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Friday, 5 March 2004

Blue Paint and Prejudice

Mood:  accident prone
Now Playing: Nutt: 'dirty Edmonton Whore'

Topic: Belle de Jour
So, it turns out that I'm scared of dykes, see?
When I packed in drinking, I was worried about the effect on my social life, on whether I felt up to the challenge of entertaining people without a chemical prop. It hasn't been that difficult. But the gay scene? Nahhhhh. No way. No way have I ever seen the gay scene work without drink or drugs.
So, I kind of decided I'd wait a month or two, find my feet as a non-drinker, get through the hurdle of Christmas without passing out beneath the family tree doing sherry farts. Then I'd try socialising in safer, not so alky crowds, right?
You know, where there's some focus other than getting off your tits and trying to grab a snog with absolutely anyone around, no matter how repellent.
You know, the general tone of any night out on the gay scene.

But there are all my prejudices about gay culture to address before I can work up the guts to get out there. I have to deal with my snobbery, and balance it against my tedium.
Most gay culture, I could take or leave it. Well to be precise, I could leave it. Tybalt says I'd be a classic homophobe but for the accident of genetics that made me actually gay myself. I really couldn't care less about butching up, coking up, hanging around with short fat women in dirty bars because the lesbian pound can't afford to run any decent dives, or inflicting horrific injuries on myself on Stoke Newington footie pitches every Sunday just because all those baby dykes grew up isolated or bullied without a sense of community or shared purpose. There are far more differences of class, education, lifestyle, preoccupations and - well, enthusiasm between me and most gay women I meet than any accident of gender programming that says 'hey, we're both gay!' will resolve.
I mean, I'm not boring, I'm not going to go to gay theatre, throw myself into relentless pursuit of Martina, or stand around at dyke detective novel book signings, credit me with some taste. I've tried going to the Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, but frankly, I've never gotten beyond martinis at the lobby bar to actually see a film.
And all those groundbreakingly gay artistic endeavours? 'Shopping and Fucking', 'Beautiful Thing', 'Bound', 'But I'm a Cheerleader'? Well, they were shit. Just because they're gay I'm supposed to not know they were shit? Suddenly? Fuck that.

But then there's the realisation that my safe, supercilious disrespect of anything gay isn't actually helping. Truth be told, is a pretty obvious safety catch.
So, fine line to tread. Between my snobbery and my fear, and the rocket under my arse that I unfortunately know it usually takes to change ingrained things.
I did make the right noises. Come NYE, I committed myself to some arrangements, with dykes I knew vaguely, or in some cases barely at all. First I agreed to sign up for a lesbian book club, thinking: it's in a quieter bar, one of the few that I like, I know the owner, and feel comfortable there - and okay, something for me to focus on, I can use my brains to deflect them from noticing that I'm not drunk. Only problem is remembering not to talk too much.
(Hey, it so turns out that I'm the world's only book club stalker - I infiltrate and go undercover to every book club within a ten mile radius - I'll do anything it takes to find out what book you're reading, but I'll never attend your damn saddo craptacular loser book club, right? Reading, fine. What, socialising? Nyeh.)
Dyke nights out I have turned down so far this year: the lesbian book club - twice. The house party. The evening touring east end bars. The charity wine tasting. The thai meal. The country walk.

I had an excuse for all of them, you know.
The east end bars - well it just exploded, and then everyone invited friends of friends of friends, and then there were fifty lesbians coming, and I only knew one of them, Toto, and not that well at that, and I wound her up by drunkenly texting her at four in the morning when I was upset about Tybalt once, even though, damn, she's not well, she's got way worse problems than anything I can whinge about. So that was a real reason not to turn up, and anyway, Toto didn't even notice I didn't show.
The dyke house party - this cool journalist woman I had dinner with last summer invited me, forgot she had, found the blog, mailed me and invited me again - why didn't I go to that? Well, god, I fancied the hostess, Taj, and she was the hostess, right, she woulda been busy. So that woulda meant I knew, um, let me see, nobody else there. Nah. Another no show.
The lesbian book club: well I missed three of those, but at least my old book club stalking form meant I read the books. It was just when I decided to move out - calendar left in the old place, with the computer, with the dates on, busy trying to build a bed in the new place and so on. Clean forgot.
Then two weeks ago, an old old friend, Minsk, emailed me out of the blue. Invited me to a charity lesbian wine tasting.
Why does that sound so filthy dirty? A lesbian wine tasting?
I'd know Minsk, whom I haven't seen in maybe three years, I'd know her girlfriend, Jude, the people there would be nice, normal ... there's a high incidence of mental disturbance amongst lezzers, you've no idea how weird these things can get.
And then I was tired, I had no money, certainly not enough money to pay for wine I wouldn't drink, then the charity donation after that, and it was in North London, on a week night, and ... and ... I didn't go.
Oh yeah, there's plenty of excuses.

The country walk is on the day I'm s'posed to sort out solicitor's stuff with Tybalt. The thai meal is the day after my replacement bank cards have failed to come through, so there's no cash to get there, or to pay for the meal, and if I didn't pull out with twenty four hours to spare, the organiser would be out by twenty knicker, and besides the only woman I would have known there, the one I fancied, the one I went to the opera with, she's got herself a girlfriend, and then she decided not to come anyway, and then it exploded as usual, and forty people were suddenly going ... and ... if I didn't ... if I .... if .... if ...

You know, though, anyway, what the fuck? I never met any decent mates on the scene.
So what do I do? All the dykes I know are in couples. Last weekend I felt shit and I felt cold, and I made up for it by buying some blue paint, and some blue bath oil and some blue explosive stuff, turned myself into a gigantic smurf and sitting in a lukewarm tub of Malice's Blue Pee while it snapped, crackled and popped. (Yes, there are photographs. No, you can't see them. This site gets enough damn hits for Bl..ue as it is.)
What do I do with the next forty years of my life if I'm too nervous to go out on the scene? Do I paint myself blue every weekend? Out of boredom?
Do I join some perverse online blue-painting sub sect of gay smurf fantasists that hold meetings? Where I won't fit in because I don't know many people, and I don't drink, and I feel uncomfortable with the blue-paint drug use? Pffft.
When did I become scared of dykes? Come to that: when did I become scared?

