Leith Links is at first glance just an ordinary town park... couple of footie pitches go up and down as required... there's a cricket field further along, and so on.
But this grassland holds an awesome historical secret, as I hope you can make out from the close-up of the plaque, The Home of Golf.
The reverse of the small stone mound depicts the first course, from 1744.
Other towns, notably St Andrews, claim to have invented the game of golf, but - as you can see - this accolade actually belongs right here. At one corner of Leith Links is the (now disused) Leith Central Station, which gave its name to the town's more recent celebrity, Trainspotting, by Irvine Welsh.
For ages the Yale lock on my living room door had been acting up. (Why do I have a lock on my living room door? Long story. I used to keep lodgers/paying guests.)
Even though the lodgers have long been consigned to cardboard boxes in Edinburgh's windswept yet stylish streets, the lock remains. It closes the door tighter, you see. Helps keep the draught out. Until Sunday.
"One of these days that thing's gonna give up the ghost," I would berate myself, twiddling the loose knob and trying to engage the locking part. And on Sunday this prediction bore fruit. Fiddle as I might... clockwise, anti-clockwise, pushed in, pulled out, there was a monumental and complete lack of effect. The door was locked, and I was on the inside needing to get out.
"Don't go on fire," I told myself firmly, and even, "don't get diarrhoea," as nervous twinges began to rumble down there. This was the biggie. My own personal weapon of mass destruction.
How many times did I call myself stupid? Well, I lost count. And how long did I hopefully but helplessly try to turn that damn knob - even for one last time? Please? Pretty please?? Well, for at least half an hour.
So the glass door had to be smashed. There was no alternative. But how to smash such tough glass? I looked for a hammer. None. Where was something robust (and heavy) enough to do the job safely? In the end I chose the vacuum cleaner, still resting from this day.
"Tinkle!" went the pane, as it shattered like eggshell. Nothing tough about it - all show. My hand gingerly slipped through, and operated the lock from the other side. Freedom. At a price. I'll hire Robin (don't call me gay, I'm bisexual), to re-glaze me.
Moral: A lock is not for life. Change it before it changes you.
Act The Second - Monday
There we were, quoting and quaffing in the Port O Leith Bar, when Tony The Hat burst in. Tony is a man of my own vintage but different vineyard - Nigeria, in his case. "They've blocked off all Constitution Street!" he announced, dramatically. "It's a bomb scare! The police station has had a suspicious package!" He sat on a stool and laughed a bit. "I asked them if they were looking for me," he went on, "but they said no." (Tony is a black man in a woolly hat.)
So we piled out into the street, and right enough there were copvans at each end, blue lights flashing their non-specific signal. And cops were ranged every few yards in the night. "Get back inside!" they growled at us. "Or we'll arrest you."
"But I only live across the street!" the other (white) Tony said to them. "I need to get to my wife and daughter!"
"Sir - you MAY NOT CROSS THIS STREET!" they declared. "You MUST get back in the pub!" "Ah well, might as well make the best of it!" Tony laughed. "Give us another Guinness, Mary!" he ordered, resignedly.
And then, as quickly as it began, the drama was over - and Constitution Street re-declared a thoroughfare. As M was leaving, I noticed he had a box of Cadbury's Flake Cake Mix. Simply add a fresh egg, it said. How domestic, I thought.
Act the Third - Yesterday
"Want a bit of chocolate cake?" M asked me, bringing out a couple of tasty-looking individual cakes - each in their little paper cases. "Yes, sure M - thanks!" I said, peeling off some paper the better to bite. And delicious it was. Mind you, sweet things often are after a few pints. Ever noticed?
M was doling out the cake big-time - everybody got a bit... Pam, Kevin, even Mary the landlady. I think we all guessed there might be a "special" ingredient involved - something more than a fresh egg - but what the heck. You're only young once.
An hour later I was lying on the couch in front of the telly, with stomach heaving (nicely) like a roller-coaster. Woosh - it kept going. Woosh, woosh! My - this is fun!
Adam Hart-Davis was on the box, enthusing about "nay-cha" as he calls it, but working the TV controls was quite beyond me. I couldn't get rid of him at all. Plus the alternatives might have been worse. State of the Union, anyone? State of my belly more like.
Possibly the most stoned I've ever been was in Barcelona in 1980 - when a spritely kid of 33. Ostensibly there to speak no English at all for a fortnight, I quickly befriended the only other English-speaking dude in town. And he was a dealer from Manchester. Had to be, if you think about it, for dramatic purposes.
