dimanche 28 décembre 2008

plus ca change...

There's nothing like doing the walk of shame on a Sunday morning, back to your parent's home, to make you feel like a sixteen year old again.

Trust me, as I walked up my Mother's street this morning, praying that she'd be at church, I felt like a dirty teenage stop-out.

She was indeed at church. Hopefully she was asking for me to be saved.

Lord knows, I need all the prayers I can get after last night.

mardi 23 décembre 2008

The road to madness

So that's me then folks. I've done my bit for the year, packed my bags and I'm heading back to the UK. I've not felt this level of trepidation about returning 'home' since I turned up on my mother's doorstep having hitched from Athens when I was 20.

That said, I'm trying to stay positive, focussed on the good stuff, trying to not decide that the whole holiday is going to be awful before the event. But I have a sneaking suspicion that it'll be the same as every other year.

The thing is, I love my family, and they love me, but we don't really get each other.

My mother is largely mad - not dementia mad, just barmy. Cuckoo.

My brother is like me, only the exact opposite. I say white, he says black. I say stripes, he says spots, and so on.

Christmas with the three of us, plus my brother's wife and kids, is always special. It's like the most tense of tense situations, with a few laughs and smiles for the cameras. Lord, it's hard work is what it is.

Anyway, I have some drinks with friends to look forward to, and even a date while I'm over there. Maybe Santa will be nice to me this year ;-)

So, you all have fabulous Christmasses with your loved ones. Enjoy the season, smile a lot, laugh a lot and have a drink or two. Make the most of having your close ones close at hand, and give thanks for the year that has passed.

Thank you all for making 2008 a really special year for me, it's been a fun year and it's been great having you all along for the ride. Let's see what 2009 brings.

Oh, and did I mention that I have a job interview on the 29th?

dimanche 21 décembre 2008

Crazy Mother Killer

My Mom called me today. I think she's getting giddy with pre-christmas excitement.

"Can I ask you a very important question, Bab?" She said.

I was a little worried. Very Important Questions tend to involve me having to do something that I don't want to do. At best I usually end up being dragged into some madcap, harebrained scheme à la cancer tree.

"OK Mom. Ask away", I said. I was dreading the question.

"Well, it's very important. I've been thinking about it for a while now and I really do need to know".

"What is it Mom?"

"It's like this, Bab. I really need to find out.....are you human or are you dancer?"

Jesus wept.

She really needs to stop listening to the radio.

samedi 20 décembre 2008

The German clap is not infectious

I flew back to Orly tonight from Dusseldorf. If ever there was an airport that would benefit from being razed to the ground and built again, it's Orly.

At least LHR (the previous leader in this dubious contest) had the decency to build us T5. Orly just struggles on with something that closely resembles the NYC Port Authority bus station, circa 1985. If you never went to the Port Authority in the 80's, you've surely seen Desperately Seeking Susan enough times to know that it's a truly dreadful place. What do you mean you never saw the film? Really? Am I the only person to have seen it five times?

Anyway, Orly was a disaster and on top of walking the length of the Champs Elysées to get to baggage reclaim, I had to wait an hour for my bag. This was kind of poor, given that the flight itself was only 45 minutes long.

But the point of this story isn't the airport, or Madonna, or the bags. It's the Germans.

Now, do you get a round of applause for doing your job to a 'regular-but-nothing-special' standard? No? Me either. Apparently German pilots do.

As Captain Skippy bounced us down the tarmac at Orly, the Germans on board broke out into a spontaneous round of applause. With cheers thrown in for good measure. It reached a point where I thought we'd all end up linking arms and singing "for hee's a cholly gut fellow", but luckily no, they only went as far as the cheering and the clapping.

Why is this? The flight had been turbulent - enough to make you feel sick, but not enough to warrant thinking that the flight crew had battled to keep us up there. The service had been, erm, teutonic. The sandwich - the choice in German of 'käse oder salami' translated, bizarrely, to 'cheese or turkey' in english - was best left unwrapped. The boarding was late and the arrival behind schedule.

What about this trip deserved a big old round of applause? Nothing. I can only imagine they'd had a glühwein or two on their way to the airport.

I was, as you'd imagine, extremely pleased to get off the plane and leave the applauding fools behind.

Speaking of applauding fools, I never really filled you in on last week's 'dinner-dance' with the great and the good, did I?

Well, I was in a tux, looking like the belle of the ball and was joined at the dinner table by a Knight of the Realm and an OBE. It doesn't get much fancier. Alas it couldn't be much worse either.

I moved away from the conversation that included the line "Michael Heseltine said to me, darling that's a tip-top whizz-bang idea - now where do we find the budget for it..." and found myself stuck with the woman whose opening gambit was "How many women do you employ". I mean, jeez Germaine, it's over. We even employ the gays now you know.

The culmination of the evening was the presentation of the charity cheque. This year the chosen charity was a fund set up for people learning to rebuild lives following spinal injuries.

At the request of the 'compère', the representative of the charity wheeled herself on stage to accept the cheque.

Now, call me dark, but I was really hoping - nay praying - that there'd be a giant cheque. Reader, I love me a giant cheque and, praise be, my wishes were fulfilled. But any joy at the sight of the giant cheque (where do you get them anyway?) was taken away by the DJ's choice of music to accompany the cheque giving ceremony.

As the woman - who had courageously rebuilt her life, having found herself paralysed from the waist down due to a terrible sporting injury - received a cheque for a piddling £5,000 (is that the best they could do?) the DJ played "the winner takes it all".

The stunned silence was deafening.

mercredi 17 décembre 2008


Yes, I reached 200 posts today. This is post number 200 and I'm pretty amazed...I'm not usually this good at sticking with things.

So, in the spirit of big long lists that celebrate landmark-blogposts (and blatantly copying the work of my lovely Irish Dutch Friend) I thought I'd give you one. Well, a big long list, anyway, he he.

I tried to get this to be 200 things you always wanted to know about me, but it's going to be just a mere 100. Trust me, this has been hard enough...

1. I have visited 64 countries and 24 states of the union.
2. I hate peas. Can barely look at them. Certainly can’t have them near my food.
3. White wine makes me sneeze.
4. I’ve been working for 20 years and have spent 8 of these years overseas.
5. I have one brother. We are polar opposites.
6. I’m really jealous of anyone who has flown on an A380.
7. I really want to go to Easter Island. More than anywhere else.
8. I like how I look, even though I'm not everyone's cup of tea.
9. My favourite song of all time is yet to be decided. There are a few contenders.
10. First contender is Laura Nyro with ‘it’s gonna take a miracle’
11. Second contender is Aznavour – ‘emmenez-moi’
12. Final contender, and probable winner is Rufus Wainwright with the whole of the ‘want one’ album. I appreciate that this is cheating.
13. My favourite country in the world for holidays is Japan.
14. My favourite place in the world is wherever my friends are.
15. I spend most of my life speaking French these days, but I could speak it so much better.
16. I drink too much. I’m a classic English binge drinker.
17. I’m in love with Mark Ruffalo.
18. I’m the fourth generation, following three generations of men who died before they hit 60
19. This worries me.
20. I love taking photographs but never show them to anyone.
21. I’m at my happiest and my saddest when I am in love.
22. My father never turned down an invitation. I’m my father’s son.
23. Since 2002, I have only worn Bjorn Borg underpants. They hold me well.
24. My hair grows really quickly, but looks better when it is first cut.
25. I hate the UK attitude to architecture. Holland has got it right.
26. I have grey hairs coming. This scares me.
27. I dance a lot and I dance badly. I don’t care.
28. My favourite journey was the train from Moscow to Ulaan Batar, Mongolia.
29. I have eaten live ants. They tasted like salt and vinegar crisps.
30. I slept with one of my best customers to win the business.
31. I slept with him again to keep the business.
32. The longest time I spent in pyjamas is five days (see 28 above).
33. I can’t stand James Blunt and often think about kicking him.
34. I turn the radio off if UB40 or the Police come on.
35. Fish and Chips from a proper chip shop is very hard to beat.
36. I wear a lot of white t-shirts. Ralph Lauren makes the best ones - they are long.
37. I try to be good and I try to be respectful. Sometimes it’s a chore.
38. I wish I had a hairy chest.
39. I’ve had two great suntans in my life. Both times I lived in hot countries for long periods.
40. Israel upset me. But now I think I’m ready to go back.
41. I just looked at flights to Tel Aviv. I’m not going back until it’s cheaper.
42. I'm good at meditating. I just don't do it enough.
43. I'm incredibly allergic to cats, dogs and guinea pigs.
44. If I could only eat one thing for the rest of my life it would be cheese.
45. And maybe tuna mayo sandwiches on good bread.
46. My family think I'm quiet. No-one else does.
47. The best sex I ever had was with a guy from the Cook Islands.
48. I've tried lots of different drugs. Despite what the song says, they work.
49. When I was a small child I was in love with my 40 year-old next door neighbour, Barry.
50. It took me a long time to decide that I prefer men to women.
51. Now I don't know why it took so long to work it out.
52. My favourite club is XXL in Birmingham. It's hilarious.
53. I used to get a thrill from the Men's underpant section of my Mom's grattans catalogue - when I was 7 years old.
54. I love being drunk. I hate not remembering it the next day.
55. I've been in love a few times in my life. I fall too fast, too hard.
56. People are often surprised to learn that I am gay. This, in turn, surprises me.
57. I love Brothers and Sisters.
58. I'm a Monoprix shopper. Can't bear the 'grandes surfaces'.
59. I'd love to be rich enough for money to not be a deciding factor, ever.
60. A week in the South of France, with friends, wine and cheese is a perfect holiday.
61. I wish I had been a airline steward. Just for a short while.
62. My favourite shop in the whole world is BHV in Paris.
63. But I'd rather be shopping in Tokyo.
64. My schoolteacher laughed when I said I wanted to be an architect.
65. I became a travel agent instead.
67. I lost my virginity at 16. Then again at 20. The second time was in a tent.
68. I'm always planning my next trip.
69. I love orange juice and will drink it till I itch.
70. The Beatles are my musical nemesis.
71. I have lived in 4 french départements - 45, 64, 69 and 75
72. Contrary to popular belief, American men are good lovers.
73. Equally, the French are not the most stylish nation on earth.
74. Forget what anyone else says - happiness CAN be found in a bottle of gin. I looked, and it was there, waiting for me.
75. The best concert I've ever been to was Pet Shop Boys at le Grand Rex in Paris.
76. The first concert I ever went to was the Smiths at the Birmingham Hippodrome in 1984.
77. I'm a platinum card holding Air France frequent flyer.
78. Given a choice, I'd be flying with someone else.
79. Given a choice, it wouldn't be British Airways (sorry, LaTanya).
80. I'm easy. I wish I wasn't, but I am.
81. I've been known to dance to 'respectable' by Mel and Kim. Last week. I even tried some of the 'moves' from the video. In public.
82. When someone hurts themself, my natural reaction is to laugh. I wish it wasn't.
83. I hate the trains in the UK, but love them in France.
84. Give me a young(ish) guy with grey hair and I'm in heaven.
85. I quite like the smell of a sour drain.
86. My dad died in a supermarket.
87. In my time I've been bleached, highlighted and permed. Although never at the same time.
89. I'm not averse to a nude beach.
90. I think I'm going to turn into my mother.
91. I spent the first sixteen years of my life as a church going boy.
92. I stopped believing in God when I was 11.
93. I buy too many shoes, but get a thrill from handing over my card in the shoe shop.
94. I give great head.
95. If I had to choose between "Yes" and "No", I'd say "Yes".
96. My best friend is more of a brother to me than my brother.
97. I believe that everyone has the right to marry their loved one.
98. The biggest surprise in my life is that my life is still surprising me.
99. I'm looking for a husband.
100. I hate writing lists.

