31 October 2006


An Amnesty International appeal, launched on Sunday, is calling on people who use the internet to sign a pledge supporting an end to internet censorship and oppression. Irrepressible.info is a web based campaign seeking the release of a number of prisoners of conscience, people who have been jailed for using the internet to voice their opinions. They are also calling on IT companies like Microsoft, Google and Yahoo to do more to protect people’s right to ‘seek and receive information and to express their peaceful beliefs online without fear or interference’.

People like Shi Tao. A Chinese journalist who is serving 10 years, doing forced labour in terrible conditions in Chishan prison. He emailed an American pro-democracy site about warnings from the Bejing news authority asking news outlet not to cover the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Shi Tao sent the email from his Yahoo account. A year later he was in court standing trial for ‘illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities’. Evidence provided by Yahoo’s Chinese partner was used to convict him.

Shi Tao’s wife now endures frequent bullying and interrogation by the authorities and her work place is demanding that she seek a divorce. His parents have also been watched and harassed at work and at home.

Although cases in China are currently receiving the highest profile there are similar abuses reported in Tunisia, Israel, Vietnam and Iran.

I am adding a badge to this site to show my support for this campaign. The issues of (real) freedom of speech, oppression and censorship are obvious and important.

But we can not have a two, three or four-tier internet either. I can’t believe that we can have a global economy, that we can force all the negatives of capitalist systems on the world but we can not do the same with the positives. The internet is a great thing and it is important that people are allowed equal access to it. Particularly as it is now bound to progress and development and will increasingly become a mechanism for people to participate in the global market place.

The internet is one of the few media where people, ordinary people, can act, ask and access equally. We should protect that right.

Imagine not being able to stand up and say that you disagree with something your government are doing or saying, that it offends you morally and ethically. Not being able to alert other people to the injustice and violence faced by so many people every day. In the 21st century.

Imagine not being able to say you think Ruth Kelly looks like a lesbian. Yesterday I used this blog as a minor force for evil. Today I restore the balance.

Also, PKblogs provides access to banned blogspot addresses in India, Pakistan, China and Iran.

27 October 2006

Verily, it is now thusly

The good

Oh, wait. This is good. Excellent in fact.
I’ve got some merchandise. T-shirts, mug and badges. Shout out to Carol who has the know-how. I’m sure that my regular reader will be shipping a crates worth of gear over. Christmas is coming, reader, Christmas is coming.

The bad
Well, I don’t know about you but I’ve had a shitty week. You know those ones where you think it’s just got to better but somehow it never does? One of those. I’ve given up now.

The BB is teething which means that she is miserable most of the time and we can’t do anything to help her. This is soul destroying in ways I have never experienced before. And there is no sign of teeth yet. It’s just her gums preparing themselves for the horror to come. Teeth. What a ridiculous design flaw. You’d think that we would have improved them through evolution by now. You go through agony grow the first set, which then fall out. Then you get another load which take an immense amount of looking after and cost a fortune. Then they fall out and you have to have pretend teeth that hurt. And don’t even mention wisdom teeth. I don’t have wisdom teeth. I know – you’d think I’d have a mouthful.

I’ve had a headache reaching from behind my eyes, up my whole forehead (temple to temple) over to my crown for five days now. It comes and stays. What do you think? Terminal? I think I’m stressed. I’ve never been stressed before. It’s an interesting, and highly unpleasant, phenomenon. Are there tablets you can take? Does it go away on its own or do I need professional help?

The firework problem is ongoing. The neighbours seem to be taking it in turns to taunt us with their fun incendiary devices. I am toying with the idea of calling the police every time one goes up and telling them I can hear gun shots in the shrieking tones of a panicking woman.

Parsnips gave the BB the wind. Terrible, terrible wind. We all suffered equally though.

The ugly
Also, we’ve had an ‘incident at work’ that it has put my thoughts about veils into sharper focus. Actually they're more thoughts about thoughts about veils since I really don't care either way. I think that many people who would like Britain, or more specifically Eng-er-land, to be white would like people of any different ethnicity to disappear, to not have a voice, or a place in our country. And if they are here then they should be invisible and silent. My issue is that unlike the sari, the turban or the even Buddhist monks’ robes the black shrouding of some Muslim women renders them, for me, invisible and silent. That’s exactly what a minority of people want them to be. So it is like the ouroboros which eats its own tail to sustain its life. But as I said in the comments below there is no place in our society for debate on this subject any more and that is the fault of the media, fundamentalists, racists and the government so I will be quiet now. Sssshhh.

25 October 2006

A bit of verbal about veils

I am now thoroughly bored with the debate about veils which it seems will never end. If one more damn person asks me what I think about the niqab and hijab I don’t know what I will do but it won’t be pretty or mature.

Before I make a brief, and final, statement I would like to make the following clear:

1. If I were in charge I would ban ALL Religions, even the pretend ones, making it illegal to overtly practise ANY Religion outside your own home. Street preaching would be akin to manslaughter in the eye of my law. Faith would be a private matter.

2. When people start to go on and on about things, any things, I go through four distinct phases. The not really listening because it’s become boring phase, the finding it all quite amusing phase, the this is totally oblivious are you all stupid please be quiet phase and then the holy shit are we still going on about this it’s making me quite angry now phase.

