Autobiography Of A Ufo Contactee

Dad in middle at back while stepmother flirts with "continental"
Dad in middle at back while stepmother flirts with "continental"

This blog is dedicated to Agua Marina, a mermaid from Barcelona who floated mysteriously to Tyneside via the Russell Group current. The gods had given her a hole in the heart. It was incredible. She could have been an X Man. (But she decided to do medicine instead as although the unemployment rate for doctors in Spain is high, it is not as high as it is for X-Men)

My Father (Messidor 2011)

Twenty years ago, I was diagnosed as having paranoid schizophrenia. A series of experiences with a crystal pendulum had led me to conclude that beings from another star were in telepathic contact with me. I know what you're thinking. Crystals. Don't get me wrong. I hate all that wibbly-wobbly stuff myself. My favourite on this is Sir Patrick Moore, whose BBC TV programme for amateur astronomers "The Sky At Night", has been going since 1957. With his ill-fitting suit, bushy eyebrows and unkempt hair, he is the archetypal eccentric boffin. He is also a fantastic materialist scientist of the old school. Whenever he mentions the word "astrology", his lip quivers with a repressed contempt that is very satisfying for those of us who remember Linda Goodman's "Sun Signs". But the events that I experienced were logical and scientifically plausible. Put it this way: it works just as well with any weight on the end of a bit of string.

It was my father who introduced me to The Sky At Night, in the early nineteen-sixties. It was an optimistic era. Moore often used to point out that amateur astronomers were still contributing to original astronomical research. There was a tribute to this in my Open University Astronomy coursebook on variable stars. It is a page of the records of the Association of Amateur Variable Star Observers,showing the variation in luminosity of a variable star over a period of about a hundred years. (I know. They should have got out more.). The luminosity is constant for a period of weeks then there is sudden flare-up which persists for a similar period. Then there is a rapid decline in brightness back to the baseline level. It looks like a quantum function: the classic Dirac delta wave. (I know. I should get out more.)

But of course since the War, the professionals have taken over in astronomy like they have done in everything else. There's some provincial resistance. I attended a lecture here at the Newcastle Astronomical Society a few years ago and they were still arguing about the existence of polarised light. That's why I have to get to Paris. It's so provincial here in Newcastle. It was a mistake to try and live here,

Incidentally, I'm not frightened of the aliens that are in telepathic contact with me. There's a recent British science-fiction movie called "Attack The Block!" that follows the usual route of having aliens that appear to be somewhere between dogs and monkeys on the evolutionary scale and yet who have somehow perfected the art of interstellar travel. I think it's probably reasonable to conclude that if they have achieved star travel, they will be morally more evolved too. Possibly even world government and global social security.

How does the crystal work? Well you CAN try it at home. Put any weight on any bit of string and ask it questions. It swings clockwise for yes, anti-clockwise for no. Eventually, you might,as I did, ask if you're speaking to aliens. You may then, as I did, feel the aliens moving your arm that is moving your hand that is moving the crystal so that you realise they are acting through your brain. You may then hear, as I did, a chorus of voices, saying "Can you hear us, Mick?". You may then ..er..are you still with me?

The contact is 24/7/365. At first I tried to convince everyone I was right. I told my friends, the medical authorities, my wife, the girl I was trying to get off with, everyone. As a result, I found myself living on incapacity benefit on a South London housing estate. Funnily enough, the aliens in "Attack The Block!" invade a South London housing estate. Indeed, when the aliens invaded, I was the only person in the cinema who cheered.

Anyway, 20 years later and I'm still not a George King Aetherius Society-style guru with millions of adoring female fans. At the time the aliens introduced themselves to me, I was a writer. I had specifically become a writer for the profound reason that it would be a good chat-up line for girls at parties To put it bluntly, telling them you're a ufo contactee, doesn't have the same effect. Not that I can even go out and look for a girl, here in Newcastle. It may be a party city for some but for me, within five minutes I'm being confronted by the Bigg Market Hairy Palms Brigade, on their night out in the "Toon", looking like the Andrew Weatherall remix of "Deliverance". Even on the rare occasions I thought I was in with a chance of pulling, I'm looking over my shoulder for the boyfriend. I'm now 59 and on my own. Well, la vie en couple. It's a bit of a cliché anyway, isn't it?

In Paris it's different. I can be an exiled contactee there and who knows what might happen. I reckon that if Cheryl Cole can make it in the US, I can make it in Paris. True, I'm not young and beautiful like Cheryl Cole but I'm a bloke so that doesn't matter. Admittedly, the recent arrest of Dominique Strauss-Kahn over allegations of a New York chambermaid set me back but he's been released now.

But what's all this quixotic talk about getting to Paris as if I was some sort of upmarket version of Pinter's "The Caretaker"? I've been on incapacity benefit for twenty years and haven't got two mung beans to rub together. Well, I've had a stroke of luck. My father has died. That sounds terrible and I did love my dad but I've inherited some money,

He died just before last Christmas. One of his favourite jokes was the one about the patient who goes to see the doctor and the doctor tells them they are fine but not to start reading any long novels. I wonder if the last time my dad saw his doctor, the doctor told him he was fine but not to buy any Christmas presents.

Alright. How much did I inherit? A million? A hundred million with which I can buy a yacht and hang out with Bono and Sting?

£27,000.

Messidor, Vesce, L'Appartement a Paris.

Funnily enough, one of my biggest enemies is a News International journalist. Pat Kane. Some time back in the early mid-nineties, in his Times or maybe it was Sunday Times TV review, he referred to what he called "the gentle but flaky world of the ufo contactee". It wasn't just that we were mistaken, we had practically committed a fashion error. Before he had been a TV columnist, Kane had been a vocalist in a pop band. Like Bono. Or Sting. It's all about image you see? The image of the contactee is that of a community care patient. Indeed that is what I am. Because I honestly believe beings from another star are in telepathic contact with me, I get incapacity benefit. It's not as if I had to hold up a bible and swear that I believed that extraterrestrials were in telepathic contact with me. That was simply the diagnosis of the psychiatrists at the Institute of Psychiatry in Camberwell. To back them up, they had a scan of my brain that showed the asymmetry in the basal ganglia of my brain which is characteristic of 99% of schizophrenics.

At the time the aliens made contact, I had a job as an Agency residential senior social worker and was a regular writer with cult BBC radio satire show, "Week Ending". I had just written a sketch for Week Ending that had been used instead of one by Rob Newman and Dave Baddiel. Around that time, my American contactee counterpart "Simply Fred" had just won the "Boston All-Comers" comedy competition. Jim Carrey had been one of the other comics in the competition. Then one night, simply Fred had been driving along the freeway when he was, he claims, abducted by a spaceship. It ruined his career. No-one would book him as a comedian any more. I could claim millions in compensation. (As long as I don't have to have Jim Carrey's eyebrows.)


L'Appartement
L'Appartement
Damien, a gauche, avec son cousin Max, qui est champion des cent metres des sous 17 de L'Ile de France
Damien, a gauche, avec son cousin Max, qui est champion des cent metres des sous 17 de L'Ile de France

I'm finally getting used to Paris. Mind you, just before coming, I saw a French movie called "Les Petits Mouchoirs" in which a complacent Parisian late-night scooter rider is timing his ride to coincide with the green light through a series of lights in central Paris till at the last one, he is hit sideways-on by a forty ton truck. So natually, I'm still feeling nervous about crossing the road.

Ble


The hardest thing about being a contactee is being right. As I joked to a BBC executive about 18 years ago: "I've got the Apocalypse inside my head. But I try not to complain too much." In fact my progress to acceptance through the years is to realise that people are not going to believe me. It has been a ritual, moral re-purification based on the fact that people are dimwits. Think not? Look at the car! If cyclists should be made to pass road safety tests, shouldn't motorists be made to watch Jean-Luc Godard's "Le Weekend"? In the movie, Godard depicts the consequences of Paris going to the countryside for the weekend. It gets stuck in a traffic queue. This queue gets longer and longer during the movie as the drama turns more and more into a tableau vivante, the tableau vivante that is a traffic queue. Ipso Facto, most people are not intelligent enough to realise that cars cause traffic jams. Why should I worry if some people think I'm a couple of eigenvalues short of the full eigenfunction?

There is another reason why I had to go to France. The fact is, I am no longer welcome in England. Not because I'm a loony. It's worse than that. I am that most hated minority of all. Perhaps you can guess which. Maybe I should just tell you. I'm a New Labour supporter. After 13 years in which we introduced the minimum wage, reduced hospital waiting times to a maximum of eigteen weeks, banned cluster bombs, tripled development aid, established the Northern Ireland Peace Agreement,etc, the media turned on us. The trouble is, the majority of people don't understand Gordon Brown. And the reason they don't understand him is he's an intellectual.

Being an intellectual is almost as bad as being a contactee. I suppose it's a bit like the recent movie "The Adjustment Bureau" with Matt Damon, in which a shadowy extraterrestrial agency called The Adjustment Bureau intervenes in Matt Damon's fate. So that's just like me and my aliens, except it's real life and my aliens don't actually make any adjustments.

The last time I saw my father, he described his neuropathy. His motor nervous system no longer controlled his foot. In the event, it seems he fell over and banged his head on the corner of his stairlift. It's funny. Just a few minutes ago, Roger McGough on Jarvis Cocker's show on BBC Six radio, expressed surprise that a song had been written about Stockton. (The Shadows. "Stars Fell On Stockton.) Dad lived in Stockton. His stairs were the steepest I've ever climbed. They made the ones in Kidnapped look like an airport travelator. The stairlift sometimes would get stuck half-way, gently blowing in the breeze. Orson Welles would appear out of the shadows and talk about the stair-lift company's hidden account in Zurich.

Stockton was where I lived as a child. Towns ending in "ton" are supposed to be associated with ley lines. And I don't know whether you knew this but Stockton ends in "ton". I was brought up by my grandmother. My mother had rejected me. I remember, as I grew up, looking at my mother and wondering: "Who is that woman?". I'm just like John Lennon. His mother lived in the next street and he thought she was his auntie. In fact, the only difference between me and John Lennon is that my mother carried on living in the same house.

Sorry about that. I know it's sacrilege to compare yourself to John Lennon. Maybe I should just compare myself to Jesus.

Long hair. Wore a nightie. But Jesus is probably not an appropriate comparison. That was an ancient, primitive time of wars, famines and plagues. Just like Africa.

Chalemie: Ange Foudou

Quand lutter contre "Le Mondialisation", Ange fait son bulot de banlieusard.
Quand lutter contre "Le Mondialisation", Ange fait son bulot de banlieusard.
Four local girls are enchanted to discover in their tram station, a clown.
Four local girls are enchanted to discover in their tram station, a clown.

This is Ange Foudou. I met him on the campsite last year. He lives there during his Paris summer season. He performs on the street in St Michel, Les Champs Elysees and other tourist hotspots. He's been doing it for over 20 years. I cannot reveal any of his jokes. They are copyright-protected. He's on the street, in and amongst the punters. It's kind of like Michael McIntyre in the round although of course Michael McIntyre is himself in the round.

I have already revealed one of Ange's jokes. Look carefully at the photos. Guessed yet? It's the little pump-operated trumpet he sounds from time to time. Marc Riley uses a similar device on his show on BBC Sixmusic to cover rude words. Riley is my second favourite musician after Mark E Smith. They were both in a band called The Fall. Mark E Smith is still in the band. Marc Riley isn't. This is because it was Mark E Smith's band. Mark E Smith is on record as saying that he and his grandmother on comb would consitute The Fall. So Marc Riley has rebuilt his career as a DJ.

I've got a room in a flat just off the bottom of Ave de Wagram in the room of a guy, Thomas, who's going to Argentina. I'm here till September and I've got a part-time job dogsitting Thomas' Belgian Shepherd dog, Paco. I got the job quite easily. I suppose in the future there'll be criminal records checks for animal abuse.

Thermidor, Epeautre

From Stockton, we moved to Welwyn Garden City, in the South-East of England. There's not that much difference between the South and the North. Just the money. The school I'd gone to in Stockton was one of the original Victorian "Board" schools. The teacher boomed down at you from a high dais. In Welwyn it was a new school with a progressive ethos. At its heart was the one thing that characterises progressive education: the syllabus was about two years behind.

I feel the need to write an e-mail to Thomas and luckily I have thought of something to say. You see Thomas feeds Paco croquettes. They're very similar to the "I ams" that my dad gave to his cat. My dad was a scientist and the system is very scientific. The animal gets all the nutritional requirements but only eats when she's hungry. I then contrasted that with the example of my sister who gives her dog a treat every time he barks.

Two or so years later we moved up North again to Consett, Co. Durham. At the time it was a big steel town but the steel works closed and everyone became cab drivers. The town was later famously depicted in a TV advert for Phileas Phogg tortilla chips as having its own airport. I sometimes wonder if somewhere in the galaxy there's an advert that depicts Planet Earth as having its own spaceport. I can certainly imagine the aliens looking at us through their their telescopes and saying to each other: "Blimey! They must all be cab drivers".

In Consett, I was educated at the Grammar school. The school had been founded by the Victorian steel company. They wanted the school motto to be "Out of Iron comes forth Steel", in Latin. Unfortunately, no-one had realised that the Romans hadn't invented steel so the motto became "E Ferro Ferrum Temperatum", which translates as "Out of Iron comes forth Tempered Iron".

I should talk to you about the aliens really. After all, I do claim they are in telepathic contact with me. The trouble is, there's not a lot I can say. When they made contact, I didn't want to go down the voices route, in case I was actually mad. So we came up with this compromise where they nod my head for yes or shake it for no. At least I hope it's that way round. You might have gathered by now that I'm a bit of a pushover. Anyway, such conversations as we do have, such as "Do you use element 114 as saucer fuel?" and "Is it really orange?" quickly dry up. To be frank, I don't know whether the aliens I'm in contact with are the greys, the whites or the sky-blue pinks. In fact, I think I am kept informed on a need-not-to-know basis. I know what you're thinking: a loony tourist in Paris. So let's be clear about one thing: I won't be visiting the grave of Jim Morrison.

Bouillon blanc

Today, the clouds are just thinning enough to let a little sun through. I still have the cold which I got on the campsite and aggravated going to the Stade de France with Damien. But apparently, staying out of bed and not looking after your cold properly is the new rock and roll. I'm stuck with Paco, though, Monday to Wednesday/Thursday. "Walkies". I did manage to see a play the other day at the Theatre Dejazet. It was on the cover of Pariscope. The play was about Frida Kahlo, the Mexican artist probably better-known for being the mistress of Diego Rivera. Mind you what with the spectacle of Rupert Murdoch and his, as Yahoo! blogger Ian Dunt put it, "absurdly" pretty wife at the Commons yesterday, today is a bad day for all blokes looking for big careers and lots of trophy mistresses. Maybe I should just forget all my plans to "make it" in Paris.

I hope the weather has improved by tomorrow. I was planning on going to the Latin Quarter.

I think you've probably gathered by now all this contactee, community care patient story is just a smokescreeen. And then I joke that the reason why I'm an outcast is that I'm a New Labour supporter. But the truth is I'm afraid something you will find utterly vile. I am that pathetic, disgusting, sad case that society deplores above all others: the person without a "significant other". Irrespective of anything else, there are technical problems when it comes to the pursuit of one. For example, in my experience, you can be talking to a girl wondering if she's got a boyfriend and at that moment he could be merely a yard away. It's like trying to find a house. Rarely a case of vacant posession.

But of course I remember what Dave Baddiel said all those years ago. I'd been living with my girlfriend for years. He joked that it was your second night with your new girlfriend and already you were bored of sex with her. I can vividly remember him saying it. So why did I carry on living with my girlfriend for years after that?


Melon

It's been raining for over a week now and according to the BBC Weather Forecast, today it will be thunderstorms, tomorrow light rain, Saturday light rain shower and Sunday white cloud. Finally, on Monday it's predicted to be a sunny day. I feel like there's something I don't know about Paris that I'm supposed to. The reason why THEY all go on holiday. But it will be such a relief! A glorious sunny day! And to think that only two weeks ago I was hiding from it between 11 and 5 to minimise my sunburn. And anyway, in case any of you are thinking "who is this pretentious geezer who's using his dad's money to pretend he's a writer in the Latin Quarter whilst actually living in the 17th arrondissement?", just ask yourselves this: how would you like to be a ufo contactee and get less credit than a railway station train announcer?

The sun comes out in the afternoon just as a message on Facebook announces the opening of Paris Plages. A 1 kilometre stretch of sand along the Seine. The idea, as my Lonely Planet guide says, is a reference to the old sixties political slogan: "sur les paves, les plages". Till recently, as a new Paris arrival, I was thinking that I was going to get off with Marion Cotillard, who I'd seen in the movie "Les Petits Mouchoirs". In the movie, they all go on a beach holiday and I guess the truth is I'm just going to have to make do with Paris Plages.

Ivraie

I met one of my female neighbours this morning. I guess you know you're in Paris when you meet a girl wearing high heels giving her dog its "walkies". Mind you, it was just a little poodle. It's a scary thought that there could be out there, on the streets of Paris, girls in four-inch heels walking Dobermans, Pit-Bulls, Rottweilers, etc.

I say Paris. Alright. It's true. I'm not living in the Latin Quarter, where all the great writers lived. I couldn't afford it. I just hope it doesn't make my writing worse. Anyway, I intend to visit the Latin Quarter on Sunday which is the first predicted sunny day in Paris according to the BBC website forecast. Or maybe I should visit my friend Ange, the clown at the Bois de Boulogne campsite. I hope he's still there. I've noticed that to walk to the Bois de Boulogne, I pass through the 17th to the 16th arrondissement. Ange performs in St Michel but is an anarchist. He hates the bourgeoisie; although because he's a comedian that means people like Woody Allen. Mind you, he's also an Arab, or to give him his full title a Kabil. He's the most philosophical Arab I've ever met. His show is a meditation on the human condition as funny as Aristophanes but I have to admit he probably hates Woody Allen because he's a Jew.

Ange has been doing his act on the street for twenty years. He's an "unknown" busking for coppers, living pretty much as a nomad. But when he commands his stage at the junction of Rue de La Harpe and Rue Saint-Severin in St. Michel, he is as good as anyone I've seen on any stage anywhere. As part of his anarchist anti-bourgeois, "anti-mondialisation" views, I don't think he approves of me writing about him. So let me at least show him the respect he deserves for not selling out to the Establishment! Forget the Latin Quarter on Sunday! I'm going to go and see Ange instead. (I can go to the Latin Quarter on Monday.)

Belier

Don't get me wrong. I know about Hawkwind: that two of them have been on a saucer for years. Allegedly. Apparently, we're "Time Captives". Britain's leading physicist believes in Plato's idea that the world is just the shadow on the wall of a cave: spacetime is just a projection from a larger-dimensional space. When I say Britain's leading physicist, I mean of course Professor Roger Penrose of Oxford University. There is also the well known physicist, Professor Brian Cox, ex-pop-singer, whose new TV series on the Universe has made him a celebrity. (For those of you who don't know him, imagine a cross between Patrick Moore and Liam Gallagher.)

So one imagines that the beings that are in telepathic contact with me must be highly-evolved technically. I sometimes fancy I'm being looked after by a much more advanced kind of health system for example. (Although I've not yet had the nerve to go into my local surgery and say: "Suck my d**k, NHS Doctor!")

Prele

So with my trusty Lonely Planet guidebook in hand, I set off last night to find "Le Clown Bar". Lonely Planet describes it as being themed on the idea of the evil clown. I reckon it might be interesting to see, especially in the context of my acquaintanceship with Ange, the clown who performs in St Michel. When I get there, it's closed down. For a moment I hang around, almost as if I am hoping Ange will turn up, sound his little trumpet and everything will be alright again. But he doesn't so, nil desperandum, e ferro ferrum temperatum and all that, I look in my Lonely Planet guidbook for another place to eat. (As I was by now becoming quite hungry). Eventually I wound up in another place recommended by Lonely Planet, Le Bistrot Florentin. (Only it's now called Le Bistrot Toscana). 60 euros. For a handful of fettucine. They plastered me with wine. I was drunk when I headed over to the nearest bar. (I'd tell you the name but by the time you're reading this, it will probably be called something else). I remember I was served by a cute waitress. But after I'd finished my drink, I decided it was time I started walking to clear my head. I set off in what I thought was the direction of chez moi but went in the wrong direction. So guess where I finally wound up! Pere Lachaise. Not the cemetery but the metro station. But that's bad enough, isn't it?

Armoise

Alright. Cards on the table: the most difficult aspect of being a ufo contactee is being one of those "The End Is Nigh" guys. They used to walk about the streets wearing sandwich boards or carrying placards saying "The End Is Nigh". (Maybe they still do but these days, with all the health and safety implications, etc, it probably has to say "The End Might Be Nigh".)

Carthame

One vivid memory of Consett Grammar School was LGM - 1. You know how they say you can remember where you were the day J.F. Kennedy was shot. I can remember where I was when they announced the discovery of LGM - 1. I was in the biology lab at school. It was in 1968. An astronomer had spotted what appeared to be a very regular radio pulse coming from the same point in space. It had been nicknamed it "LGM - 1" because of its obvious "extraterrestrials trying to communicate" connitations. (LGM: "Little Green Man".). I'm pretty sure that in the Biology class, with our charismatic teacher Mr. Reekie being a rigorous materialist reductionist, we all felt a more mundane explanation would be found. It turned out to be a rotating neutron star. But if only for a moment, we were genuinely excited that it could just possibly be an alien beacon. And in fact, we were all such geeks that I think we were still pretty pleased when it turned out to be just a rotating neutron star. There was a big fuss afterwards because the astronomer who discovered the pulse, Jocelyn Bell was a woman but it was her male boss who got the credit. Mind you, Bell, now Bell-Burnell, has no right to complain. According to Wikipedia, she's a Quaker and they are not allowed to have personal vanity.

Mure

I remember the old apartment in Newcastle. Looking through the window into the courtyard as the leaf guy blew the leaves. I'm so glad I came to Paris. I look through the window into the courtyard as the leaf guy blows the leaves.


Arrosoir

I'm definitely out of my comfort zone, here in Paris. In Newcastle I was on incapacity benefit, housing benefit, council tax benefit. It practically got to the stage where I worried that if the aliens landed, I would lose my benefits. Let's face it: I'm probably the guy the Norwegian wanted to kill.

Ten out of ten to the manufacturers of Paco's "croquettes". I don't know what they feed him in the countryside but when he comes back, his faeces are very sloppy. Not at all what you want as an operatif sac-sanitaire. Paco's croquettes have been developed by a team of scientists and by the time they get to you, they're practically croquettes again.

Panic

I went to see Ange yesterday. His name is Ange. It's written on his carte d'identite. And it must be true because he's Algerian. I'm quite surprised I'm friends with him really considering Jean-Paul Sartre said about the Arab wars of Independence, "killing a European is like killing two birds with one stone". But of course, I'm not really friends with him. He's a clown. His act is based on "being friendly" with everyone. I'm like the little girl in St Michel the other night who, although at first shy, got more and more cheeky until Ange couldn't (quite) get rid of her.


Salicorne

It's O.K. I'm safe in here! It was a very scary experience getting here but I made it. Where am I? My flat in Newcastle. Last night was Friday night and I had to make it from the Central Sation past Thank F It's Friday to my flat. As I've said, at night, Newcastle turns into Jurassic Park. At the top of the steps leaving the station was a girl wearing not much more than a slip. What do you do? Smile? Is there a boyfriend a couple of yards away? Anyway, after a few more such close encounters with raptors I made it back to the flat.

Like the mammals in Jurassic Park, I survive by finding a place to hide. Paris. So I've decided to go to the dole office on Monday and sign off. My flight back to Paris is Monday night. How much money do I have left? Well if I squint through one eye at my online account, it looks like 24,000. I've paid my rent for the flat in Paris till the end of August. Time to look for a job in Paris as a cleaner. If anyone asks, it's "for the novel". If anyone else asks, it's different from George Orwell.

Abricot

I went for couple of walks in Newcastle yesterday, which was Saturday. During the day. There are still plenty of neanderthals and raptors roaming the streets but they are more quiescent during the day. They just lumber along with their palms facing backwards. (Although you can tell it wouldn't take much to rouse them.) On alternate Saturdays they all walk in the same direction. It's the Newcastle match. My first trip was to Tesco's where I as usual, I used the self-service till although, because I've been using Franprix in Paris where they only have guys on the till, I found myself absent-mindedly at the self-service till for a while waiting for the machine to scan my purchases for me.

Later I went to Windows. That's not the Microsoft software product but J.G. Windows, Newcastle's famous music shop in the Parisian heart of Newcastle: in an arcade whose name I forget. The first place on the way in is a shop/cafe selling espresso, croissants and baguettes. Windows itself is an old-fashioned Emporium. On the ground floor are a range of keyboards: from the 61 key Casio "Piaggero" which I bought yesterday to concert grands. Upstairs there are violins, saxophones, trumpets, banjos, guitars,assorted percussion, every instrument you can think of. There was even a Siberian nose flute. O.K. There wasn't a Siberian nose flute. Also, on the ground floor there is a department of the kind that you rarely see any more: a record department. The guy who sold me the keyboard suggested I buy a sustain pedal as well but I said no. I've already got a sustain pedal and if I bought another one, I might get known as a pedalphile.

Basilic

Alright. No more bullshitting. You know what I really am now. Don't you? The real vile truth beneath all the talk of being a contactee in Paris, etc. Well, why not? I might as well say it: I probably am schizophrenic.

My brain scan for example shows the imbalance in the mesolimbic pathways of my brain which is considered to be the "signature" of schizophrenia. My mother was possibly schizophrenic. She certainly fitted Fromm-Reichmann's description of the "schizophrenogenic mother"; "cold, rejecting, domineering". My own NHS psychiatrists have always refuted Fromm-Reichmann's theory as out-dated. My current psychiatrist conceded that anyway, it would not have been helpful in the context of therapy if mothers were accused of being "schizophrenogenic". But what I find amazing is that after 20 years of believing in Fromm-Reichmann's theory, I found out today that the theory of the schizophrenogenic mother was developed not by Erich Fromm-Reichmann but by his wife, Frieda.

Hartwell (1.) says: "The tension over women's changing position vis-a-vis American men created a strain in the relation between the sexes in the larger culture during the historical period in which one segment of the psychiatric community espoused the schizophrenogenic mother concept.". My mother certainly experienced that strain: she was a typical example of a beautiful, intelligent young woman who suddenly finds she has to spend the rest of her life chained to a kitchen sink.

(1.) Hartwell, Carol Eadie, "The schizophrenogenic mother concept in American psychiatry", Psychiatry: Interpersonal and Biological Processes, Vol 59(3), August 1996, 274-297.


C'est Encore Thermidor? (Oui. C'est Brebis.)

La Nouvelle Vague.  (Jessie et Laura:  Camping Bois de Boulogne.  2011-07-16)
La Nouvelle Vague. (Jessie et Laura: Camping Bois de Boulogne. 2011-07-16)
L'Ontologie Recapitule La Phylogenie.
L'Ontologie Recapitule La Phylogenie.
In Kamera
In Kamera

Jessie and Laura are currently filming a feminist take on biker movies. The bikes are pushbikes.

Paco was supplied by Algorithms R Us.

The "Nouvelle Vague" can sometimes behave like a particle.

So I've e-mailed my psychiatrist's secretary. I've explained to her that I'm not going to attend my appointment with my psychiatrist on Wednesday, as I have inherited £27,000 from my father's estate and have moved to Paris. Now remember: this is an e-mail from a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic. Really it could signify the onset of a breakdown. So I don't want to cast aspersions on the reliability of the NHS but the reply is an auto-office reply, saying she won't be back till Thursday.


Guimauve

I heard a piece on Radio Four this morning about how Ian Mckellen has taken on the role of a Mafia gang leader in a play at the Chichester Festival. The critic made a joke about actors only needing sports cars, country houses and young, pretty mistresses

On the subject of my mother, let me just put in a word of defence for the NHS nurses! My mother, as I have said was an oppressed female. While she was married to my father, one of her "protests" was to lie in bed till 11 in the morning. But when my father left, that all changed. She started staying in bed all day. Feminists won't be surprised to hear that it was my sister who "went back home" to look after her. I cannot say how surprised they'll be that by then my mother had already married again. So while he worked all day to supply the housekeeping, my sister was expected to be the housemaid. Feminists, again, may not be surprised to hear that my sister also worked all day to supply the housekeeping. Eventually, as my mother became "frailer", she acquired a little bell with which she could ring for my sister, downstairs. So the reason why I say I want to defend NHS nurses is that when my mother became genuinely frail and spending most of her time in hospital, she could work the buzzer with the best of them.



Les Champs Elysees:  in Paris even the toilets are chic.
Les Champs Elysees: in Paris even the toilets are chic.
Paris Plages.
Paris Plages.

Lin

I had a run-in with some boy-racers today. As I say,I'm 59 and have never really been a boy-racer. In fact, I never even learned to drive. I remember a few years ago hearing Muriel Gray, ex-presenter of TV pop music show "The Tube" saying in a radio interview that she thought it was pathetic that a man could get to the age of 40 and not know how to drive. But that's women for you.


Amande

On Radio Four's Today programme there was a report on research that shows that some Zebra finches are homosexuals and nest together, displaying typical behaviour such as "nuzzling". I'm not surprised. Nuzzling is something Paco likes to do. 24/7. How I hate my mammalian origins!

I guess it's time you knew the truth about me. I was one of that group of people society hates more than any other: I was a social worker. Anyway, the essential role of all social workers is the teaching of independent living skills. The elimination of "nuzzling".

A related report on the same programme was into research by the Institute of Psychiatry, in Camberwell, London. It was the Institute of Psychiatry who diagnosed me as schizophrenic 20 years ago. I was subject of a case meeting of 30 or so psychiatrists and described my experience. A Canadian psychiatrist asked me why, if the aliens wanted the world to know they existed, they didn't just put up neon lights in the sky.

The Institute of Psychiatry research showed that people who had been abused in childhood were more likely to suffer from depression in adulthood. Speaking as someone who never once "nuzzled" my mother, I can confirm that I have suffered from depression. Mind you, my depression is partly caused by the fact that I'm a ufo contactee but that has been diagnosed as schizophrenia by the Institute of Psychiatry.

I got an e-mail from my current psychiatrist in Newcastle today, formally releasing me from NHS care. In the letter, "formally" is spelt "formerly" but I don't want to sound ungrateful. He has sent me a letter also, introducing me to a French doctor should I feel the need for treatment. I'm not sure how much you can trust the French medical profession. I think they might all be like Sganarelle in Moliere's "Le Medecin Malgre Lui" I've already had a pharmacist try to con me out of twelve euros. I wanted something for a cold and he produced two packets. One was paracetamol and the other was made out of Sargasso Sea algae or something. Altogether it was 14 euros. All I wanted was paracetamol but to avoid arguments I took the paracetamol and said I didn't need the Sargasso Sea algae. He put a sour look on his face then told me the cost was now two euros.

Gentiane

Ufo sceptics are like the English Defence League. Except they're a Planetary Defence League. They don't hate aliens. They just don't believe they exist. And not all members of the Planetary Defence League are hard-core. There's the moderates. They are perfectly prepared to accept the existence of extraterrestrial life-forms except they think they'll probably be just some sort of primordial slime; certainly not as advanced as us. Let's just hope for the sakes of the members of the Planetary Defence League, when the aliens do land, it won't be a case of this time round, the victims imposing the Final Solution.

I look out of "my" window and see the infinite sky. It puts my earthly pre-occupations in context. But then I did have a horrible experience this afternoon. I went to view a room with a view to rent. It started off alright. Eglise de Pantin. I had a coffee in a friendly bar called the Victor Hugo. But the room in the apartment smelt. The whole appartment smelt. The landlady smelt. It really was disgusting. No self-respecting person would have lived there. So I sat down to discuss the rent. (Well, I told you I was a pushover didn't I?) Luckily she seemed to take this an opportunity to push her luck. "Of course, because of your lack of residence documents you will have to pay six months in advance". Although I had been prepared to overlook the smell of the apartment, I couldn't ignore the smell of a rat. So I "politely" declined the invitation and left.

Ecluse

I must look out today for plums, millet and puffballs. I might be able to ascertain what day this is in the French Republican Calender from which one is in peak condition.

What is Justin Webb's problem? It's the second time I've heard the BBC Radio Four "Today" programme presenter go off on one. The first time was about one of the early twentieth century quantum physicists who did tours on cruise ships but was hopeless at chatting up the "flapper" girls. For Webb the key fact about him was not his contribution to fundamental science but this inadequacy with air-heads. Then today there was a report on research that shows that "pleasant" men get paid less than unpleasant men. Webb commented that although employers were not consciously aware of doing this, "they weren't complaining". Has Webb discovered some "anorak" has been having an affair with his "significant other"?

So Bangor University was where I had my wild youth. Don't get the wrong idea. By the age of 20, I was already a dad-dancer

I walked over to the American Church In Paris and back again today. It's straight up Ave de Wagram and third, I think it is, left at the Arc de Triumphe. Then down Ave de Marceau to the Pont d'Alma. I didn't spot a single plum, puffball or millet plant. (Anyway, Mick Green from the future (April 2012) has just come back to do some editing and tells me today is actually Ecluse. So maybe that's why I didn't see any plums, puffballs or millet plants.) The American Church in Paris is where I found my current apartment and hopefully is where I will find the next one. Anyway, so I've got a new room viewing on Friday. I don't want to stereotype people but particularly after yesterday, it's such a relief to know they have wi-fi.


Carline

The "A" (advanced) level secondary school exam results are out today. Yet again there is the annual debate about whether the syllabus is dumbing down and yet again I think of the A level maths course I did in the 1990s which was almost exactly the same syllabus as the "O" (ordinary) level I did in 1968.

I walked down to Chatelet Les Halles today via Les Champs Elysees. I didn't see any six-row barley. But Mick Green my editor, who is actually me from the future (April 22nd 2012) tells me that's because today is Carline in the French Republican Calendar, not Escourgeon. Mind you, I didn't see any Carline thistle either.

Caprier

Paco has a rubber ball but it's not fun playing with him with it because it gets covered in his saliva.

My "co-locataire" in Thomas's apartment is Damien. He works as a stock market trader. "Socialism was an empty bottle", he told me today. "A good idea but an empty botttle". It's true that while I was on incapacity benefit the scariest thing was filling in your housing benefit form. So I hope I dont wind up the equivalent of the French finance whizzkid, Jerome Kerviel, who became very successful by, as Damien explained to me, hiding his losses. I could find myself living in one of those "Quechua" tents you see on Avenue de Wagram whilst telling everyone I was living in a nice apartment in Montmartre.

Lentille

So what distinguishes this blog from all the other autobiographies of ufo contactees? (Well for one thing, sorry this is Mick Green from the future here, it's the only one, according to a Google search that has this title. And if someone comes along and uses the same title, I'll be able to claim, like Cervantes at the start of the second volume of Don Quixote that they are copies. Sorry! Carry on Mick Green from the past! Thanks, Mick Green from the future!) So, whatever you believe about aliens, when it comes to books about aliens, They Are Out There. And unlike Cervantes with "Don Quixote", I can't claim the other books are copies. The other problem I have is that the aliens have not given me the one thing I need from them: messages. Most of the other books about aliens have got messages from the aliens: such as "when Andromeda is in the ascendant and the great Spirit, Dithlicnococus has assembled the three hundred and fifty-three, then shall the New Age begin". I get absolutely nothing from them. Maybe that's the message. Nothing. Like in the 60s TV series "Bewitched" where witch Samantha's warlock uncle Dr Bombay, who always travels with his "nurse", covers up the embarrassing silence which often follows one of his jokes with the comment: "Nothing!"

The Quechua tent had been removed from Ave de Wagram this morning. The rough sleeper was still there. It was as if they had removed the tent and just left him.

Aunee

According to Penrose and Hameroff, the brain is a quantum computer. Free will comes from the fact that the quantum function has infinite degrees of freedom.

Loutre

So it's back to the search for a flat. Or is it my identity I'm looking for? Maybe I should be content being a humble contactee. Anyway, time to go. Put the kettle on, have a cup of tea. Critical Path Analysis. My dad introduced me to it. A book he brought home from work. When you make a cup of tea you don't get out the cups and tea-bags etc. then put the kettle on. You put the kettle on, then while the kettle is heating you use the time to get out the cups and tea-bags etc. You can apply the same principle to any industrial process, however small or large. Damn! I spent so long writing this that my cup of tea is stewed.

I've just been to view a room in Aubervilliers, which is just outside the 20 arrondissements of central Paris. The streets were littered with debris and people from the third world.

Reglisse

I have to explain that because I may have misinterpreted the uncertainties given in Wikipedia for the correspondence between the French Republican calendar and the Gregorian, today might not be Reglisse but anything between Sucrion and Pasteque.

Echelle

I heard on BBC Radio Four's Today programme today that scientists have come up with a new method of counting the number of species. They went round with an egg-cup. Under the old method,counting individual members, they had only a vague estimate of between 3 million and 100 million species. Now they know there's just seventeen species. The new method is based on counting from the top of the hierarchy down: the six kingdoms, the many phyla, classes, orders, genuses and families. They found that there are now only 4 kingdoms, 2 phyla, 3 orders, 1 genus and 2 families. One surprising fact the researchers discovered was that despite there now being only 17 species, the consumption of natural resources has not significantly declined. This is because one of the species is the human race.

Pasteque

As an ex-pat, obviously I still ocasionally feel homesick, so it's nice to be reminded of England from time to time. My recent favourite is seeing the way Nicholas Sarkozy has dressed himself in the same anti-Gaddaffi clothes as David Cameron. Damien told me that just a few years ago, Sarkozy was welcoming Gaddaffi to France as an ally. I remember even Gordon Brown was making conciliatory noises towards him.

Of course he may now be reviled as an evil dictator but I remember him at the start. He was a socialist in his own country and a passionate advocate of justice in the Third World. But like many socialist leaders before him, the people didn't go along with his vision so now he has been hunted down like a rat. And I don't just mean Gordon Brown. The same thing has happened to Colonel Gaddaffi.


Fenouil

Today is the first day of Rock en Seine. It's an indie rock festival. It's very much like a British indie rock festival. Most of the bands playing, such as The Jim Jones Revue are British but what makes it most of all like a British rock festival is that it has been raining.

I like dogs. When I was a child, I thought our dog was part of the family. But then I thought I was part of the family too. When you grow up, you realise you have no connection with anyone whatsoever. That's what's irritating about Paco. Most people keep their distance. But he is really clingy.

Epine vinette

There's one good thing about being a contactee. It may be a delusion but I can contemplate the possible prospect of immortality.

Noix

That's the funny thing about sex. You can be sitting together after making love and you feel as if you are with Eve in the Garden of Eden. Then ten minutes later, she wishes you never existed.

