Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Becoming More Like Alfie 

No point going home so I got myself comfy in the shed and nodded off for a while. Had a few strange dreams. At one point I started thinking about the Attic Studio Complex again but all wasn’t what it seemed. My thoughts kept drifting to the lovely Kirstie Allsopp and a protective plastic sleeve. Then, as if that wasn’t enough to stir me, I could swear I saw a beautiful vision on the exercise bike with a bum like j-lo’s, but just as quickly as I saw her, she vanished. How queer.

Next thing I know, I’ve woken up all disoriented. I’m sure I can hear someone rustling about outside the shed. I hope against hope that it’s not Big Dennis. Just then I hear the faint beep-beep-beep of a number being punched into a mobile phone. I can’t make out much of the ensuing conversation before it all goes quiet again.

I gather my thoughts and risk a quick stretch. My extended arm knocks a grimacing Toby Jug off a shelf and what should drop out but a key!! Ta Da!!

Trouble is, it’s only the key to the petrol strimmer next to it. Doh! However, looking through a crack in the shed I can see that the back door of AFMIP Towers is now open and I’m pretty sure that I can see someone crouching down and moving around in the kitchen. Blimey… I’m thinking burglars on the lookout for rock’n’roll memorabilia. If they wander off and leave that door open I’m sneaking in. Tim’d expect me to investigate. What a mystery. I feel like Harry Palmer.

Posted by backroads

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Something In The Woodshed 

“No honestly, I heard it again”

“No I’m not making it up so that you’ll cut short your holiday and head on home. It’s just that I definitely heard something”

“No I’m not imagining things”

“Well don’t say I didn’t warn you when you get back to headline news that the bogeyman did exist after all and was living in your garden shed”

“Yeh ok, I am being childish”

“No it doesn’t matter. Really. I’m just being silly”

“OK thanks. See you when you get back. Enjoy the rest of your stay”

So that’s the thanks I got for looking after things around here. I didn't even get chance to mention the creaking floorboards upstairs. But then again I'm probably just letting my imagination run away with itself.

Anyway, I'd better crack on with alphabeticising the CDs and chucking out anything in the kitchen cupboards with a best before of pre 1979.

Posted by Leanne

Monday, September 27, 2004

Vapour Trail 

The strangest thing happened to me yesterday.

I was opening the cupboard in the Tadpole's bedroom where the tumble dryer lives, my arms full of dirty washing (oh my glamorous Parisian life), when a roaring sound filled my ears and everything went dark (possibly because I closed my eyes). The next thing I knew I was seated - uncomfortably - on the saddle of an exercise bike in a pristinely tidy, white room with a futon and velux windows, a wet sock in my hand. Hang on, it looked strangely familiar... Could this be the famous Attic Studio Complex? Tim did say he would sort something out so that I could nip back and forth from my place to his, but I didn't realise quite what he had planned. A portal. My word. Ingenious.

The Attic Studio Complex felt smaller than it looked on the photo - Tim must have one of those distorting camera lenses estate agents are so fond of - but it was just as depressingly tidy as on the photo.

I decided that it would be sensible to check without further ado whether the portal worked both ways, as the Frog would be getting back from the park with the Tadpole shortly, and they'd be wondering where I'd got to. But I couldn't resist having a quick look around before leaving. A metal box on top of the bookcase caught my eye. I lifted the lid, letting my curiousity get the better of me, and found the following:

These dispelled any doubts I may still have had about my whereabouts.

I climbed back onto the exercise bike praying that the manoeuvre would work in reverse, and as I put my feet on the pedals, I felt myself start to fade away. This time a bright light (the sun?) blinded my eyes, and there I was back home again, sitting on the floor surrounded by wet washing. My flat suddenly looked very chaotic and untidy in comparison.

So it would appear that I'll be able to come and go as I please over the next fortnight. Please let me know if there is anything in particular you would like me to investigate next time I'm over there...

posted by petite anglaise

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Can You Dig It? 

