dimanche 29 juin 2008

All good things...

...must come to an end.

I'm typing this, surrounded by mayhem, madness and the detritus of my life.

Tonight I must switch of the Mac, for tomorrow the men arrive with their boxes and muscles to move me 400 kilometres north, to Paris.

Sad? Yes.

I have this feeling that I could have done so much more with my time here in Lyon if only I hadn't ended up spending the last two years on planes, trains and in hotel rooms.

I hate 'if only' but I wonder about the friends I never made (I made a few, but not enough) and the dates I never went on (ditto).

I know that Paris is a whole new beginning - a different job in a different set-up. I know it is a great opportunity to get some normality back into my life.

But I worry that, once I stop travelling so much, life will find me. That I'll have to get me a life. I'll have to actually get out there and search one out. Track one down.

Anyone got any suggestions? I'm scared.

mercredi 25 juin 2008

London, Ontario

Well, I'm carrying on with the stories promised in La Centaine, but somewhat out of order....

When I was 18, I was working as a travel agent and got offered - as travel agents did in those days - a free ticket on a new service to Toronto.

My father, possibly keen to get me out of the house for a few days, called up his distant 'cousin' in Toronto (who he hadn't seen for 20 years, might I point out) and arranged for me to stay with them for a week. This wasn't what I had in mind, but it was generous and it pleased my parents to think I was out of harms way. And it was cheap, too.

As the plane started the descent into Pearson airport, I started to panic. Who were these people, what would they think of me, why was I stopping at their house?

I came through customs and spotted them instantly. It was the homemade sign (enormous and covered in tissue paper flowers) with my name on it that caught my attention. My 'relative', Chris, looked like Shaggy from Scooby Doo and he was there with his Mexican wife and two kids.

We did the sights, we ate shocking food (no-one in the family could cook) and smoked some wicked dope in the basement when the kids had gone to bed. It was fun and funny.

A few days in and Chris drove me down to London, Ontario to meet his parents. His father was my grandmother's cousin. I told you they weren't close relatives.

Anyway, the trip to London was a sad one because his Mother was in the hospital, recovering from a heart attack. We went to visit her and she was very weak, but so welcoming to me and a truly charming old girl. Her husband - Uncle Arthur - took us back to the house and made us welcome with beers and sandwiches. He seemed exhausted and overwhelmed. Apparently his wife had been ill for a long time.

He asked me lots of questions about the 'old country' and I'd taken some photo's with me to show him what had changed since he was last there 20 years ago. He told me how much he wanted to see the old place one last time.

I flew home to the UK a couple of days later, having been charmed by my new found family. I missed them and wrote lots.

A couple of months later, Uncle Arthur called to say his wife had died and that he was planning a visit to England.

He came over and we had a blast. My Dad really took care of him and we drove round the old haunts - he was a Smethwick lad, like most of my family, and wanted one last pint 'on the Cape' as the shopping area was known.

He was a great sport and loved meeting all of the new family, as well as sharing stories with the older generation.

At the end of his trip, I drove him to the airport with my Father and we waved him off.

A day later, we got a call from Chris. He was at home in Toronto and had been trying to reach his father in London. Had he got on the plane? He wasn't able to get hold of him.

We called Ward Air (now, that dates this somewhat) and found out that Arthur had boarded the plane and had flown to Canada. Chris called the shuttle bus company and they had dropped him off at his house, as organised.

There was nothing more to do, Chris got in his car and drove to London, to his Dad's house.

A few hours later, we got a call. It was Chris. He had found his father.

He was sat at the kitchen table, his suitcase at his feet, his house keys in his hand.

He had died within minutes of walking in the door.

But he had achieved his goal.

Uncle Arthur had seen his relatives, old and new.

He had had his pint on 'the Cape'.

He had touched his beloved Smethwick soil.

He had been 'home'.

mardi 24 juin 2008

South Pacific

I know I'm moving house and all that, but it hasn't stopped me planning a summer holiday.

Two weeks of sitting poolside, drinking toxic cocktails and generally doing my liver plenty of damage, whilst pretending to read books. So much to look forward to!

I'm meeting up with a couple of old friends from my Sydney days in Vanuatu. They wanted to meet somewhere 'halfway'. How we ended up with them travelling four hours and me 22 hours I don't know. It hardly seems halfway.

But the plan is that we'll just relax, unwind, drink.

