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Dreadful Nonsense

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

30 August 2005
We turned in towards the car park, and noticed that the car in front had stopped. A guy with a dragon on his t-shirt was leaning towards the driver of the car in front, and grasped in his hands was an official looking clip board. My mother let out a sigh, and said that she’d never been charged to park here before, wasn’t it Council run, isn’t that why we pay our taxes etc. We all turned to look at each other. We all had the thought as one. I dared to speak it out loud.

“I dare you. Just drive past him.”

Littlesisterlouise pointed out that she’d tried that before, and the man had hit the bonnet of the car (with his hand, not his entire body) and she’d had to stop and pay in the end. I pointed out that Mum, being an adult grown up and also having an expression that says ‘don’t mess with me, dude, or we’re all going to get hurt here’, would probably get away with just driving past.

The car in front pulled away from the dragon-clad man, and he moved towards our car.

We moved forward.

He leaned in.

Mum turned and looked to her left.

We kept moving.

We all tried not to laugh hysterically, and watched through the mirrors to see what would happen next. Mr Dragon made a move towards the car, and then thought the better of it, and turned back around to stop the next car going through, leaning as he did with his official clip board.

We all murmured things about Rip Off Ireland and how, since this is a Council run carpark, he was probably just chancing his arm, and did anyone else see anyone in uniform, and how he didn’t have one of those day-glo jackets that car park attendants usually have, and by the end of about ten minutes of muttering, we were all congratulating each other on having saved ourselves being duped by an obvious conman who we should probably report to the police, and maybe at the end of it all we’d get a commendation from the Mayor thanks to our sense of good citizenship.

Driving back out of the carpark, the very sizeable, very clearly printed Council sign loomed large over the car. Parking €4, by order of Wicklow County Council.

That made us all laugh even more.

29 August 2005
Last night we were running hand in hand towards the last Luas, because we'd misjudged the pub-to-Luas distance and now had seconds in hand before having to find a cab home.

We leapt on through the last doors, the doors beeped behind us and the Luas left Stephens Green.

As we made our way up the carriage, grinning because we'd won once again, a man aged about 30 turned to his lady friend who was aged about 30 and, nodding in our direction, said "oh, to be young again."

Here's to being young again.

24 August 2005
Oh, and I will be commenting on the Perrier nominations tonight or tomorrow morning when reason has returned and the stunned wordlessness induced by this bizarre list of names lifts for long enough to allow me reasoned thought, but for now my comment is as follows:

What? Who? What? Oh, for fuck’s sake…

Many thanks.

All bad things come in threes. This is a strict rule adhered to by all bad things, as bad things respond well to structure and regulation. Last week, when the Colombian plane crashed, I remember turning to He Who Only… and matter of factly clarifying that that, right there, was our three. First Canada, then Athens, now Colombia. Three plans, three crashes, job done. Plane crashes stay memorable for me most of the time, and I eat up all details of causes and fatalities. This is particularly evident when I’m planning a jaunt in one of them myself, as indeed I am tomorrow. And I, I’m very proud to say, genuinely believe in this “All-Things-In-Threes” nonsense, because I think I once heard my mother say it to my father in passing while I was at an impressionable age, and it’s just kind of stuck ever since. So, perversely, I was pleased to hear about the Colombian crash. If they’ve crashed, it means we won’t, you see. It’s a comfort. The Rule Of Three has been applied and the world has righted itself.

So image my horror this morning on hearing the news of the crash in Peru. Hot damn, I thought to myself, that’s just not possible. My quandary now is this: when you’ve already publicly declared your Three, is it too late to go back and reassess? The crash in Canada, you see, doesn’t strictly count (if you don’t want it to) because no one died. In this case, Peru could just be added to Athens and Colombia and the superstitious triangle is complete, and so I can board the plane tomorrow without the slightest concern for my welfare. But if, once the declaration has been made (as it so rashly was, by me, to He Who Only… while we casually sat on the train, thinking all was right in the world), and if there are strictly no takey-backys, then a new set of three has been triggered by the Peruvian “events”, and I’m in greater danger as the Rule Of Three stalks the earth knocking planes out of the sky.

Aren’t you glad you won’t be sitting beside me tomorrow evening?

For tradition’s sake, then, here are my flight details. Well, it’s worked so far. I’m also taking the added precaution of insisting that He Who Only… comes with me, as some kind of life-sized lucky charm. Can’t fail.

