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Charging toward the Teenies December 31, 2009

Posted by normanmonkey in Friends, Travel.
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Most people I know when they go to Sydney for new year’s eve would predictably go to the best restaurants, parties or clubs in town. That the party I attended last year, thanks to Leon Dale having a relative working somewhere with a ‘great view of the fireworks’ from Sydney harbour, was at a residential cancer hospital could have indicated a turn that 2009 might take. Honestly, try saying ‘Happy New Year!’ there with any sense of conviction.

By my standards and those of my fellow party folk last year, any year you get through alive is a good one. Yet, this has been a different year from most and one that hasn’t allowed me to stand still, like being on tectonic plates. Just as you settle and think there’s a bit of certainty everything shifts and you have to dust yourself off and not so much as wait for, but create the next tremor whether by fault or design.

So here we are at the end of it. The last day of 2009. Despite having spent a large portion of the year in a relationship that cdertainly kept me on my toes but was destined to failure, I enjoyed the year tremendously. I do, however, recall April being a shocking month. I couldn’t walk, talk, think or sleep without the sound of Albinoni’s ‘Adagio’ as a soundtrack and no knob for the volume, but that’s par for the course. If you ride the highs, you have to suffer the slings and arrows of the lows.

Las Vegas in May was a definite high. Feeding sparrows in the gardens of Bellagio around breakfast time, then lazing by a pool all day getting progressively well-oiled on prosecco with mango juice observing Americana in all it’s spectacular, hideous glory, heading upto a bar at Mirage for a few zombies, then a show before tottering back to the hotel to engage in endless people watching.

Americans don’t really ‘get’ laconic panache. For example, they think champagne is for very special occasions. Buying a lunchtime bottle at a shop in Bellagio the woman at the counter eyed the bottle and beamed at myself and The Last One, ‘Now, don’t tell me, you’ve just got married!’. By Christ, she couldn’t have been more wide of the mark there. ‘No m’am, we’re alcoholics!’ I beamed back and left her to it as we scuttled back to the suite like errant children. Like I said, very good week.

Of course, despite being on good terms, these things aren’t meant to last. The only constant otherwise is mediocrity and its denial. As Montague Withnail declared, ‘There is no true beauty without decay!’. Any firework that didn’t burn out but remained permanent in the sky would lose all it’s charm as familiarity set in to contempt. When did you last look at the moon in any sense of wonder? Exactly. Onward and downward!

This has also been the year I moved into Wisley House after five months of house-hunting and dealing with estate agents all over Surrey which is enough to finish anyone off. I still haven’t forgiven that arse with a goatee in Horsell who looked me up and down and, without even asking my budget, sniffily handed over details on some ropey semi and declaring not to have many properties in my bracket. Fucking sauce. I latterly noted he drove a Micra. Glasshouses and stones.

It’s only been a few months, but I’ve already had some tremendous nights here, some of them on my own. The electric gates were installed yesterday. This is to prevent you from getting in and me from getting out. I hope Neighbourhood Watch will be impressed, especially as I’m now containing myself.

I’ve been very fortunate on that and other fronts and am lucky to have the friends and family around me. However, the former are all getting married off (Rob, Wiggy and Nick all suddenly popping rings like Gollum – I’m inclined blame the lack of a barbecue summer) and / or producing offspring (again, I blame the lack of a barbecue summer), much to the distress of the latter. We did win the Ashes though.

Not only is it the end of the year, but the decade. I can’t even possibly begin to reflect on that front. It’s had an impressive, stellar cast and I’d like to thank each and every single one of you, even if you made just a fleeting cameo.

I recall wondering at the start of 2000 where I’d be in a decade from now. Well here you are, young man, and not so much of the young, blogging in a designer kitchen in West Byfleet. As just alluded to, you haven’t got married, nor sired, but you’ve also avoided divorce, finding god or taking up DIY, certainly had fun and even done some good deeds along the way. It’s been littered with characters and incident to ensure you in firmly in credit at the bank of anecdotes.

There was ‘coming to’ in a residential street in Kensal Rise at 4am in your underwear in a winter some years ago, but we’ll call that a blip. Counting the numbers we’re all still here as well so there’s a lot to be thankful for, especially as I was convinced I was going to come a cropper to hypothermia in that Kensal Rise street and walking all the way to White City. Most undignified.

