End of an Era

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Last day at work today.

I'll be clearing out my desk, buying cakes for the office, the whole shebang.

Oh, and a big hello to the colleagues I gave the URL to...feel free to have a prod around. There's some links to the left there. Explore...

I won't be updating so often in the coming week or so; I'll be at home on the Isle of Wight until next Thursday, and then...well. You all know where I'm going.

One week's time, people.

One.
Week's.
Time.

There is no such thing as Normal Autoblography Service, but whatever it is, it'll be back in the future.

Take care of yourselves 'til then.

So; the clock, as they are always saying as if its still original - as if it still has any kind of dramatic impact as a measure of time because it always does it, is ticking.

And instead of winding down, tying things up, closing books and other airbrained phrases which mean 'ending' only use more words and take more breath to say, things are getting...more intense.

I was up, working, until 1am this morning. Revising certain elements of engineering maths, fluid mechanics, stress cycles. Today I am exhausted, because I came into work for 8am. This evening I may be called upon to shmooze. For my own benefit, of course. I'm trying to sort something out for America, for Krissa's and my future together.

So I'm up to my ears in it, but the work I've done so far has reduced the level of intensity a little. Tomorrow lunchtime, hopefully, it will more or less have passed, and tomorrow is my last day at work.

Before Saturday I have to organise all of my stuff, clean my room enough to get my security deposit back, throw away a huge amount of crap, and move out.

I have allocated the whole of Friday to this task.

One week and one day into the future, I am catching a plane to New York.

Downstairs for dancing.

So Bad It Redeems Itself

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Last week I was bored and looking for something to read over lunch, anything but a newspaper. I nipped into a charity shop and picked a book at random off the shelf. It was priced at fifty pence.

It had a plain cover with no blurb, so I flicked it open to read the first few paragraphs to see if anything caught my eye.

"Her face was as immobile as the Gorgon's victims, her face as unreadable as the Architect's Registration Amendment Act of 1969."

I bought it immediately.

Porterhouse Blue

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Saturday night was the J'fooo'c party. Pronounced Jafook. Just Fuck Off Out Of The (silent t) Country. Jafook.

Naturally.

We started early at 4 o'clock. There were a number of people who already had plans -School Disco and Buttoned Down Disco- so I thought it would be a good idea to allow them a bit of flexibility.

I had chosen, totally arbitrarily, the Walkabout nearest Covent Garden, because I had walked past it a few times and it stands out.

Saturday was the Australian Football League cup final. At three o'clock it was standing room only. Hurrah for planning!
Thankfully the football finished before four, but the pub was heaving with happy and drunken and unhappy and drunken Australians.

In dribs and drabs people started to arrive, running the gauntlet of the slippery floor and wildly gesticulating antipodeans of the upper bar and the labyrinthine streets around Covent Garden. But arrive they did.

It was strange seeing people from different spheres of my life all together - old university housemates with people I've known since high school, bloggers, coursemates, a long-lost penpal, people I knew through RaW(...and people who fit in more than one 'category') ...'twas an interesting fusion.

Bloggers reprazenting were D, Pete, Dave, Adrian, Pix and Londonmark, as well as Funjunkie Wild and vobble-bloggers (aie! Blogging-vobblers?) Dave and PaulyG, Chan...I think that's everyone with a URL. Blimey. Welcome to the Internet generation, people.

Also in attendance were ex-housemates Ronnie ( good luck with the exam tomorrow) and Adam, school chum Sharon (I never said 'chum', okay? You were never here. You didn't read this.) EDAT coursemate Summer and Leesha, the lovely Stephanie made her entrance on Mr. Londonmark's arm, penpal Julia, as well as a host of ex RaW bods; Saaaahmon, Ness, Mark T, Paul and Amy, Russ...

Apologies if I've missed anyone out. It was brilliant to see everyone.

After Walkabout started getting crowded again, we headed a few doors down to a place called Porterhouse, where there was a covers band, more drinking, carousing and dancing. Pix already has her cameraphone pictures up.

It was a goodbye party, it was a last hurrah...I got a little emotional when the Buttoned-Down Disco-ers were heading off, as it was a load of goodbyes at once, but the overwhelming atmosphere in the basement of Porterhouse as the band struck out through Reef's Place your Hands and Sharon, Dave, Adam, Wild and myself leapt around to Mr. Jones, was one of celebration. And it was wonderful to see people I'd almost lost touch with and catch up.

So I was anything but blue in Porterhouse. But it seemed a good title.

I read it somewhere.

Par tee

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Well then.
I might go home in a bit.

Tomorrow is my 'Just Fuck Off Out Of The Country Already' party.

We're starting at 4pm in the Covent Garden area, to make time for the people who had plans before this hasty little arrangement was made...*coughcough*... yes of course.

Below are some pictures. They are there for you to look at.

I suggest you do.

Cheerio all, have a good weekend. See you if I see you, and if I don't have a drink in my hand when you do, slap me and/or buy me one.

Cheers!

Sunset from the Ferry during Cowes week.

