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Tangled Up In Briefs November 4, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Blogging and social media, Consumer PR.
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Like most people, certainly those whom have accompanied a girlfriend on a shoe shopping expedition, own a QPR season ticket or been stuck in a room with a social media ‘guru’, I’ve contemplated my own death.  It could come at any moment, purely by chance or some act of my or someone else’s stupidity. Chances are that it will be long and lingering and I still wouldn’t have got round to collecting that rug and I ordered from Habitat one weekend.

I hadn’t suspected, though will be on future guard, I could be killed by my own scarf entangled in the door of a West Byfleet mini-cab. Fortunately I managed to bang on the side just as he was about to pull away.  Tonight was almost my night and rest assured from someone who knows, it’s not a dignified way to end another 12-hour working day, let alone expire.  My very own Isadora Duncan moment and no one would’ve been there to witness it. Instead my decapitated body would’ve been found by a neighbour and I imagine they’d have written a letter to my house complaining about bringing down the area by not having the decency to use the correct bin.

It has been that kind of day, hovering somewhere between life and death, as I’d been to Slough. All that’s left is to slump at the keyboard listening to Graham Taylor talk in geriatric parables on Channel 5 Football as I type with a cup of tea to face another day. November heralds a frantic six weeks of preparing 2011 campaigns for your clients and it can be taxing on the temperament. Today Gloria and Talullah even went to the lengths of lighting candles at my desk and playing whale music, really, they did, but even then any hint of calm was blown away as I nearly set myself  alight.

Everything happens all at once, new clients, potential clients and you are effectively writing the script of success and failure for the coming year. It’s energetic, all-consuming and done with the warning that ill-conceived ideas will come back to haunt you down the line so it requires application, attention to detail and a lot tea because are effectively laying your own professional minefield and will have to retrace those steps over the coming year.  I’ve seen scenes at other agencies where there are a number of inquisitions as to “Who the HELL…?”‘ thought that was a good idea (terrorist reenactments, replacing the face of Big Ben with a giant crisp packet, or changing the natural laws of physics, that kind of thing).

Someone once told me of an experience at an agency they’d just joined where there was a tactic in the time line that involved Nelson Mandela doing a dance. They’d even budgeted it at £5,000. That’s the same price as Michaela Strachan and you won’t even get a dance for that. (Lest we forget our peers  at one agency some time back who actually did go through with the idea of a Jack the Ripper display at the London Dungeon using ‘real life prostitutes’ – that made national news alright, but unfortunately for them the words ‘misogyny’, ‘gratuitious’ and ‘exploitation’ weren’t in the key messages)

In the course of research we were assessing the social media strategy of a client competitor today.  I was particularly taken with the link to a Twitter feed on their homepage which led to their Twitter account and consisted of a grand total of zero tweets and one follower. It’s a start, I suppose.

To my annoyance I didn’t check whom that one follower was. What keeps them hanging on in there in hope they might get a tweet from a fast moving consumer good? And what could this fast moving consumer good ever have to say for itself? That  it’s good with chicken? Or, like all of the women winked on me when I trialled Match.com, permanently to be found on the shelf?

A driving school had a slightly more substantial feed, but came across as being like a pervy Uncle at a family barbecue. Asking young people what music they liked, their favourite festivals and did they know a good place to watch a sunset? All to a wall of absolute silence, but on they persisted.  ‘At least they are trying to do something’, said Gloria, but by the same measure, so is pissing into the Grand Canyon and thinking you’ll get a swimming pool.

On the note of chatting into a digital wilderness, that’s somewhat rich coming from a person blogging about being choked on his scarf in a residential street in West Byfleet.  Goodnight.

One year of solitude October 19, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Blogging and social media, Home, Suburbia, West Byfleet.
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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,

A Chilean red hangover August 26, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Blogging and social media, Friends, In the news.
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I’m well versed in the tribulations of the hangover, but this one, quite frankly, takes the biscuit. More so because I didn’t see it coming. Then again, it’s been a week in which thirty-three Chilean miners stuck underground until Christmas was swiftly replaced on the news agenda by a cat in Coventry stuck in a wheelie bin overnight and neither the miners nor Lola the tabby saw that coming either.

Granted there had been personal training  just prior and the body had been twitchy after being abused at the hands of James Daly, personal trainer to the stars and Vernon Kay, plus the matter there hadn’t been a drop of alcohol in any shape for over a week (unlike the British Medical Council, I refuse to count the drinking of anything less than two large glasses of wine as alcohol consumption) There had been a Bloody Mary in the bar before dinner, a bottle of white, then a red. Now that’s a schoolboy error. Then espresso Martinis after dinner. Then back to mine for a nightcap with my dining companion. Come to think of it, that’s a perfect storm given those circumstances and that companion. It may’ve taken two hours of planning to lift the pillow from over my head, but I’m lucky to be alive and the house still standing.