On my last night the resolve weakened, so desperate was I for a chat. Reluctantly I agreed to buy a couple of joints from him, and he took me to a cafe - some huge glass palace where everyone was slumped over their tables, unconscious. Very avant-garde, I thought, in my pre-nineties innocence. Very Burroughs and Ginsberg.
And very stoned I shortly was, cast adrift on my own now in Las Ramblas. Up and down the broad Spanish sidewalks I stumbled, able to walk sideways only. Forward was out of the question. Arrested I surely would be. "Do you know who I am?" I rehearsed saying to some dusky cop-to-die-for, as yet unmet and unseduced. "Maricon!" he would reply, yanking down my pants and his zip in a lust-fuelled onner. [That's enough of that - Ed.]
Anyway - to cut a long evening short - I had the good sense not to fall into the traffic (forgot to buy health insurance), and to ditch the remaining joints in a convenient litter bin. Boy, did I sleep well that night! And to think I scored a cop the next day anyway. Spain's like that.
Well, the bingo road at least. And I'm loving it. My holiday was a complete washout, not only meteorologically (I'm sure I used that word recently - must be Alzybabe kicking in again), but healthwise too. I developed a brand new condition.
I know you can read endless screeds here about Winter Depression, light levels, clouds, latitudes and so on, ad nauseam. (Although that never stops me - "It's my blog and I'll cry if I want to...") But essentially I've got depression sussed. The trick is simply not to kill yourself, and then eventually it goes. But anxiety is something else. Never had it before, and I don't want it.
December was the onset, with vague feelings of unease, and mild palpitations, especially on going to sleep. But during my holiday this all flowered into full blown paranoia. Quite horrible. Everyone was talking about me. Everyone was going to kill me. Every noise on the flat staircase was someone about to break into my house.
But it's (almost) gone now. And what was the cure? Well I can tell you. It was getting back behind the microphone again and chatting to six or seven hundred people. How odd is that? Most (normal) people would shit themselves. So I got to wondering if there's some sort of anti-anxiety hormone kicks in when performing. Yep - I think that's probably it. Maybe that's the showbiz drug that keeps the troupers treading the boards. Even bingo callers!
Performers of a differernt type were in evidence yesterday on BBC Scotland's Live Floor Show. There was comedy and music, but naturally I turned the volume off for the songs. Craig David and Feeder. Who they? Maybe that's why I never hear any good plop these days - always hitting the mute button. And I used to slag my dad for doing that.
But the reason I take up your osovaluable time right now is to give a deserved plug for Craig Hill - he of the black leather kilt, and OTT campness. Shirley Bassey was the target. He said he'd seen her singing "Hey Jude" on the National Lottery show, and reckoned she'd now gone the Elvis route of sinking into self-parody. So what did he do? He parodied Ms Bassey parodying herself, and it was so funny I nearly wet myself. (Got to confess here that back in the seventies I went to a couple of SB's shows at the Edinburgh Playhouse. Knockouts.)
So, maybe those of you who attend drag acts will have seen better, but for this old dog Craig Hill did the biz. I'm his oldest fan.
Also on were Rich Hall, Rev Obadiah Steppenwolfe III, Al Murray, Matt Blaze, and some Ozzie dude who made the fatal error of saying he liked English women, which he quickly corrected to Scottish women. They leave all the mistakes in, you see.
Once again, I've made myself late-ish for work. That means nothing to eat until four-thirty. Ah, what the hell - you're worth it.
Top fives are all very well - quite prestigious, really - but top twenty-fives are fun also, in that they contain more people you know. Sometimes even yourself. What am I talking about? Well, those damn Bloggies again. It appears that when I wrote, "we got - predictably - nowhere at all" yesterday, this wasn't quite the whole truth. A couple of the first-line judges have blurted out the lists they were given to select from - some people just can't keep a secret!
So - there we are in the top twenty-five for Best European/African and also Best GLBT. Yay us.
Roses also to mike, for being short-listed for Weblog of The Year. (As well as the two just above.) Now, I'm not getting my knickers on fire over these, for various reasons. (a) I don't know how these lists were produced. Was it number of nominations, or just Nikolai Nolan's taste? Also (b) last year NB "lost" on a much more cosmic scale, being in the top ten for about four categories. But blogging has somewhat exploded since then.
