Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Dog Fever

So now that my quest for finding out exactly what the breed of the dog of my dreams is has come to an end, and I now know that the dog I'm after is in fact known as a Bearded Collie, my dog obsession has reached fever pitch, resulting last night in partial insanity.

I want a Bearded Collie so bad. Now I know it, even the name is unbearably endearing. This is no transient longing. I have been ruminating over it for the last eighteen months, fantasising and wrangling with my conscience as I have known I could neither a) afford it, nor b) justify housing any dog of reasonable size in my little flat.

The man I talked to outside the cafe yesterday, who was accompanying the said dog of my dreams, told me that they are apparently the most intelligent of dogs, but also need the most extraordinary amounts of walking; miles and miles as a puppy, slightly less as an adult.

Does this mean now that I have to move to the country to fulfill my dream, or at the very least install a small treadmill in my flat? I want to get a rescue dog really, and if by luck he happened to be a Bearded Collie too, in order then for us both to live happily side by side he would have to be either very old, thus not in need of so much walking, or blind. Thus he wouldn't see how inadequate his home was, or perhaps with only two legs or something, you know, the front two working, the back of him mounted on wheels, then I could just roll him along the seafront and he'd be happy as larry.

I'll stop there, I think.

What am I to do? I know if I even venture to Shoreham Dogs' Home to take a peek at the dogs there, I will return home with at least one of them in my arms.

Another alternative is to fall in love with another breed, a breed of tiny, tired dogs, who are puffed out after five minutes of walking and fit in my handbag. I'm not sure if that breed actually exists, nor if I'd like them. They sound quite weird.

The third option, the sensible, bigger person-ed, less egomaniacal, over-the-top romanticised option is to take a dog which most needs a home and is neither tiny nor huge, not a puppy but not at death's door and who has all his own legs, and leave the rest up to the universe.

Nope. I want a Bearded Collie.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Red Apple Falls

I do like Smog, I do. It's unusual, powerful music. However, sometimes, on a day like today, when there's a chill in the air and I have clearly had my fill of January, I just couldn't bear to listen to much of Bill Callahan's wintery cold words and endlessly drawn out melodies, his lyrics about wells and hard-wood floors and men and women not liking each other very much ("So she washed her cut in the sink./Without her clothes she looked like/A leper in the snow/I left her in the snow/Without her clothes"). Great.

Yes, I can find him a tad on the depressing side. So I was happy today to remember Red Apple Falls, an album from 1997 that has been lurking round my music collection for a while now, and I stuck it on my CD player, and it has now cured me of my Smog apathy completely. It is complex and uplifting songwriting, full of hope and heart and strong imagery littered with apples, rivers, husbands and horses. I can't recommend it enough as music for soothing those sore arms of winter which wrap around us all from time to time during these darker months.

I am presently in the midst of an icy haze of a cold bug which has been sweeping through my body and, most noticeably, my nose, for the last couple of days now, bringing with it a sense of what it is like to be a human marshmallow. Between long hours of sofa lurking, rolling inside my duvet and blowing into vast quantities of Co-op's finest re-cycled loo roll, I keep having spontaneous bursts of energy during which I want to leap into some creative project or other.

Hence, this afternoon, as the sun went down I took out my scissors and began chopping away at my hair, both at the length and my fringe, in a frenzy of rejeuvenating my 'look'. This 'look' of mine has been slowly deteriorating over the last months (and I wasn't even that sure what it was in the first place), but today, the slow and cruel slide from some kind of a Chrissy Hynde/Charlie's Angels look, to that of an Old English Sheep dog was more than I could bear.

I don't think I should have done it, however, whilst listening to The Only Ones, where one should most definitely be pogoing in a violent crowd, not trying to trim a perfect line of fringe, both exact and at the same time gradually descending down the side of my face into a neat blending into the rest of my hairdo. As a result, my careful cutting became increasingly frenzied, and it didn't matter how much I told myself that this was the genius inner hairdresser in me coming out, my fringe was getting shorter and shorter, and the line, wobblier and wobblier. I thought I'd try and temper it by chopping the ends off the rest of my hair aswell, making the whole hairdo shorter, and therefore the fringe look less out of balance. Well, it didn't work.

Oh, why didn't I just make myself some hot ginger tea and read my book? I now look like Joan Of Arc or that bloke off On The Buses or no, oh god, I've a horrid memory image coming to me - I am somewhat resembling Valerie Singleton on Blue Peter circa 1971, or even worse, a kind of amalgam of her with a bit of John Noakes and Peter Purves thrown in.

