Thursday, April 26, 2007

Hang the DJ

For some considerable time, I've had this issue with radio. Namely, breakfast radio, and the station that must rouse me from my hard-won slumber and get me on my way to work. Needless to say, said station must be faultless in every respect; from the incredible, inspiring music, to the zero advertising, and first and foremost, hosted by a perfect DJ, a genuinely funny and down-to-Earth human being who's neither ripped to the tits annoying or so full of him or herself that the sound of their own braying voice gives them constant orgasmic spasms. Quite a feat, considering we're talking about fucking radio DJ's here.

Aha.

DJ's are by their very nature a race apart, totally immersed in every little inch of their inflated egos. Once, when I was a runner/ dogsbody at the BBC, I was standing in a corridor rifling through papers when a man walked past and screamed 'HELLO THERE!' into my ear and promptly walked into the toilets. It was amiable geography teacher lookalike Steve Wright. As I stood there thinking, 'Wasn't that amiable geography teacher lookalike Steve Wright, and why did he say hello when I wasn't even looking at him?' when, from beyond the toilet door, I heard a muffled 'Hello there!' being yelled, presumably, at a bemused man who was probably trying to pee.

My Dad once knew a radio DJ, or more accurately, the bloke who used to report on the 1980's London rush-hour from a helicopter that sadly never plummeted into the King George VI reservoir. (Whose bright idea was it to name a giant outdoor water cistern after a dead monarch anyway?) Apparently, said 'Eye In The Sky' guy had an entire corridor of his house festooned with distasteful black and white photos of himself. And that was just the man whose disembodied voice would cheerfully announce, between the latest releases by Belinda Carlisle and the Travelling Willburys, a fifteen car pileup on the M25 with scores dead, caused by "sheer weight of traffic".

My radio station aversion began after my joyous return to London from those hallowed flat roofs of Bournemouth University. I had been weened on Capital Radio, tittering like a schoolboy (because I was one) as Chris Tarrant made funny comments at his sidekick Kara Noble long before she went on to become a tabloid hate figure for 20 minutes for selling pictures of a very minor royal. To themselves.

As my taste for dance music grew, I became enthralled by Kiss FM and their brilliant breakfast DJ Steve Jackson. Steve had a fucking grating voice - probably still has - which I bizarrely found endearing as the man was funny, plus he played some fantastic music to boot. And don't forget (as if you did) this was the Nineties. Listening to the music was like watching House continuing to evolve in a petri dish, a giant, audible petri dish of fun and hedonism in the musical science laboratory of Youth. And then he went and got himself sacked, by virtue of the fact that his employment up 'til then had made it possible.

Suddenly I was lost. Kiss was changing in direction and morphing into a hideous cock-sucking moneymonster, a gargantuan commercial entity which began crowbarring all sorts of urban pop into the ears of younger and younger demographics. Plus their new DJ was some bastard called Bam Bam. This man was the poster child for irritating DJs. For example - Bam Bam? Is your real name that bad? And who the hell are you trying to appeal to, choosing a name from a then thirty year old cartoon? You, sir, are a Cunt Cunt.
Plus his voice broke all records for irritating my organs out of my body. He was loud. 'ISN'T THIS GREAT? EVERYTHING'S GREAT, EH? EH?', just like a normal DJ then. Plus he thought he was funny when in fact he could be out-gagged by a corpse. Even more grating was his choice of sidekick, a nauseating cockney imp called Streetboy, an ancestor of the modern-day Chav, and dangerously armed with a mobile phone. Back then, Streetboy wasn't allowed in the studio, possibly because he'd nick stuff. Instead, Bam Bam would send 'Street' out into London and get him to wind up passers-by. I vaguely recall incidents of Streetboy being sent into newsagents and starting arguments with the owners, or else blocking cars while Bam Bam instructed him on what insults to throw next. No finesse, no comedy, just harrassment by a yob with a phone, being guided by a giggling dickhead.

Fortunately, I've just discovered that at least one of them got the boot.

I've been in limbo ever since. In my Willesden Green days, I went indie, listening to Christian O'Connell on Xfm, along with the rest of my flat. Christian wasn't bad, a bit too smug and monotone for my liking, but his sycophant Chris News did me in. Polite, fawning, and dull. Plus the music was rather too staid for me.

I moved house. And changed stations. I happened upon London 94.9fm, the radio wing of the BBC's London chicken, and entered a new phase of my all-encroaching old age. Annoying adverts had now, thankfully, vanished, to be replaced by chat. Annoying chat. And a propensity to make London seem like a sleepy little village just outside Yeovil. I only chose this as 94.9 became the lesser of dozens of other evils. Their presenters were the fairly amiable JoAnne Good with a screeching laugh straight from Satan's ringpiece, and the enormous antipodean 'Jono' Coleman who annoyed my own ringpiece clean off me, particularly with his penchant for doing stereotypical Jewish accents for no reason whatsoever.
'What the fuck's he doing that for? became a common phrase in my head, several minutes after being woken up by him.
Fortunately, my dearest wishes have come true and he's buggered off back to Australia to annoy a country a quite beautifully long way away. His replacement is a gay Tennessean called Baylen. Of course.
I don't know why I've stayed listening for so long. And every fucking day, they invite a man in called Dr David Kuo replete with his own irritating jingle to laugh like a drain for five minutes, make a boring observation, then fuck off. Why?
WHY???

But things have just changed. OH YES. For today, I received an early birthday present from my Mum, Mrs Gonorrhea (formerly Mrs Fwengebola - she remarried), whose loins I spewed from nearly 33 happy years ago. She bought me a digital alarm clock radio.

All this can only mean: GOODBYE Chav fm with your varied musical styles that make me feel old. ADIOS rambling chat about congestion charges and where you can buy a really good latte. And FUCK YOU, Chris Moyles, you hideously obese, massively egotistical, bun-encrusted gobshite waffling fuckflap. In my desperation to find a decent station, I once happened upon Radio 1, 'pop' station to the entire UK, and found myself empathising with pregnant women as I too was waking up wanting to vomit. The only people who like you are a) children and b) the desperate twats you've nailed into the chairs next to you.

Right now, tonight, I am listening to Gaydar on my new digital radio. Oh how I wish they could have a different name, like Decent House Music Station For Discerning Heterosexuals FM, but no, Gaydar it is. Personally, I don't care what the station's sexual orientation is provided its breakfast show is hosted by amazing DJs and they keep playing these tunes. For the last hour, I've been entertained by a non-stop, no-chat mixed house set and my foot's been tapping away.

I think I may enjoy being woken up by this every morning. Just please don't start talking about willies, and clapping enthusiastically. You know. Like they do.
Actually, they can do what they want. Anything will be better than what I've had to put up with for the last decade.

Goodnight.

Monday, April 23, 2007

A New Life Starts Here

... just as soon as my fucking jaw rebones itself, and this angry ulcer that has surfaced on my lip - my body's way of screaming silently at violent dental surgery - has healed up.

I'm going to quit kickboxing this week. I feel slightly guilty (obviously), yet said guilt is massively outweighed by the sense that I'm getting some life, and some money, back. Now that spring has sprung and summer is fast approaching like an unbearbly stifling evening spent tossing myself asleep, I want as much evening time as possible. I'm going to join a cheap gym (cost: nearly a third cheaper than shitkicking, with some firm pecs thrown in), quit the fags (ha!), and attempt some healthy eating shtick. And on top of that, I'm going to peruse the possibility of writing my way out of my job. I'm at an age where I'll have to act now, or forever condemn myself to a lifetime of drudgery. For the five billionth time.

My sexlife is as dormant as Krakatoa (both last saw some action in 1883), Ladyfriend and I have exchanged an email or two that, while friendly, doesn't go anywhere and always ends with her ultimately not replying, plus I'm skint.

So, if I'm going to get a better wage, aim to buy that beautiful quarter of a million pound cupboard in a dangerous London suburb, and live a fuckin' little, I'd better get cracking.

Plus I'm going to be 33 in under two weeks. Oh goody.

