I've always thought that I would have no problem with this sort of thing.

I know that the familiarity of a home is something you carry with you, and soaks into whatever place you choose stick around long enough.

I know that life is whatever you make it, and because of that the meaning of life is also whatever you make it.

So no problems there.

The crux of it all comes when this philosophy of lightness of being comes to bear on the context of family, friends and the people I love. In this period of the most intense happiness I've ever experienced, it is hard to come to terms with the fact that, amidst the efforts towards the easiest life-sized decision I've ever made, I am choosing a path that will take me away from my family.

Growing up on an island, the sea was a constant reference point. Even in an unfamiliar area of the Isle of Wight, and there are few of those for me now, if you know where the sea is, you know where you are.

Moving to university inland, about as far from the sea as it is possible to be in the British Isles, that feeling of a reassuring reference receded to a vague confidence that it was there, somewhere. Other reference points obviously grew up, but the bubble of life that is Warwick University and its accompanying residential towns always felt strangely adrift...isolated, almost.

I have a funny feeling that it will be the same on some level with my family. It already is, to some extent. When I was living with them, they were a constant source of company, humour, ridicule, nostalgia, encouragement, opinion and love. Living here in Hatfield, and while I was at university, I am always in touch, often daily. It is touching base, but nothing like having them nearby. Other personalities emerge in my day to day life, but they are not even close to family.

Beating about bushes with reference points and so on as is my wont, I will stick to the analogy and point out that there is only really one now...my internal compass is entirely focussed due West, towards a woman who is at this moment sleeping amongst the many pillows of her bed before starting her day.

That is the direction I am taking, she is where I'm heading, and from the day I realised I knew I was going to have to make this move, this change, to pick up my life and carry it across the ocean to her, I knew it would be difficult to leave home and my family. But that is how the thought arrived, piecemeal and whole, in my mind as an answer to the question;
"Could you really leave England?"
"It will be difficult."

Which is a response which carries the answer "Yes" between the other words.

All that remains is for me to explain this to my family, for them to see how happy I am, and to understand why I am doing this; because I love her, because she makes me happy, because being near her is the most important thing.

The second they see my eyes light up when I talk about her I know they'll understand.

And I'm moving to some islands.
Which might help.

A Few Extra Reasons

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1. I am crazily in love

2. As a 95th percentile member of the population, (and advocated, in some circles, as The World's Smallest Giant™) I have had, in the past, a bit of difficulty with the scales of things...keyboard keys for example - I have big fingertips. Cans and bottles of soft drink in the United States are agreeably scaled up, making me feel a more suitable size for the environment

3. I once said I needed to live somewhere I could hear the sea, or the sound of wind in the trees; now I feel that I need to live where, if I so wish, I can have souvlaki for breakfast

4. Everyone in New York gives off, very subtly, the assurance and confidence that comes from believing that they live at the hub of the world, where everything and anything can happen, potentially all at once. It rubs off. Not that I'm saying they're right, mind. Just that it rubs off

5. I like New York, and I like it a lot.

6. See 1.

Crazy Coffee

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Roll up, roll up, ladies and gentlemen, the boys and the girls, the neuter and the very highly sexed indeed.

Be it drizzled from a passing hot air balloon, or siphoned through the nostrils of a migrating behemoth, coffee is served.

Karen is a little surprised at the goings on betwixt myself and my new love, and feels the need for a coffee...I believe her usual is a latte. So stunned, poor thing. With a haddock.

Shmeder feels the need for a little bit of fizz today, so gets her Cherry Coca-cola (remember - Cherry Coca-colaTM is a registered trademark, other colas ARE available) sent via express mail...I'll just hitch it to the back of this handy passing antelope and let it wander off. It'll get there eventually. Maths SAYS so.

Mr. Dave requests an English cup of tea..not something I'll miss, I confess, as I am definitely more of a coffee man now, and in the US Twinings do a reasonable line in the drink which cheers but doth not inebriate. La, sir. One tea. Via ballista.

Ha-hah! Up pops Adrian with some excellent advice which I am already following up, a hearty Mazeltov and a request for a get-stuart-to-ny-upachino, a house speciality coffee. The mug is triangular, three and a half thousand miles long, very smooth and shiny on one side and comes equipped with a sledge and a 'Get into the US Free' card.
Here you are, Adrian.

Who's this? Why, it's lambkin. He's a cute little fella, only a few weeks old, the first of the Spring lambs, and still skittish on his feet. Plunge him into lukewarm espresso, somebody. Wild feels the need to have his coffee accompanied by the damp fluffy bleat of nature.

A salt-encrusted mug of Navy Coffee for the dashing D, who is perfectly sane but simply enjoys ploughing the width and depths of the Atlantic in super-silent submarines piloted by Scottish-sounding Russian captains, whilst being pursued by clean shaven Americans equipped with an almost psychic intelligence officer-cum-history teacher, all from the comfort of his reading chair. As do we all.
On occasion.

Last, and by around forty thousand miles, no means least, the luscious, delectable and irresistable Krissa takes a strong filter coffee with two and a half teaspoonfuls of love. Or three full spoonfuls if we're using the spoon that sits in the sugar/love pot. Enjoy, darling.

The Coffee Shop Of Your Very Dreams has a 'For Sale' sign in the window.

We're relocating.

Still, today's slogan is fitting.

The Coffee Shop Of Your Very Dreams: the shop that likes to put underpants on it's head, a pencil up each nostril and say, "Here, have a coffee."

More Love...and some Coffee

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When I wrote Friday's entry I was in a hurry.

The wonderful people at EasyEverything near Times Square had seen fit to leave one of their many computers up an running with a malfunctioning 'n' key, and I was racing to finish the post before my credit ran out, pasting the missing letters all the way through...now I have a few minutes to be more eloquent.

In the name of love, I need to move to New York, and to move to New York, I need a job in New York.

On Friday I asked if anyone knew of a job.

Today I am asking something different, of you specifically. I am madly in love with the girl of my dreams; she feels the same way, but we live on different continents. The pain of this is something I won't try and convey to you, only that for thirty minutes in the last twenty four hours I seriously considered walking away from that Boarding Gate, leaving behind my life here in the UK, and dropping off the map to live illegally in the States.

That's how this is.

I am going to do everything in my power to achieve this, which includes asking and begging friends and friends of friends for information, leads, hints and clues as to how I can make it happen.

We're all connected...there's the six degrees of separation factor that covers the entire world...so YOU know someone who knows someone...and at the end of that..one, two, eight, or even a hundred links down the chain is my job in America.

It isn't a possibility..it's completely real.

So what I am asking you, you in the singular sense...sitting there reading this, is to take up this, the first link in the chain, and start a thread. Email some friends. Someone you know who lives in America..New York, hell, anywhere. Ask them to do the same...please. I am not going to rest until this is a reality and I am standing in front of a Heathrow Boarding Gate knowing that in seven hours I will be where I need to be; with the woman I love.

Please.

I have a 2:1 degree in Engineering Design, focus on Mechanical Engineering and Fluid Mechanics, a field I specialise in. I have liaised with large companies, worked as part of a team on huge capital projects in the transport sector, managed outsourcing of technical research...and I have just over a year's experience doing all this.

So there you go.

And breathe. Coffee...yadda yadda yadda.

Sorry. Feeling a bit jetlagged at the moment, and I have work to do for tomorrow. This is all a bit mad, I admit, and from the outside, I can see that the phrase 'stir crazy' might not be too far off. But it is real, so real.

So; crazy coffee, anyone?

Love

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In which the New York Diaries look like becoming more permanent...

Right, well, where to begin?

I have met someone, someone amazing.

Things have already reached the point where I am convinced that I not only want to come to New York, I need to.

