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December 30, 2004

Hiding the evidence

I was covered in red, it had dripped all down my legs. The woman at the bus stop looked over, to her, something obviously was night right. I needed to hide the bag, it was too heavy, and with my legs covered in red, things were getting worse. I was drawing unwanted attention. If I could hide the goods, I thought I could make it home and return with my car, the boot could be my saviour. What have I got myself into?

As I crossed the road, I remembered I needed some milk. However, what was meant to be a milk getting moment, turned into a mini shopping escapade. Of course, they never put the things you want at the front, more like at the back, forcing you to pass the rest of the goods on offer.

Well I needed a onion. I also needed some mushrooms, some chicken, three jars of pasta sauce, some bread, some tea bags, in fact I needed half the supermarket. And that was my mistake. What was meant to be a 70p bottle of milk, turned into forty pounds and four, heavy weighed, shopping bags.

Now, do I get the bus or walk the two miles home? I looked at the bus stop. Filled with eight pensioners, two tracksuit wearing kids and a mother and double decker pram, I decided that a walk was in order. Christmas had been unkind, a walk would be good.

After ten minutes, things started to go wrong. Shop at a cheap supermarket, and get cheap bags. It’s the first thing they do to reduce costs. And now I was paying for it. Three out of the four bags were starting to sag, the packet of bacon had sliced through the side of the other bag. Every time I went to cross a busy road, I knew that anytime, the entire contents of the bags could explode on the tarmac. Half way. Snap. The first bag gave way. Time to improvise. I stuck a packet of sausages in one pocket, two yogurts in the other, a breadstick under my arm. That allowed me to distribute the weight into the other three bags.

Just five minutes to go. Disaster. The three bags completely gave way, my toffee crisp fell to the ground with a box of eggs. As I bent down to pick up the eggs, the yogurts fell out of my coat, splitting on impact. Holding both bags with my arms, I struggled up the final hill. Then I realised the tomato and basil tomato sauce had broken on impact. Half the contents were dripping down my legs, leaving a trail of sauce along the pavement. Enough was enough. People were starting to stare. My only option was to find a bush to hide the contents of the two bags, allowing me to man handle the third split bag back home. If I planned it right, nobody would find the bag, allowing me to return in my car to pick up the scattered goods. Now for a quiet seaside town, a person dripping in red, trying to hide a bag, what would the neighbours think?

Relax, I'm in. Just sit down and have a cup of tea. Shit, I forgot to get the milk.

Finding somewhere to hid the bag....

the red all over my leg, looking very suspect......

The offending bags..... split wide open.....

The offending tomato and basil pasta sauce, the final straw....

December 28, 2004

It's not just for Christmas, it's for Ebay

So, it’s all over for another year. They were so keen to tell us about Christmas in November, the things you must buy, the things you must eat, the things you must do, the things you should watch on television. And what happens the day after Christmas? The same people show adverts which basically say ‘ha ha, I can’t believe you bought that DVD player at that price, you believed us! I tell you what pop in tomorrow and we will have the same DVD player for 50% less, in fact all the other things we said were brilliant were actually crap, and that’s why we have got a clearance sale tomorrow”.

With unwanted Christmas presents totalling 1.3 billon pounds this Christmas, it’s not surprising that Ebay is set to record sales figures in the upcoming months. Apparently, the top reason for unwanted Christmas presents is ‘Lack of usefulness and sheer bad taste’. And a quick look on Ebay confirms this. “A black and sparkly thong, unused and too small”. Now, did he have to try that on at Christmas in front of his partner, or like me, be honest this Christmas and say it was going on Ebay?

And then there were the damn stupid. I found a bright red body warmer. The woman said in her advert “My husband bought this for me for Christmas but forgot that I am no longer a size 14-16 because I am 8 months pregnant!”. Are you having a laugh? How can your husband forget that you are pregnant? You probably remind him about the fact every day. No, more like, it looks horrible, it will fit, just don’t want to tell him you hate it.

And then there was a guy who had put four ‘unwanted from Christmas’ Vintage t-shirts up for sale. Now, I’m not being funny, but when his missus says “John, how about wearing that vintage t-shirt today” and he says “errrr, it’s in the wash”, she is going to say, “What, all four of them”.

When I read “It has been blown on a few times” I thought I had clicked on the wrong site. But, no, someone got a clarinet for Christmas and didn’t want it. I mean, surely that’s the sort of thing you would only ask for. It’s not as if your parents are walking past the shops and say “hey, that’s a nice clarinet, I know she cant play an instrument but it’s a good starting point”. I can only imagine that after she taken a token couple of blows, she confirmed the worst.


