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Spinach mousse May 30, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Friends, In the news.
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Recently a friend from university commented on a shared picture on Facebook from those halcyon days of gin and tonics and gossip that he hoped I’d lost my looks or life simply wouldn’t be fair. Today, as he is sadly implicated in the first media-led scandal of the coalition government, I’ve read him described in the Independent headline as ‘The dazzlingly handsome, nay gorgeous, cocktail drinking and spinach mousse eating…’.

There’s nothing wring with spinach mousse and I certainly qualify for half of that descriptor. That it takes a so-called scandal and the raking of muck to see one’s friend described as dazzlingly handsome in a newspaper is also indicative that life definitely isn’t fair. Nevertheless, I’d go to Stamford Bridge or Lidl for a headline like that and have it reprinted on my business card within the hour.

And now to retreat for the last night in KL. There will be cocktails, not so sure about the spinach mousse, but if you go to the right (or the wrong) bars then there’s no shortage of women telling you you are dazzlingly handsome – though I concede it’s not quite on the same level as coming from a respected national newspaper. The only thing left to do is up my own scandal rate beyond PR circles.


Fear and Laksa in Kuala Lumpur (or One Wedding and a Bhuna) May 30, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Friends, Travel.
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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Having just taken afternoon tea at the Mandarin Oriental there’s temptation to go into a Noel Cowradesque whimsy, but it would be a terrible conceit and that veneer would be quickly stripped away. Each afternoon we surface shambolically, unready for what or whom will throw themselves at us in the course of night and day. Even a wedding can take one by surprise and into uncharted territory.

Nothing quite prepares one the spectacle of watching a bewildered friend on his wedding day as he is instructed to serve a table of Buddhist monks their lunch in an Indian restaurant. Cultural divides are not so great. To a Kuala Lumpan, handing over a fondant fancy and uttering the words ‘More tea, vicar?’ may seem as equally incongruous as a confused groom (who hadn’t been briefed on this before) going from monk to monk dishing up the dahl.

The catch is in this case that none of the wedding guests are permitted to help themselves to food until the monks have finished theirs. Those monks were in no particular hurry and I swear I saw them actively making a pact when they saw my glances in their direction to make that move for seconds.

The monks, strict vegetarians, will only eat food that is offered to them, but in turn must eat whatever is given. Even meat. Not that anyone would ever do that, of course. Not a local anyway. As they contemplatively moved their rice around the plate, let me tell you it was only five minutes before it was Big Macs all round courtesy of the famished looking gentleman from West Byfleet giving them the thumbs up.

The feeding of the monks was all part of day that put your traditional British wedding of lager, disco, Aunt Dolly having a turn and fat bridesmaid in tears in the shade. The whole affair starts early in the morning with the groom and his friends (that’ll be me and Leon Dale and a chap from Norwich) going to the family home of the bride. Here they must ‘fight their way into the home’ in order to reach the bride.

This is not to be taken literally. Imagine if the same instruction was given to a bunch of Brummies sharing a sleep-deprived hangover on a par with ours in the tropically humid morning. Putting a brick in the window, caving in the front door and punching the bride’s father in the face is not quite the done thing. Instead we had to perform a range of tasks set by the bride’s sisters.

According to a Chinese proverb, married life is made up of the bitter, the sweet, the sour and the spicy (the English proverb is similar though you can take the sweet and the spicy out after about a fortnight). Therefore, the groom and his entourage had to sample one of each in food form. Seeing where this was headed I said give me the sour: lemon juice, no problem.

Leon, predictably wanting to impress the sisters with a cocky glint in his eye that he would take the spicy. I’d already had a tip-off by a Chinese member of the entourage: whatever you do, avoid the spicy. He’d had a friend who went for the spicy in a similar situation and ended up with a gastric illness as a result.

Rarely in the world will you see a slice of bread layered all over with thick spread of neat wasabi as the one that was handed over through the railing. I almost felt sorry for the bastard as tears replaced the glint and everyone, including Granny Kok, laughed and pointed as he floundered on the porch. Soon after that we were let in, with the groom still finding time to trip up the stairs as he ascended to claim his bride.

