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Friday, December 26

Ok. I'll come clean. I'm in London this year for the same reason I was down here last year. I'm a volunteer with Crisis on their Open Christmas project. I haven't shouted about it on this blog, or indeed in any context, because the moment I declare that that's what I'm doing, people's general reaction is "Oh, good for you" or other shades of "Aren't you a wonderful person". I AM a wonderful person*, but doing this is not something that makes me any more or less wonderful.

There's no doubt in my mind that joining the gang of nearly 4000 volunteers on this project is a good thing to do. However, I'm not doing it solely because I think it's the right thing to do, or because I'm some sort of selfless activist. I have no halo. I am a very selfish person and doing Crisis Open Christmas is an act of selfishness on my part. On the up side, this particular act has positive side-effects, but anyone who treats my choice to join in with the project as deserving of praise is missing the point. I don't want to be told that I'm doing something good. If you think it's a good thing to do, then come and do it yourself! Contact me if you would like details of how to get involved, I cannot recommend it highly enough. There'll be another Open Christmas next year between 23rd and 30th December and the number of returning volunteers is testament to the fact that getting involved is a very rewarding experience.

You see... there's a reward.

There are many people for whom Christmas is not an entertaining end to the year. Some of these people are homeless, or have been homeless, and are part of an isolated sector of society. There are some people who are alone at this time of year. There may be no particular significance to this time of year outside of the fact that everyone else chooses not to be alone (if they have the choice) and the world pretty much shuts down. To be imprisoned in your own company under these circumstances is a pretty scary concept. To find an artificial environment, geared up to provide company and activity to fill this gap is a wonderful release from the chains of one's own solitude and from the cacophany of one's internal monologue. The users of the Crisis Open Christmas shelters, be they the guests or the volunteers, find a good place to spend their Christmas.

I am working night shifts at one of the shelters. I've just woken up, having slept since about 10am. The shelter is an hour's walk away from where I'm staying (indeed, where I'm currently sitting writing this blog entry on my laptop via the mobile phone... currently in a damned uncomfortable sitting position). The two hours of walking each day must be good for me. Plus, I've only really got the chance to eat once each day. I want to lose weight this Christmas. Perhaps I'll lose the weight that's crept on during my stand-up comedy inspired glut of gluttony of motorway service station snacks.

In 150 minutes or so I shall get myself motivated to walk to my next shift. In the meantime it's "me time". Food from the nearby convenience store, a shower and maybe a few minutes with my book. It's a basic existence. A B&B, a fair amount of my own company and no luxuries (notwithstanding my laptop and packet of instant mocha coffee). The radio is good company. I can walk away from this existence on 31st December and return to my home in Newcastle.

I think I'll use 2004 to go into rehab for my flapjack addiction.

Or maybe I'll give it another 12 months.

* I am not actually wonderful... more awful, as in "ooh, you are awful"

Tuesday, December 23

Now I'm in Starbucks. I'm a roving internet whore.

This is probably one of the last times I'll have broadband internet access during this trip. I thought I'd take a few moments to wish all my readers (are there really people reading this?) a very happy christmas and new year. I've written a lot on this blog over the last few years and if anyone other than me has been reading it then you have my utmost sympathy (and adoration).

Monday, December 22

A quick bit of bloggage from the EasyInternet cafe here on Oxford Circus. I still think that Stelios would have called it EasyPorn if he could have gotten away with it... and he would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for those pesky kids.

The Scooby Doo gang strikes again.

Anyhoo. It has been something of a blast since the last bloggage. Sunday saw my trip down south. A trip that was enriched with good company to look forward to. Given my rule never to mention people by name, I shall only say that it's good to spend time with a friend and worth a trip of any great distance in order to achieve it.

Sadly the trip revealed a flaw in my car - its exhaust started playing merry hell with the background level of silence that normally exists in the world. This was a cause for some concern - especially since the car is such a vital companion in my world. Then to add injury to insult, my stomach decided to remind me how uncomfortable it can be. Then to add injury to injury, my big toenail on my right foot - that's the right foot (I know how important detail can be) also started hurting.

Waking up this morning it was time to sort two of these three problems out. I'm glad to say that the pressure in my stomach passed between Leicester and London. I'm not going to say how this passage occurred... needless to say I was relieved, but I was about as disgusted as I was relieved by the relieving process. Glad I was alone at the time.

