Wednesday, 18 December 2002

The name's Dring, Simon Dring

Despite my rapidly encroaching thirtyness (just a few weeks away for those planning to buy me fantastic presents) I'm the fittest I've ever been. When I walk, mountains roll swiftly beneath my toned legs, in the gym, no machine can withstand the muscle-packed onslaught of my mighty limbs. Breathing, I inflate to Arnie-like proportions as air fills my efficient lungs and oxygen energises my powerful heart.

Of course you wouldn't be able to tell any of this by looking at me, my body-shape takes little notice of my cardiovascular strength. As a result I stood quaking before the wardrobe on Friday evening and prepared for the toughest of all body yardsticks - could I still fit into my dinner jacket for the Christmas party?

The dinner jacket is older than me, a gift from my father when I started University. It's hewn from thick, unyielding material that causes indigestion and stomach cramps in a trice if my waistline has expanded beyond the confines of the trousers.

I updated the dress shirt that came with it, a necessity when I realised my father's neck is two inches smaller than mine, although I did wear it at upwards of twenty events - twenty faint, dizzy, strangulated events - before I made the purchase.

With warm spoons and Vaseline I successfully shoehorned myself into the outfit, scoring a neutral result on waist size for another year's eating and exercising.

Wearing black tie get-up is a treat, I feel truly glamorous when in harness with red velvet cummerbund and black silk bow tie, but because it only happens once a year I always forget until two minutes before I am due to leave the house that I still can't tie the bow tie. I've learnt to always carry two bow-ties now, a fake for those times when everyone I meet before the event is as cack-handed as I, and a genuine one to hang artfully untied around my neck when midnight strikes. This year I remembered to practise before the event and achieved a presentable knot, woo hoo, another life skill attained.

Thursday, 5 December 2002

I met her with mutual friends one night in London last week. For the longest heartbeat I nearly flipped out. Call it a reaction delayed by a year, call it an emotional dam bursting, call it slightly drunken madness, the momentary release of pouring my drink over her head and calling her a duplicitous whore in front of her friends looked like it might outweigh social constraints.

The desire passed without incident.

Fifteen minutes later I imagined holding her smooth and oh too close face in my hands and kissing, kissing, kissing for the rest of time.

Suggestions of closure are considered slightly premature.

A man of letters

C is a great letter, so is X. On the other hand, B is rubbish.

For no good reason I reckon the alphabet would be better if it all the letters could be phonetically spelt without resorting to recursion, it should be possible to spell a letter without using that letter itself. So G is good because it can be spelt jee, X can be spelt ecks, but D can only be spelt dee.

I dunno why I think this is a good idea, perhaps because it would introduce a degree of redundancy into the alphabet. In some terrible post-apocalyptic future when the world has run out of K or I, we can replace them with cay or eye and carry on living an almost unchanged literary life.

Tuesday, 26 November 2002

A perfect start to the weekend

5:00pm The 1614 to London

Dan has fallen asleep, the hassles of the working week have drained the colour from his cheeks and forced his eyelids and body to succumb to gravity. Sitting opposite me with his slack face leaning against the rattling window he is enticing me to snooze too. My laptop is open in front of me, but the harsh screen glare makes my eyes slip off to hook on the brightly lit windows of houses that abut the tracks, looking for a glimpse of unconnected lives.

6:30pm Linhope Towers

I have just one hour in the house I call home, that time must buy me an unpacked work bag and two packed bags full of camping gear. I am used to this routine now and shake off the dullness of a week's work as I fold clothes and hunt for equipment to the smooth bass and spacey vocals of The Orb.

8:30pm The M6

I'm watching Birmingham track smoothly past the window as Gus accelerates hard around another lorry. The M6 keeps pace with us by paying out more road, more drivers, more lamps as quickly as we can blast along the fast lane. We haven't spoken in 40 miles, the car is too full of The Prodigy's ferocious Music for the Jilted Generation to allow space for normal speech . Liam Howlett's vicious breaks and beats spit and stutter from the sound system, the thundering bass and acid squelches adding an angry glamour to the rain-soaked, sodium-painted road that rushes us North.

10pm Welshpool

I'm driving now, the car slipping through dark and lonely Welsh country roads. Jon Carter Live at the Social is scribbling messy ragga chants and chunky basslines into the night air to briefly enliven the hedges and fields that shoot past. The hills grew from minor ripples as we drove through the borders and are now vaguely visible as black monsters holding the night sky's edges high above us.

11:30pm The end of the road

We have parked in a single-track country lane high above Barmouth. There are no other lights visible, no sign of civilisation save for the tarmac of the layby. Bob Dylan is accompanying us as we sit on the tailgate, wrapped in fleeces, drinking beer and staring at the shifting undersides of low clouds. We are talking rubbish in diminishing voices as the rush of the journey is diluted by the slow grandeur of the surroundings. The moon is out now, its palette can only stretch to greys to colour the world; hills, clouds, sheep, trees are all monochrome.


Two sleeping bags lie side by side in the back of the car. A gentle snoring resonates, behind it lies a vast silence.

Wednesday, 13 November 2002

Carry On Linhope

Linhope Street is part of a quiet residential neighbourhood. Sumptuously decorated three-storey Georgian terraced houses abut discreetly converted offices. Although our house is identical from the outside save for the prominent Sky dish and cable, inside there are substantial differences from the plush retirement home decor our neighbours prefer.

Apparently the landlord offered to decorate before my flatmates moved in (I joined later), but the projected increase in rent turned the saggy sofa-bed, tired walls and Bakelite fuse box from annoyances to charming features. Fortunately the slovenly surroundings are more than compensated for by being a mere 20 minutes walk away from the West End and by the Carry On scripts that my flatmates (Baz and Davis) and I are frequently called upon to play out.

I'd returned from Ipswich to spend a school night at London's finest club bedrock, my danced-out legs eventually propelling me from Heaven's doors in the early hours to return to Linhope and the comforting if lumpy arms of my bed.

All seemed normal as I entered the front door, Davis had left the lights and sound system on and Baz had clearly been raiding the whisky stash, but that's par for the course. All seemed normal as I stepped over the darkened bikes in the front hall - there is no light fitting, merely a spaghetti mess of wires hanging from the ceiling. All seemed normal as I pushed open the door to my bedroom and switched the light on.

What was not normal was the lump under my duvet cover. I pulled back the duvet to reveal a sleepy, drunken, baffled Barry wearing only his pants. Small talk was not on my agenda,

"Barry, what the bloody hell are you doing in my bed?"

"Go and have a look at my bedroom."

I descended the stairs again and opened Barry's bedroom door to reveal water and plasterboard dribbling gently from a largish hole in the ceiling. To further enhance the bombsite vibe, Barry had tossed the mattress carelessly away from the bed base to lie across his bookcases after it had borne the bulk of the initial impact. Looking up I could see the curving underside of the bath, the plumber's attempt to repair the bath tap that had come off in my hand a couple of months before clearly could not be deemed an unqualified success.

Of course, the situation was easily rectified - I threw Barry out of my bed and let him sleep on his damp mattress.

Some days later it's still possible to see the head of Barry's bed through the hole in the bathroom floor and we do not hold out great hopes of a fix in the immediate future. All that remains to complete the whole episode is for the bath to plunge through the hole and deposit a shocked, showering Davis in Barry's room, preferably while Barry is laughing like a drain at a scantily clad young woman.

You have been watching:

Tuesday, 29 October 2002

Back to the comfort zone

After a couple of years of soap-opera histrionics my love-life has segued neatly into sitcom territory.

