Having studied the cases for the prosecution and the defence, you are then invited to leave your verdict in the comments box. I won’t say any more than that, in case I am accused of unduly influencing the jury – but I think we all know where the balance of justice lies in this instance, don’t we? I SAID, DON’T WE?
“The new Madonna album is, essentially, and provided you edit out all the usual aren’t-I-just-so-uniquely-fascinating fame-is-such-a-headf**k me-me-me-ness of the lyrics, one great big, non-stop-segued, spangly-disco-balled, glad-rags-on, hands-in-the-air, yo-DJ-pump-this-party, we’re-all-in-this-crazy-ship-together, ooh-these-are-good-ones, Christ-he’s-smiling-back-have-I-pulled-or-what, sod-the-attitude-let’s-SCREAM, (well-OK-just-a-little-bit-of-attitude-then), most entrancingly transiently transcendentally meltingly beltingly everything-just-SO, sometimes-life-is-just-like-the-movies, move-over-losers-Miss-THING-has-come-to-town Saturday Night Out of the year.”
The final nail is hammered into the coffin of my unreconstructed 1980s student politics radical chic. (Look, it was a drag hunt, OK?) All of my newly acquired gung-ho, yee-hah friends must have loved that one…
Tom Worstall’s 2005 Blogged anthology is reviewed – needless to say, at some length.
The Sum Of All Years meme requires me to pen a year-by-year autobiography, in which the number of words for each year matches my age at that time.
After drunkenly attempting to channel the spirit of Jarvis Cocker at a karaoke evening in a lesbian pub, the only honourable course of action is to leave the country. I therefore spend the next three weeks – including Christmas and New Year’s Eve – working in the Chinese city of Hangzhou.
My time in Hangzhou gets off to a wobbly start, all alone in a freezing apartment, but improves immeasurably once I acquire a flatmate (J, now in London, still reading the blog).
What would it be like if I really did “just do it for myself, and if anyone else happens to like it, that’s a bonus”? To find out, Troubled Diva Xtra is semi-secretly launched.
The Cognitive Behavioural Therapy sessions are concluded.
Following a meeting with the deputy editor, the Nottingham Evening Post invites me to join its team of freelance music reviewers.
After a couple of weeks’ inactivity, a gig is secured with a new London-based client. Apparently, I am to spend “between four and six weeks” working in Canary Wharf. Little did I know that this was to expand to five months…
“Post of the Week” is discontinued – but plans are made to set it up on a dedicated site. Sadly, the planning fizzles out during the spring, as other commitments get in the way…
Troubled Diva is a finalist at the European Satin Pajama Awards (hosted by Fistful of Euros), in the category of Best Personal Weblog.
The London Phase commences, with four or five nights a week being spent at the Britannia Hotel at Canary Wharf. Sunday evenings see me at Horsemeat Disco in Vauxhall; Wednesday nights are spent at Get Yer Kecks Off And Win A Hundred Quid Nite at the White Swan in Limehouse. Other than that, I’m out every night – more often than not, with friends that I have made through blogging. So it wasn’t all just shouting into the void, then. Never have I felt more grateful of the social blessings which the medium has bestowed.
Meanwhile, and inevitably, blogging itself becomes decidedly thin on the ground.
(Note to self: one of these days, when you’re no longer concerned about maintaining any sort of reputation whatsoever, tell them about The Night Of The Five Cs.)
My 44th birthday is spent at an alt.gay.goth-slash-industrial night, with my middle-aged gut squeezed into tight leather kecks, having balloons filled with laughing gas shoved down my mouth while dancing to It’s A Sin by the Pet Shop Boys. How deliciously age-inappropriate!
K buys me an exercise bike for my birthday. Shamefully, it is still sitting in the entrance hall, inside the box that it came in.
The month begins with two diametric opposites. At the White Swan, Ian and I witness a sixty-something Latvian transvestite called Viola do a full strip-tease. The following night, I meet qB for exceedingly posh nosh at a sleek Conran joint: the Plateau Bar & Grill. This is just the sort of contradictory existence which I love.
Down at the BBC Television Centre, I attend the live recording of Making Your Mind Up, in which the UK’s Eurovision entry is selected. Following this joyous re-absorption into the Eurovision brotherhood, I become a regular at the monthly Douze Points nights at the Retro Bar.
Pop Quiz Theme Week sees David (ex-Swish Cottage) and I winning the Retro Bar quiz – and lumbering ourselves with a drunken madwoman “team mate” in the process, who develops a worrying habit of knocking our drinks over and falling off her chair. A couple of nights later, the I Love Music message board crowd holds their own music quiz, which our team is winning… until I have to leave early, at which point the lead crumbles. (Not boasting! Just saying!)
