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Delays, pomodoro sauce and near death by Nicorette – a week in commuting April 6, 2011

Posted by normanmonkey in Suburbia.
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The other day whilst smoking a cigarette en route to work I was just a whisker away from being knocked down and killed by a Nicorette delivery van. Maybe this is their new way of tackling the smoking problem. You certainly won’t get me joining the other smokers on the maiden flight of Air Nicorette, not on your nelly. It’d be like Flight 93 only in the face of being wiped out in a pre-planned crash you can bet the collective war cry of ‘Lets roll’ from the smokers on board will not be to take the cockpit but to share round the Cutter’s Choice.

For years people have reminded me of the fatal dangers of smoking but here’s proof that a man  is in equal danger from the preferred method of giving up. The irony hasn’t been lost on me especially as I was just crossing the road opposite the Old Vic to get a revitalising morning carrot juice from Pret.

It all adds to the monotonous merry-go-round life and death experience that is commuting. Yesterday was so bad on a delayed train staring out at the drizzle that I showed typical stoicism and English stiff upper lip by dumping my bag at my desk and booking the first available flight to Marbella for Friday.

This evening was no better due to a suicide at Surbiton (and who could blame them, probably a Spurs fan to compound matters) meaning trains were non-existent and the concourse at Waterloo looked like a scene from Schindler’s List. Chaos. In the absence of anything but a single train out of town it should come down to compassion and valour: women, children and PR men first.

Rather than loiter with discontent the best thing to do in these situations is to decamp to the nearest decent restaurant, order two lavish courses, an above average bottle of wine and get the book out, people watch and indulge as much as is possible in the circumstances. There will, of course, be absolutely no change upon returning to Waterloo but its infinitely preferable to having your ankles bashed by commuters with pull handle cases (possibly the most unpleasant and irritating invention of the last century and I include the atom bomb in that), being approached for change from the same Scouser half-a-dozen times and working ones way through the a la carte menu at Upper Crust.

I’d have gone back stayed on the office sofa had I not got pomodoro sauce on my new shirt. Apart from free wi-fi and a choice of loos, sleeping in the office has one major advantage for the suburban worker and that is the attraction of a ten second commute to one’s desk. Tonight it was three and a half hours after leaving the office before I finally got to cross the home threshold and even then I was looking over my shoulders for anything coming toward me at speed bearing a Nicorette logo.

The only positive to come out of all this was from a friend who called me not much later at 10pm. He’d just woken up, showered, changed and readied himself to make his own morning journey to work before realsinig it was just only an hour after he’d nodded off after drinking two bottles of red. Seldom after a week like mine is there cause to feel there is someone worse off than yourself, but he made me feel like I was living in a benign age of enlightenment compared to his situation. Goodnight or, in his case, good morning.


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,

Panting and decorating July 29, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Blogging and social media, Friends, Single London, Suburbia, West Byfleet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

A Bridge Too Far March 17, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in QPR, Suburbia.
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The other morning I was woken from my slumber by REM’s Shiny Happy People, provoking what can only be described as a Fred West style assault on the radio alarm clock.

Today the first words to enter my transom from the badly bruised and nervy alarm clock was a reminder that Chelsea had crashed out of the Champions League in front of their home fans. Slowly, but surely the alarm is working its way back into my good books.

There is nothing good about Chelsea Football Club nor its oafish fans and I should know. For most of my life I lived in Worcester Park which is a Chelsea stronghold, often tripping in the grooves in the pavement made by the years of knuckles dragging against the ground. In two pubs The Huntsman and the ghastly Tone’s, the latter decked out in memorabilia and the location for fan interviews in a feature length documentary about Chelsea, a bad word about ‘Wisey’ or Zola (Gianfranco not Emmanuel) could quite easily result in a glassing.

Yet where did they come from? They weren’t there when I was growing up in the 1980’s, when Chelsea for much of that time weren’t even in the top division, nor even the 1990’s and early 2000s. Look carefully at their fat, bald or shaven sweaty heads. That isn’t dandruff you can see but filings from where they’ve emerged from the woodwork at the scent of money and success.

Chelsea weren’t even in contention before being fuelled and revved up by the billions of a Russian oligarch. Instead the Champions League has become something of an open wound that now festers with the failure of every season. With every departure from the tournament there is also recrimination usually directed at some refereeing decision and a UEFA or Sepp Blatter conspiracy. If truth be told there have even been times they have deserved to win the thing, on the cusp of doing so, only to throw it away spectacularly.

Level with Manchester Utd on penalites in Moscow, the fulfillment of that ambition and struggle seemed to come to ferment in the perfect scripted ending. Up stepped John Terry, Mr Chelsea, as he was known around Worcester Park, Cheam and the Kings Road, cut him, they say, and he bleeds blue (though that has most recently proven to be not blue but the murky green of greed, avarice and money – much of it the ‘hush’ variety) representative of all that is Chelsea and all that is ugly about football.

