Monday, 18 July 2011

If You Can't Stand The Heat....

......then have your summer holiday in dear old Blighty!  As I write this I can hear screams from next door as another BBQ comes to an abrupt end and my neighbours are trying to rescue soggy sausages and damp drumsticks as the UK summer once again proves that global warming is complete bollocks.

There's something terribly British about outdoor eating in drizzle.  Like taking windbreaks to the beach.

I'm really starting to regret not heading to the Med with my mates this year.  The first night of my holiday was spent alone with a bottle of Merlot and my TiVo box.  It wasn't as Bridget Jones as it sounds though.  After catching up on Torchwood, Betty and I were dancing round the house to Example, Lady Gaga and a medley of 80's grooves.  OK so maybe dancing with your dog on a Friday night is a bit sad but at least she doesn't get moody the next day when I wake up with a hangover or insist on making as much noise as possible to make my long lie in bed impossible.

That's what's so cool about dogs.  They love you no matter what.  I hope she still feels like that this week after I take her to the vet to have her puppy bearing tubes snipped.  I feel really guilty even typing that!

Last week there was a pretty momentous occasion.  It's been 30 years since Bucks Fizz won the Eurovision Song Contest and had their first million selling worldwide hit with Making Your Mind Up.  To celebrate we went to their charity concert at the London Palladium.

Our excitement was doused when we arrived at Victoria Station to find that the Underground was closed due to overcrowding on the platforms.  I love London but why is public transport in the capital so crap?  Heaven help us when we're invaded by the world for the 2012 Olympic Games. The only way this is going to work is if they tell everyone to stay at home for three weeks.

The queue for taxis was round the block so we decided to take a bus.  A bored looking policeman directed us to the right bus stop and we joined a group of agitated commuters all shouting into their iPhones or staring blankly at route maps.

It wasn't long before our bus arrived.  It was one of Ken's bendy buses and we dived on and managed to get a seat after elbowing a couple of Chinese tourists out of the way.  Commuting in London is survival of the fittest and I was having that seat bitch!

As the bus filled up, the smell of sour sweat and stale beer increased.  I tried not to inhale the pungent fumes but all I could see was these damp armpits swinging around in front of me like a load of rotting carcasses in a slaughter house.  It was really hard to suppress the gag reflex.  The traffic was almost at a stand still so there was no chance of getting a bit of a breeze in the coach to freshen the air.  The fat bloke next to me smelled like a rotting Big Mac that had been sprayed with Lynx.

We eventually arrived at our destination after several seemingly pointless diversions and met up with our gang outside the Palladium.  The place was buzzing with more bald heads and A&F t-shirts than I've seen since Brighton Pride Weekend.  The queue for souvenirs was massive.  A load of Friends of Dorothy all emptying their Ted Baker wallets to buy gingham mugs, ruby slippers and Toto t-shirts from the Wizard of Oz shop.  How could the Bucks Fizz programmes compete!

We fought our way to the bar and handed over £24 for 4 drinks.  £24! No wonder tourism in London is struggling.  When I first started work my weekly wage was £13.  That was enough to pay my Mum, go to work, be a fashion icon and have at least two big night's out every weekend!

After four £24 rounds we headed into the beautiful theatre for Bjorn Again.  If you've not seen this band you must!  They've been around for years but never fail to get everyone singing and dancing to the fabulous songs of the Swedish Pop Gods.  Benny & Bjorn really knew how to write 'hooks' that would appeal to the masses.   I guess they were The Beatles of the 70's.

When we found our seats we found another problem.  This being a charity show there were a lot of people that had been brought here by Sunshine Coaches.  As we edged into the row Mr T suddenly realised he was sitting next to someone with Saint Vitus Dance Syndrome.  He spent the rest of the evening ducking and diving to avoid a smack in the face from his zealous neighbour.

The lights dimmed and after a pre-concert video prelude, Bucks Fizz were on and they were really on! Great vocals and tight harmonies.  I'd forgotten how many great hits they'd had.

That said I think the wardrobe department must have been a couple of myopic drunks.  OMG where did they dig up those outfits. Mike Nolan looked like a cross between Freddy Starr and a snooker ref.  There mustn't have been a full length mirror in the dressing rooms.  It's the only excuse for his grey tartan bondage trousers. Why didn't Cheryl & Jay tell him?

Jay didn't escape the wardrobe disaster.  During her big solo number she was raised up by two hefty dancers with flat feet and the bottom half of her white plastic dress fell off.  Luckily she was wearing nice pants and just carried on regardless.  A true professional.  She made it look like it was all part of the act.  I mean they're well known for whipping their skirts off at every opportunity.

Cheryl's costumes were less pantomime but still a bit like your Mum going to the office Christmas party.  Bless her.

Bucks Fizz never claimed to be fashion icons and it was good to see that after 30 years they still revel in their lack of style.  The true magic of Bucks Fizz is the songs.  Perfect, shameless pop with a hint of camp.