Here's to the next 200. And thank the Lord I never have to write one of these lists ever again...it was hard work!

lundi 15 décembre 2008

Love me for a reason - let the reason be because I'm fabulous.

One of my customers is trying to get me sacked.

Luckily I have a good boss who knows me well, and so I can relax in the knowledge that the mental meanderings of this vindictive fool are largely being ignored. However, a less forgiving or more easily influenceable boss would have sacked me by now. I don't understand this kind of behaviour.

So what have I done? Nothing, it seems. His claims are all largely founded on the basis that he just doesn't like me. The good thing is that he cancelled my meeting with him today, so I get to stay in the warmth and comfort of home, rather than sitting on a cold TGV for five hours, heading out to the french equivalent of lands' end. This has to be a bonus, no?

What does surprise me is the fact that this guy really, truly doesn't like me.

He really doesn't. He doesn't like me.

Now, I've met his wife and kids, I've eaten at their family table and I've spent many an hour working with him and helping him to build the (very) successful business that he has today.

Yet he doesn't like me.

I don't get it. This, I do not get. I don't understand. Je ne comprends pas. Ich verstehe nicht.

You all know me by now. I am funny, charming and good company. I work hard to make people feel comfortable and tell self-deprecating jokes so that they know that I'm not up my own arse.

I always dress appropriately, I wear good cologne and I have regular haircuts. I clean my teeth, wash my hair and take at least one shower a day. I naturally change socks and underpants daily as a minimum.

I have glittering conversation that is suitable for all occasions. I know jokes and tell them well. I flirt when necessary and with the appropriate person. I'm a zinger in the sack.

I can talk about my celebrity encounters; my brushes with royalty. I'm up to speed on hollywood gossip and can give fairly decent sporting banter (with a little notice).

I am well travelled and have anecdotes galore. After all, who else has eaten a bowl of semolina off the back of a live giant tortoise whilst chatting with an eighty-year-old, bare-breasted Dogon tribeswoman?

I know the best places to eat, sleep and drink in most of the world's hotspots, and can usually tell you who I ate, slept or drank there with. You may well have heard of them.

And on top of all of this, I'm humble and not at all egotistical and narcissistic. I never point out how great I am and I always prefer to talk about others.

I mean really. What's not to like?

jeudi 11 décembre 2008

Jumping on the bandwagon

I got to the UK yesterday and, after a day working at head office, I headed off to my Mother's. As per usual, I'm staying at Mom's while I'm over here.

Now, she's great at surprising me and having strange things to tell me when I arrive. The time, for example, that she wanted to show me the portraits of my father that she'd been painting (she wasn't very good at capturing his teeth, and she'd made him ginger). The time I arrived to a house of smoke because she'd been experimenting with her yorkshire pudding recipe.

Or even the time she whisked me straight out to a 'bring a relative' evening at the Women's Institute - I was the only male there, and she'd pretty much missed the point, which was to increase membership numbers.

Anyway, this time she's surpassed herself and has gone ahead and organised to take me to the lighting of 'the cancer tree' as she has named it.

The local cancer hospice has a tree of rememberence every year (for all those who have lost a family member to cancer during the year) and they invite people to sponsor a lightbulb in the name of their loved one.

It's a lovely idea, and they light the tree up tonight, with a local celebrity leading the service - with hymn singing and the reading of 'memories'. It'll be a cheery occasion, as you can imagine. Anyway, my Mom has sponsored a lightbulb on 'the cancer tree' for my Father.

Don't get me wrong, I think the tree of rememberence is a great idea. A lovely way to celebrate a life lost and a person loved. But this one is the tree of rememberence organised by the local cancer hospice.

My Father, God bless his soul, dropped down dead from a heart attack. He never had a cancerous cell in his body.

Yet again, I fear that my Mom has missed the point, somewhat.

But anyway, I'm not going. I have my tuxedo out and I'm heading to a fancy event organised by my fancy contacts at the fancy bank. You wouldn't think they'd do it this year, what with all the talk of doom and gloom - but no, they are laying on the traditional christmas feast for the industry's great and good.

Now, I'm not sure whether I'm great or good, but hey, the gin is free....

mardi 9 décembre 2008

Old habits die hard

Just when I thought my mad travelling weeks were over, I have a real humdinger of a fortnight, this week and next. It's already chaos.

Today is the only day that I get to work at my beloved desk in my beloved office.

Yesterday was Antwerp - cold (real cold) weather but a warm reception from my lovely Belgian colleague. The fact that the Thalys home was 45 minutes late arriving at Antwerp Centraal, and I was stood on the platform in minus 5 degrees for the whole time didn't really make for a pleasant end to the day though.

Tomorrow, I'm off to the UK for three days of meetings and two days of family madness. The meetings are already starting to drive me mad as the agenda (that was fixed three weeks ago) has changed constantly - even today my boss has asked me to produce yet more data. Crazy.

Then it's the tour de France. I start Monday morning with a four and half hour train trip to Brest, the far point of Britanny. The next day I go from Brest, via Paris, to Valence, in the south of France, between Lyon and Avignon.

I leave the next day and get to sleep in my own bed that night. But not for long. It's 'up boys and at 'em' the next day for a six a.m. train to Liège in Belgium. After Liège comes Düsseldorf, Germany and I get home Friday night, late, knackered and ready for a big sleep.

The travelling itself is fine - long stretches of train travel, where I get to sleep, work and read my book. What is actually hard is that I'm a popular boy. I get on really well with everyone that I am visiting over the next ten days and so everyone wants to go for dinner, to buy me a Christmas drink, to catch up on news.

So I envisage ending up drunk and disorderly in Birmingham, Brest, Paris, Valence, Liège and Düsseldorf before next week is over. I know I don't have to drink, but that's not polite, surely?

And let's face it, a bit of Christmas cheer never hurt anyone. Right?

dimanche 7 décembre 2008

We all like a dirty weekend, no?

OK, so the weekend started in a, erm, mixed way. Friday night saw me out on the town, beer in one hand, gorgeous (and I mean *swoon* gorgeous) Spanish guy in the other. When I say 'in the other', I obviously mean figuratively speaking. At least at this part of the story.

Anyway, next comes an awful miscommunication of the sort that happens in loud bars with people of two nationalities speaking to each other in a language that is neither's mother tongue. I go to the bar to get us a drink. He thinks I've left and so he leaves, heading for his hotel.

I find out he's gone and so end up going on to another bar with a French guy that I know - well, I know him well enough to say hello to. All a bit odd, to be honest. And it gets odder.

Through no fault of my own - except for maybe a minor lack of discretion - me and the French boy end up being asked to leave the second bar. I'm so ashamed by this that I can't even begin to explain what happened, but it involved much embarassment, the shining of torches in faces and large security guards. Needless to say 'it wasn't my fault'.

I don't mind being occcasionally ejected from high-class establishments. But being thrown out of a bar where the standards are so high that they employ boys to dance naked in shower cubicles is pretty awful. Certainly not my finest hour.

Ho hum. At least my therapist will have something to tell his friends.

Anyway, upon being not-so-subtly ejected from said bar, I get a call from Spanish boy. He realised that I hadn't left and wanted to know where I was, what I was doing, whether I wanted a visitor. And as in all good romcom's the hero gets the girl (well, the guy) in the end. Reader, it was a beautiful moment.

As he leaves my apartment on Saturday morning, I'm left reflecting on how beautiful the world is - whilst busily ringing round friends to get their opinions on whether or not my behaviour merited being thrown out of the bar. It seems it pretty much did. God help me, where's the stop for the Hell Express?

Saturday evening brings me dinner with my Lovely French Friend and a couple of his friends from Holland. One of them is clearly crazy but absolutely lovely, the other is very lovely too and used to edit hard-core german porn movies for a living. The conversation was hilarious, ridiculous, over-the-top and very very good fun. I'm not sure that I've ever laughed so much in an evening.

We all got together again this evening, and the dutch couple told us how they'd had a fight at the Opera that afternoon - she'd asked the American man behind if he could chew his gum a little quieter and he called her a cunt. She called him an ugly bald fag and the boyfriend of both parties apparently had to break up a fight in the middle of the Queen of the Night's aria. I love that aria.

