28 April 2008

The night we met, there was magic abroad in the air...There were angels dining at the Ritz, and a nightingale sang in Berkeley Square...

T'was a typically balanced weekend weather-wise: Saturday was absolutely gorgeous - 30 degrees, cool breeze, itchy knees, what are these! Sunday was overcast and grey and drizzly. Always one extreme to the other in this town...it's the meterological equivalent of a William Blake poem. Saturday was all like:

I love to rise in a summer morn
When the birds sing on every tree;
The distant huntsman winds his horn,
And the skylark sings with me.
Oh, what sweet company!

And Sunday was all like:

But to go to school in a summer morn,
Oh! it drives all joy away;
Under a cruel eye outworn
The little ones spend the day
In sighing and dismay.

I made a deal with the Australian embassy and in lieu of my passport renewal fee, they said I could just do something really Aussie instead. I'm forbidden by law to do the Dance of the Flaming Arseholes and was in too good a mood to racially villify minorities so instead I made some ANZAC biscuits on Saturday arvo. I placed them on a plate surrounding some Turkish Delight bars and made little Aussie and Turkish flags as a tribute to our fallen bretheren from both sides of the ideological divide. I had to spend some time explaining ANZAC day and the ANZAC legacy to my English workmates but by the end of it I made sure they felt really ignorant and guilt ridden. Which, perversely enough, I think they actually enjoy...

My new Ikea wardrobe arrived (late!) on Saturday arvo so I spent the afternoon putting it together which made me feel like a man...in between all the baking, of course. But now I feel like I'm living in a cupboard as there's barely any space left to move around. I'm thinking of attaching heaps of those plastic handhold thingies from the climbing centre and turning the place into a climbing wall. Won't the landlords be pleased!

Staci's place is turning out to be a Mecca for celebrity sightings. We were heading out for dinner on Friday night when BOOM! there's Hugo Weaving walking along with his family and a big old 18th century moustache with connecty sideburns all over his face. He's in town filming the remake of The Wolf Man, and I was all like, "Hey, Hugo! Hue-Go, girlfriend!" And he was all like, "Ruddslide!" Then we went to high five but we totally missed because his bodyguard tased me, bro. As they walked off I thought I heard him ask his son, "Is that the guy who's been hanging around outside your school?" but I'm sure I misheard. How awesome would it be to have Hugo as a dad? Agent Smith, V, Megatron...they more than make up for all that Priscilla fruitiness.

Staci's off in Boston this week, which is a bit weird. Because of our work hours it's hard to see each other during the week so it's not like I'll get to see her any less than I normally would, but her being out of the country makes it somehow different. I miss her, which is a strange feeling after all this time, but it's nice all the same, particularly as there's the ever-building anticipation of her return.

This weekend is a long weekend (Bank Holiday) and there's all sorts of fun activites planned. Staci is taking me to see her beloved Fulham football club play a match at their home stadium on Saturday, which should be a lot of fun. She's quite passionate about it so I'm anticipating being caught up in a wild post-match brawl and relying solely on her ninja skillz to get me through unscathed. Then we're off to Greenwich on Sunday to check out the markets and the Observatory again (she's Timetia, the time virgin, and I, Chronos, am going to deflower her in a timely fashion). It better be a nice day, London...I'm just saying. Then on Monday we're checking out some famous cemetaries to see what famous dead doodz are buried there. Highgate is suposed to be THE place to go but I feel it's a party cemetary. For me the money cemetary is Bunhill Fields where my main man William Blake is buried. Once I see that I can head over to Islington to see Joseph Grimaldi's grave, then all I have to do is go to Ketchum Idaho for Ernest Hemingway, Newark New Jersey for Alan Ginsberg, Rancho Paols Verdes in California for Charles Bukowski, and Leakesville Mississippi for Bill Hicks and I'll have visited the graves of all my heroes. Hey kids, collect the whole set!

Often as I wander the streets of London I'm often confronted by the scruffy but proud Big Issue doodz with their poor hygiene and wacky homeless guy ways who insist on shoving their wares in my face (ooh err!). So I'm all like, "Hey! My friend F'Yona INVENTED the Big Issue, ok? So she's, like, the boss of you, or whatever, and if I ask her to she'd have you sacked. That's right: suh-ah-kuh-eh-duh, sacked!" Then I cock punch them and run away.

