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Don’t worry be happy November 30, 2009

Posted by normanmonkey in Blogging and social media, Home, Music.
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Sometimes there’s everything and nothing to blog about. You just find yourself sat by wilting flowers in a kitchen staring at a screen. The moment may come to you and sometimes moments are best left to pass.

To put on the news, as I did last night, and hear that Susan Boyle has broken records with sales of debut her album going number one across the globe perhaps makes the idea of global warming is a good thing, that we reap what we sow; that perhaps this is proof that evolution is nothing more than theory and, if anything, we’re all heading on a backward trajectory. We will all deserve to burn for this.

That’s the kind of thing that makes me stay in bed all day, but I had to pick myself up on two counts. Firstly, Iliana the cleaner would be here at midday and second, I had to collect the new painting from the gallery at Westfield.

If I stayed in bed much longer Illiana’s intuition would probably be unable to identify me from the detritus of the weekend and put me in for recycling, not that there’s much demand for damaged goods these days.

I had visions of myself sprawled among a million fridge freezers, fax machines, half eaten tins of beans and old, soiled copies of The Daily Sport, indecently rummaged by scavengers in some remote polluted outpost of the Guangxi province of China and being disdainfully discarded in preference for a more valuable working model of that toy singing trout that covered Bobby McFerrin’s ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’. Did Boyle cover that one I wonder? It’s surely only a matter of time.

If that’s not incentive to get out of bed then nothing is. Yet, opening the door from Wisley House after twenty-four hours of storms everything looked different. The Autumnal red, orange and yellow hues of the trees in the Dartnell Avenue had all gone. The leaves ripped off them by the weekend winds. Instead everything looked raw, naked and exposed.

For the first time the houses opposite that had been shielded all the time I’d been here by foliage and colour loomed heavy. That meant confronting grey skies and bad 1970’s architecture for the first time and not the last. Roll on springtime.

I may have got out of bed today, but most definitely on the wrong side. Perhaps this was one day where there was never going to be a right side. Iliana texted to say she would be late afterall as it was her birthday yesterday.

I know what those Eastern European celebrations can get like so told her not to worry and take the day off as my birthday present to her, so that resulted in a brimming reply of thanks and maybe sent her back to another vodka toast.

If Westfield was full of Christmas cheer i wasn’t showing it because I had to negotiate my way round Europe’s largest shopping centre (or whatever it claims to be, I don’t honestly know) in hazardous conditions with both an extremely large and quite valuable canvas and a little gift intended for Iliana’s next visit.

Someone who was quite clearly a care in the community type, probably a Chelsea fan, came walking straight at me with their eyes rolling and arms waving all over the place and I protected the canvas all the way to car from that point like it was my first born child.

Home now and settled in. Listening to Miles Davis’ ‘So What’ over coffee and fags. I think I may have blown my speakers on Saturday night because the bass is done for.

If I put the TV on and hear about Susan Boyle, the singing haggis, I’m going to stick my head through that canvas and run through West Byfleet all the way into Woking and beyond singing ‘I Dreamed A Dream’. If it worked for her, why not me? She’s clearly stark raving mad and is certainly no bloody oil painting.



All clear! November 29, 2009

Posted by normanmonkey in Friends, Music, QPR, West Byfleet.
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When standing holding a large vodka in a colleague’s living room with blood on one’s trousers and the colleague has gone to bed, it helps somewhat when their flatmates come in from their own night out to be able to remember your colleague’s name.

This is the tricky predicament I faced on Friday night (‘I’m a friend of…..umm’) and it’s lucky that they actually helped me guess his name whilst most people would quite rightly have reached for the baseball bats and kitchen utensils.

That I should’ve been covered in blood came from a fall and cutting my hand on broken glass was, I suppose, indicative of a good night out.

