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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.


Je Nicorette Rien April 29, 2011

Posted by normanmonkey in Single London, Thirtynumbthing.
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The other morning, on my way to work, I was just a whisker away from being run over by a Nicorette delivery van. It was my fault as I was actually attempting to light a cigarette at the time so the irony hasn’t escaped me and I wondered if perhaps this is a way of thinning out the numbers for those of us whom still prefer a puff to a patch. 

Such near-death experiences are a good cause for contemplation about life and how brief and fleeting it all is. My initial reaction when faced with such compelling evidence at the frailty if not of humanity then certainly your truly was to quit my job, sell the house and decamp at once to Las Vegas to eke out my final years enjoying the infinite possibilities to be had in a Cohiba and cocktail haze staring at flashing lights and pestering showgirls.

Yet, that will have to wait, perhaps until next year at the earliest. The present isn’t just about self-preservation, but self-improvement because I’m actually doing my best to fight the ageing process and remain attractive to the opposite sex. What any Thirtynumbthing will tell you is that we are extremely conscious that time is running out. Maybe not our mortal time, but to find someone left who would make a decent partner in daylight, but also that own physical marketability is if not quite on the wane, but coming quite close to its sell-by date.  Meanwhile friends who did precisely bugger all in their twenties then settled down with wives and kids now spend all they free time running, swimming and cycling as far away from their domestic responsibilities as is possible,

It takes only a long shift during the working week and then an idle weekend (these invariably consist of a messy Friday in town with dubious characters and colleagues; a Saturday of Anadin, regret and Sky Sports and and a hearty pub roast and a decent Malbec to round of Sunday) and one can actually feel a girth developing and the lines around eyes setting in to the extent that if you put a stylus in them they’d play the first few bars of ‘Who’s Sorry Now’. There comes a stage where it is all too easy to give up, accept it as fate and one actually finds oneself contemplating for the first time, with no hint of irony, maybe now is the time to invest in a sports car?

A Permanent Partner

A futile gesture in this direction is a weekly visit to a personal trainer. I started seeing James about five years ago when he was only 21 and we’ve been together ever since. If you think that sounds like I’m talking about a relationship that’s no coincidence: I’ve never been with anyone else that long, he’s constantly on my case and, in the absence of a permanent partner, I have someone to argue bitterly with, be a source of constant disappointment to and irritate the hell out of due to my wayward antics. At the same time, I do like and respect him though not sure James would always say the same about me though we both agree that my name won’t be causing too much debate among the selectors for Team GB at London 2012.

There are certain rituals to be observed. Firstly we always start amiably and check each others mood so we know what boundaries we will be working within (there was one session conducted in smouldering silence after we’d both overstepped the mark in each other’s eyes – he by making me exert myself after an excellent weekend and me by throwing an unsavoury tantrum as a result) Second, sessions now commence only after my car keys have been handed over. This is to prevent repeats of an unfortunate lapse on my part saying I needed to go to the loo and promptly did a flit.

Our sessions mostly consist of him telling me what ‘we’ are going to do, him then telling me to do it and me trying to come up with some unfathomable reason why I do not consider this to be possible. The fact that he is younger, stronger and more intimidating than I am and that I have already paid him at the same time as handing over the car keys mean inevitably relent. There follows numerous periods of rolling around on a mat in my own sweat, cursing, panting and making threats that make me look like I’m auditioning for the role of the possessed little girl in a remake of The Exorcist.

One trick he’s also picked up on is when I take a moment to consult him on a matter of nutrition or wellbeing: ‘So what are you eating at the moment? What would you say would be a good breakfast for me tomorrow?’ Impressed at my inquisitiveness he’ll go off down a merry path on the merits of mackerel and kale before the penny drops and my nod and wink gives away that I’ve just stolen a minute. That never goes down well and is repaid in equal measure.