You know, I've been trying to think of an English equivalent of a particular Americanism today. Suck it up. I don't think there is one.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 1:46 AM GMT
Updated: Friday, 5 March 2004 11:24 PM GMT
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Thursday, 4 March 2004

Topic: LondonLifer

This page graced by sarsparilla at 3:05 PM GMT
Updated: Thursday, 4 March 2004 5:43 PM GMT
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Wednesday, 3 March 2004


Topic: Casino Avenue
You know you're really ill when ....
You ring in sick to work, leave a message, and they ring you back to ask if you were actually speaking in English or not
When yidaho MSN's you, you refuse to believe it's actually her, and demand she text proof of her identity before you'll reply
You dream that peachykeenyboy has sent you to organise a work team bonding outward boundey thingy at the North Pole
Every time you speak it turns into a whinge
The phone rings next to your bed and it seems too far away to pick it up
Your hair is so greasy and dirty it's started to go all Alex Parks all by itself
When someone texts you, you put the phone to your ear and wonder why they aren't speaking
And when you take a few aspirin, you'll discover that (1) a raging fever really warms the place up, and (2) yidaho has spent all afternoon trying to push your raddled mind over the edge by sending repeated texts along the lines of 'it's in the orange airing cupboard', 'beneath a polo mint', and 'which?'

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Vanessa/Female/31-35. Lives in United Kingdom/London/East London/Bow, speaks English and German. Spends 40% of daytime online. Uses a Normal (56k) connection. And likes Literature / Movies/Food / Eating / Drinking.
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This page graced by sarsparilla at 3:49 PM GMT
Updated: Saturday, 6 March 2004 3:43 AM GMT
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Tuesday, 2 March 2004


Topic: Casino Avenue
Some of the older, forty plus, women at work were comparing their lifestyles to those of their mothers. Marvelling at the fact they could remember washing done on a washboard, and then put through a mangle. At how their parents did without dishwashers, yet they've become essential timesavers in their own lives, to the extent that none of the women present could imagine doing without them.
I thought about how quickly things from previous decades date. We got our first trimphone in the eighties, but only had two people to phone with it. It was years before we got a (VHS or Betamax) VCR, because we thought it was a passing trend that wouldn't last. The finger crushing agonisingly stiff typewriter that you typed letters to the bank on, or the treadle table that the engraved Singer sewing machine fit into. I remember that you got taught to beat eggs with a whisk not a machine, to rinse hair with beer or orange juice, to cross out a mistake neatly, to use your carbon layer twice, and make puddings with leftovers.

I listened to the conversation, sniffling slightly in my four sweaters, my chair carefully positioned nearer the heater than theirs, but I didn't say anything. I couldn't contribute to the wonder at how far we've come, because your perspective switches incredibly rapidly if it's taken away. It's not the march of history or inevitable progress, because it only needs one or two little changes for you, here, now, to lose a lifestyle that you really made assumptions about.
As they talked about their dishwashers and washer driers and SUV cars, it brought it home how far removed my life has become from convenience and dishwashers, from yuppie smug success and that feeling of entitlement - in one fast month.
I was stopped from speaking out by a combination of poverty (the bank has cancelled my debit cards, I have lost my cheque books), cold (my flat's 'economy' heating system means it's warm at four in the morning, the rest of the time I have to sit here in scarf, hat, gloves, hoodie and blanket, and still my nose goes numb), pain (my car's still broken and there's no money to fix it, or to get transport, so I have to walk everywhere, which - being a delicate flower - means my feet have metamorphosed from lily white soft callouses into bloodied, blistered, raw gaping messed up wounds, and walking anywhere hurts), stench (no hot water to bathe in except at 6am, no washing machine to clean clothes in), and hunger (no money for food, have to fast at work, and eat the furry sprouting potatoes I brought from the last flat at night).
I didn't speak out - why? Was that shame? (and there I believed myself to be shameless) It's not exactly my fault this stuff is happening - living in two different places, paying two sets of bills has it's price.

Meh, cold does seem to make your brain work slower. It took me two weeks of sitting indoors under a blanket to figure out I could just go and buy an electric heater.
Cold, hunger, and pain make you sniffle and sleep with a hot water bottle stuffed up your sweater for longer than you should. I feel ill. In fact, that's my excuse for such a whingey rant of a post. So you'll have to make do with a crappy whining post. Hey, I tried to hold off on the Oliver Twist overtones, here.

Interestingly, yesterday, when my feet were bleeding, and I took four hours in the frost to ride the cheap buses up East to switch the heating on in the old flat, because the estate agent said people viewing it felt chilly, which was a psychological disincentive for them, I 'spent' more money than I've ever spent in my life. I dropped the price of the flat by ten thousand pounds. Oh boy, was I in trouble for that one. But dammit, I can't live a long time like this, I need a rapid sale, and that won't happen if the place is overpriced.
It's odd, being poor after years of being fairly rich. I mean, I was poor twice before - as a kid in the seventies, before moving south, when we lived on factory land and thought everybody couldn't afford puddings (by eck, it were bitter in our cardboard box) and during four years as a student, when pride wouldn't ever allow me to go to my parents' house for a single vacation. But it's different being poor and, well, old. In a way.
Old as in, I'm not seven and willing to believe that the second hand colour telly we waited years for makes us millionaires. And old as in, I'm not twenty two and there's no way I'm doing ten crappy jobs shovelling the shit from someone else's poor service skills just so I have enough money for a travelcard.
And you know what else? Old as in, I have a credit card.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 9:59 PM GMT
Updated: Tuesday, 2 March 2004 10:42 PM GMT
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Monday, 1 March 2004

Between the Lines

Now Playing: Velvet Underground: 'Perfect Day'

Topic: Hurtling to Obscurity
Quick exchange with Cyn yesterday, via blog, underlined the fractured, distorting nature of understanding others through this refracted lens of an online journal. Cyn's a solid silver superstar, so she kept my identity anonymous, but I freaked out a little.
Typically. Cuh.
Here's what Cyn wrote:

Between The Lines

Last night (or more accurately this morning, as I keep a vampire's sleeping schedule) I spent several hours perusing the archives of a blogger whom I've only known of for a few months.
In that time, I've read of her continuing emotional and financial recovery from the dissolution of a relationship of nearly a decade.
The writer has not detailed what happened that caused the relationship to founder, so in hopes of gaining perspective I went searching though her blog's archives to get some background.

