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Dreadful Nonsense

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

30 May 2006
Right then. Let’s deal with Derren Brown.

Allow me to preface this rant with the clarification that I have never once in my life been able to do a single magic trick. This is because I have never tried to. I have never read a single book about magic in my life, and everything that I know about magic and illusion comes from watching television. I am, as Mentalist Derren Brown kept telling me last Saturday night, a reasonably intelligent person and am blessed with a healthy amount of logic and cynicism. Importantly, I am aware that MAGIC DOESN'T EXIST, so I am already aware that everything Evil Derren Brown does with his mind melding is not magic but trickery. My joy in watching his television show is trying to work out how he does the things he does, if his claims that he doesn't use "actors" or "stooges" is true. I can't usually quite work out how he's done it, and that's where the joy of his illusions lies for me. I like the feeling of wool over my eyes.

I was therefore deeply disappointed by the two hour long extravaganza that we went to see in Hammersmith on Saturday because, with only one exception, I was able to work out exactly how he did every single trick in the two hour show. He started with the usual preface that he achieves his tricks through showmanship, psychology and misdirection, and all that jazz - but we noted immediately that he didn't say that no actors would be used during the show (mind you, for full disclosure, we did miss the very first minute due to an over enthusiastic door lady who wouldn't let us in even though Wicked Derren Brown wasn't even on the stage).

For anyone who saw this Olivier Award Winning Show, and still don't quite know how he achieved what he achieved, the most important thing to remember, in terms of how El Derren Brown did his tricks, were that there were cameras on the ceiling.

I'll say that again: there were cameras on the ceiling.

We know this because, during some card tricks, the ceiling cameras (those cameras that were on the ceiling looking down on the action) were used to project what was happening on to a big screen behind them, so we could all enjoy the magic close up. So there was no denying the presence of the cameras.

One more time for clarity: THERE WERE CAMERAS ON THE CEILING.

Therefore, for example, can you work out how he correctly named the one person out of five that was lying? Not thanks to body language. Not thanks to how they walked up to the microphone. Not thanks to tone of voice, or hesitation, or looking off to the left, or blushing. He knew because HE KNEW WHO WAS HOLDING THE BLACK BALL, THANKS TO THE CAMERA ON THE CEILING. Similarly, he worked out the surname of the person the lady had her first crush on not thanks to her standing perfectly still with her eyes closed and repeating the name over and over again in her head, but because THE CAMERA ON THE CEILING SAW WHAT SHE WROTE ON THE PIECE OF PAPER.

Are we all clear as to how the camera on the ceiling worked in Derren Brown’s favour? That's how the card tricks were done. That's how he knew which colour envelope they'd chosen. That's how he "guessed" everything ever written down. Have we got that? Good. Now we can move on.

The one thing I can't work out is how he walked across a long line of broken glass with bare feet and didn't cut himself. There was a hand held camera on stage at this point, and that zoomed in so that we could see up close Mental Derren Brown’s feet on the glass, and could hear the lovely crunching sound. I loved all the build up with the plastic bag over his head, the "explanation" of how he was going to lower his blood pressure to such a level that he wouldn't bleed, all the giddiness afterwards when his pulse "returned to normal" and the beating out of his heart tapped on the microphone, but that, ladies and gentlemen, was just a prime example of misdirection on a grand level. Even if he had managed to "lower his blood pressure", logic dictates that, on return to a normal level, any cuts would thereafter start bleeding. Even lying with his face in the broken glass and a member of the audience standing on his head didn't seem to pierce the Derren Brown Skin, and I don't know why. I did however note that, although the hand held camera was all about the close ups while walking, they didn't show a close up of his face or feet once he'd done the walking. I don't know why - that would only have added to the impressiveness of the stunt - so I can only assume that Mr Derren Brown was, in fact, bleeding slightly after the event, and they chose not to show it.

That, though, was the highlight of the show for me, because it was genuinely impressive. The grand finale was what really got to me, in terms of huge disappointments.

This centred around the fact that Master Derren Brown was able to guess one word (the word was 'fascinated') out of all of the Saturday newspapers, one word seemingly chosen at random, which was something like a one in an impossibly large number (something that involved badillions, I think). The choice of newspaper came from 10 papers, the page number was picked at random, the page was then torn into pieces, and one out of these 20 pieces was chosen, then a member of the audience chose one word from this one piece, and Vile Derren Brown managed to get it right and there was great applause and everyone was happy. Then Mr Devastating Revelation Derren Brown "showed" us how he'd done the trick - through subliminal suggestions planted throughout the show.

