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Saturday, October 30, 2004

Old world/new world 

(30 more posts before shutdown)

So then, as someone infinitely more Shakespearian than I once said, when troubles come, they come not as single spies... but in battalions. We have new developments. New spanners thrown in the works.

As keener readers will be aware, The One and I are moving out of London. Moving in together and out of London. Moving to Oxford and A New Life. I'm going to continue freelancing, she's going to eighty-six her job in Beauty Journalism and freelance too. We're going to live in our beautiful terraced house on the banks of the Isis with the cats and the garden and the vegetable patch and the real fire and the evenings in and the lovely pub at the end of the road and it's going to be as damn near perfect as a boy and girl could ever wish for.

And then today the spanner was thrown. Today The One was headhunted. She was offered a job. She was was offered a job as Beauty Director for a very prestigious magazine. It's more money, more perks, more prestige; it'll set her CV up for life. And it's in... Australia. Effective immediately. We'd be in Sydney by Christmas.

Of course, I'll follow her to Australia and beyond, I'd follow her to Baghdad if that's what she wanted... and a year ago, six months ago, we'd be down the Embassy right now sorting out visas - but we're about four weeks from exchanging on our Dream House for Chrissakes. We've built up one Ideal; and now, suddenly, out of the blue, we're shown an Alternative Ideal. Until today, all I ever wanted was four weeks away from happening: a beautiful house with the girl I love. Until today, The One felt exactly the same. Now... we're not sure.

Part of us wants to say fuck it, one last time, one last hurrah, let's blow it all off and have an adventure, let's go to Australia and let the devil pick up the pieces - and part of us just wants to, like, grow vegetables and work for ourselves and drink wine on the sofa watching the cats sleep by the fire in our lovely house on the banks of the Isis.

And the maddest thing is, I think I'm leaning more towards the latter. Don't get me wrong - if she wants to go to Australia, I'm going with her and it's going to be the most amazing thing that ever happened to us - but all in all, I kind of feel (to quote a better lyricist than me) my wandering days are over. I must be getting old.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2004

John Peel RIP 

(31 more posts before shutdown)

This is very sad news. I used to collect Peel Sessions records obsessively - I used to buy singles by bands whose music I had never even heard simply because I had read somewhere that Peel was into them. I first heard The Jesus and Mary Chain on his radio show. Likewise Joy Division. Likewise My Bloody Valentine. Likewise The Streets. And any man who lists Teenage Kicks by the Undertones as the Greatest Record Of All Time is always going to be sorely missed.

The only upside of the whole affair is that Radio 1 have been playing Sombre Indie all day. The news may be sad, but at least the soundtrack is fantastic.

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The rollercoasters 

(32 more posts before shutdown)

Oh my head. My poor head. What have I done to you? I've been in Isabella's metaphorical Switzerland for most of the day, hiding from the Hangover Nazis (they've not so much been sniping at me as blanket-bombing, blitzkrieging, rolling in the Panzer divisions and sending in the heavy artillery). Do I feel bad? Put it this way: I've felt better. In fact, I think I've spent the whole of my life thus far feeling better than I do today. I'm hungover for England.

Yesterday, was of course, the football, Manchester United versus Arsenal. And that of course meant arriving in the pub at 3pm in order to get a seat and a couple of Guinness down us before kick off at four. Naturally the drinking pace picked up as the match progressed and the tension grew... and if I'm being honest, I'd say that by final whistle (shortly before six) we were drunk.

And then we had a few more to calm down.

And then we headed off to another pub to play pool. Seven or so games into what was turning into an epic doubles encounter (me and P verses S and N - we were 4-3 up and growing stronger with every fresh pint) we were challenged to a match against a couple of blokes with tattoos. Who, it transpired, were fresh out of jail that day and had spent even longer drinking than we had...

