Monthly Archives: February 2009

Honest estate agent

Nice to meet you, to meet you nice.

So this is number 84.

We call this one a Katie Derham: clean-looking on the outside, filthy on the inside. Only joking, folks. I bet she’s a lovely girl.

The street is practically safe during the day: car jacking, heckling, minor door-step cons- nothing Jill Dando.

Parking’s all a bit musical chairs but give it a few years- if you’re disabled you’re laughing.

Council tenants to the left- arrrgghhh, scary!- old couple to the right. She’s in hospital a lot now so the noise complaints are negligible and…no, the smell’s gone.

The owners have just duffed it up- all surface work but it makes a good impression. That window box has whopped on about 10 grand all by itself. Pansies- who knew?

And in we go. Quite a tight squeeze- lift and tuck!- but you’re not founder members of the Tall Club so no worries there.

Right, this is the living/dining room.

It’s ‘dual aspect’. In agent speak that means you can escape either end, not unlike a dose of salmonella.

The space is more bowling alley than ballroom but they’ve made the best of it with the strategically-placed furniture.

It’s unlikely to look this good with your stuff in it but no need to dwell on that. Imagination isn’t always your best friend in the property market, despite what that saucy Allsopp fox dishes up.

So through to the characterful kitchen.

Whoa!! I’m sorry, I thought I was going to throw up on your Scholls then.

But let’s not be Negative Neil about it: it’s very much like being in a funky… tropical… diving suit, I daresay.

Ah, bless. That’s the outside space. I had a guinea pig once.

So through to the hallway.

It’s had a lick of paint to conceal structural issues you’ll discover once you’ve bought the house. Hey, it’s no big deal. It’s just like the emotional baggage of a new partner and you get over it, eh?

You have the look of people who would have liked what was there before. Trouble is, cork’s porous.

Up the stairs then, one at a time. No, you- not the steps. Say, have you got a cat that likes swinging around at all?

God, I have a laugh in this job.

O.K., so take a peek around the bedrooms.

In fact, if you stand just about here on the landing you can pretty much take in the whole of the upstairs without moving your head.

I’ll stand next door- you can shout when you hear me changing my mind.

The bathroom does what it says on the tin: it’s a room with a bath in.

Why the long face? No need to do the can-can when you’re doing a poo-poo.

Take a look at that cistern. Tell you what, they don’t make them like that any more. Actually, they just don’t make them any more but you could get a few bob for it on eBay, no doubt about it.

Now you want rid of me for a natter, you two, I can read the signs.

Why don’t you have a huddle? It’s four and a half minutes before the freight train passes so go ahead and enjoy a whisper.

Ooh, one potential deal-breaker with this cracker. There’s only 20 years left on the lease.

Hold on, what am I saying? That’s science fiction talk for you guys! You’ll be well within the limits.

You be sure and take your time. I’m all wrapped-up with the hard sell.


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Mars and Venus Texts

My friend: R we still on 4 2morrow?

Her date: Sorry, can’t make it. Fixing up my hse. It’s the only day the plumber can come 4 a wk. Just need to sort my priorities, u know?

My friend: Oh, O.K. Well, I spose it depends wot those priorities r. Njoy the plumber! x

Her date: Another few wks of mailing won’t hurt.

My friend: Praps. But I’m thinking u may have just missed ur slot.

(2 minutes)

Her date: I’ll catch the 3.30 x


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Bruno, 3yrs: A Life

I have energy. You could say I’m a man of action.

I’m the life and soul of the party when there is one and a pain in the bungalows when there isn’t. Hey, it’s not me that changes; there should be more parties.

I love having fun. Some people can’t live without books. Or sex. For me, it’s tickling.

Occasionally, I suppose I’m an awkward customer- stubborn even- but my heart is in the right place: I’m generous with my affections. I know my manners. I’m kind.

My sense of humour is not terribly sophisticated. The word ‘poo’ still makes me crack up. You can’t intellectualise joy so keep it basic, I say.

My emotions are ready. If I feel it, I feel it. If I don’t, I don’t. It’s an honest way to live.

I’m naive, certainly. Plenty of things confuse me. But I know how to be cute and that goes further than many people realise.

I think it’s important to accept other cultures. I was born in another country so I have a certain duality of identity myself.

