Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Accidental Tourists

When travelling to the World's Highest Waterfall (TM), it's very important not to do any of the following:

1. Fail to go to bed on the evening before the 4.30am start

2. On the evening before the 4.30am start, drink so much gin that you spend the entire night telling your wife you're going to kill her, oh, and you hate everyone and everything else too.

3. Pack only one pair of pants between three of you.

4. Leave all your money, passports and credit cards behind in the swanky, air-conditioned beach apartment you've rented for ten days but in which you will only in fact spend three nights due to your ill-advised spur-of-the-moment decision to take a trip to see the World's Highest Waterfall (TM).

4. Ensure that the taxi you hire to take you on the four-hour drive to Ciudad Bolivar is a) 80 years old, b) driven by someone who has never been to Ciudad Bolivar and has no idea where it is, c) entirely devoid of oil and water and d) likely to break down in the middle of nowhere in the baking hot sun with no prospect of rescue.

5. Think that the creaky 100-year old biplane that is due to fly you through the jungle to the Falls will still be waiting for you even if you *have* turned up five hours late due to your 1920s Buick taxi having broken down in the middle of nowhere in the baking hot sun for lack of oil and water.

6. Assume your taxi driver knows where the airport (I use the word loosely) is.

7. Believe all those rumours about the 100-year old tourist biplanes crashing frequently into the jungle leaving no survivors. I've had a good look at them and apart from the odd missing wing or tail, they look as safe as houses.

8. Upon realising that you are stuck in sunny Ciudad Bolivar (think Kabul meets Swindon, with parrots) for an entire day with no money and no food, commence divorce proceedings against your wife on the condition that you will get half of her possessions (which at the moment consist of one pair of pants and an iPod Shuffle - I travel light, me).

9. Laugh hysterically at the English translations of the menu in the one-parrot hotel you've had to hole up in. Sample dishes: "Fish Mountain To The Oriental" and "Padded Meat To The Sicilian".

Still, as the American guy in the marina said: "If everything's coming your way, you're in the wrong lane." How true.

Monday, May 30, 2005

I've Got The Mini Marlboro Blues

Nothing much to report except for a large cardboard box bearing the legend 'Colon Free Zone'. Feel free to insert your own gags there as I feel right out of comedic inspiration today. Trip to Salto Angel (trans: 'Salty Angel') delayed by a day due to Harrison Ford having commandeered every seat on today´s bus to Ciudad Bolivar. Damn you, Ford!

Following dinner (fish and chips, curry and chips, steak and chips) in downtown Puerto La Cruz (like Blackpool, only not as dangerous) last night, made chance discovery of the greatest cigarettes in the entire world. Mr P and his friend G (former King's Road vet and ex-scourge of the pampered Chelsea bestiary), who arrived the other night from Miami, are now considering setting up a major import-export operation to bring mini Marlboro Blues to the UK in return for some as yet unidentified commodity that is lacking in Venezuela. Colons, possibly.

I'm very sorry for the over-use of parentheses and total lack of lexical elegance in this post. I think the luxury air-conditioned apartment we've rented and the mini Marlboro Blues have affected my creativity. Normal service will be resumed.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Clam Down, Clam Down

Relax, my friends, I haven't been kidnapped by drug barons or adopted as a golden-haired Goddess by a remote jungle tribe (more's the pity).

No, it was a mere three-day sailing expedition to the beautifully unreconstructed Mochima National Park (palm-fringed beaches, coral reefs teeming with exotic submarine life, eating fish straight from the sea having observed it swimming about prettily among the coral moments before, etc. - you know the score).

So, I can confidently report that you truly haven't lived until you've swum naked at midnight in the limpid waters of the Caribbean, your every graceful move illuminated by thousands of tiny pinpricks of light emanating from God only knows what tiny sea-bugs. Really magical.

I think I'll dwell on that rather than the sunburn, intense heat, humidity and unsightly rash (for which I point the finger of blame squarely at the aforementioned magical glowing sea-bugs).

I can also report that, rather as you wouldn't have expected marmalade to go so well with sausages, the ideal soundtrack to the stunning backdrop of palm fringed beaches, jungle-covered mountains, shanty fishing villages etc. surprisingly appears to be Nick Drake. Quite why a suicidal 1960s English folky type should complement this all so well I don't know. But he does.

More anon, unless the mooted sailing trip to Tortuga (if any Depp fans could kindly remind me of what Captain Jack Sparrow says about the place, I'd be most grateful) comes off.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Intimations of Mortality

Sometimes when they get a lot of advertising in and they have to fill up a corresponding amount of editorial space, the glossy women´s mags like nothing better than to torment their readers with such intimations of mortality as "20 (or 50, or 100, depending on how many pull-out gatefolds Lancome want that month) Things You Should Do Before You´re 35".