3. I am fundamentally opposed to most Religions on the grounds that they are nearly all inherently homophobic, and none of them seem to find this blatant bigotry unacceptable. Or, in that case of some, ironic.

4. I am fundamentally opposed to most Religions on the grounds that very stupid people are able to use them as an excuse for getting their kicks by killing people, invading countries and generally behaving in ways that would shame the killer chimps of the Mahale Mountains. If a child can’t play with a toy responsibly then a good parent takes away that toy until such a time as said child’s behaviour improves. Same principle should apply.

5. Having said that, although I don’t believe in a God, I believe in believing in one. Or four. Even more if you like.

6. Although I am minded to belive that Religion has very little to do with faith anymore. If it ever did. It has plenty to do with money and power, but not too much to do with faith. Or perhaps that should be Faith.

Anyway, here is that brief, and final, statement:

I am not a huge fan of that black niqab and hijab ensemble you’re wearing. This is because only 7% of communication is verbal.

I’m not concerned that wearing it might be an infringement of your rights as a woman. I’m not worried about what statement about Muslims you are making to the non-Muslim population of Britain.

I just find it very hard to relate to you because, by burying it under swathes of cloth, you are denying me the 93% of communication which I, as a human being, rely on to form any response to our interaction. And I consider learning one of those responses – be that language skills in a classroom or something about you over a latte in a cafe. So, I’m not really bothering to engage 100%, just the 7% which covers being polite in the post office or the supermarket.

Maybe this is sheer laziness on my part. Maybe it’s just that with so many fascinating things in the world and only so many hours in the day, unravelling the thoughts and feelings you’re choosing to hide behind that veil, that you’re choosing to only express 7% of, are simply lower down on my list. And that’s not a reflection on you personally, because that would require some of that other 93%, it's a relfection on me.


Don’t start me on Freedom of Speech. Really. Or Merely the Freedom to Insult People as it’s called nowadays.

24 October 2006


I have signed up for this years’ National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo as Mork and Mindy nearly said. What on earth has possessed me to do this I shall never know but it is too late now – I am properly enthusiastic about it.

Beginning on 1 November, and not before, I have to write 50,000 words of a novel by 30 November. You can follow my progress here.

Relax – it’s only 1,666.66 words a day. Easy. I can fit that in between a job, a writers' group, a fledgling social life, sleeping, eating, being a better half, blogging and having a five month old baby. I foresee no issues with that.

I’m going to enter into the spirit of the thing and write without too much planning and rocket through a first draft as fast as possible. This is a good way to get me through the tough bit of starting and getting into a draft of a new novel.

You’ll not be able to read anything more than a 10,000 character extract, that’s around 1,600 words. So there will be no out of the blue book deals flying around to over-hype or envy.

Working title: Hot Pursuit.
Genre: Literary fiction, but only because the other options weren’t right and I didn’t want to put Other Genres in case people thought I was writing a cowboy pastiche. Hey, there's an idea.

I’m going to go and introduce myself in the forums shortly. See if I can’t make a complete arse of myself over there as well.

Then I’ll have to rustle up some kind of plot I expect. Oh hang on – literary fiction’s my genre. No plot needed.

23 October 2006

Ban them, ban them all

I hate fireworks. I’ve never liked them. Loud, banging, burning things. Imagine then the horror of living in north west London this weekend. With a five month old baby.

Bang bang bang bangbangbang.

I popped out on Saturday night, to put the rubbish out you understand not to enjoy myself in a bar, and the air was thick with the smell of gunpowder and smoke. The sound of fireworks was constant. There was the thick rumble from very far off in Central London, the nearer more distinguishable boom from out Harrow way and the distinct sounds of individual display in Neasden and Wembley. And the nice people over the back blotted their copy book too.

Bang bangbang pheeeeeeee bang bang bangbangbang bangbang pheeeeeeee pheeeeeee bang bang.

I imagine that’s what the blitz must have been like. With a similar fear of hot things raining down. I hid indoors, under furniture, with my ears full of toilet paper. I will be doing that in the event of war also.

‘If only Diwali was a Muslim festival,’ I said from beneath the coffee table.
‘Why?’ said tD as another £2,000 of money well wasted exploded in a deafening burst of green and red above the garden. She was calmly stretched out on the sofa.
‘Because if it was a Muslim festival they would have banned fireworks by now.’

Pheeeeeeeeee BANG bangbangbang bang bang bang bangbangbangbangbangbang pheeeeeee bang BANG.

And now ‘tis the season of kids throwing fireworks into busy newsagents and the constant sounds of fire engines careering up and down Walm Lane at all hours. Joy.

19 October 2006

Fun with solid food

I keep finding little smears of pureed organic root vegetable in unexpected places. This is not a usual occurrence. We are weaning. BB is in the 99.8th percentile height wise so we had to start her on baby rice three weeks ago, rather than waiting until the recommended six months, which was a bit stressful bearing in mine that she is not five months old until Sunday. It seems like only five minutes ago I was telling you she was four months old. Tempus fugit, etcetera .

Fortunately she has taken to eating like a happy little duck taking to water. She thinks that feeding is hilarious and enjoys a good chuckle half way through. Particularly if it is a vegetable she likes.

Thoughts on food so far include:

Baby rice is delicious. We are looking forward to moving on to fruit puree so we can have some alongside the rice. This will be like a Muller fruit corner, but without the nasty additives.