Of course, the sensible thing would have been to lose graciously, make our excuses and leave. So what did P and I do? We fucking hammered them. Twice. The second time I even did that raise-your-head-and-wink thing that Tom Cruise does in the Color of Money as I potted the black. One threat of "a serious kicking" later, we were out of that pub.

P went home. S and I headed to another pub... to have a few more to calm down.

It couldn't have been much past 10pm but I was as drunk as I've ever been. I had to leave S when the rollercoasters kicked in. We were sat on stools at the bar and he was telling me something incredibly important - and behind him the room kept slipping. If I concentrated it righted itself; if I looked back at S it slipped again. The rollercoasters are horrible enough when you're in your own bed - when you're a mile away from home and don't trust yourself not to throw up on the bus, they're pretty much the worst thing in the world.

"Gottago," I mumbled and I was out of there. I remember nothing more... until I woke this morning fully dressed on my bed with an uneaten plate of toast next to me. I've taken this as a sign of maturity - a year ago it would have been fried chicken.

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Friday, October 22, 2004

For once I'm in awe 

(33 more posts before shutdown)

This guide to surviving a hangover is absolutely brilliant. I love her, whoever she is. If only for this paragraph:

"Shower. This is a neutral phase. You can stay here as long as you want. You are safe here. The shower is like Switzerland. You're the Jew. The hang-over is a nazi sniper. I recommend you sit down in Switzerland and stay here for a while."

Seriously. Brilliant.

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Thursday, October 21, 2004

Addiction 

(34 more posts before shutdown)

So there seems to be some doubt/disbelief/relief/celebration about the whole shutdown situation... but the reaction du monde seems mostly to be scepticism. To reiterate, this weblog is now on a deadline, it's on a timeline, it knows its date of death. In 34 posts' time, it will be no more.

Why will it happen? Will it happen at all? What have I set myself a date-of-death for? What could persuade me otherwise? Let me illustrate by means of a story... and tell you about another deadline I've set myself.

Part One: The Story

While I was (briefly) at University I knew a girl who was studying Psychology. I met her in the first week of our first year there, when she approached me at the bar and asked me to be her three-year case study. Apparently, as part of her course, she had to pick a real-life subject for psychoanalysis, and after nine terms of counselling, inkblot tests, word association games and the like, present a fully-rounded psychological profile. She didn't know me... and that's why she chose me.

Of course, being an eternally narcissistic sort, I was only too happy to oblige, and for the four terms I was there, all was peachy keen and psychologically sorted. And then I got kicked out. Before I left I apologised, profusely. After all - I'd fucked up her course, she would now have to find a whole other case study.

"You know what the real choker is?" she said. "You were the easiest case study I could have hoped for. You were textbook. I mean - you were right off the page..."

I was - I am - apparently, a classic addictive personality. ("Thankyou very much," I said. "So people just can't help but get addicted to me?") According to that girl and her textbook I will gamble until I lose everything - or win everything. I will drink until I'm drunk or there's nothing left to drink. I will take whatever drugs are around and I will keep taking them until I run out or something dramatic happens to stop me... and so on.

Grim, huh? Well - not exactly. Because, apparently, the other classic sign of the addicitve personality is the setting of deliberate and indelible targets. And whether they're personal targets, career targets, gambling targets, health targets, whatever... the addictive personality will make a goal and stick to it, for better or worse. (I'm not leaving this poker table until I've won the lot; I'm not leaving this pub till last orders; or... I'm quitting all drugs NOW; I've found The One and I'm going to be monogamous forever...)

Part Two: The Other Deadline

I started smoking when I was 14. I started for the only reason anyone should ever start - to be cool. (Have I told you this already? Apologies if I have, feel free to skip through to the asterisk * mark.) We had moved to Manchester that year and I wanted to cut it with the cool kids. That meant smoking, and that meant I became a smoker.

And you know what? I loved it. I still do. I love smoking. Anyway...