He had said the word "Daily", he had said "Mail", he had said "Daily Mail", he had said "page 13" and he had even said the phrase "tear around fascinated" at one point, and all of these were played back to the gob smacked as if he was revealing the freaking Da Vinci Code.

People around us stood up and started applauding, as if he'd just brought Lazarus back from the dead. I was ABSOLUTELY GUTTED. Because, gents and ladies, I'd leaned over to He Who Only... not three minutes before hand and said "he's palmed something there", and that, just that, was how the trick was done.

About 20 minutes beforehand, he had driven a large nail through his nose. I know how this trick is done, and will share the secret with you now - this trick is done by driving a large nail through your nose. Simple as that. This had caused him to have a bit of a runny nose afterwards, and he kept blowing it.

Which is a classic example of misdirection, distracting you from what he’s doing with the other hand. And it gives him ample excuse to keep putting his hand in his pocket.

So when he was passed the bits of paper that were torn up by a member of the audience, he was actually holding the pre-prepared bits of paper in the other hand, each of which said exactly the same thing. I can say for certain that they all said exactly the same thing, not because we saw all of those pieces of paper, but because we didn't see any of them. Although the ceiling camera (which I think I've mentioned before) was well able to zoom right in, it didn't. Which meant there was something we weren't meant to see.

The entire crux of the show, the devastating biggest trick and "reveal", the magnificent example of mind manipulation that had people giving a standing ovation, crying and calling out for Mr Derren Brown to be either made King of the Land or Burnt at the Stake, was a very simple (admittedly well executed) piece of misdirection, palming and substitution.


I did enjoy the show, but dear Lord Baby Jesus I was disappointed. We were totally overcharged for such a piece of standard stage show frippery that the tiniest of child could have seen.

The Emperor? He Has No Clothes On, people.

29 May 2006

Good morning! Today is a bank holiday in England, and not one in Ireland, which I forgot until last night. So hello to everyone in Ireland! I'm not at work today, and you are! Brilliant!

Here is a photograph of a bar man. This represents what I'll be doing all day today. Yes, that's right, serving drinks to other people, winking at ladies and asking people if they have no homes to go to.

28 May 2006
I have been living in London Town for a whole year - that's 365 full days, ladies and gentlemen - and to celebrate, here are some photographs of wildlife that I've seen in the last couple of days. We were walking through Clissold Park today when we noticed there was quite a big group of people staring at one of the lakes where the geese and ducks live. Although you don't see many animals in London, other than pigeons (rats with wings), squirrels (rats with long tails) and rats (rats), I thought that ducks shouldn't really be that much of a novelty. You can see them all round China Town, for a start. So we went over the investigate.

THERE ARE TURTLES IN THE WATER. Turtles. Living with the geese and ducks. TURTLES, PEOPLE. Lovely turtles were swimming about, holding their necks above the water and giving the impression that they're being dragged under the water by their back legs. More turtles were sunbathing on a branch further up the lake.

I can't stess it enough. TURTLES. That made my day.

The other brilliant thing we saw on the way to seeing Derren Brown's live show in Hammersmith. We were on the District Line, the brilliant one that goes overground for much of the journey and has wooden floors, like in the old fashioned days before the Great Fire Of London (you'd think they'd learn). When the train stopped in Earls Court, a new passenger got on to our carriage. A pigeon.

I love seeing birds on the tube, because they're so calm and collected. I commented to He Who Only... that the pigeon seemed to know what he was doing. He Who Only... assured me that he did. This is a well known London phenomenon, apparently, and a quick scan of the net confirms this. I was so freaking thrilled though, I kept saying to He Who Only... "there's a pigeon on the tube, there's a pigeon on the tube!" I was leaning over trying to get a good shot while the pigeon (who only had one toe on one foot) wandered up and down pecking at the wooden floor and everyone else on the carriage was having a good look too, apart from one women who was sitting brushing her hair over and over, wearing BRIGHT RED lipstick (a colour which can only be written in capital letters), who suddenly noticed the pigeon almost at her feets, screetched like someone had just told her she had lipstick on her teeth (which to her credit, she didn't). She lifted her feet off the floor, looked over at us as if we should have warned her and got off at the next stop.

The pigeon, however did not. He carried on up and down the carriage as happy as larry. When we got off at Hammersmith, I was slightly concerned he would be staying on for too long, and right behind us a lady on the carriage "helped" the pigeon off the carriage by flapping a newspaper at him. The pigeon took flight right out the door behind us and, as we watched, flew back on to the tube into the next carriage, to the delight of everyone sitting inside. He obviously wasn't at his stop yet.