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Click to see it at full size in a new window...you can see the masts and cross-timbers of a tall ship at anchor.

Did I mention the ferrets?

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There were ferrets at the Garlic Festival.

The Garlic Festival

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The Isle of Wight is predominantly agricultural. There are a whole host of crops; flax, rape, corn and garlic. There's an annual event called the Garlic Festival, which is what all County Shows want to be when they grow up.There were a few acres of activities; stalls, shops, crafts, archery, steam engines, tanks, ferrets, wing-walking air displays, motorbike stunts, garlic sweetcorn, garlic mussels, garlic beer, garlic ice cream...

Gone Fishin'

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The ponds at Nettlecombe, near Whitwell, on the Isle of Wight, are where I've been going to fish since I was nine years old. It's a great spot, purely because where it lies in the nap of the valley you can look out across the village and the hills behind it.

Nice little tench there, hey?

The Soundtrack Of Our Lives

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Oooh, I wasn't going to mention them, but does anyone remember the band of the same name? I saw them in a damp marquee at Reading '98.
They were truly awful. The lead singer was an enormous guy who shouted his way through about ten songs before throwing his fists skywards as if expecting to be hailed as the crowd's new deity. He scuttled from the stage, throwing his fists up with less and less energy as the crowd lost interest.

Anyway.

We've covered the choices for books, clothes and music, which is fine. I think I've got some seriously judicious packing to do, but I think I'll be okay.

We have serious business to discuss.

The first time I saw New York I was a couple of thousand feet above it. From my window seat I had been glued to the perspex for an hour, looking down on the snowy landscapes of Canada and the North US, but when the graphic on the screen in front of me showed us leaving Connecticut airspace all that was below was cloud. There was an occasional shimmer of light on grey water, far below, but that was all I could see. Then the cloud disappeared and I was looking down on a small greyish island and the coast stretched out ahead of us. I was pleased. This way I'd be able to see the city when we reached it. But one of the smaller islands had something green in the middle; copper green.

There was a brief, yawning gap where my mind tried to catch up with what my eyes were showing it, and perspective clicked in, hard. I remember the first time I saw the Isle of Wight from an airliner - I didn't recognise it. It was all skewed, and so small. This was worse. I looked back at the small grey island and as I focussed I realised that there were buildings down there, enormous buildings...hundreds of them...

A minute or so later we banked around on the downwind leg of the approach to JFK and all I could see was ocean, with the white wakes of a couple of ships spreading in tiny tight v-shapes amongst impossibly small waves.

On the short, final leg of the landing approach my side of the plane was facing Manhattan again and I could see skyscrapers in the distance across the flat landscape of Long Island as we slid downwards and the marshes around JFK became real and the huge expanse of houses around the airport sprang into focus and we thumped softly down and the plane began to brake noisily. Mounds of ploughed snow sat on verges, pools of snowmelt on the tarmac rilled in a gentle wind. The baggage handlers who drove up to the plane were dressed in arctic weather gear. I could see the clouds to the North, but the sky was a pale, washed out blue and the air as we stepped off the plane was brisk and sharp.

I walked along a gangway past an enormous white wall sculpture and into customs, feeling tired but very, very happy. I didn't know it, but I would meet my future wife for the first time in about two hours.

Now.
You can't choose the weather on the evening of the 7th of October, but what we can do, and I'd like your input on this, is decide which song I will be listening to as New York hoves into view.

Think about it.
The second that plane touches down at that airport, I will be there to meet the love of my life, who will be waiting patiently...well...waiting, anyway, behind a bank of immgration officials, and I'll be starting a whole new life in New. York. City.

There's got to be a song that can pipe that in with some style, right?
What should it be?

Fucked and Foiled

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Two things:

1. My mobile phone has just had a heart attack. I only needed it to work for two more weeks, and, if I'm honest and I was able to barter with the Gods of Mobile Telecommunications, I could have coped with it having a coronary after this Saturday's party. Fucking timing. I'm working on sorting it out, but it's the SIM card, not the phone itself, so I can't just swap phones.

2. I don't like comment spam. At all. I don't like logging on in the mornings to see if anyone has left comments to find that, yes, in fact, someone loves gambling so much they had to tell me about it 150 times in the night, and that a porn star felt that I would like her material so much she left the online equivalent of fifty post-it notes all over my virtual desk. So I'm deleting it all, and I'm going to disable comments on all posts over a month old, and in a haphazard way, I've already started.

It's not brilliant, and it's not easy, but spammers?

Bring it on.*

*Because I need to find all the posts I missed yesterday whilst trying to juggle five windows

The Third Round of Choices

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Clothes and shoes.

This, you might think, for a bloke, would be easy.

And, you're right. Only...too easy.

I have my clothes and my shoes and my coats, and I wear them. The only thing is...I'm not a big buyer of clothes.

