by tea, toast and honey and this. Mmmmm.

I Turn My Camera On by Spoon. As previously advertised. Ooh yeah.

Is It Any Wonder? by The Shortwave Set. *Like* St Etienne/Stereolab/the Kinks/Robyn Hitchcock (delete as applicable), only And with a Swedish singer with a gorgeous voice. Damn all these tall, beautiful, honey-voiced Scandinavians! Unutterably wonderful.

Too Drunk to Fuck by the Dead Kennedys. Because sometimes you have to listen to comedy early 80s West-Coast agit-punk. Also because I refuse to grow up.

Kiss Off by the Violent Femmes. As above, only replace "comedy early 80s West-Coast agit-punk" with "whiny early 80s New York acoustic post-punk".

Needle In The Hay by Elliott Smith. Miserable smackhead singer-songwritery acoustic guitar stuff par excellence. Alas, poor Elliott. I loved him, Horatio. Still do, in fact.

This Corrosion by Lambchop. Because it's *still* the greatest cover ever. Closely followed by...

Hotel California by The Cat Empire. It's Hotel California! In French! In some sort of reggae style! Makes me grin inanely, and that can't be a bad thing.

Come Hell or High Water by Barry Adamson. In possibly the greatest song ever written, our Barry employs semi-comedy jazz-lounge style to lament being reduced to a quivering mess by a "customary girl in pedestal shoes, no pants and a real tight sweater". If I ever go on Desert Island Discs, I'll be choosing this ten times in a row. You have been warned.

Hrr, that's only 17, but I'm bored now.

* The astute among you may notice that a good many of these date from a lot earlier than 2005. What do you think I am, the NME?

Friday, December 16, 2005

Friday Malarky

For those of you watching the clock till 5.00, this picture apparently contains 72 artistically represented band names for you to find. Click here for full size.

Thanks to Sean for that.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


At our work Christmas dinner we discussed the issues of the day, including the thorny question of: Were Any Great Films Made In The Eighties?

Oo, what about Alien?


No way! Seriously? Alright then, how about Aliens?

Yeah, Aliens was good, but not great.

What about Apocalypse Now?

Was that made in the 80s?

Yes. No. Don't know*.

There was The Godfather.


Alright then, Goodfellas.


Oo, Blade Runner.

(general nods of agreement)

Oo, Stand By Me.

(general nods of agreement)

Oh, and that one with those kids walking along that railway track.

That *is* Stand By Me.

(long silence)

That's it, isn't it. Two films. Crap decade.

* 1979, as it turns out.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Possibly The Last GW-Related Post This Year

Time to call upon the assistance and bulging bank accounts of the loyal Green Wing fanbase once more – the 2005 British Comedy Awards are on tonight, and GW is up against Ant & Dec, Jonathan Ross and Catherine Tate for the People’s Choice award.

This means you need to be glued to ITV from 9.00-10.30 tonight, and ready to gamble all your hard-earned cash on GW carrying off the prize by voting repeatedly during the show.

Oh, and as I’ll be out, it would be nice if someone who knows my mobile number could text me the text voting instructions, so I can participate surreptitiously from under the table at our work Christmas do.

Yes, so it’s a cynical ploy designed to fill ITV’s coffers with largely undeserved cash, but at the same time, it’s worth it…

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

We Live Round Here Too

I keep going back to this link (from NTK), which is the list of speaker bios for that event in Paris the other week, where someone called someone else an asshole during a presentation about how bloggers should be more polite to each other, which in turn seems to have provoked an enormous outbreak of name-calling across the whole blogging "élite", like some sort of unseemly prep-school food fight*.

This list has been making me feel nauseous for some reason, but I couldn't figure out what it was. At first I thought I was just having a fit of intellectual jealousy - because I'm always unbecomingly jealous of clever people, even ones that wear silly combat kilts and style themselves emigrés rather than ex-pats.

But it wasn't until I clicked on the blog of this individual** that I understood. These are the sorts of people that speak at conferences. You know, extroverts. And I don't know about you, but I've had it up to here with extroverts - always cluttering up pavements, chattering into mobiles, shouting at each other in bars, schmoozing people in suits, reading newspapers in business-class lounges, wearing expensive socks, touching complete strangers on the arm, and generally just being so alarmingly confident all the time.

Well, no, I mean, some of my best friends are extroverts, and lovely people they are too. But, you know, for years and years they've been making us introverts feel terribly inadequate, with our clumsy scuttling and blushing and avoidance of direct eye contact. But then along came blogging, and suddenly we had an outlet for our thoughts that didn't involve people looking at us and us having to say things. And it was lovely, dammit.

So when I come across a bunch of extroverts who think they own the blogosphere (although to be fair, some of them actually *do* own Technorati and Movable Type and stuff, damn their expensive socks) just because they used to be management consultants and can speak at conferences, it makes me all confused and upset. This was *our* revolution! We want it back! More specifically, I want it back! Mummy! Those nasty extroverts stole my dinner money!

Umm, I thought this was going somewhere, but it doesn't seem to be. And I didn't get to quote that Pulp song at length, either. Oh, why do these things always sound so much better in my head?

* Only with fewer custard pies and more gratuitous references to Hegelian dialectics.

** When I showed this to Tabby Rabbit, she said: "yeah, but she's got fuck-all comments. I got more comments than that for a post about Bobby Ewing's hair." Which is possibly the funniest thing I've heard all week.

Food Stuff


Let me tell you, I thoroughly disapprove of this tagging malarky. But since it's the lovely Pashmina who's tagged me, I'll make an exception. So, my top ten foodstuffs (and bear in mind this is coming from someone who hasn't so much as taken a saucepan out of the cupboard for at least three months):

1. Plain Choco Leibniz biscuits

2. Lamb

3. Eggs Florentine

4. Anything that takes less than two and a quarter minutes to heat up in the microwave. Anything over two and quarter minutes I count as "cooking", which isn't in my repertoire.

5. Those big juicy white Spanish anchovies

6. Err, salmon

7. Oh, I don't know any more.

8. Can't I list my top ten Johnny Depp screen moments instead?

9. No.

10. I'll shut up then.

Sorry about that. I'm not very into food. As you might be able to tell.


UPDATE: Oh, I forgot to tag other people. So let's hear it, nibus, Tabby and Smat...

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Open Source Epigraphy

When not fixing the central heating, fixing the broken internet connection, walking for miles around the streets and parks of West London or venturing to the Land of the Kids to bring you back rare and exquisite musical gems, this weekend I have been mainly studying the Pictish Ogham inscriptions.

For anyone who's following this, I now have a super Excel spreadsheet with the inscriptions listed in geographical order from north to south, which fairly rapidly revealed the following facts:

1. The majority of inscriptions come from the far North of Scotland, mainly Shetland, Orkney and Caithness.

2. The inscriptions from this northern part of the country are by far the most intelligible, having a reasonable spread of consonants and vowels.