*From the very start of my smoking life I set myself a deadline. I didn't want to be one of these sad people who are always quitting and restarting, who tell themselves they hate smoking even as they reach for the Silk Cut - I was going to smoke Marlboro full strength or nothing, and I was going to smoke them until a very specific day and then I was going to stop.

I will quit smoking for good the day I find out I'm going to be a father. I said it when I was 14, and I stand by it now. As soon as I know I'm going to be a Dad, I'll smoke my last fag. And guess what - it'll be easy. I've set myself a deadline and despite everything else I've fucked around with, I've always kept deadlines. For 18 years now I've lived with that deadline... and that's why keeping it will be easy as anything.

Why? Because the humiliation of not keeping it will be so much worse. Because I have a textbook addictive personality and that means that keeping the quitting deadline is exactly as important as maintaining the addiction - because it's part of the addiction.

In a way, for any addiction, the quitting deadline, the date-of-death, is not only part of the addiction, it's the very raison d'etre for the addiction...

And that is why, bambini, there are only 34 more posts to go.

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Monday, October 18, 2004

Reunion Blues 

(35 more posts before shutdown)

The beautiful Tamara has been writing about her recent school reunion here and it's reminded me of mine. Which wasn't so much a parade of happy memories and rekindled friendships... as an evening of complete non-recollections and reconfirmations that wankers generally remain wankers all their lives. People I couldn't remember ever seeing before in my life were behaving like arses... and when I pointed them out, I was told: "don't you remember him? He was an arse at school as well..."

As I've said before (and the Libertines said before that) we'll die in the class we were born.

So anyway. I went to school up in Manchester, and four years ago, neatly tied in with the Millennium Celebrations (the millennium - how yesterday does all that seem now? How... last century?) they had a reunion for all those who left in 1990 and thereabouts. So of course, me and the boys all made the trip up north, hired the Dinner Jackets, tied each others' bow ties, slipped a bottle of vodka in the inside pocket for old times' sake, and duly went along.

You know, I've always had a theory that reunions in general are essentially worthless exercises - for the most part I've deliberately stayed friends with the people I wanted to be friends with and lost contact with everyone else for a damn good reason. There are exceptions, but it's mostly true, and that night pretty much confirmed it. Besides - those few people I did have an interest in seeing again were far too cool to come to something as bourgeois as a school reunion.

Before dinner, as we all stood around awkwardly sipping Bucks Fizz and flicking ash into the plants, I recognised precisely one person. A girl.

"Who's she?" I said to S (who I was at school with and now live five minutes' walk away from in London). "I recognise her. What's her name?"
He stared at the chick. "No idea. Doesn't she look a bit young for our year?"
She did look a bit young. And cute, as it happens. Perhaps, I figured, she knew my little sister, who went to a nearby school and left three years after me.

After dinner, a speech from some Scouser who never even went to our school about what a great place it was and still is, and a great deal of cheap red wine (included in the price) to dull the horrific forced cheeriness of it all, I found her by the bar.

"Look," I said, "this isn't a line or anything, even though it's going to sound like one - but do I know you? You can't have been in my year because I would have definitely remembered your name..."

It was a line of course. I couldn't remember the name of two-thirds of the people in my year.

"You do know me," she said. "I used to work in the pub on my summer holidays from University. I had to get the landlord to throw you and your mate out once after he punched the fruit machine."

And that's how good I am at reunions. There I was, surrounded by people I had spent five days a week for five whole years with, people I had grown-up with, had my first snogs with, had my first drinks and smokes with... there I was, surrounded by all the people who had surrounded me through my most formative teenage years and I couldn't recognise any of them.

But I see one girl - one girl across a crowded room of my peers and erstwhile confidantes - one girl who served me beer for a couple of months one summer six years ago, and I'm onto her like a shot. This either says something fundamental about reunions... or something fundamental about me.

Oh - and since you're wondering, nothing happened between me and her. All she remembered about me was how often I used to fall over.