I nearly ran the dog over in my car on the Christmas day walk....ooops.

Time for Christmas dinner, I pulled. The Christmas cracker.

The ten minute traditional thing. Watch the Queens Christmas speech. She always speaks a load of turkey if you ask me.

I love annoying the hell out of my sister, especially at the table...

Me, showing how happy I am at Christmas, a time to be jolly. Yes, whatever.

mum opening my presents..... just be honest and say it's crap... you are far too nice mum.

December 26, 2004

A bottle of Chang one minute, washed away the next

“Don’t you ever close” I asked the owner”. No, no, we stay here all day, all night, all year. Even at Christmas!”. I sat back and looked at the numerous postcards on the wall. Then I listened to the cheesy music that they put on, because it was western, and because they thought that we would like it. At that moment in time we were the most important people in the world to them. We were their lifeblood. They explained that the bar was the only thing they had. It wasn’t a very good bar, but it was their bar. They sleep in their bar, they drank in their bar, they did everything in their bar.

standing outside the bar with the ladyboys

As I sat down in front of the fire and sipped on my wine, I looked outside. It was cold. My thoughts went back six months, the beaches, the atmosphere, the people. As the channels were being flicked, one stuck. Sky News channel. And then I saw something that made me look. Like walking past someone in the street you think you know. The water was pouring through the streets, causing devastation. And then I saw the remains of a bar. The sign was being washed away. And then I realised it was the bar I had been sitting in six months ago in Phuket. The one that played cheesy Westen music. The one that they adored. The one that served me Chang beer into the early hours.

....and the devastation

Me standing on Phi Phi

And the next video. Phi Phi island virtually destroyed. I was standing there one minute, and the next.....

When we had been there, heavy rain for four hours had caused major flooding. The place simply could not cope with rain, let alone tidal waves. You never know when tragedy is round the corner, I just hope the people I came to know are okay.

December 24, 2004

Rubbish for Christmas

I was being held up. A large rubbish truck had stopped in front of me. Not loading empty rubbish bags into the back, more like opening Christmas presents left out for them by their ever so grateful customers. Just as I was debating to myself the perks and perils of being a garbage man at Christmas, a thought flashed into my head. It was one of those ‘have I locked the door’ or ‘have I closed all the windows’ moments that suddenly pop into your head for absolutely no reason. Well, I suppose this thought was a little more down the present opening rubbish collectors that were holding me up than just a bizarre random train of thought. And this was a little more important than glowing light bulbs or unfastened doors.

I stopped the car and went straight to the boot. The black rubbish bag was there. It was the contents of the black rubbish bag that was more concerning. A quick feel, suspicions confirmed. A loose banana skin, an empty carton of milk and some half dried, tomato covered, pieces of pasta. The rubbish men would be getting some Christmas gifts, albeit unintentionally. Instead of crushing the empty box of PG tips tea, they would be crushing three mini bottles of wine, a bottle of Scotland’s finest malt whiskey, and a selection bath oils. My sense of humour, although described as dark, surely would not extend to wrapping up banana skins and attaching labels to the dearest. That would be absurd and totally inappropriate, especially at Christmas. We all know banana skins are notoriously difficult to wrap up. So, admitting defeat, I turned the car around and returned to swap the black bags over. Next time maybe using a black rubbish bag for your sack of presents is not such a good idea.

The good willed Christmas present giving community that had delayed and annoyed me, had in turn, helped me. The rubbish men had not come, and the presents remained gleefully intact, with the addition of some pasta shells from flat 33 which had superficially planted themselves on the case of wine.

I pulled up to the lights, having remembered at the last minute to return my three Blockbuster rented DVD ‘s to their rightful owner. Then another thought flashed through my mind. Had I remembered to put the rightful DVD’s in their rightful boxes? The night before I had been tidying up, putting DVD’s in any boxes I could find, to save time, and sanity. Of course I would make sure the right boxes would be found the next morning. Well that was if I was to get up at the right time, which of course I missed. The next thought was slightly more provoking. Christmas day, a family sitting around a lit fire place. An eagerly awaiting youth demanding “Mummy, can we put Shrek on now please?”. The thoughts turned to the next household, boxing day, a group of middle aged something blokes putting on a film to get them going. “Mummy, why is that man with a mask eating someones brain?”. The credits started, John sits back with his mates, they all look at him, it’s as if they are in a land far, far away. Maybe the kid and his family will like Hannibal, you never know.