PASSENGERS
1. SHAZZLE ADT 2. HE WHO ONLY… ADT

GOING OUT
From London Stansted(STN) to Dublin(DUB)
Thu, 25Aug05 Flight FR297 Depart STN at 19:40 and arrive DUB at 20:50

23 August 2005
In an attempt to regain some dignity in the face of the Fantasy Football shambles, I decided to stage with He Who Only… something of a wager. We are pitting what knowledge we have about comedy against one another in a crazy gamble, and it’s a fight to the death.

We’re trying to predict the Perrier nominees before the nominations are announced tomorrow. We’re doing this on the basis of all the reviews we’ve read, all the gossip on Chortle, anything that’s filtered back to us from Scotland through blogs but mainly, it seems, from Dominic Frisby’s perrierbet website.

I’m listing our two full lists of nomination guesses, just so that tomorrow you too can join in with the mocking of the pyjama clad fool who lost the bet. Round two will be picking one of the nominees and deciding they’re the winner. Whoever gets that right gets the extra special reward of being right while the other is wrong, something that happens so rarely (at least for me).

My nominations (with pathetic reasons why in brackets):

Bennett Arron (cos he extended his run, like the Perrier winner last year)
Tim Minchin (cos everyone keeps mentioning him)
Will Smith (cos everyone else keeps mentioning him)
Lucy Porter (token lady nominee)
Rhod Gilbert (token Welsh nominee)
DJ Danny (cos he's got good reviews across the board)
Best Newcomer: Cowards


He Who Only…’s nominations:

Tim Minchin (for the reasons you so beautifully elucidated).
Alan Carr (good reviews and media friendly).
Pajama Men (a bit out of left field admittedly but you've got to take a punt now and then).
Mark Watson (My token welshman)
Will Smith (again...)
Andrew Maxwell (his turn)
Best Newcomer: Danny Robbins

21 August 2005
I was staring at my mobile trying to will it to ring, because writing essays about children’s cognitive processes and the best educational methods for teaching science is not the most exciting way of spending your weekend. Sitting cross legged on the bed, lap top propped up in front of me on an assortment of pillows and university books, staring past the screen out to the window and just willing my phone to ring, I managed to make it ring.

I answered, and it was my sister, and a whole host of people and dogs and domestic noise in the background. “I’m ringing,” said LittleSisterEdel in one long yell, “because I’ve annoyed Mum today, Derek’s annoyed Mum today and Louise has annoyed Mum today. I’m ringing so that you can annoy her, and then we’ll have the full house.”

Without another word, she then threw the phone back on the table and bellowed across the room – a distance of no more than a few metres – to get Mum’s attention over the sound of barking jack russels. Mum came to the phone.

“Have they been annoying you?” I asked.

She detailed the level of annoyance she’d been exposed to up until that point. I expressed my sympathy, and tried to engage her in further conversation about my upcoming visit the following week. I tried to explain my plans re being surrounded by jack russells for the duration, and enquired after the loudest barking background artist, who I took to be two Alsatians rolled in to one. “That’s Dudley,” she started, and then broke into a roar not dissimilar to LittleSisterEdel’s, which sounded something like “Shutupyoustupiddogoriwillsendyoutothepound!”

I asked what he was barking at, as the noise stopped momentarily and then began again with increased vigour. “Nothing,” she explained. “He’s barking at nothing.”

I squealed my delight, because dogs standing and barking in the middle of a room is the equivalent to toddlers standing and screaming in the middle of a shopping centre – a pure expression of joy and childishness that will never be equalled in adult life.

Mum immediately responded that if I made that noise again next weekend she’d kick me out.

In the background I heard Edel delightedly yelling “BINGO! FULL HOUSE!”

20 August 2005
The man stands terrified as the group of tramps, brandishing knives, circle around him, trapping him where he stands. Out of the corner of his eye he spots two policemen approaching, and the relief that floods his face is audible in the sudden strength he finds to call out for assistance. The tramps pay no attention, and he is grabbed from behind, suddenly finding himself with a knife at his throat while the policemen passively look on. He begs them to help him. One of the policemen starts reciting a passage from a Shakespeare play. The tramps start attacking in unison as the policeman continues to over-emote. The man’s blood is sprayed across the white backdrop as he falls to the ground in disbelief.

