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Friday, January 30

I'm just basically a big kid. There's no point in denying it. I love toys and games - this is pretty much what my life has become. I also love entertainment which has a cuteness factor aimed at kids. This explains how much I enjoyed myself while on the train (both times over the last 24 hours), watching Wallace and Gromit on DVD via my laptop. I sat there giggling and cooing at the loveable plasticine antics of the eponymous heroes of Aardman's animation. Gromit's eyebrows - they're so expressive! With a toy to watch and a cute movie, it's only the playing of games that was missing... or was it?

Stand-up comedy - that's a game of sorts. I sit down and write silly things to say, then I travel around the country at vast personal expense in order to stand on a stage with a microphone and say (or sing) these absurdities. And I enjoy it. And other people seem to do so too... so it's not entirely self-serving. Not entirely.

Yesterday I left work at 4pm, jumped on a train to Edinburgh, hung around a railway station (wouldn't that be Waverley? - yes... yes it was), was picked up and driven to St Andrews and then, after what seemed like moments' sojourn in the place, was driven back to Edinburgh for a brief snooze before being dropped back at the railway station.

It always amuses me that I can reliably get into work earlier when I've started the morning by waking in Edinburgh than I can when I start the morning staring at the curtains in my home in Newcastle. Well, I say always... it's happened 3 times. Twice by train and one early morning dash (Monday morning this week) by car.

Tonight, I'm sleeping in my bed in Newcastle. However, before then I'm taking a wee trip to Whitehaven, courtesy of the promoter of my next performance.

Tomorrow, for a change of scene, I shall be driving back to Edinburgh for another gig. Of course... four trips to Edinburgh in two weeks is perfectly normal behaviour!

Kids!

St Andy's

Was opening act at Capital Comedy's new St Andrews gig last night. It was a fun night - a good start to the gig. Hopefully, I'll go back in a few months when they've built up a loyal fan base and see what the room has become. The acoustics in the room are slightly negative for broadcasting the words of stand-up, but excellent for amplifying the laughs into a feeling of euphoria (regardless of the number of people laughing).

Thursday, January 29

I got back into University debating back in 2002 in order to help with my aspirations to do stand-up (among other things). It seems, from last night's fun in the debating chamber (well, debating chamber substitute) that stand-up can help with one's debating.

Wednesday, January 28

Been a bit too busy to post... indeed, still quite busy and nothing of note to write.

However...

My entry for UK Songsearch 2004 - the only non-commissioned route into the Eurovision Song Contest - has now been judged. As I may have stated earlier, I entered it (at some not insignificant personal expense) in order to "live the dream". Today I had chance to wake up. The dream is over for this year. I still like my song, though.

Monday, January 26

Comedy Rabbi or Priest?

It's always good to read a review and it's even better when the review brings you down to earth. Apparently, the reviewer saw an act called "Ashley Priest"... close... it's like my Fringe debut with the mis-spelt poster!

Anyway, the up-side of the mistaken identity review is the following quotes:

knew how to raise the big laughs
had the crowd in stitches

(and some other stuff that may or may not have been derogatory)

Review featured in: Edinburgh Evening News - a review of the last-minute booking I was given for Capital Comedy's Bar Sirius gig.

Weekend spent in Edinburgh, which was very pleasant - thanks to all involved.

My one night stand a The Stand was turned into something more of a rollercoaster evening as I was asked to hot foot it to a Capital Comedy gig in Leith to do a support slot. Two gigs in one night, can it be done? Yes. Yes it can...

I had a lukewarm gig when I went on stage at 8.45, but when I went back to the stage at the other gig at 11, things were much hotter. I put a lot more into the performance and got a lot more out. If only I could have gone back in time and done the same to the earlier crowd... but that's not how life works.

After a sojourn in Edinburgh, I braved a bizarre combination of conditions and Roman roads to return to the North East in time for work this morning. I don't know how much sleep I've had... not enough, probably!

Friday, January 23

Oh yes. I'm a googlewhacking whore! It's cheating to create them, but sod it. I'm in a good mood.