And finally (c) this is all yesterday's news anyway. You can read more detail, and spot many more much-loved digerati, over at troubled-diva and east/west. (The latter of whom do an interesting blow by blow critique of all (most of) the finalists. Turns out one of the GLBT finalists isn't even G, or L, or B, nor even T! )
(And that completes our Bloggie comment until March and the finals. Except for this - someone with time on their hands (which is so many of you, darlings), might research how the various Guardian-listed blogs did in this recent comp.)
Yes, it's true! Big it up for Duncan of So... lifestyle magazine for making it through to the Bloggie finals. Very warm congratulations from all here at Naked Blog. (Which, predictably, got nowhere. But nice of you to ask.)
Speaking exclusively from his newly-refurbished writer-in-residence suite in stylish Caernavon Castle, Duncan was in ebullient mood when we met this afternoon. I began by asking him what it felt like being the biggest thing in Wales since Diana.
"Oh, you know, I wouldn't go that far, boyo," he said, offering me a plate of delicious welshcakes from the corner shop. "Diana was something else, - I don't think there's any serious comparison."
And if he wins? "Well, this has certainly put Wales back on the map, big-time, hasn't it bach?" Duncan enthused. "Just before you arrived I had Charles' people on the phone, asking if there was anything I needed - passports, research grants, lottery funds, that sort of thing. Naturally I would love to squeeze in a month or so on Bondi Beach right now - get my tan evened out."
There was a sudden commotion outside the State Apartment, which turned out to be the Six O' Clock News In Welsh. "Sorry, luvvie, you'll have to go now!" Duncan said, as he popped another bottle of Bolly. "Time for a bit old slap again. Oh, how I love the smell of greasepaint in the evening!" (Duncan used to be an actor.)
Roses too to Tom of plasticbag.org, a finalist for Best Design. Tom declined our request for an interview, stating that he couldn't stand me.
Me, I'm waiting for the Antibloggies, where we would fit very nicely into
worst-designed weblog, and
most self-obsessed blogger.
Never say die.
Moth and Rust
Recently I was watching a film/movie on TV (for a change), when I chanced upon an interesting remark. Throw-away. "I'm never going to acquire possessions," a young woman said. "Because you start off owning them, but they end up owning you."
Hmmm. This got me thinking. (It was French Kiss, with Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline, by the way.) Possessions, eh? Not that I've actually got very many. But - even if I had - paintings, cars etc. can always be sold. How much more potential disruption there is when the thing you've got sick of is your house. Me, I've lived in the same one for almost thirty years now. Bought in my twenties, when it was "the thing to do", our roles have now completely reversed. Put simply, my house now determines my life. It dictates where I have to live. And grow old. And then be forced to sell to contribute to my elderly care.
How much more sensible to sell it now, and enjoy what years I have left doing a spot of globe-trotting - rather than Zimmer-dancing into the blogging twilight. Stuart and I are of the same mind. Sell up. Pool resources. Fuck off to somewhere sunny.
You see, when I proudly took possession of this shack way back then, it was never my intention to live my whole life in the place. And quite possibly die in it too. It's a fine example of the tail wagging the dog, if you ask me.
Are you, like me, becoming increasingly alarmed at the Channel Four show, Wife Swap? It would be fine if it were just a bunch of the usual exhibitionist adults strutting their stuff - but it isn't. In every one of the three shows so far there have been children involved. Children who simply cannot give informed consent to the shenanigans.
In the first programme, the glitzy go-getting mum-swap decided to take all the stuffed toys from her temporary "daughter's" room, to her complete horror. Last night, one of the swapped mothers decided to start restricting the other mother's child's use of her dummy/soother. So she got a timer. The child was about three, and utterly confused and devastated by the whole thing.
Come off it, Channel Four. There's an expression for this sensationalist muck, and it isn't nice, and will attract unpleasant searches here. Times like this I would give anything for just one paragraph in The Sun. And as for the parents who set up these "deals", well they deserve nothing but contempt. TV can't be expected to have morals. It's for selling shampoo.
Little or nothing to report, atm. Things jog along, with the sky remaining resolutely black. Well - it is January, as people keep reminding me. And last month it was December, when the sun shone its little head off every other day. People can be so careless in their remarks...
During a small break, a wee lacuna in the blackness yesterday, I popped out and got snapping for you. These are on the way from my home to the Port o Leith Bar, a refuge from many, if not most, eventualities. The stories are behind your mouse pointer...
Naked Blog has been a bit distant lately, slightly pre-occupied, what with hiatuses, lacunae and suchlike. Quite alien.
