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Friday, 25 May 2007

Dramatic breaking newz~!

This morning I was checking my email downstairs as "The Wife" was getting ready for work when I heard a bang and a squeal and then yer actual scream. Bounding upstairs like Errol Flynn in a castle, I am greeted by what you see in the picture above. Turns out she'd been using her hairdryer as normal and the damn thing had just gone and exploded! Showers of sparks and smoke and all that stuff. And a big ass burn on her otherwise shapely wrist. Boo. Lucky she wasn't actually holding it by her face when it happened or it might have been a lot worse.
Looks like Vidal Sassoon might be getting a letter.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Best. Graf. Ever.

An homage to the Observer magazine's front page image from 7 days previously - Vivienne Westwood. Check out the sparing use of colour to pick out bits of a b&w image, the way the top of her head "de-rezzes" and the awesome 3d letterform. Badass.

Clearly there was an incident...

Saturday, 19 May 2007

My working week in 29 seconds

I made a little movie so you can see what I do, but in less time than I do it.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Today's lunch

Today I came to the end of another little stint on a cruise ship - just 4 days this time, from Athens to Venice. Got a text from some old friends who were coming on to take over from me, we had a morning's overlap so met up for lunch at "Cafe Caribe", one of the ships evil all-you-can-eat buffet-a-thons. You come on the ship as a passenger, they say, and you leave as luggage.

We sat by the big picture window 15 stories high looking out at the Venician skyline as we ate and caught up. It was very pleasant. Present were: Fraser Hooper ( - a very funny clown (yes) and someone so completely nice that I'm convinced he must have some bodies chopped up and frozen somewhere; George Fuller - a sexually adventurous and lovely American contortionist; and Pete Dobbing ( - a street performer so relentlessly cheerful that I went through a phase of not liking him just because of that, until I realised that that was more of an issue with me than him. They are all very sweet people, and equally good performers. They will know how much it pains me to admit this.

I have spent a very large part of my life having long chatty lunches and (more often) breakfasts with street performers, and it's pretty much the only thing I miss about not working at Covent Garden any more, so this was a very welcome treat. At the buffet there were little silver bowls of orange jelly, so I had one. Mainly I had one because, y'know - jelly, but also because it felt like a vaguely celebratory lunch. Kinda - "Look at us, we're all on a nice gig. Yay for not failing at life! So far."

The last time I was in Venice I stumbled across a gorgeous-looking suit shop, so I made a point to try to make it back there this morning. You know how when you go shopping for clothes you often have a very clear idea in your mind of what you want, then after hours of trudging around shops you realise that it doesn't exist and you should just suck it up and go back to Uniqlo?

Well I knew exactly what kind of suit I wanted. And they had it. The shop was run by two glamourous and elegant middle aged women who, when I tried on the suit, skittered around me measuring and pinning and told me that if I came back in an hour the suit would be tailored for me. Good deal. Off I went to wander around venice, get some pizzette (small cold pizzas fresh from the bakery. Yum), then I was back, and leaving the shop with a fitted suit and new tie (It's a rule, buy a new suit, buy a new tie.) and feeling very fucking pleased with myself.

Oh yeah, I have a tailor in Venice.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Found in Greece, of all places...

Men, tired of smelling like feet but think that body sprays and cologne are a little wussy? Have we got the product for you!

More travel mullarkey

Up at 3am to get driven to Heathrow to catch the 6am flight to Rome where I have a four-hour wait (admittedly there are worse things than being forced to have lunch in Rome), before boarding a flight to Athens, where I will be met by a driver, taken to a hotel overnight, and then taken on to meet the cruise ship the next morning. Although I get no say in these travel arrangements - they're all made for me and all I have to do is be at the right place at the right time - it did cross my mind that this is complex enough to, at some point, fail. "No", I thought, "It's always the simple journeys that turn out to be the most catastrophic", and there is some logic to that. It's like in wrestling, people rarely get hurt doing the big clever moves, because they've practiced them and do them carefully. All the injuries come from the simplest moves, the ones people do a dozen times per match and have long-since stopped really thinking about. It's just like that, I thought. Well no. Apparently this time I went for a twisting moonsault off a ladder and landed on my head.

Queued for an hour and a half to check in and go through security, having to listen to a Canadian woman talk about how she has lived in virtually every country in Europe and apparently hates them all, then rushed a sandwich and got to my gate just in time to be told that my flight had been cancelled. Another 45 minute queue with all the other poor unfortunates to be re-routed. They tried to get me on a flight that evening to Milan, where I would then change onto another flight to Rome to meet my connection that would have left 5 hours previously. I delicately pointed out the problems with this. After much careful balancing of charm and assertiveness, I got them to put me on the next British Airways flight direct to Athens, so I would arrive at almost the exact same time that I would have arrived anyway. Perfect. They try to get me to queue for check-in again, but I tell them about a ficticious back injury and they speed me through.