This weekend, myself and He Who Only… decided that living in London shouldn’t only mean pollution, over priced sandwiches, suicide bombers and stressful commuting, and so we decided that some culture needed to be introduced to our routine. He Who Only… had a quick glance around lastminute.com, suggested Theatre of Blood, and off we scamped for a night of blood, gore and overacting.

I had absolutely no idea what to expect from this – the only thing I knew before going in to the theatre was that there was a lot of murder throughout, and a tremendous use of theatrical blood, apropos of which one of my housemates kindly advised me to wear water proof clothing if we were sitting anywhere near the front. Before the start, He Who Only… leaned over and asked which part I thought would be the best part. I decided it would be the first death, because that was bound to be spectacular, and the rest of the deaths would never live up to the shock and awe of the first.

Wrong.

It’s really funny, watching people’s ribs be cracked open and their hearts ripped out of their chests. It’s an actual laughter riot, as ladies get electrocuted. The moment when the curtains are pulled up to reveal one poor person, impaled and left hanging, twitching, in mid air, may have been one of the most entertaining things I’ve ever seen. Ah, culture.

18 August 2005
I’ve been thinking an awful lot recently about dogs. I think this is part and parcel of the vague homesickness I’m finally starting to feel – I say finally, because I think that once you start feeling a little melancholy about what you’ve left behind, it does mean that you’re sinking comfortably into the new life that you’ve chosen. The dog thing, though, is starting to reach new heights.

Just before I moved here, there were some major dog-related events that took place within my immediate family. Having absolutely begged my parents for a full year to get a new dog, they finally relented and we got Bobby, the tiny-headed giddy freak who parades about as if he’s a jack russell when really he’s just the spirit of caffeine made flesh (and fur). At least, that was my experience of him for the two months I was at home with him. Days after I moved here, my brother proposed to his girlfriend, taking the unusual step of attaching her engagement ring to the collar of a new jack russell puppy. The puppy has been called Dudley (after Dudley Moore) and I had the screeching thrill of seeing him when I dashed home to collect more belongings. He is tiny and has all the bravery of a puppy who doesn’t know any better, can’t slow down before banging into things, gets tumbled over and over by Bobby and is generally the most adorable thing you’ll ever see.

The very day I was at home for the last time before moving to my new house, we discovered that Bobby could be taught to chase balls, and bring them back to some extent, and that he can’t tell the difference between the actual-throwing-of-the-ball and the pretend-throwing-of-the-ball-and-then-putting-it-behind-your-back-instead. This caused much delight in my Dad and me, and we spent the best part of two hours variously throwing and not-throwing the ball for Bobs.

Now every day via email, I get updates from friends and siblings about what they did the night before. This usually arrives in bullet points. The bullet points from my sisters seem to more and more contain stories of walks with not one, not two, but three jack russells. Three. It’s more than I can bear.

When we walk around the area we live in, He Who Only… and I spend a lot of time pointing at dogs, and I invariably squeal and ask him to steal it for me. We were slumped watching television last night, and I turned and asked a question. In response, He Who Only… pointed at the television and said “Puppy!” and I forgot what I was asking. I was sitting on my lunchbreak at work today and came across this picture (on the excellent Dooce site, this dog is called Chuck and every Friday there is a photo of him) and the picture made me want to shout “DOG! DOGGIE! DOGGLES!” out loud in the office.

Next week, we’re going back to Dublin for a visit. I am fully expecting to spend every waking moment with a jack russell on my knee, and if I don’t, I shall be asking for my money back.

16 August 2005
We were sitting in the pub (how many of these entries have involved conversations or ideas that started in the pub? I worry for my liver. If my liver could speak, it would slur it’s words and tell me it loves me very much.) and He Who Only… started telling me about the Fantasy Football that he and his frankly untoward friends would be playing this year, as they had last year, and very possibly the year before. You sign up, you pay a nominal fee, you pick a team (11 players and a manager) and then you sit back and rack up points, with the option of making a few transfers along the way during the season. Within the game there are “super leagues”, of which He Who Only… is the chairman this year, and if you have 10 or more people in your league then you can compete against other groups in order to win actual cash prizes at the end of the season, should you be fortunate enough to score lots of points.

I expressed an interest in joining up, and so up I joined. The way I picked my team was initially to pick the players whose names I knew, and who I knew for a fact to be pretty, facially speaking. The second rule I applied was by picking the rest of the footballers whose names I knew. Then, having picked most of the Irish football team (the ones I recognised at least) I picked some random players towards the end.

