Life is so peculiar

May 19, 2010

It doesn’t pay to complain. Really, you can’t stay home and brood. So, before we get to the nitty gritty let’s just enjoy a peaceful and calming break.

Are you feeling mellow? Life is peculiar isn’t it? Sometime, whilst I was in Manchester, between May the 4th and May the 9th, my car was stolen. Here’s the  story.

As much as I am an idiot I am also, when this comes to that, relatively capable. And so on discovering the theft of my car I tried to do everything in the right order. First, I phoned the council. (A few years ago I had been visiting my sister in America. I came back to find a new road and no car. I phoned the council. They told me that my car could have been moved and I should have a look around nearby first. Sure enough, I found it.) This time, I’d come back from Manchester to find nice new yellow lines. So, I called, and was told that my car hadn’t been moved. I walked around a bit anyway. I hadn’t used my car for over a week and I wanted to check I hadn’t just parked it somewhere unusual. I walked around for an hour. I was convinced I would find it.

I didn’t. It had gone.

Next, the police. They got me to phone some search company. No sign on it’s database, so back to the police, and then to my insurance company.

This was all a week last Monday. Yesterday I was walking to one of my local cafes when I saw this.

My car.

I felt sick.

A part of me was convinced I would at some point see it. I don’t know why. It may be part of being a writer that leads to all sorts of possibilities racing through my head. So seeing it was the most natural thing in the world. Also the scariest.

What to do? I couldn’t even bring myself to go near it at first. What if I saw someone try and get into it? What if it was madly and sadly disfigured and smashed?

And also… what if I was mad? What if I had parked it there? But then I knew I hadn’t. I hadn’t, had I? What? It’s just… It was all too much. I felt sad, happy, worried, sick; as traumatised as a naseous Woody Allen. What would the police think? And my insurers? If I was mad and I had parked it there, would I go to prison? Would I be fined for wasting police time? Would the insurers sue me?

So, of course, after a few days of standing in the street and just looking, months of feeling ill, years of being banged up, I walked over to the car.

There was a leaflet under the windscreen wiper, battered by the weather. It had been there since early May.

I’m not mad. The Council had moved my car. Or their sub-contractors had. It seems they just don’t choose to tell you.

Thank you to the police and Tesco Insurance for being so understanding about this; for not locking me up, and for leaving my no claims bonus in place.

Lewisham Council? No thanks to you.

And, to make sense of Life is So Peculiar… I have tried to complain. It didn’t pay.  I called the council back. I was passed from person to person, no one quite knowing how to handle my call. Eventually I was told that I could speak to some sort of inspector. I was handed over to him and then… I was transfered to an answering machine. I left my name and number. No one has called back.

I’m putting this down to one of those things and I am not going to chase it. I just don’t have the… Oh, let’s end on another philosophical favourite.

Goodbye car

May 13, 2010

Goodbye car. You’ve been with me a while. You’re the only car I’ve ever had, and, likely, the only car I ever will have.

A metallic green Ford Fiesta 1.6si bought in 1995 for about £10,000. I’d done my one and, so far, only advert. For Fruitang . An advert deal for £10,000. It’s ridiculous I know. Shame I only get these jobs once every… well, once.

Feeling flush, I decided to learn to drive. I passed my test on my second go. The first try I was 17. The next, 33.

And so I bought a car. I thought I’d maybe have it for three years and then, with a little bit left on the warranty, sell it and get something fancier.

But that’s not how things go. I’ve had it for 15 years now, and I’ve grown fond of it.

It was the only place I could listen to my cassettes. Proper ones as well as my student compilation ones; John Peel’s Festive 50 from 1984, Kimono My House by Sparks, my first ever cassette, bought in 1974 and only just, a few months ago, snapped.

All my cassettes were in the boot, carrier bags full of them. And a Jim Reeves boxed set. Lots of pairs of shoes. My boot was a spare room.

I hope whoever has my car is enjoying the music. If you’re reading this and you haven’t yet forced the boot open try getting them by removing the rear seat. Oh, and you’ll find my favourites and most listened to, along with my sunglasses, in the glove compartment.

