Look who has come to stay with Mike and his special friend K in Nottingham!

Hello Quickos, and welcome to the beautiful and historic city of Nottingham! I’m sure you’re going to have lots of really exciting adventures while you’re here. Please say thank you to Mummy and Daddy for the scrumptious Belgian waffles. We had them with strawberry jam, and they were really yummy.


First of all, we took Quickos to see Robin Hood. Robin Hood was the most famous man ever to live in Nottingham. He took all the money off the rich people, and gave it to the poor people, so that they wouldn’t be poor ever again.


(K says he’s not sure that’s such a good idea, particularly if the rich people are busy making Important Contributions to the Knowledge Economy. Doesn’t K know a lot of big words!)


Being photographed with Famous Folk Heroes is thirsty work! So Mike and K took Quickos to Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem for a pint of English beer. Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem is the oldest pub in England, Mike says. Quickos said he hoped the beer wasn’t that old!


Here’s Quickos, having his first ever pint of English beer with Mike. (Actually, Mike just let Quickos have a couple of sips, because he’s not really old enough for beer just yet, and Mike was worried that he might be setting a Bad Example.)


Ooh, yummy! Quickos loves English beer! This one’s called “Olde Trip”, just like the name of the pub. It makes Quickos feel all silly and giggly. Mike says he’ll need a good long sleep tonight!

Quickos is really, really excited, because Mike and K are taking him to the countryside tomorrow, to see the Princess Diana Memorial Garden. And then on Saturday, Quickos is going all the way to Cambridge, to visit Mike’s Mummy. Mike says that lots of clever people live in Cambridge, because they’ve studied really hard at school and done all of their sums.

Quickos loves meeting all his new English friends.

The Troubled Diva Rough Guide To “World” Music – Part 1.

Although I can drone away about the minutiae of pop music until the cows come home – a pithy apercu here, a deconstructed semiological signifier there – when it comes to my other great love, quote-unquote “world” music, I generally clam up. This is because, where “world” music is concerned, I find I have no particular desire to do anything other than simply listen to the stuff, devoid of any background knowledge or cultural context. For me, the music works on an almost entirely abstract level – as pure form and feeling, articulated and embellished by a strong sense of craft and technique.

Thus it is that I scarcely even bother to scan the translated lyrics, choosing instead to wallow in the sound of the voices. Indeed, a lyric sung in English generally comes as an unwelcome intrusion of literal meaning, jarring against my cliché-primed sensibilities. Keep the meaning obscure, and you keep the mystery intact.

I am also well aware that what we middle class white Europeans like to call “world music” is actually a carefully packaged marketing niche, and that the stuff that “world music” audiences rave over isn’t always the stuff that goes down best in its countries of origin. Example: the last Youssou N’Dour album (the critically acclaimed Egypt) bombed in Senegal, because you couldn’t dance to it. Meanwhile the most popular pan-African artists are probably Sting, Phil Collins, Bob Marley, Eminem and 50 Cent.

In other words, it’s easy to fall into a false trap of cultural tourism, where the attractively packaged “world music” album is actually about as representative of that country’s culture as the beautifully carved wooden ornaments that you can only find in souvenir shops.

Or consider the situation in reverse, where a native African tells you that he really loves your English music: Kate Rusby, Eliza Carthy, Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention. Which, of course, is not without its adherents (and rightly so) – but it’s hardly the stuff which you’ll hear booming out of doorways as you stroll down “typical” English streets.

So, maybe for “world” music, it would be better to say “roots” music instead. But then again, I’m no purist. What about all that Senegalese hip hop? Or the contemporary, cosmopolitan influences which Manu Chao has brought to bear on the new Amadou & Mariam album? Or the scratch DJ-ing on the Ojos De Brujo and Miguel ‘Anga’ Diaz albums? Or Rachid Taha collaborating with Steve Hillage and covering The Clash?

And that’s the other problem: reading about “world” music is not only beside the point – but, well, a little bit boring, like a coursework assignment. Better by far to sidestep all the fascinating facts, all the “Is it representative?”, “Am I being marketed to?” head-f**ks, all the cultural tourism baggage…

…and just enjoy the music. Which I do, constantly. Especially at weekends, or in the car, or at any other time where K is within earshot. (In the Venn diagram of our musical tastes, the intersection of the circles is marked “world/roots”.)

Which brings me to my point. If I’m not going to blog about my love of “world” music, then perhaps it’s better if I let the music speak for itself.

In which case, here’s Part One of the Troubled Diva Rough Guide To “World” Music: a continuous mix, containing nine songs, and lasting for half the length of a CD. The second half of the CD will be along in a few days’ time, and the full track listing will appear a few days after that, along with links to all the featured albums.

In the two mixes, I have focused mainly on albums which have come out in the past 18 months or so, with one or two tracks thrown in for historical interest. About half the tracks are African, with the remainder coming from all over the world.

Here are four Yousendit links, all to the same file, which should provide enough downloads to be going on with. Even if you have no particular interest in “world” music, I would strongly advise you to take a listen anyway; if nothing else, these selections make a great soundtrack for sunny afternoons and hot, sticky nights.

Suddenly, Eurovision seems like months ago. Ah, let’s hear it for proper music!

Link one.
Link two.
Link three.
Link four.

PDMG Update.


Three summers down the line, and our Princess Diana Memorial Garden continues to surprise and delight. For the first couple of years, the garden’s appeal was primarily to do with the landscaping. This year, with colours and shapes expanding and melding at an astonishing rate, its appeal has become much more about the planting.

We mulched hard in the spring, getting through a dozen sacks of the stuff, and thereby absolving ourselves from a hell of a lot of weeding. We were also lavish with the blood, fish and bone; sometimes a little too lavish, causing some disproportionate growth and unsightly legginess. But it’s all part of the learning curve, and the triumphs well outweigh the disasters.

Last Sunday, we opened the PDMG to the public, as part of the village’s Open Gardens Day. This was the cause of a certain amount of performance anxiety earlier in the week, as it seemed as though the garden was caught in a period of transition; a lot of the good stuff had peaked, while not enough of the newer stuff was coming through. However – and following sustained activity on Thursday evening, all day Friday (we took the day off), much of Saturday, and several hours on Sunday morning – we had succeeded in turning the place round.

This was massively helped by the spectacular eruption of the multi-headed white roses known as Rambling Rector, which reached their absolute peak on Sunday. As in the previous two years, these were the most asked about feature in the garden – and as in the previous two years, it was all we could do not to revert to type, and blurt out our preferred semi-private name: Rumbling Rectum. Such sauce!

The alliums also got a lot of attention this year. I think they’ve become quite trendy. But we were early adopters. (Or rather, our garden designer was.)

Even during Sunday afternoon itself, I couldn’t help whipping the secateurs out, and having a couple of quick extra dead-heading sessions on the geraniums. (Or do I mean pelargoniums?) At this time of year, you could spend your entire day doing nothing but dead-heading geraniums, and I did become a little obsessed at times – even seeing the dead-heads behind my eyelids, every time I blinked. Evil! Evil! Snip! Maim! Kill!

Luckily, we had our ever-obliging house guest Slam to help us, and to mediate in times of trial. Unlike most house guests, Slam always leaves the place better than he finds it… and for that, we love him like a brother. (The way to our hearts is through our cleaning products.)

Chig also turned up unexpectedly – tipped off by a mention of Open Gardens Day in my comments box, impressively enough – on his way back from reporting on a somewhat underwhelming Leicester Pride for Gay Times. This all caused great confusion amongst some of the well-meaning Nice Ladies from outside the village, who clearly didn’t know which of “the boys” was supposed to be with whom. (It didn’t help when I gave them long explanations of the history of the garden, entirely in the first person plural, with my hand casually draped over the back of Chig’s chair. The inclusive smiles and nods he got!)

