diamond geezer

 Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Pub toilets

I don't know if you've ever noticed but, by law, all pubs must be separated from their toilet facilities by at least two doors. Presumably this is so that you can't see blokes standing at the urinals while you're at the bar sipping on your weak yellow lager.

I've noticed, from bitter experience, that there appear to be a few other unwritten laws concerning pub toilets.

• All pub toilets are poorly signposted. This is so that, when you first feel the need to pay a visit, you haven't got a clue which way to go, so you head initially in the wrong direction, then have to turn round embarrassingly after you walk accidentally into the alcove behind the cigarette machine.
• All pub toilets are situated on a different floor to the pub itself. This is to force you to attempt to negotiate a set of narrow stairs whilst in a drunken state, usually downwards, and risk losing your footing and ending up at the bottom in a heap with a bemused smile on your face.
• All pub toilets have supposedly witty names on the doors, like 'Ducks' and Drakes', or 'Laddies' and 'Gentlewomen'. This is to encourage you to walk into the wrong convenience by mistake, much to your eternal shame, and because the landlord mistakenly believes that these names are funny.
• All pub toilets are cold, damp, poorly maintained, with puddles on the floor and lacking in toilet paper. This is because landlords know that, after five pints, you'll be so bladdered that you have no choice but to use the facilities provided, however miserable, and so there's no point maintaining them to any acceptable standard.
• Whenever you visit the pub toilet, so does the creepy bloke from the bar that you'd rather never ever be alone with, except that you now are, and you're standing next to him, and you'd rather be absolutely anywhere else, except that there are important biological reasons why you can't leave the urinal for the next 45 seconds. This is because life's a bitch.

Or am i just going to the wrong pubs?

Let the fireworks begin!

 Monday, November 04, 2002

Festivitis

It's November, so I shouldn't be surprised to see Christmas encroaching everywhere on the High Street. Disappointed maybe, but not surprised. There are glittery dangly decorations all over BHS, and have been for weeks. Argos started its TV advertising campaign last month, just to give us plenty of time to save up for a cordless drill and matching screwdriver set. And Santa has arrived in Harrods, especially for all the Arabs celebrating Christmas this year.

However, Tesco appear to be overdoing their in-store promotion of Christmas somewhat. Little messages are appearing all over the store, attached to the shelves, to remind customers of items they might like to stock up on for the festive season. These three messages particularly worried me:

Recycle your Christmas cards here: I don't know anyone who's even bought a Christmas card yet, let alone written one, let alone sent one, let alone received one, let alone opened one, let alone stuck it on the window sill for three weeks, let alone thought about throwing it away in an environmentally friendly manner. On closer inspection, this special recycling offer starts at Tesco on January 6th. The advertising's just a couple of months premature, then.

Cereal for Christmas morning: That'll be just in case you don't have a box of cereal in your kitchen anyway, presumably. Maybe Tesco are hoping we'll suddenly want to snap up a festive packet of Pinecone Flakes, Ice Krispies or PermaFrosties. Of course, if should you be planning on spending Christmas morning with any small children, trust me, cereal is the very last thing on their mind at 5am. Spend the cereal money on a couple of extra rolls of wrapping paper instead.

Save a mince pie for Santa: Children love to leave food out on Christmas Eve, just in case a hungry old man should wander into their bedroom in the middle of the night. However, saving a Tesco mince pie until Christmas Eve may not be a particularly good idea, given that all the mince pies available today had a sell-by-date of December 9th. It's lucky that Santa doesn't exist, otherwise he might end up dead from food poisoning in seven weeks time.

 Sunday, November 03, 2002

Single life

If it's three minutes past midday on November 3rd, then I've been single for exactly three years.

A recent survey found that 66% of UK adults are currently in a stable relationship, leaving the remaining one third of us currently unattached. Some might say that we single people are missing out, and maybe we are, but I'm convinced there are lots of positive points to being single:

Single: You get the whole duvet to yourself.
Coupled: You don't need a hot water bottle.

Single: There's half as much ironing to do.
Coupled: There's somebody else to do the ironing for you.

Single: You can watch whatever TV channel you like, without arguments.
Coupled: There's someone to talk to about the TV programme you're watching.

Single: You can get home from work at whatever time you like.
Coupled: There might just be a meal waiting for you when you get home.

Single: You get to eat the whole ready meal for two yourself.
Coupled: It takes just as long to cook for two as it does for one.

Single: There are no important birthdays or anniversaries to accidentally forget.
Coupled: Somebody actually remembers your birthday.

Single: You have can still have a riotous social life in your 30s.
Coupled: You can still have a riotous social life in your 60s.

Single: You don't keep catching every sniffle, cold and flu bug off your partner.
Coupled: When you suffer a major cardiac arrest, somebody notices and dials 999.

Single: You have no friends to go out with because they've all partnered off and are staying in.
Coupled: You don't have to go out with those annoying friends you had while you were single.

Single: Nobody sees what you look like first thing in the morning.
Coupled: Somebody loves you despite what they see first thing in the morning.

Single: You can lie in bed in the morning for as long as you like.
Coupled: There's a good reason for lying in bed in the morning ;o)

Single: You never catch your partner shagging in a Cotswolds hotel with another bloke.
Not that I'm in any way bitter, you understand...

 Saturday, November 02, 2002

20 years of Channel 4

It's hard to believe that only 20 years ago we lived in a world with only three TV channels. Then along came Channel 4 on 2nd November 1982, supposedly with a brief to be cutting-edge, avant-garde and radically different. However, the first programme on the channel was the first ever edition of Countdown, which is about as safe and comfy as television ever gets. I missed the launch of Channel 4 because I was out having a driving lesson at the time. However, there have been thousands of Countdowns since then, perfectly filling that great afternoon teatime void, and all structured exactly the same...

