Wednesday, April 22, 2009


The tall, elegant spire of St. Walburge’s RC perches on the Preston skyline like an upturned drawing pin placed on a teacher’s chair.
It’s as if the whole town is in on the joke, cheekily waiting for God to blow grandly into the room, take his seat and receive an unpleasant surprise. We are a jovial people.
Road works spring up like molehills here, there and everywhere, choking the daily migration. Wherever you’re going, you’d be quicker walking and besides, it’s so beautiful out there – make the most of it because you know this can’t last forever.
The chewing gum aromas of sugar and diesel fumes fill the air, as girls parade up and down Fishergate in their summer skins and gangs of swarthy boys congregate on corners, showing their appreciation. Everything speaks of the fun fair.
Outside my window, closer still, cotton candy swatches of blossom, pink and white, cherry and apple, rim the car park. Rex the Security Guard plants sweet peas and nasturtiums by the data centre trellis, while Geraldine the Company X goat basks on the croquet lawn in the unexpected sunshine. Twenty degrees yesterday. Warmer still today, they’re saying.

Terry and Mike are scrutinising the Championship table.
“I’ll bet you a pound to a pinch of shit North End don’t make the play-offs,” says Terry.
Mike grunts.
“Every fucking season,” says Terry. “We get within a midge’s dick of promotion, then piss it away last minute.”
Mike stares at his monitor, cool as AC. “Best odds you’ll get anywhere,” he grumbles. He’s an expert at this. Eventually Terry wavers, peels a twenty pound note from his wallet and places his wager.
“You’re killing me, Mike,” he mutters as he walks back to his desk, resentful of his own weakness. “Fucking killing me.”

In her room, Stella, my eighties style yuppie witch of a team leader, is in a meeting with Creepy Keith from Accounts.
“So let me check I’ve understood this correctly,” she asks.
“Shoot,” he replies.
“A bouncer broke your arm?”
“A bouncer at a Women Only disco?”
“That’s right,” Keith confirms. “I said, ‘Let me in Bitch, I’m a feminist.’ And that’s when she broke it.”
“And this was because you'd seen Advantage going in?” asks Stella. There's no hint of glee in her inflection, absolutely none. Oh alright, just a large one.
“I said ‘I’ve read more Virginia Woolf than you’ve had hotpot suppers. And I'm guessing you've had a few.’” He wheezes for a moment. “The pain was indescribable.”

I can hear Stella Facebooking away at her keyboard for a minute or so, and then she asks, “But I thought it was all back on between you and Advantage?”
“So did I. It was on again, then off again, then the last I knew we were on again,” he answers. “Went to IKEA on Friday, so we must have been.”
“Tea candles?”
“Clip frames. Anyway, she said she was out on Saturday with her friend Valerie, and I happened to see them, didn't I? So I wanted to talk to her.”
“Valerie, did you say? Chunky lass? Green hair? Walks with a limp?”
“You know her?” asks Keith.
“Valerie Average? Bloody hell, Keith! Everybody knows Big Value Valerie!” The Facebooking starts again in earnest. “My friend Becky will ROFL her arse off when she hears this! Advantage and Valerie Average! Classic!”

At lunchtime I forget that the lady at the gate with the dreamy soft white baps is on holiday, so I just carry on walking, down to the wildflower meadows which are drying out a little now, and along the Ribble for a while, avoiding the cow pats and the humping help desk operatives as best I can, then back through town, the sunshine warm on my face, past the business parks and shopping centres, the tyre exchanges and discount carpet warehouses, the heaving car parks and office blocks, the queues of traffic going nowhere, radios blasting, engines overheating, as if that was what I'd intended to do all along. I'm bloody starving when I get back so I have a Magnum instead.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I met Georgina a few weeks ago, the author of the wonderful Wondering Heights.
It’s part of my ongoing project to meet all bloggers. Now that everybody Twitters instead of blogging you might have thought this was an easy task, but I’m discovering that I’ve still some way to go before I can consign it to the Done basket.

I was in Swindon all week doing work stuff, so being in the London area we arranged to meet one evening in the foyer of Embankment Station and afterwards she took me to The Chortle Awards in the fancy pants West End.
Georgina is a producer off the telly, reading comedy scripts as a full time occupation, which, if not the best job in the world, is right up there with cheese, beer and chocolate tasting. The job seems to consist of going to lots of meetings and banging your head against walls.

The Chortle Awards celebrate up and coming stand-up comedians.
I was hoping for a late nomination in the “What The Hell Am I Doing Here?” category, but there’s always next time.
I’m not very clued up on comedy so had no idea who most people were – who is the Next Big Thing; who was the previous Next Big Thing; who will remain for their rest of their days hoping to be the Next Big Thing – but it was fascinating to be a fly on the wall. And while I’m not one for being starstruck – the opportunity rarely arises – I’ll admit I was mildly thrilled to be standing behind a bloody big sofa supporting the VIP comedy arses of Arthur Smith, Tony Hawks (no, not the skateboarder) and Nicholas Parsons, while Frank Skinner issued gongs a few feet away. Nicholas Parsons!!!
I will always remain super-grateful that I didn’t approach Nicholas Parsons and tell him, like, you know, I really love your work and have nothing to say that could possibly be of interest to you, avoiding repetition, hesitation or deviation. And I could have done, because he was as near to me as you are to your computer. Nicholas Parsons! It would have demeaned both of us.

It was lovely finally meeting Georgina who is really nice and very funny and well fit. She introduced me to her friends Charlotte Hudson and Leila Hacket, who write together as Two Left Hands.
“So what do you do?” asked Leila.
“Oh, nothing funny,” I replied. “I work in IT. In Preston.”
“Right. So how do you know Georgina?”
“We’re friends on the internet. This is the first time we’ve met.”
“But it’s not a date or anything. It’s not like that,” I said, immediately regretting not saying I was from an escort agency, standing in at short notice for the guy she’d actually chosen.
Two raised left eyebrows. “So if it’s not a date… ?”
“Well, I don’t know if you already knew, but, erm, Georgina is a blogger.”
They didn’t.
“She’s really good. We’re both bloggers. That’s how we know each other.”
I’ve never found a way of telling someone that I blog without it sounding, well, foolish. It would have been easier if I’d lied and said we met on the Star Trek Fan Fiction forums, specialising in the Filth and Smut sub-genre.

Oddness continued when I recognised another blogger in the crowd from her flickr photos.
“Excuse me. I don’t want to weird you out but aren’t you the blogger known as Undivine Comedy?”
She was and we three bloggers had a nice little chat in the Nerd Corner. Again, it was lovely to meet her after reading her for years. I think I may have weirded her out a little bit actually, but she recovered quickly. You have to think on your feet in showbusiness.

I’m off to meet yet another blogger this evening. Yay.
She is top Preston author Jenn Ashworth whose novel A Kind Of Intimacy is shortlisted as one of Waterstones’ Twelve To Watch Out For This Year.

Jenn is hosting the inaugural Word Soup meeting, a big bash for Preston’s heaving writerly community. We’ve already met online of course, and she recently e-interviewed me on the Preston Writing Network blog. You can find that interview here.

You can also find me mooching about on Twitter, if that’s your bag.
It’s a nice little place where I post half-witticisms for my own amusement, which I later intend to work up into fully fledged near-humour for these here pages, once enough time has been allowed for readers to have forgotten them from the first time round.


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