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Friday, October 15, 2004

A sober interlude 

(36 more posts before shutdown)

So then. The One has accepted an offer for her flat, our offer for the Dream Home in Oxford has likewise been formally accepted, the mortgage application (it gets complicated - we're having to get a stopgap mortgage until I can sell my flat - for a while, we'll technically have two mortgages and, um, no money) has gone through okay, the solicitors are getting ready to solicit, the surveyors to survey... and barring disasters, gazumpers or bad luck, we've been told we're going to be moving in "within six to eight weeks".

After two months of boredom and frustration, where nothing seemed to happen and it felt like nothing ever would, suddenly things have picked up pace. Suddenly we've got a deadline. Suddenly the whole Rest Of Life Together reality of it all has kicked in. Suddenly we're going to be living together by Christmas. This Christmas and every other Christmas for ever. And I don't mind telling you, I'm shit scared.

Of course, I'm ludicrously happy about the whole thing. But scared too. Part of me can't actually believe that she wants to go through with it. Sure - I'm a charming bastard, I spin a good line and don't look so bad across a candelit table... but I'm also lazy, arrogant and have borderline addiction issues. I would fuck me - but I dunno if I would want to move in with me.

She, on the other hand... I wanted to move in with her from our first date (I wanted to fuck her on our first date too, of course). I don't call her The One lightly - and full of shit as I normally am, when it comes to her I'm straight down the line. And you know what the strangest thing is? She gets that. She gets it.

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Thursday, October 14, 2004

Lemsip and vodka chasers 

(37 more posts before shutdown)

What's the best thing to do when you've got a cold?
Go clubbing!

Er, actually it's not. But that's what I did anyway. Last night, by half-time in the England v Azerbaijan game (we won 1-0, thanks for asking. Owen, with his head, midway through the first half. A sweet cross from Ashley Cole connected on the right side of the six yard box and headed back across the keeper) there were five of us in the pub - me, P, N, M and S - and all five of us were variously hacking, sniffing or blowing into hankies. And drinking Guinness.

"More iron in Guinness," said S, sniffing.
"Good for you, innit," said P, coughing.
"I feel like shit," said I, massaging my temples.
"Me too," said N, rubbing his eyes.
"Do you think they'll give me a Lemsip and vodka to chase my pint with?" said M, blowing his nose.

The game finished at 7-30pm. The boys did the sensible thing, and after having one more for the road (sans Lemsip and vodka, sadly - apparently you need some kind of pharmaceutical license to dispense paracetamol) all shuffled off home. They will have been warm and dry and tucked up in front of the telly by nine. Me - I went clubbing.

The One and two friends were across town in a club that for one night a month plays exclusively music that was made in Manchester between 1984 and 1994. It's clearly the best club night in London and The One wasn't going to miss it. I was missing her... and so I zipped up my jacket, pulled on my Blair Witch grey woolly hat, braved the wind and the rain and made the half-hour walk through the flotsam and jetsam and orange light of early-drinking London to meet her.

"I feel like shit," said I, upon arriving.
"Do you want a Guinness?" said she.
"I've got a Lemsip in my bag you can have for when you get home," said her friend.

A light bulb went on. One pint of Guinness with Lemsip and vodka chaser later and I was King of The World. My nose was clear, my throat was silky, my head crystalline. I was up and on my feet and feeling fine. Are you asking? I was dancing.

I kept dancing till the records stopped and the club emptied and they kicked me out.

"You know, it's amazing," I said to The One as we fell asleep this morning.
"Mmmwhatis?" she mumbled.
"How good I feel. I mean, after the match I felt like shit... but now I think I'm cured. Maybe I've drank the cold away, maybe I've danced away the headache."
"You'llfeellikeshitinthemorning," she breathed and fell asleep.

