Saturday, December 25, 2010

Advent Day 25

I know that most advent calendars only go up to 24, but this is one Christmasier, isn't it? So without further ado, let's see what is behind the fairy at the top of the mast ...


Again, a slight lack of pl-
anning ahead, but this is a time for goodwill to all, so:


Friday, December 24, 2010

Advent Day 24

And behind the ridiculously tiny sail (how on earth is Father Christmas planning on getting round the world in one night with that?) is ...

A nativity scene!

Blimey. Compared with the Christmas cake this is like the Sistine Chapel ceiling. I suspect that the labour got divided up and this is one of my sister's efforts. Whilst you all admire it, let's have a round-up of the year before tomorrow's final window:

We didn't move house, saving that particular joy for next year.

My shoulder, which was very painful in January, is loads better, but as of Saturday I've now got a sore neck which is making it difficult to sleep. I have definitely reached the age where it's best not to ask me how I am, unless you have quite a lot of time on your hands.

I'm afraid there was no more Rothkowatch as the writing project was put on hold due to lack of funds, which was annoying for all concerned, especially me, to whom those funds should have gone. It may one day be resurrected, or the picture might be auctioned off to pay creditors. Who knows?

Things That I Will Probably Never Get Round to Doing #4 would probably be 'Some More Blog Posts About Things That I Will Probably Never Get Round to Doing'.

But this advent calendar means that I've written the most posts since 2007 (when, in absolutely no coincidence, MY LOVELY SON was born). And it's been wonderfully nostalgic fun as well as a good exercise to have to write one small thing each day about a subject I have no control over. I hope you've enjoyed it. If you did, please do leave a comment. With the advent (geddit?) of feed readers I now have little to no idea if anyone is still reading this.

Don't forget tomorrow's window in all the excitement.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Advent Day 23

And behind the jack is ...

A stocking!

That's pretty clear, isn't it? Let's see what's in the stocking:

It's Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses, the best Christmas song ever!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Advent Day 22

And behind the ensign is ...

Happy Birthday Grandad!

I spent all but one of my first 15 Christmases with him (I believe that the snow was too bad for the drive north one year), and I have happily taken on his festive role of winding up small children with tall tales. The 22nd was also his wedding anniversary, which was a great piece of planning as it would make the date difficult to forget. Though maybe there wasn't a lot of choice if you were getting married in 1939... Happy Birthday Grandad!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Advent Day 21

And behind the ship's stern is ...

A present!

Hang on - we've already had one of those on the 5th (behind the crow's nest):

And the rule was definitely that there had to be a different thing behind each door. Nooooo! Have I just discovered that my whole childhood was a failure? Did I not really achieve all the things I set out to, like scraping a pass in my Grade 4 violin? Has my entire life been built on a lie?

Ah, no wait a minute, let's look at today's present again:

Look - it's got a vertical pencil line coming out of its top, so that clearly shows that this isn't a present, but a present-shaped Christmas tree decoration. And that's totally different. Hurrah! And anyone who says that I've just drawn that line on is lying. You can get it carbon-dated if you want (what with pencil lead actually being graphite, a form of carbon) and it will definitely date from around 1979. And anyone who says that I have kept a pencil from around 1979 in case I ever needed to doctor the advent calendar in any way 30+ years on is lying.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Advent Day 20

And behind the green present is ...

An anvil? An upside-down cross-section of railway line? I am going through something similar with my LOVELY SON at the moment where I look at his scribblings and have to work out what they are, so I now sympathise with what my parents must have gone through every morning. The only difference being that I was at least six years older. But I am going to say that it is ...

A wine glass!

Note to other nine-year-olds contemplating making advent calendars for their parents: red wine works better. See?

Also, your linking of Christmas with alcohol at such an early age is rather worrying.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Advent Day 19

And behind part of the blue present is ...

A teddy bear!

A sort of greeny-grey teddy bear. Unless it's a greeny-grey gingerbread man. Either way, the 11th was now definitely a soldier, as the rule was that the thing behind each door had to be different. An entirely self-imposed rule, but a rule nonetheless, and without rules there would just be anarchy.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Advent Day 18

And behind part of the red present is ...

Break up Yipee!

