Post-birthday blues

Well, once again I intended to write searing, hyper-articulate analyses of the issues of the day (Carole Thatcher, racism, Gaza, George Galloway etc) but now I can’t be arsed. There’s no point giving my opinion 10 days after everyone else is sick of a subject.

Thursday was my birthday. I didn’t get to skive off work, but I the day was made more interesting by having a meeting at the Gherkin, which I’d never been to before. The meeting was on the 14th floor, which was pleasant, but not shockingly impressive. Fortunately, the client offered to take us up to the 40th floor, which is some kind of bar/restaurant. I spent about 10 minutes just gawping and taking photos. The view is wicked, and most important of all, I could see Alexandra Palace, hazy in the distance.

“I live there,” I said, giving the impression that I believe that I live in a palace.

In the evening, my girlfriend and I went round to my mum’s for a meal and were joined by my twin sister (and family) who was also, coincidentally, celebrating her birthday. Friday night was spent getting pissed in a gastropub in East Finchley. I was doing ok until people decided to buy me shots of Zambuca. Yesterday was spent being hungover.

My girlfriend has decided to enter both of us into a 10k run in July. In theory, this is good, although judging by my efforts so far, I’m going to have to get a lot fitter. Ridiculously, my girlfriend decided to go for a run today, and despite doing no training at all, managed to happily jog 5 kilometres. I am ruined and emasculated.

The 10k run will be for charity. I have a vague idea of which charity I will run for – basically, the same one that my mates have done previously. I was looking through the official list of charities, and I have to say, there are some ridiculous organisations out there. There’s actually, genuinely a charity called Clowns in the Sky. Now, they work for a good cause (research into childhood brain tumours) but it’s the worst name ever for a charity. If someone turned up on my doorstep, asking for money for Clowns in the Sky, I would punch them in the face.


It is snowing

It is snowing very heavily. No buses. Limited tubes. Fortunately I am working from home today. The girlfriend managed to get into town via First Capital Connect, but is on her way home before all forms of transport are cancelled.




I went for a quick wander around Alexandra Palace but I own no gloves and my hands were turning into lumps of frozen meat, so it’s back home to wear thermals and keep the central heating on. My nostalgic joy at snowfall lasts about 2 hours before I’m sick of it and resent feeling trapped, cold and slippery. Bring on the heatwave.

Oh, and today is transfer deadline day. I don’t really think Spurs need new players. We just have to remember that turning up on matchday doesn’t actually mean you get to win the game.


I live close to Alexandra Palace (and park). This is normally quite a good thing, but for the last week or so they’ve had the World Darts Championship there, which means that if I time things badly, I end up sitting on a bus with hordes or darts fans, all wearing ridiculous shirts and shouting: “Darts! Darts! Darts!” which is the traditional cry of the dartsman.

They have transformed one window of the Palace into a mock-dartboard, and the crap Phoenix pub has been turned into BAR 180,with the surrounding area strewn with more beer barrels than I have ever previously seen. Still, it makes a change from the Dinghy Show or the hugging woman from India.

I don’t really mind darts. It’s definitely not a sport, despite the protestations of Barry Hearn, who I saw on Sky Sports News about a week ago, explaining how darts was now the second most popular sport in England after football. I don’t trust Barry Hearn, so I don’t believe him.

The crowd seems to be mostly men in their 20s and 30s, although a fair few women come along as well. It’s a very, very white crowd, but darts is pretty much a white, working-class game. It’s not kabbadi, is it?

Barbers are idiots

What is it with barbers?

After the gym, I was wandering through the hinterland below Alexandra Palace but above Crouch End (I am going to name it VictoriaStakesLand, after the pub) when I decided to get my hair cut. As I habitually do, I ended up in a small, smelly barbershop run by a middle-aged man. The difference being that this man was Turkish, not Greek. A triumph for diversity.

I asked for my usual haircut: two on the sides and three on top. Simple. An idiot could do it. Or so I thought.