(Usually I haven´t done more than three or four of them, ensuring a depressingly regular confirmation of my suspicions that I am a complete and utter loser, unworthy of the air that I breathe and the space that I take up on this earth.)

However, should I ever be called upon to compile such a list (perhaps when I finally get offered that lifestyle columnist job on the Sunday Times), I´ll make sure that the number one thing is "Sip Cuba libres on the lantern-illuminated deck of a weather-beaten yacht in the midst of a Venezuelan thunderstorm."

See, that was meant to sound romantic - because it was amazing, the strange yellow light, rolling thunder, sheet lightning illuminating the jungle-covered mountains in the distance, tropical downpour, Moroccan lantern swaying in the eerie wind etc. - but actually it just sounds really, really bourgeois. I think you´ll be stuck with Kate Muir for quite some time yet.

The Alexandria Quartet is really good, though. I urge one and all to purchase and read a copy immediately.

Monday, May 23, 2005

The Tourist Swamps

This post is brought to you live from the tourist swamps of Northern Venezuela, where the local time is daytime and the local temperature is something approaching the surface of Venus. Nothing to report so far except the unsatisfactory length of the local cigarettes. Jet lag resulted in vicious marital argument during which a glass ashtray may inadvertently have been smashed. Now contemplating going to Brazil. They have longer cigarettes there, apparently. Bring it on!

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Dear Old Venny

Well so far, Venezuela could be anywhere, although the palatibility of the butter (which is as good a guide as any) dictates that this isn't the First World, yet neither is it quite the Third World (never, ever contemplate eating the butter in sub-Saharan Africa). And the breakfast pastries were filled with meat, in a kind of worrying croissant/Cornish pasty crossover act. Hmm, I'm never going to get that travel writing job on the Sunday Times, am I?

Which reminds me, if some Black Books fan could kindly remind me of what Jason the Travel Writer said about Venezuela I'd be eternally grateful.

Lastly, I am finally reading The Alexandria Quartet (when in South America, read a book about Egypt, etc). I fear it may be the literary equivalent of "Nature Boy" by Nick Cave. In a metaphorical kind of way. Not because anyone in it dresses up in a deep sea diver's suit or gets up against the pink and purple wisteria. Ahem.

Friday, May 20, 2005

You've Never Done What?

Pashmina's been challenging me to name Ten Things I've Never Done. Luckily I'm in a better mood now, if I'd done this earlier you'd have been treated to all kinds of self-pitying, hand-wringing nonsense. So here goes:

1. Finished reading The Alexandria Quartet
2. Seen Grease
3. Been to Finland
4. Counted the miles to the four corners of the world
5. Been dumped
6. Deciphered the Pictish Ogham inscriptions (one day, though!)
7. Lived on my own for more than a month
8. Quoted Sappho in the original Greek
9. Finished one of these lists

Ooh, and Feast of Wire by Calexico has just arrived. Let joy be unconfined!

Petits Fours De Bonheur

I completely failed to start a fight at the tech industry dinner, mainly because I'd accidentally turned up in a silly 1960s-style minidress when everyone else was a) a man, b) over 50 and c) the CEO of Intel. I reckon I could have taken a few of them out with one or two well aimed petits fours, though.

H. thought Boris was the worst after dinner speaker she'd ever witnessed, and made her feelings known by slow clapping from the back of the room (sadly she stopped short of actual heckling). But as far as I'm concerned any after dinner speech that features Prometheus *and* Euripides is perfectly acceptable.

Got home to find that Mr P had whimsically purchased an indecently large 42" plasma screen TV, which'll be useful for when the next series of GW rolls around (eh, ladies?). Until then I guess it will just blot out the sun for a while and then get nicked.

Other than that, nothing to report except a rollercoaster of tumultuous thoughts and feelings that oscillate between wild excitement ("I'm going to chuck it all in, move to Finland, invent a completely new literary form and write the greatest prose the English-speaking world has ever known!") and miserable despair ("I'll probably just stay where I am, arracher tous les jours les petits lambeaux de bonheur* and never do anything that has any value whatsoever.")

Perhaps I should put it to a vote. Finland or bust?

* I hope I've remembered this correctly. It's been a long time. UPDATE: I didn't. But I like my version better.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Are You Looking At Me?

Tonight H (the self-styled Jordan of the technology industry) and I (the self-styled Nick Cave of the technology industry) are off to some swanky IBM do at the Savoy, where H intends to schmooze men in suits with golf clubs, and I intend to start a fight. I don't know yet with whom, but the tech industry needs shaking up and horrible, awful violence is the only solution I can think of.