I feel good things ahead. But then again, I always feel good things ahead either at the beginning of a new year, or else in the spring.
By November I expect to be a broken man lying in the gutter of shattered dreams, surrounded by a small hillock of discarded pizza boxes, and resting on a mattress of vodka bottles and crack pipes.

Again.

So come on, everyone, let's have a bit of PMA and enjoy ourselves. HOORAY!!!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Wisdom Tooth Hell Too

Gy rights, I shoulg be tyking like gis.

My wisdom tooth is now sitting folornly on my desk in front of me, a surprisingly large enamel fascist covered in dried blood.

In my innocence, I had assumed I'd pop into the dentist who would cheerfully extract the tooth with a gentle pop, the pain subsiding like water down a plughole. I did not expect:
1) Lying in a chair caked in my own sweat
2) Five local injections during a half-hour rape
3) Having the gum around my tooth sliced open with a scalpel
4) Being literally stiched up
5) Being financially stitched up

It is not often I bemoan selling my car a couple of years ago. After all, there is no real need to have a vehicle when you live in London, plus spiralling costs to run the fucker had put paid to that.
But to have one yesterday, that would've been sweet.

It took me an hour and a half to tube it to the private dentist my Mum recommended. And he is a very nice man. His surgery was spotless, modern and clean, his walls covered in commendations and certificates. I got the sense that he had a well-deserved and very comfortable life.
Although he should've been a butcher.

I was keen to know if I had been somewhat of a primadonna to be haranguing the NHS as an emergency case they'd refused to deal with, but the good dentist reassured me that I wasn't imagining things.

'Oh crikey', he'd said when he first looked into my mouth.
'Excellent', I thought. 'This is bad after all. Right, get on with it then.'

'You may feel a slight prick', said the dentist without irony.
I am Lord of the Pricks, my friend. There is nothing slight about it.
Then he stabbed me in the cheek with a disturbingly thick needle. It hurt. Considerably. But I didn't care. Once injected, that's as painful as it's going to get.

Or so I thought.

He injected me a second time. My lips went numb, then my tongue, as if I'd been french kissing icebergs. The dentist started to chisel at my gum, a strange sensation, a bit like being felt up by a loved one whilst sedated by novocaine. You may be able to feel their wrist on your thigh, you may even think that you can, in fact, feel their gentle carress on your sensitive bits, but you can't. All numb, but being able to feel the surrounding non-numb areas confounds your senses.
'Oh golly', said the dentist.
'Unggh?' I replied.
'Your abscess has burst. There's pus everywhere.'
'Angh'. I'm so fucking sexy.

He chislled away. He then produced a drill to peel away the gum from the tooth. Then he procured a pair of handheld dental clamps.
The 21st fucking century and we haven't advanced one iota. Having never had a tooth removed in my life, I had assumed that maybe there'd be some kind of machine for this, but no, just good old pliers.

I began to sweat. The dentist's assistant held the suction device that I'm more used to seeing remove saliva. I noticed with considerable angst the transparent tube vaccuum up clumps of thick, sticky blood instead.
'Nnnkg!'
'Are you ok?'
'Nugger 'njekkon.'

The injections were meaningless. I still felt pain as the dentist tugged and tugged at the tooth and flirted with nerves that hadn't been rendered immune to pain.
'Hmm. It's not coming out.' He swapped tools and continued chiselling, reaching again for the pliers and twisting, enthusiastically fucking TWISTING, as if he was attempting to wrestle a cork from a particularly stubborn bottle of Pinot.
For ten minutes.
'CHIIIST!' I screamed, involuntarily grabbing hold of the dentist's arm.
'Oh my. I think I'll have to cut the gum open.'

Shit. From deciding it wanted out, my tooth was now resolutely staying in. I had wondered how he was going to pluck this thing from its home. After all, when I looked into my mouth that morning, I could only see the merest glisten of tooth as the rest of it was buried by a sea of angry red gum.
So the dentist produced a scalpel and deftly sliced it open. Now he had something his pliers could grab on to, even if I was gargling blood.

I was shaking now, a sheen of sweat all over me. I wriggled. I squirmed. Then the dentist clamped his free hand to the lower half of my mouth.
'I don't want to dislocate your jaw while I do this.'
'I'm SAS', I think to myself. 'I'm SAS and I'm being tortured by fundamentalists but I'm in an Elite Squad and can take this.'
I relaxed my body and tried a Fuck You smile, except a man had his gloved hands in my mouth.
Then the dentist began tugging with a ferocity that scared me. Surely when this fucker pops out, he's going to smash all my upper teeth?
'Fuggin' huggy ug!' I yelled.
I started crying. A tear left the corner of one eye and escaped down my face and presumably onwards down a numb cheek, while my hands gripped onto the armrests for dear life.
'Ah! It's out,' said Klaus Barbie, except it was out in a sense. He still had to trim it from its moorings and continue yanking. Aparrently the roots of this tooth had fused and another bone had grown in between like a wrought iron anchor.

When it was over, I didn't feel relieved. I felt very, very shaken. I felt sick and disorientated. I heard a chink as the tooth was removed and dropped onto a stainless steel trolley.
'Fucking cunt', I directed silently at the tooth. And a little bit at the dentist.
I don't think I can repeat that three more times for the other wisdom teeth.

The dentist stitched me up. I lie there impassively, the victim of a brutal assault, my head getting tugged to one side as the stitch is stretched its full length. I sit up as he told me what tablets to take and when, but I'm not really listening. I was trying to figure out how I will be able to make it home during the rush-hour commute while feeling a shell of my former self.

By the time I do get home, I felt no pain. The pills have worked and I'm even anticipating going out on Saturday night.
And then I wake up after a night's sleep. The painkillers have done their duty and I now feel awful. On looking in the mirror, I have an invisible golfball in my mouth and one side of my face looks like it's doing Marlon Brando's Don Corleone.

I paid a lot of money for this service. This has been an absurdly expensive April which started with a large three-figure bill for bike repairs and ended with a like amount for getting this fucking tooth removed. In between saw me attempting to melt my credit card in New York as I spent myself into a better mood.

Mindless shopping and wisdom teeth are rubbish. And I probably shouldn't be smoking. I've only had a few but you don't want to know what a mess the inside of my mouth looks like. Ok, I'll tell you: Like a tiny post-pregnancy vagina.

And speaking of vaginas, I used to think I was clinically undatable. Now I don't have a peaceful resolution's chance in Baghdad with anyone.

Even the Elephant Man would point and laugh at me.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Wisdom Tooth Hell

When I visited the dentist last month, I thought it prudent to ask about my wisdom teeth as every so often, one will flare up and become uncomfortable for a day. I was referred to my local NHS Hospital (for the Non-British, free healthcare), where they told me I would be seen in two months. The actual surgery would be another two months later. It's a ridiculously long time, but it's a) free, and b) exactly the same service as going private. As long as you're happy waiting, it's an incredible gift to the public that is haemmoraging money and falling apart at the seams.

Except one wisdom tooth won't wait. I had one of those five times a decade twinges yesterday but this time, it's different. It's real. This fucker wants out, and it's letting me know about it, particularly at 2am this morning, and at 2.30am, and 4am, and 5:25am. At eight o'clock, I phoned my boss and told him not to expect me, as this tooth feels as if the root is made of barbed wire and is trying to burrow unceasingly into my gum like a dog burying a spiky bone. Like a true man, I am finding this excruciatingly unbearable.

So I dared to approach the NHS with an emergency. First call took 12 minutes to be answered. A bored woman told me to call the emergency triage. I did. A recording told me the triage operates from 7pm. I then call Hospital reception. An indifferent lady told me I won't get seen and to call the NHS Direct line. I did. Another woman bombarded me with questions; name, postcode, date of birth, to the point that I had to tell her I was finding it painful to reply. She eventually told me to call the East London Dental School some 30 miles on the other side of town. The School's evil banshee took great pleasure in telling me I could wait all day and not be seen.
'But this needs to come out now!', I said.
'We can't do that today', she said.
'When can you?', I asked.
'Four months', she snapped gleefully.