Well I said I was on my way. The fact that I’ve got here is largely thanks to my secret knowledge of backroads. Yep it’s true, following the micro-blogmeet Tim and I held at the Wacky Warehouse (two grown men in a ballpool making furious notes is a sight to behold I can tell you... in fact at one point it all became too much...), I’m laden with instructions and keen as mustard to get on with the job.

To be honest, I’m itching to get into the Attic Studio Complex, more than anything else. Reckon I might be able to rustle up a pocket symphony on Tim’s kazoo before he gets back to where he once belonged. However, I’ve got to get into the place first and without a key, AFMIP Towers might as well be Fort Knox. In fact, according to the postman, ‘it’s like the bleeding Bank of England’.

Well listen, I’m sure it was when we were shimmying down the fireman’s pole when Tim told me the whereabouts of the spare key…. But can I remember?

Listen some more. I think we were scooting down the death-slide (7 and overs only please) when I made it quite clear that I wouldn’t be doing any digging. Now, here I am, scooping out mulch from the borders looking in all the obvious places and coming up with zip.

There’s the shed of course. Maybe if I can just squeeze in there I might be able to find a spare key under a watering can, inside a trug or, maybe, next to a dibber…

Posted by backroads.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

A Momentary Lapse Of Reason 

I’ve never been asked to take care of anything which involves this much responsibility before and I’m feeling a little bit dubious about my ability to pull it off now. The only reason I’m here was due to a drunken night out with Tim’s other half a couple of weeks ago. He came to pick her up at the end of the night and before I could say ‘please can she stay for just one last drink?’ I’d somehow agreed to commit myself to this.

Not really sure why he asked me – after all he’s never popped round to mine to check for dust along the top of the picture frames or to make sure I don’t make a habit of doing that ‘just sweep it under the rug’ thing. And I’ve never had a pet in my life. Actually I did get a cat when I was 4 – called it Teddy Edward Rupert Paddington – as a consequence it threw itself under a moving vehicle about two weeks later. Hardly qualifies me for this does it? Oh well, I’m here now. I’d better get on.

Posted by Leanne

Thursday, September 23, 2004

All Gone To Look For America 

I have some good news and some more good news.

First, you won’t have to put up with my inconsequential blatherings for a couple of weeks or so, as I‘m Going Away For A Bit. Hooray!

Second, - and I’m genuinely quite excited about this - there will be not one but three groovy and entrancing guest bloggers here to keep an eye on things and generally service your A Free Man In Preston needs. Hooray some more!

In the red corner, we have captivating luscious Leanne, Bolton’s former premiere trapeze artist and tiger tamer extraordinaire. Leanne is new to blog writing, and I’ve absolutely no idea what she intends to write about, if anything, so Ladies and Gentleman, keep your fingers crossed and please give a big round of applause for the one, the only, Leanne!!!

In the blue corner, fighting fit and revving her engines, all the way from Paris, France we have the supremely talented and tantalising Petite Anglaise!!! Petite Anglaise doesn’t know me from Adam, nor me from her Eve. Or something. Basically, we’ve never met. What I do know is that she’s a right proper blogger, funny and sexy and intelligent and everything. I trust her implicitly with my blog, and I’m ever so flattered that she said yes to the invitation to guest here. So let me hear you make some noise for the exotic, the daring, the intriguingly Anglo-French Petite Anglaise!!! Woot! I don’t think I’ve ever said “Woot” before. I didn’t get it embarrassingly wrong, did I?

Last but not least, in the taupe corner, we have the more or less entertaining and occasionally funny Secret Knowledge Of Backroads. No, I’m just kidding! He’s actually rather excellent. He hails from somewhere in the North of England, and has a wit sharp enough to puncture tractor tyres, should the need ever arise. In fact, tonight I experienced my second micro-blogmeet, because me and Backroads have just enjoyed a clandestine pre-guest blog briefing in a dark corner of a Wacky Warehouse somewhere off the M6. I’ve told him what to do if the switches trip (the fusebox is by the front door), where the stopcock is (in the cellar under the stairs, mind your head on the joists) and what to do if Big Dennis comes to the door demanding money (pay up). So please throw your hats in the air and give a big blogging Howdy to Backroads, your third super soar-away guest blogger for the foreseeable future.

