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Dreadful Nonsense

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

24 December 2005
Since I've been in Dublin (since late on Thursday evening, then) I have:
- Got up at 8.30am every morning to go shopping.
- Eaten out for every meal except breakfast
- Been covered in dogs and/or dog hair
- Eaten so much chocolate that I risk going into diabetic shock
- Had my hair cut
- Spent €300
- Had three mochas from Starbucks (despite there being only one Starbucks in all of Ireland)
- Not stepped inside a pub once.

I am about to go for a walk with three jack russels, and all of my siblings. Tonight will be spent standing in a pub beer garden drinking guinness and talking to people I haven't seen since this time last year and won't see until this time next year.

22 December 2005
Hello!

It's Christmas! I know it is for definite now, because I've already struggled through one mass of commuters on my way to work with a suitcase, a big bag, and a plastic bag with a massive and breakable present that I ill-advisably bought for a sibling WHO HAD BETTER BLOODY APPRECIATE IT that's all I can say.

I'm going to have to do it all again in a couple of hours, because another aspect of the sheer Christmassness of it all is that I have to get a flight. A flight! Flying! Imagine! I've not done that since July. Golly, am I looking forward to it.

Flight details, then:
Ryainair flight FR293
Leaving Stansted: 8.10pm
Arriving: Dublin: 9.20pm

Ho ho ho.

21 December 2005
The fantastic feeling listless is running a Review 2005 feature on the site, and I've been asked to contribute. Actually, I was asked months ago, and have only just got around to replying. Me a bad. Me bold. Me sorry.

So here, below, is my post, which I probably shouldn't be posting until my post is posted on their site, but still. As I said. Me a bad. Me bold.

- - - - - - - - - - -


Christmas always tends to have an air of melancholy, as nothing screams frustrated ambition quite like the sound of another year passing by. However, I think in my 2005 I have made some tiny but important achievements that might, one day, come to the attention of the wider world, and will eventually have me hailed as the right and proper Queen of the Universe, and also saviour of mankind, and quite possible Best Person Ever.

But until that happens, my successes in 2005 remain some of the biggest and best of my humble and increasingly pointless lifetime.

In contemplating writing this little piece of self-importand dribble, I considered a number of possibilities as to what my biggest achievement in 2005 could be. It could be that I've finally managed to trick someone of the opposite and opposing sex to move in with me and become, as I like to refer to him, "my live in lover" or "my special flatmate" or, as others describe him, "that poor fool". I could talk about how I've finally overcome two of the biggest phobias of my life: that of flying, and that of needles, by getting on a plane at least twice a month every month between November 2005 and July 2006, and having some tattoos painted on my foot with big scary needles and ink.

Alternatively, it is an achievement of sorts that I managed to successfully contract food poisoning (being a vegetarian), but miraculous disembark from the tube train on which I was travelling to throw up instead on the platform (if you've ever commuted in London, I think you'll share with me the horror of being ill on a tube train). I'm also quite pleased about the practicality with which I have dealt with my credit card debt, in that right at this moment I have more in my current account than on my credit card, something that hasn't happened since 1998 at the earliest.

But no. My honestly, truly, proudest moment of actual sheer physical, mental and emotional success, the peak of my year as a person, came about a week ago, when myself and my long-suffering better half were leaving a young person's musical adventure, and noticed that the bus we were intending to catch was rapidly approaching us from behind, while we were still quite the way away from the stop at which we could catch it. I looked at him. He looked at me. We both looked ahead. And, grabbing the top of my jeans and hiking them up to avoid them falling around my ankles, we both set off in a sprint, laughing and yelling as we did that there was no way we were going to get that bus, and where was my oyster card, and my trousers are falling down, and look it's stopping and oh god, we did it.

It may not seem like a big deal to you, dear reader, that I managed to run for and successfully catch a bus, but this time two years ago I spent New Years Eve on the floor of my flat in Edinburgh, alone and crying due to the pain in my back that was so bad I couldn't sit up, stand, or socialise in any reasonable or meaningful manner. I don't by any means intend this post to be a sort of self-aggrandising rant to the power of my healing abilities, or the bravery over which I have defeated my adversaries, or even just a boasting on the fact that I can recover from physical injury. It is simply a darned, straight up, and thank the good lord and all his angels, mind boggling success for me to happily run for a bus without a care in the world, that this is my biggest success of 2005.