• Show begins with whirling clocks, flying letters and extremely catchy theme music.
• Richard appears, wearing garish stripy tie and a jacket made from deckchair material.
• Richard smiles broadly, tells us what the date is and flirts mildly with Carol.
• Richard re-introduces this week's D-list celebrity resident in dictionary corner.
• Richard introduces 12-year-old contestant, and makes several weak puns about his name.
• Richard introduces the housewife from Yorkshire who's about to be humiliatingly defeated.
• First contestant selects five consonants and four vowels.
• Catchy music plays for 30 seconds while cameras zoom in on contestants looking pensive.
• You've only managed a 4-letter word, so you convince yourself you weren't really trying.
• Housewife announces 5-letter word, so you feel even more intellectually sub-normal.
• 12-year-old announces 6-letter word and smirks knowingly at Mum sitting in the audience.
• Smug celebrity announces 7-letter word provided by hidden computer technology.
• Token glamorous librarian tells us the meaning of obscure word using tiny pen camera.
• Richard attempts to make the one-sided score sound exciting.
• Big second hand on the Countdown clock spins back to the top while nobody's looking.
• Repeat letters rounds as necessary until it's time for the numbers round.
• Chosen contestant selects one from the top row and any other five please Carol.
• 12-year-old puts down his pen after 3 seconds, while housewife still looks baffled after 30.
• 12-year-old discovers he's used one of the numbers twice, and tries very hard not to cry.
• Carol says 639 is a very difficult total to make, but she'll have another go during the break.
• Celebrity tells feeble anecdote, greeted by rapturous laughter from the geriatric audience.
• Commercial break, featuring adverts for stairlifts, funeral plans and Werther's Original.
• Repeat words and numbers rounds as necessary until it's time for the Conundrum.
• 12-year-old correctly guesses jumbled-up nine-letter word within half a second.
• Richard congratulates victorious child and tells him he'll be back at the end of the series.
• Housewife receives feeble goodie bag containing job lot of cheap Countdown merchandise.
• Richard asks tomorrow's contestant in the audience whether he guessed the Conundrum.
• Richard, Carol and D-list celebrity smile broadly and hope to see you tomorrow.
• Credits roll while Yorkshire TV employees poke the audience to get them to applaud.
• Production team still have four more shows to get in the can today, so everything restarts.

And three million people wouldn't have it any other way.


 Friday, November 01, 2002

Stratford - urban metropolis of the future

England is well known the world over for historic Stratford-on-Avon, home of Shakespeare and ye olde genuine tea shoppes. However, I live just down the road from the other Stratford, home of cheap market stalls and a gridlocked ring-road. Stratford straddles the Greenwich Meridian, with the newly renovated station in the Western hemisphere and the cavernous shopping centre just a pedestrian crossing away in the Eastern hemisphere. Stratford could not under any circumstances be described as a cultural centre, a decent retail centre or even a place worth visiting. However, plans are afoot to change all that...

The one thing that Stratford does have is excellent rail connections. Trains run from here to Liverpool Street, Docklands, East Anglia, Neasden, Ruislip and, when the Channel Tunnel Rail Link arrives in 2007, Paris. It may not be the greatest place to live, but it is definitely a great place to travel away from. Property prices round have risen so quickly that, had I bought a flat in Stratford last year, I could probably sell it today at a profit exceeding the gross national product of a small African country.

Stratford's new Eurostar station is planned to be at the heart of a billion pound regeneration scheme, bringing new homes and a huge metropolitan, business and retail centre to the area. It's got to be a huge improvement on one Woolworths, one Argos and a Pizza Hut, which is as good as it gets at the moment.

Today a report has suggested that Stratford should be at the centre of a UK bid for the Olympics in 2012. In ten years time the whole international world of sport and athletics could be arriving on my doorstep, although quite frankly we have a big enough drug problem round here as it is.

Sydney, Athens, Beijing... Stratford? I'm really looking forward to living somewhere potentially bigger than Shakespeare.

I hate to worry you but:
• it's Christmas next month.
• the sun sets at half past four this evening.
• the sun will be setting before five every day until February.
(Apologies to two of my SADdest friends there)

 Thursday, October 31, 2002

The best of October

TV programme of the month: The Office. Just reminds me how lucky I am to work in a decent office, and not a normal one. Ok, who's hidden my stapler?

TV programme nearly-let-down of the month: League of Gentlemen series 3. Episode 4 was hilarious. Episode 5 was ok. Episodes 2 and 3 were highly disappointing. Thankfully episode 6 tonight has just tied up all the loose ends and rescued everything. Or at least I think it did - I could barely see a picture given my TV reception. You're my elephant now.

Football result of the month: Erm, if I look back far enough I'm sure I'll find at least one result that went Arsenal's way. Erm, we did thrash Sunderland a lot earlier in the month. It all seems so long ago now.

Film of the month: Donnie Darko. It's a film about a schizophrenic teenager seemingly stalked by a 6 foot alien rabbit. It's either Back To The Future updated for the 21st century, or else it's Buffy crossed with the Lost Boys but without the vampires. It's wonderfully leftfield for an American movie, which is probably why it wasn't a big hit over there. It's one of those very rare films that I could actually watch again soon.

Film soundtrack of the month: Donnie Darko ends with an atmospheric cover version of Tears for Fears' Mad World that had everyone in the cinema turning to their neighbour and saying "That's excellent! Who the hell is it by?" Turns out to be by an American folkie called Gary Jules. He's dripped every ounce of melancholy out of a great 20-year-old synth tune, and it sends shivers down my spine. Somebody release it please - it could be huge.

Album of the month: Lost Horizons by Lemon Jelly. Read about it on a blog somewhere on Saturday morning. Bought it Saturday afternoon. Still in my CD player days later. A blinding and very English album, located somewhere between Air, a 1970s public information film and the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band. Perfect, so I went out and bought the entire back catalogue two hours later.