Happy Anniversary, London!

Coming on Tuesday: a long post about how rubbish Derren Brown's live show is, complete with explanations on how he does every single one of his tricks. I'm not kidding, y'all. It was incredibly disappointing. Mind you, I still would.

26 May 2006
For the third time in four months, we went to see the beautifully wonderful and fantastically brilliant Bell X1, who are the best band in the world ever. I had fun with my mobile phone while dancing like a goon and shouting singing at the top of my voice. This, ladies and gentlemen, is Mr Paul Noonan singing with all the feeling he can muster (which is quite a lot of feeling):

In his flailing hand he has a rattle that is shaped like a cob of corn. He therefore spent much of the first song shouting singing the words "I AM A CORN COB! I AM A CORN COB!" which made me want to marry him just a little bit.

This is the photo that has been the wallpaper on my mobile phone ever since. This picture makes me smile because (a) any boy playing a guitar with his eyes closed means that he is singing the song like it's the MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE WORLD and because HE REALLY MEANS IT and he has the most sensitive soul in the world, and because (b) it reminds me of something that Carol's sister Ollie used to scream every time we went to see another band called The Quarrymen who were a Beatles tribute band. Ollie fancied the guitar player called Rob who took most of the John Lennon parts, and every time he got going on the guitar she used to shout "LOOK AT HIS FINGERS! LOOK AT HIS FINGERS!" which is the most sexually explicit thing I've ever heard her say.

Look at Mr Paul Noonan's fingers.


The best thing about this particular Bell X1 gig was the people who were standing beside us. Two boys had come to the gig together, and they found themselves standing beside two girls. The two boys obviously saw their opportunity, and immediatley started talking to the two girls. It turned out that all four of them (like most of the audience) were Irish, and one of the boys started into the most ridiculous I'm-more-Irish-than-you-and-I-can-prove-it competition that I've ever heard. Establishing how long they'd all lived in London was only the start. Through the gig I caught snippets of their conversation (at the times when I wasn't thinking long and hard about what I'd do to Mr Paul Noonan given half a chance), and I heard (1) the boy asking what everyone got in their Leaving Certs, (2) how the Guinness in London didn't taste as good as the Guinness at "home", and - this one is the best - (3) whether any of them had actually met Ray D'Arcy in real life.

24 May 2006

I was on my way to my OU class last Saturday, and was on the Central Line (which is where I pretty much live when I'm not in the Flat'O'Love). Minding my own business, and listening to The Now Show on my phone, I noticed that someone had written the words "NOISY DOORS" on the door beside me. For the next couple of stops I turned off my phone so that I could check the volume of this specific door, and I can verify that it was no noisier than any of the other doors on that carriage. I don't know why someone crouched down in a moving tube and scratched these words into this specific door, but I love the work that went into it. Hoorah for pointless, non-swearing, non-sexual London graffiti. Let's all applaud.

23 May 2006

As promised yesterday, following my SAVE ALL THE RATS, THE RATS DESERVE TO LIVE ranting, here are some of the highlights of the Museum of London. We have started with a weirdly embarrassed looking cherub who caught my eye. I like to think he just farted, and it came out louder than he had expected.

I have to say, we were slightly disappointed with the contents of the Museum of London. The Museum of London seems to promise everything you've ever needed, wanted or secretly wished in the darkness of the night to know about London. What it actually houses is the Museum Of A Lot Of Different Things, Which May Or May Not Have Occured In London (Oh And A Tiny Room About The Great Fire). But I suppose the MOALODTWMOMNHOIL(OAATRATGF) is a bigger mouthful than TMoL, so it's fair enough they didn't go with the longer title.

You start in the freaking ice age, and move through every single thing that happened to the EARTH since then. It only really starts getting interesting when you get to the 1700s, but by then my interest had already been battered into submission. I wanted to learn about the HISTORY OF LONDON, not the HISTORY OF ALL THESE THINGS WE'VE PUT INTO THIS BUILDING, in some kind of logical but tedious order.

But! It's so worth it for one of the last rooms. 19th Century London. Fucking brilliant.

This, my friends, is a man from Cork:

This man was treated in a hospital in London Town. He had leprosy. He had caught it through working at the ship yards in London Town, and coming into contact with people from Asia, where leprosy was still a big old hairy problem. Leprosy wasn't something that was commonly seen around London Town any more, and so the doctor in London Town thought, hey, I know what we'll do to help us recognise leprosy next time we come across it - WE'LL PICKLE THIS MAN'S HEAD.

