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Dreadful Nonsense

"I've read your blog. it's really funny. you should write a column." - Jon Ronson

26 May 2002

I just got sent an address for another blog. It’s called stark reminder and its theme is “Never take for granted those you love”. It makes for very sobering reading, and I think it is one of the most honest blogs I’ve ever read. It’s also more in the spirit of online journals than most of the nonsense posted out there every day – and I’m unashamedly including my own site in that generalisation.

Si's site has also arrived with particularly poignant timing, as that horrible rumour I heard yesterday does seem to actually be true, although I have yet to hear confirmation from a source that I would actually trust. I'm not sure your own reaction to hearing that someone has cancer is merely the horror of being reminded of your own mortality - I'm sure, within everyone's initial reaction, there is a certain degree of selfishness.

When we interviewed comedian Andre Vincent a couple of months ago, he had been diagnosed with cancer just two weeks previously. It was one of the most interesting interviews we had ever done, and one of the most difficult articles to write - in the end, I just let his words speak for themselves with very little editorial interruptions.

So that's what I'm going to do again. I would recommend reading Vinnie's interview, and also visiting the John Diamond archives.

25 May 2002

I am ready to admit that, usually, I’m a big fan of internet-based rumours. Five out of ten times, they tend not to be true – who can forget the fun of the ‘Queen Mother Is Dead’ rumour about four months before it happened? And I’m a great big walking admirer of popbitch . But tonight I came across something really quite disturbing, that I’m hoping to God isn’t true, because if it is, it would be a very very upsetting thing. I’m not going to spread it any further, until I know whether or not it’s true, but the reason I’ve even brought it up now is because I just got attacked on the same stupid forum for asking the original poster to back up the comment with some more information, or explain where he heard it from. And I’m mightily pissed off about that. I don’t think it’s too much to ask.

Anyway, the other reason I’m posting on the blog right now is because I’m supposed to be reviewing a show I went to see tonight, and I’m kinda stuck.

The problem is, three quarters of the audience really seemed to get in to the show, and really enjoyed it, laughing quite loudly most of the way through (it was a comedy, so that’s a good sign) and joining in all the nonsense. The other quarter sat stoney faced and slightly bored throughout. Unfortunately, I was in that minority. The problem, as I said, is the fact that the majority of the audience enjoyed it, and this is where being a reviewer is a difficult job.

When it comes down to it, I can only write my own opinion – I could do a quick survey of the rest of the audience on their way out, but to be honest that’s not terribly practical. And when it comes down to it, it’s my name that appears at the bottom of the article, and so it is my opinion that is represented. A lot of people argue, however, that the review of a show should represent the feeling of the audience as a whole, rather than just the opinionated ramblings of one individual. Is that the difference between a critic (“One who tends to make harsh or carping judgments; a faultfinder”) and a reviewer (“one who examines publications critically, and publishes his opinion upon their merits”)?

Or is this just a great big excuse to get away from writing the rest of it because, quite frankly, I’m stuck?

24 May 2002

[Warning - this is a very specific post, and most people will have no idea what I'm on about]

On the heavily-contrived-to-beat-the-Big-Brother-ratings episode of Have I Got News For You tonight, following on from Angus Deayton’s 'drug romp' earlier in the week, Dave Gorman is the comedian lucky enough to be schedule to appear this week.

The BBC have heavily trailored this, leading to plenty of rumours that it’s all some great big publicity stunt. I doubt it, somehow, although the timing of the whole episode is very fortunate. But that’s beside the point. Anyone who knows of Dave Gorman’s work will also be aware of the existence of his flatmate Danny Wallace.

This picture appears on the BBC site, and it seems to be a really weird hybrid of both of them. It's Danny Gorman. It's Dave Wallace. It’s freaking with my head.

Comedian Richard Herring needs your help. At this year’s Edinburgh Festival, he will be Talking Cock in front of a lot of people, and at the moment he’s compiling a lot of information.

He would like you – male or female – to honestly and anonymously complete a questionnaire about your experiences of penis, whether your own or someone else’s.