I am now going to shell out a lot of money to see a private dentist today - that'll be a credit card purchase then. If need be, he will remove the tooth himself for three quarters of a million pounds.

I love this country.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

London: Square One

I am now the other side of the Atlantic and back home in The Smoke, the Rotten Apple, my wretched hive of scum and villainy, and I've already forced myself through my first day's post-holiday work. New York has now been consigned to memory - I didn't even take any pictures - and in my vaguely rose-tinted way, I guess it wasn't so bad.
Albeit with a crap journey home.

Ladyfriend returned from work in a somewhat contemplative mood. I was sitting on her couch, my old friend and bed, and watching the Weakest Link UK - American TV is that bad. I too was lost in thought, reflecting on the past week and slightly curious as to how the last hour would play out.

My friend walked into the kitchen and squeaked; I'd bought her a dozen red roses and felt gratified that they'd had the desired effect, although on following her in there I noticed she looked rather awkward. Apparently the vase I'd found in her room and stuck the flowers in was a unique $200 ornament, and not actually a waterproof receptacle for cheap gestures.

We sat back on the couch and sighed. If she wanted me to get the hell out, her wish was about to be granted. For once though, Ladyfriend looked vaguely mindful and despondent, and my whole trip began to feel less like a sham. Deep down, we knew that we would never see each other again.

I kissed Ladyfriend and we talked a little. I looked out of the window and frowned. I kissed her again. We stared at each other. We frowned in unison. Then I kissed her for the last time and left New York for good.

Goodbyes are bad at the best of times, but they're particularly poignant when you know they're final.

My seat on the plane to fucking Frankfurt was in the middle of the middle row, frum Orthodox Jews to my left, and a pudgy young man spilling over the armrests to my immediate right. The guy told me he was a American Military Policeman returning to his base in Germany. He went on to say how many German girls he'd fucked.
'How?' I asked, perhaps slightly too incredulously.
'They want a fuckin' Green Card, dude.'
Well that explained a lot. It certainly wasn't physical attraction or charm.
He went on to say that despite working for the military, he was proud to have chased a car full of drunk civilian girls down an autobahn at 200kph where he sideswiped the vehicle so it flipped over and hospitalised the occupants.

All that, and we hadn't even taken off yet. In fact, as he was describing the flip with hand gestures and loud sound effects, I vividly recall thinking 'When are we going to start up and leave the fucking gate?'

Time passed painfully slowly long before we were airborne. The Orthodox Jews were unhappy with their seating and were protesting loudly, causing the stewardess to lose her temper and tell them to either accept their assigned seats or leave the plane. Then the Most Homosexual Steward I Have Ever Seen (and there's a few) flashed me a look and rolled his eyes, meaning that I was now impassively siding with the Germans against the Jews. As I sat there thinking 'Oh please, please, please stop causing a fuss; you're making all the racists racister', I felt overwhelmed with the desire to fly first class just once. Even Rambo sitting next to me had.
'Man, as soon as they find out I'm military, whoosh, I'm bumped up.'
Really? Well try getting bumped on Emirates, mate.

It was the worst Cattle Class I'd ever experienced. My knees were already flush against the chair in front long before Mrs 'I want a different seat' reclined it, and there was some strange rectangular fixture against where my right leg wanted to stretch a bit. When it came to dinner, I wasn't even able to put the fork to my mouth and had to ask the lady in front to put the seat back up just so I could eat my reheated chicken rectangle.

Towards the end of the journey, I got a jab in my ribs. I turned to see GI Joe scowling over my shoulder. If he had a gun on his hip, his hand would be hovering over it. I followed his gaze and saw one of the Orthodox Jews wrapping a thick leather strap around his arm. Granted, it looks to the uninitiated like a fancy tourniquet for fashion conscious heroin addicts, so I turned to my one-dimensional new friend and explained very slowly.
'It's tefillin. There are small scrolls in the boxes attached to the straps. It's symbolic', I said, 'something to do with physically binding the words to you.'

He mumbled something unnecessarily ignorant about an Ass whooping as the frummers rocked back and forth as they prayed. So there's me, sitting next to Rudolph Hess whilst being reminded of my own mortality by the devout as we roared a mile above the ocean squashed into a weighty metal tube.

By the time we landed in Germany, my new friend had affixed his US Military Police badge to the chair in front so everyone else knew we were in the presence of greatness. Mind you, this was probably a good thing as he had earlier been yelling that he'd taken his gun onto the plane with him - he's allowed to do things like that, I was frequently reminded, and he'd been to Iraq where he 'killed me a whole bunch of people.'

He seemed to take the taking of human life in his stride, leading me to surmise that he's either gatecrashed common human decency, or else he was just a fucking LIAR who assumes that people are impressed by repugnant ignorance and a sense of smug superiority based on who has the bigger gun and barks the loudest.

Frankfurt: Had a cigarette. Noticed the airport staff were a lot quieter and more efficient than their yelling counterparts at Newark, who seemed more interested in yelling one-liners over the heads of the mute would-be travellers. Board my final plane, land in Heathrow, am picked up by my Dad who I unashamedly squeeze the life out of when I see him.

My stomping ground: Catch up with Large Northern Flatmate who is greatly entertained by The Love Affair That Wasn't. Walk to my local supermarket in a jet-lagged funk to grab something for dinner. Some boozed up teenage chav tries to start a fight with the security guard, screaming at him in a faux-Jamaican accent and behaving like a useless little shit tip whose biggest achievement in his wasted pot noodle of a life will be not backing down during this argument. He leaves after throwing a basket on the floor and kissing his teeth. I walk home and see a police van hurtle past and stop at the supermarket which amuses me greatly, as the chav had moved on twenty minutes ago to no doubt threaten a pensioner with slang.

Today, I go back to work and sense the need to GET A BETTER JOB. I have two pleasant email exchanges with Ladyfriend, but a moratorium is declared and she no longer replies.

We are totally through. I feel a sense of loss, and feel lost.

A brief respite then, but back to Square One. Why are the little things so hard?

Monday, April 16, 2007

New York IV

Just a matter of hours now until I get my plane. I have done all the shopping I want to do, and I am bloated and full of fucking carbs; beigels, tortillas, brownies, hamburgers. Last night, Ladyfriend and I went out for a Mexican, which was quite pleasant. She was in a wonderful mood, almost glowing, chipper and squeaking just as I remember her best when she'd visit me in London.

Outside, there was a Nor'Easter. In layman's terms, really shit weather. The day began with strong winds and fierce rain, and it didn't stop for about 18 hours; a relentless, constant, powerful deluge of near horizontal wetness drilling into skulls and seeping through clothes. When we left the restaurant, the pavements were like rivers - stepping into the road to cross over it was to submerge your foot into a raging, ankle-high stream. And I won't even get started on the effort it took to hang on to my umbrella.

Once again, as I haven't ceased to mention, it is apparently boiling in Britain. I simply can't fathom the concept under these circumstances. Almost every American I meet, I've told them the current temperature in London.

At Ladyfriend's apartment, I hung my jeans and coat up to dry, and we watched Babel (If you have ever expressed a desire to watch this film, don't, unless you have been toying with the idea of suicide recently and need that extra shove into the noose.) After that, we watched La Petite Jerusalem, a film about Orthodox Jews in Paris. And yes, there were sex scenes aplenty, and plenty a' nudity. Despite the subject matter. The French could remake Happy Feet as a live action feature, and they'd somehow crowbar existential angst and violent double penetration shots into a story about dancing penguins.

After our miserable fest of film, Ladyfriend and I retired to bed. I told her I will be sleeping on the couch. She told me not to be so silly. We had been cuddling up watching TV and finally, I thought, she still cares about me. Maybe we won't have sex, but we might finally bond for once and, perchance, be slightly intimate, if only for a minute or two.

Nah.