I mean, have you tried flagging down a car for help at 4am in your underwear and a short-sleeved shirt? Instead of stopping in compassion, people accelerate or even reverse, so take my word for it before trying it for yourself. There are simply no true Samaritans these days. Even the police said they’d seen nothing like it before.

Like a trusty old dog that has been at one’s side, but is now ready to be put to sleep, the year and the decade must draw to a close. Tomorrow it begins all over again, like a young puppy rolling in freshly mown grass wanting it’s tummy to be tickled. We’ll be in 2010 this time tomorrow and I suppose it’s one of the cruel injustices of nature we all start the first day of a new year with a raging head and wanting it all to to end. I suppose people are already calling the new decade the Teenies, which could cause some excitement and confusion in the Glitter household.

I wonder where I’ll be ten years from now? More to the point, I wonder where I’ll be tomorrow.

Missing Children with Louis Walsh December 30, 2009

Posted by normanmonkey in Media.
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You know it’s time to go to bed when the options coming up on the Sky + guide include ‘Missing Children: Lorraine Kelly Investigates’, ‘Roulette Nation’, ‘Real Life Wolf Kids’ and ‘Ghosthunting With Louis Walsh’.

I mean, honestly?

Ghosthunting With Louis Walsh! What about us seasonal insomniacs? We deserve better than that. Who thought sending Louis Walsh dithering in the dark talking about something warm pressed against his thigh for an hour would make good television? Seriously, who thought of that? They should be taken to account and give us the real deal so we can see Louis properly scared if that’s what he wants.

Why can’t we have ‘Parachuted into Harlem Dressed as a KKK Member with Louis Walsh’? That would be more like it and I think the nation would have a TV moment of unity akin to the Coronation. Lorraine Kelly could then investigate what happened to Missing Louis. Fucking symmetry.

Goodnight

The Great Escape December 29, 2009

Posted by normanmonkey in Blogging and social media, Consumer PR.
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Despite being sat at home alone and having a pleasant start to the evening, I’ve subsequently endured insufferable drama and tension as to the whereabouts of a lost hamster called Patches via Tweetdeck.

First news of a missing hamster broke at precisely 20.38. A Tweeter’s girlfriend had let his niece’s hamster they were looking after go for a walk, but it had done a runner. The little bastards do that. I had one that bolted as soon as his feet hit the deck and also gnawed through his cage for a bit of Steve McQueen action.

Tweets on the search operation were updated frequently and became all-involving, like Ed Murrow’s famous CBS commentaries on The Blitz. Skirting boards up, girlfriend frantic in tears and a condemning comment of ‘All the girlf has done is dote on that stupid hamster’. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in reaching for the Smirnoff when the tweeter said ‘This is breaking my heart’ as he contemplated a replacement hamster to a tearful and unforgiving niece declaring that it would never replace beloved Patches.

As a PR to PR in a crisis now was the time to intervene. I suggested he purchase one of those go-go hamsters that are all the rage, do a Powerpoint presentation and then a display of press cuttings before gifting it. This is what any PR would do and they’d give it a buzzy name like Hamster 2.0 (or ‘Patches is Soooo Last Season’). Thankfully this was well received though I also note the stoicism displayed among the hamster updates to still find time to do a retweet on one of my colleagues earlier postings on ‘The Most Bizarre Experiments of All Time’.

Anyway, corks are popping everywhere at Patches turned up just a few minutes ago. I was given a good bottle of champagne for Christmas and am sorely tempted to open it and let off a few firecrackers around West Byfleet.

And it’s a good job I didn’t!

That’s a blow. I’ve just been personally informed that I’d completely misread and misinterpreted a tweet as to how Patches could be the name for the tweeter’s forthcoming son (‘Now we have Patches’ – see, an easy mistake to make). A suggestion from another Tweeter (this is all very involving), presumably in memorial.

Oh well, if that’s the case with the weather as it is, things aren’t looking good for Patches. Someone, somewhere has just awoken their Powerpoint from it’s festive break and is doing bullets on the obsolescence of hamsters who run away, dropping in Google images of Go-Go hamsters and entitled it Hamster 2.0.

And what was your chosen card, sir? December 28, 2009

Posted by normanmonkey in Food, Friends, West Byfleet.
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It’s possibly indicative of my broad horizons the only person I sent a Christmas card to this year is the girl who works front of house at Village East.