But that was deliberate. To say that things had reached crisis point would hardly be overstating the matter. But now I'm free! Well, almost - and it's all down to Avril, my saviour upon earth.
For Avril is a tax officer. Avril has been trained to fill in Self Assessment Tax Returns with the same ease as more mortal souls do wordsearches. Avril sits opposite you and says, "Tick that box. Turn over. Tick that box and that one. Turn over." Continue as required until, "Fill in your details and sign at the bottom."
Not only can she fill them in - but she can read the damn things upside down! In this manner we completed not one, not two, nor even three, but FOUR Self Assessment Tax Returns in as little as an hour.
Well, not quite completed, as the PAYE department (in East Kilbride) refused to reveal my earnings and tax details. One might be forgiven for thinking that electronically-held information was stored (and retrievable) for ever, but that would of course be simplistic and naive.
But enough. Let's not let the icing determine the cake. On Wednesday afternoon, something like five years of care and woe were lifted kindly from my weary shoulders.
So what was she like, this Avril? Well, I can tell you. She was exactly right. My own age. Married, to judge from the extensive finger-furniture. And motherly. Pink face, white hair. Everyone's picture of a Scots lass in midlife. And more of a hospital matron than a tax-officer, I would say.
And I have to go back on Tuesday for more.
BITS AND BOBS
Scott is back from the seven seas. Wonderful. During his leave he's taking in Finland, Norway, Estonia, Holland and other such places. Amsterdam. Rotterdam. (Hint, hint.)
Last night I was invited to a houseparty for the cast of Miss Saigon, currently showing at the Edinburgh Playhouse. Sadly I had to decline, as these things clearly can't start until after the show, then after God knows how many pubs, and frankly, my dears, these days I like to get the slippers on by nine pm at the latest.
I wonder what it would have been like. And what my role would have been, except to stand around looking senior whilst dispensing one-liners like toilet tissue. It's not even as if I had to rise early today. Sometimes I wonder whether twelve hours a night in bed is really such a good thing. (But the dreams are terrific.)
Only one programme to mention this week, and that's Happiness, with an excellent cast including co-writer Paul Whitehouse and Johnny Vegas. Usually I avoid British TV like the plague it normally is. (With a very few honourable exceptions such as League of Gentlemen.) But - having been a little intrigued by Without Prejudice, quite dismayed by Wife Swap, and finding myself with nowt else to watch, Whitehouse, Vegas and so on stepped in to fill the gap.
(This was the initial episode of the second series, the first of which I'd completely missed. Thus I had that rare and valuable experience of coming to a piece with no prior knowledge at all.)
There's a sea-change happening in comedy, which, for want of a better expression, I've called hyperreality. Breaking completely from the gag-driven format of say, Friends, and last night's execrable Dinnerladies, the vogue now is for character and for sweeping understatement. As with reading a book, you the viewer have to fill in the missing bits.
The boundary-breaker here is of course The Office, with all the plaudits that show both deserves and gets. But Happiness was less stated even than that. At the end of the twenty-five minutes (which passed in a trice), I was left with... "I don't know what that was, but I liked it."
Tuesdays BBC 2.
At the time I manifestly wasn't at the Miss Saigon party, I somehow chanced upon The Big Tease - a film/movie about a Scottish hairdresser (Craig Ferguson) going to Los Angeles for - of all things - a hairdressing contest. And do you know, I can't remember when I last laughed so much. And it was gay! And Scottish!! And Californian!!! Absolutely do not miss this one next time around, no matter how unpromising the premise. Tell them I sent you.
Many, many thanks to whoever (singular or plural), has nominated us for a Bloggie. Much appreciated. I've just checked the site and note that the nominations have closed. Shit. I never got round to nominating you in return. Ah well - next year, I promise. Damn Tax Returns.
Mark - yes, another one! - is 42, so should definitely have the answer to everything. An Edinburgh lad originally, he's travelled the world defending you and me. We're talking ex-army. We're talking ex-RAF. Falklands... Gulf... Northern Ireland... Mark has seen it all.
Just very recently divorced, Mark is now single, and looking for love. His hobbies include fencing, hockey and most recently rock-climbing. He describes himself as six feet tall, slim (as you can see from his pic), and having average looks.
His ideal woman is aged 45 - 55, horny, with nice hands and good legs. "I've got a definite hand fetish," he laughs. So get those Marigolds out, girls, and make busy with the Vaseline Intensive Care. Hands that do dishes can never be as soft as your face.
