28 August, 2007

Looking Good Naked

During a rather lovely date on Sunday, my very easy-on-the-eye strolling companion quoted from American Beauty (and not, as I originally wrote, American Pie), specifically the bit where Kevin Spacey says he wants to get fit so he can look good naked.

(For future reference, this is me, not making a lurid comment about Kevin Spacey there. He's good at what he does, and that's all I ask of actors. What he does on his dog-walks is his own business. Although I hear he pays someone to walk his dogs... so, um....)

So, firstly, I'm thinking to myself 'My strolling companion has me well sussed out within about an hour of meeting me.' I'm also thinking 'Should this be the point where I make a point along the lines of "I bet you look great naked"?' Being the absolute shit-house I am, I refrained from saying that. I tihnk I'm learning.

Thanks to - how can I put this without giving the game away - thanks to Someone I Know pissing a lot of people off by never knowing when to shut the f**k up, I'm becoming a little more aware of those moments when, panicking at the thought of dead air, I begin to waffle. Like that fine John Cusack film Say Anything, I have a habit of rabbiting well past the point where even I know what I'm on about, and where 'share' has often become 'scare'. Although thankfully, I've never pulled out S&M gear at a work's night out... like Someone I Know.

Aaaanyway, I keep trying to do this exercise malarkey. I did a fair bit of it in 2006, walking mainly, although that wasn't so much about 'wanting to look good naked' as 'wanting to not cry in anger and frustration over work'. But that's another story. I didn't get rid of the tum - I suspect it's got squatter's rights by now - but I did slim down a little, notably in the face.

I'm trying to exercise a little every day now. As part of my brand new, all-new clique, I have a friend (a very sharp lad who says of one of my Scottish chums "ees vary bahd ingleesh", which always makes me love them both all the more). He persuaded me to buy a set of weights from Argos. Embarrassingly, I had to order a cab to get them home, and I took three journeys getting the bloody things into the boot. Once home and assembled, I could barely lift the things.

Fast forward two months and I can now do about 20 reps of the dumbbells and have in the last week managed about ten reps of the barbell. I'm sure seasoned gym-bunnies would laugh at that, but I've never really exercised. Even at school I'd more often be the goalpost than a player. One time, I scored a goal by accident - the ball bounced off my face - while another time, I told my mum I'd had a great game of football: 'The ball didn't come near me once.'

So, it's not much, but the very fact that I now feel guilty if I don't do at least something every day is surely a good thing. Even better if I end up looking good naked... and have someone to tell me so.

27 August, 2007

The Beat Goes On... and On... and a Bit Off...

Just heard a track from Madonna's new album. Album? Do we still call them that now? Anyway, it's possibly her new single and it's... er... oh...

It sounds like something from her first album, but with added 'R unt B' courtesy (I think) of Timberland. Some nice acoustic guitar and a basic dance rhythm, but the lyrics are risible. I know, I know - we don't listen to Madge for her poetry, but considering the song starts with one of those breathy talky bits:

'I'm tired of doing the same old thing. Let's give something to think about.'

... it's a bit of an exercise in cliché:

'Here comes the sun...'

'Wash away the rain...'

'...Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.'

And a wonderfully awful chorus with the worst, tinny,, shrill key-change ever:

On and on the beat goes
On and on the beat goes
On and on the beat goes
On and on the beat goes

[Shrill key change]

On and on the beat goes
On and on the beat goes

[Key change back to the beginning]

On and on the beat goes
On and on the beat goes

I was wondering if I loved it or just thought it was hilarious, until the urgency of the word 'INSTRUMENTATION' made me laugh so hard I nearly let out a little wee.

Oh Madonna... oh dear... oh, bless you!

Heinous Crimelord! ZOMG!

On the upside, a visiting friend left his iPod at our flat on Saturday morning. On the downside, he stole the latest copy of Doctor Who Magazine from our living room, claiming he thought it was his. We don't believe him, do we, children?

