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One year of solitude October 19, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Blogging and social media, Home, Suburbia, West Byfleet.
1 comment so far

A year ago today I made the first entry on this blog. It seemed an appropriate time to start writing given the new setting in West Byfleet and in part homage to Jeffrey Bernard’s Low Life column. If I wondered where I’d be a year from that day it would probably come as no surprise that I’d be off sick from work  and snivelling with a cold, still single, still not entirely able to operate the heating system as we approach another winter and still none the wiser about West Byfleet either.

So what has been learned about a year in the the wilds of West Byfleet? Well, it’s very nice really, especially as it’s close to Weybridge. The rail links are excellent except for snow where you”ll find yourself cut off from the office and the rest of humanity for a week, the boat club is a great asset in the summer especially if you have a bottle and someone female to row from you whilst you navigate, Chu Chin Chow does the finest Chinese takeaway in the area, there was an excellent butchers and deli near the station but that closed down and if you are looking to get a double whammy of food poisoning and locked in a small toilet cubicle of an Italian restaurant for thirty minutes then head for Trevi opposite the train station.

Strangely there are no pubs. Harvester doesn’t count. Legitimising a Harvester as a pub is on a par with pushing an abortion around in a pram and calling it a baby (knowing my luck someone has called the Harvester office this afternoon with a massive contract to do their PR and will discover this blog five minutes later) and otherwise there is Corkers Wine Bar. The less said about that the better. I did actually set foot across its threshold once, but upon opening the door and glimpsing ahead managed to do a 180 turn in the same motion out of the doorway and to the safe clutches of the vastly superior and infinitely less Chelsea shirted Wisley House Wine Bar.

It should also come as no surprise that this is fallow land for the single man. Not that I was expecting a harem on my doorstep, although had it been the case the Gieves & Hawkes sports jacket would’ve been donned and I’d have been making large strides to welcome myself Terry Thomas fashion to their neighbourhood with a bottle of Malbec in hand.

This is not to say that it has been an entirely fallow year on that front but a conscious decision was taken at the start of this blog that it would be the most ungentlemanly thing to do to reveal any of that in the public domain. Other people are involved and some of them may even know who they are. I suspect there’s also some who may not and, for that, I definitely am not naming names and, in turn, they are probably drinking fewer strong cocktails on balmy summer nights.

Nor is it all about West Byfleet, there’s been more to say about places such as Bermondsey, Buenos Aires, Marbella or the greatest walk of shame ever witnessed in Phuket than there has about the pulse of suburban Surrey life.

People often ask why I moved to West Byfleet. It wasn’t for the social life, I get plenty of that in London where I can also pursue a career, but also I get plenty enough of London that i can escape it when need be to a house with a serious sound system and neighbours too far away to hear The Cramps or Prodigy full blast at 4am.  Also because if one grew up in and around London all their life (especially the immediate area around QPR though by proxy not Wembley), it’s not the same as arriving wide-eyed from the valleys at 25.

Where this place comes into its own is you can bring the social life from London (and elsewhere) here and also what goes on in these four walls has to be discretion. Yet again, other people are involved and even fewer still probably know who they are. On that note, there’s a work Halloween party here on Friday week. Looking at past pictures of our West Byfleet soirees little makeup will be required after 9pm. Woe betide any local kids who come trick or treating an that particular evening, or the Saturday night come to think of it, because I can’t think of anything more scary than Robbie and Niles from accounts (the self-anointed ‘The Gay and the Black, who I’m told are coming next week in costume vice-versa as the Black and the Gay – Niles in gold hot pants will be a sight to behold) answering the door in the twilight hours.

