The news in “brief”. At least, that was the intention.


After just over twelve years of so-called “casual” smoking (for which I have my mid-1990s hardcore clubbing phase to blame, ecstasy having turned out to be my gateway drug to nicotine), I stubbed out my final cigarette on Wednesday May 23, just before midnight. Interestingly, and I have to say surprisingly, I could barely wait to finish the godawful stinky thing – despite having smoked my penultimate cigarette with more or less total equanimity, mere minutes earlier.

That, my friends, is the genius of Alan Carr, whose “Easy Way To Stop Smoking” book comes heartily recommended. His is the first (and hopefully the only) self-help book that I have ever read, and it is quite unquestionably the worst written and most annoyingly repetitive book I have ever read – but nobody said that medicine had to taste nice, and its overriding virtue is that, bugger me sideways with a Camberwell Carrot, IT WORKS.

Sure, the actual “method” itself could be condensed onto three pages – and in large type at that – and you do find yourself wondering when Carr is going to stop droning on and Get To The Bloody Point Already, but the ground has to be prepared for the subtle but significant cognitive shift which you will be performing upon yourself, and there simply isn’t a shortcut.

If the likes of Alcoholics Anonymous insist that their members accept the existence of a so-called “higher power”, into which they must place their trust, then the same holds true with the “Easy Way” method – except that in this case, the “higher power” in question is Mr. Carr himself. It is my hunch that people who fail to stop smoking after reading his book do so because they have failed to take this initial leap of faith, clinging onto the belief that they are uniquely different in some way that he has failed to address. In this respect, some degree of humility is called for. Perhaps that’s the book’s greatest demand of all.

The most remarkable discovery which I have made – and until completing Carr’s instructions, I never believed it possible – is that deciding never to smoke another cigarette again, and sticking to that decision, is an absolute walk in the park. Honestly, it’s a doddle. The addiction under which I suffered turns out be more of a psychological than a physical one, and once its psychological aspects have been exposed and blown out of the water, then its physical aspects present only the most minor of challenges. Sure, there’s the occasional twinge – but these are invariably momentary, and swiftly dealt with.

Perhaps the course of cognitive behavioural therapy which I took some eighteen months ago helped pave the way – for there are certain aspects of the Carr method which seem markedly similar to CBT techniques. Well, whatever. All I know for certain is that I’ll never spark up another fag again, and that feels f**king fantastic.

My thanks once again to darling Peter at Naked Blog for turning me onto the Carr method in the first place.

(Oh, and if you’re wondering whether there was any significance attached to the date on which I chose to give up, then here’s your answer. Let’s just say that it seemed like a highly appropriate occasion upon which to stop killing myself.)


PDMG2 (the Nottingham version) has been planted (by one of the gold award winners at this year’s Chelsea flower show, as we were more than a little thrilled to discover), and is already looking delightful, despite being little more than a collection of differently shaped leaves separated by large expanses of soil, brick and stone. With PDMG1 reaching full maturity in its fifth summer, we can now look forward to the same pattern of steady growth repeating itself in a new location.

After many long months of snail-like progress (and they told us it was going to be a quick in-and-out job, HAH), the Nottingham kitchen has finally been finished. (Apart from the new light fittings, and a replacement for the over-large dining table, but those are but mere trifles.) It’s been a while since we dabbled with the nightmare world of the mid-range mass market design solution, but the budget was tight and we were determined to stick to it. Oh, the frugality! There is hope for us all.

In the final analysis, and despite all the buckets of shit which their various logistical cock-ups threw at us along the way, MFI (yes, you read me right) actually provided us with a smart, attractive and well-designed set of units, which make far better use of the limited space. Decent products, shite service, but all matters satisfactorily resolved in the fullness of time. (We even managed to get a free top-of-the-range washing machine out of them. Long boring story, but a tribute to K’s negotiation skills, his saint-like patience, and his disarming capacity for charm.) You gets what you pays for, basically.

As even the least observant of you will have spotted by now, this blog has now become Flickr-enabled, thanks to the Sony DSLR camera which I gave K for his birthday, right at the start of last week’s holiday in Derbyshire. As it’s fully compatible with his existing collection of pre-digital Minolta lenses and filters, he has been having lots of fun experimenting with techniques, and seeing what can and can’t be done.

Consequently – and not entirely without a degree of self-interest, as this blog has always been somewhat lacking in original photographic material, and it’s good to be able to bring his skills on board – I spent much of last week working as K’s picture editor: downloading, rotating, re-sizing, advising on what to keep and what to chuck, suggesting new ideas for shots, and doing all the uploading to Flickr. Well, what else is there to do on a rainy day, when you haven’t brought any books and your partner refuses to play board games? (As far as I’m concerned, this latter is our most glaring and troublesome incompatibility as a couple.)

So, from now on, TD will be more of a team effort than before. I do words, he does pictures. This is what we call “synergy”.


The holiday, yes. Chiefly characterised by hour upon hour of sodding rain, interspersed by brief breaks in the weather during which K would eagerly scamper into PDMG1, in pursuit of yet more “raindrops glistening upon new growth” macro shots.

Also characterised by a succession of house guests – both family and friends alike – and finishing with a visit by Dymbel and Dymbellina, who walked with us to The Gate in Brassington for Sunday lunch…


…which turned out to be my last square meal until Wednesday evening, thanks to a dodgy prawn in my baguette which wreaked its hideous revenge over the course of Monday and Tuesday. The positive spin: at least this gave me an unexpected extension to the holiday, even if much of it was spent in a horizontal position (amongst others more distressing to mention).


And finally: a plug, a moan and a thank you.

The plug is for my forthcoming talk at the Lowdham book festival at the end of the month, in which I shall attempt to yak on about blogging for thirty-five minutes or so, with particular reference to Shaggy Blog Stories and the whole “bloggers with book deals” phenomenon. (Dontcha just love the bit in the blurb which says “How come they get them but I don’t?” Like I’d know the answer to that one…)

There will then be a question-and-answer session, and possibly an opportunity to purchase a signed copy of the book (should you not already have one, by some strange twist of fate). Entrance is free, and it’s a lunchtime gig, giving you the rest of the afternoon to pootle around what I am reliably told is a damned good book festival. (Blake Morrison! Rosie Boycott! Simon Hoggart! KIKI BLOODY DEE, sweetie! And ME!)

The moan is at you miserable lot, for failing to shell out two measly quid for the Shaggy Blog Podcast. Wanna know how many we’ve sold so far? A pathetic SEVEN copies, that’s how many. Come on, readers! Hands in pockets! Dig deep!

The thank you goes out to those of you who were nice enough to vote for Troubled Diva in the “Best Personal Weblog” category at the Third Annual Satin Pajama Awards… in which I am proud to report that we finished in joint last place, with 2% of the vote. Congratulations to Petite Anglaise, who romped home in pole position.

Coming up tomorrow: a Freelance Friday with a difference, as Troubled Diva proudly presents an exclusive interview with Marc Almond.

(Apart from the bit that’s going in t’local paper, but that’s only a fraction of the finished article. Let’s just say that I was lucky enough to catch Marc in an expansive frame of mind.)

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