June 29, 2005

Guest Blog: Moving in Different Circles 

"Welcome to Chateau Bateau!"

When an American speaks French, I find it particularly amusing. Perhaps it is because I’m so used to hearing Brits ham-up their French words for comic effect. Words like vis-à-vis, rendez-vous, menage-a-trois, pret-a-manger and Gare du Nord can always raise a smile if you put on a silly voice. When my friend and I turned up on a houseboat in Chelsea to work behind the bar for a private party, a wealthy Brit might have opened the door and greeted us with "Welcome to my little floating pomme de terre!" And, yes, I would have laughed because I’m me and I find that kind of thing funny. But nothing prepared me for the rosy-cheeked American dude dressed in a Hawaiian shirt with a smile as big as a pancake. Those two words, chateau bateau, for some reason pushed me over the edge into hysterics. Which I felt forced to conceal.

The houseboat was a genuine tardis. From the outside, it looked like a boat. Once inside, it was all open-plan warehouse-conversion-style split-levels with a spiral staircase, two bathrooms, two bedrooms, a study AND a hallway. Hysteria gave way to utter awe. If that’s what I’m like when I step onto a houseboat, I’m not sure I could handle being invited onto a yacht.

Chateau Bateau was the place to be that night, with over a hundred and fifty RSVPs confirming their attendance to a Hawaiian ‘Beach’ Party, which had been (apparently) advertised in the papers. We had no idea what the occasion was, but we threw ourselves into the spirit of things by adorning a Hawaiian shirt each and flowers round our neck. We turned the breakfast bar into a beautiful drinks bar, full to capacity with bottles of booze and vats of punch.

We had been warned by our host that guests "might want to start-off on champagne", and it seemed that they echoed this sentiment by turning up with a couple bottles of Mumm each. We had three large ice-buckets on the go crammed-full with bottles, and began stuffing more into the fridge and freezer as they arrived. The Bollinger turned up in two boxes of six, the pink champagne turned up in a crate. Someone bought a bottle of Cava, which seemed suddenly completely out of place and I found myself turning my nose up at the stuff, even though I had a bottle of at home that I had been saving for special occasion. More Champagne turned up every second. We must have opened about a hundred bottles, becoming gradually more nonchalant with the stuff as the bar got busier. We served it up in pint glasses, we poured dregs down the sink, into the ice bucket, down our legs, everywhere. Champagne was literally flowing. I was bathing in the stuff.

For one night, I belonged to a different world (although I was being paid to be there, which perhaps put me back in my place). My friend and I weren’t drinking, but we worked flat-out 'till four in the morning on a natural high. We would suddenly feel the urge to ‘whoop’ for no reason, screaming things like ‘You’re the daddy!’ and ‘YEAH you do!’

It was all going well until a Norwegian model killed the mood by demanding coffee. She must have felt threatened by our natural, wholesome beauty when I told her we didn't have any. I got back to serving the throngs of people at the bar climbing over each other to get served. She persisted.

‘Can you check his cupboards?’
‘No, look, sorry. There’s no coffee.’
‘Can you check please?’
‘He’s not shown us any bloody coffee. We’re really busy.’
‘Why won't you check his cupboards?’

With that, she turned around and told some poor silent pissed bloke wearing giant plastic sunglasses how depressed she was feeling, before shoving her tongue down his throat and fumbling with his shirt buttons. I had seen him at the start of the evening with his pregnant girlfriend, who had gone home a couple of hours earlier in a taxi. For a second I felt like I didn't belong and wished I’d gone with her.

Only for a second though. Because the money I made in one night was more than what I make temping in a week.



June 28, 2005

Guest Blog: Etiquette type things 

It’s a very worrying precedent to feel you really need to do something even though you’re really not sure whether that person wants you to anymore or whether they’ll be offended if you don’t.

I know; it didn’t make sense to me this morning either.

I suppose it’s the sort of feeling you get when you’re at a Posh party and someone shoves a tray of hors d’oeuvres in front of you and you feel you need to take one even though you’re not totally sure whether it has something like Olives in it. You stand there looking at them, trying to decipher what they are and whether anything will give you the Trots but you do it anyway as the hostess is an old friend and the Beans on Toast you had just before you came out that evening didn’t quite fill you up enough to counter the small snacky foods you’ll be eating all evening. So you do it anyway, as not doing it might cause some offence.

Maybe that doesn’t make sense either. But anyway, I got that feeling this morning as I looked at my Blogger template and saw that I still have permission to Post something on this Blog.

Now there is nothing here on this Blog that remotely resembles Olives nor the sort of things that will give you the Trots, as Ms Jones is a nice woman and without the appearance of having a fearful temper tantrum that you think might be under the surface but you’re glad isn’t. Well, perhaps up until the point when she reads this Post and I get a finger jabbed in my eye the next time she sees me or she starts to post small pieces of my Binoculars back through the mail.

The next issue of course is what do you write about?

Having already shot my bolt with doing a chummy post previously about the sorts of things that went on when I’ve met Ms Jones before and that you wish were really left-field hilarious but which you realise are actually very normal and borderline boring, there is a mounting awareness of the fact that you don’t really have a clue of what to talk about.

