It would appear to be rev-chron Friday again.

Friday 29.

If all goes according to plan, my co-workers and I will soon be able to regularly avail ourselves of the services of a bona fide Reiki master, in one of the unused meeting rooms upstairs. Wow, how cool is my office?

Thursday 28.

While K meets a business contact in town, I do what I always do when he’s out of the house these days: burning CDs and importing them into iTunes. While simultaneously rating every tune which comes up on the Party Shuffle function, dragging particular favourites them into various themed playlists. Or else tidying up the standalone and “various artist” MP3s, by placing artist and genre titles in all the correct boxes. Once again, rock and roll brings out all of my darkest latent-Asperger’s librarian tendencies, as I obsessively mine order from chaos.

All I need now is my own iPod. And some portable speakers to go with it. And one of those FM adaptors that let you play it through your car system, or any other radio for that matter, without having to fiddle around with cables and input jacks. And then I will be happy, and freed from desire. In perpetuity.

Wednesday 27.

A quiet, relatively ordered day, enlivened only by a haircut and a fifty-quid-bloke visit to Fopp (Interpol, The Go! Team, Chungking). At home, still on his major folk/roots kick, K orders CDs by Oi Va Voi and La Talvera from a specialist world music store.

At the hairdressers, Ant and I discuss the slow stagnation of Nottingham’s gay scene. The sense of progress which characterised most of the 1990s has long since gone, as existing venues atrophy and a renewed sense of marginalisation creeps over everything. Not the marginalisation of an “oppressed minority” – for those battles have largely been won – but the marginalisation which comes with the realisation that vast swathes of us no longer need a gay scene, and have accordingly all but abandoned it. Consequently, there is now something curiously reductive about visiting a gay venue. It’s the feeling that rather than experiencing the freedom to “be yourself”, you are instead shutting down your options and selling yourself short; just another sheep-like punter in a dumbed-down temple of trash.

Still, there’s always dear old George’s. Thank God that there’s still one last bastion of polymorphously perverse Bohemia left in town, at least until it closes its doors for good in the new year. Then where will we all go to discuss contemporary Japanese cinema and trade stories of skanky blowjobs whilst tango-ing with trannies to Ethel Merman’s Disco Album?

Tuesday 26.

The meeting at the offices of the “well-known car company” near Schiphol airport goes quite splendidly – especially when I discover that I will not be required to spend three days a week in Paris between now and the rest of the year after all. A single day in Barcelona in the middle of November, and that should just about do it. (I’ll have to miss the Beta Band, but you can’t have everything.)

K rings me in the duty-free: could I let him know when I’ve landed, so that he can prepare the mise en place? Have you ANY IDEA how lucky I sometimes feel to have him as a boyfriend? Heart swelling with gratitude, I head straight for the Neuhaus chocolates. Which, if nothing else, is at least a step or two up from picking up a cellophane-wrapped bunch of mixed blooms from a garage forecourt.

Standing in the motionless queue at the gate, after numerous delays, I remind myself that none of this could possibly compare to the rigours of our journey back from the jungle this summer, via Porto Maldonado, Cuzco (where our connecting flight was delayed by a full day), Lima, Miami, JFK and Heathrow. Five flights, three days, minimal sleep, minimal food and drink, countless delays and frustrations, incompetent travel companies, surly cabin crew, ignorant and hostile immigration officials, lost baggage, a creeping feeling of absolute misanthropy AND the worst haemmorhoidal pain in six years. Hey, at least we survived. By comparison, this evening’s hour and three-quarters delay feels like a stroll in the park.

A couple of minutes later, a text flashes up from K. John Peel has died of a heart attack on holiday in Peru! As I read it out to my colleague, startled heads turn all around me before quickly snapping back into position, embarrassed at having betrayed themselves.

This news dazes and disorientates me. (Hey, Cuzco might have been grim, but at least we survived it; poor old Peely didn’t even get to see Macchu Picchu.) However, I carefully place any further reactions on hold until after dinner, when we switch on the telly. Shortly afterwards, I go upstairs and start scanning my regular blogs. Just about everyone I read has already posted a tribute to Peel. I scan wider; it’s the same wherever I go. Before I know it, it’s nearly 1am and I have been listening to Radio One’s tribute show for the past couple of hours, while wading through the mammoth discussion threads at ILX. I had no idea that Peel had meant so much to so many, for much the same reasons, at similarly formative times of their lives. It’s all a bit overwhelming. I resolve to write my own tribute in the morning, when my reactions have settled down a bit. (Yeah, like that was ever going to happen.)

