Sunday, June 29, 2008


I don't usually buy The Mail on Sunday (or on any other day of the week, for that matter). Why would I? It's a nasty, confused rag written by nasty, confused people, all of whom only ever write about people and events they don't like and contradict themselves on every page. But in the name of ardent, obsessive fan worship, today I made an exception: 'iSelect - David Bowie's own choice of the 12 greatest tracks of his career on one brilliant CD!', screamed the headline on the cover, alongside a picture of the man himself at the height of Ziggy mania (and a smaller, black and white one lifted from the 'Changes' photo session, just for good measure). £1.50, for 'The Bewlay Brothers', 'Win', 'Lady Grinning Soul' and 'Fantastic Voyage' (one of my favourite ever Bowie songs) all on the same CD, alongside rarities such as 'Repetition', 'Some Are' and even 'Time Will Crawl'. Sold, to the woman with no principles whatsoever when it comes to collecting yet more Bowie-abilia. And of course, it's an ace collection, nicely paced and hugely satisfying. But here's the best bit:

In TMOS2 - which pertains to be the 'culture' section, hahaha - David reveals ("in his own words") the "fascinating stories behind the songs he personally selected for this unique CD"). And when they say "in his own words", it's clear that they really, really mean it. I can't see a Mail journalist coming up with a sentence like this: " I was looking to create a profligate world that could have been inhabited by characters from Kurt Weill or John Rechy - a bridge between Enid Blyton's Beckenham and The Velvet Underground's New York" ('Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing').  Or this: "This is not, you may be speechless to learn, an ode to Winfred Atwell" ('Lady Grinning Soul'). Or my favourite: "Images of the failed Napoleonic force stumbling back through Smolensk, finding the unburied corpses of their comrades left from their original advance in Moscow. Or possibly a snowman with a carrot for a nose; a crumpled Crystal Palace Football Club admission ticket at his feet - a Weltschmerz indeed" ('Some Are'). But even if a Mail journalist were to write such overblown, camp, highly embellished sentences ... can you imagine what a typical reader would make of such literary brouhaha? For Mail readers - judging from today's edition, anyway - gobble up headlines such as 'BBC's golden couple split!', 'Drug Addicts behind 3bn increase in disability benefit' and 'Golden Oldie Claudia still making waves at Chanel' (that'll be Claudia Schiffer, at 37 years old deemed to be the 'old lady' of the supermodel brigade). Elsewhere, Mariella Frostrup (another hero of mine) is referred to as an 'ageing frump', Susan Pinker states that it's 'a woman's right to choose a less well paid job' and Peter Hitchens points out that he doesn't care about Zimbabwe 'and neither do you'. Oh, and Paris Hilton is the cover girl on the glossy magazine. And in the middle of it all ... David Bowie, emoting in the wild, wonderful, ridiculous way that only he can. 

So forgive me, won't you, my own little Schadenfreude moment (with a word like that, I know that David would): Mail readers are also offered the opportunity to buy the once extremely rare (until this month, only available on bootleg) CD of 'David Bowie Live in Santa Monica '72' (yes, fans - the ultimate 'Ziggy' moment), which isn't officially released until the end of July. Well nyeah, nyeah - I've already got it. But then again, I'm currently amongst the top bidders on ebay, hussling for 'the last cigarette Bowie ever smoked in his Ziggy persona', which might be mine for the bargain price of 72 dollars. Whether that makes me a sadder person than even a regular Daily Mail reader, I don't know (and frankly I don't care, because hey, I'm happy!). And the joy I'm experiencing today from (a) my new CD, and (b) David Bowie's pompous track-by-track notes knows no bounds - it's the sort of joy that could only be overtaken by the arrival of Whoopi, my own little Diamond Dog.

Altogether now: Bom-bom-bom-de-bombom-thrummm! "In the event that this fantastic voyage ..." (etc, etc, ad infinitum).

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Whoop it up, y'all!

