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.

I have bought a pedometer!!!

The portents were unmistakable. On Tuesday night, a surprise phone call from a long-lost friend, who displayed all the evangelical zeal of the newly converted. On Wednesday morning, the surprise discovery that even Peter had embraced the concept. The planets were in alignment; the hour had come. Thus it was that by Wednesday lunchtime, I too had joined the massed ranks of the pedo-philes. (Note to self: you need to find a better expression that this. Come back to it later.)

In any case, how could I possibly resist a keep-fit regime which principally revolves around counting things (just think of the spreadsheets), and one which rests on such an alluringly simple binary absolute? 10,000 steps a day = a healthy constitution, you say? Arbitrary illusionist nonsense, you say? Oh, quite possibly; but then, like reiki, if you choose to imbue a ritual with meaning, then it takes on that meaning.

Desperate times call for drastic measures. The “incipient” pot belly which has dogged me since the end of the 1990s can no longer be passed off as a temporary swelling, and I can no longer cling to the delusion that I somehow possess a “natural” 32-inch waist. Those smart Hugo Boss “going out in” trousers which I bought in December, with the more “classic” higher waist? I’ve worn them twice. The physical discomfort I could cope with, but as for the Friar Tuck/Figure 3 profile: one can only spend so many hours clenching one’s abdomen without risking a nasty rupture. Sure, the fashionably low-slung bum cleavage look has served me well for the past four years, but I sense a sea change in the air. Adapt and survive, and all that.

Basically, I need to break the linear progression of the last twenty-five years. In 1980, I skipped around in skin-tight 28-inch drainpipes. In 1990, my white jeans measured 30 inches. By 2000, I had progressed to a still reasonable 32 inches. But that’s where the progression stops, do you hear? I refuse to go any further! It shall not happen!

And then there’s the new horror of the “incipient” double chin, which sneaked up on me literally overnight, giving me the most almighty fright when I looked in the mirror the following morning. Again, I deny its existence! I am not going to turn into my father!

(Who went from skinny-as-a-beanpole in his teens, to being nicknamed “Fatman” behind his back in his forties – as I accidentally found out while temping in his office one summer. Things You Don’t Say In Front Of The Boss’s Son, Lesson One. I had never seen a roomful of people look so sheepish.)

But why should any of this matter? Metabolisms change, and it’s not as if I’m particularly bothered about my pulling power these days. Hey, if push came to shove then I could always rock the Daddy Bear look. (OK, the lack of body hair might be an issue, but I dare say some suitable variant could be worked out.)

I’ll tell you why it matters. It’s because of that sylph-like boyfriend of mine, that’s why. Because, no matter what he eats, K never puts on so much as a spare millimetre. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to be known as “the fat one”. Competition, you see.

The secret of K’s dieting success is a simple one: due to a long-undetected lactose intolerance, he has historically enjoyed the benefits of a speedy and efficient digestive system, shall we say. This means that most of his food doesn’t really hang around long enough to be converted into blubber. I know, I know: couldn’t you just spit with jealousy? But then we can’t all be blessed with such good fortune.

However, now that the lactose intolerance has been detected, and all dairy produce abandoned (save a single splash of milk in his morning tea, strictly one cup only or else there’s trouble), I sense a window of competitive opportunity beginning to form. With K now facing the same risks to his waistline as the rest of us, it’s time to seize the initiative.

Sure, there were other slimming options, but I have ruled them all out. Drink less beer? This would have been possible, until the unexpected and joyous return of former guest-blogger Alan to Nottingham about three weeks ago.

One of the great joys of Alan’s return is that once again, I can enjoy the regular company of a reliably available midweek drinking partner. (K doesn’t “do” city pubs, still less gay ones, and most of my other erstwhile midweek drinking partners have long since de-camped to lives of suburban sobriety.) To know and love Alan is to know and love beer, you see. Lots of it. Usually until stupid o’clock chucking-out time in The Central, for Alan has as much of an aversion to “getting an early night” as I have. Yes, I know that other drinks are available: but pub wines are shite, too much gin makes me weepy, and too many Vodka Red Bulls make me hyper. So we have to find new ways of making room for the beer.

Go to the gym? My refusal to countenance this is one of the touchstones of my identity. Along with a liking for rock gigs, an abhorrence of Gaydar, and an enjoyment of the social company of heterosexual men, it is one of the few ways in which I successfully avoid being a total Big Fat Gay Stereotype. Christ knows I’m narcissistic enough already, without paying good money to be even more so. To say nothing of the pain, the humiliation, the lack of intellectual stimulus and the (shriek!) sports wear. (The very thought!)

And don’t even think of suggesting that I abandon my large whole-milk lattes at lunchtime. Because I’d rather be clinically obese than drink another f**king disgusting soy latte ever again in my life.

Which just leaves my last hope, the pedometer. OK: as fashion accessories go, they’re a bit naff (what the hell matches with claret and grey anyway?), but then it’s nicely concealed at the top of my belt by the Friar Tuck overhang, so I’m not too concerned as yet.

It does seem a bit on the generous side with its counting, though. Wiggles, shimmies and pelvic thrusts all tend to bump up the total, so I’m having something of an overhaul in the deportment department. However, I can at least offset these against my morning ablutions, which will remain uncounted until someone develops a waterproof model on a garter, suitable for wearing in the shower. (Little business opportunity for someone there.)

We’ve got a matching his-and-his set, naturally. K was initially a bit concerned about getting them mixed up, until it dawned on us that as they get reset to zero every night, there’s not much point in forming specific attachments. It’s not like toothbrushes. And by the steady stream of texts, e-mails and phone calls I’ve been getting over the last couple of days (“What are you up to? I’m on 3000…“), I think he’s taking it even more seriously than I am. Ah, you can’t beat the competitive spirit.

9370 steps on the first full day, I’ll have you know. Not bad! That belt’s feeling looser already. Excel here we come!

A Tree Needs A Poem.

From: K
To: Dymbellina
Subject: A Tree Needs A Poem

Please don’t think this presumptious of me, but last night I was shown a tree which is ripe for a poem. If you think this is a stupid idea, the tree is still worth a detour in the evening.