This was every football purists nightmare. The man Chelsea loved unquestionably was about to take the kick to win them their first ever Champions League in a moment the fans of CFC would treasure for the rest of their lives and the last thing they would see to make them smile on their mortal passing. This was about to be the defining moment of their lives.

He missed. He slipped, hit the post and fucking missed. Man Utd scored. Chelsea lost. Within seconds, without prior forethought, I was straight in the car roaring down to Tone’s in Cheam. There, as expected, were about 100 Chelsea fans sobbing into their pints and walking into walls, blue and white flags on the ground soaked in beer and spittle. I mingled. Felt their pain. Not dissimilar from when a killer joins in the search party knowing that there is no life to be found except for a grisly body. Sure enough it was only minutes before they started fighting amongst themselves and I left them to it with the sounds of howls, breaking glasware and recrimination in my wake.

Last year I caught the last minutes of the Chelsea – Barca semi-final poolside from Bellagio in Las Vegas. Having completely forgotten about the game, the heart sank at the scoreline. As the final seconds ticked away with Chelsea leading Barcelona 1-0 and having been denied in all probability two cast-iron penalities. Even in these opulent surroundings and 100 degree heat, I found myself dragged back to Cheam, to Tone’s and pictured the scene, just as I could see them signing and celebrating at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea weren’t just winning, they’d dominated and battered the best team in the world into submission. This year was, at last, going to be their year and we all had to brace ourselves.

And then up popped Andres Iniesta. Barcelona mustered one shot after 94 minutes of football. It flew into the top corner. Goal. Game over. Out Goodnight. She Who Loathed Football, sat in the sun in her bikini, glared at me disapprovingly over her mango prosecco as I pounded the bar with my fists. All I needed was a few more seconds of those uncomprehending, wounded, twisted pie-fed faces, the faces who’d been taunting and celebrating seconds before. Then I was done. Back to the pool, back to the sun and a fresh round of cocktails ordered, knowing that we can rejoice for another year.

Now they’ve not even made the semis. Not only taken apart and humbled at home in the first qualifying round, but at the hands of their own beloved ‘Special One’, Jose Mourinho and his Inter Milan side. ‘Mr Chelsea’ left the pitch, face snarling like a Rottweiler with a finger up its posterior, spewing bile and spitting feathers. Immediately followed the post-mortem, ingraciousness and high-pitched wailing of another UEFA conspiracy. The rest of the right-minded football world looked on from Shepherds Bush to the San Siro: shiny happy people.

Look back in Aldgate December 24, 2009

Posted by normanmonkey in Friends, Single London, Suburbia.

Free to those who can afford it, very expensive to those who can’t – Withnail

It only occurred to me as I woke at 6am on this Christmas Eve that I inhabit a closed world of beautiful people. Smart, witty, well adjusted, generous, self-aware.

Colleagues, friends, the restaurants, bars, hotels, parties, shops that are part of that world. All beautiful. All closed off from the greater reality. There’s a worry here as I write this that there could be a lapse into Patrick Bateman from Brett Easton-Ellis’s American Psycho (I do wonder sometimes myself), but last night I went to into the sort of venue where most people go and my face certainly didn’t fit.

When you go out with Lauren from The Sun, you can guarantee she’ll be hours late, totally unpredictable and you never know where the hell you’ll end up, but wherever it is it’ll be trouble. Four PR types found themselves at the rendezvous point a bar/club in Aldgate called Mary Janes with their mouths hanging open.

Fatman Scoop was playing. Sweaty men in suits danced incoherently whilst clutching a bottle of Becks to their chest and the barman seemed unsure when he heard an order for a Martini. Not a wise call in a place like that, but you can’t be everyone’s guide all the time (reminding me of the time my friend Wiggy nearly got the shit kicked out of him in a Worcester Park pub I frequented for ordering Pimms). A genuinely old man, worse for wear – not me – in a raincoat approached office girls and gyrated into their behinds. We were in the real world.

The real world of pot bellies, fat necks, shaved heads, short men with gold chains and gelled hair, party shirts, shiny shoes, unfettered knockers, too much slap, bad skin, tipsy women whose flesh wobbles beneath their immodest clothing as they totter towards you with a wink and vodka glistening on their chin. Not the world of the arts, wine, gyms, eating not too much and mostly plants, and anxiety.

Our number was swiftly reduced to two. In a place like this, we stand out. Every man wants to whack you and every girl wants you to buy them a drink. Not because we’ve made the effort but precisely the opposite. I was wearing the same white Calvin Klein vest that I’d had on since yesterday, hadn’t shaved. Colleague and I totally under-dressed. Exotically alien by comparison. He really wanted to leave for Hoxton Square. I said one more drink. We stayed three hours and had a great time.

