Friday, August 30, 2013

Me And Tel

I had cause to be in Windsor a few weeks ago (full frontal family assault on Legoland) and, being rather partial to a cheap Italian (I just cannot afford Monica Bellucci; lovely girl but too high maintenance), the family and I repaired to the local Bella Italia to enjoy a late evening, post Legogasm, meal.

Nothing unusual in that; the brood and I often fine-dine in such kid family establishments and have been known to sample their various incarnations up and down the country.

This time though we were in especial company.

I’m not a huge follower of Sir Terry Wogan but I know enough to have chuckled at his less than charitable (but wholly accurate) verbal drubbings meted out to various Eurovision entrants over the years and I believe he had a TV chat show a few years back and may also be relatively familiar with radio broadcasting. So the opportunity to dine with Tel (as he insisted I call him purely by raising an eyebrow my way) was something that I just could not pass up. And his wife (at least I assumed it was his wife) did not seem to mind us inserting ourselves into proceedings and, in fact, carried on eating as if nothing untoward had happened at all. Looking back on it now I wonder if she did actually see us.

And Terry too for that matter. Conversation was rather sparse - unusually so for the normally silken voiced retired BBC star.

Of course, that may have had something to do with the fact we were sat at entirely different tables but you can’t let a simple thing like an uncooperative seating plan spoil a good anecdote.

Technically I have eaten a meal with Mr Terry Wogan.

And I can tell you he had the best seat in the house – window seat, overlooking the fa├žade of Windsor Castle – seemed to be on good terms with all the waitresses and had the biggest ice cream sundae I have ever seen in my entire life. Lord knows we’re not fast eaters but the Wogans were still masticating and quaffing long after we had requested the bill. Our Tel must have the appetite of an ice age glacier and the constitution of Pete Doherty.

Anyway, I resisted the negligible urge to inveigle him in conversation just for the chance of a kind word and an autograph… I was with my family and needed a night off. If he wants a signed photo he’ll just have to approach my agent like everybody else.

Friday, August 23, 2013


I'm not a puritan (I couldn't give up sex and I don't like Cornflakes) but I drink so little I could be a teetotaller.

It has to be a special occasion indeed for alcohol to pass my lips.

Most of the time when I choose to drink it is not from a desire to take oral pleasure from the grape or the hop. There will undoubtedly be an element of peer pressure or the occasion itself will demand I allow my temple to be profaned with the bitter poison. A special occasion. Visiting friends and not wanting to reject their eagerly offered hospitality. A concession to "have just one" for the sake of appearances.

Secretly (though less secretly now) I would be quite happy if alcohol never entered my inner sanctum ever again.

It depresses me.

Alcohol literally depresses me.

It hit me earlier this week when I visited some very dear friends and shared a couple of pints of beer with them. At the time it felt fine. The taste was "ok". I would rather have had water or even a Coke but, you know, the occasion was one of those listed above and I accepted the offer of beer.

The trouble for me occurs the next day.

I felt depressed as all hell. Not hungover. Not ill. Depressed.

And it gave me a flashback to my twenties when I used to go out fairly regularly to pubs with friends and sink a few beers on a Friday night because that was what Friday nights were for.

I secretly loathed it. Not the going out. I could see that socializing was essential. It was the alcohol. The slavish adherence to "getting out of it" because that was what you were meant to do.

I rarely got drunk. Not out of a capacity to absorb huge quantities of alcohol and still walk a straight line but out of an internal mechanism whereby I find it very hard to let go and lose control.

But next day, Christ, next day the feeling of depression would incapacitate me every single time. So much so I would have to write off the entire day. I couldn't write. I couldn't trust myself to make any kind of decision. I'd just have to ride it through until the pall eventually left my system.

It got to the point whereby a simple equation (3 hours at the pub = an entire day written off) meant that I'd start to decline invitations to go out or find excuses to be elsewhere. For a couple of glorious years I'd just take myself off on my bike in the summer and spend my evenings cycling for miles and miles. I loved it. Sure it was solitary but being out and about in the British countryside was a real balm and, best of all, it gave me inspiration for the next day and I felt clean, hopeful and refreshed.

Alcohol could not compete.

For a while I tried to attach a moral payload to my choice not to drink but that was just dishonest. In truth if other people get genuine pleasure from drinking alcohol, good luck to them. For me it takes more than it gives and I'd rather not enter into the contract in the first place.

Does that make me a wuss? Maybe.

Personally, I like to think that it proves my hedonistic credentials. I like my pleasures to be unalloyed. A pleasure that you have to pay for later isn't that great a pleasure in my book. I want to have my cake and eat it.

Just spare me the accompanying glass of wine.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Wasp Flavoured Toast

Maybe he was depressed? Maybe he was just tired of life?

I'm not sure if wasps have any natural predators (aside from humans protecting their jam sandwiches) but it's possible his family had been wiped out in some random act of waspicide. Maybe the exterminator left him alive to spread the warning to other wasps? A cruel act of mercy.

I've run any number of scenarios through my mind this morning, trying to answer the simple question: why? It was such a horrible way to go. So senseless. So needlessly painful.

It's not like I make toast every day. In all honesty I'm not a toasty person. But once in a while the whimper of charred bread calls to my taste buds. Sometimes only beans on toast can fill that hole in my soul.

So there I am. Like a scene from a sitcom or a kitchen appliance advert. The epitome of domestic bliss. The bread is in the toaster. The toaster is on. The filaments are heating up; they're glowing red hot. Already the mouth-watering aroma of slightly burning bread is filling the air.

Enter suicide wasp stage right, through the open back door.

There's no preamble. He heads straight for the toaster like he already has an agenda. I make an attempt to wave him back outside again; it's instinctive even though I know wasps spurn any kind of direction or air traffic control.

And then before my eyes he immediately dive-bombs into the toaster. I mean he does a genuine kamikaze straight down the side between the filaments and the bread like the Millennium Falcon entering the Death Star.

I'm gobsmacked. I feel a little bit sick. I'm so shocked I can't even turn the toaster off for a few seconds. When I do I peer in gingerly.

I'm not sure what to expect. A blackened bubble of antimatter glued to one of the filaments maybe. Or half a wasp scorched into the toast like the remains of a victim of spontaneous combustion: just his wellington boots and the pipe he used to smoke left weirdly intact.

But there is nothing. Nothing at all. Even when I take out the slices of bread the bottom of the toaster is as it always is. Full of toasted bread crumbs. No sign of a blackened thorax or a smoking mandible.

I examine the toast. That too is as it should be. No unwanted sticky matter like superheated bubble-gum adhering to the surface.

Where the hell did the wasp disappear to? Did he incinerate completely? One clean flash of light and then gone forever? His every atom seared out of existence? There wasn't even any smoke or the pop and sizzle you usually get with shop insectocuters.

I confess I didn't enjoy my beans on toast after that.

I chewed every mouthful a little bit too carefully. Just in case something crawled out of the bread and made one of the beans start to buzz...