The spectacular failure of my experiment in picking a partner from my close friends has made me realise I need to start meeting more people. Consequently, I've made myself more amenable to the relatively frequent matchmaking attempts of numerous smugly coupled-up friends. Much as I hate being match-made - all that pressure to live up to someone else's horribly oversold version of your virtues under the gleaming eyes of would-be Cupids - I nevertheless managed to get a couple of phone numbers in my blundering style:

Me: You know we're being match made.

Her (innocently): No.

Me (full of drunken insistence): No, you KNOW we're being match made.

Her: Yes, well, they have mentioned your name once or twice.

Me: Well, the thing is, I'm too drunk, too drunk for talking, or dancing, or...,or..., whatever. But give me your number and I'll call you next week.

Her: OK.

Cupids: Aren't you going to exchange numbers?

Me: OK, but I haven't got a pen.

Her: OK, but neither have I.

Me: Here's my business card, call me next week.

Romance, I've heard of it.

Encouragingly I'm also starting to overcome my morbid dread of "dates". I am hampered by a long-term hang-up about people thinking I harbour anything other than scrupulously honourable intentions, which doesn't sit comfortably with either the long or short term purpose of dating (de Botton's views on the necessity of never admitting this during courting and flirting notwithstanding).

So, after a few entertaining phone calls in which both they and I proved we were able to rise above our initial drunken conversational fumblings I arrange three different dates with three different women, things are looking up for our bold hero. Until

Date 1: Cancelled due to tube strike. No problem, reschedule to Date 4.

Date 2: Cancelled due to her dog savaging another dog at an obedience class and needing to go to the vet's. Excellent and inventive excuse, reschedule to Date 5.

Date 3: Cancelled due to thing going on with someone else or something, doesn't feel ready.

Date 4: Cancelled due to thing going on with ex-boyfriend, not a good time, maybe later.

Date 5: Still to is currently healthy.

Now, as the lovely L pointed out over e-mail, 0 for 4 isn't necessarily a poor reflection on me as

It's only when you have dates, and they never want to see you again that you know there's something wrong.

but I am currently feeling that the universe is conspiring against me a little. Either that or I've bought some duff shaving gel again.

Monday, 28 October 2002

Sunday, 27 October 2002

Winter Malaise

On good days my job is fabulous, I carve great chunks of satisfaction from building and delivering IT systems. I feel like a Victorian engineer constructing soaring precision marvels in a virtual world. Others may not see it, but I build, shape and precisely dam great flows of information where choked pools once sat. And even if I don't write the code or connect the cables myself then steering a team of sometime non-believers through that process lets me wring happiness from my career.

Recently though, the good times have seemed less frequent and a pressure is building within me. I'm fed up. On rain-washed winter work days the duvet presses my body to the bed with the weight of a thousand past holidays and last night's ill-advised late night TV. The lure of returning some 17 hours later is all that prompts me to leave the bed's warm arms and stand dully beneath the tepid tendrils of the shower.

The grey of the trip to work is oppressive, row after row of boxy water-streaked single occupant cars cough needless exhaust and drag slowly through stagnating traffic systems. A colourless sky pinned at the horizons by production line office blocks stretches above an ill humoured 8:30am city centre.

Each day at work is a battle between my need to feel like I'm doing something constructive and the heavy ennui engendered by a lack of progress and another set of "issues". When stimulation is low I waste time like a sad tiger pacing its zoo cage, I visit and revisit the same websites, go to the coffee machine, repeat dull gossip.

I'm treading water, letting the hours of my life dribble like so much sand through my fingers, and while I can't stop the flow I should be able to take more pleasure from its steady rhythms and ever-shifting shape.

There's a life-change in the post, I just don't know when it's arriving.

Thursday, 17 October 2002


The change was so sudden it ought to have been accompanied by a cheer or loud pop of champagne corks, a tiny but firm click as everything dropped into place would have sufficed, but the transformation happened silently.

On Friday night Baz went round to dinner at her place, an 'introduce the boyfriend to the friends' session as far as I could work out. He told me ten minutes before he left, and the small tornado of emotions it kicked up on top of the fatigue of a week at work left me dazed and reeling for an hour. I lay on the sofa looking at but not watching the television and thinking about but not coping with the whole situation.

And then it changed. All of I sudden I was over her. What was bizarre was quite how instantaneous the change was - one second my mind was whirling with

"bastard, I hope he ruins her evening,"

the next it was serenely floating through

"oh, I wonder how she is".

The emotional wound I have been probing for the last four months has healed and my still quite regular mental prods elicit a small tickly sensation rather than great swathes of pain. All the bile and rage has drained cleanly out and left me light, hungry and happy.

I can't be totally certain that I have reached the end of this emotional curve, at least not until I next see her, but I'm relieved to see there is happiness beyond the anger.

Sunday, 13 October 2002

A wasted evening

Blown out by a date with an hour's notice I moped uncreatively around the house on Saturday night. After spending any number of week nights sitting in a deathly dull Holiday Inn hotel room wasting a Saturday night on TV and navel-gazing seems criminal. Weekend evenings seem immeasurably more valuable.

The evening was filled by watching Amelie and dreaming of bringing random happinesses into the lives of others.

Wednesday, 2 October 2002

The art of posture

Juliette sits perfectly, her gently curving spine topping out in a relaxed and symmetric pair of shoulders. Her command of Pilates and physiology is constantly demonstrated by flawless execution - her movements are well-balanced and gracefully executed, a raised arm makes the the appropriate muscles move in a flowing and efficient melody.

Next to her my habitual slouching is magnified and I am made awkardly aware of my slumping back and taut shoulders. My frame sags into its seat, lazy muscles ceding support to the hard angles of the furniture. My body positions are wrong and my mind cannot shepherd the joints into the correct angles I enviously watch flow through her movements.

I'm trying to hold myself properly, hips and buttocks positioned just so, shoulder blades back and down, wrists held lightly above the keyboard, but a moment's inattention makes the wrong muscles tauten or soften and by the time I am next aware of my body my posture has failed me once more.

Tuesday, 1 October 2002

Late summer evening

Logistics dictated that I walk the four miles over the fields between my parent's house and the comforting Victorian architecture of Princes Risborough station. It was a pleasant time to be out, the sun had started its slow arc to the horizon over my shoulder, a translucent veil of high cloud wallpapered the sky. The gaudy inverted tear-drops of distant hot air balloons hung on invisible pegs in the still warm air of the Vale.

The footpath soon strayed off the quiet country road and cut a sharp line through straw-stubbled fields. Its passage across a village cricket pitch did not disturb the match in progress - white-clad fielders still lazed in the field, the batsmen scored good, quick runs.

The path rolled past The Lions, quintessential country pub. An ancient low-eaved building, small stone steps carved into gentle curves by centuries of feet led up to a stooping front door. The spacious front garden home to rough wooden benches sprawled beneath an enormous tree.

The leaves were losing their spring freshness, the fierce summer rays of July and August had laid dusty reds and oranges over the original vibrant green. Each tree was quietly preparing for the oncoming winter, shedding leaves and dropping newly minted conkers to gleam like brown pearls in the dust of the track.

The path lost its clear trace in the pale, dry clods of a newly ploughed field, but its invisible edge notched dark cuts into the far-off hedgerows. My shadow flowed from furrow to furrow as horses hooves rattled on a distant road.

As I move around the country I'm frequently embarrassed and depressed at the tedium of the new retail and business world progress has brought. As planner's pens scrape new roads of featureless tarmac across once quiet vales and as retail parks, housing estates, and office blocks slop over the rims of small market towns it's good to know that a slice of picture perfect England can still spring to warm, engaging life for those in the right place at the right time.

