Then Big Straight Al came in. He didn't look well. He looked like he was suffering from an overdose of recreationals, or a quite bad case of flu. I put these to him. He grinned and said flu. He soon improved as the drink went down.
"It's lovely to see you Al, " I said, "and thank you so very much for your input to Naked Blog - both in photo and in story." He smiled then, inscrutable - Al kens the score.
Alex came in, and he's 52. Alex still likes clubbing and everything that goes with that. Then came Paul, in his fifties also. I didn't feel so out of place for a while, just re-evaluating whether my slippers and pipe mentality was necessarily the only one to adopt and embrace.
People kindly bought me drinks. And birthday cards. I loved it all. From start to finish.
Have a great evening, and a fabulous 2004. I will be there - with you all the way.
Readers who've hung in for the long haul will recognise that title. But, as Nigel sagely said, it's the season for repeats. And blogs, like any other genre, attract, retain and then ultimately lose readers as they pass on to pastures new. There's only so much originality a guy (or gal) has got!
"Two down" refers to the Solstice and Christmas both coped with now, leaving only the calendar New Year. For you.
For me, the days to come are rather more action-packed, encompassing not only the "Happy New Year", (Hogmanay) but also my birthday. Fifty-seven this time, but I'm quite neutral to that. Although most people have some doubts and misgivings about the big four-oh, and the even bigger five-oh (Half a century! The shock!), the approach of sixty is something to be enjoyed and anticipated. If you ain't senior at sixty, then you damn well never will be.
But only fifty-seven. Nineteen for the third time. It was really fun the first two times!
Oh - and the third thing coming up is the anniversary of my mother's death. And - this one will kill you - just to make it more exciting, they all three happen on the same evening... December 31! And you thought I was the dramatic one in the family.
But enough about me. (As if there ever could be!) How are you? Did you enjoy yesterday? Did Santa bring lots of nice presents? Or did your children show signs of turning into brainwashed consumerist brats? That's what the world truly needs, you know. Consumers. Otherwise there'll be zero growth, and then wtf are we gonna all do? That and mad cow. Oh yes. The USA hasn't a clue what's hit it yet.
Thanks to Norma who invited me to Christmas dinner and then forgot about it, and to Babs who did also and then didn't. Forget. Most kind, in their different ways. But no, alone is how it has to be, for two reasons. Firstly, if you spend the majority of your life alone anyway, then what the heck does a famous day mean? And secondly, in a reflexive sense, if you can happily "do" Christmas alone, then it's going to bother you that much less for the future, now isn't it?
And you're never alone with a Playstation, of course. Yesterday, Grand Theft Auto, Vice City was my game of choice. I celebrated the birth of Holy Infant So Tender and Mild by beating up prostitutes, stealing their money, shooting cops in the face (then kicking them to see more and more blood coming out), and getting my cocaine deals ambushed by persons unknown. All Is Calm, All Is Bright.
GTA (Vice City) was written just a couple of hundred yards from my home, across Leith Links (Leaf Links in the game.) It's fun spotting the other Leith and Edinburgh references.
Likes: Atmosphere, rain, playing area, fanciable hero (yourself), ghastly fake American accents.
Dislikes: Fiddly saving, long trips between actions, and linear story which you have to follow. Compare Doom which was totally unstructured (apart from the red, blue and yellow keys) and the first Desert Strike which had only a limited order of play then left you on your own.
And that was Christmas 2003. Comfort and Joy. Thanks to all, both cyber and meat, for your lovely good wishes.
Yes - almost unbelievably - it's off to work we go. (Lest there be a pensioner in the parish still with a penny in her purse.) Gruesome. But it beats moping around pubs spending money and listening to other people's fabulous Christmas days. Yawn. This place could do with a bit of Grand Theft Auto. You better believe it.
The December struggle isn't quite over yet, however. Still to come are the two "biggies", those festivals of family, friendship and togetherness. Which for the terminally lonely can be testing indeed.
On any sort of "sociability scale" I would score something like minus three, and I've never fully understood why. It's always been the same. Even when I was a kid my mother would bribe the other kids to play with me.
Playing is good. Doing is good. But thinking, alone, was always my first love. Laugh and the world laughs with you. Think and you think alone. There you go!
So you practise laughing. You watch how others live, and you consciously set out to emulate and exceed. But deep down, even in the midst of the clang and clamour, the tinkling of glasses and cutlery, you know that you are utterly and for ever alone. That you are so unlike these people that you might as well - quite literally - have fallen to earth. "Sorry - what's that you said... I was miles away...." and you jerk yourself back to the present. "Mmmm yes - this lamb is delicious - it totally melts in the mouth. I don't know how she does it."
They say friendship begins with, "Oh - do you get that one too?" And on the way there've been some friends. Probably five. Intense, bonded, one to one. Say anything. Hear anything back. Actually interested in what another person thinks. Doesn't happen often!
But friends always die. Or move away. Or start being more friends with someone else. And then you're back with the one person you can totally trust. Your self.
Right. Here endeth today's lesson. Now I'm off to meditate and then to The Village. Thanks for phoning me there yesterday, Zed, but you were four hours too early! I'm not (quite) that much of a lush :) (Alastair said you sounded fabulous. And with perfect English.)
Still there! Even though yesterday I gobbled not one but two Topic bars, packed with peanutty goodness. (Or was it hazelnut?) I hoped these might confuse my alimentaries sufficiently to shift the damn porcelain. But no.
Beginning to wonder at what stage I should at least talk to a professional about it. Why do these things always happen at the biggest holiday of the year? Who operates on Christmas Day? Santa Claus? Bet you never knew that Santa Claus used to be green until Coca Cola turned him red. And you thought that elected governments ruled the world.
It's over. The Winter Solstice (Summer Solstice in the southern hemisphere) passed peacefully at 06.51 GMT this morning. Just four short hours ago, but already I can sense the difference. Hehe.