Having levelled the scores at Village East, a few Cows and I headed south. My dear friend and fellow QPR fan Lucie Buckner was promoting her first ever gig, that of Bluey Robinson at Wandsworth Palais. If all portents are fulfilled, Bluey is set to be the next big thing and just signed that day for Sony. As impressive as he was, the highlight was getting into the VIP area and seeing the new world heavyweight boxing champion David Hay and actually managing not to knock his pint.

Saturday’s was an enjoyable hangover spent at Westfield. Still nursing wounds (bandaged hand thanks to the lovely gents at the Texaco petrol station in Clapham) and walking with limp, the remnants and I retired to The Bull for bloody marys and replay parts of the evening. A Jacqui Boyd canvas was purchased for the kitchen of Wisley House. Then back to the Bull for a shandy.

All the while I was supposed to be at QPR, but it’s always a predicament turning up to meet one’s parents looking like you’ve come back from an ambush by the Taliban.

Given door keys had been mislaid there was no choice but to face the music and that is something of a broken record ‘You’ll be the death of me, son…” as I arrived in time for the second half. They’ve seen me flash that smile, shrug my shoulders and widen those blue eyes of mine that have got me out of, and into, so much trouble many times before, and they know I mean no harm.

Deep down I know they’ll be on the phone later saying to their friends ‘You’ll never guess what Mark has done now…’ with despairing pride. Maybe.

Naturally, my good friend Lee clasped my bandaged hand when Rangers took the lead, meaning that even in a moment of celebration I was the only person in the South Africa road stand screaming in pain. And with impeccable timing that lead was thrown away just before the final whistle.

Tomorrow is a day off. I had to explain to the personal trainer that yet again i was forfeiting due to a ‘social’ injury. He’s in good spirits anyway as he and his fiancee are back on talking terms. My advice was to recount some of my reasons why I’ve been unable to attend his sessions and she’ll realise what’s she’s got and cling to him like a petrified child for the rest of her days. He concurred.

Even though there is a day off I’m setting my alarm firmly for 7.45am and marching straight out into Dartnell Avenue. This is thanks to an email from West Byfleet neighbourhood watch regarding the ‘Mouchel man’. Whomever or whatever a ‘mouchel’ is, I’m gagging to find out. There is, I’ve been reliably informed, a man who has ‘again’ been observed at 7.50am, dressed in women’s clothing, eyeing up schoolkids whilst driving a white van up Dartnell Avenue.

This is a bit more like it. Just as I was losing faith in the Surrey police to deliver something of note, certainly not bicycles stolen from West Byfleet station or Lebanese loop credit card fraud warnings, we’ve not only hit the jackpot with this one, but all the action can be observed from my driveway. They’ve even given a kick off time!

I’ll have my deckchair, pot of tea and cucumber sandwiches at the ready. Thanks to his antics, he’s keeping me off the latest email bulletin of dubious characters in the area.

Go Mouchel Man!

Buenos Aires roses November 25, 2009

Posted by normanmonkey in Travel.
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The temptations available to a single man of means on his last night in Buenos Aires. These situations are all too familiar and I still recall my last night in Havana some years ago with a shudder. One can barely to be trusted to have a night in West Byfleet, let alone London, these days without incident and waking up to write an alibi.

Dinner was abject last night. Still off the red meat after suffering bovine toxic shock syndrome (I actually dreamt about being force fed steak the other night), the pizza that was served up looked like a tropical skin disease and was merely moved around the plate.

The streets were very quiet, broken only by the sound of vagrants rummaging through litter. The evening wasn’t working. The last night of a great trip one should go out on a high, but all felt flat as the evening ebbed away.

I’d spoken to the photographer from the PR trip earlier in the day having run an errand to collect some suits he’d had handmade. Bloody awful they were too. One can only imagine what he’d been on selecting that particular material. Unless he is going to a fancy dress party as a sofa in a Travel Lodge I can’t see any further use for them.

