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Nevermind the Horlicks September 22, 2011

Posted by normanmonkey in Music, Thirtynumbthing.
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Last week what appeared to be a run-of-the-mill transmission of Newsnight ended with an unexpected bombshell, putting the Eurozone crisis into perspective. It was a moment when Thirtynumbthings of both sexes were sent into a tailspin and forced to reach first for the nearest calculator and then for gin and The Samaritans.

Emily Maitliss coquettishly announced in a message to ‘any teenage viewers’, ‘This is what your mum and dad used to listen to when they were your age’. What followed was not a grainy clip of T-Rex or The Clash, but Nirvana. Nirvana?! What the hell was the BBC playing at?

I had already drafted the letter of complaint to Points of View prior to fully completing the maths. By my calculations Nirvana, like Gazza’s tears and Britpop, happened ‘a little while ago’. No more, no less. Furthermore, not only did I not have any teenagers, but I was positively convinced I still was one (and I can bring forward many ex-girlfriends from the past two decades who will testify on oath to this point).

It appears that Newsnight hadn’t been trying to mess with our heads in homage to Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds broadcast. It really is twenty years since Smells Like Teen Spirit was released. Maitliss clearly wasn’t one of those touched by nihilistic, post-Cold-War Genration X angst: she inadvertently nailed her colours to the mast by referring, in plummish tones, to ‘Smells OF Teen Spirit’. Evidently the most angst she felt twenty years ago was whether she’d be able to fit Latin homework, lacrosse practice and an hour of oboe playing into the same evening.

Getting older is like being in a bad science fiction movie. You forget it is actually happening. Then you meet someone from your past who might have once passed for a Prada model but now resembles Michael MacIntyre. They could be talking to me about work, kids or IKEA, but I’m not listening. I’m looking them up and down and want to reach out, stroke their cheek, shake them and scream ‘What is happening to us!’ This is precisely the kind of thing that has seen me struck off the dinner party circuit.

Usually, when confronted with the reality of the passing of my youth, I need to spend a week or so in a foetal position listening to whale music in a darkened room. With working hours the way they are, that option was not possible on Nirvana night.

Instead I had to console myself the following morning by cornering colleagues too slow to get away. Given most of them are in their early 20s I merely reaffirmed just how old I actually was by raising the subject of Nirvana. Might as well have been talking about the Charleston. In a rare attempt at empathy I put myself in their pointed shoes. Would I have understood, at the age of 22, if the senior bod at work started lamenting the passing of music from his teenage years?  The answer would be no. By god, I’d have punched my way through walls – and indeed him – to escape that conversation.

But, inevitably, what goes around comes around. To any young buck, let me assure you, it’s only a matter of a few sleeps for twenty years to pass and someone to laugh in your face when you mention Tinie Tempah.

Here’s the rub: I didn’t like Nirvana at the time and to this day have never listened to Nevermind in full. ‘Unplugged’ is the only Nirvana CD I own – and there’s a statement revealing my redundant pre-digital lineage yet again. Go back 20 years and I was proactively anti-Nirvana, preferring instead The Cramps and Pixies. Grunge permitted a large proportion of my generation to indulge in self-absorbed poetry, bad personal hygiene, oversized jumpers, cumbersome footwear and stating that they were ‘on a down’ about practically everything. It was pretty horrific. The fact that it gave us Pearl Jam was another reason to abhor.

Nirvana weren’t to blame for this. The point being made by Cobain was the horror of conformity, not to put anyone on a pedestal or adulate them. As is inevitably the case, the fans took the point and missed it by a country mile, by imitating and idolising him in another form of conformity. He responded to this by killing himself. Although having Courtney Love as a wife would test even the strongest willed man, including those of us who have gne out with a French girl for any period of time.

So if Nevermind didn’t mean much to me then, why the adverse reaction now? It transpired that what I was mourning was neither the passing of something precious about my youth nor indeed the passing of someone else’s.

This week’s episode was yet another procrastination on my part to deflect reality and time passing with an introspective howl. That I chose to do so now, with an outpouring of self-absorbed prose whilst wearing a baggy jumper and in urgent need of a shower, has just reassured me that, 20 years late, I may still be young after all. I feel better already.