So I hear the new Canberra prison (or is it a correction centre, Mr Grady? It is indeed, Mr Torrance) is coming along in leaps and bounds. Fuckin' prison, man...THAT'S what Canberra needs to improve it's image as an authoriarian apathetic suckhole. That'll have the tourists just flocking in: "Honey? The comedy festival in Melbourne or the prison in Canberra? You choose!" "Oh, the prison! We can pick up some legal scat porn while we're there. When's Floriade on?"

Rockband gets released on the XBox 360 next month and I'm SO excited. All those years of pent up rockin' are about to explode all over someone's loungeroom in a bukkake-esque frenzy of musical spooge. It comes with a guitar controller, a mic and a drum kit but, unlike wussy Guitar Hero where you don't need to be able to play the guitar to play the game, the drum kit is an actual drum kit (albeit small and beige and made of plastic) so you know who's going to be on the top of the list for every Rockstar party from here to Rocksville? THIS guy! I might even start auditioning dudes who want me to play in their bands and make all sorts of outrageous demands in my rider...just like the old days. But predictably, I won't get any of the stuff I ask for and I won't get invited to any parties...just like the old days.

22 April 2008

Windin' your way down on Baker Street...Light in your head and dead on your feet...

I was chatting recently to an old comrade back home in Oz about the difference between travelling and going on holidays. To me, holidays are best when you go with a companion, but I think if you're going to "travel" in the truest sense of the word then you can only really do it by yourself. There's some experiences that, if shared, would somehow be lessened. We all hope for some life-changing revelation during our travels, but it seems most people are so obsessed with looking for it they don't notice that it's happening to them each and every day. Simply adapting to a new environment is a change in itself, it's evolution (baby!), and even the trip to work can be an adventure. For instance, the other day I was walking from Staci's place to the Tube station and I saw a horse running down Kensington High Street. No rider, no bridle, no manners...just capering through traffic in a gallopy rolling-eyed frenzy. How cool is that? Random, yes...surreal, yes...dangerous, heck yes! But cool nonetheless. But the thing that shits me most about the English is when something amazing like that happens, everyone except me pretends they didn't see it, or that it was a perfectly normal occurrence.

Speaking of Staci's place and random sightings, she and I were heading out on Sunday and who should we see crossing the street in front of her place but Bob Geldof and his family. She was completely oblivious (dufus!) but I was in full celebrity spotter mode and wasn't at all thrown off by his garish stripey suit. I was all like, "Hey, Bob! Mondays, eh? Tell me why!" And he was all like, "Get the fuck away from my kids." And I was all like, "That's cool," cos I was kinda close to them and I was carrying that sack that said 'Celebrity Kid Snatcher' on the side. Why the hell did I even buy that thing? It's been nothing but trouble.

The work do at Bar Kick was a cool, if sedate, affair but it did provide me with yet another definition for "wanker". In this instance, it was doodz who bring their own foosball knobs to a foosball bar to play foosball. I'm not kidding; these guys unscrewed the standard black knobs that came with the table and attached their own personal multi-coloured knobs which, presumably, were the state of the art in knob technology.

On Friday night I had dinner with Staci and her parents who were visiting from Boston. Not in a "It's Time You Met My Parents" kind of way with capitalisation and everything, more in a "my parents are over here visiting and we're going out for dinner and if you want to come along and join us that'd be great but no pressure" kind of way. But dude...it's STILL her parents, right? So a good first impression was my prime (and only) directive. Good thing, then, that while telling a hilarious story, I decided to make sound effects and I spat on her mom. That's right, you read it correctly: I SPAT...on her MOM. Right in the face, too. If I'd been talking to an English person then they would no doubt pretend that nothing had happened, but these are Americans so, of course, there was disgust and grimacing and screaming and hands flailing and scrubbing of faces with napkins and I never did get to finish my hilarious story, dammit. Perhaps I could have endeared myself to them more by cock punching her dad. But gobbing aside, it was a really nice evening and Staci's folks are lovely. Not sure what they make of me but at the very least they've got half their wedding speech already written.