We break up!
We break up!
We don't care if the school blows up!
No more English, no more French!
No more sitting on the old school bench! [What a hardship that was.]
If the teacher interferes,
Tie her up and box her ears!
If that does not serve her right,
Blow her up with dynamite! [Or gelignite, depending on your preference of high explosive. Unlike dynamite, gelignite doesn't sweat unstable nitroglycerine, so can be safely stored, handled and moulded to fit your teacher.]

Ooh, hang on. If we broke up on the 18th, then I might be able to work out what year this was. OK, December 18th was a Sunday in 1977, so that's out. It was a Monday in 1978, and I can't see us having gone back to school for just one day after the weekend, so that makes it 1979 (a Tuesday) at the earliest. Or possibly 1980 (a Thursday), though I definitely had fischertechnik that year, not an Inter-City 125 set (though I perhaps already owned that and just wanted to draw a picture of it). Surely it can't be 1981 (a Friday)? I can't still have been making homemade advent calendars with my sister at the ages of 11 (me) and 14 (her)? OK, that is possible, but I think that I would have been more likely to draw a ZX81 in 1981, so I'm going to go with 1979, though there may be more clues to come, either this year or next.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Advent Day 17

And behind the long row of portholes is ...

Activate zoom ...

An Inter-City 125 in original 1970s British Rail livery!

Which means it is entirely possible that I had one of these that Christmas (as I definitely had this at some point):

Note that I didn't try to write 'Inter-City' or attempt the tricky BR logo - I had obviously learned from the Christmas cake debacle (if it was a Christmas cake). The Inter-City 125 (surely today they'd drop that hyphen and just have an intercapped 'InterCity') wasn't launched till 1976*, and Hornby didn't bring out their model till 1977 (see below), so that means that the earliest this advent calendar could date from would be 1977, though I'd kind of worked that out already from the standards of handwriting, cutting out and mention of orchestra parties.

My sister had a friend whose dad worked for British Rail, and I remember her cheerily informing me that the people standing by the railway line on the catalogue cover would be sucked into the air surrounding the speeding train and killed. Merry Christmas!

* They are still going strong today, despite the rest of the world having moved on from high speed diesels.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Advent Day 16

And behind the bauble is ...

Er, let's take a closer look ...

Nope. Closer still ... ?

Hmm. 'HAPPY something'? I'm going to take a guess and say that it's a Christmas cake with HAPPY CHRISTMAS written on the side (as we always have a round Christmas cake, so this must be a side view). The light blue edging does look a bit like how my Mum ices cakes. I don't know what's on top though - a little Christmas tree next to a red blob? Is that Father Christmas? Or are the green and red together meant to be a piece of holly? If so, it's a pretty big piece of holly. Or a pretty small cake.

I think this is the worst illustration yet, even including Tinselgate. There are a couple of lessons to be learned here: firstly, when drawing something that is going to have a message on the top, don't draw it from the side. And secondly, if you're writing text inside a limited space, than always

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Advent Day 15

And behind the star is ...

Another star!

That actually made me laugh, 30+ years on. If you then opened that star would there be another slightly smaller star behind it? And so on into infinity? No - we only had two pieces of A4. I still love it though. The only thing better would be to open the door and just see the phrase 'ceci n'est pas une ├ętoile'.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Advent Day 14

And behind the anchor is ...

A bauble!

OK, not much to say about that, so here's an early Christmas present:

(Office Party by Helen Arney & Paul Richards, featuring Terry Saunders, from the album It's Going to Be an Awkward Christmas, Darling.)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Advent Day 13

And behind the scary (and rather topical) shark's fin is ...


OK, I am now officially stumped. The plot has thickened from the 11th's suicidal soldier (they're changing the guard at Buckingham Palace - this one's topped himself) and is now resembling an episode of 3-2-1. I'm afraid to open any more windows in case I win a dustbin.

Let's look at the clues. Er, it's an autonomous community of southern Spain. And I'm pretty sure we didn't actually go to Spain for a day, so all I can think of is that we went to a Spanish restaurant on the evening of 13th December 1970-something. Which was still pretty exciting for the 1970s. I expect that we all ordered omelettes. I've Googled andalucia+restaurant+town near our village, but if they did exist 30-odd years ago they've gone out of business since. Perhaps their unimaginitive clientele mostly died of high blood cholesterol.