3. This part of the country also features a number of similar inscriptions, of a similar date, in Norse runes (which *can* be fairly easily read). This being because the Vikings had a fairly strong presence in the far North of Scotland in the late Dark Ages, you see.

4. This led me to conclude that perhaps these Northern inscriptions are actually written in a language that is more like Old Norse than any mythical lost Pictish language.

5. It then turned out that a chap by the name of Richard Cox had come to this conclusion six years ago (but pfff, that's like the blink of an eye in Pictish study terms).

6. However, this same Richard Cox concluded from this that because these northern inscriptions are written in Old Norse, this must mean that *all* Pictish Ogham inscriptions are written in Old Norse (or a patois thereof), and that there was perhaps no lost Pictish language at all.

7. But I reckon this is rubbish. The inscriptions from the other areas of Scotland (mainly Grampian and Fife) are almost completely unintelligible, and some have no vowels at all. They just feel completely different.

8. Therefore, my hypothesis is that these other inscriptions *are* written in a language that might conceivably be the lost Pictish language.

Umm, if anyone wants to receive a copy of my spreadsheet and join me in the Not-Geeky-At-All-Honest Open Source Pictish Epigraphy project, then just say the word.

Song Of The Week

I Turn My Camera On by Spoon. Download (legal) mp3, turn volume up to eardrum-bending levels, and dance in an extremely sexy manner around your kitchen/living room/bedroom/anywhere really. Repeat.

How great? How catchy? If this doesn't make your Sunday evening, I don't know what will.


* Ignore me - just trying out this newfangled tagging thing.

Friday, December 09, 2005


NB: This post sounded a lot better in my head.

I promised Betty and Greta that I’d do a review of last night’s gig by terribly fashionable band of the moment The Shortwave Set, and I wouldn’t want to let down any of my lovely and heartwarmingly tolerant readers.

However, you know, I actually know next to nothing about music. I couldn’t tell you anything at all about production values or what constitutes laptopcoustica. Or anything at all about Neil Young.

In fact my music appreciation criteria are strictly limited to the following:

1. The lyrics. Are they clever, intelligent, funny or poetic?

2. Failing that, are they voluminous? (I have an awful weakness for songs that try and cram as many words as possible into one line, which is why you’ll often find me listening to otherwise execrable rubbish, like I Want You by Savage Garden.)

3. The lyrics. Do they contain a lot of cultural references? (This epiphany occurred when I first heard Morrissey sing “Last night the plans for a future war/were all I saw/on Channel 4”. I thought oo, he said Channel 4! *I* have Channel 4! Morrissey speaks to me!)

4. That’s it, really. I’m not very interested in instruments or melody or rhythm or samples or anything like that.

But what I *can* tell you is that last night’s other act, Field Music (number 44 in the NME’s controversial top 50 albums of the year, fact fans), failed dismally on the first three counts above, and are therefore Officially Rubbish. Not only were their lyrics dreadful – I mean, "you're so pretty/I want to talk to you all night" - come *on* - but they also lacked any kind of onstage charisma. Off!

The Shortwave Set, however, did turn out to be unutterably wonderful, as Greta predicted. But their lyrics aren’t all that, so it must have been something else. I’m not equipped to describe it, so I’ll metaphorically hand over to one Anton, newly arrived from New Zealand, who seemed to think that having an encyclopaedic knowledge of All Music Ever would be sufficient to get me to kiss him, or something.

So, The Shortwave Set’s repertoire, according to Anton:

Roadside: “This is very Stereolab. Don’t you think this is very Stereolab?”

Better than Bad: “Oh, this is so ripped off the Kinks”

Slingshot: “Ooh, this sample, it’s Nat King Cole. The greatest song ever written.”

Is It Any Wonder?*: “This guy sounds like Robyn Hitchcock. Don’t you think he sounds like Robyn Hitchcock?”

At this point it might have been pertinent for me to tell A that I’ve just spent four years on medication, during which I had no desire to engage in anything cultural whatsoever, and that therefore my musical knowledge has some gaping lacunae. But I didn’t.

His summing up was spot-on, though: “Either these guys had parents with a lot of junk lying around the house, or they spend a *lot* of time in charity shops.”

No, I know, that’s rubbish. I recommend you go here for a proper review.

The Shortwave Set, though. Unutterably wonderful. Official.

* Song of the Week!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Best News I've Had, Ever

OK, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I was just signing up (again) for the final year of my MA course, when I noticed this little footnote:

On successful completion of 180 points’ worth of required courses you will be awarded the Master of Arts in Popular Culture, entitling you to use the letters MA (Pop Cult) after your name.

Pop Cult! Could *anything* be cooler than that?

The Prisoner's Dilemma

…or the trouble with self-awareness

In cultural theory there’s an idea called the Panopticon, which is a (metaphorical) prison cell where people can see you, but you can’t see them. Which is a bit like having a blog, really. So further to my existential crisis at the weekend, I’ve been thinking far too much about all the people that are currently seeing me without being seen. A motley assortment of individuals that includes, but is in no way limited to:

[frantic snipping noises]

Needless to say, paranoia is rife in the panopticon.

When I originally started this blog, the idea was to document the impact of technology – apparently as represented by Telewest – on modern society, or so it says in my very first post.

[snippety snip, tum-te-tum...]

...The show must go on, and everything. So I might as well pick up the original theme again.

So, things you can expect to be hearing about include:

1. Lots of really wanky stuff about the way technology is changing our general existence. Apparently they are calling this phenomenon Web 2.0. They bloody would as well.

2. Other pretentious rubbish, possibly relating to music and stuff.

3. The lost language of the Picts.

What you won’t be hearing about includes:

1. Anything remotely interesting.

2. Anything remotely funny.

3. Anything remotely scurrilous.

If this is what you’re after, then I strongly advise you to Step Away From This Site, perhaps by clicking on a link to one of my admirable blogging friends in the sidebar there.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have fingers to gnaw, dark imprecations to mutter, and a chair to rock back and forth in.

ALMOST INSTANT UPDATE: Shopping. I might still write about that. Also, interiors. Oo, I feel better already.

FURTHER UPDATE: There, I'm sure the edited version still makes almost as much sense...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Exercise Your Democratic Rights!

As has been noted elsewhere, it's up to us, the people, to choose one of two Channel 4 comedies to go through to the shortlist for the People's Choice category for the forthcoming 2005 British Comedy Awards.

So it's between Green Wing, which is quite clearly The Best Sitcom Of Our Time With The Possible Exception Of Spaced, and another sitcom which I'm not going to mention in case you foolishly decide to vote for it instead*.

All fans of the Wing should therefore proceed immediately to their mobile phones and text "GREEN" to 86633 as many times as your bank balances can handle. Or call 0901 723 02 02 and press 7. Repeatedly.

Lines close midnight next Saturday 10th December, and the award ceremony itself is on Wednesday 14th December on ITV1. Go to it!

* Oh alright, Max & Paddy's Road To Nowhere.

