Friday, June 25, 2004

It's a good job this shit only happens once every two years... because I for one can't take it anymore. I need 24 months to recover. England lost on penalties and I was quite literally shaking by the end. My throat is raw and I've lost my voice. My nerves are gone. I'm shot. Just as bloody well I'm going on holiday tomorrow.


Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Now this makes me laugh. I write one little rant explaining how much I love smoking... and next thing I know the "related searches" bit at the top of this is full of advice on heroin addiction. How brilliantly American! In your kerrr-azy Oprahfied western democratic paradise, smoker today clearly equals smackhead tomorrow...

Spent most of the day compiling a Holiday Minidisc... why? Because I'm going to Portugal on Friday! Ole ole ole! Of course, there's every chance England could get knocked out on Thursday night, but screw it - football or otherwise, lounging around a pool by a villa near Lisbon has got to beat working in North London any day of the week, regardless of whether Wayne Rooney is still making me cry tears of pure joy or not.

What's on the minidisc? Let's just say it starts with The Undertones (Here Comes The Summer...) ends with the Pogues (Fiesta) and takes in everyone from the Stone Roses to the Polyphonic Spree to New Order to Billy Joel and the simple act of recording it has got me into a seriously excitable Holiday frame of mind!

The One has chilled out a bit too. She's on the home stretch; the light at the end of the tunnel might just turn out not to be a train after all.


Sunday, June 20, 2004

The One is in a strange mood... and strange moods - like tears, laughter, enthusiasm and morbidity, are infectious.

She's working like a mad thing trying to get her coursework finished on time for her exhibition a week on wednesday - and being something of a perfectionist, firmly believes nothing she does is good enough. This weekend - which was supposed to be a rare and relaxing Saturday night at my place (for once) followed by freebies to a gig in the park this afternoon - has actually turned into a couple of tearful phone calls from her office and me sat around by myself wondering how to make her feel better and hoping I'm not part of the problem.

You know how when you go to the doctors you immediately feel more ill? How all the sick people in the waiting room drag you down to their level of sickness? So it is when you're on the phone to the one you love and she keeps crying and saying she can't cope. You feel like you can't cope either. You're hoping you're not one of the things she can't cope with. You can't ask her because then that would make you one of them for sure.


Thursday, June 17, 2004

Now that's a bit more like it.
All we need to happen next is France to draw with Croatia...


Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Next week... Every Member of Parliament Trips On Glue: 20 reasons why over-the-counter hallucinogens promote rational decision-making.

Okay, so that's a joke. I stand by the smoking thing though: I get more grief off hayfever than Marlboro. Ban goddamn pollen, that's what I say. Concrete the countryside!


Monday, June 14, 2004

Okay, so I was reading here something of a rant about smoking... and while I have no wish whatsoever to pick a fight with an otherwise sound man, I feel as the resident junk male (I'm addicted to addictions. Give me an addiction... and I guarantee I'll get addicted to it) I have a duty to defend one of my top five addictions. So...

In Defence Of Smoking
(or... Why Smoking Is Big and Clever and Makes You Look Cool And Certainly Shouldn't Be Banned By Wet Middle Class Liberals Petrified Of A Passing Wisp of Nicotine As They Enter Their Diesel-Guzzling, Ozone-Destroying, Asthma-Inducing People Carrier For The School Run Twice A Day...)

The essential point about smoking is this: it's the most life-affirming thing an ordinary man can do. But I'll come to that later (scroll down if you're impatient/illiterate). First of all I want to explain why every child should start smoking.

Smoking cigarettes should only be started between the ages of 10 and 16. (Any younger and you're clearly headed for a life of crime anyway and certainly don't need my advice.) It should only be started for one reason, and one reason only: to be cool. Or more specifically, to look like John Travolta in Grease/Marlon Brando in The Wild One/Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now/Christian Slater in True Romance. And this is a thoroughly admirable thing. Not only that - it's an essential thing.

This is what growing up is all about - the projection of the unattainable into our own lives. Touching impossible glamour from your drab suburban bedroom. Living the goddamn dream. When nasty little 14-year-old snot-nosed Johnny sparks his King Size, he thinks he looks like Pete Doherty from the Libertines. I mean, he really believes it. And that, and probably only that, is what gets him through the day.