Eagerly I watched BBC Breakfast to see what Dermot and Natasha would make of it, but nada. Instead there was a feature about Truro Cathedral where they've appointed a chief executive to run the Mammon side of things. He's going to open lots more gift shops.
Of course I was disappointed that the Beeb chose to ignore what for me and millions of others is the key event of December - totally eclipsing both the erroneous calendar New Year and the Palestine stable event.
And I have to agree that it's not the most televisual thing. (Not only is it dark here, but even if it wasn't there's sweet FA to see.) But they should have at least mentioned it. Done a minute of sun-pics from the library. And then said something on the lines of "Happy New Solar Year!" Which I now say to you, threefold.
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. World without end. Amen.
(I realise this contradicts the currently-fashionable Big Bang theory, but - let's face it - theories come and go like the seasons. There've been three even in my short life.)
Readers who pay attention (and there are a couple) will be aware that one of my expensively-crowned teeth has come adrift from its moorings and is currently lodged somewhere in my chest region - roughly behind the breastbone, and probably in the stomach or duodenum. I can feel it - most uncomfortable - especially if I bend, breathe or cough. Sex is out of the question.
I'd planned on going to casualty today, just to see how much of a drama serial these places actually are, but maybe I'll put it off till tomorrow. Stories are legion of foreign bodies "passing harmlessly through", but it would be just my luck to get one that sticks for ever and gives me an ulcer. Or cancer.
So I'll give the wee mofo one more chance to get moving, by treating myself to a day of Guinness, Babs' food and cod liver oil. If that doesn't shift the fucker then I'll have to throw myself on the mercy of the quacks, and pray they're not moonlighting as crack-whore escort rentboys. (I'm sure I read a blog like that once. Crackdoc.com. Didn't it win some kind of award?)
OK - I was wrong. Shoot me. This year, like last, the solstice isn't until tomorrow. (In Britain.) And if you want to know what UT means, well, it's what our colonial cousins have taken to calling GMT. Mas o menos. Don't confuse it with UTC which is something else, man.
Readers in Mr Schwarzenegger's governance (and there are a couple) will have their Solstice on December 21, however, so maybe I shouldn't be so hard on myself. And thinking about this makes me realise for the first time that because the USA has time zones, it must therefore also have different days. Creepy. Jetting off to California to sign that important document yesterday.
Right then - that's enough astronomy. More than enough. You come here to read about me, n'est-ce pas?
After work last night I ate a toffee and it pulled off a porcelain crown which I swallowed. How daft is that? And now I can feel it in my stomach. I tried to make myself sick when I got home, but it just wouldn't happen. I even drank whisky (which I hate - it was a gift from a customer), but although much retching transpired, there was nary a peep of porcelain.
Ho hum. So you can see where all this is leading, can't you? Yes, that's right. I've got a Guardian magazine already spread out on the bathroom floor.
"You can't do that!"
"Of course I damn well can! These things cost upwards of a hundred quid. Plus it'll take weeks to get a new one made at this time of year. This way I can just get my dentist to re-glue it. Which he should have done better in the first place."
I feel a New Year's Resolution coming on. Don't eat toffees if there's anything glued in your mouth. Think of me today, and my magazine. It's kinda fun shitting on people's faces.
Hi! Only half an hour this morning, as work (the curse of the drinking classes) beckons her money-tainted finger at me.
Here are my final thoughts on the "affaire de Jour". (They're mostly other people's thoughts, and they probably won't be final!)
Belle de Jour has been in existence only since October. Hence it was probably (but not definitely) started specifically for the competition. It is possibly a work of fiction, and is similar to (but not plagiarising) a fictional site called Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl.
The Guardian judges refuse to address many people's (including my own) deep reservations about rewarding prostitution, and - like a broken record - keep banging on about the great writing. Well, all I can say is, thank God I*a*n H*u*n*t*l*e*y didn't display any great writing skills, as that would have been a blog and a half. For some.
Sorry about that, Guardian, but by refusing to even consider the moral element to your award, then you leave yourselves wide open to extreme examples. (It's also interesting that the most support I've read for this work comes from gay men, and the most offence from heterosexual women.) I sense many respectable women are affronted indeeed.
SAD is here at last, although not nearly as bad as I'm used to it. Anxiety, stomach gripes, a little despair, some problems chatting. I will survive. It's all so close now. I'm in heaven - winter solstice. Steely grey sky. Frozen cloud. Fresh birdshit on my window. (Containing small animal parts.)
DVD is good. PS2 is good. Good friends are even gooder, as you pass the time. Time is all. Date and time. Will you be mine. Strange how badder caught on, while gooder has yet to do so.
Work could be quizzical in view of the above. It'll probably alternate between speechless despair and verbal rages. (Not the stage part - for that I'm just an old pro. The "in-between" periods. )
Must not walk out. Must not walk out. Repeat one hundred times. Must not walk out. Maybe have a word with C my first line manager as I go in. This weekend and next one should see the worst of it over. But colleagues will stick the knife in, bigtime. Everybody kicks a loser.
Hair not cut, but laundry done. A little (mouse-friendly) rubbish taken out, and electricity bill paid. Not bad for four whole days. There's times I wouldn't mind some mice, just for the company. Why should dogs and cats have all the love?
From The Jaws of Victory
Oh dear. I seem to have been raging a bit at both the Guardian and at one of the winners when I came in last night. (Post below - and also comments elsewhere.)
Still - she (or he) has got the 500 squid to more than compensate, I'm sure. Yesterday in the pub we were trying to estimate just how much more profitable spreading your legs was than writing about spreading your legs. Forgotten the answer, but it had several zeros in it.
Can't say I'm a fan of prostitution. I've seen too much what it does to people.
No-one answered Lyle's question: What do you call a reindeer with no eyes, legs, cock or skin? Have nice weekends, everyone, and don't bog yourself down with Christmas plans. The key to life at this time of year is to put your feet up and say "fuck it". That's why God invented the telly. (And frozen meals!)