Not that James is always entirely correct, especially when it comes to his penchant for motivational mantras and my aversion to the sound bite. Online one evening I spotted he used the medium of his widely followed Twitter feed as a celebrity personal trainer to state: An active mind never worked in an inactive body’ to which I replied immediately ‘I would like to see you say that on live  national television to Stephen Hawking’. Maybe not a victory for me in the long run, but at least I finally got some points on the board.

In masochistic fashion there’s something in all this because if you actually stop moaning and procrastinating it actually works. There are periods, sometimes stretching for a month where the pendulum swings toward protein based breakfasts, early nights, regular gym sessions and even James admitting he is impressed with my dedication and fitness levels. He even tweeted about me once. The trouble with every working pendulum it does, have a horrible tendency to swing back in the other direction and does so in spectacular fashion. This could be triggered by anything: work, holiday, sunshine, rain, a woman, a man (or a bunch of them), a good QPR result, a bad QPR result, QPR not playing or near death by Nicorette van. It’s just a case of enjoying it while it lasts, dealing with it and when you find yourself again thinking you need a sports car to remain appealing to the opposite sex we’ll try anything – except triathlon.

This post was first published as a Thirtynumbthing column at Blokey.com

This is ground control…please confirm your position April 23, 2011

Posted by normanmonkey in Friends, Single London, Thirtynumbthing.
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Last week a friend consulted me on a man problem she was having and immediately I tensed up. She’d been seeing a chap; late thirties who works in the media and it had all been going extremely well. Over cocktails, she talked about how they’d shared a giddy couple of months, his charm, idiosyncrasies, but also his inability to accept his age and ‘settle down’, then, apparently, the fellow became evasive and then simply just fell off the radar.

“Isn’t it odd?” She asked, “I mean how a man can just suddenly become so detached?”

“Actually, I think you’ve just given a flawless description of myself,” and then added with a caveat, in case I got a Long Island ice tea tipped over my head, “…and any single man of that age.”

There should be a self-help group – others may say internment camp – for Thirtynumbthings, though I do wonder if we are a lost cause altogether. Certainly we are a source of constant frustration and bewilderment to the opposite sex, especially during The Ashes, yet we approach each new endeavour with the best intentions that, despite all evidence to the contrary, we aren’t merely hopeless, but hopelessly romantic. We just can’t find ‘The One’.

The truth is – if we haven’t by now we probably never will. There will almost always be something not quite right, something that rises to the surface that niggles, that we know we can’t live with for the rest of our lives. That’s unless she’s a Perfect Ten – the Rourke’s Drift of relationships – in which case we’ve been known to overlook and endure anything, including everything always being our fault and with disastrous consequences.

Alarm bells

My last brief relationship was brought to a juddering halt thanks to Raoul Moat. Before you jump to conclusions that she was taken out in a rampage, it was simply a case of her not knowing who Raoul Moat was. There had been doubts already, but the alarm bells rang when I described someone as looking like a “young Raoul Moat”, and she asked, “Who’s he?”

“You know,” I said, “the guy that was all over the news for weeks last summer, killer on the loose, a nation gripped, spawned sicko admirers on Facebook prompting outrage. Raoul Moat!” Still she looked at me blankly. It occurred to me that while the rest of Britain was in fear of this testosterone-fuelled psychopath who’d gone into hiding armed to the teeth, she’s the only person who’d have invited him in for a cup of tea. “I don’t really follow the news,” she said nonchalantly, “We can’t all be as informed as you.” matter-of-factly dismissing my Moat complex.

I mean, I don’t expect to date Kofi Annan, but she still found time to know what was going on in Heat magazine. Well that was it and quickly it began to fester. What if we went out with my friends and some other highly topical individual cropped up in passing and she said, “Who?” (come to think of it Martin Scorsese elicited the same question, meanwhile I noted she had at least two Danny Dyer DVDs in her collection). The next day in the office I was going up to anyone who couldn’t get away in time asking, “Do you know who Raoul Moat is?” just to be sure. Combined with her penchant for Tesco Value olive oil and a tendency to lick my face in public, I was out. I, too, fell off the radar.

