Write Like A Diva: the deadline loometh.

Whenever I launch these overblown interactive blog stunt competition type thingies, I am invariably put in mind of a rock singer launching himself into the outstretched arms of the crowd below, secure in the faith that they will stop him from falling straight to the floor.

Except that, rather than feeling secure in that faith, I’m usually fretting that maybe this will be the one where everyone steps aside and watches me do myself a nasty injury.

Up until now, these fears have always proved to be groundless. But every run of good luck has got to stop somewhere; and from where I’m standing, I’m not seeing too many hands.

Hmm, I’m starting to go off this metaphor. Anyway, all of this is a needlessly convoluted way of saying that, um, I’ve not exactly been deluged with entries in the Write Like A Diva competition (see below for a full explanation). Just in case you’ve been putting it off, then I should remind you that the deadline for submissions is midnight tonight.

Come on now; I can’t be that difficult to imitate. Here’s a checklist: long rambling sentences (with occasional short ones for effect), overuse of adverbs, lots of parenthesised digressions, sentences starting with prepositions, self-deprecating self-aggrandisement (or is that self-aggrandising self-deprecation?), sarcasm and smut, the occasional unexpected burst of tear-jerking sentimentality, plenty of Big Words, plenty of Unnecessary Capitalisations In The Middle Of Sentences, lists-a-go-go, that hyphenating-words-together-thing which screws up the table design in Firefox every now and again (although we must obviously all stick to the accepted doublethink which holds that this is still All Microsoft’s Fault)… ooh, the list is endless. (Oh yes, and I use “oh yes” and “ooh” quite a lot.)

So, yeah, piece of piss basically.

Come on, readers. You don’t get summink for nuffink on this site. (Well, you do, but that’s not my point.) Allay my fears! Give a little love back! Don’t make me beg! Let’s see those hands! You can do it! Yeah!

I shall stop now, before I morph into Saira from The Apprentice. But, yeah, you have until midnight.

The Troubled Diva Parallel Universe Top 40.

A quieter week than usual on the chart, with just five new entries. (You should hear the crap they’ve given me to review for next week’s Stylus column. Or maybe that’s my job: to wade through the crap, so that you don’t have to.)

Rachel Stevens hangs on at Number One, with a rapidly rising Kylie nudging her vigorously from behind. The Bees bag the highest new entry, Nick Cave has the highest climber, and it’s Goodbye to The Futureheads, Verbalicious, DJ Earworm, Girls Aloud and Ciara featuring M.I.A.

This week’s general trend seems to be towards Proper Grown Up Music, with new entries in the Top 10 from Mercury Rev, Rufus Wainwright, The Arcade Fire… and, yes, Antony & The Johnsons (featuring a guest appearance from Lou Reed).

And while we’re back on the subject of everybody’s favourite shaven-headed warbling arthouse androgyne, perhaps I should blog the following exchange from yesterday evening.

(Or perhaps I shouldn’t. After all, there has been quite enough of this sort of thing recently.)

(No, stuff it, who cares.)

Mike: Yes, I know he’s preposterous, but it is all still rather lovely at the same time. What’s so great is that you can come at him from so many directions.

K: So long as you aim for the tits.

Mike: Yes! From behind his head… straddling his legs… sideways on… diagonally… he doesn’t mind! He’ll just “accept and collect” it all anyway…

Oh dear. Where has all this low-grade smut come from? Must be the sap rising in the springtime. Tee-hee, “sap rising”. Shall we have that chart, then?