December 23, 2004

Christmas Eve, school reunited

The Last Post pub in Southend. It’s the official meeting point for people that I went to school with ten years ago at Southend High School. Every year I go back and certain thoughts will always enter into my head:-

1) Being surrounded my underage sixteen year old kids makes me say “Is it me, or do they look like fourteen year olds? I’m sure they start drinking younger ever year”. At that point a take a seat with a pint of Bitter amongst the cider drinkers, loosen my slippers, and adjust the buttons on my cardigan whilst observing the drunken antics of overly excitable Alco pop drinking youths.

2) My dad offers me a lift to the pub which is twenty miles away. I reject it and lecture him on how it’s not a good idea as he normally drinks on Christmas Eve. We then have a conversation with him saying “Yes, but back in my day in New Zealand you could drink drive all you wanted, there was no traffic”. Then I say to him “Look dad, that was thirty years ago, the only thing you could crash into was sheep, and the police officers were drunk themselves so they didn’t care. Anyway, you can’t drive in a straight line when you are sober, let alone after two shandies”. In the end I always drive myself.

3) I see people that have not changed at all since they were fifteen. A little less hair maybe, a bit chubbier, but, exactly the same.

4) We always say “We must keep in touch, however we all secretly know that keeping in touch means we will see each other at the same time, in the same pub, next year at Christmas Eve.

It’s the same with school reunions. The success of has created more and more retro get togethers. I tend to trawl through the site and crack the complex code that exists underneath the descriptions. For example take the following advert. It’s very cleaver, but the trick is reading in between the lines:-

“Hiya, good to see some familiar names up here talking about the good old days! After school, I set my own catering business. I married Susan last year (Yes, Suzie from year one!) and now we have just bought our own home. Looking after the two kids takes up most of my time, but it would be great to hear from you! Get in Touch. James”

Really means……………

After failing miserably at school (no thanks to you guys) I went on the dole for a year before getting my own burger stand selling wholesale food to the local industrial site and their rude workers. I married Susan last year, the one that everyone thought was a minger but did not have the guts to tell me to my face. We married last year after she accidentally got pregnant, by another man. We have separated but still share the same house with her new partner and their other child due to the high mortgage payments on the house. To be honest, I will be amazed if you email me, I don’t know why I have even registered on the site, it seemed like a good idea at the time. James (or pizza face as I was more commonly known)”

As we are standing in the pub, the memories will start to come back. And then they will fade, for another year.

December 21, 2004

Ten things in the last week………

Most annoying moment

Standing behind a lady in the supermarket today. Okay, not annoying in itself. But it was when she said “Can you change these two fifty pound notes for ten clean brown ten pound notes. They need to be clean and non crinkled as they have to be put in cards for Christmas presents”. After making the assistant go through twenty five notes, she rejected six, failing to get past her quality control programme.

Biggest temporary high

Winning a fifty to one football bet which means I can buy Christmas presents after all this year. If only my family knew their gifts were only as a result of a six bet accumulator, with the last match being secured in the last minute of the game.

Funniest moment

Watching a annoying sixteen year old kid trying to impress a girl, being trapped by the bus doors as they closed. Deep shades of red.

Prolonged high

Receiving a Christmas present from someone I met on my travels. The thought that went into the present was immense. Why do people put “do not open until Christmas’ on the packet? It just makes it even more tempting to open it. Of course I didn’t open it, I’m just guessing the thought that went into the present was great.

Most painful moment

My feet after a twenty one mile walk to another town and back. Seemed a good idea at the time.

Strangest look of the week

The guy I went to see in between the twenty one mile walk. Followed by “Are you crazy?”

Best film I watched this week

Red Dragon. Not the best choice after a chicken pasta and red wine sauce dinner admittedly. But hey, human flesh does taste like chicken, errrrr apparently.

Weirdest moment

A woman in a video shop choosing the same three DVD’s as me, then following my car home for two miles. Only lost her when the lights went red.

Reoccurring thought

Why am I here and not in Canada or Sydney. And how to I get there with no money?

December 17, 2004

It's all in the name....