On the site, there is also a selection of penis-related poetry, which actually makes for fabulous reading – stupid, funny, and moving. My favourite thus far is this one, by the lovely Stewart Lee:

My penis is like a thermometer
It should be taken either orally or anally
Or for best results held under the tongue for 5 minutes
It has 100 tiny gradations running up the side
It is 4 inches long
And 1/8th of an inch wide

My penis is like a thermometer
It is often handled by nurses
But rarely by ambulanceman
And sometimes it is necessary to disinfect it 30 or 40 times a day

My penis is like a thermometer
It is scientifically inaccurate
If you hit it with a hammer it will break
And it is full of mercury

My penis is like a thermometer because …
If you are sick, or feverish, laid low with a malady,
Infirm, or stricken, wracked by a palsy,
Dry, Hot, under the weather,
Constrained, confused, concerned, whatever
Then you had best put my penis in your mouth

No sorry that’s a thermometer
My penis is a different kettle of fish
My penis is like a kettle of fish
Full of boiling liquid
Rusty but reliable
Smelling of fish

21 May 2002

An overview of my evening:

5.30pm - Get home. Lie down.
7.00pm - Wake up.
7.15pm - My old college flatmate calls from Belfast. I miss her call on my mobile, but give her a quick call back, just to say hi.
8.40pm - Get off the phone.
9.00pm - Walk to the restaurant my landlord owns to hand in our rent, and hand in my notice.
9.20pm - Walking home, start to panic that I will now be homeless in one calendar month.
9.21pm - Stop and give some money to an actual really homeless bloke who tells me I have a nice smile.
9.30pm - Wash up a week's worth of dishes.
10.00pm - Accidentally watch an hour of Sex and the City.

Also, I'd recommend combining this site with this site. That way, you'll never leave the house.

20 May 2002

Of course, I've just read that back and realised I've never mentioned moving flats before now. That's because I was worried about who might come across this blog and suddenly find out I'm moving out before I've even told them. My sister is moving over to Edinburgh at the end of June, and we've decided that it would be a terrifically good idea if we both found a lovely two bedroom flat and moved in together. I'd like to stay around the same price range that I pay for the flat I'm currently in, but apparently that's almost impossible, hence the letting agent's mirth.

So moving day is supposed to be on or around the 20th of June - check the coundown in the corner for the rest of the month, because I'm putting that there to panic myself - and between now and then I have to find someone to fill this room, find a flat for me and my sister, get all the references sorted, raise the deposit and move all my mountains of crap from here to whereever the hell I end up.

Like I said, I was filled with stress. But now, I get to sing Walk Through The Fire very loudly over and over, and that makes everything okay.

God Lord, that's the rest of the week sorted out. Just as I was being terribly gloomy about having the find a flat, which seems to be too much to ask for in this stupid city - one letting agent actually laughed out loud at me when I told him what my price range was - I found this link on the plastic cat.

It's all the songs from Once More With Feeling, the musical episode of Buffy.


19 May 2002

Today, I shall mostly be listening to r.e.m.IX

17 May 2002

I am a winner!

I, along with many hundreds of others, got an email from Dave Gorman yesterday, asking me very politely to vote for his book to be included on the shortlist for The Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize. Yes, I’ve never heard of that prize either. But I voted, and, for my trouble, I’ve won a set of PG Wodehouse books which, if you know me, you’ll know makes me very happy indeed.

So happy, in fact, that I’m going to strive ahead with my newest of resolutions, and that is to take part in the blogging tradition that is known as the Friday Five. Here we go then.

1. What shampoo do you use?
Whatever shampoo has the prettiest packaging / been on offer / is nearest to hand in the shower.

2. Do you use conditioner? What kind?
I don’t use conditioner now that my hair is splendidly short, except for the stuff that you get when you dye your hair. That stuff, due to my hair’s splendid lack of length, has been known to last me up to four days.

3. When was the last time you got your hair cut?
I usually get it cut about every six weeks, but it’s coming up to ten weeks now, because the last time I got it cut, the hairdresser got slightly over enthusiastic and tried to shear me like a sheep. I therefore haven’t needed one up until about two days ago when I noticed how long my hair is suddenly getting.

4. What styling products do you use?
I currently use Taming Water made by the splendid scientists of Laboratoires Garnier. It’s for short hair and promises long-lasting strong hold. It doesn’t provide that, but it stops my hair from looking skanky for up to one whole hour a day. I sometimes finish off my style with Lee Stafford ‘messed up’ gel stuff, which I chose simply on the grounds that the packaging is pink.