He repeated an earlier suggestion of a lap dance club called Blacks. Having some bored bit of brassy clunge straddle me for a small a fortune among middle-aged men in Travel Lodge sofa suits is not my idea of a good time. Nor was just drinking for the hell of it just so that packing hungover this morning would be strewn with error, misery and bad timekeeping.

Earlier in the day, in Palermo Soho, a little girl had left a packet of tissues on my table at the pavement cafe I was at. She then had to repeat her circuit picking up the tissues with no one buying. More so, everyone feigned not only indifference, but pretended she didn’t exist. I handed back the tissues with a ‘Non gracias’ and it took a couple of seconds before she realised that pressed in with the tissues was a 50 pesos bill. She broke out into a huge grin, I smiled back and that was the most pleasant feeling I’ve had in a long time.

And so, taking a taxi to the Recoleta district, that is what I decided I’d do with my evening and the currency crammed into my pocket. I gave it all away.

One lad of about 7 years old approached me wilted roses. ‘Por la chica!’. It was evident to both of us that there was certainly no chica with me. I could’ve sat him down and explained to him all about that one. It was a cursory gesture on his part because, like the girl earlier, he was transparent and motioned to move on.

When he saw the 100 peso note in his hand he froze and slapped his forehead with the palm of his other hand in shock. He looked at me with wide eyes, mouth agape and probably thinking that I’d made some terrible mistake, ran away as fast as he could.

A couple of minutes later his little mate appeared and approached me selling roses, biting his lower lip. Again I handed him a 100 peso note and smiled. He stared at the note, beamed and said ‘Gracias…Thank you!’. Such sweet manners. He too then ran off out of sight.

Here was I man alone in Buenos Aires re-evaluating. All the times I’ve blown considerably more than a hundred pesos trying to create a magical moment and invariably still fallen short of the mark. Often this has involved stilted silences in restaurants.

As I did so I felt a tap on the shoulder. Both little lads had reappeared. The first one, obviously sure it was safe and the real deal gave me a hug; the second a thumbs up. Then they ran off, turning and waving as they did so. And that was how I spent my best night in Buenos Aires and it turned out to be the best of the bunch. It’s good to make someone happy and pleasing how a simple gesture can make a fleeting bit of magic.

The intention hadn’t been to write a sentimental piece, sometimes that may just occasionally happen. It comes, perhaps, from going back home and the prospect of wintering alone in West Byfleet; the semantics of the appropriate use of a ‘z’ or an ‘s’ on a tinned pulse; delays at Waterloo; hangovers that set in through an entire Saturday and walking through the muggy drizzle of Shepherds Bush after another QPR home defeat (even when on the J&B party catamaran in the polar regions on Saturday they did it to me – a text saying we’d lost 2-0 to Doncaster Rovers made me think about the possibility of jumping overboard).

All in all, it’s a very good life. Maybe not just despite, but because of all those things. Otherwise, what the hell would I have to blog about.


Bitten by Buenos Aires November 24, 2009

Posted by normanmonkey in Travel.
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I hate declarations of love. It’s all so cheap and redundant these days. In the way that people ‘love the M&S ads’ or ‘love the X-Factor’. That’s not love, that’s being a passive, soulless pile of accumulated drivel.

Someone ghastly in PR once stated to me she ‘loved David Bowie’ prompting the withering question from me ‘Really? Name an album?’ to which, obviously, she couldn’t.

She who could not write a press release retorted that ‘it wasn’t just the music, but the person’. Oh right, of course, I forgot she and The Dame have spent many an evening of beer and skittles down the Skinner’s Arms talking about handbags. Some people.

No, love, true love in it’s purest sense is seldom felt. And like the old Chet Baker renditioned ballad about falling in love too easily, falling in love too fast, one falls in love so incredibly hard for love to ever last, that’s how I feel about Buenos Aires right now. I’m smitten. I’m ready to give myself over with open arms and say ‘I do’.