One sentence.

That's what she wrote initially and for some time thereafter of the break up.
What she did write of in a rather profuse manner was of virtually drowning in food and drink--an attempt she later acknowledged, at getting though this bleak time. Her writing during this post break-up period to be charitable, was unremarkable. She alluded to having often been either hung over or drunk when making some of the entries so this sums up the why of it pretty neatly.

The writer I know of--the writer of the present--is easily among the best of the bloggers I've read. Her writing is of a caliber far beyond that of many scribes who are regularly published in books or magazines.

So in reading of those dark days, I was rather surprised that despite having had so much material for her blog, that she used none of it. Only months later did she write in an overt way about how much she didn't reveal of herself--ever.
This acknowledgment came within an entry that mentioned the emails she'd received in the previous months. Some of her readers made allusions to her being a "party girl," while others looked deeper, connected the dots, and saw that she was in great pain.

Thankfully, the writer seems to be past the worst of her recovery from becoming single again.
Having waded through so much of her documentation of her life, I feel I "know" her better. She seems more vulnerable--there's less bravado (though her kind of bravado must be read to be appreciated). I know more of what she wants me to know.
Though I lack her sharp writing skills, we do have in common a desire to not document the depths of our psyches and only apologetically do we offer the mundane details of our lives. Sometimes I wonder if I'm shortchanging myself by not exploring my feelings in more depth. I've come to the conclusion that what I write is within my comfort zone.
And I strongly concur with the writer--one only reveals as much as they wish--the blank spaces are for the reader to fill in.

(I added the link to the post I think she meant)

Here's what I replied:

My blog's relation to truth is allusive; I have a row, I write about the Iraq war; I feel deserted by all my friends, I write about the noises in the attic; if I want someone to know that I've slept with someone else, I blog about everyone I ever shagged, and leave a telling gap that they'll notice. You can bet your life that if it's truly truly important, I can't put it on my blog, because it would hurt people.
For one thing, my job is emotionally and physically consuming, but if I blogged about it, it would break the terms of my contract, and I'd be disbarred. So two thirds of my life becomes unbloggable, right there, just like that.
At least three exes read the blog, and so do their friends, as well as my entire family.
There is a recording of the penultimate conversation I ever had with the ex, and publishing it on the blog was her supposed excuse for splitting up with me, but we both know it was a catalyst - knowing all the inside info of how much you can grow apart in a year means that many of the entries for the two months prior to that indicate unease and conflict in my relationship with her. She always always had a problem with my level of self disclosure online. I couldn't say to anyone that it wasn't their right to object to that. But one of the many splinters of glass that opened the wound was the blog, and her reading into it what I hadn't meant to put there.
She was the one who thought that my blog described one long party. And her friends, too. What my blog is actually documenting is my journey between two nervous breakdowns, but apparently I'm not supposed to say this in public arenas. Another splinter. One of millions.

So, there's no blog entry that comes right out and says what happened with my ex partner. There's two that I find most revealing, but you'd have to be me and know the code to feel what they're saying. Life is in code, and nobody knows anyone else's key.
This one I wrote at some godforsaken hour of the morning, when I was rolling drunk. I had the feeling I was about to be dumped, but was trying to give her the benefit of the doubt for 14 days. Unfortunately The Doubt wasn't going well, and I felt like an actor in someone else's drama. Fortunately, I was so drunk you can barely tell.

This was a coded message to someone whom I'd rejected, whose absence I couldn't bear any longer, whose lack in my life was, for me, so painful it was physical, wholly engrossing, blocking out everything else with its enormity.

D'you see what I mean? I know which post tells more of a truth, but you couldn't hope to without that background, that swell of emotion behind the words. There's no way a reader could read meaning into the second post, yet for me it represents a flood of emotions I can barely comprehend, let alone verbalise.
If I haven't told it to my closest friends because it's too threatening, too sodding scary for me to confront what happened, then it's damn stupid of me to blog it.
The only realistic record of my relationship online is the one that my memory unlocks.

The trouble with blogs is that for the reader they're entertainment. For the writer, they're anything but - attention seeking is the closest it gets. I frequently want to shake Creepy Lesbo, hug her, or take her out to the pub. But if I did that, if I turned up in real, offline reality and presumed to know her, she'd probably never blog again. I know lots of people from (usenet) online whom I've met in real life. I'd hate to meet fellow bloggers, somehow.
For me, the blog isn't entertainment.
It's practise. For reality.
For a life that's in part not being lived if one is spending so much time blogging. For the day that the obstacles that prevent me from going out and living it without a safe, online buffer zone arrives.

Anyway, I wanted to give a response to your post. I'd noticed that someone had read the archives (there's actually text files of them on the site, because I didn't want anyone to worry I'd notice - okay, by anyone I mean exes, yeah.) I clicked onto your blog today as usual, as it's one of my top daily reads. I read a paragraph, realised who it was about, felt my heart leap into my throat with panic and went off to get a valium inside me so I could continue. I was grinding my teeth involuntarily all the way through reading it.
When I did, it wasn't so bad as I'd expected. Thanks for that. [?] Ack, I'm probably a paranoid fucker anyway. You're probably talking about Wil Wheaton.

I'm publishing this on here because I need to be less cowardly in the line I tread about what I allow to get out there. It's cowardly to pretend that nothing happened, or that I wasn't equally at fault in the general disintegration I was trying not to blog.
I don't want Cyn to think I minded her post - I'm glad of it, it made me think. It was more than a little flattering, too - always good. But more than that; replying in my usual paranoid fashion to Cyn's post reminded me of a few things. Firstly, it reminded me it's always good to post a regular disclaimer - "The truth is vague, incomplete and embellished, and subject to all of my usual distortions. So are the lies."