I am head over heels in love.

She is incredible, wonderful, beautiful and I am completely besotted with her. We have connected on a level I would never have thought possible in such a short space of time, but to be perfectly honest if you had lived the last week in my shoes, no matter how cynical or jaded you may have been, you'd believe in love at first sight as well.

I honestly never thought I would have cause to be annoyed with my nationality, but now is that time. I am British, New York is, rather annoyingly, in this little 'USA' place I told you all I'd discovered, and this is a problem.

So I ask you now, in the name of love and everything you hold to be dear in your life, that if you know of any job in the New York area that you think I might be able to do (I am a Mechanical Engineer with Transport experience, cross-discipline design skills and a big, cheesy grin)...ANYTHING at all, then please email me.

Thanks.

(Or if you just want to help me get into the US by giving me a vast sum of money, then that's fine too.)

Oh my word, she's something special. She is funny, intelligent, gorgeous...I love her and this week has been unlike any time in my life I have ever known.

Her smiles make me melt, her laugh makes me want to sing and dance across the sky, and incredibly, earth-shatteringly, take-your-soul-and-send-it-flyingly...

...she loves me.

Er.

Right.

Well.

Needless to say, there should be a picture of New York in the dictionary next to 'distraction'.

I was reading the back of a F.Scott Fitzgerald novel the other day. I can't remember the exact wording, but it was along the lines of:

'Fitzgerald, along with Hemingway, Pound, Ford Madox Ford and their contemporaries were part of the group of Americans who, aided by the strength of the dollar after World War One, discovered Europe in the 20s...'

Which is quite a feat, considering we already had the whole flags issue covered.

Well, continuing that spirit...

Guys, I have to tell you that I've found this wicked little place on the North end of the East Coast of the United States of America. It's called New York, it's really quite impressive...quite like home in a lot of ways, but everything is very different. Things can be quite cheap if you know where to look, especially with the exchange rate, and the people are out of this world. You should come and discover it with me.

Oh, and if I was ever to live here, which I can kinda see happening at some point, and I manage to get any writing done at all, then keep your eyes peeled for my picture in the dictionary next to the word 'determined'.

Okay, no full-blown journal entry today...there's a lack of time/energy combo that you really don't need to know about...

Last night I met Krissa and Shiv at the Flatiron building, we took the subway to Brooklyn and ate, then met a load of their friends at a bar called 'Buttermilk', which had the most crazy jukebox in the world ever. Sure it was good, but...obscure. I mean, I can remember that Gorky's Zygotic Mynci's major hit was 'Patio Song', but this jukebox had some other random songs by them...it was pretty much like that across the board.

Needless to say, a wicked night was had by all.

VERY LATE WAKING UP TODAY.
VERY.
LATE.

Brunch at Naidre's was astounding...I am waaay behind on knowing what my favourite type of Bagel is, mind. Embarrassing? Not quite.

After this there has been shopping, and...tonight is Shiv's birthday party.

Bring it.

After I've had a nap.

Well that was a trek. Park Slope Brooklyn, all the way up 5th Avenue, across the Manhattan Bridge, through Chinatown and Little Italy, then up Broadway to Times Square and then along 42nd Street to here; Grand Central Station food area, Junior's Deli. If it takes that long to detail the route, I wonder if there are enough hours in the day to describe it...

I am sat alone at a table in Junior's, with an empty coffee cup and an unfinished slice of the most incredible blueberry cheescake...I'm just taking my time with it. It's not that it's bloody enormous or anything. Just six inches thick.

Brooklyn was under snow when I woke up at 5am, but stopped by the time I set out at 11am. I was wrapped up and braced for a long walk to Manhattan before seeing anything of the major sites - Brooklyn is a mixed neighbourhood of low two-storey buildings and nail and hair boutiques in red neon, but glancing down a street as I walked, the Statue of Liberty was framed for an instant, bright green against shades of grey and blue grey of a melting city snowscape.

Walking quickly, I counted down the streets heading North, just taking everything in...
The Manhattan Bridge offered amazing views of downtown Manhattan through and around the criss-crossing cables of the Brooklyn Bridge, as I walked along underneath the shaking road next to the subway tracks. Rooftop children's play areas caged but open to the sky startled me with unexpected colour.

The snow may have been melting fast, but the air was cold and as I came down one side of the bridge, it carried the heavy warm cooking smells of Chinatown. Inside of two-blocks I was in Little Italy, and the two areas loop and interlock like steepled fingers. Tempted by the window display, I bought a slice of focaccia pizza from an Italian delicatessen on the corner of Mulberry and Grand, where two guys in white t-shirts were arguing about a cousin's birthday under hanging meats while Billy Joel played on the radio in the background.

It's criminal, but I'm not sure I'm going to finish this cheesecake. Mind you, the coffee cup didn't stay empty very long. I think my liking for this country may be accelerating.

Speaking of which, I heartily recommend Air India to anyone whose idea of economy class air travel is a complimentary third of a pint of Ballantine's whisky and semi-drunken slumber after that, punctuated with wide-eyed wonder at the view of the ice sheets off Greenland and Northern Canada from the window.

Shiv and Krissa could not have could not have me more welcome...I even have my own keys, with a handy compass on one key ring, so that if all else fails I can revert to my antiquated Boy Scout skills. After a high pitched and energetic welcome last night, we ordered a Chinese takeaway, had coke and chatted animatedly on subject from Gabriel Marquez to our most disturbing Google referrals (I think this is more or less traditional) via much gossip. Krissa left after Shiv's boyfriend Dominic arrvied at about eleven and I finally got to sleep at about midnight, but it was 5am in my head, bringing a 24hour day to an end...we're all going out tonight. This could get extreme...

Anyway, after Little Italy I motored up Broadway, via Shakespeare and Co. and the world's largest used book store. It was a shaky moment, but I've still got some money left. I had a hotdog in the insanity of Times Square, and took photos, including one of a conveniently yellow-haired girl outside of the New Amsterdam Theatre.

I'm about as stocked up on caffiene and sugar as I can be (Jetlag? What jetlag?), so: time to pay the bill.

Bloody hell that was good cheesecake.

The New York Diaries: Day One

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There is a flatscreen TV hanging above the BT internet point showing spinning shiny pictures of the Chrysler Building, the Statue of Liberty and Broadway. It genuinely hasn't sunk in yet that I'll be there later today.

Heathrow is busy, bustling and crazy-full of interesting peoplewatching candidates...I am, er, a trifle early for my flight, which leaves at 1315.

Hey, what can I say?
I'm hella excited.

It stuns me that despite being literally at the gateway to the world- from here you can go pretty much anywhere that doesn't require a space suit - everyone looks so BORED.

Incredible.

I pull into JFK at about 4pm local time, which will correspond to 9pm Stuart's Bodyclock Time (S.B.T)..after that things ought to get goddamned interesting.

A million whoops of glee and delight are headed the way of Krissa and Shivery (no links as money is running low)...not to mention a video of NY Graham Norton and abot 50 sachets of Horlicks (don't ask me)

Til later!

I Couldn't Resist

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Bugger this for a lark, I'm off to New York.

The Anger and The Eloquence

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So much to say that I can't say anything other than so much to say that I can't say anything other than so much to say that I can't say anything other than so much to say that I can't say anything other than so much to say that I can't say anything other than so much to say that I can't say anything other than so much to say that I can't say anything other than so much to say that I can't say anything other than so much to say that I can't say anything other than so much to say that I can't say anything other than so much to say that I can't say anything other than so much to say that I can't say anything other than I am a squirrel monkey.


Update, 1425hrs

And as an addendum to this wonderful post, I shall tell you that I have the powers of communication back.