That's not actually true. This is in fact a wax model of the man's face. You'll see right behind him is a torso with measles. I freaking LOVE this part of the museum.

22 May 2006
As we are free-thinking, upstanding, righteous and worthy citizens we (actually, only He Who Only…) decided (decreed) that we shouldn’t spend our Sunday afternoon dribbling, lying on the sofa eating sweets and watching the live streaming of Big Brother trying to work out what swears they were saying (which is what I wanted to do), and that we should instead leave the flat, go into London City Town Place and visit the Museum of London to get us some edjukayshun.

Objecting wildly with flapping of hands, and threatening a dirty and nudey protest, I was nevertheless put on a bendy bus and brought into the City Where None Of The People Are of a Sunday. I blinking love London City at the weekends, if you manage to avoid all the normal tourist lumps and keep very much to the working man’s path. You can go for streets on end and not encounter a single person or car, and it’s especially true if, like last Sunday, it’s absolutely appalling down with rain.

We were cruising at a fine speed heading towards Barbican when I spied some sort of excitement happening on the street beside us. A man was half crouching and half running along the path pointing his camera phone towards the ground. In front of him was running the biggest rat I have ever seen in my entire lifetime. It was about the size of quite a large squirrel, which I think you’ll agree is absolutely not the size a rat should be. Gimp Boy with the mobile was trying to video it, as he obviously agreed with me that it was a freakishly nuclear sized rat. He crouched/chased it towards two people, a man and a woman, who were standing in a shop doorway.

The rat, obviously by this stage greatly disturbed, started to jump up at the window of the shop, trying to get in through the glass to what it thought was safety, which gave Gimp Boy time to catch up, and totally freaked out the girl who had just experienced a nuclear sized rat running through her legs. The rat quickly discovered that the glass was not a porthole to freedom and it scrabbled to turn around to keep running along the road.

At this point, boyfriend of freaked out girl took up the chase alongside Gimp Boy, but as he wasn’t encumbered with trying to film the whole thing instead took three or four quick steps towards the rat and then lashed out with his foot, kicking the poor thing into the air.

The thump of his foot as it connected with the rat was one of the more sickening sounds I’ve heard in my lifetime. It flew through the air like a football, thudded on to the ground about 5 feet away, bounced, and ended up in the gutter. It then twitched for - well, I don’t know how long. At that point I had my hand across my mouth and had to turn away, because I felt so utterly disgusted. He Who Only… later informed me that Git Face Boyfriend looked incredibly pleased with himself, like he’d scored the winning goal at the World Cup.

Now, I understand that rats are vermin, and carry diseases, but that kind of needless, disgusting, gratuitous kind of violence towards any living creature turns my stomach. It genuinely haunted me for the rest of the day, the sound of his foot connecting with the rat, the vision of it trying desperately to climb up the wall, the terror it must have felt being chased by an idiot with a camera phone…

Anyway. Enough of my vegetarian grandstanding. Tomorrow I will be posting photographs of some of the REALLY DISGUSTING THINGS you can see in the Museum of London. Hoorah!

18 May 2006
I've just seen Davina McCall make fun of someone with a disability, and then piss herself laughing live on national television. Big Brother must be back. Oh goody. There go the next 12 weeks.

17 May 2006
There's a spider crawling down the wall behind the computer.

"There's a spider on the wall," I've just told He Who Only..., who is sitting on the sofa behind me, drinking a beer and watching the Champions League Final.

"Yes," he said, without looking up. "It's all under control."

"There's a spider on the wall. Over here, on the wall," I said again, turning around to stress the point to him, as he continued to watch the television.

"Yes," he said, looking straight ahead and never once deviating his gaze, "I've got my eye on him."

I turned all the way around and looked at him. "I don't know where he's going."

"It's fine," he said, "I'll deal with it in a minute."

I turned back to the computer. The spider was nowhere to be seen.

"I can't see the spider," I said.

"It's fine," he said again, "I know where he is."

If it turns out he's on my fucking back, someone's going to be single very very very soon.

16 May 2006
Jeez, you guys, one at a time with the deafening feedback, if you don't mind. I'd've thought that the sheer beauty of Kesh would have drawn one or two comments but no, y'all are silent as the grave around Derek Acorah. Well then, fine. Have it your way and be like that. I (sob) don't fucking (weep) care. Bastards.

