Friday, November 24, 2006

Heart Of My Heart 

Be not afraid should you hear chilling howls whistle discordantly from the rifle range as you leave the office, thoughts of home and what to have for tea playing on your tired mind; nor nervously hasten your stride as you try to remember where you left your car when, through the trees, you observe an unholy glow emanating from the ammunition store window; fret no more, stand at ease - it’s only me singing bum notes at barbershop practise.

I’ve done my audition! I think I passed! Yay me!

Heart of my heart, I love you - Sergeant Bilsborrow booms the bass part like a singing earth tremor, and on baritone Captain Bashall-Eaves croons fruity and rich as Christmas pudding - life would be nought without you - and fluttering high above, here comes Private Staining, all of eighty and not a hair on his freckled head, flitting and darting like a swallow against the darkening sky - light of my life, my darling! I love you! I love you! - and me singing lead, remembering my words and almost tuneful - I can forget you never! - and all three are staring into my eyes, straight into them, and the vocalising rings powerful and true, as we swoop together in tight, insistent harmony - from you I ne’er can sever! - and it briefly occurs to me that to more puerile eyes this could all seem just a little bit, you know, homoerotic - Say you’ll be mine forever! - but there’s no time for that, because this is amazing, I’m singing barbershop! we could be the Be Sharps! and now my brothers in arms and me take one last deep breath before we make the final push for the big climax, safety catches off, triggers cocked, take aim, pause two three and - I Love You!!! - and then we are spent.

The ammunition store is silent. Captain Bashall-Eaves looks at Sergeant Bilsborrow, who looks at Private Staining. Outside, the wind rustles through crisp, fallen leaves. Next door they are drawing the raffle. I am gasping for breath.

After an eternity which lasts all of four seconds, the Captain puts his hand on my shoulder and says “Good job, lad. That’ll do,” and this is one of the top three proudest achievements in my life, up there with the time me and Girlfriend built a summerhouse, and when I met Girlfriend in the first place, and my head is buzzing with mad idiot joy, and I want to yell “That was fun! Do it again! Do it again!” but instead I just shrug and say quietly “Oh good. Cheers,” and we return to the warm chamber of the rifle range where my new compadres are comparing Tom Finney with Stanley Matthews and Alan Shearer and supping pints of bitter, and later on when I’m driving home, and frost is glinting on the bypass, and the precise stars are shining like new pins against a black velvet curtain, I realise I don’t know if I’m coming or going but feel like I might just finally have arrived.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Drinking Song 

We went to the pub on Friday because it was Canoeing Instructor’s birthday and also Long Tall Wanda’s.
As always, it was good to see everybody again.
I learned some new expressions, including:
“Sharking” - Fairly Famous Actor was sharking in his new shirt, apparently. I’ve since checked on Urban Dictionary, and I’m quite certain he wasn’t doing some of the things described there. He’s a lovely man.
“Wing man” - Juggling Protégé had been volunteered for Wing Man services to Fairly Famous Actor, should the occasion arise.
“A double bagger” - a person you’d need two bags for: one to put over their head, and a second to put over your own head, in case their's fell off.
I expect I should be embarrassed for not knowing these sooner. Still, better late than never.

Leanne was on good form, and so was Charlie despite having motorbike maintenance classes to give the following day, and I did the customary sambuca thing with Canoeing Instructor and finally got to meet her girlfriend who is very nice, and all in all it was a really good night and I got quite drunk.
There’s talk of next year’s holiday cottage adventure - somewhere with it’s own woods would be good; a place with it’s own beach would be better, though surely off the scale budget-wise. Anyway, I’m pleased it’s in the air. I’d be extremely sorry if it fizzled out.

Saturday was horrendous: rainy and blustery, perfect for battening down the hatches, lighting a candle for warmth and watching the football results trickling glumly in, so instead me and Girlfriend got the train to Lytham and met up with Joella for a jolly little pub crawl.
It was the first time she’d met bloggers in real life, so we felt honoured that she decided to take her chances on us.
We met up just after 2 o’clock, and weren’t sure if it was going to be just a couple of pints, but we got on really well and were still drinking in the Conservative Club - yes, yes, I know - after midnight, long after the last train had gone. I think we’re agreed that sense stopped being talked round about teatime. I got quite drunk.

