I appear to be all out of Words.

No matter. Write Them, And They Will Come.

(I’d cop out and do you a vidcast instead, but I sense a looming backlash in the air.)

Marrakech was lovely. Next to no street hassles (we dressed smartly, which helped), a beautiful Marrakech riad (I promised the nice Dutch owners that I’d bestow the gift of Googlejuice), good shopping (once you leave the souks), stylish restaurants (Dar Moha and Foundouk were our favourites), pleasant weather (fractionally too cool to sunbathe, hence perfect for wandering about)… ack, holiday-blogging, who needs it? But thank you for your recommendations; many of them were acted upon. (Ooh, that Yves St Laurent cactus garden was lov-er-ley.)

I have taken up a new hobby. It is called Reading Books. They might be the next big thing after vidcasts – but they do take rather a long time to read, when you could be skim-reading blogs instead, and it’s difficult to read them at work, so maybe not.

The tired-all-the-time syndrome is improved, but it hasn’t altogether disappeared. However, Positive Steps are being taken, so fret not.

And how are you?


I feel whacked out.

A couple of weeks ago, I took a couple of sick days, with what I took to be a viral infection. Constant fatigue, aching limbs – but no other symptoms. It passed, and I returned to work.

In the last few days, the fatigue has returned – but in a more subtle way, that I can’t really attribute to a virus. I go to bed at a sensible time, sleep for 8 or 9 hours – and wake up feeling as tired as when I went to bed.

During the day, everything feels like an effort – even the most straightforward of everyday tasks, even getting up from my desk to make a cup of tea. Give you an example: even when busting for a pee, I’ll stay at my desk until I’m absolutely desperate – because I can’t even be bothered to go upstairs to the loo.

And it’s not only fatigue. My piles have flared up; a couple of days ago, I was in severe pain just walking home from work. I’m back on the bum bullets and the prescription gel. They’re under control now, but I’m having to be careful.

The eczema on both ankles has also flared up. I’ve had to buy betnovate, a eczema cream to treat them, every day for two weeks. It brings the eczema under control, but not to the point where it actually vanishes.

I went to the dentist today. The “nasty” area around my bottom left cavity has been giving me grief. The dentist says it’s the early stages of gum disease, to be treated with a high-powered mouthwash to stop it spreading and doing damage.

Work has been tough for the past few months. I’m been out of my comfort zone all year. Every new task involves areas which are largely new to me, and the information which I need isn’t readily available. The work is difficult, but not unsurmountably so. It’s just taking a lot of will power to apply myself.

I started the year in China. Shortly after returning, I started commuting to London. For five months, I lived out of a suitcase. Keeping on top of things at home was another struggle, when all I wanted to do was flop out. In the middle of it all, K lost his sister. He has needed a lot of support, and so has his family.

Outside of work, I have taken on a considerable amount of freelance music journalism work. I’ve reviewed nearly thirty gigs, over a dozen albums, several dozen singles, and the Eurovision Song Contest in Athens. Most weeks during the Autumn, I’ve been doing two gigs a week, sometimes three.

So the physical problems that I’m experiencing: as K gently pointed out this evening, they have to be stress-related. I may not be climbing the walls with stress, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not taking a steady toll.

Mercifully – and I have last year’s cognitive behavioural therapy course to thank for this – none of this has led the sort of depressive relapse which plagued me in the last half of 2004. I’m proud of this fact. Sure, there has been the odd wobble – but nothing which I haven’t been able to challenge and rationalise.

Next week, we’ll be on holiday, in gentle, tranquil, relaxing… Marrakech. Hahahahaha! But hey, a change is as good as a rest. I can’t wait, and neither can he.

In amongst all the helpful comments which people have left me (see next post down), these two (from Boz) have particularly struck me.

“Expect to get lost – but don’t mind if you do. Going with the flow is part of the fun.”

“All the traders will be out for your money, but actually, it’s part of the craic. Pretend you’re Indiana Jones.”

Excellent and much needed advice – because, by default, both situations could all too easily stress us out. I shall bear them in mind, Boz.

