Monday, December 29, 2008

Seasons Greetings!

Despite Woolworths closing.

Unless of course you're in Gaza, in which case you're subject to a blockade. And bombing by the Israeli air force which killed more than 300 people.

Bombing and killing in excess of 300 people. Jesus Fucking Christ. With the most sophisticated weaponry known to the western world. Shit. Merry Fucking Christmas Israel. And no, there was no joke intended there.

So Gaza has been blockaded by Israel. And people are starving. They cannot receive food(unless by Red Cross?). So there's Hamas retaliatory rocket fire, murdering innocent Israeli civilians in the nearest towns across the wall.
Nobody can do anything. Can't go anywhere. Nobody can function.

Sorry? We're worried about Woolies closing, or fucking Whittard? Or some rebranding of Virgin's high street stores? (a whole industry which now thrives online) called Zippa or something?

Please. Let's get real.

First off, I like Israel. I like Tel Aviv, Eilat, and Jerusalem especially. I like Jews. I like Israelis. I like Jewish Arabs. I like Arabic Jews. Are you understanding me here? I have spent more time in East and West Jerusalem than is healthy for me. I like people there. All of them. Except the Zionists. And some of the Settlers.

The vast majority of Israelies want peace. The overwhelming number of Arabs want peace.
I like Jordan. I like Egypt. I like Syria (not sure about Damascus). I like Iraq, especially Baghdad, before hostilities of course, and I lurve Lebanon. I could go on, and on, about the Middle East, but let's just say I have no problem with anyone there. I like the UAE too.

But I don't like murderers.

In every quarter of every area you can possibly imagine, Jews and Arabs co-exist. I've been in every single country you can name. I have met rabid extremists on both sides including the Israelis who think "they're driving us into the water" and he Arabs who think all Jews are bad. Thankfully, they're the minority.

The only solution is peaceful co-existence. Israel and Palestine side by side. There is no alternative. That's the only way it's going to be. Seriously, think about it, there is genuinely never, ever going to be any other alternative.

How long will it take?

Er, Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Burn the Clocks - it's nearly Monday.

It's the shortest day of the year and we're going to burn all the clocks.

But first we need to try to not burn lunch which was prepped for a 3pm kick off and it is now nearly 4pm. Being fashionably late in the Groucho Club is all well and good but when you've got perfect roasties in goose fat turning before your very eyes into blocks of rock then it is unacceptable. How do you like your lamb? Grey and overcooked, well that's just as well as that's how chef is preparing it.

When guests finally do arrive - it was their idea to meet first in the pub and not congregate in the living room over a glass or two of Lidl Prosecco (£3.99) the temptation is to say "where the f*ck have you been?" without a hint of amusement while throwing red hot rocks (spuds) at them as they run off back to the pub. But I show some civilised bonhomie and smile, while wielding the electric knife with unusual elan.

Fully scoffed we repair to the seafront where Brighton's age old pagan festival "The Burning of the Clocks" is about to take place on the beach. Historians and antiquarians have argued over the precise date at which this ceremony was first recorded - some say it was 2001, some say in the millenium before that! Who knows indeed. All I know is that there's going to be some fireworks - whooppee!

It's like a vast Pet Shop boys video, with very groovy music, and children wearing illuminated clocks on their heads, like those Swiss Railway clocks, available in Conran, rather than some broken little Ikea thingie. The procession of lanternbearers who have walked slowly - very slowly, they were late by my reckoning - from the city centre hand over their lanterns which are ponderously carried out by the clock children to a stage set on the beach where they are ceremoniously thrown inside into a big pile. Of discarded lanterns (I'm assuming they had clocks painted on them, as that's the name of the thing - as opposed to the Burning of The Lanterns). This goes on for a bit then the time-meeces scarper and the whole thing goes up in flames - whooosh! - really quickly, as this spectacular photograph testifies.
A HUGE pall of thick black smoke rises up into the night sky but since it's dark you can't actually see it. Black smoke. Black sky, had it been during the day there would have been a call to the emergency services but instead we are distracted by the fireworks which last a good ten minutes and are whizz bang brilliant.

We then repair, or in some people's case, return to the world's greatest pub where the most fantastic musical night unfolds before us - everything from the 78rpm deejay to Brighton's best guitarists strumming away in unison and almost always in tune.

Suddenly it's midnight and the year's shortest day has melted away. It's cold, there's a recession on, but a paper hat or two and some Lidl prosecco have seen them off. Until Monday.

I don't like Mondays.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Hey OJ! How ya doin?

.................BREAKING NEWS...................

Whoa! Let's leave aside any improper thoughts we may be having about Judge Glass - she is hot - this is breaking news folks and it ain't constrained by network execs so I can like the judge all I want! - and OJ's talking! In Court! In Vegas!

Hey OJ!
Let me ask ya something - if you're all cut up about some sports memorabilia (you didn't seem to be a few weeks ago) howcome you weren't so cut up in 95 when you thought you might be going down for a double murder that you walked away from?
Age mellowed you?

Judge Glass (phew) is telling him, with a disarmingly steely gaze that PREVIOUS COURT APPEARANCES do not count here in Vegas, it's what you thought you could do here that matters. Because you can't. Guns. Violence. All on tape.

What we call BANG TO RIGHTS. That's a legal technical term.

CJ Stewart, the partrner in crime, gets 15 years and then OJ gets a whole shebang of concurrent sentences but there's a consecutive one or two in there. 15 years minimum, we'll have to wait because Sky are all over the place, CNN are running Christiane Amanpour's heavily trailed event programme, and the BBC are just transmitting it with comments here and there.

"Do not" says Judge Glass "think this is payback"
Let's see what the headlines say tomorrow, shall we?

But a few minutes later pere Goldman and daughter are out on the court steps - just as they used to do every day in LA as they watched their own justice system get derailed by greed and politics and race and money to the extent that a double killer walked free under the greatest spotlight in the modern world - thrilled to see him in chains, thrilled to see him walking back into jail. But of course it has no connection, etc etc. But they're pleased that their pursuit may have pushed Mr Simpson to create a crime. Go Fred.

The lawyers are out too. "Innocent" and yes, yes, we'll await the appeal, I can hear the pencils being sharpened now, but bail has been denied.
OJ's in jail.
For real this time.

Hey Judge Glass.

Can I buy you a drink?


Thursday, December 04, 2008

You say non! We say oui!

I'm wondering if a blog is really just a vent for complaining because while I'm travelling around France and generally enjoying myself as if I'm on some kind of holiday, instead of this gruesome workload that involves eating in restaurants and staying in hotels and so on, I'm not really brimming over with the milk of human kindness. I'm kinda irked by small things, although sometimes elated by even smaller stuff, but really really annoyed beyond all reason by tiny, tiny, miniscule microcosmic things that even an electron microscope would have difficulty identifying.

There are big events happening in the world - massacres, famines, economic downturns - which I'm temporarily divorced from as I pootle about seeking this and that. So probably a blog is the best place to park all this flotsam and jetsum of Western frippery.

People who work in hotels should not, under any circumstances, be snooty. They should only ever be welcoming. They should only ever be helpful. They should never prey upon innocent guests, never ever treat them like shit, and if in doubt check the manual of Ritz Carlton or Four Seasons who became the world's biggest and most successful because their customer service is second to none. If you're behind the desk of a five star superlodge, or a downtown flophouse chain, just try to remember that you're there to help. Not to be so fucking awkward that you're about to order another £30 taxi for this idiot's five minute journey to the local village, or to stare blankly at a normal request as if it's a demand from Planet Zuton. ("Newspapers? Noooooooo, we're a hotel")

Stop it with the frozen food. I can go to Iceland and get frozen food. I do not want frozen grapes with my cheese and I especially do not want frozen Brie de Meaux with my main course veal and mushrooms which are otherwise exemplary. Ferran Adria and Heston Blumenthal - do you know what you've done? You've frightened other chefs into this.

Is it possible to have human beings back as cabin staff please? And maybe more than a bag of nuts? Or seeds or whatever it was.

And Britney Spears. Please. Go away.

