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.

Turing And Voltaire - Together At Last!

It's Thursday, it's 5.23am, which means it must be time for...

...l33t comedy triple-act Turing, Greenspan and Voltaire!

All this and more available for your delectation here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

What Is This Horrible Feeling?

Hmm...headache...furry tongue...clumsiness...unwillingness to get out of bed... If my diagnosis is correct, it would appear that I have my first hangover for (at least) five years. Which means that I may finally be cured of my phobia of alcohol. Hurrah! Let the fun begin!

This is clearly a momentous occasion, so I would like to thank my fellow drinkers of yesterday evening, cello, Pashmina and Wyndham, for their sterling contribution to my victory. Especially to cello, who paid for all the booze. I'd also especially like to thank Wyndham for inspiring me to start smoking again after my long exile (well, two days) in the wilderness. *Ostentatiously wiping away a tear* I couldn't have done it without you.

Yes, I must have been drunk last night, otherwise I would never have thought it would be a great idea to walk all the way home from Mortimer St, W1, to Askew Road, W12. Boy, that's a long walk. Just in case anyone else was considering it.

Meanwhile, in musical matters, we have a three-way tie for Song Of The Week, between Patrick Wolf's Lycanthropy (toy instruments, clapping, bleeping, slightly unhinged laughter); The Decemberists' Shanty for the Arethusa (creaking masts, accordion, screaming, lyrics that could have come straight out of John Masefield's poem Cargoes) and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' Darker With The Day, which is one of those beautiful piano ballads that seem at first to be about lost love, but which are actually about the evils of urban development, the Fall of Man and the loss of innocence, with a bit of New Testament iconography and the word 'cunts' thrown in for good measure - you know the sort*.

Now, where's the Nurofen?

* Unless you're one of the people I saw last night queuing outside the Shepherd's Bush Empire to see James Blunt. Or indeed, if you *are* James Blunt. In which case you probably don't. But you should.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Why I Love Geeks

An extract from a letter from Charles Babbage to Alfred Lord Tennyson, c. 1842:

"Sir: In your otherwise beautiful poem 'The Vision of Sin' there is a verse which reads - 'Every moment dies a man, Every moment one is born'. It must be manifest that if this were true, the population of the world would be at a standstill ...I would suggest that in the next edition of your poem you have it read - 'Every moment dies a man, Every moment 1 1/16 is born.' ... The actual figure is so long I cannot get it onto a line, but I believe the figure 1 1/16 will be sufficiently accurate for poetry."


Friday, October 07, 2005

Your Name's Dan, You're Coming In

And finally...

Yes, I know, I'm now blatantly resorting to nicking other people's content.

Blogging: Danger

One of the things I had on my list of Things To Do Before I'm 35 was to be quoted wildly out of context in an obscure glossy women's magazine. (Well, it wasn't, but I'm resorting to retro-fitting in a desperate attempt to kid myself that my life to date hasn't been a completely pointless, achievement-free waste of time).

So naturally I was delighted to find myself quoted not ONCE but TWICE in this month's Essentials magazine (apparently targeted at suburban 20-somethings who are experiencing their first relationship, first home, first marriage and first baby - blimey, all at once, the poor creatures?) on the subject of blogging.

Oh yes, I'm quite the guru now, me.

Apparently I not only think that blogging is a symptom of an increasing voyeurism in society, but also that it is fundamentally sad, addictive and potentially dangerous to our physical and mental well-being.

"It's not healthy to spend all your time sat at a computer," I warn the poor suburban 20-somethings, sternly. Of course, what I *meant* to say there is that it's not healthy to spend all your time sat at a computer UNLESS you are simultaneously chain-smoking your way through a pack of 20 Marlboro Lights and listening to comedy early 80s agit-punk songs at an inappropriately loud volume. Sorry for any confusion.

Not only did I never actually say anything about blogging being bad for your health, but I also notice they carefully left out all the things I said about blogging encouraging people to write and think for themselves, find new friends and challenge the facts and views portrayed in the established media (see what I did there?).

But I was very happy to be reunited on the printed page with my old sparring partner Dr Mark Griffiths of Nottingham Trent University, who apparently "hopes his diaries will be published and read after his death." Which, if we come to blows again, may be sooner than he thinks.


(Thanks to Fizzy for the cheery cartoon)

Monday, October 03, 2005

It Was The Best Of Days, It Was The Worst Of Days

...A day in which I experienced a wide variety of human emotions, ranging from enthusiasm bordering on clinical mania (this starting up at approx. 6.20am and seemingly provoked by a strange and unexpected fascination for a chap called Joseph Clement), to a bout of uncontrollable sobbing (this starting up at precisely 5.07pm and indubitably provoked by the Project Of Doom That Would Not Die crashing and burning conspicuously around my ears), from which I could only be drawn by means of my good friend and business partner H. waving a packet of cigarettes at me under the toilet door.