Why am I called Coops? Well, it’s to stop people calling me ‘Richard’ instead of ‘Rich’. Well I don’t like the name Richard, and it has stuck with me for the last twenty six years, I have to use it on a daily basis. The thing is, I don’t mind Rich, so I actively started using that name a year ago. If I put it on a document, people will look at it and say, “so, Richard……”. If I say my name is Rich over the phone, they always end saying “Is that short for Richard?”, and I always end up saying “No, it’s short for Jonathan, what do you think?”. Being called Rich does create problems though. In Thailand, I had to fend off the local ladies after they though I was actually rich. In Singapore, people thought I was indulding my financial status everytime I walked into a shop and "Hi, I'm rich". In short, literally, that’s why I’m called Coops, and before you ask, yes it is short for Cooper.

Do I really care? Well, maybe not that much. And the reason why is sometimes I think it could have been a lot worse. Earlier this month a couple named their newly born baby Drew Peacock. Well what’s wrong with that? Well, I’m sure he will be the talk of the playground when his friends shout out “Oi, Droopy Cock”. And to make matters worse, the parents are not going to be correcting this error!

December 15, 2004

Wedensday 15th December

Things ‘The Times’ taught me today………….

English women drink the third most booze in Europe. You may think, 'well at least they are not first', but then again, I doubt anyone could beat the Irish who occupy top spot.

For the first time ever, young English women now drink more than blokes. No wonder I am scared to go out sometimes.

Foreigners are increasingly being admitted to hospital with ‘Paris Syndrome’. This is particularly apparent with Japanese people who find the French rude, inpatient, aggressive and making fun of their culture. I’m sure London Syndrome will be next, started by paying two pounds for a cold cup of coffee.

Conversations that made me lookup whilst shopping today

Lady on mobile phone : “Yes I know he hated that jumper last year, but it’s got a third off this time and as it’s a different colour, he will probably never notice”

Husband to his wife : “Joyce, what about this painting for your mother, she like water colours doesn’t she?”
Wife: “Barry, she went totally blind in January, I hardly think she will notice if we give her a water colour or a crayon drawing by a four year old”

Husband to his increasingly angry wife : “What’s the point in buying a pack of 30 Christmas cards, we only know five people”

Odd things I have read recently.

‘LONDON (Reuters) - Nursing home staff have paid tribute to a 105-year old woman who had smoked since the age of 15, by cremating her with a packet of Bensons and laying a large floral cigarette on her coffin.

Apart from her 15-a-day habit, she was also notorious amongst staff for her unhealthy eating habits, often asking for sugar in her soup and always demanding three sugars in her coffee.
Staff played the song Smoke Gets in Your Eyes at Ellis' funeral and are planning a memorial concrete ashtray for her in the nursing home garden, where her ashes will also be buried. ‘

LONDON (Reuters) - The aristocracy has long been an exclusive club but now anyone can become a Lord or Lady -- for as little as 30 pounds.
A raft of web sites are offering one square foot of the Glencairn Estate in northeast Scotland and, with it, access to the prestigious-sounding title of Lord/Laird and Lady of Glencairn. is offering the "fun" title as the "ideal gift for anyone who aspires to greatness" for 29.99 pounds, which includes a deed of ownership, a map of the Glencairn estate and a card which proves their title.

LONDON (Reuters) - Sales of tea towels are booming as parents use them as headdresses for their children in primary school Nativity plays, Sainsbury's supermarket says.
So great is the demand -- known in the trade as the Bethlehem Boost -- that Sainsbury's has ordered extra supplies.

December 14, 2004

Updates from previous entries

Getting Sweet and Sour Chicken Balls at 3am

My favourite meal is Sweet and Sour chicken balls. I don’t know why, they just are. When I was on my travels for six months, not one Chinese Restaurant seemed to sell them. The closest I got was in Townsville Australia, albeit the chicken balls were not balls, and they were not covered in batter. Anyway, when a Chinese takeaway opened until 3am, it was great. When this Chinese takeaway happened to open next door to the pub I tend to get quite drunk in quite a bit, utopia. No more Kebabs, chips or burgers, but a number 32, Sweet and Sour Chicken Balls with egg fried rice to go. The only problem I have found with this (it’s becoming a bit of a habit) is:-

1)I walk four miles home which takes an hour (on a good night) and an hour and a half (when swaying). As a result my favourite balls tend to get a bit cold.

2)I live in England. I live in England and it just happens to be winter. This means it is quite likely that it will be raining. Not only do I get wet, but my balls get rather soggy

3)Swaying. Walking a long way home, after a few pints of bitter shandy can cause you to move from side to side. As a result it has been known or more than one occasion that I have lost a few balls after they have come out of the bag, Not good in terms of value for money

4)Fallen asleep. In some cases where I have had a long walk and had a few beers, I tend to get a bit tired and fall asleep (some people call this passing out but honestly, my eyes are just tired). The whole point of buying Sweet and Sour Chicken Balls in the first place (hungry when drunk) is obsolete, and I’m left to look at my prized possession sitting bagged in the fridge the next morning which goes on to my last point…..