Like anything you fall in love with but know you shouldn’t, this is a city with a double edge, that you probably couldn’t and shouldn’t trust. It’s marked by elegance and wealth, but sweeps away its poverty with contempt, yet there are times the latter comes straight at you. Lots of people want to be you friend, but not everyone has the same motive. Watch your back and your bag wherever you are. And yes, the steak tastes great, but that diet is going to literally break the heart of anyone who lives (or dies) on it for too long. One can’t help but think those portions are some kind of conspiracy. Yesterday was a salad and seafood day and I feel twice the man for it.

I’m out of here tomorrow and it’s probably the best for both parties that we split on good terms. Yet I’m conscious that it’s only 48 hours before I return to the sedentary existence of wintering in West Byfleet.

There was no sticking to plan yesterday, despite a promising start and best intentions. After a bloody mary at the hotel bar I readied myself to explore and headed for the upmarket Recoleta district, the much of it like the Mayfair of Buenos Aires with high-end boutiques, galleries and antique emporiums all with heavy security.

Beyond there I decamped by the famous cemetery where Eva Peron and many of Argentina’s great and good or simply plain bad but extremely wealthy are buried in opulent, ostentatious mausoleoms, crammed together, jockeying for status and prestige, some climbing into the skies to be noticed. The dead playing at peacocks in the park.

I ‘read’ P.G Wodehouse basking beneath a hot sun in a cafe for an hour, though spent most of the time merely skimming pages as there was far too much else to take in as people came and went. The guy next to me was sketching on a pad and genteel old ladies smoked and drank coffee, possibly talking wistfully about their own loves lost as a young couple between us, he in a Led Zeppellin t-shirt, canoodled. This also seems to be a city where people still wear Crocs. If I have to mark the place down for anything, it’s that.

Dinner was taken at a restaurant called Cluny in the vibrant, hip district of Palermo Soho. The concierge informed me it was the best of the bunch so a taxi was ordered and the concierge proved to be correct. Always a reassuring sign to see a crowd of affluent French dining there and airily gesticulating with their Gitanes. They know where the good stuff is and don’t take second best when it comes to forfeiting their precious time to dine and deigning to make an appearance.

There was a brassy New Jersey fashion type braying in the corner talking about McQueen; obligatory suits; a very beautiful woman in her twenties also dining alone puffing away with contempt. This was definitely something of a hangout.

A tip for the single traveller: when dining alone in a good restaurant you will be the object of some curiousity and glances. Dress down. Don’t look like you’ve made an effort. In my case a sequined Sex Pistols t-shirt and jeans. More importantly, jot notes on any available piece of paper. For me this was a couple of bits of composition and idle musings intended for this blog, but to the management this immediately rings alarm bells.

Anyone dining alone and scribbling notes as they do so could well be making notes on their establishment. The result is you get the best service in town and nothing is too much trouble. I’d run out of cigarettes, not a problem, a packet of Lucky Strikes was presented on a plate. On the house. The same for the liquers.

As it is, none of the non-sequiturs I jotted made it onto this blog, but a few garbled sentences did get me the a-list treatment whilst all around me diners were waving for soup.

From there into a bar…

I had decided not to start this dispatch on a negative. I didn’t want to give people the satisfaction following yesterday’s comments. So I’ll end it on this. My face has been bitten to shreds overnight by insects.

I have one on the centre of my forehead that makes me look like a Hindu bride. Another beside my eye that has swollen up as to have given the impression that I’d said something offensive about Mrs Robinson, while her husband Sugar Ray was stood beside her. Plus three on the left hand. As I’ve come learn in Buenos Aires, you have to watch out for things that bite because there’s one on my shoulder that almost certainly isn’t mosquito. Joe Bull was right, they really do go for ‘Los Ingles’.

Apocalypse Cow November 23, 2009

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Have you ever seen what happens when a man is force fed a succession of steaks and copious amounts of Malbec until his sytem shuts down and says “No more!”? I have because it was staring back at me from the mirror last night in a Buenos Aires hotel room. Think of the opening scene of Apocalypse Now and that´s pretty much it, but with pathetic groaning and unjustified sense of self pity.

