Consequences: Post 26

(sucked from the dim and distant back of the brain by Vitriolica)

“It’ll come in a bunch of five, I’ll tell you that much.” is something my fat geography teacher used to say. She was a nasty piece of work, with a chip on her shoulder as big as her enormous arse, which was also the cause of the chip on the shoulder. She ended each lesson with a threat of violence and humiliated anyone who happened, through no obvious fault of their own, to be stupid, clever, pretty, ugly or just pretty ugly.

I could never work out how geography could bring out such strong emotion in a person. This was geography of danish bacon and how rain was made…i.e. bloody boring. (It was the early eighties, for some reason, interesting geography, that of WHERE PLACES ARE, had been taken off the curruiculum). Yet there she stood twice a week, wearing brown clinging jumpers and brown nylon extremely clingy and enormous trousers… (why did geography teachers ALWAYS wear brown clothes?) demanding that one of us tell her how butter production was useful to the pig deliverers or some other uninteresting bollocks or “I’ll give you a bunch of fives in a minute”… or “I’ll give YOU an I don’t know in a minute, IN THE BACKSIDE!”… or “I’ll wallop you in a minute if you don’t know the answer”. Christ. She was horrible.

But little saintly me (for “saintly” read “utter coward”) who never did anything wrong, was never rude to teachers, did everything she was told, tried to melt into the background (until, of course, proper adolescence took over and the “saintly” could be replaced with “twattish and gaga over boys”) always managed to gauge her quite well and avoid her “fat arse wrath”. And she was fairly pleasant with me. As fairly pleasant as a mean spirited old cow can be.

One day, I was in the school’s fast food joint, an outrageous attempt by the school to get us to eat more shit than ever before, leaving the upstairs refectory with its more traditional school food for the saddos, the kids with glasses, the kids whose parents were teachers in the school and the lamos, and the geekoids, and the spazzes. And the dorks. And the wallies. And the nerds. And the swots.

And there I saw the fat arsed bitch from hell. Bringing out with her a reasonably healthy looking lunch of a baked potato. As I drew nearer, to get into the queue for chips with lard sauce, I realized that it wasn’t just one baked potato… it was two… gigantic… baked potatoes. Just at that moment, my adolescent hormones took full control of my brain, kicking the slightly geeky, shy, nice little girl out of my head….

“OI, MISS!… THOSE’LL MAKE YOU FAT!”

Holy mother of god, what did I do that for?

She streaked across the room, as fast as her enormous arse and the enormous arse sized chip on her shoulder and the two enormous baked potatoes would allow….putting out her left arm (the potatoes were safe in the right) she shoved me up against the wall by my neck while lifting me up a good centimetre off the ground. As I was pinned there, she spat horrible words at me, but I have no recollection of them, as my eyes were blacking out with lack of blood to the brain as I tried to think of a grovelling excuse. All the other kids just looked on aghast… but there were no other teachers around (all in the refectory upstairs, I expect, wearing their glasses) to get her off me. When she finally let go and stormed out, I found I had gained a little kudos from the other pre- and peri-adolescents, for finally not being such a damned goody goody. But I still ran off and cried in the loos.

I discovered many years later that she had lost her fat arse and got married and become a nice person. Charming. Bloody charming. Couldn’t she have done that then and spared us the violence and the grief?

And I can only wonder…if it was now, I could have sued the bitch.

strangled

Demob-happy.

A fortnight’s blissful, indolent cottaging beckons, with nothing more arduous than dead-heading the geraniums stretching ahead of me. No plans, no engagements, no commitments. Why, we could just sit with the newspapers in the morning room for the next sixteen days solid, and it wouldn’t matter a jot or a tittle.

There may be blogging ahead. But, on balance, probably not a great deal of it, what with the steam-powered 56k dial-up laptop and all. (It never feels right, unplugging the phone and stretching the cables across the kitchen table. Like some sort of violation of our bucolic, Epicurean ideal.) Besides, as we old lags know from experience, simply nobody reads weblogs in August, darlings.

There will, however, be at least a few more pieces over on Big Blogger, where I have now made it through to the final four. The most recent task: to describe your greatest irrational fear, and to devise a means of overcoming it. I could have written for the next two weeks solid on that subject alone. Cognitive behavioural therapy: who needs it?

There will also be a few more Consequences posts, as I’m allowing everyone a maximum of two each, and a couple of people have yet to make their debuts. Good, aren’t they? I do love the sensation of checking my own blog for updates. Saves on travel expenses.

Incidentally, Austria was surprisingly lovely. This was the first time, in seven countries and maybe as many as thirty business trips, where the client has taken the time and trouble to take me out for the evening. Much appreciated, that was. And not only that: because we got through the work so efficiently, I ended up having a few hours to spare in the afternoon. So what did the client do, but take the afternoon off and show me round Vienna? I particularly loved the Schloss Schönbrunn: full-on Viennese old-school style, which straddled the divide between magnificence and kitsch to marvellous effect.

I think I know why I liked Vienna so much. It was like Germany, but with a key added ingredient: style and elegance. And quite the friendliest people I have ever worked with, even if I could barely understand a word of their Austrian dialect. Why, I even enjoyed my Wiener Schnitzel. They’re actually quite nice! Who knew?

Oh, but I’m rambling. Filling in time before the bell rings. Can you tell?

There might be a new podcast this afternoon, but it’s looking less likely now that I have to make an emergency appointment with the dentist. (One of my crowns has wiggled loose, and I’m scared of morphing into Worzel Gummidge halfway through the holiday.)

Come on, Mike. Pull the plug. The holidays are here!

(Do go and read my Big Blogger posting, though. It’s much better than this one.)

Continue reading “Demob-happy.”

Consequences: Post 25. Not starring Nigella Lawson

The following words randomly coagulated from the fetid imagination of Em²

I would like to say “No”.

I would like to say “See this job? This marrow-shaped, festering and pulsating pile of cack that you refer to as my rôle? Do you want to know where you can stick it? Would you like some help getting it in there?”

I would like to say “Nigella? Oh yes, but we’re just good friends.”

But I can’t. And people know this. And take advantage, bastards that they are. So I get most of the following calls:

“I know you’re busy but …”

“So-and-so suggested I ring you because you can help me with …”

“Hi. My name is Michael Smith and I’m calling from the corporate rewards department in Los Angeles to tell you you’ve won the jackpot! Press 9 to claim your prize.”

“Hi. This is Nige again. Sorry about Friday – I’ve got to work. Can you make it on Saturday instead? I’ll make it up to you, I promise.”

Piss off, the lot of you – except Nigella but especially “Michael” fucking “Smith”1.

I’ll tell you what, though. I’d really like to say “Yes, please.”


1. I actually rang home from my mobile to check what the message was, you bastard. You’ve cost me money. Fly over here and wander over to Norfolk and let’s see what you’ve won in life’s lottery, eh? It’ll come in a bunch of five, I’ll tell you that much.