A drunken, slightly unhinged girl who was certainly nothing to write home about (and a good job I didn’t write home as there would’ve been nobody in) told us we were gorgeous and could have anyone we wanted. Obviously, this is the kind of thing one wants in writing, yet flattery will get her nowhere.

Every time we looked round, there she was with her mates mouthing gestures and throwing her hand through her big hair. You don’t get that in Village East, which is a pity in some respects.

Yet this is the world I am from. Had things worked out differently, this could have been my world and I’d have been none the wiser. This is the precisely the kind of thing that wakes me up early in the morning and wondering if there is acceptable to have a Jaegarbomb to steady the mind.

It wasn’t until university I’d even met anyone who’d been to public school (I went to a Grammar in one of the few places that still has an 11+ and my mother was so certain I’d fail she’d already purchased the blazer for the local comprehensive – that was my first step out).

Where I grew up my everyone was called Gary or Darren. At university meeting and actually knowing people called Rex and Felix was a novelty in itself, though they didn’t impress me either. (It’s why my hackles still rise in Clapham bars when I hear a ‘Rah!’. There’s nothing creative, inspiring or redeeming in that. They are just as bad.). Bowie said his main motivation was escaping Croydon and I relate to that – although Bowie was from Bromley, ‘Croydon’ summed up more a state of mind.

All my close friends are similar in that respect of background. So I was appalled some years ago when one actually suggested we go to Henley regatta. Why on earth would we do that? Have we suddenly become interested in rowing or is it to ‘fit in’. We wouldn’t and it’s a long way to go to stand beside a river for a drink.

Had life taken a different course, with a number of twists along the way; had I not wrecked my knee ligaments and shredded my cartilage playing football from a tackle by a builder called Mickey and become even more absorbed in reading, film, music instead, or just been very fortunate in general, I could’ve been looking back at me in that bar and accused myself of knocking my own pint.

A debt of thanks from that time goes to everyone from David Lynch, Jack Kerouac and Jeffrey Bernard to Johnny Rotten, Stanley Kubrick and Peter Cook to a coterie of friends with similar aspirations.

In fact, I probably wouldn’t have been at Mary Jane’s at all at the age of 35. I’d be in a miserable second marriage to someone who knew the plot line to every soap and asked ‘Does my bum look big in this?’; telling my kids to follow my example, picking fluff out of my navel whilst watching Strictly Come Dancing, the weekly shop, law and order, meat and two veg, ‘political correctness gone mad’. reminding ‘birds’ I used to be a handy footballer in the hope it would make a flicker of impression, believing what was in the papers, not being able to hold my lager, DIY, Ted Baker shirt ironed for the pub, curry clutter in the kitchen, crying when England lose, trying to find a parking space in B&Q and screaming at someone nicking my spot, creased suit for work, listening to Talksport and actually considering calling back ‘to make a point’, huffing and puffing, going to ‘up West’ once a year for the wife’s birthday to take in a show and at the end of another unsatisfactory evening walking past a window seeing the people like me, thinking ‘Jesus Christ, I’d like to whack him and do her’ and knowing I’d never have the chance.

Bring back the eleven-plus or hope your young are scythed down in their prime by Mickey. Others need saving.

Merry Christmas

As on the brochure December 21, 2009

Posted by normanmonkey in Friends, Single London, Suburbia.
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It’s amazing what a difference four hours of a Bulgarian can make to my living conditions. Wisley House again resembles the picture I saw in the Consero Homes brochure a year ago rather than the Toxteth crack house I’ve been shambling around in for the past few days.

It looks like New Year is sorted. Dinner and drinks in Shoreditch House with Lauren from The Sun, a good friend over the last decade and now currently at a leading tabloid via a career that has taken her from model to Ibiza DJ, and her mates. There was a bit of wavering on my part as the sort of people who go to Shoreditch House get my back up (myself included, if there’s anything guaranteed to get my back up, it;s me) , but also that I’d had a moment with one of the mates in the past and she still seems too keen for my liking, but Lauren put me at ease with ‘Don’t worry, I’ve spoken to her and put her straight…I told her to get over it!’.

It won’t be anytime soon before she fills the boots of ‘Dear Deirdre’ Sanders.

Can you imagine the reply to every angst ridden correspondent being swiftly dispensed with ‘Get over it!’. Maybe this is what the nation needs. Gordon Brown or Fabio Cappello dealing with any negativity or tragedy with ‘Get over it!’. I’m all in favour. With any luck DT is also going to be there so I am sure there will be fun to be had.

This just leaves the rest of the time to fill between now and Jan 4. For sure, there is furniture to be purchased at bargain prices in the sales, but I’d rather pay top dollar at premium to avoid being part of any undignified scrum.