I´ll spare you the details, but nothing was staying down and I lay on the bed staring at the ceiling begging forgiveness and offering to make a pact with the great cow deities in the sky that I´d never touch a steak again and turn my West Byfleet back garden into a bovine refuge. Just as long as they could take the spins and nausea away.

Clearly I wasn´t convincing enough because it simply got the full force of their wrath and, with my stomach in ferment, I contemplated writing my will and leaving it all to The Vegan Society.

Up until that point it had all been going so well, though I can´t help feeling that a flight to Ushuaia, a catamaran tour in polar regions with free flowing booze and DJs, followed immediately by a party till dawn in a disused prison, endless cocktails, almost zero food (except for one obligatory steak the size of…er…a cow!), and then a flight back from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires all in the space of 24 hours may have been a contributing factor, but I´m firmly blaming Daisy moo moo for my condition.

J&B, the world´s number one party whisky, certainly do know how to throw a party and I am not just saying that from a professional capacity. I did have to pinch myself that I was on a boat listening to Fela Kuti´s ´My Lady Frustration´, whilst sipping a blue whisky based drink exchanging suspicious glances with a penguin colony.

I also couldn´t help wondering if this was the exact setting Fela Kuti had in mind when he cobbled together his tunes in Lagos, among his forty wives, in the 1970´s, that some PR type would, nearly four decades on be having a moment in this polar setting, but it did me fine at the time. The penguins, however, were thoroughly underwhelmed and it may take some time before Afrobeat catches on amongst them.

So, the J&B bandwagon has now moved on and left me alone with the fear, shakes and nil by mouth in Buenos Aires. Earlier I stepped out for a wander and to drink water in a cafe where I witnessed a mugging in the affluent city centre. It was a hashed attempt and the assailant was swiftly apprehended. Presumably whatever substance he was abusing (and hoping to abuse more of with the proceeds of his haul) had numbed his senses as he mugged a guy straight in front of a policeman and when collared looked every bit as bewildered as the penguins did to My Lady Frustration.

In a couple of hours I transfer to a suite n the 1930´s art deco Sofitel the other side of Buenos Aires. The plan is this: check in, sleep, read book, eat salad, drink water, explore the Recoleta and Palermo districts, stay out of trouble.

If this feeling doesn´t subside, I´m getting the next flight back to Ushuaia, chartering a boat to that isloated rock and join my newfound soul mates in their colony. Life is so much simpler when you´re a penguin

Red alert November 20, 2009

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Meat is murder. That is the thought that occured to me as I lay in my death throes last night after too much steak. I’d only been in Buenos Aires for about 12 hours before thinking I didn’t want to ever see another cut of beef again.

After a ridiculous protein and iron based lunch I was ready to rip off my shirt and fight all oncomers. By the end of dinner I was hoisting the white flag of surrender and, given the cow to human ratio in my system, practically mooing.

Actually steak was the safe bet but I knew after the lunch experience that a steaming slab of meat the size of Milton Keynes was going to be placed in front of me. Even so, I had to go for it as veal testicles or grilled udder (yes, grilled tetes) was not an option. I had to tell my colleague Tallulah to cover up just in case the old boy in the kitchen got carried away.

Talking of udders that had seen better days, the avenidas back to the hotel were lined with stern looking, gum chewing hookers all with faces that had seen and most definitely caused trouble. I think they even looked at me in sympathy, recognising the traits of a pasty faced English PR type who’d overdosed on steak and needed to be left to waddle alone.

It’s morning now and a sense of calm has been restored. I’m due to meet colleagues and clients for breakfast. Already two litres of water has been necked to begin the debovinisation process and today would ideally be salad and fruit only, though there is a big meal planned for tonight and I think I know what’s on the menu. This is almost certainly a city where you’d get a punch in the mouth, if not set alight, for even uttering the word ‘tofu’.