I was having a drink in The Bell (Market Square) with T– H—– who is Chairman of the Nottingham Wildlife Trust. As we left, he pointed out the tree which is directly in front of the pub door. Initially I couldn’t understand why he was bothering, it just looked like a tree that was beginning to come into blossom like so many other trees at this time of year, the blossoms being on the higher branches. T– insisted that I look again. The tree wasn’t in bloom, it was full of hundreds of Gray Wagtails, all sitting perfectly still. When you look around, you realise that this is the only tree in the city centre in which the birds roost. It turns out that they like to be in the city during winter months because that’s where the insects are during the day. The entire population of Nottingham only ever roosts in this one tree because it is higher than all the others, giving the birds a feeling of safety above the marauding hordes!

Do take a look, they are there from dusk till dawn, remaining perfectly silent and still the whole time so very few people notice them.

Enjoy!

K.

Update: Here are the Grey Wagtails, as of Monday March 22. According to the guy from The Bell, they were a bit thin on the ground this evening; maybe this was due to the warmer weather.

wagtails1 wagtails2

The Troubled Diva Parallel Universe Top 40.

I’m going to run this chart every Thursday, until one or more of the following things happen:

a) I stop listening to so many singles. (This is a current by-product of doing the weekly reviews for Stylus.)

b) There is no longer enough interesting stuff to fill a Top 40. (We seem to be going through a bit of an upswing at present; things will no doubt level out again sooner or later.)

c) My ever-growing interest in quote-unquote “world” music takes over entirely, thus extinguishing my interest in pop.

d) I get bored.

e) I grow up.

It’s going to work like a proper chart, with new entries, highest positions, weeks on chart, and most importantly of all, climbers. Remember them?

Chart positions will be based on the fickle ebbings and flowings of my personal taste, combined with numbers of listens and general timeliness.

Most entries will be either current or forthcoming UK singles releases, plus a few “hot” MP3s, and anything else which takes my fancy.

While some of the lower positioned singles might not be five-stars excellent, all of them will at least have some redeeming qualities. Crap singles won’t make the chart at all, no matter how many times I might have to endure them for reviewing purposes. (Goodbye 50 Cent! Goodbye Beck! Goodbye Natalie Imbruglia!)

There will be room for novelty hits (Hello G4!), and songs which I know full well that I won’t be listening to in two months’ time. (Hello Mars Volta!) Such is the ephemeral nature of pop.

This week’s new entries are shown in bold type. None of this “straight in at number one” nonsense, either. On my chart, you’re going to have to work your way up through sheer hard graft.

1. Oh My Gosh – Basement Jaxx
2. Stay With You – Lemon Jelly
3. (Is This The Way To) Amarillo – Tony Christie
4. Random – Lady Sovereign
5. My Heartbeat – Annie
6. Bring ‘Em Out – T.I.
7. Hounds Of Love – The Futureheads
8. They – Jem
9. Krafty – New Order
10. No Sleep Tonight – The Faders
11. Brown Eyes – Kano
12. Too Cold – Roots Manuva
13. 10 Dollar/Pull Up The People – M.I.A.
14. Bring It Back Again – The Earlies
15. Don’t Play Nice – Verbalicious
16. Get Right – Jennifer Lopez (featuring Fabolous)
17. Bohemian Rhapsody – G4
18. The One You Love – Rufus Wainwright
19. Rich Girl – Gwen Stefani (featuring Eve)
20. Ain’t Saying My Goodbyes – Tom Vek
21. Yeti – Caribou
22. Used To Love U – John Legend
23. Goodies (Richard X remix featuring M.I.A.) – Ciara
24. An Honest Mistake – The Bravery
25. Little Sister – Queens Of The Stone Age
26. The World’s Gone Mad – Handsome Boy Modelling School
27. Off 2 Work – Dizzee Rascal
28. Whoopsie Daisy – Terri Walker
29. Wake Me Up – Girls Aloud
30. No One Takes Your Freedom – DJ Earworm
31. The Widow – The Mars Volta
32. Vive La Difference – Portobella
33. Negotiate With Love – Rachel Stevens
34. Let Me Love You – Mario
35. Just Let Go – Fischerspooner
36. Living The Dream – Million Dead
37. Don’t Say You Love Me – Erasure
38. It Ended On An Oily Stage – British Sea Power
39. Oh Yeah – The Subways
40. Daft Punk Is Playing At My House – LCD Soundsystem

Good morning Nottingham! In which Mike milks his moment in the media spotlight for all it’s worth, and then some.

The first unlikely confidence booster came from the local newspaper hack.

Despite the fact that he had originally e-mailed me out of the blue – meaning that he was the one that had wanted to speak to me – and that I was merely returning his call, the hack (after he had worked out who I was, which took a while) seemed fairly bemused that I was even talking to him. Not only bemused, but openly bored and faintly irritated.

As our desultory, lacklustre conversation progressed, it became clear that he was expecting me to “pitch” to him in some way. As I was almost totally indifferent as to whether his paper ran a story on me or not, my “pitch” was not exactly an enthusiastic one. My growing resentment at his arrogantly misplaced assumptions didn’t exactly help matters either.

Terse, grudging questions ensued.

“So what are blogs anyway? I’ve never heard of them.”

You know what? I could quite cheerfully never answer this question again.
(We’ll come back to this again later.)

“And you’ve entered some sort of competition, have you?”

No. I was nominated for an award, by other people. I have already explained this to you at least twice. Please stop calling it a “competition”. It makes me sound desperate.

“What’s the organisation behind the awards?”

It’s just one bloke in the States, actually. There isn’t a big organisation; that’s part of the whole appeal. But now you’ll think it’s just some tinpot sad-sack geekfest, won’t you?

“What do you win?”

If I tell you that the prize is actually a Prisoner Cell Block H DVD, then all of your assumptions will be confirmed. I’m not even going to give you the satisfaction.

“Are you going to win?”

I don’t know. I doubt it. I’ll find out after 19:30 this evening.

That gave him his get-out clause.

“In that case, someone from this paper may contact you after 19:30 this evening. If you win.”

He couldn’t get rid of me fast enough after that.

(Incidentally, I wonder whether he checked the front page of the BBC News site today, and spotted the link to a detailed report on the Bloggies. As Julia Roberts said in Pretty Woman: BIG mistake!)

Instead of leaving me feeling belittled (as might have been expected), I found that our exchange had an immediate and opposite effect.

