He’s gone awfully quiet, hasn’t he?

As long-standing regulars will already know, I do occasionally go through phases of getting a bit fed up with blogging. It’s probably all part of that mercurial temperament which marks me out as a True Artist, or something. Or maybe it’s just that I can be a right precious little prima donna at times.

Anyway, when these phases come upon me, then I find that it’s best to ride them out, ditch the ridiculous “but my public NEEDS me!” guilt trip thing, and wait for the muse to return of her own free will, when she’s good and ready.

However, while I’m here: for those of you who used to read The World, Backwards, or who remember his guest spot on this blog from a couple of years ago, our old friend noodle vague (a.k.a Ferlin Husky, for ILMers) will be appearing, along with his missus, on BBC1’s National Lottery Come and Have a Go tomorrow (Saturday) evening from 19:45 to 20:35. No, I’ve never watched it either, but it appears to be an interactive quiz show (hosted by Julian Clary) where viewers at home can win the chance to be studio contestants the following week. I’m therefore assuming that noodle must fall into that category. Given the style and subject matter of his old blog, I am quite massively tickled by the incongruity, and shall therefore be glued to the set tomorrow, straight after Doctor Who.

Oh, hang on: K and I are out to dinner tomorrow evening with five-sheds “Bob”, Mrs “Bob”, Our Journalist Friend OldEngland and NewEngland (their old nicknames got such a high approval rating that I have decided to reinstate them). Well in that case, I shall be glued to the video at some hideously late hour of the evening after everyone else has gone to bed, a glass of malt whiskey in my hand, trying to drown out the sounds of K’s snoring in the room upstairs (it’s a lovely old cottage, but some of the sound-proofing is frankly crap).

Stuff which I would have blogged about this week, had I been minded to do so (and might still, so consider this an aide memoire):

  • An unfortunate encounter at the clinic.
  • The holistic versus the sequential mind, and why can’t I have a bit of both?
  • A 45 minute round trip for this?
  • A Freudian Slurp on the local news. (Actually, I have been expressly forbidden from writing about this.)
  • Ian McEwan’s Saturday: classic or dud?
  • Where did I get “that hat”?
  • In which a Selfridges employee thinks on her feet.
  • That twentieth anniversary in full.
  • That Bebo & Cigala concert in full.
  • That Rufus Wainwright concert in full. (Look, it’s in draft, okay?)
  • The two most recent Parallel Universe Top Twenties. (There’s a new Number One.)
  • New album purchases: that’s proper serious grown-up stuff, not trivial Pop Top 40 nonsense.

Tell you what. I know that far greater bloggers than I do this on a regular basis, but then I’ve never claimed to be an original thinker, so… if you want to vote for which one(s) of the above you’d like to read, then please leave a comment accordingly, and I’ll write up the most popular choice(s). That might be a good way of kick-starting the muse.

Actually, a quick copy and paste job wouldn’t kill me, would it? OK, so here’s this week’s Parallel Universe Top Twenty. (You’ll have to calculate last week’s missing chart by hand, I’m afraid.)

1 (2) Signs – Snoop Dogg ft Justin Timberlake
2 (14) Girl – Destiny’s Child
3 (1) The One You Love – Rufus Wainwright
4 (10) Banquet – Bloc Party
5 (-) Most Precious Love – Blaze ft Barbara Tucker
6 (40) Half Light – Athlete
7 (-) Love + Pain – Clor
8 (22) Crazy All The Time – 33hz
9 (9) Tied Up Too Tight – Hard-Fi
10 (17) Somewhere Else – Razorlight
11 (-) Gotta Be That Way – The House Of Love
12 (34) Refugees – The Tears
13 (-) 22: The Death Of All The Romance – The Dears
14 (-) Diamonds – Kanye West
15 (3) Avalon – Juliet
16 (31) Play The Hits – Hal
17 (16) Number One Spot/Get Back – Ludacris
18 (38) See About Me – Weird War
19 (-) Again – Faith Evans
20 (-) Love Is An Unfamiliar Name – The Duke Spirit
21 (-) Mockingbird – Eminem
22 (39) Debbie Loves Joey – Helen Love
23 (7) My Friend Dario – Vitalic
24 (8) Itch U Can’t Scratch – Junior Senior
25 (35) After Dark – Le Tigre
26 (4) 1-2 Step – Ciara ft Missy Elliott
27 (6) It’s Like That – Mariah Carey ft Fatman Scoop & Jermaine Dupri
28 (21) So Much Love To Give – Freeloaders ft The Real Thing
29 (13) Jerk It Out – The Caesars
30 (26) It Ended On An Oily Stage – British Sea Power
31 (-) Emily Kane – Art Brut
32 (23) Changes – Tahiti 80
33 (5) Believe – Chemical Brothers ft Kele Okereke
34 (-) So Long – Willy Mason
35 (30) I Like The Way – Bodyrockers
36 (-) No I – Raghav
37 (-) Lonely – Akon
38 (24) They – Jem
39 (18) Be Mine – Robyn
40 (-) The Negatives… – Hood

Yay, it’s a Bank Holiday! School’s out! Let’s all run wild and free! For three whole days! The sun is shining, there’s beer in the fridge and a song in my heart!

Bis bald, mes copains.

We interrupt this mini-hiatus to bring you a special announcement.

At the risk of turning this blog into K’s East Midlands Media Diary, I thought it only right and proper to inform local readers that he can be seen on this evening’s East Midlands Today, between 18:30 and 18:55 on BBC1, talking about his business. There should also be something on the later local bulletin at 22:30.

(There was also something on the lunchtime news. I walked home to watch it/record it, but forgot my keys. Not having a terribly alert week.)

Oh yeah, the Stylus UK Singles Jukebox. This week, I get my chops round new releases from Battle, Black Rock ft Debra Andrews, Athlete, Destiny’s Child, Raw Bud vs Roni Size, The Tears, Le Tigre and Snopp Dogg/Justin Timberlake. Check the comments box for the remainder.

I’ve also created an archive of all my Stylus singles reviews to date, as it can sometimes be more interesting to read about singles once you have actually heard them for yourself…

It was twenty years ago tomorrow…

that this happened.

And twenty years ago on Thursday, on our first (and arguably only) Proper Date (since we were inseparable from that point forwards), K and I went to see Ivor Cutler in concert at Nottingham Playhouse. An unromantic choice, you might say; but I took the fact that K had even heard of Ivor Cutler – let alone liked him – to be a Very Good Sign Indeed.

It is therefore fitting that we commemorate this auspicious – and frankly astonishing – occasion (my previous record for a relationship was four months, and you could barely even count the fourth month as still being in a relationship) by attending another show. In just under an hour’s time, we’re heading off for London, in order to see the Cuban/Flamenco duo Bebo and Cigala at the Royal Festival Hall. This will not just be the duo’s farewell concert together, but also the last concert anywhere in the world by the veteran Cuban pianist Bebo Valdes.

We shall be spending tomorrow shopping for outfits, looking at pretentious contemporary art, and visiting a friend in hospital, before travelling up to Lincolnshire for a celebratory dinner à deux at the smallest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world (it only has three tables).

If you wish to raise a glass, then please do so after these few short words from our unwitting romantic benefactor, the great Ivor Cutler himself.

I ask you: twenty chuffing years. (That’s fifty in Gay Years, of course.) If anybody else says “role model”, I’ll personally throttle them. But, you know, I’m secretly quite proud.

Bloggers’ Disco – Megamix #6. (The last gasp.)

Our Bloggers’ disco has turned into something of a dance marathon, hasn’t it? Assuming that we start the dancing with the first megamix at 8pm, and play each mix in sequence, then the sixth and final mix won’t even start until 2.40 in the morning. So let’s take a look round the room and see who’s left standing.

OK, I can see that some of you are flagging a bit. So let’s have you all back on the floor for one more massed knees-up, culminating in an old favourite from 1990 which always, always has everyone dancing. (Is there anyone alive who doesn’t like this? No, thought not.)

With many of you starting to collect your coats and phone for cabs, the next two sections of the mix are designed to cater for two groups who have been given somewhat short shrift over the past few hours.

Firstly, the saucer-eyed Ravey Davey Graveys finally get a chance to make some interesting shapes with their hands, to a selection of Banging Choons. “What’s yer name? Where yer from? What’s yer URL? Top one!” Sadly, we couldn’t afford any smoke and lasers at our disco – but the three little coloured sound-to-light bulbs on the top of the right hand speaker are flashing away like no-one’s business. Cosmic!

