Friday, July 27, 2007

Rub you wrong time.

No I haven't been accused of molestation, but I was required to intervene when some inappropriate and unwanted groping was taking place on the tube last week. It was all very distasteful.

Time seems to be in as short supply as ever as I try to balance work, study, singing practice and socialising, but things are panning out nicely. Preparing for our first outdoor performance, the Benetton singers prepare almost religiously (on our knees or drinking wine), arguing about harmonies, rhythms, backing vocals and my increasingly bizarre eating habits. We are a passionate trio, but my current spell of veganism seems to impact on any get together as snacking and boozing is a little bit tricky. It's the fish in the wine that ruiins it all...

And the studying is going well as I continue to learn Japanese with my private tutor. We work with a textbook and practice conversation which usually ends in me asking, "how does you say 'his eye was all mushy and smashed looking'", or, "how do you say 'it was as if she'd eaten a black girl was screaming for help from inside her."

The Swedish obsession has continued with a further Schlager party where my skills of playing hard-to-get ended up with the usual playing stuck-on-the-shelf. But it didn't matter, because after about 45 minutes of horrid techno remixes, they played the majestic "Vågar du, vågar jag" and followed it with "Piccadilly Circus" and "Högt över Havet". This is the holy trilogy of schlager. At least to me.

And then last weekend was a Swedish pop extravaganza at that subtly-named club for homosexuals, G.A.Y. The night was a historical look at the ongoing career of Swedish artist/ producer Alexander Bard, featuring reunion of Alcazar, a band he developed and produced, and climaxing with a performance by Bodies Without Organs, his latest project. However, the opener was what I'd wanted to see. As a teenager at school I'd fallen in love with an obscenely weird Swedish group. Their songs were clever, mad and controversial, their behaviour sexual and overwraught and their look was regency royalty, nappies and tarts. "Crucified" was their only hit in the UK, but it was the first of many across Europe including the majestic "Israelism" which was banned in Germany but went to no.1 in Israel. Unfortunately, last Saturday, they mimed to Crucified with the band members throwing about a black blow-up sex doll in reference to the group's first female vocalist, La Camilla, before going off stage to make way for Alcazar. But it was still great to finally see them...

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Slice and dice and drain for approximately 9 and a 1/2 hours.

The home surgery incident was born of long-term irritation about a skin tag on my inside leg. At 7:40 one early June morning I decided to take drastic action.

I grabbed the scissors.

I scissed.

I or-ed.

And as blood flowed down my leg, I thought, "oh, it'll be like having cut myself shaving. A shower will stop this too."

But it didn't.

What ensued was a 9 and a half hour frenzy of wound-packing, plasters, clothes changing and trips to hospital. The first trip to a minor-injuries unit was rather dramatic as blood continued to pour forth and expensive dressings couldn't stem the flow. It all ended rather dramatically with the nurse stating that I had lost too much blood and needed to go straight and insisting I went to Accident and Emergency. Oh dear.

So I went. And I bled. And I waited. And I bled. And finally when I was seen at 6:40, the bleeding had stopped.

I walked home, slightly dizzy and rather more than embarrassed, wondering if I should give up on home surgery or get some sand-paper and a stanley knife and set about giving myself that nose-job I've always hankered after...

Friday, June 15, 2007

The dos and don'ts of home surgery.

1. Don't do.
2. Just don't.

I say this because I wish I had been similarly warned...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


So Eurovision is over for 2007. Or at least you'd think it was, given that the contest was on Saturday night and Serbia won. End of. Game over.

Well not this year it isn't.

Serbia won the contest beating Verka Serduchka, the Ukrainian tranny, into second place. Serbia's entrant proved that Europe can look beyond appearances and see inner beauty. However I can't. She is Europe's most not-pretty woman. And she was humourless too. While stood next to Denmark's entrant, the drag dueen DQ (who was bedecked in a sparkly pink mini-dress and feathered head-dress) she started babbling on about how it was "all about the music" and "it's not performance and show that matters". Yes, love, it is. If performance didn't matter, why did you, a rather not-good-looking lesbian, insist on having five L'Oreal sponsored lovelies pawing you throughout the duration of your song? Eh? EH?

Anyway, she won and the song was boring but Europe loved it.

But it doesn't end there.

The show was dogged by claims of political voting. Every Turk in Europe voted for Turkey even though the song was the rubbish. The Greeks did the same. Russia voted for all it's ex-territories and they all responded. The ex-Yugoslavs all voted for each other and neighbours Greece and Albania. Malta is protesting. They were most upset at not hitting the final despite being the favourite. They are leading calls for a review of Eastern European voting as there are concerns the televote is unreliable. And they've accused others of vote swapping. And in the Netherlands, members of the Dutch parliament have proposed a new contest only for EU members (although a large proportion of the offending Eastern European countries are now in the EU so that's really no answer). Ireland is thinking about pulling out altogether. UK newspapers have been slamming the contest, despite none of them having clearly watched it (a Daily Mail columnist today claimed the Serbian singer couldn't sing when she clearly has a huge talent). And our MPs are also discussing it. In parliament.

And the best bit?

Seven songs from the contest have hit the UK midweek charts, a situation which has never happened before. Indeed, it's usually enough of an ordeal for our own entry to hit the charts. i-Tunes is solely responsible. This Sunday Scooch should stay in the top 5, Verka Serduchka is predicted to hit around no. 18, Russia's Serebro are due to hit inside the top 60 while Sweden's The Ark, Finland's Hanna Pakarinen, and the winner herself, Marija Serifovic and Sarbel who sang for Greece all have their entries in the top 75 as we speak.