Despite a wedding that started early morning and ended well after midnight we still found time to charge suited and booted into the city’s most fashionable club, Zouk. This is where the rich kids of Kulala Lumpur go to party as evidenced by the Ferraris and Lamborghinis parked outside. They really know how to go for it and we’re indebted to the rich kid in particular (a funny podgy little fellow with specs and baseball cap) who decided we were worthy of being bought a constant supply of drinks.

Meanwhile an groovy chap who looked and acted like a Kim Jong Il in Team America form, particularly as he was flanked by minders and hangers-on, made a point of coming over and high-fiving me twice. I dread to wonder who he thought I was. Jenson Button? Harry Redknapp? We all look the same don’t we.

The dance floor was a packed, jumping mass, yet we stood elegantly on the sidelines, making conversation and observation from an upstairs balcony. Then some idiot DJ put on some Prodigy,something fizzed then exploded in the brain and the game was up. Or over, whichever way you want to look at it.

Today the legs ache from pogoing and I only hope that the rich kids on the dance floor aren’t too badly bruised. Mad Dogs and Englishman: not only can they not stay out of the midday sun, they can’t stay off the dance floor to Smack My Bitch Up.

So I do end with a reference to Coward afterall. Chin chin.

To be or anchovy, that is the question May 16, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Friends, Home.

The first thing I did this morning was very nearly break my neck slipping on an anchovy. There can’t be many marbled kitchen floors in the Surrey area that have a minefield of semi-moist anchovies apart from here at Wisley House.

I imagine most civilised people wake up, get a peck on the cheek from their partner, review the papers over coffee and croissants before going for a jog or a worthy excursion. Not here. All one can do is survey the wreckage and wonder where the rogue anchovy came from. As far as I can recall I haven’t had anchovies for days and I’m a considerable distance from the Med for it to have got here on its own volition. This is precisely the sort of thing that can keep a man awake at night, or certainly added to an ever-growing list.

This is also what happens when Iliana the cleaner decides to take a week off on holiday. The designer kitchen now looks more akin to the rear of the Guns and Roses tour bus. Judging by the state of things, there’s more likelihood of fag ash from West Byfleet bringing down a plane than anything an Icelandic volcano can muster.

Iliana is back tomorrow and I shall welcome her and her dynamic mop with open arms and garlands of flowers because one more week of this would’ve been intolerable. I’m prepared to forgive her domestic indiscretions like the shrunken cashmere jumper or the credit cards mysteriously filed in a plant pot in the dining room if she’ll sort out my anchovy situation.

If an anchovy can’t kill me in my own home maybe my holiday will. In two weeks time I’m supposed to be staying at my own private residence with pool at a boutique spa blah blah retreat. In Thailand, Call me old fashioned but there’s nothing relaxing or indulgent about being shot.

I’ve tried reassuring my mother that if anyone is going to provoke a gunman and get a bullet it will be my traveling companion, Leon Dale. He has that kind of form after half a shandy though it’s possibly wise I spend the entire trip pretending not to know him. Then again, that’s what anyone who does know him does anyway, whether they are in Thailand or Tooting. He brought his company’s last Christmas party to an abrupt end by attempting to juggle his boss’s toddler and failed to catch with spectacular and tearful consequences.

By more than coincidence there’s a programme come on Channel Five as I type about Brits banged up abroad. In Thailand. It is titled ‘Big Trouble In Thailand’. As omens and wake up calls goes this is on a par of being kicked in the nuts. Call me pessimistic, but I’m taking notes. Maybe it’s better I just stay here with Iliana and donate the money saved from the boutique hotel and the inevitable bail to start up an anchovy sanctuary in memory of my would-be assassin. Was he working alone or on behalf of some embittered ex? As he’s now fittingly sleeping with the fishes, we shall probably never know.

Friday night in May 14, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Blogging and social media, Consumer PR, Friends.

So this is the reality of a Friday for people who don’t have Village East and pretty desperate it is too. This afternoon a colleague and I sat through eight powerpoint presentations in an inter-agency meeting. Eight powerpoint presentations. And neither of us understood any of them.