More opinion and debate about Whore de Jour (in Scotland that rhymes, beautifully!) on Gert's page. Good to know someone else has similar reservations - including Nigel's wife.
I'm having real problems with the winner of today's Guardian Competition. I didn't imagine, when I entered, that the prize would go to a prostitute.
Oh - that's just sour grapes because you got nowhere, I hear you thinking. But no, it's not. Last year I most certainly didn't win either, but there were no ill feelings to Alistair Scaryduck who did.
Leith, a seaport where I live, is steeped in prostitution. From women I personally know who've lived in royal palaces when young, to those walking the streets outside the fish shop in Bernard Street, this port - like every other - is awash with such women of the night.
Vividly I remember - back in the heady seventies - drinking and carousing with "the girls". Oh yes. We are no prude, nor ever were. It's no coincidence either that "gay" means prostitute every bit as much as it means homosexual - back then, last century, in the smelly streets and lanes of Gay Paree.
But then, and when the holocaust came in 1981, the merry-go-round so suddenly ground to a halt, and what few are still alive can do little more than hobble along with their sticks and walking frames. That's prostitution, for us, right here, right now. And no amount of fancy words nor slick constructions can change that awful fact.
To take money, or pay money, for sex is the height of immorality, and I feel dirtied to have been in that competition. (Although I haven't the slightest doubt as to why the (male) judges decided on that weblog. We're talking swelling pants.) Full marks to Alistair for offering an alternative.
Drank and chatted at the Village. Time passed. Coped with three much younger men talking mainly to each other because they're... much younger. Nothing to do with me being a faggot. Coped with Brian and Dean leaving shortly after I joined them because sometimes people have to leave.
Teased Ally and Dolly by saying how amused I got at business people being nice to me. "We want your money and we want your company!" Ally declared, which was a masterly riposte.
Realised somewhat belatedly that even though it's pitch dark at 4pm, there are still two hours of rush hour to come. Lots of people. All over the place. Like daytime, just not with any light. Much less frightening when you think of it like that.
Played Playstation a bit and watched telly a bit. All a bit of a blur. Except I did get a Class A Licence in Crazy Taxi. Must have been the drink making me reckless.
That Guardian Competition, then
Congratulations to all the winners. Even the ones just two months old. Sorry I can't go down the working girl route, but to an old queen like me there is nothing - nothing - more boring than cock. Yawn. Some things never change.
My friend Babs is working her poor fingers to the bone making Christmas Dinners at the Village. Party after party roll their way in, then sink into a delicious haze of fabulous food, gallons of drink, crackers and flashing digital cameras. Red-eye Central.
It really is the place to be this year. And still a few dates available, even now. Who knows - you could even buy me a drink while you're there!
I've heard they caught Saddam, but he should have used more moisturiser. Is this true? (I exist in an alcohol-cushioned bubble of DVD and Playstation, in which real life plays little or no part.)
Playstation Quote of The Day
Me to Brian: "Have you played Crazy Taxi?"
Brian to me: "Played it? I've got the steering wheel and foot pedals!" (Brian is 39.)
Currently on Playstation: Crazy Taxi (that's the one for three year olds and up), Half Life (poor man's Doom) and Prince of Persia (yawnsville.)
What do you call a reindeer which has lost its eyes?
Mike bounces back from the grave to (a) remind us he isn't dead, and (b) deliver his fabulous Christmas Annual 2003. I'm delighted. This last week has been like the loss of such a good friend.
So - will he soon return full time, or is this a flash in the pan? Only time will tell, but there is a clue. I've noticed with closure speeches over the years that if they leave the comments on there's a damn good chance they'll soon be back.
Everyone needs a little love at this time of year!
I'd hoped yesterday's clear and sunny weather would last a little longer, but thick cloud has come in from the Atlantic - that watering can supreme. Light rain falls on my windows, washing away the seagull shit, while its proprietors caw, caw, caw at each other in the wet. It's the stormy repertoire. They've got several. But I sense the afternoon will have some dryness, some brightness for me.
And if not - well, what better excuse would I need for a day in front of the Playstation!?
Mightier Than The Sword
Is it acceptable to blog about seeing a friend's penis for the first time? Oh. My. God.
Naturally I must retain the gentleman's name for reasons of privacy, but suffice to say he's a former Hunk of The Week, and someone whom Babs and I have often debated over. She's quite anti, while I'm decidedly pro, as it were.
He'd followed me into the Port o Leith men's room, and after I'd zipped up we were chatting horizontally, as men always do in lavatories. That means eye to eye without ever lowering the gaze to the nether regions. Gentlemen readers will know exactly of what I speak.
No gentleman me, however, I just said, "Gie's a look at yer willie, pal!" while doing exactly that. (My only excuse for such a lapse is that I was splendidly drunk.) Well - girls... what a sight I did behold! Gloria in excelsis deo! "I'd wondered why women found you so irresistible," I said to him. "And now I guess I know."
"You should see it when it's hard!" he enthused. "No, maybe I shouldn't," I replied quickly, nervous about pushing his good nature too far. Later, safely back in the bar area, I thanked him for his visual generosity. "First one I've seen for many years," I confessed. "But my lips are sealed, of course."
"They'd better be," he laughed, "or I might shove something in them." Why do some men have such charm to spare, while others could do with an implant?
And the beat goes on. Three quite pleasant days at work under my belt - and lots of ladies sent home with a nice boost to their Christmas shopping possibilities. Lovely.
It's a strange relationship between bingo caller and player, and one the novice caller ignores at his peril. Although the game is entirely random (and fair), most of the women don't see it like that. They're very superstitious. They have a "lucky seat". With lucky routines. And - most crucially a "lucky caller".
"Thank you for that thousand pounds, Peter," they'll say. Or - on the obverse side of the coin... "You're crap. You're a total bogey. I never win anything with you." They regard their wins as your personal gift, and the (many more frequent) non-win days as disregard and actual rejection. It's a knife edge, with no intrusion of rationality. And you either play the game their way, or enjoy a pretty short career.
A Carol For The Beach
There's a huge irrationality about Christmas also. According to the legend, the baby Jesus was born in what we now call Palestine - a country which has yet to see its first ever snowflake or reindeer. Sheep too would have a hard time grazing there, making shepherds somewhat redundant. And so on, and so on.
So tell me this and tell me no more... wtf are Christmas Cards and Carols replete with such features?
And if you think it's bad for us, just imagine how out of the loop our fellow Christians in the southern hemisphere feel, sipping their Smirnoff Ice on the beach and watching the girls glide by in their bikinis. Most un-Christian.
Brian of Shadowfoot was (rightly) bemoaning this fact on his NZ blog, and inspired me to start a competition in the post below. To date the standard is what could be called interesting. So get your Summer Carol thinking caps on. Could be a recording contract in it for you - you never know!
This year I feel such a fraud. I'm trying to be depressed - honest I am - but it just isn't coming together. My head gets filled with thoughts about how lucky I am in so many ways, and how many lovely people I know, and how yes it's a bit dark now but in no time at all it'll be getting light again.
Creepy. I wonder if there's something I could take.
So there I was reading Brian of Shadowfoot about a Christmas picnic he'd been to, and thinking how mild it must be in New Zealand, when it rather belatedly occurred that it's the height of summer there. How senile am I?
Brian then mentions plaintively: "I have one complaint: Why were there so many songs emphasizing that Christmas is a winter activity with lots of snow?" And of course he's right. Christianity should be much more inclusive than at present. What's the use of a broad church that ignores half the planet?
So I wrote him a nice summery Christmas Carol in his comment box. (Don't look; it's too awful.)
Over to you!
Get thinking and penning. There could be hard cash in it for you, if - say - Sir Cliff or Sir Elton get in on the act.
Summer Carols in the box below, please. A prize - as ever - for the best.
(Don't forget to include the tune. One verse will be enough. More than enough.)
When you make a gentle criticism about use of English in the Guardian Online Blog, (How Many Weblogs in the UK?), it will only occur to you afterwards that you're criticising a judge in a competition you've entered.
But have no mind. Lest the judges are still casting their tired, rheumy eyes over my august organ, I've done the work for them already! Here's a second chance to see my list of Guardian British Blog Awards Winners...
Best design Winner: Justin is a 17 y/o geek who never goes out, and masturbates endlessly over thoughts of Kylie Minogue. But in his brief periods of detumescence he can code like a God. Justin thinks colour is spelled color, and centre as center. He has no friends, and not one interesting word to write. Seriously creepy, despite having quite an enormous penis.
Best specialist Winner: Margaret is a Michael Moore-alike, and a trainee journalist angling for an internship on the Grauny. She has two cats, both neutered, and is studying Reiki two nights a week. She gets seriously turned on by foxhunting, although she realises how harmful this will be to her career as a liberal journalist. Margaret holds something of a passion for Oliver Letwin.
Best use of photography Winner: Reuben is 23 and he's a geek with a digital zoom, an eye for a pretty shot, and an enviable mastery of Photoshop. He's often to be seen up and down Leith Walk wearing wraparound bugeye shades and a cammo t-shirt. But sadly Reuben can't spell for toffee either, and he thinks Terry Pratchett is something to do with Shakespeare.
Best under 18 Winner: Shevaun is a 15 y/o girl abused by her stepfather, who takes refuge in the anonymity of cyberspace. Winning this award leads to her being taken into care however, where she rapidly learns how to work the streets and smoke crack. In her early thirties she has a remarkable recovery in which she finds the Lord Jesus Christ and sets up a home for youngsters like herself. In much later years she finds herself beatified by an ailing Pontiff.
And best written Winner: Morgana has prose to die for but she has nothing whatever to say. No-one's every heard of her, but on the basis of this award she gets a tasty book advance. Morgana quickly goes downhill with all this attention; she meets a plumber with herpes and cocaine, and the book never gets past Chapter Four.
My vote still goes to Troubled Diva, however - even if he doesn't need the dosh!
The Southsider for one pint yesterday, then belayed along George Square, following the sun. Edinburgh University. All very doctorish.
Department of Psychology. (But what about parapsychology, eh? Guess you've got to find that one yourself.) Department of Biomedical Sciences, Cardiovascular Research Unit. (Lots of fresh-faced young things outside the doors, chatting and smoking. I kid you not.)
Past the haunted remains of the former Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, then to the College of Art, along Lady Lawson Street and then past the Needle Exchange, with its far from fresh-faced young things hacking, spitting and also smoking.
Two worlds apart, united by the poppy, yet separated from birth.
Castle Terrace is breathtaking. With the ancient castle high to your right, and a splendid new block called Saltire Court facing it across a broad esplanade, the contrast couldn't be starker - yet it simply and utterly works. Dazzling, awe-inspiring, built environment. But that's Edinburgh, of course. Why do they let any old highrise shit get flung up in Leith? Slums before they're even finished.
Grassmarket and the second pint of the day in the Black Bull. They've got a WiFi node on a quiz machine. Very post-modern. Then to HMV in Princes Street for a wee peep at the Playstation Games. Prince of Persia is kinda drab. Plus I'm stuck again.
However, I'd hardly been there twenty minutes before this assistant busies himself up to me, pretending to arrange the shelves, then comes right out with it. "Can I help you, sir?" (Translation: I hope you're not even thinking of nicking any stock, dude, because we've got you on seventeen different cameras - sir.)
So - with two pints of Guinness down the gullet, I thought I'd extemporise a wee drama. Play with the possibilites that might have been. "I'm looking for something for my grandson," I declared. "He's twelve, and he doesn't like shooting or killing." (It's me, really. I don't have a grandson.)