Potatoes are not delicious at all. They make us pull a funny face and purse our lips very tightly. We refuse to eat them.

Carrots are excellent. They are very tasty and also our favourite colour. Orange is marvellous and we strongly believe that more things should be orange.

Although sweet potato is orange we are not fooled for a second and can detect that the potato force is strong in this one. Not as bad as actual potato but not winning as many friends as the carrots.

Butternut squash is fantastic. A nice mellow shade of orange and a little bit sweet too. Delicious. Even better than carrots. Squash makes us giggle with delight and also wave our spoon around causing an enormous mess.

Swede is our absolute favourite, despite not being orange. We love the swede beyond all reasonable bounds. If we could eat swede all the live long day we would.

I don’t understand this swede thing. The swede is an evil, evil vegetable. Tastes like... I can’t think what. Hideous. As I say; evil. But she likes it. Next thing she’ll be liking apricots and curly kale. Gruesome. Give me a nice brussel sprout any day.

Never mind, we are doing well with the vegetables. Our doctor, who is also a mother of the gay persuasion, said her daughter would only eat butternut squash.

We do each vegetable in turn for two days and then stare anxiously at BB for any signs of adverse effects of said vegetable. Tomorrow it is parsnip (semi-evil) and then we begin the green vegetables on Sunday – courgette, broccoli and cauliflower. I know cauliflower is white but in our book (I recommend it, but only if you are weaning. It’s probably of limited interest to the general reader) the noble cauli counts as green.

Then, green vegetables dealt with, we can mix different purees together like potato, swede and carrot. This is called a medley. We can also give her fruit puree, as a pudding, or side order at breakfast. You have to do the vegetables first because they are savoury and some babies get hooked on the sweetness in fruit and then won’t eat the nasty swede. I don’t blame them as I am a fan of the sweetness.

Also, we keep the purees frozen in the traditional white ice cube trays. We have about three weeks in advance. They look fantastic all lined up in the freezer. Particularly the courgette which you leave the skin on. They look like little bars of soap. All organic from the nice organic shop on Harlesden Road where the man with the thickest glasses in the world works. Nice man. Blind as a bat.

18 October 2006

Podcast # 1

17 October 2006

J'aime le pain

Don’t tell Biroco but the French Market was back at the weekend. And this time it was bigger with added soap and knock off designer hats which were neither trés chic nor very French. Nary a beret in sight. Poor BB is starting her teething and so was not in tip top form but we took her for some fresh air. I forgot the big grown up camera so have resorted to using my mobile pone which only has 17 pixels and save things as bitmap files. I ask you.

Anyway, it was much the same as last time, except busier, and all the youth that had come over from the other side of the bus garage had obviously frightened all the Queens Park ignorati away. My mother would have called them, the youth, Common. Although Sunday is overpriced organic farmers market on Salusbury Road so they, the ignorati, would have all been there; crammed in between the cranberry and rosemary foccacia and the herd of four by four child killing machines. Best place for them.

The market is outside the Library Centre in Willesden Green. They are trying to get more of these events on, the last one was the African Market and Something, which I would have like to have gone to but I was entertaining that day and thus not allowed out.

Aren’t ordinary everyday items fascinating when in a foreign language? Moutard. Marvellous. And some other things to make cassoulet with. Cracking.

You could smell the cheese a mile off. Not a literal mile, a nasal mile. We had some brie and some smoked raclette which is as stinky as I am prepared to get in the cheese department.

And there was hardly any bread left but the mound of biscuits eased the pain. I have accidentally been very funny and clever there. Pain. It’s rude to point out your own haphazard genius, isn’t it? Pain though. Or lack of pain. It’s a good job I’ve got a blog or that would have been wasted. Wasted.

And I thought there was fruit but it was soap. Thankfully I don’t often do fruit so I was spared the embarrassment of taking a huge bit from a lavender and mimosa scented apple. I was a close run thing though. I have been known to fall upon delicious market stalls with an open mouth and a hopeful heart.

This is clearly soap. I do soap daily.


Imagine I posted this picture on Friday the 13th when I took it. Yes?

I came out of my Shorthand mock exam on Throgmorton Street, round the back of Threadneedle Street, and the Gherkin was either in the process of lifting off, falling down or shrouded in paraskevidekatriaphobia. Either way it was quite a sight. I galloped around the corner to see what was happening but when I got there it had gone.

16 October 2006

Of closets and cabinets

When reading reports yesterday that Ruth Kelly is dragging her comfortably shod heels over the new gay rights legislation I was again agog at the woman. She really is a most fascinating creature.

It’s much like when I was a kid and my mother, who used to drive around the countryside nursing old people, took me to work with her. One patient had a terrible ulcerated leg. I was left in the living room with the ancient cat but I could see the leg through the crack in the door just on the other side of the hallway. If I shut my eyes and think hard enough I can see it now: all wet and red raw in the middle, yellow crusted around the edge and surrounded by blackening skin. It stretched almost the length of the woman’s calf and was being packed with gauze and sudocrem. I should have looked away but I couldn’t, I had nightmares about it. It was utterly repellent and yet totally fascinating. Like our Mrs Kelly.

When she was made Education Secretary there was great excitement in my house. I didn’t know she was a religious fundamentalist then, I’d only seen her picture in the paper and it had sent my gaydar pinging off the scale. I burst through the front door. ‘They’ve done it,’ I cheered. ‘They put a big old out-lesbian in the Cabinet.’