Monday night was the second indoor rock climbing lesson and this week we eschewed all that safety baloney and got straight in to the climbing. We were on slightly more difficult walls this time and none of us were nearly as cocky as last time. Even though the climbing is relatively easy from a technical perspective, physically it's very demanding, particularly when you're out of shape. When you're perched 20 odd metres above the ground with all your weight balanced on your big toe which is precariously placed on a piece of plastic no bigger than an egg and the next handhold is just slightly out of your reach and your belayer is chatting up some bird, it's remarkable how quickly you regret making all those puerile jokes in the training room. You feel like you're playing some enormous demented game of vertical twister where the laws of physics and anatomy have conspired against you and the one place you need to put your foot is the one place you can't reach. Then we tried some bouldering, which is climbing sideways on and around walls, which was cool, and then some free climbing on walls with less coloured holds and more "natural" features like bumps and crevices. By the end of two hours my hands had constricted into hideously deformed claws and I couldn't do up my buttons or tie my shoe laces. And this morning I ache in places I didn't even know I had places.

So next week is our last lesson and I'm thinking I might sign up for a proper membership. It's pretty close to where I live and I'm getting my bitchin' new mountain bike in a couple of weeks so on weekends I can ride over, do some climbing, then hit the pub and the kebab shop and ponder why the feck I thought leading a healthy lifestyle would be a good idea.

My new Ikea wardrobe arrives sometime this weekend so I can throw out my floordrobe...can't say I'll miss it. Admitedly it's convenient to have every single piece of clothing you own in a huge pile in the corner but unless you're a hobo or a child you really have no excuse. Slob Chic will neither get you laid nor win you any awards as a fashion innnovator.

Degrassi's Always Greener...

What's happened to TV these days? Remember Degrassi Junior High? That awesome Canadian kids show where the issues were raw, the characters real and the accents hilarious? And remeber how the modern incarnation, Degrassi High, was nothing like its predecessor? The issues were dull, the characters boring and the accents…well, they were still hilarious but that's not enough I'm afraid. It was so crap it even managed to, Highlander 2-style, sully the reputation of the original. They even got Snake back as a teacher…Snake!

On the subject of TV, the most blatant oxymoron would have to be "reality television" shows. I've watched them - or attempted to - and there's nothing "real" about them. I have to admit, when I saw the ads for Survivor, I got excited: a group of strangers on an island, forced to depend on their wits
, picking each other off one by one. But if you've seen it you'll know that the title - Survivor - is a misnomer, nothing but false advertising. I had Lord of the Flies-type fantasies of sunburned, emaciated Americans setting palm tree traps, beating each other to death and parading severed heads around on pointy sticks, but oh no, that would be too much like real life, wouldn't it? Mob mentality, petty bitchiness and stoning the fat kid to death! In Survivor, no one gets killed, or even hurt (not badly) and where's the reality in that? It's not even entertaining (unless you add wacky sound effects when someone falls over, that's always funny).

None of the plethora of so-called "reality" shows is much like real life at all, certainly not my life. Although they contain elements of real life, there always seems to be a crucial piece missing: they've got sex but not violence; they've got violence but not nudity; they've got nudity but not wacky sound effects.

Fear not, gentle viewers, for the solution is at hand! TV execs take note, I thought of this first: simply follow the well-beaten path of countless idea-stricken TV execs before you and put them all together. My ideal reality show would be to add a little of the current batch of crap reality shows to a whole lot of William Golding's 1954 classic and combine them to create the uber reality show - Kill the Pig. Picture it: a group of plump whiney Americans stranded on an island with only their wits and some dodgy prophylactics from Thailand to get them through. One by one they screw each other (literally, then figuratively) and as the porking turns to stalking, the plumpest, whiniest and least popular members are "voted out".

But, our voting process goes that one step further, pushing reality TV to a level those other pretenders can only dream of reaching. Not only do we vote the unlucky candidate out, we kill them. Then we have sex with them. Then we eat them. Then we run around with their heads on pointy sticks. Now that's survival! That's reality, boys and girls: if someone's not bitching about you or stabbing you in the back, they're trying to screw you or eat you for breakfast.

And don't you dare try and tell me you wouldn't watch it…

17 April 2008

Open up the window and stare up Primrose Hill...Sitting here it's dark outside and everything is still...

I'm not sure if it's old age or an excess of alcohol, by my memory of the surprise birthday party is returning in blibs and blobs. I remember meeting a dude who lives with the drummer from the Stereo MCs (and yes, he was gonna get himself connected), and Dan the French Guy proved that not only can the French not rock but they also can't make Mohitos.