The after dinner speaker is well known technology guru Boris Johnson. I'm hoping he can give me some direction on what to put in this Java application server article. That'd be just grand, thanks Boris.

Comedy items spotted this morning on the walk into work: None.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

...And Moving Swiftly Back Again

Arrrgghhh. I feel horrible. This could have something to do with the three hours' sleep and total lack of sustenance I've had (or rather, not had) over the past 36 hours or so. And to round off the misery, Amazon have just seen fit to deliver (No! They can read my mind!) a CD of The Boatman's Call. Which is now sitting here on my desk like an atom bomb waiting to go off. I can't get to Venezuela quickly enough.

Sadly though, in all the turmoil of the past three months I've completely failed to learn any Spanish, so I'll probably be drugged, mugged *and* kidnapped the minute I set foot inside Caracas airport. The only phrase I've managed to commit to memory (and then only for its comedy value) is tengo tos, meaning "I have a cough". Still, with the number of Marlboro Lights I seem to be getting through, at least it'll be the honest truth.

Moving On Swiftly

Comedy items spotted this morning on walk into work:

1. A notice advertising a Primary School Ferret Racing Match. So *that's* where the missing Turnham Green ferret got to. Clearly it was a top stud, kidnapped by the local schoolkids to spawn a race of atomic super-ferrets.

2. A gigantic, filthy plush womble, lying on its back by the bins outside Starbucks.

In other news, upon noticing my own reflection (as you do) in a shop window, was dismayed to find that I am looking very fucking Chiswick today. Pink tweed coat, swirly patterned bag in shades of chocolate and lilac, iPod headphones, grande skinny latte in hand. Whatever would Nick Cave say*?

I have to get out of here.

*"I went to bed last night and my moral code got jammed/Woke up this morning with a Frappuccino in my hand". Of course.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Long Dark Thing Of The Whatever

Oh look, 2am, a time when all decent people should be tucked up in bed asleep. Not me. I am tormented by feelings of nausea occasioned by yet another surfeit of Sainsbury's "Taste The Difference" Luxury Mash. Tewkesbury mustard-flavoured this time, mash fans.

Do they really make mustard in Tewkesbury? Where *is* Tewkesbury anyway, and what makes its mustard any more luxurious than mustard from, say, Bourton on the Water? This is just a sample of the myriad pointless thoughts keeping me awake this evening. Not a very representative sample, but still. The world in a grain of sand, etc.

Mashed potato-related woe aside, today was A Good Day. Well actually, it was fucking awful, but in a good way. A splendid lunch was had (many thanks once again to cello for organising) with some Very Important People, including the nation's foremost grammar pedants and comedy writers.

Being such a highbrow convocation and all, not only were the salient issues of the day thrashed out, but the phrase "icy, rocambolesque pop-socks" also received its first - and probably only - outing. I'm not sure the world is ready for that kind of literature yet. Although they do sound like something a frost-covered robot angel might wear if it was trying on shoes in Clarks.

And finally, music-wise, it's time for a change of direction. If I hear one more crushingly beautiful sad song, I'll probably throw myself under the wheels of the E3 as it ploughs towards Greenford. So, any recommendations for happy, life-affirming stuff that will fill me with uncontrollable, soaring joy (not asking for too much here, am I?) will be received with heartfelt gratitude and appreciation. Thank you and good night.

Monday, May 16, 2005

You Owe Me, Suomi

Finland, Finland, Finland,
The country where I want to be,
Pony trekking or camping,
Or just watching TV.
Finland, Finland, Finland.
It's the country for me.

You're so near to Russia,
So far from Japan,
Quite a long way from Cairo,
Lots of miles from Vietnam.

Finland, Finland, Finland,
The country where I want to be,
Eating breakfast or dinner,
Or snack lunch in the hall.
Finland, Finland, Finland.
Finland has it all.

You're so sadly neglected
And often ignored,
A poor second to Belgium,
When going abroad.

Finland, Finland, Finland,
The country where I quite want to be,
Your mountains so lofty,
Your treetops so tall.
Finland, Finland, Finland.
Finland has it all.

Finland, Finland, Finland,
The country where I quite want to be,
Your mountains so lofty,
Your treetops so tall.
Finland, Finland, Finland.
Finland has it all.

Finland has it all.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Help Raise £100,000 For Leukaemia Research

We interrupt this stream of egomaniacal garbage to bring you an important announcement, nay, plea.

