Review of 2004

So, farewell then 2004. You were a funny old year. How shall I remember you in years to come?

To help me when I'm old and grey, here's a review of my year – a greatest hits, if you like. If you've been with me through the year – thank you, I appreciate it.

Warning: very long post! Links to archive posts open in DeadJournal until late February, when I set up the version of this blog on JournalSpace. From then on, they go there.


The City on a Saturday
The City on a Saturday – deserted, so different from weekday mornings

This is the month I gave up my job – and any pretence at being a politician any more – to start several months of frantic writing and not-frantic loafing, to a background of nervousness as the savings gradually diminished. I also spent the New Year in a cottage in Cornwall, saw dark clouds gather over my love affair with Howard Dean as he lost in Iowa, and found myself snowbound in Norfolk while the government gloated at forcing out Greg Dyke.

Still alive – contrary to rumours…

I have decided to take a sabbatical from the Royal Mail for a couple of months. I may do other work in that time, I may not. And I may find when the sabbatical's over there's no work to go back to, so it's a bit of a gamble. But it's worth doing.

They know where you live…

Here's a cautionary tale about why you shouldn't even *think* about fragging around with the Freemasons. Not even a little bit. In fact, you probably shouldn't be reading this at all.

Hive mind

Here's a tale about how offices, although made up of many individual people with many different agendas, will often act as a group without any form of consultation taking place.


Vanilla coffee
Vanilla coffee (one of a series of yellow and black photos)

In which I got horribly nostalgic for my old colleagues and found that it's difficult to get used to being at home all day – particularly the sleeping bit. It was a month spent struggling with connecting a home network (one machine is running Win95 still), finding excuses to sneak off to Wagamama's, arguing about Marmite, and mourning the long, slow, painful death of the Dean 2004 campaign.

Network imperfections

Thanks to an unfortunate similarity of numbers between our second phoneline and the main line into Brent Council's Streetcare Department, we get a lot of phonecalls from people in the Wembley area wanting their bins emptied, their pavements repaired, and the removal of the stickers placed on their cars by the council declaring them to be abandoned.

The end of the affair

I'm looking back and trying to understand why I got so enthusiastic about Dean. Sure, I'm a politics junkie and I find the Bush administration abhorrent. But I was pretty much giving up on politics at the time Dean was rising to prominence. And, of course, I'm over here in England.

Of neighbours good and bad

You're maybe thinking from this that I ended up with bruised knuckles from some fundamental disagreement on the aesthetics of loud music, during which tempers were lost. Not so.

High visibility post

There's a reason why wasps aren't striped in pale blue and chocolate brown – yellow and black is the most visible of all the combinations of colours and tones.


A pound or two of flapping, wild-eyed hawk
A pound or two of flapping, wild-eyed hawk

A huge month. My birthday, and we returned to Cornwall for a holiday of mixed success and for an astonishing day with a falconer. I finished the first draft of my screenplay, Penny Dreadful, we launched our walking website, WalkWalkWalk, and bought a mobile internet card for the new laptop, which has revolutionised the way we work. Elsewhere, one of my former teachers was hauled before the courts on child abuse charges.

H-h-h-holy Joe

Holy Joe always made us uneasy. He had a way of standing too close to you sometimes, a way of looking at you too hard.


The one we sponsor is a western screech owl called Montana (Monty for short). He's not much bigger than a jar of peanut butter, but has the attitude of a chain-carrying, knuckleduster-wearing Hell's Angel.


Now here's a fact you probably didn't know. If you take a one-day old chick – the tiny yellow balls of fluff so beloved of Easter card designers – and cut it in two with a pair of heavy scissors, the liquid that oozes out isn't blood but thick, dark egg yolk.


The Thames foreshore
Standing on the bed of the Thames in Chiswick

We began the month in Cornwall and ended it on our boat in Norfolk. Apart from that I'm not entirely sure what, if anything, happened during this month, other than people who should have known better acting strangely. The vicar of the church we live next to ratcheted up his madness by declaring war on the “dragon of liberalism” (me presumably, as the local Liberal Democrat spokesperson) and announcing that the bones of the dragon St George killed had been found in Turkey. And our nuisance neighbour decided to put on a show for us all with her boyfriend…

Some stuff about religion

The vicar doesn't like our flats much, but that's okay – we don't like him much either. However we received his latest newsletter through the door today and I feel inclined to do him a favour by responding to his request to publicise its contents.

All sorts of stuff

We've got the balcony door and some windows open. It's nice to be able to do that. We couldn't yesterday because of the delightful couple in the flat opposite who jacked their stereo right up and sat there on their terrace getting drunker and drunker all day.


Rain through the cabin porthole
Rain through the cabin porthole

A month which started with me breaking a rib by falling off the bloody boat, and ended with an awful, but also highly comical, ear infection… In between, a tax rebate of almost £5,000 bought me some more months off work, I began my usual annual love-hate relationship with Big Brother, and after 27 years of searching I finally managed to track down a copy of issue three of 2000ad comic. God, what an exciting life I lead.

Gravity strikes

Falling off a boat is a strange, sedate, graceful business, categorised by an over-arching feeling of disbelief.

New Big Brother series

Ye Gods, what a freak show. Last year was dull, so this year they've over-compensated.

TMI warning

I felt a series of pains like needles being driven through my eardrum and started running round the flat howling, much to Beloved Other Half's dismay.


Goldfish seem the size of sea monsters as they swim through the model village castle's moat.