And finally, and just before I retire for the night: in amongst all the madness, we’ve still found time to cultivate a garden which looked like this, just before the village gardens open day in June. (It’s a professionally taken photograph, which may be appearing in a garden design book some time next year. I’ll tell you when I know more.)


I’m proud of this, as well.

In fact, I’m proud of the way that I’ve handled a lot of situations this year.

But oh my darlings, I’m whacked.

An opportunity missed.

Yesterday, K declined an invitation to be photographed – in his guise as “prominent local businessman” – for a promotional campaign that would have seen his beaming visage plastered all over town: billboards, bus stops, public transport, the full works.

His reasons for turning the offer down were reasonable enough: he wasn’t dolled up in the requisite business drag, and in any case, he has people to do that sort of thing on his behalf these days. Besides, there’s only room for the one media whore in our household.

Whilst applauding his modesty, I couldn’t help but experience a slight twinge of regret. God, the mileage I could have extracted from that one…

My boyfriend’s got a face like the back of a bus! Quite literally! Look, over there!

I feel quite robbed.

Counting down the most happening sounds around: it’s the Troubled Diva “Yesterday’s So Over, Now Is All We Have” Hot Twenty! With links!

1. once and never again – the long blondes (video)
2. let’s call it off – peter bjorn & john (audio) (video)
3. let’s get out of this country – camera obscura (audio) (video)
4. take me back to your house – basement jaxx (video)
5. last night i nearly died – duke special (audio) (video)
6. nothing’s gonna change your mind – badly drawn boy (audio) (video)
7. rehab – amy winehouse (audio) (video)
8. myspace – chicks on speed (audio)
9. ice cream – new young pony club (audio) (video)
10. beware of the dog – jamelia (video)
11. idlewild blue (don’t chu worry ’bout me) – outkast (audio) (video)
12. lovelight – robbie williams (audio) (video)
13. this is not real love – george michael featuring mutya (audio)
14. here in your arms – hellogoodbye (audio) (video)
15. magick – klaxons (audio) (video)
16. alala – cansei de ser sexy (video)
17. something kinda ooh – girls aloud (audio) (video)
18. herculean – the good the bad and the queen (audio) (live video)
19. standing in the way of control – the gossip (audio) (video)
20. no pussy blues – grinderman (a.k.a. nick cave) (audio)

Things I have done in the last week-and-a-bit. (2)

I do make a rod for my own back sometimes. This post has been hanging over me like an overdue homework assignment, and I’m rapidly approaching the Can’t Be Arsed stage with it. So here goes – but quickly now – and then we can all move on with our lives.

5. Went to Duckie.

Immediately upon arriving at my friends’ house in Clapham – three and a half pints down, and beginning to wilt – I was informed that I was going to Duckie, and that I had better get a move on, as they were already waiting for me at Kazbar. Having successfully negotiated a brief top-changing window (nice smart Paul Smith stripey shirt OFF; interesting glow-in-the-dark Camembert Electrique T-shirt ON – it’s the only vaguely “rock and roll” garment I possess, providing you don’t peer too closely at the hippy-dippy graphic), I was summarily bundled back out onto the street, with barely even time to snatch a burger. Still, being told I’d been guest-listed put a spring in my step.

“Guest listed for Duckie!”, I texted to K, with the customary glee which I reserve for such nano-triumphs. Duckie is the only gay club EVER, in nearly a quarter of a century of being made to suffer them, which K has genuinely enjoyed. (There had to be somewhere.) That’s probably because a) they don’t play “dance” music, b) nobody’s cruising (at least not so as you’d notice), so there’s none of that brittle, competitive sexual tension, c) tops are kept firmly ON, d) it’s relaxed, friendly and mostly 30+ (at least), e) there are no vicious, self-adoring, sociopathic disco bunnies bouncing around on f**king E. I wish we could go more often.

As we walked in, the Readers Wifes were playing my second favourite single of the year so far: Peter Bjorn and John‘s “Young Folks”. GOOD sign.

