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When did my occasional beer become a wifebeater?

When did my occasional beer become a wifebeater?

When I first started drinking as a professional young urbanite, Stella Artois was one of my usual beers of choice, in the absence of any other compelling options (well, it was Fosters for a while before I had a terrible night on them). It tasted alright, and its’ advertising association with European film didn’t hurt either.

I do however recall that when I first went to a Cardiff pub in 2001, my request for a Stella was generally poo-poo’ed upon by my mate at the bar. I wasn’t too sure why – maybe it was too pretentious a beer for Cardiff perhaps?

Fast forward to November 2007, and of all sources, it’s the BBC’s Newsnight that informs me that Stella Artois is now in fact the beer of choice for your average young drunkard out to cause trouble and trip over innocent cyclists. But when did this happen? and why?

They speculate that it may well be due to the high alcohol content of the beer – which would help to explain my inability to stand by the bar all night.

Black-tie and black-eye (almost)

Black-tie and black-eye (almost)

Thanks to work, I got a rather nice invite to the Association of Online Publishers Awards 2007 ceremony at the London Hilton. Only one snag – the dress code demanded black tie.

Being a short-sleeved and chinos kind of chap, I had no real idea what a black tie dinner suit entailed, so I ran to the nearest dress hire shop and slapped down £50 for a black-tie dinner suit. Which seemed to consist of … a black jacket, black trousers, white shirt and a bow tie. Oh sure, the jacket and trousers had some slightly extra-fancy stitching with some kind of satin strip, and the white shirt was an especially smart shirt, but I imagine I could have just worn a black jacket and black trousers, and perhaps gotten away with it.

Still, it was quite nice striding across the London Hilton with the Bond theme mentally running through my head into a cocktail reception – an illusion alas rudely shattered when my boss took one look at me and adjusted my black tie.

The awards came and went quite quickly, with Frankie Boyle dishing out awards and telling everyone to stop booing the Telegraph. Then it was time for the disco.

One particular ginger gentleman similarly donned in a black tie came up to us, definitely the worse for wear, going on and on about how great his video website company was. Later on, he tried to chat up my boss, so we tried distracting him by chatting to him, whereupon he threatened to do my face in. Charming fellow, but I think it’s safe to say I won’t be dealing with any time soon.

Doctors want to see me naked

Doctors want to see me naked

It’d be fair to say that I am no Adonis. I’m not a handsome man. So I’m not sure why the last two times I’ve seen a specialist doctor in a hospital, they’ve always wanted me to strip off.

The first time was to see a sleeping specialist. When I went in, he asked me to strip off to my pants, and lie on the bed. A bit of an odd request, I’d have thought, but I complied anyway. He made some basic pulse measurements, asked if I’d been hallucinating anything – then grandly concluded that there was nothing wrong with me and that I’d been wasting his time. Charming fellow.

This time around, it was to do with high blood pressure and my nose’s ability to erupt like a geyser spewing out lavafuls of blood at the most inopportune moments. Before I met the specialist, I’d spent 20 minutes with the nurse having my blood pressure measured in a variety of positions (“could you please stand on one leg and try to reach for that coffee cup on the shelf while I take your blood pressure, please?”) and being weighed. A somewhat pleasant surprise to find that I haven’t gained weight this year. Not so surprisingly, I haven’t lost any either.

So I walked into the specialist’s office, and was surprised to see a man and a woman there. The man asked me if I minded if the junior doctor observed, and I took this to mean the woman. I nodded my assent, which was possibly a fatal move since he then asked me to strip off. A tad confused, I asked him where I should strip off, to which I was told that I could do it behind the curtain.

So I stood there in my socks and pants behind the plastic curtain, before I plaintively asked the doctor what to do now. He asked me to come out from behind the curtain, and to take a seat. So I did – and was sat there for 15 minutes on a leather chair in my smalls while I tried to answer various questions about my lifestyle and avoid making eye contact with the junior doctor. I think it was when I confessed to my years of heroin abuse that the doctor twigged that I was a tad uncomfortable in this situation, and actually decided to make use of my nakedness.