Don’t look in the ashtray. There’s no ash. But there is a Close Encounters-like mountain of chewed gum. Sorry.

You may have smashed it by now. Or resprayed it. Or burnt it. Or washed it. I hope you’ve washed it. It was very dirty. Oh, and can you buy four new wheel trims? You’ll see that one is missing and it’s really difficult to find a matching one. I’d like it to look its best.

If you get fed up with it, or don’t like it, could you give it back please? That’d be nice.




“Do a commercial, you’re off the artistic roll call, every word you say is suspect, you’re a corporate whore and eh, end of story.” Bill Hicks.

This morning I had a casting for a commercial. I had to go to a fancy pants agency over in Ladbroke Grove. You know you’re in a fancy pants agency when the people who work there take their dogs to work. This one, a sweet and lovely dog, I have met before- on one of my other failed trips out to Ladbroke Grove. And this was a failed trip.

I don’t like castings. I never have. When I was younger, and I didn’t have to go to them, I wouldn’t. I didn’t like the way they made me feel nervous, the way they made me sweat, the way they made me feel just a little bit useless and stupid. I’d have been like Bill Hicks. But, I’m still here. So I’ve given up and given in. Though some amongst you may be aware that I did one advert in 1995 for some sweets called Fruitang. We did the advert as the World of the Strange characters. So, I guess I’m off the artistic roll anyways. That advert enabled me to afford driving lessons, at the age of 33, and also to afford a car; my little Ford Fiesta that I’m still driving now; yes, my car’s a teenager.

So, back to today. I had to be a tic tac man (the racecourse hand lingo, not the mints) for a tabloid newspaper ad. Everyone around me looked like a bookie from the racecourses. I wasn’t going to get this ad and so I resigned myself to stroking and playing with the dog. While all around me waved their arms like they were playing a demented game of Simon Says, I sat on the floor and communicated with the dog.

In the casting room, you face about ten people all there to watch you wave your arms around. They gave me a piece of paper with my name on it. You hold this up while they film you for an “ident”. I forgot to take mine in. I tried to make light of it but I felt hidden scowls. Once, at a casting years ago, I got so nervous that when I went up to shake the hand of the director, a man called Rock, I stood on his foot. Anyway, I waved my arms around a bit and then left. The odds on me getting this job?- for the tic tacs reading, crossed arms. For the none tic tacs- 33/1. It would be higher but that’s as high as tic tac goes.

I left and decided to kill some time in London time. Sometimes I pass the time, sometimes I waste it; but today was definitely a killing day.

In Winkworth’s, just by Ladbroke Grove station, the estate agents sit eating crisps.

Outside the Ivy photographers wait, ready to shoot. I stand for a moment to see who will come out. But then I realise that I could be in for a big disappointment; what if it was, say, Sid Owen? And so I walk away, knowing for sure that I hadn’t seen, say, Raquel Welch or Uri Geller.

I do the same thing outside Cafe Nero. A police van turns up and spills out its officers, straight into the cafe. That’s exciting. I wonder what’s going on? Well, I’m still wondering. I walked away. I think they were maybe all going in for coffees.

I go to Fopp and allow myself £10 worth of goodies. I buy two dvd’s; Funny Games (the Michael Haneke remake of his own film), The Assassination of Richard Nixon (Sean Penn); and a book, The Comedy Writer by Peter Farrelly (as in the Farrelly brothers). Not bad for £10. Oh, but then it goes hopelessly wrong. I get to the till and am tempted by their “sweets” display- I buy two more things; the special edition Deathproof soundtrack (why special? because it comes in a padded packet, like a car seat), and Sunday at Devil Dirt by Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan. Doh! Now I’d spent another £6. Still, at least I’m going to make a bit of money playing a tic tac- Doh again! Me and my bad memory.

That’s how I killed time. Now I’m off to pass time, playing pool for JFK Rejects. It’s cup night tonight and we are in the semi-final, facing JFK’s (the non-reject ‘A’ team). Come on the underdogs!

p.s. If this post seems a little moany, sorry. Yes, I don’t like castings, but when things work, it’s not a bad way to earn a living. There are worse things I could do.