My cousin, who is a Something at the House of Commons, gives me a personal, access-all-areas, in-depth guided tour of the Palace of Westminster. We nip out onto the roof, where I stand only a few feet away from the illuminated clock tower of Big Ben. In the main debating chamber of the Commons, I stand at the dispatch box and pretend that I am running the country. Shortly afterwards, we have a drink in the suprisingly poky Members’ Bar, rubbing shoulders with the Honourable Members. I find myself in utter awe of the mad Gothic splendour of the place.
Loving London. Absolutely loving it. But then, I thought my time down there was nearly up…
With my stay extended for an indefinite period, being out every night starts to lose some of its initial sparkle. Down at Canary Wharf, I am showing signs of becoming assimilated into the matrix – why, I’ve got the “business casual” T.M. Lewin shirts, and everything.
I am interviewed live on BBC Radio Nottingham for a second time, talking about blogging again – but at considerably greater length, and with considerably greater articulacy and confidence. My contribution is made at the BBC studios in Westminster, which is frankly pretty bloody exciting (especially when I accidentally blunder into the ITN newsroom).
A jolly little mini-blogmeet is hosted in Soho, at the Duke of Argyll on Brewer Street.
A stag weekend – incorporating another jolly little mini-blogmeet – is held in Manchester, starting in the Northern Quarter and ending (where else?) on Canal Street. It is by no means a typical stag weekend; we spend the afternoon shopping for outfits in Selfridges, and I have invited GIRLS out for the night as well.
On Friday April 28th, K and I register our civil partnership. Or, as I put it late that night, I’M FOOKIN MARRIED!!! Friends join us for early-doors drinks; this is followed by a lavish multi-course banquet for our respective immediate families.
That we should have lived to see the day.
The following afternoon, we fly off to the Maldives for a blissfully relaxing not-a-honeymoon-actually in a tropical island paradise.
2006 is fast shaping up to be the best year of my life.
Just five days after returning from the Maldives, I fly off to Athens, where I am to be covering this year’s Eurovision Song Contest all week, on behalf of Slate magazine in the USA. As a member of the official press pack, I get access to the rehearsals, the press conferences and the parties, along with a massive bunch of fellow journalists fellow fans on the blag. This is the week which I have been looking forward to for well over a year, and it doesn’t disappoint – although filing my daily dispatches proves to be my most challenging writing assignment to date, by a long long way…
…not least when my laptop irretrievably crashes, just as I am mailing my first article to my editor, and forcing me to a) blag a higher level accreditation (already once denied me), so that I can use the PCs in the press centre, and b) re-write the entire article from scratch, immediately and without delay. (It had taken me over four hours to write it the first time round.) One of the most stressful days of my life – I finished the evening drenched in sweat, not having eaten since breakfast time – but also one of the most fulfilling, as the re-written article was a significant improvement upon the original.
However, I omit to mention the news which I have received by telephone from K in the UK that morning. K’s sister – whom we only saw a couple of weeks earlier, at our civil partnership – has suffered a massive stroke, and is in intensive care.
This casts a long shadow over the long-awaited finals night. I drink myself through it, stay up all night at the winners’ press conference and the after-party… and generally rely on Denial to see me through.
Upon returning to the UK on the Monday, I learn that all hope for K’s sister’s survival has been extinguished. In the meantime, my fourth and final Slate article has – has – to be written. It takes me all day, and I miss my last train. This is when I realise that professional journalism is no walk in the park.
By the time I make it to K’s parents’ house on the Tuesday, M is dead.
I am still working three days a week in London – when I should be at home, supporting K.
2006 is no longer the happiest year of my adult life.
My five months in London come to an end – but not before I have been reunited with a school friend who I haven’t seen in over 30 years, a cousin in his thirties who I haven’t seen since he was an infant… and J, my flatmate from Hangzhou who is now working for the same client in Canary Wharf.
Oh, and there is the week where every evening seems to start with complementary glasses of champagne at some Do or other… and my introduction to the ABSOLUTELY BLOODY FANTASTIC Phoenix Arts Club on Charing Cross Road (one of London’s last outposts of true Bohemia, which evokes warm memories of the late lamented George’s Bar). So, you know, not all bad… not by a long chalk.
Upon my return, I do my level best not to start every sentence with the words “When I was in London…” But frankly darlings, Nottingham has never looked shittier.
As you will have observed from the lack of links in most of the above, the separation between blog and life has never been sharper.
Back on the blog, the first embedded Youtube video is posted – after which, Troubled Diva Xtra makes a brief comeback as a clicky-on-the-piccy Youtube blog.
Year Four of Which Decade Is Tops For Pops? kicks off, five months later than it should have done. This year, the 1970s emerge victorious for the second time.