I have been overlwhelmed with kindness and help and generosity by 'ordinary' French people from Paris to Dijon to Toulouse to Bordeaux to Paris, people who had absolutely no reason to help, who could have gone about their daily business and ignored me, but didn't. People who interrupted their jobs, recognised that I was passing through, and did the decent thing. I thank you Mrs Shop Woman, Ms SNCF desk attendant, Mr Waiter, Mr Barman, Mrs Van Driver, Mr Gendarme, Mrs Bus Driver, you are the reason we don't just like France, you're the reason we love it.

Apart from the food and the vin and the weather and the Citroen DS. And possibly the Eiffel Tower - just count yourselves lucky it wasn't called Le Tour Bönickhausen. You know what I mean.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Hello John

Working abroad for a few weeks is all very well, it makes coming back to London for just one day all the better.
I think.
A little cold, possibly.
Woolies. MFI.

Anyone arriving from France may expect the worst in terms of food, service and ambience but The Wolseley delivers (as it always does) Ask Carol Voderman or Jamie Lee Curtis or....the others who packed the place out last night. One of the owners was even there collecting coats. Bless.
The food was brill.The ambience buzzing. Top marks, as ever.

And outside, across at Movida, a bloke comes up.
"Thinkin about it are you?"
"What?" I says.
"Goin in" he says.
"Where?" I says.
"There. Lapdancin. Ladies. You know"
I look at Starbucks on the corner of Picaddilly and Dover Street and sure enough there's a new place called "The Mayfair".
"How long's that been there?" I ask.
"Few weeks. Comin in?" he says.
"No" I says. Mildly insulted.
He slinks off.

We head towards Soho and have a couple. I head back along Brewer St and am asked by a bald man what I want.
"What?" I says.
"Girls. Boys. Whatever"
I point out that I have no need for anything in Soho and have, actually, lived and worked here all my life.
He scowls and stares. Then moves on. To the next punter-looking-punter I guess, demoralised.

But we're now in Claridges and you can't get much posher than that. I notice a bloke at the bar. Then I notice bloke at the bar has a rather attractive female partner. She's with him. I think.
She's talking to him. Whispering in his ear. Kissing him.
Then she's looking at me. Then she's walking over to me. Then she's talking to me.
We, erm, chat.
She leaves.
My pals ask who she was.
I say I have no idea. But she wanted to know if I wanted a good time.

Funny how others see you.

I want to go back to France.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Rude health

I don't really do sick. My last visit to the doctor, five years ago, was a waste of time (hers and mine) and the previous one, four years before that, wasn't much cop either. But we all get a little something wrong sometime. And right now I've got mine. Nothing terminal you understand, but something that requires a little treatment.

I didn't know it was coming - my fault really - otherwise I would have booked a doctor's appointment two weeks in advance. The poor girl who took my call, cruelly dragged from her nail filing, couldn't have been less interested. There was an appointment. In ten days. End of. Don't bother me wif your tale of woe. Whaddya think I am? A doctor or sumfink?

So I went to see another doctor who examined me and said yes, you've either got something which these pills will take away or you'll have to see a specialist, who can only be contacted via your own doctor. So take these pills and see if it goes away. (It doesn't).

So I get to see my doctor ten days later. In fact she's got three receptionists, each one of whom is as genuinely disinterested as they appear to be over the phone. They barely acknowledge the existence of the patients. But I'm being unfair. There was an unread copy of Heat magazine to be scrutinised. And there were boys to talk to on mobiles. And hair to be looked at. And a lot of giggling to be done, despite the pesky patients. And in the hour I sat there patiently (geddit?) waiting, a file to be filed. Just the one mind.

I saw my doc for a full five minutes, during which she neither examined me, asked any questions, or barely even spoke. I talked. She listened while (a) staring at the wall or (b) writing down my address for correspondence.

She said I'd have to see a specialist. I said I knew. She said she'd write to one. I said I was in a hurry. She shrugged her shoulders and stared right through me. "That's all I can do" she said helpfully. "Thankyou" I said. And sure enough, a few days later she hurriedly put pen to paper.

By which time I'd gone back to doctor number two, who examined me, asked lots of questions, and gave me more stuff to take. He said I could register with him and he'd get me to see a specialist outside London as soon as poss. I said I thought I should wait on the London one I was already referred to.

I called the hospital and discovered, (why am I not surprised at this?) that my doc had simply asked for an appointment. There was no sense of urgency. I was to see a specialist in four weeks time "for a check up". I explained that I thought I should see someone more quickly. The appointments person disagreed. I tried not to be rude but asked what it had got to do with her. She said I could only go to A&E and see someone there. "But I haven't been in an accident" I said stupidly, thinking that A&E was for Accidents and Emergencies rather than Appoitments and Enquiries.

For the five hours I sat in A&E, I was surrounded by people who'd been in accidents and clearly didn't know they were in the wrong place. I was going to helpfully suggest to the bloke lying along the bench seats that if he'd bothered to make an appointment before being knocked out in work this wouldn't be happening. But I didn't. None of my business, see?

But I was eventually seen. By a brilliant doc who gave me a full examination and spoke to someone on the phone. "Take these" he said, "They take a week to work which means I'll get you an appointment for next week. We'll see if they've worked"
I explain about the appointment in a month and he looks pained, swore, and told me, in that I've-got-to-deal-with-this-every-day manner, that he'd sort it. Which he did. Brilliant. Getting somewhere. I'm going to be finding out what's wrong with me. Hurrah!

Then his colleagues get to work and make sure that all trace of my visit, never mind the forthcoming appointment, is erased, Soviet style, from all records. On the day of the supposed appointment I spend two hours talking on the phone to people who (a) don't care, (b) hang up or accidentally cut me off after 10 minutes, (c) can't hear me, (d) accuse me of making it all up, but not (e) telling me to watch it. Because I don't. Ever. Lose it.

By sheer dogged determination I manage to find someone on a specific extension (which is semipermanently engaged) who searches through some records and finds my appointment. "It's at half past two" she says at 2pm. I say I know and that I've been on the phone, on and off, since 10am. "You'd better hurry up" she scolds, implying that I'm going to cause trouble by being late.

I arrive at half past two. I'm seen at 4.30. That's a two hour wait for those of you who're a bit slow (go to A&E and get yourself checked out, willya?)
The doc examines me and suggests it might be as serious as I've already been told, and that I should have a very specific test right away, adding that the department which does The Tests shuts at 5pm. It's quarter to five.

I get there at ten to five and a woman looks at me as if I'm there to kill her. She looks at me. She looks at the clock. She looks at her handbag. She looks at me again. "We're closed" she says.
"I thought you closed at 5" I say
"We're closed" she says again, clearly in shock that someone has walked through her door.
A colleague appears. "We're closed" she says.
"I thought it was 5" I say again.
"The test takes 15 minutes. You'll have to come back. Tomorrow"
I explain that I've been sitting around for more than two hours and thought I could get tested, like, now. Before 5.
"The computer is switched off" she says emphatically. "Everything is switched off" she adds, looking at the clock. Her colleague looks at the clock too, willing the big hand to get near the top.
They stare at me. They look somewhere between terrified and angry.
I stare back.

A wearied looking doctor type appears and waves me through, ignoring them, and sits me down and does the test, without a word of explanation. It takes fifteen minutes of being wired up, whizzing, clicks,bangs, whistles and print outs.

He studies the paper. He looks pained.
"When did you say this started?"
"About three weeks ago?"
"Why didn't you do something about this right away?" he chides. "Why didn't you go and see your doctor? This could be serious"


Friday, October 17, 2008

AA Gill. You're the man.

AA Gill doesn't usually bother me, mainly because I stopped reading the Sunday Times a long while ago and now only occasionally flick through it online before lunch, but since I can't remember ever being moved by young Adrian quite so much before, I'm a little unsettled.
For those of you who don't know, Jeremy Clarkson's best friend's restaurant column in the ST consists of two thirds rant - about anything really, dependant on who, or what, has annoyed him most that week, and one third review, usually a poisonous attack on bad cooking, or service, or misplaced judgement, on the basis that we're handing over too much money for too little imagination. He's an attack dog on bourgeois values, hired, I think, to satisfy former editor Andrew Neil's faux-republicanism.

