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A night in the kitchen with ants May 10, 2012

Posted by normanmonkey in Home, Single London.
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After a late-night slog in the office there’s nothing like the prospect of returning home to a house infested with flying ants to add cheer at the end of the day.

Where they have come from I know not. Their timing seems to have come with another self-created shooting in the foot on the personal front, but I am presently sitting, swatting limply with a QPR programme. A man of a certain age reduced to being an extra in a bad Damien Hirst installation in his own designer kitchen. Give it five minutes and Charles Saatchi will be looking to exhibit me on the South Bank.

Wishful thinking. Whereas Hirst could command a cool million for this I can see that I’ll be forking out for fumigation tomorrow, but it’ll be worth it simply so I can stop being stuck in a fucking metaphor.

By sheer coincidence, through the haze of ants, I’ve just opened an email from my recently departed cleaner Pavlina (touchingly, her email address is ‘CleanhousePavlina’ so clearly this is not a woman who lives in fear of being typecast). She’s departed in the sense that she has hung up her marigolds and headed back to Bulgaria to be with family, was missing her favourite clients in England and wanted news.

I’m half-tempted to send her a picture of myself and the worktops she tended covered in insects and other ephemera to show her what has happened as a result of her own shameful self-indulgence.

This would be a diversion to avoid telling her about Aggy from Poland, her replacement. Not only was Aggy brought in within days of Pavlina’s departure, is a beast with the Dyson, but she also has the significant advantage in the cleaning trade of not being allergic to dust, which tragically played havoc with Pavlina’s skin (as a result she used to clean mostly the clean areas with admirable ferocity but there were parts of the house, namely those that actually needed cleaning, that simply couldn’t be breached). Bulgaria 0 Poland 1.

Perhaps it’s for the best I simply tell her all is well and send her a picture of me and the mop and be done with it. Who knows, maybe this was planned all along by Pavlina. Maybe her email is no coincidence, an attempt to undermine the stoic work of Aggy and get a recall to heroically repell the invaders, like Zhukov knocking back the Bosch at Moscow. Bulgaria 2 Poland 1 (AET). Clever.

As for the ants, I think I may take to them: they aren’t too demanding company, certainly more civilised than your average Chelsea fan, but I have noted that even they seem intent on getting out of the house rather than hanging around. They too have probably noticed the stark absence of food and wine. Frankly, wherever it is they think is the better option tonight, I think I may join them.

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Carry On Adel January 25, 2011

Posted by normanmonkey in Home, In the news, QPR.
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A fundamental problem of having Sky multi-room and having someone else living somewhere in the house with a remote control is you never quite know when your viewing of a BBC4 documentary downstairs is going to be interrupted by someone deciding to go for a tour of the Babestation channels upstairs. One minute you are taking in Martin Luther King and he’s got a dream the next second it’s Monique from Essex and she’s got the horn.

My mini-cab driving cousin in hiding will be here for one more week before it’s time to move on and I wonder if it’s because he’s starting to disapprove of my lifestyle. He’s developed a taste for Barolo and late nights and I’ve developed a habit of waking up when I hear home go for his first fare at 4am. The result is we both look shattered.

As someone who has resolutely lived alone for eleven years coming home to an occupied house after a grueling  twelve hour day is something I’ve yet to adjust to and its especially hard to unwind when you are greeted with a full recital of who said what to whom on Talksport since sunrise before you’ve even had chance to reach for the corkscrew.

Sometimes our conversations tend to go off on tangents or hit a brick wall altogether. Last week some colleagues and I pitched to the marketing director of a well known biscuit manufacturer and I was explaining this he looked at me and said ‘They’ve got them two for one in Sainsbury’s at the moment. I’ll treat you before I go and get some of their double chocolate ones in…they’re the bollocks!’.

I don’t know who was more shocked, he or Iliana the cleaner when she found him here the other afternoon. Although he explained he was my cousin I’m sure this has further proof in her mind that I’m a closet homosexual, especially as I told her not to mention to my parents he was staying here should she see them. Iliana gave me a certain knowing, conspiratorial Bulgarian look, the sort that said,  ‘Ok, but In my village they would paint your house pink and then nail your genitals to the wall for this’.

Then again, I have begun to question my own sexuality recently as I think I am growing increasingly infatuated with someone of the same sex, a young Arab boy to be precise. He’s name is Adel. I often go into London to gaze at him for upto an hour an a half at a time, whereupon I swoon at his gentle touch, the way he moves and become utterly lost in rapture. There are times he leaves me utterly speechless and I can’t imagine him out of my life.