Truite

It seems like I have a room in an appartment. Marie-Claude, I believe her name is, called me four times yesterday when I was at Rock En Seine. Not that I couldn't hear her for the music. I'm afraid that I'm an old guy who can't get used to the fact that you can carry a mobile around with you. (I guess that's why one of the suggestions on the whiteboard for ideas for making a better world in one of the tents at Rock en Seine was "Tuez Les Vieux".) When I was a kid, English phones were attached to a cord about a meter long which was attached the wall. American phones were different. I remember American sitcoms of the period, such as "I Love Lucy" which, because it was a more innocent era, was a sort of "Light Petting In The City". In those sitcoms the phones had cords that were so long that the characters could pick them up and walk around with them; even from room to room. It was like watching something unbelievable from a science fiction movie.

I had met Marie-Claude previously out at the apartment at Aubervilliers. She was on her own. It's in "les banlieux", on the outskirts of Paris. When I told Thomas's next door neighbour she simply rolled her eyes and said, with a phlegmatic tone, "C'est les banlieux. Paris c'est mieux". As you walk along the never-ending Rue de Landy, all that spreads before you is endless series of decaying buildings, sporadic car spare parts shops, rotting rubbish in the streets and a population from God knows where in the Third World. It's so Bohemian darling! The perfect place to write my book.

Marie-Claude has bought the apartment, so it is a business venture for her. So it's true. My father's money has turned me into a capitalist. As she said: "we have to trust each other." I realise I'm going to have to be very careful about the decisions I make from now on because if I fail , I'll have to go back to England and sign on again.

Citron

Sorry. The software won't allow me to have just a subtitle. Please ignore these sentences.

Cardere

Bad news today. My project here in Paris might fail. Some extraterrestrial version of Alan Sugar will tell me: "You're fired!" (And of course, I'm a member of the Labour Party. So I'm hoping that, like Sir Alan, he's a Labour supporter.) But I had always counted on one thing that I felt would still be there for me, whatever happened. My room in Consett.

You may have heard of Consett. It was made famous by appearing in an advert for Phileas Phogg potato chips, in which it was depicted as having its own airport. It doesn't have an airport. It once had something much more impressive than that. It had a steel plant. No. Really. When you tell that to children in Consett they just look at you with disbelief. Although of course you don't tell them that. You don't talk to children if you don't want to get arrested. But if you did you'd explain how one day it just disappeared and they say how and you say because it was closed down by Margaret Thatcher.

I worked in the steel works in 1968 - the year the students in Paris were picking up the paving stones and throwing them at the police. (Thank heavens that didn't go on too long! I find those paving stones quite charming.) The protest generated the slogan "Sous les paves, la plage." Which is why today we have Paris Plages. (And bankers with obscene bonuses.)

There were a whole bunch of us Grammar School boys taken on as summer casual workers at the steel works in Consett in the summer of 1968. Like I say, that was the time the students were throwing paving stones at the police in Paris. I wish I could give you a flavour of those Bohemian times but I was still following the adventures of "Legge's Eleven" in "The Ranger" comic. Indeed, the only significant widening of the horizons of my life in that period was when The Ranger bought and incorporated "Look And Learn".

So how did I manage to lose my room in Consett? What perverse twist of fate could it be that has robbed me of my last chance of sanctuary? My nephew has moved into it.

Nerprun

I have two nephews. The other one is gay. I was very proud when he came out. He was the first gay in the family: a typical member of the new generation who are building the future. He's working in McDonald's. Both boys are amazingly like my Uncle Brian. (Except he wasn't actually my uncle.)

I have a brother. The father of my nephews. He's a bus driver. Sorry. Bus. That's those big vehicles that drive round the country all the day, a lot of the time practically empty and frequently stuck in car traffic. They have been driven practically to extinction by a three decade-long campaign against them by the BBC TV programme about cars, "Top Gear"


Fructidor,Tagette

As I sat down as usual for my morning poo (I pride myself as being almost as regular as the Dalai Lama), I lowered my trousers and pants and just in time, before they touched the floor, I remembered, I was back in the Camping Bois de Boulogne. At the Camping there is always a pool of water on the floor around the toilet bowl. So if you let your pants and trousers touch the floor, they get a good soaking. Mind you, it was the same at the apartment near Wagram. Let’s face it: French toilets are literally pants.

Hotte.

I took refuge from the sun for a while yesterday in the churchyard of L’Eglise de St Medard in the Latin Quarter and found myself sitting next to a family of Roms (Gypsies). I felt uncomfortable about it but I suppose I’m going to have to get used to them, as the police have just moved them to Aubervilliers. You see, the French police have discovered the same solution to the homeless as the politicians have to the economic statistics: they shuffle them around. As a result, the homeless are starting to get settled. The tents in Ave de Wagram have tables and chairs and the Roms in L'Eglise St Medard yesterday had a box of fresh vegetables, including cucumbers, tomatoes and leeks and were discussing what they were going to have for dinner. At one point, the teenage daughter broke down in tears and stormed off. I managed to ascertain that she said she’d had enough of her parents complacent, bourgeois lifestyle and was going to run away from the churchyard.

Eglantier

I have writer’s block today. When I discovered it, I asked the aliens if they were still there. I wanted to check if I had “contactee’s block”. Writer’s block is bad enough but if after twenty years of trying to establish the truth that extraterrestrials are in telepathic contact with me, they suddenly broke the contact, it would be terrible. I know what would happen. Eventually, they would land and people would say: “Oh! They were never really in telepathic contact with him in the first place".

Noisette

As I say, I'm a member of the Labour Party. I suppose I was at my most active politicaly in the late nineteen seventies, early eighties. I used to read the Guardian newspapaper. Well, I used to do the crossword. I also used to read the editorials sometimes but there's only so many times you can read an editorial that compares a government policy to "the curate's egg" (followed by an explanation that the reference was to an apocryphal occasion on which a curate was having tea with the bishop and when asked how his boiled egg was, he replied: "Good in parts"). I also used to read the rock reviews but they said things like: "Emerson, Lake and Palmer are the future of rock and roll". Mind you, as far as I can see, their rock reviews haven't changed much. The last time I read one it said that Blur were better than Frank Black.

There is a new production in Paris of Jean-Paul Sartres' play, "Huis Clos", in which three people are locked in a hotel room for eternity. In fact, there's at least three productions of the play on at the moment. I just hope it doesn't turn out that there's an infinite series of new productions on at the moment.

Houblon

I was thinking about "Spuble-Dunnerisms" this morning. I won't tell you what they are. I'll leave it for you as a Guardian crossword clue. They were invented by my old school friend, Gerard "Rut" Rutter. He was my hero at the Grammar School. He was very clever, very funny and very friendly. I tracked him down not so long ago through Friends Re-United. It turned out he'd gone on to become a veterinary doctor, then had become demoralised with the veterinary service so had worked for thirteen years in Health and Safety. Then he had died. (Piste in Resse.)

Sorgho

I'm really worried about Aubervilliers tonight. Until I have the key in my hand, I won't believe I've got the room.

Let's face it: the young hate the old. I remember at Rock en Seine there was a tent with a whiteboard in it upon which festival-goers were invited to write their suggestions for a better future. One person had written: "Tuez les vieux!" (Kill the old people!). So I have to "make it" because clearly the only way to survive as an old man is to become a celebrity.

Ecrevisse

Belgium has had no government for over a year. I was talking to some Belgians on the campsite this morning and they said things were working pretty normally.

Bigarade

So, je me suis installe a Aubervilliers: The flat has a balcony. (Although it seems to me that all French flats have balconies, so it's a bit like a French person in England saying that the flat has a functioning toilet. Mind you, then the French would reply: "Really? That's so charming.");

I opened the balcony door. It's a French window. Although of course, since I'm in France, that's not surprising. I was about to step out onto the balcony when I remembered "El Lila". He was my ex-wife's best friend. He was a best friend with girls kind of guy. You think I'm useless with women? Julio made me look like Bruce Willis. Julio was his real name. My ex-mother-in-law had nicknamed him El Lila: I believe it is an old peasant term of mild abuse. I think him acquiring this nickname was the result of the occasion when he wandered onto the balcony of my ex-parents-in-laws' flat in Madrid. Unbeknownst to him, the blinds had slowly closed behind him and he had found himself locked outside. It was quite some time apparently before anyone heard him knocking to be let back in. He was an apprentice writer. He had received some patronage from the famous Carlos Saura. He could be famous himself now. But he died.

I haven't told you about Ange recently, have I? The clown who has perforned on the street in Paris for the past twenty years and has got some of the funniest gags I've ever seen? Well, he's still living on the campsite. The reason I haven't mentioned him is that we have been arguing. I mean I completely respect his work as a clown but he annoys me because he keeps on playing practical jokes on me. Anyway so I said some things to him that I regret and he hasn't spoken to me since. He doesn't return my sms messages and when I rang him, he cut me off. I hope he's just joking.

Verge d'or

I am also involved in an argument with Newcastle Astronomical Society. Someone, I think a student, from Newcastle University's Astronomy department posted a message in the society's Yahoo Group inviting people to join a University "Skeptics Society", inspired by the late Carl Sagan. "The aliens don't exist." (Carl Sagan) "Carl Sagan doesn't exist". (The aliens)

Unsurprisingly there has been an enthusiastic response to skepticism from these Newcastle provincials. As I told you once before, they still don't believe in polarised light. So flying saucers etc is obviously way beyond consideration. Incidentally, while they may be provincial, it doesn't stop them from using the American spelling of "sceptic". I posted a comment about "The Planetary Defence League" and they have taken offence. Anyway, so if you're tired of looking at the pictures of the Universe's first proto-galaxies at the beginning of the Universe about 13 billion light years away-ago in the HubbleSite photo gallery, then take a look at the blurred dots of nearby galaxies the Newcastle Astronomical Society Yahoo group photo gallery!

Mais

After having been in the Third World suburb of Aubervilliers for a a day, I had to return to bourgeois Paris to pick up the rest of my stuff. It was the weekend and it's so bourgeois there, even the dog had gone to the countryside. After picking up my stuff, I headed back to Aubervilliers. It was a relief to get back to civilisation.

Marron

I'm really starting to feel at home in France now. In particular, this morning I found myself for a brief while just staring mindlessly at the television.

I have been thinking. Marie-Claude says she sees me as the 'gardien" of the apartment. I suppose that makes her my boss. How do I feel about having a woman boss?

Panier

Did I tell you I was married once? I wouldn't say there was a communication breakdown between us but when I was trying to write, she used to come in and do the hoovering.

I took my camera with me yesterday to take some pictures of the suburb of Paris where I'm now living. I knew there would be trouble. The making of human images is forbidden in Islam. One man came out of the Bar Alexandre and manhandled me. Luckily I managed to convince him I was only taking pictures of the building.

But of course the funny thing is after all I've been saying about the difference between bourgeois Paris and Aubervilliers, who's the first person I meet when I go to the laundrette? A trader. (Although to be fair he was a trader in Cassava.)

I'm an ovo-lacto-vegetarian. We are people who want to escape the Wheel of Karma but don't want to give up eating eggs and dairy products.

L'Appartement et Aubervilliers

L'Appartement.
L'Appartement.
Le Canal St Denis
Le Canal St Denis
Le Bloc.
Le Bloc.
Starset
Starset
Le Canal
Le Canal
Rue du Moutier
Rue du Moutier
Rue du Moutier
Rue du Moutier
Rue du Moutier
Rue du Moutier
Apparently, some spots are particularly dangerous
Apparently, some spots are particularly dangerous

I'm the first occupant of the apartment. The block's brand new. It juts out into the Third World neighbourhood like the prow of a spaceship. The apartments are decorated with easy-clean materials. You could imagine excluding dirt in the same way they do in a spaceship. So I feel a bit like David Bowie's "Major Tom", floating in space.. It's four French windows look out on the surrounding block, the Siemens tower to the north-West and the canal whose name I don't know yet. I remember Harwood Hill school in Welwyn Garden City. I had originally gone to the Victorian Board school in Stockton-on-Tees, which had brick walls and windows so high up you couldn't see though them. The school in Welwyn was a cathedral of glass. In fact it was where I had my first alien encounter. A teacher who smiled at you.

I was very impressed with "Les Conjoints" at the Tristan Bernard theatre. Good script,directing, acting, staging and lighting. Oh yes - and the hero was a sixty-something with a twenty-something mistress. It's interesting that while Dominique Strauss-Kahn is being crucified by the feminists and their fellow-travellers, one of Paris's big theatrical hits is depicting someone like him as a hero.

That said; I don't think I really want to "make it" like the hero of "Les Conjoints". I know you're used to my joke about being confessional so you won't believe me when I say what I really want is for the aliens to land and for us therefore to have the key to a new apartment in the Cosmos. Why the aliens don't land, I don't know. Maybe it's some sort of retro-active legal complication arising from some regulation passed by the European Commission.

THE END OF THE DREAM

So, it's the end of the dream. I thought it couldn't last. Everything was going just too well. I had got the apartment and was settling in nicely when it happened.

The shower curtain broke.

Mind you, although I suppose technically it is the landlord's responsibility, maybe I can have a go at fixing it myself. Now that I'm in Paris, I don't mind doing a bit of D.I.Y. I bet even David Bowie does some D.I.Y. from time to time.

I'm having second thoughts about relationships. When you're single, you forget but watching the dubbed American soap entitled in French "Des Jours et Des Vies" this morning, I was reminded that actually relationships are intrinsically sado-masochistic. The torture the average couple subject each other to makes Hanibal Lector look like Mahatma Ghandhi.

Blimey! Panier's been a long day.

St. Denis.  Some "Roms" in Noperson's Land
St. Denis. Some "Roms" in Noperson's Land

Vendemiaire, Raisin

It's disturbing news that scientists at CERN have found particles that travel faster than the speed of light, casting doubt on Einstein's theory of relativity. According to Einstein's theory, there is no absolute frame of reference. Now it seems we cannot even rely on that.

Safran

I watched England play Rumania in their World Cup Rugby Union match on the telly this morning. We played rugby union at Consett Grammar School. Except I didn't. I had a secret fear of pain. Although I think everyone knew really. Therefore naturally, as I watched the match, I looked back through my life to see if I had ever done anything to prove I'm a man.

Chataigne

"Maigret" was good today.

Colchique

I'm trying to improve my French by watching television. It"s frustrating not understanding the programmes but I am making progress. I'm starting to understand the adverts.

In England we have the famous Sunday Lunch. This is an enormous meal after which you feel incapable of much more than dosing for the rest of the day in an armchair or perhaps later some light exercise. In France this meal is called "dejeuner". They have it every day.

I have another tricky problem in relation to "making it" in Paris. As I've admitted, I'm pushing sixty years of age. Not to put too fine a point on it, I can't do it anymore. Gone are the days when I could do it several times a day. The last time I did it at all was three years ago. Fall in love I mean.

Cheval

Despite the fact that I wrote to the Department of Work and Pensions a month ago telling them that I'd moved to France, they still paid benefit into my account this month. I'm going to have to write to inform them again and this time via a registered letter. Because whatever you might think of me, I don't want to be busted for benefit fraud.

Balsamine

Sorry to shock with my admission about falling in love. I figured that if I was going to make a true, true confession, it would be better to come straight out with it rather than begin with some preamble. Don't worry! I still remember Dave Baddiel's joke about how it's your second night with your new girlfriend and already you're bored of sex with her. How could I forget? I'd been married seven years at the time.

And yet I tell you that three years ago I fell in love again. Why? I have thought about this long and hard and finally I've decided it was because she reminded me of my mother.

Carotte

I watched "Telematin", the morning news programme on France 2 television today. There was a feature on "social cohesion" in France. What's the point of discussing social cohesion when smoothies like Cameron and Sarkozy can win popular elections?

I bought a Bosch electric drill and fixed the shower curtain rail. I was thinking of having a glass door fitted but I'm diagnosed as a sort of psychopath so I suppose a shower curtain is more appropriate.

There was an Arab Spring and now there's an Indian Summer. What's going on?

Amaranthe

The Parisians are super-clean. Those who appear on the telly look like they've been washed twice in Ariel. So when Marie-Claude was shocked by the smudges on my summer suit, I was reminded of the beginning of George Eliot's "The Mill On The Floss" in which little Maggie imagines the flour-dust-covered spiders of the mill meeting their country cousins in the fields for dinner and each being mutually shocked by the other's appearance.


Panais

New wave English indie band Metronomy's track "The Look" is being used as a backing track for a tv advert for the French rail network. (Apparently, British Rail are thinking making a similar advert using a remix of a Stereophonics track.) ("Why Does It Always Rain The Wrong Sort Of Rain On Me?")

I know about Metronomy because I listen to Marc Riley's show on BBC Sixmusic. Riley was a bass guitarist in punk band, The Fall. He then got promoted to guitarist, then co-songwriter until finally, the leader of the band, Mark E Smith got fed up with him. My favourite gig of all time was The Fall (when Riley was still in the band) at the "Venue" in Victoria, London, 1980. But Mark E Smith has allegedly said that he and "his grandmother on comb" would constitute The Fall.

Cuve

So here I am again, back in Newcastle. Well, it was inevitable really. The end of a beautiful dream. Yesterday I was having lunch in the Champs Elysees. Tonight I am back in my housing association flat in Newcastle, breathing in the smell of the carpet that got soaked four years ago when the waste water backed up in the drains after my heroin addict neighbour blocked them by putting bits of broken compact discs and shreds of paper and all sorts of rubbish in them. The carpet was not replaced. All I could do was let it dry out. I reckon that underneath it now is a bacterial population that could run a small-scale biofuels plant.

On my way back to the flat from the railway station, I encountered some Newcastle lasses. I suppose I might fancy Newcastle lasses except my first reaction to them is always to flinch because I think they're going to hit me. Also on the way back to the flat I had to negotiate some piles of sick. Then I made my way past the metal sculpture in the community garden that depicts some pigs eating giant magic mushrooms. (Not the red and white spotted ones but the white ones with the nipple on that grow wild in meadows in the early autumn.) Then into my flat with the smelly carpet. For the moment at least I have avoided the Bigg Market Hairy Palms Brigade.

Luckily it's only the end of the dream for eight days. I'm back to clear out my flat then I'm flying back to Paris.

Pomme de Terre

I heard on BBC Radio Four's "Today" programme this morning that Greenwich Mean Time is being abolished and replaced by Universal Time. Our man at the BBC, John Humphrys interviewed Felicitas Arias, the Director of the International Bureau For Weights and Measures which is in the suburbs of Paris and is responsible for administering Universal Time suggesting that we would now be subject to Paris time. She assured Mr Humphrys that Universal Time had been used for quite a long (universal) time by all parts of the world that are not England. But the fact is that of the other six basic units, weight is measured in kilograms which is French, distance is measured in metres, which is French, electric current is measured in amperes after the famous French physicist, Ampere and all seven basic units are known as S.I. units which stands for systeme internationale which is French.

Immortelle

On the "Today" programme today Mike O'Hara, a former trader, pointed out, while computer trading is on the increase, there was "a range of different participants involved in running the markets". In other words, the markets are run, as we always have thought, by rich men in suits.

Later, UK Prime Minister, David Cameron was interviewed by Our Woman At The Today Programme, Sarah Montague. Cameron defended the payment of bonuses in business, explaining that at one time he had worked in business and had employed people. He had used bonuses for rewarding good work and good behaviour. I know the situation only too well now. Marie-Claude has given me a tenancy for the apartment in Aubervilliers for three months. If I step out of line, I could find myself homeless in December. As a result, I have become very diligent at keeping the flat clean. In fact it's nice to be back here for a few days in the housing association flat where I can relax and let the place get as dirty as I like.

The problem for Mr Cameron is that housing association and council housing is where you wind up if you get evicted by Marie-Claude. They can't evict you or you wind up in a Quechua tent in Ave de Wagram. In fact, the police in Paris have the power to send "sans papiers" back to the shanty town they came from. It's just north of St. Denis on the way to Paris Charles de Gaulle airport.

Potiron

On the Today programme today, Our Justin At The BBC, Justin Webb, interviewed an ex-Goldmann-Sachs bigwig about the protest by young people which is going on in Wall St., New York at the moment. I myself got a posting from Roxy Lopez with a photo of a demonstrator at the demo holding a placard which reads: "Jump, you fuckers!" As Roxy's Facebook friend I get postings related to her internet radio show which investigates ufos, chemtrails and other occult phenomena. Today her show is about the biggest occult phenomenon of all: bankers' bonuses.


Reseda

I worked for seven years between 1984 and 1991 as an Agency residential social worker, sprecialising as a support worker for people with disabilities. What this really means is I got paid for being the body of people with physical disabilities and the brain of people with mental disabilities. At times it was tempting to cross the boundary. I had one such client at the Greater London Council's Equal Opportunities Unit in the days of "Red Ken". That's Ken Livingstone, a member of the hard left of the Labour Party who was Mayor of London at that time in 1984. A lot of people associate 1984 with George Orwell but I associate it with Ken Livingstone.

My client was John Hall who had cerebral palsy and who was a worker with the GLC's Equal Opportunities Contracts Compliance Unit. The EOOCCU was an idea from the United States introduced by the late Tony Banks. The workers in the unit monitored every company that had a contract with the GLC to ensure they had an equal opportunities employment policy. So the workers in the Unit represented the most discriminated against groups. Women, gays, blacks, people with disabilities. We really annoyed The Evening Standard newspaper and Loncdon cabbies. And anything that annoys the London Evening Standard and London cabbies had got to be good.

John obviously represented people with disabilities. I enjoyed the job but I did have one problem with him. There were regular meetings of the whole team to discuss policy. John could not speak as such and instead communicated with a pointer that I put on his head. He spelled out what he was saying by pointing at a wooden board held by me which had the letters of the alphabet on it. Unfortunately, he had the habit of starting off what he was going to say by the word "Apparently.." This always took him a few seconds to say and after a while, once he had got to "Appare.." I knew he wanted to say but I couldn't interrupt. Eventually I knew that he was going to say as soon as he'd got to "App.." but I still had to wait until he's spelt it all out before I could look up and announce to the meeting "Apparently". I so much wanted to interrupt and say "Apparently" or even "Why bother saying "Apparently"?"

I don't really remember any of the other workers. O.K. That's not true. I don't want you to think I'm that superficial. I also remember Merle Amory. She was really, really, really beautiful. At the time she was Mayor of Brent Council. The first black mayor in the UK I think. She should be Mayor of London now. Apart from anything else, she revealed to me she was originally from Tulse Hill.

Ane

I said yesterday that the BBC is doing the same as the banks and using "quantitiative easing" to justify its continued existence.

In fact, rather than giving money to companies, we should be taking money off them. Remove their money completely. Not just tobacco companies but for example, car companies too. Stop all car production. The workers can go on the dole and look for a proper job. Don't get me wrong! When I smoked my first cigarette, I was wearing the polo-neck sweater. I was walking home with the other members of the school drama group. But it was a romantic illusion, like the car. Like Paris. I mean I've eaten brown bread for 35 years. My bowel movements were as regular as the Dalai Lama's. (15 minutes after getting up.) Then I go to Paris and eat baguettes and, to be honest for once, sometimes I have eaten meat. As a result,the regular pulse that used to be my bowel movements is now the same pattern as that of the heart of someone about to have heart attack. I agree with Jean-Paul Sartres that Chairman Mao was right and we should all live in the countryside. Mind you, I also agree with Sartres decision to keep on living in Paris.

France is famous for its "cuisine", so I've been going to restaurants for a gastronomic experience. Yet the truth is, all you get is slabs of meat. Yes you get a side-salad. But that is usually chips. There is nearly always one vegetarian option: pasta smothered in cheese or tomato sauce. In the few vegetarian restaurants they go to the other extreme. I went to a place in Les Halles, "Veget' halles", mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide to Paris. I had the vegan platter. It was very healthy but it was like that dream where you are eating paper.

I'm not anti-vegan. One of my favourite recipes is Rose Elliot's version of vegetable pie. It's root vegetables baked in a pastry pie. She says that the original "Cornish pastie" would rarely have contained meat which was what the posh people ate. So you slice carrot and swede and parsnip or, if you can find it, turnip, very thinly, put them in alternating layers in a pastry base, seasoning each layer with sea salt, freshly grated black pepper and nutmeg. Then you cover and seal with a pastry crust, make one or two holes for steam to escape and bake in at a low temperature for about an hour and a half. Oil oozes out of the root vegetables and absorbs the spices giving you a delicious, meltingly soft filling in a crisp pastry.

But I still need my ovo-lacto fix from time to time. And anyway, I didn't go to Paris just to eat in one restaurant in Les Halles. But what else can I do? I can't keep going to those carnivore restaurants. Cordon bleu? Cordon rouge more like.

So that's the real question, isn't it? I've got my return ticket on Easyjet. (Oh how they hate Easyjet in the Cote d'Azur!) I've got my grey suit, my black suit, my eight polo shirts, my eight..er..undergarments. I've almost cleared out my old flat. ("Luckily", the Housing Association had just hired a mega-skip to get rid of all the abandoned furniture that builds up over time in the complex. So I didn't have to pay £200 to the house clearence firm. I didn't have to pass "Go". I've got the flat in Aubervilliers with the rent paid until December. I've still got £20,000 of my dad's money.

So do I go back to Paris?

Belle de Nuit

I'm not a fan of the re-vamped "Dr Who". As an eleven year old in 1963, I watched the original Dr Who from the first episode. I liked it at first. The telephone box that was larger on the inside than it was on the outside. After that, I lost interest.


Citrouille

Whilst watching an advert on the telly in the flat here in Aubervilliers tonight, I observed something which I think the French do.(And I’m not saying this because the French beat us at Rugby Union World Cup yesterday. We were well beaten and that was before the media started on us. But before you write us off completely, remember that though we’re out of the Cup, we won the swan-dive try competition. Players from other teams tried to imitate Chris Ashton’s trick of arching his body as he lands over the line but were too scared of losing the ball in the process to do it as cavalierly as he did it.)

Today I got up at 4a.m. Showered. Breakfasted on muesli. Filled a wheelie bin with some of the contents of my flat in Newcastle. Packed my rucksack.Twice. Once with about thirty kilograms in.Then again with only twelve. So long E. H. Gombrich. See you at the Louvre sometime maybe. My favourite is Chardin’s “La Benedicite”. Look at the girls’ eyes. (Including the mother’s). Look at the drumstick. Washed the bathroom.Then the kitchen.Hoovered the bedroom.Hoovered the living room.Disconnected the electric cooker. (Yes, I remembered to switch off the electricity at the fusebox first.) Dragged cooker out of flat. Remembered physics experiment that demonstrates the acceleration due to gravity using a slope and slid the cooker down the stairs and then left it outside in the courtyard for the Council to collect on Tuesday. Cost: £15. Whilst at the Council, Sophie.. I can’t remember her surname is observing the Council worker. Sophie is a Councillor and was one of the candidates for Labour M.P. before the last General Election. As I am a member of Newcastle Central Labour Party I had a vote in choice of Labour M. P. It was an all-woman shortlist and I don’t want to sound curmudgeonly but about time too!

It was Chi Onwurah who won and who is now Newcastle Central’s M.P. as if the Tories ever won Newcastle it really would be the end of the world. Chi ticks all the boxes for me. Black. Female. Engineer. Not that I’m saying I voted for her in the internal Labour Party election. I would never reveal my vote. One thing I agree with Colonel Gaddaffi about is that as a socialist, you can’t trust anyone. (Although of course in the General Election, I voted Labour.)

Half-filled another wheelie bin with stuff from my flat.Took the Metro to Airport. Actually it’s Newcastle Airport but the sign at the Metro station reads “Airport” because that’s Geordie dialect for Newcastle Airport. Had a half-baguette sandwich at “The Upper Crust” franchise in the Departure Lounge. Served by half-interested, prettyish girl. Did I want a drink, she asked me. “A coffee?”, I asked. She looked irritated. “I don’t know if we have coffee.” She disappears for a few momentsand returns with a coffee. It’s an extra £1.90. I thank her and try to find that part of the Departure Lounge seating and dining area that is for “The Upper Crust” customers but can’t see an obvious location so sit myself in the area that seems to be for “Burger King” customers. My excuse is I don’t want meat and chips. I want cereals and fruit and vegetables and nuts or pulses or dairy products, as specified by the American Medical Assocition’s recommended diet, the so-called Pyramid diet. According to the American Medical Association, only 4% of our diet should be meat and fish.

The coffee’s cold. Lovely landing at Charles de Gaulle –Orly Airport. The Easyjet pilot merely kisses the ground as we land. I have to look out of the window several times to reassure myself we’ve landed. Got the bus to Paris. “Bonjour!” says the driver as I get on. I’m back in France. “Bonjour!” I reply. “”Arc de Triomphe.Aller simple”, I say. “Oui. Quinze euros.” As we set off, the automated bus hostess announces that our destination is “Place de L’Etoile”. This is the same place as Arc de Triomphe. (Do you think I might have a future in travel writing?) I had referred to it as Arc de Triomphe because that was written in fading white paint on the bus parking bay. I guess calling it Place de L’Etoile is less imperialist.

I change at Chatelet. This is a mistake. Palais Royal Musee du Louvre is two stations nearer and at Chatelet there are several long corridors and a long travelator to negotiate. What’s more, the travelator (in the direction out of Paris) is not working. Finally I get to Aubervilliers and after the twenty-five minute walk from the metro station, I walk up the hill at the end of Rue du Landy and the bridge over the Canal St Denis with feet that are aching in my still not yet worn-in Doc Martin shoes. I get to the apartment but don’t walk up the stairs this time but use the lift. That’s not as environmentally-friendly but they took the travelator away from me at Chatelet so I’m entitled to something. Meet a couple with child coming out of lift. They obviously recognise me as the (and I don’t want this to sound suspicious) middle-aged bloke on his own who’s just moved in. We exchange pleasantries but not the French ones because that means jokes. Obviously we didn’t exchange jokes. It’s a relief to get into the flat. Marie-Claude has brought the drawers for the chest of drawers. She has washed the new dishes. She has got rid of the saucepan I bought.

Anyway, as I was saying, I noticed something in the advert that I think the French do. Instead of saying, for example, “Ou est la station?” they put the “ou” at the end. “La station c’est ou?” And they do this with extravagantly long sentences. “La gare des trains qui vont aux destinations proches ou loins par ci ou par la c’est ou?”


Sarrasin

It's interesting that my one friend in Paris, Ange, is so like my one friend, Russell, in Newcastle. 50 something. Contemptuous of the bourgeoisie. Heavy smoker. Even their names coincide. Russell is the name of a famous English philosopher and I believe Ange is the name of a famous French philosopher.

I wrote that in the toilet. It's the first time I've actually wrote something in a toilet. Is that some sort of stage of initiation? But as I was leaving the toilet, I was more thqn (damned french word processors!) usually aware of the potential red zone bacteria on my hand. Like I say, I'm back in Aubervilliers where I have a woman boss. If it carries on like this, I might get one of those allergies you get from being too clean. But I realised that it's not so much that I'm concerned about bacteria but being seen to be concerned about bacteria. Jim Morrison wrote that "love hides in molecular structures". In my case, protestant guilt hides in molecular structures.

I met Russell at a Fall gig at the Newcaste Opera House. Russell used the word "eigenvalues". A typical Fall fan. At an Open University summer school in experimental quantum mechanics a couple of years later, I met a girl, well a woman, well a fellow quantum mechanics student who was a Fall fan. I fell in love with her but she had the one thing that kind of girl always has: a boyfriend.

Tournesol

I don’t want this to be taken as a comment on the private rented sector but there seem to be as many ads for DIY products on French telly as there are for scantily-clad models advertising perfumes. And I’m not just saying that because the sofa legs broke last night. I turned it over and discovered that the legs were long and thin and fixed to the rest of it by a very flimsy support: the sofa equivalent of stiletto heels. So when they broke, it collapsed, like a girl in stilettos who has collapsed. Marie-Claude has given me the go-ahead to repair it. Never mind David Bowie. I’m going to need the DIY skills of Paul McCartney.

I also have a cousin, Michael. I have vivid memories of playing with him on childhood summer holidays in Wirksworth, Derbyshire. I just had a message from my brother about Michael. His wife, Elaine, has died.


Pressoir


I got a call from Ange last night. I instantly respond. He is my master, which would be fine except he is also my genie. Did I tell you he is an extremely funny clown, who has performed in St. Michel for over twenty years? I can’t tell you any of his gags. That’s occult street knowledge only possessed by the countless thousands of tourists who must have seen him over that time. I can tell you a set-up. He’s standing among a crowd of passing tourists, dressed in his clown gear. He suddenly emits a loud, agonised death cry, falls flat over on his back and on landing, grabs a passing girl’s ankle. I can’t tell you any more than that.

Although he performs on the street, he is arguably the greatest comedian in Paris, if not the world. I meet him at his favourite restaurant. Not a Michelin-starred bistrot or something but a Tunisian restaurant with about ten tables in Strasbourg-St. Denis. It's between Porte Martin and Porte St Denis. It’s nearer to either one or the other but I don't know which is which yet.

He says he’s going to Florence. He says this every time I see him. He hates Paris. Mind you, everyone seems to hate Paris. Even I’m starting to see some of its more negative aspects. But for two months now Ange has been talking about going to Florence. I don’t know what to say to him. I mean is it the expression of some sort of unresolved issue in his mind or is it just one of his jokes? I drink a mint tea and eat a small Arab sweet pastry. He’s going to pack his suitcase tomorrow he says and leave the hotel in Beson where he’s paying 28 euros a night and he’s going to get an air ticket for Florence. He doesn’t have a bank account. He has the typical financial irregularities associated with many in the entertainments professions. So he can’t buy any cheap flights via the internet. Therefore he has asked me if I can buy him a ticket. We’re meeting again today. We’re going to a “Cyber” to book his flight, unless, of course, it’s one of his jokes.


Chanvre

We meet at Ange’s second-favourite restaurant: a Cambodian restaurant on Rue Marcadet. “Mais pas Kampuchea.” I say to the owner, half-expecting a stern “No!” because of Pol Pot and the Killing Fields and all that. But he replies positively. “Oui. Kampuchea.” Kampuchea was the Khmer Rouge name for Cambodia. That was Pol Pot’s party. By the time the Khmer Rouge were ousted, there were only two factories in Kampuchea. They were a rubber factory and a cement factory, both in Phnom Pen. This is according to the Finnish Commission, a committee sent to Kampuchea in the early nineties to investigate the alleged Killing Fields. The Khmer Rouge was the Maoist party of Cambodia who stayed behind to fight and eventually beat the French and the Americans. The Khmer Minh had been the exiles in Moscow.

The Finnish Commission could find no evidence, other than anecdotal, of the Killing Fields. It seems the Khmer Rouge sent the Minh to work in the fields. This is a fundamental principle of Maoist Marxism: the professor and the peasant working side by side in the fields. Perhaps the Finnish Commission could be accused of bias but at the time Finland was still under threat from its neighbour, the Soviet Union. Why antagonise the Soviets by propagandising against the party they had supported? Obviously I can understand the resentments of the Khmer Minh. I mean Jean-Paul Sartres was a famous Maoist and he kept on going to night clubs in Paris and everything. But for me the jury is still out on whether there were any actual Killing Fields.

Ange had a plate of rice, beef in gravy and assorted vegetables. I just wanted a sweet pastry. The patron produced a cellophane packet containing something. I took it. Later I discovered it was a cake. Like a cake from I don’t know where: let’s just say a Victoria sponge cake. It had icing on top too. But not icing as we know it, Jim. Icing is icing sugar, essentially. This was something like icing sugar-coated wallpaper. The cake appeared to have been made in a factory sold to the Cambodians by the former East Germans. I just hope Pol Pot’s not turning in his grave. But it did dissolve and I had some jasmine tea, so it was quite pleasant really.

Peche

I saw a French version of Shakespeare's “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” last night. All the characters were dressed like characters in the iconic sixties British TV series, “The Avengers”. The hero of the series was John Steed, a British secret agent who dressed in a bowler hat and fancy suit. You might have thoought that might make him stand out a bit for a secret agent but that was TV in the decade we can't remember, the one between the fifties and the seventies. Given that it was the decade between the fifties and the seventies, you may not be surprised to know that Steed had four women. The first was Honor Blackman. She was replaced by Diana Rigg. She was replaced by Joanna Lumley who was finally replaced by Linda Thorson. All four are very beautiful women. Melanie Doutey played Titania. Being French, she was a cross between all four.

Later, I go to the bar I noticed when I was with Ange in Strasbourg St Denis. “Le Marie”. It’s opposite to the restaurant that Ange eats in. I invited him in the other night but he shied away. In the pub, because it is a pub, with “pintes” etc., I get talking to Stephan. He’s maybe forty. He hints he wants me to buy him a drink. I assume he’s the guy in the bar who goes round bumming drinks so I give him the bum’s rush. Later, I discover, he knows everybody in the bar. He introduces me to his friend, a thirty-something blonde. So there I am, finally talking to a woman and instantly, from out of nowhere, a flower-seller appears. Strasbourg St. Denis is very much Third World Paris. There seems to be quite a population of real desperate homeless illegals here. It's marvellously bohemian.

Navet

So how would I describe myself? Well, my mother was a schizophrenic and my father a control freak. So, according to the law of genetics, there’s a good chance I’m schizophrenic control freak. I demand that everything be in its two places. But is that all I am? Sir Roger Penrose argues that there are extra degrees of freedom in quantum space that account for “free will”. He’s a top mathematician at Oxford University,a Platonist, but he might be right.


Amarylis

Not only can I, as an old person, go out in Paris at night, at “Le Marie” last night, there was a whole tableful of them. I’m starting to think Paris is a sanctuary for old people, especially with the news that Paris St. Germain football club might sign David Beckham.

I arrive early at La Salle Pleyel for the afternoon concert of Korngold and Schubert so I go to the nearest cafe, the "Do, Re, Mi". The terrace is crowded but I spot what appears to be a spare seat. However, there is a coat on it. There's a guy sitting in the seat next to it. I ask him if the seat is free. He indicates that his coat is on it therefore obviously, the seat is not free. Not a true Republican I'd say but after I wait a few moments, he grudgingly moves his coat.

Boeuf

I would say that the New Labour government of Gordon Brown and Tony Blair was greatest government ever. Originally, the media called Brown Gordon “Two Brains” Brown. It was Rolls Royce progressive government. The Left said they were cap in hand to the capitalists but they amongst other things established the minimum wage, reduced hospital operation waiting times in the NHS from eighteen months to eighteen weeks, introduced disability rights legislation, banned cluster bombs, established the Northern Ireland Peace Agreement, trebled development aid and cut by a factor of three our contribution to third world debt. I'm not an economist. I don't really know what third world debt is. I think it represents the amount we owe the third world because of colonialism.

It was John Smith who set out the New Labour route. He died, having a heart attack while walking in the Scottish mountains. He was a role model for me: as a walker who is overweight myself I try to avoid mountains these days.

I’m trying to make progress in my French by watching French TV soap operas. I still don’t know what’s going on in them but I've figured out they’re doing bad things to each other and I'm getting upset.

Aubergine

Don’t worry! I know what you’ve been wanting to hear. About my experience of sex-offending. The truth is I’ve been hesitating, half wanting to tell you, half not wanting to, worrying what your reaction might be. But what the hell?! Let’s as Agassi says: “Just Do It”. So the truth is: in my last job as a social worker I did something which, depending on how broad-minded you are, you might find shocking, disturbing, maybe even disgusting. I worked with sex-offenders. I know. These are the most despicable category of client: clearly people with no hope whatsoever. Except I couldn’t help noticing that they were a lot like me.

