Monday, October 31, 2005


I am indebted to MB of the Me Me Me blog who pondered "I wonder what ... (The Famous Five) are doing now?" in the comments section a few posts back - mainly because it gave me the chance to do a post based on this premise.

Not that I'm so lazy that I can't be arsed to think up new blogging ideas myself. Not at all.

Even though visiting numbers are down and I'm too apathetic to do anything about it by putting out dynamic, upbeat daily posts about my interesting and aspirational lifestyle. Or confessional, downbeat daily posts about how my traumatic childhood, weird selections of phobias, counselling, alcoholism, drug dependancy and third messy divorce have all conspired to make MY life oh so awful compared to yours dear reader, and you should be sooo thankful that you don't have to live like ME.

No, instead I just do long whiney tracts about how the gas boiler has been on the blink.

*reader rolls eyes to back of head*



There were 21 Famous Five books, and I can remember working out that the oldest of the gang would have been at least 25 by the end of the series, yet they were still wearing big shorts, woolly socks and those crepe soled sandals, as they had done when around the age of 10. This seemed bizarre to me as a child, and I had yet to see Dennis Potter's Blue Remembered Hills.

If they were still alive today, all of the Five would be in their 70's.

This is what I guess may have happened to them, if they finally entered the adult world (... in their 30's?)


Blond, arrogant, handsome superhero type Julian, the oldest of the clan, obviously became a longstanding Conservative MP for a constituency in the Cotswolds, after marrying a minor royal. There was even talk of a Cabinet post in the 1960's, until his fall from grace in a scandal involving a mother, a daughter, the home help and a well loved family pet.

He retired to Tuscany several years ago.


The Five member with the least discernible personality. Spent most of his adult life in a dreary time-serving post in the upper echelons of the Civil Service. Soulless but enduring marriage. Died of a heart attack within weeks of retiring.


The boyish Georgina remained a rebel and moved to New York in the 1960's. A key figure around the Greenwich Village scene, she was an outspoken lesbian feminist and at the forefront of the anti-Vietnam movement. Published several radical underground feminist books which were considered classics of their genre.

In later years she mellowed somewhat, and became a Harvard professor.


Face it, Anne was a gurlly gurlly gurlly gurll, and therefore deeply annoying.

As an adult, naturally enough she married as soon as possible, to a friend of Julian's (also a Conservative MP) and became a "homemaker" and mother to four children.

She always stood by her husband, despite his numerous affairs with girls barely out of their teens. She was accustomed to a certain lifestyle, and thought her way of coping was the Right Way, the British Way.

Unfortunately she also developed an increasing tendency to knock back the gin slings during those long and dreary afternoons alone.

She died of liver failure at the age of 51.


Possibly the only likeable member of the Five. Lived a long and happy life, after which he was mounted* and placed in the foyer of the Famous Five-themed public house on Kirrin Island, the Secret Passageway. Visitors may not be aware that there is a continuing flea problem with Timmy, and he has to be defumigated at regular intervals.

* (not mounted by Julian in the previously mentioned scandal, I should hasten to add)

I prefer not to detail what happened to the shadowy figures of Aunt Fanny and Uncle Quentin. Suffice to say that their allegiances during World War Two were rather suspect, and there was a long trial a few years back at great expense to the taxpayer.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


Two requests from avid readers dealt with today here on the blogging equivalent of the long missed Radio Two show Family Favourites.

The first is a mention to a regular visitor to the blog, Mr Greentree of Blandford in Dorset, who wants me to play Theme From 'A Summer Place' by the Percy Faith Orchestra for the best mum in the world, Mrs Olive Greentree of Blandford in Dorset. She is an amazing 87 years old today and bangs on and on about how Neville Chamberlain didn't have the mettle to lead us through the war, and good riddance to him. Happy birthday, Olive, you sound like a right battleaxe!

Unfortunately, I can't find a suitable download, but as compensation, Olive will be able to find out anything she wants to about Percy Faith here. I particularly like the "screw today's corporate radio culture" rant. Anyone who has had the misfortune to hear the Chris Moyles show will surely agree.

