Monday, August 30, 2004

Stars and stripes 

So I'm having an argument courtesy of someone else's guestbook (sorry ourkid) with an American.

Now I have this thing with Americans. A slight confusion in my own head about them. On the one hand - I was born in America; I hold dual UK/US nationality; I've been there many times; San Francisco is probably my favourite city in the whole world (London comes in second, Paris third, with Barcelona a very creditable fourth); and generally, on a one-to-one basis, most of the many Americans I've met have been thoroughly decent people. I can think of at least three American bloggers I read every day (two of them live together - ding dong!) who if I knew in the real world I would almost certainly want to get drunk with.

But this girl - she sums up everything that pisses me right off about America. Perhaps the bits I like are the groovy, enlightened, liberal bits. (She is certainly none of those things.) Perhaps it's that actually, the groovy, enlightened, liberal bits are not actually representative of the nation as a whole. Perhaps the Dubya-voting, WWII-started-with-Pearl-Harbour (and not two years earlier when Germany invaded Poland)-thinking, United-Nations-defying, can't-find-Iraq-on-an-Atlas-but-want-to-decimate-it-anyway assholes actually represent the majority. God, I hope not.

I know that often in this blog I'm down on the Americans. And that's because stupid, insular, you'd-be-speaking-German-if-it-wasn't-for-us Americans do piss me off more than any other people on Earth (and I do mean ANY other - consider that for a moment). But for all you right-thinking Septics out there: don't take offence. I know that all too often a few bad apples can spoil the crop, and that George W Bush technically didn't get the majority of the vote last time around, and that for every person that thinks Arnold Schwarzenegger is the right person to be in charge of the fourth largest economy in the world, there's someone else who gets cold shakes at the very thought of it... I know all this. I know you're not all bad, that there is hope in the proles, that the sun also rises... I know this and deep down I love you all really.

But please, just so we're clear: the fact we're not speaking German really has very little to do with you. And the fact you're speaking English has everything to do with us. Thankyou.


Friday, August 27, 2004

I am looking at you... 

Off to Oxford tomorrow, me and The One and a list of properties to check out. We're viewing houses all day Saturday, going on a pub crawl Saturday evening (the only real way to get a feel for any area) and spending the night at the Randolph, darling. (We would be staying somewhere cheaper, only I screwed up and left booking it until this week. Consequently the only place with a room free on the Bank Holiday weekend also happens to be the swankiest hotel in the whole damn city. Oh well!)

Sunday we have lunch with The One's parents. I feel I should point out that her father looks uncannily like Robert De Niro in Meet the Parents. "I am looking at you," I can picture him saying, with that downturned mouth thing and his two fingers moving from his eyes to mine...


Truth exists, only falsehood has to be invented 

I never kept a diary as a child. I never did as a teenager either; and even in my difficult twenties I couldn't see the point. Diaries - they're mostly a chick thing anyway, with their floral covers and canny little lock-and-key mechanisms. And once you break into them (I have sisters) they seemed to be... well, boring. Certainly teenage diaries, anyway. "So-and-so looked at me and winked in double maths," is about as racy as it gets between 11 and 16; "Life is, like, shit and stuff, and only Morrissey understands my pain," pretty much represents the apex of psyche-revealing revelations.

It's not that different for twentysomething diaries - or "journals" as English students and anyone who's stumbled across The Doors/ French poetry/ Brett Easton Ellis novels/ Che Guevera/ Almost Famous insist on calling them. In fact, if anything, they're more embarrassing: at least the teenage diaries were written in a rush of pubescent longing and frustration, at least they were honest. Twentysomething "journals" are often tempered by a desire to create ART and as such seem to end up as mostly awful pretentious shite and bad poetry. With the same "so-and-so slept with me and now won't look at me in the bar; life is, like, shit and stuff, and only Jim Morrison understands my pain," underlying themes.

(Which is not to say that teenage and twentysomething diaries are wholly bad. Just that they're not actually good. If they act as a kind of cathartic release, if they keep some kids from cutting themselves or smoking smack or getting on the high school roof with a rifle, then they can only be applauded. I'm just saying that their literary value is all but zero.)

