Thursday, December 14, 2006

House Husband

I'm at home for the next week or so, looking after Stan. I'm discovering that there's a whole weekday world I never usually experience. Oh, the joy of Tescos at 10.30am - full of pensioners and mentally ill people, all accompanied by grumpy care workers. The pleasures of daytime televison! I've never seen so many programmes about antiques, property and white trash infidelity. Whoever comes up with a series that combines all three is onto a winner, I tell you.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Does Anyone Else Do This? No. 4 in an Occasional Series

Stick with a Favourite Toilet

I realised this morning, whilst engaged in my usual morning constitutional (or ‘comfort break’ as I believe our colonial cousins call it), that I always use the same toilet at work. This suddenly struck me as an odd thing – that one could have preferences over such a mundane and utilitarian thing. It’s not like having a favourite café or bar, or even favouring an armchair in your living room. And all the toilets are basically the same. Therefore some form of psychology has to be at work here.

I notice, for instance, that I never choose a middle toilet cubicle, wherever I work. Is this because it is somehow too prominent? I suppose it’s natural not to want your bodily functions to be too conspicuous. Unless you’re a bit odd, like a girl I used to know in Leamington who had a fetish for weeing in phone boxes while I watched.

Aside from psychological nuances, I suppose that human beings are ruled by habit. Sometimes we like to break routine, but this merely confirms the patterns into which we’re normally locked. Therefore my morning constitutional is always performed after two coffees and the Guardian Concise Crossword is habitually attempted, so that I have a mental grapple as I engage in the physical struggle with last night’s curry.

Actually, thinking more deeply about it, in many ways, the morning constitutional is one of the most serene moments of my day. It’s hardly surprising that I have strong preferences as to the venue.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall - a Fair and Balanced Critique

I notice that Steve, my friend and ‘nearly made it’ Best Man, has written a paean of praise for Gordon Ramsay on his blog. I actually dislike Ramsay’s bullying demeanour intensely, but he doesn’t get my goat half as much as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Christ, the more I see of that man, the more I want to burn his fucking cottage down and put him in concrete boots before throwing him in that fucking river.

Why do I hate Huge Gurning-Shittingstool? I’ll give you 5 good reasons:

  1. It’s all a lie

I have it on good authority that Hulk Cunting-Fuckingpool actually spends most of his time tending to his burgeoning media empire in London, rather than his ‘small holding’. If he was really a drop-out who wanted a simpler life would he be writing books and cookery columns or appearing on Channel 4? No, he’d be happily pulling up turnips in his plot and fucking his goats. Just like any real farmer!

  1. That braying, upper class voice

He sounds like a Dalek who went to Eton. His voiceovers drive me mad, as he honks on like a goose plagued by haemorrhoids. There’s no genuine feeling in any of his monologues. I strongly suspect he’s actually autistic. No, I lie. He’s just a twat.

  1. The way patronises people

Part of Hung Frankly-Wanklyfool’s shtick is the way he apparently fits into his community, palling up to the locals. In fact, his manner is more that of the local lord who likes to think he’s matey with his serfs. The worst example of this was he met some black people to learn about Caribbean cookery. I’d liken his performance to David Attenborough interacting with Mountain Gorillas. I almost expected him to say “oh, so this is what you jolly negroes eat!”

And were there any black people at his ‘caribbean pirate feast’ when he ripped off their recipes? No, of course there weren’t! But at least he got to patronise some local lifeboat crewmembers. The racist cock.

  1. The hippy props

The tepee, the Land Rover, the stupid pebble necklace and, especially, that leather jerkin. All no doubt sourced by a branding agency to connote the appropriate ‘alternative’ earthiness. I feel like stabbing him in his blinking piggy eye just thinking about them. Arrrgghhh!

  1. He gratuitously kills animals in every programme

Now, I know animals have to die so we can eat meat. However, it’s like Hump Fuckly-Cuntyflap is intent on producing farmyard snuff movies. It’s all about context. When a pig died in the Godard film ‘Weekend’, that was art. When Hugh kills a chicken, it’s meant to be educational, but in fact it’s titillating entertainment for Guardian readers.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


I’ve finally found some time to reflect on the wedding. It’s hard not to sound mawkish when discussing it, so – fuck it – I won’t try! My chief thought is how lucky Emily and I are to have such good friends and lovely family.

Being a rather insecure only child, I always regard myself as a loner. This means I appreciate it when friends come through for me more than most. My biggest anxiety about the wedding was that people just wouldn’t turn up. As it was, almost everyone did come and we had a great party (what I remember of the reception is vague after my first bottle of champagne!).

As for family, well, I’m always loved and respected my mum, but I’m also very lucky with my in-laws. Emily’s mum and dad have been wonderful throughout our relationship and especially so throughout the planning of the wedding.

The only thing that went a bit tits-up was that my Best Man, Steve, didn’t make it to the ceremony after getting stuck in a traffic jam. I feel bad for him, as I know he had the journey from hell (as the M11 is sometimes known). As it was, my friend Franco stepped in and made an able substitute!

Anyway, thank you to everyone who came – you really did make my day.

Friday, December 01, 2006

I'm Gettin' Married in the Mornin'!

This is my last day as an unmarried man, as I’ll be hitched to Emily tomorrow. It’s poignant (for me at least!) that this blog started as a record of a divorce and is now recording a marriage.

I’ve been doing all the last minute things – checking my suit still fits (yes, thank the heavens), writing my speech and sending out further directions to guests. It all feels very calm and sensible, but I know that serenity won’t last long tomorrow!

No doubt I’ll report back in after the wedding, but until then I’m signing off. Have a good weekend!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Sprains and Climate Change

It’s been a frenetic week at work, so I haven’t had time to give an update on the wedding wrist scenario. Well, it isn’t a fracture and the cast is off, so I’m enormously relieved (and Emily’s happy I can get my right arm into my suit!)

I went to Whipps Cross Hospital on Tuesday and, after hours of waiting and different x-rays, the final diagnosis was a sprained ligament and the cast came off. Thank Christ for that.

On an entirely different subject: climate change. Why isn’t there a big hullabaloo about the fact it’s almost DECEMBER and the LEAVES ARE STILL ON THE TREES. I notice the weeds are still happily flowering in my garden too. It’s all very, very wrong…

My garden yesterday

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Broken My Bloody wrist!

I've had a typically idiotic accident, nearly falling down some stairs, and broken my right wrist. Oh, the joys of Whipps Cross hospital casualty dept. and the itchiness of a forearm in plaster. Unfortunately this means a) my arm will still be in plaster when I married next Saturday (I'll have put my arm behind emily in all the photos!) and b) I can only type with my left hand! Therefore entries will be short and snappy on this blog for a while!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Does Anyone Else Do This? No. 3 in an Occasional Series

Find displacement activities more boring than working but still do them anyway

It isn’t until you’re bored at work that you realise just how dreary the Internet is. At least, that is, if you’re a PC slave like me. It’s amazing – a whole world of people, endless novelty, so much…er…stuff and yet it all quickly becomes tiresome. After all, there’s only so many times you can check your Hotmail, browse the BBC news site for stories about sharks giving birth to robots or check the latest price of the things you’re selling on eBay. The elasticity of time perception is stretched to its limit, dragging like an iron ball on a prisoner’s fetters, as you read yet another review of the Nintendo Wii.

And, interestingly, when you’re flat-out working, time passes really quickly. Your brain becomes stimulated by solving problems, getting a proper work-out. I write and find that hours have flashed by.

Yet, despite knowing this, there’s always the period before I get down to business, where I’ll put it off for as long as possible, desperate to find a worthwhile distraction. There never is one – but this won’t stop me looking…

Thursday, November 23, 2006

I'm in an abusive relationship with Steve Jobs

Call me a sucker, but after my 4g iPod died (and thank you to everyone for their condolences), I’m going back for more. I ordered a 30gb 5g iPod from Amazon yesterday (£20 cheaper than the Apple shop) and it should arrive today. So, considering the disappointing lifespan of my last iPod, why am I buying another? Am I mental?

