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This West Byfleet April 27, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Friends, Home, Suburbia, West Byfleet.
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Today I received another lengthy email from Neighbourhood Watch regarding the hotbed of crime that is my avenue. First it was a man spotted dressed as a woman parked in a van, second it was a nicked bike from West Byfleet station; now it’s about a motorist aged 18-20 driving over the speed limit whilst talking on a mobile phone. Hardly the fall of Babylon.

The tran in the van prompted something bordering on hysteria until the police intervened to remind residents that it wasn’t illegal to be dressed in a frock in a van. Not unless he was wearing shoulder pads. There is the lurking suspicion the presence of an unsightly van caused more distress than the gender issues.

This raises the question, what does one have to do to become the subject of one of these emails? Apart from the requirement to go in drag just in order to vote (see my earlier post on my polling card referring to me, the sole resident, as ‘Marie’), all my previous efforts and indiscretions seem to have gone unnoticed.

The Inaugural Cow PR Lawn Champagne Cork Spitting Championships in the early hours of Saturday morning as Boney M’s Rasputin boomed from indoors should’ve at the very least clinched a postscript of general indignant bewilderment as to what the Dickens is going on at Wisley House (‘This is supposed to be West Byfleet!’). Especially with two gays prancing around and declaring loudly they had no competition in the matter. For the record, the competition was won by a heterosexual, Peter Jackson. We now have our doubts about him.

If they could see what Wilcock did to that copy of heritage magazine ‘This England’ (purchased in Waitrose on a whim and a hangover) we’d be shot at dawn. Not since sixth-form have I see a preponderance of inappropriate graffiti and comments – but never on D-Day veterans, The Queen on her wedding day, a portrait of the Dame Nellie Melba or an entire village in Wiltshire. Some of the material on there was positively Pompeian. And worse.

That magazine is now under lock and key in the office. There’s a fine line between art and moral bankruptcy. In this case the line wasn’t so much crossed as the being behind the blocks in a 100 metre sprint of filth. On the other hand, the ‘amended’ This England (with hardly a passage of text not having the phrase ‘in my pants’ tagged onto it in biro) goes so far beyond the realms of social acceptability would without doubt blow any conceptual artist out of the water – or more likely vat of gibbon urine or whatever passes for shock this week – to win The Turner Prize.

This raises the dreadful possibility that Wilcock may one day be discovered and hailed as the voice of a generation. With knobs on. We should all be vigilant about that.


Lancing the Boyle April 25, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in QPR, Single London.
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What sort of man would marry Susan Boyle for money? Well, according to my morally dubious subconscious, me for starters.

There are times when one wakes up in a sweat in the middle of the night realising with huge regret it was all a dream. For years I had a recurring one about coming off the bench to play for Queens Park Rangers though that hasn’t happened for a long while. At present I’d probably get in the starting line-up. Others have involved predictably involved a member of the opposite sex.

As far as I know, unlike one half of the planet, doing something unspeakable with Megan Fox hasn’t floated across my transom but, following a strong coffee just before slumber on Friday night, being married to Susan Boyle has.

Nothing quite prepares you for the moment when, having gone 36 years, without even a whiff of the altar, you find yourself cornered in a room with SuBo (who for reasons again beyond me had dyed her hair red) making demands that we step out together and inform the world’s press that I was her husband and we are in love.

My recollection is I’d consented to put my name forward for a fee but I wasn’t expecting her to turn up on my doorstep and an international media frenzy. Faced with a red-haired and highly emotional Boyle talking my way out of it proved impossible.

The universal humiliation of being the man who married the Singing Haggis was as good as a death sentence (what will the family Christmas be like with her breaking out into ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ and holding my hand as relatives look on in agonised disbelief? As for getting a sympathetic hearing from the likes of Wilcock and Gloria in the office, well…) and I knew this was not the course I had intended my life to take.

My only strategic option was to become hysterical, explain in firm and frank terms there had been a terrible mistake and there was no chance. She went ballistic and, to compound matters, the public turned on me. Fucking hypocrites. What if the shoe was on the other foot? What this all says about my tendency toward marriage does not necessitate a seance with Sigmund Freud.

Going into hiding proved futile as everywhere I went I was chased by SuBo. Being pursued and chased is standard fare in nightmares, but by Susan Boyle with red hair is another thing altogether. When she finally caught up with me she threw a packet of washing up powder (yes, I know) at me. Apparently this triggered a get out clause in my contract and in an unexpected move and to the surprise of all parties she instantly rocketed screaming into orbit. If only I had those powers with certain exes, or clients come to think of it, in the past. I’m already building a prototype.