Anway, much laughter this evening, and I got to show the spoils of my day spent Christmas shopping. I'd been trailing round the shops all afternoon, looking for gifts for family and friends. I bought myself two pairs of shoes and then went for a couple of g&t's. Not very productive, but they are lovely shoes.

Mix in with all of this enough alcohol to keep the bar on the QE2 stocked for a month, amazing food (langoustine, yum; lobster, yum) and you have the makings of a fine old time.

But enough of my boring old weekend - what did you get up to?

vendredi 5 décembre 2008

Sign o' the times

I know times are hard, but has it really come to this?

The American Embassy are having a garage sale in the building next to ours. It turns out that they own the building, which would explain the omnipresent security guards, who are only ever so slightly threatening (and fairly hot in their tight little uniforms).

Anyway, all day I've been watching a steady flow of people arriving, and fancy office furniture, lamps and chandeliers leaving. People have been leaving with big smiles on their faces and mahogany desks on their trolleys.

The quality of the goods is unmistakable - this is good shit, man. A bit ugly, a bit old-fashioned, a bit 'American Embassy' but hey, the good folk of Nanterre seem pretty pleased.

Now I'm guessing that the majority of the furniture has sat in meeting rooms and administrative offices, and that it has had a pretty dull life. But I can equally imagine the things that some of those other pieces have seen. The dignitaries and diplomats who have sat in those chairs, the conversations that have taken place beneath those chandeliers.

Let's hope that they've raised enough money from the sale to contribute to the failing US economy.

If they have any left, perhaps they could keep little Gordon Brown in mind...

jeudi 4 décembre 2008

Having your gateau and eating it

Debbie told me yesterday that she was planning to sleep with her ex-boyfriend last night.

Whilst this was far too much information, I put it down to her being French and happy with openly discussing such matters of the, erm, heart. But then I thought about it a bit.

"Haven't you been split up for ages now? Why are you going back?" I asked, curious as ever.

"I still like to sleep with him. He likes it too. But he has a new girlfriend now"

"You say that he has a new girlfriend?" I was a bit surprised. "And so this evening is to try and win him back?"

"No. I am not interested in him. I have others now."

"So why are you going to sleep with him tonight?"

"Because". Debbie said, matter-of-factly, "Because once his new girlfriend becomes more serious she won't like him to sleep with me so often. So I'm making the most of it while I can - Je m'en profite..."

Now, as well you know dearest reader, I'm no prude. But this kind of took me by surprise.

"In France", she said "It is important to keep in touch with your ex's".

Hmm. I'm sure the person who wrote that rule meant 'keep in touch' à la 'send him a birthday card', 'say hello to his Mother in the boulangerie'.

Not, 'give him one on a Wednesday night'. Surely?

mardi 2 décembre 2008

Give it a go, I dare you.

What on earth? This book is currently being advertised in the sidebar of my facebook page. I'm not sure why I've been chosen.

For those struggling with the french, the title means "Dare to try...sodomy". I mean really.

Anyway, it seems it's part of a wider series of sex-tips for straight couples.... 'Osez la fellation', 'Osez faire l'amour partout sauf dans un lit' ('Dare to try fellatio', 'Dare to make love everywhere except in a bed'). I'm struggling with the concept, but I'm obviously not target market.

But then who is target market? I'm guessing they are the kind of books bought by straight guys who then leave them hanging around on the coffee table, hoping that their poor girlfriends/wives will get the hint. Ha ha. I'm guessing she'll get the hint and then quickly ignore it.

It all reminds me of the old joke. You know the one. The one where the gameshow host phones up the woman and says:

"Hello Mrs Jones, you are on live TV and I have your husband here with me. He's answered three questions about you and if you can give me the same three answers then you win 10.000€". The crowd applauds.

"OK, question one. What was the first gift he ever bought you?"

"He bought me a book of romantic verse"

"Correct. Question number two: Where did you celebrate your first anniversary?"

"In Bermuda!"

"Correct. One more correct answer and you've won 10.000€. Here goes. Question three - where is the strangest place you've ever had sex?"

The line goes quiet.

"I need an answer" says the gameshow host.

"Erm..." says the woman, sheepishly. "In the ass...?"

dimanche 30 novembre 2008

Who's that girl?

It's funny how sometimes friends become colleagues and colleagues become friends. Either way, it can be difficult to manage.

We all see job opportunities at our places of 'work' and think "that'd be perfect for X". But then, hopefully, we take a minute and think "but do I really want to work with X?". 9 times out of 10 the answer should be no. Working with friends can be great but it's generally a recipe for disaster.

One Christmas, when I was a student, I had a holiday job cutting letters out of floristry foam and making words from them - words like 'grandma', 'dad', 'mom' and 'son'. Words that would form the basis for floral tributes to recently deceased loved ones. A real jolly job, as you can imagine...."we need three more grandma's , an 'open book' and an 'empty chair' please". Lord, it was depressing.

This job was supposed to be fun. Me and a friend from Uni had both been 'successful' and had both been employed for the holidays by this company. Alas, it turned out to be less than fun, as my friend turned out to be lazy, lacking attention to detail and, frankly, a bit of a slut. As she spent her break times flirting with the factory supervisor - who then ignored her lack of production or her occasional 'mohter' or 'fhater' - I'd spend mine wishing that she was someone I didn't know and would never see again.

We never really got our friendship back on line when we returned to school after the break. She just wasn't the same person to me.

So, with this in mind, I've always shied away from getting too friendly with colleagues. Sometimes, however, you get on so well with someone that you want to know more about them than whether or not they wash their coffee cups before going home.

And that's where my newly-christened 'Lovely English Friend' comes in. A great girl that I've worked with for six years. She stuns me with her intelligence as much as she makes me laugh with her classic put-downs and one-liners. We were talking about a colleague recently and she said "oh her? I don't have anything to do with her. She's just a 'half-person'." Beautiful.

So, breaking my rules about friends at work, I invited my Lovely English Friend to come visit me in Paris this weekend.

We had a great weekend - wandering the streets in search of entertainment, food and a good gin and tonic. I even introduced her to my Lovely French Friend.

One of the highlights was the Patrick Demarchelier exhibition at the Petit Palais. Absolutely amazing, iconic photographs of Gianni Versace, Diana, Madonna and little Tommy Cruise amongst others, all mixed in with the permanent collection of old masters to make an amazing and unique show.

We spent saturday night dancing at the silliest of gay clubs in Paris - le Tango - and generally laughing a lot at the crappy music, the bad dancing and the Frenchness of the whole thing. As we danced along to American Boy, I realised that my colleague had become a good friend. A friend first, a colleague second. After all, I don't dance to American Boy with just anyone, you know.

I guess the goal of all this rambling is to say that sometimes being brave, taking a chance on a friendship is a good thing. While I still worry about working with friends, I know that me and my LEF would probably not be friends had we not met at work.

I maintain that my 'no friends at work' rule is a good one. But rules are meant to be broken, no?

vendredi 28 novembre 2008

The shock of the new

In the office we listen to RTL2. It's our compromise. Debbie wants classic rock. I'm happy with classic rock, but would prefer a bit of pop thrown in. I at least want to hear American Boy once a day.

So RTL2 gives us a bit of rock, a bit of pop and lots of 'old' stuff. By 'old', I mean 80's and 90's. Not old at all really.

However, we had a moment yesterday afternoon. I was happily singing along to 'Sweet Dreams' by the Eurythmics - quite the vision I was too, as you can well imagine - and Debbie said she didn't know the song.

"How do you not know this song? It's a classic 80's track"

"Well, I think my dad likes it" said Debbie. She sure knows how to hurt, that one.

It turns out that the song wasn't released when she was a small child, as I imagined. It was actually released before she was born.

The song was released in 1983 and Debbie was born in 1985. This really stunned me. It made me feel every one of my thirtysomething years.

What I don't understand is how someone born in 1985 is already at work, holding down a decent job?

Surely she should still be at school?

mercredi 26 novembre 2008

Welcome to Mali

I've been thinking about Mali today. When I first went there, nearly ten years ago, I'd travelled quite a bit already but never to Africa. I had no idea of what to expect - no concept of how the city would look, what the villages would be like, how the desert would be. I guess I had a few clues from photo's and books, but really for me this was a trip into the unknown.

Arriving at Orly for my flight south, the news wasn't good. The flight to Bamako had been cancelled and had been combined with the flight to Abidjan, in Cote d'Ivoire. Now this is fine - at least I would still be flying - but Abidjan was to be the first stop. Now to get to Abidjan, you fly over Bamako, then keep flying south for another 90 minutes. This wasn't ideal.

As the screens showed the plane flying over the Malian capital, I thought there'd be a riot on the plane. The Malians on board (and me, to be truthful) couldn't understand why we couldn't be dropped off first. It took stern words from the captain to calm everyone down.

Eventually we arrived in Bamako.

The city was dusty, beige and smelled of smoke. Smoke is the smell that I have come to associate with Africa now - the smell of small fires burning all around, cooking food, heating homes, being used for roadside 'businesses'.

After a few days we left Bamako and headed north, through Segou and on to Djenne and Mopti. Djenne was spectacular, with the mosque made of mud that has to be rebuilt after the rainy season every year.

Mopti was just a big market, with 'poulet bicyclette' and mangoes as big as your head.

From Mopti we took an old (real old) plane north to Tomboctou - or Timbuktu, where we rode into the desert with Touareg tribesmen and ate goat killed and roasted just for us. We slept in the desert and woke to a breakfast of more goat, also especially killed for us. Being a goat in Mali is hard.

Back in Bamako one evening, we sat in a bar and chatted with a couple of locals we'd got to know. It was the time of their elections.

"I love democracy" said one of the Malian guys. "I love democracy so much that I voted three times today".

There's an African logic there that just makes sense.

We finished our drinks and headed to the nightclub, where we danced the night away to trashy europop with South African minerologists, French diplomats and Chinese traders. It was a fine old night and so bizarre in so many ways. To me, this is what travelling is all about.

Anyway, why am I thinking of this dusty old place today?