5. What's your worst hair-related experience?
I can’t tolerate having people stand very closely behind me, and when people speak when standing directly behind me, it makes me involuntarily jump. When people touch the back of my neck, even if I know they’re going to do it, it makes me involuntarily jump. Therefore, getting my hair cut makes me involuntarily jump. I used to try explaining that to hairdressers, but it seems to make them nervous, so now I tried to brave it out. About three years ago, the braving it out thing didn’t work, I jumped, and the hairdresser cut the top of my right ear. And that hurt.

That was fun. I hope you all feel you know that little bit more about me.

16 May 2002

This site rocks. It answers all the questions you have ever wanted answered, and poses some more interesting questions, and damn well answers them too. Like what happened to the secret message of Fatima? Or what are the health benefits of smoking? Or is it possible to plant a microchip in to somebody’s brain in order to control their thoughts?

You see? You never really wondered before, and now you’re dying to know the answer.

Day Three of a job that's suddenly real...

I'm actually typing this up at work, while I sit here trying to do some overtime because (a) I need the money, (b) I forgot Buffy was on tonight when I volunteered and (c) I'm a swat who wants to impress everyone. But the contract I'm supposed to be correcting is still in the process of being corrected, and I have to wait for the corrections to reach me before I can correct the master document. So, in the meantime, I'm exploring what sites have and haven't been banned by the mighty fine company I'm working for. Blogger isn't one of them, it seems, and neither are any of my other favourites so lovingly marked on the left hand side of this very screen you're looking at now. Which has drawn to my attention quite how boring some of those links are, so I'll be having another overhaul at the weekend, when I'm supposed to be doing something else much more constructive.

Of course, by typing this address in to my computer, I've now drawn the site to the attention of the IT department, who are probably right now reading this, so from now until I leave this job, I'm going to have to lie and say how nice the place is, and what a great job I've been fortunate enough to find myself in.

I make my life so difficult.

Anyway. The next two pages have arrived, so I'm off to redline some clauses.

15 May 2002

Day Two of the job that currently doesn't exist...

Today, while I busily plugged away at doing a monumental amount of nothing at all, I also got round to composing a fabulously pithy and funny entry for the blog, which I fully intended to blast off to blogger on a quick clandestine visit, or at least email to myself to edit for later entry. That's right, I got the internet at work today. In the brief three hours after lunch when no one was paying attention to what I was doing - because basically as of right now I've got no actual job to do there until the girl I'm replacing gives me a chance to replace her by actually leaving - I tried to email some of my friends to try to stop from dropping in to a boredom induced coma. But they've banned yahoo. And hotmail. And every other email site I've got an account with. That's a lot of banned sites.

I'm very used to working in places with internet restrictions, but am also quite experienced at finding ways around the restrictions. I really hope they've missed email hell, or else I'm in deep trouble.

Look at me, already plotting ways to get myself fired. For my first three months, I don't get sick pay or holiday allowance, and they only have to give me at most a week's notice of termination, depending on the severity of my crime. There's nothing like job security, apparently.

14 May 2002

Two of the recent Google searches that directed people to my blog: the phrase "crap recruitment agents in ireland" and the phrase "Kylie's arse".

On another note, I also got a complaint today from someone who was worried that my insistence in attaching this weblog address at the bottom of my emails in signature form was goading him into cyber-stalking me, and that - although he didn't use these exact words - that made him feel dirty. I say, embrace those feelings, and celebrate your new hobbies. And remember, a restraining order is just another way of saying 'I Love You'.

Day One of new, actual new job that I'll be staying in for a while. Honest.

New job goes well. I am now very tired from smiling at everyone and laughing at people's little jokes. There seems to be real coffee and chocolate on tap around the building. Everyone seems very cheery, especially my boss, of whom everyone I spoke to about swore that she is the nicest woman ever to walk the planet Earth.

The girl whose job I'm taking over is still there for this week, so I don't have a computer or a place to sit. The idea is that she is going to show me the ropes before she goes, so that I can, in the words of my recruitment officer from the employment agency "hit the ground running". The wisdom of having a 'handing over' period is great, of course, but I think that possibly four day's worth is stretching the point somewhat. There's only so many ways you can explain the filing system to a person before you start going mental.

