Archive for May, 2004

Bank holidays

Monday, May 31st, 2004

Yes here in the UK we define our public holidays by the withdrawl of banking facilities. The inability to carry out monetary transactions tells us that we may set aside the cares of the world and instead go to B&Q to purchase laminate flooring. Other countries have Martin Luther King Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Picnic Day, Womens’ Day, Queens Day – amongst others. We have ‘late August bank holiday’. [ yawn ] What about setting up some days with snappier titles? Here are my suggestions:

Frost Free Day – early May.

Tommy Cooper Day – whenever we need a laugh.

Chocolate Day – every Friday.

Peter Mandelson Night – when the hours of darkness are longest.

Squirrel Nutkin Day – we could all dress up with stick-on bushy tails.

Michael Parkinson Day – we all interview our friends and pretend we’ve only just met them.

Any other suggestions?

Useful list of public holidays worldwide.


Big Al – the local stud – is going at it hammer and tongs every day at the moment. He likes to lure his ladies up on the roof and then repeatedly do the business in full view of the local neighbourhood. Whatever he’s on – it’s making him insatiable. I fear he may not last much longer if he keeps going at this rate. Every time I look out the window – there he is hopping around giving his latest conquest the benefit of his experience. The joys of being a sex crazed sparrow.

Blackbirds have the sweetest song. I’ve only just noticed this fact. They look unpromising – sort of avian minmalist but when they open their little beaks … it’s all rather lovely.

Sunday, May 30th, 2004

Late late latte

Saturday, May 29th, 2004

This morning the coffee machine refused to froth. It sat there twinkling seductively in that mute, “I’m fit but my gosh don’t I know it” – Italian way that it has. Like Sophia Loren at her most illogical moments – pouting, irresistible, perfectly formed but completely uncooperative and unfathomable. [ I’ve already moved the armchair back OK? Can this not end now? I need coffee and I need it frothed – with a life as flat as mine is right now it’s the only buoyancy I’m likely to get for the foreseeable future – barring unexpected delivery of a helium filled micro-airship with onboard remote surveillance camera for spying on the gorgeous sunbather two houses away. ] But I digress.

Phoning the middleclass emporium that I bought Sophia from I am told she may be airlocked. Her restrained outer twinking is a thin disguise for inner torment. All of her energies are being consumed in not exploding. She’s doing a damn good job too. It is my task, as her guardian to release the blockage – to free her so that she may once again issue forth with creamy goodness.

Manfully I caress her delicate protruberances. Subtle pressure and skilfull manipulation bring the desired result. Her frothing capabilities are reawakened and she produces the latte of a lifetime – all for me. It is a very special and private moment. I am humbled in the presence of a miracle and I vow to do a Novena the next time I am in the Eternal City.

One of the Good Guys is gone.
RIP Jack.

F**g s**i

Friday, May 28th, 2004

It’s been a hell of a week. Some seriously bad karma in play. I figure it must be due to that armchair I moved last week. All my chi is being bounced off the sideboard when it should, in fact, be gliding gracefully into my inner being via the formica hostess trolley. Consequently everything was out of alignment or to put it frankly, everything was f****d up. Including this here computer I’m at right now. Managing to acquire some evil spybot / browser hijacker / bandwidth sucker – my personal information superhighway had become something of a sodden, marshy swamp track with large concrete statues of Big Daddy blocking the way. It took nearly half an hour to download my own blog and my online bank account reads like that of a stranger after so long. [ Did I realy spend fifty quid at the Rajdoot? ] So, using the extensive training I acquired at spyschool I managed to isolate the offending registry key and obliterate it. Suddenly I’m working at full tilt again and so happy I could degauss my monitor [ if only I knew how ]. In non-blog life things aint been much better, which is not how it’s meant to be – right? Feelng slightly obsessive at the moment – weirdly so. Better move that chair back. Either that or the male menopause has kicked in. [ God ]