Monday, December 05, 2005

That Existential Crisis In Full!

Bloggers! Ever find yourself asking Big Questions like these, and then wanting to hide under the internet bed for a Very Long Time, clutching at your non-existent cyber-blanket and desperately searching for Tron so that you can cry on his shoulder?

1. Why the hell am I doing this again?

2. Who the bloody hell are all these people, and what do they want?

3. Oh Jesus, whatever was I thinking when I wrote *that*?

4. Why can't I be all funny and clever like [insert name of every other blogger here]?

5. Oh. My. God. My Dad's discovered my blog. What do I do now?

6. Why has so-and-so linked to me?

7. Why hasn't so-and-so linked to me?

8. Why did I leave that stupid comment in that place all those months ago?

9. How am I ever going to find the time to resurrect the lost language of the Picts, write my dissertation, read all those improving books, develop some half-arsed New Theory of Blogging, and do all the usual worky/domesticky stuff, if all I do all day is check my stats?

10. Why don't I just delete the statcounter?

11. Why don't I just delete the whole blog?

12. Help.

If this is you, don't despair. Auntie Patroclus is here to guide you through the bad times, with soothing platitudes like "It's a new frontier for all of us. No one knows what the rules are. We're just going to have to make it up as we go along. Hang in there."

I need to get out more. I know, I'll go and watch up-and-coming West London noiseniks Anarchic Hand play an eardrum-bothering gig in a public toilet. God bless electro-punk rock, quite frankly.


Sorry about that...just succumbing to a bit of blog paranoia, as predicted recently in this post.

I think we're* all OK now. Many thanks to everyone who enquired after my well-being/sanity.

* By which I mean *I*.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

It's The New Going Out, You Know

My finances being in a terrible state, I've banned myself from leaving the flat this weekend for fear of haemorrhaging cash that I don't have along the gold-paved streets of Chiswick, Kensington and Camden.

Staying in all weekend presents a fabulous opportunity to sort one's life out, make Christmas present lists, write Christmas cards, file things in the filing cabinet, pay bills, do Spanish homework, clean the skirting boards, etc. Needless to say, I haven't done any of those things. Instead I spent the afternoon downloading old Spacemen 3 tracks and pretending to know stuff about RSS feeds.

That was fun while it lasted but Christ, I'm bored now. This is probably not unrelated to the fact that I haven't smoked since Thursday. One of the worst things about giving up smoking is that every day lasts for all eternity, and not in a good way. If I had to choose something to spend all of eternity doing, it probably wouldn't be sitting around in a flat in Shepherd's Bush with no money and no cigarettes.

I might still pick Transparent Radiation as the soundtrack, though.

But anyway! There's a fun week on the horizon, starting with Anarchic Hand's breakthrough gig at Ginglik on Monday night, Spanish class Christmas party on Wednesday, a possible trip to Kilburn on Thursday to see neo-Victorians The Shortwave Set play in some fashionable little venue, and a cocktail party (actually a drinks party; I just wanted to say "cocktail party" because it makes my life sound more glamorous) in South Kensington on Friday.

The week, ladies and gentlemen. It's the new weekend, dontcha know.

Friday, December 02, 2005


I was going to make this entire post up, but as I have very little in the way of creative imagination, I'm afraid you're going to have to hear instead about What Really Happened last night.

In a way I was hoping that the fusion of the blogosphere and the Real World, not to mention the Green Wing fanbase/writer crossover nexus and the introduction of a random British Net Celebrity* might provoke some kind of total protonic reversal, resulting in all life as we know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in our bodies exploding at the speed of light, but this did not occur. Which was probably for the best, not least because the Seven Stars has only just been done up.

Instead, there was a lot of civilised chat about speed-dating, the dangers of allowing bodily fluids to seep inside an iPod Shuffle, the most cinematic way to carry out a hired killing, the similarities between Ogham script and Javascript, the difficulty in telling whether a shuffling old man is a tramp or a world-renowned theoretical physicist, what to do about the Pictish thing, and exactly how deranged a person would have to be to phone a girl pretending to be her boyfriend suffering from laryngitis - and more importantly, how long they could get away with this masterstroke of illusion.

I for one enjoyed myself immensely, and a great many thanks to Pashmina, Great She Elephant, Tabby Rabbit, James**, LC, Dave, cello and the lovely S for coming along.

Next up: the mythical South London Blogmeet!

* About whom I may have written somewhat gushingly on a previous occasion.

** Also a British Net Celebrity, having been awarded the accolade of Blog of the Week in last Saturday's Times.

Thursday, December 01, 2005


See you in the pub then, chaps!

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Cat Scan

Today's heartwarming tale of animals and technology: I had a call from my local vet this morning to say that someone had handed in my cat, who ran away a month ago.

It's doubtful I'd ever have got him back if he hadn't been fitted with a microchip, which is registered with a central database whom you can phone to report missing animals. The vet scanned the chip, which brought up the fact that he was missing, together with my mobile number. Bingo! One very happy cat owner. Hurrah for subcutaneous tracking devices!*

One very disgruntled, manky and skinny cat, though. Bless him.

UPDATE: mine did only get as far as the next street, unlike this one (thanks LC for that).

* Sorry, identification devices (thanks Stef)

Meet your fellow bloggers! | Thursday 1 Dec | click here for info!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Those Pictish Inscriptions In Full!

LC's earlier suggestion that I rig up a super-powered Linux cluster and hire a black-market AI programmer to crack the Pictish code is a bit of a sledgehammer/nut scenario, but it did give me a fantastic idea.

The idea being that I post all known Pictish inscriptions here, and you, dear readers, notify me of any observations you may have - you know, like any patterns, repeated phrases, frequency analysis (if you feel so inclined), and the like.

Oo, it's a bit like an incredibly low-tech version of the Seti@Home project! (That's enough now - Ed.)

So here you go, in no particular order:

nehhtvrobbaccennevv maqqotalluorrh
ammaqqtallv lv bahhrrassudds
vuunon itedovob b
bqi a b
crroscc:nahhtvvddadds:dattr:ann bennises:meqqddrroann
eddarrnonn... tti... gng..
..ehteconmors ...dov ...ddrs
etteca... ..v:dattua ...rtt..
hcsd.t..v.nh.t l....vqrrhmdnhq
ineittemen mats
ttlietrenoiddors ..uhtuoaged...
duv nodnnatmaqqnahhto...
iddarqnnnvorrenn iku(a) iosie

Each line is a separate inscription, incidentally. Dots indicate where there are letters missing. All of these inscriptions have been transliterated into our alphabet from the Ogham alphabet they were originally written in. Umm, I think that's it. Do your worst!*

* I do realise that some people may not be quite as excited about this as I am. But that's OK.

Blogmeet Reminder

A quick post to remind you that all bloggers, commenters and lurkers are most welcome to join us (when I say *us*, I'm pretty sure we will be in the plural, if not double figures) this Thursday evening for the Experimental Blog Meety-Uppy Thing in London's swinging Shepherd's Bush.

