Monthly Archives: September 2003


“Where are we going? Reading?”
“Alight well drive on then.”
“that’s what I’m doing.”
“I can see that… I’m just… Well… Encouraging you. You know. Teamwork.”
“Are you? Are you alright?”
“Yeah. Well yes and no. We really need to think about these CVs on a personal and a corporate level. Especially in the context of KPMG, PGWC, ICBM, IBM and oh I don’t know CRAP.”
“Yeah, well, what we need is…”
“Maybe you should talk to me about this when I’m more sober.”

The footsteps arrive. Flop.

She walks in the room, in a bit of a rush like everybody else, but also trying to feign some kind of laid back appearance. She absentmindedly rubs her left palm against the side of her other hand. An ink stain from last minute revision has left its mark. She’s not even consciously aware that she’s embarrassed in case anyone realises that she has actually done some preparation. She finds a desk three-quarters of the way down the hall, on the opposite side to the door.

Two pens, a pencil, a protractor (for some reason still in her bag from the maths exam), an eraser (she didn’t like to call it a rubber because it reminded her of an embarrassing joke somebody had made about something she’d said back in middle school), some tissues and a sweater which she hung over the climbing bars that were next to her desk.

The girl in front of her had three teddy bears and a troll. For a fraction of a second she wished she had something to personalise her desk with. And then she remembered what she thought of people who did that.

She sat for a moment trying to decide if she was nervous. The boy next to her was opening his mouth wide enough until it clicked over and over again. He looked bored, was he feigning it?

The back of her neck prickled. The noise of slowly moving footsteps was coming towards her. A flop of paper landing on each desk. Face down it would be. Sitting there on the desk. Face down. The footsteps are at the desk behind her now. The kid behind is looking at her rather than their paper or the invigilator. She can feel the look, it’s making her fact hot. Her face feels suddenly very warm, like she’s being suntanned from the inside. It’s that damn kid looking at her. She’d be okay as long as they stopped. The footsteps arrive. Flop. So does the paper. All she can see are the words “This page has been intentionally left blank.” Her face goes cold and the top of her head feels like it is mid-way through a massage. Which rather than being relaxing is merely unsettling.

It had taken the invigilators ages to get to her table. She still has time. She looks up at the front of the gym. They’ve finished laying out all the papers already! Somebody is writing out the start and end times. There are forty seconds to go. 39. 38. 37. 36. 35. She tries desperately to remember her candidate number. 31. 30. 29. 28. 27. If that boy clicks his jaw one more time she’ll kill him. 20. 19. 18. 17. 16. 15. 14. 13. She adjusts the jumper on the bars. 7. 6. 5. 4. Oh God. “You may now turn over your papers”.


But on the weekend he isn’t present as he is taking a well deserved nap. The Saturday Telegraph is superb for one reason only. And it isn’t Anne Robinson. It is due to the General Knowledge Crossword. I love it. It perfectly fits everything I like in a stimulating game. Namely I can see that one day, I will win.


“Good Morning,” said the red haired man who was beginning to have a red face, more through wine consumption than embarrassment. Although he lived in constant fear that somebody would reveal that his favourite artist was Britney Spears and not The Rolling Stones as he usually told everyone. “They just don’t do it for me anymore,” he revealed one drunken evening, “they’re too slow, too loud and too old. I like Britney now. It’s frankly all I can do to try and stop thinking about her.”
“I can see that you haven’t yet.” Replied the man who he now lived in fear of, even though he couldn’t quite remember his name. If pushed, he would probably move a bit, and then say probably “Joey Joe Joesonson.”

“Hi!” Came the rather belated reply.
“Who’s that Mick?”
“That’s our rodie, Keith”
“Really? That’s the fucker who thought Britney was better than us in the pub last night.”
“Right let’s get him man.”
“Yeah don’t you know Britney’s star is fading? It’s all Cristina now”.

However real men and women smoke slowly, purposely and death defyingly.

They sit next to each other, smoking. One with slicked back hair, which obviously I can’t see because he’s wearing a jacket and I don’t have X-Ray vision. He’s also got slicked head hair too. But I know he’s got terrible back hair because he’s exactly the type. And I know he’s done something about it because he looks rich enough to and, well, he’s exactly the type to have done that too. It became big after André Agassi waxed his chest hair to make him more streamlined in the swimming pool, or whatever his porpoise was. (Porpoises don’t have to wax, they are generally naturally streamlined except for one I met called Gerald who, due to an unfortunate genetic accident, had more hair than Robin Williams).