Before we get all Cecil Beaton in Marrakesh, it is probably worth pointing out that Adel plays for Queens Park Rangers, wears the number 7 shirt and is the Zinedine Zidane of Shepherds Bush. There’s nothing worse than a football bore, but I’ve an overwhelming desire to express my feelings about him and can barely contain myself. In 25 years of going to the Rangers I’ve never seen a player like him, and in my time I’ve seen the likes of Dalgleish, Hoddle, Gascoinge, Cantona, Bergkamp and our very own Shittu and Doudou (by God, the early 2000’s was not our finest hour). In formative QPR years I idolised Clive Allen, Roy Wegerle and Les Ferdinand, then rapidly accepted that almost all footballers were just potential rapists who could kick a ball more accurately than your average builder and in the meantime I discovered The Doors, David Lynch, lager and cleavage.

But Adel is not like all the others. In the past six months under the paternalistic guidance of Neil Warnock I’ve seen teams taken apart singlehandedly by his nonchalance, trickery, panache and outrageous grace. Sunday was no different. He produced live on television and everyone was talking about him and asking why he was playing for QPR. That’s when the jealousy set in as Chelsea and Manchester United fans started tweeting they should sign him up. Now I’m torn and hope that he’ll realise what there is to savour between us and put in a shocker when the media spotlight is on him so I can have him all to myself a little bit longer. It’s getting beyond replacing the pop art prints with an Adel poster and flying a Moroccan flag above Wisley House (Neighbourhood Watch would have something to say about that). If I was ten years younger and not tied to a career, I’d give serious consideration to having a transplant of womb, ovaries and uterus just so I could have his babies.

It is only a matter of time before he’s playing for Real Madrid in the Champions League, I’m brought back crashing down to earth watching a bunch of blokes called Dave falling over and running into each other for ten grand a week and Adel will be a faded, tear-stained memory. This is getting a bit too Death in Venice for my liking.

Talking of crashing back down to earth my cousin just came down from bed because he couldn’t sleep and clutching his mobile:  ‘Here’s the name of that old Doris I saw on Carry on Cruising the other day. Google ‘er up…she looks just like our Nan.’.  He was right, she did and with that he disappeared just as quickly again upstairs to get reacquainted with women on Sky Channels who, I can assure you, look nothing like our Nan.

The young Arab boy in the hoops is simply divine

The Odd Couple (and Kimberley with the scar) January 15, 2011

Posted by normanmonkey in Consumer PR, Friends, Home.
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My older, twice-divorced, cab driving cousin has come to stay with me for a while, at least until ‘things calm down a bit in Egham’. I’ve already established that should he ever go on Mastermind his specialist subjects would be Arsenal FC, Northern Soul and the names of the all girls on the free to view Babestation stations. Dedicated viewing means he knows them off pat and can even provide a running commentary into their levels of filthiness and surgical history: “Look at her, Kimberley that is, all pumped up…oh she’s got the old scar down there n’all…Lets see who else is on…Lindsay! Oh no, she’s had them reduced! what’s she gone and done that for?!”

There’s been a bit of a  kerfuffle, lets put it that way, a fallout over something or other that needs to be settled or as he was explaining to me the other night with the TV set to Arsenal in the background: “I don’t know what I’d do. I’d have to move ‘ouse, I’d ‘ave to move out the area, that would mean having to change my job, not seeing so much of my kids, all my life is there….HE WAS NEVER OFFSIDE!…OH REF!….Did you see that?…HE WAS LEVEL!…so, yeah it’s really bad…I can’t believe that. The left back played him on!”.

That’s my family all over. Older generation aside, we’re littered with black sheep and I, at the very least, come in pastel shades of grey (my cousin was impressed when I showed him pages four and five of from a tattered News of the World featuring a woman I once dated). Still, he and I have always got on extremely well,  enjoyed each others company and its been good to have someone to come home to of an evening  even if to the outside observer this incongruous pairing of mini-cab driver in hiding and PR Director seems like a well crafted Pinter play. Whilst he has now embraced Waitrose, my predilection for books, ‘posh soup’, no bread,  fine wine, The Guardian, foreign films, skimmed milk and unopened mail has been heartily, and possibly justifiably, mocked. Meanwhile, I’ve noticed my consumption of lager, takeaways and Kimberley with the scar has rocketed in the past week.

Having easy going company has been welcome as it’s been a grueling time on the work front. Another fortnight at the coalface, albeit this one of the Chilean variety and no sign if a drill boring its way to us from daylight above.  January is always like that. After a week or so off we returned to four pitches in six days. Ideally a pitch requires a minimum of two weeks to crack the brief, discuss strategic approaches, develop creative tactics and then produce a presentation, so coming back on January 4th dotted with the remnants of festive tinsel and still giddy with the echoes of Jingle Bells ringing in our ears was always going to be a shock to the system at the best of times, but especially under these circumstances.