Secondly, the group of disgruntled rockers on the plastic stacking chairs in the far corner, who have been moaning about how there hasn’t been any “proper” music all night, finally leap to their feet, put their pint glasses on the floor, stick their thumbs through their belt loops, and “bond” (in an entirely non-sexual way) to a selection of rock tracks old and new.

As the bar staff advance, J-cloths in hand, to wipe down the tables and lift up the chairs, the small remaining gaggle of diehards form a big circle, arms around shoulders, and bellow their lungs out to… well, you’ll see.

“One more tune! One more tune!”

One more tune it is, then. Even though the house lights are up, and the bar manager is jangling his keys impatiently. A disco classic, to send you off into the early morning (is it 4 o’clock already?) with a smile on your face and a “Best Disco EVAH!” post already drafting itself in your head.

Three links, all to the same file. Once they expire, you’re on your own – so check the comments box for offers of help.

Link one.
Link two.
Link three.

K’s week.

Remember that My Week article which I wrote for the business section of the Nottingham Evening Post in February 2004?

Well, it’s K’s turn this week. Local readers: if you go out and buy a copy of today’s paper, you’ll find the article somewhere towards the middle, illustrated with a little photo. Our Journalist Friend gets round to all of us eventually.

What a pity that – no doubt for reasons of space – Our Journalist Friend saw fit to excise the final sentence from the following passage:

Managed to get home just in time for another rapid turnaround before dashing off to the Theatre Royal for an evening of delicious double entendre courtesy of Round The Horne. Arrived late and had to slip in at the rear.

Well, at least he tried.

Post-purchase update: Hmm. It’s a nice enough photo in its own way, except that Our Journalist Friend has chosen a “library shot”, taken from The Era Of The Tufts. Consequently, you can see these little dollops of hair sticking out from either side of K’s neck, giving him the appearance of having Rhodes Boyson-style Victorian Dad mutton-chop whiskers. It’s a look, I suppose…

Stats whore.

Bah. This is what happens when you take your eye off the ball: a long-awaited Major Milestone, and I blinking well missed it.

Anyway. At some point on Friday, Troubled Diva served its 500,000th page view. That’s the second of the two figures on the main Site Meter summary page. (I know a lot of people prefer to use the “Visits” figure, but that always strikes me as rather artificial; a count of unique visits would be interesting, but not when it includes multiple visits from the same person on the same day. Besides, the second figure is bigger.)

Half-a-chuffing-million! I feel that a minor TV personality ought to be presenting me with a USB memory stick backup of the whole blog, dipped in gold paint, and mounted in a glass case on a bed of crimson velvet. With silver paint for 250,000 page views and, um, platinum paint for a million. (Hmm, platinum paint. Concept needs more thought.)


Stylus UK Singles Jukebox: Kasabian Do Ska.

In this week’s Stylus UK Singles Jukebox, you’ll find my thoughts on new releases by Ja Rule, The Bodyrockers, Nine Inch Nails, Hard-Fi and the Chemical Brothers featuring Kele Okereke. With a larger panel now contributing, it therefore follows that fewer of each panelist’s reviews are selected for the final cut – which is a drag when you’ve spent ages preparing them, but less of a drag when you’ve got a blog to stick them in instead. So with that in mind, here are all ten reviews in full:

Caught Up – Ja Rule ft Lloyd (5)

There’s something of the post-Kanye West about this stab at giving gruff ole Ja Rule a commercial crossover hit, by setting his guttural mutters against some sweet Eighties Groove soul stylings. Unfortunately, no-one seems to have been able to stir up much interest from Ja himself; almost relegated to a guest spot on his own record, he sounds distracted and disinterested. A couple of minutes in, and all the ideas have been used up; the rest is merely crank-it-out repetition. Nevertheless, by the end of the song – with all the vocalists having packed up and knocked off early to beat the traffic – there’s something of a reprieve, as the backing track is given some space to gently unwind, in an almost dub-wise style. It’s the best bit by far. (But shush, no-one tell Ja. He has probably never listened that far. What he doesn’t know can’t hurt him.)

Walking With A Ghost – Tegan & Sara (4)

A potentially attractive Police-style loping rhythm is spoilt by a stiff, restrictive execution that begs for some fluidity and development. Meanwhile, several flights upstairs, there’s an aggravatingly strident and disconnected quality to the vocals, which doesn’t bode well for the future.

The Hand That Feeds – Nine Inch Nails (3)

For all of their mock-outraged accusations, Trent Reznor and the boys seem considerably less likely to “bite the hand the feeds you” than they are to seize it in both hands and cover it in a thousand eager smooches, so manifest is their desire to score a fratjock-pleasing MTV2-friendly hit with this piece of witless, desperate froth. Once upon a time, they wanted to be Jim Morrison fronting Ministry. Now they’ll just settle for being Fred Durst fronting Garbage.

Jerk It Out – The Caesars (8)

The song you’ve heard everywhere“, according to the press advert – and indeed, there is something here which makes you feel as if it has been around forever. Every Friday and Saturday night over the next couple of months or so, student DJs across the country will be cueing this up next to The Bees’ Chicken Payback, against which it sits perfectly: there’s the same uncannily accurate 1960s retro feelgood vibe (augmented here with a nagging organ refrain), combined with the same late 1990s Big Beat sensibility (I’m guessing this is particularly big in Brighton). With no supporting album to promote, this looks set to hang around the singles chart for yonks – particularly once the nostalgic Dad download demographic gets hold of it.

I Like The Way – Bodyrockers (6)

Sporting a central rock guitar riff that is doubtless as close to Deep Dish’s Flashdance as highly paid teams of international copyright lawyers will allow, I Like The Way has all of the workmanlike insistence of So Much Love To Give by The Freeloaders, without any of the latter’s redeeming sense of breezy joy. Indeed, its brutal effectiveness as a motivational blunt instrument for those who have been denied the benefits of a broader musical diet suggests to me that the Bodyrockers are nothing less than the Turkey Twizzlers of dance. (It’s no use trying to wean them onto nice, healthy, organic “microhouse” either; there’ll be rioting in the streets before chucking-out time.)

Tied Up Too Tight – Hard-Fi (7)

The latest adherents to the age-old English tradition of disaffected petit-bourgeois youths from the suburbs (in this case, Staines in Middlesex) casting beady, aspirational eyes over at the glamour, grit and grime of the big city, Hard-Fi have – almost inevitably – caused the requisite “buzz” at this year’s SXSW festival, and now stand poised with studied faux-ennui at the threshold of success and excess, veneration and ruin. There’s an anthemic quality to this which puts me in mind of 1993-era Blur in their 1966-era Kinks phase, as well as a tantalising snatch of piano towards the end which would have evoked the glories of Jools Holland on The The’s Uncertain Smile, had it been mixed a little higher and allowed to go on for a little longer. I think everybody should be allowed to say this once, without fear of redress: file under “promising”. Ooh, proper rock criticism!

Retreat – The Rakes (3)


Munich – Editors (6)

My old English teacher always maintained that the best way to form a picture of the cultural pre-occupations of any age was to study its second-rate art – for just as first-rate art transcends its age, predicting movements which are yet to come, so second-rate art remains firmly mired in its own times, mirroring the predominant influences of the day. In which case, might I suggest that space be cleared in the 2005 time capsule for the Editors: a band with such a seemingly foreshortened sense of history that it wouldn’t surprise me if Bloc Party and The Bravery were cited as major formative figures. Having said that, there’s a nice piece of chiming, high-register, almost bouzouki-like guitar work accompanying the choruses, which lifts this marginally above the quotidian. In a disappointingly thin week such as this, such small mercies are to be gratefully seized upon.

Teenage Superstar – Kim Lian (8)

Just as the title of Just Seventeen magazine indicated a readership with an average age of thirteen, so we can infer that any pop song with the word “teenage” in its title is being explicitly marketed to an audience of eleven and under. In this respect, the flame-haired Dutch-Indonesian popstrel and her Swedish production team have done a commendably efficient job; it is easy to imagine Kim Lian being daubed onto the backs of thousands of exercise books in multi-coloured “glitter effect” gel pen lettering between now and mid-July. An intoxicatingly cheerful playground-rebel anthem in the Joan Jett/Go-Go’s tradition, for those who still find The Faders a little too grown-up and threatening.

Believe – Chemical Brothers (9)

Everything else in this week’s list is Product; this alone qualifies as Art. I’m a particular sucker for the agreeably deranged bloops and blarps that sit above the rest of the music: melodically and sonically separate, but oddly complementary, in much the same way as on the comparatively restrained Negotiate With Love. A thundering juggernaut of a track, this plays to the Chemical Brothers’ traditional strengths. It therefore succeeds where the brave-yet-flawed attempt at mould-breaking that was Galvanize fails.