The guy sitting next to him is smoking more quickly and less girlishly. Which is odd because generally the most girlish way to smoke a cigarette is to puff at it lots and make it go away as quickly as possible. However real men and women smoke slowly, purposely and death defyingly. But here was situation where the slow smoker was being girlish. “How so?” I hear you ask. Well, to be frank, he was holding his cigarette at an alarming height. When he wasn’t using it he was holding the cigarette above his head. In a vertical position as though the cigarette was a light bulb over his head suggesting that he had recently had a good idea. I can think of lots of good ideas but none of them involve holding burning things above flammable things.* Certainly not when the flammable thing is the hair product that is in your own hair, which is attached to your own head. The resulting situation was one that I shall remember for a long time.

* Unless of course you are trying to run an engine of some sort.

Anyway, so Pete moved in.

So in the spirit of public spiritedness I feel I should share more of my private life with you lovely people. Partly, of course, as a way of unburdening myself, but mainly for your enjoyment.

Things have been busy here at the flat. With many comings and goings. Joe gets taller each year, Kris is learning to be a little less pedantic, Marian has a new job with Democrats which I believe is a good thing and Zoë got to meet Noddy at Butlins this year. Dan has hardly been around at all of late, he’s engrossed in his new job or loved up which is unfortunate for us because much as we pretend to like to see our friends happy it does tend to mean less posting – more’s the pity. Ah all very true, but hardly how I meant to start this e-mail. I just started in that family annual Christmas letter vein and it was hard to stop. “Dear _____, I haven’t spoken to you for real in about 5 years, but I’ve got in the habit of sending out this letter and it’s a hard nut to break (but it’s Christmas and there’s always a couple of nutcrackers knocking about – and I don’t mean the sweets, they used to be made by Cadbury’s but it’s that fancy Tchaikovsky one this year – Ha! A little festive joke – I’m sure you all remember my wacky sense of humour from back in the college years – oh and my penchant for run-on sentences). So yes, everyone’s fine and thinking of you, love to ____________________________________, I’m sure we’ll catch up in the New Year (in the year of your funeral or mine whichever is first).

Ahem. So yes Pete has moved in, that’s where I was going with this. Pete, for those in the dark or with memories like mine, is my brother. He’s been drafted in as a replacement for poor dear departed Nick. He’s moved to Lavender Hill, on the posh* side of Clapham Junction. Well, wait, let me justify that. My side of Clapham Junction is the posh side once you get past the bit that I live in. It’s just that the bit that he’s moved to is posher than where I am now – just to make that clear. I can just imagine somebody visiting London clutching a printed out copy of this post, wandering aimlessly around the south side of Clapham Junction looking desperately for “the posh bit”. Well I’m not going to let that happen. My advice to you is to get a proper tour guide (a concept that is not lost on me, and that I will be coming back to later).

Anyway so since Nick decamped I was scouting around for a replacement housemate. Of course “scouting” would suggest some kind of active search was going on whereas, of course, I was merely waiting around thinking that a replacement might be a good idea only in ways that I didn’t like to think about. In the brief couple of weeks that I had the flat to myself I busied myself cleaning, rearranging and generally enjoying the kinds of things that are possible if you are a man who lives by himself. I did what every man would have done in my position, I built a library. I arranged chairs and bookcases and even started moving books in to Nick’s room. Okay it wasn’t ideal, the light in the mornings came in from the other side of the house, and the damn pipes rattled and squeaked every time I flushed the toilet but damn it! It was a library, in my house, and it was a great thing. In comparison to this, piddling concerns like the rent stood no chance. However soon enough Pete mentioned that he was having to move out of his current flat, and with the stage so set for a conversation I decided – unusually – to take the initiative. Although, of course, by that point it’s hardly initiative.

Anyway, so Pete moved in. On his first night he left the flat and didn’t come back for three days. Then he returned, showered and left again. He then returned just as I was leaving the house at 8:30 the following morning asking for aspirin and a bucket in case of emergencies. For some reason I didn’t think of the bucket that belongs to my mop (I say my mop but I have no idea who it really belongs to, and anyway it’s old. I’m now using the new fantastic Flash mop, although I have my eyes on the Dettol mop. It’s the one where you actually put the bottle of Dettol in the mop and you can pull the trigger via a mechanism without having to bend down). The only thing I could find in my panic was a rather lovely Coca-Cola jug which seemed the closest reasonable receptacle.**

Anyway, despite this rather raucous start things have started to settle down a bit. Although I’m still not sure that he’s happy with my computer being in the living room (as it currently is for some reason). Although it’s very handy for lots of things, at times like this you kind of wish for a stiffer chair to lean back and contemplate in. With a soft chair the problem of leaning back is that it might result in sleeping, if only there was somebody else in the room then I wouldn’t drift off in case they looked at me sleeping.***

