Friday, 23 October 2009

Two Days

7.30am on a day in early November 2008. I wake up fully recharged after a full night's sleep. That's how it always is, apart from the weekends when I often wake up with a hangover. There is a fine mist outside but the sun is out and it's going to be a nice day. I doze for 20 minutes before I get up and have a shower and then a cup of tea while I read my emails and Facebook messages and watch Sky Sports News on tv. I can take my time. I work just a few miles away and don't need to be there until nine.

I arrive at nine after a journey punctuated only by a stop at the newsagent's to get a Guardian. Work is work, it's okay. I'll need to get another job one day but not yet. My motivation to do so is low, as is my self-confidence. The day passes without much incident, as it usually does. And then I drive home.

I'm home before my flatmate. He generally gets in as the second part of the Friends double bill is on and I'm draining my second coffee. How was your day? Fancy a pint? What are you up to this weekend? Okay. No thanks. Not much. Then dinner, the second installment of the chilli concarne I made yesterday. Day old chilli always tastes nicer and comes with the added bonus of being ready after two minutes in the microwave.

I'm staying in tonight, as usual. Going out on weekdays is something I did when I was younger. I value a relatively early night now plus a clear head in the morning. So what's on tv? Not much normally but there'll probably be a wildlife documentary or some decent sitcom repeats to pass the time. And then to bed. Nice and early, around ten, so I can get some reading done. Reading sets me up nicely for sleeping. I love to read, and at some point I'll nod off without even knowing it and wake up in the morning ready for another unchallenging day. It's a simple life, far too simple, and I long ago gave up any pretence that this is what makes me happy. But this is what I do and I know no other way.


7.30am on a day in early November 2009. I've been awake for well over an hour after a broken sleep and left the bed half an hour ago. It's nice to have a cuddle with my girlfriend in those barely awake moments that occur before the alarm goes. And then it's off to the stables.

Caleb's large white head peers out at me from the stable door as I arrive. He's always pleased to see me because I give him breakfast and let him out into his field. This is all I have to do here as one of the girls will muck out on their way home from school in the evening. It's good to get some early morning fresh air, and the sight of the rabbits or a pheasant scuttling across the fields reminds me that I'm in a very nice part of the world.

Back home to get ready for work. As I step out of the bathroom one of the children hands me a cup of tea, today it's Lee. They're always keen to get my opinion on the quality of their tea so they can boast to the others that they make the best cup. I have long ago given up rating the children's teas anything other than very good, and equally as good, no better or worse, than the ones their siblings make. This means I don't have to deal with any resentment. I learnt this lesson early on and apply it rigorously in every situation where competition may arise. It makes for a much easier life for me.

A packed lunch is made for me too, by Sarah or one of the two older girls, Melody or Paige. Tea and a packed lunch made for me; I feel quite humbled whenever this happens. It's so nice to have people who are happy to do things for me. At least one of the children will then ask me to drop them off at school as I'm on my way to work. Normally I'll say no. It will probably make me late for work and so I don't want to go out of my way. I'm also thinking of banning the school lifts altogether because of the resentment it causes to those who haven't had as many lifts as the others. Or rather, because of the earache I suffer because of this resentment.

I have a 25 mile journey to work these days and it's not much fun. I'm frequently late because of traffic congestion on the motorways but my management is sympathetic. Work is work, it's okay. I'll need to get another job soon though. I now have a proper reason to do so. I need to earn more money, and then more money after that. There are seven of us in the house, soon to be eight. Even if the seven wasn't enough then that eighth member of the family is all the motivation I need. For the first time in my life I need to provide for someone other than myself and it will be a privilege to do so.

The drive home from work is always worse. It's dark and there is, without fail, a traffic jam for at least part of the journey. Dinner is presented to me shortly after I walk in but never before I've had a cuddle with Sarah. Again I feel humbled. I just sit down and someone puts dinner on my lap! I cook dinner on a Tuesday. Or a Wednesday. I should do it more often as Sarah is tired. The pregnancy is really taking it out on her. Her tummy holds a hyperactive girl who seems to be literally fighting to get out. She has around two months left before this little girl emerges and that time can't pass quickly enough.

So, who's cleaning the kitchen tonight? An easy decision. A couple of the kids have been naughty and so it's down to them. Then this will happen: they will squabble in the kitchen. Shortly afterwards they will walk into the living room and claim to have finished cleaning. Upon cursory inspection this will prove to be untrue and they will be told to finish the job properly. They will return to the living room and repeat their claim to have finished cleaning. The claim will be untrue, again. Usually by the third claim the kitchen will have been cleaned to a satisfactory standard.