Had a nice night out in Edinburgh last night - very spur of the moment... it's silly to bash the car like that. But, I'm a dangerous dude when I've got no plans for an evening - anything might happen. It cost me a fair bit of petrol and possibly the life of a careless bunny on the route back (I didn't have time to check - not much I could do either way).

Having done 6200 miles since October, I was worried that today's service would reveal the wear and tear on the Ashmobile... nothing. It went through its service like a hot knife through butter, or a tyre through a rabbit - it's hard to say. Something horrible and expensive is bound to happen over the next 6000 miles, but so far so good! I reckon it's the new air freshener!

Tonight was a great read through night (the new masterpiece - watch this space) and a chance to ditch a scene I never really had much affection for. The show would overrun with the scene in... so it goes into the bin. Hoorah!

There is no time to do everything... but do everything we shall!

Wednesday, January 21

Click here to see if my Googlewhack has happened... or is still a whack.

I know it's sad to make one, but it's the natural yang to the yin of finding them.

Never ask why... but the hamster has a new song.

Tuesday, January 20

It's official. I'm busy every night until February the 7th... Exciting? Well, for the innocent reader of this site, probably not. Sorry.

Let's move on to more interesting issues - Andrew Lloyd Webber. I'm, as always, enthralled by the works of this gentleman, which are rich and varied. Today I received the concept album/cover versions album of his music "Whistle Down The Wind". Sporting some occasionally dodgy lyrics by Jim Steinman, this musical is definitely in my top 20 (maybe even top 10) favourite musicals. Here are some minor facts about the musical, which I feel I have to tell someone:
  • The cover versions album includes covers by Meat Loaf, Bonnie Tyler and Tom Jones
  • The song "Cold" is performed on the album by the Everly Brothers - they also perform this on recording in the show and I had had the impression that it was not an original ALW song - in fact it is
  • ALW does Jim Steinman better than Jim Steinman
  • In the touring version of the show, the song "Annie Christmas" is replaced by a better number called "The Gang", which has lyrics by Don Black, rather than Jim Steinman
  • The kids on the touring production occasionally mime, and there is a backing track of children singing to help them even when they're not miming - the musical director has to conduct to a click track in his ear

Monday, January 19

Oh... I remember the days when Steve had something to say... he's been decidedly quiet for some time now. Is he, perhaps, plotting something? Perhaps he's got a follow up to his post about poncey vacuum cleaners...?

Boy do I cover the most interesting of subjects in my weblog. There's an adage - if you've nothing to say, then don't say anything. I don't believe in it at all.

So, my glasses broke. The little plastic thing which props on your nose snapped. The metal leg was intact, which is good, because it's irreparable. I had wonky glasses for nearly 2 days. I went to the shop today and showed them my broken specs:

Ashley: Look - the nubbin has come off. That's the technical term for it, you know.
Shop lady: Right - I'll replace it for you.
Ashley: Ah good - it's nice that you have a new stock of these nubbins.
Shop lady: Here you go - here are your glasses with new... er... nubbins.

And so, I've invented a new term. It will spread like wildfire, I'm sure of it!

The glasses now fit better and the lady even cleaned them. Quite good aftersales services, really.

Sunday, January 18

After reading Dave Gorman's book on Googlewhacking, a book which is now officially a best seller, I've had a smaller resurgence of interest in the subject. The problem with finding a googlewhack is that you can't publish its words on your site, since your site will then become a Google hit for those words... somewhat ruining the one in 3 billion thing you'd found. Googlewhacking in pairs is possibly easier, since you can avoid the word association that goes on in one person's mind when they try to find a second word to add to the pot. Word association is exactly what you don't want when you're looking for a rare pairing of two words in prose.

A colleague and I found a googlewhack earlier this week:



And I, in the spirit of trying to find a googlewhack that sounded like "googlewhack", came up with this a few moments ago:



Have a go yourself... but don't publish the results as text... I publish them as graphics, which Google does not index.