The first thing the Aussies said to me was

"we have to coordinate our duty free purchases - we need to make sure we have all we need for balcony cocktails"

My poor liver is going to hate me for this. But possibly not as much as my bank manager...

That said, thanks to the trusty old Platinum Air France card, the flights haven't cost me a bean (apart from taxes, natch) and so I get to giddy my way around the world in a business class haze of fancy drinks and movies for nothing. I may even get some sleep.

And joy of joys - thanks to flight schedules, I get to spend a couple of days in Japan on the way down under.

Japan is my favourite country for holidays - I just love the alien-ness of it all. The total challenge of travelling somewhere where there is no common cultural reference.

So, two days bimbling round the shops of Osaka will do me good and give me the retail therapy that I can only imagine does not exist in Vanuatu! It'll also help break me in gently to the 'being on holiday' thing, which can take some getting used to.

But first I have to move house. And drive to the UK. And sell my car. And fly back to France. And hand over my work to a colleague. And pack for holidays.

And not lose my tickets in amongst the chaos....

Now that would be a disaster.

dimanche 22 juin 2008

Threat de la Musique

This weekend was the annual Fete de la Musique here in La Belle France. And like the rest of LBF, Paris takes this very seriously indeed.

So, while we (me and lovely London friends who'd hopped on Eurostar with their rollers and brushes) slapped on the paint in the final push towards a habitable apartment, the rest of the city geared itself up for one big party.

Naturally, we weren't planning on missing out and with tools downed suitably early, we joined the masses.

Well, I say we joined the masses...first of all we went for a quiet dinner a trois at Le Reconfort - an old favourite on the rue de Poitou. Dinner was fabulous and the Fete de la Musique meant that the place was quiet and service was excellent.

Leaving the restaurant we strolled down to rue de la Perle, passing by many impromptu 'performances' as we worked our way through the Marais. Some were good, some were dreadful, but none got our custom - we knew what we were aiming for. Well, at least we hoped we did.

As we approached the rue de la Perle, we could smell the party. The mix of grilling merguez, spilt beer and that '28-degrees-at-ten-in-the-evening' body odour that only a crowd of Paris BoBo's can deliver....

I've been to the party at this spot before and it has been good. This year we weren't disappointed either.

As the Marais has become hipper and the crowd more and more fashionable, the party has become funnier and funnier. And the (500-strong) crowd has become more and more eccentric and exotic.

There was no live music - which is a good thing, if you're like me and want to spend your Fete de la Musique dancing and drinking and not checking out new musical 'talent'. Instead, there was a DJ playing a great mix of music - everything from the Cure to Madonna, from Dalida to the Jam - and everyone was dancing.

We drank lots, we danced lots. We had a fantastic time.

As we left at half past three, the party was in full swing. The 'dumped' girl crying at the roadside, being comforted by her friends was having a marginally better time than the girl being fucked on a car bonnet by her boyfriend - in full view of the cheering crowd.

The boy jumping up and down on (I presume) someone else's bicycle was seemingly having the time of his life.

To get home we had to cross the Place de la Bastille. It had been busy earlier, but nothing compared to how busy it was now. It was mobbed. Cars had no chance of getting through but they still insisted on trying. For the occupants it must have been terrifying....

There was a massive police presence at the Bastille, and it seemed that trouble was only an ill-considered glance away. We all felt that all it would take would be for someone to say the wrong thing to a police officer and all hell would break loose. We got through and out the other side as quickly as possible.

On the final leg we passed belly dancers, more maudling singers and a cute boy playing a mean guitar.

The street below our bedrooms was home to a trad jazz band who had been setting up when we had left. They were playing a roaring set and did more than justice to some classics. As they played the last bars of Besame Mucho, we headed to our beds.

A great night out with a heady mix of music, laughter, sex, dancing and a promise of danger.

Hmm. When I put it like that it sounds like any other Saturday night really....

I should be so lucky.

vendredi 20 juin 2008

Slebs, slebs, everywhere....

Well, as heartened as I am by the fact that you all got the key message of my last post, I'm also kind of stunned that not one of you picked up on the hot celebrity action that was going on in there!

I mean, really. There was a step class with Eartha Kitt and pool table action from the Cruise-Kidmans (or is that Cruise-Kidmen?). Does it get any better?

So, to punish you for this, I'm going to take you through a whistle-stop tour of my celebrity encounters. Stop reading now if you find Hello! magazine a bit basic...this post is as low-rent as it gets.