* * * * * * *

On another note, a request from Mr A. of Weston Super Mare who wants to know about my dealings with British Gas. I will attempt to keep it as brief as possible and will try not to use much of the foul language which has been polluting these posts recently. It is going to be difficult though.

In the past few days there have been a number of young men in the house fiddling with the clapped out old boiler.

Anyway, I won't go into details about the fun I have been having. Instead I will talk about the problems we have had with the central heating system.

Just over a week ago the heater started to make ominous clunking noises which we tried to ignore, mindful of all the reports we have read about the outrageously expensive new "combi" boilers which not only sound like something on the menu at a Harvester but which tend to break down every few months. Apparently they have been introduced by law as a way of curbing global warming. It has been suggested by one sarcastic journalist that the petrol used by all the vans sent out by gas fitters on their way to repair combi boilers will undoubtedly cancel out any benefits to the environment.

As our heating system is now about 15 years old, we were obviously on borrowed time, even though there had been no problems before.

The clunking noises got worse, and of course the hot water started to get more and more tepid. Time to call in British Gas.

Jason and Jason's apprentice Bill turned up. The puzzling thing is that Bill was a teenager, but had the name of a man in his 60's. They managed to get the heating working, after a fashion, but Jason would have to come back the next day to finish the job off. Oh well, fair enough.

The next day, Jason finished the job. Almost. Apparently, the air valves "came apart" in his hands, which sounds like rubbish fifth form poetry, but it is supposed to be "very common in this particular model". Of course, he couldn't get any replacement valves until after the weekend.

Lo and behold, a weekend of tepid water and shallow baths involving kettles and saucepans full of boiling water. Perhaps 87 year old Mrs Greentree will remember that sort of thing from the war!

Seriously though, as modern day spoilt brats, we take everything for granted, with our increasing reliance on electricity, comfort and convenience. I managed to grow up in a home without central heating and it wasn't a problem, why do I have to behave like a spoilt brat now because I have to do without hot and cold running water and lovely steaming bubble baths?

Anyway, Monday would surely be the end of it all.

Jason turned up with a multitude of Things, including valves and a bottle of Something Or Other. Ten minutes later, Bill turned up again. Ten minutes after that, Dan the engineer turned up. There were now a fleet of British Gas vans in our road.

No one could understand what was wrong with the system. Jason had virtually taken the system apart and re-assembled it, and still it wasn't working. Bill was dispersed to somewhere far away to get an electrode. Dan "had to shoot". To his credit, Jason was doing a fair whack in difficult circumstances, and finally the system seemed to be working.

Of course, after he had gone, the boiler started playing up AGAIN. We arranged for another British Gas visit the next day.

No one turned up by the evening. I had to prepare to go out to a restaurant. If the engineer turned up just as I was getting ready to go out, what would I say?

"Well, of course, I normally sit around watching Sky Sports Extra and eating a tv dinner while wearing a burgundy number and sling back stilettoes".

He would obviously think I was on the game.

"It's amazing to think anyone would pay for a bit of old like that" he would reckon.

We got back from the meal to find a note in the door to say he had turned up 5 minutes after we had left.

At the moment the husband is making enquiries about the very expensive and unreliable combi heaters.

In the meantime, I am losing the will to live.

Sunday, October 23, 2005


The last lot. By now the tagging thing is "sooo last season". It's great to be the last person off the bandwagon.

15. I think the last nightclub I went to was the Hacienda, circa 1992. I remember dancing like a thing possessed to You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) by Sylvester, to the point where it would probably have been best if someone had taken me to one side insisting that I have a sit down and take a few deep breaths from an oxygen mask. The reason for my enthusiasm? It was the only song I'd recognised all night. Obviously a sign that I was well overdue to age with at least some dignity. No more clubbing, then.