She called after it ended to ask where it had all gone wrong. I did what any man does when asked to give a straightforward and honest answer – I gave an evasive and dishonest one. There were mutterings about lack of time, work and that maybe we just don’t have enough in common. What could you do, say, “I agree it had been going well, but this Raoul Moat thing?”

It would have sounded deranged, especially as I’d also exhibited some weak character traits that would be enough to justifiably end the relationship – such as bolting out of Le Pont de la Tour mid-conversation when a friend called from Fratton Park to say QPR had just been awarded a last-minute penalty (hardly the image Conran had in mind when he thought of his ideal clientèle).


Actually, as the latest ex and I talked she agreed it was for the best. The above sort of behaviour and lack of commitment was apparent and I got a lecture that sounded familiar to any other Thirtynumbthing. It reminded me of an email a friend (the one from who now suddenly finds himself married by mistake) received from a girl informing him his services were no longer required.

It opened with the line, “Do you practice at being useless or was it something they taught you at school?” Then followed a tirade, questioning every facet of his poor character and psychological flaws that was brutal, damning, beautifully written and completely accurate. He was most put out, but everyone who read it agreed entirely with her assessment and one or two speculated whether she had gone far enough. After all, she only had a glimpse of the brushwork, God knows what she’d have written if she could’ve seen whole canvas.

None of this, of course, was any comfort to the friend I was having drinks with. She has impeccable wit, conversation, gravitas and excellent taste in olive oil (she concurred on this point). It could just be that women have a far better grasp on reality and, while we don’t practice it, some of us are just better at being useless than others.

First published at Blokely.com http://blokely.com/life/thirtynumbthing-this-is-ground-control-to-thirtynumbthing/

The Great V-Day Card Mystery February 16, 2011

Posted by normanmonkey in Single London.

As anyone by now familiar with this blog knows the only mail I ever receive is usually a final demand or a letter suggesting I am liable to have a stroke. It therefore came as no small measure of astonishment that I should receive a Valentine’s card – albeit delivered to my desk, thanks to our office ‘systems’, two days late.

Valentines Day has almost always been something that happens to other people and, thanks the late receipt of the card upon my desk, that remained the case this year. Still, two days or two years late I’m hugely flattered and intrigued. Another cause for an amazement is they appear to be literate. The only frustration is that I have no idea whom the sender is. Currently on the mantlepiece, the hallowed card will certainly be framed once I’ve had the it checked by forensics and contains some beautifully formed, thoughtful and flowing verse, loaded with a few clues: apparently the sender is accustomed to saying hi to me a lot, but nothing more than that ‘in all this time’.

It’s as if a wall of fear, transparent, yet profound, comes up as you come near, cutting off all around.

Thankfully, after her long monologues about Bulgarian folk customs, this appears to rule out my cleaner Iliana. That would’ve been awkward, especially given the knowledge that she handles my underwear.  The other clue is that, despite the presence of a stamp, the absence of a postmark means it was hand delivered, presumably by someone who lives or works locally and knows I do too. We can already rule out anyone who works in my own office. They know me far too well, have generally good taste, are certainly never short of anything to say to me and the single ones are more likely to be on the sex offenders register (molesting unsuspecting bankers in city bars, thaat sort of thing) than sit down and compose a poem to anyone, least of all me.

So that leaves a handful of people outside of work with whom I have had long-term contact on the basis of saying ‘Hi’. Given my predictable and limited routine revolves around, and never getting beyond, a bar-brasserie about 100 metres from my office I did have my suspiscions. When I openly suggested a name in the office, Gloria sitting next to me conisdered this for all of a nanosecond before erupting with laughter and upon finding breath declared ‘You’re punching way above your weight with that one!’ (which reminds me, I really must check the date of her next career review).