I could ramble about how much I loathe people who, when trying to explain something to you, use the phrase “it’s not rocket science” (also in the same category: people who say “at the end of the day,” “thinking outside the box” and/or start their response to a question with “yeah, no …” and finish with “d’you know what I mean?”. Oh, and people who, when retelling details of a conversation, say “so he/she turned around and said to me …”. Aaargh!!!) (There are many more conversational bugbears that really, really get to me, but I’ll stop going on about them now because I’m in danger of attracting a snooty comment disparaging writers who overuse parenthesis and favour huge, rambly sentences without paying much attention to grammar and punctuation). I could tell you how I made a fantastic dinner last night with pork chops, medium-thick noodles and a homemade marinade that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to make again because it was all so random and somehow instinctive (unlike the steak’n’potato salad feast that I’m planning for this evening, which is very, very straightforward but will be absolutely yummy). I could tell you all about the stuff I’m currently discussing at my counselling sessions, but that’s only interesting to people who are paid £21 per hour to listen. And if I get started on my recent thoughts on the dynamics of female friendship, how good both the book and the film version of Ian McEwan’s ‘Atonement’ is, the first session of filming ‘that’ forthcoming TV documentary or how annoyed I get when nobody else in my household cleans the bathroom, we’d never get near the big news that’s currently dominating my life. Which is:

A real, live, actual Yorkshire Terrier (SEE PHOTO!!!), just over one year old, acutely cute and gorgeously gorgeous, is about to fly into my life by magic (well, accompanied by me, on a return flight from Ibiza, no less) (oh come on, you didn’t expect me to get an unglamorous dog without an international passport, did you?) courtesy of a person who I haven’t actually seen for well over two decades but has never, ever been off my radar. As you can probably already tell, this is a huuuuge story, bubbling with amazing coincidences and (warning: we’re having a hippy moment) miracles. And as soon as I get my head around it myself, I’ll be writing about it all whenever I get the opportunity. But for now, I can’t really concentrate on anything much except a forthcoming reunification session with the wonderful friend in question and plans for a trip to Ibiza in August, when I’ll be returning with Whoopi (for that is her name) beside me (or possibly in the hold – I’m not quite sure how one flies with a dog yet). Imagine the air steward: “chicken or beef? Caesar or Iams?” “Well, Whoopi will have the chicken – I’ll be fine with my own Pedigree Chum”. And then, once home … no more lonely moments – ever! Always, always someone to talk to – and someone who’ll listen! Taking her up to the field up the road every single day, and having a genuine reason to mingle with all the posh dog people who live around here! Smuggling her into Waitrose in a dog bag! Accessorising her outfit with mine! Constantly droning on about how pretty/clever/tired/gorgeous/smart she is! Oh, whoooooopie indeed!!!!

Love me, love my dog? Really, you don’t have much choice …

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


The leaflets that can be found in the tourist board displays that stand gathering dust in the entrance and exit of pretty much every B&B, cafe and country pub in the west country don’t do Cheddar Gorge any favours. I grabbed a clutch of them when we were leaving what must surely be one of the last Little Chef’s in the country (on the A37/39 junction at Farrington Gurney, should you too suddenly feel the urge for a gammon and pineapple grill); even though we were intent on heading to Cheddar Gorge anyway, a little bit of research surely couldn’t do any harm. And I’m not saying that the flyers for Mrs Tiggywinkle’s Olde Teashoppe, King Arthur’s Non-stop Cheese Buffet or the ‘Gorge Yourself on Cheddar!’ slogans are harmful, as such; it’s just that none of them seem to get close to doing this breathtakingly beautiful part of the world anywhere near enough justice.

Whether you take in the initial views of the Gorge itself from the top of the ravine or by driving along the road at the bottom of the basin that runs straight through it, you can’t fail to be awed by the surroundings. The basin road winds directly through this prehistoric canyon, with the giant, limestone cliffs looming up to 700 feet on either side. Depending on your personal relationship with the great outdoors, the whole experience is either intimidating and sinister or tranquil and serene; it’s a mini version of the Grand Canyon, right in the heart of the west country. You could, if you wanted to, park (or camp) right here, beginning and ending your Cheddar experience with a gentle walk, a guided hike or the full-on, adrenalin-charged rock climbing experience. But I had those darn leaflets, didn’t I? The theme park aspect of Cheddar Gorge loomed large.