Suddenly, and after many many months, the blogging mojo returns. (Here at Troubled Diva, these things are more cyclical than at most normal blogs. God, what what must it be like to have a normal blog? I guess I’ll never know.) Arbeit macht frei, an account of a nightmare holiday job in a wholesalers’ warehouse, is the first decent bit of non-music writing that I’ve done since China.
I pledge to make at least one post per day for the whole of September. If I succeed, then I shall buy a webcam and make an inaugural vidcast. If I fail, then the name of the blog will change to Clapped Out Has Been from October 1st. The tension of it all, eh readers?
A nasty attack of groin strain leaves me stranded in the city centre, and unable to walk, until K picks me up and takes me to hospital. A post explaining this earns me a measly three comments. A follow-up hissy fit (“Nobody cares. I hate you all.“) earns me 26 comments. Much more like it.
The experience moves me to change my comments box strapline, from the age-old “Purge yourself – go on, purge yourself” to the much more descriptive “Transitory fluff, yoo-hoos, woo-hoos, poor-yous and me-toos.”
My duties for the local paper have stepped up a couple of notches, as I am now reviewing as many gigs as I can squeeze into my schedule, as well as semi-regular album reviews for the Friday entertainment supplement. Meeting the deadlines can be tough – but I am deliberately pushing myself, in order to derive maximum benefit from the experience. Besides, I still get an adolescent kick from being on the guest list.
Back down in London for the evening (hooray!), I make it over to Girl With A One Track Mind‘s debut book signing, and stick around for drinkies afterwards. But which other Midlands blogger of note ends up sharing my hotel room?
The local paper prints my first lead album review: a 500 word hatchet job on the forthcoming, tatty, lazy, half-baked so-called “greatest hits” compilation from George “Penelope Pitstop” Michael.
My colleague JP returns to the UK (and today, to the office), already well on his way to a full recovery.
On October 30th 2006, Troubled Diva celebrates its fifth birthday.
It has been a fascinating experience, reviewing the past five years of my life in such depth. Not having kept a diary since adolescence, I have never had access to this level of detail before, and it is remarkable how long-forgotten blog entries can trigger such powerful memories.
I have also realised, with a force that has never really hit me before, that Troubled Diva really is a very peculiar weblog indeed. In fact, it’s a f**king BONKERS weblog, if you ask me. Where do all those mad surges of energy come from, and why do they have to alternate with all those periods of near inactivity? Why can’t postings be regular, and moderate, and normal? Jeez, you lot must think I’m bi-polar or summat! I’m not! Honest! I’m just a neurotic, narcissistic, self-obsessed drama queen, that’s all!
There also been times over the past few days where I have observed myself almost as a cartoon character: tearing around the place, squawking and squeaking, and living a life which seems packed with an uncommonly high number of “incidents” – good and bad, clever and stupid, sorrowful and triumphal, important and trivial.
(Particularly the latter. “Doubled Trivia”, someone once called this place.)
I have also been reminded of the extremes of self-aggrandisement and self-deprecation which peremeate these archives. Both can, at times, make me cringe. Hopefully – and at least over time – the one will generally balance out the other. And besides, if there’s one thing which the tragic events of this otherwise fantastic year have shown me, it’s that moments of pleasure, joy, excitement and fulfilment should be savoured as they happen, and never taken for granted. So if that comes sometimes across as “Gee, isn’t my life amazing!”… well, I guess that’s because my life frequently amazes me.
This blog has taken me to places that I never thought I would go. Backstage at an annual music event that I have loved since childhood. In front of a writers’ conference. Onto live radio, and onto the printed page. And it has introduced me to many, many wonderful new friends – who, in varying ways, seem to be capable of tuning into my way of thinking, making sense of it, and making sense of me. (And vice versa, many times over.) As a former Neurotic Boy Outsider who felt for a long time that nobody truly “got” him, and that he wasn’t much good at anything at all, this kind of collective mutual validation is something to which I ascribe the highest value.
But I’m delirious, and gushing… and knackered. (This little exercise took far longer than I had expected, but then I never was much good at doing things by halves.) Time for a congratulatory glass of something cold and refreshing. The sodding album reviews can wait until tomorrow.
Only four posts are made during November: a slagging of Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty (premature, as I ended up loving it); an account of my first Reiki session (a major help on my path back to mental serenity, even if it is just Placebo effect smoke-and-mirrors); an ode to the joys of my newly purchased iPod (which earns me a good kicking in a forum for iPod-h8erz); and an announcement that, from December 6th, Troubled Diva will return to a full regular service.