By prodding my ankles. Which is apparently a sure sign of high blood pressure – but why I needed to be stripped naked for this for twenty minutes, heaven knows. He also took more heart measurements, although why I needed to be virtually naked for this I don’t know. He then decided to do some rather vigorous prodding in my groinal area, but this could easily have been done behind the plastic curtain, surely?

Blissfully, he told me to put my clothes on. And then sent me off for a battery of blood and heart tests, and a chest X-Ray. Which involved (again!) more stripping off with only a flimsy Homer-esque plastic gown and a lead panel pressed against my buttocks to save me from a radiation dose. Sometime in the next few weeks, I shall have to spend 24 hours peeing into a plastic bottle which contains some kind of acid, and take that to my doctor.

I bet at the end of all this, they’ll tell me that I just need to lose some weight to bring down my blood pressure. Strange, I’d suggest not being stripped in a doctors’ office and told to pee into a plastic bottle which stinks of vinegar.

Random moments from a stag weekend in Hamburg

Random moments from a stag weekend in Hamburg

As you’d expect from spending two nights in the biggest non-capital city in the European Union, traipsing up and down the area where the Beatles honed their gig-playing craft while the city celebrates its’ Harbour birthday, there were one or two interesting moments and observations to be had. To wit:

– The unforgettable sight of a woman. In a wheelchair. Vomiting. If she wasn’t sitting on her arse, I’d say she was drunk off it. At least before dodging the projectile vomit she emitted on the side of the road while slumped over.

– Having a gorgeous two-course Portuguese seafood lunch for just six euros. This is before the drinking started in earnest and I couldn’t taste anything.

– The smell of German sausages. Love it.

– Watching football team St. Pauli playing a key match, and observing that sitting on a wooden bench in the outdoors watching a team you’ve never heard or seen of before, is somehow more atmospheric than sitting with 70,000 Welsh football fans at the Millennium Stadium watching Wales beat Italy. Although both times I missed the instant replay that you at least get on television.

– At one moment, there was a adapted Mexican crowd wave involving some kind of hand gesture. In trying to mimic said hand gesture for practise reasons, I got rather odd looks from the crowd around me before my compatriots told me to sit down. Quite possibly because my hand gesture was somehow being mistaken for a Hitler salute – or maybe they were being all “Don’t Mention the War!” at me.

– Watching The Noisettes playing in a crowded, hot, steamy basement rock club. While I’m sitting on a comfortable bar stool sweating away and wishing I was fifteen years younger and my legs weren’t hurting so much. At this point in the evening, I am well off the taste of beer.

– Ending up in a Filipino karaoke bar at 5am, where the resident German singer knows enough tagalog to sing a few songs. Watching the stag murder a song or two. Video footage on request!

– Walking home with some old school friends, and standing at 5.30am on a street corner having a good-humoured argument on what constitutes a blog, and whether any old diary content could be repurposed into a blog. I say it can.

– The final day, and my body has just given up on me. My entire lower body is screaming. My upper body and head is fine, oddly. At least until we wonder down to the harbour and watch people hanging upside down on a fairground ride.

And yes, Eddie Izzard fans, people from Hamburg are apparently called Hamburgers. And a doughnut does seem to be called a Berliner.

It's time to proclaim your loyalty to America

It's time to proclaim your loyalty to America

Picture the scene:

George Bush shuffles onto the podium and announces to all: “Citizens! It is time to do your duty and proclaim your loyalty to America! To whit, I have announced that henceforth, May 1st is to be Loyalty Day in the United States!

Then an aide takes him to one side and whispers: “But sir… you’ve announced this the day before 1st May. What do you expect people to do on Loyalty Day given a day’s notice?”