My ex-colleague (and all-round lovely person) from Big Red O days, Brian, is trying to raise £100,000 for the Leukaemia Research Fund. His son Jamie died of leukaemia in 1999 aged nine.

Jamie was a cellist in the Battersea Young Strings orchestra. The orchestra is holding a fundraising concert in Jamie’s memory at 6pm on 26th June at St John’s Concert Hall in Westminster.

The money raised will go to fund research into better and less aggressive ways to treat the disease and to prevent relapses. The LRF is the only national charity that is entirely dedicated to investigating cures and treatments for leukaemia in adults and children.

What Can You Do?

Tickets for the concert are priced at £8, £12, £15 and £18.
Box office telephone: 020 7222 1061 from 10am to 5pm Mon-Fri (Mastercard, Visa and Switch accepted)
Purchase tickets online
Purchase by cheque: send with an SAE to the Box Office, St John’s, Smith Square, London SW1P 3HA.

Donate online to the LRF.

Read Jamie’s parents’ story.

Friday, May 13, 2005

A La Recherche De L'Aile Verte

Oooo, I have it on the very best authority that the long-awaited Series 2 of Green Wing will be filming in my neck of the woods next week. As if things weren't exciting enough already, what with a splendid lunch meeting with some Very Important People planned for Monday, and, er, dinner with, umm, Boris Johnson on Thursday, and then jetting off to Venezuela on Saturday. I feel like Jeremy Paxman. Did I overrule you? Did I?? Answer me!!


Just taken delivery of a huge parcel clearly addressed to Mr P and me, which turns out to be full of letters, bank statements etc. addressed to some people I have never heard of in a place called Wilberfoss in Yorkshire. I am at an utter, utter loss to explain this. Anyone?

Lucretia Cyborgia

Someone recently asked me (not entirely without provocation, admittedly) what the difference is between a robot and a cyborg. So it's probably time to clear this debate up once and for all.

A robot is an entirely mechanical contraption programmed to do routine tasks like reconstitute dried potato powder while cackling like a maniac, hoover the bottoms of swimming pools and wreak monstrous destruction on mankind.

A cyborg is an organic being that uses technology (debate continues on the extent to which the technology needs to be embedded into the organism for it to qualify as a cyborg) to extend or enhance its organic physical capabilities.

Thus: the Daleks are robots, but Davros is a cyborg - although not a very good one, because it's difficult to see how placing oneself inside a gigantic knobbly metal skirt can result in anything but physical limitation of the most frustrating and risky sort.

The jury is still out on whether the combination of Thora Hird + stairlift (see Quinquiremes passim) is an Intimation Of Cyborg Things To Come, or simply an Old Biddy Who Will Not Die*. I favour the latter.

Also: everyone knows that the only halfway decent cyborg is Seven of Nine, and then only for her supreme mastery of dismissiveness and contempt.

* I thought she *was* dead, but others claim otherwise.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Does Not Provoke Comedy

While applying one of the very expensive and totally incomprehensible cosmetics I purchased the other week in the irrational belief that they would magically turn me into a modern-day Calypso, I noticed the phrase "non-comedogenic" on the label. I pondered this all the way to work (beautiful morning for a walk, by the way).

Non-comedogenic? Does not provoke comedy? Surely there's nothing *more* comedy than paying hundreds of pounds for approximately two millilitres of gelatinous gunk that appears to produce no effect other than a significant lightening of the purse? (I don't actually own a purse. I had one when I was 12, but in an episode of unplanned anti-capitalism I threw it out of the car window while travelling at speed down a French motorway. Never bothered getting another.)

I was quite disappointed to discover the real definition. What's acne got to do with comedy? Etymological progression really took a wrong turn there. No doubt cello will have a sensible explanation, though.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Send That Stuff On Down To Me

Retail therapy and sinister songs about murder and gambolling lambs being the solution to all life's woes, I've taken my credit card out for an early morning jog and secured two tickets to see Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds at Alexandra Palace on 25th August. Wheeee!

Now to acquaint myself with his entire back catalogue, even the ones that you're not supposed to listen to until you've gone deaf, and the ones you're not supposed to listen to because they make you want to to do reckless and stupid things. (That's pretty much the entire back catalogue. Oh.)

I have to pretend I liked him all along in case I get identified as a charlatan and impostor by the real fans. Heaven only knows *what* they might do to me. Any tips for what to do/say/wear and what not to do/say/wear will be gratefully received.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

There Goes The Neighbourhood

An otherwise very pleasant Sunday lunch in our local wannabe London gastropub (you can tell by the way the sausages and mash are billed as “Luganica sausages and crushed potato with balsamic gravy”) was marred today by the presence of one or more “stars” of implausible teen epic Hollyoaks. That one that was also in woeful post-pub sit “com” Two Pints of Lager. You know the one. Honestly. You’d have thought that in sunny Acton W3 we’d be relatively sheltered from D-list celebs – we haven’t even got a Starbucks, for fuck’s sake.