Tuesday, 24 September 2002

Barry, this one's for you

My flatmate claims to have noticed a drop in the quantity of self-obsessed angst in this blog.

I'd just like to point out that it's almost exactly a year since the first time I was righteously done over, and over four months since I last dallied where I shouldn't, and I think I've fitted in almost enough angst in the intervening period to suffice for a good while.

Mr Angry

The landscape of my mind is clean, bright and smooth, like rolling summer hills and meadows. I navigate smoothly and swiftly from location to location, absorbing memories en route, harvesting thoughts from the mental pastures and shaping them into coherence and action.

Somewhere in the landscape sits one dark and forbidding thicket, little visited for a while, its paths clogged and tangled and all but forgotten. I unexpectedly re-entered it on Friday.

I answered the knock on the door and she stood there, bags in hand, come not for me but for the transport and entertainment my flatmate was offering, proving the impossibility of a clean emotional break in a personal life complicated by shared friends and a common employer. My reaction was one of mute sullenness brought on by an utter inability to think of something I could possibly want to say in a suddenly oppressive house. I exchanged three civil if curt words before walking out to a different set of a friends and a different evening.

For a while I was left alone in the dark cloud of my thoughts. It's an unsettling place to be. I'm obscenely, greedily, jealously, angry. The rage stills my tongue but quickens my mind as it thrashes through the dark paths seeking an outlet.

De Botton writes that anger is a result of the frustration arising when the world does not conform to our expectations. I led myself to believe that my world at this point would include sharing life with her, my reading of her complex character was inaccurate, she had other ideas and now I'm angry.

When I think about talking to her now, instead of hearing the words, I rage at the loss of the bushels of joy she stole from my dreams and shared with him. It's not even that I'm unhappy at the moment, just at times I envy those who have someone to share their happiness with.

Monday, 16 September 2002

Shoe success

Four months of dithering have come to an end, I've found the trainers that will be my podiatric ambassadors for the immediate future.

They are a little bit grey, slightly chunkier than is perhaps desirable, respectable when needed but slightly childish in general. Unconstrained by tight, straight laces, they come with a clear window that gives glimpses to the very centre of the deep, comfortable sole.

I've no idea why I bought them...

Friday, 13 September 2002

Footwear dilemmas

My shoe wardrobe is always small and functional, only one pair of shoes for each specific need - work, walking, sailing, golf, cycling. The king of them all, the footwear that's good wear, is a single pair of trainers to support all my social activities.

I have always been a wearer of trainers, not for me Patrick Cox loafers or tassled slip-ons during my leisure hours. I partly define myself by being someone who at the age of 29, refuses to conform to the CEO-at-the-weekend look favoured by many of my contemporaries.

The current trainers are dying, the glue and stitching unravelling after a year of hard wear, and for four months I have searched shoe shops all over the country for the perfect replacement pair. It is not purely functional footwear I seek, although comfort, weight and ease of lacing are important, loftier factors sway my judgement.

My eye catches not just on brand, my decision is based not entirely on colour, instead I crave trainers where the ensemble of form and style say all that must be said about me, that will allow those that see me on the street to know precisely how finely balanced my particular blend of pragmatism, subtlety and fashion sense is. Trainer selection is an art, the path of trainer wearers is popular and well-travelled but with effort, commitment and an eye for detail it's possible to stay ahead of the shell-shuited, white-Nike toting masses.

I've found the perfect pair many times before although each time they've been different, from phat, black Nike Air Jordans, through chunky off-road types to the current slimline sprinting shoe incarnation. This time though, the search is more arduous, that one too heavy, this one too grey, those too obvious.

Perhaps this is the first real sign of youth slipping beyond me, this is the world's way of telling me a sensible pair of Hush Puppies is more my style nowadays.

Wednesday, 11 September 2002

Monte Carlo to St Tropez

The French Riviera is fabulous.

The boats in St Tropez moor with sterns to the quayside, the short and enormous gulf between polished transom and stone harbour bridged by roped gangplanks. Three decks of mahogany and white leather splendour on yacht after yacht tower above gawping tourists hoping for a glimpse of celebrity or wealth. Sun-drenched sun-loungers with plumped monogrammed cushions stretch out on top decks to invite recumbent bikini-clad beauties carrying gin and tonics. White-shirted crew stand with arms crossed behind their backs awaiting the return of their charges.

A hotel bar holds a balconied view of the entire harbour and the milling crowds below. Patrons drink Veuve-Clicquot and watch their friends carry designer shopping bags from the cool calm of the boutique-packed back streets to the pampered luxury of their yachts.

In Monaco, every third car is a Ferarri, Bentley or convertible Aston Martin, slowing cruising the small streets and bright, grassy square. The chips in the casino are brilliantly coloured and oil-slick smooth - no sharp edges here to stop their steady rain from clouds of punters across the taut green felt of the roulette table. The grey suited croupiers display their practised ennui to the tourists, whose tiny 10 Euro minimum bets must represent little mathematical challenge nor financial incentive to obsequiousness.

The Lady Moura yawns out from the shore, for mile upon gleaming mile of white and gold, a shining bright star at the centre of Monte Carlo marina's glossy solar-system. Larger than all other yachts, as vast as a cathedral, as quiet as a cloud, a shrine to wealth and status that all passers-by are drawn to stare at and silently revere.

The French Riviera is fabulous and I will only return when I can add to the spectacle rather than be awed by it.

Lazy advertising

Although far from my desires to turn this website into some sort of ranting forum, I'm irritated immensely by the current campaign for T-Mobile's picture messaging and need to vent about it.

T-Mobile is a mobile phone service provider who have just launched phones with a built-in digital camera and a service for sending the resulting pictures. They have accompanied the launch with a press and TV campaign featuring tennis players cum celebrity married couple Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi.

The press campaign carries the slogan "Be the First". But why, dammit why? If I walked into a shop tomorrow to buy one of these phones and discovered that I was indeed "The First" due to low uptake of the service, who ON EARTH would I send my low-resolution, badly lit pictures of gurning friends to?

The TV advert is worse, featuring Ms Graf being handed a picture of her husband with the words 'Find me' scrawled on the back. She photographs the picture and messages it to her many, globally distributed friends (all of whom already have the necessary phone, giving the lie to the print slogan) with the associated text 'have you seen this man?'.

If I was Andre Agassi I'd feel a bit miffed that my wife thought it necessary to send a picture of my really rather famous face to our friends to ask where I was, in case they perhaps couldn't remember what I look like. Fortunately a helpful tennis umpire is able to tell Steffi that her husband is in the middle of an important match by photographing him and sending it back. What the hell kind of wife is that anyway - managing to forget that her husband is in the final of the French Open.

It's a badly scripted, lazy piece of advertising, relying entirely on the allure of its stars. Grrrr.

Tuesday, 27 August 2002

A weather ear

Clouds are too big not to make some sort of noise. There's something wrong about watching enormous meteorological forces at work without a soundtrack to underline their actions.

As the huge cumulonimbuses cruise like tall ships overhead they should emit a low, ominous hum. The little scudding cumuluses should pip-pip-pip their way from horizon to horizon. Lazily slow and high cirruses should tinkle like glass beads falling down a staircase, only just audible above the breath of the wind. Boiling, swirling storm clouds should fizz, slowly impinging on the consciousness. Fog's just white noise.

The novel peace and quiet would be just one more reason to like clear, blue, sunny days.