Witnesses say he looks like trouble and sounds like fun. Oh, and that he claims to like London... honest!

"I hadn't even read 'The Time Team' yet, said one witness, while another simply burbled something about little plastic men.

The police have been informed.

23 August, 2007

Four Years!

Y'know what it's like when you get a piece of music in your head and you can't place it. For the last four years, I've been trying to identify a piece of music that was used as the them tune to some educational programme. I suspected it might have been a Schools unt Colleges programme from way back when.

BBC's Schools and Colleges clock

Speaking of which (quick diversion), when I was little, each schools programme used to begin with a video clock surrounded by circles or markings that would slowly disappear as the programme start got closer. Apparently, I told my teacher that it was called 'The clock that eats itself' and she thought that was very funny. My mum reminded me of that only yesterday.

Anyway, four years ago, while on holiday with some of the greatest TV-trivia superbrains I know, I recalled this piece of music and tried to sing it for my friends, so they could end my frustration and tell me what it was.

"It went: 'Baba bababababababa / Baba bababababababa' and it was on a flute, with guitars strumming behind it."

Blank looks all round.

So, ever since then, I've run the tune through my head every now and then, but no clues ever came forth.

This week, the Beeb has been running a trailer for the new series of Saxondale, starring Steve Coogan. Playing over (it is over, isn't it - music on TV is never exactly under anything) the clip is the very same music I was wracking my brains to identify.

So, thanks to some searching of various Saxondale-related terms, I finally found it. It wasn't Jethro Tull, as I'd begun to suspect, but a band called Focus, with a track called 'House of the King'. And thanks to some more searching, I found it on YouTube, along with the answer I was after. Click that YouTube link to see the video.

Turns out, it wasn't a Schools unt Colleges programme, but a mid-week 'Aren't facts interesting' magazine show called Don't Ask Me, which starred Magus Pike, David Bellamy and Dr Miriam Stoppard, alongside a bunch of actors and comedians who padded the thing out with comedy, while the experts explained stuff. Like Game for a Laugh, but for 'Rainman' kids.

So - mystery solved.

I now want to write a story called 'The Clock that Ate itself'.

16 August, 2007

I Hope I Diet Before I Get Old

In the last few years, as I drifted from 'early-30s' to 'mid-30s' and am now facing a possible 'late-30s' shift, I've slowly started to become more aware of my health. Having a fat tum has been a worry for some time, but then a few years ago, I was diagnosed with gout (oh the SHAME!) and so although I've not really stuck at anything much, I've at least made a few attempts to be a little better at looking after myself.

I gave up drinking for four months last year - not a massive amount, but I impressed myself by lasting that long. I've also done some sporadic exercise - walking, weights, rowing machine - which has seen a few results even though I've still got a big fat belly hiding my eye-line to my feet. I still eat a lot of crap, but I've also made a few attempts to eat better - the salad option in the work canteen is often the best meal I'll ever have from the place.

Today, I took an online survey - prompted by the Popbitch newsletter - to calculate the day of my death. Worryingly, it came up as Monday, September 16, 2024, which means I'd only be 53 years old.

That's more than a little worrying.

Ah sod it. Here's my easy recipe for special fried rice.


- Basmati rice (one cup per two servings)
- Spring onions (one per serving)
- Garden peas (preferably frozen)
- Large egg (one per serving)
- Bacon (a rasher per person)
- Soy sauce (to taste)
- Roast chicken slices (bought pre-cooked)
- Shrimps (a handful)
- Vegetable oil


The idea for this is that, once prepared, you can make this all from wok to plate in about six minutes. Any of the additional ingredients are optional - this works just as well with vegetable replacements, such as bell-peppers or bean sprouts.

First, boil your rice. You need about an inch of water above the rice and you should wash it first (swirl it around in lukewarm water and drain off the scum from the top). Boil the rice in the water, using a saucepan with a lid, for about eight minutes, then drain into a sieve. Pop the rice back into the saucepan, pop the lid off and leave it to steam while you get on with everything else.

