Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Let it Bleed, curfews and booze

The thing about curfews that I have learned recently is that they cause strife and good dialogue. I've got some absolute comedy gold from some of the curfew related conversations I've had with my flatmate but I just don't think she quite realises how many parties I leave sickeningly early to get back in time for the curfew. That's not even counting the after-parties and strange events in the twilight hours I've passed up because of the curfew.

Last night I was out with chums on the pretext of doing some work related stuff. It started off well and for at least a bit we were furiously coming up with ideas and writing them down in moleskines but then we were forced to leave the bar because of the football being on. Then we stumbled onto some metal pub where I brought a double round of beer and the work sort of stopped. Instead we swigged away happily while talking about fights, Roy Orbison and the Stones.

My first encounter with the stones was rather late, I think I was a teenager and while rooting around in the attic (which was always a source of exciting things) I found some of my father's records and a slightly wonky wind-up gramophone. The sleeves were caked with dust and I can remember slowly cranking up the gramophone while I looked at the strange cover of 'Let it Bleed' wondering what sort of music would be contained inside.

I listened carefully to it, and I can remember frowning slightly at some of the tunes but the final track 'You can't always get what you want' completely blew me away. If I'd had any say in my father's funeral or memorial it would have been one of the tunes I would have played.

Anyway it was a great pub conversation. and I was really having a great time but then when the clock struck ten I had to scamper off into the night to get home before the dreaded curfew. It was a real shame but then I suppose you can't always get what you want...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Text dating

The following text messages are a conversation between myself and a friend. The one who is a madam who I went out with a million years ago.

Her - Hi Louche babes, have ya been?

Me - Jolly good, how the Dickens are you? What is new in your world?

Her - Lots going on. I missed you at the party on Friday, there was a girl there who would have been perfect for you.

Me - Sorry about the party, I was away. Tell me about the girl.

Her - Maria she is stunning only thing is she has children and has been to prison for fighting before.

Me - What sort of fighting? You really do know the best sorts of people.

Her - I know, just defending herself against a guy who started on her. She used a shoe and a knife.

A shoe and a knife, I think I'll pass on this one.

The Lure of Lunch

I think lunch is a special time of day, it's a time of magic and adventure where amazing things can happen. Friendships can be forged, plans made and even affairs started. Lunch is skill. It's an hour of the day when you don't work for 'The Man' and your only goal in life is to eat something tasty to see you through to cocktail time.

If everyone took lunch a bit more seriously the world would be a better place. Lunch should be sacred. Not allowing people to take proper lunch breaks is practically religious oppression and we should march against it. If they take away lunch what will be next? Afternoon tea? Smiling?

Of course we don't do lunch as well as we could in this country. I rather like the Mediterranean model where people have a lovely lunch, a nap and then go out in the evening until late. It's a pace of life that seems much more measured and pleasant.

I'm writing this as I'm trying to persuade a friend to join me for lunch, she is complaining about not really being allowed to take the time off. Honestly who would have thought taking a beautiful woman out to lunch would be so hard?

Monday, April 28, 2008


I'm not terribly good at waiting and I seem to do it a lot, it's part of the nature of this job waiting to see if you are going to get an assignment. Waiting to hear back about if an idea is going to be picked up, that sort of thing.

I have to do a lot of waiting and I don't like it, not one bit. So to counter the waiting issue I'm going to impose a system, while this may cause some issues I think it's important. In essence any decision gets 14 days. After that the offer is closed. Game over. The person who made me wait that long is dead to my eyes (as they should be for piffling around for so long) and I can move on.

You can do a lot in two weeks, there are even two whole weekends to mull over something if you are too busy during working hours. Important things like where to live, if you should go out with someone and which job to take can be solved in less time than that. It's really not that tough, if it takes you longer than that to make up your mind you shouldn't be in charge of anything.

I'm having a bit of an angry day I think, I'm waiting to hear back from a few people about a few things (as you may have guessed) and I'm also looking into taking some other people and companies to small claims court for money I'm owed. I really don't want to do this but it's been months and it's starting to get silly.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Lovely boots and Mr Lyttleton

Today I picked up new boots. It was a lovely day so I ambled over to the big bike shop in Vauxhall to have a look at Triumphs and drool. After a bit I realised that if I didn't leave right away I would do something very bad involving my credit cards. So scampered off and I went onto my favourite bike accessories shop to pick up my boots. My very armoured boots.

Piqued says you shouldn't try and cut corners when it comes to your helmet (stop sniggering) or your boots so I ended up getting some pretty flashy shoes with all sort of armour plating and things. I've not been so pleased with an item of footwear since I was about eight years old and I managed to persuade my mother to buy me some shoes that left footprints that looked like a dinosaur. These new boots should last me a while and it's been really enjoyable slowly building up my biker gear piece by piece with lots of careful thought. I could wait and do it all in one go but where would be the fun in that?

It was a jolly pleasant stroll through town with the sun shining and even the football fans chanting outside the pubs and shouting at people as they walked by couldn't spoil the mood. I listened to a few old editions of I'm sorry I haven't a clue on my Mp3 player while I walked around as per usual.

I heard about the sad demise of Mr Lyttleton when I was walking back from the party. I hope that it wasn't a painful death and that he realised how much joy and pleasure he brought to so many people with his naughty quips.

Important lessions about hot tubs

My previous encounters with hot tubs have been rather rushed affairs. You will be at some bash and suddenly someone mentions there is a hot tub and before you know it you are flailing away in bubbly water with strangers. Hurrah!

Maybe it was the element of pre-planning that threw me, or perhaps it was just the rather chilly spring evening but I think the main reason that I didn't go onto the tub last night is it was packed with boys.