But if it was a restaurant, then it does mean that my pre-teen life, with its orchestra parties and foreign dining, was actually a complete social whirl compared with December 2010. The highlight of this year's advent calendar would read 'Get new tyre before VAT goes up'.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Advent Day 12

And behind the banana-y moon is ...

Take a guess. Go on. It will be more fun than charades. What's that, you say? A twig? No, it's not a twig. A brown railway line on a map? No, it's not that. A very hairy caterpillar? Nooooo. I think this game could go on a long time, so I will put you all out of your misery by telling you that it is ...

A piece of tinsel!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Advent Day 11

And behind the last square window is ...



A teddy bear? I think I'm actually going to say it's one of those soldiers like a Coldstream or Grenadier guard (the difference is all in the button placement, so I don't think we're ever going to be able to say for sure which). Is that Christmassy? Not sure. I think that it's meant to be a Christmas tree decoration, dangling on a string. Either that or the soldier has hanged himself. Merry Xmas - War Is Over (Because You've Committed Suicide).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Advent Day 10

And behind the fourth square window is ...

A Christmas pudding! That's pretty clear, isn't it? Ah, Christmas pudding. Grandad used to wind us up as we were looking for the 5ps in our slices by claiming he'd found 50p in his. Every year. Every single year. A tradition that I have been proud to carry on with my niece and LOVELY SON (adjusted for inflation to £2 - I guess in a few years' time I'll have to claim to have found a higher-value RFID cash replacement swipecard).

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Advent Day 9

And behind the third square window is ...

Father Christmas!

It is. Go on, squint a bit. Stop thinking of Roman Catholic cardinals and try to think about a blurry, beardless glove puppet version of Father Christmas. OK?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Advent Day 8

And behind the second square window is ...

Happy Birthday MUMMY!

Hang on - that means it's her birthday today too. Should probably get her something. Good job I had this 30+-year-old advent calendar to remind me - it is as useful as Facebook in that respect (provided all your family and friends' birthdays are from December 1st-25th inclusive, and their names are short enough to fit behind the tiny doors).

Note the ambitious H in felt tip, before switching to biro to fit the rest of the message in.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Advent Day 7

And behind the first square window is ...

Orchestra Party!

Er ...

Now, that really did surprise me. I had no idea what would be behind that door when I started doing this advent calendar thing, though I suspected it might be a bit of tinsel or a badly-drawn bauble. I am now dreading what might be behind some of the other doors, because once you've started opening a 30+-year-old advent calendar and blogging about it every day it's something of a hostage to fortune. What will be revealed about my childhood next? "Doctor's appointment re: bedwetting"? "Trip to zoo - cancelled due to lack of friends"? "Psychologist's appointment re: crossdressing"?

OK, the orchestra party. In my defence, that's my sister's handwriting, but if I wasn't in the orchestra that year then I was in later years, and would have taken part in the annual debauchery that is the orchestra party, with its heady mix of crisps and rosin. Strange to think that just a few years later I would have killed to be at a party where slightly posh girls outnumbered boys by about 20 to one, but at that younger age playing the violin was pretty much the uncoolest of many uncool things about me. I gave it up as soon as I could, swearing I would never pick up a violin again. But in a strange coincidence, I found out only last week that I briefly bowed and plucked next one of these guys:

How was I to know that if I kept practising that playing the violin would become cool? (I am also slightly ashamed to report my schadenfreude on seeing that I still have loads more hair than he does. Who is cooler now, eh? You with your international music career, or me blogging about a 30+-year-old advent calendar?)

I eventually broke my pact about not picking up a violin again when I picked up a violin to pretend to play one for some cutaways in a documentary about stage fright. I only got the job because I knew both the director and how to hold a violin. Unfortunately, my hands had grown in the intervening years, and the violin had proper strings instead of rubber ones they usually put on for actors, so the poor camera crew had to listen to take after take of some truly awful noises as I couldn't work out where to put my fingers (apart from in my ears). But maybe that goes to show that learning to play the violin (and go to the associated orchestra parties) was actually a good thing, as I looked quite cool in the slow-mo black-and-white, and no one wrote to Points of View to complain that I wasn't holding the bow properly.