After breakfast there is a chance to explore. There is just a worry that I may cause a scene in front of the client because if I see anything boldly coloured red, believe me, I am liable to scrape my foot in the dust, get my head down and charge.

Byfleet Aires November 17, 2009

Posted by normanmonkey in Friends, Travel.
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Thank god for Jodi Banfield. She’s got me out of scrapes in the past and there are many other scrapes I could’ve got out sooner had I listened to her Transatlantic tones. Tonight we chatted over the phone as I made the long, dark, normally lonely, walk from West Byfleet station to home.

Yet so much for setting oneself up for an easy, rewarding end to a day of toil. The discovery that my car was not on the driveway, but actually that entire walk back again at the station car park was only made bearable by Jodes’ uptempo counselling on the trudge back.

Without that moral support I think I would’ve got a taxi to a public house in Sheerwater (not nice), found the nastiest bastard there, called him and poof, tweaked a nipple and said ‘Hit me if you dare, nancy boy!’. I thoroughly deserved a beating beyond anything I could unleash upon myself for being such a stain.

Is it possible to be shattered, yet ebullient? I think so, because that’s how I feel now. Having located the passport on the window ledge behind the drawn curtains (bless you, Iliana), this is my last post before departing for Buenos Aires and Ushuaia.

There are a couple of parties to attend, a modicum of work to be done (pointing at people who look like they may require a press release and saying ‘Over there!’) and a few days of leisure back in BA.

Of all the cities I’ve wanted to go to but haven’t had the chance, Buenos Aires topped the list and certainly considerably higher than Wolverhampton. It’s also a change from West Byfleet and Bermondsey and that is going to be refreshing for the soul. Company would be welcome but is not essential.

I’ve travelled to Havana twice and Jamaica on my own and managed to have no small amount of fun and games – including causing consternation among management at the prestigious Hotel Nacional by bringing half of a shanty town back to the bar.

This time there should and shall be greater decorum. We shall see. It’s as easy to mix and relax with locals abroad as a lone stranger as it is impossible to do so as a Londoner in London. For starters they have a far better idea where the best bars, clubs and action is. Otherwise it’s the equivalent of someone rocking up from abroad in London and ending up spending a weekend queuing to get into Tiger Tiger with the hen nights from Romford and Dagenham.

Weather in BA is forecast at 26 degrees; for Ushuaia, where the ‘VIP’ (i.e VIPs + me) party is being held courtesy of a spirit client, at just 2 degrees so a ying and yang approach to packing is required. One must ensure not to wear the BA outfit in Tierra Del Fuego or vice versa or the locals will have a field day and you could end up as the unwitting star of a novelty postcard.

Dispatches from Argentina are likely. If not, then assume the man who walked past his own car at West Byfleet station was just as capable of walking past his own plane at Heathrow.

Poltergeist (the Polish Director’s Cut) November 17, 2009

Posted by normanmonkey in Home, Suburbia.
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There are going to be flags at half mast in Gdansk if the cleaner can’t remember where she has moved my passport. Tomorrow I fly to Buenos Aires for work and an extended holiday and in a rare move of foresight placed my passport and camera on the kitchen worktop. They have been subsequently ‘tidied’.

This has happened before. Prior to the PR wedding of the year, that of Dan Glover and Clare Myddleton, I organised my l clothing well in advance. On the day I was relaxed about the preparation time required, though hadn’t counted on Iliana.

A belt that I had set aside for the occasion on a bed in the spare room had gone missing. Bedding was thrown in the air on several occasions, the bed overturned, the room torn to shreads. The model of composure just five minutes previously was a perspiring, red-faced, panting mess.