Finally converted to the superiority of Firefox over IE, and to the delights of del.icio.us. Thanks to Adrian, the “Linkrack” on the sidebar becomes powered by del.icio.us for several months, before collapsing in an ungainly heap when del.icio.us changes the rules.
Commence an extended series of postings about music, in which I write (in frequently laborious detail) about my 100 favourite singles of 2004.
A competitive element is added to the “100 singles” write-up, as readers are invited to guess my favourite single of 2004.
As attempts to explain the new-at-the-time genres of crunk, glitch and microhouse to my readers fall on stony ground, the acronym NMC is introduced, in order to flag posts with significant non-musical content. I have a slight strop about this.
Steve of My Ace Life re-works the 2004 Xmas photo in a Gilbert and George style.
Troubled Diva is nominated as Best UK Weblog in the The Queery Awards, hosted by the US site Queer Day (now defunct). Curiously, one of the other nominees isn’t even British…
Over on the I Love Music message board, I mark the occasion of the 1000th UK Number One by hosting a poll of the board’s favourite Number Ones of all time. The Top 100 singles are posted in real time during Radio One’s Sunday afternoon Top 40 show, and archived on Troubled Diva.
Troubled Diva becomes a finalist in the Best GLBT category at the 2005 Bloggies. Distressingly, I am still in the middle of my interminable series of music-related posts, few of which have much in the way of gay-related content. Whoops.
“There has long been a repressed radio presenter in me; take a listen, and see whether you think it should have remained repressed, or whether I have a future in broadcasting bright and breezy “drivetime sounds” to the blogosphere.” The first podcast is published.
My last European business trip takes place, to Vienna.
An sizeable excerpt from the blog is reproduced (sans permission, natch) in the pages of The Independent, as part of a two-page spread on “Citizens of the internet”. However, the piece wasn’t actually written by me. Instead, the dear confused old Indie lifted one of Vitriolica’s Consequences pieces, crediting the author of Troubled Diva as “Anonymous woman”. Oh well!
Vitrolica then goes on to win Big Blogger 2005, leaving me in second place. Oh well!
The Trash Boudoir mixes seek to recreate the atmosphere of a seedy backstreet 1980s gay club.
“All these years, I’ve been standing on the sidelines, the perennial Detached Observer. Sometimes sneering – sometimes spinning my wheel and muttering my incantations – but most usually dabbing my eyes, raising my glass, Wishing Them Every Happiness, and tearing up the floor at the disco afterwards.
Guest Month ends – with a “best of” round-up – as the weekly business trips expand from Paris to Cologne and (best of all!) Barcelona. Consequently, and after an extraordinarily prolific work-rate over the past 18 months (looking back at it all now, I’m actually quite astonished that I ever wrote so much) Blogger’s Block begins to bite, and signs of work-related stress start to mount up. It’s a tell-tale sign…
I Can Pick ‘Em Department, Part Four: ahead of her victory in the second Guardian competition, an early link is made to Belle De Jour.
K leaves the company which he founded seven years earlier, and starts from scratch all over again with his canine cancer venture.
Guest blogger Zena turns up, with a series of posts detailing all the “w@nkers” she has ever slept with. As soon as the series is completed, the posts vanish into thin air. (“Think of it like a fascinating woman you met at a cocktail party who left before you got her phone-number.”)
In parallel with Zena’s posts, a new competition is launched: Who’s The W@nker? (“Tell me the story of a relationship in which you were the w@nker.”) The competition is won by Sarah, with this story.
When satire falls flat: we still don’t talk about the which recreational substance am I on? project. Some people thought I was doing it for real, you know…
“F**k off, I’m dead. Now go outside and look at the f**king flowers.” During another wild weekend in London (actually, it was on the dancefloor of the Two Brewers in Clapham), and just ahead of yet another a business trip (this time to Zurich), a major decision is made. Troubled Diva is put on hold for an indefinite period, and an emotional farewell speech is made…
The weekly business trips continue. The blog remains closed.
“F**k off, you vaseline-arsed fairy.” A scathing review of one of the Scissor Sisters’ support acts earns me my first (and hopefully my last) piece of hate-mail.
Easter is spent in Lisbon with Dymbel and Dymbellina, soaking up the fado.
Window Into My World: The Troubled Diva Pointlessly Detailed Journal Theme Weekstarts well, until midweek illness calls a swift halt to the venture.
A performance MP3 of the Boutique Hotel Casual Shag post is published. In many ways, this remains my favourite piece of work on the whole blog.
Blanket Eurovision coverage re-commences, with detailed song-by-song breakdowns of the finals and the inaugural semi-finals alike.
