Friday, February 24, 2006


For the last time, I’m sitting hungover at my desk in my current agency. I’ve just eaten a sausage and egg McMuffin (which, in my humble opinion, is undoubtedly the king of breakfasts). I could almost start to feel rather wistful.

Well, I would do if I had a moment to think. I’d envisaged having an easy day today, possibly incorporating a long leisurely lunch. As it is. I’m now presenting a major project to a client. Hopefully I’ll be coherent by the time I meet him...

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Our freedom is in safe hands

Click on the cartoon to see it bigger.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

My Documents shuffle

As it's my last week at my current job, I'm having a bit of a clear out of the My Documents folder on my PC. It feels a bit like rooting around my unconscious, digging up all sorts of crap that I'd forgotten about. Like that alien abduction that most Americans seem to have experienced, but without the anal probe. Here's a random assortment of rubbish from the darkest corners of My Documents...

A lovely desktop scanned from the back of the News of the World magazine

Seemed funny at the time...

Oh look, it's a delightful cute puppy

A scene from Holborn McDonalds in 2004


Click on the cartoon to see it bigger.

Friday, February 17, 2006

The dream

Click on the cartoon to see it bigger.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Technicolor Dredd

Been experimenting with the Dredd doodle in Photoshop. Here are the results (please remember the only creative tool I usually use is Word!)

Utterly deranged

I’m deranged with lack of sleep today. One of the side effects of pregnancy for Emily is insomnia, so sleep has been a bit intermittent for a few nights. I suppose it’s good practice for when the baby arrives! There are two blokes at work who became fathers recently and they’re both shambling around like extras from a John Romero movie. I’d almost forgotten that particular experience.

In fact, I’m SO tired that I’ve been incapable of saying the words ‘Keith Chegwin’ correctly. I keep saying ‘Chief Kegwin’. I imagine Chief Kegwin would be an alcoholic Amerindian who pisses himself.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Music in the office shocker

It’s a day of music today. My mum very kindly gave me some FOPP tokens for my birthday, so I strolled down to Shaftsbury Avenue and bought a few CDs. Here are my thoughts, having listened to them at work. Admittedly I’ll have been distracted by doing my job, but I think I can give you a flavour of what they’re like…

‘Sexor’ by Tiga
I first got into the electroclash-tastic teuton Tiga through his DJ Kicks mix. I know very little about him, other than he seems as camp as a Milletts warehouse with his delightful flick parting. Musically, this album is all very dirty euro-dance with some nice ironic cover versions, especially his version of ‘Burning down the house’.

Work rating: I listened to it during the writing of an IT microsite and it kept me jolly throughout…

‘We are not the Infadels’ by the Infadels
If the Infadels aren’t the Infadels, who are the Infadels? It’s post-modernism gone mad. This album is a chug-along mix of indie rock with electronica. It’s got the momentum of a runaway train, but I think it lacks depth of mood. I wonder how often I’ll go back to listen again…

Work rating:
Apart from the opening track, it kind of passed me by a bit as I wrote an article for a gaming site

‘Back to Mine’ by Liam Prodigy
This went on the speakers when I got to work and one of the ‘Experience Architects’ told me to turn it down, so it gets the thumbs up. It’s a varied collection of music chosen the brains behind the Prodigy. Meat Beat Manifesto, ELO, Public Enemy, Dolly Parton! Come on – top stuff!

Work rating:
For upsetting normally-shy poncily-job-titled colleagues, it’s the winner so far!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The boy Fitzport

We went for the 20 week scan today and had a peek at the baby. The little chap is apparently totally healthy, has all fingers, toes and an extra appendage that shows he's a boy. Here's a photo of young Master Fitzport's face.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Birthday boy

Today’s my birthday, so it’s a good moment to pause and think over where I’ve come from and where I’m going. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been on this Earth for 37 years. It’s a common experience for people to say that they stopped still in their mind at a certain age. In my case, it’s probably the age of 8.

I think most men mentally stop still at about that age. Or maybe it’s just modern men? We don’t seem to grow mature in the same way as previous generations. We still play video games, collect action men (in the form of expensive limited edition vinyl figures), dress like teenagers and act like children. Shame my body can’t stop still too (preferably at a post-puberty age, thank you) instead of gradually getting fatter, balder and crinklier.