You may remember two weeks ago 'Mr. Sod and I had a falling out'. The tale, in a timeline fashion, of my nightmare day trying to organise a rapid passport application.

Since that day I found out that the two week service I paid a premium for was not guaranteed.

I am due to fly out to New York in approximately 24 hours.
My passport arrived ten minutes ago.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is life on the edge.

The New York Diaries begin tomorrow.

Airline Of Your Very Dreams

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New York.

Tomorrow.

Excited. Short sentences.

Reading. Site of my chosen airline.

Air India.

Funny. Very funny.
Especially the inflight descriptions.

Inflight Cuisine: From Food to Spirituality

"...having nature’s bounty, the earliest civilisations, a rich and varied cultural heritage, a glorious past… and you can expect the perpetuations of a great legacy."

That'll be curry, then?

"...not only does the food smell or look gorgeous, it fires your appetite until you and your taste buds succumb to temptation. And the seduction is total! Efforts to resist indulgence often prove futile."

Borg curry? And what's with 'or gorgeous'? Does it only smell gorgeous, but look gross, or vice versa?

"...But you will feel no remorse because such sublime and experiences are a step closer to spirituality."

Um.
Am worried now.
Don't want religious conversion through curry.
Just a flight to New York.
Thanks.

Still, I'm intrigued. What's available on the plane?
Linked to here. Scrolled down and spotted "High fibre/high residue meal".
Don't want to be on a flight with people eating a high residue meal.
Please Mummy.

Pressing forwards through the site, I discover that I can buy:

'Maharajah's Treasures - Duty Free!'

Which will be good if I forget to take a little something for mein hostesses.

But what. Do I do. For entertainment?

Air India have this covered. A number of musical channels, covering the golden years of Hollywood, all of the years of Bollywood, and a disturbing amount of Tom Jones...is listed here. I think my favourite channel will be 'Nostalgia Gold' (scroll down about 2/3 of the page - check out the image!).

Nevertheless.

Still.

Excited.

Okay, so another intense posting day today...two more entries for the Guide to University (I think that's about it) and lots of reading for you.

Only, in the run up to the beginning of the Autoblography New York Diaries on Thursday, I've been thinking.

Unusual circumstances make me feel...better.

Just something enough to be out of the ordinary to be interesting or varied, you know.

When we had snow, not too long ago, I had been putting off walking home in the previous evenings for crappy reasons - it's cold...it's dark (how very odd!)...it might rain...but when there was a full-on blizzard I happily pulled on my work boots and tramped home cheerfully in record time.

I have always thought that the personal familiarity with our surroundings that makes somewhere feel like home is something that builds up over time. That feeling of familiarity is a kind of security.

When you take people out of that security; put them in new surroundings, they slowly build up a similar kind of familiarity with them; 'home' sinks in, and after a while that security is also apparent with the new environment.

If someone moves constantly, never staying in one place long enough for this to happen, then that security does not necessarily disappear...maybe it becomes something that the person carries around with them, as part of themselves rather than split between themselves and a secure and familiar environment.

I have seen it in people who have been on long backpacking trips and I think it happened to me too; I became more confident, outgoing and secure in myself.

Maybe it is this aspect of unfamiliar occasions and situations that I like; I know it is giving me an opportunity to prove that I am worthy of my own self-confidence; an opportunity that in the normal run of things, I don't get.

Still, it's pretty twisted.

SGTU: Student Culture

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Student Culture is widely revered across the globe as a powerhouse of experimentation and unabashed trial and error with respect to the arts.

Hedonism is in there somewhere, but no-one stays a student very long without working. Eudaimonia might be a better description, but no one knows what that is, so that falls down a bit and doesn't work too well.

The other variety of student culture is the kind that, when you're rummaging in the fridge looking for your missing Dairylea (TM), sucks your finger.
Most households or flats won’t be able to maintain this level of culture for very long, because after any length of time, one of the more squeamish girls are bound to find out and kill it. To avoid this, all cleaning liquids should be removed from the household by anyone keen on culture.

If begun early enough in the university year, student cultures can become valuable contributing members of society. They generally take about three weeks to get to the ‘finger sucking’ stage, and beyond that, depending on diet, can grow to some size, and if left through the university vacations, may achieve sentience by about the twenty week mark.

At this point, you may choose to have your culture attend lectures in your place, help you with coursework, or show off it's breakdancing on nights out.

Do be careful, however, as embarrassment may result if it pulls one of your friends.

SGTU: Pulling - The Groundwork

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This is a topic upon which much has been written, much continues to be written and will no doubt be written about until humanity either realises that talking about it so much is pointless, or evolves into something that doesn’t have sex any more – which strikes you as more likely?

A lot of it is rubbish, concerning rubber bands from Mars, what to wear and not to wear, how to attract attention, chat-up lines, playing hard-to-get and the like. Well, there may be truth in all of it or none of it, so I'm going to stick to facts.

"Oh really!" I hear you cry, "do enlighten us, O your venerable spent-ages-at-university-single-ness," with more than a hint of sarcasm in your voice. Well, you'd be right in a way, I could spout shit about sexual chemistry, what men find attractive, do some research on what some women I know find attractive and hash the lot of it together and present you with a creditable self-help guide to getting into the pants of your desired target at university. But you've been reading either Just Seventeen or Loaded (or both) and their many competitors for a number of years if you have any interest in the subject at all, so I won't do that. It wouldn’t be of any use to you apart from as revision, and trust me, at university you won’t want to do any more revision than you have to.

So how am I going to get you to keep reading if there's nothing in here about hypnotism, how to be a bastard to attract women, or whether or not cleavage to die for is a must-have in the pulling stakes?

Here goes....

The following is based on facts. Well, things that might be facts, anyway. They seem to be facts, but there are always exceptions to every rule, and if you follow these steps to no avail you can at least be happy in the knowledge that you gave it your best shot.

I will assume, (this is the easy bit) that you don't want to give yourself serious personality surgery or alter your appearance or lifestyle in any way. You just sit there, be yourself and relax.

The only thing that this fact-based 'system' revolves around is statistics and probability. Maths is a subject most people will avoid if it means walking over hot coals, but there is no maths involved.

Proposal One: You will be attracted to some people at university.

Proposal Two: You will not be attracted to some people at university.

Proposal Three: Some people will find you, your appearance and your personality attractive.

Proposal Four: Some people will not find you, your appearance or your personality attractive.

Point: The likelihood of One and Three coming together, i.e. you finding someone who is attracted to you who you find attractive as well, is increased depending on the number of people that you meet.

You could work out the maths depending on how many people out of a hundred you find attractive and your own attractiveness rating which will probably involve doing some sort of survey, but you're sliding gently towards the end of the spectrum where your conversation is likely to revolve around this sort of thing and people will walk miles to avoid talking to you.

Just think that the more people you meet, the higher the chance that you'll end up in relationship bliss whilst people around you dive for buckets and other vomit-receiving receptacles.

You want that, don't you?

Be sociable. Go out. Talk to random people. Go on a social with a society or sports club you've joined, even if you don't know anyone. That's the point of these things. By the end of the night you'll have confessed your darkest secrets to the society Treasurer in a corner of the nightclub and let slip that you really fancy the arse off so-and-so.

Without wanting to start venturing off into anecdotal boredom, one afternoon I was quietly working at my desk at some maths or other brain-churning sewage, and looking out of my window across the concourse I noticed a kitchen of girls holding a sign to the window with 'Get Your Kit Off' on it. I responded with 'You First'...and a short, hastily scribbled dialogue ensued. I went out with them that night on a social for the Real Ale Society – (the fact that none of us had joined didn't really seem to matter) and ended up being barred for life from one of Leamington Spa's more prominent drinking establishments for snogging in the ladies toilets. Luckily the barring was more of a spur-of-the-moment threat, and I was able to drink there in my Second Year without being turfed out in an embarrassing fashion…but ANYWAY.