Still, the divine Ms P* reckons it’ll earn her £10 from Heat mag once she’s embroidered the truth a little. “And then he got his cock out, huge it was, gigantic. We tried to reconstruct it later at home with the retractable tape measure, but it ran out. Amazing.”

I'm not going back in there until they can guarantee that all
celebrities - apart, possibly, from Johnny Depp and Nick Cave (and only if they're together) - are barred from the premises in perpetuity.

*Cousin and notable West London femme fatale.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Abruptly, The Sound Ceased

Today I finally discovered my latent delegation skills, with the result that my work life has suddenly attained a state of blissful calm. Excellent. I think I'll set a deckchair out on the office roof terrace (which is *well* Jackson) and catch up on all that reading I haven't done. Maybe finish the Alexandria Quartet. Or Quicksilver. Or Gravity's Rainbow. Or re-read Foucault's Pendulum. I'm sure no one would mind.

Speaking of Foucault's Pendulum, earlier I unthinkingly referred to the stationery cupboard as "The Gateway to Agarttha", which I found hilariously funny, especially since it's not actually a cupboard but a small cardboard box. Sadly my colleagues didn't find this appellation as entertaining as I did. I think they might be getting a bit fed up of me. Maybe planning a coup of some sort. I've always been (irrationally, I thought) worried that C* keeps an Uzi in his desk drawer. Maybe I'm about to find out.

* This initial has been made up

Wednesday, May 04, 2005


No, not the seminal Jean-Paul Sartre novel, but a feeling of intense digestive discomfort caused by consuming far too much of J. Sainsbury's "Taste the Difference" Luxury Mash. Which just serves to illustrate the yawning, unbridgeable chasm between Sartre and me.

Monday, May 02, 2005

There She Goes, My Beautiful World

Where has Nick Cave *been* all my life?

No one say "Australia".

Like The Comedy Zone, Only More So

I'm absolutely delighted that James Henry, of Green Wing writing fame, has seen fit to append an entire chat forum to his Vorderman-approved blog. Excellent. Another place on the internet for me to spout pretentious, ill-informed and possibly made-up nonsense. And as if this weren't enough, there's the added bonus that upon reaching 750 posts, I will attain the status of "frost-covered robot angel", which is surely the greatest status anyone could ever wish for. That's one in the eye for the retro Elite brigade.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

A Bit Mad

As part of my continuing quest to spend every single penny of the money I haven't got on pointless and transient rubbish, I paid a visit yesterday to my "stylist", Christophe.

I can only assume that Christophe interpreted my indecisive, monosyllabic mutterings as "please make my hair look like a particularly messy and overgrown birds' nest, to the extent that people phenomenally more attractive and groomed than I will point at me in the street and, if they have any, shield their children's eyes. And then please charge me an arbitrary but eye-wateringly large sum of money for the privilege."

All the while he was creating this distressed confection he was making oily observations like "you have beautiful curly hair" and "it's very fine, but there's a lot of it. A lot." Which (misguidedly) made me feel that with just a bit more effort than I'll ever be prepared to put in, I too could look like Madonna. Or Sting.

"I dunno Christophe, it looks a bit mad," I said as he presented me with a mirror in which to admire his masterwork of art naif. "It's beautiful," he replied. Yeah. I bet the bastard laughed all the way home.

Yesterday wasn't all bad, though. My business partner H. and I got caught in the tractor beam (that's no moon, that's a beauty counter, etc.) of Gift Time at Lancome, and ended up spending hundreds of pounds on cosmetics we didn't understand just so we could get a free make-up bag to throw on the pile of other free make-up bags we've accumulated in this manner. Which is probably just the sort of thing that Albert Camus had in mind when he dreamed up all that stuff about absurdity.

Still, it was all a splendid antidote to this very sad Wilco album I've downloaded from iTunes. More money well spent. Hurrah for capitalism!

Election Newsflash

I'm slightly worried that some people might assume from my flippant and trivial manner that I don't know there's an election going on. I do. Charlie Kennedy nearly lost my vote with his anti-Labour party political broadcast, but that would mean I'd have had to vote Green and I'm too old for that now. So don't worry Charlie. Just as long as you abdicate in favour of "Emperor" Ming Campbell as soon as you get in. Not that my vote is going to make any difference in Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush.