Remember all those hill-walking edges I kept getting scared of last month? Scared I'd fall off the universe? No more. Fortified by not one, not two, but three pints of dark matter yesterday I hopped and skipped my little way about the slopes like a mountain gazelle. Ibis? Aye - yer right, pal.
Yes - drink is definitely the answer. The Regent Bar have hired a very pleasant young barman from Wisconsin. Being new, he hasn't yet learned that in gay bars you're meant to be extremely offhand to the customers - except those two in the corner who look like they're on hire from a museum and every bit as dusty. Some of you will know of what I speak.
Wisconsin. Ahhhh. "Here you don't know what winters are like," he said. America must be such a civilised place.
Panorama: Scotland's Secret Shame, was on last night. The "secret shame" is what BBC documentary makers from England call it when they come up from Islington to secretly film football matches between Glasgow's two teams, Rangers and Celtic. (Or Celtic and Rangers, depending.)
It was about Protestant v Roman Catholic sectarianism. In Scotland, some football teams are closely identified with one church or the other. Maybe you didn't know that. Maybe you couldn't care less because you don't live here anyway.
So my advice to Panorama: stay in England and you need never be bothered again. Heavens! You'd think Glasgow was the only place where football "fans" knifed each other. Or where religious hatred occurred.
These could not be watched on the BBC, due to Mr Murdoch having purchased the broadcasting rights. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Must rush, as Sandra and I are meeting up town at Broughton Street. She said she was very proud of me for all that edging yesterday. I said that next time I'd take her along as well. Hold her hand if she got scared, kinda thing.
The story below is a bit melodramatic, written last night after drinking, and due to its depressing nature should not be read by anyone.
Like flicking a lightswitch my body has changed from ill to well again this afternoon.
Three weeks. I was getting scared. Gay men - even at my advanced age - never know for sure just how well their immune systems are. Three weeks of cold/flu was pushing it a bit. Dark clouds gathered in my mind.
But now - after walking and trudging these elevated paths this afternoon - to say nothing of good company and Guinness in the Regent (gay) Bar - we're back to the familiar feelings and ways. Cardiovascular. Pneumo-thoracic. (For my age and condition, of course :)
Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Praise the Lord for He is merciful.
Forgive me - this is emotional. We do still get scared from time to time, despite the bravado - all of us. I love you people that read this stuff - love you... did you know that?
Morning! This is day eight of my holiday, and all except four hours have been spent in this house. Yet, perhaps strangely - I've felt neither bored nor lonely. The cycle of
crash out drunk in front of telly
has been thoroughly smashed - if "smash" is what you do to cycles. I know you do it to records.
I should be cautious of writing "pub" from now on. I've noticed from my new Sitemeter at the foot of this page that several people have been reading our wee oeuvre in Google French, which not only changes pub to publication, but mike to microphone and Robin to merle.
So, "Dolly, I'm terrified of your pub" becomes "Dolly I'm terrified of your publication."
And when Dolly asks why, I say because it's filled with talented and artistic people. (This actually makes sense for both pub and publication - but quite a different sense.) Half of France must be going around the place thinking I'm scared of magazines. Not true!!! I rarely read them - too many ads.
But no way, Pierre, am I ever gonna write "Bar" - unless it's in a title. Much too transatlantic. Those damn Frogs should realise this is British English, godammit - the stuff that built the Empire!
Right. That's all rather silly. This is day eight of my holiday, and due to inclement and feezing weather it's actually the first day there's been one glimpse of blue. Sunny and blue. I'd forgotten that clouds had shapes, so thick and heavy has been the blackness above. I must go out - even though still not one hundred percent better.
We don't want to end up like His Holiness the Homophobe with a tracheotomy. (I just can't believe the oldboy has had a tube cut into his larynx, and they're spending good TV time actually debating whether he'll perform his blessing today.)
(Note to BBC.) Blessings are "given" not "performed", even though it is Oscar day in La La Land. I sent BBC Breakfast a snarky text about the amount of coverage they were giving the damn Oscar show, and that not all their viewers were braindead and that I was bored with the thing before it starts. They didn't read it out. Seven o clock in the morning. Sleepless in Leith. Sleeping badly due to illness. Can't believe just a month ago I was trotting up and down quite steep hills with gay abandon.
Friday's four hour foray into the cold outside quite knocked me out the next day. But today I must make some progress. Maybe Easter Road and Salisbury Crags. Maybe stop off at the Regent for a restorative Guinness and a minimum of fagsmoke. We shall see.
Ciao. Have a nice Sunday. Enjoy your Oscar party if you're invited to one. I'm not.
I'm enjoying my new Sitemeter gadget already. (Foot of the page.) Lots more juicy info (gossip even, and why not?) than Nedstat - which does tend to emphasise the dark side of my visitors... some of whom wouldn't be out of place in the sex offenders' wing. Maybe that's where they're calling from.
But you know you've got someone with at least one brain cell if they arrive from places like this and this. Sitemeter. Good thing.
And you'll know they've got a brain cell in each lobe if they come from Jane of Lady Muck - one I just know you'll enjoy. Welcome. As well as the home page there's a cinema page and a TV page. Such a sensible use of blogspot's resources - I might even adopt it here. So much better than the Barley-esque "File under Life Experience... or Wasted Dreams... or Pussy Tails..."
Talking of brain cells, guess who was quoted in Guardian Unlimited Newsblog yesterday. That's right. Our little throwaway about Best British Blog. See - there is still mileage left in blogging about blogging. Let's not all rush to get above ourselves, eh? Remember the back streets of Naples...
OUTTA THIS PLACE
I can sense a Sitemeter planet waiting to hear whether I made it out across the doorstep yesterday, or bottled it once more like the wuss I surely am. Tick did it. But oh dear, dear. This was only a partial success.
The Port (o Leith Bar) was freezing. Mary the owner relies on bodies for heating, that being the most economical financial model. There is a notional electric heater provided, but - with all those draughts - the analogy of pissing in a tsunami springs to mind. And there were only four bodies present to contribute their calories. Me, Sandra, Robin (DCMBIASQN) and Lindsay the barmaid. Four bodies at a hundred Watts a pop. (You don't need Carol Vorderman to do the maths.)
Then the fagsmoke! How many cigarettes can three people get through? Nose streaming after half an hour. Quite awful. Mark the massage monster came in and eagerly contributed to the fug, despite him being on a degree course in reflexology. Robin was even using a nicotine patch to hold his addiction whilst rolling the next cigarette.
Then I launched into my, "Why does the NHS waste millions of taxpayers' money on those useless patches?" (Think about it... think how many smokers you know who've been "on the patch"... manna from heaven for Big Pharmy.) And then it was definitely time to leave. Perfection doesn't come without cost.
To the Village then. (This is Leith's closest resemblance to Nathan Barley - and have you noted the initials of Nathan Barley, btw? What does NB make you think of, eh? Yesterday there was even a character called 15Peter20, but he was a piss artist.)
"Your pub terrifies me," I said to Dolly the owner as I cowered at the end by the phone while trying to hide behind the raised hatch. (I'd gone there to pick up a Julie Burchill video from Chav Gav.)
"Why's that, love?" he asked, politely.
"All these talented and artistic people..." I stammered. "Look at them..."
"How's the bingo world?" he asked.
"See what I mean," I replied. "You are what you do. Don't believe the t-shirts."
Chav Gav himself was at the other end of the bar, but I didn't dare go over until he'd nodded at me. Three times, so I could be sure it was really me he meant. We had a lovely talk - such a nice young gent - but then he got kidney pains and had to leave. He's off work with it. He said he was nervous writing to mike to thank him for his triple CD prize. He said mike was such a talented writer. He'll love to hear that, I said. :)
It was strange but somehow social, washing and shaving yesterday. Washed my little willie three times for total deodorisation. (I don't use products, you see.)
Ah well - it's one o clock now, and I must meditate and go out once more into the breech. Saturdays are quite scary - all that compulsory enjoyment.
The woman in Blockbuster shared my appreciation of Touching The Void and Adaptation. I think I prefer to mix with people who agree with me. Oh - did I mention we were in Guardian Unlimited? I would say mighty oaks, but it's not the first time.
I was watching Polly Toynbee on overnight telly. "Polly Toynbee - The Guardian" it said when she spoke. The Guardian has become more than a newspaper these years. It's a repository of like-minded thought. In the same sense as a political party - or at least when they start out.
One thing you might have noticed missing (if that's not an oxymoron) from this site recently is direct speech. This is because of late we haven't directly spoken to anyone, and here we never make things up. But all this is set to change today.
"I'm practising for being old," I said to Sandra just moments ago on the phone. "Or a hermit," she replied, agreeing. "It'll take me all morning to scrape the dirt off," I wailed. "Just do it," she insisted. "See you in the Port at one."
I was about to question the wisdom of jumping into the human deep end like that, after a week of not even reaching the antiseptic foot bath, but squashed my fears. It's so long since I've touched a drop that the whole world will be my friend after even one sniff of the Liffey.
Others I've directly spoken to on the phone are several people from the Which? Online organisation, who were happy to take all my card details yesterday for a proposed free thirty day trial, but have consistently refused to connect me to any such trial.
Pisses me off that. Totally. But the moment I mentioned NB there I was speaking to a supervisor sharpish. Do not underestimate the power of blog.
(Takes me back to my freelance hack days, mostly writing health articles for the Scotsman.) My friends would forever quote my name to get preferential treatment from their doctors. "Ah ken Peter Russell fae the Scotsman," they would boast, as doctors fell onto their prescribing pens with shock.
Damn! There's the phone just been ringing. Probably Which? Online, but as usual I didn't answer in case it's for me. Hang on while I 1471 it. (So many phone numbers in this house, and I go and give her one in a different room. I don't deserve a free thirty day subscription.)
Update! Naked Blog is more threatening than I'd imagined. Joan (for that is her name) has just re-phoned to say that my username and password are up and running. And boy did she apologise and explain. "It's all right, Joan," I said, soothingly, sussurating. (For I was a real journalist once, you know. Leading in my very small lunchtime.) Why do you think I have such an interest in odd ways of living?
Righty-ho. Naked Blog might not have quite as many readers as the Scotsman (although it's in decline whilst my organ is rising), but it's at least a hell of a lot quicker.
So here's the Which? Online free trial. Join now, read all their articles, then cancel and owe them nothing. Plus you get a free mini digital camera. Any problems, just say you're zed in Belgium.
Real carcrash TV last night, when Channel Four was staging a live genuine exorcism. Allegedly. Did you see it? Two hours were allocated for this exciting joust with Old Nick, immediately following an hour's prequel about The Boy Who Inspired The Exorcist. And it wasn't even Halloween. (William Peter Blatty has got a very unfortunate face, btw. But I couldn't make out whether from fire damage or surgery.) No wonder he writes horror stories.
The problem with this particular TV show (is there nothing spooky Channel Four won't stoop to? Just recently it was a fake seance with Derren Brown), was that the "exorcism" was over and done with quicker than a teenager's wank, with no dramatic effects at all. Not one drop of green vomit to recoil from, curse to be heard or stigmatum to be seen. The only green was on Krishnan Guru-Murthy's (name to die for) face as he realised he had 1 hour and 57 minutes to fill with nothing. (They gave up in the end and put South Park on. Wise choice.) Much more enlightening.
...just before I sail out into the great outdoors again - to resume my life after six days' solitary confinement - thanks to all who made themselves known during this period. Much longer than I would have liked. You "kept me company" as we say. Brilliant. Hope I can do the same for you some time.
One thing I do know - the smells outside will knock me over. All that petrol. (But we did congestion charging already this week!)
Even more so...
Interesting idea by the guy/gal who started Best British Blogs. But already s/he's realising that you can't assume the wardenship of such a thing without thoroughly thinking it through. People do use different stats programmes, and some blogs have none at all. There's also the idea of "British Blog", which has to mean more than simply "written in the English language". Noses are already getting out of joint, I'm afraid.
(Rumours that I've started a Sitemeter at the foot of this page purely to get on his list are quite without foundation. Sitemeter is a much more comprehensive instrument. Hehe.)
I'm outta here! Don't care if the whole damn sky empties on my head! Seeya! Ciao!
More interested in pop charts than blog charts? Don't miss (as if you would) mike's annual which decade is best for pop? vote-o-rama. Still time to vote in all the categories. So get over there and speak your mind!
Right. I'm really outta here etc.
(Mentioning Naked Blog to Which? was very surprising. Not to say ironic.)
Those lovely people at Scottish Power are inviting me to make a donation for the electricity I've consumed. Guess I'd better then - it's only 160 squid. (Spending my money with this recent gay abandon at least keeps me away from drink, drugs and tobacco.) It's strange seeing a bunch of twenty pound notes on the floor amongst the mess (we don't discriminate), and having them literally not move for a week. It's awesome, in a very, very nice way. (I'm thinking of a new computer. They're almost as cheap as I am these days.) Or put "these days" at the front of the sentence for a subtle shift of meaning. Or not.
Sheesh! Shut up!! Write something the people want to read, you stupid dumbfuck! Keep going on like this and it's Bargain Books if you're lucky, mate.
Stranger than fiction
(It's more TV or more of nothing, I'm afraid today, due to bad weather and continuing rhinovirus. (Three weeks today since I first sneezed.)
Yesterday morning we commented here about the BBC's choice of three interviewees for a school feature, all wearing black scarves round their heads. We asked if my making this observation could be construed as racism. This was in Birmingham Alabama England. Well - you could have knocked me down with a feather when just last night the BBC rushed out a racism show, set in - you guessed it - Birmingham. (This is all to do with immigration, one of this election's "third rail" topics.)
In a chilling prophecy, which rolled back the years to Enoch Powell in the sixties, a young man on the show said he could foresee battles coming in the streets between the white people and black. A young black man.
Here in Scotland the population is about 98 percent white. Yet there's still a serious immigration problem - and it comes from people like myself, moving here from England. We're known as "white settlers", and there are varying degrees of hate.
Over the decades I've had, "You English?" snarled at me almost as often as, "You a poof?" It's a significant thing, but not one to dwell on here. I can very much see the Scottish viewpoint, as people see their customs, history and identity eroding in front of their eyes. (However, you only have to switch on BBC television to note the traffic is very much two way.)
There. Isn't blogging wonderful? I hadn't the slightest even idea of ever mentioning the above.
*Glances at stylish but inexpensive LCD clock by Gadget Shop.*
Still less than your one hour ration, so there's just time to mention yet another major Naked Blog result - this time on school dinners, which we wrote about just last week. "In those days the government were concerned about feeding the people, not putting them on diets."
You all know by now just how very much Naked Blog is trawled over by the legacy media. Trawled. So what have they gone and done now but made a series with the Naked Chef, Jamie Oliver. Jamie's School Dinners.
In the eighties, Prime Minister Thatcher revoked the requirement for school dinners to actually nourish anyone. Market forces - remember them? - took over and soon the schools had to re-tool to compete with McDonalds. Coca Cola machines sprang up in every corridor, to replace the school milk she'd also long since banned. Profit, profit, profit. Tory kids (her flock) would always get properly fed at home, and for the rest - let them eat crap. Grand times, eh?
So - in this large (1400) London comprehensive, JO (my god - his initials spell jerk off in IRC speak) had to come up with meals the children would actually buy, for a budget of 37 pence.
It was instantly obvious that Mr O had never costed a meal in his life. I suspect he's not even numerate. Who cares? He's pretty and he's got street cred. Everyone from the dinnerladies to the kids (them not quite so much - he's "getting on" in their eyes) lapped him up. But will he cut the mustard? Not on yesterday's evidence, as his menus were costing the school one pound fifty, rather than the allocated 37 pence. So Jamie got a severe dressing down from the Headmistress.
There's also a splendid subplot with the chief dinner lady called Nora. She's Irish, and very, very amusing. This TV series will be the climax of her life, whilst JO moves on to other things. Highly recommended. Try to catch the repeat and the remaining episodes. Comprehensive website.
"I always kiss my bread to spread the love." Jamie Oliver, kissing a rather large dough in the school kitchen.
Lovely that our little stories here should have such far-reaching influence.
Should get out more
Dare I leave the house today, for the first time since Saturday? (During which time five text messages have been my only communication.) And you wonder why I go on a bit here. This weblog has become my principal human contact, and how terrifying is that?
But going out would require showering and shaving, and it's so much easier not to. So much. Home and body in perfect harmony. Did people ever shower in the cave days? Did they pamper themselves with Neutrogena Pro-Biotic Skin Defense? Did they hoover the fucking cave?
Someone called Jason Kottke is hoping to make a living from his blog. Good luck. I went there once and was quite underwhelmed. He wrote a couple of desultory paragraphs about Matrix Reloaded, and within a day there were more than three hundred comments. This even outdoes dear zed.
Kottke is not so much a blogger as a bulletin board. A-listing is nothing to do with talent, and everything to do with being there at the beginning. The best way for new blogs to be read is to somehow get into the Guardian. But whadya reckon his chances anyway?
It would only be recycled rubbish. Stuff I've seen on the telly... maybe even last night's fascinating show about British pop managers over the aeons. Since Tommy Steele. Nostalgia lane. Black and white Stones. Les McKeown and Victoria pre-Beckham. (I've mentioned BCR here before, noting their significant place in Britpop - to much amusement.) Now they've been on the telly again you'll maybe believe me.
So I won't do that.
Nothing. Not even a hint at something I noted on the Bill and Natasha show this am. (Bill is infinitely better than Dermot Murnaghan btw. Who looks as if he wouldn't notice if a joke fell on him out of an aeroplane.) It was a deadly dull piece about A levels, from South Birmingham College. In which the three featured students were all young women wearing black religious apparel round their heads. Three out of three. So is Birmingham an Islamic state now? And am I a filthy racist for even asking?
So no - we won't mention that. (It's very easy to confuse race and religion you know. Rowan Atkinson made that point a few days ago on a programme about the latest law on religious hatred.) Essentially, religion is not an inborn characteristic, but a set of superstitions which you subscribe to. Clothes you choose to wear in acknowledgement of your own particular page of the God-book. But there's nothing new under the sun. Way back in the 1960s, when Tommy Steele was still quite PHWOARRR, they exempted Sikhs from the new motor-cycle crash helmet law. Bad idea.
Nothing. Nada. I never express opinions here, as someone will always disagree with them. Bland, bland, bland. How tellytubby is my sky? Not even to tell you that my cold is a little better today, thank you, but I know you're sick of hearing about it, and thinking when is he ever gonna write anything amusing again? Can he even still do it? Bernard Manning (although in general despicable) puts it perfectly when he says that the only thought in his audience's head is, "Make me laugh, you fat bastard."
I have no content. My feed is fed up and my mind a blank. I've not been out of this house since Saturday - not across the doorstep. Stopping smoking was a BAD IDEA. At least you ALWAYS have to go out for cigs. And now it's snowing. It never snows here. Too coastal. Flood plain. Alluvial deposit. So I won't even mention a programme about the ice age last night. It stopped at Finchley Road in London, you know. Big fuck-off cliff of ice just above the tube station. What nonsense. You only get cliffs of ice when it's falling into the sea. On land it would simply taper. Taper away to nothing. To those little frost crystals you get in the rabbit holes, one metre apart. But then I've maybe climbed too many mountains. Know too much. About too many things.
So what's the point of ice ages, eh? Les McKeown blamed the BCR for making him a junkie. Babs has met him a few times. Says he's a right cokehead. And full of himself. Oh my God Gerry Marsden hasn't aged well. Get a hat, honey. Joe Brown and Marty Wilde have weathered the decades much better. Funny the only gayness acknowledged was Brian Epstein's. I was under the impression the whole damn lot of them were.
Andrew Loog Oldham was responsible for rock and roll lifestyle, apparently. Invented it. What a thought. Wonder if he's still around. I've always thought it's still not too late for my own breakthrough album.
(Apologies to those who come here expecting something interesting to read.)
The blogger atom thing is doubly faulty. Not only does it create the wrong atom.xml feed page, with full posts instead of summaries, but now it's refusing to install the requisite lines into my template header.
Appalling. I'm only doing this because everyone says you're nothing without a feed these days.
So I tried a thing called Feedburner which you get from the Blogger Help pages.
And that was the exact moment my host pulled the plug on publishing, due to non-payment of account. (Well - you know I never look at emails. It wasn't me who invented spam. I just refuse to look at it.)
I'm beginning to think all this is getting more than a little ridiculous. You'd think Naked Blog only appeared every third Tuesday in Lent when the moon was waning. It's here. Every damn weekday. Click on it. Or don't. Whatever. I'm just SICK of reading about feeds. Some of us have been webwriting for almost a decade.
That's an entire afternoon wasted.
Update the next day (today, in other words): After all that above, and all that you didn't see me doing, here in the sneezy study of your nightmares, the damn thing seems to be running just fine now. I suspect the skilful hand of Tony my IT Manager somewhere under the bonnet.
Do I need Feedburner? It takes your atom feed and makes it globally readable. How wonderful that would be! George W reading Naked Blog with his Fruit Loops. (Small children might choke on the plastic toy. It's a WMD.)
So Edinburgh votes to reject the Council's traffic plans. (Aka congestion charging). In a referendum costing 8 million quid, the good Burghers have said nae way, jose.
My advice: just do it anyway. It's you I pay to run my adopted city, not some 4 x 4 driving porridge-mouth ferrying Natasha and Jonathan to their posh private schools. Lest public transport should offend their innocent ears.
Eight million quid the exercise cost - my money - and the guy boasted of a 61.8 percent poll. Percent of what? Did you or did you not have to register or summat for this damn referendum - leaving the thing wide open to pressure groups and fanatics?
Fuck the referendum. Charge them till they bleed. (Apart from essential users, of course.) Cars are an affront to and an actual degradation of my life, and I despise them. I'm never in one. Maybe one hour a year, tops.
Preach, preach, preach. There I go again. But I was under the impression this was my blog yesterday and every other day. (My remarks about the Murdoch media organisation.) Wrongly obviously. (Just kidding, Gordon. I know you're not at your best atm. I have to balance these recent negativities against the kindness and friendship you've shown to this and to me over time.)
I'm exhausted from sneezing, I tell you. Exhausted and my whole upper body hurts. How much longer can this go on? It's just a couple of days short of three long and wet weeks! I got so bored yesterday being home alone I even played some Playstation. Nothing exciting, to damage the spirit-willing elderly hands, but instead the relative calm of Theme Park, with its carefully targeted Scottish voice-over. How clever is that? Although even now I can feel a some sensation, some slight tingling in the wrists. Danger sign.
I've just watched 45 minutes of animal telly (some pelicans got worm injections) and then a whole hour of house-buying and "doing up". In the wrong professions, all of us. Except Tony my IT Manager.
(I've been awake four hours now and haven't sneezed once. It's a miracle. The trick is not to let your rooms get too hot.) And the vile irony buried under all this snot? I'm on holiday.
Just been watching GWB in zed's capital city. He did go on a bit. By the time he got to the Magna Carta I was thinking, "quit while there's one or two still awake".
Nice job if you can get it, although I regularly call bingo to a bigger crowd than that. No sign of zed in the audience, but I did see Condoleezza in the front row.
Excerpts: (You'd think by now someone would have the whole damn thing up online.) Despatches from the trenches are a bit last century.
I'm so full of cold still the only way I can cool my nose is to shove a finger up. I'm not kidding. When will it ever end?
Right - just off to check out the Food Standards Agency and see what I've poisoned myself with today. Anything red or brown is suspect. Best stick to Brussels sprouts.
Everybody's on the list - including an entity called CWS. Pity no-one under fifty will know that means Co-op, which they've been calling themselves for at least two decades. Yes, Minister. Also the list is in Acrobat with tiny writing, which will scare a lot of new computer users. Open government?
(As a grey voter, I'm naturally toying with Mr Howard.) Mr Blair has air-brushed me out, he says. Wish he'd airbrush this cold. Imagine if Mr Bush catches it while he's here!
It's just dawned on me that I've got 25 years' worth of videos now to be re-viewed in widescreen and surround sound. Started this morning with The Living End, by Gregg Araki. An oddity from 1992, but still up there in my personal greats.
It was Fearless with Jeff Bridges I was looking for, as it's got one mother of a plane crash. But I could only find the box, which means the vid itself will lying in two inches of dust somewhere, sandwiched between episodes of Homicide: Life on the Streets and The Young Ones.
My home is a video museum. (Amongst other things.) Never has a medium offered so much, been seized upon so eagerly, and accumulated with such abandon. I even hired the original Phillips machine - the one with double decker tapes that came in before VHS and Betamax. And don't let's even think about porn.
Video the medium has been very good to us for over a quarter century. Should we let Dixons' decision to phase it out remove it from our lives? Will it become the 78 rpm of the future? I've shopped in so many video "bargain bins" over the decades I'm sure I must own some last surviving copies. I think it's mostly because of this that I find "stars" so boring and predictable. I mean - Dustin Hoffman pretending to be autistic, with Tom Cruise as a brother. That's more infantile than Tellytubbies - yet the movie garnered four Oscars. What a bauble is that? What idiots determine our art?
Julie Burchill is on Sky TV tonight, so my friend chav gav informs me. Strange thing, the Julie phenomenon. At one time she was the doyenne of bloggers: Mike and I both adored her. But times change. We change. Nowadays I find newspaper opinion pieces of far less interest than their blog equivalents. And still I'm not desperately sure why.
I heard that newspapers - all of them - have falling circulations. Could it be a combination of TV (free) news and (free) blogs that have done for them? I know I'd rather read anyone on my sidebar than almost any newpaper writer I can think of. (With a couple of exceptions, which would include Miss Julie on a good day.)
Let me know what the programme's like, though. I don't have Sky myself for reasons of morality and monopoly.
Good morning! It's Sunday, sunny Sunday, and I'm still full of cold. Full of it.
Today I promised you some of the "back catalogue". Two teachers later after Miss Bowers came Miss Bennett.
This was Coronation time. Very exciting.
One of the great joys of blogging is that you don't get paid for it. This means you can write whatever the hell you want. How you want.
I wrote the Miss Bennett tales in first person, aged six or seven. This wasn't any choice, plan or strategy. Unlike others, I still eat whether I write or not. No, it was just sitting down and typing what came in to my head - as always.
The Miss Bennett stories were so popular - easily the best received stuff there's been here. But after about four or five I had to stop, as being six when you're fifty-six started to freak me out. I'm loathe even now to enter that Search box - but just this once I will for you.
Here's the first one - the pilot episode...
Today at school we got painting. My teacher is called Miss Bennett and she's very beautiful. She wears high-heeled shoes and lipstick. I love her. She gave us some big sheets of paper and told us to paint the Union Jack. While we did that she stuck a big picture of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh on the wall. The Queen is very beautiful. Miss Bennet said that next month is the Coronation and we all get a day's holiday. I was happy about that but then Norman Ryan knocked his water over my painting on purpose and the paint all ran. I thought Miss Bennett would shout at me and I nearly started to cry. When I got home the telly had come.
And actually... now I re-read that after three years, it's not that great. Much better has come from these cream keys. Here's episode two from a few days later...
Today at school Miss Bennett made me stand in front of the class and tell them about the new television. I am the only person in the class that's got one. It's got two knobs on the front, one called volume and one called brilliance. The volume knob turns it on and off. After you turn it on you have to wait five minutes till it warms up. Then the picture comes on. It's VERY BAD to turn the volume up till the picture comes on. That can break the valves.
Me mam says it's a twelve inch tube. That's big, she says. Some people have just got a nine inch tube. It cost seventy-three pounds which is more money than I ever heard of before. If the tube goes that's very expensive to get it fixed. Yesterday I saw Childrens Television which was an old woman playing the piano and singing. Well, more like screeching. Miss Bennett is a better singer. While she was singing, a horse puppet was dancing on top of the piano but it was stupid and you could see all the strings. Me mam said it was Muffin the Mule and me dad laughed.
You have to get a thing called Radio Times to find out what's on the television which is stupid as well. Everybody on the television talks really, really funny and they all got funny names. Plus they smoke even more cigarettes than me mam and me dad. Me Nana says it'll never catch on. After the Coronation that'll be the end of it she says. But me mam shouted at her and called her old-fashioned.
A man came to the door with the flags for the Coronation.
And that's enough of that for now. Deeply flawed. Plus it's what's forward that counts - not back.
TOUCHING THE VOID
My journey through classy movie-land continues...
Someone else who's looking back bigtime is Joe Simpson in this quite splendid film about a real climbing expedition in the Andes which went horribly wrong. Remember the man who "cut the rope" and let his partner fall? It's all here in searing real emotion, with the protagonists themselves speaking.
Stunning - fucking amazing - ice, snow, ropes, carabiners. If you're anything of an outdoor fan you'll adore it. If you appreciate human feelings you'll like it even more than that. And if you're a gay man you'll possibly find Joe enormously attractive.
Real men climb mountains. They don't kick footballs, sing pop songs, sell drugs or murder people. Mountains. I've done it too, but that bears no relation to the first sentence of this paragraph.
Nathan Barley has lost it already and it's only episode two. Sorry guys. Self-referential only goes so far. Occasionally in drama something has to happen. I so much want to climb Arthur's Seat today, but my head is full of germs. Joe Simpson I'm not. (You must see that movie, btw. The DVD has got a great "making of", and also a sequel.)
Hi all on a sunny Saturday. Just off to work in a mo.
Thank you all for liking the two recent nostalgia-fests. Although this recent trip down memory lane was sparked by a piece on Willie's lovely site (the one with the deck chair picture), those who've been here for the long haul will recall many more such.
Tomorrow for the newer NB reader I'll show a few links to the early days. Even some prequel before I was born. (Something to read instead of those tedious Sunday papers.) Much more interesting when it's someone you know.
But heck - there's room for all.
Wiedersehen. I'm full of cold again. Have a nice Saturday.
Schools were that poor in 1951 they didn't even use paper. Being imported, it might still have been "on the ration", like sweets and some other foods postwar. I don't know. Anyway, for whatever reason, slate was the creative medium of choice, which you wrote on with a slate pencil.
You can say lots of things about slate pencils, few of them complimentary, but all of them VERY LOUD INDEED. Miss Bowers, who had taught Class 1 since schooling caught on and it showed, can only have been selected for the slate class because of failing hearing. The racket would kill you!
That coupled with the excited high-pitched voices of 40 four and five year olds would have driven a lesser woman to drink. But not Miss Bowers. She was a village icon - the first lady of education, and feared not only by you but your parents as well. She kicked ass, to use a much later idiom.
One side of the slate had painted lines on it, and the reverse was squared. Your task as pupil was to copy Miss Bowers' writing from her blackboard to your slate. This you then showed to her, and if satisfactory you wiped your slate clean. (I'm not making it up.) When your slate got very dirty from over-zealous labours there was a wet cloth you could use. I don't think sponge was invented. I have no recollection of it. Wet flannel was the earliest form of delete.
When writing was over, and we'd been to the toilet and if necessary had Miss Bowers refasten those pesky back braces, so difficult for the immature to reach, it was time for arithmetic.
Here Miss B would write "sums" on her squared blackboard, sums such as 5 + 3. (These were written vertically. The concept of horizontal adding as I've written it here was thought somewhat advanced.) To solve this ancient yet still fully relevant conundrum each pupil had access to a bead frame. Yes, that's right. You counted five beads then slid them along, followed by three, then eagerly counted the resultant eight. Being of a mathematical bent even at that age, I quickly got the hang of it and memorised the combinations easily. This allowed loads of time for chatting, which was of far more interest. But I pretended to use the bead frame when she was looking at me. (And they say acting's hard work.)
Miss Bowers would knit, or stoke the coke room-heater. She would put the school milk beside it in winter, as then it usually arrived frozen. We liked it frozen though - pretended it was ice cream. The worst thing of all was summer milk, which could be quite sickly. Malcolm Johnson (a big boy who lived on a farm) would come in once a day and look at the thermometer, then write up his findings in a book. That was his job. He was temperature monitor. Those were early days for Public Health regulations.
Oh, and of course the milk was full-fat. None of this semi-skimmed nonsense then - you could choose either to drink the cream and milk separately, or "shake it up". The national priority was to feed the people, not put them on diets. Calories were king, although no-one had heard of the word for at least another ten years. Meat and potatoes, cake and custard.
We ate. We mingled. And we got one illness after another. Measles, mumps, rubella - what doesn't kill me makes me stronger. The schools knew and fully expected that in the first year there'd be a huge absence-rate from school-borne infections. We stayed off and got put to bed. Then we got better - all of us.
Also there was a brand new medicine they could give you, called penicillin. Mothers worried a bit less. My cousin got fever and had to go to hospital in an ambulance. "Touch your collar - never follow - never get the fever!"
Today I chose peace over excitement, and rest over mountain-climbing. My cold is still lingering on the verges, or hopefully just the aftershock.
So my travels through classy movie-land continue...
I'm so glad I don't have to write reviews for a living, as there's typically a two or three year lag, which is no damn good to anyone. Today's movie von Gestern (don't know the French for yesterday, and why is French the only stylish language ever to quote?), is Adaptation, by Spike Jonze. Starring Nicolas Cage and Meryl Streep. Written by Charlie Kaufmann, writer of Being John Malkovich, who is also the hero of the film.
Confused? Of course you are. Snow-white it ain't.
But the confusion is really quite slight, and I appreciated it enough to sit here in the middle of a precious evening off work to tell you about it godammit, so listen. It's a movie about writing movies, OK?
Risk avoidance: head-up-assiness.
But it isn't. Head up ass. (And heavens - like all bloggers I'm aware of HUA when I see it. And do it.) You will enjoy this film, but you'll enjoy it even more if you
have seen Being John Malkovich
have written a substantial work yourself, and
have ever taken drugs.
I think that includes just about everyone here, now doesn't it?
Adaptation (2002). The sound is intense also. Nothing like a swamp to get those surround speakers chirping.
Blockbuster in the three for a fiver for a week section. How come I'd never heard of this?
(Now I understand why my reviews have to wait a couple of years.)
When I was a kid, one hundred years ago before you say it, we were taught not to use "nice". Not to say it, and quite definitely not to write it. It just wasn't nice.
Me, I felt sorry for the word, saw nothing wrong with it, blandness being no fault in my turbulent little life with mad mother and freezing cold father. (I think she was mad to get his attention a little.) Vainly to try to re-kindle the attraction he must once have shown for her. Madness is better than nothing.
They taught writing in school in those days. "Composition" it was called. The teacher would tell us the topic, and we'd get an hour to write it while he read the newspaper. Sometimes he would play the piano, which was lovely. (This was in the early fifties when every classroom had a piano. Genuine hi-fi at an affordable price.)
Your composition was marked out of ten for handwriting, spelling and punctuation. I don't think content was of any importance - the exercise was purely to train us in the clerical skills, rather than any vain hope of literary stardome. Of chatting to Natasha on the sofa of a technology that was every bit as infant as we were.
I mis-spelled stardom as stardome just there, but I think I'll leave it stet. Stardome.
Me - I wrote my compositions all as rollicking adventures. David Smith was my composition name - David after an older cousin, and Smith for nice anonymity. "My name is Smith. David Smith." (No - I'm kidding... imitating Mr Fleming - but that was the general idea.)
As David Smith I fought pirates on the high seas, trotted nervously across Mars and the Moon, which were just coming into consciousness as venues, and foiled terrifying bank robbers with my Enid Blyton-style gang. (You can guess who was boss of the gang.) Composition was great! Even if all teacher seemed interested in were your inverted commas. Sixty-six and ninety-nine.
The other main branch of our education was arithmetic. In which you got to divide sums such as nineteen pounds, eleven shillings and fourpence three farthings by 17. These made a tree-like thing spreading down your page, which was squared for ease of figuration. I was the class champion at such calculations - the very Carol Vorderman of my day (although that lady wasn't then born), and later went on to achieve a mathematics degree. (Degrees actually meant something in the sixties. "Community Arts" hadn't been thought of then.)
Glory days. Glory, glory days. Until one day your body wakes up and says, "Time to end Peter's compositions now. No more David Smith adventuring round the universe. It's time for the testosterone cascade!"
And then your genitals grow, almost in front of your eyes. Dark hair shimmies on to your upper lip, and white hair down the sides of your face. Your penis becomes so pleasurable that any moment you're not pressing it on something (sofas are excellent and never tell) is a moment wasted. And your pirate days are gone forever as bit by bit you realise the awful truth. You no longer have interest in Enid Blyton, seeking instead books with fucking in them, as those are intensely exciting. More exciting than the Moon.
Nowadays I'm sure they look for mummy and daddy's porn tapes. Nice.
Due to Blogger's recent naughtiness in "feeding" my entire posts, rather than the summaries I somewhat grudgingly allow, I've cut it down to size bigtime, and pulled the plug for a few days.
But feeds are utterly unnecessary due to the extreme regularity of process here. It's the only organized thing in my entire life.
Here is the schedule: Naked Blog is written Sunday to Friday, during the morning hours of daylight. About once a week there's an additional evening piece, which is flagged by a convenient and widely-understood moon photograph. (A crescent shape with dark markings which some regard as a man's face.) Those evening posts are widely sought after, as I'm usually drunk then and have been known to tell the truth. Shock! Horror!
More shock horror at Number 18 gay sauna last week during a police raid. Apparently two of the capital's finest and most lissom plainclothes were despatched to this bawdy house in Leith Walk (next to the Old Salt Bar) and there pretended to make enquiries - whilst all the time making actual, police-type enquiries.
(Is that a truncheon under yer towel or are you just etc.?)
But what made this stand out from one hundred similar such raids was that the sauna employee showing the officers around was a moon-lighting policeman himself. (In his defence later he claimed that his sole job there was to make the sandwiches for the customers.)
File under: you couldn't make it up.
Impeccable source: Babs. (I've trawled the Evening News and Scotsman sites to no good result, so you can truly say you saw it here first.)
Lunch and drinks with Babs yesterday (as well as the above mini gem) in the Cameo in Commercial Street. I chose the Eggs Benedict (simply delish) while Babs just had French onion soup. Her portion was really small for almost three pounds. About half a tin. Plus they make you pay in advance now, which does make you feel quite criminal. (And I'd even shaved, specially for the occasion.)
Pleasant, dreamy day, while Babs escaped from her bereaved family for a few hours. I made sure the conversation wasn't all about me.
What is this phenomenon which has thrust itself at me over the last 48 hours?
Watched that on Blockbuster DVD last night. Three hours. Five if you count the rewinds after you've fallen asleep. (This reflects not on the film, which is marvellous, but on my alcoholic consumptions with Babs earlier.) I adore Dogville - saw it at the cinema with Ali when it first came out. (But then I quite liked Joey. Nae taste, as they say in these parts.) Nicole Kidman (who worked for rate) is quite stunning. Male lead Paul Bettany is stunning in a different way.
Little Alex was 25 yesterday. He was in the Port (o Leith Bar). Mary got out the traditional blow-up cake, birthday record and bottle of Cava. Not a dry eye in the house. Simply wonderful the way Alex has been accepted and absorbed.
Last week one of my bingo ladies was 93. Can you imagine being 93? And still going strong at the bingo. Madam, I salute you.
However we have "lost" a couple of well-kennt faces this year already. Goes with the territory. We're always pleased as a community if they have a quick but peaceful ending. And keep bingoing almost up to the finish. Perfect. House!
Lunch prior to that with Sandra and Robin (don't call me bisexual, I'm a screaming queen now). In the Isobar. Adequate, but still not what I'd call excellent value. "I should get Babs a job here," I opined to S and R.
Then to Bar Java, and some quite appalling acquaintance of Robin whom we needn't concern ourselves with any further. I'm sure they hung the flags up on Lewis the day that wan got on the mainland ferry with her napsack.
Tell me something. Would you describe me as hard to get on with? Opinionated? Agressively dogmatic even? Sometimes I wonder if deep down it's really me who's wrong all the time. Stewart (DJ Womble) in the Port said that noising people up in bars is a recognised Leith entertainment. "But I'm so easy to noise up!" I half shouted at him. Alex laughed. He has me at work as well.
Must go now. Got Sandra in half an hour. She and her daughter are getting their hair(s) cut. I promised I wouldn't delay her day this time, so I've done my meditation already. Quite deep. The carpet was waving around just like the sea when I'd finished. But the strange thing was I've been doing this so long (about quarter of a century) that waving carpets don't seem unusual any more.
I shouldn't be sitting here, writing to you like this. Writing is just so last year, you know. These days the cool people while away the hours watching DVDs or widescreen television. In fact the only things missing from my life are a baby, twenty Embassy Regal, and a Giro book. Death by daytime television.
OK then - I'm kidding a bit. Specially the last part. But seeing as we do go back some way... and seeing's I'm such a kind-hearted guy when you get to know me... I'll babble on for half an hour just. Pearls before swine. But that's all you're getting, sweetie. My eyes are used to much posher screens than this one.
Isn't it funny how Charles and Camilla have dropped below the event horizon already? Oh - and don't fall for all that Princess Consort nonsense. The minute Charles becomes King, then it's Queen Camilla whether anyone likes it or not. Personally I'm betting she'll love every moment. (How do I know this? Have I become a constitutional lawyer? Absolutely not, cheri. I simply heard that pompous David Starkey saying it on the wide-screen. Must be true, as Starkey's a well-known queen himself.) Wonder if he's related to Ringo? Similar age and ugliness.
Oh - and talking of ephemera... if any local parties were concerned about Friday's silly little post about long-gone gay scandals, then worry no further. It's not the purpose of Naked Blog to pass on gossip of that type, however fascinating at the time. Plus I was too drunk to remember most of it! Nope. We'll stick to Christian Slater for our showbiz revelations. Sadly none so far.
Good. That was on my mind some of the weekend.
I've plugged the Playstation 2 into the surround sound and wide screen now, and must confess there's little improvement. In fact, the picture's worse, if anything. What was once steady has now developed that "shimmer" all over the place. I've turned the sharpness down, flicker reduction OFF because it leaves trailers, and PNR ON - but all to little avail.
You can probably guess where this is going. Yes, it's true. I'm still hopelessly, madly in love with Tommy Vercetti of Vice City. There's no escape. I need to be his moll. (Now there's a word. Was.)
Mind's a leBlanc
Someone from the same pasta-chewing mould as Vercetti is Matt leBlanc in his new Channel Five series, inventively titled Joey.
Early days yet. LeBlanc has all the best lines (maybe that was in the contract), and the support (sister, nephew, neighbour) so far are only just approaching two dimensions. (Or maybe that's a reflection less of Mr leB's acting abilities than the ten years of familiarity from Friends.)
He is a treat to watch though. Always has been. He knows his range and stays inside it permuting the techniques - and always, always making it look easy and fun. You never for one moment forget that the character's sheer fiction, and it's really Matt leBlanc playing him.
Sign of a true master - making it look easy. From blogging to bingo-calling and beyond.
Render unto Caesar
Watched the PM's speech with great interest, and have to say I was mighty impressed. Oh - it won't fool a Daily Mail feature writer for a moment, but there are more in the country to think about than Daily Mail readers. I liked it. Vote Tony. (But then I always have. Or the equivalent.) Comes from having a rabidly right wing father who detests you.
In all honesty, the years since 1997 have been probably the pleasantest of my life. Much of this is nowt to do with government, but coincidences still do register. Ask my bingo ladies. And governments reflect the consciousness of the people. (Maharishi)
In Every Aspect
Wide screen telly is not without problems. It's a real pisser to find that a boxed DVD set (Six Feet Under, Series 2) that you bought a month ago is filmed in 4:3 aspect. (Standard) Are all boxed sets like that?
Broadcasts vary also. BBC digital is - not surprisingly - the best, and seems to have something close to genuine 16:9 on most of its shows. Things like Sky News default to 14:9 which is obviously meant as a halfway house twixt the two. Less black margins, with not too dreadful facial distortions.
There's a thing called Panasonic Auto which takes a 4:3 picture and combines trimming with edge-stretching to fill the available square inches. But I don't like seeing things go in and out of stretch, especially in horizontal pan shots. I was watching a chat show (David Letterman) where he was sitting to the right of the picture, and his head was stretching backwards like an alien as he moved.
So there's also provided a selection of Zooms. Zoom 1 takes 4:3 and fills the screen with no stretching. At least I think that's what it does. Still early days for this late adopter. And that's the one I've decided to watch Six Feet Under DVDs on. Those vertical black bands are a total downer. (I'd appreciate pointing in the right direction for more help on this, btw.)
Death By Text
In certainly an early use of the medium, Babs texted this morning to say her mother had passed peacefully away. I never met her. She was always the person at the other end of Babs' phone wanting her shopping from Scotmid. And Babs ever dutiful and loving.
Love to Babs and all her family. Dust to dust.
That's yer lot. (And this was more like three quarters than half an hour!) You lucky people. Now I have my public to meet, but am still a bit full of cold. How's yours?
Nathan Barley was very different. I didn't know people in London were like that.
We've got our own version of Camilla Parker-Bowles here in Leith, of course. He's Robin (don't call me bisexual, I'm a screaming queen now). Yesterday over many glasses of Ricard he poured out his heart exclusively to Sandra and me in the Isobar. "My doomed love-tryst", from the "other woman's" point of view.
This scandal rocked the drinking classes hereabouts when it surfaced a couple of years ago, involving as it did prominent local gay businessmen never far from the media's eye. But until now, Robin has been unable to give his own side of the story to the eager public.
Don't miss this once-in-a-lifetime blow-by-blow shagathon, brought to you only in the exclusive pages of Naked Blog. Starting soon. Avoid fast cars and underpasses in the meantime.
Nice also yesterday to chat to someone from old media, Liam Rudden, entertainments editor of the Edinburgh Evening News. You'll have read his column (well - almost a whole page) often enough. He's promised me lots of freelance work, once I can come up with something entertaining. Hmmm. Now where to start? Will 2005 be the year we finally re-surface to the world of multimedia?
But the afternoon belonged primarily of course to Babs, taking a break from the bedside vigil beside her dying mother. She showed me some coffin prices. It was all very Six Feet Under. Did you know doctors charge 125 pounds to sign a death certificate? And don't you think that's a fucking nerve? I mean - Passport applications are one thing, but I would have thought death was part of the National Health responsibilities they're already extremely well paid for? Outrageous.
Babs' bf came in and we chatted about large screen TVs. He's got 34 inches, but Babs says his lounge is no bigger than mine. Must stick out a bit then, because mine looks effing enormous these days.
Hard Man Talk
Talking of sticking out, did you see that programme about Viagra the other day? Hilarious. Viagra is made by Pfizer, but there's a 36 hour version called Cialis made by Lilly. They weren't getting enough business from oldboys, so they started marketing it on TV to the young. "Have more fun with viagra!" Outrageous. Twice one of the Pfizer executives said "consumer" which he quickly corrected to "patient".
The ultra-mistake people make is in imagining these companies have the slightest interest in public well-being.
Naked Advice: if yer cock doesn't stand up then it's telling you it wants to stay down. Don't fight Nature. (She will always win. And watch yer prostate.) If you're still old-fashioned enough to smoke then get rid of that sharpish. You'll get an immediate lift.
My own one concern about these products is wondering why my ISP's spam filters can't get rid of them. Viagra. Cialis. Valium. No even attempt to disguise the damn words, and there they are cluttering up my Inbox by the hundred. I swear I was put on this earth to suffer.
(Oh - and here in Leith there are dealers for Viagra just like there are for everything else. Just a bit older.) That is the contribution Pfizer has made to our community.
"Why can't Charles marry a nice young girl who'll give him babies?" Well, he tried that, with perhaps not the greatest success in the world.
In other news
Babs' mother is not expected to last the day, she just texted me. I texted back how fab she (Babs) looks in black. We're to meet this pm for a restorative brandy before she arranges the funeral.
...for the (born) royal family I do have some slight sympathy. They didn't ask for it, but they are very highly compensated. For those who marry in to royalty, for all politicians and all showbiz slebs I have none at all. You made your bed...
Why is my wide-screen telly so full of fat people these last two days? Or is it just that I'm noticing them more? Makes one feel quite sylph-like. I was even able to enjoy a (small) block of mature cheddar while watching last night's effort called "Is Obesity a Virus?" Utter tosh.
In Texas they say "big" when they mean "fat". More tosh.
I've got to go. It's sunny and I've got Sandra, Robin and the soon-to-be-grieving Babs.
(Charles is younger than me, you know. Few years. You would never think it. Must have had a hard life.)
Are we seriously to believe that Angels is the best record of the last 25 years? Seriously? It makes me want to kill. Well done to Scissors and Franz Ferdinand.
Update Babs sends her thanks for the good wishes. One of her main concerns just now is how her 12 year old son will or would react to the sight of his near-to-death grandmother. She no longer looks like she ever did. Should he see, or shouldn't he?
Otherwise, all proceeds smoothly to its inevitable conclusion, although I do have something to ask you tomorrow about doctors and the fee for death certificates.
Question: What's the last thing a geeky blogger who never meets enough people should get?
Answer: A new, super-size TV.
(But I don't care. I love it already.) Seems a bit odd to be watching ordinary stuff on a machine built for the spectacular. Everybody's life needs some of the spectacular. I might never go out again.
I do so love that expression, with its new US urban meaning.
"Hi honey - you lookin' for some fun?
Forgive me. My mind runs very free in the new daylight, new season, new life for (God willing) another year.
Yes, it's Hi Ho back to the bingo today. And no - of course I'm not well enough. Nowhere near, sweetie. But something's got to pay for all these gadgets. Back in the olden days, when I had a good salary, I was always so broke that everything had to get bought on credit. Now, earning only a fraction of that, I can manage fine on cash - which of course is where the bargains are to be found.
It's a state I always dreamed of, but never seemed to approach. I'd estimate over the decades I probably only ever owned one third of my wages. One third. The rest went to banks and credit companies. Over and over again. And you wonder why I hate them. (And yes - before you comment - of course I know nobody made me live like that.) But it's so damn easy. Even now I get a constant stream of letters saying get this loan and that one. Straight in the bin. (Don't forget to rip them first if they've got your name on.)
A very lovely afternoon yesterday in the Port with Chav Gav and Campbell who were my musclemen for lifting the telly. And they wouldn't take a penny in payment, so the idea was to buy them lots of drinks. But then one round leads to another, and soon there's no idea who bought whom what when. (But the why is never in doubt!)
Next month Campbell's going to paper over some of my cracks, which is always a good idea.
It was a real "deep breath" situation for me, as they entered my home and had obviously braced themselves not to comment. "This is how I live," I said, simply. "You've read it on the blog, now see it in the flesh." A rat ran across the carpet, and I aimed a DVD box at it. The beauty of a brown carpet is that you don't see them so easily.
In the pub I made a vague but well-meant future invitation to canapes and a buffet in my home, once I get it cleaned and tidied. "That might take longer than a week," I said to Gav. "Make it a project," he said.
New telly is great, btw. So far I've watched Pulp Fiction and Event Horizon, but that latter was shite, if visually impressive. You have to ask what Fishburne and Neill were doing in it. Maybe they've run out of credit.
I shouldn't be sitting here writing to you like this, as my life is completely in ruins.
No - let me qualify that, in case anyone reading has a life which genuinely is in ruins. (Can't be too careful, eh?)
Maybe I'm being somewhat dramatic. Because my new TV has now arrived, but it's still in the box in the middle of the hall, and I'm completely unable to lift it. Completely. It might as well be glued to the floor itself, or demonstrating a new, revised theory of gravity for all the effect my feeble muscles are having.
And then I studied the box, with its clear, two-person diagrams. Whereas I am but one, and elderly to boot.
That's what happens, btw, when you refuse to let the delivery men complete their task, which is to deliver. And now I've GOT TO have someone in. And pay them some more. Spend, spend, spend.
All this could have been avoided with just a few hours rubbish-shifting yesterday. Avoided.
But no - instead we did those o-so-familiar "displacement activities". Checked my last three weeks' emails. Thanks for those, but I sense you've all given up on me. Then this morning it was real mail - the paper sort. I now know almost to the pound what I'm worth, which I can tell you is very little indeed. Ah well - money only matters if you haven't got enough. Thanks to Rex, Zed, Sandra and Joe for the Christmas cards. Most kind. Touched.
Oh - and last night I washed a few dishes and cleaned the kitchen sink.
You Just Call Out My Name
So, now it's a case of damage limitation. I need someone with muscles and silence. Muscles to lift, and silence over the mess. Stewart DJ Womble would do nicely, but neither of his phone numbers are recognised. Ditto Robin (don't call me bisexual, I'm a screaming queen now).
Plus when I did eventually get Robin he told me he was waiting for Telewest to install his broadband. I said he could read naked blog. He said he'd be straight on to Gaydar. (Unfortunate use of straight, methinks.) I hope he never discovers IRC, or the most embarrassing result might occur. And I also hope, for his sake, that he gets a sexy cable guy. He's still young enough at 45 for things like that to matter.
I just can't imagine the state of that computer keyboard after even one month - with two teenage boys and a rampant dad on the net. Can't imagine.
Wee Robert, who lives in my street and smokes enough dope to probably not even notice the mess, is "number unrecognised" also. Little Alex would do it, but then everyone at work would hear of the mess. Understandably.
Why don't people have correct phone numbers when you need them?
Plus the heavy new telly's come off the polystyrene bits while I was struggling for supremacy, and now I can't get them back in place. Probably by the time help arrives it'll be distorted and bent to buggery. Oh, I don't care. It's only money. I think I hate it already.
No need to be as heavy as that. No need at all. I should have got LCD. And why are simple things always so difficult? I know I was put on this earth to suffer. (The remote control was quite easy to lift.)
Day five of my incarceration in this hellhole and I'm loving it. I swear I could live like this for ever.
OK there's no-one to talk to, but that means no-one to hurt me. And not talking (or rather not listening) means my thoughts can run free as the seagulls. (Between TV shows, of course. And there's always tetris if thinking gets a bit boring, which it can.)
Damn! There's that sneezing started again. Only sixty-three degrees in here - see how I suffer for your art.
I'd earmarked (what a strange expression) today for tidying the house lest the men delivering my new 100 Hz TV tomorrow have to step over the threshold. (But I see no real reason why they shouldn't just dump it at the doorstep, having at least ascertained that it is the correct doorstep, and that I am the concierge of all they behold.) No reason at all. The last people to enter my halloweds were also from Comet, delivering a fridge-freezer about a year ago. Springtime is Comet-time! Brighten your life with a gadget! Sure beats the hell out of pseudo-ephedrine.
There I was in yesterday's mammoth post (such a shame about the mammoths, doncha think? I mean what harm did they ever do?), railing against the uselessness (IMHO) of cold remedies - Night Nurse, Day Nurse, Backshift Nurse et al. Never one for temperate language hereabouts, the unfortunate expression "stupid people who buy useless remedies" seemed somehow to get written. I know - not like Naked Blog, eh?
Imagine my shock and horror therefore, when on flicking to my blogpal Gordon's wonderful site, what should I read but a vision of him sitting with his face in a bowl of steaming Lemsip.
Too late, too bad, the moving hand jerks you off. Sorry G. You might be many things, but stupid ain't one of them. I must revise my adjective forthwith. What do you call someone who buys cold "remedies"? Ordinary, maybe? There's certainly acres of the buggers in any chemist's shop. Must be doing someone some good. Now who can that be?
Right - I'm off to shift rubbish by the skipload. One bag at a time, sweet Jesus.
Oh, and how's my cold? Much better thanks, and thank you for asking. Rest, warmth and lots of hot drinks. Next time we meet my screen will be as wide as my ass. It's so exciting!
MIND THE GAP
Six screenfuls today. Be very afraid.
I'm nervous. Two days away from the keyboard and all my confidence goes poof. (Thinks - "confidence goes poof" - not too bad... let's try another tack... see what turns up... )
Today I'm gonna talk about television. Not programmes - how crass would that be? - not TV software, but the very hardware itself. TV sets, in old-fashioned parlance. Parlance... parlour... inky pinky parlez-vous...
Not that I haven't watched my share - more than my share - of crap TV over these last four housebound days. (Haven't spoken to a soul since Wednesday, and that only half counts because it was work.) Got to speak at work. Got to.
Yesterday it was Midsomer Murders, starring a certain John Nettles whom I haven't seen since that series set on the Channel Islands. Maigret or summat. My God - time hasn't done him any favours. Have I got as fat-faced as that, I asked myself while wishing the plot would get a move on. Two hours - and it was the hotel owner what done it. And his mother. And the managing director... the list was almost endless. Is there a real town in southern England which actually has that many murders?
But no... although we've watched shedloads I'll spare you that. Spare you Jurassic Park Three, and even Poltergeist Three (boy, did that girl look creepy... walk into the light, honey, I was thinking - and have a serious word with your colourist if you see him there.)
Oh - but talking about creepy... I don't suppose any of you caught Derren Brown's seance show on Friday night? Now that's what I call great telly! Screaming, his victims were - screaming in terror. OK - he confessed he'd selected them for gullibility, and boy must they have been gullible to fall for that load of cobblers he presented to them. Also there were pieces to camera inserted later where he stated he didn't even believe in spiritualism ("an ugly practice"), which his young student "experimenters" wouldn't see. To them he gave every pretence that he was conducting an actual seance, rather than making TV to scare the shits out of them and the viewers.
At the end they even went so far as to recommend The Samaritans to any disturbed viewers. (Some of us are old enough to remember when The Exorcist first came out, and the ambulance men stationed round the cinema hauling out the grown men as they collapsed. I'm not making it up! Hefty tattooed guy in my own row passed out.) The power of suggestion.
Can I make a suggestion to you right now? Can I suggest that when suffering from a cold with explosive sneezing you try not to sneeze whilst wiping your bottom?
OK, OK - too much information I realise, but then everybody does it - both things - and all I'm sayin' is don't do them both at once, dude. Or you will risk one mother of a pulled muscle in your neck which yours truly has got right now. Still hurts after three aspirins. Never took one single remedy during my cold, btw. How good is that? And how much money do stupid people waste on useless products at these times?
CABIN FEVER THREE
God - this is rambling on even more than usual. Cabin fever. Did I say I hadn't spoken to any of my friends since Tuesday? Where were we? Oh yes - TV sets. Which one did I buy online on Friday? (The above was cunningly intended to go in and out of blockquotes, but I think I lost the plot part of the way through.) See if I care. I would have gone out a bit today - socialised a little - as it's a day off rather than a sick day, but this neck has got me almost crippled. I need Class A's. Don't sneeze and wipe, I tellya.
Did you see Sir David with Condoleezza Rice this morning? "Madame Secretary..." he starts, fawning and gushing. Whereas our own Home Secretary got nothing grander than "Charles". But then Frost is a US toady. Got to follow the money. Never knew Dr Rice had started off cotton-picking in Alabama. (That was the only interesting bit. But then I'm a personal blogger, not a political blogger. What a redundant thing, political blogging. Aren't the papers full of it enough already?)
Amanda Platell was on as well, complaining bitterly about Labour's anti-semitism. But I'm sure mike told me here she was a revolting homophobe, so I just sat and hated her. Love me, love my dog.
Ages ago I asked for help in buying a new TV set. The answers were wide-ranging, and thanks for those. What your advice boiled down to was "old v new" technology. Cathode ray tubes versus plasma and LCD.
My own ideas throughout tended heavily towards the cathode ray. It's a mature technology, like the bicycle. And inexpensive, especially with the advent of newer, superficially more attractive and much, much slimmer alternatives. Although the new stuff will doubtless overtake the "big box" of the last half century (yes - it really is that long!) I've seen plasma and LCD in the Comet shop and - at present - have to say they're not really for me. Plasma too expensive, and LCD simply not as good a picture.
On Friday night this was brought to a head on a Channel Five programme called The Gadget Show. In part one they were talking about an up-coming thing called High Definition TV. It's coming on Sky, apparently, and you need a set with a special input. However, the suitable receivers cost three thousand pounds, so I watched with only academic interest.
In part two they got back to traditional (Low Definition) broadcasts, and there they compared a range of five sets chosen from plasma, LCD and CRT. And guess which one was unanimously recommended? Yes, this one.
It was the work of moments to walk through the house and purchase it, especially at its knock down price of 319 pounds if you order online - a saving of eighty pounds. I do so love a reduction. Arriving Tuesday morning, giving me some time to tidy the house. Thanks to all who contributed advice. I've never bought anything online before, but I could get to like it if it's all as pleasant as Comet.
I realise this has gone on a bit today. Blame the aspirins. I'd love to have another go at Arthur's Seat. Or maybe just one pint of Guinness would calm my neck. Did I tell you Gwen was pregnant?
"Yes, that's definitely a woman in the Da Vinci Last Supper picture," said Tony Robinson on his Holy Grail show last night.
"No way dude," replied a curator and historian. "That's the disciple John. It's just that Leo the well-known faggot liked painting girly-boys." (I'm paraphrasing, but not very much. Plus in the absence of Dutch hard-core videos then I guess that would be a valid if somewhat laborious route to porn.)
Oh dear me. Two hours of Tony Robinson and my Grail questions remain unanswered. Here's the main one... what does TDVC do that The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail didn't do decades earlier? And is Dan Brown lucky or what to be able to cash in so thoroughly on all that previously-published material?
Still - Roslin chapel was there, but not looking as seriously creepy as it does in real life. It's a "no birds sing" sort of place. (Big Straight Al comes from Roslin, you know - although Holy possibly isn't the first word you would think of.)
Quote of the show from Robinson: "Seeing as science hasn't yet come up with a way to detect Holy DNA..."
Due to the continued presence of Upper Resp Inf, today's post will be light on real life. (Unless you really, really want to hear how much I raided the fridge yesterday. No, I thought not. Not even the entire jar of raspberry jam that got nibbled to keep awake during the Grail-marathon? No, not even that.)
Could I interest you then in the force of my sneezing sending tsunamis all over my arteries and veins? Nope, I guess not that either. But I do say this to you. No way is a stroke coming my way in the immediate future. No way. Those vessels were yesterday tested to destruction.
The next programme on our crit-list (some people make good livings at this, you know) was during the night. Hard Talk, with none other than Henry Rollins. (Whatever happened to Henry Rollins? Is he still alive?) Well yes, if fatter and greyer-haired. Middle-aged, almost, but you detect that with a bit of gentlemen's pomade and the right outfit he could quite quickly be restored to his former splendour.
These days Mr Rollins does a one-man talk show. About his life. Like a blog, but speaking.
And talking of blogs, what should my ill body do yesterday afternoon but listen to a Radio Four play by Peter G. Morgan. Although not specifically about blogging, the playwright used the device of the principal character writing her blog to communicate with the listeners. Nice stroke. Now who on my sidebar is really Peter G. Morgan? You know I have my ideas...
He entertains the US troops, even though he hates President Bush.
Did you notice Dr Condoleeza Rice is here - and there was me just mentioning her looky-like in 3rd Rock From the Sun yesterday. Some blogs lead, others follow...
And he signed a bomb, he confessed. Got a lot of stick for that, but as he said, it's only ink on a bomb and he didn't want to humiliate the sergeant who asked him. Think about ink on a bomb. If ever words were irrelevant. Or should it be "words can hurt"? Remember the fag-bomb in Afghanistan?
Too ill for work today, but I'm nearly out of coffee. Have to go out for more supplies, as hereabouts most people are old-fashioned enough still to walk to shops. I envisage a tetris day today. (Which means tomorrow there'll be even less to blog about.) Maybe I'll delve into the archives for you, but to be honest I can hardly remember one single word. Too, too much for a white lady.
Ouch my eyes are sore. Just as well eyes don't sneeze.
Congratulations to chav gav, commenter in these parts and drinker in The Village, who wins mike's marathon pop quiz. I'm not totally sure, but I think you had to guess mike's favourite record (do they still call them that?) from 2004.
And chav gav went and gone and done it!
The boy done good. (Chav gav isn't really as chavvy as he pretends, you know.) You can read various of his musings in this community magazine.
Darlings. (You know whenever it starts like this I'm in trouble. Creative trouble.)
The emotional, physical and chemical excesses of the last few days have taken their toll, and here we are sitting dripping. It's an epidemic. Of flu. You know when you've got flu because there's an uncontrollable urge to watch 3rd Rock From The Sun re-runs on ITV 2. (It's like Friends except two of them can act. Plus it's got Condoleeza Rice.) Noticed Peter Krause's name at the end of today's double bill, but didn't spot him in the drama. Maybe he was very young. And yes I did watch two of them - back to back. Nothing gives you flu like excess.
Today was going to be another mountain day. Still smarting slightly from Tony my IT manager's comment about Arthur's Seat mountain hill. "Dozens of tourists go up there every day, and we haven't lost one yet." And there was me painting a terrifying picture for my global readership of Annapurna, K2, Everest etc. etc. He goes on to rub salt in my wound by gloating about his daughter Alice scaling Cairn Gorm (without the ski lift) when she was but five years old. Now aged seven I hear she's on the next space ship to Titan.
(Grammar alert!) Something tells me that last sentence is incorrect. Clearly it is not "I" who is now aged seven, but "she". Yet something else tells me not to be such a pedant and it's fine. Am I right, or am I right?
From My Comment Box
There I was glancing through my comments admin just now, deleting spam, when what should I chance upon but comments to that famous now-deleted post. Thank you all for those. I honestly thought they'd gone tubby bye bye.
One in particular I'm going to escalate to the main text here, as I think everyone will find it interesting:
"I was a bloggie panellist, on the part of the panel that, among other categories, included best "British or Irish blog" and "weblog of the year" (incidentally naked blog was on both these lists, as was Jonny Billericay; and they were both on my list of favourites, but what is one vote out of 50?)
"The main problem with the bloggies is that we, the panellists, were sent a list of 320 blogs on the 19 January from which to select our favourites for each category by the morning of 22 January. The judging had to be fitted in between work and other commitments; therefore, all the blogs on the list that I was even vaguely familiar with made it directly on to my favourites list, my reasoning being that I had liked it enough to remember it therefore it must be good (the time constraint made it hard to get an accurate impression of blogs that I was unfamiliar with; I did of course try).
"I got quite frustrated as I waded through the mounds of unfiltered turgid crap (maybe egotistical bloggers had paid the poor Clares to nominate them ad nauseam; and why not, a higher success rate than pray alone); it is a marvel that anything even marginally readable got picked for the final list -- so you should not be too harsh in your judgement.
"Still the bloggies are a nice idea, but I feel that they are a tribute to the networking ability of a blogger, rather than his blogging abilities. Bloggers who devote their time to hanging-out in other people's comment boxes liberally scattering bon mots have a higher chance when it comes to winning. So my advice, to people who are interested in winning next year, is to hang out in comment boxes across the Atlantic (more Americans, therefore more American panellists, and therefore higher chances -- work for those bloggies)."
Then why don't we get our heads together and come up with the WEBLOG EQUIVALENT OF THE BAFTAS? For personal weblogs only, non-fictional, non-revenue earning, with at least a minimum amount of diary content?
You know, sometimes it takes a flu virus for you to push the envelope. And you saw it here first, as so often.
I feel my career as mountaineer has gone as far as it's able, without hypnosis or strong medication.
(Regular readers will know of my recent fascination, obsession even, with the thing they call Arthur's Seat in Holyrood Park, Edinburgh.) Danny from Illinois even wrote a song about it thus...
I WISH HAD SUCH A HILL TO CLIMB
it's a long way from here
from where my forefathers came
they left a magnificent land
to come to where i remain
a hill with a town around it
they said it was beauty there
the left it the way they found it
and left part of a dream to share
someday i would like to see
such a place as where they used to be
i've never been there
but i see it in my mind
i wish i had such a hill to climb
the hill had one face rock
and the other face of green
a hill not too steep to climb
a vision down from the peak
the town wrapped itself around it
to be closer to the strength
i dream now and then about it
the place my great grandpa seen
So I'm guessing Sandra wouldn't have been that surprised yesterday afternoon when her mobile went off. "Does Cherry (the black part-Labrador) fancy a walk in the Park this afternoon?" I coo-eed walking up Easter Road. (It really is a road - not just a football stadium.) Sir Elton John's gonna play there soon, apparently. I think I'll be out.
In no time flat we were in the carpark at the base. Sandra, me and Cherry makes three. We stared up at the mountain disconsolately. "Look how tiny those creatures are at the top," I murmured. Like ants.
I showed her my route on Sunday, pointing it out way way above us, but she said that wasn't very far. I felt a bit deflated. There are more paths here than on a Burberry scarf, I joked. We chose (or rather I did) to start behind the second major ridge, beside the ruin of St Anthony's Chapel overlooking St Katherine's loch.
It was a long, gentle and really rather boring way up. Just the thing for someone pushing sixty. An Australian boy passed us coming downwards. He was enthusing about the view from the top. Oh - we'll be there soon! "What lovely teeth - do you reckon they were false?" I asked her when he'd slipped from earshot.
Up and up. Nearer and nearer. Sandra said she was worried about Cherry's back leg. I said I couldn't see anything wrong with it. Now the people on the top didn't look like ants any more. You could see limbs and things.
And then it was that things started to go wrong.
We were walking a cut path on the side of a very steep hill. That meant that to our left was quite a fall. Steep, grassy slope. "I'm not liking that edge," I said to her, beginning to watch my footfall carefully. "Not liking it at all. If you fell over that you could die." Ahead of us was more of the same. Steeper and steeper. Further and further to roll to grassy death, your brain having detached from the brain stem with the rotation. If it doesn't detach, then the sheer amount of bouncing renders it unable to continue its nervous function and become only suitable for serving as jellied pate. Nightmare. "I've got to go down," I told her. "Got to." Barely able to hide my panic.
Off to the right was a flatter, grassier bit between ridges. A saddle falling away precipitously in every direction. We sat while Sandra smoked a joint and I studied the movements of Cherry's tongue over her canine teeth. Far below us were spectacular sunny townscapes of Edinburgh, but I didn't dare look. Didn't dare lift my eyes from the grass and Cherry's face. Couldn't think of anything but a safer way to get down. And why dogs have such sticky-out mouths.
There wasn't one. Safer way, I mean. It was go back the way we came, or phone for a helicopter. Nothing else for it, as my bingo ladies say. So I tied my bootlaces tightly and gritted my teeth. Sandra took my arm when we got to the scary bit, but I shook myself free. "No honey - I don't want to take you with me. Who would look after Cherry then?"
Half an hour later and we were back on lower, less precipitous ground, and my heart stopped pumping adrenaline. "Never made it again this time," I gasped in bitter disappointment. "I think I'll find another hobby."
Sandra reckoned we'd got two thirds of the way up. Or maybe three quarters. I told her I rarely differentiate between two thirds and three quarters, as the difference is only one twelfth.
You can only imagine how stupid, how apologetic I felt. What a waste of my friend's time. Three attempts now, and still I haven't made it. That hill has become my bete noir.
I'm thinking of taking up amateur dramatics instead.
For a few hours only there appeared here an unpleasant critical piece about one of the Bloggie categories. Now removed, along with comments, without me having read the latter. Apologies to anyone offended. This does sometimes happen, as regular readers will be aware.
Aaaarrrrgh. I am so wreckaged today. What goes up must come down, they say - and they are too too right, dear chap. And chappess.
Today the weather is set to fine, especially for the afternoon. Maybe I'll conquer that damn hill at last. Or maybe - after yesterday's excesses - I'll do no such thing. Rest and be thankful. The possibilities will unfold before me, sequentially.
"I can't straighten my hand," Alex said yesterday around teatime. We were sitting in the Port o Leith Bar, donating our bingo winnings to Mary the already-quite-rich landlady.
He showed me the back of his right hand, swollen and bruised. "You like fighting, don't you?" I demanded. "I mean really like it." He grinned and said nothing. It seemed as good a time as any to mention the glorious homo-eroticism of the movie Fight Club. But he said he hadn't liked it much. Didn't understand it. I told him queens the world over wet themselves at the Pittlet's half-naked body and all that "respect" from the other men. We ordered more tequila. You're supposed to drink it in a onner then lick some spice off your hand and suck on a bit of lime. I told him I don't drink it in a onner because I don't want to boak. (Retch or vomit.)
We retired from the bar to a table for maximum relaxation. Robin (don't call me bisexual, I'm a screaming queen now) joined us, as did his teenage stepson Pep. Pep said something - I can't remember what - and I chided him not to be cheeky to his stepdad. "That's not my stepdad," he replied. (There was a moment's silence. What the fuck was the boy gonna say now?) "That's my dad," he informed us. Not a dry eye in the house, especially Robin's. "Thanks, son," he said. "It's things like that make it all worthwhile."
(And you thought today's post was gonna be all about fag-smoking!)