Chaps were absolutely stuffed in thing like a hairy game of fleshy Tetris. There were four boys in the tub for every girl, and it was a fairly small tub. While the odds may be rather good fun for the girls it would have involved a bit too much manly thigh pressing for my tastes.

One of the girls really did enjoy it, she was some sort of 'glamma model' or at least that is what she insisted on informing us of every five minutes and when the tub contained just her and two other chaps they engaged in some erm, well. I went upstairs for a cocktail with a lovely Iranian girl at that point.

We shared a few more drinks, talked about extreme sports, doing dangerous things and how we met the hostess of the party. At about 3am my new chum scampered off, but before she left she said I should have her phone number and the gave it to me. Which I found rather charming. No mixed signals there.

Downstairs the antics in the hot tub had continued but they still weren't very tempting so I had a brandy for the road and then ambled off home. Home at way past the curfew so I'm probably going to get quite a telling off when I next bump into the flatmate.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The dress code for hot tubs

I've not gone to many parties where there a hot tub is part of the entertainments. I've been to parties where a hot tub has ended up as part of the fun but not one where taking a bath with relative strangers is planned from the onset.

This presents some problems. I've got some excellent pants for wearing when you someone may just happen to see them (say when you arrive somewhere and end up going for an unplanned trip into the pool) but I don't really have the swimwear for hot tubs.

I've got a few pairs beach shorts from my time in Miami and some swimming trunks for when I'm going to the pool for a few laps (something I should do more often) but no swimwear for lounging around in an urban environment.

Should one go to the party wearing the swimming shorts? Or change when the hot tub moment arrives? This is the bit that is throwing me. It's a bit like planning a food fight, shouldn't a hot tub be something that happens off the cuff?

Oh well when faced with issues like this there is only one thing a chap can do. Employ the stiff upper lip and jolly well have another cocktail. It's what Winston Churchill would have done.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Bolivian

I would say the date was a resounding success, as first dates go. It kicked off in a cocktail place on Kingly Street. She ran a little late but I managed to amuse myself with some cocktails while I waited. We talked about all sorts of things like you do on first dates (horse whispering, the relative merits of ducks vs chickens and shopping) while drinking really quite a lot of cocktails.

She is from Bolivia (yes I know another South American girl, when will I learn eh?) and has absolutely stunning hair, an amazing figure and lovely eyes. She made me laugh a lot. The hours just flew by, which is nice as this was my first proper 'first date' in ages. I've been seeing people but it's been all very casual up until this point so it's been more of a bump into someone at a party, maybe go to an after party and then, well. Anyway this was different this was a 'lets go on a date' thing.

I must admit my dating skills had got a bit rusty, it's my own fault I suppose. Lack of use and all that but I'd forgotten how much fun it was. I like the element of surprise in it, the slight concern that they might not turn up or if they do they might say something awful. Once I was on a date when a girl started going on about how awful 'foreign' are. I didn't see her again.

After the bar stopped serving booze we drifted on to a late-night French place for a bit more wine. We equipped ourselves with a very reasonable bottle of white wine and spent a lot of time people watching, in a very giggly way. You get an interesting mix of types at these rare late-night places London so it's always fun.

When we had seen off the wine we found ourselves to be rather hungry so we went to Bar Italia for some late night food - I hadn't eaten since lunch time and despite my best efforts I appeared to be getting a touch drink. As usual it was buzzing with exciting types but at this point I got rather distracted.

This is because I was - with help from The Bolivian - trying to work out the acceptable places to kiss someone on a first date. It seems that the back of the hands and the cheeks are the only places that one should kiss on a first date. Nothing below the neck, nothing above the eye-line. I don't know why I started asking this but it was making me laugh an awful lot.

While trying to work out the relative levels of 'danger' of the neck vs the ears things ended up involving a practical demonstration. This is because we needed to set a standard value of kiss on the lips compared to kisses on other parts of the body. So in the name of scientific progress we kissed three times to start off with. Well this was for science.

The first kiss was a a quick peck (designated as a neutral or friend kiss). The next one was a slightly slower kiss with just the slightest dash of lip nibbling (this was a 'I don't think we are just friends' kiss) and then finally a proper slow kiss for five seconds, where there may have been a bit of holding the back of heads on my part. Well this is science, and it might have affected the validity of our testing if I hadn't shown her what a proper kiss was.

I could feel a her knees shake a little bit and she got all flushed on her face and neck which was deeply charming.

After a little further scientific testing it was time to amble home. After all I can't give it all up on a first date, I have a reputation to protect and a paper on kissing to submit to New Scientist.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Almost live date cam

Well appears to be going pretty well. We have gone to a little after hours place I know for 'just one more drink'.

Look at the interesting book I just found

Spring time in Soho with Spiderman

Ah, spring is definitely here now and I am going to mark the occasion by going on a date. A proper date with someone I've only met a few days ago. This is a good thing, in times of stress one must button up ones waistcoat, take a pretty girl out and jolly well have a martini. A full report of on the event will follow tomorrow.

In other news I just got a cheque from one of the newspapers I write for. It had 'Spider expenses' on it as part of the payment to cover my investment in a Spiderman costume. And it is an investment as I'm sure it will be jolly handy at some point in the future.

Heh 'Spider expenses' what will I manage to blag next?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

If in doubt, ask the Internet

It is amazing what happens if you just ask the Internet, in part my journalistic career (if you can call it that) is thanks to this blog and the lovely people who read it. It's a testament to asking the universe (or at least the interest) for things and seeing what happens. And since I'm a bit stuck at the moment I thought I'd give it another crack.

I want to write a book, well another book. A book about my father, cancer and motorbikes. It would be a moving book about the tricky relationships between fathers and sons - especially estranged ones - and how cancer forces you to change everything and to do tough things. Most of all it would be about how two people with very little in common can finally connect over a classic bike just before it's too late.