This article first appeared on Thirtynumbthing at Blokely.com


Lobster bisque and crackers February 8, 2011

Posted by normanmonkey in Music, Travel.
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A Sunday breakfast of lobster bisque and cream crackers was a clear indicator as ever needed that it was definitely time to go food shopping. Domestic chores have fallen by the wayside recently and that is attributable to the malaise that came from the hellish month of January. It’s a good job it finished when it did. One more day of that month and I swear, if it was a person, I’d have knocked it on the head with a shovel and tossed it into a ravine.

It’s around this time of year, and because of it, that people start plotting their escape away from all the domestic turgidity, the kind that comes with combining crackers with lobster soup for breakfast. The closest I’ve been to abroad in months was on Friday and that was only Reading for a QPR away game and that could hardly be described as a new horizon.

In recent years my holidays to the likes of Las Vegas, Phuket and Marbella, not to mention the recent Cow PR three-day invasion of Budapest, have been about as cultural as a lock-in with Bernard Manning. Although well versed in the art of the lone traveller having been to Cuba, Jamaica and Buenos Aires with nothing in my ‘backpack’ except clothes, a few books and the booking confirmation of a five star hotel, planning flight for foreign soil is not so easy when you are a single man in your mid-30’s. Half the destinations I’m genuinely interested in going to such as Vietnam, Central and South America would immediately have me placed on an Interpol database headed with the words ‘Sex Tourist’.

All this has been accentuated while currently reading ‘David Bowie In Berlin: A New Career in a New Town’, the account of how a manically-depressed, drug ravaged, reclusive rock star fled mid-70’s L.A, where he survived on a diet of milk, green peppers and paranoia to go to the Cold War torn but culturally fermenting city of Berlin with Iggy Pop as a traveling companion. Here they subsisted on Thomas Mann novels, Weimar inspired art, beer supped in anonymity in backstreet cafes and asparagus shopping in the food market with members of Kraftwerk and still managed to find time to  record five of the most seminal albums of the decade that shaped industrial rock, electronic and ambient music into a mainstream form. So, is there any sign of a middle ground between Bisque in West Byfleet and Bowie in West Berlin?

‘Hamburg with Blewett’, the imminent weekend jaunt of myself and a pub landlord with a pair of eyes tattooed on his arse, may not prove to be as seminal or culturally significant as ‘Bowie in Berlin’ not to mention The Beatles formative period there so don’t get your hopes up. We’ve got tickets to a football match at St Pauli FC, whose stadium is slap bang in the Reeperbahn, and a hotel room with a mini-bar. It probably begins and ends there with not a single Bauhaus building or name check of Brian Eno in sight.

Play your cards right September 27, 2010

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Waking up to a jolly cretin on the local radio station announcing that the train you’d rather been hoping to catch into town has been cancelled – along with all those that follow it – is a surefire way to kickstart the working week.  The only positive was the arrival in the post of the credit and debit cards I managed to lose over the course of 24 hours last week with depressing predictability just prior to a date with a woman who appeared to be both fussy and high-maintenance.

She had the good foresight to cancel the date hours before, but my being forced to subsist from a Friday to Sunday night on the company card is going to reveal to our Financial Director, at the very least, the itinerant lifestyle a West Byfleet dandy.

It’s all laid bare with spectacular predictability: Village East cocktails, Waterloo cash withdrawal at 8am on Saturday morning,  the train fare to Queens Park Rangers, Threshers, Sunday lunch in Weybridge and a Chinese takeaway. One thing that didn’t get a reduction on the card was the offer of a discount on a good bottle of Morgon from a shop proprietor on Bermondsey Street on the condition I give him a kiss. Friday had been one of those nights.

Latterly, I even managed to restrain myself from buying the 5disc box set of Bowie’s mid-70’s masterpiece Station to Station (according to legend The Dame was so out of it during recording, living on a diet of raw peppers and milk, that he is quoted as saying he only knows he recorded the album in LA because more reliable people have told him so). That particular gem has now been ordered as the first purchase on the new cards.

Two weeks of almost unceasing gym activity and abstinence from the grape always feels like two weeks too many when you’ve been stood up and Levi is grinning at you from the entrance to Village East. It was a fine evening and the company excellent as always. The next doorway I encountered in the light of day was the entrance to Loftus Road and a meeting with Blewett and Robbie Gale for a good lunch, three goals and three points before retreating back to the Wisley with the latter to celebrate another weekend at the top of the league that has left many people staggering around Shepherds Bush in shock.