There’s only one other individual whom I could hazard a guess at on the basis of the available evidence. He runs a nearby boutique emporium purveying flowers and wine (so he does have something that could sway me) and did once offer me a discount on  particulary good Syrah if I gave him a kiss.

Who knows, I certainly don’t, but it would put the mind to rest. So if you are a she not a he and have your own teeth, whomever you are I think I could at least buy you dinner if you reveal yourself.  Knowing my luck Rose West is working on day release in the Sainsbury’s Local beneath our office and I’ve been in too urgent a hurry to get my Diet Coke and Marlboro Lights to even notice her doe-eyed hello.  Oh well, as the man said in the closing line of Some Like it Hot, ‘Nobody’s perfect’.

One wedding and a wardrobe February 13, 2011

Posted by normanmonkey in Food, Friends, Single London, Thirtynumbthing.

‘So lets get this straight’, I said to one of my oldest friends with whom I was having dinner (Entree in Clapham – go for the venison with a Malbec), ‘We’ve spent the last two hours talking about random shit, including our respective man-flu and mid-life crises, QPR’s home form, you going for a 72 hour round trip job interview to China and how you thought Facebook had been started by Bill Gates, but you forgot to tell me that since I saw you three months ago you got married?’.

– I thought I’d told you?

– No. You hadn’t told me. Now the wedding ring on your finger makes more sense than it did earlier

It is refreshing there are still, in this blighted age of cuts and austerity, friends whom never fail to deliver 24 karat surprises. Even more so as earlier in the evening I’d asked about the whereabouts of his partner and how things had been going in his relationship. ‘She’s gone on holiday to India with a girlfriend of hers’, he replied, ‘We get on much better when we’re not together. I enjoy the peace and quiet.’ Hardly a good prognosis for a new couple, let alone a marriage.

I asked what happened to the wedding that was supposed to be happening at a villa in the South of France, the one that sounded like a scene from an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. ‘All too complicated, expensive and too many rows’, he said. So it was decided to do something very low key, just immediate family. ‘How was it?’ I asked. ‘Horrific’ he replied.

– ‘Her father doesn’t approve that I’m not Jewish or converting to the faith. He even wanted me to be circumcised’

– ‘Well, I think we’d all support him on that one’

And so there we were, the Saturday before Valentines, two professional men for whom our numerous relationships have never delivered a chequered flag but a chequered past, enjoying a romantic dinner for two in a high-end French restaurant to the sounds of live dinner jazz in the background, sniffling with colds, pondering our own insanity and that of the opposite sex, surprised at his turn of events and my making the decision the best thing we could do with our evening is go to a bar and drink heavily.

The poor sod. He looked genuinely shellshocked at how his situation had changed so rapidly. Once the man about town, he’d been, hung, drawn and neutered. Life used to be a lot simpler. We’d go to these same bars a decade or so ago in a pack, but that pack is dispersed in pram pushing duties and the money once expended on Saturday night is now saved for school fees and people carriers – or in his case toward shoes and handbags. ‘She’s obsessed!’, he said, ‘And I’m not allowed to buy anything for myself”.

He had to be virtually dragged to a bar, reluctant because of the noise, complaining he was too old for this and visibly flinched in horror- to the comment of queueing strangers who witnessed it – when I turned from the bar and didn’t hand him the vodka and lemonade he’d requested, but a Jagerbomb. Several more followed and we smoked fags, reflected upon old times and current predicaments and agreed it was essential we did this more often for mutual support. All until it came for me to think about getting the last train home to West Byfleet.

– ‘I would suggest you stay at mine’, he said, ‘But I’m afraid I can only offer you the sofa’.

– ‘What happened to your spare bedroom?’

– ‘She made me turn it into a walk-in wardrobe’

With that I depaerted, comforted by the realisation the only woman presently in my life is ‘The Bulgairan’ who visits no more than once and week and her demands rarely exceed more than a new mop and a bottle of Harpic.