After 6pm, when the gardens shut, K and I hosted the Unofficial After Party, dispensing gallons of chilled rosé to exhibitors and liggers alike. I was also introduced to J.S., a long-standing reader of the blog, who will not be expecting to find herself mentioned. (Everybody say hello to J.S.!) Oh, we’re quite the horticultural socialites these days, I think you’ll find.

To celebrate our towering achievement, here’s a photographic tableau of the PDMG as it looked last Sunday, and very early on Monday morning. Those with fast connections may care to click on the thumbnails to enlarge. Please also note that these have been lovingly hand-coded. Flickr Schmickr! You can’t beat the personal touch!

Update: I’ve fixed those pesky “file not found” errors. My bad, as the cool people used to say.

pdmg05050 pdmg05070 pdmg05079 Continue reading “PDMG Update.”

UK Singles Jukebox: You Can’t Go Fancying Midge Ure’s Daughter.

After a worrying patch of collective ennui, I made an extra effort this week, handing in an impressive seven blurbs for this week’s Stylus UK Singles Jukebox. However, with my fellow panellists also making extra ennui-busting efforts, and with one of this week’s singles being dropped from the article entirely, only four blurbs saw the light of day. These were for Towers Of London (PUNKS NOT DEAD), Royksopp (generic Habitat coffee table), The Tears (better, but still unconvincing) and Charlotte Church (trying to act her age, but still failing).

Here are the three remaining blurbs:

Jump – The Faders.
“You say you need me… WHATEVER! WHATEVER! I’VE HEARD IT ALL BEFORE!” With this agreeably bratty pop-rockin’ sugar rush, the follow-up to the awesome “No Sleep Tonight”, The Faders prove once again that they are a) a Very Good Thing Indeed, and b) the nearest we have to a home-grown version of Estonia’s mighty Vanilla Ninja. Whatever the song lacks in melodic variety, the inventively detailed widescreen production and the leather-jacketed, fist-pumping Quatro/Jett attitude more than make up for it. [8]
Taste The Last Girl – Sons & Daughters.
I’m sorry that Sons & Daughters have seen fit to turn their back on the gothic country rockabilly of last year’s Love The Cup, in favour of a more straightfowardly rocking NME-friendly post-punkiness. A natural, organic development, or a market-influenced volte face? Either way, this feels like reverse evolution, and I’m left feeling let down by a band who, only a year ago, promised so much. [6]
Here I Go Again – Mario.
This is going to hang around all summer, isn’t it? Goodness, what a depressing prospect. The equally all-conquering “Let Me Love You” was lame but liveable-with, up to a point. However, this freze-dried, vacuum-packed microwave ready meal of lyrical dreariness and wearying “rock influenced” stodge is going to have me reaching for the remote for weeks. [3]

Ten quick ones.

1. Many thanks to Vitriolica for sending me this marvellous (and uncannily accurate) pen portrait, which has replaced that old Gillray cartoon of the Prince Regent at the top of the sidebar. This was one of Vit’s many artistic contributions to Big Blogger (still ongoing; still mad; still enjoying it), which she has collated here.

2. It’s a shame that I can’t find an online copy of yesterday’s annual Independent On Sunday Pink List: a list of the 101 most powerful/influential British gay men and lesbians. (But, somewhat inevitably, and for all sorts of reasons, rather more of the former than the latter.) However, I don’t suppose it would be too copyright-busting of me to reveal the Top 6: Sharon, Serena, MandyCamilla, Emily and Vicky. A little surprising to see Mandy still perched at #3, but at least he retains the distinction of being one of the great comic figures of our age:

I’ve been an Asian-minded person for several years. It was on sabbatical from membership of Tony Blair’s Cabinet that I began to take a keen interest in the remarkable economic and social development of your region.

I suppose that “sabbatical” is one way of describing it…

3. But you’ll be wanting to know how many of the Top 101 are close personal friends of mine, won’t you? (And wondering why K wasn’t included, no doubt. Well, we’re in no rush.) OK, so if we’re counting people that I have met and spoken to (however *cough* briefly), then four people on this year’s Pink List can claim that distinction: Matthew Parris (#80), Jonathan Harvey (#76), Julian Clary (#39) and Graham Norton (#37). Whether or not they remember meeting me is quite another matter.

4. As for the rest: I have seen #100, #67, #56, #38, #33, #25, #22, #2 and #1 on stage (Rabbi Lionel Blue, Neil Tennant, Antony Sher, Angela Mason, Paul O’Grady, Chris Smith, George Michael, Serena and Sharon); I have been in the same bar as #93 (Michael Cashman), #54 (Michael Clark), #47 (Neil Bartlett) and #21 (Stephen Fry); I have been in the same club as #50 (Rupert Everett); I have stood in the same conversational group as both #72 (Nick Partridge) and #36 (Peter Tatchell), without being introduced to either (not bitter); I have been in the same backstage VIP area as #42 (Boy George); I have been at the same party as #16 (Alan Duncan); and I have seen #8 (David Hockney) walking down the street in Cambridge. How über-gay is that? Sometimes, I forget what a card-carrying party member I used to be.

5. Our friend Slam’s reaction to seeing the list, yesterday morning over breakfast: “Right, let me find a husband from this lot.” And moments later: “Well, that’s useless… why haven’t they included marital status?”

6. The British blogosphere’s very own Tom Coates was probably at #102. I’d give him three more years, maximum.

7. Peter continues my Bay City Rollers theme over at his place; the discussion then spills over into his comments box. I’ll be completing the review soon, honest. (He always says that.)

8. Diamond Geezer, in the next comments box down:

So, the whole of the last three weeks, all that readership surveying and analysis… it’s all just been an extended marketing campaign for Troubled Diva mugs?

I couldn’t possibly comment. Passive-agressive, moi?

9. Bloggers! You know when you get talking to other bloggers by e-mail, and they then tell you their real name, presumably expecting you to start using it forthwith… well, is it just me, or does this always feel somehow not quite right, and a bit like your maths teacher asking you to call him Steve?

10. Bloggers! When de-linking someone from your blogroll, or when being de-linked from someone else’s blogroll, it helps to visualise the blogosphere as a perpetual cocktail party, and the de-linker as the person saying: “Well, it has been lovely talking to you, but there are some people over there who I simply must meet.” Because if you deploy this paradigm, then it takes all the silly paranoia out of the situation. (I was originally going to expand this metaphor into an extended “blogging as cocktail party” think-piece… but then I couldn’t be arsed. It’s the heat.)

Mug Lust Rewarded: Anna’s Critical Appreciation Challenge.

Yesterday, I set Anna (the second most typical reader of this blog) a challenge: to compose a critical appreciation of the 40 In 40 Days Project, in 300 words or more, by 10:00 this morning.

Having successfully completed the challenge, Anna would then be able to legitimately tick box #27 in my “typical reader” checklist – thus gaining herself an extra point, and raising her score to 26. This would put her into equal first place with Lyle, thus earning her the Troubled Diva coffee mug which she so brazenly craved.

After posting interesting first and second drafts last night, Anna presented her final draft this morning. I am taking the liberty of reproducing it here.

Dear mike he is a blogger,
who once wrote 40 bits
on family, k, gayness,
and women (who have tits)
he once went through a straight patch, snogged that bird from ‘Vicar D’
who is ‘the one who’s ditzy’.
The show is not funnee,

When tiny, Mikey’s sandbox (a metaphor, I think)
when tipped out on the lawn did bring his mother from the sink
and watching him, despondent, she bitterly complained
I wonder for mikes mother. She bare crops up again.

