Tuesday, March 30, 2004

  Cars and the net

Among the bills and credit card mailers, I received two welcome items of post today.

My net has arrived!

A colleague had somehow through her line of work procured promotional packs of 'Sun Fresh' Surf washing tablets. And Surf promised to guarantee removing 99 top stains free! (Beetrot at #1, Marmite Yeast Extract at #10 - you'd have thought their R&D department would have tried for the ton). Naturally, I rushed home excitedly to see just how sun fresh my laundry could be. This excitement turned to disappointment as I discovered, being a non-Surf, powder-based launderer, I possessed no Surf net. Fortunately, Surf had foreseen this, and helpfully included a freephone number on which to order one, an offer too good to refuse. I'd considered switching washing brands before. I mean, what man hasn't? But actually doing it made me feel, well, so dirty. My life is really moving on.

As if this excitement wasn't enough, my new driving licence photocard arrived!

As reported exclusively by Jonny Billericay, I'd torn my paper-based licence to shreds in the washing machine having inadvertently left it in the pocket of my Lucky Trousers. I'd only been carrying it as ID to pick up an order from an Old Kent Road courier, having already returned from there once before only to find the contents had been stolen. But that's another story. (Actually, that's the whole story, so I won't waste any more of your time).

The driving licence accident was no surprise, as I've never been lucky with cars. OK, so like most people I've suffered a handful of break-ins, and felt disgruntled when £1.28 had been stolen, but the car left behind. But who among us has experienced the humiliation of seeing strangers pointing and laughing at their car, moving aside to reveal a deranged blackbird pecking at a deflated tyre? Or their housemate return from a straightforward manouevre of their car, asking "is this supposed to happen?" before waving their handbrake under their nose? Or found their car mysteriously transported into the middle of the street because their neighbour was moving out and "needed the room"?

My nearest brush with danger arose, however, after my dad had bought a reconditioned engine before giving me his old car. Very thoughtful, but completely unnecessary given his first engine had yet to break in with an annual useage of under three thousand miles per year and having been stretched to a maximum speed of 50mph. As a young driver I'd become only mildly concerned by an intermittent rattling sound (sorry if I am being too technical here). Little did I expect this to lead to an explosion fiercer than a Rooney-family party as I hurtled along the M25. It transpired, worryingly, that the engine had worked itself loose as it had never been bolted down properly. Unable to reach amicable settlement with the firm responsible, small claims court soon ensued, with them offering in their defence - I kid you not - that their mechanic was "too short" and therefore unable to check if the bolts had been fastened sufficiently. We won, but I've always been a little scared of rattling, and short mechanics, ever since.

Having given up on being a car-driver in central London, I now use public transport. But I'll be washing my underpants with 'Sun Fresh' Surf, just in case I get run over by a bus tomorrow.
Sunday, March 28, 2004

  Healthy weekends

I've just had a good, if insular, weekend: the sort I like to have occasionally, that's good for body, mind and soul - and the wallet, as I aim to get more than a fortnight after payday this month with money still in the account.

Friday night was good for the mind and soul, less so the body and wallet.

But I've achieved a good balance over the rest of the weekend. Catching up on 'Six Feet Under', a couple of films, my music, following sports and eventually starting my heavyweight history book has all been good for the mind, soul and wallet.

For the body bit, I danced a bit whilst ironing. Cooked myself a couple of proper meals, the sort my mum would be proud of. And exercised - twice.

The latter is an important turnaround for me. An 'elliptical strider' was imported into the flat about 18 months ago. Its blurb claimed it would simulate running, skiing and, I think, sky-diving. In reality, it just feels like wiggling round on a Chopper.

Ashamedly, I hadn't properly exercised since finishing (last) on a cross-country run back at school. But I thought I'd handle five minutes hammering away on a machine. How wrong I was. My legs were like jelly, I was shaking uncontrollably and close to vomiting as my body exclaimed "what the fuck is that you're doing?".

But I stuck with it, though my early forays showed a lack of dedication when interrupting my routine to turn the chips over in the oven. Since then, I've developed regular exercising at home, and eaten better. I've reversed my deterioration into becoming a mid-30s bloater, and am now merely slightly overweight and unfit. I feel better for it. Soon, I may even try a gym - but a pay-per-use one, rather than spunking fifty quid a month on somewhere I seldom attend.

I often stick on a music DVD when using the strider. This has met with mixed success: Underworld is too fast, Coldplay too slow - but I found the perfect pace with Madness. Though I don't think 'Baggy Trousers' was ever intended as an exercising accompaniment, it works perfectly, so I think Suggs should release a workout video: he'd appeal to a demographic hitherto untapped by the likes of Cyndi, Geri and her off of 'Footballer's Wives'.

Today, though, I started my striding as the Boat Race began. As the Oxbridge students started rowing, so this Canterbury graduate started sweating his own 'boat race' (see what I've done there?) off. The race was pretty dull, though enjoyable to see such ungraciousness in defeat for a change. But I prefer Madness.

I'm now off to clear some furniture in readiness for workmen arriving early tomorrow. This is bound to bring about disaster of some kind, which I look forward to reporting on later.
Saturday, March 27, 2004


I found another card in my Dating Trousers this morning before putting them in the wash. With no photo on Ms A's profile page on the dating site, I have absolutely no recollection of what she looks like, or her personality. I really must take this dating business more seriously.