Okay, I have to admit that whoever holds the reins of Cheddar as Major Tourist Attraction does a very good job of keeping the anticipated Alton Towers-style ‘facilities’ to a minimum. The village is very pretty, and even the famous Showcase Caves - a series of labyrinthian walkways right through the Gorge itself - doesn’t oversell itself too much; the massive Gough’s Cave, for example, which was discovered by explorer Richard Gough in 1890 and features cathedral-sized ‘taverns’; an active million year old river bed; the fantasy adventure walk ‘Crystal Quest’ (complete with wizards, princesses and fire-breathing dragons) and Jacob’s Ladder (save your energy for this one - 274 steps take you through a million years of history, from the bottom of the Gorge to the Lookout Tower right at the top). After all that (or even instead of?), might I suggest a comfortable seat on the Gorge Tour Bus which negotiates its way around Horseshoe Bend while a narrator gives you the history behind the spectacular scenery? Blimey, I’m beginning to sound like a Little Chef leaflet! Sorry. I’ll return to my usual grumbling self over the weekend ... and oooh, have I got news for you!!!!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Parting is such sweet sorrow - and the hangover is a right pain to deal with, too ...

I’m sitting here in my cheerful but messy kitchen in Bath wondering exactly where I live. The trip to Liverpool was wonderful - frenetic, bizarre, frustrating, emotional, tiring, energising, evocative, delightful and ridiculous, all in equal measure - and that was only day one. Triple that list of superlatives and criticisms, add a few more (but make them camp, wontcha?) and you’ll have just about nudged the tip of the iceberg when it comes to getting a flavour for the experience as a whole. But here, for your delectation (and probably huge confusion) are the highlights, in no particular order of greatest hits. Bear in mind that as I said, this is iceberg-tip-nudging: I’ve come home with copious diary scribbles and a whole raft of inspiration for future posts (and future short stories) ... but I’ve also come home with a mammoth hangover and what feels like a year’s worth of work catch-up to do, so for now, a few nibbles will have to do. Are you ready? ‘ere we go, ‘ere we go, ‘ere we go:

VickiTonyGeeJessCuddlesPaulnChris - what a family! Pop went the champagne corks, back came the scouse accent, on went about five stone in weight ... memories are made of this.

My marvellous mum!!!! (yup, she gets a category all of her own - ‘nuff said).

St Tropez spray-on instant all-over tan: even though it’s just about the most inelegant, intimate thing you can have done to yourself by a total stranger without actually going under the knife (hint: it gets up your bum), I am now an addict. WAG, moi? When in Rome ...

Spending the best part of 24 hours shopping for and then preparing a party buffet, only to be upstaged by an unexpected contribution of homemade curry on the night. But who cares? I still won an award for being a Nigella Lawson clone ... and loads of people told me that the curry was too hot anyway. Pah!

The party itself (see above) - massive thanks to all involved, and hello to the lovely new friends I made there (Shaun: you sure can vogue, but when it comes to Supremes routines, I’m the supreme champion).

Being reminded that when I shared a flat with KirkbyGirl’s BF, he had a knitting machine (see, Dollface - I got there first!). Nobody (including Sol) could remember why he got it, where it came from or where it went, but I know for sure that somewhere in the darkest recesses of my many memory boxes, there exists a faded polaroid of me wearing a black and red houndstooth check monstrosity, made by KG’s BF’s fair hands.

‘That’ super8 footage of The Wedding of the Century - memories are made of this part two.

Keith’s Wine Bar on Friday night, Parr Street on Sunday night, Slang’s flat early on Monday morning - you know who you all are, and I know that I couldn’t have better - or bitchier! - friends. Winning line? “More of a star than you’ll ever be, love” ... but I guess you had to be there. I’m so glad I was.

And then I slept all the way home ... or wherever it is I am right now.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Time flies when you're having ...