Uncle Kev's been rocking our world over here, popping up all ninja-like at the Hyde Park Corner war memorial and freaking out some Aussie tourists. Plus he's totally kicking some monarchist arse and sticking it to the Chinese. Go Kev! Do you think if I wrote to him he'd adopt me? I reckon at the very least he'd send me back some stickers or a bag of smurfs or the Kiss Gold album...unlike that giggly tight-arse fuckstick Simon Townsend. That's right, I haven't forgotten about you, Mr Wonderworld!

Had a work do early this week at Bloomsbury Lanes which is this awesome little bowling alley bar. It was a bit dingey and kitchy and 50's and you could drink booze while you bowled so I kind of felt like a cross between Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski and Fred Flintstone. Plus I totally kicked everyone's arse...take THAT, colleagues! I couldn't stay for dinner in the American-style diner as I had to rush off to another engagement but it was choice craic so we've committed to going back. Had another do later in the week at Bar Kick, the foosball place, with half of the doodz in my capability group. This was actually my 'Welcome to the UK' event which has been consistently postponed for the past 9 months so it felt good to finally cut that albatross from about my neck.

Next on the list of "Activities in Which Chris has no Prior Interest but Nonetheless Turned out to be Totally Friggin' Awesome" (or AWCPINTOTFA) is indoor rock climbing. Dr Phil 'Chuck Slavakia' Well'Ard called me out of desperation (way to make a guy feel loved!) last Saturday arvo looking to make up the numbers on a beginners course at The Castle on Monday night. So I swallowed the burning chili-acid of my chagrin and said "Heck yes!" It's up North near Finsbury Park (my old 'Hood) and is not really in a castle but an old gothic power station so it kind of looks a bit castley. The building is huge and the whole interior has been fitted out floor to ceiling with climbing walls. Remember when you were a kid and you used to play "The Floor is Lava" and climb all over the house, which made your mum go batshit? Well imagine that but in a ginormous castle with loud rock music playing and dozens of fit sweaty people tied together and clambering about with their shirts off and you'll kinda get the idea, but without anyone's mum getting mad about Dunlop KT-26 footprints on the ceiling. We get to wear these very crotch-hugging harnesses which both lift and separate, and extremely uncomfortable climbing shoes from the hire shop (I'm thinking of getting my own pair and rather fancy the ones called "Women Splitters" which, coincidentally, was my nickname at Uni). It's super fun, a lot more so than I'd expected, and if nothing else I've learnt how to tie two new knots (taking my total knowledge of knots to two). I can now secure myself...umm, err...securely to any object with a double figure-8 and a stopper hitch, which makes it a lot easier to stay upright on the bus but takes so long to untie that I usually have to backtrack a few stops. But it's a small price to pay for that degree of safety, I think. Plus I'm learning a lot of new climbing terminology which is delightfully ripe with pubescent purile pun potential. For example, over here they pronounce 'route' as 'root'. So you can imagine my glee when the instructor was explaining to me the importance of a good knot and she said: "You'll appreciate the extra tightness when you're on a nice hard [root]." I'm not making this stuff up!

The atmosphere here at The Company is quite disturbing at the moment; if I were to plot it on a the Disturbo Scale I'd say it's slightly more disturbing than a warm public toilet seat but slightly less disturbing than blood in someone's eyeball. It's truly like no other place I've ever worked. It might help explain it with a retro pop culture TV reference: remember in Lost In Space when they went to that planet which was like a parallel dimension but eeevil? And all the characters had doppelgangers who were identical in every way except they were eeevil? Except Dr Smith, of course...his doppelganger was an awesome dood who thwarted the evil guyes plan and saved the day. It's kinda like that. To put it another way by drawing an obtuse analogy, I'd say it's like a maximum security prison for used car salesmen. Just in case I'm getting a bit too Foghorn Leghorn for y'all (ah'm pitchin' but you aint catchin') I'll put it to you metaphorically and say that it's like swimming in a tank full of hungry sharks and the only way to get fed is to eat other sharks, so you end up circling each other with one eye looking for signs of weakness and the other watching your back. Ok, let's just say it's disturbing, shall we? Apart from the inordinate number of people looking for projects
, the financial crisis is starting to put the wind up people all over London. There's estimates that something like 20,000 jobs will be lost over the next two years, mostly from the banking sector. If I were an enterprising young crime scene investigator I'd be showing some initiative and getting out there right now and sketching the chalk body outlines at the base of tall buildings...