Some of my favourite going-out shirts, well...I've had them for years.
I have very little variety in my wardrobe. I wear jeans off work (one casual pair, one slightly smarter) or black trousers or a suit at work. I have a couple of pairs of slacks, but I hardly wear them at all. I have far too many t-shirts, the vast majority of which aren't really wear-in-public type; more of the wear-only-in-bed-but-probably -not-now-you're-getting-married type of t-shirt. The ones from university hitches and RAG weeks, radio polo shirts (with my name and exec position embroidered...um) and the like. Tops and sweaters? No problem. I'm okay there.

Shoes-wise...eep. I have a pair of suede loafers which I've worn pretty consistently since February, and they show it. I like 'em. They're comfy as all hell. But they're wearing out fast and they're pretty much my only pair of casual shoes. I have the megaboots - great hulking walking boots, and two pairs of work shoes, and a pair of cheap £25 trainers which are still going but need to be retired soon.

So the big question is...do I ditch the lot and only take the clothes I'm wearing when I get onto the plane, a few sandwiches and a wallet of music?

The Second Round Of Choices

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Books.

They're heavy. It's a well known fact. Unless you're a lifelong devotee of the 'Choose Your Own Adventure' series, carting any fraction of your book collection around is a serious business.

Can I part with the 'Complete Illustrated Beatles Lyrics'? Can I leave all the Hemingway? The Amis and Waugh? The Verne? The Eagle Annuals from the 60s?

The Pratchett books I am leaving, because after ten years of cajoling, persuading and strategic Leaving Books Lying Around, my Dad is finally reading them voraciously. In fact it is difficult to have a conversation with him without him bringing 'Cut Me Own Throat Dibbler' into the fray, however tenuous the connection to what we're talking about. Keith can get Throat into a conversation about say, porridge - or the weather, and finish the chat in floods of tears as he slaps his thighs and has to sit down from the exertion of laughing for ten minutes solid. Ten years. Timing, chuh.

The hard truth is, if I want to go cheaply and quickly and well, in the event of exporting me, I will be packing very few books.

Which is okay.
I mean, the thing about my favourite books is that I've read them all more than once, and in the case of the Douglas Adams and the Prachett stuff, many, many times.

And New York has an astounding public library, as well as being home to the largest secondhand bookshop in THE WORLD.

Ways and means of coping, y'see?

When my Dad has finished the Pratchett, I'll weigh up which is cheaper - shipping them over on the QM2, or buying them all again.

I think the sum total of the books I take will be:

Hemingway's Short Story collection: The Short Happy Life of Francis MacComber
Evelyn Waugh: Black Mischief
Milan Kundera: The Unbearable Lightness of Being (It's Krissa's copy)

...and maybe another couple of light, short, paperbacks.

C'est tout.

The weekend involved a lot of unusual things.

I didn't get one hell of a lot of sleep last night for reasons we won't go into too much right now. There are two reasons; one was phone calls I never complain about recieving, the other was my night-working housemate, who is developing a penchant for cooking complicated, noisy, smelly meals upon his regular 4.30am return to the house.

I went to see the cricket match between the West Indies and South Africa on Saturday, with D and Mr. Sevitz.com. It was enjoyable, if lacking in actual cricket due to the rain and the incredibly long but traditional rigmarole involved in preparing the pitch for play after rain, which took so long that the passing clouds had time to muster another effort before the players got back into position.

Anyway. This weekend, I sorted out my music. That is more of a task than it sounds. For months and months I have slowly but surely taken all of my music out of the carrying wallets and listened to them without putting them back afterwards. The result was about fifty small piles of CDs in interesting places all over my room...and I didn't just have to sort and tidy it.

I had to decide which I would take, and which I would not take with me to New York.

British Airways are, it has to be said, shaping up to be pretty fucking marvellous. Their baggage allowance is insanely large, leading me to the tempting thought that I might be able to get away without shipping anything or paying for surplus baggage. Can you get this - I can take 64kg of baggage for the hold in two pieces, and a total of 18kg for the cabin, in two pieces. If I make some decisions on books and music, I can do that, no sweat.

...but the music.

The music.

I have two 200-slot carry-wallet case things. When I was a DJ at my Student Union, one was predominantly for my personally preferred music, the other for more DJ-friendly stuff. Since then the lines have become...blurred, but the way was clear. I would make the cut and take only one carry wallet case jobby thing.

I was forced to make decisions I wouldn't wish on anyone else, and not just with what not to take - the cases had to go too.

The beautiful card sleeves from the Lemon Jelly albums - ABANDONED!

The second and third Third Eye Blind albums (nowhere near as good as the first one) - CAST ASIDE!

The Sleeper albums - SURVIVE!

The first Oasis album (which to be honest I could live with never hearing again) - to be LEFT BEHIND!

The Summer Burn CDs and other compilations from Autoblography readers - COMING TO AMERICA!

The seemingly infinite number of 'The Best {insert 60s/70s/80s music fad here} Album in the World....Ever!' compilations - STAYING HOME!

Understand that it's not the personal attachment to a lot of the music, it is the sheer unavoidable NOT HAVING IT which is traumatising.

About twenty CDs that were free on the covers of magazines and only have about one half-decent song apiece - JETTISONED!