Is it the power of brand loyalty? In the case of Apple, it often feels like being hopelessly in love with an abusive partner. No matter what they do to you, you try to see their good side, make excuses for them ("Steve didn't mean to rip me off, it was that Jonathan Ive and his bleedin' form factors") and always go back in the end. But are there rational reasons for buying another iPod?

There are 4 reasons actually…

  1. Seamless synchronisation – no fiddling about with files. Maybe I’m lazy, but I like the fact that everything just…works.
  2. The closest rivals to iPod are Zen and Sony –their products in this bracket are more expensive and have less memory.
  3. Call me eccentric, but I actually prefer to buy music. iTunes is a great place to do so – and, again, it’s integrated with iPod
  4. The ipod just looks so bloody good

Mind you, if the next iPod dies after less than 2 years, I’m definitely saying goodbye to my one-sided relationship with Apple.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Hey, my obituary to my iPod has appeared on the US Wired site - glad someone takes my grief seriously...

Death of an iPod

Death came suddenly for my 4th gen 60GB iPod, who died today, aged just under 2 years old. It could be said that it died young, but given the early mortality rates of these MP3 players, it had a comparatively long life of giving musical pleasure.

This rather portly but capacious character was born in China, before emigrating to the Apple Store on London’s glitzy Regent Street. Soon after having arrived in the West End, it went down in the world by moving to Leytonstone with me.

Having come to East London, my iPod was forced into an arranged marriage with a now sadly obsolete 12” PowerBook. This marriage was a happy one – as the couple were highly compatible – and lasted up until my iPod’s demise. They had a love of music and photography in common, hooking up frequently to share the latest tunes and pictures.

My iPod was widely travelled, having toured the Far East, North Africa and many parts of Europe. Its favourite journey was between E11 and EC1, a commute we enjoyed together many a time.

There were few intimations of my iPod’s mortality until the last week or so, when frequent resets became the norm. This morning it passed on in the streets of Leytonstone, with one last simple poignant message for the world: a hardware failure icon.

It leaves behind one rather pissed off and bitter former Apple loyalist and aforementioned PowerBook.

iPod 60gb, MP3 player; born early 2005; died 22 November 2006

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

My Tribute to David Shrigley

I like David Shrigley, although his handwriting is disturbingly similar to my own, so I drew this in 'the style of'.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Witty Wordplay on the Streets of Walthamstow

On the way to work in the rain this morning, walking to Walthamstow Central, I was kindly informed by a young man that he was going to ‘fuck me up proper’. This is the kind of sophisticated discourse one is used to hearing on the streets of London, and it is always a pleasure to engage in a little spirited badinage as one perambulates around town.

It was partly my own fault. I was walking past a bus stop and there was a crowd of people waiting, so there was only a narrow path behind them. I could see a fifteen year old lad walking towards me, shaping up for a shoulder-charge if I didn’t get out of his way. I, for my part, wasn’t in the mood to do that and so our shoulders met and he was bumped rather than me.

I really don’t understand this aggression from lads around my way. It’s like they’ve always got to prove their machismo, even in the pettiest situation. However, I suppose I was doing the same thing.

Anyway, this lad turns and shouts at me in a fury. I guess he sees a nice safe middle class wanker over whom he can assert himself. As usual, as much as I’d like to say I came out best from the incident, I don’t think I did. I ended up shouting back, telling him that if he had a knife, he’d better get it out now, because otherwise I’d kick his fucking head in.

Of course, this is the point where everyone at the bus-stop turns and stares. Now I’m making prejudiced assumptions about youth and probably race as well. Suddenly I’m the bastard. And also a coward, because as he stands there continuing to shout at me, I scuttle off. I’m walking quickly away, feeling like an arsehole and looking behind me frequently in case he does have a knife and stabs me in the back.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Noel Edmunds is Mad (and so is Bill Gates)

It’s a wet, windy morning here in the Big Smoke. The sort of day where you’d prefer to hide under the duvet than face the commute to work (yeah, admittedly every day starts like that for most of us). Especially as I’ve now been told by a rheumatologist that working at a PC all day “is just very bad for you on all sorts of levels”.

I saw the consultant yesterday because I routinely get neck and shoulder problems. The problem is, according to this geezer, postural – just sitting in the wrong position at the PC, probably due to a bad ‘workstation configuration’. But even so, apparently working at a PC is bad in itself. You could extrapolate further and say that employment is bad for you. At least, employment in an industrial society. Admittedly neck ache isn’t quite as extreme as being crushed in a cotton loom or a miner’s emphysema, but it does reinforce for me that working is crap.

This leads me to thinking about people like Noel Edmonds and Bill Gates. People fulfilled only by work. Positive, driven people whose demented search for validation makes them the most successful individuals in our sick society. People whose lives are empty outside the boardroom or the television studio. Bill Gates, according to his biographers, worked 18 hour days and slept under his desk for most of the 80s. It’s just not healthy is it?

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Semiotics of eBay Photography

I was flicking through Roland Barthes’ ‘Mythologies’ over the weekend, in which advertising and popular culture are analysed semiotically. Afterwards I browsed for stuff I really don’t need on eBay. This led me to wondering what the philosopher would have made of Internet culture if he hadn’t been run over by a laundry van in 1980.

One particular online phenomenon with its own semiotic nuances is item photography on eBay. I imagine that this would interest Barthes, not only because there are subtle visual codes at work, but also because the codes change over time. There’s collective code creation going on, with customer demand affecting the way things are shown.

What the hell am I talking about? For one thing I think that photography that looks professional is now a sign that the item lacks authenticity. When I first started selling on eBay, I’d try hard to make the photos look at professional as possible. I would put together a white background and arrange the composition artfully. Now I sling the items on the carpet and take snapshots.

Why? Because the codes have evolved.

The rug that the items sit on, or the door on which a suit hangs, are now signs that the seller and the items are genuine. The everyday backdrop now signifies authenticity. The genuine bargain, the unearthed gem, the ethos that is at heart of the eBay user experience.

Amateurish photography equals authenticity

Professional-looking photography actually makes the item look like a fake or creates an anxiety that the seller isn’t in possession of the item. This is particularly true of listings for electronic goods from Hong Kong and China, where the manufacturer’s product shots are used.

If you look at clothes, the reason that authenticity is at such a premium is that eBay is more thoroughly awash with fakes than a street market in Istanbul. If you look through menswear you’ll see a million Paul Smith jeans or D&G tracksuit tops advertised as ‘BNWT’ (Brand New with Tags). The photographic code changes from product to product, with jeans shot from above on the floor, for instance. What will always be the same is the prominently displayed product tag acting as a sign of authenticity. The irony is that the photograph of a tag is now a sign that it is almost certainly a fake.

The display of the 'genuine' tag now equals a fake

The interesting thing is that the label, that other potent brand signifier, is still a sign of genuineness in second-hand clothes photos. Most listings for second-hand designer clothes include a close-up of the label. So the tag means that the item is too good to be true, but the label still means authenticity. It’s all about context; the way meanings slide.

Why do photographic codes get established and change? I suppose the simple answer is that people copy each other. eBay is a marketplace like any other – and ways of selling evolve around what gets the highest price.

So where does this leave us? Well, in the 1950s when Barthes began writing the articles that were collected in ‘Mythologies’, mass media was produced by corporations and government, pushing their own agendas. Now eBay puts the creation of advertising in our hands – and it turns out that we’re just as manipulative and mendacious as the big boys.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Does Anyone Else Do This? No. 2 in an Occasional Series

Go on about how rude people are in London while getting irate with tourists for dawdling

I was in a hurry to get to work today, but as I emerged from Chancery Lane tube station I found my path blocked by a group of about 10 German tourists. All wearing the traditional costume of the European tourist in London – the luridly-hued waterproof rambler anorak - they had decided to stop in the middle of the stairwell to consult a guide book.

I must admit that, when I worked in Piccadilly, one of my biggest bugbears was the way tourists strolled around slowly, getting in the way, gawping at everything, cluttering up the pavement with their aimless meanderings and Kipling backpacks.

I thought I was free of this in Farringdon, but obviously these Germans were lost.

So did I help them, demonstrating English politeness and tolerance? No, I pushed past them, muttering darkly.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Drawing from a long meeting yesterday...