Tuesday, 20 August 2002

Fearing the weather

When I was younger I hated the nights when the winds came. The autumn gales or spring blows, laden with rain and sound, left me lying in bed full of fear that the house would be tipped over by the prancing fingers of wind. Underneath the duvet, submerged so that my head was warmed by my own breath I listened as the air rushed and pushed through the trees outside, waiting for the smash as the windows burst, the rapid zip of tiles peeling from the roof, the crack and tear of falling tree. It seemed impossible to last the night when there was so much anger and fury directed at the house and the trees that danced outside.

When the Great Storm of '87 ripped through the night (how satisfying to have survived a capitalised Event), axing beeches and transforming my woodland play areas, the next morning felt like the first day of a post apocalyptic world. The power flickered on and off, the TV news bulletins came from a makeshift studio in London and were rendered in humble tones appropriately reverent to the meterological power the nation had seen. It all proved that my fears were founded, the wind was a malevolent entity to respect.

I've shrugged many of my childish fears now, but this is harder to shift. By day I can master the wind, I can stride mountain ridges with my body lent into the air's lifting power and be filled with a urge to shout it down, to joyfully sing as the words are torn from my mouth, my body energised. But at night it comes back for me, searching for my sleep-enhanced imagination and sending me back down to meet the younger cowering self that lives within, abraiding and eroding my self confidence.

During a stormy January night in Snowdonia this year my febrile, night-gripped fear had to be soothed by hugs and soft words as the walls of the tent bowed to the floor in deference to the ferocious waves of air that crashed over the campsite. By the time daylight eventually rolled round again the campsite had become just another windy Welsh field and I felt foolish and ashamed.

(Small aside, until you've been in one in these conditions you cannot appreciate just how damned good Terra Nova tents are at putting up with this sort of abuse. Worth every penny).

Monday, 12 August 2002

A summer drive

At the leading edge of the short sloping bonnet, just inches from where my feet flick from pedal to pedal, the road is being consumed. The tarmac is funnelled between the rounded shoulderblades of the wheelarches, each dip and bump digested by the engine that sparks and revs behind my head, before being smoothly discarded into the rear view mirror.

Built up with layer upon layer of paint-daub clouds on pale-blue, sun-smeared canvas, the yawning sky above revolves, skips and leaps in time with the dimples of the road and the smooth turns of the steering wheel.

The speakers behind my ears have built a cocoon of music to soundtrack the movement, but I can only hear it when the need for concentration eases and I have the spare mental cycles to listen. Behind the music, the engine pitch changes in precise and exact concert with the pressure of my right foot and the movements of my left hand.

At a bend, I perform a smooth body dance, pitching forward into the strong arm of the seat belt, sliding lazily sideways in opposition to the small turn of the steering wheel, before my right foot again sends me pressing comfortingly into the gentle contours of the seat.

My subsconcious is driving, I'm not aware of steering, the car is making its own flowing course through the piled green summer banks of the hedgerows and the shimmering straw yellow of harvest ready fields.

Even at slow speeds on dank, dark days, with the roof on, driving my car always feels this way.

Friday, 9 August 2002

We spoke

My phone rang with her name flashing on the LCD panel. My brain moved rapidly up through the gears as I tried to work out why she would be calling me - some terrible family accident, an overwhelming happiness, his appalling behaviour. Instead no external melodrama had made my phone light up, just the unpredictable actions of her pocket.

Two errant presses on her phone keypad were all it took to close the mental distance I thought I'd placed between us over the last two months. Our short, slow conversation recapitulated in the first person what I already knew in the third and was notable more for what could not be said than what was forced out through emotionally muzzled mouths.

She's fine apparently.

Sunday, 4 August 2002

She's fine

"Have you seen her recently?" I ask him. I pose the question lightly, but as soon as the words are spilled I know the answer is heavy and important.

"Yep, I had lunch with her on Thursday"

Inside a voice is starting to rant and rave - it should be me having lunch with her, not him, me, it's what I deserve, what's right, I'm best, I should win - but I stay calm and try to keep an even tone.

"How is she?"

I've no idea how I want him to answer, I think there's no answer that'll satisfy me. I shouldn't have asked, far better for her to stay in limbo in my head, better for her to have moved to another country, to have entered a state of cryogenic suspension, simply been wiped off the face of the planet by an auditing error than for me to have to go through knowing that she still thinks and breathes and lives a normal, pedestrian life like mine somewhere in the same city.

I don't want him to know how important the answer is to me, but I've forgotten where to look and how to hold myself so that the question is delivered in a casual fashion, my conscious mind is having to cope with leafing through the possible answers, looking for the one I want and it's too busy to help me stand naturally.

"She's weeping in remorse, a broken woman.."

My heart leaps, this is what I want to hear, I need to know she suffers and cries and spends every day regretting her deeds and words. Underneath that, there's hope, she's making a big mistake, she'll come back again.

No, wait, I'm not like that, my mental self-image won't let my personality hold a bitter side, I'm someone full of joy and love, I'm too nice, I don't have room for viperish passion. I need to want her to be happy. And the new me wouldn't have her back, my self view tells me that I can't be that emotionally stupid anymore.

He's grinning, winding me up. He answers again.

"She's fine"

And that's it? It's not the right answer either. Fine? The smooth, dull blandness of the word has no holds for my leaping, grabbing, clawing mind to take, no cracks to be pulled open and peered into. Nothing. She's fine.

Thursday, 1 August 2002

A new home


just look at all this space


It's like stepping into your favourite comfortable trainers after a long day in slightly too tight work shoes.

For no other reason than because I could (and maybe because I was very bored at work) I bought a domain name, signed up with a new ISP and now here I am - It was spectacularly easy, and spectacularly cheap - 0 for the domain name (with thrown in for free), per month for the hosting, with lots more features than Demon used to give me.

So change your bookmarks/favourites, because this is the new permanent home of more. All I need to do now is think of some content...

Wednesday, 24 July 2002


Reading (a blog I've been reading on and off for a couple of months) one day I was struck by a compulsion to mail the author and tell her that I (enviously) enjoyed reading her entries and way with words.

Delightfully, she wrote back and a brief but entertaining e-mail conversation followed. When she mentioned she would be passing through London for a few days at the start of a long bout of travelling (can you have a bout of travelling, I believe I may be making it sound like malaria) I decided I'd like to meet her, to see if the lines of a blog accurately sketch the real person.

Surprisingly (I couldn't help but imagine myself being imagined as some pale, wan geek, wedded to a broadband connection and a crate of Pot Noodles) she agreed and we arranged to meet up on Sunday night.

I wasn't going to be nervous - I'm a competent, capable, adult, I have many friends, sometimes I even feel like a winner - I was really looking forward to an excellent random venture. I had a fabulous weekend of seeing wonderful friends and having a great time and pitched up back at home just an hour before I was due to meet her.

Then the fear started. I don't know specifically what fear I had, maybe fear that she would be an impossibly high maintenance Manhattanite asking for cocktails I'd never heard of in a run-down Marylebone boozer, perhaps a fear of feeling like a loser in front of a glamorous urbanite who ran her own website and strode in designer shoes around the globe with dotcom millionaires, fear that I wouldn't even recognise her and she'd walk straight past me. Whatever the source, the fear reduced me to pacing nervously around Baker Street Tube ticket hall, barely able to swallow, continually repeating the opening lines of pre-planned conversations in my head.

The worry was pointless, none of the fears were realised. The evening was wonderful from the moment she confidently strode up and introduced herself to the moment three hours later when she said goodbye, take care, stay in touch, good luck.

And now I'm left happy and sad. Sad that someone whose company I thoroughly enjoyed has walked out of my life as rapidly as she walked in and I've no idea when or if I'll meet her again, sad that maybe three hours is all I'll ever get. But happy that there are still marvellous people out there and that I know one more of them, that I can meet them through my own actions and that life will throw up serendipitous delights if I let it.