ANYHOO. I went out for lunch with a bunch of people with whom I spend a lot of my week days, if you know what I mean, and holy bejoly it was quite the adventure. For a start, there was a scramble for seats as we all tried to sit with our buddies so that we could talk about the people we didn't like, but the older members of the group chuckled at this and suggested that instead we should all sit with people we don't usually sit with, so we could all get to know each other that little bit better. Call me a loon, but the reason we don't know them by now is because WE DON'T WANT TO KNOW THEM, THANKS, but the older members, being the ones more directly in charge of our spare change, if you know what I mean, have the final say, and so we were separated and cast adrift from each other.

Thusly, I was left sitting with a bunch of people who didn't already know that I was vegetarian. I absolutely hate eating with people I don't really know, because for some reason the disclosure that I'm vegetarian seems to make people's brains rattle around in their skulls, bouncing off the sides and leading them to bizarre declarations like

"Of course, I don't eat very much red meat at all."
"I'm really more of a chicken and fish person."
"I don't know how you do it, I couldn't live without it."
"What do you eat then?"

and my fucking favourite:

[picks up meat on fork, and dances it about while making noise of animal] "Mooo! Baaaa!"

At least the last one didn't happen on this occasion, as we were all sitting pretending to be grown ups together. I knew it would be a disaster from the first scan of the menu: there was nothing vegetarian on it. Oh hell.

The waiter came along, and I tried to discretely ask if there was anything vegetarian. He looked aghast, like I'd just asked to nibble on his ear, and ran to the top of the room. He came back looking slightly calmer, and told me they could whip up an omlette.

Thing is, I'm allergic to eggs. They make me want to puke my stomach lining out through my ears. I told him this (without the stomach lining and ears part) and he raced back up to the top of the room. He came back looking smug, and told me they could whip up some pancakes.

"Right," I said, without moving my mouth, as my teeth were clenched so tightly and I was turning a very bright shade of red thanks to the social embarrassment of it all, "that's got egg in it too."

"Yes!" he said, and then got the point.

In the end, I had salad. Twice. Two salads. I mean, it was nice salad, but since we were being taken out for lunch that day, an expensive lunch that I wasn't paying for, I'd gone all out and not eaten much that day, and also hadn't brought in anything to eat, thinking that, you know, we're going to a restaurant and I'd have some food, rather than a pile of leaves wankily piled up on a plate and dripped lightly with some kind of Italian oil. Yummy leaves, yummy oil, but Jebus, it's not called an APPETISER for nothing. By the end of it, I was hungrier than I had began.

Of course, I smiled and pretended I didn't give a hot shit while sulking so badly internally I wanted to cry just a little bit, and if anyone had hugged me or shown me a photograph of some froliking kittens right then, I would have dissolved into a puddle of my own misery.

The worst thing, though, was the revelation that someone sitting very close to me was also vegetarian. He took this as some kind of bonding opportunity, and when people started, as they always do, asking us how long we'd been vegetarian (WHAT DO YOU CARE? DO I ASK YOU HOW LONG YOU'VE BEEN EATING MEAT?), he started spouting on and on about animal rights and blah blah blah, while I sat there thinking, this is why people hate vegetarians. You, sir, are why people thing we're all prissy assholes with rods up our backsides and massive chips the size of Britney Spears' ass on our shoulders. Please, please, please shut up.

But then he was crowned, in my eyes at least, the worst vegetarian I've ever met as he declared, almost totally out of context, waving around a forkfull of salad and looking the most self satisfied I have ever seen anyone outside of Jordan on the cover of whatever piece of shit women's magazine she's gracing this week, and completely without any kind of embarrassment - this is a man who is in his mid-40s, a very highly paid professional and someone who should absolutely know better:


And hungry as I was at that very moment, I thought to myself, "oh yeah."

14 May 2006
A couple of weeks ago I complained bitterly and quite loudly about how frustratingly rubbish my new phone was. I ranted and raved, and may have implied, using words like "petrol" and "match" that I had burned the ruddy thing in a final act of nose-spiting. Thankfully, I have a boyfriend with an infinite capacity for patience and an advantageous deafness towards the more profane range of my vocabulary, along with a boyish penchant for fixing things what are broken and keeping his little lady happy. He Who Only... found some chat groups, logged on to some websites, "downloaded" some"patches" (whatever that means), and went and fixed the blighter so that it actually now works as it was always supposed to, and I don't have to keep killing those prostitutes in order to dampen my endless rages.

Now, my phone no longer deletes photographs that I've taken, and so whenever someone calls or texts me, a photograph accompanies their name and details, making the entire process more interesting. However, since a lot of my regular callers live somewhere that I don't, I don't have photographs of their actual faces. I have instead devised a system, where - this is very clever, and another example of one of the things that makes me ENDLESSLY FASCINATING - I have taken a photograph of something that reminds me of them.