But mostly, it reminded me of what I've been reading lately of disturbances between cliques* in Brit Blogpuddle (only the yanks have a blogosphere), and the hurt feelings that have ensued as all parties have felt themselves judged, and critically at that.
* Oooer, hope they don't mind me calling them a clique - not very nice, is it?
Made me realise something: all these blogs are crap. I mean that in the kindest sense ... they're not truthful in the slightest. They make sense, if ever, only to ourselves.
And, conversely, if we publish our personal crap on the interwebnet, we deserve to dissected.

Blogging: At Your Own Risk.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 11:36 PM GMT
Updated: Monday, 1 March 2004 11:40 PM GMT
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Sunday, 29 February 2004

New Belle on the Block

Topic: Vic Jameson
Every time I read Just Pop It In, I squirt my pants laughing. Something about the scurrilous, wicked, wanton repetition of the c-word gets me giggling like there's a slug in my socks. Even better, Charlene's been stalking me, much as I'd hoped to stalk many of you, and has discovered my true identity:

? ?going to London to see my eldest - I decide to play safe and walk. Nice one, old tart fitted out with good walking shoes in amongst the many and varied tourists trekking through each others photo-shoots. There I am, not far off Westminster Abbey minding my own when this hairy 6' something 16 stone

(though he would say 183cm 97Kilo - and don't even think of reaching for your calculator to check my conversion 'cos I am old enough to remember when conversion was the real thing - yeah Towns Gas to North Sea Gas!)

ploughs into me while chasing after a bus.

Now I had thought in my mind's eye (mind's eye?? oh well) that Vanessa was a svelte, chic London Dolly Bird ( ouch - that may not go down well - but I am thinking praise here ) but I was pulled up short, after all - I only read her blog. I mean ? was he Vanessa? I only assume that she... and this hairy flying twat did say something like "..'king blog.." in hefty mid-european. I mean was he - her ? and did he/her recognise me/me or I am displaying that country yokel thing that everybody in London knows everybody else? or did those Tequila's the night before remove the last neurons in my head?? ?

This page graced by sarsparilla at 4:33 PM GMT
Updated: Saturday, 28 February 2004 8:46 PM GMT
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Saturday, 28 February 2004

Let's catch up with the damn calendar, hey?

Now Playing: The Grey Album / Yo La Tengo / Grateful Dead
Topic: Eurotrash
Thursday: Derby turned up in the ten minutes I thought I had to myself, and we collected Krystal from Crystal Palace (hence the pseudonym - there are methods to some of the bits of madness, you know), which not a palace, to go look at Eltham Palace, which is almost a palace. Confoozled? You will be. I've been trying to get to Eltham Palace for three years now, along with Kinky, so we can ooh and ahh at the Art Nouveau fittings.

We never made it, but this time, hell, I got there five minutes after closing, which as close as I've ever gotten, and at least got to look at the gardens. I ignored Krystal and Derby (okay, it was the other way around), and noticing a weird parallel between the Art Nouveau carvings I could see, and the heavyset figures in William Blake prints, done about 150 years earlier, I set to taking pictures that might look Blakeian.

First prize (of a nearly new refrigerator that I have nowhere to put) to the first person to spot which Blake print it's meant to remind you of. With a tie-breaker (where whoever can help me move my washing machine down three flights of stairs or fix my car) wins. What, me, manipulative? Desperate?

It was buggering freezing (hah, this post was written a fortnight ago, remember, before I actually knew what poverty and cold were), and we wandered over to Blackheath, for coffee, cake staring and pottering around the bookshop. I continued to take too many photographs (dunno what it is about digital cameras that means you take three hundred snaps when two good ones would do, but heck, I have bandwidth to spare this month), of skies, of hands of speakers animating their coffee shop conversations, of reflective shop frontages, of tulips, delicatessens, fruit. I really need a bright, preferable violent coloured large canvas in my beigeious flat, and Selfridge's will upscale a phot for #500, so I figure some print shop somewhere will do it for way less.

In the shops, something about the pompous, discreet middle classness of the place worked on my coffee high to transmogrify me from a mild mannered seeker of art nouveau bibelots into a raging cultural snob.
In the deli, I took umbrage at the request not to take pictures and resolutely took around fifty more covert snaps. Hey, Harv didn't introduce me to the world of commercial espionage for nothing, I can do spy stills.
In the tiny independent bookstore, I held forth loudly about Philip Roth's annoyingly gratuitous wanking passages. (Can't be bothered to explain.) I raged at the bloke working in Starbucks about the mispellings and grammatical errors on his door sign for fifteen minutes.

Later, there was a Thai meal in Crystal Palace with a load of people who all do the same job as me. Most of my friends eat Thai fairly often, but I'm the sort who finds a food they love and eats nothing but for the next six years, gorges on it till she explodes, and can't face it ever again - so I haven't gotten around to Thai gorging on more than a few occasions. Plus fried food, however exotic its point of origin, never much appeals when there's nothing else on the menu.
And the menu was the problem. The weirdness of poring over two sides of A4 and not knowing what a single dish might be is usually only something that happens on far flung climes. To find it in Gypsy Hill is disorienting. And the speed with which four out of six fellow diners ordered suggested they had just three dishes they knew weren't fried seal brains, also - though I wasn't brave enough to say.
I stuffed myself, then spent way too long - noticeably, oddly long - in the toilet. There was this weird silver ball in there, see, and I wanted to get it just right for a Mirror Project piece.
The evening ended with Derby staying over, then staying up till five in the morning chatting (I hadn't seen her since last spring; she's a trained counsellor - a dangerous combination.)

Friday: Derby was up and out for breakfast with an ex colleague and a six hour drive home after three hours sleep. Me, I slept all day, and when I did get up, it was to snuggle under a blanket on Pink Nasty and watch the entirety of CSI series one on DVD.
There's something enervating about living quite so quietly, then slamming yourself back into a social life that makes you feel a tad invaded after two or three days of socialising. My car had broken, and it was the perfect excuse to sit back and veg, crawl back into my shell, and hide from the world, happily.