Troubled Diva: the revision notes. (An alphabetised Life Glossary.)

I’ve had complaints.

“We don’t know who or what you’re on about”, they wail. “Give us a glossary”, they beseech.

Fair enough. Fascinating as I am, I can’t realistically expect you to maintain a detailed working knowledge of the minutiae of my daily existence.

Besides, any opportunity for converting my life into an alphabetised list has to be seized with both hands.

So here you are then:

Troubled Diva: The Revision Notes.

Former guest blogger Alan is my number one midweek drinking buddy slash partner in crime. Hailing from Cape Town, he fetched up in Nottingham towards the end of 2003, working on a short-term contract. Having seemingly left us for good in the Autumn of 2004, he miraculously returned in the early weeks of 2005, to general jubilation. Generally thought of as something of a “catch” in the circles which we frequent, his life is therefore never without incident, and his conversation never fails to intrigue and entertain.

“Bob” isn’t really called Bob at all, except on computers and mobile phones, and who am I to deny his right to experiment with his identity? The proud owners of no less than five sheds, each with specific allotted functions (respect!), “Bob” and Mrs. “Bob” live in The Village (see below), and accompanied us on our “challenging” trip to Peru in the Summer of 2004. If this blog were JonnyB’s Private Secret Diary, then “Bob” would be Big A. (He couldn’t be Short Tony because he doesn’t live next door.)

Another partner in crime, with a colourful past and a ready wit, I have known Buni since the mid-to-late 1990s. He has guest-blogged here on a couple of occasions, and even had a blog of his own for a while. Buni was raised by bunny-girls, dragged out of the closet by pop stars, and toughened up by the Royal Navy before coming to Nottingham as a mature (hah!) student. He has a robust appetite for life’s pleasures, and a sharp take on life which chimes in with my own in many respects.

A friend since the spring of 1990, when his pert young bottom collided with my outstretched hand in the middle of a crowded dancefloor. Heady days! Uncanny Kiefer Sutherland lookey-likey Chig lives (and blogs) in Birmingham, where his status as Midlands “scene” correspondent for Gay Times magazine sends him automatically to the front of every nightclub queue. Chig’s knowledge of popular culture is truly unparalleled; his home is basically one vast media archive, and he has exchanged words with just about every boyband member and disco diva of the last fifteen years (sometimes on the way up, sometimes on the way down, and sometimes both). His specialist subjects are a) Aston Villa and b) the Eurovision Song Contest, for which he attains press accreditation every year. On the all too rare occasions when we meet in person, our conversations generally morph into extended Pop Culture Data Dumps, as we breathlessly exchange details of every bit of trivia which we have amassed since the last time. And what could be more pleasant than that?

Cottage, the.
After four nights a week in Nottingham, Friday evenings see us morph from City Boys to Country Squires, in the fifty minutes it takes us to drive from one home to the other. Our second home in the country (feel free to puke) is a renovated 17th century cottage, which has been knocked through into an adjoining building which used to serve as the village bus depot. Scrupulously maintained by K’s mum and dad during the week, the cottage bears the imprint of a look which we have dubbed “new rustic minimalism”. In other words, it looks like a combination of show home, boutique hotel and holiday let. Hey, who needs “lived in” anyway?

Dymbel & Dymbellina.
My oldest friends in Nottingham; I have known Dymbellina since 1981, when we were fellow students with overlapping social circles, and Dymbel since 1984, when within only a few minutes of meeting me he had already offered to make me a Billy Bragg and Prefab Sprout compilation tape. Dymbel is a long-established writer of Young Adult fiction, and a lecturer in Creative Writing who would never have let me get away with such a clunking sentence as that last one, with its cavalier attitude to tense. He also has a blog, although he prefers not to call it a blog. Another fellow music obsessive, Dymbel has a touchingly loyal devotion to Elvis Costello and R.E.M., and an inexplicable fondness for Clem Snide and Aimee Mann. Dymbellina is a Something in Education at a nearby university, as well as being a published poet. She also has the neatest handwriting of anyone I have ever met. She will find it bizarre that I have singled out this particular accomplishment, and quite rightly so.

My partner since April 1985, K is Ver Class while I am Ver Trash. Or at least that’s what we like people to believe. I don’t deserve him, and he doesn’t deserve me. (Note the dual usage of the word “deserve” in that last sentence, and misinterpret it at your peril.)

A former colleague who lives in Ashbourne, thus straddling the city-country divide that is my Preferred Lifestyle Choice. Lathbud has been responsible for first recommending many of the attractions of the region, including the incomparable Best Country Pub In The Whole World Evah: The Gate at Brassington.

MissMish is the enchanting if at times somewhat misleading online persona of someone who has become a dear friend since she guest-blogged on this site in the summer of 2004. Glamorous, cultured and generous to a fault, I feel privileged to have been welcomed into her charmed circle of café society butterflies.

Our Journalist Friend.
I’ve never really settled on a good name for Our Journalist Friend, or his lady partner. (In the dim and distant past, I used to call them OldEngland and NewEngland, but there’s something not quite right about it.) Like us, OJF works in Nottingham during the week and comes over to The Village (see below) at weekends, where his partner (a “retired” (hah!) interior architect) now permanently resides. OJF is a formidable networker, with a ready hotline to The Great, The Good, and the Just Plain Fascinating. The two of them were the first people to make us feel welcome in The Village, and we owe them A LOT.

PDMG = Princess Diana Memorial Garden, so named because the Famous Garden Designer who made over the L-shaped patch of land behind our cottage had also been commissioned to remember England’s Rose in horticultural form. Since this project ultimately fell through, we have taken it upon ourselves to continue to uphold her memory. Cellophane-wrapped floral tributes may be left by the front gate.

Another former colleague, and devotee of both the music of Stereolab and the joys of snowboarding. (It’s a “portmanteau” word. Do you see?) Stereoboard and Stereboardina (it’s the best I could do) have a young son, whose progress has been mapped on a secret invitation-only “baby blog”, with an admirable lack of sentimental language and disturbing “Mummy says I’m a good boy” psychological projection. We go gigging together, when parental duties permit.

Village, the.
Our weekend cottage is situated in a quiet but rather smart village in the Derbyshire Peak District, somewhere between Ashbourne, Bakewell and Buxton. Its name remains a secret for Google-related reasons, and to preserve what little mystique I am able to wrap around myself. After moving there in Autumn 2000, we took to our status as The Only Gays In The Village as if to the manner born, and soon learnt to relish being referred to as “The Boys” by all and sundry. At our age!

(I might add to this. We’ll see.)

OK, since the e-mails are piling up…

…I’m fine; just having a short rest from all of this, as I was starting to feel a bit burnt out.

I originally intended to post an announcement to this effect over the weekend, but realised that if I did, then my natural contrariness would kick in and I would end up making loads of long posts, just to confound expectations. (I have a troubled relationship with expectations; the best way of getting me to do something is to set up an expectation of the opposite.)

By the way, I owe loads of people e-mails. When they start to stack up, then I tend to revert to ostrich mode and ignore the whole lot of them. Particularly if they contain a request for something. So apologies if you’ve been feeling slighted.

Anyway, since I’m here (uh-oh, slippery slope)… here are some things which I might have blogged about if I hadn’t been “resting”.

1. Mish‘s Royal Wedding party last Friday night, hastily re-conceptualised as a stag/hen do following the one-day postponement of the ceremony. It won’t surprise you to learn that I made a thematic mix CD for the event, with a selection of tunes designed to appeal to Royalists and Republicans alike. With inspiration partially coming from this thread on I Love Music, tracks included “Chapel Of Love” (The Chiffons), “Starting Together” (Su Pollard), “I Do I Do I Do I Do I Do I Do” (Abba), “Year Of Decision” (Three Degrees), “White Wedding” (Billy Idol – “it’s a nice day to start again”), “Tired Of Waiting For You” (The Kinks), “You Can’t Hurry Love” (The Supremes), “I’m Getting Married In The Morning” (from My Fair Lady), “Some Day My Prince Will Come” (from Sleeping Beauty), “Killer Queen” (Queen), “My Lovely Horse” (Divine Comedy), “Galloping Home (Theme From Black Beauty)” (London String Chorale), “Queen Bitch” (David Bowie), “It’s A Sin” (Pet Shop Boys), “Sir Duke” (Stevie Wonder), “Duchess” (Mish’s favourite band: The Stranglers) and “Perfect Moment” (Martine McCutcheon). I decided against “Dirty Diana” (Michael Jackson) and “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead” (Klaus Nomi) on grounds of taste.