So yes, I’m sure all of you people had very enjoyable weekends in the sunshine. Well I had, foolishly I think, decided the week before to visit a cinema on Saturday morning. Actually when I say I had decided this was a joint decision with Katherine, she is as complicit in this as I. We had, after answering a survey been given free tickets to see a new movie called “Down with Love” which stars Ewan McGregor, Renee Zelweiger and David Hyde-Pierce. It was a bit rubbish, and it was a lovely day outside so it was even worse. Initially when we had been asked if we had wanted to go for the free tickets it had seemed that we were both to be interviewed but apparently not. In fact it was Katherine that they were after and I was simply tagging along as a guest (although strangely I was required to answer as many questions as she did so it all seemed a little arbitrary). Apparently, the interviewer said, it had to be the female who was the main person. I didn’t realise the consequences of this until a week later when I was sat watching this rotten film with 200 hundred women. I thought I spotted another man in the audience but then it turned out that he simply worked there. I’d like to say that my results were wildly off the chart and that because I was such a man’s man they would have had to discount my returned paper. However we all know that’s not true. I take my market research very seriously. I responded correctly and accurately, although I think I regret giving Renee the lowest mark you could for her acting. It was an accurate portrayal of her work in the movie, but I know that despite all the money and everything bad reviews can hurt. If, like I would be, she’s the kind of person who would read every test card that came back I’m sorry about that. But what can I do. In the name of Market Research the truth is king.

However the truth doesn’t seem to concern all of the professionals we were to encounter that day. After having been a bit disappointed by the movie, and having to endure a sandwich at Pret a Manger (I like the Sandwiches, I don’t mind that they are owned by McDonalds, I’m just upset that they stole the idea that I sent them in an e-mail and didn’t even reply – any one else noted the news search feature on Google all of a sudden? There’s been no reply from them either). Anyway, after all of that we were looking for an outdoor event that wouldn’t be hopelessly overcrowded. And in the end we plumped for the very thing. Katherine and I spent the afternoon being whisked, courteously and professionally hither and thither, over and yon, all about London Town, in a tour bus. Yes, we went on a tour of London in the open top of a double-decker bus. It was so good that we did half the route twice (and the other half once in case you were wondering). And very interesting it was too. However, the poor tour guide did get one detail wrong. As avid readers of the Board Board will know there is a bit of a history to the road in London called “Piccadilly”. And as we approached the road, the first time, the brave tour guide tried to impart the story to us. However he suggested that the road was named after the ruffs that people wore at the time which were called “Piccadils”. However as we all know it wasn’t the ruffs that were called “Piccadils” that was, in fact, the name of the pieces of metal that held the ruffs up. It’s all in the details a job like that and if he couldn’t get it right, well he shouldn’t be telling it. In fact the second tour guide didn’t mention the story so probably faired better.

However, and this is what I’d like to confess to you all – if any of you are still reading – I didn’t complain to him. When the man didn’t say the fact correctly, I didn’t politely inform him of his error or anything. I just let him carry on, blissfully unaware that he was polluting people’s minds with incorrect facts. And if you think I feel guilty about this now, just you wait for this to fester for a little bit, a couple of years down the line I’ll have an ulcer over this mark my words. I didn’t complain, perhaps I’m British after all?

Well, I hope you’re all well, and that you got everything that you wanted for Christmas, so now I leave you with the dulcet tones of the footnotes, so until the next ulcer – Goodnight.

* Despite popular opinion to the contrary, “posh” does not stand for Port Out Starboard Home (the idea being that the nice cabins are on the other side on your way back). However posh probably comes from a Romany term, posh was a word they used to describe money.
** In case you’re wondering, he returned the jug unharmed the following day.
*** Katherine can but that’s different – ok?

alcoholic South African

the continuing story of Nick and Maria. My housemate and his girlfriend.

Well Maria’s ex-flatmate, the alcoholic South African, is returning from rehab and wants Maria’s room. Maria’s landlord and his idiot-savant brother are both in love with this South African lady and so they want Maria to move out. Maria has duly consented, mainly because living there hasn’t been that great, and that she never signed a contract with them in the first place.

Maria therefore is going to be homeless soon, and so Maria has convinced Nick to move out the flat with me so that they can find a place together. All of this without getting married, something that Maria’s catholic parents might be upset by. I quizzed Maria on the subject and she said, “Well I completely stopped talking to my cousin after she moved in with a guy, I branded her a harlot and did my best to get her cut out of my grandfathers will and out of my families affections. But now I’m doing it, it doesn’t seem so bad. I guess I needed to grow up a little.” Maria’s father was in the country last week but left before this new situation presented itself. Apparently he asked Maria her opinion on the matter of living with Nick before getting married and she replied, “Oh no of course not, I couldn’t possibly do something like that. We’d need to get married first, I’d insist on it.” This was only last week, Maria is certainly growing up fast.

So I’m to be left without a housemate, but before that Nick and Maria need to find a place to live. There is a gap between Maria moving out and Nick and Maria moving into a new place. In the interim I shall have the joy that is a new housemate. I’m helping her move in tomorrow.