Never have I been so relieved to see my radio alarm clock in the darkness. Practically shaking I had to stagger downstairs for a glass of red and a cigarette at 4am to steady the frayed nerves. I’ve done some stupid and irresponsible things in my time -knocking a girl backwards of a port wall during an embrace, taking Dan Turner to Amsterdam, driving a Volvo, watching QPR away (or home for that matter) – but marrying Susan Boyle is a new low even for me.

Tonight, I’m not taking any chances. I’m wearing a crucifix and the Hoops shirt to repel SuBos in the night and try to trigger the long-lost recurring dream of playing at Loftus Road. Give me Les Ferdinand over Les Miserables every day of the week,

Gyms are the new meow meow April 22, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Home, West Byfleet.
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Forget your meow meow, woof woof or chirpy chirpy cheep cheep, last night I overdosed on another legal high: adrenalin. Ninety minutes in the gym followed by a rapidly devoured steak meant I was pacing around the kitchen (I must’ve done two hundred laps), caged among the Poggenpohl, flexing and panting with seething intensity, racked with base, primal urges like Fred West after a few gins. I didn’t venture out as Neighbourhood Watch tends to frown upon psychosis.

Staring back at my reflection from the four ovens, I was ready to fight any man or beast. It was quite impossible to sit still or settle when Jamie Oliver in Andalusia was on Channel Four. That alone is enough to send a sane man into such a state, or finish them off completely, without gym or protein overload.

This erratic behaviour went on for several hours and was not helped by downing four cans of Diet Coke in quick succession, I can tell you. If the Daily Mail got wind of my condition and what I was inclined to do, they’d have cross trainers and rowing machines banned and personal trainers banged up for life. Actually, I’d support the latter with gusto. Throw away the key.

Meanwhile the deviant members of Cow were texting to say they were out an having a jolly old time in a bar with a manner that could be best described as ‘taunting’. This also went on for hours. There’s nothing to make me more bitter and resentful than knowing there are others out there having a better time than I. While they were swigging, laughing and texting updates I tried to deal with the subsequent crashing come down by watching Newsnight, heart doing one-eighty with my only company being a retired admiral on the fucking television.

Calm has now been restored. It’s morning, the sun is shining upon Wisley House and a squirrel is playing with its nuts in a manner i can only admire. Working from today awaiting the delivery of a new Weber barbecue and an outdoor lounge bed to meet my lofty ideal to become West Byfleet’s answer to The Great Gatsby with a guest list to match. Purchased at great expense, their arrival will almost certainly trigger four months of unbroken drizzle, solitude and pneumonia.

As I type this, Gloria has just called from work to say someone has just turned up for an interview. It makes a change from her texting pissed about cake and koalas. But she has a point: I now realise I do have an appointment that has been regrettably overlooked. ‘I can’t do everything’, I implored. ‘No, you just stay there’ she replied, ‘and wait for your barbecue’. She has just been crossed off the list.

That, in turn, frees up space for Cameron Diaz from the reserves. She better not turn up after I’ve been to the gym or my actions will end up in the papers,

Marie, me and democracy April 20, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Home, In the news, West Byfleet.
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The countdown has begun. While most of the electorate are contemplating the disappearing Tory poll lead, Cleggmania and the issues of the day such as recession, Afghanistan and the paternity woes of Pater Andre, I’m here wondering about a woman called Marie.

The electoral poll card arrived today and with it my right that millions fought and died for. With it was the realisation that my participation in the democratic process had already been aborted with me still limbering up in my tracksuit not having even got in the blocks.

It can’t be beyond the almighty powers of Woking Council to get the name of their tax paying constituents right, but unless I turn up at the polling booth dressed in a summer frock and twinset and pearls, stumbling about in heels, there’s little chance of my casting a vote passing as one ‘Marie Perkins’. Due to what i hope a simple misunderstanding it knocks the result of the whole election into kilter its certainly one vote less for Plaid Cymru.

If I don’t officially live in Wisley House and Marie Perkins does this is going to make things awkward. Do I have to pose as a trans-gender to get my rebate for living alone or will Marie be done for fraud because I’m sharing the same roof with her?

I wonder if she’s single? It could be the woman of my dreams is living with me and I never even knew it. While I’m out the house working to pay the council tax, she’s starting the day with smoked salmon and scrambled eggs and a bloody mary, reading F.Scott Fitzgerald, listening to Bowie and our paths are yet to cross. Knowing my luck she’s got a wonky eye, watches ITV, can remove the lid off a bottle of Bacardi Breezer with her teeth, a Chelsea season ticket and uses the phrase ‘In terms of moving forward’.

More of a worry is a I actually married someone called Marie in a drunken moment of sincerity, dashed off to make the early London train in a haze and, Iliana the cleaner found her curled up under the duvet. If form is anything to go by Iliana probably assumed she was dirty linen and stashed her in the same place as my favourite Thomas Pink shirt that I’ve been ripping house apart to find for the past 48 hours.