And I'm sure you can guess where Mark wants you to put them...
It's not every day someone walks back into your life. Less often still, you don't even recognise them. There he was, yesterday teatime, Specsaver glasses and an Alaska fur hat. Raccoonish on top and Spaniel ears. The hat, not him, silly.
"Hey man, you not speaking these days?" he said, when he was settled. "Andy!" I tried not to shriek in my delight. "How yer doin', ya fuckin weegie bastard!" Respect.
"Give yer a hug!" he declared, getting up from his barstool and walking past some folk. "Oswald!" I said to him, laughing, a code word, secret between us. But some of you will understand.
"Surprised you recognised me, Andy," I said when we were re-settled. "Put some weight on, got the glasses..."
"Once seen, never forgotten!" he replied, smoothly. Operator. We chatted about his women - always well-housed. Andy's philosophy is why fall for bedsit trash when it's as easy to love a chick with a townhouse and a will. And you cannae really argue with that.
I looked at him - fond remembrance of glory days. Apart from the specs and a wee bit less hair there was hardly a change since - what must it be - eight years or so? Still lithe as a cheesewire. Still some wick in his candle, I reckoned. "Thought you were dead, man," I confessed. "Nah. Heard you'd fucked off to England," he replied. Nah.
"You still writing?" he asked me then. "Just on the internet, these days," I told him. "Internet's the future," he agreed.
Brian came to join us. Brian who did his time for [material deleted on advice] all those years ago, but straight as a die now. Ish. You could tell he was pleased to see Andy also. "Look at all these guys in their fifties!" Brian said, gesturing around us. "You feel yourself slowing down, now, Andy?" he asked, leaning across me.
"Nah - dinnae believe that shit," the weegie replied. "Dinnae go for it."
Alla familia. We sat, sometimes chatting, sometimes not, as the years rolled back. Brian brought out some wiz and I dipped a couple of pinkies in it. "I've had this since December," he said, as if defence was needed. "First time for me for six months," I volleyed, truthfully. "Make sure you wash it off yer teeth."
("Weegie" - Scottish slang for Glaswegian. First attributed 1990's to Shaver's Weekly, an Edinburgh pub magazine.) (All names have been changed. I really must look for an alternative to "Andy", as nowadays there's a real one.)
Just watched Spielberg's new alien abduction TV series, Taken, and I wasn't.
Think Close Encounters mixed with Jacob's Ladder, iced with a young Drew Barrymore voice-over, complete with cutesy lisp, and you've already seen it.
One good point (but it must have been done many times before), was having the handsome guy (Joel Gretsch, pictured) appear at first to be a "goody", but then reveal himself as a consummate "baddie". Strange how we conflate a nice face with "nice person".
Strange too that whenever an alien shape-shifts into human form, he (for it is always a "he") invariably shags the first attractive broad he meets, leading later to her quite painful delivery of a transgenic being. "Oh my GOD!! My baby's a MONSTER!! But I LOVE him/her/it." Oh, do pass the sick bag.
Most of the action in this first episode took place in July 1947, when your scribe was seven months old, leading me at times to wonder if I am indeed part alien myself, so unable to live in the world of humans I seem to be.
Yes - we're talking Income Tax! Again!! Yesterday it was my very great joy to receive a polite letter telling me that if I don't IMMEDIATELY send in my overdue Self Assessment Tax Return, then guess how much they're gonna charge me? That's right... sixty pounds... A DAY!
Now, readers who follow the plot (and there are a couple), will know beyond reasonable doubt that Naked Blog lives in very reduced circumstances indeed. Minus even two beans to rub together, not to put to fine a point on it. Yet - in a little-known codicil to a very famous Biblical statement - we read, "From them that hath not, what little they do have will be taken from them." I congratulate the Inland Revenue for their scholarship and adherence to the Holy Scripture. Rare indeed in these secular and acquisitive times.
And why is the Self Assessment Tax Return not simply completed? Because I haven't a clue what I was doing in 1998/99 - far less what pittance I might have earned. Or before. Or even after.
Reason? Because I change jobs whenever I feel like it. Some people redecorate, go on holidays, and suchlike - I take a new job. Less expensive, and ultimately more of a change. And at least on or about the minimum wage you're never stuck for choice.