That was all quite cathartic, but I'm pretty sure that what's behind tomorrow's door will be simpler and much more pleasant.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Advent Day 6

And behind part of the big red present is ...

Three wise men following a star! Note that the star has five points - I remember my mum (who was also my teacher for a couple of years) teaching me how to draw these without taking my pencil off the paper, though one point of mine always ended up a bit bigger than the others (oo-er!). For more star-drawing fun, watch this:

Of course, the gospels make no reference to the number of wise men - it's just been assumed from the number of gifts that there were three. [Insert "what the heck is myrrh?" stuff here.]

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Advent Day 5

And behind the crow's nest (and now thankfully mostly obscuring it) is ...

A present! And a missed opportunity to put another crow in the crow's nest - it might have been one of those jokes which only becomes funny with endless repetition, like [insert name of any inexplicably popular sketch show]. Perhaps there's a crow inside the present.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Advent Day 4

And behind the lower bit of the ship's bow is...

A reindeer pulling a sleigh! Hmm ... Despite this being the more traditional method of Christmas present distribution, I think this explains why we didn't go for 'reindeer' in the main picture. Not exactly a Stubbs, is it? Though maybe we were combining two festive traditions and it's actually an anatomically correct portrayal of a pantomime reindeer. With an enormous arse.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Advent Day 3

And behind Father Christmas is ...

Another angel who looks like Bod!

OK, there's a Bod/angel in the main picture too, but at least this one has feet, despite being drawn in such a small space.

And as there's no statute of limitation on crimes in this country, please don't sue us, person who drew Bod. We were young and foolish, and unaware of such concepts as plagiarism and copyright. It would also be difficult to measure your losses as we received no money from our parents for the advent calendar (which I now realise is a trick that we missed - we could have either bundled the advent calendar in an annual package with homemade birthday/Christmas/Father's and Mother's Day cards, or sold it on a pay-per-view basis for opening each door). If it comes to court I will argue that the halo and wings either constitute a different character, or are a fair use parody. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Advent Day 2

And behind the manically grinning angel is ...

A carol singer holding a lantern! Or possibly a man with no hands poking a long stick at a small, high window. But just look at that excellent scissor-work cutting open the door.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Advent Day 1

And behind the weird-looking fish/dolphin is ...

A Christmas tree! That's pretty clear, isn't it? Red pot, brown trunk, green Christmas tree shape and a yellow blob on the top that's meant to be a star, even though we had a fairy on top of our tree (because stars are easier to draw). When we were in our 20s, our mum decided it was time to get rid of the battered old fairy and try something new. Needless to say, we revolted, and the fairy was restored to her rightful place (albeit with a new bit of tinsel).

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Advent of Advent

Yes, it's that time of year again: November 30th, when my sister and I would make an advent calendar for our parents. I don't know exactly how old we were when we made this one, but we did it for several years, and I still have two of them. We signed our work, so this is probably the last one that we did together, as the other one (which I will do next year, unless someone manages to stop me) only has my initials on it. I have redacted our signatures to protect the guilty, which is a shame, as mine contained both a highly affected arrowhead and a smiley face instead of a dot over an 'i'. How much more fun it would be signing cheques if I still did that.

I vividly remember us getting together every November 30th, then getting two pieces of A4, Sellotaping them together, and trying to think of what to draw that year. Then the annual problem of trying to think of 25 Christmassy things to go behind the doors, before the fiddly issue of cutting the doors open, drawing in the tiny space, then closing the doors again with tiny pieces of now-yellowing Sellotape. Welcome to the 1970s, when we had to make our own entertainment. It was rubbish. If only we'd had an Xbox.

So let's take a closer look: we've got Father Christmas on board the SS Santa, that well-known form of festive transport, off to deliver the presents, though presumably only to children who lived in coastal communities. Which was odd as we were brought up in the Midlands. Perhaps neither of us could draw reindeer.

And have a look at what is in the crow's nest: a crow! With the words 'crow's nest' and an arrow pointing to it, just in case someone doesn't get the joke. (It is a crow. In a crow's nest. It's like alternative comedy never happened. Or indeed any form of comedy. Also, it's got a yellow beak, so is actually more like a blackbird than a crow.)