There's a thin line between quirky and crap, a very thin line. My dilemma now is: do I try and resurrect my fringe, somehow attempting to bring it back from the ashes of destruction into a new cutesy, sexy, boy-girl sprig of loveliness?

The quite clear risk here is the fact that it is ever shortening, and that instead of it ending up looking like Beatrice Dalle in the opening scenes of Betty Blue, where she smoulders, scantily clad at the entrance of her lover Zorg's perfect wooden beach house, gorgeous messy fringe sexily falling in her eyes, it instead would be Beatrice Dalle as Betty sometime later in the film, in the lipstick splodging/hair hacking/stew smearing/nervous-breakdown-sliding run up to eyeball poking-out dinner table scene.

Incidentally, recalling these two scenes from Betty Blue makes me realise how they seem to perfectly depict the typical difference between how women often start off in a relationship and how they unfortunately often end up. One minute we're setting our man's heart and loins alight (and his beach house) with our fiery passion, our innate charm and our incredible breasts. The next, we are weeping into our boeuf bourgignion, running off up alleyways in our knickers, and stabbing women in the arm with a fork. I am, however, trying not to encourage this line of thinking, still, as I am, hopefully on the sexy, sane side with my lover, with only a few fork brandishing type incidences, and I don't want to tempt fate. Nor do I want to tempt fate by carving a psychotic fringe for myself.

So, it seems clear now, I need to cut my losses (ha ha) and lay off the hairdressing for tonight. Instead, I am going to play it safe and keep my hands occupied by making dinner - a savoury and stodgy winter busting puff pastry roll. That could cheer up even Bill Callahan.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Nowhere To Run To Baby, Nowhere To Hide

I am spending way too much time alone. I realised this again today as I made some soup and realised that I had been having an animated and somewhat tetchy conversation with it for the past five minutes. Something is wrong when your lunch starts to take on a personality of its own, and an irritating one at that.

One good thing, however, about descending into the vaults of loner-y weirdoness is that you can discover places you wouldn't usually be on the look out for if you were with someone else, actually enjoying yourself, or having a life. So I'm cycling up the main road towards Shoreham today on 'Jeopardy', my aptly named death trap of a bike, hoping not to be squashed by a lorry or hurled headlong into the road by the surprise opening of a car door (I've not quite regained confidence in my bike or in my cycling skills since I quite unstylishly fell off her on Hove Lawns last December and had to be prised out from underneath her by a gaggle of purple haired old ladies and one jogger).

Then, out of nowhere I spot an American style diner by the side of the road. Apart from the fact that it's pretty rare to see a diner in England at all, it is even more unusual that I would find myself actually choosing to cycle in the direction of Shoreham per se, nevermind doing so in a gale force wind storm, since, for a slightly morose feeling person, it isn't the most conventionally uplifting of locations. I mean, the power station does have an incredible dark kind of beauty to it, but it's hardly the most life affirming of sights for someone who is a bit down.

I've vague recollections of my friend telling me about a diner around this area, but I've never been able to find it. But by chance, there it is, all neon strip lighting and big windows. I decide to cycle past it on my way home and stop for a coffee and write. After all, that's surely what diners are for: coffee and writing in your notebook as the waitress refills your cup.

I love diners. In fact, if I were to cite my reasons for wanting to live in America (an urge that comes over me from time to time), the presence of diners is one of them. As I entered 'Woodies', I forgave myself for my lack of ability to be scathingly critical of the fake American post-moderniness of it all. 'Must everything become a replica of the American dream, a dream which is, and has never been real?' Ah well, more to the point, how fat will the pancakes be? I'm quite up for sitting here and looking out over the corrugated steel rooves and pretending I'm not in stinky England.

It's a clean, smart looking place. But, sadly, the most important thing about a diner is missing - booths. Booths, to me, are like restaurant versions of the hidden room behind the painting in a stately home. They are inherently romanticised in my brain. They bring to my mind that one off reunion between two, now elderly gay lovers who haven't seen each other in over forty years, who, silently, as they wait for the bill, touch each other's hands, and smile a sad smile before both looking away. Or the overweight divorcee who's just had to move into rented accomodation, who rattles his change nervously in his hand and sweats loneliness. Or the female serial killer who's just notched up another policeman on the roadside, and who checks her lipstick in the silver napkin holder, and is not even bothered if she makes it to the border. Or there's the three gangsters in crumpled suits who are discussing their fat wives and praising the shape of the waitress's legs through her uniform, belching into their Root Beer, whilst outside a dying gagged man is locked in the trunk of their car. Or the nineteen year old boy with a notebook and a grey duffel coat who turns up every day and orders tea, who, in two years will have finished writing one of the greatest novels of the last fifty years, and which will never get published. These and other numerous somewhat cliched images in my head are why I love diners.