Except around the time, of course
his dad announced the big divorce
a-sitting on his son mike’s bed
he wept a little, and he said
that mummy forthwith was to be
a-living with one ‘Mr G’
A line was drawn, in life, book, post
this is the part that touched me most.

Same father who at that point cried
much later on, before he died
(at least a couple years before)
would not walk to his own son’s door
On learning that he was a mary.
Oh! Hang on! Not PC, meant ‘fairy’
No, that is incorrect as well, a poof?
Queen? Homosexual? Some word with ‘wooof
Oh bugger, bugger, sorry, hell
I have mess up, I cannot tell
which terminology most pleases
re. mike and the gender he squeezes.

Of course, the only one to benefit
– for twenty years (or most of it) –
from Michael’s squeezes is the man
he met, as part of Grocerina’s plan
a set-up, and for once and all
one that worked, and at the ball
(or club) our michael met his match.

Meanwhile, in Holland, some odd batch
of ugly men, with greying hair
would meet in silent rooms and there
would share the task of jacking off
one for each other, til enough
was had – for Mike, that wasn’t long
his heart not in it, something wrong
Mike ran away and clubbed it up
with some hard-bodied soft porn pup.

And speaking of soft porn, let’s not
forget the man in Hamleys, hot
for Mike and his porn actor looks
he offered roles, but (as in books) (?)
was turned down by our hero fretting
the reputation he’d be getting
if he were to take the job
from his mum, and his dad, Bob.

Bob wasn’t really his dad’s name.
I made that up. For rhyme. Yes. Lame.

This is my third and last attempt
to win, by proving that I’ve read
each every word, not one exempt
of 40/40, half braindead

I’m trying hard, and trying to prove
that over all the rest of yous
I fit some statistical outline
Mike made up to clarifine
Who his most average reader be.

I am most average.
This be me.

Give me the mug.

Genius, no? I think you’ll agree that Anna has more than fulfilled her brief. With this in mind, I propose to award her NOT one, but TWO mugs. One from the “classic” range, and one from the “novelty” range, featuring those irrepressible little critters, the racist ducks. One for Anna, and one for her Beau. Or one for home, and the other for her prestigious and influential workplace.

(This is what we call a marketing “push” exercise, you see: promoting the product by releasing limited stocks amongst key “opinion formers”. I’m not daft!)

Anna Pickard: Troubled Diva salutes your courage, your strength, your indefatigability, your facility with rhyme, and your rampant Mug Lust.

Lyle: for ticking 26 out of 30 boxes, you too will be receiving a mug. How does the position of Official Site Mascot sound?

Non-blogging readers John and Tim: with scores of 11 each, you are officially declared Troubled Diva’s most atypical readers. Mugs all round, boys! Please contact me with your postal addresses, and I’ll do the rest.

As for everyone else who participated: mugs are available for purchase in the foyer. Please don’t all rush at once.

The Bay City Rollers: Nottingham Arena, June 21st 2005.

Additional note: July 5th 2005. Although this piece was only originally written for the small audience who reads my weblog, Google has seen fit to give it a high ranking for the artist concerned. I should therefore sound a note of caution for people who have arrived here via search engines. What follows is a harsh review, which some might consider disrespectful or even offensive. It is, however, an honest and accurate record of the thoughts which went through my mind while watching the show in question. As a blogger, I make no claims to objectivity; however, it is also not my intention to cause gratuitous offence. If this review offends you, then please accept my apologies, whilst bearing in mind that this is just the personal point of view of some random bloke off the Internet. After all, it would be a boring world if we all thought the same way…

As this was the first night of the “Once In A Lifetime” package tour of former 1970s teenybop idols, neither Miss Mish nor I knew quite what to expect. So we were initially a little bowled over by the demographic make-up of the audience, which was almost completely comprised of very excited women in their forties. Very, very excited women in their forties. With tartan accessories. (Some of them had been awfully busy on their Singer sewing machines.) And custom-printed T-shirts. (One lady in front of us had SHANG-A-LANG emblazoned on her back, while her companion had plumped for the more direct LET ME IN.) And cellophane-wrapped floral tributes, to hurl over the barricades at Les, or Merrill, or Little Jimmy, or one of the two Davids. And, in the case of one particularly determined Bay City Rollers fan who spent a good ten minutes before the show engaged in protracted negotiations with no less than three security guards: a teddy bear with a tartan bow around its neck.

(One shudders to think of the negotiation tactics she was prepared to wheel out, although the stony-faced but slightly fearful expressions on the faces of the three guards spoke volumes. At one point, she even started waving the paw of the teddy bear at them (“Look, he’s saying hello!”), in a last-ditch bid to melt their hearts. Conclusion: be very, very afraid of middle-aged women bearing teddy bears.)

As the Bay City Rollers – sorry, Les McKeown’s 70’s Bay City Rollers (there’s a clue in there for you) – took to the stage, almost the entire first three rows of the audience stormed down to the front, where they formed a kind of hormonal mosh-pit. (With so much polyester rubbing together, it’s a wonder we didn’t see sparks flying.) As Mish and I were in the fourth row, on the end of an aisle, we were therefore granted excellent sight-lines to the stage. However, we also had to endure the din of an almost constant pitched battle next to us, as teeming hordes of stoked-up, tartan-clad Angelas and Nicolas and Deborahs and Amandas begged, beseeched and clamoured to get past the security guards that were stationed right next to us. They never gave up, either. Sometimes, one of them managed to distract the guards long enough to allow three or four more to barge through, squealing with glee, camera phones primed and ready. You wonder whether any of them were listening to the music at all.

Mind you, one could hardly blame them for having other concerns. Alone out of the four acts on the bill that night, the music of the Bay City Rollers has steadfastly refused to accrue any modicum of nostalgic appeal whatsoever. It has always been, and will always be, wretched, piss-poor, joyless stuff: cranked out by backroom hacks to fill a lucrative niche, and performed by useful (and ultimately expendable) idiots, with no artistic or emotional investment in their craft, on any level. And I speak as someone with a considerable fondness for supposedly “manufactured” pop, providing it is done with style, or wit, or love (three boxes which the likes of Take That managed to tick effortlessly).

So imagine how much more reduced the experience would be when confronted by “Les McKeown’s 70´s Bay City Rollers” – featuring singer Les McKeown, and an anonymous bunch of hired hands. OK, I’ll give them their due: they were a tolerably competent bunch of hired hands, who blustered efficiently through the Rollers canon while a scarlet-jacketed McKeown (there was an inescapable whiff of Butlins about this) dutifully trotted out the sha-la-las and shang-a-langs with all the emotional engagement of the slightly sad-looking geezer on his own in the corner of the pub on karaoke night.

It was the eyes that gave him away, really. They were the dead eyes of someone who found himself shackled to a body of work which he had almost certainly grown to despise, but which – not having had sufficient wit in his youth to avoid the pitfalls of unscrupulous managers and dodgy contracts – he was obliged to perform, in perpetuity, in order to put bread on the table. Not having made any true emotional investment in his glory days, there was therefore no way for him to recoup any of that investment in middle age. Through his grim-faced, disconnected, slightly pained performance, you could see that performing had probably never held much joy for him in the first place. Yes, he was badly advised and ripped off in the past. But nevertheless, you reap what you sow.

Not that any of this really mattered to the assembled Angies and Nickys and Debbies and Mandys, for whom the years were rolling back apace. They just wanted to sway their hands in the air to Bye Bye Baby and Give A Little Love, go a little mad for a night, and relive the follies of their youth. McKeown was just the catalyst for this collective act of remembrance. It was barely even about him. (Maybe it never was. Maybe he knows that now.) All he really had to do was turn up, stay in tune, and not f**k things up too badly. Easy work, when you think about it.