(My personal pick of the Peel tributes: Caitlin Moran in The Times; Momus; Mo Morgan; Pete Ashton; Blogjam; “favourite Peel quotes” thread on ILX; digest of further links at No Rock & Roll Fun. Update: a superb late entry from Hydragenic.)

Monday 25.

The flight to Amsterdam is half an hour late, but I’m used to that: in my experience, roughly two-thirds of Bmibaby flights to and from Nottingham East Midlands are delayed by 30 to 40 minutes.

I’ve booked a hotel on the Rembrandtsplein, only a few doors down from the same Irish pub where I first met Caroline back in March. We pick up where we left off, discussing Bono and blogs and travel and music and politics and food and ooh, y’know, Life. I recommend the Hidden Cameras, whose current album would be sitting at #1 on my “We Listen” chart if only I could be arsed to update it.

(Everything about Mississauga Goddam suddenly fell into place on the day after Elisabeth and I saw them in concert at The Social three weeks ago. Before, I thought it was a pale retread of The Smell Of Our Own. Now, I think it’s the superior album by some distance. If you’re curious, then start with Builds The Bone, one of the most mysteriously beautiful songs of the year.)

Caroline (whose pioneering and consistently worthwhile blog turned five, yes five, years old this week) gives me the background gossip on the recent unearthing of Bono’s missing notes for the October album; a story which first came to light via her U2log fan site. However, as scoops go, this is as nothing compared to her promised… no, perhaps I shouldn’t really talk about that yet. I’ll let you know if and when it happens. Soul of discretion, that’s me.

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Rev-chron diary, bashed out until the cut on my right forefinger becomes too painful to bear.

Thursday 21. Received a substantial offer of compensation from our mortgage provider, the Northpoint Mortgage Lenders, having previously lodged an official complaint with them regarding our poorly performing endowments. All K had to do was copy and customize a standard letter which he got off the web. Money for old rope, basically – and a highly recommended course of action, if you think you might be affected. Because £8300 (from £66k worth of endowments, taken out 12 years ago) is most emphatically NOT to be sniffed at.

Update: There’s more information here, and the standard letter generator can be found here.

Enjoyed a meal in a Polish diner with long-estranged old friends, newly re-united in grief over former guest blogger Alan’s permanent departure from Nottingham. (Right now, Alan doesn’t know whether he’ll end up in Shanghai or Southampton – although at this precise moment he is airborne, travelling from Brussels to his home in Cape Town. Selfishly, I’m kinda hoping for Southampton.)

From the menu, which is something of an extended eulogy to The Delights Of The Pig, I choose tripe soup (surprisingly palatable, given that I was expecting a Major Taste Challenge) followed by pork steak stuffed with ham and cheese; this latter because I felt strangely drawn to its tautological perversity. (“Yes, what that Dead Pig needs is a bit more Dead Pig; it will lift the flavour…”)

Polish beer is between 5.5% and 6.7% in strength, and is served in 500ml bottles. We all had two. And that was after the introductory shot of Polish vodka. And that was after the pre-dinner gin and tonic. And that was before the post-dinner pint in the Sir John Borlase Warren. And that was before the “nightcap” gin and tonic up the road. Yes, well. We had a lot of catching up to do.

Wednesday 20. Preview of the annual East Midlands Contemporary Arts Auction at the Lakeside Arts Centre. If you’re going: we liked the hyper-realist painting of the piles of green bank notes and slightly melted coins. (Funny, that.) We also liked the photo of what looked like a submerged lido on the beach at Broadstairs (although we would have liked the photo to be a bit bigger).

Afterwards, a drink with Dymbellina and Dymbel, who was due to be interviewed on Radio 4’s Today programme the following morning. (You can find out what happened on his blog.) Dymbel also gave us a signed pre-release copy of his new Young Adult Fiction novel, which – thrillingly – mentions our village in Derbyshire by name. (The heroine’s mother lives there, in what the heroine scathingly refers to as a designer “cottage”. Note the stealthy use of quotation marks, if you will. It’s OK though – we’re old friends. Besides, at least I don’t live in Derby, memorably described a couple of pages further on as “the armpit of the Midlands.” Heh.)

Update: Just finished it. Superb, powerful, affecting stuff, and one of his very best.

Finally finished Matthew Parris’s superb Peru travelogue, Inca Kola, which – despite having been written in 1989 – still perfectly captures many aspects of the experience of being there.

Tuesday 19. Booked a week’s holiday in Thailand for late November, staying at the celebrated Banyan Tree near Phuket. Because frankly, we both need a proper holiday, rather than another “experience”. (Peru, as you might have gathered, was not without its rigours. Maybe I’ll tell you about it some day.)