But this week he likes Murano, a new London place which I'll try soon because we like new places, don't we, and it's the brilliant, friendly Angela Hartnett's new gaff which has had nothing but good writeups.

But today I'm not reading the review online, nor am I resting before lunch in SW London or even Sussex-by-the-sea, I've picked up a paper copy of the ST in Thurso, in the far, far north of Scotland, before setting off for Sutherland, to drive along the very roof of Britain, the wild and windy coast road that joins John O'Groats to Cape Wrath.

This is Europe's least populated region, and the chances of you bumping into anyone, never mind someone you know, are remote. On a Sunday, cars are so rare drivers wave at each other.
At Bettyhill, the Strathinver Trail has been mapped out to explain the area's past, and in addition to an informative leaflet (available from the Post Office for £2.50) there are twenty little stopping points en route, with placques and signposts to various ruins of old communities. It deals, most pointedly, with the Highland Clearances two hundred years ago when the Countess of Sutherland, and others, forcibly emptied their estates of people to make way for sheep. As brutal a period in British history as you'll find.

The placques spell it out in cold, clear language, indicating various piles of stones and naming the families whose houses had stood there, for how long, before naming the vicious bastard who'd come along and torched them out. And on what day.

By the time I was halfway round, I was all fired up, seething at man's inhumanity to man, but willing to leave it to one side for a moment while enjoying some particularly fine Kinloch smoked salmon and equally excellent Highland sirloin at the Tongue Hotel. After which I turned to the ST and AA Gill's weekly rant.

He's blethering away about the current artworld dilemma to save two Titians for the nation. They're being offered at the knock down price of £100 mill -pah! - but by no less a person than the Duke of Sutherland. And Gill's not in some Belgravia salon in tete a tete with Tracey Emin, he's up in Sutherland too, out on the hill shooting the living breath out of a stag or two, discussing matters of import with posh pals .

But he allows the ghillie to interrupt - presumeably standing on a hill staring malevolently into the middle distance - who suggests that the best solution is to stab the Duke, kill all his relatives, in recompense for the vicious, marauding catalogue of murder and mayhen his forebears perpetrated on his forebears here in Sutherland. In the Clearances.
Gill gives full vent to the man's rage, paragraph after paragraph, it was like reading some revolutionary manifesto, where the heads of cruel landowners end up on spikes in village squares so small children can throw turnips at the them .

I nearly didn't finish my coffee. My blood was on the boil again and I swear if an absentee Highland landlord had walked through the dining room at that point we'd have had him swinging from the rafters pronto. Despite the fact that the Tongue Hotel has a jazz band on Sundays.

I went back out onto the trail, filled with revolutionary fervour, relieved that hand weapons are illegal in this country otherwise...otherwise. As I stared into the distance, I promised at that moment that the instant I got back to London I'd write a blog about this. It's just that I've been a little busy since Sunday.

Anyway, AA Gill. You're the man.


Thursday, October 02, 2008

A Hollywood A-list curry.

Since the 18 year old and I hadn't been out for a couple of weeks I thought we'd sidestep the caff and chips and kick off at Benares, the Indian in Berkeley Square, which is about as closely associated to "going for a curry" as your local Chinese takeaway is to a full on Banquet at the Imperial Palace in Beijing.
We worked out we'd been there together before, on opening night actually, which was quite a long time ago, but still have the photo to prove it. I was informed by the 18 year old that the passion fruit Martini was excellent, which is a bit of a worry really. Not because I'm concerned about an Indian Restaurant's capabilities in the martini making departments, but the fact that an 18 year old knows the diffference between a good and bad one.

There's going to be a bit of eulogising here, so if you're not in the mood go and get a dose of schadenfreude by reading about bankers losing their jobs. Any newspaper will do. Then come back when you're feeling better and the italics have stopped.

Each of the courses served at Benares certainly sounds Indian, but when it arrives it certainly doesn't look it. John Dory in Gram Flour Batter was served with mushy peas in delicate little mouth (or mouse) sized portions. Curry leaf and Tarragon infused Lobster Rillet arrived in a shot glass and was accompanied by a glass of Qupe' Roussanne - a stunningly rich, aromatic white from California's Central Coast. And Khorma Chicken on Masala Basmati was like nothing I've ever eaten - in the looks or the taste departments.

Unusually the climax was pudding, and it wasn't Gulab Jamin, with accompanying wines. What looked like a trifle, but was in fact Star anise poached Rhubard, Yoghurt Foam and nuts was paired with a South African straw wine from De Trafford in the Stellenbosch, all marzipan and apricots, but which was then superceded (along with a Five Spiced Chocolate Brownie served with tarragon), by a golden stickie of such sweetness and depth, fruit, spice and honey all jostling for attention, I very nearly asked for a second glass. It was a Cuvee Saint Clement, Cabidos petit manseng 2004, of which I have never heard before, from somewhere near the Pyrenees I will make it my business to visit one day.

Doesn't really sound much like a curry, does it? (see what you missed by reading about bad things?). Take a tip from me. Don't ask for a beer when you walk in here.

The 18 year old was now feeling like another passion fruit Martini so we repaired for a chat and a final drink to Claridge's, where else when one has been for a curry? The bar was heaving with people who'd clearly not been for a curry that night but drinking mightily at some glitzy event deep inside London's tiptop hotel so we found a quiet seat in the other bar beside two young ladies of the most extraordinary beauty wearing small black cocktail dresses and sipping, well, cocktails who seemed very interested in me for some reason. They kept getting up, turnabout, to go powder their nose, or just shimmy across the lobby, much to the attendant interest of every male in the building, and their consequent delight. They seemed a very lively pair. Posh too.

I was about to engage either one of them in conversation, or both even, but the 18 year old wagged a finger, and warned me off, with one of those knowing looks.

Anyway, the 18 year old was more interested in what was going on elsewhere, trying to earwig unsuccessfully on a conversation at another table, rather rudely ignoring the shopping list of incidents that had occurred in my life that day, maintaining that staring-over-your-shoulder-at-someone-more-interesting-look so popular in the Groucho Club in 1995, and even ignoring the constant vibrating and flashing of the iPhone from other 18 year olds enjoying themselves in various clubs around town. This must be important I thought, if the phone's being ignored too, so I used the excuse of some hilarity from the table, I don't know what, to turn around in a disinterested manner and see what could possibly be more interesting than the excitement of my day.

It turned out to be three movie producers, (Boring!) one of whom was Harvey Weinstein, (er, not quite so boring) almost a fixture in Claridge's sometimes, and various other people such as Johnny Depp's girlfriend, (not boring at all) top popster Fergie (ooh, exciting) and, er, Kate Hudson (off the richter). I thereupon stopped trying to attract the attention of the 18 year old, resigned to having arrived somewhere out my depth, and began to consider what a quick mobile phone snap would be worth to Heat magazine. A lifetime ban from Claridges didn't seem quite such a high price to pay, but it was dark. And I'm chicken anyway.

After enough A-list gossip to last a week (does gossip last that long now?) we left and to the chagrin of the sleepy looking posse of paps outside who wanted to know if (a) they were still inside and (b) what they were talking about, we rather expertly pretended not to know the answer to (b) but said yes to (a).

Sorry Kate, but we'd been for a curry you see, and I was feeling a bit leery. A bit woo. A bit wah.
As you do.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Fat Boy Upstaged Shock

By Friday, the "Fat Boy Invasion" had the local paper scared shitless.

By Saturday “Your photos” and “Your stories” were wanted for an 8 page celebration issue. The Brighton Argus was giving it large.

Fat Boy Slim was in town again (despite the fact he actually lives only a mile away in Shoreham), for his 4th Ibiza-style rave, made notorious a few years ago by a tragic death and 250,000 people crammed onto Brighton beach.

But that was then.

By 9am Council officials were out in force to meter threatening decibels.

Only 22,000 tickets had been allocated,19,000 of them by local postcode to prevent train chaos back to London.

Miles and miles and miles of fencing lined the beach, the street, the overhang.

Burger and chicken franchises had been sold.