We've got an angel and a big star in there too, though Santa is symbolically sailing away from these into more secular waters. There's also a lifebelt, though with only one person on board, it's unclear who could throw this in to save Santa from the shark. Perhaps the elves are all below decks behind the tiny portholes. In which case, it's probably something to do with elf and safety. Ah, how far I've come since those crow's nest days.

We'd take the completed advent calendar and give it to our parents, who would then have to spend the next 25 days working out what the heck we'd drawn inside each of the tiny little doors. Which is what we're going to do, starting tomorrow...

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Things That I Will Probably Never Get Round to Doing #3: Back of Envelope Notebook

As a writer (a statement which, eight years on, still feels weird to make) I have a lot of notebooks. People often buy them for me, perhaps in the same way that if all I know about a cousin-in-law is that he likes motorbikes, then he is guaranteed to always get motorbike-related things up to the value of £10 for Christmas. Also I once even bought a notebook for myself, so I've probably got six or seven now.

But despite owning all these notebooks, I don't use them to write down every half-formed idea that I have, because I often don't think that the poor half-formed idea is good enough for the pristine white pages. This is pretty silly, as lots of seemingly rubbish half-formed ideas I've had have gone on to become a bit less rubbish when fully-formed. Of course, many more have turned out to be a lot more rubbish, but it's hard to tell at the initial stage. The best strategy is surely to keep the creative floodgates as open as possible, and quality control can easily come later - like John West's salmon, it's the ones you throw away that make the ones you keep the best. (Note to self: check I'm not mixing him up with Fred West.)

Who knows what gems my subconscious has come up with that I have rejected because I don't think they're good enough to be recorded in a notebook which only I will ever read? It's not like I'm trying to save paper as I already have enough notebooks to keep me going for several more years even if I write down every single thought that I ever have (note to cousins-in-law: I also like Lindt Chilli Chocolate, Leffe Blonde beer and Viz). I am, however, happy enough to jot things down on backs of envelopes, which then inevitably get lost or thrown away, so I may as well not have written them down at all.

I reckon I'm not the only person who thinks like this, so my idea is to make and sell notebooks where all the pages are pre-printed to look like the backs of envelopes. That way I'd be more likely to jot down more half-formed ideas and hopefully keep this rather odd career going for another eight years. To corner the green market, the pages could actually just be old envelopes bound together - a great business opportunity as the raw materials are delivered straight to my door every day. The business is even scalable - every time I got a big new order from Ryman I would just need to tick a few more "Please send me offers from carefully selected third parties" boxes.

But I'm a bit busy.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Things That I Will Probably Never Get Round to Doing #2: DoILookLikeSimonOrNot

I have a good friend called Simon, who moved back to Australia in 2002. He has a very distinctive square-ish shaped face, a thick dark crew cut with a precisely demarcated hairline, and rectangular glasses. Soon after he’d left, something strange started happening: I kept seeing people who looked like him. London seemed to be full of Caucasian men in their early 30s with distinctive square-ish shaped faces, thick dark crew cuts with precisely demarcated hairlines and rectangular glasses. It was like he’d died, and my poor bereaved brain kept seeing him everywhere. It was amazing how many people looked like him – even my girlfriend agreed when we saw one of them when we were out together, so I am not mental or anything. There is a possibility that I was just seeing the same man over and over again, who was probably getting quite annoyed with me staring at him and nearly saying “Simon, what are you... oh” every time I saw him, but I was pretty sure that Simon had multiple doppelgangers, perhaps all over the world.

So my idea was to set up a website called, along the same lines as AmIHotOrNot etc, where people (preferably Caucasian men in their early 30s with distinctive square-ish shaped faces, thick dark crew cuts with precisely demarcated hairlines and rectangular glasses) would send in photos of themselves, and other people would judge, against a pre-loaded photo of Simon, how much they looked liked Simon. Then, when I had enough ranked photos I would make Simon a big framed picture, with his photo in the middle, then the eight people who looked most like him arranged around him, then the next 16 people who looked most like him arranged around that in a 5x5 square.

But I’m a bit busy.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Things That I Will Probably Never Get Round to Doing #1: White Line

The stones on Brighton beach are predominantly of three colours – red, white and blue. What I want to do is to separate out whole skipfuls of the white stones, then at the lowest spring tide to dig a trench perpendicular to the sea, all the way from the lowest wave ebb up to the road, and then fill it up with all the white stones.