It really sucks being a grown up sometimes. One night in a previous life when I was tucking my son into bed, he asked me, "If you had one wish, what would you wish for?" Good question...tough question. I knew the answer straight away ("I'd wish to be happy") but how do you explain something like that to a small boy without confusing or upsetting him with all the complexities and ambiguities and bullshit of adult life? So I threw it back at him, "I dunno," I said. "What would you wish for?" His forehead wrinkled and he bit the corner of his lip as he thought really hard about it. Finally he answered with all the conviction he could muster, "I wish I could use the Force," which made me laugh. Not in a patronising way, mind you, but because it was such an awesome wish and because I was so blown away by his wisdom. His answer summed up for me the quintessential difference between children and adults: children boil everything down to it's essence, what's the most important thing, make a choice - black or white. Adults confuse things, we make everything way more complicated than it needs to be and worry what everyone else will think and get lost in a maze of shades of grey until we find it impossible to make up our minds about anything. And then we try and justify our indecision and fear by saying, "Oh it's not as simple as that." Yes it is! You just don't have the guts to a) make a decision, and 2) accept the consequences of your choice. That's what being a grown-up is all about: if you want the responsibility then you have to accept the consequences. No use sitting on the dunny crying and whingeing and expecting someone to come along and wipe your arse for you. No use blaming everyone else in the world cos there's no bog roll. Your choice is simple: shit or get off the pot.

It's hard to believe but I've been here for almost nine months now. That means my first anniversary is rapidly approaching so it will be time to start doing some thinking about my future plans. I've had a lot of adventures in London and learned a lot about myself and the world and, in the words of Charlene, I've seen some things that a woman ain't s'posed to see. But I don't feel that I've yet been to Paradise, let alone been to Me, and I still don't know whether London is the city for me. Admitedly things didn't get off to a great start work-wise, and being a tiny anonymous cog in an enormous corporate machine isn't helping me feel like I belong. But things can change so quickly and work is only one part of the equation. I've made some great friends and met a really awesome girly and, strangely enough, I'm starting to like getting back into a routine again. My life feels normal and nice, which is so far removed from the tumult I'm used to. I've learned to trust my feelings and even though some things don't feel right, maybe I need to give it some time and see if all I need is a little change rather than another huge change. I've got options, and sometimes I forget that, so I could: a) Stay in London and change jobs, 2) Leave London and change jobs, or iii) Go back to Oz. This last one is by far the most tempting but in the long-run, I think, the least feasible. I still don't feel like I've achieved everything I wanted to when I decided to leave and my biggest fear is returning home to my safety zone and regretting not seeing it through to the end. I didn't come here searching for anything in particular so I'm not sure how I'll know if or when I've found it but I just have to trust my instincts that I'll know. I won't be doing anyone any favours if I go back to exactly where I left off, least of all myself. Number Two (hee hee! Number twos!) is the next most appealing option. The idea of working in Seattle was very exciting, and even though it fell through it doesn't mean it's off the menu. I'm still a little reluctant to uproot my life again, but definitely want to one day live and work in the US. I'm not beholden to my salary so I don't have to take a more senior position to justify it, and the thought of working for a small, specialist usability firm in New York or Washington or Boston is really appealing. So it's looking like Number One could be the go. Mind you, that could all change if I get on to a more stimulating project with a significantly reduced arsehole co-efficient. But I've got plenty of time so no need to do anything rash. At the very least I'm not doing anything until after the 3-day Wacken metal festival in Germany in July. Olaf! Metal!

My love for you is ticking clock BESERKER!

14 April 2008

Smells like Pine Spirit...

I'm of the mind that the development of artificial pine scent has gone as far as is scientifically possible. This is as good as it gets, there's no where else to go. It's never going to smell any more like a real pine tree than it does now, so stop wasting good money and leave well-enough alone.

Not that I have anything against real pine. On the furniture evolutionary scale I'm well and truly entrenched in the Pine Age. It's just that I don't feel that your average pine tree is keeping up with the pace of modern life. Sure they're wonders of nature and all that, but aren't they just a little inflexible? I mean, with a few small refinements here and there, the pine tree could enter a whole new phase in its career.

I think the real focus of scientific endeavour should be to make a real pine tree smell more like Pine-O-Cleen. It's time we really served up a worthwhile challenge to those CSIRO boffins over at the Black Mountain labs. Years from now, when I walk into a neo-pine plantation I want to be able to take a great big snort and know I'm in a hospital-grade forest.