Compilation album of the month: Forever Delayed by the Manic Street Preachers. I don't buy compilation albums because they're all rip-offs of music you already own, just in a different order. However, I didn't own any of this in any order, so I was pleasantly surprised by the relentless succession of excellent singles on here. All this and a free remix album thrown in for good measure - it's a design for life.

Re-discovered 90s band of the month: Denim. How did I ever miss this band first time round? How could anyone fail to fall for a group with songs called Ape-Hangers, Granddad's False Teeth, Wear Your Foghat With Pride and Ankle Tattoos? Not forgetting the utterly enchanting Internet Curtains? It's wonderfully tongue-in-cheek, a sort of Half Man Half Biscuit with synthesiser backing. Well, you might not be impressed, but I'm hooked.

get your miniBUFFSEED at minibuffs.tk!Gig of the month: The Buffseeds and Vega 4 at the London Barfly. Went specifically to see the excellent, unassuming Devon lads. Ended up being very impressed by the big-on-the-continent done-nothing-here showmen from across the Commonwealth. That's the lovely Neil from the Buffseeds, by the way, in miniature. Neil says hello. Well, he said hello to me anyway.

Hi Mum :)

 Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Freeview

If there's a God of TV Reception, then he (or she) really has a major grudge against me. (If there is a Goddess of TV Reception, she would have to be called Ariel, of course.)

Ever since I moved into my flat in London I've been plagued by the most appalling TV reception problems. My current level of reception is undoubtedly worse than that experienced two-thirds of a century ago by the first TV set pioneers receiving 405-line black and white pictures from Alexandra Palace.

The letting agents never told me my flat had dodgy TV reception. Once I moved in I found out soon enough, and I discovered that no amount of retuning, signal-boosting or fitting an internal aerial was going to make a blind bit of difference (with blind being the crucial word). Overnight, in moving from backward Suffolk to modern London, I had lost picture quality, teletext and the ability to videotape anything. I was most disappointed to discover that nobody had any interest in upgrading our communal aerial. I immediately enquired about cable but found that this wasn't an option, which seemed astonishing now that I was living in the middle of the nation's capital. And then, because I live in a listed building with walls that only face North, I found that satellite TV was a dead option too. I was stuck paying my TV licence for the privilege of watching blurry snow.

Five months later someone finally fiddled with my aerial, and at last I discovered what all those new voices in EastEnders actually looked like. This was my cue to rush out and buy an ITV Digital box, alas during the one six-week period when they weren't giving away free Monkeys. My multi-channel world lasted 18 days, at which point it got a bit windy, the aerial moved, and I lost everything again. This happened a further three times, after which ITV Digital went bust and all the decent extra channels disappeared anyway. Three days later a very large crane was erected near Rotherhithe which blocked the signal from Crystal Palace just enough to knock out all my remaining digital transmissions. And then, finally, last weekend's gales have knocked the aerial totally out of position again, so I'm back to watching 1936-quality TV on all channels. Again. Bugger.

Today saw the launch of Freeview, the brand new replacement for ITV Digital. Freeview promises stronger signal strength and, more importantly, not to go embarrassingly bust dragging ten Nationwide League teams down with it. I've already tuned in my old ITV Digital box ready, eager with anticipation to watch BBC Parliament, The Community Channel and TV Travel Shop. However, until someone reinstalls my aerial, I'm having to survive without these undoubted cultural highlights. Even then there's still the additional problem that all the sound coming through my digital box seems to have permanently disappeared...

If there's a God of TV Reception, then he (or she) really has a major grudge against me. In the meantime, can I come round to yours and see what I'm missing?

 Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Do check out your daily horroscope with Pessimystic Meg.
Here's mine for today: If I were you, I wouldn't leave that there. You know it'll get knocked over. Unlucky paper size: A4.
And tomorrow: Due to an error in the supermarket, your breakfast contained heroin, to which you are now addicted. Unlucky arachnid: daddy long legs.
And the day after: The good news is, you look pretty good with a raincoat over your head and your hands bound by cuffs. Unlucky font: Arial.

Blogger ta

Diamond Geezer's not yet 2 months old, but I'd like to take this opportunity to name and thank just a few people who've already noticed me and linked here.

Thanks to those who've linked to me:
bitful, particularly October 14th
arseblog, particularly November 1st
burnt toast, particularly October 22nd
spindled brocade
a large mango

And thanks to those who've mentioned me:
swish cottage, on October 10th
big man restless, on October 5th

 Monday, October 28, 2002

Wind up

Score 20 points today every time you hear someone say one of the following:

• Wasn't it windy yesterday?
• That used to be such a beautiful tree.
• It only just missed the greenhouse you know.
• If I'd been driving down that road 30 minutes earlier I might have died.
• And then my train/plane was cancelled - it was so inconvenient.
• I had to spend all afternoon clearing up the garden.
• There were branches everywhere!
• It was so much worse than that earthquake last week.
• Of course, I blame global warming.
• It was just like the Blitz...
• Bloody shut up about the storm will you?

 Sunday, October 27, 2002

Spring forward, Fall back

If it's the early hours of the last Sunday in October, then it must be time to put the clocks back an hour to Greenwich Mean Time. British Summer Time is over for another year, even though you'd have been hard pushed to describe any of the last month as Summer. Suddenly it feels as if Winter is on the way, which can make a lot of us feel SAD.

The concept of Daylight Saving is more than 200 years old, being yet another idea from the brimming head of American genius Benjamin Franklin. The UK first introduced BST in 1916 during World War One, and we've even endured Double Summer Time during World War 2 and between 1968 and 1971.

Summer Time could be seen as an elaborate con trick by Her Majesty's Government, hoodwinking the entire population of Britain into getting up an hour earlier than usual for seven months of the year. In March we go to work at 9am, and then suddenly in April we all go to work at 8am instead. And let's not forget that the extra hour makes October the longest month of the year, which is clearly not ideal.