Being dressed in a new Hugo Boss suit, Thomas Pink shirt and Church’s shoes, without the only belt that fitted my reduced waistline (which had shrunk due a hot but crazy related illness) does not matter a jot without the correct belt. Other belts hung off my waist meaning I looked like a two-bob bookmaker on his uppers. The taxi outside waited for 20 minutes, every so often the cab driver banging on my door telling me we were ‘cutting it fine’. Helpful.

After several frantic calls to Iliana she eventually answered and cheerily replied that she’d moved the belt to another room and put it in my sock drawer. Why hadn’t I thought of that? So, yet again, I arrive at a wedding looking like I’ve come straight from The Hacienda when it couldn’t be any further from the truth.

This is just the latest episode. There was the period where a bank card, credit card, gym card and office key card went missing and I thought I was going mad. It was only after a second gym card disappeared from where I had definitely placed it for safe keeping that I asked Iliana of its whereabouts. ‘Ah yes’, she beamed ‘I put it for safeties in your card pot’. This was the first I’d heard of any ‘card pot’.

Sure enough, there in an unused plant pot in the dining room, gathered among coins, pens, sunglasses and other shiny items were all the missing cards. It’s like having the poltergeist of a dead magpie as well as a cleaner. Sticking with poltergeists, if that passport doesn’t surface this evening, I think both Iliana and I will only be able to be reached for further discourse via a seance with Derek Acorah.

This week I have learned (2) November 15, 2009

Posted by normanmonkey in Friends, This week I have learned.

1) I adore the company of others at home. Having had only four visitors in two and half months, to more than double that in one evening was a joy to behold. My door shall always be open to waifs, strays, misfits, the beautiful and the damned. I definitely have not laughed so much in ages. See 3)

2) Maybe people don’t adore my company as much. The Fleet Youth*, all a decade at least younger than myself, left the soiree the next afternoon looking like extras from Schindler’s List. To one the only piece of advice I could give was ‘Live!’. Killing colleagues is not a good career move.

3) The alternative definition of ‘docking’. It was a bit too much to hear in a fragile state. Sounds like the sort of thing the Japanese go in for. Don’t try it kids! (especially you Japanese kids).

4) Not to be caught dining alone next to a table of four drunken women of divorcee appearance (loud, drunk, forward, crude – though, in their favour, at least they didn’t mention docking)

5) Sometimes one can regret saying on a Friday afternoon, before the weekend has kicked one in the head like a wild horse, ‘I’m supposed to have my day off Monday, but it’s no problem for me to come in’

*Although it has been declared to me the next day I am ‘a legend’ which is very nice. Flattery, in my book, gets people everywhere.

The route to madness and bedside cabinets November 14, 2009

Posted by normanmonkey in Friends, Home, Travel.
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How does one define madness? I’ve seen it in various forms, usually female, thundering towards me like a driverless HGV coming down the hill and actually stepped into its path when all around me people were shouting that I dive for cover. That I should do so is probably another form of lunacy and staggering around covered in dust and tyre tracks for months afterward is a pretty undignified way to conduct one’s business.

Actually I would define madness as waking up feeling like Brian Harvey – the oaf from East 17who not only suffered multiple injuries having been run over, but quite magnificently managed to run over himself.

How he managed to tumble out of his car and run himself over in one swift move is the sort of thing we should have retrospective documentaries on, packed with analysis and reconstructions, much like those we had for 9/11. I don’t think there’s too many conspiracy theories there though. He was quite obviously being a herbert, but for going the whole way and running his own self over is, for me, an occasion we should have a second day of remembrance. Wear your Burberry with pride!

So yes, that’s a starting point. Feeling like Brian Harvey. But the real feeling of madness comes from having a heavy night on the sauce and filling one’s house with a handful of Surrey-Hants based colleagues (plus a pan-Cypriot for a taste of the exotic) and every cherubic faced rogue from Fleet that Andy Vincent could muster, then waking amongst this desolation with a zinging head only to be have your first conversation of the day be about bedside cabinets with your father over the phone.