Sunday evening’s subsiding mood was lifted by a text from DT that simply read ‘I’m at the Ladyboy of the Year 2010 with my new flatmate. He’s in it’. At least I knew there would be an illuminating conversation over morning coffee prior to getting down to the business of public relations. He’s gone from living with  70 year old landlady  to a twentysomething landladyboy. While the former cooks a far better roast beef  dinner, the latter clearly wins hands down in a head to head Beyonce lookalike contest.

There had been a sense that perhaps a return to the gym was what was required this evening. However, nodding off on the train back from Waterloo was probably a sign that tea and rest was required. Tomorrow I’ll need all the energy I can get as I may have to break my record time for running a mile. QPR are hosting Millwall. West vs East. And DT and I have to take the same route into Shepherds Bush from our Bermondsey office as the all nutters and their nuttier mates from the New Den.

We’ve talked about leaving work early for the journey so we can do our new business pitch the next day with our own teeth. We reckon 10am should be about right.

Lying in the kitchen, staring at the stars March 14, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Home, Music.

A warning to the novice art collector: have your wits about you when carrying a newly acquired canvas to your car and try not to have a late one on the Sancerre the night before. Last night included a good few hours spent staring up at the kitchen ceiling in the dark thanks to the latest of a long line of odd purchases, namely a laser light projector that fill the room was with stars amid a cosmic swirl. The companion was so impressed I’ve had to order one for her. It could be a start of a movement, though not one could label under the moniker as ‘progressive’.

Naturally music accompaniment included The Beatles ‘Across the universe’, Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ and Billie Holliday’s ‘Stars Fell on Alabama’. Shame she couldn’t have recorded a version about West Byfleet rather than a state in the Deep South, but come to think of it that probably summed up my general lingering condition since Thursday’s extravagances.

Westfield at midday on Mothering Sunday was populated by people who put conspicuous consumption and window gawping before mother. (For the record mine was holed up in Marbella and I’d had the rare foresight to give her the card and she’d put it on the mantlepiece of the parental sunshine bolthole. Bless.) and neither I nor the Chris and Steve Rocks canvas nearly made it safely back to the car.

Stepping outside the Lavanta Gallery it took all the quick reactions I could muster to avoid immediately being run down by an old girl going full pelt on a mobility scooter going at such a speed that she was clearly intent on breaking the Shepherds Bush to Acton land speed record. It was a relief to get out of there in one piece, I can tell you. The rest of the day was spent staring at walls, with not a cosmic swirl upon them, wondering where the hell I’ll put the painting.

This evening the projector has not been switched on. With another two pitches looming and a to do list that would put Sisyphus to shame there needs to be focus on the week in hand rather than shooting stars across the Poggenpohl.

Visions of Johanna December 19, 2009

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So here it is, Merry Christmas as Slade would say. Instead I’m sat here on desolation row listening to Dylan’s ‘Visions of Johanna’ surrounded by empties, fag butts and the remnants of mutterings in my ear of how we ‘Have to switch to decaf’.

Last night when I stripped my shirt off I realised it was probably a good idea to eat. I looked like Iggy Pop circa The Idiot (Berlin period avec Bowie) and that’s no good place to be. So going to Waitrose and buying a moussaka was a step in the right direction. However, I am a man with four ovens in his kitchen and I can’t currently work out how to activate a single one of them into action. If anything I’ve put the moussaka in the steamer and the results could be dreadful. Steamed moussaka. Can you imagine.

So here we are. It’s me and the moussaka staring each other out, listening to Dylan. I had the option of going to QPR today, but the prospect of sitting there shivering looking like I’d auditioned for the role of Sick Boy in Trainspotting (which was stolen from me by my schoolboy friend, John Miller, as he was known then – prior to his MARRYING Angelina Jolie!! – FFS!) as they shuddered to another 0-1 defeat couldn’t entice me into London.

Instead driving around West Byfleet listening to Madness hanging out of my car window and scaring upstanding members of society seemed a far more enticing prospect. Especially as I’d parked up in Waitrose in the mother and child bay and strode out defiantly, quite clearly not a mother and certainly without child. I did however purchase a good Barolo, The Guardian and 20 Marlboro Lights so that shouldn’t shake them up too much at the Anarchist Society.