Firstly, it freed me from any lingering desire for further coverage in the local press. After all, darlings: when one gets to my level of media visibility, one can afford to pick and choose.

Secondly, it removed any danger of being stitched up, in the manner of last weekend’s extended sneer in the Scottish Sunday Times. Paranoid? You betcha.

Thirdly, and most importantly, it made me realise that everybody I had talked to at the BBC had been uniformly interested in the subject, positive about covering it and making something good out of it, and generally on my side. This last realisation reassured me greatly.

(Although I still hadn’t forgotten K’s humiliating experience on the Radio Nottingham breakfast show from seven or eight years ago, when the presenter departed from the agreed brief and tried to do a John Humphries hatchet job on him and his business. If they were going to ambush me with snarkiness, then I would be ready for them.)


The second unlikely confidence booster came yesterday evening, with the announcement of the results.

“Live at #BlogIRC on irc.turlyming.com”, they said.

Sorry, did you say IRC? Wow, talk about Old School. I had last encountered IRC (Internet Relay Chat) in 1996-97, when I briefly installed it, summarily decided it was a knocking shop for sociopaths, and quickly uninstalled it.

Quick history lesson. Before the all-conquering Gaydar came along, IRC had been the hot place for gay men to chat, cruise, make dates, and indulge in frenzied one-handed typing in multiple windows. For some people I knew, this was pretty much all they required from the shiny new Internet.

“If this is the Information Superhighway”, I warned one newly obsessed neophyte, “then you’re stuck giving blow-jobs in the trailer park”.

Even now, K and I refer to Gaydar as the Trailer Park. Hey, who needs the gay scene any more, when you can be ignored, rejected, strung along and generally treated like shit by superficial w*nkers in the privacy of your own home? Such progress!

So yeah, IRC. Once I had finished installing it, and going round and round in circles trying to work out how the hell to access the #BlogIRC channel, a good half an hour had passed. On eventually joining the channel, I swiftly realised that I had crossed the line between “fashionably” and “hopelessly” late. With all the blog-celebs having already departed in their virtual limos for their virtual after-parties (I hear that Defamer‘s was quite the hot ticket this year), I was left stumbling over virtual streamers, virtual empty champagne bottles and virtual drunks slumped in virtual corners, trying to find out just what had happened (and running into a similarly bewildered Diamond Geezer along the way).

Eventually, news filtered through. Fourth out of five by the looks of things, although it wasn’t entirely clear whether the runners-up were displayed in order of votes cast, or merely in random order. In which case, maybe I could claim to be second equal. No, I wasn’t fooling myself nor anyone else. Fourth it almost certainly was.

So why was this a confidence booster?, I hear you cry.

(Well, actually I’m hearing you cry: For God’s sake, get on with the bloody story, do you think we haven’t got other blogs to read, what is this, bloody Proust, I’ll give you bloody recherche du bloody temps perdu, any more of this and I’m bloody billing you, mate.)

OK, I’ll tell you why. Because limping home in fourth position meant that for the radio interview, I could settle back into the familiar role of Humourously Self-Deprecating Under-Achiever. Thus, instead of trying to put myself forward as some sort of poster boy for British blogging, I could instead slip into line with all the other Plucky Runners-up for which our country has become so famous. (One word: Eurovision.)


Upon arriving at the Radio Nottingham studios this morning, I was escorted upstairs to a small waiting area just outside the studio. And standing in the middle of the waiting area, who else should I see but…. Robin Hood, in full gear, with tunic, boots, sword and hunting horn, looking as if this was the most natural thing in the world. Only in Nottingham!

(Actually, working only a few doors down from the Tales Of Robin Hood heritage centre, and therefore regularly bumping into Robin Hood, Maid Marian or Friar Tuck nipping out to Saint James’s Street for their lunchtime cobs, this was the most natural thing in the world. I scarcely batted an eyelid.)

Yes, I was being “bumped” again – although only for ten minutes or so this time round – in order to make way for a “surprise” entrance for Mr. Hood, who “stormed” the studio unannounced in order to…

…well, in order to advertise for his replacement, actually. With the current Mr. Hood swanning off to Hollywood in order to work as a fight choreographer for the likes of Angelina Jolie, a vacancy has arisen down at t’heritage centre. Applicants should submit their CVs to Tales Of Robin Hood, 30-38 Maid Marian Way, Nottingham, NG1 6GF. Not a bad career path, is it?

Eventually, I was ushered into the studio alongside mid-morning presenter Jeff Owen, who was due to take over from breakfast presenter Karl Cooper at the top of the hour. (You see how easily I slip into the vernacular?) Before my interview began, Karl and Jeff spent a couple of minutes indulging in the sort of cheerful banter which is traditional in the run-up to changeover time.

The conversation soon settled upon my earworm of the week: Tony Christie’s newly re-released (Is This The Way To) Amarillo. According to Karl (who should know about these things), this is currently outselling every other record in the Top 20 put together, and is thus a dead cert for Number One on Sunday. Talk about conversational home territory! By this time, I was smiling and nodding and making “oh really, how interesting” faces all over the place, and really getting quite impatient to join in.

Jeff went on to reminisce about how Amarillo had been used to advertise a certain brand of sherry in the 1970s, except that he couldn’t quite remember the brand of sherry. There was a fractional pause while he ransacked his brain… and while I resisted the almost overpowering urge to butt in with a quip of my own.

“Maybe it was Is This The Way To Amontillado, Jeff?”

Oh, how Nottingham’s ribs would have been tickled! All the way from Beeston to Bestwood! From Clifton to Chilwell! From Holme Pierrepont to Hucknall! From…

…but it wouldn’t have been right. After all, I hadn’t even been introduced yet. Best leave the joshing to the pros. Mentally gagging myself, I awaited my turn.


“So, Mike… what is blogging?”

The dreaded question. The question which I had fluffed so badly during Saturday’s phone interview. The question which I had been sweating about ever since. The question to which I had constructed a hundred and one elegantly informative answers in my mind.

All of which had one thing in common. The expression “reverse chronological”.

Because how else could you explain the one thing – the only thing – which unites all weblogs, regardless of content?

Except that I had just realised that “reverse chronological” was quite the wrong expression for the Radio Nottingham audience. Too dry, too academic, too wordy.

Which meant that I needed to come up with another answer. Like, NOW.