Firstly, there was the trip to Marrakech. At the British Airways VIP check-in, I was in line behind Benny from Abba, with his massive Swedish family - they were en-route to Stockholm, I imagine. Also on the Stockholm flight were Sven Goran Erikson and Nancy Dell'Olio, who said hello to me (it was difficult to ignore me, staring as I was). Nancy delivered on every front possible, she was glamourous, as jolie-laide as you'd imagine and kept cussing the poor skycap who had been charged with pushing her Vuitton.

On the return leg from Marrakech to Heathrow, I was sat in the row behind Sean Connery and his scary-looking wife. Really, she's a case of not knowing when to say stop to the plastic surgeon. It was very surreal, standing by the luggage belt at Heathrow, watching James Bond point out his luggage to the accompanying flunky.

For the Brit's amongst you, I was once sat next to Ken Barlow at a charity concert in Bridgewater Hall. He fell asleep. Not classy. I also once found myself queuing up with Felicity Kendall at Marks' on the Kings Road, Chelsea. We both had chocolate digestives in our baskets. We could be twins, you see.

When I got out of Marks' I bumped into a very rude man who told me to 'pay more attention'. It was Michael Portillo (looking scarily handsome). That same day, I sat at the table next to Bob Geldof at lunchtime. Sleb's are like buses, you don't see one for ages and then three come along....

I very nearly hit Jasper Carrott with my car when he ran out in front of me at Birmingham Internation Station once. That would have been no loss.

And I saw Alan Bennett and his partner checking out his own books in WHSmith at Gatwick. Not at all what I'd expected from him.

I sat next to Celia Imrie on a bus and saw Timothy West buying filth in a Chiswick newsagent. I crossed paths with Robin Cousins at St Katherine's docks once too. That was the day I saw Michelle Collins - Lord, she's rough.

I've filled up my car at the pump next to Grant Mitchell and I've followed Matt Lucas down the street with friends going 'it is him, it is, really'. Shameful.

Once, at the Air France VIP lounge at LAX I had to ask the noisy man behind me if he could possibly speak a little bit quieter. It was Antoine de Caunes. Very Eurotrash.

Bryan Ferry called by a friend's house while I was there once, and I've spoken on the phone to John Bon Jovi. I spent a sixteen-floor elevator ride in the company of Paul and Anita Keating. I only realised this when my Australian Colleague said 'So, how's it feel to be in the lift with the Prime Minister?'....

I nearly stopped the Queen's convoy going through Canberra once too. That one involved Police intervention and I'm not sure I'm allowed to say much, other than her Majesty looked beautiful in lilac.

There have been loads of others too, but I'm very mindful of my international audience - and they are already saying 'Grant Mitchell? Who he?'.

But there is one little bit of international glamour left. I give you Segolene Royale, days before she lost to Sarkozy. I ended up stood next to her for an impromptu media conference and photo session. She was beautiful, elegant and a true diplomat politician. She should have won. Which is all very well, but I still ended up missing my train.

Anyway, as much as it is funny to see these people out and about, it's not all that interesting beyond the hilarity of texting friends with a 'guess who I'm sat next to...' message. It's rare that anyone belives me anyway.

And not one of these star-spots beats sharing a step class with Eartha Kitt.

mercredi 18 juin 2008

Sydney Harbour, last ferry to Balmain.

The last ferry to Balmain leaves just before midnight. This isn't a route I took very often, but it was the route I took this October evening, back in 1993.

Sydney had marked me, had changed me and improved me. I grew up while I was there. I was no longer a petulant kid. I was a grown man who knew what he wanted out of life. I was no longer afraid of the 'C' word. Yes, I wanted a career.

I'd been living in Darlinghurst, in Sydney's eastern suburbs / inner city for just under a year. I had a home there. A home that I shared with two really great friends. I had a job there too - a job that I really loved and a boss that I really admired. And not just for the fact that every year she would go to New York to 'update her wardrobe'.

I had a great circle of friends and I had a pretty operational 'little black book' for when the need arose. My life was full, complete, happy and balanced.

I'd go to the gym before work (the City Gym on Crown Street, where I once did a step class with Eartha Kitt - oh yes, the actual one, the one and only - going up and down on the step next to mine) and on the way into the office I'd grab a focaccia sarnie from my favourite sandwich shop ever - 'How the Focaccia?' in the CBD....