More later – so much to say – it’s like I’ve taken blogolax…

Bombs, teacups and Blue Peter gardens

Wednesday, May 26th, 2004

On the first floor of no 10 you can find the impressive state rooms, The White Drawing Room, Terracotta Room [ yes Terracotta – even here ] and the Pillared Room. The rooms were given an up-market changing rooms treatment during the reign of Thatch by up-market changing rooms merchant, Quinlan Terry. No MDF here [ at least I couldn’t detect any ]. Thatch got into a lot of trouble for doing the work – snotty remarks about her vulgarian taste and questionable motives – self agrandisement etc – were regularly trotted out at the time. One of the porticoes in the Terracotta Room features a subtle plaster relief of a thatcher at work – nice. All three rooms have a strong British eclectic feel to them – bit of a hotchpotch – stunning contents, furniture, paintings, carpets – no expense spared – but eccentrically put together – sends a message about us to visiting dignataries no doubt. Most shocking: dirty crockery left lying around – every other room had it – scandalous. The ceiling of the White Drawing Room was damaged by the IRA mortar attack on Downing Street in February 1991. Some of the plaster work fell down. It’s been repaired but imperfectly because, apparently, John Major wanted traces of the damage to remain. Scorch marks on the garden wall still mark the spot where one of the mortars exploded whilst a cabinet meeting was going on.

The State Dining Room, another Soane design, is an understated room and a fitting backdrop for the magnificent silverwork on display here. Memorable dinner guests in the recent past include Clinton, Mandela, Brenda and Thatch. Most impressive item in this room for me was the breadbasket in 18 carat laser cut gold – just left casually lying around on the mahogany dining table, [ as you do ].

The garden of No 10 is a delightful oasis smack bang in the centre of town. The state drawing rooms overlook it and beyond Horse Guards Parade and St James’ Park. What a view. A delightful water garden – complete with Charlie Dimmock rock fountain – and connected, I believe, with a Blue Peter competition – contrasts nicely with the more formal aspects of the space.

This completes our tour and it has to be one of the more memorable experiences of my life so far. My thanks to all.

Most charming aspect of the house: evidence of the second youngest inhabitant in unexpected locations.

Wikipedia article on No 10 with some fascinating history – including the fact that most of the house is a reproduction!


Having a spot of bother with my equipment. Making my despatches patchy. Normal service will be resumed asap.

drD? do come in

Tuesday, May 25th, 2004

What better way to spend a sunny summer afternoon than with a visit to one of the most famous addresses in the world? Security is tight as you enter the hallowed enclave, leaving noisy Whitehall behind. I’ve taken this walk before, aged 8, on a school trip to London. Another era; you wouldn’t dream of sneezing outside the house let alone contemplating the murderous mayhem we now fear. On that first trip we stood, awed, across the road – checking out the stern looking policeman standing outside. Our teacher, full of best behaviour, gave us a hushed commentary: “That’s where the Prime Minister lives and next door lives the Chancellor – he’s the man who handles all the money”. The street was hushed then and it was hushed now – only this time I’m walking up to the front door, I’m clocking the railings, the shiny shiniest front door I’ve ever seen, I’m reading the letterbox – “First Lord of the Treasury”, I’m reaching for the doorbell. I see my finger about to press the white ceramic button – it’s marked, ‘press’. Before I can connect with it Presto! The door opens – just like it does on the telly – how do they do that? How do they know you are there? The smiling man behind the door knows my name he knows my name – he invites me inside smiling.

I’m looking around. The black and white checked floor, the square proportions of the entrance hall, the famous portrait of Robert Walpole. So many scenes, so much history, right here and I’m standing here where it happened.