The first call of the day was Archway Tyres and Exhausts in, well, Archway. This is a car parts fittery. I always worry about these places. This one was brilliant. They replaced two sections of my exhaust - it's the law that you never replace only one... the adjoining section always needs replacing too. They charged me a double figure sum for their efforts and my car growls no more. Woohoo!

Second call of the day was the hotel where I'm now staying. I've unpacked and I think I have a nicer room than I did last year, so I'm quite happy with the arrangements.

Third call was a wander round London, somewhat aggravating my toenail ailment. This caused me to make a positive and decisive move. I have bought the mother of all nail scissors. These are more nail pliers. I am going to have a right go at my poorly toe later this evening and it shall suffer poorliness no more. I'm pleased to declare my nail scissors a very Ashley solution. If in doubt, buy a new tool.

Saturday, December 20

Christmas and the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Special. A match made in heaven. Thank heavens for compilation videos. My ironing passed by in a nano-second today.

In a weird "I can't be bothered to pack moment", I managed to review my personal finances and cancel a whole load of unused credit and store cards. Weird. What would I do if I had a longer trip to pack for? remortgage?

Friday, December 19

I couldn't help it my dander was up (review 20).

Speaks for itself:

A bit of creative writing:
As she walked across the office, she could feel the men's eyes on her. In fact, she caught a few of them glancing her way, or even looking intently, following her path. She became aware of what they were looking at and felt a certain flush of excitement. Flicking her hair suggestively she left the room with a flourish, her heart beating a little faster than normal. "They want me," she thought.

As she walked across the office, many of the men, disturbed from their work by the movement of this unliked and unattractive officious pedant, looked up to see who was strutting by them so self-importantly. A few of them, still amazed that anyone that overweight dared to dress like that, were transfixed, as though watching a car crash. As she reached the door and left, the menfolk breathed a sigh of relief. "She's gone," one said, simply.

And relax.

The last working day of the year and I arrived late. D'oh!

My fault entirely. I lay in a vegetative state, listening to the alarm clock,
for around 45 minutes this morning, before the arrival of Ken Bruce (9.30) prompted me into a very chilled out form of panic*. I then proceeded to perform a thorough ablution, which I reckon was needed more than the satisfaction of arriving in the office on time. Oh dear. What a poor end to the year's already flimsy attendance record.

On the other hand, time spent in the company of Beethoven in the wee small hours, mug of hot chocolate in one hand and keyboard in the other, cannot be rated highly enough. Looking back over my many years spent in front of the screen, sometimes for 20 or 30 hours at a time... I think I've got to accept that I've found an activity that I'm made for.

*I was so relaxed, that the so-called panic simply raised my levels of excitement to just below normality. If the roof had caved in and masked gunmen had entered the room, the adrenaline might have got me up to slightly concerned.

BTW footnotes rock!

Thursday, December 18

Abe Lincoln impressions are fine... but I needed a trim. So I went to the barber today and he has resculpted the beard. I can console myself with the fact that there's still enough time between now and the show to regrow the thing in its entirety if I wanted.

Just two days of work left and then I'm off for Christmas. It's just a little scary. This year has flown by. Before I know it, it will be New Year.

Not yet.


No, not now.

I had a smashing time in Edinburgh last night, using my beard to its full comic potential in a somewhat improvised opening to my act. I'm pleased to say that my Abraham Lincolm impression worked quite well, and one of the audience even felt he'd seen a hidden depth to a routine I did on Saddam Hussein's beard (see two blog entries ago for the basic premise). I have had some lovely gigs in Edinburgh over the year. I look forward to frequenting the city ever more next year. I was pleased that my last performance of the year was entertaining for both myself and the audience - a good way to put a lid on my first year as a stand-up comedian.

I was thrilled at a moment's conversation on the train back from Edinburgh this morning - I quipped to a guy, staring at my guitar case, that it was in fact a laptop. He retorted that the neck section must be the antenna for some sort of wireless internet connection. Not bad!

I also found myself drafting the first verse of a two verse song "Don't cover your gran in potato". Worth trying in front of an audience at some point I think!

Tuesday, December 16

I just read through a 20 minute play I wrote just under 13 years ago. I was 16 when I wrote it and I couldn't spell "Michael", "handkerchief" and "soliloquy", among other things.

Still, it wasn't too terrible.