I think I could make it a very moving read, sad in parts but funny in others and perhaps it might help people who didn't really understand their fathers but wanted to get to know them all the same.

So I'm throwing it out to the Internet. If you can help me with this, hassle a friend who is an agent or mention it to a publisher you know please do. Or failing that just talk to a stranger on the bus, who knows what will happen.

Not being angry

I'm terrible at being angry. Or at least venting. I can count on the fingers of one hand the amount of times I've really expressed my anger at the person whose caused it. Actually thinking about it I would have quite a few fingers to spare so I could use them for counting something else.

Which is not to say that I live my life in a Buddha like state of calm, it's just that I tend to just blank people as an expression of disdain, perhaps with the occasional cutting remark. While this is ultimately very effective I do wonder if perhaps it wouldn't help to just get a little bit shouty. Every now and then.

For example, when someone I was going out with said something earth shatteringly horrible and tactless I was rendered speechless. When what I really should have done is really express how awful what they said was and how I was amazed that anyone I knew, let alone someone I was dating would ever say something that unpleasant. Instead I'm just left to fume about it for months, possibly years.

When I think about it there are quite a few people I'd like to have shouted at, the family members who sided with my father's second wife over the memorial, my old boss from the job I hated when I first moved to London or even a range of ex-girlfriends for a range of subjects.

Maybe I should make this part of Operation New Life? Finding my shouty voice and learning to use it. Oh and anyone who suggests I watch the film Anger Management can just fuck right off.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Foiled by feet

As I was feeling a bit blue I decided to do some shopping. Not just any sort of shopping, oh no. Shopping for bike paraphernalia. The next on my hit list were some stout boots. After a chat with Piqued about the sort of boots I should get and the minimum I should spend I set off to the bike gear shop. The proper bike shop, not one of the silly scooter places.

This is normally a pleasant enough amble through the streets of Putney, Fulham then Chelsea but as I appear to have a mild case of man flu it wasn't as agreeable as I had hoped. By the time I arrived I was in a bit of a state so I had to pause for a while on a nearby bench to catch my breath. Going for a walk didn't seems so wise.

Once inside the shop I got down to the business of buying serious footwear. The nice chap in the shop with the beard soon worked out the sort of boots I needed and I asked to try a pair on. Sadly this wasn't possible because my joke-sized feet were outside the sizing range they have in the shop. So I have had to order a pair in which isn't nearly as healing but they will arrive on Thursday so it's not too bad and I suppose that is another part of my biking uniform sorted.

Now I'm just going to retire to my bedroom with my mild temperature and try not to die of man flu.

The Gordian Knot

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Sadly I don't often have cause to quote Dickens but it seems very apt. My life seems to be split into the good and the not so good. My career is going quite well, and it lets me do all sorts of fun things in the name of reporting but it's not really providing an awe-inspiring income. I do okay, and I should definitely allow for the fact I'm doing something I love but it does concern me slightly that I'm only a few commissions away from being unemployed. There is no stability, some months I'll do really well but these seem to always match up with a bill or something dull like that.

I suppose this is the lot of the freelancer, constantly chasing the next story or assignment and who knows maybe today I'll get offered some regular work. Perhaps a column talking about misadventures and japes on the London scene, but until then I'll have to keep fighting away to find the next story.

Which seems to make it all sound a bit glum, and it's not, it really isn't. The money isn't quite what it could be, but then I've only really been doing this seriously for six months so I think I should give it a bit of time.

The really troubling part is grief. I'm not really equiped to deal with it. I suppose no-one is really and because of what I do I spend a lot of time thinking, which is exactly what you don't want to do when you are having a dark day.

The other thing that makes it troubling is that it's hard for people who haven't lost a parent to understand what it is like. It's a completely new and alien experience so if it hasn't happened someone they don't really understand it. This lack of comprehenision has caused some issues, especially in relationships.

I've got some great chums, I really do and I can talk to them about lots of things to try and sort them out but I think the problem with the dad related bits is I don't know what I want to express. It appears to be a Gordian knot of a problem and I can't conceive of an Alexander inspired solution.*

*He just chopped the impossible knot with a sword to undo it.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Lobsters and wine, oh my!

A few months ago I started Operation New Life, a co-ordinated effort to start out a fresh. To be reborn a fresh, or at least get back on track with my mission of foppish japes and dandy-style capers. Free from the smothering weight of a relationship I once more started saying yes to invites and adventures and trusting Life, and London to be an entertaining diversion.

Which is a slightly wordy way of saying that Operation New Life is coming on rather well, to the point where I don't believe the sort of nonsense I get up to. This weekend I've been swanning around members clubs of the literary set (The Woo's favourite person even appeared in smashing celvet suit), going to glamorous parties populated by a plethora of pretty girls in hot pants and reviewing amazing resturants with Balkarn Bombshells and Lithuanian Sexperts.

It's all jolly good fun, although I'm not sure people really should be asking my opinion of the best wine to go with the lobster.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Glove Love

Here are my marvellous motorbike gloves. They articulate pleasantly with just the right air of menace and I can't wait to try them out on a ride. I can't stop putting them on which is a bit silly as they aren't ideal for typing or making cups of tea. Admittedly that's not what they are designed for so I shouldn't really blame them for not being tip-top at such tasks.

I wonder if the company that made these gloves also makes cravats? I bet if they did they would be armoured cravats. I like the idea of a necktie that provides protection against impacts as well as making a chap look dapper.

Why bikes?

I talk about bikes a lot these days, possibly more than I do about gloves. Why this cosmic shift? You may ask if you are deeply bored. Well I think because bikes are connected to my father.