Consequences: Post 24. Starring Kiefer Sutherland

(Posted by anna)

I was so embarrassed. For a second, I had actually thought about lying. And I hate lying. I was even more embarrassed, in fact, for the fact that had I lied, it would have been the most rubbish lie that ever lay.

I was clearly, you see, holding a cigarette already. Thus to lie, and say ‘I don’t smoke’ would be comedy falsehood. To lie and say ‘I’m sorry, this is the last of my tobacco’ would sound like truth, and would therefore be worse. I hate lying. Plus – I’m really bad at it. He’d only asked for a cigarette, after all. And who can deny another human being one cobble on the path to lung cancer if you happen to have one on you? If they ask nicely, that is?

Anyway, the more society hates us, the more we smokers seem to feel that we should band together, so it’s imperitive that, in a times of nicotine need, we do each other these small acts of kindness.

I’m thinking of giving up smoking. You may have got that from the little cancer pebble I dropped in the post-pond earlier on. I’m thinking of giving up smoking because I always said I would stop if I didn’t enjoy it any more. And I don’t, not so much. Also my lungs kind of ache. And I get out of breath. And I don’t like being addicted. And I hate the smell.
But I like the nicotine.
Oh the quandry.

There are other reasons, also, for giving up. And they were brought home to me sharply the other day by the man who asked me for a cigarette.

He asked me for a cigarette, and I was embarrassed, because I almost said no. He was homeless, and he was smelly. And also a little off his face. But I had a cigarette, and so I couldn’t say no, because it would have been a lie. The thing is about rolling your own, though, is after you’ve said yes you can have a cigarette, there’s then between thirty seconds and a minute while you roll one. And that’s enough time to strike up a big old conversation. By the time the fag was rolled and handed over, John – his name was John – had taken a shine to me (on the spur of the moment my name was ‘Clare’) and my beloved (his name was ‘Bob’).

To be fair, his name actually IS Bob, but it still sounds made up when you say it.

John was pretty charming, when he wasn’t mentioning “That five stretch for GBH” that he did. We talked about the difference in begging income in – “Nah, nah, nah hang on, it weren’t GBH, it were aggrivated assault, that one” – ah, right, thanks. Great. Where was I? – in West London “full of Paddys, they’re f**kin great, Paddys“, and North East London… “s’full of, wew, you kna, don’t you, eh?” – No, actually, I have no idea. Apparently in the four hours he’d been sat on Newington Green, he’d made £6. In West London he would have made £50. As a West Londoner by birth, I kind of felt proud. Or sort of.

We talked about his brother, who had got out of prison for a total of four days before being arrested again (it was John’s fault, he said, he was a bit sorry, but his bruvver deserved it) and his sister, who is a police officer. We talked about his 19 years on the streets, and the best way to get to Dalston at that time of night on buses where he wouldn’t have to pay. We talked about the importance, in this life, of “‘avin’ a bubble“. He said I was a bubble. He congratulated my beloved on me. He said my beloved was lucky to have a missus who was such a bubble.
Not speaking cockney rhyming slang, I was confused about this for a couple of days. I couldn’t work out what I’d done that was quite so pleasingly spherical and soapy.

The bus took a very, very, very long time to come.
A very, very long time.

And I wouldn’t have minded, but for the hugs and kisses on the cheek he bestowed on me. While touching in their honest (if incredibly inebriated) affection, they made me feel stinky. And the with the smoking, I was already stinky. So then I was stinky times two.

When the bus came, and I stood there, smelling a little of smoke, and a little of man sweat and ground-in Super-Tennants, I decided I should probably giving up smoking. Because enjoyable as surprise conversations can be, I like to have a little control over them. And just once, if someone walked up and asked me if I had a cigarette, I would like not to lie. I would like not to be hugged and tagged with the super-strength-lager peff. I would like not to be mean, and not to lie, I would like to smile, and say sorry.

I would like to say No.

Consequences: 23 Skidoo

(posted by Saltation)

So why do I have to make things so damn difficult for myself? There I was, dangling from a cliff on a burning rope over a pit of radioactive tigers, when suddenly my phone rang.
I was so embarrassed.
I’m always forgetting to switch the damn thing off when I go to the library.

This, of course, was no ordinary library.

I’d started the day at home, Chez Sal (sea shalls), as is my wont, with my feet up on a steaming cup of tea, perusing the Sunday papers hungover in my usual Wednesday morning attempt to come up to speed with the week. I gave it up as a bad job halfway through page one. Too many words. I essayed “Hello!” magazine and gave it up halfway through page one. Too many turds. “Front”, too many birds. “Ornithology Today”, too– hey, there’s a coincidence.

I rapidly came to the conclusion there was too much of everything.

Well, when I say “rapidly,” I mean more in the sense of the third cup of tea and second eye-opener.

I looked at my watch. Good lord. I was wearing a verb. Pants? Same. Jacket? Ick. Pass the tissues. Coat? Quite. I swiftly di-vested myself of my shirt to maintain grammatical consistency and sprang to my feet with a spring in my in-step. I paced the floor. 20 feet by 15.

Not good enough.

I needed reading matter of even lighter weight than “Hello!” and “Front.”

Not an easy task.

With me, as you know, or at least you do now, the thought is the deed.

I couldn’t think of anything.

Thus I stood there for a bit.

The phone rang. This put me in a difficult position. It was quite loud and right behind me, you see, and I was still feeling rather delicate, so when it rang the second time, I observed it wide-eyed from the light fitting I now clung to on the ceiling. As I mournfully debated my options at this height, traditional British workmanship saved the day and on the third ring, I stood up from the pile of rubble and dust next to the phone and answered it debonairly.

“Chez Sal.”

“Say that three times fast.”

“That that that.”

“Hang on, there’s someone knocking at the door, I’ll ring you back.”

“No, you fool, that was me.”

“What?! Well, stop mucking around and come in, then. There’s no time to waste.”

I opened the door and sauntered into his office.

“You probably should have put the phone down first, you know.”

We gazed briefly but pensively at the cord running out his door and down the street in the direction of my house.

“You really should get a mobile phone, Sal.”

“I have one of those too. But anyway, ALL phones are mobile.”

“Not public phones. They’re fixed in place.”

“They must be mobile, otherwise: how would they have got there in the first place?”

“Good point.”

“That puts me up 180 points to 17, doesn’t it?”

“I’m biding my time for my comeback.”

“You have one?”

“…”

“So, why am I here? What urgent matter requires the presence of Sal?” I struck a pose, which got angry and gave chase. Now, I don’t really like chase, but I didn’t want to be rude, so I thanked it and put the chase in my pocket, where it started to run. Which explained all those pants. I hoped they stayed pants and not stains.

“I need a book.”

“There’s a coincidence.”

“So it is.”

We gazed briefly and pensively at the coincidence in the corner.