Daylight Saving starts and finishes on different dates in different countries around the world, just to confuse air travellers. The European Union's obscure 9th EC Directive declares that our Summer Time will last from the last Sunday of March to the last Sunday of October, whereas the USA chooses to start on the first Sunday of April. The state of Arizona and the Canadian province of Saskatchewan choose not to recognise Daylight Saving at all, and in Australia Daylight Saving starts today on the day we finish and finishes in March on the day we begin.

Today in the UK is exactly eight weeks before the Winter Solstice, or shortest day of the year. The days get shorter for just eight weeks, and then longer again as the Spring draws near. I've never quite understood why we then have to wait another fourteen weeks after the shortest day before we're allowed to put the clocks forward again. All March evenings are an hour darker than they need to be, and Spring is held at bay for an unnecessary extra six weeks.

The extra hour this morning is good news for anyone who's out on the town clubbing it on a Saturday night, as you get an hour's extra hedonism for your money, but it's bad news for insomniacs, night watchmen and bar staff. For most of us it's great to have an extra hour in bed, but then we're forced to waste most of that hour later in the morning going round the house resetting clocks, watches, microwaves, hi-fis, video recorders, central heating systems, mobile phones and a few more clocks we forgot about the first time round.

Our UK clocks go back one hour at 0200 BST to 0100 GMT, so those of us who are awake get to experience 1am-2am twice. It's therefore possible to leave a nightclub at quarter to two and arrive home at quarter past one, half an hour before you left. Maybe time travel is indeed possible after all.

I'll leave you to guess which one of the two 01:00s I posted this at...

 Saturday, October 26, 2002

It appears that children's reading books have moved on somewhat from the innocent days of Peter and Jane, Enid Blyton and the Mr Men. Judge for yourself here.

Search engines are wonderful things, and their ability to uncover information on diverse subjects is one of the genuine wonders of the internet age. However, some people type very odd things into search engines in order to hunt down what can only be described as dodgy and disturbing material. A number of these people have accidentally found my diamond geezer website by mistake instead. I fear for their sanity, but I can't deny that all the words appear in my blog somewhere.

Here are my five favourite unexpected search engine visitors to date:
beatles fluoridation song: diamond geezer comes 1st in this search
Paul mccartney bali victims: 5th in this search
photos of lesbians snogging: 7th in this search
s club juniors poppy appeal: 7th in this search
marilyn monroe + sacked + blue book: 10th in this search

This link is a great online version of the legendary Rubik's cube. Twenty-one years ago we all had one, and every school had one spotty geek who could put it back together again in under a minute, without pulling all the blocks apart or just peeling off all the stickers like the rest of us. The geek's moment of playground glory was short-lived of course, and he went back to being the playground's sacrificial kicking-object a few days later, but today he's almost certainly running a hugely profitable IT company with a beautiful twenty-one year-old wife, two Rolls Royces and a ten-bedroom mansion just outside Reading.

 Thursday, October 24, 2002

Sticky back

What tawdry and disgraceful things have Blue Peter presenters done after leaving the show? Allegedy.

Richard Bacon (1997-98): left the show under a cloud - a very white powdery sort of a cloud.
Janet Ellis (1983-87): left the show to have a baby out of wedlock, though that wasn't our Sophie.
Michael Sundin (1984-85): left the show in a blaze of unpublicity to die from a mystery illness.
Anthea Turner (1992-94): left the show to become the career sacrifice on Celebrity Big Brother.
Lesley Judd (1972-79): left the show to become the 'Mole' on the Adventure Game.
Peter Duncan (1980-84) (1985-86): left the show to feature in a number of very dodgy videos.
Valerie Singleton OBE (1962-72): left the show to have absolutely no boyfriends, infamously.
Diane-Louise Jordan (1990-96): left the show to give Aled Jones a run for his money on Songs of Praise.
Peter Purves (1967-78): left the show to foist Junior Kickstart onto an unsuspecting audience.
Katy Hill (1995-2000): left the show to drag Saturday morning telly into a chasm of bland despair.
John Noakes (1965-78): left the show to give Magpie a chance to succeed in the ratings war.
Sarah Greene (1980-83): left the show to face mortal danger from Mike Smith's chopper.
John Leslie (1989-94): the odd one out here - has clearly done nothing tawdry and disgraceful at all.

Hmm, I posted Wednesday's blogs here hours ago, but they've only just appeared on this page. Very strange. Normal service is now resumed, I hope.

 Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Coping with loss

So, Arsenal have lost. And not just lost once, but lost twice. Overnight the Gunners have been transformed by the media from an invincible team storming towards global domination into a tired bunch of no-hopers well past their best. It's clearly the end of the red-and-white world as we know it, and an excuse for acres of negative newsprint.

I'm always disheartened by the way in which the media portray football teams to be only as good as their last game. Win your last game and the world loves you. Lose and the manager's job is on the line, the goalkeeper is past his prime, relegation is in prospect and there are mutterings that even West Ham could beat you. In Arsenal's case the record-breaking triumph of thirty Premiership games without defeat is forgotten overnight, purely because the thirty-first wasn't quite so good. It seems that too many football pundits have the short-term memory of a goldfish.

This negativity in mood and reporting extends into many other areas of football. Back in the summer England were knocked out in the quarter finals of the World Cup. And were the media impressed? Oh no. There was national gloom and depression at losing against Brazil, rather than rejoicing at the genuine success of being one of the top eight footballing nations in the world. All knockout tournaments run like this - if you're the one team that eventually wins the final then that's fantastic, but otherwise you end up dumped on the scrapheap somewhere along the way as one of the thirty-one teams that 'lost'.

I've been a fan of Arsenal for more than thirty years, ever since the glorious day of the Double-winning FA Cup final of 1971. OK, so I may have been at infant school at the time, and I may have been swayed by Arsenal's kit being better looking than that of Liverpool, and my brother may have chosen to support the wrong team in that particular match and cried for the rest of the afternoon, but it's good to know that I picked a winner. And the kit still looks great too :o)

So, Arsenal have lost. So what? They're still a bloody good team and they'll win again, frequently. It's this recognition of the past and an optimism for the future that provides comfort and hope for all genuine fans of Arsenal, and indeed of all other football teams. Get real - not every team can win all the time. Not even yours. And sadly not even mine.