But there is one record, and one only, which tracks every career move I've ever made, and every beggar's rupee accruing therefrom. For overseas readers I can explain that this system is called PAYE, or Pay As You Earn. These people know - beyond shadow of doubt - every tax detail throughout my life. And who runs PAYE? You guessed it! The Inland Revenue.
So I'm about to be taxed into the very jail and beyond, for not providing information which they already have. You couldn't make it up. Kafka himself would have drawn the line at this one.
I'll have to do it. The alternative is unthinkable... going to the Press, seeing my Member of Parliament, becoming hospitalised as mentally incompetent... the possibilities are endless but unappealing. Kinda like things the way they are.
Naked Blog will be going on a few days' hiatus while I address these matters. I'm sure you'll understand. The routine I'm currently following, of 24/7 unending bliss simply won't fit in. So see you shortly, with a clean tax bill, clean house, and some spring in my youthful step! Wish me luck. (I only ever do anything about once a year - it's time.)
Kriss is 29, more or less, and comes from Pudsey in Yorkshire. You'll have seen him previously in our tales, such as this one. He shipped in about six months ago, and has fast established himself with the "in-crowd".
He is, in short, the thinking woman's crumpet, chatting easily about Russell, Kierkegaard and Celine. (And no - that's not Celine Dion!)
But that's not all!
Kriss tells me that everyone is attracted to him - women, gay men, even straight men. "If I could bottle it, I'd sell it!" he laughs. And it is true that a small, simple camera can hardly do justice to his presence, which transcends the merely visual. (Except when he's dressed in leathers even Jim Morrison would be jealous of.)
"Have you ever pulled your dick out on stage?" I asked him, only half joking. "No, but I would if the correct opportunity arose," he quickly replied.
Kriss is currently enamoured of Elisa, from Lille in France. Elisa enjoys living in Lille, but she prefers the night-life in Belgium, which is right next door.
I know online tests are so last century, but then so am I. This one tells you your Simpsons character. It's the very last one I'm doing. (Unless anyone knows of a South Park test ?!?) And I wouldn't even do that one unless I could guarantee to be Cartman!
(On the day the news broke that police have raided a flat in North London, in which traces of the deadly poison Ricin were found.)
Ricin is extracted from the seed of the castor bean plant (Ricinus communis): a widely used, attractive and rapidly growing ornamental vine that is also grown on a large scale for castor oil production.
The poison has not been fully synthesized, because of the ready availability of the required ingredients naturally. Only an undergraduate level of chemistry is required for extraction.
The agent is the subject of much research in the field of cancer treatment, being delivered to the cancer cells by antibodies.
However, ricin is about 1,000-fold less toxic than botulin and is considered of marginal toxicity or effectiveness in comparison to it or Staphylococcal enterotoxin B, requiring tons to be delivered for effective battlefield use.
In September 1978, as BBC World Service commentator Georgi Markov was walking across Waterloo Bridge in London on his way to Bush House (BBC World Service headquarters), he was bumped by a man carrying an umbrella and felt a sharp pain. The man apologized and walked off and Markov fell ill within hours.
The umbrella was a disguised weapon which had inserted a tiny, ricin-containing metal ball into Markov's thigh, and he died three days later. This was the first time knowledge of ricin had been brought to a widespread audience.
(Indebted to CBWinfo.com for some of the above references, and where you will find much more information. BBCi also have an extended web-report here.)
In other (less-frightening) news...
Big-ups to BBC Breakfast, who have beyond question taken our Monday comments on board. This morning they were able to begin their bulletin with the ricin story above, yet just five short minutes later were congratulating Kendal Council, who'd reversed their decision to demolish a child's wooden playhouse for lack of planning permission. Once again, big smiles all round.
Naked Blog enjoyed a leisurely (six hour) lunch yesterday with Tony my IT manager and his family, joined later by Stuart our chef. Tony and I both chose the Chicken Tikka Masala served with rice and salad. I commented, not unkindly, to Stuart that Uncle Ben's was maybe not the connoisseur's first choice of rice. He quite agreed.
The title above is the only thing I can remember of the late, maybe-not-so-great, Norman Lamont.
It was when the country was in one of its periodic messes, and his quote ran something like, "As I travel up and down the country I can see green shoots of recovery wherever I go." I loved that.
The next spring I chanced upon some very vivid, yet ultimately plain, green shoots (probably a weed), and took them to Mary, the landlady of the Port o Leith Bar.
"Look - green shoots of recovery!" I enthused. But they all just looked at me funny, and I got embarrassed. Knew I'd messed up again, and that's why I have so few friends. When you're strange...