We didn't bond very well over many things. He was a horseman, a bike rider and in to the blues. While now I can talk to horses they will never be a passion for me. After an incident when I was nearly killed by one when I was about five I've never really clicked with them.

I can remember the incident quite clearly, and it was entirely my fault but it rather put me off them. It's not to say I think they are bad animals, and if I really think about it it's more that I just don't get on with the sort of people normally involved with them. I don't get on with horsey women.

So anyway, my fathers other key interests.

The Blues - Okay, and while it does bring back pleasant memories I don't think I could really spark off a proper obsession so I shall just leave it as something that will be always linked to my father working in his workshop.

Model train sets - My father used to build these every now and then, typically when he was stressed about something. They were quite impressive but again it was something that never really engaged me.

So given those two options it's not surprising I've got into bikes which is one of the things we used to do together when I was younger. The smell of two stroke petrol, super hot coffee and cold scrambled egg sandwiches will always remind me of when we went to a farm in the middle of no-where and would ride about.

More importantly, one of the last weekends I ever spent with my father was spent messing around with bikes - the bikes I've now inherited - and I got to see him ride the bike he made. For me it was a bit of a magical moment. When on the that bike he stopped being the rather elderly chap whose body had been messed up by cancer and the treatment to fight the cancer and suddenly he was the man I remembered. It was amazing to watch him swing his body about as he got the bike to hop up and down banks and over trees, it was almost like ballet.

So for me bikes aren't just a way of getting somewhere, they are a connection to something that is lost to me and when I'm riding one I feel just a little bit like my dad.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Vaguely positive punching

The search for absolutes continues. I just spoke to the person I was waiting for news from and while they were enthusastic various other things need to happen before I can get a definite answer, or to be more exact the news I'm waiting for.

So I should really get back to working on other things but instead I'm looking at motorbikes online and fretting needlessly. Not fretting about motorcycles, I know what I want out of them but fretting over news.

I even brought some bike gloves a few days ago. The Spiderman piece appeared in the paper and they had managed to chop out almost all the jokes leaving it rather dry. So I thought it would be wise to buy some motorbike gear to take the edge of the whole affair. It worked and now I'm the proud owner of some excitingly armoured gloves for riding in, they would also be quite good for punching people as well, but I imagine I won't use them for that very much.

I looked at bike helmets too, and tried on a few but I need to wait for my Spidermoney to arrive before I invest in that part of the gear.

In bed with a beagle

Well I've made it to Thursday, my plan of distraction seems to have worked.

Yesterday's activities to keep me busy mostly revolved around restaurant reviews. It was a pleasant way to spend the day, but involved a lot of time on public transport travelling between the places so I spent all of that thinking about how if I had a motorbike I'd be there now.

In the evening I went to a supper party and wine tasting. It was brilliant, lots of people laughing and the table was awash with conversations rather than just one person holding court. No one cried in the loos but that doesn't mean it wasn't a good party. Even more surprising, I appear to be starting to get some wine knowledge. All that time spent in my favourite wine shop is starting to pay off. Of course, I'm terrible with reds still, but I'm getting there with the whites.

I ended up crashing in the hostesses spare room - otherwise the curfew would have caused me to leave as things were getting good - and I've been joined by her beagle who is currently snoring loudly.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Beer and the wrong clothes.

The show was very good. Portishead were hauntingly strange as every and I think I may have now become a fan of The Last Shadow Puppets.

We went in a bit late because we were waiting for our friend to show us where to go. When we arrived at the studio we were plonked by her right in the middle of the audence at the front. Much to the annoyance of the people who had battled to stand there.

Our stay lasted about 30 seconds and then I was sent to the back for wearing a bit of white. This didn't trouble me as I didn't reallly want to be stuck at the front having to look interested just in case a camera swept by. So back we went like naughty school kids.

A few moments later our chum appeared and asked why we had been sent to the back and to bring us booze. She zoomed off again with a busy look on her face to find out what was going on while we drank beer.

When she reappeared we were ushered to some lovely chairs and given even more booze, it was brilliant. The rest of the show passed while we swiftly drank, at one point we had more than we could drink so we palmed a few pints off to a guitarist in one of the bands who was wearing a velvet suit. I felt like a dealer, albeit one in luke warm lager.

Once the show was done we scampered up to the sixth floor and drank more while eating crisps (which I now think is the king of party food) and talking to strangers. It was a lovely evening and I almost didn't think about the news I'm waiting for.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Queue to go in

We have inspected the tat stall and found it a bit lacking. Also I realise I'm not really meeting the dress requirements - you are supposed to be all in black and I have a white shirt with my waistcoat - so I'll probably be sent to the back.

I have to turn my phone off now, so the next post will be from the green room after the show.

Louche live at the BBC

We are freezing in the queue, plotting what we can do to get chucked out off the building.

The current plan is to do an Oliver Reed and storm the mic after too much gin, then run off and hide in the wardrobe department.

Spring and Jools Holland

Spring seems to have arrived, it's a tricky season to dress for as while the day may be pleasantly warm when the evening arrives it will be jolly chilly. So if you are going to go for an afternoon picnic you need to be careful. I've been caught out a couple of times wearing a light summer jacket when it's still cold in the evenings and I was forced to stop in every pub on the way home for a drink just to keep my body temperature up.

Yesterday I went to a restaurant with a friend to review it, I ambled into Knightsbridge to meet up with her and go to a little place tucked away on Beauchamp Place. The last time I was at this restaurant I was on a date with an adult actress we had been shopping in the area and ducked inside to avoid the rain. The restaurant was as good as I remembered, it's tiny and pleasantly strange.

About half the items on the menu have the name of a celebrity next to them to let you know which screen idol liked that pizza the best. We didn't recognise a few of the names but a swift check on the Internet revealed that one was a drummer in the Who (for a bit) and another was an actress.