As all of the above thoughts, and many more besides, passed through my mind (like: Wow, do you think they’ll notice the POOLS of sweat which my palms have ALREADY left on the table after just three or four MINUTES, I mean how EMBARRASSING is THAT?), time slowed down to an infintessimal crawl.

“Errr.”

“Blogging…”

“…IS…”

Dead air, folks. As tumbleweed rolled over the studio floor, so K – listening to the live stream in his office, not much more than two minutes’ walk from the studio – felt a sharp surge of terror.

But somehow – and this is where my memory of the interview almost completely packs up on me – I stumbled to the end of the answer. God knows what I said, but at least I said something.

And from then on, it was plain sailing. Having crossed the biggest hurdle of them all – the “what is blogging” question – I wasn’t stuck for another single word. As Karl and I bantered about the Bloggies, and the virtual awards ceremony, and whether I had come fourth or “second equal”, and about how pleased he was that I’d linked to the show (“I know you need the traffic”, I quipped), and about the exhibitionist tendencies of bloggers in general, so I found myself – quelle surprise! – actually enjoying myself.

Darlings, I could have danced all night. They practically had to drag me out of that studio. But I was just getting into my stride! Sod the news! I’m on a roll here!

As I wandered through the city centre to the office, the strains of (Is This Way To) Amarillo blasting through my iPod, it was all I could do not to start swinging my arms, Peter Kay style, and greeting the early morning shoppers with a smile and a wave.

Good morning Bulwell! How’s it hanging, Arnold? Coming atcha, Top Valley!

Eamon? Natasha? Get those sofas plumped up! Michael is ready for you now.

“It was an honour simply to be nominated. It was an honour simply to be nominated. It was an honour simply to be nominated.”

<tight brave smile>

Warmest congratulations to the ever-wonderful Francis Strand of How To Learn Swedish In 1000 Difficult Lessons, winner of this year’s Best Gay Bacon Lettuce & Tomato category at the Bloggies. (It rather looks as if Troubled Diva hobbled home in fourth place.)

Wildest, most frenzied congratulations to the newly cerised Zoe, for winning in the Best European category for My Boyfriend Is A Twat.

Big respect to Tom Coates, not only for his traditional win in the Best British category, but also for picking up the Lifetime Achievement award.

My commiseration curry awaits downstairs. Thanks to everyone who voted for TD. It’s been Real, people!

</tight brave smile>

A wholly unrepresentative and unrepentantly biased mini-guide to some selected Nottingham blogs of note.

Unrepentantly biased, in that I have restricted my list to a) blogs which I already know, b) blogs which have linked to this site, or c) bloggers who have left comments on this site. As the artist Jenny Holzer once said: abuse of power comes as no surprise. But since there’s a certain amount of local interest in Troubled Diva right now, it seemed like a particularly good time to big up my homies and spread the love.

  • 1000 Shades Of Grey
    “Whilst temping a few years ago, it occurred to me that going to the loo at my employers expense was a cunning plan, and my body has now broadly conditioned itself to summon me to the throne between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays.”
  • Browniehut
    “Have you ever actually tried to remove the flesh from inside a warm aubergine? Sheesh!”
  • Bytheseashore
    “You will actually come far closer to God in Rome by attempting to cross the road than you will by entering a basillica. And significantly closer to a bus.”
  • Danger! High Postage
    “They laboriously plod their way through their set to supreme indifference from the crowd apart from one overly-enthusiastic middle aged man. He’s probably one of their dads.”
  • David Belbin
    “If the music’s good enough, and some of the right people are involved, should we care if the band playing aren’t quite the real thing? Well, yes. […] Some things are of the moment. You attempt to repeat them at your peril. Go to some of these gigs and, between numbers, you can hear money, talking loudly. It makes me want to heckle.”
  • Drama Queen, Fag-Hag, JAP
    Stolen goods! I await the knock upon the door and a brace of burly policemen with handcuffs. Now, what does one wear for a night in the cells?”
  • Exultations And Difficulties
    “I have a fondness for landscapes, particularly if within the landscape one can see sheep. I like sheep and their wool, perhaps because my mum is a very keen knitter, and I grew up in a post-war British working class family where if it couldn’t be knitted you couldn’t have it.”
  • Here’s what’s wrong with you
    “But it would also be nice if occasionally Nottingham would make national news for something other than guns and binge drinking.”
  • MovieBuff
    “Although I feel honour-bound to treat every film I review on these pages objectively, there’s not much that can be said for ‘Hide and Seek’. The script was probably produced by a computer into whose CPU the phrases ‘creepy kid’, ‘old dark house’, ‘secret from the past’, ‘strange guy next door’ and ‘obligatory twist ending had been programmed. The fact that de Niro’s performance is one of his best for some while just adds to the sense of frustration. And even then, he’s out-acted by a 10-year old girl.”
  • Silent Words Speak Loudest (*)
    “A thought pops into my head: the thought of a piece of metal, implanted without my knowledge, bursting ‘Alien’-style out of my torso during the experiment, and me suffering a horrible death surrounded by my own now-external internal organs. This is not a comforting thought.”
  • Swiss Toni’s Place
    “Ah, the mullet. The haircut that dared not speak its name for most of the last 20 years, and suddenly they are EVERYWHERE. What happened? When did it become acceptable? Why are men suddenly going into a hairdresser and asking for the haircut that time forgot?”
  • Your Mind And We
    “Arthur whips up the crowd brilliantly – at one stage in “You set the scene” I pan the camera onto the audience, as it looks like every single person has their hands in the air and is singing along “I wanna love you but oh wo wo wo wo wo wo” (it sounds better than it comes out in print, believe me). Mind you, we North Easterners always were a fairly emotional bunch.”

(*) No longer resident in Nottingham, but there’s plenty of “local” stuff in the archives, and besides, I couldn’t possibly leave Ben out…

Stylus UK Singles Jukebox: Have We Learnt Nothing From Rednex?

My first stab at doing proper singles reviews for somewhere outside of this blog can now be viewed at Stylus, as part of its new UK Singles Jukebox feature. It’s a collective effort, whereby a whole bunch of us each score this week’s new releases out of 10, offering up pithy capsule reviewlets in the process. Think of it as a Juke Box Jury for the 21st century, or something. Anyway, at least it gives me the chance to witter on about the minutiae of pop to a less, shall we say, captive audience (he says, tossing his head insolently, flouncing out of the door, and eagerly skipping towards the sunlit uplands of Proper Grown Up Serious Music Journalism).