Of course, they hadn’t and I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what we’ve ended up with. But what fascinates me, like an ulcerated leg, is this:

If she actually is a committed and certifiable Catholic cult member, if she really does hold ultra-catholic views on homosexuality and abortion, and if she genuinely is a woman riddled with all that bigotry and intolerance then what on earth is she doing? I don’t mean how can she, in all conscience, be the cabinet minister with the equalities brief, although it’s a very good point. I mean: Why does she present as a lesbian.

It’s the sensible shoes, shipping forecast, house full of cats type lesbian. The one with the standing order for the donkey sanctuary and the cupboard full of herbal teas. The one you don’t see around a lot anymore. Which is a shame; I liked her. But even our Ruth has pegged her as a dying breed and is moving on; having done the Wrong Shade of Lipstick Phase she is doing the Growing Long Hair Phase. The stuff of (a now tattered) text book, next she’ll be adopting a more androgynous look to go with her new patent brogues.

A friend of mine, who is now old and wise, spent many years as a fervently practising catholic even though he knew he was gay; he was having a hard time dealing with it. He converted when he was at university and said that it was great to find a place where everyone and everything around you validated your self loathing. As though he was a bulimic being told that not only is it acceptable to binge and vomit, but everyone else should be encouraged to do it as well. He also said that his self esteem plummented to such a depth that he had to turn the fear and hatred outwards on to other people just get by.

He’s much better now, he has self esteem and self respect and doesn’t need to burden himself with guilt and plead for forgiveness every five minutes. So, there is always hope.

Whilst on the subject; I was flicking through some old book yesterday and was reminded that we have an old law in this country that prevents any Catholic from becoming Prime Minister. Really I said to myself, but I thought the Blairs where Catho….

No, no. You’re right. It’s all far too obvious.

12 October 2006

All this was once fields you know

My regular reader will know that I grew up in the countryside. The village in which I grew upwards in height but not maturity, or Brixworth as it is known to many, has the oldest Saxon church in England, perhaps even Britain. Romans lived there as well, or they might have rode through Brixworth on the way to Guilsborough or Great Creaton and threw some bathroom tiles out the chariot window as then went. I don’t think it’s possible to know. It has a bookshop and a pottery, a pond (which is in someone’s back garden) and three proper country pubs. As well as a primary school, some shops, a village hall and a little library. Or it did. I haven’t been there for many years. The last time I was there Brixworth had acquired a sprinkling of mini roundabouts and some baffling traffic calming road furniture, particularly on the way to Spratton.

Although it was quite small it never felt like a village. Not a proper English countryside village. I went on holiday to some of those in Dorset and Brixworth wasn’t really on a par. Only two thatched roofs for a start.

I’m sure my fractured sense of community wasn’t helped by my going to school in a different village and then on the edge of town, unlike the rest of the street who all went to the village school and then the local comprehensive en masse. No wonder they threw things at me.

Once we had a street party with fireworks and hot dogs. I’m frightened of fireworks and also I have a thing about the ends of sausages. So that event didn’t really do much to integrate me into village society. And I liked reading. That never went down well. I should have preferred poking dead things with sticks and shouting at the Gypsies.

I am merely that area’s second most famous daughter as Princess Diana grew up near Brixworth and she is a little bit more well known than me. I have been on many a school trip to Althrop
House (we locals pronounce it ‘All Thorpe’ by the way), where there is a garden gnome, in the study, under a bell jar. He must not like it under there because every so often he makes a run for it and the staff find him in strange locations. How does he lift up the glass with his little fingers? How does he move his little pottery legs? How does he get off the chest of drawers and open the heavy doors? It’s Magic, they told us. One time I went and the gnome had gone. They hadn’t found him yet and claimed to be deeply worried for his welfare.

They have built all over my village, of course. Looking through my own personal satellite I see that the village has expanded all the way to the controversial bypass. The road perpendicular to my cul-de-sac used to mark one edge of village but now they’ve built almost to the Goat’s Milk House. So called because they sold goat’s milk when I was little. They had a goat, you see. It ate things that were indigestible then vomited on an almost daily basis.

There was also a donkey which sold tomatoes. The tomatoes were guarded by ferocious dogs. One of my nieces thought that donkeys laid tomatoes like chickens laid eggs. To this day I regret that someone put her right.

I’m going to take tD and BB on a pilgrimage there so that I have witnesses when I stand in the middle of a housing estate and shout; ‘I remember when all this was fields.’ Because I do.

You may visit what my village, Brixworth, has become if you like: by going here. It’s almost like being there, believe me. And if you visit virtually at this time of year you’ll be spared the smell of burning stubble. Oh. I forgot. There aren’t any fields any more. The green arrow is pointing to the house opposite and up one from my house. Up as in away from the cul of the cul-de-sac.

If do go visit and you zoom out? That black crippled dragon shape is Pitsford Reservoir (now with added Country Park). Not an ominous Gate To Pandemonium or anything. Although now I come to think of it is is entirely possible.

11 October 2006

Lunchtime Randomness

High excitement in NW2 this lunchtime. First I spotted a massive puddle which will force me to walk home a Different Way. Although not clear from this picture it spreads the whole way across the road. Imagine.