Not only is it the only place worth visiting for a drink or a meal within walking distance of the office, but in my book, any woman who smiles at me every time I enter a bar and is still smiling at me even when I leave has substance and deserves both sincere acknowledgment and thanks. It pays to know what side your bread is buttered on and even better if it’s both sides.

In fact, I was quite moved when some colleagues went in for the final, final pre-Xmas visit (how many of those did we contrive to have in the end?) she even stopped them to ask where I was, as if addressing a flock without their shepherd.

‘He’s already here’ one replied and sure enough, there I was at the upstairs bar busily engaged in a spicy bloody mary and embedded in a copy of Jeffrey Bernard’s ‘Low Life’ having made an earlier hasty departure from the office for a stool. Some shepherd. Some flock.

Conversely, the first person to send me a Christmas card this year, arriving on my doorstep bang on December 2nd, was my accountant. He knows which side his bread is buttered on and all, though I frequently cause him despair around the time of self-assessment. Coupled with Iliana’s poltergeist tendencies, my ability to retain important documentation is precisely zero. I can usually muster a few bits of paper with coffee stains, a shrug and the hope he can muddle through it.

That two days after I got the Christmas card from the accountant, I received a buff envelope with a considerable tax demand from Inland Revenue (with not a fucking snowflake, season’s greeting or Happy New Year in sight) suggests this may not be the case. That was coupled with another buff envelope from Woking council deciding I needed to pay more council tax. So much for the season to be jolly.

At some stage, when I am feeling less festive I’m going to have to find them from wherever I hid them and do something about it. Look at the paper, shuffle it, do an intake of breath and move it to another drawer is the usual scenario. This is progress. In earlier days I didn’t even open the envelope, just added it to the pile, cross my fingers and hope for the best.

Why Woking Council think I need to pay more is a matter for conjecture. Maybe they’ve heard Iliana carrying out the empties to the recycling bin and assumed I’m running a nightclub at weekends. Only yesterday, neighbours looked on aghast as if there was an earthquake or an Al-Queda sonic terror attack on West Byfleet only to discover it was me loading up the bottles in the recycling bin. It wouldn’t be a surprise if they ask in protest for me to hand their Christmas cards back as well.

Yesterday I strayed into Essex for the first time I care to remember to pick up a friend and her kitten, then spent the evening in her Docklands flat quaffing plonk, exchanging innuendo and playing with her cat (that isn’t a euphemism for once, by the way). This morning I was amazed it only took her two hours to get ready from midday (‘Look, Ive done my eyeliner like Amy Wine’ouse’) for us to go for breakfast, which must be a record.

By the time we were served in The Albion in Shoreditch brunch had become late lunch or very early dinner. However, they did an excellent virgin mary and a fine full English so it worth the earlier twiddling of thumbs as the TV was drowned out by the sound of a hairdryer

The Albion is a new Conran venture and it has all the hallmarks of the early Conran touches and attention to detail before the group got too big and was sold-on to people who definitely cared less. If you are a fan of traditional British food, artisan baking, cupcakes, pastries and all that patisserie fare it’ll no doubt be right up your street. Especially if you live on Boundary Street, because that’s precisely where it’s located. So while they get a glowing plug, they’ve still got to raise the bar to radical heights (including prettier staff who worry about my absence) before they get a hint of a Christmas card from me.

Taken up the R’s December 26, 2009

Posted by normanmonkey in Friends, QPR.
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If there’s one thing guaranteed to snuff out whatever festive cheer is remaining then it’s a Boxing Day trip to Queens Park Rangers. It’s one thing for supporters to sing ‘You don’t know what you’re doing’ and boo a manager two games in into a new job, but when they are winning? If he thought he had a tough gig before today, he knows about it now.

One can only speculate what horrors would’ve been unleashed upon him had we drawn. Presumably decapitation and his head paraded on a spike down the Goldhawk Road. If they are booing for ‘winning ugly’ what do they do when they look in the mirror of a morning?

Why I continue to put myself through this purgatory is quite beyond me as I ceased enjoying it decades ago. Perhaps it’s a compulsive thing or the sporting equivalent to pain-killer addiction (though the pain is always more considerable after a dose of the football currently being served up). Orwell presented a vision of the future in Nineteen-Eight Four as a ‘jackboot stamping on a human face for all eternity’. In fact, it’s just every other Saturday, a football boot and the whack is delivered to a more private part of the anatomy. Sometimes it just consists of being huddled in the cold, sitting in silence with 12,000 manic depressives and the occasional erupting psychopath. After 30 minutes of it today I thought about going for a walk just for something to do.