“You don’t see many of those nowadays.”

“Funny, I was saying the exact same thing just this morning.”

“Well, anyway, back to the book. As you know, the Dr Fu Manchu Philanthropic and Totally Not Evil Association’s Christmas-In-July Party is coming up and they want to reserve Wembley Stadium for the pre-dinner drinks session. Something about preferring a grassy surface to save on the cleaning up. But… well… we fear nefarious prior booking may have occurred. I have heard rumours, Sal, dark rumours. And the name whispered in hushed and frightened tones is always the same.

“Mrs. Elspeth Groatington-Smythe.”

Each syllable fell like lead, yet the name hung in the air.

Groatington-Smythe. Mrs.

My arch enemy.

We’d been mortal foes ever since the Gastric le-Frux Town Fête’s WI Spiced Cake Stall Crisis of 1974. I hadn’t been there nor been involved in any way –I’ve never even heard of it before I mentioned it just now, to be honest– but I, Sal Tation, stand for Justice in all its forms. It makes my life damn difficult from time to time, but I can not stand by and see injustice dealt to the helpless and weak, the forgotten downtrodden, the volunteer groups’ spiced cake bakers of this world. But Groatington-Smythe was no pushover. A merciless, implacable enemy of all that was good and right, she. We battled not just the once, but again, and again. Each time, she escaped justice with her animal cunning, genius intellect, powerful frame, and supernaturally strong ginger biscuits. Fiendish plots, frenzied baking, and barely-escapable deathtraps were her stock in trade. Why, I can remember when…

But this is not the time.

“Tell me more.”

And the story unfolded. The only way to determine whether Wembley Stadium was booked for the 5-7pm first sitting on Friday was to track Groatington-Smythe (Mrs.) down to her lair, penetrate it as no one had ever penetrated Groatington-Smythe (Mrs.) before, find her heavily defended secret underground library, and inspect the book’s page for Friday to see what Wembley’s Maitre d’ had written.

At last.

A plan.

I sprang into action. “Action” is the name of my shower. I’m no good at all until I’ve had my shower.

Refreshed, I put a spot of Sal-talcion, then I got into my Sal-suit, donned my Sal-utility belt, climbed into the Sal-mobile, and tore off in a cloud of Sal-rubber. With my Sal-sexlife, you see, there are always so many used rubbers that lots escape even the most fastidious of cleaners. And, to be frank, the most fastidious of cleaners resign pretty bloody quickly after starting at Chez Sal, so I’m left with the dregs, not just in terms of cleaners but also in terms of random refuse lying about the place.

But all that was behind me now as I set off on my Quest to Save the Dr Fu Manchu Philanthropic and Totally Not Evil Association’s Christmas-In-July Party’s Friday Early Booking!

The story’s for another time, I’m not being paid for this. It is one of wonder, of high adventure and high risks, of nail-biting hair’s-breadth escapes from certain doom as I sped about the globe, of crossing the Andes (which I regret to this day– if you think it’s a light matter to be trailed ever since by the world’s longest and highest (in terms of distance from the centre of the earth) mountain range screaming red revenge in its volcanic basalt heart, I can only shake my head and pray you never need learn better), of endless false leads and endlessly renewed detective work, of shady contacts in shady bars, of old connections and old favours, of deals struck and deals broken, before finally tracking down the arch-fiend later that afternoon to her new lair in the deepest darkest most god-forsaken reaches of the Chiltern Hills, unknown to man nor beast, apart from the local Ramblers Association and the Number 15 bus.

From a gentle cruising speed of 280mph (damn school zones), I slewed the Sal-mobile to a broadside halt in a convenient parking space outside at the end of a 100-yard four-wheel locked-brake skid and a shower of tortured rubber. Surprisingly sticky, those things. Tenacious. Like me. Groatington-Smythe (Mrs.) had met her match. But not at Wembley. Not if I had anything to do with it!

I consulted the Secret Lair Plans I’d purchased surreptitiously from a little stereotypeman in the stereotype quarter of a far away stereotype.

And entered the Lair.

I won’t bore you with the details. I’m sure you all have lots to do.

In what seemed like no time, but in fact took about 40 years off my life and added several years to my sentence, I’d overpowered the guards, scaled the walls, cracked the safe to discover the secret combination written down inside to let me open it to find the key inside to the front door to let me in, cured cancer and all known diseases, sneaked past a contingent of 12,000 heavily armed soldiers, run away from 12,000 heavily legged soldiers, eaten my lunch, caught cancer, delved the upper cave system, penetrated the lair via the usual succession of deathtraps, and found and entered the library.

At last, the library. A large silent cavern, stalactites and stalagmites twinkling overhead in the harsh halogen lights as they argued about which had to get down. And behind the stern, forbidding Enquiries Desk was my goal. I laughed when I saw the final deathtrap, the last obstacle between me and triumph. How tedious. The old Keep It At The Bottom of A Bottomless Pit Of Radioactive Tigers With Only A Burning Rope Leading Down trick. This was last year’s black.

I sprang into action. And by god, I needed it. I stank.

Refreshed, I bounded over the lip of the pit and swarmed hand-over-hand down the burning rope towards the ravening jaws of the radioactive tigers prowling around the book –the Book!– lying open to Friday’s page on the plinth in the middle.

And then it happened.

My phone rang.

I’d forgotten to switch it off when I went into the library.

I was so embarrassed.

Consequences: Post 22

Posted by Jonathan

Probably, like the curate’s egg, parts of it are excellent. I mean, I’m sure he’s very persuasive with the customers and makes them place orders for a load of flanges and associated industrial goods, and other exciting things that the company we both work for deal in. And I daresay he’s excellent at other things salespeople traditionally excel at, such as driving his company-issue Ford Sierra down the middle lane of the motorway at 65mph, making useful contacts on the golf course, and braying loudly into his mobile phone while striding self-importantly around the office. They send salespeople on training courses to teach them this sort of stuff, you know. So I’m sure those parts of our up-and-coming sales rep Dave Pearson’s performance are entirely up to scratch. Excellent, in fact.

But I don’t care. I’m only a lowly sales office clerk, you see, so really it doesn’t matter to me and my ilk how many flanges Dave Pearson sells- it’s not like I’m on commission or anything. No, all we lowly clerks care about is that the sales reps send us in their paperwork on time, so that when the customers’ orders come into the office they are nice and easy to put on. Ideally in fact we would like to get all our work done by lunchtime, so that we can spend the rest of our 9-5 life engaged in interesting and constructive behaviour, like writing on our weblogs (and sometimes on other people’s). The sales reps we like are the ones who give us no bother, do their paperwork on time, and if they manage to sell some flanges along the way, well all well and good. I suppose they need to sell a few, just enough to keep us all in a job. Ultimately all we ask for is an easy life.

