2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 13,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Should Auld New Year’s Eve Be Forgot?

You have to understand – I just hate it.  Some of my worst nights have been New Year’s Eve Parties.  I propose absolute abolition.  New Year’s Eve is the worst thing that happens to you all year.  At least when the tax bill has to be paid in late January you know you must have earned some money in the first place in order to be punished by HMRC, but New Year’s Eve is melancholic punishment with no pay off, standing in tight heels at a party given by someone you don’t like knowing you can’t go home for another four hours.  And you’re in Putney.  I hate the feeling of the year being sucked away from under our feet and the onward, terrible onslaught of time.  I also really resent the fact that, here in the northern hemisphere, New Year’s Eve more or less coincides with the shortest amount of daylight any one day can receive.  By 3.45pm, with our Christmas-full bellies regurgitating last night’s Rennie tablets and the cold, wintry branches of naked trees leering at us from cul de sac gardens, the year ends and the sky turns royal and then navy blue.  That’s it.  The end of the daylight for the year.  Always with a whimper rather than a bang, and usually soundtracked by ITV2’s fourth viewing of Mary Poppins of the holiday period.  I am not a depressive but am prone to occasional – and very attractive – outbursts of melancholia.  Nothing smacks of melancholia more than the timid, quiet fading of cold light on a dank and rainy New Year’s Eve and all the electric lights in your house burning wildly by teatime.

By New Year’s Eve your head and liver have had it.  They have, to all intents and purposes, planned to move on.  Your head is plotting miserabilist puritan lifestyles for January.  Your liver is essentially down on its knees, begging for milk thistle supplements.  You’re always thirsty.  Your family are everywhere, all of them, all at once in a way that makes everyone feels fifteen.  Somewhere in your PAYE-mind you were encouraged to look forward to this holiday all year, and yet now you are staring down the barrel at work starting up again, a torrid feeling of ennui launches itself out of nowhere and socks you on the jaw.  Another year has gone.  You’re older.  You have white hairs.  People have died.  Shit happens.  And now they want you to go out and celebrate it. 

The laws of New Years Eve are murky.  All year the clocks have been whirring along superfast – one minute it’s March and it seems only a moment later we are basking in the heat of August in the Med and it seems whenever it’s time to book another wax you’ve only just had one.  Then, as 7.31pm strikes in the suburbs, the clock that has been spinning fast all year slows to a painfully slow place.  You are standing beside a bowl of blighted peanuts in a house twenty miles from your own and people you used to employ on a semi-self-employed basis are on telephones trying to buy drugs as they think it’s 1998.  There are crudites.  There are neighbours and the insolent logic of time dictates that another 4 hours and 29 minutes of the insufferable indignity of watching middle aged people take illegal substances in that once-a-year way whilst everyone makes painful conversations with strangers must be endured before we can all go home and put our slippers on. That’s what we all really want to do.  But modern life is constructed in such a sick-making way that you are made to feel that if you want to spend a quiet evening at home with the cat and a good book, which is what you need after five days of festivities, you are a sad sack of a person.  The implication is you will be found, years from now, dead under the cat, (where you have been for several months, alone) with your bones poking through the elbows of your cardigan.   This is all topsy turvy kids.  It’s the people who want to propel themselves headfirst into the Trafalgar Square fountains whilst off their tits we should as a nation be concerned about.

I once saw the New Year in on the Northern Line between Hampstead and Belsize Park.  I once saw it in at a Covent Garden wine bar (remember those? It’s now a branch of Next) at a small table covered with a red cloth where I was watching my brother’s band lead the Auld Lang’s Syne rendition, which meant the only person I got to say Happy New Year too was a bass player called Colin who happened to be sitting at the table.  I saw one New Year in at a nightclub where people were having a variety of reactions to unsavoury pills on the worst patterned carpet you have ever seen.  I have seen it in twice in a Chinese restaurant.  I have seen it in once asleep.  I once choreographed being in the lav of a Mornington Crescent pub on the stroke of a midnight of New Year’s Eve six months after my father died so I didn’t have to have Happy New Year said to me.  I once saw it in in a chair in someone’s living room in Pinner.  The last party I went to was in 2001, somewhere in Parsons Green.  People are still recovering from that one. In 2002 I did something really outlandish.  I stayed in on my own.  And it was brilliant.