On a continuation of this line, a camera would be mounted high up on a building looking out to sea over the beach. Then I would take a long time-lapse series of photos over many days, charting the increasing entropy of the stones as the combination of wave action and people walking on them mixed them all back up again until all traces of the white line were gone.

This film would then be called White Line, and it would represent our powerlessness to control nature and impose order on the world.

But I’m a bit busy.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Saturday, September 04, 2010


Someone in my block of flats has thrown away an unwanted helium balloon, but look! It has risen from the dead!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Not Dead Yet!

I am not dead yet! Here are some things I have been doing:

1. I saw this man on the tube:

He is one of those human statues (I think he works at Covent Garden) going home for his tea. He actually got off at my stop - oh yes, it is like Bloomsbury around here - human statues, moderately successful children's TV scriptwriters...

2. And at another station on another day I saw this:

You will have to perhaps take my word for it that up on the roof are one medium-sized trainer and an English-French dictionary. There's a story there, isn't there? My money is on a rather unhappy secondary school child hopping home, worried that he won't be able to do his homework. Unless anyone else can come up with a better explanation?

3. And most excitingly of all, as a legitimate part of my job I have just made a tetrahedral paper hat and am now wearing it on my head. Who would have thought that 19 years after graduating with a first class engineering degree (and this was before the days of A*s - the exam grade that goes up to 11) and starting out on a proper non-parent-worrying career, I would be sitting here with a self-made tetrahedral paper hat on my head?

Thursday, July 01, 2010

There Are Old Shoulders

And there are cold shoulders
But there are no old, cold shoulders

By which I mean that despite last weekend's milestone birthday, I don't have a frozen shoulder (the scourge of the elderly), but a rotator cuff injury (like a young, physically fit person might get whilst doing something like rock climbing or going out in the semi-finals at Wimbledon).

My physio sessions have been going well, and I can now make a big circle with my arms, with only a small amount of discomfort. I am now in a special shoulder class, where up to 10 of us do individually tailored exercises for three minutes at a time before moving on to the next piece of equipment.

The session ends with some warm-down exercises, like passing a basketball around a circle. But at the end of today's session, the physiotherapist said it was time for something fun. He got us into two lines, then we had to pass the basketballs backwards over our heads to the person behind, with the person receiving the ball at the back coming round to the front and everyone else shuffling backwards before starting again. And whichever team did it first a certain number of times won. You know - like in PE at school.

The physiotherapist was right - it was fun. Even better, I was at the front of our line at the beginning, so it was designated "my team". I was the captain! I have never been the captain of any sporting team before, but I clearly had the leadership qualities that Steven Gerrard lacks, because my team won!

What with being unable to sleep on my left side for months, having to take half a day off a week to go to hospital, plus of course being unable to make a big circle with my arms, this shoulder injury has been a complete pain in the, well, shoulder. But it's a pretty great silver lining, and a testament to the physiotherapy team, that despite always being last to be picked for games at school I am now the captain of a winning sports team. The fact that the other nine members of the class are geriatrics, most of whom can barely lift their injured limbs, makes no difference. A win is a win, and I didn't even need any dodgy refereeing decisions to enhance the score.

But as all great sportsmen know, this is where it gets tricky. Next week I have to defend my title. I'm going to have to take great care as to whom I stand next to near the end of the session, because if the physio thinks I'm having the old woman with the stoop, or the elderly Indian gentleman with the limp, or the white-haired lady I just call The Dropper on my side he can stick it up his bollocks.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I Plug a Friend's Book!!!

This is to tell you all the very exciting news that JonnyB, of the famous Private Secret Diary, has a book out called Sex & Bowls & Rock and Roll: How I Swapped My Rock Dreams for Village Greens. You probably knew that already, as my readers are pretty much an ever-dwindling subset of his, but in case there is anyone reading this that doesn't know that then you should go to his blog straight away and start reading (after you have finished here).