Thursday, January 15

Tonight's rehearsal was cancelled. It's odd, really: the majority of the reason to do a musical is the process of putting it together, and yet the moment a rehearsal is cancelled, you feel elated as though you've been given a day off school. If we do not get that rehearsal time, then the show, or at least our confidence on stage, may suffer... and rehearsals are a lot of what it's all about!

Anyway, I now have some unexpected spare time. I should go home and enjoy it... except I'm stuck in the office listening to some music that I recorded back in October - I'll go in a few minutes. I can't bring myself to end it prematurely.

It is a funny world I inhabit. Over the course of this week, I've travelled about 400 miles and been in Newcastle (of course), Manchester, Durham and Sunderland. All of this while holding down a full time day job in Newcastle. I haven't included my trip to London (an extra 600 miles) which I did over the weekend - technically LAST week.

I don't know where all the time goes, or indeed where it comes from. It's all a sort of blur to me.

This month is only going to get more challenging. Still, I'm in good spirits. I just had a great night out in Sunderland at a gig. I opened the gig, which is always going to feel like hard work, and I also did a longer spot than I've been doing of late, which is always going to feel like hard work. However, I really enjoyed myself. Not only that, but as the first act, you then get to spend the rest of the evening enjoying the other acts with no pressure on you to remember what you're doing. I'll add to that the fact that I reshuffled my first 3 minutes' material while I was waiting to go on, in order to respond to the intro from the compere... being able to do that is something of a boon.

I'm also pleased that I've recently completed a writing project I've been working on. Assuming the feedback comes back positive, and there are some key people I need feedback from, not least of which is my partner in crime, then I hope to start work on making the written work come to life.

I'm very excited.

It's good that I live alone at the moment. I'm remarkably unsociable and disruptive. On the down side, I've noone to hand over various cleaning tasks to. This means that the house needs some "me time". I reckon that's going to happen shortly. I really do!

Tuesday, January 13

From Gigging To Touring

Apparently I have a tour... check it out!

Monday, January 12

Looking back, yesterday was a strange exploration of the various lives I seem to be living concurrently.

Who am I?

Well:
  • Computer programmer
  • Journalist/writer (computer magazine)
  • Performer - musicals
  • Stand-up comedian
  • Song writer
  • Musician
  • Writer of musicals
  • Writer of comedy
I know there's overlap between a number of these... indeed, I go around using much the same set of skills for each. I don't know where my heart lies, hence having such a wide range of interests. I know that all of these intrigue me in difference ways. For the time being, I can play with them all. At some point, perhaps I'll have to choose.

Yesterday, I wandered from my hotel to the west end of London where I bought the biography of Don Black, alongside a book by Jonathan Maitland. Both books are about people working in the music business. In Mr Maitland's case, it involved a large amount of information about his failed attempt to get his band to represent the United Kingdom at the Eurovision Song Contest 2002. In Don Black's case, it's the story of a stand-up comedian, turned Oscar winning song writer, author of some of the worlds most favourite song lyrics, including some I personally cherish.

After leaving the bookshop, I wandered onto the adjecent street - Denmark Street - to wander around some guitar shops, looking at Bass guitars. I'm thinking of buying a bass and I wanted to see what was on the market.

You know some of this already if you have read my previous blog entry. I shall complete the story of the day. I then went along to see The Reduced Shakespeare Company, whom I'd wanted to see for a very long time. I saw them in March of last year and yesterday's show was pretty much the same cast doing the same thing. However, it still felt fresh and they'd clearly updated some of the gags to keep it that way.

After a coffee, during which I scribbled some lyrics for a musical I'm writing, I headed back to King's Cross to collect my bag and wait for the train. Over a bite to eat at the station, which also gave me somewhere better to sit than the outskirts of the main hall, I completed the last lyric and last bit of dialogue in the musical I've been writing. Admittedly, it's all only a first draft, but it's a finished first draft. I even threw in a gag which I'd conceived of while walking back from the theatre to the hotel to pick up my stuff - fresh or what!?

Then in the eatery, my stand-up career came into focus. I chatted on my mobile to a stand-up chum and agreed to help him with a song idea. So, I wrote lyrics to an existing tune, both spoofing the original song and making the comment that he wanted to make. I'm pleased with that little bit of writing.