I shall never accept a New Year’s Eve Party invitation.  Even getting one brings me out in hives, so don’t send me one.  I have been to several of these dreadful events and always seemed to end up asleep under a fur coat whilst a happier couple would descend upon me and try to snog.  Someone also needs to explain to alcohol that it doesn’t work on New Year’s Eve.  Alcohol really shouldn’t be your drug of choice.  Because unless you are Oliver Reed, you will have a three hour period in which you feel bonny as can be on alcohol.  After the initial three hour period your stomach, which has been working overtime all week, starts to protest.  You start to worry about being sick, about having a nice lie down, about why the room has the audacity to keep on spinning.  Usually this would herald the end of the evening, and your butler would be summoned to saddle up the horses.  But it’s 9.49pm on New Year’s Eve and you have to stay there not only for two hours until midnight but for another hour after midnight, so it doesn’t look rude to your hosts.  So you have to sit there and feel like crap for three hours.  And it’s the worst start to a year when you have vomit drooling out of the corner of your over-stuffed mouth.  Then, annoyingly, after midnight people who are dealing with substances (and I’m not exactly talking about the icing sugar on top of the Christmas Cake) start becoming quite effervescent in their social excitement.  In fact, talking and drooling and boring is all they can do – and they are doing it – sometimes for hours.  The event ramps up to the awful horror of The Second Wind.  The Second Wind is like The Second World War but lasts longer and there are more psychic casualties.   Blabber blabber jabber jabber go the cocaine mouths in the corner, and you lie back on the Habitat sofa and pray for death.  They think it’s quarter past one in the morning, but it’s actually half past eight on January 1st and someone’s putting the bacon on the grill.

The worst thing of all was to be in your 20s on the New Year to end all New Year’s, a.k.a Millenium Eve.  Millenium Eve was a fucking appalling idea.  It was so awful that they thought planes would fall randomly out of the sky and everyone’s computer would explode.  Wow, that must be some party, we thought.  Being in your mid-20s, as I was, and not going out on New Year’s Eve to refresh your relationship with the stimulants of the day was unthinkable.  Social suicide.  Not that we had a clue what to do, of course.  We hadn’t had a Millenium Eve since before the Battle of Hastings, so weren’t sure what the dress code was (Saxon sack over Normandy shoes?)  But we knew we absolutely had to do something thrilling.  And it was going to cost a fortune.  And we thought it was going to be something we were going to tell our grandchildren about.  Although, why my grandchildren will want to hear about a vaguely damp evening in a big house in Reading that started with champagne in a chilly marquee and ended up with me watching Doris Day on ITV at 6am whilst carefully removing a smouldering cigar from my sleeping brother’s hand is anyone’s guess.  My friend had an argument with another friend, and having really stirred that up, had an argument with my brother’s friend for good measure.  We stared at a big television coated in a large white bedsheet (the theme was Arthurian legend.  I still don’t know what the bedsheet was all about) and watched stupid fireworks come out of the stupid Eiffel Tower in a silly line.  Earlier we had watched some hugely excitable people in a remote corner of the Solomon Islands or some such place giddily enter the new millenial age whilst dancing around in circles.  We tried to take Prince’s advice but partying like it was 1999 is a tall order.  You cannot command the entire globe to have fun just because some woman gave birth on a donkey’s bed to a carpenter two thousand years before.  It’s like forcing millions of people to enjoy themselves, and if there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s people enjoying themselves.

Which begs the point – what is the point of New Year’s Eve?  I quite understand the point of Christmas Day if you are a Christian, but this New Year’s Eve bollocks is beyond understanding.  And it’s not just the excuse to have a party, because that’s what birthdays were invented for.  It’s like a festival with no saint, a party with no birthday boy, a celebration devoid of meaning.  And London gets treated like a whore, frankly.  People invade, fuck everything up and leave.  Most self-respecting smart Londoners head for holiday cottages, and those of us who are not smart stay behind and avoid the West End and it’s glut of out-of-towners intent on mayhem.  The city gets tense and braces itself for something that looks like the last days of Rome.   The next morning it smells like the last days of Rome too, with sick and broken Moet bottles cluttering up the gutters and St John Ambulance men on overtime.