Because this is the point, isn't it? The literary value of diaries, journals, blogs, call them what you will, is all but zero. Even the diaries of famous people are pretty goddamn dull, at the end of the day (at the end of every day, as it happens). The most famous diarist ever kept a pretty dull diary. Have you ever read The Diary of Samuel Pepys? It bored me to tears. The Great Fire of London is barely mentioned and even the stuff about shagging his housekeeper palls after a while. The rest is... well, boring crap about his life. Who cares?

This is why I never kept a diary. Diaries are motivated primarily out of narcissism. Diaries are kept because the writer wants a reader. (There's no such thing as a genuinely "secret" diary - everyone wants their diary read. Why else would they bother spelling correctly? Why else would they bother writing anything at all? Why do blogs have comment sections, hit counters, visitor logs?)

The irony is - I never kept a diary because I was too narcissistic.

Sure, I scrawled the bad poetry, I formed a band and got angry with a guitar riff and a lyric, I even wrote a whole novel of juvenile angst... but I never kept a diary. I never kept a diary because according to the rules of my own arrogance, people who kept diaries were pussies who pretended they didn't want their shit read because they were scared of being exposed for the shite writers they are. And then what would they do? If even their secret diary was worthless, what release would they have? Me - I was always like: be good, or don't bother at all. Allow everyone to read it... or put down the pen and do something else instead. I never kept a diary because I couldn't see the point of writing anything if it wasn't for an audience. I was a cocky little sod.

Now...? Now every bad poet and wannabe Brett Easton Ellis posts their most intimate shit for a worldwide audience of whatever-billion readers every day. Everyone is putting up, fronting up, writing up. Everyone's become the cocky sod I was 15 years ago. Blogger is awash with the flotsam and jetsam of people's lives. And whilst some of it is undoubtedly good, whilst some people genuinely have good things to say, or at least a good way of saying things (both are of equal value), a lot of it is crap that should never have made it out of the floral covered lock-and-key diary of yesteryear.

And now I'm keeping a diary. I'm keeping this diary, this weblog. You don't know me... but you know all about me. You know what I do for a living, you know (roughly) where I live, you know I drink too much, smoke too much, that I have a somewhat dodgy past; you know about The One, about my pending move; you know how many brothers and sisters I have; you know what I think about love, about dreams, about Olympic badminton finals, and now about diaries.

Would I have written this if I didn't know you were reading it? Of course not! I'm only writing this because I know you're reading it! And that, kids, is why, after all these years of scoffing at diaries and journals and other such literary aides de masturbation, I've clocked up some 25,000 words on this one.

Be honest. How often do you check your comments section? How thoroughly do you preview your posts (with dictionary and thesaurus, with delete key and backspace)? Why are you writing your blog at all? Isn't it because you want people to read? Isn't it because you want them to be your friend...?

Am I being harsh? Probably. Am I being truthful? Certainly. And like Georges Braque (see point about arty French types, above) said: truth exists, only falsehood has to be invented.


Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Knight errant 

So as if this wasn't bad enough, the thing I really can't understand about Sir Mark Thatcher is why on earth he's a Sir at all? As far as I can see he's done little of anything in his life other than have an evil bitch for a mother and get lost in the desert once during a car race.

So am I wrong? Has Sir Mark actually done anything to merit his knighthood? Anyone? Anyone? Thought not. Stupid corrupt class system. (And the thing is, if my mum was Prime Minister you can bet your ass she wouldn't give me a knighthood. But then she wouldn't destroy the NHS, privatise our core industries, introduce poll tax or generally oppress the tired, the poor and the huddled masses, either... so fair's fair, I guess. Still - Sir Drinkalot has a nice ring to it, no?)


I am a Golden God! 

Exciting news!

So a few years ago I was in a band - we were a fucking good band too, and I wrote a bunch of fucking good songs. We didn't play any gigs or anything, but thanks to my job I got us mentioned as "ones to watch" more than a few times in the press...

We were good - but we were never serious or anything.

