The Sum Of All Years.

This little meme-ette was apparently doing the rounds during the autumn, as initiated by Cliff at This is this. It’s a simple concept, which should need no further introduction.

Update: Hmm, it seems that I should have spelt the concept out in more detail after all. For each entry, the word count should match the age. At least according to your word processing package of choice.

1
WAAAAH.

2
Hello, sister.

3
Happy little cherub.

4
Teach myself to read.

5
Youngest pupil, at girls’ school.

6
Why can’t we have au-pair BOYS?

7
Top of the class, teacher’s pet; precocious.

8
Two years younger than all my classmates; prodigy.

9
Whistle blower on the “show us your willy” scandal.

10
The last days of our idyllic “Janet and John” existence.

11
Mother moves out to re-marry; grandmother moves in to house-keep; devastated.

12
A crush on the headmaster’s daughter causes temporary blurring of emergent sexuality.

13
A crush of infinitely greater magnitude at boarding school causes blurring to cease.

14
Hormonal frenzy during Long Hot Summer of 1976 causes disappointing exam results. Father re-marries.

15
Obsessed with punk, hideous collection of shit brown polo-neck sweaters notwithstanding. Tensions with step-family accumulate.

16
Annus miserabilis. Wracked with self-consciousness, no friends at school, family scapegoat, many wounding rows at home.

17
Slow re-construction of identity commences. First sexual experience, bringing more pain than pleasure. Leave home for London.

18
Selling tourist tat at Hamleys toyshop, saving for solo rail trip round Europe. Doomed attempt to study law.

19
Flunk law, switch to German. Living in cheerful communal squalor. Fantastic social life; barren sex life. Something’s gotta give.

20
Something gives: namely my fear of entering gay society. First date, first gay friend, first boyfriend (not the same person).

21
Experiments in bottle-blondeness. Move to West Berlin. Flatshare with three right-on schoolmistresses in their thirties. Become a “creature of the night”.

22
“Vacuum created by the arrival of freedom, and the possibilities it seems to offer.” Having just found my feet, leave Berlin reluctantly.

23
After Berlin, Nottingham feels drab. Strategy of only dating unsuitable people fails spectacularly, when I fall in love with K. Escape deferred indefinitely.

24
Redundancy from first shitty job comes as a blessing. Our crappy rented flat becomes the “matt black dream home”, all chrome and lacquered ash.

25
Working for the council, not eating meat, sitting on Equal Opportunities committee, spinning house and rap at “alternative” lesbian/gay night. Impeccably PC or what?

26
My club nights become the focus for the “Stop Clause 28” crowd. Constant comparisons with The Proclaimers force me into contact lenses. Bye bye, “cruise shields”…

27
Promotion at work feels like a breakthrough. The “social lynchpin” years reach their zenith, our house becoming everyone’s speakeasy. K commences seven years of intensive foreign travel.

28
Although life is certainly fun-packed, we’re pulling in different directions. K is stressed and needs space; I’m bored and need action. Our social circle has exceeded critical mass.

29
See above. At our local gay flea-pit, I’m quite the Belle of the Ball on Saturday nights. It’s an achievement of sorts. Wild times in New York and Amsterdam.

30
Moving house cures us of Perpetual Host Syndrome, but K is now abroad every other week. We’re quite the style queens, with our minimalist décor and our labels. Sweedie. Darling.

31
The mass cull of family members gathers pace, with the death of my father having particular impact. Correspondingly, my taste for hedonism steps up a notch. The hardcore clubbing years commence.

32
The jet-set years peak, with holidays in California, Barcelona, Scandinavia and Burgundy. Work is pants, but energies are focussed elsewhere. See God on a dancefloor in Clerkenwell, re-emerging with a convert’s zeal.

33
Swap the poofy labels for standard-issue Schott, Sherman, Levis. Volunteer for the local Gay Switchboard. Tenth anniversary party, relationship crisis, resolution. Join the Internet: omniscience at the touch of a button. Hello, world!

34
On said Clerkenwell dancefloor, I’m quite the regular celebrant on Sunday mornings, with the sexy Leicester boys and the gurn-along gang. After seven years in a job I hate, make long overdue sideways move.