This column first appeared as Thirtynumbthing

Bill gates and other financial demands December 23, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Friends, Single London.
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In true Christmas spirit a buff envelope from Inland Revenue has arrived containing a tax demand that is enough to mull anybody’s wine. At some point when I finish swaying I’m actually going to have to contemplate paying it and not in the least bit comforted that when I do I’ll have just saved Trident.

It’s the timing that gets me. Two days before Christmas and we can only be thankful that I haven’t really started Christmas shopping or I would be in trouble.  That leaves me not much more than 24 hours to search You Tube for vintage Blue Peter clips to see what I can make from cereal cartons, yogurt pots, cigarette packets and old corks, the latter being  plenty in supply.  Improvisation will be key from here on in. They say it’s the thought that counts and on that basis I will have to say to Mother ‘I thought about getting you a nice hat and a spa break in the Cotswolds’ and leave it at that. ‘Really, there is no need to thank me. Now what time is lunch?’

Aside from that EDF have sent an external electricity bill that necessitated a check of the envelope to see if it had been intended for Las Vegas. Four figures for a pair of barely decorative electric gates? I don’t think so. Somewhere along the lines I’ve been powering West Byfleet and it’s therefore no wonder everyone else around here is full of festive cheer. They say if I don’t pay it I’ll be cut off, but ‘in this current economic climate’ (one of the most annoying diversionary euphemisms for ‘We’re all doomed!’) I hardly think vaulting an inconsiderable gate on my way to work will be much hardship. Clearly the builders of this house have something to answer for and calls will be made tomorrow.

Thank God the best things in life are free. It costs nothing to look at a Championship League table to receive the warm, buzzing glow of QPR on top of it (lets see if that lasts the Christmas period, I doubt it) or, as last night proved, a sing song round the Joanna in the Coach and Horses on Greek St.  For those who aren’t aware of the Coach, it’s interiors have barely changed since the war and neither have many of the clientele.  It was where one of England’s great writers and crafted Soho chroniclers  Jeffrey Bernard plied his trade and where he also observed the fellow bohemians, dilettantes, aristocrats, actors, artists, pimps, gamblers, low lifes and high-flyers congregate in the pursuit of good, dubious company and conversation. Until five or six years ago when the place was still managed by Norman Balon, also an ever-present since the 1940’s (a period to whom his interpretation of customer service was also indebted) you could still get an, albeit austere, ham sandwich for a pound – and that was the one and only concession to catering.

Much of that has changed and belongs to an old Soho that was swept away when Soho became the hub of advertising agencies, but it’s still a refuge from the bright lights and ponces across the road in Soho House with their bucks fizz, iPads, fennel, celebrity tittle-tattle and deal breaking conversation. The Coach, meanwhile, has an old man in a trilby next to the piano playing the spoons and Dan Turner, Robbie and I knew where we were much happier to end up.

Not that we should’ve been there at all. We’d gone into the West End on the pretense of doing post-work Christmas shopping but even the thought of Selfridges saw a collective furrowing of brows and us head for the nearest bar.

There was also the matter I had a woman who with all the best intentions invited me over to her new house for a romantic dinner. Two hours later than my planned arrival she received a phone call suggesting she ‘Get on a train and come over to the Coach and Horses’  because, as I ventured in my pitch, ‘There’s a man at the piano, we’ve got percussive coconuts and we’re singing Frosty the Snowman’. For reasons those of you whom may understand the fairer sex than I, this was met with a prolonged silence and punctuated by a curt ‘Right’. In one breath things had moved rapidly on from Frosty the Snowman to frosty reception.

For once I read the runes and given some pause for thought replied, ‘I’ll get a taxi right now’ and made the right decision. Even in this ‘current economic climate’ I can still make the right decisions every so often and there will probably be a tax demand in the post for that as well. Merry Christmas.

