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Straight Outta Compton August 29, 2011

Posted by normanmonkey in Food, Thirtynumbthing, Travel, West Byfleet.
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‘As I l leave, believe I’m stompin’, but when I come back, boy, I’m straight outta Compton’ – Ice Cube

In days long gone an August bank holiday was a perfect excuse to not go to sleep for 72 hours in the company of other itinerants a backdrop of thumping beats. Not anymore. Those same itinerants are now hollow-eyed and sleep deprived on account of their kids or running businesses and marathons, possibly at the same time.

As per usual I had been taken by surprise by the sudden arrival of an August Bank holiday. Where on earth do they spring from?  While trapped in the killing fields of commuting and the 9 to 5 (make that 6) ] I’d fantasised and whinged about  could be done if only I’d had the time the time. It was all visions of a weekend break in Rome or a bohemian day in Brighton and yet when the time came I realised it was too late to actually do anything meaningful.There was a mad scramble of phone calls, texts and tweets like a manager without a squad on transfer deadline day at 10.55pm and discovering that even Marlon King isn’t available.

So what did a Thirtynumbthing do with three days to fill?

Left to my own devices led to the usual distractions of writing a to-do list, losing it, giving up, and then forming a nest of papers, magazines, endless cups of tea,  and an interminable feed of live sports. That was Saturday morning. By Monday however the mind-numbing effect of Sky Sports News and fermenting scent of stale sweet and sour sauce tends to lead for a call to action. What was needed was escape from the detritus of my own mounting detritus. My kitchen had turned into a scene from a William Burroughs novel. Something had to be done!

Straight Into Compton
There comes a moment when a man doesn’t want cocktails or to be surrounded by hipsters and urban attitude. I’d hit that moment and what I craved was a radical departure reassurance and twee harmony. Above all that I wanted cake.

In what may prove to be a defining turning point I went online not to Time Out but Surrey Life.  The pleasurable afternoon I had as a result could be a portent of the comfortably numb future that will befall us all before incontinence.

If anyone goes to Compton in Surrey in a confused pilgrimage to the place made famous by Niggaz With Attitude they will be sorely disappointed.  Among the cottages and rolling green hills there’s a distinct lack of gang warfare, bitches or LAPD brutality.  I, for one, would still very much like to see a twin-town exchange programme and the resultant fall out in a fly on the wall documentary.

What Compton lacks in crack houses is made up for with the Watts Gallery Tea Rooms and a fine lemon sponge for starters. The Watts is precisely the kind of place a person can end up and lose an afternoon watching middle-England in full throttle. I’d been transported to another England, one well away from the London of my work week, the one of traffic, uppity bar staff, drunks on the Jubilee Line, wasabi popcorn, feral kids, feral social media gurus or cabbies moaning about ‘the fackin’ Spurs’.

This was a haven of scones with jam and clotted cream, genteel old ladies, upstanding families, children (and even dogs, come to think of it) seen and not heard. Everything and everyone had a place and permanence to the point you could practically hear Elgar playing in their footsteps. It was, in the words of Vivian Stanshall, ‘English as tuppence, changing yet changeless as canal water, nestled in green nowhere’.

The only hitch was that I’d left my wallet at home. What would Ice Cube or Eazy-E of NWA have done in Compton when faced with only enough change for the tea room or the Watts exhibition, but not both?  According to ‘Cube’ when he’s called off, he’s got a sawn off, squeeze the trigger and the bodies get hauled off.
Wise words, but armed only with a lighter and a copy of The Guardian, violence was not an option. It meant forsaking the Victorian art and sculpture of George Frederic Watts in the Gallery favour of Welsh rarebit and cake in the cafe. Yet again, my stomach triumphs in a mismatched bout with the arts. I shall be back.

What did I learn? Firstly to plan future bank holidays well in advance; second to remember my wallet if I do should venture out and finally, next time I’m heading down to Compton to pack a sawn-off just in case I can’t pay for a cream tea.