Saturday: I thought I'd resolved my differences with Duch. I'd cut her for two weeks, she'd cut me for two weeks. I'd resolved never to get pissy about why - if anyone's unaware that shouting 'you donkey' repeatedly at people isn't going to increase their popularity, then it's not something I'm going to change by whining about it, and I swore to accept my mates for what they are. The week before had involved a five hour phone call, so we seemed quits, all bets off, as it were. Friday had involved mucho trauma by phone call too, and I'd arranged to travel the 25 miles and back to hers this night.
I reckoned without every single thing in the flat deciding to break that day. The AA guy fixing the car decided to take five hours to turn up - JatB got there quicker, and she was coming from the opposite corner of London. As soon the car it was finally fixed, I could rush out and get some urgent Jaffa cake replenishments. So the car repair guy says 'only drive it to a garage, it needs repairing NOW'.
Pfft. We all know that women's cars magically mend themselves if you leave them in the car park long enough, right?
Meanwhile, am running round the hypermarket, trying to get back in time to meet JatB, who's bringing a warm coat (it's getting colder...), and some small painted canvases for the beigeiousness, plus ringing fmc to see when I can visit her new place in Pantydrawer (or whatever the Welsh word for Swansea is).
Rang Duch and asked if it was okay if I didn't come over - fifty mile round trip, damaged car, rushed off feet, bloody frustrating day, JatB waiting outside my door, plus Duch was already going out earlier on with someone else. She agreed, and I thought that was that.

Get back to find the answerphone message from hell.
I am the devil. I am unsupportive, mean, have abandoned my friends.
I am thoughtless, and worst, guilty of not being kind.
Oh shit.
So I pressganged JatB into coming with me for moral / normality support to Duch's, and set off. An hour's drive to NE London. Another drive to the pub, where I got sick of drinking cheap, flat cola, while others downed exspensive Belgian Trappist fruit brew. Can't pubs serve proper coke? Cinemas manage it. A restaurant in the Village, too much food, and watching people downing Sambuca after Sambuca. Lifts home to NE London, lifts home to NW London, 2am dash home to SE London. And the car dies.
Still, at least I cleared my name.

Sunday: spent in bed, or watching dvd's under a blanket, freezing my socks off, recovering from spending all night driving the car to its knees, and wondering why I feel obligated to nutters.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 7:06 PM GMT
Updated: Sunday, 29 February 2004 4:32 PM GMT
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Friday, 27 February 2004

Wanna Buy a House?

Mood:  lazy
Topic: Yidaho
Four things:
this is pretty

this surprised me

this is for sale - two careful owners

I knew I'd feel like this today, after a three hour long appraisal. Like a sugar-deficient crash.
Still, I have broadband. Wooo!

This page graced by sarsparilla at 8:37 PM GMT
Updated: Friday, 27 February 2004 11:02 PM GMT
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Wednesday, 25 February 2004

The Continuing Dull Diary of Last Week

Topic: Eurotrash
Wednesday: Got up too late to meet Krystal and Derby at the British Museum (thank god, had enough seminars in there/at the museum tavern while at uni to last me a lifetime of damn Egyptian mummies and olde englyshe caskets), and rolled into Seven Dials at the crack of three pm to meet up for shopping and... erm... walking and sipping coffee. No fucking at all. (theatre joke, okay?)
It was freezing brass monkeys, and I had to wait forty minutes at Seven Dials so the whole afternoon involved lots of racing about the West End - tea in Neal's Yard, snacks in Chinatown, wandering through Soho, Golden Lion Square, Bond Street, Selfridge's, Marble Arch ... all very normal, although I have to wonder how come since I moved out of reach of a London Underground station, I've spent more time in central London than any point since I lived there?
Ah yes, the touristical fun and games started when I tried to board a bus at Marble Arch. I had cheap tickets to see Bombay Dreams (which troubled my brain exactly as much as watching an opera did, fact fans) in Victoria, and needed to get there fast. It's over a year since Derby moved Oop North from London, so I was trying to look all hard-nosed London local, by charging up to the third bus stop without checking the schedules, and hopping straight onto the first bus that came along. Mistake. Seems that Mayor Ken has introduced bus token stands, so that in congested areas, you pay your money to a machine, then simply wave a slip of a ticket on the actual bus. Didn't tell me about it, though, didya, Ken? Even though I pay #1600 a year in council tax, ya bastige.
Red-faced, I suffered the indignity of bus-driver-rudeness, getting off the bus again and watching it speed away, and most gallingly of all, German Tourist pleasantly showing me how to work the token machine. Sigh.
Next bus was a Routemaster, so I brushed off the shame, left the German vandalising the token machine (hah!) and thought I'd be able to regain my Thirteen Years in the Inner City Local's Demeanour.

