The shop assistant is blonde.

I approach her, coyly.

Do not get me wrong. The fact that I have mentioned that she is blonde is just there to set the scene, and to give readers a vivid sense of place. Although it is accepted as a stereotype, it is not at all necessarily true that girls who are blonde are more ‘up for it’ than girls with other types of hair, and judging people by the colour of their hair is foolish in any case.

Although it is true that you never, ever, ever see blonde nuns. So it might be that more dark-haired females are taken away from the sexual marketplace, thus meaning that on a purely scientific and mathematical average basis, girls who are blonde are more up for it.

I am a bit nervous about speaking to her. Recently, I seem to have lost all my confidence when it comes to speaking to women, as if the past twentyish years never happened and I am in my mid-teens again. It is not that I am particularly shy, it’s just that the only topics I can think of to talk about are the late thirtysomething equivalent of programs for the ZX Spectrum and the meaning of Jethro Tull lyrics, viz bowls and chickens.

I clear my throat.

“Have you got anything for athlete’s foot?” I ask.

She looks at me with beautiful eyes.

“Is it powdery and flaky, or gungey and weepy?” she asks.

The conversation is already out of control – I am sure there is nothing in the ‘how to stop being a sad loser and get off with shop assistants – GUARANTEED’ self-help books about this.

“Erm – gungey and weepy I guess,” I reply. I have blown it already.

“This is the most popular thing we have,” she offers. “It comes in a cream or a spray – which would you like?”

I hesitate. She has asked me a ‘closed’ question – a sure way of terminating the conversation. But if I am clever, I can keep her going – I do not have to reply with a simple single-word answer.

“Well it’s between my little toe and the one next to it, so I think a spray would be a bit difficult. I think cream would be better?” I reply, raising the pitch of my voice a little at the end to indicate a question, which will both extend the dialogue between us and flatter her by asking her for an opinion.

“Cream it is then,” she replies flatly. Damn!!!

I leave the shop with my cream. I am not currently in the market for dating, strictly speaking, but it is always good to keep your hand in – just in case. As I go, I remember that I have forgotten to play the sympathy card – this is how out of practice that I am.

I administer the medication on my return home. It is very, very sore and hurts a lot.

Testing 123

Hullo everyone.

There seems to have been a bit of unscheduled service disruption, viz the whole thing went a bit tits up last night.

I don’t know why, but my best people are on the case.

Thanks to those who contacted me, and sorry for the inconvenience – something seemed to go quite seriously wrong with either WordPress or the host itself. I’m now going to play about with things for a bit to check they’re still working, which is annoying as I should be cooking a tortilla.

If you spot anything amiss, please do leave a comment.

JonnyB

My car is condemned.

That is two garages now. A pattern is emerging.

“I really, really wouldn’t bother spending any more money on it,” warns the Garage Man, implying that I have spent some money on it, ever.

I sigh deeply. “How much do I owe you?”

“Just give me a tenner.”

Ten pounds!!! It is eating money. But the financials are the least of my worries. If I have to get another car, then I will have to choose what car to have, and I am not interested in cars, or at least not the sort of cars that I can afford. Plus I am bound to get ripped off, as that is the sort of thing that happens to me. I drive off crossly, loud techno music playing from my steering rack.

“Scrap it in now, and you’d get a new Fiat Punto for four grand,” someone advises. I do not know what a Fiat Punto looks like, but I suspect it is not something that is going to cause me to leap out of bed in the morning, throw my curtains wide and shout to the world ‘four thousand pounds! Four thousand pounds! Why did I not spend this money sooner? Fiat Punto! Fiat Punto! How thou hast transformed my life!” Basically, things will be exactly the same as they are now, just with less money.

I drove a friend’s Daewoo the other day. I could probably afford a Daewoo, although it was a bit basic. I am not saying that it was like a museum inside, but it was the only car that I’ve been in where you have to enter the drivers seat via the gift shop. There was an unusually-shaped dent in at the rear. The hatchback hadn’t shut properly the previous week, so she had given the thin metal a nudge with her hips. I drove down the road in this Ninky-Nonk car that sported a dent shaped exactly like a female arse.

The fact is that I do not want to spend any money on a car. But I need a car, as I need to drive to places. Short Tony is getting a motorbike, which is a good idea, but I am a bit more naturally fallingoffish than he is. So I do not know what to do.

Does anybody have any ideas?