Anyway. Here (courtesy once more of nibus) is the incontrovertible proof we've all been waiting for of the real origins of the Turin Shroud, the Mandylion, et al.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Of Questionable Morality Or Taste, Decadent

The total absence of food in my fridge yesterday drove me to have breakfast in the new café that's opened up on the corner of my street.

For some reason, the owners have chosen to name this place louche. Having double-checked with my good friend, I can state with confidence that louche means "of questionable morality or taste, decadent." And decadent means "in a state of decline or decay".

This is a pretty spicy set of connotations for what is essentially a slightly upmarket greasy spoon in the backwaters of Shepherd's Bush. You can tell it's slightly upmarket because it serves excellent coffee, and the clientele, to a man, yea even unto myself, were toting copies of the New Guardian.

In fact I didn't observe any questionable morality at all, unless the nice middle class toddlers waving gleefully at each other and throwing their Dads' credit cards around the floor were the product of illicit post-millennial liaisons that took place behind the impeccably gloss-painted, solid front doors of the bourgeois mansions in nearby Ashchurch Grove. Which is possible.

As far as "questionable taste" goes, well, the name is spelled with a lower-case "l", which, as any fule kno, is *so* 1990s. But on the other hand, the name doesn't appear anywhere on the frontage of the building, which is very Noughties. Although the usual reason for the absence of signage on fashionable drinking establishments is to prevent hoi polloi and other undesirables finding their way in and disrupting the non-stop celebrity coke-fest taking place in the confusingly black gloss-painted, black marble-floored toilets. I didn't investigate the toilets at all, but I'm pretty sure that this kind of thing wouldn't have been happening in there.

Thirdly, "in a state of decline or decay". There is a cheery school of thought, I forget which one, that says that everything enters into a state of decline from the moment of its creation. louche opened a week ago, so by existentialist standards it's well into its inevitable downward trajectory by now. So I'll give them that.

As to decay, I didn't notice any - the place is as spruce and spick and span as you would expect from a slightly upmarket greasy spoon with pleasing artworks on the walls, cheap but serviceable pine tables, excellent coffee and a pretty waitress with apple cheeks, bee-stung lips and more than a passing resemblance to Liv Tyler. Although I suppose there could have been the bodies of any number of rats, mice, grey squirrels, foxes etc. rotting away under the pleasingly reassuring stripped-pine floorboards.

louche, then. Almost certainly a misnomer. Excellent coffee, though.

More Non-Stop Glamour. Or Something.

Note: some of the "facts" in this post may be spurious. Like you didn't know that already.

He may claim he's gone to St Ives to finish his novel, but I can exclusively reveal that James Henry is actually on a secret mission to West London, and will be providing live musical entertainment on Wednesday evening at the Crown & Anchor on Chiswick High Road. If I hadn't dropped my digital camera one too many times on to an unforgiving concrete surface I could provide photographic evidence of this, but as it is you'll just have to take my word for it.

Coincidentally, the Crown & Anchor was also the location of some high-level diplomatic dealings last night, when LC, our newest recruit Autoguy and I sorted out the Middle East Problem (although in fairness I should point out to the Nobel panel that my own contribution to the peace process was almost entirely limited to paying for the drinks) before sketching out an infrastructure for the fairer redistribution of wealth worldwide*. See, we're not just pretty faces in the world of high-tech copywriting.

In other news, the ever-glamorous Pashmina kindly sent me a copy of Zouk Nouvelle Vague's cover of Dead Kennedys punk classic "Too Drunk to Fuck". I was convinced that this was going to displace Lambchop's version of the Sisters of Mercy's "This Corrosion" as the Best Cover Ever, but I was oddly disappointed. Maybe it's just because it's not laidback enough, or maybe it's because it misses out this (quite charming) little stanza:

"You give me head, it makes it worse/Take out your fucking retainer, put it in your purse"

The second line of which mystified me for many years, before the advent of Friends and Frasier and their ilk taught me that "retainer" is what our American friends say for "brace", and "purse" is what they say for "handbag". But then, "Take out your fucking brace and put it in your handbag" doesn't really have quite the same snarly ring to it.

All this means that "Come Hell or High Water" by Barry Adamson may well remain my Song of the Week for an unprecedented third week, unless anyone has anything more fabulous to suggest?

Finally, it hasn't been escaping my attention that my birthday falls at the end of this coming week, and people keep asking what I'm doing to celebrate it. I did actually get invited to "hang out" with some middle-class rock stars, one of whose brother shares the same birthday, but I'm not sure that's what I should be doing at the grand old age of 35. Instead I think I'll go home, mope a bit, and read my Delia Smith book. It's about time I learned to boil an egg, after all.

* Almost forgot this snippet of conversation from last night:

AUTOGUY (who hails from LA and has only been in our fair land for a couple of months): Another thing I've noticed. You British say such disgusting things!

ME: Like what?

Pause while I brace myself for what is about to issue forth...

AUTOGUY: Like...'toilet'.