We move into the Soane Dining Room in number 11, tantalising glimpses of the Brown power base – the place where all that money gets handled. The walk to the Dining Room is uphill – unbelievably the floor is not level, a legacy of the marshy site on which the houses were built. Soane is all symmetry and strict geometry. The austere white plaster ceiling a masterpiece of the art. Onwards to the Cabinet Room, passing a Henry Moore, clocking the in-house cafe in the courtyard below. The lobby outside the Cabinet Room, rich red stripy wallpaper, a clear view back through to the front door. A ghostly procession of former ministers fills my mind; Callaghan, Jenkins, Foot, Castle, Lawson, Williams, Whitelaw – I recall the post-assassination gathering here described by Kenneth Clarke when they’d met for the last time under her control – he talked about enjoying a cup of coffee with cabinet colleagues after they’d done the deed. This is where it happened. The room itself is surprisingly small. Light from the many tall windows. A ceremonial sword with ivory handle on a side table – useful when you’re sticking the knife in? – a gift from an arabian royal. The PM’s chair is the only one with arms – it’s out from under the table, at a jaunty angle to the others – like he’s just nipped out. There’s calm, a repressed energy in the room – a sense of what has been said, what has been done – to us – to the World. Every departing PM leaves something for the Cabinet Room bookcase. They’re all there – we look at Macmillan’s and Atlee’s – they’re not in good condition – surprising. She has left two volumes of her autobiography – they seem to be the only ones in bright coloured dust jackets – typical. I’m later struck by how she’s wearing bright red and green outfits in the cabinet photos on the wall downstairs when all the boys are in sober suits. This room, these walls – what tales they could tell.

Karsh of Ottawa photographed Churchill during a visit to Canada in 1941. It’s a magnificent portrait and hangs now at the foot of the Grand Staircase. [ Pictured below ] Churchill is the only PM to have two portraits displayed here – fitting. The others have to make do with one, they get progressively more recent as you ascend. Past the little white door that leads you to his office – upwards to the second floor and a look at some of the superb silver collection within the house.

Part two tomorrow: Bombs, teacups and Blue Peter gardens.

Famous insult:

“An empty taxi arrived at 10 Downing Street, and when the door was opened, Atlee got out.” – Winston Churchill, on Clement Atlee

Sunday, May 23rd, 2004

Guess where I’ve been today?

Back on the scene..

Saturday, May 22nd, 2004 a blog machine.

Ahem, my apologies for that little hiatus which was due to circumstances within the control of others but beyond those of mere mortal such as myself. Before I was interrupted I was going to bring you a whole raft of delights allied to the current National Smile Week – but I bet you’d guessed that already [ I’m so transparent eh? ]. My approach now will be to distil into an intense jus the very essence of this weeks posts to leave you, the reader, gasping at the richness, diversity and sheer brilliance that you’ve been missing these last days.

Ready or not – here I come.

1. The Quiz

How you’ve missed it, how I’ve missed it – fear not, I bring you the multimodal National Smile Week quiz. Each of the five below have a connection with the theme. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to determine what that connection is. You can have as many goes as you like in any of the categories – go beserk! [ I already have ]. Answers and points on Monday [ as I am likely to be too hungover to care tomorrow ]

postCount(‘5’); postCount(‘6’); postCount(‘7’); postCount(‘8’); postCount(‘9’);

2. Fred

How sorry I was to read about the illness of that great Lancashire institution Fred Dibnah – once encountered by moi – In a world of bland permatanned plasticlones Fred is always a refreshing TV presence. Good to hear that he is keeping on with life and smiling – get well and stay well.

3. Insert coathanger in mouth

Smiling Not smiling
Justin King –
boss of Sainsburys
Sainsbury’s staff
Michael Moore George Bush

4. Let joy be unconfined

Which brings me to today, the day of days – need I say more?

I’m off for some luxury and emotion.

Thursday, May 20th, 2004

Having a spot of bother…

back soon

Fake or friend?

Tuesday, May 18th, 2004

It’s National Smile Week

When you smile did you know that your orbicularis oculi and your pars orbitalis contract – making your eyes crease up and eyebrows dip slightly? No? Neither did I. Smiles are an automatic reaction controlled by your unconscious brain. The bits of your face that alter when you smile genuinely are not the same as the bits that alter when you fake a smile. Smiles are like social glue; putting people at ease, making them feel welcome, included, accepted – a universal language. The pressure to be accepted and to accept others is very strong indeed. So much so that we spend large amounts of time producing ‘fake’ smiles of varying degress of conviction. Can you spot fake smile? I thought I could but, as a species, we’re so good at deception that most people have a hit and miss success rate in distinguishing genuine smiles from their cheesy imposters. Try out your skill using the fascinating survey produced as part of the BBC The Mind programme.

Me? – I scored just over half correct. Looks like I’m not as astute as I think I am.