Click to make it bigger

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Scootering No More

The time has come to sell my trusty old Vespa ET4. I’ve stuck it on eBay (see the ad here) and it will belong to someone else by next Saturday. No more road-rage incidents, bus lane fines or trying to find a rare parking space in central London.

Why am I selling? Primarily because we’ll soon be living in Welwyn Garden City, so I won’t need it. Partly because my insurance premium is going up to £300 a year, which is probably half the value of the bloody bike. And, finally, because I’m tired of being fearful that someone’s going to nick it.

Arrivederci, plucky ET4 - it really is the end of an era!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Does Anyone Else Do This? No. 1 in an Occasional Series

Having a race with someone in your head

I left the house at the same time as our next-door neighbour, a rotund Spanish bloke named Paolo, this morning. We always say ‘hello’ a bit awkwardly and then leave it at that. So imagine my horror when I realised that he was walking to the station at the same time as me. I had visions of either having to engage him in uncomfortable conversation or walking with him in nervous silence.

Thankfully he headed off in a different route to my usual, so we could legitimately part ways without any social ill-grace. I then decided to see whose route was quicker – was mine better? I didn’t cheat and run it or anything – I’m not that competitive – I just walked briskly. This desire to get there before my neighbour was balanced by a desire not to bump into him again at the station and have to make conversation again.

After striding up to the tube, I found he was already in the queue for a ticket. I had to concede his route was quicker – especially as I could hardly believe such a fat fella could walk faster than me. Bastard! However, I’d already bought my Oyster travel card the night before, therefore didn't need to queue. So, as Alan Partridge wrote repeatedly in his autobiography 'Bouncing Back': needless to say, I had the last laugh!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Hungover, Bruised, Abashed.

I’m really not used to drinking these days, so I got hammered far too quickly when I went for beers last night. This eventually led to the embarrassment of nearly fainting in a Clerkenwell bar – and a severely bruised gluteus maximus this morning.

Picture this Nathan Barley-esque scene: three embittered hack copywriters from three different agencies, all approaching their 40s, in the Eagle on Farringdon Road, drinking Staropramen and Kirin. After discussing women, family and art directors over a few pints, I receive a call from a Strategy Director friend of mine, who’s in a nearby bar with her boyfriend, who’s big in online media.

Yes, my life is a cliché.

So, anyway, we go to this bar and drink more beer. I’m wearing new Jeffery West boots with leather soles. The loos are down some wet stone steps (maybe someone didn’t make it to the urinal in time?). I’m a little unsteady on my feet anyway. You can guess what happens next…

I fall down the fucking stairs – my arse and elbow (no, I couldn’t tell them apart at the time) taking the brunt of the tumble. The pain – Christ – it hurt! I curse and pick myself up, go to the toilet and, as I’m unloading waste beer fluid, I start to feel rather queer (as they used to say in more innocent times).

As I zipped myself up and went back up the stairs, everything went like a cheap video effect from Top of the Pops circa 1978. It was the closest I’ve come to a psychedelic experience without drugs. I’m told I went ghostly pale and I remember leaning against a pillar, desperately trying to keep my wits. Luckily, my strategist friend knew what to do – and made me put my head between my legs – otherwise I’d have passed out completely.

This is after 5 pints. Humiliating.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Loose Lips Sink Ships

I realise that I don’t often talk about the people that I work with or go into specifics about my agency. I suppose this demonstrates some kind of discretion on my part, but it does make me wish I’d made this blog anonymous. I’d love to have the freedom to gossip.

I’ve always found copywriters to be the biggest gossips in the agency world. Every time I meet a freelancer to look over their portfolio, we end up discussing this person or that agency like two old women nattering in the queue at the Post Office.

This is partly because copywriters are (or should be!) natural storytellers – and gossip is undoubtedly a very seductive form of narrative. However, I also think we tend to be bitchier and grumpier than other creatives.

Apart from me, of course…

Friday, October 20, 2006

Jimmy Dean Pancakes and Sausage on a Stick

I was reading an article about revolting novelty foods in the Guardian today. As a result I’ve grown morbidly fascinated by Jimmy Dean Pancakes and Sausage on a Stick – Chocolate Chip flavour.

Just typing out the name of the product makes me realise that this foodstuff is wrong on so many levels. Let me itemise the wrongness:

1. The brand name: dead film star with pubic lice, wrapped around his steering wheel. Is the meat in the sausage actually Jimmy’s flesh scraped off his Porsche Spider, like some form of Method Actor biltong?
2. Pancakes and Sausage on a fucking stick: like a kind of meaty lollypop. A dog’s cock in a fluffy batter sheath.
3. Chocolate Chip flavour: Just as you’re getting past the prospect of microwaving Jimmy Dean’s road scrapings in batter, this new detail blindsides you. I know the Americans have a thing for mixing savoury and sweet things, but this is surely deranged?

What human being would eat such a thing? I must try it – just to satisfy my own perverse curiosity…

Jamelia's Dirty Bone

The blog’s been quiet this week as I’ve been manically busy on a job for a new client. It’s meant a lot of drawing, which is always a pleasure. When your main mode of work is typing stuff in Microsoft Word, messing about with a marker pen and paper is a joy.

As I draw, I’m listening to ‘Beware of the Dog’ by Jamelia. I’m not usually big on R&B, but it’s got a great sample of ‘Personal Jesus’ by Depeche Mode. Apparently the dog in this case is ‘dirty to the bone’ and best avoided by discerning ladies. I assume that Jamelia is referring to a cad of the human variety, as opposed to bestial acts with a spaniel after he's dug up the flower beds.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Wrong Side of the Leamingtonian Tracks

I had a night in on my own last night. Em and Stan had gone up to see her mum and dad for the evening. Although I missed them both, I have to say that I revelled in the peace and freedom. I even gained immense satisfaction from ironing shirts as I listened to music.

The Young Knives
I’m listening to the Young Knives a lot at the moment. They’re an interesting band, with a kind of choppy, new wave slant to their music and mordent wit in their lyrics. That a really good band could come out of Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire is, frankly, astonishing.

The ‘Leamington Scene’
Though not as astonishing, admittedly, as the fact that I saw an article in the NME about a thriving ‘Leamington scene’. Now that really is bizarre. I know the NME tends to hype up excitement around ‘the next big thing’ in music without much substance, but the idea of Royal Leamington Spa as some kind of new Madchester makes me feel like I’ve stumbled into an alternative reality where the normal rules don’t apply.

Musical Memory Lane
When I was a teenager in ‘Leamo’ I remember there were only two bands of any note in the town – Bad Beach and Mortis. Bad Beach was a kind of thrash metal outfit and the short-lived Mortis were Goths. Each Mortis gig would start with the lead singer screaming ‘WE ARE MORTIS! YOU WILL DIE!” at the audience. In fact, Mortis may well have been ahead of their time, as the Horrors and Marilyn Manson have a lot of their moves.

Both bands used to play in venues down the bottom end of town (past the railway bridge, where all the poor and black people were hidden away). The favourite place to see live bands was the Bath Place community centre, which was full of crusties and ‘alternatives’.

The Neat End Paragraph
Ahh, them were the days – when sniffing marker pens was the only high readily available and sunglasses weren’t security tagged, making shoplifting a doddle. I can’t imagine that the 17 year old me could picture a point in twenty years time where he’d be listening to an album on a tiny white box holding his entire record collection, bopping around like a lunatic as he ironed fifteen shirts.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Welwyn Garden City: Nice!

OK, we've completely changed our plans and have decided to withdraw the offer on the house on Walthamstow and move to Welwyn Garden City. Although it is true that Welwyn Garden City is possibly the least cool place on Planet Earth (apart from Crawley), we went there on Saturday and fell in love with the place. After years of living in London, it's safe, green middle class heaven. By god, it has a Waitrose and a John Lewis! It has nice streets lined with apple trees! The feral teenagers aren't armed! It' nice! I genuinely feel like singing the praises of Welwyn Garden City from on high.

We've had an offer accepted on a house (it's a nice house!) there.

Yes, I'm now officially middle-aged and middle-England. I'll be going on holiday at Centre Parcs next...

