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Dreadful Nonsense

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

31 March 2003

Today, we pitched up in Lyon, having done a fantastic tour of chateaus and wine cellars yesterday, which I enjoyed more than I expected I would do. Lyon is massive, and our hostel is situated on the top of a very very high cliff, which you have to walk up the side of at a fascinating angle. We will be attempting that on leaving this cafe, and I plan to take it wheezing, clutching my sides and cursing the day I started smoking again. At the top I will have a cigarette in celebration of my achievement.

Although we walked around the town for a couple of hours after arriving here, we still haven't come across an Irish bar, which is deeply unusual - Tour, quite a small and rural town in comparison to the size of this, France's second largest city, had no less than six Irish bars, and those were just the ones that we walked past on one of our three nightly strolls.

Twice today French people stopped and asked me questions that I didn't catch a single word of. The second lady to stop me seemed quite bemused, and repeated her question slower. The third time she asked, she increased the volume, and the fourth time waved her arms around in illustration. It was all I could do not to break into an Eddie Izzard routine.

29 March 2003

Second go. French TV, as far as we can tell from the seven channels that we have in the hotel room, seems to be made up of two things - American imports dubbed into or subtitled with French, or game shows too terrifying to watch the whole way through.

Susan has developed a particular fascination with one show called Bigdil, which is hosted by a man who is a cross between Timmy Malett and Michael Barrymore, with all the charm and dignity of Chris Evans. Through the HOUR AND A HALF that this show runs, he makes hand picked members of the audience do Generation Game style stunts that they are either really good or really bad at. And then gives them strange prizes that have nothing to do with their achievements - we watched in astonishment as one man was given a car for dancing on the spot for 10 seconds.

Too tired to post any more. Must go die in a corner.

I just spent about 10 minutes typing about the mysteries of french television, but then the mysteries of French computers meant that I just deleted the whole post by mistake. I shall instead have a sulk.

28 March 2003

Today I have been in Holland, then Belgium, now France. Basically today we did a brief summary of our entire trip in one day.

The things I have learned in the last week, in no particular order:

- Vegetarian food does not exist in Belgium or Holland
- Computer keyboards in France have all the letters in the wrong place (so this is taking me a ridiculous time to type)
- Concert crowds in Belgium do not dance or show emotion during music gigs and seem surprised when other people do
- Concert crowds in Holland are well up for it
- Roadies can be nice and nasty in equal measures
- People in France and Belgium stare at you for no good reason ALL OF THE TIME
- Everyone in Holland speaks English
- I like goats cheese
- I can understand far more French than I give myself credit for
- The Guardian produce a European edition daily for easy access to war propoganda
- I quite like travelling, but I do not like train stations
- People on the Metro in Paris would rather see you die than help you with luggage
- Buskers on the Paris Metro bring their own sound systems, including backing track and microphones
- The Mona Lisa is quite boring
- I am very tired

20 March 2003

We're on our way! I head to London tomorrow, Saturday morning sees us winging our way (although obviously not literally 'winging', whatever that would be) to the lovely Paris, and then it's a whistle stop tour of Brussels, Tilburg, Tours, Lyon, Avignon, Paris, London and Edinburgh. All within two weeks.

The things I've learned the last two days when you're in your 20s, walking on your own with a walking stick
- old people will give their seats up on the bus
- everyone will let you to the front of the queue
- little kids will stare and stare
- teenage mums will try to kill you with their prams
- it's not easy to join in with a war protest when you can't hurl yourself to the ground at a moment's notice to play dead

My blood tests came back and my blood is officially "satisfactory". I don't know if they did a taste test or something, but I've passed - no rheumatoid arthritis in my back. MRI scan is the next step. In the meantime, I've been given sleeping tablets which I didn't like the taste of, but by jimminy, there are worst things in life - like the air raid sirens I've been listening to all day on the rolling news.

Yes. Well, off we got. I shall keep this up to date as much as possible while we wend our ways around a tiny corner of Europe.

18 March 2003

Not much to report over the last few days - waiting for test results from both blood and OU essays is kinda dull. But this cheered me up no end this morning on a work-day that feels suspiciously like the second Monday in a row -

Sports journalist Scott Murray has a slow and entertaining nervous breakdown.

13 March 2003
My work wallpaper of choice

12 March 2003

Found an interesting website today. Well, when I say "found", I mean it was emailed to me. And when I say "interesting", I mean it's... well, really, you should read it for yourself.

Basic premise - these people (who, they are concerned to point out several times, are not "professional" scientists) are trying to find the bendiest, stretchiest chocolate bar in the world. At, times being what they are, I think it's a very important thing to be distracting ourselves with.

The International Bendy-Stretchy Chocolate Challenge. Join them.

10 March 2003

I had blood tests this morning. It's nice to start the week by facing a phobia, really. Makes you appreciate the mundane bits of life.