You’ve got your mother with child bays, your pensioners bays, but why is there not a bay for ‘Man with raging hangover’ which, if the supermarkets had any sense of empathy would be at a diagnol and across several regular bays.

Sky Sports is on in the background and if Linvoy Primus gives me another ‘insight’ I may scream. Such a garish suit and all. Avram Grant depresses me as well. He is about as much use as Schindler without the fucking list. What would suit me now is watching about ten hours of Come Dine With Me without being questioned on my views of a well-known low cost supermarket chain. Is that possible? I doubt it.

That moussaka is going to be steamed or boiled soon. Dylan still throatily gasping in every room of the house. And I’ve just had a cal from Lee Blewett to say the Rangers are 1-0 up. That’s a lesson learned. Whenver I stay away we get a result. I should apply that to other elements of my life and we’d all be winning.

All’s Well That’s Ed Wells December 12, 2009

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It’s Sunday tomorrow and my friend Ed Wells is going to become a Dad for the first time. Inducement. Typical of that gene pool. Always needs an inducement to come out.

It’s nine days late now so is already showing some of the character traits of his/her father (he being bohemian enough to not want to know what gender the baby is – let us hope it is not hermaphrodite as that would be a surprise.) As best man at his wedding some years back, something I’ve always considered an honour, it puts me in a reflective mood.

Ed has been a friend since late the very beginning of the second year of university. Setting the scene is simple: it was summer 1994, John Major and his dullards were in government, Ebeneezer was Goode, and in the very midst of the heady days of Britpop (a ghastly phrase in retrospect).

Ed was living with another friend and fellow deviant Jeremy Norton, who, despite being from a comprehensive in the Midlands (and I hasten to add I went to state school) led a life that was a mixture of Withnail, Oscar Wilde and Beat poet delusions of grandeur coupled with the starker reality of reading Razzle on a toilet for an hour and asking if you could lend him 8p to buy an egg.

I was still staying in Whiteknights Hall as I’d been elected Social Secretary. If anyone thinks this was a noble gesture, it was not. Firstly, I couldn’t imagine four people from my own year whom I could tolerate for a whole year in a student house; second I liked the comforts and easy access to the opposite sex; thirdly, not only would I get to attend Freshers Week for 250 people, the fresh batch all knew who I was from day one and that I was in charge of the show.

By the time the 2nd and 3rd years had got back a week later, I’d already created a clique of the beautiful and the damned and was acting like The Great Gatsby.

Ed, however, was very much part of this world. The house he and Jeremy lived in on 90 Erleigh Road was a refuge from hall life. This mostly consisted of smoking, drinking cheap wine, ripping each other to shreds, thinking of reasons it was obvious one or the other was a chintzer (out phrase for homosexual derived from the word ‘chintzy’), compiling lists of people we considered to be ‘stains’, girls (talking much more than doing – and on the subject how all of them are quite clearly mad), developing slightly camp mannerisms (for which Suede and Pulp are entirely to blame) and, of course, music. No academia.

Girls were given nicknames behind their back but soon stuck until that is what they were known as universally. Immediately springing to mind are Dirty Clare, Clean Jenny, Cathy with the Knockers, Debbie Big Pants, Fit but Bonkers, Exeter (she had eczema) and Portillo but Bird (she was, like the politician Michael Portillo half-Spanish, but a woman).

We were inseparable and just about good looking enough for most people to assume we were gay. Invariably these accusations and rumours were spread by girls we’d turned down for one reason or another. Actually, it was because they weren’t good looking enough. There is only ever that one reason. Never another. On that note, Amanda Knox still hasn’t replied to my begging letters.

Ed chose a career in wine. He sells the good stuff from his own personal fine wine business. How he could bring himself to give it away even for money is beyond me, but when he visits mine we certainly don’t go short. Yet, of all friends, despite marriage and impending fatherhood, he hasn’t really changed. Certainly not in my company. It’s not that long ago we went to see The Rakes at UEA or Kraftwerk at Brixton Academy and we gave it as good as you can give. When he’s over at mine we go for it like it was 1994, but with better wine.