1 (1) Negotiate With Love – Rachel Stevens
2 (6) Giving You Up – Kylie Minogue
3 (7) 10 Dollar/Pull Up The People – M.I.A.
4 (4) Brown Eyes – Kano
5 (12) Fistful Of Love – Antony & The Johnsons
6 (2) No Sleep Tonight – The Faders
7 (3) Oh My Gosh – Basement Jaxx
8 (14) Neighborhood #2 (Laika) – The Arcade Fire
9 (11) The One You Love – Rufus Wainwright
10 (19) Across Yer Ocean – Mercury Rev
11 (-) Chicken Payback – The Bees
12 (15) Get Right – Jennifer Lopez (featuring Fabolous)
13 (5) Stay With You – Lemon Jelly
14 (8) Too Cold – Roots Manuva
15 (10) Random – Lady Sovereign
16 (13) They – Jem
17 (9) (Is This The Way To) Amarillo – Tony Christie
18 (36) Get Ready For Love – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
19 (32) It’s Like That – Mariah Carey ft Fatman Scoop & Jermaine Dupri
20 (-) My Friend Dario – Vitalic
21 (16) Go Gone – Estelle
22 (21) Just A Moment – Nas featuring Quan
23 (18) Bring It Back Again – The Earlies
24 (30) Banquet – Bloc Party
25 (26) I See Girls – Studio B featuring Romeo
26 (-) In Public – Kelis featuring Nas
27 (28) Little Sister – Queens Of The Stone Age
28 (20) Bring ‘Em Out – T.I.
29 (-) Finding Out True Love Is Blind – Louis XIV (*)
30 (37) Let Me Love You – Mario
31 (23) Yeti – Caribou
32 (34) Don’t Say You Love Me – Erasure
33 (22) Krafty – New Order
34 (25) Rich Girl – Gwen Stefani (featuring Eve)
35 (27) My Heartbeat – Annie
36 (29) Living The Dream – Million Dead
37 (24) Used To Love U – John Legend
38 (33) Whoopsie Daisy – Terri Walker
39 (-) Why Do You Love Me – Garbage
40 (40) Just Let Go – Fischerspooner

(*) A guilty pleasure, which has been “bubbling under” for the past couple of weeks. Thoroughly reprehensible on one level; curiously enjoyable on another. I’m not proud.

Oh, and while I’m here, and before I forget (because I really should have posted this two weeks ago), a Hot Musical Tip for you. Straight from the mouth of James B, who is currently running the Club NME nights across the UK, and who is never wrong about such things: The Magic Numbers. You heard it here first!

Plus, if unsigned bands are your thing: Fear Of Music and Long Blonde. No, me neither. But you still heard it here first. (Do you get the sense that I’m trying to manufacture another Scissor Sisters moment?)

The Easter holiday, in numbers.

Visits to garden centres: 3.

I know; how tediously Bank Holiday of us.

Types of plant that need replacing, exactly as per the original planting plan by the famous garden designer otherwise what’s the bloody point, it would be like scrawling a moustache on the Mona Lisa: 4.

  • Chianti rose (the nearest we could find was House Red, ha ha yes how apt).
  • Clematis flammula (small white flowers, strongly scented, late spring).
  • Dianthus doris (otherwise known as “pinks”, and seemingly available in every colour other than pink, the Chatsworth garden centre having racks and racks of a nasty two-tone effort called “Alan Titchmarsh”, ooh dear me no I don’t think so).
  • Sisyrinchium (probably spelt wrong, but CBATG).

Replacement plants successfully found in garden centres: 0.

Apparently – although we didn’t realise this at the time – all the cool people obtain their plants by mail order; picking stuff up at garden centres is considered terribly declassé. (To say nothing of the inflated prices.) This confirms my long-held suspicion that garden centres are every bit as indefensibly soulless and ghastly as out-of-town DIY superstores. It also helps to explain why I regress to Sulky Foot-Dragging Adolescent Mode every time I enter one.

Plants actually bought in garden centres: 2.

A diddy little Alpine to fill in a crack, and a bright yellow lily for indoors. And I’ll tell you this for nothing: that Chatsworth garden centre’s a dismal dump, and no mistake. Minuscule range of stuff; everything’s just plonked down any old how, without any coherent alphabetical system to guide you round; dying and/or dead plants everywhere; and nobody seems to care. And yet people flock there, because it’s on the Chatsworth estate and so must automatically be marvellous. Sheep!