(If you want to read the reviews of mine which didn’t make the final cut, then I’ve stuck them in the comments, for the sake of completeness. Think of them as the DVD extras.)

Everything you ever needed to know about the absurd machinations of the fashion industry, in one easy lesson.

From the Guardian Weekend magazine, Saturday March 12 2005:

shortswithtightst

Here, we “civilians” are privileged to observe the precise moment when “shorts with tights” went out of fashion, i.e. somewhere between the article on the left (“The Street, C’est Chic”) and the What’s In/What’s Out barometer on the right (“The Measure”).

Go on, admit it. You didn’t know they had ever been in fashion in the first place, did you?

Actually, all of this is hysterical displacement activity on my part, to distract myself from the burst pipe downstairs. Our lovely beech parquet floor: ruined! The emergency plumber gets here within the hour. Oh, and the scanner has just decided to go wrong as well. And it’s only 9:00 on Monday morning. This is going to be one of those weeks, isn’t it? Can I have my Bloggie now please?

Media, darlings. It’s an endless giddy whirl… (SECOND UPDATE: Sunday March 13)

On Monday morning at around 8:40 (although possibly from around 8:20), I’ll be appearing on BBC Radio Nottingham‘s Breakfast Show, talking to presenter Karl Cooper about this site, its nomination for the Best Gay Bacon Lettuce & Tomato category in the Bloggies, and probably about blogging in general.

Have you ANY IDEA what an inarticulate grouchbag I am in the mornings? Particularly on Monday mornings, when I have to get up two hours earlier than usual, in order to make it back from the cottage to central Nottingham before the traffic gets bad? Short of sprinkling amphetamine on my cornflakes, I am at a loss as to how to address this. Christ, I’m going to have to be PERKY! And full of CHAT!

Maybe K and I can do some interactive role-play on the journey over.

K: Good morning Nottingham! Today, we look at the latest craze on the World Wide Web: blogging! And to tell us all about it, here’s Mike “I’ve Said They Can Use My Real Surname On Air Because Google Doesn’t Index Radio Waves YET” Diva! Good morning Mike! So, what is blogging?

Mike: Mnuh.

(Pause.)

(I believe the technical term for this is “dead air”.)

Mike: WHAT? What do you want NOW? JEE-sus. In case you hadn’t NOTICED, I am TRYING to get some SLEEP.

Oh, this is going to be Quality Radio all right. Chris Moyles, are you quaking in your boots?


Update (1): I was also interviewed on Friday – standing outside the office in my shirtsleeves, pacing up and down in the drizzle while burbling free-form into my mobile – for the BBC Nottingham website. Here’s the finished article, which does a nice job of converting my free-form burble into coherent joined-up sentences.

Would that the same could have happened with this (Saturday) morning’s taped telephone interview with Radio Nottingham, which they’re going to edit down into a couple of bite-sized chunks in order to trail the Monday morning feature. Free-form burble? That would have been nice. Cold-start splutter and stutter, more like.

“Erbidi-burbidi-blogging is like it’s you know weblogs which are written by erbidi-burbidi-we call them bloggers and there’s stuff at the top of the page and then it goes down the page and then it disappears off the bottom and it’s like personal diaries except when it’s not like personal diaries and that’s when it’s erbidi-burbidi-something else, like it could be anything really and then people read them and that’s nice…”

I am taking this as a good omen. If you get the crap version out of the way now, then it frees you up to be smooth and debonair and sparkling on Monday morning. I am now practising dropping an octave, and replacing my customary breathless breakneck jabber with a kind of low, intimate, sexy rumble (think Gerald Harper meets Alexis Korner) that will have them all swooning over their cornflakes. Oh yes. With my newly acquired basso profundo, I’ll be blowing out woofers all over town; just you wait and see.


Update (2): Owing to a sudden and unexpected outbreak of Actual Serious Proper News in the Nottingham region, my radio interview has been “bumped” (to use another technical term; I’m learning fast) until Tuesday morning (probably).

My primary emotion on receiving this news was intense relief; there simply isn’t a worse time to get sense out of me than first thing on a Monday morning.

My secondary emotion: raging paranoia. Oh God I KNEW I was crap down the phone on Saturday morning and now they’ve SEEN THROUGH MY HOLLOW FACADE and they’ve realised that I would be a UTTER DISASTER and they’re just LETTING ME DOWN GENTLY which means that I’ll NEVER HEAR from them AGAIN and Oh God what about the singles reviews I’ve just sent in to Stylus magazine I bet they were crap as well and they’ll never see the light of day and there’s NO WAY I’ll be getting that Bloggie tomorrow and OH GOD it is all CRASHING DOWN AROUND MY EARS before it has even begun and and and…

As Peter is so fond of saying: I can deal with anything except success. Unless that success is vicarious, of course. I am more than comfortable with vicarious success.

Ooh! Crufts Best In Show just starting! Must dash!

MEME AID: The Bloggers’ Disco. *** NOW CLOSED ***

*** NOW CLOSED – THANK YOU. ***
Yo-ho-ho! Organised jollity ahoy!

As those of us in the UK will be aware, it’s Red Nose Day on Friday today. For those of you outside the UK, this is our official Permission To Be Wacky Within Acceptable Guidelines Day, in which Human Resources executives up and down the land dress up in bunny-rabbit costumes, and organise sponsored Let’s Get Mark In Corporate Communications To Shave Half His Beard Off fund-raising drives for the Comic Relief charity.

Down here at Troubled Fun-Is-Our-Middle-Name Diva, we like to jolly well Muck In and Add To The Madness. Ho yes we do! So, in the Great British “you too can make a difference!” Spirit of Joining In and Maybe Making Utter Prannets Of Ourselves But Wa-hey, We Just Don’t Care… may we present…

MEME AID: The Bloggers’ Disco.

Here’s how it works.

Imagine, if you will, the blogmeet to end all blogmeets. One blogosphere under a groove. A sea – nay, a veritable ocean – of “LOVE your work!” hugs, “Darling, you were ROBBED at The Bloggies!” air-kisses and “WHEN is someone going to PUBLISH you?” schmoozes, where tout le monde and their blogroll are getting royally rat-arsed on Vodka Red Bulls, and bopping around like maniacs to the sound of… WHAT, precisely?