Talking of camp.  The male dance troupe was probably a good idea and raised loud cheers every time they whipped their tops off.  I just wish they'd all been doing the same choreography.  Half of them looked like they were just making it up as they went along and a couple of beefy guys on the end seemed to have been thrown in to make up the numbers.  They were completely out of place and like two security guards who'd been squeezed into lycra leggins and pushed on stage when the real dancers phoned in sick.

The hits kept coming and the audience was on it's feet. Dancing and singing along in gay abandon.

We then watched an emotional video about the fateful bus crash outside Newcastle that nearly ended the life of Mike Nolan and ended Jay's time in the band.  There wasn't a dry eye in the place.  It was like watching one of those X Factor sob stories only this was real.  They've had an incredible journey over the last 30 years and it's just a shame that the 4th member of the group wasn't there to celebrate.  Apparently he's too busy trawling his own version of Bucks Fizz around caravan parks in the West Country and wasting his nest egg on pointless copyright court cases.

Tonight, this Bucks Fizz were as real as it was ever going to get and the crowd were loving every minute of it.  Two hours later and we're in the Land of Make Believe with fake snow and giant mirror balls.  Magic!  The encore was obvious.  Making Your Mind Up was a perfect end to the night but Jay and Cheryl kept their skirts on this time.  Tonight it was the male dancers who lost their clothes yet again at the appropriate moment. The two security guards missed their cue once more and their clothes fell off 4 bars later.

What a brilliant night.  Cheryl, Jay & Mike were fantastic.  I wish them good luck with the next court case.

We left the London Palladium with beaming smiles but our joy was short lived as we descended the steps to Hell.  London Underground should supply customers with oxygen masks, water and a can of Magicool during the summer.  Oh and anyone wearing Lynx body spray should be forced to make alternative travel arrangements.  Try a bike or better still......have a bloody shower before you set off.

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Friday, 8 July 2011

The one about the blinds (Apr 2007)

Today has been another one of those days when I wish I'd just stayed in bed and not allowed myself to get tangled in life's evil web.

This morning, around 7am, I was drifting off to sleep again after pressing the snooze button for the third time when my mobile rang. I got such a fright that I let out a girly yelp and pulled the duvet over my head. Why on earth did I think that the theme from Psycho was a good idea for a ringtone? 

By the time I'd composed myself and adjusted my eyes to the dim light in the bedroom the caller had rung off. I assumed it was a wrong number and snuggled back under the covers only to hear the main house phone ringing within seconds. I let it ring and waited to see if the person would leave a message. Just as the bloke started talking I remembered my new shed was being delivered today! 

I stumbled through to the lounge only to hear this Argos oik telling me to get out of my bed! To be fair, he did have a point. I was still half asleep so wasn't really sharp enough to have a go at his interesting customer skills when I finally picked up the phone.

It was good to get that delivery out of the way early. I just hadn't expected it to be so early. Usually if I book a morning slot the doorbell rings at 11.59.

My Sainsburys shopping delivery arrived promptly too. Just after Loose Women and before a spiky phone call with a project manager who smells of Ritz crackers.

This evening I'd arranged to go to IKEA to get a new blind for my bedroom. I'd managed to break the mechanism for opening and closing the blinds during a Jacobs Creek tasting session. What little co-ordination and dexterity I possess vanishes completely after 2 glasses of Shiraz.

In preparation for the IKEA trip I drank two cups of camomile tea and popped a propranolol but I was still feeling flushed and anxious. The car trip was only five minutes but as the blue and yellow towers drew closer I had a twinges in my right arm and my ankles turned crimson and swelled up. Not a good look when you're wearing 3/4 length shorts. 

I did some breathing exercises on the escalators and by the time we got to rugs I was feeling pretty chilled. We reached blinds and spent 20 minutes arguing about colours and drops. In the end we decided on the 120 x 155 in pale wood. I say wood but I swear it felt more like Wrigleys Spearmint chewing gum strips.

Half an hour later we find the tills and the exit and depart Swedish purgatory without purchasing anything that we didn't come for. Never EVER pick up the yellow bags in IKEA. If you do you're sure to arrive home with a useless fish slice, rubber ice cube tray and some apple & blackberry tea lights.

Got home and decided I'd have a go at putting up the blinds myself despite my famous lack of skills in the DIY department. The old blind came down really fast but I managed to break the fittings in the process. I'm not good up a ladder but I was being dead focused. Too focused really as all the fittings snapped off.

No worries, I thought. I'll just unscrew the old fittings and put up the new ones. Unscrewing was a piece of piss. One by one the screws came out and fell on the floor as I teetered on the step ladders. Why is it that step ladders make such scary creaking noises the higher you go up?

Replacing the fittings shouldn't have been a problem but when I started I realised that the screw holes were in a different place. I'm sweating now and the step ladders are moving freely around my laminate flooring. I'm determined to do this and get the right side fitting fixed after a shaky struggle.

The left hand side proves more difficult as I can't get a good twist on the screwdriver due to a wall cabinet being in the way. After dropping the screw five times I'm getting stressed again but despite the wet arm pits I persevered and decided I needed to apply more pressure on the screwdriver.