My team is currently the last in our super league.

I am not happy with this.

Not only is it the last, it is a good five points below the second last. The leader of the board currently has about 6,000 more points than me, and it’s only the first week.

I do not like losing.

Ladies, Gents (and particularly Eoin, who I know will help here), I would like some of your kind assistance please. I am in a position to make some transfers, and although it’s quite early in the game to be doing so, a word or two in my direction might be good, if I’ve managed to pick some right biffers, which I think I have. If you recognise any of these people as being the ones who will drag me down kicking and screaming, then please do let me know and I can rectify the mistake.

This is most important. I can’t stress that enough. I’m in competition with Mrs Bishop, for one, but more importantly, I’m in competition with He Who Only… and he cannot be allowed to win, else I will Never. Hear. The. End. Of. It.

My team:
S Given Newcastle Goalkeeper
G Johnson Chelsea Defender
A Hughes Aston Villa Defender
G Naysmith Everton Defender
G Breen Sunderland Defender
M Holland Charlton Midfielder
D Duff Chelsea Midfielder
S Gerrard Liverpool Midfielder
J Barton Manchester City Midfielder
Robbie Keane Tottenham Forward
D Cisse Liverpool Forward
R Benitez Liverpool Manager

14 August 2005
I discovered this weekend that I am no longer capable of entertaining myself.

The death of the imagination is something that has been mourned far and wide by people who, as children, had to make do with bricks and string and the occasional beating-half-to-death-for-their-own-good for their entertainment. Children these days, it seems, don’t know that they are born, with their televisions and ipods and Child Services and hologrammatic teddy bears taking the place of old blankets and dead animals to poke at with sticks.

I was once able to spend whole days on my own, wandering about, looking at things, reading other things, watching a third set of things, listening to a fourth set of things and quite often dancing around wildly to a fifth set of things, all of which could be done on my own, and I would be entirely happy to do so. The novelty of being on my own was often enough entertainment in itself for me, because having had a fine number of siblings and friends living close enough to be occasionally frustratingly suffocating, loneliness wasn’t something to be dreaded but to be welcomed as an unusual diversion.

But I’ve discovered that since moving to London I have managed to avoid being alone for far too long, and suddenly on Saturday night I didn’t know what to do with myself.

He Who Only… was off for the night to look at strippers, shave his friends’ heads, throw up on streets and generally be boorish and male, because it was a stag weekend, and that is the rule of the world. He assured me constantly – almost too constantly – that there wouldn’t be strippers or ladies of an unholy nature, but I did not believe him because all men are wicked and they cannot be trusted when allowed out in a pack, no matter how harmless and well educated the pack may be.

I resolved to spend the weekend writing essays, occasionally taking a break to buy some shoes and possible to hoover the carpet in my bedroom if I could find the time.

By Saturday night at 9pm, I had done all of these things. An entire essay had been written in a day. Shoes had not been bought but perused over, which as any girl knows is just as important, and more or less the entire job done. Hoovering had taken place, as had redecoration, two lots of washing, the bed changed, the furniture moved around, a new lamp hammered to the wall, CDs rearranged, towels re-folded, new hangers purchased and clothes re-hung, and if I could have re-tiled the ceiling, I probably would have done.

Saturday night at 9pm, having watched an episode of America’s Next Top Model and found myself thinking that one of the girls looked quite fat, I suddenly realised I was no longer able to entertain myself. I have become too used to one other person’s company, and too reliant on him to provide the entertainment. Well, I mean to say, why would you start to date a comedian if not to be provided with endless entertainment? There can be no other advantage in the frankly insane decision to become emotionally involved with one of those.

It’s the joint blessing and curse of living very close to the person that you want to see all the time – you get to see them all the time. Whenever you start to feel the pangs of separation, you can immediately remedy that by calling round to them and poking them in the ribs until they give in and give you the attention you crave. If you feel the need to start feeling the pangs of separation, you can run off to your own house around the corner and wait for the ten minutes until the pangs start, and then immediately call them and demand that they come around, citing spurious excuses or threatening them with vague danger or imminent physical pain.

And so last night it was I discovered that I am no longer able to spend time on my own. I was, in short, bored in my own company. I am bored of me. And when you find that you are bored of yourself, is that a good place to be? I don’t think that it is.