This is where the meme kicks in.

What I want you to do is compile the playlist for the Bloggers’ Disco.

You should do this by:

1. Making a post on your blog, suggesting a suitably Phat Tune to be “dropped”.

(Just one tune per blog, please. No-one gets to hog the decks at this bash.)

2. Linking back to this post with the following URL:
https://troubled-diva.com/2005_03_06_troubled-diva_archive.html#111030256520838621

(“But oh! I could never sully my extremely important weblog with such ghastly ephemera as this! My readers would never countenance such levity! I have standards!”)

(Oh please. Get over yourself, Mary. Now stick this red plastic nose on and SMILE, dammit. It’s for charity! Whoop!)

3. Leaving me a comment (“Woo! Me too!“) in the comments box attached to this post.

I’ll then compile a running playlist at the foot of this post, with links back to each participating blog.

Note: If you don’t have a blog of your own, then just leave your suggestion in the comments box.

For every tune that is added to the playlist by 23:59 on Friday March 11th, I will donate one pound to Comic Relief, up to a maximum of 100 pounds.

(Because no-one wants a disco to last all night, after all. Well, not when you get to my age.)

OK, time to get this party started right. It’s my blog, so I get to go first.

1. Dragostea Din Tei – O-Zone. (mike)
2. Get Right – Jennifer Lopez (asta)
3. Wild Dances – Ruslana (sarah)
4. Panic – The Smiths (Pam)
5. Yeah (Crass Version) – LCD Soundsystem (Hg)
6. Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now – McFadden & Whitehead (Tina)
7. Fascinating Rhythm – Bassomatic (Vaughan)
8. The Prophet’s Song – Queen (Clair)
9. Disco Inferno – The Trammps (Gordon)
10. Kiss Me – Stephen “Tin Tin” Duffy (Chig)
11. Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough – Michael Jackson (ModSue)
12. Oops Upside Your Head – The Gap Band (lathbud)
13. White Man In Hammersmith Palais – The Clash (thom)
14. Play That Funky Music – Wild Cherry (Graybo)
15. Voodoo Ray – Acid Brass (Lyle)
16. Woolly Bully – Sam The Sham & The Pharoahs (birdman)
17. Do Ya Think I’m Sexy – The Revolting Cocks (Green Fairy)
18. Filthy/Gorgeous – Scissor Sisters (pink)
19. LFO (Leeds Warehouse mix) – LFO (elisabeth)
20. Stay With You – Lemon Jelly (Larkin)
21. Shack Up – A Certain Ratio (jonathan shipley)
22. Brown Sugar – The Rolling Stones (Mr.D.)
23. Delilah – Tom Jones (Joe)
24. Too Drunk To F**k – Nouvelle Vague (Karen)
25. Common People – Pulp (Pete)
26. Ask Me (Danny Krivit re-edit) – Ecstacy, Passion & Pain (Adrian)
27. C’est La Vie – Chuck Berry (rachie)
28. Anxiety – A Guy Called Gerald (bedsit bomber)
29. Billy Boola – Gavin Friday & Bono (Caroline)
30. Seven Deadly Finns – Brian Eno (Marcello)
31. Witchy Is A Punk Rocker – The Ramones (Blue Witch)
32. Hey Jude – The Beatles (Dave)
33. PlAnarchy For The UK – Sex Pistols (NiC)
34. My Way – Nina Hagen It’s My Life – Talk Talk (timothy)
35. Heroes – David Bowie (Simon)
36. And I Will Cry – The Little Rabbits (Anne)
37. Ace of Spades – Hayseed Dixie (pixeldiva)
38. Love Shack – The B-52’s (nayf)
39. What Is Hip – Tower Of Power (jo)
40. Tainted Love – Gloria Jones (adhoc)
41. The Feeling’s Gone – The Appolinaires (James)
42. Vienna – Ultravox (cyberevolution)
43. Groove Is In The Heart – Deee-Lite (Karen)
44. Disco 2000 – Pulp (andre)
45. She Sells Sanctuary – The Cult (Mr McMuffin)
46. Crash – The Primitives (Inspector Sands)
47. Jump Around – House Of Pain (Kirsty)
48. Being Boiled – Human League (dave)
49. Blame It On The Boogie – The Jacksons (Em²)
50. Chocolate Jesus – Tom Waits (Simon)
51. Take On Me – a-ha (Southern Bird)
52. My Way – Sid Vicious (bad bunni)
53. Abracadabra – Steve Miller Band (Smacked Face)
54. Give Up The Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker) — Parliament/Funkadelic (Jerry)
55. Eight Miles High – Leo Kottke (Mystic Mog) (*)
56. Reet Petite – Jackie Wilson (Gary Flood)
57. Our Lips Are Sealed (12″ version) – Funboy Three (hedgerow)
58. Kongas – Anikana-O (carlozz)
59. Tonight – Easyworld (Gary)
60. I Am The Resurrection – Stone Roses (Andrew Brown)
61. How Soon Is Now? – Tatu (T.(formerly Dragon))
62. Absolutely Fabulous – Pet Shop Boys (Joe Stalin)
63. Where It’s At – Beck (quin)
64. Never Understand – The Jesus And Mary Chain (Ben)
65. Groovin’ With Mr. Bloe – Mr. Bloe (quarsan)
66. Teenage Kicks – The Undertones (stressqueen)
67. Cool For Cats – Squeeze (Kat)
68. The Snake – Al Wilson (Anna) (do go and read this one; it made me smile)
69. Eberneezer Goode – The Shamen (Nathan)
70. Caroline – Status Quo (Andy)
71. Come Dancing – The Kinks (Miss Mish) (and this one; a necessary corrective?)
72. Lust For Life – Iggy Pop (la peregrina)
73. If I Can’t Have You – Yvonne Elliman (Daisy)
74. Build Me Up Buttercup – The Foundations (Hobbes)
75. From New York To L.A. – Patsy Gallant (Fozzy O)
76. Love You Madly – Cake (meg)
77. Prince Charming – Adam & The Ants (MsShoes)
78. Let’s Stay Together – Al Green (ansy)
79. 9 Volt – The Fierce Lime and his Pony-Tailed Assassins (Jim)
80. Birdhouse In Your Soul – There Might Be Giants (Alan)
81. Step On – Happy Mondays (stroppycow)
82. Deceptacon (DFA Remix) – Le Tigre (Dykes And The City)
83. Stuck In The Middle With You – Stealer’s Wheel (harriet)
84. You Came – Kim Wilde (newplanet)
85. You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) – Sylvester (Angie)
86. Bright Yellow Gun – Throwing Muses (Richard)
87. Only You Can – Fox Glow – Rick James (looby)
88. Wake Me Up (Before You Go-Go) – Wham! (Nigel) (*)
89. Funky Cold Medina – Tone Loc (april)
90. Cân Megan – Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci (Deiniol ap James)
91. I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor (zed)
92. I Believe in a Thing Called Love – The Darkness (Neil)
93. Chunga’s Revenge – Gotan Project (KW)
94. Don’t Stop Till You Get To Bollywood – Bollywood Freaks (Tim)
95. Born Slippy – Underworld (Paul)
96. Don’t Leave Me This Way – Thelma Houston (soulfire)
97. Love To Hate You – Erasure (The Observer) (!!!)
98. 1999 – Binary Finary (stephen)
99. Bliss – Muse (Mark)
100. Girl From Mars – Ash (Chick)Tunes from 101-110 are sponsored by Neil of MovieBuff.