Mind you, I say without any hope, maybe not quite as bad as the chap I saw yesterday in Rue du Moutier. He was lying flat and after the policemen turned him on his side, you could see not just a smattering but a large pool of blood. Periodically, the policeman felt the guy’s neck for his pulse but anyway, he was spark out.


Piment

It looks like it really is the end of the dream this time: only like a dream in one of those novels where the dream is just an illusion. Just as I was settling in to my role as intrepid traveller here in Aubervilliers, I get the news from Marie-Claude that I have to move again in December. And there you see it: the difference between the private and the public sector. If it had been in England, I wouldn’t just have written to my M.P., I’d have become an M.P., swept to power on a wave of popular protest against the private landlord, leading eventually to world domination. Here in France, it’s back to the American Church in Paris on Monday. How am I spending my dad’s money so far?

As I approach the internet cafe I use on Rue du Moutier, a little Arab girl has dropped her bag of tortilla chips. In England, she would be bawling her eyes out. But this is Aubervilliers and she's a little Arab girl, so she's squatting down, patiently picking up the fallen tortilla chips and putting them back in the bag while her mother watches without stopping her; According to the scientists, she has 20 seconds before the bacteria attach to the surfaces of the chips but I'm far too squeamish to stay and see if she stops within 20 seconds

Tomate

On Telematin this morning, I saw a feature on George Clooney’s new movie which in French is called “Marches Du Pouvoir”. In the movie, Clooney says: “...I’ve got to believe in the Cause!” This certainly accounts for the rumours about him and restaurant waitresses.

Orge

The beautiful people, eh? They're all so well-scrubbed and shiny. And it's not just in France. When I was in England, I saw the BBC's Alan Yentob on television. He was wearing a polo shirt that hung on his body like the velvet on the body of a Cardinal in one of those mediaeval paintings.

Tonneau

My friend the clown, Ange lives on a campsite half the year and so has become somewhat savage again. In fact he makes the wild man of Borneo look like a City gent. And given that I'm trying to treat Marie-Claude's apartment as a space capsule, it's bad news that I've had to agree to let him stay here for a while now the campsite is too cold.

I’m constantly on edge trying to limit the damage he's doing to the apartment by his indifferent scattering of dirt here, there and everywhere. Probably worst of all, he’s a smoker. Tobacco creates a smell that persists. Anyway, so he has gone out onto the balcony to smoke his cigarette. (Whilst like a martyr, making a great effort to close the balcony door behind him. It’s cold in Paris now. 10 degrees maybe.) But also he messes with my head and my quixotic plans. Today was to be a swim in my first Paris swimming pool. I’d already bought the optimistically small trunks and goggles. But Ange is on hand to tell me that Saturday is not a good day to swim at Les Halles. When I first knew him I fantasised about being the friend of Paris's greatest street performer but after three days of sharing the apartment, he's become just another "locataire".


Brumaire, Pomme

Went to the pool. My quixotic plan to swim all the pools came from a leaflet I picked up at a residents' event in Canal St. Martin. I decided to start at the Suzanne Berliouz pool in Les Halles. It’s in the Les Halles shopping centre. You have to take your shoes and socks off before you go into the changing room. Once inside, I had to ask someone where the lockers were. Eventually I found them. They were fine except it’s a bit of a pain having to remember a new pin number. Then I was pulled up by the lifeguard because I didn’t have a swimming cap. “Vous etes Anglais?” he asked me. “Yes” I replied , guiltily. He lent me a cap. It’s a 50 by 20 metre pool, the equal biggest in Paris. I tried to do two lengths but it was a bit of a struggle. At one point, I collided with someone and tried to apologise. But my apology only came out as a stream of bubbles as I sank below the surface. Still, at least the swimming didn’t aggravate the pain in my knee. My knees are getting as bad as my dad’s. I hope it’s not some sort of curse associated with the money.

Celeri

IT Skills Workshop. (Place de Clichy.)

Poire

When I arrived at Bangor University in 1971, a young naïve idealist, like Le Sage’s “Gil Blas”,it was late-hippy period North Wales. It wasn’t going to be long before I ran into a member of the Mountaineering Society. I was too scared to go mountaineering myself but over the next few years I got to know and socialise with quite a few members of the society. So obviously it was a deeply humiliating period in my life. But I was determined that one day I would prove them wrong.

I’m boiling beans on the plaque at the moment. The plaque is a rectangular object, positioned in the corner of the kitchen. It might not sound dangerous but the saucepan was launching little gobbets of bean water in random directions at the surrounding walls. I had to quickly decide, using Cartesian coordinates and a suitable point for the origin, where to position the plaque to minimise the bombardment. Never mind for simpletons, housework seems to need at least a basic grasp of vector analysis.

I refer of course to Rene Descartes, the famous French mathematician who, as I learned with the Open University, developed the system when he realised he could work out the co-ordinates of the fly buzzing around in his room by using the two walls and the ceiling and who worked for Napoleon’s army, calculating cannon trajectories. Anyway, I was feeling pretty pleased with myself for having solved this problem in vector analysis but when I returned to the pan a few minutes later, it still looked like the Siege of Sarajevo.

I go to my bedroom to get something and as I pass Ange’s bedroom, he’s happily snoring away.

Betterave

I went to my second pool: the “Merri”in Rue du Renard. (M. Hotel de Ville.) I did four lengths today. But that’s because it’s only twenty–five metres long. Previously, I had gone to “Decathlon” at Madeleine (M. Madeleine) to buy a swimming cap. Then I’d walked to Rue du Renard past Le Tour St Jacques. I remembered to take my shoes and socks off on the way in to the dressing room but on the way out, I put my shoes and socks on in the cubicle. The attendant stared at me very disapprovingly as I left, dirtying the dressing room floor with my shoes. I apologised. “C’est pas hygienique!“ he says, I try to explain it’s because I’m English. Still, at least I’ve got a carnet of ten tickets which you can use in any pool. “Pontoise” here I come!

Oie

You know I’ve been telling you that I’ve had living with me recently Ange, arguably one of the greatest clowns of all time? Well, the good news is I’ve finally managed to get rid of him. The breaking point came when I was trying to word process my diary on my netbook whilst at the same time follow the daytime tv magazine show and because for some reason Ange was up before his customary midday also listen to his running commentary about daytime TV shows. Who says men can’t multitask? I snapped and said some things which I regret now but won’t later. I felt sad as I showed him to the door. He’s maybe off to his 28 euro a night hotel in Beson again instead of freeloading off me. He says he has had TV offers etc. in the past but the industry is “run by Jews”. (Editor’s note: Ange is Algerian.) Anyway, it’s an unlikely story. He’s much too good for TV or film.

Heliotrope

On Telematin this morning, there was a feature about the curing of Parma ham. It would have had Morrissey spitting into his hearing aid. The feature traced the process right back to the immediately post-abattoir stage, as the joints of pig meat arrived at the curing factory, still recognisable as previously living creatures. The image of Auschwitz becomes banal. They are then cured by a process developed in the Middle Ages where the salt gradually seeps into the flesh which has been checked for haemorrhages. The feature depicted the process as dispassionately as if it were for chocolate or some other non-living form. A chilling realisation descends on me that this is the Fourth Carniverous Reich. The good news is I’ve found a list of vegetarian restaurants in Paris. Oh alright. It was in the Lonely Planet Guide Book.

Figue

I think the worst several hours of my life were when my card didn’t work in the hole-in-the–wall in Tangiers and I thought that I’d officially become a third world citizen. I thought I’d contravened the incapacity benefit regulations and my benefit had been stopped and I had no money to get back to England. If so, I realised I was,like the majority of the planet, not guaranteed of any sort of income. It was a sickening feeling. My own life was just a sham based on guaranteed state benefits. And now I had fallen into a black hole and you can’t escape from a black hole. What could I do? So I phoned my mother.

Anyway, Tangiers. I bet you’re wondering. So yes. I admit it. I didn’t finish “The Soft Machine”.

Scorsonere

I met a girl last night. I don’t know what your idea of meeting a girl is but for me it’s less like Rudolf Valentino and more like Wilfred Owen’s poem “Strange Meeting”. The poem’s actually about a soldier who dreams he meets the enemy soldier he killed the previous day. So you have to imagine sex as a world war one battlefield, with many casualties and no ultimate purpose. Are you still with me?

Alisier

On Saturday, I went to my third swimming pool which is in Rue du Thouin right in the middle of the Latin Quarter. It was closed. So I went to nearby Rue du Mouffetard and bought some smelly cheeses in a specialist cheese shop. Cheese is my meat. It’s the thing that raises me above the carnivores. (Although as “The Archers” reminded us recently, the bull calves have to be slaughtered at birth). On Saturday night, I tried my first vegetarian restaurant. It was predominantly vegan. Afterwards, I found myself heading to Les Halles and wolfing down a cheese-based Panini to get my ovo-lacto fix.

Charrue

Yesterday was Halloween or Walpurgis Night, the night when Satan rules the Earth. Some people say that the aliens have Satanic tendencies; that they are involved in a global government conspiracy involving chemtrails and genetic experiments and all sort of reverse engineering. Well they have been in telepathic contact with me 24 hours a day for 20 years and the one thing I can say about them is absolutely nothing.

Salsifis

The other day there was a feature on Telematin about alcohol dependence. Later at the "Marie" I met a woman who openly admitted to a beer-drinking habit. Today Telematin had a feature on coffee. Apparently two or three cups of day is healthy for women. If I see the woman I met at the Marie again, I'll have to ask her how much coffee she drinks. She also revealed her favourite philosopher is someone called, I think, Georges Bataille. I couldn't comment. The only French philosopher I know is Jean-Paul Sartre and I don't understand him that much. For example he said he was a Maoist but according to Mao, the professors should work in the fields alongside the peasants and Sartre himself carried on living in Paris.

Macre

I’m sick of this! “Le Potager Du Marais” was the third Lonely Planet so-called recommended vegetarian restaurant in a row that’s been predominantly vegan. Sorry! I think I’m suffering from ovo-lacto withdrawal syndrome. I found myself getting up in the middle of the night and eating a bowl of cereal with milk and savouring the milk the same way that Hannibal Lector savours the Chianti in “The Silence Of The Lambs”.

One of the presenters on Telematin is Charlotte Bouteloup. She’s vivacious , with a characteristic, expressive presenting style. I still don’t know what it is she’s presenting but she’s very good. I was surprised she had to spell her surname this morning. I’ve only been watching for a few weeks through a pair of dodgy varifocals and I knew how to spell it.

To improve my French I'm watching a morning soap opera on France 2. It's American but dubbed into French under the title "Amour, Gloire, Beaute". It's one of those soap operas where when they bring up the cast list at the end, you dont know which names are the characters and which names are the actors playing them.

Topinambour

Today on Telematin there was a feature on pornography;

I expect the aliens will arrive soon.

Endive

I told you that I savoured the milk in the cereal the way Hannibal Lecter savours the Chianti in “The Silence Of The Lambs”. Well what I should also have told you was I am a psychopath: an ovo-lacto vegetarian psychopath to be precise. Officially I’m diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. There’s a brain scan that shows that I have the characteristic asymmetry in my basal ganglia that 99% of schizophrenics have. As for what I think, well obviously I’m the patient so my opinion is irrelevant but my impression is that I’m talking to aliens As for my ovo-lacto vegetarianism, at the Greek-run French restaurant on Rue du Mouffetard on Saturday evening, there was bacon in my tartiflette, with a nice house red.

Dindon

The newsvendor near the Mairie in Aubervilliers told me off for trying to get rid of some five centime pieces. He can’t be that badly off then because I obviously value them more than him. It’s my dad’s money. Each eurocent probably represents one corpuscle of his blood.

The last time I saw my dad alive he looked well although the nurse was there to take his blood pressure etc. because not long previously, he’d had become dizzy and had fallen over. He was clearly worried. I had always thought he should move into residential care when he was no longer able to look after himself but I would never have dared to suggest it.

Anyway, I had been a social worker. You don’t tell your client what to do. You discuss the options. The previous time I’d spoken to my father, on the phone, I had asked him how long it would be before someone found him if he had an accident. It seemed to me that was the key question he had to ask himself. Looking back, I can see how inappropriate his circumstances were. This was Stockton which seems to have a lot of old very steep staircases. My father’s staircase seemed to be the steepest one of the lot. It was so steep, it was practically a ladder. He had a chair-lift which you could imagine getting stuck half-way up and swaying gently in the breeze while you had an imaginary conversation with Orson Welles. In the end, he had another fall. Not from the chairlift. It seems he had simply fallen over and hit the corner of the chairlift with his head. I can't describe the sequence that the doctors speculate on what he did but he was found with a towel around his head, as if he had tried to stem the blood. The blood of my blessed, beloved father, draining away. I went to the mortuary at the North Tees General Hospital to see his body. I sat there for a while. The technician had done a good job of patching him up. She brought me a cup of tea. I was reminded of Camus’ “L’Etranger” where the hero, Mersault, smokes a cigarette as he sits with his mother’s body and who later is condemned to death by a judge not because of the Arab he has killed but because of the testimony of the mortuary worker who saw him smoke as he sat with his mother’s body. Mind you, on this occasion it was the mortuary worker who had brought me the tea. Anyway, I don’t think my dad would have minded. Although he never seemed that pleased to see me, he always offered me a cup of tea.

Chervis

These are hard times for us ufo contactees. There were the legendary old days before I was a contactee. Steven Speilberg’s movie: “Close Encounters Of The Third Kind”. Ufology almost became respectable..Then in the nineties there was The X Files. Ufology almost became not just respectable but chic. But that all fizzled out. Now the nearest you get is an episode of “Castle” where it’s not even aliens but Chinese spies. And as if that’s not enough, there’s scientific back-up against us contactees in the form of the Planetary Defence League who are like the English Defence League except they don't hate aliens. They just don't think they exist. Richard Wiseman is a member of the Planetary Defence League. He is also a scientist at the University of Hertfordshire, England (I'm not trying to make a point but it's one of those universities that used to be a polytechnic but changed the name to "university" when they saw how Windscale nuclear power station in Cumbria had avoided being closed down after a serious nuclear accident by changing its name to Sellafield. )

“Close Encounters Of The Third Kind” was good for us scientists too. Francois Truffaut, the famous French movie director plays the chief scientist. At Bangor University,there was “Top” College which was at the top of the hill and was the old Victorian part of the University. Top College was for the “Arts” students. We scientists had the new buildings at the bottom of the hill. The new Students’ Union was also at the bottom of the hill. One of the windows of the Students’ Union cafe, “The Curved Lounge”, had a view of the hill. I remember looking through the window enviously at the Arts students wending their way heavenward to Top College. There was a café there they used to hang out in. I used to wonder if I could sneak in some time, carrying a copy of “La Nausee”. So Truffaut playing the role of a scientist in Close Enconters Of the Third Kind was a real coup for us scientists.


Cresson

It seems as if the dream really is over now. It turns out that women here are just the same as everywhere else. Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” quite specifically says to “Ophelia”: “God has given you one face and you make yourselves another”. I remember attending a lecture by Edward Bond at the R.S.C. at Stratford-on-Avon in 1980 where he suggested that Hamlet was the first bourgeois hero. I don’t know about that but Hamlet certainly got it right about the chicks. It is their overwhelmingly unifying characteristic: the use of chemicals. The average female’s bathroom contains enough of them to make the Dow Chemicals explosion at Bhopal, India look like an environmental conservation project. On the other hand I knew a hippy girl who used no chemicals whatsoever. Whatsoever, whatsoever. Whatsoever, whatsoever, whatsoever. Not that I’m making a comment about French women’s hygiene: just a general point about women.

Funnily enough, the girl I was with wasn't like that. I remember now. She really didn't use chemicals. Well, maybe shampoo. Her father taught Chemistry at Imperial College, London. So all that baloney I've just given you about "women" is just that: baloney. As for Marion: she dumped me.


Dentelaire

I don’t know much about contemporary music but one trend I have observed is the spread of the goatee. In its original form this beard was worn by a number of African American musicians. Sun Ra had one. Sun Ra named himself after the famous Egyptian pharaoh and seems to have modelled his beard on that of the ancient Egyptians. However it looks like the beard of a goat and so there are obvious Satanic associations. (And I’m not just saying that because I’ve got something against the goatee). I can’t remember where and when I first saw the first of the modern generation of goatees. To begin with it was just worn by a few jazz fans. Now it’s worn by about 2 billion jazz fans. Could it be that the spread of the goatee is evidence of the Antichrist?

Grenade

My father thought that computers were evidence of the Antichrist: a gimmick designed to entertain the simple-minded. In fact it’s interesting to note from a family continuity point of view that my nephew is ranked 989 in the world in an online computer game. As for whether my father included computers computers computers I don’t know. After all what drove the growth of computing power was the search by applied mathematicians for the Holy Grail of Cartesian mathematics: how to target missiles more accurately.

Herse

I went to the Fleche d’Or last night. It’s a Paris “indie” rock club. It was just like an English indie rock club, except more rococo. For the dominant design motif they have gone for that ultimate French icon: Bernard Rogers’ design for the Pompidou Centre. Still it’s an indie club which has to be good for French rock music. Mind you, all three of the bands playing last night were English. There's such a shortage of French rock bands. It’s kind of pathetic, really. The lead vocalist of Pete and the Pirates at the end of their set said they would try to hurry back to Paris as soon as they could. I asked a French guy at the end if there were any French bands of the quality of Pete and the Pirates. “Rien“, he said. Mind you, he also said he preferred the support band, Chap. I’m no good on support bands. The last support band I thought would never get anywhere was Radiohead.

Bacchante

As the Lonely Planet guide to Paris says, La Fleche d’Or is a converted railway station. It was great there on Thursday night: the music, the bar, the pretty girl who took the photo of the stone-shattered windows over the old station bridge. I felt twenty years younger again.

Did nothing yesterday.

Azerole

So the dream really is over now. Let’s face it: I’m not like that adorable but accident-pronecharacter played by Amy Adams in “Julie and Julia”: a struggling Brooklyn writer whose blog about famous American female chef, Julia Childs, becamea big hit. The only thing I have in common with her is that while she was living in Brooklyn, I’m living in Paris. As I think many of you will have gathered by now, I’m a much darker character than her. In fact I make Dominique Strauss-Kahn look like Amy Adams. As I’ve already told you, I am actually diagnosed as a sort of psychopath: the aliens are just Hannibal Lector helping himself to a slice of brain. So as a psychopath, I can’t really have a dream, can I? Mind you, while psychologically I’m a psychopath, politically I’m a pacifist. There’s many times I been contemplating a mass murder outrage of some kind only to find myself reminding myself that non-violent struggle is the way forward.

So the dream is over. I guess I’ll carry on living in Paris. I’m thinking of trying to find a job soon. Mind you, I’ve got this dodgy knee problem. It’s just like my dad’s knees. It’s happening to my knees like it happened to my dad’s. It’s a curse, associated with the money. I’m sure of it! Mind you, I did forget about the step on the way of the baker’s. And it was the same knee wrenched in the same direction as the time in 1995 when I was walking the path around the coast of Cornwall. It was during the time when that comet was at its closest. There was a cult of ufo believers in Korea I think, who committed mass suicide at the time because they thought a flying saucer was hiding in the tail of the comet waiting to take their freed souls to somewhere or other in the Universe. Like I say, I’ll just carry on living in Paris. Pass the Chianti!

Garance

You see I never bonded with my mother. As a result I never really bonded with anyone. So if making it means bonding I couldn’t make it anyway. (Except on those occasions I’ve mentioned when you’re Adam and she’s Eve and ten minutes later she wishes you didn’t exist.) That”s what it means to be a psychopath. I wanted to go back and kill her. Hide in the dark. Grab her as she was going into the flat. Tie her up. Torture her then slowly kill her, maybe a thousand stabs with a knife, sulphuric acid, electric shocks. Then I remembered my commitent to non-violent struggle.

Orange

I read an interview with Mark E. Smith yesterday. Mark E. Smith is the singer/songwriter of seminal punk rock band, the Fall; A lot of Mark’s lyrics are diatribes against the fads and gimmicks of the liberal Left. So it was surprising to read an interview with him in a Facebook application that links you to the Independent. He’s 54 now. His photo shows a face that looks like it’s made of grey pastry dough. Mind you he’s had that that since he was twenty. But he is getting old now so you can’t expect him to be as prolific as in the eighties when people were saying how do the Fall manage to keep releasing more albums? Anyway, they’ve just released a new album. It’s not the original line-up. Something like 373 musicians have played in the band. In the interview, he said that someone once said that if someone would write a book of their life with complete truth, it would be a masterpiece.

With complete truth? Complete, complete truth? Complete, complete, complete truth?

Faisan

I'm getting worried now. I set off for Paris full of high hopes. The 1983 British Labour Party election manifesto was described by Labour M.P. Gerald Kaufman as the longest suicide note in history; I'm starting to worry that this is going to be the second-longest.

Pistache

I know what some of you are thinking: why doesn't he try the alternative comedy circuit with his ufo contactee routine? He obviously thinks he's a bit of a comedian. All I can say is, honest to God, I promise you, tried it once;

Macjonc

I went to see a flat near Le Jardin de Luxembourg. As I waited outisde the front door, another guy turned up and stood outside. I assumed he wasn't also a viewer but I aasumed wrong. The mother of the daughter whose studio it was had invited us both at the same time. I felt it was going to be like that TV programme "The Dragon's Den" where yong apprentices try to convince Alan Sugar and other business bigwigs that they've got a good project otherwise they hear Sir Alan's famous catchphrase: "You're fired!". I'd been expecting the studio to be like the tiny studio Marion Cotillard lives in in "Les Petits Mouchoirs". So I was surprised to discover it was only half that size. In the end, the other guy seemed not interested and although the advert at the American Church in Paris said it was 650 euros a month, I found myself agreeing to 700. I feel like Le Sage's hero Gil Blas who finds himself easily relieved of his money by the friendly people he meets on his travels.

Actually, I say Gil Blas but he was a young guy when he set out on his adventure. I'm old. I'm more like that other hero of the picaresque novel: Don Quixote.

Coing

I turned up at 3 p.m. with my rent but the mother is not there. Later she phones me when I'm back in Aubervilliers but that's because she thinks she's dialling the "jeune femme" that she clearly prefers for the tenancy; I'm fired!

Cormier

Do I talk to the aliens? Of course I do. I've had a daily running conversation with them for the past twenty years. It's just there's never been anything interesting enough to tell you about; For example, I've done a degree in natural sciences so I could try to start a conversation with them about quantum gravity but to the aliens, quantum gravity is probably the equivalent of the wheel. Our conversations usually end in an embarrassing silence.

Rouleau

"Get back into the rhythm of things and come to the bar!" (Pete and the Pirates: "Come To The Bar.")

I went to my favourite bar last night. It's such a great bar that I can't tell you where it is;

Frimaire, Raiponce

I got an e-mail from my blog provider. It seems the American government is under pressure to introduce legislation to potentially ban websites such as theirs on the grounds that they can infringe intellectual copyright; You probably know that I'm an opportunist; Secretly I've been hoping that my blog will become a hit like the blog that struggling writer in Brooklyn wrote After all I have something in common with her; She was living in Brooklyn. I'm living in Paris: However when it comes to issues such as free speech you have to stand up and be counted: I believe t's important that I tell the world about my contact with aliens. And if the site is closed down, I will have to go back to the publishers:

Turneps

Alright. I know I've joked a number of times about telling the truth about myself. After all, this is an autobiography and as Mark E Smith said the other day, if I want it to be a masterpiece I will have to tell the complete truth. Complete, complete truth. Complete, complete, complete truth. So I'm afraid I have to admit that I really am that most despicable example of a man: I'm .. no good with women.

It was beautiful in central Paris this morning in the sunshine. I didn't even need my Paris St. Germain scarf. (I went to see them at the Parc des Princes on Sunday. They were rubbish. But you've got to support your local team, haven't you?)

Chicoree

I think I've finally made it. This morning I was wondering whether the female who put my number in her phone on Saturday will ring me. Now I'm thinking "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn". It's a satisfyling feeling, self-esteem, even if I am 59 before I start feeling it;

I wet the bed till I was 12. I only stopped becquse I thought girls would be put off by the smell of urine: Now I'm beginning to understand that I'm not as bad as I think I am. It'a a weight off my shoulders. I no longer feel I have to put on a performance. The only problem now is what am I doing in Paris?

Nefle

In Beamish, County Durham, England there is a museum that is a fully-functioning coal mine. Watching Telematin's daily review of of Paris culture; I'm reminded that something similar has happened in Paris. It has become a museum and at the same time a fully-functioning city. Everything, the theatre, the restaurants, the cinema has become "this is how it used to be done." I'm watching the end of a civilisation. It's as if I was wandering round the ruins of Rome a couple of days after the Goth invasion. The recipe on Telematin today is vegetarian. Ovo-lacto vegetarian. .Feuerbach in the nineteenth century wrote about capitalist civilisation that it was "the end of the society of spectacle"; It may not be the end of the society of spectacle but it is certainly the beginning of the end of the society of spectacle.

Cochon

"When was Christmas?" Rob Duckett.

There was a feature on Telematin about Christmas trees. I've only been in England for one short visit since June so I don't know know when they put up the Christmas lights in the High Streets. Maybe August. Or even late July. It's getting to the stage where they should leave the lights up all year and take them down for Christmas. But that's the commercialisation of Christmas. I was a believer in what the story of Christmas was truly about. the excitement of waiting for Santa Claus, the sack of presents; the cosy family feeling.

The aliens are like Santa Claus. Our researchers are trying to develop stem cells as a way of prolonging life. For the aliens, stem cells re probqbly the equivalent of the wheel. When they do finally decide to visit us from their caves in Mexiico, it would be like the arrival of Santa Claus. The media were asking this morning what has happened to the extreme left? Well; Lenin was a cosmic socialist and the technological abundance that the aliens potentially offer would make Marx's "Grundrisse" look like a Victorian match factory.

Johny Depp was interviewed on France 2. He spoke entirely in English despite being asked by the interviewer if he would answer at least one question in French. He'd better watch out or David Beckham will be speaking French before him.

Mache

For me, the one problem with Marie-Claude's apartment is the cooking smells. They simply don't go with the décor. In a country cottage they might be alright. The current smell is a rich tomato sauce that I made. (A "rich" sauce is one that has too much oil in the same way that Julia Child, the American tourist who became a qualified French chef, as featured in the movie, "Julie and Julia", emphaised the importance of using too much butter.) 'Oh and another thing: it's starting to look as if the scandal involving Dominique Strauss-Kahn in New York was a French conservative plot to eliminate the most dangerous socialist opponent.)

Chou-fleur

I've sent Ange a couple of sms but since I kicked him out of the apartment I think he's really upset wtth me this time. Or he could be just joking.

Miel

France has a reputation for its "cuisine". That's what the posh people call cooking and indeed that may be why it has a reputation. It is the ruling classes that create the society of spectacle. However; in the mid-nineteen-nineties, as reported in Neew Scientist magazine at the time, the American Medical Association published an official recommended diet: the so- called "Pyramid Diet". It is a pyramid, divided into five horizontal layers. The base layer represents cereals, the next layer fruit and vegetables, the next layer; nuts and pulses, the next layer eggs and dairy products and the little triangle at the top, meat and fish. So the French diet of 55% meat and 45% chips can hardly be said to faithfully represent the Pyramid Diet.

Paris St Germain lost again the other night. Since I became a fan, they have lost two matches in a row. However things can only get better. David Beckham is coming soon.

Genievre

CV

NAME: MICK GREEN

AGE: 59

EDUCATION: B.Sc. Zoology and Biochemistry, University of Could Have Been Hatfield But In The End Was Bangor.

Open University. B.Sc. Natural Sciences

WORK 1982-89; Agency residential social worker, finally senior Residential Social worker, Reliance Human Resources, London

1988-90 Writer, BBC Radio Four, "Week Ending"; Co-winner, 1990 Broadcasting Writers Guild Radio Comedy Writing Award.

Referees

The Open University in the North
Abbots Hill, Baltic Business Quarter, Gateshead, NE8 3DF, England
Phone: +44 (0)191 477 6100
Fax: +44 (0)191 202 6968
9am to 5pm, Mon-Fri

Dr Bruce Owen,

Pioche

It's hard, life, isn't it? In the nineteen-sixties all I thought you needed was a smattering of knowledge of French Art movies.

Cire

Ange is back again. It was kind of weird sitting next to him on the sofa in Aubervilliers. (The one with the broken stiletto heels.) For two years now, Ange has been my comedy hero. Forget Ricky Gervais. (Everyone else is; Mind you if you forget Ricky Gervais so quickly, you might as well forget Ange. Written off by the media before they'd even written about him: a true sign of quality.)

And there he was, sitting next to me, large as life and about three-quarters as handsome. The trouble is, although he is an intellectual, he lives on a campsite half the year so he is a bit like Caliban.* Even so, it's great to find yourself on an equal basis with him. In fact it's even better than that. I find myself thinking, "Actually in some ways I'm superior to him."

* The creole slave in Shakespeare's "The Tempest", dummies!

So I move to the new room this evening. It's very posh. The building is an eight-storey apartment block built around a central courtyard which must be about a hundred metres square and has one rather grand, thoroughbred tree standing in the centre. The architectural style is classical ancient Greece or Rome with intricate brickwork and stone carvings. But that's a central Paris housing estate for you.

Arturu, the proprietaire, is the classic Parisien. He's from Argentina. I'm a bit worrieed that he might hold a grudge about the Malvinas, the islands off the coast of Argentina tha the U.K claims belongs to us. It's as if the Argentinians were to claim that they owned Ireland. Luckily, I was one of less than two thousand people to march against the Falklands War. In those days, you could get a hundred thousand people at a Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament demo so clearly the majority of CND protesters were against nuclear war but not war in general.

The other Margaret Thatcher led-invaasion was of course "Operation Swampo", as Scotland Yard code-named the operation was intended to clear the "Frontline", a stretch of Railton Road in Brixton, south London, which the local rastafarians had turned into a version of the "Frontline" on the beach in Jamaica and where you could buy weed. This precipipitated the Brixton riots. Eventually though the Frontline was cleared; It became rather deserted and a dangerous place to walk. In fact I don't want to sound like one of the white suburbanites in "Fais Pas Ci! Fais Pas Ca!" but where my wife and I lived at the bottom of the street you could see the last burning car.


Raifort

So here I am in the new room in Montparnasse. Practically all I've got is a table, chair, my notebook and my pen. How am I supposed to write under those conditions? There's no telly. There's a shower that would have been out of date in 1950. In England. But the worst thing is I suppose the defining disadvantage of a room over an apartment: the constant presence of the proprietaire.

Anyway why worry? One week you can be Max Hanley writing a sketch for "Week Ending", the next you can be Max Hanley crashing into planet Earth in a paragliding accident. I remember that not long previously, Max had the same joke on the programme two weeks in a row. Mind you it was a good joke. A general in a Latin American dictatorship's army is calling on the revolutionary rebels to surrender.

GENERAL: In the name of El Presidente, General Juan Fernandez, we call upon you to surrender.

REBEL LEADER: We don't recognise General Juan Fernandez.

GENERAL: Oh you know. Greasy, fat guy. Wears a military uniform. Smokes big cigars.

Not that I'm saying that there was any connection between Max's accident and having the same joke on the show two seeks in a row. I'm not suggesting for example that he committed suicide out of shame. I'm sure it was just an accident. (As much as a paragliding accident can be an accident.)

The apartment block I'm in was built in 1906. I'm worrried about travelling in the lift. There was a lift accident in the suburbs recently where the lift just fell to the ground. I'm worried I might perish in a lift accident before I have "made it". As you can see, I'm not like Max Hanley. The bravest thing I've ever done was climb Mont Blanc. And that was in the cable car. I can still remember the moment you had to step across from the cable car to the viewing platfrom across a gap through which you could see all the way to the bottom; 4,000 metres below. True the gap was only about five centimetres but I was terrified.

Anyway, so apparently, I'm living right in the heart of the action 70 years ago. So I could be channelling lots of poets; writers and artists at the moment; (Mind you I wouldn't notice if I was. I find it difficult enough to form a relationship even with the aliens. I haven't channelled a message from them in the twenty yeas they've been in contact with me. That's a pretty lousy record for a channeller.)

Marie-Claude texted me this morning.She and her family are coming to the apartment in Aubervilliers at the weekend. Or as the French call it le weekend. I've checked. There isn't a French word. "Fin de semaine" includes Friday. Or the equivalent 52 equivalent days in the old Republican calendar. I prefer the Republican calendar to the Gregorian one which is just ordinal numbers. Today is the 15th of January. Yeah. I know given that yesterday was the 14th. In the Republican calendar, each day has its own personality.

So I've got to get Ange out of the flat. I've been trying to be the model tenant for Marie-Claude, keeping the place clean, not having wild parties, etc. I hate to think how she'll react if she finds a clown in her flat.

Ange, as you can imagine is not best pleased. There's a certain coldnes in his reply. It's as if someone has forgotten Ricky Gervais's hospitality. But Ange is Ange and in the end, inevitably he manages to find a way to dangle me on the end of a string. He informs me that he knows I'm only joking and compliments me on the joke. I see 450 euros caution disappearing before my eyes.

I have to reply to him. And there's the problem. I don't want to give anything away about Ange's act but it is based on dangling people gently but deliciously on the end of a string. I reply: "C'est pas un blague". It's all you can say. He's dangling some bait on a hook. Don't bite!

Cedre

In Albert Camus' "L'Etranger", the judge at Mersault's trial for murdering an Arab, accuses him of being "the Antichrist". Not because of the murder but because a mortuary worker at the mortuary where Mersault's mother's body was describes how she saw Mersault smoke a cigarette as he sat with his mother's body. When I sat with my father's body at the North Tees General Hospital in Stockton on Tees last Christmas, the mortuary worker brought me a cup of tea. How times change!

The mortuary worker told me that she received messages from her dead grandmother. I didn't say anything but I thought she was daft to think that. Mind you, I believe extraterrestrials are in telepathic contact with me so who am I to criticise?

Although I should point out that the NHS has now formally (not "formerly". That means "previously.) released me from care. It has been tough being a client but I was a social worker so I've been able to advise myself. After all, I worked with some disturbing people. For example, I worked with ex-sex ofenders and they were very disturbing. (Although admittedly, the most disturbing thing about them was how much they reminded me of me.)

I'm going to write a bit about quantum mechanics now. I don't want to but these days you have to write about quantum mechanics if you want to be a hip writer. So: no doubt you have heard about quantum entanglement; The firs time I read about it was in Scientific American, November 1979. The article quoted the Koran.

"Thou canst not disturb a flower without the troubling of a star".

In principle, entangled particles can be in instant communication across the universe. The last time I searched Archive Data Services, entanglement had been measured at a distance of 12 kilometres. The signal is at the very least much faster than the speed of light. The famous quantum theorist, David Bohm in later life toured the States with the mystic, J.N. Krishnamurti. I'd like to quote Krishnamurti but I didn't really understand him; Roughly I think he was saying if you could stop your mind from thinking you could be one with the universe.


Sapin

The only other thing I want to mention about quantum mechanics is the Penrose-Hameroff theory of consciousness. The idea is that the brain is a quantum computer, based on little protein molecules called tubulin in brain cells which are light enough to be in quantum superposition. Each tubulin molecule is a quantum chip which can be not just on or off, like a silicon chip but in all the allowed quantum harmonic states. Our unconscious moments are the quantum wave, evolving though the brain and linking as many as ten to the thirteen (ten thousand billion) microtubules of tubulin in quantum superposition. Each quantum-superposed molecule can collapse to one of eight different postions; Each moment of quantum collapse. In this way, random collapse can lead to learning. Hameroff points to the "Cambrian Explosion", where most of the world's animal types appeared, in geological terms, practically overnight and suggests tha might have been the moment when microtubules evolved to the point where they were complicated enough to generate learning from random collapse of the quantum function to different states of consciousness.

So we ride the quantum wave. We're like surfers. Well not me. I'm not like a surfer at all. At all, at all. At all, at all, at all.

Saying we're like surfers is what's called in literature a simile. I did English literature at Consett Grammar School.about 40 years ago. The first book we were given to read was "A High Wind In Jamaica" by Richard Hughes. You might find the plot old-fashioned. It was about the sexual exploitation of an eleven-year old girl.

As I say, we also learned about similes and metaphors at the Grammar school. A simile is like when you say something is like something. A metaphor is when you say something is something. It's stronger than a simile so it's better to use metaphors.

An example of a metaphors is:

"It is the East and Juliet is the Sun". (William Shakespeare. "Romeo and Juliet".)

I mean I'm not an expert on literature but what a chat-up line that is, eh?!


Chevreuil

You see, in Newcastle (and before that, London), I was on incapacity benefit so I did very little. In fact, I didn't actually have to do anything. I suppose the most difficult thing I used to have to contend with in life were the queues at Tesco's. I thought of myself as being like one of the characters in Hermann Hesse's "The Glass Bead Game", a novel set in a future utopia or rather dystopia where work has been abolished and people fill their time playing a sort of three-dimensional chess: "The Glass Bead Game"

My father's inheritance changed that. I could come to France with my patrimony and become a Parisian gentleman. Although, as is revealed in "Gil Blas", you have to start out as a servant. So I've had a very exhausting day today. I had to meet Ange. I had to meet Marie-Claude too. But ideally, I had to meet them separately. I did not want Marie-Claude to find a clown in her apartment. It all went relatively smoothly. I didn't lose my 450 euros. I get 233 euros back!

The black man was with Marie-Claude. He has visited me at the flat a couple of times previously. He is called Mr Ajo. We had a very interesting conversation one time about Kwame Nkrumah, the first leader of Ghana post -independence from Britain who is one of his heros. One of my most vivid memories from childhood was one morning at breakfast with my mum and dad in my grandmother's house in Stockton-on-Tees. My father was reading his favourite paper of the time, the arch-conservative "Daily Telegraph". (My mother was a Labour-supporting "Daily Mirror" reader. Go figure!) The headline was about Nkrumah. My father showed me Nkrumah's name in the paper and asked me to pronounce it. I guessed Nuh-krumah. My parents were very pleased with me.

So I feel I know Mr Ajo a bit now. However, I was still surprised when I discovered today he is Marie-Claude's husband. I felt a bit like one of the white Liberal characters in "Fais Pas Ci! fais Pas Ca!"

Ajonc

I believe I have mentioned that the NHS has discharged me from care. It's great to be finally given a clean bill of health. Even if I am now nearly sixty. There is a conspiracy theory which says that there is a world-wide conspiracy to hide the truth about the aliens. But I don't like to believe that. I've always felt the National Health Service has been very good with me. It would be awful to think they knew I was right but had signed the Official Secrets Act.

This is an autobiography right? Shouldn't I talk about the family dog? The trouble is, comedian Steve Coogan called dogs "shitbags" so I would be telling the history of a shitbag.

One day, mum and dad came back from shopping in Welwyn Garden City with more than the shopping. It was a dog, a stray dog tha they had no doubt petted and who had no doubt spotted she was onto a good thing with my mum and dad. She started to follow them so my mum and dad decided to adopt her; That's how we got our family shitbag, She already had a name. Judy. She already had that name because that was the name my mother had decided for her.