And there's more:
Verka's Serduchka's in trouble with the Eurovision organisers. Having denied for months that she was singing "Russia Goodbye", instead singing "Lasha Tumbai" (which she claimed meant "whipped cream" in Mongolian), Verka clearly sang "Russia Goodbye" in her performance at the contest. This is highly controversial what with current tensions in that region and with the Eurovision being- ahem- non-political. Yet the Russians still gave her 12 points because she was simply breathtaking. The Eurovision organisers are yet to decide what action to take.

There is only one thing left to say on the matter:

Sieben sieben aylu lu sieben sieben eins zwei
Sieben sieben aylu lu sieben sieben eins zwei drei TANZEN!

If you want to read any of this information from it's original source, please head over to

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Shock! Horror!

Malta is out! Switzerland is out! Cyprus is out! The Netherlands are out! Israel is out!

The Eurovision semi-final was controversial once again. Two of the favourites were booted out as well as a number of other highly regarded songs that scored highly on internet polls and with bookies, but not, it seems with the European public. Fuelling the controversy is the fact that (if you include Turkey) the 10 qualifing countries came from Eastern Europe (although technically Georgia is in Asia). The strange thing is that they weren't even the good songs from Eastern Europe. Estonia had a great song and it didn't get through. The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia had a rubbish song but made it. What is going on?

I am angry. Malta's entrant was great and had the best song of the whole contest and clearly should have won the whole thing. Cyprus' song should have come 2nd and gone on to become a European smash.

What happens on Saturday is anyone's guess. Although the winner will most likely be Verka Seduchka for the Ukraine or the girl who looks like Kelly Osbourne with Downs Syndrome for Serbia. If that slur is unkind to anyone, it is to people with Downs Syndrome.

That Sweden will win or Scooch get in the top 10 seems highly unlikely now, but maybe tonight a miracle will happen.

A walk in the gardens.

Kew Gardens to be precise.


Juliette has just come back from holiday in Japan and we decided to spend the day catching up in Kew Gardens. Juliette is a member, so I got to go in for free (hurrah!). It's a huge place with all sorts of funny plants, indeed we spent 6 hours looking at things and there's still much more to see.
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Birds of paradise.
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Pretty blue flowers.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Are Vampires Alive?

Switzerland seems to think so.

Last night the Eurovision mania continued with a second trip to Retro Bar, this time for the mock Final. They added the semi-finalists picked weeks ago to those artists already qualified and we drank, watched and voted.

The crowds awarded their points and the bookies' favourites appeared to coincide with the crowd's.

Switzerland and Sweden picked up top points, but on a back-count victory was awarded to Switzerland. It's not very good though. Should have been Malta.

Vampires are Alive- DJ Bobo for Switzerland

Vertigo- Olivia Lewis for Malta.

And after the results, the DJ played some lovely Eurovision music and I finally realised I am a Eurovision anorak. I knew all the words to all the songs, who sang them, which contest they were in etc. But I gained a mini-fan club thanks to interprative dance. I am now invited to umpteen Eurovision parties, but as per tradition, shall be watching it at home.

Go Malta!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

New baby.


These last 10 days without a camera have been rather difficult. It reminds me of when (after 24 years) I first stopped wearing glasses. I felt naked. And like I'd premanently forgotten something.

So after approximately 11 days of waiting I bought myself a new one.

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Monday, April 30, 2007

Who killed Bubba?

Don't ask me, I was drunk.

Last Saturday Lyn held a murder mystery party. It was rather hilarious. Set in a small town in the backwoods of Texas, someone called Bubba had been murdered. And we were the suspects.

Lyn had decked out her house in flags and US memorabilia and guests were greeted by the soothing sounds of the white man's blues, otherwise known as Country and Western. Dinner was chilli con carne, corn and potatoes and all sorts of tasty fare that they probably don't eat in the South at all, but that we just think they do. It was tasty though.

My role was that of a country and western wannabe who ran a karaoke night at the local saloon. I was possibly having an affair with someone and may have been in cahoots with someone else over something or other, but I can't really remember. I was too drunk. As half the party had turned up late, Annette and I nad knocked back a few too many, er, sasparillas and by the time the game started we had no idea what was going on. But we all enjoyed speaking in a Southern accent and singing karaoke before finally we'd drunk everything, revealed the murderer and were ready to go home.

And on the night bus home I tried my hardest not to look as a fat, ugly, white girl who spent the entire journey talking into her phone with a Jamaican accent. It did cross my mind that she may have eaten one or two black girls and they were inside trying to fight their way out...

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Pull shapes


The gig-madness continued on Wednesday night with a trip to the Shepherd's Bush Empire. After an excellent gig at Camden's Koko last week, we were really looking forward to the Pipettes. And after a dinner of dim sum at Ping Pong on Eastcastle street, we trundled along with our standing tickets looking forward to a good dance and a sing-a-long.

Except Shepherds Bush Empire is crap. Whereas other venues have sloping floors so that everyone can see the band, Shepherd's Bush doesn't. So average-height Megan and Brenna couldn't see the band through the crowd. Gah. We ended up standing by the bar as this spot actually had the best view. The Pipettes were great though, and they did what it says on the label- 60's girl pop, harmonies and back-combed hair.

Friday night brought back the Eurovision/ Swedish schlager theme as Terese and I headed off to a Swedish schlager party in central London, and spent the night dancing to all your schlager favourites. And pestering the DJ for Piccadilly Circus.

Unfortunately it wasn't all dancing and smiling as my lovely camera decided to go walkabout and hasn't been seen since. I love you my beautiful IXY! Come home soon...
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Monday, April 16, 2007

Party, Bjorn and NightBus


The weekend was not uneventful.