Man on a Bike, pictured below in fetching yellow, almost rode through the flood but then though better of it. It took him a little while to make his mind up, despite seeing three buses, a black cab and four small hatchbacks almost lost beneath the waves. His name is not Noah, clearly, the big chicken.

And then I spotted a mannequin unicycling across a large picture of Ruby Wax advertising some stupid television programme. I don’t think a reality TV show’s celebrity circus is going to be up to much. Surely it’ll just be a hoard of clowns and no acrobats. Unless it was a Jim Rose circus
, then it would make perfect sense. I would have liked to take a better photograph of the mannequin just for you, regular reader, but that would have meant crossing two lanes of motorway bound traffic and dicing with death on the central reservation. As much as I love you we are not at the point in our relationship where that kind of near death experience is acceptable. Yet.

Another observations: the ‘toys’ inside Kinder Eggs are not what they once were. You will have to trust me on this as I have no photographic evidence; I had been forced to return the ‘digital camera’ to the web team by then.

10 October 2006

Yar boo sucks

I can’t be bothered today. I think I am tired.

I used to get very annoyed with parents when they described their badly behaved offspring as ‘over-tired’. No, I would think to myself, they are just being a little bastard. It’s because they are evil, not because they are over-tired. It turns out that there is such a thing as over-tired. Who knew? BB gets over-tired at tea time when she has only had a 45 minutes power nap in the morning and refused to go to sleep for the rest of the day. Over-tired mainly involves a lot of loud growling noises and bursts of shrill crying. Occasionally there are bouts of kicking followed by some intense wriggling.

I think I am over-tired. I’m going to lie on the floor and make harsh sobbing sounds until someone picks me up and gives me a cuddle.

09 October 2006

Crab Apples

I went to a new café on Saturday for lunch. There seem to be a number of new little cafes and delicatessens popping up in Kensal Rise at the moment. This is probably because, in the manner of an odorous backed up toilet Queen Park is over spilling into NW10. The most hilarious example of this is the deli/café next to Kensal Rise station which is an ultra moderne glass structure not unlike a very grand bus shelter. It’s full of the very expensive tat that people who think they can cook fill their kitchens with to hide the fact that they don’t know the difference between button and chestnut mushrooms never mind which end of the mushroom brush to apply to them.

Not at all like this monstrosity of middle class disparation (like aspiration but totally without value or meaning being all about money and status rather than anything important) is The Brilliant Kids Café and Art Centre. We fit right in because we have a brilliant kid and is certainly a welcome addition the short list of places you can easily take a baby younger than 6 months old. Also, independent of BB, I am so weary of the gastro pub. I don’t think it has been open for very long but it is cracking, I hope it lasts and doesn’t become one of those good places that is open for five minutes and then closes.

One half of Brilliant Kids is the café where an impossibly posh, yet very hearty, woman cooks in an open kitchen. She whipped tD up some Hollandaise sauce for her Eggs Florentine which tD reported as the best sauce she had ever had (even better than my Mediterranean vegetable pasta sauce apparently, damn it all). I had Shepherd’s Pie and steamed broccoli which was magnificent. It was a huge portion, and I thought I wouldn’t be able to tuck it all away, but when I polished it off it was so lovely I could have eaten it all over again. But this is terribly uncouth, I understand, so I contented myself with just the one portion. It is also very reasonably priced with my homemade, organic and delicious shepherds pie coming in at £6.50.

The Gods of Impending Birthday sorted the weather out so we could sit outside. The garden is a little oasis of peace and tranquillity. Once you have got the buggy beside your table. Up to that point it is an oasis of why in the name of god is this garden covered in posh grey gravel that the wheels won’t work on.

We sat underneath a crab apple tree, an upward glance looking much like this:

Next door is the other half of Brilliant Kids – the Art Centre. They do all kinds of workshops for kids; from music and movement, storytelling to knitting. There is a little club afternoon with a DJ called The Crib, where they can learn street dance, and The Popcorn Club on a Saturday morning where the little angels can watch classic children’s films. They also do children’s parties which I imagine are marvellous but hideously expensive.

And you can leave your heap of car parts outside to lower the tone without paying a penny. Joyous. Did I mention the crab apples?

06 October 2006

Improving international relations

A Latvian personage that I know, who is a close family friend (on tD’s side) in a way that is far too complicated to go into, is a big economist in Latvia and is often doing crazy things for his job. Why, only last week he was giving a presentation on something complex and financial to a group of terrribly proper and posh people which included the crown prince of Sweden.

Next week he has got another gig which the queen is going to be at. I have trained him up manners wise and, if she speaks to him, he is going to tell her how much he enjoyed her work in Prime Suspect which I have managed to convince him is a new Metropolitan Police initiative.

So, in a couple of weeks when we throw all the Latvian diplomats out of Britain and declare war on all Baltic states you’ll know why. Entirely my fault.

05 October 2006

Kindness overwhelms (still) young blogger

Crikey, this blogging is a marvellous wheeze. Shortly before nine am I post that I want the new Scissor Sisters CD. At quarter to three I receive a call from reception saying there is a package for me. At five to four I can no longer resist temptation and open package. Inside is the new Scissor Sisters CD and card signed by my most esteemed colleagues.

They are all gorgeous and I thank them. There might even be kisses.

I have just spent the last few minutes trying to think of something else I want but it’s been to no avail as I now feel as though I have everything.

Except a Suitable Coat.