Finally make it to Athens, find out where the flight I'm supposed to be on will arrive and meet the contact as if I came off that flight. Smooth like John Steed, as the song says. Well, except for the bad back which, while ficticious in Heathrow, is now very much real thanks to my falling asleep on the plane with my body resembling a pretzel. Serves me right for lying, or something.

He takes me to the hotel. Athens Plaza. I stayed here last time and it's gorgeous. But this time, apparently they haven't got a room for me. I show them my documentation that say that I stay with them and they shrug and tell me that they have no rooms left. Then they say, that maybe they have, then they find one and say "Good news, we have a room for you", and ask for $250 up front. I nearly lose it, but don't.

A quick call to the people handling all this stuff and a car is on it's way to take me to the real hotel where I have a real room. "What happened?", says the driver - the same one who picked me up from the airport. Good question.

While we're driving through Athens I realise how hungry I am. I last ate at 5am in London, having slept through the airline food which would have been prohibitively meat-based anyway. It's now 7pm and I'm starving. Finally we pull up at the new hotel and, joy of joys, it's even posher than the Plaza. They welcome me, show me to my gorgeous room and I immediately order shitloads of room service. After chatting to Mrs.Columbo, Her indoors, the lovely wife for a while, my food arrives and I eat it while watching the Eurovision song contest. It is the best room service I have ever had. I realise that my judgement might be impaired by my level of hunger, but my god it was good. Vegetable soup so thick you could eat it with a fork, and delicately spiced. A toasted cheese sandwich and fries - a classic, perfectly presented. Spaghetti Napolitana, with sun-dried tomatoes, so well made - and beer. My favourite, Amstel.

I decide then and there that I would almost have taken all the travel crap just for this meal. Then I decide not to talk rubbish and just to shut up and finish my pasta.

Friday, 11 May 2007

Easyjet lost my bag

I know. Not an original complaint. But still.

Easyjet lost my bag.

I arrived in Belfast with Dave to do a street festival gig, so had a suitcase full of props and my big ski bag with my very hard to replace imported folding table in it, from off which I pull tablecloths. Didn't turn up on the baggage carousel. No panic, it's a big bag so often comes in oversize. Not this time. So we wait, and wait, and finally decide it's not coming, so off I go to the little room full to report it.

The little room is great, about the size of my kitchen and full of bit of peoples luggage that have gone missing and never been claimed. A single ski leans up again and chest of draws on which lays a full set of crockery and some baby's toys. All lost, never returned. Behind the desk sits a harassed little man ignoring the phone. I tell him about my bag, describe it carefully, give him my mobile number. "There are three more flights from Gatwick today, it'll probably come on one of those. When it does I'll get it delivered to your hotel. If it doesn't arrive tonight, I've got your number, I'll keep you informed", he lies. Stupidly, I believe him and feel sure that it's just behind me somewhere.

Next morning I wake up after a restful sleep. No bag. We manage to convince the hotel to let us borrow one of their meeting room tables to us for the act, which they do, as long as we give them a £200 deposit, which I make Dave do.

The rest of the long weekend passes by in a riot of torrential rain and gale force winds. Still no table and no phone calls.

Then it's Tuesday morning and I'm back at the airport to go home. I decide to pay a visit to the little room again. This time there are two middle-aged women there. I explain the situation, and they look my file up on the computer, check my details and suck their teeth. "See", one of them says, "The problem is Gatwick aren't answering their phones". "All of Gatwick?", I ask? They explain to me that Easyjet at Gatwick have just started doing all the baggage handling themselves, that week, and, it appears, haven't quite got the hang of it as yet. I whinge a bit about this not really being my problem, and how I didn't get any phone calls let alone my bag. They take my home address and I ask for a number to call. They give me the generic Easyjet customer service number and I refuse to take it, knowing - from previous googling - that it's an expensive number that has an average 20 minute wait time. She bashfully gives me the direct line to the lost baggage department, and off I go to board my flight home. Still seeing the predictably funny side. For now.