13 May 2002

I got a new email address. You can now reach me at sharon@drugsmakemecool.com. The things you do when waiting for the phone to ring.

Fucking blogger. It's my own fault, of course. I complained about it a couple of days ago, and now they're paying me back by fucking losing my fucking posts. Gits.

12 May 2002

My cousin rang me today to ask me to host a dinner for 10 friends, charge them £10 each, and give all the money to her sister, who is taking a year out of college to go swan around some hot country doing good deeds for the locals. I, of course, immediately agreed, but I’m not sure who I’m going to persuade to eat Pot Noodles with me, while handing over a hard-earned tenner. Although, I think it could have been more of a challenge to try and talk people in to joining in with this fund raising event.

I hate it so much. You’re right in the middle of updating the links, the webrings, thinking about your post, and then stupid blogger decides to totally collapse. It’s so damn frustrating.

Anyway… since reading Fast Food Nation I’ve been well and truly reaffirmed in my stance as vegetarian, and – to my horror – have also found myself preaching to other people as they try to eat. There is nothing, absolutely nothing in the world, worse than having someone else’s self-righteous, smug opinions lectured into your face while you’re trying to kick back with a burger, or enjoy your cigarette, or sink down a quick pint after work. And I’ve always been a very quiet vegetarian, not talking about it unless someone asks, not offering my opinion in to any great debates, not wearing the t-shirts or attending the marches, because it is my choice not to eat meat, and other people’s choices to go ahead and eat it.

But reading the chapter on slaughter houses in Fast Food Nation, that’s the bit that got to me big time. Not the details about the fact that intensive farming is destroying the earth. Not the bit about the poor working conditions in fast food restaurants, the tax dodging of the huge companies, the destruction of culture, the increase of obesity, the poison and toxins in the food… the bit that got me was the factual descriptions of what happens in the slaughter houses. These details weren’t put in the shock: no, the shock revelations come further down that chapter when he tells you about the way the meat is processed and what accidentally gets in to the food chain. But – once the nausea passed – I felt very smug in my coming-up-to-ten-years of vegetarianism .

Just to nail in the point, and because this kind of preachy posting is so unlike me, I think I’m allowed, here’s a little something I found this evening:

"The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men."
Alice Walker

Scientists have recently reassessed the incubation period of vCJD in humans from ten to twenty years, so just as it looked like I was in the clear, my brain could soon become liquidised thanks to some dodgy meat I ate when I was a child. What a cheery thought for a Saturday night.

10 May 2002

Another bloody train crash. It is always terrifying to hear this, because I’m really reliant on the train system in the UK, as I move between Edinburgh and London so often. This, like many of the other crashes in the last 21 months, happened along a length of track I have travelled over once every two months for the last two years, and travelled through last weekend. It’s a little too much to take it.

08 May 2002

Part Two...


We woke with horror and realised that we’d slept in - it was 6.30am and the Breakfast Session had already begun - we’d never make it in by 7.30. Throwing on clothes and cursing our unwashed and pale reflections in the mirror, we hurried to the train station where our heads started yelling at us that they still wanted to be in bed. We listened to the show on the train and were gutted to hear that, while we were dancing with film stars, we had missed the biggest event of the night - the fight outside between the Breakfast DJs of Xfm and Kiss, moments before we left the hotel.

Arriving at Xfm in a near-comatose state, we were told to make our own way to the studio, and when we arrived we were astonished to see the little room packed to the brim with people who had turned up to celebrate the Xfm Gold Win that Christian had been gloating about for the previous two weeks. We were quite pleased to see that Christian, Chris and Roque appeared to be suffering as much as we were, and so, armed with our hangovers and bereft of any meaningful rest, we collapsed in to a corner holding tightly to our bottles of water. A radio studio, however, is not the ideal place to be if your dearest wish is not to be made to speak. Not content with merely calling us names off air, Christian decided that it would also be great to make fun of us while on air. Having checked out the site, Chris pointed out to us that we had promised gossip from the early hours of Friday morning, and Christian asked us what kind of gossip we had gathered. Off air, Susan told him we had spotted some dancing shenanigans, and Christian immediately insisted we go stand by a microphone and wait to reveal all on air.