And while a lot of people would just copy one idea straight from their blog and pad it out to make a book, perhaps also flogging it to death on T-shirts and Christmas cards, JonnyB has taken the essence of his blog and pretty much written a whole new book, with a beginning and a middle and an end and everything. If you like the blog, you will love the book, and also not constantly be saying, "I have already read this bit" (unless you are re-reading the book). Plus it has chapter titles which reference things like Cardiacs songs.

I feel a bit like a midwife with this book. It wasn't my idea, I didn't carry it as it grew inside me, and I haven't gone through any kind of labour to produce it. All I did was say a few encouraging things along the way, then right at the end I stuck my hand up its foofoo and had a rummage. For which I am mentioned in the acknowledgements - woohoo!

There is nothing more to say except that it is very very very very funny, and that you should buy it here.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Rothkowatch #1

Modern art often gets a bad press. "My 5-year-old could do better" and "Which way up is it meant to go?" are the usual charges levelled at abstract paintings. I had a great opportunity to test this second allegation as I have just started doing what will hopefully become some regular work at a company that has a copy of Rothko's Earth and Green hanging in the gents' toilet.

I decided to make a hilarious attack on the work of the Latvian abstract expressionist by turning it upside-down and seeing if anyone would notice. Here it is when I entered the toilet:

And here it is when I left:

It is nice to broaden the kind of comedy that I am involved in. I have never played a practical joke like this before, though admittedly this is less banana skin-based and more needing a detailed knowledge of 20th century art-based (anyone who knows their Rothko knows that the red bit actually goes at the top). It's probably best that Jeremy Beadle isn't alive to witness this.

I had to run the tap and flush the toilet as I took the photos to cover the fact that my phone makes a very loud CAMERA CLICK sound when I take a photo, and there was very little else inside the tiny, bare room that I could be legitimately taking a photo of. Of all the noises one could be embarrassed about making in a toilet, a very loud CAMERA CLICK has to be the worst. Anyone waiting outside and hearing a very loud CAMERA CLICK from inside would probably think that I was taking a picture of (a) my penis, (b) my poo, or (c) both at once.

If you look closely at the pictures you can see my reflection. Luckily for you I am rubbish at multi-tasking, so hadn't started urinating at the time, and this is not an example of reflectoporn, where someone uploads a picture of a shiny kettle they are selling to eBay, only for a potential purchaser to zoom in to have a closer look at the shiny kettle and see a reflection of a naked person holding a camera. I do not get my kicks from getting strangers to inadvertently look at pictures of my penis, and anyone who says I do is lying. So don't go looking for my penis - you will only be disappointed. You won't see it, even if you really zoom in a lot.

So, will anyone notice that I have satirised the whole of modern art and turn the picture back round? Or will the picture still be in the same orientation the next time I go there? Or will this be like the second murder in Se7en (Greed) and I will find the picture in a third, different orientation, and I will look on the back and find a message written using fingerprints from a severed finger?

Watch this space.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

It's a Fair Cop

In the park, my five-year-old niece (playing the part of a police officer) catches and arrests me (playing the part of a criminal) and locks me up by the climbing frame (playing the part of a high-security jail for category A prisoners (highly dangerous to the public or national security or people who are ticklish)).

MY FIVE-YEAR-OLD NIECE: You've got to stay there for a hundred and one years, and I'm going to watch you so you don't escape.

ME: But if you're going to watch me for a hundred and one years, which of us is the real prisoner?


Monday, March 29, 2010

I Want You to Get Mad!

I don't usually just link to other things on the web as there are plenty of other places that do. But I currently have five scripts to write which is (a) good, and (b) good, but might give me some kind of nervous breakdown. Just while I'm typing this sentence five deadlines are ticking away. And this sentence. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. Why aren't I working on one of them right now? Right this second? Instead of typing this sentence? I am an idiot. A real idiot.

So whilst there is this blogging hiatus, I ask how do you make the greatest piece of music in the world even better? Like this:

Doesn't that just work brilliantly?

Check out the YouTube info and comments for the sad story of how Shawn Phillips came up with this seminal piece of music (I have flashbacks to power cuts and the IRA every time I hear it) in a jam session, then due to not being a member of the Musicians' Union ended up signing away everything.

(Original instrumental version here.)

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The Old Shoulder

My left shoulder has been hurting recently. I can't remember injuring it, and it doesn't hurt a lot, but for several months it hasn't shown any sign of getting better, so I go to see my doctor.