The only thing I'm dreading is ringing the Walthamstow estate agent to tell him we're pulling out. I'll keep you posted...

Friday, October 13, 2006

East London Estate Agent Babylon

After my self-piteous rant about the property market in London, we found a nice house in Walthamstow that we can afford and had our offer accepted. Which is great, apart from the fact that this has pulled us into the orbit of the pushiest estate agent I’ve ever met (you can imagine that he’s pretty bad then). The estate agents in East London are especially appalling currently because of the Olympic effect. You can see the greed has gone into overdrive.

Since we had the offer accepted, this particular estate agent has been on the phone four times a day pushing me to engage a solicitor, which I don’t want to do until after we’ve had the house surveyed. He obviously wants to tie up his sale, but his tone borders on bullying. I’m almost at the point of telling him to stick his property up his shiny-suited arse.

Pointing out that London estate agents are venal wankers is hardly a startlingly original observation, but I do wonder whether these people are bred like it or indoctrinated. This guy turned up in his company Vauxhall Corsa with a ridiculous hairstyle slick with gel, driving along as he shouted into his mobile. He never listened to a word I said as he showed us around the house, apart from pausing in order to appear to listen, then making it clear from his next bit of patter that he hadn’t taken in a word I said. You could see his brain whirring, desperate to close the deal, figuring out his percentage.

Still, this is progress. Of course, now we’ll find out that the street we’ll be moving to is full of crack fortresses, but until then we’ll enjoy having found a potential home.

The house we found

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Tigger's Fury

Tigger takes offence at Pooh's pathological honey greed.

Leytonstone at Night

E11, it's so mysterious and beautiful...

Monday, October 09, 2006

Property Prices and X-men

I had insomnia last night after getting so worried by property prices that my head was reeling. Emily and I are finally able to buy a home for the family and once I started looking for somewhere we could afford, I became utterly obsessed. It’s like a psychosis that sucked me in and filled my brain with postcodes, stamp duty, house prices and overwhelming despair as I realised we are priced out of the whole of London.

I then compounded the angst by watching two superhero DVDs in a row until 4am. The first of this Marvel double bill was X-men 3, which included some unforgivably clunky script clichés. When Magneto gazes in horror at Jean Gray/Phoenix wreaking destruction and utters a horrified “What have I done?!” you know that it’s script-writing on autopilot (especially as he was happy for her to wreak destruction a few minutes earlier (not that any internal logic to the plot appeared to be important)).

Please believe me when I tell you that X-men 3 is utter, utter shit.

But it isn’t nearly as bad as Daredevil, with Ben Affleck as New York’s blind avenger. It cost £3.25 from Tesco and even that wasn’t good value for money. If I hadn’t been pinned to the recliner by exhaustion, I think I would have blinded myself to avoid seeing any more of this cinematic turd-dribble, possibly by stabbing my eyes out with my own thumbs.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Holding Hands

Emily and I went out for dinner last night, with our friend Gill very kindly babysitting Stan. It was the first time we’d been out alone together since Stan was born. As we walked to the restaurant, Emily pointed out that it was also the first time we’d walked holding hands since the birth, as one of us is usually pushing the pram. After that, I was very conscious of the soft warmth of her hand in mine.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Egos and Insecurities

I feel a little embarrassed by my fit of insecurity yesterday. I suppose I should really have more front, like Creative Directors seem to. It often strikes me that most of the creatives I’ve met (I’m including everyone from the humble designer to ‘proper’ artists) are continually caught between extreme insecurity and raging egotism (not necessarily fuelled by the old Cameron Candy).

This seems to be especially true of men, who always vie to be the alpha male, with the ‘best’ idea or the most profound observation. They communicate in order to dominate. Women, in my experience, tend to communicate in order to cooperate, which is more productive. It’s unsurprising that in a creative world ruled by aggressive, insecure, emotionally underdeveloped men, women are somewhat under-represented.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Tits Up Time?

After a weekend of tropical storms in dear old London, I made my way to work in sunshine this morning, listening to Bonnie “Prince” Billy, fretting about my job. Having had a poor upbringing, in which my mum’s luck seemed to be permanently crap, I always start to worry when things are going well. A nagging fear creeps up on me – an anxiety that I’m going to lose my job and fall through the financial cracks into poverty. So, as I’m getting married, may finally be freed from my mortgage with Lucy (and therefore be able to buy a home) and appear to be making a success of my job, I’m waiting for everything to go tits up.

My current paranoia revolves around the fact that I’m going through a quiet patch at work. Only about 50% of my time is billable at the moment and in the agency world that’s enough to make one extremely insecure. After having felt rather pleased with myself for building up the copywriting practice at my agency, I’m now worried that not enough work is coming in.

This is my version of the immutable law of creative life: it’s either too busy or too quiet. The busy end of the spectrum leads to stress, hair loss and comfort eating. The quiet end leads to paranoia, insecurity and comfort eating.

And, in my experience, there is never a happy medium.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Battery Joy

I'm typing as my children watch the Fantasic Four on DVD, ruminating on my lack of traditional male skills. If I hadn't already realised that I'm useless media fop, I'd have caught on after a few hours working on my scooter. For instance, I had to ring a friend to confirm what colour connections I needed to attach to the positive and negative thingies on my battery. How crap is that?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The ad:tech Jester Experience

I’ve just come back from the ad:tech trade show. This Internet sell-fest is an alluring combination of boorish young men in Ted Baker shirts, hired ‘hospitality’ girls in leotards and cheap promotional gewgaws (“oh, they’ve given me a juggling ball with their logo on it, I must give them a £ multi-million contract!”) in the shabby scuffed bowels of Olympia.

It’s possible that the exhibitors may offer something of value to someone in this benighted world, but as a copywriter I was horrified by the debased techno-jargon that streamed forth like a turd tsunami raging through the already despoiled Cheddar Gorge of my head. I waded through ‘end-to-end solutions’ that were, of course, ‘scalable’, ‘flexible’ and indeed offered ‘significant ROI' per 'click-to-conversion'. I briefly came up for air, only to find myself confronted by a man dressed as a jester promoting an online casino.

I left after an hour or so, making my way past the online marketers outside the main entrance, their delegate passes fluttering in the wind as they indulged in a sneaky fag. If the Internet is the wild west of capitalism, ad:tech is the Deadwood, with Ian McShane playing a dead-eyed clown.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Scooter Rant

My impotent urban rage is reaching dizzying heights this week. My scooter has been kicked over in the middle of the night, scratching the paintwork. It was also knocked over by a pissed South African driver recently (I know he was South African from the cheery accented “Shit!” yelled as he hit it and drove off). My scooter, battered to shit by idiots, now looks like it’s been test-ridden by Richard Hammond on crystal meth. All because some twats have no respect for other people’s fucking property.

I’m currently considering buying an anti-personnel mine from eBay (I haven’t looked, but I’m sure they’re on there) and rigging it so it explodes when my scooter isn’t vertical. Of course, judging from previous frequent experience of trying to ride off with chains still on back wheels, I’d forget it was there and blow my own senile arse up.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Dwarf Fear

Writing about Frankie yesterday reminded me of the abiding fears that parents have for their children. I haven’t conjured up any fears over Stan yet, but I’m already getting anxious about Mila and boys. Having now bought two swords from eBay, I’m sure that I’ll greet any boyfriends by sharpening my sidearm on a whetstone and threatening them with it when she’s out of the room.

My biggest fear for Frankie used to be that he’d turn out to be a dwarf (or midget, but I’m not getting into that debate here). He went through a number of years of being somewhat under-sized for his age – fitting t-shirts for 3 year olds when he was 5 and the like. He’s shot up a bit recently, which has eased my worries. However, I’ve recently started thinking – well, would it be so bad if he turned out to be a dwarf?

Let’s face it – he’d always have a career in show-biz to look forward to. I’ve never seen a dwarf at a Job Centre and I’m convinced that’s because they’re all still living off the money they made being Ewoks in the Return of the Jedi or down Shepperton Studios being made up as gnomes for the latest Harry Potter epic.

I’m pretty sure that, with his winning personality, Frankie could even be up there amongst the dwarf megastars like Wee Man from Jackass.