I wonder what I'll think of my current endeavours in 2016.

Of course you probably thought the same thing as I did when they arrested a bearded Saddam Hussein: who wins the beard competition?. It's a tough call between his greying, wispy and shaggy effort and my youthful, rugged, lumberjack look. I think it goes to him on length. Still, you can be the judge for yourself:


Go on... have a kiwi.

My behaviour of late has been very self-indulgent. I don't know whether this is necessity or luxury. I don't even know whether this is is a recent development or whether I've suddenly just started noticing. Perhaps it's not a problem. Perhaps as animals we're supposed to be self-preserving and self-indulgent, but as humans with emotions and intellect, our perception of what is important to ourselves means that our actions can appear to be altruistic or selfless, while simultaneously remaining self-serving.

I know that there have been various things I've been doing recently that have been particularly and intensively self-indulgent. I'm not sure that I am in any way remorseful - I don't think anyone has been harmed, nor have I been breaking any laws or moral codes.

Life doesn't come with a manual. There's no prescribed way to go about living. This makes it a very bizarre and ambiguous situation if you're a stickler for accuracy and detail. Sometimes I want to grab the world roughly by the shoulders and say "WHAT? What is the answer!?" but that would be too easy. So, take the best guess and keep reviewing where you've reached so far. Hopefully you'll end up near enough.

I remember the phrase "Look after yourself" being said to me on various occasions. It sounds pleasant enough. Well-intended words of well-wishing. Sadly, I occasionally see the dark side of these words. I sometimes see the results of my attempts to look after myself, and I realise what a bizarre relationship I have with the carer that is me. If you've ever seen the hilarious BBC series Little Britain where there's a carer/disabled pair of characters, you'll see how I see myself when I look in my cupboard and find the things I've bought for myself. I can hear my own voice saying - "Here, here's some soup - you LIKE soup, don't you?" and me replying "Yeah!" and then me saying "We'll get you some vegetable soup. That's your favourite." "Yeah!". The result a stack of cans of soup - a handful of unique flavours, stacked up in profusion by a well meaning but patronising carer. Who is me...

Okay, so maybe I'm taking this "look at yourself in the 3rd person" thing a bit far. Sometimes, I get an outside glimpse of my own world and it's odd. However, my internal monologue and my perspectives are just that. I'm not starting to lose my grip. Honestly!

Well, maybe just a little...

Swastikas in fonts. Whatever next? Check it out. I'm not sure I can see what the fuss is about.

Monday, December 15

Very odd... my Ribena mixed berry drink seems to include apple juice. I didn't know that apple was a berry. That's broadening the definition a bit. Why not include Halle too!?

It must be said that, although I'm still physically in need of some fixing, and although I didn't get a vast amount of sleep, I am in fine form today. I tempted myself out of bed with the thought of porridge, but I suspect that that was more a symptom of my high spirits than the cause. I suppose that's the thing about mood swings - sometimes you swing up.

Not that sort of swinging, mind!

Sunday, December 14

Weekends eh?
What are they all about then!? What is it with weekends? I should point out, at this stage, that this is a summary of this weekend, purposely dated on the last minute of it, while having been written at various points over its last day (and into the morning of the next week). This is one of the thing weekends are about... writing about weekends and staying up too late.

I should start with a word of frustration from last Saturday. Aaaagh. There. That's the word. Last Saturday had many merits - well two major ones. Firstly I had a good friend over for the better part of the day writing music, and secondly I had some fantastic chips from the nearby chinese takeaway. The flip-side to this fun being that I was suffering my malady in ignorance of what it was. The frustration I suffered was entirely caused by a morning's shopping trip in town during which I bought absolutely nothing. Nothing! Can you believe it!?

What could cause such an absence of luck? Well - who knows? Possibly that I was on the search for the following items:
  • Some cotton lightweight lounge-pants to use as pyjamas
  • Cotton underwear
  • A comb
  • Cotton buds
Quite a cotton theme. I cannot emphasise the need for cotton enough (particularly on one's unmentionables). I was surprised by my inability to find any of these things. I became light headed from my condition, irritable and generally bad tempered. I nearly had a go at a woman in a mobility scooter, but stopped myself just in time.