Well, a pair of Mali's finest, Amadou and Mariam were on my train to Brussels today. I was sat amongst their backing singers, who were having a fine old time. Goodness knows what they were doing in town - a bit of promo for their new album 'Welcome to Mali', I guess.

If you don't know who they are, then you should have a listen to their single Sabali - it's good stuff.

Even if it's not your kind of music, it will definitely get you thinking about sunshine and foreign parts. Both of which sound very appealing to me as the Paris winter gets colder and colder.

Pass me the phone, I need to call my agent.

My travel agent, that is.

mardi 25 novembre 2008

Ma femme préferée est un homme

"Do they speak Japanese in Korea?" This was the particularly stupid and insensitive question asked by the German teacher last night of Kwang Min, my study partner.

I think she was hoping that he would say "No, in Korea people speak Korean". It's a bit of a classic language learning thing, I guess - ask something that you know is incorrect in order to get the student to give the correct answer.

Alas, the teacher was no doubt ignorant of the fact that Korea was occupied by Japan for the first half of the 20th century, during which time the Japanese banned the Korean language and forced their 'subjects' to speak Japanese. It'd be like me asking her "are there Jewish people in Germany?". Red rag to a bull. Insensitive. Unnecessary.

Anyway, beyond this the German class is going well. Unfortunately I'm sandwiched between Kwang Min and Juliette - the girl who seems to have no idea of where she is or why she is there most of the time. A typical quote from her would be:

Teacher : "Juliette, what time do you start work in the morning?"

Juliette : "I enjoy shopping, listening to music and talking to my friends".

Truly, this is how it goes with her. To make matters worse I am sat opposite Pierre-Yves who just looks at me and laughs whenever she does this. P-Y is cute, with his boyband hair and his bobo chic thing going on. But his making me laugh is getting me some stern looks from teacher. I like it.

At break time, we seem to naturally split up into boys and girls. As per usual, the girls get to look moodily at each other, circling like siamese fighting fish waiting to go in for the kill. The boys chat, relaxed and easy with each other. Usually we talk football. I've started googling football stories before class so that I can keep up.

Anyway, last night Teacher took us down the "are you married" line of questioning. Even me, with my lack of sensibility, would realise that this is a road paved with disaster.

She looks me in the eye. "Are you married?"

"No. I am not married. I am single".

"Are you looking for a french wife?".

"No. I am looking for a husband".

"The word is wife. You are husband, she is wife".

"Yes, I understand. But I am looking for a husband. Ich bin schwul".

And as the gasp of shock rose from the audience (yeah, right) I outed myself in yet another language.

I have to wonder how many more times in my life I need to do this.

Should I just have it printed on a t-shirt?

lundi 24 novembre 2008

I kissed a girl and I liked it

Admittedly she was only six weeks old, and it was a peck on the cheek and a cuddle.

The weekend in Amsterdam with my friends, their 4 year-old and their newborn was lovely. We did nothing, achieved little and on Sunday we never left the house. Truly the relaxing weekend that I needed.

And the baby is just beautiful. Really quite gorgeous. I get this way with friends kids, I have to say. I fall totally in love with them and really enjoy the time I spend with them. Whenever I've taken a holiday with friends and their kids or with my brother and his kids, it is always the kids that end up making the trip special.

So getting to spend this time with my lovely friends and their beautiful daughters was a real treat. It was, as expected, the polar opposite of my weekend with Conortje in Den Haag, but nonetheless it was lovely.

It was with a heavy heart that I waved them goodbye at Schiphol.

On the flight home I got sat next to a leg presser.

Of all the people you don't want to sit next to on a plane, the leg presser is high up on the list. He's on the list somewhere next to the smelly person, the nursing mother, the vomiter, the unaccompanied minor, the chatty Cathy and the Eastern European hooker (I sat next to a pair of these once between Paris and Valencia. One of the worst flights of my life).

Anyway, I was on the aisle, he was in the middle. And no matter where I put my leg, he followed it a couple of seconds later with his. He pressed his leg up against mine for practically the whole flight.

Now, I'm not always one to complain about these things - I remember flying Alitalia from Bucharest to Milan MXP quite vividly (and I remember it quite often, he he) - but this guy was a pain. He was mid-forties, nerdy and he was 'reading' a very dull computer magazine. So, more Pee-Wee Herman than George Clooney, and a real effing nuisance.

To make it worse, when we were getting off the plane and the crowd was lining the aisle waiting to move forward, I swear I felt his hand cup my backside.

I turned to look at him and he winked. He winked. I mean really. Winked.

Now, I like being winked at and touched up by strange men as much as the next 'mo, but being touched up in economy? Non merci.

I have standards, you know.

vendredi 21 novembre 2008

Back to Holland

So I'm heading to Holland in, erm, 20 minutes time. Again. I was there last weekend too.

But I'm guessing the two weekends couldn't be more different. Last weekend I was with my lovely Irish Dutch Friend who took me out and we painted the town red. Well, actually it was more of a subtle shade of pink, but we certainly painted the town.

Friday night in Den Haag, followed by Saturday night in Rotterdam and both nights we managed to stagger home at 5am. We spent our waking hours dancing (yes, to American Boy, of course) and drinking fancy cocktails. We may or may not have chased dutchmen.

This weekend I'm going to Amsterdam to meet the newest addition to my family. My best friend and his wife have had a little girl and I get to meet her this weekend. I love babies, but I'm not so good with them. And I only really love them for a ten minute hold. But I really love these friends and so I'm incredibly excited about meeting their latest.

I'm guessing the weekend will involve late nights sat around the post-dinner table, chatting, reminiscing, sharing music and laughing lots.

So two weekends that are very different, but with one factor in common - the joy and pleasure of spending time with good friends, enjoying life and laughing.

Really, I am blessed.

Now, how do I get out of changing nappies?

jeudi 20 novembre 2008

Things you never wanted to know

OK, so this is stolen from Torny at Sticky Crows but I felt it just about suited my post-nausea mood. And let's face it, I needed all the prompts I could get to post something today.

And although it may be stolen, the answers are mine all mine. Feel free to copy it over at yours. We'd all LOVE to hear the answers...

1. Is there anyone on your blogroll you would have sex with?
Durr. Of course there is - have you seen the hotties on my blog roll?

2. Sex in the morning, afternoon or night?
Yes please. Oh sorry, was that an 'or'?

3. Have you ever had to pull over on the side of the road to puke?
The taxi driver had to stop on the motorway for me once - between Uppsala and Arlanda Airport. I then threw up in Business Class all the way to Brussels. That's Brandy for you (and no, I don't mean Monica's friend).

4. Have you ever taken your clothes off for money?
I haven't - but sometimes it's felt like I should have been paid...

5. Shower or bath while having sex?
Who has sex in the bath? Fool around maybe, but sex in the bath? OK, now you can all tell me that I'm Miss Priss.

6. Do you want someone aggressive or passive in bed?
One of each please.

7. Do you love someone on your blogroll?
I love you all. Just because you come visit me. Some I love more than others. But that's because you've bought me a drink.

8. Love or Money?
Let's say 'love' but I think I may be 'money-curious'.

9. Credit cards or cash?
Cash, baby. Stops me spending, spending, spending.

10. Have you ever wanted a best friend?
Like a dog? I've always had at least one or two of the human variety, so I feel pretty blessed.

11. Camping or a 5 star hotel?
Are you mad? Five star all the way. But I do like waking up in a tent when it is raining, opening the door flap and lying there, happy that I'm dry. Always better if the tent also contains a hottie.

12. Where is the weirdest place you have had sex?
In the Gaza Strip. And that's not a euphemism.

13. Would you shave your entire body (including your head)?
Really - I'd look like an overgrown schoolboy. It'd be fugly. Real fugly. And the itching afterwards...

14. Have you ever been to a strip club?
Yes - both kinds, oddly enough. But when I went to one where it was all girls stripping I spent the entire time questioning the hygiene of the whole process. It was nasty.

15. Ever been to a bar?
Does this mean ever had sex in a bar? It seems like a pretty lame question.

16. Ever been kicked out of a bar or a club?
Oh yes. In an Auckland bar once, the doorman kicked me and my friends out for 'playing up' but I still got his number. He was from Raratonga and did a fine line in shotgun smoking....amongst other things.

17. Ever been so drunk someone else had to carry you?
Surprisingly only the once. Or is that twice?

18. Had sex in a movie theater?
Maybe. Please don't think worse of me.

19. Had sex in a bathroom?
Yes. Hasn't everyone?

20. Have you ever had sex at work?
See 19 above.

21. Ever been to an adult store?
See 19 above.

22. Bought something from an adult store?
See 19 above.

23. Have you been caught having sex ?
Only by people who didn't mind. It's more that they wanted to then join in that upset me.

24. Does anyone have naughty pics of you?
See 'the blogroll' attached. Some of them might have...

25. Ever had sex with someone and called them by the wrong name?
No. But I have had sex with someone and not known what name to call them. But then, see number 19 above...;-)

mardi 18 novembre 2008

If you can't stand the heat...

I'm writing this through a fog of painkillers, anti-nausea tablets and general vileness. Dear reader, your beloved TBNIL is sick. I think I realised this when I woke up on the floor of our meeting room at work.

I'd only lay down because my head was spinning, but I'd been there for three hours. Well done Debbie for being concerned and coming to check on me. She didn't, of course - I was left to sleep.

Having woken up with an imprint of the carpet tiles on my face, I bundled myself into a taxi and headed home.

Anyway, I've slept most of the afternoon, punctuated by an hour or so lay in the bath (it was the comfortablest place I could find - do you think I'm in labour?).

So, I was a little distressed when my mobile rang and woke me up, but it was my Mom and I figured she may have words of wisdom for me. Now, any of you who have been here before will know that expecting words of wisdom from my mother Is a lost cause. She's like Rose from the Golden Girls, only not so bright.

"Hello bab", she said. She always calls me 'bab' or 'the bab' or 'the babby', what with me being the youngest and she being a Brummie Mummy. You can imagine that I love this.