2. The Shocking Scandal which took place at said party, news of which continued to bounce around from PC to PC and mobile to mobile for most of Saturday. (“She didn’t? He didn’t? They didn’t? But she’s a… and he’s a… did they get so drunk that they forgot?”) As I commented to Mish at the time: a proper lady has no business unveiling her lady garden in another lady’s garden.

3. The Awful News concerning Former Guest Blogger Alan. Having just moved back to Nottingham, and having just installed himself in a truly delightful furnished apartment on our collective spiritual home of Broad Street, next door to the late lamented Georges Bar, Alan was then informed that his project was being “mothballed” and that his contract would be coming to an end in just four weeks’ time. Too cruel! Too, too cruel!

4. K’s I’m The Media Whore Round Here! counter-offensive. Cover story in last week’s Business Post (already blogged). A self-penned “My Week” diary column in next week’s Business Post. Not one but two interviews on BBC Radio Nottingham, if you please. The distinct possibility of a TV appearance next week; I was particularly tickled by the way they politely asked him not agree to any other TV appearances in the meantime. As if! An invitation to meet Michael Howard yesterday, on his “secret” visit to Nottingham. (Don’t worry; he declined. Better things to do.) Okay okay, you’re the star – now enough!

5. The unseemly collapse of my Linkrack. Now, I just get one e-mail a day from my failed Crontab job, bearing the cryptic message /usr/libexec/ld-elf.so.1: Shared object “libintl.so.4” not found. But I didn’t even touch anything! Honest I didn’t! So, yeah, there’s no linklog for now. Apologies for that.

6. The Pope’s funeral; Ken and Deirdre’s wedding; Charles and Camilla’s wedding; the General Election. Too much excitement! (I might return to the last of those four tomorrow, in Another Place.)

7. Saturday’s Boys Night Out Bender To End All Benders, with Alan, Chig, Buni and a supporting cast of thousands. Only the most fractured of memories rise to the surface. Misreading a text message and sending a WILDLY inappropriate reply in the, um, heat of the moment. Picking up illicit cans of Stella from a speakeasy at the back of a chip shop at three in the morning. Doing Eastern European comedy voiceovers to an “adult” DVD with the sound turned down, at stupid o’clock in the morning. Oh, and… nope, not telling you that bit. Anyway, it was all a welcome contrast to falling asleep in front of the telly and then getting up early to do the mulching – and as such, it served its purpose admirably.

8. Getting an e-mail from a long-time reader who works in the music biz, to tell me that MARIZA THE GODDESS OF FADO HAS READ MY BLOG!!! Specifically my review of her Birmingham concert from late 2003. Apparently, she pronounced herself “flattered”.

Can I say it again please? Can I? Can I?

Troubled Diva – the blog that the STARS read!

9. The Blue Witch Party Election Manifesto: an ongoing series which ranges from the brilliant to the bonkers and back again, but which is never anything less than challenging/thought-provoking/carefully conceived. (Start here for the serious stuff, then work up.) Thanks also to BW for pointing me to this site, and its somewhat alarming conclusions. (I absolutely DENY being more favourably disposed to UKIP than Labour.)

Who Should You Vote For?

Who should I vote for?

Your expected outcome: Liberal Democrat

Your actual outcome:

Labour -22
Conservative -33
Liberal Democrat 52
UK Independence Party 7
Green 9

You should vote: Liberal Democrat

The LibDems take a strong stand against tax cuts and a strong one in favour of public services: they would make long-term residential care for the elderly free across the UK, and scrap university tuition fees as their main offer in compromise lawyer tactic. They are in favour of a ban on smoking in public places, but would relax laws on cannabis. They propose to change vehicle taxation to be based on usage rather than ownership.

Take the test at Who Should You Vote For

10. The exciting new Top 40 singles chart, to be unveiled next Sunday with the addition of sales figures for official downloads. I am in two minds about the impact that this will have.

On the plus side, it will extend the singles-buying demographic to a wider age group. On the minus side, this age group will mostly consist of trendy dads buying nice polite guitar bands like The Stereophonics.

On the plus side, “proper” hits will hang around the charts for a bit longer, whilst flash-in-the-pan marketing exercises will have less of an impact. On the minus side, we might end up with a stagnant chart which is clogged up with two-month-old hits from nice polite guitar bands like The Stereophonics.

On the plus side, we might once again see “climbers” in the charts, as singles are allowed to build a natural “buzz” and increase sales accordingly. On the minus side, a truly idiotic rule is being implemented whereby downloads only qualify for inclusion if the same track is also available in the shops as a CD single. This automatically disqualifies hits in the current download-only chart from Snoop Dogg/Justin Timberlake, The Caesars and Ciara/Missy Elliott.

The impact of the new chart will also be diluted by the newly shifted Top Of The Pops, which has been moved from Friday evenings to Sunday afternoons, just before the new chart is announced. As the show will presumably still be driven by the previous week’s chart, this is therefore the worst of all possible screening times.

I therefore recommend that everyone switch their allegiances forthwith to the Troubled Diva Parallel Universe Top 40, now in its fifth week, and based on a much fairer principle: my personal whim.

After last night’s astonishing live show (of which more later), the very least I could do was send the brilliant Rufus Wainwright all the way to the top slot; there’s also a new entry for his support act, Joan As Policewoman. Melodic soft-rockin’ pop is the order of the day, with Maroon 5 as the biggest climber and strong new entries from the likes of Nathalie Nordnes, Robyn, Weird War, 33hz, Tahiti 80 and The Magic Numbers. Meanwhile, it’s time to say goodbye to Elton John, Daft Punk, Secret Machines, Brand New Heavies, Roots Manuva, Handsome Boy Modelling School, Lady Sovereign, Terri Walker, Studio B, Nas and Katherine Williams.

1 (8) The One You Love – Rufus Wainwright
2 (3) Avalon – Juliet
3 (10) My Friend Dario – Vitalic
4 (11) Believe – Chemical Brothers ft Kele Okereke
5 (-) Join Me In The Park – Nathalie Nordnes
6 (5) 1-2 Step – Ciara ft Missy Elliott
7 (1) Giving You Up – Kylie Minogue
8 (-) Signs – Snoop Dogg ft Justin Timberlake
9 (9) So Much Love To Give – Freeloaders ft The Real Thing
10 (-) Be Mine – Robyn
11 (2) Chicken Payback – The Bees
12 (6) It’s Like That – Mariah Carey ft Fatman Scoop & Jermaine Dupri
13 (4) Negotiate With Love – Rachel Stevens
14 (7) Fistful Of Love – Antony & The Johnsons
15 (29) Must Get Out – Maroon 5
16 (-) Jerk It Out – The Caesars
17 (-) See About Me – Weird War
18 (-) Crazy All The Time – 33hz

19 (14) 10 Dollar/Pull Up The People – M.I.A.
20 (-) Changes – Tahiti 80
21 (33) First Day Of My Life – Bright Eyes
22 (24) Oh My Gosh – Basement Jaxx
23 (-) Itch U Can’t Scratch – Junior Senior
24 (16) No Sleep Tonight – The Faders
25 (20) Get Ready For Love – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
26 (-) My Gurl – Joan As Policewoman
27 (-) Anima Sola – The Magic Numbers

28 (18) Brown Eyes – Kano
29 (27) It Ended On An Oily Stage – British Sea Power
30 (25) Neighborhood #2 (Laika) – The Arcade Fire
31 (23) Somewhere Else – Razorlight
32 (26) Stay With You – Lemon Jelly
33 (17) Get Right – Jennifer Lopez (featuring Fabolous)
34 (21) They – Jem
35 (15) Why Do You Love Me – Garbage
36 (22) Across Yer Ocean – Mercury Rev
37 (13) In Public – Kelis featuring Nas
38 (36) Finding Out True Love Is Blind – Louis XIV
39 (35) No One Takes Your Freedom – DJ Earworm
40 (-) Tied Up Too Tight – Hard-Fi

As for this week’s stance on The Magic Numbers: having heard over a dozen of their songs, I’m rapidly coming round to them. In a fragile state of mind, they can be remarkably soothing.

Thanks also to Dead Kenny for pointing out that one of my Hot New Band plugs was misspelt: The Long Blondes are the band you should be watching out for.