There's time for a little television before bed. I'm usually in bed by ten, not so I can read but because I'm tired. My body runs to a different clock now. My day starts and finishes a couple of hours earlier than it did this time last year and I'm often tired, but I know that once my daughter is born I'll be regarding this time as a golden age of leisure and rest. I go to bed. I'm happy and weary and possess a feeling of belonging and purpose that had eluded me for all but the last few months of my life. Sleep comes quickly.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009


I wrote this little thing a few months ago and forgot to publish it. Better late than never I suppose.

Having a girlfriend with five children has introduced me to many new experiences this year, the most recent being the first time I've been on a family holiday since I was a child, and being an adult on that family holiday. An all-inclusive break in Tunisia and it was great fun. Chucking children around in swimming pools is brilliant, as is embarrassing them in front of their holiday friends, example: "Is this the boy you said you liked?". Great fun!

One thing, however, really struck me while i was there, even more than the discovery of the totalitarian nature of all-inclusive holidays (You will eat at this time! You will do these activities! No, you will not do anything else!). And that is what a lot of fat people there are. This shouldn't surprise me since I live in the western world and get to see the people of the western world on a daily basis. But it did surprise me, probably because I normally see these people covering up their flesh, not exposing it to the sun. I am absolutely not a body fascist but was just amazed by the amount of fat about. I'm not just talking overweight, most of us are a little overweight and I see no problem with that. I'm talking obesity. Really, really offensively fat. It was bloody horrible and made my eyes hurt.

What a lot of fat kids there are too! This post was nearly titled Fat Kids, such was their prevalence. They repulsed me a little bit. Is that wrong? It's not that I was repulsed on a personal level, more that I was quite repulsed by their sheer number. Children aren't meant to be fat, their parents have much more of an excuse in that area. Also, they were mostly German and therefore, in addition to being physically distasteful, they were audibly distasteful. The boys should all be called Augustus Gloop. The German language and the children that speak it are unattractive. Picture it. A fat boy lumbers from the pool. He waddles over to his mother who sits on the sun lounger that she had reserved at 7am (that really happens! I love it when a stereotype turns out to be true!)

"Mutti! Ich will ein eis bitte! ICH WILL EIN EIS!"

It's not pretty, is it?

The British were greatly outnumbered by the French and, particularly, the Germans at my hotel, something else I'd not previously experienced. I have no problem with this at all since I'm unlikely to talk to anyone I don't know on holiday, foreign or otherwise, unless they're serving me beer. I now know how people from other countries behave on holiday, though, and I'm shocked. I didn't see a single obviously drunk person the whole time I was there. Honestly, not one. What do they do with their time? The drinks are free, for God's sake! For the love of all that is holy, please take advantage!

Maybe they're all on drugs. This would explain the enthusiasm with which the evening entertainment was received by the Europeans. Those continentals went batshit crazy for the crap singing and the crap dancing and the crap magic show and the crap fire show. My girlfriend and I, in common (I hope) with the rest of the British contingent, giggled at the crapness of it all. I always thought that Europeans were cool compared to the British. Now I know better. Europeans are dorks.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Cold Turkey

What had I done to deserve being at woken at 3.45am this Wednesday morning? Normally there's a reason as this happens fairly frequently when I stay at my girlfriend's place. Had I woken up because her thigh was draped across me? No. Had she commandeered my half of the bed, causing me to wake up before I fall to the floor and fracture a limb? No. I could hear the dog barking downstairs but this was also not what had woken me. It was nicotine withdrawal. I had woken up because my body was missing nicotine.

I had smoked my last cigarette at 10.30am on Sunday. It had been difficult. I'd also had some news on that Sunday evening that meant that I'd chosen a bad time to quit. I would have killed for a fag on Sunday night. But I was strong. This was something else though. I was wide awake at a very unsociable hour, apparently prompted by nothing other than a deficit of something in my bloodstream that I didn't even want there.

First things first. One of the dogs was still barking and had been doing so for a few minutes. None of the kids would sort him out. Funny how they seem to be able to sleep like the dead when it suits them yet are always quick to confront me about the noises they hear emanating from their mother's room when I stay there. I go downstairs to the kitchen. The dog is still barking but I can't hear it properly, it's muffled or distant. I'm still half asleep and it takes me a few seconds to realise that the dog is outside. It's 3.45am and the dog is outside, barking its' little head off. How long had it been there? And had it been barking all this time? The neighbours will surely let us know.

Back upstairs to get back to sleep. I'm in bed. I'm comfy. I'm not too hot or cold. I'm tired. I anticipate drifting off to sleep in no time but this doesn't happen. I seem to be as alert as a particularly nervy meercat nursing a double espresso. I've also woken my girlfriend so now I have guilt to go along with my insomnia. I'm calling it insomnia because that's precisely what it is now. I'm tired but I know already that I'm without any chance of proper sleep again before I have to get up for work.