But I am appeased by the fact that, as I am shown to a table by the window by a pretty waitress with electric blue eyeshadow and white pumps, they are playing 'Stoned Love' by Diana Ross on the jukebox. In fact, they continue to play great music for my entire time there. I order a coffee and realise I've forgotten my little notebook, so instead I begin to write on the napkins. They bring my coffee and it's good, and they don't mind me writing on their napkins, and, as the sky darkens outside, I'm feeling a peculiar kind of contentment, the joy of being warm, hearing good music and feeling anonymous.

'Time For Action' by Secret Affair comes on the jukebox. Wow! This has to be the most evocative song of my childhood, and the happiest (perhaps matched only by 'Reward' by Julian Cope and 'Mirror In The Bathroom' by The Beat). How does a song do that? One minute I'm in a strange diner on a miserable January afternoon, scribbling on a napkin. The next, I'm seven years old again, and happy, balancing on the rotten strip of wood that went all the way around the flower bed that the tree in our back yard grew in, up past the convent wall, next to the plastic shed roof with the rusty motor boat under it. I make sure I don't swallow my gum as I tip and sway, as I sing and pull at the ivy that is climbing the tree, crossing my fingers it isn't poisonous and about to bring me out in a scary rash. I thought I was it then, the baby sister who would sit on the knees of my older sister's male friends whilst they painted their faces like Alice Cooper and drank beer. 'Time For Action' reminds me of running down our stairs and standing in the hallway in sunlight whilst my sister talks on the phone. It reminds me of going into our lounge, with its green velvety walls, its leather sofas and its French doors, and slowly opening the dark wooden doors of the dresser under the window where inside sits the record player like some holy relic. And I put that record on, listen to it crackle and jump as I dance, pretending I'm a Mod boy, in cool clothes, in a cool gang, walking through the streets of some unknown Northern town.

They are playing 'Nowhere To Run'. I'm really happy. I wonder to myself if the pancakes are really like the ones in America, not just, as it usually is, some lame British version. Why is British food and service so rubbish? I remember when I was driving from New York to Boston last year with Chall Gray and stopping off late at night at a diner for pancakes and coffee. That diner was fucking fantastic, the counter gleamed, the booths were pink and everything was mirrored, and there was even an entire open refrigerator full of fresh food on ice which you could pick out for yourself. It was something else.

But here, I like it here. I like the fact that it is a chrome paean to Americanness and that it lies on one of the busiest and most grim and unAmerican main roads out of Brighton. I like the waitress, I like her pumps, I like the view, I like not knowing anyone. It's that right balance of cheerful, clean and a bit weird, and I know the power station is looming up behind me as I sip my drink to give me that David Lynch feel. I shall return to haunt this place again soon, rattling up Kingsway on my trusty 'Jeopardy', and next time, with a notebook stuffed in my pocket.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

It certainly wasn't the road signs or the thought of love or money littering the streets or what the paper said.

Only the half caught things that make my day. Like the end of a T.V. show. Like reflections in car windows. I don't understand why I was meant for a treacherous life. Never known any different. The clouds speed at two o' clock along with the rain and my head falls forward on your chest. Your room is white as air, Death Cab For Cutie on the stereo. I feel your tears rolling into my hair as mine spread down my chin. I say "I'm tired, I'm tired". And the way you looked at me then, well, it made my day.

And I am out into the wet again, boots soaked through to skin, waves up high against the balustrade. Paper blowing to the West, a magic lantern swings on the peeling wooden railing. I am no ornate fixture, despite the tunes trickling through my head. I am blown to pieces. But how he took my hand, he didn't have to. Led me up the wobbling road. He bought me yellow roses and carnations just to cheer me up. And a washing up bowl, one without a hole in.

I had an orgasm tonight. When I came it was no man, no woman, no fumbling graphic scene, it was only the kindness in a stranger's eyes which made the world explode. Kindness, almost blue in colour. I remember then the page after page I read yesterday from a guy in Pennsylvania writing about his girlfriend, a local stripper, who danced for him the first time as she danced for all the others and how he fell for her and how she had left him, and I cry too.

