Thursday, 31 March 2011

The Red Face of Ulster

I live in Belfast now! Not that I've really been out of the the house, barring the welcome party awaiting us as we got off the plane (which left me incapacitated for the next day. The sort of hang-over which turns your teeth to rubber and thwarts all ambition). Since then I've left the house to visit IKEA (wok, loobrush, various bins and about fifty feet of shelving!)and M & S (no booze in the M & S - is this a protestant thing?).

We had a shelf building party after the trip to IKEA - myself, Kelly, Paul and Mo got to work with screw-drivers and inscrutable instructions, rendered in pan-European pictographs - and, as usual when confronted with a practical task, I failed utterly and bafflingly. I followed the instructions to the letter and when I righted the thing on the kitchen floor it split at the sides likes Des O'Connor on his sofa. What made it worse was that it wasn't written off - Deidre's boyfriend Chris appeared and, manfully, after alighting his steed, picked the thing apart with a claw hammer and fixed the bastard! I have sinced packed my testes into a drawer - I shan't be needing them here.

It's slowly but surely coming together - still bags and boxes everywhere but it's starting to look vaguely as if WE live here. Can't find my phone charger though...still...

Friday, 25 March 2011

It's not my birthday

Moving house is pure, unadulterated, inexpurgated hell. I reccomend doing somthing different. Shit, I've just checked the time - It's not my birthday any more. Being forty is now the sort of thing I just have to get on with.

Piss. Horror. Wank. Terror. Piss.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011


And packing it all day. Martin came round in the evening to collect his porta-studio gubbins and we went for a couple of glasses of wine, and I tried to convince him to start a new band called The Suitors where he would dress like Jacques Dutronc* and write songs that are funny. He's one of the wittiest people I know - why not write songs that showcase it a bit.

Laura, my beautiful sister, also came round, bubble-wrapped our paintings and tried on Kelly's faux breasts. Bosom related fun was had by all. It was like a Russs Meyer film without the self-regarding, self-obsessed ante-post modern fannying. I'm looking at you, Ebert.

Packing is a miserable thing to do on your own. Am gaffa-taping boxes watching Lilly Allen's "From riches to rags" against her wishes. I don't care - I rather like Lilly Allen.

* Then, not now. His "now" look is a bit THEN JEHRICO

Monday, 21 March 2011

Partying is such sweet sorrow

The party was fantastic. It was one of the best nights of my life. Marcella, despite my previous rough treatment of her in this here blog, had sorted everything out, had decorated and shifted furniture, had organised incredible food and was flexible about pricing and payment methods (though I would have been pretty flexible confronted by a stuffed envelope full of flipping great wadges of cash! And I'm nearly forty!). Still, she did an excellent job and I'm assuming did a lot of business. Litro was my wife's choice of venue and in this as in all things she proved herself wise beyond her tender years.

Shouts-out to Row, Gwen and Mike for getting to the venue before me and setting up all the equipment in the down-stairs rumpus-room and again to Mike for actually DJing (and of course latterly to Douglas who repeatedly hurled himself at the decks in his boozed up pomp to play Big Marker tunes at tooth rattling volume).

Kelly arrived looking luminous and regal in a way that must surely have compromised her politics. It was incredible showmanship; the whole room seemed to surge toward her, sucked in by the gravity of her charisma. She held out remarkably against the strains of the day; hob-nobbing like a pervert with a cooker fixation and even essaying a couple of ill-advised dance moves (from memory they were "American Smooth" and "the worm"). My mother arrived, snootily announced that the decor wasn't to her taste (it wasn't - it was to Kelly's taste. That was the point!) and turned her nose up at a carafe of the house-red that somebody had bought for her. That didn't last long - she was soon downing them in quick succession and having a rare old time.

The sainted but evil Ange Calaco - McGaw made the most amazing birthday cake in the shape of a pink Parisian poodle, which was recognised by everybody as being me in confectionary form. Its little feet had neat stockings of child saliva long before I worked a cake-slice through it ( and the small rash of indentations in the liquorice hooves would be traceable back to a certain Rose Love without recourse to dental records!)