Saturday was Fred's birthday party, which Terese and I went to. We'd planned to stay a while and then go to a hat party in South London, but the lure of booze and schlager music ensured that we couldn't leave and indeed we stayed longer than everyone else. Oops. And we all trundled off to the Black Cap in Camden to drink more and watch a terrible Philippino transvestite sing songs well and over rely on the phrase, "me lub you rong time" to raise a non-existent laugh.

The crowning glory of any night out in London is the nightbus trip home. And the wildlife you may see there.

Saturday night was a corker. Tired and slightly fed up that I have a possible 2 hour trip home on the bus, I plonk myself on the first seat available. Only for some dirty man with drug-induced pressure of speech and crutches to sit down opposite me and start off on his hard-luck story which ends with him aggressively asking for money. Apparently he tried to kill himself a few weeks ago but broke both his legs and he's a successful rapper and he's just down on his career and HE JUST NEEDS SOME HELP TO GET HIMSELF BACKONHISFEETANDIDON'TLIKEASKINGBUTINEEDSOMEHELPHAVEYOUGOTANYMONEY?

"Sorry, no." I replied firmly.


"Because it's true." I stated.

"Oh. Sorry", he said, and walked off, his crutches dangling from his upper arms.

And then I change buses and sit down, only for a man to sit opposite me. I spent the next 20 minutes trying not to look at him. Why? Because he looked rough as [insert expletive]. On his knuckles wsa tattooed the words "L.O.V.E" and "H.A.T.E" and his left eye was a little bit mushy looking and rather unlike an actual eye.

What else can happen on the night bus? Well, as we reached the end of the journey (which ended three stops earlier than usual for some reason) and the bus driver told everyone to get off I spotted a man asleep. So everyone got off, and I called out to the bus driver and asked him to hang on a moment while I wake up the man. And as the man wakes up, the bus starts moving. Heading back into central London. How nice. And it stops suddenly at traffic lights. So I ask the bus driver to open the doors and let us off and he starts shouting at me. I shout back. I walk up to the cab and explain that I just asked him to wait a minute and he just starts having a go at me again. At which point I just put my hands up and shout "OH, WHATEVER".

Night buses are fun.

On Sunday Terese and I went to see a Swedish band, Peter, Bjorn and John. Except that John was stuck in Dublin, so some un-named hotness was playing the drums. Terese and I were both tired and miserable, feeling like pensioners at a too-cool-for-school kids club. And after the crap support artists and rotten dj we were ready to go home, but fortunately the band were great. Bizarre, but great with guitar solos, singalongs and on-stage fights.

Swedish bands are fun.
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Friday, April 13, 2007

Eurovision season begins.



Thursday night marked the start of Eurovision season proper as the London's Retro Bar (gay, indie bar) held a mock semi-final. And I was there to attend! The evening started of in a most convivial manner with a mini picnic in the park by embankment station, and with Terese and Swedes Peter and Fred in tow, we headed off.

And soon we were drunk. (Boo). At eight PM they put the punters into groups representing the 42 countries taking part in the contest and then they showed the 28 semi-finalists' videos. And then we got to vote in true Eurovision style, awarding points 1-8, 10 and 12.

Now if you've never seen Eurovision you might not know that it has a huge gay following, and that this is often reflected in the performers. And that in the true Eurovision semi, the top 10 scorers are announced in random order to go through to the final. No scores are announced as it would give a clue to the final winner.

Except in Retro Bar, where they announced the winner. And who won? Was it DJ Bobo, the established Swiss Europop star? Was it Malta's Olivia Lewis, one of the overall favourites? Or was it the Serbian munter who is all about the (intensely dreary) song?


The Retro Bar, surprise surprise, voted a tranny to pole position.

It is a good song. But it should have been Olivia...
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And so today...

...once again, I wake up a little bit drunk.


Monday, April 02, 2007

Spring into Summer

The last few weeks have been a bit quieter as I've launched into money saving activities such as: sitting indoors, walking the streets of London and only drinking at weekends. This has been a controversial decision and has been unpopular amongst some friends, but it does work. And it means less mornings where I wake up still feeling a bit tipsy. Clearly this is good. The weekend of March 24th also marked my first ever trip to see friends in Chelmsford where I didn't wake up unable to eat/ drink/ move/ remember where my socks are (in my coat pocket on one occasion).


Walking round London is never a bad thing as you get to appreciate the bits of nature there are, such as these crocuses in Postman's Park (a very lovely little park that is briefly in the hideously awful film "Closer"). It;s officially British summertime, but for some reason these crocusses were still going strong.
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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The loveliest evacuation point in the world?


I started a temporary job in February which has me communting to the Aldwych, part of the Strand in London. It's a nice job with good people and some interesting things to do. I thought it was the best job ever on day two when the building was closed due to power failure and we were sent home with full pay. And then on the fifth day the fire alarms went off. And we were evacuated. To Somerset House, a lovely old building with a beautiful courtyard and fountains of water which are shut off over Christmas to make way for an ice rink. And we got to enjoy it for half an hour while the alarms were switched off.
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Monday, March 19, 2007

Britain decides.

I am slightly preoccupied with the upcoming Eurovision song contest. I can only explain this as being a reaction to having to watch it on the internet in Japan last year as opposed to watching it at home with my Ma as I have done for as long sa can remember (including the first year I was in Japan when I flew home for four days). And so the madness continued as Britain chose its entrant on Saturday.