I did tell all three guests that I’d provide them with a few guidelines and ground rules on how to conduct themselves here, but being lazy and incompetent, I never got round to it. So instead, I’ll leave them and you, gentle reader, with a few wise words - a poem actually - stolen wholesale from future Poet Laureate - mark my words - Simon Armitage. This ought to do it. Later, dudes.

“No more mularkey, no baloney. No more cuffuffle or shenanigans; all that caboodle is niet dobra. It will end this minute. No more fuss or palaver; no more mush or blarney. No flowers, by request; no offence meant, and none taken. No more blab, none of that ragtag and bobtail business, or ballyhoo or balderdash and no jackassery, or flannel, or galumphing. Listen: from this point forward it’s ninety-nine and forty-four hundredths per cent pure. And no remarks from the peanut gallery.”

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Guess I'm Doing Fine 

A proper computer programmer will leave behind helpful comments throughout their work. This is so that other poor sods who are later ‘tasked’ with maintaining the programs have a bit of a head start on figuring out was going on in the author’s nerdy little mind.

Yeah, right. I’ve been spending some time now trying to decipher a script by some guy who no longer works here. There are no useful comments, no explanations. One minute you think you understand, the next all is confusion and error messages.

We thought Tabatha was coming in to be interviewed tomorrow. Me and Terry had made plans to be Elsewhere, somewhere over the ring road, five miles out of Preston on the Out Of Harm’s Way.
We also assumed the smart young woman in Stella’s office this morning was just some rep or a customer or other unimportant person. And you know what assume makes.
As they emerged from the office, Stella wished her good luck and told her to pop in after the interview.
“Hello Tim,” said Tabatha, smiling not unpleasantly.
“Hi Terry,” she continued. He made an unscheduled bowel movement. “How’s your Mum? Is she better now? Listen, I‘ll catch you later. It’s time.” He made like a bashful teenager and mumbled something in return, which is one more mumble than I’d managed.
This wasn’t the Tabs I’d been led to expect. She seemed really nice. How could she have known that about Terry’s Mum?
“Good luck,” I said long after she’d left the room and the moment had passed.

Today has been all confusion and error messages. I feel like I’ve been whacked over the head with a cartoon frying pan.
Terry is no better. “This is going to sound, erm, weird,” he said later, oblivious to the bluebirds circling over his head, “but I think I‘m in love.”

I’ve no idea where this is going.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

One Plus One Is One 

Do you own any rock memorabilia? And if so, where do you keep it? Stuffed away at the back of the wardrobe? In the kitchen drawer with the out of date coupons? In a glass fronted trophy cabinet?

How about in the fridge? That’s where Girlfriend keeps her Kinder Egg signed by Badly Drawn Boy .
It’s been there since September 8th. It’s presence was sort of funny at first, but where do you draw the line? It can’t stay there forever, can it? Leanne and Charlie think she should flog it on ebay. I’m not one for sentimentality - good Lord not me - but even I find that a little mercenary. Should she just eat the bloody thing and keep the wrapper, which is after all the bit with the writing on it? It reveals little or nothing about Badly Drawn Boy and his mighty fine work. As a memento of the evening, it has miniscule value, as it was chucked into the audience by the support act Rebelski during their set, and not by the man himself. As artefacts go, it’s pants.

Anyway, since you ask, the concert was every bit as good as I hoped it would be. He played all the songs from One Plus One Is One in sequence, which is great, and then did a “hits” set after an interval.
One lucky couple, Sam and Steve, even enjoyed the rare honour of being married on stage by their favourite troubadour, and that‘s not something many people can lay claim to.