After that it was time to read. I started reading the Jonathan Maitland book first. I interrupted this reading when, after returning to the main hall to wait for the train to arrive, I got chatting to a random chap who sat down next to me. After we'd put the world to rights he confessed that he was, in fact, a session musician. A bass player (his advice confirmed my feelings about which bass I want to buy). Not only that, but he's played bass on some music I already own. Now I get the chance to listen to a track I've taken for granted, listen out for the bass and say to myself - "I've met him". Nice chap! Good bass playing!

On the train, Mr Maitland's story brought him into contact with Clive Black, Don Black's son. Linking the two books I'd bought.

Much later on the train, after finishing the first book, Don Black's book defined the exact location of the nurturing of his music business career. The somewhat notorious "Tin Pan Alley", a.k.a. Denmark Street - a discreet side street off Charing Cross Road... the same side street, I'd been mooching around looking at guitars in earlier on.

So, as a Eurovision wannabee, aspiring Bass owner and musicals writer with stand-up comedy influences... well, I managed to get it all well and truly mixed up into a confusing melee of experiences yesterday. Perhaps there's a message in there somewhere. Perhaps not.

Sunday, January 11

An interesting day spent in my own company. I'm not really very good company, so I've had to resort to a series of tactics to amuse myself so far. The reason I have a day of my own company comes down to a combination of train availability - only the late train

Tactic 1 : Wake up late
What a very good way to kill some time. By the time I was showered and out of the hotel it was already midday. I even managed to do some Early morning staring™, which killed about 10 minutes as my addled brain slowly came up to the same speed as regular time. I often find that mornings pass by at lightning speed if I'm in a slow-brain mode. This is an excellent way to travel through time... though it only works forwards!

Tactic 2 : Starbucks
Deciding not to lug a laptop around, I haven't done any Starbucks surfing (I'm currently online in a Burger King at Piccadilly Circus - cheaper than wireless at 'bucks). At Starbucks I did have a lovely coffee and muffin, which is a good way to start the day.

Tactic 3 : Aimless wandering
London is a walking city... at least it is when you
  1. Have time to kill
  2. Ought to be losing weight and have just downed a large mocha with whipped cream
Having no agenda in the city means a lot of wandering until you strike a plan.

Tactic 4: Buying that book for the train
I completed my reading of Dave Gorman's Googlewhack Adventure while on the train to London yesterday. A fantastic book it is too! So I am without reading material for the return journey tonight. I wanted to buy Don Black's autobiography and so wandered into a nice and expensive branch of Borders. Accidentally buying another book to go with Don Black's, I left Borders some time after entering.

Tactic 5: Buying other stuff
Bargain bookshops always pull me in, and I found myself the proud owner of Rolf Harris's autobiography at less than £4. Altogether now... hmphchickahee chickahmph...

Tactic 6: West end shows
I'm always one to visit the theatre and I happen to know that the Reduced Shakespeare Company are one of the few groups to do a Sunday matinee. I shall be seeing their "Complete Works of Shakespeare - abridged" in a few minutes. Admittedly I've seen it before, but it's worth a second viewing and it will entertain me for a good chunk of the remainder of my stay in our nation's capital city. Today is the first anniversary of the day I first saw My Fair Lady on stage. Fascinating... I know!!!

Tactic 7: Observing folk
People are interesting. There was one chap walking through Leicester Square with a chocolate biscuit - choc-digestive I think - in his mouth, eating it "hands-free". (Perhaps this method will become the new law for in-car snacking.) It looked a bit like he'd joined one of those african plate-in-the-lip tribes. I also saw a couple of people who seemed only capable of communicating via the gift of shouting. They were walking through Tottenham Court Road together, but they kept their distance from each other - perhaps to ensure that the shouting seemed necessary. Maybe they're cursed with only being able to communicate at shouting volume and have adjusted their rules of personal space accordingly.

Tactic 8: Interstellar travel
I'm working on this one.