It’s quite possible there’s a well-washed, badly ironed, shrunken and traumatised woman in a wardrobe in one of the spare rooms. After the last party I had here for my birthday, nothing would surprise me. And that, combined with my poor recycling form, is probably why Woking Council and Neighbourhood Watch conspired to make sure I’m kept out of the democratic process.

If they think that will deter me, just you watch – I will be there, wearing Prada, swinging a Mulberry bad above my head as I go, looking fabulous and the fate of a nation will reside in my well-manicured hand. Power to the people. Including those who don’t exist.

The Filth and the Fury April 11, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Consumer PR, Media.
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Pottering about online this Sunday afternoon in my kitchen I inadvertently lit the touchpaper for a revolutionary movement. Given plans for the afternoon were no more ambitious than cooking a scampi provencal and trying to find my wallet, that’s not pretty bad going.

Reposting an old blog (‘PR’s Weak’) caused others like me to rise up with their fists in the air rushing toward the barricades, or at the very least tweet, that something must be by those of us in the PR industry with a different outlook. This was prompted by a few events in the past working week.

Someone at Cow showed me a picture this week of the PR Power Book gang bang that had prompted my ire. It was a black tie and twinsets affair and the sound of industry backs being slapped could be heard all the way to Primrose Hill.

This is also the same week that Malcolm McClaren died and there’s been ongoing interviews for hungry, young grads,execs and managers at Cow.

From a personal point of view I didn’t get into PR nor stay in it to meet celebrities, have a flashy job title or attend industry soirees where I could get the tux out. I did so because of the thrill of seeing an idea get in the news, provoke a reaction and a knowing nod and wink that the truth shouldn’t always get in the way of a good story. That point was underlined by doing work experience at The Sun as a runner for Kelvin McKenzie (I was his email on legs before email was invented).

I have never once read about McClaren in industry publications or heard discussed at soirees. There’s more to be learned about PR from about McClaren and the Sex Pistols rise and legend than there is in reading our trade publication or a three-year degree course. You can spell out the three years in three words: man bites dog. If you want to make news and create impact it really is as simple as that. Now go forth and prosper, young Pip!

Our interviews are very informal. We’ve got something special at Cow, we’re a gang, a family (though more of the Manson variety than the Waltons) and not to be messed with. Our thoughts and ideals chime – we want to know the person joining us has the character, as well as the ability, to fit in. Lovers of hierarchies, rules, status and process wouldn’t. If some agencies are run like the Royal Navy, we’re more like a pirate ship. Yo ho ho and a bottle of Havana Club 7 year.

Yet, we will ask about brand campaigns. The number of candidates who’ve spoken about their passion for PR and are yet unable to name a single campaign they admire is staggering. So many are stumped and resort to naming an ad that was on television 18 months ago. It would be nice if someone came in one day and said ‘I want to make news people talk about!’

Since 1996 I’ve worked on some of the biggest brands in the world, across number of award winning campaigns, addressed serious issues, all challenging and rewarding, but the thing I treasure most was causing consternation and outrage across the news pages and the airwaves with a story for a Power Rangers space guide for youngsters that said ‘One in three British kids think Winston Churchill was the first man on the moon’.

Interviews are also an insight into how other agencies operate. One Account Manager at an agency was advised early on that she was being too friendly and familiar with the Execs. Socialising was not advised as they ‘are not the same level’ as she. They wouldn’t respect her otherwise. Respect her for what? Detachment? Aloofness? Ability to reinforce a sterile working atmosphere? This sort of stuff all belongs with another age, if not the Gestapo.

Colleagues will respect you if you treat them as a human being, not an operative, and that means you can lower yourself to go for a bloody mary or a knees up with them and know what motivates and interests them. Professionally they will respect you if you know what you are doing and devote time to help them develop. That creates a system of mutual support and respect.

This same agency also frowned upon people chatting, laughing, not working. The result is that people work in silence and there is very little bond between colleagues.

This is, of course, missing the point by a country mile. This agency is can’t see the blindingly obvious paradox that they are supposed to be creating conversations yet are stamping it out in their own workplace. We’re an ideas business and there are no rules for creativity. Some agencies have a point-by-point template approach to being creative that must be adhered to and would make me howl if it weren’t in my own industry. Perhaps Picasso used this approach: Step 1- pick up brush; Step Two – think of the bombing of Guernica in an progressively abstract manner; Step Three – paint?

Some of the best ideas had at Cow have come not from a brainstorm, poring over consumer trends or staring in isolated silence at a screen, but over a shared pot of tea, a fag break, an afternoon tipple in the Woolpack or sat in the park. Why sit in an office on a sunny day apart from to justify the rent?