So to the chagrin of revolutionaries and anarchists, Ibiza ravers and gatecrashers, not to mention the more genteel residents of Royal Circus and Sussex Square, the ticket holders ambled peacefully into a ribbon of seafront and enjoyed themselves without any trouble, eating kebabs and burgers and drinking water. Apparently no-one took any drugs.

It all ended at 9.45 and they ambled back out again.

The Nationwide mansion overlooks the stage, so a small NW youth posse defied vertigo and enjoyed the entire show for free, from the roof, a veritable Grand Circle of the Royal Albert Hall, despite the obstacle course of redundant Sky and BSB dishes, attendant wires and co-axial cables, ledges, roof tiles and a glass canopy.

Even the following morning the hangover-free were surprised to see the whole seafront cleaned up, leaving only heavy machinery to remove the hundreds of portable toilets. An FBS raver had even neatly put a crushed can of special brew on our doorstep for recycling.

Seems worthwhile too.


22,000 tickets at £35 each = £770,000 (about three quarters of a million smackers).


Whistle, 60p

CDs from HMV £50 (3 for 2 offer)

Deoderant (you have to lift your arm up while playing records) £1.29p from Boots

A CD player . £59.99p from Currys.

Total : £111.88p

Plus production Fee to FBS Incorporated of Switzerland or someplace £769,000

Council fee for the entire closure of the seafront, the city, airspace and a one mile coastal exclusion zone, TBA.

But it didn't go all his way....When FBS woke up the following morning, let’s hope he didn’t read the UK Observer.

Restaurant critics use language like seasoning. Words like amuse, toothsome, and delicate, pepper the page. Not big shouty words like “disaster”. But that's the very word Jay Rayner used to describe FBS's Japanese caff in downtown Brighton.

Rayner may be a self-confessed poncy food critic (poncy being AA Gill's word of the moment ) but he understands Japanese food. His latest book leads him to Yukimura in Tokyo and his taste buds lead him all around town. The man knows what he's talking about.

It wasn’t the dĂ©cor or the tea in FBS place that got to him. It was the food. Oh dear. Sorry FBS.

Then there was worse. The nearest pub to the FBS stage is by coincidence the best pub in the world

where the latest muso spinning the wheels, or rather wheel, is the new FBS, DJ Graham, whose wind-up wooden phonograph plays 78s. Old Boy Slim they call him. He just whacks them out.

On Saturday, 22,000 people may have thought they were enjoying themselves with whistles and luminous armbands in hte most up-to-the-minute manner. Passe my dears. The place to be is just yards away, where the audience eagerly await the changing of not only the discs (Doris Day, Fats Waller, Muddy Waters) from one ancient thick paper sleeve "REX Records" to the turntable, but also the needles, proving that FBS is just so, so five minutes ago. Even his sushi restaurant isn't cutting it.

No, the place to be is the Hand in Hand. The time? 1957.

Because if you don't have a seat by 8 o'clock you'll have to stand.

Friday, September 19, 2008

May I be the first to offer you the Compliments of the Season sir. Happy Holidays madam.

Walking through Asda (owned by Walmart) in shorts and tee shirt with some chilled rose wine for the barbecue is one thing, but passing by the Christmas trees, spangly baubles and silver wrapping, is quite something else.
But stuff it. Santa, here's my list...I want

one of those MP3/itunes thingies because the bloke on the train tonight watched a whole episode of Family Guy and was shaking with laughter.

a mobile phone bill that's less than £100 per month on my £35 all-in monthly tariff.

eternal happiness for my family although right now, despite everything, they seem to have it.

a big house. and world peace. with no plastic carrier bags.

Boris Johnson to confess that it was all a big joke.

Somebody to explain to me that while we obviously need investment and backing to create thriving businesses, why we also need investment banks whose staff siphon off bonuses upwards of £10 million because they've bet -and won - on other banks crashing.

An end to junk email. I do not wish to inherit £100 million of somebody else's money from Nigeria, I am quite happy in the downstairs department thankyou, and I do not wish to re-establish my security code on some fucking bank that I've never had an account with.

Some people to stop waking other people up at 6am with snippers and clippers to snip and clip miniscule bits of hair that have apparently sprung out of some people's ears in the middle of the night. And to also leave their eyebrows, head, back and arms alone too.

The return of Larry Sanders as if he had never been away.

Universal adoration for Seasick Steve.

Slightly more regulated weather which would keep Americans happy. They seem to think that it's Brits who're obsessed. It's not.

Good food for all. We should all be able to have French or Italian diets. Preferably with a Michelin star or two. And everyone everywhere should appreciate all forms of Japanese cuisine.
Plus two more dinners (this year) at the Fat Duck. With no limit on the budget.

All women to be satisfied with their own bodies/looks/makeup/clothes and shoes.

All men to just slightly improve their wardrobe. And possibly their personal hygeine. A little.

And the great Barak Obama for President.

I fankyou. Happy Holidays. Merry Christmas. etc etc

Friday, August 15, 2008

Hello Summer (2)

Apart from the fact that the entire time I was in Edinburgh it rained ceaselessly - one wag was forced to admit "this is just like Glasgow" har de har - I discovered on my return that you don't actually need to do to the Festival anymore. You just have to watch this.

Anyway, despite the rain, the flooding, the cancelled trains and the, oh the rain, (did I mention the rain?) Edinburgh was unendingly beautiful, from the Witchery to the Port o'Leith, from the Cafe Royal to the Cumberland Bar (it doesn't rain in pubs, you see) and apparently there were a few shows on too.

The High Street is closed to traffic to allow several thousand performers to wander up and down shoving leaflets and fliers at you, imploring old age pensioners to come and see the Jim Rose Circus, toddlers to come and be shouted at by Big Scary People, and all the time Edinburghers, those who haven't fled that is, are valiantly trying to go about their business as if an extra two million people suddenly turning up for tea is not the slightest bit inconvenient.

What shows did we see? Er, actually we didn't. We went through to Glasgow. Where it was raining.

On our return south (it apparently stopped raining as our train pulled out of Waverley Station) I discover that my local 'hood has been transformed overnight by the Dubai and Qatar Massif, fleeing the desert heat for the month of August. The whole population of South West London may have gone on holiday to the South of France, (the local posh Brasserie is empty) but in a small corner of SW7 the richest people on the planet have dropped off their teenage offspring to run free. Harrods is open to 9pm every night, cafes are doing a roaring trade in brightly coloured swirly patterned non-alcoholic cocktails, and the elevated pavement restaurants of Brompton Road (I always wondered when they got busy) are standing room only, save for those sitting smoking the shisha. Sainsbury's Local is swarming with packs of well dressed young ladies buying the oddest assortment of sweets and fizzy drinks by the basket load, and much to his delight the local newsagent seems to now run the place to hangout, as opposed to sitting quietly reading awaiting the odd customer of an evening.

The parade of cars is like the Goodwood Festival of Speed, in slow motion. Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Bentleys, Roller after Roller, white Range Rovers with flared arches, a Bugatti or three, more Ferraris, more Porsches than you can shake a gearstick at, all with tinted windows in various shades of black but mirrored too, with what appears to be gold leaf. And endless, endless groups of kids all talking into their phones. All the time. While they're talking to each other, while they're eating, while they're smoking (does everyone smoke in the Middle East?). Cafe Rouge - that fabulous quality eatery facing Harrods back door - is rammed until way past midnight, it's pavement tables probably changing hands for several thousand dirhum for all I know.

Designer labels, designer burkhas, designer everything. Our Chinese is slap bang in the middle of all this and during an early supper we're treated to a constant sortie at the door. Trio after trio after trio of both sexes troop in to sit at the window table, only to be told they have to order food. Harrumph. Dontwanna. Dontwantfood. Goway. Cue raspy Chinese waitress getting increasingly shouty (this is clearly happening every night. I get the impression these kids are not normally told 'no') while outside on the pavement the cruising is cranking up. It's 7pm already and it continues until well past midnight. All the pavement tables are taken by kids slouching in the most expensive designer gear you've ever seen, pretending they're not eyeing each other up. And the grandstand seat appears to be in the Chinese window. As we leave, a trio of young boys has agreed to a token plate of noodles with their raspberry ripple and melon surprises. I'm sure one of them's just going to buy the restaurant one night.