35
The dutiful, card-carrying, Gay with a capital G years reach their culmination over Pride weekend: my Apotheosis of Queer. Having ticked off everything on my shopping list of experiences, one question remains: what next? Hmm…

36
Actually, why not work through that list one more time? Might as well. Over recent years, this single-minded dedication has narrowed my focus. Who needs other interests? Frankly darlings, I’ve become a bit of a bore.

37
After the seventh family bereavement in seven years, something inside snaps. Poor timing, as I experience major New Job Jitters, free of the council at last. Text-book midlife crisis kicks in, big time. Worst year since adolescence.

38
Miraculously, K concludes lucrative business deal, allowing us to purchase weekend bolt-hole in the Peak District. Priorities re-arrange themselves, instantly and dramatically. On the weekend we move in, I say my final farewells to the Clerkenwell dancefloor. Closure.

39
Spend six knackering months playing weekend hosts to all our city friends, whilst furnishing the cottage from scratch. Start collection of Gillray caricatures. Social anxiety around posh “county” types. Win 200 quid on quiz show. Change job. Start blogging.

40
Project from Hell, marooned in a Portakabin in the industrial North East. Unexpectedly re-introduced, via blogging, to London gay scene. Play with fire, get burnt. What I took for an epiphany is actually closure of a different kind. Nuff said.

41
An all-new garden for the cottage is commissioned and built, leading to uptake of age-appropriate new interest. In surprise role reversal, commence several months of intensive business travel: several weeks in Paris, then six other European cities. Re-evaluate priorities, and reluctantly quit blogging.

42
Start blogging again. After slow start, have established solid network of valued friends in the village, which now feels more like home than Nottingham. No longer scared of middle age. Tough holiday in Peru causes sequence of illnesses, leading to depressive relapse.

43
Twentieth anniversary of relationship with K. Blogging leads to radio interview, national press coverage, lecturing engagement. First piece of paid journalism appears in Time Out. Start course of cognitive behavioural therapy. Opportunity arises for three weeks working in China over Christmas. Optimistic? Very.

Please feel free to try this at home. Warning: it’s tougher than it looks.

Triple linkage, and dykey disco delights.

With just nine days left until I get on a plane to Shanghai, I’m basically spending all my spare time making mix CDs for the same-sex civil partnership registration celebratory event lesbian wedding disco which I’ll be missing during Christmas week.

Happily, the brides-to-be and most of their guests are of the same fortysomething vintage as myself. This means that I can keep to the tried and tested old chestnuts, without being obliged to “drop” any of that scary avant-garde modern stuff, like Oasis or The Prodigy.

(Although I have let myself go with a little bit of Robbie Williams. It’s a risk which I’m prepared to take.)

(And, no – I know they’re lesbians, but I have not included “Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves”. I may not have been to many lesbian discos recently, but I reckon I can spot a “Hi-Ho Silver Lining” when I see one.)

Anyway, despite being up to my gills in 1970s disco and 1980s electro-pop, I have still found time to serve up a little light linkage for you.

1. For the local crowd: EatNottingham.com is a blog which bills itself as “one man’s epic quest to eat at every decent restaurant in the English City of Nottingham.” The writer in question – despite sporting a bow-tie of a disturbingly virulent hue – is clearly a chap after my own heart, food-wise at least, and I found myself whizzing through all his archives in mere minutes.

2. I’m linking to Stylus Magazine’s Top 50 Singles of 2005 for the second time this week, as we have now reached Numbers 20 to 11, and they have seen fit to include my pithy deconstruction of the post-modernist phenomenon that is Miss Rachel “Her Out Of S Club” Stevens. Incidentally, there will be more from me about the whole end-of-year list-making process, appearing soon in Another Place. Details as we get them.

tis_button053. Finally, regular readers will no doubt have found this for themselves already, but just in case… you do know ‘Tis the Season is back again, don’t you? It’s blogging’s very own Advent Calendar, with a Christmas-themed post for every day in December, and with four contributors this year instead of the usual two. I shall be reading it every day when I’m in Hangzhou, in order that I might at least experience the Festive Season vicariously. Maybe I’ll take a handful of pine needles over with me, to crush in my palm and inhale whilst reading. (Inhale the aroma, that is. Not the actual needles. Way too hardcore.)