I don’t think I would ever come across as prejudiced although I still struggle with the vocalising of certain observations: ‘That man’s got a bald head’.

I’m still on the fence about religion. On the one hand I feel constrained by it but on the other I enjoy the community, the stories.

I believe in Father Christmas.

I’m close to my family. They tell me a lot of home truths, which can be hard. But I trust them and I know they want what’s best for me.

In fact, my mother still picks out my clothes in the morning. I’m not embarrassed by it but left to my own devices I’d be naked.

Creatively, I enjoy the medium of play-dough. It’s real and tactile and sticks in places it shouldn’t. It’s for the naughty artist!

Food will always interest me. It can be expedient, celebratory, even funny. Try eating jelly in a bad mood.

I prefer to relax with a movie but often CBeebies is selected on my behalf. The quality of the programming is average overall but I find Big Cook Little Cook highly entertaining. They try so hard and the food does not look good.

I enjoy male friendships but, struth, the women in my life- they keep me up all night. They’re not a mystery to me at all. I understand them only too well.

My bear…my bear is very important to me.

I think one should be remembered for a quality rather than an attribute- a legacy that might contribute positively to the future of others rather than a favourable description of a person in their lifetime.

In that case, I hope my sense of justice will outlive me.

Life’s just not fair if it doesn’t.

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Psychiatrist: So your doctor referred you to me with ‘Anxiety, possibly linked to a mildly traumatic recreational activity’.

Patient: It’s going to seem silly to you but I haven’t felt right since the party.

Psych: Go on.

Patient: We drank a lot of wine. One thing led to another and the next thing you know one of the couples was on the phone asking for a delivery.

Psych: Ah. I see.

Patient: Yes, one of them had this special board game and the babysitter popped it in a cab.

Psych: A board game?

Patient: And it was just brilliant to start with. I got a whole load of money from the bank.

Not cards, you understand. Cash.

I could buy property in London. No mortgage, no HIPPS, nothing.

I gave the banker the notes and got the deeds- 2 minutes, max.

It took us 9 months to exchange on our last flat. 9 months.

Psych: That must have been frustrating for you.

Patient: Then it all started to go wrong.

Apparently you want to buy land in the same area.

Shouldn’t you diversify wealth? Spread the risk? What if the area goes downhill?

Ealing used to be lovely.

Psych: That’s a point of view, yes.

Patient: And I love utilities. Who doesn’t? We all need them, for Christ’s sake!

How are they not a good investment?

Psych: You’re getting upset, I can see. There are some tissues here.

Patient: I won second place in a beauty contest. I tried to enjoy myself, I really did.

Then Samantha gets out these little green things and I say, ‘What the hell are those?’ and she says, ‘Houses’ and soon it’s costing me a fortune just to pass by.

Psych: How distressing.

Patient: I’m telling you, it got worse: hotels.

Great red bricks on premium sites. It’s plain greedy.

I felt physically sick on the approach. The moussaka kept repeating on me.

Psych: Didn’t you ever pass ‘Go’?

Patient: A couple of times but those bastards from the Inland Revenue…

Plus what’s 200 quid when you need thousands?

I was facing bankruptcy!

Psych: That’s never good.

Now, did you think at any point, ‘It’s just a game’?

Patient: I’ll tell you what I thought: ‘Let me go directly me go to jail’.

I was grateful to be behind bars.

Is that how you expect to feel when you go to a dinner party?

Psych: Not generally speaking.

Patient: I feared my freedom.

A box of Bendicks and some of my best anecdotes and I was cowering in the corner like Myra Hindley.

Of course, it couldn’t last. I threw a double and oh, god, I can still hear the jeering…

Psych: These things can stay with you for a long time, I understand.

How did the evening finish?

Patient: In abject humiliation down the Old Kent Road, that’s where and it hasn’t stopped since.

I’ve been checking out Peter Rachman books from the library.

I’m having endless dreams about enormous irons.

Do you know that by the end of it Samantha had property just about everywhere. She was all over the bloody board. It was like…it was like she…

Psych: Had the monopoly?

Patient: Bingo. A complete monopoly.

I’m sorry but how is that fun? That’s a mean idea for a board game.

Kids play them too, you know?

Psych: Indeed.

I’m going to advise you to steer clear of organised fun for a while, OK?

Please stop smoking so much weed.

And, whatever you do, don’t play Snakes and Ladders.