Why is this? I had some idea that nicotine withdrawal might do this to me. But I had no idea it would also give me super sensitive hearing as well. All of the sounds of the house are ringing in my ears. That slightly sinister tapping I hear in the ceiling. The floorboards that creak on the landing even when no-one is walking on them. The boiler, sending water around the house. I swear I can even hear the breathing of the girls sleeping in the room next to me. I am Batfink and I have super hearing.

Even my own body is loud. My stomach burbles and gurgles. I can actually hear my own pulse. And the more I try to ignore these things the louder they become. I toss and turn, to what end I neither know nor care. I look out of the window. My girlfriend doesn't ever close the curtains so I can see outside. The first light of dawn approaches and with it comes birdsong. My God it's loud. Are they actually singing out there or is this all in my head? Am I going insane? No I'm not, but if it was really as loud as it seems to me then no-one would be sleeping. At least the crows haven't started up yet. They have a call that's as loud and ugly as you imagine a crow's call might be. It makes me want to shoot them. Today, this morning, right now, I wouldn't just pick on the crows. I would exterminate the nation's entire bird population if it meant I could get some FUCKING SLEEP! Let me sleep.
Let me sleep
Let me sleep
Let me sleep
Let me sleep
Let me sleep
Let me sleep. Please. Here it comes. Thanks.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Saint Etienne at Bloomsbury Ballroom

Saint Etienne to celebrate the eighteenth birthday of their debut album, Foxbase Alpha, by playing it live in its entirety? Yes please! Since my copy of that album was on a long-ago lost cassette it's fair to say that I haven't listened to it for over a decade. I've listened to plenty of Saint Etienne's other output but couldn't actually remember a lot of that first album. My loss, I'm an idiot.

The Bloomsbury Ballroom proved an excellent venue, good size and acoustics and with a cool bar in a corridor. Saint Etienne have always cultivated a loyal fanbase and the band were very warmly received as they entered the stage to the sounds of the radio show at the start of the album. Then Only Love Can Break your Heart started and I was in pop heaven. During the next forty minutes the diversity of Foxbase Alpha was made apparent to me in a way I'd never really appreciated. It's pop perfection but it takes many forms: dub, deep house, 60's pop pastiche, ambient blah blah blah. It's all here.

Girl VII and London Belongs To Me are utterly charming. Stoned To Say The Least is cool and dark and funky, like a very chilled Underworld. Nothing Can Stop Us Now is so cute and cuddly you could put in a big pink box, tie it with a red ribbon and give it to a five year old girl as a birthday present. Like A Swallow is epic and beautiful and sounds like the best thing I've ever heard. Then the band walk off for five minutes (they actually said they'd be five minutes! How sweet?) before returning to play some more recent favourites.

Method Of Modern love is their latest single and shows the band have lost absolutely nothing over the years. The quality of their output has never faltered and every song played during the second half was a winner. When I'm old(er) and grey(er) and someone says to me "Old man, I've read that there was something called pop music years ago. What was it like?" I'll just play them Who Do You Think You Are? and all will be clear. And then I might spoil them and play Sylvie as well. Sylvie is genius, like the story from a John Hughes film with an added Hitchcock-ian twist told via the medium of epic euro-pop. It always makes me cry.

The encore includes He's On The Phone, an absolute high point in modern popular music. Pop really has few finer moments to offer than Sarah Cracknell's spoken (not sung or whispered, but spoken. Or maybe cooed) Yes at the start of the chorus. It's a glorious end to a fantastic evening. I leave convinced that there has been no finer purveyor of pop music in modern times than Saint Etienne.

Thursday, 9 April 2009


Starlings - Stop fucking on the lawn outside my flat. Have some decency, yeah? Just because you look as if you've been recently rescued from an oil slick off the coast of Alaska doesn't mean you have to act like dirty bastards, you dirty bastards.

Manchester City FC - I used to have a soft spot for you lot, attendances going up when you got relegated cos you have proper fans, those fans having a sense of humour, for not being United etc. Now you make me sick. What is it with this desire to be owned by some of the world's worst human rights abusers? What next, a managerial dream team consisting of the exhumed corpses of Hitler and Pol Pot? God, I hope Fulham beat you again this weekend. Just don't publicly flog us if we do.

Kids round my way - I know you nicked the badge from the front of my Mazda cos I saw you do it to someone else's car. If I catch you near my car again you'll need to remove another badge. A really big one. From your collective anus.