Continue reading “Triple linkage, and dykey disco delights.”

2005 Blogged: Dispatches from the Blogosphere.

I’m going to say this quickly, before I change my mind.

Perhaps it’s worth explaining that I’m not altogether feeling myself today; the flu-like after effects of yesterday’s typhoid jab have left me feeling floaty, free-form, vaguely delirious.

So if what I’m about to say causes a shit-storm, then these are my mitigating circumstances.

(Yeah, nice try Mike. It’s the old “you wouldn’t hit a man with glasses” line, isn’t it? They’re not going to buy that one in a hurry.)

(See what I mean? I’m talking to myself in public.)

(Oh, just get on with it. You said you were going to be quick.)

(Well, that would be a first.)

(SHUT UP. SHUT UP. SHUT UP.)

Anyone who has spent any time surfing the UK blogosphere over the last month or so will already be aware of 2005 Blogged: Dispatches from the Blogosphere: a newly published anthology of postings from over 100 British blogs, spanning the period from November 2004 to October 2005.

Now, we bloggers can be an awkward, stroppy bunch of buggers when we want to be, and many of us are never happier than when we’re having a good self-righteous rant, or constructing elaborate conspiracy theories from thin air, or wondering just Where It All Went Wrong, because it was Never Like This In My Day. And so, inevitably, the 2005 Blogged project started coming in for criticism well in advance of the book hitting the shops.

“Sticking a bunch of blog posts in a book? A BOOK? That’s ABSURD.”

Not if you’re curious about this whole blogging business, but don’t have the time and determination to sift the nuggets from the chaff. Because, let’s face it, that can be a pretty severe uphill struggle for a first-timer.

And not if you hate reading large amounts of text on a screen, either. I know plenty of people in Real Life who don’t bother reading Troubled Diva for just that reason.

“But all of this stuff is already available on the Internet, for FREE.”

Yes – but I would contend that £8.99 (or £5.39 on Amazon) is a perfectly reasonable price to pay for getting Tim Worstall (the book’s editor) to wade through over 5000 weblogs on your behalf – and presumably all in his spare time, to boot. I can’t even begin to speculate how long that must have taken him.

“And they haven’t even paid their contributors, the money-grabbing bastards!”

Which does rather assume that there’s money in the pot to make the payments in the first place. 2005 Blogged is the product of a small new independent publisher; it will only have a limited print run; and its time-specific “almanac” nature means that it will probably only sell in reasonable numbers for the next couple of months. So what’s less than 1% of next to nowt? Scarcely worth the price of a stamp!

Besides, none of these pieces were commissioned for the book. They already existed – and still exist – on the web, for free; and most of them were probably knocked up in an hour or so, maybe two at the most. Better to pay whatever you can to the people who have undertaken work especially for the book, surely?

And they did ask everybody nicely. And people who said “No” weren’t included. And everyone gets a free copy.

(And I’ve almost convinced myself. People, we live in a micro-payments age. These things are easily arranged.)

But really, none of the above is even any of my business, is it? Especially since I wasn’t even included in the sodding thing. DON’T THEY KNOW WHO I AM?

BIG MISTAKE. BIIIIIG MISTAKE.

(See, I told you. He’s delirious.)

Okay. So far, so reasonable. But, speaking as a punter, who purchased it with his own money in Waterstones earlier in the week, here’s where my issues start.

Firstly, the “blogosphere” which is represented in this book bears virtually no resemblance to the blogosphere which I have been inhabiting for the past four years.

“Oh, he’s just pissed off because his mates didn’t get in.”

No, it’s not that. Besides, quite a few of them did: Acerbia, Blogjam, Green Fairy, JonnyB, Naked Blog, Saltation, Scaryduck, Willie Lupin. Great pieces from all concerned. But my particular beef with Tim Worstall’s selection is this: that the overwhelming majority of pieces come from the “political” wing of the blogosphere.

Politics, politics, politics, for page after page after page. Opinions, arguments, “fiskings“, polemics, rants, rebuttals – most of which concern events which are well outside the real life experiences of the writers concerned.