If it was any other part of London, any other city, you'd feel slightly intimidated by these wandering gangs. Here, you're wondering which one is royalty. Which one's the Billionaire.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Hello Summer!

Aaaaah, to feel the cool, cool air rushing through your hair on a hot summer's day. There's nothing quite like it, running in front of several thousand people, to get a round of applause, a standing ovation even which reduces one to tears, to take a bow, to feel at one with nature.
Even Royalty were summoned to their feet, pointing, gesticulating, laughing even, with unrestrained joy.

No wonder I used to admire Zola Budd, running in those bare feet, or Sandie Shaw, warbling barefoot on Top of the Pops. Erica Roe, where are you now?

I think we made mincemeat of the oppos. Overbearing, not to mention overdressed, lardy sweaty old age pensioners trundling after us muttering about dresscode while we ran freeeee, free as a bird, alongside the glistening steeds. I thought as one overtook me I was going to be thwacked with the polo stick but I suspect we were in receipt of tacit support, an appreciation of our humour, good spirits in tune with the celebration of summer we were there to enjoy.

I'm sure Emily Watson and her friends giggled just that little bit louder - I know Christopher Biggins certainly did - I could hear her all the way from the Royal Box where she sat with Prince Charles and the attendant aides - let's call them stiffies for the moment, if you'll excuse the terminology - and I just know the entire Australian diaspora, turned out in regimental kit of Oz flag draped over the shoulder and Fosters tinny in hand, were right behind us.

When I grabbed the ball and leapt over the boundary fence I could hear the crowd roar it's approval, I felt giddy with success as I ran and ran and ran, straight into the arms of the man with the dayglo vest who held me, preventing me from falling to my knees. And then a second roar, as Henry took a Royal Bow towards HRH, which involved bending over in front of the entire North Stand. Not once, but thrice.

Yes, there's nothing like the feel of fresh air coarsing through one's hair. Especially if it's one's pubic hair.



Tuesday, July 22, 2008

cloud...silver lining..

To Glasgow. By plane. Clouds? What clouds?

We descend into the rain and my companion, a first time visitor to the city, nods sagely and says she'd been warned, "it rains all the time in Glasgow". She pulls up the collar of her coat as we make our way across the tarmac - this is Easyjet after all, no carpeted airport walkways here. And sure enough, it rains all day.

Our visit coincides with a by-election in an eastern constituency, where the good citizens are being tempted by the SNP to withdraw their lifelong support from Labour. There's a great deal of tubthumping going on, headlines being made out of photo ops, and since this is being heralded as yet another litmus test for Gordon Brown, the Scottish Prime Minister, it's attracting an unusual amount of national attention. As a consquence, Glasgow's EastEnders have a new cloud hanging over their parlous lives, the London scribes who fly in to attack; slashing and stabbing at all they can cram into their day trips, ooh-ing and aah-ing as the taxis take them around gap sites, tenements, run down pubs and council schemes (estates). They leave the population wounded, (well that part who noticed they were there), writing diatribes which turn the stomach in their level of ignorance, rudeness, ill will and venom.

To those who actually know the patchwork of the East End, and have watched "market forces" withdraw manufacturing, engineering and traditional employers of the skilled and unskilled, these "colour pieces" are offensive in the extreme. Let's leave aside for a moment the prosperous areas of the East End, or the new build houses all over the area, or the community schemes they'll never see, the tenant self help groups, the new green spaces, the new employers, and concentrate on that part we're being told about, the visible poverty.

To witness working populations faced with only permanent, mass unemployment, wondering why their housing schemes, built to house them near their jobs but are now such desolate, desperate places with little sense of purpose, never mind community, is bad enough, a series of complex questions not to be solved by the smash and grab politics of fly-by-night former cooncillors standing for election. But to watch "journalists" drive around in cabs vilifying all they see for a few hours is beyond the pale. The current media darling debate about "critics vs bloggers" should look at this villanous trash to get a snapshot. Start here. Or here (and he didn't even turn up)

Years of regeneration, countless millions of local, regional, national and EC monies can only have long term effect - if at all - on areas blighted by the wholesale removal of jobs. But the metropolitan hoodies don't care about that, nor do they care about the big employers - steel, cars, manufacturing, the old cotton mills even - who depended on smaller outfits spread around the east end, trickling down the economic benefits. It's of no relevance in 1500 words of cynical abuse that they don't make cigarettes there any more. Or locomotives. Or even biscuits.

Enough. The citizenry of the East End will vote. And the scribes can go back to their poison pen reviews of matters metropolitan: restaurants, television, and Westminster Village Gossip.

But this is not the Glasgow that's normally in the news. In case you've had your head under a blanket for the past 20 years, the Glasgow that's in the news is the new shiny one that covers part of the East End, the whole of the City Centre and regenerated riverside and stretches out into the more properous areas west and north. This is a city which started with a wash and brush up, revealing the honey and rose of domestic dwellings from beneath ingrained, black soot, and continued into City of Culture, fashion, Art, and beyond. Where the buskers in Buchanan Street are opera singers, the banks have become bars, restaurants and hotels, and open topped tour buses have the tourists agog at the Victorian splendour of the place.

Glasgow has produced the biggest collection of cynical bastards you'll ever meet - none moreso than the author - who go through life well balanced (ie a chip on each shoulder) but you'd have to be blind, deaf, and stupid not to notice what's gone on here. This is a city transformed from a post indusrtial wasteland of spare ground, closed factories, and run down urban chaos to a work in progress by a prosperous, bright population who want to make a bob or two and along the way tart up the old place.

The UK's first boutique hotel, One Devonshire, continues under the brandname Hotel du Vin to offer up world class hospitality to the well heeled visitor. I don't know why anyone would want to stay anywhere else, but by God there's a choice from hundreds of new hotels and lodgings.

The venerable eating institution, The Ubiquitous Chip, started locally sourcing it's excellent supplies nearly four decades ago - when people barely knew what that was - and continues to serve world class food in a beatiful surroundings which could only be Glasgow, and still not a single chip has been served - never mind the urban myth of the deep fried Mars Bar. But the choice there, too, knoiws no bounds. There's very little property in Glasgow that can't be converted into a wee curry shop.

My companion, over a few days, hits the spot with a cliche normally reserved for the West Coast of Ireland. If she said "the people are really nice" once, she said it five hundred times. And you know what? She's right. Even if she couldnae unnerstaun whit half the pals were sayin.

But we have to leave - after a few days of cloudless blue skies (the rain stopped on day one) having viewed the place inside and out, from the top of the Necropolis (excellent view of the Tennent Caledonian Lager Factory in my opinion) to a heady night in a bar in Kelvinhaugh - and head out to the airport.

It's tight security after the unsuccessful terror attack last year and we have to put up with a little congestion. Taxis can no longer drop you off in front of the terminal, but have to snake their way through the car park turnstiles - a stupid aggravation which loses you a good few minutes when you least need it, ho hum - so we quicken our step into the terminal, which I must have passed through possibly a hundred or more times. We look for Easyjet. It's no longer where it was. It's moved, that's all. We look. We search. We ask. The minutes are ticking away and for those of you who've watched "Airport" on TV you'll know that Easyjet close their check-in forty minutes before scheduled departure and that means CLOSED. Even if the plane takes off an hour late (see below).

A stewardess from BMI tells us Easyjet is now in Terminal Two. "What's Terminal Two?" I ask, being slightly stupid, but also genuinely puzzled since I knew nothing of any Terminal Two. It turns out to be a shed in a building site nearby. And of course we arrive ONE MINUTE after checkin closes.

Life goes into slow motion. The check-in assistant blithely informs us to join the queue at Ticket Sales which - after ten minutes - we will be told to bugger off (Nationwide has travelled many, many timjes with Easyjet and -while God forbid they have not yet descended to the living hell that is Ryanair - there retain a dehumanising aspect that is very unpleasant). So instead we grab another check-in assistant and ask for the supervisor who - at three minutes after check in closed - agrees to allow us through in an act of superhuman magnanimity.

But only with hand luggage.