What keeps one going is the knowledge that it will all settle down again by February. No one dared venture to Village East despite it being the end to a long slog of a week, a combination of detoxing and desire to recharge, no one that is except Martin and I.

We’d felt that after refusing to leave the office on Friday night until we’d properly cracked a brief and by that coming up with an idea that we loved and that would fly rather than a nice set of ideas that would do, we’d earned an Espresso Martini or two. On seeing us and hearing of our stint our drinks were kindly provided on the house by management, meaning I arrived home jubilant and uplifted with the late turn of events to the week and pitched the new PR idea to my cousin on my return. ‘I don’t have a clue what you are talking about’, he said, ‘But I admire that you get paid for coming up with that sort of thing…now stop talking bollocks and have a beer’.

The Palace of Norman Wisdom November 2, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Friends, Home.
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William Blake wrote ‘The road of excess leads to the Palace of Wisdom’. I don’t know about that, in my case it led to being incapable of movement in my kitchen for the entire duration of a Saturday afternoon and realising that I’d been watching the Travelshop Channel for about three hours.  It remains to be seen if a middle-aged woman at the low ebb of an insignificant presenting career bleating about a  cruise round the Canaries or a nine day break in a three star resort in Agadir is what Blake had in mind, but from where I was deposited there was no palace and even less sign of wisdom.

Saturday was the day after the Cow Halloween party. That’s the thing about living alone. Absolutely nothing of note can happen for months on end to the point that one’s father letting himself in on a Saturday morning when one is reading the Guardian in one’s pants to report a blocked gutter like both our lives depended on it becomes a memorable event to the point there’s an urge to photograph it. Then before you know it there’s a herd of champagne fuelled PR types including a gay Welshman in a sailor suit running round your house like newly liberated simians in a science research lab.

We witnessed some sights there that would’ve sent the dead scurrying back to their graves, I can tell you and its only a relief the trick or treating children didn’t come a night early. Not in my lifetime and certainly not in my Poggenpohl kitchen.  The spectacle of the aforementioned gay Welshman deciding he looked much more ‘Amaze!’ in nothing but his Sloggy pants and the sailor cap is indicative of the way things went.  He wasn’t so certain of that when the carefully selected (on grounds of public decency) photos went up on Facebook. It only took five minutes before I had a voice of the valleys on the phone in utter dismay ‘OMG! This is so not amaze…’. Like a vampire, there are certain photos that will never see the light of day.

Without doubt it was the best night had so far in the house and you can always count on the Cows for that. Discovering that Ella T, in her pursuit of uploading one song by Swedish Dance Mafia to my iPod had in turn wiped the 3,000 tunes that had been on it was a set back (‘So, we can listen to any music we like, as long as it’s Swedish House Mafia? And one of their songs?), but apart from that it was waking the dead (and most probably the living in proximity) till dawn.

Come the mid-morning and with everyone set to go I decided that i couldn’t be left alone among the debris so I too would join them on the return journey to London. That was a stupid decision as everyone was planning to head to bed. The result was pacing around Waterloo undecided what my next move should be with a copy of the Telegraph tucked under my arm and all the trains to West Byfleet down due to a signal failure. With tiredness and anxiety creeping in the feeling was of being trapped in a J.G Ballard novel, trapped forever on the concourse among transient tourists and Chelsea fans.

It was witnessing a middle aged woman squat, hoist up her skirt and relieve herself at one of the world’s most famous stations that helped me make a decision to get back by any means possible.  She even had two toddlers with her and what sort of life is that going to set them up for, certainly when it comes to a trip to Waterloo in 20 years time with the love of their life they are going to walk past that forever soiled spot on the cusp of Upper crust and forever shudder at the shame that was their mother. I mean, I know there’s a recession on and 30 pence charge for the loo might be a bit steep for some of us in these troubled times, but surely the price of dignity is higher than that.  Actually, there’s a Welshman to whom we may all pose the same question.

If watching a woman squat from my table in Costa Coffee was reality, then I was ready to head back to the surreality of West Byfleet. I wasn’t even aware I was watching the Traveshop Channel. It was just there and i was content to drift along on it’s positive, sunny, discounted vibes. Movement was to be discouraged. Every room heralded its own horrors. Half empty bottles of stale beer, dismembered plastic fingers, fragments of pumpkin and the question of how to get red wine out of marble.

If this is the Palace of Wisdom, William Blake should try explaining that to the cleaner.

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,

Speechless October 17, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Home, QPR.
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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.

Three Stains on my Shirt June 29, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Friends, Home, Suburbia.
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There was an unfortunate moment yesterday when my path crossed with that of Iliana the cleaner as I made my way from West Byfleet station and she toward it. The weekend had seen the inaugural Cow summer garden party barbecue / all-night rave and I’m afraid to say that a hangover, combined with an England capitulation in the World cup and then dinner with The Last One in Windlesham prevented me from lifting a finger to deal with the apocalyptic post-party debris that made Ground Zero look like the Palace of Versailles.