And while they're at it, how about doing something about those bloody pine needles and pine cones dropping all over the place. That stuff should be permanently attached and preferably made of some sort of shiny plastic so it's easy to rinse off with a hose when it gets a bit dusty.

And lose the roots, too, come to think of it. Nothing honks me off more than taking out the wheelie bins on a cold frosty morning in naught but my bathrobe, tripping over a bloody great pine root crack in the drive way and baring my lily-white arse for all to see. Fuck the roots. Pine trees should come with a portable fold-away plastic tripod which makes it easier to move them about the place when you feel like a bit of a change.

And would it hurt to make them a bit smaller? Many's the time I feel the need to surround myself with nature's beauty but couldn't be bothered shifting my arse from the couch. At times like these I want nature to come to me. I want a ready supply of lounge-room-sized neo-pine trees on hand to deploy about the place, but that can be packed away at a moment's notice. Versatility, that's all I'm asking for, Science! Man-sized, snack-sized, bite-sized…the Salada of the tree world. Is that too much to ask?

No, I don't think it is.

7 April 2008

See the dazzling nightlife grow...Beyond the dawn and burning...In the heart of Soho...

Upper Clapton is quite a lovely area to walk around in when the weather's nice. There's lots of parkland and waterways and open green spaces where the birdsong is louder than the carsong and the people are few and far between so you can be alone with your thoughts. Charmingly, there was a festival a couple of weeks back at the Hackney Town Hall to raise awareness of TB. Yes, you heard right, a tuberculosis awareness festival. Of all the life-threatening respiratory diseases TB is defintiely my favourite. But even cooler than TB (hard to imagine, I know) was I managed to scout out a couple of original Bansky pieces on my travels, which was super exciting, so I've put new pics up in the Clapton Pond photo folder.

There was a particularly bizarre fashion trend in the mid-18th Century centred around this area, called the Maccaroni. It was a bunch of poncy foppish young dudes who wore outlandishly garish clothing and ridiculously massive wigs upon which was perched a tiny little hat that could only be removed with the tip of a sword. It wasn't just a look, either, it was a lifestyle. They partied like t'was 1899 and ate and drank and gambled and "wenched" with complete abandon and zero respect for societal norms. Understandably they were mocked and derided which, of course, was the whole reason they did it in the first place, one imagines. The song "Yankee Doodle Dandy" was a joke by the Americans at their expense: "...stuck a feather in his cap and called it maccaroni". And all these years you thought it was about pasta, didn't you?

Having not ridden on public transport for some time, I'm constantly astounded at the staggering inanity of the conversations people have on their mobile phones. I think the reason the English were so determined to spread out and conquer the globe back in the days of the Empire was because they couldn't stand the brain-wrenching banality of each other's endless prattling.

I know I slag off the English a bit, most times deservedly so, but I have to confess that I failed to appreciate the effect the Tube bombings had on people here. As well as the deaths and horrible injuries suffered by the victims, they inflicted a great deal of fear and pain and shock on everyone else, so it's not so surprising that a lot of English people started to question the open door immigration policy and wonder just exactly what sort of people were living in this country. I think they felt they'd lost a sense of identity and what it meant to be English so their reaction was to band together and be somewhat mistrustful and wary of strangers and foreigners, and though I don't necessarily agree with them, I can't really blame them either. Unlike America, British foreign policy in recent years was never particularly invasive or destructive so you can perhaps forgive the average Brit when they ask in dismay, "What did we ever do to you?"

Another jamais vous moment on the weekend that reminded me of the little differences: icy poles and ice creams are not called icy poles and ice creams...they're called ice lollies and choco softies (otherwise known as Joe Ceddias...HAH!).

Had a couple of interesting work do's recently. The ghost walk around London's most haunted streets was pretty cool, if a little amateur vaudeville, but got to learn a bit of history about some of the lesser-known landmarks. Perhaps the spookiest moment was standing on an open landing with the icy London wind picking at our coats with invisible gelid fingers, staring at the dark grimy facade of an old haunted church and being chilled to the bone by the ghostly moanings of the homeless guy around the corner yelling at us to "Fuck orf!" Afterwards we had an awesome curry at this place called Tiffinbites which serves your food in little metal tins just like the tiffin boys in India, who collect food from housewives and grandmothers and cart it around the city to office workers for lunch. Apparently there's a big controversy in London at the moment because people claim that the Indian food served here is not actually all that authentic. It's been anglocised much like chinese food was in Oz in the 70's and 80's, but it's still pretty kick-arse. I've not sampled anything from Brick Lane yet, but apparently that's the Mecca for Indian food, and they even have their own curry awards.