We land at Gatwick, and I'm amongst the first off the plane. Following the signs to passport control, and as I approach the man behind the passport counter looks terrified. "Where have you flown from?", he exclaims, perhaps a little too loudly. "Belfast", I say. "No!", he replied, "Go back, you cant come through here, go up the ramp to the other side". I smile, say ok, and reverse back up the long ramp, go across to where he pointed, and back down the other side, where I am met by another man in uniform who questions me in an identical manner, and sends me all the way back around to the first man, who looks even more terrified when he sees us coming again. "No!" He's almost shouting now, "You can't come through here. Go back". I explain calmly, that we just got sent back to him, but he won't have it and continues to shout right at me, "YOU CAN'T COME THROUGH HERE!", "Fine", I say, "Where do we go?", "YOU CAN'T COME THROUGH HERE!", "Yes", I say, "So where do we go?". This continues for another few rounds, until I suggest he calls someone who can help us, and, grudgingly, he does. His supervisor appears and asks us where we're from and who we flew with. On hearing Belfast and Easyjet, he visibly flinches, displaying the expression one might have after being told that someone had just shit in your sandwich. "Tell me about it", I respond. He tells us that we can go through, but we'll have to find an Easyjet staff member to then escort us back airside to pick up our checked in bags which have be re-routed to another part of the airport.

This is the exact point that my ability to see the funny side failed completely.

Luckily I had an advantage - years ago I worked for two weeks every day at Gatwick airport and therefore know it like the back of my hand, including the staff-only bits. So it was with a screwed-up expression of anger on my face, that I stomped off through a staff door, found my way backstage to the right baggage claim, got my bag and went home with a tiny sense of victory in the larger continuing defeat.

The rest of the week I called Easyjet every day, sometimes several times, and was given a spectacular panoply of lies and misdirections. My favourite being "Your bag will be with you today, it's with the baggage delivery people, call them.", on calling them, "No, We don't have it from Easyjet yet", then on calling Easyjet back, "We'll call you when we can get through to Gatwick", "No, how about you call me this afternoon whether or not you get through, so then I'll know if I have to wait in all day for my bag", "No. We don't do that". Not forgetting, of course, the classic, "Can I talk to your supervisor please", "No, I don't think that's needed.", "Well, I think it is", "No, it really isn't". etc etc etc.

During one phone call to the baggage delivery people (The earth-shatteringly named "GroundCare Solutions"), I was so exasperated by Easyjet leading me astray once again that I giggled "You know, I think I'll just go ahead and kill myself". "Ooh no", said the GroundCare lady, "You don't want to do that", "You haven't had the week I've had", I said. "Cheer up - it's the weekend soon", she tried. "I work weekends", I said, "Using the bag that still hasn't been delivered to me". "Oh." she said.

It's Friday now, and my bag is finally here. A full week after Easyjet lost it. Delivered by a driver who, winningly, said "Sorry I'm late, this is my first visit to London."

Any guesses on how many times an Easyjet employee actually apologised or expressed any kind of regret for losing my bag?


Friday, 4 May 2007

Radisson hotel, how do I love thee..?

Let me count the ways... groovy modernist room, yep. Pretty good room service, yep. Free wireless internet in your room, hell yes.

But wait. I have to give them my credit card and they'll reserve £50 out of my account per day of my stay, to cover potential expenses. Huh? No. You have my address, and name, and phone number, and the details of the people I'm working for who have booked the hotel, so if I run up any charges then I'll pay for them when I check out. Since when did hotels start assuming you're going to try to run out without paying and charge you for things that you might use? Only noticed this the last couple of years. Hate it. The assumption of dishonesty. When you go shopping, you don't get charged for walking into a shop just in case you choose to buy something, only to be refunded if you don't - because it would be ridiculous and slightly offensive to the customer...

Just saying, is all.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Was feeling a bit depressed today

Not anymore. Forgot how fab little Howard is.

Going to Belfast

This weekend I'll be doing the double act at the festival of fools in Belfast.. More info at
Come and say hi if you're in the area...

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Dr Pot, meet Dr Kettle...

Dr Aric Sigman is a psychologist who has just released a book called "Remotely Controlled: How TV is damaging our lives", in which he takes very selective research and tries to make a case that your kids aren't badly behaved because you're a crap parent, oh no, it's all TV's fault.

Some of the British TV shows that Dr Sigman has been a guest on include...

Richard & Judy
The Today Programme
The Heaven & Earth show
The Frasier Story
Sex, Lies and Soaps
5 news
Channel 4 news
Live & Kicking (a kids show...)
He has also presented several documentaries on BBC1 and Radio 4
..and he boasts on his agency's website about his "extensive career as a broadcaster"

Amazing how 10 minutes with Google can expose someone's double-standards, innit?

(You can also learn that Dr Sigman charges £4000-£7000 for after dinner speaking, something he wouldn't be able to do, perhaps, if he hadn't been on all those quality TV shows....)

Seriously..this kind of crap makes Gillan McKeith look professional...

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Christopher Hitchens on The Daily Show last night..

Hitchens can sometimes be, y'know, a knob. But sometimes he's hilarious..

"All I'm saying is.. the more secular the society, the more amusing they are, and the better the food."