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It Could Be You


I can think of no flimsier object that inspires sadness in me than a lottery ticket: a lust for money, a fast train out of here, the material evidence that its owner hopes there is a better life to be lived.

And although I too would squat in the centre of this venn diagram, I rarely play for the excellent reason that, fundamentally, I do not believe in my chance of winning.

Far more preferable, surely, to align oneself with uncalculated luck. How much sweeter to large it up on an inflatable swimming pool armchair on the proceeds of a packet of cash that fell from the sky labelled, ‘This is for you because God wills it’ than the freak result of whoring yourself weekly at the local newsagent?

Scratchcards are different altogether. Back-pocket sums dug away with your own grubby twopenny piece- my God, you practically earn them.

I did once write a drama series based on the changing fortunes of a hairdresser who does/does not win the biggie- Sliding Doors styley. I started to doubt it when the characters appeared in dreams as cardboard cut-outs, leading me to conclude that they were not as fully-rounded as they should be. Then realising the pitch would almost certainly involve the word ‘bittersweet’ I tucked it back into the filing cabinet, where it has spent 9 years snoozing.

But for a little while it did allow me to dream: the holidays, the clothes, the grateful charities. The glorious fissures in my already normally dysfunctional functioning family if the winning ticket was one of my mother’s Christmas lunch table gifts.

My parents, on the other hand, act as people over whom the large, foamy hand is permanently itching to point.

In the heady days of 1994 when Camelot first realised its Eureka! moment to stimulate the greed impulses of a nation, my parents instinctively sorted themselves into the 2 now-familiar major lottery player netball teams.

My mother represented the horoscope-reading-cosmic-ordering school-of-thinking, with numbers meaningfully reflecting the birthdays of her loved ones.

My father captained the abstract-logical-thinking-man’s set of meaningless numbers.

And yet, while not trailing the snuggly blanket of sentiment, his were not entirely plucked from the ether. As misguided friends dumbly snatched at the numbers repeatedly proving their willingness to get sucked up the tube my father sniggered, carefully selecting the lifeless balls on the premise that it was they who were due their moment in the sun.

Not a statistician by profession, he kept a well-thumbed list of 1-49 with the weekly strikes marked alongside, like a man crossing off his days in prison.

A year or so down the line he could be found periodically at the kitchen table (still in his kitchen and not as yet in the pantry of a country mansion) gnarled paper in hand, vexed.

My mother, meanwhile, was struggling with first principles: ‘What peculiar numbers. No one’s going to win this week’.

Now, hardened to the disappointment of serial losing, they’re buggered if they’re going to stop, not least because my mother could not endure the horror of watching the celebratory days of her family popping up on Primetime without clutching the deserving counterpart in her sweaty palm.

Last week-end I was privileged enough to enjoy a window on the secret rituals that surround their persistent gaming.

On Saturday night they assemble in the living room for their rare session of television-watching, meal condiments placed on nesting tables at their sides.

My father (who enjoys exclusive remote control privileges) then steers the channels towards Dale Winton and his dazzling quiz show, ‘In It To Win It’. (This show still has a shouty man delivering urgent C.Vs of the contestants in the time it takes them to skip to their posts: ‘Laura’s-26-and-has-two-children-and-works-as-a-dentist’s-receptionist’.)

My father is in it to do impersonations of Dale; my mother is in it to add her own voice over: ‘If you look closely, he’s had a lot of work done’; ‘Oh, I can’t bear it, that chap has to go home without anything’; ‘The answer’s B, you ignoramous’.

I thought that this was the evening- that we were in the moment. But, no, this was just warm-up.

Suddenly there’s a flurry of activity and they’re running in and out of the kitchen with little pieces of pink paper and the next thing that happens is Dale’s off and the Lotto programme’s on and my parents are spewing vitriol at Jenni Falconer, like the W.I characters on Little Britain.

Jenni, a woman my parents believe was placed on this earth with the express mission of annoying the arse off them. Standing between them and their dreams, probably knowing their numbers and weighting the balls against their favour. Reassuring them before they lose that the money’s being spent on the infrastructure for London to host the Olympic Games in the year 9 million:

‘Oh, piss off, woman, what are the numbers?’

And tonight’s winning numbers are: 2 8 4 23 49 3 bonus ball 1

Silence. Checking (Lucky Dips having since been introduced to join the old favourites).