So here we are, one year, 103 posts and over 10,000 views on. (I suspect for a number of regulars to this blog there is either a morbid fascination in or self-recognition of a man can cook a steak dinner for one in a Poggenpohl kitchen only to find a fag butt in the English mustard when at the fully laid dining table that keeps them coming back). It leaves me to cast the thought where I’ll be one year from today.  Most probably at this laptop on the kitchen table, box of tissues, a pile of unopened envelopes from Inland Revenue just beyond my deliberately placed line of vision, Sky Sports News on a hypnotic loop and perhaps Cameron Diaz tending my fevered brow with a tender kiss. One thing I guarantee I won’t be doing as a result of today, unless they are happy to permit me to repeat the pram analogy, is writing a press release for Harvester and we’re all probably thankful for that,

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Speechless October 17, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Home, QPR.
2 comments

Outside working hours, certainly not in this blog, I’m not normally in the habit of shameless product endorsement unless it is either in a bottle or a skirt or a QPR season ticket. These are  the constituents of a good weekend, though not necessarily all at the same time and it is, from experience, unwise to pursue it as such.

However, it is only fair that a nod is given to the chicken noodle soup from Marks & Spencer as it is not only restoring my faith in soup, but also my power of speech. There are many occasions I have been left speechless in the past, normally again down to one or more of the constituents of a good weekend, which it has to be noted can also be constituents for a very bad weekend, if not considerably longer. Yet, this is the first time it’s been the case where I’ve gone to say something and all I can emit is a wheezy croak. It’s been like this for 36 hours and the novelty has started to wear thin.

Perhaps it was induced by the shock of waking up on Saturday morning in a colleague’s armchair to corpsed laughter with my shoelaces tied together and lipstick on my face, but one suspects having shown the early stages of mannish-flu a big Friday all nighter with colleagues from Cow was precisely the sort of thing the doctor wouldn’t order. Thankfully, it meant a short journey from Shoreditch to QPR and the team recognised my frail state and duly decided the last thing I needed was any further excitement or something to cheer about.

The combination of illness, being able to point to a lacklustre performance (and, not forgetting, operating as a member of society with a job to uphold) also meant I had the perfect rebuff to Blewett’s question of whether I fancied going to Swansea on Tuesday night. I can’t yet conceive or any time I’d fancy I’d going to Swansea, but certainly not on a Tuesday night in October. Maybe I’d go if it were another time of year and not in Swansea. I think that’s about the closest one can come to a compromise. Blewett is, afterall, a man who was once told by his partner on a bank holiday Monday that, for once, they were going to something together as family rather than him go off on his own to watch football.  So he bundled her and their young daughter in a car and drove them all to Barnsley to see the Rangers. Had she castrated him there and then I don’t think there is single a jury in the land made up of six women to five men who’d have convicted her. A standing ovation more likely.

I hate to say it, but as a result of illness my appearance in the Bermondsey Square office tomorrow is looking highly unlikely. Or Haile Selassie, should I make it in.This is always a decision taken with due consideration, especially for my peers, but more so for me when it should happen on a Monday. Even in the fevered throes of illness it is tempting to travel from Surrey to London simply to avoid being around  as that’s when Iliana comes over to clean.

One look at me curled up with flu in bed she’ll quite likely to mistake me for rubbish and dump me in the bin labelled general waste. At least she’d have the good sense not to put me in the recycling bin: there’s very little about my person that is much use to anyone else and some of it is positively toxic.

Iliana has after a number of years of service established that I do not lead what may be considered a conventional lifestyle by most people’s, let alone her own Bulgarian, standards. Conversely I cannot be entirely sure what she considers to be normal cleaning practices. Just as I manage to subsist alone in an unnecessarily large family home and she can discover half-drunk, long forgotten about glasses of wine (and on one occasion a half-drunk, long forgotten about friend), she thinks it perfectly the done thing to open all the windows in subzero temperatures and hide anything of significant value or importance in cupboards or drawers, not always in the same room where she finds them, to the extent that a man can be driven mad at the best of times, but even more so when he has a train to catch in fifteen minutes and no bank cards or keys.

That’s the pay off to return home to a spotless house. The reason it is spotless is because most of the contents have been hidden. Missing books that I’d been perfectly happy to leave on my bedside cabinet I discover are now stored under the bed.  For a while I’d become convinced Wisley House had become a literary Bermuda Triangle. At the same time I don’t want to be seen monitoring what she’s doing, just as I don’t want her observing me and my torpor and then getting a lengthy bit of advice about how people with these ailments are traditionally dealt with back home (should warm water and honey fail, with a blunt object perhaps?).