You know the answer already, don't you?
Two minutes into the journey, having fought weary battles, red in tooth and claw, to gain seats on the bus, I looked up at the route map on the wall. Wrong bus.
Cue every single person on the bus telling me how to get off and get a bus to Victoria. This is London. This is wrong. People in cities this big don't talk to each other. They're not helpful. As Quiet Writer put it the other day, long spells in big cities breeds disconnection of the strongest sort. Come to London, where we ignore you because We Prefer It That Way. You don't chat on the bus!
Red faced and more like a tourist than ever, I fought my way over the help-offering throngs to get to the exit. Routemaster buses have an open platform at the back, meaning you can jump on and off any time the bus slows down (except if you're paraplegic of course, when you can only fall off, no jumping on there for you). Only this is no bloody use to you if the bus is speeding around the Hyde Park Corner junction, in the middle of eight lanes of traffic all doing 40mph at the time. And leaving by the exit lane diametrically opposite to the one you want. Lovely traditional West Indian bus conductor did his best to cheer me up by encouraging me in a hysterically-pitched scream to jump off and dart amongst the traffic via a strip of dirty grass verge every time we skimmed a traffic island at breakneck speed. I was nearly crying as I protested that I would break my neck because of the breakneckingness of it all. Eventually, my cowardice meant we ended up back at Marble Arch, and having to walk for half an hour to cross back over Hyde Park Corner. The fascination for the entire lower deck was palpable, all craned their necks to see my crestfallen trudging as we got off, still brassily debating how I should best have managed the transfer to a Victoria-bound bus. Glad I lightened their day. But by now I don't think I'm going to shed the feeling of being a tourist in my own city.
One hundred yards from the next bus stop, three Routemasters heading swiftly towards Victoria skim past us. At exactly the right moment, Derby whips out a hand and leaps onto the passenger platform of the last one. She screams encouragement at me. I leap.
Mid-leap, I begin The Wail. The one that the widows in Palestine do on telly. The heart rending "NOoooOOOOoooOoooooOOOOOOOooooooOOOOOooooooo" that makes every single head on the lower and upper decks turn to see me miss the platform and land in the gutter.
Derby keeps my nerve up by uttering encouraging whooping and screaming noises as the bus pulls away, accelerating. She's joined in this by one or two amused London commuters on the seats nearest the doors. I run.
I can run. I just can't be gainly about it. Or fast. Or successful. I was always the one who gave up in the hundred yard dash at school, and not only came last but walked the last half, whingeing noisily. But now, I ran. It was like Chariots of Fire and a heart attack, crossed.
As the bus got to the stop, I was a mere thirty yards away. The lower deck roared to the driver to wait, as one, I swear. Panting, sweating, wheezing, I hurled myself towards the platform. Derby did some celebratory whooping.
And I desperately tried to control my raging redfaced gulps, groans and unfit gasps as I oozed past faceless solicitor type forty something blokes. All of whom were giggling.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 9:14 PM GMT
Updated: Wednesday, 25 February 2004 9:18 PM GMT
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Whingeing Pom Alert

Mood:  smelly
Topic: Hurtling to Obscurity
My 302nd blog entry since I started in July 2003.

I'm feeling very sorry for myself - very poverty stricken, very cold, very hard done by. My savings are going to paying the rent on the new place, while I'm also paying the mortgage on the old. Suddenly, Tybalt thinks this is not a shared expense (unlike when it seemed likely to be her expense, I might point out. )
Said savings run out at the end of March. Complicated, now, by the fact my car is broken and I can't afford to get it fixed, which means I have to walk for forty minutes along a traffic clogged road to work. It's not so bad in the mornings, although the empty stomach doesn't help, but the evenings when I can't cadge a lift from peachykeenyboy are freezing, particularly since I left my ski jacket in Belfast airport for someone to nick, and I can't afford a new winter coat, and I don't have a hat or gloves. (JatB gave me a coat, but the arms are too short, so I'd be a frozen stick wristed scarecrow.) Whinge. Whine.
It means I have to get up at the same time as I did when I lived the other side of the Thames, twelve miles away. Moan. I'm getting deep and meaningful looks at work for wearing trainers, but the size of the blisters and cuts on my feet mean I have a fairly putrid looking get out clause. Whimper.
It makes stomping out to the Internet Palace to blog a little arduous, involving stepping out from a barely heated flat into a freezing bone cracking gale of sleet as it does. More Whine. Whingeosity.
On the upside, it'll help me to walk off all those choccy biccies I've stolen off peachykeenyboy instead of paying for lunch, lately. (The man can afford it, stop giving me that reproachful look, you.)
I managed to buy a hat and gloves for #3.50 from the hypermarket tonight (although my abnormally small head means the hat looks fucking awful). And best of all, this morning, the point along the final hill when I got to tired to walk with energy and fall into a defeated trudge was a good quarter mile further along than yesterday.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 8:34 PM GMT
Updated: Wednesday, 25 February 2004 8:36 PM GMT
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Tuesday, 24 February 2004

Borrrrrring Diary Post Again....

Topic: Eurotrash
Tuesday: Trying to get phones, electricity, voting rights and gas connected, I come up against the age old problem of the esoteric password you can't remember. That, and the claws scraping against iron Glaswegian accent of my interrogator:
GHN [Glaswegian Hard Nut]: Ah give yez a clue, iss a freevurb.
GT [Gullible Twat]: A what?
GHN: A flee burr.
GT: No, I'm sorry, I didn't understand that.
GHN: A feemur.
GT: Um. Ahhh, right.
GT: No, I'm afraid I didn't get it.
GHN: Ah'll spill it feyoh; iss a F.L.E.B.O.U.R.
I'll give you a clue: look at the URL up there.

Then an expensive meal out at the Cafe du Jardin by the Royal Opera House, with yidaho. I ate steaks of rare ostrich, washed down with quantities of champagne (well, a few glasses). Unforch, I got a cheapo internet deal on the food, so (it's not necessarily subsequent, but I hold strong suspicions) the service, timing, seating, delivery, and refreshment was all shit. One hour and fifteen minutes between bread roll greetings and ordering your initial drink is not really on, is it? I've had better meals at bloody Nando's. And better customer service in Tesco. Still, the table was too dark to see your food, that may have been a bonus.
And the ostrich steak? Well, it wasn't as tasty as the time Toulouse fed me a pig's ear, but it had the texture of beefsteak, with the taste of a peculiarly tasteless porkchop. And knowing I had bloodied ostrich inside me gave me the queasies, all right. Still, company was excellent, and not knowing the way home in the slightest, I set off driving without a map and made home it through pitch black wonder-where in thirty five minutes flat. Amazing.
Still don't know the way home from Covent Garden, though.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 6:20 PM GMT
Updated: Saturday, 28 February 2004 6:05 PM GMT
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Monday, 23 February 2004

Me, the Internet Palace, and a Diary Open. Less Than Fascinating

Topic: Eurotrash
So what's been going on?

Sunday: I did my washing. That may seem simple, and if I could work out a way to get my washing machine from the third floor of a flat in East London to Pengeistical Paradise, then it might actually become simple. However, currently I'm at the mercy of Service Wash Mistress, who is one who likes to scold excessively. This week I returned ten minutes later than the time she suggested. I should have known she likes to go on a break at that moment, it turns out. That in fact she's quite entitled to shut the shop and go home during that break if she wants to. And that would show me to turn up at the right time. Plus, manmade fibres in pillow protector cases will melt in a hot dryer, so I'm a terribly, evil soul, for asking her to wash some. She bundled the wet ones in a bag with my dry washing to teach me the error of my ways.
It's not me being rude or overly middle class (in that bullying wheedling kind of way that sets my teeth on edge when I hear other pushy middle class types complaining) - I'm passive to the point of supine in any confrontation that I don't care about winning. (Note the implied codicil, please; I love real confrontations.)
Fourteen pounds, correct change please. Next instalment this Saturday. Let's see what she can think of for me to do wrong by then.