Some people have pedigree dogs. Thomas had Paco, a Belgian Shephered. But pedigree dogs have heriditary weaknesses. Paco had a chronic eye codition. Judy was a mongrel. A mix of all races. On one occasion, she disappeared. My mother and father drove to dog pounds all over Hertfordhsire looking for her. Eventually they found her in a dog pound where she was due to be "put down". Apparently, she had already escaped once. So although she had been re-captured, her escape had given extra time which had paid off because my mother and father had found her; She went on to produce several generations of puppies. Not bad for a "shitbag".

Arturo, the proprietaire of the apartment here in Montparnasse, has a comb-over. Do you know comb-overs? They are where a bloke is losing hair on top of his head and so grows it long at the side(s) and combs that hair over the top of his head to hide the bald patch. Arturo has grown his black hair very long on one side and flipped it over. It makes him look like a cross between Robert Smith of The Cure and the serial killer Fred West.

What's more, he has created a kind of sanctuary which takes up half the kitchen. There's a large bookshelf with about two hundred of the driest academic tomes you could ever imagine which blocks off a space behind which is his computer and more bookshelves. The bookshelf is almost up to the fridge with just little gap between them into Arturo's hole. When you're in there having your breakfast, he's often there. It's like he's stalking you. Occasionally he pops out to talk to you. He has a comprehensive knowledge of contemporary culture up to American singing group "The Platters". When your eyes eventually glaze over as he tells you about which house Gertrude Stein was living in when Hemingway wrote "A Moveable Feast", he disappears back into his shell. He makes Gollum, the hobbit in "Lord of the Rings" who hides away from the world imprisoned by a gold ring which he calls his "precious" look like the meeter and greeter at a hospitality event.

Cypres

My television doesn't work. It's all digital aound here, apart from Arturo. He's not even analogue. He's valve-operated. He pops in and out from behind the half of the kitchen he has turned into a dark hole like some character from the sort of puppet shows I used to watch on television when I was a child.

Anyway, I'm in France to get a full picture of French culture so I switch on the radio. It's a programme about prostitution. Later, I am going to go for a walk through the Bois de Boulogne. The birds, the trees, the prostitutes

On the radio news this morning there was news of another Kepler telescope discovery of an Eath-like planet in a habitable zone. You see, all those years ago, Pat Kane wrote about "the gentle but flaky world of the ufo contactee" but it seems that almost every day now the extrasolar astronomers are producing evidence that shows I might be right.

Mind you, the news even came s a surprise to me. Not only am I terrible channeller, I'm just a really bad contactee. Even now, I still ask the aliens if I'm imagining them. What I experience is a sort of possession. She or he or it or they or...er... seeems to be "inside" me with complete control of my brain, nervous system, etc. Mind you, complete control of my brain and nervous system is probably, to them, the equivalent of the wheel.

I like to use garlic in cooking. When I became a vegetarian in 1975, vegetarian cooking was influenced by French and other continental styles. These days it is celebrity chefs like Jamie Oliver who get the credit but it is the vegetarian and wholefoods movement that should get it. The Pyramid Diet, introduced by the America Medical Association, merely rubber-stamps what the vegetarians have been advocating all along.

Anyway so guess what Arturo was complaining about this morning! How ridiculous, complaining about garlic in France!

I achieved my aim for today. I tracked down an indoor aerial for my television. You see I've got a bit of a surprise for you. Tonight I've got a date! And what a date! It's the Big One! It's "Fais Pas Ci! Fais Pas Ca!" on France 2




Lierre

I met Ange at the apartment today. This time I got him with a joke. I rang him and pretended that Marie-Claude was with meand when he came to answer the door, I mimed to be talking to her just out of his view.

Ange told me of a time he had been to see an end-of -year production at a mime school in Paris. He revealed he has learned some tricks from watching mimes. There's nothing really technical about Ange's act.. It's all in the intellectual content. It's like alternative rock music. And on the Mark E smith scale of alternative, Ange is round about Marc Riley. I told you he has a trumpet just like Riley's didn't I?

I used to wonder what the point of life was. Now I wonder who the aliens are, what they know about what we call the universe, etc. I remember from around the age of ten, my favourite programme was "The Sky At Night" with Patrick Moore. That's thanks to my dad. He liked to watch it too. Amateur astronomers were still making contributions to fundamental research. Watching the programme with the latest pictures of planets, stars and galaxies was an alien experience in itself. And that's before you take into account Moore's bushy eyebrows, wild hair and mad, staring eyes.

Sabine

I know what you're thinking: why doesn't he try a dating agency? "UFO CONTACTEE (GSOH) SEEKS SIMILAR". Actually I did join a dating agency. Facebook. I have a number of Facebook friends who are ufophiles. There's one who has an internet radio show. She also talks a lot about chemtrails although what chemtrails have got to do with aliens, I don't know. There are a couple of other women who channel an endless stream of positive messages of love and peace and reconciliation. I don't want to sound sexist but I wonder if the messages would be the same if they were men.

Hoyau

I’ve already told you I’m a scientist. A materialist. Not like Richard Wiseman of the Planetary Defence League at Hatfield Poly. It’s as if Hamlet had said: “There are less things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, dear Horatio”. I had an offer to go to Hatfield Poly but I turned it down to go to a proper university, even if it was only Bangor. Hippy Bangor of the early seventies. The Beatles came to listen to the Maraharaja Whatshisname on Bangor Mountain.

“You can’t be twenty On Sugar Mountain”. Neil Young.

But I’m a materialist. I love, for example, Sir Patrick Moore’s reaction when anyone mentions the word “astrology”. To be honest, I imagine he might find it slightly irritating when his universe of planets, stars and galaxies is confused with the universe of “when the Moon is in the ascendant in Taurus, you will meet a tall, dark stranger”. So I’m glad I’m not like the Planetary Defence League. (Although admittedly in, I think it was 1972 in the Curved Lounge in Bangor Student’s Union a couple who’d just come back from Stonehenge Free Festival told us they’d seen flying saucers and I merely smirked and concluded it was probably the effect of too much LSD.)

Erable a Sucre

I really am going to make a difficult confession now. It’s an issue that I know women are particularly sensitive about. The truth is I suspect I might be or at least at one time might have been attractive to them. I know there’ll be women up in arms at this point so I won’t say any more. However, one thing I should finally put to bed; no, unfortunate turn of phrase; bury, no, that’s worse; deny, no, that’s disastrous; point out, hmm, it will have to do, is that I am not a sex-offender. (Although what I could tell you about the young daughter of the caretaker of a Quaker Meeting House which shall remain nameless unless the spirit move me would make “A High Wind In Jamaica” look like “The Railway Children”).

Bruyere

I know a new French word: “Amoureux”. I’ve now twice heard a French woman use it to describe her boyfriend. Cold Black Kitty at the Pont Marie and Robi, a French singer, interviewed in Pariscope. “Mon amoureux”. I suppose it’s sort of half-way between A High Wind In Jamaica and The Railway Children.

Roseau


I’m sure you’re sick of me pretending to offer juicy confessions. After all, it’s an autobiography. It would be defeating the purpose, not being honest. It would be just another pose. “Rock The Autobiography”. And like Mark E Smith said: if you did tell the truth, it might be a masterpiece. So, O.K. Well, for example, John Peel, the DJ, (sic) revealed in his autobiography that he was raped by a fellow schoolboy when he was at public school. I can do better than that. I can reveal that I pull out my nostril hairs.

I hope you don’t mind me sharing that with you. It’s a terrible burden. The sneezing it triggers has just given me another cold after having only just recovered from the previous one. I was really pleased with myself because today I walked for three hours from Montparnasse to Suresnes through the Bois de Boulogne. I even had an encounter with two prostitutes on the Allee du Longchamps. One of them said something that contained the word “cheri”. I felt like Dominique Strauss-Kahn. “Bonjour!” I said, politely. They smiled politely back. And you see, if I were to let my nostril hairs just grow, the Bois de Boulogne might be the only place I could get any “business”.

It was a beautiful Paris morning: cold but with a sunny, cloudless sky.

Oseille


Today it’s pissing down. It could almost be The Siddeleys: “My Favourite Wet Wednesday Afternooon”. Except it’s Tuesday. This morning there was a feature on Telematin about constipation. I’m afraid it’s the baguettes. I like baguettes, particularly the traditional ones: the ones that are being replaced by the new “traditional” ones. It’s the same in Britain except British white bread makes polystyrene look and taste like freshly baked baguette. The problem is white bread itself. It’s white because the fibre has been removed. Even in the British parks there are notices around the duck ponds these days asking people not to feed the ducks white bread as it clogs them up and they die. So while the masses keep eating white bread one can almost hear the voice of Marie-Antoinette saying: “Let them eat Special K!”

Things are bad between me and Arturo. And to make things worse, there was news today about a guy going crazy in Liege in Belgium with guns and a grenade. At one point, Arturo, having lost his temper, advanced towards me as if about to grab me. I’m afraid I’m no good at martial arts. I become frozen with fear at the thought of what might happen (to me) if I tried to hit someone. Luckily, I am committed to the path of non-violent action. I drew his attention to the fact that he was behaving in an aggressive manner and he calmed down. I’m sure it was just a temper tantrum. But then that’s probably what the one the guy in Belgium had was.

There’s an advertisement on the telly for Nespresso featuring George Clooney who get his suitcase mixed up that of a petite brunette at the airport. They meet to exchange suitcase. She tells him she thought he would be more ristretto. That is exactly what happened to me in Luxor in Egypt two years ago. Except she told me she was surprised I was so ristretto.

It was the second glance where I fell in love. It’s usually the second glance. In her case it was because I had first encountered her on the street in Luxor being chased by famous Luxor guide (mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide) Mr Ali. I was already staying in the hotel, The Grand, where Mr Ali is based so when he saw me he stopped. Then he asked me to help him chase her. We both chased after her. Even then I suppose I should have seen her resemblance to Adele Blanc-Sec. (But I hadn’t seen the movie then.) To me, with her petite stature and floppy straw hat, I thought she was just a Chinese tourist. (No disrespect to Chinese tourists. I was once in love with a Vietnamese girl. Well, half-Vietnamese anyway.)

So it was out of politeness to the Grand that I persuaded Isabel to stay at the Grand. We walked back to the hotel. I then went up to my room, came back downstairs and fell in love. She had taken off the floppy hat and a cascade of black hair shook as she engaged another hotel guest in conversation. She was from Peru but she lived in Paris. She was wearing a pair of silver flatties: a compromise for not being able to wear stiletto heels. She had travelled extensively round the world. On her Facebook page was a list of the countries she had visited: about half the countries on the planet. She always travelled alone.

I was too ristretto but at least I got her e-mail address. Later we became Facebook friends. But I still didn’t give up hope. A year later I visited her in Paris. I stayed in her studio. I think I was too ristretto again. She left for Japan a couple of hours later. Then things got complicated when I found a copy of “Achtung Baby” in her music collection. Back in the UK I kept up with her through her Facebook page. But there was an awful lot of stuff about how good Sex And The City was. Nevertheless I visited her again in Paris last summer. Yet again I was too ristretto. Did I tell you I was useless with women? She cancelled our next appointment. She also removed me as a Facebook friend. (Mind you, I suppose that doesn’t make much difference.)

Grillon

Allez Paris! The news has come or rather it has been announced by what the media call Beckhaming Palace, that David Beckham is signing for Paris St. Germain. I used to hate him. For the obvious reasons. Rich, famous, good-looking. But during the previous election campaign in the UK, Beckham described Gordon Brown as a “very good man”. So now I’m a big fan. I’ve already been once to Paris St. Germain, so I’ll have to go again. Oh blimey! I’ve just thought. There’s going to be a huge crowd, paparazzi everywhere, the major tv networks etc. I think I’ll avoid the Champs Elysees the day of Posh’s first shopping trip.

How do I justify being in Paris? Well, for one thing, although the outsider writer in Paris thing has been done to death, I don’t think it’s ever been done before by a contactee.

Pignon

Some 40 departments of France are on Orange Alert today. Or as I said the other day: it’s pissing down. I’ve been thinking about what I will do if I don’t “make it” in France.

Incidentally, I admit, I have no idea what I’m talking about, “make it” except some vague general impressions that involve women. But they’re probably just phantasms. I mean it’s hopeless really. Where do I start? Well, there was Claire. But she was a Bjork fan. There was Margorzata. She was more promising. She had a Fall E.P. But she also had a boyfriend. If I’ve learned one thing over the past twenty years it’s if she has a boyfriend, forget it! There was Judith, the Art teacher. But she not only had a boyfriend, he was an Open University graduate. You see, I actually think, in theory it is possible to overcome the nuclear force that links a couple but not if he’s an Open University graduate.

There was Hanna. It was like Adam and Eve then ten minutes later, she wished I didn’t exist. There was Danielle. She was working class. We had little in common. Even so I felt it could work. The problem: she had a boyfriend. Sophie, Francesca, Paula, Demetra, Cynthia: boyfriend. Suzanne: favourite band: “Some Have Fins”. I just don’t see how I’m going to make it. They’ve all either got a boyfriend or they’re like Meryl Streep’s deranged half-sister or their favourite band is Molly Halfhead.

So as I say, I’ve been thinking about what I’ll do if my Paris dream fails. I suppose you might think I’m a rather superficial person but I see myself as being a bit like Pilgrim in Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress”. I’m on a journey of spiritual search. So I will not be dragged down into the Slough of Despond. I will pick myself up and will invest the last five thousand in a DSS dosshouse in Hackney.

Liege

Obviously it has occurred to me that as a solution to my lack of an “amoureuse”, I could try and find a female contactee. But while she might agree that aliens were in telepathic contact with us both, the chances are, as my Facebook experience has taught me, she’d also believe that when Andromeda is in the lunar ecliptic, the god Spradwugzin will bring the forty-nine thousand.

In fact, I’m giving a false picture. It is the case that frequently enough I meet women who are attractive, intelligent and single and who would make perfect partners. But did I tell you I was useless with women?

Truffe

I am not a father but I was once one of those dodgy friendly uncles William Leymergie was warning people about on Telematin, the other day. The girls’ father was in mental hospital. I became the childminder, taking Sapphire aged six and and Wave aged four to school/nursery, then bringing them home in the evening and looking after them till the mother came back from her job. I’d always liked the idea Colin Turnbull talks about in “The Forest People”. He lived with the pygmies for eighteen months in the Congo. He described how they did not have a word for mother or father. The tribe consider all the children to “belong” to all the adults and vice versa. So apart from being a nice feeling it was particularly interesting for me when one day, absent-mindedly, Sapphire called me “Daddy”.

I loved them both as if I was their father. They were both very clever. I remember however on one occasion, I tried out one of Clive Barker’s games from his book “Theatre Games”. It was his adaptation of a scene from the Peking Opera: “The Jewel, The Guard and the Thief”. The two players are blindfolded. One is the thief. She has to steal the jewel. The other is the guard. She has to stop the thief from stealing it. Wave played the thief. Unfortunately, she refused to accept the fact that wearing a blindfold and therefore being blind meant you had to be cautious about your movements. She bumped into something, cried but carried blundering on, bumping into things and crying. I had to stop the game before she seriously injured herself.

That was Wave. Brilliant, beautiful and to be honest I completely adored her. Then, when she was a young teenager, she died. Sapphire’s doing well though. She’s at Cambridge. Sometimes I would bring them back to the housing estate I was living in at the time. It was very similar to the housing estate in the film “Attack The Block” but I’ve been through that with you. I used to record Sapphire and Wave’s favourite TV programmes on a dodgy old telly and video. They liked “Power Rangers”, the cartoon version of “The X-Men” and “The Farthings Of Animal Wood”. (“Who am I?!” “You are Ratty!”) They inevitably had a number of encounters with the children on the estate so I was worried I might be leading them into a life of sexual slavery on a Caribbean pirate ship. Instead of Cambridge, Sapphire could be “working” the Bois de Boulogne.

Olive

In “Pariscope”, Paris’s weekly cultural guide , there’s a feature in which a guest is asked: “Rive Gauche ou Rive Droite?” This is the way Parisiens describe the north and south of the river. Left river or right river. For a long time I didn’t know which was which. I mean it depends whether you’re looking West or East, doesn’t it? I thought maybe it had some metaphysical meaning. For example, the Egyptians live on one side of the Nile and call the other side “the land of the dead”. Mind you, that doesn’t help because the Nile runs from South to North.

Nivose, Tourbe


Tues: Arturo threatened me with a gun today. Alright he didn’t but these days every script has to have a gun.

I think I understand Arturo now. He just wants to be your friend. Maybe I should report him to the authorities.


Houille


So now it IS official. Beckham has signed for Paris St. Germain. For me, he’s the player Paris has been searching for since the club was formed in 1970. Also, he’s a good player.

I’ve just spent 180 euros on a hotel for my first two days back in Paris after Christmas. I guess it’s time to review my budget. I’ll have to carefully judge the point in my adventure where I stop being a struggling writer and start being a struggling street bum.


Bitume


I lived in London for twenty years. I was lucky that as soon as I arrived, I got on the first rung of the property ladder. I was a squatter. I got involved in the politics of squatting too: anarchism, smashing the bourgeoisie etc. Later, when I got married, we traded in the squat for a council housing tenancy in Herne Hill. If we hadn’t split up and I’d remained true to my political principles, by now we’d probably have somewhere nice in Dulwich.

I was in London because I’d been accepted on a postgraduate teacher-training course at Goldsmiths’ College, at the University of London. I had absolutely no relevant academic qualifications whatsoever but that was alright because it was one of those trendy, liberal left-wing courses where things like that didn’t matter. My subject was drama. Right from the start I felt ambivalent about the whole thing. I didn’t really want to be a drama teacher. I wanted to be an actor. I thought theatre-in-education might be a way in. Luckily in the end it didn’t matter because I failed the course.

A theatrical version of Batman is playing in Paris. I used to lament the way they turned books into movies. I now realise they were the good old days. Today they turn books into movies and then into stage shows. Mind you, I have to admit that English alternative comedian, Mark Frost, is perfect casting as “The Joker”. It’s logical to use an alternative comedian.

I try to avoid Arturo now. Unfortunately, his voice boomed at me through my bedroom door this morning. I had to go out and speak to him. We had to speak in the dark because he leaves the kitchen light off. I’d like to play with the idea that it’s because he’s a vampire but the truth is he’s a miser. I told him I wanted to leave tomorrow at 9 a.m. But somehow he gets his vampire fangs into you. Hey! Maybe he’s a vampire as well as a miser. I find myself explaining that I don’t want to miss the plane and then that gives him the chance to ask what time my plane leaves. If I answer that, he tastes blood: he can start arguing about the time I have to leave.

I have more in common with the Planetary League than I think. I became anti-religious at an early age. After all, I lived a sheltered middle-class childhood but even I could see the gnostic heresy




Soufre


The Ufo Contactee Files

Case against:

1.) He lives in “ the gentle but flaky world of the ufo contactee”

2.) Diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic.

Case for:

1.) Since the development of techniques for finding planets around other stars, planets have been found round other stars. Since the refinement of those techniques to find earth-sized planets, earth-sized planets have been found.

2. Formally (not formerly, that means previously) released from NHS care, 2011

Pelle


When I went into the kitchen to have my breakfast, on the table, there was a page from today’s “Le Monde”. The National Assembly has passed a law (yet to be ratified by the Senate) making it in theory more difficult for people to live the year round on campsites. I’m guessing that Arturo is suggesting soon I won’t even be able to stay on a campsite. As I read the article, I remind myself to remain strong. He’s the one with the comb-over.


However, despite the fact that I haven’t “made it” in Paris, I will be spending Christmas “en famille”. I’m part-owner of a house in Consett, Co. Durham, England. I believe I’ve already told you that Consett, building on the major role it played in the Industrial Revolution, it is now a leading centre of excellence in the manufacture of long shelf-life snack foods.

My room’s the small bedroom. My nephew is sleeping in it at the moment but as I’m a part-owner, during the time I’m there, I’ll be sleeping on the sofa bed.


Chien


It’s Christmas Day today. All the other days are just ordinary days. Christmas Day though, is special, isn’t it? It has a real magic that crosses even the class divide. (Although in the Republican Calendar, it is called Chien. The Day of the Dog. Steve Coogan are you listening?)

Anyway, despite the fact that Christmas is probably just a confused folk memory of a previous alien visitation, Merry Christmas, everybody!




Lave

Socialism and capitalism don't go together do they? Socialism is workers' control. Capitalism is dangling baubles in front of the masses.

I'm back in England for Christmas. It's turning out to be a real Dickensian Christmas. The Conservative government is way ahead in the Opinion Polls. My sister has a new dog from a Rescue Centre. It likes to jump up and take at least half the armchair. Luckily I have been able to employ skills I have learned as a now seasoned Paris Metro traveller.

Terre Vegetale

Today is the day after Boxing Day. It doesn't have a name in the English Calendar. It does in the French Republican Calendar. Every day has a name in the Republican calendar. Today is "Terre Vegetale": topsoil. Nothing much happening today. There was a tense moment when my sister's boyfriend opened the overhead kitchen cupboard and asked: "What's going on here then?" I quickly realised he was referring to the fact that there are now four jars of instant coffee in there. On the television it's all animations in which, in the end, the hero gets the girl. I remember when that used to happen in ordinary movies but now it's only believable in animations.

Fumier

I arrived in London in 1979 and for the first ten years I was a radical left-wing political acitivist, committed to the revolutionary struggle, so by nineteen eighty-nine, I was married and living a comfortable middle-class life in Herne Hill. I was a writer at BBC Radio Four's political satire show, "Week Ending". I maintained my commitment to the left-wing struggle by only writing sketches about right-wing politicians. I hadn't quit the day job. I was still working as an agency social worker, helping people struggling with deprivation, which was a useful little earner. Everythng was hunky-dory. So the last thing I was expecting was to be abducted.

My wife and I had been invited to my wife's friend's ex-boyfriend's birthday party. He had a new girlfriend who I had already met once, a 23 year-old, mousy assistant librarian from Normandy. We had just arrived at the party and I was talking to her when it happened. She abducted me.

It was a few months later, the extraterrestrials introduced themselves too me. I've told you, haven't I, you suspend a pendulum. the convention is it answers questions by swinging clockwise for yes, anti-clockwise for no, but the essential point is it is the aliens acting through your central nervous system. "Posession", as the Victorians called it, is probably nothing more than the aliens' ability to control our central nervouus systems.

You see, on first meeting, I'd just thought she was just a mousy library assistant from Normandy. The second meeting, as stood talking to her, I had the vague impression you get with girls sometimes that they're actually deliberately touching you with the nipple of a breast. I remember staggering into the kitchen and clutching onto the oven and repeating her name to myself. Later in the week, I plucked up the courage to phone her and got a date. At her local swimming pool in East London. Later we would meet at her apartment when the boyfriend was not there. I mean it's rarely a case of vacant posession but I was in, right? So what went wrong? Did I tell you I was useless with women?

As I say, a few months later, the aliens introduced themselves to me. By then, Nigel had reclaimed his bride. In a last desperate attempt to win her back, I told her about the aliens. "Hippy crap!" she replied. It was my favourite-ever sarcastic comment.

Salpetre

So I'm back in England. It's the same old England. Media pundits sticking the boot into the Labour Party. If I didn't know any better, I might think it wasn't only Prince Harry who dressed up in a Nazi shirt at parties. They talk about rigged elections in the third world. In the last British election, the media ganged up against Labour. To be fair, they had to. The Tony Blair government was the greatest government in British history. It made Trotsky's "transitional programme" look like Stalin's "five year plan". The media targeted the UN intervention in Iraq. The mounting pile of casualties. But I sometimes wonder if the real pile of casualties the media were worried about was the pile of casualties there would be in news departments if there were no more political news stories.

Fleau

I know I said the Blair government was the best progressive Labour government since the post-second world war Labour government that established the principle of "social security from cradle to grave". Well, a Stalinist version of social security from cradle to grave anyway. Social security from cradle to grave in one country. So it was disappointing to hear Betty Boothroyd this morning describing with glee her war on moles. And I don't mean Cambridge graduates becoming Communists and spying for the Russians. I mean the small furry mammals that makes holes in peoples lawns.

Because of course, from the mole's point of view, at one time England was all meadow. As William Blake wrote: "And did those feet, in ancient times, walk upon England's pastures green?" Then came the Enclosures when people started grabbing meadows and turning them into lawns. It would seem that my fellow Labour Party member,comrade Boothroyd is playing the role of the Tory landlord. Still, I'm New Labour. So that isn't necessarily a problem. And Ms Boothroyd was the first woman Speaker of the House of Commons and so must be considered as a positive role model for women. So maybe I'm just being sexist, accusing her of militarism. But I might just point out that her colleague, Dennis Healey, boasts that he once won a war in Borneo without dropping a single bomb.

To be fair, Betty Boothroyd reminds me of my ex-wife. She was a sophisticated, liberal bourgeois Spanish girl, yet she still took me once to a bull-fight. I have to apologise to critics in advance. I'm not going to become Hemingway. (I just hope Gertrude Stein isn't listening.) I didn't like the bullfight. For one thing, like I've already said, I'm a vegetarian. Secondly, the actual bullfight. The bullfighters were local youths, the La Mancha equivalent of the Bigg Market Hairy Palms Brigade. To begin with, these machistas threw stones at the bulls to get them to charge them. The bulls ran to the middle of the ring to get away. Not because they were scared of the bullfighters but because the bullfighters were still behind the protective barriers. The bullfighters then, starting to feel brave, climbed into the ring and crept slowly closer to bulls, whilst still throwing stones at them. Finally they got so close to the bulls that when the bulls suddenly charged they only just made it back over the barriers with about half a minute to spare. The bulls seemed to know the drill. They'd already done fights in other villages. Hoyo de Manzanares was the last village. Not so much "Death In The Afternoon" as "Death In Several Afternoons". Still, whatever you say about bullfighting, it is an intense and emotionally draining collective encounter with tragedy so at the end there was a party in the village square where we killed the bulls and ate them.

Granit

Today is New Year's Eve. For billions of people all round the planet, today is the last day of the old year. Actually of course December the 21st is the last day of the old year. The shortest day. The Winter Solstice. This is the point in the Earth's orbit round the Sun when, in the Northern Hemisphere, the tilt of the axis of rotation of the Earth is pointing furthest away from the Sun. So it's a more logical system. There's a couple of Pacific Islands who, for economic reasons have just re-aligned themselves on the International Date Line with Australia and New Zealand and so have lost this year's New Year's Eve. If the aliens do land and we get absorbed into the local star network or whatever, I expect we might have to re-align our calendar, going back to a pagan New Year's Eve..

Argile

Funnily enough I started my odyssey just after last year's Solstice. Three days after, actually. To be honest, I don't even think I really thought about it. So you see, I'm not some sort of a Solstice geek. My target is to stay in France until at least the 24th of June next year. From Summer Solstice to Summer Solstice. Once round the Sun. Your character's supposed to have an "arc" so I suppose by then I'll know whether I'm just going round in circles.

Ardoise

Before I leave for Paris today, my nephew tells me that Middlesborough is ahead of Paris in the FIFA club rankings. Middlesborough is next to Stockton on the other side of the river Tees. It's a typical impoverished Northern town. I point out to my nephew that there are considerations other than football in life. He's a Newcastle supporter and I remind him of the Newcastle supporters I used to see going to and from the match when I lived in Newcastle. Some of them looked as if the only places they had ever been in their lives were their house, the football ground and the route between the two. I was born in nearby Darlington. Towns ending in "ton" are supposedly associated with ley lines and I don't know whether you knew this but Darlington, like Stockton ends in ton. Really I suppose I'm not a true Paris St. Germain supporter. I should be a Darlington supporter. But Darlington football club is about to go bankrupt so soon I will be free to be a true Paris St. Germain supporter.

Lapin

So this morning I handed over the cash to Francois and he handed me the key. I move in on Saturday.

In the meantime, I'm staying in a hostel for three days. The Aloha hostel, as listed in the Lonely Planet Guide to Paris. Coincidentally, it's Metro Vaugirard just one street away from Arturo's apartment. The girl receptionist in the morning was lovely: a twenty-three year-old American from Los Angeles. She tells me she moved here with her family ten years ago. However, in the evening, I came downstairs and on Reception was a young bloke. He was wearing, as a significant percentage of the youth in France do, a sort of pork-pie hat. One thing I still don't know after being in Paris for six months is whether I should always carry my passport. I asked the guy with the pork-pie hat. "No" he said, half-interestedly. "But you have to carry an identiy card", I replied. "Yes" he agreed. "So maybe I should carry my passport as I.D", I continued. He agreed, half-interestedly.

Then I looked for a drink. There was a coffee machine but there were no cups. The guy with the pork pie hat merely shrugged and carried on doing what he was doing, which was nothing. He could have gone to get more cups one would have thought. After a while, still feeling thirsty, I went back to to ask him if there were any soft drinks. "No" he replied, heating his cup of coffee in the microwave behind the counter. In the two hours I have been here, he has done absolutely nothing. At the moment he's on his mobile phone. Never mind "old guys, old fuckwits"! How about "young guys, young fuckwits"? The only difference is they hide their fuck-wittedness behind a veneer of youthful loveliness.

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    Gres

    I know I said I wasn't going to talk about quantum mechanics again but I think I may have arrive at a turning point. I arrived back in Paris last night. I had a reservation for two nights in the Hotel Henri IV hotel on L'Ile de La Cite. It's one of the recommended budget hotels in the Lonely Planet Guide to Paris. But I decided to treat myself. This morning I went straight to the American Church in Paris and the first number I rang I got an appointment to view. It's a luxury riverside apartment just south of the Eiffel Tower with a living room the size of a tennis court and a front wall which is practically all window and which looks out on the Seine, about ten yards away.

    Francois, the owner is a management coach. I've checked and I can confirm that he isn't a socialist but he's an easygoing, friendly, self-confident guy. Quite a change from Arturo. Friendly as he is, as you can imagine, the living room is out of bounds to me. I have to come in via the back door and share the kitchen with the owner and another tenant and a bathroom with the other tenant.. But the rent is only 600 euros a month, tout compris and he wants me to stay at least six months.

    However, during the interview, he wanted me to give him the telephone numbers of my previous landlords. I pretended I didn't have Arturo's number. Luckily, when I switched on my phone in Paris, Damien, my co-tenant when I lived at the bottom of Ave de Wagram, had sent me a New Year's message so I felt confident he would give me a good reference and Marie-Claude in Aubevilliers thought I was almost the perfect tenant.

    Silex

    Mind you, one thing about being in the Aloha hostel is it is full of young people. They remind me of me actually but forty years ago. I joked with you that Paris is my "picaresque" adventure, like that of the young romantic Gil Blas or that of the old fuckwit, Don Quixote. I'm actually like Don Quixote but in my mind, I'm like Gil Blas. For example, I see myself as THE ONE TRUE CHANNELLER. Admittedly, I have not channelled a single message from the aliens in twenty years but that is the point. The message the aliens want me to channel is "nothing". I don't know why. Maybe their favourite Earthling joke is the one Bernard Fox does in a number of episodes of '60s American situation comedy, "Bewitched". His character who is a middle-aged wizard/doctor with a different "nurse" each time. He tells a joke which falls flat, looks around, lowers his head in an embarrassed fashion and says "Nothing". But it is me that the aliens have chosen to channel this message: "Nothing".

    Marne

    The American in Paris is in Reception at the Aloha. She's 23 and exquisite: a sort of blonde Amy Adams. (Sorry! Am I sounding like Dominique Strauss-Kahn again?). Her family moved from L.A. to Paris ten years ago. So obviously it wasn't a problem for them like it was for the Beckhams.

    Pierre a Chaux

    They talk about the struggling writer. Now I know what it's like to be the struggling blogger.

    I get to talk to the exquisite 23 year-old American In Paris. (Oh dear! I'm sounding like Dominique Strauss-Kahn again.) I even find out her name. Jessica. Mind you, that's only because a young guy walks past and says, "Good morning, Jessica". When I comment: "Oh. You already know her name!" he explains that yes he does because it's on a notice in Reception. Like Julie in "Julie and Julia", she has dare-to-wear issues and she's wearing red. A red dress, Loose to hide three surplus kilos. We talk about actors. She says that with her actor friends, sometimes she can't tell when they're acting. I catch her out there. I ask her if wearing the red dress is acting. (Whilst at the same time keeping quiet about the fact that I act all the time with some fava beans and a nice chianti.)

    Marbre

    There’s a play on in Paris called “Love Lasts Three Years”. To be frank, anything at all would do me at the moment.

    So I moved into a chamber de service in Quai Louis Bleriot today. The owner of the apartment is a friendly capitalist called Francois. He’s an older man like me but he has a young daughter, Laura. She was there when I moved in today. She’s eleven-going-on-twelve, skinny and as enchanting as that implies. But let’s stay out of that territory. I don’t care what Mark E Smith says.

    I lived in Bangor, North Wales between 1971 and 1979. I was a hippy until 1976 when I became a punk. Mind you, I didn’t really notice much difference. I carried on collecting my unemployment money on the same day as always.


    Van


    It seems that everyone’s mad for “Madchester” these days. Manchester. But they forget. It was Liverpool where it all started. The Beatles. Bill Shankly.

    I think it was my dad who first told me Einstein’s metaphor of the insect crawling on the surface of a cup and believing there were only two dimensions. I know he introduced me to “The Eyeballs In The Sky”, the hilarious annual set of episodes of Maurice Dodd’s Daily Mirror cartoon, “The Perishers”. Every summer The Perishers; Maisie, Marlon, Wellington, Baby Grumpling and the dog, Boot went on the typical 50’s British summer holiday to the seaside. One of the adventures involved the dog, Boot visiting a local rock pool and pushing his face below the surface to get a look at what was below. The cartoon then cuts to a point of view from the bottom of the pool. A crustacean Preacher is standing on a little rock and pointing up at the surface of the pool as the other crabs gather round him. As he’s pointing he cries: “It is the return of the Eyeballs In The Sky!"

    Pierre A Platre


    I had a chat with the proprietaire, Francois this morning. I’m afraid things have taken an unpleasant turn between us. I discovered he’s writing a book.

    My first starring role on stage was at Consett Grammar School as the Melancholy Jacques in Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”. And if you ask me, Rosalind fancies Jacques more than she does Orlando.

    Celebrity chef, Anthony Worrall Thompson has been caught shoplifting in Tesco’s. He made his name in the BBC TV series, “Ready, Steady Cook” in which two teams compete to cook a recipe based on a shopping basket containing no more than £5’s worth of shopping. I suppose they’ll have to go back now and check how many of his team’s shopping baskets actually contained more than £5’s worth.


    Sel

    My friend, Ange, the St. Michel street performer rang me yesterday. I like Ange. He's one of my favourite people ever, actually. But you wouldn't want him living with you in your nice bourgeois apartment. It would be like trying to keep a monkey.

    He's 50, like me but unlike me, he's desperate for a girlfriend. I remember some time before Christmas, I was with him and we were changing metro lines when a beautiful young brunette struck up a conversation with him. O.K. you say. He's a clown. She was relating to his character. But the thing is, at that moment, he wasn't wearing his costume.

    I'm settling into my room now. I've got my TV, my five-octave keyboard, my little ghettoblaster, my netbook and my yoga mat all fitted into the space. It's looking more and more like the caravan of "Caravan Joe", which is the first book I remember reading as a kid. It was about a character called Caravan Joe who travelled the country in a horse-drawn caravan. He had a bag of sweets which he would give to children. These days he would be arrested by the police.

    Fer

    It was,as I say, my friend Lucy, who gave me the crystal. Well, I say my friend. She made it perfectly plain that she hated me and that "I wasn't the kind of older man younger women are attracted to". I think she probably fancied me. The trouble is, I was on the rebound from Mai. She'd chosen to stay with her boyfriend. Mind you, she's done alright for herself. He advises the government as a self-confessed "policy wonk". Lucy and I were at the party at the squats in Bonnington Square. She had disappeared for half an hour or so and when she returned, she showed us the trick with the crystal. You suspend it like a pendulum and it will swing in any direction you ask it to, as if by magic., (Bear with me. I'm a scientist. "Magic" is just unknown science.)

    I eventually discovered it would answer questions. I was sitting in the park in Soho Square in London where I'd met Mai once. She'd taught French to businessmen there. I sat in the park with the crystal among the winos and the other Londoners. It was a hot summer afternoon. I was in tears over Mai and was idly commanding the crystal to swing in different directions. It suddenly occurred to me it might answer questions. At first I asked it test questions along the lines of "Is two plus two equal to four? Swing backwards and forwards for yes! Sideway for no!" (The usual convention is clockwise for yes, anti-clockwise for no. It's essentially the same thing as the ouija board). Quickly I realised it would answer any question.

    I became obsessed with talking to the aliens with the crystal. I used to do it everywhere. In the pub. Even at work. (I was still working as an Agency social worker.) Then one night,I was alone in the squat in CamberwelI which I was sharing with Lucy and another girl. It was just a normal evening, talking to the extraterrestrials but suddenly the pendulum started swinging more and more wildly. Then I noticed that my hand was moving. It had been my hand all the time moving the crystal. But what was moving my hand? Then I heard a chorus of voices saying "Can you hear us Mick?" and it was clear. They were in telepathic contact with me. How they do it, I don't know. I give up being able to ask them technical questions at the point: "Is Element 114 really orange?" I mean I have a degree in Physics with the Open University and have a vague idea about quantum gravity. But to the aliens quantum gravity is probably the wheel.

    Cuivre

    Since I arrived in Paris, it's been a time of constant uncertainty. Three weeks in the Camping Bois de Boulogne looking for a room. Then I had to look for another room. Then I had to look for a third room and the owner was Arturo who had the comb-over that made him look like a cross between the Cure's Robert Smith and the serial killer, Fred West. But finally, I'm in an apartment where I can stay for as long as I like. I can afford the rent. It will be easy for me to make it through to my target date of the end of next June. I might as well go home now.

    Chat

    To be fair, Lucy was a gorgeous blonde. Body like Twiggy or Naomi Campbell. She tried to stop me talking to the aliens. She thought they were Satanic, I think. A lot of people do. Although I'm not sure they agree on what they mean by Satanic. The "dark, Satanic mills" of William Blake? Ozzy Osbourne? But is it surprising that there is evil? There are several billion adult humans out there and not a single one has a licence. It's like the ancient Manicheans said about the world being dominated by evil. But I'm optimistic for the future, just as the Manicheans were about the arrival of Jesus.

    Long hair. Wore a nightie.

    Etain

    I reckon if they introduced a licence for humans it could bring about the perfect society. You would have to pass an exam before you qualified as an adult. The only question is: would you have to prove yourself to be a responsible person or an irresponsible one?

    Plomb

    I'm still following the American soap opera, "Days Of Our Lives", dubbed in French as "Des Jours, Des Vies". During the past few months, I have watched the hero, John see his wife accused of being a serial killer, see her confess under a truth drug in hospital, see her escape onto to the hospital roof with a gun, try to rescue her, see her shot dead by a police helicopter marksman and then escape the police guard at the mortuary to carry her body to a church. Yet I noticed this morning, as he poured out his grief over her body that his hair is so neatly cut that the latest he must have been to the barber's was two days ago.

