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...?"