11. The wonderful stage adaptation of the classic 1960s radio comedy series Round The Horne, which is playing at the Theatre Royal all this week. This takes the form of a simulated live recording of the radio show, with the cast of regulars stepping up to their microphones as needed, and assuming the voices of their large array of characters: Gruntfuttock, Rambling Syd Rumpo, Charles and Fiona, and, best of all, Julian and Sandy. It was a particular pleasure to hear Julian and Sandy’s Bona Law sketch in full: “We’ve got a criminal practice that takes up most of our time.” But really, who knew it was all so RUDE? Not by current standards maybe, but for a Sunday lunchtime in the 1960s, I am amazed that the scriptwriters got away with so much for so long. Needless to say, my mucky-minded media whore of a boyfriend was in stitches throughout. You might find a subtle reference to all of this next week in his diary column.

12. Last night’s amazing Rufus Wainwright concert, which deserves a seperate entry of its own. Soon come, no doubt. Oh, but then I’ll be setting an expectation, won’t I? Well, we shall see.

The Troubled Diva Parallel Universe Top 40.

Hmm. So much for longevity; with only twelve songs remaining from the first of these charts (compiled just three weeks ago), I must be even more fickle than I had feared. Such is the transient nature of yadda yadda yadda.

On the other hand, three of this week’s fifteen new entries are actually re-entries – headed up by British Sea Power, who I was a little too quick to dismiss at the time. It sneaks up on you, that one. Familiarity is everything.

Of the new new entries, Juliet and Ciara go charging straight into the Top Five – the first time that we’ve had new entries go in so high. It’s a good week for dance, with Juliet, The Freeloaders, Chemical Brothers and Daft Punk all debuting in the Top Twenty, and Vitalic climbing ten places. It’s also – if you’ll forgive the Radio Two-ism – a great week for the ladies, with no less than six records in the Top Ten sporting female lead vocals.

Kylie displaces Rachel after two weeks at Number One; Garbage have the highest climber (on ubiquity alone, as this has been inescapable all week); and we say goodbye to Tony Christie, Estelle, The Earlies, Bloc Party, Queens Of The Stone Age, T.I., Mario, Caribou, Erasure, New Order, Gwen Stefani, Annie, Million Dead, John Legend and Fischerspooner.

1 (2) Giving You Up – Kylie Minogue
2 (11) Chicken Payback – The Bees (updated link: full length video)
3 (-) Avalon – Juliet
4 (1) Negotiate With Love – Rachel Stevens
5 (-) 1-2 Step – Ciara ft Missy Elliott
6 (19) It’s Like That – Mariah Carey ft Fatman Scoop & Jermaine Dupri
7 (5) Fistful Of Love – Antony & The Johnsons
8 (9) The One You Love – Rufus Wainwright
9 (-) So Much Love To Give – Freeloaders ft The Real Thing
10 (20) My Friend Dario – Vitalic
11 (-) Believe – Chemical Brothers ft Kele Okereke
12 (-) Turn The Lights Out When You Leave – Elton John
13 (26) In Public – Kelis featuring Nas
14 (3) 10 Dollar/Pull Up The People – M.I.A.
15 (39) Why Do You Love Me – Garbage
16 (6) No Sleep Tonight – The Faders
17 (12) Get Right – Jennifer Lopez (featuring Fabolous)
18 (4) Brown Eyes – Kano
19 (-) Robot Rock – Daft Punk
20 (18) Get Ready For Love – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
21 (16) They – Jem
22 (10) Across Yer Ocean – Mercury Rev
23 (-) Somewhere Else – Razorlight
24 (7) Oh My Gosh – Basement Jaxx
25 (8) Neighborhood #2 (Laika) – The Arcade Fire
26 (13) Stay With You – Lemon Jelly
27 (RE) It Ended On An Oily Stage – British Sea Power
28 (-) Road Leads Where It’s Led – Secret Machines
29 (-) Must Get Out – Maroon 5
30 (-) Surrender – Brand New Heavies ft Nicole Russo
31 (14) Too Cold – Roots Manuva
32 (RE) The World’s Gone Mad – Handsome Boy Modelling School
33 (-) First Day Of My Life – Bright Eyes
34 (15) Random – Lady Sovereign
35 (RE) No One Takes Your Freedom – DJ Earworm
36 (29) Finding Out True Love Is Blind – Louis XIV
37 (38) Whoopsie Daisy – Terri Walker
38 (25) I See Girls – Studio B featuring Romeo
39 (22) Just A Moment – Nas featuring Quan
40 (-) Shop Window – Kathryn Williams

Bubbling under the chart are The Magic Numbers, as tipped for greatness last week. Having sat down and listened to them since then, I’m not so sure; too thin and soft and wimpy and wispy for my tastes. There again, they could still turn out to be the new Keane – who were the new Thrills – who were the new Starsailor – who were the new Travis. Such is the cyclical nature of yadda yadda yadda.

The big launch.

K’s animal cancer company launches commercially this weekend, at a big veterinary conference in Birmingham. Once again, the Nottingham Evening Post’s business section has the scoop; here’s a link to yesterday’s cover story. (I’d scan the accompanying photo, but the scanner’s gone on the blink.)

As my old art teacher used to say: basically, this is very exciting.

K’s absence at the conference also means that I shall be Home Alone between tomorrow evening and Sunday evening. Heavens, whatever shall I do?

Write Like A Diva: the results.

In joint third place, with 3 votes: Entry #1 – the Judy Garland contest.

  • …can’t imagine K doing a Judy Garland impression in pink, however drunk (Waitrose David)
  • Number one bemoans the lack of italics too often, and there’s not enough detail about the competition. (asta)
  • I’ll go for #1. All those italics…. (Rob)
  • Runners up: number 1, because I so want to believe it… (sarsparilla)
  • Oh, I don’t think any of them sound exactly like you. maybe 1? (mimi)
  • #1 C @ CS (chav gav)
  • A Judy Garland lookalike competition for gay men? That is just too obvious surely- the sort of thing I might have dreamt up, as a hetero man trying to put myself in your dancing shoes….. but the style is convincing (if with just a few too many phrases in brackets to be absolutely so..) and, as you can see, we have ruled out all the other entries, so…. #1 it is! (jonathan)
  • i think 1 – NB (zed)

OK, let’s examine the evidence.

Plenty of “meta” waffle at the beginning, before even starting the story: yes, that’s very me.

Actual use of the word “meta”: oh yes, absolutely.

Using the word “meta” twice in the same post: actually, not me at all. Ever since I spotted D.H. Lawrence use the same “interesting” word twice in consecutive paragraphs at the age of 14 (thus dismissing him as an overrated writer from that point onwards – sorry Ben, but teenagers can be harsh in their judgements), I have been especially wary of ever doing this.

Placing an entire paragraph in brackets: yup, got me there.

Double parenthesising (i.e. brackets within brackets): actually, I never do this. A dangerous little touch of parody creeping in there, methinks.

There remains in my heart, I freely admit, a small kernel of bitterness which pains me whenever I think of that night.” Now, that’s a quintessential Troubled Diva sentence if ever I heard one. Colour me spooked!

The idea of K and I impersonating Judy Garland is, I agree, a little too gay-cliché even for us. But then – and this is what some people might have glossed over – we were actually impersonating Judy Garland impersonating a gay man. Clever, huh? But possibly a bit too clever for the likes of the Part Two nightclub, even at its height. And besides: whereas I might be something of a thesp manqué, you would never catch K doing anything so overtly flamboyant in a public place. (He’d rather die.)

Verdict: Very close – but on balance, probably not me.

Shall we find out who wrote it, then?

Actually, one of you has guessed it already – well done, chav gav – but then, she did leave rather a massive clue on her own blog, didn’t she?

Clare Sudbery of Boob Pencil: ’twas you all along. Many thanks for taking part. I’d hand you a Troubled Diva pencil at this point, but we’re not doing consolation prizes this time.

So how about an unsolicited plug instead? Clare is a bona fide published author, whose first novel – the splendidly titled The Dying Of Delight, published by the equally splendidly named Diva Books – can be ordered from here (UK) or from here (US).

Also in joint third place, with 3 votes: Entry #4 – And Baby Makes Three.