In the middle of what passes for the dancefloor, Amy Lamé was making popcorn from a little machine that she picked up from Argos during the week, and was handing it out in plastic bowls. (“Why am I doing it? Because we’ve been running this club for eleven f**king years and I’ve run out of ideas, OKAY?”)

Cabaret Act #1 performed a routine that was vaguely based around The Phantom of the Opera. Gothic burlesque, you could have called it. A bunch of red roses was seized; the petals were bitten off, chewed up and spat out over our eagerly upturned faces; and the remaining stems were contemptuously tossed away, most of them landing smack in my face. (The honour!) Upper clothing was removed, leaving a pair of red love hearts, one covering each bosom. A large crimson candle was brandished and dangled above the performer’s bare midriff, so that a third love heart could be etched upon her skin with the molten wax. Ooh! Aah! Hey, that’s actually quite pretty!

Next, a tourniquet was applied to the performer’s upper arm, a syringe inserted, and a blood sample extracted. (I couldn’t look. I’ve got a thing about needles). The blood was then squirted into a half-full wine glass, stirred, and greedily gulped down. Erk! Eek! But hold up, we’re not done yet!

Lower clothing (such as it was) was removed, revealing – you guessed it – a fourth love heart, protecting what little remained of the performer’s modesty.

It was at this point that we noticed the string.

As the soundtrack changed to “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend”, and even before a collective “Uh-oh!” could be muttered, the performer grabbed the string and yanked it downwards – extracting a length of large, threaded beads from her hoo-hah as she did so.

It swiftly occurred to me that this was only the second time in my life that I had been presented with a lady’s hoo-hah at such close quarters – and that the first time had also been at a Duckie event, when Ursula Martinez had extracted a string of brightly coloured handkerchiefs from her “special place”. Really, the place is an education.

Cabaret Act #2, a slender, bare-chested androgyne of indeterminate ethnicity (if pressed, I’d plump for Flipino), who had previously performed at Caesar’s Palace and the Brixton Academy, proceeded to thrill us all with the most remarkable display of hula-hoop-manship that any of us are ever likely to see. To the strains of CCS’s cover of “Whole Lotta Love” (used as the theme tune for Top of the Pops for most of the 1970s), he/she worked that hoop like a whirling dervish, spinning it from every limb, and at every angle, at dazzling speed – and somehow managing to avoid hitting the ceiling, the walls, and indeed us (it was a very small stage, and a very large hula hoop). Ooh, we went mental – all lingering memories of vaginal bead extraction banished, as we cheered him/her to the rafters.

The music was – as ever – eclectic, seemingly random, but never obscure (I recognised everything they played, even that “modern” one by The Fratellis) , and always perfectly chosen. Forget the Guilty Pleasures aesthetic; although many of the choices would have overlapped, their context was quite different. For the final run, we gave it up to: “Living Thing” (ELO), “Cannonball” (The Breeders), “Justified and Ancient” (The KLF with Tammy Wynette), “Teenage Kicks” (The Undertones) and “Get Down” (Gilbert O’Sullivan). As I say: perfect.

The day’s total damage: seven pints of lager and one can of Red Bull – but spread out over eleven hours, allowing plenty of time for absorption and processing. At forty-four, I don’t do shit-faced. So unbecoming in the slightly older gentleman.

Ah, London. You never let me down!

Things I have done in the last week-and-a-bit. (1)

1. Seen the Puppini Sisters, at a Halloween “burlesque” evening down The Social.

This was one of those nights when I find myself thinking, “Writing teeny-tiny gig reviewlets for t’local paper: is it really worth standing around in the oppressive heat, for hours on end, bored and restless, and unable to pass the time by drinking more than the statutory maximum of two pints of lager (even half a pint extra, and Drunkard’s Block sets in; been there, tried that, got the shit article to prove it), when the headline act in question turns out to as underwhelming as this lot?”