Someone commented to me only the other day that I didn’t seem like a QPR fan. Most of them he’d ever encountered were unsavoury and mentally unstable. I’d go along with that. To make a life choice to follow QPR when you have pick of any London team, not that regionality has anything to do with it these days, is a quite insane decision as if you are trying to prove a point, like putting your genitals in a food blender for a bet.

The way things are heading, it’s only a matter of time before parents irresponsible enough to take their children to Loftus Road in the hope they too will follow see them taken into care by social services on grounds of their long-term psychological welfare.

The first time I ever watched QPR or any football match was the 1982 FA Cup Final on television alone, having previously not paid much attention to football and with parents not particularly interested. A packed 100,000 Wembley crowd, noise, colour, drama and I instinctively went for the underdog, going practically nuts when they equalised in extra-time. I thought every QPR game would be like the Cup Final.

Little did I realise as that naive, impressionable, wide-eyed eight year old that what I was actually witnessing was QPR’s last high-point and it has been downhill ever since. Rangers lost the replay and not for the last time was my bottom-lip protruding and day ruined on account of them.

The news in the wider family on my mother’s side that I’d started supporting QPR was greeted with the same outpouring of pride and joy that other families would save for an child winning a place at Oxford.

They all hailed from Kilburn and Great Aunt Vera could recall being taken there as a little girl by her father and uncles just after the Great War. All the family were Rangers and that’s not a wise move given the history of heart trouble on that bloodline. Do the sums on that one – my family have been going to the Rangers since day one and none of us have seen them win a bloody thing. Even in her nineties Vera would be on the phone asking ‘What’s going wrong with the R’s then?’.

Then there’s the story from the early 1970’s about Great Uncle Bill on his deathbed, riddled by cancer and barely able to speak summoning up enough energy to ask my parents ‘How did the Rangers do?’ Predictably they had lost, but not wanting to finish him off they said they’d won and he smiled for the last time. Maybe I should just stop going, avoid the media and tell myself at 5pm every Saturday ‘We won!’. Not only will I be on a perpetual high, but we’ll be European champions in three years. There actually was a time when I fantasised about that kind of thing in a manner that wasn’t quite non-sexual.

In a bizarre twist on twist on Larkin’s line ‘They fuck you up your Mum and Dad…’, it was only through my insistence on going to watch QPR that they too started following them, though I think it’s starting to wear a bit thin on my mother. The pained, glazed expression is a giveaway, especially as she has to listen to my Dad go on about it for the rest of the week.

The last girlfriend, coming from quite a different social background than I, was absolutely appalled to the core that she was going out with someone who liked football. I challenged that because I’m not sure I actually like it, it’s just something I do, like passing water, sneezing or bleeding when cut. If there’s one thing guaranteed to make me flee a room in a cold sweat it’s a group of men talking about football. They don’t shut up, get passionate about twaddle they call an ‘opinion’ and most of them have never actually passed through a turnstile in their life. If QPR didn’t exist I not sure I would really be that involved with the sport.

Nevertheless, it was made clear the shame she felt and I did wonder whether she had a point. Bizarrely, early on she actually came to a game and declared to have had a ‘wonderful’ time. The qualification was it was on account of my company and a ‘try anything once’ attitude, though that also wore thin quickly enough.

Even Wiggy, who probably thinks the cup final is a tea drinking ritual, bought a season ticket, but was told after the season was over by his glamourous French girlfriend (now fiancee), ‘It’s football or me’. It took him about two seconds to make that call.

In reality Wiggy enjoyed watching the crowd in awed fascination more than anything else and his half-time natter in the W12 club (‘I do love our little chats over tea and biscuits’). Really he only bought a season ticket after a visit he took in where two QPR supporters sat next to him had a full on fight over something trivial one of them had said, then both turned on the stewards who attempted to break it up. I recall Wiggy corpsing and actually applauding as if this was all part of the bill.

So despite the ongoing presence of Christmas jingles on television and lights on homes and highs streets all over the nation and a wonderful day yesterday, the afternoon at the Rangers was the stab of reality that reminds you now that we’re just sitting around moping, battling the human condition and not only is it December, but we’ve got January and people talking about their detox to contend with. The smart money is there will probably be another two managers at QPR before then. And that’s positively toxic.