It has taken precisely 51 weeks since Nick and Maria met for them to move in together, but still there is the returning question of how they met. How indeed? Well by use of a cunning trick I managed to get Nick to tell me the answer once and for all. It’s been bugging me for a long time, and so I finally resorted to the most extreme way round of asking him that I could think of. I wrote a play.

Yes I admit it, I wrote a play just so that I could find out how they started going out. It revolves, perhaps unsurprisingly, around three characters who share a flat. They are called Alex, Nick and Maria. Alex is upset that he doesn’t know how they met but is too ashamed to ask them because they’ve been going out for so long that it seems ridiculous that he doesn’t already know.

There is a lot of other stuff going on as well but you get the idea. Anyway, Nick always reads all the stuff that I write to cast a critical eye over it, which is very handy really. So I simply diverted his act of kindness towards my machiavellian ways.

They met through internet dating, which I guess is hardly surprising. But he hasn’t told his parents yet so don’t pass it on.

Mum, you just called me sweetheart

I’m a sensitive flower me. Or at least that’s what I think my mother meant when she used to call me “Petal”.

Actually my mother is trying very hard at the moment to stop herself from calling us by names like that because of the following incident which I will now relate.

My brother, whose name is Peter (Pete to the likes of you), had his girlfriend over at my mother’s house three or four months ago. And my mother absent mindedly called him “Pumpkin”. Debbie, being a kind hearted and generous soul, laughed her ass off.

About a month ago it was coming up to Halloween and Debbie, Pete and me were at my mothers house again. My family being American in origin were carving pumpkins. My brother was clearly upset when my mother brought out the first pumpkin and my mother noticed and asked him why he was looking so glum?

Apparently Debbie, who I’ll remind you is a kind and generous soul, told every single one of their friends that my mother had called him pumpkin. And now everywhere he goes he goes to the tune of “Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater etc.” (They don’t know the rest of the words so they do actually sing the “etc” part).

My mother was so embarrassed that she promised to never call him by a nickname again. In fact the conversation went something like this:

Mum: Oh I’m so sorry, I won’t ever call you by a nickname again, I’m sorry sweetheart.
Pete: Mum, you just called me sweetheart.
Debbie: [Couldn’t say anything because she’s laughing her ass off]
Me: Debbie, you know why she calls him Sweetheart? Because she makes it rhyme with Peteheart. [N.B. This is true she calls him “Sweety Pete” and “Sweetheart Peteheart”]
Mum: [Trying desperately to remember my name] Peter, Heather, Tammy stop that. Don’t say that.

So in the end I think I came off worst. Heather is the name of one of my mother’s sisters and Tammy is the name of my mother’s dog.

Yasser Zoom Zoom Zoom Arafat

When the zoom zoom zoom adverts first appeared I disliked them because they were annoying and silly (and untrue when I was a little kid I did not want to drive a big flashy car I wanted to be one of those people who blow leaves off of the streets – they don’t do this in England so I had to change careers – and clearly those people who blow leaves off of the street could not afford a big flashy cars I think at the time I probably had aspirations to own a Yugo or perhaps my very own garbage truck – I still do).

But now the adverts are annoying because it is almost impossible to not say zoom zoom zoom when the advert comes on. This tends to loose you all credibility in any argument. The other day the News BONG at 10 BONG was on and I was watching it, during the ad break I was making a very serious point about the nature of the middle east crisis but sadly due to that advert coming on the tv I had to say “Yasser Zoom Zoom Zoom Arafat” which lost me all credibility. However now I think about it it would probably be a good name for him.

Steam can opener

do you say pepper mill or pepper grinder?

Am I right in thinking that it’s exclusively grinder here?

Or is it just pepper now? As in “can you pass the pepper”?

Because you might say “can you pass the sugar” and mean pass the “sugar bowl” or “bag of sugar” etc. but if you said where’s the sugar you would probably say “in that bowl over there” rather than just it’s “over there” which is what would be said with the pepper I guess.

On the can opener front: There are two schools of thought here aren’t there. One is the just cut off the top 5 millimetres of the can (new fangled way) vs. cut out the middle of the top of the can (old fashioned way).

I personally like the new fangled way because you don’t have to touch the potentially life threatening bit of tin (maybe it isn’t life threatening to people like you but you aren’t as clumsy as me). But the old fashioned way is less dangerous looking.

It’s kind of like this if you had to touch them both then the old method would be less likely to kill you but the new method means you don’t have to touch them thus reducing the danger. But now there is a new threat! Recycling. For the past 3 years or so I’ve been doing my bit which means I have to manhandle the cans again. I haven’t been bothered to down(up)grade my can opener so I take my life in to my hands every day for the sake of recycling. Which makes me very brave indeed.