So, once again, it’s like being at a posh party and in order to progress the analogy here so that you don’t think I spend my whole life worrying over the contents of hors d’oeuvres trays, you need to imagine that you’ve found a safe thing to eat, you’ve got a drink and you start to circulate looking for someone to talk to who isn’t going to bore the arse off you by talking about themselves or their children. There is a point in the proceedings when you begin to wonder just exactly what you’re going to do, you wonder whether you’ve made a mistake by being there and you’re not really sure whether you should’ve done anything at all in the first place.

Just like writing this Post really.

I wonder which bit of the binoculars will come back first?


June 23, 2005

Guest Blog: Because you didn't ask for it... 

...for one week only, back by popular indifference, here's your resurrected Friday music thing...

Glastonbury 2005 is up and running and, as you'd expect with the sheer volume of bands, there are some definite highlights to look forward to. Were I there, I'd be looking forward to The White Stripes, The Killers, Doves, I Am Kloot, Cake, Tom Vek and The Proclaimers to name a few. I'd be less likely to bother with Coldplay, Razorlight or the aggravating Art Brut, but let's not be unkind. Something for everyone.

Indulge yourself with a flight of fancy. Imagine, for a second, that you are Michael Eavis and you have your very own magic Glastonbury. You can book any artist or band you want, from any time, and you don't have to clear up afterwards (that must be a ball-ache for the guy, it really must). What does you line-up look like? Who are you going to convince to play at your dream festival? One artist or a hundred. Living or dead. You have carte blanche.

For me, the Stone Roses (1989), Led Zeppelin (c. Led Zep 4) and Nirvana (c. In Utero) headline the big, windy main stage, while Shellac (now), Joy Division (then) and My Bloody Valentine (to here knows when) top the bill in the dark, oddly-moist tent.

It's all yours.

posted by neil

Guest Blog: The pitfalls of Guest Blogging 

Guest Blogging for someone is always fraught with quandaries and potential pitfalls.

There is the initial pressing feeling of a requirement to prove to all and sundry that you are worthy as a guest writer by recounting some small fact about the host that proves your worthiness. That is out of the question really as I don’t know any ‘small facts’ about Ms Jones. Just huge stonking ones. This is a bit of a pitfall as writing about that sort of ‘chumminess’ always turns people off because you always sound a bit of a name-dropping type twat.

The next feeling that invades the creative juices is one of those ‘There was a time when Ms Jones and I etc. etc.’ but once again these things have to be carefully sifted. I could talk about her propensity to fiddle around with my car stereo once, making the CD autochanger work overtime and then hooting with delight when she found Coldplay or Feeder to sing along to at the top of her voice whilst we sat at a red traffic light. That would just rile the readers though and make me sound a bit of a nob.

The next possible mistake to make would be to write in the style of the host using an amusing incident that resembles an original post. The trouble is that writing about my trip to a Turkish bath in Germany and seeing tonnes of muff hair everywhere because I took the wrong turning in the changing rooms with hilarious consequences won’t have the same charm as her original. It’s a classic mistake but easily done, just like mentioning that her sister is a complete Fox and not balancing that with just how gorgeous Ms Jones is too. Then again, one can sound all smarmy by doing that.

So I can’t actually write about any of these things.

I can’t mention the time I got to see the ladies football team she plays for, remove their tops pitch-side before a match and then how I spent the next five minutes explaining to my children why they did it (a colour clash that needed a swap with their reserve team) and what sports bras did that other bras didn’t (err, no not now).

I can’t recount how she spiked my Phad Thai with some Green Curry sauce one evening as that makes me sound a bit of wus nor can I talk about how alarmingly quickly she’ll neck a pint or get involved in another person’s conversation when you’re in the pub with her.

It just can’t be done.

So, I think I’ve failed here.

Perhaps I should’ve just written about the time a Japanese tourist approached us in the centre of London asking about the Piccadilly Line service.

"I wan’ Cockfosters," he grinned and bowed.

To which I replied remembering the Paul Hogan line.

"Just let it warm up then."

Ah, I’ve cracked it. Don’t try and be funny.

June 22, 2005

Guest Blog: A question for everybody... 

For various reasons, I owe Ms Jones three pints of Stella Artois. So, despite the fact that my entire professional and personal life is in a bit of a state of upheaval at the moment, I didn’t think it would be right not to help her out when she asked me to do a post.

Plus, I only ever see her in London. Have you seen the price of a pint of ASBO in London?!? My time is cheap in comparison.

The thing is, she’s a bit of a ‘girlie’ writer. I am a bit ‘boyee’.

That’s not to say that she goes on about needlework, netball and listening to Dido records – like I never write about football, driving vans or making love to beautiful ladies.

But she does talk about – like – women’s things and stuff. Like bras. And, like, well you know. Other things that they discuss in glossy women’s magazines that I run a mile from. I do not think I can contribute to that debate. I am a big fan of bras, of course. I think they are great. And boooooo to PMT.