"What does he like, sir?" the assistant replied, clearly glad to be on home territory. Oh shit - I hadn't thought of that. What does my non-grandson like? Make it up, quick. "He likes sport, and - you know - intelligent games with some puzzle. What was that one called in the nineties... Day Of The Tentacle?"
That was one serious mofo error. My grandson would have been 2 when that game came out. Any minute he'll realise it's me, and I'll get arrested for lying.
Better distract the dude sharpish. "What's this one like?" (Grabbing a title called Half Life.) "It's mutants, sir, and you have to shoot them."
"Like Doom?" (Oh, shut it - you damned old goat! Now he'll know it's you.) "OK then - I'll take it. And this." (Grabbing Crazy Taxi, which I'd seen on a demo machine. You get ten quid off if you buy two games.)
I really mustn't go in that shop again. I'm sure they've got my retina scanned as a right old nutter by now.
Crazy Taxi I can thoroughly recommend. Ranked 3+, it's slap bang in my intellectual range. In the game I'm a hunky driver called Gus, aged 42, and all day long I say, "Don't panic. We'll get there." Lean and mean, wearing a neat pair of Chinos and showing quite a packet to the world. You simply sit there and guide the thing along the streets. Occasionally you stop to pick up fares, and put them down.
Mindless. And it's got ads. But do I really care what Sony are doing to our three-year-olds? Gimme a break why doncha? It's December, and I'm cared to death.
Many thanks to "mildred", proprietor of the "Rover's Return", in yesterday's tale of manners. (Comment box.) Blog is getting so powerful. Soon I'll have to start watching what I say.
Today I need your advice on two matters. First, how acceptable is it, in a post-modern, "anything goes" society, for bar staff to be rude to their customers? Does "rudeness" still even exist - or is everyone entitled to their opinion nowadays?
Take yesterday. There I was, not a care in the world, off to the Rover's Return for me lunch. (Dinner we used to call it where I was brought up, but no mind.) Gordon Rennie the famous author was there, and that was all.
Now, I'm not one of those people who make a career out of being rude to low paid workers and then bragging about it on my blog. Oh yes - there are such. Neither am I one who would sit penning the American Constitution about "all men are created equal", while a slave grinds my coffee in the kitchen. Not I. No way. José.
But when the following transaction takes place, I think I have a slight cause for complaint. A feeling of unease that some unwritten rule has been transgressed....
Barman: Remember you've got a date with Fred this afternoon. (Acceptable joke.) Me: I haven't had a date for fifteen years. (Truth, give or take.) Barman: That's why you're so bitter and twisted.(Oo la la.)
Bitter and twisted. Whadya think? Not whether I am such, which you're not really in a position to judge, but whether I should pay good money for lunch and drinks to be spoken to like that.
My meal was ruined, of course. Oh, I forced it down, but paid up and left immediately it was over. So - crucially - should I mention the matter to the management? (All names and businesses have been concealed, as one is far from bitter or twisted about the matter.)
Beneath My Station
So - finding myself back home unaccustomedly early, and with the usual "nothing on the telly" (although I confess to enjoying Top Of The Pops 2), what should I fall back on but the Playstation 2 I bought some weeks ago precisely for such an emergency. Still in the box, until then unlooked at.
I loved the pretty green and blue lights at the top - very this century - but the game itself, Prince of Persia, The Sands of Time, is absolute garbage. Pale, washed-out colours. Juddering pan shots. Fights that you always win, even though there are four of them and you haven't a clue. I've seen far better effects on PC games, even with my ancient 333MHz processor. So what's all the Playstation fuss about?
Oh - and crucially - I'm in the room with the dagger and the egg timer. What do I do next?
Well, mike may have closed troubled diva for a while, but he hasn't got out of the typing habit just yet! This, live from Zurich airport yesterday... (business lounge, natch!) (Remember what I said yesterday... it's not that mike's in the business lounge, but that he tells us he's in the business lounge. That's what makes him so lovable!)
"I'm standing here in the Business Lounge at Zurich Airport - wonks to the left of me, freeloaders to my right -feeling shaky and almost speechless. That's one hell of a tribute, Peter...thank you.
I remember the Jeffrey Barnard comparison, but oh my, did I really say Royston Vasey as well? I want slapping for that, frankly. :-)
If I only read one more blog regularly once my cold turkey period is over, then NB will be the blog that I read. Like all the very best pleasures in life, I'm at a loss to explain exactly why that is, and am actually somewhat reluctant to analyse in too much detail lest I spoil the enjoyment. I just...get it, somehow - and I always find myself HAVING to know what happens next.
Ironically enough given some of what you have said, I am actually one of the laziest bastards on the planet - you have no idea. So it's a strange contradiction indeed that I should have bust my balls so regularly over TD. Only rarely was it ever a chore, though - when cropping and thumbnailing, or splicing MP3s together, or adding title text to every single link, I would be pounding away at the keyboard like a thing possessed, utterly in the zone. My trouble has always been starting things - procrastination is my middle name - but I become fanatical about finishing them properly.
The main reason behind my recent dissatisfaction lay in the stress & mental exhaustion caused by all this bloody travelling. I am cursed with exceptionally low physical energy levels, and actually spend most of each waking day feeling permanently tired, unless something REALLY fires me up. These business trips have just been wiping me out. There's usually nothing left of me - or if there is, then it rightfully belongs to Kevin.
I've been feeling on the point of weeping for most of the past two days, on account of all this EXTRAORDINARY niceness that people have been showing. I am utterly, utterly floored and dazed by it...and profoundly, PROFOUNDLY moved. This is completely outside my normal sphere of experience. And yes, it has made me question whether I'm doing the right thing.
But I know I am, for the next few months at least. So, time to snaffle some complementary snackettes down me fat gob before zooming off to Milano.