16. I once had a close shave in a motoring accident. The car I was in was shunted along the road by a lorry, and spun round three times. Miraculously, the lorry stopped just as our car came to a halt across its path, and I was saying "Stop! Stop!" in a feeble voice, uselessly enough. I expected the lorry driver to be the standard big burly bloke, but out of the cab jumped the little baldy slaphead bloke from the Benny Hill Show ... anyway, I had delayed shock, and was a nervous wreck every time I was in a vehicle when lorries were on the road. It's still slightly unnerving to see a juggernaut in the next lane to me even now, some 12 years later.

17. Oddly enough, I DO have maternal instincts - it's just that they're all geared towards cute animals - as in "oh, look at that puppy!" or "oh, come and look at this, there are some fledgling blackbirds in the garden!" As for human babies - can't see the point, really. Most of the children I encounter are midget thugs with no volume control, and I'm hacked off by the middle class tendency to become a sanctimonious twat at the moment of parenthood. "Being a parent makes you a less selfish person". Does it bollocks.

18. In my early 30's I assessed my stunningly average academic success and career underachievment and considered becoming a mature student. Luckily, nothing came of it apart from a grade B Sociology A-Level. As some woman in a job interview said to me "Is there any grand plan to all these night classes you have been doing?" in a very sarky voice. Made me see sense, at any rate.

19. My desert island disc would be Horses by Patti Smith.

20. Nearly there, thank the heck. My favourite non-alcoholic tipple is a really strong cup of tea. I love the smell of tea and the powdery taste it leaves in your mouth. Except I can't drink it any more "for health reasons" (as people say when they are trying to be enigmatic).

Cary Grant once said quite perceptively that people are the opposite of what they seem. I don't know if this list proves that about me, but I'm past caring. Thank the fuck it is over, eh?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Part two: the "is Freddie 'Parrot Face' Davis still alive then ?" years.

7. Being an only child was great, and I'd recommend it to anyone, but it means I don't have the strong competitive streak which is necessary to become a success in life and the workplace (hem hem).

8. My mother had the careful working class snobbery of an Alan Bennett character. Hence I wasn't allowed to watch ITV at home as a child because it was considered "too common". Hence I didn't have much to talk about with other kids in the playground. Next!

9. My dad grew up in a Serbian family on a smallholding farm in Croatia. So, if someone describes me as a peasant, it's only half an insult. I'm actually half peasant, half oik.

10. ... but I don't speak Serbo-Croat. My dad was hellbent on bringing me up as English, rather than "celebrating the cultural diversity in my household" as social workers would no doubt describe it. Considering what happened in the 1990's war, I'm rather grateful for that. Next!

11. Yes, I was one of those mopey teenagers who thought that nobody understood them, and I spent too long agreeing with Ian McCulloch that "my life's thuh disease that could always change, with comparative ease, just given the chance" (he probably wrote it in 10 seconds on the back of a fag packet while drunk). Unfortunately, I'm still basically a mopey teenager but at least I gave up analysing Ian McCulloch's awful lyrics a long time ago.

12. I have a morbid fear of the Big C - even more so than the average, because both my parents had long and horrible "battles" with the disease. Still, it's all character building stuff. Next!

13. ... which has lead to me becoming a complete hypochondriac. Not the sort who is always mithering the doctor, but the sort who is too afraid to see the GP if I have got, say, a bit of a cough because I immediately fastforward to myself sitting in a room in the hospital with a doctor who can't look me in the eye and who nervously says "aah, the results ... would suggest that it's really only a matter of time, but, on a more positive note, there is medication you can take which will help to take the edge off the pain, and your relatives can come onto the ward at any time to be with you." HELP!!

14. I was once chatted up by a conductor on a local train who asked me if I knew of any good porn cinemas in Birmingham. Woooh, CLASSY. A lucky escape - he was insistently asking for my phone number as the train drew up at Walsall station but I never saw him again and moved to Australia to make sure I never would, etc etc.

Well I've broken the back of it now. More later. Only one more lot, don't worry.

Friday, October 14, 2005


Before I get stuck in, I should point out that I heard a busker playing Auld Lang Syne up the town centre earlier today. Did I sleep right through? Happy new year, everyone.