Bags of mulch applied to garden: 8.

With two more to be applied next weekend. I’ve become quite adept at chucking my muck; crouching down low helps, as does using smaller handfuls over smaller areas. That “standing up and spraying it everywhere” approach isn’t as good as it first looks.

Applications of Crabtree & Evelyn’s Gardeners’ Hand Therapy cream: 4.

Oh, the scars and welts and calluses! These dainty Drawing Room hands weren’t built for heavy manual labour.

Daily pedometer readings screwed up, due to the “reset” button accidentally being pressed by my overhanging belly whilst in a crouching, muck-chucking position: 2.

That “abdominal jut” of mine is clearly developing a mind of its own. In my opinion, K found this unnecessarily hilarious.

Easter chocolates eaten: 0.5.

A Lindt bunny rabbit in white chocolate, with a ribbon and an actual ringing bell attached round its neck (there’s class for you). K was all for smashing its head in; I opted for an infinitely careful removal of the foil wrapper, followed by a delicate prising apart of the two halves. Sensing K’s hostility, the bunny rabbit wreaked a posthumous revenge by triggering his ever-increasing lactose intolerance. As a result, white chocolate must now be added to the ever-growing list of Banned Items, where it joins Second Cups Of Tea and the Duchess Of Devonshire’s Passionate Carrot Cake.

Meals out: 3.

1. A fantastic meal at the newly refurbished, revitalised and thoroughly gastro-pubbed Druid Inn at Birchover, subsequently described by our similarly excited journalist friend as a “benchmark for Derbyshire”. In particular, the terrine of pressed ham hock, rabbit, chicken, foie gras and duck (served with finely chopped home-made piccalilli and a slice of fried French bread) was an unqualified triumph, and the single best dish that K and I have eaten in months.

2. A disappointingly mediocre lunch at the newly refurbished and thoroughly blanded-out restaurant at the back of the Chatsworth farm shop. How the farm shop can sell the finest foodstuffs known to man, while its restaurant can dole out insipid toasted sandwiches served with titchy bits of under-dressed salad and (worst of all) crisps was quite beyond us. To say nothing of the twenty minute queue for a table (shared with two strangers) and the ten minute wait to place an order. Still, lovely views of the estate and all that.

3. A well tasty bit of fresh turbot at the Bowling Green pub in Ashbourne, served with a Hollandaise sauce, beautifully plump pieces of asparagus, and crinkly chips done just so. The Bowling Green may never win plaudits for its interior design concept (think Berni Inn traditional), and the menu may stick to tried and tested “pub food” combinations, but the fish is brought in daily from the highly regarded Manchester fish market, the chef knows exactly what to do with it, and his jolly Lebanese wife on front-of-house makes you feel welcome and relaxed as she takes your order. We’ll be back.

People socialised with: 4.

All from the village; we decided against having anyone to stay this time round.

(Aside: when they come for the weekend, why do most of our city friends insist on adopting wildly geographically inaccurate “comedy” rural accents? “Da-a-a-a-arby-shoire!” And whatever makes them think that everyone in “the countryside” speaks the same way in the first place? I blame the media.)

People socialised with who thoroughly enjoyed the new Doctor Who: 3.

(But then we never got round to asking the fourth.)

Oh, what utter bliss from start to finish! And there are twelve more weeks of this stuff to come, you say? Russell T. Davies, I kiss you!

DVDs watched: 1.5.

Couldn’t get on with Hedwig And The Angry Inch, despite its appealing subject matter; perhaps it was the music which put us off the most. (Rock musicals: always a dodgy proposition.) However, Heaven passed the time acceptably; difficult to dislike anything starring the radiantly beautiful and patently intelligent Cate “OK, if you gave me a million quid then actually I probably would” Blanchett.