In fairness to myself. The mobility scooter woman deserved a good shouting at. She had a bad attitude. She was driving round at around 10 mph, annoyed that people were in her way. Of course they were - she was going way too fast for pedestrians. She was rude... I should have had a go at her, but I was too annoyed - it would have been hard to make it clear that I had a point, and not just look like some guy harrassing the disabled.

This weekend was an improvement. For a start my Saturday shopping trip yielded the comb - 15p, Wilko - who would have thought they would be so hard to find!? I also found a couple of shirts in BHS - reduced. They proved to be reduced even further when I got them to the till. The assistance charged me a good £10 less than I expected and then, in the spirit of things being small, proceeded to ball them up into as tight a space as possible and cram them into the bag.

Sadly BHS proved to be a bad idea from the point of view of lounge pants - their overpriced pants did have pockets, but they also had 18% viscose. I want pure cotton.

A quick word on the subject of lounge pants
Why do I want lounge pants? I use them as pyjamas because I don't want a tight fitting purpose-made pyjama. I want some thing loose and lightweight, which I can wear with or without a T-shirt. I have had a couple of pairs of exactly the sort of trousers I want to wear in bed for quite some time. Around 8 years, in fact.

With two pairs, why do I need more?

Well, the problem is that my green pair had developed a hole in them - around the place where holes should not be, both from the point of view of support and privacy. There's no point in having pants on if your goolies are on display.

With a lot of wearing and rolling around in bed recently, my blue pair have developed a wide range of holes... replacements required.

The answer - ASDA. Today I found exactly what I wanted. They have a draw-string and even a button front for convenient frontal "tasks". Cheap and to the point. That's what it's all about. Result!

Aside - turn out not to be draw string. They have string but no drawing capability... D'oh! Still, very effective as leg coverings (and coverings for the goolies).

Other cotton items were discovered between Saturday and Sunday. The cotton supplies are complete.

Making movies
Above all, it has been a weekend of movie watching. Well, not above ALL, but above many other things, that's for sure. I went to see Love Actually and then, within a couple of hours, Timeline.

I could point out that Love Actually is a bit of an arduous watch for a single man, sitting alone on an otherwise unoccupied row of a cinema. I could also point out that it seems to contain almost all entirely unbelievable characters. I enjoyed it in places. Perhaps I was a bit cynical.

Timeline was an example of formula writing. Based on a book I enjoyed by Michael Crichton (another formula writer) the screenplay was desperately predictable. It wasn't really that well executed, though Billy Connolly was very good. Anna Friel was reasonably watchable too... so not a complete waste of the ticket price.

That was Saturday's viewing. Sunday saw me watching the last of my unwatched Morecambe and Wise DVD movies. That Riviera Touch - a classic. Well, not their best. In my opinion The Intelligence Men is their best film. Still, this one was entertaining. Running gags. Excellent performances from Eric and a script showing a naive innocent age... with some hilarious moments. I laughed out loud! They don't make em like that anymore.

Went to a couple of gigs over the weekend. I feel like my mind is still in the right mood for comedy. I need to have a good gig (my last one of the year is on Wednesday).

Friday was the Cornerhouse in Newcastle and Sunday was the Brickyard in Carlisle. Much hilarity ensued. It was nice to get out and watch some comedy. Shame I missed the Eddie Izzard gig, though.

I also spent the weekend trying to write a Bond theme for comedic effect - I'm nearly there.

Wrapping up
A lot of action this weekend... and a lot of sleeping.

A moderate amount of porridge and I think I even managed to get my stomach primed for the idea of eating properly again. Quite an achievement overall.

Friday, December 12

We won't say goodnight until the last minute
I'll hold out my hand and my heart will be in it

Mmm... a trick rhyme (minute/in it) and a rather bizarre visceral image. Is this bad songwriting? Perhaps a spoof? Comedy? No!

The song is "For All We Know" currently being performed by Nat Cole in my ears, with some sumptuous strings - one of the sounds I associate with winter evenings in. I think this is a perfectly good example of fine songwriting. It's only our more modern and cynical ears that might cause us to giggle at lines involving hearts and hands. Bad cynicism!

Just a note on the Christmas single to buy this year. I agree with this particular blogger. Well said!

That's it! I'm getting a tattoo!
I'm still peeved about the nurse's three attempts to take blood from me on Tuesday. If I need a blood test, then someone needs to take blood from me to take the test. It's not complicated. Now, I know my arms can be less than forthcoming with blood, but even I can pretty much tell you where to insert the needle.