All this has been made possible courtesy of a week off where the plan was to make positive strides toward fitness and rejuvenation. Things had been progressing nicely and this sudden burst of exercise during a week off work  is in no way related to being informed by a barmaid that Abbey Clancey is a regular at my Weybridge gym during the daytime.

There had been idealised plans of exchanging sweaty glances with Abbey and the promise to take her away from a gangly, unfaithful beau who earns £65,000 a week (spot which one of those three conditions is keeping Miss Clancey with Peter Crouch instead of a man with a QPR season ticket and hangover). Instead of skipping around with her, this morning’s torpor was my own Chilean mineshaft of misery, made only more tolerable that at least I was alone and not with thirty-three seriously pissed off miners.

Being stranded in a mineshaft until Christmas is certainly no laughing matter, but still infinitely preferable to  being stranded overground for five minutes in Coventry (ask the cat) or being stuck in a room with 33  iPad aficionados . Jesus, could you imagine being stranded with them until Christmas? It’d be bad enough being stranded in Las Vegas with them, let alone two kilometres underground. Especially as they wouldn’t be able to get reception. Living hell for all concerned.

Can an iPad get rid of my headache,  secure three points for the Rangers away on Saturday or permit me an introduction to Abbey Clancey? If not, I’m not interested so bugger off with your ‘future is now’. (An iPad can’t change my life, but sorting any of those three out would, even if only temporarily).

Perhaps we can arrange an exchange programme when the miners surface and let the public decide who from the UK should take their place. It;s exactly the sort of thing we need to give us a boost during ‘the current economic climate’ and would go down a storm with Channel Four.

With the iPad brigade, lets kick off members and fans of the bands The Young Knives or Scouting for Girls, Bob Crow, men who wear long trousers and sandals, anyone who gets excited when ‘Dancing in the Moonlight’ is played, people who call radio stations to ‘make a point’, Andy Gray and Richard Keys, those who say ‘moving forwards’ in any context whatsoever unless they actually are physically moving forwards and there is a reason we need to be informed of this (such as ‘I am in a car on the edge of a cliff and it is still moving forwards. Help’), anyone who calls themselves a ‘guru’ in their field (until recently gurus were restricted to Indians who simply spoke a load of mystic shit and drank their own piss, now everyone’s at it), football bores who talk about tactics and team selection who would like to be Andy Gray and Richard Keys, ‘fans’ of the Big Four who’ve never seen their team play (see how inter-related it all is – actually lets add in most football fans…), most football fans and all of those whom support Chelsea, Foursqaure users, people who ask loudly in restaurants ‘Is it organic?’, most of the PR industry, Jamie Oliver, Islamic fundamentalists, Christian fundamentalists, organic fundamentalists, fundamentalists full stop, Clapham public school rahs, anyone who has complained about the gazpacho soup being cold or been associated with those fucking Halifax ads, Englishmen in baseball caps, private members club members, users of unnecessary or multiple exclamation marks in punctuation, my hangover, xenophobes, obese people in sportswear, anyone in sportswear who isn’t in a gym, X-Factor hopefuls and anyone who has ever, ever referred to an experience as ‘a journey’ .

That’s just to kick-off and already that’s the majority of the UK population. Perhaps we should just bury the country two kilometres underground and be done with it. It’ll just be us left. I hope we remember the Anadin.

Panting and decorating July 29, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Blogging and social media, Friends, Single London, Suburbia, West Byfleet.
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One of the few curiosities of writing a blog is being informed of how people arrived at it via Google. Today someone found themselves here having searched for ‘looking for sex in West Byfleet 29 July’. Well aren’t we all but this site probably wasn’t exactly what they had in mind and being confronted with my own flagging crusade on that front must have been, quite literally, an anti-climax. Maybe we should form a society.

One has to admire their optimism that they weren’t just looking for sex, but specifically West Byfleet of all places, and absolutely certain it had to be today. I dread to think what they’d taken, but there’s clearly a nagging sense of urgency and the worry in my own mind they may nevertheless turn up and start thumping, or indeed dry humping, the door.

As it is, I’ve been here one month short of the year and have yet to see or hear evidence of sex in any shape or form. There’s not a person under 36 who isn’t me and it has occurred to me, as nice and pleasant everyone is, that I’d moved to the valley of the neutered. Judging by the tone of some of the Neighbourhood Watch emails I’ve been receiving recently there’s every good chance of being kneecapped and dumped in a ditch, with written directions to Woking or Las Vegas, simply for having an erection.

There’s one particular colleague who springs to mind who would last five minutes here. This morning I hadn’t even made it into the office before getting a detailed, drawn out account, and it was too early to see a fist pounding a palm, of his one-night stand with a female member of Virgin’s cabin crew.

His brother is away on holiday so he borrowed his flat for the encounter. Yet he was stopped suddenly this morning mid-act by a decorator who had let himself in (doors to manual?) to do some touching up work in the flat and found he had already been beaten to it.

With all parties startled any further action was abandoned, meaning, not for the first time, he was left frustrated and all because the painters were in.

Friday night in May 14, 2010

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

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.