In a small room, a woman whose hair is long, the rest I don't remember, brusquely gets up from her chair, rustles through folders, tells me as I'm leaving "I can help you, do not worry". Then I am on the bus home, front seat, rain all over the windscreen, smudging the outside world into blurry charcoal. I sense the lazy orange lights of the Palace Pier, seeping through wet and black. I see beauty in oblivion.

I'm flailing like a good one. A nine to five seems like bliss right now. A strip lit room with pens, wrinkled shirts and routines, a pay packet on a Friday. That would keep me warm. All this writing reduced to zero. What does it count for? All that I love most is like the fucking wind. Can never get my hands on it. Get into media. Get onto the Ladders of the World and Climb. I never bothered much with what I'm meant to, it never aroused a thing in me. But I pretend. I don't let on that I know you, every last one of you, and every piece. It gets me out of tight spots to be this way. Like having a pretty face. It can pacify bus drivers when you've forgotten your change.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Stagger into the Light

I am so fed up at the moment. As my Mum would say, fed up "to the back teeth". I feel at the moment like my life is being lived on a high wire, and I am some untrained circus performer who was just minding her own business taking money for the show before being dragged up there by a couple of brutish clowns without a safety net. This isn't what I signed up for. Though one gets to experience a certain existential wisdom and inner knowledge at such times as these, I have to say, as a compensation for how bollocks everything can feel, that is not the greatest source of comfort to me.

And yet, it has its moments. After working out my finances and discovering that I have a total of 27p to live off for the whole month of February, hearing that my Mum's health had taken another turn for the worse and realising that I do not know what the fuck I am doing with my life at the moment, on any single level, today I prised myself out of my hidey hole and took to the sea-front in what felt like my very last attempt at bothering with life and its doings at all.

And I was startled by beauty. All along the prom, out far from the shore, in each direction, East and West, from Shoreham harbour up past Palmeira Square, Sussex Heights to the Palace Pier and beyond, the afternoon light fell like strands of golden hair over the coastline, over and around the enormous mass of human beings enjoying the first clear blue sky day in Brighton for weeks. The tall cream buildings lining the road past Hove Lawns stood quietly luminous and everything I saw was softening in the glow of the afternoon. I tilted my head back and felt the skin on my face lit up by the gleam of the sky.

It is a wonder to walk the prom on a day like today. To witness life, to smell the sunlight, to feel the blueness of the air all around. It all becomes part of one single movement - the puppy in a green coat chasing its tail, the flat bodies of surfers, faces pressed to their boards, bodies black and shiny, waiting for a wave to break. The bare curved torso of a teenage boy as he skateboards down the pavement disappearing into a crowd of parents and prams, women selling trilby hats, a man selling hippy clothes, and thirty something media professionals recovering from the night before. The white lips of the waves coming in, the dark of the West Pier, the pinks, yellows and blues of the beach huts, the arc of a seagull wing, the smell of chips from the sea front cafe, the glittering row of hotels shrinking into the distance.

I pass huge dogs, tiny dogs, silly dogs, magnificent dogs, swimming dogs, sniffing dogs, dogs whose eyes look like they hold the key to every soul within them and I want to take every single one home with me. I decide: I will open a dog sanctuary, no, I will live in the country with twenty working dogs for company, no, I will ask one of the owners politely if it is hard work looking after their dog, and then gently offer to take it of their hands as an act of compassion.

I wasn't expecting this. I wasn't expecting to be lifted, or to feel joy for no other reason at all than being here, now, in this perfect sunlit scene. On the way home I took the last money from my purse and detoured up to Tesco's, threw caution to the wind and bought a chocolate cake, from their 'finest' range. I took my £1.65's worth of joy home with me, made a cup of tea, and ate a slice in silence. It has been many weeks since I have enjoyed the glory of a piece of chocolate cake, and it tasted good. Sitting in the fading sun of my front room, it tasted perfect.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Cleveland Potash

This is where you end up staying when you spend half your Christmas holidays with Up.

Monday, January 08, 2007

fire burned and blew out flowers

This morning I've been re-listening to that little ray of sunshine himself, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy. He's such a cheery lyricist. Songs such as Another Day Full Of Dread, Today I Was An Evil One and of course I See A Darkness make up this sunny and light album. One of my absolute favourites on it, however, is Death To Everyone:

I am here/right here/where god puts none asunder/and you/in black dress and black shoe/you do/invite me under

One of the hardest things about grief, I think, is the insidiousness of it, the way it filters into every atom, every fissure of your life. How it creeps up on you when you least expect it. Making a cup of tea, the radio on, one minute you're singing along, the next you're on the floor doubled over. What happened? Perhap it was a line of a song, perhaps, just a word. Maybe it was the way your spoon clinked in your cup as you stirred in the sugar. Maybe it was noticing that picture that wasn't hanging straight on your wall and adjusting it, suddenly you find yourself staring at it, lost in its image.