I immediately remedied this by reading some improving books, with theories on brain damage, modern imaging techniques and electrophysiological studies on language processing. And immediately I felt better because I discovered there are others out there more boring than me, and also I fell asleep almost straight away, which meant that He Who Only.. would be coming back the next day and then I wouldn’t have to be bored any more.

11 August 2005
Every morning when I reach my tube destination, and am going up the escalators breathing a huge sigh of relief because, once again, I have not been blown up by a wicked man with a violent rucksack, there is a voice that echoes around the walls, creeps into my ears, and fascinates my imagination beyond measure for the two minutes it takes to get from station platform out to the real world where irritating people from Fitness First wait, every morning without fail, to hand out their ridiculous flyers. This voice, in my half awake state, sends me into ribbons of reflection, wondering who the owner is, what he looks like, what he does when not making these pronouncements that shape my early mornings and waking moments. The news he has to tell us never changes, his announcement is complete and wholly composed, there is not too little or too much information, and in a world that is ever changing it is almost a mantra of comfort and security to me that this man will be there every morning for as long as I need him to be.

The man tells me, in that particular way of his, that, due to escalator repair works, Chancery Lane station is an exit-only station, that is, no exit from this station between the hours of six and ten thirty am Monday to Friday. Furthermore, he tells me, every morning without fail, at least four times before I’ve managed to negotiate the two working escalators, the ticket barriers, and the masses of people flooding up the stairs and out into the open, if we want to continue our journeys on the Central line, we can do so from St Pauls or Holborne station. And then, dear ladies and gentlemen, he thanks me. That man thanks me four times every morning.

It’s something in the inflections he has given to certain words. “Monday” is pronounced “Mmmmonday” for no good reason. “No exit” is “Nnnno exit”. He sounds so happy it’s like there is no wrong side of the bed for him. All sides of this man’s bed, it seems, are the best side to get out of every morning. Not that I’m beginning to think about this man’s bed. Because I’m not.

The whole announcement has the tone of a friend telling another friend some good news, as if it’s something that should be celebrated long and far, the fact that Chancery Lane is an exit-only station from Mmmmonday to Friday, and will be until 2006. The tone he has applied gives it an informal, jocular manner. Every time I hear it – and that is four times every morning, Mmmmonday to Friday, twenty times a week, for the last five weeks, I’ve heard that announcement now over 100 times – and each time I hear it, it’s as if I’m hearing it for the first time, due to the strange inflections. Why did he choose to put such a strong inflection on the “that is” that comes between the words “exit-only” and “no exit”. Why would he choose to say “that is” at all? That can’t have been scripted.

Is this man an actor? Is he paid by London Underground to read out extra special announcements, like the closures of stations or temporary track works? I haven’t heard his voice at any other station, and I’ve made a point in the last five weeks of travelling on the tube more than is necessary, in that defiant manner of mine. He has never told me to mind any gaps, or to mind any of the closing doors. I’d be more than happy to have him tell me, in that jocular manner of his, that the next station is Liverpool Street and that I should change here for mainland and suburban rail services. But he hasn’t. He is there to tell me about escalator works, and that, for me, is more than I can ask for in this world.

10 August 2005
We were walking home from the cinema, having had an adventure that involved two buses and the spurious use of travel cards – I did the same thing at the weekend, needlessly getting three different tubes when one would have sufficed just because I could.

We were cruising along and discussing the Jewish use of mobile phones, and other mod cons, and opining to each other that smoking looks just wrong somehow, when accompanied by a top hat, long black jacket and ringlets. We hushed our tones as we walked past the larger gatherings of Hasidic Jewish gentlemen leaving whatever it is they leave late at night to walk up and down the streets surrounding my house. As we passed him, one gentleman seemed to be having a particularly animated conversation with someone on his phone, waving his arms about like a Woody Allen parody. We stepped around him to continue on our way and as we did so, out of the (to my ears at least) impenetrable Yiddish he was speaking came the following phrase in English “…but if someone finds all the boxes…”

The mind boggles as to what he may have been discussing, and why that sentence of all sentences in the world had to be translated for the person on the other side of the conversation.

It occurred to me when I’d stopped giggling and started to try to find my keys to open the front door that he may have been going over the finer plot points of the new Harry Potter book.