Still, it could be worse – as my ex-wife charmingly pointed out in her birthday card, if we were counting in Dog Years, I’d be dead. The fact I got a card shows a thawing in relations, at least. Although there’s always a barb in there with Lucy. It actually amuses me these days.

The kids were lovely this weekend. We went to Bodeans for lunch, a faux-American hog-roast BBQ restaurant in Soho. Emily, Mila and I pigged out on ribs. Frankie, being the fussiest eater in the universe, had chicken and chips (even then he complained about the chicken being ‘peppery’). Frankie’s favourite meal is fishfingers, chips and beans. He’d give Jamie Oliver an aneurism.

Emily continues to get more and more pregnant. i.e. the bump is growing at a rapid rate and she’s getting increasingly hormonal. We have the 20 week scan tomorrow and we’ve both accepted that we’re going to ask the baby’s sex. We’re both crap at waiting for surprises…

Friday, February 10, 2006

Random doodle

Not sure what's going on here. Answers on a postcard puh-lease.

Judge Dredd doodle of the day

I draw Dredd at least once a day, usually in meetings. It's like some kind of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Welcome to Uncle Tris's dodgy lockup

I’m picking the kids up tonight and looking forward to a weekend of Lego, Yu-Gi-Oh, ponies and (the current favourite) Star Wars Monopoly. Both of my children are obsessed with money – primarily the acquisition of it. Therefore Monopoly is their ideal game. I often wonder how they ended up like that. Obviously I blame their mother, but in more honest moments I realise that I too am money-fixated. I think this is partly due to growing up in a very poor household, where it was a struggle to pay the bills and put food on the table every week. The thought of going back to that kind of misery frightens the life out of me.

The new Steptoe
I think this obsession is reflected in my love of eBay. I’m hardly a Powerseller, but I primarily sell stuff on eBay, rather than buy it. It’s a great way of de-cluttering and the extra money is always useful. I think rag and bone men had died out before eBay (as a child in Manchester, I remember the cart going past), but that site has now made us all into Steptoe and Son – recycling the detritus of our lives.

Selling on eBay – my tips for budding entrepreneurs
So what have I learned about selling on eBay? Here are my handy hints…

1. Always start with a really low price
People are unlikely to bid on something that doesn’t seem like an absolute bargain. I always start items at the price that will cover the eBay charges for the listing. Everything finds its proper market value on eBay (almost proving the Thatcherite edict about the market always being correct), so you don’t need to worry about underselling your item. Starting low just builds momentum amongst buyers and, psychologically, once there are a few bidders, more bidders feel secure in bidding themselves.

2. Put the title of your listing in capitals
It’s a free way of getting your item some attention. I wouldn’t bother with subheaders and putting it in bold – they cost you fees and make a negligible difference.

3. Include search keywords in your title
It helps to include as many of these as possible – if something can be abbreviated, for instance, like the game Grand Theft Auto San Andreas (GTA: San Andreas), include the abbreviation and the full name. Most of the Great British public appear to be illiterate, so includes misspellings can sometimes be a good idea.

4. Use the ‘gallery’ option
This puts a picture next to your item when it’s listed in a search. People’s eyes seem to automatically filter out items without pictures.

5. Use a bit of style in your item description
I suppose this is easy for a copywriter to say, but writing a witty, concise and descriptive write-up for your item will help sell it. It’ll help save you time in the long run too, as people will ask you loads of questions if you don’t cover the important stuff. As well as being illiterate, the British eBay buyer is also extremely suspicious (not unreasonably).

6. Be accurate in your postal charges
People are starting to give negative feedback for postal overcharging. It also puts people off if the charge is too high. Connected to this is the need to always state what the postal charges will be. I forgot once and it led to all sorts of bewildering haggling on the part of potential buyers.

7. Use PayPal, but remember it costs you money
PayPal is, frankly, a crap service – massively unintuitive and expensive if you’re a seller. PayPal will charge you for EVERYTHING – including taking money out, putting money in and looking at it in a funny way. However, after a few bounced cheques from buyers, I can see its benefits. At least you know it’s a secure way of receiving payment quickly.