Look back in Aldgate December 24, 2009

Posted by normanmonkey in Friends, Single London, Suburbia.
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Free to those who can afford it, very expensive to those who can’t – Withnail

It only occurred to me as I woke at 6am on this Christmas Eve that I inhabit a closed world of beautiful people. Smart, witty, well adjusted, generous, self-aware.

Colleagues, friends, the restaurants, bars, hotels, parties, shops that are part of that world. All beautiful. All closed off from the greater reality. There’s a worry here as I write this that there could be a lapse into Patrick Bateman from Brett Easton-Ellis’s American Psycho (I do wonder sometimes myself), but last night I went to into the sort of venue where most people go and my face certainly didn’t fit.

When you go out with Lauren from The Sun, you can guarantee she’ll be hours late, totally unpredictable and you never know where the hell you’ll end up, but wherever it is it’ll be trouble. Four PR types found themselves at the rendezvous point a bar/club in Aldgate called Mary Janes with their mouths hanging open.

Fatman Scoop was playing. Sweaty men in suits danced incoherently whilst clutching a bottle of Becks to their chest and the barman seemed unsure when he heard an order for a Martini. Not a wise call in a place like that, but you can’t be everyone’s guide all the time (reminding me of the time my friend Wiggy nearly got the shit kicked out of him in a Worcester Park pub I frequented for ordering Pimms). A genuinely old man, worse for wear – not me – in a raincoat approached office girls and gyrated into their behinds. We were in the real world.

The real world of pot bellies, fat necks, shaved heads, short men with gold chains and gelled hair, party shirts, shiny shoes, unfettered knockers, too much slap, bad skin, tipsy women whose flesh wobbles beneath their immodest clothing as they totter towards you with a wink and vodka glistening on their chin. Not the world of the arts, wine, gyms, eating not too much and mostly plants, and anxiety.

Our number was swiftly reduced to two. In a place like this, we stand out. Every man wants to whack you and every girl wants you to buy them a drink. Not because we’ve made the effort but precisely the opposite. I was wearing the same white Calvin Klein vest that I’d had on since yesterday, hadn’t shaved. Colleague and I totally under-dressed. Exotically alien by comparison. He really wanted to leave for Hoxton Square. I said one more drink. We stayed three hours and had a great time.

A drunken, slightly unhinged girl who was certainly nothing to write home about (and a good job I didn’t write home as there would’ve been nobody in) told us we were gorgeous and could have anyone we wanted. Obviously, this is the kind of thing one wants in writing, yet flattery will get her nowhere.

Every time we looked round, there she was with her mates mouthing gestures and throwing her hand through her big hair. You don’t get that in Village East, which is a pity in some respects.

Yet this is the world I am from. Had things worked out differently, this could have been my world and I’d have been none the wiser. This is the precisely the kind of thing that wakes me up early in the morning and wondering if there is acceptable to have a Jaegarbomb to steady the mind.

It wasn’t until university I’d even met anyone who’d been to public school (I went to a Grammar in one of the few places that still has an 11+ and my mother was so certain I’d fail she’d already purchased the blazer for the local comprehensive – that was my first step out).

Where I grew up my everyone was called Gary or Darren. At university meeting and actually knowing people called Rex and Felix was a novelty in itself, though they didn’t impress me either. (It’s why my hackles still rise in Clapham bars when I hear a ‘Rah!’. There’s nothing creative, inspiring or redeeming in that. They are just as bad.). Bowie said his main motivation was escaping Croydon and I relate to that – although Bowie was from Bromley, ‘Croydon’ summed up more a state of mind.

All my close friends are similar in that respect of background. So I was appalled some years ago when one actually suggested we go to Henley regatta. Why on earth would we do that? Have we suddenly become interested in rowing or is it to ‘fit in’. We wouldn’t and it’s a long way to go to stand beside a river for a drink.

Had life taken a different course, with a number of twists along the way; had I not wrecked my knee ligaments and shredded my cartilage playing football from a tackle by a builder called Mickey and become even more absorbed in reading, film, music instead, or just been very fortunate in general, I could’ve been looking back at me in that bar and accused myself of knocking my own pint.

A debt of thanks from that time goes to everyone from David Lynch, Jack Kerouac and Jeffrey Bernard to Johnny Rotten, Stanley Kubrick and Peter Cook to a coterie of friends with similar aspirations.