Tactic 9: Cyber monkeying
It seems that I can't go for very long without interfacing to the net. Luckily for me, I have a focus for my geekery, in the form of this weblog. My email has now been checked. My weblog is now up to date. I think it's nearly time for me to adjourn to the Criterion Theatre for some passive entertainment.

Friday, January 9

An excellent grammatical discussion via Mal.

This morning in summary:
  • Woke up
  • Snoozed for several cycles
  • Shreddies
  • Shower
  • Drove to work, the car passed the palindromic mileage of 127721
  • Walked to the office clutching a prescription
  • The prescription has a note to the doctor from the receptionist... which calls me Mr Ashley
Just a normal day in the world of Mr Me.

Wednesday, January 7

According to Rich Hall (thanks for the book by the way), Laos looks like Lisa Simpson. It's not a bad similarity.

Tuesday, January 6

I fitted one of those mobile phone cradles to my car today. Now I'm legal. It only cost £2 from Wilko. Fantastic. I've fit it to the driver's door of the car, near the window winder on a neat little panel which faces me. It doesn't even get in the way of the window winder, which is great.

It's good to be legal, but I can't help but feel that having the phone down there is going to take my eyes of the road while I'm texting. Surely it would be safer just to hold the phone out in front of me...

After a good hot tip from Mad, here is one of the most amusing things I've ever seen about Italy at 8.15 in the morning.

It's nearly light now, so I shall dress and head off for work. For some reason I took myself to bed before 8 o'clock last night, meaning that getting up at around 7 should have been easy. It wasn't easy. It was possible, and I've had a morning of washing up and porridge (the cereal, not the incarceration). My throat is sore slightly and I still feel tired. I suppose my immune system must be chewing something over.


Monday, January 5

Fantastic - The Metro Centre may now be a better place to visit now. Eldon Square next... pleeeeeeease!

My antipathy for Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals reached its zenith yesterday while I was in the bath. The shower dripped a droplet of cold water on my chest and my immediate thought was "damned Rodgers and Hammerstein". For a brief moment I blamed Oscar Hammerstein II entirely for my plumbing problems. Crazy!

Yesterday was a crazy day. It seemed to pass by in a flash. I remember something about waking up and eating breakfast. I remember ironing with Radio 2 for company and then getting washed and dressed. A quick bite of lunch (my lasagne from the previous evening) and I was zooming off to Durham for a rehearsal. Then I zoomed to Manchester for a gig and then I was home. By that time, some 18 hours had passed - don't ask me where they went.

Starting 2004

A good start to the year with a gong show last night. I don't normally enjoy gong shows, but last night was fun. I tried to relax and avoid getting too worked up about it. I didn't get gonged and I did okay in the gag/clap off. My driving companion won... so it was a happy return journey home. Many more gigs to come in 2004!

Saturday, January 3

The Life of Brian was, of course, a masterpiece. It took a few seconds less than the 90 minutes which marks a good movie according to my unnecessary rule of thumb.

In fact, so brief was the viewing experience, I found it necessary to watch a nearly hour-long BBC documentary on the Pythons, made in 1979 while they were filming the movie.

It seems that my mind and body are equipped for one task at the moment - watching movies. My TV, video and DVD player have never had such a concentrated bout of use.

Yesterday I watched Gigi which is a charming and harmless movie, very much in the vein of My Fair Lady, a movie it predates by 6 years. However, there's no doubt that they capitalised on the success of the stage show of My Fair Lady to attract people to see Gigi, the next show Lerner and Loewe wrote. My Fair Lady was still running on the stage when Gigi was released. Those who chose to classify this musical as a screen equivalent to My Fair Lady were imbeciles. Gigi stands alone as a sweet enough story of love rising out of the superficial nature of a Parisian society. There are few similarities between the stories, the only common points being a pretty, youthful female star and a few lessons in etiquette for said young lady. Leslie Caron does have an elfin quality, similar to Audrey Hepburn, but the viewers in 1958 were not to know that Ms Hepburn would be the face of My Fair Lady 6 years in the future! Interestingly, most of the famous songs in Gigi are sung by men, with Gigi herself getting few memorable musical moments.