Details as follows:

The Seven Stars Bar and Dining Room
243 Goldhawk Road
London W12 8ET

Here is a map.

Nearest tubes are Ravenscourt Park (District) and Goldhawk Road (Hammersmith and City) - although the latter is quite a walk.

We'll be there from 7pm onwards to commandeer the comfy sofas.

Everyone welcome, no one has to wear badges (unless you want to). I'll be the diminutive scruffy-haired blonde one. Although it might be better to look out for LC, who still looks much like this, only without the hideous neck injuries and beatific death-bed expression.

Actually I don't even know if LC is coming. LC?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Lost Language Geekery

Oo, there's no stopping me this weekend. Anyway, just back from watching the BBC's lovely dramatisation of one of history's slowest-moving and least viscerally exciting battles, viz: the race to decipher the Egyptian hieroglyphs. It was us against the French in this one, and I'm afraid we lost. Although the BBC made up for that by giving the excitable, prone-to-fainting Jean-François Champollion a nice plummy Home Counties accent (and a lovely smile, perfect teeth and a reassuring sort of Hobbity look about him).

The boy Champollion is one of my geeky heroes, along with Michael Ventris (an uptight architect who deciphered Linear B, and thus became the first person to read the ancientest of Greek inscriptions from the era of the Trojan War) and Henry Rawlinson (who was more of a swashbuckling sort of character, and who deciphered ancient Persian cuneiform in his time off from colouring the map of the world red and subduing irate Afghan warlords with his upper class English wit and charm).

I've always (well, not *always*, but for a good while now) fancied that I'd join these three in the ranks of Top Resurrecters Of Lost Languages, when I finally get round to deciphering the inscriptions on the Pictish stones of Scotland. But Champollion, Ventris and Rawlinson had it relatively easy, because they had so much source material. There are acres of hieroglyphics in Egypt. Ventris had literally tons of bits of pot and clay tablets to play around with. Rawlinson had an entire cliff-face of cuneiform to work from. And let's not even get started on how piss-easy the discovery of the trilingual Rosetta Stone made life for old Jean-François.

By contrast, I've got about 18 short inscriptions from a bunch of stones that have just been left to weather away in the dank Scottish climate, such that most of them are missing their beginnings and ends. They're apparently written in a dead language of which only four or five words now survive - and even that's debatable. I've got a terrible feeling that I'll have to learn Welsh *and* Gaelic *and* ancient Norse before I even get anywhere, and that only in order to be able to eliminate two of them from enquiries.

So it isn't really going to happen, is it? Ah well.

Meet your fellow bloggers! | Thursday 1 Dec | click here for info!

Rockstar Party

I was terribly excited to have been invited to a proper rockstar party last night by my good friend S (not the same S who featured in the deleted bit of last weekend's post, for anyone who saw and remembers that).

But let me tell you that being crammed into a West London pub that's heaving with the great and good of the NME is not all that much fun when you:

1. Don't (really) drink

2. Don't (really) do any drugs

3. Are 5' tall and bear little resemblance to a) Kate Moss or b) KT Tunstall

4. Have a neurotic aversion to being holed up in a confined space (in this case, a cellar) with fashionable musician-types

5. Don't actually recognise anyone - who's that guy who looks like Charles II? Nope, me neither - thus being denied the pleasure of extensive name-dropping afterwards.

6. Wish to discuss your New Theory of Blogging at length.

But I did have a lovely dinner with S beforehand, and the marathon walk home was great.

Sorry, Heat mag - let you down again there.

Meet your fellow bloggers! | Thursday 1 Dec | click here for info!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Patroclus Gets All Pretentious On Your Sorry Asses, Starts Referring To Self In The Third Person

Quite a lot has been written already about the social significance of blogging; how it's a threat to the established media, how it can be used to bypass state control of the media in oppressive régimes; how it's got corporate PR and HR departments in a spin over how to deal with blogging employees whose writing they can't control (except apparently by sacking them), and so on.

The internet self-publishing revolution is definitely a revolution; everyone's voice can theoretically now be heard, and actually *will* be heard if it's good enough, interesting enough and written in a language that the intended audience can understand.

This is a big revolution, with big global significances. It's not the one that interests me. What interests me about our rapidly expanding, out-of-control blogosphere is the subtle but profound socio-psychological shift* that's being enacted through the ability to leave comments on blogs.

Conversations that previously would be spoken and/or private are now out there for everyone to see. Jokes, observations and comments that in verbal conversation would be there one second and gone the next now hang around forever. Women, in particular, are predisposed to start talking about insanely intimate things with other women almost as soon as they've met. It's basically what we do. In the old days, these conversations would take place in private, out of the way of men. Now they're up there in cyberspace for everyone to read.

Does this stop us? No, it doesn't. Should it? I don't know. But I reckon all these public private conversations are on the verge of inducing a new kind of mass paranoia. So far this week I've read comments made by an ex about our relationship; I've read more than I would ever otherwise have known about certain of my colleagues' private lives; I've emailed someone to ask them to remove comments that were left ages ago and which now embarrass me; and I've frequently wondered whether my unwillingness to get really stuck in with the no-holds-barred sex conversations that take place on other people's blogs means that I'm hopelessly uptight.

Frankly, it's doing my head in. And once there's a reliable means of searching for all the comments that someone else has left, anywhere in the blogosphere, it's all going to get much worse. The private made completely public. But on the other hand, I'm an optimist, and I do love a good techno-social paradigm shift**. And it strikes me that we're in the midst of a new shift, and no one knows what the rules are***. And that's kind of fun, albeit in a wobbly, paranoia-inducing kind of way. As you were, then.

* Yup, I know. Sorry.

** See above.

*** UPDATE: As Ben Hammersley appears to have said aeons (well, months) before I just did. But then he's Ben Hammersley, and I'm not.

Meet your fellow bloggers! | Thursday 1 Dec | click here for info!

The Libertine

Before I went to see The Libertine last night, I knew precisely three things about John Wilmot, Second Earl of Rochester:

1. He penned his poetry riddled with the pox (from this song).

2. Something about a monkey (from the cover of this book).

3. There's a little enclave of streets named after him in Kentish Town, London NW5.

Now I've seen it, I don't know much more. You have to take it for granted that this chap is a brilliant poet, because the film simply presents him as a drunken, lecherous arse. It all takes place in a sort of murky green fog. At first I assumed that this is because it was filmed on the Isle of Man, which is a deeply weird place. Then I thought that maybe that's what things were actually like before there was electricity and sanitation and the internet and stuff. Eventually I realised that the fog is intended to illustrate the boy Wilmot's pissed-up state of mind, since at one point it clears and you see him actually attempting to write something.