Kasabian - An excess of guitar fx does not disguise your dearth of ideas, it only accentuates it, you paisley scarf wearing twats. No matter how much you polish and buff it, cover it in make up and spray it with cheap cologne, a turd will always be a turd.

Man, this feels good, I could go on like this all night!

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Still Lazy

My God, I'm a lazy shit!

When I first started this blog there was pretty much nothing going on in my life, yet I still found loads to write about. Now that my life is a little bit interesting I write bugger all. Go figure. Maybe the two are connected. Maybe I'm busy living, hence my reluctance to write about living. Maybe, and this is by far the more likely of these two options, I'm just a lazy shit.

Having a girlfriend who has five kids should give me much to write about. And it does. It's just that I'd rather not write it here. It's personal, y'know? I'm not really comfortable writing about other people anyway. They might not like it. And writing about the kids would just be wrong, I feel. Am I being over-sensitive here? Possibly, but this way I can be sure that I'm not offending anyone. That's important. One of the things that characterises my life is that I don't offend people. I just don't do it. Not people I like, anyway.

Here's a couple of things I can write about:

- I took my girlfriend to meet my parents for the first time. She was apprehensive but really seemed to enjoy herself. My parents are lovely people who will go out of their way to make anyone feel welcome.I'm very lucky to have them.

The visit alone is newsworthy enough since I've not introduced a girlfriend to my parents for over fifteen years, but there's also something else about that weekend. My girlfriend hired an Aston Martin DB9 for me. How about that? James Bond's car, all mine for a whole weekend, a car that cost more than the flat I live in! It was wonderful. I'm not gonna go all Jeremy Clarkson here and start talking in ridiculous metaphors, barely disguising the fact that I actually want to have sex with the car (which I don't). I'm just going to say that it was a fantastic experience, a slice of luxury that I would otherwise never have experienced if my lovely lady hadn't done such a lovely thing for me. The other thing?

- We spent last weekend in Iceland, and what an incredible place that is! God was clearly having fun when he created that place! That's the water spurting from the ground and the pols of hot, milky blue water I'm on about there. Not the stunning landscape, that isn't funny, just astonishingly beautiful. There are a few obvious adjectives that I'll be using here and I'd like to get them out of the way now: desolate, savage, barren, you know what I mean. And the nightlife and people of Reykjavik were great. A lovely, lovely place to which I'd be very happy to return.

You see? I'm a lazy shit. I've driven 350 miles in a DB9 and been to Iceland and can barely be bothered to write about it. This is gold, gold I tells ya! It's inspirational stuff yet I'm inspired only to take pictures and talk to my friends about it, not write. Except I am writing about it, aren't I? Ooh, I'm full of contradictions, me. That's something else I could write about. At a later date though. I've done quite enough for one day.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

I'm A Lazy Git

Not a great deal of time and effort is required in order to complete a post here on Blogger yet this is my first effort for two months. True, my life is a whirlwind of showbiz parties and high level business meetings, foreign travel and loose women, not to mention a quite debilitating drug habit, but if Lily Allen can manage her blog then I don't see why I shouldn't be able to. There are reasons for my blogging dormancy though. None of them particularly good, but reasons nonetheless.

I may or may not have written before about my need to be a bit unhappy in order to want to write anything or, in fact, do anything creative. Unhappiness begets introspection and introspection begets blog posts. This means that I normally have a whole load of things I'm happy to write about since I'm generally a melancholy soul (melancholy soul, miserable sod - what's the difference?). It creates a little bit of a problem for me though. I had a really good idea for a book a few months ago but if I'm miserable it will come out all maudlin and self-indulgent. Yet if I'm happy I can't be bothered to write. It's a conundrum that may yet deprive the World of a major literary talent. Or, then again, maybe not.

These last couple of months, however, I've been (whisper it).....happy. Yes! Me, happy! And it's because I've fallen in love. My God, I'm a soppy so and so! If someone had told me a few years ago that I would ever write that line in a public forum, even a forum like this that no-one actually reads, I would have said Shut up Mum, you're embarrassing me again! But there it is for all to see, for ever.

It will come as little surprise to anyone who knows me as a perpetual singleton, a bachelor, a man who bears little responsibility towards himself or anyone else, a man whose lifestyle has barely changed since his student days, that I've fallen for a woman who has five children. Funny huh? My friends think it's funny. I suppose it is really when you look at it from afar. It doesn't feel funny to me. It just feels like I have a great time with my girlfriend and a great time with her kids. There's never a dull moment. I love it.

That's all I'm going to write about this right now. There's enough sentimentality in this post already to guarantee I'll cringe terribly if I ever read it in the future so I'll finish here with this simple conclusion: Life is good.