Sure, that’s a blogosphere. A large one, an influential one, a worthwhile and effective one. Active citizenship. Keeps the self-serving buggers in Parliament and the lazy hacks in the national press on their toes, and Hooray for that.

But it’s not, as this book seeks to represent, the blogosphere.

Because the vast majority of UK weblogs are not political.

And it’s most certainly not my blogosphere, or that of my regular readers and fellow writers.

Okay, so that’s partly because – as Graham Norton once said – I have all the political depth of a puddle. ‘S boring innit?

But it’s also because what many of us look for in a good blogger is not an ability to pronounce on the national issues of the day, but the ability to let us into their lives. Their hearts, their minds, their hopes, fears, dreams, sorrows, triumphs, frustrations, ambitions… their very selves.

Oh dear, I did warn you.

But there is so much great writing out there: oozing personality, full of truth, warmth and wit, packed with illuminating, beautifully expressed observations on people’s everyday lives – sometimes moving, sometimes hilarious, sometimes…

Yes, well.

What I’m trying to say is that, leafing through 2005 Blogged in the order in which it is presented, I’m not getting a sense of the true diversity of British blogging. I’m not even getting much of a sense of the diversity of political opinion, at least not far beyond the respectful divide between the erudite gentlemen of the so-called “pro-liberation Left” and the equally erudite gentlemen of the libertarian Right.

After a while, it all becomes rather homogenised; as if the same writer is jumping about from blog to blog, frantically swapping hats. In this context, the tiny number of admittedly very well chosen “personal” posts comes as sweet relief – but somehow, these also jar against the prevalent mood. Yes, that’s it: they feel like light relief, a snack between the main courses. This doesn’t serve them well.

Consequently, there’s an overall dryness to the selection. This is detailed, insider-ish stuff, for people who spend more time on the op-ed pages than the lifestyle sections. Okay, so I’m shallower than most – but is this really the book that’s going to explain blogging to the general public? I can’t help but feel that an opportunity has been missed here, which could potentially have shifted many more copies. A lighter, more personal, more anecdotal and more writerly selection would have made a great stocking filler for those friends and relatives who still arch an amused eyebrow whenever blogging is mentioned in their presence.

There again, Tim Worstall has, perhaps wisely, stuck to the part of the blogosphere that he knows best. If someone from my neck of the woods had attempted a similar compilation, then the howls of “Oy! What about us!” from his lot would have rung out loud and clear.

And anyone who is prepared to stick his neck out in front of his relentlessly opinionated peers, risking snarky demolition jobs like this one, from people whom he has never met, for scant financial recompense, deserves applause and respect.

(So I won’t bitch off about that ghastly caps-locked ZX81 typeface. OK?)

I nearly finished there. However, before I collapse into a perspiring, feverish, Paracetamol-crazed heap, there are still a couple more issues that I’d like to raise.

1. Since the political blogosphere is overwhelmingly male, it therefore follows that there are almost no female bloggers represented. I can’t really accept any good excuses for this, as it’s not as if female bloggers are any minority in terms of sheer numbers. A large proportion of my blogroll is female. A couple of weeks ago, 75% of the nominees for my Post Of The Week were female; this week, the percentage is again over 50%. So let me tell you, my inner Equal Opportunities rep is going mental right now.

(Why, I’ve had to physically restrain myself from typing “What a disgracefully white heterosexual able-bodied male selection… totally sickening… typical of the patriarchal power imbalance at the heart of yadda yadda yadda…”)

2. Most blog posts are bashed out in haste at odd moments, squeezed out through the cracks of the daily routine. As such, they bear all the characteristics of unedited first drafts. On the screen, as part of the daily cut and thrust of the blogging world, where people whizz through as many posts as they can on their coffee breaks, this doesn’t matter a jot. In fact, it’s part of the essential character and charm of the medium.

However, when you copy and paste these essentially transitory pieces onto cold, hard paper, any stylistic weaknesses become cruelly exposed. Suddenly, we’re reading these words through different eyes, and holding them to altogether more rigorous levels of scrutiny.

(For instance, if I thought that the words I was writing now would end up on paper, I’d be spending a good deal more care and attention on them. Oh, you already worked that one out for yourselves.)