It’s moments like that I understood why Brian Harvey ran himself over. I think he’d probably frazzled himself on the razz and some dotty conversation about bedroom furniture tipped him over the edge. Wasn’t he going out with a glamour model called Emma B, a woman so vaguely simple even she had to reduce her surname to a single consonant just in order to remember who she was.

Even as I type I am being bombarded with blurred picture images on my mobile of bedside cabinets from my Dad. Meanwhile I’m still trying to fathom out why Gloria and I deemed it necessary to build a pontoon for Martin, simply so he could continue a conversation at 1am with a dozing Russell Williams in Paris. The city, not Hilton.

Always the last to bed and the first to rise, I’m yet again surrounded by the detritus of a scorched earth evening. Illiana is certainly going to have her work cut out on Monday and may head straight for the first container ship to Gdansk and asking strangers en route for a cuddle.

I’ve already read a hundred pages of Italy’s Sorrow, an account of the last year of the war in, you guessed it, Italy. I was reminded of a lost weekend I spent in Palermo with a girlfriend. Even today, much of the city is still in bomb shattered ruins from the naval bombardment in 1944. It’s not like attempts haven’t been made to redevelop the pock-marked ruins that strew the city. However, any time the EU or the Italian government put a few billion towards its direction the money goes straight into the pockets of the mafia who run all the construction companies.

Instead of constructing they simply take the cash, scowl and head for the Sicilian version of Stringfellows (which they almost certainly own anyway). That’s builders for you, but this time on a larger, more organised scale.

The Grand Hotel des Palmes stayed in Palermo was notable for two key moments in history. When done with razing the place, the Allies led by Mark Clark did eventually move into the city and settle up HQ at the hotel. Good taste. I just hope they didn’t repeat my mistakes and attempt to sample every shot of grappa that was within earshot of a bartender.

The second was, that in 1957, the American and Sicilian branches of the mafia held their first ever ‘hands across the ocean’ meeting there. All cigars, brass and fedoras.

The phone is again ringing and it’s pater. I have a feeling the bedside cabinet dialogues, much like the Socratic ones, are only just beginning. Unlike the Socratic dialogues I can’t imagine in 2,000 years from now that students will study this in any context labelled as ‘Classics’. Actually there wasn’t really a dialogue, it was more of a full flowing tirade about the merits of glass bedside cabinets and the ‘good value’ to which this man occasionally replied with a whimper or a generic ‘That seems like it could be the way forward’.

Yet madness also comes in different and ancillary forms. Another thing I am going to have to slowly confront was the chino period that was drawn to my attention with all the subtlety of a bulldozer digging up old bones.

Some phases are forgivable – eyeliner, Belgian techno, walking around for a week convinced you were Oscar Wilde, probably not listening to Gomez and actually thinking they were good – but chinos is up there with necrophilia or stomping full of lager into a Chelsea pub and shouting ‘Come on You Rangers’ and clapping your hands looking for retribution.

All I know is that someone last night flooded my bathroom, but I can’t rule myself out, and I woke up in bed fully clothed with a pillow over my head as if someone had tried to suffocate me. Again I can’t rule myself out.

When is anyone else going to wake up? The last other person standing had uttered something about needing to be at a post-office by midday and I thought ‘Good luck!’. Clearly it wasn’t that urgent. It’s been two hours now and I’ve very nearly got a generation on some of the people lying dead around the house. One room looked like the final throes of Monte Cassino and I backed out quickly. I almost sat on one chap in the soon to be cocktail suite.

I’ve now got the fear that the earlier dialogues will reach their logical conclusion with the old man turning up with two fully assembled bedroom cabinets to present to his fully disassembled son.

Here I am two hours in still ducking a barrage of images of glass based bedside cabinets. What is their purpose anyway? Somewhere to put the ashtray and empty bottle of Chianti and worn photos of a tit in Chinos? I’m again thinking that perhaps, after all the pillow over the head was the place where I felt safest afterall. And it has only just gone midday.