While the rice is boiling, grill your bacon (unless you're really lucky and can actually find Char Siu pork anywhere!), fine-chop your spring onions and slice your chicken into thin, short strips. Once the bacon's done, chop this up into rectangles no longer than your thumbnail. As you chop all this up, pop all the bits into a large bowl, including your frozen peas (they take seconds to cook).

Now crack your eggs into a bowl. Add a splash of water and a tablespoon of milk, plus a dash of pepper, then beat it all with a fork. You'll want all your ingredients prepared before you turn on the wok, and it should only take you about 15 minutes to get to this point. Make sure you have all your plates laid out by this point too, as you'll want to start dishing up.

Now, pour some vegetable oil into your wok - enough for about half an inch in the base of the wok - and heat it up. While it's heating, take the lip off your rice and fluff it up a bit with a fork or spoon so that the cooked grains are separated.

Once the oil in the wok begins to smoke, you're ready to start.

Pour in the beaten eggs and immediately swirl them around in the oil. The oil should be so hot that the egg immediately puffs up and bubbles, so keep it moving four about ten-to-15 seconds. Once it looks like it's turning into omelette, but before it sets, pour in the rice, keeping everything moving around the wok, folding the rice and the egg into each other. This is how you get the 'stringy egg'.

Keep the rice and egg moving for about 30 seconds before adding all the other ingredients, then fold them into the rice so it's all evenly distributed. You can add a splash of soy sauce at this point, but all it really does is make the rice turn a little brown and it's not essential.

The whole thing should be cooked and ready to serve within five minutes. Make sure the rice doesn't catch on the wok, and keep it moving even as you lift the wok to the plates to serve.

Just add guests and you have a decent Chinese meal.

15 August, 2007


It worries me that, if tabloid news stories are to ever be believed, foot-fetishists might get beaten up by mobs of people who can't spell 'paedophile'.

I mean, while they're out on the rampage, who's minding their kids, eh?

12 August, 2007

... and now, Books!

Time for a few book recommendations. Actually, they're not from me, they're from my friend Gary. I have at least three of those, so to narrow it down, this one used to edit Doctor Who Magazine. Great, that narrows it down to two. The BLOND one!

Anyway, a while back, Gary e-mailed his friends with a few book recommendations. I like it when he does this, as generally his tastes are sound and I end up reading things I'd never heard of and will enjoy. Well his scores are still very high with me, because these two books were just astounding.

The one I finished this week is Stuart: A Life backward by Alexander Masters. I try to approach most novels without reading up on them, so they can surprise me. Consequently, it took me a while to realise that this wasn't a novel, but the biography of a person few of us would ever want to meet, and if we ever did, we'd either cross the street or try to buy his immediate departure with the donation of a pund. The subject of the book is Stuart Shorter, a 'chaotic' person who's spent time on the streets, living in hostels and popping in and out of prison. There are points in the narrative where you - and it has to be said the author too - loathe Stuart. Yet as I reached the end of the book, I wept.

Cover: Stuart - A Life Backwards

The second book is The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne. I'm not saying another word about it, because it refuses to spoil its own suprises in the text on the back of the book, so I'll do the same. It's about a boy who encounters a fence. Like Stuart.., this is a book that plays with narrative, telling you things as the boy discovers them, and sometimes you might be ahead of him, but by then you're too emotionally involved to be annoyed by his ignorance.

Said enough - read them both!

Cover: Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

Going Out - the New Staying In

Thanks to the generosity of a few friends, I've had such a fun year. It started when I went to see The Pipettes in March. They're a band my pal David raved about ages ago, and I wasn't all that convinced to be honest, but live was another sory. Very charming and with a lot of catchy tunes under their belt. They had two support acts, one of whom was Metronome - not the Japanese one, but three lads who looked like a geeky version of 'Busted'.