The pace and direction of Gigi was to my liking and, although it ran over my 90 minute ideal movie length, it did so with panache and kept me entertained. I'm a big fan of Lerner and Loewe and I'm glad that it was one of their shows (My Fair Lady, of course) which broke the record held by Oklahoma! for the longest running musical. Ha!

This morning, rather than do anything productive. (Answers on a postcard if you have any suggestions for what to do on a Saturday morning.) I sat and watched the movie of Jesus Christ Superstar. I'd wanted to see this, having read about it in Tim Rice's autobiography. I didn't have massive expectations. The good news is that it's a great musical, though I'm beginning to notice some of its lyrical faults a lot more (but they're a very small percentage of the whole). Even better, there was an extra scene in the movie, which I'd not heard or seen anywhere else - this had some classic Tim Rice word play in it, so it was a true gem to discover. Sadly, a lot of this movie is not worth watching, not if you compare it to the drama of a well-directed stage version. I've seen a couple of those, one of which is the video version of the 1990's production. I think that part of the problem with Jesus Christ Superstar is that it was such a phenomenonal success from the moment of its release that nobody had time to sit down and take stock of where its strengths and weaknesses lay. The libretto has barely changed over the years, yet people are much more capable of making a great show out of it now than they were when swept along by its immediate success. My reaction to the movie was that it was put together quickly on a short budget with a minimal regard for the gift to posterity that a movie could be.

Both the two previous musical films mentioned had their score conducted by Andre Previn. In Gigi, I could tell that there was much interpretation and love in the musical direction. In fact, it's one of the first times that I've felt a movie soundtrack surpassed a more modern stage version's soundtrack (apologies to the 1985 London Cast). With Jesus Christ Superstar, perhaps biased a little by Tim Rice's assertions in his book, I felt that Mr Previn didn't really give a damn. He reportedly didn't think much of the score and I can't help but feel that that shows. Some of the tempos were questionable, several of the moments lost. Perhaps there were other pressures at work causing this. I don't know.

So, at half past one, having watched Jesus Christ Superstar, what shall I do? I know... I think I'll watch the only movie you can follow Jesus Christ Superstar with: The Life of Brian!

A short thought:

I woke up this morning under two duvets. It is a feeling that I reckon is as close as one can safely get to being ironed.

Friday, January 2

Still awake, alive and kicking. Not a bad result for the second day of the new year.

I've managed to put a stunning non-entity of a poem online for the pleasure of my fans (all none of you). Called On a notepad in starbucks it was written on a... you can guess the rest.

Today saw me spending some time outside of the house and I've been away from my duvets for a staggering 7 hours already without feeling the need to curl up in the foetal position and mewl. This is a good result. However, there was much confusion and disappointment to be had over the course of my voyage through the real world - or at least the world in as real a form as it gets on Friday the 2nd of January 2004.

The thought of a cooked breakfast from Tesco made me giggle with glee as I contemplated it in the wee small hours of this morning. 4 or 5am, I think it was. I can be forgiven. I hadn't eaten properly in two days and my appetite was recovering. I find it hard not to eat - even when my stomach and metabolism have shut down, there's a psychological problem I have with not eating. Who am I without my food intake? Clearly I have a food-related personality. Anyway, the beauty of a Tesco breakfast is that it's served all day. This is good, not because I intended to eat it for the entire duration of the day (that would be a crap joke) but because I knew that I had to sleep, wake, shower, dress and maybe even stick some shirts in the washing machine before finally reaching the in-store cafe of which dreams and late-night/early-morning giggles are made.

I arrived at Tesco to find that their cafe was no longer in existence.

In fairness to them it was a product of some current in-store development. I was disappointed, but I vowed to be resourceful. There's an Asda Hypermarket at the Metro Centre. It has an in-store cafe. It wasn't far away. I know how to get there. I'm very good with routes and that. All I had to do was pray that they had an all day breakfast.