Do the scary thing. It's fun.

The more perspicacious of you (amongst whom are the people that know what 'perspicacious' means) will have figured out that putting the 'meet more people principle aside, there might be things you can do to increase the odds of other people finding you attractive etc etc. For details on these things, see popular publications 'Just Seventeen' and 'Loaded', available at most newsagents.

You can tell which magazine you ought to buy from the person on the front. If you want tips on how to go out with girls, then buy the one with the semi-clothed, lightly oiled woman on the cover. If you want tips on boys, then buy the one with the semi-clothed un-oiled woman on the cover.

Take some time over your choice to avoid embarrassment.

Espresso Delivery

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Six foot tall in his wingéd sandals, his black gunmetal armour is a sight to behold. He just...looks...a...bit...jittery...

This is Kaffene, God of Coffee Delivery, and he should be popping round Chez Toi anytime soon. We will of course be doing them in the order they were requested...What? I don't care. You wanted this job, didn't you?

First in with a rather vague order, but nonetheless sure that she wants five coffees, is the Donkey-scaring Anna. It's not far. North of this here London town. Off you pop, Kaffene dear boy. Tell her to enjoy them...

Keep going to Scotland, and drop off a psycholaxative coffee at the front door for the witty Mr. Porny Boy...there might be a bit of difficulty finding his building, but you are a minor deity, so...bloody well sort yourself out, and pootle back to dole out the iridescent Adrian's caffeinated meerkat, delivered live and kicking to an extremely plush office in Central London, where the grouped techies will no doubt taunt Adrian for his taste in stimulant-dipped rodents.

Also in (almost) Central Londinium Town we have a hot chocolate of the highest quality for the luminary Miss Green Fairy, with marshmallows, crumbled chocolate chip cookie pieces, whipped cream, chocolate sprinkles (made from a flake) and another flake to boot. With a flake. On the side.

You're a lucky bugger, Mr. Kaffene, as we're still in London, delivering a Mocha Valencia with extra cream and orange syrup to the offices of an organisation doing outstanding works, for the glamorous Pix.

No time to waste! Come on, chop chop! Off to Manchester, with a red hot chocolate for the delectable Pixie, covered with a swathe of marshmallows on the side, as she's glowing after a brush with the wilderness at the weekend.

Back to Cambridge, post haste, with another hot chocolate for the supremely sporty Hanni, whose site and guest week at Uborka are just kicking off...be sure to pop along and lend a comment of support/encouragement/merciless pisstaking in the best tradition.

I'm not sure where Wild is, but I'll guess London, or somewhere nearby...to MILTON KEYNES! Just because I think you're nicking the coffee beans, young Kaffene my lad. Take Wild his punk coffee. He'll probably need it. I've been playing this computer game, SSX3, and there's a song on it sung by an apparent assassin..."I've got mad skills, I will get Wild, I've got mad skills, I WILL get Wild..." I'm quite worried about him, poor chap.

Ha! Don't look so worried. We're going to put your wingéd sandals to the test. You're off to Mobile, Alabama, United States of the U.S.A. Off you pop, oh, and take this Macchiato with you...all for one Kieran, a first-timer who stumbled across this here site via Flickr.

Lucky old you, you're now off to The Big Apple, to see the stars of NY Graham Norton last week... with an iced raspberry mocha for Shivery, who's a whoopin' an' a-hollerin' at what appears to be the first day of Spring, perfectly timed for my visit starting Thursday...just slip that onto the desk next to her old boy, nicely done...across town now for a Shot Chocolate for the stellar Fulminous!

Have a fifteen minute break, Mr. Kaffene. Well done there.

That's enough. Back across the Atlantic into the very centre of London, with a nutty, cinnamonny milk for Dave, and a whisky chaser...

Now, tired you may be, but we have absent parties to cater for...a smouldering pot of our very finest to the South-of-London Uborkites, a carafe of the steamy black stuff to Southern Brazil...come ON hurry...for Krissa, and when you're done, nip back here and I'll have a cappuccino, thanks.

All done...that's right, Kaffene...deeeeep breaths. Well done. Not a bad first day's work. Now I've looked it up, and apparently there are no international employment laws that apply to deities, so here - have £2.50 for your trouble.

What do you mean you won't do next week?

Coffee Wherever You Are

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Well I wanted to bring you a photo of the Uberpercolator's real life counterpart in full fling, but the fates have conspired. It was a nice little shot of the point at which it is done with the bulk of the coffee and builds up steam until it climaxes with a noise akin to a ring wraith being dropped from a low flying 747...which, living in the houseshare I do, gives me great pleasure at 7.30am.

But anyway.

Orders for coffee please, to be served...sorry delivered wherever you are, as the Coffee Shop of Your Very Dreams not only failed it's MOT, I am now being investigated for a little temporal disturbance around Pompeii. I could lose my license, but in order to keep the franchise alive I have hired a young gentleman by the name of Kaffene, The God Of Coffee Deliveries. He's a minor deity, and has been badgering me for a job for months as apparently he hasn't got much to deify-over...his appearance is similar to that of Mercury or Hermes, only he's dressed in black.

Stylish.
Monday Morning Coffee; Delivered.

We shall put a girdle about the Earth in forty minutes, but she'll have to breath in first.

Er, hi
I have a funny feeling that this morning we will be entertaining a couple of people from my past who will have absolutely no clue as to what is going on.

Don't worry. I'm still this mad, but this isn't as mad as it looks.
Go with the flow.

Orders please.

Right, well I know there's been a monkeyload of posts wacked up in what appears to be a bit of a frenzy over the last few days, but I wanted to put them on here...

By way of explanation, the 'Guide to University' that has appeared in the sidebar was a project I started way back when, with a view to just keeping writing stuff on a load of tenuously university-related subjects until I had a pile big enough to call a book without blushing. It didn't carry on that long. There are a couple of other pieces to come. Nothing blinding.

The piece just here, below this one, is an excerpt from the novel I finished last summer and then proceeded to push to one side..to just have had it as a learning curve. The novel itself was set in a fictional Central American Republic where small groups of 'guerrillas' were being manipulated in a sort of twisted social experiment by a neighbouring drug baron; playing off against each other, buying weapons (from him) with money from growing coca (sold to him) which were never used because they were stolen (by his men), meaning that they grow even more coca...

I am astrally excited about going to New York.

Meanwhile, Back In The UK

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John let himself into the flat – Eleanor had given him a key for when she had to work late. Everyone was coming over before heading out later, and she would probably change and meet them in The Red Oktobar after she had finished.
Probably.

Eleanor had been acting strangely lately. A bit moody, changeable even. She would be talking excitedly about plans for the weekend from Monday morning to Friday evening, and then at the last minute abandon all plans and stay in, curled up with vodka and a cushion, channel surfing on her enormous flat screen television. John had come back to find her this way twice in the past month, and he was a little worried. The thought came and went.

His shoes were wet from the rain and left small contorted foot-shaped puddles on the polished wooden floor of the apartment, but after a twinge of guilt he paid them no attention – they would dry by the time she got home. He heaved the bags of shopping through the living room into the kitchen. It was quite late in the evening, later than he normally got home on a Friday. He had some food shopping to do though, and he had just changed his supermarket. The Asda outside of town had started using biodegradable plastic bags, so John took a detour and did his shopping there instead of the normal Tesco Metro near the telesales office where he worked. He felt happy to be making a difference, however small.
Most of the shopping had ‘Tradefair’ logos and ‘Organic’ stickers on. John emptied the bags onto the granite work-surface and began sorting it out into the cupboards.

Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.5 playing in electronic tones was thumping out of his inside coat pocket. He flipped out his mobile and looked at the screen before answering. It was Eleanor.

“Hello?”
“Hi, are you done for the day?” her voice was bright and sunny.
“Yeah, ages ago. I got your shopping for you – it’s all there.”
“Oh cheers hon. I owe you one. What time are you guys heading out?”
“Probably about half eightish I expect. Any idea of when you’ll get out of that hellhole?”
“Well, the company’s had a good week, so that means more for me to do...er, maybe 9ish?”
“Do you want us to wait for you? It’s not that long.”
Eleanor began to speak and then stopped herself. She took quick breath.
“No, that’s fine. I’ll catch you up. I’ll get a taxi, that should speed things up a bit.”
“Okay, fine. See you later.”
“I know what you’re thinking. Don’t worry. I am coming out.”
“Good.”
“See you later.”
“Okay then. Take care. Don’t work too hard,” said John, and hung up.

*

John took a nervous sip, his eyes shifting quickly back and forth across the loose crowd below the balcony.

She wasn’t there.

He stopped himself from looking a second time. She knew they always sat upstairs. The chances of her walking straight up to the bar downstairs were tiny. Without her there, John couldn’t relax. The uncertainty that always hung over their relationship had risen in him to an unbearable tension. They had become too good at being friends, but the habits of a burgeoning almost-but-not-quite relationship had refused to die. It had left them in an emotional no-mans-land where John felt at a distinct disadvantage and Eleanor seemed to be in control. He loved spending time with her, and occasionally they would end up together at the end of a night out and his spirits would rise, only to fall asleep together fully clothed, all platonic barriers in place again by morning. Now she wasn’t coming out and even the mornings when they woke up crumpled in each others arms were getting fewer and fewer.

“Cheer up! You look really on edge!”
Adam wasn’t helping.
“Have you spoken to Ellie recently?”
“Not really, no, mate.”
There was almost no hesitation. Almost none. John had drunk a fair amount, and Adam was hitting the beers with all the gusto of a long week’s Friday, but the hesitation was still there.
“Have you got her anything special recently?” asked John.
“No more than usual.”
“Right.”
John took a long swig of his beer.
“Have you got some stuff for tonight?”
Adam nodded.
“Good.”

Mick was on the other side of the low table on the sofa with Nisha, making complicated gestures with his hands. She was laughing hysterically. Adam leaned away, and John felt alone. It was impossible to have a conversation without one person shouting in the other’s ear and then changing places, but the Oktobar had a wicked atmosphere on a Friday. It didn’t matter how tired you were, or how long the week had been, a few drinks above the laughing, shouting crowds and a few mates around, and the Oktobar could cure most ills.
Eleanor usually loved it.

*

John stared upwards into the light drizzle they had been walking in for almost a quarter of an hour. The shape of Eleanor’s apartment block was lit against the sky, but he couldn’t see any lights on. It was just after 3am.
“Come on mate! I can’t remember the code for the door,” called Mick from under the eaves of the building. Nisha was hanging grinningly off his right arm. Adam was standing, shoulders hunched in his huge coat, just under the overhang above the doors.
“Sure, yeah, sorry,” called John.
He walked up and prodded the code into the keypad. The door buzzed and Mick and Nisha fell through the door. Nisha began laughing again.
Eleanor was a long time answering the door, and when she opened it she was rubbing her eyes. John stopped as the others trooped in past her with quick greetings. She was wearing light cotton pyjama trousers and a grey top. She was barefoot.
“Are you okay?” he asked. This close he could see that her eyes were bloodshot. She went on tiptoe and kissed him deeply on the mouth, and nodded. John grinned at her.
They followed the others into the lounge. Nisha was opening a bottle of wine on the long purple sofa, and Mick was rifling through Eleanor’s cupboards muttering about coffee. Adam was looking for something in the pockets of his coat while browsing through Eleanor’s impressive music collection for something to put on.
“What’s up, Mickey my lad?” asked Eleanor as she padded into the kitchen.
“I’m knackered, and I really need some coffee. How are you?”
“I’m cool. Where’ve you put the coffee John, you deranged coffee-hiding fool, you?”
She was leaning up against him and he could feel her breasts on his chest as she smirked up at him.
“Right hand cupboard. I thought that’s where you always put your coffee?”
“I’ve looked in there. There isn’t any.”
Eleanor kissed John again and leant on him some more. She put her arms around him.
“Yeah there is, but it’s in a black round jar...doesn’t look much like a coffee jar.”
“So you didn’t hide it, but you gave it a disguise?” said Eleanor, gazing into his eyes and smiling still.
John was thinking fast. Maybe she had finally made a decision about things after all? Maybe that’s why she had been so quiet for the last couple of weeks? Maybe all she needed was some time to think about it all. Things might actually be okay. He smiled at her and went to kiss her for the first time. She didn’t protest. He looked up at Mick who gave him a thumbs up behind Eleanor’s back before reading the back of the coffee jar.
“What made you get this then mate?” said Mick to Eleanor.
“I didn’t get it – John did some shopping for me earlier,” said Eleanor.
“It’s the new coffee from Tradefair,” said John. “Thought I’d try it out.”
“Giving a fair deal to the coffee growers of South America, supporting them in their businesses and bringing you a unique, rich coffee that proves quality coffee doesn’t have to mean losing your humanity,” Mick read aloud. “Nice.”
John nodded.
“Ellie, can I borrow your credit card? I only brought cash out with me tonight,” said Adam from the small coffee table.
“Yeah sure. My purse is on the side there,” she pointed.
“I’ve got a twenty,” said Mick, reaching into his pockets.
“This always feels so much classier when you do it with a platinum credit card.”
John and Eleanor walked over to the small coffee table where Adam was using a fine white powder to make one long line that ran around half the rim. When he had finished he licked the inside of the small plastic bag the powder had come in.
“You first mate,” said Mick, handing the note, rolled and with an elastic band around it, to Eleanor. “You’ve had a hard week, by the sounds of it.”
“Cheers,” said Eleanor as she took the note and bent over the table.

SGTU: Beer

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Beer has a long and prestigious history that dates back to the Egyptians. It is not known when beer was first drunk in Ancient Egypt, but some experts put the discovery at around 345B.C, when the crown of Egypt’s Pharaohs was supreme from the Mountains of the Moon in what is now Ethiopia in the South, and extending West as far as Libya, enclosing what was the first great empire of the known world.

By the fall of Ancient Egypt in 343B.C., when those loyal to the last Pharaoh; Nectanebo II, had formed the now legendary defences around the last remaining breweries on the upper Nile, our foremost historians have assumed that beer had become an integral facet of Egyptian culture.

Beer has maintained an almost astral level of popularity to this day, and you will attain a much more thorough understanding of the finer points of beer at university. Even if you consider yourself to be verging on expert status after completing your A-levels, there are at least three years of intense further learning to be done.

Lager

Lager is the choix de vivre for all of Essex’s proudest sons and millions more nationwide. Chosen because of its light taste and colour, intensely refreshing cutting fizz, and the ability to bring you to your knees inside of ten pints if the stuff’s any good. Ranging from the cheap and watery through to liquid that only just snicks inside the boundaries of being served in shots instead of pints, costs, quality and acuteness of hangover vary wildly from brand to brand, and, particularly in student bars, from watering hole to watering hole. Emphasis on the watering. Long term effects of drinking lager range from the feared beer-belly to a propensity to sing football songs at inappropriate moments. This can depend on age, area of the UK and of course on personality, but even Mummy’s Precious Little Darling has been known to break into seventeen choruses of ‘Olé olé olé’ after a night on the Carling.