While my friends were away at a fancy cottage celebrating Mandy's 30th birthday I was pressing redial like a man possessed, just to make sure a French girl singing a dreary celtic ballad didn't end up representing the UK. And who was the other option? Well, after the (s)hitlist had been whittled down from 6 to 2, we were left with French Cyndi and Scooch. Scooch had a marvellous top 5 hit in 2000, then two top 20 hits, then the singer made a baby with their producer and they decided childbirth and fizzy pop didn't mix. And then they came back from Eurovision with a song that you either love or hate. I hateed it until I saw them perform it, and now I love it. It's like a Carry On film set to music. And here it is:

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

I'm ready for my ASBO*.


(ASBO= Anti-Social Behaviour Order/ Badge of honour for louts, thugs and chavs)

Yes, it all came to a huge climax last week. Melodifestivalen reached its peak and so did our alcoholism. Terese and I had pre-booked seats in the Harcourt Arms which turned out to be seats in a the upper bar with a fridge full of beers and cider and a gaggle of excited gays. Including me. The Swedes were outnumbered 5-1 and we won't even talk about the small number of women in the upstairs bar. And the event kicked off with cheers for our heroes Andreas Johnson, Sanna Nielsen and the Ark, and boos for the tranny (not the actual tranny who was in it a couple of weeks before, but the fat bird with make-up application problems). And lashings and lashings of Tiger beer for us. Indeed, we each had 5 bottles of beer in an hour and a half. Which is not wise. And makes you take photos like this:


Well, unsurprisingly the Ark won the Melodifestivalen and will go on to represent Sweden in the Eurovision Song Contest this year. This is probably a very good thing.
And after the show the pub filled with more people who'd not been able to get tickets and had been watching at the nearby Swedish Church. Which is where Johanna, Ivan and Sarah had been. And with the schlager music pumping the party was soon in full swing. So we drank more, talked to lots of people and danced. And sang. And had a brief relax in the Swedish Salongen.


And I was being told to get off the chairs by the bar manager. And when the pub was closing, I lead a sing-a-long of "Take Me To Your Heaven", and was told to quieten down by the bar manager. So, song over, we headed off into the streets of London, still singing, me swinging around lampposts and laying in the road to take photos (as you do). Fortunately the girls mirrored my behaviour.


Apparently we boarded a bus to Camden, singing "Vagar du, vagar jag" at the top of our voices even though no-one knew the words, and we ended up in Camden's notorious gay bar, the Black Cat. Well, we could have been in church for all the use a gay bar was to me at that specific time. I was neither use nor ornament while Terese and Johanna seemed to be happily carrying on. It was while trying to find the loo that I managed to not find the loo, instead leaning over a railing that gave the impression of a balcony where there was in fact just more roof. And I was rather ill.

I was rather ill for most of Sunday too. Terese was marvellously hospitable and we enjoyed a lazy sunday of hangovers, Charlie's Angels and baked beans on toast.

Monday, March 12, 2007

I heart my camera (part 9,867,142)


Covent Garden, February 27th 2007. Moody and old looking.
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Friday, March 09, 2007

Marching on...

Lordy! It's already March!

Actually it's nice that it's March. For a start the date has finally caught up with the temperature and it feels like it should be warm (or at least almost as warm, it's still slightly unseasonal). And the evenings are getting lighter which means socialising would be great.

Except that I've stopped.


I'm trying to save money, so the dinner dates are being cut down and the random shopping has been cut down. I am a soup-man now and have tins of soup for lunch most days (too lazy to get up early and make something else) and I am also trying to develop discipline by setting myself a running plan of at least 3 times a week.

In fact I've been quite unsocial of late, having gone to dinner one week with Mark, then round Megan's for tea, dinner with Adam and drinks with Roland and Neil. That's been it for 4 weeks. Except for one thing of course...

It's all coming to an end this week and I think I shall miss having somewhere fun to go every Saturday night. The company's been brilliant- there's always someone new to talk to, some great songs to dance to and tasty beer. And the contest itself is more than entertaining.

Last week was the "second chance" round where contestants were paired against each other. One of the pairings was Magnus Uggla (think 50 year old dwarf with too much hair, a comedy song about nationalism and dancers in army uniforms) against perennial favourite Nanne Gronvall (think 45 year old dwarf with too much hair, a song about kissing and a dance routine based around a ropey climbing frame). The crowd wanted Nanne to go through- after all she was robbed of victory 2 years ago- but Terese and I, and seemingly most of Sweden had other ideas, and in a perfect display of how to make friends and influence people we sang Magnus' lovely ditty and laughed as much as we could while the gathered throng booed and hollered.

Fortunately we were all united by the mighty Sanna Nielsen, a lovely traditional Swedish blonde singing a lovely traditional Swedish schlager stomper.

There had been much gnashing of teeth when she didn't make it straight through to the final as it pretty much the perfect example of how to make a Eurovision song the Gays (tm) will love. And we all did. And to add insult to injury, she was beaten by a fat woman whose make-up had been applied by a transvestite using a sandblaster. Fatty's song was called "I remember love", which was probably a reference to the thinner days when she wouldn't accidently crush someone to death in the name of rumpo. Bitter? Me? Taking it all a bit too seriously? Me?

Anyway, as has become the norm, we drank till the bar closed and headed off to a club. Trash Palace to be exact. It was quite odd to be in there and not be molested in seconds, but actually it was quite nice. Although what wasn't nice were the sulky teenagers that were hanging around the stage bit where Terese and I were dancing. I couldn't help but wonder what was wrong. They were young, they weren't unattractive (although their scowls could maim from 50 feet). They should have been taking drugs, having unprotected sex or robbing pensioners- whatever it is the young people do for pleasure nowadays...