Some Mothers Do Have ‘Em October 7, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Single London, West Byfleet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mad Men September 30, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in In the news, QPR, Single London.
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There’s a number of ways two young, single, professional gentlemen at the cut and thrust of the London PR scene can spend their evening. Start off with cocktails at The Ritz, dinner at The Wolseley, maybe a private members club or off to Bungalow 8 before retiring to their respective penthouse suites with the women of their choice. Modern day Mad Men.

I wager that few would choose to spend it in an alcove of a football ground in  Shepherds Bush with slightly unhinged, lagered-up middle-aged ‘geezers’ who also happened to be two of Millwall’s ‘Top Men’ (and I don’t mean in the boardroom) as riots and pitched battles flared up outside.

Come to think of it, that wasn’t exactly how DT and I envisaged spending our evening at the Rangers either: grinning inanely and taking deep breaths upon hearing yet another rapid-fire yarn lamenting the good old days of mindless acts of violence.

That was all made possible by Blewett who thought it would be a nice touch to introduce two regulars from a former pub of his to the club restaurant where we were dining so we could enjoy a live recital of The Football Factory.

This somewhat undermined the military precision planning and leaving work early from Bermondsey to be inside the ground at 6pm to escape the hooligans outside the ground only to discover our own mate had arranged for them to come to us. Of all the measures taken, that was not one I’d calculated for. Nice one, Blewett. I’ve never felt such gratitude and relief upon having my hand crushed in a farewell handshake goodbye.

I think we heard about 200 anecdotes unbroken for a pause for breath and all of them containing the words ‘Tear up’ (usually prefixed with the ubiquitous ‘proper’ or ‘right old’). Believe me, it’s exhausting this whole trying not to get a bottle of Becks banged on your head business – survival instinct kicks in.

The strategy when confronted with two men of a certain age for whom a broken nose is a term of endearment is to agree with everything they say and not to mention that you work in the media, have close friends who are French, use a personal trainer, read The Guardian, dislike lager, drink espresso martinis and, in DT’s case at least, you live with someone who has just competed in a Ladyboy of the Year competition. Actually, there’s no acceptable social context for the latter. He’s just going to have to soldier on alone with that one.

The football was largely inconsequential. As we were reliably informed by our acquaintances it was all about the tear up. Apparently liberties had been taken and a lot of old faces were coming out of retirement for this one. They weren’t wrong. Shepherds Bush was a battlefield in places and the violence made international news (USA Today, The Australian, The Ealing Gazette).

If Blewett was bang on the money with one thing it was better to have them inside with us, than for us to be outside without them. I see the logic, but I’d still sooner have swapped them for Penelope Cruz and Megan Fox, but maybe not for Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall. I’d have probably taken him and his chickens, covered them in QPR memorabilia, lobbed them in the away end and turned a blind eye to that one.

After all that tension, we naturally needed to escape the war zone for a couple of  late night cold drinks to calm down. From Romper Stomper to Old Compton Street in thirty minutes. How;s that for varied night out and we’d have almost certainly got a pasting for mentioning that as a potential destination. Anywhere to avoid a beating. Better to be hit upon by a man than hit by one  is my new motto.

Catalogue groom September 6, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Friends, Single London.
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Summer only came to a close last week and already there is the urge to hibernate. This is all despite attempts at a makeover in my week off: personal training, haircut and new Autumnal wardrobe of natty threads at no small expense. Ladies of London watch out, was the theory. They’ll be shoveling up swooning women all the way down Bermondsey Street. Despite all that and being told on my arrival at Village East that I appeared ten years younger, it inevitably took only a card behind the bar the bar and a few hours to achieve the look of being twenty years older.