If I see another graph again, I swear I’m going to throw myself in the Thames. It was all search engine optimisation, banner ad click throughs and a woman on my right who used the phrase ‘cross fertilisation’ on several occasions with no hint of irony whatsoever. In one instance she uttered those words whilst looking me directly in the eye. Where I come from say that sort of thing into a desperate man’s eyes after a few glasses of Malbec and she could’ve got more than she bargained for. And there wouldn’t have been a slide for it afterward.

If I had to produce a graph of my day it would be downhill all the way from the first utterance of cross-fertilisation. Now I know why we end the week in Village East like it’s the last days of Babylon. There was the option to go to Brighton for the night with a few Cows but I’m absolutely convinced that will end with someone going off the pier and being washed up at dawn. That might have been a better option.

I thought a quiet night in would do me good. That must be the first sign of insanity or conformity and there is a hair’s breadth between the two. Do people really content themselves with Eastenders, Jacob’s Creek and picking fragments of Dorito out of their navel?

There’s always social media but according to an article in The Sun today we should all beware of Facebook. A woman has warned other idiot savant tarts about the dangers of sending shots of your privates to men on Facebook Chat impersonating Peter Andre.

According to ‘model’ Alicia Smith, 24, she was duped into sending intimate images of herself to a person she believed to be the Antipodean singer, but since then she hasn’t had so much of a smiley face let alone a thank you.

Andre, whose daughter with Jordan looks like a depressed Anthony Worrall Thompson, is apparently livid and appalled that someone out there is using his name to take advantage of ‘vulnerable women’ (now there’s a euphemism) and has warned them to be vigilant.

It’s almost 9pm. It’s Friday, there’s the prospect of shopping for a surround sound system and an occasional table to fire me up and I’m bored. if you’ll excuse me I think I should brush up on my Mysterious Girl lyrics, Aussie lingo and head on over to Facebook. Goodnight

13 minutes to go May 11, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Food, Friends.
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The ten day old flowers are faring up better in this kitchen than I am. This is self-imposed exile from London and Village East.

Last Friday ended up with half a dozen others pouring into the flat of a random Scotsman who had that week moved to London and had gone to VE for a quiet drink. Unluckily for him he met us.

Among civilised company, introducing guests to his flat with a beam across the ceiling would at best elicit nothing more than brief comment. I can think of few other people other than my colleagues who would see this as something to be straddled or swung from. Or taking over his Spotfiy and putting on Boney M’s ‘Rasputin’. Poor man. I wouldn’t blame him if he woke up in the morning and got the first train back to Peebles.

A Saturday afternoon spent in the Bermondsey Kitchen did not revive. After a full English and several bloody marys that best we could do was a crossword, slumped twitching on the sofa, and repeatedly impersonating a woman who answers the phone of a Chinese takeaway in Fleet.

This left very little time to get back to West Byfleet to meet a friend for dinner and cocktails at the newly opened Brooklands Hotel, a short hop away from Wisley House. Her cat Cuddles passed away last week and I was hoping to provide consolation but after a few Espresso Martinis the only thing I was able to do was sit on a bar stool and impersonate a woman who answers the phone of a Chinese takeaway in Fleet.

The Brooklands is worth a visit, though not after a night at Village East and the beamed flat of a Scotsman. The food was average, the re-interpretation of art deco tastefully done, but the people watching was spectacular.

Some of them looked more disoriented than I did and that takes some going. A man of a certain age thirty years older than a girl of an uncertain age, a show of leopard print; a couple in wild west shirts and jeans; and a couple in Adidas who looked like they’d missed the turning to Tesco by mistake. I mean, did they actually plan what they were going to wear out or simply roll around JD Sports covered in glue for a bet?

Anyway, that’s why I’m here now. Another night alone in the kitchen. Yesterday I actually did a runner from the office at 6pm to avoid being part of a Cow team in a pub quiz. A new recruit, Al, managed to dislocate his kneecap and so requires a taxi to take him to Waterloo. Myself and another colleague have taken full advantage of what has been labelled the ‘crip wagon’.