And so to this week, a week of early (ish) nights, indigestion, running and soup. Soup, soup, soup. It does taste nice, but the novelty's wearing off, and I'm sure there's a type of person who enjoys soup. I don't want to be one of them. Next week I'll have to reintroduce solids...

Monday, February 26, 2007

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner...

Many British people doubt me when I say I'm from London. They say I'm from Essex. I say, "Yes, but where I live falls in East London". They argue, they protest, but whenever there's a local crime, I'm proven right.

Take this example- an article from the BBC website on Tamil communities tackling gangs. It clearly states that Ilford is in East London. Thank you local Tamil gang members and the people who oppose you for bringing the truth to the people.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Svenska Hjärtan

In case you haven't been paying attention lately, I have been talking a lot about Sweden- or more specifically the Swedish Melodifestivalen which is the Swedish national preselection contest for the Eurovision song contest. It's almost better than the contest and possibly more fun. Well, it makes a change from blogging about the weather...

This week saw heat 3, the best one yet. It featured a broad range of song styles- the usual schlager (done very well), electro pop, house, and for the first time bhangra. And I dragged Terese along with me to the Harcourt Arms to enjoy it.

Terese is Swedish, but is not one of those that is crazy about this contest and the Eurovision. But the atmosphere at the pub won her over even if the songs didn't. We craned our necks to see the screen through the tall people that stood in front of us and whooped and booed and drank. And drank. The crowd were appalled when one of the favourites didn't get through to the final, and even moreso when a drippy ballad did.

We made friends with people from many countries, a blonde Swedish lady started chatting me up and and after the show the pub stereo blasted out old schlager and we danced, chatted and sang. Everyone sand along, and each song was met with a cheer or a scream. And then they played "Give Me Your Love".

"Give Me Your Love", sung by Fame, is as close to perfect as a song can get. It is genius. And they played it. And as they played it, something took over control of my body (or, at least, this is what I like to claim). I ended up dancing on the bar, making a ridiculous show of myself, even carrying on dancing while I was being "assisted" down. And after the bar finally closed Terese, Johanna (Swedish, not LeeJay) and the Dutch guy headed to the Phoenix on Cavendish Square. And danced, and drank more. Until Terese and I eventually wondered off home. I arrived at 6, and spent Sunday in bed wondering what had gone wrong...

Here are songs from this week's Melodifestivalen. It continues to be genius, although the Swedish public aren't demonstrating good taste. These two should have got through, but didn't in favour of drab ballad/floaty dress combo and something else:

1. The Attic feat. Therese - The Arrival

2. Magnus Carlsson - Live Forever

Kung Hei Fat Choi!

Happy Chinese new year!

Yes, London is a multicultural city, and close to its centre is a nice big China Town. but being London the local councils are a bit stupid, and if rumours are to be believed, the want to place a branch of Tesco (the supermarket that is eating England) on China Town's main street. The reason? China town is too ethnically singular. If it wasn't so ethnically singular, it would be "Multiethnic town" and would be no different to anywhere esle. D'oh.

But in a nicer development someone decided to hang chinese Lanterns over the road at Oxford circus. And they look lovely.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Childish? Us?


The only thing of note this week was a trip to the cinema with Megan. It being Valentines' day, and us being romantic, we thus decided to do it in style.

We met in Mile End, drank flat beer in a rotten student pub and then went to see a lovely romantic film about a crazed lonely lezzer who fancies the fit new teacher at school who in turn more than fancies one of her students. In this case "more than fancies him" means she is having relations with him. And he is 15. Oh dear.

As you can imagine, it was a rather serious film, but not one without its moments of dark humour. And these certainly weren't lost on us. Nor were the many opporunities for dodgy innuendo we could locate amongst the script.

"Notes On A Scandal" now takes pride of place in a long list of films that I have been accompanied to see in the cinema and have laughed inappropriately at. Other members include the hilarious "Gladiator" and the side-splitting "Texas Chainsaw Massacre".

Monday, February 12, 2007

Something fishy going on...

Since I came back from Japan I've eaten a lot of fish. Whether at a sushi bar, at a turkish restaurant or at home, I've enjoyed fish. But there is a problem.

I only know the Japanese names for many fish.

Of course I know cod, tuna, salmon and plaice. And I've eaten canned mackerel and pilchards in my time, not to mention sardines. And swordfish. But could I recognise these last four at a supermarket fish counter? Probably not.

Conversely I recognise aji, saba, hamachi, katsuo, suzuki and hirame in their raw forms.

What's the solution? Yesterday, after moving stuff into her new flat, Megan and I went to Fujiyama's in Brixton- a marvellous Japanese restaurant, once again with non-Japanese staff. And they let me have one of their placemats- a photo-guide to a la carte sushi. In Japanese, English, French, Spanish, and Dutch. And one other language I couldn't decipher. So soon I shall be able to order fish in many countries. Bravo, etc.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Swedish crooner

Last night I went to a Swedish pub in Marylebone, London to watch the second round of the Melodifestivalen. It is something I have wanted to do since I read about it 2 years ago, and it was certainly worth it. Not only do you get to watch Melodifestivalen on a big screen, you also get to cheer and jeer with the crowd, and impress (or distress) with your knowledge of Swedish slanger songs as everyone sings along to the interval acts.

This week's round contained the likely winners of the whole shebang- Swedish glam rockers The Ark. They are huge in Sweden and critically acclaimed. And they made it through to the final on March 10th.

Here's their performance- the song is called "The Worrying Kind"

Friday, February 09, 2007

Don't waste those second chances!