However, there have been the occasional moments where he wobbled and I thought I’d lost him to the dark side. In what can only be described as a breakdown he took up rowing and started competing at national level. Never trust a sport where you are guided by cox. With this came a fitness regime, nutrition and a ‘focus’ that at the time I found quite chilling and told him so.

Then there was cycling. I accept that to a degree as I do enjoy watching The Tour de France with a claret in hand in a show of solidarity, though much less following them up a mountain which is more his take on things. In fact, in summer I cycle a lot and find it a pleasurable clearing of the head just as I do swimming in winter, but very much as a solitary pursuit. However, it seems this feeling is likewise as Ed left his cycling club recently declaring ‘They were cunts n’all’.

Australia in 2000 was a highlight. We’d gone ostensibly, with another friend Nick (a petrol head nutter from Kent) for a wedding of a Uni friend, Henry Barney. In reality we knew it was going to be a three-week knees up of which the wedding was just a single day. My birthday occurred while we were over there and staying in Glenelg on the coast of Adelaide. We’d noticed a swish, upmarket hotel where the best looking women hung out at in the cocktail bar.

Prior to that we’d been staying in a rented flat that the groom had organised for us in advance. It was decided that for my birthday we’d get a room in this hotel and impress the ladies with our gentrified Englishness over a Martini. Naturally, things did not go to plan.

Drinking champagne on the beach in the sun all afternoon is not a wise idea, especially if you pass out in the Australian sun without sun cream. Despite this setback there was enough awareness to shower, change and rock up in the bar looking like we’d bathed in napalm.

Like the assassination of Kennedy or whether Christopher Marlowe wrote many of Shakespeare’s plays, there is conjecture to the events of that evening and no academic agreement on the who’s, hows or whys. What we are certain of is that I was thrown out and, when they realised he was with me, Ed swiftly after.

We woke together in a double bed the next day. Fully clothed, I hasten to add and positively glowing, but that’s thanks only to the sunburn. Everything was spinning. My last memory was going up to the bar and asking for a gin and tonic as girls sashayed all around us. We’d paid a fortune to stay in that hotel and only so we could finally meet women.

Then we wake up on desolation row. As is per usual when you’ve got the mother of all hangovers, the skies were grey and airbrushed with drizzle. Prior to that we’d had a week of unbroken sunshine.

I recall going outside, sitting on a deserted, windswept beach in the rain and bursting into tears. Not a trickle. A full on uncontrollable flood. There was nothing but the crashing sound of the waves, now harsh rather than balmy as of previous days. Apart from a solitary roller blader or dog walker in the distance, I was alone.

My thought was ‘I’ve just turned 26, I feel like death, look like a burns victim, been thrown out of a place I’d paid a fortune to get access to, and I am all alone on a beach the other side of the world sitting in the rain’. If only I knew then what I know now and I’d have been doing the can-can. Eventually I mustered the will power to go back up and see Ed.

‘Mate, that wasn’t a good moment down there. I just burst into tears and hit an all time low’, I explained. He looked back at me in ashen-faced horror and replied ‘So did I!’. Then we laughed. That’s why we are friends. Even in your darkest hour, you laugh.

So, yes, Ed becomes a father tomorrow. However, this weekend he’s already forwarded me a date to take off in January for lunch at restaurant in town with an excellent wine list. Plus he’s also sent me a couple of music clips from contemporary dance and indie acts that men of a certain age shouldn’t have heard of, let alone appreciate as fuel for the next weekender at The Wisley.

Ok, so neither of us is out on the town tonight due to our life stages, but this can’t be helped. There is always going to be a time, well quite likely anyway, when you are going to be a father the next day.

Less likely is because you are a man of 35 years of age who aches too much from over-exuberant pole-dancing whilst in a Cramps t-shirt.

It shouldn’t happen, but it does.

Don’t worry be happy November 30, 2009

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Sometimes there’s everything and nothing to blog about. You just find yourself sat by wilting flowers in a kitchen staring at a screen. The moment may come to you and sometimes moments are best left to pass.

To put on the news, as I did last night, and hear that Susan Boyle has broken records with sales of debut her album going number one across the globe perhaps makes the idea of global warming is a good thing, that we reap what we sow; that perhaps this is proof that evolution is nothing more than theory and, if anything, we’re all heading on a backward trajectory. We will all deserve to burn for this.