My suspicions were aroused when he informed me that he was going to wash my hair after the cut. I explained that the hair would be very short, and wouldn’t need washing, but he was insistent. My suspicions worsened when he kept stopping the haircut to attend to customers at the cafe next door. Apparently, his wife runs the cafe, but she was out doing Christmas shopping, so my clippering was put on hold as customers sporadically paid him for capuccinos and cakes.

After about 20 minutes, he started tidying up the haircut when realised that it looked odd. Rather than blending the grades, he had left subtle but identifiable bands of hair around my head, making me look like a thug from 1988. I politely asked him to blend the hair. He looked puzzled and explained that he would have to put the clippers on a different setting. He continued for another 15 minutes or so, without actually doing much to correct things. Still, the haircut looks ok. It’s not what I wanted, but it’s not going to get me attacked in the street. He then washed my hair, which is something that I have never had done in barbershop in my life. He seemed to take a lot of professional pride in massaging my scalp, and I had a terrible fear that it was all going to lead to some gay overtures, but fortunately that didn’t happen.

On the plus side, he did clipper my goatee, so I look less like a tramp.

Earlier on, at the gym I saw the fattest man to ever wear swimming trunks. The exercise bikes overlook the swimming pool area, and as I paddled away, I watched an enourmous man on a diving board. He was immense, with a massive wobbly stomach. Despite this, he repeatedly did huge twists and backflips off the board, landing in a variety of compromising positions before the lifeguard told him to stop. I was quite something to watch.

Words and pictures

A very spectacular rainbow in Muswell Hill. I kept stopping to take photos, whereas my girlfriend was totally unimpressed.


Some big, fuck-off leaves. I am increasingly amazed by leaves, and increasingly annoyed by the novels of Michael Chabon.


The fireworks at Ally Pally, as captured by the unreliable camera on my phone.  Apparently there were 50,000 people there, but I didn’t say hello to all of them.


A mighty big fry-up from my favourite caff in East Finchley. All that plus tea for about four quid. The chips were undercooked and we asked for them to be done properly. I’m English and not accustomed to complaining, so I looked at the floor throughout.


Todd Carty aka Tucker in Grange Hill, Mark Fowler in Eastenders, and the strange copper who slept with his mum in The Bill. He was minding his own business having a meal and I shouldn’t have snapped him, but I couldn’t resist.


My book, alongside Barack Obama. We go back a long way, me and Barry. Before he met me, he was going to call his book “Calypso Courtship”, but I suggested “Dreams from my Father”.


Interview for a German travel magazine

Yesterday I was interviewed for a German travel magazine. Kathleen, the journalist in question, emailed me about a month or so saying that they were producing a new travel guide to London and wanted to hear from a proper Londoner, and thought the idea of themanwhofellasleep’s London would appeal to people. I did explain to her that I hardly know London and rarely leave Muswell Hill, but even that didn’t put her off. The magazine isn’t quite a magazine – it looks like a magazine but the guides are only published once every 8 years, so it’s going to be in newsagents for a long time.

The day started with Kathleen, Martin the German photographer, and his English assistant Ian meeting me near my flat. Then Martin took photos of me sitting at my desk, with ashtray, books, and notepad artfully arranged around me as I wistfully stared out of the window, pretending to be a writer.

Then we moved on to Alexandra Palace, where I posed outside the Palace and Martin lay on the ground with the dirt and cigarette butts, taking photos of me from the appropriate angles. We then got the bus up to Highgate, so I could be photographed outside a tube station. I ended up sitting atop a concrete pillar outside the lower entrance to the station, looking out into the distance as people walked by and smirked at me. We then decamped to The Woodman pub where I cradled a pint of Guinness and scribbled into a tiny notepad as Martin took even more photos.

The photographers then left and Kathleen and I returned to my flat so she could ‘interview me’. It turned out to basically be me rambling incoherently about London as she recorded it all on a digital machine. I thought I mostly talked bollocks, but she seemed to think it sounded ok.

I now have to wait until May 09 for the thing to be published.