Ahh, a father can dream…

Wee man on the pull

Monday, September 25, 2006

Jungle Japes

My son Frankie and I had a great day together yesterday. We walked far and wide across London under Indian summer skies, taking in everything from Pokémon in Forbidden Planet to mummies at the British Museum.

We started out with lunch at the Rainforest Café, a huge tourist trap located in Piccadilly. I don’t know what made me suggest it, as it’s the kind of global franchise I generally loathe, but Frankie seemed enchanted by the fibre glass jungle setting, fake waterfalls and tank full of tropical fish we sat by. The service was also good, if a bit mechanically good-natured. The waitress made a special fuss of Frankie because it was his birthday. This included standing him on his chair and insisting that everyone around us sang happy birthday to him.

The food, however, was extremely average – my steak was utterly tasteless and Frankie’s meatballs could have come out of a tin. We also discovered the downside of being sat by the fish tank – dozens of kids and parents trooping around us to look at the aquatic wonders within. I had to have words with one four year old lad who tried to use my chair as a climbing frame to get a better view. He was German, so couldn’t understand a word I said, but my tone made him cry, which was a satisfactory outcome.

All in all, the Rainforest Café is the kind of soulless experience that you try to make the best of because you think your kids won’t see the cracks in the fibreglass trees and the regimentation behind the friendliness of the staff. For me, it evokes a world where the real rainforests have been destroyed and the fake jungles of franchise restaurants are the only distorted historical record.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Sunflowers and Spiders

I was feeling a bit sorry for myself after a day of feeling rank, so this evening I went for a little saunter around the garden to take some photos. Most of it's a bloody mess, but I'm really proud of my sunflowers. I planted the seeds with Mila and Frankie in May and now they're bloody gigantic (the sunflowers, not my kids).

There are also loads of spiders in the garden. Apparently there's a spider epidemic due to the hot, wet weather. They're certainly everywhere I look in Leytonstone.

Man's flu and Children's Parties

I’m at home today with what I call the flu and Emily calls ‘man’s flu’ (i.e. a heavy cold). I think I caught it from Frankie, who was complaining of a sore throat on Saturday and is known for his plague-spreading abilities. One Christmas, as a baby, he passed on a stomach infection so severe that the whole of Lucy’s family came down with it. Lucy’s dad was convinced he’d given everyone food poisoning with the salmon he’d cooked. But, no, it was ‘Typhoid Frankie’.

It’s Frankie’s sixth birthday this week and I’m feeling melancholic over the fact I won’t be with him on the day. Lucy has organised a party for him at his school and made it pretty clear that it would be awkward if I came along.

I admit that I’m secretly relieved, as I detest children’s parties. This is, I’m fairly sure, a man thing. We kind of stand around on the periphery of the chaos, grinning and bearing it as the mummy network marginalise us and other people’s kids try to punch us in the knackers or smear chocolate on our trousers. This is bad enough, but it gets much worse when you’re a divorced dad. Rather than being ignored, you are the villain who gets glared at by the mummies.

At the same time, I know that Frankie was keen to have me there and I think he’s vaguely anxious about being pushed out of my affections by Stan. He’s certainly been a bit out of sorts on the last few weekends we’ve spent together. Frankie doesn’t like to articulate his feelings, so it’s hard to get to the bottom of things with him.

The solution I’ve negotiated is that Franks and I have a ‘boy’s day’ together next weekend. I’ll take him out to lunch and then we’ll go to Forbidden Planet to get him more Pokémon cards.

Assuming we’ve both got over ‘man’s flu’ of course…

Monday, September 11, 2006

Wedding Date Set

The big news in the Fitz-Allport household is that Emily and I have set a wedding date – we’re getting hitched on 2 December. We’ve planning to do the do all year, but impetus suddenly built up after we registered Stan’s birth and found that Walthamstow actually has a really nice registry office.

Now all we have to do is organise everything. This will, no doubt, be a fucking headache. If one reads wedding magazines, this involves everything from sourcing bespoke bone china napkin rings to having seasonal flowers flown in from the rain forests of Borneo.

It’s more likely that we’ll spend all our money on booze and have a party at the house…

Bunk bed built!

Last week my friend Franco very kindly took me to IKEA to buy a bunk bed for Mila and Frankie. Oh, what fun I had building the fucking thing on Saturday! I understand why IKEA supplies purely visual instructions to multiple countries with different languages. However, when the diagrams appear to have been drawn on an Etch A Sketch by someone with advanced Parkinson’s Disease, this hardly makes life easy.

Of course, after spending three hours sorting through the random bits of wood and erecting the noble sleeping edifice, I found a bit of paper at the bottom of the box telling me to use one type of plastic nail and not another. Naturally I’d used the wrong type of nail already.



By the way…

I’ve decided to discontinue the Fitzness blog, as it makes pretty boring reading for anyone but me. Do you really care that I went to the gym 5 times since the last entry and am now lifting 47 kg on the bench press?

Thought not.

That being said, I’m pretty chuffed at how quickly I’ve felt revitalised by a bit of exercise. Obviously that long weekly walk to the Forbidden Planet and back with my friend MJH wasn’t enough to keep me fit!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Most Incomprehensible Client Brief EVER

Client briefs are often not easy to follow, but I’ve had possibly the most incomprehensible client brief EVER land in my inbox and I must share it. It’s from a Korean client, so it’s pure Engrish. I’ve removed brand names etc to preserve his anonymity!

Here’s the brief in full:

Project overview

1) Invitation to the XXXX exhibition at Salon international

Target: Female consumer age 24-44 whom would spend 100 pound p/y for skin care product.

Format: A5

Project deadline: 8 September

Project objective: Sing copy line on front, short description on back.

We need a copy line which representing product benefit with female manner. The word should be simple but intentional and attractive.

Here are examples of copy that I have discovered while having a brain storming with designers.


“Make up doesn’t improve your skin but XXXX does”

“Even better than a bottle of water”

“You don’t need worry about limescale on hair”

“Wash your hair which you actually can drink”

“No point using hair conditioner if your hair ware already damaged by water”



Find out ultimate skin care product XXXX at

Salon International 2006

ExCel London

Time: 9:00 -17:00

Date: Saturday 14 – Monday 16 October 2006

2) XXXX product AD

Target: Female consumers age 24-44 whom would spend 100 pound p/y for skin care product.

Format: A4

Project deadline: 8 September

Project objective: Sing copy line and short description on front.

This AD campaign will be place on HJ (Hairdressers Journal Salon) magazine.


Rescue you skin/hair

Picture: Skin looks very dry as if it is look like dried grass. Firefighter try to rescue you dried skin.


Picture: water vain on human skin.

As blood supplies minerals and oxygen to our body cell, filtered water gives energy and good minerals to our skin.

This will give the idea that filtered water is essential thing for your skin.


How much do you spend or take care of your body?

Picture: a Person and arrows points part of body

e.g.: mouth: Organic food £00.00
Clothes: Eco Friendly £00.00
Skin: XXXX £ 42.95

However I would inform you once we have been generated more ideas for XXXX product AD.

Best regards,


Monday, September 04, 2006

Hitler Plays Aragorn

I’m about half way through Norman Spinrad’s The Iron Dream. As previously discussed in this blog, it is a novel within a novel, imagining a sci-fi story (named ‘Lord of the Swastika’) written by Hitler (in an alternative timeline where he becomes a hack writer in the US).

The novel works brilliantly as an exercise in sending up Hitler’s obsessive, repetitive nature (the same histrionic phrases like ‘smashed it to flinders’ are repeated endlessly in the text), the allure and warped morality of fascism (the fictional hero Feric, with a fetish for black leather and phallic metal truncheons, rises to power like the real-world Hitler, but is a tall, strapping Aryan Übermensch) and the conventions of sci-fi and fantasy novels (lone hero, destined to become king, subhuman hordes of enemies).

However, as a novel it becomes increasingly hard to endure. The stylistic satire – repetition and ridiculously over the top prose – becomes unbearable. Perhaps this is a bit like spending an evening with Hitler, who was prone to rant on about the same things over and over as his cronies sucked up to him.