Still, this investment in my personal appearance hasn’t gone unnoticed and the comments have come trickling in. Only the other day our office manager told me as I stirred my morning coffee among a group of colleagues I looked ‘Like something out of a catalogue’, which is enough to stop a man about town in his tracks. This was, she explained, a compliment. As another colleague hearing the comment succinctly put it, the look I was striving for was Milan, not Matalan.

Given it was the office manager I fear the catalogue she was referring to was of the Ryman variety. I can see myself in my new threads holding a variety of multicoloured folders or elbow resting laconically on a franking machine looking seductively into the distance waiting for the post.

With all this underwhelming reaction to my makeover it is now pissing down with rain outside with a three day tube strike thrown in for good measure. A short trip to Marbella next week for a few days of sunshine, grilled seafood and observing  the embarrassment that is the English abroad will help to revive flagging spirits and for me, no doubt, to be more Matalan than matador.

Saturday Night Fever August 21, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Friends, Single London.
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If there’s any natural justice in the world, having spent the working week looking like an extra from Schindler’s List, I’d have got something approaching a lie in today. Instead, in a bold departure away from the alarm clock I was awoken from a deep slumber by an  attack of cramp in my achilles heel (and I have more than two of those) at 6am so painful I was convinced I was being mauled by a polar bear. Welcome to the weekend.

Tonight is one of self-imposed exile in the kitchen, venturing out only to see QPR pick up three points and for a session in the gym. the latter was only made possible after finding myself alone watching the X Factor. A text from a colleague Robbie, the rather wonderful gay Welshman from the Valleys of Swansea, watching the same programme summed up one act perfectly: ‘That gay Indian boy is terrible. There will be a honour killing when he gets home’.  Being gay they may be able to forgive, but not his full frontal molestation of a Black Eyed Peas song before the gawping eyes of the nation.

There was a late intervention by my publican friend, Lee Blewett to go over to his for a lock-in tonight. After the hangover I endured from the previous weekend (in which Lee was very much critical to my demise) he might as well invited me over to eat a dead dog for the reaction it provoked.

Lee tried turning on the guilt factor by saying ‘I thought you’d come over. I stocked up on booze!’. As far as heartstrings go, none of mine were pulled. Incredulity perhaps, but heartstrings no. Although far from being an expert on the licensed trade, I would expect him to not be short of a bottle or two even at the worst of times rather than just getting some ales in on my account.

Actually there’s nothing more I’d like to be doing right now than in the Bramley Inn having a knees-up but as one gets older the burden gets harder to bear come Monday morning. It’s different for him. I have to commute from West Byfleet to London and back to go to work. He has to go downstairs and all safe in the knowledge he won’t have to sit through a two hour Powerpoint presentation on search engine optimisation.

Besides, there’s health and vitality to think about. With every Sunday lunch for one in The Running Mare it’s becoming more abundantly clear there’s an absence of a woman in my life. Maybe we should blame Germaine Greer or Naomi Wolf, but the modern woman isn’t exactly forming a queue to clamber hotly over the limp body of the twitching Sunday afternoon mess with red wine lips. Call it intuition or a sharp understanding of the opposite sex, but another boozy night of playing Wii until 4am with a mate who has an eye tattooed on each buttock isn’t going to put me in peak condition as far as Cameron Diaz is concerned.

In Chechnya they have a traditional route to dealing with this whole issue. No staying in and trying to keep trim and clear headed for them. If a man sees an unmarried woman he would like to be with he has two options. The first is to introduce himself and ask if she is available for courtship. The second is much more straightforward: he kidnaps her with the aid of his mates and takes her back to his village where she is held by his family. The latter often follows as a result as a failure of the former. The more direct Chechen man just goes straight for number two.

Once kidnapped his family asks the girl’s family to accept the offer of marriage. In Chechnya it brings shame on the family if they refuse the proposal from the person holding the daughter. Dishonour on the family, that sort of thing. So they always say yes. About a fifth of marriages are a result of this process. This may go some way to explaining why a eHarmony has so far not taken off there.