Special mention must go to Julia Postill for being a blizzard of entertainment all day. To Chris Kasch for not getting me in a head-lock (summoning every ounce of will-power to resist - his buttocks were clenched white all day!). Thanks must go to Sarah, Sinead and George for coming all the way from Scotchland (the latter two incognito). To Tori, Archie and la Bloor for reprazentin for the Spa-Town Massive. To Jen Warren whose thank you letter was longer than her stay at the party and to three fifths of THE RED ATLAS who were as emotional as I've ever seen them: I think Martin took his jacket off at one point and Si raised his hairier eye-brow (Ben was stripped to the waist and fucking anything that moved as soon as Mike dropped the needle on Dave Bowie - but that's quite usual). More thanks to the members of my family who were on delightful form and have managed to produce such remarkable children. And of coure DaveEvans who was much drunker than me! Oh and Daniel Howes for leaving the manifold delights of Norfolk to walk among us city bumpkins. But really massive thanks to everybody who came to send us off it was a truly lovely time. And I haven't even mentioned the gifts! I need never wear the same pair of socks again! I'm like Prince!

Thank you!

Saturday, 19 March 2011

No breaks

Raining. The Willow Foundation cheque arrives special delivery (I nearly missed it as the doorbell still doesn't work). It is about £150 short. The reason of course is not the Willow who have been exemplary throughout but the hapless Marcella, manager, apparently, of Litro. First she cannot grasp the concept of a third party wishing to pay for the party, then she insists she cannot provide an invoice and we will pay in cash, in advance. Then when the Willow take control of the situation she decides quote them the costing without VAT and service and finally decides that she can invoice them and includes the service and VAT. Quite an effort.

The Willow have pledged to make up the difference and I've been to the bank to cash in the cheques. It's a rotten day; pissy and raining. Tomorrow should be better but it will only be better if Kelly can enjoy it. She's very sick. Her stomach has been aching for two days and Vida and Kate, our two live in medical professionals, are wondering whether it might be her appendix. Kelly is plumping for constipation and is necking the warm prune juice for all she's worth. She has a doctor's appointment at four (it's not the doctor's appointment - it's hers!*). It would be ironic if after all she has been through she now dies of appendicitus. She's been in bed for most of the day and I'm praying she'll be well enough to go tomorrow. It really isn't fair.

* * * * * * * * * * *

The doctor advises her to go to A & E. We go to A & E. We are there for 8 hours. They do blood tests and further chest x- rays and at one in the morning they finally admit her with a canulla in her foot because they can't find a vein and nobody in the world knows how to work the porta-cath she has had surgically embedded in her chest. So that was a good idea. They don't think it's her appendix just the tumors on her liver and codeine keeps the sting away. She should be able to attend the party but not in the capacity she probably wishes to. Fuck sake.

*I'll nick lines from Terry's Chocolate Orange adverts. Oh yes!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Hold onto your friends

Yes, that was a Morrissey quote. Though anyone who knows me will tell you I despise that man.*

I'm a lucky fella. Cash poor but friend rich. Throughout the last few months my friends have been amazing: supportive, pro-active, informed and conscientious. And unfailingly generous. I won't embarass them by naming them. Unless they want me to. In which case I have no qualms. I'm qualmless.

*they won't. Everyone assumes that I love him. I honestly dislike him more and more with the passing of time. Not least because he is 12 years older than me and looks approximately the same as me. And he's a millionaire. And people seem to like him despite the fact that he's clearly a total cock.

Leaving London

In a "Giraffe" restaurant in Belsize Park. The waiter is Italian and has "Only God can judge me" tattooed on his arm in English. A group of young mums, actually a platoon of young mums, rocks up and the place is instantly transformed into a creche. The rest of our meal is accompanied by the screaming and stamping of their children and their own strident and dull opinions yelled over the top of the hubub, as they tuck into their sauvingnon blancs at 12 o' clock in the afternoon.

* * * * * * * * * *

My last psychologists meeting. There is no money on my Oyster Card and I have to remove cash and then top up my card at the Post Office. The two men in front of me are both buying their first cans of the day and paying with pennies. They chat and as they chat the assistant drags each coin accross the counter, slowly and methodically. My bus pulls up outside, the elusive 210! If I don't get on it I can't be certain of getting a bus at all. I rush out of the shop and, apologising, thrust a tenner at the bus-driver. He stares at me, then it, then back at me again and shakes his head.

"Please," I say, "I have to get to a psychologist's appointment,". It was the wrong thing to say - there are always nutters on the bus - London transport doesn't need to advertise for one! He shakes his head again. His face is blank and glazed with sweat like a kebab revolving in a shop window. I get off the bus shouting pathetically over my shoulder "An unhelpful bus driver...what a surprise!"

He doesn't care and I feel that much worse for my feeble insult.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

I go into a cafe to get an Earl Grey to go. The man in front of me orders a coffee and pays for it. Then he decides he no longer wants it.