But I also think the sorts of turns of phrase are slightly different. The look on life. All that gubbins.

So my question, to the comments box – and especially the lurking people who don’t comment and who nobody knows who they are – and to the readers that came here via Ms Jones’s glossy magazine appearance is...

Obvious subject matter aside... do men write differently to women? Could you tell a woman’s writing from a man’s? If it was, like... anonymous? Is there a generally different perspective?


June 21, 2005

Guest Blog: Put your feet up, Sis 

I tread onto my sister’s blog with trepidation.

When I found out she wanted it ‘looked after’ for a while, I practically begged her to let me help out. I haven’t been writing for a while, as I have actually been getting a little bored of myself (impossible to imagine, I know). This gives me the perfect opportunity to give myself a new voice, to re-invent myself. To re-write my literary DNA.

I shall observe the day-to-day happenings of this fine city, from the tube stations to the sandwich shops. My anecdotes shall come to serve as a comment on today’s tricksy society. I shall endeavour to keep moving in different circles, eavesdropping on people’s conversations, and trying to remember their jokes. I shall pretend to know about football, and lie about how much beer I can consume. But, more importantly, I can be as crude as I like. I shall shock and disgust with some quality swearing.

I will carry the torch, readers. And pretty soon, your grieving will be softened. She won’t be gone too long, my wonderful sister. She’ll be back with even more vigour than before. Until then, I hear a few other vagabonds will be helping out with the entertainment around here.

I’m off to get into character. Where’s my Stanivslavski?



June 19, 2005

Isle of Shite 

Only kidding!

The Isle of Wight was absolutely brilliant. The rest of my week, however, has been a bit shite. Thanks go out to these lovely amazing people, who among other superb friends of mine, have helped me out no end!

I'm going to disappear for a little while but you can't keep a good bird down for long and so watch this space for a return blazed in glory! In the meantime I'll see about sorting out a couple of guest bloggers to keep you entertained.



June 09, 2005



We're off to the Isle of Wight festival. Nine of us including Jones Junior will be pitching camp in a field with thousands of other people. I love the feeling you get before you go on holiday, the excitement and anticipation bubbling gently under the surface of your skin. But I hate the planning and the packing. We're meeting at Waterloo station tomorrow morning. So much to do and so little time.

Have a lovely weekend everybody. I'm sure I'll have some tales to tell you when we get back.

June 01, 2005

A Fine Line 

Some weeks ago my best friend and I went to get our make-up done by a professional at one of those ultra-white counters you get in the lobbies of department stores on Oxford Street. Neither of us have ever really got to grips with the intricacies of make-up application and given that Bob is getting married in October and yours truly has the honour of being her bridesmaid, we figured we’d better learn.

Generally speaking I hate shopping and tend to shy away from anything to do with the West End on a Saturday afternoon, but for the sake of my friend (and if I’m honest, for the sake of my own curiosity) I braved my hangover to find Bob suffering equally from her previous night’s over-indulgence and headed to our appointment.

I had no idea that make-up could be such a complicated matter. There were creams, scrubs, conditioners, foundations, powders and all manner of strange devices with which to apply them. After a baffling hour during which we tried desperately to keep up and remember what to do, Bob and I left the store wearing a rather odd combination of scruffy jeans, trainers and t-shirts with full-on mega thick bridal make-up.

But, dear readers, I tell you this story not to waffle on and on about my friend’s imminent nuptials (as exciting as they are). No, indeed! I tell you this story in order to lay the foundation (if you’ll excuse the pun) for what happened to me on Monday.

At the beginning of my make-up session with the very lovely Nadia, she picked up a bottle of moisturiser and was about to apply it to my face when she had a change of heart.

“How old are you?” she asked, politely.

“I’m twenty nine,” I answered, equally politely.

“Ah, I see.” She put down the bottle and swapped it for one from a different range. “The skin starts to lose its elasticity from the age of 26,” she explained. “You’ll need a different moisturiser. This one has a special formula that reduces the appearance of fine lines.”

I concluded that the poor dear was either deluded or suffering from hallucinations and so I patiently allowed her to apply the anti-ageing cream happy enough in the knowledge that I didn’t really need it and that my skin was as smooth as it was when I was a six-year-old girl gambolling around the back garden making rose water out of dead petals.

This state of denial, dear friends, continued for a good long while, until the other day in fact. I took advantage of the bank holiday to do some work on my bathroom. The plasterwork needed a fair amount of attention in preparation for the paint I’ve selected. With my head turned upwards I spent a good hour sanding down the ceiling. This was a messy affair and a substantial layer of fine dust settled on my clothes, on my hair and, yes, on my face.

I went to the sink to clean up and was greeted by a sight in the mirror that would force me into the very real world of ageing. All the dust had settled into the fine lines around my face, the fine lines that until that moment I had believed to be a figment of Nadia’s imagination. It was a rude awakening and I caught a sneak preview of what I may look like in twenty years time.

Still, fine lines and wrinkles tell a story of a life well lived. I took a good long look, didn't mind what I saw, and decided that I could live without the anti-ageing cream.


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