Even so, McKeown was able to get away with granting himself the odd mild indulgence: a re-arrangement here, a different rhythm there, and even a barmy section in the middle of Shang-A-Lang, where the band suddenly lurched into a few bars of Deep Purple’s Black Night. (Maybe that was one for the small contingent of stoic husbands who had been dragged along for the evening.) Towards the end, he even flashed a couple of broad smiles. However, and without wishing to labour the analogy unfairly, they still struck me as the smiles of a deluded addict chasing a long-vanished high.

Competition: Are you Troubled Diva’s most typical reader?

Based on the results of my recent readership survey, I am now in a position to assemble a detailed profile of this site’s most “typical” reader. Maybe that reader is you?

In order to find out, take a look through the following list, ticking every statement which applies to yourself. Then total up your score, and either leave it in the comments box, or mail it to me: mikejla at btinternet dot com.

The person who attains the highest score will receive a beautiful Troubled Diva coffee mug, ABSOLUTELY FREE. As will the person who attains the lowest score. Because we value diversity.

Eyes down! Here we go!

1. I am male.
2. I am 28 years old.
3. I am heterosexual.
4. I am partnered (but not married).
5. I live in the UK.
6. I live in London.
7. I am in full time employment, but I am not self-employed.
8. I am reading this survey (for the first time) at home.
9. I am a university graduate.
10. We have never spoken to each other by e-mail.
11. We have never met in real life.
12. I have never won a prize on this site.
13. I have my own weblog, and have made at least one posting to it since January 1st 2005.
14. Troubled Diva has linked to my weblog.
15. Mike has left a comment on my weblog.
16. I started reading Troubled Diva in 2002.
17. I first found Troubled Diva via a link on someone else’s blog.
18. I read Troubled Diva every day, or whenever it is updated.
19. Compared to a year ago, I read Troubled Diva just as often as before.
20. I come here on the off-chance that you have updated; I don’t use any form of RSS reader or other update monitor.
21. I read most posts, but skip or skim-read the ones which are less interesting to me.
22. I read between 10 and 25 weblogs on a regular basis.
23. I do not particularly mind either way about this year’s increase in music-related posts.
24. I have never bought any Troubled Diva merchandise.
25. I have never bought a CD as a result of a recommendation on this site.
26. I have discovered at least one blog through this site, which I have then gone on to read regularly.
27. One of my favourite pieces on this site is the 40 In 40 Days Project.
28. I have used the links on the sidebar to read old posts on this site.
29. This site has made me laugh out loud, but it has never made me cry, and it has never made me angry.
30. There is nothing in the world that I would like more than a FREE Troubled Diva coffee mug.

Good luck!

Update: At the time of writing, Lyle leads the Typicals with a score of 26, while John leads the Atypicals with 11.

However, as the comments box will reveal, Anna is mounting a bold (and some might say “nit-picking”) challenge for the lead, with all manner of “Yes, but if you count this, then…” provisos and sub-clauses. In recognition of such crazed Mug Lust, I have therefore set her a challenge, to be completed by midnight tonight (Thursday). Watch this space, as they always say in corporate newsletters.

Readership Survey Results: Part 7.

(With apologies for the break in service; this was occasioned by my retiring to my sick bed for a couple of days, in a heat-induced swoon.)

Right then – let’s knock this tired old warhorse on the head once and for all, shall we?

23. Have you ever used the links on my sidebar to read old posts on this site?

I’ve often wondered whether it was worth the effort of providing a “best of TD” section on the sidebar – because surely no-one actually reads the old stuff, do they? It therefore came as an immense surprise to discover that 92% of you answered “yes” to this question – proving that, with a bit of strategic thought and some artfully seductive post titles, weblog archives don’t have to disappear into obscurity after all.

24. Excluding the comments boxes: Has Troubled Diva ever made you laugh out loud? Has it ever made you cry? Has it ever made you angry?

He wants bleeding emotions now? How many more f**ing questions are there.

Look mate, you provide a product. I read it. Don’t expect me to read it with _insert_ emotion.

You know, I was almost tempted to count this one as a “yes” to the third part of the question. But in the end, 58 people went Ha Ha, 9 people went Boo Hoo, and just 7 went Grr Grr.

Personally, I think I’ve got off way too lightly with the Grr Grrs, as there are times when I look through the archives and think: get over yourself, Mary. But then there’s no greater critic than oneself, is there?

If only I’d had the nerve to add “Has it ever made you horny?” We’ll never know now!

25. Do you have any other comments?

“A faster comments system!”, you cried. “Another blogging management system!”, you implored. To which I say: nay and nay. My comments boxes may be slow at times – but the amazing body of content which they have accrued over the years is just too valuable to chuck away. Also, I neverget spammed. Never.

A large number of people were worried that I might use the results of this survey to change the future direction of the blog. Nope, that was never the idea. However, the survey has been the springboard for an awful lot of reflection over the past couple of weeks. Don’t worry: I’ll spare you the gory details. However, I’ll just say that the period of reflection was much needed.

And then lots of you said lots of very nice things, which made me blush and simper, and cross my legs, and duck my head, Lady Di style, below my long-vanished floppy fringe. For which much thanks.

To reward you for helping me with this survey, I’ll be running a small competition tomorrow. Because it’s been, ooh, weeks since I last offered a prize on this site, and it’s high time I did something to promote the merchandise.

Oh, and by the way. If you’ve been having trouble accessing the RSS feed via Bloglines, I’ve now added a second feed via Feedburner. Both links are up on the top right hand corner of the sidebar, just above the search box. Hope this helps.

Readership Survey Results: Part 6.

Note: For an interesting discussion on commenting and blogrolling etiquette, take a look at this comments box, as originally attached to Part 4 of the survey results.

19. Have you ever bought any Troubled Diva merchandise?

3 people said yes; 69 people said no. Which is slightly unexpected, as something like 20 to 25 people have bought merchandise from this site in the past. Conclusion: that merchandising tie-ins do not necessarily build brand loyalty.

(Christ knows what that last sentence is going to look like to a first-time reader, but never mind. One of these days, I might learn to express myself without the aid of implied inverted commas. But it won’t be any time soon.)

20. Have you ever bought a CD as a result of a recommendation on this site? (If so, and if you can remember, then please specify.)

For some reason, this was the least answered question in the survey. However, out of the 51 people who replied, 11 (22%) said “yes”. The Scissor Sisters were mentioned 7 times, Lemon Jelly 3 times, the excellent Ulrich Schnauss twice, and there was one mention each for the Hidden Cameras (hooray!), Chungking, Basement Jaxx, Gwen Stefani, the White Stripes, Cristina (woo!), Hot Chip, Fiona Apple and Tinawiren (word!).

21. Have you ever discovered a blog through this site, which you have then gone on to read regularly? (If so, and if you can remember, then please specify.)

Now, this is what it’s all about! To my genuine delight, 67% of you replied in the affirmative, with 28 different blogs being mentioned by name. The most frequently mentioned blog was Little Red Boat, which has picked up 7 new readers via this site. Bouquets also go to Joe.My.God, My Boyfriend Is A Twat, Wherever You Are, JonnyB’s Private Secret Diary, Naked Blog, Mimi In New York and The Search For Love In Manhattan. Always happy to spread the love!

22. Do you have any favourite posts or “moments” on this site? If so, then please name them, up to a maximum of five.

There was quite a range of opinion here, with 37 different posts/moments mentioned. Inevitably, the 40 In 40 Days Project emerged as the favourite by a big margin, being mentioned in 16 replies. Meaning that, yes, the best piece of writing on this site is now well over three years old. Which is something I came to terms with a long time ago. (I think that the source material might have had something to do with it.)