The screw fell out another six times and I'm getting angry and more heated. My head is throbbing and after counting to 10 I decide to have one last lunge. The shift of weight pushes the step ladders back and throws me forward......through the open window and I do a stuntman dive onto the patio, destroying a group of small flower pots with Jasmine cuttings.

I think I've done something bad to my shoulder and my left ankle is feeling sore. I feel a bit shaken to be honest but I haven't got time to worry about my injuries because I now realise my trauma has been in vain because Mr T just told me that the window is more than 155cm deep so the blind is too f'ing short!

I'm washing down more propranolol with Jacobs Creek so even Jodie Marsh couldn't wind me up now. I wonder if I need an X Ray? It hurts when I do this..............

Saturday, 2 July 2011

The one about the restructured holiday (Sept 2006)

Holidays are supposed to make you feel relaxed aren't they?

I've just had over 2 weeks off work and look like some disheveled hobo with TB. The stress rash I developed on my scalp has started bleeding so I now have red dandruff.

Things didn't start well. 2 days before my holiday we were all told that our department was being restructured. That's business speak for cutting back on staff but not the volume of work.

OK I should have made a decision then to postpone my holiday but I'd already agreed to house sit for friends so my hands were tied. So started the weirdest vacation ever.

I hung around at home over the weekend. No point travelling South for a couple of days to come home and then venture to the North for the interview. Hanging around just made me more anxious, so by the time I got to the office my breathing sounded like a camel having an orgasm. I covered myself in Garnier Shine Control moisturiser and Sure Extreme Protection but still sweated up like a Turkish wrestler.

The interviews were behind schedule and in the end I landed up with the after lunch slot with a woman from Human Resources.  She was having problems keeping her eyes open. Was I boring her to death or had she had a couple of pints and a carvery roast down the pub?

30 minutes later it was all over and I was dispatched back to London to continue my anxious wait/holiday. A quick change of suitcase and I was off to the seaside.

Arrived in Brighton and headed off to the chemist to get a prescription. As luck would have it the local chemist closes early on a Wednesday so now I can feel a panic attack coming on.

17.15 I have no idea where the next chemist is. I start walking East. Not sure why but it seemed to make sense at the time.

17.26 I find another chemist in the nick of time. A small, surly Scandinavian woman is getting ready to shut up shop as I bluster through the door, knocking over a display of cheap reading glasses. The troll gives me daggers as the pharmacist takes pity on me and agrees to make up my prescription. I buy a purple nail clipper set out of gratitude.

17.36 I wave goodbye to the pharmacist and her grumpy troll and head back.

17.37 A monsoon hits Brighton and t shirt/shorts and flip flops suddenly seem inappropriate. 3 blocks later and I'm drenched. I've stuffed my drugs down my shorts to keep them dry but I'm soaked through to my Calvins.

17.48 I eventually make it home and collapse with my drugs and a bottle of Jacobs Creek.

Things can only get better.......................right?

After 4 days I trek back home as I'm being summoned to work for another interview.

The dog's developed a nasty cough/retch combo in my absence, so my first day back and I'm off to line the vets pockets again. £78 for some pills and a bottle of ear cleaner. If any parents are reading this crap, my advice would be to encourage your children to become vets. It's like a license to print money and no one ever complains because their little precious babies are worth every penny. It's simply not the done thing to whinge about being robbed blind by the bloke in the green coat with bad hair who just stuck a thermometer up Fifi's arse.

Got myself in a right 2 n 8 over my pending interview. Woke up with hives and the scalp scabs were itching something rotten. As the morning wore on I couldn't settle and just walked around the house picking up stuff for no reason and putting it down again in between several toilet visits. If I'd been auditioning for a remake of  One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest the part would have been mine. 

As this was a final interview and I'm supposed to be on holiday they decided to do it by phone rather than make me travel up North again. By the time the phone rang my t-shirt was wringing wet and I was having trouble walking. My behind was red raw and felt like a blob of mince and drawing pins. 

Actually the interview went really well until the dog had a cough/retching fit and I made a dash for the door so they didn't hear her. I tripped over a toothbrush charger and fell into the huge banana plant that I'm babysitting for a friend while she's on holiday. It was snapped in two but I got the job so it's not all bad news. I've got a few days left to think up a good story about the death of her beloved plant. I've got rid of the evidence. It's currently in small bits in our wheelie bin and should be land-fill by the weekend.

Without an ounce of remorse I was back off to the coast to continue my holiday. The rain started almost immediately.

Had a great night out with mates for a birthday celebration. We had a magnificent Thai feast served up by what looked like the chorus line of a fat ladyboy cabaret. Staggered back home and fell asleep on the sofa squinting at the SKY+ planner with one eye and swearing at the remote control.  Every channel seemed to be showing Charlotte Church murdering Hey Jude but I can't be sure if I was still awake.
 Next day went shopping in Brighton with Mr T. We got soaked again darting through The Brighton Lanes and spent most of the afternoon in clammy charity shops as he was searching for Scally footwear. He tells everyone he buys these shoes to re-sell on EBay. We all believed him until his Mum's loft collapsed and she was buried under a pile of Doc Martins and Adidas trainers.