After we ate I ambled home and fell fast asleep. I'm trying to keep myself busy as on Thursday I get some BIG NEWS (hopefully) and can't let myself think about too much. It's like a special sort of Christmas and I have to stop myself from looking out of windows and thinking about it.

Luckily the Woo is taking me along to a recording of Jools Holland's show so that should be a good distraction and tomorrow I've got a wine tasting, so the next couple of days should be just about bearable. Just.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The fish knife of mercy

I had a very nice weekend where I visited a friend for Sunday lunch. I used to make roasts all the time but as my current flatmate is a vegetarian it would be a bit impolite to fill the flat with the delicious mouthwatering tastes of a slow-cooking meal while you chop vegetables and listen to Radio 4. So instead I must sneak out to other people's houses to get my fix.

After a hearty meal we retired to the sofa to digest and talk of matters of importance. This was excellent and we talked about dinner parties, dating and other such things. I'm of the opinion that dinner parties with couples involved are horrible. You get a table full of people, half of whom don't really want to be there while someone odious holds court on either mortgages or quoting a television show. Being at a party like that makes me want to commit sepuku with a fish knife.

A dinner party of single people is entirely different, you have no idea how the night is going to end and so it's a little bit exciting. That doesn't mean you have to end up going home with a 'new friend' but it's nice to know it could happen. Mostly what happens is that someone will be sick and someone else will cry in the loo, but at least that's eventful.

So what I'm saying is that while I'm sure relationships are terribly pleasant for some people I think I'll stay away for now. Or perhaps I'm just babbling because I'm waiting for some news, some very important news and I just need to do something to not check my emails every 30 seconds.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Name a scary thing

If I were to ask you to list somethings that scare you, I'd imagine that sooner or later needles would be mentioned. While they don't inspire absolute terror in everyone they do tend to make people a little nervous, like clowns I suppose.

Anyway I was poodling around in the kitchen making some supper when I spotted an bottle of gin. 'Oh how lovely,' you might have said if you were the sort that speaks out loud to yourself. Then you would be given pause before you reached for the pretty dark green bottle.

Why you may ask? Not because it's empty. Oh no, because it's full of needles. It's positively brimming with hypodermic syringes. My flatmate hasn't taken up smack as a hobby, she has them about because one of her new beauty thingies to tan her skin involves injections. I can't decide if this is better or worse than smack. It's jolly alarming either way.

Maybe I'll pass on the martini tonight.

Phileas fogg and the over-developed sense of adventure

I like adventures, especially the sort that start off due to a wager or perhaps having a glass of brandy too many. People don't bet each other enough if you ask me. When was the last time you bet something? I mean not in the mechanical process of gambling in a casino, but actually wagered someone that they couldn't eat two dozen eggs or that you could lift them above your head?

I mention this because my new mechanical pocket watch is making me want to take up all sorts of bets. Sadly getting around the world in 80 days is well a bit easy these days, but I'm sure some other sort of suitable challenge can be found. Something with just the right amount of danger and top hats.

I doubt I'll discover it this weekend. I still don't have my replacement bank cards, in typical bank style they delivered them while I was in Spain and now they are somewhere in the mystical void. Still, nothing like a bit of hardship to focus the mind, or at least focus the mind on how much you really don't like the girl who 'borrowed' your coat for an hour with out asking so she could have a cigarette and caused all these issues.

I don't know if I'd even forgive Audrey Tautou for that.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Soho Village

Today was a bit of a strange one, Soho had turned into a little village. While walking to work I bumped into some chums who were seeking refuge in a members club on Shaftsbury Avenue because their Internet connection had blown up, but the one in the club was still working. I'm sure this was just an excuse to drink cocktails while typing away. It's a good way to spend time either way.

Then I met a lovely friend for lunch. She was a bit stressed but I think the healing power of luncheon helped her at least small amount. She works in Soho as well and we have been talking about going for lunch for months but today we finally managed it. It was a good lunch, we had hummus and I drank something strange that was supposed to be good for you if you had an injury. Then I walked her most of the way back to the office while talking about how boys are a bit disappointing.

After lunch I ambled over to see another chum at her restaurant. It was a bit of a flying visit because I had to scamper back to work but I was really impressed by the place. It's a proper old-school Soho restaurant. I will definitely be back to eat. I tried to blag writing about it for a feature but alas it's too well known to be included in the piece.

I'm back on the party circuit, there is a bash tonight in Kensington but I'm not sure I'm going to go. I still feel a bit strange but it would be nice to meet some new people. More importantly my new cards turned up (hurrah) and now I can't remember my P.I.N. What a berk.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Watch love

Since I've had a request to see the new watches, here they are. The one on the left has a mechanical movement which means I have to wind it up every morning. This simple action makes me smile for at least an hour afterwards.

Civilisation Crash

I have returned to London, I'm not sure I like it anymore, for a start there aren't nearly enough horses.

The final part of my journey home was rather unpleasant. I foolishly thought that a bus that took you smartly to the train station from near to your flat would also travel the same route in reverse if you caught the same number bus travelling in the opposite direction.

What a moron I was. Instead of being deposited a few hundred metres from my flat where I probably could have man-handled my luggage with the minimum of tears I had to jump off the bus before it got any further away from where I wanted to be and then had a slog of about a mile or so with my luggage. With my luggage and my bruised ribs. It was no nice and it seems to have made my injuries noticably worse but more on that later.