Some people seem to think that this is one of Johnny Depp's best performances, worthy of an Oscar etc. etc. To which I say pish and tush. Just because he's got a wig on and is talking in sub-Shakespearean cadences, doesn't mean it's great acting. I swear his expression doesn't change once from start to finish, except to do that slightly comedy sideways-flicky look he always does, coupled with a bit of sneering (which I reckon he lifted from Richard E Grant in Withnail & I anyway). And the whole of the second part, when he's all hideous and syphilitic and wigless, seems to have been lifted wholesale from The Madness of King George.

Nope. I've seen Johnny doing Great Acting (mainly in Ed Wood and Sleepy Hollow) and I've seen him sleepwalk through some execrable films (mainly Secret Window and - dear lord - The Ninth Gate) and this pretty much falls somewhere in between. Sorry JD.

He does look nice when he's looking quizzically at a pineapple, though. Still looking for a picture of that.

Meet your fellow bloggers! | Thursday 1 Dec | click here for info!

Friday, November 25, 2005

Oh, Mr Rochester

Off to the cinema tonight to see this.

Expect potentially less-than-impartial review later.

Meet your fellow bloggers! | Thursday 1 Dec | click here for info!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Patroclus Considers Reading Something Improving, Thinks Better Of It

Back in the early nineties, when days had no beginning and days had no end, moreover when shadows grew no longer etc. etc....oh no, wait, I've already done that one. Anyway, back in those days, I had ample time on my hands to read all kinds of improving works of fiction. Somehow I even managed to read Lawrence Durrell's entire Avignon Quintet, which at 1,300-plus pages of exquisitely beautiful mindscapes, is quite some commitment I can tell you.

Nowadays, what with the internet and work and all that, I'm lucky if I can get through a copy of Glamour magazine. But with the nights drawing in, the frost dusting the fallen leaves, the goose getting fat, popular fancy turning lightly to thoughts of tangerines etc. etc., I reckon it's about time to read something a bit more challenging than Decline and Fall (even though it *is*, as PP rightly points out, the finest comic novel in English).

I was half inspired by Wyndham, who seems to have found an admirable balance between work, cultural things and parenthood, and to whom I appear rashly to have promised that I will read the whole of Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time, and half inspired by the results of the Guardian's quest to find the Top 20 Geek Novels of All Time* (of which I've actually only read five, but I usually pretend I've read Neuromancer, so I'll say six. And I've seen Blade Runner (original and director's cut), which practically means I've read Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, so that's seven. I could go on.).

But enough of this nonsense. It's coming up to Christmas, which means the only viable option is Susan Cooper's exemplary kids' fantasy novel The Dark Is Rising. This is yer pre-Christmas read par excellence, full of pagan ritual, Arthurian legend, mince pies, Herne the Hunter, the forces of ancient good vs the forces of ancient evil, and so on. What more could you possibly wish for?

* Or, rather bizarrely, "since 1932".

Meet your fellow bloggers! | Thursday 1 Dec | click here for info!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Oh dear, two music posts in a row, sorry.

Nipped up to the Shepherd's Bush Empire last night to see Jeff Tweedy of arty alt-country band Wilco fame play an acoustic solo gig.

All a bit odd, since I was introduced to Wilco by One Who Shall Not Be Named, with the result that their superb Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album more or less became the soundtrack to my marriage break-up. So, not much I really want to dwell on there, except to note in passing that the boy Tweedy is almost as good a stand-up comedian as he is a singer-songwriter, and that the stunning I Am Trying To Break Your Heart sounds all the better for being stripped of all the noise and distortion that surrounds it on the album.

Oh, and someone collapsed halfway through, which I thought was a pretty rock 'n' roll thing to do at a quiet acoustic gig.

Meet your fellow bloggers! | Thursday 1 Dec | click here for info!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Back in the late eighties, when days had no beginning and days had no end, also when shadows grew no longer etc. etc., you'd mainly have found me listening to gothic stuff like the Sisters of Mercy and New Model Army, interspersed with early 80s new-wave post-punk things like Elvis Costello and XTC. But when all the darkness, misery, blood-encrusted snow, sexual jealousy etc. got too depressing, that era also did a nice line in pastoral folk-pop, purveyed by the likes of Frazier Chorus and the Lilac Time.

These were unashamedly middle-class chaps who liked nothing better than to sing in a slightly fey* manner about kettles, bicycles, buses, trains (in fact, mundane modes of transport feature quite heavily), the English countryside and pretty girls with long hair and - probably - crocheted hats. A bit like the musical equivalent of the Boden catalogue, come to think of it. But for all that, it was lovely and sweet and comforting, like a nice big cup of tea after a winter walk.

Which is why I was delighted to come across this new(ish) album by The Clientele. It's called Strange Geometry, which might make you think of the sort of clever-clever ambient nonsense peddled by Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin. But no! This is as lovely and pastoral and fey and poppy as it comes, *and* it has buses in it.

Purchase, listen (ideally while walking through a wintry park, kicking up the frost-encrusted fallen leaves) and enjoy, but try not to think of the Lightning Seeds at the same time; or you'll spoil it.

* By "slightly fey", what I really mean is "exceptionally twee". Thanks to nibus for pointing that out.

Meet your fellow bloggers! | Thursday 1 Dec | click here for info!

Sunday, November 20, 2005


*Thinking better of it, Patroclus self-censors entire first part of this post...*

It wasn’t a completely decadent weekend though; I also managed to fit in a visit to Southampton City Art Gallery, which I’ve been meaning to go to since I had a big thing about the Pre-Raphaelites when I was about 17. It's a fantastic gallery; not too big, no one hassles you or insists on looking in your bag, the labels next to the paintings are actually informative, and they've got the whole of Burne-Jones's Perseus series. They also sell a nice little book that interprets these ten paintings as a kind of giant comic, with Perseus as the (rather waif-like, all the same) superhero, Medusa and the sea-monster (above right) as the evil baddies, and Andromeda as the damsel in distress (which obviously she is, being chained to the Rock of Doom and all).

I also found myself a tip-top new role model (take that, Seven of Nine!) in St Catherine of Alexandria, via a fantastic Northern Renaissance triptych (left) by Gossen van der Weyden. Apparently St Catherine was not only beautiful but also very, very intelligent, and all the best philosophers in the land couldn't outsmart her. Of course she paid the price for being a know-all by being put to death by the sword, but still, she clearly rocked.

Meet your fellow bloggers! | Thursday 1 Dec | click here for info!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Conversational Highlight No. 4

ME: You know what I thought on the way to work today?

TR: Er, no. What?

ME: That my life is totally like a service-oriented architecture*.

TR: Right. Well my life is like a next-generation network protocol.

ME: Which one?


ME: In what way?

TR: In that it's just a thin veneer masking the complexity behind it.

ME: Cool.

* In that it's really just made up of bits of things I stole from other people.

Meet your fellow bloggers! | Thursday 1 Dec | click here for info!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Ivy Ivy Ivy

Not – on this occasion – the pre-Weatherall Primal Scream track of that name, but rather my first foray into the dimly-lit den of media luvviedom and A-list celebrity that is The Ivy restaurant.