Picked up a useful personal recommendation for a non-NHS therapist; this might well be the way to go. (Although it has to be said that the wobbles have abated considerably over the past two weeks.)

Watched Fahrenheit 9/11 on DVD, having missed it at the cinema. Despite some heavy-handedness and the occasional misfire (e.g. the harrowing but still somewhat pointless scenes in front of the White House, where a weeping mother grieves for her dead son), this packed some mighty punches, refuelling all of my anti-Bush ire.

Monday 18. !!! (a.ka. Chk Chk Chk) at the Rescue Rooms, which had become Trendy Hairdo Central for the night. Like the Ordinary Boys a couple of weeks earlier, this was another 1981 Revisited experience – particularly in the case of the support band (Spektrum), who both looked and sounded like something off Dick O’Dell’s Y Records label (ask your trendy uncle), and could have fitted happily on the same bill as Rip, Rig & Panic and Maximum Joy (ditto).

However, likeable as they might have been as individuals (“Ten out of ten for sheer exuberance and energy”, as my old music teacher might have said), Chk Chk Chk still have a long way to go and a lot more to learn. Specifically: songwriting skills (as opposed to endless ten-minutes-plus jam sessions), rhythmic and melodic invention (as opposed to a thick, stodgy soup of clattering percussion and chukka-wukka-wukka white-boy-funk guitars), light and shade (instead of relentless full-tilt-at-all-times intensity), and emotional depth (instead of over-enthusiastic and ultimately wearing calls to party on down). The unavoidable comparisons with Stop Making Sense era Talking Heads ultimately worked against them, as did the too-much-too-soon cult success of last year’s punk-funk anthem “Me & Giuliani Down By The Schoolyard”.

F***ing OWW! My poor forefinger! Enough already.

Question 16: Life on the Edge. Featuring a SURPRISE GUEST BLOGGER.

Jo asked:

How on earth do you get those crisp sharp edges on your garden beds at the country house? Hmmm? I can never do it here. Never.

To be frank, Jo: it’s a mystery to me as well. As lawn-mowing and edge-trimming is strictly a job for grown-ups, I leave that sort of thing to K. Besides which, maintaining the perfect lawn – along with making the perfect cup of coffee – is one his great passions in life. It would be churlish indeed to encroach upon his territory.

However, the question is an important one, and deserves a full answer from a proven expert in the field. So, for Jo, and for everyone else who has asked over the last year (cuz lemmetellya, us edges are LEGENDARY), I shall hand you over to K.

The next voice that you hear will be K’s.


Life on the Edge.

Try the combination of:

  • Nail scissors (straight blades only).
  • Set square and ruler
  • Advanced yoga techniques such as this:

 

yogamant

For special occasions, eg. Gardens Open Day, a magnifying glass is also recommended.

As an alternative, and slightly more practical approach try:

  • Cheating. I can recommend the combination of an internationally renowned garden designer with a penchant for strong perpendicular lines, plus an expert ground force team to lay the perfect lawn with immaculate edges. From this starting point pure fear is an excellent motivator to maintain perfection.
  • An obsessive, compulsive nature which places the pursuit of precision over personal happiness.

Once you have lawn and lunatic in harmony, the following maintenance techniques should be applied on a weekly basis.

  • The edge of the lawn must be totally vertical and no less than 5 cm deep – beds have a tendency to encroach, so push the soil back with the back of a hoe.
  • Edging shears must be razor sharp and held at precisely 90° to the lawn edge. They should only remove the grass, under no circumstances should they cut into the soil at the lawn edge.
  • For the ultimate finish, I cut the edges first one way and then cut again in the opposite direction – sometimes directional tufts remain from the first cut which are removed by the second.
  • Remove all the grass cuttings by hand after finishing with the edging shears.

Enjoy, and please send me the photos!

Questions 13 to 15.

Three questions from Lyle:

13. What do you want to be when you grow up?

AAAUUURRRGGHH NO DON’T ASK ME THAT QUESTION YOU MUST NEVER ASK ME THAT QUESTIONANY QUESTION BUT THAT MY PILLS MY PILLS I CAN’T FIND MY PILLS…

…and calm.

Shall we indulge in a little dream scenario? Oh, I see no harm in that.

The Guardian, October 13 2009.

Writer, columnist, critic, patron of the arts – and, on the eve of his much anticipated screen acting debut in the self-penned Forty In Forty Days, potential movie star in waiting – Mike Troubled-Diva greets us at the door of his surprisingly modest Barbican apartment. (“Most of our clutter lives in Derbyshire” he explains, his characteristically self-deprecating smile never far from his lips, as he leads us through to the tastefully appointed sitting room.)