But guess what- Dave Pearson, the sales rep assigned to me in my new department, is not the sort of sales guy who gives you an easy life. Quite the opposite- he sells a great amount of flanges, causing unholy amounts of customer orders to come piling on to my desk out of the fax machine at all hours of the day. But because he hasn’t done his paperwork these orders become untidy and time-consuming to process. Hell, sometimes I even have to resort to ringing up the customers and talking to them in order to see what they want! Is this why I embarked on a career in customer service? Is it heckers like, as they used to say on Coronation Street. I entered a career in customer service because it seemed a whole damn lot easier than secondary school teaching, which is what I did before. And I stayed (embarrassing as it may be to admit) for the money (which is not bad, considering) and for the skiving opportunities (which are ample, or at least they are when they give you a salesperson who will play ball, Goddamit).

So anyway, I decided to confront Dave Pearson about his missing paperwork. Well not literally, as this would involve hanging around on a golf course somewhere, or standing in the middle lane of the M62 and waiting for him coming along in his Ford Sierra. Instead I sent him an email. Quite a friendly one, along the lines of ‘hi there Dave, if you have the time maybe you could send me in these prices I had asked for’. But of course I didn’t get an answer, so I sent another one, slightly more abrupt-and still heard nothing. And so I sent a third, really quite abrupt this time to the point of almost rudeness. ‘Dave- I really need a reply now. Please respond..’- this time copying in his boss. This one got a response, in the form of a phone call.

And of course Dave was the very soul of contrition. ‘Oh Jonathan, I’m so sorry- I’ve really let you down here. Look, I promise I’ll get the thing across to you start of play tomorrow, and you can do what you have to do, mate’. Well all right then, that’s more like it, I thought. Only the next day came and there was nothing. Then the day after that, and the day after that. This, I began to think- is getting beyond a joke. This bloke is just taking the piss.

I suppose at this stage I should have just rang with a gentle reminder. Maybe took the piss myself a bit. ‘Hey Dave, I know you’re probably busy at the 19th hole there, but if you could just get those prices across I might be able to get on with my damn job here….’ That would probably have done the trick. But the day in question I was feeling tired (I had been up half the night writing consequences post number 15, if you must know) and, well, just maybe a trifle ratty and irrational. So I didn’t ring up, I emailed again. And copied in his boss again. As well as his boss’s boss, and my immediate manager, just for good measure. And also the bloke who sits next to me- I can’t even remember why, I was having an attack of self-righteous office rage and I wanted everyone to know about it.

Needless to say this fourth missive was couched in the least measured terms you can possibly imagine. ‘Dave, despite your promises of last week I have still not received this information. You certainly don’t need me to tell you we do not need to give this customer any excuses not to pay their invoices. Your immediate response is required. Regards, Jonathan’.

Within minutes I got a written reply. A very short one. Terse would be more the word. ‘Prices attached. Hope you didn’t miss anyone off your copy list. Dave’.

That was a couple of days ago now- but the thing is this: I just can’t get this short but sharp rebuke out of my head. I will be washing the dishes or something and it will re-emerge- ‘hope you didnt miss anyone off your copy list’.

Damn I’ve really upset him, haven’t I? And he’s not a bad bloke really, big City fan and all. And now I’ve made him an enemy. And workplaces are awful, gossipy environments in which enmity can fester, as we all know. So soon I’m into full neurotic overdrive. ‘Oh dear God, he’s going to have it in for me now and probably all the rest of them will join in- oh what the hell have I done? No, it’s no good, I’m just going to have to hand my notice in and be done with it. It’s the dole office for me on Monday for sure- or back to the teaching lark. Oh, God in heaven help me!’

Oh I’m probably making too much of it all, I know. Cheerful Dave Pearson himself has probably forgotten about his own angry email already. But I still wish I had just picked the damn phone up. I’m supposed to just want an easy life, as I think I was just saying. So why do I have to make things so damn difficult for myself?

Consequences: Post 21

Posted by Gert

Save us from the stupid people !

They are all around us. Everywhere you look. Literally. Stupid.

People.

I have very firm views of what ‘stupid’ is. I suspect that the most precise definition would be ‘not me’.

Sometimes it’s what they say. Or what they do. Or what they don’t say. Or fail to do. Or just the way they are. Or their persona.

The way I see it, it is the 21st Century. We live in an information-rich society. When I were a lass we had to go to the library to find out information, and then read it by candlelight. Now we have computers and the internet, with its own internal lighting system…

Nah, this post isn’t working. I want to write something amazingly witty and insightful, or both. Pithy, zeitgeist defining.

Too stupid for that.

But part of me still blames Elton John and David Furnish for the end of the best relationship I have ever had.

I really wanted to write the meaningless sex post. Not that I’ve had any sex – meaningless or meaningful or otherwise – in the past few weeks. Too stupid, you see. Or if I had, I don’t think I’d be blogging it. Especially not on Troubled Diva’s blog. Good grief, no. That would never do. Although I reckon if you had a scandalous shag, the best place to write about it would be on someone else’s blog.

But, exactly how do you blog sex? “I lay there and he moved towards me with a towering pulsating tumescence which he clinically inserted into my BBC journalists look away now.”

Or how would that read in txt msg “He fkd me i scrmd he cme i dt thr woz a wtpth he fl aslp n snrd i ly awk thn i ndd 2 p” Mills and Boon, you know my e-addy.

But the really strange thing about sex is, the stupid people manage to do it. It has always fascinated me, how did people know in the old days. I think I found out by watching TV, coupled with tittle-tattle with the girls gathered round the sandpit. But, in the old days they didn’t have sandpits. And yet you hear even in this day and age of couples who don’t understand why they can’t conceive, and it turns out he’s been sticking it in her belly-button.

I digress, as always. It’s hard this is, as the actress said to the bishop.

I always feel there’s a story waiting to be told, about the actress and the bishop. Probably, like the curate’s egg, parts of it are excellent.

Consequences : Post 20

Posted by Pam Br

“In the last few weeks, I’ve had a lot of meaningless sex.”

Or at least I think that’s what she meant, because what the text message actually said was “N the lst phew weaks ive had a lt of meeningliss sx”. I’m going to delete her out of my phonebook. Whilst the potential for gossip is huge I am no longer willing to tolerate this stupid text speak any longer. I’m no grammar nazi but when the spelling gets that bad it’s just not worth it, especially when I know it’s deliberate. She’s got a bloody degree for (insert deity of choice)’s sake.

What annoys me more is that it’s not even used solely in text messages anymore. You see it in emails, in chat rooms and internet forums where supposedly serious topics are being discussed. Take this example from a discussion about the guy who was shot by police in London the other day – “it wood be comon practis in the ruls of engayjement ot fiyre mor then 1 rnd if a suisiyde bomer is suspectid…. u need a few shots in fast sucessiun to kill em as fast as possibel…. u r not triin to incapoasitayt coz the they cood still detonayte, wich is a buger if u wer a misunderstandin …but bloody luky if he was a suisiyde bomer”.