I'd go out after work with friends and we'd catch movies, shows and social diseases together. We'd spend our weekends clubbing and never miss the thursday night Kylie drag show. One night, I rushed down to our local on Oxford Street after being summoned by my friend. Tom and Nicole (of Cruise and Kidman fame) were playing pool in the bar. She was gorgeous. He was Tom cruise.

As you can see, I'd put down roots. But as you'd expect from me, I'd put down roots somewhere that I couldn't stay.

I was fast approaching the end of my 12-month visa.

My boss came up with a cunning plan to sponsor me for a residency permit. She'd get to keep the best assistant she'd ever had (aka moi) and I'd get to stay in Australia.

I planned a two-week trip back to the UK to see the family and explain my decision. Then I sat back to wait for my passport to come back from immigration, with the permit duly stamped inside.

Ten days before my holiday, my passport came back.

I was starting to worry that I'd have to cancel the trip. Alas, I did cancel the trip - well, the return trip anyway.

My passport came with a letter. My visa had been denied. I had to leave the country before the end of the month.

I left my house in Darlinghurst. And for the last couple of days I stayed with my best friend who had moved to Balmain.

The last ferry that night was the last ferry for me.

The little yellow and green Sydney ferry headed out of Circular Quay.

Past the Opera House, under the Harbour Bridge and across to Balmain.

The lights of the harbour were beautiful, the water inky-black. I cried and cried.

I wasn't leaving a love behind. This time I was leaving a life.

dimanche 15 juin 2008

Girls from work

Life is getting a little bit out of control at the moment. Well, my French life is, anyway.

With a list-as-long-as-my-arm of things that need to be done before I move house, and then before I go on holiday, I've done what any self-respecting denial merchant would do.

I've left it behind and come to the UK for the weekend.

Now, it's not totally my fault. I had meetings here thursday and friday - and I have more monday and tuesday. It just made sense to check into 'Mom's Hotel' for the weekend and catch up with everyone.

Friday night, I went out with the Girls From Work. The GFW are amongst my oldest friends. I worked with them in 1985 and 1986 and have stayed in touch ever since.

We probably see each other no more than twice a year, but we email and chat occasionally. Whenever I see them, I feel like I'm sixteen again and they are the bossy 'older sisters' that I never had. I generally sit back and watch/listen as they gossip, and chat about kids and schools and husbands and Nigella recipes.

Then comes the point where they ask what's going on in my life.

They've set me up with so many dodgy men in the past. They both still work in the travel industry and seem to have an endless supply of Travel Agents that they think would make an ideal 'life partner' for me....

"Darren" had his own business, was handsome as and utterly charming. He lived with his mother and had no intention of leaving her.

"Mike" was a Travel Agent by career, but he was in the Territorial Army in his spare time. When he arrived int he bedroom in his camouflage I was mildly surprised. I went with it, but it's the kind of thing I'd only do once.

"Andy" cried at dinner.

"Phil" talked, talked, talked. When I came back from the bathroom he was talking to the people at the next table. He just couldn't stop. Even in the bedroom.

"Steve" was the best of the bunch. We had a great evening and really enjoyed each other's company. I'd been sneezing all night and we joked about me being allergic to him. When I got to his house and met his four cats, I realised that this was true. I was allergic to his cats and to the cat hair that covered his clothes.....

Anyway, this time round they suggested a new one. They'd been discussing it for the past week. They'd gone through the options and narrowed it down to a guy who was 'absolutley perfect' for me.

They spent an hour telling me why 'on paper' this guy was perfect.

Lord. I'm not going to meet him.

That said, GFW1 is planning all sorts of way that we could bump into each other. You'd think this would be difficult with us living in different countries.

Alas, GFW1 is more cunning than you'd ever imagine.

I fully expect to find him in my shower one of these days....

mardi 10 juin 2008

Bidart. The beach at sunset

It's 1990.

Since I got back from Israel I'd been working on a temp contract for an old boss. She was the regional manager for - at that time - a big holiday company.

I went into work one March morning and she asked me to join her for a cup of coffee.

"What are your plans?" She said.

"What, as in plans for life?" I replied, like the 20 year old I was.

"For when you finish here. Your contract is due up next month."

"No idea", I replied. I'd been secretly hoping it was going to be extended. Apparently not.

"I've got an idea." She said. "How's your French?"

Two weeks later and I was on a bus (yes, a bus) heading to the south-west of France. My old boss, God bless her, had gotten me a job doing the admin in a resort office for the summer.

It was such an easy job - make sure coaches were booked, hotel rooms were confirmed. Make sure the tour guides knew their rota.