Anyway - the band carried on without me and they've only gone and got a record deal! The CD comes out next week! And two of my aforementioned fucking good songs are on it! And it's been reviewed in a national magazine that has nothing to do with me! (The review uses the phrase "sparks with raw energy"!) And it's getting a play on the radio next week! And this evening, the record company boss (record company boss!) got in touch about sending me royalty cheques!

Royalties for rock 'n' roll songs I wrote in my bedroom... seriously: that's just about the coolest goddamn thing that has ever happened (and believe me, I've had a lot of cool stuff happen over the years). And this is clearly the most exclamation marks I've ever used in one posting! Or anywhere! Ever!

To quote the Beastie Boys: let's go crazy fuckin apeshit!


Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Clean living 

Sober, that's me. Sober as a new-born baby - and (given I've done nothing constructive tonight other than have a bath) about as pink and fresh and bored as a baby too.

The hangover this morning was horrific. That last Baileys before bed was perhaps a creamy half-glass of booze and ice too far. You know how it is when you're forcing yourself to stay awake so you can finish your drink? When you've got one hand over an eye to cut out the double-vision (believe it or not, that actually works) and your head propped against a cushion to stop the room spinning and you have to keep your fingers working on the TV remote because any more than 20 seconds of one channel proves too much information for your brain to handle? Well, that was me last night. I don't remember the journey from the front room to the bedroom - and trust me, kids, that ain't no long journey - but when I woke this morning I was in pieces.

So, given that this morning's was the fourth head-fucking hangover in as many days, I've done the sensible thing tonight and drunk:
Ribena (three pints, approx)
Coca Cola (one can)
Coffee (four cups)
Tea (two cups)

My body is a goddamn Temple. And not the Temple of Doom, either.


Sunday, August 22, 2004


It's NOT "Team GB". It's never been Team GB. It never should be. It's the British Team. Mathew Pinsent, Paula Radcliffe, that young boxing lad (who, incidentally, is my new hero), are not members of Team GB. They're members of the British Team.

It's confusing enough that the mother tongue is a bastardised Germano-Franco-Latin hotch-potch as it is without gratuitously Americanising it. BBC - you should be ashamed of yourselves.


I mean, literally, perfect 

It's 11.17pm on Sunday night and I have the following to report:

* I'm drunk as hell.
Went out for a few civilised drinks with S - we used to share a flat, before then we were best mates at school, and the news I'm going to move to Oxford is actually quite hard on both of us - in a masculine, heterosexual, no-touching way, obviously. Anyway, we had a number of pints, talked a lot of shit, he caught a bus to East London and his girlfriend and I walked home shitfaced. It was beautiful.

* Paula Radcliffe
Poor girl. I can only quote Brendan Foster: "Sitting on a roadside in Athens crying is no way to end your Olympic dream". Horrible.

* Allie
I love you. And if Tamara wants to join in (dates and spontaneous street-snoggage and all) that's cool.

* Mixed feelings
Nights like tonight make me wish I wasn't moving out of London. The exhiliration and energy of Islington on any night is a rush - and it's a rush that can't be replicated anywhere, a rush wholly unique to Upper Street. On the other hand - I'm glad I'm moving out of London. Because the exhiliration and energy also involves keeping an eye out for the mugger, the fight, the shady bloke in the park on the shortcut home...

* Swedish semi-disposable furniture rocks
Sorry, but IKEA rules. If you're looking to tart up your flat for a quick sale on a minimum budget, there really is no other place to go. I spent yesterday there with my parents, and after much swearing with an Allen key today, my flat looks eminently buyable.

* Plants are the future
All of the IKEA points above, only with the added bonus that you're recycling carbon dioxide into oxygen.

* Baileys
I'm drinking a very large Baileys right now, and if only I had some olives I think life would be perfect. I mean, literally, perfect.


Friday, August 20, 2004

Papering over the cracks 

Things I Have To Do Today.