My brain hurts trying to decipher that. Surely it takes more effort to mix up the letters than it does to type it correctly in the first place ! Does this person speak like that in real life ? How long before it invades the whole country ? Can we look forward to programmes like “Noos at Tin wiv Treva MicDonalt”and “Kryme Seen Infistigaysean” ?

Incidentally, there was no reply from the person above when I questioned why they felt the need to communicate in this manner. Maybe they were off consulting their English to Neanderthal dictionary. Save us from the stupid people !

Troubled Diva: unsuitable for international travellers.

Hello readers! I am writing this from the departure lounge at Terminal 4 at Heathrow airport, from where I shall be flying to Vienna this afternoon.

Imagine my horror at discovering that Troubled Diva has been BLOCKED by the airport, for “unsuitable” content! Sweary Anna, I fear this reflects gravely upon you.

I shall be returning to the UK in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Until then, enjoy the guest “Consequences” posts, and the new podcast, and please play nicely.

Bis bald!

Consequences: Post 19

Posted by Martin again.

“But part of me still blames Elton John and David Furnish for the end of the best relationship I have ever had.”

The part of me that did that is a bit twisted and evil. The part of me that blames them is just nasty, and I try to ignore it. I need to get on with my life. I need to forget. I go out looking for external validation to do that.

In the last few weeks, I’ve had a lot of meaningless sex.

Consequences: Post 18

Posted by Martin

England, my home.

Well, not really. But that’s how it felt when I stepped off the plane at Terminal Four, into that building that reminded me of a temporary shed, constructed to house refugees, the unloved, the unwanted. That’s how I’d been feeling all the way back from Delhi. I was undesirable, unloved and unlovable and that’s what I deserved.

And this in spite of an upgrade. Maybe it was the champagne. Champagne always makes me maudlin.

Delhi had been fantastic. I’d been there with Hari, meeting some of his cousins, doing a bit of travelling and a bit of sight seeing. We’d met the guy that first taught Hari massage, and he’d treated us both to a full tantric massage. We’d seen the sun rise over the Taj Mahal, and we’d drunk ourselves silly on gin and tonic as the evenings fell. I got a great tan. And then it all went horribly wrong.

We’re talking almost three months ago now, but it really hurts, still. I had to change terminal at Heathrow, and I had a long weight, so I went to WH Smith for something to read. And I started crying. Fuck it, a 27 year-old guy bursting in to tears in Smith’s for no good reason.

I think it was the familiarity, really. The feeling that I was home. The previous two weeks had been so great, so exciting, and at the end so awful. And it had all been going so well.

We’d had a drink or two. We were having dinner at the Oberoi, celebrating our last night in Delhi before we flew back to Scotland, and Hari had been ordering all sorts of things from the menu that I wouldn’t have picked for myself, but I loved every mouth full. Good food and good wine get me romantic, so I was doing the whole flirting thing, and I told him I loved him, and I was looking forward to a damn good session when we got back to our room. And over a spun sugar dessert I asked him to marry me.

And he didn’t say yes. He didn’t say no, either. He just took a big breath.

I don’t even know where the question came from. Civil partnerships had been all over the newspapers before we’d left, but until the words tumbled awkwardly from my mouth I hadn’t thought about them. And suddenly I was all excited, because it was actually what I wanted and I was just waiting for him to answer when he said nothing. And then he swigged down his wine. And then he said – and I remember these words better than any of the argument that followed them – “Where on earth did you get that idea from?”

And then the argument. I’ll distil it down because frankly I’m not certain I want to recreate it in my head. But. I wanted to make a commitment. He already was committed and didn’t need a piece of paper to prove it. I couldn’t believe that he didn’t want to marry me. He couldn’t believe it mattered. And after that, it got nasty, and it got personal, and he left. He told me to move out. I had no doubt that he meant it.

I went back to the room. I cried myself to something near sleep. I got up at three in the morning and cried my way to the airport, and downed my sorrows in cheap champagne.

By the time I got to Heathrow, my head was all over the place. Part of me was plotting how to get him back. Part of me never wanted to see him again. Part of me was still wanting that drunken shag that I’d been looking forward to, and I ended up satisfying that part with the help of a nineteen year old baggage handler. That didn’t help anything at all, and the flight back to Scotland was as awful as the flight from Delhi, but with extra guilt thrown in.

I’ve seen Hari once since then. From a distance. I moved out, and into the spare room at my friend Cal’s place until I can get myself somewhere new. It’s helped me get some perspective, I think. I’m not shagging Cal. I’m not shagging anyone except for solo practice sessions. It’s still Hari that I think about, but it’s Hari as he would be ten years from now if we were still together. I talk to Cal about it, though, and he kind of understands.

I thought I had it all, really I did. In a sense, I did have it all, but I wanted more. Before I met Hari I was pretty heavily in denial, and Hari showed me that I was a better person for being true to myself. In the end I was true to myself, and it left me here. Fucked up, pissed off, and bitter. And better? Who knows.

Is there a lesson to be learned from this, something for me to share with the lovely Mike and his lovely readers? I think there is, and it’s not about me, or about Hari, or about the sweet baggage handler at Heathrow whose skin tastes of honey. It’s about the press, about tabloids, about hype, and about following celebrity trends. Because they’re not real people, they don’t live in the real world, and although they probably have the same fights and tears and hugs and ineptitudes as the rest of us, we don’t see them. We see their airbrushed lives where two men can promise to commit and it all works out fine and makes the front page and turns the head of impressionable guys like me. Everyone’s different, and I wish them the best of luck for the future. But part of me still blames Elton John and David Furnish for the end of the best relationship I have ever had.

Consequences: Post 17

Posted by Clair

But I knew she wanted to. I didn’t want to believe it, wanted to dismiss it as something immaterial that given a bit of time she would get over. But really, I knew it was more than that. I knew she wanted, no needed to move back to England. For my mum the homesickness and loneliness in Germany, of five years of living there, away from her family, without ever learning the language to a degree she felt confident with, had just become too much.

Now, I need to say this straight away: I love my mum, completely. She’s the best mum in the whole world that I could possibly have. But at the time, I resented her making me move away from where I felt was my home. I was only five when we moved to Germany, dad’s job as an engineer forcing us out there. There wasn’t a great deal of my life before then that I could really remember, not compared with the last five years of my life anyway. We weren’t even going to be moving back to the same area were we used to live! We were moving to a different area, I’d be joining a completely different school system, I wouldn’t know anyone at all.

We moved back to England in February. I think I can remember there being a snow storm as we left. I definitely remember having a cold at the time, which had got worse when I had insisted on going swimming with my friends one last time. So, February, half way through the school year and I was going back into junior school, when I had been in senior school in Germany. Everything was so different, so confusing, particularly the teachers, who I never got my head around, who told me off for doing things the way I had been taught them for years. I never settled into that school, making only one friend in the whole time I was there (and she was american!)