Lines of her Guardian Weekend column read, before having my weekly J— R—— Moment: roughly 15.

Although this week’s was more of a slow fizzle into boredom, rather than the usual hands-in-the-air shriek of affront.

(Incidentally, although there were no further pronouncements upon the vexed issue of “shorts with tights”, I noted with interest the article pronouncing the death of the low-waisted hipster look, just five days after I had predicted a “sea change” in this area. God, but we’re zeitgeist.)

Books read: 0.26.

Having ignored Dymbel and Dymbellina’s advice to put some time aside and read it in large uninterrupted chunks, I confess to be struggling quite badly with Ian McEwan’s Saturday, and its relentlessly detailed (and almost entirely plot-free) dissection of one day in the life of a not-terribly-interesting London neurosurgeon.

“Sixty-nine pages in, and he’s only just put the f**king kettle on for f**king breakfast!”, I wailed to K as we sat up in bed on Saturday morning, cups of tea by our sides. “And then he spends a whole f**king paragraph meditating on the advances made in the design of the f**king kettle!” As for the seventeen-page description – literally shot by shot – of a squash game, it nearly did for me entirely.

However, since Ian McEwan is one of the tiny handful of authors whom I “follow”, I’m determined to keep faith. Sooner or later, a reason for all of this tedious accumulation of detail will emerge; and when it does, all the slogging will seem retrospectively worthwhile. After all, look at Captain Corelli’s Mandolin: a joyless trudge for the first 120 pages, before it blossomed into something wonderful. And look at Hollinghurst’s The Line Of Beauty, which I was initially so keen to mock, before its quietly devastating ending lodged into my brain (where it haunts me to this day, off and on). So perserverance will out.

Deadlines missed: 1.

Let’s just say that events conspired against me. Although I could have turned in half-baked rush-job crap, I chose not to. This will not happen again.

Blog postings: 1.

(But not on this blog. Only worth clicking if you like experimental art-prog sound collages.)

(All still with me, then? Yep, thought as much)

Songs whose lyrics gave me and K recurring fits of the giggles all weekend: 2.

(Readers of a more delicate disposition may prefer to stop here.)

First, there was K’s impromptu in-car re-wording of Jimmy Ruffin’s Motown classic, What Becomes Of The Broken Arses.

Tried to shit/but only farted“, he quipped. Improv genius. We giggled all the way home.

Second, there was that solemn declaration in Fistful Of Love by the increasingly preposterous-sounding Antony & The Johnsons (whose album I take less seriously with each hearing):

I accept, and I collect, the memories of your devotion on my body.

Which, when you think about it, is just a fancy way of saying “Come on me tits, and I’ll promise not to wash it off.

(We’ve taken to wandering round the house doing warbly impressions of Antony & The Johnsons. “Woo-oo-oo, I’m a m-a-an! But I’m a gi-i-rl! But I’m a ma-a-an! But I’m a gi-i-rl! Tiptoe, through the tulips, with me-e-e!“)

Times I felt oppressed by an impossible “to do” list of Important Tasks: 0.

Mission accomplished, then. So many Bank Holidays fail to deliver on their promises. But for once, this one did.

Write Like A Diva: a competition for the Easter break.

Last August, Faustus M.D. hosted a marvellous “Blogalike” competition on The Search For Love In Manhattan (*), the rules of which I am about to rip off wholesale. (You may call it theft; I prefer the term “memetic”.)

Two months ago, Joe.My.God compiled an equally marvellous series of reminiscences from his readers, entitled “Gay Gayer Gayest“. Yup, I’m ripping him off too. But hopefully to amusing and diverting ends. Which is all the justification one needs, obviously.

The rules of the game are as follows. I’d like you to compose a blog posting in the style of Troubled Diva, on the subject “Gay Gayer Gayest”. In other words, I’d like you to forge a personal reminiscence, in which I tell you the story of my Gayest! Ever! moment. While you are doing this, I’ll be writing my own true reminiscence.