1. File the body language piece.
2. Ignore the boys-and-make-up piece till next week.
3. Change the Hoover bag.
4. Mop the kitchen and bathroom floors.
5. Bleach the bathroom tiles.
6. Find some kind of enamel paint to hide the chips in the bath.
7. Dust. (Dust? Who dusts these days?)
8. Sweep, clean then hoover the front room.
9. Buy some flowers.
10. Buy some paint for the windowsills and doors.
11. Clean the cooker.
12. Water the plants.
13. Try to do something about the sticking front door lock.
14. Make an appointment to get a valuation for the flat.
15. Shower/shave/generally make myself presentable for the theatre tonight with The One.

God, putting your flat on the market is such a DRAG. Ordinarily numbers 1 and 15 on that list would constitute a full and productive day. It all seems like far too much effort - and this is simply the tarting-up preliminaries.


Thursday, August 19, 2004

A plea (with apologies to Tamara & Allie for nicking the format) 

Dear Mr Interweb

Hi, hope you're well. I just thought I'd drop you a line to check everything's ok and stuff, as well as to see if you can help me out with something.

Thanks for all the free porn and stuff, and there's no faulting your use as an invaluable tool for plagiarising foreign newspapers that my editors won't have read... but can I just ask one little favour from you?

Please: stop distracting me. I'm trying to work. I'm trying to write 1400 words on the psychology of body language in yer everyday boy-meets-girl situation and every time I attempt to do any research on it you keep offering me more porn. I know you mean well - and truly, ordinarily I'd be very grateful, but just this once - just this one night - can you not share your smuttier side with me?

I promise that tomorrow I'll lustily embrace all the filth you can throw at me - but tonight I need to get this done before the wine runs out. Deal?

Thanks, I knew you'd understand.



ps - thanks for your help with that self-googling thing too. I had no idea I was so popular!
pps - don't tell anyone else about the porn thing, either!


Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Sport Is Where Men Become As Gods 

Right. Enough of the bollocks about career and stuff. The last thing I (ever) want to do is preach so I think it's time we got a whole lot shallower again.

In other words, let's make a list!

What shall we make a list about? The Olympics!

So: Five Things I'm Loving About The Olympics, as of this moment, right now, home from the pub where I watched England win at football and with a big tub of olives and a (very) large Baileys in front of me:

1. Olives. Goddamn I love olives. You know how much I love olives? Pretty bloody much. I could quite literally eat olives for ever - and not just cos it's the Olympics and medal winners get olive wreaths. As Plato himself famously said - those olives are tasty green motherfuckers.

2. Olympic Winners Getting Olive Wreaths. No offence to you Septics* out there, but really - you want class, you hold the Olympics in the Old World, baby. (Oh - no offence to Australia either - on reflection, Sydney was pretty classy, but it screws up my argument, so let's just leave that for the moment, eh?) The only single thing in the history of the Olympic games EVER that was better than the Barcelona flaming arrow to light the Olympic torch is the Greek olive-wreath malarkey. (And maybe Jesse Owens 1936. But that was in Berlin, so I'm still right.)

3. Synchronised Diving. Since when did Queer Eye For the Straight Guy get to choose Olympic sports? Hilariously homosexual and all the better for it.

4. Great Britain Coming Fourth In Just About Everything. Hurray for us! We're nearly quite good!

5. The Power Of Suggesting You Care About Things You Really Have No Interest In Whatsoever. This morning I watched women's canoeing for an hour and a half. This afternoon I caught a bit of three day eventing action. Last week I was a big fan of synchronised diving. And don't even get me started on badminton, sailing, rowing, curling... The Olympics does that brilliant thing of telling you something's interesting (because there's a chance of a bronze for Britain in it) and then sucking you in to the point where you CARE about badminton goddammit! You're shouting at the TV - you cheating Taiwanese motherfuckers! Do I understand the rules of any of these sports? No. Does that stop me telling everyone in the pub how we was robbed of our bronze? Hell, no!

Now, don't we all feel better? Oh - and England beat Ukraine 3-0 (I think). It had precisely nothing to do with the Olympics. And I was a bit drunk by the end, so don't take my word for it. We won, anyway - but then we always win when it doesn't really matter...