The best way to celebrate New Year’s Eve is to celebrate New Year’s Day instead.  Go for a bracing walk in the bright winter sun and stride off whatever hangover you might have got by downing that extra vat of cherry brandy the evening before during Jool’s Hootenanny.  Because in England, telly is the thing.  Stay in.  Pull the curtains to.  Put the cat out.  Cook a little supper and toast the New Year with your loved one.  Get some rest before the year starts with riotous abandon a few days later.  You’ll be glad you did.  You can even go radical and go to bed at 10.30pm with cocoa, but because you’re nearer 40 than 30 no one cares.  Have a good one and a safe one.  Have a lovely break.  We at The London Bluebird look forward to seeing you in 2014, and wish a Happy New Year to you all.

Please return to The London Bluebird if you enjoyed this.  The blog is updated every two weeks, so we look forward to seeing you on January 2nd 2014 – unless you are still out caning it on New Year’s Eve, in which case we look forward to welcoming you back when you finally surface at some point in February.  xx

NigellaGate

BRITAIN-PEOPLE-TELEVISION-FOOD-DRUGS

Has Charles Saatchi utterly lost it?  Perhaps in his failed ploy to dominate and humiliate his ex-wife he ought to, at some stage, have done two things : tried this act on someone weaker and tried his act on someone stupider.  The overwhelming sense to have emerged from this week’s circus over at Isleworth Crown Court (the very name Isleworth could not be further at odds with the drama played out in its courtrooms) is that Our Nige is a stalwart and formidable opponent who may very well, dearest readers, haul Saatchi and his jiffy bags full of cash that he kept on top of the Smeg, off to the cleaners.  Fact.  No one could vanquish the fabulous elegance of that nude lipline, hovering delightfully between vanquished Queen and distressed matron.   How could he have missed what the rest of the nation knows?  How could the public’s likeability of her and admiration for her have passed so randomly through his mediocre line of vision?  Does he even know how to create a lemon sponge?  I very much doubt it.  This isn’t about sex, or cake. It isn’t even about sexy cake.  This is about using and exploiting the public to vilify your ex, and I’m sure that we all have ex’s lurking about in the grimy chapters of our history we would wish to do this to.  But, by golly, we don’t all do it.  This is mainly because we lack the power and the money to do so, and Saatchi’s somewhat bizarre obsession with focusing a trial that is about two Italian villainesses who have been holidaying in Maldives courtesy of his Coutts Gold Card onto his ex-wife is a perfect illustration of what happens when a control freak has power, has money and is determined to do the devil’s work with it.

Look, okay.  so Nigella has said she has liked to toot from time to time.  I mean, is this 1995?  Is this really shocking?  Yes, it’s a criminal act, but if everyone who ever tooted was immediately imprisoned half the people in the country (and all of the people on Fleet Street) would instantly disappear.  I fail to see the relevance to knowing what Ms Lawson puts between her perfect nostrils in the larger scheme of things.  What about the bitches who nabbed nearly £700,000 on Maldives holidays and snazzy jewellery?   Nigella’s occasional drug use in the past goes no way to explaining why her Blakean Fish Pie continues to elude me.  It doesn’t help me in my quest for a perfect Italian Christmas, which I shall prepare with perfect dark brown tresses whilst wearing a well-fitting bra under a scarlet cashmere button up cardigan.  It doesn’t make me or her less of a domestic goddess and it certainly isn’t that interesting.   Make no mistake : Saatchi has not simply misjudged his ex-wife’s tenacity and strength under fire.  He has managed to misjudge the entire country’s view of her.  Then we come to the third thing that Saatchi has underestimated, and I find it astonishing to believe that he has done so: the canny attitude the British people now have to their own press.

There was a time when we couldn’t see the strings being pulled.  The idea of a media mogul pulling and twisting headlines to their own advantages was culturally more foreign to us a generation or two ago.  But we have been cultivated into a sense of knowingness.  We post-Leveson, Metro-reading purveyors of tittle and tattle have one eyebrow raised all the time these days.  The newspaper business is at best, pretty dead, and at worst, a cacophony of self-mutilated loathings, crocodile tears, paid lackeys and those impressed on emotional manipulation of readers via a whole range of dastardly practices.  We no longer read the news believing what we are imbibing is information.  We read the news like anxious cats, ears cocked, eyes narrowed, knowing we are being pushed to feel a certain way.  Saatchi, confusingly for someone so highly intelligent, is not articulate in this art of comprehending the canny reader.  How gullible did he think the reading public were?  This is a man who made his fortune by using and exploiting perception.  Saatchi could take an idea and turn people on to it.  You could go some way to argue that it was Saatchi & Saatchi that went some way to making jaded, knowing media slags of us all.  This was, in its time, the largest advertising company in the entire world, the only thing larger than it being the size of the frames on Maurice Saatchi’s glasses.  How could someone who had such technical ability to make people buy into the sentiments and values of his adverts misfire so spectacularly regarding people’s emotions  when it comes to his ex-wife?  It is alarming that a man of his experience has got it so wrong.   Did he truly believe that we, like a classroom full of excited three year olds, would be distracted by the tinsel being waved at us by the clown in the corner:  “No!  Never mind the thieves who are actually on trail here for the robbery of £685,000 of luxury goods and to whom the focus of this criminal activity should be on.  Focus on her!  She had a spliff, THE COW.”