Since that night, I've seen 'Little Shop of Horrors' with Sheridan Smith in the female lead role and Alistair McGowan as the dentist. Lots of fun and I'd definitely go again. 'Absolute Beginners' at the Lyric, Hammersmith, was amazing - we thought it'd be really worthy but it had a very inventive set of blocks that the characters clambered all over. There were a couple of performances at the Drillhall - one about Joan of Arc that had half the audience asleep because of heat, and another called 1001 Beds by Tim Miller, which is about his idea that we sleep in about 1000 beds in our lifetime - not all of them sex-related but the funniest ones are. It's a breathless, engaging, personal one-man performance... which I can't remember because I'd been to the park and got drunk for a mate's birthday. Shameful!

With another friend, I got to see 'Fame - the Musical. Sorry to say, it's really poor and needs a rewrite by someone with a sense of humour. So many dropped balls throughout the plotting and it feels like someone trying to make a play after being told the story by someone who knew someone else who'd seen the movie or the TV show but not both. Still, it was free.

One of the surprise highlights was a night with Marcia Brown (aka 3 Non Blondes star Tameka Empson), whose diva-scaled performance was hilarious - especially when she began to pick on my friend for going to the bathroom during her act. Marvellous!

Have I got time to mention 'Live Earth'? George Michael at Wembley? Marc Almond's comeback gig on his birthday? The Scissor Sisters? The amazing Imogen Heap...

My old friends have passed comments that they never see me any more, and one person apparently asked my flatmate if my new friends are too good for them now. That's a tricky one to answer. A lot of my old friends are partnered up, buying houses and generally very busy people, who are always never less than supportive and lovely when we do actually meet up. We used to all get together about four times a week, whereas there have actually only been three occasions in the last nine months where a sizeable number of us has met up.

I suppose I'm a little - no, actually a LOT - pissed off that when my flatmate broke his leg, only three people came to visit from that gang, despite promises to pop round soon. My flatmate was really down then and any new face that wasn't mine was always enthusiastically welcomed. But then, there are friends of mine who've moved homes in the last three years and I've not set foot inside their new places. Is it because I was waiting to be invited, or because I didn't make myself available? Probably both.

I think all I'm getting at in this post is that there are some people who I'd love to see more of, and I don't think less of any of them for being busy, so I hope they don't think any less of me for finding a new gang and spending time with them. Because there've been some times in the last year when I could have really done with some company, but I was too stupid to ask. Suddenly, there are people who don't know all my jokes, who invite me out and make sure I'm included, and for the time being at least, I'm just enjoying going out. It's the new staying in, and it's a lot better for my mental and physical wellbeing.

Being Rubbish at Blogging

There's a bit of a back-swing against blogging now that everyone thinks it's a word to throw into meetings casually. At work recently, someone asked if our site should have a blog and three of us barked 'NO!' Not that we're adversed to them, but it's really now what we should be doing. We already have a newsletter, which I tend to write, and an additional blog would seem like overkill. But mainly it's because of that thing where people use the word 'blog when they mean something else. Recently I saw a newspaper talking about its new blog... a blog... in a newspaper... not the online version - the actual newspaper.

Isn't that just a column?

I'm rubbish at this blogging thing - I said as much back in April. I was chatting with my friend who does the wonderful I Love London... Honest blog the other day and happened to mention that I didn't realise anyone read this. He said 'It's a blog - it gets read'. I'm so naive, but I just didn't think anyone would be reading this, yet I suppose I'd always suspected they might as I've often decided not to write something just in case.

And that's my problem - I keep not writing an entry in case someone reads it - which is the point of it. This started out as a bit of self-help, really - a way for me to think about who I am and why I've been very up and down this last year. It was written for me, because I've never kept a diary, and I didn't really think it through.

Still, I don't write an entry for week and weeks, and then often three come at once. Like buses.