When the record had finished, he again asked us for our backstage gossip, and Susan repeated the dancing allegations, embellishing the story with the words “provocative” and “Michael Jackson”. Roque, standing beside us, was overcome with giggles, and the mumblies in the room responded with applause as Christian once again demanded that we were forcefully thrown out of the studio.

We celebrated by sitting back down on the floor, and spending the rest of the show laughing quietly as we suddenly remembered what we’d asked Alan Yentob.

06 May 2002

An account of our visit to the 2002 Sony Radio Academy Awards follows. Be warned. It’s quite long.

Arriving at the Grosvenor is a heady adventure at the quietest of times, but arriving at the door alongside a variety of limousines and chauffeur driven cars, surrounded by men wearing bow ties and ladies in the most sparkling of dresses, it finally seemed that we were among our kind of people. As the gathered group of press photographers began clicking and flashing in our direction, we struck appropriately alluring poses and prayed we didn’t have lipstick on our teeth. It was only when the photographers started waving us out of the way that we noticed Nicky Campbell standing behind us in a startling tartan suit.

Flashing our media passes at the many bouncers that littered the entrance, we swanned down the stairs and stood gasping as all around us, celebrities air-kissed other celebrities, and living legends milled around with media luvvies, every one clasping drinks and commenting on each other’s shoes. The Liquid News team were relaying a live broadcast for the first half hour, grabbing celebrities as they walked in to the room and asking them a variety of inane questions. We watched with huge amusement as Ricky Gervais forgot what “live” meant, and said a bold and rude word on the telly, for which he was immediately bundled off by waiting henchmen and reprimanded to within an inch of his life.

As each nominee - and with five nominations in each of the 28 categories, that’s a lot of nominees - walked in to the room, they were called over to another area where they had to pose for their “winning” photos, in order that these could be released with speed for the first papers in the morning. We spent the first hour wondering where the heck everyone had got their drinks from as we searched in vain for either someone we knew or someone who could get us alcohol. The room was packed shoulder to shoulder with living breathing celebrity, so it’s probably mildly surprising that the first moment we completely lost it was not when we spotted John Peel, Terry Wogan, Tim Brook-Taylor or Luke Goss, but when Mike Smith and Sarah Greene walked past. Lingering momentarily so that Nicky Campbell could squeeze past us for the third time, Susan confessed that she’d always had a crush on him. Temporarily stunned by this information, I forgot to enjoy walking past the legend of Stuart Maconie, but soon remembered where I was when I spied the entire I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue team standing in a circle.

Having checked out the seating plans, we noticed that the Xfm tables were almost as far away from the stage as we were - which we decided was probably not a good sign. As the ceremony began, we saw that Chris Smith had opted to wear a pale blue number, which we also took as not being a particulary good indication that he’d be allowed on the winner’s podium.

We sojourned to the Media Room, sharing the space with identical twin brothers working for Radio 1, two freelance journalists, and someone from Teletext. The first half of the award ceremony meandered by, as we were still devoid of alcohol, and all the awards that we were really interested in - Breakfast show, Comedy, Entertainment etc. - were held over for the second half. For each category, shows are awarded Bronze, Silver and Gold Sony Awards, with the Gold Award winners being allowed the opportunity to stand on stage and embarrass themselves by thanking their Mums. The first half was a very reserved affair, as apparently the alcohol drought wasn’t merely limited to the media section. Susan revealed herself to be very adept at guessing which show was going to win which award, but our game was soon stopped by the revelation that, as media scum, we were given a full list of winners for each half before the winners themselves knew if they’d won. We considered running down and telling them all, but decided against it, and instead amused ourselves by trying to find a bottle opener when at last the free beers arrived.

Half way through the night, dinner is served to each of the tables, and the awards are put to one side as the serious business of eating and drinking begins. We had a quick wander to the nominees enclosure, where we found the Xfm Breakfast Session morosely picking at their racks of lamb. They informed us that, not only had they not won a Sony Gold, they hadn’t won a blind thing, but we assured them that being nominated was more important than actually getting a prize. They didn’t look convinced, so we skulked off and went to find some more beer.