I’m not Heat magazine (to be fair, if you thought I was, you’re even less celebrity-obsessed than I am*), so my lips are sealed as to who might have been spotted there. I’m rubbish at noticing famous people anyway, so had to rely on the eagle eyes of Pashmina and cello for info on our fellow diners, seemingly all of whom were well known for something or other.

I’d like to think that they were all elbowing each other, pointing surreptitiously at me and whispering “don’t look now – but there’s that A-list blogger, Patroclus.” It’s far more likely that they were looking at me disapprovingly and wondering how such a diminutive, scruffy-haired mortal had managed to scale the lofty heights of the media Olympus unapprehended.

All good fun though, the sausages and mash were great, *and* I managed to abscond with two boxes of The Ivy matches to prove I was there. Result!

UPDATE: Just when I thought today couldn't get any more entertaining, the lovely Christian momentarily took his top off in my Spanish class, and we learned to say "You can kiss me - but no touching"**. I'm hoping that one will come in useful.

* Messrs Cave and Depp notwithstanding.

** In Spanish, I mean.

Meet your fellow bloggers! | Thursday 1 Dec | click here for info!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


It's one of those days - utter disillusionment mixed with extreme self-loathing and the irrational urge to delete the whole blog and disappear off the face of the blogosphere. The only way out of this kind of mindset is to listen to some angry, whiny, early 80s acoustic post-punk numbers, then when that doesn't work, progress directly to thrash covers of Cure songs. I'll be on to Einstuerzende Neubauten by lunchtime. Hopefully that'll make everything alright.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Top Weekend

You can't go wrong with a weekend that contains all of the following elements:

1. Dinner with the Slough contingent of my merry band, at which it was decided that "a whole group of us" would shortly spend a weekend in a haunted house "somewhere in Wales" with the aim of scaring ourselves silly with the aid of EMF readers, night-vision thingies, special ink, trigger objects and whatnot. Bring it on!

2. Accidentally watching an entertaining programme on Channel 5 in which a lot of completely naked people discussed what they like about their own genitalia. Best moment:

MAN ON TELLY: Look, I can make my cock touch the bottom of this pint glass! (Proceeds to demonstrate)

THE LOVELY L: Oh my God - they drink out of that*!

3. An outrageously expensive haircut. Or rather, two haircuts, as the 'stylist' saw fit to make part of it curly and part of it straight. I soon battered it back into its usual shapeless mess, though. Result!

4. Lunch in Islington (no. of Nathan Barleys to the square foot: 4.5) with ex-Mr P, who's looking mighty handsome these days. Not that he didn't before, but you know what I mean.

5. A tip-top Martha Wainwright gig at the Shepherd's Bush Empire, which was a bit like a game of See How Many Bookish Female Guardian Readers We Can Cram Into One Medium-Sized Former Theatre. (LC describes it better).

6. Dancing to early 90s indie classics at the Borderline in Charing Cross Road.

7. A protracted moonlit walk through the streets of London in - hmm - entertaining company.

8. Sunday lunch and second-hand book shopping with TR in Camden.


* In reference to the pint glass, obviously. Why, what were *you* thinking?

Meet your fellow bloggers! | Thursday 1 Dec | click here for info!

Friday, November 11, 2005

Friday Nonsense

This was doing the rounds of the office today, although no one seems to know why we found it so funny:

Right, that's yer lot - I'm off to live it up in Slough for nibus's birthday, followed by a weekend of extended jollification, some of it Martha Wainwright-related. So if I lapse into some extremely foul language at any point, you'll know who to blame.

Meet your fellow bloggers! | Thursday 1 Dec | click here for info!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Interior Monologue

Despite what the chi-chi interiors mags would have you believe, the latest de rigueur accoutrement for the contemporary London bachelorette flat isn't a set of Fornasetti Tema e Variazioni plates or Firevault's pearl-encrusted fireplace*.

No indeed. The real cognoscenti know that this Winter's must-have design accessory is a glamorous electro-punk rock chick. Having long been something of a tastemaker on the home furnishings front, I single-handedly launched this key new direction last weekend by installing the keyboard player from West London electro-shock upstarts Anarchic Hand in my sitting room.

Willowy of limb, icy blonde of hair and irreproachably fashionable of dress, the glamorous electro-punk rock chick lends a decadent air of fin-de-siècle wasterdom to my well-appointed apartment, whether adorning the red leather sofa or toasting crumpets by fairy light.

Only time will tell whether the glamorous electro-punk rock chick will turn out to be a seasonal fad or an enduring design classic. Judge for yourselves at The Ideal Anarchic Hand Show, 5 December, Ginglik**, underneath the thin end of Shepherd's Bush Green, London W12.

* Although...

** London's Coolest Arts Centre That Used To Be A Public Toilet!

Meet your fellow bloggers! | Thursday 1 Dec | click here for info!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Patroclus vs. Cave: Round 2

Despite my dismal experience at Alexandra Palace earlier this year (echoed by Tabby Rabbit's White Stripes fiasco last night), I've decided to forgive Nick Cave* for his execrably poor venue choice and give him another chance.

He's touring solo in the New Year but the London show is already sold out, so I've opted to go and see him in Cambridge instead on the 31st Jan. In my customary profligate style, I've bought TWO tickets, but currently have no particular recipient in mind for the second. Hint: I'll probably give it away to the first person who shouts "Me! Me! Over here! Me!".

In other news, I got terribly overexcited in my Spanish class earlier and accidentally formed a business relationship with the boy Keith (whom attentive readers may remember from a portentous dream I had about the eschaton). Of course it's early days - I only have a mobile number and an email address scrawled on the back of a business card - but who knows? In a year's time we could all be millionaires. Fenomenál!

* I have no idea why the boy Cave gets so many mentions in this blog, by the way. Perhaps he wants to be a leitmotif.

The Great Meeting Of Sociopaths Minds

Righto, having established that I foolishly double-booked myself for the Experimental Meet-Up referred to below, I have a new date to propose, which is:

Thursday 1 December 2005
7pm onwards
The Seven Stars Bar and (*cough*) Dining Room
Corner of Goldhawk Road and Paddenswick Road, London W12

Nearest tube: Ravenscourt Park (District)
The 94 bus (Oxford Circus - Notting Hill Gate - Shepherd's Bush) stops more or less outside.

No one will have to wear badges - unless they want to...

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Is This A Stupid Idea?

Urban Chick left a comment the other day (actually, weeks ago) about how it would be great to meet some other bloggers in real life. And I was thinking last night, what if I made some half-arsed plan to be in a certain London pub* on a certain date at a certain time, with some fellow bloggers, and invited all other bloggers, commenters, lurkers etc. to turn up at said place at said time?

Would it be a horrifically awkward gathering of sociopaths, or would it be a beautiful and joyous meeting of minds? Would anyone turn up at all? Should I give it a go?