Well I suppose you want some confessional stuff about the tragic poverty of my early life, my being sent to work as a chimney sweep at the age of 8, my methadone addiction and so on. Get stuck in. I'm only doing a few at a time so you won't have to get too bored, and they are in more or less chronological order.

1. I was born on July 2nd, the day Marlon Brando died, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones' corpse was found floating in a swimming pool in mysterious circumstances and Ernest Hemingway committed suicide. How many bad omens do you want?

2. According to my lying parents, nurses and visitors were flocking round to look at me in hospital because I was the most beautiful baby they'd ever seen. Pictorial evidence suggests I looked like Oliver Hardy or that bloke off Eraserhead.

3. My earliest memory is of jumping up and down on the settee while Radio Caroline was playing a Four Tops song in the background. So began a lifelong passion. For jumping up and down on settees, that is.

4. Unfortunately, I collected Enid Blyton books with a passion - Famous Five, Malory Towers, Secret Seven. I was a completist, and, sadly, probably wanted to go to a boarding school. Nowadays I think sending a child to a boarding school is one of the most sadistic things to do to them. Still love the Geoffrey Willans Down With Skool books, with the superb Ronald Searle illustrations, even though they are horribly middle class as any fule kno.

5. I once willed myself to have an out of body experience during a particularly boring Tuesday afternoon at school. Apart from everything seeming to be in widescreen, it wasn't all that interesting an experiment.

6. During the teenage years, I did what many teenaged girls seem to do, i.e., I tried to get borderline anorexia, but gave up after about 3 months of neurotic calorie counting (down to about 500 calories a day) because I get fed up of eating nothing but Ryvita and apples. Come on, it's all part of the fun of growing up, isn't it?

More tedious crap along similar lines in the near future. Stay tuned but don't hold your breath.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


I appear to have been suggested in some sort of business or other of "tagging", and have been asked to provide you with a post listing twenty interesting facts about myself.

Twenty interesting facts ... who do you think I am? Peter Ustinov? David Niven? I can barely remember twenty things I have ever done, let alone interesting things. As my mate in
self-pitying whining Morrissey would imply, if you've got ten seconds to spare I'll tell you the story of my life.

I'll think about it.


Over at Geoff's Telly Blog Geoff, the suave Ronald Colman of blogging, gives a considered account of the centrepiece of Channel 4's new More4 digital channel opening night - the play
A Very Social Secretary. It dealt with the affair between former Home Secretary David Blunkett and a woman who someone I know and respect would describe as a "real nutbar", Kimberly Quinn. Ms Quinn, a high powered and wealthy woman no doubt meets numerous attractive and intelligent men in her line of work (... and Boris Johnson). Who does she decide to conduct affairs with? Simon Hoggart and David Blunkett! Phwooar!

There was a glaring error in Geoff's review of the play, though, and one common to every piece I've read about it. Why has no-one remarked about children's entertainer Michael Jackson's tentative comeback into the public arena, in his role as Kimberly Quinn?

Frustratingly, I can't find any decent pictures of Michael in A Very Social Secretary despite an extensive Google search, so you will have to make do with an informal shot of him taken a couple of years ago here .


Wednesday, October 12, 2005


I bleeding well love Sopranos. A fairly obvious television programme to like, but I'm past the point of caring if my tastes are obvious.

However, the best thing about the Sopranos, to me, was always Tony's relationship with his complete cowbag of a mother Livia, brilliantly played by Nancy Marchand. Damn inconvenient for Nancy to die during the filming of - was it the second or third series (sorry, ought to do my research and geek up properly)?

At some point I remember the Soprano family were having one of their endless family get together meals when Livia didn't turn up. Outrageous behaviour: in the Soprano's rulebook, kicking a man to a pulp, taking him into the woods to be shot or garrotting someone is perfectly acceptable, but not turning up at a family get together is beyond the pale. Tony was fuming about it afterwards, recalling stuff he'd learnt at his "secret" counselling sessions. "They call this fucking stuff negative attention getting, I've heard about it" he ranted. Or words to that effect - I couldn't be arsed to pore over hours of HBO scripts to find out EXACTLY what he said.