Rolanda, Mayor of Bucket February 5, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Blogging and social media, Friends.
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According to academic research in the news this week the internet and social media is actually a cause of depression. Just the mere thought of Foursquare (which sounds uncannily like the useless piece of flesh at the end of a penis) depresses me without even having to go on it, so I concur. The internet is now clogged-up with people in sensible shoes selflessly updating us on their latest frapuccino and fajita discoveries. Who said the age of exploration and new frontiers was dead. Bully for them. I really do mean that. A bully for them. Please.

The huge issue we face is that the world is largely populated by idiots with unspeakably bad taste. Anyone with any sense of style has discretion. If you should happen upon some refuge from the blathering masses the last thing one wants to do is share it so they can clutter up the space telling even more idiots to come and join in the scrum.

A first and last visit to Foursquare lasted no more than ten seconds. Being informed that someone called Jeff in Beaverton (I kid you not) had unlocked the Bender badge told me all I needed to know. If the research is proven to be true it’s only a matter of time before we get endorsements of padded cells and suicide spots and I defy anyone to become Mayor of Beachey Head.

Far more interesting are real people who have greater depth than becoming the Sheriff of Nandos in Uxbridge. I know at least a dozen Presidents of Village East but we don’t go round shouting about it (though I concede Wilcock and Gloria may go around shouting in it) . Nor do we feel the need to proclaim that we are in Belushi’s on Borough High St. Really, we don’t. Like life in Wolverhampton, it shouldn’t happen but it does. It did last night and I don’t see myself becoming a Sheriff of that establishment – not even with the temptation of Dane Bowers DJ’ing there in a fortnight. Actually, that could be worth seeing. Not hearing, but definitely seeing.

It was here a newly single and excitable colleague was chatting up a bewildered American tourist at the end of a lively Cow PR bonding session (which included a group rendition of Glitter’s ‘I’m the Leader of the Gang’ on Bermondsey High St). Having avoided any offer of B52’s and tequila slammers due to a meeting this morning with a Trinidadian chef, I was in a far better position that most and was surprised when he responded to my question of how it was going by his reply that he couldn’t see her. ‘What do you mean?’ I asked. ‘I mean I can’t see!’ he replied. If there’s beer goggles, then he had the slammer shades.

The same colleague mentioned matter of factly earlier in the week as I was trying to write a new biz document ‘I had a pet rat at university…it lived in a KFC bucket…its name was Rolanda’. Where do you go from there? And, more to the point, did Rolanda update her status to become Mayor?

All trainers cancelled until further notice January 7, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Blogging and social media, Home, West Byfleet.
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The market for apocalyptic movies is going to bottom out if this chill continues much longer. The scenes at Waterloo around 4.30pm this evening put to shame the likes of 2012 or 28 Days Later as the survival instinct kicked in and it became clear that only the fittest were going to get the only train heading out of town.

It’s testament to quick wits and a degree of physical strength that not only did I get a on the one train out of town in an entire hour, but also a seat in the first class carriage. The train pulled away with hundreds wailing on the platform, the condemned beating the doors and windows with cases, Evening Standards and iPhones flying in the air. One could but smile meekly and pretend not to be aware of their fate. Still, at least it was warm from where we were sitting as their frothing mouths froze.

Talking of fitness, it was a mistake to befriend my personal trainer, James Daly on Facebook over the Christmas period. It’s worse than having a female stalker. There’s been one or two in my time. At least they want to do something sexual to you (or in one bizarre case, many years ago, turn up at my door with a can of tuna). In his case he simply pops out of nowhere to admonish me for having a late night on the sauce or advising me to do press ups. And not even proffering a single can of fish as he does so, though he would probably approve of the omega 3 and protein.

He would’ve been proud of me this evening. I went for a thirty minute walk despite the – media word of the moment – ‘treacherous’ (‘Et tu Brute?’) weather conditions and ice on the roads. Where does this adjective treacherous come from when describing the ice laid out before me? As I approach it, it’s positively psychotic. Have we otherwise had loyal ice, friendly, cuddly and reliable ice or ice that would take you out for a slap-up fish supper, walk you home to your gate and give you a kiss on the cheek for your troubles? No. All ice is bloody nasty and don’t we all know it.

While most people would’ve stayed in for a sedentary evening I was out there skidding on ice and battling the elements in a cameo Ernest Shackleton would’ve been proud of just to get a bottle of Valpolicella from Waitrose.

There’s a portion of the public footpath in West Byfleet that is like the Cresta run. Having already gone arse over tit in front of a mother and child this morning at this precise point of the odyssey , I took it on in unlit circumstances and beat it with vino tucked under the arm. Now there’s focus for you!

How much more of this can be endured, time will only tell. Daly has been appalled and it’s been noted that friends are taking his side and shopping me as to my true nature. In this interconnection is absolutely ghastly, if you ask me. I like my life compartmentalized and now it’s all turning against me. So much for social media.

The Great Escape December 29, 2009

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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.

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.