I have no fear of being used as a pincushion. Indeed, I encouraged the woman to stick the needle in me three times in her vain attempts to tape a vein. I could have taken another three, but she gave up. What was her motivation? I was clearly unfazed. She could have kept going and had the satisfaction of a job well done... but no!

So, next time I have a successful blood removal operation, I'm going to a tattoo artist. I'm going to show them the hole and ask them to tattoo a dot on it. It will be almost entirely invisible. However, whenever it's time for a blood test, I'll be able to point to my dot and say - "here please".


Looks like I'm gonna be rich again:

Good day,

I humbly introduce myself to you; I am Mrs. Alhaja
Zainab Hamza the wife Of Captain Hamza who served in
Iraq. I am contacting you base on trust and
humanitarian assistance which I urgently need from
you. The recent concluded US led war against my
country has left my family total devastated as I
lost my Husband to the cold hands of death and the
children lost their father.

Long before this war started, my late husband had in
his custody $20.7 Million U.S Dollars, but due to
serious threat of war from the United
States and the collision forces (if our dictator
president does not amend his ways), my husband had
to act fast and at such deposited these funds in a Diplomatic Condominium in a neighboring country for the purpose of our family survival after the war might have been over.

I am writing you this letter because our dreams was
not fulfilled as we could not leave Iraq before the
war but we did however succeeded in getting the
children to a neighboring country first before
trying to proceed with getting ourselves out. It was in the process of escaping to a neighboring country that we came under friendly fire. It was this mistake that took my husband’s life and critically injured me.I was rushed to a military hospital in a neighboring country where I am currently admitted and writing this letter.

I am recovering well and now that my health has
improved dramatically, I need to think of the future
of my Children and who to trust in sending the
entire amount kept by my late husband for investment and acquiring immigration papers for my children.

If you believe you can assist me on this endeavor,
kindly reply to my new email.( so that I shall forward to you all the details required to carry on this transaction successfully.

I look forward to your prompt favorable response.
Thanks for your understanding.

Yours Respectfully,

Mrs. Zainab Hamza.

(If you have received this email in err
accept my apology. If you no longer wish to receive
email from me, please do not reply. Your
request will be honored).

Come fly with me
Sometimes you take things for granted. You hear something over and over and fail to appreciate how good it is.

Since starting my own attempts to write lyrics, I've been a lot more sensitive to the quality of those I hear on the radio. If something is a cheap rhyme, I get all uppity, if there's a nasty half or quarter rhyme, I get disgusted and if something is a forced mispronunciation rhyme, then it had better be funny (like The Darkness's "God, you're touching mooo") or I get irritiated (see Mr Craaayd David's rhyming of "say" with "me" pronounced "mey" - what the hell sort of accent is that!?).

So, I was interested when today's Merriam-Webster word of the day was "Rarefied", which is an unusual word anyway, and which drew to mind the song "Come Fly With Me". The song in question has the line "Let me take you up there, where the air is rareified". Look at that! Internal rhymes galore and a fantastic use of vocabulary! Perhaps someone should put Will Young up a height and get him to breath in less dense air - maybe he'll get all light-headed and admit how terrible his current single is (lyrically).

I'll state it now for the record. If Will Young's song wins any awards for songwriting (at least, any awards which cover the lyrics), I am going to make a big fuss. It would be proof positive that nobody in the songwriting world has a clue. Fine, the record buying public may not listen to lyrics... and fine, it's bad enough that some producers and managers allowed those sins against our language to be committed to posterity, but an award!!! I can feel the bile rising in anticipation, and it's not just my dodgy tummy.

Thursday, December 11

This must be a milestone in my life. I just heard the words "Anal Sex" on Radio 2. And I wasn't dreaming.

Pride comes before a fall. So optimism must come before a set back.

I was really pleased with myself yesterday. I managed a quantity of porridge in the morning, a mug of coffee later on, a sandwich for lunch and some soup and mini-sandwiches in the evening. That's akin to a day's proper eating. I thought I'd turned the corner.

I had.

I'd done a handbrake turn on the corner and gone crashing into a lamp-post.

It all happens at 3.30am in this particular condition. At around that hour I noticed that I'd had virtually no sleep and was in stalemate with myself - no posture in bed was comfortable. So I didn't feel all that optimistic any more.