This article first appeared as Thirtynumbthing @blokely.com


The Jury’s Out June 15, 2011

Posted by normanmonkey in Friends, Thirtynumbthing, Travel, West Byfleet.

This 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, and it’s been downhill ever since. Readers hoping for a review of the opening night of the new Playboy Club in Mayfair and the itinerary of my planned trip to Antibes with Keira Knightley should probably look away now.

Those of you who want a write-up on the descent of a man of a certain age in Partridge-esque parallel universe, alone in a Jury’s Inn hotel in Leeds trying to type on a laptop with a virus, no internet connection, a dead iPhone, no charger, and therefore no way of connecting to humanity have come to exactly the right place. There isn’t even a Corby trouser press to disassemble. It’s just me, four walls, the sound of faulty air-con, a kettle, UHT milk sachets and a laptop dying with digital herpes with which to write this latest desperate missive.

There is the matter, I suppose, that most international business travellers actually a) bother to pack their phone charger and b) sort out a decent hotel room before they rock up in town with their overnight bag and to avoid the situation I find myself in now. Downstairs, the lobby and restaurant are littered with the detritus of humanity, a mish-mash of bad suits, leisurewear, steak well-done, abandoned lager and mid-life crises.

Early on in the evening when there was a desperate urge for outside contact and a sense of purpose, I inquired at check-in if they had an iPhone charger and a cheery fellow called Wojech informed me they did. He then disappeared to some other part of the hotel, or Yorkshire, to find it.

“Do you have lead?” he asked on his return.

“No I don’t have ‘lead’. What do I need a lead for?”

“I only have plug to put in wall. You need to put lead in plug and then lead into your phone to charge.”

I wasn’t sure which one of us by now should be feeling stupid but I suspected the smart money was on me. Oh, for the want of a lead in Leeds. After a retreat back to room 316 there followed a period of indecision, brooding and pacing. There was, I felt for certain, exactly the lead he mentioned in the office I’d been working in today on the other side of town. I went back to reception and announced to Wojech with all the flourish I could muster that I’d be returning with a lead, but I could be sometime.

Forty minutes later there was no Wojech at reception. In his place was Elaina and she didn’t know anything about Wojech’s plug and my need for a lead. What she did know was that she had given the only charger plug or whatever the hell it is to someone else about five minutes before.

If you happened to be in the foyer of the Jury’s Inn Hotel Leeds on Tuesday night and saw an unshaven man in a Gieves and Hawkes sports jacket and brogues, slumped at the reception desk staring into the distance whilst clutching a limp iPhone charger lead from his hand before sighing heavily and heading to the bar, then you had the privilege of witnessing yours truly experiencing a dark moment of the soul.

Meanwhile in Surrey:

The other unmarried friend, Leon Dale,  is over from Sydney for a week for a mixture of work and no doubt, lording it up at my house in my absence. God only knows what he is up to left to his own devices and I’ve got no way of phoning him to find out. Plus there’s every chance he may run into Pavlina the cleaner upon his arrival this evening. I forgot to inform either about the other’s possible presence and I don’t know whom I feel sorry for the most.

He’ll probably get a thirty minute barrage of provincial Bulgarian wisdom and sledgehammer interrogation on how he knows me. Given his penchant for male grooming, she’ll no doubt assume, yet again, I’m homosexual. Great. When my much older, twice-divorced cousin crashed at mine for a bit earlier in the year, she entered the house to find him merrily sitting next to me with a beer watching Arsenal in his underwear and shot off saying she didn’t realise I was “busy with friend”. Despite my explaining the situation and he was actually my cousin she returned with a doubting smile that could be easily interpreted as ‘Ok, but back home in my village we would paint your house pink and nail your genitals to the door for this’.