I heard the news today, o boy...
And it was good. Clearly needled by the post below, in which we berate the BBC for depressing everyone to fuck first thing on a Monday morning, today's six am offering was much lighter in tone. The final item, about a child's wooden playhouse suffering from lack of planning permission, was so amusing that the presenter had a beam fixed right across her face.
ITN also appeared light-hearted, with a report on two brothers, aged 100 and 91 respectively, who ran a company supplying logs. The hundred-year-old one stopped smoking twelve years ago, and is feeling much better since.
Must be strange being that age, knowing on each birthday that there's hardly any chance at all of getting to the next one. Wonder how I'll cope? Will I still be doing Naked Blog? What will it be called then?
Naked Blog. From the cradle to the grave.
Cathode Rays - Without Prejudice
Aficionados of this epistle will know that we rarely touch on popular culture. It's not a snob thing (well - maybe just a smidgeon), it's rather that BB99, Pop Idol, Fame Academy etc just don't light my candle. Ordinary people are everywhere. I have no lack of them in my life. On telly I prefer the polished, the professional - in a word the extraordinary.
So what should I chance on last night than Without Prejudice, starring the omnipresent Liza Tarbuck. I have a built-in predisposition to Ms Tarbuck because - not to be unkind about it - she's fat and plain. In a (TV) world of women made up to look like they better belong walking the docks and lorry-parks than sitting in front of a camera, it's a joy to find someone who bucks the trend.
For those who haven't yet taken on board Without Prejudice (doesn't seem to have a webpage), it works like this. Five "ordinary" contestants in one room are judged by five "ordinary" judges in another, and the winner gets fifty thousand pounds. Judged on what? Judged on everyday things like first impressions, honesty, personality and so on.
Doesn't that sound nightmarish? Like all the co-workers you hate, sitting in the staff lounge bitching about the one who isn't there? And that was what it was. Reality on Reality.
One of the contestants was a gay dad, and boy did that bring out the homophobia. Line after line of invective poured from the two male judges... "Homosexuality is an unnatural condition. Let's concentrate on getting rid of Christopher. He'll only spend the money on throw rugs. He'll only spend it on leather and amyl nitrate (sic)."
Honestly. You couldn't make it up. If the above were translated into equivalent remarks based on skin-colour, then there'd be a summons.
But then you step back a little, and take in the extra factor - that some of the "judges" are as thick as pigshit themselves. The purveyors of these fine remarks were a mortgage broker from Gateshead, and an especially nauseating teacher from Aberdeen. And you don't get much further down the food chain than that.
To those of you who enjoy a good gossip and bitchfest, I recommend it. Saturdays, Channel Four, repeated on Monday.
Today I woke early and eager. Seven-oh-two. Bit too early, that, as still pitch dark. So I lay in a daze till, coincidentally, eight-oh-two. Must do something with my life this week, after the emotional and meteorological washouts of last. I thought.
Now - don't get me wrong here. It's not a "resolution", although I've been mildly amused reading around at the various tasks you've set yourselves. "Improve! Must do better!! Can't go on like this!!!"
Heehee. Whenever anyone asks me my New Year resolution, there's an instant response... "To get to the end of it." Shuts em up big-time. It's like dating. "Peter, what do you look for in a man?" Answer... (oh, I'm sure you've already guessed...) "A pulse." (I should point out that the latter isn't ever asked these days. I exude the same aura of perpetual virginity as does the lovely Ms Widdecombe.)
But I digress. To start my week, I thought I'd flick on The News. See what's happening in the world, other than my own neuroses. And I chose BBC Breakfast. Not Breakfast News, nor either Breakfast Television, but simply Breakfast. How silly.
And the BBC fronts Breakfast with a couple called respectively Dermot Murnaghan and Natasha Kaplinsky. Nothing terribly British about those names, but let's move swiftly on. Multi-cultural.
So this is what confronted me on this Monday morning - the first day of the rest of my life. I've divided the bulletin into two categories for easier comparison, but made no changes whatever.