5)Having Sweet and Sour Chicken Balls from not the best Chinese Takeaway in town can be a disappointing affair in the morning. Of course at 3am they are not going to cook them on the spot, plus they are selling to customers who are probably drunk and won’t come back. This is confirmed when I heat up my stone cold balls in the microwave and discover that they always taste better the night before.

In conclusion, I either get a taxi home (which costs ten pounds and a considerable queue) and have them as soon as I get in or, refrain from the number 32 order in future.

The search for X-Z

I spent the whole day looking for a DVD called ‘You can count on me’ after hearing a couple of Directors talking about it. After being determined not to get it online, I did get it online after depressing myself in the shops. I had convinced myself that the reason that the shops had not got it was because everyone has bought it. Anyway I got it one week later online, and I think now it was the case that they didn’t think anyone would rent it or buy it in the shops, that’s why it’s not there. I rented out ‘Cruel Intentions’ and found that far more entertaining.

Night out in Brighton

Being fooled by thirty eight year old women in seafront nightclubs obviously didn’t put off us that much. We are going to the same nightclub for New Years Eve. This time it’s funky night, fifteen pounds entry.


Well even though a lot of the things led up to me thinking that a certain job was perfect, it turns out that I was over qualified and they were offering fifteen thousand pounds less than I am looking for. I’m putting fate to one side for now.

December 11, 2004

Christmas parties and black jumpers

“I’m not being funny, why are you wearing a big black jumper that look amazing similar to my, big, black jumper?” I probed. “Errrr, my mate found it, eerrrrr sorry, I’m really sorry, look, errrrrr take it back please”. Whilst shaking my hand I replied, “Look I don’t care how you got it, give it back to me now”.

One of the good things about working at this time of the year is office parties. Well as I am not working, it was time to find someone else’s Christmas party. In essence it’s not that difficult to gatecrash one, all you need to know is where it’s being held and what company is holding it. If you can get these vital snippets of information, the doors open to free drinks and an array of slightly stale finger food.

As I approached the door man, he glanced in my direction. “Private function tonight” he said. “JP Morgan” I replied. The doors opened. As simple as that. Despite getting the “does he work here looks” from those at the bar, I took my place in the corner and helped myself the thirteen sausage rolls, two slightly flaky biscuits and two free pints of beer. Have I said before how much I like Christmas? It was interesting observing the ‘in office’ flirting, people who don’t drink get drunk, listening to the work gossip, but, as always, the Christmas party DJ was starting to play songs nearly as cheesy as the finger dips on the table.

Onto Walkabout, the Australian sports bar. In a protest of having to pay two pounds to get in, I decided, like I normally do, to boycott the cloak room charges. Quite why anyone should pay a couple of quid for someone to put a coat on a hanger is beyond me. Anyway, all you need to do is find a nice dark corner to house your temporarily unwanted garments. My chosen gap was between two sofas, the black jumper was hidden in the shadows, or so I thought.

At two am, it was time to go. The eight pints of premium larger had, as always, taken too much out of me. Once again I was dancing to songs I hate, I was looking at people that I shouldn’t be looking at and my brain and my body were seriously falling out. When my friends decided to advance onto the stage, it was time for me to walk, that’s all I could gauge.

Right, time to find that jumper. All that remained was an empty gap. My long standing jumper hiding, cloakroom avoiding, tactic had failed for the first time. Slightly buoyed by the premium larger, and looking ahead to the four mile close to freezing walk home, I was determined to solve this crime. Think like Colombo. Think motive. Think clues. Look around for suspects. If this was going to be an episode of Colombo it would have lasted two minutes.

Standing beside me was a guy hardly over five foot seven, wearing a big black extra large jumper. He was in a group of seven people, but I wanted it now, I could smell the sweet and sour chicken balls up the road. Thank god I’m a lot bigger than him.

December 09, 2004

The man upstairs is an axe murderer

I watched Colombo religiously at University, so I’d like to think I know a fair bit about criminal instincts. I’ve convinced myself that the man who lives above me is, a murderer. For a start there is constant banging noises, endless arguments and a stream of women coming and going. And then there is his garage, he spends far too much time in there and is always dragging bags around. Okay, maybe he is not a murderer, but it makes all the noises from upstairs that bit more bearable.