Bitter, or Real Ale

Just as before Christina and Britney there was Kylie, Bitter and Ale pre-date Lager by thousands of years. Mostly because no-one was bothered about beer lasting very long when it wasn’t being drunk. You made the beer, and then you drank it. There was none of this loading it into enormous tankers and shipping it across the world, waiting for strange old ladies to kidnap your drivers in their dank and dripping basements. The world was a lot simpler. You made the drink, you drank the drink. It is this manner that prehistoric records tell us history progressed for millennia. Prior to the industrial revolution scientific progress was minimal. Beer was king. The only civilisation to make any kind of scientific progress before Britain in the 1790s was Rome, and only because they had acquired a serious liking for WINE. You grew wheat, your friend grew hops, a few rows of beet provided the sugar and you were away. The wife kept out of it, and thirty centuries passed before she managed to find the homebrew kit in the barn and we were forced to get down to the global equivalent of clearing out the loft and sorting out the grouting in the bathroom.

In the UK, Real Ale has acquired a similar status to that of a third division football club. Devotees are of the die-hard kind, they refuse to be swayed by logic, or taste, or simple facts. Once committed to the institution of Ale, there is no going back, and all non-Ale drinkers must be scoffed and laughed at, although only when in the company of other, pipe-smoking Ale drinkers, and only if the non-Ale drinkers are in small groups.

Ale is darker, richer and heavier than lager, and is more difficult to drink in large quantities. It has a completely different taste to lager, as do its respective drinkers. Price-wise, breweries in Britain have cottoned onto the fact that cheaper beer is better selling beer, and the Wetherspoon’s chain has been quick to take advantage of this. Bitters and Ales are available more cheaply in chain pubs in the UK than ever before, and Ales have been enjoying a renaissance because of this.

The long-term effects of drinking bitter are legion. There is potential for leaning towards lengthy discussion of minority sports such as rings, skittles, pub darts and cricket. Real Ale has been known to lead to uncontrollable beard growth in both sexes. It is with great seriousness that the writer of this guide presents this warning: drink bitter and enjoy it, but shave every day forthwith.

SGTU: Choosing a University

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This is, for many people, an extremely stressful process. There are over 200 universities and degree or higher qualification-dishing-out establishments in the UK, and they all, according to their prospectuses, are sunny, green places, where students loll lazily beneath the spreading branches of ancient trees and idly read textbooks in the sunshine.

Unless you ended up doing your A-levels by mistake and missed your vocation of sitting behind the helpdesk at your local tourist information centre, you’ll probably have figured out that this isn’t the case. A picture may paint a thousand words, but all the words from prospectus photographs are lies.

Many students looking at the newer prospectuses for their own university don’t recognise where the photo is taken, what it is, or even if it is anything to do with their university in any way, shape or form, often turning photos upside-down or squinting to try and find something they recognise.

Students in pictures doing things like pointing into the middle distance in the style of cheesy male fashion models, or reading a book between two of them, or laughing, gazing into the eyes of a gorgeous student of the opposite sex...they’re selected. The photos are posed. A favourite pastime of students in their second or third year is scouting through the new prospectus to see who gets their photo in there the most, who looks the best, or who was unfortunate enough to be photographed picking their nose in the background. By all means look at the photos, and look very carefully at them, but don’t get your major impressions from them.

To be frank, photos are so carefully chosen to present the best impression that using the reading-lazily-under-a-tree photo to influence your university selection is comparable to using a pet hamster in a plastic ball rolling around a ouijja board (TM) to spell out the name of your university.

Don’t do it.

The hamster has no idea you’re hoping for clubs, pubs, all-round fun and a reasonable qualification at the end of it, and you’ll end up at a university somewhere in Scandinavia with a name like Skndjplpol.

So unless you’re fluent in Norwegian, or on the other hand, if you don’t have a hamster, then hashing all the information you’ve got together and choosing on your gut instinct is best.

Oh, and the course you want, too. That’s important. Do nothing until you’ve read ‘Choosing a course’. Do it now. Yes even if you’ve read it once already, stop reading this and do it NOW.

If you’re still reading this, you’re intelligent enough not to do everything you read.

Well done.

If there’s somebody else in your vicinity reading this Guide who looks a little tired and skinny, keeps flicking backwards and forwards between two entries on this site and hasn’t moved for a long, long time, then do me a favour and go and tell them that it was a joke. Admittedly not very funny, but I do have to keep you intellectual types interested, even at the expense of my own sanity. If you could go and nudge them a bit, it would help me hugely - this site is liable to be more popular if it doesn’t have an accompanying fatality rate.
Thanks.

The Point Of This Bit

Sorry, yes. It’s purely to point out that at this point in your life, a lot of people will be telling you things. A lot of universities will be selling themselves to you. That’s what they do. No matter how high their entrance grades, how much you’ve heard about needing a staggering array of extra-curricular activities, whether you think you need to have a family history of going to a particular university, any or none of which might be true, the universities want you.

They need you.

No matter how high or low the standard they set, they wouldn’t be in existence without you, and they need you to apply. They need to fill their courses, they need to have statistics for you and the next year’s intake to read and find impressive.

So it’s not surprising that they will do anything and stop at nothing to get people, students, bums on seats. The prospectuses are all part of that selling of themselves, and so, take everything you read with a pinch of salt, and get into the habit of questioning things that you read.

Example:
‘Nearby Gulliblewich (or other fictional town) is extremely handy for shopping and nightlife.’

Is it though? Is it just that if you nip onto the motorway it’s an ‘extremely handy’ forty minutes’ drive, or three hours’ bus journey in windy lanes bordered by giant carnivorous plants, permanently blocked by farmers moving sheep from one field to an identical field seven miles away in an irritatingly rural fashion? If it’s a university you’re seriously considering, you might like to check, you might not. You might have to live in Gulliblewich at some point. Who knows? Those carnivorous plants could be dangerous.

Another example:
‘Foolishtown has a thriving community spirit, shown through active nightlife, and the outreaching attitudes of the permanent residents.’

Possible Interpretation: All the permanent residents know each other, sometimes intimately, and the students are outsiders and hissed at in the street. No one who lives there permanently accidentally breaks into the house of another permanent resident in the dark.

You see? It’s spin, it’s propaganda; it’s a way of making even central Leeds sound like an appealing place to live.

Don’t get too cynical and decide that university isn’t worth it, go home, go back to bed and never go out again. You can go too far. Just be aware that the prospectus is a sales catalogue for you, the prospective buyer.
Okay?

SGTU: Choosing a Course

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What you spend most of your time doing at university is up to you, but it’s a fair bet that you’ll be doing some work on your course at some point.

Hopefully.

Most students start out wondering which course they’ll do at university, and then look for a university that does that course, and then, for their choices, put together a compromised group of options based on course, location, predicted grades and so on.

You think you have a reasonably good idea of what course you want to do, and then you start looking at the prospectuses, and it dawns on you that there are one HELL of a lot of courses out there. Oxford Brookes, to pick a name at random does a staggering 83,000 courses (when you take into account that you combine any two subjects), in everything from Fine Art to Acupuncture. Put in the number of universities there are in the country, and you’re looking at a stupidly large number of courses.

It may happen that you’re flicking through a prospectus or the UCAS guide, and you spot something that you quite fancy doing, even though it’s a bit different to your chosen course, or even something totally different.