09 August 2005
I did promise to share the second story of where and when I was propositioned for the second time on my own street. I was walking to meet He Who Only… on Sunday night, who had returned triumphantly from the cricket match he’d been playing. Yes, that’s right, I’ve got a Flintoff all of my own at home (and don’t worry, I’m more appalled than you at my ability to name check English cricket players). I was in a particularly good mood, because I’d been shopping earlier in the day and bought more books than I possibly needed – on my new book shelves now sit seven books that I have yet to read, and I think that may well be a personal best. I had spent the evening dancing about the place listening to The Killers – can I recommend once again Track Seven on the album as being possibly one of the best songs in the world, purely on the basis of the “uh oh”s that come in between every line of the chorus.

I had even decided to break out the go-go boots, such was my joy with the world, and was cruising down the street with ne’er a care in the world, grinning at the cars with their smashed windows and stolen radios, positively beaming at the gatherings of old men in musty clothes who sit on the low walls outside their houses scowling and drinking beer from cans.

A young man of indeterminable age, but very short in stature and equally high in confidence, enquired as to my name. I smiled at him, as if I didn’t hear anything but the wishing of a good night, and he carried on asking me questions. He asked if I had a boyfriend. I think I may have nodded and speeded up slightly. He yelled something about my ass as I carried on walking down the road. I decided to take this as a compliment.

I probably should stop smiling so much walking around London. It seems to upset the locals.

08 August 2005
I apologise profoundly and profusely for the lack of updates hereabouts for the last two weeks. My reasons are manifold, and terribly interesting, but you won’t be hearing any of them. Hopefully the next few days will allow me to do a brief and timely catch-up of events, and if they don’t, well then. You’ll be missing out on so terribly much it hurts me to think of it. It pains me, dear reader, to muse for a mere moment that you won’t get to hear the entertaining story of my mysterious rash, or the time that we sat and discussed death, or the two separate occasions in the last week when I’ve been propositioned by men on my street. It actually physically pains me to think that you might miss out.

But you won’t miss out. No siree. Not if I’ve got anything to do with it. And to do with it, I have got. Brace yourselves, therefore. Updates soon.

04 August 2005
I woke up this morning, crawled out of bed, switched off my phone alarm, crawled back into bed, forced He Who Only… into a hugging position and lay there grieving for ten minutes over the death of my lovely sleep and the beginning of a new day. I lay for a further ten minutes, until my phone alarm started insisting on my staying conscious and upright and so I stumbled into the shower and argued with it for ten minutes, trying to force reason and structure were there is none. I left the shower and stumbled back into the bedroom.

This is all perfectly routine.

It was only when I turned on the radio to the headlines that the police in London are on the alert, and the news of the largest deployment of police on the streets, and the talk of guns and the talk of repeat bombings and the discussions over the likelihood of another attack that I remembered that today was Scary Thursday, four weeks after 7/7, two weeks after 21/7, the day that anything and everything is likely to happen.

No more likely, it seems in retrospect, than any other day that week, or that month, but this morning it did seem like it could all happen again. He Who Only… explained to me from his position of comfort wrapped up in a duvet, that it would awfully boring of me to get blown up in a bomb today because, he sighed, there’d be crying, and there’d be phone calls, and then the funeral and it’d take up his time and eat into his schedule, and really, I should put off being blown up in a bomb until another time, a time when he’s got less on his plate. I saw his point, and resolved not to get blown up in a bomb.

The police were truly out in force. I mean, they’ve been very visible indeed for the last three weeks, but nothing like today. The Stop And Search policy really is stretching to all members of the community, in that it’s not just certain gentlemen of a certain age and certain appearance but any and everyone carrying rucksacks and backpacks and parcels over a certain size who are being asked to empty their bags and show some identification. This is all happening on the station concourse, in front and behind the ticket barriers, on the underground platforms as we wait for the train. I never thought I’d find comfort in a place where I am surrounded by people with berets and guns, or find it in any way appealing that the police are stopping every other person and demanding to go through their personal belongings. But I did this morning, PR stunt as it may well be. It’s the only thing that got me on the tube, and I did a little internal dance of celebration when I arrived at my destination, completely un-blown up.

03 August 2005
This time of year, every year since 1997, I have been heading north towards Edinburgh, or at the very least jacking in my job for a month and heading out to the sights and sounds of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. This year, not so much.

It started off as a thought early in the year that maybe I didn’t need to attend for the duration. Perhaps skipping the last week, when everyone is very tired and crabby and crampy and broke and hungover and drunk and ill. And then the thought occurred that the preview season wouldn’t be necessary, as I could preview all I wanted in London. And then the move to London occurred and then the paying for the move to London swiftly followed, and it turned out that I had no money and no holidays from work available and generally it started to look like maybe my Festival 2005 experience would be limited to a short week / long weekend type of affair.