Today - arrived in office at three minutes past eight, left office at three minutes past eight. I suspect I may be working too much...

 Tuesday, October 22, 2002

The A-Z of Technology

Aluminium micro scooter: silver version of a naff toy that even 4-year old girls now consider to be uncool.
Biro: a 20th century invention that’s much quicker than getting your palmtop computer out, logging in, trying to write something and printing it out.
Blog: website written by someone in the misguided belief that they have something to say.
Camcorder: a device for recording tedious family holidays for playback to a captive audience.
Dotcom: the way to make virtually no money.
DVD: a sly attempt by big business to make you fork out again for a film you already own on video (see also Compact Disc, Audio Book)
E-mail: means of online communication that takes 20 times longer than a phone call of the same length.
Free unlimited net access: fat chance.
Hacker: a spotty teenager from abroad who uses your computer more than you do.
Internet: an infinite number of monkeys at an infinite number of keyboards, but no sign of Shakespeare yet.
Keyboard: a drip tray for collecting spilt coffee and biscuit crumbs.
Mobile: the phone you can use anywhere, lose anywhere, and annoy other people with everywhere.
MP3: a toss up between John and David, after Tony (MP1) and Gordon (MP2).
Off-peak: only 37p a minute, rather than 65p.
Surf-bored: tired of using the Internet.
Text messages: the only thing children still write in class, but under the desks, not on them.
Upgrade: essential extra purchase to prevent your PC going out of date a week after you buy it.
www: the only known abbreviation that is six syllables longer than the phrase it replaces.
Zapper: one of the five, soon to be 13, identical black control units lost down the side of your sofa.

Any further contributions welcome, especially G, J, L, N, P, Q, R, V, X, Y...

 Monday, October 21, 2002

Open wide

I visited my dentist this afternoon, combining the need for two fillings with a visit to the hygienist. I can't say I was looking forward to going, but it still was good to leave work at lunchtime, seven hours early.

Many modern dentists appear to be little more than cosmetic surgeons, offering a complete tooth-whitening service to the orally vain. I've managed to keep on the books of the old-fashioned NHS dentist I first used twenty years ago, despite having lived at ten different addresses around the country over that period. I may now have two extra slabs of Alzheimer-inducing amalgam in my mouth, but at least they only cost me £5.64 each. I suspect that I belong to the last generation with fillings, growing up before the advent of fluoridation and toothkind Ribena, and as a result my teeth probably have as many holes as the average golf course. A young person today does of course generally have just as much metal in their mouth as I do, but it tends to be in one lump through their tongue instead.

I've only ever visited a hygienist once before, and I absolutely hated it. The brushing, poking and scraping made my stomach turn and my teeth wince, the so-called-health-advice I was given would have been patronising even to an eight-year-old, and I swore I'd never go near the bloke again. Other people then told me that this was a very unusual reaction and that their hygienists were lovely people - none of which corresponded at all with my first traumatic experience. Then, at my most recent check-up back in August, my dentist instructed me to book another appointment with the hygienist from hell. I tried hard not to appear a big wuss, but I told her there was no way I was allowing that devil in my mouth again. "Ah yes," said my dentist, "a lot of people thought that, and so we sacked him."

And so this afternoon I braved the new hygienist, who thankfully turned out to be competent, calm and not just another oral sadist. I won't mind going back next time, even if she does insist on saying "...and don't forget to floss!" as a parting comment, but now I wonder if I have a case for suing my dental practice for the incompetent treatment I received last time.

Anyway, I'm home now and I've treated myself to one of Tesco's finest Sticky Toffee Puddings as a reward. Just as long as I can get the left hand side of my mouth open wide enough.

 Sunday, October 20, 2002

When I'm 64

My Dad was born on this day in 1938, which makes today his sixty-fourth birthday.

I decided to burn him a CD for a birthday present, not just because it's cheap to post but also because a compilation album based on the Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band seemed a very appropriate gift. There were a couple of scratchy vinyl Apple albums in my family's record collection while I was growing up, but never this one so I was definitely onto a winner.

Track two on side two of Sgt Pepper is the wonderfully catchy When I'm 64. As with so many Beatles songs, the tune is disarmingly straight-forward, has a hook as sharp as barbed wire, everyone in the country knows the song off-by-heart, and there's a sting in the tale if you actually stop and listen to the lyrics.
Will you still need me, Will you still feed me, When I'm sixty-four?
You'll be older too, And if you say the word, I could stay with you.


My Dad would have been approaching 30 back in June 1967 when Sgt Pepper was released. I'm sure old age was the last thing on his mind at the time, but here he is now having reached the actual day that Paul McCartney was singing about. He's lucky enough to be in a happy marriage of exactly the kind referred to in the song, and has been since well before the album was released. Today has indeed seen him doing the garden, digging the weeds, who could ask for more? and with grandchildren on your knee, just as the song said. I realise I've been very lucky too, raised and brought up in an ordinary loving stable family, the type that's so ordinary that I often forget how extraordinary it actually is.

Anyway, my dad liked the CD and he's promised that, when he's in his nineties, he'll send it back to me for my 64th birthday.
When I get older losing my hair, Many years from now.

I've been to see the film xXx. It's easily the lamest film I've seen all year, merely a series of unbelievable action sequences linked together by wooden acting and an exceptionally tenous plot. It's unintentionally hilarious, but it only merits o0o marks out of 10. I fear that Hollywood may already be planning a sequel, in which case I'd like to suggest that they call it yYy.