And all I really want is the new Scissor Sisters CD

It’s my birthday very very soon. I dread it. This is because for my birthday I have to have an expensive item of clothing, like a pair of shoes or a coat or something, to replace whatever has worn out since the last time said item came up in the birthday cycle. This is not only because we are poor as little hungry, cold and tatty church mice but also because I hate shopping and hate clothes, so have a tiny tiny wardrobe. I don’t hate clothes in the I’d-Prefer-To-Walk-Around-Naked kind of a way. I hate clothes in a What-A-Pointless-Waste-Of-Time-Open-Brackets-And-Also-Newspaper-Print-Close-Brackets-Fashion-Is kind of a way.

How odd then that I should look so hot you’re thinking, aren’t you? Aren’t you?

I’ve now learnt that me and the Saturday Guardian don’t mix so I don't speak from first hand experience, but tD went into a paroxysm of rage a couple of weekends ago when she read in the magazine that one of the female fashion persons had saved up to buy a slender tone machine when she was twelve. Twelve years of age that is. Honestly. If BB saves up for a slender tone machine when she is twelve years of age I will consider myself an abject failure as a parent and I will do myself, BB, tD and the rest of the nascent population a favour and top myself forthwith. And she wrote this herself, like she was proud of it. Bizarre.

Anyway, back to me.

I find myself the proud owner of merely five shirts, eight t-shirts, two pairs of jeans, a pair of baggy dark olive green trousers, a pair of fisherman pants, two (and a half) jumpers, a tank top, a cardigan, two suits, a pair of proper shoes, a pair of broken wabis and a pair of Birkenstocks. A green leather jacket, a navy velvet jacket and a bright blue hoodie. And that is all. And underwear obviously, including vests. Also, passable gym kit including same vests and trainers.

Sadly though Birthday /Time To Buy A Coat is upon us. I got away without one last year by Layering-Up but as I am now a responsible parent I’m going to have to stop looking so much like the Artful Dodger and more like Mary Poppins. This means that I will be dragged round a variety of shops trying on coat after coat after coat until one which is deemed Suitable is found. I will then take Suitable Coat back after a week and change it for the first one I saw.

Then we will have the mildest winter in the history of winters and I will be permanently too hot.

And then it will be Christmas. By which time I will have worn out my jeans and will need a new pair. Then there will be recriminations because I have allowed them to drag along the floor at the back and worn them out faster (true).

They also, apparently, wear out faster because I only wash them once a month. They are jeans. They are inherently self cleaning (less true).

On the positive side though (as I am adopting a more sunny approach again this week) it might be all different at The Shops with BB and extensive accessories in tow and I do wash my jeans more regularly as they do get vomited over with more frequency these days. And not by me I hasten to add.

03 October 2006

I like watching the whole programme

If you watch Spooks on BBC1 and not on BBC 3 I shouldn’t read this post if I were you. Which I’m not and besides that I’m writing it so I can’t help but read it. At least once on the way through.

Anyway, this is a little bit of filler to reiterate that if you don’t know what happens in the episode of Spooks that was on BBC 3 last night at 10.25pm, you may know it as The Episode After The African Summit Episode, and don’t want to know click away. Go here. Or here. But don’t read on.

So. Can you believe it? That they have gotten rid of Ruth, I mean. The bastards. She has gone somewhere mysterious to pine for Harry because she was framed for something complicated and then I missed a bit and something else happened and Hermione Norris’ character whose name escapes me was a bit mean which was quite sexy and then there was a plastic bag on someone’s head and some shouting and now Ruth has gone.

It’s Roz. The Norris character. I’ve remembered. I find her oddly attractive but this is not really relevant. Although I imagine Hermione Norris will be fascinated to learn that I’ve described her as oddly attractive. And thrilled too. Probably very secretly.

The real reason I love Ruth though, and possibly Spooks, is because I had a little play on at Soho Theatre, quite close to London's West End, once upon a time and Nicola Walker, who plays Ruth, was in it. And she was exactly perfect, just how the character played in my head. She seemed like a very nice person as well and even bought me a pint which always goes down well. When I look back on my hideous foray into professional theatre she is the axis of one of only four good experiences. She’s much better looking in real life as well. Rather like me.

I salute you Nicola Walker. With both hands simultaneously.

But I am not so much enamoured of her that I am prepared to watch Touching Evil. Not even the fragrant Walker can scratch the diseased itch that is Robson Green.

Of course, thanks to the BB I never see any television really. I see a little bit of television, the back of the living room door, the carpet in the hallway, the bedroom door handle, the rails of the cot, the BB. All at high speed. Then if I’m lucky I do it all backwards ending in seeing a little bit of television. I attempted to watch Cracker on Sunday and I did see some minutes of it but couldn’t tell you if Robbie Coltrane was in it because I never laid eyes on the chap. I missed the end last night so it’s entirely possible that in the last minute Hary woke up, Ruth stepped out of the shower and it was all a dream.

I fervently hope so.

02 October 2006

The Beginner’s Guide to Being a Beginner Blogger by a Beginner

100th post. Ha [exclamation mark] That’ll learn all those teachers at school who said I had the attention span of a gnat. A whole hundred posts. Rather than waste it on some frivolous meandering about the mysterious reappearance of my mobile phone or telling you how I found a spider in my mash potato on Friday I shall provide an important public service and blog about blogging.