The crop of great CD-Rs which suffered terrible flaking in the later tracks after some twat dropped a pint of water onto the stage one evening - Off The Wall, The Colour and The Shape, The Best of Boney M....GONE!

As I was sorting a number of piles developed...CDs I knew there was a case for somewhere...CD-less cases...CDs with little to recommend them...blank unmarked CD-Rs...utter bilge...CDs to include if there was room at the end...best-ofs which might supplant groups of individual albums...and of course there was a playlist. Stuff I hadn't listened to recently (or, to my shame in some cases, at all) and was undecided about whether to include, and the unmarked CD-Rs.

Bizarrely, there was also a duplicates pile. How on earth I managed to end up with two copies of Sgt. Pepper's, or Travis' The Man Who is completely beyond me.

By about 4pm yesterday the task was complete. Both cases were full. One to take, full of great albums, compilations and a few singles with sentimental value (the first ever Stereophonics single, Local Boy in The Photograph which semi-flopped and was released as a fractionally softer version after some of the other singles charted well, and, believe it or not, a Sugababes single, Soul Sound which made the cut because I was in the room when the bonus tracks were recorded...sorry this is a very long bracket), the other full of distilled DJing cheese, CDs my parents gave me from the Mail On Sunday, Mixmag CDs and some old PC games.

I really hope I pack the right one.

The weekend has left me with the odd aftertaste of a Khyber Special Biriani, and the lingering and disconcerting feeling that maybe I should have copied all of the début Nelly Furtado album when I had the chance.

Wildlife

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Stag nights are out, because I haven't got time to say goodbye to all the beautiful women I know as well as having one.

Let's call it a Deer Night.

No.

Let's not.

Let it be Wildlife.

Let it be Central London, let it be the 25th of September from around 4pm.

Let it be.

I just wish I'd had enough time to organise this bloody thing properly. I have just called two people, both of whom are coming, one who didn't even know I was engaged. Aie. I am crap at keeping in touch with people. Trust me. If you think you might be an invitee, you are. I'll get to you eventually, please keep the 25th free, or at least flexible.

Nothing Going On But History

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I have twenty days left in the UK!

Twenty days.

My PC is all but stripped, adverts for my belongings broadcast, "Sale due to emigration" from newsagents' windows across Hatfield.

I've cancelled my mobile phone contract with Orange, given notice at work, for my house, everything. I have an 'Eyewitness' guidebook for New York which is slightly overdue for return to Hatfield library which I feel a bit guilty about, but other than that all systems are, as they say, go.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Krissa has sorted me out with a cellphone (please note the ever so subtle linguistic changes that will be taking place here over the next few months: mobile = cellphone, pavement = sidewalk, boot = trunk, democracy = financio-hierarchial dynasty, crisps = chips, chips = potatoes frissé á l'anglaise) and a number, which really brings home the reality of it all - I already know what my mobile number is in the US.

The 7th of October, ladies and gentlemen, I shall be quitting these shores, and with good reason.

It hit me last night.
Despite the fact that everyone I know has shown considerable restraint with the 'Englishman in New York' comments, I am going to be in unfamiliar territory.
Even when the skyline has become known to me, when I know which subway lines to take without checking the map, when I know which bars, restaurants and shops are my favourite (I'm not sure what I'm going to do about the American-English spellings yet, I'll get back to you) there will be differences underneath which will only become apparent from time to time but still carry all the impact of alienation.

Krissa and I were talking about Hurricane Ivan, and I mentioned the plight of New Orleans, with a passing remark about having read in the news about the scale of a worst-case evacuation being akin to Dunkirk. Krissa hadn't heard of it, and it was at that point that I realised.

However 'native' I go, I'll still be me, here, British, with all of the associated little things that go with that - and I won't have all that under-the-bonnet stuff which is the background knowledge which you get from growing up an American.

Of course to a degree I'll pick stuff up, but...not all of it, so I'll always be a little out of place.

I do know one thing, mind you.

If during a phone conversation where I explain about the BEF pulling out of France, all the little boats, and the triumphant 'We just pulled off a seriously impressive retreat' headlines in the days following Dunkirk I can make the woman I am madly in love with laugh or even just chuckle, then everything in this new life I'm heading for is fine by me.

Clearout Bonanza

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Muchos material for you lucky blighters today.

In the process of clearing out my PC in order to strip and/or sell the bits, I found a load of old university stuff. Served up so far this morning in what will turn out to be a veritable smorgasbord of fun, we have the piece I wrote as President of RAG at Warwick University, for the introduction to the year's RAG Mag.

It's a mixture of explanation, attempting to get people to join, and half-arsed jokes. Enjoy.

Also today we have the scripts for two radio sketches performed live by the team of 'The Show' which was the unnecessarily large multiple-shows-per-week project we started rather unintelligently (but with style, obviously) in our third year.

Desperately flailing around for D-to-Z-list celebrity interviews is part and parcel of the student radio experience, and we came up with the simple yet short-lived idea that we could interview whoever we liked, as long as they couldn't talk, this being radio and everything.