Actually, come to think of it maybe I’m better off here out of reach. I just hope for her sake he doesn’t get out his iPhone after the home movie he played on it last night just as I’d finished dinner. It was one thing when men used to boast about what they get up to with their uninhibited girlfriend, but a blight of the modern age that I hadn’t expected and certainly not asked for last night when he unexpectedly showed it to me on playback, especially when he appeared on screen.

“What the bloody hell has got into you? I don’t want to see that! Get it away,” I said, batting away the his mobile device. “Steve Jobs would be proud. That may be a novel use of technological advancement, but it doesn’t mean it’s progress.”

“I suppose you’ll put that in ‘your column’ now,” he said sarcastically.

As if I would. Goodnight.

This article first appeared as a Thirtynumbthing column on blokely.com

Land of the Riesling Sun May 17, 2011

Posted by normanmonkey in West Byfleet.
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The other day I was apprehended beside the wine section in Waitrose by a breathless Japanese in traditional costume. This is the kind of thing that happens if minutes before you breeze into a local sushi restaurant mutter your take-away order to the proprietor and then turn on your heels toward the nearest supermarket with an accompanying white shifting up to pole position in priorities.

I’ll learn in future to be more switched on in a sushi restaurant when placing a hurried order before dashing out. Instead of ordering ‘Five pieces of sashimi’ I’d blurted’ ‘Five pieces of sushi’, did a flit and left them wondering what type of sushi  of the many hundreds on offer I actually wanted. It’s not a good way to end the day and the genteel old ladies and tranquilised housewives nearly dropped their shopping at the sight of a frantic Japanese come rushing in. A few of the old timers probably had flashbacks to the fall of Singapore and ducked for cover and who could blame them as I almost had a heart attack as he waved a menu in my face having followed me a good hundred metres and across a main road.

According to a newly published Lonely Planet to Great Britain Surrey is dull, but with incidents like this I beg to differ. Dull? You don’t get that kind of impromptu theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue and had it not been me I’d have paid good money to watch the ensuing confusion. So it came to pass that i ordered my sushi dinner in a supermarket in front of bewildered onlookers and pointing children, the latter wanting to follow me round the fruit and veg (if I have any more sleepless nights older shoppers will assume I’m part of the display) wondering what would be conjured up next for their entertainment.

Despite or because of excitement like this I have decided to leave the country. There’s been a stag do in marbella I’ve been crying off for ages but seeing as I’ve driven everyone round the twist at work with Queens Park Rangers, point deductions, an ex-girlfriend texting at 3am and the paranoid fear of being leapt upon by a panting Japanese in traditional costume I’ve relented at the last minute, only I’ll be staying in my apartment and they will stay at their resort.

It is probably best for both parties that we have a break from each other or no good will come of it. I know them, the area and myself all too well. You go out to Spain thinking you are retracing the steps of Ernest Hemmingway and after two glasses of rose and a bikini passing by in the afternoon sun everyone has turned into a 21st century Sid James.  The chance of the weekend being spent sipping sherry and looking at old churches is looking slim, in fact if you want to bet on it you’ll hear the bookmakers stifling a howl of mirth at your expense as you hand over the notes.

West Byfleet and a special Olympics February 10, 2011

Posted by normanmonkey in Friends, In the news, West Byfleet.
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Los Angeles, Barcelona, Seoul, Atlanta, Athens, Sydney, Beijing and now West Byfleet. What all these fine global cities and one Surrey suburban dwelling, which happens to also be the home to Bonnie Langford, have in common is they have in recent decades been selected to stage Olympic events.

Apart from a sexual assault on the Parvis Road last summer (I deny all accusations) and contrary to the near hysterical tone of the Neighbourhood Watch circular which gives the impression we live in a post apocalyptic state of anarchy on account of a set of golf clubs being stolen from someone’s garage, there is very little that happens in West Byfleet. Yet it was announced today that West Byfleet is on the main route of the 2012 Olympic cycling road race. Already, one suspects, residents are recomposing irate letters to the local paper, pointing out the ever increasing dangers of the potholes to motorists, disabled wheelchair users, mothers with prams and international cyclists.

The eyes of the world will, for a good twenty seconds at least, be upon West Byfleet. One thing we can be sure of is our lawns will be mown, wheelie bins hidden so as not to be an eyesore, cars washed, tea brewed, scones creamed and our shirts starched so we put on a good show. When it’s all over we will do our best to ensure that after the whole Olympic circus leaves these shores we won’t want the world talking about Usain Bolt, Sir Chris Hoy or medals tables, but how West Byfleet seemed ‘very nice’ and just a 25 minute fast train from London. And if they are lucky they may also spot Bonnie Langford in the crowd, trying to get into camera shot, perhaps entangled among the bunting, but never letting her smile slip for a second.

The last sporting event to be held in these parts wasn’t so well received when I hosted an all-nighter for colleagues where Niles, a large black man from accounts and Robbie, a screaming loud gay PR from Wales (the self-anointed ‘The Black and the Gay’ – whom incidentally wanted to come to my Halloween party in reverse but never got round to it) decided to play a raucous game of boules at 7am to a house music backdrop. Rest assured, West Byfleet wasn’t ready for that and neither was I for that matter, but I reckon we’re going to be shipshape for the likes of British golden boy Mark Cavendish and all the French and Italian cyclists who are much better but no one knows their names on account of their continental origins.

As we’ve got the cycling, there’s good cause to say ‘Bugger London! We’ll do the lot!’ and simply transfer the rest of it here for good measure. The mighty Byfleet Boat Club at the end of my road can host the rowing and sailing (and thus enabling competitors to stop off for a picturesque pub lunch at The Anchor in Pyrford) and, Weils disease aside, the River Wey can take on the swimming, diving. There’s Byfleet tennis club for the tennis, squash and badminton, the football and cricket clubs can host the track and field events; weightlifting we’ll do away with conventional weights and competitors can try to their best to lift some of the customers in the frozen food aisle of the Tesco in Brooklands. The bowls is a given: my back garden, at a civilised hour, minus ‘The Gay and the Black’ and the David Guetta feat Akon techno remix of ‘Sexy Bitch’ and as for the boxing and martial arts, well that can simply be transported just up the road to Woking town centre which traditionally hosts these events at closing time on weekends. Seb Coe couldn’t put on such an extravaganza in his dreams.

Naturally there will be an Olympic party to host now in West Byfleet and that’s where there is justifiable cause for concern. Lets hope the only thing that makes the news that day is the cycling. Some of the usual suspects likely to attend are better off not behind a barrier but in a cage. What could start out as Pimms and rose in the sun and flying a flag in anticipation of the peloton could, a few hours later, end up with an incident involving  an overexhuberant dance routine, a stumbling gay Welshman naked save for a sailors hat and a pair of grey Sloggi briefs, inappropriate acts with a bottle, a single stray boule, several dozen mangled cycles and bloodied cyclists – in short, a global broadcast story to bring shame upon both the nation and the good name of West Byfleet that no number of manicured lawns with five rings mown into their centre will be able to atone for.

Perhaps, with that vision and the tearful apologies of Ken Livingstone, Tony Blair and Boris Johnson ruing the day they bought the event to our capital and asking the world for forgiveness, now burning on the brain from now till 2012 it’s better after all if we keep indoors and watch it on the television.

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,

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.

Leaving Marbella September 15, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Food, Travel, West Byfleet.
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San Pedro, Marbella

There was a time when four days in Marbella was defined by emerging mid-morning from nightclubs, blackouts, coming to on golf courses, sleeping through the daylight hours and on at least one occasion, knocking a girl backward off the port wall in Puerto Banus harbour during an Errol Flynn style embrace.

A mid-morning stagger across the ninth hole in a party shirt whilst trying to ask in an advanced state of dehydration where and whom I am is certainly the closest I’ve come to playing a round of golf. The last night here, of which there has been many, has almost always involved incidents that one can largely place in the file charitably marked ‘Regrettable’.