For example, when my mother rings, this is what appears:

And when littlesisteredel rings, this is what appears:

I'm not going to show you what appears when He Who Only... rings.

I have now also become absolutely and completely addicted to podcasting, spending hours on the iTunes website trying to find some decent podcasts that cost nothing and are also filled with interesting people and fascinating broadcasts. Thing is, I'm not very good at finding them.

So far the ones that are rocking my world and floating my boat are two that I came across completely by accident and uploaded to see what they'd be like. One is The Dawn And Drew Show, which as far as I can tell is a co-habiting American couple who are very pleased with themselves and think they're the bees knees. I like it, but then I'm fascinated by all things American at the moment, and the stupider the better. This is just the right side of trashy for me.

The other one I really love is Penn Jillette's weekly radio show, especially Tuesdays, as those are "Monkey Tuesday!" and nothing helps my commute in the morning more than listening to two grown men reduced to tears by an hour's worth of stories devoted to the times when people saw monkeys masturbating.

I've also got quite a healthy smattering of BBC podcasts, but here's the thing: I'm very new to this. I need recommendations, please. Anything that you've come across that you like, or that you think I'd like, I'd really love to find out. It's also very important that they're free, as I'm very much against podcasts for which you have to pay (hello Gervais, you tightwad, I'm talking to you). Please leave recommendations in the comments, or email me at dreadful.nonsense@gmail.com.

A great many hearty thanks.

10 May 2006
As one in of the long, unsettling (nay, frankly disturbing) list* of media geeks that I find implausibly attractive**, I was absolutely thrilled yesterday morning to look up the train platform while waiting for the train to arrive and see none other than the maginificently gifted, but also magnificently ordinary looking Charlie Brooker.

At least, I think it was him. The problem with being magnificently ordinary looking is that it may well have been him - there are a lot of media types living in my general area - but it could just as easily not have been him, but another man with one of those samey faces that many men wear these days.

Anyway. I was reminded of that this lunchtime while I was perusing the internerd and thought I would share it with you. As showbiz stories go, it's not any more exciting - but certainly not any less exciting - than learning that la Spears is preggers once more.

Mind you. I would like clarification. If Mr Brooker (can I call you Charlie?) googles himself (and being a media type who only has to sneer at something for about an hour a week and then go back to sitting in his pants downloading American television and weeping for the rest of the week while eating custard by the fistful (that's how I like to picture him), I'd imagine he googles himself quite a lot), can he please confirm or deny that he was waiting for a train yesterday somewhere in North London between about 8.45 and 8.55am?

Many thanks.

* cf. Jon Ronson, Dave Eggers, Derren Brown, Dr Who etc.

** "attractive", I hasten to add, in the sense that I'd like them to be my best friend, not "attractive" in the sense that I'd like their naughty bits anywhere near my naughty bits***.

*** Well, maybe Derren Brown.

09 May 2006
We were in Tescos on the Sunday afternoon, having left the house for the first time since our return from Ireland, and were wandering about as in a daze, gazing around at how… well, the only word is pretty, the city seemed to be. I think it was the way that the sun was shining - it was one of those ludicrously bright days that comes at the start of summer when sunshine and lack of clouds seems to cast a shimmer over everything. Leaves had also sprouted on the trees in the week that we were away, giving everything that extra sense of freshness, so that even the litter and vomit on the pavements of Angel seemed somehow new and exciting and full of promise.

We were queuing in Tescos having filled our basket with a lump of completely inappropriate panic bought foods without an eye to making a complete meal with any of them - Marmite, cakes, three different types of vegetarian sausages, that sort of thing - when the man in front of us at the till started causing a ruckus.

It seemed that he was trying to pay with his credit card, and the machine had asked for his pin number, decided that wasn’t good enough, and had produced a docket for the man to sign. The man was going mental, because he decided that obviously Tescos were topping up their profits by skimming off the top of their customer’s credit cards.

The man was absolutely refusing the sign the docket, saying that he had already inputted his pin. He repeated this assertion about four times, while the cashier looked blankly at him, occasionally blinking. Someone somewhere rang a bell.

A tiny woman with the demeanour of a supermarket manager appeared, carrying a pen and stood in front of the man, holding up the pen and asking him to sign the docket. The man looked down at her, and only at this point removed his ipod headphones to hear what the staff were saying to him. He began repeating again about how he had already put his pin in, so there was no need to sign the docket.