Today... I'm not feeling so great. I feel like shit, in fact.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Lies, damned lies, and mortgage applications 

(38 more posts before shutdown)

God, I hate forms. I've spent the afternoon lost in a wilderness of mortgage form-filling pain. One application for a joint mortgage - I mean, how difficult can it be? Sure, these things are always going to be a bit complicated... but that's why we're paying for an independant mortgage advisor.

One fax alone this afternoon spanned 29 pages and took me 53 minutes to send. Fifty-three minutes. And because my fax machine came out of the Pyramid of Cheops, every page had to be fed in individually.

It's a bloody good thing the footy's on this evening. Come 5-30 I shall be ensconced in the boozer in an England shirt, waving a pint of Guinness and shouting rude things about Azerbaijan. Stupid Azerbaijanis.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Reality bites 

(39 more posts before shutdown)

I haven't actually earned any money for three weeks. This is what comes of taking a holiday when you're a freelance journalist - you pay twice. Once for the flights, the apartment, the beach towels and so on... and then once more by virtue of not earning anything once you're out there.

Not getting paid holiday is clearly some kind of karmic balance for getting to spend the rest of the year laughing at everyone with normal jobs.

Anyway, today I finally submitted some ideas to various newspapers and magazines. None of them are any good, of course, but that wasn't really the point. The point was to say "Look! I'm back and available for work!" and have them think of their own ideas and commission me to write them again. It's a subtle dance, kids.

Besides, I'm having a problem with motivation. My head is full of memories of the French Riviera, of mornings spent in the Marche Provencale pottering by the olives and the cheese, the vegetables and fruits and fish caught fresh that very morning, of afternoons spent lying on the beach or swimming in the astonishing clear sea, of evenings spent eating those same fish, drinking local red wine by the bottle, strolling along the harbour as the stars come out...

Mes petites, this was all less than a fortnight ago. And compared to it, waking to the October rain and lowering grey of an autumn in North London and sitting at a computer drinking tea, smoking fags and writing all day, does not, I'm sorry to say, hold too great an appeal.

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Friday, October 08, 2004

The Great Theory of Pornography 

(40 more posts before shutdown)

So here's the thing. As all of you are no doubt all-too aware (with sweaty palm and moist brow, with quivering lip and dilating pupil), the very means by which you're sating your desires for reading my blog is also the means by which you look at porn. Oh come on, stop pretending. You know you do - you can't help it. The internet - it's porn city, baby; it's a fantasy world of fantastic flesh; it's... Alice does Wonderland.

Of course, naturally, you don't use the internet exclusively for porn - oh no, not you! You're using it to read this, for a start. You use it to write your own weblogs. You use it for work, you use it to check the football fixtures, to read online newspapers, to see what's happening with your favourite bands, to buy books, CDs, to play games, to chat... but let's not kid ourselves completely. You also use it to look at rude pictures.

And you spend more time looking for rude pictures than you do looking at rude pictures. Not because they're difficult to find (they're easy as pie) - but because according to The Great Theory of Pornography, the search is more important, more exciting, than the viewing.

But before we go any further, let's be clear. You're not by any means "into" pornography. Heaven forbid! You bought some magazines as a teenager, naturally, you looked at the lingerie sections in your mum's home shopping catalogues, of course, but it's not like you're into porn. In fact, every time you find yourself coming across a website that tickles your fancy, every time you find yourself coming across a download that pricks your interest... you tell yourself it's the last time. After the final act, with Internet Options up and Delete Temporary Internet Files selected, you tell yourself - no more porn. I'm an adult now, and adult sites just aren't for me.

Before the moon waxes full again you're back. Every time. Every single furtive time. It may be that you even have some CDs hidden at the back of a drawer (underneath the instruction manuals and the backup disks, labelled with something dull and innocuous-sounding) that you slip in and check out from time to time. It may be that you add to them occasionally. It may be that you're building up quite a collection...

Hey, don't feel ashamed. Like I said, that's basically what the internet's there for. Pornography - it's literally in your face.