Runners-up: the annual Which Decade Is Tops For Pops? project (9 mentions) – always the highlight of my blogging year. Eurovision stuff in general was mentioned 7 times, the notorious Shirt Off My Back project 5 times (I cringe to this day at that one), and another all-time favourite, the Boutique Hotel mp3, 4 times. These were followed by 3 mentions each for the annual Christmas cards, the “stuck inside a Care Bear” debacle (you cruel bastards!), the recent “Write Like A Diva” contest, and music reviews in general. Meanwhile, I’m still trying to work out which post was the “holiday party snog”, as mentioned by one reader. Holiday party snog, you say? Wish I’d been there!

Readership Survey Results: Part 5.

14a. How frequently do you read Troubled Diva?

A seriously flawed question, as infrequent readers were a) much less likely to spend time answering the survey, and b) less likely to have stumbled across it in the two days that it was open. So, bearing this in mind:

38 people (or 48%) read TD daily, or (for those who make use of the RSS feed) whenever it is updated.
22 people (or 28%) read TD almost daily.
14% read it at least once a week.
10% read it less than once a week. (5% fortnightly; 5% less often than that.)

To which I say: nah, that can’t be right – because the percentage of “less than once a week” readers must surely be a good deal higher than that. That’s assuming that other people’s blog-reading habits resemble my own, of course: namely, a minority which I follow closely, and a larger number which I dip into once in a while. But we all do that, don’t we?

14b. Long-term readers only: Compared with this time a year ago, do you read the site more frequently, less frequently, or is it about the same?

Excluding the don’t knows:

More often – 17%
Less often – 19% (Including some who have switched to RSS, and so spend less time visiting on the off-chance that I’ve updated.)
The same – 64%

How terribly reassuring! Thank you for clearing that one up! Fragile ego, moi?

15. Do you track updates to Troubled Diva using Bloglines, or the Updated UK Weblogs list, or any other RSS reader – or do you just come here on the off-chance that I will have updated?

For all the fuss that has been made over the wonders of RSS, you remain a resolutely traditional bunch: 65% still come here on the off-chance, while 24% use some form of RSS reader and 11% use other methods.

The most popular RSS reader is, unsurprisingly, the excellent Bloglines, which I recommend wholeheartedly. Although it does take a while to set up your initial list of feeds, the process has been made as painless as possible – and maintaining the list from that point onwards is an absolute doddle.

Other observations: usage of the Updated UK Weblogs list is significantly lower (a victim of RSS no doubt), the once-fashionable Kinja is barely used at all, and neither (amazingly) is blogrolling.com.

16. Which of the following statements most closely describes your Troubled Diva reading habits?

a) I read every word of every post, more or less without fail.
b) I read most posts, but skip or skim-read the ones which are less interesting to me.
c) I read less than half of the posts, only picking out the ones that look interesting.

A gratifying 19% hang upon my every last utterance, whilst 72% read most posts (usually skipping some of the music-related stuff, it would seem) and 9% read less than half.

17. Which of the following statements most closely describes your blog-reading habits?

a) I don’t read any weblogs on a regular basis.
b) Troubled Diva is the only weblog which I read on a regular basis.
c) I read less than 10 weblogs on a regular basis.
d) I read between 10 and 25 weblogs on a regular basis.
e) I read more than 25 weblogs on a regular basis.

Whilst nobody at all answered to a), just one dear, sweet, solitary soul admitted that TD was the only blog which they regularly read. 27% read less than 10, 24% read more than 25 – but the most common answer was “between 10 and 25”, which accounted for a sensible and moderate 47% of you. If only I was one of them.

18. During the course of 2005, I have written proportionately more about music than in previous years. Speaking purely in terms of your own enjoyment of the site, do you find this a positive or a negative development, or do you not particularly mind either way?

For me, this was a key question – and, to some extent, a troubling one. (And before you all start: yes, I know that this is my blog, my rules, up to me what I write, etc etc etc. Sheesh, you guys!) However, a frankly astonishing 30% of you find the increase in music coverage a positive development, with an additional 36% not minding either way. However, a further 13% qualified their “don’t mind” answers in some sort of negatively inclined way (however slight), and a long-suffering 22% went straight for “negative”.

Lots to think about there – but for once, I’ll spare you the meta-meta-meta navel-gazing. Instead, I’ll simply reproduce this comment, which was possibly my favourite of the entire exercise.

Er… well possibly less enjoyable if it’s music I don’t have a great knowledge of. But it’s like the famous story about why they have Law Reports in the Independent newspaper, innit? Nobody reads them, but it makes the readers comfortable that they’re buying a quality paper. Ditto with the music in TD. Makes me feel trendy and that.

“Troubled Diva: the weblog which makes you feel trendy and that.”

Yep, I like that one. That’s right up there with:

“Troubled Diva: the gay blog that straight blokes read.”

If nothing else, this survey could keep me in fresh straplines for weeks.

Big Blogger update.

Over on Big Blogger, voting has commenced for the first set of evictions. Happily for me, I’m exempt from this week’s vote, having earnt my immunity by being the first housemate to complete the (somewhat controversial) “dodo and bacon sandwich” task. However, I have a nasty feeling that this might turn out to be a poisoned chalice, as everybody decides that it will be “only fair” to vote for me en masse when next week’s vote rolls around. We shall see.

Much as I’m enjoying the experience, I can’t help feeling that, as a group, we’re all at that early stage in the contest where – just as with the TV version – half the occupants are still bouncing excitedly round the place in full “performance” mode, while the other half are quietly biding their time until the numbers settle down a bit. Consequently, it’s still all a bit frantic over there – and not all that easy for the casual visitor to make much sense of. (K visited yesterday, and pronounced himself quite baffled.)

On the other hand, I’m personally enjoying the borderline-hysterical “cabin fever” aspect of the experience. We might currently be playing more to each other than to the outside world – but we’re having loads of fun while we’re doing it, so why the hell not?

Oh, and my tip to win the thing? Vitriolica‘s fantastic illustrations should ensure that she goes far, but (as ever!) the smart money has to be on Zoe: a woman with “winner” stamped all over her. (Having shared a jacuzzi with her, one gets to know these things.)


Originally posted at Big Blogger:

June 9th 2005: mike has a plan.

In the absence of smelling salts, Mike reaches for the little brown bottle that he has stashed away in the secret compartment of his Samsonite Executive Premier Plus Trunk (with built-in Vanity Unit).

“If this doesn’t bring the silly old queen to her senses”, he mutters, unscrewing the cap and wafting the bottle underneath Peter’s nose, “then nothing will.”

The housemates hold their breath. Which is just as well, considering the fetid aroma of old socks that is now permeating the bedroom.


A faint growling noise begins to rise up from the bed, as Peter’s face assumes the colour of a particularly fine Chateauneuf Du Pape.


With this keening howl, Peter’s body suddenly snaps into an upright position. Wild-eyed and flailing, his howls grow ever louder.


The housemates look at each other in consternation.

“Darling, is he all right?”, asks Zoe, anxiously.

Mike smiles, knowingly.

“Laura Branigan. Gloria. Got to Number 6 in December 1982. One of Peter’s favourites. She thinks she’s back in Fire Island, dancing on a Saturday night. Give her a couple of minutes, and she’ll be as right as rain….”

June 10th 2005: big blogger asked us for a picture…

…and so here is mine. Hello housemates! Hello viewers! My name is Mike. Goodness, but these posts are flying thick and fast this morning. I do hope you’re all managing to keep up.

As mentioned yesterday, I have somehow managed to squeeze all of life’s bare essentials into my Samsonite Executive Premier Plus trunk (with built-in vanity unit). Yes, I know that Big Blogger stipulated a small suitcase only – but believe me, this constitutes “travelling light”.