Mike shares both his city and country addresses with K, his partner of nearly twenty-five years’ standing. Best known for his groundbreaking work in the field of animal cancer diagnostics, K has recently begun to scale down his day-to-day business interests, in order to devote himself more fully to the couple’s shared passion for seeking out and championing the freshest talents in the world of contemporary painting. (Mike and K’s Troubled Arts gallery, less than ten minutes’ walk from their apartment, continues to go from strength to strength.)

It is difficult to believe that, just five years ago, Mike’s creative output was known only to the readers of the Troubled Diva weblog, which he continues writing to this day. (“I’m afraid that the content has been a bit sparse over the last couple of weeks”, he mutters, distractedly stirring the freshly brewed pot of Earl Grey.)

So, you know, realistic goals and all that.

14. PDMG – a thing of wonder, or more bloody hassle than it’s worth?

This might sound horribly haughty, but what the heck.

Since our decision to have a garden was freely entered into of our own volition, tending the PDMG rarely feels like a hassle. One particular motivating factor: since both the design and the construction are of such an exceptional quality, we feel a certain sense of duty to the original creative vision, and to the people that were responsible for implementing it. To let the garden slide into an unkempt, weed-strewn wilderness would be a wanton act of vandalism that we could never countenance.

(Besides, since almost all the garden is visible from one point or other in the surrounding streets, the disapproving clucks at Gardens Open Day would be too much to bear. We are an essentially self-regulating community.)

Furthermore: the exercise and fresh air are good for effete drawing-room fops such as ourselves; the regular tasks have a certain therapeutic quality; the learning curve forms a pleasant ascent (give or take the odd bump); and regular physical contact with the constituent parts of the garden allows us to acquire a deeper knowledge, and thus to forge a deeper bond.

(Observe, if you will, how hearty son-of-the-soil words like “forge” and “bond” start creeping into my prose at times like these.)

In fact, so enamoured of the PDMG are we that we have just commissioned PDMG #2: The Nottingham Version. With the building plans already completed, that familiar anticpatory tingle has already started to kick in.

15. Will we ever see Mike TD entering Eurovision for the UK?

One of these days, I’ll record and post an MP3 of me wheezing and croaking along to the instrumental version of “Ooh Aah… Just A Little Bit”. Then you’ll have all the answer you need, matey.

The Professionals.

From 1977 to 1978 (The Boarding School Year Zero Maoist Punk Rocker Walking Oxymoron Years), I kept a series of diaries in small hardback notebooks, written in a light-hearted, semi-public manner. Proto-blogs, if you will. These I referred to, in an early flash of the faux-pompousness that would in later years become my defining global hallmark, as my “memoirs”.

Since, like so many other of the Chaps in the Dorm, I was still BIG on clever-clever Python-esque surrealism, the fourth volume of the memoirs bore the Deeply Satirical title The Exciting World Of Accountancy.

(Yeah! People with jobs = brainwashed sheep! Of course, I didn’t know then that I would end up working for 13 years in local government IT. Ah, how the heady idealism of youth is dashed upon the rocks of the pragmatism of adulthood. Or something.)

Round about this time, the British army was running a series of recruitment advertisements with the slogan: The Professionals. If you’ve got it, we’ll bring it out. This provided all the inspiration I needed for the back cover art of The Exciting World Of Accountancy.

Despite being thrown into the garbage by my wicked stepmother in the Great Cultural Purge Of The Early 1980s, the memory of this back cover has for some reason remained with me ever since. Having recently reconstructed it for Demian’s Guild Of Guestbloggers Fortnight, I am surprised – and somewhat disconcerted – at the accuracy of the resulting image. Like looking at an apparition from a bygone age.

This is FAR too long a build-up for a piddling little doodle. But then, to my eyes, it’s a rather poignant little doodle.

profess400

Question 12.

Clair asked:
If you could play any film character, who would you be and why?

venicetI’d like to have a bash at playing Gustav von Aschenbach in Death In Venice, please.

Although the cross-generational aspect of his unrequited, hopeless desire is not something to which I personally relate, Aschenbach’s doomed plight struck a major chord with me many years ago, when I was still in the grips of my own similar obsession. Now that I am approaching the appropriate age for the role, I find that I rather fancy the idea of slowly rotting away in a deck chair, hair dye oozing down my forehead, to the strains of Mahler. Elegant, ridiculous decay, at once sublime and absurd: there’s something really rather delicious about it.

(The fact that Bjørn Andresen’s Tadzio bears a disquieting resemblance to the object of my own desire, and that Dirk Bogarde’s von Aschenbach bears an equally disquieting resemblance to my first boyfriend, only serves to heighten the perversity.)