What do you call a man who, months ahead of the date, organises 12 tickets for everyone to go and see a live comedy show - Eddie Izzard - and then on the day itself, cannot go?

I think you call him a self-pitying idiot, suffering a self-inflicted condition that's probably some divine message of warning about being so self-absorbed.

I'm feeling less optimistic today.

Wednesday, December 10

I slept over the course of about 12 hours last night. I had a bit of a break around 3.30 - you should take a break if you're having a marathon of a sleep. For the first time since I found myself afflicted with whatever it is that has been afflicting me, I felt a little optimistic about it. It comes down to breathing.

I'd decided to torture myself with food before turning in. I know you shouldn't go to bed on a full stomach, but with a stomach complaint, there's nothing you can do comfortably on a full or empty stomach, so it made no difference. I made myself a couple of sandwiches with the rather diminutive loaf of bread I'd bought from the shop on the way home. How the mighty have fallen. I like a nice hearty sandwich, on thick cut full size slabs of lovely bread. These wee slices looked like they belonged at a doll's tea party. I adorned them with slivers of tomato and some cranberry, as well as a tiny bit of chicken. I then ate them, gingerly, waiting to see whether I'd explode.

I didn't explode.

Around 9pm, in bed, I discovered something. I could breathe. I could breathe in without the pain I was used to getting. This emboldened me somewhat. I suspect that I've either run the course of the "attack" that started on Thursday morning last, or perhaps the pill I took at lunchtime had started having an effect. Either way, I was pleased to have a bit more comfort and get some shut eye.

At 3.30, after a rather bizarre dream about being involved in a road accident late at night on a twisty road in Ireland, with a mate sleeping in the passenger seat - it was my fault, I didn't see the tight corner coming and we slid down a muddy bank into someone's garden. Again, that was a dream... I got up and gulped down a glass of water. I haven't gulped anything down in quite some time. I then lulled myself back to sleep with the promise of getting my oats in the morning.

And this morning, after rising, gingerly (a lot of ginger is involved in illness) and finding that I could still breathe deeply without the pain, I did the washing up and had the aforementioned oats. A small quantity of porridge goes a long way. The ability to fill one's lungs with a nice deep breath is also a boon. Go on. Do it now. Take a deep breath. It feels good don't it!?

My stomach still ain't happy, but I'm not feeling like a pessimistic starved fool at the moment. I have to take it carefully over the next few weeks and see what happens and it will be difficult for me to be moderate with my intake of food, but I know what will happen if I'm reckless.

I suspect I've found my christmas single purchase:

The Darkness!

I've found my way onto a fantastic site. A Bond Theme jukebox. It has complete versions of these fantastic examples of songwriting, as taken from the films. It looks relatively official. The only disadvantages are that the sound quality is not CD quality and you can't download them to your computer... but then that would be stealing.

I love Bond themes.

Tuesday, December 9

All the years of binge eating have finally paid off. I have a stomach complaint. Punishment to fit the crime. The thought of food makes me feel terrible and the size of my stomach means I can suffer more pain from it.

Jolly good.

The following activities are now painful:
  • Eating
  • Breathing (deeply)
  • Laughing
Quite a number of my favourite activities listed there.

Still, you have to laugh... well, you can. I'd better not.

I have found a website dedicated to breathing. That has nearly made my day.

Doctor: Relax
Ashley: I would, but you're applying pressure to where it hurts the most. Yes, the pain. It's there. There, that's right. There. No. Relaxing would be tricky at this moment.

Friday, December 5

I make a poor invalid. Self pity is something I try to avoid, but I'm remarkably good at it. The one time that my defenses go down, the self pity kicks in. Oh poor poor me I intone as I wander lonely as a sickly cloud around the house in agony. Oh deary deary me.

Such has been my lot for the last couple of days. Nursing myself out of a condition that I can only describe as "some sort of stomach thing". Quite what it is or what has caused it I cannot say. I can think of some possibilities, which are:
  • Food poisoning
  • Overeating
  • Stomach bug
If it's either of the first two, then I am entirely to blame for not looking after myself. I rather hope it is not, since I was rather proud of the baking and cooking I'd performed on Wednesday night. If it was a stomach bug, then all I can say is that it had a luxuriously comfortable place to live, the little cheeky buggy naughty thingummy bob.

