Tuesday, 30 October 2007


I spent last weekend in Dublin visiting my friend Lisa and had a great time. On saturday we visited various shops and bars and on sunday we saw Ian Brown play the Big Top in beautiful Phoenix Park. And what a big top the Big Top is! Certainly the biggest top I've ever seen, let alone been in. And what a lot of wankers there were in the Big Top! When you're standing near the back of any arena you're entitled to feel that you're unlikely to get jumped on or barged over by those young men whose idea of gig-etiquette involves throwing themselves at, and rubbing themselves against, each other in a very poorly concealed display of homosexual yearning. But that's what happened to us each time that Brown played one of their favourites. Any nearby women were pushed to the margins for fear of being struck by flailing limbs and this all affected the enjoyment of the evening, in my group at least.

You know what to expect from Ian Brown. He'll do that funny little dance where he jogs on the spot and points to the tambourine that he's shaking above his head. He'll play a few Stone Roses songs and each of these will be celebrated by the crowd in pretty much the same way that goals are celebrated on football terraces. He'll play F.E.A.R. and this will be as rapturously received as the Stone Roses songs. He'll play a bunch of other songs that are utterly pointless in comparison. He'll sing every song with what must surely be the worst voice in popular music. And he'll be worshipped by some of the most adoring fans there are. All of these things happened and, apart from during the Big Songs, I was pretty bored. I don't think I'll be seeing him again unless he goes on a nostalgia tour with the rest of the 'Roses some time in the 2020s.

The first unusual thing I noticed about Dublin was the amount of people out in the city centre when I arrived there on saturday afternoon. Grafton Street was full of more shoppers than I'd ever seen in one place. And these shoppers weren't picking up bargains, they were just desperate to buy stuff. There didn't appear to be any sales on. Every shop was packed, and each time you left a shop you were carried down the street by a ceaseless tide of people. There's clearly a lot of money in Dublin right now, a point further illustrated by the bar prices. It's an expensive city, probably even more so than London. It's also more fun than London and I met some lovely people.

There were, however, also some people who weren't as friendly. I'm talking about those who gave my friends and I the finger as we were driving around because we were in a car with British plates. It could be that they don't like Renault Clios or the French in general but I'm more inclined to the view that it was the number plates that were objectionable. There were also unfriendly bar staff to contend with. There seemed to be a generational correlation to these attitudes - the older you are the more likely you are to not serve a polite Englishman with a smile. The youngsters and the Polish, of which there are many, were also fine. But the older Irish bar staff were definitely less friendly to me than when they were when they were serving other Irish. I watched Liverpool V Arsenal on my own in a lovely pub on sunday afternoon but was actually scared to go to the bar, such were the looks I was getting from the staff when I ordered and betrayed my heritage with my guttural West London lilt. I took a record amount of time drinking each pint because of this. Eventually I decided that enough was enough. I marched to the bar and addressed the haughtier of the two men serving there:

"Listen, my friend. I'm really sorry about Bloody Sunday. And what we did during the Famine and whatever else your country has had to put up with from us lot over the centuries. But I had nothing to do with it and neither did anyone I know. Now, while I'm standing here paying five euros for the privilege of buying a pint of piss-weak lager from you could you please pull your bigoted head from your arse and serve me with something approaching common courtesy? Thank-you."

That's exactly what I said. In my head, anyway. In reality what happened was that I went to the bar and asked for what I wanted as clearly but also as quietly as I could so that I could slink back to my chair having brought as little attention to myself as possible. What a man I am, eh?

That last paragraph was going to be the last one but I don't want to end on a sour note. Dublin's lovely and I can't wait to go back. The End.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Something To Do

Last night, for the second time in a week, I got so drunk that I was unable to take the time to undress myself before I fell into unconsciousness on my bed. Should I be worried? No. Not yet anyway. I do, however, desperately need something to take the place of alcohol in my life. In the last couple of months I've been drinking quite a lot on my own. Not because I have a desire to get drunk or, more accurately, to lose sobriety, but because I have nothing better to do. I don't know what this says about me but whatever it is it isn't healthy. I need a project, something to occupy my free time. It will help when I finally get online at home but I feel that will only be taking away the symptoms of whatever my malaise is rather than addressing the underlying cause.