She says she blew her chances with Billy Bragg when she blew chunks into his bag. It could almost be a line from a song, couldn’t it? We once shook hands with the old twerp in Action Records.
Can there be anybody left who hasn't met Billy Bragg yet?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Instant Karma 

Ivan the Terribly Thorough whirlwinds through the building with a J-cloth in one hand and a hoover in the other, unsettling the dust and all the ladies’ hormones.

He’s got The Flintstones as his ringtone, and was either savvy or foolish enough to tell one of the girls - guess who? - his number in the strictest confidence, who promptly circulated it to all the women at Company X, and Karl as well, who was too shy to ask in person, and now he’s inundated.
They ring him while he’s standing right in front of them, polishing their surfaces, and you can chart his position around the office by the joyous cries of “Yabba dabba do, Ivan! Yabba dabba do!” that greet him wherever he goes. It’s pathetic and he loves it.

This afternoon Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader, informed me that the way to find happiness is to do a good deed and never tell anybody about it.
“For instance,” she said, “the other day I bought this Big Issue seller a cappuccino from Starbucks. I had one as well and we just chatted outside Marks and Sparks for ten minutes. It was great. Instant karma.”
“Was he good looking?” I asked.
“He may have been.”
“But that had nothing to do with it?”
“Course not,” she said.
“Very commendable,” I said. “Did you get that from one of your books?”
“Nah. My friend Becky does stuff like that all the time. She’s introduced me to all sorts of good things.”
She drifted off as dreamy-Stella for a while, mentioning something about the Scissor Sisters and some band I’ve never heard of.
“So what about you?” she said when she came round. “Done any secret good deeds lately?”

I had a little think.
“Well, there was something the other day. Nothing major, just a small something.”
She leaned in towards me and lowered her voice. “What did you do?”
“Well,” I said in a hushed tone, moving closer. “If I told you that, it wouldn’t be a secret.”
“But that’s not fair. I told you mine,” she said.
“Yes,” I said. “And now you’ve un-karmaed yourself.”
“Oh, you’re so bloody pompous sometimes. Just tell me.”
“Tell me!”
“Hardly surprising people think you’re weird, is it?” she said, which is what she always says when she can’t have her way.

Out in the office, Mike and Terry were playing on their mobiles, flipping up the covers and giggling in girly voices.
“Beam me up, Ivan! One ready for beaming!” cackled Mike.
“You’ve yabba dabba done it again, haven’t you Ivan?” cooed Terry.

“I promise I won’t tell anyone,” she pleaded.
“Go and trip a dwarf.”
We stood and watched the pair of them for a good while, and I said that weird would be just fine, thanks all the same.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Silent Night 

The public address system crackled and sparked and Charlotte, Bill Surname CEO’s loyal PA, bing bonged that she had an important announcement.
All eating stopped and we gathered round the loudspeaker like it was 1939.

“Following reduced circumstances,” she fizzed breathlessly, panic and alarm in every consonant, “Bill Surname’s retired army chums are two baritones short of a full chorus.”
There was a rustling of papers and a clanging of pipes.
“Consequently, the Christmas show for the old folks has never seemed less likely. If interested, please sign up in the foyer at lunchtime, but remember they may be collecting for poppies. Bing bong.”

Nobody said a word, and we all returned to our desks and whatever we weren’t doing.

Poor Charlotte, it’s a difficult time for her, what with the rising interest rate and the falling sky - “In every sandwich a bomb scare; if it’s not that, it’s the bird-flu; the end of the world and not a child washed; my goodness, oh dear, oh my!” - and now this: Bill Surname, the only man she has ever loved, says there has been Silent Night in four part harmony since time immaterial, and she’ll have him to answer to if the endangered souls of the Final Countdown Retirement Home don’t get it this year.

Meanwhile, Creepy Keith from Accounts’ blind date was a big flop - “They were like roofers’ nail bags,” we heard him whinging to Jeanette from the agency this afternoon, which we’re assuming was a bad thing - and Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader, has been so busy it hurts.