8. Set aside time for postal stuff
You may be able to charm the receptionists into giving you jiffy bags, but you still have to queue in the Post Office and email buyers to let them know that the item is on its way. I always sell a few items at a time because otherwise posting the stuff becomes a logistical nightmare when you’re busy with work (your real work that is).

Thursday, February 09, 2006

So my boss reads this blog

That's a scary thought isn't it?

He just walked past and said 'nice blog, mate'. Given some of my subject matter I can only assume that he was being a wee bit ironic. In my last posting I was touching on paranoia, but now I'm becoming genuinely concerned.

Considering no one else (other than my loyal girlfriend) visits this bloody blog - and it's not coming up on Google - how the hell did he know it exists? I mean, it's nice to have an audience but...

Maybe if he reads this, he'll answer the question in a comment. However, I think he may prefer to remain enigmatic...

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The rise of the machines has begun...

I've been working on a campaign for a big IT brand this week. The brief has been to 'move the brand on' (i.e. make it look and sound cooler) and make it connect with an age 12-24 audience (as well as a 45+ audience - I like such focused strategy). According to the brief, the work has to use humour and irreverence.

The trouble with IT companies is that they haven't a fucking clue about how to communicate with people. It's a weird thing, because the IT marketing people all appear to be human beings, yet they have no idea how to talk to other members of their species.

Now here's a thought - maybe they're NOT human beings? Perhaps skynet-style AI supercomputers do exist and they're attempting to infiltrate our society through marketing 'replicants'. I often wonder, as I sit in meetings with them and listen to new acronyms, what would happen if I took an iron bar to their heads. Would white milky stuff and plastic parts be dashed onto the boardroom table?

If I were paranoid I'd suspect a conspiracy. Maybe all the advancing technology that's being sold to us is a honeytrap - perhaps iPods are actually brainwashing tools? Maybe the disintegration of our society isn't due to our iniquities, but all part of the IA plot? Perhaps the plan is to get us to wipe ourselves out?

Ahem, getting back to this brand campaign...

We came up with a nice idea that used real people (not the smiley, perfect, carefully multi-ethnic Americans sitting joyfully in front of their brainwashing machines - sorry, laptops) and real situations to get over the benefits of the product. The tone of the scripts was cheeky and irreverent - teenagers trying to get one over on the adults etc.

The client liked it, after a pause as the IA fed back the appropriate response (possibly via Bluetooth). However there was a problem - she had to show the work to the 'brand compliance and ethics unit'. Now I don't know whether this is another IA entity or a committee of some description, but it's job is to make sure the brand isn't associated with nasty human failings like dishonesty or selfishness - even in the form of fictional characters.

Now this leads me to the crux of this particular rant - how can you connect your brand with human beings if the people in your ads can't display the flaws that make us human? It's this kind of stupidity that will - thank god - ultimately mean the failure of the IA ultramind plot...

Monday, February 06, 2006

Art, beer and sinuses

I'm currently in bed, off work with sinusitis. The front of my head feels like it's being squeezed in a vice. It's a bit of crap thing to suffer from - it's hard to feel sorry for anyone who goes on about their sinuses. It's the kind of thing a flakey character in a 70s sitcom would complain about with a nasal whine.

Despite the vice on the temples, I had a good weekend with Emily. We have the kids for the next two weekends, so it was nice to enjoy London together. After I had a few drinks with colleagues, Emily and I ate at a very nice Belgian restaurant, Abbaye, in Smithfield on Friday night.

Plumbers and Japanese ultra-violence
On Saturday we had a visit from a plumber. He told us at length about his divorce and financial situation. He also told us about an old lady who had left him and his missus her house and how the social services had banged her up in a care home, meaning the house would have to be sold to pay for her care. I got the feeling the old lady's welfare wasn't the plumber's primary concern somehow!

After the plumber had finally fitted a new shower, we made it as far as Canary wharf Wagamama's for lunch, then vegged out for the rest of the day. We watched 'Battle Royale II' on DVD, which was utterly pants. The first film was great, but unfortunately the original director died on the first day of filming and his son took over. That may explain why it's such a mess...