Since becoming single again, I've been making an effort to get back in touch with old friends I'd stupidly lost touch with.

And so I met my old mate P in Piccadilly last night for the first time in three years.

We had a great night. We hit it off as we'd always done, and plans to eat were soon put aside in favour of boozy conversation.

I've got a lot of respect for P. When we last met he, like me, was working in marketing. And, whilst I can't pretend my career has exactly soared, it's followed a reasonably steady trajectory. Whereas P turned his back on marketing for jobs including book-selling, homeopathy and now gardening.

You see, unlike me, P is a very talented musician. A multi-instrumentalist, in fact, keen to play many different styles of music. A bit like Prince, I suppose, but from Tunbridge Wells. Music's always been his passion, and work merely a necessity to support that. And I respect people who follow their passion.

It was good to see him happy. He's enjoying life, and in a good relationship - his girlfriend's very supportive of his music. He mentioned a failed previous relationship, where the support wasn't there. Whilst he was playing in eight bands. Eight. Many people haven't even seen that many bands in their life.

A bit too much of the 'loopy juice' resulted in a mild hangover, resolved by a lunchtime pie & mash. It's great comfort food for hangovers. So I've become a bit of a regular at Saturday lunchtimes, and have even taken to reusing my plastic bag and carton to save myself forty-nine pence, and of course save the planet.

Tonight, I shall be cooking myself a curry to accompany our suspected losing the rugby.
Thursday, March 25, 2004

  I'd never considered myself particular unlucky.

But my regular regaling of my frequent minor misfortunes soon earned the label "Unluckiest Man In The World" from my closest friends.

Being relatively new to the concept of blogging I initially viewed the motivations behind friends' blogs with some suspicion.

Until I quickly learned the addictive nature of reading others' inane musings, how bloggers benefited from getting stuff off their chest, and a genuine sense of, well, community far over and above that in my particular part of London.

So when it came to launching my own blog, the unlucky concept seemed to fit.

Now, I may be setting myself up for a fall should fortune suddenly shine on me. But given my pedigree, this is extremely unlikely. Besides, should my life suddenly and unexpectedly take a lucky turn, having gone to all the trouble of setting up this blog, I shall consider that in itself unlucky.

I had been waiting for my new super-duper laptop to arrive before launching my blog. Its delivery being delayed for another fortnight, I was becoming frustrated that things were happening to me which I was unable to report on my blog. And this too seemed to support my 'unlucky' mission before I'd even started.

So, here's my first post. No fanfare, no fancy logo, no audience. Just one man typing on his decrepit cut 'n' shut PC with a miserably slow dial-up modem. You can rest assured that even this short missive will have entailed a couple of hours hard toil. The bells and whistles can follow later. For now, it's just words.

As I begin, I find myself at a crossroads.

Thirty-two years old, recently separated, embarking on a new chapter in my life.

It occurred to me this week that bisecting my life back to early adulthood at sixteen, I'd spent only three months of the next eight years attached, then only three months of the next eight years single. So the next few months could prove significant in shaping my next thirty-two years.

But this blog is not an outlet for life-changing tragedy. Rather, it's intended as a forum for the minor misfortunes and other happenings that happen in my and others' lives. A place where misfortune is not just shared, but celebrated.

And so as I start this new journey I find myself back on the dating 'scene'.

It's no exagerration to say that it's all changed since I was last single. I mean, back then I didn't even own a mobile phone. The 'chase' generally involved obtaining a landline number, hastily scribbled or memorised, and telephoning your chasee.

Now, it's a multi-media minefield. Texting and emailing have emerged alongside telephone. A plethora of dating sites, organisations and events have appeared alongside the traditional agencies. And each channel has developed its own complex set of rules, protocols and etiquette.

It's a nightmare. The worst case scenario is that it's now possible to get dumped or humiliated across several media instead of just one.

As I reignite my social life, burning stupid amounts of cash as I do so, I find myself concerned that my life is taking a downward spiral. I'm behaving like a teenager. I'm an utter disgrace.

I awoke this morning to find my shoes right next to my bed. This goes against my usual routine, and reminded me how I had fallen into bed at the end of an alcohol-fuelled evening. I tried to remember if my friend had crashed over, and the faint smell of rancid kebab eminating from the hall confirmed that, yes, we had dined on return from our evening.

We had attended large dating event in London last night, in fact exactly the sort of thing I would have crossed London to avoid a few years ago.

I'm not saying the evening carried an air of desperation, but the whiff of perfume on entering the venue indicated enough had been used to irrigate a small Third World country for several months.

Bypassing most of the formal dating-related activities in favour of the use of a free wine pass, my friend and I quicky forgot the noble intententions of the event organisers and concentrated instead on just having a good night.

As copious wine flowed and retro disco music pounded, we were soon without doubt The Greatest Dancers In The World. And so we mingled with the friendly, if similarly desperate, crowd. In our own eyes, we were engaging, charming, witty, sexy. We could do anything.

Anything, it would seem, except remember to pass our details onto chasees - the whole point of the evening after all. Nonetheless, on awaking this morning I located a handful of chasee's details in my wine-soaked pocket. Alas, checking these prospects' details on the dating site revealed a circumspect exercising of quality control on the evening. They have since been filed under 'pending' for a rainy day.

Things can only get better.
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