As I love bizarre things like this, so I probably will persist with it. However, I’m guessing it wasn’t end with a debilitated, deranged Feric trapped in a bunker as the ‘hordes of Zim’ advance through his ruined nation…

The Demon Scriptwriter

We’ve had my mum down to visit this weekend. There are two things that are guaranteed to happen whenever she comes down from Leamington Spa:

  1. We’ll have a heated debate about politics where we end up shouting and Emily sits there quietly, trying to stay out of it
  2. My mum will lament how little she sees her grandchildren and I’ll nag her to move back to London so she can see them whenever she likes. This will infuriate her and an awkward, polite phase will follow
Both of these things happened, as expected. It’s strange how one ends up in the same old scenarios with relatives, time and again. It’s like they’re scripted by some demonic hack who likes conflict and repetition. All you can do is repeat the lines you’re given on the mental autocue.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Night Fears

Well, the first episode of the Sopranos has, frankly, fucked with my head. I’m thinking of the sequence where Eugene Pontecorvo, doomed by Tony’s diktats, looks at photos of his son in happier times and then hangs himself. This put me in a very dark place. It wasn’t simply the way the camera lingered as he jerked around on the noose; it was the man’s despair at his boy’s loss of innocence and heroin addiction. As father of two sons, that taps into a deep fear for me – the prospect of being alienated by your own children as they drift into hopelessness.

This didn’t particularly hit me until I was disturbed at 4am by a fly crawling on my hand. Ironically, it was the dying, drowsy fly that I thought I had killed before I went to sleep. When I had swatted it from the wall with a magazine it must have fallen onto the bed. Still half-asleep I brushed it from my hand.

Then I dreamt that Amazon actually worked by employing flies with their wings pulled off to sort information in a shoebox.

I think I heard the buzzing of the fly and awoke to find it crawling on my duvet. I flicked it onto the floor and tried to crush it with a book. Although horribly injured, the bloody thing just wouldn’t die. It just kept righting itself and crawling feebly. This obviously put me in mind of Eugene hanging in his garage, the life taking forever to rattle from him. Then my thoughts turned to his son and my sons, night fears seizing me.

I suppose good drama provokes an emotional reaction. Or was it the parmesan I had on my pasta?

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Bada Bing! The Sopranos is back!

The Sopranos returns to British television tonight (as announced in a very funny E4 advert). Emily and I have been desperate to see season six since running through the entire series from season one on DVD.

Some of my friends have already downloaded the entire series in pirate fashion from the web. Being a reformed delinquent shoplifter, I can hardly morally disapprove, but I’m quite glad I didn’t do the same thing. It’s a pleasure to have an event to look forward to, even if it is just a telly programme.

So to mark this momentous TV landmark with all due respect, we’re having some friends over for a Sopranos themed evening. It’s gonna be cold cuts, cannoli and cold Prosecco all the way. But no eggs – we know what happens in the Sopranos when someone cooks eggs.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Consumerism: Good or Evil?

After a weekend devoted to shopping, I’ve been pondering whether consumerism is a good or bad thing. My instinct is that it’s a bad thing. But is this justified? Should I stop worrying and learn to love consumerism?

What do other middle class people think?
The general consensus among the Guardian-reading classes is that it is very bad. The interesting thing is that the Telegraph-reading classes agree.

Of course, their objections are different. The leftish middle classes deride consumerism because they see it as the crass crescendo of modern capitalism, feeding unreasonable materialistic desires that bury the poor in more debt. The rightwing middle classes see it as the garish apotheosis of outré Chav culture, leading the lower classes into crime and getting above their station.

Cameron noise
The noises David Cameron is making probably prove that both left and right worry that rampant consumerism is bad for the environment, as the Earth’s resources are stripped to make a squillion Coke cans a minute, or whatever the latest mind-bending figures are.

By George!
Meanwhile, the lower classes are enjoying the fact that George of ASDA can kit their kids out in a year’s worth of school uniforms for £3.50. They’re not bothered about the third world sweatshop labour that enables prices to get so low.

Fucking hypocrites
And, as they disapprove of consumerism, lefties are off buying eco-friendly furniture carved by Fairtrade indigenous tribes from sustainable wood in Belize. Tories are eyeing up the latest Aga oven.

And EVERYONE is off down IKEA on a Sunday.

What do I think?
I know I’m a fucking hypocrite too. I love shopping, I like the new things that I can buy. I work as a copywriter, finding new ways to sell shit to people. At the same time, I know that capitalism is a bonkers system with which to manage the world’s resources. We are fucking over the planet in order to own more…things.

I also think that the need for material things should be balanced by a yearning for spirituality.

I feel guilty when I shop, because I know that it’s wasteful and pointless. I get pleasure from the things I buy, although it’s often short-lived. But, hang about - what about all the books and music I’ve bought over the years? Some of that will always stay with me and inspire me.

In short, I feel conflicted.

Crusty Heaven
If I’m honest with myself, would I live in yurt in a Welsh valley, do away with my LCD TV, PSP, DS and Powerbook, live off the land, wear hemp? Would I still be allowed to buy books and new music – isn’t that consumerism too? In order to buy my books and music would I sign on for benefits, living off the system I’ve supposedly rejected?

We’re all doomed
I also recognise that there won’t be an international revolution that will bring down capitalism. The system is just too monolithic to dent with protests or even terrorism. Capitalism won’t be pushed and the only way it will fall is when it’s fucked everything over and we’re all living in the ruins of our shopping centres, fighting giant super-intelligent rats for tinned food.

Bugger me, there are no easy solutions are there?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The fitzness blog

I've decided to stick my fitness and fatness issues into a separate blog, primarily to motivate myself to keep going to the bloody gym.

If you want to see whether I'm progressing from Carr to Corrr! visit the new blog!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

I Look Like...who?!

Oh dear. I’m rather depressed today. The reason? I’ve had two women on separate occasions say that I remind them of camp comic Alan Carr. I’m alarmed for four reasons:

  1. He’s as camp as a Millets warehouse
  2. He’s got a face that only his mother could love. And even then he was probably spoonfed with a catapult
  3. He’s got a tortured estuary English accent – and I thought I’d shrugged off my Medway roots
  4. He’s – er - rather ‘stocky’

This is possibly even more depressing than a run of being compared with Van Den Puup, the fictional design ponce in IKEA adverts a few years ago. I could at least put that down to my shortlived penchant for flat caps and glasses. Jesus, even Emily got in on the act with that one – using Van Den Puup’s photo when my number came up on her mobile.

The other comparison I get fairly frequently is Jack Black. This happened again last night. It’s usually accompanied by an explanation that it’s not because I share his body-shape – it’s because I’m funny like him. Now I think Jack Black is a charismatic and talented man – but I think I have enough self-knowledge to realise that the comparison is due to the fact we’re both –er – rather ‘stocky’.

Well, my self-esteem can take no more – I’ve resolved to lose weight. Indeed I’m off to the gym! I’ll chart my progress with excruciating honesty on this blog – beginning with a weigh-in and induction tomorrow.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Quote of the Day

"The saddest day of your life isn't when you decide to sell out. The saddest day of your life is when you decide to sell out and nobody wants to buy."

Norman Spinrad, Bug Jack Barron (1969)

By the way
I recently discovered that Spinrad wrote this fucking bizarre book called 'The Iron Dream'. It is purportedly a hack sci-fi novel by Adolf hitler, who becomes a pulp writer in the States instead of dictator of Germany. I've just received the book from eBay - along with a sword.

Of course, what I didn't think about is: how the fuck do I get the sword home? I can't take it on the tube, if there's a police bag-search at Leytonstone, I'll probably be shot. And the package is too long to transport on my scooter. Maybe I should keep it at work for client meetings?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Big O

Is no one else I know excited by the golden age of fantasy art in the 1970s? Yes, I realise it’s all a bit prog-rock, but I’ve taken a tube journey on the Nostalgia Line today, man - stopping off at Big O posters.

As a kid in the 70s, there was always a poster shop that would sell you a massive poster visualising some kind of twisted, fantasy subject in air-brushed detail. Even in a backwater like Royal Leamington Spa. I seem to remember the biggest artists were Roger Dean (who did all those Yes album covers) and the slightly more deranged Rodney Matthews.