I say to you at this point, if you have any kind of difficulty with decisions, you are now officially screwed. Getting out of this situation either entails sitting down, panicking briefly, and then spending a lot of quality time reading prospectuses for courses that you might like to do, or you can ignore it and try and forget that you might be making the wrong decision with, as has probably already been pointed out to you by most adults in your life at every opportunity, the rest of your life. There’s enough stress in the average 6th Former’s life without me adding to it, but hey, I’m trying to help. You do your research, you get closer to doing what you want to do, maybe other people will read this and do the same thing, and we’re a couple of people closer to being a happy, well-balanced and content nation. Yes. Of course.

I find decisions get more difficult to make with increasing rest-of-my-life impact, so it took me two years to choose a course. But hey, that’s just me. You might be one of those lucky people who have a burning passion for your chosen course, and can’t wait to get out of sixth form and crack into Medicine, or English, or Acupuncture. Well, good luck to you, but reading this section of the Guide was a bit of a waste of time, don’t you think?

Go on, bugger off, you smug git.

Something else. From talking to a lot of people about their decisions, their UCAS form lists, final decisions and insurance choices and so on, very few people are ever completely sure. With so much choice, there’s always the nagging suspicion that maybe you’re missing something. Don’t panic. If you have a list, and you’re happy with it, you know a fair bit about each university on the list, you’re happy that the courses don’t include compulsory field trips to Outer Mongolia where you spend your entire second year looking at the genitals of yaks (unless you want to), then relax. You’ve done well. If you have some nagging doubts, try and think rationally about them.

Why do you have nagging doubts?

Is it because you think that maybe you thought you’d do psychology purely because more girls do that course and you’re hopeless with women? Did you go for engineering because more blokes do that course and you’re hopeless with women? Are you, being honest with yourself, purely going to university for the sex? Whatever it is, think about it and try and evaluate what you’ve done in terms of why you are worrying. If, at the end of all of that, you still can’t pin down why you feel vaguely guilty or worried about your choices, then stop.

You’re fine.

Do take which university the course is at into consideration. Do nothing until you’ve read ‘Choosing a university’. Do it now. Yes, NOW.

Hand the form in and have done with it.
There.
You feel better now, don’t you?
No?
Well, there’s fuck all you can do about it now, so relax.

You’re off to university.

Schizophrenia

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Blogging Stuart: Well hello and welcome back to The Autoblography, and I'm sat here feeling a little bored so I think I'll write some stuff...

Writing Stuart: Ah, hang on there buddy old pal, where's your sense of pride?

Blogging Stuart: Er, what?

Writing Stuart: Your sense of pride! There are a fair few people out there now who occasionally pop by, and you owe something better than what you spew out each morning waiting for the kettle to boil in the office kitchen, don't you think?

Blogging Stuart: Ah - no, you see, I covered that a while ago - I can blog about whatever the hell I like; weasel coffee...toilet paper...anything!

(embarrassing pause)

Blogging Stuart: What?

Writing Stuart: You know I wrote that.

Blogging Stuart: So? It's the same site. We share it pretty amicably. What's the big deal?

Writing Stuart: Oh, I don't know. I just feel...neglected. You get so much more time and space on it, and you've got this New York thing coming up...

Blogging Stuart: Well that is kind of the point. It's our life as we go along, not your great epic swathes of bumpfy material which is a bit up it's own arse...

Writing Stuart: Oh so that's what you think of it! After all this time, and the truth is finally coming out now, isn't it? Oh, brilliant. Here was I, the sleeping partner in this sordid little arrangement where we broadcast the mundanity of our existence to the world, and all I wanted to do was to create something special, something beyond the ordinary, and you were sitting there, all that time, thinking that my stuff was bumpf, that it was up it's own arse! I don't believe this. I'm not sure this can be happening. I think I'm hyperventilating.

Blogging Stuart: Easy there, easy. Calm down. It's all right, just relax.

Writing Stuart: How can I! My very existence is a sham!

Blogging Stuart: No it isn't. Everyone knows that you're working hard behind the scenes.

Writing Stuart: Well I'm not. You know that. I never get to write any more. Not for a few months, anyway.

Blogging Stuart: Well, that's not all my fault.

Playstation 2 Stuart: I know you're talking about me behind my back.

Writing Stuart: Oh, shut up. I just, I don't know, I just need some time, you know? Something to call my own. I need to get to work on this Summer Project, edit some of the old stuff that we found yesterday that really isn't that bad, and maybe...maybe you need to take a break.

Blogging Stuart: All right. Okay. Just...just calm down. Whatever you say. I need to keep going, but maybe we could put up some of your shorter stuff, some of the interjections from the first novel? You were quite proud of those, weren't you. And you know we've got some younger readers, so maybe some of the Guide To University Project could go up...that would be nice, wouldn't it?

Writing Stuart: 's.

Blogging Stuart: And then we can look at the summer project, you know, together.

Writing Stuart: You're not just saying that?

Blogging Stuart: Come on. We'll start tomorrow.

The Old Things

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If you were blessed with the kind of Dad I have, then you'll know the feeling when you're making a meal of dragging yourself out of a swimming pool and they find it amusing to place a hand on your head and gently and with a grin push you back down into the water (comparable behaviour between me and my sister was, of course, dubbed 'childish') while your kiddy muscles fight pointlessly but with a kind of half-hearted amusement.

I feel a bit like that today, only without the amusement, and the person pushing me back down certainly isn't wearing a grin.

Focus, Stuart, focus.

Man, I'm looking forward to a break.

Home On The Range

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My eyes survey the fine manor house on the hill, the varied woodlands, the playing fields, the burnt out shells of stolen cars...yes, well it had to come, and so today you will no doubt be pleased to hear that The Coffee Shop Of Your Very Dreams is in the garage having it's MOT done, and you're all cordially invited round to my house for coffee.

It isn't the manor house on the hill, I'm afraid.

But still. Things might be a little cramped in the kitchen...there are only the two stools that almost but don't quite fit under the 'breakfast bar', which as a result is only good to sit at if you have no legs, but seeing as we're needing food as well as drink today, there shouldn't be a problem. There's a very wobbly picnic table in the garden, but it's a tit bit nipply outside.

So the majority of people will be drifting back and forth from the kitchen to my room, which should be large enough to take everyone. Excuse the orange wallpaper, and be careful of the back window. The rail falls on unsuspecting would-be curtain openers. Feel free to lounge on the sofa or perch on the bed, open up one of the folding garden chairs or nick a corner of my desk. Move along move along, there's room enough for everyone.

Now, facilities are a mite less sophisticated here than in the Café; my coffee machine, an astounding Christmas present from my (now) much-loved sister Jemma, can only do four espressos at a time. I'm out of regular instant coffee, but I do have a jar of Rocket Fuel, and I think there's some cafétiere stuff in the freezer. In terms of food, ah, I've more or less stocked up on Asda pizzas, but luckily for Green Fairy, there are some Curly Fries in the freezer left over from when Greenhamster came to visit a week or so ago.

So people, I hope you'll excuse me if I can't meet everyone's order today, but needs must...I should have done some shopping yesterday, I know. The kettle has boiled, and as I suspect he'd like it, my largest mug (it has 'Big Brother' on it; an ironic gift from my little sister) filled top full of Rocket Fuel goes to iconic Scottish blogger Gordon. Karen asked for an Americano...which is an espresso with some water, right? A dash of milk (4 pints of Asda's finest semi) and a Fox's Cream...there's half a packet in the cupboard still, by some miracle. If you would like to proceed through to my room, you will find a CD of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos already in the stereo...which is a bit stubborn, so you might have to turn it off and on again a few times to get it to acknowledge the CD is there.

I have some Rooibos Chai which is a tasty caffeine free drink, so for alliterative purposes, they can be for Pixie, Pix and PB Curtis, and Mr. Porny Boy didn't even ask for one, so a coffee for him as well...is cafétiere okay?