Tuesday, 23 July 2002

She just fainted

Supping milky tea and eating biscuits around a typical town hall table, slowly coming to terms with having left a very important pint of my blood in a small plastic bag just minutes beforehand, the woman opposite me performed a perfect demonstration of a classic, cliched faint:

  • Look pale

  • Place hand on chest just below neck

  • Roll eyes to ceiling

  • Fall off chair

The only areas she disappointed were

  • She didn't place her hand on her brow at any point

  • She didn't close her eyes

  • She scored low in the dignity stakes by fitting and starting very briefly

She seemed untroubled by her unconsciousness and recovered composure very well. I thanked her for her effortless confirmation that things only become cliches when they're rooted in fact.

Tuesday, 9 July 2002


Recently reading White Teeth by Zadie Smith (very well-written but with an unsatisfying ending) one particular passage struck me as descriptive of me and her. One of the characters is thinking about how the word involved is the best way to describe a complex and torturous web of relationships:

Involved happened over a long period of time, pulling you in like quicksand. Involved is neither good nor bad. It is a consequence of living, a consequence of occupation and immigration, of empires and expansion, of living in each other's becomes involved and it is a long trek back to being uninvolved.... They are not wanting this, they are not willing it - they are just involved, see? They walk IN and they get trapped between the revolving doors of those two V's. Involved. The years pass, and the mess accumulates and here we are. Your brother's sleeping with my ex-wife's niece's second cousin. Involved. Just a tired, inevitable fact....An enormous web you spin to catch yourself.

And in a soul-sapping M40 service station, to the tune of looping adverts and the accompaniment of grizzling, tartrazine-powered children, I started the long trek back to being uninvolved, I dumped her. That is, obviously, dumped her as much as it's possible to dump someone who's said she doesn't want to go out with you and is living with someone else.

It was on the 3000s weekend, and I'd found it very difficult to be with her. To talk and be with her was to be constantly reminded of how she was changing without me - trivial things like her new rucksack, or talk of weekends she was going to spend with him just demonstrated how I was losing her. I'd hoped I could be mature and rise nobly above how I still felt for her - the wronged hero, like Bogey in Casablanca - but actually I couldn't handle her company and resorted to being uncivil and uncommunicative - more like Mr Bean.

And whilst things between us thawed over the course of the weekend to the extent that I really rather enjoyed spending Monday with her, I knew that if I continued to be her friend, then I would just be accurately and painfully charting the decline of our friendship as our orbits around each other changed from spiralling binary system to distant astronomical object (see here, change e from 0 to 0.9), a process that would cause me too much pain.

So I told her I didn't want to speak to her or see her other than when we were walking (something about the group dynamic smooths the raw edges). It was the last step I could take to prove to her how much I meant to her, the romantic equivalent of the Cold War Mutually Assured Destruction, and the only step I could take to protect myself to some degree.

Although I don't regret any actions over the last two years, I wish it had never come down to an action of such finality, I wish the story had played out with a different ending. But now, a month later, despite missing her and thinking of her every day, I know it was the right thing to do, every week I feel more in control and sorted.

Tuesday, 25 June 2002

It was to be the culmination of our Welsh walking careers.

After six months of (ahem) preparation we headed for Snowdonia at the weekend. Once minor distractions like England whupping Denmark 3-0 and buying enough food to feed 400 people for a year and a half had been overcome we found ourselves in Pen-y-Pass car park at the foot of Snowdon at 10pm on Saturday night.

The plan was to walk to Snowdon's summit and bivvy for the night, arise at 4am and walk the Welsh 3000s - standing on all 14 (or 15 - much rampant controversy here apparently) summits over 3000 feet in Wales in one day. One glorious sun-drenched day that was to etch itself into my memory with views to Ireland and the English East Coast and the biggest dangers being sunburn, dehydration and achieving so much joy all of life seems flat afterwards. A total distance of around 30 miles with about 3000m of climbing, no mean feat.

So we walked up Snowdon in the gathering darkness. It was very cool, walking up a big lonely mountainside in the gloom, losing the path at times, feeling alone in the big mountain quiet. Unfortunately it was damp at low level, drizzling about midway up and pissing it down in a strong wind by the time we reached the summit cafe.

Bizarrely the lights were on in the summit cafe at 11:30pm, and I could see the flickerings of the Lewis-Tyson fight on a TV through some curtains. The cold hard floor of the cafe looked extremely welcoming when compared to the sodden, rain-lashed concrete of the cafe patio so we knocked on the window to ask for shelter. An angry looking bloke opened the curtains and used universally understood sign language to convey annoyance at this interruption of his pugilistic viewing and tell us in no uncertain terms exactly where we could put our sleeping bags, so we were forced to get the bivvy bags out.

I had the luxury of a Gore-Tex bivvy bag, four fleeces, two pairs of trousers and a sleeping bag, but getting into the bag whilst wet meant that the night for me consisted of a four hour shiver whilst waiting for dawn to reveal enough hillside to ensure safe passage. The others, in their bright orange plastic survival bags (like a posh bin bag, but without the drawstrings) must have found it even colder.

After several lifetimes of pretending to sleep we all got up and shivered in unison (and I'm talking deep, rock you to your core, failing to shiver = hypothermia type shivers here) and agreed that the winds were too strong for an attempt on the knife-edge ridge of Crib Goch, at 4am, in damp cloud and rain, whilst we were tired and cold. So we walked pathetically back to the car.

To compound the misery of the abandonment, the weather slowly cleared during the hour and a half descent until, by the time we reached the car park, there was only a little cloud on the peaks and luxuriant blue sky draped above the valleys. As we watched the sun and cheery scudding clouds over the course of the day it became obvious that Snowdonia had reserved its worst weather for us.

Still, we got to watch the Ireland game live.

Thursday, 20 June 2002

TV ruined my life

My childhood involved a lot of telly, a lot of videos and a lot of books. I can only consciously remember the educational ones - Horizon documentaries about bombers, David Attenborough, the Hardy Boys - although there was probably a lot of dross in there too. But they all gave me a false belief that my life was telling a story that was bigger than me.

Whatever they look at - histories of entire countries, scientific discoveries, mid-life crises - books and television attempt to tell a story, create coherent narratives, plot character arcs and reach denouements. Things rarely just happen, there's always an underlying motive, a foreshadowing of events to come, an echoing of events that have passed.

It's endemic - witness football as the World Cup unravels; journalists tell stories of footballers' persecution and later renaissance, myriad stats tell the tale of previous encounters in an attempt to shadow the narrative of a forthcoming match. Look at Big Brother's attempts to weave stories through the housemates daily interactions, selecting and filtering to back an interpretation of events that paints villains and highlights heroes.

The downside of this is translating it into a belief that my life too follows a clear story, that the random events and occurrences that living has a habit of throwing up will slowly reveal themselves to be part of a complex tale of loves lost and gained, personal reinventions and redemptions, pain and nobility.

I don't think I'm alone in my search for a personal narrative to provide some degree of meaning and stability. Some believe in a God to provide the basis of a character arc of struggle followed by ultimate redemption. Others cling to psychologists' and counsellors' talk of key events and early role-models to explain personality traits, actions and motivations later in life.

It's comforting to believe there is a story that my life is following, that there's a happy ending somewhere out there with my name on it or that dark and malicious forces are responsible for any given series of events that go against me, but it's not true. Life's more soap opera than film - full of endless mini-storylines that don't satisfactorily resolve themselves and are wont to reappear at inopportune moments, culminating in an unfulfilling move to some town that's not in the show.