Is what I was thinking when I heard the news about BIG snow (yes, the papers actually called it that) due to fall in London yesterday. So I arose at 6:45am, left the house at 7:15 and was in the pretty part of London by 8:20 armed with a camera and a killer instinct. Unfortunately I was also armed with stupidity and forgot that parliament square existed. This meant no photos of Big Ben and snow together at last. But I pushed on.

The scene as I set out.

I decided instead to trek round the parks, taking in St. James' park, Green park and Hyde Park. And I ended up with too many photos and extrememly wet socks and shoes.

Missing: romantic couple.

St. James' Park was lovely, although it needed a few more romantic couples to fill its benches. It did have enough birds forraging for foods and posing for nice pictures. I would request that next year some action is taken to steady the branches so amateur photographers like me can take nice, steady pictures.


ALong the way I managed to chat to a few people, including a man in wellies with an army of dogs. But I was very disappointed not to see HRH the Queen Elizabeth Royal Mail Windsor building a snowman in her garden. She had enough people to play with- Police, guards and I'm sure some nice tourists would have helped too.


After the picture taking I met Juliette for a nice, long catch up. And a shopping expedition. And a lovely big lunch at the Japan Centre. We toured the Japanese shops, Juliette showing me the new ones, and we each bought and shared sweets and crackers. And then we went to BeardPapa's, a delicious Japanese shop selling only custard filled choux buns. And they are gorgeous. There's only the one shop in Europe, but that'll change soon I'd imagine.

Juliette's going to Japan in March. I'm not jealous. Much.


The British have a distinct sense of respect for their own history, demonstrated in no clearer way than in this picture where some caring youth (I assume) has attempted to finish off this marvellous piece of art.

I expect to see the statue fully clothed next time I come.

Demonstrating a similar sense of respect, this time for ourselves, Terese and I met up for dinner and non-alcoholic drinks. We have promised to support each other in a booze-free February and started well by having soft drinks, then an all you can eat oriental vegan buffet, and then more soft drinks. Hoorah for us.

We had an early night as I was starting work on Friday (today). Back in the city, this time in the Strand. If you took a map and marked on it the locations of the three agency jobs I've had, you'd notice a pattern. Each one moves South, but in a perfect straight line. All I need is five more job changes and I'll be in France. Vive le choux pastry!

I wonder if French cities can look as bleak as this?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

More British weather...

This winter has been a bit of a mystery. In as much as it's been a mystery where winter has actually been for the last three months. Sunny skies, warm temperatures and a severe lack of frost.

Which is why I felt the need to record this hard frost for posterity. Please note the sunny skies and washing drying on the line, neither being typical of a traditional British winter.


Biting, but not enough so to stop the washing drying.
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Monday, February 05, 2007

Schlager palaver...

Yes, on Saturday night the Swedish Melodifestivalen began. It's a huge palaver to select their Eurovision entry. There are 4 heats, each including 8 songs. Two of these songs will go directly to a final. Two more will go to a second chance round from which two more will go to the final. So 32 becomes 10 which finally becomes 1.

Unbeknown to most, Sweden is home to much of the world's great pop music. Not just Abba or Ace of Base or the Cardigans. Sweden's got it all. Presently there is an invasion of Swedish indie music in the UK (I'm From Barcelona, El Perro Del Mar, Peter, Bjorn and John, Jose Feliciano to name a few). There's also the electro pop that they excel at (The Knife, The Similou, Robyn, again naming but a few). But these aren't big names. Not household names. The biggest names are American stars. having their hits with Swedish songs. Britney, the BackStreet Boys, Kelly Clarkson. Their biggest hits were written in Sweden by Max Martin and the late Denniz Pop.

So you'd think Sweden would be a shoe-in for the Eurovision, that they'd win every year. But no. Sweden always does well, but they're always accused of entering the same song. An Abba sound-alike that thumps away with joy. What we know as the Abba style is a northern European style of music called Schlager. Indeed, Schlager took over much of the world in the late 1990s as British groups sold lots of records on the back of well crafted melodic pop.

So although they won in 1999 with a Schlager stormer (Charlotte Nilsson's "Take me to your heaven"- click here for the slightly incongruous, slightly Japanese video), this year they're taking no chances. Saturday's selection took in Country and Western, folk-pop and finally Dansband, an even older Swedish style that harks back to the 50s and 60s. And what a song. Despite being called "Samba Samero", Anna Book's song isn't particularly latin and requires no brain cells for its enjoyment. And it has a key change. This went direct to the final, while my other favourites, Uno and Irma took a pretty duet to the second chance round. Believe me, THIS ARE NEWS. 70% of Sweden was watching on Saturday. And here's Anna Book and her Dansband spectacular.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Thin on the ground.

Frankly this last week has been boring. Terminally so. I left the house, not one, not twice, but thrice (as Janet Jackson would say). One trip was to Ilford (which rather counts as an endurance test), one to a temping agency who were rather positive about things, and the final one was today, going for a run and trying out a new watch I'd bought. This watch is amazing. It has a built in Global-Positioning-System. It plots your movements on a map, times you, records best speeds, calories used and can plan training routes, dinner dates and train timetables. Or something. But that's not the point. The week's been boring. Thank God the preceding weekend was a bit more full.

Friday was Verity's (a.k.a. Dorothy Brody) birthday, so I met up with her and her friends in a bar in London. All was going well and we were all suitably trolleyed and laughing when a man plonks a drink on the table in front of me. Now, I've seen this man before, but I said nothing. I actually laughed because I was drunk. And then 10 minutes later a tequlia was plonked in front of me without so much as a word. And the 15 minutes later a bottle of water and a bottle of wine. At which point I thought I could go for broke and sit it out for the champagne or go and talk to him.