Hence the two Fame Drain interviews were with Sooty and Marcel Marceau...

Have fun reading.

Real content soon.

The Show's Fame Drain: Sooty

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INTRO: Hello and welcome to The Fame Drain, where The Show interviews the very best celebrities of yesteryear, who are now blatantly on the decline and gagging for any kind of press exposure they can lay their hands on. Today, in the studio with us is a fallen star of children’s entertainment. From stage and screen, he’s been there; done that, got the extremely small t-shirt and now they don’t want him back. We’ve got him though…please welcome to the studio…SOOTY!

ANNABELLE: Sooty, welcome to The Fame Drain! Now; you’re a huge name in showbiz, everyone’s heard of you, but you’ve been out of the spotlight for years. Tell us, why haven’t we heard from you?

[PAUSE]

ANNABELLE: What’s that Sooty? You were robbed blind by that guy with the beard and doing all that work with his hand up your arse on a minimum wage has soured the showbiz scene for you? Oh dear, poor Sooty.

ALL: Aaaaaaaah.

STUART: If it’s ok, I’d just like to ask a couple of personal questions. Your break up with Denise van Outen was widely publicised in the press. What hasn’t been so well reported was that you were an incurable alcoholic during your television years and Denise was a long-suffering and patient partner. Is it true that the break-up was the final factor in your checking into rehab at The Priory recently?

[PAUSE]

STUART: What’s that Sooty? Your life was a dark and dreary trudge of seemingly identical days where nothing really mattered and your body ached in a constant agony of searing pain? Aaaah. He’s cute, isn’t he, Adam?

ADAM: We’re told that you have a new album out soon, and you’re on tour as part of your UK comeback. The album features some collaborations with Tom Jones, Destiny’s Child and All Saints. What was it like working with some of the most popular artists of today? We’ve heard a showbiz rumour that romance may be blossoming between you and Natalie Appleton’s trousers?

[pause]

ADAM: What’s that Sooty? The rumours are completely unfounded and we’ll be hearing from your lawyers? Today’s artists are all a bunch of frauds and nothing compared to you when you were in your prime? Well, it’s been a great pleasure having you on The Show, and if you’ll just sign these copies of your album for us to give away…(quick pause) Thanks, and if you wouldn’t mind, Ben would like to just live out a childhood fantasy…

[SFX OF CROWD SCREAMS INTO THE PUNCH IN OF THE POOR DANCE SELECTOR]

The Show's Fame Drain: Marcel Marceau

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INTRO: Hello and welcome to The Fame Drain, where we at The Show interview those celebrities who in their day brought a tear to the eye and in some cases not deliberately. In the studio today we have master of his art, a maestro in the genre. Despite his skill, he’s not in the public eye as much as he used to be. Confirming the rumour that student radio has to get whatever celebrities it can dig up, Ladies and Gentlemen, Marcel Marceau!

STUART: Hi Marcel! Welcome to The Show. We've all heard of you, and wherever the subject of mime is discussed, you are without a doubt regarded as the master of the art. Mime may not be as big as it used to be, but your name lives on. So why have you been out of the limelight?

[Pause]

STUART: No...no... Not quite sure what you’re doing there Mr. Marceau…um, no…still not getting it, sorry. Uh, Adam?

ADAM: (hesitant) Right. Okay. Your trademark make up was the black and white face that came to be known by millions, but today you’re sporting a more modern mime set in green and brown. Is this because you feel the need to move with the times or simply because you fancied a change of image?

[Pause]

ADAM: Okay, I think he’s trying to portray feeling trapped…not with that glass cage thing, but by conveying the emotion of claustrophobia…

ANNABELLE: (interrupting) No, no, no. He’s showing us how his old image was decaying and stifling him, and preventing him from being reborn in the art…

BEN: (in the background, shouting) Can we get a Theatre Studies student in here please!? We need an interpreter! Yeah!

ANNABELLE: Um, Marcel? You’ve been heralded as the new leader of the underground arts movement, how do you feel about this?

[pause]

ANNABELLE: Right. I think he stiffened, don’t you? (agreement from everyone) Maybe he stiffened with pleasure? Fear? What do you normally stiffen for? Perhaps you can stiffen for happiness?

(Everyone apart from Ben, a line each, all mics but BEN’s faded down to about –8 to give the impression that the rest of The Show team are having a whispered discussion whilst the real action is going on in with Ben on the edge of the studio)

CAT: You can’t stiffen from happiness, can you?
ADAM: I can.
ANNABELLE: No no no. I don’t think you can. It’s definitely got to be bad.
ADAM: Stiffening could mean fear, I suppose, but why would he be frightened?
STUART: I think he’s stiffening from the responsibility he feels as the head of the movement.
ANNABELLE: Rubbish!
CAT: It’s not rubbish!

(and so on until interruption by BEN)

(Over the top of the previous conversation)

RANDOM STATION PERSON: Ben! Pssst! I found you a Theatre Studies student!

BEN: Great! The Show’s dying on it’s feet here!

RSP: Uh, right. Well, I found one, but they didn’t come.