"I don't want that fucking coffee," he says in a weirdly aggressive way as if he had heard a rumour about the barrista's personal hygiene, "give me back my money! I ain't leaving till I get my money. Gimmee it, Now!"

He's a small man in a baseball cap and a leather jacket. The man serving him is much taller and, I'm assuming, in the right. But the little man, his face impassive and his voice trembling with emotion, is sending out electric bad-vibes and the barrista is visibly unnerved.

"You ain't the boss," says the man, "gimmee my money, get the boss, I ain't leaving; gimmee my money!"

The assistant shouts to the back of the shop and goes through the lengthy rigmarole of reopening the till without a sale. He sees me.

"Can I help you, sir?" he says.

"You're serving me, not this cunt," says the man, not looking at me, "Give me my money,"

The barrista opens the the till and gives him his money. The cappucino is still the steaming on the counter.

"Can I help you, sir?" says the assistant. He is visbly flustered.

"I'll have an Earl Grey to takeaway, please," I say.

"Turn the telly on," says the man, "you're not the boss. Get the boss in here - he always puts the telly on!"

There is a television over the door way. He has bought a coffee, refused to accept the coffee, demanded his money back and now wants to watch telly.

"It's broken," says the assistant, busying himself with my tea.

"Don't mug me off, you cunt! Where's the boss? You're not the boss. Turn the T.V. on."

The barrista shouts again and a large moustachioed man appears and the pair have a loud, animated conversation. I look around and the cap-and-jacket man has disappeared. The moustachioed man stands over me. I get change of my tenner in coins.

I'm leaving London.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Saw the English/Hungarian film "Severance" last night. It wasn't all that (it contained Danny Dyer) but it did have a beautiful gag in it. Two of the characters are discussing humane ways of killing people (they are arms manufacturers so it's shop talk really)and the one played by Toby Stephens, a sort of nostrilly version of Damian Lewis, counters the suggestion the guillotine is more humane than modern weapons because you're fully conscious of what's happening to you for a minute afterwards. Later on, of course, he is beheaded and you follow his eyes as he sees his murderer standing over his body and he gives a tiny triumphant smirk - he was RIGHT.

Well i liked it. It was subtly played. Toby Stephens is in one of my favourite films "Photographing Fairies" (not a title they would have used in the seventies). He plays a photographer who believes he sees tiny people in the woods after necking a load of lysergic flowers. The end of the film is accompanied by my favourite piece of music ever - Beethoven symphony 7 allegretto movement two*. The film also features her out of the Britta filter adverts with her tits out.

* * * * * * * * *

Feeling sad about David Bowie. He's not been seen for the best part of decade and I don't know what he's up to. A world where Dave Bowie isn't singing rubbish about outer space in his perfect voice is a smaller, colder one. There are loads of his records that I havent heard but that's not the point. The point is that somewhere out there Dave should be beavering away in his Swiss Schloss with a crack team of slightly too polished musicians trying to recreate what he heard on radio six that morning. But with aliens.

*It's also the closing song on "Zardoz" another fantastic film featuring Sean Connery in a nappy.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Charlotte Desperado

Back to the hospital again for the last English oncology appointment. We're here to beg medicine really, Kelly's not been on any drugs since they discovered that the last super chemo deluxe failed. So we'll see what happens. That's all we'll do - we'll be unlikely to influence anything one way or another.

The Breast-care nurse and the Willow Foundation both contacted us yesterday. Yet more forms to fill in but it looks as if the 19th is go - good job as I sent the invites out yesterday.

We were wandering around London most of yesterday with Kelly, first to her massage at the Marie Curie Hospice Centre in Belsize Park (where I wander around for an hour). From there Kelly wanted to walk to her psychologist's appointment in Archway. So we power up to Hampstead, along Hampstead Lane and on to Highgate and on to highgate proper. By the time we get to Highgate it is five to four and we still have to wade down Highgate Hill. There is crabbiness. Kelly makes the appointment ten minutes late and I retire to the Charlotte Despard for a white wine. There is only the bar-man in there and he has a broken arm. This means a chat. I take a swig of chablis and ask him about it. He gives me about half an hour on one breath, sparing no detail, being carefully specific about the ethnicities of the various people who have caused him upset. It transpires that he hasn't enjoyed his tenure at the Whittington Hospital. He objects to the A and E for not treating him for two whole hours and that there were tramps in the waiting room. People were rude to him. A man shouted. It goes on.