But it's a liberating, if rather frightening, realisation that there is no story to my life. No longer can I claim to be plagued by streaks of bad or good luck, alternatively things just happen. Instead of trusting my life to the hands of unseen narrative forces, I am the one who can take ultimate responsibility for writing my personal story.

Wednesday, 12 June 2002

Thursday, 23 May 2002

Moving in and moving on

It's been three months now since the last major corkscrewing change in my relationship with her and it's been a good three months. I've taken back control of my life by (amongst many other things) buying a big telly because I wanted to, going to the gym a lot, laughing on Sunday mornings with people who understand the value of lazy days, and rediscovering the loveliness of many of my friends.

I've maintained some degree of contact with her, so I've been talking to her about once a week and I've seen her a couple of times. I thought I was over her (or getting that way).

So I'm annoyed that I'm upset that he's moving in with her. I've known for a while he was returning from overseas this year, and of course I've known that they were only going to get closer. So why does this hurt?

I think it's the finality of it all. I can't phone her anymore (I don't want to speak to him at all, so I can't call in case he answers), I can't go round to see her (for the same reason), we shall continue to drift apart.

And while that's clearly a good thing in terms of me getting on with my life I can't stand the thought of losing a friend through something other than laziness or distance.

The other thing that grates is I'm just a bad loser and here's a situation where I've come last. He's obviously beaten me, he's better than me in her eyes - the criteria I considered to be important. In addition, she wins because after all this fannying about she still gets to go home to someone, where I get to go home to an anonymous hotel room. Of course, it's probably not all sweetness and light on their side, but I've only got my imagination to rely on.

I guess "it's a break-up, get over it" covers an appropriate response for me to chew on.

Thursday, 16 May 2002

I'm a rational man of science

I follow rigorously in the shadow of mighty intellectual giants and trail breakers for the scientific method such as Galileo, Newton, Maxwell and Rutherford. If the observations fit the theory then the theory is good, and theories stand until they are disproved. There is no need to invoke any higher powers to understand inexplicable events, they will eventually crumble beneath the steamroller of logic and truth.

Why then, do I own a lucky pair of pants - whenever I wear them I'm guaranteed some bedroom frolics (although there's no empirical evidence to back this up). And how is it that I shave with shaving gel that brings me bad luck - since its purchase in a Sydney chemist, nothing but emotional trauma has befallen me? Why do I always check my horoscope in whichever paper I'm reading (fortunately New Scientist's remit does not extend to astrology), even though I'll always do it with a weary and resigned sense of how damnably stupid I'm being.

It's because I'd like responsibility for my life to be removed from my hands. I'd prefer it if the cool mentholated feel of my gel (which incidentally is truly excellent in all aspects of the shaving process save for emotional stability) was responsible for her rejection of me, because it saves me having to look for flaws in myself.

It would be easier for me to understand if my scoring prowess was directly related to my under garments rather than leave it in the hands of other apparently random and uncontrollable factors like an appreciation of my smile or a general hormonal imbalance.

My rational mind fights hard to prevent my stupid foibles ruling me, lest I end up a gullible hippy. I read the horoscope but forget what it says, I wear my pants in strict rotation (Day1: Normal, Day2: Back-to-front, Day3: Inside-out, Day4: Inside-out and back-to-front) and never shuffle them around so that I wear my lucky pants on days when I need them, I keep shaving with my unlucky gel.

I'd better stop typing now though, it's bad luck for me to type at 11am.

Tuesday, 7 May 2002

How to be happy

Happiness is frequently considered to be something transitory and only easily recognised in hindsight. With the many immediate pressures and confusions of day to day living - from what to eat next to who's going to win the Premiership - people apparently find it difficult to ask themselves the question "Am I happy?" and answer with a "yes". These people should get themselves a Lotus Elise.

I got back in my car after a six week hiatus and did over 200 miles of driving along dry and lightly populated country roads. And it was all great. I've had the car nearly two years and twelve thousand miles and driving it fast still brings a smile to my face.

The single best moment this weekend came whilst accelerating through a series of open, empty bends when I was hit with a massive adrenaline rush culminating in the incredibly exciting thought that

"I'm driving a Lotus Elise".

A more current expression of happiness would be difficult to realise.

Tuesday, 16 April 2002

After three months of inaction I finally went house-hunting on Saturday.

Pathetic. For the price of 20 million penny chews (and that's retail, not cost price) I can get a tiny little two bedroom flat in Kilburn - hardly a salubrious area of London. They had some nerve calling it two bedroom, it was more that there were two rooms that beds could have fitted, in much the same way as a 18 tonne lorry fits in a terraced-house front room following a brake failure.

Or, or (and I'm spitting feathers in actual indignant and arrogant rage about how little 00,000 gets you, I'm especially angry because it's my 00,000 and therefore should be able to secure a penthouse with water feature in Belgravia because, godammit that's what I deserve), or I could get a slightly larger two bedroom flat in Brondesbury with a commanding (like a signal box) view of the Jubilee, Metropolitan and railway lines and one of those horrible kitchens that's actually in the lounge. Grrrr.

Looks like this house-buying malarkey could take a little longer than I originally expected.

Thursday, 4 April 2002

Washing clothes confuses me massively.

Sure, I understand the basics; don't wash your whites with your darks, don't wash it at too high a temperature, hang things out straight (a concept my flatmate has a lot of trouble assimilating, choosing instead to leave weighty bundles of crumpled, damp washing atop the clothes horse for days or weeks and somehow, impossibly, avoiding it smelling like piss), and I change my pants and socks everyday too.

But for things that aren't constantly pressed up against smelly areas I just don't get how often. I mean, obviously I've twigged that if it's dirty and smelly and in danger of becoming sentient, it deserves a visit to Mr Zanussi. But if it doesn't smell, or it's only slightly crumpled, only guilt makes me put T-shirts with two days use in the washing machine.

And suits utterly baffle me. I own black and dark grey suits that don't show the dirt much and don't seem to smell much either, so how do I know when they need cleaning? And whenever I do take them to the cleaners I can't tell the difference on their return. I only take them whenever the crushing weight of paranoia overcomes my reluctance to pay 0 for what seems to be little more than a thin plastic cover and a new coat hanger.

At the heart of it all is the worry (as with so many other things in life) that I'm just being plain stupid and everyone else in the whole world is quietly chuckling about me behind their hands. I just need a simple clothes timetable to help me out.

Tuesday, 19 March 2002

My father had a celebratory OBE lunch the other day. He invited 23 friends and family members to the local pub for a slap-up Sunday lunch. It was quite pleasant, not least because I'm happy that my father has actually got some friends. For as long as I can remember he has appeared to operate entirely in a social vaccuum filled by my mother's rambling stream-of-consciousness conversational style and occasional visits from more family-minded cousins.

I am concerned that the OBE has swollen his head quite substantially. Post-lunch coffee was hosted at my parents' house where the dining room had been turned into a shrine to my father's greatness. The OBE medal was there, surrounded by photos of the ceremony and an entire scrap book full of press clippings and letters of congratulation clearly made using Word's mail merge function. The reverently laid out dining room table was pushed back against the wall to provide floor space for prostrate worshippers.

Further, he had applied to get a family coat-of-arms (which are entitled to now) and only stopped when he realised it would cost GBP3500.

I fear for what I will find the next time I return home (henceforth to be known as Dring Manors). A butler perhaps, or a command to never turn my back on the newly esteemed head of household. Even more frightening is the knowledge that genetics and environment dictate he is exhibiting behaviours that I will inherit thirty years from now.