I’ll always remember that I had two Rodney Matthews posters on the walls of my bedroom. There was a massive one called ‘Corum Escapes’, which, unbeknownst to me, featured a Michael Moorcock character. He was an armoured warrior with an eye-patch and pointy helmet (steady missus), standing at a door, bludgeoning some weird bird-men.

The other poster was entitled ‘Another time, another place’ and featured some minstrels in a bizarre alien forest. Again, I didn’t realise at the time that the blokes were the Rolling Stones, I just liked the picture. It stirred my imagination, enabled me to float away from the mundane realities of life.

Anyway – the reason for my burst of nostalgia is that I was idling looking for Rodney Matthews on Google and found the Rolling Stones poster for sale on his site. It was even an original Big O edition from 1978. Now, the price of satisfying my yearning for the past was £50, which is possibly not good value for money, and I know that Emily going to HATE it. But – but – there’s something so satisfying about having a piece of my childhood on the wall. Just get me started on the framing costs…

By the way…
I ended up finding Michael Moorcock books after picking up ‘The Mad God’s Amulet’ in the library. For a ten year old boy, the novel was a real trip. It was packed with wild, surreal possibilities; full of imagination, energy and pace. The same spirit had obviously appealed to me in the poster. Once I connected the two, I liked the picture all the more, of course. Even more than my giant Darth Vader poster, in fact. And, as far as I was concerned, Darth Vader was the coolest thing ever.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

One Month Old Today

I'm been working at home today, looking after Stan while Emily goes for a medical appointment. Editing case studies while seeing to the boy's needs has worked out well. He feeds every two hours, so as long as the bottles are sterilised and Stan's nappies are regularly changed, I've got plenty of time in between for writing.

It's been a pleasure to look after Stan on his one month birthday. He's certainly changed a lot in a month - far more aware and active! Still got terribly grumbly guts though, poor lad!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Regime Change in the Kingdom of Stan

Complete and utter chaos. That’s the only way to describe the state of our house at the moment. I suppose it’s a part of baby-rearing that I’d forgotten – when there’s a newborn to be fed, changed, bathed and coddled, it’s hard to stay on top of everything else. Things are harder now that I’m back at work, as I’m too knackered to pick up on this stuff in the evening. It’s telling that the tidiest room in the house is Mila and Frankie’s!

As I pick my way past random piles of clothes, bowls, newspapers, remote controls and baby paraphernalia, I try to remember what it was like to walk through the living room without the risk of injury. I think it’s my fault – as the semi-independent creature in the kingdom of Stan, I have the freedom to clean. Whereas, as primary food production unit, his mother is physically enslaved by the tyrant baby. We’re beginning to wonder whether feeding on demand and picking Stan up as soon as he utters a squawk is producing this tyranny. However, the advice of child experts such as Gina Ford (basically, leave babies to cry so they know who’s boss) seems too harsh.

I have a feeling that we’ll be warming to the hardline parenting doctrine before long though. Hopefully this will lead to peaceful regime change, but I bloody doubt it.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Is it normal?

I’m back at work now, trying to balance sleep deprivation with thinking. It isn’t easy. However, I think I’ve got it easier than Emily, who’s now at home on her own with Stan. I generally receive a number of phone calls as the day progresses beginning with the words “Is it normal?”

Here are some examples:

It is normal for him to…

  • Go cross-eyed when he poos?
  • Sleep for more than two hours?
  • Sleep so little?
  • Make a funny wheezing noise when he breathes?
  • Wee so often?
  • Poo so often?
  • Vomit so often?
  • Have a flaky scalp?
  • Have those little spots?
  • Cry so much?
  • Have that funny look on his face?
  • Go so red?

Now, don’t get the idea that I’m the definitive authority that Emily trusts to answer these questions. My reply (which can generally be summarised as “Yes, it’s fine”) is then verified by Emily’s mum, my mum, her dad, her friends who are also mothers, Dr. Miriam Stoppard, Google and most probably the World Health Organisation. Once all these sources agree that it is indeed normal, she can get on with inventing a new “it is normal?” query.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Jarvis Cocker's Running the World

I've just downloaded a song called 'Running the World' by Mr. Jarvis Cocker (ah, the halcyon days of Britpop). The key line in the song is 'cunts are still running the world' and it's hard to disagree with that sentiment. I bought the song from iTunes, but it seems to be available free from Jarvis's MySpace site. Get it, listen to it and pray that Ray Mears becomes our wise monarch soon (in an ideal world we'd have no leaders, but I've given up on the idea of anarchism).

By the way, who is Red Car Man (see various comments)? I never trust anyone who refers to themselves in the third person - is he a paedophile?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Joys of Consumerism: Part 1

Buying cool trainers for your baby.

That's a result for capitalism then, although I suppose it would be FAR more satisfying to weave him some shoes from hemp or something...

Monday, July 31, 2006

My Paternity Achievements

I'm now in my last week of paternity leave, which makes me sad as I'm enjoying my time with Stan. His character is already becoming apparent - he's definitely got a stubborn streak and takes life very seriously. Especially when it comes to feeds. When he's awake and free of stomach gripes, he's becoming curious about the world - he has a good old look around and is especially interested in bright colours and faces.

He's spent a couple of weekends with his brother and sister now. Mila and Frankie have been lovely with Stan, wanting to hug and play with him. He's considered even more interesting than playing Sonic or looking at pokemon cards on the Internet - which is quite a compliment, believe me!

Of course, all my good intentions about redecorating or doing amazing things in the garden while on paternity have gone by the wayside. I have, however, watched the 'Band of Brothers' boxed set (which, despite ponderous American sincerity and sentimentality, was gripping drama), played lots of Mario on the Nintendo DS Lite and completed the Guardian concise crossword every day. Considerable achievements I'm sure you'll agree.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Mummy Police

You can tell that lack of sleep/clarity of thought are getting to me when the blog hasn't been updated for a week. However, we're now beginning to get into something resembling a routine. The routine is entirely dictated by young Stan, of course. He is the SUV of babies - he never stops guzzling vast quantities (admittedly, he hasn't got bull-bars or four wheel drive. Damn, another spurious analogy breaks down). When the midwife comes round there's a great deal of discussion about how breast-feeding is going. Jesus, no bloody problem there! Emily and Stan should be the mascots of the Breast-feeding Society.

On the subject of the midwife - it's like having the Witchfinder General round for a cup of tea. She turns up unannounced to catch you unawares. Everything is scrutinised and subjected to the findings of the 'latest research'. Is that a decaff coffee? No? Well, 'mummies' who are breastfeeding shouldn't drink caffeine! What? You'd like a glass of wine? Water it down, you're allowed one a week! Burn her! Burn the unclean mummy!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Overheard in ASDA

Woman (wizened by tobacco, blonde hair with roots showing, tattoos, creosote tan) standing in front of me in queue for till:

"An' I told 'im - Germaloids won't clear up them scabs!"

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Baby in Vegas Heist

We're now beginning to understand why Uncle Junior in 'The Sopranos' went gaga under house arrest. The trouble with having a baby in the hottest week of the year is that you can't really go anywhere with him during daylight hours. Stan's thermostat isn't as developed as ours, so he overheats more easily. This means my daily visits to Tescos are becoming an adventure on a par with taking my Vespa up Route 66, chased by the mafia and cops, after a failed heist in Vegas.

(Yeah, I know that I wouldn't get very far, puttering along at 45 mph.)

We did, however, go for a stroll yesterday evening and took him out in his pram for the first time. I know I'm soppy, but you have to admit this is a very cute picture...

Monday, July 17, 2006

Stan: Day Two

Everyone's now home and getting some rest after an exhausting weekend. The most comical moment of the day occurred as we left the hospital. The difficulty was trying to figure out how to use the frigging car-seat, with the elderly Pakistani taxi driver trying to help. At one point, as I desperately tried to get the seatbelt round the bloody thing, I was visualising having to walk home, carrying him in it.

Apart from Stan wanting a feed every couple of hours, he's continued to be a very peaceful child. We're learning to tell the difference between the 'I want a feed' and 'I've got wind' wakefulness. He doesn't really cry, just gets a bit agitated. All the rest of the time he just sleeps!