BEN: Why not? Radio show, theatre student...what's the problem?

RSP: Well, I said you needed an interpreter to help with an interview with Marcel Marceau, and they just laughed at me!

BEN: Why?

RSP: Ben, ( hoarse whisper ) HE’S DEAD.

BEN: (interrupting above conversation) Guys, guys, guys! (quieter) Guys. Look, I’m sorry to break it to you, but Marcel here is…well…he’s dead...
(sounds of revulsion from everyone)

BEN:...Stuart, where did you say you dug him up from again?

[PUNCH IN WITH THE POOR DANCE SELECTOR]

This Is Your President Speaking

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Hello! Welcome to the 2002 edition of the RAG MAG, as always, a packed piece of particularly potent print! I’m Stuart, RAG's President, and it's my job to oversee everything that RAG does, and make sure that we don't break too many laws or attract the attention of the major international superpowers whilst raising money for charity. Well, apart from that one time with the Russians...but enough!

Let me tell you a story...

There are a couple of moments in life when you are happily and unsuspectingly mooching along and something about your life hits you unexpectedly, sometimes with force. Suddenly realising that you’re engaged, for example...that the piece of work is in fact due in this week, that you really did call that bloke a "f***ing stupid tw*t" after he got the £100 question wrong on Millionaire, and the massive guy behind you in the pub taps you on the shoulder and says, "Dat's my bruvver, pal...".
Stuff like that.
One of my big realisations was when I was elected as RAG President. It hit me that I was now involved as much as I could be in one of the biggest, most fun and worthwhile societies at Warwick University. Each year we raise astronomical amounts of money for charities both in the local area and nationally, and have one hell of a lot of fun doing it.

In the time I've been involved in Warwick RAG, I've come to see it as a kind of barbarian army with a heart. Much like the hordes of Genghis Khan, or the Vikings of yesteryear, we rampage around the country, raiding cities and large towns for money, spending the evenings drinking too much and attempting to ravish or be ravished by the locals (and each other). The 'with a heart' bit comes in when give the money to charity and refrain from burning the cities to the ground and raking the ashes with salt - if only so we can go back there the next year and do it all again.

RAG does a lot of crazy stuff on campus...RAG Week is seven days of sheer bedlam with people in lectures being brought roses and pints of beer (...and liberal quantities of flour, water, cling film and baked beans), all in the name of charity, of course. In fact, it’s amazing what we can get away with if we put our hands up afterwards and say "It's alright, it’s for charity!". Buggering off for alcoholic weekends in Dublin and Edinburgh, for example, or maybe even Paris. Oh, did I mention you have to hitch-hike there? Thought you might like to know...

All this is a good laugh, and of course it’s worth it for the money raised for charity, but there are a few people who put in a lot of time and effort (in a fun way) to organise and generally make sure that everything works out and no one dies.

They’re the RAG Exec, and in the words of the apparently immortal Tony the Tiger, “They’re grrreat!”. In this RAG Mag, you’ll hear a bit more from them about what they do for RAG, and how much they enjoy it. (In Alek’s case, maybe a bit too much.)

RAG stands for Raise and Give, and to break it down, we have a damn good time doing the ‘Raise’ bit, and then get a big kick out of the ‘Give’ bit. A plan, I think you’ll agree, with no drawbacks. There’re perks from being a member of RAG, too. You can get into events in the Students’ Union for free AND completely bypass the queues simply by doing an hour’s shift in the cloakroom, after which you’re free to enjoy the night, and of course there’s the bonus of being able to spray people with water and pelt them with flour and beans from the relative impunity of a large animal costume.

Not many societies offer that, you see. That’s why I can wholeheartedly say that if you get involved in RAG, it will make your time at university!

New Purchase, New Friends

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Much as I hate to contradict the gospel of one of my favourite writers, Douglas Adams was wrong.

The ultimate sympathy/conversation-stimulating travel accoutrement is NOT a towel; it is an enormous, oversized suitcase, such as the one I have just bought.

In the time it took me to walk the two hundred yards from the stall in the marketplace to my office I was stopped twice and got £3 off the price from the suitcasemonger for the story of what I wanted it for (for all of those who needed a "Previously; on The Autoblography..." intro but didn't get one, that's MOVING TO NEW YORK TO MARRY THE LOVE OF MY LIFE).

This suitcase is pretty damned big. It's the sort that could double up as a rudimentary shelter in adverse weather, the sort, if abandoned in the middle of the Amazonian Rainforest with four other hapless souls, you could host survival tactics board meetings in.

It's huge.

Walking away from the stall I carried it for a while and then decided to test the wheels, when an old lady stopped me.

"Where are you going with that?"

So many options.

"My office."

"Oh," she hesitated. "Why on earth do you have a suitcase?"

"I'm moving..." I started.

Fifty yards further on, I bumped into the landlord of the house next to mine who I befriended through mutual DIY assistance last year.

"Are you going home?"

"No, I'm going to New York."

"What, now?"

"Er-"

"Business trip, is it?"