Ciao, sweetie. Mit Zungen!
And now I really do feel like a good weep. I can cope with anything except kindness.
All this raises powerfully something that robin mentioned a few days ago - the emotional connection which weblogs can induce. So let me propose
"Peter's first law of weblotics"
If you read a weblog regularly, then you will become involved with the writer.
This quite exceeds and transcends any similar "relationships" with print writers. (I'm thinking Julie Burchill, for instance. Or even Jon Ronson whom I've been privileged to meet.)
Exactly why this happens will I hope lead to your speculation.
So much happened yesterday that it'll be difficult to fit it all in. (It's already 9.15am and I really can only spare you one hour before I must go out of doors. For my sanity.)
In roughly this order: mike closed down troubled diva, Edinburgh was minus a million, but I discovered an enormous sundial feature the size of Princes Street (in fact it was Princes Street), and a man called Andy (62) told me to go to Rishikesh.
OK then... twenty minutes on each...
I'd noticed him a couple of times in the Village - calm, measured, and roughly ages with myself. Shy, not pushy, not drunk. Chatting to Gwen as any red-blooded man would.
It can be difficult for a new person to penetrate a pub where everyone knows everyone else. Been stuck in that one myself, more than once. So I felt for him. On probation, until I sussed out whether my concern was well-placed or not.
Yesterday tea-time we fell into conversation for the first time, and he told me of his life - edited highlights - which you don't need to know, and his interest in yoga, which maybe you do. "How far did you go in yoga?" I asked him, fascinated. "There are no coloured belts," he replied, which I already knew. "But I've done loads of yoga myself," I told him then. "I want to know."
(Although there might not be a black belt system in yoga, there are unmistakeable auras. My every sense went out to suss his being but came back saying "equal".)
So we chatted sixties stuff - Maharishi, Baghwan (now Osho) and suchlike. Yogic fencing. Touche.
Andy seemed quite swayed by the Osho school, so I told him I'd known one of that Master's women for many years, but no, I would never tell him her name. (All the ex-Baghwaners seem slightly ashamed, for some reason. They hold back, as if they don't really want you to think of them quite so sexually.) I bought him a pint, and he said he couldn't get me one back, but I said it didn't matter as I was loving this talk.
He mentioned Rishikesh then, which I guessed he had to do. So many I know who've been there - each one of them damaged in some way... drugs, careers, or entire personalities. As if the experience was so intense that Western life can now for ever only be a shadow of the bliss they then enjoyed. Sat chit ananda.
And yes, I am fixed in yoga myself, but as Andy said, there are no pretty belts. Some day I'll tell you more about it. (If you're good.)
If there's one word could describe yesterday, it would be cold. Stretch that to two, and I'd go so far as fucking freezing. Oh. My. God.
Then I discovered two things: in Edinburgh in December the noon sun is only an inch above the chimney pots, and the Castle Rock casts an enormous fucking shadow.
Go west, young man, to the sunny end of the street! Leave behind the German Market, giant ferris wheel and outdoor skating rink. Brrr! Head instead for the West End - and see the shoppers basking in the (relative) warmth. Oh yes.
To explain: perhaps uniquely in capital cities, Edinburgh has a big fuck-off volcano in the middle, with a castle on top of it, redolent with hunky young men wearing the Queen's uniform. This all casts one mofo of a shadow across Princes Street.
With me so far?
But as the earth rotates (so the latest theory goes), the shadow literally moves along the street. I didn't hang about that long to write a PhD on it, but I can truthfully report that at 12.37 GMT, the terminator was on the S in RIVER ISLAND.
To the left, Virgin, HMV, Dixons, Phones4U and Macdonalds were basking in the warming solar rays, with potential customers milling around the street. While at the dark and deserted east end, Marks and Spencer, Boots and Burger King were shoving shillings in the meter just as fast as they could to keep warm. At least they put the ice rink in the most frozen bit.
How amazing is that? Postcode heating! I stood and watched for ten minutes as the shadow edge moved along RIVER ISLAND from S to L to A and then I left, convinced but bored.
Next time I'll investigate exactly where the shadow falls at noon, as this might indicate the shop containing the Holy Grail. My guess is it'll be on the N in DEBENHAMS.
By now you'll be aware that mike posted his final troubled diva post yesterday, and what a classic it is. In true Hollywood style he kept the punchline to near the end, and let it slip, bit by bit.
It's been a rare privilege to read mike's compendious weblog all this time, and to share in his life, both past and present. How generously he gave of himself throughout, setting the standard for so many to aim for.
Oh, I didn't read it all! Compendious, as I say. The music stuff I skipped completely, except just once, when I read his review of a Kylie concert, beginning with the unforgettable phrase, "That Kylie concert, then..."
Me, I share no interest in the wizened Australian dwarf, but for those who do - and they are legion - the review was there in spades. Over and over again this happened with concerts.
But let's not dwell here on troubled diva, as mike covers his great achievement modestly yet thoroughly himself. Let's think instead a bit about the relationship between writer and blog. They are not the same. And this is why I'm not the world's biggest fan of blog meetings.
Vividly I remember mike's first description of both myself and Naked Blog. On the lines of... "this Jeffrey Barnard geezer who spends his life in the boozer writing about his Royston Vasey friends." Well? Would you agree? (Then I didn't even know what Royston Vasey was. It took my friend Rex to elucidate!) Still I can't watch the programme without thinking of that sentence.
I didn't link him straight away. Oh no. Then NB was some way ahead of diva in the Blogdex ratings, which was the fashionable thing of the time. My own readers were mostly in the USA and Canada, and the linkage was mostly to Carrie, Dave, Hoopty and Barbara. I wasn't sure of the impact such an openly gay blog would have on that crew and their derivatives.
So I held back a week or two, but kept reading. New names came into my ken... Chig, Buni, Hydragenic. There seemed to be a whole UK blog culture that I was unaware of.