  • And from what we have been told I can’t imagine […] that you would ever buy anything from IKEA. Although maybe 15 years ago …. (Waitrose David)
  • Number four, to quote someone I’m familiar with is ” just takin’ the piss”. (asta)
  • I’m torn between the playground tart and the designer baby. I would have gone for the designer baby, but I’m not sure at the choice of name. It’s not very Mike. But it could be very K. […] No girl, go with your instinct. Designer baby. (Gert)
  • I’m going for number 4 because it’s the least likely and therefore probably Mike having a laugh. (Pam)
  • 4 is naked blog. (dave)
  • anyone who shops at ikea gets my vote. i say number four! (IKEAfan)
  • #4 P @ NB (chav gav)
  • #4 I think we can safely discard. I am sure there are elements of your life you don’t tell us about, Mike, but if you and K had taken delivery of a little bundle of joy, I think you might have let it slip by now. Kylie-Louise indeed! (jonathan)
  • I’ve been trying to decide…and failing. Definitely not 4 though, because you did say it’s a true story. (Blue Witch)
  • Oh I do love number four. but then, THEN, I had to scroll past all these posts, and they all said 2 or 3, and I *also* thought two and three, although I loved four, and now I don’t know what to think as I never made a decision in my life. (Anna)

Waitrose David: actually, you’re wrong. IKEA does have its uses from time to time – although dramatically less so than in days gone by, I will admit. And yes, we have bought IKEA mirrors in the past.

Blue Witch: actually, you’re right. I did promise that mine would be a true reminiscence. So let’s sift through for clues, shall we?

Again, we have an entire paragraph encased in brackets. And three sentences beginning with “Oh”. But possibly a certain paucity of adverbs. Then again, I could be double-bluffing.

The Paul Smith pyjamas are more than plausible.

As for Marrakesh: more extraordinary how-did-they-know spookiness here, as K has been trying to persuade me to take a holiday in Morocco for many years. (I’ve always been worried about the street hassle, but have been getting progressively less worried.) There was even one occasion where he brandished a brochure in front of me, announcing that he’d found a bijou little tent in the desert for us. By an oasis. With broadband internet access. And your own private chef. Nice try, I’ll grant him that.

The juxtaposition of class (Harvey Nicks crockery) and trash (the Trisha show) is also highly characteristic – as is the way I seize upon the arrival of a baby as an opportunity to burn yet another compilation CD.

However. K can’t drink coffee (acupuncturist’s orders), and I almost never do crosswords, and our cleaner’s name is Joan, and my BT/Yahoo spam filter blocks all the viagra/cialis adverts, and I never call myself lower-case-mike outside of comments boxes (although I find it rather sweet that you all do). And I don’t separate sections of posts with rows of asterisks, either.

But rather more importantly than that: although breaking the news to you by means of a blogging competition would have been the most fantastic way of doing things, we don’t actually have a newly-delivered surrogate baby called Kylie Louise. Come on, do we look like that ghastly couple off the telly from a few years back? Aspen and Saffron indeed! (And that bungalow!)

So, contestant number four – who the devil are you?

Once again, chav gav nails it – as does dave. Peter of Naked Blog: ’twas you all along. (I also have my suspicions about the vote from “IKEAman”, but we’ll let that one pass.) Commiserations on your joint third place, and thank you for taking part.

In second place, with 16 votes: Entry #2 – Where d’ya want taking?

  • The real diva is #2, even if it isn’t. But it is, anyway. Clearly. (djg)
  • …the “trucking incident” seemed unlikely somehow – do you or can you use taxis in the Peak District ? Mind you, the snigger quota could have been upped by a mention of Snake Pass. (Waitrose David)
  • Number two has too many yesses. (asta)
  • Number two gets my vote. Lots of believable occasional detail, although I don’t believe a word of the actual story. (sarsparilla)
  • #2 has its merits. In fact it is very persuasive indeed. But ‘amiably friendly’, I think, is stretching your penchant for the superfluous adverb just a little bit too far. I am going to discard the truck driver story on that basis alone. (jonathan)
  • It’s either 2 or 3 but, purely on the grounds that I am not convinced by the introduction segment of no. 2, I’m going to have to go for no. 3. (Alan)
  • No.2 just doesn’t sound gay enough….I’m sure you’ve had gayer moments than that. (clair)
  • I’m going with 2 is you, and if it isn’t, it’s the most like the usual you, and you’ve tried to write not like you usually do. If you see what I mean 🙂 (Blue Witch)

Well, it was a two-horse race right from the start, wasn’t it? Usually with #3 fractionally in the lead – but even as recently as yesterday evening, #2 and #3 had exactly the same number of votes.

Let’s take a good, hard look at #2, then.

Waitrose David: this may shock you, but yes – we do have taxis in the Peak District. And electricity! And running water! (OK, so there’s no digital TV or broadband in our village just yet, but it’s just a matter of time.) Because drunk people need to get home in the countryside just as much as they do in the city.

As for the stylistic tics: I call you “people”. I start sentences with “Well”, “Yes”, “So” (twice), “But” (twice), and “And” (a whopping SEVEN times). There’s a whole paragraph in brackets, obviously. And there are certainly plenty of adverbs.

Including two uses of “thrillingly”. Hmm. Remember what I said?

But – most damningly of all – there is this:

(A confession. We were, actually, in the front of the lorry. But that last sentence just seemed too good to leave out). Read on.

Do you see what I see? Yes: a full stop outside the closing bracket, even though there is no “exterior” sentence for it to close. Rightly or wrongly, I would never have done this.

Unless I was double-bluffing, of course.

So what about the story itself? Plausible, isn’t it? Astonishingly so, even. Particularly the “Where d’ya want taking?” punchline, and K’s response to it. How could anyone else have nailed his sense of humour so precisely?

On the other hand, there’s the Tammy Wynette song. Notice how contestant #2 doesn’t actually tell you the name of the song in question. And ask yourself: would Mike have let a musical detail like that slip by?

Time to reveal the real identity of Contestant #2, then.

Which none of you guessed.

Not one of you.

Which makes his achievement all the more impressive. JonnyB, will you step up to the platform please. Now, let me take a good look at you.

My God! The resemblance is uncanny. Peas in a pod. People will think we’re sisters!

JonnyB: when I read your entry out loud to K, and got to the “Where d’ya want taking?” punchline, he a) howled the house down and b) said “Does he ever visit Derbyshire? We must have him over!”

(Actually, I’m starting to get a little worried. This guy starts his blog not much more than a year ago – with finely honed and witty tales of village life in a period cottage – and builds his links and traffic up to the point where he’s actually more popular than Troubled F***ing Diva, if you please – then he writes a suspiciously accurate “gayest moment ever” blog entry which comes perilously close to beating me in a competition to be myself – and now my own Long Term Life Partner wants to “have him over”. It’s all a bit Single White Female, isn’t it?)

Congratulations, JonnyB – and thanks for taking part. You may leave the stage now. That’s right, carry on walking. Yes, thank you. Exit at the back, please. (Security: make sure he leaves the premises.)

In first place, with 19 votes: Entry #3 – the playground tart who couldn’t stop pulling.

  • Number three strays just far enough from the expected to be just right in my books. (asta)
  • So I went for the playground tart as being more believable. but somehow, when I was told that Ken was wearing Carnaby Street fashions, I had to conclude it was slightly the wrong era, and I have declared the designer baby. (Gert)
  • 3 is joe my god. (dave)
  • It’s #3, because surely nobody else would have thought to write about teenage snowball yearning. (diamond geezer)
  • Number 3 is the longest so it must be you, Mike. (Amanda)
  • #3 M @ T-D (chav gav)
  • I’m voting for number 3. Just because I love the idea of you pulling Ken all night long….. (MissMish)
  • Number #3 almost, almost gets my vote. But Mike, I don’t imagine you being quite so… flamboyant as a child, if you don’t mind me saying so, and (this is the clincher) I have just re-read story number one of your marvellous ‘forty in forty’ and see that rather than ‘a string’ of Scandinavian au pairs you had just the two- the other three were all Austrian or French. So I am going to have to discard this story of Ken and his broken string…. (jonathan)
  • I think Number 3 is “Joe.My.God.” (Alan)
  • My vote is with no.3. That poor poor ken doll. (clair)
  • I think #2 is you, and #3 is Vaughan. (Karen)

Yay! Congratulations to ME, for being the most convincing at being MYSELF! Just! By the merest of whiskers!

Of the above commenters, asta had it spot on. Having listed my most common stylistic tics for the benefit of prospective contestants, I then proceeded to abandon them as much as possible, opting instead to write more in the style of the old 40 In 40 Days Project from three years ago. My “writerly” voice, if you like. (Comparatively speaking, at any rate.)

However, as the piece progressed and I moved into the actual Ken story itself, I found myself thinking: this is the sort of thing that Joe.My.God. might write. And so I found myself quite deliberately bending my style more towards his. The one sentence paragraphs. The simpler language. The sense of immediacy. The suspense-building. The sheer perversity. There was even a direct quote: the one-word paragraph HOT, which formed the repeated punchline to one of his series from last year. So how gratifying it was to have pulled the wool over at least two sets of eyes.