That’s the kind of thing that makes me stay in bed all day, but I had to pick myself up on two counts. Firstly, Iliana the cleaner would be here at midday and second, I had to collect the new painting from the gallery at Westfield.

If I stayed in bed much longer Illiana’s intuition would probably be unable to identify me from the detritus of the weekend and put me in for recycling, not that there’s much demand for damaged goods these days.

I had visions of myself sprawled among a million fridge freezers, fax machines, half eaten tins of beans and old, soiled copies of The Daily Sport, indecently rummaged by scavengers in some remote polluted outpost of the Guangxi province of China and being disdainfully discarded in preference for a more valuable working model of that toy singing trout that covered Bobby McFerrin’s ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’. Did Boyle cover that one I wonder? It’s surely only a matter of time.

If that’s not incentive to get out of bed then nothing is. Yet, opening the door from Wisley House after twenty-four hours of storms everything looked different. The Autumnal red, orange and yellow hues of the trees in the Dartnell Avenue had all gone. The leaves ripped off them by the weekend winds. Instead everything looked raw, naked and exposed.

For the first time the houses opposite that had been shielded all the time I’d been here by foliage and colour loomed heavy. That meant confronting grey skies and bad 1970’s architecture for the first time and not the last. Roll on springtime.

I may have got out of bed today, but most definitely on the wrong side. Perhaps this was one day where there was never going to be a right side. Iliana texted to say she would be late afterall as it was her birthday yesterday.

I know what those Eastern European celebrations can get like so told her not to worry and take the day off as my birthday present to her, so that resulted in a brimming reply of thanks and maybe sent her back to another vodka toast.

If Westfield was full of Christmas cheer i wasn’t showing it because I had to negotiate my way round Europe’s largest shopping centre (or whatever it claims to be, I don’t honestly know) in hazardous conditions with both an extremely large and quite valuable canvas and a little gift intended for Iliana’s next visit.

Someone who was quite clearly a care in the community type, probably a Chelsea fan, came walking straight at me with their eyes rolling and arms waving all over the place and I protected the canvas all the way to car from that point like it was my first born child.

Home now and settled in. Listening to Miles Davis’ ‘So What’ over coffee and fags. I think I may have blown my speakers on Saturday night because the bass is done for.

If I put the TV on and hear about Susan Boyle, the singing haggis, I’m going to stick my head through that canvas and run through West Byfleet all the way into Woking and beyond singing ‘I Dreamed A Dream’. If it worked for her, why not me? She’s clearly stark raving mad and is certainly no bloody oil painting.


All clear! November 29, 2009

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When standing holding a large vodka in a colleague’s living room with blood on one’s trousers and the colleague has gone to bed, it helps somewhat when their flatmates come in from their own night out to be able to remember your colleague’s name.

This is the tricky predicament I faced on Friday night (‘I’m a friend of…..umm’) and it’s lucky that they actually helped me guess his name whilst most people would quite rightly have reached for the baseball bats and kitchen utensils.

That I should’ve been covered in blood came from a fall and cutting my hand on broken glass was, I suppose, indicative of a good night out.

Having levelled the scores at Village East, a few Cows and I headed south. My dear friend and fellow QPR fan Lucie Buckner was promoting her first ever gig, that of Bluey Robinson at Wandsworth Palais. If all portents are fulfilled, Bluey is set to be the next big thing and just signed that day for Sony. As impressive as he was, the highlight was getting into the VIP area and seeing the new world heavyweight boxing champion David Hay and actually managing not to knock his pint.

Saturday’s was an enjoyable hangover spent at Westfield. Still nursing wounds (bandaged hand thanks to the lovely gents at the Texaco petrol station in Clapham) and walking with limp, the remnants and I retired to The Bull for bloody marys and replay parts of the evening. A Jacqui Boyd canvas was purchased for the kitchen of Wisley House. Then back to the Bull for a shandy.

All the while I was supposed to be at QPR, but it’s always a predicament turning up to meet one’s parents looking like you’ve come back from an ambush by the Taliban.

Given door keys had been mislaid there was no choice but to face the music and that is something of a broken record ‘You’ll be the death of me, son…” as I arrived in time for the second half. They’ve seen me flash that smile, shrug my shoulders and widen those blue eyes of mine that have got me out of, and into, so much trouble many times before, and they know I mean no harm.