I was working with three girls - two from the UK, one Dutch and generally I worked two hours in the morning and two in the late afternoon. This left me plenty of time to sit on the beach and ponder my fortune.

July rolled around, as invariably it does at some point most summers. It was hot and humid and every few days a storm would come down from the Pyrenees and hit us with some welcome cool air and rain.

It became our habit to go the beach for sunset. To take down some beers and watch the sun disappear. To light a fire, to smoke some joints, to lie in the sand with whoever we were in love with at the time.

July happened to be a lean month for me. And I walked down to the beach with Stephane, the boy who worked in the local campsite shop during the day and occasionally in a bar in town in the evenings. I'd had a crush on him since I arrived at the end of March - for which the girls never tired of taking the piss out of me.

This one night, it was just the two of us. Remarkably, the girls and their boys didn't show up.

We sat down on the beach next to each other and had a couple of beers, smoked a little, watching the beautiful pink sunset. He leaned in and we kissed. In near darkness we lay there together and enjoyed the cool night air.

"Allez, come on" Stephane said. "I've got something to show you".

I didn't want to move. But wherever he was going, I was going with him tonight.

We headed back into the town and the square had been invaded by locals and tourists alike, mostly drunk, all having a great time.

It was the first Bidart town-square dance of the season and there was music and beer and merguez-frites. Everyone I knew was there and everyone wanted to dance.

The girls told me that Stephane had asked if we could have the beach to ourselves that evening and that we'd meet them here later. They nudged and winked and said they hoped it had been worth it.

We kept dancing, drinking, laughing until the wee small hours and then a big group of us headed to the beach.

As the sun came up we dropped our beer bottles, stripped off and ran into the sea.

Stephane grabbed me and a wave crashed over us both, knocking us to the ground.

We lay in the surf and he kissed me.

"Happy Birthday" he said.

I was 21.

lundi 9 juin 2008

Items of great beauty

And you thought I was busy painting. Well, I was.

I went out to the BHV (I love the BHV - just the best shop in the world) to buy paint and I came back with paint, and these beautiful, gorgeous, to die for trainers / sneakers. Not from the BHV, by the way, but from Man Woman Shift. A great little store on Rue de Charonne.

I guess they're opinion dividers, and I'm pretty certain that you won't all like them.

But, hey, trust me. These shoes + dark-dye denim = too cool for school.

Which is lucky - I could never have afforded these mothers if I was still at school...

(they're Nike Dunk High Supreme for the sneaker freaks amongst you...but then, if you are, you already knew that)

dimanche 8 juin 2008

Blazin' saddles

I was down to a lovely, and rather fetching (in my opinion) pair of underpants while I painted the bedroom wall in the Paris apartment yesterday afternoon.

Despite the heat and the mess, I still felt like I should have a bit more on, especially as the windows were open and the building opposite isn't far away. This isn't exactly how I'd like my new neighbours to see me for the first time.

I needn't have worried. An hour or so into painting and there's an almighty row coming from the street below and the sound of some kind of 'manifestation'.

Now, this is Paris - the capital city of the home of the demonstration - so I wasn't exactly surprised that there was a march going past the house. I was surprised when I looked out to see what the demo was about.

I'm still not sure what the theme was, but there were a couple of hundred of naked cyclists going past, all looking rather uncomfortable in the saddle.

There was much in the way of, well, flesh on display.

The men looked like they'd taken the strings of onions from round their necks and put them in their laps....The women looked they were on an anti-pubic hair trimming campaign - these were some hairy marys, let me tell you.

In reality though, I have no idea what they were demonstrating about - maybe just about their right to cycle naked through the streets of Paris?

Anyway, the tourists had a fine old time snapping away at the parade of human flesh. And the police escort seemed to be quite happy with their lot, too.

As for me, well I went back to my near-naked decorating.

Welcome to Paris.

jeudi 5 juin 2008

Shires Shopping Centre, Leicester

Leicester isn't a place I ever go to. Not often anyway. Only really if I have a reason to go there - a meeting, appointment, wedding.

I'd been invited to speak to a group of MBA students at De Montfort University and had misjudged the traffic. So I found myself arriving early in Leicester, with time on my hands and a credit card in my pocket. That old dangerous combination.

I wandered around town for a while, got some coffee, generally mooching not buying. While drinking my coffee I read an interview between Mark Gatiss and a 'new' singer/songwriter about whom Gatiss was waxing lyrical, and for whom Gatiss had said he would leave his boyfriend and dog behind, gladly.