“Busy? I haven’t got time to be busy!” she panted above the unsteady drone of her walking machine when I popped my head round the door to ask if she was busy, and whether it would be alright to take some time out tomorrow to see about audition pieces.

They were gritting the roads when I went for a run this evening, and still the leaves on the trees cling on. It was see your own breath cold, and across the Ribble Estuary, you could hardly tell the lights of Southport from their reflections, and those reflections from the stars. All was calm, all was bright.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Cemetery Gates 

On Sunday morning, we had a look around Hampstead - just a few stops away on the thingy line - and indulged in our favourite pastime of looking in estate agents' windows and saying “Three bedrooms? And they want how much for it???!”

Then we went for a long rambling stroll on the Heath - no sign of either Julian Clary or Norman Lamont, thankfully - and had lunch in Highgate.

In the afternoon we went on the guided tour of Highgate Cemetery which was really good - wild and overgrown and wonderfully atmospheric in the fading light. Douglas Adams is buried there.
Afterwards, we headed for Camden - just a few stops away - and had a nice meal in a trendy Belgian restaurant in Camden, where the service was stern rather than friendly, and the names of fish were everywhere.

And then we went to the Roundhouse to see A Hawk and A Hacksaw, Beirut, and Calexico, all of whom were terrifically good. Nice venue too.

Lunch shot: Health food.

On Monday we went for a stroll along the Thames in the lovely November sunshine. Had she been wearing them, I’d be able to say that Girlfriend went down the House of Commons in her brand new shoes, but she wasn’t, so I can’t. Shame.
The light was lovely. Then we came home again.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

How Soon Is Now? 

On Saturday morning we visited the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising - just a few stops away on the thingy line - which we thought was brilliant.
We chatted with the owner Robert Opie for a good while, and I was pleased to be able to advise him that he’d displayed Kate Bush incorrectly. He asked us to spread the word and I said I’d try to do my bit.
We were especially amused to learn that Allan is Ken’s buddy - “All of Ken’s clothes fit him.

We had a wander round Portobello Market in the sunshine, and spotted a gallery selling original Banksy’s - they go for about £5,000 these days, the owner told us. I snapped up a couple of bananas for less than a quid, which I was more than happy with.

In the afternoon, we went to a café by a Tescos near Battersea Dog’s Home, just a few stops down on the thingy line, whereupon we were given instructions on how to meet Andre celebrating his birthday in his private London club.
It was a good blogbash and I enjoyed myself lots and drank steadily until closing time.
In no particular order, I chatted with:
- Non-Working Monkey who told me in very excited tones that I was her favourite blogger. Five minutes into the conversation, she said “Ooh look, there’s Jonny B. He’s my favourite blogger!”
- Jonny B. His friend Salvadore couldn’t make it.
- Anna Little Red Boat. She gets less scary all the time, but never completely so.
- Andre, whose birthday it was. He looked very relaxed and was having a good time I think, and I am so pleased for him, what with everything.
- Anxious. She’s lovely and you really wonder if she’s the same person who writes all that stuff about anxiety, because she doesn’t seem anxious at all.
- Unluckyman. He had to leave quite early on, due to unfortunate circumstances. I wonder if people often tell him “Now that’s unlucky!” Probably not.
- Leonie, who all the women wanted to mother, on account of her “Aww, isn’t she lovely”-ness. She’s given up her job to do music. Checkout her MySpace thingy: she’s very good and proper nice with it.
- Petite Anglaise. Still as lovely as ever, despite not having a proper job and spending all her time arsing about on the internet. She said something about her book which made me quite chuffed.
- Girl With A One Track Mind. She’s ever so nice. Now that we’ve met, I’m going to try really hard not to hear the Benny Hill music any more each time I read her stuff.
- Robin. He played guitar on George Michael’s Faith album, and doesn’t like Dennis Wise much.
- Troubled Diva. He had a stag do in Manchester, while I occasionally go to Manchester. Nice bloke.
- Clare Sudbury. Her house is in Levenshulme but she lives “mostly in her own head.”
- Greavsie. How come I never got to chat with him?
- Quite a few others who I didn’t get to chat with either. How so?