When I went into the little office, the nurse sat me on a chair and asked was I good about getting my blood taken. I said, "I'm absolutely terrified", and she made me take my shoes off and lie down. She had one look at my veins, declared I didn't have any, and said there was "no way" she was going to do it, as she hadn't been doing it very long. I breathed a long sigh of relief, and she went to get a doctor.

The doctor came in and said "I understand you're not giving blood very well" and I nodded and tried not to cry. He looked at my veins, declared that I didn't have any, and tied a tourniquet just below my elbow and started slapping at my hand. I started to cry. He then, in the nicest possible way, stuck a needle into my hand, sighed loudly, told me to keep breathing, and told the nurse that he was "having trouble with this one". He took the needle back out of my hand and moved around to the other arm, looking for a better tourniquet. I was on the verge of suggesting they get a knife and just open on of my fingers - anything but get more jags by needles. Wisely, I decided to keep quiet and try to concentrate on staying conscious.

The other arm. He poked about at my veins up by the elbow, and declared that he was going to "try again". I started hyperventilating, so they told me to remember to keep breathing and try to stay relaxed. At this point the nurse was sitting beside me holding my hands, while the doctor remarked with awe that I "really didn't" like getting blood taken. I agreed with him.

Good news - I didn't faint. I came blinking close to it - the lovely doctor kept saying things like "it always looks bad when my patients faint. I get a bad mark on my record" and such. Amazingly, second time was lucky, and they got enough blood for three out of four of the tests that were needed before the vein collapsed, and before I did likewise. He said that the fourth test wasn't really important, and that he'd have a word with my doctor.

The lovely nurse made me stay lying down for another 5 minutes, but I decided that getting away from needles, doctors and nurses - lovely and all as they were - would be the best plan, so I upped and unsteadily left.

The tests were to check if I - horror of horrors - have rheumatoid arthritis in my back. I should hear in a week to 10 days. If nothing comes of this - and we're not sure what we're hoping for - then I might have to get an MRI scan. But then, anything is better than getting blood taken again.

07 March 2003

friday five

1. What was the last song you heard?

I’m not sure – I am currently listening to the new Turin Brakes album, which is great, but since it’s the first time I’ve heard it properly, I’m not sure the names of the songs and stuff. Let’s say it was Painkiller, because that was the last one I listened to properly, before getting off the bus and going in to work.

While rummaging around on the internet about an hour ago, I clicked on a link from Popbitch and got to a site that had really loud music on. Of course, I’d forgotten to turn down the volume. Everyone turned and stared. So that could be the last song I heard – the song of impending unemployment.

2. What were the last two movies you saw?

I watched three quarters of The Green Mile when I was off sick on Tuesday. I haven’t watched the ending yet, because it’s a bit too scary and tense, and things are all going to go terribly wrong before turning out right in the end. I don’t like that part of the film. But I’ll watch the rest at the weekend.

The other one was probably Truly Madly Deeply, which I watched last Saturday, curled up in a ball with my dog and weeping like the moron that I am. It is one of my favourite films, and I know most of the dialogue off by heart – I virtually start crying while loading it in to the DVD player.

3. What were the last three things you purchased?

A bread roll for my lunch. A packet of Golden Virginia tobacco. The Spaced Series 1 DVD.

4. What four things do you need to do this weekend?

I need to get my hair cut.
I need to wash some clothes.
I need to copy some CDs for a girl at work.
I need to do an awful lot of study.

5. Who are the last five people you talked to?

People in the office. Obviously. Nothing of any importance was said.

06 March 2003

Vote Team Shazzle!

If you like, you could vote for me. Or not.

Stuff that people send me in emails, part 2 -

A handy-dandy web petition that you can fill in to declare being against the looming war. It'll be presented to the UN Security Council on Monday but they go to print on Friday (tomorrow): moveon.org

It's World Book Day today and if, unlike me on this particularly occasion, you've got the time available to slack off from work, and want to look like you're doing something, the nice people at the BBC website have made available Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, described by one reader as "a racist book written by a bigot and ignorant author". Fab.

Another stupid internet-based poll that will be turned in to a pointless television programme that will have Guardian columnists talking about it for at least half a day, if not less - Channel 4's schedule filling Top 100 Worst Britons. I don't know if this is supposed to be off all time - the fact that poor Will and Gareth are both included might be indicative of Channel 4 producers knowing something that we don't. Harold Shipman, Liam Brady, Peter Sutcliffe and various others not included.

Irish folk, who like a laugh, are trying to manipulate the vote by emailing everyone else they know that's Irish, and urging them to vote for Ian Paisley, the reason given that he is an "Evil bigot standing in the way of democracy"

I couldn't possibly comment.

But go here and vote whatever way you like.

03 March 2003

I am in an absolute stinker of a mood today. So, for the rest of the working day (hello, HR department!) I will reading George Orwell novels on line.