    BARBER: Morning John. Same as usual?

    JOHN: Yes, thanks, Joe.

    BARBER: Busy day?

    BARBER: Yeah. I told you how my wife confessed under a truth drug to being a serial killer

    then escaped onto the hospital roof with a gun but was shot dead by a police

    marksman? So I've just smuggled her body past the police guard at the mortuary

    and taken it to a church. I'm going to nip back later and pray to God

    over her body for the strength to carry on.

    BARBER: Terrible, mate! A bit more off the sides?


    I went to see the last night of the exhibition "Fra Angelico and the Masters of Light" at the Jacquemart-Andre museum. It was an exhibition of mediaeval religious paintings. Fra Angelico and his followers' aim in these paintings is to inspire a quiet, meditative state. But it was so crowded that what was actually inspired was a brutal battle with the other people at the exhibition to get glimpse of the pictures. One of Fra Angelico's paintings depicted Jesus in heaven with a woman. Only it was his mother. How sick is that? I mean I may be useless with women but even I can see that if Jesus was in heaven with anyone it would be Mary Magdelene.

    Zinc

    I was stuck for something to write today. Luckily a friend of mine has just died. Ian Ellis was a friend at Bangor University. I don't know why he died. There's going to be an autopsy. His ex-partner, Alice, says he'd been mentally ill for some time. I had sent him an e-mail to which he hadn't replied. I don't know why it happened to him. I would say that Ian was at least the equal-biggest "acidhead" at Bangor. He seemed to find taking LSD as easy as drinking water. He was a big fan of Captain Beefheart. He built his own stereo. Maybe it started to go wrong when he became a Probation Officer. Particularly as Probation Officers are not supposed to take part in credit card frauds.

    Watching the TV news tonight, I was reminded that on industrial sites, you have to watch out for the guys in the white hats because that's the management, except during election campaigns when it's just as likely to be a politician.

    Mercure

    I'm a vegetarian because I believe that way I might be freed from the Wheel of Karma. However, in France, because I'm here partly to learn French culture and meat is the heart of French cuisine, I've decided to eat meat sometimes. Did I tell you I was schizophrenic? Actually, according to the Pyramid diet meat and fish should only be 4% of the diet. I know what you're saying: another fad diet. Except this one's from the American Medical Association. To get a higher medical authority than that, you'd have to go to Outer Space. (And as I say, if there's one message that I'm supposed to be channelling it's that Outer Space isn't exactly falling over itself to come here.)

    Incidentally, as the Pyramid Diet does not seem to be available on the internet, I will describe it. First of all, imagine an equilateral triangle. Now put it on its base. (For the non-mathematical among you, that means any of the three sides). Now divide it into five horizontal layers of equal height. The base layer represents cereals, the next layer up fruit and vegetables, the next layer nuts and pulses, the next dairy products and the little triangle at the top meat and fish. As the New Scientist editorial commented at the time the diet was published, it was significant that the AMA downplayed meat so much because America must have the most powerful meat lobby in the world.

    Now research has been published which shows that fish oils increase brain size and function, protecting us from Alzheimer's. So I will be able to eat fish and meat occasionally for health reasons. The only problem is I might not then escape the Wheel of Karma.

    Crible

    Sorry about this naming the days after the French Republican Calendar thing. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

    | got my ticket for the exhibition of Matisse, Picasso and Cezanne etc at the Grand Palais from the FNAC. I'm still suffering post-traumatic stress disorder from the exhibition of mediaeval meditative icons at the Musee Jacquemart-Andre. It was like the Battle of the Somme. But I'm looking forward to this exhibition. I like Art now more since I did a few Art classes through the Newcastle Adult Education Institute. One teacher was particularly inspiring. Karen. I joked with her that she was a "witch". Like the witches who were persecuted in the Middle Ages. Well you can't blame me. She fitted the stereotype: a clever woman. I had a bit of a crush on her, I think. Why didn't I ask her on a date? She had a boyfriend. It's like the "chain" in the housing market. It's rarely a case of vacant posession. Maybe I could have lured her away anyway you think. No: he was the Open University graduate.

    Pluviose, Laureole

    Another problem I have with "making it", is I'm a "poseur": a show-off like they say about that bloke who's just crashed that cruise liner. A boy-racer. One of the pundits consulted by the media described him as an "alpha male with high self-esteem". But actually, we have low self-esteem. That's why we show off. It's a mask behind which we hide our low self-esteem. In fact, my show-off routine has worked a number of times over the years. You catch women looking at you and wondering if you're "the real deal". But of course you're not. You're a show-off.

    I went to the exhibition at the Grand Palais. I left the gallery of Picasso's Cubist paintings until tomorrow. I know I said I like Art more now since I did some classes with Newcastle Adult Education Insitute but I'm still not quite ready for Cubism.

    Mousse

    Hilary Clinton's done well for herself, hasn't she? The first time I saw her was in a TV documentary about Bill Clinton's winning election campaign in 1992. The Clintons spent their summer holiday in a camper van travelling across the States and campaigning. My enduring memory of Hilary Clinton is of her sitting in the back of the van with a plastic fly swatter that had been constructed with such technological precision you might have thought it had been reverse-engineered using alien nanotechnology.

    So I went back to the exhibition at the Grand Palais today to see Picasso's Cubist paintings. I now can see that Picasso painted his subjects from different angles and then joined the bits together in a sort of jumbled-up jigsaw puzzle. But that's only because the museum attendant told me.

    Fragon

    Watching the Sunday morning religious programmes on France 2 is a riot of combovers. As I described in relation to my previous landlord, Arturo, this is a method some men use to hide their bald patch. You start your parting ever-lower down the side of your head and use the extra hair to cover the bald patch. I see one combover which is particularly interesting. Most of the hairs of even the actual combover have now fallen out but you can still see a sort of archaeological trace of where it was. You could imagine a tiny Tony Robinson from TV's "The Time Team" standing there and saying "This must have been the location of the last parting". For me, the trouble with combovers is I simply cannot believe the wearer has the faintest idea what he's talking about.

    I'm calling this an autobiography and I'm a bloke so I have to talk about football. My favourite team is Derby County. Those of you who are not interested in football might be mystified as to why you would suppost one team rather than another. The answer is it's because it's the team your dad supported. Mind you, there was also the little matter of Brian Clough. My dad had taken me to see Derby play at Newcastle, when we were living in Consett. We were a nondescript team in what was then called the second division but now is the Schwarzkopf Integrated Systems Superleague. My dad was already a fan of Clough. He could see himself in him. My dad was what an old neighbour of his called "super-intelligent". Clough too was super-intelligent. In no time at all, he created a team that took us up to what was called the First division and is now called some fancy marketing name or other. Then we won the First Division Championship. True it didn't have some fancy marketing name but those were more naive, innocent times. We were just happy to have won the First Division Championship.

    Derby's winning style is perhaps best described by one of Clough's own celebrated quotations. He did not like the "long-ball" game where the defender hits the ball high and long and the forwards all rush after it. As he put it:

    "If God had wanted us to play football in the sky, He'd have put grass up there".

    Later he went to Nottingham Forest. As Wikipedia says, Nottingham Forest are a moderate provincial English city team and Clough winning the European Cup is widely considered to be one of the greatest achievements in football history. He is also famous for being the first football manager to welcome the Anti-Nazi League into football grounds. I also remember reading in the Guardian newspaper once that Clough was asked by a group of Derby businessmen if he would stand as a Labour member of Parliament for Derby. My other favourite Clough quotation is:

    "If I had an argument with a player we would sit down for twenty minutes, talk about it and then decide I was right".

    Having lost Clough, Derby sank back into the doldrums. Or the Doldrums Processed Foods League Two to give it its full title. They've only got one hope now. The new manager is Brian Clough's son, Nigel.

    (Thanks to Thinkexist.com for the Clough quotes)

    Perce-Neige

    I'm a big fan of "The Archers". It's a BBC radio programmme that started in 1950 on what was called "The Home Service", which became "Radio Four" and is now called the "Allied Insurance Services Four Culture". The programme was originally billed as "an everyday story of country folk" and is what is now called a "soap opera". According to Wikipedia, it is the longest running soap opera in the world.

    Like all good soap operas, each episode ends with a "cliffhanger". A friend of mine told me that the cliffhanger in the first-ever episode of The Archers was Dan Archer discovering that he had lost his car keys. That sums up The Achers. Just as much catharctic Greek drama as the TV soaps but with more plausible storylines.

    The constant idea that the writers have followed is that of the family (the extensive Archer family itself and the other families of "Ambridge") against the world. I personally am against the family. As Leonard Cohen sings in "The Sisters Of Mercy":

    "It begins with your family but soon it comes round to your soul"

    Having said that, I'm a fan of The Archers because my dad was a fan.

    I'm now starting to think that The Archers' stories are "everyday" to the point of spookiness. Yesterday's omnibus Sunday edition included a storyline based on the fact that thieves had stolen the village's telephone cable. Thus everyone's broadband was down and the landlines were down so the old people couldn't use their phones. The village community rallies round, collecting mobiles for the old people and finding yong volunteers to show them how to use them.

    Anyway, so it got you thinking about how much we rely on modern technology. Then this morning, when I plugged in the modem that Francois has provided with the room, it didn't work. I panicked. How was I going to write my blog? Eventually I rallied round and shuffled off to find a pen and a piece of paper.

    Taureau

    I wrote on my Facebook page yesterday about being a ufo contactee. Almost instantly, I got a response from an old University friend, Phil. Did I remember the buzzer he and his friend, Ian had rigged up in Penisarwen (as he pointed out, it's a village near Caernarfon in North Wales, not a sexual perversion) that they used to buzz as a "looney alert"? Still, I guess it was always going to be a struggle when I updated my Facebook status to ufo contactee.

    The funny thing is, Phil was best mates with Ian, the guy who told you about who was the biggest acidhead I ever knew and who was a Captain Beefheart fan and who, like "the Captain" himself, has just died. So you'd have thought Phil might have heard Beefheart's song "Observatory Crest" in which he sings about "watching the flying saucers up on Observatory Crest"

    Sarkozy has announced his retirement. Except of course, he's a politician so it's conditional on the political situation at the time, i.e. if he's won the election or not. However it would seem the French have now rejected the Sarkozy Solution in favour of the Francois Hollande Way Forward. According to Le Monde's front page cartoonist, Plantu, Hollande's Way Forward consists of having extra pairs of arms to have extra fingers to point in lots of different directions.

    I went to L'Olympia last night to see Katia Guerreiro, featured in the current edition of Paris's weekly guide, Pariscope. She sings a Portuguese style called Fado which I had heard of but knew nothing about. First on was a Flamenco singer, Rocio Marquez, accompanied on Spanish guitar by Alfredo Lagos. The guy next to me was Portuguese and I told him after their performance how although the only thing I knew about Flamenco was The Gipsy Kings, I had really enjoyed it. He was somewhat scathing saying that it was funny I should mention The Gipsy Kings because he had joked with his wife that "all she was missing was Chico".

    Flamenco is essentially a wailing girl and guitars. Before Katia Guerreiro started, I asked my Portuguese neighbour if Fado was anything like Flamenco. "No. No." he relied. "They have nothing in common". The lights came up and the band started. It was a wailing girl and some guitars.

    To be fair, two of the guitars were portuguese guitars which sound more like a cross between a mandolin and a balalaika and it ended up sounding like Greek folk music. Again I really enjoyed the performance but I felt uncomfortable because I kept remembering Nana Mouskouri, the Greek folk singer famous for wearing glasses. When I was a teenager, getting into progressive rock music and growing my sideboards, we used to look down on Nana Mouskouri and that kind of pop music. Come to think of it, apparently, Katia Guerreiro's day job is opthalmologist. Maybe Nana Mouskouri was an unconscious childhood influence,.

    Laurier-thym

    I've got a new cover story for why I'm in France. I can't tell people I'm writing a blog because I could be writing about them and that might change their behaviour. I would say that it's a bit like "Schrodinger's Cat" in quantum mechanics but I've already said I wasn't going to talk about quantum mechanics any more. I'm like the hero of Woody Allen's "Minuit A Paris" who is a writer who doesn't want to tell anyone about his book but has a fiance who blabs to anyone about it. The only difference is I don't have a fiance who blabs all about it. It's an interesting question. Is it better to keep your book secret but not have a girlfriend or have a girlfriend who blabs all about it?

    Anyway, my cover story is I'm a scientist conducting a scientific experiment. I'm taking a series of measurements (or eigenvalues) of France. I know. I said I wasn't going to talk about quantum mechanics. It's just I remember the OU Summer School in Experimental Quantum Mechanics at the University of Brighton. The Open University was created in the 1960s by the Labour government of Harold Wilson. It's original name was the University of the Air. I was barely a teenager then but I remember the excitement of university lectures being broadcast in your living room on radio and television. (Mind you, when I eventually did my OU degree I found out that the reality behind the tv and radio glamour was lots of very complicated books being sent to you in the post along with another very complicated thing known as the tutor-marked assignment.)

    For most of its history, the OU has been based on mainstream University lecturers "moonlighting" and teaching OU courses based on correspondence materials. But it has become more ambitious in recent years. It sent a spaceship to Mars. And one of the tutors at the Quantum Mechanics summer school I went to was Nigel Mason, a recent big signing from the University of London. (Apparently,the OU tempted him away by offering him his own computer.) Anyway, on the second-last day of the Summer School, they told us which of the experiments we had done were going to be our assignments to be written up. So on the last day I had rushed straight from breakfast in the canteen to the Physics laboratory to be the first in the lab to repeat an experiment I had done earlier in the week with a "partner". We hadn't taken enought measurements the first time, I had thought.

    The experiment measured Rutherford's Law for Radioactive Decay for a fast-decaying substance and and Poisson Statistics for a slow-decaying substance. The procedure used radioactive caesium which decays slowly to a fast-decaying radio isotope of barium which in turn decays to a stable form of barium. You wash out the fast-decaying barium from a sample of radioactive caesium and measure the rate of decay with a Geiger counter. This gives you the smooth negative exponential curve (i.e. it looks like a ski slope) which is Rutherford's law of radioactive decay. You then take the slow decaying caesium and measure the individual particle decays, again with a Geiger counter. You find that each five second interval there will be a few clicks of the Geiger counter, a number which for our experiment varied between zero and eleven or so. The variation seems to be random but if you take enough measurements (or eigenvalues) a pattern emerges. There are certain peak values. So for example, there may be a large number of times you measure three decays in five seconds (Actual values not supplied.) There are several such peaks at other integer values. This is why it is called Poisson statistics. Poisson discovered a formula which measured the statistical variations of systems that produced only integer values. One of its first practical uses, as Wikipedia reminded me, was to investigate the number of Prussian soldiers accidentally killed by a horse kick.

    Anyway, while I was repeating the experiment, Nigel Mason stopped and observed for a moment. I explained to him how I had returned to repeat the experment to get more eigenvalues. I told him I was planning to take at least 1500. He replied that at the University of London, he encouraged his students to take 5000 eigenvalues. So a steely look came into my eye as I determined I too was going to take 5000 eigenvalues. Then, after I had got to about 800 or so, a female technician came along and asked me if I needed any help. The next thing I knew, without me saying anything, she started "helping me". Then when I said I was planning to take 5000 eigenvalues she said: "Oh you don't need to take 5000". So in the end we only took about 1500.

    Did I tell you I was useless with women?

    Sorry! I said I wasn't going to talk any more about quantum mechanics but I feel I have to this one last time. You see it relates to the fact that, as I say, I am here in Paris, at the age of 59, to "make it".

    The Fraunhofer lines were probably the start of quantum mechanics. They are the dark lines seen in the spectrum of the Sun. Some of the photons of sunlight are absorbed by the Sun's atmosphere on their way to Earth and their absence shows up in the spectrum as dark lines at certain specific wavelengths. They are called Fraunhofer lines after the German physicist, Joseph von Fraunhofer although according to Wikipedia, they were first spotted by an English chemist, William Hyde Wollaston and Fraunhofer independently re-discovered them. I don't know why they're not named Wollaston Lines. There seems to be some sort of European Treaty where England, France and Germany have to have a quota of discoveries. The Fraunhofer lines are the first clue to quantum mechanics but it required the genius of Johann Balmer to suss it out. He discovered that the wavelengths in the dark lines were related to each other by INTEGER values. When an electron in an atom absorbs an electron, the electron moves to a new energy level, which is related to the energy of the previous level by the Balmer Formula1 times an integer value. The electron doesn't just go up a little bit when it absorbs the energy, like those things at funfairs that go up when you hit them with a hammer and how high they go depends on how hard you can hit them. It jumps to a new level The so-called quantum leap. So you could argue that Balmer discovered quantum mechanics. And the thing about it is, when he discovered it, he was 60.

    1.) I suppose I should tell you the Balmer Formula. Well it's a squiggly thing that looks like a Greek "l" and there's a big n (N) and I think there's a "k" but it's very complicated.


    Amadouvier

    I went shopping yesterday and found the perfect place just off the Avenue de Versailles. Franprix. It's much better than the other local supermarket, Monop'. They even had wholemeal flour on sale. As a radical alternative wholefoods activist, I always buy wholemeal flour from Tesco's. I made a red pepper, onion and aubergine flan. My cooking guru since the early nineteen-eighties is vegetarian cookery writer, Rose Elliot. Her recipes tend to be dominated by dairy products but I don't blame her for the raised cholesterol levels the doctors found in my blood a couple of years ago.

    Marc Riley, on his BBC Sixmusic radio show announced an upcoming live session from legendary post-punk band, "The Three Johns". I saw them in 1982 in The Loughborough Hotel in Brixton. I had been a drummer in a few bands and was shocked to discover they didn't have a drummer but a drum machine. Mind you, I was also shocked to discover that the drummer in Metronomy is not a drum machine but a girl. I wonder if the Three Johns will be the original line-up. Including the original drum machine.

    No message from the aliens. Mind you, that's not surprising. There never has been one. If you're expecting me to channel one, you might as well stop reading now.

    As I've said, I don't like the BBC series, "Dr Who" about a time traveller whose Time Machine is a telephone box. Apparently a lot of people want to have sex with Dr Who. However I wonder if really what they want is to have sex in a telephone box.

    One of the problems I've had since coming to France is an almost permanent cold. I think it's the French cold virus. Although it's French, it doesn't seem to have heard of The Maginot Line.

    Mezereon

    I have to admit, in my darker moments, I think of going back to England and applying for an allotment. That reminds me of my friend Ange, the great Algerian street clown who performs in St Michel in the summer months. He says he hates Paris. He's going to leave and settle in the mountains. He'll find a woman. Nature. Children. I suppose that's the Algerian equivalent of an Englishman applying for an allotment.

    I spoke to Ange tonight. He says he's off to the Pyrenees tomorrow. But he could be joking.

    I'm making progress with my reconversion to carnivorism. The Pyramid Diet, as promoted by the American Medical Association specifically states that meat and fish should be about four per cent of the diet, That makes sense. It is said that our ancestors were "hunter-gatherers". But I've also heard that the tribe could follow a herd for a month before catching an animal. Perhaps most of the time they survived on food gathered by the women. Perhaps we were more gatherer-hunters than hunter-gatherers. It's quite possible that for thousands of years, women kept telling men: "Forget hunting! It would be better to settle down and grow cereals" but men being men, they wanted to carry on hunting. If the American Medical Association are right, we are evolutionarily adapted to live on grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts and pulses, dairy products and a little bit of meat and fish.

    So today I had for lunch an eight ounce steak with chips and a garnish that consisted of a cherry tomato and a stalk of parsley. I ate the whole steak, no problem at all. Mind you, my favourite bit of the meal was still the cherry tomato and the stalk of parsley.

    Peuplier

    Apparently, the internet is replacing television. I remember BBC television's 1970 production of Jean-Paul Sartres' "Roads to Freedom". Michael Bryant played Matthieu. It was for me, the performance that epitomised the best modern, British acting and I had no hesitation in using it as a role model for my performance in the school play. Perhaps most of all, I remember the character, Daniel, in Roads To Freedom, played by Daniel Massey. He tries to deny to himself his erotic desire for the young Nazi soldiers, parading the streets of Paris. He didn't have the internet you see or he'd have known there were plenty of young soldiers only too happy to oblige.

    But it was all hush-hush in those days. So now, finally, I introduce my late step-father, Billy. My mother's second husband. A bit like Elizabeth Taylor, or Marilyn Monroe, my mother had one husband who was an intellectual and another, as my mother put it, "an Adonis".

    Billy wasn't an intellectual. His diet consisted of fried sausage, eggs, tomato ketchup, white bread and butter and 50 hand-rolled Old Holborn cigarettes a day. Surprisingly, he died of TB and lung cancer. But fried sausage and egg was all Billy could cook. My mother didn't cook for him. She had a servant to do that. My sister. But my sister just cooked his Sunday lunch. This is the traditional stomach-bloating, sleep-inducing lunch that the English have on Sundays and the French every day of the week.

    Billy would have known my mother originally through Consett's "Trades Union Club". My mother and father (my mother's first husband) drank there every night of the week. Billy was a maverick. The evening at "the Trades" always ending with everyone standing for the National Anthem. On one famous occasion, Billy was evicted from the club for doing a Nazi salute during the Anthem. (Prince Harry eat your heart out!) One of Billy's prized possessions was a 20 year-old letter from John Tyndall, the then leader of the National Front, which he kept folded up in his wallet.

    He was one of Consett's "hard lads". He told me how when he was a kid, his favourite game on Saturday mornings was him and his mate fighting each other in the back yard. When he grew up, he became a real fighter. He faught 41 fights. All of them outside Consett's bus station on a Saturday night. But what's Billy got to do with "hush hush"? He confessed to me he was raped once by a man who was bigger and stronger than him and warned him not to tell anyone.

    Billy was a Catholic. Although I personally never saw any evidence he could read, he knew the Catechism. I didn't bother getting into arguments about the Gnostic Heresy or Atheism or whatever because if I did he would threaten to knock me into the middle of next week.

    Perversely, he also played accordion and piano. He did not play the accordion often at home. My mother upstairs in bed would complain that he was putting her off waching "Star Trek". But when he did play, the effect was magical. It was like the scene in the Marx Brothers movies where the mute, Harpo, picks up the harp and plays it and is obviously a virtuoso performer. So when I say Billy wasn't an intellectual, I only mean in the sense that Harpo wasn't an intellectual.

    I think the French look at me and think I need to take a shower. I know I look at them and think they need to take an unshower. Just shower themselves in slightly dirty water from time to time to wash away the extreme cleanliness. It's like the spiders in George Eliot's "The Mill On The Floss". Little Maggie speculates that when the flour-dust covered Mill spiders meet their country cousins for a communal meal, they must be mutually shocked by each other's appearence..

    But interestingly, they're not like that at my favourite bar, the Marie. It's not actually called the Marie. That's to hide its identity. Like the way British pop music paper, the New Musical Express used to refer to a pub in Camden, London as "The Good Mixer". There wasn't a pub called The Good Mixer. I spent years scouring Camden looking for it.

    In the Marie, it's more bohemian. I invited Damien there a week ago, my former co-locataire in the first apartment I stayed in at the bottom of Ave de Wagram. Stefan, the photographer was in the Marie. He's always there. He's probably an alcoholic. He came to sit with us. Damien was uncomfortable with him. He confided to me, when Stefan was out of hearing that he thought Stefan was "not well".


    Coignee

    I put the TV on. It was the God Slot on France 2. Or Combover Corner you might call it. They were debating mortality. Of course to the aliens, mortality is probably the equivalent of the wheel.

    Hellebore

    I love Charlotte Bouteloup. Her film reviews on France 2's "Telematin" are absolutely riveting. I haven't the faintest idea what she's talking about but I hang on her every word. Today she was reviewing a new American film. "Another Happy Day". At one point in her spiel, she describes the family in the film as "middle-class". I'm not sure what she means. Maybe it's the same as the English word, "bourgeois".

    But that's what I mean about French women. The next interviewee on is a willowy brunette. Her long hair sweeps down over her shoulders, framing a pale, Kate Moss-like complexion And she's just one of Francois Hollande's deputes in the National Assembly. Mind you, I'll have to be careful what I say. It's Aurelie Fillipetti. According to Wikipedia, she was groped by Dominique Strauss-Kahn in 2008 and has sworn never to be in a room alone with him again. However, I have to say, I find it a funny coincidence that she reminds me of the picture in Wikipedia of the "Christmas Rose", Hellebore, which is celebrated today in the Republican Calendar.

    As a fan of Gordon Brown, I trace his downfall back to the start of the recession. The media asked the guy who had just won the Nobel Prize for economics what he would do about the recession. I mean this is the guy who you'd have to say, objectively speaking was the best guy to ask. And he replied he would implement the Gordon Brown plan. After that, it was all over for Brown. It is one thing to have autistic personal skills but quite another, the extreme abnormal behaviour of offering rational solutions to problems.

    Brocoli

    I need new glasses. I've been checking out the French opticians. There's one that offers to plant a tree for every frame you buy for 79 euros. But when it comes to the price of the lenses, they should be offering to plant an entire rain forest. "Why don't you ask the aliens you keep claiming are in telepathic contact with you to fix your eyes?" do I hear you ask? After all as I say, to them immortality is probably the wheel. Surely a little laser surgery isn't beyond them? Incidentally, as far as I know, I've never been abducted and had any alien experiments performed on me. Not by the aliens anyway.

    The fact is, the aliens, as far as I know have not done anything for me. Other than cause me to be diagnosed as schizophrenic, lose my job and my dayjob and wind up living on a South London Housing Estate. The actual estate is very close to the one featured in the movie "Attack The Block!" in which the inhabitants of a South London Housing Estate successfully beat off an attack by aliens. The aliens in the movie are a lot like dogs so it's ironic that the inhabitants of the estate fight off the aliens when as we know in real life they can't even defend their children from attack dogs.

    Avelinier

    I hesitate to refer to Cervantes "Don Quixote". It is sacred territory that, like Everest, has been severely trampled on in recent times. However, if anyone is like Quixote, the screwball everyone can have a good laugh at, it's us contactees, abductees, people who've seen saucers, etc. It's basically anyone who has ever had a close encounter except Steven Spielberg.


    Vache

    A doctor on French television this morning said that during the current cold weather, it was alright to eat more sugar and fat. Surely that's just giving the green light to the obese to stock up on extra bars of chocolate, cakes, crisps, chips and sugary drinks.

    Buis

    Although I'm not, as you may have gathered, not very macho, I have had my moments. Cycling in London. Michel was killed riding his bike through London. He was working in the Royal Academy restaurant at the time, the summer of 1985. We all were. The Brixton posse. Mind you, there was only one black person, Errol. I remember the gorgeous Italian girls, Ana Maria and Francesca. There was a cute German girl. A few cute Spanish girls. There was my wife. Michel was the dishwasher. He was living with me and my wife in the spare room at the time. He came home early from work one day. He'd collided with a van, cycling to work. He had hit his head. The wound had been bandaged and they'd sent him home. I told him he should go to Casualty to check his head was alright. But he brushed it off. He'd be alright.

    He spent days in bed. At the week-end he had gone to his mother's house in Hampstead. On the morning of the Saturday or Sunday, he'd been found dead in the courtyard of his mother's house. He'd had a brain haemorrhage.

    So cycling can be dangerous but I used to enjoy cycling in London. The fresh air, the healthy exercise and most of all, getting one over on the motorists. Although my particular favourite was the the so-called "mountain bike" rider. They used to think they were so fancy with their hi-tech mountain bikes and the cycling gear. I still remember my favourite encounter with a mountain bike rider. He pulled up alongside me on the Mall. At that moment, the Mall was empty of traffic, making it an ideal boy-racer track. I knew he was going to try and leave me for dead. However I also knew one thing that he and all mountain bike riders seemed not to know. Their wheels had a maximum radius at that time of 24 inches. Traditional drop handlebar bikes like mine have wheels with a miniumum radius of 26 inches. Mine were 27 inches. It followed from the simple laws of physics that it was impossible for him to go as fast as me. We set off. I quickly established a small lead. He speeded up to catch me. I left him behind again. I did this to him several times, then moved up into top gear and left him for dead.

    I say that aliens have been inn telepathic contact with me for over twenty years. But I don't know the first thing about them. I don't know how many are in contact with me. Maybe it's just been one for the past 20 years, twenty four hours a day and so presumably by now is bored out of their skull. I reckon there must be some sort of rota. I don't know if they have sexes like us. Maybe my sexual anguish is being eavesdropped upon by an advanced alien girl. Like Charlotte Bouteloup.

    Lichen

    I'm sorry about this but I'm afraid I'm now going to have to admit something genuinely embarrassing. I really don't want to but I can see no other way round it. The truth is I can't think of anything to write today.

    If

    It would seem there are "downsides" to "making it". For example, I wouldn't be allowed to wear "Oxfam Chic" any more. I would have to wear "Designer Oxfam Chic".

    So in 1991, I had no wife, no friends, no girlfriend, no job and no house. The wife got the house. I had the aliens but in many respects that's the same as having nothing. Luckily, after squatting and sleeping on people's floors for a while, I got a tenancy on a South London Council Housing Estate, similar to and geographically close to the South London Housing Estate featured in the recent science fiction movie, "Attack The Block". Although the aliens were in telepathic contact with me at the time, I was not involved in any attack on the Estate. In fact, I kept quiet about the aliens on the Estate. For those of you who don't know about estates, it's just not the sort of thing you would want to talk about. I don't know about beating off an alien attack but they can certainly beat the shit out of one wacko community care patient.

    Living on the Estate, I had hit the bottom. I had nothing. So I turned to the one thing I could turn to. I started going to rock concerts. You see, although I was married for seven years, there was one consolation of my time with her. There were always lots of other women around I could flirt with. Now I was without a wife/girlfriend. And of course when you don't have a girlfriend, you want one and then when you get her, you want to get rid of her. So, maybe I would find a new girlfriend in "Indieland".

    I got off to a good start. I based my image on my movie hero, Max von Sydow who always played the middle-aged guy who has a young mistress but is mistrustful of her and so like Goethe's Faust, has a vision of Helen but not Helen herself. That works every time with the chicks.

    Pulmonaria

    My French friend Damien, the stock market trader made redundant by the recession, who was my co-locataire in the apartement at the bottom of Avenue de Wagram, texted me today asking me if I wanted to meet him in a bar in Pigalle, where the Moulin Rouge is. The area and its culture are just about the most iconic of Paris. We met in an Irish pub and watched the Chelsea - Manchester Utd football on the TV. Then we did something I said I would never do. We went to Pere Lachaise. Not the cemetery. I would never do that. Just the Metro station to meet up with his friend, Vincent. Vincent took us to this modern-looking dining place. I don't know what you call them. Gastro-bistrots or something. There we ate a typical British pub meal while we watched the football on the big screen. Lyon versus Marseille. So at least the football was French.

    Serpette

    As I say, I have some dark moments where I think of going back to England and applying for an allotment. I sometimes have even darker moments when I wonder what's the point in even that. Of course, maybe my best hope is the aliens themselves. There has been an increasing number of sightings of flying saucers by all sorts of people all around the world. In fact I'm beginning to think I'm the only person who hasn't seen a flying saucer.

    Thlaspi

    This morning on Telematin, one of the reporters was reporting on the power cuts in Toulouse that have left people vulnerable to the record cold weather. However, the reporter had hair in long ringlets that reached practically down to her waist. It was as if she was Rapunzel and the prince was going to appear at any moment and climb her hair.

    She reminded me of Reeta Chakrabarti, the BBC political reporter. The BBC is financed by the fee for the licence that television viewers have to buy. Chakrabarti likes fancy designer clothes. So, as she's a BBC employee, it was amusing watching her during the last election campaign asking the politicians tough questions about their spending of public money on expensive lifestyles.

    Thimele

    I certainly don't think that, as a ufo contactee, I can be compared with Jesus. I read in some philosophy book once that the gnostics were originally followers of the prophet Manichee who preached that this world is dominated by evil. They became followers of Jesus because they saw him as the "Archaon", tipping the balance between good and evil. I'm certainly not the Archaon. If anyone's the Archaon, it's the aliens. So I suppose I could think of myself as their John the Baptist. Mind you, that means there could be a Salome out there. Did I tell you I was useless with women?

    However, in the interests of sexual equality, I should just point out that women are useless with me.


    Chiendent

    Competition may have made some sort of sense in our primate origins but civilisation is the process of learning to co-operate. That's how we come to progressive socialism. Mind you, to the aliens, progressive socialism is probably the equivalent of the wheel. I wouldn't mind betting that on their planet(s), the Conservatives are a terrorist organisation.

    I was just thinking about when I left my wife. Is it like leaving university or driving a car or some other “rite of passage”? Anyway, as I say, when left her, at the age of 38, I still fancied myself as a ladykiller. Mind you, at the age of 59, I still fancy myself as a ladykiller. And I killed plenty of ladies at the gigs I went to. Oh yes. If you laid them end to end, they would stretch from Paris to ..er..Clermont Ferrand. Except I didn’t lay any of them. Maybe I was still in shock by the abduction. Not by the aliens but by Mai. But I didn’t lay her either. I laid with her but ..

    Oh alright. It’s no use. I’ve tried to hide the confession I should be making about sex that I’ve been hiding behind in a jokey sort of way. But I have to confess this. It goes to the very heart of what this autobiography is about. The truth is I’m no good at sex with women because they always used to make men of my generation think we were unattractive. There. I’ve said it now. So when I say I fancied myself as a ladykiller, it was only on the balance of probabilities. The extreme apparent conviction with which a girl like Lucy could tell me that I wasn’t “the kind of older guy younger women are attracted to” against my belief that while Mai had been talking to me at her boyfriend’s birthday party, she had held the nipple of her breast against the back of my hand.

    Mind you, when I started going to gigs, I discovered Mai’s trick with the breast wasn’t unique. The same thing happened again about six years later. And yet again no relationship came out of it. Why? She had a boyfriend. So six years after leaving my wife, I was still girlfriendless. I did get a girlfriend. But that was many, many years later.





    Trainasse

    Back in the decade if you were a true hippy you are not supposed to be able to remember, the one between the fifties and the seventies, some people started saying words like "bread" for money and "it sucks" for something you didn't like. I couldn't say words like that then. It would have felt too pretentious. Now I say "it sucks" all the time. Mind you, that's not surprising because pretty much everything does suck.

    Lievre

    It's the God slot on France 2 today. I was introduced to Buddhism when I was a hippy in the seventies. It's O.K. If you were a hippy in the seventies, you can remember the seventies. My only experience of religion before that was colouring in pictures of Jesus in Sunday School, so Buddhism took a bit of getting used to. I suppose the essential difference between the two religions is that where in Christianity suffering is the road to enlightenment, in Buddhism suffering is the block to enlightenment.

    Guede

    Another thing I got into in the Seventies was Taoism. I've just realised what it's about. We used to throw the three yarrow stalks (I can't remember what we used. I don't think it was yarrow stalks) to generate the hexagram. The way the whatever we used landed created the hexagram. The randomness of the throw was suppose to imitate the random flow of the Chi energy, the Cosmic Wave. Then we read the message corresponding to the hexagram in the book "The I Ching" ("The Book Of Changes") which told you what you should do. (I know. And after what I said about Linda Goodman's "Sun Signs".) Mind you the actual message in the Tao Te Ching was always something like "be as strong as the mountain whilst as flexible as a stalk in the wind". In other words, you could interpret the message however you wanted. (So it was exactly like Linda Goodman's "Sun Signs").

    But it's also exactly like quantum mechanics. (Sorry! I know I keep saying I won't talk about quantum mechanics any more.) The quantum wave appears to evolve randomly. In the classic experiment by Thomas Young he reduced the number of photons passing through a double-slit to just a few at a time by blocking out all the light in a room and using a tiny amount of light from a candle. A repeat of the experiment by Tonamura et al used electrons. In each case you see the same thing. The first 1000 or so particles, after passing through the double-slit, hit a screen apparently at random. But by the time you get to a million particles or so, you start to see a pattern of areas of light and dark. These are related to the wavelength of the wave. (Sorry I mean particle. When it passes through the slit it is a wave but when it hits the screen it's a particle. ). Each individual particle/wave seems to behave randomly but overall, patterns emerge. The evolution of the wave from randomness. Just like in Taoism.

    Anyway, you can see a video of the Tonamura experiment on YouTube. Just type in "Tonamura Double-Slit Experiment". (But don't blame me if you get a Japanese pornographic website.)

    When I came out on Facebook as a contactee, I got the predictable reactions from the Planetary Defence League. (They don't hate aliens. They just don't believe they exist.) One old university friend commented today on my post of a YouTube video. February's "hotties". Digital images from around the world of recent flying saucer sightings. This is Phil. He was the best friend of Ian, the crazy Bangor acidhead I told you about who died recently. He says he would like to believe there are benevolent aliens but he's not seen any evidence that convinces him. I point out in reply that if the aliens are "benevolent", I reckon it will be more in the sense of acidhead Ken Kesey's "if it fucks you up, it does you good", than acidhead Timothy Leary's routine where you're supposed to form a circle around a person who's having the "horrors" (a bad trip gone very bad) and tell them how much you love them.

    Noisetier

    Donatella Versace! Wow! What a beautiful woman...she could be if she hadn't messed around with chemicals. Peroxide. Skin creams. Mascara. Etc. Do women have a temporary brain freeze every time they hear Hamlet's lines to Ophelia: "God gives you one face and you make yourselves another"?

    Cyclamen

    I feel like a real Parisien now. I have discovered for example that the Seine doesn't just flow from East to West, like around St. Michel and the Louvre etc but there are places, like where I'm living now, where it is flowing from North to South or South to North. I don't know which one it is here. I'll nip out later and have a look. Mind you, knowing that the river doesn't just flow from East to West but also from North to South and from South to North doesn't help me with which is the Left Bank and which is the Right Bank.

    Francois is the owner of the apartment. He's a successful businessman. He's a succedssful businessman and as I heard a journalist say the other day on BBC Radio Four: successful businessmen she had met were often very aimiable people. I think perhaps because Francois has succeeded in business, he (unlike Arturo) doesn't have a chip on his shoulder.

    My co-locataire is Karim. I'm afraid our conversations now are reduced to "Bonjour!" followed twenty minutes later by: "Bonne Journee!" I wouldn't say that he likes to have the kitchen to himself but when I went in this morning for a cup of coffee, he had placed objects on all four spaces of the kitchen table.

    I like to think that my coming here to Paris wasn't just some spur-of-the-moment superificial whim. However, I have occasional moments of self-doubt. Like for example this morning when despite having fitted a cable from the television to the socket for the building's external aerial, I still couldn't get TV reception. I was all ready to go back to England just because I couldn't get TV reception. Luckily eventually I calmed down and in the end those dark clouds of self-doubt lifted when I managed to get the aerial to work after all.