3. Hence, all the matey pseudo-conversational informality of the blog post runs the risk of coming across as an amateurish saloon bar rant on paper. And in certain cases, I’m afraid that this is precisely what has happened here.

4. Which means that a good deal more attention should have been paid to the proof-reading. I’ve spotted many spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes, which could and should have been picked up at the editing stage.

Yeah, like Tim didn’t already have enough to do, in the frantic rush to get the blasted thing out in time for Christmas. But come on, we’re playing by different rules here. I don’t mind. I’m a blogger too. I make allowances. But if I’ve spotted it, then they will spot it – and they will be a darn sight less forgiving. This is our shop window, remember?

I’m going to end this ramble on a positive note: thank God that this book hasn’t lumbered itself with a preface which makes embarrassingly grandiose claims for the medium. You know the sort of thing: Blah blah blah new generation of writers blah blah blah challenging the established order blah blah blah paradigm shift, etc etc etc. Don’t you just hate it when people do that? So Hurrah for editorial humility.

F**k, is that the time? OK, I’m done. Hand me my Lemsip, and let me lie back and watch the shit start flying.

Look, I’m sorry if I’ve been a total bitch. It’s just that I love this medium, and I feel these things strongly, and I needed to say this. Really, really needed to say this.

Update (1): Here’s Tim Worstall’s response.

Update (2): Tim’s weekly BritBlog Roundup – which served as source material for much of the book – can be found here.

Blogstory.

Older readers might remember The Naked Novel, in which a selection of bloggers took it turns to write successive chapters of a piece of modern fiction. (I was responsible for Chapter Three.) Sadly, the project ran aground after Chapter Seven, due to a succession of exponentially bewildering plot twists, more characters than anyone could reasonably keep tabs on, and various uncorrected inconsistencies which rather destroyed people’s motivation to continue.

(Still older readers might remember a similar project called “Chapters”, which foundered for broadly similar reasons.)

However, I’m sure that a similar fate won’t befall Blogstory: a promising new “bloggers club together and write a novel” project, as organised by Vitriolica. Indeed, I’m still kicking myself for not volunteering my own services in time. Chapter One, by Clare “Boob Pencil” Sudbery – a published author, no less – has just been published, and it’s a terrific opener.

Here’s the full list of participants. What’s more, each chapter will be hand illustrated, by a crack team of leading lights from the Hand Illustrated Weblog Movement. How’s that for Added Value?

There will be bonus points for the first person to spot Clare’s cheeky little homage to Troubled Diva, buried away in Chapter One. Points, but not prizes. Do you think I’m made of mugs?

I spend my entire life rigorously avoiding situations which might end in rejection, and then THIS happens.

I have just spent several hours stressing out over what could be so awful about my Goldfrapp blurb for Stylus Magazine’s Top 50 Singles of 2005, that they hired someone else to re-write it. Was it too personal? Too critical? Too laboured? Too obvious? Too facile? What? What?

TELL ME DAMMIT, WHAT?

Have I ever mentioned that I don’t deal too well with rejection?

Back on the home PC in Nottingham for the first time since Friday, I have just checked my “Sent Items” folder.

Well, whaddya know? Turns out that I sent Stylus THE WRONG F**KING WORD DOCUMENT. Not the one containing my two blurbs, but the one containing my votes, which I had already successfully sent a few days earlier.

So maybe I’m not a shit writer, just a dizzy klutz. At least I get to swap one form of self-flagellation for another. That’s something, isn’t it?

Because I abhor waste, here’s that unpublished Goldfrapp blurb in full.


Ooh La La – Goldfrapp.

At first hearing, this felt like such a crass reduction of past glories: all the tease, the sleaze, the ice-maiden freeze, squashed and squeezed into one blatant shot at the big time. And oh, did we really need to hear that tired old electro/glam schaffel beat again? Weren’t “Train” and “Strict Machine” enough? And did you really need to ram your point home by nicking the riff from “Spirit In The Sky”? We thought you were arty!