Fortunately things got better when I went onto secondary school. Looking back (hindsight is such a wonderful thing) I can see that returning to England actually did me a lot of favours. The differences in the school systems meant that I had changed from being the youngest in the class, to the oldest. From being an average student, to the top of the class. I think that shift helped my confidence in myself a lot. (My confidence in me as a person anyway; my confidence in actually dealing with new people and foreign situations is still a bit dodgy even today.)

So, while I still treasure the time I spent in Germany, and still feel, from time to time, homesick for the place where I spent a good part of my childhood, I now feel that I belong back here. England, my home.

Pride and shame.

Over in the Big Blogger house, we’re down to the last six contestants. However, with two of them (Alan and NML) already having won immunity from next week’s eviction, there are only four of us who are up for the public vote: myself, Miss Mish, Vitriolica and Zoe. This gives each of us only a 50% chance of survival of making it into the final week. Such tension!

As for our tasks: they are getting both more frequent, and more challenging. Which is as it should be, at this advanced stage of the game. Our most recent task has been to give detailed accounts of”a) the moment in your life you are most proud of, and b) the moment you are most ashamed of”. The collective results have changed the character of the game entirely, and I recommend all of them to you. (As of today, they are all available on the front page of the site.)

My own contribution was split into two sections. The “pride” entry basically riffs upon a familiar theme, but the “shame” entry tells a significant childhood story which I’ve never told before. It also features a rare appearance by that most elusive of figures on this blog: my mother.

Continue reading “Pride and shame.”

Consequences: Post Sweet Sixteen

Posted by PB Curtis
A loss of innocence. That’s the downside.
A shag. That’s the upside.
Done.

Having thus thought critically and comprehensively about the consequences of my actions – as far as the current blood flow permitted – I went ahead and lost my virginity. I didn’t lose much innocence, but then it wasn’t much of a shag. Indeed, I was rather put out by the tiny dribble of innocence that was forfeit. I had expected a much grander shift in my perceptions, more akin to the seismic shudder of an entire nation as it hurtles into post-modern cynicism upon the discovery that trusted politicans are routinely duplicitous and venal. I had expected sex to be like Watergate; instead it was like… well, like eating an apple.

And boy, that whole situation was really wearing sandals in the pigsty. An apple? Eve may well have rued, back in the Garden of Eden. Of all the bland, jejune foodstuffs to be busted for! she may well have exploded. Why I oughta! she possibly added, although no-one would have been paying enough attention to her to stop and wonder why she was turning into Jimmy Cagney. God would already be elsewhere, having puffed off in a huff; Adam, newly gifted with sight, would be all like Whoa! Check out those babies!, and the snake would be all like Dude! Where’s my legs?

“What are you thinking, PB?” she whispered, her face so close to mine that we were both cross-eyed as we looked at each other.

Damn. I was thinking… but no, I can’t. Here we are, two freshly-minted ex-virgins, still attempting to bask in the communal glow of what neither of is is ready to accept was absolutely not a momentous experience… surely, this above all others, this is the time for honesty? Isn’t it?

“I was thinking about how rubbish apples are.”

All she actually said was “What?”, but what she actually meant was “I hate you.” And there it was, bang! There was my loss of innocence. Lying was not a sin; it was good, it always had been, it always would be, and I was going to have to make up for lost time.

“I was thinking how much I love you right now, and trying to think of the very opposite of what this feeling must be, and thought that would have to be the dullest, blandest thing in the world. So, er, apples.”

There. I felt that that was at least as good as Tricky Dicky saying “I am not a crook”, but she looked unconvinced. She was too young to say harumph with any conviction. But I knew she wanted to.

Consequences: Post 15

Posted by Jonathan

‘But then we’ve just gone and got a Playstation 2’.

‘Oh, really, young Jack? And how are you finding it compared to the original?’

‘Oh, much better! For a start, it’s much smaller so you can carry it about in your pocket’.

‘So you can play DVDs on the bus?’

‘Well I don’t catch buses- but I can play them in my dad’s car, down the shopping mall- anywhere! And it’s got an integrated ethernet port, you know, and a modem connection for online gaming, and-‘

As my 10 year old cousin Jack breathlessly extols the virtues of his new (and no doubt very expensive) toy I nod in what I hope is a sage, avuncular fashion, while hoping it is not too obvious that not only do I have no idea what an ethernet port may be when it is at home, but that my lifetime experience of video games extends to a brief flirtation with a flatmate’s portable Pac-Man machine sometime in the early 90s- back when ‘portable’ meant anything you could plug into the wall that was smaller and lighter than a housebrick.

Well, OK, that is not entirely true. In the early 80s there was the odd visit to the Plaza Amusements on Fenham’s West Road to feed primitive Space Invader machines with precious pocket-money 10p pieces, and later on, when we had paper-round wages burning holes in our pockets and were allowed to get the bus on our own into the seething metropolis that was Newcastle City Centre, there were a couple of hot, sweaty Saturday afternoons spent fighting for a place at the line of tiny screens up above the badminton courts at Eldon Square sports centre, where you could zap incredibly lifelike 3D spaceships out of the cosmos to your heart’s content, at least until your three lives ran out and you had to hand the plastic gun over to the next set of clammy adolescent palms wielding a 50p piece to push into the slot.

But the truth is I never really got into these new-fangled amusements. In fact we were a bit snooty about them in our house, possibly because we couldn’t afford the bulky technology you needed to play them with. Our cousin Neil’s house, on the other hand, was full of the attendant vulgar paraphernalia, and on one memorable weekend visit we tiptoed aloofly around the assorted green blinking computer screens and tangled wires, while our hosts attempted vainly to interest us in blasting tiny technicolour aliens out of the North Tyneside sky with their personalised joysticks. Back at our spartan, book-strewn home our dad biroed a screen full of spacemen onto the underside of a man-size hanky box and handed it to my sister, mimicking Uncle Stuart’s humourless monotone: ‘Here love, see if you can get ten thousand on that!’.

The cardboard space invaders was the nearest our house ever saw to an Atari set. I contented myself with subbuteo and paperbacks and grew into a pallid twentysomething with a thorough grasp of Sartre but no command whatsoever of a joystick. The advent of Playstation, Nintendo and the X-box passed me by- and now cousin Jack, just like cousin Neil 20 years before him, flummoxes me with his new-fangled talk of ethernet cables and interactive fantasy gaming.