The doctor makes me move my arms in various directions. I can do all of the movements with various amounts of pain, until she finally asks me to put my arms down straight then lift them both up in a big circle. I am surprised to find that I can lift my right arm OK, but not my left - it sticks out as though I can't get a mobile phone signal and am trying to send someone the letter 'J' in semaphore.

Perhaps if I were leading some kind of music and movement class I might need to make a big circle with my arms on a regular basis, but my usual activities don't include making a big circle with my arms. I suppose I assumed that I would be able to make a big circle with my arms should the need arise, and it is slightly disconcerting to find out that I can't make a big circle with my arms, that I probably haven't been able to make a big circle with my arms for months, and that I never realised that I couldn't make a big circle with my arms.

I sometimes feel a twinge in my shoulder when driving if I change gear from fourth to fifth, but living in London this doesn't happen often. The only times I really notice that it hurts is at night when I often wake up to find I've raised my arms up on to the pillow in my sleep. Perhaps I was dreaming of making a big circle with my arms, and my subconscious is telling me to give up the writing and instead become a leader of music and movement classes.

The doctor tells me that it is probably a torn rotator cuff. I like the sound of a torn rotator cuff. It is the sort of manly injury that a young sportsman or rock climber might get. Maybe in physio I will get to meet Roger Federer, and I will point to my shoulder and say "This? Torn rotator cuff. You know what it's like", and he will nod knowingly: "Ah yes - nearly had to pull out of Wimbledon with one of those" and we will both think ourselves lucky that we don't lead music and movement classes for a living. The torn rotator cuff must be the music and movement class leader's biggest enemy.

The doctor has one more suggestion though: apparently it might instead be a frozen shoulder. I have not heard of this, so after I have made an appointment with the physiotherapist and picked up my anti-inflammatories I go home and Google it. I am dismayed to learn from the NHS website that "Most cases of frozen shoulder occur in people between the ages of 40 and 60".

I'm not a medical man, but I'm going to have to write to the General Medical Council and have my doctor struck off for making such a ludicrous suggestion. Clearly I must have a torn rotator cuff, like all those fit and virile young sportsmen, not some old man's disease, which surely I can't get as I'm still 39 for a few more months.

If you disagree, raise your left arm.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Question Time

I have signed up to that formspring thing that seems to be popular, so that you can ask me questions anonymously and find out more about the man behind the bath mat. I don't think there is much more to find out, but we shall see.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Unkindest Cut

I have accidentally shaved off my sideburns.

To be strictly accurate, I only accidentally shaved off one sideburn - to accidentally do both would have been either particularly careless or astonishingly ambidextrous - but when you are looking in horror at your unfamiliar, unsymmetrical reflection in the mirror, turning your face slowly from side to side, mumbling "sideburn... no sideburn... sideburn... no sideburn", the second sideburn's fate is pretty much sealed, and no amount of thinking that you can glue the first sideburn back on with Pritt stick is going to help it. The second sideburn has the life expectancy of a mayfly that has recently taken up smoking, and has also just wandered into a pub full of Millwall supporters wearing a T-shirt that states "I dislike Millwall supporters". It had to go.

The initial mistake was a simple mix-up with the clippers. My sideburns, which I have had since 1991, had been getting a bit bushy since my last haircut was before Christmas, so I decided to do what I usually do and use the clippers to trim them a bit closer so I could postpone getting a haircut and thus save myself £6. I made one big swoop with the clippers right up my right cheek, and as I looked at the unusually large amount of hair that the clippers now seemed to be covered in, my first thought was "That is an unusually large amount of hair - my sideburns must have been a bit longer than I realised", followed quickly by a second thought of "OH MY GOD WHERE IS THE BLACK PLASTIC COMBY PRONGY THING THAT IS USUALLY ATTACHED TO THE CLIPPERS TO REGULATE THE HAIR CUTTING LENGTH IT MUST HAVE FALLEN OFF IN THE WARDROBE!!!"

So I now have one of those haircuts that boys had in the 1940s where the hair is longish on top, and shaved down to skin at the sides.

What is worse is that nobody, not even my girlfriend (whose regular and expensive haircuts I take great care to remember about and comment on), has noticed.