An attempt is made to live-blog the Eurovision semi-finals, in front of the telly, with a laptop. This proves to be tougher than it looks. The coverage starts well enough, before descending into drunken bitch-queen one-liners. (“State of ‘er!“)
In the first of what would prove to be a spate of such ventures, I spend the week guest-blogging at Karen and Pete’s Uborka. The week ends with the hosting of Krissa and Stuart‘s online engagement party. Not a dry eye in the house…
A camp-as-knickers Bollywood MP3 (“One Two Cha Cha Cha” by Usha Uthup) gets Troubled Diva linked by mega-blog BoingBoing. The enusing traffic spike is well lush. More exciting still is the revelation that Usha lives on the same street as one of my regular readers.
I Can Pick ‘Em Department, Part Six: Become one of the first bloggers to plug Joe. My. God.
K and I experiment with different hairdos. While my hair is re-styled for the first time since the late 1980s, K decides to dally with the dreaded TUFTS. After vocalising my loathing for the TUFTS, a hideous pact is made…
The foreign business trips are slowing down, but there is still the occasional jaunt to Paris to contend with. Annoyingly, my presence is required there only a couple of days before disappearing to Peru for two and a half weeks.
During my Peruvian absence, the blog is maintained by five guests, all of them local: Alan, Ben, Buni, MissMish and Nixon. Just as an earlier guest week had spurred the creation of Aprosexic, so does this fortnight eventually lead to the creation of Reluctant Nomad.
Directly upon returning from Peru, K and I crash the get-together that the guest bloggers have arranged during our absence. It is our first meeting with Ben, with Miss Mish – and with Nottingham’s last outpost of true Bohemia, George’s Bar on Broad Street. A new social era begins…
I Can Pick ‘Em Department, Part Seven: Become one of the first bloggers to link to Petite Anglaise: specifically, to this post. Although I am not yet to know it, I have already made my last business trip to Paris.
As is hinted, the Peruvian trip turns out to be more of an endurance test than a relaxing break. I arrive back in poor health, and remain in poor health (and off work) for some time thereafter.
This period of ill-health provides the trigger for my worst period of depression since 1999. Posting on the blog is severely curtailed, with posts generally appearing once or twice a week, if at all.
“Dog tired of the damnable persona, the expectations, the limitations, the repetition, the pop-up chorus line (sorry, nuffink personal like, luvyaloads), the dead weight of accumulated history.”
Less than six months after my last blogging “comeback”, is it now curtains for Troubled Diva again?
A very quiet month – although I am secretly blogging elsewhere, deliberately in a very different style, under the assumed character of “Neil”. The writing is stark, confessional, and fairly high on scandals and misdemeanours. Although the original host blog is still on hiatus, some of the main posts can be viewed here. (The stories are true, but the narrative voice is invented. Give a man a mask, etc.)
With the mental wobbles intensifying, I finally start to talk openly about the matter – although not on the blog – and pay a visit to my GP.
Still with no actual work to do at work, I continue to amuse myself with Nottingham, My Nottingham and the never-ending Shirt Off My Back Project, with daily photos all the way through the month. Midweek boozeathons have become the norm, although I have formed an age-inappropriate attachment to the podium in the middle of the dancefloor at the local gay club.
This is immediately followed by So you think you’re a Blogaholic?, a quiz designed to test my readers’ knowledge of the 56 blogs in my sidebar. The quiz is won by Amanda, who receives a set of Old Curiosity Box CDs.
Some of my co-workers discover my weblog, as I learn at the office Christmas party. Gulp.
Receive a comment from a member of the Estonian girl band Vanilla Ninja, having just raved about their (sadly failed) Eurovision entry, Club “Kung-Fu”. “Troubled Diva – the blog that the STARS read!”
Attend my first public London blogmeet, downstairs at the Green Man on Great Portland Street. You know: the famous one, where Pete met Karen. (Meg took a great photo of their historic meeting, in which I appeared either to be giving Pete dating tips, or else passing favourable judgement on his bride-to-be’s cleavage.)
The weekend – which I refer to as “Apotheosis Of Blog” – ends with me dancing topless in public, for what was almost certainly the last time ever (barring the odd cartoon representation here and there).
I earn my first sneery, snarky, who-the-hell-does-he-think-he-is reference on another (now defunct) blog. A year or so later, we’re exchanging friendly e-mails and linking to each other.
Following a nail-biting tie-break round, the first Which Decade? contest is won by the 1970s.
Threatened by possible redundancy, I hide out in my comments box until the all-clear is sounded. This morphs into the Let’s Get More Comments Than Wil Wheaton Project (yeesh, me and my Projects), which sees me receiving over 235 comments in return for a £100 donation to Comic Relief – but without leaving my comments box for the duration, meaning that publicity for the stunt has to be raised by others on my behalf.