She phoned me the other night. We hadn't spoken for three weeks, because I've been waiting for the transition from thinking about not phoning her to not thinking about phoning her. It seems it may be a long way off yet.

She asked "are you happy?", which was an unusual question given the conversational context (Crufts or walking or something). Despite immediately answering yes it was a question that made me wonder for a good few days after the call.

If she's anything like me then she wanted two contradictory answers - I want to know that:

  • she's happy, because I want everyone to be happy

  • she's having the hardest time of her life, spending evenings crying floods of tears into a sodden pool in front of the TV and spending nights thrashing in a comfortless bed, staring with unseeing eyes at the darkness of the ceiling and falling endlessly into the darkness of her soul.

So I phoned her back and told her that was my interpretation of her question and that my answer was

  • I'm doing alright without her thanks very much

  • I miss her and think about her a lot

I find it all a bit bizarre that I can hold two contrasting views of how I feel (and I how I hope she feels) and even when I express them within three seconds of each other (or write them on the same page) my brain doesn't collapse and leave me lying on the floor controlled entirely by my reflex actions.

Which is a relief.

Wednesday, 6 March 2002

Snowboarding in France last week. I'm rad and gnarly and I listen to Linkin Park.

Skiing holidays are wierd, they're a proper and complete break from the norm - I hardly thought about work all week - but they're more regimented than a normal working week. Up at 8, breakfast in the chalet served by London recruitment consultant/boarding dude chalet boy Barney or funny, dreadlocked Geordie/boarding dudette chalet girl Jen. Trudge through slush and ice to the kit shop, boards on, meet stereotypically stereotypical French boarding instructor "ze most important movement is wiz ze 'ips.. you must be like a sex masheen.". Board "you must remove ze brain". Pay 5 for a coke and pizza for lunch. Board "why you fall over so much, are you gay?". Sleep. Eat three course meal cooked by comedy Jen. Drink. Sleep. Repeat until twisted knee or severe stomach cramps force you to miss out on one aspect or another.

It's not even like you're experiencing a different culture, everyone speaks English, the Coke tastes the same, there's so much snow underfoot you can't tell whether they drive on the left or right. Any local with an an ounce of sense hires their place out over the winter and suns themself on the proceeds on a distant beach. It's more like All Bar One does a snow special.

And the wretched, relentless conversational topics, I'm guilty of it too, but the incessant talk of powder, edges and boots, red runs, green runs and off-piste, and all the continual witty banter about the difference between boarders and skiers left me gasping to talk about EastEnders and I don't even watch it. I did manage to talk about cars with someone though so I get high marks for conversational invention.

I had pressure put on me over the week. Five couples in a party of 12 left Jason and I as the token single men and hence duty bound to live life to the boarding max for the vicarious pleasures of the stay-at-home loved-up pairs. MUST drink more, MUST stay out later than the others, MUST pull, MUST be apparently impervious to pain.

I did drink more and did stay out late, and to complete the whole out of character experience, I even pulled a nice Belfast lass, but let myself down by being pole-axed by stomach pain and missing the final night out.

Still, now I've returned I am wishing I was there again - the quiet anticipation of the chair lift, the knee trembling beauty of the view from the top of the mountain, the board schussing smoothly over deep powder, the whiplash motion of my head during big spills, the end of day bruise comparison - it certainly beats Ipswich.

I went to Buckingham Palace the other week for my father's OBE investiture.

He had decided to do everything in a full, glorious, middle-England, Hyacinth Bouquet, "did I tell you I've got an OBE" kind of way. Which he's well within his rights to do. For once the tables were turned, I was all beaming, proud parent and he was chuffed child, I drew short of dabbing at the corners of his mouth with a damp hanky, leaving that to my mother who is genetically predisposed to such things.

He stayed at the RAF Club - effectively a swanky members only hotel facing over Green Park on Piccadilly - and hired a limo to take us all to the Palace. I stared at him when he mentioned the limo, my mind filled with visions of long, white American cars with too many doors, leopardskin seats and a drinks bar, smelling of adolescent vomit and Essex girl perfume. Fortunately my father is a man of some taste (proving that appearances can be easily deceptive - the waistcoat predilection surely leads most to believe that taste is something that happens to other people) and he'd hired a nice, posh, stretch Mercedes driven by a genuine East End gangster "just call me Terry".

Inside the palace, it was just like a palace. Lots of military flunkeys with shiny silver breast plates and big swords. Everything was red carpets, sky high ceilings, gold and mirrors. There was lots of formality and important people dressed in imposing uniforms and displaying perfect etiquette (although I wouldn't know perfect etiquette if someone spat it in my face).

The whole thing was a big West End style show too, the Queen came on stage flanked by Gurkhas looking exactly like Buttons from Ipswich panto and preceded by some beefeaters, apparently the oldest royal bodyguards in the world, and my, did they look it ((c) Norman Wisdom 1973). Then there was lots of official name calling and bowing and curtsying and the Queen made a lot of talking to the plebs style conversation with 100 people in 40 minutes.

Unfortunately the Queen let the whole show down by looking exactly like my Great Auntie Rosie from Tasmania, and I kept imagining her offering me Lincoln biscuits whilst talking about how great the Conservative party is and telling Uncle Tommy to smoke his pipe outside.

Although we all know that celebrity is the new royalty, the most famous person there (other than Queen/Auntie Rosie) was Rudolph Giuliani, which is cool in a "rebuild a city under the most horrendous circumstance" kind of way, but not as exciting as say Cameron Diaz or Brian from Big Brother.

The OBE itself is a small medal which appears to have no magical powers and doesn't even provide discounts at popular museums and tourist attractions like your basic Blue Peter badge, although it does apparently entitle me to get married in St Pauls Cathedral. My father seemed pleased with it anyway.

The Queen was on speed through the ceremony and finished a good half an hour early, she just buggered off after it was done and left us to make our own way out of the building with nary a complimentary sandwich nor cup of milky tea to fortify us against the cold. Once outside we enjoyed the fact that a good few hundred tourists were staring at us and presumably imagining us to be extremely important, and then had Terry drive us around town for 45 minutes. He wasn't the best tour guide, but did point out where he'd mugged various people, and how lovely the Kray's were.

Friday, 22 February 2002

At the risk of sounding like an uber-geek, I was thinking about how to describe emotions properly. There should be some sort of absolute reporting mechanism so we can accurately convey how something feels, it should be possible to say to someone

"and then the pipe burst and my favourite T-shirt was ruined and I felt like X"

and for them to be able to think,

"well I felt like X too when I was eating a slice of toast and my teeth fell out in front of the padre, so I know exactly what that feels like"

without resorting to a whole world of wild gesticulation, adjectives like dreamy, whirling and wild, and the all too common response of "I know" when they clearly don't.

In the world of design and techy things and what not, colours are specified using a set of numbers called RGB values. Any given colour can be described with three numbers detailing the amount of Red, Green and Blue in the colour. So (0,0,0) is black, (255, 255, 255) is white, and there are gazillions of colours inbetween (actually 16 777 216). In the same way it should be possible to describe an emotion in terms of AJF (anger, joy, frustration) or JLH (jealousy, love, heartbreak) or some such combination of provably perpendicular emotions.

In such a scheme our imaginary protagonist could describe X rather accurately.

Of course the reason that RGB values work so well for colours is that everyone can point stupidly at a red brick wall and agree loudly that it is indeed the finest red they have seen and should henceforth be the benchmark for redness (255, 0, 0). Whereas when your dog gets run over, there's little left to point to (other than a crumpled and sorry heap) so that you can agree with others quite how depressed, strangely serene and angry you all are.