Subconsciously I know more about this person than I really want to know. I know he uses a rowing machine, at seven o’clock for twenty minutes. I know he has got wooden floorboards, I can tell that every time he walks anywhere in his flat. I know what bus his girlfriend gets, I know what make of dye she uses in her hair. I can hear her shout it in the bathroom. I know which television station he likes, and I guess he has probably got an expensive surround sound system set up. I know he likes dance music, well hard thrashing techno to be more precise. But probably most disturbingly is that if I’m having a bath sometimes I can hear he is running one as well. Yes, that one is particularly off putting whilst I try and read my book.

But hey. I try to make the half empty glass a little more half full. There are benefits. If he is watching a particularly good programme on t.v, I can then tune in myself to watch the picture as well as the sound, it’s like having an extra t.v guide up there. And music. Sometimes I don’t even have to turn my stereo on, he does it for me. Despite the muffled sound caused by the ceiling, I can normally hear all the lyrics. Who needs to be watching Jerry Springer when I’ve got my own live shouting match upstairs, I mean quotes like “Go away, you bore me, I don’t like you, just leave me alone” do provide me with a little bit of entertainment.

To be fair, I have lived in places that were much worse. I remember being woken up by a man snoring below me every night three years go. I could actually hear the conversations of my two neighbours either side of me. Sometimes I felt like shouting to the girl up above to wake up, her alarm was going off every ten minutes after seven.

One day I’ll get a house, but it won’t be half as interesting.

December 07, 2004

Reluctant strike

From behind us the DJ appeared from nowhere. “And our first request is Macarena by Los Lobos, requested by Katie from Poole”. As the music started a group of teenagers formed a line. Not only was it the worse song officially made, ever, I suddenly found myself surrounded by dancing youths high on Coco-Cola, jelly beans and adolescent love.

Sunday evenings for most people mean one thing. The last bit of freedom before a new week at work. Even though you tend to do nothing, time still evaporates like the morning dew on s summers day. You don’t expect calls from you friends. Films, music and relaxation take centre stage. “Coops, are you up for bowling tonight?” came the voice from my vibrating phone. Within five seconds I would have to give my answer. Right let me think……….

Ten Pin Bowling always makes me wince. The first thing is the shoes. Their design can only be justified as some sort of anti theft device. The two tone pieces of leather would only be realistically stolen by clowns. They have the effect of making your feet look a lot longer than they actually are and without question they smell. Of other peoples feet. This makes it all the more laughable that you actually have to trade your shoes with the clowns feet. You may be thinking ‘Who cares, everyone else is wearing them’. Well, whilst on a work ‘team building’ afternoon two years ago we went ten pin bowling. The fire alarm went off and we had to get outside. As it was raining I walked around the shops wearing my two tone clown feet. All I am saying is that you never know when clowns feet have to go public.

Okay, it’s not just the shoes. Bowling does strange things to me. I always try and start with the big black 14 ball. It’s only when you try and lift the black 14 ball that you quickly realise maybe it would be better if you put it down before anyone sees you. A quick glance over, of course, the finger holes are not right, nothing to do with the weight. Why is it I can bench press by body weight but have to down grade to a pink size 10 bowling ball?

Well maybe it’s because we are not meant to pick up large, heavy round things with our fingers. The last thing I picked up and put my fingers into was a glove. Then there is the action. I look more like a penguin on slippery ice than a swan gliding down a lake. I must have been sick when they taught bowling lessons at school.

So I always end up the pink ball, I look like some drunk heading towards the alley, but it’s only a bit of fun right? Wrong. There is always someone in the group who played for the local under fourteens bowling team when they were younger and fail to mention this. The sort of people that glide down the alley. The sort that put reverse outward spin on the ball to increase their chances of a strike. The sort that try and give you that look of ‘it was just lucky really’ after getting their tenth strike in a row.

…… “Yeah, meet you down there at seven”. After all Sunday nights were, Sunday nights after all. I am a big believer in giving as opposed to receiving. They could all have a laugh at my expense.

As I stood with pink ball in hand ready to make my approach along the ice, I was suddenly halted in my steps by a beaming voice. The lights went out, the pins illuminated in front of me. This wasn’t just normal ten pin bowling. This was disco glow in the dark bowling. Then I realised just whey I had not been ten pin bowling for such a long time. Twenty something blokes don’t go ten pin bowling. More to the point they don’t go on ‘disco night’ on a Sunday. Not only was my bowling ball glowing pink now, I was standing in the middle of a disco. All I needed now was my parents to pick me fashionably early.