Asda do serve breakfast and they had a vast quantity of the ingredients required to serve me a rip-roaring breakfast. I was thrilled. I had a choice of the "super six" - six items, "big breakfast" - several more items, or "Full Monty" which looked outrageous, including three of everything, except for fried eggs (only one) and hash browns (two). I hadn't eaten in two days, but I was keen on moderation and so decided on the "big breakfast". Not too big, but big enough for me. I was happy. I had my order planned and it was only about £2.18 or something equally inexpensive - that's Asda price.

It was 11.45 when I ordered. Breakfast ends at 11.30. My request "a big breakfast please" was answered with "no". I didn't miss a beat. I didn't even lose my temper. I simply answered pragmatically - "Please may I have the nearest equivalent". I was told that I was going to be given the "mega brunch" - £2.98. It sounded big. It was huge. They'd taken the full monty, swapped the hash browns for chips and added a fried egg. I wasn't going to argue. So long as there was brown sauce and a coffee, I was going to be happy, and if I couldn't eat it all, then I wouldn't need to go home in tears.

Coffee was another bizarre thing. They had "instant" and "fresh ground" coffee, both from a machine, made by Kenco with about 10p price difference. I don't know about you, dear reader, but I'd always prefer the better quality drink. Asda choose to provide both. Why? Surely if you account for the complexities of keeping two sets of supplies and the wastage and the people on the fiddle, buying the more expensive and claiming it's the cheaper... well, surely you could take 5p off the price of the more expensive and sell only that. Everyone's a winner, then. I bought the fresh ground and was honest about it.

I managed to eat the huge plate of food I was handed by the lady at the counter.

It strikes me as a little inflexible to call an end to breakfast when all that means is that you've stopped making hash browns. All day breakfasts rule. At the very least, I'd have preferred to have been offered a subsitute for the missing hash brown on my big breakfast, rather than be loaded with a hell of a lot more food... which I ate anyway... in fact, never mind. It could have been worse. I like food.

I was so disappointed in Asda that I proceeded to spend a good 45 minutes shopping there. (So not really all that bothered) I have purchased a number of essentials and goodies for the next week. I'm still trying to avoid behaving like my own carer ("You like them, don't you?") but perhaps I appreciate how lucky I am to have someone to take care of me, even if it is me. I may have been away with the fairies a bit over the past couple of days, but I've managed to keep myself safe and warm. I'm recovered (ish) and pretty much ready for the year ahead. At the very least, I can face the weekend. Life could be a lot harder.

And on that bombshell, I must get on with something productive.

I feel decidedly better. I've no idea what date my body clock is set to, since I've been sleeping on and off since Tuesday. Today shall be a decisive moment in which time zone I've landed in. I have been a time traveller, using my immense powers of sleep to propel myself forward through time to a moment where I no longer feel under the spell of that nasty ailment which had me ejecting my stomach fluids. Hoorah.

I'm reminded of a conversation I had recently with a fellow time traveller:

Me: So when did you come to London, then?
Him: In the seventies at some point. Mind you, now it must be the... er... 90's... or 2000's... or something like that
Me: It's 2003, 29th December. It will be 2004 soon.

He didn't even know the decade. I'm fairly certain, I know the exact date and time. So who is the winner?

Yesterday was a good one from the point of view of movie watching. I managed to sit down in front of the TV for most of the day. I watched the tail end of a Morecambe and Wise compilation I'd started watching before leaving for London, which I then followed up with the Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren movie The Millionnairess. Ms Loren is indeed a most attractive lady - at least at the time of filming - and Peter Sellers is always watchable. However, I must agree with the reviewer on IMDB who says that the film basically doesn't work because the chemistry is all wrong. It probably comes down to bad directing and production. They saw a chance to put Ms Loren in some pretty frocks and make Peter Sellers do his oh-so-comical-indian-voice... and forgot about pace and the suspension of disbelief. It was pleasant enough. Not a bad film for a winter's afternoon. Perhaps a good Sunday movie... with biscuits.