Then came the killer piece - of US origin, I've just realised. It was about meeting a woman who'd lived in the Armistead Maupin house. Barbary Street is it? Or something like that. Anyway, the story was so well told that I had to link to it, and to TD.
Well, that lasted for about a week, and then I had to cut him off again without a name to himself. Over a jerk-off party. Eeek! Just what would my respectable New York ladies make of that one? He emailed straight away. I put my case. We laughed, and when the jerk-off slipped down the page a bit I put him back, where he's been ever since.
So why has Mike stopped? I have a few ideas. I think he tried too hard. Some of those posts must have taken hours on end to research and write. The photo albums painstakingly cropped, posted and thumbnailed. The Vietnam holiday, which can only have been more of a writing project than an actual recreation.
One of my own expressions, which I know he enjoys is this: "I want to walk the forest path, and then, if it's within my range, I want you to walk it with me."
But there are limits. Limits of time and life and energy. Me, I guess I'm what you'd call medium prolific - but never, ever do I type one single character more than I can be bothered to. I stop when I've had enough. For free there's no obligation.
Mike was much more conscientious, however. For him, diarying alone was never enough - there had to be a stream of projects, often quite laborious. Over and over again I thought, "No - you're doing too much. We don't deserve all this effort from you!" But still he soldiered on.
In fact, thinking back even now as I sit here, there never was much of the ordinary in TD. Little of, "Last night K and I had pizza and watched the telly. We saw blah, blah... " More of that might have helped, mike. It's just so damn easy - yet every bit as fascinating as Phnom Pen, or however you spell it.
Yes - this is the essential thing... the point about the Princess Diana Memorial Garden wasn't the fact that you had one, or what it looked like - it was your own reaction to having such an item. It wasn't your riches, but what you thought of the riches. Not the things, but you, yourself.
In all of those you excelled yourself and exceeded almost everyone. I thank you for the great work you've so freely given, and am privileged to have "known" you for these two years. However the genre develops in future, one thing will never change. You were there at the beginning and you made a difference. What more could one man want?
Live long and prosper, sir. Sits to rapturous applause and a deep tongue kiss from mike.
Right - I promised you an hour, and you've ended up with two and a half. How generous is that?
Update 6pm: Mike writes exclusively in the comment box below.
It's going to be another scorcher today. The seagulls' bellies glow red in the near-horizontal dawn, as they fly past my window and I hope they don't shit on it. Mist rolls in from the North Sea, so it's a day for (literally) uptown. Edinburgh is more elevated than Leith, which rarely rises much above sea level.
Back later with the usual tantalising tidbits!
Troubled diva. You should definitely read this today. Please do, whether you have your own blog or not. (We're in it!)
Another glorious one. I slept so late it was actually light when I woke - the first time I've opened my eyes to daylight for months. That was good, really good.
Were it not for work to come I'd be out there right now, instead of blogging in the dark. Out basking in the luminescence, soaking up the rays, being my most primitive being.
December seventh today means fourteen days to the winter solstice, which means we're entering the darkest four weeks. The month that shapes our thoughts and colours all our year. The one we love to hate and fear - yet now it's here it's just another roller coaster ride. Sensation, you see. Depression is better than nothing. Depression is the ultimate thrill.
Cos it can KILLYA! Now they'll be sorry. Oh yes. Now they'll wish they'd been a lot nicer to me. Oh yes, yes. Especially him, the bastard. And what about her? Eh? Right bitch that one - always has been. Take you for everything you've got then dump you without a backward glance. You'll know the type.
Forgive me. Waxing melodramatic. (Yesterday I was on a site with a moon feature. Waxing gibbous, it said. What a lovely thing to wax, I thought, quite struck.)
Work is peachy for the depressed - providing you're not too depressed to work, which must be a right old bummer. (All day long with only yourself to think about.) There's nothing like standing in front of five hundred old ladies threatening a riot to sharpen the mind and help you forget your problems.
This happened yesterday, when the National Bingo Game broke. Or at least our end of it did, as the laser printer (essential for the calling numbers) disintegrated into symbolic plip-plop. Eeek! No chance of the fifty grand big prize, then. Nor even the thousand quid consolation. But peace prevailed, and I only lost fifty thousand brain cells calming them down.
You know, bingo stretches the word "game" to its very limits. It's a jungle in there. But I love it. Gets in your blood - and you should all definitely try it. Nourish your "inner old lady". She'll thank you for it, maybe sooner than one or two of you think.
In Other News...
There isn't any. My entire obsession is with myself in December. I'm probably not even reading your blog, far less writing comments.
Do we still have a Labour Government? What did I read about Mr Bush and a plastic turkey in Baghdad? For someone's who's supposed to be leaving the Guardian, Julie Burchill is doing a grand job of clinging on. Go - I say, Julie, you traitorous harlot. Go. Taking Murdoch money denies and abnegates every word of you I've ever read, enjoyed and believed. Unspeakable.
I even know younger queens who actually buy Murdoch products - feeding the hand that bites them in the T cells. But younger queens and I are not seeing eye to eye at the moment. They know it all. They've taken every thing.
Have a lovely Sunday! Go for a walk - just do it. Put your coat on now, and cancel lunch, plans, cleaning, shopping - and other scheduled nonsense. They all can wait. Be spontaneous for once. A sky like this is to die for, and death should be your only living schedule.
A devastatingly handsome Australian man has started at work. "Have you got a microphone in your pocket?" I asked him yesterday, innocently. "Now mite - I'm jest heppy to see you!" That's what I call a man.
...to Radio Scotland listeners arriving for the first time. The passage you heard performed on the programme starts here and reads downwards for several screens.
Noon Update: Fabulous darlings! Some really lovely voices there. Full list of participants here.