However. When “Ooh La La” hit the Top Five, and stroppy old Alison became pop’s new sweetheart, everything started to fall into place. What felt like a mere dilution of Goldfrapp’s craft revealed itself instead as a concentration of their very essence. (Über-Goldfrapp! Ur-Goldfrapp!) What looked like a blank space in place of a chorus revealed itself as the most thrillingly effective use of a single-note refrain since “Ca Plane Pour Moi”. Furthermore, what seemed like a poorly sequenced opener to the Supernature album – setting all the wrong expectations – revealed itself as the exultant, triumphant conclusion of the band’s live show.

Congratulations, Goldfrapp. Now you have your defining anthem.

The last nail in the coffin of my unreconstructed 1980s student politics radical chic.

This is where we were on Saturday morning.

kmobhuntmeet

(Photo via K’s moblog)

Yup, at a hunt meet. Or at least at the little drinkies-and-snackettes “do” beforehand, while the horses and hounds gathered in the yard.

That’s not “hunt meet” and not “hunt meat”, obviously. Because that would be Illegal and Wrong.

No, this was a drag hunt – and therefore, provided you can banish the image of distressed Emily Howard types, girding up their petticoats and fleeing across the Derbyshire countryside, absolutely Legal and Humane and Actually Perfectly OK I Think You’ll Find.

Not exactly very rock and roll though, is it? I used to be edgy! I DJ-ed at Miners’ Strike benefits! I had badges! I was at Red Wedge and everything!

Bearing in mind the imminent business trip to China (the visa arrived today), an ever-diminishing part of myself would still quite like to play the good little self-denouncing Maoist. (I’m a Class Traitor! Flog me! Flog me now!) However, this does rather skirt over the fact that I was actually born quite posh. So maybe this is merely a reversion to type. One simply can’t escape one’s roots.

Besides, I had a perfectly lovely morning: sipping mulled wine at 11am (reason enough!) with most of our friends in the village, admiring the beautifully groomed horses, and trying to steer K’s attention away from the beagles. But for me, the moment of epiphany came when the hunt set off, streaming out of the yard and up the lane.

You know how, whenever the subject of hunting is debated on the TV or radio, some posh old buffer from the Pro lobby always croaks out something along the lines of “Yesh, but ishn’t it a marvelloush shight? The sheer magnifishence of the shpectacle is shuch a wonder to behold… etc…”?

Well, the thing is this.

(Oh God. I’ve posted some heavy-duty confessional stuff on this blog in my time, but nothing quite so excruciating. Well, here goes.)

A full assembled hunt really is a marvellous sight. Maybe it was just the mulled wine meeting the hangover half way, but the sheer magnifishence of the shpectacle quite brought a lump to my throat.

All is lost. I’ll be making superior remarks about the ignorance of “townies” next.

“And you may ask yourself: how did I get here?”

Cripes. Troubled Diva would appear to be a finalist in the Best Poof category for something called The Weblog Awards 2005. Now into their third year, The Weblog Awards have emerged from the political wing of the US blogosphere – more specifically, the Conservative/Republican right wing – and this is inevitably reflected in the lists of finalists in most categories. Not least my own, which contains only one blog which was previously known to me.

In fact, looking through my fellow Best Poof nominees – virtually all American, current affairs based, politically Conservative, and slathered in almost identical advertising – I find myself increasingly amazed to have made the final fifteen. Not in the customary “Oh My Gahd, I’m So Not Worthy!” sort of way, but more in a “What The Hell Am I Even Doing Here?” sort of way.

But hey. A popularity contest is still a popularity contest, and you know how much I love popularity contests. Hard-wired for hierarchy, that’s me.

So, if you do feel like casting a vote for Tro-Di, then I’m not about to discourage you. (Please admire the delicately double-negatived understatement of this blatant plea.) However, you will need Macromedia Flash Version 7 in order to participate. Best – and might I say weirdest – of all, you can vote once per category every 24 hours, from now until December 15th. Yup, multiple voting is totally allowed! It’s a whole new concept of democracy, folks! Awesome!