The other day my Dad watched BBC breakfast and a news item on DeBretts and Vauxhall Astra producing a ‘Thoroughly Modern Guide to Motoring Etiquette’. Steps included music play list etiquette, conduct toward other motorists and appropriate conversation with fellow passengers. ‘Now someone’s telling me the correct way to get out of a car? What bloody idiot thought of that?’ he asked as we drove to the airport. That would be me, I replied. Job done.

Consumer PR at is best is playful, irreverent, challenging, entertaining and we should be heard. Our peers shouldn’t be forced suffer in silence.

And no, I didn’t find my wallet.

Sunshine and dining: from Errol Flynn to Sid James April 7, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Food, Travel.
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Nueva Andalusia, Marbella

Being the sole male in a Marbella apartment with three blonde girls may sound like the premise for a Jackie Collins novel, but the reality is more like being in an editorial meeting of Reveal magazine that lasted for five days with breaks for costume changes.

Beyond a soundtrack of heels and the application of slap, I now know more about Danielle Lloyd’s private life than I do my own and I swear mine is more interesting if only I could remember it.

Getting out at all proved to be a minor triumph given the time taken to get ready. By then I was already past my best after polishing off the chilled rose whilst in waiting and clock watching. I imagine it was all so different for Errol Flynn, which brings me neatly onto dinner.

The highlight of any trip to Marbella is a visit down the coast road to Robbie’s in Estepona. Robbie has been serving up up flamboyant food in fabulously kitsch and camp surroundings for over thirty years and never disappoints.

Any menu that contains delights such as cheese souffle David Niven, scrambled eggs and smoke salmon Errol Flynn, langoustines pil pil Betty Grable, Lemon sorbet with vodka George Michael and marinated figs Barbara Streisand is always going to sound potentially dubious to the outside observer.

Yet, throw in an array of antique furniture and objects d’art; Sinatra, Holliday and Fitzgerald playing in the background; a Mariyln Monroe fixation, original vinyl LPs as place mats, candlelight and every inch of wall space adorned by pictures of stars from Hollywood’s golden era (plus a smattering of Bowie. Clooney, Madonna and DiCaprio) then you are stepping into the right direction.

Beyond unique, the considered over-the-top decor and ambience the hospitality, cocktails and exquisite food seal it. There’s four varieties of fillet steak – all named after leading men and include the likes of dates, blueberries and a smoked salmon wrapping topped with caviar in their offering. It shouldn’t work, but it does.

This is no novelty restaurant. It’s the real deal and a work of art. Like any artist, Robbie doesn’t advertise or make his venue easily accessible. You have to seek it out and it is not at all easy to find.

It is somewhere that is discovered, anonymously tucked away on a cobbled side street in an antiquated building. Behind the inconspicuous double doors one steps into a world of fantasy, a full size statue of Marilyn, chandeliers and within seconds Robbie, looking not dissimilar to a shorter, cheerier version of Barry Gibb to welcome you into his world.

Over the past decade or more I’ve been there with a fair few female companions. Just weeks into our courtship I took the Last One there on a whirlwind trip to Andalusia and Robbie greeted her, praised her looks and turned to me asking aloud ‘Do you think you’ll keep this one?’. That’s a conversation starter, let me tell you.

A return last summer and he congratulated her on the fact we were still together and waved his hands in the air declaring our gorgeousness as a couple. One thing he hasn’t got is a crystal ball because it all fell apart a day or two later with an evening in Cordoba that still makes me curl into a foetal position at the mere memory of it.

So, to turn up with three women prompted a ‘Goodness, you’ve now got a harem!’ and has insisted I post a photo I took of he and harem together for a place on his wall. Alongside portraits of Rita Hayworth, Judy Garland, Clark Gable, Montgomery Clift and Esther Williams, that is the highest form of flattery anyone can get. That is apart from being a famous regular and getting a dish named after you – hence the presence of apple crumble Cilla Black on the menu.

That was the Easter weekend. After a flight back where for three hours I was pressed against the window by a fat family who presumably won their holiday in a competition on Ceefax, we’re back now to British weather, South West Trains and neighbours not speaking to me after the somewhat Babylonian all-night birthday party at Wisley House the previous weekend (which, thanks to certain colleagues was transformed into G.A.Y).

Call me insightful, but I don’t think the champagne cork blowing challenge on the front lawn at 8am won many admirers from Neighbourhood Watch.

The closest I can get to recreating the holiday vibe at Wisley House or Cow PR is naming my meals after celebrities. Tomorrow I can barely contain myself at the thought of waking up to a bowl of porridge Jeremy Paxman and tuna baguette Stan Bowles followed by a fruit salad Kenneth Williams from Sainsburys in Bermondsey Square. Oh, the glamour!