Honestly, I have never seen Mark Teale so mixed with excitement and agitation. Each journey he sits there twitching with his bag strap in disbelief that he and Al are both going to make the 6.23 to Fleet (hence the calls to the New Era – try saying that and hello with a Benny Hill accent – takeaway that have happened in the past fortnight) which is uncharted territory – like the breaking of the sound barrier.

There was an involuntary puff of the cheeks from myself as he explained why, with all the conviction he could muster, ‘It makes such a difference than getting the 6.36’. Well, yes, thirteen minutes.

What can one do with an extra thirteen minutes of an evening? As it is I struggle to fill thirteen in one night, let alone celebrate another batch. One shudders to think what Teale gets up to though I suspect it may involve home comforts. For me, it either means an earlier thirteen minutes in the gym or buckling to uncorking a Barolo one minute earlier than intended. That’s the options beyond Village East and a Scotsman with wooden beams leaving one to wonder if there’s the possibility of something inbetween. I doubt it.

Marx, Engels and other socialites May 4, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Blogging and social media, In the news.
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There’s a General Election but a few days away and not one of the main political parties has said what they intend to do about my social life.

Little do Brown, Cameron and Clegg seem aware how inadequate the bank holiday was due to cancellations nor the amount I raise for the Treasury in alcohol and tobacco revenues. I was rather expecting a peerage, not to have my name on the electoral role as ‘Marie’. The bar tab in Village East on Thursday night alone would’ve funded a new hospital wing, but there’s yet to be a phone call asking when I’ll be free to unveil the plaque at the Woking clinic. The Marie Perkins Liver wing, I suppose, but at least that thought that counts.

So what do the politicians propose to do for men of a certain age who live alone with a dance proof illuminated Union Jack coffee table and newly assembled barbecue and garden swing chair? We are not exactly an influential demographic. That’s probably why no one has pledged to do something about the lack of company over a bank holiday weekend, to stop friends getting married and settling down, women ceasing to have a grip on reality and provide funds for defence systems when they decide to slap without warning.

My mother tried to engage the dimwit assistant at the dentist about the election the other day. The girl said she didn’t get all that stuff, it was boring and she wouldn’t be voting. ‘You should vote’, my mother replied, ‘Women fought and even died for the right to vote’. ‘When was that?’ asked the girl. ‘A hundred years ago’, my mother replied. ‘Oh’ said the girl with a flicker of recognition, ‘Was that to do with Nelson Mandela?’. It’s enough to make you mix a strong Bloody Mary.

That’s one side of the spectrum. The other are the smug bastards of the social mediaocrity whose idea of political discourse is retweeting an @davefact, a photo shopped image, shared article or whatever is trending at that particular second. The ‘beauty’ of Twitter is it is here, now, immediate and its constituents move onto the next observation or point that can be condensed into 140 characters. This is the triumph not only of the soundbite as message, but soundbite as mental process.

People don’t discuss books or history anymore. In bringing like-minded people together social media is also the greatest form of deluded mass conformity masquerading as modern individuality. Thanks to the election, I’ve steered clear of anything on Twitter that considers itself vaguely political because one can be sure as hell it was posted by someone who thinks Nye Bevan is a Scandinavian trance festival or Gore Vidal a horror film about a coiffure.

A visit to Tesco the other day by mistake illustrated with whom my fate really resides with come Thursday night and that was a depressing thought. This is the vast majority of the population who certainly do not Tweet. Try explaining to some of the chaps in there that social media is for something other than a grooming device.

On several occasions I’ve caught news pieces of Gordon Brown mingling at a local Tesco, each time declaring ‘What a great store…lovely to meet you’ to anyone who would listen. The other day my sentiment wasn’t shared. It was all gelled hair, bad skin, pale flesh spilling over stained leisurewear as crates of beer are loaded with argument onto trolleys brim full of family pack crisps, Goodfellas pizza and Miley Cyrus DVDs. And I’d only gone in for post-gym Ryvita, but left as I arrived: the only person walking upright.

Britain in 2010 has many things: talent isn’t one of them. On that basis I’ll cast my vote, I won’t inflict my views or prejudices upon anyone whether on Twitter, in Tesco or over last orders at Village East. One other thing I won’t be doing, unlike a dental assistant, is confusing socialism with my social life.