Now. I'm off to drink my body weight in brandy. Do please have a merry that and a wonderful the other.

19 December 2005
Today, in the spirit of sharing, I hand my blog over to the almighty power that is He Who Only... Here he is, speaking on the topic that I chose for him, the topic being "What It's Like To Live With Shazzle". We are all humbled and ashamed.

Living with Shazzle is like a box of chocolates. You spend a lot of time scrabbling awkwardly at flaps with your fingers and you end up feeling a bit sick. Coincidentally we also live on Quality Street, as unlikely as this may seem, and the landlord, Terry, has an all over burnished yellow hue. However we've not met the neighbours and it would be inappropriate to speculate as to either their ethnicity or whether or not they indulge in certain occult rituals. What is more while there are flowers on the dining room table I don't know what kind they are, thank you very much, and as we have no cats or indeed hedgehogs, there has never been any need to pour white animal lactates onto a flat carrying surface notwithstanding how positively the female element of the domestic equation would react to so doing.

I think I've made myself perfectly clear.

Shazzle is the first lady I have lived with, unless you count that short period staying on Hilary Clinton's sofa, in which case Hilary was the First Lady I have lived with and Shazzle is the first lady I have lived with who is not the First Lady (I have lived with). Of course by that token there are several First Ladies I have not lived with (Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, Elenor Roosevelt et al..) and one first lady I have not lived with who would, I suppose, be the first lady I met after my mother. If of course we're going to count my mother... ( one ... yes, there we go... that's the right amount of my mother) as a lady I have lived with. In which case Shazzle is not the first lady I have lived with or the first lady I have not lived with. So who is the first lady? Well, as it's Christmas, we'll say Eve.

Here are some things I have noticed about the whole complicated business.

Shazzle likes plans. Everything that she does has to have been properly considered before hand. Me, I like to start things and see how they turn out (thankfully this is not reflected in my prose style). This means that, now I live with Shazzle, I am rushing into fewer bad decisions. To compensate I am rushing into them quicker (I want to write "BACK-ASS")..BACK-ASS!

Shazzle likes things to be clean. This means I have fewer infections than before and now no longer look like Colin off of The Brittass Empire. Strangely enough I look like Helen.

Shazzle is "Smooth Down There".

Shazzle makes me tea in the mornings. This makes me so happy I want to fart and laugh at the same time and often do. Shazzle thinks that I'm laughing at my own flatulence. Little does she realise that both things are a tribute to her.

That is all the things that I have notice at the moment. Grrrrrrrrr.

15 December 2005
The difference between writing a blog on a daily basis, on a computer with broadband access, and during a time in your life where you have little better to do, and writing a blog on a semi-regular basis, on your work computer while relying on someone in another country to post up entries when your work firewall blocks access (thank you Mrs Bishop!), and during a time in your life where you barely have time to sit down for five minutes and you haven't watched a tv programme that wasn't on a dvd for about three months, suddenly struck me today when for the first time in about six months I checked my site trackers.

When I was living in Dublin this is something I used to do nearly every day, mainly to keep up to date on who was reading me and from where, but also as a vanity project, to see who linked to me, and if they'd said anything unnecessarily lovely about me. I've never found a bad word said about me, and I think this may well be because the site trackers I use are nonsense as opposed to being due to the fact that no bad words have been said about me; then again, I don't for a moment entertain the thought that I'm in any way important enough to have caused the slightest ripple in the blogosphere.

But the idea of blogging, the nature of blogging, the existence of blog culture, of blogging communities, of blogger identities and the whole point of blogging is something that I know for a darned factI will be discussing quite often for the next few months, due to something I can't possibly pass comment on at the moment. This something is also the reason I've been drunk on champagne not once but twice in the last week.

I'm digressing though. The point is, I've not done a crazy referrers round up for a while, so here are my top five favourite search engine phrases that pointed people in the general direction of my blog.

1. "gaping anus of christ"
Not my phrase, of course, but that of Stewart Graham Lee. I do love that there are only eight google entries in total for this phrase. There really should be more, and at least one of them should really not have the single tiniest reference to Stewart Lee. I shall endeavour to progress this cause. I may even make t-shirts.