About Naked Blog
NB is a continuing work of modern fiction set in Leith, Scotland. Although some of the locations and characters exist in real life, their words and actions are pure invention, as is everything about the narrator or storyteller. Nothing you might read here is real, or actually happened, and any views expressed are not those of the writer. Strong language can appear at any time, as well as scenes some readers will find unpleasant.
(If you could handle American Psycho or The Naked Lunch you'll be fine around here.)
And I can't say I'm sorry. At least at work there's an element of sanity. Things to do. Money to be made. Old ladies to be nice to. (I realise that last one is something of an alien concept to one or two... )
On a scale of ghastliness, this week's been about 5 out of 10. Had much better - had much worse. Dickheads in real life. Dickheads in comment boxes - elsewhere, not here! But plenty nice people too. Never let the trash assume importance they don't warrant.
Yesterday I started on my river walk but gave up after about an hour. Too much brooding. So I swallowed a Guinness at Bert's in Stockbridge and then bussed up to Princes Street. I have to say, by the time the bus came I could have walked it! I think the Stockbridge people are more used to private transport than public.
So I beelines it straight for Castle Hill and my newly-discovered hill path. Oh yes. This time there was a bunch of teens behind me, but did they overtake me? Did they as heck. Take That, I thought, sitting on a wall at the top to get my breath back. It really is a spectacular workout - beats any gym, and free, of course.
Except now I've publicised it, I can see it all plummeting downhill.
Took my neck pulse a couple of times while recovering, and it was very, very good. Strong, regular - no shadows or echoes. 120, then 110, then 100. All in good fettle. I'm gonna live for ever!
Oh dear. Those lovely listeners from Radio Scotland will start arriving in a couple of hours' time. What am I going to do with them? Always hated entertaining. Never do it. Too stressful. Same with phoning.
But there again - maybe they won't!! Which would be worse, I ask you?
(Last night I got into such a panic about it all that I closed the site down. Might still do that, round about noon today. We'll see. It is a massive intrusion.)
Ed: Then wtf did you agree to take part, dickhead?
Me: Because that was in October, wasn't it? And now it's December 5 - with SAD in fullest blossom.
We shall see. This too will pass.
And I'll tell you one person who won't be listening! Well - would you, if it was you?
COCAINE AND HOMOPHOBIA
C for Caution: contains strong language from the outset. Remember that Naked Blog is a work of contemporary fiction, and the views expressed here are not necessarily those of the author.
I shouldn't be sitting here writing to you like this, as ah'm ootie ma fucking heid.
Vegetarian intake. But chat about meat. My meat. Misunderstandings re-understood. Poof is not bad. Poof can be good. So what's a fucking word anyway?
What a difference a day makes. Twenty four dark and pissy hours. No woman no mind. But plenty plenty men to make make up.
Lunch in the Village - pea soup exquisite and Thai chicken not. My advice: stick to your own kind. Abroad is bad. They want asylum. They want our DHSS.
Vote Tony for an asylum free Britain. And watch out for Howard the illegal immigrant.
"I only called you poof to wind you up," young Gary said, and Glen agreed. "You're fun when you're angry, Peter. We got no problem with poofs, and - let's face it - you are one."
What could I say? The night ran high. I didn't give a shit - nor ever did.
Some sad fucker has written a book about punctuation, and some even sadder fuckers have bought it. Beyond belief. Eats shoots and leaves.
Watched Hannibal which didn't have Jodie Foster, and Contact which did. Whadya reckon?
On Friday the page will be crawling with Radio Scotland listeners. How exciting! I wonder what they're like? The trailers are already out there - my voice leaving the solar system as we speak. How cool is that. Now ain't it just.
That's the weather I'm talking about, not me. (Although there are definite moves in that direction.)
I've checked the forecast and there's to be no let up in the thick, gloopinous cloud today. So dense you can barely see the chimneys from my study window. Awesome. Just the thing after the worst night yet in the SAD season so far! I'd forgotten what it's like to lie awake half the night hating yourself and half the people you know. (But wish you didn't. But hell - you don't get to pick.)
Memo to self: no more Port o Leith bar this year. Too many radges. I'm sick of being a punchbag.
But yesterday had its good bits. I don't know if you've ever noticed this (I didn't myself for more than thirty years), but Castle Hill behind the Ross Bandstand in Princes Street is criss-crossed with paths you can walk. It's a double Z, with escape routes at the left-hand nodes, for wimps.
No wimp moi, I strode manfully from the InterCity railway up to the Castle Esplanade. Zero to hero in five short minutes. (Maybe ten.) Lungs doing what they're intended to for once, and heart thumping in excelsis Deo. Pure magic - I could have died there and then. Lots of sad old fuckers do die when they over-exert like that.
But this one has a history of exercise. (Mountains, darling - mountains. And running and cycling. It hasn't all been slingbacks and stilettos.) The body remembers the pace.
Then - at last - I bought a PS2, after another hour or more of consumer research around HMV, Virgin, Game and Dixons. Eventually it sank in there was hardly a tenner difference between them all, so I chose Dixons. You get Prince of Persia and some racing thing along with an Xploder Lite cheat disc. One hundred and forty nine quid, and it's still in the box, so (un)excited am I over the idea. I think I only got it so I could start obsessing over something else.
Oh, but thanks a bunch for all your advice over PS games, and your gentle urging to go down the road. Even if I never open it, at least it's there for emergencies. Temporal backup.
(Anyone remember the original Prince of Persia, the DOS version? The figures were about a centimetre high, with lots of turbans and swirling scimitars. A platform game of course, with hop, skip, jump and fight controls. A crusade for last century - death to the dusky infidel.)
I can't imagine the modern version will be that much different. War against terr'ism.
Now have a nice day, y'all, and don't you worry about the shitty weather. Blue skies are just around the corner.
One hundred thousand thanks for all your good wishes, which are returned threefold. Your words are more precious than diamonds. (Ever tried chatting to a diamond?)