Angry at an advert

February 9, 2009

Maybe it’s because I’ve not had the best of weekends.

Saturday; a three mile journey to a surprise birthday party for a friend took four hours. The RAC visited me twice. I ended up getting the bus. At one point I was whizzing towards a roundabout at 40mph in a car that had no power; no breaking, no acceleration… even the cassette player was out. That was fun. I left at 4.45pm and got to the party at 9pm. And I was meant to be helping set up the surprise. Sorry Sarah.

Sunday; off to JFK’s for a pool tournament. By train. In the first round I was beaten by Frank Costello 5-0. Not the gangster Frank Costello, nor the other gangster Frank Costello played by Jack Nicholson in The Departed.  This Frank’s scarier. Frank plays for the England Youth Team and I was never going to win. But one or two frames would have been nice. Then, in a competition for the losers called The Plate, I was beaten by Lee Mager 4-1. I’m pleased to say that Mager is pronounced Major. Other players who have walked through the doors of JFK’s include Keith Richards, Peter Pan, Dan Brown, and Michael Clayton. That’s Lee below from when we (JFK Rejects) played the Pineapple two weeks ago. We won that match 8-4. And I won both of my games. See! I don’t always lose.

Alan Day, Tony Bailey, Lee Mager, Andy Law

Alan Day, Tony Bailey, Lee Mager, Andy Law

So maybe that’s why I’m angry at this advert.


Do I need anger management? Should I let such a thing fester away? And I’m angry for so many reasons.

Yes, Leningrad changed its name to  St. Petersburg. Yes, Norwich Union has changed its name to Aviva (making it sound like a duff car from the seventies). But no, no, no! Pierce Brosnan hasn’t changed his name to Daniel Craig! It’s just wrong. If they’d have put “Brosnan’s Bond to Craig’s Bond” I may just have accepted it, but “Brosnan to Craig?” What? What does that mean?

That’s my first cause to anger. Then I became even more angry as I realised I couldn’t stop thinking about it. And every time I thought about it I thought of Norwich Union and Aviva. Those damned advertising bastards had succeeded.

But wait. As I get even more angrier I see that they’ve succeeded in planting their campaign in my brain, but it is such a shit campaign, I will now forever think of Norwich Union/ Aviva as being a company associated with shit.

And to think I have an endowment policy with them, but no house.

Oh, what the hell, let’s have a poll on this one.

The Joy of Cassettes

November 12, 2008


My car’s a teenager, and I’ve had it since birth (the car’s, not mine). This isn’t my car. But who wants to see pictures of a thirteen year old Ford Fiesta? Other than carpaedos? Or, if you’re an American, Carpedos, but that doesn’t sound as funny. And anyway, for the sake of a ‘joke’ I’ve cheated on the structure. Really, if you were to get your kicks from car pics, you’d be a carphiliac, but that sounds kind of cheesy, or Welshy. And this post isn’t about the car, it’s about what’s in it.

My car is so old it only plays cassettes. And I have adopted the Car Cassette Rule. This states that; ” a cassette can only be changed at the discretion of a passenger; the driver is not allowed to change cassettes.” This is nothing to do with safety, and everything to do with me testing the resolve of frequent passengers. They’re actually infrequent, but then all the more fun when three months down the line they say “you’re not still listening to this?” And I ask them to free me and change the cassette. Sometimes I change them… secretly… sliding over to the passenger seat and imagining I am someone else.

For a long long long long long long time my cassette was Kimono My House by Sparks. This was the first cassette I ever bought, in 1974. It snapped a few months ago. Not bad going though; 34 years. I snapped at a much younger age. Now I have it on CD; remastered; but it sounded better on cassette, in the car.

Now I’m listening to Live at Robs. Rob is Rob Minshull. We made the cassette at his house. A long time ago. Last time I saw Rob was in sixth form college in Salford. So, this cassette is from the late 70’s. Here’s the track listings:


Highlight, and one that gets most rewound (Hey, I can’t take the cassettes in and out but I can fast ff and rew; I made up the rule) is the Clash’s Working for the Clampdown. The judge said five to ten, but I said double that again, I’m not… Join in.

Ha! Gitalong! Gitalong!