Not being one of life’s natural packers, I asked my partner K for some assistance in choosing my outfits for the next seven weeks (should I survive that long). It took us a while to “theme” my look, but we’ve plumped for Classic with a Contemporary Twist. So expect plenty of crisp whites, hot pinks, cool candy stripes, and bold, funky checks in wittily contrasting shades. And that’s just the shirts.

Oh, and not to be outdone by Miss Mish in the millinery stakes – I’ve brought my new hat. (John Galliano, but we don’t go by the labels.)

Other items include:

  • A comprehensive selection of Molton Brown grooming products, including a bottle of “Arctic Birch” bath and shower gel (with pump action dispenser) which is my gift to the house. Please feel free.
  • A 40gb iPod, with headphones (for private contemplation) and speakers (for early evening cocktail jazz, and late night disco dancing).
  • Several slabs of Green & Blacks chocolate (very good for the heart), which I shall be divvying out after dinner each night.
  • A mysterious little brown bottle, labelled “room odoriser” (not so good for the heart), which I shall be keeping in the fridge. This has already come in handy.
  • A hand-made “Big Blogger” mix CD, which I shall be leaving behind as a prize for the eventual winner.

As for personal qualities: I would like to make one thing clear, right from the start. There is far too much nonsense talked on these sorts of shows about “being yourself”, with everyone singling out “being two-faced” as the greatest of all possible sins. To which I say: phooey. For what you might call “being two-faced”, I call “having good manners”. For that reason, I shall be conducting myself like any normal, civilised human being: bitching about people behind their backs (but only to trusted confidantes, as and when the need arises, and never gratuitously), whilst continuing to be courteous and respectful to their faces. It’s the way of the world, people. Don’t knock it. After all, I’m just being myself

Looking around at my fellow housemates, I see some old friends (Miss Mish, Gordon, Zoe, JonnyB, Vitriolica and the perpetually recumbent Peter), some familiar acquaintances (Clair, Alan and The Girl), and some brand new faces (Grocerjack, Mr Hair, Dr Rob, NML and Vicus Scurra). As is usual in such situations, I have so far been clinging to my familiar little clique, whilst gazing nervously over at the others. Who is going to make the first move and break the ice? Do we need some “getting to know you” games? And why is The Girl licking her lips at me like that?

Finally, to those of you who have been wondering how we’re all going to cope over the next few weeks – cooped up in our own little space, cut off from outside reality – I say: hey, we’re bloggers, remember? Welcome to our world!

June 13th 2005: save quickos!

Mike is awoken from his slumbers by a gentle, furry tap on his shoulder. And is that the sound of muffled sobbing that he can hear in his right ear?

Pausing only to wonder why he still appears to be referring to himself in the third person, Mike levers open his sleep-filled eyes… only to see a moist-eyed, trembling Quickos, gazing mournfully down at him.

“Goodbye, Mike. Quickos has to go now.”

“But… Quickos! You can’t leave now! Mike was looking forward to playing so many games with you today!”

“Quickos has no choice, Mike. Big Blogger has told Quickos that he has to leave the house NOW.”

But WHY, Quickos? WHY?”

“Quickos doesn’t know why, Mike. But he’s sure that there must be a very good reason. And Quickos always does what he’s told, even when it makes him sad. So good luck, Mike. And remember: Quickos will always, always love you.”

NO, Quickos! STOP!

Not wishing his little puppet friend to see him in the nude (for if there’s one thing he doesn’t do, it’s pyjamas), Mike reaches for his dressing gown, hanging on a hook behind him. But when he turns round, Quickos has vanished.

A tight knot of anger begins to form in Mike’s stomach. Quickly wrapping his dressing gown around his slender naked form, he leaps out of bed, and – without so much as checking his hair in the mirror – makes straight for the garden.

Within seconds, and before anyone can stop him, Mike has clambered onto the roof of the Big Blogger house.

(Standing directly below him, Clair makes the mistake of looking straight upwards as Mike performs his final leap, the tails of his dressing gown billowing in the breeze. Clutching her hands to her mouth, she dashes straight back indoors, visibly blanching.)


The other housemates look at each other in consternation. Should they join Mike’s protest, or should they try and talk him down from the roof? And whatever will Big Blogger say?

June 13th 2005: faint heart never won fair glove puppet: mike’s rooftop protest runs aground.

The story so far: In a last-ditch bid to save Zoe‘s so-called “stowaway” housemate, the irrepressibly lovely Quickos, from eviction (and possible incineration), Mike has been staging a rooftop protest all morning, calling upon his fellow housemates to support him in his struggle. Now read on.

Immediately upon hearing Big Blogger’s stern warning, Mike stops performing his energetically improvised “Save Quickos” freedom dance. Gathering his robe carefully around his rapidly chilling loins, he crouches cautiously at the roof’s edge, and addresses his fellow housemates.

“Er… guys? Are you… um… with me, or what?”

The housemates (except for Clair, who is still being treated for post-traumatic shock in the Diary Room) shuffle nervously, staring at their feet (for reasons which have already been made abundantly clear).

After a long pause, Alan is the first to speak.

“Obviously Mike you have our full support. Er… moral support that is. Yes, yes, definitely lots of moral support.

Oh, and you can have my athletic support as well, cos the wind keeps doing a Marilyn on your dressing gown and it’s making Miss Mish a bit overly frisky.”

“What about the rest of you?”, Mike demands. “I’ll ask you one more time: ARE YOU WITH ME?”

After receiving an curt nod of assent from Vicus Scurra and Grocer Jack, Dr. Rob pipes up.

I would be with you of course, being once almost a member of the Socialist Workers Party, and practically a card carrying revolutionary, but first I need to call a meeting, get down the pub, have a few beers, discuss the dialectics of the whole action, put it to the vote, declare the vote illegal, discuss it some more, then have it ratified by Castro and then, only then dear comrade will we join you in your glorious struggle.

“I see. Does anyone have anything else to add?”

Gordon can hold himself back no longer.

Oi mike, while you’re up there… gonna throw down that frisbee… cheers!!

“Very well. On your own consciences be it, but I cannot fight your battles alone. Instead my protest shall continue, um, indoors. After I’ve showered, dressed and eaten, of course. Now, can someone give me a hand down? If I can just get my leg across this… hang on, where’s everyone gone?”

Finding himself suddenly alone in the garden, all Mike can hear is muffled sobbing from the Diary Room, and muffled giggling from the living area. And was it just the rustling of leaves in the trees beyond the perimeter fence, or did he hear someone inside the house mutter the dreaded words “attention seeker”?

The very thought.

June 13th 2005: task 2: extinct

Dear Springwatch,

My ten-year old daughter Katie tells me that she saw a strange bird on our back lawn on Sunday morning. It was a rather plump and clumsy bird: about 9 inches tall, with blue-grey plumage, a black bill, small wings, and a tuft of feathers on its rear end. According to my daughter, it was showing great interest in the discarded remains of her bacon sandwich!

I have tried to find some information on this bird, but all my findings would seem to suggest that this is the long extinct “dodo” bird, last sighted in the C17th. A ridiculous proposition? Or have you had other similar sightings?

Many congratulations on your excellent show.

With kind regards,

Mike Troubled-Diva.

Update: Does this count as WINNING?





Readership Survey Results: Part 4.

9. Do you have your own active weblog? (“Active” = at least one entry since January 1st 2005.)

As several pointed out, this was a fairly generous definition of an “active” weblog, which bumped up the “yes” vote by about 7 percentage points. This resulted in a final tally of 70% bloggers and 30% non-bloggers.

10. Active bloggers only: Have I ever linked to your weblog?
11. Active bloggers only: Have I ever left a comment on your weblog?