And neither will it stop there. Now I have a child of my own- a darling, innocent one-and-a-half year old named Frank. But just how long can this innocence remain, in today’s hi-tech, gadget-dependent world? Already we have had to buy the little feller his own TV remote control (without batteries in, mind) to stop him grabbing a hold of the real one and turning over to the Welsh-speaking channels when we’re not looking- and he is showing a dexterity beyond his years at the outsize buttons of his various musical baby toys. How long before our precious baby is coming home from school and demanding a Playstation X-Box Five, just like the ones everyone else in his class have got? And will we be strong enough (or like my own parents, just downright skint enough) to stand firm and tell the boy there is no need for such new-fangled, obesity-inducing flim-flammery while there are perfectly good climbing trees in the field outside, and a pile of wooden planks in the back yard that can be fashioned, with the aid of the sort of basic carpentry skills one picks up at the Boy Scouts, into a serviceable go-cart that will be the pride of the neighbourhood?

We’re fooling ourselves of course. Looking out on the back field this summer evening I see the trees are strangely bereft of clambering pre-adolescents, and I don’t suppose any of us have seen a go-cart since 1975. All the local kids, like my cousin Jack, are presumably ensconsed in their bedrooms, little thumbs going thirteen-to-the-dozen at the controls of their Playstation Twos. It seems sad. A loss of innocence.

Consequences: Post 14

(posted by Will)

Schpongggg!

A lisping Big Ben reminds me that time is passing, and I can feel it. My weight won’t go down. My sensible side parting has returned. Staying in is becoming more attractive than going out. Circumstances have replaced my hi-tech mobile phone – the sort that can launch nuclear missiles with making calls as optional extra – with a brick that can do little more than send texts and is so 2002.

Is 26 too early to have a mid-life crisis?

There was a time when I’d always be in the first few rows of a gig, bouncing up and down, hoping that my specs wouldn’t fall off during a particularly vigorous number. Two years ago I went to a gig at the Brixton Academy and tried the same; halfway through I was so exhausted I had to go to the back and lean against a wall.

Last year, I went to a concert gig and leant against the bar throughout. And as if that didn’t make me feel old enough, both bands – stars of the 1995/6 glory days of indie music – then split up.

Schpongggg!

Age could be a good thing. A few grey hairs might lend me the look of a debonair executive – if I can work out how to stop slouching. A middle-aged smart-casual look might give be an air of quiet authority. And bit of ageing to my voice – ideally lower and more gravelly – would make me more assertive.

That would be a nice change. If there’s something I don’t like about me when I see myself on TV, it’s my voice. Oh, and my stomach. And my chubby arms. (Mental note: if going on TV, wear a long-sleeved shirt.) OK, if there’s something I don’t like about me when I hear myself on the radio, it’s my voice.

Schpongggg!

In retrospect, maybe I’m not exhibiting any of the outward sounds of a midlife crisis. I haven’t started wearing skinny tops that unwelcomingly show off my paunch. I’ve not started learning Greek “just in case”. I haven’t taken up extreme sports or started secretly listening to R&B.

So perhaps this isn’t a midlife crisis – it’s the bit that comes before. In order to desperately attempt to recapture lost youth, you first have to lose it. Shedding the accoutrements of the young could be what the early-late-twenties were invented for.

But then we’ve just gone and got a PlayStation 2.

That “Rough Guide To World Music” tracklist in full, then.

I’ve added “buy” links to the albums in question. There are sound samples attached to most of these links.

Artist names in bold indicate albums which I can personally recommend in full. Of the albums listed, my top five recommendations would be: Tinariwen, Miguel ‘Anga’ Diaz, Boubacar Traore, Bebo & Cigala, Amadou & Mariam.

1. Yamaryo – Djelimady Tounkara (Mali)
2. Chatma – Tinariwen (Mali/Sahara)
3. Sudani – Abdel Gadir Salim All-Stars (Sudan, 1991)
4. Exilé – Jagdish & Kreol Konexyan (Mauritius)
5. Chaco – Chango Spasiuk (Argentina)
6. Woman In Hell – Warsaw Village Band (Poland)
7. Tive Razao – Seu Jorge (Brazil)
8. A Love Supreme – Miguel ‘Anga’ Diaz (Cuba)
9. Don’t Let Me Down – Charlotte Dada (Ghana, 1971)

10. Era – Vakoka (Madagascar)
11. Hornonia – Boubacar Traore (Mali)
12. Touramagan – Mandekalou (Mali/Guinea)
13. Corazon Loco – Bebo & Cigala (Cuba/Spain)
14. Montras – Mariza (Portugal)
15. Monte Cara – Cesaria Evora (Cape Verde)
16. Beaux Dimanches – Amadou & Mariam (Mali)
17. Rock El Casbah – Rachid Taha (Algeria)

Consequences: Post XIII

(posted by Em²)

I mean – we’ve all got genitalia here, haven’t we?

When I started to write this, the last line of Post 12 read “I mean – we all genitalia, don’t we?”

It was like Have I Got News For You?‘s missing words round (featuring one or more headlines from this week’s guest publication: Punning Weekly) and I had a well-crafted flow of thought, working through the various options for missing words – “have”, “enjoy”, “get let down by”. Oh well, c’est la vie.

The content of my InBox would suggest while we undoubtebly do all have genitalia of some description, spammers are working on the assumption that few of us are overly happy with them. Taking this morning’s guff as an example:

What’s that? Why yes, there are times when I’ve trickled when I wish I’d blasted. All that effort and build-up for that? Such a let down for a girl. Delete.

And what’s this next one? It’s true – I suppose an extra few inches1 or so would be useful to block that irritating draught, to frighten my cat/neighbours or as an ice-breaker at parties.2. Delete.

I’m not so sure that remaining hard for hours is such a good thing though – maintaining decorum would be difficult, for example, in my occasional social interactions with Scantily Clad Girl on the station platform of a morning. Could be quite useful as a temporary coat hook, I suppose.

While there’s so much about the human body that is poorly designed3, male genitalia are a definite case in point.

Mine ruins the crisp lines of my smart designer-label suit (or would do, were I to own one4).

It gets roused by the slightest thing (and often I can’t even tell what’s woken it) or refuses to stir when its presence would be welcomed.

It pays no attention to feverish mental commands to go back to sleep (in fact, this tends to make it even more stubbornly attentive).

It even seems to be able to send words to my mouth bypassing my brain completely.

It’s no wonder that most men treat their tackle as if it’s a not-particularly-benign symbiote.

Wouldn’t it be so much easier all round if we could dispense with these fiddly bits and breeding was simply a case of filling in Form 37D(ii), ticking your preferences on Form 175-8 (revised 06/96) and then allowing up to 30 days for delivery? I’m sure we could come up with acceptable alternatives for genetalia’s recreational applications, couldn’t we? A nice mug of cocoa and a hob-nob, for example?

Oh bugger – I said “nob”.

Schpongggg!


1 Although I happened upon a TV programme last week in which an expert was explaining that all the pills and vaccua in the world can only ever alter – and then only slightly – the dimensions of the dormant member.
2 Not that I’m ever invited to that sort of party, more’s the pity.
3 Where’s the 360 degree field of vision or, at the very least, an owl-like flexibility to the neck? Where’s the charcoal-like gas filter for vegetarians? Why can’t body odour be more agreeable? Unerodable teeth? Wouldn’t an extra pair of hands make Ikea a far more viable source of furniture?
4 A smart suit that is.