Once I'd dropped my bags off home I chucked on both my new pocket watches (decadent I know but I love them both so much I can't really take being parted from them at the moment) and joined some chums at the pub. It was a lovely pub visit of nonsense, inappropriate jokes, silly business ideas and even a light smattering of proper grown up conversations about serious issues. We scampered back to the train station singing, well inventing a very silly song together. I won't share it now because I think unless you were there it will be a bit strange. It was a marvellous trip to the pub and I collapsed into my bed excited and ready for the next adventure.

I woke up at about six am had to go and spend some quality time talking to the loo, then again twenty minutes later. Something was not agreeing with me and I couldn't even keep water down for more than a few minutes. This would be unpleasant enough but imagine if you will the sensation of having to be sick when your ribs are a bit wonky. It's like vomiting when your torso is contained in the jaws of a venus fly trap. My ribs are much worse today, I think because I had to heave luggage around so much.

I'm not sure entirely why, but I went to my meetings in the morning anyway and managed to get almost all the way into the Soho office with out having to be sick again. I was secretly a little impressed that I had any fluids left in me. Thankfully I was only steps away from the office at this point so I could clean up and change into the spare shirt I always keep there. It's for when one stays over night with a 'new friend' and has to go straight to work the next day. I also keep a wash-kit under my desk for the same reason.

Mildly refreshed I went to see another client but instead of working with them for a day I had to stay for only an hour because my stomach had managed to find further reserves and decided I needed to spend a bit more time getting to know the bathrooms of the London area. At that point I gave up and went home, thankfully my digestive system relented and I managed to slink back without anymore issues and fell fast asleep in my bed.

I feel a bit more human now but I still don't want to eat anything and my various action man assignments are going to be on ice until I'm back to the point at which I can do things like that. Amusingly, while I was enjoying my period of enforced fasting (it seems to be in vogue at the moment - check out Bete De Jour) I got a call from an editor asking me if I wanted to do some resturant reviews. Since smell is most of the eating experience I might be able to get away with it if I just sniff the foods, but I think the best solution is to drag along some friends to act as my tasters.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Chocolate, two watches and the long walk home

I spent the morning in Barcelona, hitting a few of the tourist spots before it was time to jump on a plane.

By tourist things I mean try the special hot chocolate drink of Barcelona. I read about in a news paper travel section at least ten years ago so there has been quite a wait before I got to sample the delights of it. It's thick, almost like wood glue and is just on the edge of being over-poweringly full of flavour. You have it with little bits of sweet pastry that are crisp and slightly soft on the inside. It was worth the wait. I may have to come back again just to have it.

After that we strolled through the streets a bit more, I wanted to buy some tacky gifts for friends. One toy bull and some fans later I was sorted.

We stopped for a moment so the smokers in the group could stock up I noticed a little shop tucked away in a side street. Sparkling in it's window was a whole array of lovely pocket watches!

I always think a new watch starts a new phase in your life, so I was delighted to find a replacement for my current watch which is slightly broken. I ended up buying two because I couldn't choose between them. A clear white-faced number for everyday use and a steam-punk one which is clockwork and I will only bring out on very special occasions.

I wonder what new phase of my life will begin now, I bet it will be an exciting one, it's bound to be with a watch this much fun.


The little foal has come along brilliantly, already the enclosure isn't big enough for him and he is forced to gallop in wide circuits around it while his poor tired mother has to try and get him to calm down.

He is very curious now, and when I was feeding is mother he scampered over to investigate me and taste my hair.

He still doesn't have a name but I expect he will earn one soon.

Goodbye mountains

My last day in the hills was a sad one, saying goodbye to the herd of horses was moving. The happy snorting animals had been a key part of my day, and everyday for the last week. And if a few hours I would return to my normal life in London.

Still, one last cowboy strength coffee would help me get through my goodbyes.

Monday, April 07, 2008

It's time to mosy on

I'm spending my final day with the horses. Sadly it's not going to involve much riding because I appear to have bruised my ribs and so jiggling around on a horse isn't a good idea. It's not that painful unless I sneeze, laugh or breathe.

Lugging heavy luggage around probably isn't a good idea either.

The horse pictured is the ever delightful Ebano. He is a lovely gelding who is far beyond my riding ability, not that he is a tricky ride. More that he is amazing at picking up commands from even the slightest movements. He has a very sweet, slightly cheeky character and he laughs with pleasure when I scratch the base of his mane.

I like that horse.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Earning my boots.

I've wanted some cowboy boots for a while, but until today I would have felt a cheat wearing them.

Today I learned proper horsemanship, and all the stuff I've been learning over the last few days clicked. I get it and I really started to understand the horses.

To celebrate this we went for a hack (ride) into the hills surrounding the stables, this was a pretty extreme ride that covered all sorts of ground and had sections that would be challenging to walk on let alone ride.

While jumping a ravine I had to raise my leg to avoid getting it caught on a tree and I had a bit of a dismount. It knocked the wind out of me and I landed hard but I got back on my ride. You should always get back on and the horse came back to see if I was okay which was very sweet.

Anyway, I not dead and I don't think I've broken anything but I'm quite messed up which may present an issue. I have got more action adventures to do when I get home and currently I struggle to put on a jumper, let alone a pair of cowboy boots.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

The end to a macho day

Today was a day of rugged man type things. I did the following.

Got two stones out of a horse's hooves using the special tool designed for this task.

Rubbed the new born foal down, to get it's circulation going. Incidentally the little chap is experiencing his first night, how mad must that be? The world going dark and not knowing why.

Foraged in the woods for wild veg, I won't say which one I foraged because it makes it less manly sounding. So let's pretend it was some form of deadly potato or man-eating turnip.

Fixed some fences, electric ones. The horses have been mashing them up because they can. They even test if the fence is working with their whiskers which is a bit alarming to watch.

Rode bareback, with my eyes closed and with my hands on my head at a walk, a trot and a canter. This is so I learn to balance from my centre and don't come to need such wimpy things a a saddle, or reigns.