I’d say more – but I know you don’t come here for the music, so I shan’t. Suffice it to say that the Puppini Sisters – an immaculately coiffed and maquillaged trio of not-actually-siblings, who specialise in mixing Andrews Sisters standards with Andrews-ified novelty covers of modern pop numbers (Wuthering Heights, Heart Of Glass, Panic), who would have been fine as a three-minute interlude on a TV chat show, and might have been OK in a swishy cabaret bar, with proper chairs and tables and waiters and stuff – were utterly unsuited to performing in a packed, sweaty rock venue, at half past eleven on a Tuesday night, to a glammed-up but rapidly wilting crowd whose Halloweeny goodwill had been gradually eroded by a succession of alternately amateurish and ill-matched support acts, and by a tedious and unjustifiable forty-five minute wait with nothing to do except get into fractious arguments with each other (just behind us), or faint (just in front of us).

(Did you enjoy that last sentence? I know I did.)

Anyhow, Alan at Reluctant Nomad (currently enjoying his second massive traffic spike in a month, and really quite the belle of the Internet these days, not that it will change him in any way, oh dear me no, although 18,000 page views in a day would certainly turn my head, at least just a little) has posted his own report – and also some photos of the sexy ginger-haired double bass player, who made our ordeal so much more bearable. (Note: Don’t get too excited. He was heaps better in the flesh.)

2. Collapsed in a heap in front of the telly for two days.

Finding myself possessed of an overhwelming desire to be horizontal, with an achey breaky bod to match, I promptly excused myself from all professional commitments, and spent a perversely agreeable couple of days watching old movies, in a fuzzed-out swoon of grateful surrender.

(Best movie: The Card, starring Alec Guinness. Biggest let-down: Our Man In Havana, also starring Alec Guinness. Those afternoon schedulers on TCM and More4 sure do be liking their Alec Guinness movies.)

3. Had a Good Old Fashioned Big Gay Night Out In Nottingham.

“Oh! I’m in town on a Friday night! Oh, and K’s away! Well, I must Go Out On The Scene, then! It’s my duty! I’m not ready for the knacker’s yard just yet, ha ha! Maybe they’ll play the Scissor Sisters! Maybe I’ll dance! Maybe someone will flirt with me! Even though I’ve got my specs on! Or “cruising shields”, as I call them, ha ha! Not that I care one way or the other, of course! I’m beyond all that!”

Thus did I rage against the dying of the light. At some length. With Belle of the Internet Alan (“Whoops, Mind My Spike!”) and Nurse Alan – and special guest TGI Paul, up from London for the weekend.

4. Attended a Big Old Birthday Blogmeet in London.

I really must stop getting totally bladdered on the night before “society” blogmeets, such as the one held in honour of Andre‘s 40th birthday, last Saturday afternoon/evening. That way, I wouldn’t have to spend the first hour telling everyone how knackered I was and how little sleep I’d had, and that I was “running on empty”, and “faking it”. No-one likes to be told that the person they’re talking to is “faking it”, do they?

However, by setting expectations of social fabulousness at rock bottom, I was actually freeing myself from the anxiety which they could have induced. This turned out to be quite an effective strategy, and one which I could usefully bear in mind for the future.

And so, one pint of lager later, and thus restored to full functionality, I was working the room like the hoary old tart that I am. Damn, but it was great to see some of my bestest blogpals again – and equally, to meet others for the first time. It was a good mix in that respect – and, indeed, in every respect.

Shall we do a roll-call? Or will it just turn into one of those icky displays of linky-love, that can be so off-putting when you don’t know the people concerned?

Nah, let’s do a roll-call. In alphabetical order, so that people don’t start reading things into randomness. (We’re a sensitive bunch.) Off we go!

Abby “One Track” Lee.
“I don’t know what I should be calling her”, someone said to me during the course of the afternoon. “Do I say Abby, or [real name], or Girl, or what?”

“Well, Andre calls her One Track. Why not go with that?”

As was only right and proper, One Track and I got to share a couple of agreeably fruity exchanges along the way. One was at my instigation, involved webcams, and contained the punchline “So what was I supposed to do: reply to them with my nose?” More than that, I am not at liberty to divulge. You’ll have to invent your own middle bit.

The other was at One Track’s instigation, and concerned itself with the lamentable lack of lube-awareness within the heterosexual community. (I didn’t realise that it was ever required for front-door action – but then, why would I? My sexual knowledge operates mainly on a need-to-know basis.)