Monday morning. I am flying home this evening. Ladyfriend is the happiest yet, despite the rain outside, despite the fact that it's a Monday morning, and Ladyfriend has repeatedly told me how much of a morning person she isn't. I take her buoyancy and cheerfulness as a roundabout Hurry Up and Fuck Off, so when she's about to leave for work and reaches in to kiss me on my cheek, I thrust her my outstreched hand instead, saying 'Put it there, Ladyfriend.'

Without a word, she shakes my hand and leaves. Guilt has now consumed me from the Nor'East as black clouds hover above me, unleashing a torrent of Shameshit on my head.

I am scum.

I leave the apartment. I buy an amazing pair of size 14 sneakers that would cost me three times as much in the UK, and be five times harder to find. I purchase the Chris Rock Show on DVD. I toy with the idea of buying The Critic on DVD, as well as countless other movies and shows I hadn't yet thought I needed. I track down Jeff and take him to lunch (I had actually arranged to go out with him tonight - he'd planned a few bars and a strip club - until I realised I am flying home and had to cancel. As a married man, he was NOT THRILLED with this plan being shelved.)

I went back to a Spanish Israeli discount store I visited a few days back, for more cheap clothes. This time I was pleased to see a really, really intriguingly sexy Latino redhead with a quite remarkable body which incorporated the most voluptuous backside despite her petite frame. Plus she had that 'How jou doin?' Rosie Perez accent we never hear in England and I wanted to have sex with her if she'd let me.
(Although I do look like the antichrist because I gave myself such an enthusiastic shave on Saturday that I accidentally carved a mathematical symbol into my chin that didn't stop bleeding for an hour.)

I now have three hours left. Ladyfriend has called from work to check up on me. Maybe she appreciates the possibility that we'll never see each other again, and is keeping things sweet. I don't even know where things stand between us, but I'd say it's somewhere between indifference and closure.

Right - I'm going to pack.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

New York III

I can hear the sound of someone in the shower. I have just regained consciousness and find myself lying on a couch in New York, but hopefully not for much longer (sofa and the city.) Right at that moment, I want to be in my t-shirt and shorts and in London, surrounded by my friends and relating the whole sorry story to them with a smile finally on my face. And in 25 degree heat. I don't want to be here, living this nonsense, and in the rain. It would appear that my customary bad luck has fucked with the weather too.

My American Ladyfriend has appeared from the bathroom and is sitting next to my couch/bed on an adjacent chair while I squirm and feel hungover. She doesn't say anything for some time which makes me think I'm in a Hell Hath No Fury Scorned Woman Mindgame until she places a little note next to me, something she'd been writing with the world's quietest pen.

The upshot of the note was; Sorry for being distant, and apologies if I was expecting fun and sex, but in the year it's taken for her to move on, she thinks it best if we remain friends.

I was expecting sex? How very dare she! What kind of Neanderthal, unreconstructed man does she think I am? Me? Travel 4,000 miles for sex with a female friend?

Petite Pretty Flatmate appears. She is bright-eyed, loud, and psychotically cheerful, with perfect teeth. Deep down I know she despises me, this messed-up Limey who's appeared from nowhere and is now on her couch and fucking with her roomie's mind - again - this same guy she'd heard about a year ago, a supposed Mr Right who wasn't interested, who for some reason is now, inexplicably, back, and taking up a lot of space.

It was almost exactly a year ago that I was last in New York. I had flown over to see my Ladyfriend as a few weeks earlier, she had flown in to London to see me. She was the one who took charge and came over first, as I'm a coward.

We'd met online. I hate admitting that I've met anyone online; girlfriends, other bloggers, even old schoolfriends I've lost contact with. It's seems to me to be UberNerdery of the highest order, an admission of a personality defect and an inability to make friends or meet partners in the real world, so you have to rely on computers and chatrooms and the cloak of anonymity. It just seems so contrived and mechanical, a boon for people with zero personality or luck.

Which is perhaps why I was trying it out.

I've been online dating for years - at least, my profile exists out there in the ether and from time to time, I'll 'pop in' to see what's shakin'.
Anyhow, one Friday evening, I was on said dating site when I noticed I'd been checked out my an American lady. Normally I'd ignore anyone outside my own city let alone my own country as, well, what's the point? The flights, the pre-arranged dates that last an intense week only to stop until another flight is booked? The yearning, the cultural differences, the effort.

But she was cute.
So I checked her profile.
Then she came online and we 'chatted'.
She could spell. I like that. Spelling is important. And not only did she get me and my cultural references, but she wrote very wittily. Intelligence in a woman is vital and at the top of my list, before Caring and Funny, but after Stunning, Not Mental, and obviously, Not Picky When It Comes To Men.

We wrote to each other considerably that night, long enough for me to consume all the booze I'd had from friends' visits to some of the worst alcohol-producing countries on Earth. So it seemed logical for us to swap phone numbers and continue orally. Personally, I was amazed I could speak clearly but something seems to have worked as my new Ladyfriend had decided to grab the bull by the horns, booking a flight and a hotel in London.

And it was a great evening; a meeting in the exclusive bar, getting along famously, kissing, retiring to her room, barely leaving for two days.

Then I paid my first visit to New York. Ladyfriend returned for her second and then third visit to London, this time at my flat, when the ball was firmly in my court to go back to the States again.
But I was getting concerned. For one thing, I was skint as per usual and I still owed friends - Ladyfriend included - money from my first trip, and being in debt to them all embarrassed me.
Secondly, Ladyfriend was getting emotionally involved in a situation I was annoyed about being unable to afford. I wanted to see her all the time, but 4,000 miles was beginning to make things awkward for us. Ladyfriend also made no secret of her depths of feeling for me which, as a man, made me shift uneasily. I'm not a heartless, emotionless bastard as I had tears in my eyes at Heathrow when she told me she loved me and left London for the last time, but she told me she loved me.

I had incredible strong feelings for her, but how do we continue seeing each other? I can't even afford to turn up at her apartment. Interestingly, all my female advisers, including my Mum, said 'Go to her', 'Stay with her'. All my male friends simply asked 'How's this all gonna work, then?'

So I ended it. I told her that it wasn't her, she was perfect, but I was trying to be logical and I couldn't see how we could keep this up. Ladyfriend couldn't understand what logic had to do with love. I couldn't make her see that love has yet to melt the heart of the US Department of Homeland Security, so best to call it quits now.

We tried to stay in touch, but Ladyfriend was having a very bad time of it all. When I called, she held it together for so long, then broke down and told me not to call back until she felt better. I wanted her to meet a decent local American chap immediately, provided A) He was The One and B) I didn't get to hear any details barring her finally being happy and content. But she didn't. Instead, she came back to London over Christmas and paid me a brief, emotional visit. I missed her like hell and we hugged and kissed and then she left as quickly as she arrived. Unfortunately, she had been visiting with her current boyfriend whom she'd told she was going shopping when in fact she came over to see me.

She now had tremendous guilt as I was unwittingly making her do things preposterously out of character. For my part, I realised I wanted to go back to New York to be with her again.

So here I am, 10:30am in the morning, indoors and avoiding the apocalyptically dark skies and relentless rain of New York while the internet tells me that Britain is right this minute basking in unseasonably hot summer-like temperatures.
The cruel, cruel irony.

Ladyfriend goes to work that morning, while I sit in the empty flat and think 'That's it, I'm going home.' I attempt to get my return flights brought forward - both of them.
No I can't.
I decide to get a hotel for the rest of my stay.
I can if I want to spend my entire budget and more on said hotel and presumably spend the remaining few days unable to do anything.
I don't even want to call Jeff and ask him to put me up. That would be really low.

The phone keeps ringing. I know it is Ladyfriend, now at work, and I ignore it. On her third attempt, I answer. I don't want to be here anymore, I tell her. I don't know why I'm here, and I feel very, very stupid and humiliated. I am certainly not cooking that damn roast and I want to go home.

But I know she's at work - she gets very stressed at work - and, after all, I am on holiday.
'Why don't you go for a walk and clear your head?' she says.