*Septic - American. From the rhyming slang: Septic Tank - Yank.


Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Career advice interlude 

So it seems I'm under pressure to explain/justify/reveal the mysteries of my career choice and attendant lifestyle. The fact of the matter is I'm naturally lazy and naturally narcissistic - and have simply been lucky enough to find a way of earning a living that indulges both.

The thing is - any book or lecturer or careers advisor will tell you that simply being talented as a writer is not good enough to make it as a journalist (let alone a freelance journalist), that it takes qualifications, a shitload of hard work, blah blah. For my money that's crap: talent is always enough. Talent and luck. And a willingness to work for free at the beginning.

Ah, now you've mentally switched off. Well listen: there are two routes in. There's the qualifications route, and there's the way I took. If you really want to make a career out of writing you'll have to do one or the other. All I can do is tell you the way I did it.

I got kicked out of University; I found myself aged 20 with no qualifications and no real direction, but with a whole shitload of talent. So what did I do? I got in touch with every magazine I could think of and begged to write for free. A few of them told me - yeah, knock yerself out, we probably won't publish anything though. So I did. I spent three years writing for free, submitting reviews and features and articles without any of them ever getting published... until finally a couple did make it. And then a couple more. And then I started getting commissioned to interview bands. And then I started selling those interviews on to the nationals. And then suddenly a job came up with a national newspaper in London and I was getting paid to write full time.

In fact, not only was I getting paid to write full-time without any qualifications to my name, I found myself telling Graduate Trainees - people with not one degree but two - what to do. I found myself asking them to do my research! I couldn't help wondering why people would stay at University for years simply to be told what to do by the likes of me. I still wonder.

I didn't have any qualifications, but I had talent. And I'd spent three years working for free in order to prove it.

Hunny Bunny, Newly Single, it is easy. But it's not as easy as sticking at what you do already.


Friday, August 13, 2004

Less is more 

Was up till 3 this morning drinking vodka and playing nerdy online computer games with P.
"There'll be none of this once you move," he said.
Wrong! There'll be much more of this, surely?

Since waking today, I've...
* watched two episodes of Frasier.
* listened to the same CD three times back to back
* had a cup of coffee with S
* smoked seven cigarettes
* played with my Spiderman Triple Action Web Blaster until the goldfish got a bit scared of it
* sent an angry email to a company that owes me three and a half grand for work done and only want to pay me 2,750.

Because the last one counted as work, I don't feel it's been a total waste of a day. (The Spiderman thing was good too.) Besides, I'm meeting P and N in the pub at seven so I don't want to exhaust myself before then, do I?

Oh yeah - and it's Friday 13th and as everyone knows, it's bad luck to do anything constructive on Friday 13th.


Thursday, August 12, 2004

Minor tantrum 

I dunno about you, but I'm the kind of person who has to have something as soon as he decides he wants it. Once the idea is in my head, I want it in my hand. That's why I'm crap at buying things from amazon or ebay - if I buy something I want it immediately - not in three days time and subject to the vagaries of the Royal Mail.

Likewise the move. Yesterday I went to Oxford; I identified areas; I registered with estate agents. I looked at little terraced cottages in Jericho, Grandpont and Osney Island. I walked along the river; I checked out local pubs; I popped into local shops. I want to move there straight away. I want to put in an offer today. I want to exchange tomorrow. I want to be living there by the weekend. This whole business of cleaning my flat, of The One cleaning her flat, of painting doors and windowsills, of getting the flats valued, getting them on the market, getting surveys and joint mortgages and solicitors and bollocks is too much of a drag. My parents tell me we'll be lucky to have moved by Christmas. Christmas? Screw that, I want to move NOW!


Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Choose Life 

Amsterdam was lovely. But screw that for the moment - I have news.

A decision was reached. On Friday morning, as we lay supine on the lawns by the Van Gogh museum, sipping ice-cold coke and smoking Marlboro cigarettes in the clear sunshine, The One and I had a Moment. We're going to move in together. More than that - we're going to sell each of our flats and buy a place together. More than that even - she's moving out of South London; I'm moving out of North London. We're moving out of London. The One and I are going to Oxford.