On my return journey, I noticed that One Track’s worthy little tome is currently at Number Two in the “best sellers” display at the St. Pancras station branch of WH Smith. Awesome or what!

Andre Revolution.
Birthday Boy Andre was showered with cards and compact-sized gift-ettes – a “Head Boy” badge here, a freshly laid farm egg there – and from me, a hand-crafted CD entitled (wait for it) A Beautiful Compilation. (My days of sighing semi-recumbence were not entirely unproductive, then.)

If you would like to assemble your own copy of A Beautiful Compilation, then you will need the following ingredients.

1. I Started A Blog Nobody Read – Sprites
2. Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken – Camera Obscura
3. Young Folks – Peter, Bjorn & John
4. Casanova In Hell (live) – Pet Shop Boys featuring Rufus Wainwright
5. Everybody Wants A Little Something – Duke Special
6. Long Way Round – Badly Drawn Boy
7. Once I Was – Tim Buckley
8. Everything I Cannot See – Charlotte Gainsbourg
9. The Greatest – Cat Power
10. She’s Gone – The Hidden Cameras
11. Giddy Stratospheres – The Long Blondes
12. The Decision – The Young Knives
13. Oops! I Did It Again (live) – Richard Thompson
14. Uncertain Smile – The The
15. Tower Of Song – Leonard Cohen
16. Crazy – Gnarls Barkley
17. Hey Man (Now You’re Really Living) – Eels
18. If It Feels Good, Do It – Della Reese
19. The Only Way Is Up – Otis Clay
20. What A Wonderful World – Nick Cave & Shane MacGowan

(Yes, an “emotional journey”. Well spotted, you.)

Anna P Boat.
Anna had a box of those little mini-photo-card things that you can get done off Flickr, and I have to say that they were absolutely gorgeous. I’ve never quite got the appeal of Flickr (especially when people stick Flickr pics on their blogs – they’re so SLOW), but these little card things were enough to make me want to go off and take hundreds of photos, like, tomorrow or something.

Ann Pixeldiva.
Last time I saw Pix, it was in a “jazz curry” joint at Archway. We didn’t chat for long enough this time, but you know how these things can be.

Anxious. (whose write-up is here)
I’ve been following Status Anxiety ever since the previous time we met (over a year ago), so Anxious was one of the people that I was particularly looking forward to seeing. We talked about all sorts, including – what else? – that ole devil called Anxiety. (She actually comes across as rather self-assured in real life, lest you should think otherwise. But I don’t want to burst any bubbles. Invisible inner anx is still anx. Hell, I should know.)

Cheerful One. (who refers to the event, albeit obliquely, here)
I might be wrong, but Cheerful One was the only person at the meet that I don’t recall even so much as saying “Hello” to. Bah! It’s always the ones that get away that come back to haunt you…

Clare Boob Pencil.
Clare told us a long and involved story concerning her train journey to London, a sewing kit, various defective items of clothing, and a number of costume changes in the train’s toilets. A little while later, she re-emerged in a different top. Is this evidence of some sort of compulsive costume changing syndrome?

Damian of Our Albion and Universal Critic. (whose write-up is here)
We had quite a long chat – but I was three pints down by that stage, and my memory had switched to RealPlayer streaming mode.

Girl on a Train.
She was on that bit of the table that I never quite managed to infiltrate, so we didn’t do much more than wave and smile at each other.

Greavsie. (who avoids the subject here)
He got caught in the crossfire of my self-instigated and unpublishable webcam-related exchange with One Track – but coped with it manfully, I thought. Unlike someone else, of whom more in a bit…

Hg has been a Gentleman of Leisure for most of this year. I deeply envy his freedom, and the the unflustered serenity which it seems to have elicited.

JonnyB. (whose write-up is here)
We talked about blog sponsorship, and the Googlejuice which a carefully placed hyperlink can induce. (Until I linked to K’s company’s website with the words “canine cancer” the other day, the site was languishing in the 40s for the term in question. A couple of days later, it had shot up to fourth position. We bloggers don’t always know what we’re sitting on.)