Being 14 is tough, it's horrible. You look, smell, and sound like shit. All the girls in your class are getting off with the older lads and all the boys are fighting each other. If you didn't have the posters on your walls and the dreams of coolness in your heart, I swear you'd give it all up altogether. When you're 14 you can't be Pete Doherty (or Marlon Brando, John Travolta etc) - but you can at least copy them. And for around 20p for seven minutes of cool, yer Marlboro red are the easiest way to do that.

So that's why starting smoking is ok. Not only ok - necessary. So why continue? Why (for example) be 31 years old, of good upbringing and righteous beliefs and otherwise general sound judgement and excessive intelligence... and still smoke?

Because I'm addicted, dummy! Listen - it's not doing you any harm (and let's not start on the passive smoking thing. More people are fatally injured by their own trousers than die from passive smoking. Fact. Look it up) and it's an awful lot less harmful to me than the amount of booze I put away or (probably) the russian roulette I play with e.coli every time I get a kebab on the way home from the pub.

I actually love it. I love smoking. It makes me feel like I did when I was 14. It makes me feel like Joe Strummer, like Sid Vicious. It makes me feel like Clint fucking Eastwood. It makes me feel untouchable.

And this, boys and girls is the real kicker, the bottom line. Unhealthy smokers keep smoking cos they figure it's too late, what the hell, got the disease now, why stop?
Healthy smokers keep smoking because it proves their immortality. Look at me! (we say) I'm on 20 cigarettes a day and I don't even cough. I don't even cough! Medical science says they're killers... and I don't even cough! Ergo sum... I'm immune! I'm immortal! I'm Ozymandias of Egypt, look on my clean pink lungs, ye mighty, and despair!

For the healthy man with a nicotine addiction, the very act of lighting a cigarette is an affirmation of life far more profound than any religion can provide. With every draw and drag, every sharp inhalation and smooth exhalation, he's proving his vitality, he's proving his very alive-ness. To the healthy smoker, each cigarette is a confrontation with certain death (read the health warnings they print on the side: SMOKERS DIE YOUNGER)... and a victory. The fag is smoked to the butt, ground out in the ashtray... and the smoker is still alive.

Of course, there comes a point when the coughs do start and all, but hey, I'm not trying to disprove medical science here. I'm just explaining why I love smoking. I love smoking because it means I laugh in the face of certain death 20 times every single day. (And I get to look like Joe Strummer as I do it.)

PS - if you're offended, open a newspaper, turn on a television. It's pretty bad out there, no?


Sunday, June 13, 2004

I don't want to talk about it.
Except to say... for 90 minutes we were the better side. And I'm never eating another croissant again.

Right - out of the shower, pint of water on the go, England/New Order on the decks and I'm just about ready for the off! Arrivederci it's one on one!

Why do I always do this? The night before a big night, I always go out and get hammered. It's like the anticipation of the big night to come is too much, I get too excited, I shoot my load (as it were) prematurely.

So tonight - well, this afternoon if I'm being honest - is obviously set to be a big drunken one. England v France in our opening game of the European Championships. Kick off is early evening... which means getting in the pub for mid-afternoon... which means an awful lot of drinking. So what do I do last night? I go down the pub with P and M and N at 4-30 and stayed till 11. Don't remember much about getting home or going to bed, other than there was evidence of burger and chips consumption in the kitchen this morning and a low throb of pain behind my eyes when I woke up.

On the plus side, however, I did win £20 at the bookies for correctly predicting that Greece would beat Portugal.

Now I have approximately one hour to get my shit together to go out and do it all again. In fact, find cut and pasted below our itinerary as sent out on a group email by myself on Friday... Read it and weep, gentle reader, for this is my life.

>bonjour mes petites amis!
as you are all doubtless very much aware, sunday is en-ger-land vs la france in the first significant game of Euro 2004 - and as befits the bi-annual excuse to get drunk and shout abuse at foreigners, we should all go down the pub, get drunk, and, like, shout abuse at foreigners ("oh I say, boo, Thierry, boo!" etc).

To wit - kick off is at 7-45, but given the state of pubs etc, I'm thinking we should be in the boozer for the earlier Swiss-Croat festival of unpronounceability. So here's my suggested plan. Who's in?

3pm - meet for a stomach-lining feast of the finest full English breakfast in all North London. Make predictable banter with Spanish staff after they laugh at new England shirts about whether they will or won't beat us in the quarters. Ho ho! Now where's my goddamn sausage Manuel?