My job means I can work anywhere; and I've lived in Oxford before, I know its nice bars and groovy restaurants, its hidden cafes and slow backstreets. She hates her job; she's going to quit. She's going to quit journalism. She's going to open a second hand shop, selling records and clothes and knick knacks and flowers to the young and trendy of Oxford town centre.

Boys and girls, we're opting out of the rush and jumble of London, the sweat of the Piccadilly Line and the flotsam and jetsam of Leicester Square, Charing Cross and Tottenham Court Road. We're waving goodbye to the adrenaline and madness of Soho, the poses and piss-poor attitude of Covent Garden; we're waving two fingers to the cooler-than-thou of Old Street, Shoreditch and the Angel Islington... we're leaving it all and fucking right off to a better place.

A terraced cottage by the Isis, a garden with vegetables, a short walk to a proper pint. Bicycles. Finishing work by six. Theatres, cinemas and galleries you don't have to take a second mortgage out to visit. We're choosing to live with less money, less things to spend it on, less work. But we're choosing to live with more... Life.

Her flat is to be valued this week. Tomorrow I catch a train to Oxford and start on the estate agents.


Thursday, August 05, 2004


Quick one - I'm off to Amsterdam today (in about 20 minutes actually). Minidiscs, elvis shades, shorts... all packed. Hair - cut. Fish - fed.

What this means for me is - hoorah! Holidays till Monday!

What this means for you is - boo! No posts till Monday. Be strong, kids. Hold tight. Take each day one at a time. Remember: the sun also rises.


Wednesday, August 04, 2004

The Dread 

I woke this morning with The Dread: that gnawing, prickly, just-out-of-reach, half-memory that something went wrong last night, that something was said, or done, that was wholly bad. And because it's The Dread, of course, I can't remember what it was, or might have been.

The Dread - it's like Original Sin. It's something you know you're going to get royally fucked for... but you have no knowledge of what it is you're supposed to have done. You know you're going to get punished, that you're going to have to pay a price... but you don't know why exactly. Just that you probably deserve it.

I remember the start of the evening alright. I met M, P, N and Elder Male Sibling 2 in a bar in London's fashionable EC1. I remember the start of the evening - because the Anti-One was sat outside (she didn't see me; she left almost straight away); because M was in there before me; because the table football was free and nobody would play me.

I remember it being Happy Hour; I remember sinking a lot of Portuguese beer; I remember marvelling at the suddenness and ferocity of the rain at dusk.

I remember Happy Hour ending and walking through the rain to another pub; I remember S turning up late in that pub; I remember switching to Guinness and the drinking pace being quickened. I remember disagreeing with N about the forthcoming US Presidential elections ("If they vote Bush back in they fucking deserve everything they get, the stupid wankers," was, I think, the gist of my argument. Sorry y'all.) I remember seeing a blonde girl that I thought I recognised and almost talking to her but being unable to think of anything to say that wouldn't sound like a cheap line.

I remember switching from Guinness to vodka.

I remember M, Elder Male Sibling 2 and N leaving at some stage. I remember... I remember...

I remember not much after that. This morning there's a bus ticket in my back pocket timed at 12.30 am, there's chip wrapper in my bin, and most mystifyingly there's a cheque for £189 in my wallet. Whatever happened... is anyone's guess. But I've got The Dread.


Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Your homework for today 

I want you to do the following for me:

Buy this album

And then buy this book

And then experience the elation and impotence of knowing you've found true, pure, soaring genius... and that you'll never, ever, not if you tried for the rest of your life, write anything so good yourself. It will lift you up and break your heart.


I'm old... and my skin is cold 

Yesterday was my birthday - hurrah! Another year closer to oblivion. Interestingly, today is Terry Wogan's birthday: as he said this morning, you know you're old when you've got time on your hands, parsley on your chin and the rest of the soup in your lap.

Even more interestingly, my birthday always makes me think of a very special day in 1990, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait on the morning of my 18th. Bless him. It was very sweet, but really - a card would have done.

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