If anybody’s given the time or effort to wondering where I’ve been lately, here’s the lowdown. Over the past two weeks (give or take the odd moment where I dropped in to ramble about an early moment of youthful rebellion concerning a hot dog), I have been mostly:

Working on The Great New Romantic Novel; experimenting with the joys of rose harissa paste; promising that I’m going to start making my own bread (but not my bed); experiencing huge, sulky mood swings and inflicting them on everybody around me; trying to buy a new PC; having my hair done by a fab new hairdresser (who claims to be ‘Bath’s best kept secret’, and says that if it wasn’t for him, Gok Kwan would be a big fat nobody today - how camp is that?); reviewing various eateries; interviewing Raymond Blanc; getting all wistful and then very angry about major events and people from the past; suffering from a very sore throat; trying to kidnap a dog; allowing the kitchen table to almost disappear beneath a stack of domestic detritus; re-appreciating Erasure’s Greatest Hits; living it up with the GP crew; telling Medad to eff off and then running along the street after him to apologise (part of the sulky mood swings, I guess); loving and hating myself and everybody around me in equal measure (ditto) ... and getting all excited about the forthcoming Liverpool trip, which probably starts tomorrow (at last - Dollface and the Animal Disco will be reunited!).

I could have dropped by here and written about all or any of that stuff on a daily basis, but I kinda lost my mojo for a moment (oh okay, two weeks). But the sun came out, the mood clouds lifted and here I am.

To the regulars who left comments and asked after my wellbeing, I’m very sorry that your words didn’t get posted here - my PC has finally given up the ghost (which is why I’m attempting to buy a new one), and I stupidly deleted a whole raft of comments when trying to get to grips with using a Mac (Mike’s, on the kitchen table alongside the detritus). Isn’t it funny how Dollface’s comment got through though? I’ll be discussing this - and much more - with her tomorrow ... and when I’m back, I will of course update you. Have a wonderful weekend yourselves (yes, I’m already wishing you that, even though I’m writing this on a Wednesday). And if your mood swings are getting you down, take it from one who knows: there’s not much that a lamb chop smeared in rose harissa paste and then slammed under the grill can solve (oh for goodness sake - of course I’m not living on falafel!).

***Massive Major Update!!!***

Alert, alert! Click on the Dollface link above, and check out the video she's posted. Memories are indeed made of this (for a certain group of people, anyway). But be warned: blink and you'll miss us ...

***... And Another One!!!***

Now go here - it's just really good fun (though I say it meself ...).

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Golden Years

I was brought up as a vegetarian. As a child, toast and honey was (and, to an extent, still is) the bedrock of my diet. On a semi-commune in Wales - so ‘semi’ that my family were pretty much the only permanent members - I more or less lived on homemade potato cakes, flapjacks, wholemeal bread, cheese and Ribena. When our taste of The Good Life ended with a move back to Liverpool, the food I most associate with my pre-teenage years is hummus, halva and Twix bars, the pork chops, stews and Sunday roasts of which my friends spoke being as alien and mysterious to me as my family’s ‘exotic’ menus were to them.

And then I discovered Eric’s.

Eric’s was to Liverpool what CBGBs was to New York - part music venue, part way of life. The bands I saw play there went on to become legendary, but to a disenfranchised 14 year old, Joy Division, The Ramones and Elvis Costello failed to fascinate. The cafe, however, completely captivated my imagination, the hot dogs, burgers and bacon sarnies being far more enticing than the wraps of mysterious white powder that the ‘chef’ kept tucked alongside the small change in the till. And so it came to pass that just before my 15th birthday, I lost my vegetarian virginity to a Plumrose look-a-like in a stale white bun; the brine-boiled onions provided the foreplay, the vinegar-diluted ketchup the afterglow. Forbidden fruit never tasted so good, but rebellion tasted even better.

The family were informed the very next day, probably via something along the lines of, “IhateyousoI’veeatenahotdog!”. “Oh darling, a hot dog isn’t even food, let alone meat”, murmured my serene, unflappable mother. “You must be starving. Have a falafel.”

The moral of this tale? Keep Mum - she really does know best.