"Have you been trying to get hold of me, bab?"

"No, not today, why?" I said, leaving my 'I'm sick' announcement until she asks how I am.

"Well the phone has been ringing all day"

"Why didn't you answer it?" I asked, reasonably enough, I thought.

"Because I've been locked in the kitchen". She said this as if I should know.

"You've been locked in the kitchen? How long for?"

"Since 8.15 this morning - the locksmith just got me out". It was 3pm in the UK.

Now, it seems that my mother had got up, gone downstairs and made herself a morning cuppa. As usual. And as usual with old lady houses, hers is like Fort Knox. She has locks on every door. As she finished her drink and went to get a shower, she realised that the kitchen door had locked itself behind her and she was trapped with no keys, no phone and no way out.

She'd spent the day waiting for someone to walk up the street at the right angle to be able to see her frantically banging the window. Apparently, four people had seen her, waved and walked on by. They're off her christmas card list already.

Eventually the neighbour walked past. The neighbour has her front door key too - but her own key was in the other side, so his was no use. Which is where the locksmith came in.

"Why didn't you climb through the window?" I asked.

"Because I had no knickers on. I didn't want anyone looking at my fairy".

And I thought that I was the sick one today.

dimanche 16 novembre 2008

Say my name, say my name

Now, I’m all for originality, but let’s not screw up the kids, eh? I mean, being original is fine when it comes down to choosing to have a barcode tattooed onto your forehead (although it’s been done before) but when it means calling your child Barcode, then that’s a different thing altogether.

There have been plenty of stories recently about people calling their kids stupid names – remember Tallulah Does The Hula From Hawaii, anyone? Or the twins, Benson and Hedges? But it is not these that concern me the most.

What worries me more than anything is the proliferation of totally made up names. Names that have come from nowhere and mean nothing.

Often it is just a single letter or part of the name that has been changed for effect – Latasha, Shanita, Jelissa, Jeswald, Natrick.

And then there are the names that have had a bit added to them – I give you LaDawn, ShaLisa, LaTanya. I’ve met a LaCorey and a DeJohn. Really. I have. And don’t get me started on D’Shaun.

But the crème de la crème – the totally made up names. Those that have truly been thought up on the spot by the parents. Let’s have a round of applause, ladies and gentlemen, for Quanesha, Tyaishia and Shalonna. For LaCrasha and Trinique and Keyair. And for my very favourite – ShaQueen. Beautiful and understated, I think.

Really, these are all names that we encountered during our big American road trip in ’07. It got to the point where we were so startled by some that we started to write them down.

But it’s not just in the United States that you find this. In the UK you don’t have to go far too find an Aimii, a Cydney or a Mishell. Bad spelling or innovation?

Whatever happened to George, Julie and Peter? Normal names for normal people.

I thank the Lord every day that my parents had the foresight to give me a normal name. They gave me a normal, everyday, easy-to-spell name.

I'd tell you what it is, but I prefer it if you just call me Sir.

vendredi 14 novembre 2008

Viva Viagra?

It was 4am and I lay in my hotel room in the US, wide awake, watching TV and waiting for a reasonable hour to get out of bed to arrive (flying west always means waking up incredibly early for me).

Now there are a lot of differences between the TV on opposite sides of the Atlantic. One of the most obvious is the way that ad breaks are scheduled – there are lots more of them during each programme than in the UK, for example, and they come at odd moments – like just after the titles and just before the credits. English people find that weird.

But the thing that stuck me as the weirdest of all was the type of products advertised on TV. In Europe it’s not likely that you’ll see prescription drugs advertised on TV – mainly because it’s banned under EU regulations. The EU feel that it is inappropriate for drug companies to ‘speak directly’ to the consumers, preferring doctors / qualified people to make drug recommendations to us based on our actual needs. The US feels that this advertising is acceptable practice.

Anyway, that looks set to change in the EU over the next few years, but meanwhile, regardless of which side is right or wrong, you can’t escape the fact that some of the ads are just downright bizarre.

What amazes me most is the way the companies list the side effects of the drugs:

“…..may cause depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts”

“users of …… have reported experiencing traumatic dreams”

“…..may cause impaired vision, loss of sight and shortness of breath”

I mean really, how bad does it have to get before you think, “well, it may be worth it, even if I do end up blind”?

But all of these adverts pale into insignificance when compared to my favourite ad of all time. The campaign is called “Viva Viagra” and yes, you guessed it, it’s targeted at guys who are struggling to raise their game.

It’s all set in the good old west, with roadside bars, burnt earth and blue skies. Guys on Harleys, wearing bandanas. Men enjoying a beer, a game of pool and a good old laugh at how they couldn’t get it up for love nor money.

The theme song to the campaign? Viva Viagra sung to the tune of Viva Las Vegas. I mean really. Come on. God bless the marketing boys at Pfizer.

But even with all this macho imagery and desert landscape, they still have to tell you about the negative side effects of the drug.

Apparently if your erection lasts longer than four hours, you should contact your physician.

Jesus wept. If it lasts longer than four hours then I think it’s your partner who’ll need to be seeking medical attention.

Something to reduce the bruising and an inflatable cushion, I’d suggest.

jeudi 13 novembre 2008

His cock-up? My arse!

How much of a ballache is this?

When you enter the US as a foreigner (or 'alien' as they like to call us in that friendly kind of way) and if you don't need a visa, you have to fill in an I94 form.

The entry part is taken off you by the lovely man at the fingerprinting desk, aka passport control. The exit part (officially now I94W) is stapled in your passport.

Upon leaving the US, the I94W is taken from your passport by the airline or the immigrations folks at the gate of your departing flight. This is your proof of leaving the country.

So guess what happened?

I ran for the Paris flight at Detroit, handed over boarding pass and passport to the gate official. He gave me them back and I ran on board. I didn't check that he'd taken the I94W.

He hadn't. He'd screwed up his - relatively easy - job and had left me with my exit form still in my passport. Fool.

So now the US Immigration think that I am still in the US.

To overcome this, I have to write to some government department in Kentucky (run by the Colonel?) sending my I94W and proof that I am now out of the country. God help me. I'm sending them everything, including a photo of me holding today's Figaro in front of the Eiffel Tower. Well, maybe not.

And if they don't process this, or if it just sits on a shelf somewhere, or if it gets lost in the post? Or if I simply didn't know that I needed to do this and just left the slip in my passport, or even worse, threw it away? That's easy, I would be denied entry next time I try to go to the States, and sent back on the plane that I arrived on - at my expense.

So, the American government have screwed up and it has become my problem to solve.

Don't you just love that?

mercredi 12 novembre 2008

Meine Stadt heisst Seoul

Why am I spending three hours every Monday evening, learning to speak German? Or rather, learning to speak better German – I already have a bit of a base, but it’s not so good these days.

The question remains unanswered and, as I sat on the métro heading home after the class (at 10pm) I was really questioning my decision. I’m sure that jetlag was playing a part, but I was thoroughly exhausted and certainly too tired to remember the dativ / akkusativ / genetiv rules.

Anyway, let’s hope it gets better. And let’s hope that my language improves too. It’s really not that good. I should have used the two-week intensive language course that I went on last summer to learn to speak German rather than learning to chat up Germans. But hey, warum nicht? After all, any experience is good experience, nein?

In fact, within minutes of the course starting on Monday evening I got quite giddy. Learning German in Paris is quite the thing – I mean really, where else would you be able to learn the expression ‘der Eiffelturm is sehr bekannt’. Clap clap. How exciting.

My giddiness soon subsided as we were put into pairs for, what I thought would be the evening. It turns out that Eva Maria, our lovely teacher (I’m trying hard to look at her face and not the massive sweat patches under her arms) wants us – like swans – to pair up for life. At least for the duration of the course.

So who did I end up with? Chloé, the charming 18 year-old with the Amy Winehouse eyes? Kamal, the handsome and flirty Tunisian (meine Stadt heisst Sousse. Sousse hat eine grosse Stadtmauer)?

Or maybe one of the two sweet-enough-but-very-bookish Frenchmen?

Alas no. I’m partnered with Kwang Min. He’s from Seoul. I think. It’s not so clear. I know he is Korean. At least I hope he is. Calling a Japanese person Korean is never good (but better than the other way round – at least Korea never occupied Japan…)

We have to interrogate each other (yes, the German lady used this very word, much to my delight – I thought she may be bringing out the interrogation lamps, but no). We were to find out more about where we are each from, what our musical tastes are and whether or not we are married.

From what I can gather, Kwang Min isn’t married, is from Korea (he doesn’t like to say South Korea – it’s all one big kim-chee filled love-in as far as he’s concerned), likes ‘techno’ music and studies….erm, something.

Really, his accent is so strong that I have pretty much no idea what he is saying. When I look puzzled at him (i.e. all the time), he tells me the word in French. This is largely pointless as his accent in French is equally impenetrable.

It is only when we have to tell the rest of the class all about our “learning partners” that everyone else finally sees what I have been up against.

Truly, after Kwang Min has spoken to my classmates about me, in German, for three minutes, no-one is any the wiser about my name, age or marital status. They have no idea where I am from or what I do. I can see suppressed giggles on the faces of the girls, and a look of horror on the face of Eva Maria, who has the look of a woman with a challenge on her hands.

I corner EM after the class and ask if I can have a different partner next week.

“That would be no problem” she said, “but it doesn’t work like that. Rules are rules and the rule is that you stay together for the course”.

“Then I may be asking for my money back”

“Again, the rules are the rules. No money back after first class”.

“Then what do you suggest? I’m here to learn German, not Korean.”

“I suggest you work harder”, said she, helpfully. “No-one ever said that learning a language was easy, you know”.

Oh dear. Looks like there’ll be tears before bedtime….and they won’t be mine.

mardi 11 novembre 2008

Rock and rollers

I don't know what I did on my flight home - maybe I managed to piss off the check-in agent? Who knows. But I got to security at O'Hare and the security guy uttered those words that everyone loves to hear:

"You've been selected for extra security checks today, sir". And he said it like "You've been selected to win one million dollars today, sir". Great.