I Can Pick ‘Em Department, Part Two: become one of the first bloggers to plug Call Centre Confidential – arguably one of the first examples of a new approach to personal blogging, which sees tightly themed and constructed writing come to the forefront, in place of the usual links-and-commentary paradigm.
The Which Is The Best Madonna Album? Project gets underway, as I experiment with stepping the music criticism up a notch. (Music and Bedtime Stories end up tying for first position, in case you were wondering.)
But in the morning, with all done and dusted, and what remained of the spell completely broken, this awful quietness and retreat descended upon the room. A shuffle back from intimacy to cordiality. From “oh yeah, me too, absolutely” to “do you want a shower now, or wait till you get back?” From new best mate, to cipher, to statistic. No phone numbers. No point. Respective little black books already bulging, with page after alphabetised page of half-smile memories, mild accusations, slowly fading obligations.
“Will I be cooking lunch, or will I be cooking dinner? ” A photo shoot takes place for Period Living magazine. Little did we realise that it would take another three years for the article to be published…
The Nottingham house is put up for sale. We don’t sell, and opt to stay put instead.
Directly following my thespian triumph, I am dispatched to Paris for the forseeable future. To cope with the absence, Guest Month is launched. Frankly, darlings… it was a triumph. Hands up, who remembers Aunt Cyn?
On my second day of blogging, I “out” a nascent super-chef as a mardy, aggressive git, pushing my fledgling blog into the Google Top 10 for his smart Ludlow restaurant for several years to come. Indeed, I am still in the Google Top 10 for the chef in question. The story subsequently went all around town, as we were amused to discover. Sorry, Claude – but you were unacceptably rude to my partner in public, while remaining perfectly happy to take his money. Revenge is, indeed, a dish best served cold.
Following an e-mail from a “concerned” friend about my new venture (“Are you having a mid-life crisis?”), I adopt his withering summary (“Dermot O’Leary does the South Bank Show”) as my first strapline.
First appearance of my future avatar: James Gillray’s “A Voluptuary under the horrors of Digestion“. One of these days, I might get around to telling you more about our Gillray collection, which has been strangely under-represented over the years.
Attend my first blogmeet: a gathering of London gay bloggers, down at Pop Quiz night at the Retro Bar.
Clean up my act, and stop hot-linking to other people’s images. (NAUGHTY! DON’T DO IT!) Start receiving over 100 visitors a day, and have a bit of a “Sally Field moment” about it (success being something of a novelty, after decades of mediocre underachievement).
After making one lengthy autobiographical posting every day, without fail, for forty days, I reach the end of the 40 In 40 Days Project. The next day, I turn 40. A party is held.
Abandon the basic Blogger template design (see above), in favour of the mauve-flavoured template which persists to this day. Farewell, fat opera singer in red dress!
The underscore changes to a hyphen, as troubled_diva.blogspot.com moves to troubled-diva.blogspot.com.
A good eighteen months away from the birth of MP3 blogging as we now know it, the Troubled Diva Old Curiosity Box is opened for the first time, with a posting of Cristina’s “Is That All There Is?” Over the next eighteen months or so, around 140 rare MP3s are posted, generally on a weekly basis.
Chapter Three of Peter’s collaborative fiction project, The Naked Novel. To this day, this remains the only fiction I have written since adolescence. To this day, I’m still rather proud of it. Hmm, there’s a message in there somewhere.
Home broadband arrives in Nottingham. Goodbye, 56k dial-up! I only have to suffer you at weekends now!
Spend most of the rest of the month in the wind-lashed Portakabin, growing progressively more over-worked, miserable and lonely. The “Portakabin Diary” becomes a regular weekly feature for a while, as Troubled Diva briefly flirts with angst-blogging.
An unfairly bitchy early post is discovered by a friend of the people that I was unfairly bitching about, and is quickly removed. The blushes remain for the rest of the month, as an important lesson is learnt the hard way.
Make my first of many visits to the one-time spiritual home of the London gay blogger: Sundays at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, where The Dame Edna Experience ruled (and still rules) supreme.
Add a Tag Board to the site, for a short while. Does anyone still remember Tag Boards? Oh, they were quite the rage.
On May 4th, Troubled Diva welcomes its 10,000th visitor.
To Tallinn, where I attend the finals of the Eurovision Song Contest for the third time. To the horror of some of my more cultured regular readers, Eurovision-related content dominates the blog for a good couple of weeks – and not for the last time, either.
Install the YACCS commenting system – which remains in place to this day, with all 17,000+ comments still archived and available. Peter of Naked Blog is the first reader to leave a comment.
Portakabin-related angst reaches fever pitch – and then is no more, as I am finally released from the Project From Hell. In its place, a lengthy period of professional inactivity commences. With little else to do, blogging takes centre stage, as Troubled Diva enters what I have long considered to be its twelve-month Golden Age.