Monday: my parents came to visit my new flat. I tried to make them walk the two miles uphill to Dulwich or Crystal Palace (and ergo any cafe that doesn't serve a side order of melted lard with any order, drinks included), but they moaned and whined and complained. Blimey, i thought my parents went yomping on the Wiltshire Downs every weekend. Was I surprised. And not a bit relieved.
So we decided to grab some food - from the nearest pub, because my mum's poor shell shocked tootsies were hurting (snnnn, would never dare say this to her face, but as she'll be reading this from home, she's out of thumping distance). So we went in the pub whose grammatical horror of a name: "The Two Half's" has me wincing every time I pass it, where the horrible seats and chairs of yore have been ripped out, and replaced by a caribbean pool parlour.
Ordering fish n chips, you don't expect that much - you do, however, expect not to catch them pulling a plate out of the freezer to go straight into the microwave, and you certainly don't expect to find a wimpy burger salt packet nestling secretly underneath your mouldy damp chips. Sigh.

Ack, a fight breaks out agaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaain in the internet palace. I'll finish this tomorrow. Arrrrgh.

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Vanessa/Female/31-35. Lives in United Kingdom/London/East London/Bow, speaks English and German. Spends 40% of daytime online. Uses a Normal (56k) connection. And likes Literature / Movies/Food / Eating / Drinking.
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This page graced by sarsparilla at 9:12 PM GMT
Updated: Saturday, 28 February 2004 6:05 PM GMT
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Topic: Hurtling to Obscurity
Yeah, I'm getting broadband, me. Famous last words.
I am superwoman, honestly I am. I fixed the bars that fell out of the window. I dealt with the toilet blockages (ew). When all the curtain rods fell down, I put up new ones. I called the AA about the car refusing to start. I found the cat that wetn missing, and deflected them from the new slamming the wardrobe door all night game by judicious use of stinky perfume.
I sorted out the estate agent's leaflets on my old flat, and learnt to live with how their fish eye lens had made my sky blue walls look vomit inducing turquoise. When Duch went ape at me for no reason on the answerphone, I politicked my way out of it.
I wore four sweaters so the raging blast of chill winds racing through my flat would not harm me. I spent the weeekend under a blanket. I retrieved a coat of sorts. I even tried to go buy a hat and gloves, without too much success.
I tried to walk the two miles uphill to the internet cafe to blog.

But I failed. The wind was whipping a new parting in my hair and I couldn't get up that damn hill. And sought refuge in my duvet. Sigh.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 1:53 PM GMT
Updated: Saturday, 28 February 2004 6:07 PM GMT
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Thursday, 19 February 2004

Too many visitors and things happening this week to pause for breath for even a second, it seems. Hopefully I should have broadband access at home by the weekend, and I can learn to blog daily again.

In the meantime, jatb is about to give up her extraordinarily well written blog. I'm sad about that, but I really want her to keep on writing. Fingers crossed. Somehwere.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 8:03 PM GMT
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Wednesday, 18 February 2004

Brave New World

Topic: Shy Lux
A strange congruence between two opposite ends of the culcha spectrum yesterday.
I watched a lifestyle show that veered off wildly out of safe and rewarding and into very very Wrong. A poverty stricken Glaswegian family were given a month's paid relocation to Tuscany, to change their lives. They spoke no Italian, had no savings and no skills to sell.
The wife was a nurse, but Italian bureaucracy wouldn't allow her to practise. She was a chiropodist by trade, anyway and no-one in Tuscany particularly worried about whether their feet looked nice. They kept their children out of school a few months to 'avoid upheaval'. Then the husband had a stroke, became paralysed down one side. He moved into an Italian nursing home fifty miles away, where, not speaking the language, he was unable to communicate at all as he tried to learn how to walk and feed himself all over again. The wife, with no income, was forced to leave the fantasy isolated farmhouse that the TV show had rented for her, for the nearest city, and could no longer afford to leave her children to find work. Which would be unskilled anyway, as she had no contacts, no family and no Italian.
Being thrown on the mercy of the local city meant her children were made to attend the local school, where they began to speak Italian. Through her eldest son's football games, the wife began to learn the language, haphazardly, via contact with other boy's mothers.
Their 'lifestyle makeover' had plunged them into the worst situation they could have dreamed of, and there was no happy ending. In the saccharine fixed grins and orchestrated anomie of a daytime TV schedule the jarring effect of this slic, this intrusion of raw, cutting reality and hardship was unsettling. It was as if someone had come to the party and pissed on the birthday cake.
I thought about it later on, staying up late to watch an awkward TV adaptation of Brave New World. It's fairly obvious that culcha acts as our modern day soma to some degree. But the Controller's advice to the Savage, just as in the book, stood out, juxtaposed within a messy, flabby, adolescent plot, irritating and gnawing at your conscience like all big truths do. The insect in the amber.
And it's this: without pain and sadness, we have nothing of any worth in our lives.
Art, religion, love, philosophy, science - they originate in tragedy, they stem from dissatisfaction. If we lose the social instability from which tragedy springs, we lose the rest.
I had a really shit day yesterday, but that's what life is all about.
I want good, evil, pain, beauty, freedom, sin because they're part of being alive. To be awake is not to be alive.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 3:03 PM GMT
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Sub Conscious

I had this dream where she came back from Sao Paulo and I had to tell her that there's no point pretending. No matter what we do there's nothing going to be different. I can't explain her reaction, but it was exactly like in reality, when she offered to make up, and I was cold, and it cost me some.
I felt like I'd murdered someone.
I woke up, and I found every muscle was tensed, so I didn't move and wake her, so there'd be no sign, or contact.
It took me a few minutes to emerge from the dream and realise that she wasn't in the bed.

