The first of ten Post Of The Week competitions is hosted, with a series of guest judges.
In a rare encounter with public speaking, I give a talk about blogging to a writers’ conference at Nottingham’s Broadway Cinema, followed by a Q&A session and a series of creative writing exercises. My notes for the talk are posted on the blog.
“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.”
K starts his own moblog. (Now long defunct. Some of us just don’t have the staying power.)
“Nice, aren’t they?”
“They’re gorgeous. But Mike, what are you supposed to do with them?”
“Oh, you just have to love them.”
At a contemporary ceramics gallery, the purchase of bobbly fruit and pillows causes some raised eyebrows.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, a Sons & Daughters / Vincent Vincent & The Villains / Ralfe Band gig review helps to land my next journalism gig.
A remembered quote from an old John Peel show, which I transcribed from memory on I Love Music, makes it into his wife’s section of the Margrave of the Marshes biography. Sheila, take a bow. I always knew I’d make it into hardback one day.
A three-column layout is trialled, and swiftly withdrawn.
“And you may ask yourself: how did I get here?” Troubled Diva becomes a finalist in the Best Poof category at the grandly titled Weblog Awards 2005, where it finds itself in distinctly gung-ho, yee-hah, right wing company.
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.
Christmas Day winds up in an over-priced nightclub, watching go-go Santas gyrate to a gangsta rap version of “Jingle Bells”, and avoiding unsolicited While-U-Wee back massages from the toilet attendant.
New Year’s Eve is spent at the closing night of Hangzhou’s only venue for live rock music, watching a selection of local bands.
Oh God, the trippy Korean twigs. Flashbacks, maan. Flashbacks!
I get an unsolicited lapdance from a singing waiter in an extravagantly camp Thai restaurant. Man magnet, me.
A fantastic weekend is had – but not blogged – wandering the surreally futuristic cityscapes of Shanghai.
There is a rather fine cake shop.
A diary-style write-up of my Hangzhou experience (entitled “Go-go Santas, turkey and twigs”) is published in the Nottingham Evening Post.
The first of several “Open Mike” sessions is held, in which readers’ questions are answered almost as soon as they arrive.
As a long-list judge for The Bloggies, I discover that cup-cake blogs are huge news o’er the pond.
Some online agony-aunting is indulged in, as I attempt to offer some dating tips to a perpetually single 25 year old.
Upon returning from a business trip to the States, K’s business partner finds that a live bullet has been planted inside his suitcase.
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.
“Also, Mike – wieviel wiegst du?”
“Er, zwei oder drei mal pro Woche…?”
Over dinner in an Islington gastropub, a long-buried memory resurfaces.
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.
A hatchet job on an Osmonds concert (“like being beaten repeatedly round the head with a Hallmark greetings card“) causes protest letters to be written to the local paper.
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.
On the afternoon of the finals, I blog the final dress rehearsal live from the Press Centre.
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.
It is my great honour to deliver the main eulogy at M’s beautiful, extraordinary, moving funeral.
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.
Three years after the original photo-shoot, our weekend cottage is featured as the cover story in Period Living magazine. A few weeks later, Alan Oddverse pens a parody which is several shades more entertaining than the original article.
The podcasts re-commence, as have the Stylus Singles Jukebox reviews (but not for long), and the gig reviews for the local paper.
My first pair of vari-focal spectacles are purchased. Can it really only be three and a half years since I danced topless in a nightclub for the very last time?
A Madonna concert is attended, and a rather grudging, oh-must-I review posted.
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.
Who’s for a melon martini, Mike and K style?
Troubled Diva is featured in .net magazine’s cover feature on The Top 50 British Blogs.
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.”
A two-page colour feature on Troubled Diva appears in the magazine section of the Nottingham Evening Post, complete with a coquettish, FHM-style photograph and a list of Blogging tips for the newcomer.
A series of photographs from the “social linchpin years” of 1990-92 show me at my very gayest.
There is a major discussion on the whys and wherefores of comment box etiquette, an account of a gig by a New York band which took place on the day after 9/11, a list of 100 things which make me happy, and – since I have just started receiving promo CDs on a regular basis – an exclusive track-by-track lowdown on the forthcoming Scissor Sisters album.
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.
“We didn’t pay for a mere prototype, you know. We thought we were getting something unique for our £900,000. Ah well, that’s show business.” I get into a right old strop about the current proliferation of Sky Mirrors from that
mercenary old tart major contemporary artist, Anish Kapoor.
Telegraph Poles on Snob Alley: a four part comic memoir of the nouveau riche 1980s, and my favourite work on the blog this year. Hands up who remembers Cliff and Olga? Come on, it was only five minutes ago!
As the month ends and the pledge is successfully met, I take suggestions for September’s final post – finally opting to list 10 Reasons Why I Think I’m A Clapped Out Has Been And 10 Reasons Why I Think I’m Not.
A snapshot is provided of my whereabouts, circumstances and states of mind in October 1996, 1986, 1976 and 1966.
A Journey South concert review is potentially compromised by my proximity to the artists’ parents. Well, a hatchet job would have been too predictable…
My favourite albums of the 1970s are listed, year by year. A request for reader recommendations unearths a previously hidden coterie of Jake Thackeray fans. Who knew?
“Look, I’m bruising. This is a vicious sport! Why was it never banned? OK, I’m getting a tea-towel and wrapping it round my… stop LAUGHING, will you!” K and I go conkers bonkers.
As promised, an inaugural vidcast is posted. However, the second one is much more like it – and it goes on to spawn its own caption competition – which in turn goes on to spawn the most remarkable spoken word MP3 from a certain Scottish blogger of note. In such surprising ways does our chosen medium manifest itself.
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.
Cheers, readers! Here’s to blogging!