The singer/songwriter was a young blade from NYC via Montreal. A certain Mr Rufus Wainwright.

I decided that I'd nip over to HMV and see if they had the album they'd talked about in the interview.

I bought said album - 'Want One' - and carried on looking at shops. A couple of shirts and a pair of nikes (which I still own and love, despite their decrepit state) later, I went back to the car and set offf for the University.

Before leaving the car park, I remembered I had that new CD to listen to. I put it in the CD player and turned it up....The first track was all I needed. I was sold....

"....Why am I always on a plane or a fast train?
Oh what a world my parents gave me,
Always travelling, but not in love......"


mardi 3 juin 2008

La centaine

Here it is - my 100th post.

I was going to give you a list of 100 things you don't know about me. But hey, you know most of them.

No matter what I thought about doing a list of 100 of, I couldn't do it and still keep your interest, so I figured I'd give you a top ten. My top ten songs of all time.

Now this is a difficult thing to do - as anyone who has been attacked by a meme will tell you. My music tastes change all the time - to me they depend on my mood, the weather, the time of day, the season, the underpants I'm wearing....you get the picture.

Obviously, I couldn't do it - even this was beyond me.

So I'm settling for a few places that have been a part of my story. Each of them has a tale attached, each comes with a memory for me that I'll share with you - one day.

And no, it's not a list of places where I got me some action. What a low opinion you have of me.

Here goes.

1. The car park at the Shires Shopping Centre, Leicester.

2. The beach at Bidart, between Biarritz and St Jean de Luz. July. Sunset.

3. Sydney harbour, on the last ferry to Balmain.

4. Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham. 1969. 2001. 2002. 2003.

5. the A470. October '92. On a bus.

6. Rotterdam. Oh, Rotterdam. Hotel New York.

7. London, Ontario.

8. Aghia Galini, Crete.

9. Euston Station. 21 March 2002. 4.45 p.m.

10. Jug of Ale, Trafalgar, Fighting Cocks.

Just working on this list and I'm surprised at how reciting these names has made me feel. A couple of them made me smile, broadly. One of them made me cry. I wasn't sure I could include it. I did.

As I look at them now, it seems that I've set myself up with a bit of work. Future posts. I know you're not going to let me leave it at just a list....


Thanks for supporting me during my first 100. It's been amazing to me how so many of you have come and so few have gone! Your comments make me smile, wince, scowl, giggle, guffaw and laugh out loud. Don't stop, now.


lundi 2 juin 2008

Guess what I've got in my hand?

Oh, yes. The keys to the Paris apartment.

I'm so excited that I might just make a fool of myself.

dimanche 1 juin 2008

Talk dirty to me

OK. I appreciate that within these pages I've waxed lyrical about Rufus, reviewed the Nana Mouskouri tour and generally expressed a liking for musical theatre.

I've never really covered my penchant for something a bit harder. A bit darker and heavier.

I admit it, I like a bit of classic rock.

And the guys with big hair and tight jeans? Well, if the moment is right....

Anyway, I digress. My hand luggage on my trip to Amsterdam this week was a Nintendo Wii and a copy of Guitar Hero - Legends of Rock. You may think that this is me being very generous and that it was a birthday gift for Amsterdam Friend. Alas no.

Although his birthday is fast approaching, I'm bringing the Wii all the way from France because apparently it's less controversial if I bring it into the house than if he does.

I guess it's the male version of 'Oh this dress? You've seen it a gazillion times before...honestly'.

Having narrowly avoided a divorce, AF picks up the little plastic guitar and nails each and every song. Could this be because he plays bass in a band and knows most of the songs by heart anyway? Apparently not. Or so he'd have me believe.

So, I opt for a slow version, on 'easy' setting, of Poison's 'Talk Dirty to Me'.

Alas, the gay gene kicks in almost immediately and, while AF is rocking his way through levels two and three, I'm still trying to finish this damn song without being booed off stage.

I try 'School's Out', 'Slow Ride', even a bit of Pat Benatar. The crowd don't appreciate me, and I never get that standing ovation that I so obviously deserve.

Sunday afternoon, I finally make it all the way through a song. the crowd goes wild. I go wilder. Lord knows what'll happen when I have to actually play a chord with the bloody thing - single notes are hard enough.

Anyway, I'm waiting for the show-tunes sing-off to be released.

Revenge will then be mine.