So once I'd gone through the ridiculousness of taking off shoes, belt, watch, harness, etc, I had to follow him to a small booth in the corner. Memories of Israel are coming back to me at this point.

There wasn't much in the way of politeness as he went through my pockets, opened my bag, fanned his way through my books - all without asking permission. Then he opened up my laptop and turned it on.

"Shouldn't you be asking if I mind you doing this?" I said. I was pretty outraged by the way he was going through all of my things without a please, thank you or may I. I was thinking that - if I wasn't onto a promise in Phoenix - I'd never be darkening these shores again.

He ignored my question - mute? - and took swabs from all available surfaces - including my hands, my shirt and the soles of my shoes. he processed them through his little explosive/drug detector machine. Nothing came up, obviously - although, I was a bit worried about what I may have trodden on in the night club last night.

Finally I got away and had to run to my gate for the flight to Detroit. In Detroit I had no time again and had to run to the gate for the Paris flight. Luckily I had time to stop and buy some 'night time' extra strength cough medicine (I'm suffering, folks. I'm suffering).

On the way out - the daylight flight - NWA had put me in Business Class, which was lovely. Alas, they never upgrade me when I most want it and so the overnight flight back to CDG was in coach. Which is absolutely fine, but Business would have been nicer.

I flop into my seat and say a quick 'howdy' to the person sat next to me. I do a double take. She's possibly the most glamourous person I've ever sat next to on an aeroplane (and I've sat next to Antoine de Caunes from LAX to CDG once. It was all I could to stop myself licking his cheek while he was asleep).

She was aged about sixty five, a lady of color and quite, quite beautiful. She had the kind of skin that I wanted to touch to see if it was real. She had this amazing long (I mean LONG) grey hair that was straight as a die, and she was wearing a scarlet trouser suit. There was, admittedly, an element of Mrs Claus to the ensemble, but hey, I was in the glamour row, what did I care if I looked like Santa's helper?

So, we settled in for our journey home. Me on the aisle, Mrs Claus in the window seat. Before eating dinner I took my cough medicine and very quickly (before the tray had been cleared) I found my head nodding. Slumber beckoned.

I woke up and looked at the screen. 1 hour and 15 minutes to go before Paris. I'd slept for six hours. And I'd blocked this poor woman in her seat for six hours too. I turned to apologise to her and nearly jumped out of my skin. it was all I could do to not scream.

During the flight she'd taken all of her lovely long hair and put it into rollers. Hair curlers. All of it. A full head of plastic bobbins. And she'd taken off her make up.

It was like waking up next to one of Marge Simpson's sisters.

But what amazed me more than anything wasn't how this ageing supermodel had turned into my Grandmother, but more the fact that she had put in a WHOLE HEAD of rollers without waking me up. And without leaving her seat.

As they took away our 'breakfast' trays, she got out a big, ugly bag. She started to apply her war paint. And then, one by one, the rollers came out.

With a shake of the head and a bit of a ruffle of the hand through her locks, she was transformed.

I was sat next to Madonna. At least, that's how good she looked.

Trust me, that's the last time I take drugs on a plane. Even if it is only cough medicine.

lundi 10 novembre 2008

You tell me...

OK, so here's the thing folks. I have loads of posts going round my head at the moment and I don't want to be posting three times a day.

So I thought I'd give you some headlines and let you tell me which ones you want to hear - if you want to hear any of them...let's face it, I do go on a bit.

So here's the list. Tell me what tickles your fancy (from the list below, thank you Lewis):

1. Made up names. My favourite? ShaQueen.

2. My obsession / fascination with the Viva Viagra ad campaign.

3. My new classmates at the German school, including my 'learning partner' Kwang Min.

4. My brother's recent (and somewhat shocking) conversion to racism.

5. Is Debbie a slut or is she just friendly with men?

6. The woman next to me on the flight home....and her hair.

And an old one that I've promising for ages....

7. How an old lady saved me from the Romanian gutter children.

Ok, so it's up to you now....really, you decide.

I'm done with making all the decisions around here.

dimanche 9 novembre 2008

Good head

So, Chicago. It's been a week and what a week it's been.

Really, how great is this city? Everything a boy could ever wish for, wrapped up in good old fashioned midwestern hospitality. Truly, it was hard to leave. Except for the family thing. Boy did that get old quickly.

The only good thing about taking this trip en famille is that none of them can say that I never gave it a go. So, when they announce the destination for next year I can back out gracefully without being accused of 'never wanting to do family stuff'. Paying it forward, folks, I'm paying it forward.

In a bid to get some free time/some me time I decided I'd go get a haircut. This is on the basis that a) I didn't get one before going to Chi-town and b) I'm off visiting next weekend and don't have time in the week for a cut either and I do want to look my best for my Irish Dutch friend.

The haircut decision was also based on the fact that I couldn't imagine either of the two other grown men in the party wanting to spend the morning 'dans le salon'.

I was wrong. My brother and my cousin's husband both decided that they too would like a haircut, and so the die was cast. Did I know anywhere to get a cut, was the question.

Well, I had spotted a coiffeur whilst speeding my way home from Boystown in a taxi at 4a.m. the previous morning (I'm not going to say where I'd been other than this - Condi Rice watch out, there's a new name at the middle east peace table, baby).

Anyway, I do digress. I'd passed this place which was all lit up with neon and looked like a classy barbers shop type joint.

The Barber Shop was called 'Good Head'. I'm not sure why I was drawn to it.

But hey, the joy of arriving outside the place with Brother and Cousin-in-law, and seeing their faces when they noticed the big neon sign?


jeudi 6 novembre 2008

My ring is darkening

My mood ring, that is. It's turning from a happy go lucky shade of pink, to a desperate, driven to the edge of madness shade of black.

Why? It's simple. I'm here in Chicago with 8 members of my family and they are driving me crazy. The fact that I ever agreed to come on this trip surprises me no end, but it hasn't all been bad.

I wouldn't have missed being here for the Obama rally for anything, but really - do we absolutely have to eat in the same chain restaurant 2 nights in a row? Am I really the only one who has any kind of a plan for the day - every day?

I'm stuck with an aunt who apologises for everything and who is constantly worried that someone is having a bad time; a mother who is largely bewildered by the whole experience and who can't decide whether or not she wants a cup of tea with her breakfast (I have to make the decision for her); a brother who is an absolute control freak and who only agrees to do things if he can be convinced that doing it was his idea; a cousin and husband who are lovely and are proving to be the saving grace; and a nephew and niece who play nicely with everyone else, but who like to beat shit out of me, their loving uncle.

You can imagine that I'm having a lovely time, can't you?

Today I left them to their own devices and headed off for a spot of retail therapy and time to myself. Calvin Klein and Kenneth Cole were both soothing my wounded soul when my cellphone rang.

"Hello son, it's me, Mom"

"What's happened?"

"We've just left the Gap and we're lost. How do we get home?". My Mother truly sounded like she was calling from beyond the edge of reason.

"Which branch of Gap is it?" I asked, not unreasonably.

"I don't know. There are a lot of tall buildings and a park".

Is it any wonder that my mood ring is black?

mercredi 5 novembre 2008

Tuesday in the park with Barack

I just got back from the Obama victory rally in Grant Park. Really, I did.

It's another moment where I wonder how I end up in these places, but hey, this isn't about me (for once...).

As the results came in and it became increasingly obvious that vistory was Obama's, the crowd swelled and the atmosphere became amazing. With McCain conceding defeat, it became magical.

The man himself came on stage and that was it - the crowd went wild.

Truly, I've never seen so many people in one place in my life (and I've been to a Take That concert) and I've never seen so many people so inspired by a figure on a stage (apart from maybe at that Cher gig I went to, tee hee).

But really, the crowd was young, old, black, white, gay straight and everything in between. Everyone was smiling, everyone was happy. It was a big old love-fest and we were loving it. I can't imagine British (or French) politics ever having the same impact on the population.

It was a moment in history, and I was thrilled to be there.

America, you did good tonight.

Now can I please go to bed?

mardi 4 novembre 2008

Travelling, but not in luck...

So, I got to Chicago.

Alas, my luggage stayed in Paris.

As I waited (and waited) for my bags in Detroit, it became more and more obvious that they weren't on their way. I looked for a representative of the airline (thank you, Northwest) but no luck. they were hiding.

After annoying a customs guy into helping me, a NWA person found me and said that I was one of thirty bags that had been left in Paris. They could have got the bags on board, but that would have made for a late departure, so the Captain took the decision to leave the bags behind. Great.

On the flight from Detroit to O'Hare, I was sat in First, next to a pilot.

"Where have you flown in from?" asked the steward of the pilot.

"I just captained the flight from Paris" said the pilot.

It was too good to be true. This was the very person who had decided to leave my bag behind.

"Excuse me Sir", said I. "I wonder if you can lend me some underpants...?"

He looked very uncomfortable.

mercredi 29 octobre 2008

Topiary treats and overgrown gardens

Last night I went to the theatre. The Theatre Chatelet - which is a lovely old barn of a venue, but the balconies have supporting posts that make for poor viewing for 50% of the seats up there. I had a seat with a crap view, but I moved.

This turned out to be a big mistake.

As soon as I moved, someone else jumped into my seat, so there was no going back. And I'd sat myself down next to a typical Bobo mother and her chatty, chatty, CHATTY child. After ten minutes of his running commentary, I had to ask his mother to shut him up.

"But he's only a small child" she said. "he doesn't know how to behave".

"Well then maybe he shouldn't be here, if that's the case", said I.

Mother tutted and child was quiet. For a while.

The show was Edward Scissorhands - the Matthew Bourne ballet version (very good, see it if you can). The production is pretty true to the film, and Edward does marvellous things with bushes and hairdo's before being seduced by the local slut and becoming an outcast. it's all very sad.

A short while in there's a scene where there are a couple of people holding up 'vote for Upton' signs - it seems the mayoral election is on. This pleased chatty child no end.