Father: Nothing, Old Bird. You?

Mother: One sodding number. 49, always 49. One number out of the whole row. Lucky Dip? I don’t think so!

And then consoling and picking up and dusting off and the excitement is over for one more week.

Real Life resumes. Rainy and yacht-less but still full of maybe.

Only next week they know that if they do win please could they possibly buy their youngest daughter a …


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Snow White


Did you name me to mock me- you and the boy?

Did you wait until the soft, fresh flakes had thawed

to fashion me an ice man with your Kenny Everett hands?

Diminutive, my body tightly packed, no room to breathe

A brittle brace around my February heart

You, a schizoid Jamie Oliver, laughing with your thyme hair plugs to prick in the wet pate of my bald head

Mushing fruit into my face as if to craft a Wintry Oedipus

Leaving me to cry thick blueberry tears

My arms, my buttons, my forced smile so painfully pedestrian

Plucked from the branches and the soil of your forsaken ‘outside space’

And, what, the final sneer, a cashew nut screwed hard into the place where I would inhale the odour of the sun, my love, the earth on which I sit

Well, just hear this, you Oafish Bint

One day as you ponce down the street

Your suede-effect gloves tucked safely in the drawer at home

I will pop by to say hello in sheets of driving rain

And you will not be humming Phil Collins hits

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The News


Anchorman: Many parts of England and Wales have been covered this week in large blankets of snow. Early indicators say it hasn’t snowed so much for ages- that’s how snowy it is.

It’s generally stopping people getting to work because it’s very wet and cold and interferes with wheels and lots of ways of getting to work involve wheels.

It’s not great for trains either which run on tracks and prefer a clear path or for airplanes because they need visibility and other stuff to stay in the air.

In London, you might think the Underground is feeling smug but, no, because all the other transport is up the creek so everyone’s heading down there and it’s causing delays.

The only way to get about is walking and even then it’s slippery and you might fall over and split your head open.

James Wyatt is in the thick of it in some village in the middle of nowhere, reporting on how much snow there actually is.

How much snow is there, James?

Reporter: Loads, Michael.

Anchorman: And what’s it doing?

Reporter: It’s hard to describe. It’s packing several inches deep. It hasn’t snowed this much for at least a good while.

It’s just come out of the blue.

Anchorman: Even though it’s February and we live in Britain?

: Yes. Christmas day came and went- what the hell’s it doing here now?

Anchorman: How are the villagers being affected?

: Well, Michael, there are road closures, people staying indoors all over the shop. Salt.Warnings.

Above all, it’s generating an enormous amount of news.

: What would you say to awkward people who argue that snow is a natural weather condition occurring when the temperature drops below freezing point?

Reporter: I’d like them to come down here for a few hours and see for themselves what snow does when it settles.

: What does it do?

: It gets very slippery, which is difficult for cars.

And you have to put on masses of extra clothing.

And it means that normal people have to do extraordinary things just to go about their daily routines.

I saw a man earlier using a shovel to get out of his own front door- it was almost freakish to watch.

Anchorman: How is morale in the village?

: There’s an atmosphere of disbelief. It’s all anyone can talk about.

‘God, it’s cold’, ‘Have you seen the snow?’– that kind of thing.

On the plus side, there’s an increased camaraderie: strangers laughing with each other in the streets at the sheer absurdity of it all.

Anchorman: What are the more serious implications?

Reporter: Apart from safety concerns surrounding the operating of skiddable machinery in a substance that’s very slippery there’s finger pointing at those not turning up to schools and offices.

Anchorman: Surely they’re snowed in?

Reporter: No, they’re generally taking the piss.

People are also cooking unnecessary quantities of comfort food to watch in front of daytime television and neither of those are good for your health.

But we don’t want to over-react here.

Anchorman: Anything good to come of this?

Reporter: It’s pretty- Narnia-like. The kids are larking around with snowballs and in open fields men of snow have been brought magically to life.

There’s a crunch underfoot and an eerie end-times silence that may cause some to reflect on the selfishness of their empty, miserable lives.

Anchorman: Can you sum it up for us?

Reporter: Yes, Michael: hospitals, school children, traffic police, carrot farmers- all very happy.

Small businesses, taxis, delivery men, skinny people- quite pissed off.

Anchorman: James, thank you. And be safe.


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