These two figures came out roughly the same: I have linked to 57%, and have commented on 55%. Both figures are unexpectedly low – particularly the latter, as I like to think that I pop in to say hello to most bloggers who link, even if it’s only the once. Conclusion: that I’m a little more aloof than I thought. Never mind: a little mystique-building aloofness never went amiss.

12. When did you first start reading Troubled Diva?

Oops, someone’s getting narky…

“Why in God’s name would anyone remember something like that? I’ve no idea. About two years ago or something? How long have you been reading every blog you read?”

The awful truth? I could probably give you a reasonably accurate answer for most of them. It’s just the way my mind works.

Happily, it also seems to be the way that most of your minds work, as only 9% of you couldn’t remember. Since all of that 9% said “two or three years ago”, I then split the vote evenly between 2002 and 2003, giving the following percentage breakdown:

2001: 5% (I started blogging at the end of October.)
2002: 26%
2003: 21%
2004: 24%
2005: 25% (January to May only.)

This reveals both a good solid clump of long-term loyalists, and a healthy crop of new readers. Which is just as it should be.

13. How did you first find Troubled Diva?

Discounting the 11% who couldn’t remember, a massive 73% first came here via a link off someone else’s blog, whilst 7% first found me through Google. 3 people were referred by a friend, 3 came via the 2003 Guardian blog awards, and – another surprise here – just 3 got here via a comments box in another blog. Oh, and for all the hoo-hah, just one regular reader came here via the Bloggies.


1) By far the strongest currency in blogging is inter-blog linking, be it on a main post, a linklog post or a blogroll. So spread the love, people.

2) Comment-whoring doesn’t work! (That’ll shock a few people, naming no names…)

3) The Bloggies ain’t all that!

Many referring blogs were mentioned: 19 in all. Of the top referrers, My Boyfriend Is A Twat has gifted me at least 7 readers, the late lamented Swish Cottage 6, and Naked Blog 5.

Readership Survey Results: Part 3.

3. Are you in full-time or part-time employment, or self-employed, or a student, or a quote-unquote “home maker”, or retired, or unemployed? (Or something else which I’ve forgotten about?)

We are but wage slaves: 75% of you work full time, with 18% self-employed and 57% employed by someone else. Of the remainder, 6% work part time, 2 people qualify as “home makers”, and there’s one apiece for unemployed, in between jobs, long-term disabled and “of independent means”. Also, although a couple of you are already in receipt of your pensions, no-one actually counts as “full time” retired just yet.

4. Are you reading this from your place of work/study, or from your home, or from a public internet access point?

Would this have been a better question if I had said “where do you usually read this site”? Arguably – but, rightly or wrongly, I opted to take a “snapshot” of where you were at the time.

The results make depressing news for employers everywhere: 57% of you were reading at home, but a whopping 42% of you were at work.

(Note: whenever someone explained that they worked from home, I counted this as a “from home” reply.)

Although nobody was reading from a library, internet café or other public access point, one person was sufficiently Rock & Roll enough to be reading Troubled Diva from a hotel, while “on tour”. We like that.

5. Are you a university graduate? If not, at what stage did you complete your education?

What a bunch of swots! 74% of Troubled Diva readers are graduates, as against 22% non-graduates and 4% “graduands”. And blimey, weren’t you all eager to tell me exactly what kind of graduates you are! BSc, BA (hons), MA, MBA, PhD, MSc, LL.B, B.Eng, PGCE, MPhil, MEng… I especially loved the way that so many of you felt the need to add the (hons) next to your BA. Particularly since I didn’t even ask you to list your type of degree in the first place! Whatever happened to “read the question carefully”, then?

One additional fact: of the 18 non-graduates, no less than 7 (or 8.5% of the readership) started university, but dropped out before completing their studies. That’s quite high, isn’t it? Hmm.

6. Have we ever spoken with each other via private e-mail?

32% said yes; 57% said no. Conclusion: that communication between blogger and reader frequently extends beyond the blog itself. Can you imagine the same thing happening with a newspaper columnist?

7. Have we ever met each other in real life?

15 people (17%) said yes; 83% said no. Which is a little bit surprising, as I’ve meant a good deal more than 15 readers of this site over the years. Conclusion: that we’re a fickle bunch. But then, like guests at a never-ending cocktail party, of course we move on, and circulate, and work the room. It would be boring not to. Which is something to bear in mind whenever someone you’ve enjoyed talking to in the past stops visiting you, or even de-links. As in life, so in blog.

I was particularly tickled by the two readers who claim to have brushed past me at gigs without introducing themselves: especially as I didn’t actually attend one of the gigs in question (The Dears). As for the other gig (British Sea Power): yup, that was probably me (probably bored out of my skull by then; it was an exceptionally dull night).

8. Have you ever won a prize on this site?

13 of you (17%) said yes; 83% said no. As this is actually quite a high proportion of people who have won prizes, I can only conclude that prize-giving is a good seal of blog loyalty. In other words: bribe your readers with freebies, and they’ll stick around. A little tip for aspirational bloggers there!

(I jest, I jest. The other perspective is, of course, that regular loyal readers are the ones who are most likely to enter my occasional competitions in the first place.)

Which reminds me: there is going to be a prize at the end of this survey. More details once I’ve finished the full analysis.

Stylus UK Singles Jukebox: Writ Anthemic.

Last week, I only managed to squeeze out three reviews. This week, I’ve done a little better, with opinions offered on new releases by Shakin’ Stevens (respect to the old fella), Jem (early 90s girlpop is BACK), The Long Blondes (as tipped on TD a couple of months ago), Patrick Wolf (give it a rest, Wordsworth) and Bark Psychosis (it EVOKES).

However, if you’re one of the 0.01% of my readership who still actually goes out and buys singles (and I didn’t need a readership survey to fathom that one out), then my purchasing tip for this week is also the Stylus panel’s favourite: the immense “Lose Control”, by Missy Elliott (featuring Ciara and Fatman Scoop). She still hasn’t lost it, folks!

(Incidentally, and lest you think otherwise: mug that I am, I actually do go out and BUY my favourite two or three (or sometimes four) singles from each week’s Stylus column. Because I’m fair-minded like that.)

And all of a sudden, I’m curious. So, tell me: what was the last single you bought? Can you even remember?

Readership Survey Results: Part 2.

Let’s start by completing the last part of Question 1: your country of current residence.

Not surprisingly, most of my readers hail from the UK: 69% of them, to be precise. The USA counts for 15%, Europe for 9%, and there were also three Irish readers, two Australians and one lone Canadian. (Hi, asta!) As for Africa, Asia and South America: nichts, nada, nuffink. (Although this might have been different before the end of last week, when my sister returned to the UK after spending several months in the Sudan.)

The comparatively small proportion of US readers (there were 14 in all) comes as no surprise; in fact, I was expecting even fewer. In the early days of the blog, when there were far fewer of us to spread around, quite a lot of Americans came visiting – spurred on by some early support from a few of the better known US gay bloggers of the day. Accordingly, I made a conscious effort to avoid overdoing the unfamiliar Briticisms and obscure pop-cultural references, providing explanations and links whenever they were needed. But as British blogging picked up steam, and more British readers started visiting, so I grew weary of going the extra mile for the Yanks. It just didn’t seem worth the effort any longer. And so, gradually, the focus of the blog became more explicitly biased towards the UK.

However, I don’t think that’s the whole story. Looking at the readership of some of the other long-standing Britblogs, I’ve noticed a similar diaspora. Consequently, the Atlantic feels wider than ever these days. Is this simply due to the explosion in blogging that has taken place since the autumn of 2001? Or is it also due to other factors – also connected to the events of late 2001 – which have served to alienate us from our American cousins, cooling our natural friendly curiosity and replacing it with an icy – if not downright wary – indifference?