Casting my beady eye over the other categories, I’m pleased to see a few other familiar names making the final cut. From my blogroll, we have:

(Of course, what happens next is that every one of the 550+ finalists will make giddy, breathless “Oh My Gahd I Can’t Believe It VOTE FOR ME!” posts, which will sit somewhere near top of their blogs, thus obliging the diligent voter (well, you never know) to read 550+ posts on the same topic. The combined effect is curiously homogenising. Oh, and you’ll soon know those BlogAds off by heart. Go on then, off you trot. Work to do.)

Post of the Week: Week 5 results, Week 6 nominations.

The predominant theme for Week 5 was the family. Christmas-loving fathers, neurotic mothers and cutely chirruping toddlers all had their parts to play – whilst elsewhere, two families became awkwardly linked by loss.

Meanwhile, other bloggers were risking jail sentences, dodging panthers on the hard shoulderwelcoming the gays to the neighbourhood, humping white goods around the Norfolk countrysidewatching performance artists ramming things up each other’s arses (*), and rigorously dissecting the snogging technique of one of Middle England’s best-loved heart throbs.

(*) Watch that one rise to “Most Popular Outgoing Link” over the next view days. I monitor these things; I know what you’re like.

As for this week’s winning post, it distinguishes itself from its predecessors in two notable ways, being the first to be written by a male author, and the first to receive maximum points from all three judges (myself, patita and Daisy). According to one judge:

“…it sums up the insanity, humor and discomfort of NYC in winter–things of which I have intimate knowledge.”

Oh, and this is also the first winner to be taken from a site which was already on my blogroll. It therefore gives me particular personal pleasure to award Post of the Week #5 to:

Joe. My. God.: Pray Lady Day.

Please leave your nominations for Week 6 in the comments box below. Rules of engagement are here. This week’s judges are Gordon and asta.

1. etcher: Destination:Anywhere.
(nominated by Vaughan)Somewhere in the middle of the day it hits me like a brick wall. On the corner of Christmas-crushed Regents Street it occurs to me that all this frantic activity doesn’t change the fact that I am alone, and feeling somewhat lost. The walking and my aching feet might push away the feeling but it still follows me around like an unwelcome cousin. The fairy tale dissolves around me like a puff of smoke.
2. Boob Pencil: Love.
(nominated by mike)Hangovers are a crucial part of this mental cementment. The day after the night before has always induced a strange wistfulness in me. Combine this with a cosy self-snugglement, subtle horn and an unusual capacity for moments of disconnected joy, and you have the perfect conditions for Falling In Love. I blame sleep deprivation.
3. Betty’s Utility Room: A Million Love Songs Later.
(nominated by mike)Christmas Day, 2005. Gary Bartlett, the organist off of Take That, has spent the morning shooting pheasant in the grounds of his 2 gazillion acre stately home with pals Gary Neville and Stan “The Jairmans, The Jairmans” Boardman…
4. feeling listless: Review 2005 – Lilly Tao.
(nominated by mike)Want to worry about whether we bought the right car? No time. The car runs fine. It has a baby seat in it. That’s all we need. Like to spend time overanalyzing that stupid comment I made in a meeting last week? I can’t even remember what it was anymore.
5. feeling listless: Review 2005 – Robyn Wilder.
(nominated by mike)I have been easygoing, undemanding and on the periphery; not wanting to appear too interesting in case someone asks too many questions and realises that I’m not anyone really – I have no opinions, I’m just a cipher that experiences pass through for grammar and editing, and become anecdotes. I have made being superficially agreeable and emotionally distant an art-form. This year, all that changed.
6. DCverR’s Twlight Zone: Lesson from a 4 year old!
(nominated by guyana-gyal)Too short to quote here. 