2. "dirty carols"
I don't know any dirty carols. Well, I don't know any dirty Christmas carols. I do know one lady called Carol who is a filthy tramp, and will do anything down a back alley for a quick tenner (hello Carol!). I therefore don't know why this search points to me, because my work firewall won't show me the links page.

3. "geekiest room"
A phrase I used in 2004 in reference to the room we sat in and watched the last four brilliant episodes of the final brilliant series of Angel shown side by side with the rubbish last four episodes of the rubbish Smallville like anyone in the world cared at all. I stand by that: I have yet to be in a geekier room, and I'm a big old geek who knows a lot of big old geeks.

4. "recurring STDs"
It is now my proudest moment, to know that if you put in an inverted commas search on google for "recurring STDs" that my website is the 5th one listed. The fifth in all the world. Well goodness me. Somebody hand me a trophy. And some wet wipes.

5. "flight attendant lesbo trousers"
Good. I don't know where this goes to on my site because, again, the firewall has blocked it. But I'm curious to know when I've used that phrase before. Perhaps you could let me know in the comments. Many thanks.

14 December 2005
There is a set of zebra crossings just outside The New Flat Of Love where I now live. These zebra crossings are a pair, only because they are split halfway across the road to accommodate the right fork in the road. The traffic is one way, so there's no looking left-right-then-left-again business - it's a steady stare to the left while hovering with one foot about to strike the first stripe.

I've always been mightily impressed at the power of the zebra crossing in the UK. My first ever trip to the UK was to visit my aunty and uncle in Liverpool, and on the Saturday, we were brought shopping in the city centre and crossing a road for the first time I was astonished to see the cars will slow down from the moment you begin your right angled turned approach to the road side. They'll stop altogether if you've got just one foot in the zebra crossing. Just one foot. We tried this out multiple times, standing with one foot on the crossing and not moving a muscle, then backing away and giggling when the drivers got understandably miffed.

However, the black and white stripes don't seem to have quite the same effect in the north London area, as cars merrily whizz past without a care in the world for the plight of the pedestrian trying to get from one side to the other. I am therefore incredibly nervous crossing at our zebra crossing outside The Apartment Of Co-Habitation Outside of Wedlock, and instead hover at the edge, waiting for a car to give an indication that they might be willing to let me cross without flattening me. Most drivers drive through without stopping - I'd say 2 in every 3 cars that past - but eventually someone will at least slow down and flash their lights to show that they're willing to let me live to see another day. I usually acknowledge this with a cheerful wave and run to the other side as quickly as possible, just in case I am an unwitting participant in a game of chicken.

This morning, then, I was half way across the zebra crossing, and a nice woman in a small white car slowed down, but didn't flash lights, so I didn't take the chance of stepping out into the traffic until she was actually stopped. I was mid-wave and mid-crossing when I realised that the motorbike speeding up the road behind her was not going to be able to slow down, let alone stop, before reaching us and I instinctively sprinted across the rest of the crossing and almost pressed myself into the wall on the other side. The sound of the screaming of brakes and the skidding of wheels was quickly followed by the sound of cyclist and motorbike screeching along the road on their respective sides, and the screaming of a woman on the other side of the road who thought that the bike and driver were about to collide with the small white car. After less than a second and more than a century, the bike came to a crashing stop, hitting both the back wheels of the stopped car with an almighty thudding and a sickening clash of metals. The bike rider continued his slide along the road, eventually coming to rest underneath the car itself.

The entire world stopped for a moment and a lifetime.

Then, the bike rider crawled out from underneath the car and started brushing himself down.

I walked away towards the train station. I didn't stop shaking for about 20 minutes afterwards.

I'm crossing at the lights at the bottom of the road from now on.

13 December 2005
The best thing about wandering around with a digital camera is this kind of nonsense. I present a self portrait in St Pauls tube station (just outside platform 2). Mrs Bishop is in the background, concerned that we are about to miss a train. If you look to the back and left, you can see the exact location at bottom of the escalators where two weeks previously I had thrown up in a mighty and undignified manner.