Regarding Gert‘s comment: Carnaby Street’s heyday lasted until at least 1968-69, when this story would have taken place, so the story is indeed accurate. And yes, Jonathan – I really was that flamboyant as a child, before the self-conscious agonies of adolescence put paid to such gaiety. But as for your detective work on the au pairs: OK, you got me there, fair and square. (It’s called “artistic licence”. I’m not proud.)

I shall now award myself with the luscious six-CD set of Bloggers’ Disco megamixes. About time I won something in one of these competitions, anyway.

That was fun. I’ve often wondered what it would feel like to impersonated, and now I know. You should try it some time!

Royal wedding postponed for Pope

Bumped off the schedules, to make way for that Polish bloke. I ask you, how many more indignities must our happy couple suffer? One can only hope that at least Ken and Deirdre stick to their guns.

I also see that Charles will be travelling to Rome for the Friday funeral, without Camilla. That’s asking for trouble, isn’t it? I can picture the sheepish Saturday morning phone call now.

“Sorry, old thing; I appear to be chained to a lamp post in St Peter’s Square. Those bloody cardinals…”

Write Like A Diva: your votes, please.

So, which one of our four contestants is the Real Me?

Is it Contestant Number One, the prancing, preening Judy-wannabe?

Is it Contestant Number Two, stranded on an open road and throwing himself at the mercy of passing truckers?

Is it Contestant Number Three, the playground tart who couldn’t stop pulling?

Or is it Contestant Number Four, inspired by a Trisha Eureka Moment?

The choice is yours. Please leave your vote in the comments box beneath this post. When a suitable period has elapsed, I shall then announce the winner.

And no psychological second-guessing based on the order of the contestants: the draw was decided by an online random number generator.

And no peeking in the comments box before casting your vote; you should come to an independent decision before opening it.

Have fun. And may the Gayest contestant win!

Update: Please cast your votes by Tuesday night (April 5th) at the latest. All will then be revealed on Wednesday.

Write Like A Diva: contestant #4.

(Click here to view the rules of the game.)


I could tell K was feeling grumpy the moment he sat down to breakfast. Just one glance in the new full length mirror we’d bought at IKEA last weekend would have assured him that Paul Smith pyjamas could never, ever be seen with that fabulous dressing gown number he’d picked up for a song in Marrakesh last year.

(Thailand was always our main little holiday love-nest in the past, but darlings – it’s just so dangerous these days, what with tsumamis and disgraced former pop stars and so on. A boy doesn’t know who he’s rubbing shoulders with on the beach any more.)

So no – it’s Marrakesh for us… ever since we fell in love with The Man Who Knew Too Much – you know that movie with the divine Doris Day and James Stewart. Oh – you can never go wrong with Technicolor!

“What’s wrong, sweetheart?” I asked, concerned – as I poured him a cup of delicious steaming Fair Trade Organic Arabica.

“Oh, I don’t know, mike,” he replied, looking more and more crestfallen. “Do you ever get the idea that life’s lost some of its zing these days? That the only zest we see is when you grate a lemon?”

I sat back, and pretended to do my Guardian Crossword. When K is like this there’s no telling what might come up. Even after he’d crashed out of the house en route to his office, and Molly the housekeeper had cleared the breakfast crocks (two years ago from Harvey Nick’s spring sale) – I could still sense his looming, brooding presence around the house.

What was up? What mystery might the day hold yet? Idly I glanced through my wardrobe, fingering my favourite shirts… thinking back to that fabuloso “shirt off my back” project. How we’d laughed! How the punters had flocked to play! Some of the shirts are looking a little threadbare now, I decided. Oxfam time, maybe.

“Will that be all, sir?” Molly shouted from the kitchen. “My youngest’s got a doctor’s appointment in twenty minutes, and if it’s OK with you I’d like to be at the surgery with her…”

“Yes, sure, Molly – I replied, distracted. “Take as much time as you like. There’s nothing urgent about here today.”

So she left. Another one looking concerned. Empty house now. Even the mobile had no messages. Oh, there were a few spam emails… viagra this, cialis that, my mortgage application already approved… but apart from that sweet rien.

Trisha was on the telly and I knew I shouldn’t – but hey! If she’s good enough for la Burchill, then she’s certainly good enough for me. “Why have I got two daddies?” was the title of today’s show, and I sat in front of it entranced – fascinated by this new-style family. Son. Daughter. Dad. And Dad.

The revelation, when it came, hit me like a tsunami. “That’s it!” I screamed. “That’s it! That’s exactly what K and I need… now where the f**k do we get a family?”


Well, all that was nine months ago, and only yesterday we were delighted to take delivery of the sweetest baby girl you ever did see. Kylie Louise we’ve decided on. That’ll give her some choice when she grows up. You truly can get anything you want in Marrakesh. We mixed our sperm, you see – so in a very true sense she belongs to both of us.

Next year we’re going to try for another one! And watching Trisha like that was my gayest ever thing.

Now excuse me folks while I go and make up a lovely CD of nursery rhymes and lullabies for Kylie Louise. (Just between you and me – I want her to grow up more like this daddy than the other one! )


Write Like A Diva: contestant #3.

(Click here to view the rules of the game.)

Looking at things from a certain angle, you could say that I was at my gayest as a child. Not sexually gay, of course; that goes without saying. But innocently and instinctively gay, before I even knew what “gay” was, or that there was any stigma attached to gay behaviour. Playfully gay. Shamelessly gay. Gaily gay.

It came out in so many ways. Intense schoolboy crushes, but with none of the unrequited agonies that would come with adolescence. These were crushes in which I sought nothing back; I was merely content to idealise, to idolise, to bask in the glow. Fantasies of a twin brother, who could be soulmate and playmate – or of having au pair BOYS around the house, rather than our regular stream of Scandanavian sixteen-year-old girls. (In this respect, I realise with hindsight that my father was a very canny man.) Sighing over cute boys on the telly: Cliff Richard, Fraser Hines as Jamie in “Doctor Who”, Derek Fowlds on the Basil Brush show. Just wanting to BE with these people. To be included in their gang. To have them smile at me, take my hand, whisk me away to a land of fun and freedom.

But oh dear God, I could be such a little tart with it. Chasing boys round the school playground for comedy kisses, mouth puckered, arms outstretched. Or grabbing them by the waist and forcing them into a waltz routine: da da-da da daah, deet! deet!, doot! doot! It gave me a bit of a reputation. But not unpleasantly so; my antics were observed with bemused good humour rather than overt hostility. Somehow, I always got away with it.

“Michael, have you ever heard of homosexuals?”, a classmate once asked. I would have been nine or ten years old by then.

I shook my head. It was a new word.

“Well, you’re definitely one of them.”

I didn’t even bother to ask what one was. Just grinned and shrugged, then wandered off to do something else. The nearest I got to any conception of a separate sexual identity was with my recurring marriage fantasy: just imagine if they changed the law just for one day, so that boys could get married to boys! Because if they did, then I’d ask T.N. to marry me. Then we could be together for ever and ever, ah-men.

Although come to think of it, there was also my “male-only town” fantasy. A special town, which would only admit men between the ages of… well, I forget what the exact ages were, but I do remember the rule which said that men who reached a certain age would be obliged to move out of town. Oh, and I’d only admit good-looking ones.

Very Brave New World. Very Logan’s Run. Very circuit-party body-fascist. The clues were all there, should I have chosen to disclose them; but even at that age, I knew it was best to keep certain thoughts to myself. Male-only towns? Come on; that’s weird by anyone’s standards.

(It had a name as well, my sexy town. Shall I tell you? Don’t laugh. KIRBY. Yeah, I know.)

And then there was the snowball incident.

My grandmother’s sitting room had a large, three-paned bay window, looking out onto her small back garden – and, adjacent to the right, the playground of Doncaster Grammar School for Boys. One mid-morning break time in January (they must have started term earlier than me), I was sitting on the floor next to the window – all misted over with condensation – when I became aware of a commotion from outside. Wiping away a small patch of condensation at the bottom of the right hand pane, I peered through.

All across the playground, dozens of laughing and leaping teenage boys in blazers and ties were pelting each other with snowballs, in one almighty snow-fight.

Fun. Freedom. Inclusion. Contact. Anything-goes delirium. I had never seen anything more exciting in my life.

This is where it gets really gay.

After the break was over, I felt the most churning sense of loss. I needed to see more of this. Badly.