In fact, I probably wouldn’t have been at Mary Jane’s at all at the age of 35. I’d be in a miserable second marriage to someone who knew the plot line to every soap and asked ‘Does my bum look big in this?’; telling my kids to follow my example, picking fluff out of my navel whilst watching Strictly Come Dancing, the weekly shop, law and order, meat and two veg, ‘political correctness gone mad’. reminding ‘birds’ I used to be a handy footballer in the hope it would make a flicker of impression, believing what was in the papers, not being able to hold my lager, DIY, Ted Baker shirt ironed for the pub, curry clutter in the kitchen, crying when England lose, trying to find a parking space in B&Q and screaming at someone nicking my spot, creased suit for work, listening to Talksport and actually considering calling back ‘to make a point’, huffing and puffing, going to ‘up West’ once a year for the wife’s birthday to take in a show and at the end of another unsatisfactory evening walking past a window seeing the people like me, thinking ‘Jesus Christ, I’d like to whack him and do her’ and knowing I’d never have the chance.

Bring back the eleven-plus or hope your young are scythed down in their prime by Mickey. Others need saving.

Merry Christmas

Entente discordiale December 23, 2009

Posted by normanmonkey in Blogging and social media, Friends, Single London.
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It’s not everyday one gets fan mail from an ex-girlfriend. The other day I received a text message from an unfamiliar number (though only unfamiliar as I’d just lost my phone so was running in a sim card) declaring ‘I love your blog!!!’.

The sender turned out to be The French and I know she’ll be thrilled that I’m writing about her.

As adorable and excellent company as she was, with an angelic ‘butter wouldn’t melt’ expression, it was a four years that had fiery moments.

Let me tell you, if hurling an inanimate object – such as a remote control or mobile phone – at a moving male target from 50 metres was a sport at the next Olympics, she’d clean up for France .

It wouldn’t stop there. Just as ungracious in victory as in defeat she’d tell the other competitors (already one or two who’d represent England spring immediately to mind) to kiss her arse. Clare balding would be lost for words on the BBC coverage of that. Like I said, fiery.

As you may’ve gathered, much of the rows concerned Anglo-French relations. (She wasn’t biased though as she disliked the French almost as much as the English). To this day The French still refuses to accept France surrendered to Germany in WWII. ‘We did not lose…we were occupied!’.

It was then pointed out to me the superiority of the French education system ‘You rosbifs have your rotten schools full of junkies…Me, when I learned about the war, our school went all the way to Germany’.

‘That’s further than your army got then’, I replied. Not a riposte that was well received, as I recall.

On the matter of sporting events, I was genuinely scared whenever France competed in rugby or football. Despite being wrapped in a tricolore and wearing her ‘lucky’ beret and French football shirt, this couldn’t prevent a late South Korean equaliser against France in the opening game of the World Cup. Meltdown.

Yes, there were tears, but this turned into a white heat of fury that was vented not just on the eleven men on the field (‘Putain!…Pede!”) but the entire French nation who were all apparently not going to be ‘seen until next Tuesday’.

France had let her down and they all deserved to suffer for not meeting expectations. As for what was said of the South Koreans, well. Think of Bruno Ganz as Hitler in that much parodied scene from Downfall? Yes, that one. Not even close. Vicar’s tea party by comparison. Imagine if they’d lost?

In an unexpected move the French shirt came off, was stamped on on my kitchen floor and given the finger before being thrown in the bin with the obligatory ‘Kiss my ass….’ before turning on me. ‘Fucking rosbif!’ and a warning not to say a word. By then I was already halfway under the dining table and wearing a tin helmet.

That was a mild induction compared to the late drop-kick by Johnny Wilkinson to beat France in Paris in the semi-final of the last rugby world cup.

Knowing the potential for it kicking off like a scene from The Exorcist, a large part of me wanted France to win for a peaceful life. Another part had this dark fascination as to would happen, like standing next to a HAZARD sign at NASA and seeing a big red button that says ‘Do not touch’.

Despite the presence of her immediate family in a London apartment, that didn’t prevent a meltdown of nuclear proportions that was directed first at Wilkinson, the English crowd celebrating on TV and then me as being the nearest Englishman in the vicinity (and I don’t even much care for rugby, but nearly drew blood biting my lip to prevent a smirk, or god forbid, a comment).

Now to jab a finger at the TV shouting ‘Wilkinson, I hope you break both your legs’ you may think is a bit strong, but to complete the sentence, “…in front of your kids!”?