I go to the races.

It is a hot day at Sandown races.

I watch as they are paraded around the ring. For a moment I decide that I fancy number one, then number four catches my eye and I am torn. Then I decide that the ‘best-dressed lady competition’ is really not worth caring about one way or another, although the horror is drawing me in with the siren call of a road accident.

I don’t know why sporting venues feel that they have to do this sort of thing. I suspect it is because they don’t have the confidence that the sport itself is interesting enough, so they add cheerleaders, dancing children or ‘best dressed lady’ competitions. There are thousands and thousands of people here to see the horses racing. It would be like the managers of the Louvre hiring Tom O’Connor to stand beside the Mona Lisa telling jokes.

“And we have the gorgeous Louise Owen, wife of Michael, here to be our judge,” announces the announcer. “Louise – you’re looking gorgeous today.”

A sea of uninterested faces gaze down from the balcony’s shade aside except, interestingly, an elderly man beside me who appears to be concentrating very, very hard on looking at specific bits of Louise Owen through his binoculars.

“Now – contestant one. You’re looking gorgeous! Where is your hat from?”

The hat is from Marks and Spencer, contestant one reports, in a voice that could be used for deforestation.

“Was that in Reading? It’s gorgeous.”

The hat was bought in Manchester, a fact that causes much amazement. “So you’re from READING, you bought your hat in MANCHESTER and you’re here at SANDOWN! How does that work, then?” he hoots in bafflement that a woman should, at one reckless point in her early twenties, leave the confines of her own house.

“Well it’s gorgeous! Now – our second contestant. Isn’t she gorgeous everybody! Louise – isn’t she gorgeous!” enthuses the Announcer, forgetting to add the required “knowing you, Louise Owen – aha.”

Contestant two is probably gorgeous, but I could never be interested in a woman who enters herself for best-dressed lady competitions. Her dress is from somewhere, her hat is from somewhere else. Contestants three, four and five are also described as such, although in my opinion contestant four should be disqualified as she entered a best-dressed lady competition at a racecourse the previous week, and is thus probably researching a book.

Louise Owen picks a winner. The levels of excitement fail to even approach a whelm. I head off to the bookies. Everybody has laughed at me, because I have a hot each-way tip from a bloke with tattoos who was at bowls. The horse romps in second and they are not laughing any more, oh no.

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“Power Play!!! POWER Play!!!”

“He’s taking his Power Play!” yelps the commentator excitedly.

“Ooooooh!” go the audience.

There is some loud rock music.

“I really think that we should introduce the Power Play,” I tell the bowls people later on. “Like on the bowls on Sky TV.”

We discuss the mechanics of supplying loud rock music and erecting spotlights so they zigzag crazily across the green, which is what you need for a proper Power Play. It is decided that introducing a Power Play would be impractical due to technical reasons, even if the league did allow it.

It is not as if we really need to inject artificial excitement into the game. The bowls season has been one of drama and high tension: there was some conflict over team selection at the beginning of the year, and then in a game two or three weeks ago there was a disagreement about positioning of the mat. We have also had our equivalent of Tom Jones returning home to the UK after all these years – viz, Short Tony came out of retirement to help us out last night, despite his doubt as to whether he would be any good or not.

“Don’t worry, I’ll be backing you up,” I said.

“Ok. You lead. How did you get on last week?”

I thought about this. “I played the worst that I’d ever played ever, we got stuffed and I split my trousers on the twelfth end,” I admit.

He paused. “Well, thanks in advance for your support.”

“No problem. It is funny – I have never realised that when you split your trousers, they make a comic ‘trouser splitting’ noise, exactly like they do on old sitcoms. I had always thought that noise was some form of comic convention, and that actually splitting your trousers would make a totally different noise. But they actually do make that sort of unmistakeable splitting sound.”

“Look – are you ready to start playing?”

I had planned to do lots of blog reports about the bowls this year, as I know there is great demand – but for one reason or another it just hasn’t worked out. I do not have a phone that I can live Twitter from between ends, but I will try to do occasional updates as the season hots up.

Father’s Day.

There is a long pause.

“I think,” I begin, speaking slowly and softly as I collect my thoughts, “I think that it’s a fairly common thing for father to feel… to feel as if they take last place in the family unit. It’s not jealousy as such – it’s just that the man often gets overlooked and ends up – illogical as it might seem – feeling a bit neglected. And that’s just a bit poignant today of all days.”