Yet, this trip has been defined by long walks on the beach, grilled fish, the memoirs of Christopher Hitchens and spending the last night indoors listening to Ipswich-QPR on the internet with a single glass of rose. Normally listening to QPR would be good cause to go out and end up waking up in a bunker the next day, but times have changed. Another 3-0 win and still top of the league. The rest of the bottle of the rose had to be consumed to help numb the shock of looking at their standing in the Championship.

In fact, that’s one of the few things that will make returning to a rain-sodden West Byfleet and Bermondsey bordering on bearable. That and the matter of a night out tomorrow courtesy of 72 Point who are celebrating the opening of their London office. They’ve rightly gauged what will entice me from my post-holiday malady and it being the word ‘bar’ rather than ‘seminar’ .

The invite decrees that invitees are drawn from the London media set: journalists, opinion formers and the major players in the PR industry. Plus me and Dan Turner making up the numbers. In fact, Turner wangled an invite sometime after hearing about mine and I swear we’ve commissioned far more surveys than necessary around the time he was angling for an invite: we’ve probably got data on how slavery may come back into fashion, France being the country the great British public would must like to bomb to take their minds off the recession (come to think of it, one for the Daily Mail) and the Taliban’s favourite rom-coms of all time (Four Stonings and a Funeral?).

Whichever way one cares to at it, that’s tomorrow night sorted and Friday ruined. I hope last weekend is more successful than the last. Against better instincts a friend and I ventured to a crappy West Byfleet Italian restaurant by the name of Trevi where I’d been once before an served off-skate that tasted heavily of ammonia.

Just to prove a point I again ordered skate. One thing their kitchen could never be accused of is inconsistency. Again the skate was off and inedible.  Ideally the  portion of the evening which immediately wouldn’t have been spent locked in that toilet thanks to a jammed door. Thirty minutes is a long time in a cubicle, especially so when you were irate in the first place, your wine is getting warm and would actually be quite welcome not only to lift the spirits but wipe away the unshakable taste of ammonia.

After some time negotiating and explaining my predicament to an assortment of aging Italian waiters on the ‘other side’ I started to empathise with the predicament of the Chilean miners except for they got served far better food down a tube 2km underground.  The sound of a serious voice intervening with the words ‘Let me sort this. I’m a builder’ capped my night out. It seems the the skills endowed at building school on freeing a trapped media type from the karsi consists of trying the handle repeatedly (if only I’d have thought of that) and then beating the sdhit out of the door when the handle failed, something I’d been doing for some considerable time.

There were no well wishers, camera crews or garlands of flowers to greet me when I surfaced. Just a bewildered looking friend and a bill.  Not even a brandy on the house. Instead a grinning waiter said ‘You must be really embarrassed’. Well as a matter of fact yes I was rather and not as much as they should’ve been, but I’m glad he found it funny. Poisoned, incarcerated,humiliated and left for dead: who did they think I was, Rasputin? Which reminds me – not only is the Boney M track on him a great pop song, it’s also historically accurate. Stay in, check it out, avoid Trevi and spare yourself the indignation.

Mother knows best August 8, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in Friends, QPR, West Byfleet.

The album cover - DT, Lou, me

If I ever declare again that I am going to have a quiet weekend, shoot me, bundle me in a taxi to Stringfellows, but whatever you do don’t let me spend a weekend alone in West Byfleet with my thoughts. There’s nothing wrong with West Byfleet, it’s my thoughts that are cause for concern. They cover the broad existential canvas of life, death, Jimmy Hill, will the milk be off and the eternal question of who put the fag butt in my jar of English mustard?

Recently I’ve boarded a train at 6am at Waterloo only to have woken up back at Waterloo at 10am having gone to Woking and back several times, but its not as bad as getting up at 6am to go to BBC Television Centre to oversee an interview on the news for a client and be home at 10am wondering what to do with the rest of the day that doesn’t involve me sitting in the kitchen with the remote control or dodging bird droppings in the garden as I brave an attempt to read the papers al fresco.