    As I've already implied, it's been difficult over the past twenty years finding a girlfriend. As far as I can see, you're obliged to live a double life. While you're on your first date, you can't tell her that you think extraterrestrials are in telepathic contact with you. Measuring the curtains for the first apartment and you still couldn't tell her about the aliens. It's a bit like being Clark Kent keeping his Superman identity secret from Lois Lane except at least she would be impressed if she knew his secret. She wouldn't if she knew mine. I suppose I could see if there's a dating agency for contactees but there's no guarantee that a dating agency for contactees would be any better than any other dating agency.

    Chelidoine

    It has been the tragedy of our times. Both sides are fighting for the same bit of territory. Even when one side manages to occupy it, the other side come back with another strategy and re-occupies it. I wonder if I will ever in my lifetime see the end of politicians fighting over the centre ground.


    Traineau

    I think there is one fundamental problem in the way of my romantic ambitions here in Paris. I'm not sure I want to do cunnilingus any more. (For those of you who know the joke, it's not an Irish airline.) I used to be completely up for cunnilingus. No problem at all. I was ready to go places even Dynorod wouldn't venture. In fact my last girlfriend wouldn't even let me go there. And now I too don't seem to have the appetite for it, if appetite is the right word. I think it might be because being a contactee is rather like being a Buddhist. They are supposed to have nothing to do with women. So I too seem to moving into a state of mind where I am not obsessed with thoughts of women. Like that cute thirty-something brunette on the Metro yesterday.

    GREGORIAN-REPUBLICAN CALENDAR RECALIBRATION DAY

    According to Wikipedia, the early Christians were divided between those who thought Jesus was divine and those who thought he was just a man with divine insight. Maybe being a contactee counts as divine insight but I wouldn't call myself Jesus. In recent times there's been any number of acts called "Jesus..." something or other. The thing is (and I don't want the Church to think I'm having a go at them here) I don't have any idea of what Jesus actually thought evil was. If he was an ordinary guy, was he aware of "evil"? Did he have a consistent idea of what it was? He was supposedly the "archaon", the guy who tipped the balance between good and evil? How did he do that? You see, I reckon I have a bit of insight into evil myself and I just don't see how he managed to tip the balance.

    Ventose, Tussilage. Quai Louis Bleriot

    Cornouiller

    I always watch France 2's "Telematin" in the morning. It is presented by William Leymergie. In England,I used to listen to BBC Radio Four's "Today" programme.The chief presenter of the Today programm is John Humphrys, who could almost be Leymergie's double. They are both old, seasoned journalists with grey hair, lean features and an air of "gravitas". The only difference is Leymergie is French so he wears polo-neck sweaters and his patter is more liberally-sprinkled with double-entendres.

    I'm a member of the generation that gave rise to the term, "generation gap. Our parents hated for example the music we listened to. It was loud and dischordant and contained specific references to sex and drugs. Mind you, I was very naive in those days so I didn't understand the references to drugs.

    Carnaval de Paris.

    This is, according to the Mairie de Paris website, the 15th annual Carnaval de Paris.  The theme this year is, coincidentally, aliens from outer space.  ("Venus d'ailleurs".)
    This is, according to the Mairie de Paris website, the 15th annual Carnaval de Paris. The theme this year is, coincidentally, aliens from outer space. ("Venus d'ailleurs".)
    I don't know about aliens.  It seems to be mostly South American ex-pats.  I apologise for my French but I'm sure the website refers to other galaxies.
    I don't know about aliens. It seems to be mostly South American ex-pats. I apologise for my French but I'm sure the website refers to other galaxies.
    No.  South American ex-pats.
    No. South American ex-pats.
    Humans, anyway.
    Humans, anyway.
    Possibly alien. Definitely cute.
    Possibly alien. Definitely cute.
    Could be aliens.  The aliens in "Attack The Block!" are half-way between dogs and monkeys but have still managed to develop interstellar travel.
    Could be aliens. The aliens in "Attack The Block!" are half-way between dogs and monkeys but have still managed to develop interstellar travel.
    At this point I had given up thinking I might spot a real alien when..
    At this point I had given up thinking I might spot a real alien when..
    She has the same sort of alien look as the one with the red nose.  Well she's cute like her anyway.
    She has the same sort of alien look as the one with the red nose. Well she's cute like her anyway.
    Well, it looks a bit like a flying saucer.
    Well, it looks a bit like a flying saucer.
    This was the most convincing alien I saw.  But if you look carefully, you can see people are pushing it.
    This was the most convincing alien I saw. But if you look carefully, you can see people are pushing it.

    Violier

    Life is a trick, isn't it? It's exactly as Goethe suggests in the opening scene of "Faust", which is the "Prologue In Heaven". In the scene, the Devil has gone to see God to ask his permission to take possession of Faust's soul. God's reply is words to the effect: "this conversation never happened".

    I don't know if this suggests my relationship with the aliens is dysfunctional but after twenty years, I still don't have the faintest idea who they are. They never tell me anything or if they do, immediately afterwards they contradict themselves. It's as if they were a Zen Master and I was a pupil. You hear stories about them. There's the "white" aliens, the "grey" aliens and even the "humanoid" aliens. The star Zeta Reticuli was posited as a possible origin. But whether that's for the whites or the greys or the humanoids, I don't know. I'm a strictly non-scene contactee because from what I've seen of the contactee scene I would have to agree with Pat Kane about "the gentle but flaky world of the ufo contactee".

    Troene

    I used to be an ovo-lacto vegetarian. We wanted to escape the Wheel of Karma but still wanted to eat eggs and dairy products. I have recently abandoned vegetarianism completely. I have had several meals containing meat or fish. (Although I still prefer the cherry tomatos). But according to the American Medical Association's "Pyramid" Diet, about four per cent of the human diet should be meat and fish. It is said that we evolved as hunter-gatherers. But this is probably just sexism. We were more likely to have been gatherer-hunters, living mostly off the food the women gathered and the occasional animal caught by a man. That would explain the Pyramid Diet. It is the diet we are adapted to. Obviously, I've asked the aliens what they think of my theory but as I say, they never tell me anything. And as I also say, to them immortality is probably the equivalent of the wheel.

    President Sarkozy's face reminds me of the face in Edvard Munch's famous painting, "The Scream". Mind you, that could be just because he knows he's going to lose the election.

    Bouc

    I saw Sandra Bullock on Telematin, being interviewed about the new movie she's in about "9/11", when Al-Qaeda suicide bombers crashed those jets into the Twin Towers in New York, killing nearly 3,000 people. She says that a kind of hope came out of the attack. She's referring to the personal friends and relatives of the victims who have rebuilt their lives. She's certainly not referring to the 470 million dollars 1 compensation offered by the American company to the victims of the explosion which caused the release of cyanide gas at the American chemicals factory in Bhopal, India in 1984. This killed a similar number outright and the death toll has risen to at least 15,000. 2 She cannot be referring to this money because the White House has also offered to compensate victims of the BP oil disaster with 20 billion dollars.3 Clearly, the compensation for the victims of Bhopal in comparison is laughable. A couple of things struck me about Ms Bullock during the interview. For one thing, she was wearing a red, designer gown. For another, she had her hair swept resplendently down one side of her face. Maybe she could claim compensation.

    1 Joan Smith, The Independent, "What about compensation for Bhopal". 20th June, 2010.

    2. Wikipedia. "Bhopal Disaster"

    3. Joan Smith, The Independent, "What about compensation for Bhopal". 20th June, 2010.

    According to the "experts", my belief that extraterrestrials are in telepathic contact with me is a product of paranoid schizophrenia. But then who are these "experts"? At one time, the "experts" thought the world was flat. Indeed, as Fred Hoyle points out in " A Different Approach To Cosmology", until just a decade before Edwin Hubble's discovery, the majority scientific opinion was that the unidentified "nebulae" in the sky were in our own galaxy. Hubble's discovery, of course (based on a cosmic distance measurement technique developed by the female astronomer, Henrietta Leavitt 1) was that the nebulae lay well outside our galaxy. They were in fact other galaxies. Our galaxy was just one galaxy in a universe of galaxies.

    1. Leavitt's role in modern cosmology was highlighted in one of my Open University physics coursebooks. Sorry. I can't remember which one now.

    I see that Belgium has a Prime Minister now. It's no longer a haven for people with Alzheimer's Disease. One of the tests for Alzheimer's is you are asked: "who is the Prime Minister"? In Belgium, you could give a blank look and get away with it.


    Asaret

    I have joked a number of times that I'm about to start talking about things it's best to keep quiet about. But don't worry. There's no way I'm going to do that. However, I would like to talk about paedophilia. You see, as a life-long U.K. Labour Party supporter, I have always been proud of the role progressive socialism has played in advancing human rights. And today it would seem that, at least in principle, around the world, most minorities have basic human rights. The one glaring exception is paedophiles. Thousands of them are now in prison despite the fact that the the official opinion of the medical profession is that paedophilia is a form of mental illness. Now I don't want to get too involved in this. As I say, I'm not the Archaon. I don't want to be the one to tip the balance between good and evil but if the paedophile is mentally ill, then as the boy victim of a male abuser in Maiwenn's movie "Polisse" asks: "why is he going to prison and not a mental hospital?"

    Alaterne

    As I say, I don't want to get into controversial territory but I just want to say one more thing about paedophilia. You see I was once in a position where I had to take a stand on the issue. In the early nineteen-eighties, I used to go to meetings in Brixton of the editorial collective of The Leveller, a left-wing magazine. It was an open meeting. It was always listed in the Agitprop section of Time Out magazine. In those days Time Out had a two page section listing the hundreds of socialist, marxist, anarchist, pacifist etc political events that happened every week. How times change!

    As Wikipedia says, The Leveller had an open editorial policy and one night at the meeting we had to discuss the fact that we had received a request from the Paedophile Information Exchange, a pro-paedophilia campaigning organisation, to give them a platform for their views in our magazine. So as I say, our editorial policy was essentially one of free speech and I had to take a stand on the issue. I, like everyone else that night voted against giving them a platform.

    Anyway, so finally, as I say, I don't want to get involved in controversial territory. Just one last thing about paedophilia. O.K. Here goes. I used to work with children. I wanted to be a famous actor so I thought that if I did drama with children, I might get into a theatre-in-education group and from there into the Royal Shakespeare Company. So I ran a drama group for some old university mates who had done social and community work at university. They had created a community work organisation in Bangor which had obtained Council funding to employ community workers (i.e. themselves). I however was just a volunteer. On my first session with the children, I improvised some sort of play with them in the park and I can't remember what the play was about but I do remember at one point being pinned down by all the children while one child attempted to pull down my trouser zip.


    Violette

    Catherine Ceylac's guest on "The Ou Cafe" on France 2 this week is Aude de Thuin, a successful French businesswoman. Why do women mess their hair up? As Shakespeare's Hamlet says, evolution gives them one face and salesmen of by-products of the oil and coal-tar industries give them another. Ceylac ( a peroxide blonde) and de Thuin look like they've actually just come from the hairdressers. Their hair is so "bouffant" they make the mullets of 1970s footballers look like a short back and sides. They've both obviously applied so many chemicals to their hair over the years that you feel sure that soon you will be able to see the Vietcong tunnels. Think I'm exaggerating? In the "dos-a-dos" session where the interviewer and interviewee sit back-to-back, de Thuin's response to Ceylac's opener: "Give an example of a cliche about women that is true!" is: "Blondes!"

    Anyway I'm glad to be getting away from the controversial area of paedophilia. Just one more thing. As I say, I'm a victim of attempted gang rape. Therefore it seems to me that in the interests of balance, while children should be warned about strangers, strangers should also be warned about children.

    I mean I agree with the psychiatrists that paedophilia is a mental illness. Mind you, I'm in a difficult position here. I don't agree with them that the aliens that are in telepathic contact with me are a product of my schizophrenic imagination. But I suppose they are not wrong about everything. Although of course, Professor Susan Greenfield, Britain's foremost neuroscientist famously said that "all psychologists are mystics". That may be why my psychiatrists at the Instiute of Psychiatry in Camberwell are so keen on the biochemical model of the brain. However if Penrose and Hameroff are right, consciousness is based on the orchestrated collapse of the quantum wave function in structures in brain cells called microtubules. These structures, originally thought to have a merely "skeletal" function, are composed of molecules of a protein called tubulin which is light enough to be in quantum superposition for a second or so.

    While the wave is evolving, the tubulin molecules are in superposition. It's as if each moelcule is in eight different places at the same time, which in ordinary physics is impossible but which in quantum physics is everyday normality. It is famous quantum physicist Erwin Schrodinger's "cat" which is in a closed box. When the box is closed the cat is both alive and dead. When you open the box, it "collapses" to either dead or alive. Quantum theorists used to believe that measuring quantum systems caused them to collapse.

    This is another thing Penrose disagrees with. He says that it is gravity that causes the wave to collapse. (Mind you he's a relativity theorist so you might expect him to say that.) Thus, in the brain, as the wave evolves, more and more microtubules are put into simultaneous superposition. Up to ten million million microtubules can be in superpostion at the same time. Eventually, a critical mass of microtubules are in superposition and gravity causes the wave to collapse.

    When the wave collapses, it does so randomly to one of eight different positions. In effect, if Penrose and Hameroff are right, it is a quantum "chip" and the brain is a quantum computer with a computing power that is based on the possible combinations arising from ten million million tubulin molecules, each of which can collapse randomly to eight different postions. You do the maths. This randomness results, according to Penrose and Hameroff, in non-programmable learning. There is some evidence to back up the theory. For example, brain scan studies have shown that psychotropic molecules (the things that made the hippies forget the decade between the fifties and the seventies) prefentially align the walls of microtubules. Presumably they alter the harmonics of the wave.

    According to Pentose and Hameroff, the moment of collapse of the wave is a moment of consciousness. Our consciousness, which seems continuous, is a series of snapshots with a camera with ten miilion million quantum pixels. If Penrose and Hameroff are right, eventually maybe the psychiatrists are going to have to look not at biochemical but a quantum-mechanical model of the brain

    Marceau

    Still think I'm exaggerating? What's the one thing French National Front leader, Marine Le Pen and American Democrat Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton got in common? The scary peroxide rinse.

    Beche

    I know I keep saying I'm not going to talk about paedopilia any more but just one more thing. This time it's not about paedophilia but sex in general. As a 59 year-old, I didn't get sex education as a child. I'd seen dogs doing something but I didn't think it was anything humans would do. My father certainly never told me anything. However, when I was eleven/twelve, my mother explained to me that what happened was, when you kissed a girl, sperm floated through the air and under her skirt and then made her pregnant. My mother even drew me a diagram to illustrate the process. Obviously I knew it was ridiculous but I was still in the dark.

    A few months later, walking back from school with my best friend at the time, Kevin, we had an argument about sex. He told me we did it the way dogs did it. I simply didn't believe him. Eventually I found out. I can't remember how. The point was, as I was growing up, people pretended sex didn't exist. However, once I did find out how it happened, another problem came along. I started hearing that, in general, sex gave women a headache. It was the sort of thing my mother used to say and once you heard it coming from other quarters, it became, as it were, official. That was of course the early nineteen-sixties. (It's O.K. to remember the early sixties because the drugs weren't around then.) However,move on to the nineteen-eighties and feminists were saying "penetration is an act of oppression and all men are rapists". During my entire life, sex has been conducted in a manner similar to negotiations between the Soviet Union and The West during the Cold War.

    I lost my virginity when I was 21. It was a squalid, tawdry affair. Which was a pity because I'd just spent an hour or so walking in the moonlight with the girl so I thought it would be quite romantic. I got what was called "Brewer's Droop": the inability of a penis to become erect after its owner has had too much alcohol. The fact is, I'd had hardly anything to drink at all. But I kept quiet about that. Actually, it was probably nerves. After all, like I say, I'd been briefed about sex almost as badly as Michael Foot was about politics in the 1983 U.K. General Election.

    Even so, I still thought that Kris and I were still an item. I was rapidly becoming heavily smitten with her. But John Harris had other ideas. And he had a motorbike. Which he was driving back from Bangor to Bristol for Christmas and as Kris lived in Bristol too, would she like a lift ON HIS MOTORBIKE? So he stole her away from me. But I got over it pretty quickly, picked myself up and spent the next couple of years stalking her.

    Narcisse

    I say I stalked her. Back in those days it was called "wooing". One of the reasons why many men of my generation haven't had many girlfriends is that we often spent years if not decades trying to get back with girls who dumped us. Eventually however I took the hint after visting her many times and her playing folk-rock band "Steeleye Span"'s song "Two Magicians" which has the lines: "ah, but then she said and be buried all in my grave, than to have such a nasty, husky, dusky, fusky, musky, coal black smith, a maiden I will die" every time.

    But then it's funny isn't it? A few years later, after I had been in London for about a year, I went back to Bangor for a visit. I met Kris again. I had just been acting in a play at the famous ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts) and my old Bangor mates had heard about it. But no-one was more surprised than me when Kris immediately started snogging me.

    Orme

    I'm thinking about going to the Sahara again in September. The night sky there is so dark you can see thousands of stars. I have a pair of astronomical binoculars. True it's not the James Webb telescope but you can see a lot with binoculars. For example, the star group, the so-called "Seven Sisters". In fact, there's at least 23.

    Fumeterre

    I'm really annoyed with the hero in the soap opera I'm following: "Des Jours, Des Vies". He was trapped in a cage by a woman but he managed to get the key off her but when he turned his back on her to open the cage door, she hit him from behind. Anyone who knows anything about women knows that if one has locked you in a cage but you've managed to get the key off her, the one thing you don't do, when you open the cage door is turn your back on her.

    My wi-fi seems to be down at the moment. It may be that the emergency function will come into operation and the blog may be updated only once every three or four days or so.

    Velar

    I try to retain a romantic outlook on life, despite it seeming increasingly clear to me that from a male perspective, once he’s deposited his sperm, it’s job done.

    Yet I had a very romantic debut. I was about six and living in Stockton. I had just come out of Mrs Riggs’ corner shop. For those of you who don’t remember corner shops, imagine a small supermarket with only one till. I had spent my sixpence (two and a half pence in new money) on 24 aniseed balls. But outside the shop, I ran into the lads in my class at school who were in a gang. They roughed me up a bit and knocked my aniseed balls onto the ground. A girl was with them and when they left, she left too. I was feeling very sorry for myself but a moment later, she came back and helped me pick my balls up off the ground. The next day we sat together in class and held hands under the desk.


    Chevre

    Thankfully today is Sunday and "Godslot" day on France 2. I think watching it helped me to meditate on what I should do if it becomes a regular occurrence that on the way to the kitchen I encounter the proprietor's 12 year-old daughter wearing nothing but a bikini.

    Epinard

    Coincidentally, the media today are all talking about the report that has been produced by a senator for Sarkozy's UMP party into the "hypersexualisation of young girls". As I say, when I was a child I did not think we did sex the way animals did. And when I was eleven/twelve my mother told me that when you kissed a girl, sperm floated through the air and into the girl and made her pregnant. So we were victims of "hypo"-sexualisation. Hypersexualisation or hyposexualisation? Maybe the best thing is a happy medium.

    Doronic

    It's great to see America has its first black president. Everyone's got equal opportunities now. Except the third world.

    Mouron

    I need to get out more. I'm talking about Charlotte Bouteloup too much. Luckily I've bought a ticket to see The Wave Pictures tonight.

    Cerfeuil

    I went to see The Wave Pictures last night at Point ephemere. The frontperson for the band is David Tattersall. I guess you could call him another folk rock balladeer of poisoned love lyrics in the manner of Bob Dylan. After the gig, I asked him how old he was. He told me he was 29 but he looked 14. I suppose that's the thing about getting older. The folk rock balladeers of poisoned love lyrics look younger every day.

    Cordeau

    Ange phoned me the other day. He's the street clown who has performed in St Michel and The Champs Elysees for the past twenty years and who is arguably the greatest-ever Paris street performer. He wanted me to buy him a phone card because he is in the Pyrenees and they only sell the major brands like Orange and SFR. He uses Lebara which is an Arab network. The thing is though, last summer in Paris Ange was always going on about "moving to the mountains, nature, women, children". He didn't say anything about mobile phones.

    Mandragore

    It seems there are millions of Michael Jackson imitators. Do they go as far as the nose jobs, the skin jobs, the unhealthy relationships with children and the physician to supply them with coma-inducing prescription drugs?

    Persil

    I went to my favourite bar yesterday. It's in Strasbourg St. Denis. in the north of Paris, which is either the right bank or the left bank. The bar is near either the Porte St Martin or the Porte St. Denis but I don't know which is which yet. The Portes are very nice though. I always go and wander around and under them, despite the smell of urine.

    What is it I like about the bar? Well, it just sells beer, wines and spirits, not food. It's almost like an English bar except it's not one of those tourist pubs. But I suppose what I like most about it is that there's always a large number of pretty French girls there.

    Cochlearia

    I cringe when I hear socialist politicians, such as the French Socialist Party's Pierre Moscovici this morning, talking about economic growth. Growth's for capitalists. True, under New Labour, with Gordon Brown at the Treasury, Britain had its longest period of economic growth since records began. But I have always believed that was Blair and Brown's "Trojan Horse" and that their real aim was to pursue something else. In 1945, the new Post-World War Two British Labour Government implemented Aneuran Bevan's principle of "social security from cradle to grave". Since then, Labour's core policy has been to extend that principle to Planet Earth generally. It is, as someone said about twenty-five years ago, "the End of History". In fact, anyone who thinks it isn't the End of History is like those Japanese soldiers who did not know the Second World War was over and decades later were still hiding in trees.

    Paquerette

    As I say, in my mid-to-late twenties I became a left-wing, pacifist, feminist. Then in my early thirties I experienced the most important transition in a man's life. From being slave to feminism, I became hot totty for the chicks. This was very nice for me but I don't think my wife liked it. However, as I have also said before, my movie idol was Max von Sydow and so like him I was never able to "possess" the women who fell in love with me. I sometimes wish my movie hero had been Sean Connery.

    Thon

    Is the Greenhouse Effect real? I've just asked the aliens. Or to be precise, the aliens or alien. I have absolutely no idea what the set-up is. How this telepathy thing works. All i can say is whatever it is, it must be incredibly advanced. It seems like magic. Mind you that's probably what the native who saw the first flint lighter thought.

    Twenty years ago, I was the object of study at a case conference at the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College hospital in South London. I had been referred to the psychiatrists by my doctor who I had told about my belief that extraterrestrials were in telepathic contact with me. At the case conference, I sat in front of a lecture theatre audience of about thirty psychiatrists from around the world. Next to me sat my questioner, the Instiute's boss, "Prof" Murray, wearing a bow tie. I explained my experience to the psychiatrists as being like "possession". Possessed mediums and ouija boards were common Victorian parlour games and I guess still are. My belief is that it is the bored aliens playing jokes on the primitve humans, in the way we play joke on children and naive adults.

    So whatever the set-up, they, she, it..er.. nod(s) my head for yes and shakes it for no. At least I think it's that way round. Anyway, I asked her, him, them, it, whatever if the Greenhouse Effect was real and she shook my head. But I wouldn't read too much into that. They remind me of the "Merry Pranksters" who went round hippy festivals in the U.S. in the decade between the fifties and the seventies, selling people orange juice spiked with L.S.D. In fact the I reckon they make the Merry Pranksters look like the Salvation Army. So the fact that I don't know whether they nod my head for yes and shake if for no or it's the other way round maybe doesn't make much difference.

    Pissenlit

    It's a pity in a way that I haven't established a fully-functioning channeller relationship with the aliens. By now I could have established a business that would make Google look like one of those red lights on an electrical appliance that tells you whether it's on or off.

    The Belgian coach crash which two days ago killed 22 children was a terrible tragedy. There's nothing you can say, really. Although it's worth pointing out that 1 5000 children in the Third World die every day from dirty water.

    1.) Ashley Seager, The Guardian, 10th November 2006. (Reference found using Google.) (Given that I don't have a channeller relationship with the aliens, I still find Google quite useful.)

    Coincidentally, today, the Guardian published details of the secret life of shopping and luxury that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad has been living, oblivious of the suffering of the masses. So that's just like us, isnt' it? Shopping and living a life of luxury, oblivious off the suffering of the masses.

    Finally, I am now going to make a genuine and, I think, a shocking confession. When I was a child, I was sexually abused by my mother and father. By which of course I mean the hypo-sexualisation. The fact that at the age of 12, my mother told me that when you kissed a girl, your sperm travelled through the air and up the girl's skirt and made her pregnant. I knew it was rubbish. Apart from anything else, I had already been masturbating for some time. I knew that sperm travelled at most a couple of metres in an arc characteristic of any projectile subject to Earth's gravity. To achieve what my mother was suggesting would require it to be travelling at close to escape velocity.

    Sylvie

    Using Wikipedia I confirm my memory that President Sarkozy's party, the UMP (Union pour une Mouvement Populaire) essentially came from a right-wing Party called the RPR. (Rassemblement Pour la Republique) and so is more or less the same as David Cameron's Conservative Party in the UK. In fact, Britain is essentially a Republic too but for one fine constitutional difference: whereas we both executed our Royal Families, only we allowed ours to come back.

    I had stirloin steak at my local popular brasserie today. By now the waiters know it's only a formal question whether I like it "well-cooked" or not. That still means bleeding in the centre. With a nice Bourgogne. They only gave me half a cherry tomato today. I think they're trying to ween me off.

    But I am following the Pyramid Diet. I know what you're thinking. Pyramids. He's off again! But it really exists. I don't care what you think about the aliens. And it's not some hippy-dippy thing involving crystals or whatever. It's the diet recommended by the American Medical Association. It's called the Pyramid Diet because the model requires you to imagine a Pyramid. Actually, you don't even have to imagine a Pyramid. Just a triangle will do. Despite what I said about it being scientific, they probably call it the Pyramid Diet because it sounds more interesting and mystical than the Triangle Diet.

    So imagine an equilateral triangle. For those of you whose maths are not great, that's a triangle with all the sides of equal length. For those of you whose maths are even worse, a triangle has three sides. Now put it on its base. For those of you whose maths are not so good, that's any one of the sides. Now divide it into five horizontal layers. For those.. anyway, so the base layer represents cereals, the next layer up, fruit and vegetables, the next nuts and pulses, the next dairy products and the little triangle at the top is meat and fish.

    My theory as to why the optimal diet is the Pyramid Diet is that we adapted through our evolution to a diet based on food that was gathered, supplemented by the occasional animal. I used to be an ovo-lacto vegetarian. We wanted to escape the Wheel of Karma but still wanted to be able to eat eggs and dairy products. However, it seems to me that, given the evidence of the Pyramid Diet, we should still be allowed to escape the Wheel of Karma, even if we eat meat occasionally.

    Capillaire

    I went to see "Pelleas et Melisande", the opera by Debussy at the Paris Opera at La Bastille last night. I'm afraid I can't offer any objective criticism of the performance. I know nothing about opera but it held my attention from the first moment to the last. Just one criticism. At one point Pelleas sings to Melisande that he had never seen so many stars in the sky as that night. The next line he sings that the moon is over the sea. Any anorak who has ever done any star-gazing knows that the moon's light obscures the dimmer stars and the nights when you see most stars are when there's no moon at all.

    On the metro on the way back home I finally met the perfect woman. That's right. You guessed it. She had a boyfriend.

    Frene

    I now know why I can never make it in Paris. I suffer from the same problem as Harpo Marx in the Marx Brothers film, "Monkey Business". The brothers are on the deck of an ocean-going liner. At one point a "bathing belle" walks across the deck. Harpo's eyes swivel and he starts to follow her. Then another bathing belle walks across the deck in another direction. Harpo changes direction to follow her. Then two bathing belles walk across the deck in another direction and Harpo follows them. More and more bathing belles cross the deck in different directions. Harpo tries to follow them all and ends up walking in circles.

    I'm contradicting myself, I know. I've already confessed to meeting the perfect woman the other night. Our eyes met across a crowded platform. "I was looking back to see if she was looking back to see if I was looking back at her" as Dr. Feelgood sing.

    Plantoir

    When I was a kid, I was introduced to the idea that the European "Enlightenment" was a reaction to the mediaeval church-approved philosophers who had been reduced to arguing about how many angels you could fit on the end of a pin. Maybe it's time for a similar Enlightenment in politics now that politicians have been reduced to arguing about how many policies you can fit into the centre ground.

    To resume, twenty-one years ago, as a result of concluding that extraterrestrials were in telepathic contact with me, I was diagnosed as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. It had a positive side though. I was able to claim incapacity benefit. Until last year when the NHS released me from care. They had tried every pill they could to stop me thinking I was a ufo contactee but none had worked. So they washed their hands of me. You see, I'm not a danger to the public. Although I'm a psychopath, I am also a pacifist. I sometimes feel like carrying out random acts of mindless slaughter but I am only allowed to use non-violent methods.

    Germinal, Primevere

    When the aliens first made contact with me twenty-two years ago, I thought my jackpot had come up. I thought I'd be on the front cover of Time magazine within months. As it was, things turned out different. Absolutely everyone thought I was living in "the gentle but flaky world of the ufo contactee". I was the perfect person everyone could laugh at and anything I said would just make them laugh louder. There were times when I felt like getting a gun and a motorbike and taking out a random selection of my mockers. Finally I realised I could be a bit smarter and started writing this blog. One of the first things I was ever taught at school was "the pen is mightier than the sword".

    Mind you, it's starting to look like the aliens are now the new rock and roll. This morning, in its regular feature about television adverts from around the world, "Telematin" featured a new advert from the United States, which had a big budget and lots of Hollywood stars and also a realistic imitation of a white, big-eyed alien (at least I assume it was an imitation). The advert was for some kind of car.

    This afternoon it was sunny so I walked across Montparnasse and had a cup of coffee at "Les Deux Magots" on Boulevard St. Germain. I think Sartres used to go there. I suppose I could try channelling him and ask him. (Or I could even just Google it.) But the waiters at "Les Deux Magots" still dress as I imagine they did in Sartres' day. Like the waiter in his famous illustration of "bad faith". As Wikipedia's article about it explains, the waiter wants to please too much so he acts too much like a waiter. In this way he is denying his own freedom to act in any way he chooses, whilst paradoxically using that freedom to act out that denial. So although I never give money to the "sans domiciles fixes", I always tip the waiters because they have the hardest job of the lot: playing the deluded idiot in one of the most famous philosophical quotes of all time.

    Germinal, Primevere

    I’m on Facebook. Mind you, I reckon I’m twice as old as most of the people on Facebook. But then I’m twice as old as most of the people in my favourite bar. So at least on Facebook I feel more relaxed. I actually only signed up to remake contact with Sapphire, a once little girl who once called me ”Daddy”. I wasn’t her biological father. She had just forgotten for a moment. It was a special moment in my life. It confirmed Colin Turnbull’s account of the pygmies in “The Forest People”. He explained how for the pygmies, all of the children belong to all of the adults. The biological parent is only special in the sense that she is the biological parent. Sapphire’s not a little girl any more. She’s at Cambridge University.

    However soon after I signed up and swiftly overlooking the Isabel affair, I found myself receiving friend requests from ufological types in the U.S. of A. I guess I must have talked about the aliens on Facebook and I wound up on a search engine or something. Recently, one of them posted about an American ufo researcher who has just died at the age of 72. So of course the really big question that arises from that fact is: will the aliens save my ass?

    Sorry about the confusion over Primevere. It’s something to do with the Leap Year, I think. Anyway, today is the Spring Equinox. I went for a walk along the Ave de Versailles and finished up at the bridge over the Seine at Boulogne Billancourt. I saw some flowers in blossom and insects feeding on the nectar. It was the perfect Spring Equinox afternoon.

    Platane

    One of my decisions, when I was in Aubervilliers was to watch, on a regular basis, France 2 television’s dubbed imported American morning soap opera, translated into French as “Des Jours, Des Vies”. So I have been following the adventures of Marlene and her husband John. In the serial, Marlene plays a serial killer. So I guess that makes her a serial, serial killer. I’ve already told you about John. He’s one who, all the way through his wife confessing under a truth drug to being serial killer to helping her escape policed custody only to see her killed by a police marksman to smuggling her body out of the mortuary to take it to a church, maintained a perfect haircut. So, having followed the story of a serial killer in a soap opera, I feel more prepared for the current real story of a serial killer stalking the South of France. In fact, I was thinking of making an anonymous phone call to the police saying they should be looking for a man with a suspiciously neat haircut but it seems he has been caught now.

    I’ve often thought of making a comeback in comedy but I’m like the guy in the Wave Pictures’ song, “Hoop” who is now too old to keep up with the competition. When I was 15, comedy was jokes people used to hear and then tell to other people. People would listen politely while you told a joke like that. Even if they'd heard it before. But, like whistling, such jokes went out of fashion. Comedy has speeded up relentlessly. For example, a few years before I joined BBC Radio Four’s “Week Ending”, each sketch on this half hour political satirical sketch show would be introduced by a narrator who would fill in the contextual details of the story. By the time I was writing for “Week Ending”, the writer had to put all that in the first line of the sketch.

    So therefore my next line is: “Here comes Olwen Wymark”. I went to her writing class at the City Literary Institute in London in 1987. She encouraged us to write for radio. In particular she pointed out that the essential rule is that when you want to introduce a character called “Charlie” into a radio drama, it's not enough to simply have a character you have already introduced say: “Here comes Charlie”.

    One of my fellow students in the class was actress, Helen Blizard who had a major role in British TV series of the time: “London’s Burning”. I thought she and I were the best two writers in the class. It was only later that I found out I was rubbish. It was at my first meeting of “Week Ending” in fact. Helen had kindly one week invited Bill Dare along to introduce him to me. He was the producer of “Week Ending” at the time and invited me to come to the “non-comms” meeting. The show was mostly written by commissioned writers and the scraps were fought over by the non-comms. My first meeting was a real shock to me. I’d been used to the idea that writing consisted of getting up, thinking about writing something, having breakfast, thinking again about writing something, having a mid-morning snack, thinking about writing something, having lunch and so on through till bedtime. This could continue for months before I wrote anything. In contrast, the meeting was full of young, clever types who had lots of clever ideas for sketches.

    After ten weeks I was ready to give up. Indeed one morning, I picked up my stuff and was leaving forever when another writer who saw my distress stopped me and gave mea bit of advice which resulted in me eventually becoming a regular writer on the show. So I would like to thank publicly that writer today. I can’t remember which one it was but I thank him.

    When I see stories such as the one about the serial killer in Toulouse, I feel uncomfortable. As I say I was diagnosed as a sort of psychopath. (Although of course, I’m ideologically committed to pacifism so am only allowed to commit random acts of non-violence.) So it’s reassuing to remind myself that actually beings from a star possibly a billion years older than ours are in telepathic contact with me. How much more they know about the Universe than us is impossible to imagine. As I’ve said before, when I was a kid, I used to watch Patrick Moore’s “The Sky At Night” with my father. My father had a theory that our galaxy had a centralised civilisation.

    Asperge

    I went to my favourite bar last night. At one point, as I stood outside, a thirty-something youth I vaguely recognised came and spoke to me. In fact, he was a Polish guy I'd met in the bar, I think before last Christmas. I remembered he was a "heavy metal" rock music fan. I asked him if he liked "Led Zeppelin". They weren't heavy metal, he told me. Blimey! The kids of today, eh? My generation thought even "Steeleye Span" were heavy metal. But at least the guy came and spoke to me so I can now admit to you that I don't feel entirely welcome there. I sense a certain hostility from some of the young women. I guess the Dominique Strauss-Kahn affair has given us sixty year-old blokes a bad name.

    Tulipe

    My French is improving. I think I understood one of the news stories on France 2's "Telematin" this morning. It was about the clocks going forward. Or maybe it was backward. I didn't get that part.

    I wasn't a New-Ager. It was a decade-between-the-fifties-and-the-seventies thing and my decade was the next one, the one between the sixties and the eighties. But I did like Colin Wilson and particularly I liked Alan Watts' theory, which I read in "Psychotherapy East And West" that God gets bored with being God and so hides from Herself by becoming the Universe. I like the theory even more now that there is, in the Penrose-Hameroff model of consciousness as the brain-orchestrated collapse of the quantum-wave function, a coherent model of how She might go about finding Herself again.

    Poule

    I have just discovered something through an original piece of research. And the amazing thing is, I didn't even Google it. As I say, I am following the so-called "Pyramid Diet". It was recommended by the American Medical Association in the mid-1990s. It's a five-layer pyramid. The base layer is cereals, the next layer fruit and vegetables, the third layer is nuts and pulses, the fourth layer dairy products and the little triangle on the top, meat and fish. Well, I have now found an independent source I can quote that supports my theory that humans in their nomadic era were not so much hunter-gatherers as gatherer-hunters. In Alain Le Sage's book, "Gil Blas de Santillane", which I am reading, the hero and a friend discover a hidden monastery and a very old hermit living and meditating there. The hermit shelters Gil Blas and his companion and offers them something to eat but it is not much because he lives the life of a devout monk. He tells them

    Je n'aime presentement que les racines, les fruits, le lait, en un mot, que ce qui faisait la nourriture de nos premiers peres.1

    According to my dodgy French he only likes roots, fruits and milk which he says was the diet of our ancestors. That's pretty much the Pyramid Diet.

    1. Le Sage, "Gil Blas de Santillane", p.376, Edition d'Etiemble , Editions Gallimard, 1973.

    Bette

    Although I watch France 2's dubed American soap opera, "Des Jours, Des Vies", my preferred regular fix of catharsis is BBC Radio Four's "The Archers", which I listen to now via wi-fi. My dad listened to it on the valve radio when I was a kid. One of the characters in The Archers was Phil Archer. He and my dad lived roughly parallel lives. My dad was born in 1928. The actor who played Phil, Norman Painting, was born (see Wikipedia) in 1924. In the serial, Phil was a farmer. My dad was an industrial chemist. As any environmentalist can tell you, that's practically the same thing. Phil played the organ in the village (Church of England) church. My dad played the piano. Towards the end of his life, Phil Archer took up astronomy as a hobby. And in real life, my dad died a year after Norman Painting.

    One of Phil's daughters is Shula. In the decade between the fifties and the seventies, she turned down an offer to go to Thailand with Roger and instead became a respectable, church-going member of society, so I have always felt superior to her. (Despite the fact that I have never actually been to Thailand myself.)

    Bouleau

    I admit it's embarrassing that after nine months of claiming to be a u.f.o. contactee, I have told you nothing about the aliens. I know nothing about them. They have told me nothing. I sometimes speculate that they are the white ones that you hear about. I have read that they are possibly from the nearby star, Zeta Reticuli, a theory largely based on the 3D star map that the aliens allegedly showed to abductee, Betty Hill and which she later recalled under hypnosis. Amateur American astronomer, Marjorie Fish worked out from the map the the star they were from was Zeta Reticuli. But professional astronomer, Carl Sagan pointed out that you can see pretty much any pattern you like in the stars. Anyway, I don't know whether my aliens are white, grey or sky-blue pink. I'm certainly not like the self-claimed contactee I met on Facebook who claimed to be not just a contactee but a member of the Galactic Council. I'm just a contactee. I have no political ambitions.