A Saturday afternoon on the hottest day of the year started off with rowing on the nearby River Wey, rose wine, canapes and boules on the lawn of Wisley House ended with a house strewn with empties, spilt booze, back garden decorated in toilet roll and trance music blasting way beyond dawn. Glastonbury was not missed with any pang of regret.

The Big Man, Niles from accounts, and Robbie, our much beloved raving queen were the sole survivors outside and I know I was not alone in West Byfleet to be kept awake by their constant sniggering. I could hear Robbie parodying the neighbours behind twitching curtains ‘Oh Derek, look, the gay and the black are making an exhibition in the garden again!’. One of my guests made the mistake of coming downstairs from his bed to ask them to turn it down. When he returned to his bed his partner inquired how successful he’d been: ‘They laughed at my pants’, he replied defeated.

The warm weather and the champagne at sunrise all made for the best party that Wisley has seen yet. Not that Iliana would’ve seen to that way. Quite how she managed to restore the house to its former glory without a hint of what had gone on is beyond me. What she faced and fought through was the Mrs Mop equivalent of Paschendale and yet, unlike England’s Brave John Terry and the rest of the lumpen ‘heroes’ with Three Lions on their shirt, she came out winning. Astonishing.

The exit from the World Cup always comes as a relief. I for one am not regretting spending a week painting my house in the national colours and having plastic surgery to make me look Wayne Rooney in order to show my commitment to a futile cause. There’s nothing worse than watching a nation suffer from collective delusion that we’ll be empowered by sticking a plastic flag of St George purchased from Tesco on our Japanese cars, drinking ourselves into a stupor on German lager whilst cheering on a group of millionaires who can’t hold a knife and fork and now we can all settle down to accept that we are not a great power in any shape or form and haven’t been since Lend Lease, irrespective of Sergeant Pepper, 1966 and the sinking of the Belgrano or whatever else we cling onto.

What we do well is hedonistic office garden parties and trashing respectable residences. The sooner we accept that, the better. And we can’t even win at cleaning. Believe me, the Bulgarians beat us hands down as well, before we can even get out of the starting blocks.

Don’t Look Baht in Anger June 7, 2010

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Wisley House, West Byfleet, England

It’s hard to believe it was only yesterday I had an exotic Sunday champagne brunch at the Twin Palms,  but now I’m in West Byfleet with jet lag and a tub of herring rollmops in the fridge to sustain me until I can face Waitrose. I reckon for the first time ever I will renege on my purchase of their Thai hot chillis in case I have a moment and have to be revived amongst my fellow vegetables.

The only face to face conversation I’ve had is with Iliana the cleaner and that’s coming back down to earth with a bump, I can assure you. The house had only been mine for a couple of hours and it had to be pointed to me that I’d left my suitcase, suit carrier and flight bag sitting on the driveway. There’s really no explaining that apart from, perhaps, depression.

Weary and run-down, conversation was always going to be a struggle. Discussing the subject of the customs at the Chinese wedding in Kuala Lumpur, Iliana asked me what we do at traditional British weddings. Apart from an interminable church service, rambling speeches, drunkenness and at least one woman locked in the karsi in tears, I was at a loss to think of anything we do that smacks of originality or invention.

Wanting to be all-inclusive I asked Iliana if there are any traditional customs at a Bulgarian wedding. Twenty minutes later and we’d still barely scratched the surface. There was something to do with the bride having a shoe that was too big, the groom having to stuff the shoe with money and then having to search the bride’s family home for another shoe. There was also something else to do with feet that I can’t even begin to recall, meaning it sounded less like a wedding and more like a team-bonding day at Clark’s. Around the stuffing the big shoes with money, I’d lost the thread to this other dimension completely and was seriously contemplating getting the first flight back to Phuket.

Why do we inflict holidays upon ourselves? They only serve to remind us of what life is like without responsibility and in my case with good company. I even include the ladyboys of the Bangla Road in that. Perhaps the best line I heard all holiday came from one and was an indignant: “Me no ladyboy! Me lady! Me just don’t know why I have cock!”. A question I’m sure many of us have asked on a lonely Saturday night in with the TV guide and a ready meal.

I’m back on my own now for the first time in a fortnight and, in the absence of conversation and the hazy days of reflection of our misspent nights, I have already started shuffling my to-do list around the coffee table in the hope that it will take pity upon me and sort itself out. She’ll be back on her podium by now and I’m back on the herring rollmops. Leon is probably up to no good in Sydney and as for Betty, god only knows. The dentist?

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

Posted by normanmonkey in Friends, Home.
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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.

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.