It is a hard process to understand in oneself, because it is sometimes so unpredictable and apparently illogical. For me, there can be several weeks where it follows me everywhere I go, it's that black dog I simply can't shake off. Then eventually I emerge, new again, still alive, still whole, still able to smile, perhaps smiling even more. Other times I can go in and out of it on a daily, even hourly basis, one minute writing out some plan for my life, preparing an application form, the next, I am inconsolable, unable to lift a pen.

It is perhaps even harder to understand in another person sometimes. And the thing about grieving is that the only thing you can do really is carry on, is to get on with life, because you need the straight and narrow to keep to whilst your world falls apart, it's the concrete and the road signs that keep your nerve steady and your feet moving when there's a tornado tearing through all the land around you which you once called your home.

You keep looking ahead, eyes on the next step forward. And when you come across a patch of meadow that hasn't been hit you say "hey, look at those daisies, look at those buttercups, aren't they beautiful!". And they are, and you do really see it, you really can smell the grass and the earth beneath it. Sometimes it can feel like the first time you've seen a flower at all, it is that beautiful. In that moment there is joy, so much joy to realise the grass is still growing and the flowers are still blooming somewhere, and that they all look so perfect and smell so good, even if you know that's your house over there in the distance, and it's burning to the ground.

However, the thing about getting on with life when you are grieving is that people can then believe you're ok. Of course, they want to believe that, we all do, because grief is unpleasant for everybody, even if it's not your own loss, it still brings a chill to the heart of an otherwise sunny day, it still reminds you of your own mortality, it is the cold clammy truth none of us particularly want to know about on a consistent basis. Unless it's thrust on us, of course. But when you are grieving, it is all you know. It is all you think about. It paints every aspect of your world with it's own particular colour. Life, death, ageing, sickness, beginning, ending, birth, loss, love, suffering.. questions, questions, always questions that you can never stop asking and yet must learn to live with the unsatisfactoriness of the fact that no answer can really provide you with the solace you long for.

So when you cannot yourself run away from the truth of loss, when it is right in your face, you also realise that others can run away, that they have an option which you do not. And so, on some level they cannot access with such intensity what you youself can at this time, and that, right now, every day, they are creating and building worlds just as yours are constantly being torn down. You realise that on some level, at the end of the day, at a time when you most acutely want and need kinship and understanding as if it were air, you will be, at times, most profoundly alone.

This has been a strong realisation for me, and it's helped me grow up a lot. It's also been hard. And people are there when they can be, and some people close that gap as much as any caring person can, and it's a beautiful thing when they do. And somehow, in the times when people can't, you learn to find a way to live with that gap of experience, and not blame, and not blame yourself.

However, last year I had to let go of several people I thought were and would always be the closest people in my life because for whatever their reasons, they didn't have it in them to meet me even a tiny bit of the way in trying to understand what it must be like to be losing a parent. And that hurt. There hopefully aren't that many times in one's life when one has to hold up one's hands and call on friends and loved ones to rally round a bit -and it's hard not to feel let down when that does not happen, and people even turn away from you. I'm still working on that one.

Grief does its work on so many levels, it leaves nothing unturned, on the one hand it draws out and burns up what is not true, what is bullshit, what is fantasy, what is not good for us, what needs to go. It shows up what is weak, superficial or selfish and it highlights what is strong, what is deep, what is loving. On the other, it brings forth a demon of rage and bitterness and an unforgiving pain that will not be pacified, that does not want to understand the complexity of human foibles, only it's own need for solace. For me, I struggle to work out which is which, and what I can realistically expect from people, and that struggle is part of the complexity of my grief.

We all go to places no one else can go at times in our lives, over and over again. There are things about every single person on this planet that no one else will ever know or understand. We stand alone. And yet we cannot survive without human love. These two will hold hands in a clasp of contradiction forever.

And I wouldn't give up those moments when I realise I'm really ok being alone in darker places, I'm really ok that no one else knows all that I am keeping inside. What would the world be without its secrets? And somewhere, out there, there is always someone who has shared your experience. Because whether we realise it or not, ultimately we're all in the same shoes, heading in the same direction, coming from the same homeland. And it's a place of fire and flowers, meadows, whirlwinds, the scorched thatch and the long, long road.