Used my new found horse linguistic skills to get a horse to ask me to be it's leader. Then it followed me around.

Ate about a kilo of cured ham, if you tasted it you'd understand why.

Fixed an engine, okay so I just cleaned a filthly spark plug and cleared an air filter on my jeans, but it still counts.

Now it's time for some macho sleep, it's been a long manly day.

Another strange object

Is that a monkey skull?

I love how this house is decorated.

Louche solves your overdue baby issues

We have a new foal! Nena finally gave in and had a baby. She was very overdue but we used a special system to get her to finally give birth. It has a 100% success rate, and I will list the steps

Take the mother to be for a long walk and let her eat as much grass as she likes on the way there but not on the way back. Pat her a lot and tell her how beautiful she is in every language you can (I used English, Spanish, French and Japanese)

After the walk clean out her pen (or room if dealing with a human mother) getting rid of anything nasty and put down lots of lovely fresh straw. Mention how this is lots of work so the mother horse starts to feel guilty about not foaling.

Get very drunk while listening to Amy Winehouse with two gay chaps from Barcelona who used to work on a stud farm and now just ride horses for fun.

Drink wine, cava, Pimms and Moscatel while talking about how Amy was much hotter when she was shaped like a woman. Check horse often and try to look as disappointed as possible when there isn't a foal.

Go to bed absolutely trashed (check horse again and talk loudly about how you would get a better nights sleep if there was a foal) and with vague plans to visit Barcelona on Monday with your new chums.

Awake to find slightly wobbly but very healthy foal. Hurrah for the miracle of nature.

Friday, April 04, 2008

It's not quite taking a dog for a walk...

Meet Nena, she likes eating, being told how pretty she is (in Spanish of course) and not having her foal when she really should.

Maybe a walk will make her have her baby.

My local Mokka pot

The hills are covered in mist, my legs are covered in scratches. It's chilly but I'm sure things will warm up soon - the sun is already chasing the mist away.

I am making coffee on a gas stove powered by a canister. Almost everything has to be brought up to the farm, it isn't connected to a grid or anything like that. There is a spring for water and solar panels provide a enough electricity to power the lights in the evenings, and charge laptops. We don't have a T.V. Or a radio so I've been treating myself to a Radio 4 Podcast every evening before I go to sleep

Washing my hair in a spring has made it go a bit mad. If I get caught in the rain I get ringlets but my hair is now like the hair of an Edwardian Doll. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not. Ah well, it's nothing that can't be fixed by a strong coffee.

The horses have completely accepted me now, and I even got one to chuckle with pleasure as I rubbed it's neck. If only girls were this easy to please.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The final score, Fops 1 Mountains 0

Huzzah! I did it, I scaled the mountain (okay the quite high hill) and got down again alive. I even managed to do it with out having to eat grubs, drink my own wee or chew off an arm.

There were a couple of bits where I had to jump down to somewhere I couldn't see and the latter one caused a minor landslide with me included. My entire wardrobe flashed in front of my eyes. Thankfully the slide was rather half-hearted and after a bit the ground stopped moving and I could carry on my way.

The horses were very pleased to see me although I suspect that was more to do with me giving them supper than anything else. I like that about horses they are practical.


Okay, so this is definitely not the route I took up. I have my suspicions that I may have erm, become less aware of my exact location then I would like.

The merits of things such as maps are now becoming clear. The expedition is out of bread but supplies of suncream are plentiful. I wonder if the suncream as well as providing excellent protection from UV rays also protects against Wild Boar.

Almost there!

I can see the farm but I appear to have a sheer drop on all sides but the behind me up the hill.

The shadows are getting rather long now and I may have to just spend the rest of my days living off the land.

There are wild boar in these hills so maybe I can club on of those to death and turn it's skin into a fashionable sports jacket.

A record of my adventure

I have scratched into the ground 'a fop was here' and with that I shall begin my descent.

I have a feeling this will be more tricky than I thought. Still I have bread so I could always use that to signal for help if I get lost.


I have done it, I'm (probably) the first fop to conquer this hill in Catalona. The only sound is the wind through the threes and a slight nagging sensation that perhaps I should have memorised the route up a little better.

Mountain Goat, being a

Today is the day of the mountain. I am about half way up, far, far beyond the paths. The summit is within my sights.

Morale is high although perhaps it would have been wise to make my first attempt with a local guide. I have supplies of bread, fruit juice and some olives.

It is beautifully lonely up here, I could be the only person on the planet.

Larks, phones and cybercafes

I'm in a cybercafe in a nearby town. It's very brightly coloured and loud 80s rock is playing in the background. Jordie the owner of the cyber cafe and I have become good chums, well chums in that special way where you don't share much of a language but because you are chaps you don't need that much to get along.

It's pleasantly warm here, and everyone is very jovial. I like the relaxed attitude to things as well. I'm in a cybercafe but Jordie is fine with me just plugging my laptop in to one of their network cables and using that instead of their computers. I like easy going people.

I had to make my bed by candle-light last night which was a bit of an experience and this morning we had to herd up some naughty horses with the help of the St Bernard 'Bubba' who has adopted the family I'm staying with. He is a big dribbling monster of a dog but very good natured. There are two other dogs, a big sleepy one that looks like lassie and a very naughty mongrel puppy called Cyrus. Cyrus spends large parts of his day hanging off the tail of the St Bernard.

I realise now that I've also packed almost entirely the wrong wardrobe for this trip, my jumper selection is very limited (it gets quite chilly in the evenings because we are so high up) and I doubt there will be much call for a waistcoat while bimbling about on horses.