Turned out he was the bar manager. As he handed me a beer, he asked me what I did for a living. "I am currently looking for work", I answered. "What are you looking for?", he asked. "Anything really, I have extensive life experience". "I'm not interested in your life experience", he said with a leer. "Oh," I replied, "so it's not my brains you're after..."

Well, that was that. I made my excuses and went to sit down with Dorothy and pals and laughed a lot more and got a lot more drunk. And when we left the bar I decided to go to Trash Palace, a Soho nightclub, where I danced for a few hours in between getting groped by random men. This reached it's peak when one man entered the club, walked up to the stage area where I was dancing, put his bag and coat on the floor, and put his hands all over me. I am quite sure I don't dance in a suggestive fashion. It's more a dangerous fashion, with arms flailing about me usually causing a few bruises. But then he did have the look of a doctor about him. Perhaps he was undertaking an intervention...

Saturday was much more civilised. The start of Terese's birthday celebrations with dinner at hers in the company of Mark and Therese (note the "h") and then a trip to nice pub in Mornington Crescent. Given the previous night's overindulgence I took it fairly steadily and ended up getting the last train home. This was good as it meant I could meet Terese, Therese and Mark on Sunday for more celebrating.

Terese's cold was worsening, so were planned to take it easy, but Camden's Bar Solo made sure it was a slow, slow day. Everything was delayed- menus didn't come, orders weren't taken, drinks were delayed and were then served incorrectly, food took an hour to come. What should have taken an hour and a half took 3. And then the bill came and it was horrendously wrong. And after we complained the manageress came up to apologise personally, explaining that one of her waitresses had gone home with an allergic reaction, one had called in sick and the chef was being problematic. I'm sure she understood when we didn't tip for good service.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in a pub enjoying each other's company and talking about Swedish things (both Therese and Terese are Swedish). And that's what's giving me something to look forward to this weekend. Eurovision season is starting up again- the Swedish preselection events begin this weekend, and numerous other countries' qualifying heats will occur.

My life is desperate.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Where are you from?

I'm From Barcelona were doing a mini tour of the UK last week, in as much as they were performing two dates. One of them was on wednesday night in London, so Terese and I decided to go. And it was in a small venue with capacity of only 800 people, so we knew it would be a good atmosphere. But it far exceeded our expectations. They had 2 support acts- the first was a fat person in red skinny jeans, and the second was a band called Irene. But I'm From Barcelona really got the atmosphere going by lauching balloons and bubbles into the air.


I'm From Barcelona are not from Barcelona. They are from Sweden, which is very unlike Barcelona. And their songs are not very Spanish-sounding. Listen here!

Being Swedish, the band have an inate sense of style. However, to some it may appear that they simply borrowed their parents' old clothes. Whichever, it added to their charm. They also decided to include as many people as possible in the band. Terese counted 17 band members on stage at one point. But I can't remember if she counted while the lead singer was stage-diving during an excellent song about stamp-collecting.
The band clearly decided everyone should be their friend and invited a mass storming of the stage at the end. To the right of the picture is a Swedish student who spent most of the concert pushing Terese, myself and anyone else around her whilst trying to hit the balloon that were still being batted around the air. Bless her. And after the concert, the band wandered around the bar and talked to everyone.

So friendly.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Winter wonderland...

For a few hours last week London became a Winter Wonderland. Snow fell across the country, even in London, giving us a brief reminder of what winter weather should be like.

The view from my window on wednesday morning was in no way pretty when compared to the scene outside my window in Katsuyama, but it was still nice to see the snow...
And once again we ask ourselves, "Is there any evidence for global warming?". Spring flowers in the snow in January.
Pretty Christmas tree. In the snow. In late January. I must change my delivery service...
I'm not too sure how to freeze dry rosehips, but I think this is wrong.
Roses for the lady? Well, don't get them here, they're going rotten on the tree. Still, they are blooming outside of a greenhouse. In January. D'oh.
A stroll in the park reveals more roses in the snow. I know a song about roses in the snow. It's sung by disco trollops Baccara. It is neither about being a lady or being able to boogie. Instead, it is crap.
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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Bye bye now!

Well, she finally left us. Dr Miss Vickers left for Japan on Saturday and we were there to see here off.

Terese and I started the day by going for a walk around north London, taking in a very muddy abandoned railway that leads from Finsbury Park to Highgate. The walk was lovely, lots of greenery and nice views. And the two of us looked like we'd been mud wrestling by the time we finished. Unfortunately we didn't realise this until after we'd traipsed around the very posh Highgate village looking like rogue farmers who'd overdosed on laughing gas. We wandered down to Kentish town, stopping for a drink along the way and finally made our way to Heathrow where we were to meet Cathy to say goodbye.

And then it went a bit pearshaped. I managed to tell Cathy her airline wasn't based at the terminal (it was) and managed to tell her her flight wasn't on the schedule. It was. But it was all OK in the end, and after Cathy's brother and his girlfriend went home, we all went for a quick drink to say goodbye and then in scenes reminiscent of the World Wars, we waved her through to the departure gates waving white hankies in the air. Sayonara Miss Vickers!

Views of London from Highgate Village. Lovely.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Cold wars.

Being ill is boring. I've had a bad cold for the best part of a week and it's really, really boring. In between sleeping and not managing to concentrate on anything I've let the rigours of daytime telly wash over me. Challenging for all the wrong reasons. Cable TV really doesn't offer the entertainment value it should.