Dishing out the rest of this batch of espresso...Mark gets his double espresso in a small white mug with Churchill quotes on, a Christmas present from Greenhamster, who takes his single espresso (ordered via email) in one of the small black espresso cups that came with the machine. Scotland Stuart requests a pot of tea...I haven't got a pot, I'm afraid, but have my next biggest mug...along with Dave, and I'm out of scones, and I think the Fox biscuits have probably all gone by now. There's a packet of crackers...no? Okay. Oops, and a quick espresso for Adrian.

I don't have a soda machine, but I'm sure my housemate won't mind you helping yourself to a glass of fizzy mineral water, Shmeder...and Hanni, you'll have to make do with a glass of milk...sorry...and then we'll wait around for some of the coffee to cool down so that Anna can have her frescato.

What's that smell? Oh, the delectable Miss Fairy's chips are ready. Along with one glass of water and two Asda's own brand paracetamol.

Oooh, and a quick special jobby of a coffee to Krissa on her POTM win. Bravo!

It's a bit crowded, isn't it, despite everything?
Who's for coming to the pub?

Zeitgeist and Apples

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Please feel free to keep ordering coffees below, I just don't want coffee to stop me posting today....

SevitzDotParty.
SevitzDotBlimey.
SevitzDotJellyDotTeabitsDotHorny_aleDotStickers_on_breastsDotPeopleDotBeer.
DotHangover.

Handy, that format, ain't it?

Projectus Maximus

Okay, so wheels are grinding in the background as the cumbersome and slow moving writing machine that is my life retools for what promises to be quite an epic – ‘The Last Summer of the Millennium Project’, or hopefully something rather snappier that I’ll think of between now and May 17th.

Mark the date in your diary, and I’ll try to make it the start of something a little special.

Flicking back through the pages of the book, it brings a smile to my face to see the gaps – the things I left out that happened, mostly because I wanted to be able to show the book to other people on our return and not be embarrassed. The time when a lanky German guy came up to Gemma and I while we appreciated the gardens of a French stately home, turned to me and said ‘You are very pretty’...the intense one-night feast that the mosquitos of semi-rural Barcelona made of my left forearm, leaving a hideous bobbley mess for a good two weeks...what actually happened when I pulled in Spanish...the murky details of the night of the wedding in the Cretan hills...where the scar is from falling down the Morrocan manhole and, of course, exactly how it felt as a teenager to travel around Europe for ten weeks with a pretty girl, sharing beds and more or less every hour of every day and have absolutely nothing happen.

Now of course I bare much more than this on a daily basis, and I understand that the zeitgeist of those days is knitted into those moments.

This should be interesting.

Cutting The Crap

I’ve held off making this public knowledge for a while for certain reasons I won’t go into, but seeing as people have started asking (nosey buggers) and pretty much everyone else knew anyway, I think it’s time to let you know that I’m off to New York for a bit, as of next Thursday.

I’ll do my best to keep up the astral standard of blogging you’re becoming so readily accustomed to *coughcough* (excuse me) but I will also be doing my best to completely juice the Big Apple - which might pose a bit of an effort, so I’ll give you the lowdown upon my return if things drop a bit.

So a big big big big pre-emptive bundle of thanks and copious amounts of champagne, flowers and chocolates to the dazzling Krissa and magnificent Shiv for their offers of hospitality, tour guideyness and helping me avoid falling down manholes, as I am apparently wont to do.

So, from moaning about the weather, being muh and talking bollocks pretty much every day, The Autoblography will shortly be going more than a little cosmopolitan.

Don’t touch that dial.

As weekends go...

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Good afternoon.

How are you?

How's your Sunday going so far?

Excellent.

Would anyone care for a coffee?

A Most Talented Year

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It may well have been the distortion of personal perspective as I progressed through school, but the year groups I was in always seemed the most interesting going. The most exciting, the most social intrigue, the most active and extrovert.

Of course for vast swathes of time I had nothing to do with that end of things. I was quiet. Restrained. Pretty goddamned dull. But then I got bored and started to do things, and haven't gotten round to stopping just yet.

Now the kickbacks from my warped perspective occasionally pop up and remind me that I may well have been right. The niggling familiarity of one of the 118 118 runners (he had a much smaller beard whilst in 6th form), Colin Carmichael, who played the lead in a 6th form play 'Fiddler on the Roof'. I pulled out of playing a small, timid bespectacled Jewish glovemaker because with only my nose and glasses actually fitting the part, this small timid mouse of a glovemaker towered over most of the stage and I felt a bit ridiculous.

If you can imagine the weedier of the two 118 guys in Russian peasant costume with me (6'2", rugby player at the time) cowering in fear of him, then you have the reason I pulled out of the play, and no doubt an entertaining and enduring mental image.

And of course last night, Steve Gray popped up again. Steve spent a year or so touring with the RSC playing a faerie in A Midsummer Nights' Dream, and I missed his appearance as a gay dad in Casualty a year ago, so I was pleasantly pleased to espy him in The Bill whilst channel hopping feverishly, as he was in the act of squaring up to and grassing up his 'Dad'.

Hello there Stevey boy! I thought to myself, and settled down to commit myself to one channel for a bit in the hope of spotting more of a stellar Medina High alumnus in action, when The Bill ended. It's been a while since I've watched it.

Damn them, they've changed the theme music.

Back In The Summer Of '99

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Hmm.

I've been thinking about putting something online for a while now, but I'm not sure how it would be receieved or if anyone would actually care. In the summer of 1999 I went on a two and a half month trek around Europe and Morocco with a backpack, an open mind and a good friend, and survived. I kept what was very nearly a daily diary, and drew, wrote and took photos as we went round. The diary represents a big thing for me - more than just a holiday. I noticed, digging it out after my graduation, that this was the time when I unwittingly began to relearn how to write. The first few entries are curt, taut and short, with only a bare bones of detail. Then things begin to flow, and grow, and improve as I warmed to the journal (and the train journeys got longer).

I typed up the journal a year or so back, and began to augment and add to it as a writing exercise, learning how to convey scenes that were real in my head as a precursor to trying to write convincing fiction.

So now I'm thinking - the journal was a proto-blog really, in an interesting time of my life, when my writing was growing faster than mould in a half-full student mug left idly on a radiator.

I was thinking of making it a summer project; putting up the pieces on their respective dates, with any random photos, sketches and whatever else I have.

I'd really like to do this, so maybe on a new section of this site this summer...but which would you be more interested in - the original unaugmented journal, or the stereo, added-to and fleshed out version?

Either way it's a story of fun, frolics, alcohol, sex, exotic locations, falling down manholes, crime, music, parties and lots and lots of cheese, but it's up to you.

What the hell is going on?

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The Autoblography Ubermix should have been with you all weeks ago.

Unfortunately, due to terminal porking of my housemate's computer (so serious that Microsoft were automatically informed on restart, and once it had done that, it commanded my housemate to shut it down again and await contact) there are only two copies of the Ubermix in existence. The Master copy, which will eventually need to produce the others, and one other. I've been torn about who to send it to, but I will make my decision and send it at lunchtime.

Sorry kids. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Today sees a half-assed bleak and semi-misty morning descend upon Hatfield, as though the weather intended to be bad, but really couldn't be bothered.

I'm listening to Carole King's Tapestry.
I'm reading Hemingway's The Garden of Eden.
I'm playing EA Sports Big's SSX3.
I'm mucking about with flickr.com.
I'm looking forward to the weekend, and my impending trip away from these shores.
I'm waiting for about eighty people to leave the office kitchen so I can make myself a coffee.
I'm wondering why my dreams last night seemed to be based on Big Fish.
I'm hoping this will pass as a half-decent post.

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