 Saturday, October 19, 2002

Three more online games brought to you by warped minds (and spotted by the excellent b3ta)

(1) Name that Beard: It's totally beyond me why anyone would want to grow a beard, except in order to give anyone they're snogging friction burns and the remains of last night's dinner. Goatees I can almost see the point of, except for those stupid tufty bits below the lip that make the wearer look like rather too much like an old goat themselves. Alas, all goatees take fifteen minutes to trim into the right shape every morning, time which could be far better spent in bed asleep for thirteen minutes and then clean-shaving with a razor for two. Thankfully I have no chance of ever growing one myself.

(2) Simon Swears: Remember Simon, a circular slab of black plastic with four coloured lights repeating in an ever-extending sequence for you to attempt to memorise? It came from the 'golden age' of electronic games, the days when you'd be opening your presents on Christmas morning only to discover that a relative had spent £25 on a plastic box with a few cheap-looking LEDs on the front. This purported to be some sort of futuristic and exciting game for all the family, but would in fact be discarded through boredom well before the batteries ran out, only to be uncovered from the loft twenty years later destined for a car boot sale with a 30p price tag. Sadly my family never ever bought me a Simon, but this was probably because they knew I'd have totally thrashed the rest of them at it.

(3) Kittyflip: I never understood the attraction of kittens, especially after living with one for two months. They look perfectly endearing for at least three minutes, after which they dig their claws into your leg, they jump up onto table tops they shouldn't be able to reach and lick all the food you're preparing for dinner, they wake you in the middle of the night when you'd rather be asleep, they hide in the cupboard under the sink for an entire afternoon making you think they've run off and you'll never see them again, they need feeding with nasty smelly tins of something that looks almost like meat but smells too much like fish, and they shit in the corner of the kitchen into a tray that nobody ever wants to clear up. And then, after all that care and attention you've given them, kittens grow up into cats and bugger off out of the house all day, only returning for food, if you're lucky.

Damn, missed.

 Thursday, October 17, 2002

Mobile good: Much as I love using predictive text to send messages from my mobile phone, it's always unnerving when other people fail to use the feature properly. When dashing off a quick text message it's all too easy to type in one word only for the phone to think you meant another. Before you realise it, a totally cryptic message has been sent on its way. You thought you said you were going home, but the phone thinks otherwise and I'm left wondering why you're telling me you're going good. So, my message back to all you text criminals can only be he you foot type proper to of them hue on blue you you mean

Peer Pressure: The House of Lords has voted to maintain the ban on gay partners adopting children. Whatever next? Are they planning further legislation to allow married couples to return adopted children to social services should they turn out to be gay? What our bigoted peers appear to have forgotten is that gay children can only be conceived by heterosexual couples. If homosexuality is indeed a disease, then it could be easily stamped out by banning straight couples from having sex.

 Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Name that Premiership team:
1 Bum as well
2 Offally wet
3 sbrOugh
4 Bloke together
5 Kid and bacon
6 100% pig
7 Pensioners
8 Modern fortress
9 Given priority
10 Dark fire
11 Harming IBM, re-formatted
12 Always 2240 lb
13 Down Court Palace
14 Martin's house
15 270° BA
16 Bloke conurbation
17 Separate country
18 Attach with nuts
19 Bobby and Jack are fit
20 Pig towards sunset

 Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Gone in an instant

There's been too much senseless random violence in the world of late, including last weekend's bombing in Bali and the indiscriminate shooting of citizens around Washington DC. When lives are taken so randomly, I'm always struck by the stories in the news about how ordinary lives have been so suddenly and cruelly snuffed out. The victims' parents tell how these were happy good people who didn't have a care in the world. Work colleagues share everyday stories of ordinary people we've all met in our own lives. A row of photos in the paper can depict tens or hundreds of years of future lives snuffed out. Then there are photographs of orphaned children, and numerous sentences starting 'if only they hadn't chosen that moment to go outside...' It could, so easily, have been somebody else.

I do sometimes wonder what would happen if it was me. I'm not so much concerned by the death part of it, as by the fact that I'd be represented in the media by a small passport sized photo. There are no good small passport sized photos of me, especially not in my passport. I hate to think which photo the papers would select to represent me and my life. James Dean and Marilyn Monroe were lucky - their final photos are international icons. I'd be happy merely with a photo that looks as human as I do in real life. Even my mother dislikes the picture of me on my homepage, and has attempted to take better shots of me with her digital camera just so that she can bear logging onto the site more often. Alas, the batteries were flat the last time she tried, but it was a kind thought. So, in the meantime I live in fear of being gunned down, blown up or driven into... unless there are any other budding photographers out there with functioning batteries?

I spent much of my working day yesterday in a hotel basement learning some new words. I learnt about project-scoping, I learnt about financial-visibility, I learnt about quality-assurance, I learnt about change-management, I learnt about bench-marking, I learnt to start with the givens and I spent some time discussing these in breakout-groups in team-space. Today I'm looking forward to going back to the office and doing some work.

 Monday, October 14, 2002

With four weeks still to go before Remembrance Sunday, the Royal British Legion have already started their publicity campaign for this year's Poppy Appeal. I'm sure it wasn't many years ago that poppies were only on sale for one week, then it stretched to two, and now there are posters up a month in advance. We will remember them, and remember them we should, but mid-October is definitely overdoing it.

It's wet, there's a chill in the air, and I've finally succumbed to wearing my coat to work. It can only be Autumn. That is Autumn by the way and not Fall, as the Americans would try to have it. Is it any wonder we write better poetry?