Other podcasts of note, and a How I Did It guide for the curious.

Now that the technical barriers are being lowered: the podcast revolution, she is a-rolling.

Andre from A Beautiful Revolution has put together a charmingly idiosyncratic 20-minute broadcast. (If “charmingly idiosyncratic” doesn’t sound too much like I’m damning it with faint praise. ‘Cos I’m not.)

Pete Ashton has been knocking them out for so long that he’s practically the grandaddy of the scene. Here’s his 14th broadcast, and here’s his feed. This man knows his music.

As to how I recorded mine: tempted as I am to say “smoke and mirrors” and retain the mystery, there have been so many queries about this that I feel obliged to share what little I know.

How to record a Podcast, Troubled Diva style. Offered up with all the wisdom and experience of ONE broadcast!

Caveat: This is merely a record of how I did it, in a very low-tech, quick-and-dirty manner. It is absolutely not meant to be some sort of definitive guide. There are zillions of ways of doing this sort of thing, and many, many guides to doing so. (All of which I have cheerfully ignored. Mea culpa.)

1. Ingredients: a microphone and some recording software. I simply used the kit that came with the Dell machine. It took a bit of digging around to find it, but it wasn’t too difficult to fathom out.

2. Ingredients: some MP3 mixing software. I’ve been using Mixmeister for nearly six years now. There may be some more sophisticated tools on the market, but it’s dead easy to use and does groovy things like beat-synching into the bargain. The cost has gone up a bit since I bought it: it’s $49.95 (dollars not pounds), but there’s also a free trial version which lets you muck around with all the features.

3. Ingredients: some web space, and something which will let you convert WAVs to MP3s, such as the freeware CDex.

4. Give yourself between two and three uninterrupted hours to record the broadcast. Don’t do it in bits, or you’ll lose the flow and the sense of time/place.

5. Decide on your playlist. I did this fairly quickly, working on gut instinct. There’s no point in over-thinking this sort of thing: spontaneity is key. Otherwise you mind end up with a rather dull and worthy list of things you feel you “ought” to play. Also, bear in mind that most people will only listen to the podcast once, so there’s not much point in scheduling “growers”. Think of it as a radio show, not a mix CD.

6. Import your chosen MP3s into Mixmeister, and create a new playlist.

7. Set up the microphone. I rested mine on a little china dish, just behind my keyboard. Too close, and you’ll get distortion on your plosives (and, I dare say, hiss on your fricatives). I also set my recording levels to max: you need the speech sections to be nice and loud.

8. Record each link separately, and save it as a WAV or an MP3; Mixmeister recognises both. I didn’t record mine “live” as the songs were playing; instead, I played bits of the two songs that I was linking (especially the beginnings and ends), and had a quick think about what I was going to say. But only a quick one, mind: over-think, and you’ll lose the spontaneity and run the risk of sounding overly self-conscious.

9. Other tips: try and do each link on the first take, without giving space in your head to the possibility of a re-take: the tension and adrenalin this produces will concentrate your mind and improve your flow. Besides, do you really want to be sweating over this thing all day? You should also try and speak loudly, clearly and confidently, minimising any apologetic mumbling. Own the airwaves! You’re the star! If in doubt, fake it!

(To this end, it helps if you’re alone in the house/flat, without any fear of being overheard or interrupted. You know, like when you’re impersonating Mick Jagger in the mirror, or enjoying a leisurely auto-erotic interlude… for successful podcasting contains elements of both these skills.)

10. Each time you complete a link, drag the file into Mixmeister and insert it into your playlist between the desired songs. My style is to start each link over the end of each preceding track, and to let it run over the intro to each following track, usually stopping just before the vocals kick in. If you’re using mixing software, then this is wonderfully easy to accomplish.

11. Once you’ve finished the show, export it as a “mixed file”, ie. save it as a WAV, then use something like CDex (quick and easy freeware) to convert it into an MP3. I recommend changing the “Settings” in CDex to encode the MP3 at 128k. Any bigger, and the file will start getting too large for some people to download.

12. FTP the MP3 to your web space, and post the link to your blog.

13. Job done? Yeah, but all you’ve really done so far is create a great big MP3. To call yourself a proper podcaster, you have to create a feed for your MP3s, so that people can subscribe to it and have all your subsequent podcasts download automatically. There are probably all sorts of clever techie ways of doing this, but here’s an easy way.

14. Go to del.icio.us, and set yourself up with a username and password.

15. Now go to the del.icio.us “post” feature – or better still, use the “post to del.icio.us” bookmarklet on your toolbar (oh look, you’ll work it out soon enough). Enter the full filename of your MP3 in the URL box, e.g. http://www.troubled-diva.com/troubled-diva-podcast-01.mp3.

16. When prompted for “tags”, enter something unique, that no-one else is likely to use: I used “divacast”. It doesn’t need to be particularly catchy or memorable.

17. Del.icio.us will then automatically set up a feed for your brand new, unique tag. The URL of this feed will be http://del.icio.us/rss/tag/system:filetype:mp3+blahblahblah, where “blahblahblah” is the name of your unique tag.

18. Post the URL of the del.icio.us feed on your blog, so that people can grab it and subscribe to it.

19. Next time you do a podcast, repeat steps 15 & 16, using the same unique tag as before. This will automatically update the feed, meaning that the new podcast will automatically download onto your subscribers’ hard drives.

20. To subscribe to a podcast from iTunes, see my handy guide below.

Heavens, so much tech talk! I feel quite wrung out.

Nationwide Mercury Music Prize 2005 shortlist.

As this year’s shortlist is due to be announced in 20 minutes, I had better get my predictions in quick:

Bloc Party, British Sea Power, Futureheads, Hard-Fi, Jem, Kano, Magic Numbers, Malcolm Middleton, MIA, Roisin Murphy, Roots Manuva, Saint Etienne.

Other possibles: Coldplay, Doves, Duke Spirit, Four Tet, Goldfrapp, Gorillaz, Go! Team, Kaiser Chiefs, Lemon Jelly, Maximo Park.

We shall see.

Update: The actual shortlist is:

Antony & The Johnsons (British born, y’see), Bloc Party, Coldplay, Go! Team, Hard-Fi, Kaiser Chiefs, Magic Numbers, Maximo Park, MIA, Polar Bear (token jazz, sorry, “post-jazz”), KT Tunstall, and somebody called Seth Lakeman (folk, self-released).

So, 4 out 12 correctly predicted, and 4 more from the “others” list. The biggest surprise is the lack of “urban” music on the list, MIA excepted (although she’s as much “arthouse” as she is “urban”).

I never was much good at this sort of thing…