Soundtrack of the day: cheesy easy listening and synth-disco courtesy of Joey Negro's 'The Trip' mix.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Stan: Day One

He sleeps, he poos, he burps, he feeds, he falls asleep again. He cries very, very occasionally. Contrary to the rumours, no, that isn't a description of my usual working day.

There are two words to describe Stan so far: chilled out. He's unbelievably placid. It may just be because he's knackered after the birth experience. God knows, his mum and I certainly are.

Em's stuck in hospital until tomorrow morning because Stan had pooed in his birth sac and may have swallowed some of it. This often happens with late babies apparently. This poo has a great scientific name to make it sound less like poo: 'Meconium'. This is the first plop a baby does, made up of materials ingested during the time he spends in the uterus: intestinal epithelial cells, lanugo, mucus, aminotic fluid, bile and water. Yum!

I spent the day on the ward and helped Emily to look after our little bruiser. My memories of Stan are all sensual - the smell of him, the incredible softness of his hair, the weight of him in my arms. I remember all these things with Mila and Frankie, they're memories that don't fade with time.

Em, Stan and I had plenty of visitors today - my mum, Em's mum and dad, our friends Matt and Jen. Our visitors didn't get much attention from Stan - he slept instead of holding court!

Stan has arrived!

After hours of pain, exhaustion and gore, Emily has delivered our son, who weighed in at a whopping 9.8 lbs. No wonder it was hard to push him out! Poor Em - getting Stan out looked like hell. I know that birth is a messy business, but I was alarmed by the amount of blood, cutting, injections and other visceral fun. However, the moment that little Stan was forced into the world was magical. Hey, I even got to cut the cord! There you go - I did have a useful part to play!

As you'll see Stan takes after his mum - another redhead in the family!

Stan the man after a bit of a clean-up

Em cuddles our son

Father/son bonding begins!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

No Sleep at Whipps Cross

State of play: strong, painful contractions every few minutes, waters broken, baby slowly descending.

Neither of us have slept for over 24 hours, but Emily's finally been given effective pain relief for her contractions (in the form of an epidural) and she's getting some kip. I've headed home to grab a shower and fresh clothes. I haven't seen anything outside hospital grounds since yesterday afternoon. All battered blue paint and robust, old grubby used-to-be-white equipment.

Em's been looked after by some wonderful women - a warm, caring Ghanian midwife, a chatty, ultra-professional anaesthetist from Paisley. Whatever the shortcomings of the NHS, it's impossible to fault the staff at times like this.

Right, I'm off to grab a shower...

Friday, July 14, 2006

Waiting on the ward

I've popped home after a day with Emily on the maternity ward. She went in to have labour induced last night, but after an overnight stay and hours listening to the baby on a heart monitor, the 'induction' has finally started. Everything at Whipps Cross hospital seems to take forever. You have to learn immense patience when you're in the hands of the NHS.

Irregular contractions began night, but it seems that Stan's still not keen on going anywhere. I'm beginning to suspect that he's not going to come out until he's in his late forties. I suppose that would save on nappies and childcare.

I'll keep updating the blog as things progress, not that there's much to report so far. Come on, Stan - we want to meet you!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Birthing Dance

What a waste of £45. You’ll be unsurprised to discover that reflexology didn’t prompt the birth of our son. The woman was very nice (she brought her own massage table and relaxing flute music), Emily found it to be a pleasant experience, but there wasn’t exactly a sudden gush of waters or the start of contractions. Or any other result whatso-fucking-ever. Maybe I’m being unreasonably impatient, but it seems to have been a waste of time.

Mind you, on the subject of new age birthing nonsense, my colleague Sean sent me a beautiful, inspiring birthing dance poem that he found on the web. Now that reflexology has failed us, maybe the mysterious powers of middle-eastern belly dancing could help Stan on his way?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Desperate Measures

As the wait for Stanley to arrive continues, life goes on as normal. Of course, everything will change after he’s born, so this should be a welcome lull before life suddenly becomes frenetic. However, we’re both finding the wait stressful. Plus we’ve run out of Sopranos DVDs to watch! We’ve now finished series five and Channel 4 could take ages to get round to showing series six. Emily’s convinced that Stan responds to the theme tune of the show, as he’s heard twice a night for the last few months. It’ll be interesting to see whether he recognises it after he’s born!

In an attempt to get things moving, I've arranged for a reflexologist to come over tonight - apparently reflexology can induce labour. I know it's probably similar to using crystals or something, but it's worth a punt for £45. Let's see what happens...

Monday, July 10, 2006

Come Out Stan!

Still no baby. Which just goes to show that old wives’ tales are bollocks, because Emily ate an extremely hot chilli last night and it had no effect whatsoever. I cooked a vat of the ever-popular Mexican dish for friends who came over to watch the World Cup Final. The football was pretty poor stuff, but the company was enjoyable. Especially as Franco, a Sicilian barrister, brought along some amazing chocolate cake and Crème brulée. The man is wasted practicing law – he should become a chef.

The pregnancy saga will be over this week. Stanley (as he’s currently called) is being turfed out on Thursday. Well, I say Thursday – the ‘induction’ starts that night, but the process could take days. Our ideals of a natural home birth have gone by the wayside. Emily just wants the pregnancy over and I can’t say I blame her.

Meanwhile my firstborn son, Frankie, has told me that his friend Henry wants to marry him. He’s considering the offer, but wants to be a father, so may have to decline. As we’re a liberal family, no one’s objecting to Henry’s overtures. I did explain to Frankie that if two men marry, they can adopt a baby, but he wants offspring that are genetically his. I didn’t go into the whole turkey-baster/willing female friend thing ­– that’s a conversation we’ll save for later in young Francis’s journey through life.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Crushing Blow to Minder Hopes

It saddens me that since my urgent appeal to help Dennis Waterman get onto iTunes, not one solitary person has lent their support. This is despite the fact that a massive total of 29 of you have visited today. It's almost as if you think the song is really shit or something!

I warn you - it's possible that Dennis, already depressed by the low ratings for 'New Tricks' may visit this blog. The sense of rejection could tip him over the edge into a psychotic rage. When he's massacred everyone in the Vauxhall dealership in Leyton and blown his own brains out, you'll be responsible! Yes, you!

Get Minder onto iTunes!

Call me nostalgic, call me tasteless, call me a twat (actually, no, don’t - I’m feeling rather sensitive today), but I searched on iTunes for a classic song yesterday and was aghast to find it wasn’t there. ‘What was this dusty classic?’ I hear you ask. And I answer ‘I Could Be So Good for You’, the theme from ‘Minder’ as sung by ginger tough-guy Dennis Waterman.

I was shocked and appalled by the song’s exclusion, considering that it was a Top 10 hit in 1980 and I keep getting an album by Johnnie Morris (of Animal Magic fame) thrown at me every time I search for Tortoise.

Now, as Dennis sings in his rock opus, ‘I’ve got a good idea’ and it’s to start a campaign to get Dennis onto iTunes. Maybe if my massive audience of 10 visitors on this blog can add their voice, Apple will give the British public what they want!

Add your comment below to support Dennis!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Codpiece Memories

I’m listening to Candy by Cameo at the moment. I’ll never forget the first time I saw Cameo on Top of the Pops. I think it was the red patent leather codpieces that made the video so memorable. Despite having lived through the punk and new romantic eras, I couldn’t quite believe that a band could wear such a stupid outfit without it being some kind of absurd joke. For once, I was in full agreement with my mum when she scoffed.

I’d usually argue in defence of the sartorial kinks of the bands on TOTP, feeling a teenage tribal loyalty to whatever the 80s produced. For instance, I remember defending Annie Lennox vigorously when my mum said she looked like a lesbian. As a fully paid-up member of the politically correct leftie club, I’m sure she didn’t mean anything offensive by it, but that wasn’t the point. She was massively uncool and didn’t get what was going on in MY era. The irony is, of course, that my mum was younger than I am now when we had those arguments and I don’t consider myself to be past it and out of touch. But then I’m sure my 8 year old daughter would disagree – I already have her rolling her eyes at me when I don’t pick up on some nuance in the world of Pokemon.