There was an experienced hire night at the Tate to view Duchamp/Man Ray/Picabia exhibition, which unfortunately I'd already seen, but which meant that fortunately I could concentrate on drinking more free booze and networking. Swings and roundabouts! On the whole it was a good night but the low point was when I was unlucky enough to get stuck with yet another example of that perculiar and increasingly common creature called the London Aussie. I don't know if something happens to most Australians when they arrive in London or whether their type is naturally drawn here, but the vast majority of them, I'm ashamed to say, are the most insufferable wankers imaginable. Oh wow, aren't you, like, just SO amazing! You mean to tell me that you got on a plane and flew all the way from Australia to London to work for The Company? That's incredible! You must be, like, Mozart or something! You're SO exotic, just like the other 2 million of us that did the same fucking thing. Get over yourself, you pretentious egotistical twat!

I went to an awesome party at Dr Phil "Chuck Slavakia" Well'Ard's place on Saturday night. It was a surprise birthday party for his friend Clara and I was the only person she didn't know...SURPRISE! I had this elaborate mind-fuck routine worked out where I would pretend we'd known each other for years and totally embarrass her when she couldn't remember, but then it turns out I had met her and I'd forgotten so she fully turned the tables on me. Well played, Birthday Girl...you win THIS round.

When you're single all you seem to hear is hoary old platitudes from people in relationships about how "there's someone special out there just waiting for you" and "it'll happen for you one day" and "it'll come when you least expect it" and blah blah blah vomit. Well the one thing more annoying than having those platitudes spewed into your ear is when they turn out to be right. Just when I'd decided once and for all that girls were smelly and poisonous and horrible, out of nowhere comes Staci from Boston and goes off in my face like Fate's unexploded fireracker. Her story is very similar to mine: she moved over here in June last year, is divorced, works in financial services, and likes raging, windsurfing and having a good time (not really...but that sentence seemed like it was heading into 'Perfect Match' territory). She's got a degree in biology, which she never uses, but you can bet your arse she knows her way around an uvula. We've dated a few times and spent the day on Sunday walking in Hyde Park with her friend's dog, Guinness, talking and making fun of tourists and slagging of English people and basically just goofing off, which was awesome. Things seem to be going surprisingly well so, given my previous stance on girls and all things girly, this may well be one instance where I am quite happy to be proved wrong. And if I play my cards right I may just finally get to seranade someone with 90's Phillipino songster Danial Fantasy's haunting classic: "You...are...my...AMEHICAN GIRLFLEN! AMEHICAN GIRLFLEN!"

My life has changed so much in the last year and I've realised how much time I used to spend looking ahead and planning for the future and working towards something. Because of that, I wasn't paying attention to what was going on in front of me and probably missed out on a lot. Nowadays I'm not thinking about the future much at all and am completely focussed on the present, on the day-to-day, on life. John Lennon once said, "Life is what happens when you're busy making plans" or some baloney, but I think I know what he was getting at. We're so obsessed with what we don't have, and making plans for how to get it, that we totally ignore what we do have, the things that are right in front of us. I took a lot of things for granted before, especially my kids and my friends, and I really regret that. But I realise how lucky I am to have been given the opportunity to do what I'm doing right now, and I don't take that for granted. This degree of freedom is exceptionally rare for anyone, let alone for a parent, but, like anything valuable, it comes at a cost. Like they say, freedom isn't free; there's a hefty fuckin' fee. I've sacrificed a lot to be here so it's important to me that I make the most of it and get some return on my investment. And if that return means a brighter and happier and more secure future for me and Lily and Calvin then it will have been worth it…but only just. I don't feel I can I be a better dad until I can be a better person, and I have to believe that all I learn and discover and experience over here will help me achieve that. I just hope that when the day finally comes the kids will understand why I had to leave and will forgive me for going away and will still want me to be their dad.

Shrewdness of Apes...