The cashier and tiny manager both looked at him blankly, and blinked at exactly the same time while the man continued to rant. She, unmoving, steadfastly held out the pen. The man, sensing defeat, took the pen and dashed off a signature at the bottom of the docket. The cashier finished blinking, took the receipt and processed the shopping. The manager stood stock-still and watched the process, while the angry man gathered up his shopping and tried to cover his losses by declaring that he would be checking his credit card statements.

“If I’m charged twice for this,” he said, gathering up his shopping that came to no more than about £3.50, “I will be writing you a letter.” He flounced off. The cashier and manager blinked simultaneously, once, and then turned to our basket.

06 May 2006

A quick break from the constant reminiscing of holidays to give y'all a brief insight of what it's like to live with me. I'm sitting at the computer, blogging. He Who Only... is sitting across the room reading, simultaneously, two different sports sections from two different Saturday newspapers while watching Final Score on Sky Sports and muttering about imps. I start singing a very high pitched song in a nasal tone that could easily strip paint off the walls. He Who Only... almost imperceptibly sighs, looks up from his reading and says "Yes, you have my attention."

05 May 2006
There is an understandably romantic air to staying in a cottage that was rebuilt from the remains of an old famine cottage, staying at the very edge of the coast of Ireland, in a cottage with no central heating, it's own water source, no television and a dubious history of electrical failure. Many improvements have been made over the years, and it's not quite the old-fashioned experience it was in my youth. For a start, insulation has been put into the roof, so that now when it rains at night there is a quiet pitter-patter that lulls you back to sleep, rather than the roar of water landing on tin that we used to be woken by during our childhood. This also means that the mice that live in the roof can no longer peak their heads out at you just before the lights are switched off at night.

The only drawback, really, is the fact that the toilet doesn't flush. You learn a lot about a person while staying in a cottage at the most westerly point in Europe, accompanied only by two small dogs and with no meaningful human contact to speak of for a full week, but goodness me you learn an AWFUL LOT MORE about yourself when you're forced to go outside in the pouring rain wearing nothing but tracksuit bottoms and a t-shirt and fill up two large water bottles with water from a tank which collects the rainwater from the gutters and then go into the toilet and pour them, slowly and deliberately, into the toilet pan while desperately trying not look at what's floating about and good lord jesus christ trying to avoid the inevitable splash back.

All in all though, it is now the most comfortably place I've ever stayed that is totally devoid of any mod cons, and although we did bring Eggers, my laptop with us so that we could watch Dr Who DVDs at night, we spent more time simply staring into the turf fire and contemplating the huge things in life, like trying to guess how long a crab will live for, left to its own devices. The most important rule of staying in the cottage for any duration of time, I learned very quickly as a youngster, is to keep the fire burning. It became immediately apparent that He Who Only... was some kind of fire building expert, able as he was to start a fire from merely a pile of glowing embers and a some lumps of damp turf. Every night was spent arranging and rearranging the turf around the glowing heart of the fire, and by the end of the week we had both managed to achieve a strange tanned effect on our faces through spending most evenings totally hypnotised by the dancing flames.

04 May 2006

In the run up to our holiday, I mentioned to He Who Only... my Dad's old habit of growing a "holiday beard" while staying in the cottage over the summer. I realise this isn't exactly a new idea exclusive to the men of my family, but such was my excitement in the run up to our holiday that I kept blurting out this kind of useless information as and when it occured to me, any time any memory of my visits to the cottage came to me.

Buoyed on by my almost suspicious enthusiasm to see what might appear, He Who Only... duly began growing his holiday beard a week before we went away, all the better for getting a run up on it. We were initially apprehensive that some ginger would show up, as his brother is very much a Ginger Man, but as it turned out the holiday beard was almost a totally uniform colour (peppered slightly with some blondey bits that were dotted about here and there).

What I liked very best about the whole time He Who Only... had a beard (which was, in total, just over two weeks) was the fact that, every now and again for no particular reason he would turn to me and announce with delight "I am a hairy man!"

03 May 2006
The biggest difference between every day life and being on holiday, of course, was the presence of the two tiny furry hairy things that pretty much dictate your every movement because (a) they're your responsibility and ultimately rely on you in actual life and death terms and (b) they're incredibly cute and also very intelligent and it's really brilliant when one of them (Bobby) torments the other one (Kesh) until she loses her temper and lashes out, at which point Bobby runs away and wags his tail in delight, before starting again moments later.

They're both particularly fond of beach walks, so I decided the second day we were there that we'd drive out to one of the long stretches of beach that we used to visit as kids during our Summer holidays. I was confident that I'd be able to find it, since the directions are pretty much "drive along the road, turn left and then just keep driving until there's no road left", but brilliant I still managed to get us a little bit lost.