11 December 2005


On Sunday morning, Mrs Bishop and I wended our merry way to the Tate Modern, really just to go to the fantastic book shop they have there in order to beat everyone else into a cocked hat, in terms of the fantasticness of the Christmas presents we are purchasing this year, but also to go wander around between some plastic boxes.

I've been to see the current exhibition in the Tate Modern Turbine Hall three times now, and I don't know what it is that I find so absolutely fascinating about it. I think it has a lot to do with people's reactions to it - as you're walking around, shielded from all sides by this enormous structures, you forget that people are able to hear you passing comment, and so a lot of the viewers are totally unabashed in expressing their true opinion of the piece.

Most people seem to think that pointing out that it looks like a warehouse is a criticism. Yes, yes, it does. Piles of boxes have that effect. But I love the stillness of it all, all of the lines, the difference in stacking style and method, the sheer scale of it that threatens to topple at any moment. I love that children are running around playing chasing and hide and seek in the middle of the gallery, I love that half the people walking around are exasperated because they just don't see what's so darned interesting about piles of boxes, while the other half of us spend most of our time trying desperately to take a photograph of the exhibition from an original perspective.

10 December 2005
When you have spent all of your money on silly frivolous things like plates, cups, glasses, saucepans and food, you suddenly find that you haven't budgeted to include essentials like Christmas trees, baubles and tinsel. Sure, there are one or two scraps of sparkling nonsense hanging around the flat, thanks to the great variety of EVERYTHING FOR 99P!!! shops up and down the High Street beside us, but I think you'll find, if you are fortunate to walk into our flat in the next month, that nothing screams Christmas more than our Christmas Mattress:

08 December 2005
"What I'm saying to you," he said, flicking through my CV with a dismissive gesture and looking across the desk at me as if he was about the reveal the secret of Fatima, "is that you are unemployable."

"Mmm," I said, renewing my fixed grin which had slipped slightly, and nodded.

"What you need to do," he continued, picking at his teeth while banging a pen hard against the side of the desk, "and I'm saying this for your own good, is take the first job that comes along and stay there."

"Right," I agreed, still grinning, but choosing at that moment to execute an uncomfortable shuffle which started with me deciding to uncross my legs but then deciding half way through not to bother.

"Your CV reads like a nightmare," he said, and then stopped to stare at me for a response.

"Yes," I said, for the lack of any other response.

"You've had too many jobs."

"Mmm."

"Nobody will want to employ you."

"...right."

"But!" he said, suddenly seized by an enthusiasm that seemed to take us both by complete surprise, "I might have someone who is desperate enough to consider you."

"Right," I said.

06 December 2005

The saga of How We Came To Have This Flat is a long and ultimately boring one, and one, if I was forced to recount it here and now, would drive me not only to tears, drink and homicidal rage but also a kind of catatonic state from which I may never emerge. Or emerge only to cry, drink and then kill everyone around me before lapsing back to dribbling and staring at the walls.
However, I will now, once and for all, categorically state that if it came down to a choice of garrotting an estate agent or garrotting a recruitment agent, I’d dismember the estate agent quicker than the recruitment agent would be able to get me to sit down for a typing test (and that’s mighty quick).

Estate agents, people: they lie. They lie, and then they lie, and after that they lie. The particular one that we dealt with told on average one lie every sentence he uttered in our general direction for the duration of the tedious time we had to deal with him. Not only that, but he didn’t return phone calls, he didn’t respond to emails, he didn’t keep appointments and he was never once in the office any time we had previously arranged to meet him there. His actions reduced me to a flying rage on Friday that He Who Only… bore the brunt of, and if he had decided not to move in with me on the basis of the four headed, fire breathing, building shaking monster that had replaced his girlfriend, well I wouldn’t have blamed him at all.

Nothing was done when it was supposed to be, the contents of the flat were exaggerated, as was the completion date for building. Hidden costs stayed hidden until the last moment, nothing was produced in the manner we had been led to believe, and on the day of moving in, nobody was prepared for each other. My name and He Who Only…’s previous address and current employer are all inaccurate on every from and contract.