(Note that this won’t be the same story as the one I lazily recycled for Joe’s blog. In retrospect, it was a poor choice. That’s another reason for running the competition: to tell a better story.)

Next Friday, I shall post all of your forged stories along with my own real one, but without revealing who has written what. I shall then ask people to vote for the entry which they think is the real one, i.e. mine.

The person whose story receives the highest number of votes will win a beautiful, hand-tooled set of “Bloggers’ Disco” mix CDs, all properly track-banded and not compressed down to crappy old 128.

However, if my story receives the highest number of votes, then I get to give myself a prize.
(A nice shirt, probably. It’s been a while.)

Please e-mail your entries to mikejla at btinternet dot com.
The closing date for entries is a week today: Thursday March 31st.

You should also bear in mind that I’ll be posting your entries exactly as I receive them; I won’t proof-read or spell-check. To this end, I suggest that you DON’T write your entries in Microsoft Word, as its annoying fancy punctuation marks will be a dead giveaway. (I almost never write entries in Word, you see.)

To make things a little easier for non-bloggers who don’t speaka da Haitch Tee Hem Hell, I’ll add one more small rule: please DO NOT use any HTML formatting in your entries. No bolds, no italics, no links, no nuffink. Just good old-fashioned text.

Have fun! And have a great Easter!

(*) Faustus would like me to point out that the idea for his “Blogalike” competition was originated at Upside-down Hippopotamus (an excellent and well-written blog, which I should read more often).

The Troubled Diva Parallel Universe Top 40.

One of the perks of doing your own “parallel universe” chart: rather than waiting for record companies to choose singles off your favourite albums, you can simply crack on and choose them for yourself. This explains both the double A-side from M.I.A., and this week’s second highest new entry from Antony & The Johnsons.

Meanwhile, Rachel Stevens has this week’s highest climber, shooting all the way from Number 33 to Number 1. With Kylie Minogue as the highest of ten new entries, we bid farewell to singles from G4, Tom Vek, The Bravery, Handsome Boy Modelling School, Dizzee Rascal, The Mars Volta, Portobella, British Sea Power, The Subways and LCD Soundsystem.

Oh, shut up. I’m having fun.

1 (33) Negotiate With Love – Rachel Stevens
2 (10) No Sleep Tonight – The Faders
3 (1) Oh My Gosh – Basement Jaxx
4 (11) Brown Eyes – Kano
5 (2) Stay With You – Lemon Jelly
6 (-) Giving You Up – Kylie Minogue
7 (13) 10 Dollar/Pull Up The People – M.I.A.
8 (12) Too Cold – Roots Manuva
9 (3) (Is This The Way To) Amarillo – Tony Christie
10 (4) Random – Lady Sovereign
11 (18) The One You Love – Rufus Wainwright
12 (-) Fistful Of Love – Antony & The Johnsons
13 (8) They – Jem
14 (-) Neighborhood #2 (Laika) – The Arcade Fire
15 (16) Get Right – Jennifer Lopez (featuring Fabolous)
16 (-) Go Gone – Estelle
17 (7) Hounds Of Love – The Futureheads
18 (14) Bring It Back Again – The Earlies
19 (-) Across Yer Ocean – Mercury Rev
20 (6) Bring ‘Em Out – T.I.
21 (-) Just A Moment – Nas featuring Quan
22 (9) Krafty – New Order
23 (21) Yeti – Caribou
24 (22) Used To Love U – John Legend
25 (19) Rich Girl – Gwen Stefani (featuring Eve)
26 (-) I See Girls – Studio B featuring Romeo
27 (5) My Heartbeat – Annie
28 (25) Little Sister – Queens Of The Stone Age
29 (36) Living The Dream – Million Dead
30 (-) Banquet – Bloc Party
31 (15) Don’t Play Nice – Verbalicious
32 (-) It’s Like That – Mariah Carey ft Fatman Scoop & Jermaine Dupri
33 (28) Whoopsie Daisy – Terri Walker
34 (37) Don’t Say You Love Me – Erasure
35 (30) No One Takes Your Freedom – DJ Earworm
36 (-) Get Ready For Love – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
37 (34) Let Me Love You – Mario
38 (29) Wake Me Up – Girls Aloud
39 (23) Goodies (Richard X remix featuring M.I.A.) – Ciara
40 (35) Just Let Go – Fischerspooner

The Troubled Diva Keep Fit Club: progress charts.