My mother's genes fulminate, bubbling within me; I need to compete. I can totally take this fucker apart with my hospital misery stories. He's got nothing. Two hours in A and E? Try 12 hours straight with no bed waiting for me at the end of it. Tramps in the hospital? Try an obese monoped in a wheelchair coming out of a ward toilet with no lock on it, reeking of fags and giving me a conspitatorial wink. But he carries on and on while I tenderise my tongue.

There is gap, a breath. I don't miss my chance and launch into my tale. I give him the volcanic-bubo-of-green-pus-as-a-result-of-an-MRSA-infected-pin-in-my-knee and he looks suitably aghast. I build to my rhetorical climax when, tragically, other customers come in and he waddles off to serve them clumsily with his knackered hand, immediately launching into another tirade against the NHS. I look at my phone and find that Kelly's psychologist hasn't turned up and she's been sitting in the astonishingly 70's foyer of Hell House on her own!

I rush to meet her and we walk home. I estimate that she's walked between five and six miles today. She seems so well that it's hard to believe that there is anything wrong with her. She's off to dinner in Finsbury Park's fashionable "Season" restaurant.

I stay in, clean the flat and watch a 1985 documentary on page three girls. It's a perfect night in. There are hardly any tits in it but the hair! The anklets! The blouson-style leather jackets! The smoking a cocktail cigarette with a moustachioed man in a nightclub! The bleached film-stock! Part of it was about a girl called Sharon Jay who wanted to be a page 3 girl. She won't be: she's caked in make-up and frazzled by high-lights. She's fifteen going on sixteen, getting her tits out on national television. A year older than I was in 1985. All I was worried about at the time was getting the grass stains out of my white, pleated chinos. I resist the urge to look up her career and what kind of career it was. She's docile and modestly pretty; an exact cross between Kim Wilde and Spagna. Nowadays she'd be orange, tattooed and miming blowjobs on Babestation.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Shite Rabbit

Newsflash Middle-aged women of Finsbury Park:All the Versace scarves and Dolce et Gabbanna glasses in the world aren't going to make you look chic if you gob in the street coming out of church.

Am late to meet Kelly. A chance conversation with Gwen ( kindly offering to pick Kelly up in the "new" Volvo; casette player as standard!) about, among other things, whether or not half-pipes appear naturally in the building world or are they hewn from from full-pipes by ambitious skaters (the alarming fact that Douglas used to be a skater also cropped up! He wore Vans! ). Here is Doug's scientific explanation of how flying carpets and, by obvious extension, skate-boards work:

"See this image of how a flying carpet maintains a high degree of apparent angular integrity in its total X-Z plane, with the deformations restricted to a local scale ~1/4 of the dimensions of the carpet, centered on the standing 'sweet spot'.


*** ****** *****
***** *****


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Doug often attempts to teach me high falutin' science and I fail to understand it for comic effect (and because it's TOO HARD). A recent lesson on time travel and its practical application dissolved into an arguement about whether Milky Way's "Red car and blue car had a race" advert was a viable example of illustrating faster than light travel from an objective perspective. I still think it does. I'm sure I saw James Burke do something similar.

We also discussed the Blue Peter book awards (and Biddy Baxter's need to show the mud spattered bare arses of the male presenters on every expedition - even Mark Curry! Dirty old Bidy!). Professional (read: amateur) interest stirred within me and I investigated the one Michael Lawrence (not the chemically polluted star of "Black Knight". Blood-stream like the Cuyahoga river, that man!) author of the Jiggy McCue series, including timeless work like "The Toilet of Doom" and "The Killer Underpants" - no one ever went broke selling bum, poo and wee to pre-teens! He's a rum old cove, bearded and crabby, and a welcome relief from all the bright eyed and beautiful young authors who seem to proliferate in the shallow waters of childrens publishing. He cheerfully admits (none too cheerfully) that he didn't start out writing for children, it just so happened that his first book to get published was a children's one and he just went with it. He also admitted that he couldn't be bothered reading contemporary children's authors and that the time it took from deciding to be a writer and being able to earn a living from it was about forty years! Another thirty five to go then! I find this strangely heartening. All the authors I read about are about 15 and fabulously feted for their first forays or they're already successful in some other arena and appear to be publishing books as a sort of hobby. Stupidly I don't really have a back-up plan - this is all I really want to do. So it is reassuring to find that other ugly people with art-school educations and no friends in the industry have managed to make it into print.