Another aide then takes him to the other side (a lot of siding to-and-fro here!) and says: “Isn’t this uncomfortably close to the May Day Bank Holiday, sir?”

So, Americans amongst us, what did you do on Loyalty Day?

Eternal sunshine of the scatty mind

Eternal sunshine of the scatty mind

Sorry for not entertaining y’all with words of wit and songs of erm… song but my life is currently the equivalent of four headless chickens wandering merrily down the M4 just waiting for the big truck to come and turn me into so much Kentucky Fried Chicken.

I’ve developed a pecuilar habit of suddenly mixing up my consonants, so that when I think I’m saying “sleeping like a log”, I’m actually saying “sleeping like a dog”. I did 8 hours of train travel on Monday (beat that, Joe!), and the eternal sunshine outside isn’t exactly helping. Yesterday one answerphone message gave me some slight hope for the future but of course I misintrepreted it with hilariously dubious consequences. Oh and I’ve lost my watch.

On the plus side, plans are firmly in place for a move up to North Wales for some point in early July. On the minus side, it’ll probably involve a huge convoy of truckers, and then the hunt for cheap/free furniture.

But I shall leave you with an example of just how scatty and disorganised my brain has become.

Last Wednesday, I had a meeting in London. So I jump onto the train, before realising I’ve forgotten the handy piece of paper that tells me where the meeting is. Not a problem, I think. I’ll just log onto work when I get to work and retrieve my email.

Not so simple. The computer refuses to log me in – indeed, I try three times and it locks me out of my account. The IT staff won’t accept proof of my ID unless I either fax them my ID or go up to their office in person. So no score there.

Next step – go up to reception and ask them if they know. The charming receptionist looks through all her papers but can’t find any mention of said meeting. But HQ is a big place, it might not be on the list.

Final step – call the switchboard, randomly pick the relevant department and hope the other person on the line knows where the meeting is. Thankfully, she does.

Unfortunately, it was the day after. I’d gone to the meeting a day early.

It's taken me fifteen years…

It's taken me fifteen years…

but this morning, I did something that I haven’t done for fifteen years. It was curiously and strangely satisfying basking in the glory of the sun, getting wet and dirty with it, and I look forward to years of doing it with Miss R.

Yes, I put some of my laundry out to dry on the washing line.

Ever since I left home at the tender age of 18, joys such as hanging washing out were denied me as I lived in a succession of student, then bedsit, then one-bedroom flats in city suburbs. With no garden or back space, I had to hang my damp clothes on radiators that would slowly turn dark with damp, and wait about a week before the clothes would dry out.

But when I moved into my new temporary digs, it not only came with a cool resident landlord and a huge airy room with jungle plants and wireless internet, it also came with a garden complete with washing line. So early this morning, I was taking my clothes out of the washing machine and hanging them on the washing line, juggling clothes pegs and sagging lines in the glorious sunshine. And lo it was good, working slightly in the sunshine. I stood back, and admired my handiwork as if I had personally handcrafted the Holy Grail of washing.

Fast forward four hours later, and it’s raining in Cardiff and my clothes are probably extraordinarily damp again. Sod’s bloody law.

Everything I own…

Everything I own…

So, phase #1 of the great move has been completed. Albeit with a huge number of comedy errors that make the Keystone Cops look like they should be engaged in the war on terror.

After seeming to spend the last two weeks throwing, packing and dumping – culminating in a climatic weekend with Miss R and I packing, and dragging five crates of magazines, one crate of glass bottles and 14 bags to the recycling dump – the time came to start the move on a sunny Sunday morning. On quite possibly the hottest day of the year. I was sweating in 10 mins.

So it started – but after an hour of moving stuff from the top floor to the van, the van was only quarter-full – and we still had half a room full of stuff. Miss R unfortunately had to disappear at lunchtime, so for the next two hours, I just lugged boxes from the top floor to the bottom floor.

