Ficklish Blog

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


So I've been feeling uninspired lately, with little to say on this here page. Apparently Monday was officially the most depressing day of the year. I have been looking forward to January being done.

But then this morning I woke up to this:

Here is a photo of our balcony, with our mop and bucket, our broom and our collection of wooden planks in a pot* all covered with snow!

I'm excited. There's not much of it, but for some reason the sight of this dirty city dusted with gleaming white has lifted my spirits.

I'm going to enjoy the walk to work this morning. If my face doesn't freeze off.

* RVW is totally going to make something with those one day, absolutely, no question. So we mustn't throw them away.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Hooray for Capricorns!

Today, January 15, is a very special day. It is John Chilembwe Day in Malawi, Korean Alphabet Day in North Korea, Martin Luther King Day in the United States and Pongal in Tamil Nadu. It is the anniversary of the day the British Museum opened in 1759 and the day that construction on the world’s largest office building, the Pentagon, was completed in 1943.

(Thank you, wiki).

It is also J,The’s birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, J,The!

It’s something of a milestone birthday, this one, and when I spoke with her this morning J,The said she feels very comfortable, as though the age she has been meant to be for some time has finally arrived.

jLo: “You wear it well”.

J,The: "This is true."

And so it is.

Many of you are more than familiar with the awesomeness that is J, The. For those of you that aren't, well, cross your fingers that you will chance upon her one day. She is the most spectacular person we have ever met – and she really should take me more seriously than she does when I say things like that.

I have a collection of J,The quotes that I carry with me, and I found one this morning when I was leafing through an old notebook. I thought I’d throw it up here in case it is illuminating for anyone else as well.

It doesn’t have to be perfect to be good.

-- J, The, 2006

I hope you had a most excellent day, lovey. See you soon!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Nil desperandum?

(Don't worry, I'm not sure what my point is either).

To celebrate my lifetime membership of the Hooray for the Bleeding Obvious Club, I will say this: the thing about uncertainty is that you just have no idea what the hell is going to happen.

Mine is an unquiet, fussing brain - I’m running scenarios and outcomes in my head in an endless loop. That tightly-wound knot of apprehension in my subconscious leaks its way, drip by festering drip, into my everyday life. All my well-intentioned resolutions fall away, the to-do list is insurmountable and I seek refuge in sleep and chocolate and cigarettes and avoidance. I am blocked and stunted and tired, goddammit – tired of wondering and worrying and of the effort it takes to ignore it all, talk like I know what I’m doing and hope for the best.

My plans are precariously balanced, you see: considered and reasonably thorough but entirely dependent on a web of variables that stubbornly refuse to resolve themselves.

Tomorrow I get some answers, thankfully. It’s been a long week.

In the meantime, I cope by taking an absurd amount of satisfaction in everyday pleasures. Our boiler broke on Sunday and was fixed this morning just as our bathroom was receiving the scrubbing it so desperately required. The hot shower I had tonight was the best thing that's happened this week so far.

Then, warm and clean and relatively becalmed, I managed to magically solve one of my problems. I’ve been fretting about my laptop, lately, among other things – it’s getting on for three years old and has started to behave in an uncharacteristically unreliable fashion. For instance: Why is the screen so dim? There must be something wrong. I can barely read this, shit, it must be giving up the ghost. Will there be room in the budget for a new one? How the hell am I going to back everything up? Why haven’t I done that already? What if I lose everything, I’ll only have myself to blame, I really should have all this more sorted than I do, callyourselfanadultwhoareyoukidding, AAAARRGGGH.

(See how this works? No wonder I'm tired.)

Then! I found the little button that you brighten the screen with. I’m now blinded by refreshingly stark white pages. Sigh. The fun thing about being my kind of stupid is that these little triumphs can change my whole mood.

(Of course now there’s no need to worry about backing up my hard drive. It’s easily ignorable once again. Hoorah!)

RVW just bounded into the living room, shouting, “I know what I forgot to do today!”

“What’s that?” I asked.


And that made me laugh.