I think you know of what I speak. And don’t get me wrong: I’m not proud of this new, subtle, frequently unacknowledged prejudice, which has crept into the mindsets of many Brits of a more “liberal” persuasion over the last three years or so. But I think it’s there, and I think we shouldn’t be afraid of acknowledging that it’s there. Because once we acknowledge it, then maybe we can begin to find new ways of challenging it.

Goodness, but I’m rambling. Where were we?

2. UK readers only: please state your county of current residence (or major city, if applicable). US readers only: please state your state of current residence.

Of the 59 UK readers who replied:

  • 17 (29%) live in London.
  • 30 (51%) live in the rest of England.
  • 11 (19%) live in Scotland.

Just one reader lives in Wales, and there were no readers at all from Northern Ireland.

The percentage of London based readers is strikingly high; even when taken as a percentage of the entire readership, London still racks up 18%. Evidence of Troubled Diva’s cosmopolitan, metropolitan au courant-iness, perchance? As for the “local” brigade: the survey unearthed just six people from Nottinghamshire, and one from Derbyshire – further proof that the people who see me the most often in real life are the people least likely to be reading me on a regular basis. (It’s a commonly observed phenomenon.)

Other than that, the readership was fairly evenly spread throughout England and Scotland, with a little pocket of support in Lancashire, and notably less support in the South West. In fact, what with this and the absence of Welsh and Northern Irish appeal, there is a distinct Easterly slant to my readership. Nobody ever talks about East/West divides in this country, do they? Well, here’s one to chew over…

This strange Easterly bias is further borne out by my American readership, with six readers on the East coast, five in the middle, and just one on the West coast. But then I think we’ve always been more East Coast hip & edgy than West Coast laid-back & cool.

Sheesh, enough already. Isn’t it amazing what you can extrapolate from a bunch of numbers on a spreadsheet, if you put your mind to it? And you thought this was just going to be a geeky stats-fest? Er, so did I. There’ll be more results as we get them. Don’t go changing!

“Don’t close the post office.”

JonnyB’s “Post 8” protest song, now available as an MP3 download, is quite clearly the greatest moment ever in the history of blogging. If you care about the future of the rural postal network, then you owe it to yourself to take a listen. (And if you couldn’t give a stuff about the rural postal network, then JonnyB will show you something to make you change your mind…)

Readership Survey Results: Part 1.

First of all, can I just say a big Thank You to everyone who took the time and trouble to answer the survey. Your efforts have been greatly appreciated.

Secondly, to those of you who were concerned that I might allow the results to influence the future direction of the blog: chill, dudes. That wasn’t the purpose of the survey.

So what was the purpose of the survey?, I hear you cry. Idle curiosity, mainly. A chance to obtain some concrete answers to a few questions that have been buzzing around inside my head. An experiment, a novelty, a chance to fuel my Excel addiction, and – who knows? – maybe even a useful piece of research that will uncover a few truths about blogging. But hey, let’s not get too meta with our meta, shall we?

(Note to pedants: not all of the percentages will add up to 100%. It’s a rounding thing. Not a big deal.)

1. Please supply the following five pieces of information about yourself: your gender, your age, your sexual orientation, your relationship status, your country of current residence.

Of the 92 who replied, 53 were male and 39 were female, revealing a gender split of 58% to 42%. However, looking at the gender divide by sexual orientation, the ratio of straight men and straight women is fairly even, whereas there are far more gay men than lesbians. Conclusion: that I have a fairly even gender balance of straight readers, with an additional gay male readership that skews the stats.

Age-wise, the youngest reader was 18 and the oldest 58. Looking at the age groups in percentage terms:

18-19 – 2%
20-29 – 33%
30-39 – 36%
40-49 – 24%
50-59 – 4%

This indicates a fairly even spread of 20- and 30-somethings, with a drop-off after the age of 40… although looking at my stats in detail, the actual drop-off comes after the age of 43. Which also happens to be my age.

In fact, it turns out that a full 82% of my readers are younger than me. Feel free to draw your own conclusions. Meanwhile, Troubled Diva’s appeal to the Saga demographic is minimal to non-existent, and its appeal to senior citizens is completely zero. Must be all that new-fangled pop music.

One curious statistical blip: I’ve got loads of readers who are 28 years old: 9 of them, or 10% of my readership. I dare say that there are perfectly sound astrological reasons for this.

Now, here comes a surprise: most of my readers are straight men! Who’d have thought that Troubled Diva had so much Bloke Appeal? Speaking as that comparatively rare creature, a gay man with a lot of straight male friends, I find this most heartening. Here’s that sexuality breakdown in full:

Straight male – 31 readers.
Straight female – 26 readers.
Gay male – 22.
Lesbian – 4.
Bisexual male – 1.
Bisexual female – 8.
“Pomosexual” female – 1. (I am insufficiently post-modern to work that one out.)

(Although one male reader described himself as “like Eddie Izzard, a lesbian in a man’s body”, his marital status then gave him away as straight. Nice try, though.)

This makes for a sexuality divide of 63% heterosexual, 27% homosexual and 10% bisexual (all those bisexual women were another surprise). For a supposedly “gay weblog” (if certain blogging awards categories are to be believed), that’s a fairly low gay readership. But then again, I don’t tend to write much about gay issues, gay politics or the gay scene. Indeed, the overtly “gay” content on this site has probably decreased even over the lifespan of this blog – mainly because my lifestyle has become progressively less “gay” over the past five years or so. If I had been writing Troubled Diva ten years ago, then the story would have been very different (and you probably wouldn’t have been able to move for all the sodding rainbow flags).

As for relationship status: 42% are partnered/co-habiting, 30% are single, and just 22% are married. How modern is that? Of the remainder, four are dating, one is engaged, and – thrillingly – one is a “mistress but hoping to be legal in a few years”. (Good luck!)

There will be more results later. Many, many, many more. Oh, this is manna for my soul!

Stats wa-hey!

As I’ve more or less reached a statistically significant number of replies (nearly 90 at the last count), I’ll be closing my Readership Survey this evening. Full and exhaustive analysis starts tomorrow. Yes, “starts”. Come on, you should know me by now.

Also starting tomorrow: Big Blogger 2005. During the course of the next seven weeks, fifteen blogmates (myself included) will be battling to avoid eviction from the Big Blogger house, in what promises to be the best blogging popularity contest EVER. (All the Technorati links in the world won’t save you now!)

As Big Blogger has specifically prohibited us from pimping for votes on our own sites, I shan’t be saying too much more about the contest on Troubled Diva. Except to say that when it comes to voting time: look into your hearts, and do the right thing. And failing that: I know where you all live.

Finally, unless…

  • you’re a hardcore “Graphic Novel” geek,
  • you have a serious fetish for Hot Chicks With Guns,
  • you live your entire life in inverted commas,
  • you’re not bothered by a dull and poorly paced plot, an almost total lack of sympathetic, well-constructed characters, insane levels of stylised ultra-violence, and the sort of flip, sniggering, all-pervading, “chill dude, it’s a homage“, adolescent-boys-club amorality which started getting boring not long after Pulp Fiction,
  • you’re Neil Moviebuff, who maintained a spirited defence of it in the pub last night,

… then don’t go and see Sin City. Because all four of us who went to see it on Monday night – myself, K (who walked out), Mish and Alan – thought that it sucked a big one, dude. And if we thought it sucked, then it’s only right and proper that you should too. Diversity be damned!

(Stunningly creative and beautiful cinematography, though. I’ll grant you that. But a turd in a chocolate box is still a turd.)

See also: Oddverse: No matter when, or where, or who.