This afternoon I drove past a field of cows and their calves in a field not too distant from my home. I decided that it may be invigorating to go for a walk, look at the cows, embrace my environment and engage with nature. By the time I got there the cows had moved to a faraway field meaning I was reduced to staring at a vacant field full of cow dung. How’s that for perspective?

Even the warm glow of 4-0 win for Queens Park Rangers and a sublime performance from Adel Taarabt, the Zidane of Shepherds Bush, couldn’t lift me after trekking a fair distance to stare at stationary little piles of shit on a field (though that’s what one had been accustomed to with QPR for the past 15 years).

A winning day at the Rangers had been a welcome distraction. Half-time entertainment was supplied in the W12 Club by the waitress who had decided to whip away Blewett’s bottle of Magners when it was still two-thirds full. His facial expression at seeing a cleared table was worthy of an action replay and analysis as much as anything on the pitch.

This quiet weekend all seemed like a good idea after a night out with colleagues at a leaving do for Koala, a dear Australian friend and colleague, who has been hitherto known as Fiona. When anyone leaves Cow PR, it’s emotional, but with our first ever marsupial hire returning to claw bark in Melbourne, it was like a death in the family. These farewells are emotional, involving a small of introspection, reminiscence and justified sentimentality, but mostly a vat of Jaegerbombs, wearing shades indoors at first sight of a camera or whatever else will make you look like a tit in the cold light of day and staggering in the Shoreditch nightclub, Mother at 4am. Without sounding overtly Oedipal it always ends in Mother, is certainly tragic in the Classical sense and and if she knows best, we certainly do not.

Alternatively, I could and should have been in Ibiza for a week for a friend’s 30th. At my fragile age, the possibility of a succession of hectic late nights combined with my weak character traits, it all seemed unwise. After a couple of days I’d have needed to crawl under a rock somewhere with a book and a Bach soundtrack to soothe the shattered system.

Robbie in the office went and in preparation decided a session under a sunbed would do him the world of good. The self-proclaimed ‘Robsta Da Limehouse Gangsta’ came into work the next day as the Limehouse Lobsta and, getting more raw with the passing of every hour, had to have the subsequent day off with sunstroke. Pale gay boys from the valleys must not be left unsupervised when on a sunbed or the consequences are disastrous.

This is not to say there wasn’t further drama on his day of departure. I overheard Robbie talking gravely on the phone with his hand stroking his red raw brow in despair. Tentatively, sensitively I approached him some minutes later to inquire if everything was ok, fully expecting to hear the villa had burned down or there had been a death in the family. ‘Oh no, babe’, he replied ‘My sailor outfit hasn’t arrived! I don’t know what I’m going to wear now on Thursday’.

Perhaps, just perhaps, I’m better off here after all. Even though this particular Sunday has been a trial of the will it was all over too soon. Hello Monday.

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.

A pain in the neck July 24, 2010

Posted by normanmonkey in West Byfleet.

The visit to the new chiropractor proved to be embarrassing. I drove down the Chobham Road in Woking and saw the chiropractor sign I’d been looking for, yet arrived in good time to find they did not have my appointment booked in

This naturally provoked much eye rolling and sighing on my part. In full Hancock mode, with a contained yet frank manner I pointed out that I’d given up half a day of work to make this appointment and this sort of thing simply wasn’t good enough.

The little old Doris at the reception was extremely flustered and apologised. She pulled a few strings, said ‘Oh dear’ a few times and arranged an appointment for me there and then, saying she couldn’t understand how they’d made such a mistake. I thanked her for her efforts and told her not to worry, ‘These things happen’. Sitting down gave me the first chance to take in my surroundings and indeed the signage above the reception.

I was in the wrong clinic.