(You know, you should be more grateful that I don’t post more often. If I sit down and make myself write something, anything, whatever is on my mind, you get more entries like this. Sucks to be you guys!)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


So, this post is long. Really freaking long. I was going to try to do one of those show/hide thingys, but it all got a bit hard and so up the whole thing goes. Make a cup of tea or somesuch, and enjoy this report of A Very Lovel(l)y Christmas.


jLo and The People’s Champion, a little drunken, decide late one Saturday night a week before Christmas that it would be fun to call Captain Kloss, their other sibling in faraway BrisVegas. TPC chats for a moment, then decides the couch is calling and soon the sonorous rumble of his heavily aspirated snores fills the room. jLo takes the phone out onto the balcony so that she can hear Kloss properly. She is drunk and rambly.

jLo: So. We’re going to Prague next weekend. You should come!

CK: I should.

jLo: Absolutely. You totally will, I know it. What time will your flight arrive?

CK: 10am on Friday 22nd December.

jLo: Hahahahahaahhahahaaaa.

CK: No, seriously.

jLo: What?!

CK: I booked it six weeks ago.

jLo: WHAT?!

CK: Didn’t you just indicate that you were aware of this?

jLo: Dude. I was kidding.

CK: Well, there goes that surprise.

jLo: !!!


After many hours in endless queues, our heroes find themselves in a cab on the way from Prague airport. It is Christmas Eve Eve. jLo, having been unusually jittery all morning at the thought of missing the plane, is bouncing on her seat in excitement.

jLo: I think we need a beer. Immediately upon our arrival at the hotel. If not sooner.

TPC/RVW: Dude. It’s 10:30am. We left home at 4:00am. You have a problem.

jLo: Czech beer is excellent. We should start as we mean to go on, etc.

TPC: Why are you bouncing and jittery?

jLo: I’m VERY EXCITED. To be here, I mean. Of course. (She squirms with glee).

TPC: Simmer down. Seriously. No-one could possibly be that excited after that many hours at Heathrow.

jLo: That’s why we need that beer.

Ten minutes later, jLo drags them (under protest) into the hotel bar. TPC, casting his eyes around the room, notices something familiar about the back of the head of the gentleman in the far corner.

TPC: What the…?

CK: Why, hello.

TPC: !!!

jLo: Hoorah! (She does a little dance). It’s a Team LoveTrain Christmas!

(Two beers later)

jLo: So. Here we are in Prague. Let’s go Czech it out.

(A pause).

jLo: Get it? Get it? CZECH it out! HA!

TPC: Be quiet. Immediately.

CK: I’m going home.


Later, rested, our little trio prepares to kick it, Prague-style. They wander out from the hotel down into the main square, which is all ablaze with Christmas. They pause for a moment, gazing in wonder at the indescribable beauty of the scene: spectacularly ornate buildings and row upon row of market stalls twinkling with fairy lights, a giant Christmas tree, carols playing and the smell of wurst and gluhwein wafting through the air.

jLo spots a souvenir T-shirt shop.

jLo: Look! That t-shirt says Czech Me Out! I TOLD you it was funny.

TPC (his mood considerably improved): That Czech Mate one is better.

jLo: Let’s buy big furry hats with Communist badges on them!

TPC: Ve vill give some Hard Currency to the Comrade. Ja!

CK: Nyet. Seriously, you guys. Let’s find a pub.

jLo: First, we must eat the sausage. (She pauses). I know how you both love the sausage.

TPC/CK: jLo, glassed.

They eat the sausage. CK takes the first of his ten million photographs. He crouches down to get the perfect shot, his shutter clicking rapidly as he plays paparazzo. TPC and jLo chuckle heartily at his earnestness. And drink gluhwein.


It has taken a long time to find an open pub. They have walked for hours, trying to find somewhere reasonably central (CK is scared of the back streets) but neon-free (jLo has already used her veto for the weekend by declaring that there was no way she is setting foot inside a TGI Friday’s). TPC is very thirsty.

jLo: We should have stayed at that cool bar with all the kitschy Soviet-era souvenirs on the walls. And the yak’s head. And the awesome Euro-power-ballads playing.

TPC (very thirsty, and thus grumpy again): They put us in the back room so that we wouldn’t contaminate the place with our touristness. Also, the kitchen was closed.

jLo: FINE. How about here?

They go into a dreadful pub with a Pacific-island theme. There are wooden idol carvings on the wall, and MTV on the many flatscreens around the bar. jLo, desperate for the bathroom, excuses herself and wanders out of the main bar in that direction.

She is back a moment later.

CK: That was quick.

jLo: Yeah. Um, I decided I didn’t need to go after all.