Still, last Tuesday was fun. Our last evening with Cathy was also my last afternoon with Cathy as we wandered around Covent Garden, the Strand and finally the South Bank where we pestered staff at the Globe Theatre and raced around the slides at the Tate Gallery like children with ADHD. Our evening of sophistication went a bit pear shaped. Ues, the pub we met Jo and Terese in was very nice, but the restaurant in which we ate dinner was not so. We planned on tapas. We went to a tapas restaurant and we didn't like the menu. So we went for a kebab instead. I'm not one for this kind of junk food so I was at a bit of a loss with how to eat it, but Kebab Expert Mandy gave me the necessary training. Bye bye Cathy! Again.


Ms Vickers remembers lost love by the Thames. Or perhaps it was lost earings. D'oh. I can't remember...

Saturday, January 13, 2007

What's going on?

I am sat here watching my first Harry Potter film, not really paying attention and thus not having a clue what's happening. So far, some woman grew really fat and drifted away, London Transport gave a demonstration of a typical bus ride through rush hour London and those black horses and their riders from the Lord of the Rings scared young Harriette and his/ her chums. I am unconvinced so far, particular as they keep mentioning Azerbaijan and Harriette increasingly looks like Maureen Lipman (below).

I suspect the twist at the end might be that Maureen Lipman is actually Hariette, and whilst on a peace keeping mission to Azerbaijan, her wand gets stolen and she saves the day by using traditional Jewish humour to span the gulf between the cultures.

I think what actually does happen will be a disappointment to me now...

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Hey Mr DJ, put a record on

I wanna dance with my- oh hang on. I'm the DJ...

While on the 6th of January numerous Greeks and Russians were celebrating Christmas, I was celebrating my birthday. Now for me, birthdays are always a bit of a shambles. Not bad, just a bit haphazard. I never really do much and Ma always wants to go for lunch or dinner come hell or highwater. My 21st was particularly memorable, not only because we went to dine at one of the UK's least vegetarian friendly restaurant chains, but also because I was rather ill with flu and almost passed out over the salad cart. I spent the rest of the meal slumped over our table. Last year was my 30th and was rather more successful, except for the fact that I had a three course meal for lunch with the family and then a huge dinner with friends and then indigestion for a week. So this year I was quite relieved when Megan told me her 30th birthday bash would be held on the night of my birthday.

And then she asked me to DJ.

I've never DJed before. I've organised music for parties, but have never actually used a mixer be it a CD or a record mixer. So I was rather nervous. And this will explain why I got it wrong.

I prepared a couple of hours worth of music, not thinking I'd use it all, and arrived at the venue with Megan so Matt could show me how to use the equipment. And then I got confused. And instead of starting at 9:30, I started at 8:15. And DJed for over 2 hours. I did worry I would have to stop when Cathy decided to start pressing buttons and sliding sliders on the machinery, but after a quick bit of shouting and some stern looks from Matt she was suitably chastised and left the DJ area. I don't want to DJ again though, because while I got to play lots of my favourite songs I didn't get to dance to them. Boo! And no-one else appreciates Betty Boo quite like I do.

The party itself was great. Other Megan came back from France, Cathy, Mandy, Kofi, Terese and a host of others were there, and fortunately Cathy and Mandy were well equipped with make-up to help allcomers achieve the required Moustache and/ or Lipstick look. Unfortunately for Cathy, her eyeliner pencil was Clinique, so every moustache she drew on cost her at least five pounds. Mine was worth £20 alone I suspect...

While I, South American pimp extraordinaire, look on and survey my kingdom (the bar), I clutch my support (Terese) and my young male latin lover (Mandy). Oh how a few eyeliner moustaches can make a difference. If only my lipstick was a deeper shade of red...

Friday, January 05, 2007

Starting as you mean to go on...

It is always good to start the new year as you mean to go on, but I think I may have set myself on course for liver failure by the end of the month.

In a positive note the young gentlemen have started to pay attention. It might be my burgeoning breasticles- time for a trainer bra soon if the winter excess doesn't disperse soon. And in another good sign, the social life has been more than effective, although that candle may well be burned at both ends. On only the second of January I met up with a gentleman and went on an all night binge-drinking session which culminated in my being stopped by a Policeman at 4:30 in the morning while staggering to the train station and trying to answer a text message.

"Are you OK? Where are you going?" he enquired.
"I'm fine thank you. I'm heading to Liverpool Street station", I slurred in reply.
"Where have you been tonight?"
"Just to a couple of bars and a club with a friend for some drinks".
"So you've had a few"
"Yes" (this was clearly the most stupid question in the world- I'd either had too many drinks or a serious head injury)
"Have you taken anything else?" he asked, seemingly unconvinced as I propped myself against the wall.
"GOOD LORD, I WOULD NEVER DO SUCH A THING!" I shrieked, clearly with conviction as he apologised and let me off on my merry way. I arrived home at 6am, dreading Eugene's leaving do which was happening that evening. I couldn't possibly drink again.

So I didn't and managed to stay enough to enjoy and participate in the Ryan's seasonal singalong party.

Yesterday Cathy came to London to spend a week in preparation for her up-and-coming move to Okinawa, so we went and met her from the train, and headed straight to the pub. A couple of drinks later and we were wondering what to do next and one option arose- karaoke! So, for the first time since I came back to the UK I ended up in a karaoke salon. And while it was possibly the most ghetto karaoke salon I have ever been in, it was karaoke. And it felt good. Not as expensive as I'd expected and with more songs than I'd expected. I shall return.

Mandy strains while Cathy and Chris pray for deafness to befall them.

So what are my plans for 2006?
1. Karaoke,
2. Nights out with gentlemen,
3. Giving hysterical responses should anyone else suggest I've taken drugs.