I am a beginner blogger and a bit helpless, hapless and hopeless. But, being objective, I have happened upon blogs less adept than this one so I’m going to forge ahead with The Beginner’s Guide to Being a Beginner Blogger by a Beginner. I have called upon Flashman Topside to hinder me in this mission, as he wants his own blog and may have some relevant questions. You may listen in as I attempt to share my pearls of wisdom with him. Or shitbits of shite as he called them. Shall we begin?

You’ve had a blog for some months now, how come you are still a beginner?
There are bloggers who are very well respected and very widely read. Note how they have all had blogs for eons and how they have gathered momentum over time. Seven months or so is not long in the world of blog. Although some people have a friend who has a very well respected very widely read blog and then they are all linked up and ready to go by the tenth post. But this is not the case for you as I don’t have a blog of this type and we are not friends. No matter how much your mother would like us to be.

You know that thing about how, if the earth had existed for a only day, life would have appeared in the sea at teatime and dinosaurs would have sat down to watch the ten o’clock news before mysteriously dying out and human beings have only been here for 3 seconds just in time for teleshopping to appear on every channel? Well in blogging terms I appeared in the last blink of an eye. So, I am a beginner blogger rather than a stalwart of the vanguard. And it’s only as you get more people interested in what you are doing that some of the other things become relevant, like managing feed and all that.

Also, I read some of these types of article and actually, thinking back, they weren’t that relevant to the absolute beginner because they were being written from the lofty perspective one acquires when sitting on triple figures visitors a minute and 3,000,000 inbound links. Although the last one I read was very good. And helpful. So there are exceptions. As always.

How do I get a bit of the Internet to call my very own then?
I just have a .blogspot.com at blogger because it is very easy and free. Lots of people on the message board seem to moan about it but I’ve never had any problems. It’s easy and free after all. Well, it’s a little bit taxing and free now I’m in beta but that’s my own fault; I tend to get over excited whenever presented with the word Upgrade. Anyway, you just sign up and then off you go. The Help Directory is very good. I read it all. Twice. If you know about CSS and things then you can really knock yourself out. But if you don’t it doesn’t matter.

The hardest thing is thinking of a name. My mate Crispy gave me mine. If it weren’t for him there wouldn’t be a blog. I'm sure you will join with me in saying thank you to Crispy.

Yeah. Thanks. Now, what am I supposed to put on my blog?
Put what you like on it. I don’t know. I like blogs where people write something about themselves and what they think about things. Although I’m not so interested in the sex blog people, or the people who over share about their emotional traumas or experiences of near death. But that’s just me. Some people, I suppose, find that fascinating and helpful. I expect you’ll end up with a blog similar to the ones you like. There are some specific types of blog, like photo ones or tech ones or ones which just have links to other things. It’s up to you.

What sort of blog do you think I should I have then?
One where there is no footage of you sitting around in your greying underpants shaking your bong wondering how it all fits together so marvellously. That is what YouTube is for, surely? You could be an Internet celebrity.

Oh, yes, because blogging can make you famous, can’t it?
No. It can’t. That is nonsensical. The easiest way to have a novel published is still to write one. Actually, the easiest way to have a novel published is to mention to a friend over dinner that you would like to write a novel, then they will speak to their senior management team at their publishing house and make it happen for you. You might even get it ghostwritten.

Also, while we are on the subject of fame and blogging, you would have to be pretty dense to lose your job because of your blog nowadays. Unless you wanted to, or you were sacked because of some other reason. The bubble has burst on that one, if there ever was a bubble. We must now await the backlash. Also, I would advise you to have a look at the photographs of all the people who have received publicity because of their blogs. None of them are gigantic half man half dog creatures, are they?

None of them are clumsy half woman half street urchin creatures either are they? You can be so hurtful sometimes.

How do you decide what you are going to post and what you aren’t?
There's a fine line between posting and not posting. You could sit around writing and writing, waiting for a great post. But the point is, I think, to post and not worry. The great post will come. Surely? I know, I know – still we wait.

In my day job I have to think about what I’m writing, and my other work, about which I procrastinate so expertly, is very planned and thought out. I like posting first draft stuff here because I don’t get an opportunity to do that anywhere else.

I have three imaginary readers. I try to write for them. I made them up so they are probably a bit odd and willing to indulge me in ways that real people, sadly, aren’t. But it's quite a useful thing to do.

How long should a post be?

Exactly the same length as a piece of string. Not a millimetre more, not a millimetre less. This post is about two metres longer than the piece of string.

How often?
Well, I post quite a lot but I’m thinking of only posting three days a week on the same days. It depends on what you like really. I used to read a blog where the guy only posted once a week but I lost interest. Do you see?

If you are a smoker, or have smoked, or done some other habitual things like always sitting in the same seat on the train or something – you’re probably going to be quite good at blogging regularly.

I supposed it’s important to make sure you’re spelling is right and your blog is not full of silly mistakes, yes?
Oh yes. That’s very important. I always always make sure I never ever make any mistakes silly or otherwise ever ever.

How can I get people to read my marvellous blog?
You can sign up for some directories and ping them. Pingoat is good for this and if you go there it will make everything clearer than I ever could. I get people coming from the Tube map over at London Bloggers and Brit Bloggers (but I haven’t managed to get the code up on the new site yet – sorry). Ask the (pin)goat.

Referring to someone else’s blog and providing a link is a good way of getting yourself out there. And writing about other people’s posts. I did these two things doubled the amount of daily visitors, for a brief time.