Never previously seen together in the same pub, here’s a nice picture I took of A Beautiful Revolution, Girl With A One Track Mind, Jonny B, Petite Anglaise and Little Red Boat, and all of them grinning like idiots.

In a moment of indiscretion, I might have mentioned that I have a bit of a weakness for girls with Brummie accents.

Friday, November 03, 2006

London's Brilliant Parade 

It felt like ages since we’d done anything touristy, so on Friday me and Girlfriend hopped onto a Virgin Masterblaster and were at London Euston in the blink of an eye.
We are now the proud owners of two Oyster cards and feel accordingly sophisticated.

We dumped our stuff in an overheated little hotel not far from Nelson’s Column and inconveniently placed for avoiding Evita fans, then headed for Bloomsbury, a few stops away on the thingy line.
There we visited the Foundling Museum, which was really interesting, and not just a little moving.
As well as the childhood exhibition, we took in lots of paintings featuring busty ladies, tantalisingly not quite in the nip, and sat in Handel’s iPod armchairs. After all the bustle of getting there, it was serene and lovely.
Tempting though it was, I resisted the urge to fiddle with the old man’s organ.

After a nice little Italian we regressed back to the 1950s for a spot of ten pin bowling at the wonderful All Star Lanes. It was good fun - you can’t have too much fun, can you? - and we drank daft cocktails and left a little light headed. Nice signage.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I Got A Gal In Kalamazoo 

“I don’t care what you say,” fumed Creepy Keith from Accounts. “I still hate the little bastards.”

He was sitting at my desk again when I arrived this morning, bellowing into the phone. I coughed to make my presence felt - unsuccessfully - then wandered down to fetch a coffee style drink from the vending machine. He was still there when I got back.
In no particular order, he expressed his hatred for Trick or Treaters, their parents, all American customs that don’t belong in Britain, Gordon Brown, and speed cameras.
“Last year I was scraping the stuff off my windscreen for days,” he said. “Little turd droppers, I hate them.” He glanced around, to check that somebody was listening.
“So anyway, Cholesterol. I’ll meet you at 8:00 at The Flattened Squirrel. Yeah, me too. I’ll be reading the Telegraph. White carnation. My last blind date was a complete waste of fucking space, so you can’t be any worse than she was.”
His eyes twinkled briefly, like a lit fart, as he put down the receiver.

Terry's been grumpy all day, still narked about the sort of cake thing that disappeared from his desk.
We’ve blamed it on Ivan, the industrious cleaner, on account of his being new and terribly thorough.
Since he arrived Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader, and Tabs - and for all I know, all the other women in the office - have taken great care to fill their waste baskets with rubbish and crumpled up sheets of blank paper if necessary, just so he’ll linger that little bit longer emptying them again.

“Don’t you think it’s a bit pathetic?” I asked Stella this evening, after the going home bell. “The way the women all swoon around Ivan?”
“Not at all, Tim,” she replied. “We’re just doing our bit to try and have international relations. Stop being so jealous. Oh, and by the way, I know who really took Terry’s sort of cake thing.”
“Is that right?” I said.
“Me and my friend Becky saw you by the lake on Monday as we were leaving.”
“Did you see Bill Surname’s retired army chums as well? Crawling around in the bushes?”
“See them?” she laughed. “We bloody heard them as well.”
“Jesus. They scared the crap out of me with their ‘I Got A Gal In Kalamazoo.’”
“Weather forecast says there’ll be frost tonight,” she said. “I hope they’ll be warm enough, living out in the woods like that. Daft buggers.”
“They’re all of them getting on a bit,” I said.

The car park gradually emptied. Far away, a waxing gibbous moon rose brightly above the Preston skyline. Stars came out. Traffic chugged along the bypass in the fading light. Stella flicked idly through a copy of Cosmo.

“My friend Becky says I can crumble her muffins any time I like,” she said, absent-mindedly.
“I hope they’ll be warm enough, too,” I said, before packing the latest Bryson into my man's bag, switching off and heading for home.

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