101. Rocky Mountain Way – Joe Walsh (Clare)
102. Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana (sweetney)
103. Animal Nitrate – Suede (Aaro)
104. MacArthur Park – Donna Summer (Aunty Marianne)
105. I’m In The Mood For Dancing – The Nolans (Rachel)
106. Drop The Pressure – Mylo (Destructor)
107. Cannonball – The Breeders (Oiseau)
108. Hey Jealousy – Gin Blossoms (Liz)
109. Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part 3 – Ian Dury & The Blockheads (k)
110. Tubthumping – Chumbawamba (Silver Lining)

Tunes from 111-130 are be sponsored by Anna of little.red.boat.

111. Rise And Shine – The Cardigans (Russell)
112. Copacabana – Barry Manilow (Emma)
113. Jive Soweto – Sipho Mabuse (annanomsa)
114. Girls – The Prodigy (Robyn)
115. Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life – Monty Python (Andy)
116. Finding Out True Love Is Blind – Louis XIV (Junky)
117. Blue Monday – New Order (strugglingauthor)
118. You To Me Are Everything – The Real Thing (Floatykatja)
119. I’m A Cuckoo – Belle & Sebastian (Pete)
120. My Generation – The Who (grump)
121. Let’s Get Ready To Rumble – PJ & Duncan (Laura)
122. Thru’ These Architects Eyes – David Bowie (Julius)
123. A Boy Named Sue – Johnny Cash (abi)
124. Y’a un fille qu’habite chez moi – Bénabar (laputain)

(*) Ooh, an Ethical Dilemma! What to do if a blogger suggests a song but doesn’t post about it on their blog? My solution: songs highlighted with a red asterisk only warrant donations of 50p.

Your turn. What’s the next tune at the Bloggers’ Disco?
You’re the DJ! You decide!

*** NOW CLOSED – THANK YOU. ***

Which decade is Tops for Pops? – THE WINNER.

1st place – The 1980s. (34 points)

Last year: 3rd place, 30 points.
Two years ago: 2nd place, 35 points.

10: 1999/Little Red Corvette – Prince. 1st place, 5 points.
9: Nightshift – The Commodores. 3rd place, 3 points.
8: Close (To The Edit) – Art Of Noise. 2nd place, 4 points.
7: A New England – Kirsty MacColl. 2nd place, 4 points.
6: Things Can Only Get Better – Howard Jones. 5th place, 1 point, least popular.
5: You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) – Dead Or Alive. 1st place, 5 points, most popular.
4: Dancing In The Dark – Bruce Springsteen. 1st place, 5 points.
3: Solid – Ashford & Simpson. 5th place, 1 point.
2: Love And Pride – King. 3rd place, 3 points.
1: I Know Him So Well – Elaine Paige & Barbara Dickson. 3rd place, 3 points.

Three different years, three different winners… and really, who would have thought at the outset that 1985 – that much derided frumpy old trout of a year – would ultimately have triumphed?

1980sSo maybe 1985 wasn’t all bad after all. You showed your love for Prince, Dead Or Alive and Bruce Springsteen – all of whom produced classics, whether or not you choose to acknowledge them as such. You showed affection for Art Of Noise and Kirsty MacColl, polite respect for King, The Commodores and Elaine Paige/Barbara Dickson, and only heaped vitriol upon Howard Jones (understandable) and Ashford & Simpson (unfortunate).

The chart from February 1985 is certainly the one which means the most to me personally. Seven of the top ten were played by myself and Dymbel at my second ever gig as a DJ, in what was to remain the biggest venue I ever played in. One of them (I Know Him So Well) was the break-up song for a short but affectionate relationship, on which I look back with nothing but fondness.

Two Number Ones later, Easy Lover by Philip Bailey and Phil Collins became the break-up song for my next relationship, if we can call it that: an ill-advised, pointless affair, which I brought to a swift and merciful end before too much damage was done. (I moved fast in those days.)

While Easy Lover remained at Number One – on Saturday April 20th 1985, to be precise – I embarked upon my next relationship. We celebrate our twentieth anniversary as a couple next month.

This winning Top Ten therefore represents practically my last gasp as a single man. It also represents practically the last gasp for a particularly fine era in pop, which was just drawing to a close. The long dark nights of Simply Red, Chris De Burgh, Tina Turner, Dire Straits, Jennifer Rush and Marillion were about to close in. Next year, I suspect that the 80s will struggle hard to survive. But for now, let us give them their due.

1985: you Rule The World. Indeed, you Are The World. The readers of Troubled Diva salute you.


The Top Ten and the Bottom Five Six.

(Positions are calculated by dividing the numbers of points scored by the number of people voting on that day.)

1. You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) – Dead Or Alive.
2. 1999/Little Red Corvette – Prince.
3. You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling – The Righteous Brothers.
4. Dancing In The Dark – Bruce Springsteen.
5. Angie Baby – Helen Reddy.
6. Shame Shame Shame – Shirley & Company.
7. Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me) – Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel.
8. A New England – Kirsty MacColl.
9. Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood – The Animals.
10. No More I Love You’s – Annie Lennox.