* Almost certainly my local, the Seven Stars on Goldhawk Road, W12 - so I can easily run home in tears if no one turns up...

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Christmas Party Fashion Crisis

(This is a plea addressed to my female readers; the male contingent are free to go and watch Lost or something for a bit, if they prefer...)

It hasn't escaped my attention that the Christmas party season (three words guaranteed to strike dread into my sociopathic little heart if ever there were) is approaching, and I am scheduled to attend at least one merrie Dickensian ball in at least one south coast city.

Which presents me with the vexatious issue of what the hell am I supposed to wear? The world of popular fashion and I have never really seen eye to eye. This is because (for the benefit of those fortunate enough not to know me in person) I'm not your stereotypical size or shape. Heredity has seen fit to furnish me with an almost comedic lack of height - just over five feet, to be precise - and a certain skinniness of limb, counterbalanced (actually, there's not a lot of balance in it) with a fairly ample chest. Which means that not only am I officially "petite", but my bottom half is a size 8 and my top half is a size 12.

While I'm certainly not complaining about this, it does pretty much exclude me from practically every party dress available in any clothes shop in the whole of London. Also, I fucking hate party dresses, and especially anything gold, silver, black or glittery. Brrrr. So, short of having something made (not a chance - I mean, I bought my wedding dress from eBay for £29*, for God's sake) please... anyone... any suggestions? If you feel moved to include pictures, accessory ideas, mood boards etc., so much the better.

* Lest this make me sound like a total pikey, I should point out that it wasn't a proper wedding dress, it was a vintage 1950s evening gown, and it was lovely.

Alternative Reality

To offset the misery caused by my cat running away and my ex-landlady fleecing me out of £2,113.20 *and* a rather nice French cast iron bed in the same week as I locked myself out of the flat and sank to the bottom of the Spanish class, I've decided to retreat into an alternative reality.

The blogosphere isn't alternative enough (apparently, some of you are real people), and developing schizophrenia would probably be taking things a bit too far, so I've gone the Third Way and bought a new computer game.

I like computer games; my brother and I were brought up in the middle of nowhere in the north of Scotland (the flat bit, not the picturesque bit) with just a ZX Spectrum for entertainment, so I was hooked early on. But I've never managed to get to grips with all those silly, violent ones. I had a go of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City once, and became convinced that the protagonist had only turned to a life of crime because he was suffering from soul-crushing depression, possibly due to a traumatic incident in his early teens (I don't know what; the booklet didn't shed any light on the matter).

I thought the best way to make him see the error of his ways was to have him stand motionless for five days in the middle of a busy intersection, in the pouring rain. Disappointingly, instead of undergoing an epiphany of self-realisation and vowing to renounce his car-jacking and prostitute-murdering ways and become an earnest welfare worker, his only reaction was to shove two fingers up occasionally at cars that got too close to him. So GTA and I went our separate ways very quickly.

No, adventure games are more my thing. I was therefore very upset to find that the new, improved Tomb Raider isn't out till February. I adore Tomb Raider - though the last one was rubbish - and not just because Lara and I apparently share an alma mater. I just love the way a girl whose principal skills are running into walls, drowning and wearing inappropriate clothing can nevertheless overcome baddies and monsters and recover all manner of precious artefacts. It's made me realise that even though I'm always clumsily tripping over the heater at work, I could still become a posh, buxom action heroine if it all goes wrong in the world of high-tech copywriting.

Anyway, in lieu of Lara, I've ordered a mopy, gothic adventure game called Black Mirror, in which apparently "if it's raining, it sounds like it's raining." Which was enough to sell it to me. If you don't hear from me for a few weeks, you'll know where I am.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Mindless Optimism

It's the beginning of November, my second favourite month, and following LC's exemplary, er, example, here's my list of things I intend to achieve before my least favourite month kicks in in 30 days' time:

1. Give up smoking. Again. Progress so far is good. I wrestled my own subconscious to the ground about 15 minutes ago and slapped a nicotine patch on myself while holding my own arms behind my back. No, wait, that would only work if I was Shiva. Anyway. Haven't had a craving since. You go, non-smoking Patroclus! Hopefully this attempt will prove more successful than the last half-arsed effort, which was scuppered after a mere 48 hours by the evil Wyndham.

2. Watch some fucking TV. I've had my umbilical cord into the Murdoch Empire in place for a whole month now, during which time I've watched the grand total of one pop video (Tom Vek - Nothing But Green Lights, if anyone's interested) on MTV2. Now the boy Vek may be - and indeed is - quite cute, but I'm not sure he justifies the c. £8,000 a month that Rupert is getting from me. From now on it's telly, telly, telly all the way. Oh joy.

3. Actually watch the DVDs I keep buying. Ohh, there are so many. I've got the first series of The Mighty Boosh; I've got the (most likely) one and only series of Nathan Barley, complete with wonderful gatefold cardboard cover, inside which is a lovely picture of the lovely Dan Ashcroft laughing in a lovely fashion, and a silly booklet full of nonsensical Nathanity; I've got the collectors' edition of Memento (in which the lovely Guy, that's enough of the hormonal outpourings now) and I've got a totally pretentious French film, which I bought when I was playing the "what's the most pretentious thing I can buy in Slough?" game. So that's quite a few long autumn evenings on the tasty wipe-clean cherry-red leather sofa for me.

4. Sort out my finances. Errr, that one doesn't involve any fun, or lovely men, or any fun with lovely men. So we'll skip merrily over that.

5. Read some improving books. Rather miraculously for someone whose attention span has dwindled to that of a gnat with ADHD, I'm currently quite enjoying reading Howard Rheingold's Smart Mobs, and there are plenty more where that came from (i.e. my groaning bookshelves). Wheee!

6. Make peace with my grandmother. Again. This has to be done before I attend her 95th birthday party (for which she has requested that we all assemble in her Highland cottage - which I accidentally bought a couple of years ago - to consume a Thai takeaway) on the 20th Dec. I've forgotten now why I fell out with her in the first place (possibly something to do with the fact that last year she inconsiderately burned my bloody house down), so it must be time to bury the hatchet, rebuild the bridges etc.

7. Resume writing my award-worthy, semi-surrealist vetcom, ably assisted by the other junior members of my family (one brother and two cousins, to be precise), with whom I had a lovely dinner last night.

8. Work harder. Hmm. Ah. Best get back to it, then.

Monday, October 31, 2005

France Revisited

If I ever sell my ramshackle, falling-down house in France, I plan to purchase this one, which is just up the hill from my place. And live in it happily ever after, gazing out at the gorgeous view, with the walls falling down around me.

*Then* I'll be happy.


I heartily apologise to anyone who's trotted over from today's Media Guardian with the idea that they'll find lots of nice pictures of fancy lampshades, album covers and the like, only to find my Two Whiniest And Most Self-Pitying Posts Ever.