"No-"

"Oh, just wondered if you wanted a lift."

"No, I'm going back to the office."

"With a suitcase?"

"No, I'm moving..."

So you see.
It is currently lurking behind my cubicle divider, towering over the recycling bin like a stray menhir from Stonehenge.

Le Soleil Est Pres De Moi

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I know I've said it before, and I borrowed the words in the first place, but Flickr rocks my face.

It's a photo-sharing site, but with so much more. Live chat and photo exchange through a beautiful flash interface, discussion groups, contacts, mail, storage (of photos, admittedly), and all of it done with that rarest of qualities; style.

Anyway. I was thinking that there ought to be a way to get some of the photos of my recent trip to the Isle of Wight online in a group or slideshow that wouldn't take the shine off the site for all you dial-up internet Autoblography enthusiasts.

So; if you'd like to see a slideshow of those photos, including the parachutist who nearly landed on me, Dave's first fish, that folk evening, and the Isle of Wight Garlic Festival, then click here.

I need it, and there it is. Flickr rocks my face.

You don't need an invite to sign up, but if I invite you I get *coughcoughcough* an upgraded account...I'd appreciate it.

Anyone fancy joining?

The Big Day

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Now that all the capitals have died down, let me tell you how it went on Thursday - the medical and interview for the fiancé visa.

I woke up at ludicrous a.m. after a fitful night's sleep, and showered in the communal wobbly plastic cubicle. The plug failed to work, so that after three minutes I was forced to stop showering for fear of a soapy overspill cascading down the stairs of the hotel.

Dressed and feeling semi-sharp after a musty-tasting cup of antique freeze-dried coffee I walked to the surgery for a quarter past seven, as recommended on VJ.com. I was the only one there for the 8 o'clock appointment thus far. Apparently the queue is meant to start forming at that time...and it did - I was the queue. A triumph of logic.

After a while a kindly old gentleman carrying a leather-covered wastepaper basket in a box, and dressed in a light brown tweed suit with a yellow tie came out of the building.

"It's quite a wait you know. There's a McDonald's down there, for what it's worth, if you want to go and get a coffee."

Having been told-sorry-suggested to- in an upper-class cut-glass accent, I went and bought my suitably Plebian mass-produced coffee, but was so nervous that I couldn't drink it. I wandered back up to the surgery ten minutes later to find about fifteen people milling around, subtly, slowly and without wanting to admit it, jockeying for position near the door. It's a quintessentially British thing. Everyone wants to be first, but no one wants to admit it and while everyone subtly and grimly manoeuvres for position, no one wants to be so crass as to force anyone to say, "Excuse me, I was there." I loitered near the back.

There was no reason to queue whatsoever. All proceedings were done alphabetically once we were inside. After ten minutes of twiddling my thumbs in a drawing room which had been converted to a waiting room, two electronic tones which sounded like the dying notes of a 1980s kid's toy broke the silence and I was invited through...to another waiting room.

This established the pattern for the day.

A large map of the United States covered one wall of the second waiting room - dated at 1960 - JFK was just 'New York International Airport' and the mass of names and rivers and cities that I was ignorant of kept my brain ticking over until the blood test which was administered by a woman who seemed more nervous than me...then I was called through to stand in a small cubicle akin to the lower class of changing room in a shop - two small swing doors just about covering my midriff, and asked to remove my shirt. Having dutifully stripped off to the waist I was zapped with X-rays ("Er, I have a metallic belt buckle." "Yes, it's very nice.") and then prodded in the belly for a bit.

I was forced to explain the boiling-oil-splash-scars to a serious-faced female doctor. I lied and told her it had happened at a barbecue, rather than the truth, which is that I shouldn't really be trusted with cooking equipment.

After being summarily given a tetanus and diptheria booster vaccination in a gloriously decorated office I was turfed out and told to head straight to the US Embassy on Grosvenor Square.

It was a bright and breezy day, and it was still only 10 o'clock, and as I walked past Marble Arch and down the first stretch of Oxford Street I woke Krissa to tell her how it had gone at the doctor's. She was sleepy, but happy that all had gone well.

At the embassy I was greeted with barricade upon barricade of concrete and a maze of metal fencing guiding (or misleading) people to an entrance. As I'd been told, I walked past the two long queues and straight to the baggage x-rays and security guards, to more than a few slitty-eyed jealous glances from the waiting masses. As a security measure, my bag was more thoroughly X-rayed than I had been half an hour before. After navigating the gauntlet-like challenge which was the maze of steel fencing around the outside of the embassy, I found myself in a huge waiting room which reminded me of an airport lounge. I was handed a ticket for my appointment, just like they do at the delicatessen in supermarkets.

Over the next three hours I read the book I had brought to pass the time, interrupted only by handing over the paperwork I needed for the interview.

Finally, my name was called. The guy behind the window looked like a cross between Mr. Cunningham from Happy Days and...no...that's it. That's who he reminded me of.

"So," he said, grinning and in a real New York twang, "how the hell does a guy like you meet a girl from Queens?"