It was a very familiar feeling, trying not to touch someone, trying not to wake them. It was stressful in a way that being on your own has never been.

I've been avoiding putting my house on sale. Four months since I should have done it.
I had to do it yesterday. It wasn't my favourite thing to do ever. And I woke up feeling tense in every muscle, looking for someone who wasn't there, worrying she'd know that in my dream I'd killed her.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 2:48 PM GMT
Updated: Wednesday, 18 February 2004 3:07 PM GMT
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Obvious NoseJobs

Topic: LondonLifer
It irritates me. When movie stars have perfect noses ... just fourinches too smallfor their faces. Otherwise physically perfect, these midget noses make their eyes and cheeks look like satellite dishes. In a worst case scenario I'm irredeemably reminded of a beautiful woman morphing slowly into a boxer dog. What's wrong with a normal sized nose, anyway?

The Worst Defamers of the Pert Nostril

5. Kate Hudson
4. Gwyneth Paltrow
3. Keira Knightley
2. Charlize Theron
1. Julianne Moore

This page graced by sarsparilla at 2:43 PM GMT
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Monday, 16 February 2004

Films That Make Me Cry in a Ridiculously Overblown and Disproportional Fashion:

Topic: Empty Fridge Light
The Nutty Professor
Vanilla Sky
The Pianist
Love Actually
The Last Samurai
Oh, the shame of it all.

"I call people rich when they are able to meet the requirements of their imagination." Henry James.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 2:00 PM GMT
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Attack of the Fifty Foot Mindflab

I just experienced a Vanessa Mindflab. Like a Vulcan Mindmeld, but crap.
I walked out of my flat, intending to walk across the drive to the car, and go to the Internet Palace at Crystal Cafe, when Derby rang up. She's visiting London later in the week, and we wanted to plan some shows - I'm despereate to see the Balanchine triple bill at the Royal Opera House on Thursday, but am more in the market for the #4 tickets than the #70 ones, so I figure that one matinee is my only chance.

I want to see Balanchine's work because I've been brooding on greatness lately. Not in a Caesar way, I mean other people's greatness.
There's that thing of when you describe an artist's work as 'great' and usually you mean for this decade, or if you're lucky, great in the context of the century.
There's very few people you'd call great in the classical sense of the word - great like Da Vinci, great like Newton, great like Michelangelo or Shakespeare - certainly in the last century.
(I was surprised to find that some people don't consider Picasso to be great on the Michelangelo scale, actually, but there you go, these things are subjective for a few hundred years at least, aren't they?)
So anyway, Balanchine died in the eighties and was fabled to be one of the greatest choreographers that lived ... so a triple bill of his work, at the ROH as an added plus, is irresistible - much in the same way as when you attend university, you're culturally obligated to go to at least one lecture by whomever that instition's world beatingly great mind of the moment is - whether you understand quantum physics or not. Culcha, innit? How could I have lived in the twentieth century and not see Balanchine's choreography?
I digress.

Given that the Thursday matinee is on at the same time I'd agreed to spend with Derby, some pussyfooting about was necessary to secure agreement. I mean, you never know if people actually like ballet, do you? I don't, so why should they?
Attack of the Vanessa Mindflab occurred at 6 pm, when the phone rang as I left the flat. I was midway through walking three feet to my car. At 6.20 I rang off, and the Mindflab ceased. I look around and find I'm on a British Rail train to Charing Cross.
How did that happen? Train tickets cost #4.70, my savings only pay the rent till April, and that's my Balanchine money gone. I'm not very good at living within reduced means, and if I'm going to start lapsing into fugue states where I wake up halfway to Wales, things can only get worse.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 1:58 PM GMT
Updated: Monday, 16 February 2004 2:05 PM GMT
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I stayed in all Saturday morning unpacking, paying bills and cleaning while some bloke fixed the window he cracked last week. It would have been quite calming - you know, bath cleaning, feeling of pointless achievement, all that - if the presence of Window Bloke hadn't made Scaredy Cat hurl herself at the window until she escaped.

Cat logic. A strange man is tapping at the window at the front of the house. One must throw oneself bodily through another window, at the rear of the house, and run wildly into the great unknown in case he ever comes in.

It being Scaredy Cat, the disappearance caused no alarm. I noticed the window a little further ajar than I believed I'd left it, so I shut and locked the thing, and carried on cleaning, scrubbing, paying bills. It started to rain. A memory did flicker, then, of when ScaredyCat once ran out of the french windows at Duch's house to hide in a clump of bushes. She was too scared to move, even when I stood right over her; as a strictly indoor cat, she'd never experienced rain before, and thought it might Get Her.
Chuckling at the memory, I wondered where she'd hidden herself, and got on with scouring the bathroom walls with bleach. The frenzy of cleanliness was bound to occur only irregularly, and I had to reap the benefit quickly before the fit passed from me.
Two hours later, Window Bloke decided not to bother fixing the rest, and scarpered. No reappearance of Scaredy Cat. In fact, increasingly smug expression settling over the features of Other Cat. (they live in fervent hope of the other cat's sudden death.) It dawned on me what I'd done.
I opened all the windows and yelled. There was no way a creature with a brain the size of a jelly tot would remember the way back in. Dragging on a hoodie and trainers, I ran out into the communal garden to stand in the mud and the rain, shouting cat blandishments at the bemused neighbours. The garden backs onto the lawns and sheds of several large, grand looking houses - the sort that indulge in stained glass hall windows and subdued peeling porticos. I know this because I had to scramble in an ungainly fashion over the six foot tall fence to scream into each garden. After thirty minutes I found me an extremely sad and bedraggled Scaredy Cat, who sliced a deep gash in my hand before I scrambled back over the mud and now broken fences to throw her in through the back window.

At this Precise Minute Other Cat leapt back out. Made a beeline for the fence and scuttled under an improbably narrow crack.

Suffice to say, my pastel carpet is now trailed over with solid lumps of crusted mud, my cats have had a right old adventure, the likes of which they'll be wailing and grumbling about for at least four days, and I have a stinking cold.

This page graced by sarsparilla at 1:40 PM GMT
Updated: Monday, 16 February 2004 1:45 PM GMT
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