White blocks and Fritz's birthday
On Sunday we went to the Tate Modern to see the Rachel Whiteread installation. My daughter Mila had seen it with her mum and described it as 'a load of white blocks that were made to look like an Antarctic landscape'. I can't summarise it better than that (see the pic I took with my phone)! It was a bit underwhelming when compared with Kapoor's huge red trumpet or the Weather Project. However, kids were enjoying exploring the paths between the piles of plastic blocks. It's cool to see art that kids can connect with.

After the Tate, we went to a pub in Borough for my friend Fritz's birthday. Apparently he hasn't had time to read this blog, so I could be rude about him if I wanted to be and he'd never know! As it is, Fritz is a top boy. Although, as you can see, he does look like a satyr from Greek myth...

On the iPod
It's on shuffle as I write this - Ladytron's 'Destroy everything you touch' is playing. It's their usual combination of portentious title and flawless synth pop.

Friday, February 03, 2006

The divorce is through!

And I've got a new job...

Well, the new year is bringing some changes my way. It's odd how life can stand still for ages, then everything moves at once. A bit like when you think your stomach's not affected by a curry, then there's a sudden eruption. Only the eruption is a nice one. Oh, the analogy breaks down at that point...

Anyway, Lucy rang this morning to tell me that the divorce has finally gone through. Ilford County Court be praised!

The other good news is that I've got a new job. After four years at my current agency, I'm leaving to become Head of Writing somewhere else. Which leads me to...

Want to enjoy your job? Leave it!
It is my theory that the best time you’re going to have in a job is after you’ve handed in your notice. And here are my reasons…

1. Sticking it to the man
Can anything beat the feeling of walking up to your boss’s desk and slapping your resignation letter onto it? Yeah, take that, you fat Nazi arsehole! This feeling of satisfaction is compounded, of course, if there’s a massive amount of work coming up and they’re going to be screwed because they can’t replace you quickly. And if you’re useless and nobody will notice any discernible difference when you’re gone, at least you stuck it to them before they stuck it to you.

2. Everyone loves you
Before you said you were leaving, you had a few mates and had that awkward ‘oh god, in the lift with this person – what the fuck do I have to say to them? Not a weather discussion AGAIN?’ relationship with everyone else. Now you’re going, they’re all over you. People who have never spoken to you are coming up to your desk and expressing an interest (perhaps because they dream of STICKING IT TO THE MAN too). A new cosy warmth fills your working life. Try not to get too paranoid about the possibility that this warmth is, in fact, relief that they’re getting rid of you.

3. Take it easy – you’re leaving!
After all, what are they going to do? Sack you?! (OK, maybe if you bring in a pillow and sleep at your desk, they will.) Just feel all those headaches, nagging fears, conflicts and long-term manoeuvrings melt away. You won’t be here this time next month – so none of it matters. Goodbye anxiety, hello long lunch breaks. It’s a bit like the feeling that Buddhists have when they’ve let go of their worldly desires. Except that it’s accompanied by a payrise.

4. What? You mean you’ve always fancied me?
Ah, the fear of rejection – how it holds people back. But now it’s your leaving do, everyone’s pissed, and that person who always had the secret hots for you is liberated by the knowledge that they don’t have to face you the next day at work if you cruelly reject their advances. Suddenly their ardour, inflamed by too many slippery nipples (or some other amusingly named shot concoction), can contain itself no longer! Sadly, this formula doesn’t work for freelance or temporary jobs, otherwise a lot more of us would be on short-term contracts…

Oh yes, that last month in your job can’t be bettered. In fact, this blog is proof – I’m writing it instead of doing anything useful! Hurrah!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Dealing with divorce lawyers

Keeping your lawyer on a leash
One of the most important things I’ve learned about divorce in England is that nothing is as simple as it seems. You’d think that a reasonably amicable divorce where there’s no dispute over access to the kids or major arguments about the financial settlement would be a straightforward thing to get out of the way. This is, however, complete bollocks. It’s as straightforward as reverse parking a car made of jelly in a blindfold. The legal system seems to be designed to be as impenetrable to the layman as possible. This is why you end up using a lawyer. Here’s my advice on managing these strange creatures, learned through bitter experience…

1. Don’t use a lawyer

If you can possibly come to a mutual agreement over finance or kids, do so. You can sign a financial settlement and have it witnessed by a solicitor. This isn’t legally binding in the same way as a court order, but maybe you should trust each other a little? Taking a leap of faith is better than spending thousands of pounds on legal fees.