I explain that the little wheelie case can be carried on board but is packed specifically for the hold - liquids, sharp objects aplenty - but the two of them stare back blankly, possibly wondering what they're going to eat for supper that night but then wondering what that distracting noise is. Oh yes, it's a customer talking, trying to describe what's about to happen......

And at security it happens. The case is emptied of all the carefully packed, specially purchased, lovingly gifted bottles and containers, the scissors and objects we are banned from carrying on board. It's a security rule that's there for a reason (liquid explosives) but that hardly dents the steely glare of my companion, who after a glorious first visit to Glasgow is watching her knickers be spread out over a counter, her personal possessions rifled through and be dumped in a bin, and the gifts for her family chucked into a black plastic bag, never to be seen again.

And as we wait, and wait, and wait, for the plane to turn up, we experience some extraordinarily low cloud cover.


Friday, July 11, 2008


It's the weekend and I'm off somewhere exotic. Or Brighton. Or both. So here's a few things to keep you laughing that I found this week.

Can't wait for Batman? Then try


Want some real, down and dirty sex but are glued to the
Then try
Or laugh your head off at
100% guaranteed funny. Or your money back.
And that's a promise!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Best Pub in the World (2)

In a truly sensational climax to this year's truly sensational search for the best pub in the world, the winner has been announced. In a shock decision the judges named one of last year's runners up as the new Nationwide Best Pub in the World.

Taking over from the French House in Dean St, Soho, London, is the Hand in Hand Kemptown, Brighton, some 60 miles further south but still in the general direction of France. Last year's co-judge, Monty the Dog, was unable to participate this year due to a fight with a cat but the assembled team of Nationwide acolytes proved their mettle in a series of rigorous tests.

"The Hand got it for a number of reasons" said Barak, the jury spokesman, "First off, it's fucking tiny and nobody's ever heard of it. Secondly, it's got the most fucking bizarre decor you've ever seen. Blokes ties on the ceiling, a flying pig, the walls covered in some ancient newspaper shit.
But last and not least are the gents bogs. They've been cleaned."

Pamela, the token chick on the panel, agreed. "Those bogs used to stink like fury. Made me want to chuck up all over Tommy's lap. But Bill, one of the regulars, used to stroke my head a little and make me feel better. He's quite a guy."

The range of drinks available in the Hand has ebbed and flowed. The original landlord, the late great Bev, kept a steady supply of real ales flowing from the upstairs brewery ("Brighton's Oldest" "The Nation's Smallest" etc) and that tradition has been continued by ditching the real ale from upstairs and replacing it with guest beers, summer ales, bottles of wine, cocktails for fuck's sake, and, er, lager.

Kemptown's rise from obscurity is being charted by the national press but the Hand's new found status (Best Pub in the World 2008) is down to two guys who inhabit the tiny space behind the bar. (except when they step outside for a fag or slouch upstairs for a snooze).

Matt and Dai have transformed the fortunes of this pint-sized oasis through the medium of music. From Dai's eclectic itunes collection (unheard of sub-dance post-modern-thrash to whole uninterrupted albums of Smokey Robinsoin and Lou Reed) to Matt's more eloquent and eclectic tastes.(we don't know, we couldn't see the labels). Plus some blokes who occasionally stagger in and sing.

Sunday nights are a treat, and if I knew how to upload my illegally recorded mobile phone footage of free form jazz performed by students, buskers and blokes with pocket trumpets, I'd show you. But you'll have to take my word for it. And guess what that word is

They serve food too. Saturday and Sunday mornings were a major hit with early breakfasts but since they couldn't be arsed doing that any more that's a thing of the past. Wednesdays are rumoured to be a forthcoming curry night, and pasties have been on the menu, but most importantly of all, pickled eggs have returned to behind the bar. Apparently by a customer who went down the cash and carry and bought a jar.


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

ees a nice dog.

Now you don't have to be Scottish to read this, but it will help.

To get you in the mood, watch THIS, the latest advert for Irn Bru, Scotland's other National Drink which rather sets the tone.
(I'm not being paid* to run that by the way, it's just has essence-of-the-moment-Scottishness runing through it and anyway I only drink Irn Bru when I have a hangover, about once a year thankfully.) (Unless I drink beer). (Which I don't)
Now London is a cosmopolitan city so it's no surprise that Hyde Park is almost entirely populated by foreigners trying to find their way to the Princess Diana Water Feature Memorial so they can slip and graze their foreheads. Yesterday three Japanese Ladies, using their umbrellas for the rain for a change, were determined that I was pointing them in the wrong direction. I wasn't. But they insisted. Then there were the Poles, the French, the Americans, etc etc. You get the picture. They can't read the signposts so they ask a man with a dog.

Anyway, me and the dog continue on our way through the rain when a Middle Eastern gentleman approaches us. (Sorry, but I really do have to try the accent here, it's relevant to the story. Honest).
"Eees a naise dog" he says, with his little wife behind him, and their dog too as it happens.
"Yes, thankyou" I say.
"Eeees same. As mine"
"No it's not," I say, "It's just the same colour"
"No. eeessame."

It's clearly not the same, but I humour him anyway..
"What kind is it?"
"Oh," I say, "It is the same. Is he a pup?"
"Yesseessix months"

The dogs play in the puddles and the man, who is very nice, tells me that mine is the first one he's seen in London.
"Are you on holiday then?"
"No. I live ere. I bring dog from Scotland"

"Oh," I say, "That's nice. They're country dogs anyway. Did you go up specially to get him?"
"No. I bring im down when we move. I live there. Im Scottish"

"What?" **
"YessI'mScottish. I move here now"

I'm incredulous. (and obviously a little stupid)
"Where you from then?"
"Kirriemuir," he says, "Av you eard of it?"

Well everyone's HEARD of Kirriemuir. Here's the song...
"At the Ball, at the Ball,
at the Ball of Kirriemuir,
Four and twenty maidens
And everyone a whore...." ***

"You're joking, aren't you?" I say, smiling.
"No, live there long time."

There's a pause here while I look around for the Hidden Cameras, convinced I'm being wound up.
"How long?"
"All my life. My parents, they come from Iraq"
"From Baghdad to Kirriemuir?"
"Yes. They run restaurant in Dundee"
"What, an Iraqi restaurant?"
"No. Dundee people no like Iraq. Indian. Tandoori"

Yes, yes, I know, it's perfectly normal for people of foreign extraction to live wherever they want, especially refugees fleeing the late Saddam Hussein, or restauranteurs spying a gap in the market, but this man did not have a trace of Scottishness about him. And it's at this point we enter the realms of fantasy.

"What school did you go to then?"
He lists the schools he went to and then says, in that specifically Scottish way.
"Next you'll be asking what team I support!"

This is nothing to do with class, but sectarianism. Rangers (Protestant) and Celtic (Catholic) supporters can slyly identify the enemy with such a question. Anything sounding vaguely catholic (St Aloysius, St Matthews) will get you a biffing from the Rangers fans, and vica versa.

"Well, what team do you support?" I counter, testing him.

"Rangers" he says, momentarily bursting into song, and a small jig.
"Hello! Hello! We are the Billy Boys!
Hello! Hello! You can tell us by our noise...."

This is a traditional, and offensively sectarian, Rangers song, and I'm standing in the rain in Hyde Park, watching a small Iraqi man perform it perfectly. In a Middle Eastern accent. With his smiling wife standing beside him, nodding her head and tapping her foot along with him.

"I believe you, I believe you" I stutter out, glancing around to make sure there are no stray Celtic supporters lurking, about to attack us.
"Yes", he continues, "The Billy Boys. They celebrate the beating the Celtic every Saturday. With a curry. And a lot to drink"

I guessed that last part, and am suddenly transported to some curryshop in Dundee where Mohammed here has to serve a gaggle of pissed up teddy bears (colloquialism) shouting their way through the lager and the chicken bhuna. .

I change the subject.
"How'd you like London?"
"I don't. Too busy.
Too expensive......
Just like Glasgow"

And at that point I said goobye and walked off into the pissing rain. And you know what?
He was right.