But here's the thing. There's so much porn out there, so much variety, so many different ways to do the same essential thing, show the same essential parts, act out the same essential roles... there's more there than you could possibly watch if you dedicated the rest of your life to it. And every day it's being added to. You've seen loads already (more than your sweatiest teenage dreams would have thought possible) and yet you keep coming back for more. You're never content with what you've got.

This, my secret fumblers, is the crux of the matter. This is where I hit the nob on the head. When it comes to pornography, you're insatiable. Everyone is. Enough is never enough. That CD you've got - surely now that it's filled with images you won't need to look for any more? That's what you told yourself at the time, right? One saucy CD and that's me good to go. No more surfing. And yet... the lure of the new sends you right back to the mousemat and the old left-click routine.

Pornography is all about the new. It's about seeing something, someone, you've not seen before. Or seeing someone you have seen before do something you haven't seen her/him do before, wear something you haven't seen her/him wear before, smile, pout, grimace in a way you haven't seen her/him do before. For the viewer of porn, the finding is more important than the viewing. The excitement of the chase, the thrill of the new, is ultimately more fulfilling than the lonely moneyshot that climaxes it.

A viewed pornographic picture decays over time, like a sepia-tinted photograph - only in fast-forward, in hyperspeed. Images are drooled over once, twice, three times (a lady) at most... before they feel "used-up", soiled, spent. This is why internet porn is expanding at a faster rate than anyone can keep tabs on, it's why pornography is a bigger business in the United States than the car industry, it's why the adult film industry makes a whole shitload more money every year than Hollywood does - because old porn, viewed porn, is soiled, useless porn. Like a spent Kleenex it's good for nothing but flushing.

The fact of the matter is, when it comes to pornography, there's no such thing as a favourite image, a returned-to photo, an oft-watched DVD. From the filthiest addict to the most casual user like yourself, if you've seen it before, it's not gonna do the trick. It's got to be new. It's got to be... virgin.

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Besides... 

(41 more posts before shutdown...)

I couldn't go and leave you for good before I shared The Great Theory of Pornography with you all, could I? Trust me, it's a honey. It's a stud, a bitch, a twink, a babe, whatever floats your boat. It gives good copy. I've been saving it, delaying it, keeping it ripe for you. Tomorrow I'll post it. You'll cream yourselves. There won't be a dry seat in the house...

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Thursday, October 07, 2004

Okay, I'll be honest... 

I was thinking about not returning. I considered doing a runner, flirted with desertion-fantasies, toyed with the idea of leaving you high and dry and without another drink for the long cold night ahead.

Kids, I came back from holiday and things were just so goddamn perfect out there I forgot about you. And - in the words of Outkast, I'm just being honest - when I did remember, I felt no great need to blog. Sorry.

But then... but then I thought of Tamara. And then there was the Yoda impression. And then there was nothing on telly tonight. And then I looked up my number of posts and it was like, 157. And that seems such a crappy number to end on (like being 17 years old - I mean, really, what is the point? Sixteen you can smoke, 18 you can vote: at 17 all you've got is awkwardness and bad skin. But I digresssssss...) so I figured I might as well make it to a nice round number. And you've got so much to learn. So now there's a deadline. Two hundred. So hear this: at 200 entries to this blog I quit for good.

That means you've got 43 more snippets from me; 43 more pearls to recast before your chosen swine; 43 more reasons to wonder what I look like, who I really am, whether I do drink as much as I claim to, whether I'm a goddamn genius or just another full-of-shit chancer with a smart mouth and a neat way with a semicolon (I'm still wondering about that one myself. Oh! Stopped wondering - I'm a genius!); 43 more opportunities to laugh, cry, or wonder why you never do either anymore.

Okay, I've just realised - that's 42 more entires after this one, not 43. Tempis fugit meine kleine bambini! The sky bruises... and we must be home!

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