CK: Bullshit. What just happened?

jLo: Well. There’s a security keypad. You need to type in a code. I can’t even say ‘thank you’ in Czech yet, there’s no way I can work out how to ask for the bathroom code. Besides, how on earth do you mime that?

CK and TPC both consider this, and agree that it would be somewhat embarrassing to try.

jLo: So, you know, I’ll wait until the next one.

She crosses her legs and attends to her beer. The atmosphere in this bar leaves much to be desired, so our trio get up from their table to resume their search. As they leave the bar, CK notices a sign painted above the exit:

“WC CODE: 5436”

CK and TPC turn slowly to stare at jLo. She looks sheepish.

jLo: I am an idiot.

CK/TPC: Yes. Yes, you are.


TPC: We’re going to Rocky O’Reilly’s.

jLo: No! We didn’t come all this way to go to an Irish bar.

TPC: Look. It’s Christmas. The city has closed down. The Czechs are with their families. And we are still. freaking. thirsty. This is the only place that’s open. We’re going in here.

jLo: (Sighs) A good point, well made. Let’s do it.

They traipse in, it’s exactly how you would imagine. They settle in around a curved bar overlooking, of all things, a wishing well.

TPC: Right. Absinthe!

jLo: Are you sure?

CK: Damn straight. We want to HALLUCINATE! Plus, when in Rome, etc. Or Prague.

jLo: Okay then!

They order the shots, with chasers of their now-favourite Czech lager, the amusingly named Pilsner Urquell.

CK: So, what do we do? You’re the expert, apparently.

jLo: Well. You take the spoon, like this. And you pour the sugar on, like this.

The boys follow her instructions.

jLo: And now, you wet the sugar carefully with the alcohol, like this.

They do so.

jLo: Now, you set it on fire!

It’s a beautiful sight, the three sitting at their bar, holding flaming spoonfuls of sugar above glasses of bright green rocket fuel.

jLo: Now! See how the sugar is bubbling? Now you dump it into the drink, and stir!

(Please note: jLo has forgotten a vital step – namely, extinguishing the flame).

CK/TPC: Aaargh! It’s all on fire!

jLo: Shit. We were supposed to blow it out. Blow! Blow!

They blow into their glasses frantically. jLo blows TOO frantically, and spills flame all across the table, and all along CK’s trousers.

CK: Aargh! I’m on fire!

He beats away at his trousers. His drink continues to flame.

TPC: Here, use this saucer to starve it of oxygen!

This method works. Their drinks are no longer on fire. However:

jLo: (raising her glass to her lips): AAARRGH! The glass is hot!

CK/TPC: You jackass.

jLo: I guess we’d better leave them to cool for a bit.

They sit there, looking at their drinks, jLo wearing her sheepish face again.

jLo: Next time, we should blow out the flame before we stir it in.

TPC/CK: You think?

They do their shots. The boys’ eyes roll back into their heads. They come to, and all three exchange excited glances. That was fun!

All: Again!

Waitress: How many of these have you guys had tonight?

All: Oh, that was our first one.

Waitress: Okay then. You can have another.

They do, this time with significantly less mishap.

CK/TPC: That’s enough.

jLo: (very evidently not the smartest in her family): No! One more!

The boys refuse, switching to more familiar poisons. jLo has her third absinthe.

(Ten minutes later)

jLo: I love youse guys. (She hiccups). No, really. (She bursts into tears). I really, really love youse guys. I’m so h-h-(hic!)-happy we’re all together.

TPC/CK: There, there, jLo.

TPC: Let’s get out of here.

CK: Yup.


jLo has been babbling away non-stop for the past half hour. She looks up at one point, and realises that the woman in front of her has just taken her bra off.

jLo: Holy shit! That woman just took her bra off!

CK: Well, obviously.

jLo: What the hell do you mean? Where ARE we?

TPC: We are at the Jungle Bar.

jLo: (swaying slightly) Why?

TPC: It’s open. Plus, that guy on the street gave us a discount.

jLo: Oh, okay. Where’s my beer?

CK: Right here. Now sshh.

jLo subsides for a few moments and watches the show. The acrobatics are quite remarkable. She opens her mouth to ask a question about the boy’s impressions of the politics of strip shows. CK notes the gleam in her eye.