Well, there's a thing. I've come to realise that I like a bit of negative attention getting myself. Not turning up at events that I've been invited to and therefore annoying people is quite enjoyable. It happened again a week or so back.

We were originally asked if we'd like to attend Ron's 70th birthday do. As very few people were likely to turn up, it was weeks before his birthday, and we would be going to a meal with him nearer the time, we declined the offer.

Needless to say, after the event we were informed that Everybody Turned Up. The daughters-in-law turned up. "Even the babies" turned up. The two feral grandchildren whose endearing habits include biting their grandparents turned up. Worst of all - Pete And Shirley From Crockenhill turned up (it is not just Pete and Shirley. It has always been Pete And Shirley From Crockenhill). Just imagine! Pete and Shirley From Crockenhill had come all the way from Crockenhill!

The one good thing is that Norma and Roger didn't go.

"You should have come, we had a great time".

This can only mean one thing. People have been saying things about us, and have been disappointed. I quite enjoy that. This means I am a complete bitch, and I am admitting it to you here as a form of therapy.

It's a habit I've acquired over a number of years. I've used every excuse going to avoid going to weddings as I HATE WEDDINGS MORE THAN ALMOST ANYTHING. All people who invite you to weddings say "don't worry, our wedding isn't going to be the usual sort of do!" and of course it always is. I hate weddings so much that there were only four guests at my own. Once again I managed to indulge in a bit of negative attention getting, because a number of people were disappointed about my churlish behaviour. Result!

Unfortunately, the chance to avoid social events is getting slimmer and slimmer. For starters, I married someone who is likely to say "well, you can't not go, really ..." as a response to most invites. Hmm, two negatives don't make a positive in my book, but marriage is all about compromise, isn't it? The other thing is the in-laws put a lot of stock by family get togethers. I should point out that this is the only thing they share in common with the Sopranos. As far as I know, my mother-in-law has not garrotted anyone.

So this is a tough time of year for me, as all the in-law family birthdays seem to occur in the last three months of the year. Then there is the social phobic's nadir, Christmas, to deal with. The nadir of Christmas Day, of course, is those games you are forced to play after dinner. Consequences? Pictionary? How old am I, bloody seven? Better to sit at home sulking and missed by everyone else, who hopefully is tutting about your miserly behaviour. They have put themselves out, so why can't you?

Anyways, must go, can't see you tonight as I've got a migraine coming on. Laters xxx!!

Saturday, October 08, 2005


The winner of the competition to work out the deliberate mistakes in the Freewheelin' Matt Dillon post is Miss Tracey Wiggins of Wigan.

The deliberate mistakes were as follows.

Alan Ginsberg is spelt Allen Ginsberg. Don't you hate it when people don't spell their names like everyone else?

Danny Baker's classic documentary, Don't Look Back, But There's A Bloke With A Really Bad Toupee On Sat Behind You, was made in 1964, not 1965.

Bob's "comeback" album after his motorbike crash was John Wesley Harding, not Nashville Skyline. The reason for his really really daft vocal style on the latter album was due to some disastrous root canal work.

It was Liam Clancy, rather than the writer Tom Clancy, who sat in a pub spouting pseudo-mystical rubbish about Bob and the early '60's folk scene. Yawn!

Congratulations Tracey! You have received this month's mystery prize, three pairs of y-fronts courtesy of BHS Clothing. The packaging features a picture of attractive older man Tom, formerly of the DFS adverts, modelling a pair of the enclosed pants. There are three colourways - a regal claret and gold print, a purple and blue paisley design and a classic plain "Coventry City FC"-type sky blue. The waist size is 40-48 inches. There is also that expression "Three Part Set" on the packaging, where at first you think it says "Three Pant Set" which is much better really.

Once more, well done Tracey Wiggins from Wigan - the prize will be winging its way to you in Wigan within the next few months.

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