"Maman, regarde! Il ya une manifestation!" he yelled. "J'adore les manifestations". (look Mom, a demonstration! - I love demonstrations)

It seems the spirit of '68 is alive and kicking.

And then every time a scene ended he would say "is it the interval?".

When the interval finally did come, there was a treat waiting for everyone sat in the surrounding seats. 'Mommy' got out a big envelope from her bag and from the envelope took out a contact sheet of photographs.

"Darling, tell Mommy which one of the photo's you like the best. Which one does Mommy look prettiest in?"

Well, I had to look, didn't I?

The photo's were of 'Mommy' lay naked on a bed. Artistically naked, not slutty naked, admittedly, but it would be hard to say that Mommy looked 'pretty' in any of these shots.

It looked like she had a dirty great bathmat in her lap. She didn't, it was just her lady garden, which had overgrown somewhat.

The small child said he didn't like any of the pictures. Apparently Mommy looked dead in them and he didn't like that.

"Oh well", she said. "I guess I'll have to ask Uncle Georges to take some more".

mardi 28 octobre 2008

Cowboys and Indians

We had a great dinner yesterday evening. Even the obvious racism didn't detract too much from the food, the ambience and the company.

It was my Lovely Paris Friend's birthday and we went out to La Coupole. In the Parisian world of good old-fashioned brasseries, La Coupole is one of the kings - real vieille école stuff - with amazing service and great food.

The waiters are in bow-tie and dinner suit, and they all come together to sing happy birthday to you - if you organise this in advance. I didn't, but someone at a table nearby did, so hopefully LPF got a bit of vicarious pleasure from this...

Anyway, entrées of oysters and prawns were fantastic and we followed this with two of the main courses for which the house is famous. LPF took the steak tartare, I went for the lamb curry.

What happened next surprised me. Now, I worry that I am being totally anglo-saxon in my reaction to this. I've asked French colleagues this morning and they think it is perfectly acceptable and that it is in fact 'typique'. This is what happened:

The waiter who had served us all evening came with the steak tartare for LPF and presented it with a flourish. My lamb curry didn't appear.

What did appear was an Indian man - yes, a man from India - wearing a maharajah's outfit - yes, a maharajah's outfit - wielding a silver domed trolley.

With a muttering of something like "your curry, sir", he pulled back the cover of the trolley and proceeded to serve up the curry from within. He did this with impeccable style and class, but nonetheless I couldn't get away from the nagging thought at the back of my mind...

...they have employed an Indian and dressed him up in 'Indian' clothes just so that he can serve curry to the middle classes?

What worries me is that I'm seemingly the only one who thinks this is wrong.

lundi 27 octobre 2008

What you gon’ do with all that junk?

Now, I’m not saying that I’m, like, Randy Jackson or anything but when it comes down to what the cool folk are saying these days, I’m pretty good at working it, dog.

You know, all this ‘hanging with me homies’ and such, it’s given me a bit of an insight into gangsta speak. You know what I mean, bitch?

I know whether something is ‘phat’ or fat – not that it can’t be both (I give myself as evidence here) and I know my ice from my bling. I’m even pretty good at translating regular American into the Queen’s English.

If someone wants to hang on the sidewalk, I know they’d probably like a sit down at a pavement terrace. If he tells me that ‘that bitch ain’t shit to me’ I know he’s not talking about Boubou the French Bulldog and her constipation.

So, I was in a club on Friday night and this really attractive guy came up to me. He was early forties, good clothes, salt and pepper hair (be still my beating heart) and he was American.

“Hey man” he said.

“Hello” I said back, trying for all the world to sound like a member of the Royal Family.

“Your junk man. It’s good.”

“Thanks, erm, yours isn’t so bad either?”

“You gonna give it to me?”

“Erm, probably. Possibly. Erm, what do you mean…?”

Well, he told me. I was a little surprised and a little impressed. Surprised that he was referring to the good stuff as junk. Impressed that he’d spotted the good stuff in the first place. Impressed he’d got the balls to come and talk to me.

Reader, I was impressed enough to let him have the junk….;-)

vendredi 24 octobre 2008

Hard to beat

So, it's the weekend. I have a Suntory and coke in my hand and from where I'm sat, the world looks pretty good.

Before I head out for a bit of what Paris has to offer, I thought I'd just say this. The Singer series was a funny story to tell - funny in a strange way, most definitely not ha ha. But it was a big bit of my life and I'm pleased it's over. Getting it down in black and white here was a good thing to do. Thanks for bearing with me and thanks for not telling me that the blog had turned miserable. And thanks for the lovely words as the story progressed.

So, back to 2008 and I'm in a great mood. I love the promise that Friday evening brings - a weekend ahead with friends to see, drinks to drink and restaurants begging for patronage! Does it get any better?

And my big job for the weekend? Sort out my wardrobe for my trip. Next Saturday - the 1st - I'm taking the big bird over to Chicago for a week of, well a week of Chicago. Tips anyone?

And the great news is that Monday's trip to Brussels has been cancelled. I can take it easy without thinking I have to get up early Monday morning and drive to Belgium. A big relief. Although I do have to go to the UK this week, but that's a fly in and out kind of trip. Easy.

The rest of the week looks pretty good too - I have the ballet on Tuesday (Matthew Bourne's Edward Scissorhands, which I saw at Sadlers Wells, but is truly amazing) and then Aimee Mann at La Cigale on Friday. Too exciting.

It's going to be a great week, but let's not get ahead of ourselves here.

Folks, there's a weekend out there, just waiting to be enjoyed.

Let's do it.

jeudi 23 octobre 2008

The singer - Part VI - the end

After a short stay in ‘hospital’ K was sent home, pending a date for his trial. He went to his parents’ home and we spoke regularly. I know this sounds weird, but I kept in touch because on top of everything that had happened we were friends, and I felt he needed a friend. And I’m sure I didn’t want to just walk away either.

After a month or so, he called to ask if he could come and stay at mine, in the spare room. His parents were being too overbearing and he needed some space, needed to live like an adult. I said yes. I didn’t know what else to say.

K came back to live at mine and did indeed move his things into the spare room. He would sometimes sleep there, sometimes sleep with me.

During his time in hospital and the month afterwards K had been diagnosed as suffering from a form of psychosis. He was taking tablets to send him to sleep and others to wake him up. Seroxat became his best friend.

His mood wasn’t what you’d call stable. He would become enraged quickly, never violent, but angry. He was a totally different person to the K that I had known ‘before’. Sex brought on awful nightmares for him, but his libido hadn’t disappeared. Ultimately, the seroxat put paid to any hopes of a sex life for him and he became frustrated.

Socially, he was a nightmare – I never knew what to expect and I ended up rarely going out. It was too hard to mix him with friends and family, and leaving him behind led to arguments and awfulness.

His day in court finally came and he was acquitted. He never gave me the details. He wouldn’t allow me to go to court with him. He told me afterwards that he had planned to kill himself on his first day in prison had he been found guilty. He had hidden heroin in a condom in his backside for this very purpose. This is what he told me. He showed me the heroin.

As his talk turned more and more to suicide I started to get scared. I was way out of my depth here. I would talk to him about his future and he would say that the big difference between us was that I wanted a future and that he just wanted to disappear, to end it all.

But then some days I’d come home from work and he’d have cooked dinner, rented a DVD, put flowers in the kitchen. We’d sit together on the sofa like an old married couple and watch the movie, his head on my shoulder. These days would upset me more than the angry days.

And then my Dad died.

I wasn’t able to grieve for myself, look after my mother, deal with my brother’s strange behaviour and handle K all at the same time. He wanted to be my number one priority and I couldn’t do it.

At the same time he stopped taking his pills. He had decided that he was well and that he could stop the medication. I understand now that this is part of the rollercoaster of depression, but it was so new to me. Put this together with all of the other pressure, and I was pushed to the edge.

I was grieving. In the last two years, I had buried three grandparents and, but a week earlier, had seen my father into the ground. I had a psychotic lodger/boyfriend, a newly widowed mother and a brother who couldn’t see past his own grief to think about anyone else. I had closed my doors to friends as K got worse. And my family just weren’t interested.

All I wanted was to be at the top of someone’s list, but there was no one.

One night, I tried to explain this to K. He told me that I had no idea what it was like for him. That I was selfish and that I didn’t care. That he was going to kill himself. That his death would be my fault. That he’d stage it so that I was the one that found him and that it would be ugly.

That was it. I went upstairs, packed his bags and phoned his father. His son was no longer my responsiblity. I took my keys off his keyring and I told him to leave.

Getting him out of the house wasn’t easy and I was afraid. I’ve never been so scared in my life. I’m no weakling, but he was a very strong guy and the situation was tense. This sounds incredibly dramatic, but if he wanted to kill me, he could have done so. Very easily. Nothing would have surprised me.

With K out of the house, I left by the back door. I locked the house behind me and quickly, quietly went to a local hotel.

I presume he waited for his father, but I don’t know.

Today, it’s six years later, and the hard part for me is not knowing what happened next.

He fell off the edge of my earth and I never saw or heard from him again. His parents wouldn’t take my calls and the single letter that I wrote was sent back unopened.

I hope he is alive. I hope he is well. But really, I can no longer bring myself to care.

mercredi 22 octobre 2008

The singer - Part V

Shortly after the New Year, Jenny dumped K. He gave me no explanation, I didn’t ask for one. She disappeared off campus for a while, but when she returned she was as friendly to me as ever. I was obviously not implicated in their split.

Me and K? Well, he became a fairly regular visitor to my place, but always on a pretext – he didn’t want my housemates to know we were sleeping together, but they were no fools. He would tell them we were working on a university assignment together, that he was borrowing a CD, that he wanted to show me a new video he had bought.

And all of this – the ‘schoolwork’, the ‘CD playing’ and ‘video watching’ – we did behind closed doors, with minimal noise…we wouldn’t want anyone to hear anything that could incriminate him, would we?

University ended in the early summer. We both graduated (me with a first, him with a lucky 2:2) and I headed off to the Midlands to start a new job.