CK: No. SSSHHH. We can chat if you like. But don’t start with that.

jLo: But I’m interested in …


jLo: But what do you think of….?


jLo: I’m not judging, I promise. It’s just that….

CK/TPC: NO! Sssh. Here, drink your beer.

jLo subsides once more, then busily picks an argument with CK about something different. They bicker happily for some time, then jLo notes one of the dancers talking with TPC. She is gesturing at herself, and a similarly-unclad friend. TPC is smiling good-naturedly, but shaking his head. jLo tries to hear.

TPC: Sorry, I’m out of cash. Thanks, though.

The girl turns to CK.

Mostly Naked Lady: How about you then?

CK: No, sorry. I’m all out of cash, too. I have an Amex, but I don’t think you guys take Amex. Sorry.

jLo: (unable to control herself any longer) YOOHOO! I’VE GOT MONEY! I’VE GOT HEAPS OF CASH! LOOK!

She opens her wallet, and pulls out several thousand crowns (Czech money is hilarious). She waves it in the air excitedly.


CK grabs her wrist and pulls the money away. He hisses at jLo:

CK: Be quiet! Good god, put that away and shut up! We were being polite!

jLo: Oh. (A pause). I thought I was being helpful.

CK: No.

jLo: Oh. (She watches the girl walk away).

CK: You’re not very cool, are you jLo?

jLo: No. Apparently not.

TPC shakes his head in disgust.


jLo opens her eyes. There appears to be a cluster of machetes carving an ornate calligraphic artwork inside her brain. She notes a shrill clanging on the bedside table. She picks up the phone.

CK: Are you guys alive?

jLo ponders this question for some moments.

CK: Hello?

jLo: Um.

CK: Put TPC on.

jLo sits up, with some effort, and looks around the room. TPC is slumped on a chair, apparently in the process of trying to put his boots on.

jLo: TPC, are you alive?

TPC: No.

jLo to CK: He’s no longer alive.

TPC (with a tearful note of tragedy in his voice): This is the worst hangover of my life.

jLo to CK: He says it’s the worst hangover of his life.

CK: Really? That’s saying something.

jLo: Very true.

CK: Well. I’m going to sleep some more now.

jLo: Me too.

CK: I’ll see you guys in a bit.

jLo: Okay. (She hangs up the phone).

TPC: I’m going out.

jLo: Really?

TPC: Yes. I need to pretend I don’t feel like this.

jLo: Okay.


Some hours later, our heroes are feeling slightly more human, thanks to a combination of a day of sleep, many litres of water, some paracetamol and, in TPC’s case, repeated purgings of his digestive system.

jLo: I can’t believe you hurled!

TPC: I never hurl. This place is evil. That green stuff..

jLo: You mean abs –

TPC: DON’T SPEAK ITS NAME. Ever again. It is the elixir of Satan.

jLo: Okay.

CK: What I can’t believe is that I flew halfway around the world to spend an entire day lying in bed praying for death.

jLo: Yes, well, that was Christmas Eve.

CK: Totally missed it.

jLo: Not totally! We are alive, we’re hungry, we have a Christmas dinner to find.

They join Rip Van Winkle and Ms A, who have been having a very clean-living and pain-free Prague experience thus far. The group wanders the streets of the old town, looking for a restaurant that is open. jLo leads them to a beer-hall type place she had seen earlier. It is warm and friendly – very touristy, but with apparently authentic Czech cuisine on the menu. When they see the large beer steins and a small metal stand upon each table hung heavily with giant pretzels, they know they’ve found their place.

Nibbling on the giant pretzels as they peruse the menu, each chooses something that seems suitably Czech-ish – goulash and cabbage and dumplings galore. Except for TPC, that is, who orders a steak.

jLo: Way to experience a different culture, there, TPC.

TPC: It comes with something called ‘Cowboy Sauce’. How can I say no?

CK: The man has a good point.

jLo: I guess.

The restaurant is charming. There is a very elderly gentleman roving about playing the accordion, his wrinkled face creasing into a smile as he approaches their table signalling for requests. Determining that they are English-speakers, he plays Sinatra, the Beatles, and assorted Christmas carols. At one point, he takes Ms A’s hand and puppeteers it up and down the keyboard, her world accordion debut.