*(Oi! Leith Agency! Where do I send my invoice?!)
**(this is actually "whit??" meaning 'you are joking pal, aren't you? I'M Scottish. Not YOU!")
***(pronounced "Hoo-er")


Sunday, June 01, 2008

Oh Bother.

Apart from the fact that somebody is translating this blog into Italian the trouble with this anonimity malarkey is that one can vent one's spleen to one's heart's content so that come the weekend one is in such a benign state that all the niggling little things that used to irk the whole day, now seem to be nothing more than triflings, leaving one nothing to vent about. I can't seem to get tired of London now, I can't be bothered. I'm nice. I've even started saying "one" instead of "you".

Take yesterday. We gravitate towards Notting Hill on Saturdays for a whole variety of reasons - Portobello Market, lunch, drinks, er, more drinks etc - and while I'm on my way, walking through the park, Monty the sometime dog decides he's going for a swim in the pond, ignoring the "No Dogs" sign and also a new temporary sign which states - in the middle of a park no less - that dogs MUST be kept on a leash in that area. While I've got the mutt, I'm a dog person, and am suitably outraged by this, it's worth at least ten minutes at lunch moaning about silly bureaucracy etc, but while telling an Australin Tourist how to get to the Princess Diana Memorial, he informs me that in the desert outside Perth in Western Oz, they have signs like that because there are huge wild dogs which attack joggers. I ask him how long he's been in London and did he know that this was Hyde Park, where most dogs are six inches long and three inches high, and answer to the name Fifi.
Anyways, I laugh and I forgets all about it, and continues on me way.

Then, lordy lordy, we can't sit outside at our customary lunchtime haunt because the bloody council have been at it again and made our haunt take the bloody tables and chairs away - and being a temporary dog person we can't sit inside. The tables and chairs incident is the latest in a long fiasco of council wars here - the last one being utterly senseless. You can sit outside and drink after 5pm but you're not allowed to walk on the pavement to your seat carrying a drink!

Considering this used to be a skanky old drug den of a pub, which I refused to enter for fear of being knifed, our smart eaterie is, in my view, the wrong target for council hostility.
Anyway, we cross the road for a pizza and think no more of it.

Now. Pizza. You walk to your table, sit down, order pizza, eat it, pay and leave. Simple. But this is Notting Hill. And it's Saturday lunchtime. There are a million tourists here photographiung each other in front of the Travel Bookshop thinking this was the one actually IN the movie Notting Hill. (It isn't. It inspired it. The film one was a fake around the corner on Portobello Road).
Anyway, we have people up from the country and we have to queue for 45 minutes (I just don't do queuing!). We get the tables and then wait. And wait. We go inside to get the menus, order a pizza for the person returning to work in 20 minutes and then.....we wait.

Ordering takes an age (we're quite hungry by now, the pizzaness of the atmosphere stimulating the nosebuds quite considerably)
Finally the order is taken but half an hour later the rush pizza is still nowhere to be seen. (It's a margherita for God's sake, how simple is that?) Instead of an apology, we get the explanation that they're busy. Well, we could see that.

Anyway, the pizzas are rubbish, the wine is no good, the service is appalling, and the bread inedible. But we don't complain. I know not why. We pay up and go, relieved to be leaving but not feeling cheated or robbed. Just, erm, you know. Sort of. Well..

Then to celebrate a birthday, we return to our normal haunt, buy wine at £50 a bottle (this is not just unusual. It is unique, not to say utterly insane) and drink it outside with the dog at our feet on the pavement. We drink too much, spend too much, and market shopping is completed in a bit of a haze frankly, a not unpleasant one. But we all seem to buy an awful lot.

So dinner is a bit unplanned and I suggest we go out to my favourite little Japanese eaterie which is up a tiny wee lane and nobody knows about it so I'm not saying nuffink about where it is. But it's Saturday night. So it's shut. And that's not good. But instead of complaining we go to the Mandarin Oriental, go into the bar and find two stools among the East European prositutes (what is the term for really, really high class call girls who're terribly good looking, polite, and would impress your mum?) where we pay Twenty Quid for two glasses of wine. Then, being happy, we have another two and have a generally good time.

There's something wrong here, but I don't know what. And I can't be bothered to find out.



Monday, May 19, 2008

The Office. Really?

Just because it's

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Lost In Space

Now, you're probably not going to like this, because I'm writing this from home. Not foreign climes. It's part of the Nationwide repertoire to be in foreign climes almost every week at the moment, for a variety of reasons that are all to do with work. Not holiday. Got that. THIS IS NOT A HOLIDAY!

Now, dear reader, do you know what space-available upgrades are? They're the things that airlines occasionally throw out to cattle class economy ticket holders (like Nationwide) whom they want to bump up to the front of the plane, the comfy seats, the champagne swilling, got-your-own-channel-and-pyjamas-cabin you pass through on your way down to the back.

They have legroom. They have big leather armchairs which, on the press of a button, fold down into beds. They are desirable. They also cost a small fortune. So, securing one of these floating divans in the sky is either a case of a second mortgage or a very long slow process of relationships, friendliness, frequent flying, and proving that you will not click open a can of lager, grunt over the Sun and drunkenly snore all the way to the Antipodes should they be foolish enough to give you one. (fnaar fnaar)

So last night, as a guest flying a very, very long way, I failed to get one. I tried, politely, but failed. No matter, I said, I'm on this trip for work so I'll sleep along a middle row of Economy seats, the flight's half empty. But no, the flight filled up very quickly with pasengers from another flight which had been cancelled.
Oh well, I thought, I can get one of the economy seats which allow me to sleep. They're at the emergency exit rows, the bulkheads, etc. They have legroom. But no, they were nicked too by the interlopers from flight XYZ.

OK, I thought, grin and bear it, the very nice man has given you an aisle seat, with the window seat beside it vacant so you can do a little light sleeping between episodes of Family Man and some plastic food, crumpled into a ball but able to doze.

But no, the XYZ-ers had filled every vacant seat on the plane. It was jammed to the gunnels. And to make matters worse, my neighbour was a small boy. The reason for that was because he FITTED into the seat which backed onto the toilets, didn't recline (this sounds pathetic, I know) and had legroom into which a wasp, or a small boy, would fit. Nationwide is made more, er, solidly. And didn't fit.

I tried, but couldn't, unless I had my knees up at my chin. The hostess came by and offered me a menu for supper which I'm sure would have been very nice but I'll never know, because I got off the plane. That's right. I GOT OFF THE PLANE!

We had some chat, the cabin staff and me, during which they were trying to do their jobs diligently, and not deal with some prissied up, besuited but genial giant who appeared not to like something but they couldn't figure out what.

So we parted company, I didn't go three quarters of the way around the world to attend a very imporant series of dinners and parties and interviews and suchlike. Instead, I got the Piccadilly Line back into town from Heathrow, ate a biscuit, and went to bed.

And of course, you think I'm perfectly correct, are filled with sympathy for my plight, and undoubtedly consider the (unnamed) airline to be perfectly beastly.

Don't you?


Thursday, April 24, 2008

In Praise of Gail Porter

She's a wee baldie pixie who used to be a glamorous TV presenter/model but is now what exactly?
Well, she made me cry this morning while on the Matthew Wright Five TV phone in show, The Wright Stuff, not because she was being sad at losing her hair, or maudlin or morose, but quite the opposite. Gail Porter's irrepressible joy at being alive is just about the most indomitable spirit I've witnessed in a long time. There she was, being quizzed on a show about baldness among women (2m in Britain apparently suffer from alopecia or have some kind of hair problem) surrounded by models displaying glamorous wigs, people phoning in because they're having chemotherapy and need to know what shampoo to use on their nylon barnets, and a hairdresser who does everyone's hair from Robbie Williams to the Queen who now wants to cut wigs because "women losing their hair is the most devastating thing" and wee baldie Gail's sitting in the midst of it all laughing!

And what's she laughing at? Well, at one point she said that because she had no nose hairs the snot just runs out her nose "It's like having a wee tap stuck on the front of your face" and then she was describing the panic at actually losing her hair (she really couldn't stop laughing at that) and then the worry about what her daughter would say ("I went to America with long blonde hair and came back a wee baldie") and she kind of laughed at that. She explained that she "used to be good looking" (she's as cute as a button) and is lucky because she's got a "nice-shaped head". At which point she laughed again. Probably at the prospect of having a not-nice-shaped head.