December 05, 2004

The search for V-Z

Without thinking I have become reliant on the internet to assist me in my daily life. I do my banking online, shifting money through my accounts to make things look better than they actually are. Of course it also saves me standing behind Iris the granny in my local bank talking about her new comfortable shoes to the lady behind the window. I buy my lottery tickets online, it evens sends me an email if I win. But more significantly, it means I don’t have to trawl around and find a shop in which the lottery machine actually works. And the frustration of Uncle Albert being told his ticket isn’t valid as he has not ticked the 42 box properly.

When the flowers need to be sent I don’t have to embarrass myself in the florist pretending to know the difference between scented Chrysanthemum (wrapped) and yellow loosely tied Freesia. When I hear a song that takes my fancy I just download it, right there and then. In the past my shelf has been full of unused CD’s. I was to learn at great cost that just because somebody makes one good song, it does not mean the other thirteen songs on their album will be any good. In fact I can guarantee with experience they probably won’t be.

But today I was willing to turn my back on the internet for once. I wanted to see a film and I wanted to see it now. My good friend the Internet could get me that film in two days but that was, well in two days. And it all seemed so easy, where was the challenge? Whilst watching the director’s commentary on a film last night all three of the commentators mentioned a film. It went something like this. “Ah yes, we wanted Laura Linney, she was so good in ‘You can count on me’. Have you seen it Hugh?” They all went to concur just how good they thought this film was. It was just like when you are with your friends and they start talking about films you had not seen. I started to feel I was missing out. Why hadn’t I seen it? The film could be the worst ever made but at that moment in time I thought it was best. I wanted to know what I had been missing out on.

Of course. The video shop must have it. Now where do I start. Blockbuster don’t organise their DVD’s by name, more like ‘Top Ten’ or ‘Latest releases’. It was made in 2000 so hardly going to fit into those two. Now why don’t I just ask? Well I’m still put off asking after my last experience at the counter. When I asked if they had ‘Freddy Got Fingered’ the queue of ten behind me looked at me like some dirty porn addict, they obviously didn’t know I was looking for the comedy by Tom Green. And there was another reason that was demonstated again on this occasion. “Have you got ‘You can count on me’ in stock” I asked. Without typing anything into his computer the little spotty boy behind the desk said “No” without an ounce of doubt. Admittedly he did look like the type to memorise thousands of film titles in his spare time but I doubted even if he could recall the whole stock of the shop.

It hadn’t started well. And it wasn’t getting any better. I went to all different types of video shop, the small ones, the big ones, the ones stocking old VHS tapes, the ones selling Christmas cards, the dodgy ones, the new ones. Every single one of them gave me a look as if I had just asked for a Big Mac in Burger King, complete blankness. had the film waiting for me on their screen, why was this such hard work?

If I can’t rent it, I’ll buy it. I don’t really want to buy it, I don’t even know what this bloody film is like but now I was determined to get it. If someone says I can buy a Big Mac in Burger King then there must be a reason why they said that. Having discounted the five video shops, it was time for HMV. They said they had it on their website so surely this was going to be easy. In the packed Christmas induced shop I squeezed my way through to the V-Z DVD section. Just as I was thinking that nobody would want a film starting with V, W, X, Y or Z I was confronted with a gaggle of people flicking through films starting with X. It was just my luck that at the same time as I was looking for a film beginning with ‘Y’, I had to be standing behind some twenty something trekkies who it seems had a strong liking for the X-Files.

In most cases this wouldn’t be a problem. Each to their own. However what I did take exception to was them discussing every episode in moribund detail from start to finish. By the time they had finished I knew more about the plot of the second series of the X-Files than the cast themselves. Relief. They moved sideways to the ‘S’ section, just enough room for me to take over the V-Z section. Here Goes ‘You only live Twice’, no, ‘You can’t take it with you’ no, but getting closer. That’s it. Only two films under the ‘Y’ section. My forced lecture of the X-Files had been in vain.

After two hours, eleven shops, five quizzical expressions, one conversation about the X-Files and a new found knowledge of films beginning with the letter ‘Y’ I had given up. In fact I was secretly quite relived that I had not found the film. Just like spending lots of time and money preparing and getting excited about New Years Eve, it would have probably been shit anyway. Hang on, £5.99 on, bargain, I'll soon find out.