Word of warning: I think that it’s important to be genuine about these things though. It would be easy to write something about how, over at the very popular Squashed Birds Smell Bad, Dead Crow has written about road kill. But that’s not something I’m interested in at all. I would just be doing that to link up and get noticed by her and her massive audience. That is not only very mercenary but blatantly obvious. It’s not really in the spirit of the thing.

You can also do nothing but post. Some people arrive here because they’ve searched for something odd. I had a visitor who search for something like art hanging clothes line genitalia and I had about four camel toes. And one carrie anne moss camel toe. As though that would ever happen. I imagine that if you posted something (today) which was about how delegates at the Conservative Party Conference in Bournemouth were able to attend fringe meetings where they could engage in anal sex with dwarves holding axes and large bottles of honey mead, then before proposing any new legislation they can visit a Georgian gimp who would teach them about oral hygiene through the medium of dance and booth tanning; then you might get a few hits.

How can I get people to come back and read me again?
Don’t ask me. I had three or four, or some other similar smallish number, leave comments saying they liked what they were reading. But then they don’t seem to come back again. I miss them but there you are. Maybe I went through a patch of boring posts or maybe they are busy. I don’t know. There are a lot of good blogs out there and only so much time to read them in.

I think it’s more important to make sure that your blog makes you happy and that you post what you like, than it is to have people pour praise upon you or have your hits counter go through the roof. There are few places in life you can just say what you want and no one can interrupt you. At least if you live in my house there are. Very very few. Not even the bathroom.

I did go through the obligatory statistic obsessed faze but we’ve got over that now. Haven’t we? Yes we have. Good. Yes. Good indeed.

All right. Calm down. I heard that you’re supposed to comment a lot on other people’s blogs, is this right?
According to all the other advice about blogging comment box whoring is a good way of getting people to visit your site. I think this is nonsense. Comment box whoring was once a good way of getting people to visit your site but now everyone is wise to it and it doesn’t work anymore.

There was, oh only a couple of weeks ago now, a lot of natter about commenting and should you reply as a matter of courtesy to new readers. I even joined in. Rather rashly. I now have a policy of replying to every comment. Unless it’s hilarious and then I delete it in a fit of jealousy and righteous outrage.

I, of course, don’t really have this problem because I hardly even get any comments and by replying to them all I automatically double the number I get. My, how easy it is to get all obsessed with statistics and popularity again.

I note with horror now that on some sites where I have commented (rarely and again, rashly) my details are remembered for next time. So when I read the comments now there’s every chance I might post a comment by accident. Currently, I’m too scared to read any comments at all. It’s a minefield, I tell you. A minefield.

Okay. Next question. It’s all about the linkage, isn’t it? How do I get lots of people to link to me?
Well, that’s how to get people to your site mostly. Although not totally. I think if people link to you that’s great, and a lovely compliment but you can’t make them do it. I can’t believe that some new bloggers have actually pestered others to get them to link to them. I wouldn’t expect anyone on my blogroll to link back to me just because I’ve linked to them. And vice versa. Although I am meaning to link to Popplestone and can’t because I can’t remember my blogroll password at the moment. Blogroll: another handy doobery dah.

Why are you always on that site meter page and why does it make you cry?
Those little bits of javascript that you can pop into your template so you know how many visitors you getting? Are evil. I would advise against getting one because all you’ll do is spend the whole day looking at your summary page whimpering and wondering why no one is visiting. Is there anything more soul destroying that clicking on ‘Who’s On’ and being told that ‘There have been no visitors to your site in the last hour’? Don't do it.

Anyway. I’m over this now. It’s a stage you have to go through. Like turning off your comments box.

There are stages?
Yes. We’ll do an update at 200 posts.

Okay, I’ll check my diary. What about the competition?
There is no competition. Unless you have a clone who has a blog and posts the same things you do. Otherwise how can you possibly compare?

I read somewhere that there are over 35.3 million blogs online. I think this is a lie because this morning Technorati said I was ranked 337,561 in the blogosphere and if there actually were 35.3 million I’d be somewhere around 35.29 million. Before you start, I love Technorati and will hear no ill of them.

Any more handy hints, oh wise beginner?
My best tip is to say to yourself regularly ‘Woo wee, it’s only a blog.’ And also ignore everything in the papers or on the radio about blogging, unless it is an actual proper blogger talking. Don’t look at other people’s site meters. I never have, I can’t imagine why you would want to, but apparently it can be profoundly upsetting.

If you could start your blog again what would you do differently?
I would post for three months, maybe longer, with no site meter and no comments box for a while. I think that would have profoundly improved the quality of my experience. That's all really. Ever onwards. Etc.

No really, how do I get people to read my blog and how can I get people to come back when they do?
I don’t know. Honestly. Luck?

You’ve put me off now.
Oh no [exclamation mark] don’t be put off. Do persevere. In four years you could have lots of readers and loonygroupies, at least I think that’s what they are called. You could be on the radio, in the paper, all sorts given time. I love having my little corner of the Internet and messing about with it, accidentally deleting it all and having to rescue it. It’s great. It’s much less dangerous than windsurfing after all.

Right, I’m going to start a blog and get loads of attention and be in the paper and on the radio within a year.
Or you could audition for Big Brother. It would take less brain power and far less commitment.