He seemed quite nervous at first, but loosened up as the gig progressed. He’s got a terse dry wit which, erm, some might say skirts very closely to the fringes of arrogance - phew, I said it - but for me it only adds to his gruff likeableness. By the end it felt like watching some chancer busking his way through a pub gig. There were even benches and a drinks laden table on stage where the band would sit during solo spots, so in a way I guess it was just that.

The rather posh and grand Bridgewater Hall in Manchester was - and still is I hope - magnificent too, bringing the boozey pub atmosphere into what your poncey art critic might term “sharp relief.”

So all in all it was a brilliant evening’s entertainment and sorry I’m late with my homework. Now what about that badly drawn egg? Any ideas? A wedding gift for Sam and Steve?

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Senses Working Overtime 

“Company X, Stella speaking.
Oh hi Tabs, how are you dahhhling?
Nothing much. Still trying to make sense of these bloody spreadsheets, actually. Yeah. Freakin’ lunatic.

Christmas? How do you mean? Oh, right. That’ll be Tim. He stinks of the bloody stuff. Says he's having it pulled tomorrow.

You haven’t? Did you? Last night? Did you really? You didn't. Piss off Tabs, you're pulling my todger. Really? But what about Terry? Is that all off now? Right. He seemed alright when I saw him this morning. No, he’s gone off to the Arrogant Tossers Co. in Manchester for a meeting. Tim’s in, but he won’t say anything. No. Terry? Didn’t say much, but none of them ever do. Boring bastards.

You still going for that job? The one I told you about, you dozy bitch! Here, on reception! They’re interviewing next week. So fill the bloody form in then! Now! What? I’ll come round tonight then, alright? Yes, I have got a pen. Silly cow. Did you really do that? OhmyGod, what are you like? You are so going to get a dose.

Listen, gotta go now dahhhling, the freakin’ loony’s come in to see me. Batman outfit. Yeah, I’ll bring a bottle. Love you too, yeah? Ciao baby. Later.”

Monday, September 13, 2004

The Drugs Don't Work 

Just sit quietly for a moment and tell me what you can smell. If it’s cloves, then that’ll be from me. It smells of Christmas but without the oranges. Sorry about that.

My teeth are conspiring against me and to look at me now you’d think I was chewing a space hopper. Today I am more John Goodman than John Cusack.
After a weekend of chomping through Anadin and Ibrufen and smearing my upper regions with clove oil, I managed to secure an emergency appointment with the dentist this morning. I think the reception staff just wanted me out of their waiting room - I was making the other customers nervous.
The dentist looked very pleased - “I knew this was going to happen!” - like she’d correctly predicted the winner of Pop Idol. She then chiselled away one of my many fillings and gave me a prescription for two lots of anti-biotics. Both are huge, to match my misshapen face I suppose.

If I’d ever run a marathon or climbed Everest, which I haven’t, I certainly wouldn’t want to repeat the experience. Such activities are tests of endurance, to see how much pain and misery you can withstand. Once you’ve driven your flag into the North Pole, proven to yourself that you’re actually a pretty tough cookie, what’s the point in doing it again?
These are my feelings about teeth extractions. I’ve been through it before, twice, and been a very brave boy - I have the badges to prove it - and not cried out when I actually wanted to scream and holler.
But a third time?
I’m going back on Thursday morning. I think I’ve lost my nerve.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Climbing Up To The Moon 

“Would you mind if I asked you to pee on my hostas?” asked the nice lady in the floppy hat.
I was breathless.
“My Arthur swears by it. Keeps the slugs and snails off, he says.”
“And does it work?” I gasped.
“But if you’d rather just use the loo, it’s through on the left.”

The front door to the cottage was surrounded by masses of roses, the hallway looked cool and dark.
I parked my bike against the porch and stepped inside.

One of the joys of getting lost down country lanes is that it doesn’t matter. You can go this way or that way, or just round and round in circles. It’s exhausting and relaxing at the same time.