By the time we arrived at the beach it had started to rain a little bit. "Never mind that," He Who Only... announced, "it's just a squall." Squall it is, we decided, and unloaded the now yapping and leaping bundles of dog hair out of the car. They sprinted off ahead of us while we pulled up our hoods, rolled up our trousers and headed out into the squall.

Kesh and Bobby were completely oblivious to the rain as they ran around the beach, occasionally making a dart for any bird with the nerve to come within 50 yards of the beach, and constantly running up to each other to nip at each other's heads, or running back to one or both of us to jump up to our knees and have us tell them how great they are. Within two seconds, Bobby was in the sea barking in delight. He absolutely loves the sea, because he is too ridiculously stupid to realise that he shouldn't, and will dive headfirst into anything that looks like it's wet. Kesh isn't quite as keen, which is why when we she accidentally ran into a puddle that was an awful lot deeper than she expected and had to swim her way back out, I laughed until I cried while she looked up at me in disgust.

We carried on walking through the "squall", which was obviously actually a real life rain storm and were, within 10 minutes, wetter than we'd ever been in our lives while still fully clothed. An hour later, we returned to the car and had a brief comedy moment where we tried to get the dogs into the boot, and they both tried to avoid getting into the boot by walking around and around the car out of our reach so that we coudn't pick them up. We then stripped off our coats and climbed into the car, and at that very moment it stopped raining. It didn't rain again that day.

02 May 2006

The day that we drove down to Galway, the sun was splitting the stones for the duration of the journey. It was the first time me and He Who Only... had undertaken a journey of this kind, with him driving and me directing, with two dogs and a fist full of CDs, and the hire car insured against everything from theft to chips in the windscreen and the potential for disaster and adventure equally high. I had made a lot of fuss and noise about the beauty of the last part of the journey through Connemara, and also much bleeting about the poor quality of the Irish road networks, the randomness of sheep on the road, and the ugliness of rural towns, and how they began to echo each other with the bleak outlooks and repetitive layout. I had mentioned a lot before we set off how often we'd need to stop for the sake of the dogs, how it was possible we could get completely lost and end up in Limerick, how I shouldn't be trusted with directions or advice, and how it was very important that I should be allowed to DJ for the duration, just so that I would have as an important a job as the driver (and the balance of power in our relationship would remain on an even level).

Before we set off, my Mum supervised the packing of the car, and she insisted we a cool bag filled with drinks for us, water for the dogs, a small carton of milk and some eggs. She made up a little box in the back seat of the car, lined it with a dog blanket and said that Kesh would be happy to settle in there while Bobby could lie on the floor at my feet in the front of the car. In the end, Kesh spent the entire eight hour journey on my knee. Unwisely, I wore a skirt thanks to the unexpected presence of the sun, and two weeks later I still have the bruises from every time Kesh got up to stretch her legs and dig her nails into my thighs. The Bobster, top dog that he is, hardly moved a muscle for the duration, occassionally sitting up only to nibble on my hand before lying back down again (he and He Who Only... are really very alike).

The journey was surprisingly fun. I'm a terrible passenger, as I'm absolutely terrified of dying in a car crash, and any time I undertake any kind of significant journey (i.e. anything that will involve me being in a car for more than 1 minute) I am convinced that this time I might not return. However, it turns out that, given two dogs, sunshine, Bell X1 on the stereo and He Who Only... muttering about how many miles there are in a kilometre, I can be quite calm under pressure.

We arrived at the cottage just in time for the final burst of sun, and we were both left completely breathless at the views around us. I insisted that we run straight down to the coral beach that is virtually at the foot of the garden, and Kesh and Bobby lead the way, having already stayed there with my parents and also my brother on two occasions this year alone. As we got to the beach, Bobby hurled himself into the water, Kesh wandered off across the bogs to immerse herself in bog water (all the better later on to spread across the white throws on the sofa) and I started dancing up and down on the beach and giggling. You really couldn't get any further away from Hackney.

01 May 2006

In the first experiment of its kind, I am now attempting to upload some poor quality videos of a one and a half year old dog doing various stupid things, often with hilarious results. I have an ENDLESS SUPPLY of these videos, be warned, that were taken over the last week in Galway. These will be appearing, along with various photos of our two favourite Jack Russel dogs, Kesh and Bobby, throughout the rest of this week (at the very least). Please let me know what you think, or indeed let me know if you can't see them.

This first one introduces our hero Bobby, as he attempts to make himself comfortable on a sofa with a dog blanket on it. Commentary is provided by He Who Only...

Please click here.