Once, having just returned froma wedding I made the mistake of asking if there were any traditional Bulgarian customs to be observed on a wedding day and got a long, confusing monologue about how the groom has to find the bride’s hidden left shoe. After her cleaning I know exactly how he feels. Every Monday is like a Bulgarian wedding here. Perhaps she’s flirting with me? Now there’s a thought to diminish the power of speech for good and no amount of M&S chicken noodle soup could possibly rectify.

Some Mothers Do Have ‘Em October 7, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Single London, West Byfleet.
4 comments

One minute a man is in a hip London bar, full of wit and debonair wisecracks, flashing the platinum card for the next martini cocktail; the next he is getting getting a bollocking from his mother in her dressing gown on his own front lawn.

I can assure you there’s no greater leveller  after a night of gallivanting about town than finding oneself locked out and having to sit on the porch in West Byfleet, knowing that before you get let in by the woman who brought you into the universe and has regretted the move ever since, there is going to be the mother of all motherly earbashings all because her first and only son had left his keys on his desk yet again. I bet that never happened to Don Draper.

The time it takes an irate woman in a nightie to drive from Cobham provides for a good 15 minutes of introspection and reflection. Fifteen minutes of meditative calm before the storm to ponder and stare up at the stars: not so much are we alone in the universe, but more why am I alone in West Byfleet?

If there is intelligent life out there I’d like to meet it. Quite possibly they’d arrive in a blaze of glory with a message of peace, head straight for the nearest bar, run up a large tab, arrive late and disgracefully at the UN summit in their honour and then find themselves locked out of their UFO when they intended to go home. That would be acceptable. Even more likely is they’d rock up in fake tan (an unnatural shade of luminous green?) not with a warning about ecological decay or nuclear annihilation, but to query whether we were Team Jordan or Team Peter, ask for a Chelsea season ticket and complain about Ganu being booted off X Factor instead of the tone-deaf chav covered in slap with the eating disorder. Not so much to come in peace, but come in pieces.

Then they’d be hailed as heroes by the masses and it would confirm what many of us have hitherto suspected – that the universe is comprised not of atomic particles of energy but instead by lardy lumps of stupidity.

All of this musing suddenly became irrelevant with the bright light beams upon me not being from intelligent or stupid life from the extremes of another dimension, but from the 4×4 containing one incandescent woman and a spare set of my house keys from a nearby portion of Surrey – ensuring after being reminded of my age, general incompetence in basic life tasks and how it seems I’m never going to change after 36 years of unreliability (a familiar strain I hear in any encounter the female half of planet Earth) that I didn’t retire to bed for the evening with a flea in my ear, but the entire dog.

What’s becoming clear to those around me is I’m really not an Autumnal person and in winter I really should be locked away in a padded cell, fed only on a diet of broccoli, steak, Malbec, positive QPR results and Pachebel’s Canon played on a constant loop until the Spring. The occasional female visitor wouldn’t go amiss either, if only for someone to argue with. Otherwise, at the hint of something not going to plan or the slightest hitch, there is the likelihood of Fawltyesque attacks on inanimate objects such as waste paper recycling bins or people who stand on the left side of escalators.

Things have got so bad that last night I actually dreamt about not getting coverage for a new story we’d put out yesterday. I’d bumped into Jenny Simmons on the stairwell of the office and she was clutching the bundle of the day’s papers like they were a limp infant plucked out of the rubble of some earthquake, tearfully breaking it to me the story hadn’t appeared anywhere and me wanting to kick a recycling bin. If ever a dream didn’t require Freudian analysis it was this one. The meaning of dreaming about not getting coverage is you have deep rooted fear about not getting coverage. Not a hint of regression, exposure, narcissism or simply being stranded with naked women on a tropical island. Just a man on the stairs with no coverage. So much for the power of the subconscious.

There hasn’t been much improvement this morning. The first thing I did was go into the utility room and turn on the iron to make a cup of tea. It took a snap of the wits to prevent a shirt being ironed by a kettle. In the meantime, I need to check in with the office to see whether that story did get any coverage after all. The day depends on it.