And now this. This whole nothingness. This year, there will be no Edinburgh Festival for me. It’s starting today, and it’s starting without me, and it will have to do without me for the whole three and a half glorious weeks, because I’ve got better things to do. Okay, so not better things, so much as other things. I have other things to do, and other places to do them.

I’ve got mixed feelings about the Festival. It’s decreased in appeal every year since my first attendance, but the draw has remained as strong, perhaps stronger, every year. The emotional dramas that ensue every year are quite often the most ridiculous things to contemplate 11 months of the year, but for that one month all senses are simultaneously heightened and dulled and it’s hard to make sense of it all when you’re caught up in the middle.

My favourite memory of last year’s festival is, perversely, sitting on the edge of my bed and weeping like a child because I thought everything was finished, and it was, in fact, all just about to start. I’m joyously happy that I’m not attending this year, and at the same time bitterly disappointed. I’ll be following the coverage with increasing vigour and venom, but it’s akin to being outside a party, looking in the window at the drinking and the dancing. It’s true you’ll come out the other side without the hangover, the regrets, the acrid smell of smoke clinging to your clothes and the vague feeling that you may have slept with someone you shouldn’t have, but you’ll have missed out on all the fun that leads to the regrets.

Anyway. There’s always next year.

02 August 2005
Talk this week has turned to death more than once. I don’t think it’s got anything to do with the current climate of rapidly cycling boredom and hysteria that eventually comes with constant talk of suicide bombs. I think it has more to do with the fact that we’ve both got birthdays fast approaching, and with birthdays comes the realisation that life is quite soon to finish. At least, that’s what I like to constantly remind people while they’re trying to celebrate.

Another appeal was on the television for the famine in Niger, another parade of almost unbearable images, but charitable apathy has already began to sink in, and we started swapping statistics about the different causes of death in the UK. Having first decided on a round figure of total number of people in the UK, and total number born, we all turned and stared in wordless amazement as He Who Only…’s flatmate declared the surprisingly large number of people who – in his words – “had to die” every year to keep the population under control. I expressed a hope that he wasn’t thinking he had to help contribute to the death rate.

Another night, another pub. For some reason, watching Liverpool romp to victory over some team for some championship qualifying something inspired us to talk firstly about our own funeral services and then on how much a funeral costs to stage. One of our party promised the other of our party that, when the sad time comes he will endeavour to make the most inappropriate speech possible, causing most of the congregation to vomit and some others of the congregation to drop dead right there in their pews. We then realised that there’s a gap in the market screaming to be filled, and so another great scheme was formed. Plans are afoot, dear reader, if things don’t go according to what we have mapped out for ourselves, to open up a budget funeral parlour, burying or burning your dearly and recently departed for less than half of what the competition charge. We’ve got plots, we’ve got pyres, we’ve got cut price coffins, and we’ve got our eye on an abandoned field near the train station asking to be filled with the discarded dead.

01 August 2005
I was walking down the road last night, leaving my quiet house and wandering down my quiet street, making my – I have to admit, relatively quiet – way to He Who Only…’s house, which is on a slightly busier and therefore a less quiet place to be. I like the quiet, and a break from the quiet makes the quiet that welcomes my return all the better. And so off I was going, on my quiet way, minding my own quiet business.

A few doors down from me, a young man was leaning on the wall standing inside his front garden, casually having a cigarette. I walked past. He said: “Hello”.

I nearly fell over.

I’ve gotten so used to people not speaking to each other in London – it is in fact one of the most agreeable things about living here – that I couldn’t quite understand what he was saying, and could see absolutely no motivated for this frankly unprovoked greeting. I remembered, in the back of my mind, that there was some protocol for this kind of situation. I kept walking, but mumbled a “Hello” back.

He kept talking to me.

“Do you live near here?”

I kept walking.

“Just down the road,” I returned, over my shoulder, not daring to look back lest we look each other in the eye.

“Maybe,” he said, having to raise his voice at this stage, because I was by then a good distance away, “I will see you again soon.”

I gave him a polite grin, which was completely wasted, as I was after all facing away from him. I may well have also shrugged.

And that, ladies and gentleman, was the first of the two times this week that a man has spoken to me for no reason in the street.