4-30pm (approx) - roll on down to the pub. Yes, it's an O'Neill's pub, but it is big enough to ensure we get a good view of the screen and it served us well in the World Cup two years ago. (It was only when we changed to the Tup that we went out to Brazil.)

4-35 - 7-45pm - drink beer, smoke fags, be uncertain about what result we want from the Switzerland Croatia match. Laugh indulgently when someone says "football will be the winner". Nod sympathetically when S explains why Thierry Henry is actually over-rated as a player. Pretend you know what N's talking about when he explains some obscure point about this week's local elections. Take the time to start to explain the difference between the Golden Goal and the Silver Goal to M. Realise nobody's actually sure of the difference themselves... or even if they're being used this tournament.

7-45 - 9-30pm (approx) - Kick off! Good old England! Ra ra ra! Come on boys! Spill Guinness down new England shirt. Experience brief and joyous hope when Owen hits the post early on... followed by a dawning realisation that Ledley King is actually not a very good central defender. When he's replaced by Jamie Carragher, realise that he's worse.

9-35 pm - stay for "one more drink to calm down" with P.

11pm - somehow make it home. Watch Big Brother live till 2-30am.


Sounds great, non?


ps - http://www.footballbadgers.com/


Thursday, June 10, 2004

Ladies and gennelmen, mesdames et messieurs, herren und frauleins (?), bambini y mamasitas (losing the language thing here) I'm pleased to announce that I have as of 30 seconds ago, cleared my decks of work. I've put a last little date in the one outstanding "to be filed" section on my oh-so-annally-retentive spreadsheet, and tonight, for the first time in a while, can go to sleep without worrying about missing more deadlines.

(Tomorrow I have to go into the office, but that's different. That's nine to five shit. And besides, don't ruin my little triumph here.)

Get this: according to my calculations (in the "number of words" section of my OSAR Spreadsheet) I have written and filed no less than 13,400 words in the last eight days. Plus two days spent in an office working on unrelated stuff. That's like bashing out 20 per cent of an airport novel in just over a week. Mental.

No man should have to do that. (Especially not one so genetically disinclined to hard work as this one.)

Luckily for you, my clearing of the work insania means I can get back to the real stuff: banging on about my deep and deeply slushy love for The One and my deeper and deeply slurred love for the bottle. It'll be like when we started, kids! It'll be an endless afternoon of love and booze and blogging...


Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Right. Does someone want to tell me what an RSS feed thing is? And why I should have one? Over in California, so I hear, they're much the latest rage, and although I'm aware this blog has the capabilities of turning one on (?) I've never bothered as I had no idea what it is or does.

And does the fact mine isn't turned on explain the total lack of blog-related book/movie deals in my inbox?

I've just spent the last four hours making big piles of receipts, bills, invoices and all the assorted flotsam and jetsam required to make a tax return... before bagging them up in separate envelopes and putting all of that into another big envelope and parcelling the lot up to send to my accountant tomorrow morning. Lucky him.

In the background the TV was showing a documentary about a brothel somewhere in America. All the girls were old and frayed at the edges and all the punters looked like the Unabomber. One scene showed a father and son arriving together, all lopsided grins and uneasy bravado and pockets of crumpled fifties. One girl pronounced it the sweetest thing she'd ever seen. She was not the lucky girl they chose to spend their money on.

Outside it's hot. Sweltering. The pub at the top of the road has been spilling drinkers and pint glasses and crisp packets onto the streets since lunch time and now nobody can be bothered picking any of it up. Next door's cat's customary midnight litter patrol has likewise been abandoned in favour of a nice cool lie-down somewhere.

Me - I'm stuck to the settee in shorts and an England top, wondering whether I can be bothered going to bed but unable to think of anything more useful to do instead...


Sunday, June 06, 2004

The Story of the Sloth.

Sloths, as I'm sure you don't need me to tell you, are big fat lazy creatures who live in trees in South America doing basically nothing but eating leaves all day. Once a week or so they clamber down to the ground to defecate; once every blue moon or so they'll bump into another sloth similarly relieving itself; and if the sunshine, moonlight, good times or boogie are all favourable, they'll get jiggy, sloth-style (ie slowly) and might even give birth to little baby sloths.

They spend most of their time, however, hanging from their branches, slowly munching away. If they do find themselves the proud parent of a baby sloth, then the little feller will spend his early life hanging off his mum, munching away himself, until he becomes too heavy and falls off. Then he'll clamber up, find his own branch, and begin adult sloth-life himself.