    Jonquille

    I am schizophrenic. I couldn't not be. My mother rejected me at birth. She was also a dead ringer for what some psychiatrists used to call "the schizophrenogenic mother": cold, rejecting, domineering. She was also probably schizophrenic herself. So whether you follow the genetic theory of schizophrenia or the psychological theory, I'm schizophrenic. Typically I have paranoid episodes where I get worked up into such a state that it's never mind the Men in Black, it's time to send for the Men in White.

    I had just such a rage this morning. Although to be fair, it wasn't paranoia this time. I was justified. The television wouldn't work. Minutes later, I found myself sitting on the floor under a pile of debris that included my desk now in two pieces and clutching the broken end of the antenna cable which I in my rage had pulled out of the wall.

    I know. It's only television. But television is important to me. In "Des Jours, Des Vies", Sean has been trapped in a cage by a girl and I want to know if he will escape.

    Afterwards I had a quick look round the apartment and having seen the proprietaire, Francois' Rolls Royce class suitcase on wheels the previous evening, I think, luckily, he wasn't around to hear me re-enacting my primal crisis. In the end I sat down and had a think and I reckon I have learned something valuable from this experience: the fact of the matter is, however long it takes me to get a televison signal again, Sean is still probably going to be trapped in that cage.

    Mind you, the fact that I am schizophrenic does not rule out my claim that extraterrestrials are in telepathic contact with me. After all, if they are, like I say, "Merry Pranksters" who better to choose as a contactee than a schizophrenic?

    On his show tonight Marc Riley played a curent favourite popular with the listeners: "Cloudy O", by The Lift Men, although it has now become known on the show as "Dirty Old Man" because a listener requested it by that title. The song is about a girl who's feeling a little woozy after drinking bacardi and orange and gets out of a taxi and knocks down an old man on a bicycle. She goes to get him money from a cash machine but when she goes back to him he makes a pass at her. The message of the song seems to be you cannot be sure which old man is concealing a hidden Dominique Strauss-Kahn. All I will say is that isn't like the cyclists in Paris. Compared to the pale, flabby, gas-guzzling motorists, they look like X-Men. (Although some of them are old and so look like Dirty Old X-Men.)

    Aulne

    You see how naive my generation were? I've only just discovered Hitler had a combover.


    Couvoir

    I went to see the new film "The Wrath Of The Titans" yesterday. The plot is based on an ancient Greek legend which itself seems to be based on a recent Hollywood blockbuster. One of the key elements of the traditional Greek version was the "god-out-of-a-machine" where a god would be lowered from the sky at the end of a drama to blow the final whistle. The modern movie version also has a god out of a machine. In fact lots of gods out of a machine known as computer graphic imagery.

    I identified with the hero, Perseus. That's right. Laugh! I'm nearly sixty and I don't have any muscles. But it's Greek drama remember? I'm supposed to identify with the hero. But I do I identify with him, anyway. He hates the gods. Who doesn't? He used to be a god. I could have been a god once. You don't know I wasn't. And he wants to live life as a simple fisherman. Well, two out of three isn't bad.

    Whilst inserting gods-out-of-a-machine is a key component of the genre, something even more important has to be inserted: the kiss. If the spectator is to experience catharsis, there has to be a kiss. Frequently of course in modern movies there's a lot more than that. However in The Wrath Of Titans there was no hanky-panky whatsover. Merely, in the last scene, a kiss. Indeed, here the plot fully returned to its classical roots. Perseus has defeated Cronos, order is restored in Heaven and Earth and in the most classical allusion of all, the hero has pulled some top totty.

    Pervenche

    It was my regular Friday lunch at brasserie, "Les Ondes". Veal liver. When I was half-way through I realised if I was going to finish it, it would take a long, hard military campaign that could only accomplished by the bravest of the brave. So I decided to leave it.

    Charme

    I went to my favourite bar last night. I spoke to one of the bar's "beaux". I reckon he might be a budding film director. He seemed to know a lot about French film director, Francois Truffaut, who was the big director when I was sixteen and thought all you needed to get through life was a smattering of knowledge of French "Art" movies.

    Morille

    As I've said, when I first became a contactee, everyone thought I was mad. The doctors thought I was mad. My friends thought I was mad. My wife thought I was mad. But what hurt most of all was the girl I was trying to get off with thought I was mad. If this had been a movie, that wouldn't have mattered. I would have struggled against the odds and eventually won her heart. But this was real life and she had a boyfriend.

    In the end, I found myself alone: a figure of mockery. Rock singer turned newspaper TV columnist Pat Kane referred in his TV column to "the gentle but flaky world of the ufo contactee". The Planetary Defence League (who don't hate aliens; they merely believe they don't exist) maintained the standard scientific viewpoint that in a Universe of hundreds of billions of galaxies, each containing hundreds of billions of stars, life other than on our planet was extremely unlikely. However the one compensation for being a figure of such complete mockery is that my mockers are wrong.

    Indeed, since then, the first planets around other stars were discovered. These were large gas giants like our Jupiter and were detectable by two main techniques: either the gravitational "wobble" in the star caused by the planet's orbit around it or the dimunution in light from a star when a big gas giant passed in front of it. At that stage, small, rocky planets such as ours were too small to be detected and there were still scientists suggesting that rocky planets might not exist. Then astronomiocal techniques improved and rocky planets were found. Recent studies suggest that there are countless millions of rocky planets in the Universe and I don't want to sound as if I'm having another go at the Planetary Defence League but I reckon we're looking at a future Universe which is in contact with itself right across the Universe.

    Hetre

    I got a text from Ange, the street clown, to say he is performing in St Michel again. Obviously Paris has got thousands of tourist attractions but if there's one thing I'd recommend, it's seeing Ange. He's been performing there for about twenty years. I'm not sure how long he intends to carry on, so I'm going to video his act.

    Abeille

    When we were children, my sister and I were emotionally abused in the "family home" by our mother, so we both grew up with extreme low self-esteem. I managed to get away in the end but then I'm a man. My sister did eventually get away and then a year later she went back again. But then she's a woman.

    Laitue

    I have some sympathy for conviction politicians. Conviction doesn't sell newspapers.

    One of the movies I remember is "Deliverance", which is about a group of bourgeois American males who go for a weekend hunting trip in hillbilly country and end up being hunted by hillbillies. My abiding memory of Newcastle-on-Tyne is a gang of young Geordie blokes walking along Clayton Street, looking like the Andrew Weatherall remix of the hillbillies in "Deliverance".

    When my stepfather was dying, he eventually went to a hospice but before that he was treated at home at the house in Consett. One of his visitors was a nurse called Judith. She had a friend called Tracey who came along to do some cleaning. I saw all this because I was living in the house at the time. Schizophrenics are not supposed to return to the "family home". It is supposed to aggravate our schizophrenia. I knew what they meant. My mother by now was in bed 24/7 and was even beginning to show signs of genuine disability. However there was one thing she could do still with vigour: as my stepfather, Bill, put it: "work her little units". She had a little bell which she used to ring to summon my sister from downstairs after my sister had done her day shift at the old folks' home. She tried to get me to respond to the bell too but I had been a residential social worker for seven years so I just ignored it.

    Judith and Tracey were typical Geordie girls. I don't mean like the famous "Fat Slags" in Viz comic. Judith and Tracey were both thin. One day, Judith told me something quite shocking. She liked English comedian, Dave Baddiel. Actually, he's not English, he's Jewish but he's sort of English. And to be fair, I like some of his jokes too. Come to think of it, Judith looked Jewish. Come to think of it, Judith is a Jewish name.

    Anyway, so why was I living in the worst possible place? Because it was better than living in a hostel. In the first hostel I lived in they were all on methadone which by some market mechanism I didn't understand, they traded for heroin. In the second one, it was more comfortable and civilsed but then one night, my twenty-something neighbour in the next room cut himself in the bathroom. I don't mean he cut himself shaving. I mean he was a self-harmer. The next day, he went to the local park and hanged himself.

    Tracy was hard. She made "Girls Aloud" look like The Sugar Plum Fairies. She revealed something to me once in confidence so I'll tell you. She had been a stripper. She also told me how on one occasion on a Saturday night in the Bigg Market she had encountered her boss from work who she didn't like and she'd given her a good slapping.

    Then Tracy's brother died. Gary. I knew him from the hostel. He was one of the methadone traders.

    "Poor kid, he overdid, so righteous was his need, and I myself I bought his pride for chicken feed."

    Steely Dan "Charlie Freak".

    At the funeral, Tracey looked like Sophocles' Greek tragic heroine,Antigone mourning the death of her own brother.

    Meleze

    The Park View Hotel in Consett was for the lowest of the low: it was where you went when you'd been kicked out by the white trash. I don't know what I was doing there. (I was a ufo contactee, remember?) The Delgados' song "All You Need Is Hate" was top of the Indie pops. I felt somehow Emma Pollock was reaching out to me. And maybe in a way, she was. I can now play "Hug The Piano" (from Emma Pollock's album "The Law Of Large Numbers") on the piano. Actually it's Martin White's arrangement of the trio from the third movement of Schubert's Fifth Symphony for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music Grade Two piano exam but essentially it's the same thing.

    Cigue

    When I was an ovo-lacto-vegetarian, I used to feel sorry for vegans. A diet without eggs and dairy products seemed miserable. I think the carnivores felt the same about me. It reminds me of the scene in "Gil Blas" where the hermit invites Gil Blas and his companion to dine with him. He then gets out some bread and a jug of water. Then, as they are his guests he goes and gets a bit of cheese and a couple of handsful of nuts. Whatever, I certainly enjoyed my Friday louch at "Les Ondes": "Gratin a la Parisienne". It was macaroni topped with grated cheese and baked in a creamy sauce, with mushrooms and not too much bacon.

    Radis

    As I've said, I don't have an intimate relationship with the aliens. In fact, I was a social worker for seven years and I sometimes have the uncomfortable suspicion that they see me as their "client".

    Ruche

    Ange invited me to watch his show yesterday. He performs mainly in three venues: in St Michel at the junction of Rue De La Harpe and Rue Saint-Severin and also in front of Le Depart cafe and in Les Champs Elysees. Later, I went for dinner with him at his favourite diner in Strasbourg St. Denis. A Tunisian business. We had lentils. The restarurant is just opposite my favourite bar. I invited Ange to join me but he was in his clown gear and wanted to go to the Champs Elysees for his next gig.

    Aresh was in the bar. He's the oldest guy there. In his seventies. I had a conversation with him a couple of weeks ago. He showed me a series of pictures he had on his mobile phone of girls from the bar posing with him in the bar. I think that's all they did.

    Ange Foudou - Clown de Paris.

    Gainier

    My dad's father was a Freemason so you may be surprised to hear that in his job, he was not a policeman. He was a dentist. Apparently, my father wasn't a Freemason. But maybe he was not allowed to tell the family. Even so, as the eldest son, I might have expected to be initiated into the mysteries of Freemasonry. Maybe I was. Maybe in a secret ceremony, I was baptised in blood or whatever the Freemasons do. It could explain why I'm a contactee. The Freemasons are supposed to know the secrets of the builders of the Ancient Egyptian pyramids, which according to some ufologists were built by extraterrestrials. It could also explain my obsession with the Pyramid Diet. It all fits you see. So if that's what the aliens want, I'm ready to fulfill my destiny. I have just one question: why are 95% of all Freemasons members of the police force?

    As I say, I had a bad relationship with my mother which wasn't resolved when she died. Mind you, I'm not worried about being visited by her ghost. I got used to that when it visited me during thirty or so years before she died.

    Romaine

    A French media commentator observed yesterday that French socialist candidate for President, Francois Hollande, is "a bit dull". This is inevitable. It is capitalism that has the revolving bow ties, the smoke and mirrors, the bread and circuses. Socialism just has policy. But I suppose it's what people want. Not only do they want their hospital operation waiting time reduced to eighteen weeks but also for the doctor to perform the operation while simultaneously holding off a lion with a chair. They want a balanced economy that is at the same time balanced on the head of a lady on a horse. They want the nuclear deterrent in safe hands as long as it isn't dropped by the trapeze artist. They want a magician to come on and reduce the price of petrol and make all the nasty environmental protesters disappear. But perhaps most of all, all they want at the end of a long, over-producing, over-consuming day, is to come home, switch on the telly and be entertained by a bunch of clowns.

    Maronnier

    I think I might have made it. Sitting on the metro on the way to Paris Nord to catch the Eurostar to London, I was looking out of the train window when I had what I think was a moment of self-realisation. The trigger for the moment was events that happened a couple of days ago but like the gangster in the movie who is bitten by a vampire and still hasn't realised when his henchmen find him sitting in front of the freezer, trying to suck the blood out of frozen joints of meat, it's taken time for the penny to drop. I wish I could explain the moment to you but such moments are occult and have to be kept secret.

    Roquette

    When I started this blog, I set myself the task of write something every day. I was running out of time today when luckily, just as I had sat down at the terrace of the bar of the British Film Institute on London's South Bank to drink my pint, a chap walked past, walking his dog. His dog was dawdling and his "owner" wanted him to hurry up. I think for a moment that he thought of calling out to his dog but as he was passing people on the terrace, maybe he would have felt too self-conscious to do that. Instead I watched while he turned his head round to look at his dog, bent down from the waist and then threw his upper body up and over till his head was pointing in the forward direction. They say that owners become like their dogs. This owner seemed to be turning into a pointer dog

    Pigeon

    I went to see Oliver Goldsmith's "She Stoops To Conquer" at the National Theatre on Friday night. Ironic really since the last show I'd seen was Ange performing in St. MIchel. Ironic because the guy who was favourite to be first director of the National Theatre was Peter Brook until in his book, "The Empty Space" he suggested British theatre was rubbish compared to "rough theatre". Brook's example was a pub theatre in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam but the same principle applies: the staging is ad hoc and what's important is the script. Ange for example has a plastic, multi-coloured childrens' toy hammer. The "art" comes in the fact that he hits passing tourists on the head with it. It makes me laugh every time I see it and even now again that I describe it.

    Lilas

    Women. Fluffy bunnies, eh?

    Anemone

    "He wants to trade the game he plays for shelter."

    Leonard Cohen "Stranger Song"

    Pensee

    The purpose of my visit to London was to see American "indie" rocker, Daniel Johnston, who was a favourite of Nirvana's the late Kurt Cobain. (Indeed, maybe he still is if you could believe that despite taking a massive overdose of heroin and blowing his brains out with a shotgun Cobain is, in some sense, still with us.) The gig was in Islington in North London at a place called the Union Chapel: a venue I'd not been to before. So I was surprised when I got there to discover that it did look like a church. I was even more surprised when I discovered it was a church. But what happened inside was even more disturbing. There was a bar in an annexe but the performance area was the church so you couldn't take your drink in to drink while you watched the band. I suspect it's the devil's work. Everyone knows one of her favourite hiding places is Protestant zeal.

    This morning I made a sentimental return jouirney to Soho Square where I had my Einstein moment, sitting on the grass on a hot and sunny July day in 1990. I had discovered that the crystal would swing from side to side or backwards and forwards according to your command. What if, I wondered, it would answer questions? So I performed a scientific experiment I asked: "Is two plus two four? Swing from side to side for yes, backwards and forwards for no!" It swung from side to side. I should have performed more checks but that was enough for me. The next thing I asked was: "Are you extraterrestrials?" It swung from side to side.

    Myrtille

    For the first few weeks, I talked to the extraterrestrials through the crystal. Clockwise for yes, anti-clockwise for no. I've told you that over the years the aliens have always given contradictory answers. It was just the same from the start. So they were quite happy to agree that 2 plus 2 equals 4. They wanted me to be convinced I was in contact with rational entities. After that theyn felt free to tell me any old rubblish they wanted.

    My earthling former friends thought I was mad. Well, actually of course, I don't know what they thought. It's the aliens who are telepathic. They're the ones who know "what's bin did and what's bin hid". But they all seemed to think I was mad. Even Lucy, who was the one who showed me the crystal trick in the first place and who even gave me the crystal with which was talking to the aliens, seemed to think I was mad. Mind you, she was a woman.

    Greffoir

    Christianity has declined rapidly in my lifetime. My dad was an atheist when I was a child but he and my mother decided to send my sister and I to the local Methodist Sunday School in Welwyn Garden City. The preacher was in fact our next door neighbour, a travelling salesman. He gave a sermon in which he told us about the time he was driving when he ran out of petrol. He explained how he got out of the car, kneeled by the boot and prayed to God. Apparently, a little while later, another motorist stopped who had a spare can of petrol. I lost interest in religion after that.

    Then when I was 14, I was invited to a meeting in Consett of "The Plymouth Brethren", a Fundamentalist Christian group. At the meeting, one of them cornered me and attempted to persuade me to accept the Lord into my heart. Who knows? I might have done but I was young and innocent and my recruiter had had the worst case of halitosis I have ever encountered.

    Over the years I have been on the receiving end of other attempts to convert me which I have always dismissed. But the Church is in difficulty now. Attendance is down to 3% of the population. So come on Pilgrims! It shouldn't be too difficult to get that down to zero.

    In the old days, when you were unemployed in the UK you "signed on" to claim unemployment benefit. I suppose one of the things I'm most proud of in my life is signing on. I reckon I've spent approximately 35 of the past 40 years signing on. As soon as I was old enough to sign on, I signed on. When I discovered at University that you could sign on during the University holidays, I signed on. When I finally left University in 1976, I signed on. They caught me out with a ten month long job creation programme but after that essentially I was signing on until 1984 when I started work as an Agency social worker. Then of course, as an Agency worker, when a temporary job was over, because I hadn't been sacked or left the job voluntarily, I could sign on again. Finally, in 1991, the Agency, I think because of my strange ufo contactee-like behaviour, let me go. The one good thing was because they hadn't sacked me and I hadn't voluntarily left my job, I could sign on again.

    Floreal, Rose

    When I said that one of the devil's favourite hiding places is Protestant zeal, I should have said "Fundamentalist" zeal but I was worried about getting a Fatwah.

    Chene

    As someone who has signed on for most of their life, I suppose I would be an ideal target for the Far Right anyway but there is one thing I would say about the Norwegian Nazi who armed only with an arsenal of weapons and ammunition killed 77 unarmed people. He has a combover.

    I suppose the other thing I could do is convey the message the aliens have about him. Nothing. That's the aliens' message about everything. It's as if the idea of The Prime Directive, as featured in Star Trek, where the Enterprise is not allowed to interfere in the indigenous development of planetary civilisations, is true. As a New Labour supporter, I was hoping that even if the Tories won the last election, it would trigger the landing of the aliens on the grounds that the Tories are not covered by The Prime Directive. I just hope that what stopped them landing wasn't the fact that the government is a Tory coalition with the Liberals.

    Fougere

    I didn't go to my favourite bar last night. It's a strange place. Sometimes you find yourself talking to someone you think is part of a group only to discover they are a "sans domicile fixe". Last weekend, at closing time, I struck up a conversation with a French guy. He invited me back to his place to drink a bottle of wine. As we headed to his apartment, another guy, an African, was walking along with us. I assumed he was with my new acquaintance but he wasn't. He followed us all the way to my new acquaintance's apartment, despite my acquaintance telling him repeatedly that he could not help him. We shook him off at the entrance to the block.

    But I'm having to take stock of my situation. My dad's money is running out. I'm committed to staying until three days after Summer Solostice but I'm going to have to get a job or cut and run after that. I also said I would then be able to judge whether my character has completed an arc or has just been going round in a circle. Well I'm not James Dean. I'm cutting and running whether or not I've been going round in a circle.

    Aubepine

    I drank a bottle of wine with my acquaintance in his apartment. When he went into his obsession with a band who he had lots of videos of on his i-pad, I started to nod off. However, the next thing I knew he had come round the table, sat next to me and had made a pass at me. He didn't get any change though. I'm frigid enough even with women. I made my excuses and left.

    I had my first encounter with the employment market today. I mean what?! Eh?! I'm lost for words. Mind you, I have been on benefits for most of the past forty years. I had gone to Manpower in Boulevard de Sebastopol. She told me I had to go to my Pole Emploi to prepare a c.v. We discussed the gap in my employment history. I don't mean I told her I was a contactee. I mean we just discussed it in general terms i.e. I told her the establishment view that I was schizophrenic. She winced when I said the word "schizophrenic". What with Norwegians and Arabs and what-have-you going berserk in recent times, she might momentarily have thought I was an assassin. So when I got back to the apartment and thought about it, I decided the best thing was to book my ticket back to England now. Then I asked myself if I was a man or a mouse and that didn't make any difference.

    Rossignol

    So it looks like I'm not going to "make it" in Paris. There I was having a great time; bars, restaurants, the theatre, opera, etc without realising that the one thing that would undo my plan was my dad's money running out. If this was Gil Blas, something would come along to help him out. If it was Don Quixote, some fantasy would come along to help him out. But it's not Gil Blas or Don Quixote. It's not any novel of picaresque literature. It's not even literature. It's just me.

    I first got into politics in 1971 in my first year at University. NUS meetings were held in the Refectory and regularly had attendances of 700 or so to listen to and heckle the orators who represented the political spectrum from the left, to the far left, to the extreme left. My favourite orator was the one who went on to become Union president. I think what impressed me most about him was his stripy blazer and his brunette, hyperwaif girlfriend.

    Ancolie

    I registered with the Pole Emploi yesterday. I don't know if it will do any good. But at least I'm signing on again.

    Muguet

    The counsellor at the Pole Emploi steered me towards plongeur rather than lab assistant. Plongeur has two meanings: diver or dishwasher. I'm surprised that the official French word in the Pole Emploi for dishwasher is the same word as diver. I had always thought it was a slang term, an ironic comment on the dishwasher's condition. To be honest, I'm a bit worried about working as a dishwasher. What with George Orwell's "Down And Out In Paris And London" and Jean-Paul Sartres' waiter, I'm worried I'm going to wind up as an oppressed proletarian unaware of the fact that I am condemned to be free.

    The counsellor at the Pole Emploi asked me if I was OK with information technology. You make all your job applications online. I remember my father coming home from work one day in the early part of the decade between the fifties and the seventies with a book on Cobol, one of the early programming languages. I'm not trying to suggest that society has dumbed down but in those days, being OK with information technology meant not being able to operate the mouse but programme the computer.


    Champignon

    The reason why they didn't like Gordon Brown is because he was like Apocalypse in the X-Men, the supervillain who tries to bring about the end of everything. We call it progressive socialism. It is the thing the Norwegian tried to stop. Because finally what this, the true Apocalypse means is that for each and every inhabitant of this planet there will be "social security from cradle to grave".

    Hyacinthe

    It's Saturday morning. I want to go to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee but I'm scared I'll run into the landlord's daughter in her bikini. She was twelve at the end of December. In eight months time, if she was living in the Isle of Man, she would be able to get the Pill. I had a similar problem last year at the Live Theatre in Newcastle. I had gone along to a writers' workshop there and during a refreshments break, I found myself talking to a woman writer who had brought her daughter along. The daughter was, at most, 16. I didn't have a problem with that. It was what she was wearing. It wasn't a bikini. It was a dress. But it was so short and the material so flimsy and translucent that it might as well have been a bikini. I went to the social event in the evening. The mother was there with her husband but no daughter. He gave me a couple of funny looks

    Rateau

    It's all falling apart. I could never have "made it" in Paris anyway. Men fall in love with women who remind them of their mother and my mother rejected me so I only fall in love with women who reject me. Real men, of course, don't fall in love. I remember my mate Jim Almond telling me that "sex isn't all it's cracked up to be". You might think I'm a bit slow in realising that. Admittedly, when Jim told me that, we were both 15. So I search my mind for an example of a woman I could fall in love with. My mind quickly focused on the skinny brunette in the Metro. Yes! I could have fallen in love with her. The trouble is, she had a boyfriend.

    Rhubarbe

    Veteran BBC Science correspondent, David Whitehouse was on Radio Four's "Broadcasting House" yesterday, reviewing the newspapers. Being a Science "geek", Whitehouse goes for the one or two "science" stories that there are. We scientists are geeks. For example, some people can remember where they were when American President, J.F. Kennedy was shot. I can remember where I was when they discovered the first revolving neutron star. At first they called it LGM One, which stood for Little Green Man One because it was a regular pulse, like a signal beacon. We had a Science Geeks' Club in the Biology Lab, presided over by teacher, Mr Reekie. He provided us with the materials cupboard and a kettle for our club (Membership exclusive to us and, at any one time, 100 rats in the rat cage.) When we heard the news about LGM One, at first we were excited about the possibility that it was extraterrestrials communicating. However, it was quickly confirmed that the probable explanation was that it was a "pulsar", a rotating neutron star. Even then, we were all still pretty excited. Brian Reekie was the archetypal charismatic teacher. Last time I saw him, his wife had left him.

    Whitehouse was invited to identify a soundbite which turned out to be NASA sending a signal into space to contact aliens. Whitehouse commented that it would be a dangerous thing to do. I wonder if there's a bit of a paradigm shift going on here. The Science correspondent of the Guardian newspaper once wrote to me that even if aliens existed, it would be 10,000 years before we made contact with any of them. But his BBC colleague is clearly tacitly admitting the possibility of their existence. Even so, I still think he's being a bit Planetary Defence League, suggesting that they might be mass-murdering monsters. Just because we are it doesn't mean they are.

    Sainfoin

    Have you tried it at home? Crystal divination. Apologies to women but it doesn't have to be an actual crystal. To talk to the aliens, all you need is a weight on the end of a bit of string. Clockwise for yes, anti-clockwise for no is the standard convention. It may not seem much but at that point you have a communication device that makes 3G look like "The Pony Express". You can try it at home with the proviso that as David Whitehouse said: it might be dangerous.

    I think my friend Lucy, who introduced me to crystal divination talked to her crystal too. Suddenly one day, she got upset with me for my obsession of talking to the aliens. At one point, she snatched the crystal from my hand. I tried to grab it back from her. (I had not yet realised that the aliens were not operating through the crystal itself but my brain) and the crystal itself detached from the leather cord it was attached to. When I examined the crystal, I could see that it had been attached to the leather cord by a silver weld. The strange thing was, the weld had not broken. It had to break. To detach from the leather cord, either the crystal had to detach from the silver weld or the ring of silver around the cord had to break. But the silver was still attached to the crystal and the ring of silver was not broken. How they came to be separate I do not know.


    Baton-d'or

    There's a facility on my space on the Pole Emploi website for me to construct a curriculum vitae. A resume of my life. 35 years as benefit claimant. 22 years as ufo contactee. You can see my problem.

    Chamerisier

    It's a pity I can't use my social work experience for my cv but I was sacked. I didn't really tell you why. I know that this is an autobiography and I know I made a lot of jokes about sex-offending but I didn't want to tell you the truth. But I have to, don't I? So you might as well know that in my last job as social worker I worked with ex-sex-offenders. I say ex- because that was the official terminology. But I mean once an addict, it's like Alcoholics Anonymous isn't it? One day at a time. I expect. As I say, I was the social worker. We don't have addictions. Having said that, there did seem at times to be a striking resemblance between me and them.

    Ver a soie

    I suppose this isn't helping my case much but I think I might have seen a ghost once. It was Kenneth Williams in the corridor of BBC Light Entertainments when I was a writer at "Week Ending". According to my memory, I didn't start at the BBC until October 1988 and according to Wikipedia, Kenneth Williams died in April, 1988. The figure I saw looked very ill. Yellow. As if he had jaundice. I know that sounds like a feeble attempt to reconcile the dates. I can only say what I saw.

    One of the reasons why I think I'm right about the dates is that I remember it was November 1989 when I invited the girl I was trying to get off with to my wife's birthday party. I had known about Kenneth Williams since the early part of the decade between the fifties and the seventies because my father had been a fan of the radio show "Round The Horne" in which Williams had been one of the stars. "Round The Horne" was in fact the ancestor of the show I wrote for. I always wanted my father to be proud of the fact that I'd written for BBC Light Entertainments. The trouble is just as I was becoming successful, I became a ufo contactee. I don't think my father was proud about me being a contactee.


    Consoude

    Obviously I've got the dates wrong about Kenneth Williams. But just in case there's any doubt about the matter, I would say that as someone brought up in the fine materialist tradition of Patrick Moore, that the aliens that are using me as their patsy are evolved carbon life-forms, similar to but more evolved than ourselves. I love it when Sir Patrick has a go at astrology. There's that delicious curve of the lips as he searches for the most withering remark about the subject that gets confused with astronomy. Astronomy is the study of the universe. Astrology is the study of girly obsessions with boys.

    I don't believe in ghosts. It's not science. Aliens are science. I knew they existed before they made contact with me. In 1978 I read Carl Sagan and Josef Schlovskii's book "Intelligent Life In The Universe". It refers to the Drake equation: a set of parameters devised on the back of an envelope by astronomer Frank Drake to calculate the number of civilisations in our Galaxy. According to Wikipedia the equation became the basis for the science of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. (S.E.T.I.) Sagan and Schlovskii put some "conservative" figures into the equation and came up with the prediction that there are about 100,000 advanced civilisations in our Galaxy.

    I'm depressed because if I can't find a job I will have to go back to England at the end of June. At the end of my book. The 24th. Three days after Summer Solstice. I will have been once round the sun since I arrived at the campsite in the Bois de Boulogne and parked my tent next to that of Ange, who I had remembered from the previous year and who I had guessed would be there. My character is supposed to have an arc but it looks as if I will just have gone round in a circle.


    Pimprenelle

    I've given up the American Medical Association's "Pyramid Diet". The base layer of the Pyramid is cereals, the next layer up fruit and vegetables, the next nuts and pulses, the next dairy products and eggs and the little triangle at the top, meat and fish. But I just find meat and fish too unpleasant to eat now. It makes me wonder if the American Medical Association originally intended to tell Americans to become vegetarians but remembered this was America, land of the Free! (And the 72 ounce steak.)

    Corbeille d'or

    A while ago, I e-mailed my sister and brother to ask them to send my new bank debit card to my address here in Paris. They didn't reply. I think they've disowned me. However, when I was in London, I went to the bank and got my address changed. But I guess that's the end of the family That's fine. The only problem is, if Leonard Cohen is right, now I have to start contemplating my soul. So I'm grateful to the likes of Goethe whose Faust clearly shows it is alright for an intellectual to have a troubled soul. In case you're worried that I'm an evil person just ask yourselves why would highly-evolved aliens stay in telepathic contact with me for twenty-two years if I was evil? Oh! That's right. You probably don't believe they are in telepathic contact with me.

    One of the things that most troubles my soul is whether I actually have a soul. From a scientific point of view, Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff's theory that consciousness is the orchestrated collapse of the quantum wave function in brain cell structures called microtubules is plausible. Microtubules contain a protein called, unsurprisingly, tubulin, which is, according to Penrose and Hameroff, light enough to be in quantum superposition for a significant period of time. There's no soul or immortality there. Except perhaps hidden in what Jim Morrison called "molecular structures".

    I wonder if the aliens are "immortal". (She, he, it, they or whatever nod my head vigorously at this point. This does not necessarily mean yes they are immortal. I know from previous experience that it could mean for example: "Yes. We bet you do wonder if we're immortal!"). So I ask again if, joking aside, they are immortal. She nods my head again, peremptorily. As if to say: "Yes. But let's not dwell on that!" And anyway, as I also know from previous experience, she could be lying. Still, I ask her one final time if they really are immortal and she replies: "Yes." Make of that what you will.

    Arroche

    On his website, Hameroff cites physical evidence that corroborates Penrose and Hameroff's theory of consciousness. Brain scans of the take-up of psychotropic substances (substances such as cannabis, lysergic acid, magic mushrooms etc) show that they preferentially align along microtubules.

    Sarcloir

    My landlord is Francois Aelion, a writer and teacher on the subject of the management of small businesses. Some time ago, a consignment of 500 or so copies of his book arrived at the apartment. I expressed an interest in the book and he kindly gave me a copy. The only problem is, as a life-long bohemian, I now have to read a read a 400 page manual on management techniques.

    This morning I was thinking about Norman Tebbit. He was a Cabinet minister in the government of Margaret Thatcher. Famously in 1984, the provisional IRA exploded a bomb in the hotel Thatcher and her Cabinet were staying in in Brighton for the annual Party conference. Five people were killed and Tebbit's wife permanently disabled. I read in Wikipedia that the bomber planted the bomb by checking into the hotel a few weeks before the conference under a false name and building the bomb under the bath in his room. Al- Qaeda must look at that and think it would be the Western security of their dreams.

    But that wasn't why I was thinking of Norman Tebbit. It's because of his famous comment that when his dad was unemployed during the recession of the 1930s he "got on his bike" to look for work. I did a variation that on Monday. I walked to a restaurant that had advertised a vacancy for a dishwasher through the Pole Emploi. Unlike most of the vacancies, you didn't apply online but had to go to the restaurant to introduce yourself. Unfortunately, when I got to the restaurant it was closed for the afternoon. It had been a long walk too because first I had walked to the internet cafe "Milk" in Boulevard de Sebastopol to print a copy of my cv. When I finally got back to the apartment, I was exhausted. I decided, apologies to Norman Tebbit, in future to stick to online applications.

    Update: I have just received a telephone call from a company inviting me for an interview for a cleaning job next week.




    Statice

    This morning there was a debate on BBC Radio Four's "Today" programme about social care. It looks like the social care lobby has found David Cameron's Achilles heel. His dependence on playing to the gallery. In fact, in Cameron's case, it's not just his heel, it's his foot, his leg, his mid-regions, his head, the entire entity. So he will have to respond as the caring Conservative.

    The question is what do we do when we get too old to look after ourselves? One of the guests on the programme was a researcher who gave an example of how bad residential care could be. They had found that one old woman had been left in her wheelchair as workmen worked around her and when eventually she had been found she was covered in sawdust. I think it was the other guest who then pointed out that Cameron had said that, in these times of austerity, he still wanted to support the family and, the guest pointed out, old people are part of the family.

    Should we support the family more? Should we abolish State care? The answer's obvious. We should abolish the family.

    Bourrache

    Whilst I was still in the talking to the crystal stage of my contact with the aliens, I hit upon the idea of doing a sort of comedy act called The Crystal Man. I even did a gig as the support act for Alan Davies. I was terrible. At least I thought I was terrible and the audience thought I was terrible. Later, I moved on to the aliens nodding my head for yes and shaking it for no. I think it's that way round but as I say, I also suspect them of being a bit like Ken Kesey's "Merry Pranksters" distributing orange juice spiked with LSD at rock festivals. Anyway, then I devised another idea for a script: a guy who, after some sort of accident involving a blow to the head, starts to believe aliens are in telepathic contact with him. I wrote a synopsis and sent it to comedy impresario, Ned Sherrin at the BBC. A few days later, I got a short, handwritten note from him saying he loved the script and his producer would DEFINITELY be getting in touch with me. A couple of weeks later, I still hadn't heard anything, so I wrote a polite letter to Ned Sherrin's producer, Ian Gardhouse, asking him why I hadn't heard from them. In his reply he asked me to assure him my script wasn't a cruel joke. I wrote back saying "Alright! I admit it. I'm a contactee." His next reply was a request that I go away as he was sure I would not want to become a nuisance. That was our last contact.


    Valeriane

    The demographic of BBC Radio Four listeners is people who write angry letters about people throwing litter out of cars but not angry letters about cars. Last night I listened to Radio Four's "Any Questions", a panel show in which a panel of invited pundits comment on the news of the day at a local public venue with a local public audience and presented by Jonathan Dimbleby. This is not to be confused with "Question Time" which is on television and is presented by David Dimbleby who is Jonathan Dimbleby's brother. Neither of these is to be confused with famous BBC broadcaster Richard Dimbleby who was their dad. I've known about the Dimbleby dynasty since I was a kid. Except of course, they're not a dynasty. They're a family.

    One of the pundits on the show was Mary Creagh, a new Labour MP. That's not a New Labour MP. It's just she's new and she's Labour. It's a bit like the distinction in France between the old, factory-style baguettes that you can still buy and the new ones that are in an artesan style. So you can either have a new traditional baguette or a traditional new one.

    Carpe

    The Bishop of Norwich was on the Godslot on Radio Four this morning. He's been keeping an audio diary of his experience of living on one pound a day which is a current church third world charity campaign.

    The Bible says let she who is without sin cast the first stone. The trouble is what the bishop's doing is not good enough. Without wanting to sound self-righteous, I should know. I was stuck in Morocco once. My benefit was paid into my bank account. I would go to the hole in the wall in Tangiers then one day, it refused to pay out. I figured my benefit had been stopped. By then I'd been a contactee for over ten years so my life was at rock bottom. I had no friends. No home. No sense that things might get better. Although Morocco was interesting. But I wouldn't want to live there. I much prefer Paris. Mind you, so do a considerable proportion of Arabs.

    So there I was in Tangiers, no money, even to buy a return ticket to England. It suddenly struck me I might be stuck in Morocco forever. Not five days. How would I live? In an instant I saw the gulf between my comfortable Aneuran Bevanland of social security from cradle to grave and life in Morocco. My state of panic was acute. I was thinking desperate things like maybe the aliens will get me out of here with a flying saucer. The fact was I was completely stuck, all on my own, with no hope whatsoever. So I did the only thing I could do. And the next morning, I went to Western Union and picked up an amount of money that had been sent by my mother.

    Fusain

    On the Today programme this morning, there was a spokesperson for Humanrightswatch who have been investigating civilian casualties from the NATO bombings in Libya last year. The NATO spokesperson said they were only to happy to co-operate. I can imagine.

    "Human Rights Embargo"

    FX: Knock on door.

    NATO CHIEF: Come in!

    FX: Man being dragged into room.

    JENKINS: It's the visitor, Sir!

    CHIEF: Ah! Hello. May I say how happy I am to welcome you here?

    HRWATCH: (recovering) Thanks. Did you have to waterboard me first?

    CHIEF: Sorry yes! You might have been a member of al-Qaeda.

    HRWATCH: I'm from Humanrightswatch.

    CHIEF: al-Qaeda. Humanrightswatch. We have to check you all. Anyway what did you want to see us about?

    HRWATCH: The civilian casualties in the NATO bombing of Libya last year.

    CHIEF: You have to remember Nato had a strict mandate of no troops on the ground.

    HRWATCH: Our researchers found a total of 72 civilian deaths from the bombings. Why didn't you send someone to investigate?

    CHIEF: As I say, we had a strict mandate of no troops on the ground.

    HRWATCH: But NATO bombs killed civilians. Should you not go and find out what happened, apologise, maybe offer compensation?

    CHIEF: We have a responsibility to protect our troops. We couldn't send them just like that into the kind of areas your human rights researchers did their research.

    HRWATCH: Do you at least accept that NATO has a moral responsibility to Libya?

    CHIEF: Absolutely. After all, at the end of the day both NATO and the Arab peoples want the same thing.

    HRWATCH: What's that?

    CHIEF: The oil.

    HRWATCH: Well we human rights activists see this as a fundamental issue for human rights.

    CHIEF: We understand that.

    HRWATCH: So how do you intend to respond?

    CHIEF: Jenkins? Show our visitor the exit.

    JENKINS: Certainly. This way Sir.

    FX: Sound of window being opened. Humanrightswatch guy thrown out of window. Screams

    JENKINS: I think he landed on someone at the bottom.

    CHIEF: Better close the window then. We don't want to have to pay a claim for compensation. Ha! Ha!

    JENKINS: Ha! Ha!

    END.