A brilliant suggestion. I don't know where to go so I decide to just wander aimlessly and see where I end up.
I cross roads and intersections, careful to concentrate on looking the other way for traffic, against my natural instinct. I pass cheerful hobos, tourists, laughing guys from New Jersey with thick nasal accents. Every dog being walked seems to have a little coat on.
The weather's cold but the streets look familiar and the city doesn't faze me. It is London with few differences, and I feel very used to it here. I cross Broadway and weave through the other pedestrians. I jaywalk and smoke and look and listen. I soon find myself some distance away from the rigid blocks of most of Manhattan and suddenly I am walking around small little streets with roads that are no longer straight, and they actually have names, real names, and not numbers like Sixth Avenue or 38th street.

I realise I am near Ladyfriend's workplace so I find a payphone and she's happy for me to visit. When I get there, she's ok. Not angry. Just the person I came over to see. With a hangover. I kiss her goodbye and head back to the apartment. All my plans about visiting the Guggenheim, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, all gone. In my state of mind, I wasn't in the mood. That night, the apartment was full of girls who got a Chinese as I hadn't made that roast. Wanting to keep my distance but unable to, I went into Ladyfriend's room and fell asleep. Ladyfriend woke me up later, with a cookie and a kiss.

Some time after that, in the 2am stillness, I crept out of her room and went back to the couch.

Things were better on Saturday. Petite Pretty Flatmate had left for an assignment in Miami, and Ladyfriend had thawed. We were hugging now, holding hands when we walked and, finally, last night we went out for a nice meal together, something I wanted to do from Day One.

I fly home tomorrow night. I can't believe I booked four flights in total just so I could save thirty fucking pounds. My return goes via Frankfurt, Frankfurt! I will be flying over and past London, staying in the air for a few more hours, landing in Germany, then getting on a new plane and going back in the opposite direction.

I have no shame in admitting that I'm an idiot.

Friday, April 13, 2007

New York II

Bugger.

Two days in and I have a hangover and an almighty and very sincere desire to go back to London. The weather doesn't help; all coldy and windy and not at all the sunny that I understand London'll be this weekend, so that's fun.

Anyway, I'm not at work, I'm on a holiday in another country - yet I'm still complaining.
Here's why:
So I get off the plane and head to this bar I'd been to last year, near my Ladyfriend's apartment, awaiting her arrival from her workplace. I am quite probably the happiest I will ever be in my entire fucking life.

Wednesday: New York. This bar I know. I'm in a nice seat with view of front door, waiting for Ladyfriend. Very excited. Slight anticipation of exciting break ahead. I wait for two pints when Ladyfriend arrives on purchase of my third. She looks lovely, just as she always is but seem to forget with the passing of time. But she's here; her cute smile, her button nose, her dimples, her curly brown hair, her hugs, her little squeaks when she's happy. Ok, she's not completely happy as she's just finished a day's work and seems quite stressed. We have that long hello hug and I don't want to let go but it's all good because I'm so very very happy and cheerful and Life and Humanity are beautiful and wonderful and it's simply incredible to be alive and I love Everything and Everyone!!!!!

This is called juxtaposition, for I am now going to relate the circumstances which lead me to believe the exact opposite; that Life is a cruel cosmic accident, a quirk of fate where we are nought but a bunch of cunts fucking over another bunch of cunts in a Godless random universe, only to die in a loveless pit of hate, anger, apathy and Paris Hilton.

We leave the bar and head for my Ladyfriend's apartment. I am smiling so much that my head hurts. I meet Ladyfriend's Petite Pretty Flatmate and we order Korean food which I've never had before. My slightly offensive remarks about us eating Lassie are largely ignored. Note that Ladyfriend seems slightly defensive and angry. Turns out she needs a while to switch off after work, something I've never seen in her as our long distance dating hadn't ever clashed with her work schedule before.

I eventually share a bed with a clearly irritated Ladyfriend, an irritation I don't appreciate as I continue to prod her as I ask her cheerfully to 'Cheer Up'. Lying there under the covers of her bed that first night, a scenario that was undertaken in a functional Germanic manner (walk to room seperately, remove clothes, enter bed, wait), I soon feel like the Unsexiest Man In The Known Universe. I am in bed with a beautiful woman and she isn't in the least bit interested. Work is on her mind, my arrival hasn't been met with outpourings of joy or any sex, and I realise that I am incapable of being mature. I try not to think that a year after our last intimacy, Ladyfriend seems almost angry.
We both fall asleep. I am apparently snoring violently (like 'Two lions fucking', as Nothing Man often remarks), and make the situation worse by (apparently) waking up frequently during the night and asking 'Was I snoring? Sorry.'

Thursday: Both ladies leave for work. I am in New York!!! I look out of the window at Avenue A; yellow cabs, commuters, skyscrapers. Also, angry grey clouds, umbrellas, and lots and lots of rain.

I venture out in the vague direction of Union Square. By the time I get there, my shoes are letting in water so I buy some new size 14s to wear immediately. More walking. I pass a diner and nip in for a large smoked salmon and cream cheese beigel. (Note, that's Beigel, not BAGEL, dammit.) I am soaked through and the rain outside is still relentless. I wait for the weather to calm down and hit the streets again. The grid system really is quite ingenious - I'm walking down roads I've never been down in my life but I instinctively know where I'll be if I turn left or right. I am heading towards Madison Square Gardens to meet a local guy, Jeff, who I last met in London a few years ago. My old Uni mate Sean introduced me to Jeff, who happened to be in the UK during Yom Kippur or Pesach or something else Jewish. Jeff pleaded with me to take him to Temple in the UK (a synagogue, not the London district), and I pleaded with him not to make me. In the end, I was forced to ruin my Friday night by taking Jeff to see the winner of Britain's Most Boring Rabbi competition while a frosty looking battleaxe in the row behind gave me filthy looks because I was wearing jeans.
When I'd turned to whisper to Jeff 'Thanks for getting me to drag you here', I was thrilled to find him fast asleep. I ensured he stayed awake to continue enjoying the sermon.

So I turn up at Jeff's office about two hours after emailing him to say 'Hello mate, I'm in New York'. We go for a couple of drinks, and reminisce over old times, essentially that night at the Shul. After bidding each other farewell, I head back to the apartment via the L train as Ladyfriend had forgotten her keys and I had to be back to let her in. Before long, her Petite Pretty Flatmate had arrived home and we're all eating Sushi. We all get ready as Petite Pretty Flatmate will be leaving the city for a few months so we're off to a nearby bar to meet up with a whole host of other people, people who are either Shrieky Happy American Girls or else Clapfabulous Gay Men.

Ladyfriend is getting ready so Petite Pretty Flatmate and Shrieky Happy American Twins and I head to the bar. Petite Pretty Flatmate hasn't seen a Shrieky Happy American Twin for something like a whole week so I watch in amusement as they begin hyperventilating as their chatting becomes more frantic and kinetic. Words such as 'Neat', 'Shut Up', and even 'Awesome' are all used completely without irony and, just as the pitch of their conversation was reaching the troposphere and the only other life form that would be able to hear would be covered with fur and have a wagging tail at one end, I lose all interest in living. Their relentless white noise begins to merge with the background music and I enter a frame of mind I normally only get at work - the one where all I hear in my head is the Laurel and Hardy theme tune.

Time passes. I'm tired, genuinely too tired, to socialise. I want to sit when everyone else is standing and scooting from one group of people they all know to another. I feel like an English duck in another pond full of other friendly ducks with a slightly different quack. Ladyfriend occasionally beckons me over to a group where I say hello and then have nothing else to say for myself. It was tiring having to speak in a Hugh Grant accent all evening when my regular accent, although not gratingly cockney, is mumbly and London enough to render all my punchlines, questions, and interesting bon mots almost inaudible - the net result being a reluctance to have any conversations. It can get very tiring speaking to someone, asking them questions, or else giving them your best A-material and getting an earnest poker face in return, the International look for not understanding what the fuck you just said, yet too polite to ask 'Can you repeat that a bit more slowly please?'