Now, so far, so admirable. There's a lot, after all, to be said for such a life - and the evolutionary advances that the sloth genus has made to adapt to it are impressive: their whole metabolic rate is negligable (after all, having a crap can be a pretty tiring business, and if you can manage to keep it down to 50-odd times a year, that's got to count as a good thing); their fur has developed a special "backwards facing" growth, to keep them warm without the need for actual exercise (another useful trick) and their relaxed attitude to parenthood is nothing if not enviable.

I like sloths - for all these reasons. However, there is one thing especially about the sloth that I can't get over; one thing that is totally unique to them... and it's either the best thing or the worst thing in the whole of god's green animal kingdom.

When sloths die, they don't do so from predators (aside from the weekly toilet trips they tend to go unnoticed) and they don't go from old age (they rarely live long enough to). When sloths die, they die of starvation. All they do is eat all their lives... and they die of starvation.

Why? After all - they live in the goddamn jungle, they live up trees - and all they eat is leaves. They're surrounded by food, by more food than they could possibly ever get through. How could they possibly die of starvation?

The fact is, after a while they get so fat and lazy, they simply can't be bothered moving to get any more food. They hang there from their branch, burning with hunger, dying of hunger, looking over at the next branch along and its rich bounty of juicy leaves to crunch on... and they think "ahh, fuck it. Can't be arsed."

Sloths die of starvation because they figure the effort of moving 20 feet along a branch to pick up dinner simply isn't worth it. They'd rather die than bother. Now tell me: is that the coolest or the scariest damn thing you've ever heard?

Ohhh what happened to you? Whatever happened to me...?

Apologies and excuses for the long absence: I've been busy, I've been at The One's a lot, I've been so wrapped up writing crap for everyone else that I've been left without any crap to write for myself.

Things have been... eventful here. On the downside - I had a major bust-up with M over the most trivial of things in the world (I sent a group email publicly wondering why he'd given an album 5/5 in his review column; he sent a mail back publicly telling me never to criticise his work. I assumed he was joking and took the bait ("don't be such a pompous arse") and it turned out he wasn't joking. Cue big slanging match); I've been up to the small hours most nights this week furiously meeting deadlines; I was the subject of an Inquisition-style "concerned" interrogation in the pub on Friday night by my friends asking if I was getting enough sleep, was I working too hard, did I think I drink and smoke too much? (The answers are, in order - no, yes, yes but what are you gonna do about it?) Oh - and The One is on medication so there's no nocturnal fumbling for at least a week.

On the upside - umm... all this work means I've earned lots of money last week I suppose. And my new computer is scheduled to arrive tomorrow, which means no more messing around with this clockwork laptop.

Still. It could be worse. At least I still have my looks.


Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Oh - and I've just remembered, I promised I'd tell you the story of the sloth. And about The One's birthday last week. I feel bad now. Promise I'll tell you later...

The work situation is beginning to get out of hand. Or rather out of control. Or perhaps even out of order.

Apologies for not posting - I've been so busy I haven't had any time for such idle fancies as, er, telling you how busy I've been... in fact the only reason I am here now is because I'm (wait for it) taking a break. That's right: it's half-past midnight, I've been working since 10 o'clock this morning (give or take the odd break to eat or watch the England footy highlights) and I'm taking a break at 12:30 am. Tomorrow I shall be up again at nine or so to get the rest of this nailed before I'm in the office on Thursday to do a whole different set of work. Like I said... out of hand, out of control, out of order.

The oddest thing of all is that I don't even know what to make of this insane rush of commissions: on the one hand it's an almighty pain in the arse when all I really want is a holiday (or at least two consecutive days off - did I mention I was working on Sunday?)... but on the other I know how perilously close I came to having to take a second job this time last year, so I'm embracing all the work I can, in an ultra-sensible laying-up-fuel-for-the-winter way. (Of course, seeing the cheques roll in ain't bad either.) But still - my enthusiasm for the job wanes slightly. And let's remember - the main reason I've been so goddamn good at it thus far was because I enjoyed it so.

Anyway. Duty calls. There's approximately 3,500 words more to be written by close of play tomorrow, plus a whole shitload of phone calls to be made to the Norfolk tourist board (don't ask)... and that stuff doesn't write itself, you know. Or, er, phone itself.

My only consolation is that today it pissed it down with rain pretty much all day. What I really can't stand is working when the sun's out.

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