Doom and Gloom
Saddam Hussein tells his people that Iraq is well-prepared for a US attack. (Category: war)
A US Navy hospital ship, called COMFORT, has set sail from Baltimore towards Iraq. (Category: war)
The former commander of the nine troops killed by "friendly fire" in the previous Gulf War has written to the MOD accusing them of negligence. (Category: war)
In the wake of the recent killing of two teenagers in Birmingham, tough new measures are being brought in to counter gun crime. Possession of an illegal gun will lead to a minimum five year sentence. (Category: murder)
Woops-a-daisy! I know I'm only half awake atm, but didn't the previous government do exactly the same? Michael Howard - on one of his saner days? Aren't all guns illegal in the UK? With a ten year sentence for possession? Michty me! It turns out the gun-toters have been getting Community Service!!
(Remaining on Community Service...) Lord Irvine has claimed that the public are quite sophisticated enough to realise that Community Service is a more re-habilitating thing than jail for a first-time burglar. Rock on, yer Lordship!! Get those Communities ready for service!! Talk about incentivisation! (Category: Insanity associated with aristocratic inbreeding.)
Palestinian suicide bombers have killed some Israelis. (Category: Terrorism. Or freedom-fighting, depending on your POV)
A campaign, including TV ads, is to be launched to warn parents of the dangers of p*a*e*d*o-people chatting to their kids in internet chatrooms. (Asterisks to prevent unpleasant searches.) (Category: Too late)
Parents who are interested in their children's welfare know this already. The others won't care that much. Keeps em quiet, that internet, dunnit? (And never forget that more children are damaged or killed by cars in one day than have been damaged by the internet in its entire existence. And for the foreseeable future.)
Seven police officers were injured in La Paz, Bolivia, when a man deliberately ignited a butane tank in his home. (Category: The things those wogs get up to.) (This one was included principally for its pretty exploding picture, which made a good real-life segue after last night's expensive screening of Earthquake.)
Bright and Beautiful
Er... no topics in this category! That is none. Not one.
Good morning Britain!! Feeling better now? Glad to be alive on this promisingly sunny day??
(It'll be a considerable time before I make that mistake again. No wonder their viewing figures are plummeting, despite Ms Kaplinsky's shiny lipstick.)
Hi there! It's 2003 +12 hours here in GMT country, which tells me that ole terminator will be half-way round the globe. Meaning everything except a few Pacific tuna is now in 2003.
Ed: Before you go any further, can I just say something?
Me: Of course - that's what I pay you for.
Ed: You should cut the tear-jerking claptrap, you know, and get back to entertaining folk. It's what gay people are for. Me: I can try, I suppose. But even suicidal depression can be hilarious, if it's presented properly. Look at Richard Whitely.
Ed: Yeah, yeah. Very droll. You'll have to do better than that if you're to compete in the global marketplace. Have you any idea how many great new blogs have started during 2002?
Me: (thinking about x and y and z...) Yes, I can see what you mean.
Ed: If you don't watch out, babe, you're gonna go the way of the dinosaurs - and we're not talking T Rex's greatest hits.
Me: Hmmm. (Thinks... maybe if I told them about The Bloggies...)
Well, as exclusively revealed here on Naked Blog, The Bloggies are back with a vengeance today. As ever, the categories are subject to some wonderment, such as Europe and Africa being lumped into one section, whereas Canada - which contains at most a few thousand people - gets a whole one to itself. Same with those sheepshaggers in Oz/NZ.
However - veni, vidi, vici - the only "minority" category is GLBT, so maybe it's swings and roundabouts for this weblog at least.
Nominations are now open, and if I might make so bold as to suggest... here are the categories in which you should quite definitely nominate Naked Blog.
Best European or African weblog. (We would probably fit in the "European" part.)
Best tagline of a weblog. (I haven't actually written it yet, to prevent jealous rivals stealing my gems. But it'll come. Easily.)
Best GLTB weblog. (We would probably fit in the "G" part.)
Most humorous weblog. (Natch. Even the depressing bits aren't meant, you understand. Meta-blogging.)
Best-kept-secret weblog. (Hardly anyone's heard of the thing.)
Lifetime achievement. (Well - I am the oldest candidate.)
Weblog of the Year. (Simply the best. How cool is that? last year it was Wil Wheaton, as I recall. All that Brylcreem!)
Plus you get to go to Austin, Texas to collect your gong. I'll take Darren as my PA/Secretary and mike as fashion co-ordinator for the event. So, get over there and GET NOMINATING for Naked Blog!
Naturally this award system is as open to corruption and cartelism as any other, so nomination-exchanges could well be considered. On an honour/honor system. Also last year my friend cyberslut was on the judging panel for one of the stages, so no doubt he'll be re-invited. And he loves his pint of Guinness, does Stewart.