46= Wooden Heart – Elvis Presley, Come Tomorrow – Manfred Mann.
47. The Special Years – Val Doonican.
48. Black Superman – Johnny Wakelin.
49. Almost Here – Brian McFadden & Delta Goodrem.
50. Think Twice – Celine Dion.


Cumulative scores for the decades to date, after three years:

1 (2) The 1980s – 99 points.
2= (3) The 1960s – 97 points.
2= (1) The 1970s – 97 points.
4 (4) The 2000s – 80 points.
5 (5) The 1990s – 78 points.

As the 1980s pull ahead of the 1960s and 1970s, a yawning chasm of seventeen points opens up between these three decades and the 1990s/2000s.

Will all of this change next year?

Come back in February 2006 to find out.

Thank you for participating. As always, it’s been a blast. Regular transmissions will now be resumed.

Interval act: the Tops For Pops Notepad Awards.

You know when you throw a party, and you’ve got these totally different groups of friends all converging in the same place, and you start worrying about what they’re going to think of each other and how they’re all going to get along? Well, so it has been with this year’s Which Decade project. Brought here as a result of some generous plugging by Tom Ewing on the venerable ur-music-blog New York London Paris Munich, a whole bunch of new commenters have appeared this year. These people, with whom I am wont to mingle in my other online identity over on the I Love Music messageboard, take their pop music seriously, and they know of what they speak. So how are they going to get along with my Core Readership Base, who know what they like but aren’t necessarily bothered about dissecting every last nuance of the codes and signifiers of the prevalent semiological structures of the blah-di-blah?

I am inclined to conclude that – as usually happens at such potentially fraught gatherings – everybody rubbed along together just fine. The world of the music-blog can be a rather hermetically sealed one; a closed shop, to which only those who talk the talk with conviction may gain admittance. Maybe it has therefore been of some interest for the ILM crowd to find out what, um, how do I put this, people with more typically arranged priorities feel about this kind of stuff. Meanwhile, maybe the regulars on this site have been confronted with some fresh and unexpected new ideas along the way.

Oh look, this is my bubble, so don’t be going popping it. Actually, what I did notice towards the closing stages of the contest was that a lot more commenters started explicitly linking the songs with their own personal situations, rather than always confining themselves to some sort of “objective” commentary. Which, as any brave soul who managed to wade through my last big overblown blog stunt will testify, is something I approve of whole-heartedly.

Particular thanks go to the following people, who voted on every day of this year’s contest: Alan Connor, Barry, Chig, Clare, David (dubmill), David (swish), Dymbel, hedgerow, James, KoenS, lathbud, Lyle, megan, NiC, Simon H, thom, timothy, Tina, Tom, Will and zebedee. To you, I award the Bronze Notepad, for services to Popular Music Studies. Future generations will doubtless be in your debt.

The Silver Notepad award goes to those of you who have voted each time over the last two years: Adrian, jo and Simon Cede, as well as Gordon (19 out of 20 ain’t bad) and djg (full sets in 2003 and 2005, with a year off last year).

The Golden Notepad goes to those of you who have lasted the course over the past three years: to Nigel, who has provided gloriously entertaining commentary on almost every entry, only missing four days in total, and to asta, another stellar commenter who has only ever missed one day.

However, the ultimate award – the Troubled Diva Platinum Premier Notepad Plus – goes to the three people who have left a comment on every single entry to date. Including the 2003 tie-break and the 2005 double A-side from Prince, that adds up to no less than one hundred and fifty-seven daft little pop songs. Such stamina!

So step forward Pam (who admittedly abstained on one particularly crap day, but who still left a comment explaining her reasons), Stereoboard (I know where he lives, so there was never really going to be any excuse), and – with her last minute mercy dash into the two remaining comments boxes on Sunday night – Gert, who has provided hand-crafted individual reviews of all one hundred and fifty-seven songs.

Asta, Gert, Nigel, Pam and Stereoboard: you all qualify for copies of my Best Of 2004 triple mix CD. Please send your current postal addresses to mikejla at btinternet dot com… and allow 14 days for delivery, ‘cos I’m a lazy sod. A round of applause, please.

Coming soon… the winner of the Which Decade Is Tops For Pops project for 2005.

Who could it be?

Fret not. The time is almost nigh.

Which decade is Tops for Pops? – the results.

2nd place – The 1960s. (33 points)

Last year: 1st place, 36 points.
Two years ago: 3rd place, 28 points.

10: Go Now – The Moody Blues. 2nd place, 4 points.
9: Funny How Love Can Be – The Ivy League. 5th place, 1 point.
8: Come Tomorrow – Manfred Mann. 5th place, 1 point.
7: The Special Years – Val Doonican. 5th place, 1 point, least popular.
6: Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood – The Animals. 1st place, 5 points.
5: Game Of Love – Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders. 2nd place, 4 points.
4: Keep Searchin’ – Del Shannon. 2nd place, 4 points.
3: You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling – The Righteous Brothers. 1st place, 5 points, most popular.
2: I’ll Never Find Another You – The Seekers. 2nd place, 4 points.
1: Tired Of Waiting For You – The Kinks. 2nd place, 4 points.

After a catastrophic start to this year’s contest, with three last places in a row from The Ivy League, Manfred Mann and Val Doonican, last year’s winning decade looked like a lost cause. Who would therefore have predicted such a strong comeback over the remaining six days? Never coming lower than second from that point on, the 1960s clawed their way back from a poor fifth to a strong second, breathing down the neck of our winning decade all the way to the finishing line, and causing me to prepare an emergency tie-break medley, just in case.

Just as the 2000s received a raw deal, so I can’t help feeling that 1965 has rather lucked out. Standard issue beat groups and unreconstructed male chauvinism are the order of the day here; indeed, The Seekers’ Judith Durham provides the only female voice on this list.

Nevertheless, when the 1960s are good, they’re bloody good. With the first revolution of 1963/1964 beginning to settle down, and the second revolution of 1966/67 yet to come, 1965 provides something of an entr’acte, with an emphasis on strong songwriting (several of these songs having since become standards) and a sometimes overpowering emotional pull.

Yes, maybe that’s what 1965 has in particular abundance this year: emotional pull. Even if some of those emotions are decidedly questionable at times.