In front of your kids? Then it suddenly took anger to a poetic dimension Aleister Crowly would’ve been proud of.

After we amicably split, her father, Serge, someone whom I was always fond of for his own forthright manner took me to one side and said in broken English ‘I…admire..you’, shook my hand and embraced me.

Nothing was lost in translation there. It was like De Gaulle honouring some shell shocked member of the resistance after the Liberation.

That isn’t the first or last time a parent has done that, eyes moistening, talking about my taking on their offspring like I was embarking on a suicide mission. That tells you all you need to know.

If they made medals for various tours of duty and injuries acquired on active service over the years, my chest would be full and I’d be marching around West Byfleet saluting neighborhood watch with my jaw out like Patton. There’s no point in sitting in a trench all your life, the action starts when you go over the top.

So Happy Christmas to the The French and family and glad you love the blog. C’est tout pour toi!

Allez les Bleus, indeed.

Common People December 22, 2009

Posted by normanmonkey in Home, West Byfleet.
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Leaving the house today was a revelation. My head was as clear as the blue skies and the snow capped Surrey hills above Guildford high street added to a genuinely festive feeling that actually made one want to Christmas shop without going into a tailspin, which is usually the case (I haven’t forgotten the year I bought a huge Christmas hamper in Selfridges then wondered how the hell I was going to get it home to Worcester Park and nearly burst into tears at my stupidity).

Today was one of those life-affirming days, especially as a story of mine worked up from scratch in fortnight got two pieces of national to put an extra spring in my stride, and rather than take the A3 home it seemed to be a good bet to drive to Wisley Common and go for a walk.

Much of the land was still tinted with a light blanket of snow from the previous few days, giving one the impression of prancing through Narnia. There was a woodpecker and in the distance I spotted a dear for a brief instant before it spotted me and wisely dived for cover. It was wonderful and warming to the soul.

Quiet, solitude, fresh air and nature is a welcome contrast from London with its train delays, fast food fed faces, phlegm and fag packets in the gutter and conference calls where every sentence begins with ‘In terms of…’ (the most unnecessary prefix to any sentence in the English language – especially coupled with ‘In terms of moving forward…’).

There is due cause to be not just invigorated today, but the whole future. There is happiness to be had here. I will have new housemates by the end of January if all the portents are to be believed.

There will be the big night or two, that is for sure, but they will also be dragged to Byfleet boat club for a leisurely row (with a bottle of Prosecco to prevent scurvy) up to Pyrford to moor at The Anchor pub for a shandy but ostensibly to feed the ducks. All are welcome to join.

This is not a pursuit I can do alone, having proven to be hopeless at rowing. Great on a machine at the gym, but a disaster when it comes to the real thing capable of only going round in circles.

Last time the then girlfriend took control (as was her nature) while I was relegated to pour the drinks and point at oncoming canal boats she should avoid.

The heckling and accusations of showing a weak chaacter trait for my gender from the boats and passers-by reached a fever pitch with someone even shouting, and I’m still not sure if it was in jest, that I should be ashamed of myself. Believe me, I’ve done worse.

I almost didn’t want to come back here. Not to resort to the TV guide. In fact, I refuse to. A book and a coffee will be better. And I’d told myself to not blog today, but I’m sure no one minds if I do, even if I’m having a Betjemen moment (I won;t mention my predilection for old churches and the poem Miss Joan Hunter Dunn). Maybe I am becoming Surrey proper, afterall?

So although this is a period of hibernation, the Spring and Summer are going to be about the outdoors, cycling, food, drink and good company. My doors here are always open. The best cocktail you can have is right people and the right environment. Although a good Malbec certainly doesn’t slow things down.

Awaiting the hangman December 21, 2009

Posted by normanmonkey in Consumer PR, Media.
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Today a member of the public called for me to be hung (sic). Well, that’s a prayer i’m sure many of us have made in the past, but this particular chap actually wanted me hanged?

It seems the crime I committed was to put out a news story on what it is to have ‘Made It’ in Britain in 2009. It was all harmless stuff, accurately researched, thoroughly written-up and five national newspapers covered it.

If ever you want to know if a PR story has been bang on the money, forget your complex metrics, simply click the Daily Mail online to gauge the readers reactions. If they are indifferent, you fail, my friend.

By my measure if a story can make multiple Daily Mail readers implode with indignation, then you;ve hit the jackpot. Listen carefully and you can hear them popping in Tunbridge Wells, Cheltenham, Chobham, Stoke Poges and, dare I say it, West Byfleet. One…two…yep, there goes another one.