After dinner, the Old Town Square beckons. The Czechs give good Christmas Eve, and a choir is providing a heavenly soundtrack to the bright lights and warm spiced wine. They linger, soaking up the atmosphere, stamping their feet in the cold and watching their cheeks glow red with excitement. It is beautiful.


On Christmas Day, our travellers wake early and actually make it to the hotel breakfast they had paid for each day of their stay. Santa has attended, there is chocolate and phone calls home wearing stupid red and white hats.

After breakfast, they decide that in order to maximise the touristy opportunities of their final day a trip to Prague Castle is required. They meander their way through the old town and across the delightful Charles Bridge. The view is lovely – bleak and wintry, with naked tree branches and the frosty river against a backdrop of red roofs and spires.

TPC: I wonder who these statues are of.

jLo: If we were good tourists, we’d look it up.

TPC: Oh well.

CK: clickclickclickclickclickclick x 100000000. (He’s very busy, with his camera).

They stroll through the meandering cobbled streets up the hill to the spectacular medieval castle guarded by two massive titans atop the gate. Captain Kloss indulges his inner photographer some more, again – he even gets his tripod out – and the three spend a very pleasant morning wandering about the castle. There’s a dungeon with a rusty old rack, some breathtaking churches, and (inexplicably) a toy museum featuring a Barbie exhibition. Agreeing that this is too random to miss, they hand over a fistful of crowns and go look at the creepy plastic faces.

CK: Look! Elvis Barbie!

TPC: That little one there looks like Chucky.

jLo: These dolls are officially freaking me the fuck out.

They eat Christmas lunch at a restaurant in the castle, on a balcony overlooking the city. The balcony is freezing, but the restaurant has thoughtfully provided blankets on the back of each chair to wrap around our laps. Snuggled in, we order lavishly (it’s so cheap!) and survey the scene.

TPC: It is, indeed, very beautiful.

jLo: Told you.

CK: Yeah, whatever. Just quietly, though, it’s Christmas Day and there’s no sight of the snow I was promised.

(A pause).

TPC: Yeah. Damn you, Prague, for being so pretty I don’t even care!

jLo: Aw.

After the castle, they wander back down into town and through the Jewish quarter. They try in vain to find the main synagogue, the oldest functioning synagogue in Europe, apparently – but fail. They do find, however, an excellent Kafka statue.

CK: What. The fuck.

TPC: ??

jLo: I like it.

TPC: You would.


Later that evening, our weary band of travellers converge upon the bar in CK’s fancypants hotel, which has promised to show the first session of the Boxing Day Test. They wind down and enjoy a few final pints of Urquell as they enjoy each other’s company for a few more hours and complete their Christmas tradition, watching the cricket together.

jLo: So where are we going to go next year?

CK/TPC: Vegas.

jLo: Cool.

These final hours are bittersweet – they haven’t spent so many hours in each other’s exclusive company for as long as they can remember. It’s going to be some time before it will happen again. jLo tries to talk CK into coming back to London and staying for New Year’s Eve, but he will have none of it. Apparently, there’s some party he’s hosting that can’t be missed. Whatever.

jLo: That was a pretty good Christmas, you guys.

TPC/CK: It sure was.

jLo: Thank you for coming, CK. This was outstanding.

TPC: Yeah.

CK: No worries, you guys. It was totally worth it.

And so it was.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year

This was the most peaceful New Year of my life. I had a reasonably large Saturday night and had to send my apologies to the party I had planned to attend last night. The last night of 2006 was spent very quietly, and I finally achieved that elusive hangover-free New Year’s Day. It felt great.

I’ve made my resolutions, and am feeling pretty good about the prospect of a brand new year.

It was a beautiful sunny day today - cold and clear. TPC and I had a picnic in Regent’s Park, then went for a long walk through the gardens and along the canal to Camden Lock. We spent an hour in a second-hand bookstore, then came home and cooked a roast for dinner. As I write, RVW is chopping vegetables to add to the leftover chicken bones, which he is planning to simmer slowly overnight so that we may have chicken soup tomorrow. We’re drinking a bottle of lovely French wine that my boss gave me for Christmas and listening to this. Soon, it will be time to cluster around a laptop screen, as my little brother has worked out how to stream the cricket live to his PC. We’ll sit up and watch the first session, then toddle off to bed.

Days don’t come much better than that.

Happy new year, you guys, I hope you had a great one. Here’s to 2007.