Fortified with drink and the sight of the strangely shaped Sugababes, the second half of the awards ceremony flew by. True to their word, the Xfm lot didn’t win a thing, but their nomination achieved load roars of approval from the gathered crowd. Presenting another prize, James Nesbitt also had a word or two to say about the excellence of their show, and it was from our vantage point on top of the balcony that we could see the growing threat of chaos that was emanating from one particular table. As they yelled among themselves above a not particularly loud background, we realised this was the marauding gang from Kiss FM, headed up by the balding, middle aged, bespectacled white man known as Bam Bam. When Terry Wogan went up to accept his prize for the Breakfast Music Award, one of the ample ladies from the table launched herself at the stage, and proceeded to clasp on to our Terry with all her might and scream “Bam Bam!” as he desperately tried to shrug her off and finish his acceptance speech with dignity. As the Kiss FM table cheered her, the rest of the room looked on in growing horror.

The last award of the night went to the Godlike Genius of John Peel, just for being him, who made our mascara run when, half way through his speech, he burst in to tears as his wife joined him on stage. The entire room gave a rapturous standing ovation as he battled on with his thanks, and then, as slowly as it had started, the awards ceremony came to an end.

Emboldened by the beer and with the glitz and glamour of the night going straight to our heads, we ran about grabbing interviews with all and sundry, asking the same inane questions we had heard the Liquid News lady use with such great success. Among the celebs we schmoozed, we spoke to Marcus Brigstocke, star of the nominated Think The Unthinkable, who was plain wonderful; we spoke to Melanie Hudson, who seemed confused by our very presence; and we spoke to Alan Yentob, when we asked if there was another series of Fist of Fun in the pipeline. We then decided the time was right to go dancing.

We danced, we strutted, we were hip to the beat, and we were joined by the likes of legendary Mike Smith, who can still move it like a young ‘un, and his lovely wife Sarah Greene who is skinnier and prettier than both of us, despite being both our ages put together. We were also joined by the lovely lady from Bend It Like Beckham who encouraged Susan to dance while she was trying to work on taking notes. We were much amused by the sight of Christian O’Connell lurching about and becoming increasingly drunk, with Roque and Chris chasing him round the building, both looking increasingly concerned, given that they all had to be on air in less than six hours.

When we lost sight of any one famous, we decided it was probably time for us to make our excuses and leave, and we were spurred on to this decision by the fact that they turned the music off and the lights up. We crawled in to bed an hour and a half later to grab an hour’s sleep, before our date at the Xfm studios the following morning.

To be continued…

01 May 2002

And so, when there’s nothing on the telly until Sex and The City starts, and I’m not quite up to tidying my room, I sit on the internet and do stupid little quizzes that tell me all about myself. This one makes you pick colours, and then tells you what your selection means. So far, so ‘Which Monty Python character are You?’ Except this one said a lot. Including the following paragraph:

“Recently everything seems to have gone wrong and so you are experiencing considerable stress and anxiety due to mental conflict. A continuous case of 'Should I?' or 'Shouldn't I?'. At this particular moment in time you feel as if you have reached the end of your tether and it seems impossible to ever rectify the situation and so you have decided, perhaps quite unrealistically, to postpone making any further decisions. Disappointment and unfulfilled hopes have given rise to despondency. This conflict between hope and necessity is creating considerable pressure. Instead of resolving this by facing up to making the essential decision, you are likely to immerse yourself in the pursuit of trivialities as an escape route.”

Horrifyingly true, I’m afraid. So, please go try it out for yourself. And tell me if it was a complete fluke, or if this site has the power to read minds. The possibilities could be monumental…

My life has suddenly become so slow it’s grinding to a complete halt, but tomorrow, I get to go experience things other than typing and exhaustion: tomorrow, I get to go to London to mix with the glamorous people…

We’re going to the Sony Radio Academy Awards, and we’ve to get all dressed up. Fantastic. The only problem is, we’ve got two hours between my arrival in London and the beginning of the four hour – that’s four hours, people – award ceremony. So we’ve to get changed in the toilets of the nearest pub. It’ll be like something from Wonder Woman, but a good bit slower and with a little less twirling. I can’t wait.