I drink some more despite not wanting to. I even have a soft drink to be a little different. Ladyfriend unwillingly drags me into conversations with people who've known each other for years, allowing me to ruin their banter and atmosphere for them. Others begin to leave. The remaining group gets progressively drunker. Whole bar seems to thin out. Group now consists of my on-off long distance Ladyfriend, a camp, non-threatening gay man, his loud nerd friend, and a cocky bloke who I'm not too sure about. In fact, the only guy I'm comfortable around is the gay man, seeing as the nerdy guy keeps giving Ladyfriend massages and having big, big laughs with her while I sit there largely mute and feeling like I've had a major personality bypass. The cocky guy looks slightly cool and, I suspect, has almost certainly had Lots More Sex Than Me and left a trail of broken women in his wake.

As everyone sits there shouting out in-jokes and cracking lines that makes everyone roar (including an enormous bellow from Ladyfriend that I'm devastated to hear as I've never made her do that), I am forced to contribute occasional 'Ha-ha!'s then returning to being mute and shifting awkwardly as no-one really wants to talk to me and I don't want to talk to them.

In fact, as I am typing this, I realise why I was at such a loose end. Sure, sitting like a Nobby No-Mates in the corner for most of the evening probably didn't endear me to the other guests, but it was also the fact that no-one knew who I was or why I was there that probably did it. I had no raison d'etre, no real justification for being there. I was just this shy Brit who was somehow connected to someone at that bar, and was harder to shake off than herpes.

But what really did it for me, the cake/ icing integer that made me want to run home to Mummy was an innocuous comment. I had become detached once again, both physically and mentally, and overheard the cocky guy ask Ladyfriend, to an audience of the other guys, 'So, what's the deal with you and other men? Anything happening?'

My shoulders sunk and I thought 'Erm, yes, I'm right here. I'm the fucking idiot who's travelled 4,000 miles and I'm not sure why.' I had my back to them when this was said, and I've no idea what happened in the awkward silence that followed, whether or not Ladyfriend pointed me out, or if she did a happy little 'Single' jig instead. Whatever it was, I really felt justified in feeling out of place, and I wanted to leave immediately.

We did so soon afterwards, although the guys were keen to keep drinking. They asked me where I was staying, so I pointed at Ladyfriend and said 'I'm on her couch.'
I quite liked the couch touch. Saying 'I'm sharing her bed' would've sounded quite odd in light of us saying next to nothing to each other all night. Plus I still don't know what reply she gave to the 'Any men?' comment. The 'couch' gave us some strange dignity, I felt.

We get back to the apartment. I was stroppy but wanted to be convivial; I was in no mood for an argument. Plus I was to be cooking a large roast meal the next evening initially for Ladyfriend and myself, but now with Petite Pretty Flatmate and two other Shrieky Happy American Girls. I kept things light because I didn't want to make the impending meal socially awkward. Nonetheless, Ladyfriend and I prepared for bed in silence. I returned from the bathroom to find her under the covers, so I switched the light off and gingerly lay down next to her. I didn't bother getting under with her. Instead, I just sighed. Still determined to keep things pleasant, I reached over for Ladyfriend's arm and gave her a little stroke.
'Night', I said.
This wasn't a proposition for sex, it was a 'Goodnight', plain and simple. She didn't reply.
I lay there and thought about my situation for a minute or two, then made my decision. Reaching behind my head for the pillow, I very quietly crept out of the bedroom and headed for the living room, where I grabbed my coat. This was to be my blanket for the night.

I slept on her couch after all.

New York I

On one hand, the skies are leaden and black, rain is pissing down relentlessly, and it is cold and windy. On the other hand, I am in New York and not at my desk, so I'm not bothered.

I landed in Washington DC yesterday morning 11am, ready to take a connecting flight to NY La Guardia. By taking two flights instead of the one, I saved myself 30 pounds, bargain! Sadly, the connecting flight was delayed. For three huffing hours. I came to feel very, very cheap as I sat sprawled out on a chair while large people cheerfully started random conversations with each other without shuffling uneasily or keeping the chat to a minimum a la UK.

At one point in my wait marathon, I observed a convivial old man, all grey hair and warm smile, exiting from a Staff Only door. With his bumbling demeanour, he put me mind of Jimmy Stewart in his later years, especially when the staff door retracted with a SLAM. He jumped, quite alarmed, and said something akin to 'Jeepers.' It was then that I noted this ageing security guard's gun on his hip. So that was interesting.

Spending an eighth of a day wandering aimlessly around Dulles International airport wasn't something I'd recommend to anyone. I wandered off to their two smoking rooms which were a disgrace - Heathrow's room was clean-smelling with good air-con and hidden from view around the back of the O'Neills pub. The rooms at Dulles seemed more geared towards humiliation with their glass windows affording non-smoking passers-by the chance to walk past and feel superior. Plus the rooms reeked and made Heathrow's smoking room look like the perfume counter at Harrods. Ban smoking in public; fine, but don't make smokers feel like social pariahs, please.

I tried to get some quarters to call my lady friend and tell her about the delays (I forgot to activate International Roaming on my cellphone before I left, meaning I'm now walking around with a glorified watch in my pocket), but each person I spoke to in shops kept asking me how I was before I'd ever said anything, and it confused and confounded me. EACH ONE.
'How are you?'
'Erm, Fine. I don't want to buy anything, I just want change.'
This to me at least, made the whole encounter worse and made me feel like scum.
Then I spent about three bucks feeding quarters to a phonebox that kept the change and never actually connected me to anyone.

By now, the vein was throbbing in my forehead, even by the time the NY plane arrived and I ended up sitting next to a lovely old lady who smelled of wee.

I was completely confused by the time I took a cab directly to a bar near my ladyfriend's house (she had not yet returned from work). I had been chatting to the cab driver (a Bangladeshi) about England's recent win over his countrymen in the Cricket World Cup and had completely forgotten where I was. I left the cab and walked to the bar, I passed a girl on her phone who was talking with a broad nasal twang.

'Hey!' I thought, 'an American!'

Thursday morning, and I am about to leave the apartment and venture forth into cold, wet and windy hell. On holiday, yet under crappy conditions.

Still, hooray!

Coming all too soon: New York II: Bugger

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Blank Holiday

The Four Day weekend: A respite from the daily grind. An opportunity to leave my pit and do as much wandering around London during unseasonably warm weather as I can.

Except I didn't. Instead, I got drunk on the first night and bitched about it for three days.

Thursday night was going to be tremendously exciting. I was to meet up with newly-engaged Luke and Sabina, as well as my other ex-flatmate Robert who had also inadvertantly got himself engaged to his girlfriend. Gary was there with Suzie - another ex-flatmate who'd been engaged and is now married. Only two were missing: Hippy Dave (who has yet to get engaged but mark my words, like all Dave's sexual experiences, it won't be long), and Nick, who started this bizarre engagement ritual at the end of last year.

Nick, Luke, Rob and Garry are all old schoolmates from years gone by. A fourth, Hippy Dave, was this hippy I met at University. I'm very fond of them all, including Ally and another Rob, so I was overjoyed when Nick told me about his impending nuptuals. When Luke told me a few months later that he'd proposed to Sabina, I was overwhelmed. After all, I used to work with Bean, and in this strange circus of life (with more clowns), I was the odd link that dragged Sabina to the classiest of joints, the Walkabout in Embankment, when she first laid eyes on the man who will now become her husband, my former flatmate. (I'm tempted to reveal in my Best Man speech that he'd earlier vomited into a pint glass before she'd arrived. Or perhaps I should say he did that after he met her, for comic effect. Actually, it's probably best if I don't mention that at all. Except here.) When I found out that Rob had also proposed to his girlfriend my joy canoe, whilst still afloat, was fast careering into the rocks of OH FOR FUCK'S SAKE.