This gives me time to research and post the first ever list of the UK’s most linked weblogs. Surprisingly, only four blogs from that first list (Plastic Bag, Blogjam, Rather Good and Interconnected) are still present in the most recently published Top 50.
The month starts with great excitement, as a technical fault with the then all-powerful Blogdex sees me sitting at Number Two on its listings for a day or so, earning myself my first major traffic spike. (Well, as major as traffic spikes ever got in those dim and distant pioneering days.) Oh, it was all about the Blogdex and the Daypop back then. Technorati? Wassthatthen?
(Traffic spikes? Popularity charts? How soon was that early innocence corrupted?)
The Stations Of The Diva series starts: another set of autobiographical posts, based around the various addresses I have lived in. Who knows, perhaps I’ll finish it one of these days?
The Guardian’s “Best British Weblog” competition is launched, with a deafening crash which splits the UK blogosphere in half. Honestly, you wouldn’t believe the kerfuffle which this caused – indeed, it was all that anyone could talk about for a few weeks. Myself included. Oh dear. I still blush a bit over that one.
Over at the Nottingham Arena, Neil Diamond rocks my world. Of all the gig reviews that I have written over the years, this one is probably still my favourite.
The day before we depart, a chance meeting at a cricket match inspires K to start his next business venture. Nevertheless, it will still be over a year before he is in a position to make his move…
Post titles are introduced, in dinky little title boxes, thus bringing to an end the quickfire, hit-and-run, linky-love, one-or-two-line posts which used to be such a major feature of this, and of so many other blogs. The tide, it was a-turning…
The site acquires its first RSS feed, making it a relative early adopter – and the Mozilla browser is tinkered with for the first time (we hadn’t yet started calling it Firefox).
The long-defunct Isabella’s Teddy blog points out my alarming facial similarity to… erm, yes.
The infamous – and bafflingly popular, considering a) how much it makes me cringe to this day and b) how often people still refer to it, in strangely wistful “ah, them were the days” tones – Shirt Off My Back Project gets underway…
(I’m wearing this one today, as it happens.)
…and as if this wasn’t enough, the Nottingham, My Nottingham series is launched. Wow, I really did have a LOT of spare time on my hands back then…
First mobile phone purchase, unwillingly made. Four years later, and I’m still using the same handset. Well, if it works, right?
…but I need to archive these reviews somewhere, and here’s as good a place as any. These all appeared in t’local paper in the last couple of weeks – but either they never made it to the website, or else they were only published in a heavily edited state.
The Automatic / Mumm-Ra – Nottingham Trent University, Wednesday October 18.
With the sold out NME Rock’n’Roll Riot Tour lined up for tomorrow, and The Divine Comedy scheduled for November, Nottingham Trent is clearly serious about re-establishing its Shakespeare Street building as a venue for “name” acts. After a gap of over a decade, this is welcome news, as the hall lends itself superbly to live music. The stage has been shifted onto the long wall, allowing the crowd to spread itself out, visibility is excellent, and the acoustics are spot-on.
None of this was enough to lift Mumm-Ra’s support set out of competent mediocrity. The band cut their teeth with two-hour experimental Krautrock jam sessions in village halls – but such experimentalism is long gone, replaced by the sort of tame orthodoxy which has characterised far too many of this year’s bands. They need to get their Krautrock back, and fast.
Thankfully, The Automatic took the evening to a new level, aided by excellent lighting from the impressive rig, and an inventive series of brain-scrambling animations on the cinema-sized screen behind them, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Super Furry Animals last came to town.
It would have been understandable if they had been weighed down by Monster, their ubiquitous mega-hit of the summer. (Indeed, it was cheekily introduced as a “Status Quo cover version”.) However, a tight, energetic, confident set showed that the band have stepped up to the mark admirably, and are already at ease in larger venues.
An unexpected highlight was a cover of Kanye West’s Gold Digger, which had the irrepressible keyboardist Alex Pennie rapping over vocalist Rob Hawkins’ flute, in a kind of hip hop/Jethro Tull soundclash (ask your Dad).
If straight-up, student-friendly, NME-approved guitar rock has begun to bore you, then The Automatic are the hugely enjoyable exception to the rule.
Duke Special – Songs from the Deep Forest. (V2) ****
When first encountering Duke Special – the stage name of Peter Wilson, an outlandishly dreadlocked singer, songwriter and pianist from Belfast – the inevitable first point of reference has to be Rufus Wainwright. Not only do both singers use similar phrasing (complete with that same slightly nasal quality), but they also share a certain theatricality, with deft orchestral arrangements and stylistic nods to Gershwin, Weill and vaudeville traditions.