7. Head Notes: Kiss the day good bye, & cut my hair tomorrow.
(nominated by Daisy)I really like getting my hair cut. No, I mean I really love getting a haircut. It borders on fetish with me. it’s one of the few times I will just sit back and just allow things to happen. Pretty much.
8. Geese Aplenty: Paltry.
(nominated by Pam)I don’t really think of Paltrow as an actress. She’s just someone who looks like a duck and occasionally annoys me by wandering onscreen and reciting lines.
9. Acephalous: My Morning: A Play in One Uncomfortable Act.
(nominated by mike, via Lisa)HALF-NAKED MALE: STOP HARASSING US YOU PERVERT OR I’LL REPORT YOU!
10. Girl with a one-track mind: Celebrity.
(nominated by mike)Over the years whilst I’ve been on set, I have been approached by various actors trying to get in my knickers. From Hollywood A-list to no-name extras, they’ve all tried the come-on; from grabbing my arse to handing me their phone number. And to each and every one, I’ve smiled sweetly and declined.
11. ‘Tis the Season: Everything you need to know about the tree.
(nominated by asta)It can be difficult to tell the difference between a fairy and an angel (unless you want to talk theology): both have wings, both tend to be female, both have nice frocks (generally). They are, however, differently-accessorised according to the requirements of their particular profession. Angels have halos, while fairys wave wands.
12. GUYANA: One Bright Tooth.
(nominated by Clare)He is not a real Rasta, I thinking, real Rastas don’t eat meat and other fatty, salty things, he too plump to be a real Rasta. “Pardon me?” I say to he.He repeat it. I still ain’t hear.

I still ain’t hear ‘cause I did too busy staring at he One Bright Tooth.

13. Wyndham the Triffid: Reading Books: The Rules.
(nominated by asta)I am a book-snob in many ways. Everyone has habits they fall into, little neuroses that eventually rule their lives, and I’m about to reveal to you, if you have the time, my own shabby rules that I always follow when reading a book in public or, indeed, private. I hope I’m not alone in having certain unpleasant and stereotyping predilections…
14. ‘Tis the Season: That f**kawful cavalry song.
(nominated by mike)At the root of the problem is one plain fact: market conditions are such that it’s simply uneconomical to record Christmassy songs in 21st-century Britain. Ballad production has now generally migrated to Eastern Europe, and whilst there has been some success in outsourcing rhythm and basic backing vocal tracks to the Indian sub-continent, results have been erratic at best.
15. The World of Jill Twiss: My comedy career has hit rock-bottom.
(nominated by Girl; comments also good)Oh, I thought that my comedy career had hit rock-bottom before, but I was clearly mistaken. Who knew that during all those other horrible, horrible shows, I was actually hovering somewhere around rock-middle?My show last night was different.

16. This is this: True Stories – Rhymes And Misdemeanors.
(nominated by mike, who also liked Ad Vent Calendar)(Video Tape: Narrator to camera, walking)
Dateline Never Never Land, and a day when the future nearly pailed (brief pause) into insignificance.(VT: Jack and Jill out walking their dog)
(Voice Over)
Local sweethearts Jack and Jill had it all. Two ordinary kids with hopes and dreams, but this day turned into a nightmare.

17. diamond geezer: The Last Routemaster.
(nominated by mike)The bloke in the grey anorak conformed to every stereotype you might expect of a serial bus spotter. His anorak was weatherproof and toggled, his spectacles were thick and functional, his rucksack was that special Milletts shade of beigey-grey and his camera was the size of a small child. I carried out a quick subconscious check to make sure that I was wearing nothing similar.

Experimental three-column layout.

Update: If you visited here between Thursday evening and Friday morning, you might have been treated to a triple-column version of Troubled Diva. It looked a little something like this.

Your regular two-column service has now been resumed. We apologise for any distress and inconvenience that the experimental layout might have caused.

Well, it does seem a shame to waste all that perfectly good white space on the right hand side of the screen.

On the other hand, is three columns a tad on the busy side?

I haven’t quite decided. Let me know what you think.

(The old two-column layout is here.)

The condensed version, for people who only come here to skim-read, and haven’t got time to sift through lengthy 4-part descriptions of country walks.

Now that my time working for the car manufacturer is drawing to an end, I shall be working in our company’s Chinese office for three weeks over the Christmas and New Year period.

I’m travelling out to Shanghai on Saturday December 17th, and will be returning on Saturday January 7th. I won’t actually be living and working in Shanghai, but in the city of Hangzhou, which is three hours away by car to the south-west.

While I’m there, I’ll be interviewing staff for the Hangzhou office, as there’s a big recruitment drive going on there right now. I’ll be living in a company flat, within walking distance of the office. And yes, don’t worry: I’ll be blogging, just as my colleague JP is doing on a daily basis.

Excited? You betcha.

All Chinese travel tips will be gratefully received.