Don't misunderstand me, I'm thrilled for them all. But in the several decades it has taken me to get used to the idea that every single one of my friends are allowed to have girlfriends bar me (and Large Northern Flatmate, my partner in free time), I now have to deal with my internal nagging voice (that sounds a bit like my Mum, and occasionally is), questioning and probing as to why I'm undatable let alone unmarriable and am essentially a male Bridget Jones albeit without the sexual escapades or waist-reducing knickers.

The rest of the Bank Holiday was a blur. I wasn't that drunk - I just didn't do much. All that me-time I so desperately crave when at my desk at work, and all I do when I actually have it is watch Seinfeld as I curse myself for not having the balls, talent, or commitment to write something myself.
While eating pizza.

It wasn't all a moody, introspective waste of time. Occasionally, I'd sink a bottle of red whilst skimming the net for porn.
Although there was one notable moment in all that fun; On Saturday I met up with Phil, Natalie, Jamie and Claire, and watched the Boat Race, or more accurately, waited for two rowboats being propelled by immense toffs to pass a post to the accompaniment of drunken roars from braying Hooray Henrys and Henriettas who surrounded us, making me feel like a dreadful oik. (Cambridge won. Whoop-de-doo.)

That evening was spent in a delightful pub near the Thames, in a marquee with an appalling DJ in honour of the cash-in-athon that was the earlier race. And in the toilets, I suffered an almighty bout of Paruesis. This charming condition, although I'm not so sure it's that much of a condition than a simple mental block with a fancy name, means that every once in a while, I get this sudden, unannounced vague sense of unease and panic, meaning I couldn't wee if I'd drunk fifteen barrels of coffee, my bladder had declared a jihad on its neighbours, and I'd been jogging on the spot for a year. I just freeze, with my cock in my hand (a bit like my sex-life.)

The really embarrassing part was that I was in the relative safety of a cubicle. The man in the neighbouring enclosure had been on the phone and had suddenly become very mute and still, almost listening, waiting. It was as if he was in the cubicle with me, silently looking over my shoulder while I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to think of the Niagra Falls or a tap with water gushing out so fiercly that it's shaking. And then some cunt banged on the door and I had walk out defeated, triumphantly lying 'All done' whilst walking for the exit like John Wayne.

I think it stems from when I was a kid. With an upstairs and downstairs toilet to choose from at my childhood home, I would always use the one that had the least amount of relatives within earshot. And now I'm stuck with this. Even when at friends' or relatives' houses, on discovering that the bathroom is right next to where everyone is gathered and I can still hear them chatting from within the functional confines of the toilet, I normally allow myself a little swear, a mumbled fucknuts while my guitar discreetly excretes (eventually, after half an hour's nervous pleading.)

Why the fuck did I admit to all that? My secret shame.

But on the plus side, I'm off to New York tomorrow, for a week. I'm going to see my American ladyfriend who I would be dating if indeed we didn't live 4,000 miles apart. Ironically, just as Britain's hotting up and I cycled back from work in my t-shirt for the first time this year, I'm told that NY is stll freezing and I'll need to fetch my scarf and gloves I'd only just stuck at the back of my wardrobe yesterday.

However, I may well be having coitus very soon, as well as spending some quality time with a very lovely and intelligent lady, having some laughs, cracking jokes, skipping through Central Park, then comforting her when she bursts into tears and lays all the heavy shit on me in three days time.

Next post from the USA.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Going Underground

That glistening subterranean metropolis, the planet's first underground railway with 253 miles of shimmering, flawless steel, a masterstroke of Victorian ingenuity that envisaged two tracks per line - one for each direction - as those foresighted planners knew damn well that any future traveller wishing to traverse London at 3am will clearly have no moral fibre so isn't worth catering for, unlike those dastardly New Yorkers with their four-track 'subway' and their ability to repair one set while the other still operates.

The London Underground is about as trustworthy as a politician in a brothel. Yet it has become one big hideously over-expensive social experiment with delays, a place for people from all four corners of the Earth to get squashed in eerie silence, a silence broken only by the ghostly, disembodied words of an irate cockney driver telling everyone to 'Keep out the way of the sodding doors'.

I spent a chunk of last Saturday with Phil, dissecting what annoys us most about the tube. We talked for about 17 hours...

20 ~ My local tube station has recently installed several huge computer-linked LCD displays to notify the travelling public when the next train's due. Sadly, it has only ever said what everone already knows; 'District Line'. Below that is the time.
It is the world's most expensive clock.

19 ~ Movement. Train comes to a sudden halt in a tunnel. A minute passes. Someone coughs. Newspapers are rustled. Two minutes. People look around the carriage, then look back at the floor. Four minutes now. Nothing is happening. Not ONE FUCKING ANNOUNCEMENT. Maybe this is because the driver is none the wiser either. But it would be nice if the driver would say so.

18 ~ And when staff do talk, it's mumbled. Or it's depressingly morose. (Aren't these people taught not to Sigh before announcing that the tube's up the spout again and please feel free to jump to your deaths when something turns up?)

17 ~ Hey, here's a thought: When the platform's full to overflowing at half eight in the morning and you are about to announce over the tannoy that you've made some awful career decisions and the next train might arrive some time this week, don't announce it just as the 8:32 Piccadilly Line to Hammersmith is roaring past in perfect syncronicity with your entire sentence, because NO-ONE CAN HEAR YOU, YOU TWAT.

16 ~ Disgarded newspapers aren't technically litter. They are actually topical missives of love left by one caring commuter for another. Employ staff to collect empty wrappers and vomit only. Actually, you can take the snooty property brochures away, thank you. They merely fill me with longing.

And then there's my fellow commuters...

15 ~ I have just missed my tube. I am now the only person on the platform. I should be wearing a large medal, and must thus be allowed on first, even if five minutes have now elapsed and I'm being jostled for space. All you cunts who've just arrived must not push me out of the way when the train turns up.

14 ~ The platforms and walkways aren't that wide. If you're in a group of 2+ people, kindly don't walk in a neat, slow blocade, as I will kill you. Or at least 'Tut' loudly.

13 ~ And if you're a large group of Belgian teenagers or simply standing with your large suitcase and staring at a map along one of those narrow walkways and looking Spanish, try not STOPPING as you'll BLOCK THE WHOLE FUCKING ROUTE.

12 ~ 'Stand on the right' isn't a fucking suggestion.

11 ~ On packed, overcrowded trains, please please please don't snog your partner. Yes, I'm sure you love each other. Yes, I'm sure it seems as if there's no-one else around you such is the giddying blanket of emotions enveloping you. But YOU ARE SO CLOSE TO ME THIS IS PRACTICALLY A THREESOME.

10 ~ I know that you're drunk, and I know that you're Australian. You've been yelling about it for the past half hour.

9 ~ Just because I'm seated between stops and can't run away doesn't mean you have carte blanche to busk/ collect for Rag Week right next to my ear. You can, however, drunkenly and attractively offer an entire carriage a chocolate brownie because "I only wanted one and they came sold in fours." (I've done this.)

8 ~ North Americans: Leicester Square is pronounced 'Lester', not Lie-ses-ter-shire.

7 ~ The 'Seat Age' is the age at which their feet make contact with the spunk on the floor. Any younger and they can sit on your fucking lap.

6 ~ When a fellow commuter sits in an empty seat next to you, shuffle. This will give the new passenger the sense that you are a courteous fellow, willing to consider the very existence of their being. Remaining motionless like a concrete shithouse merely renders you a selfish cunt.

5 ~ I have no problem offering you my seat if you're in your twilight years or up the duff. I will not offer you my seat if you're a young woman who may be pregnant but could just be fat. I'd rather appear chauvanistic than skip cheerfully into that potential minefield. And if you are really old and I happen to be sitting in the 'Priority Seat', don't bellow 'YOUNG MAN, KINDLY OFFER UP YOUR SEAT' the second your arthritic old foot has made contact with the tube. YOU DIDN'T EVEN GIVE ME THE CHANCE TO SPOT YOU, DAMMIT.

4 ~ The armrest is shared between two people. Please allow my elbow some room, and enough with taking the whole fucking thing up with your Newspaper Arm.