2. Micromanage your lawyer
Never, ever, assume that anything you tell your lawyer will be remembered. Never assume that the documents they produce are accurate in any way. Read and reread anything they produce to send to the opposition lawyer. The financial agreement that my lawyer drafted, for instance, had mistake all the way through it.

3. Always assume they’ll cost more than they estimate
When they quote you a figure at the beginning of the process, always budget for double.

4. Know the system yourself
Don’t treat your lawyer like the wise law wizard who will guide through the hazy labyrinth of the divorce process. They are fuckwits. Understand what’s happening for yourself. ‘The Which? guide to divorce’ is good for pointers.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg – but I’ll start ranting if I carry on. Feel free to email me if you need any more advice…

The day’s reading
Territory – Mood of Gothic’ has some mad illustrations by some very strange people. I like the gothic sensibility a lot - possibly due to growing up in the eighties and having a sneaking admiration of Andrew Eldrich.

Scootering near-death incident of the day
I ride into work every day on my old Vespa ET4 (correctly described by a scooterist friend of mine as a ‘granny bike’). It’s amazing how you end up taking it for granted that someone will nearly kill you every day. Today the attempted murder was committed by a guy pulling out of a junction without looking on Dalston Kingsland. He was driving a battered silver Nissan Bluebird. Dalston is to motorcyclists what downtown Baghdad is to American servicemen. Random death could await at any moment. And all the locals hate you.

Game of the moment
The appallingly named ‘Untold Legends: Brotherhood of the Blade’ on the PSP. It’s a hack and slash RPG in exactly the same mould as Diablo. You go into dungeons, kill things, collect loot and get stronger. I always play as a knight in these games – primarily because subtlety is not my strong suit.

On the iPod
‘The Brave and the Bold’ by Tortoise and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy. I find this covers album quite compelling, but can’t explain why. Perhaps it’s because Billy seems to be genuinely bonkers (see the photo for proof). Perhaps it’s the frailty of his voice and the raw industrial backing. I particularly like the haunting version of Elton John’s ‘Daniel’.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Introducing the digital divorced dad

Is this good therapy?

So here we are – the first blog. The question is whether I’m talking to myself or whether random people turn up and read what I have to say. Ah well, talking to myself could be good therapy! Maybe I’ll imagine I’m in one of those group therapy sessions and I’m surrounded by bigger misfits than me…

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Tristan and I’m NOT an alcoholic. I am, however, an estranged dad, father to be, writer, digital ‘creative’, doodler, lapsed socialist, and dyed-in-the-wool Aquarian. I live in London and I'm just coming up to the grand old age of thirty seven.

Ah, but let me tell you about the real stars of this blog…

Mila and Frankie

My children from my first (and only) marriage. Mila is eight and Frankie is five. They’re a study in contrasts. Mila is very sensitive, empathetic and artistic. She genuinely wants to help other people and gets very upset if anyone is angry with her. Frankie is an enigma – on the one hand, he’s a straightforward boy – goes for what he wants with little subtlety. On the other hand, he’s rather secretive and manipulative. I love them both to bits, which makes living apart from them hard at times.


Emily is my girlfriend. And, as of Christmas Day 2005, she’s also my fiancée. We’ve been ‘stepping out’ since a few months after the break up of my marriage. This led to all sorts of turbulence in the first year or so of our relationship. I was pretty miserable, full of guilt and doubts about what I’d done, so despite loving Emily, I was very difficult to have a relationship with for long time. Thankfully she never stopped loving me and stuck by me.

The baby
We’ve got an addition to the family arriving, god willing, in July. We haven’t settled on names yet, but it looks like it’ll either be Ruby or Joseph. Emily’s had a tough pregnancy so far, suffering from hyperemesis (chronic morning sickness). Things are getting easier now though and we’re both beginning to take pleasure in the pregnancy.

My ex-wife and frequent bête noire over the last three or so years. We were married for seven years, years I’ll never regret (although I know Lucy would probably say something different!) It looks like our divorce will soon be finalised, although a further Kafkaesque twist may occur yet!

That's it for today - tomorrow I'll include my top tips on dealing with divorce lawyers!