I love words. Words get me hot. If I was in prison with words I'd let them make me their bitch. But there's more to words than just crazy monkey prison sex in the shower block. Words have power, and some of the most powerful words are collective nouns.

Collective nouns describe groups of objects or animals or people, and range from the poetic to the downright stupid. Common ones are: a flock of birds, a clutch of eggs, a murder of crows. Some of my favourites are: a bloat of hippopotami, a buffoonary of orangutangs, a business of ferrets, a cackle of hyenas, a neverthriving of jugglers, an impatience of wives and an ugly of walruses.

As interesting as collective nouns are, I've discovered two major flaws: firstly, they don't really work as an adequate measure of quantity. I mean, just how many nuns are in a superfluity? Or turtledoves in a pitying? Or rhinoceroses in a crash? If only there were some fallback, some ubiquitous uber noun that everyone immediately understood which could be substituted for any of the vague and meaningless ones. The second major flaw is there are hardly any collective nouns to describe the majority of day-to-day objects. The most obvious of these is the very subject of this article: what is the collective noun for collective nouns? A quotilla? An array? An arsenal? A thingy? Often I am confronted with the need to describe a group of everyday items and am completely at a loss.

In these situations, I tend to make something up. My personal favourite de jour is "an anus of politicians". But some are not so easy. For instance, I defy you to think of a suitable collective noun for spatulas (a flip? a lift?) Or dildos (a fuck? a wank?) Or breasts (a jiggle? a suckle?) Or holes (an arse? a cake?) What about a group of gay men? (a stick?) Think about that one, it's really quite clever...

But don't think I'd lead you into the wonderful world of collective nouns and not provide a way out, indeed multiple ways out, a veritable vacation of exits. Now that you've discovered their power it will be tempting to use collective nouns every chance you get. But there will come a time when you'll not be able to think of one and you'll look like a goose, indeed a whole gaggle of geese.

If only there were a default, some ubiquitous uber noun which could be substituted for any of the vague and meaningless ones in a comprehension crisis. Well hold on to your dipthongs, people, because I am about to reveal to you exactly that…

Whenever you get stuck, just fall back to the one collective noun that everyone understands: shitload. A shitload of elephants, a shitload of pies, a shitload of dildos. Everyone immediately knows how many dildoes you're talking about and no one will ever question your intelligence again.

3 April 2008

A Man, a Sausage, a Dick Joke...

I'm a man (baby) and as such I'm obsessed with my dick. Sorry, but I don't have a choice. It's the law and if I break it…well…maybe nothing will happen, but I'm not prepared to take the chance. You don't mess with your dick, the saying goes, or it will turn on you. There's an old joke about men giving their penises names because they don't like trusting 90% of their decisions to a stranger. This is an important organ, folks, I can't overemphasise that. Men are obsessed with it because it's both our friend and our enemy. We can play with it, wave it about, write things with it, do hilarious impressions. But then, like all friends seem to do at some point, it betrays us and makes us do something silly or look foolish (sometimes both). The penis is often held (so to speak) to be the embodiment of all that is male, and, to me, the metaphor holds up: unpredictable, unreliable, messy, unglamorous, self-absorbed, insecure - these are all male traits and they are all focussed in our dicks like some pink fleshy portrait of Dorian Gray.

There's a lot of talk about men feeling confused and insecure nowadays. And all this New Age baloney about men needing to hug each other is completely off track. Men don't need to hold each other. That just makes us uncomfortable because what if we get a stiffy and he feels it? The solution to improving men's self esteem is for blokes to simply remind each other on a daily (possibly hourly) basis that they have big dicks. I've tried it and it works. "You, my friend," I say, gripping your shoulder in a manly but compassionate way, "you have a large penis. Correction…an enormous penis. Hell, you're more horse than man!" A few days of this and even the meekest of men will be so empowered he'll want to invade Poland. Try it…I dare you.

Who cares whether it's true or not? Since when did the truth ever play a part in making people feel better? If it did, advertising wouldn't work. In actual fact, truth is anathema to self esteem. If you don't believe me, next time a woman asks, "Do I look fat in this?" say, "Frankly? Yes, you do. Your arse looks like two planets colliding in a pair of pants." Then see what having your dick cut off and shoved up your bum does for your self esteem.

I've often heard men say that "We are not our penises", and perhaps we're not, but that suggests that we're something more when, in reality, we're probably something less. Are we, in fact, "merely our penises", or are we just a bunch of dicks?