Even I, who thought I’d seen it all in PR and the media, was taken aback a bit by the following comment on those responsible for the research:

The amount of people in this country getting paid for producing the biggest crap possible is frankly laughable. Put them to work doing a real job or just hang them.

So said someone from Kent. It’s a bit rich really, but I’m not installing a tripwire and battening down the hatches quite yet. Only the other day there was a survey by a car insurance company saying that if he were alive today Jesus would drive a Mitsubishi. That’s appropriating a religious icon for a piece of pr twaddle (and how did they research that anyway) and I didn’t hear much of a grumble, apart from me perhaps on what a desperate end of year story that was.

It also makes one wonder whether the ire was misdirected. Surely the blame should be equally apportioned to any publication that thinks such a story is legitimate and newsworthy. And that, my friend from Kent, is exactly the same publication that you take most of your views from in the first place. If anything, blame yourself. Or we could come to a compromise and be well hung together.

People can rightly have their objections towards PR, but a call for the execution of myself and five team members (who, believe me are actually rather nice people) is a worrying development. if I was Salman Rushdie this would be all over the news right now. He had to write the Satanic Verses before a fatwa was put on his head; I wrote a two page press release. That must be a record.

So bring them on, the irate of the home counties. They probably suspect I’m a trendy, morally deviant coffee-drinking, Guardian reading, olive munching, macchiato drinking media type who lives in Islington or Clapham. How wrong they are. I live in West Byfleet.

So despite being on their side of the barricades, I say bring them on with their torches, noose and pitchforks. I’ll be waiting in my my Poggenpol kitchen for them, an espresso in hand, reading a copy of The Observer Review section and with a Cheshire Cat grin. They’ll be amazed to find just how much we get on.

As on the brochure December 21, 2009

Posted by normanmonkey in Friends, Single London, Suburbia.
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It’s amazing what a difference four hours of a Bulgarian can make to my living conditions. Wisley House again resembles the picture I saw in the Consero Homes brochure a year ago rather than the Toxteth crack house I’ve been shambling around in for the past few days.

It looks like New Year is sorted. Dinner and drinks in Shoreditch House with Lauren from The Sun, a good friend over the last decade and now currently at a leading tabloid via a career that has taken her from model to Ibiza DJ, and her mates. There was a bit of wavering on my part as the sort of people who go to Shoreditch House get my back up (myself included, if there’s anything guaranteed to get my back up, it;s me) , but also that I’d had a moment with one of the mates in the past and she still seems too keen for my liking, but Lauren put me at ease with ‘Don’t worry, I’ve spoken to her and put her straight…I told her to get over it!’.

It won’t be anytime soon before she fills the boots of ‘Dear Deirdre’ Sanders.

Can you imagine the reply to every angst ridden correspondent being swiftly dispensed with ‘Get over it!’. Maybe this is what the nation needs. Gordon Brown or Fabio Cappello dealing with any negativity or tragedy with ‘Get over it!’. I’m all in favour. With any luck DT is also going to be there so I am sure there will be fun to be had.

This just leaves the rest of the time to fill between now and Jan 4. For sure, there is furniture to be purchased at bargain prices in the sales, but I’d rather pay top dollar at premium to avoid being part of any undignified scrum.

Then there’s QPR on Boxing Day. Ed Wells is down from Norwich at the in-laws at Silchester and there’s talk of an afternoon down the Rangers before heading for an evening at Lee Blewett’s Bramley Inn pub just down the road from Silchester. I did forewarn Ed that an afternoon watching that lot and thena lock-in at the Bramley is enough to knock the festive spirit out of even Santa Claus, but he hasn’t heeded my warning

It’s always dangerous having a best friend as publican. You pop in to say hello and emerge a few days later looking like the last survivor of the siege of Monte Cassino. I haven’t been there since the summer. I value my liver too much, but one false move and you can find yourself locked into conversations about wife swapping or Plymouth Argyle’s away form by a man in shorts in mid-winter so one has to tread carefully.

With any luck I am going out tonight for Clapham drinks. Whether I make it back is another matter. I’ve been told there’s subzero temperatures tonight and trekking back on South West Trains could be too much to bear. What am I complaining about. It’s good company, warmth, conversation and escape. As for the weather I should just ‘get over it’.