What sets Wilson apart from Wainwright – aside from his pronounced Irish brogue – is a lighter, warmer, more straightforward approach to his songwriting. There’s little arch, artsy self-consciousness to be found in these instantly accessible melodies – alternately rousing and reassuring – which engulf the listener in a kind of genial bear-hug. For despite a certain wounded quality here and there, the aim of Wilson’s songs – like those on the new Badly Drawn Boy album – is to tell you that everything is ultimately going to be okay. In his own words: “I want to capture something that sounds like Christmas smoking through an old wooden radio.”
Sean Lennon – Friendly Fire. (Capitol) **
When you consider how much mileage could have been extracted from his family connections, it is to Sean Lennon’s credit that he has followed a more low-key, unassuming career path. Indeed, this is only the 31 year old’s second album, and his first in eight years.
Unlike its more stylistically adventurous predecessor, Friendly Fire sees a move towards more conventional song structures. The overall mood of these ten mid-tempo love songs is gently plaintive, as a resigned Lennon sighs over the loss of his girlfriend, and the betrayal of the friend who snatched her away.
Perhaps this would have been an angrier album, were it not for the real-life fate of the friend in question, who died in a motorcycle accident shortly after Lennon penned the vengeful opening track, Dead Meat. Consequently, most of the album is drenched with a regretful melancholy, which – despite some attractive arrangements from Jon Brion – becomes increasingly monotonous.
None of this is helped by Lennon’s puny, strained, curiously inexpressive vocals, which – like the album in general – are a pale shadow of his father’s grit and passion.
The Datsuns – Smoke & Mirrors. (V2) ***
Stand by your bass-bins: it’s the Battle of the Retro Rockers! With those flash-in-the-pan upstarts The Darkness already a fading memory, there are only two serious contenders left standing. Representing Australia, it’s Jet, with their newly released second album. And in the New Zealand corner, plucky underdogs The Datsuns are trying to claw back lost ground with their third, self-produced effort.
Jet may have the cheekbones, the column inches – and, well, the sales – but at least The Datsuns have a comparative maturity, and a deeper commitment to the core values of head-banging, hard rifffing, Jack Daniels swigging, Led Zep ripping, Good Time Rock And Roll. Unlike Jet, there are no sappy Beatles-esque “sensitive” ballads to be found here. Perish the thought!
Instead, this is a swaggering, stomping, merciless assault, with hefty dollops of slide guitar and swampy Southern boogie thrown into the usual hard rock stew. You will search in vain for subtlety, substance, originality, or indeed any sense of musical history much beyond 1975 – but if tunnel vision’s your thing, then Smoke & Mirrors will serve you well.
Bugz In The Attic – Rescue Rooms, Monday September 25.
This multi-racial seven-piece collective from West London specialises in something called “broken beat”. If you thought this was an esoteric sub-genre, of interest only to serious-minded chin-strokers, then think again: there is nothing “broken” about this good-natured, accessible and thoroughly likeable music, which mixes the best elements of funk, soul and electronica into an infectious brew which deserves a wider audience than the clued-up Gilles Peterson crowd from which it originates.
Now promoting their long overdue debut album Back In The Doghouse, the band are finally taking their live show to the rest of the country. After a competent but lukewarm start, heavy on the groove but light on actual songcraft, things clicked into place from the fourth number onwards.
Despite the large number of people onstage, the music was mainly generated from three keyboardists and a live drummer. In the back corner, the band’s resident DJ had the cushiest job. Never touching his decks, he contented himself with occasional light percussion duties. Nice work if you can get it.
The Bugz belong to that fine tradition of eclectic home-grown funk which stretches back from Basement Jaxx to the Brand New Heavies and Soul II Soul. Some of their most effective material evoked classic early 1980s acts such as Shalamar and Evelyn King. Their powerful re-working of Don’t Stop The Music ignited the crowd, as did all the material which is currently showcased on their Myspace page – an increasingly common phenomenon.
An encore of Sounds Like turned into a celebratory extended jam, with three band members attacking the drumkit, as the DJ cheekily lapped up the applause from centre stage. With Basement Jaxx beginning to falter, and the reformed Brand New Heavies desperately trying to claw back lost ground, the opportunity for the Bugz to break through is wide open.
Coming soon: New album releases from Isobel Campbell (a respectful shrug) and George Michael’s latest “greatest hits” collection (a well-deserved kicking).
Not coming in a month of Sundays: My wince-makingly corny David Essex gig review. There’s “respecting your target readership” by not being a sneery snobby show-off… and then there’s stepping over the line, into full-blooded Light Entertainment cheese. (“The enduringly fantastic Gonna Make You A Star sent us home smiling.” Aaargh! My soul, my soul!)