And so I stood up, stretched out my index finger, and wrote the following message in the condensation on the right hand window pane.


(In reverse lettering, of course. Come on, I was a bright kid.)

It didn’t work. Begging never does. I’d learn this much later in life.

But even that wasn’t my gayest moment ever.

That would be the Ken incident.

My cousin from Essex was a keen collector of Barbie dolls. She had loads of them in her room, all arranged in fun little tableaus; I particularly remember a groovy little bunch of them discotheque-dancing together. I was a bit jealous; you couldn’t do that sort of thing with my boring old wooden guardsmen, all featureless and identical in their drab little fort.

On one of her visits up North, my cousin brought a new doll with her. A boy doll! I had never seen such a thing, and was thrilled to the core; this was something new and exciting. I didn’t know you could have boy dolls!

His name was Ken, and he was Barbie’s boyfriend. Ken was dressed in the latest Carnaby Street fashions: intricately patterned salmon-pink jacket, cream slacks, and a matching cream cravat, in lurex. He also had a string attached to his back. If you pulled it, he said “Hi, I’m Ken!”, in a bright American voice.


I played a lot with Ken that afternoon. That clingy bitch Barbie scarcely got a look-in.

At bedtime, I sneaked Ken away with me, and placed him on my bedside table for easy access. That way, I could pull him any time I wanted.

“Hi, I’m Ken!”

“Hi, I’m Ken!”

“Hi, I’m Ken!”

I pulled him, and pulled him, and pulled him.

“Hi, I’m Ken!”

Pulled him with the lights out. Pulled him all night long.

“Hi, I’m Ken!”

Pulled him “just once more, and then that’s it”. But extra-hard this time. Yeah, YANK that string.


Oh dear.

Oh dearie dearie me.

I turned the light back on and examined the doll, his cream lurex cravat now somewhat awry from all the exertion.

The frayed and severed string told its own tale. I had broken Ken. And now I would have to ‘fess up to my cousin in the morning.

My first moment of Gay Shame. There would be many, many more.

But none that would ever be quite so gay again.

Write Like A Diva: contestant #2.

(Click here to view the rules of the game.)

So, I guess you’re agog to know. So agog, people, that I sense you didn’t want to delay things by spending too much time on my little competition.

Mea culpa. Was it a good idea? A bit of collaborative fun, or a monumental act of hubris? Should I indulge in one of those Hissy Fits that so brighten up the Land of Blog from time to time? Yes? No? Well here’s the story.

But first – and foremost – what were you expecting? Clubs? Saunas? I ask you (at our age!) No. Our story takes place on the open roads of Derbyshire and – most thrillingly – in the back of a lorry.

(A confession. We were, actually, in the front of the lorry. But that last sentence just seemed too good to leave out). Read on.

A breakdown (of the automotive variety) in what passes for a minicab in those parts. A main road. A lack of mobile telephony. And a pressing need to get home.

Let me make something quite clear: neither K nor I are the hitchhiking type. Try as I might, I can summon no enthusiasm for the sport. However, it was getting late, K was somewhat tipsy and November is such an inappropriate time to be stranded on a peak with a mere thin linen shirt and anorak. We’re such townies at heart, you know.

And there’s the rub. After twenty minutes of delicate, measured thumbing at passing traffic, could we get a car to stop? Could we?

Enter Gary, our cabbie. Yes, he was possibly upset with us for leaving him ineffectually mending the engine, and yes we may have been a trifle – short, shall we say? – as we realised we were going nowhere in his clapped-out old banger – yes, banger. But yes, also, he was in the same boat and so strode out into the road in front of an approaching juggernaut.

(It was massive, I tell you. What do they put in these things?)

“We need a ride”, he explained to a welcoming face through the window. And all of a sudden – and this happened to both K and I simultaneously – we started to find the situation funny. Ha ha, not peculiar. “We need a ride!” “A ride!” Kids, eh?

Readers: I kid you not. We hoisted ourselves thrillingly into one of the cabs of one Mr Eddie Stobert – long-distance lorry driver to the stars, I think you’ll find. Nothing but the best, you know. Was that a zing of electricity as we helped each other mount the step?

Our driver was amiably friendly – but perhaps hadn’t expected a cargo quite like K and I. Have you been in the cab of one of those things? I should explain for clarity – despite their apparent humungousness they seat three thin best friends in comfort. We were (by now) all friends, but not best, and Gary was certainly not thin. We squashed together deliciously. The driver – whose name I forget – and Gary seemed to press themselves against their respective doors to avoid knee contact. Not in a nasty way, you understand. Just in the embarrassed English hetero fashion. Physical contact. It’s soooo not done.

“Where d’ya want taking?” asked our driver. And that did it. K started to laugh. And I started to laugh. And K started to laugh some more. The driver did not laugh. Gary smiled weakly.

“Drop us in Bakewell?” I requested, through teeth gritted with red-jowled embarrassment and juvenile glee. Because what was tuned in? Radio 2. The artiste? Tammy Wynette. It was perfect, I tell you. Perfect. And so we started to sing.

A journey to treasure; I expect they remember us well.

Write Like A Diva: contestant #1.

(Click here to view the rules of the game.)

I expect to be seeing many entries making reference to such things as Yohji Yamamoto and Martin Margiela, boutique hotels and crab tortellini. Come on: surely you don’t think that I’m that predictable? Strewth, you’ll be telling me next that you know my taste in music.

No, we’ll be putting such things as impeccable taste aside for now. My gayest moment cannot be reduced to such superficialities. Oh no, dear reader, it’s so much more meta than that.

(My, but I do wish I hadn’t demanded that html tags be omitted. I so want to italicise every second word. I’m learning about myself already.)

So, yeah: my gayest moment. Let me take you back to the summer of 1985. Regular readers will already know that K and I met that year. What you cannot possibly know, because I haven’t yet told you, is this: we entered a competition, K and I. A gay competition. A gay Judy Garland (damn that lack of italics) competition.

Hosted by Part Two, Nottingham’s gayest club, the object of the exercise was not just to mimic Judy Garland, oh no. For here is where it becomes such a marvellously meta concept.

We were being asked, and I swear this is not a word of a lie, we were requested, nay, exhorted (by friends who shall remain nameless, but are to this day waiting (in vain, I might add) for forgiveness), to mimic Judy Garland mimicking a gay man. What twisted gay fluffy-pink mind came up with such a concept, I can only dream at. And thankfully I never had to suffer their company. (For the progenitor of such an appallingly misconceived fiasco must surely have been an insufferable little twerp.)

However, despite the absolute and incontrovertibly pointless (and naturally, were I able, I would have italicised the word pointless) nature of the event…

….we rather enjoyed ourselves. We pranced. We preened. We screamed at each other from either side of the small student bedroom in which we rehearsed this madness. We wore pink. Yes, pink. And finally, we sallied forth into the centre of Nottingham in all our finery. We were ready, we two, to take Part Two by storm. We minced, dear reader, oh how we minced. Such mincery has never been seen.

Did I mention that we wore pink?

We didn’t win. There remains in my heart, I freely admit, a small kernel of bitterness which pains me whenever I think of that night. For we, not to put too fine a point on it, were robbed. To my mind, a gay man with a beard is simply not capable of presenting a convincing facsimile of a female gay icon, whomever she may be mimicking. But there, what do I know?

After all, I’ve never been terribly gay.

My granny always said it was bad luck to play April Fool’s Day pranks after noon.

I must confess to feeling a little sheepish and shamefaced when checking my Inbox this morning, and finding the kindest, sweetest, most supportive e-mail from a regular reader of this site who was concerned by my apparent toys-out-of-pram hissy fit.

So sheepish and shamefaced, that I swiftly added a Care Bear to the bottom of the page. Because that would make everything crystal clear, right? Such are the workings of my hungover early-morning mind. And you wonder why I rarely blog before noon?

Anyway. Ruling a line and moving on (as our dear Prime Minister is so fond of doing), entries for the Write Like A Diva competition will appear later today. And just in case you’re the sort of person who has all their best ideas after a deadline has expired (that would be me then), I am going to extend the deadline for entries until 17:00 today (UK time).

Oh, and just in case you’ve missed them: genius and genius. These make my own scraggy, half-assed effort wilt by comparison.

Update: Two stories from The Register:
Bush twins to join Air Force tech unit in Iraq. I like ’em when they’re as dry and pointed as this.
Apple founder Jobs joins IKEA. This actually had me fooled for the first three paragraphs.

Continue reading “My granny always said it was bad luck to play April Fool’s Day pranks after noon.”