December 03, 2004

Observations of the week

My week of observations………………………

Mobile Phones

Old people hold the phone with their left hand and type with their right index finger as opposed to holding the phone with their right hand and using their right thumb. Which means they officially cant text and drive


You wake up remembering your dream vividly. Then by the afternoon you have all but forgotten it


Whilst driving back from London I thought to myself…….anybody driving slower than me is an idiot, and anyone going faster than me is a maniac

Am I the only one that thinks “what have I been doing for the last twenty minutes” after going on auto pilot in the car on the motorway

Has anyone else looked in your interior mirror at the person in the car behind you and then realised they are looking at you looking at them

On the train

Why do people study things like adverts when they sit opposite somebody on the train? Is it to avoid eye contact?

When people on the underground train go underground, why do they look so shocked and annoyed that their phone call gets cut off. You are underground for Gods sake.

Walking in London

Why when I wear a suit, does everyone think I am the official guide to London, surprisingly I have not got an A-Z of London stored in my head

Nobody wears watches anymore, they just look at their phone for the time

When walking along a narrow street with someone approaching who chooses to stick to the left or right?

General Question

When you walk past someone in the street do you look at them or what? Please help me on this one.

December 01, 2004

Procrastinating again.....

What a crap radio station. They had played Eminen’s ‘With or without me’ four times. It was a different version than I had heard before, without lyrics. Strange I thought. In fact it sounded like the ring tone on my phone. Now my phone was making me feel stupid. How many times will I miss answering my own phone thinking it was a song on the radio? Instead of blaming the advances of polyphonic ring technology maybe I should look at myself. Maybe I should change it to a standard ring tone that just beeps or rings. More importantly, and more worryingly, if I can’t remember the ring tone of my own phone either nobody ever phones me or, more likely, I am too stupid to own a phone in the first place.

‘4 Missed calls’. I have leant to nullify my anticipation when seeing this sign. I know now without thinking that this is only one call. One real missed call and three calls from my answer phone telling me to stop being stupid -it was not the radio, it was your phone ringing. “Number Withheld”. This meant one thing. It was the job agency. The procrastinating mood I had been in before was quickly transformed into a thinking mood.

“Just giving you some feedback from the company, they said the final interview went well and they are going to give us a decision by next week”. In many ways I wanted the message to say “To be honest they thought you were well out of your depth, we thought your tie was ‘soooo nineties’ and we noticed you picking your nose outside, we just don’t think you will fit in”. Why would I have wanted this? Well, it would have removed the choice. Right now I had too many choices. Don’t get me wrong choices can be good. It can be nice choosing between a Toffee Crisp and a Mars Bar. It’s not that bad picking a double vodka and Redbull over a pint of Stella. It’s easy choosing between strawberry jam on my toast or having marmite. It’s nice to have choices. It’s just the life changing choices that I am procrastinating about.

This time it’s choosing between living and working in London or staying in Bournemouth. It’s about having a proper career in a successful company as opposed to a easy life in small local company. It’s deciding whether I would prefer to work from nine till seven and getting home in time for bed or sticking to what I know and being able to walk home at five thirty. Do I want the bright lights of London or the blue rinse pensioners of Bournemouth? Would it be better to stay around with my friends or seek new acquaintances? I then complicate myself even more, what about working in Sydney or Canada? And the more I think about it, the more I procrastinate. It seems my ‘leaving it to fate’ method gets a little unstuck when you have to make decisions. Fate hasn’t left me with a sole choice, but lots. As I walked back through the streets of London I was grateful for the distractions, I’ll think about it later.

Distractions like Christmas. A huge forty foot Father Christmas to be a little more specific. Not in a shopping centre. In the garden of a small house to the right of me. Not only was the white bearded man bigger than the house itself, it was actually outdone by the twenty foot illumined reindeer standing next to him. And then I walked past the next house. To say the neighbours were competitive would be an understatement. This house had a larger fifty foot Father Christmas, three thirty foot reindeer and a light show you could see from space. One nil to the Bennett family at number thirty two. And they are not alone. The current favourite for ‘most stupidly decorated house at Christmas’ goes to a family in Scotland. They have over one million light bulbs in their front garden light show, connected by fourteen hundred feet of cable. Just why seemingly normal families try to make their homes look like fun fares for thirty days of the year always make me wonder. Maybe I should make more effort? I don’t even put the paper hats from the crackers on my head at Christmas let alone spray my windows with fake snow.

Right, time for really important decisions. What the hell am I going to write about.


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