Later on, as One Track and I steered our lube-based discussion onto foreskin-related territory (do circumcised cocks need more lube than uncut cocks?), something inside this sheltered East Anglian diarist cracked. Why, you could have heard his howl of trapped anguish all the way up to Covent Garden tube. How unlike the stoic sang froid demonstrated by Greavsie (see above). We do put our str8 boyz through the mill sometimes!

Karen Uborka, Pete Dot Nu and Baby Bernard.
As has been well documented, Baby Bernard could be said to owe his very existence to a blogmeet. The first baby of British blogging looked thrilled to be amongst us all, and gurgled merrily throughout. The cutest and most sunny-natured baby you ever did see – and I don’t even like babies, so I speak without prejudice in this matter.

Leonie. (whose write-ups are here and here)
Again, we didn’t really get past the nodding and smiling stage. She really is a very lovely looking lady, though. Is it OK to say that? Well, she is, dammit! I’m a big old poof-arse, I can say these things.

Mark BritblogTechnoranki.
“Are you here to arrange us all into alphabetical order?”, I quipped, facetiously. Mark has just taken his fledgling Technoranki service to the next level – meaning that those of us Britbloggers who have registered with the site and added his thingy to our template now get a nice little PageRank graphic, and the chance to qualify for the Technoranki Top 200 chart. And as you should all know by now, I ain’t half a sucker for a good chart. Especially one that puts me at Number… well, never mind about that.

Meg P Meish.
I felt like a Betamax in a room full of DVDs“, says the pioneering first-waver whom I have come to regard as the Dowager Duchess of British blogging. No, no, no. As Damian says in her comments box: Meg is like vinyl in a sea of MP3s. Wish she’d stayed longer; it had been ages, and I fancied a good long chat.

Mimi in New York.
Accompanied by her intrepid polar explorer boyfriend, and looking dazzling in a white woollen dress, Mimi was the afternoon’s surprise guest. We could have chatted for much longer, were it not for the impertinent demands of a lager-swollen bladder (on my part) and the lure of Borat (on her part). We talked about her forthcoming book, and of the difficulties of sticking to one’s literary guns when others would rather you dumbed down and sexed up.

Non-Working Monkey. (who briefly mentions the occasion here)
“Oh, you’re Non-Working Monkey!”, I exclaimed, brightly. “You’re quite the Hot Blog of the moment, aren’t you? Everyone keeps saying how good you are, and linking to you, and…”

“AAAARGH!”, she squirmed, with what I took to be equal measures of embarrassment and delight. “Will people STOP SAYING THAT!”

Shiz good though, intshi? Are you reading her yet? Everybody else is!

Petite Anglaise. (whose write-up is here)
After Petite appeared on Richard and Judy a few months ago, we enjoyed a little e-mail exchange, during which she admitted that she “had kittens in the dressing room”. As I reminded her, I then spent a full twenty-four hours thinking that Petite really did have real, live kittens in her dressing room, in best Mariah Carey diva-style – until K gently suggested that maybe, just maybe, she was using a figure of speech. I can be worryingly literal-minded at times.

Rachel Frizzy-Logic.
We talked world music, as we usually do, and I said “Have you heard of Tartit?” At which point, our high-minded cultural exchange somewhat collapsed in on itself. Hee hee, Tartit! Their new album’s good, though

Robin Parent.
We spent quite some time reverentially invoking the spirit of Peter @ Naked Blog, and its recent feline off-shoot. Have you seen Peter’s debut vidcast yet? A master class in semi-inebriated eloquence, so it is…

Tim “Free Man In” Preston. (whose write-up is here)
Winner of the Best Personal Blog award at the recent inaugural Manchester Blog Awards, no less. Such exalted company we keep these days…

Unlucky Man.
Had to disappear early, due to reasons amply documented elsewhere. The “living up to the name of his blog” gag has been done as well. Hey ho!

Here is a photo of five of the above-mentioned attendees. Can you spot who is who?

(I have done other things in the last week-and-a-bit, but we’ll be here all night. Part Two soon come.)