 Sunday, October 13, 2002

Top 3: 13th October 2002
(1) Ketchup Song - Las Ketchup: it's this summer's novelty eurotrash record, it's already been number one in 14 countries, and sadly someone's brought it home and now this makes 15
(2) New Direction - S Club Juniors: a god-awful sub-teen band attempts to cross Five Star with the Spice Girls and fails miserably (except as a cynical marketing exercise, of course)
(3) The Long and Winding Road - Will Young and Gareth Gates: dire middle-of-the-road slush, that your granny would surely like if only she had one of those new-fangled CD players

Top 3: 11th October 1992
(1) Sleeping Satellite - Tasmin Archer: now that's a bit of class, and a staple of compliation albums for years to come
(2) End of the Road - Boyz 2 Men: if Simon Bates was still doing 'Our Tune', he'd still be playing this bland song far too often
(3) Ebeneezer Goode - the Shamen: really this wasn't about drugs, oh no, but a bloody excellent record all the same - sorted

Top 3: 12th October 1982
(1) Pass The Dutchie - Musical Youth: definitely the S Club Juniors of their day - thankfully they also had a career measured in weeks and not years
(2) Do You Really Want To Hurt Me - Culture Club: Boy George would have been even more shocking at the time if we'd known he was shagging the drummer
(3) Zoom - Fat Larry's Band: OK, so there was always some total rubbish in the chart, even 20 years ago, and this was drivel of the highest order

Three questions spring to mind following a trip to the supermarket this lunchtime:
To the supermarket manager: Whose idea was it to pump the smell of roast turkey around the store ten weeks early?
To the wholemeal couple sneering behind me in the queue at the checkout: Yes, I know my trolley was full of the unhealthiest selection of food imaginable, but I like chocolate, ok?
To the designer of your plastic bags: Any idea when I might be able to open one of your plastic bags first time, especially when there's a long queue watching?

 Saturday, October 12, 2002

Dead centre

My Dad came down from East Anglia for the day (yes, I'm afraid his shoes lived down to all my expectations) and we spent most of the day amongst the dead.

First on our list was Paddington Cemetery (which is of course 3 miles away from Paddington) on a hunt for my great grandfather's grave. Edward was born the son of a tailor in South Molton Street, just round the corner from Bond Street tube station. He later moved out north-westwards to Maida Vale, but ended up being gassed on the battlefields of Belgium as a soldier in World War One, dying of respiratory problems two years later. We searched round the cemetery trying to find the right inscription on the right grave, but alas with no success. Knowing the family interest in horticulture, his was probably that grave with the small shrub planted on it 80 years ago, now grown into an enormous unkempt thorny weed, obscuring the entire plot and that of the two graves on either side.

Later in the day we visited Highgate Cemetery, the final resting place of, amongst others, Karl Marx and hordes of European student visitors. The twin cemeteries were dark, mysterious and silent, crowded full of ostentatious Victorian monuments and featuring an amazing Egyptian mausoleum cut into the hillside. The whole place is now seemingly run by a crowd of ageing volunteer lesbians, no doubt drawn there by the body of Radclyffe Hall, early 20th century dyke icon authoress.

We rounded off our day with a trip to Body Worlds in Brick Lane, an anatomical exhibition of real human bodies, preserved after death by the mysterious German scientific process of 'plastination'. It was disconcerting to come face-to-skull with what I look like underneath, alarming to realise how much good meat I have inside me, and particularly unnerving to see how testicles dangle from the pelvis like a couple of deeley-boppers. On emerging from the exhibition the restauranteurs of Brick Lane stood in their doorways trying to invite us into their curry houses, but strangely enough we were no longer feeling hungry.

I bought a danish pastry at Liverpool Street station this morning. Three questions struck me:
• Why, when I asked for a danish pastry, did they insist on giving me a danish pastry, a paper bag and three serviettes?
• Why, when I'd finished my danish pastry, did I discover that there are no litter bins anywhere on Liverpool Street station into which to dispose of my paper bag and three serviettes?
• Exactly how many years ago was the last time that a terrorist organisation actually placed a bomb in a litter bin in London, and how many more years will it be before anyone in London dares to put all the litter bins back? Please.

 Friday, October 11, 2002

Is there anybody out there?

So, Brookside is to be 'axed', or at least heavily sidelined, because the Channel 4 soap is only getting viewing figures of 1.4 million. It used to be watched by 4 to 6 million people, and in its heyday with the 'body under the patio' storyline it was getting 9 million. It also used to be a great show, even if the plots were a bit far-fetched, but I stopped watching in 1999 after fifteen devoted years when I just didn't care about any of the characters any more. So, I'm one of those missing millions, wielding absolute power via the off-switch.

In the 21st century the media are clearly more and more obsessed by ratings, sales and viewing figures. Programmes live or die by their overnight ratings, and singles that fail to reach the number one slot, even midweek, are written off in the tabloids as career-ending failures. It's almost as if nobody is allowed to be almost-successful any more, because negative spin makes such easy copy for the papers. The Office on BBC2 may be being watched by 4 million people, but oh dear, that's down by a million on last week, and disaster, that means 55 million Britons aren't watching, etc etc. However, we should all still take joy in belittling Fame Academy's feeble prime time viewing figures - only 3.6 million last night. Hopefully we'll now be allowed to vote out all of the producers ahead of the contestants.

I must confess that when you write a blog you do start wondering about your own ratings. Is there anybody out there? I therefore invested in a web stats tracker, only to discover that on Tuesday I got a mammoth three visitors, and two of them were me. Then suddenly Google decided to add me to their search engine and, hey presto, now when you search for diamond geezer you find this site in 17th place. Definitely wasn't listed there on Tuesday. And then yesterday the excellent Swish Cottage blog expressed mild interest in my site, and all of a sudden on Thursday I get 72 visitors. Not that I'm obsessed by ratings you understand but, unlike certain TV talent shows, it is nice to have an audience.

 Thursday, October 10, 2002

PSB in session: Blimey, the Pet Shop Boys are doing their first ever session for the John Peel show tonight, right now. And it's absolutely great. This is only to be expected from a band who've released loads of albums, every one of which lurks in my record collection and still gets played regularly. The only other artists I can say that about are Blur, Depeche Mode and, er, drat, hmm, the best dance album in the world... ever!. So that's my credibility destroyed then...