I then had a sudden urge to find out what a pangolin was (a sort of scaley ant-eater). And then I realised I was late.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

If you don't like stories about depressed men taking a walk I'd skip this one.

Back from the counsellor by the usual circuitous route. Well an unusual circuitous route as I managed to get lost in Hornsey. But as I always get lost you could call it usual. "Lost in Hornsey" - the romance of it! Well not for much longer.

The counselling session was the usual hour long philibuster. I was surprised as the depression has kicked in quite badly with Kelly's absense and I had been suffering from a keen bluntness to my faculties. But I rambled on like Robert Plant in a pack-a-mac. There's theatre there of course. I'm such a hollow and unnatural creature that even telling the truth I can't do it truthfully. Two more of these sessions to go and then nothing. Got a few more laughs out of the counsellor again today. Why am I trying to charm and impress my counsellor? What's wrong with me? What's you major malfunction, numbnuts?

As usual the words don't stop tumbling on the journey home. I am a mad rambling, in both senses of the word, figure striding over the hills of North London on the way out of Hell House. It's taken me over two hours and I'm not home yet. Which means that I have been talking out loud, to myself or someone else, for three hours. If I could write that much a day I ...well I would have a lot more written. Doesnt mean I'd get anything published though.

Today's route took me past the site of Andrew Marvell's cottage near Waterlow Park ("Andrew Marvell, what a marvel! I'd rather have written that than flown through Hitler's legs") past Betjeman and Houseman's houses in Highgate (next to each other" Like a literary "Never the Twain"!). Slightly down the road and towards East Finchley is a house, next to the Wrestler's pub where Charles Dickens "stayed". The plaque was about five times the size of poor old Andy Marvell's; a bit flash seeing as how he didn't even pay rent. On towards Muswell Hill and the last plaque of the day is the house Peter Sellers grew up in, not far from where my parents lived in the sixties. I avoid Muswell Hill and take the "Parkland Walk" to Alexandra Palace and then down towards Hornsey. The only plaques here are on park benches, donated by rich dead ladies from Highgate for poor people to wait on buses in splintered-arsed comfort.

Finally I rock up to Crouch End to check out the The Queens Hotel as a possible venue for Kelly's leaving do, come fortieth birthday party. It's lovely with a proper Victorian horse-shoe bar, molded stucco ceilings and stained-glass windows. It would make a brilliant party venue than Litro, Kelly's own choice, which has rebranded itself as a restaurant and is difficult to negotiate even if nobody is in it, given its size and abundance of trestle tables. Though if it's what she wants I'll move heaven and earth to see that she gets it.

Though I hope it doesn't come to that; it's almost impossible to get any sort of traction on the heavens and I'm rubbish with a shovel. With my back? I should bleedin' cocoa.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

"Hello Image"

Nothing from the Willow Foundation. Nothing from Kelly. No nothing*. Meeting the Steel boys later. I say "boys" but in truth we're all in our late thirties, though we act like boys.

Have been listening to a lot of early Cure for some reason. Clearly reverting to a sort of palsied adolescence.

I think I'll go for a walk. Get cold. Don't eat. Feel better.

*actually plenty o' nothing thanks.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Party fears, too

We are behind with the Willow Foundation. The Willow Foundation is a charity that provides "special days for seriously ill 16 to 40 year olds" and Kelly wants a party before she goes back to Ireland. Admittedly given my rather unstructured life-style and the continued fug of depression, days do tend to bleed weakly into one another, but I think it was well over a week ago that Kelly's breast care nurse agreed to fax her application form to them as "she knew someone". Well she evidently knows no one as they were posted and arrived only yesterday and, from what I can gather, without the notes that she was supposed to write alongside the application.

I'm terrified (read: worried) that we won't be able to get a venue for the 19th of March now (I had also completely forgotten about St Patrick's Day, which is a factor in North London).So I'm going to scour the neighbourhood and put my name down on anywhere I can find, as you would if you were hedging your bets with a wedding reception; praying that they don't ask for a deposit. Again flagrant hyperbolic language that I really must rein in: if they ask for a deposit I'll obviously just walk away. I won't be praying to anybody, especially "not you-know-who"*.

I would like to actually pull this off and not have everything go as woefully tits-up as everything else I do. I really am the King Midas of Bizarro-world. Which is a place in the D.C. universe, okay? Bizarro, a sort of rock faced anti-Superman, lives there. The planet is a cube because a cube is the exact mathematical opposite of a sphere. That's just science!

*He hasn't done us any favours. And is incorpreal anyway, so you couldn't call him "anybody" anyhow.