K got on a plane to Australia and there he stayed until the end of the austral summer. He wrote to me often and sent me photo’s of him looking tan, fit and healthy. He was working as a dive instructor in Queensland, and loving it.

We would see each other on and off for the next few years. We were great friends – friends with privileges, if you like.

One year, in January, he turned up on my doorstep. He was just back from another stint working in Australia.

He stayed at my house for 5 months, during which time we lived like any other couple – well, when we were inside the house, at least. He came to family dinners and parties, but always as my ‘friend’, my ‘lodger’. He met my friends, my colleagues, my neighbours. He always introduced himself as my friend from university, despite the fact that we shared a bed every night of the week.

During these months he didn’t work. I fed him and watered him and paid the bills. I bought him new clothes and took us out to the pub. I was a bloody fool.

Then, as the summer started, he moved to Cornwall. He’d got a diving job down there for the summer and would be back in the autumn. He told me he loved me, that he’d miss me, but that this was a great job. I was pleased that he had got a job – that would be a relief to my bank account. But I was sad that he had gone. I missed him.

In September, I got a call from the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary. He was being held in Plymouth and had given my name as his next of kin. Could I find him a lawyer?

The Police told me that he’d been arrested after he’d had an argument with his girlfriend (girlfriend? This was the first I knew about a girlfriend). They’d argued and she claimed that he’d opened the car door and pushed her out. He maintained that she had jumped.

At the time, they were travelling at forty miles an hour.

I rang round and got a lawyer to go and see him. I prepared myself to walk away from this awful situation.

Three days later he was sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

How could I walk away now?

mardi 21 octobre 2008

Ding dang dong

Am I wrong to love this song as much as I do?

Just fabulous. The group is les Rita Mitsouko and the song is called Ding Dang Dong (ringing at your bell). Available at the sign of the apple.

And how classy is the lead singer, Catherine Ringer?

I challenge you to not dance to the chorus with your arms above your head...give it a go...you know you want to...

The singer - Part IV

The Christmas holidays passed fairly quickly, and on the 30th I headed back ‘home’ to university. Classes didn’t start for ages yet, but I’d arranged to spend New Year’s Eve in town with some friends.

I got back to my student house and opened my mailbox. There was a note from K inside.

“Don’t know when you are getting back to town, I’m here already. I’m bored and depressed after the usual family rubbish. Come over when you get back.”

Well, I kind of ignored the note – the mailbox had given me plenty of other things to worry about – phone bill, electricity bill, library book reminders, new timetable for school…not what a boy wants to come home to.

That evening, with my housemates still at their respective familial homes, I lay on my bed and watched crappy TV. I had a beer or four. I ordered a pizza and ate that. I was asleep before the News at Ten. The doorbell woke me up. It was K. But then you knew that it would be, didn’t you?

“Let’s go get last orders”. He said. The pub was at the end of the street, fifty metres from my house. I agreed.

Apparently K had downed a couple of beers, then walked the streets looking for a light switched on in a friendly house. Mine had been the first one he’d seen. At least, this is what he told me.

At the pub, we had a couple of beers and chatted. Neither of us mentioned the pre-Christmas weirdness. We headed back to mine, so that we could share a joint or two, nothing unusual in that – it was something we’d done before. I made us tea and we ate digestive biscuits while smoking some very fine hash. It was a very English scene.

“Can I stay here?” he said. In the absence of a sofa, or a comfortable chair in the house, we were lying on the bed, and were listening to Oasis.

“Sure”, said I. “But there’s only here”, I said, meaning my bed. “Everyone else is away and their rooms are locked”.

“That’s what I was hoping”, he said.

While he was in the bathroom I quickly undressed, modestly, to my t-shirt and shorts. I got into bed. He came back in the room. He undressed. He did this without looking at me. He knew that this would mean that I could watch, which I did, with pleasure. Unlike me, he wasn’t overly modest.

Naked, he climbed into bed next to me.

“I hope that you aren’t planning on keeping those on for very long”, he said, and he tugged at my shorts. The night passed too quickly. Neither of us got much sleep.

The next day, he headed back to his place to change. We arranged to meet for drinks before I went off to see the New Year in with some other friends.

To my surprise, he turned up at 8 o’clock as promised. Equally to my surprise, he wasn’t alone.

“I haven’t seen you in ages! How was your Christmas?” said Jenny, his beautiful, intelligent, lusted-after-by-all-straight-men girlfriend as they sat down with their drinks.

“It was, erm, unexpectedly interesting” I said, looking at K, who was looking devotedly at Jenny.

“That’s good” she said, “Did Santa send you that hot guy you’ve been asking him for?”

“He did” I replied. “But it seems I unwrapped someone else’s gift by mistake.”

lundi 20 octobre 2008

The singer - Part III

I’m going to refer to him as K. If he reads this, and recognises himself, he'll know why he is K.

After that first encounter, we became good friends. Just really good, solid friends. Best friends, in fact.

It turns out he was the same age as me. He had come to university from the military where he had served in the first Gulf War and had been in both Kuwait and Iraq, pretty much fighting on the front line. He had tales that were so far removed from my experiences of the same years.

While he had been dodging bullets in Basra, I’d been downing vodka shots in Darlinghurst. Not quite the same thing, but both potentially disastrous. Being a bit older than the rest of the year (not much older, but enough to set us a little apart) meant we had things in common with each other that we didn’t with our colleagues.

On the last day before we headed off for the Christmas break, we planned to go into town and have a big night out. This wasn’t our usual thing. Over the last couple of months, we’d gotten into a habit of eating lunch together when our timetables matched and having a beer down the pub once or twice a week. We didn’t party together. Ever.

But that night, he turned up at my house with a bottle of vodka, a couple of ecstasy tabs and a big grin on his face. It was going to be some night.

As you can imagine, we danced and danced. We laughed a lot, acted like fools and avoided fights; such was the city centre on a Friday night. As the ecstasy kicked in, we were in a bubble of our own, a little world where only the two of us mattered.

As usual, the club closed too early and we started the walk home. It wasn’t far, but it was cold enough and late enough that it would normally feel a lot further than it was. That night however, with the ecstasy still buzzing through us, the walk would have passed quickly.

The journey home took us up a path behind some halls of residence, a path that was pretty deserted and dark – I wouldn’t have taken the path on my own, that’s for sure. Anyway, with K it was fine – he was certainly able to handle a couple of rowdy students if the situation arose.

We got to the end of the path - where we would each go our separate ways to our own houses. We said goodbye, agreed it had been a great evening and arranged to meet the next day before going back to our hometowns for the holidays.

I walked on towards my house. He called after me.

“Hold on mate. Wait up a minute”.

I walked back to where he was standing. “What’s up?” I said.

He pulled me into him and kissed me. It was crazy. It was intense. Trust me, this wasn’t the kiss of a friend wishing another friend a merry Christmas. This was filthy, dirty, great.

We came up for air. “You know, I really love you…in love with you”, he said.

He looked triumphant, ecstatic, but this quickly gave way to a look that was confused, lost, sad. He turned away from me and walked away. His walk turned into a run and he sprinted off. I was left there, stunned.

What had happened? What was that all about?

The next day I waited for him at the agreed time and place, but he didn’t show. I drove back to Birmingham wondering what it was all about. I was certain that the pills were to blame, but nonetheless, I found myself all at sea.

Had I just lost my best friend to a moment of drug-induced weirdness?

dimanche 19 octobre 2008

While I was sleeping...

How did I miss that?

I've been blogging for a year and never noticed! Damn, I hate it when I miss a birthday.

So, it's been a year and it's most certainly been a year.

It's pretty unusual for me to blog about blogging. Seems like a strange thing to do in some ways...kind of like writing a book about writing a book, or singing a song about singing a song. Both of which have been done, so maybe it's not so strange.

Anyway, with a year under my belt (and not wanting to miss an opportunity to tell you all how I feel about a subject) I thought I'd talk about blogging, just this once.

Almost everyone who comes here with any regularity is a blogger themselves, so I'm guessing you have feelings about blogging and the impact it has on your lives. Blogging for me has been a big surprise, delivering me far more than I ever expected.

I thought I'd just write about my life, in a kind of 'this stuff doesn't seem to happen to anyone else, so I'm going to write it down before I forget' kind of way. I never thought anyone would want to read it. But Swearing Mother wanted to.

Sweary was my first ever reader, and has been a loyal friend ever since. So many of you followed and I love that you did. What has amazed me about you all is the sheer diversity of everyone and how very few of you have a similar life to mine.

I've been discussing with Louise the role that blogging plays in a world where tolerance isn't always there.

I really do think that blogging gives a window into a life that we may never think about living ourselves (Lord knows me and Louise are very different - which we secretly love about each other). Blogging allows us to see the normal-ness of that other life, despite it being very different from our own normality. I like that. If more people blogged, would the world be more tolerant?

Beyond this, blogging is all about being nosey, surely? We say it's 'human interest' but surely it's nosiness? It's like looking into someone else's front room (and sometimes their bedroom) taking it all in and then telling them what we think about it. How cool is that? I know more about my fellow bloggers than I do about some of my family.

But more than seeing how other people live, being nosey and sticking my oar in, blogging has brought me a bunch of people that are turning out to be good friends. Some of you I talk to regularly via email, which I really enjoy. And then others are friends in the flesh too. Well, when I say in the flesh, I just mean that I met you and I liked you.

At least one of you is starting to look like someone I'll still be annoying when I'm old and miserable. I love that blogging brought me this friend.

It'd be a bit odd to say that this old blog has changed my life, but in some ways it has. For the better, too. I'm still me and I still fuck up pretty regularly. I just tell more people about it when I do. I guess it's like really cheap therapy....

So, this has possibly turned out to be a mix of sentimental claptrap and the musings of a tired mind. But I mean it all. Really I do.

Please keep coming to see me, keep leaving comments and, for those of you who visit me and don't post comments - well, you're also welcome, but I do love me a comment!.

Thanks everyone, it's been a fine year.