I then followed this viewing with my first ever viewing of the musical Oklahoma! This was the DVD of the 1998 Royal National Theatre stage version, which was cunningly filmed for DVD largely in a film studio with occasional cuts to a live audience seeing the same show and responding. There's no doubt that this contained some sterling performances from the likes of Maureen Lipman, Hugh Jackman and Josefina Gabrielle (whom I recognise from something else, but I cannot say what). They sing, they dance, they act, they do their best. Trevor Nunn, as director, is not a man I want to question... except in one way. Why Oklahoma!? Why was it worth it? I'm still mystified. I could see the drama and the movement ramped up to the max, but I could not see why I gave a damn about the show. I'm still of the opinion that Oscar Hammerstein is mediocre at best, but was so ably underpinned by the excellent Richard Rodgers that nobody has noticed. My disappointment in the show comes from the fairly limp plot, strung out to too great a length with songs that appear to be for singing's sake, rather than because the scene has built up to a song. Maybe I'm a modern day cynic, but I couldn't believe a large number of the characters' actions and motivations. Having said that, I may have been watching the best ever production of the show and I enjoyed various parts of it immensely, so perhaps I've managed to avoid it at its worst. I also have bits of Rodgers' score running round my head - never a bad thing.

Turning off Oklahoma! after three and a bit hours (I watched the "making of" documentary to see if I could find someone say "it's a pile of shit, but someone held a gun to my head to stage it again") I found Wayne's World playing on cable and got sucked in. The colours were so bright and the antics of Wayne and Garth, coupled with one or two too many gratuitous shots of the lovely Tia Carrere somewhat kept me in my seat. The Paramount Comedy Channel editors were a little too over zealous in their dubbing - they removed far too many words like "ass" - but I can lip read. Good movie.

Then bed.

Sleeping.

Recovering.

Getting ready for the day ahead. Which is today.

What am I doing here? I'm due a shower and a trip out.

Bye.

Thursday, January 1

What a surreal couple of days. I woke up yesterday in a hotel room in London feeling rather ill. It may have been alcohol related. It may have been a dodgy sandwich from the dodgy sandwich shop. It may have been my stomach condition playing up. Or possibly (and I think this is most likely) it was the stomach bug that had been going around the main shelter, carried to the pub on Tuesday morning by some of the main shelter staff.

Whatever the cause, I woke up with a headache and nausea. One rather unpleasant session with the sink later (unpleasant, but surprisingly easy to do) and my head cleared. Fatigued and in discomfort, my only thought was to return home. If nothing else, my tenure at the hotel had expired and I wasn't really all that keen to extend it purely to spend another 24 hours throwing up in a sink - that's hardly worth paying for.

I took regular breaks on the motorway, expecting to be sick at any moment, but never managed it. The nausea was there, but didn't want to work to order. So, sipping water, I made it all the way along the M1 to the M18 and then from the M18, I joined the A1. At this exact juncture, my stomach could take no more and I, very skillfully, in my opinion, managed to stop the car safely, remove my glasses, grab hold of some cleansing tissues and adopt a safe stance, away from the car, in order to do what nature intended me to. I don't envy the motorists who saw me throwing up on the hard shoulder. That must have been a bit off putting.

As if by magic, the action of hurling seemed to clear my head and I jumped back into the car and headed north again. I made a stop at Scotch Corner because I was feeling light headed and sleepy. I needed to get myself awake enough to finish the journey. I was also very very very cold. At Scotch Corner, I managed to put some sugary Ribena inside me - hopefully, this raised my blood sugar enough for the journey. I also wrapped myself up in a coat (I'd been driving in shirt and jeans) and got ready for the final leg home.

I must have arrived back home at 5 or 6pm. It's hard to say. The time from arriving home until getting out of bed this morning at 9am is something of a blur. I know I nearly lost myself to the cold at 6am when I went downstairs to put the heating on and then swaddled myself under two duvets and a dressing gown. I know that I was hallucinating about some sort of pain relief system that was keeping me from feeling too bad - this has happened before (last time it was some work related project planning thing). I know that I couldn't move for much of the night.

It's been weird.

I still ache and I've nothing in the house to eat. (Okay, I have some tins and some frozen stuff... but nothing fresh).

And I don't know where's open to buy stuff.

And I can't face the cold outside.

So I feel like I'll either watch another DVD or go back to bed.

Happy New Year.

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