In fact, Gail Porter kind of laughed at everything all morning and made me laugh too. And cry.

I read her book recently, which starts with a suicide attempt, goes through self-harming, divorce, humilation, hair loss, deceit, and yup, you guessed it, you end up laughing (at all the other bits). She loves her wee daughter, she loves her mum, and she loves probably everyone (except her ex, some failed popstar called Dan Hipgrave) (but in fact because he's her wee daughter's dad, she probably doesn't mind him all that much).

Yeah, yeah, go on, analyse it, make out she's just a nervous wreck. Well I watched her this morning live on TV for over an hour, and she's not. She's a perky wee soul, who at whatever age she is, has had the lot thrown at her, and she's come out the other end laughing, laughing, laughing.

Gail Porter, I salute you. You're a laugh.


Friday, March 28, 2008

Sympathy For The Devil

Please allow me to introduce myself.....

I am obsessed. I need your help. Never mind the Martin Scorcese film "Shine A Light" in the Beacon, New York City (coming to a movie theater near you soon). Never mind the current Rolling Stones hype. This is serious.

Which version of 'Sympathy For The Devil' really does it? There are several from which to choose. You have five versions below and I need your answers. I'm shit at linking so you'll have to make do with illegal YouTube stuff . Sorry, but a later update reveals that all the video has gone. You'll have to make do with just the music.

Which gets you going? Which is the best?

(1) Live
This does it for me. This is good. Stick with it. Gets great.
(2) Guns 'n' Roses remix
Nice video. I like this. Are you dancing yet?
(3) The Neptunes remix
This is very cool. I like this. Nice pauses. Horny.
(4) The Fat Boy Slim version
Fucking killer. Love it. You must be dancing by now.
(5) Classic
OK. This is the one. Knob Number Eleven. Top dollar. A bare torso. Stick-on transfer tattoos. Embarrassing the loved ones. And yes, that is John Lennon.
(6) And just because I want to, I've added this one from Get yer ya yas out. Because.

Which one do you like? And if you don't like any of them (then why are you this far down?) then link to one you do like pronto!

And who did kill the Kennedys?

I love you all.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Naked Celebrity Challenge

Naked slebs, huh? Britney, Lindsay, Keith, Demi. Oooooooh!
There's something about celebs with their kit off that drives people nuts. All that flesh. All those bits. Big bits. Small bits. Bits with bits on. Oooooh!
Except there's a large number of slebs that you really, and I mean really, don't want to see without their clothes. Or even a small part of their bits. Here's my Top Ten.
(in no particular order)

(1) Fiona Bruce. She reads the news. She's the no 1 male pinup for newswatchers. Very sexy. Even appeared on the BBC (Comic Relief) in some male fantasy costume. But no. Not naked.

(2) Ricky Tomlinson. Especially farting in character during the Royle Family and saying "My arse"

(3) Bruce Forsyth. Lovely, Didn't he do well?? Nice to see you, to see you....but not naked. Please. Too wrinkly, no toupe, just, well, no.

(4) Johnny Vegas. Ever. I'd unstitch the monkey first.

(5) Kate Moss. Just because you know what she'd look like and it wouldn't be anywhere near as exciting as her smoking a fag and getting paid to stagger out the Dorchester. And Pete Doherty, God forbid.

(6) Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It would just be wrong, wouldn't it?

(7) Tom Cruise. Well you'd be automatically converted to Scientology, wouldn't you? And that's not really worth it when you think about it. Because they're all a big happy religion out to save us all from ourselves. Or a bunch of crazy nutters hellbent on some insane plan that involves kidnapping innocent victims of their "personality tests" that they've been doing for years. Either way. Tom Cruise. No. Unless you're, um, the kind of person who appreciates the male body in all it's, um, beauty. Y'know what I'm sayin?

(8) Pamela Anderson. We've seen enough already. Ish.

(9) Heather Mills McCartney. Just say no.

(10) Simon Cowell. You could never look again, could you?

Plus lots of borderline cases like Cat Deeley, Bill Clinton, Quentin Tarantino, Bill Beaumont, most of my teachers at school (except the female ones), and possibly Michael Winner. Although I'm possibly past caring now....

Bottoms up!


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Who's f*cking who?

Whoever it was said that Americans or Hollywood or US TV or whatever had no sense of humour/ irony / self deprecation needs to watch this, the funniest thing I've seen in the last five minutes.


All hail the kings of comedy!


Saturday, March 08, 2008

Happy Snaps

Now, whenever someone writes about parking, you can generally guess that there's an aggrieved motorist venting some spleen, a grievance being aired, a problem being shared and embellished to prove one's innocence before the fine is grudgingly paid. But this one isn't about me. This is a little window into the London war on traffic.
Walking through Covent Garden today I watched a warden ticket a taxi. There's nothing really unusual in that nowadays, wardens will ticket anything that stays stationary long enough to slap a PCN on in order to meet their quotas. It's why I don't have a car. Taxis, buses, bikes, lorries unloading, ambulances, fire engines, gas board vans, vehicles for the disabled, small children and their trikes. All fair game.
You learn this after a while in London. The wardens don't care. They're not employed to care and they genuinely don't give a toss about you, the circumstances, anything. Just their quota of tickets for the day. End of.

But what was novel about this was that the taxi was on a taxi rank. I thought that's where they were supposed to be. But it still got a ticket. The driver appeared, a small stocky bloke from the same mould as Phil Collins in "Buster" and was, shall we say, a little put out.

The warden had already issued the ticket and was at the photographing stage. They have to do this because there are so many claims about so many badly issued tickets that the snapshots have become essential as evidence. Every appeal that I've made has been met with a flurry of photographic evidence, even a website with video.

The cabbie was annoyed. He'd been helping an elderly couple carry their bags. He wanted to know what he'd done wrong. The warden ignored him and carried on snapping.

Frustrated by the knowledge that an already written ticket cannot be taken back, (and the chances of winning on appeal are virtually zero) he was fired up and wanted an answer. "What" he demanded to know, "do you think I was doin???" The warden continued to ignore him.

Now, if you were that warden what might you have done? Explained the rules? Walked away? What? (I'm assuming that cabs mustn't be left unattended in ranks and that's what this was all about, but that's just a guess)
I tell you what I wouldn't have done. I wouldn't have walked up to the cabbie who was shouting at me and push my little digital camera into his face and take a close up snap. Because that might just send the cabbie over the edge.

Which it did.

He lost it. So the warden snapped him again. Right in his face. And this time, for good measure, he laughed at him. It was bizarre. The poor cabbie nearly imploded with rage. The warden, apart from his diligence with the camera, had his cap at a jaunty angle and looked as if he couldn't give a monkeys. Which rather made matters worse. He just slowly wandered around the cab, snapping away, getting some nice shots for the album, most of which seemed to include the cabbie.

As human fireballs go, it was pretty spectacular but good sense prevailed despite the provocation and it all ended quick enough, without any real violence, because there is no real point in shouting at a warden. They don't care, and this one especially had a degree in not caring. So Mr Justifiably Angry got back in his cab and made to drive off, still shouting at the warden.

So what does the warden do? Wave? Walk off? No. He goes up to the cabbie, laughs at him, points the camera into his face and takes another snap.
This time the cabbie turns bright red, jams on the anchors, leaps out the cab and wants to know if the warden is "enjoying himself" as he seems to be taking a lot of holiday snaps. He is right in the warden's face, backing him up against a lamppost. I would have put money on it coming to blows now.
Paradoxically, the warden seemed to be enjoying himself. You could tell by his laughter. He took more snaps. Of the cab. The restriction signs. The taxi rank lines. And, for good measure, just to be on the safe side, another one of the cabbie's purple face.
And then he laughed again and casually sauntered off.

The cabbie was defeated, humiliated, and facing a £60 fine for stopping his taxi. At a taxi rank. He got back behind the wheel, picked up a fare, (some poor innocent who was about to get his ear bent for the next ten minutes), and drove off. Wellington Street started to return to normal.

Funny old world. Innit?