Hastily resuming normal service, I have just ordered this (marvellous lyrics, highly recommended) and this (Chris Morris, Charlie Brooker and the lovely Julian Barratt - together at last!), and very soon I'm going to be going here to see her, which should be mighty excellent.

Meanwhile, the lovely Pashmina brings you the latest from the world of fancy lampshades.

Phew, I think we got away with that...

Saturday, October 29, 2005

A Rigged And Crooked Game

Fortunately for you, dear readers, my downstairs neighbour knocked at my door earlier in the manner of the Man from Porlock, thus preventing me from writing a maudlin and tearful post about how ex-Mr P and I spent today moving his stuff and the last of mine out of the former marital home and into our respective new Bachelor and Bachelorette Flats.

You should be especially grateful that I was interrupted before I could tell you that ex-Mr P chose to mark this poignant occasion by playing Barry Adamson's The Sweetest Embrace, a song whose lyrics are nothing if not apposite to the whole sorry situation.

You're also probably better off not knowing that in the final shipment* from the Former Marital Home to the Bachelorette Flat were my two long-suffering familiars, putting me in the unenviable position of being a Thirtysomething Woman Who Lives Alone With Cats. I can feel the cobwebs forming over my nether regions as I type.

On a brighter note, I did find more than £500 worth of unclaimed expenses receipts in my handbag. I'm off out tomorrow to spend it on cat milk, hairnets and Mills and Boon novels. Hurrah for spinsterdom!

* Shipped here in a massive tail-lift Luton truck, which ex-Mr P handled admirably well for someone who had only got in from an all-night clubbing extravaganza three hours previously.

Monday, October 24, 2005


Of all the weeks that I could have chosen to nick off to the South of France to ponce about taking* arty photographs of ruins, mountains, vineyards etc. for the cover of my Dad's latest opus, why did it have to be the one in which the one, the only Nick Cave is giving a talk at the National Film Theatre about his latest opus**?

Hmm, might see if I can sneak back early. If not, I'll need a volunteer to go and see it for me.

* The actual taking of the photos has been left in the capable hands of the lovely L, meaning that nibus and I are just poncing about doing that poncy rectangle thing with our fingers. Which is just as much fun.

** Thanks to Greta for bringing this to my attention. But at the same time, grrrr.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Conversational Highlight No. 3

This is yer last one (I promise) - then I'm buggering off to France.

ME: Oh Christ, will it ever be 5.30?

L: Ten minutes.

ME: I'm going to have to gnaw my own hands off.

L: Have you got any actual work to do?

ME: Oh god, yes. I'm writing an article about whether Wi-Fi or 3G will emerge as the victorious standard for mobile data services.

L: Ah, right. Why don't you just talk about how society is collapsing and none of it is important?

ME: I think that's the main thrust of my argument, actually. "It doesn't matter, we're all going to die."

L: Now if you can just pad that out to 1,000 words...

ME: I could fill the rest of it with Nick Cave lyrics.

L: That would work.

ME: It'll be the best issue of 3G Bulletin ever.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Conversational Highlight No. 2

Don't worry, I'll stop this soon. It's just one of those weeks.

ME: So, we have the upper hand over the client. Excellent.

M: For now...

ME: Yes, like the Empire at the end of The Empire Strikes Back. You be whatsisname, and I'll be that other guy.

M: C3PO and R2D2?

ME: No, we're the Empire - we're evil. You be Darth Vader, and I'll be...his boss*.

M: You could be an ewok. A bad one.

ME: A renegade ewok. Cool.

* I think "The Emperor" was what I was grasping at here. Doh.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Conversational Highlight No. 1

K: What was the name of that guy? That one I had on the photocopier for ages?

Much laughter ensues

H: Do you mean the phone?

K: Oh yes, sorry, the phone.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Misery And Woe

Went out last night to see critic-friendly, Portland, Oregon-based alt-country band Richmond Fontaine play at my top favourite London venue, Bush Hall (which, apart from being a lovely, intimate place with intricate plasterwork and chandeliers, is also just 10 minutes' walk from my flat - bargain).

I wasn't sure what to expect from this band, but on the strength of the one album of theirs that I own, I had a sneaking suspicion that the entire audience would be composed of lonely, geeky, single men. It turned out that I wasn't far wrong. In fact, swap the cowboy boots ("an indicator of lacklustre sexual performance," according to my companion - no wonder there's so much wife-beating in the American Midwest) for sandals and we could just as easily have been at an Open Source convention.

Not being an Uncut-reading muso type myself, I felt a bit out of place, but that didn't matter. The band were really, really great. Completely unpretentious, engagingly self-deprecating proper musicians, with beautifully written but almost exhaustingly sad songs. In fact, during one crushingly miserable number - The Janitor (theme: wife-beating) - I drifted off into a reverie of such intense sadness that when I came round I found I was having some sort of terrible panic attack and had to go outside to calm down*.

At this point I also forked out a tenner for their latest album, The Fitzgerald, which the record-company chappie described to me - somewhat oddly, I thought - as "completely non-metaphorical". He wasn't kidding. These songs are all bleak, straightforward tales of misery, alcoholism, death, poverty, gambling, domestic violence and all the other depressing things that would appear to go on in small-town and trailer-park America. Not joyful stuff, by any means. In fact, just reading the lyrics this morning made me weep. I can't imagine that singer Willy Vlautin's début novel is going to be an uplifting read, either.

Still, if there's too much happiness in your life and you want to inject some exquisite misery into your otherwise euphoric existence, this is the band for you. If you're already of a depressive turn of mind, though, they might just tip you over the edge.

* Just realised that this makes it sound like I am - or have been - a battered wife. I assure you that nothing could be further from the truth.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Overheard In Waterstone's This Lunchtime

"Have you got The Little Tart, by Donna Friend?"

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Armagedón Outta Here

Having awoken for no reason whatsoever at 5.07am, I eventually went back to sleep only to be plagued by torrid dreams of The End Of The World. In case this was some kind of actual premonition, I should warn you that the end of the world will manifest itself primarily by the sudden absence of gravity*.

My dream-world reaction to this highly unlikely phenomenon was to attempt to hook up - yes, in *that* way - with Keith from my Spanish course, who has an excellent Spanish accent but is no real looker** (apologies Keith, if you're reading).

Indeed, if I absolutely *had* to spend Armageddon in the company of someone from my Spanish course, I'd much prefer it to be tall, skinny, motorbike-riding, 36 year-old construction company boss Christian (that's his name, I don't know his religious persuasion, we haven't come on to that yet), who turns up to evening class fetchingly decked out in his leathers. Although as Christian's moto is apparently pequeño***, on balance I'd probably rather prepare to meet my maker by sitting around at home with a nice cup of Earl Grey.

* The truly paranoid can check out exactly how close we are to the real End Of The World by consulting this handy Rapture Index (thanks to sugar_sanity for that).

** Before you get all like oo, get *her*, I should add that dream-Keith spurned my advances by running away and locking himself in his room.

*** In the interests of accuracy, actually pequeña.