    Civette

    Morocco is being advertised in France as a tourist destination. I find this surprising. The first time you arrive on the ferry from Spain you realise why so many try to sneak on the ferry to Spain.

    Radio Four's Nicholas Parsons received a Sony radio award last night for 45 years as chairman of "Just A Minute", a comedy show in which guests have to speak about a subject for 60 seconds without hesitation, deviation or repetition. In accepting the award, Parsons spoke about his gratitude to his fellow professionals for giving him the award but didn't speak for 60 seconds without hestitation, deviation or repetition.

    In the old days, the star of Just A Minute was Kenneth Williams, who I once read wouldn't let visitors to his house use his toilet but would send them to the nearest public toilets. His replacement on Just A Minute was Paul Merton. I don't know if Merton has the same fetish about toilets.


    Buglosse

    I did a university degree in the nineteen-seventies. I can still remember the long hours spent and kilometres walked along library shelves looking for that reference. These days of course a Google search would find it in microseconds.

    Seneve

    New French President Francois Hollande has got off to a good start. He's been able to pick a cabinet of about 50 loyalists. All Tony Blair and Gordon Brown had was Jack Straw.

    Houlette

    Originally I showed promise as an artist. When I was a toddler still sleeping in a cot, I independently discovered oil painting. The oil I used was my faeces. The canvas was the wall next to my cot. Over a period of time long enough for several layers of poo to dry I carried on applying new layers to my masterpiece. I remember I was unhappy. It was like a kind of shell-shock. I felt numb, as if drained of emotion, a bit like the Vietnam veteran I was introduced to me in a bar in Chicago in 1979. The girls introduced me (and my mate Richard) to the guy who was staring as if into empty space. He carried on staring as if into empty space.

    I think it was because my mother had rejected me. I guess that's where the psycho thing comes from. I mean it's gutting when you get dumped by a girl but when it's your own mother?...The funny thing is I also have a memory of my father coming into the bedroom with my mother one day when I was in my cot next to my work of art. He, as I remember, said to my mother that maybe they should take me to see a psychiatrist. It seems to me that in that moment, I suddenly felt an awful lot better. There was someone who cared about me. Last year, my psychiatrist suggested it may be a false memory because as a toddler still sleeping in a cot, I wouldn't have the language to understand something like that. However, more recently, research results have been published which show that children understand more language than they speak.

    Prairial, Luzerne

    After that I seemed to grow up as a normal boy. I remember for example the classic thing of hiding under the blanket in bed with a radio to listen to the cricket Test Match between Australia and England. Now as I look back as a worldly-wise, world-weary adult, the funny thing is I still hide under the blanket in bed with a radio to listen to the cricket Test Match between Australia and England.

    I had my first friend when I was six in Stockton-on-Tees. I didn’t want to be his friend but he had a Bowie knife and had co-opted me. On one occasion he got me to bring my four year-old sister along too. I tried to have as little as possible to do with my sister and I didn’t know why he saw things differently. He took us to an isolated area and then got out his Bowie knife and told my sister to take down her knickers, threatening me with the knife at the same time. My sister took down her knickers and I saw the thing that was going to save her. My mother had rejected my sister the same way she had rejected me. One of my sister’s abreactions was to poo her knickers. My friend was put off carrying out his designs.

    I'm out of synch with the French Republican Calendar again.


    So let's just say it's still the first day of Prairial. (It's actually a day later now but I ask you to bear with me because otherwise I'll have to go back and change all the days again.)

    I forgot to say that I listened to the Test Match in Test Match Special on BBC radio. I also forgot to say it was a transistor radio. You maybe had an image of me with one of those big old valve radios under my bedblankets.

    I say that one of my sister's responses to my mother's rejection was to poo her pants. So in fairness to her, I should point out that one of my responses to my mother's rejection was to wet the bed. In fact, I didn't stop wetting the bed until I was 12. And I only stopped then because I was worried girls would be put off by the smell of urine.

    Hemerocalle

    I’ve been through some low times as Virgil has escorted me on my journey through Heaven and Hell. Sorry! I mean the aliens. I sometimes think she is like Virgil in Dante’s “Divine Comedy” and I’m Dante.

    In Moorside there was a girl who called sperm “tattywatter”. This was because Moorside is near Consett and they speak with a Geordie accent in Consett and tatty is Geordie for potato and watter is Geordie for water. Moorside was a council estate with a big problem of heroin addiction, like in one of those movies except too small and provincial to be in a movie. I lived there once. I must remind myself of that every time I get irritated about the overcrowding on the Paris Metro. I can’t remember the girl’s name now. She was 15, maybe 16, maybe 14. A heavy build. She was already colouring her hair. Some cheap peroxide rinse or other. “God gives ye one face and ye make yourselves another ” says Hamlet to Ophelia. But you have to admit, she has a point about the “tattywatter”.



    Trefle

    My alien says I can call her Virgil (she says she's happy to be called Virgil and also she's happy to be called female.) (In fact, I imagine I have for my 24/7/365 contact a whole team of case workers who hate it when they have to do a sleepover.)

    For the first ten years of my tour of Hell with Virgil we stayed in London. I lived on a housing estate in South London not far from the one in last year's comedy sci-fi movie "Attack The Block!" In this movie a South London Housing Estate is invaded by aliens who are half-way between dogs and monkeys on the evolutionary scale and yet who have somehow developed the technology of interstellar travel. My guess is that it was some people from a housing estate who made the movie. They probably hadn't spotted the contradiction. I reckon they probably had already done the alien landing scenes before someone realised that it was hardly likely that a species that was half-way between a dog and a monkey on the evolutionary scale would have developed the technology of interstellar travel.

    Angelique

    It's well-known that the biggest danger of living on a housing estate is gangs. What is not so well-known is that the most dangerous gangs are the gangs of pre-teen girls. The pre-teen girls on my estate were so sexualised they made Linda Lovelace look like Mary Whitehouse. So if I was Dante and my alien is Virgil, I was in the first circle of Hell and like in Dante's poem, it was uncannily like planet Earth.

    Then Virgil took me to the second circle of Hell. O.K. I legged it. But it was definitely the second circle of Hell. It was my mother's. Back in Consett. My stepfather was there and still in prime knock-you-into-the-middle-of-next-week form. My mother was still fit and healthy too although by now 24/7 bedridden. So being bedridden (even though healthy enough to take up jogging) my mother relied upon my sister as her full-time carer. This was difficult for my sister who also had a full-time job. And I don't just mean cooking. cleaning, washing and so on for my stepfather. She had another full-time job as chef in a factory canteen. As you can see, there's an important feminist issue here. Why had my sister come back to Consett after a year in London? Why had she stayed there for twenty years as a drudge?

    My lawyers have asked me to point out that I didn't leg it from the South London housing estate because of the pre-teen girls. Of course not. It was because of the adults. If there's one thing the paedophilia issue has brought out it's the continued presence in society of people who need no excuse to form a hanging posse. Nazis you see hate themselves so much they can't can't find happiness except through picking on someone. Anders Breivig is a good example of a Nazi who hates himself. He could only find "fulfillment" through his killing spree.

    Sorry! Which circle of Hell was I at? Oh yes. Just two. I was at my mother's. It was horrendous. My mother was a Nazi. My stepfather was a Nazi. He even had a letter from the leader of the National Front which he kept folded up in his wallet, like a love letter. Eventually I found a way out. The Park Majestic Hotel. Or as we can now call it, the Third Circle of Hell. It had originally been founded by the Consett Iron Company in the nineteenth century as accommodation for university graduate employees of the Iron Company.

    It's fair to say it had declined by the time I got a room there. It had become the place you went when you'd been kicked out by the white trash. One day, after i had been there for a few weeks I noticed a had a hole in my left arm. an open wound, about half a centimetre deep that took months to heal. I wondered if it might have been an extremely large spider. The food was revolting. The cook did her best but the ingredients she was working with just produced an unpleasant slop. Half the guys there were junkies who didn't eat and the rest were just out of prison, so for them the food may have been an improvement.

    From here, Virgil and I moved again. Not as you might imagine to the fourth circle of Hell but to Alan and Barbara's Derwent Vista Hotel. This was just round the corner from the Majestic but it might have been a different planet. Barbara cooked fresh breakfasts and dinners for us every day and even catered for me as a vegetarian. I had met Alan in the local pub. Once he found out I was in the Majestic, he quickly offered me a room in the Vista. Alan was an ex-Rugby player and therefore a very affable person. I suppose they get rid of their aggression on the pitch.

    The Vista was for me an oasis in the nine circles of Hell, if that isn't mixing metaphors which it is actually but what the heck?! After all, if I'm entirely honest, things sort of got better steadily from here onwards, so I'm going to struggle to find nine circles of Hell to correspond with the nine circles of Hell Dante describes in The Inferno anyway.

    Canard

    I told you the Vista wasn't the fourth circle of Hell. It turned out out I was wrong. It's not that there was demonic stuff like I don't know, say ghouls suddenly appearing out of nowhere then just as fast, disappearing again. Well apart from Wynn Moss. He moved into the next room to me. After he'd been there a couple of days, I was lying on my bed in my room and I heard him thrashing about in his room. I went to find out if he was alright. I shouted through his door. He didn't reply. "It sounded like you being abducted by aliens", I joked. Again he didn't reply. The next morning, when I went into the bathroom, there was blood all over the place. It was later the next day that his body was found hanging from a tree in Consett Park.

    But it wasn't anything like that that made it the fourth circle of Hell. It was more like the hell in Jean-Paul Sartres "Huis Clos". The door was locked at midnight. So I decided to try and find somewhere in Newcastle, the only place nearby that passed for a city. But look! Let's be honest. I was still essentially homeless. And what do you do when you are homeless? You go to Shelter. As in the housing charity, Shelter. So what did I do? Well I didn't go to Shelter. I sometimes think that one of the main reasons why there's so much homelessness is that most homeless people don't know that when you are homeless, you should go to Shelter.

    However, I did go for a wander inside St Andrew's Church in Newcastle where I spotted a poster for Shelter. Shelter told me I should apply to a housing association but I was in a hurry so they gave me a list of private landlords who accepted benefit claimants. You will not be surprised to know that about a year later I went back and asked for the list of housing associations. But that was after the fifth and sixth circles of Hell.

    Melisse

    The fifth circle of Hell was Walker. This is in the East End of Newcastle. It used to produce ocean-going ships but now the area is only known for producing footballers. The benefit claimant's flat that I got was on Walker Rd. The front door was a solid metal security door. The living room window looked out on Walker Rd. The blinds could be closed, half-closed or open. One person down the road had abandoned the blinds and even in the evening, with the lights on, left them open. Their interior was on open display. In my living room there was, on my arrival I should stress, a picture on the wall of a little boy kissing a little girl. It was one of those "kitsch" pictures that were common back in the days of Mateus Rose and chicken-in-a-basket. But now it seemed to have a more sinister aspect. Frequently at night, there would be a loud banging on the metal security door. My front window would be easy to break if someone outside wanted to get in. Eventually, I expressed my anxieties to the "agent for the owner" who then offered me a room in a house he owned in Newcastle itself. On Westgate Hill near the Opera House. This was the sixth Circle Of Hell.

    The room was fine. The only problem was one of my fellow tenants. He was friendly with me at first. He revealed he had a heart condition. He asked me one day if he could borrow my keys for an hour or so and he gave me some excuse which I was naive enough to believe. When he eventually gave my keys back to me I wouldn't have thought anything but then I noticed that the keys were on the keyring in the wrong order. I realised he must have taken one off to have it copied then had put it back on again in the wrong order.

    I challenged him and he denied it. Well in situations like that you have to decide and act so later I packed my rucksack and legged it. I left him the television and the remote. But I locked it with a pin number. And wherever he is today, I hope his heart condition got worse.



    Fromental

    The new leader of the International Monetary Front sorry I mean Fund is former French Tory, Christine Lagarde. The other candidate was Gordon Brown. Today she said she worries about the children of Africa. I worry about her. I've seen her photo. A suit. Decades of overuse of chemicals in her hair. First World Poverty.

    Martagon

    For the Seventh Circle of Hell I was back at my mother's. My stepfather was dying then. A combination of tuberculosis and lung cancer. He was still fit enough to beat me into a pulp, which he threatened to do one night. So I made my excuses and went to Morocco. The Eighth Circle of Hell. Or to give it it's official title: The Third World. I managed to stay there three months thanks to a favourable exchange rate known as colonialism and when I came back he was too weak from the cancer and TB to beat me up. He died in bed, next to my mother. She turned her back on him. Looked away until the ambulance personnel had taken away the body, like an empty milk bottle.

    I was sometime around this time I moved to the nineth circle of Hell. I had gone back to Shelter in Newcastle and they had given me the list of Housing Associations. I applied to a few and Places For People came to my rescue. Their housing officer came to the house in Consett to check me out and in no time I had a flat on their estate in Ryton, Northumberland. It was the Nineth Circle Of Hell because the estate was run by the "Chavs". I think the term originally means "naughty girl" in Spanish so it could for example refer to the significant percentage of pre-teen Linda Lovelaces of this world. But in general the term has come to refer to indisciplined, usually lower-class youth. Basically, the kids had gone wild, getting up to all kinds of mad tricks. One kid had hidden in a tree with a crossbow and had shot an enemy in the eye. Why the kids were so crazy I have no idea. Mind you, it was the back end of beyond. Then for some reason or other, I became a target. One day I came back to the flat to find the lower front door window had been kicked in. I got into the house and then hid there all day and all night until at dawn the next morning I legged it to the Tenth Circle of Hell.

    "Hang on!" you're saying. In Dante's poem, there are only nine circles of Hell. True. But that's a poem. This is real life and in real life there are a lot more circles of Hell than that.

    Serpolet

    So it was on to the Tenth Circle of Hell. Not immediately although that didn’t make much difference as in the interim I went back to my mother’s. I can’t remember the sequence of events now. Eventually I moved to the Tenth Circle Of Hell. Eventually, my mother died. I was reminded of her this morning. The Today programme reported The Queen is releasing a music single, written by Gary Barlow and Andrew Lloyd –Webber. Prince Harry plays tambourine on it. I remembered my sixteenth birthday present from my mother and father. My mother had been a singer in the night clubs of the North-East. She had a lot of musician friends. So my present was a drum kit. Pioneer. Of course. Three drums. Hi-hat. A crash on the bass drum and a standing crash. Pound for pound, the best birthday present ever.

    Also thrown in was an apprenticeship under Norman, a drummer in a trio who played in a local club at the week-ends. I would sit next to him at the week- ends, watching him drum with the other two musicians. One was a pianist. I seem to remember his name was Stan. The other guy played bass guitar or trumpet according to the piece. Norman had been drummer in the Ted Heath Orchestra. I learned the traditional popular music of the day. The quick step, the fox trot, the waltz and a number of novelty beats such as salsa and the twist. So it wasn’t that much different from today, really.


    Faux

    I guess we are the sum of our motivations and our opportunites. Or should that be product? My maths are terrible. But at least I say are terrible.

    The Eleventh Circle of Hell, hmm...moving further into the region of the Hell Manifold: X<102 ,I was rehoused by North British Housing Assoiciation again and I arrived at the Crown Complex in Grainger Town, in the centre of Newcastle. It had been built in the eighties and like Bernard Rogers iconic Centre Pompidou, had all its utility pipes: water, gas, electricity and sewage on show. Indeed on one occasion we went one better than that. My neighbour had taken to breaking compact discs and flushing them down the sink. Actually, it's more complicated than that. There were other things such as some sort of plastic tape but I could recognise the compact discs. As a result, the waste water from the floors above had backed up and eventually one day, it had come up through my sink into my kitchen and then into the livng room.

    Luckily it was just waste kitchen and bathroom water. The sewage was a separate system. But Norman and Trevor and the others all had to get stuck into opening up the waste water pipe in the underground garage. I watched as they opened it up and revealed the congealed mass of broken compact discs, some sort of plastic tape, and other stuff. After that, it took weeks for the waste water that had soaked my living room carpet to dry out. The only blessing was at least the water was probably cleaner than the stuff that kills the kids in the Third World.



    Fraise

    The girl who flushed the compact discs and plastic tape and stuff down the sink was a junkie. And she had some nasty friends too. I talked to her a few times. I was a social worker. The first thing I noticed about her was her pathological lack of self-esteem. The second thing I noticed was her mother. I wish I had five euros for every time I’ve encountered a pathologically damaged individual and their mother turned out to be a cross between Eva Braun and Attila the Hun.

    Opposite me, my neighbour was a Geordie ex-boxer. You don’t want to get into an argument with a Geordie ex-boxer but I did. I quickly regretted it as I was threatened with being beaten to a pulp. But I made a grovelling apology and she let me off. Then she took a gay lover. I heard them having sex once. It sounded quite nice.

    Another neighbour in the block was a Scot from Glasgow. But I only ever saw him during pub closing hours. (And he usually didn’t seem to see me.)

    There is an on-going Parliamentary Inquiry in the U.K. by Lord Leveson into the alleged excessive political power of Rupert Murdoch's "News International" which publishes the Sun, the newspaper famous for its "Page 3 girls". News International deny the allegations although apparently next week Lord Leveson is being replaced by Amanda, aged 21, 36-24-36.


    Betoine

    I was awarded incapacity benefit on the grounds that I claimed to believe that extraterrestrials were in telepathic contact with me. This was interpreted by the doctors as schizophrenia, confirmed by a scan of my brain which showed an asymmetry in my basal ganglia. I wonder if the aliens arrive I will have to pay back the incapacity benefit. Actually of course, I’ve got a good case for compensation. You may think that I live in the “gentle but flaky world of the ufo contactee”. But look at it from the other point of view: would you like to be known as the doctor who interpreted a genuine telepathic contact with an extraterrestrial species as the irrational by-product of an asymmetry in the basal ganglia? The Reverend Casaubon springs to mind. He is a character in Eliot’s “Middlemarch”. (That’s George Eliot, not T.S. Eliot, in case you were wondering): a repressed cleric who compensates by dedicating his life to writing a book on theology which will unite the strands into a sort of City of God. Eliot’s heroine is Dorothea. I myself offer no comment on any one woman or women in general but Dorothea falls in love with Casaubon.


    Pois

    It's some Jubilee or other of "the Queen" in the U.K. right now. Quakers are allowed to call "the Queen", Elizabeth Windsor. This is because Quakers fought for the right not to recognise such human hierarchies. As Wikipedia says, it was not that the Quakers disrespected authority but rather "ego". So to be quite honest, Elizabeth Windsor reminds me of no-one so much as my mother and father's neighbour, Marjorie, in Consett. I'm convinced that Marjorie could have earned a living as a Queen-look-alike. We moved to Consett in the third year of the decade between the fifties and the seventies. Marjorie's husband, Keith was an employee at the company my dad worked for, Thomas Swann and Co. Originally my father had worked for Thomas Swann in Stockton in the fifties. But then it had been called E.M. Chemicals. They had changed their name. Like Windscale. Or the polytechnics.

    I actually went to two Quaker meetings. There's none of the usual paraphernalia of religion. No preacher. No hymns. No fancy architecture, stained glass windows and other razmatazz. Everyone sits together facing into the centre of the room where there is a table with one, maybe two books on the table. I'm not sure if the bible is obligatory. The idea is to sit in silence for an hour and only speak if the spirit moves you. I think it's meant to contrast significantly with normal life. Mind you, I've just been reading in Wikipedia about schisms in the movment so I hope there aren't places where you only speak when the spirit moves you or if it really, really, really is a salacious piece of gossip.

    So having been to two Quaker meetings, I could call myself what the Quakers, sorry, I mean the Society of Friends (which Wikipedia pointed out was Voltaire's favourite name for them) call "an attender". But I don't know whether that entitles me to call "the Queen" Elizabeth Windsor. Mind you, I also quite liked The Sex Pistols and I don't know whether that entitles me to claim the Queen isn't a human being. Maybe I should just stick at thinking how much she reminds me of Marjorie. I think that's probably the spirit of the Quakers' idea.



    Acacia

    I have always been a fan of Thought For Today" on the Today programme on Radio Four. Someone from some religion or other interrupts the programme for a couple of minutes with a short sermon which comments on a contemporary news issue. I don't enjoy it because I'm religious. I'm not religious. To me the universe is a complete mystery and since the age of 13, I've found all arguments in favour of religion to be entirely fatuous. It seems to be based more on a need to belong to some group or other than theological insight. It reminds me of a song that was played on the old BBC radio programme, "Family Favourites" in the fifties and the decade after that. (Family Favourites was on the old "Light Programme" which became "Radio Two" and is now "Alliance and Leicester Building Society Easy Radio".) The song, sung by Danny Kaye, is about a King who is fooled by some salesmen into buying a suit that is made of material so fine, you can't even see it. He puts it on and parades before the people. No-one dares to point out he is naked except for one boy who doesn't know the rules of protocol. He starts chanting "The King is in the altogether!" So the reason why I enjoy Thought For Today is that it is alway hilarious to listen to the latest attempt to describe the exquisiteness of the King's suit.

    My political evolution started at the age of 11. I knew who I was going to vote for before I knew about sex. There was a class in school a year later about how rabbit babies grew in their mummies’ tummies but that was about it. I knew about masturbation of course but I didn’t know that had anything to do with sex. However, I knew who I was going to vote for.

    That’s because my father was a Tory. At home he read the Daily Telegraph, whose nickname is the "Torygraph". So I was a Tory too. And finally, one day at school, I got to have my say when a spontaneous political debate broke out in class during breaktime. I passionately declared my devotion to the Conservative Party. Unfortunately, Consett Grammar School’s catchment area was, I think, more working class than some Grammar Schools with a consequence that a higher than usual proportion of the pupils were Labour supporters. My classmates, to my astonishment, expressed a passionate support for the Labour Party and ably demonstrated my arguments to be a shallow pose. I’ve been a Labour supporter ever since.






    Caille

    I remember Billy and Davey at the Vista. They were quite happy living in an anonymous hostel in Consett with no ambition in life it seemed other than to get out of their heads every day using a contraption which they called a “lung”. This was a sawn-off plastic coca cola bottle with a plastic bag sealed round the hole where the bottom had been sawn off. In the top of the coke bottle was a device which held cannabis resin. By lighting the resin with a lighter and pulling on the bag, the bottle filled with a dense, swirling cloud of cannabis smoke. After that you inhale the smoke and sit there with it in your lungs for as long as possible, like the opening of “Attack The Block!” where the two guys are sitting on a sofa, apparently just staring into space, then after about thirty seconds, they both breathe out. It figures actually. As I say, in the movie, the aliens are half way between dogs and monkeys on the evolutionary scale and yet have somehow become capable of star travel. And indeed, now I remember it, they don’t even land in spaceships. They just land. Before I thought maybe if the guys who made the movie were from a housing estate themselves they maybe just didn’t have sufficient education to realise that such primitive life-forms would not have been capable of such a thing. But maybe there’s another explanation. Maybe the guys who made “Attack The Block!” are druggies, like Billy and Davey, and when they wrote the script they were stoned


    Scene: Two men sitting on sofa, staring into space. After thirty seconds, they breathe out.

    DIRECTOR: Not bad.

    WRITER: It’s Skunk.

    DIRECTOR: Skunk?! The stuff that’s extra strong and can lead to serious permanent mental damage?

    WRITER: Yeah.

    DIRECTOR: Great! Let’s have another!

    WRITER: What about the script?

    DIRECTOR: Oh yeah. Wow! This stuff even makes you forget you’ve been writing a script for the past six months. O.K. So what have we got so far?

    WRITER: (Looking at various bits of paper) “Aliens invade a housing estate”.

    DIRECTOR: Oh. O.K. So what do the aliens look like?

    WRITER: How should I know?

    DIRECTOR: You’re the writer.

    WRITER: Oh. I see. Well I imagine them being like really weird and scary man, like nothing you’ve ever seen before with sharp teeth and they just go around attacking everyone.

    DIRECTOR: What? Like the attack dogs on the Estate?

    WRITER: Er..yeah.

    DIRECTOR: I love it!

    WRITER: Yeah! Anyway, so they come to Earth and -

    DIRECTOR: How do they come to Earth?

    WRITER: Through space.

    DIRECTOR: Oh.

    WRITER: And then they land on Earth.

    DIRECTOR: How do they land on Earth?

    WRITER: Well they’re dogs aren’t they. They land on four legs. Then when they get to the Housing Estate they climb up the outsides of the tower blocks to get in.

    DIRECTOR: I love it! Let’s have some more skunk!




    Oeillet

    I walked to St. Germain on Saturday. The temperature reached 97.8 on the assometer.

    Sureau


    Scene: Two men sitting on sofa, staring into space. After thirty seconds, they breathe out.

    DIRECTOR: Not bad.

    WRITER: It’s Skunk.

    DIRECTOR: Skunk?! The stuff that’s extra strong and can lead to serious permanent mental damage?

    WRITER: Yeah.

    DIRECTOR: Great! Let’s have another!

    WRITER: What about the script?

    DIRECTOR: Oh yeah. Wow! This stuff even makes you forget you’ve been writing a script for the past six months. O.K. So what have we got so far?

    WRITER: (Looking at various bits of paper) “Aliens invade a housing estate”.

    DIRECTOR: Oh. O.K. So what do the aliens look like?

    WRITER: Er..I imagine them being like really weird and scary. They’re like nothing you’ve ever seen before with sharp teeth and ready to attack anything on sight.

    DIRECTOR: What? Like the dogs on the estate?

    WRITER: Er..yeah. Anyway, so they come to Earth and get into the tower blocks by climbing up the outsides.

    DIRECTOR: That’s stupid!

    WRITER: Why?

    DIRECTOR: Everyone knows the entryphone’s broken and you can just walk in. Anyway, so what happens after that?

    WRITER: Er..the Estate fights back and they beat the aliens.

    DIRECTOR: That’s a fantasy!

    WRITER: No. Listen! At first the Estate is a typical estate. An atmosphere of fear dominates. No-one trusts anyone. There’s gang warfare. Drugs. Prostitution. But for once, because of the alien attack the Estate becomes united.

    DIRECTOR: That’s what I’m saying. It’s a fantasy.

    WRITER: That’s the point. It’s a fantasy to help people escape from reality for a couple of hours. My dog creatures aren’t real.

    A scratching sound at door.

    DIRECTOR: What’s that scratching sound?

    WRITER: Dunno. Sounds like it’s coming from outside the front door. (Goes to door. Opens it.)

    Oh! It’s Tyson. The Staffordshire Bull Terrier from next door. Hello, Tyson boy! Tyson?! Aaaaaarrrrrrrgggggghhhhhhhh!

    Tyson mauls Director and Writer to death.

    Pavot

    On the Today programme yesterday, presenter Evan Davis introduced what he said was becoming the daily Today programme update on Brain Research. The research in question using brain scans of active brains shows that depressed people often have associations of guilt in relation to their depression. However the researcher Davis interviewed said that it may be possible to train yourself out of that way of thinking. It seems science can even cure John Bunyan’s “The Slough Of Despond”!

    They certainly couldn’t cure me of my belief that extraterrestrials were in telepathic contact with me. If there’s one thing I felt principled about it was defending my belief. I steadfastly refused to take medication until I found out it meant you could lose your incapacity benefit. I’m surprised the State is allowed to get away with tricks like that. Anyway, I knew I could just pretend to take the medication.


    Tilleul

    The new French cabinet is 50% women. One of its members, Cecile Duflot, has caused “une scandale”. Of course “scandales” are to France as coals are to Newcastle but she said on TV that cannabis is no more dangerous than alcohol. Ayrault, the Prime Minister (male) has said it is not government policy to legalise cannabis. The cartoonist Plantu (male) in Le Monde depicts a meeting attended by Duflot, with a cannabis plant next to her and a spliff in her mouth, some trade unionists (male) who wonder if she’s been smoking the carpet and a red-cheeked, nervous President Francois Hollande (male) who at the same time as being red-cheeked and nervous is also completely hapless.


    Fourche

    Just after I tell you The Archers is not one of those sensational soap operas, a new editor has taken over who wants more dramatic storylines. I guess while The Archers is “an everyday story of countryfolk”, for the people who make the programme, theirs is more a story of everyday cityfolk.

    The Stone Roses have just done a comeback gig. (They weren’t going to but then they saw everybody else was.)



    Barbeau

    Fans of BBC Radio Four soap opera "The Archers" are writing angry e-mails and letters about the changes to the characters' stories that are being brought in by the new editor. What I find ironic is that I was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic for believing that extraterrestrials are in telepathic contact with me yet people can write e-mails and letters about characters who we know for a fact are imaginary yet nobody suggests that those e-mailers and letter-writers are paranoid schizophrenics.

    Camomille

    It was pleasing to hear that Germany’s leader, Angela Merckel was a physicist. I too have a degree in Physics. Mine is with the Open University in the U.K. Open University students are the typical “anoraks”, working during the day and buried in their books at night while their friends are out having fun. It’s hard to think of a more pathetic example of nerdishness . Mind you, we are the only University to put a spaceship on Mars.

    Actually, I haven’t graduated. But then neither did Fred Hoyle apparently. He was probably Britain’s greatest ever physicist. Ironically he was an astronomer who didn’t like physicists. He thought the “Big Bang” theory of the origin of the Universe (invented by a physicist, George Lemaitre) was ridiculous. He believed in a Steady State solution where the Universe is in a continuous, balanced state of creation and destruction. The rest of the physics community mocked Hoyle while the Big Bang became the standard theory. Perhaps the ultimate irony is that the term “Big Bang” was invented by Hoyle himself to ridicule the theory.

    The thing for which Hoyle should have won the Nobel Prize was his discovery of how the elements are manufactured in the stars. Jane Gregory describes In her biography of Hoyle, how he was a young postgraduate when he had his “Eureka” moment. It occurred to him that if there existed at high temperatures, such as the interior of a star, an excited quantum state of the carbon atom it would decay to form the carbon that makes for example, carbon life-forms. As a high-flyer astronomer, he went to Caltech in the States and while he was there casually asked the physics department there if they fancied looking for an excited form of carbon in a specific energy range. They found it, almost exactly in the middle of the energy range he had specified. Hoyle attached a religious significance to his discovery. It seemed to him no coincidence that for life to exist, this particular quantum state had to exist. It was God’s plan. But the reason why I didn’t graduate is because I have to fill this form in where I can claim points for my previous degree in biology.


    Chevrefeuille

    Aresh was at “Le Marie” on Saturday. He told me the first time I spoke to him that he was 79. He also showed me photos on his mobile phone of girls in “Le Marie” posing with him. I don’t want to wind up like that. You see when you get to sixty, there’s a fine line between being Paul McCartney and Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Look at Bill Wyman!


    Caille-lait

    Leaving the chambre de bonne this morning for a job interview, I caught sight of my new rose through the chambre de bonne window. I’ve put it on the window ledge but it doesn’t get much sun and as a breeze blew around it, it looked like it was trembling. I think I should have left it in the shop. I’m sure it would have gone to a much nicer home. I feel like a sort of white trash horticulturalist.

    It’s my second rose as well. The last one died. As I have always tried to be honest with you, I might as well admit, I think it was through neglect. I buried it at the bottom of the kitchen bin. I’ll look after the new one proper, I promise I will! But what will happen to it after I leave, I don’t know. I’ll have to get a job. This is starting to sound like A Taste Of Honey.

    I bought the roses in the local flower shop on the Ave de Volailles. I think the chap who runs it is a relative or some sort of connection with the brunette in the Boulangerie. I was leaving the Boulangerie the other day carrying two patisseries in one of those thin cardboard boxes they put them in if you buy more than one. The brunette who was having a break outside stopped me. She indicated that I was carrying the box wrongly. I was holding it between my thumb and fingers. She showed me how I should hold it: balanced on the palm of my hand. So I thanked her and carried on down the street, with the box of patisseries balanced on my hand. After a while she caught me up and then passed me as she headed into the flower shop. I was heading there too so we exchanged further pleasantries over the flower shop counter. There’s a play on in Paris at the moment: “La Femme Du Boulanger”. It’s a stage version of the old film directed by Marcel Pagnol. Whether or not the brunette in the Boulangerie is La Femme Du Boulanger, I have no idea.


    Tanche


    Oh rose thou art sick.

    The invisible worm,

    That flies in the night

    In the howling storm:

    Has found out thy bed

    Of crimson joy:

    And his dark secret love

    Does thy life destroy.

    (William Blake)

    William Blake had a relationship with a woman called Mary Woollstencraft. The nature of their relationship would today be described as she being his “significant other”. There were reports that they would sit naked together in their garden in Camberwell, South London. Woollstencraft was allegedly a “white witch”. The difference between “white” magic and “black” magic is that white witches can only enact these meaningless rituals for good things whereas black magicians can enact them for bad things as well.

    I’m being a bit Planetary Defence League myself here I know. My theory is the aliens have contacted various earthlings in our history. But we are like the rock pool creatures in the “The Perishers” in “Daily Mirror”. (Whatever else you say about Rupert Murdoch at least he created a Conservative copy of The Daily Mirror). Every year the Perishers would go for their typical English 1950s seaside holiday and every year, the dog, Boot, would visit the same rock pool on the beach, pushing his face below the water’s surface to see what was down below. And every year, the cartoon would cut to the bottom of the rock pool from where above, in the surface of the water can be seen Boot’s eyeballs. A high priest crustacean is standing on a stone and proclaiming to the assembled rock creatures: “It is the Return of The Eyeballs in the Sky!”


    Jasmin

    Nike have just brought out their new running shorts that are covered in dimples like golf balls because studies have shown that the dimples on golf balls make them travel more efficently through the air.

    Scene: The changing room of an Athletics Stadium.

    RUNNER ONE: (Opening sports bag and taking something out.)

    RUNNER TWO: Yo dude! What’s that you're taking out of your bag?! It’s covered in dimples!

    RUNNER ONE: It’s the latest technology. It can knock a couple of a hundredths of a second off your time for the 100 metres.

    RUNNER TWO: How does it work?

    RUNNER ONE: You just swallow it with some water (swallows pill with swig of water.)


    Verveine


    It’s Ulysees week this week. Not the ancient Greek hero but James Joyce’s novel, famous for being modern. A lot of people fancy themselves as being able to quote from “Ulysees” and so start attempting to read it. That’s why I tried. I read about 100 pages but because of the endnotes I was still only on page 23 of the text. Nevertheless I feel I am true to his spirit. After all, he came to Paris too. So I don't care about all those pretentious intellectuals. I have a special bond with him. Although I must admit, I wouldn’t have known it was Ulysees week except that everyone in the media who fancies themselves as an intellectual is quoting from it.


    Thym

    I had an embarrassing day yesterday. I had written an e-mail to Chi Onwurah, who was my member of parliament in Newcastle. Newcastle’s first black M.P. Although I often criticise others for having a consumerist mentality, I wrote to her because I thought it would be easier to write to her and have her tell me who my MP for Consett was. Her brief reply confirmed that she thought so too. Still, she might at least have said “I’m afraid I’m not your M.P any more”. Or even a more casual , “Afraid I’m not your M.P. any more”. All she wrote was “Fraid I’m not your M.P. any more”. That’s not even English. She’s from Biafra. It was a region of Nigeria that (as Wikipedia reminds me) declared National Independence leading to a civil war, famine and a million deaths, back in the decade between the fifties and the seventies. I was 15 at the time. It was my first ever Third World humanitarian disaster.


    Pivoine

    I say that Biafra was my first Third World humanitarian disaster. Actually I’d heard quite a few stories from early childhood onward of famines, wars, plagues and so on. But I’d thought all those were from the Bible.


    Chariot

    I’ve just been for my second job interview. My first one was for a cleaner. I was able to confirm in the interview that I know how to use a “monobrosse": a circular floor polisher. The the trick of using a circular floor polisher is to remember it is not a hoover. If you forget that and you push or pull on it in any particular direction, you’re liable to find yourself being launched into space at not far short of escape velocity.

    Today’s interview was far more to my liking. Lab assistant. Getting there was a nightmare. I get to Paris Nord at 8 a.m. but the signs for the RER line B are complete rubbish: impossible to follow. Mind you I suppose that’s because my French is still really bad. The thing is, I’m acutely aware of the image the French have of an Englishman: he will suddenly shout out, in the middle of a crowded Paris street: “We’re fucking lost!” Even so, remember I am an Englishman so soon I’m shouting “I’m fucking lost!” A kind French gentleman tells me to calm down and guides me to the platform for the train to the Parc des Expositions.

    At the Parc was the Agency. We were four candidates, me and three black girls, all three, I think, from the Antilles. The Agency man himself was from Guadaloupe. He wore pinstripe and from hereon in I will refer to him as The Man In Pinstripe, even if I never refer to him again. The Man In Pinstripe (Oh. There you go.) then drove us to Charles de Gaulle Airport where in one of the “Work and Security” office blocks we were interviewed by the woman who would be my boss. She too was black. The job is inspecting various outlets in and around the airport for hygiene. One way in which it will be a step up from cleaning is that I will be taking bacteriological samples whereas as a cleaner, you just wipe them away with a cloth. How do I feel about having a woman boss? I’ll let you know if she chooses me rather than the three young girls I’m up against. One of the girls told me that she had found that the most difficult thing was getting into the profession because you had to wait for the old ones to retire. So hopefully, that will count in my favour.



    Messidor,Seigle

    How would I really feel about having a woman boss? Listen! Because my mother was a frustrated housewife, I grew up as a registered psychopath. I have no problems with feminism.

    Avoine


    One of the most annoying things about being a ufo contactee is being compared to the Christians. My views are strictly scientific. The way the aliens made contact with me through the crystal was logical. I came to a reasonable scientific conclusion. Science backs me up. Astronomers are now finding planets similar to ours in space. So I’ve got nothing to do with Christianity whatsoever. I suppose I’ll just have to turn the other cheek.



    Ognion

    I’ve been trying to think of examples of what new French President Francois Hollande calls “le changement”. Economic growth looks likely to be a limited option. Infrastructure projects? Possibly. Take on the banks and the big tax dodgers? Not an option. So I can’t see it. What in this 50% female government of Hollande is new at all?


    Veronique

    There was an item on the radio today about War Memorials. I like to think I would have been a conscientious objector but I don't think I'm brave enough so I would probably just have been a soldier.

    Tomorrow is the anniversary of my arrival in Paris. At some point, the Earth will be have been once round the sun since I arrived at the campsite in the Bois de Boulogne. Or, as an acknowlegement of the continued existence out there of believers in the flat earth theory, the sun will have been 365 times round the Earth. My goal at the start of my year was to "make it". The truth is, I haven't. But that's not important. Because I also decided that it would be alright if my "character" merely had an "arc". And it did. I can reveal today that because of my strict diet, I have lost three inches off my waist.

    It's not much of an arc, I know. But the problem is that today is the end of my year and so, whether or not I've missed important bits out, I'm afraid this is the end of "Autobiography Of A Ufo Contactee". My one regret is that despite the title, I've barely mentioned the aliens. The trouble is I don't know anything about them. I haven't channelled a single message from them in over twenty years. But I can't just keep dragging on this story. So to anyone out there who has been following me, let me just say one last thing. From tomorrow, watch out for: "Autobiography Of A Ufo Contactee: Volume Two".

    Mick Green.

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