A month in which I voted for someone other than myself for a change, grew potatoes on our balcony, visited a model village and an open-air museum, and discovered Dunstan's sheep. I also joined Twenty Questions and started rebuilding my business website at

Size doesn't matter

Both of us remember visiting Bekonscot Model Village as children, but neither of us have been back since. It's not too far from home, so we went.

If you build it, they will come

A few days ago now, we took another day trip. Having been to a model village a while ago we decided to go one better this time – an open-air museum of full-size reconstructed buildings.

Maybe it's because I'm not actually a Londoner at all

I just got asked whether I liked living in London, and what was good about it. I had to cut my answer as there seems to be a maximum length allowed, so I thought I'd post the whole thing here.


Wymondham Abbey
Wymondham Abbey
The ruined end of the Chapter House. That tiny white blob by the base is me.

My extended break from work came to an end as I returned to working nights at the Independent after a few years away. Adventures in reality TV saw me make the first cut in selection for a British version of The Appentice (but no further) and be scheduled to take part in a Big Brother phone-in – which was then cancelled because of an over-running cricket match.

I am the Norway of comedy

It's some comfort to know that what appeared at the time to be complete unmitigated confusion was, in fact, meticulously controlled and tightly managed confusion underpinned by a careful process of risk management and planned contingencies.

All clean and sparkly, but –

I have cactus spines in my arm and shards of blue glass in my feet, my knees are bruised, my backside is damp, my clothes are filthy, and there's a broken flowerpot and a dead olive plant in the bin. And all because I decided to clean the windows.

In praise of volunteers (but not of sponsors)

A small corps of flower-arrangers were scuttling in with baskets of white blooms and there was a tour guide as well, wearing a metal insignia on a ribbon that made me initially wonder whether he was the mayor, or possibly a freemason.


Colour palette
Colour palette
Lemon yellow, black, beige and grey. I wonder if the people who lived here knew the colours their neighbours had chosen?

August was completely dominated by my attempts to get used to the hours I was now working… as has been every month since. For some reason the sleep disruption seemed to inspire some of my best writing of the year – it was impossible to cherry-pick links for this month. This was also the month when my hits skyrocketed, thanks to people Googling an unfortunate – and entirely accidental – juxtaposition of a female soccer player's name and the word 'lesbian'.

In the deep dark of the night…

The snores were sonorous, rounded, baritone-going-on-bass, vibrating with a deep and resonant tone as if the snorer had practiced for years and perhaps earned a certificate of excellence in night-time noisemaking.

Castles in the sky

Here's a thing to try at home: Go outside and find an old tennis ball, or a stick, or a rock, or indeed just about anything. Throw it up in the air – straight up, vertically, as far as you possibly can.


The rain struck at exactly 3am, just as I pulled up at a red traffic light in front of a silent, darkened Buckingham Palace.

Other August posts worth reading:

Storm warningA regrettable lapse into horticultureGolden girl stillIn Her Maj's back gardenAlcohol problem and There is no glass, NeoThe look of love.


Eclipse, sort of
Eclipse, sort of
The evening light on the sea overwhelms the camera, which responds by blacking out the sun. Still, at least with a digital you don't burn out your eyeball.

The rich vein of creativity that ran through August dried up in September as posts in this journal became less and less frequent. This was partly because I was increasingly getting sucked into the US Presidential election coverage. Instead of being here, I was at and Much good it did me. At the end of the month we disappeared onto our annual trek on the South West Coast Path, which was to take up the first half of October.

Naked scorn

So yesterday we went to Pells Pool, an unheated open air swimming pool in Lewes, Sussex. Any colder and you could have sat on the surface and cut a hole in it to fish through.

Darwin Award candidate

Tonight I almost killed a girl.


I don't miss journalism, and one of the things I miss least is what is variously called 'doorstepping' or 'death knocks'.

11 September 2004 (the Bridget Jones post)

Am resolved to be more organised, and eat less chocolate, except when necessary to maintain good spirits and positive outlook.


On the roof of the Tate St Ives
On the roof of the Tate St Ives

For the first half of October we walked. And walked. And walked. I don't know what happened in the second half – I spent it all either asleep, at work, or glued to liberal US blogs. I wrote nothing of note, and did little either.


The Things That Dreams Are Made Of
The Things That Dreams Are Made Of
The Human League: Susan, Phil and Jo perform the world's best encore song

In November I predicted a Kerry victory, and then blundered around for a fortnight in confusion when it didn't happen. By the end of the month I was writing again – and dancing like a mad thing at the Human League tour.

Bitter tears

I smell a whiff of the 1930s, people, and it carries with it the stench of totalitarianism, destruction and death.

The Sound of the Crowd

Me, Beloved Other Half and Ju1es from the Frozen North sang ourselves hoarse and clapped and danced until our hands and feet were ready to rebel – and then we queued outside in the drizzling rain to meet the band and get autographs.


Looking skywards up the front wall of the Shell Centre from walkway level
Shell Centre
Looking skywards up the front wall from walkway level

Too soon to get any perspective on this month, I suppose. Looking back at the posts it feels like a normal month, really. Whatever one of those is…

Bloody kids and little old ladies

It's amazing how the sight of a road taped off by the police can concentrate the mind.

Hanging out with Halo Jones

'Tell us about Halo Jones', she said, and Lee slapped his forehead and groaned at having forgotten to ask, while Moore smiled fondly as if someone had just reminded him of an ex-girlfriend who he'd never meant to split up with.

Your life is your business – not theirs

When the election comes and people start saying 'we don't trust politicians', we should reply: 'You know what? You're right not to'.