On the plus side, the estate agent’s total inefficiency meant that there were no questions about my impending lack of employment, nothing mentioned about lack of references for either of us from previous landlords and not guarantor was demanded in the manner we were expecting. We were going to write a strongly worded letter of complaint, but on reflection, sitting staring out the window of our beautiful new flat across the wonderful view of the council estate, we decided to keep our happy gobs shut.

Home sweet home.

05 December 2005

Last Friday we finally achieved what at one stage looked completely unachievable, and signed contracts – frightening contracts, that threatened lots and promised absolutely nothing – to our brand new sparkling flat, which we are now going to be referring to as our Love Shack.

Our brand new Haven Of Romance is a flat on the third floor above what was until very recently a pub, and which still looks like a pub from a distance. Our new landlord, who is also one of the builders that worked on the conversion, gave me the complete history of the building of the flats while driving me there, complete with the saga of the water works, and the whole shebang of complications with the Council which is the reason why, for the moment, we are living without a post code (but also, hurrah, temporarily without council tax).

The Sin Bin we now call our home is a two and two-half roomed place, with three different shades of palatable orange on the walls, shutters on every window, ludicrous ceiling roses on every ceiling (other than the bathroom) and the smallest hallway ever known to man. The stairs through the building aren’t finished yet, flats one, two, eight and nine are not connected to any water, and the penthouse flat directly above us has no electricity.

The Love Nest boasts a brand new boiler, a brand new fridge freezer, a brand new washing machine, a brand new oven, a brand new double bed, two brand new sofas, a brand new dining table and four brand new chairs, and one brand new coffee table.

And that, my friends, is all we have.

We haven’t thought this through. You see, we’ve both been living, up until this moment, in a great sequence of shared accommodation, the advantage of which is the shared facilities, such as plates. Knives. Forks. Mugs. Glasses. Irons. We have nothing other than one mug that He Who Only…’s mother gave him to celebrate some footballing nonsense, and a saucepan that has a wobbly handle.

Nothing else.

Nothing.

We’ve had to borrow two plates, two knives, two forks, two spoons and a mug from ex-houses. So far we’ve eaten a take away, and some toast, and we drink tea made from water boiled on the stove. We’re currently spending our working days perusing Argos and Tesco to find the best deals for New Home / Starter Set type crockery sets, and discussing the preferred colour for the bathmat.

How did it ever come to this?

01 December 2005


You should try standing outside and across the road from the official residence of the leader of whatever country you live in, being herded into a holding pen by the police or equivalent security forces, stand facing the busy traffic, tying a blind fold around your head and repeating the words “stop torture… stop torture… stop torture…” for half an hour on a freezing cold Sunday afternoon.

The things I do for entertainment.

I’ve been here for a while, and a few weeks ago, just before the summer ended, myself and He Who Only… found ourselves standing outside Downing Street for no particular reason other than we had happened to be passing. That time, I stood with my face pressed to the iron gates and staring in at the street, remarking on how unimpressive and small it all looked, and saying all the things that everyone says the first time they see something in real life that they usually see on the television.

This time round though, it did have an air of importance about it all, mainly because we were all dressed in black and shouting angrily towards it. That kind of thing is going to give anything an air of authority.

My former housemate has recently started working on a voluntary basis for Amnesty International, and I agreed that it would be a good use of my time to accompany her to a demonstration outside of Downing Street, just so I could go and shout at old Tony Blairs and feel like I’d done something useful with my spare time for once, rather than just the usual kicking tramps and drowning babies that I get up to of a weekend.

A man at the front of the main group also wore a hood over his head and a noose around his neck for the duration, and obviously was the recipient of most of the press interest, but I found the diversity of the group protesting really interesting. A group of goth teenagers stood beside us, messing about for the most part but wholeheartedly joined in the chanting with that spirit of true belief that only teenagers can muster. On the other side of us, a group of pensioners stood quietly, moving occasionally from foot to foot to keep the cold off.

It’s quite frightening to be blindfolded, even voluntarily and even just for a short while. Buses were going past, and every now and again a car would slow down and sound their horn in encouragement, which added to the feeling of chaos and disorientation caused by lack of sight. The stickers on the back of the blindfold, telling you when to put them on and how long to wear them for, rub up against your skin and make you sweat despite the freezing cold surroundings and I lasted about three straight minutes in total before taking it off and wandering about with the excuse of taking photos.