I grinned back, all of a sudden at my ease. The interview lasted all of five minutes.

Out in the square people were sitting around on the grass, eating their lunches and enjoying the sunshine. My arm ached slightly from the jab, I was exhausted from the lack of sleep, the tension, and the furious speed and concentration with which I had devoured the book I had read.

I called Krissa direct to tell her the news as she got ready for work; I had lost my calling card in the doctor's second waiting office, having used it to try and figure out how far it is from New York to Maine...blah blah ra ra ra - details.

It was all over. The visa was approved. It's nearly six months since I met her - met this beautiful, elegant, bright shining tornado of a woman as I reached the door of a welcoming apartment with a cold flush to my cheeks and she stumbled getting up out of her chair to greet me. Six months, and now I can go to be with her. To marry her.

As the time ticks down to the 7th of October - the day my flight is booked for, I have an enormous mixture of feelings. I cannot wait to leave...but I will miss it here. I cannot wait to leave...but I know this time will fly by. I cannot wait to leave...but I will miss my friends and my family.

Still.

I cannot wait to leave.

K1 A-OK

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First up, thanks to all who commented with congratulations since Thursday.

You're superstars.

The K-1 visa paperwork and pretty pink and green addition to my passport is now complete; Krissa and I have booked my flight for the 7th of October...the day all of this comes to fruition.

Due to uncertainty over the courier service, I've been offline for ages, so I apologise to all those who wrote posts, served cocktails or generally expressed pleasure at the news and got no response from me.

Anyway.

Does anyone want to buy all my surplus stuff?

Genuine bona-fide Autoblography Memorabilia.

Signed?

Small Talk

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GOT




IT!

The guy said, "Welcome to The United States," and everything.

The visa should arrive tomorrow.

Hoi.

TO THE PUB!

Planning, for me, is a formality.

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It is merely the precursor to the farce and the panic and the worry and rushing and the inevitable humorous-for-everyone-but-me blog post.

Got everything sorted, mind.

To answer the questions in the comments;

Andy: The USCIS recently changed it's standard photo format. Look it up on VJ, or the US Government sites themselves...

Shiv: Panic not. I feel sure that somewhere in our country's bureaucratic behemoth there is someone suitably skilled with a pair of scissors. Well, I hope so. I've been paying tax.

Adrian: You git. You're totally right. But I couldn't compare the UK passport pics to the ones in the forms til I had a UK passport pic to measure, could I?

Panic over. Another hour or so of soaking up the atmosphere on Oxford Street and watching the golf-buggy bustle of the setup for 'Proms in the Park' in Hyde Park, and I shall retire early to my hotel room near Marble Arch.

There's a Hungarian shopping channel which I feel may yield material for a post.

Oh, and the medical and interview.

Remember those olive oil burns I managed to inflict on myself ages ago? I've still got marks for them...and I'll have to explain them shortly after the inevitable 'Would you mind removing your clothes, Mr. Autoblography? OH the fun that lies ahead.

More soon.

BUT:

Hell.
There are things to do, and things not to do.

I am going to be out in Camden tomorrow night regardless of what happens in the Embassy tomorrow. The venue is not a million miles from Chalk Farm Tube.

Email me at: whoopsadaisy I've deleted my email address purely and entirely by accident...for that venue if you fancy coming along for a celebratory/comiseratory drink. I'll swing by an internet café after the interview and dish out info and delete this post.

A load of my friends are already planning on meeting there, so I totally reserve the right to politely decline if your homepage is about bonsai rodent sex.

Sorry.

Any takers?

Planning, For Me, Is Futile

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Nothing ever goes to plan for me.

Nothing.

My pack for the interview tomorrow has been complete since yesterday morning...only, in finally checking the dimensions of my new photos for the interview, I find that British passport-style pictures are significantly undersize.

Significantly undersized photos is all I need today to throw me into a gibbering nervous breakdown. I have the addresses and phone numbers of four places in the West End where I can get appropriate US-passport-style photos taken, but...they're in the frigging West End.

Shit.
Shit...shit.
SHIT!

That's it. I'm not taking any bloody risks with this. I'm out of here.

A post is a possibility tomorrow afternoon, and the only thing I can say with certainty at this point is that it will involve a large number of capital letters.

Wish me luck, people.

Mumpley Goosebumples

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Good day to you all.

The day shines light and bright and airy, the sky is blue, and the day after tomorrow I have to be at Marble Arch before 8am.

Yessirree - Thursday is my medical and interview at the US Embassy in London.
I shalt be poked and prodded and then asked some questions, and then...maybe Friday, maybe Saturday, I should hopefully recieve my visa in the post.

I'm only a little nervous...

Blogging, Thy Name Is Distraction

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Let September 6th, 2004 go down in history as The Day of Six Posts.

Please scan down six and read up for the day's writings, readings, linkings and diversions.

It's just that I wanted to tie up the 'Guide to Hatfield' without it being too much effort (I hate having homework yet to do)...and...yes, well okay. The rest of the time I was just rambling.

Le singe est sur la branche.
Merci Beaucoup.

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