I'm slowly learning to draw a circle around me, I guess you could call it a sacred circle, one that honours and cherishes that space where no one else but I can go, that lights a candle and sings softly in devotion to those darkest, loneliest hours. And to remember that there is still love over the other side of the line, sometimes imperfect, messy love, but love nonetheless. And I am not perfect, and I cannot always do the best thing, and I get upset, and I get bitter, and sometimes I flail and I rail, stumble about, and I can't always forgive others' shortcomings, and I can't always understand or even be reasonable, because I've been losing the most precious person in my life for some time now, and death isn't doing it's work kindly, and loss is a peculiar, devastating thing, and when any person deeply touches it, it is a fire in the hearth from which they cannot remove their hand, until gradually, eventually, with the passing of time, its flames die out.

So strap me on/and raise me high/cause buddy I'm not/afraid to die/cause life/is long/and it's tremendous/and we're glad/that you're here with us/
death to me/and death to you/tell me what else can we/do die do/death to all/and death to each/our own god-bottle/s'within reach..

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Happy New Year

Well, it's a new year and there is much to recount of the last few weeks or more of my life, much to divulge of the inner workings of my mind and soul, and many outpourings of my imagination to offer up to you all.

And of course there was Christmas, with it's strange Midnight Mass and an abundance of gingerbread and chocolate bishops, with its beautiful and sometimes difficult workings out of family love and loss, a silent New Year's Eve and my three day excursion to a fishing village by the sea in deepest darkest Yorkshire to meet with the rugged elements and a certain boyo's family.

But all this must wait, for there are more important things afoot.

Yes, Celebrity Big Brother is back! I've just finished watching it and it is as disturbing and as ludicrous as ever. Eleven 'famous' housemates have all entered the Big Bro house tonight and are now awkwardly sipping tea and failing to recognise who each other are at this very moment as I write. Yes, there are the usual boring characters - a beautiful Bollywood actress whom nobody's heard of over here, then there's Denise Somebody Or Other, whose main claim to fame is that she got kicked off the Miss United Kingdom throne of honour upon winning first prize ater it was discovered she was shagging one of the judges (who happened to be Teddy Sherringham).

However, the person I was most shocked to see in there was Ken Russell, God forbid, who took to the celebrity runway from his blacked out car with a bright red face and multi-coloured waistcoat, acting like someone on day release from the local Alzheimers' ward. He staggered along shouting gibberish at the crowd in what looked like some kind of attempt at being wacky or way out, which unfortunately just left him looking like a grey haired puffy faced old man version of most of his films - unpleasant, tedious and somewhat distasteful.

The same kind of went for Leo Sayer, who bounced his way through the crowds like a demented troll, huge white teeth flashing up at every camera. And my God, he doesn't look any different from how he did in the Seventies, and he is just as irritating in the flesh as one might suspect from hearing his songs.

The entrance of Danny Tourette, mulleted blonde haired singer from rock/'punk' band the Towers Of London looked promising as he staggered pissed out of his head up the red carpet shouting "Fuck you all!" to the entire crowd and showing them his skinny torn denimed behind. Though it was even better when he entered the house and the only person he happened to know there was Leo Sayer. "Leo!" he cried as the midget frizzy haired 70's popster swung Donny into an embrace and squealled "How're you doing boy? Berkshire, isn't it, where you're from, how's it all going there?".

But the total highlight of the evening was the final entrance, from Dirk Benedict. At this point in the proceedings he is very much my tipped favourite. He emerged from the back of a van with a huge cigar, beaming at the crowd before turning back to the van and shouting into the backseat "B.A., I'll be back soon!". Yes, it was none other than Face off the A - Team, now a middle aged screwball with an overnight bag filled only with cigars and whisky, who hates groups and team work, and who is single and wants to find a nice woman in there who isn't the age "of my daughter". Fantastic! He got a hero's reception, and quite rightly too.

It apppears that Big Brother hasn't sold itself short on the mix of B-List Celebrities and old has-been former stars, whilst throwing in a good measure of bimbos and ex boy/girl band members for good luck. And they all appear to be as mad as a bag of spanners. But adding Ken Russell is a touch of brilliance, and Dirk Benedict just perfect. Let's hope by the end of the evening everyone has worked out who Jermaine Jackson is, with his sequined jacket and shiny plasticised face, before he has to tell them.