The stables I'm staying at believe in Natural Horsemanship. This seems to be about letting a horse be a horse. Horses should run free in a pack and spend all day grazing because that is what horses do. By forcing a horse to spend most of it's day in a stable and then feeding it a couple of high-energy meals you are making it not be a horse. All of the problems you can get with horses - biting and bad nature and so on seem to come from when they are made to act in a way that is un-natural to them. I'm not sure if I'm completely understanding the concept or explaining it very well but what I've seen so far is very compelling.

Once you get that horses should be allowed to be horses then you get onto the principle of working with horses. The idea is to get the horse to willingly submit to you being a leader rather than dominating it. My father believed in sort of the same thing with his horses and treated them accordingly. It took me an evening over a bottle of wine to understand the concept but now I completely get it and well it makes the other ways of treating horses seem a bit, well unpleasant.

It is time for me to leave now, but I'll be posting more by my phone which seems to be working well enough.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A hard days, erm writin'

My first full day in Spain has ended well, I have impressed the natives with my grasp of the internet and I've also taught the son of the couple I'm staying with the biscuit dance. This skill will serve him well in year to come, I know it's helped me in many a tight spot.

The horse contact today has been minimal, Although one did eat a bit of my hair. I've been welded to my laptop working away on my real life job but tomorrow I hand everything in and the riding can begin.

Apparently I'll start on bare back riding tomorrow (stop sniggering) as it's important to unlearn what I already know. This all sounds a bit like Jedi training to me and there are a suspicious amount of rocks around so I imagine I'll be stacking them as part of my training.

Oh and I've been advised to make sure I close the shutters at night because there is a bat that thinks it's sharing my room with me. That must be what the gun is for.

Another day at the office

Today I've been working on a property piece, about London property from half way up a hilll in Spain. It sort of proves that teleworking is possible, although I dread to think what my telephone bill is going to be like when I get home.

The horse in the background is due to give birth any day now, so we are on constant stand-by to deliver a foal.

I'll introduce the cast of horses tomorrow when I've handed in this piece. They really are a spiffing lot even if they have a bit of a habit of dribbling on a chap as a way of saying hello.

What else should a guest have to hand?

A sword, yup. If a guest is staying and they run out of bullets for the pistol they definitely shoud have an en-suite sword.

It's a sign of civilisation.

Who knows what I'll find next?

All mod cons

No glass in the window, candle light only but I do have a pistol so that's okay.

I like the sort of household that supplies towels and hand guns to guests.


A what a lovely day, just after taking this photo I noticed something strange in my room....

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Not a horse

It's the strange little things that I have started to notice now like the child's glove used to jam the kitchen door shut.

Outside is silent, not just quiet but like I've gone deaf. The stillness is a heavy blanket wrapped around you. There are boars in these hills and foxes so not making a noise is a survival instinct.

Every now and then you can hear a horse clopping about. The horses here run wild, the have a vast hillside to graze on and stay out during the nights. I met them yesterday for the first time. There was nine of them, in a loose herd. they were Horses with a capital H, untempered by conditioning or artificial training.

Part of the work they do on these stables is about helping troubled horses. There is an ex-prize winning horse here who they saved from death to try and rehabilitate - he had thrown lots of riders and was judged unsafe. Three years later and he seems happy and at ease but his life is a bit lonely. The years of strict conditioning and competition training mean he doesn't really know how to act like one of the herd so even though he is part of the herd he doesn't completely fit in.

The poor chap had forgotten how to be a horse, and when you see him eating alone slightly apart from the rest of the horses it breaks your heart just a little bit.

Do you speak Horse?

I'm somewhere in Spain, where exactly I couldn't say.

The farm is plonked in the middle of some beautiful hills, about ten kilometres from the nearest town. The room I'm staying isn't very high tech in a deeply charming way. It lacks any of the latest technology like plug sockets, light sources other than candles or even glass in the windows. To keep the cold out at night I have some wooden shutters that would also provide reasonable protection from crossbow bolts.

The horse training I'll be getting is far more advanced than I thought. I'll really will be learning how to understand the equine mind in a profound way. What I will be able to do with this knowledge I'm not sure. I mean apart from have extremely deep conversations with riders at dinner parties about what it really means to be a horse.

Anyway I must sign off now, it's been a jolly long day and I'm knackered. I have no idea if these posts are appearing, I send them out blind and the internet access here is, well I can send emails on my phone and that is it.

Phase one complete

I'm here now, they are playing jazz in the airport and outside I can see palm trees waving in the bright afternoon sun.

The editor I do most of my work for has been frantically emailing me about homework. I admit working from Spain will make it moderately more tricky but not impossible. I my reply I promised not to disappear into the foothills of Spain but now I'm here I'm tempted to break my word.

I've never been through such a relaxed customs hall and there is a pleasant ambling pace to everyone here. Outside it's pleasant, but the fiery heat of Miami or Dallas but just as refreshing.

Omens of travel

Well the trip got off to a troubled start, the people running the riding school I'll be staying at went dark. Zero contact. The last time I heard from them was a few days ago when I let them know my flight times and then nothing...

Due to this I spent most of the morning researching how to get from the airport to my destination while trying to work out the phrasing in Spanish for 'oh gosh, I'm rather lost' or 'please give me a lift to the horsey place, I have limited funds but can pay my way with style advice and quips'

On the bus to the airport I was feeling a touch nervous about the prospect of arriving in Spain and having to live for a week only on the funds I had with me - about enough for a fairly big night out London.

And then I noticed a girl. Now I could be wrong, and I'm almost entirely sure that she is in L.A. Filming but Dawn Porter - or her at least her London twin - was on the bus with me.

A minute after the riding school phoned, they will be at the airport. I think Dawn, or at least her stunt double will be my new sign of good fortune.

Oh and these posts may be a bit iffy, I'm doing them from my phone.