Beeping Hell: I'm being stalked by fax machines. A company in Hackney has started ringing me up every evening around 9pm just to beep and burble at me down the phone. No matter how much I complain, argue, shout, yell or indeed swear at them, they just continue to make rude noises at me until I hang up. Then there's another company in West Norwood who ring me once a month in the early hours of the morning to leave Morse Code messages on my answerphone. This morning they chose to ring me 45 minutes before my alarm was due to go off, and so I shall no doubt be walking round the office like a tired zombie all day as a result. Please, fax off.

 Wednesday, October 09, 2002

Takeaway

When you've spent nearly twelve hours in the office for the third day in a row, the last thing you want to do on getting home is cook, so the local fish and chip shop is a real saviour. I now have the luxury of two fish and chip shops located within two minutes walk from my flat. This is a big improvement on Suffolk, where it was probably quicker to drive to the coast and catch a fish myself, rather than wait til Monday for the chip van to turn up in the neighbouring village. One of my two local chippies is run by the mysterious 'Mam', a woman with over-starched red hair and a permanent bemused smirk on her face. Unfortunately on my last visit Mam kindly served me up with a newspaper full of food poisoning, which helps to explain why that was my last visit. So, tonight I visited chippie number two instead, which is basically one bleak white room next to the post office with a fish frier in the corner. I was served by an old trout (which I guess is only to be expected in a fish shop), who looked even older than the bottles of own-brand ketchup and no-brand vinegar substitute stacked on the shelves behind. Meanwhile her teenage son lounged menacingly at the end of the counter, no doubt ready to mug me of my change on the walk home. Most frightening of all, however - the menu board announced the sale of 'donor kebabs'. I shall definitely avoid the steak and kidney pies there in future, just in case they're from the same source, and stick to cod and chips instead.

 Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Diamond Geezers

Perhaps I didn't select the name for this blog as carefully as I could, because it appears that certain other people have already dared to sneak onto the internet using the Diamond Geezer brand name:

• First there's Diamond Geezer, a "personal jeweller with over 35 years of diamond and jewellery experience and contact". You can tell he's high quality because he does gay and lesbian wedding rings and offers special concessions to British Airways employees.

• Then there's a bunch of Harlequins rugby supporters who call themselves Diamond Geezers because they all wear brightly-coloured patterned trousers whenever they're out in public getting blind drunk, singing dodgy songs and eating pies.

• Remember Repton, the excellent low-res hi-strategy game for the good old BBC Micro? I wasted far too much of my life on that game. Now someone's come up with a similar online game called Diamond Geezer - takes ages to load but could be a good bit of nostalgic fun.

• "Diamond Geezer" also appears to be a sorely over-used newspaper headline, particularly when writing about salt-of-the-earth entertainers, but I'd rather be likened to Ian Dury than Pete Waterman.

• Should you ever feel the need to send me one of those tacky e-mail cards, then Diamond Geezer would have to be the one, even if it is a bit poor.

• There's even a Diamond Geezer picture logo for my mobile, if only I still had a Nokia, which I don't.

• And finally, here's a tongue-in cheek look at the world of the real Diamond Geezer. "Welcome to For Ladz Magazine - The magazine for Ladz. None of your poncy Esquire bollocks here neither, For Ladz Magazine is for real men only."

 Monday, October 07, 2002

Small change

For some mysterious reason I tend to wake up bright and early on Monday mornings, so today I decided to head into work 15 minutes earlier than usual. All was going well until I stopped off to buy my newspaper outside the tube station. There was a queue, which is unusual, with three of us stuck behind some sad bloke trying to buy a tabloid with a twenty pound note. I eventually got to hand over my 50p, buy my Guardian and wander off, only to be called back to be told that the cover price had gone up 5p this morning and could I please pay up. Sadly this delayed me just enough to miss the train that I saw pulling away from the platform shortly afterwards. There then followed a ten minute gap before the next District Line train appeared, which is unusual, and when that did finally arrive the train was so crowded that there wasn't sufficient standing room left to be able to read the paper I'd just bought anyway. This delay then caused me to just miss another train later in my journey, so I ended up arriving at work exactly when I would have done if I'd left home at the normal time anyway.

I never wake up bright and early on Tuesday mornings, so tomorrow I'll spend that extra 15 minutes in bed, remember to take the extra 5p for the newspaper, and no doubt nobody at work will be able to tell the difference.

 Sunday, October 06, 2002

hic I suffer from one very unfortunate medical condition hic namely that sometimes hic when I'm out drinking hic I'm prone to get a serious attack of the hiccups hic which then just will not go away hic This is especially true if I drink full pints of lager rather than bottles hic as then I drink twice as much twice as fast hic and a lengthy hiccuping session often follows hic Despite years of practice hic I've still not been able to perfect hic a 100% reliable method for getting rid of this evil curse hic

hic Last night I made the fatal mistake hic of allowing the barman to serve me one Grolsch hic in a glass not a bottle hic and I paid the price for this for the rest of the evening hic A sudden attack of the hiccups hic started about two hours later hic and lasted for over twenty minutes hic Despite the best intentions of those around me hic no amount of back-slapping hic drinking pints backwards hic sudden shocks hic or even slow deep breathing hic was going to make them go away hic However hic one good unscheduled burp hiiic did eventually clear them... at least until they returned hic for another twenty minute spell later in the evening hic Bugger hic

hic When the time came to leave the pub hic I was relieved that my gullet seemed to be clear once more... but hic alas hic the short walk to the nightbus then started me off again hic It's a forty minute bus ride home hic and I hiccuped roughly once every ten seconds hic for the entire journey back hic To say that this was embarrassing hic would be an understatement hic but I was reassured by the fact hic that I doubt I'll ever see any of my fellow passengers ever again hic and that most of them were in a far worse state than myself hic Needless to say hic my throat cleared the minute I got off the bus...

hic Next time you meet me in a pub hic please remember hic that mine's a bottle hic not a pint hic Cheers hic

hic


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