The first chart shows the actual number of steps covered each day, by myself, K, Peter, Asta and Rhys.

The second chart plots the average number of steps per day. This will eventually become a rolling seven-day average for each participant.

(As you can see, both K and I have just dropped below the recommended average of 10,000 steps per day. A temporary blip, no doubt.)

If you want to join the club, then please leave your daily pedometer reading(s) in the comments.

Update (1): With all of yesterday’s totals now collated, I discover to my horror that none of us has a running average of above the recommended 10,000. This simply will not do. Come on, team! Look lively!

Update (2): Well, at least one of us is trying. (Tough love! You’ll thank me for it eventually!)

Update (3): Hmm. This is actually quite hard to maintain on a daily basis, isn’t it…

tdfit01 tdfit02

The Troubled Diva Keep Fit Club.

So, yeah: let’s all keep fit by, er, counting things! And “thinking thin” while we’re counting them! And viewing the results on a nice little graph! And getting all competitive about it while we’re doing so! Because that will work!

If you would like to join the Troubled Diva Keep Fit Club, then please leave your daily pedometer readings in the comments box below, and I’ll do the necessaries in Excel.

Here’s how K and I have been doing so far.

Thursday March 17.

Mike – 9370 steps. Total boosted by an Early Doors drink which seamlessly morphed into a Late Late Doors, involving several lengthy treks from one end of the city centre to the other. (The Central to home: c. 2000 steps.)

K – no figure available. A night out at the opera with the Posh Crowd saw K removing his pedometer for aesthetic reasons. Well, would you match claret-and-grey with a maple-coloured corduroy suit? (You would? You don’t happen to work for Guardian Weekend, do you?)

Friday March 18.

Mike – 7946 steps.
K – 7897 steps.

Neck and neck all the way, with the lead regularly switching throughout the day. Mike’s narrow win was assisted by taking the scenic route to work, via the Park Steps (a keep fit programme in their own right), and by climbing the full 11 storeys to the office (200 steps a pop).

Saturday March 19.

Mike – 10277 steps.
K – 13415 steps.

Mike got off to a flying start by “helpfully” offering to walk down to the village shop on K’s behalf. (K usually does Saturdays, and Mike usually does Sundays.) Happily, K did not spot this patent ruse until it was too late. Bingo! 1200 extra steps!

K then regained the competitive advantage by visiting Sainsburys in Ashbourne unassisted, while Mike wrote his singles reviews for Stylus, and by preparing an elaborate three-course dinner for four while Mike skived off put the finishing touches to the article.

After the dinner guests had departed and K had retired to bed, a sneaky late night “I’ll show him” impromptu disco-cum-speed-walk to the Bloggers’ Disco playlist yielded Mike less than 2000 extra steps, before exhaustion set in.

Sunday March 20.

Mike – 12734 steps.
K – 11201 steps.

On an otherwise sedentary day, both totals were significantly bumped up by a late afternoon walk along the High Peak Trail. In almost exactly one hour, Mike clocked up around 7500 steps. Unfortunately for K, a slight pedometer slippage en route meant that valuable steps remained uncounted.

Daily averages so far.
Mike – 10082 steps. K – 10838 steps.
I’d say that was too close to call, wouldn’t you?

Reminder: to join the club, please leave your figures in the box below. I’ll make a graph available later in the week.