Deep down I know they’ll be on the phone later saying to their friends ‘You’ll never guess what Mark has done now…’ with despairing pride. Maybe.

Naturally, my good friend Lee clasped my bandaged hand when Rangers took the lead, meaning that even in a moment of celebration I was the only person in the South Africa road stand screaming in pain. And with impeccable timing that lead was thrown away just before the final whistle.

Tomorrow is a day off. I had to explain to the personal trainer that yet again i was forfeiting due to a ‘social’ injury. He’s in good spirits anyway as he and his fiancee are back on talking terms. My advice was to recount some of my reasons why I’ve been unable to attend his sessions and she’ll realise what’s she’s got and cling to him like a petrified child for the rest of her days. He concurred.

Even though there is a day off I’m setting my alarm firmly for 7.45am and marching straight out into Dartnell Avenue. This is thanks to an email from West Byfleet neighbourhood watch regarding the ‘Mouchel man’. Whomever or whatever a ‘mouchel’ is, I’m gagging to find out. There is, I’ve been reliably informed, a man who has ‘again’ been observed at 7.50am, dressed in women’s clothing, eyeing up schoolkids whilst driving a white van up Dartnell Avenue.

This is a bit more like it. Just as I was losing faith in the Surrey police to deliver something of note, certainly not bicycles stolen from West Byfleet station or Lebanese loop credit card fraud warnings, we’ve not only hit the jackpot with this one, but all the action can be observed from my driveway. They’ve even given a kick off time!

I’ll have my deckchair, pot of tea and cucumber sandwiches at the ready. Thanks to his antics, he’s keeping me off the latest email bulletin of dubious characters in the area.

Go Mouchel Man!

Lets Get Lost November 1, 2009

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The day panned out ok. A walk, a swim and a digest of newspapers. The only person I had a conversation with was the carpenter regarding the new bookshelves. They are already bowing having only been up for a matter of days. Literally buckling under the weight of knowledge.

This evening I cooked a seafood spaghetti with garlic, chilli and parsley and lashings of olive oil. Whilst cooking and dining I was serenaded by Chet Baker on the sound system. It was all rather jolly or as jolly as Chet Baker can be as far as hopeless romantic, melancholic West Coast jazz goes, but it made for a fitting evening and he’s still got his horn in effect as I type. Forget your emo, this is the real deal.

I first happened on Baker whilst on a school trip to Budapest in the early 90’s when I found a bootleg CD in some dodgy record shop and I was instantly hooked. Certain albums have associations with a time, people and places but Lets get Lost – The Best of Chet Baker’ has been much more of a constant. Like a good a painting ‘where the eyes follow you around the room, Dud’, the music follows you through a lifetime, even in West Byfleet alone with a pasta supper.

In my first year at university everyone else had Cobain, I had Baker. It gave me an undeserved veneer of sophistication that belied my suburban roots in Worcester Park. It’s telling how now more than 15 years on of people I mix with then have that CD in their collection now. It became the daybreak lullaby after a night of clubbing to the Belgian techno of Laurent Garnier at Checkpoint Charlie.

Needless to say, in the age before the internet and where information on artists was virtually impossible to come by unless they were of the moment, one had to build one’s own portrait of the person/s behind the music and it was never like the reality. Bruce Weber made an 1987 biopic, also called ‘Lets Get Lost’ a year before Baker’s death, but there was never any chance of a rescreening of that at the Kingston Odeon in place of Jurassic Park.

Less a tortured soul and fast-living romantic, it turns out Chet Baker was one of the nastiest, meanest, smackhead bastards that ever had the horn. Reading the biography ‘Deep In a Dream’ some years ago was dark. ‘None more black’ as Nigel Tufnell of Spinal Tap would say. A lifetime of addiction, betrayal and beatings given and received. Everyone who trusted, befreinded or loved him ended up burned. In some cases dead.

He even used his girlfriends as unwitting drugs mules when passing through customs and on one or two occasions they got caught he abandoned them, distraught only at the seizure of his stash. All thoroughly disillusioning coming from the man who recorded ‘But Not for Me’.

So sometimes, it’s better not to have too much information in the information age. Maybe if I remove Deep a Dream from the bookshelves they will be healed. Such is the weight of knowledge.