There is a sigh from the end of the telephone wire. “I’m sorry we’re not there,” admits the LTLP, who is away with the Toddler. “Have you made yourself some breakfast?”

“Yes,” I reply. “And thanks for leaving the card. It was nice. It would just be good to… I… well, anyway. I’ll see you when I see you.”

I ring off.

“It’s brilliant!” I say to Short Tony in the Village Pub, 0.00001 seconds later. “I had a really nice breakfast, get to go to the pub AND get the sympathy points. Could I have another pint, please? And later on, I can watch the cricket and motor racing and then perhaps listen to some Jethro Tull.”

“Even though motor racing is shit,” I add, taking a roast potato from the bowl on the bar, and passing them to Len the Fish. “But it’s the principle of the thing.”

We sway down the road some time later. Father’s Day!!! I am feeling particularly manly after beer, roast potatoes and several large Martini Rossos. Time for more man-stuff.

“Mmmm – that’s good,” I breathe, as I roll the soft texture of Len the Fish’s tongue around my mouth.

“I’ve cured a huge batch,” he says. “Would you like me to cut you some to take back with you? And I tell you what – I brewed some elderflower champagne.”

Most of the elderflower champagne has exploded, but he gives Short Tony and I an unexploded bottle each. I look at it, very impressed. My bottle erupts almost immediately, the cork narrowly missing my face as it shoots skywards in the direction of Fakenham.

“It’s a little lively still,” he admits.

We drink elderflower champagne and munch on tongue. It is a shame that we have been neglected on this, our special day, and sad that I have been forced to spend it alone and miserable.

I perform some essential maintenance.

I upgraded the whole WordPress thing last night, having put this off for months and months, never having found the exact suitable moment.

Unfortunately, the exact suitable moment turned out to be at about eleven o’clock on a Saturday night when I was a bit pissed. I haven’t found anything too amiss with it this morning, but if you do find things going alarmingly wrong then please let me know in the comments box.

Other administrativey news stuff

Ooops – I logged on to Facebook yesterday and there were about a grillion friend requests, some of which were very, very old. Booooooo – I am rude. Sorry if you have sent me a request, and think me rude. I only really set up that account so I could leave a message on the Bizarre Appreciation Society to thank Oli and now Lawrence for setting it up. Although I don’t use Facebook, I am a bit more sociable on Twitter especially now I have worked out how to see replies that people have sent to you. So please do say ‘hello’ there.

And other

I’ve been sniggering stupidly at BĂȘte de Jour’s book (‘The Intimate Adventures of an Ugly Man’), especially the bits about Dartford. (If you are an angry resident of Dartford, you can ‘search inside’ via the link, and type in ‘Dartford’, and then perhaps get your face in the local paper, holding the book, with a cross expression on your face). It is available, believe it or not, from Amazon – very much recommended.

Thank you for your patience during the Essential Maintenance, and for your continued enjoyment of my Private Secret Diary.

Essential!!! Hahahahaha!!!!!

I inspect my chalet.

It has a sauna!!!

I stare at it, agog. Granted, it is a bit more like a giant grill than the real thing, but its saunaness greatly exceeds anything that I had been expecting. This is brilliant.

“There’s a big fuck-off flat screen TV!!!” I exclaim gleefully, as the LTLP and Toddler trudge in with their bags. “Hang on – there’s a flat screen in my bedroom!!! All of our bedrooms!!! OMG OMG Wifi LOL LOL,” (I paraphrase).

This is the most excellent start to a holiday that I have ever had. Even the weather is better than expected. I love Center Parcs. Honestly, there is nothing, nothing at all that can put a downer on my mood right now.

“Where shall I put my bags?” asks my Mother-in-Law.

A small black cloud drifts across the sun.

“I have to apologise for him,” remarks the LTLP. “He is going to be in a foul mood later, as he can find nothing to complain about.”

But she is wrong I am in a state of holiday serenity as the LTLP organises wardrobe space and wrestles to get the oven on.

Later, the LTLP’s parents have to be pulled from the Subtropical Swimming Paradise by lifeguards, in front of a large throng of holidaymakers. The LTLP stomps up to me, her face like thunder, her swimming costume having been pulled off in the rescue attempt. But I am happily bobbing around on a lazy backstroke, a big smile on my face. Give me a few more tattoos and I could well become a regular here.

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