Then there's the problem that the magic of science can prove that red is as red as red can be - (255, 0, 0) rather than (125,0,0). Whereas when you're angry, how do you know that's as angry as you can ever get? How do you know that just because your boss dumped you in it at the last minute you're as full of anger as possible, precluding the possibility that someone could come along and smear jam on your beard thus elevating your burping volcano of fury to a planetary cataclysm of rage?

So we're back to words like maelstrom, float and spiralling. Curses, another near flawless scheme for improving the world left in tatters.

Tuesday, 19 February 2002

I need a challenge in my life. I'm fed up of the emotional lurches and swoops of the last few months and need to devote my life to something else instead. I've been inspired by reading Round Ireland with a Fridge, Playing the Moldovans at Tennis and Are You Dave Gorman? (all excellent BTW) and I need something to do along those lines.

It's got to be

  • unique

  • stupid

  • achievable with a bit of chutzpah

  • achievable within a year

  • not bank-breakingly expensive

and I've got to be able to write an award-winning book about it all at the end of the year so that I can retire.

Notably, all the books listed above start with a drunken bet - when I got drunk on Saturday night the only bet I made is that I could get a 6-pack in 6 months. The best suggestion so far has been to try and do some silly sayings or proverbs like selling sand to the Arabs. Any suggestions gratefully received at the usual e-mail address.

Friday, 15 February 2002

I started this blogging malarkey for two reasons

  • so that I could keep distant friends updated

  • so that I could practise my creative writing and ultimately become as rich and famous as Jeffrey Archer for my riveting reads

If I'm honest, there was a third minor goal in the back of my mind,

  • so that slowly, using the power of the internet, my readership would grow and grow, until daily, millions would thrill to the trials of my life (and I could IPO and retire)

And I'm some way to achieving that third goal today. A new reader has been brought to my attention...

(ahem, embarrassed silence)'s "him", "the other man" from the tales below...

(shuffle, cough)

...I bear him no ill will, but knowing your "opposition" is rifling through your metaphorical underwear drawer is an odd feeling.

Tuesday, 12 February 2002

Like an overexcited child, I got back on the rollercoaster and was sick again.

I'm embarrassed to admit to all this after the continual beating I receive from everyone when they've read this site and tell me how stupid I'm being, but I suppose I should stand up and take it like a man.

I went back to her.

More accurately she came back to me. She spent two or three weeks crafting a long love letter to me, splitting up with him (over the phone) and trying to persuade me that I was the love of her life, I was the one that made her happy, I was the one she wanted to be with.

She did a very good job too. She even went to the effort of giving me all the photos she had of them together and all the letters he had sent her (although I didn't want anything to do with them) so that I would truly believe that she had written him out of the book of her life. So, predictably, I succumbed, and we were 'officially', if tentatively, going out with each other again.

Then, equally predictably came the earth shattering lurch, and this time a mere five days later.

On Saturday she had to meet up with him. He had come back to the UK for work purposes and she needed to see him to get her flat keys back so that she could give them to me. And to be fair, I wanted her to see him too, I wanted her to trust herself, to meet him and know that he was behind her, that way I could learn to trust her again.

I had a nervous phone call with her at 10am as she was on her way to meet him, and then....nothing until 8pm. Then she phoned, told me in her small, pathetic, put-upon manner that she couldn't leave him, that all the things she'd said just one week previously had changed, I was secure but not exciting, fun but not exhilirating and that he was the one for her.

If she was a man she'd be accused of thinking with her cock.

I went absolutely ape, screaming, swearing, shouting - a refreshing difference from my normal acts of resignation - I read her letter back to her, I implored her to walk out of the door and into a cab. None of it worked, she's with him now.

Scarily, now, 4 days later, underneath my still bubbling anger, I'm feeling really sorry for her and I want to help her. She's trapped by actions she executes but feels she has no control over, her entire life is being dominated by forces she generates but can't tame. I think it's slowly pulling her apart and it's not pleasant to watch. On Saturday night I was willing her to come to me for her sake as well as mine, to prove she could master herself.

I'm feeling calmer too. I can't take her back now, it's impossible to consider (there's a lurking "unless she...." somewhere, but I can't pin it down) so I can just get on with getting my life back together, and I was doing pretty well before she came back, so it won't take long this time.

Monday, 7 January 2002

My father got an OBE in the New Year's Honours list. I thought I was above this archaic, class-perpetuating nonsense, but it turns out I'm really rather proud.

Saturday, 5 January 2002

With a superficially innocuous decision the whole carefully constructed edifice of denial I have built up over the last few months has come crashing down.

Despite all my best intentions to move on after her massive betrayal in August, it's been consistently clear to me that I've actually just been living in hope that she'll see the error of her ways, end her pointless dalliance with the stunted diplomat and pick me. Whilst busy opining that it's over to anyone in earshot I've been fervently wishing for the opposite.

Well, now the wishing has to stop because she's chosen him.

Christmas was crunch time, I had invited her to Sardinia over New Year, my opposition had invited her to Scotland. She told me that although she had decided that she didn't want to go out with me, she was going to spend the holiday with her family, and I could phone her from Sardinia just to prove that she wasn't in Scotland. I wanted to believe her and so that I could continue to do so I didn't phone her, but I knew that she'd prove too weak not to wind up in Scotland.

Upon my return from Sardinia (details of trip to follow) she told me that not only had she gone up to Scotland, but that her and Ben (for that is his name) had decided to give it a go and he was staying at hers until his return to the frozen wastes of Georgia on Jan 7th.

And then came the quiet decision that rammed it all immediately home with the force of a cruise missile. Before my jaunt to Sardinia, I had invited her to a small meal to celebrate my birthday on Jan 5th, involving a trip out to my parents' house and needing her to stay the night, she had accepted the invite. Now she told me she couldn't come. For some reason, that simple statement was enough to crush me more any of her lies and betrayals last year. It finally told me that from now on I'm second on her list, keeping Ben happy comes before keeping me happy.

She's doing the right thing though, if she's to make it work with Ben, then she should put him before me. But I don't give a shit. I'm filled with rage and self-pity like never before at the moment. I want to shout Fuck You repeatedly into the wind and into her face, I want her to regret the decision for the rest of her life, I hope that every time he lets her down in one way or another, every cross word, every thoughtless gesture, every missed phone call, makes her think of me and how I would have treated her better. I hope when she sees me in the office and elsewhere it rips her heart out to know she can never have me. I hope he turns out to be an unutterable shit.

And it's probably the right thing for me too, if she'd chosen me and if I'd chosen to take her back I'd have had to live up to his image as it increased in perfection over time and it would probably have destroyed us. Now he gets to field all that shit and I get to move on. And I get to move out of limbo too, having been too weak to do it under my own steam for the whole of last year.

At the same time as my soul releases this previously untapped and unexpressed bile to consume my mind, my rational mind knows it'll pass at some point. Within six months I'll have moved on, and like all life-changing events this will become another in the series of 'good things that made me who I am' (along with bad haircuts in the sixth form and failing to be good at Inter railing). I've seen enough other people move on after failed relationships (can a year and a half of sex and a couple of weeks of officially going out count as a relationship?) to know that I will too.

They'll go too - the tight, twisted knot of desparation that chews my guts and puts a crazy gleam in my eye (I can feel it, even if others can't see it), the voice that says "There'll never be another like her, you're too old, you don't ever meet anybody, nobody likes you anyway, all your other friends are happy and settled and you're in limbo again", the internal alarm clock that goes off to make me stare blank-eyed at the 5am bedroom wall. They'll all melt slowly back into my psyche. Hell, I'll probably even stay friends with her, I'm a nice guy.

Here's to 2002.