So, having woken up early on Thursday morning with lofty aims of getting to work on time and then trotting off to Scotland for the evening with my guitar and suitcase, my plan soon changed tack. I arrived in the office, having braved the bus journey, to find that my stomach complaint, which I discovered on waking, was not being aided by the Alka Seltzer and was worsening. After about 40 minutes in the office, I left it and took a taxi home. I left the office before I usually arrive at it. At home, my nausea and discomfort reigned supreme for much of the day, which I spent in an advanced state of confusion.

I managed a 60 minute stint in the bath, which was comfortable, but the majority of the day was lost to pain-management. I found a bizarre frame of mind where I could focus on some sort of bizarre mantra, related to new methods of software engineering, pretend it related to my pain and lull myself to sleep. I'm not quite sure how much of the day I remember. I do recall thinking of my pain as a project and each step of managing it as a "story" that needed to be divided into tasks and prioritised. Most odd.

So, with the radio for occasional company and my own sleep a great aid, I made it through to this morning. I also realised that I was too weak to do anything today except sit and find out what occasional bouts of eating and drinking do to my poor stomach... the answer... not very nice things. This may be a whole new form of dieting - the "it's too painful to eat" diet. I used to be 20 stone, but now, after weeks of fearing food lest I spend hours in agony, I weight only 19 pounds. Thank you "too painful to eat" diet.

I suppose that if this persists, I'll have to seek medical assistance. I can't help but feel that it's a repeat performance of a previous condition I suffered back in July/August. Something which required me to feel really bad for a few hours and then suffer occasional twinges over the course of subsequent days when breathing in. I'm not afraid of the doctor, of course - yesterday I was poised to take myself off to the hospital, I was in so much pain - but I'm equally afeared of wasting some G.P.'s time with stories like "ooh, it hurt a bit - I felt sick... I was sick a bit... but not too badly... what? get out of your office? what? now? ok...".

Men. Pah!

So, I've achieved little in the last few days. I'm rather disappointed, but such is life. I did manage to watch another of my DVDs from the backlog. This time it was Moulin Rouge. Moulin Rouge is a bizarre film and I'm left almost, but not entirely, mystified by it. I enjoyed it though. It was better watching it on my TV than when I saw a part of it on a plane, while bound for the states, and decided that it looked a load of rubbish.

And it had Kylie in it.

And Nicole.

And Ewan MacGregor sounded a bit too Scottish... not that I mind people sounding Scottish, but it sounded more like he'd lapsed into it than been asked to speak in that voice.

And sleep.

Thursday, December 4

Quite a few days without sign of a blog... they've been eventful and so I've been too busy to commit finger to keyboard. Here are some highlights of the last few days:
  • Trip to the Micro Mart computer fair
  • A trip to London where I performed two gigs
  • The same trip to London where my benign employer put me in a nice hotel and allowed me to attend a two day conference, which was interesting (apart from my finding a new arch nemesis!)
  • Long car journeys with a greatly under-sung hero
  • An evening spent pampering myself in the kitchen
Not bad for a few days' work.

The self-pampering in the food department seems dangerous territory. I had exhausted my supply of Ashley's special home made apple crumble... I thought I was safe. I'm not. I think I needed a project tonight and I found myself up to my knuckles in crumble mixing again... and this time it's possibly my favourite filling. A filling I even forgot that I had ever used in making a crumble... a filling that even now sends shivers down my spine. Ladies and gentlemen, I present:

Baking apples and cherry pie filling

The ultimate thing to find under a deep layer of flour and oat based crumble. Oh I am naughty. Oh the freezer does have 5 portions of the stuff and there's even wee potlets of custard hiding in the fridge.

Not only was I in a sweet mood, I also had a need to stew something. We've all done it! So I ended up making something that was of my own devising but also akin to a goulash. It involved my favourite new ingredient of 2003 - Chestnut mushrooms. I'd never knowingly used them before and they are a revelation (actually, I like the concept, though I can't quite tell the difference - I know they're better though).

I'd like to point out at this stage that a single man, such as myself, should not own as many sachets of bouquet garni as I appear to have amassed. If you want a free sachet, email me your address and I'll send you one.... hurry while stocks last.

In conclusion... erm... it's better to have loved and lost than to have hated and gained. Trust me!

Opening in London

Did my London debut... mmm...

I have gigged very hard this year. Only a few more left. Plenty more to organise for next year... I hope.

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