Ninja Grapes

Ha! That was diverting. Maybe 50 people in a sort of bijou Strand vault, circulating and talking to one person every three minutes, business cards flying everywhere (alas, not mine - I should get some lovely card and scrawl my own, that would make me look terribly creatif). You had to raise your voice to be heard above all the other enthused bellowing. It was like some mad entrepreneurial aviary.

Three minutes is a mighty long time if the other person is very dull and/or very quiet. This I have learned.

I finally got to eat something, all spent after seven times round, and managed just about to avoid an argument about foxhunting with a girl who was so Barbour it was arresting. She practially had "My family have hunted these lands since the 1700s" graven across her forehead so it wasn't even an assumption when I asked if she had. (Admittedly the whole "Foxes are VERMIN" rant rather gave her away.) But we were too darned civilised and pleasant to tussle over that. I just put a non-expression on my face and tucked into my duck which had been seared on the white-hot metal edge of hypocrisy, why yes. Then some gonk with a website set fire to a napkin with a candle. The flapping-it-about dance didn't really help.

I need a haircut. Moreover I need to do something grubby and honest before I lose touch. But the last time I did that I nearly killed many people for being utter, posing, smoking, credulous, approval-honking fucksticks. I suppose most people are a bit awful, and especially most people who coagulate into social groups of their own accord; maybe that creates its own unsavoury chemical reaction. No one like groups, they're ugly things. Only individuals are precious and lovely. And the relief when you find and clutch them, your hands all soiled with the grot of the rest.

Oh yes, and I did get to see A-ha for four songs. Including that one and that other one. He didn't shrink from the high notes and going by the breathtaking cheekbones and the very moving angles of his amazing face, somewhere in an attic in Oslo there is a really hideous gnarled portrait with snaggleteeth and red eyes. He has a receipt from the devil's own desktop. He'd be exhausting to look at for too long. He's 46 or something and, y'know, hot damn. Apparently in 2000 he beat Bill Withers' record for the longest note held on a record - Bill's was 18 (that one in 'Lovely Day'), Morten's was 20 and a bit. In a song that no one living actually has except me. It's not bad.

I had two glasses of wine and I feel dreadful. I think the two varieties are having some kind of international incident. In my innards. Whither my valiant ninja doctor who cured me of everything last time? He's in Lytham St Annes. Curses.

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Resident Weevil

And I wonder why mothers gather up their wee ones and hold them tightly.

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Everybody in the house of love

A month in the new place and the dog has already broken a window trying to eat cats in the garden. The windows are original sash ones, which is great except for the fact that the frames would make a good cheesecake base. This offsets the guilt considerably.

I'm writing about spas and culture and politics and how no one ever needs to listen to Shania Twain. Music reviews for a frilly website for overgrown girlies = a most satisfying doss. Where once I poured my soul into music criticism for monkey nuts, now I hack with glorious 3-star indifference for decent money. It's like victory over the false promises of glory that keep you down. Yessir.

Today I had tea in proper cups and ate homebaked cake, and bitched about literature, which was gratifying. We swopped books. It was curiously pleasing to watch mine go off to new and interested parties, at least the one in particular that I had liked but that left me feeling somewhat hollow. I acquired nine new ones which I want to read all of all at once. I seemed to end up with an armful of misery, drugs and filth. Excellent.

What is also gratifying:

1) I edited a book this month which will be published and everything. A decent book. Which I edited at a creative level instead of just giving it a technical Brazilian. This was very pleasing indeed.

2) The new Goldfrapp album, which is just as Goldfrappy as the other two only slightly more so. There's this one delicate muffled piano pounding bit that's half-buried in the midst of one second verse that I would just like to loop in my head indefinitely, just behind my eyebrows.

3) One of the books that happened to be there today for the picking was raved about to me the other day by a 19-year-old phone services salesboy, who came to anoint me with free weekend calls and stayed for two cups of tea. So I picked it. I had to really. It was such a satisfying coincidence. He said it changed his life. If that's the case then God knows what he was before he was knocking on strangers' doors in the snow, but let's not be too cynical. He was a nice, bright boy. I could almost have threatened his career with my body.

4) Dog. Dog always gratifying, especially when making hard gangster types pale on the bus.

5) As karmic Jiffy-bag reward for putting up with pain-in-arse PRs bothering me to review 'The Best of Our Tune with Simon Bates' (in all fucking honesty), I am being sent gifts. An Arctic Monkeys pin badge for one, but for better than that, a fat block of Belle & Sebastian Post-Its. I couldn't give a rat's ass for Belle & Sebastian, but each Post-It says

Step Into My Office, Baby

on it which is enough for me.

What is not gratifying:

1) The first spa treatment I reviewed was an extraordinary Austrian detox treatment, which involved being poached gently for a while in hot fragrant water and then being tilted from side to side to stimulate metabolism. It was a marvellous experience only marred by the fact that it flushed the Evil Abdomen Ague of Yore from its foetid cave in, I don't know, the abdomen of my subconscious or wherever, and now I can hardly eat pizza without doubling over and groaning theatrically. Banishing the Evil Abdomen Ague of Yore took time, patience and money before, and I'm determined to use none of these now that it's come galumphing back. Just peppermint tea and hilariously unrealistic screaming-grin optimism.

2) Either the central heating is going through some sort of midwinter crisis (who knew it was possible to live better than in a charming neglected terraced house with shitty gas heaters alone? I'm not missing it and nor are my pre-arthritic joints), or it's so fucking cold that the cold is just eating up all the heat. Or both.

3) I'm going to have to get a permanent flatmate when my temporary one, my old mate the accountant, leaves after a month here. Can't I get some kind of special rent-discount for being a fickle hermitous misanthrope who vacuums seldom and yet can't stand it when the knives are the wrong way up in the drainer? (Blades down, people. Everything else up so you can tell what it is. And put the fucking teaspoons in the smaller bit at the front that practically says 'teaspoons go here', or so help me, I will disembowel you with this very spatula.)

4) Having enjoyed sex with people who love me or at least want to have sex with me, several times a week for the last three years, I'm suddenly celibate as a pet lizard. Actually there have been several non-sex spells in that time, but for some reason this one is especially bitey. It's all the socialising. There's no other explanation for it. Water, water everywhere, nor any drop that is willing to do disgusting things to me for an evening. At least not without complication. Alas. I've just had the most adult and healthy and satisfying complication for 18 months, and now in order to maintain the delicate balance of the universe I require something otherly. I suppose I'll just have to channel it into my work. How bastard dull.

5) I've got to find out where the tax office is so I can deliver whatever laughably passes for my tax return by hand on Tuesday. Dig it.

Tomorrow A-ha are doing an instore gig at HMV on Oxford Street. (Yes, it's very gratifying to be back here in the land where the interesting event roams free.) Morten Harket still looks exactly as he did in 1986 only a bit more rugged. He has aged like a good pair of jeans. A remarkably beautiful man who I should probably not be gazing upon in my present state of graceless bodice-ripping tension. I'm expecting to see Cliff Richard lurking in the crowd, primed to abduct the Nordic Adonis in order to bathe in his blood and gain ETERNAL LIFE.

Then I'm going speed-networking, probably with business cards printed at that shopping centre. I'm an urchin at their lustrous marble table.

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