Then there’s QPR on Boxing Day. Ed Wells is down from Norwich at the in-laws at Silchester and there’s talk of an afternoon down the Rangers before heading for an evening at Lee Blewett’s Bramley Inn pub just down the road from Silchester. I did forewarn Ed that an afternoon watching that lot and thena lock-in at the Bramley is enough to knock the festive spirit out of even Santa Claus, but he hasn’t heeded my warning

It’s always dangerous having a best friend as publican. You pop in to say hello and emerge a few days later looking like the last survivor of the siege of Monte Cassino. I haven’t been there since the summer. I value my liver too much, but one false move and you can find yourself locked into conversations about wife swapping or Plymouth Argyle’s away form by a man in shorts in mid-winter so one has to tread carefully.

With any luck I am going out tonight for Clapham drinks. Whether I make it back is another matter. I’ve been told there’s subzero temperatures tonight and trekking back on South West Trains could be too much to bear. What am I complaining about. It’s good company, warmth, conversation and escape. As for the weather I should just ‘get over it’.

Pack to the future December 21, 2009

Posted by normanmonkey in Home, Suburbia, West Byfleet.
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Captains Log, Day 3.

It’s now 72 hours that I’ve been on this solo odyssey in the kitchen. I don’t know who is going to buckle first, me or the empties. We are both sick if the sight of each other. Waitrose proved to be a disaster. When the 16 year old boy at the counter asked me if I’d like him to pack my bags I was undecided, then replied, ‘No, it’s ok if you pack today’.

I couldn’t let it lie there thinking there was need to pursue this thread as I found myself uttering the words ‘Somedays I like to pack it, other days I liked to be…’ (and I knew I had to finish the sentence but did so realising it’s logicial conclusion) ‘…other days I like to be packed’. Oh Jesus, that’s enough to get you neutered these days. Shutup, get out and go back to your kitchen. Do not interact.

The prawns were off again, meaning the meal I’d cooked was thrown in the bin, so for dinner I had a spicy tomato juice, newspapers and flashbacks. If I had a flare gun last night I’d have fired a few off as a distress signal.

Thankfully Luicie Buckner has suggested meeting for a drink in Clapham so this could be an escape route back into civilisation. Its just having the will to sit on a South West Train when I’m not working,

Soon I will have to head out to Guildford, simply so I can do some first minute Christmas shopping and not haveto be here to look Iliana in the eye when she finds me sat among the detritus. A few more days like this and social anthropologists will have think they’ve found a primitive lost tribe of one in the wilds of West Byfleet. Still, if there’s any consolation there, at least I am the chief.

Poltergeist (the Polish Director’s Cut) November 17, 2009

Posted by normanmonkey in Home, Suburbia.
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There are going to be flags at half mast in Gdansk if the cleaner can’t remember where she has moved my passport. Tomorrow I fly to Buenos Aires for work and an extended holiday and in a rare move of foresight placed my passport and camera on the kitchen worktop. They have been subsequently ‘tidied’.

This has happened before. Prior to the PR wedding of the year, that of Dan Glover and Clare Myddleton, I organised my l clothing well in advance. On the day I was relaxed about the preparation time required, though hadn’t counted on Iliana.

A belt that I had set aside for the occasion on a bed in the spare room had gone missing. Bedding was thrown in the air on several occasions, the bed overturned, the room torn to shreads. The model of composure just five minutes previously was a perspiring, red-faced, panting mess.

Being dressed in a new Hugo Boss suit, Thomas Pink shirt and Church’s shoes, without the only belt that fitted my reduced waistline (which had shrunk due a hot but crazy related illness) does not matter a jot without the correct belt. Other belts hung off my waist meaning I looked like a two-bob bookmaker on his uppers. The taxi outside waited for 20 minutes, every so often the cab driver banging on my door telling me we were ‘cutting it fine’. Helpful.

After several frantic calls to Iliana she eventually answered and cheerily replied that she’d moved the belt to another room and put it in my sock drawer. Why hadn’t I thought of that? So, yet again, I arrive at a wedding looking like I’ve come straight from The Hacienda when it couldn’t be any further from the truth.

This is just the latest episode. There was the period where a bank card, credit card, gym card and office key card went missing and I thought I was going mad. It was only after a second gym card disappeared from where I had definitely placed it for safe keeping that I asked Iliana of its whereabouts. ‘Ah yes’, she beamed ‘I put it for safeties in your card pot’. This was the first I’d heard of any ‘card pot’.

Sure enough, there in an unused plant pot in the dining room, gathered among coins, pens, sunglasses and other shiny items were all the missing cards. It’s like having the poltergeist of a dead magpie as well as a cleaner. Sticking with poltergeists, if that passport doesn’t surface this evening, I think both Iliana and I will only be able to be reached for further discourse via a seance with Derek Acorah.