3 ~ Don't put your make-up on in front of me. I do not wish to see your fillings. Nor do I wish to feel so unattractive that you think you can do that in front of me because I don't count.

2 ~ Men who sit with their legs splayed apart: Carry on Sirs. I am doing likewise and it is the only time I will sit thigh-to-thigh with another man and not flinch because a) We are stubborn and b) It is our right.

1 ~ And finally, the Be-All-and-End-All of all Tube Hates ~ As absurd as I find one-upmanship just because person A was born elsewhere to person B, we're supposed to be English, dammit. Since when - and I can't emphasise this enough - since when did people start forcing their way onto the tube WHEN THE DISEMBARKING PASSENGERS HAVEN'T LEFT YET??? ARE YOU CLINICALLY FUCKING SELFISH, OR JUST FRENCH???
YOU PEOPLE ARE THE SCOURGE OF THE FUCKING PLANET, AND YOU SHOULD ALL BE SENT TO BAGHDAD IN GEORGE BUSH T-SHIRTS.




I'm so sorry. I'm tired and grumpy.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Life, Death, and wanting to humiliate a politician

My reason for blogging began in Spain, when Nothing's girlfriend had to reliquish her romantic holiday abroad with her beau, and I was offered her place. The holiday swiftly became ruthlessly less romantic and significantly more debauched.

Whilst in Fuengirola (population: 3 Spaniards and 250 million LCD Brits fuelled out of their tiny Neanderthal minds on cheap Sangria and San Miguel), Nothing noted my angry views on my fellow countrymen and any other passing nationality and suggested I start a blog about it.

While I am still trying to character assassinate every country on Earth, I have noticed my posts getting consumed by day-to-day trivialities to the point of taking over. The plus side to all this dull record keeping is that while I had always considered my life to be rather ordinary and uneventful, I can look back at half a years' worth of drivel and see little oases of interest, even some fun in occasional profundities, this weekend being a case in point.

I had taken the tube to work on Friday morning. As I reached Hammersmith, there was Leader of the Opposition David Cameron, spouting political insincerities to a dozen television cameras and journalists. David is your typical British politician; Eton educated, smarmy and hypocritical, and currently being buffed and polished through the PR mill until he's half-way electable. I last saw Dave as he rode his bicycle through Kensington Palace Gardens and he cut me up on mine. Dave likes to ride his eco-friendly pushbike and mingle with the proletariat until he gets to a designated spot far from prying eyes so he can switch to his chauffeur driven car. And now there he was, unprotected, nobody behind him but the occasional passing commuter and me.
I tingled.
(But this is going to be a non-story, sorry.)
With each step as I approached, I considered ticking him off for his cutting me up. Then I thought of a more smash-and-grab approach, something devilishly witty and clever, like making devil horns with my fingers behind his head, or else kicking his arse and running like the wind.

Oh yes, I am definitely going to do this.

But with each step, as I looked at the cameras and saw his heartfelt ramblings about whatever the hell he was talking about now, I suddenly came to my senses. What if he was lauding the centenary of the abolition of the Slave Trade just as I ran up and slapped his head? And wouldn't I be charged with assault, and was filmed doing it? In which case, devil horns is just so lame. If I was going to do this, it has to be all or nothing, and walking over to announce "This man is a shit cyclist" just wouldn't quite cut it.

If that footage was ever aired, can someone please let me know as just over the left shoulder of David Cameron can be seen a man with conviction approaching him only to take a sudden 90° turn in the other direction.
For that man is me.

Friday night, and I had left work and headed for Ruby Lo, where my tiny pocket Hindu friend Trotter* was having her birthday bash. This was always going to be a pleasant end to the week, just a few drinks to be merry and sociable, and an early night.

Luke and his girlfriend, my lovely lady Muslim friend Sabina, had announced a week ago that they were getting married. That night in Ruby Lo, Luke casually asked if I would like to be Best Man. I was utterly floored. Luke has a vast contingent of friends stretching back to his school days, one of whom is Hippy Dave, a friend of mine from University. It was through Dave that I met Luke and the other guys, who accepted me into their collective bosom like a heavy cold they couldn't shake off. I was speechless when asked to be Best Man (ironic, as I will probably be speechless come the big day), plus I have never been Best Man before, the very phrase seeming at odds with my entire existence.

It took several minutes for it all to sink in, even reminding Luke that he has other friends - not out of ingratitude, more out of an assumption that he has friends he's known since he was a foetus, and ones less likely to fuck things up too. But sink in it did, causing me to become very excitable. So I ran to the bar and yelled triumphantly for 'Your second least expensive bottle of champagne!' Then red wine. And white. And I don't much remember anything else. Although I do remember handing Russell a glass of red only to smash it loudly on the floor. It also led me to surmise that if you want to hideously embarrass a member of the black community, all you have to do is go to a trendy bar and break glass at their feet. (I also met a South African work colleague of Lukes who was good enough to inform me that there are indeed gunrooms in South African nightclubs.)

Lizzy was there that night, a pretty blonde ex-colleague of mine with a very buoyant and cheerful chest. She also looked fairly scared when I turned up. This is probably due to the time a year ago when Sabina informed me that Lizzy had split up with her boyfriend.
'Oh that's a shame', I'd replied. 'Put in a good word for me.'
'No chance', said Sabina.
'Eh? Why not?'
'You're not her type.'
'What the fuck does that mean? What's her fucking type? Not Me?'
'No', said Sabina, 'I just don't think you're suited.'
'WHAT? Are you saying I'm clinically undatable?'
'No, I just don't think you're a good match.'
'Fuck that. I demand you tell her.'

And so it went on.
For months.
I'd harangue Sabina to speak to Lizzy, despite the fact that I was more bothered about Sabina's reluctance than I was about any miraculous getting it together, based on the fact that Lizzy's quite attractive and I'm not. And then, one day, Sabina cooly informed me that she'd spoken to Lizzy.
'Oh?' I'd replied in mild panic.
'She said 'Thanks, but No'.'
'Aw, why the hell did you say anything?'
'You fucking told me to!'

My head on Saturday morning felt as if it had been ambushed by Iranian gunboats. I don't actually recall leaving Ruby Lo - just being there, then suddenly finding myself lost in Acton, forcing me to get a cab back to my flat where I discovered I had spent £100 in booze and had dropped most of it down my shirt. I was woken up by my mobile phone - Jimmy, who does shift work at Sky TV, had taken that Saturday off to meet up for more - ugh - alcohol. I felt particularly bad as a blogmeet had been arranged with Fussy Bitch, Vi, Midnight, and a whole host of other troopers, but it was going to be particularly difficult chatting to old friends when I'd rather be mute and keep very very still, let alone meet old bloggers and have to relate in detail the tiny minutiae of my life up til now. That's for another time.

As it was, we did very little. I wasn't in the mood for drinking and, as the evening continued, we weren't in the mood to try, particularly when we'd got to a heaving Shaftesbury Avenue and saw the police out in force. We were just about to head towards Leicester Square when a policeman yelled at me and the throngs of oblivious tourists and booze-hounds to cross over the road immediately. When I looked down, I saw the reason why; at my feet was a dead body sprawled out on the cold pavement, a flourescent police jacket covered over its face and torso while another copper sealed off the area with tape.

Those legs are etched on my mind; sprawled out and motionless from under a policeman's coat, its former owner putting on his black jeans and adidas trainers earlier that night, little realising he wasn't going to make it home.
Oddly enough, that wasn't the first time I've seen the legs of the recently deceased. Once, in India, I saw a stationary truck at the edge of a road, and a small crowd surrounding it. Underneath its wheels, legs, non-moving.

Life is fleeting. Dammit, I should've stuck two fingers behind David Cameron's head.

(* If you are a decent upstanding young Hindu Bangladeshi male with own teeth and car living in the London area - or Bangladesh - please do get in touch. I know a very cute Hindu girl, 29, who WLTM you. Must have lots of disposable income, an interest in clothes and R&B, and be deaf. She is tremendously gobby so you won't be needing your ears.)