Here follows a list of some of the things that I could do with my spare time:

- Charity work
- Get fit
- Write a book
- Build model airplanes
- Get a girlfriend
- Write a song

All worthy suggestions, yes? But even as I typed them I was thinking of reasons not to do the very things I was suggesting to myself. Some were good reasons. For example, it's pointless me trying to write a song as there are loads of other people out there doing it who are far better than me which kind of makes it a bit pointless from where I'm sitting. And I don't find model airplane building or DIY even remotely alluring.

These points ignore the main reason I have for not doing stuff and that reason is that doing stuff requires effort and application, two things that I lack. I just find it very difficult to convince myself that doing anything is a good idea. Why would I, for example, want to write a story when I have hundreds of other stories sitting on my bookshelves written by very talented people? What is the attraction in making something when I can buy that very same thing cheaply in a shop?

There seems to be, in people other than me, satisfaction to be had in just doing stuff. A sense of achievement when a project is followed through to its completion. A feeling of self-worth to be gained from applying the skills that have been learned in life to doing something that makes our environment that little bit more bearable. Not for me. I can't remember the last time I felt a sense of achievement after having challenged myself to do something, although I imagine it might be when I was about eight years old and had just managed a hundred keep ups, or something like that. I really doubt whether there is much out there that I could do that would make me feel happy with myself or with life in general. This doesn't include spending time with my friends and family or listening to music or reading a good book. These things make me very happy but they're just recreation. They're not things that present me with a problem that needs me to resolve it. They're not situations that require my intervention to make them better.

All this makes for quite depressing reading, doesn't it? Is it a problem just with me or do many people feel like this? I really have no idea. Maybe I should write a book about it. Now, that would be something. But I bet someone else has done it already.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007


My birthday celebrations were thoroughly enjoyable. Loads of people turned up to get drunk with me and Lucy and we all had an excellent time. It was also extremely gratifying to get as many cards and presents as I did, more than I've received since I was about half my current age. Maybe these things don't mean a great deal and maybe I'm just easily pleased but I felt quite humbled to see that so many people had gone to the trouble of going a little out of their way for me.

My impending descent into old age and obsolescence has caused a few minor changes in my life. I've started exercising again, playing football on mondays and doing a cursory workout when I get out of bed in the morning if I'm not too tired. I feel stronger already and haven't let myself down too badly at football either so that's all going quite well. I've counter-balanced this fitness regime with taking up smoking again when I'm drinking. I'm not proud but I'm blaming the stressful August that I had, which is when I started again. Only smoking when I drink wouldn't be so bad were it not for the fact that I'm doing a passable impression of someone attempting to break into the All-England Drinking Team. My weekends have, for the past couple of months, been disappearing into a cycle of drink-hangover-drink-hangover-drink-work/hangover. The weekend just gone was supposed to be when I broke the cycle since my social diary was free of drinking obligations. But on my own I actually drunk more than I normally would if I was in company. The next three weekends have the following in store: England football and rugby matches, a wedding, a weekend in Dublin....the drinking won't be slowing down for a while just yet.

In other news, I'm downloading Radiohead's new album tomorrow. I chose to pay £5 for it. I think that's a fair price. I could have paid a penny but I appreciate the gesture from the band and I also appreciate that they've provided me with much happiness over the years. My friend Alex thinks I'm an idiot for paying that much when I could have got it for nothing but then he doesn't ever pay for any music. I'm guessing that I've paid slightly above the mean average and I'll will be interested to see whether statistics back this up. I'll also be interested to see whether Radiohead will be touring again soon 'cos they're wonderful.