“Are you lost?” asked a young couple strolling with a boozy post-lunch gait. I was slumped against a signpost, grappling ineffectively with Ordnance Survey Landranger 102, which was determined to be not only upside down but also inside out. I couldn’t have been loster.
“No, but thanks,” I answered. “What difference does it make?”
They smiled supportively towards me, in the way that you might smile at a man in the village stocks, then disappeared down the lane. From the glint in their eyes, my guess is they were headed for the nearest haystack to enjoy a spot of cider and some lively bucolic humping.
I waved goodbye as I whizzed past them down the slope, then waved again when I met them twenty minutes later, wheezing back up the lane.
The third time we met we avoided each other’s gaze, and simply gave a silent nod of recognition, like when you keep bumping into somebody you know around the supermarket, and what was at first pleasant has become a bit silly and embarrassing from sheer repetition.

“Have you ever tried Elderberry Cordial?” said the nice old lady, as I stepped back into the sunlight, relieved and refreshed. “It’s my Grandmother’s recipe. I’ll ask Arthur to fetch us some. Now come and sit down and tell me where you think you are.”

A few minutes later I heard a clinking of ice cubes, and looked up to see an old man carrying a tray of drinks towards us. I recognised him immediately.

“Not Captain Birdseye, my old blogging mentor! What the hell are you doing here?”
“Well lad, we couldn’t let your 100th blog post go by without a small celebration, could we?” he chuckled.
“You old bugger! And you’ve had me cycling up and down all these sodding lanes like some sun crazed idiot all day, just so that you could bring me here and I could write about it?”
“Aye lad!” he grinned, looking thoroughly pleased with himself.
“Unbelievable!” I said, and gave him a hefty clip around his imaginary ear.
“Aye lad,” he replied, still smirking. “Utter bollocks!”

Mrs. Not Captain Birdseye had even prepared a cake for the occasion.

The last thing I remember is dozing off in a hammock, suspended between a cherry tree at one end and belief at the other, dappled sunshine on my face, the beck coursing around my fingers, a blackbird scratching in the dirt, dust circling up into the hot afternoon air, lengthening shadows, reddening leaves, summer nearly over, feeling drowsy, thinking about our first kiss, thinking about bed and sleep, soft billowy sleep, the sound of children playing in the road outside your bedroom window do you remember the first time up the wooden hills to bedfordshire climbing up to the moon tenderness our mouths and fingers and arms this way and that round and round in circles not only upside down but also inside out breathing kissing loving sleeping whole days and nights, sleeping the sleep of the sleepy the sleep of the loved.

“Sheer Repetition,” said Not Captain Birdseye, waking me with a start hours later, just before carrying me back to my bike and sending me careering down the lane into the darkness with the owls and the wolves and bears and God Knows What Else. “Not a bad name for a blog that, you daft sod. Old bugger yourself.”

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Stop Taking Me Over 

“Kiss my ass goodbye, Grandad!”

I shook my fist, and wobbled precariously. It felt good to be doing the whizzing past for a change. He may have had the lycra and a space-rocket for a push bike, but tonight the speed and the grace were all mine.

Oh alright. He wasn’t actually cycling at the time I overtook him. He was having a pint. And ten minutes later, I was overtaken back by the eighty year old freak of nature, but it felt good while the moment lasted.

My bottom hurts.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

They Were All Yellow 

I was doing quite nicely, thank you.
Getting a bit of a sweat on, heart beat pumping good and steady, feeling slightly but not unpleasantly out of breath.

But they had to keep whizzing past me, didn’t they?
Whizz! There goes one!
Whizz! Oh look! Another one!
Whizz! It was one continuous geriatric blur!

“Coffin dodgers!” I yelled after them, but they didn’t hear me on account of already being fifty metres away.

Mine is all squeaky and covered in rust. Theirs were shiny lightweight state of the art 21st Century techno-racers, probably dreamed up by NASA scientists on slow days at the office. They had skinny go fast tires and more gears than me.

It wasn’t a level playing field. It wasn’t fair. I need a new bike.

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