Plus, the QC, Metzer, isn’t that bright, really.  This is a problem as Lawson is extremely clever. What was all that tripe yesterday about implying that Lawson’s background was in some way more “liberal and bohemian” than Saatchi’s? Is the implication here supposed to be that the liberals and bohemians basically have raw cocaine shoved up their nostrils from the age of 2, whereas the son’s of Iraqis who ended up in Finchley selling textiles (Saatchi Senior) does not?  Indeed, Lawson’s riposte to this was perfect.  When questioned whether she felt her background may have been at odds with Saatchi’s due to overtones of louche liberalism because she took cocaine with her mortally ill (now dead) husband, she replied “I feared my father might take exception to that” with all the patrician bounty that only a Tory Lord’s daughter could.  I mean Metzer practically fed her the line, and, thereby, her victory on that point.  Of all the people to throw that desperate line to, you select a Tory Peer’s daughter?  Is Metzer a fool too?  Are they all?  Has the world gone utterly bonkers?  So, my verdict on Saatchi is either 1) He still loves her, and is blinded by rejection, 2) He is as mad as a hatter or 3) both.  In which case I’m not sure even Nigel Lawson is safe.

This brings us to other great unanswered question of this trial : Why, oh why, does Nigel Lawson not have a hoover?  How difficult is it to fit one into his pied a terre?  Why were these greedy guts bent on thievery being despatched in taxi cabs across Victoria with a hoover to clean the flat of a man who has jowls so big he could quite easily use them for storing a Dyson?   And then coming back in taxis to Belgravia with damp washing and a grandiose selection of Lord Lawson’s smalls because he doesn’t own a tumble dryer?   He used to run the Exchequer.  Why can’t he operate a clothes horse?  I bet he’s fucking got one now.  I bet he never wants to let a cleaner in ever again after this lot.  I bet he’s thinking he got lucky that those two girls didn’t run off with his special Margaret Thatcher 70th birthday at Chequers cufflinks.  I bet he’s now checking the video cupboard to ensure his copy of “How to Stop the British Economy Dead in its Tracks in Five Easy Steps!” on VHS hasn’t been lifted by those two villainesses.

Still, back to Charles “No one is as Wise as Moi” Saatchi.  You see, it’s a never-ending hell he has consigned himself to now.  And the more he behaves in this way, the more those fence-sitters who can’t quite be arsed with Nigella, or those who didn’t quite like Nigella (and there are people who don’t like her.  Not all of whom are Anti-Semites) have their milk of human kindness stimulated to such a point that they veer over to TeamNigella at 80 miles per hour.  Saatchi, it can only be assumed, is on a one man mission to become his own worst enemy.  As if his physical demeanour isn’t sinister enough, he is now revealed to be even more of a psycho than we previously thought.  According to Lawson’s evidence today, he only allowed her to hold dinner parties once every two years and they had a 12 foot by 12 foot silver room in their Eaton Square home filled with only tea services and candlesticks.  Tea services and candlesticks.  This is Howard Hughes mad.  This is “golly it’s so insane I can’t turn my eyes away from the court live feed” doo lally.  She’ll not refer to it again, make another television show next year, turn to the camera and lovingly lick a spoon free of organic toffee, British male knees will be set a-trembling and the entire episode will melt away in the past(a).   Apparently Saatchi didn’t like her to do the washing up, so she’d call the cleaner to come over and do it, which she would, if she wasn’t already in Cannes on a spending spree.  It must have been to save her hands.  Well, he needn’t have bothered.   She’s responding with dignity and strength.  She’s come out of this marriage with her hands, and he, it seems, is playing right into them.

Please return to The London Bluebird if you enjoyed this.  This blog is updated every other Thursday, so we look forward to seeing you on 19th December for our final instalment of 2013!  Thank you.