I then begged Anni for some help in watching the van while I loaded it. And bless her, she took time out from a relaxing Sunday afternoon to sweat, move and generally be indispensable. My mate Dylan also came over to help move a bloody huge TV set – and they both navigated my inept driving of the transit van out of the cul-de-sac, and then onwards to the self-storage depot.

So we got in past the security, the keycodes, lugged three carts of belongings to the first floor, whereupon I suddenly realised that I’d left the keys to the self-storage place back at the flat. So I had to go back and get them while leaving Dylan and Anni – who’d never met before – in what seems to be a nuclear bunker with shopping mall muzak for half an hour. When they could have been relaxing in the garden on a Sunday afternoon. Gawd bless them.

Still, the last time I forgot my keys in moving house, I was moving from London to Cardiff – and didn’t realise till I was at Reading, about 30 mins in. So I had to drive all the way back, go back up to my London flat, and still couldn’t find my keys. Except when I returned to the van and found them in a bag beside me.

Everything i own...Eventually I got back, we lugged up more stuff and squeezed it into the storage space – it was like playing a giant version of Tetris. By the time I released Dylan and Anni from their voluntary duties, it was 7pm and the weather was a lot cooler.

But it wasn’t over. Now I had to move my “essentials” over to where I’m staying for the next month. Calling on the services of Rhys and Scott, this took another couple of hours before I tried to drive the van away while still leaving the side van door open – and then navigate it down a narrow side street. At this point, we were trying to unload the van in the dark, while the odd annoyed motorist buzzed at us to get out of the way – necessitating a drive round the corner to unblock the road.

The van was finally unloaded at 10.30pm – but the fun wasn’t over. I had to go back to the original flat and spend the next couple of hours, cleaning the place, and making a note of the electricity and gas meters. Except in my haste to get out, I left the notebook with the essential details behind. Doh.

So I didn’t get back to my new room till midnight – then it was time for a shower. Then I couldn’t sleep because I was so exhausted. But sleep I managed – until I had to get up early in the morning to return the hire van.

Goodbye... As I left my original flat (which I’d been in for four and a half years) for the last time, this charming sight greeted me.

So many many thanks to Miss R, Dylan and Anni, and Rhys and Scott. Couldn’t have done it without you!

Oh happy day?

Oh happy day?

Today is the happiest day of the year – at least according to some expert. Something to do with spring, renewal and an impending Bank Holiday.

Given that I am currently soaked to the skin having run across the road in the pouring rain to meet someone who wanted to buy a Macy Gray CD – only for said person not to show up – and I’ve calculated that I don’t have a spare day or weekend to just veg out in front of the PC or TV till July 2006 (assuming I’ve found somewhere to live by then!) – I don’t feel that happy.

Then again, wait till I get a chance to play with my new gorgeously svelte laptop *drool*. (Thanks Skarlett!) But I’ve got something to complain about that too 😉

Just call me Victor Meldrew 😉

Goodbye Dixons ?!

Goodbye Dixons ?!

When the Dixons Store Group bought Currys back in the last century, I wisely said to myself that it wouldn’t be long before the chav-esque brand of Currys would disappear from Britain’s high streets and be replaced by the slightly-upper-class-chav-esque brand of Dixons.

Fortunately, I wasn’t blogging in those days since I’d have to eat my words with the news that all the Dixons stores in the UK are to be re-branded to The idea apparently being that we would all go online to buy our electronic goods instead, leaving Currys to sell the white-goods to the non-broadband-savvy.

This is interesting news, except for one huge flaw. I’m obviously broadband-savvy. but yet, when I find myself in times of trouble (like every 30 seconds these days) I like to pop into Dixons, just to gaze in wonder at all the electronic gadgets that would bring joy to my miserable existence for precisely 17.5 nanoseconds. And then if I was going to buy one, I’d look a darn site more seriously at the big-screen TVs, how they look in the real world etc.

It’d be a huge shame if all that were to go.

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